going up







Rudolf Steiner taught that evolution is a divinely planned process of spiritual improvement.


But Steiner’s concept has nothing to do with the way evolution actually works. To comprehend real evolution, we must overcome the concept of purpose or planning. Thus, people may ask "Why do humans have an appendix? What is the purpose of the appendix?" There is no purpose. There is no plan. According to the National Institutes of Health, the appendix “has no known function.” [1] All the appendix does for us is make us susceptible to appendicitis. Some plan.


The eye provides another example. Creationists often point to the eye and argue that such a superb organ could not have evolved by chance. But how superb is the human eye, really? It is sensitive to a very small segment of the total electromagnetic spectrum. It has a central blind spot. It is woefully inadequate in dim lighting. It is given to optical illusions. A skilled designer who wanted to create an organ of vision could have done better than this. [2]


As far as we can tell, evolution is a blind, purposeless process of random change. We bridle at this notion. The human mind rebels against the concept of randomness, but indeed this is the core issue. Evolution occurs because random changes occur — sometimes small changes, sometimes big ones, sometimes over a long period of time, sometimes pretty quickly. [3]


Darwin knew how radical his theory is, and he had the intellectual courage to accept its implications. “Darwin...had the intellectual toughness to stick with the deeply discomfiting consequences of his theory, that natural selection has no goal or purpose. Alfred Wallace, who independently thought of natural selection, later lost faith in the power of the idea and turned to spiritualism to explain the human mind. 'Darwin had the courage to face the implications of what he had done, but poor Wallace couldn't bear it,' says William Provine, a historian at Cornell University." [4]

 

Despite the difficulties for us in Darwin’s theory, it has held up. “Darwin’s theory of evolution has become the bedrock of modern biology. But for most of the theory’s existence since 1859, even biologists have ignored or vigorously opposed it, in whole or in part. It is a testament to Darwin’s extraordinary insight that it took almost a century for biologists to understand the essential correctness of his views.” [5] 


Every evolutionary change is an accident, and — in a sense — every evolutionary change is a mistake. An organism that was functioning well enough suddenly gives rise to a variation of itself. In most cases, the change — the accident, the random "mistake" — proves to have no survival benefit. It fails, therefore, and disappears. That is, the organism with this new feature is less successful than the organisms without it, so it loses out to them. [6]


Once in a while, however, a random, accidental change turns out to have survival benefit. A fascinating book, IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, discusses the emergence of sensitivity to light. [7] This sensitivity had great survival benefit, and it led to the evolution of eyes — that is, true sense organs able to see in what we call the visible spectrum. In turn, the emergence of creatures with an ability to see caused a wide-scale evolutionary spurt, a rapid surge in evolution. Here was a change that not only improved things for one sort of organism but that altered the nature of life itself for almost all subsequent creatures.


Let’s go back to the key problem we have with all this. Our brains tend to balk at randomness and purposelessness. Our brains are, after all, problem-solving organs. They automatically seek causes, connections, deductions. They work pretty well at finding such things — but they also tend to impose such things when, in fact, they are absent or unjustified. A genuine commitment to the search for truth requires us to recognize when we are simply imposing our preferences on reality, and it requires us to cut it out. [8]


The evolutionary ideas of Anthroposophy, like creationist ideas, may be attractive. They may appeal to us, massaging our egos by telling us that we occupy a special place in the grand scheme of things. But their attractiveness is irrelevant. The question is, what facts do we have, and how can we explain these facts? Neither Anthroposophy nor creationism explains the facts ascertained by science. In fact, those ideologies are utterly unscientific and, indeed, irrational. [9] 


A creationist starts with a conclusion (God created everything that exists) and then tries to frame arguments to support this a priori assumption. Anthroposophists do the same, postulating the existence of a polytheistic spirit realm, and then trying to bolster this assumption. Scientists do the opposite. They look at the facts and go wherever the facts lead them. For example, if science ever comes up with evidence that planets do not orbit the Sun (as Steiner often said), then science will have to accept this evidence and revise its theories accordingly. If science ever comes up with clear evidence of God's hand working in the natural world or in human life, it will have to accept this and revise its theories. In this manner, religion and science might be reconciled. But the reconciliation will depend on the gathering of hard, compelling evidence that stands up to careful scientific confirmation.

