Quite a lot of evolutionists and humanists are upset with the scientific magazine SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN today!!!

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Quite a lot of evolutionists and humanists are upset with the scientific magazine SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN today!!!

Paul Fidalgo complained:

John Horgan seems to really not like scientists or, um, science? So for whatever reason Scientific American decided to publish a piece by him which says, in a nutshell, that science is hubristic because we don’t know everything yet.

Here are some of the controversial passages to evolutionists:

Then there was biologist Richard Dawkins, who declared in his 1986 bestseller The Blind Watchmaker that the mystery of life had already been solved. Our existence “once presented the greatest of mysteries,” Dawkins wrote, but “it is a mystery no longer, because it is solved. Darwin and Wallace solved it, though we shall continue to add footnotes to their solution for a while yet.”

…As for life, Dawkins’s claim that it is no longer a mystery is absurd. In spite of all the advances in biology since Darwin, we still don’t have a clue how life began, or whether it exists elsewhere in the cosmos. We don’t know whether our emergence was likely or a once-in-eternity fluke. 

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, Wednesday 13th AUGUST 2014: English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and writer, Professor Richard Dawkins, DSc, FRS, FRSL, appears at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.The Edinburgh International book festival is the world’s biggest literary festival and is held in the city which since 2004 is the world’s first UNESCO city of literature.

The Delusion of Scientific Omniscience

As time passes, the claim that science can comprehend everything looks increasingly nutty

Does anyone still believe that science can explain, well, everything? This belief was ascendant in the 1980s, when my career began. Bigshot scientists proclaimed that they were solving the riddle of existence. They would soon explain why our universe exists and takes the form it does, and why we exist and are what we are.

For years I believed this claim, out of deference to scientists propagating it and desire to believe. The vision of a revelation to end all revelations thrilled me. Eventually I had doubts, which I spelled out in The End of Science and other writings. Lately, I’ve begun to look at the vision of total knowledge as a laughable delusion, a pathological fantasy that should never have been taken seriously, even though brilliant scientists propagated it.

Stephen Hawking was the most influential know-it-all. In his 1988 mega-bestseller A Brief History of Time, Hawking predicted that physicists would soon find an “ultimate theory” that would explain how our cosmos came into being. He compared this achievement to knowing “the mind of God.” This statement was ironic. Hawking, an atheist, wanted science to eliminate the need for a divine creator.

I’ve often suspected that Hawking, who had a wicked sense of humor, was goofing when he talked about an “ultimate theory.” The success of Brief History nonetheless inspired lots of similar books by physicists, including Theories of Everything by John Barrow (1991), The Mind of God by Paul Davies (1992) and Dreams of a Final Theory by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg.

Weinberg, a deadly serious man, was definitely not kidding when he envisioned a final theory. He argued that with the help of a new “supercollider” in Texas (which ended up being canceled), physicists might soon “bring to an end a certain kind of science, the ancient search for those principles that cannot be explained in terms of deeper principles.” 

Like Hawking, Weinberg hoped that the final theory would crush, once and for all, our superstitious faith in an all-powerful, beneficent deity. “It would be wonderful to find in the laws of nature a plan, prepared by a concerned creator in which human being played some special role,” Weinberg wrote. “I find sadness in doubting that they will.”

Physicists were not the only scientists bewitched by the dream of omniscience. “I take the position that there is nothing that cannot be understood,” Peter Atkins, a religion-bashing British chemist, stated in his 1981 book The Creation. “Fundamental science may almost be at an end and might be completed within a generation.” He added, “Complete knowledge is just within our grasp. Comprehension is moving across the face of the Earth, like the sunrise.”

Then there was biologist Richard Dawkins, who declared in his 1986 bestseller The Blind Watchmaker that the mystery of life had already been solved. Our existence “once presented the greatest of mysteries,” Dawkins wrote, but “it is a mystery no longer, because it is solved. Darwin and Wallace solved it, though we shall continue to add footnotes to their solution for a while yet.”

