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Why Scientists can be Wrong, Part 2

By John Ankerberg
Ankerberg Theological Research Institute

Part 1 – Excerpted from Handbook of Biblical Evidences

C. A false belief can be accepted because scientists assume the belief to be true only because of broad general support among scientists.

In the case of evolution, no one questions the basic idea because everyone accepts the basic idea: “The fact that every journal, academic debate and popular discussion assumes the truth of Darwinian theory tends to reinforce its credibility enormously. This is bound to be so because, as sociologists of knowledge are at pains to point out, it is by conversation in the broadest sense of the word that our views and conceptions of reality are maintained and therefore the plausibility of any theory or world view is largely dependent upon the social support it receives rather than its empirical content or rational consistency. Thus all the pervasive affirmation of the validity of Darwinian theory has had the inevitable effect of raising its status to an impregnable axiom which could not even conceivably be wrong.”

Hence the constant refrain that evolution is an “undisputed scientific fact.” As Richard Dawkins asserts in The Selfish Gene: “The theory is about as much in doubt as the earth goes around the sun.” Once the scientific community elevates a theory, in this case evolution, to a self-evident truth, defending it becomes irrelevant and there is “no longer any point in having to establish its validity by reference to empirical facts.” Further, all disagreement with the current view becomes irrational by definition. As P. Feyerabend argues in his article “Problems of Empiricism” in Beyond the Edge of Certainty: “The myth is therefore of no objective relevance, it continues to exist solely as the result of the effort of the community of believers and of their leaders, be these now priests or Nobel Prize winners. Its 'success’ is entirely manmade.”

D. A false belief can be accepted by scientists because they prefer its philosophical implications.

For example, there are many materialistic scientists who are also atheists and therefore more than happy to accept the atheistic implications of naturalistic evolution. Here, as we indicate following, the very purpose of evolution is to explain things without recourse to God. Again, scientists are only human, and if the unregenerate bent of the human heart underscores the attempt to escape God, then naturalistic evolution is certainly an appealing idea. If there is no God, there are no necessary moral standards and one may happily discover justification for any conceivable belief or lifestyle.

Many modern scientists have pointed out with seeming satisfaction that, given evolution, there is no need to even consider God. This tends to make one suspect that some of these scientists may have ulterior motives for wanting evolution to be true. For example, in his Heredity, Race and Society, Theodosius Dobzhansky observes, “Most people, however, greeted the scientific proof of this view [i.e., evolution] as a great liberation from spiritual bondage, and saw in it the promise of a better future.” As noted novelist Aldous Huxley, grandson of “Darwin’s bulldog,” Thomas Henry Huxley, once confessed in his Ends and Means: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. Most ignorance is invincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” Huxley also noted, “The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way they find most advantageous to themselves. . . . For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation.” Huxley proceeds to identify this liberation as being political, economic, and sexual and, no doubt, like many other modern materialists, found evolutionary belief quite satisfying.

Part 1

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