Category Archives: Science

A Tough Questions Debate: Greg

In the midst of a great debate and discussion at Bill Pratt’s Tough Questions Answered blog we were interrupted frequently by theistic interlocutors who wanted to hack and slash at the skeptic and beat them over the head with a heavy old english book and then duck for cover.  Although the exchange below has been heavily scrubbed to free it of the vitriol (you can read the original in all it’s glory here) and clear hatred of having long held beliefs challenged it proved to be an exchange that provided the opportunity to stretch my thinking and further iron out why some things just don’t make sense.  See this post for the original Tough Questions Answered entry for full context.

Greg says:
May 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

WOW. I am continually amazed as to how Atheists seem to believe they are the ONLY ones who understand “science”. The fact that most of the early scientists believed in God is quite puzzling.
Way way up the chain Doubting T seems to think my good friend Bill is without scientific aptitude (he has many other faults but science he knows!).

His statement: [Doubting T] “You seem to be working from several assumptions, whereas, virtually all of the atheists I know have no assumptions and accept the results of the scientific method and evidence. In essence, you put faith over reason and we take the opposite view.”

is completely false!! Atheists make assumptions every day. They first assume God does not exist (do they have absolute proof?? No, then it’s an assumption). They assume that the universe is either eternal (which it can’t be according to the science of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) or they assume that it sprung seemingly self-caused from nothing. Both of those assumptions are ridiculous. Nothing can be self-caused because it would have to first exist to cause something. We all know that not even the GREAT STEPHEN HAWKING and all of his almost infinite wisdom can use science to explain how something can come from nothing. Nothing is the absence of everything so how could anything come from it all by itself?  But sometimes atheists assume that the universe did come into existence and they assume there is no God so they in turn assume their position to be the only possible one. Then they assume that multiple universes “might” exist and matter can leak from one to the other creating “our” Big Bang. They also assume there is no need to regress the 2nd law back to the multiple universes to where the first matter came from.

Everyone on this planet makes assumptions and not even atheists are excluded. Science is so full of assumptions to claim it is based purely on fact is to clearly not have any understanding of science. Darwin made hundreds of assumptions for Origin of the Species. He had ZERO observable, repeatable evidence to support his assumptions and still there are virtually no reliable reasons to believe in macro-evolution today. Darwin must have made assumptions about first life and the birth of the universe as well because he did not address them. I’m thinking he assumed his hypothesis to be correct and he needn’t bother with the details.

Please go and find me science that explains how the system for blood clotting could have evolved. Or explain to me thru science how the fish evolved over millions of years to the amphibian? Did the theory of evolution not apply here because certainly over the millions of years that the fish was developing a land based respiratory system it is tough to explain how it would have helped the fish to better gather food or repopulate thus allowing that mutation to proceed? Why wouldn’t the lungs just have disappeared then as Darwin’s theory states?  In fact… aren’t you “assuming” that virtually all of the atheists you know don’t use assumptions? Have you literally sat with them all for 24 hour periods checking their every statement and thought to something that science can back up with observable repeatable data? I assume not.

Do you believe it is morally bad to murder everyone in a specific family, neighborhood, city, or country based purely on the enjoyment of murdering people? If you say yes, then please use observable repeatable science to prove your case. See, without someone to define what is good and what is bad, everything that happens is just subjectively good and bad. You have opinions and I have them. Neither is absolute. I say Hitler was bad, you say he was good. But again, without a definer there can be NO absolute definition.

Now I know you will try to explain to me how morals evolved because of how they protect the tribe or herd but that is not absolute. Your definition of morals change as evolution sees fit to change them. The morale code I am bound to NEVER changes and is clear and concise  Please use science to explain why science exists at all. This should be easy….  But then again, I’m just another delusional, non-scientific Christian without a clue. I keep searching for the clues to de-convert me but there just aren’t any. Seems elementary to me Watson.