 

Science goes where the evidence leads, whether or not we like the conclusions forced on us by the facts. Science pursues and reveals truth. Anthroposophy jettisons truth in favor of a fantasy.


 


◊◊◊◊



A Note to the Faithful




If you are religious — and particularly if you are a creationist — you probably disliked some of what I have said in this essay. I would only ask you to consider this: Whether or not you disagree with me, can you possibly agree with Steiner? Can you possibly want to send your children to a school that promotes Steiner’s thinking?

 

The problem with Steiner's thinking is sharpest for followers of any faith that does not place great emphasis on Jesus Christ. Steiner put Christ near the center of his religious doctrines, so the followers of any faith that doesn't do the same will almost certainly find Waldorf schools an alien environment.

 

But Christians, too, should think hard before sending their children to a Waldorf school. Steiner explicitly rejected Biblical Christianity. The Christ of his religion is one of many, many gods. He is, in fact, the Sun God. And Steiner said you cannot know the real Christ unless you accept his bizarre teachings. People who do not practice Anthroposophy will “be unable to gain an understanding of the living Christ. They will have to deny Christ, unless they choose, somewhat dishonestly, to hold on to the traditional Christian beliefs, while lacking the inner means of soul to understand [the truth about Christ]....” [10]

 

What about Muslims? Their faith recognizes Jesus as an important prophet. Can a Muslim family be happy with the religion they will find inside a Waldorf school? Not if the school is faithful to Steiner, who said the following. (To understand it, realize that — according to Steiner — Ahriman and Lucifer are demons, and the Elohim are a group of gods that includes Jehovah. One of Steiner's criticisms of Islam is that it recognizes only one God; Steiner said there are many gods.) “Mohammedism is the first manifestation of Ahriman, the first Ahrimanic revelation following the Mystery of Golgotha [Calvary, where Jesus was crucified]. Mohammed's god, Allah, Eloha, is an Ahrimanic imitation or pale reflection of the Elohim, but comprehended [i.e., misunderstood] monotheistically. Mohammed always refers to them as a unity. The Mohammedan culture is Ahrimanic, but the Islamic attitude is Luciferic.” [11]


Jews certainly have reason to pull back from Steiner and his teachings. Steiner made many distinctly anti-Semitic statements. Indeed, an anti-Semitic attitude lies near the heart of Anthroposophy. "As you know, we distinguish the Jews from the rest of the earth's population. The difference has arisen because the Jews have been brought up in the moon religion for centuries [i.e., they worship the Moon being, Jehovah] ... The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world." [12]

 

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists... Steiner’s teachings contain much that violates your faith. Unless you are prepared to give up your faith and join Steiner in Anthroposophy, a Waldorf school is almost surely the wrong choice for your children.


 

— Roger Rawlings


◊◊◊◊



Creationism, Anthroposophy,

and Science



Creationists work backwards, starting with an idea and then trying to find evidence for it — while ignoring or rationalizing away conflicting evidence. Specifically, creationists start with a text, the Bible, and try to uphold it "scientifically. " Likewise, Anthroposophists start with Steiner's texts and try to uphold them "scientifically. "


A real scientist does just the opposite — s/he starts with evidence and then tries to see what explanation (i. e. , theory) can account for the evidence. Then s/he looks around to see if there is further evidence to support or overturn the theory. If s/he finds evidence contradicting the theory, s/he throws the theory out and begins again. Creationists and Anthroposophists don't do this — for them, tossing out the Bible or Steiner is virtually unthinkable. They are wedded to their theories, which they treat as unquestionable Truth.


