The naturalists fairy tale! Which one?


Our resident apologist, whose main occupation, it seems to yours truly, is to misrepresent atheists and their arguments while at the same time claiming superiority of a christian world view. Those who have visited his site, by now know that he claims to love science, well when it seems to lend credence to his religious opinions and denigrate it as soon as it challenges the religious authority.

In this post, which I think he dedicates to Rusell, is a ruse to attack naturalism and its philosophical claims while at the same time purporting to show why such a view is false. We are told,

In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts.

which is true. It is through advancement of science and a scientific worldview that we have come to the conclusion that we are not descended from two ignoramuses, who had conversations with snakes and had the task to name all other animals apart from working so hard at populating the earth, that was lots of work for eve! Was she having twins? Just a thought 😛

It seems that it can’t be pointed out often enough that science and theology are different subjects.

But this we already know. Theology is the study of nothing ans science deals with what is knowable.

At least, the New Atheists seem to have so much confidence in the idea that science is theology (and metaphysics) that they feel no need to give any reason for the strange conclusion that science answers questions about God’s existence.

For all the crimes we could be guilty of, we are not guilty of thinking theology is science. Metaphysics that our apologists is parroting here presents no testable evidence. It is a word game where the person who can talk the most is sure to win and in this case, the apologist hopes to carry the day. Whenever the religious makes claims about god that are in the purview of science, of course science must have a say. If you don’t like it, don’t make claims that are testable using the scientific method!

But it’s not only theology of which such people are ignorant. Any real respect for history would at least acknowledge the facts of past as it actually occurred.

This is an outright lie, and he knows it. We know Cicero was a Roman leader, that Marcus Aurelius lived and wrote beautiful meditations, that the church was Inquisition, that much of the NT was agreed several centuries after the said events, that the OT was written over a long period of time and that Jesus is a myth from beginning to end. So what history don’t we know?

 the earliest science was developed by Christians, and sponsored by the Church.

Did you read that? So Galileo was actually sponsored by the church when he was asked to recant? That Giodarno Bruno was sponsored by the church? You know this is why a great friend of mine calls these guys silly people, for this is being silly!

Almost no culture has believed that the universe would have regular patterns which could be observed by the kinds of experiments science uses as its stock and trade.

Let us grant him that theology makes observations of the universe. Could he list them, I know, you, my friends would want to know.

The west is so saturated in science that we never think to question this fact, and, therefore, never notice that most of us can offer no reason why reality would be this way.

If science involves observation, analysis and [experimenting] then there is no other way understanding reality. Don’t get me wrong, we can appreciate music and art without having to do experiments and I don’t mean to say we don’t learn from the humanities, no we do, but they also whenever applicable apply the scientific method.

Naturalists, for instance, can give no explanation as to why the universe should have this surprising consistency.

We can, but can the theologian do so? If the theologian doesn’t know about this world we inhabit, how could he know about a world only accessible to the dead?

David Hume famously pointed out that belief in science, as far as the naturalist can see, is based on a logical fallacy.

What fallacy please, do tell.

It was Christians, and other monotheists, who invested the effort in developing modern science because they held the conviction that a rational creator would make an ordered universe.

Seriously! And then we are told we don’t know history? Someone tell me the god of the Chinese, the Indians and all other men and women who didn’t believe in ghosts but helped to develop science?

For Russell to claim, four-hundred years after the fact, that the Christians who invented, supported, and sponsored science somehow have a less scientific worldview than those atheists who blindly trust this inexplicable Christian invention is simply astonishing.

For a blind man to call people with eyes blind is to me, rank madness! Those christians or god believers lived in a culture where the existence of god was taken as a given. However, great their contributions were, we can say, without fear, they were wrong to ascribe the workings of nature to ghosts, gods or phantoms, whatever your fancy! So what if they were christians. Our concern is the present crop of christians who only appreciate science when it cures them from funny ailments but denigrate it as soon as it shows a belief in god to be a delusion.

None of this precludes the idea that naturalists can be great scientists; the tools of science can be used by anyone. But to say that the success of science somehow refutes the belief that predicted it would work strikes me as deeply irrational thinking.

Is this statement strange? It shouldn’t be. We have always held that a believer in ghosts can be a good scientist so this apologist decides to use the statement in his favour.

I conclude by saying it is wrong and will be always wrong to believe anything based on insufficient evidence. And it is irrational to think belief in ghosts is rational.

 

 

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

34 thoughts on “The naturalists fairy tale! Which one?

  1. john zande says:

    “The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing.”
    -Thomas Paine, The Age Of Reason.

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  2. Mordanicus says:

    One of the most important contributions to science is the introduction of the number zero. This idea was first developed by (non-theist or atheist) buddhism, and was subsequently transferred by Persians and Arabs from India to Europe.

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  3. keithnoback says:

    Who be dissin’ Archimedes?

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  4. Amyclae says:

    “science deals with what is knowable.”

