Pharyngula

Bible science

If you’re a fan of mangled philosophy and patent falsehoods, you really must read the Biblical view of science. It’s crazily disconnected from anything close to describing how science actually works.

What then is the Biblical view of science? Science enables us to fulfill the mandate of Genesis 1:28: “Then God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.’ ” Science gives us directions for doing things, or “operating,” in this world. It does not explain how the laws of nature work, nor does it accurately define or describe things. Science does not discover truth; it is a method for dominating and utilizing nature; it is merely a practical discipline that helps us live in God’s universe and subdue it.

What follows are a set of explanations that contain a kernel of truth, based on scientists’ own recognition of difficulties in science, but they’re all turned up to 11. The problem of induction becomes the fallacy of induction, for instance, and he asserts that science can never give true statements. The unreliability of observation becomes a suggestion that one should never trust observations. There’s a blanket statement that all scientific laws are based on fallacious arguments. Reasonable reservations taken from poorly understood philosophy of science articles become absolutist declarations, all with the intent of showing science to be completely bogus.

Basically, the author has taken valid concerns about the degree of certainty we can have about the world around us and amplified them into absolute rejections of scientific knowledge. It’s a caricature gone so far overboard that it has become a completely dishonest representation of that which it seeks to describe—there is no vestige of science visible in this concatenation of foolishness.

Well, you might wonder, if science is all wrong, if it’s just a tool for increasing crop yields and building tanks, if we’re not even supposed to believe the evidence of the world around us, how are we supposed to obtain knowledge?

Did you even have to ask?

Science has its place in a Christian philosophy, an important place. But science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”

Ah, yes. We must replace the uncertainties and difficulties of science with the Absolute Truth of an old and confusing book jobbed together by committees of priests…and questioning it is not allowed! It’s always true! Always, always, always!

Be afraid. There are millions of Americans who believe that, who would like to see that open, skeptical, continually tested model of scientific endeavor replaced with the complete certainty of their interpretation of the Bible. There are millions more who think we shouldn’t argue with these lies, because it annoys moderate Christians.

Comments

  1. #1 Zuckerfrosch
    October 31, 2006

    It’s nice that this guy is using a website to push this message. Because, you know, it wasn’t through observations of laws of physics that lead to harnessing electricity, building computers and the internet, it was through silent meditation and prayer. Anything learned by observation that was then applied to our lives to give us new technology was only done so because God wanted us to have it. Like where, during the Sermon on the Mount, the Bible says, “and lo, energy can be converted from mass, and such can one build a fearful weapon to use against your enemies.”

    But then, I don’t believe in radioactivity myself. It’s all based on ‘junk science.’

  2. #2 Caledonian
    October 31, 2006

    Maybe I’m reading too much into their claims, but are they in fact suggesting that *anything* could be part of science, as long as we made up our minds to dominate Creation in that specific way? That global warming is only taking place because some people have decided that it *should* be taking place?

  3. #3 Bruce
    October 31, 2006

    Thanks for starting my day with a Spinal Tap reference; what could be better?

  4. #4 JJ
    October 31, 2006

    You see, the problem is that you ” think ” with your brain but he “knows” with his heart.

    (Stewart-Colbert ’08)

  5. #5 George
    October 31, 2006

    “To speak against this sort of scientific thinking is almost blasphemous in some circles, because, for many, science is the god of this age. Yet, that is what this paper intends to do, that is, to blaspheme the god of science.”

    Yes, he’s boldly going where no man has gone before.

    Lucky the punishment for blasphemy is no longer this:

    http://www.tate.org.uk/collection/N/N05/N05195_9.jpg

    “For no good deed,” the Jews replied, “are we going to stone you, but for blasphemy, and because you, who are only a man, are making yourself out to be God.”

  6. #6 DouglasG
    October 31, 2006

    So, the Renaissance never happened right? It was just an illusion and we have been trapped in the middle ages all this time. That would explain a lot!

  7. #7 Warren
    October 31, 2006

    Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God’s Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men. As Robbins has said: “Science is false, and must always be false. Scripture is true and must always be true. The issue is as clear, and as simple, as that.”

    This statement would be much more annoying to moderate Christians than any argument against it. The arrogance alone is sufficient to turn them off; the fact that it’s simply not true — obviously not true — is merely the icing.

    Even in my most virulently pro-god days I would have rejected that kind of declaration. There may be millions who believe this kind of crap, but there are tens of millions more who do not.

    What you might not recognize is that moderate Christians are actually somewhat relieved when an atheist jumps up and argues against statements like the foregoing; it means they don’t have to; they aren’t that used to arguing against Biblical fanatics on Biblical grounds.

    And generally — so has my experience been, anyway — they tend to bandwagon along with the atheist, not the fanatic.

    (Used to love heckling the loonies at Preachers’ Corner on the UofA mall.)

  8. #8 Richard Harris, FCD
    October 31, 2006

    This is how the nasty book that the Christians venerate ends:

    13 I am AIpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

    14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

    15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

    16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

    17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

    18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

    19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

    Fifty years ago, as a boy of twelve, I tore up my bible. And I have just recently successfully formally renounced my adherence to this religion, signed & sealed by the bishop. Having done so, I felt able to obtain a copy of the bible, for research purposes. So I’m no expert in interpreting this stuff, but it looks thoroughly nasty to me. But the point is, it is so badly written that the whole thing is liable to be interpreted by different folks in different ways. Anyone who thinks they’ll find TRUTH in it is crazy.

