54 Comments

Oh. Wisconsin in the fall! I might have to gather some time and resources and make the journey. Also, very much enjoyed the conversation with the always lively John Heers. We're coming down the final stretch toward Pascha. I hope you have a fruitful Holy Week! Thank you for all the writing and speaking you have done over the last 2 years.

Expand full comment
author

A fruitful week to you too, Basil. I hope to be in Wisconsin: it will depend upon the lifting the current jab requirement, but there seem to be some signs that that might happen.

Expand full comment

Paul-Greatly appreciate all of your inspired work. I have shared many of your substack pieces with my dozen book club friends and I selected and will present The Wake at next months club gathering. Should make for a great discussion. Thanks for all that you do. It is resonating with many and I suspect very few are tiring of you speaking of religion or spirituality. Your essays are substack gems.

Expand full comment
author

Many thanks James!

Expand full comment

Around 500 hundred years ago the western civilisation burned alive around 50,000 Human beings. In the name of religion/ Christianity. They burned them alive with the Bible in hand. They accused them of witchcraft making potions/poison and being different. But they didn’t burn them all. They have been planning there revenge. The humans you call the Machine have control through knowledge. They have the code to the book that made men burn women! The bible is the book of Fractunation. You put people in trance using Fractunation then implant commands or false memory while under trance. They have the money. They are the power. There having there revenge. Look deep inside your Soul good Sir and understand that you are a God as I am and every other Human on this planet is connected to us and all our beautiful Lights in side us make the Divine Light. We burned ourselves with bible in hand once before.

Expand full comment

Allan- I rushed in where I shouldn't have. I will look further into the matter. Thank you. -Jack

Expand full comment

I admit it has taken 40 odd years to get my head around. But the last couple of years have left me with no confusion just grieve.

Expand full comment

If there is anything that I can help you with what I said I would be glad to Paul.

Expand full comment

John Heers through WAWTAR is shaping the way I want to have conversations, especially around Orthodoxy.

Expand full comment
founding

Hi, Paul. Looking forward to whatever comes next on this project! Your work has been extremely impactful, in a positive way, on my life in these past couple of years. Just as a word of caution as you explore creation and evolution: be very careful about falling into a false dichotomy. Be sure to distinguish between the actual science of evolutionary biology and the philosophies it is often used in support of/the philosophical milieu in which it was developed. The former is in zero conflict with Orthodox Christianity while the latter truly is. Having watched the video, John Heers utterly confused the two. His objections were to a metaphysical materialism and to reductionism. Those are not necessary components of any science. Almost everyone, Christian or not, who goes on about the supposed conflict between any science, with evolution being a favorite, has a failure of understanding, be it in understanding the relevant Scriptures, the philosophical questions, Christian theology and how it relates to the natural world, or in understanding the science. The science of evolutionary biology is as well supported as anything can be in science; the Christian understanding of the world is not dependent upon any particular scientific understanding of the world, but it does have a lot to say about what that science can or cannot, does or does not mean. Rejecting reductionistic materialism does not entail the falseness of the absolute glut of paleontological and genetic evidence in favor of evolutionary biology nor the successful predictions both in the lab and in the wild of the theoretical framework. Medical applications abound, which is more evidence (and please distinguish between this and the medical institutions you are rightly leery of). Hell, we have even witnessed speciation, the evolution of one species into another, in the lab and we've captured it on video; it happened exactly as evolutionary biology would predict. While we do not have a full scientific understanding of our natural history, so our current scientific understanding is not the pinnacle, it is well supported enough that it is not likely to be overturned, but will likely be understood in a broader context, much as Newtonian physics wasn't overturned, but came to be seen as a special case of a more general understanding, be that from the quantum or general relativistic frameworks. Indeed, this expansion is currently being debated; look up the Expanded Evolutionary Synthesis if interested. What you will not find in this debate is that evolution via natural selection is false, only that it is only one among many drivers. Further, virtually everyone who has studied this science in depth sees it as accurate within its domain, regardless of theological commitments. So the vast majority of Christians who study this for a living see it as neither false, nor in conflict with their faith. Indeed, the only people who see it as a false science already had a prejudice in favor of its falseness. We Americans are peculiarly interested in this question in a way other Christians simply aren't. This goes for American Orthodox as well. And we American Christians are the ones most likely to see a conflict, and those outside of the United States that do, do so often because of American influence.

The relationship between science and Christianity is something I've thought a lot about. While I'm not an expert in any science nor really any subject, I do have some scientific education (just a Bachelors of Science in Physics) and I spend most of my free time reading theology and related topics. I was raised a non-denominational Evangelical Protestant and a Young Earth Creationist, have since become Anglican, and am contemplating conversion to Orthodoxy. As my faith has become more traditional and my worldview more enchanted, I have come to have less problems with well supported science.

