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 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…

  2. #2 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.

  3. #3 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.

  4. #4 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).

  5. #5 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.

  6. #6 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.

  7. #7 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

  8. #8 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.

  9. #9 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).

  10. #10 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?

  11. #11 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.

  12. #12 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.)

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