  9. #9 T_U_T
    October 31, 2006

    There’s a blanket statement that all scientific laws are based on fallacious arguments.

    I’ve heard this type of ramblings – one guy that claimed, that all inductive reasoning is just a post hoc fallacy.

    I think that they all have a common source – presuppositional apolegetics, which is the mother of all denials of reason and reality.

  10. #10 Bryson Brown
    October 31, 2006

    This is really nice and clear– a complete, open avowal of absolute skepticism, followed by suspension of that skepticism in one bizarre little corner of thought. It’s so tidy and so absurd, only an obsessive lunatic could have come up with it.

  11. #11 T_U_T
    October 31, 2006

    This is really nice and clear– a complete, open avowal of absolute skepticism, followed by suspension of that skepticism in one bizarre little corner of thought. It’s so tidy and so absurd, only an obsessive lunatic could have come up with it.

    But it is a brutally efective strategy to render all communication futile – anything their opponent says, can be dismissed by the absolute skepticism. Included the accusation of double standards, because they do not apply their total skepticism to themselves.

  12. #12 jeffw
    October 31, 2006

    If the bible has a monopoly on “truth”, then why are there so many sects and denominations that interpret it differently? Many of the same points he makes about science apply to his holy book. Thus, there is a zero probability that any of these sects are right.

  13. #13 George
    October 31, 2006

    If the bible has a monopoly on “truth”, then we are royally fucked.

  14. #14 Ick of the East
    October 31, 2006

    If the bible has a monopoly on “truth”, then why are there so many sects and denominations that interpret it differently?

    It’s the fault of the splitists.

  15. #15 David Marjanović
    October 31, 2006

    The Arabs had that discussion over 1000 years ago. It ended (for a couple centuries, anyway) when one philosopher said that if you argue against reason using reason, you’re contradicting yourself; if you argue against reason not using reason, like the fundamentalist quoted above, you are unreasonable.

    Science is not inductive. Science takes hypotheses, deduces from them, and then checks these deductions against reality (which may or may not be the same as truth). Where the hypotheses come from in the first place — induction, dreaming, reading the Bible — does not matter.

    The Bible says the Earth has four corners, BTW…

  16. #16 Sastra
    October 31, 2006

    T_U_T wrote:

    I think that they all have a common source – presuppositional apolegetics, which is the mother of all denials of reason and reality.

    I was thinking along similar lines. There’s a strong connection between the “anything goes” postmodernist-style denial of our ability to know anything at all and the “Christianity is the Foundation for Knowledge” presuppositionalist-style denial of our ability to know anything at all without God and the Bible. They use similar kinds of arguments, even though they derive very different conclusions.

    And it seems that being able to simply cut your opponents off at the very root, before they can begin, is so tempting and easy that even evidentialist apologetics will try to slip it in.

  17. #17 T_U_T
    October 31, 2006

    Science is not inductive. Science takes hypotheses, deduces from them, and then checks these deductions against reality

    Im afraid, you are wrong. At least some induction is needed. Tests of the hypothesis have only finite reliability, so, without any induction, you could never tell, whether the experiment failed, or the hypotheis is wrong.

  18. #18 Ginger Yellow
    October 31, 2006

    Well, you might wonder, if science is all wrong, if it’s just a tool for increasing crop yields and building tanks, if we’re not even supposed to believe the evidence of the world around us, how are we supposed to obtain knowledge?

    Moreover, if science is all wrong, why is it such a good tool for increasing crop yields and building tanks? Are scientists and engineers just really, really lucky?

  19. #19 T_U_T
    October 31, 2006

    They use similar kinds of arguments, even though they derive very different conclusions.

    Once you’ve denied all reasoning, you can arrive at any “conclusion” ye pleaseth. That is also a big part of why abandoning of all reason can be so seductive…

  20. #20 Keith Douglas
    October 31, 2006

    I also notice that the mangled philosophy is out of date, too. There has been a lot of work on inference, explanation, and other topics for many years now. Recently, for example, there has been a renaissance of approaches to understanding causal inference.

    Sastra: I cannot remember where I read it, but there are people who have written extensively on the connection between postmodernists and theological conservatives of the most extreme sort.

    T_U_T: There are two meanings of induction, which the work of Peirce and others should remind us should be seperate. One is simply cataloguing instances – the proverbial “all ravens I’ve seen are black” sort. The other, used by many philosophers, is simply non-deductive inference. This is an unfortunate usage, as it blurs together many operations. The step of hypothesis generation, for one thing, is a crucial part and is poorly understood.

  21. #21 T_U_T
    October 31, 2006

    Moreover, if science is all wrong, why is it such a good tool for increasing crop yields and building tanks?

    It is just by a trick of satan, not by science. For example, it is his demons who keeps aircraft aloft, to fool us into believing into aerodynamics, which is just a science, and thus false by definition.

  22. #22 Scott Hatfield
    October 31, 2006

    Experience has indelibly etched two of PZ’s observations into my awareness. About a month ago I wrote a letter to my local paper (the Fresno Bee) gainsaying the view of other creationists (who also happened to be—surprise!—global warming deniers). These folks were making the same sort of rotten argument, attempting to conflate the provisional nature of individual scientific claims with the overall confidence we have in our method and our models.

