Farah vs Tyson and Science

One person who was, predictably, not happy at all with the new Cosmos: Joseph Farah. He’s particularly bothered by the fact that the show said the earth and the universe are billions of years old when, of course, he knows that it’s only a few thousand years old because the Bible says so.

Admittedly the show is not designed to educate the public scientifically.

I love that line, especially the “admittedly.” Who is admitting that, Joe? You? You don’t get to admit things for other people. It doesn’t work that way.

As Tyson himself explains: “The goal is to convey why science matters to the person, to our society, to us as shepherds of this planet. It involves presenting science in ways that connect to you, so Cosmos can influence you not only intellectually but emotionally, with a celebration of wonder and awe. Science should be part of everybody’s life. The prerequisite is not that you become a scientist. It’s that at the end of the series, you will embrace science and recognize its role in who and what you are.”

The show includes a “Cosmic Calendar,” which asserts the scientifically unprovable notion that the history of the universe spans 13.8 billion years.

It promotes the unscientific nonsense of climate change and neo-Darwinism.

Don’t you love it when profoundly ignorant people declare that scientific theories accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the relevant fields are “unscientific nonsense”? This post is brought to you by the names Dunning and Kruger.

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  • iknklast

    I was informed by one of my colleagues (college instructor) the other day that climate change had no science behind it, it was just propaganda. She believed this, and felt we are teaching ideology in our classes.

  • Dave Maier

    Farah’s post is entitled “Meet Obama’s Favorite Astrophysicist”. If D/K brought us Ed’s post, who brought us Farah’s, I wonder?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    he knows that it’s only a few thousand years old because the Bible says so

    It actually doesn’t. Which makes him extra ignorant.

  • Synfandel

    …he knows that it’s only a few thousand years old because the Bible says so.

    Where, exactly, does the Bible say that the universe is only a few thousand years old?

  • colnago80

    Re lknklast @ #1

    I’m sure that the blogs resident climate change denier, Sir Lancelot, would agree with her. He teaches physics by the way.

  • John Pieret

    It promotes the unscientific nonsense of climate change and neo-Darwinism

    Step 1: Redefine “science” as “observational science,” where repeatable experiments are done in the present) as compared to “historical science” where repeatable observations in the present that evidence events in the past;

    Step 2: Carve out an exception to “historical science” for reliable “eyewitnesses” who observed events in the past (and who is more reliable than God?);

    Step 3: Ignore all the murderers in prision whose acts were neither observed nor repeatable but who are in prison because of “historical science”:

    Step 4: Loudly proclaim that the scientific community is unscientific because you have the only definition of True Science™;

    Step 5: Reinsert fingers in ears and hum as loud as possible.

  • raven

    he knows that it’s only a few thousand years old because the Bible says so.

    The bible also says the earth is orbited by the sun, flat, and the sky is a dome with lights stuck on it for stars.

    Farah, like them all, is a cafeteria xian, picking some mistakes while rejecting others.

  • colnago80

    Re raven @ #7

    And pi = 3.

  • colnago80

    Don’t you love it when profoundly ignorant people declare that scientific theories accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the relevant fields are “unscientific nonsense”

    Brayton is making the assumption that fuckface Farah actually believes this. IMHO, he is just another grifter pandering to the beliefs of his readers, much like Ann

    Coulter and Sean Hannity.

  • dingojack

    SLC – I assume the blank half of the second line of yours #9 is full of unprintable adjectives (accurately) describing Coulter.

    😀 Dingo

  • dingojack

    iknklast (#1) – Is she an instructor in the Engineering Faculty, by any chance?

    Dingo

  • colnago80

    Re dingojack @ #10

    Well I used to use a certain adjective in front of ole Ann’s name but Michael Heath objected to it as being derogatory toward a certain class of individuals so I have desisted from using it.

  • scienceavenger

    @1 Tell her its easy to think that when you read lots of propaganda and no science.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    #4 – Synfandel

    Where, exactly, does the Bible say that the universe is only a few thousand years old?

    It doesn’t directly say it, but if you add up the ages of the various people mentioned (see Genesis chapter 5, for example) and take a few reasonable estimates for things like how long the Israelites were in Egypt, then you can calculate that the creation of the world in Genesis 1 was between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago.