Indeed, my greater appreciation of my ancient faith and a greater appreciation of scientific knowledge (in terms of it being a part of wisdom, not in terms of the Baconian philosophy driving much of it or in terms of its technological applications) have not only gone hand in hand, but have often driven one another.

This isn't the forum for doing so, but if you'd like a conversation from a different perspective on the subject than John Heers', but one that is highly sympathetic to his concerns and to what you've been doing here and elsewhere, I'd be happy to be in correspondence with you, by email or even hand-written letters. Just let me know, but whatever you do and wherever you end up on this or anything else, God bless you and thank you for sharing your sorely needed perspectives!

Expand full comment
author
Apr 7, 2023·edited Apr 7, 2023Author

Thanks for the comment. It's a good caution. One point I was trying to make on the podcast was indeed that science and Scientism are not the same thing.

Having said that, the questions raised I think are more complex than this. It's not necessary to believe that humans once rode on dinosaurs or that Genesis 1 is a science textbook to see the obvious questions that Darwinian theory raises about what a human is, what an eternal soul is, and what the 'creation' of humans with a special purpose means if evolutionary theory is correct. This is why I would like to do more reading and thinking. I always assumed, as you do, that there was 'zero conflict' between these things, but you will find that not really to be the case if you come into the Church.

Anyway, as I say, I'd like to think and read more about it over time. If you have any recommended reading, please do let me know.

Expand full comment
founding

Thank you for your reply!

As a point of clarification, when I say "zero conflict" I do NOT mean that the relationship is anything approaching straightforward or simple. But why would we expect truth to be simple? Christianity in general and Orthodoxy in particular know God, who is Truth itself, to be utterly beyond our understanding, and the understanding we do have is because of Him condescending to us. Further, I would like to clarify that I would not describe my beliefs in this matter, correct or not, to be an assumption. They are, rather, a conclusion based on almost two decades of reading, doubting, wrestling with tension and confusion, and a slow changing of mind.

As far as recommended reading, I have a few suggestions as a starting point, from both Orthodox and non-Orthodox sources. Some are books, some are articles, and some are podcasts. Some deal with the evolution/faith question directly, some indirectly, and some simply assume the correctness of evolutionary science and have that as part of their Christian worldview.

Orthodox:

Living In God's Creation: Orthodox Perspectives On Ecology by Elizabeth Theokritoff

Science and the Christian Faith: A Guide for the Perplexed by Fr. Christopher C. Knight

Wrestling With the Divine: Religion, Science, and Revelation by Fr. Christopher C. Knight

Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narrative by Peter Bouteneff

“In the Beginning”: A New Look at the Origin Stories in Genesis, an article by Fr. Lawrence Farley - URL: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/nootherfoundation/in-the-beginning-a-new-look-at-the-origin-stories-in-genesis/

Creation and Evolution by Fr. Stephen Freeman - URL: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2014/02/11/creation-and-evolution/

(I also am an acquaintance of his and can probably put you in touch if you wish you to email or mail him and get a more in-depth exploration of the topic from a faithful, conservative Orthodox Priest who is knowledgeable about the interaction of the faith and evolution and do not see them as fundamentally in conflict.)

Darwin and Christianity by the late Fr. Thomas Hopko - URL: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/series/darwin_and_christianity

(This is a 10 part podcast)

The Path to the Academy:

Conversations on Orthodoxy and Education

Episode: No Scholar is an Island

URL: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pathacademy/no_scholar_is_an_island

(I can also put you in touch with Dr. Jenkins, the host of this podcast, if you so wish and he could definitely direct you to expertly qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced people on this topic.)

*********

non-Orthodox sources:

Darwin's Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong by Conor Cunningham

Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology by Alister McGrath

God, Chance, and Purpose: Can God Have it Both Ways? By David J. Bartholomew

The Altruistic Species: Scientific, Philosophical, and Religious Perspectives of Human Benevolence by Andrew Michael Fletcher and Daniel L. Worthen

Adam and the Genome by Dennis B. Venema and Scot McKnight

Modern Physics and Ancient Faith by Stephen M. Barr

Chance, by Design: The Scientific Concept of Randomness is Consistent with Divine Providence by Stephen M. Barr

URL: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/12/chance-by-design?fbclid=IwAR1sot0HLFdhrWPzVUWAuDrCntQkY_ztWO9STHniVNXxOOVR6jfrTVgJA20

*****

Of special note: Regarding the questions about the "immortal" soul I have two recommendations, one Orthodox, one non-Orthodox.

