Letter to D.

Against an Over-Indulgence in Faith and Opposition to Science

Dear D.

First of all, many thanks for your extensive criticism of the theory of evolution which I have read with much sympathy; after all, these are the main arguments that I confront those with who indulge in too much of a belief in science. In many areas of science, I, too, see unsolved questions, as for example, with respect to the "big bang", with respect to "gravity", with respect to the origin of life. Insofar, I would ask you to take a look at my brief article, "The Error of Socrates", in which I discuss dogmaticism and metaphysics within science.

Compliments for your compilation of the various critical voices with respect to the theory of evolution; as I said, I share these questions (and, precisely due to this, I shall not discuss them in detail); however, an objective position with respect to this theory would, of course, above all, contain a comparison of positions that would include those arguments that speark for this theory. To collect only arguments against it in order to be able to refute it and to exchange for it a living "God"--not even the pope goes this far! (see my criticism of "Fides et Ratio" in my Home Page). It is, indeed, a "dangerous" and, in any case, one-sided position (I, too, have had to learn that ...) to concentrate only on the questionable points of a theory.

Personally, I do not accept any dogmaticism, and in this word is already contained the reason why: dogma means as much as "opinion", and, above all, also "belief"; that, however, means precisely not knowing or knowledge, but rather a fixation of the position without a secure basis. The least secure basis to me, in this, seems to be a physico-theological proof of the existence of God, which you present in the way it has been done since the times of the ancient Greeks: the conclusion from the clock as to the clock maker, from the ideal order and purposefulness of creation to the creator. In this is overlooked that, in arguing thus, man only transfers his own way of acting and thinking to the "Godhead" -- what a human concept of God! If I was God, I would certainly forbid my creations to hold such a view of me.

As the word implies, the theory of evolution is a theory; at least from Popper on, however, we know of the essence of theory and of how to deal with it: that it always remains hypothetical, that one should try everything to both confirm and to falsify it (unfortunately, you only "specialize" in the latter), and that every theory should be considered as refuted at the point of appearance of its "black swan" (going out from a theory of approximately this content: "All swans are white". With arguments that are based on probability alone, however, the theory of evolution can be refuted as little as it can thereby be proved as "firm truth".

On the other hand, an objective and "phenomenological" observation of nature, as it is inherent in our future, not closing off the evolutionary context of this nature, as, for example genetics, evolutionary biology, evolutionary social biology, force(s) on our present views (with the emphasis on present) the assumption of an evolution of life out of one source. The theoretic mechanisms assumed in this (mutation and selection) have been proven well in applying them to plants, small organisms and in animal husbandry, but also in gene transfer and can not be doubted. The theory itself functions, however, it also shows gaps which, nevertheless, does not diminish its present experiential value that allows us to take a rational position in viewing our world instead of a superstitious one. That, however, is already quite a lot! Even if this theory would be false in certain parts, one would still have to prefer it for the time being, since it forces us to thing about ourselves without prejudice, instead of anthropocentrically deifying the world and ourselves with it. In this, it is a not to inconsiderable advantage of this theory that it lets us know rationally what religious contemplation in Buddhism (but not in Christianity) has already anticipated: the connection and the unity of all life in this world.

Although I, too, think that the mechanisms alone that have been postulated by the theory of evolution are not enough in order to explain the evolution of the universe, of nature and of man sufficiently; this does, however, in no way necessitate one's seeking refuge with a God, also not with respect to the question of meaning - quite to the contrary!

As far as both the question of meaning as well as the question of an explanation as to the origin of the universe are concerned, we are as trapped in the viewpoint of our capability of reason, as this was once was already the case at the time of the attempts of deliveries of explanations by understanding out of its myths. Just as once, however, reason could be opened up beyond the capability of understanding, and as, thereby, ethics (as opposed to morality) and the monotheistic high religions (as opposed to the polytheistic natural and national religions) could emerge, why should it not be just as possible that a further "opening" beyond reason by means of the cultural evolution should occur? The God that you wish for yourself is a God of reason, just as the mythical Gods of our forefathers were Gods of understanding - as Feuerbach rightfully pointed out, those are projections of man, according to the status of each respective state of man's rational capability(ies). (see also Ludwig Feuerbach "Das Wesen der Religion" [The Essence of Religion] particularly the 14th and 15th lecture).

At least, lack of knowledge can not be a reason for falling for a belief all too fast, and that possibly in form of a religion of reason that still is prevalent today with most of humanity in form of the combination of religion(s) of reason with superstition, both of which, in the reflection of reason, have finally been put asunder. This, however, appears to me to be less of a reason for resignation than one for joy: does not humanity, thereby, regain the "open space for transcendence" for itself, for its own activity, without having to worry about such bugbears or bugaboos as "original sin", "resurrection" or "soul". Only thereby does humanity become free to take on its own responsibility, for the pursuit of which is has its capability of reason.

And this capability for reason is enough already at this time, even if it does not know everything, yet, and which is at least sufficient for humanity to realize that in this world, everything can be related back to natural causes and that this does requires as little the existence of a creator, watchman and "emergency relief" as Epicurus already knew this; we should direct the efforts of our will towards freeing ourselves from false concepts of any kind, from religious as well as from those of metaphysic (which, not only too gladly, also hides behind science) and joyfully accept that the "wind of not knowing" will blow around our ears there, where the really still open questions lie, for this leaves still always enough to do, and we will not even find time to despair of a question as to meaning that has been erroneously raised: for it will always be us who can and should create this meaning.