  • loren

    My favorite part of this column is where Farah manages to fail not only at science, but ALSO at religion. Farah writes:

    “Tyson also noted the Bible is full of contradictions, citing the creation story in Genesis that he suggested had the Earth created before the sun. It does not. In fact, Genesis 1 states: ”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The heaven includes all heavenly bodies – the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars.”

    Putting aside that rather generous interpretation, multiple commenters have already pointed out Genesis 1:14-19 specifically describes God creating the sun, moon, and stars…on the FOURTH day. And Farah already quoted the verse that states the Earth was created on the FIRST.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    OverlappingMagisteria

    It doesn’t directly say it, but if you add up the ages of the various people mentioned (see Genesis chapter 5, for example) and take a few reasonable estimates for things like how long the Israelites were in Egypt, then you can calculate that the creation of the world in Genesis 1 was between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago.

    That is with two big assumptions:

    1) That for the ancient east, genealogies were also chronologies. But they weren’t exact for sure–that is, x begat y did not always mean that y was an immediate descendant of x. In some uses there can be many generations between x and y.

    2) Even then, that would only take you back to Adam. You have to make the further assumption that the Hebrew word yom, translated as day should be interpreted as a 24-hour day, when in fact it is often used (as we still use it) for an indeterminate period.

    3) And 2) only matters if Genesis 1 is interpreted as history, rather than Jewish parallelism poetry. It definitely has aspects of parallelism, with days 1-3 parallel to days 4-6.

    The bottom line is that the bible does not demand a young earth, and only two heavily biased groups insist that it does: 1) Young Earth Creationists, primarily because they want to claim that evolution has not had enough time and 2) Some atheists, who want to say that the bible teaches a young earth to support a claim that the bible is incompatible with science (without actually proving it)–simply by saying the YECs are correct. No homework required. This latter group of atheists considers YECs to be idiots–with the one exception of the YEC interpretation of Genesis One–for this one case the YECs are considered to be exegetical savants.

  • peterh

    ” Where, exactly, does the Bible say that the universe is only a few thousand years old?

    It doesn’t directly say it, but if you add up the ages of the various people mentioned (see Genesis chapter 5, for example) and take a few reasonable estimates for things like how long the Israelites were in Egypt, then you can calculate that the creation of the world in Genesis 1 was between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago.”

    This was the logical trap Bishop Ussher fell into in 1650 and those of little vision have followed his errors ever since. The ages of the various OT patriarchs are not specified when a given son was “begotten;” and the word for “begot” is also the Hebrew for “was an ancestor of,” so there can be any number of intervening generations not named. Further, the Hebrew texts contain diacritical marks indicating clearly “there is a lack of genealogical data here.”

  • marcus

    heddle @ 16 “This latter group of atheists considers YECs to be idiots–with the one exception of the YEC interpretation of Genesis One–for this one case the YECs are considered to be exegetical savants.”

    Nope, idiots all the way down.

    “Some atheists, who want to say that the bible teaches a young earth to support a claim that the bible is incompatible with science (without actually proving it)…”

    The Bible is no more incompatible with science than is the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the Tao Te Ching, nor is it more compatible than any other religious text.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    marcus

    The Bible is no more incompatible with science than is the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the Tao Te Ching, nor is it more compatible than any other religious text.

    I find that highly unlikely, mathematically speaking, that the bible is neither “no more incompatible” yet “no more compatible” than other holy books. Are you sure about that?

  • marcus

    No that seems accurate. All religions are equally incompatible with science, by definition. Religions compatible with science is a null set.

  • dingojack

    hEDDLE – “That for the ancient east, genealogies were also chronologies. But they weren’t exact for sure–that is, x begat y did not always mean that y was an immediate descendant of x. In some uses there can be many generations between x and y.”

    Citation required.

    Dingo

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    This latter group of atheists considers YECs to be idiots–with the one exception of the YEC interpretation of Genesis One–for this one case the YECs are considered to be exegetical savants.

    I have absolutely no idea how you came to this conclusion. As marcus said, YECs are just idiots, full stop. The fact that they don’t try to come up with a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis or conflate “day” with an interderminate period of time doesn’t make them savants. It just makes them consistent idiots.

  • dingojack

    apologies for the CAPS-LOCK thingy. Don’t really know how that happened.

    Dingo

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    marcus,

    No that seems accurate. All religions are equally incompatible with science, by definition. Religions compatible with science is a null set.

