Friday, March 10, 2006


Good post entitled " Why Non-Scientists are Skeptical of Scientist's Findings on Evolution".


Often times I hear evolutionists become frustrated with the idea that non-scientists are criticizing scientists on a scientific theory. I share with part of their frustration. Honestly, if someone wants to take part in a debate, they should take the time to learn as much as they can on the subject. However, I thought I would also share the basic reasons why non-scientists (especially religious people) are skeptical of scientific claims of evolution.

The first thing to look at is Philip Johnson's examination of this issue in The Unravelling of Scientific Materialism.

When scientists acknowledge the fact that they cannot even consider the idea of God working, and then somehow claim that they have found evidence of God not working, it is obvious to those listening that there is an error in judgment. Any time I write a paper (although I am not in research, I do write technical tutorials) I try to have someone examine it who is not technical, for the simple reason that I am too close to the subject to see my own biases and distortions. In fact, I usually let my Dad read them, who has not done programming since college, to look over them, precisely because he is not part of the whole rigamorole.

And I think this is what has happened with evolutionary science. They get caught up in this whole way of thinking, and then cannot look back in an objective way and examine what they are doing. They don't see that by excluding an entire method of causality (intelligent causation) they have unnecessarily restricted themselves in what kinds of explanations are allowed.


The question is, can God's action be allowed to be considered by science? I don't claim to know the answer to this question definitively, but we should look at the consequences of answering the question either way.

If "yes", then we need to have explanations of why the similarities of organisms are the result of common descent rather than common design. We need to know why the idea of non-interventionistic abiogenesis makes more sense than the nearly global idea that life came from God. We need to have an open dialog as to why happenstance changes make better sense of life than design. In fact, this has happened once in recent history. Of course, the creationists did too well, and since then Dawkins now has a policy of not debating creationists, the AAAS reported inaccurately the outcome of the debate, and the Oxford Union misplaced all records of the debate. The creationists did not win, mind you, but they did very well considering that the debate was held at Oxford, not exactly a bastion of creationism (the vote was 115 to 198 -- the AAAS reported it as 15 to 198). So, if it is "yes", then we need to have more open debates, and there is no reason they shouldn't be nationalized. (by the way, if anyone would like a copy of the audio of the debate, post your email address here and we can arrange it -- I have an agreement with the copyright holder to do this)

Let's now consider the "no" answer. If science has a methodological predisposition saying that it can't consider God, then theologians have a right and responsibility to say that it therefore cannot say anything remotely definitive about what happened in the past. They are flying blind, purposefully ignorant of an entire area of causation, attempting to come up with explanations that simply ignore what theology tells us. It would be the same as trying to construct chemistry without thermodynamics.

This is why the public doesn't trust science in this area. Science is making bold claims resting on unproved presuppositions. Certainly the scientists know more than the public about their area, but the scientists are also claiming to know more about God's actions than the theologians! Why is one alright and not the other? If science wants to methodologically exclude a method of causation, why should anyone take it seriously in how accurately it depicts past events? I can try, as an exercise, to create a view of the past that ignores certain parts of reality, but I can't then take that to be a true history of the earth. It would simply be an interesting, yet counterfactual, view of history.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"This is why the public doesn't trust science in this area. Science is making bold claims resting on unproved presuppositions."

Someone who thinks science should accept unpredictable actions by a supernatural agent as an explanation for measurable evidence thinks _science_ is making bold claims that rest on unproved presuppositions? Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

Science should be taken seriously because, unlike the proposed alternatives, it makes predictions that can be tested, and which eventually converge on a remarkably detailed and accurate description of what goes on. Invoking supernatural action is a science stopper: Once you say "it happened but that was a one-off incident that satisfied an inscrutable plan" then there is no point at all in investigating what happened or why: it becomes a question of religion, and an arbitrarily large number of different religions can claim to have the one true explanation for it.

Some blogger from ScienceBlogs (I cannot find the post at the moment) remarked that arguing for the inclusion of divine intervention as an explanation is driven by the same logic as Pascal's wager ("the worst argument for theism ever"). Both are bad epistemology because they assume that you already know the identity and nature of the divine. Pascal's wager is a lot less convincing if you consider that wrong worship may offend a god more than no worship; ID is a lot less convincing if you consider that it invokes divine action where it is not necessary.