Orthodox:

Podcast: Lord of Spirits: The Seen and Unseen World in Orthodox Christian Tradition

Hosts: Fr. Dr. Stephen De Young, priest and biblical scholar; Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

Episode: What’s a Spirit When It’s at Home?

URL: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/lordofspirits/whats_a_spirit_when_its_at_home

(Honestly, quite aside from the specific issue here, I simply recommend this podcast to you and really to everyone. It's a deep dive into the realm of spirits from the perspective of Orthodox theology, biblical scholarship, and philosophy. The hosts do an excellent job of connecting current Orthodox praxis and understanding to the Old and New Testaments and simply bring the ancient world alive in a way no one has been able to before, in my opinion.)

non-Orthodox:

Whatever Happened to the Soul?: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature edited by Warren S. Brown, Nancy Murphy, and H. Newton Malony.

(I do not agree with the ultimate metaphysics they present in this anthology; however if their Protestant understanding is swapped for a sacramental/enchanted worldview, there's much gold to be found in this pile of muck, in my opinion.)

****

Of final note:

I do find myself growing weary of evolution/creation talk. Frankly, whether one defends or rejects the correctness of evolutionary theory on whatever theological/philosophical grounds, the whole thing has a tendency to blur the grandeur and utter majesty of the Christian understanding and story of creation. Indeed, when one comes to truly appreciate what is trying to be communicated to us in that story, the question of its relationship to a single, historically contingent scientific framework becomes small, almost to the point of triviality. I'm with Pageau on this: it frankly almost doesn't matter how correct evolutionary theory is or isn't. Additionally, God will judge us according to our deeds, not our opinions, understandings, or ability to pass a science test, especially as science is historically contingent and always subject to revision. Truly realizing this ought to demote the importance of this question tremendously. At this point, the only reason I ever speak up anymore is so that folks in their zeal don't end up writing out huge swaths of people, like myself, entirely out of the faith on what is at best a disputable basis.

To end, though I don't have the quotes on hand, I would like to point out that Church Fathers no less than the likes of St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. Basil the Great rebuked fellow believers of their day who in unlearned zeal wrongly spurned intellectual consensus and learning from outside the Faith as being ungodly or damaging to the Faith. Indeed, St. Augustine in his work on the literal meaning of Genesis rebuked those Christians who used Scriptures and Tradition to contradict the knowledge of the natural world obtained by Pagans who were sure in this knowledge by their reason and experience, because such Christians created false and unnecessary barriers to Pagans coming to know the essential truths of the Faith, not least the resurrection of the dead.

But as I said, wherever you end up on this or anything else, I wish you well and look forward to whatever your next project is!

Expand full comment

Thank you Zach for such a superb list of recommendations. Appreciate the trouble you have taken.

Expand full comment
author
Apr 8, 2023·edited Apr 8, 2023Author

Thanks very much indeed for this list, Zach. Much to explore here. I much appreciate you taking the time to lay it out. Some of these I'm familiar with already, but a lot of them I'm not. Now I just need the time to read them ...

As a rule I tend to agree about the debate/argument around creation and evolution in this context. Because I haven't thought about it, I want to work out my thinking by looking at all sides of the discussion. I certainly have questions that are tugging at me since my discussion with John. And as you know, I am deeply sceptical of science, not just as an ideology but as a means of explaining anything much beyond the workings of bits of matter. It is not a great question for me fath-wise, however. You are right that this is much more of an issue in America than in Europe. I suspect that this is down to the Western (protestant) tendency to want answers to everything.

On a side note, I'm pleased to see that you know Fr Stephen Freeman. I have been reading and listening to him since my early explorations into Orthodoxy, and we were briefly in touch. He is a rare online voice of wisdom.

Blessings to you,

Paul

Expand full comment
founding

Despite my love of doing scientific study, I am in full agreement with you that science's capacity for explanation or explicating the truth is extremely narrow and limited. At it's best, it can be one small aspect of wisdom, in terms of understanding patterns in creation. At its worst, it obfuscates the really important things and leads to delusion.

Setting aside for now some of the more complicated, if more interesting, reasons for this state of affairs, a big limitation comes from its methodology, which assumes a materialist metaphysics, is often reductionistic, and tries to understand material objects, phenomena, processes, and relationships as they are in themselves. The problem is, none of these things, indeed I would argue nothing created, is only in and of itself. So, this methodology is extremely limited and prone to give a distorted picture. Unfortunately, the methodology of modern science grew out of metaphysical views that were trending toward and eventually reached an utterly disenchanted world. In turn, most people, including scientists have presumptuously taken what at most should've been a methodological tactic to enable our limited intellects to focus in on one aspect of reality and have made of it a metaphysics. The only reason science has been so successful in its domain, I would argue, is because the nominalists were wrong and the essences of things are indeed an ontological reality. My own view about science and what it can reveal could be termed "epistemic structural realism." This is a philosophical position that believes science tells us real things about the world, at least in terms certain, very limited and specific, patterns or structures but not as they actually are in themselves, but in way that makes sense as it relates to our subjective perspective.