    Really. You want to go with “all religions are equally incompatible by definition“. This seems like an actual argument to you? And you have received an education of sorts?

  • dingojack

    Heddle – and your refutation (backed up by actual evidence) is….?

    Dingo

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    DJ #25,

    My refutation (of what)?

    d.c.wilson

    The fact that they don’t try to come up with a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis or conflate “day” with an interderminate period of time

    You are begging the question, The Hebrew word yom translated as day is often used for an indeterminate time period. There is nothing “metaphorical” or “conflating” about it. Try again. That fact that you are, completely incorrectly, charging a “conflation” proves my point. You are simply asserting the YECs to be right in this instance because it is to your advantage to do so. But they aren’t right–sorry for he inconvenience, but yom was used, often, for an indeterminate period.

    Further evidence is that many church fathers did not take yom in Genesis One to mean a 24 hour day. This at a time when they had no reason to “conflate” to achieve compatibility with science. Many took it to mean a thousand year period, some took it to be instantaneous. It is only with the advent of evolution that there was a push to make the 24 hour interpretation a line in the sand issue. You can argue that the people like me who support a framework view of Genesis are escaping by a metaphorical trick–but the assertion that yom can mean an indeterminate period is on solid ground.

  • scienceavenger

    I find that highly unlikely, mathematically speaking, that the bible is neither “no more incompatible” yet “no more compatible” than other holy books. Are you sure about that?

    Sure? No. But since the two sets appear uncountable (how many errors are there in “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”?), coming up with a compatiblity measure is going to be a challenge far in excess of its value.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I suppose that if you take “compatibility” and “incompatibility” to be pure Boolean properties, some of the above make sense. Personally, I normally operate with both of them being scalars such that it’s possible to create an ordered set where “X is more compatible with the observations than Y” is a useful statement.

    If “incompatibility” is a scalar property and Religion A says, “God really, really doesn’t like it if you eat pigs” and Religion B says “yeah, what A teaches. And anyone who doesn’t will immediately burst into flame.” then you can pretty easily determine that the “incompatibility with reality” of B is greater than that of A. At least if you pass the bacon, you can be pretty sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    You are simply asserting the YECs to be right in this instance because it is to your advantage to do so.

    No, I know they are wrong. They’re just being more consistantly wrong than others are.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    #16 – heddle (et al)

    That is with two big assumptions:

    I absolutely agree. I should have prefaced my explanation with:

    “Assuming you take a very literal interpretation of the Bible, as Farah seems to, this is how one could conclude that the Bible says the universe is 7,000 years old”

  • teele

    When Mr. Tyson said during the show last night that the theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, was a fact, not an opinion, I was disturbed to realize that there would be people who would get twisted out of shape. I’m 60 years old, the product of public education, and if you had asked me when I was in Junior High if a statement like that could ever be considered controversial, I would have looked at you like you had three heads.

    I’m liking this show so far — and I’m even learning new things (the information about the structure of the eye being best suited to underwater vision was fascinating, and news to me). I wish that every student between the ages of 8 and 18 could watch Cosmos, and get their curiosity and sense of wonder kicked into high gear.

    As to whether or not EVERY religion is incompatible with science, I would certainly be willing to narrow that down to “every religion that credits an unseen, magical being with the creation of the universe,the destruction of anything physical, rewards or punishments for any particular behavior, or any interaction whatsoever with the real world, is incompatible with science.” There — now we don’t have to name names.

  • had3

    Heddle, when you state that yom means both “day” and an indeterminate amount of time, does it ever mean an indeterminent amount of time when it’s numbered? Eg, on the first yom…on the second yom… Do those terms ever mean on the first indeterminate amount of time and then on the second indeterminate amount of time?

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    teele,

    As to whether or not EVERY religion is incompatible with science, I would certainly be willing to narrow that down to “every religion that credits an unseen, magical being with the creation of the universe,the destruction of anything physical, rewards or punishments for any particular behavior, or any interaction whatsoever with the real world, is incompatible with science.” There — now we don’t have to name names.

    Why do you claim this? Has science demonstrated that no such being can exist? If so I have not seen the proof. The best you might say is that science has not even had a need to postulate such a being. Or perhaps that some specific religious beliefs (such as a young earth) are incompatible with science. But I don’t see how you support such a claim in general. There is a world of difference between incompatible and trivially compatible, where by trivially I mean “in an uninteresting way.” For example, art and science are, arguably, trivially compatible.

