Thursday, February 06, 2014

Addressing Horatio....

I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with William Saletan.  You should follow his link to his first article, then read the one that comes second.  In the latter he quotes Jennifer Wiseman, senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, who makes an argument I cannot find fault with:

I tend to think of a miracle as possible, and that miracles actually have happened, but they are just what they sound like: They are a miracle. There’s something that’s outside of the natural working of the forces of nature, and so science is not equipped to address that one way or the other. Science is equipped to address how things normally and naturally work. So as a scientist, I study the universe in the way it normally and naturally works and has worked throughout the whole history of time. I don’t look for anything else, because my scientific tools are not equipped to measure anything else. But does that mean that nothing outside of the normal, natural physical processes that science can address ever happened or ever does happen? Well, science can’t answer that question. So I have to answer that question in some other way. And to me, the answer is yes, because I see both historical and personal evidence for God’s actions …

I do see evidence for things—in particular, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is to me ample evidence that that event, in the course of time, changed history and changed lives, and people are experiencing the living Christ today. Is that a scientific conclusion? Absolutely not. But is there enough evidence for one to believe it? For me, yes.
A miracle is, by definition, a usurpation (or, if you prefer, a violation) of the natural order (I won't say "natural law," as that's a concept that rightly belongs to Aquinas, a theologian.  Gotta watch your language!).  As such, it is outside the realm of science.

Which sounds like I'm "compartmentalizing," as Saletan says.  Nothing so condescending at all.  Can anything, you might wonder, be "outside the realm of science"?  Well, can science explain, as I mentioned earlier, why I am so deeply moved by the music of Bach, or Sondheim, or plainsong?  Can it explain my love for my wife?  What evidence is there of such love, after all, except my own statements?  Take them as profession, confession, delusion:  how do you judge them as wrong, since it is not connected to inappropriate behavior (stalking, possessiveness, etc.)?   How, if ever, will science explain my love?  In a general sense, by a reductio argument that my love is actually just brain chemistry, neurological function, a matter of biology or genetics or "selfish genes"?

Well, maybe; but I'll never accept it, and never accept that my rejection of such "explanations" is merely me "compartmentalizing."  Really, it's a matter of what matters to the rest of the world.  If my love for my wife does not provoke aberrant behavior, what does society care?  Even if my wife didn't return my love (although then she wouldn't be my wife), the only result would be my heartbreak.  Might make a good story, but otherwise the world would move on.  Would my love, then, must be illusion?  A bad compartment?

But there is, for me, ample evidence that my love for my wife is real, not delusional.  "Is that a scientific conclusion?  Absolutely not.  But is there enough evidence for one to believe it?  For me, yes."  And yet my love for my wife has not "changed history and changed lives," and Wiseman is right:  "people are experiencing the living Christ today."  At least, they say they are.

How do you prove them all wrong?

And here, again, I would point out that Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian monk (as was Martin Luther!), and Georges LeMaitre was a Jesuit priest.  You may wish to describe them as "compartmentalizing", too; but I really don't think you'd get very far with that.

There really are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in some philosophies.


  1. One of the biggest problems with natural selection or any proposed universal theory of evolution is that too much information about evolution is inevitably either not available or lost for all times. That problem both forces the invention of the missing scenarios of alleged selective events, events which are, unsurprisingly, invented out of the assumption of natural selection and which are then given as an artificial form of evidence for natural selection. That is inevitably the case and it was a practice that began in Darwin (it actually predates him in the "study" of evolution) and it has continued down to today. There is no greater inventor today of those question begging fictions than Richard Dawkins. The theory of "selfish-genes" is inevitably tied to the theory of natural selection, it is proposed to fill in the enormous gap in that theory and the existence of unselfish behavior, among other things. There are so many things wrong with the theory, the question begging nature of it, the fact that the fictitious scenarios are, inevitably, drawn to support instead of challenge the theory, etc. And, as I never tire of pointing out, Dawkins' greatest fable of all, his "first bird to call out" forces him to conclude that whenever it works as he proposes the drop in the population of his "altruistic birds" has to result in a larger percentage of "altruistic birds" in the species. Which is mathematically impossible. He also requires that lower numbers of breeding "altruistic birds" have to, somehow, be at a breeding advantage over "non-altruistic birds" AND, most damning of all from a classical Darwinian perspective, good eyesight, which would result in a higher likelihood of the "altruistic birds" calling out and getting killed, becomes a maladaptive trait instead of the positive adaptation that classical Darwinism requires. It may be the most incompetently framed would-be scientific theory I've ever seen.

    And it is all, from natural selection through Hamiltonian "altruism" and on, supposed to support a materialistic view of the mind. But the materialists have to exclude their materialistic thinking from their framework or it, as well, becomes just another working out of chemical processes without any possible transcendent value as truth.

    If more biologists had studied even as much philosophy as physicists did back before WWI, they might be able to avoid some of these things. Though they don't seem to suffer from proposing mathematically impossible, question-begging, and illogical theories that violate the very theories they are supposed to be based in. Being a materialist, claiming that your pet theory supports materialism, is a carte blanche to violate even the most basic rules of science and academic life.

  2. Oh, and as to compartmentalization, here' how the guy atheists love to claim as one of their own said it about one of his heroes:

    In order to facilitate their designs, they seek so far as possible (at least among the common people) to make this opinion seem new and to belong to me alone. They pretend not to know that its author, or rather its restorer and confirmer, was Nicholas Copernicus; and that he was not only a Catholic, but a priest and a canon. He was in fact so esteemed by the church that when the Lateran Council under Leo X took up the correction of the church calendar, Copernicus was called to Rome from the most remote parts of Germany to undertake its reform. At that time the calendar was defective because the true measures of the year and the lunar month were not exactly known. The Bishop of Culm, then superintendent of this matter, assigned Copernicus to seek more light and greater certainty concerning the celestial motions by means of constant study and labor. With Herculean toil he set his admirable mind to this task, and he made such great progress in this science and brought our knowledge of the heavenly motions to such precision that he became celebrated as an astronomer. Since that time not only has the calendar been regulated by his teachings, but tables of all the motions of the planets have been calculated as well.

    Having reduced his system into six books, he published these at the instance of the Cardinal of Capua and the Bishop of Culm. And since he had assumed his laborious enterprise by order of the supreme pontiff, he dedicated this book On the celestial revolutions to Pope Paul III. When printed, the book was accepted by the holy Church, and it has been read and studied by everyone without the faintest hint of any objection ever being conceived against its doctrines. Yet now that manifest experiences and necessary proofs have shown them to be well grounded, persons exist who would strip the author of his reward without so much as looking at his book, and add the shame of having him pronounced a heretic. All this they would do merely to satisfy their personal displeasure conceived without any cause against another man, who has no interest in Copernicus beyond approving his teachings.

    So, in order to cast aspersions on religious folks, the atheists have to pretend the same things about the history of science that those who attacked Galileo did. But I won't get back to the "courtier's reply" again, just now.

  3. In other words, it's all about politics, not theology.