The question as to meaning arose, for me, too, at one time, from a religious point of view, since we grow up in an environment that is formed by Christianity (even today, the government of Bavaria forces, wherever possible, all students "under the cross") - as well as from an ethical point of view - after all, the world is, as ever, "sincerely bad" (one only has to look at Kosovo). Finally, I have understood both as a passing phase; the world does not come endowed with a "pre-established" meaning, and even less we humans on our small earth, except with that meaning that we give ourselves of and with respect to it and ourselves. And even the various answers to the question as to meaning are subject to cultural evolution, depending on how the emerge in a given environment and in their confrontation as supportable and thus become part of human tradition; just as in biological evolution, there is no pre-ordained teleology in it. The only "statement" that I personally allow myself to make here is that we are obviously dealing with an ever-increasing amount of information that has to be absorbed, at least in case that the evolutionary "strands" will not be "capped" by cosmic events (which has already occurred several times), since, informational advantages, at least for the time being, also provide advantages for survival. That out of this, there mutated something like our "mind", no God foresaw (otherwise, we would have declare God to be a cosmic "gun slinger", for only the extinction of the dinosaurs precipitated the emergence of the mammals and with them our emergence), that is a "miracle" of nature, about which, by our reflecting on it, we can rejoice. Nature plays with itself since there is more that that "singularity" (which we, just as much as the "nothing", cannot even conceive of, since also the act of thinking can only be accomplished in an environment in which there exist differences), by means of that which is different with itself, and thus allows that to emerge that circumstances "make available", and we humans do the same, microcosmically speaking, as part of this nature. Will the wonders of nature be devalued by the fact that no God was necessary to create them? Or do they not even become more admirable? To put it differently: What would one have to think, oneself, as a human being of a creator who, in spite of his omnipotence and omniscience, requires X attempts in order to bring forth something like "mind" for once in humanity so that it can ultimately alert "his" nature to his presence and existence? And where does the "evil" in the world come from if not from a goof whose "creation" ran away from him? Well, the age-old problem of theodizee I do not even want to go into here - it is too embarrassing for a "God" . . .

Now a word to that which I may consider the basic problem that you addressed: where to find inner strength and support in a world without gods?

First, a "negative" argument: strength and support is certainly not found by trying to refute viewpoints that are opposed to one's own viewpoints, and this mainly in considering the opinions of outsiders, in order to refute the ruling opinion. This behavior could be classified by the slogan, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". To me, these appear to be defense efforts in order to hold a bastion that is ready to be conquered since it has been shot at to the point of defeat.

However, I do not wish to and can not lecture you - you alone can arrive at a new basis. And it appears to me that you are already on your way to it on your own terms, since you are entirely right that one should not all too hastily give up that which is perhaps "sacred" to one, but that one should, rather, try to defend it - since, after all, the question as to meaning is too important, and to him who, in this process, (has really) trusted in God, it will be a hard piece of work to change in this.

Already Luther who took the New Testament seriously, knew this much: man does not find spiritual support outside of himself, but only inside of himself; and that is quite nature, for man is the only being in this world that has something like "mind" at his disposal. Where else should he, then, find "mind" and "spirit", if not within himself?

But how does the mind of the individual become "fruitful", where does he take his knowledge from? Not from a divine revelation in a "special medium", as the Pope, in his encyclic "Fides et Ratio" wants to make us believe, but in the study of that inner-worldly tradition, which, instinctively, is so important to man, that he has been striving for its preservation, transfer and expansion, for thousands of years. Man wants to and has to know what and who he himself is; however, he only learns this by tracing the path of human = cultural development from its beginning up to himself, in critically viewing the existing tradition - whereby he, simultaneously, "per se ipsum" and quasi "in one sitting" can accomplish self-realizing criticism and liberation from his own erroneous views. What is more often the case, however, is that he will, according to his own predisposition, come to halt at precisely that point at which this predisposition of his entices him to halt, since, in tradition, he has found such statements that fulfill his search for meaning. The rich human cultural tradition still has something in store for every possible individual, which, at least points towards the beginnings of answers and thus can provide stimulation to one's own activity in the direction of the question of meaning - and precisely out of this grows what you describe as "spiritual support".

You see, this answer can not be provided from its content, but only functionally: by what path, perhaps, such "spiritual support" can be found; here, at last, one advice with respect to this, and the only one that I want to allow myself to give to you:

If someone, be it from tradition, be it among the living, wants to force his "meaning" onto you, be it in religion, in philosophy or in science (behind every important scientific statement that presents itself as unshakable truth, there is hidden a "metaphysical resolution", the false cementing of a hypothesis!), then be very cautious. What you already show in your letter, for which I thank you very much, again, in form of your ability of "scientific criticism", this critical urge must also direct itself against one's own and often very hard to say "good-bye" to prejudices in one's own thinking, and for this, as a stimulation, these two statements of Socrates appear to be quite appropriate, if one only understands them in the right way, namely those two statement with which the actual philosophy and metaphysic of Western thought begins: "gnoti se auton" (learn to know yourself) - and: "I know that I know nothing" (see also to this Socrates in "Was ist Dialektik" (What is Dialectic) on my home page.

In this sense, I wish you a very exciting and joyful "search of meaning" (for also, in this, the path is the goal ...) - and rest assured, that the despair by which you might be overcome in your thinking, is nothing but a necessary stage along this path.

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