One of those “footnotes” concerns the problem of consciousness. In the late 1980s Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double helix (and another hard-core atheist), proposed that consciousness, the subject of interminable philosophical speculation, might be scientifically tractable. Science could “solve” consciousness by finding its “neural correlates,” processes in the brain that correspond to conscious states.

In his 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis, Crick declared that “’you,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of neurons.” That statement might have been the high water mark of scientism and its corollaries, materialism and reductionism. 

Meanwhile, researchers were claiming that advances in computers and mathematics were illuminating chaotic and complex phenomena that had resisted traditional scientific analysis. These scientists, whom I like to call chaoplexologists, were finding common principles underpinning brains, immune systems, ecologies and nation-states. Economics and other social sciences would soon become as rigorous as chemistry and nuclear physics. Supposedly.

To be charitable, all this hubris wasn’t entirely unjustified. After all, in the 1960s physicists confirmed the big bang theory and took steps toward a unified theory of all of nature’s forces, while biologists deciphered the genetic code. You can see how these and other successes, as well as advances in computers and other tools, might have persuaded optimists that total scientific knowledge was imminent.

But the concept of scientific omniscience always suffered from fatal flaws. Read Brief History and other books carefully and you realize that the quest for an ultimate theory had taken physicists beyond the realm of experiment. String theory and other major candidates for an ultimate theory of physics can be neither experimentally confirmed nor falsified. They are untestable and hence not really scientific.

Let’s say physicists convince themselves that string theory is in fact the final theory, which encodes the fundamental laws from which nature springs. Theorists must still explain where those laws came from, just as believers in God must explain where He came from. This is the problem of infinite regress, which bedevils all who try to explain why there is something rather than nothing.

As for life, Dawkins’s claim that it is no longer a mystery is absurd. In spite of all the advances in biology since Darwin, we still don’t have a clue how life began, or whether it exists elsewhere in the cosmos. We don’t know whether our emergence was likely or a once-in-eternity fluke. 

Brain scientists still have no idea how our brains make us conscious, and even if they did, that knowledge would apply only to human consciousness. It would not yield a general theory of consciousness, which determines what sort of physical systems generate conscious states. It would not tell us whether it feels like something to be a bat, nematode or smart phone. As I argue in my new book Mind-Body Problems, science appears farther than ever from understanding the mind. 

There may still be a few true believers in scientific omniscience out there. Big Data boosters indulge in hype reminiscent of the heyday of chaoplexity (although the phrase “social science” remains as oxymoronic as ever). And in his 2011 book On Being, Peter Atkins, who is now 79, reiterated his “faith” that “there is nothing that the scientific method cannot illuminate and elucidate.” But I doubt many scientists share this view any more.

Over the last decade or two, science has lost its mojo. The replication crisis has undermined the public’s confidence in scientists, and scientists’ confidence in themselves. It has made them humble–and that is a good thing. Because what if scientists had somehow convinced themselves, and the rest of us, that they had figured everything out? What a tragedy that would be. We’re better off in our current state of befuddlement, trying to comprehend this weird, weird world even though we know we’ll always fall short.

The older I get, the more I appreciate what philosopher Paul Feyerabend said to me in 1992 when I broached the possibility of total knowledge. “You think that this one-day fly, this little bit of nothing, a human being–according to today’s cosmology!–can figure it all out?” he asked me with a manic grin. “This to me seems so crazy! It cannot possibly be true! What they figured out is one particular response to their actions, and this response gives this universe, and the reality that is behind this is laughing! ‘Ha ha! They think they have found me out!’”

I’ll close with a quote from Philip Anderson, a Nobel laureate in physics and leading chaoplexologist. When I interviewed him in 1994, Anderson derided the claims of some of his fellow scientists that they could solve the riddle of reality. “You never understand everything,” Anderson said. “When one understands everything, one has gone crazy.”