I would argue the reductionist tendency of science is what gives it its power but is also its greatest flaw. And, I would argue its still reductionistic despite the fact that the subject of emergence is being given a more central role, in both science and the philosophy of science. This is only because the evidence of our continuing study has forced emergent phenomena to be taken seriously, and many have and continue to resist the philosophical implications of such phenomena.

Deep down, I would say the practice and view of science as a whole is one manifestation of the ills of modernity, post-modernity, and the contemporary world, which were in turn historically unique manifestations of chronic human ills. The main issue, as I see it, is that we humans do not want to accept our place in the grand order of things, but wish to make our desires or needs the center; to make an order of our own devising. Perhaps too broadly speaking, pre-modern man attempted this via trying to manipulate spiritual beings and forces through ritual magic or a quid-pro-quo understanding ritual sacrifice and hospitality toward the gods and generally doing everything but submitting to the Most High God, the source and proper end of all things. Modern man has done this via our Baconian science - which is my term for the modern view and practice of science - and its technological applications. This reduced the world to dead matter to be understood, and mere resources to be exploited and consumed, solely for "the relief of man's estate."

The results of this human tendency have been spiritual, social, psychological, and ecological degradation.

(Note: Though not all this can be laid at the feet of Francis Bacon, he was an influential enough originator of how and why science would come to be done and understood that I believe calling out science Baconian is helpful.)

I say all this not to point out what you don't know. Indeed, you and many others have been going on about this sort of stuff, including the "more complicated if more interesting" things I alluded to above but didn't mention. I say it to show that as far as the bigger picture is concerned, I'm actually much closer to you and John Heers than I might have at first come across as.

And so I would say that, giving too large a say about what it means to be human to evolutionary theory is a problem and leads to a very different picture than the Christian one. My only real concern was that justified skepticism surrounding the scientific enterprise not lead to commiting the biological equivalent of saying 2+2 is not 4 (assuming base 10 arithmetic, which is our everyday arithmetic, haha).

Expand full comment

I just watched the video linked below this afternoon. It’s a tremendously powerful and in places moving advocacy for religious faith in the face of the three big things which are often cited by atheists as reasons to undermine it: science, evil, technological solutions to problems. It is by the late UK Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. It’s well worth a listen:

https://youtu.be/0ixGCAe58_A

Expand full comment
founding

Oh, and I do want to wish you and all my Orthodox friends a blessed upcoming Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Pascha!

Expand full comment

The neo-Darwinian synthesis is obsolete. Because modern science is idiotic enough to neglect formal and final causes, it's completely blind to the fact that organisms are shaped by the environment. Hell, even Dawkins is finally coming to this realization. Lee Cronin, supposedly the world's most eminent "origin of life" researcher, did not even know what teleology was before a short while ago. They limit themselves to a mechanized version of efficient cause (billiard ball determinism).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the infamous Lenski experiment show nothing ground-breaking? Because an organism is able to adapt to its environment, this proves neo-Darwinian evolution? After over 73,000 generations of E. coli, the most significant result was the development of the Cit+ trait, which enables them to grow on citrate in the presence of oxygen. The things are placed in stressful environments, so why wouldn't they change? This was able to be recreated in a matter of 2 weeks in another lab with only 100 generations in the presence of oxygen (the researchers of this experiment said the trait was "switched on" in the genes). This is akin to blowing a constant current of air on a plant to strengthen it. Life is not mechanistic for goodness' sake, so this is not surprising whatsoever. Even so, is the E. coli still not E. coli? The birds on the Galápagos: they're still birds—just because their beaks changed shape means they "evolved"? Natural selection as a full-blown theory of change, by the way, is a narrow hypothesis in that it is limited solely to efficient cause. Most random mutations are harmful anyway, and many new traits come about by “breaking” extant genes (e.g., dogs). There are also various waiting time problems that occur if one is limited to the fossil record, not to mention the limited population sizes, but one does not even have to go this far to demonstrate the stupidity of it.

Furthermore, I can't understand why proponents of naturalism and such think that we're merely stupid apes (to use Sam Harris' description—which is actually not a bad hypothesis by itself, especially when using him as proof) bred to survive and procreate yet have the capacity to discover the hidden truths of the cosmos, such as that we are merely stupid apes (I, for one, love apes). Under their theory of evolution, why are religions and mythologies not true despite being found naturally in every culture? Naturalism isn't very natural. Yet, every other behavior we display is treated as natural. This is all very deliberate on their part. Not to mention, what the hell is suicide, and why does it exist, i.e., how can this trait be passed down? Evolutionary psychology is a stupid tautology: anxiety exists because if we didn't have anxiety we would get eaten. This is another example of limiting everything to the mechanized version of efficient cause. The explanations for beauty are even dumber. Even Nietzsche was skeptical of Darwin due to the anomaly of the existence of the aesthetic sense in this model. Again, however, one still does not have to go this far.