    I took them to the task, and explained to the Bee’s readership their true motivation, which was to promote their static, faith-based views as an alternative to science. Essentially, I called a spade a spade.

    My letter provoked several responses. Interestingly enough, the unfavorable responses did not attempt to counter any claim I made. Rather, they took me to task for (get this) publicly criticizing the views of a ‘fellow Christian.’ Apparently, they felt that if I had to chide them, I should’ve given them a free pass on public humiliation.

    Obviously, I don’t agree. My duty is not to preserve the feelings of fellow Christians who dogmatically attempt to undermine science, but rather to defend the truth…SH

  23. #23 Blake Stacey
    October 31, 2006

    Keith Douglas wrote:

    Sastra: I cannot remember where I read it, but there are people who have written extensively on the connection between postmodernists and theological conservatives of the most extreme sort.

    One such person is Meera Nanda, whose book Prophets Facing Backward discusses this connection in the context of India’s right-wing Hindu extremists. A summary of the book, complete with replies to the first round of critics, is available here (PDF link).

  24. #24 Gerard Harbison
    October 31, 2006

    There’s actually a third form of induction: mathematical induction, which is a proof of the general form:

    If p is true for term n of a series, it is true for term n+1.

    Mathematical induction is rigorous.

    Scientific induction does not have mathamtical rigor, but it can be associated with a probability estimate – e.g. if the first 100 crows I see are black, what are the chances the next crow I see wiill be black. 99.9% is good enough for most working scientists.

  25. #25 Joel Sax
    October 31, 2006

    Look at it like this: I don’t think you’re insane because you believe that Dawkins has answered all the questions regarding God. Dead wrong, but not insane.

  26. #26 Steve_C
    October 31, 2006

    Hey Joel,

    After your read The God Delusion, maybe you can write about it on your blog that no one reads. Then you can tell us which questions Dawkins did not answer?

    Not that anyone will notice.

  27. #27 T_U_T
    October 31, 2006

    Look at it like this : someone who denies all reason IS insane.

  28. #28 T_U_T
    October 31, 2006

    BTW. insanity… have you tried to argue with one of those guys ? I have, or, at least I have tried. And it was one of the most surreal experiences in my life.

    One for example wrote that all my objections have been refuted in his previous post… but… this was his post #1 !. And when I pointed that out, I have been told, that it is only my atheist presuppositions that cause me to interpret the pixels on my monitor in the manner that there is no his previous post.

    And, also, “believe that Dawkins has answered all the questions regarding God” is the lowest form of a straw man

  29. #29 Torbjörn Larsson
    October 31, 2006

    This text seems to be making the web-rounds. Popper et al gets quotemined in the usual manner.

    Popper commented on the problem of assigning probabilities in infinite domains.

    “The problem of whether it is meaningful to assign a probability to the validity of a universal contingent law with an infinite domain, and, if so, whether this probability can be anything but zero has a large literature.

    Popper presents a number of arguments that if a is any law (to be taken herein, unless otherwise specified, as a universal contingent law with an infinite domain) and b/i> is any empirical evidence for a, then the logical probability of a (being always valid) is necessarily zero.” ( John F. Prize, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1976), pp. 392-395; http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0007-0882%28197612%2927%3A4%3C392%3AOTPOLB%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A&size=SMALL)

    Possibly Popper wants to lead up to his work on falsifiability. The text goes on to mention counterexamples, but also their difficulties.

    However, the problem of infinite domain is solved in special cases, or quantum mechanics would not work AFAIK. “The completeness requirement ensures that for infinite dimensional Hilbert spaces the limits exist when expected, which facilitates various definitions from calculus.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilbert_space )

    As I understand it Popper’s answer to Russel’s on “non-demonstrative inference” is falsifiability. This means exactly the opposite of what Crampton asserts, namely that we can be sure to recognize when we are using “fallacious arguments”.

    That ‘science is induction’ is one of my pet peeves. Science can use induction to make hypotheses, but not to make conclusions. “Now the problem addressed in the paper is that of course the limit of an infinite number of experiments is pretty crazy.” ( http://dabacon.org/pontiff/?p=1262 )

    What is used to ascribe uncertainty to observations is often describable as hypothesis testing. It is considered to be a rigorous procedure AFAIK.

    Whatever this can be modeled as philosophically I expect Deborah Mayo may have interesting points. “Mayo’s key notion is that of a severe test of a hypothesis, one with “an overwhelmingly good chance of revealing the presence of a specific error, if it exists — but not otherwise” (p. 7).” ( http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/reviews/error/ )

    Another similar simple description is the observation that a hypothesis test is proof by contradiction. The false hypothesis of the two doesn’t work (in the strong sense), so we accept the remaining.

  30. #30 Zeno
    October 31, 2006

    Looking at the universe through a biblical prism is like admiring yourself in a funhouse mirror. Most of us know better than to confuse the mirror’s distortions with reality, but the determined Bible-believer can swallow almost anything. I read Dr. Jason Lisle’s Taking Back Astronomy, a book dedicated to reinterpreting astronomical observations so as to reconcile them with a primitively literal reading of Genesis, etc. Ludicrous, but oh-so-sincere! My review, written last summer, is here.

