Debate (Do the findings of science entail that Christianity is false?): my first rebuttal.

Debate (Do the findings of science entail that Christianity is false?): my first rebuttal. November 25, 2014

This is the next entry in my debate with John Lepp over “Do the findings of science entail that Christianity is false?”  While we agreed to rounds of 1,500 words, I had a beast of a time trimming down my post so that it adequately hit all of John’s arguments.  It simply takes longer to rebut a claim than it does to make a claim (hence why the Gish-Gallop approach was sadly invented).  I petitioned John for 1,900 words and he graciously allowed it.  Should he require anything similar in the future I’m happy to grant it to him as well.  I like rules that keep one party from rambling on, but I also hate dropping arguments.  I don’t think it serves the readers well.

So my gratitude to John.  Here’s 1,860 words that constitute my first rebuttal.  Here was my opening which was followed by John’s opening.

You say:

The 2nd law of thermodynamics says entropy in a system – any system – increases.  For the possibility of life, entropy must decrease.  Hence there’s a supposed “conflict” between biology and physics.

This is your first claim about science and it’s wholly wrong.  The second law says:

…the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems always evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium, a state with maximum entropy.

So it doesn’t apply to any system, as you claim, but rather to closed systems (a system where additional energy is not coming in), and even in a closed system the second law doesn’t prohibit order from forming.  Instead, it says that the ordered energy will be less than the disordered energy.

But in terms of life the second law doesn’t even apply because living systems are not isolated. Look at any plant to see this. Most plants produce leaves by using 2% of the energy they receive from the sun to photosynthesize atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules into hydrocarbon molecules such as sugars. This doesn’t violate the second law because the increased order is driven by energy coming into the system from the sun. So rather than prohibiting the possibility of life, it is thanks to the second law of thermodynamics that living systems are able to increase their organization.  This argument supports my side of the debate, not yours.

This is what happens when a person gets their “science” from websites which, unlike peer-review have no mechanism to keep the authors from saying whatever they want (whether it’s true or not).  It is why the scientific consensus is left to scientists, rather than to laymen.  And the scientific consensus is that people cannot rise from the dead, there was no global flood, and the surface tension of water cannot support a grown man.

You claim that the scientific disciplines are in conflict on some claims, but you only provide this one example which, when the science is understood, confirms the opposite to be true.   But even if I were to concede that point entirely (which I don’t), it’s irrelevant.  The various sciences are unified in the repeatedly tested and always confirmed assumption that the universe operates under a set of rules.  As I said in my opening, without that you cannot even have experiment.  And the rules of the universe prohibit a grown man walking on water or rising from the dead.

I could also point out that the citation of scientific findings can actually show why something ( or somebody) is worthy of worship.

I challenge you to do so.  Not only is what makes something worthy of worship not a question science has ever tackled, it’s not even a question it could tackle.  What experiment could you set up to determine what is or is not worthy of worship?  This is an absurd claim that adds nothing to the debate.  Even if science could determine what was worthy of worship (or even cared), that gets us no closer to whether or not the claims of Christianity are true.  It’s a complete red herring.

(Although, on a tangent un-related to the debate at hand, I’d argue that being able to supercede the laws of nature doesn’t make somebody worthy of worship.  I mean, who thinks Voldemort ought to be worshiped?  Power doesn’t make you worthy of worship)

In order for the findings of science to show the belief in Christianity is false, it would either have to be explained why supernatural occurrence is impossible or show that science has the ability to explain away anything and everything held by Christians.

This is an attempt to re-frame the debate, and one I adamantly deny.  I don’t need to explain how the supernatural is impossible (indeed, how is that even possible when it’s supposedly forever hiding away from our natural receptors – eyes, ears, nose, etc.?).  In terms of something being scientifically false, I need only establish that the claims of Christianity fly in the face of how we understand the universe to work scientifically.

To claim a supernatural event is literally to say “science stopped working.”  This is a very odd approach if you’re trying to argue that something harmonizes with science.

When we say someone is making a false claim, it’s almost always because they have no evidence for that claim.  For instance, if I told you I owned an interstellar spacecraft, you’d almost certainly say my claim was false.  Why?  Have you disproven it?  Not at all.  But at the same time if something doesn’t exist, what more evidence could we expect to find than the lack of any evidence for that thing’s existence?  That’s literally the best we can do.  And by that standard it’s clear that my claim should be considered false until I pony up some evidence, at which point my claim will be re-evaluated (if you disagree, I’m happy to sell you my spacecraft for the insanely low price of $10,000…but I’m going to need the money up front).

