Misunderstood or Misrepresented: JT’s Straw-Man Version of My Beliefs

Intellectually responsible debate requires understanding what you’re disputing. That’s one of the most well-established tenets of debate. When one side distorts the other, either by failing to understand or by intentional twisting, the debate is no longer about each side’s beliefs, but about one side’s false beliefs about the other’s beliefs. The result is usually that a weak straw man is put up and knocked down, in a classic display of fallacious reasoning.

Today I’ve seen a glaring instance of dispute without understanding. It’s at What Would JT Do, and it’s titled Response to Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnaur. (Carson’s last name is actually Weitnauer.)

Of the many things I could say in response to JT, I will focus specifically on where he represented our position incorrectly. If we can get to the point where we are each willing to do the work understand what the other is saying, then maybe we can move on to discussing whether one side makes more sense than the other. A discussion about what JT believes compared to what I believe would make a lot more sense than a discussion between what JT believes and what JT says I believe.

I’ll take each point in turn. The headings refer to the points that JT either misunderstood or misrepresented.

The teachings of Genesis within the context of Christian interpretation.

So when the book of Genesis paints a picture of the universe where the earth was made before the stars, you must choose either scripture or nature. Science, of course, sides with nature. Do you? And, if you do, why do you hold to those scriptures?

What you’re describing is a certain relatively recent interpretation of Genesis. Taken in context of its time and its genre, the opening chapters of Genesis point more toward a framework of understanding God as creator than a descriptive timeline of how he did it.

This is a topic of very frequent conversation and debate among believers. Yes, there are some who think we need to take Genesis 1 in its most literal sense. There are good exegetical reasons to deny the necessity of doing so. Since Genesis 1 does not force a literal interpretation, it makes sense to fill in our knowledge by way of what we know from science. There is no contradiction there, except perhaps with a set of beliefs to which I do not adhere.

The nature of the regional flood

Yes, the earth is old and regional floods happen all the time (these are not the global flood that killed almost everything as described in the bible).

(Bible is a proper noun when used in this context. Oh, well; JT is only doing what many atheists do.)

JT can easily be forgiven for not knowing that there is biblical and geological research here, for examplesupporting the idea of a regional flood that meets the description of the Genesis flood.

The nature of God and his relation to his creation

If you’re asserting that nothing in the bible (not just those two things) is incompatible with science, I must disagree. People rising from the dead is offensive to both medicine and biology. Someone walking on water could not conflict with physics more. Someone being turned into a pillar of salt is absurd by the light of chemistry. I could go on, but you get the gist. These things are called “miracles” expressly because they violate the laws of the universe (otherwise they could be the happy product of natural causes, which sounds pretty pedestrian, not god-like at all)….

Science works on the assumption that the universe operates under a set of rules. If not for this assumption, experiment and repeat experiment would be meaningless. If your miracles (impossible if the universe is consistent by definition) require a suspension of the laws that govern the universe, then they’re not science.

From ancient times, these events were called miracles because they were very uncommon. To say that God cannot intervene in the course of natural events is to deny a God that Christians also deny.

Science does not require exceptionless laws, but only a very high degree of regularity in nature. This is fully in accord with what Christians believe about God and his relation to his creation. JT has attacked a version of God that Christians do not believe in any more than he does.

The relation of faith and knowledge

While science isn’t the only way to acquire reliable knowledge (even if it’s the best way) there are oodles of ways to acquire unreliable knowledge. Faith is a good example (which you must admit if you think the abundance of other faith-driven religions around the world are false).

This is a misconception of faith, at least as I understand it. I don’t know that Jesus walked on water by faith. Faith is not how I acquire knowledge of that sort: I rely on evidence.

The relation between Bible, science, and general human learning

Architecture and engineering pre-date the sixteenth century. Surely you don’t think cathedrals were built without those disciplines. It wasn’t prayer or god that erected them, it was human beings working and thinking which requires nothing of god…. While the bible contains instructions on how to purchase and keep slaves as well as commands to kill people for working on Saturday, in between those edicts there is nothing of how to construct a building…. Even if Christians deployed that secular reasoning and/or helped to refine it, that doesn’t change the fact that the reasoning and techniques themselves were entirely secular.

(“God” is also a proper noun in this context. Oh, well. Apparently it’s important to many atheists not only to denigrate God but also to violate what they learned in English class.)

Here JT misunderstood the reason I spoke of the building of cathedrals. Someone had said, “If you leave science out of religion your cathedrals fall down go boom.” I quoted that as a great example of the fact that they hadn’t left science out! This illustrates their practice of science, in contrast to the prejudicial view that they opposed science.