  31. #31 Torbjörn Larsson
    October 31, 2006

    I am sorry about the italics screwup. I also had problems to get a comprehensive citation on Hilbert spaces. It is rather the problem of measures than operators that should be adressed. But that would make that comment double in length…

  32. #32 Torbjörn Larsson
    October 31, 2006

    “This means exactly the opposite of what Crampton asserts, namely that we can be sure to recognize when we are using “fallacious arguments”.”

    Sorry about that too, that was not thought through. It is of course only the narrower case of when we are making ‘fallacious predictions’ we know. But for our purposes (facts, not truths) that is enough.

  33. #33 Ebonmuse
    October 31, 2006

    Has this Christian ever stopped to consider, if all knowledge is as uncertain as he says, what could possibly make him so certain that the Bible is absolutely true? After all, his criticisms of induction-based scientific reasoning apply in exactly the same way to any chain of reasoning that purports to prove that Christianity is true.

  34. #34 Steve Watson
    October 31, 2006

    Moreover, if science is all wrong, why is it such a good tool for increasing crop yields and building tanks? Are scientists and engineers just really, really lucky?

    Pah, you typical fascist white male (and if you’re not a white male, you may as well be, since you talk like one!) — there you go making alleged truth-claims, when you’re really just trying to impose your hegemony on nature (And the militaristic reference is quite telling in this regard!).

    (Whew! I’ve just discovered that trying to write convincing PoMo is quite difficult).

  35. #35 NeoLotus
    October 31, 2006

    *snark on*
    And antibiotics are really angels injected into the humours of the body to do battle with the minions of the devil that make people sick.

    Oh, and the sun and planets revolve around the earth too.
    *snark off*

    I am so grateful I was raised a Buddhist. Wouldn’t have mattered tho, I was born a free thinker anyway.

  36. #36 truth machine
    November 1, 2006

    There’s actually a third form of induction: mathematical induction, which is a proof of the general form:

    If p is true for term n of a series, it is true for term n+1.

    No, that’s not a proof of anything; you’ve stated a premise of an inductive proof. An inductive proof is of the form
    Given F(i) and {if F(n) then F(n+1)}, it follows that {for all n >= i, F(n)}.

    Mathematical induction is rigorous

    That’s meaningless. Perhaps you mean that mathematical induction is deductive, which is true. But the validity of mathematical induction is one of the Peano axioms; it can’t be proven in Peano Arithmetic.

    Scientific induction does not have mathamtical rigor, but it can be associated with a probability estimate – e.g. if the first 100 crows I see are black, what are the chances the next crow I see wiill be black. 99.9% is good enough for most working scientists.

    That’s ignorant drivel. You should consider taking a course in statistics.

  37. #37 Loren Petrich
    November 1, 2006

    I wonder how that guy would argue against a Muslim who uses the same argument about the Koran. Or a Richard Dawkins fan who uses that argument about The God Delusion.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Muslim make that argument, and I doubt that any Richard Dawkins fan ever would, but it’s an interesting hypothetical possibility.

  38. #38 jessica
    November 1, 2006

    Here’s my beef. Why do people ALWAYS pick the extremes and then act as though their statements apply to ALL Christians. They don’t. NEWSFLASH: NOT ALL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THIS. Check out Fides et Ratio by Pope JPII or read Benedict’s speeches/writings about the need for faith AND reason.

  39. #39 jay
    November 1, 2006

    “Then you can tell us which questions Dawkins did not answer?”

    I’m not Joel, but the BIG unanswered question is about morality. If there is no God there is no morality. Check out Dawkin’s pathetic answers in his recent “debate” with Quinn.
    He begins by stating that this is stupid, then Quinn points out that his (Dawkin’s) colleagues have stated that long ago at which point Dawkins evades the question.

    The pseudo-science of that “meme’s crap doesn’t cut it. There is no evidence for it and it’s just new age hocus-pocus that Dawkins (and others) is trying to pass off as science. As a scientist myself, it annoys me when Dawkins claim to be scientists but then pass off all kinds of junk without a shred of evidence.

    There are plenty of scientists who realize that the decision isn’t faith OR reason…it can be both FAITH AND REASON (check out work by Collins and the director of the genome project. Oh, and while your at it, read up on the observatory at the Vatican headed by, gasp, people who are both religious and scientists).

    Another question is — where did the universe come from. Dawkins appeals to an infinite chain of causes, but in doing so overlooks the scientific evidence. Fact, the universe did NOT always exist (check out evidence for the “big bang” theory).

  40. #40 Stanton
    November 1, 2006

    Jay said:
    Another question is — where did the universe come from. Dawkins appeals to an infinite chain of causes, but in doing so overlooks the scientific evidence. Fact, the universe did NOT always exist (check out evidence for the “big bang” theory).

    Isn’t one hypothesis is that there was a Universe that existed previous to this one, and that it collapsed in on itself as a gargantuan blackhole before bursting open as this new Universe?

  41. #41 lewis
    November 1, 2006

    Have you all forgotten that some of the earliest scientists were Catholic priests and monks??

    Check out Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus) — he is often called the founder of science.
    Also, the monks in the middle ages developed all kinds of inventions to help with crop yield. Oh, and who do you think built the cathedrals (marvels of engineering)??

    Much of the writings from the ancient world were preservd by the church (thanks to monks copying and translating the works during the middle ages).