  • cjcolucci

    Why does everyone pick on heddle? While I don’t have much use for his theology as I understand it — and I think I do — it appears to be honest, and is far superior to the mindless literalism (a relatively modern construct) none of us, heddle included, has any use for. There is nothing to be gained from criticizing him for positions he plainly does not hold, and to the extent that more reasonable religious folk can crowd out the yahoos, and we can all live and let live with our own respective delusions, we’re all ahead of the game.

    It might be fun and instructive to take on what heddle actually believes, but if the point is that he has a theology at all, and most of the rest of us don’t, been there, done that..

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    had3, #32

    Yes, not that it matters. That is a YEC canard, that it is never used that way ordinally. But even were it so, one possible (reasonable) explanation is that Genesis One provides the only opportunity for it to be used ordinally. There is simple no other occasion to write first age, second age, etc..

    Regardless, it is used ordinally:

    After two days he will revive us;

    on the third day he will raise us up,

    that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:2)

    This is taken by everyone to mean an indeterminate period of punishment for Israel followed by an indeterminate period of restoration. Nobody has ever taken it to mean 24 hours here.

    • had3

      Thank you. It is odd (to me) that in your example the interpretation would be that after two periods of indeterminable length we will be revived and then after half that time again we will rise up. I understand it to be metaphorical, but it seems somewhat unwieldy when written in that manner as opposed to “we were revived after a long period and then he raised us up.” Of course, different editors have their preferences.

  • Michael Heath

    heddle writes:

    The bottom line is that the bible does not demand a young earth, and only two heavily biased groups insist that it does: 1) Young Earth Creationists, primarily because they want to claim that evolution has not had enough time and 2) Some atheists, who want to say that the bible teaches a young earth to support a claim that the bible is incompatible with science (without actually proving it)–simply by saying the YECs are correct. No homework required. This latter group of atheists considers YECs to be idiots–with the one exception of the YEC interpretation of Genesis One–for this one case the YECs are considered to be exegetical savants.

    Atheists don’t have to consider YECS to be ‘exegetical savants’. A more feasible explanation is that they’re merely observing many millions of Bible believers using plain old common sense when reading the plain words of the Bible.

    In 2012 Gallup found that 46% of Americans believe God created the earth in the past 10,000 years, that rate hasn’t changed much of the years. So once again your explanation has God impotently failing to communicate or perhaps instead, mere primitive mortals wrote these stories, with no gods involved.

    The other day you accused atheists of being unfair to Christians like you when it came to the definitions of ‘earth’ in the global flood story. I get the point that the word can mean different things; you claimed that atheists purposefully focused on one meaning only, as if they’re the unfair ones. I disagree, I think you’re the one trying to play cutesy.

    In the global flood story all the other words around ‘earth’ were absolute (see below start of the story [1], RSV). Your definition doesn’t even make sense when we consider the language surrounding earth, unless God is a mere local god who couldn’t observe anything beyond Noah’s locality and wasn’t aware of a reality beyond Noah’s region. The only plain reading available when considering all the words, not just the vague word you selected, was that the story was about the entire earth and therefore demonstrably false.

    If you’re right that the word earth was local, well then God fucked up in communicating this story, lied in his framing since it was really a local flood, and then God broke his promise at the end of the flood story. That’s because we’ve had many similar floods since then where God promises to never do the same again. In addition the end has God claiming he did destroy, “every living creature”. Either way the story is demonstrably not true since it both contradicts itself using either interpretation and has since been falsified. there was no global flood, God didn’t destroy every living creature, and we’ve had plenty of similar floods since. [2]

    1] 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

    2] 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor [Noah’s sacrifice after the flood receded], the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

  • dingojack

    Heddle (#25) – the proof that one religion (guess which one you’ll choose) is more compatible with science than the others, an idea you merely assume without any kind of thought (let alone evidence).

    Heddle, Heddle, Heddle – You certainly know by now how it works. YOU made the big claim [the existence of god(s) in this case], YOU have to provide evidence that backs that claim up.

    cjcolucci – because he’s a smug, goal-post moving, word re-defining, dishonest git.

    Dingo

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    DJ,

    I’ll stick with the plausible claim that all religions, given (for example) their vast differences in cosmology, especially given that some go into great detail and others not-so-much, cannot be equally incompatible with science. I’ll remind you that the first claim by Marcus was far more extraordinary, that no religion is more incompatible and (redundantly) no religion is less incompatible than all others. You seem to have lost your voice in demanding proof for that claim.