Willie G says:
May 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm

…. So maybe you would like to take a stab at answering my question which I will rephrase once again:

Even if all of the arguments listed in various comments above do indeed strengthen the probability for the existence of a god, why the christian god? Why not Allah and his prophet? Why not Krishna, or Vishnu? Why not Ra or Mithra or Baal? Since you are agnostic toward the existence of all these gods, why are you not agnostic towards Yawheh? Why is it reasonable to believe in the Christian God?

Greg says:

May 25, 2010 at 5:46 pm

….  As to why the Christian God vs. all the other false gods…. Please see any one of the numerous posts that Billy has presented to explain the evidence for Jesus and Christianity. I will not spend any more time defending my God because he needs no defense and you have been given all the proof you need to believe (Rom 1:18-20).

Why is it that when a Christian challenges an atheist we are being rude but the reciprocal is to show how delusional we are? I beg of you to search in science for a logical answer to any of the below and then i would be more than willing to change my view if they are rationally sound:

1. Origin of the universe

2. Origin of Life

3. Evolution of blood clotting

4. evolution of any system in the human anatomy

5. Origin of ABSOLUTE morality

Bring a solid argument and i will be more than willing to listen….

Greg says:

May 26, 2010 at 8:46 am

…please also understand that I continually search out “meaning” and truth. In fact, I’m the Christian that watches almost every program that NatGeo has about evolution, parallel universes and anything with Stephen Hawking. I listen carefully but I hold the programs accountable to the principals of science. And do you know what i most often hear, words like possible, probable, might (as in might have happened this way), could have, and the like. Also, the statements most often made have no scientific data to support the statement (at least any that is observable and repeatable).

I grew up watching Dr. Carl Sagan on PBS talk about the billions and billions of galaxies but he never could give me a good explanation for where they came from. Even at an early age I understood that nothing can come from nothing, and certainly [not] by a self imposed act. Again, is it wrong for me to ask atheists to use science to support their beliefs? Unfortunately, when we Christians do ask we just get told how stupid we are and that we don’t understand. Seemingly you would think that someone would prove to us that God doesn’t exist using adequate science but they don’t.

….  My desire is not to prove anyone wrong; God will do that on judgment day. It is my desire though that lost people come to an understanding that God does exist, we are not worthy of his love, he gave us the law which we did not uphold and had planned from the beginning to offer his Son as a living sacrifice to atone for our sins; that because of Christ’s sacrifice those who accept him as Lord and Savior are given a grace that is unearned and it is this grace thru our faith in Christ that provides for our salvation. Apart from this all are lost and will spend eternity separated from God.

I truly apologize if you think I am trying to be condescending or trying to offend you. I only ask for the same “scientific” proof to support atheism that you ask of a Christian. I really can’t see how one request can be so offensive and the reciprocal not the same.

I am sorry you choose not to try and answer or at least seek valid answers to the questions I asked in previous posts. If you seriously study the logic behind what the world has offered as answers you can clearly see the errors in the logic. I do have an open mind and open heart but you think I am closed minded because I do not believe as you do.  I clearly cannot convince you of anything nor am I trying to. My original post only asked for someone claiming to understand science to use it to explain clearly how and why some things exist. No one seems to want to do that though. If the science were so clear wouldn’t it be quite easy to prove me wrong?

Willie G says:

May 26, 2010 at 3:59 pm

….I hope you are ready to read and think, because this is going to be a long one.

You said: “…I continually search out “meaning” and truth…. I’m the Christian that watches almost every program that NatGeo has about evolution, parallel universes and anything with Stephen Hawking.”

Although I watch and enjoy NatGeo, the Science Channel, Discovery, etc as well, you have to know that these programs are not “Science”. Rather they are entertainment distilled for the masses. Sure the topics are of things relating to science (i.e. about evolution, about astronomy, about biology) but they are not university training in research methodology, experimentation methodology, or the general principles of the scientific method. Peer reviewed scientific white-papers are above the abilities and education of the general public and have to be watered down to generalizations in order to be entertaining to the masses. If you want to debate the evidence for evolution, molecular biology, genetics, astrophysics or cosmology you are going to have to study the sources and the published works of the scientists themselves. Then and only then will you be qualified to offer a dispute of the masses of evidence that has been accumulated. You say you like Stephen Hawking, well I can promise you if your exposure to him is only on television, or even in reading his book “A Brief History of Time” that you may not like him so much after trying to digest any of his peer-reviewed papers on quantum mechanics and gravitational singularities.