Donald Hoffman, a scientist based in the US, has finally picked up on this (a little behind James & Bergson). He argues that the physics we have is premised on the interface to reality we gathered during the evolutionary process. He has also stated that consciousness causes brain activity, and he is a scientist who has not, for once, equated correlation with causation. One of the problems with this, however, is that he is really describing the perceptual defects of the cultural/technological milieu in which modern science operates, akin to how Descartes' view of reality was shaped by the mechanical print milieu. Print stripped all of the sensuous facts of the word (see "The Gutenberg Galaxy"). Speech is analog and acoustic, not visual. (The scribes, however, retained a human element through the written word.) We become what we behold.

Hoffman's theories of consciousness are resolvable via Aristotle's hylomorphism: matter as potency, form as act. Our physical bodies are how our souls manifest themselves in communion with this earthly world. Looking at brain tissue under the microscope and calling it yourself is a confusion of categories. The brain tissue is there to serve your soul, although, of course, our physical bodies are subject to pains and passions which go against the truer ends of our souls. However, the brain is not the seat of consciousness (i.e., mind or soul); rather, consciousness is the seat of the brain and, for that matter, the whole body. All living things are ensouled matter. We should not toy with our genes because they don't define everything to begin with; they are that way in accordance with the form, or essence, of the organism. This is why nature is such a nuisance to agriculture: it's constantly reforming itself to its true essence.

It's all formal cause. The environment is the formal cause of the content (the medium is the message). Medical research shows that cancer is a way of life (akin to the ancient view that sickness is the result of sinful behavior). Neuroplasticity, epigenetics, etc. are just sexy buzzwords to describe all of this. This modern pathology to categorize everything in such a groundless, abstract manner is not as neutral as moderns think it is. Secularism is yet another flavor; vanilla is a flavor. It's a put-on by stupid apes (like Harris & Dawkins—however, this is an insult to actual apes) to make themselves feel smart. It’s philistinism (and unnatural) to not participate in higher dimensions of reality. New Atheism, for example, is pure tribalism and superstition. Reality is fundamentally poetic. It's as if the modern sciences are a deliberate attempt to deny this. To think of the trillions of dollars wasted each year and the incalculable number of lives and ecosystems destroyed by the ignorance of what was once a part of basic philosophical knowledge…

The nature of the Machine is that it precisely lacks nature. Machines don't heal, nor do the people trapped inside of them. This is why so many people take pharmaceuticals for every little thing. The Machine’s medicine is just as abstract as itself. It is premised on looking at the arrangement of the physical substrate when one is “healthy” and then throwing groundless, abstract forms at the structure in order to forcefully, artificially reshape it to that state when it is “unhealthy,” most likely due to the body & mind's failed attempt to conform to the vacuousness of the Machine in the first place. All of this disease we face is not that natural selection isn't able to act—it's that we are forms (souls), bugs in the Machine, unable to fulfill their telos. Materialists materialize virtue. The Machine is formally caused by the collective materialistic ways of billions of people (Mammon), the products of which are really just groundless, lifeless forms that we can't truly conform to anyway. Science progressively saves us from itself. We already have everything we need. The arts heal more than SSRIs, for they conform us to magical, mystical environments that the contextless environments produced by SSRIs are modeled to replicate in effect. SSRIs give the effects of art on the fly because there's no integration of this in our lives as robots or cogs in the Machine. This is also why various therapies are becoming increasingly popular. Prayer and liturgy are higher, truer forms of this. The supreme example is the divine Logos: Jesus Christ heals the blind.

Many blessings,

Matthew

Expand full comment
founding

Blessings to you Matthew.

Thank you for comment. I do not wish to drag this out, so this reply will likely be all I say on the matter.

First, I would agree that science is very limited because it focuses only on the material and efficient causes of things. You are also correct to point out that many scientists are woefully uneducated outside of their specialties, leading to a view of that world that the words "distorted" and "myopic" hardly do justice to describe. Yes, there is an inherent bias against the notion of teleology in science, and that leads to distortion. Yes, the nature of the inquiry will have an impact on the results of the inquiry. But I believe you go too far in some instances.