    As for the existence of God’s I have no burden of prove unless it is my task to convince you that God exists. It isn’t–and I have never tried to convince anyone that God exists. If I tell you that you should believe that God exists, then you would be right to ask for proof.

    As for being smug–perhaps. Most people come across as smug on the internet. You don’t really think that you, for example, avoid sending that message, do you?

    As for being goal-post moving– citation please.

    As for being word re-defining– citation please

    As for being dishonest– citation please.

  • dingojack

    You ask for a citation of goal-post moving: see yours #39 as an example.**

    What Marcus said was: “All religions are equally incompatible with science, by definition. Religions compatible with science is a null set.”

    Science is not cosmology although cosmology is a science. Do I need to draw a Venn Diagram for you?

    Since religions posit a supernatural being (or beings) and supernatural beings are central to religion, and since these, by definition, can’t be proven* (being that they are ‘beyond’ (or ‘above’) the universe), they are completely incompatible with science per se.

    Dingo

    ——–

    * in the sense of able to be tested (or indeed, falsified)

    ** as to the others, I would recommend simply trolling through any post on religion for plenty examples. These examples would come as no surprise to anyone who regularly (or semi-regularly posts here.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    DJ,

    But they do talk about cosmology or they do not. Therefore in that one aspect they are distinguishable. If they are detailed in their cosmology as opposed to vague they will differ in their incompatibility. Unless you say that magically, in other areas, they all balance out. Or if you say, trivially, (which I think is what Marcus was saying) that they all talk about a supernatural being and are therefore equally incompatible–which is really a contentless claim and amounts to nothing more than a toothless “incompatibility by untestable definition”. I am looking for incompatibilities in the sense that a book says X, unequivocally, and science says Y. And on that meaningful definition, I stand by my claim that they cannot be equally incompatible, with cosmology as a good example.

    ** as to the others, I would recommend simply trolling through any post on religion for plenty examples. These examples would come as no surprise to anyone who regularly (or semi-regularly posts here.

    Yes, well done. The old “the truth is out there” proof.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    “he knows that it’s only a few thousand years old because the Bible says so It actually doesn’t. Which makes him extra ignorant.”

    Joe’s just extrapolating from the current lack of evidence.

    At this precise moment, the local morning show crew is arguing about COSMOLOGY! Big Bang and allathat stuff. They seem better informed than Mr. Farah–and I know that they have a lot more snide T&A references.

    “for this one case the YECs are considered to be exegetical savants.”

    Not me, heddle; I consider them to be excrementalist savants–they’re masterful at making shit up.

    @CJ Collucci:

    I think that you’re correct in your assessment of heddle’s belief system. Otoh, I’m also guessing that he enjoys twisting some tails on the subject. If he and I were neighbors and I saw him in the backyard, wearing a NY Yankees cap I would know that religion AND baseball were not good topics for conversation. {;>)

    I like these pointless arguments lots better than the pointless arguments about number theory or non-layman cosmology that I can’t even READ with any more understanding than a bingo playing chicken.

  • marcus

    heddle From wiki:” The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: “a method or procedure… consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

    Oxford Dictionary: Religion:: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” Seems obvious to me.

    A religion may attempt to accommodate science but it can never be truly compatible (in the sense of being consistent; congruous with the facts) with science.

    Even if you had a religion that thought the highest form of worship was the diligent discovery of the all the truth of natural law, (and several scientist have expressed and lived this belief) it is still just a belief tacked on to science, it is still superfluous to actual science. It is a myth trying to harness itself to reality.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Marcus,

    Yep, you can define them to be incompatible. As I said I am looking for something more. That my religion says A and science says not A. Not that my religion says A, and science says “we have nothing to say about that.” I clled the latter “trivially compatible”.

  • cjcolucci

    Imagine someone who was raised through middle age and became well versed in all sorts of modern science and a genuine expert in some part of it, but who, somehow, had never been exposed to any religious idea or even heard of religion. Would this person’s knowledge of science lead him to some kind of religion? Probably not. If this person were exposed to any religious idea at all, presented as a truth about the empirical world, not just about some kind of human practice that may or may not be useful in some way, would his reaction be: Interesting, but what reason do you have to think it’s true? Probably. Would some religious ideas seem to him less comptaible with what he knows about science than others? Probably. The idea that there is some Great Something Out There responsible for reality as we know it might not strike him as a hypothesis he has any reason to entertain, but it would probably seem less crazy to him than YEC or “turtles all the way down.”