No one (and here I mean no one; see below for context) believes the Bible is a book of science in the sense JT suggested here. We believe there is concord between Christianity and science, not that Christianity is science! To question why the Bible doesn’t teach architecture and engineering is to completely misunderstand how Christians understand human learning in general. We don’t think it has to be in the Bible to be true, and we don’t think it has to be in the Bible to be concordant with the Bible. And we’re absolutely fine with secular reasoning, provided that secular doesn’t begin with the metaphysical presupposition that there is no God who works in his creation.

The reasons for which we believe Christianity was crucial to the launching of science; also, Christians’ motivations with respect to learning and discovery

Christianity was necessary for science’s launching? How? We didn’t need people saying “Hey, can someone really walk on water?” before we started doing experiments – we just need curiosity about the universe, which doesn’t require Christianity. In fact, once you know “god did it”, that can suppress the need to continue looking for answers, since you’ve already got one.

Curiosity about the universe expressed itself in many ways in many cultures, but only in Christianity did it express itself as, “what natural regularities can we discover and understand?” This is related to what Sean McDowell said in the excerpt Hemant quoted a couple of weeks ago. To add to that briefly, other cultures regarded the universe as being subject more to whim than to natural laws, as being animated by spirits and therefore not a proper object of natural investigation, or as being illusion, or as not being of high personal concern.

Christians do not, in actual practice, suppress the need to continue looking for answers. The great Christians in science have always asked, “given that God is behind the workings of the universe, and given that he is a God of order, what can we learn about how he works?”

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen atheists say that “Goddidit” is a curiosity-killer. I don’t know of a single time they have ever demonstrated that with empirical, sociological or psychological science. It’s an evidence-free prejudice. They may claim that Creation Science amounts to an illustration of their principle, but (even though I don’t agree with a lot of “creation science”) I don’t know of anyone in that school who has quit their researches on account of their beliefs.

My purpose for making a particular claim

So science has to do with who uses the ideas to change the world rather than who came up with the ideas? By that logic Truman was a greater nuclear scientist than Einstein.

The passage JT was responding to there was my response to a comment, “Just look at how much gunpowder affected history, especially during the 16th century. Christians did not discover gunpowder.” I wasn’t asserting there that science was about who changes the world, I was countering a specific claim made by a specific person.

The entire basis of our claim concerning Christianity and science

we don’t need to be told that pursuing our curiosity pleases god in order to look for answers – we just need to be curious, and curiosity pre-dated the wheel and the notion that sticking your hand in a fire f*ing hurts.

Simply stated, “curiosity” doesn’t appear in our claims or in our rationale. Here JT has imagined that we have said something, and has colorfully refuted his own imagined claim.

Other Matters

Correcting An Error I Have Made

JT objects to my saying, “The Bible is not a work of science, and no one thinks it is.” I acknowledge my error: there are young-earth creationists who apparently think it is. I personally do not consider it to be a work of science. The number of knowledgeable Bible scholars who consider it a work of science is relatively small.

Granted, they get a lot of press. So does the Jesus Seminar. If getting a lot of attention were the mark of scholarly consensus, then the scholars all agree that the Bible is literally true in everything it says about Genesis 1 and not to be trusted at all in the Gospels; for that’s what you’ll hear in the popular press. Obviously scholars don’t agree that the Bible is perfectly trustworthy and authoritative in one place and completely unreliable in another. This just goes to show that public popularity does not define scholarly consensus.

The point of this post has been to show how JT has been arguing a straw-man version of our beliefs. I have concentrated on that, and that alone. Were I also to have weighed in on other factual errors I would have also spent time on:

  • Jesus, Thomas, evidence, and faith
  • Galileo’s place in the history of church and science
  • Science, miracles, and justification of knowledge
  • The origin of belief in an ordered universe

Finally, since the links are so easy to find, Neil DeGrasse Tyson really messed up the story of Bruno.

Comments

  1. bigbird

    JT objects to my saying, “The Bible is not a work of science, and no one thinks it is.” I acknowledge my error: there are young-earth creationists who apparently think it is.

    It all depends on what you mean by a “work of science” I suppose. As you noted above, it is important to get terms correct. It is also important to see what YECs are actually saying.

    To me a “work of science” means a scientific textbook, and I doubt any YEC thinks that this describes the Bible.

    Even the article The Bible Is a Textbook of Science by Henry Morris doesn’t claim that the Bible is a scientific textbook in the way we think of textbooks. Rather, he regarded it as a framework through which science should be interpreted.

    Similarly, Creation Ministries International explains here that the Bible is not a scientific textbook.