The difference can be most clearly stated this way, perhaps: Any real scientist will adopt the theory of creationism or Steiner's evolutionary schema if the evidence leads there. A real scientist has no bias for or against any theory — s/he simply wants to find the truth. By contrast, Anthroposophists and — to a lesser degree — creationists reject any inconvenient scientific findings virtually out of hand, and they strive to be impervious to any argument that might divert them from their chosen system of beliefs.


The way creationists work is evident, for instance, in the Creation Museum:




MUSEUM BRINGS CREATIONISM TO LIFE

BIBLICAL ACCOUNT IS TAKEN AS SCIENTIFIC GOSPEL

AT $25 MILLION CREATION MUSEUM 

By Dylan T.  Lovan

The Associated Press updated 4:22 p. m.  ET, Mon. , July 31, 2006



PETERSBURG, Ky.  - Like most natural history museums, this one has exhibits showing dinosaurs roaming the earth.  Except here, the giant reptiles share the forest with Adam and Eve. 


That, of course, is contradicted by science, but that's the point of the $25 million Creation Museum rising fast in rural Kentucky. 


Its inspiration is the Bible — the literal interpretation that contends God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them just a few thousand years ago. 


"If the Bible is the word of God, and its history really is true, that's our presupposition or axiom, and we are starting there," museum founder Ken Ham said during recent tour of the sleek and modern facility, which is due to open next year ...

<snip>


"It's education, but it's also doing it in an entertaining way," Ham said. 


Scientists say fossils and sophisticated nuclear dating technology show that Earth is more than 4 billion years old, the first dinosaurs appeared around 200 million years ago, and they died out well before the first human ancestors arose a few million years ago. 


"Genesis is not science," said Mary Dawson, curator emeritus of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.  "Genesis is a tale that was handed down for generations by people who really knew nothing about science, who knew nothing about natural history, and certainly knew nothing about what fossils were."



•••



Scientists who visit the museum come away shaking their heads.  (The headline for the following article was thought up by an editor — no real scientist would see creationists as foes. As I stated, a real scientist would be open to the possibility that creationism is correct. But s/he would need compelling evidence.  Similarly, I have argued that Steiner may have been right about everything — but I've said the odds seem awfully long, since there is so little evidence to support anything Steiner ever said. )



Posted on Wed, Jun.  24, 2009

SCIENTISTS STUDY FOES' WAYS AT CREATION MUSEUM

By Jeffrey McMurray, Associated Press Writer


In a dimly lit corner of the Creation Museum stands a life-size replica of a wrecking ball labeled "Millions of Years" demolishing the facade of a brick church. 


For the more than six dozen paleontologists who visited the museum Wednesday, the ball might as well have read "Science. "


In one of the largest gatherings of critics since the northern Kentucky museum opened two years ago, the scientists in the area for a conference took a field trip to get a glimpse of the marketing tactics used by the other side of the evolution debate.... <snip> 


"The real purpose of the museum visit is to give some of my colleagues an opportunity to sense how they're being portrayed," said Arnold Miller, a professor of paleontology at the University of Cincinnati, which is hosting the conference.  "They're being demonized, I feel, in this museum as people who are responsible for all the ills of society. "


Miller and other paleontologists object to numerous other aspects of the museum they say imply science is doing more harm than good.... 

<snip>


Scientists also disagree with the depiction of Noah's ark itself.  Inside a miniature ark is a compartment holding two small dinosaurs, living alongside the monkeys, cows and other animals. 


"It's like a theme park, but the problem is it masquerades as truth," said Derek Briggs, a Yale University paleontologist....


It all had Wednesday's visitors shaking their heads. 


"Faith is one thing," said Mark Terry, a high school science teacher from Seattle, "but when it comes to their science statements, they're completely off the wall."