    Does anyone disagree with any of that, and, if not, what are we fighting about?

  • freehand

    Marcus et al:

    My workout buddy in college was a devout Christian (RCC) and earned his PhD in microbiology. We had various arguments about morality and such but he never tried to convert me – he had no evidence to persuade anyone that beliefs which weren’t about the observable universe were true. I didn’t try to deconvert him, because there was nothing to argue against. I’m not sure he even insisted that Jesus was an historical person.

    .

    He had no trouble with scientific methodology, and in fact taught me a fair deal about evolutionary science over the years. He had little patience with those making claims about the universe at odds with the available evidence and working models. As Heddle says, only religions which make claims about the observable universe can be incompatible with science.

    .

    Obviously, all of the Fundamentalist religions have problems with reality.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Michael Heath #37,

    Sorry Michael, this argument that you make repeatedly, that God does not, as a communicator, reach a standard satisfactory to you, Michael Heath, it flat-out uninteresting. I find the bible to communicate its points very well, especially where it counts (the gospel). In all instances I find that a recourse to my mantra, that the bible is meant to be read intelligently, is sufficient. You are free to disagree, of course. I can agree to disagree whether the bible teaches of a local flood or a global flood–but it is quite clear to me that the Hebrew text does not preclude a local flood. I suspect, without evidence beyond a gut-feeling, that you simply want it to require a global flood which provides a trivial incompatibility with science. Otherwise I don’t know how to explain that you deny the very possibility that it describes a catastrophic but local flood, given that the Hebrew word translated as world is used in passages like:

    56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth. (Gen 41:56-57, ESV)

    It might get translated as lands or countries in v57–but that’s the point– the same Hebrew word ehrets is sometimes translated as earth, world, land, countries, region, etc. In the two consecutive verses above it is translated (by the ESV) as land and then as earth. But nobody takes this to mean that the whole would experienced famine or (even if id did) that the whole world came to Egypt.

    So must we demand an interpretation that literally the entire world went to Egypt?

    This is just one of many examples.

    In the flood account translators have traditionally chosen to translate ehrets to indicate a global flood. They might be right. But they had a bias, from tradition, or a global flood–and they might be wrong. If they had a bias for a local flood, they could have chosen words like region or land or country and it would have been perfectly fine.

    How many times do I have to explain this? The burden is not on me to prove that it teaches a local flood, only that it is at least plausible that it does so. And it is–very plausible.

  • eric

    Heddle:

    Yep, you can define them to be incompatible. As I said I am looking for something more. That my religion says A and science says not A. Not that my religion says A, and science says “we have nothing to say about that.” I clled the latter “trivially compatible”.

    Your religion says that revelation is a viable method for knowledge development and production. Specifically, Calvinism teaches that the revelations of the bible are true and infallible. Science says that revelation is not a viable method for knowledge development and production.

    Just to drive the point home, the scientific consensus is not “science has nothing to say about the reliability of revelation as a method.” The consensus seems very firmly that its unreliable. That is, in fact, the whole purpose of testing, publishing, and reproducibility; the fact that the scientiifc method includes those things is a a prima facie rejection of the reliability of revelation.

    Thus, incompatible.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    eric,

    Science says no such thing. I have taught, maybe 80 science classes at the undergrad and grad level, roughly 1/4 before I became a Christian. Never once did I have occasion to teach that science says anything about divine revelation.

    It may test claims of the supernatural, e.g., psychics. But only if they make testable claims. But it says not about revelation in general.

    What does say is this: what we do in science is study the natural world by an agreed upon, tried and true method, a method that contains multiple levels of checks and balances, commonly called the scientific method. Science says absolutely nothing about claims to knowledge outside the scientific method.

    Science is a method, nothing more. It is agnostic about the beliefs and motivations of its practitioners, be they good or evil or even whether the practitioner believes what he is doing. All it cares about, ever, is that he follows the method and if he doesn’t then whatever it is, it’s not science. It says nothing about knowledge obtained by other means (although scientists may have personal opinions about whether that is possible), except if that alleged knowledge relates to the natural world then science is free to test the claim.