Now consider your claim, John, that a supernatural event occurred.  If you have no scientific evidence, why should we evaluate your claim as anything other than scientifically false?  What’s more, we have all this evidence against your claim (geological record, surface tension of water – essentially every scientific discovery ever made).  So, in your case, you’re even worse off than my claim to owning an interstellar spacecraft.

You also say science must be able to explain away everything held by Christians.  This is absurd.  The bible speaks of valleys in the ocean floor, which are totally there.  So what?  That the bible gets one broad claim correct doesn’t excuse the litany of other clearly false claims.  I don’t get to tell you the earth orbits the sun because of gravity and this makes me a wizard and expect you to accept the wizard claim just because the gravity part is obviously true.

Simply denying that an event considered supernatural occurred simply begs the question of whether or not such an event actually did occur, and you – JT – would still need to explain not only that supernatural occurrence is impossible but also that a perfectly reasonable natural explanation can explain what was observed.

It begs no such question.  Denying a supernatural event occurred begs the question of what evidence you have that science stopped working.  I’m not saying the supernatural is impossible (hell, it’s not wholly impossible that any scientific claim could one day be overturned).  I am saying that there’s no evidence for it, no science to support it, and that all the scientific evidence is against it.  In terms of declaring things false, that’s about as good as it gets.

What you’re doing is essentially like saying it’s not impossible we might one day find out that the Civil War never happened and that all the evidence was fabricated by aliens, so it can’t really be said that the claim “The Civil War never happened” is false.  But it’s clear to any fair-minded observer that until the alien hypothesis guy ponies up some evidence, it’s as false as false can be.  Admitting something is possible is not the same as admitting it’s not false.

You go on to say that the Big Bang should be refuted by the uniformity of background radiation (which you use to show that hypotheses do not need to be falsifiable).  The problem here is your lack of understanding of black-body radiation, not that science doesn’t require hypotheses to be falsifiable.  Again, this is what happens when you get your science from apologist websites and ignore the peer-review scientists in the process.  Scientific hypotheses and theories must be falsifiable.  Really.  This is a basic tenet of science that you do not get to redefine because it’s inconvenient.

And that’s why a claim’s falseness is determined by experiment.  If you calculate that a rock dropped from 10′ will hit the pavement at a particular speed, run the experiment, and find that it hit the pavement at a different speed, your initial claim is ruled scientifically false.  Sure god might have slowed the rock’s descent or some other supernatural event may have occurred, but it doesn’t matter.  Scientifically, the claim is false.

Now imagine your claim is that a grown man walked on water.  This experiment is run every time a grown man goes for a swim, and in every instance the bible’s claim has been proven scientifically false.  You’re the one saying that the experiment misses a particular variable, but you offer no evidence for this variable’s existence (instead, you label it supernatural, a type of thing that cannot be scientifically useful even if it were out there somewhere).  And you have no evidence that your experiment showing a different outcome was ever run.

You say:

It is easy enough to translate and interpret Psalm 104:5 as saying the Earth is stationary.

And then go on to say that since science shows this isn’t true that we should interpret the Psalm to say the earth is not stationary.  Specifically, you say:

Science informs how to interpret the Bible.

Then anything about Jesus rising from the dead should be interpreted as “Jesus did not rise from the dead.”  Everything about Jesus walking on water should be interpreted as “Jesus did not walk on water.”  And all the stuff about a global flood that never happened should be interpreted…I’m not sure.

This is nothing more than a semantic game.  The bible makes explicit claims that are refuted by science.  You cannot rescue them by redefining words.

Your arguments that science was wrong in the past establish very little.  When science has been wrong, what corrected it?  Christianity?  No, it was better science.  Should we keep an open mind and change our positions when the evidence demands?  Of course (and I said so in the very first part of my opening).  But Christianity has clearly not met this standard.  Not even close.

And what’s more, your history is wrong.  The Catholic Church held to the flat earth hypothesis long after scientists knew otherwise (and imprisoned scientists for saying otherwise).  Not that this is relevant.  Even if the Church had accepted every other claim as science confirmed it, it would not make claims of a global flood, or a man walking on water/rising from the dead, or the myriad of scientific blunders in the book of Genesis any more true.

The onus remains on you, John to explain why so many parts of the bible conflict with our scientific understanding.  So far you’ve only attempted to assault science.  It’s clear from your opening that in order to win you need science to be something it’s not.  But if you want to show how the bible isn’t false in scientific terms, you need to be lifting the bible up, not attempting to weaken the standards of science.  Science requires falsifiability, it requires evidence, and the disciplines agree with one another.  You cannot have biology without chemistry, and you cannot have chemistry without physics, and so forth.  So please, let us see the scientific evidence you have for the biblical claims I highlighted in my opening – because right now it appears that all the scientific evidence is going the other way.

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