    Hey, scientist here. That isn’t really true. Physics, especially in recent years, is an obvious example but I’d also throw in economists and criminologists.Statisticians of various types, for instance, would identify themselves as (rightfully so, I might add) scientists but it’d take a rather bizarre argument to even attempt to state that they deal exclusively with what is ‘knowable.’ It’s why “z-score” still sends chills up the spine of post-undergraduates.

    “What fallacy please, do tell.”

    Really? That’s embarrassing.

    Essentially, he argued, that you cannot arrive at certainty from inductive reasoning. Essentially, just because you ‘know’ the sun has risen in the West for as long as you can remember it is not ontologically certain that the sun will always rise from the West. Somewhat ironically, his views have found some common rhetoric (at least) from recent QM/Copenhagen physicists.

    “For all the crimes we could be guilty of, we are not guilty of thinking theology is science.”

    I think you’ve missed the boat on this one. The statement you’re replying to is simply commentating on the sillyness of using the scientific method to prove something–like ‘belief’–without any real ability to do so. Ignoring, for a moment, ‘God’ and all that it’s clear that there’s no real way for science to evaluate any non-quantifiable statement. Even ‘that church ascetically pleasing’ or ‘I have belief X’ is incongruous to my line work. No one can evaluate those claims using the scientific method in any real sense, but, the implication goes, saying that science has anything to do with human beliefs (whether it proves or disproves them) is akin to saying theology is scientific. A fair statement that, even you, would probably agree with if you thought it out.

    An idle thought. You seem to be a fervent champion of ‘science’ and ‘rationality’ and all that. Fantastic stuff, really. But what sort of experience do you actually have in a ‘scientific,’ academic environment? You speak, in a way, on behalf of me so I’d like to know a bit more about the champion who so self-assuredly (presumptuously?) takes up my mantle.

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    • makagutu says:

      First I will start with your question on my expertise. I learnt to take care of cows when I was a few years old in the village fields, then I learnt to build mud castles using mud during the rainy season, then learnt to make toy cars from wires[we couldn’t buy afford off the shop racks], then made cows from mud, tried the breath thing that god apparently did, it didn’t work and I gave up creating animated things at that point, and these days I spend my time, when am away from the computer in the market with mad men. That is all I know. I hope that settles the matter. And I don’t speak for you or anyone else. I speak for me, if somehow you think I could be speaking for you, it is just an illusion, it is not the least of my intention to speak for you. I hope you get my drift?

      You say I have missed the boat, while I have written a few paragraphs later that there are things we can’t carry out experiments on, e.g how beautiful the Monalisa is. So how did I miss the boat, which direction was it headed? Did you chose to ignore the part I talked about humanities? My comment on theology, if it is understood as the study of god, is the study of nothing, makes no predictions and has produced no results. A statement which I think you will agree with?

      Ah, so it is embarrassing to ask questions? That is quite new. And if that was the fallacy, I have just read it in passing on the web but will create time to familiarize myself with Hume’s work.

      Maybe I missed your point, did you mean to say that there are scientists dealing with what is not knowable? Please clarify.

      And again am no scientist, am a mad man with a computer and internet connection spending my time learning from mad men in the market.

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      • Amyclae says:

        I think a common instance is, say, Gallup. They are (or, at least, they have the proper resonance within the wider public for being) ‘the’ institution of statistics. Though, I suppose, Pew could contend with them. But regardless of who you ask there, when +/-3 (or 4 or 5 or 6) appears they are saying that what the actual value is unknowable. If it was knowable they would simply say integer-X +/- 0. But they admit that +3 is as equally valid as -3 from the assumptions and evidence they have.

        But even though Gallup, like statisticians, admit that ‘evidence’ can only go so far they are not saying that their statistics are nonsense, but simply acknowledging that some things about the world is unknowable. But even though they operate within and provide answers in the form of ranges I think it’s accepted that they are still scientists.

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        • makagutu says:

          What they set out to study is knowable, that is, for example what % of people in a given population are theists. They collect data, analyse and come to a conclusion. What they call unknowable, could become knowable if more data is available and I have not anywhere in my post said statisticians are not scientists.

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          • Amyclae says:

            Do you honestly think that Gallup, at any point, will be able to measure down to the last citizen what anyone thinks about anything? I don’t think that’s possible. People lie. Labels, and the words we use, are never going to be understood universally. Look at how many people told Gallup that they were ‘atheists’ and still believed in God. See how many told Gallup they were not but rejected any sort of ‘spirituality.’ Life is insanely messy and those little quirks inhabit the pages of every stat journal. It doesn’t mean anyone should stop their work. It’s useful. But we have to realize its limitations.

            And while I’m sure there are statisticians who deny that, there are some statisticians (who are doing the exact same work) who accept that. Does that somehow make some statisticians ‘scientists’ and some not?

            I’m just very doubtful that anyone who doesn’t ‘know’ everything about what they’re trying to study (and/or have no plan to know everything) then they should be kicked off the island of ‘Science.’