Further Reading:

Is Science Hitting a Wall?

Was I Wrong about ‘The End of Science’?

The Twilight of Science’s High Priests

How Physics Lost Its Fizz

Why There Will Never Be Another Einstein

Can Engineers and Scientists Ever Master “Complexity”?

Science Will Never Explain Why There’s Something Rather Than Nothing

The Mind–Body Problem, Scientific Regress and “Woo

Was Darwin Wrong?

So Far, Big Data Is Small Potatoes

See also my free, online book Mind-Body Problems: Science, Subjectivity & Who We Really Are.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. 

John Horgan directs the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology. His books include The End of ScienceThe End of War and Mind-Body Problems, available for free at mindbodyproblems.com.


1. WolfHunter999September 5, 2019

swilgus “I’m not afraid of your belief, why are you afraid of mine?”

Hypatia of Alexandria, Galileo, Alan Turing, and on and on. What would any of these people say to your statement? Talk about delusion.

2. swilgusSeptember 5, 2019

I am constantly amazed at the fear i see on those who say Intelligent Design can’t be, yet readily accept the notion that anything at all could come from literally nothing, THEN (in defiance of entropy) form itself into ordered constructs. Then, as in life itself, somehow organize random chemicals and compounds into what we call life. FURTHER, how the now double-layered DNA could come into existence AND have inherent in it’s structure, the ABILITY TO REPLICATE MILLIONS OF TIMES throughout human existence AND all of natural life. Pine trees stay pine trees even though entropy states that complex breaks down into less. This article points out the Egocentric Arrogance of scientists in their belief that science explains all. 

As a believer in Intelligent Design, I have literally ZERO fear or concern about science. In fact, I EMBRACE SCIENCE AS THE AFFIRMATION OF ID. Intelligent Design answers this questions of hope, how, and why, leaving us free to run around in the playground if this magnificent universe.

I’m not afraid of your belief, why are you afraid of mine?

3. BraaainzSeptember 5, 2019

Very disappointing opinion piece. I expect better from Scientific American.

4. RyanHodgesSeptember 5, 2019

This article was completely ridiculous. 

When I hear Dawkins and or Hawking say those things I don’t hear them claiming omniscience. Hyperbolic and or arrogant. Maybe. But I don’t hear claims of complete total knowledge of everything. 

All serious scientists know that deeper understanding leads to more questions. Sometimes the answers to those questions add “footnotes to an existing” theory has Dawkins alluded to. Sometimes, those theories are discarded and replaced with totally new theories.

Given enough time and development, science WILL one day explain what came before the big bang and how life ultimately arose on earth. It will continue answering unanswered questions.

5. ThomEMSeptember 5, 2019

It’s a safe refuge to deny scientific omniscience; there’s not much risk of error there. And others may have been too quick to declare even some limited scientific victories. But I don’t find this theme at all constructive toward a proper understanding of the role of science in civilization. It sounds much more like an apologia for the kind of religious know-nothingism of which there is entirely too much going around these days. I’ll try reading some more of Hogan’s stuff, but I strongly suspect him of making excuses for some of us to doubt the reliable findings of science, even when they have passed all competent tests.

6. WolfHunter999September 5, 2019

Someone who understands science knows that it’s the search for truth not truth. Scientists know that answering a question simply leads to more questions. Is that useless? Does anyone doubt that a person from 1919 brought to this time would consider the world to be magical? That’s the result of science. The only delusion is that those who purport to be the sole source of truth don’t feel threatened by the systematic search for truth.

7. Anonymous123September 5, 2019

The sad part is that all those string/big data/neural whatever guys will read this and just laugh in derision.

8. RustmanSeptember 5, 2019

John, very well reasoned and insightful article. Isn’t it interesting that those in the natural sciences are starting to come around to what the philosophers have said all along about how increased knowledge brings increased realization of how much knowledge is lacking (perhaps the ultimate paradox)? Might this mean the sciences are being compelled to acknowledge that philosophy has a place in the discussion of what our existence is about? And that evidence is multi-pronged and manifested in various ways?JOIN THE CONVERSATION!Sign in or register to comment.

