As a graduate student in education right now, I am faced with an interesting barrage of science. I am taking anthropology which, depending on the branch, is pretty hefty falsifiable Popper-approved science, educational psych which can be so qualitative as to be armchair, and down to economics and political science. Nonetheless, I have to deal with postmodernists who want to relativize and gut lots of science because it doesn't serve their ideological goals.
So we've been reading Ecological Literacy by David Orr who wants us all to believe that we can launch ourselves into a postmodern world wherein we can recapture those good-old days as hunter-gatherers and reattain that Arcadian past. He tells us that he doesn't want a new Eden, but I find it hard to believe. He believes that humans aren't patriarchal. In rare exceptions are they not. We weren't always violent. That's a sham and any tribal society left to its own devices will show you that as will our nearest evolutionary cousins, the chimpanzees. He also thinks that human evolution took a "wrong turn" because our big brains and our culture have imbued us with a will to dominate nature.
Since when are we supposed to take value judgments from the non-intentional selections of our ancestors' mutations? This, I think is a profound misreading of evolution on par with the the eugenics professors of the late-19th and early 20th centuries who attempted to manipulate populations to create Nietzschean supermen.
Let me explain why, in no small part because I have used evolution as a justification for or realization of the roots of morality. I'd hate to be a hypocrite.
Evolution doesn't take wrong turns in and of itself. Local environmental pressures, which are moment to moment (even if they tend to be fairly consistent over time) select from the gene pool of organizations at any time. That's it. A set of selective pressures can not select a "wrong turn" so to speak. They can only select from what is available. Mutations are non-moral entities. They are random, insofar as DNA can generate "random" material with its limited resources. So to say that something in evolution is a wrong turn is to place a moral value judgment on something that was not moral in the first place, was not intentional, and therefore has no place as something to be castigated as such. It is creationist level nonsense and misreading.
But why am I calling this eco-realism? If you take some time to look at the books, as I hope to do here over the next couple of days, you will see that we are dealing with someone so blinded by ideology that he hopes to make science serve his political and ideological agenda.
This is where some of you might accuse me of being a hypocrite because I see science as serving the atheist. Note, however, that science is not made to serve the atheist agenda. I infer from the findings of science and induce based on the preponderance of the lack of evidence that verifies the god hypothesis (much less the God or Jesus or Allah hypothesis) that god(s) do not exist. But never do I, or does a reasonable scientist, remind themselves before testing and observation that all of this must disprove god's existence. Why bother? It's not what we are interested in as observers of the natural world. Sure, we are methodological naturalists, but we are not all philosophical naturalists. [I am, but I am not a majority.] We needn't put the cart of atheism before the horse of science because we don't have anything to prove. A positive assertion like "God exists" will show itself with evidence. Or...it won't. I needn't worry about it.
Science serves the atheist so far as it shows that natural explanations account for natural phenomena. It doesn't prove in the logical or mathematical sense that we can write a proof for "NO GOD" or make a water-tight deduction like "God doesn't exist." But we can induce from the available lack of data and make a statistical prediction that says, "Given the overwhelming absence of evidence and the very good natural explanations that we gave that god(s) are very very improbable. Why believe in them. Let them present their evidence for themselves instead of using apparently feeble human proxies."
To get back to Orr though, I am wary of his proposed doctrines. He wants to reconstitute the fabric of society. Lots of people have wanted to do this and I am naturally leery of them: Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Napoleon, Bismarck, FDR, MLK, Gandhi, and more. Some of these worked very well. Some not. But you better have really good reasons to make over our society and they better contain a proposal that includes some hefty feasibility and not just wish-thinking and Arcadian revisionism (that's for another time I hope) to send us into a brave new world. Thich Nhat Hahn said something like, a man with a gun in hand can kill one, two, ten, or twenty people; but a man with an ideology he believes to the the truth can kill millions. As much as I sympathize with Orr's position, his eco-literacy could create a new straitjacket that limits free thought and inquiry.