The Problem With A Secular World

First, please go watch this YouTube video, linked by Gawker.  Read the write-up there, while you're at it.

This video clip is just over a minute long.  No substantial debate could have been conducted in that time.  No link is provided to a transcript, or a longer clip of the interview (testimony before committee, it appears).  This tells us we're being shown this material in an attempt to convey, not information, but an impression.
What impression?  Well, as Gawker goes on to explain, we still have these rubes in our government who cannot deal with and have no idea of scientific fact, while the beatific academicians try in vain to save them from themselves.

Alright, now I am summarizing and exaggerating in order to create an impression myself.  It is true, the senator is grandstanding - he is trying to lead in to the question of getting "here" from "there" - but study the clip for a minute.  Gawker sums the situation up as, "...Walsworth interrupts with another question... the teacher manages to soldier on.  Let's give this woman an award."  Remember again - impression, impression.  Where is the mention of the teacher interrupting the senator's question to begin the clip?

Suppose this clip were summarized as follows: "Walsworth never actually has a chance to phrase his entire question, as the teacher runs him over with a pat answer which avoids the main thrust of the senator's concern".  I would argue that is an equally accurate (or, to be fair, equally inaccurate) summary of what we see here.

What is that concern, anyway?  Following my hypothetical sympathetic-to-the-senator coverage, he is clearly trying to bring up the biggest problem people have with evolutionary theory: how did nothing turn into something turn into life turn into intelligence turn into consciousness?  This is at the very least a legitimate and troubling philosophical question; in the face of entropy it ought to be one posed by and to science - but to my knowledge the best answer, apart from the barefaced, "Well it had to have happened like this," is the hypothesis that all of existence as we know it is a mere eddy of random chance which happens to have produced us.  This is unsettling at least, but it is also what any naturalistic theory of abiogenesis and macroevolution comes down to in the end, since any Purpose is denied.  This is the question the senator is trying to ask, and he is eventually hectored into asking - as the canned speech rolls on (remember we're being sympathetic here) - whether this experimental e. coli evolved into a human.

Which is met, of course, with the blank "what".  The question, everyone knows, is manifestly absurd.  Everyone knows that it takes time and mutations and infinitesimal steps and stuff.  Now, there was an idea that floated around for a while arguing that added time does not make the improbable more probable.  This is true in one particular case - the impossible - and, speaking strictly of probability, is always true.  But time - which, speaking mathematically, can be considered repeated experiments - makes the improbable more likely to happen eventually.  You would expect, rolling a die 100 times, to turn up more sixes than if you only rolled it 10 times.  So if this evolution - recognizing that science uses several terms here, I am still going to stick with the popular usage - is merely improbable, then added time is an entirely reasonable way to account for Things Happening.

But there is another way the question is absurd: the researchers would be extremely surprised if these mutating e. coli ever turned into something that was not a bacterium.  This is a step that is essentially necessary to demonstrate the possibility of the Theory of Evolution so confidently taught - and a step which is, to my knowledge, still conspicuously missing.  Small-scale evolution, noted originally by Darwin, has been observed and confirmed, even the development of new "species" of the same kind of animal - normal mice become six kinds of mice - but beyond that?  It is not so clear.  Of course, under the current theories, truly unique changes would be the result of multiple mutations building up on a long time-scale, so it is early to rule out the theory as an explanation of origins (especially considering the apparently correlating evidence of the fossil record, not that that is without questions either); but it is also extremely premature to have established this theory as accepted scientific gospel, the way the Gawker piece - and a vast number of other people and texts - treat it.

Even if the science were on more solid ground than it actually is, the philosophical question would remain: "So we did not need god - if he exists - to get here.  Now what?  So what?"  Look at what we see as the result of the secular worldview.  The same texts which confidently preach an evolutionary origin which, due to time constraints, cannot possibly have been confirmed yet by observation, are commonly fond of declaring the backwardness of Medieval society, the tyranny of the Puritans, and the prudishness of the Victorians, and tend to blame these things on superstition, which an intelligent reader quickly comes to realize is a polite term for religion.  Well, the Christian church has had its faults, and must bear blame in our accounting for the excesses of the Inquisition and the Crusades and the like.  But if this is the case, then secularism must carry its burdens, too: the tyrannies of socialist and communist states in the 20th century, the massacres perpetrated by their dictators, the eugenic experiments carried out by over-enthusiastic scientists - and here lies the final problem.

