Bottom Up or Top Down?
By: Jim Virkler
Bottom up or top down? In many conversations in science, economics, government, and a great number of other human endeavors, this dichotomy factors into the discussion. One way to describe bottom up is the progression of knowledge from the general to the specific. For example, we might cite any number of human conventions such as economies or political systems. In human history, early humans attempted to eke out a living by his primitive fabrications or agricultural production, trading his products with neighbors for something he needed. Over time this practice morphed into a more complex economic system. Human political systems emerged when simple early human social relationships gradually became more organized and elaborate. We may say these traditions “evolved” from the bottom up. There are multiple parallels throughout human history.
Well known agnostic, science historian, and founder of the Skeptics Society Michael Shermer wrote an essay in 2011 entitled “Think Bottom Up, Not Top Down. His commentary claimed “Almost everything important that happens in both nature and society happens from the bottom up, not the top down.” His evolutionary worldview is driven by this belief. In addition to examples from economics and politics, he voices hearty support of the concept that the natural world is completely the product of an evolutionary bottom up process. Shermer declares, “Life is a bottom up, self- organized emergent property of organic molecules that coalesced into protein chains through nothing more than the input of energy into the system of Earth’s early environment…..Evolution itself is a bottom up process of organisms just trying to make a living and get their genes into the next generation; out of that simple process emerges the diverse array of complex life we see today.”
Shermer’s proposals have tremendous intellectual appeal for many in our modern world. His ideas are strongly grounded in the major worldview of Naturalism. Some would call Naturalism and Theism the two major world views prevalent in our time. The essay by Shermer pinpoints the dichotomy of one aspect of bottom up/top down proposals. He says many people intuitively examine objects and conclude that the objects are designed by an intelligent agent, a human being. In fact, it is counter intuitive not to believe these objects were designed. Intuitively, people examine the natural world and believe that apparent design in nature looks that way because of a top down phenomenon, Shermer opines. We take the liberty to interpret his statement as tacit recognition, if not an endorsement, that top down is a legitimate conclusion: the natural world manifests powerful evidence of intelligent design! Consequently, people look for other top down manifestations in economics, politics and many other realms. Shermer counsels, on the other hand, that bottom up is the appropriate view to almost everything.
The theistic worldview our blog has advocated is that multiple life sustaining physical constants were designed by the Creator of all things, that life on Earth began with an act of God, that Earth’s complex early living cells are the product of a top down miracle, and that novel life forms were periodically introduced. In contrast, naturalistic evolutionists like Michael Shermer and countless others in the community of science advocate their bottom up philosophy with religious fervor. They seem oblivious to the need for multiple natural “miracles” to give their proposals traction and credibility. Naturalistic evolutionists confidently intone the term evolution, sometimes disguised as “bottom up” explanations for everything we observe, as if the very mention of that term explains everything we want to know.
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.