    If I claim (this has never actually happened to me) that God has revealed to me that decision X is the correct decision for me given some life-changing branch point–then I have made a claim of divine revelation. Science has 0.0 to say about it.

    You must be thinking of Science+, not science.

  • eric

    Never once did you teach that your religion is incompatible with science, and this is supposed to be evidence that its not? Sorry, but what you include in your courses is not really good evidence about how science views revelation. Of course you would leave that out.

    Its pure baloney to argue that science has nothing to say about the reliability of revelation, because the very method of science itself says something about it. To wit: that science treats it as unreliable. If you made a claim based on divine relevation, science would require that you test that claim before science would conditionally accept it as true. The requriement to test is saying something about the reliability of revelation – its saying “we don’t trust this on its own. It needs to be confirmed via empirical testing before it any such claim will be conditionally accepted as true.”

    In contrast, Calvinism says “we do trust (some) revelations on their own, we accept them as true in the absence of any test – heck, we don’t even plan on trying to test any of it.” And while I don’t know if Calvinism goes this far, certainly some other Christian sects have gone the extra step and said “not only does revelation not need testing before its accepted, but if an empirical test is inconsistent with the revelation, we will reject the empirical test.”

    Put another way, science treats Calvinist revelation as being as reliable as Calvinism treats Mormon revelation. Do you want to say that Calvinism has nothing to say about the truth, reliability, or validity of Mormon revelation?

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Eric,

    Of course you would leave that out.

    Well not just me. I also took roughly 50 different science courses from undergrad through post Ph.D., all at secular universities, and in none of those did any instructor ever mention anything about the reliability or lack thereof of revelation. The topic never arose. In exactly zero classes did any professor, most of whom we can assume to be atheists, ever say anything about religious revelation, nor did any of them say anything about the general incompatibility of science and religion. At times they spoke of, directly or indirectly, specific claims, such as a young earth, as being refuted by science–but in no case did they make any kind of general statement.

    In contrast, Calvinism says “we do trust (some) revelations on their own, we accept them…

    OK let’s play this game. You seem to be interested in using Calvinism as an example so let’s run with it.

    Calvinism 101 teaches: from before the foundation of the world, God selected a people to be redeemed, not for anything good they would do, but for his own sovereign choice, and Jesus accomplished their salvation, and the Holy Spirit agreed to work in them for their sanctification. The so-called “Trinitarian Covenant.”

    This in many ways is the very definition of Calvinism.

    What does science have to say about it? Not what opinion might a given scientist have about Calvinism, whether he thinks it is nonsense or monstrous or the best news ever, but what does science have to say about it?

    Hint: science only talks about things that are observable and can be tested.

    The answer is clear. Science has nothing to say about this–other than it is an unscientific statement and outside the purview of science. Science cannot attach any probability as to whether this revelation is true or false. It can make no statement whatsoever whether the definition of Calvinism is true or false. And given that it has nothing to say about it, it can’t be incompatible. Incompatible means: Calvinism says A, and science says not A. It is, instead, trivially compatible.

    Its pure baloney to argue that science has nothing to say about the reliability of revelation, because the very method of science itself says something about it. To wit: that science treats it as unreliable.

    You keep asserting that but it is not true. So tell me, scientifically, how science addresses the reliability of the revelation that Calvinism claims, that I wrote above? What experiment does it perform to test the revelation that God predestined some to salvation? Because if science can’t test it, then by the very definition of science it has nothing to say about it. So where has it been addressed? In what scientific journal has it been published?

    Do you want to say that Calvinism has nothing to say about the truth, reliability, or validity of Mormon revelation?

    It does have nothing to say about it–scientifically. (Apart from genetically testable lost-tribe-of-Israel claims–that is incompatible, but as I understand it not all LDS members still make that claim). If Mormon or a Muslim or a JW or a FSM acolyte claims to receive revelation, we have nothing to say about it, unless it is testable. I don’t have to believe it, just like they don’t have to believe Calvinism, but I have nothing to say about the reliability of their revelation unless it is testable. For example, I (either as a Calvinist or as a scientist) have nothing to say about the revelation that Mohammed is a prophet of God, other than I don’t believe it.

  • Nick Gotts

    heddle@39,

    I’ll remind you that the first claim by Marcus was far more extraordinary, that no religion is more incompatible and (redundantly) no religion is less incompatible than all others. You seem to have lost your voice in demanding proof for that claim.

