A New Series Attempts to Unmask False Science

What would an uprising against naturalism look like? In the mid-twentieth century, naturalism was mainly a university arts and culture thing. It did not have quite the chokehold on popular culture that it does now.

But it doesn't seem to have choked everyone. A group of young film pros has produced a series of short art films, funded by the Discovery Institute, on their experience of pushing back against the world of Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson. They set out to find a world of purpose, design, and meaning again.

Approaching the series, I (born in 1950) must keep reminding myself that people under thirty have never known life without the laptop and the cell phone. Most are urbanites who have also never known a world I have known, where nature is evidently in charge—for example, a northern ­wilderness.

If they did, they would already know that nature is both awe-inspiring and subtle but cannot be the designer of itself. It is probably easier to convince oneself otherwise in a high-tech cocoon.

If I rebel against naturalism, it's easy, because I know from much experience that naturalism is not true. What will the producers of Science Uprising, who have worked on mainstream television productions, assert against naturalism?

Two motifs emerged immediately from the Uprising trailer: smiling, white, moustachioed masks pop up everywhere, and ubiquitous echoes repeat, and repeat, themes like "Has science proven that our universe is blind and purposeless? Has science shown we are simply machines?" The claims are disputed and the masks are pulled off.

To be honest, it's a relief—in these times—that the Uprising turns out to be a rebellion against claptrap, not an assault on biology teachers like Bret Weinstein. We now begin to understand the role of the mask. If one's position depends on avoiding conflict with materialism, one isn't hiding due to bad intentions but just conforming for personal safety.

Materialism

Years ago, I noted that, if materialism were true, we ought already to have discovered the simple mechanism by which complex life is spontaneously generated. Instead, we have discovered vast problems with all such claims.

The first episode starts (a nice touch!) with elderly materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett proclaiming that everything is mechanical, blind, and purposeless at bottom. Iconic TV astronomer Carl ­Sagan (1934–1996) also makes haunting appear­ances to announce the same news.

A young woman, reflecting on it all, wonders: If the claim is so obviously true, why do most people doubt it? Is that science or materialism talking? And could materialism actually be anti-science? Richard Dawkins is heard to say that one consequence of his materialist view of the mind is that when he thinks he has free will, he is deluding himself. "That's nonsense!" the young woman decides, based on experience and observation.

However, neuroscientist Sam Harris is brought on to announce that the self is an illusion—a pronouncement that, for our intellectual elite, settles the issue. The trouble is, as the young woman realizes, ideas have consequences (the destruction of the World Trade Center flashes by briefly). And ideas are not material.

Indeed. If materialism were true, we should have found the consciousness gene by now, along with the knob that, being turned, gives us the illusion of free will. Instead, we are left with what philosophers call the infamously Hard Problem of Consciousness.

Jay Richards gestures in the direction of sanity: "Any philosophical view that entails that you don't exist is a view that you ought not to entertain."

But when so many people live in a world of media riffing off media riffing off media that are further recessed, will that seem clear enough? Maybe that Last Screen in the multiverse doesn't even need to exist anyway?

Mind

The second episode asks: Are we simply robots made out of meat? Or, as a pundit suggests, meticulously correcting the record, a "hundred trillion little cellular robots"? It sounds so cool, so woke, to think so. The materialists are "realists," neurosurgeon Michael Egnor explains: when they realize that materialism cannot explain the mind, "rather than abandoning materialism, they abandon the mind."

But, as a rabbi offers, "I have a brain but 'I' am not a brain. I feel emotions but 'I' am not an emotion. I have thoughts but 'I' am not a thought." Ah yes, that Hard Problem of Consciousness again. Egnor points out that a person whose brain is cut in half (to treat otherwise intractable epilepsy) will still have unitary consciousness.

Every so often during the episode, a "virus" takes over everyone's screen, announcing the Uprising. It's still hard for a person of my generation to see why just turning off the digital noise altogether wouldn't be halfway to a solution. Will there be enough quiet time to reflect on the rabbi's reframing of the predicament otherwise?

Facts versus Materialism

In Episode 4, we confront the absurdity that fashionable twentieth-century absurdism spawned: A man shrieks "I suck!" from a platform at a humanist association meeting. Maybe there isn't, in his view, an "I." But whatever it is, it sucks anyway.

And the flip side of "I suck"? Atheist cosmologist Larry Krauss announces that, if one were designing a universe, one would design it differently from this one. How do beings that don't really have a mind, who suck, come to offer fixes for the entire universe?

Pop culture's favorite scientists might claim that our universe sucks. But some very distinguished scientists, quoted, disagree. Now that raises an interesting point: Why isn't the known extensive fine-tuning of the universe taught in school? Would it be deemed a religious topic? If so, facts can't be taught if they support an evidence-based view of the universe. As we move down through the gradients of time and space, the claim that everything sucks is thus largely unopposed by marshalled armies of facts.

Facts don't stand a chance against entrenched materialism.

Time, the Enemy

In Episode 5, the fiery and gifted chemist James Tour dismisses the spontaneous origin of life as "ridiculous." He goes so far as to say, controversially, that "all of this is a lie." Why is he so sure? In response to claims that anything can happen over hundreds of millions of years, he points out that in chemistry, time is actually the enemy, not the friend. Chemicals, left to themselves, decompose into simpler compounds. Time and entropy govern them all. Claims about a reverse process must be supported by more than a clickbait theory and a wave of the hand.

What Next?

At the end of each episode (there are a projected seven in total), the actors pull off their masks and cry out, "We are the quiet majority and we will be quiet no longer." Good for them, but what will they then do? Get banished to flyover country? So many have been. Yes, it's saner out there, but they will be leaving the mikes and lecterns to non-existent selves who suck. That, however, is a question the young unmasked must sort out for themselves.

Is the frenetic pace of the films a lingering instance of the fact that the digital world makes it ever harder to think clearly? Perhaps those who grow up in it are better adapted and can compensate. Or perhaps they don't understand the problem. We shall see. The reception of the series might shed some light on whether this approach can reach their cohort.

is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger. She blogs at Blazing Cat Fur, Evolution News & Views, MercatorNet, Salvo, and Uncommon Descent.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #50, Fall 2019 Copyright © 2020 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo50/sucking-unsound