Scientific Evidence and Intelligent Design


Nov 14, USA (SUN) — [Revised] Bhakti das submitted the following, a link for a website that presents scientific evidence against evolution from numerous scientists in an easy to read online presentation, and related comments from Shiva dasa:

Darwinism, A Short History

Shiva das writes: "Due to blind faith in propaganda from committed atheists who promote evolution for philosophical and political reasons, the intellectually lazy and easily fooled sector of society accepts evolutionary theory despite their lack of study on the topic. They don't know anything about evolution nor do they know anything about Intelligent Design. They simply accept "argument from authority". They don't realize that they are backing a theory which has been disproven for some time now by numerous scientists who are professionals in every field associated with evolution. Time to separate the men from the boys. "

The storm of debate around Intelligent Design is gathering force, and the winds are blowing in all directions. Scientists, religionists and educators have been squaring off directly in the courts of law and public opinion, while philosophers and spiritualists are becoming more actively involved.

The media has also emerged as a key participant. Reporters and journalists are taking aim at one another, criticizing the various journalistic stances apparent in media coverage on the Intelligent Design debate. While the majority of news headlines promote the debate as a culture war between the scientists and the Christians, other media pandits have been highly critical of their peers for over-simplification of what is, in fact, a complex issue. As Shiva das stated, most people (including many news writers) are completely unfamiliar with the points of fact in the debate, and have instead formed general opinions based on 'argument from authority'.

Mainstream religion journalists are constantly challenged to simplify subjects that are inherently complex. They want to highlight conflicts that are of interest to their readers, while at the same time drawing parallels they hope will demonstrate a balanced viewpoint. This type of journalism is the antithesis of Brahminical commentary.

A shining example of this can be seen in recent news coverage of the Dalai Lama's entrance into the Intelligent Design debate.

In October, the New York Times published an article by George Johnson which examined opinions held by the Dalai Lama and the Pope on evolution. Johnson writes, "Neither of these men believes that a religious text, whether the Bible or the Diamond Sutra, should be given a strictly literal reading. Yet they share with evangelicals an aversion to the notion that life emerged blindly, without supernatural guidance. Particularly offensive to them is the theory, part of the biological mainstream, that the engine of evolution is random mutation."

Not surprisingly, Johnson did not attempt to comment on the philosophical conflicts inherent in the assertion that sastra should not be taken literally. Not having an understanding of parampara or the tests of guru, sadhu and sastra, it would be more than difficult for one to intelligently critique what the Pope and Dalai Lama appear to say on that matter.

Johnson went on to discuss comments made by the Dalai Lama in his new book, "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality". Johnson reports that in the book, "the Dalai Lama laments what he calls "radical scientific materialism," warning that seeing people as "the products of pure chance in the random combination of genes" is an invitation to nihilism and spiritual poverty. "The view that all aspects of reality can be reduced to matter and its various particles is, to my mind, as much a metaphysical position as the view that an organizing intelligence created and controls reality." Both, he suggests, are legitimate interpretations of science."

Again, Johnson aims for the middle ground of 'balanced journalism' by focusing only on the surface aspects of the "science vs. religion" debate. He ignores - or perhaps doesn't recognize - the apparent contradiction in terms represented by the Dalai Lama's comments against nihilism. Wouldn't a Buddhist complaining of nihilism seem to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Unfortunately, Johnson's article stops short of that philosophical inquiry.

As Srila Prabhupada writes in his Purport to Bhagavad-gita 2-26:

    "There is always a class of philosophers, almost akin to the Buddhists, who do not believe in the separate existence of the soul beyond the body. When Lord Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-gita, it appears that such philosophers existed, and they were known as the lokayatikas and vaibhasikas. These philosophers maintained that life symptoms, or soul, takes place at a certain mature condition of material combination. The modern material scientist and materialist philosophers also think similarly. According to them, the body is a combination of physical elements, and at a certain stage the life symptoms develop by interaction of the physical body and chemical elements. The science of anthropology is based on this philosophy. Currently, many pseudo religions--now becoming fashionable in America--are also adhering to this philosophy, as well as to the nihilistic nondevotional Buddhist sects."

As we consider the media response to the Intelligent Design debate as expressed by the Johnson editorial, we can see the impossibility of effectively dealing with such a complex issue by attempting a surface treatment.

In "The Universe in a Single Atom", the Dalai Lama also wrote: "My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims."

Here, the Dalai Lama expresses a fundamental belief in empirical knowledge that is devoid of the spiritual absolute. Those who are following the Intelligent Design debate and are influenced by such 'arguments from authority' will certainly become further bewildered. If one becomes convinced that life comes from life -- while at the same time becoming convinced that sastra is open to interpretation and science is more absolute than tattva - has any progress been made?


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