rational rejection of supernatural mythologies

Essential Whining

 Not content to con reputable scientists into their ridiculous movie about science’s rejection of the IDiocy of so-called ‘intelligent design’ creationism, the producers are now trying to lure logic-challenged students to whine about poor reception of pseudoscience in science classes.

 Those who are not sufficiently well versed in science or logic might continue to be fooled by the ID propaganda, which relies on a very old, and refuted argument to make the illogical proposition that ‘scientific accounts of evolution fail’ and that religiously motivated con artists have something to offer by way of explanation. They don’t. The design argument is based on the irrelevant analogy that human-designed creations are the product of intelligence, so, by their ridiculous reasoning, ‘life could not have arisen by chance and biological complexity could not have evolved by natural processes’. It could and it did, but these fools care nothing for the truth. This argument is unfounded and the claims of ID creationists that they have anything useful to add to scientific knowledge is an unabashed falsehood that rakes in contributions from the terminally deluded.

 Religious fundamentalists are so desperate about the refutation of religious dogma by scientists and philosophers that they must resort to ridiculous ploys such as IDiocy in an attempt to maintain credulity in the ignorant and the credulous. There is no grounds for debate about evolution versus creation because evolution has been overwhelmingly documented as a fact and creationism has been soundly disproven. The scientific theories that explain the mechanisms by which the fact of biological evolution has operated are incomplete but not inaccurate. This is the beauty of science–it is a work in progress, continuously being checked, refined, and verified.

 I do think that there is a place for discussion of IDiocy in university classrooms–disproving ID claims could enliven discussion of the likely mechanisms of abiogenesis, of probability calculations, and of the actual mechanisms of biological evolution; and, the rampant illogic of IDiocy would provide plentiful examples of fallacious logic for discussion of critical thinking. Beyond these applications, IDiocy has absolutely no truth value and no merit for education.

Blogs ~ The Discovery Institute doesn’t like smart college students ~ Expelled: No Intelligence Evident ~

Earlier Blog reactions ~ Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :


October 28, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, logic, philosophy, religion, science | Leave a comment

Absolutist Fears to Emotion

Because the WordPress system does not allow for modification of posting time, the following lengthy sequence is posted out of order:

Full sequence: Absolutist FearsComments Bouncing back to Dave , Comment; No Things in Moderation; Creation MythsComments; Conversions, Comments; My God is bigger than your god, Comments; Of must and men, Comments; Transcendant rhetorical devices, Comments; The so-called creation versus evolution debate, Comments; Apologetic creations, Comments; From the Cradle, Comments; West of Eden, Comments; The Clash of Titans, Comments; The place of Emotion, Comments .

September 2, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, atheism, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, Jerry Falwell, logic, morality, Pascal's Wager, philosophy, psychology, religion, science | Leave a comment

The Clash of Titans

<i>Philosophy of science, as I’m sure you well know, is not science.</i>

“But science is not science without an underlying (if sometimes unperceived) philosophy of science. Science cannot exist in a philosophical vacuum.”

Lets agree to distinguish between Philosophy of Science (I omitted the cap “S’), which is the discipline of professional philosophy that examines science as a whole, and the philosophical (thought) underpinnings of the scientific approach, which is what you allude to. I was referring to the former and you were referring to the latter.

Science is the logical descendent of metaphysics and has replaced most of the old metaphysical explanations. You are quite correct that scientific understanding is based upon prior scientific knowledge. Sciences can be categorized as theoretical and applied, though ‘applied’ is assumed and only ‘theoretical’ is typically used as an adjective. Sciences are also subdivided into hard (direct experimentation is feasible and ethical) and soft (direct experimentation is unethical).

I take you to be referring to the fact that within scientific methodology the process is to move from observation to educated guess (hypothesis based on current understanding), to prediction, to experimental observation or empirical observation (falsification or agreement with hypothesis), to theory, to more and more testing, to acceptance that the theory is sound. If a hypothesis or theory is falsified by reliable new observations, it is scrapped. “Based on current understanding” indicates that scientific knowledge provides an underlying framework on the basis of which hypotheses are formulated.

This process is quite different than Philosophy of Science, which would be more like my description of the theoretical underpinnings of scientific method.  

<i>the creationist campaign of discrediting science has resulted in many creationist with whom I have talked believing that all of science is a matter of pure guesswork</i>

“I think your causal link in pure speculation.”

Not so. I have talked with a number of creationists who have voiced exactly that opinion. If I were (shudder) to join one of the C vs E groups that have proliferated in e-space, I’m certain that I’d find more.

<i>that is exactly the phenomenon that I am talking about. You don’t like the implications.</i>

“All I am saying is that you are consistent in believing in the pervasive nature of this phenomenon. It’s not that I don’t like the implications. I believe your view is flawed.”

