Wednesday, January 26, 2011

FacePalm of the Day #51 -Debunking Christianity: Science Based Explanations vs. Faith Based Explanations

John Loftus recently responded a really great question about natural explanations vs "Faith-based" explanations. As usual, his response leads to multiple Facepalms. My comments will be in italics. First here is the quote Loftus is referring to in his comments.
I'm quite aware of the differences between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism. I have not misinterpreted John's view of science. Rather, I have questioned why he would state that science assumes natural explanations for all phenomena on the one hand, then ask believers to corroborate supernatural explanations through science. -cl
I must admit this is a great question. The objection is that if I demand that supernatural explanations must abide by the rules of science which only admit natural explanations, then supernatural explanations by definition don't have a chance. This is definitely a quandary of sorts. Let me respond.

It's nice to see John Loftus responding to an objection that I think his position must logically be able to answer. Unfortunately, it goes down quickly from here.

We should note first of all that science qua science must look for natural explanations because that's what science does. It cannot do otherwise lest it be subservient to different kinds of supernatural explanations. If that's the case then there would be separate scientific methods resulting in a Mormon science, a Muslim science, a Christian science and so forth. Alvin Plantinga actually recommends that there should be a distinctively Christian science, something which Michael Martin strongly objects to.

Okay so far?

Not by a long shot. In no way does allowing supernatural explanations mean subservience to different kinds of supernatural explanations nor scientific methods resulting in different sciences. FacePalm number 1. If this was true then that would lead to thinking that there are multiple gods. If so then Judaism, Islam, and Christianity would all be ruled out. Mormonism allows for multiple gods so they'd still be okay. What is worse is that they conflict with one another in fundamental ways. You can't starts from either place and consistently arrive to the same conclusions. Observing the natural world shows that this doesn't make sense. Science is not possible without presupposing that the natural world is understandable, repeatable, and predictable. If you had to view the world from conflicting religious points of view science would not possible.

Granted there are probably a lot of things the sciences cannot explain, from the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and consciousness (or at least, they have difficulties in doing so). That's where there is room for faith. Until such time as the sciences can explain everything believers can still have faith. But that doesn't seem within reach, and may never happen, so there will always be room for faith.

I still don't like Loftus' definition of faith. Biblical faith is built on the trust from evidence of past experience and relationship with God. It is not leaping in the dark or wishful thinking in the absence or contradiction of verifiable facts. Facepalm #2.

That's the way it has to be. A believer should ask for no more than this. The sciences must look for natural explanations. There is no other alternative.

The way Loftus has defined faith forces these conclusions. I ask for a more accurate definition of faith.

So, am I being hypocritical or inconsistent when I demand that believers should corroborate supernatural explanations through the sciences?

No, for a few good reasons.

Yes it is hypocritical but given the way Loftus defines faith it is consistent. However any argument starting with erroneous presuppositions is always going to be wrong - especially if is consistent.

1) Theistic explanations have failed miserably in every generation as science has shown these explanations unnecessary. It's this overwhelming success that leads me to think science offers much better explanations than theistic ones. So it's based on the success of science that I make my claim. I have been persuaded that supernatural explanations are a dime a dozen and debunked so many times before that I have no reason to think any additional moving of the goal posts will succeed. For once science explains something then theists move the goal posts to a different problem because science opens up new questions to be solved as it solves previous ones. So in one sense I have concluded something from science and then turned around and demanded that supernatural explanations cannot succeed by demanding they adhere to the standards of science. Theists not already persuaded as I am, will claim I'm hypocritical or inconsistent because they do not already think as I do about the sciences. In fact, believers regularly denigrate science to believe, and I find that appalling given it's success rate.

So believers will not appreciate my demand until they appreciate what the sciences do for us. I'm merely saying that science works. Belief does not, which is my next point.

Science is trial and error. It comes up with multiple wrong answers before it comes up with good ones that explain reality. Nothing wrong with that. I don't know of a single theistic explanation for the physical world that is taught in the Bible that has been disproved in science. People who make such assertions seem to conflate what religious people have said and done in God's name with what God has really said. The truth is that they are not always the same thing. The church said that Galileo was wrong and that the sun went around the earth. The Bible does not say that. Some religious people argued that the earth was flat, the Bible doesn't. Some religious folks believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old but the Bible does not. Some people have made such beliefs a test of orthodoxy and the Bible does not.

2) What else is there but the sciences? Faith-based reasoning is best defined as "belief in search of data." There are too many different and contradictory religious claims being made. How can we settle these disputes? We cannot do so with faith-based reasoning because it only confirms what was believed in the first place. Such a method (if we can call it that) fails miserably time and again. This is best shown faulty when we see that it cannot help us decide between these different faith claims. Furthermore, I find it inconsistent and hypocritical for believers to use the sciences to debunk other religious claims who fail to use the sciences against what they themselves believe. If believers admit a science-based reasoning to debunk other religious claims then they tacitly admit doing so is fruitful and effective to examine their own religious claims. For believers to object that I'm demanding something unreasonable they must explain why they apply the sciences to the religious claims they reject.

How does Loftus show that science disproves all religions and none of the stand up to scientific tests? Not being able to scientifically confirm a miracle does not mean it didn't happen. A miracle is not necessarily open to scientific experimentation. FacePalm #3. How do the contradictions among religion have anything to do with scientific investigation? It doesn't. No amount of experimentation is going to prove or disprove that Jesus was Resurrected or as Islam claims that he was not crucified at all. Science can show us that a man who is under the conditions and loads caused by being crucified could not have survived. We can scientifically discuss and autopsy a crucified person given the level of knowledge we have of human bodies. This negates the swoon theory.

3) Finally, I find nothing about my demand that should in principle lead to a rejection of theistic claims. I think supernatural explanations could be the best explanations of certain phenomena, even granting that the sciences look for natural explanations. The fact that so far supernatural explanations don't succeed is not the fault of the sciences. It's the fault of supernatural explanations. It's because there are no supernatural forces or beings. If they existed then science should be able to detect them since science is based on the five senses. There is no sixth sense. It would find it duplicitous for a god to create us with our five senses and not also provide the sensory evidence to believe if he wants us to believe.

There was no example given of failed supernatural explanations from the Bible. FacePalm #4. We aren't supposed to know God because of our five senses. We know God when He chooses to reveal Himself to us. We don't call Him. He calls us. I agree with many atheist who think that "God did it" is an unsatisfactory explanation for most things. It's not even needed most of the time because I view science as studying what God did and how He did it. We have physical laws that we can understand and use to describe reality as it is despite the biases we may have given our senses that can't give us a complete picture of the world. Without Faith it impossible to understand those things that our science fails to give us answers for. Like for example: why do we suffer? Why is there evil? God isn't hiding and wants us to know Him but it is not on our terms. The relationship is on God's terms.

Debunking Christianity: Science Based Explanations vs. Faith Based Explanations
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  1. So the face palm thing is juvenile and annoying and you rarely address and never actually defeat anything John Loftus puts forward, but I have to say, I do love the picture of the Space Marine.

  2. Ryan your opinion is due to cognitive bias against my position. That's fine. Hopefully God will deliver you from it.

  3. Awww, you learned what cognitive bias is. It won't be long now Marcus!!!

  4. You know there is a difference between ignorance and stupidity and you have just crossed it.

  5. Don't forget stupidity is choice. Make better choices.

  6. I'm pretty sure you have that backwards...