You said: “I listen carefully but I hold the programs accountable to the principals of science… Also, the statements most often made have no scientific data to support the statement (at least any that is observable and repeatable).”

 

I’m not exactly sure how you are holding a program accountable to anything, especially a program that is designed to deliver general information and provide it in an entertaining format that will appeal to most people possible and earn the most advertising dollars that it possibly can. NatGeo makes no claims that it is providing scientific proof of anything. They are merely reporting the findings and claims of scientists. To do anything more would put their audience to sleep, or worse result in everyone changing the channel.

You said: “…I most often hear, words like possible, probable, might (as in might have happened this way), could have, and the like.”

Here is our biggest disconnect. If you understand the scientific method as you claim then you know that science, in all cases, makes only limited and temporary claims to truth. A scientist looks at evidence (verified factual data) and states a hypothesis about what they think is possible or probable in relation to that body of evidence. Groups of like hypotheses are gathered and linked to form a synthesis. This synthesis is them referred to as a scientific theory (not a theory in the common sense that it is a guess, but rather a body of hypotheses that are supported at varying levels of certainty) or the best understanding of how a certain thing functions. Each individual hypothesis is the tested with carefully designed experiments in order to disprove the hypothesis. A true scientist will never speak of absolute truth, but will only speak of what has been observed and verified at this point in time. Only the theist will speak in terms of absolute truth never allowing for future variance.

Since you mention watching the shows of Sagan and Hawking I think I’ll let them speak to your misunderstanding of the scientific method:

” There are many hypotheses in science that are wrong. That’s perfectly all right; it’s the aperture to finding out what’s right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny…. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science.”

 

–Carl Sagan in Cosmos

“Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory. As philosopher of science Karl Popper has emphasized, a good theory is characterized by the fact that it makes a number of predictions that could in principle be disproved or falsified by observation. Each time new experiments are observed to agree with the predictions the theory survives, and our confidence in it is increased; but if ever a new observation is found to disagree, we have to abandon or modify the theory.”

– Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time

You said: “…Carl Sagan [talked] about the billions and billions of galaxies but he never could give me a good explanation for where they came from.”

 

No scientist on earth would ever make any claim to have used the scientific method to establish a position on the origin of the universe. The discussion of origins is left to the realm of philosophy and theology. Only a fool would claim to “know” where “they came from” as you say. The statements that you will hear scientists make are that based on the evidence that we have and understand at this point in time we have found everything to this point to have a natural explanation, so with regards to the origins of our universe, although we cannot explain it yet, there is no evidence that would lead to hypothesize about an type of supernatural cause. Until that evidence presents itself we will continue to pursue a naturalistic explanation.

Again Carl Sagan has some pointed thoughts here:

“The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right. You can’t all be correct. And what if all of you are wrong? It’s a possibility, you know. You must care about the truth, right? Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical. I’m not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they’re called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation.”

–Carl Sagan in Contact p. 162

You said: “…is it wrong for me to ask atheists to use science to support their beliefs? Unfortunately, when we Christians do ask we just get told how stupid we are and that we don’t understand.”

It is absolutely your right to ask me to present evidence to support any statement that I claim to be a positive fact. Since this response is running so long already I am not going to argue anything other than to your comments I am addressing here. If you want to challenge me for evidence on some particular item, then ask about something I stated specifically when you respond and I will address it.

For the record I have never called you stupid or even questioned your intellect. I do however question your true understanding of the scientific method and what scientists’ motives and objectives are. I believe that you have a very shallow understanding of science that leads you to make some very misleading and misguided statements about the claims of science. (That is not an insult. That is a challenging and confrontational statement, but not a personal attack).