For one, you said, "It's all formal cause." This is running dangerously close to the errors of the scientific enterprise you rightly point out: ignoring, downplaying, or pitting one of the four causes against the other. It's just as reductionistic as reducing all causes to material or efficient. I would maintain that to have a fuller picture, ALL causes must be understood as best they can be, and held together while knowing that they may give different pictures taken in and of themselves. Just as the scientists are wrong to deny the truths of teleology and form on the basis of their understandings of the material and efficient causes, so I think you go too far in saying their understandings of the material and efficient causes are utterly erroneous on the basis of your understanding of the formal and final causes of things.

The neo-Darwinian synthesis is not yet obsolete, though it is rapidly approaching such a status. But only in the sense that Newtonian physics is obsolete. Newtonian physics isn't false and was never proven "wrong" as many popular takes have it. It was only proven to not be universally valid as was originally thought. It is still perfectly correct when a certain set of conditions hold. And so, I would argue, is the neo-Darwinian synthesis. It has proven to create a clear picture of and connect many previously unconnected dots within much of our biological facts. Yet, even on the basis of material and efficient causes, it is hitting its limits. You may be interested to learn of the debate surrounding the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis. Descent with modification and evolution via natural selection is not seen as false, but only a small part of a much more complex picture. Here's a good overview if interested:

https://www.templeton.org/discoveries/extended-evolutionary-synthesis

I would say that the issue with work like Hoffman's is that, if one is not careful in understanding the implications of work like his, one can slip into too radical of an epistemological skepticism that would not merely undermine the conclusions of a reductionistic materialism from science, but would make ANY conclusion unreal, including the truths of the Christian Faith or Aristotle's four causes; that is, a naive anti-realism would be the only epistemological option which is a relativistic acid that is unworkable, dissolving all things including itself. Yes, scientists go too far toward a naive realism regarding their work, but I believe your use of influence of framework on the results obtained by inquiries in that framework is in danger of going too far in the other direction.

Regarding your interpretations of the experiments you mentioned, let me say this: it's not just those experiments, but a staggering host of genetic findings and fossil discoveries that the current evolutionary frame gives a stronger explanation for, in terms of material and efficient causes, than anything else on offer. Additionally, it has made countless predictions that have turned out to be accurate and have been observed in the lab and in the wild. Specifically regarding the issue of speciation, one species turning into another, that has now been observed in real time, captured on video, and it happened entirely consistently with the current evolutionary picture. In this case, a single celled organism was observed to evolve into a multicellular organism, a completely new species than the original, in response to predation. While the in the E. Coli experiments you mentioned, E. Coli stayed E. Coli, that explicitly did not happen here.

Paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-39558-8

Short video:

https://www.google.com/search?q=speciation+from+single+cell+to+multicellular+organism+on+video&oq=speciation+from+single+cell+to+multicellular+organism+on+video&aqs=chrome..69i57.15519j0j7&client=ms-android-boost-us-revc&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:81c4853b,vid:oVCRCnJBdU0

As far as your analysis of our Machine society, I am in enough agreement that I find nothing worth quibbling about.

I just want to end by saying that you and I and Paul Kingsnorth and many in our sphere agree on far more things than we disagree about, and the things on which we agree are, I believe, the more important issues. My only real stake in pushing back against some of what you and John Heers said is that the issues and conflicts we face are so numerous and deep as it is, that we need to be very careful in adding unnecessary ones because of an insufficiency in discernment and understanding. And I believe a conflict with the specific details of evolutionary biology are one such unnecessary battle.

In any case, may God richly bless you and may His Kingdom come swiftly to dismantle the Machine and put all to rights! I'm now off to Church, as today is Holy Saturday and it's time to once again enter into the mystery of His tomb and descent to Hades in anticipation of His smashing their gates and bringing Life to those in the grave. Have a blessed day!

Expand full comment

Thank you. I think we're almost in full agreement, but I'll clarify some things perhaps just as some food for thought.

Plato and Aristotle were relatively ignorant of the effects of technology. All human artifacts are media, as in they structure, or mediate, experience (see the work of the Catholic Marshall McLuhan; he was a metaphysician, not a communications theorist as everyone wrongly has it). They skew our perception in accordance to their form. In some sense, the pre-moderns took this for granted.

Introducing the iPhone into a technologically simple village will completely alter the whole structure of it. This is not determinism; it's how we unwittingly willfully respond to the temptations of technology (Adam), the effects of which can be described via medieval faculty psychology (for these purposes, the sensus communis; psychē = soul). For example, you having to put a lot of interpretation into who I am due to the lack of sensory data to go off of is an example of this. For this reason, Twitter allows people to paint the worst pictures imaginable of their interlocutors, leading to sharp tribal divisions, conspiratorial paranoia, and manically comical representation. It's patent witchcraft.