    And here Ken Ham explains his similar view.

  2. TFBW

    To second bigbird, above, Young-Earth Creationists don’t consider the Genesis account of creation to be a scientific account: they consider it to be a historical, eyewitness account. The confusion arises because some people (especially New Atheists) think that science is the only valid means to approach the question of origins — thus if the Bible speaks of origins, it speaks on the subject of science (poorly).

    In general, religion and science do not conflict because they do not share any common subjects on which to conflict. An exception to this is the subject of history. Both may have something to say on that subject, and may enter into conflict on it. There may also be philosophical conflicts (such as on the possibility of miracles), but these aren’t really conflicts between science and religion: they are conflicts between different metaphysical schools of thought.

  3. Pamela

    The notion that science stops at “God did it” is silly. It assumes that science exists to explain who instead of how. Just because I know the painter, doesn’t mean I don’t want to know how he mixes the paint or watch as he applies it to the canvas.

  4. BillT

    The notion that science stops at “God did it” is silly.

    In fact, not only is the notion that science stops at”God did it” silly, the reality is that science began at “God did it.”

  5. JethroElfman

    The section of the “Five Things Wrong” article which stands out to me is #2 “The Multiverse Is Not Science”. It’s an excellent point. Theories which exist only as ideas in your head and on paper don’t amount to much. He compares it to sitting around and discussing it at the bar. That is exactly the conflict between religion and science. To be science, it requires an experiment. After Einstein’s theories of relativity were published, physicists didn’t just talk about it. They set to creating experiments to measure whether his model matched the world. How do we take the measure of God?
    When we say that we want evidence, we are thinking of something more than a good argument. We require signs and wonders. You can’t even come up with a repeatable miracle which shows that naturalism is untrue, let alone that your particular version of deity has the characteristics which you subscribe to Him. What have you got? Two-thousand year-old writings? There’s plenty of conspiracy theories about things happening today. How are we therefore to put our trust in something so ancient? What else have you got? Philosophical arguments. Textual studies. Which Star Wars movie was it where the guy says, “Republic credits are no good out here, I need something more real.” Provide something that we can look a; A means to verify that your words match what we see in the world.
    Without physical evidence, theologians are just a bunch of guys talking in a bar.

  6. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Do you want repeatable miracles that can be investigated by science? What if you have them? What if human being are those repeatable miracles?

    But wait, you say, humans aren’t miracles, they happen naturally all the time! It’s a fair answer and I’d be disappointed if you didn’t jump right in with it, except (heh!) I got there first. But there’s an obvious problem with that. Suppose God were doing some miracle M, and doing it repeatedly, and doing it in such a way that we can measure it scientifically. What would you call M? You’d call it nature, and you would never recognize it as a miracle. It might be one, but you couldn’t see it as one. Humans could be that miracle, and you’d have no way to know whether we were or weren’t.

    So therefore your complaint, “You can’t even come up with a repeatable miracle which shows that naturalism is untrue,” is little more than, “You can’t even come up with a repeatable natural event which shows that naturalism is untrue;” or, “You can’t even come up with evidence that’s completely consistent with naturalism that shows that naturalism is untrue.” Right. We can’t do that. We think that would be an odd place to look for evidence that naturalism is untrue. We think it’s odd when people demand that God show his power to do unusual things by doing them in a way that makes them not unusual at all.

    Miracles happen. They happen often. They happen often enough to fill hundreds of pages of a carefully researched scholarly work, Miracles, by Craig Keener. They happen often enough that if you ask a dozen or so Christian friends you know, chances are at least one of them will have experienced some event that resists natural explanation, or they could give the name of a close friend or relative who has. But repeatable? That’s an inside-out request for God to show that he can do something in nature that comes out the same way every time under the same conditions, and yet doesn’t follow natural law.

    You say, “When we say that we want evidence, we are thinking of something more than a good argument.” Do you realize that even physical evidence isn’t evidence without an argument? It’s an argument that proceeds out of systematic reflection upon observable phenomena. And so are the theistic arguments.

    How to put trust in something so ancient? Textual studies would be a good start, actually. The conclusions they reach come by way of systematic reflection upon observable phenomena. As for conspiracy theories, we have good evidence against that.

    Your suggestion that we’re just a bunch of guys talking in a bar is both factually wrong and offensively dehumanizing. It’s not far from, “theologians are just a bunch of guys with no interest in reality, no connection to reality, and nothing to go on but the buzz.” Thanks for thinking so highly of your fellow man.

    But I can get over that. What I hope you can get over is your own apparent ignorance of where theology and apologetics gets its working data from. It ain’t just bubbles in beer, my friend.

