Friday, January 26, 2018

The scientific community

I noticed an atheist make the following comments to which I'd like to respond:

The entire scientific community accepts Darwinian evolution (not "intelligent design"), climate change, the complex mental life of animals, and the big bang theory.

1. What's his source that "the entire scientific community accepts Darwinian evolution"? For example, James Shapiro (University of Chicago) argues for natural genetic engineering while Stuart Kauffman (University of Pennsylvania) argues for self-organization and far-from-equilibrium dynamics in evolutionary theory. These concepts would be in tension with natural selection, the role of random mutations in developing novel body plans and structures, among others.

2. If it's true "the entire scientific community accepts...the big bang theory", and presumably this atheist accepts the big bang theory on their authority, then it's possible to argue the big bang theory (as well as other aspects in contemporary cosmological theories) supports creatio ex nihilo which in turn would support an argument for God's existence.

So you agree there is no place for God in explaining complex life? Good, that puts you in good company with the 98% NAS members.

1. Methodological naturalism quite arguably limits rather than expands scientific investigation and discovery. It defines what's allowable and disallowable in advance of actually performing science. That potentially excludes the exploration of legitimate phenomena.

2. The National Academy of Sciences consists of maybe 2500-3000 members. That's only a percentage of all the scientists in the world let alone throughout history.

3. The vast majority of the members are American. Is it any surprise a secular country has a lot of secular scientists in their scientific academies? To say nothing of a secular country that has it in for scientists and other scholars who are theists (e.g. intelligent design theorists). For instance, watch Ben Stein's Expelled.

4. Membership to the National Academy of Sciences may be prestigious, but what does prestige have to do with truth?

5. In my view, the National Academy of Sciences amounts to an inflated social club. Like any social club, there are politics involved in who is accepted or rejected as a member. I'd hope the politics don't ever become biased or prejudiced, but I doubt it.

On a related note, Richard Feynman once had some choice words about honors and suchlike:

When I was in high school, one of the first honors I got was to be a member of the Arista, which is a group of kids who got good grades. Everybody wanted to be a member of the Arista. When I got into the Arista, I discovered that what they did in their meetings was to sit around and discuss who else was worthy to join this wonderful group that we are. Okay, so we sat around trying to decide who it was who would get to be allowed into this Arista. This kind of thing bothers me, psychologically, for one or another reason. I don't understand myself. Honors, from that day to this, always bothered me. I had trouble when I became a member of the National Academy of Sciences and I had ultimately to resign because there was another organization most of whose time was spent in choosing who was illustrious enough to be allowed to join us in our organization, including such questions as "we physicists have to stick together because there's a very good chemist that they're trying to get in and we haven't got enough room". What's a matter with chemists? The whole thing was rotten, because the purpose was mostly to decide who could have this honor. Okay, I don't like honors.

6. There are good scientists doing good scientific work who aren't members of the National Academy of the Sciences. Not to mention there have been good scientists doing good scientific work who have resigned from the National Academy of Sciences.

7. If this is more about scientists being atheists, there are many scientists today as well as in the past who aren't atheists but who do believe in God. In the present, some examples are Francis Collins, James Tour, Henry Schaefer, Don Page, and Juan Maldacena. In addition, the Pew Research Center (2009) finds 51% of scientists believe in God or a similar higher power.

8. At the risk of stating the obvious, the National Academy of Sciences consists primarily of scientists. Scientists qua scientists have no special knowledge or expertise when it comes to arguing for or against God's existence. (Nor arguing for or against methodological naturalism.) It'd be better to turn to philosophers of religion if he wants the best arguments for or against God's existence.


  1. I was just listening to a debate this morning, that I think has issues related to what you raise here. One atheist scientist referred to groups and publications he trusts. When his opponent pointed out errors, contradictions, and mistakes by those groups and publications, his response was: Hey, we're always learning, error is a good thing, unlike you Christians who are not open to growth in your discipline. You call it "absolute" and then stop studying.

    The Christian scientist talked about how original sin cursed the ground, but it would be hard to specifically and didactically explain how weeds reflect original sin. So too, the evolutionist has gaps of information all over the place. So what do you do when both sides recognize details that are intrinsically hard to explain? This was the question I was referring to earlier in the other thread.

    1. Thanks, Corey Fleig. That's a good point. Given the number and size of the holes, one would think at some point people will recognize the ship is sinking. However, evolutionists keep attempting to deny the holes or plug the holes with woodchips and sawdust, all the while exclaiming the ship is perfectly seaworthy!

    2. "Hey, we're always learning, error is a good thing, unlike you Christians who are not open to growth in your discipline. You call it "absolute" and then stop studying."

      I think that's highly ignorant and insular on the atheist scientist's part. "Science" isn't the only field of study which advances and progreses. There are textual advances in biblical studies. There are archeological and historical discoveries and advances (e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls). There are philosophical and theological advances. For example, we have a clearer and better understanding of many Christian doctrines thanks to analytical philosophy.

    3. In addition, neo-Darwinism as a grand unified narrative arguably falls under the purview of historical science more than experimental science. It's not as if we can test or re-test and re-experiment with, say, the evolutionary history of the whale in a laboratory.

  2. that's an interesting metaphor - thanks. It does seem that way. The atheist, rather than actually answer problem questions, leans back on "time will reveal more," or "error, and even unintended deception (!) will help us as we develop our understanding over time."

    Maybe it just frustrated me because it left scientists with a back door, an escape hatch. There's no way I know of to keep a scientist's proverbial feet to the fire. But as soon as I say "that's an escape hatch," I get thrown back at me "you're playing the god of the gaps card!"

    1. "The atheist, rather than actually answer problem questions, leans back on "time will reveal more," or "error, and even unintended deception (!) will help us as we develop our understanding over time.""

      This might count as a science-of-the-gaps argument? :-)

      Also, there are many atheists who are just as hidebound and dogmatic as any caricature they paint about the Christian. Take people like Dawkins or Coyne. Take those who espouse scientism.

      In any case, I don't think the relevant distinction is between science vs. religion (Christianity). Rather, I think the more relevant and pertinent distinction is between an atheistic worldview vs. a theistic (Christian) worldview.

    2. What I find ironic here is that most of the Founding Fathers in scientific development were religious. This most certainly refutes any notion of "Christians are unintelligent."

    3. Indeed. We bave all seen the atheist assert, 'We do not yet understand [fill in conundrum] but science is working on it and in time we will have the answer.'

      This can indeed be classed as a science-of-the-gaps argument.

      Isn't faith wonderful :)

    4. Atheists seem to think they do not shoulder a burden of responsibility. A 'default position' and an endless promissory note of 'Science will get there!' appears to be sufficient for the 'New Atheist.'

  3. Thanks, Jesse and Danny! Good points.

    1. Hello Patrick,

      I've come across some shocking admissions from Darwinists regarding the existence of evidence contradicting evolutionary theory/common descent. See here, if you are interested:

    2. Thanks, Jesse! I appreciate it.

    3. BTW, along the same lines, there are tons of papers cited in James Shapiro Evolution: A View from the 21st Century as well as Denis Noble's Music of Life and its companion sourcebook (which is available to download for free here).

    4. And here are the papers cited in Shapiro's book.