To sum up the problem neatly, in the secular world chivalry dies and there is nothing to replace it.  I am of course using the term chivalry loosely here.  It would be more accurate in some ways to speak of natural law, but I am looking at effects - results, actuality - and so the general code of manners of Christendom will do service.  Any society will have its unique manners, but in these supposed darker ages, there was the understanding - and this is true whether we appeal to Confucius or the Thomists - that proper manners, customs, and justice come from a correct understanding of the nature of things (to steal a phrase, perhaps inappropriately, from the atheist Lucretius).  The materialist may attempt the same thing, but comes up short on the question of authority.  A nebulous principle - Google's "Don't be evil", perhaps - comes in as a stopgap measure for society in the short term, but good and evil themselves become subject to the whims of - well, of whoever.  The more enlightened may attempt to deduce such rules of behavior from science - an acquaintance of mine champions one such endeavor and Heinlein's Starship Troopers imagines a society built on such a structure - but all these attempts have a common problem: "What if I don't want to?"  What if I can swindle my way to millions and get away with it?  What if I can drink and sex myself into a cheerful haze?  The "advice" once given, "Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse" comes to mind, but it is useful, if that is the word we want, only to the individual.

Nothing is left to the secularist as a system of control except for the strong arm of society, against which there is no appeal but a stronger arm.  It should not be a surprise that the tendency of a secular age has been to tyranny by despots or by bureaucracy.  The only answer left for the majority of people who want (for whatever now mysterious reason) to get on with an ordered life, is, "Behave, or we will make you."

(This is not to deny the possibility of religious tyranny.  "Do this because god says you should (and I have an army)" is equally as persuasive as, "Do this because I say so (and I have an army)".  But there is this difference: the religious tyrant can never establish himself as an ultimate authority.  If one interprets the Imperial Papacies of the late Renaissance as such tyrannies, we see resistance dressed as Reformation, as, "But god actually says...", where a secular revolution could be driven by nothing other than, "But I would prefer..."  Yes, this is oversimplification as well.  The worst of the Popes had their opponents within and without church councils, and were resisted by civil authorities in their overreaches.  The Roman church itself generated a movement of reform which, due to the vagaries of history, got itself dubbed the Counter-Reformation.  But if anything, this only strengthens my point.  Compare the "reforms" of Communist China, and you see a program carried out by officials determined to remain in charge, and embracing merely what seems to be a more useful form of godlessness.)

And as to the morals of this secular society?  We are seeing a breakdown of traditional morality being celebrated as "tolerance" - and that breakdown pushed beyond the bounds of logic.  A homosexual relationship - which to be fair, is a thing allowed by many past civilizations (although the Athenians and Spartans, both practitioners, apparently amused themselves by calling each other gay) - is supposedly the same as a fruitful marriage, despite the obvious differences between a person who can carry a child and one who cannot.  A person of male sex who thinks he is a woman is allowed - encouraged, sometimes - to call himself one, rather than being considered insane, which is what the facts of the case would suggest.  A supposedly tolerant society, protesting careful regard to human life and the rights of baby seals (or whatever fad is current), is perfectly happy to be cavalier with the lives of the most vulnerable of humanity, the unborn.  Some few are willing to admit that they take life, and while couched in terms of relative value, the fact that that "value" is being determined by the more powerful individual in the case is impossible to avoid.

Let us suppose that the repression of past religious cultures was as bad as advertised.  What can you show me that indicates our new bureaucratic overlords have, in their wisdom, given us anything better?  If the materialist proposal had been shown to be true beyond a doubt, it is not even clear why we should accept the results - in the name of a truth which has no final relevance?  But when the position does not in fact have such a sure foundation, why should we be in such a haste to embrace the annihilation of concrete good and morals?