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Thursday, July 8, 2010

'Science!' and Miracles ... and Skepticism!

The purpose of this post is to mock (once again, for it is a never-empty font of mockability) the selective hyper-skepticism of those I call 'scientistes' (the word is meant to echo Miss Piggy's claim/plea to be recognized as "an Artiste"), that is, adherents and promoters of scientism, worshippers of 'Science!'

The specific target of this post is a selectively hyper-skeptical idea I've encountered before, both the Sagan quote (for instance, here), and the underlying idea, which I heard in a television "science" program; if I recall correctly, the Speaker For 'Science!' in the program was Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, and he even used the same specific claim that one's car could well "ooze" through the garage wall and park itself on the street.

Recently, on Crude's blog, Orandath posted this quotation:
"From The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

"Consider this claim: as I walk along, time -as measured by my wristwatch or my ageing process -slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It's easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here's another: matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the universe, being created from nothing. Here's a third: once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They're all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunnelling,* they're called). Like it or not, that's the way the world is. If you insist it's ridiculous, you'll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe.

*The average waiting time per stochastic ooze is much longer than the age of the Universe since the Big Bang. But, however improbable, in principle it might happen tomorrow."
My response to this selectively hyper-skeptical assertion is:

And, sometimes, iron axeheads which have flown off their handles and fallen into a pond or river float to the surface. [This is a reference to a miracle of the prophet Elisha, as recorded in II Kings 6:1-7] And, sometimes, the dead bodies of persons who really and truly are dead, rise back to life. [This is a reference to a number of resurrections recorded in both Old and New Testaments, including that of Jesus the Christ.]

So, given what 'scientistes' believe and assert about the nature of reality, how can their denial of, and refusal to believe, any of the miracles recorded in the Bible be anything other than selective hyper-skepticism, which is to say, intellectual dishonesty?


Crude said...

That would be an interesting move for some anti-religious sorts to make: To not deny any of the miracles recorded, but to blame it on quantum mechanics. It's a silly and hopeless move, so of course it will eventually be done. (Hell, I think Eugene Koonin already made the move in the Origin of Life.)

Then again, I'd also like to see someone turn around and say that matter and antimatter in vacuum fluctuations are created and destroyed by God Himself. Really, it makes more sense than the 'popping in and out of utter nothingness, uncaused' schpiel that goes on now and then, and has as much or more scientific validity than the alternative.

If we're going to do metaphysics and call it science, hey - let's go the whole 9 yards.

Crude said...

What did you do to this guy, Ilion? Seriously. I can be every bit as much of a blunt bastard as you, and I have yet to pick up an admirer like Rupert yet.

At least tell me this: Is he named after the cartoon grouper, or that teddy bear Stewie Griffin molests?

Ilíon said...

I suppose I should have left Rupert's comment here, just so that future readers could know what you refer to. On the other hand, whem he crossed the line (and he did that almost immediately), I did promise him that I'd delete any further posts he made.

I'm sure that all I ever did to ol' Rupert is mock one (or all) of his foolish belief-systems:
1) atheism;
2) leftist;
3) Darwinism.

I suspect that he initially followed me over here from Cornelius Hunter's "Darwin's God" blog.

Ilíon said...

"That would be an interesting move for some anti-religious sorts to make: To not deny any of the miracles recorded, but to blame it on quantum mechanics."

True enough; but, my point with this post is this:

Given the commitments that so-called atheists make with their worship of 'Science!,' then their Humean anti-miracle anapologetic is easily seen to be nothing more than an intellectually dishonest selective hyper-skepticism.

To put it another way: given their "scientific" commitments, they have no more rational grounds to deny that the miracles recorded in the Bible really did occur, than they have to deny that there really was a being named ‘Zeus,’ who really did do the sorts of things the ancient Greek myths say he did.

Crude said...

Nah, delete 'em. Why don't you ban him though? Or do you, but he just keeps circumventing it?

Anyway, I agree that the humean thing tends to be a sham. It hinges on what's meant by 'natural', which has gone out the window for decades now.

Ilíon said...

As far as I have been able to see, there is no direct way with the Blogger software to ban someone. I think there may be third-party add-ons that allow that.

"Anyway, I agree that the humean thing tends to be a sham. It hinges on what's meant by 'natural', which has gone out the window for decades now."

Based on recent comments along these lines, I think I may finally see where you're missing the critical point of my argument. I'll have to think on it and incorporate it into the unfinished promised post.

Ilíon said...

Also, Rupert doesn't seem to get the point (though I though I was very clear on this) that I don't even read his posts; I just delete them.

Foxfier said...

You might want to turn off the word verification and turn on the approve-to-post setting for a bit, Ilion.

Nothing pisses trolls off more than being ignored, and "oh, it had X name, I will delete it" with on you seeing it is a great defense.

If the theory holds that something would happen less than once, on average, in the time the known universe has existed...I think it's gone clear into epileptic tree territory.

No wonder Sir Pratchett uses "quantum" as a joke.

Ilíon said...

"You might want to turn off the word verification and turn on the approve-to-post setting for a bit, Ilion."

Sure, but that's a nuisance to others who have real comments to post.

cathy said...

No, I have nothing to add regarding this post.

However, I, too, have been curious about your Rupert, especially after he came looking for you when you were away for a while, and lobbed in weird little rudenesses, just to draw you out, I suppose.

If we were all 11-year-olds, it might make sense, but as it is -- not so much.

K T Cat said...

I love ya buddy, but I think you miss the point. Sagan isn't wrong, he's just half-right. He only sees the material world and demands everything arise from that. There's more to the world than what Science! can measure.

Some of us have been blessed to experience miracles in our lives. (And no, it wasn't Einstein's equations coming to life.) There is a God, some of us have been granted proof and the world is not just physics and chemistry.

Ilíon said...

No, I think you're missing the point, probably two points.

Even as he is denying actual miracles -- denying that there may occur intentionally caused events which confound any scientific "laws of nature" -- Sagan is asserting that events can happen which run completely *contrary* to all scientific "laws of nature" and that they are without cause or intent ... and that 'Science!' confirms this alleged truth.

He is asserting that simply *anything* can happen, at any time -- just so long as God didn't do it.

He is asserting that there are no "laws of nature"; he is asserting that there is no regularity in nature.

The second point I think you're missing is that most internet atheists will (ahem) argue that Sagan is correct ... for, after all, it's 'Science!' ... even as the very same individuals will (ahem) argue as they are doing in Michael Egnor's two recent threads that 'Science!' has proven that the regularities of Nature! are self-sufficient, self-caused and self-explaining.