I don’t want to quibble on our definitions of pervasive. The problem is not that Americans (the creationist hotbed) are not particularly well educated in science. Most people in most nations are not particularly well educated in science. The problem is that unfounded creationist attacks on science encourage people to dismiss scientific expertize and expertize in general. This is the outcome of fallacious ad hominem attacks on any whose knowledge conflicts with whatever biased, special interest message is being promulgated. This anti-intellectual dismissal of expertize, which is associated with illogical thinking, is becoming more and more prevalent (over my lifespan) and has inherent dangers that spread beyond science classrooms. As a friend says, “All people think. It’s just that the quality of their thinking is not good.”

It could be that I have simply become aware of the phenomenon because the Internet has expanded my awareness. It could be argued that I have been protected from this awareness by mixing with science-educated people. Regardless of whether or not the prevalence of illogic is increasing, the fact remains that it is alive and kicking.

<i>I am sure that you are aware that science, by virtue of its physical nature, is necessarily religion neutral.</i>

“No, I am aware that science, due to it’s philosophical underpinnings, cannot be religion neutral.”

No, the philosophy of scientific investigation is religion neutral.  (As you said, there is an underlying philosophy to science.) Scientist recognize that scientific method is necessarily confined to examination of the physical world. This includes a great deal – everything from M-theory (superstrings) up to cosmology. The accumulation of scientific knowledge in an ever expanding sphere has inadvertantly shoved “God” into a vanishingly small corner. This is not merely a matter of scientific thinking, the founders of Logical Positivists such as Wittgenstein included professional philosophers.

There are more reasons to disbelieve in the purported “existence” of “supernatural” beings than the fact that science has provided verifiable explanations for what were formerly regarded as miracles. However, because science is founded in empirical facts, scientific knowledge is more threatening to theists than those other objections. As you have indicated, Christian apologists have had about 2,000 years in which to mount a philosophical defence against the Tree of Knowledge.

<i>However, given that science provides experimentally replicable evidence that explains origins, then that has the byproduct impact of rendering supernatural “explanations” superfluous, indeed falsified.</i>

“This appears to be a case of not just circular reasoning, but of concentric circular reasoning. Science provides replicable experiments that can be used as evidence supporting certain views about facets of biological history, within the framework of a certain range of philosophical systems. They provide no byproduct, because they cannot explain the how or why the initial processes began, much less broadly falisfy the existence of the supernatural.”

“Concentric circular reasoning” – cute, but inaccurate! As you stated earlier, the supernatural is hypothesized as being outside the natural, and you claimed that this is beyond scientific investigation, which renders science religion neutral provided that the supernatural does exist. 

However, if, as I contend, the supernatural cannot exist as a distinct supercategory because any interaction with the physical places the agent within the category of the physical, then science examines all. If you wish to claim that science is not religion neutral, then you are unintentionally assenting to the contention that science can investigate ‘all that is’ and that the supernatural does not exist. 

“certain views about facets of biological history, within the framework of a certain range of philosophical systems” – I assume that you are referring to the fact of biological evolution and the theories that best explain how biological complexity emerged. If so, you are failing to distinguish between abiogenesis (beginnings) from biological evolution (progress). Evolutionary biologists make absolutely no claim of explaining origins – that is the realm of chemists.

I am aware of the numbers games that intelligent design creationist play to try to eradicate the possibility of biopoiesis without supernatural intervention. I am not about to discuss chemical experiments, RNA world, panspermia etc. They are good hypotheses with experimental foundation and are in accord with what you call the philosophy of science. However, no experiment can replicate an entire planet and a great deal of time. If you wish to dismiss this explanation as special pleading, then I’d refer you back to contention that God is ineffable. 

However, I will say that knee-jerk creationist dismissal of the Miller-Urey experiment (etc!) is ridiculous. (Not you, them.) The experiment has since been repeatedly replicated with a better approximation of the primordial atmosphere, and did repeatedly demonstrate that amino acids spontaneously form within only one week. The planet had about 500 million years to cool before biological life is first recorded in the rocks. Biological life comprised only prokaryotes for another approximately 2.5 million years until Cyanobacteria stumbled upon oxygenic photosynthesis. The rest is fossil and molecular genetic history.

For creationists, but not for logic, it is either God the Creator or Darwinism. Creationist do not disbelieve the scientific facts because the science is not compelling, creationists disbelieve the empirical because they wish to believe that they were Created. (Even though the intelligent design defendants denied this in court, the motivation is God the Creator.)  Which, of course, was exactly what I was saying in the emotional-brain post. I have given that notion a little more thought. Your repetition of apologetic arguments did remind me that theologists have applied their cognitive powers to arguments for the supernatural. This, and the fact of human psychological need for explanations, does indicate that there is a huge neocortical component to the elaboration of religious beliefs.