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    Tom Gilson

    By the way, regarding the possibility that humans are miracles of God, you might object that we wouldn’t want to say that because we have a virtually complete natural explanation of where humans come from, how we develop, etc.

    But we don’t.

    We don’t have anything close to a natural explanation of what I call humanness: consciousness, rationality, moral awareness, purpose, identity, worth, and more.

  9. JethroElfman

    Okay, I’m sorry for comparing you to a guy in a bar. You make too good of an argument to be reduced to that. However, your assertion that atheism is irrational isn’t exactly an egalitarian opinion of those of us on my side of the room, either. You disagree with the conclusions of our reasoning, but that’s no cause to say it’s not a genuine attempt to be reasonable. It’s only that New Atheism is so recent at thing that we haven’t identified our counterpart to Aquinas.

    Where do you stand on evolution? I found a few of your articles where you oppose the principle that mankind happened by chance, but left out the details. Was there a specific Adam, in an actual garden called Eden, or is the tale all metaphor? The defective vitamin C gene is a plain indication that we share a common ancestor with all the primates. In all of us it is broken in an identical way. It’s like having the same typo in several books. It makes them appear to have the same author. It’s as if God drew a tattoo on these species to identify them as related. How does that allow for Adam to have existed? Moreover, doesn’t the premise of original sin disappear if there were no Adam and Eve to fall?

  10. Phil

    “Suppose God were doing some miracle M, and doing it repeatedly, and doing it in such a way that we can measure it scientifically. What would you call M? You’d call it nature, and you would never recognize it as a miracle”

    That’s some serious assumption here, M.Gilson.
    A “natural” event is not some random fact happening over and over again.
    To be considered “natural”, an event has to not violate the known and established scientific theories.
    If it does, it can be due to flaws in the theories, in wich case the scientific process will go on and try to find where the theory fails (like the black body radiation problem indirectingly leading to Einstein refining the newtonian laws of attraction into the limited relativity theory)
    More often than not, however, it will come from misinterpretations, analysis errors and/or bias.

    So far, everytime a “miraculous” event repeatedly occured (like tsunamis or earthquakes), science has been able to rule out the “goddidit” explanation.

    Cite me any miracle occuring more than once and/or being submitted to scientific studies, and your hypothesis could be legitimate.
    But in the world we live in, conjuring that so-called “repeatedly occuring miracle” would only be useful for a proof by contradiction.

  11. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Phil, what I was responding to was, “You can’t even come up with a repeatable miracle which shows that naturalism is untrue.” I was explaining why that is necessarily the case by the definition of “miracle.” By definition a miracle does not happen more than once in the same way by the same means or causes. So no, I did not make “some serious assumption here.” I made a thought experiment. There’s a difference.

    Further, in that thought experiment, I only assumed that if (emphasis on the conditional) a miracle were ever to occur, then (that’s the consequent of a conditional, you know) it is not repeatable, and if (emphasis on the conditional) it is repeatable, then (emphasis on the consequent) it’s nature, not miracle. From that it follows that if there were some “repeatable miracle” such as I had been challenged to produce, it couldn’t be seen as one, couldn’t be studied as one, and for all practical purposes wouldn’t be one.

    Funny thing: your closing sentence seems to agree with what I was trying to say anyway. I didn’t use the word “conjuring,” because I wasn’t trying to be dismissive toward anyone. Ironically your use of the word missed me and hit the person who raised the original question instead.

    Meanwhile, speaking of words, “goddidit” is not a word. It is an epithet of scorn. No, thank you: not here. See the discussion policy, items 2 and 5.

    And speaking of “some serious assumption,” I’m going to go all the way up to wow in response to this:

    So far, everytime a ‘miraculous’ event repeatedly occured (like tsunamis or earthquakes), science has been able to rule out the “goddidit” explanation.”

    That’s absolutely false. See comment 6.

    Note especially that when science resorts to “what a coincidence” as an explanation, that’s not ruling out God. I’m thinking of my friend who had severely disabling epilepsy and was healed instantaneously while being prayed for: our atheistic mutual friend explained that as a coincidence. I’m thinking of my experience with what others called “coincidence” while a student. Time and time again, doctors have said, “We have no explanation . . . ” And if there is no natural explanation, then in those cases there is no natural explanation, and science hasn’t ruled out God’s intervention.

    Second, science hasn’t ruled out God’s supervision and involvement even in regularly occurring (“natural”) events.