Letter to Woody Allen’s sister about the failure of Optimistic Humanism

Letty Aronson, c/o New York, New York 10001

Dear Mrs. Aronson,

In the movie IRRATIONAL MAN,  Joaquin Phoenix‘s character Abe Lucas references Simone de Beauvoir,  Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, and Immanuel Kant. I read about all of these writers or philosophers for the first time when I read the works of Francis Schaeffer. 

Thirty two years ago today my philosophical hero Francis Schaeffer died. It was on May 15, 1994 (the 10th anniversary of that date) that I made a concerted effort to write hundreds of secular scholars that he had mentioned in his books and films that he produced since the 1960’s. Not only did Schaeffer mention Woody in several of his books but about a year ago  a video was posted on You Tube that showed that Schaeffer mentioned Woody in his last public speech. If you go to You Tube and type in FRANCIS SCHAEFFER KNOXVILLE then you can watch this special Q&A time with Francis and Edith Schaeffer at the 1984 L’Abri conference in Knoxville, filmed two months before Dr. Schaeffer’s passing (May 15, 1984). There is one portion of this question and answer time that I have put in a letter in December of 2015 and sent to about 100 prominent atheistic scholars who consider themselves OPTIMISTIC HUMANISTS and I challenge them to watch the movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS and that portion is below:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

H. J. Blackham was the founder of the BRITISH HUMANIST ASSOCIATION and he asserted:

On humanist assumptions, life leads to nothing, and every pretense that it does not is a deceit. If there is a bridge over a gorge which spans only half the distance and ends in mid-air, and if the bridge is crowded with human beings pressing on, one after the other they fall into the abyss. The bridge leads nowhere, and those who are pressing forward to cross it are going nowhere….It does not matter where they think they are going, what preparations for the journey they may have made, how much they may be enjoying it all. The objection merely points out objectively that such a situation is a model of futility“( H. J. Blackham, et al., Objections to Humanism (Riverside, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1967).

With that in mind I wanted to ask you what  does the AMERICAN or BRITISH HUMANIST ASSOCIATION have to offer in the area of meaning and values? Francis Schaeffer two months before he died said if he was talking to a gentleman he was sitting next to on an airplane about Christ he wouldn’t start off quoting Bible verses. Schaeffer asserted:

I would go back rather to their dilemma if they hold the modern worldview of the final reality only being energy, etc., I would start with that. I would begin as I stress in the book THE GOD WHO IS THERE about their own [humanist] prophets who really show where their view goes. For instance, Jacques Monod, Nobel Prize winner from France, in his book NECESSITY AND CHANCE said there is no way to tell the OUGHT from the IS. In other words, you live in a totally silent universe. 

The men like Monod and Sartre or whoever the man might know that is his [humanist] prophet and they point out quite properly and conclusively what life is like, not just that there is no meaningfulness in life but everyone according to modern man is just living out some kind of game plan. It may be knocking 1/10th of a second off a downhill ski run or making one more million dollars. But all you are doing is making a game plan within the mix of a meaningless situation. WOODY ALLEN exploits this very strongly in his films. He really lives it. I feel for that man, and he has expressed it so thoroughly in ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN and so on.

According to the Humanist worldview Jacques Monod the universe is silent about values and therefore his good friend Woody Allen demonstrated this very fact so well in his 1989 movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. In other words, if we can’t get our values from the Bible then  the answer is MIGHT MAKES RIGHT!!!!