This does not really alter my basic hypothesis that emotionally convicted belief is much more likely in those with early exposure.

Part 10 of response to No Things in Moderation.

Full sequence: Absolutist Fears4 CommentsResponse to Dave, No Things in Moderation, Creation Myths,  5 Comments, Conversions, No Comments, My God is bigger than your god, No Comments, Of must and men, No Comments, Transcendant rhetorical devices, No Comments, The so-called creation versus evolution debate, No Comments, Apologetic creations, No Comments, From the Cradle, No Comments, West of Eden, No Comments

September 2, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, atheism, creationism, education, evolution, logic, philosophy, religion, science | 1 Comment

Creation Myths

“I see arguments both ways. How to understand the Creation story has never been an article of the Faith. However, there is no philosophical necessity for it to be proven empirically one way or the other. You assume the events of Creation must be reproduceable to be credible.”

However, you would probably admit that some Christians denominations insist upon interpreting the Creation Story, and all of the Bible, quite literally, while more moderate denominations accept it as an allegory. The moderate denominations do not attack or deny scientific facts in a vain attempt to prove that their interpretation is correct. I think that moderate theists and atheist alike would not dispute that an allegory is an allegory. If the story in Genesis is to be taken as a creation allegory, then there is indeed no call to test the details empirically. Nobody bothers to test whether little boys who refuse to grow up can, or can’t, fly.

However, when fundamentalist Christians insist that the Bible in its entirity must be taken literally, then this insistence invites examination. It is not that scientists set out to falsify Genesis, it is that all that is established in scientific knowledge falsifies the physical claims in Genesis. If, for example, females of the human species had been cloned from Adam’s rib, then females as well as males would have an XY combination of sex chromosomes. Dolly had identical DNA to that of the ewe from which she was cloned. If they had cloned from a ram they would have produced Billy.

“That there are Creation myths in every society gives credance to the Genesis story.”

If you mean that the near universality of creation mythologies make the story in Genesis more likely to be accurate, then you are mistaken. If man was indeed Created by God, then we should expect to have the same creation myth in all societies unless you chose to believe the God lied to every society except an ancient tribe in Israel.

“Throughout all of human history there has been a recognition of a conscious purposeful Creation act. How that act took place and how figurative and poetic the language of Genesis is in describing that has been the subject of differing opinions.”

The word “recognition” implies, I’m sure intentionally, that humans actually did come about through an act of creation. (The serpent the fruit and the tree just happened to be there.) None of the evidence points to an act of deliberate creation unless one misinterprets the evidence. The existence of the panoply of creation myths, interpreted without bias, can only be take to indicate human desire for having an explanation of origins. Humans give abundant and continuing evidence of such a desire.

“Science does not refute Genesis – it only offers a variety of explanations of how the events in Genesis took place.”

You speak a lot of philosophy of science, so I am sure that you are familiar with the principle of falsification. Strictly, because of problems of induction, science cannot prove a hypothesis or a theory, but scientific method can disprove hypotheses that do not stand up to empirical testing. Science offers testable, reproducible, falisifiable explanations for how abiogenesis and biological evolution came about. (Obviously, it is easier to empirically demonstrate evolution than abiogenesis.) The “events” described in Genesis did not happen, those supposed events are part of a creation myth invented to provide some sort of explanation long before humans had yet induced better explanations.  

 Genesis is falsified – females do not have XY chromosomes (testicular feminization, notwithstanding), no talking serpents, no knowledge-giving-fruit, 4.5 billion year old Earth, etc. (I should have used the term “falsified” rather than the term “refuted” because the former applies to empirical testing and the latter to arguments.) Creationists simply deny knowledge.

“What science cannot prove is that there is no purpose or meaning to the universe. Given that humanity has always believed there is a purpose and meaning, regardless of their angle on the Creation story, the burden of proof is upon the atheist to show otherwise.”

Purpose and meaning are purely psychological concepts. It is certainly reasonable to assume that as long as humans have existed, humans have had psychological needs. There is abundant evidence for physical understanding but no evidence for psychological purpose behind purely physical events such as landslides and earthquakes, or more central to creationist concerns, abiogenesis and evolution.

Theists make a claim for the existence of God. Atheist simply reject all the arguments that demand faith in conjectured supernatural agencies. The burden of proof is on the claimant, and it is the theist who insists upon the existence of psychological behaviour in the universe at large. You are trying to shift the burden of proof and that, which you must know since you know the terminology, is a fallacy of logic.

Part 1 in response to No Things in Moderation.

I shall post response to the rest of your post later. Sorry about the delay due to comment moderation (troll prevention). You have found a brilliant way around it, particularly since I get the sense that you have a readership who no longer need to come here to see your comments.

August 30, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, atheism, creationism, fundamentalism, science | 5 Comments