Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thoughts on science

I am in Anchorage at the moment and was not in the mood for sightseeing or partying so I spend a quiet evening playing cards with friends. My collegues are fellow atheists and science buffs. We ended up having a discussion about Sephen Hawkings new series on the discovery channel. This was interesting because there has been some talk recently about proffessor Hawkings on Ray Comforts creationist blog. Ray has been mocking Dr. Hawkings for speculating that aliens probably exist. This seems perfectly reasonable to me what with septillions of potential planets it would be incredibly unlikely that there would be only life on one. To creationists however the idea is very threatening.

My friends and I were generally positive about the shows but we had one of the same complaints as the creationists. It was far too much speculation. Now Stephen Hawkings is speculating based on vast knowledge and intelligence but he was speculating and made that very clear. We all agreed that we would have preferred more hard science and math. Of course for most viewers that would have made for dry television which is probably why they didn't do it. Cool hypothesis with flashy graphics are more likely to draw ratings.

I think that is part of the problem with creationists. They are a lot like TV viewers they don't care about facts or Data they want it simple and dumbed down. Of course there are a few creationists with degrees in biology but they are few and far between and most of the most ardent supporters are preachers and other lay folk without even a basic scientific education. I find this strange. I am not a biologist but I have a good scientific background and a few years of college biology. I wouldn't even begin to try to defend the theory of evolution if I did not have a clear understanding of what it said and why. People who oppose it on internet forums however know nothing at all except for sound bites, regurgitated talking points, and obvious quote mines. Myself and many people far more qualified give patient explanations of why they are mistaken in their scientific knowledge and get in return inanities like "So you think nothing created everything" or "You can't prove God didn't do it" not only are both statements logical fallacies they have nothing to do with biology.

I have talked before about a good Christian friend of mine who is both a believer and has a great deal of scientific knowledge. His belief is that the theory of evolution, just like the theory of gravity is the best explanation for observed evidence and acurately reflect the physical world. He acknowledges that the theory of evolution and big bang cosmology both contradict his religion. He is not concerned and is not engaging in cognative dissonance. He believes he can understand the world through science and faith through scripture but can not know the mind and power of his god in this life. He believes that any discrepencies reflect his inability to understand the power of God not a weakness of either God or science. He believes that in the afterlife he will either know because his deity will tell him or it won't matter to him because it won't be relevant in heaven. I don't share his belief or even find it reasonable but I respect that he holds it with honesty and conviction. His attitude shows that one does not need creationism and other denialistic excuses to be a Christian. So I must ask why do creationists exist. I think it is because developing both a knowledge of science and a consistent philosophy require both dedication and intelligence. I think many of those drawn to creationist cults like Way of the Master do not possess either. There are surely exceptions. My most frequent commenter Tracy seems to be a creationist and has expressed empathy with Comforts cult yet nothing about how she describes her faith seems dependant on creationism or justification. That is one reason I enjoy talking to her. As with my friend I see no reason to share her beliefs but since she can hold them without lies and distortions I can respect that. If more Christians relied on faith instead of creationism and other man made constructs they would not need to be threatened by real science even if it seems to contradict their faith.


406IraidaMathew0 said...

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Tracy said...


Anette Acker said...

Hi Ryk,

First, why does your Christian friend think that big bang cosmology contradicts his religion?

Second, you said the following on AC: "I know common descent is a fact therefore I believe it in the way I believe 2+2=4." Didn't you once tell me on AC that 2+2 didn't always equal 4? (Remember your mathematical proof way back when?) I always wondered why you said that, so now that I've caught you in a contradiction I'm so glad to know that you have a blog so you can explain yourself. :)

I hope you're having a great time in Alaska. How nice to have a job that takes you to destinations like that.

Ryk said...


The 2+2 not equaling four was a mathematical trick I was using to illustrate a point. I actually think that particular proof is not even accurate math although I understand there is one that is.

My usage in this case was simply the common one. However rather than a contradiction it may be more apt than I intended.

Just as 2+2 always equals four unless you use contrived, irrelevant and usually flawed arguments to make it seem otherwise, common descent is also true unless you use contrived, flawed, and irrelevant logical arguments to make it seem otherwise.

Ryk said...

I asked my friend why he thought big bang cosmology conflicts with religion and he clarified that it does not conflict with his faith but with the literal account of Genesis. He is unwilling to add to the Bible or contrive millions of years worth of gaps to accomodate old earth creationism. He finds old earth creationism to be contrived and an insult to the scriptures.

He is personally unsure whether the account in Genesis is literal or figurative but in either case he trusts his deity to be consistent even if his personal understanding of the mind of his deity is lacking.

He also claims that OEC is as scientifically flawed as YEC though we didn't get around to discuusing his specifics.

He is closest to Theistic evolution but claims that evolution could be only apparent and that there could be reasons why his Gods creation appears that way.

Anette Acker said...

Thanks for the explanations. I agree with your Christian friend and elaborate on that somewhat in my answer to your comment on my blog.

Shortly after reading your post I got an email from the Discovery Store that we can pre-order the Stephen Hawking DVD of the series. I think I might get that for my kids.