Preaching to the Choir: A Brief Refresher

May 14, 2008 - 1:51 pm
Irradiated by LabRat
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Dear would-be ID debaters*:

The Bible and science are not in direct competition with one another as purveyors of Universal Truth. Science is a system of exploring and describing natural law that depends upon methodological naturalism. All scientific inquiry falls apart like wet tissue paper the second you admit supernatural causality (which by definition cannot be understood scientifically) into the process, because it introduces elements that cannot possibly be relied upon to be consistent or follow any element of natural law. Science can’t describe God or any supernatural or transcending-nature phenomena even if they exist for this reason. There do exist people who insist on philosophical naturalism and materialism, and who may claim that science provides all the intellectual and spiritually fulfilling explanations they need, but that is not the same as science being a complete competing belief system. If they claim that science disproves or rules out God or miracles or anything else science is not capable of describing, they are simply wrong. This is the way of things- lots of people get shirty about their belief systems (which, in the case of philosophical materialists, include a lot that is, well, philosophical rather than scientific) and start making claims that said system can’t back up. If you wish a religious counter-example, simply point to people that think that religious conversion by force is a swell way to bring people to God. Both are cases of people Having Seriously Missed The Point.

Because of this key detail, science does not offer a coherent story that explains the origin of Life, Earth, and Everything that fits neatly on a cocktail napkin. (Or, with more detail, the two pages that both accounts of the creation fit on in our household Bible.) That’s not the way it works. “Origins” aren’t covered together as a philosophical or narrative concept, they’re split among various scientific disciplines- biology, chemistry, geology, astrophysics, and other- specific- areas of research. They’re not tied together because they neither need to be or should be, to serve the purposes of science. The strength of the various theories and hypothesis regarding the origin of (X) range all over the board from “placeholder speculation until we understand more” to “bedrock of science”.

For this reason, when you attack “evolution”, or worse, “Darwinism”- Darwin having been merely the responsible party for describing the major mechanism of evolution, attacking Darwin to discredit evolution is a bit like trying to take down all of physics by attacking Isaac Newton- and then immediately bring up your problems with the Big Bang, abiogenesis theory, and geological gradualism, the person you are arguing with will instantly conclude that you have no idea what you’re talking about, and worse, that you have not got the slightest idea that you don’t. You know how some atheists seem to think that you can prove Christianity is a hollow sham by pointing out that some people use it to justify self-serving and sometimes evil ends? You know how they’ve missed not only the point, but the entire paradigm? Same deal.

Last of all, there are words for launching an attack on several hundred years’ worth of science based on a limited and shallow scientific education and a belief in Biblical literacy: arrogance. Hubris. The sort of pride that every Sunday school student can automatically fill in the rest of the sentence with “goes before a fall”. Scientists don’t get irate about this sort of thing because it’s an intolerable challenge to their belief system- scientists have as diverse a range of religious and philosophical belief systems as other humans- but because it reveals that the person they’re talking to not only doesn’t understand what they’re arguing about, but that they themselves do not practice the value system endorsed by the beliefs they think they’re defending. Christianity is the dominant belief system in the Western world; even the most acidic atheist knows exactly what kind of views the God of the Bible has on the subject of arrogance, or the blatant dishonesty that has always been rife in modern creationist and “intelligent design” movements. You don’t need a college-certified piece of paper to be an expert, but you DO need to do all the same work just as thoroughly as the recognized experts do to be considered credible. That takes a lot of time and effort? Yes, it does. But this applies to EVERY field and subject: to be taken seriously when speaking with authority, you have to have earned the authority, and be able to show in your words and deeds that you gained the commensurate level of understanding.

Practice what you preach on a subject you DO know, don’t throw around belligerent assertions (especially the kind that accuse other people- and scientists are people, not Agents Of The Atheist Agenda- of dishonesty, malice, or basic stupidity) on subjects you DON’T know, and civil discussion becomes possible.

*No, nothing specific brought this on. Call it the One Millionth Customer effect of seeing the same basic failure of premises repeated while trying to have a productive discussion just one too many times.

No Responses to “Preaching to the Choir: A Brief Refresher”

  1. Brandon Says:


  2. Allen Says:

    If you haven’t read Stephen Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science” it’s worth it. His section on complexity and biodiversity being based on a very simple set of rules is fascinating. It also gives one a completely different sense of adaptability and natural selection.

  3. daddyquatro Says:

    While I am a believer (with a small “b”) the very idea that we could understand and explain God’s plan strikes me as the worst form of hubris.
    In science and religion, there are things we simply don’t know. And may never know.
    I hold in equal contempt the Jebus lover who posits that the world is only 6000 years old and the sneering atheist who posits that the big bang couldn’t have had a detonator.
    Neither have facts to prove their case.

  4. robnrun Says:

    I particularly like your point on experts, that someone is an expert in one field does not mean they are an expert in all.
    It has always seemed to me that science examines the questions of ‘how’ and ‘what’. ‘How was the universe formed?’ ‘What is the material that makes up the universe?’
    Religion, or philosophy, examines the ‘why’. ‘Why is the universe here?’ (in the metaphysical sense).
    A great deal of energy has been wasted by people trying to force science or religion to answer the wrong question. ID is the one of the worst examples of this fundamental lapse in logic.

  5. skeeler Says:

    Good post.

  6. Speakertweaker Says:

    Nicely done. One of those posts everyone (myself included) will wish they’d written.

    Kind of a “Why The Gun Is Civilization” for the world of science.

    Very, very well done.


  7. LabRat Says:

    Oh, I don’t think this is NEARLY as good as “Why The Gun Is Civilization”, but I’ll lap up the high praise happily all the same. :)

    Robnrun- I had never thought of the how/what-vs-why distinction before; that’s a nice encapsulation.

  8. Holly Says:

    Now explain those bumper stickers of a “TRUTH” fish eating a Darwin fish. Those always drive me nuts because there’s something in the back of my head going “but… you know it’s not literally true” in perhaps a very naive fashion.

  9. LabRat Says:

    For those things, I’m going to borrow a line from Professor Pauli.

    “This isn’t right. It isn’t even wrong.”

  10. Tam Says:


    Too bad the people that need to read it most wouldn’t grasp it even if they could mouth the words. :(

  11. DJ Says:

    Well done. Y’oughta publish this somewhere …

  12. Lance Salyers Says:

    Late as usual to parties like this, but . . . excellent post, LabRat. It makes me wish I still had a blog so that I could link to it and funnel it to the Christian audience I had when I blogged.

  13. Kristopher Says:

    Creationism: The doctrine that explains fossil evidence by claiming that God lies to all of us, or allows Satan to lie for him.

  14. perlhaqr Says:

    Speakertwaeker: that was my thought. This is going in the list of bookmarked posts I’ll be using as shorthand when I end up arguing with someone; sometimes, I’m lucky enough to have a baseball bat of just the right heft handy, that I couldn’t possibly have made myself…