The phonetic alphabet divides non-visual speech (totally analog) into meaningless bits of sounds, phonemes, and assigns them each an otherwise groundless, arbitrary visual component. The adoption of this alphabet stripped us from the magical acoustical space of the pre-literates by placing emphasis solely on the visual (Plato vs. the poets) and led to the syllogism (which is totally abstract). This is seen in the linear, continuous nature of formal logic (dialectic). The phonetic alphabet also led to the invention of the concept of visual space as well as other abstract visual continua like Democritean atomism and Euclidean space itself. Acoustic space, on the other hand, can be described as the center of a sphere without boundaries, where space is made by the thing in itself. Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber, described that his senses became much more acute and involved in his environment when he lived in the wilderness. He said he could tell the source of a sound without even looking at it, even if it was the mere shuffling of some leaves underfoot. Despite claiming to be an atheist, he rediscovered the old spirits of the forest and worshipped them (e.g., Grandfather Rabbit); he was really a pagan.

What happens to children (at least here in the US) is that they undergo an education system that imposes figure-without-ground thinking (e.g., standardized tests rip passages from their original context and place them in a random order), which is ultimately what the "disenchantment" feeling is. When you're a child, you have very acute senses for subtlety and nuance and easily see the spiritual core of reality. Everything is essentially anagogical. "Santa Claus" is the spirit of St. Nicholas and gift-giving in the air: it's a very real thing indeed. This is not measurable by scientific instruments because they are inherently designed to measure what we design it to measure of physical reality. Even Sartre said that the the eye exists because of seeing, the nose because of smelling, the ear because of hearing, and sexual organs because of sex, not the other way around.

A child's serotonin levels being up is also not the bottom of it, for what is doing this *feeling* anyway? Again, this form of reductionism is another instance of our technology totally ruining our perception of reality. Phenomenologically speaking, this is absurd, as it is on a plentitude of other levels that are way too multitudinous to lay out here. "Serotonin" as a descriptor in most of these cases is an abstract mental object of the mind, and its actual physical correlate is a form. All of these "chemicals" are ultimately physical correlates to our existence as spiritual beings in these mortal, fleshly bodies. Matter doesn't *feel* itself—this is the soul (qualia). Matter (potency) serves spirit, so it's a physical correlate (however, this isn't to say our mortal bodies don't have their own passions—they very much do indeed). Physical reality is a substrate imprinted upon by form.

Many scientists deliberately abuse their power to abstract everything so as to tyrannize and intimidate unsuspecting minds. Like I said, it's a total put-on. They're akin to witches who cast spells (figure) which hypnotize people from reality (ground). This is not a conspiracy theory—just look at the power they wield and the amount of damage they're doing. Their vision of reality is a superstition without any spiritual benefits. Modern science has been carefully engineered over the past four centuries to dominate and control nature. An AI chatbot resembles humans from the outside and you can make a lot of predictions about humans with them, but internally it looks nothing like them. This, I strongly believe, is the essence of modern science (after all, it is based on alchemy). I.e., it is merely some elaborate grammar that we've engineered to dominate and control nature. In objective terms similar to their own, a computer is just some fancy silicon chips that harness electricity in ways that our minds can easily assign meanings to. To other creatures, this is totally meaningless. Just because an airplane flies doesn't prove materialism; it's just another way we've controlled matter to do stuff for us. Also, what is energy in the first place? Physicalists take existence, matter, energy, and information for granted. Information is form. Metaphysically speaking, the ground of everything is God.

Furthermore, I wish not to imply that "evolution" isn't real. However, I am saying it's a nebulous term that has become a buzzword for all sorts of nefarious purposes. Being *shaped* by "pressures" is formal cause. Also, a new species is a new species just because scientists slap a new label on it? Modern science is all *visual*, negating all the other sensuous facts of reality. This is complimentary to the various media in which it operates (e.g., textbooks and abstract laboratories/white lab coats). One mustn't be intimidated by the guise scientists put on; they're philosophically and spiritually very illiterate (which is ultimate reality). Again, the level of confusion is so deep that it is impossible to adequately expound upon here.

Additionally, healing, for example, is formally caused. There's evidence that cells can modify themselves, although this is not surprising at all. In fact, this isn't an example of emergence (see David Bentley Hart's work). It's because everything is done in accordance to what our souls need in order to operate in this earthly, physical, fallen world. The ground is the soul, while the figure is the body (yet, even this is a metaphysical grammar—however, grammars are vessels of truth, though not necessarily absolutely perspectival). Our souls themselves have a telos, as do the various organs of our physical bodies. However, I don't believe that flesh inherits the Kingdom (this isn't to say that it is bad—after all, Christ was incarnate—but it is fallen and subject to contradictory passions and finally death). I believe that in the end, all of creation will be restored to its full glory in Christ, as signaled by the resurrection.