    Please, read up on your history before you stereotype all Christians as retarded dullards.
    You can start by reading “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization ” Woods.

    As an academic it amazes me how much of my so-called-educated colleagues gleefully pass along blatantly false statements about religion.

  42. #42 jay
    November 1, 2006

    “Isn’t one hypothesis is that there was a Universe that existed previous to this one, and that it collapsed in on itself as a gargantuan blackhole before bursting open as this new Universe?”

    Ah….but if so, where did THAT universe come from? Same problem.

  43. #43 Steve LaBonne
    November 1, 2006

    Lewis, I have a suggestion for your reading list- The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman.

  44. #44 Steve_C
    November 1, 2006

    I know the answer is NOT God did it. Because then you fall into your own trap Jay.
    Because if god did it… then who did god.

    The morality question is pathetic. Yes you can have a completely viable and moral society without the Bible. If anything the Bible gives people justification to ignore the rule of law and set their own boundries.

  45. #45 morese
    November 1, 2006

    Steve, have you read the book Lewis suggested yet? If not, read that book first and maybe he’ll read your book. Youc an spew out book suggestions without being willing to read other books. (Unless you are afraid of changing your mind).

    If you don’t have much time, then listen to a podcast. Professor Kreeft from Boston College has some posted at his website. http://www.peterkreeft.com Just listen to them: You don’t have to agree but at least you’ll better understand the otherside of the argument.

    The morality question is not pathetic. It’s crucial. Morality is fundamental to human society — always has been.

    “Yes you can have a completely viable and moral society ”
    Explain how. No scientifically based theory has even come close. Philosophy has done much better at this task (but then again, philosophy is not science, so if people, like Dawkins, want a SCIENTIFIC answer to the issue of morality, there won’t be one).

    Why should morality even exist? Things should just “be”. For example, why should we think that murder, rape, etc is “wrong” or get upset when the world seems unfair. (Thought experiment: If a lion kills a deer that’s nature. If a man kills his wife, that’s a tragedy — why the difference??) Those thoughts/emotions assume that there is some objective truth out there. If so, where does that objective truth come from?

    My point is that science doesn’t have an answer for that. More problematic is that science CAN’T answer that question.
    I am a scientist and teach at a major university, so don’t think that I’m trying to say that science is bad. I’m just saying that science is NOT the answer for everything. In modern times people expect science to replace religion but it was never meant to do that and never can.

  46. #46 Steve_C
    November 1, 2006

    I find the whole question silly.

    The Japanese don’t follow the bible and they have a moral society.

    There’s indigenous tribes all over the world that function just fine with out the bible…

    Before the bible the Roman empire did pretty well as did the Egyptians.

    Moral structures and altruistic behaviour benefits the society as a whole. It’s not even
    a stretch to see why societies with no religion or from some ancient pagan religion have a moral code… it’s how the society survives.

  47. #47 Steve LaBonne
    November 1, 2006

    I have. It’s an incompetent, slapdash, completely tendentious book. Here is a paragraph from an Amazon review (not by me) that will give you an idea of the problems:

    The section on Galileo alone was full of enough lies, distortions and omissions of critical information to ruin the book for me. How he could omit the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno over his espousing a Copernican solar system? The inquisitor at Bruno’s trial, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, was later made a saint. Bellarmine was also the man who later, after examining Galileo’s writings, recommended that Copernicanism officially be declared a heresy. Galileo had the Bruno bonfire before him as an example. He knew these people meant business and recanted. Woods says on page 69 the Copernican world view was not an issue until Galileo. That must be some consolation to Bruno, God bless his charred remains. Pope John Paul II addressed the issue of Bruno’s torture and death a few years ago, it’s too bad Professor Woods didn’t get the news.

    By the way, I was raised Catholic, I have a longstanding interest in late antique and medieval history, and Dante is my favorite artist in any medium. Next strawman, please.

  48. #48 morese
    November 1, 2006

    “The Japanese don’t follow the bible and they have a moral society.”

    But you missed my point….WHY do they have a moral society? What is it based on?
    (Also you fail to realize that Japanese society is heavily influenced by religion, just not the bible, which actually fails to support your claim that moral societies can exist without religion).

    If humans were just pieces of meat affected solely by genetics and the environment, WHY would there be such a concept as morality.
    You haven’t answered my question.
    I asked you to explain where morality comes from.

  49. #49 susan
    November 1, 2006

    “it’s how the society survives.”
    what evidence do you have for this? It’s a circular argument: Successful societies have X so X must be required for succeess. That’s sloppy logic in any field.

    Also, if altruism is so great, why are people so selfish? Go to any inner city (if you think you can survive more than 10 minutes) and see your theory in action. How much altruism is going on?

    Check it out at a society level…did Rome become an empire by being altruistic? Did Egypt? No. They conquered through violence, and lasted for much longer than any current modern country.

    You can just wave away the problem by using a “just-so” argument. No self-respecting scientist will accept that argument!

  50. #50 js
    November 1, 2006

    ” How he could omit the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno over his espousing a Copernican solar system? ”

    For cripes sakes, do you know nothing about history??? Bruno was NOT burned for espousing the Copernican solar system. He was a known heretic and occulist; even the Lutherans excommunicated him. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno
    The church supported the Copernican theory (as you will find out if you read that book! Get it from the library if you’re too cheap to buy it).
    With your “longstanding interest” in this period, how can you be uninformed about this?? Unless you are willfully ignoring these facts.