◊◊◊◊







[Detail, Rudolf Steiner,

Kessinger.]




◊◊◊◊



AFTERWORD



Steiner's conception of evolution, and his overall cosmology, are versions of creationism and intelligent design, though they differ in significant ways from many currently prevalent intelligent design claims. It is thus hardly surprising that Anthroposophists are often taken in by contemporary intelligent design proposals, since their core beliefs already accord well with the general contours of creationist thinking. Both intelligent design advocates and Anthroposophists believe that nature has a destiny and is shaped according to a intentional program.


Evolutionary biology, and what Anthroposophists refer to as "Darwinism," tells a different story. Scientific understanding of evolution is very unlike Steiner's claims. The fundamental outlines of evolutionary science are so dissimilar to Anthroposophist assumptions that many Anthroposophists have an exceedingly difficult time even making sense of non-creationist evolutionary explanations. That evolution unfolds without purpose or plan, without goal or guidance, without destiny or destination, without divine oversight or deliberate intention or aim, is an idea that Steiner's followers often cannot come to terms with, even in order to argue against it.


This is one of several factors that make a productive and reasonable discussion of the subject between Anthroposophists and non-Anthroposophists unusually challenging. Both Anthroposophists and other intelligent design enthusiasts often use the term “Darwinism” as shorthand for contemporary evolutionary biology, for the consensus among scientists about evolution; but they also use the term as a pejorative label for what they find wrong with scientific approaches to understanding life in general. This can sometimes add another layer of confusion to efforts at discussion.


Part of this has to do with an unfortunate tendency among intelligent design proponents to misconstrue disagreements between various 'Darwinians' as evidence that the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology is somehow on the verge of collapse. This foolish notion is frequently exacerbated by an Anthroposophical inclination to take a decidedly dim view of argument, disagreement, debate, and controversy as such; yet another indication of the yawning gap between Anthroposophical and scientific approaches. A further contributing factor is a common Anthroposophist trend toward classifying complicated positions as either "pro" or "anti" some big, purportedly unified whole — as if thinkers like Darwin, or for that matter even Steiner himself, could be reduced to a neat, tidy, internally consistent set of propositions, which one either accepts or rejects tout court.


The complex relationships between Darwin's own ideas and discoveries and latter-day scientific developments which build on those ideas and discoveries is a very lively issue among historians at the moment. A forthcoming special issue of the journal Intellectual History Review [Staudenmaier wrote this message in June, 2009] will be devoted to the theme “Rethinking the Darwinian Revolution”, for example. In discussions of intelligent design claims, however, Anthroposophists typically use "Darwinism" to refer to currently accepted accounts of biological evolution, precisely the accounts which intelligent design advocates oppose. That is an acceptable usage, but it can get Anthroposophists tied up in knots when they try to have it both ways.


Beyond such basic concerns as these, there are numerous other problems with common Anthroposophist beliefs about natural evolution — even setting aside the patently racist aspects of these beliefs. This is another likely reason for the Anthroposophical proclivity to take recent intelligent design claims at face value. Inadequate acquaintance with contemporary biology probably plays a contributing role in many instances. A lack of historical perspective can add a further impediment. Much of what passes for argument from current intelligent design proponents is intellectually vacuous, though this was certainly not always the case for earlier versions of the argument from design.


I think all of this pretty consistently adds up to a predictable series of Anthroposophist misunderstandings. The theme of probability represents a telling example. From the assumption that certain forms of complexity are highly improbable on the basis of non-directed processes, intelligent design jumps to the conclusion that such forms of complexity must have been deliberately created by an intelligent designer. This is an obvious non-sequitur, and does not even take its own ostensible logic seriously. Among various other fatal flaws, the argument fails according to even the simplest possible standards of parsimony. If the existence of these forms of complexity without an intelligent designer is itself already highly improbable, then the simultaneous existence of such forms of complexity plus an intelligent designer is more improbable still, and the argument immediately refutes itself. It is difficult to see how this might not occur to anyone with even modest philosophical training.