            “Sorry George Everyman, or Jill Everygirl, but since you accept that ‘quantifying’ what it means to identify as ‘Support Bill Clinton’ so… See ya.”

            And then, at the other end, I feel that it conflates too many categories in the humanities. I wouldn’t classify, for instance, lawyers as scientists but I’d argue that they ‘know’ everything about the law. Sure, they may have different interpretations of whether one result is more important than another but there is a certain level of ‘knowingness’ that is lacking in other humanities. Patent law, for instance, has a certain absoluteness that I think is undeniable. But, again, it’s not a science. Yet does that automatically make it on par with (or even remotely similar to), say, theology or literature? I think that’d be a weird (unconvincing?) equivocation.

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            • makagutu says:

              To put one matter to rest, I consider science, as used in The Gay Science by Nietzsche to be not limited to biological and physical sciences but to also to include any organized study or body of knowledge including history, philology and criticism.

              Maybe future generations could improve on our statistical methods that would eventually eliminate such unknowable variables.

              Tell me an example of what anyone would want to study that is unknowable? How would you develop hypothesis, how would you know you have made a correct conclusion if whatever you set to study is unknowable?

              In the market place where we gather, they talk of social science, I will find out tomorrow from the other madmen if they think law should be classified as a social science.

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              • Amyclae says:

                Criticism is a science….? Sorry, but we will have to agree to disagree. As much as I love RottenTomatoes they will never be scientists to me. And honestly I don’t feel comfortable with a philosopher, especially one who so famously rejected the concept of gradual progression in the sciences (or any?), defining the profession. Perhaps it a personal conceit of mine, but I don’t recognize his authority.

                I’m feeling like, well, this definition of science is ‘not theology’ and helping a lot more dubious candidates get ushered in. Philology? There are some eytomology departments that definitely are but some, who do not read much different than any critical theory literature department… A lot of feels, not too much solid evidence.

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    • john zande says:

      Hi Amy. May I ask what field of science you’re in. Are you presently researching?

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      • Amyclae says:

        I’m assuming you don’t want the details, so let’s just say a curious mix of computer science (data structuring!) and… Eh, biology I guess. I guess some could consider biophysics, but honestly that’s really not my day-to-day. Mostly being an indentured peon is what it seems like.

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        • john zande says:

          So you’re a computer scientist. Not what’s considered a “greater”scientist.
          In Natures survey concerning science and belief they made a clear distinction between “greater” and “lesser” science.
          “Leuba attributed the higher level of disbelief and doubt among “greater” scientists to their “superior knowledge, understanding, and experience”[3]. Similarly, Oxford University scientist Peter Atkins commented on our 1996 survey, “You clearly can be a scientist and have religious beliefs. But I don’t think you can be a real scientist in the deepest sense of the word because they are such alien categories of knowledge.” [4] Such comments led us to repeat the second phase of Leuba’s study for an up-to-date comparison of the religious beliefs of “greater” and “lesser” scientists.”

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          • Amyclae says:

            Sorry to disappoint heh. I’m not sure if it’s correct to group a computer scientist working on developing an app, and one who is using his (other degree) knowledge of biology to help understand proteins is but… Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I’m glad you shared your’s.

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            • john zande says:

              I’m not disappointed. I wish you luck with your work. Just wanted to find out if you were a real scientist, or more in the larger external group of social sciences and engineers who’re more prone to hold a belief in magical beings.

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              • Amyclae says:

                And how about your scientific work?

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                • john zande says:

                  Did i say i was involved in scientific work?

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                  • Amyclae says:

                    Ah, sorry. I assumed no one would be as presumptuous as you without knowing something about the field.

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                    • john zande says:

                      It was presumptuous of me to ask what field of science you were in when you announced “Hello, scientist here!”?

                      Interesting.

                      Is questioning not permitted in your field of engineering?

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                    • Amyclae says:

                      Nah, I meant more along the lines of the pretension that you know anything at all about science. Read a few pulp science books, snagged a few Nature articles offof a blog… Now suddenly you are the expert. I’m sorry but it’s a little hilarious.

                      I’m sure you have your conceptions. I have mine. From my point of view, I know more than you. I definitely know more science. I know what the community is like… The idea that I should take you seriously even though your some washout who thinks he knows something because he read a few blogposts, snagged a Nature article, is insane.

                      I am, sadly, not going to change my mind on this. I’m smarter than 95+ percent of the American populace. I’ve achieved great things so far. What I feel for your thoughts on something I know so well is like hearing someone argue for creationism. I’ve earned at least that much through my gifts and effort.

                      I’ll let you have the last word because I’m through.

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                    • john zande says:

                      “I’m smarter than 95+ percent of the American populace”

                      Well, hooray for you!

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  5. “the earliest science was developed by Christians, and sponsored by the Church.”
    If I may just comment on that, Mak: I would be surprised if the Vatican Archives were opened and we found proof of the Church sponsoring the Atomists, long before It was even conceived.

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