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Monday, February 13, 2006

It Ain't Natural

As most people know, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been a hot-bed of activity in support of intelligent design theory. Take for example, their biology department. The entire staff of the biology department insists, and has insisted for quite some time, that what we see happening in the world is not natural, rather, it is the result of actions taken by an intelligence not properly part of nature or the natural world.

Similarly, the American Association for the Advancement of Science is a strong supporter of intelligent design theory. Just one year ago, on February 19,2005, the AAAS released a report that insisted supernatural phenomena were having long-term, serious impacts on the world we inhabit.

The Environmental Defense Fund, following even earlier findings by the Pew Charitable Trust , now recognizes that there is a force stronger than nature at work in the world, and warns that we must be willing to deal with this fact.

Only one thing remains to be clarified: why do these and like-minded organizations insist intelligent design is the only accurate way of describing the environment while simultaneously holding that intelligent design is junk science?

As Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould both famously pointed out, evolutionary theory made it possible for an atheist to reasonably deny the existence of God and of the supernatural. If they are correct about evolutionary theory, man is simply one more animal - no more, no less. We are only marginally better than the great apes in terms of technology, and certainly not morally superior to them in any respect worth noting.

In short, man is just part of nature.

But global warming? Ahh… that’s not natural. It is unnatural, it is contra-natural, it is a violation of the natural rhythms of the world. And, as everyone knows, global warming is caused by dolphins.

Hmm?? Oh, wait, scratch that… global warming is caused by man.

And there's the rub. If Man is just an animal whose actions are completely explained by natural processes,

AND man acts to cause global warming,

THEN global warming is natural.

Dawkins and other evolutionists imply that mankind’s ability to create houses, computers and similar things is merely an expression of genes – no more unusual than bees building a beehive or mollusks building shells to inhabit.

If Dawkins, et. al., are correct, then global warming is a perfectly natural phenomenon that none of us should worry our pretty little heads about. After all, according to this theory, an SUV is just as natural as a beaver dam. Just as a beaver dam may cause some local flooding, so the SUVs may cause some global warming, but each is a thoroughly natural event. If evolution has no teleology, no purpose, then there is no good or bad and the destruction of diverse habitats caused by global warming is neither good nor bad.

If, on the other hand, we insist that global warming is not natural, then who is causing it? A non-natural event can only be caused by something that is not part of nature. Since everyone seems to think man is the cause of global warming (even the most religious among us fail to blame God for this particular problem), the claim that this warming is not natural is thereby identical to the statement that man is not natural.

In fact, it is worse than this. If Non-natural Man is capable of controlling and impacting nature with powers and abilities for beyond that proper to nature, then he must be - dare we say it? - supernatural.

Even worse, if evolution is a natural process, then man is beyond the power of mere evolution and his presence here cannot be explained by evolution.

So, if global warming is not natural, man must be (a) supernatural, and (b) the result of a process greater than evolution, a supernatural process of some kind.

The positivists and the materialists are always asking for a proof for God’s existence. They don’t realize that they have not only already provided the proof, they insist on it. As a matter of Christian charity, we should take them at their word.


Ron said...

Nothing to do with the post (though as usual immensely enjoyable)

I thought you might like to know that with IE7 Beta2 installed I no longer have to scroll down ten pages to see your first post - at my screen resolution!

I was going to sue someone for RSI but now my case has disintegrated in front of me - drat.

Patrick said...

I actually argued this exact argument many times and found the replies humorous. Humans aren't a part of nature because they can control their environment - hmmm, so do beavers. When I then observe that they are worried about the same nature that pushes a single blade of grass through 2.5" of concrete, their arguments usually come to a halt.

Andrew said...

Well for one thing, global warming is a myth. The evidence is very weak and misinterpreted. But, I do like to make this case to secular friends. If we're just animals, then so what if we cut down trees, slash and burn, drill for oil, drive big honkin' SUVs. Screw the baby seals. Survival of the fittest, baby.

Also, if we're just animals, then what's wrong with violent crime? Do you arrest a lion who kills another lion intruding on his territory? Of course not, he's just an animal. Then they'll tell me, well you can do whatever you want as long as you don't hurt anybody else. Says who? Where does that rule come from?

Any sort of vague ideas about kindness or justice or human intellectual superiority inevitably point to a divine Creator.

Chris said...

Thank you for articulating this argument. I have come close to pondering it, but never to the extent within your post.
As my ecology professors are so fond of saying, 'humans,' (for a professor must never use the "exclusive" masculine), ' are a part of the [eco]system.'

And, while we're on the topic of global change, how can humans possible contribute a real threat to the environment? Theres only 6 billion of us, whether we be natural or not. The real culprits are the microbial species, there are at least 10 x 10 to the 30th power of them. Talk about overpopulation! How many times have they polluted the earth with toxic chemicals (gaseous oxygen), or removed vital ones (atmospheric carbon)?! Metazoans unite and fight the real threat to our planet!

Dave said...

I have also presented this same argument when discussing ecology. The other person was trying to show how, in order to fulfill an "entelechy" of nature, humans had to return nature to the state it was in before we occupied it. I pointed out the absurdity of the notion that we could return it to its "previous" state, and that it would be a totally unnatural intervention on our part. The other guy was completely baffled. His definition of "natural" meant "without human influence," yet he steadfastly asserted that humans evolved "naturally."

If, indeed, humans are part of the ecosystem, then whatever it becomes is by definition "natural." By claiming that humans have to be "removed," with all traces of their existence "scrubbed," ecologists are explicitly placing humans outside the rest of nature.