  12. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Jethro Elfman, you say,

    However, your assertion that atheism is irrational isn’t exactly an egalitarian opinion of those of us on my side of the room, either. You disagree with the conclusions of our reasoning, but that’s no cause to say it’s not a genuine attempt to be reasonable. It’s only that New Atheism is so recent at thing that we haven’t identified our counterpart to Aquinas.

    The irrationality my co-authors and I have identified in the New Atheism is very specific, and it is identified clearly by name (by fallacy). Multiple examples are given. Fallacious thinking is extremely pervasive throughout the works of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Coyne, Krauss, Boghossian, ….

    New Atheism not only has not found its Aquinas, by the example of its principal leaders it has not demonstrated a genuine attempt to meet the minimum standards of rational discourse.

    I’m not going to try to re-argue that whole point here, though; there’s a reason the book is a book and not a blog post.

  13. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Where do I stand on evolution? That’s a tangent, and I don’t want to start a new topic here, but the short answer is that it’s a controversial, difficult, technical question that everyone thinks non-specialists have to answer their way, and I refuse to be forced to an under-informed final conclusion. See here and here.

  14. Phil

    Okay, first things first: apologies for the “goddidit” use, I didn’t want to harm anyone sensitivity.

    Second: the assumption I was talking about was that “you would call it a natural event”.
    The only reason we would call it a natural event is that, so far, every event that has occured more than once and has been investigated with a scientific mind has been found to happen from natural cause. Even such a “basic” event as the sun rising every morning was considered supernatural before humanity started to seriously “investigate” the problem.

    So saying we would call a “miraculous” event a natural one just because it’s occuring more than once is either a serious assumption, or worse: it’s negating the precise reason why we would do it now (applying scientific method)

    Talking about the occurences of “miraculous” recoveries,
    i totally agree with you: if i’m asking a christian friend right now, chances are “one of them will have experienced some event that resists natural explanation, or they could give the name of a close friend or relative who has”. But first, that’s relying on personal perceptions and memories, wich are highly inaccurate; second, you state that “By definition a miracle does not happen more than once in the same way by the same means or causes”. So I guess that once, a christian suffered from a severe case of epilepsia, was healed by the power of prayer, and that all other so-called “miraculous” epilepsy recoveries were just… what ?

    But the fact is: I’m pretty confident the same will be true for my muslims, hindus, buddhists or even atheists friends.
    If that’s your “proof” of a miracle (in the sense of an act performed by the Christian God), that’s as well proof that the thousands Hindu gods performed such miracles on their believers. Wich by the way would dismiss all monotheistics gods.
    It’s also the proof that your God has the ability to cure whatever your friends suffered from, but for reasons known to him only, let millions african (christian !) children die from malaria…

    However, if by “miracle” you mean “any unexplainable event”, then you’re just calling the “God of gaps”, not your specific one.
    “Time and time again, doctors have said, “We have no explanation …”” it only means science has no explanation yet… which is why we now have hospitals instead of snake oil sellers.

    Finally, about you last sentence: mea culpa. I meant “science has ruled out the need for God’s supervision”. Sorry if it wasn’t clear enough.
    It’s true: God could be behind the laws that gravity, evolution, whatever you think of. But he’s just not needed.
    And as the saying goes “extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence”

  15. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Phil,

    So saying we would call a “miraculous” event a natural one just because it’s occuring more than once is either a serious assumption, or worse: it’s negating the precise reason why we would do it now (applying scientific method)

    I was responding to the word “repeatable.” “Repeatable” is not synonymous with “occurring more than once.”

    Personal perceptions and memories relating to recovery from severe epilepsy are not “highly unreliable.”

    The “miracles” performed in Hindu contexts are consistently the kind of thing that can be done through stage trickery, and I have a friend, a top-level magician, who has shown this is the case. Second, Christian miracles are not consistently that kind of thing. Sure, some Christians will attribute prayer answers that could have other explanations, but healing from epilepsy is not a stageable trick.

    Your statement about children dying from malaria is a version of the problem of evil, not an objection to the reality of miracles.

    “God of the gaps” is overused and misused so much it’s silly. Look, Phil, if you say, “So far, everytime a ‘miraculous’ event repeatedly occured (like tsunamis or earthquakes), science has been able to rule out the “goddidit” explanation;” and if I use real-world examples to demonstrate you’re wrong, then I have in fact shown that you are wrong. That’s what I set out to do, and you can try to deflect it by labeling it something else, but that doesn’t change what it is.

    And for heaven’s sake, Phil, could you please show me the lab report, the journal article, or the conference proceedings where a controlled test was run, with and without God in the picture (supervising), and the results were the same either way? If you can’t do that, then how on earth can you say that science has ruled out the need for God’s supervision?