    As for being smug–perhaps. Most people come across as smug on the internet

    True, but it would an extraordinary claim that all who come across as smug come across as equally smug :-p

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Nick Gotts,

    True, but it would an extraordinary claim that all who come across as smug come across as equally smug

    Ha!

    Touché.

  • Michael Heath

    Heddle writes:

    Sorry Michael, this argument that you make repeatedly, that God does not, as a communicator, reach a standard satisfactory to you, Michael Heath, it flat-out uninteresting.

    The standard of communication I reference here is not my standard, which is a far higher standard, but instead about the lowest standard I can imagine where the communicator is still understood by the audience.

    I cited the fact that 44% of Americans are YECs where you agree YEC is a belief that’s now easily falsified. So right there you misrepresent my argument by claiming it’s my standard when in fact I pointed out God failed even with his own believers. Therefore God as you cite him failed to communicate, miserably, to many millions (billions?) of people. A failure on his part that if the Bible is true, will lead to eternal suffering for many because of God’s inability to communicate.

    My standard here? Exhibit A would be Carl Zimmer’s Tangled Bank.

    There are also many Christian denominations because Christians can not agree on what is asserted in the Bible. Again, not my standard, but the standard use by Christians. Where countless Christians are convinced some will suffer eternally for failing to understand what God communicated. And this is the reader’s fault? No, I’d argue even the lowest applied standard would assign the failure here to the person responsible for the communication.

    My standard? A well-run global corporation able to communicate across many languages and cultures, e.g., Coca Cola, Alcoa, and Apple.

    Heddle, as a scientist you know that any credible approach to make conclusions requires one consider the best contra explanations. But when it comes to the Bible and the nature of God and the attribute assigned to him by the Bible, I rarely see you demonstrate such consideration, but instead practice avoidance as you repeatedly demonstrate on this topic. On the bell curve you’re a laudable prodigy, but from a normative standard? On many issues you avoid actually taking those issues on, as you demonstrate here on communication and all the contextual words that assert God killed all life except for that saved on Noah’s Ark.

    So again, I understand why you want to avoid/deny my point here, that’s because you can’t reconcile a powerful God with a complete inability on his part to make his existence known and inability to communicate with us here humans, at even a remedial level. Where I would argue your dismissal has no credibility because you either avoid considering it or as we observe here, avoid and misrepresent the case made against your beliefs.

  • Philip Hansen

    @Heddle

    Hi Heddle, been a while since we last talked about science and compatibility.

    I have an interest in giving my own two cents here, so I will.

    I understand that the scientific method cannot be applied to resolve whether there was a god who performed action x. However, the claim that god performed action x arose, presumably, from some individual or collective group of humans, who received or conceived of a divine revelation. Science cannot say anything about the veracity of their claims regarding supernatural (undetectable) beings, but I would argue strongly that psychology and a scientific method (establishing different hypotheses and weighing their probabilities given other accumulated evidence) could reasonably say something regarding the nature of the revelations, or the reasoning behind the claims. In that way, although visions as supernatural events cannot be refuted by science, but simply ignored, we can say something about the receivers of vision’s and alternative explanations to their receiving these visions, some of those explanations may very reasonably not suppose anything that is beyond the realm of science.

    That being said, I am not well-educated in science yet (I am hoping to study physics at uni level next year), but it is my novice understanding that the social sciences do have lots of troubles littering their methods and reliability, that are not present in some of the harder sciences, making conclusions that are the results of less reliable methods less reliable themselves. Still, that IS a far cry from science being unable to comment on religions, given that you cannot exclude religious experience from the examination of religion.

    In regards to the incompatibilty of science and religion, I agree that it is a blanket statement to say “science is equally incompatible with all religions”, which may be entirely unjustified. However, it is not my impression that it was said as any sort of genuine, thoughtful input, but more along the regular line of thoughts from us atheists regarding religion, that the practice of weeding out less or more compatible (more strongly or less strongly extravagant claims) religions is a fool’s errand, as it isn’t about the gritty details, but the overall metaphysics. I am not trying to dodge the charge, I did not make the statement, but I think arguing the specifics of religion A having less supernatural claims than religion B is pointless, as it seems well understood by many commenters here that all religions don’t really have the exact same number of problems in regard to compatibility.