    The other comments by that reviewer are equally false.

    It’s sad how ignorant scientists are about historical facts. Facts are our business folks! You can’t base an argument on false facts.

  51. #51 Lewis
    November 1, 2006

    Steven, please get up to date with your knowledge of history.
    Even Kepler and Galileo criticized Bruno in their writings.

    Also don’t forget that it was Moncenigo who denounced Bruno, not the Catholic church. “After some time spent in literary activity at Frankfort, he went, in 1591, to Venice at the invitation of Mocenigo, who professed to be interested in his system of memory-training. Failing to obtain from Bruno the secret of his “natural magic”, Mocenigo denounced him to the Inquisition.”

    The description of Bruno fits many so-called scientists today, especially his dogmatic clinging to facts he knew to be false and to his intolerance.
    ” his intolerance of even those who were working for the reforms to which he was devoted; the false analogies, fantastic allegories, and sophistical reasonings into which his emotional fervour often betrayed him have justified, in the eyes of many, Bayle’s characterization of him as “the knight-errant of philosophy.””

  52. #52 Steve LaBonne
    November 1, 2006

    The church supported the Copernican theory

    You’re an ignoramus, so it’s pretty funny to watch you get yourself in deeper by accusing those better informed than you of ignorance. Technically at the time of Galileo’s condemnation it was ordered that if the Copernican doctrine were taught it could only be as a “hypothesis”. In case anybody thought the Disco Institute’s schtick was the least bit original… But in 1664 Alexander VII, in the Bull “Speculatores Dominus Israel”, formally placed Copernicus’s book and “all books which affirm the motion of the earth” on the Index, and simultaneously made observance of the book prohibitions of the Index binding on all Catholics. You could look it up, as Yogu Berra used to say.

    By the way Bruno’s chief inquisitor was none other than Robert Bellarmine. Copernicanism was not the formal basis of Bruno’s condemnation but there’s little doubt it was one of the contributing factors.

  53. #53 Steve_C
    November 1, 2006

    Let me make one statement and feel free to prove me wrong.

    Morality did not come from the bible or god.

    I think the way societies function are complex … and basic morals or behaviour are passed down genetically and historically. Do we not have children with our relatives because it’s genetically unhealthy and that through time became a societal foundation?

    Things that were acceptable today, were not acceptable 100 years ago and vice versa.
    Women can vote and own property. A gay couple can raise a child. The list is long.
    My point is that as the tribe of man has evolved so has his moral compass and the genetic code that passes some fo that down.

    I would state that current man isn’t any less brutal than the Romans. We just have more efficient technology.

  54. #54 lemon
    November 1, 2006

    “Copernicanism was not the formal basis of Bruno’s condemnation but there’s little doubt it was one of the contributing factors.”

    yeah…right. And the fact that a nobleman had it in for him for not teaching him magic secrets was completely unrelated.

    Get real! Your understanding of the Bruno case is inconsistent with the facts. It had nothing to do with Copernicanism (which the Catholic church supported!!!!!)

  55. #55 Melodty
    November 1, 2006

    How dare, taking scripture and twisting it for your own nasty purposes.

  56. #56 Steve LaBonne
    November 1, 2006

    I explicity said that he wasn’t formally condemned FOR Copernicanism, only that, given that Bellarmine was in charge, this is likely to have contributed to his obnoxiousness in the church’s eyes. (A deduction which while not uncontroversial has certainly been around for a long time.) And Copernicanism at that time was certainly not “supported”, merely not yet condemned; it was already in bad odor in many clerical circles including the Jesuit astronomers. The climate had changed greatly since the initial friendly reception of Copernicus’ ideas by Clement VII- in 1533, BEFORE the Council of Trent and the advent of the Counter-Reformation- which appears to be the slender reed on which you’re hanging your claims.
    You Catholic trolls remind me of the Protestant fundies who turn out never to have read their precious Bible. You know no actual history, only the sanitized version you’ve gotten from catholic apologists.

  57. #57 Steve_C
    November 1, 2006

    OH! Snap!

    P0W3NED by Steve LaBonne!

    well done.

  58. #58 f
    November 1, 2006

    “You Catholic trolls remind me of the Protestant fundies who turn out never to have read their precious Bible. You know no actual history, only the sanitized version you’ve gotten from catholic apologists.”

    Idiot. I’m not even Catholic. I’m a Physics prof who is sick of all scientist-wannabes who haven’t got a clue about a) what science is and b) how to form a logic argument.
    I think YOU’RE comments show that it is YOU who are ignorant of history. Like I tell my grad students on Friday afternoons “Get out of the lab and Get a life”

    In all of your responses you evaded even the simplest question. If you can’t argue any better than that don’t expect the general public to stop believing in god and start worshipping science!
    By the way, are you (Steve LaBonne) and Steven_C conjoined twins or something?

  59. #59 MartinM
    November 1, 2006

    Fact, the universe did NOT always exist

    I’m sure physicists all over the world will be amazed to learn of your quantum theory of gravity. When do you expect to publish?

  60. #60 f
    November 1, 2006

    Read an intro physics textbook MartinM. The universe started out as NOTHING. NIL. This is the dominant current SCIENTIFIC Theory. Plenty of evidence for that.

