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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"the real struggle between science and the supernatural"

First, I wish to thank IAMB for providing the original quote from Richard Lewontin and you will find it below, italicized, and with my comments interspersed. I didn't believe my original quote was actually "quote mining" but lets have the whole thing and see.

Original Quote

"With great perception, Sagan sees that there is an impediment to the popular credibility of scientific claims about the world, an impediment that is almost invisible to most scientists. Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face.

I agree with that statement to a great extent, as it applies to complete laymen. Once you begin studying science you quickly discover that nothing is as it appears to be, so that the senses and the intellect do not agree. On the other hand, I find most scientific discoveries to be logically satisfactory and common sense most certainly goes hand-in-hand with logic.

Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. When, at the time of the moon landing, a woman in rural Texas was interviewed about the event, she very sensibly refused to believe that the television pictures she had seen had come all the way from the moon, on the grounds that with her antenna she couldn't even get Dallas. What seems absurd depends on one's prejudice. (emphasis mine)

Exactly! Lewontin is already in agreement with me even as he disagrees. "What seems absurd depends on one's prejudice." He believes that it is absurd to believe that an Ark survived a worldwide flood with the gene pool necessary to repopulate the world with walking and slithering creatures. I believe it is absurd to believe that life somehow formed from non-life, ever.

Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity "in deep trouble." Two's company, but three's a crowd.

Hmm, the logic meter tilts here. What's the difference, as expressed within the sentence? That dualities are probable and trinities are impossible? No substantiation is given so it is merely an opinion that is unsupported in any way, one of those catchphrases that materialists love, I suppose.

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural.

Now this is a prejudiced point of view. Both creationists and naturalistic materialists make claims that are very difficult to accept on their face. That is the first problem I have with this sentence. Secondly, Lewontin co-opts the term "science" as belonging to the naturalistic materialist and therefore leaves those who accept the possibility of supernatural causes as outside of science. This would throw most of the fathers of science right out of the doors of the Scientific Hall of Fame. Francis Bacon, who came up with the scientific method used commonly today, would be out. Goodbye Newton and Kelvin and hundreds, nay, thousands of the giants of the past. Right here he has already revealed his worldview, but it is as if he cannot see it for himself. Lewontin's worldview not only keeps him from seeing other points of view as having validity, he cannot even see them as possibly being scientific! Is this not a form of blindness? Presuppositions!

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. (emphasis mine)

Thank you, Richard. You admit it, you just don't see it for what it is. Yes, you have a prior commitment to materialism. What you don't say is that scientists who are able to consider supernatural causes also must deal with apparent absurdities and possible just-so stories, for there is so much that is mystifying and wonderful about the Universe. But here is the question I would ask of Lewontin, "When did you give up the original quest? When did you quit seeking for truth and simply look for materialist solutions only? As a youth, in college, after you graduated? Or were your prejudices ingrained in you from the beginning?"

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

Here the gaunlet is laid down, openly. Lewontin admits to looking for and accepting only materialist possibilities no matter what! How could it be any clearer that his presuppositions drive his conclusions, rather than a simple need to find the truth?

The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen."

Is this the crushing logic by which creationists are to be tossed aside? If so, it is amazingly tortured. At the beginning of this quote we are asked to suspend disbelief and be willing to accept seeming absurdities if we are able to be serious scientists, and then at the end God is presented as an absurdity and for that reason, the supernatural must be avoided. What happened to the wonder at eating "tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them?"

No, it is not that God is absurd and that everything else is perfectly logical. Much of what is discovered by science seems to be absurd at first and yet when one is seeking truth, one keeps seeking until the answer, no matter how amazing, is found! This is what science truly is, the search for truth. No bounds should be placed on such a search. The natural has no right to exclude the supernatural when searching for the whys and wherefores of being! It is like sending archaelogists to Africa but denying them access to Egypt. Some of the best and most significant findings are walled off from the search!

When the entire quote is revealed, the obvious prejudices are also revealed. Richard Lewontin is admitting that he can only see materialistic solutions to any scientific problems, period. Worse yet, he claims all of science as belonging to naturalistic materialists only! He has neither the right nor the reason to do so other than from his own personal worldview.

Again I say, the scientist who is able to consider both natural and supernatural solutions to scientific problems is the better scientist, for he is able to come to the best conclusion unfettered by the prejudices of the naturalistic materialist. Let truth win out!


creeper said...

Hi Radar, and a happy new year to you and your loved ones.

I haven't been around for a while, both due to enjoying the holidays and being pretty busy before and after, but I do intend on commenting on some of your posts as soon as I can, especially the "rapid speciation" one that you are so fond of.

As for this post, it appears to cover well-trodden ground, and cranky and I never tire of asking you to name even a single scientific discovery in which a supernatural explanation was in any way a contribution.

You name Newton, Kelvin and others, but all of them adhered to methodological naturalism in their scientific explorations. Their individual worldviews may have been Christian or whatever, but when they got down to their work as scientists, they adhered to strict naturalism/materialism - no mention of the supernatural in their discoveries.

And so it is today - not all scientists are atheists, and plenty of religious folk go to church on Sunday and adhere to materialism in the science lab during the week - because the supernatural is not useful in their research, and never has been. If you disagree (as you obviously do), then name an example in which it has been useful.

"Again I say, the scientist who is able to consider both natural and supernatural solutions to scientific problems is the better scientist, for he is able to come to the best conclusion unfettered by the prejudices of the naturalistic materialist. Let truth win out!"

If that were true, then places like the Discovery Institute would be engaged in actual research and coming up with scientific advances that scientists using mere naturalistic methods could only dream of. Let truth win out indeed...

WomanHonorThyself said...

Hiya Radar...ty for visitin my site!...the scientist who is able to consider both natural and supernatural solutions to scientific problems is the better scientist..agreed!

creeper said...

"the scientist who is able to consider both natural and supernatural solutions to scientific problems is the better scientist..agreed!"

Then perhaps you could name an example of a supernatural solution or explanation that has ever been helpful in a scientific problem?

lava said...

I've been trying to formulate a response- but creeper really summed most of it up.

Just really how do you integrate the supernatural into science? Do you just come to a point where you can't explain something and say "God must have done that"? How do we alter the scientific method to account for the supernatural? This would be easier if PKE meters or Giga meters were real.

You throw around the term "better scientist". Better in what way? Are we talking about a specific field of science? You say "the scientist who is able to consider both natural and supernatural solutions to scientific problems is the better scientist". Don't we "rank" scientists based on their contributions to their respective fields, not on their underlying beliefs? If Jonas Salk was a devout atheist(not sure what his background is, just throwing a name out there), are his discoveries diminished by his atheistic beliefs?