You said: “…you would think that someone would prove to us that God doesn’t exist using adequate science but they don’t.”

This is a prime example of why I hold that you do not truly understand either science or it’s methods, and further do not understand philosophical methods of logic and argumentation. Plain and simple, you cannot prove a negative. Neither I nor anyone who has ever existed can prove to you using science, chicken feet or a Ouija Board that your God or any gods does/do not exist. You cannot prove a negative.  Why is this? You may ask. Because no matter how many times I proclaim gods do not exist because I have found no evidence sufficient prove his existence you can always say “then keep looking because you haven’t looked in the right place.”

So again, plain and simple, you can only prove a positive. You and all god believers everywhere are making a positive claim; “God Exists.” So the burden of proof is on you, not me. You must present evidence that demonstrates and proves the existence of God. We can never say that God truly does not exist. We can only say that adequate evidence has not been presented to accept the he/she/they exist. Therefore we are agnostic to the existence of supernatural beings.

You said: “You say that my only desire is to prove you wrong? Isn’t that your desire, to prove that all Christians are delusional?”

I’m sorry but I desire to prove anything. I was asked a specific question, how do I explain that some many people in the world, many highly intelligent believe in a god. I answered that question by stating that they are delusional. I was then told that for various reasons that Bill presented that my position was weak. So I asked a very specific question that has yet to be answered, and again it went like this:

Why is it reasonable to believe in the Christian God?  That doesn’t sound like I’m trying to prove anything does it. I was told my position was weak, and I asked why. That’s it.

You said: “Is that not being mean spirited as you accuse me?”

Absolutely not. Lots of people are deluded about lots of things. That doesn’t mean that they are mentally deficient or even mentally ill. It means that they have been misled or misguided so deeply that they have become blinded to any contradictory information. I understand that no one would like to have this term (delusional) applied to themselves, after all it would be very embarrassing to have to admit that, but it is not derogatory in the sense that all of you here are taking it. If you don’t like being thought of as delusional, then I challenge you to answer my question.

You said: “My desire is not to prove anyone wrong; God will do that on judgment day.”

Threats are totally not helpful Greg. If I don’t believe in God then why would I concern myself with a non-existent judgment day? All this kind of thing does is drive a wedge between us and shut down the dialogue. Although we may disagree with one another very strongly don’t you think there just might be something we can learn from one another if we keep talking? I think we can. However, if you are going to just threaten me with judgment and Hell, then go talk to someone else.

You said: “I only ask for the same “scientific” proof to support atheism that you ask of a Christian.”

As I stated above I can offer no scientific proof for the non-existence of God. I can only refute evidence you present for his existence. So maybe a good place to start would be for you or somebody here to answer my question that I have asked about 40 times now.

You said: “I am sorry you choose not to try and answer or at least seek valid answers to the questions I asked in previous posts.”

Why do you answer my question with a question? Bill and I were deep in our conversation before you ever showed up in this thread. You have already distracted me from paying attention to Bill, the person I really want to dialogue with, and now you demand answers to your questions. Go get your own blog post to hijack, I already hijacked this one!!

You said: “If you seriously study the logic behind what the world has offered as answers you can clearly see the errors in the logic.”

 

I have, and I don’t.

You said: “…you think I am closed minded because I do not believe as you do.”

No, I think because you have been deluded by your church, Christian culture and American religious society in general that you are closed minded. I really don’t care what you believe. You can believe anything you want.

You said: “My original post only asked for someone claiming to understand science to use it to explain clearly how and why some things exist.”

I do understand science. How and why are two different questions that are not answered by the same methodologies. I can offer you scientific evidence for how many, many things have come to be, others are mystery and will probably never be understood. I cannot tell you why. I have no knowledge or evidence of why things came to be. I am relatively certain that when that answer is discovered it will be found in nature. I have been presented no evidence to believe otherwise.  Sorry for the length of this response. I didn’t know how to address it any shorter.