  61. #61 Steve_C
    November 1, 2006

    What is it about physics professors and their god complexes?

    And who is f? Are these people not using the same name from post to post?

    We were baptized Steve in the Atheist Church of Science. It was popular in the late 60’s.

  62. #62 susy
    November 1, 2006

    “The Big Bang Theory is the dominant scientific theory about the origin of the universe. According to the big bang, the universe was created sometime between 10 billion and 20 billion years ago from a cosmic explosion that hurled matter and in all directions.”

    http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/academy/universe/b_bang.html
    Isn’t NASA full of clever people?

    Guess Martin was sick the day they covered this in junior high.

  63. #63 smarty
    November 1, 2006

    “According to the many experts however, space didn’t exist prior to the Big Bang. Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when men first walked upon the moon, “three British astrophysicists, Steven Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose turned their attention to the Theory of Relativity and its implications regarding our notions of time. In 1968 and 1970, they published papers in which they extended Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to include measurements of time and space.1, 2 According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy.”3 The singularity didn’t appear in space; rather, space began inside of the singularity. Prior to the singularity, nothing existed, not space, time, matter, or energy – nothing.”

    http://www.big-bang-theory.com/

    What’s that?? Nothing existed? Nothing at all.

    Shucks….f’s been scooped. Can’t publish what the Big Boy’s have already published.
    Or don’t you know about this work, Martin?

  64. #64 smarty
    November 1, 2006

    ” It was popular in the late 60’s.”

    WAS? Why the past tense? Did the hippy druggies wake up and join the real-world?

  65. #65 MartinM
    November 1, 2006

    Read an intro physics textbook MartinM. The universe started out as NOTHING. NIL. This is the dominant current SCIENTIFIC Theory. Plenty of evidence for that.

    Read slightly beyond intro level. Note the absence of a sufficiently general singularity theorem. The dominant current scientific theory is that roughly 13.7 billion years ago our observable patch of the Universe went through inflation into a hot, dense Big Bang phase. What, if anything, came before is an open question. The only thing you provide evidence for is your ignorance of the field.

  66. #66 f
    November 1, 2006

    “Read slightly beyond intro level.”
    Martin my dear BOY, I HAVE read beyond the intro level and that doesn’t change the fact that this is the dominant theory in the field. Sorry if wrecks your narrow-view of the world, but that’s the truth as science knows it.

  67. #67 MartinM
    November 1, 2006

    Guess Martin was sick the day they covered this in junior high.

    You keep getting your science from a defunct popular website for children. I’ll keep getting mine from textbooks and journals. Fair enough?

  68. #68 MartinM
    November 1, 2006

    Or don’t you know about this work, Martin?

    It seems fairly clear that I know considerably more about it than you, given that I know under what conditions the singularity theorems actually apply. This is entry-level GR, people. If you don’t know it, quit jabbering about it.

  69. #69 MartinM
    November 1, 2006

    Martin my dear BOY, I HAVE read beyond the intro level

    Then you clearly wasted your time.

  70. #70 Steve_C
    November 1, 2006

    It was a joke. And my dad was in the Air Force then.

  71. #71 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 1, 2006

    jay:
    “If there is no God there is no morality.”

    This unsupported claim is easily debunked, since children have morality before they have religion. Empathy is sufficient to explain a great deal of this.

    “He begins by stating that this is stupid, then Quinn points out that his (Dawkin’s) colleagues have stated that long ago at which point Dawkins evades the question.”

    No.

    Quin says, amongst other things: “If you are an atheist, if you are an atheist, logically speaking, you cannot believe in objective morality. You cannot believe in free will.”

    Dawkins begins answering by noting on free will: “I certainly don’t believe a word of that. I do not believe we’re controlled wholly by our genes. Let me go back to the really important thing Mr. Quinn said.” Quinn interrupts, and starts to discuss that instead. Any discussion on morality got sidetracked.

    “Another question is — where did the universe come from. Dawkins appeals to an infinite chain of causes, but in doing so overlooks the scientific evidence. Fact, the universe did NOT always exist (check out evidence for the “big bang” theory).”

    No, he does not.

    First, causes is a philosophical idea on classical objects behaviour. In science, it becomes obvious that causality is a secondary, derived phenomena that expresses how system evolves. In this sense, lightcone causality, the picture is a continuity of an infinite chain of causes exactly as a distance consists of an infinite line of points.

    Second, there is many cosmologies that goes further than big bang by embedding it in a larger setting. (Check out “eternal inflation” and “multiverses”.) Fact, we don’t know yet what existed before, but there are falsifiable explanations to explore. (In fact, one of these alternatives were nearly falsified already when the 2nd WMAP data release come out recently.)

  72. #72 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 2, 2006

    f:
    “The universe started out as NOTHING. NIL. This is the dominant current SCIENTIFIC Theory.”

    The current concordance model after the 2nd WMAP data release is the Lambda-CDM cosmology. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda_CDM_model )

    It is a bigbang theory of course, so spacetime in our universe started then. But MartinM is certainly correct, we need a theory of quantum gravity to describe the initial phase.