    Thank you, by the way, for that gratuitous reminder that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I had heard it before. Not just once. Not even just a few times.

    I have yet to hear anyone provide a coherent statement of what in the world they mean by it. Sure, you could provide me some examples of some extraordinary claims for which one might call for extraordinary evidence. But that’s not what this nice little slogan is intended to be. It’s intended to be a general rule of procedure, for which it’s necessary to provide general definitions for things like “extraordinary evidence” or even “extraordinary claims.”

    But please don’t answer me by trying to provide one here. That was just a drive-by. It was a slogan tossed out the window like a rolled-up newspaper. Or maybe like a rock thrown at a theist window (the glass survives. Either way it was out of context, and I dwell on it here now, only because I want it to be recognized for what it is. No further discussion on it is necessary, as it’s a tangent off the main point of the blog post.

    I was really hoping that you would have read my discussion policies by now. You did see, didn’t you, that by commenting here, you agree that you’ve read them already?

    Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim are all proper nouns, and you have misspelled all of them in a manner that disses them all. I admit it’s a pet peeve, but follow the links and you’ll see why it matters to me.

  16. Phil

    I was responding to the word “repeatable.” “Repeatable” is not synonymous with “occurring more than once.”
    Argument still holds

    Personal perceptions and memories relating to recovery from severe epilepsy are not “highly unreliable.”
    Yes they are. Our memory is never a 100% reliable source of information, however you’re sure it is.

    The “miracles” performed in Hindu contexts are consistently the kind of thing that can be done through stage trickery, and I have a friend, a top-level magician, who has shown this is the case. Second, Christian miracles are not consistently that kind of thing
    Okay, you lost me there… “other faiths use tricks, mine doesn’t”. Serioulsy ?

    But hey, let’s go through your whole response, while i’m at it.

    Your statement about children dying from malaria is a version of the problem of evil, not an objection to the reality of miracles.
    Never said it was, just thought it was worth noting (on a sidenote, my take on this “evil problem” you mention would probably contravene your comment policy, so i won’t develop)

    could you please show me the lab report, the journal article, or the conference proceedings where a controlled test was run, with and without God in the picture
    To do that, we should first agree on a precise definition of God, and then have one that is falsifiable. You don’t have either.

    I’ll pass your paragraphs about my last citation, as you said it’s a general rule of thumb. However, there’s nothing ambiguous in it, and so far it has been applied for the vast majority of scientific discoveries (see the discovery of the higgs boson for example)

    About the spelling: once again, i didn’t mean to diss other faiths: it just happens that in french, adjectives are not capitalized (and take an s when plural), and English is not my first language.

    Well, as I said above, you lost me on your “argument” about tricks used by Hindu, so good luck trying to reconcile science and faith… and keeping your integrity while doing so.

  17. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Phil:

    Argument still holds

    No it doesn’t

    (See, I can play that game just as fast as you can.)

    Okay, you lost me there… “other faiths use tricks, mine doesn’t”. Serioulsy ?

    I didn’t say that.

    To do that, we should first agree on a precise definition of God, and then have one that is falsifiable. You don’t have either.

    Actually, Phil, you don’t have either. And this further supports my contention: you don’t have science demonstrating that God isn’t involved (or necessary) in nature. Thank you for that further argument against your thesis.

    I did not say that ECREE is a “general rule of thumb.” I said it gets repeated a lot. I know some people take it as a general rule of thumb, and it’s a fine point of reference in certain contexts; but as a hard and fast rule for discerning reality it’s a poor choice, for reasons I’ve already stated.

    The reason you’re lost on the argument about tricks used by Hindus might be because you’re trying to make sense of it the way you wrote it, not the way I wrote it. One sign of integrity in these discussions is to engage with your opponents’ position, not with a straw man.

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    Tom Gilson

    G. Rodrigues or other classical theists, would you be willing to try your hand at developing a “precise definition of God, … one that is falsifiable”?

    (Don’t shoot me, I’m only passing along a question. And Holopupenko, if you choose to take up the challenge, please try not to shoot anyone else, either.)

  20. SteveK

    I don’t think you can falsify a proposition/definition that is true. If you define a red ball as a spherical object made of solid rubber and colored red, how exactly would you falsify that definition? You wouldn’t.

  21. Shane Fletcher

    Hi SteveK,

    By falsifiable he meant something that could be proved to be false. If the ball was actually blue, for example, then the definition would be false.

    Respectfully
    Shane

  22. SteveK

    Shane,
    A ball that is actually blue doesn’t falsify my definition of a red ball.

