Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stepping Outside

In an ongoing debate on the validity of a materialist worldview -- one that denies the existence of a creator or anything outside of the natural world -- my friend shared with me an article detailing research on viruses. Recent discoveries have broken new ground on how viruses influence our behavior. It is thought they affect us in a variety of unconscious ways; such as making us more aggressive, lecherous, friendly, or apprehensive. Some believe they entangled with our genes early in the evolutionary process and therefore explain a great deal of our actions. What we see as virtuous could be the mere result of viruses.

This understanding bolsters the claims of materialists, who have always struggled to explain free will. Freedom cannot exist if we are derived and bound by a random and undirected physical process. Materialism maintains that we are the result of natural selection. Our existence is due to successful adaptations occurring over millions of years that were favorable to perpetuation. This progression, by definition, is devoid of right and wrong. It makes no moral judgments, operating on instinct alone. Our actions are determined by our biological makeup, which runs on automatic pilot. Man’s consciousness, though largely a mystery, is a relatively recent byproduct of this evolution and is therefore subject to it.

Our ability to choose between two instincts, and to sometimes pick the less attractive and more altruistic one, seems to validate the presence of right and wrong and our sense of self-determination. But materialists deny that this is anything more than biological hard wiring. And many will say that the recent research on viruses further dispels this illusion of choice. But does it?

The ability to think is affected by physiological needs and also by most outside influences. It is usually the case that our thoughts are altered by these internal and external pressures. Viruses are one of these pressures. If the latest theories are correct, we cannot change or easily comprehend their impact on our cognitive process. They are a part of us.

But here is the point: scientists are beginning to comprehend their complexities. And to do so they must use reason that is independent of these pressures. To objectively understand viruses and make accurate determinations about them this must be so. The only alternative is to concede that their analysis is also subject to the influences of these viruses, which would render it invalid.

Ironically, all of science fits into this category. To objectively observe and theorize about the physical world one must step outside of it, so to speak. To ponder evolutionary theory one must be mentally set apart from it. Analysis of the process cannot itself be the process. Reason must subjugate all physical influences in order for a claim to be valid. Man’s awareness of his own existence and his ability to employ reason in attempts to understand the physical world gives him freedom from its constraints.

Science is the greatest tool the materialist has but it is not even material. Dependent on objectivity, it is proof that another realm lies outside nature. When confronted with this reality some choose to deny that truth exists. But by doing this they inadvertently destroy science.