    But in a top-down cosmology as eternal inflation this seems to be essential to explain the particular inflation mechanism, but not necessarily to establish the general model. These models predict a slightly negative spatial curvature, and if you look at the data provided in the link above you can see that this is today’s fit. The upcoming Planck probe may confirm that data with sufficiently low uncertainty, and will also provide other data to continue modelling in spite of the lack of quantum gravity theory.

    smarty:
    Hawking’s no-boundary proposal is one possibility among several. Though his latest attempt to expand that to something like todays discussions of multiverses has ran afoul on Susskind’s discovery that it should lead to a deSitter (dS) universe IIRC, which doesn’t contain the anti-dS Lambda-CDM universe we live in. Or in other words, wrong spatial curvature.

    The creationist site you linked to round up the usual suspects of odd cosmologies and dissenters. For example, it doesn’t mention that Hawking used the no-boundary proposal to suggest that there is no origin and so no creation. It instead mention Ellis, who is christian. (BTW, Ellis definitely has listened too much on creationists. He uses Weikart, debunked by historians, to suggest that social darwinism is a science and was used by nazists.)

    It also mentions Alfvén and Hoyle whose cosmologies and other arguments have been falsified long ago. You would do better to consult neutral sources, start with Wikipedia for instance. It often wont tell you which theories and arguments are current though. (The Lambda-CDM article seems to be an exception.)

  73. #73 MartinM
    November 2, 2006

    It is a bigbang theory of course, so spacetime in our universe started then

    Even that much is open to debate. Past-eternal inflationary models can be constructed; for example, in chaotic inflation, our patch of spacetime always existed, even before it entered the inflationary regime which produced the observable Universe as we know it.

  74. #74 Keith Douglas
    November 2, 2006

    Gerard Harbison: Yeah, strictly speaking, that’s a third meaning of the word “induction”, but of course mathematical induction is not inductive in either of the first two senses at all. In fact, it is a purely deductive form of argumentation. I also left out the meaning of induction used in phrases like “electrostatic induction”, because this usage has nothing to do with arguments at all.

    Torbjörn Larsson: You’re conflating two notions of probability – in quantum mechanics, the probabilities are about events (or, perhaps, contentiously, about our knowledge of events), whereas Popper was talking about probabilites associated with propositions (or perhaps with statements). These are two very different notions. Some of us, myself included, don’t think the latter notion makes any sense, either, in part because of the problem linking it with the first sort.

    truth machine: It is true that mathematical induction cannot be proved in Peano arithmetic (except vacuously), but it can be proved in a stronger theory. (See the work stemming from Dedekind’s “chain theory”.) Provability is always contextual.

    jay: First, your fact is nothing of the kind. Earlier on the site I have referenced papers of Bunge, Gruenbaum and others which correct this misinterpretation. Short version: the big bang is at most the origin of the local hubble expansion.

    Second, what makes you think that morality only exists in the presence of god? There are many traditions in purely secular ethics, some of which even predate Christianity by hundreds of years. Moreover, dealing with the dilemna posed by Plato long ago in the Euthyphro would be useful on the other side of the coin.

    On Bruno: Yes, he was pretty wacked out. So what? I may think someone holds ridiculous positions, but I certainly don’t want them executed for holding them. As for Galileo, he was threatened with torture and placed under house arrest, which is bad enough. I think we have some potential nominees for The Feyerabend Prize in this thread, perhaps …

  75. #75 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 2, 2006

    MartinM, jay:
    MM is correct of course, I wrote that so I confused the model with a singularity and one universe with the current model. As I understand it most inflationary models, including the current Lambda-CDM cosmology, can very well be embedded in an eternal inflation scenario without any singularity.

    On that subject we can give jay’s question (what come before) yet another answer.

    The eternal multiverse may as I understand it have started in a prespace by a large enough fluctuation of the vacua entering the inflationary phase. It doesn’t seem like that prespace could be infinitely old.

    However, Andrei Linde has suggested that the start of the eternal universe can be pushed as far back as one wish, which I haven’t seen anyone refute yet. This alternative should be preferred by the cosmological principle.

    Effectively the start then disappears out of the model to be replaced by an open universe at infinity as far as this layman understands. If so there doesn’t need to be a start for all cosmologies today compatible with big bang. (And perhaps there also remain cyclic or brane cosmologies with similar properties.) The jury may still be out on that one.

    Keith:
    You are correct of course, I tried to discuss the problems of defining any probabilities in infinite domains without concerning myself with exactly what probability it is. Which may have been wrong, or at least confusing.

    For Popper, which seems to have worked a lot on probability (own axiom sets, verisimilitude), it seems to have been a problem to get a nonzero probability in his sense of it. For the physicist, frequency probability may not have this problem in certain wellbehaved spaces.

    In any case your reasoning here is more direct and general.

  76. #76 MartinM
    November 3, 2006

    Torbjörn Larsson: You’re conflating two notions of probability – in quantum mechanics, the probabilities are about events (or, perhaps, contentiously, about our knowledge of events), whereas Popper was talking about probabilites associated with propositions (or perhaps with statements). These are two very different notions. Some of us, myself included, don’t think the latter notion makes any sense, either, in part because of the problem linking it with the first sort.

    On the contrary, Bayesian probability is perfectly good for both cases. They can be treated on exactly the same footing.

  77. #77 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 5, 2006

    AFAIK bayesian beliefs aren’t the same thing. They fulfill Cox’s probability axioms, but I don’t think they fulfill Kolmogorov’s.

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