If that is a fair specimen of Tom Bethell’s arguments, I’ll pass on the book.
“If material causes only are admitted, and nothing exists in the
universe but molecules in motion, then evolution must be true—a
logical deduction from the premise of materialism.”
—Evolution, like any scientific theory, is an induction from
observed facts. Science is empirical (facts beget theories), before
it is rational (theories beget predictions). Induction (particular to
general) precedes deduction (general to particular). Theories like
“evolution,” by which I suppose Bethell means modern biology, are
reached by induction from observation, classification, and
measurement, not by deduction from metaphysical premises. If you
can’t grasp this–and the author of those words plainly can’t–you
should not try to write about science.
—Evolution is not the end term of a syllogism: it is an explanation
for the observed variety of living species–an extremely successful
and fruitful explanation. For 100 years and more, every new fact
brought to light has conformed to the theory; none have contradicted
it. Nor is any alternative theory in play. Nobody is doing science
– tackling problems, uncovering new facts, generating testable
hypotheses, making predictions — on the basis of any other theory.
—Not even the most materialist of scientists believes that “nothing
exists in the universe but molecules in motion.” If Tom will glance
through any science textbook published later than, oh, 1905, he will
see all sorts of non-molecular components hypothesized and explained:
electrons, quanta, neutrinos, quarks, gravitons, wave functions,
twistors, spinors, 11-dimensional Calabi-Yau mainfolds tucked away at
scales below a trillion trillion trillionth of an inch, and even
stranger things. The mathematician David Hilbert, told that one of
his students had quit to become a poet, said: “I’m not surprised. He
didn’t have the imagination to be a mathematician.” Perhaps Tom
should take up poetry.
—And yes, material causes only are admitted in science, because
science is the attempt to find material explanations for observed
phenomena. Likewise, only hollow balls 2.5 inches in diameter are
allowed in tennis, because tennis is a contest played with 2.5 inch
diameter hollow balls. Whether other kinds of balls exist is a matter
of opinion among tennis players and fans, I suppose; though if a
player were to come on court and attempt to serve a basketball across
the net, the rest of us would walk away in disgust.