  23. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    They may claim that Creation Science amounts to an illustration of their principle, but (even though I don’t agree with a lot of “creation science”) I don’t know of anyone in that school who has quit their researches on account of their beliefs.

    Well, one can look at the startling paucity of scientific output of creationists (and intelligent design proponents, too) and contrast it with their propaganda efforts. actual investigative research is awfully hard to find. Frankly, it’s not that they’ve quit their researches so much as there’s no sign they ever started.

    I once pointed out what a creationist research program might look like. Still haven’t seen anything like that.

  24. bigbird

    Frankly, it’s not that they’ve quit their researches so much as there’s no sign they ever started.

    Ray, you mentioned Kuhn’s paradigms on another thread. If you’ve read *The Structure of Scientific Revolutions* you’ll know exactly why there’s little been published by ID proponents – the dominant paradigm makes it extremely difficult to do so. Unless the current paradigm breaks down, that’s unlikely to change.

    I should add that the link you provided indicates the author is somewhat confused. The Discovery Institute is a think tank – it doesn’t make any claim to be a research institute. So it is unsurprising that the DI allocates little funding to research. That’s not its purpose.

  25. Ray Ingles

    bigbird –

    The Discovery Institute is a think tank – it doesn’t make any claim to be a research institute.

    From the “About” page of the Center for Science and Culture”

    Started in 1996, the Center for Science and Culture is a Discovery Institute program which:

    * supports research by scientists and other scholars challenging various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory;
    * supports research by scientists and other scholars developing the scientific theory known as intelligent design;
    * supports research by scientists and scholars in the social sciences and humanities exploring the impact of scientific materialism on culture.
    * encourages schools to improve science education by teaching students more fully about the theory of evolution, including the theory’s scientific weaknesses as well is its strengths.

    The first three items start with “supports research”. If they aren’t doing the research, who is? And even if it’s not published in mainstream journals, where is it published, and what does an ID research program look like? It’s fine to talk about ‘paradigms’, but seriously – where is the beef?

  26. Billy Squibs

    Is it not obvious to you that supporting research isn’t necessarily the same as actively conducting research, Ray? I’m not an IDer either and I can understand this. It sure looks like you are digging your heals in.

    Anyway, I seem to remember Steven Meyer mentioning something about ID specific predictions and ongoing research during the fascinating discussion he had with Charles Marshall on the Unbelievable? show.

    See here.

  27. bigbird

    The first three items start with “supports research”.

    That isn’t a claim to be doing research themselves. Rather, they award grants to people to support their research – the CSC fellows.

    If they aren’t doing the research, who is? And even if it’s not published in mainstream journals, where is it published, and what does an ID research program look like? It’s fine to talk about ‘paradigms’, but seriously – where is the beef?

    If you peruse their list of 40-50 fellows it won’t be difficult to find out their research interests and what they have published.

    Perhaps it is just my impression, but you don’t seemed to have looked very hard.

  28. Ray Ingles

    bigbird –

    If you peruse their list of 40-50 fellows it won’t be difficult to find out their research interests and what they have published.

    Note that you’re assigning me the homework of reviewing their publications, when I’m the one who asked y’all “where is the beef?”

    But it might actually be feasible. Of the 40, only at most 12 actually have anything to do with biology. 14 are in Philosophy and/or Theology, there are 3 in Physics and 3 in Engineering, 2 Historians, and then we have one representative each of Political Science, Psychology, Math, Astronomy, Law, Chemistry, and Literature. I’m going to presume that I can leave them off of a question about scientific research into biology. If you can point out a counterexample, please do.

    Of the biologists, I can eliminate several. I’m familiar with Behe, of course, and unimpressed.
    I can’t take an actual young-Earth creationist like Bohlin seriously, either, but I can’t find any papers he’s published anyway. Wells has three scientific publications, none of which are more recent than 1997, and none of which address ID. Hunter’s are more recent, but still over a decade old and also don’t seem to have anything to do with ID. Can’t find any publications for Kenyon, Simmons, or Thaxton. Or Pun, but there it may be my PubMed fu is weak.

    That leaves three that have actually published something in the last decade. Paul Chien, Scott Minnich, and Richard Sternberg. Sternberg has exactly one paper, that cites no empirical data. So we’re down to two. None of the titles of the papers for Chien or Minnich look promising to me. What should I be looking for?

  29. Billy Squibs

    I’m not aware of any transcript. Maybe try a search to see what gets thrown up.

    It’s fine that you are not impressed by Meyer. I personally thought he put up a very spirited defence of his position. But all this is besides the point, no?