I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE 90 MINUTES AND WATCH THE MOVIE “CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS” AND THEN ANSWER THE QUESTION: “What reason is there that Judah should not have his mistress eliminated if there is no God and afterlife of judgment and rewards?”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Many of these humanists are familiar  with Woody’s films and I hope some at least are willing to take on my challenge. In fact, I have been writing letters with this message for over 20 years now, and one of the first humanist scholars had the opportunity to correspond with was the famous atheist Antony Flew. Since then I have more articles posted on my blog about the last few years of Antony Flew’s life than any other website in the world probably. The reason is very simple. I had the opportunity to correspond with Antony Flew back in the middle 90’s and he said that he had the opportunity to listen to several of the cassette tapes that I sent him with messages from Adrian Rogers and he also responded to several of the points I put in my letters that I got from Francis Schaeffer’s materials. The ironic thing was that I purchased the sermon IS THE BIBLE TRUE? originally from the Bellevue Baptist Church Bookstore in 1992 and in the same bookstore in 2008 I bought the book THERE IS A GOD by Antony Flew. Back in 1993 I decided to contact some of the top secular thinkers of our time and I got my initial list of individuals from those scholars that were mentioned in the works of both Francis Schaeffer and Adrian Rogers. Schaeffer had quoted Flew in his book ESCAPE FROM REASON. It was my opinion after reviewing the evidence that Antony Flew was the most influential atheistic philosopher of the 20th century.

Woody in his famous satirical article SPEECH TO THE GRADUATES wrote, “My good friend Jacques Monod spoke often of the randomness of the cosmos. He believed everything in existence occurred by pure chance with the possible exception of his breakfast, which he felt certain was made by his housekeeper.” Wouldn’t it be more logical to believe that we were put here for a purpose and that universe was fine tuned for us? 

The Fine Tuning Argument for the Existence of God fromAntony Flew!

Imagine entering a hotel room on your next vacation. The CD player on the bedside table is softly playing a track from your favorite recording. The framed print over the bed is identical to the image that hangs over the fireplace at home. The room is scented with your favorite fragrance…You step over to the minibar, open the door, and stare in wonder at the contents. Your favorite beverage. Your favorite cookies and candy. Even the brand of bottled water you prefer…You notice the book on the desk: it’s the latest volume by your favorite author…

Chances are, with each new discovery about your hospitable new environment, you would be less inclined to think it has all a mere coincidence, right? You might wonder how the hotel managers acquired such detailed information about you. You might marvel at their meticulous preparation. You might even double-check what all this is going to cost you. But you would certainly be inclined to believe that someone knew you were coming.      There Is A God  (2007)  p.113-4

The question now becomes do you want to know if there is a God or not? Are you willing to examine the same evidence that I provided to the world’s leading atheistic philosopher in 1994 (Antony Flew) and take time to listen to this short CD I have enclosed?

Below is a piece of that evidence given by Francis Schaeffer and Dr. C. Everett Koop in their book WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? Chapter 5 concerning the accuracy of the Bible:

Ahab’s line did not last long and was brutally overthrown by a man called Jehu. As one walks toward the Assyrian section in the British Museum, one of the first exhibits to be seen is the famous Black Obelisk. This stands about six feet high and was discovered at Nimrud (Calah) near the Assyrian capital at Nineveh. It describes how King Shalmeneser III compelled Jehu to submit to his authority and to pay him tribute. Here one can see a representation of the kneeling figure of either Jehu or his envoy before the Assyrian king. The inscription tells of Jehu’s submission: “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king and purukhti fruits.”

Jehu is referred to by the Assyrian records as a son of Omri, not because he was literally his son, but because he was on the throne which had been occupied previously by the house of Omri. This event took place about 841 B.C.

Putting them all together, these archaeological records show not only the existence historically of the people and events recorded in the Bible but the great accuracy of the details involved.

The answer to find meaning in life is found in putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The Bible is true from cover to cover and can be trusted.

Thank you again for your time and I know how busy you are.

Everette Hatcher, everettehatcher@gmail.comhttp://www.thedailyhatch.org, cell ph 501-920-5733, Box 23416, LittleRock, AR 72221, United States

Francis Schaeffer in Knoxville in 1984 discusses Woody Allen


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