In any case, no special training is needed to find one's way through the various claims and counter-claims at issue. It is often sufficient merely to look at the sources Anthroposophists themselves invoke. For instance, Jonathan Wells, a major intelligent design promoter, says openly that prayer (and the Unification Church of Rev. Moon) led him to “devote my life to destroying Darwinism.” It seems superfluous to note that this is not an indication of a scientific approach to the matter.


It isn't difficult to find information about the subjects at stake. Even that favorite Anthroposophist source, Wikipedia, has lots of readily accessible information on these topics. One good place to start could be the entry on intelligent design itself. [13]


— Peter Staudenmaier











Steiner's account of the creation and prehistory is incompatible with both science and the Bible. “[W]armth, air, and water were there but as yet no really solid mineral structures ... During this Old Moon stage, therefore, we are talking of a thickish fluid that contained in solution all the substances which today are solid ... [I]mmense quantities of metals and even of sulphur were present in the air ... The mode of life of the creatures that existed at that time was utterly different ... You can imagine how different the earth looked at that time, like a kind of giant egg yolk ... The creatures...had a bodily structure somewhere between what one needs for swimming — fins — and what one needs for walking — feet ... These creatures therefore had limbs in which there was something of a thornlike nature, but also something like joints. They were really quite ingenious joints, and in between, the flesh mass was stretched out like an umbrella ... Other creatures lived in the dense air ... [They] had no lungs ... They absorbed the air as a kind of food ... [T]he birdlike creatures in the air of that time excreted continuously ... Reproduction was at that time of a very different nature; it went on in the whole earth-body. The upper world fertilized the lower, the lower world fertilized the upper. The whole earth-body was alive. One could say that the creatures below and the creatures above were like maggots in a body ... It was one life, and the various beings lived in a completely living world." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM SUNSPOTS TO STRAWBERRIES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 18-24.










Struck by beauty and symmetry in nature,

Anthroposophists, creationists, and others

often argue that there must be a designer behind the designs —

God or multiple gods must exist.

Ironically, the scientist who did the most to document

design in nature was Ernst Haeckel —

who was a Darwinist.

Haeckel taught that the beauties he documented

were produced by the evolutionary processes described by Darwin.








Marine protozoa.

[Ernst Haeckel, ART FORMS IN NATURE

(Dover Publications, 1974), plate 21.]











Hummingbirds.

[Ibid., plate 99.]





















My sketch of fossils means little except as a reminder

that there is a vast wealth of evidence supporting the scientific account of evolution,

and none — zero, zilch — supporting Steiner.

[R.R., 2010.]











ENDNOTES




[1] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/appendicitis.html.

[2] See, e.g., "human eye" and "light", ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.

[3] See, e.g., Richard Milner, Ian Tattersall, Stephen Jay Gould, DARWIN'S UNIVERSE: EVOLUTION FROM A TO Z (University of California Press, 2009).

[4] Nicholas Wade, "A Mind Still Prescient After All These Years" (THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 10, 2009), p. D4. 

[5] Ibid.

[6] On such matters, it is still hard to do better than Darwin: Charles Darwin, THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES: 150th Anniversary Edition (Signet Classics, 2003).

[7] Andrew Parker, IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE (Perseus, 2003).

[8] Randomness is a basic characteristic of reality. For example, the primary law in the branch of physics called quantum mechanics is the uncertainty principal. [See, e.g., "uncertainty principle"
, ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.] Likewise, a whole new branch of science has arisen studying the chaos or unpredictability found throughout nature. [See, e.g., "chaos theory", ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.]

[9] See “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.

[10] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 122.

For more on this topic, see “Was He Christian?

[11] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 75-76.

[12] Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.

Also see "RS on Jews" and "Also Forbidden".

[13] This afterword is adapted from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/10927.