  30. bigbird

    Note that you’re assigning me the homework of reviewing their publications, when I’m the one who asked y’all “where is the beef?”

    !! You made the claim about there being little ID research and linked to a page referencing the Discovery Institute. Are you telling me that you didn’t do your homework before making the claim?

    Of the 40, only at most 12 actually have anything to do with biology. 14 are in Philosophy and/or Theology, there are 3 in Physics and 3 in Engineering, 2 Historians, and then we have one representative each of Political Science, Psychology, Math, Astronomy, Law, Chemistry, and Literature. I’m going to presume that I can leave them off of a question about scientific research into biology.

    Read your own quote from the DI – the DI fellows are representative of exactly what the DI claim their goals are – supporting research in ID, social sciences, and the humanities.

    I should add that philosophy, chemistry, astronomy and physics are part of ID’s remit as well as biology.

    Of the biologists, I can eliminate several. I’m familiar with Behe, of course, and unimpressed. I can’t take an actual young-Earth creationist like Bohlin seriously, either, but I can’t find any papers he’s published anyway.

    You are illustrating exactly what I was saying. Being aligned with another research paradigm means you dismiss anyone with a competing paradigm. And that’s why IDers find it difficult to publish, and that’s unlikely to change. As usual, science has a great deal invested in the current paradigm, and additionally the current paradigm has an enormous capacity to subsume research anomalies.

    Here’s the list the DI provides of publications, both peer-reviewed and popular press. I have little doubt none of it will impress you.

  31. Ray Ingles

    bigbird –

    !! You made the claim about there being little ID research and linked to a page referencing the Discovery Institute.

    Which made the point that, for a foundation that claims to “support research” (three times over!) and secondarily to “encourage schools to improve science education”, it spends the vast majority of its money on publicity and lobbying, and only 7.3% on (claimed) research. $220K is peanuts for launching a new “research paradigm”.

    Why spend so much on promotion before you actually have results to promote?

    I should add that philosophy, chemistry, astronomy and physics are part of ID’s remit as well as biology.

    And yet, the lion’s share of the publicity goes to tackling biological evolution…

    Being aligned with another research paradigm means you dismiss anyone with a competing paradigm.

    Why can I not turn that around? You’re committed to an ID paradigm, therefore you can’t see the value and validity of evolution? You’re playing what C.S. Lewis called “the motive game”, and like him, I decline it. Show me some results. So far, the DI and the CSC doesn’t seem to show results, or any real attempt to spend the money to get them.

    Relativity was a new paradigm, too. But it actually made predictions, and people tested them, and the results turned out to match the predictions. I’ve never seen anything equivalent for ID except “evolution won’t ever explain [something]”. And as I’ve pointed out before, those predictions haven’t been borne out so far.

    ID, and the CSC, simply aren’t doing that.

  32. bigbird

    Which made the point that, for a foundation that claims to “support research” (three times over!) and secondarily to “encourage schools to improve science education”, it spends the vast majority of its money on publicity and lobbying, and only 7.3% on (claimed) research. $220K is peanuts for launching a new “research paradigm”.

    And the point was wrong.

    You appear to have confused the CSC with the DI. The CSC is a program within the DI. The CSC does not spend 7.3% on research – the DI does.

    The DI is primarily concerned with advocating policy, and makes no claim to dedicate all its resources to research. The CSC is one of many programs within the DI.

    Why can I not turn that around? You’re committed to an ID paradigm, therefore you can’t see the value and validity of evolution?

    That’s a misuse of Kuhn, that’s why – evolution is the dominant paradigm, and ID is not, and Kuhn’s thesis is about the dominant paradigm. I’m not committed to an ID paradigm anyway – it just seems the more rational one to me. There are many Christians who accept an evolutionary paradigm, e.g. BioLogos.

    That doesn’t mean I’m not biased against evolutionary theory – perhaps I am. But the main point about paradigms is that the dominant paradigm makes it extremely difficult for anyone challenging the dominant paradigm to be published. That says nothing either way on how legitimate the challengers are.

    Show me some results. So far, the DI and the CSC doesn’t seem to show results, or any real attempt to spend the money to get them.

    Like I said, the DI isn’t a research group – it’s a think tank promoting policy. So you wouldn’t expect a group that wasn’t a research group to be spending all their money on research.

    ID proponents (and there are quite a few around) are gradually publishing work that cautiously challenges certain evolutionary assumptions but it isn’t easy to do.

    Relativity was a new paradigm, too. But it actually made predictions, and people tested them, and the results turned out to match the predictions.

    You’ll know then that general relativity didn’t become the dominant paradigm until almost 50 years afterwards.

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