God bless you and I hope you have a blessed rest of this important day,

Matthew

Expand full comment
Apr 7, 2023·edited Apr 7, 2023

Paul, I’m curious: my subscription period runs from October to October: does the special offer remain valid till Oct 2023, i.e. if I pay the reduced price now, the subscription will simply keep running from Oct for the following year? When I pressed the button it just took me to my profile page, with apparently no further action visible. Many thanks.

Expand full comment
Apr 7, 2023·edited Apr 7, 2023

Just to say my "Billing period renews Jul 9" and I see no way myself to renew at present, to say nothing of a discounted rate. I did find a button to "change" my subscription to monthly or become a Founder Member.

Expand full comment
author

I don't actually know. I just have the ability to make these offers. I suspect they only apply to new subscribers though. you could write to Substack and ask. Sorry not to be more helpful.

Expand full comment

No problem - it probably is only for newcomers.

Happy and restful Easter!

Expand full comment

On a completely different (but thematic) track. I came across an article on Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow. I remember back in college it was a hip read and if you could actually wind your way through (or maybe pretended you did) it was a signal of a great hipster intellectual merit. Nothing against the novel, mind you. I, alas, failed twice to make it very far into it--to my hipster-cred shame!

But according to the article the novel is a premonition of some solid Kingsnorthian themes.

https://compactmag.com/article/pynchon-s-prophecy

Now that hipsterdom has fallen it might be worth giving the novel another shot. Maybe.

Paul- The Abbey has been quite a ride thus far. I am interested in how this phase wraps up...and what comes next. -Jack

Expand full comment

Fascinating and frightful article! I've never approached Pynchon, but just this week watched PT Anderson's "Inherent Vice", based on the Pynchon book. It is a complete trip. Now, I'm intrigued...

Expand full comment

Did you find the movie worthwhile?

The only Pynchon novel I ever made it through was The Crying of Lot 49. It's fairly short. I am curious again with Gravity's Rainbow. But it would be a project.

Expand full comment

It's very dreamlike and often confusing. Hallucinatory at times and funny. Pynchon's look back on the end of the hippie dream and the dark forces taking over? A fantastic character study and I had to let go of "trying to understand" and enjoy the ride. Fantastic cast and I think Anderson is one of our modern film geniuses. It has made me extremely curious to read the novel and about Pynchon in general. Thanks again for your linked article!

Expand full comment
Apr 7, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

Paul, nice touch with the Percy French painting. Percy was the kind of man that rarely exists in the West today. He was a civil engineer who became a prolific Irish songwriter, poet and artist.

That we struggle mightily to produce men like that today is further condemnation of The Machine.

Expand full comment

I believe the witch hunts were just cleaning up the last of The Templars and Gnostics.

Expand full comment
Apr 7, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

Thank you Paul for all your revelatory writings, I have learned a great deal. Orthodox in general do not evangelize but the Orthodox story needs to be told more often and in my opinion who better to tell it than one who has been found and brought into the fold. Please continue to share your faith; I believe it’s what you are being called to do. Have a blessed Pascha.

Expand full comment

So glad you're able (hopefully) to get to the midwest. I've been sending links to these essays to many of my Chicago area friends, and they really resonate. Road trip in the fall!

Expand full comment

I see your name being referenced by other writers alot ( Medium Substack and the like ) Must be a good thing right? Usually they will say something like " Kingsnorth wants to flee to the wilds" and something about a new type of Christian worship. Anyway the Lord really blessed me in a strange way today. I am honestly sitting here in almost shock. My needs are not always what I would think are the Lords way but dang He Loves unconditionally is all I can say. Happy Easter to you and your readers. Looking forward to more.

Expand full comment
Apr 7, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

Happy Easter! Well, you have one more week to go but I’m Catholic, writing on Good Friday, sliding into Easter and the celebration of the Resurrection.

Just finished a sublime Triduum, in Latin, chants in semi-darkness. Yes, the old Latin rite, still alive in a few churches and extremely packed, mostly by people under 50, hungry for the mysterious and the spiritual. It’s fashionable to shout doom and gloom from the rooftops but there is the light. “Et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt” (John 1:5). And the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. God is in control. He has always been in control. The deception of the world is to convince people that they’ve been abandoned.

Expand full comment

All rule tends to be or become misrule. A slight variation of "Power tends to corrupt." The rule (Kingdom) of God is the only exception because it is not of this world. Why is there so much corruption in "the church?" Because "the church" as it self-identifies is not an arm of God; it is a self-appointed rule, falsely claiming to be of God. Churches, church leaders, and church hierarchies are sons (and daughters) of Balaam, false prophets as he was. The only difference is that Balaam had an ass that spoke truth.

Expand full comment