May 7, 2011

Science of the Gaps

Buon giorno. Almost seven months ago, I had an exchange with Zach, an atheist, in the comments of this post. (I also exchanged comments with an obstreperous atheist who only wanted to sneer, and I gave back what I was given. Interesting contrast.) Then, I continued the discussion by giving Zach his own post, so to speak. In essence, he wanted to know when believers stop using science and start inserting God as an explanation for observations.

I struggled with my explanation because sometimes it becomes difficult for me to put something that I know into coherent words that other people can understand. But I think I did reasonably well.

Since then, I have learned more about the faith of atheists. Yes, faith. There are presuppositions and conditions that many atheists use:
  • There is no God, that is a fact. No, that is a statement of faith. It also violates logic.
  • Everything must be explained through naturalism. This "rule" is essentially based on the above statement as well as a desire to control the discussion; it's my ball, I make the rules.
  • If theists can't explain something, they just shove in "Goddidit" as an explanation (a  "God of the gaps" approach). This attitude is based not only on presuppositions, but on ignorance and Dawkinsite conditioning.
  • Theists are stupid. When someone starts with that kind of arrogance, there is not much point in expecting to have a rational discussion.
Greg Koukl of "Stand to Reason" had a recent broadcast that dealt with the "God of the gaps" accusation extremely well. Brace yourselves, people faint when I say this: He did a much better job here than I did a few months ago. He told a caller that when science runs out of evidence, scientists tend to use a "Science of the gaps" approach. That is, they have faith that maybe someday science will come up with an explanation for something that cannot be explained now. On the other hand, theists will use the available evidence, following where the evidence leads, and come up with a scientific explanation. Listen for the comparison between "event causation" and "agent causation". The clip (below) is about fourteen minutes, and definitely worth the time. Or you can listen to the entire podcast here. It's long, but has some great material, capice?

I hope Zach finds his way back here sometime and sees this article. Arrivederci! Belay that, I have an Addendum: Here is an article that is a good follow-up to this one.


Rhomphaia (Sword) said...

I have trouble computing.

We have a God (of the Bible of course) Who claims that He made this and that. Well, we actually have "this" and "that" which He claims to have made.

If He had said, "I made the aliens in the other galaxies two gazillion light years away", I could see discrediting Him a little harshly like some do.

But- the things He claims do have some evidence.

He makes claims about Adam and Eve. We have the Books of Adam and Eve that would support this completely.

The Bible claims a flood. And let's just say we have 100 facts to prove this. Well, they want to mark off the top ten, or even 20, well- what do we do with the rest?!?!?!

The Bible deals with historical figures that there is evidence to support that they did exist. Well, let's say there's 25 of them, they pose questions about 5 of them, or even 10 of them- - - what about the rest?!?!

The whole blessed Book cannot be discredited....even by those masters of challenge...for Pete's sake, it has been used as a history book and a primary educational book in times past before the pervs developed such a loud, obnoxious voice.

Bob Sorensen said...

As I indicate elsewhere, I get tired of the excuses. There is plenty of evidence, but people choose to disbelieve and disregard it.

Mr. Gordons said...

You write stuff for Zach and talk to him. Should throw away the idea that you can't be nice to them or the stupid idea that you want all nonbelievers dead.

Bob Sorensen said...

Some people have their minds made up even when the evidence is right in front of them. But they'd rather hate. See, you went and got me started...

Zach said...

Hi Stormbringer,

I hadn't come across this article until I saw your reference on Ray Confort's site. I'll give that podcast a listen - thanks for the recommendation, and for remembering our previous conversation.

Zach said...

Hi Stormbringer,

I listened to the podcast in question - and my criticism of his analogy is, along the same lines of William Paley's Watchmaker, that we know that an Oreo cookie was created by 'agent causation'. You can't use a naturalistic explanation for an object that has been created by intelligence; I'll surely agree with that. I'll posit, however, that we don't know if life was created by intelligence. That is the question at hand, and to explain why it is acceptable to use an argument from design about something we don't know is designed (life) because that particular argument works on something we do know is designed (cookies) is illogical.

Koukl makes a point at the end of this talk that "intelligent design is giving an agent causation explanation in those circumstances that it is fully justified by the evidence". I claim that the explanation of 'we don't understand X, therefore it must have been caused by a supernatural power' could be fully justified in almost any situation. There are all sorts of things that modern science is incapable of explaining, and a supernatural explanation - by definition - could fit any possible circumstance, and explain any possible event.

So I'm not sure your point, exactly. Is the appeal to a supernatural another possible explanation for the origin of life (which, by the way, has nothing to do with the theory of biological evolution)? Yes, of course it is. Its an explanation for literally everything, and therefore, it seems not a particularly good one. Wolfgang Pauli once said of a paper "This isn't right. This isn't even wrong." This accurately describes an appeal to a supernatural entity to explain an unknown phenomena. Its so vague, so imprecise, and so all-encompassing that it fails to tell you anything. Its not right, its not wrong, its just useless.

Bob Sorensen said...

You appear to be ruling out the supernatural entirely, and I think you have an erroneous understanding of those of us who posit that God is a rational explanation. We do not just cram in God as an explanation left and right, but it is fallacious to appeal to faith in science, that it will someday have an explanation.

Zach said...

I'm not ruling out the supernatural at all - as I said, a supernatural explanation is always a possibility for any event or question. I'm just saying that appealing to the supernatural doesn't really do anything.

What is the origin of life? Science will assume that it has a naturalistic explanation, because science is required to do so. The scientific method is founded on methodological naturalism - supernatural explanations aren't ruled out per se, they just can't be used in a scientific context. And then scientists happily go on their way, testing, experimenting and hypothesizing about how such an event could occur. Have you ever read the work of Dr. Szostak from Mass General/Harvard? He has great experiments concerning self replicating RNA molecules. He certainly hasn't created life, but in the process of trying to figure out how life could have originated, he has expanded our current understanding of the natural world. Will he ever create life using natural means? I have no idea.

Contrast this with someone who claims that the origin of life must be supernatural. Okay, then what? If you assume that it must have taken a supernatural act, then why do experiments on it? Why search for how it could be done? You have a possible explanation, but I'm not sure what else you have. That is why I said that a supernatural explanation seems useless to me - it doesn't tell you anything.

Mr. Gordons said...

See if this helps or is interesting anyway!/v/969

Bob Sorensen said...

Thanks. I haven't heard this one, but I've heard Veritas Forum material that I liked, so I'll check it out later if I can gin up the nerve, Mr. Gordons.

Bob Sorensen said...

Thanks, but I cannot recommend it. A good part of it, I was wondering where in the world the speakers were going. It started off promisingly enough, with the atheist sneering and mocking. But his opponent was conciliatory, and I thought they both kind of rambled. Still, it shows that certain aspects of science have more areas of agreement (especially if the right attitudes are taken) than we might expect.

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