Jason Rosenhouse, a fellow Panda’s Thumb contributor, has written a thoroughly blistering post about Bill O’Reilly’s ridiculous take on Intelligent Design. In a segment about ID, O’Reilly interviewed a University of Colorado biologist, and in his typical smugness-meets-stupidity style, he made quite a fool of himself in the process. This exchange is especially amusing:
O’REILLY: OK. But science is incomplete in this area of creationism, is it not?
GRANT: Science is always incomplete in all areas.
O’REILLY: Well, I don’t agree with that. Science is not always incomplete and I’ll give you an example. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Alright. That’s science. And there are four seasons. That’s science. So you can state things with certainty in biology or any other science you want. However, if I’m a student in your class and you’re telling me, well, there might have been a meteor or big bang or there might have been this or there might have been that, I’m gonna raise my hand like the wise guy I am and say “Professor, might there be a higher power that contributed to the fact that we’re all here?” and you say – what?
I say you’re a moron. 24 hours in a day is not “science”, it’s an arbitrary historical contingency. We could just as easily divide a day up into 12 “hours” and have each hour be twice as long, just as we could cut a pizza into 6 pieces instead of 8. And the four seasons is also not “science” it’s just an observation about the world. The science is in the theories that explain why such observations are the way they are. It all ends with this bizarre non sequitur from O’Reilly:
And I’m sayin’ you guys are all wrong by not allowing a biology class to consider the universe in all the forms that it may take.
What a pinhead. You should also check out Jason’s post fisking Dennis Prager’s simplistic preening about God-based morality. He nails it pretty well with this brief argument:
Also note that he does not actually make any argument for believing (1) That God exists or (2) That He is perfectly good or (3) That we can know His will on moral questions. He merely asserts that the non-existence of God would have some unpleasant consequences.
Furthermore, the only way theism leads to moral objectivity is if you simply define morality to be synonymous with what God wants. Finding it plausible to make such a definition requires you to make all the baseless assumptions I described in the previous paragraph.
This is precisely the point I was making in my previous post. Any time you reason about anything you must begin with certain unproved assumptions. For Prager and his ilk, those unproved assumptions revolve around God’s existence and character. For an atheist those assumptions usually involve certain assumptions about a person’s obligations to society and his fellow human beings. Since we know that society actually exists and since we know what unpleasant effects occur when people ignore their basic obligations to one another, I find my foundation rather more solid than Prager’s.
And the fact is that regardless of your personal beliefs there is a pragmatic problem to be solved. On the one hand people have to live together. On the other, people don’t agree on whether God exists, or what He wants from us if does exist. But everyone has a stake in promoting a stable society. My foundation is based on principles that everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, can get behind. Prager’s, by contrast, are meaningful only to those who share his beliefs.
Good stuff, Jason.