Debate (Do the findings of science entail that Christianity is false?): John Lepp’s first rebuttal.

Debate (Do the findings of science entail that Christianity is false?): John Lepp’s first rebuttal. December 1, 2014

Here is John Lepp’s first rebuttal.

My opening.
John’s opening.
My first rebuttal

Let’s go over some basics on who has the burden of proof:  The debate topic is “Do the findings of science entail that Christianity is false?”  Whoever is making an assertion of fact has the burden of proof.  The assertion is “Science refutes Christianity.”   You don’t have to be Christian to reject that assertion.   It is logically possible for Atheists, scientists, Muslims, Wiccans, Star Trek fans, whoever, to also reject that assertion.  We had agreed on the debate topic.  JT had agreed to argue to argue the positive, for the assertion.  The burden of proof in a debate falls on the person arguing the positive position.  Hence, so long as we both agreed to this debate, JT has the burden of proof.

Unless the burden of proof can somehow be shifted to me, I can accept all of JT’s criticisms of my argument (although I do not) and he could still lose the debate so long as he fails to prove that the findings of Science entails that Christianity is false.  JT, perhaps upon realizing that he has the burden of proof, sets up his opening argument so that any passage that disagrees with the findings of science would be ipso facto false.  As JT concluded “So in order to win the debate, John must establish how a person walking on water or returning to life after three days of being dead are scientifically possible.”  By “scientifically possible” JT means it is not in conflict with the findings of science and it is falsifiable by the findings of science.

Now let me show you why JT’s argument does not work.  It is logically impossible to accept JT’s criteria for “false” while also accepting JT’s characterization of science as falsifiable.  JT  writes “And if ‘false” is going to have any meaningful usage, I’d argue that ‘in conflict with the findings of science’ is just about the best criteria we can imagine.”  That quote from JT provides the lynchpin in JT’s argument.  Without its acceptance, the logical basis for denying the supernatural would be lacking.  JT also says “Science requires falsifiability,…” The problem for JT is that he cannot hold that scientific theories and scientific hypotheses  are falsifiable at the same as  he using that criteria.  See following:

JT says “What’s more, in science even a hypothesis must be falsifiable.”


1) ‘Falsifiable’ means ‘can be proven false.’

and by JT’s criteria

2) ‘false’ means “in conflict with the findings of science”


3) ‘”The findings of science” are false’

would equal, by the law of substitution,

4) ‘”The findings of science” are in conflict with the findings of science.’

That, of course, is self-contradictory.  Which means

5) ””The findings of science” are in conflict with the findings of science.” is false.

But likewise, by the law of substitution for the initial premise, step 1, and step 2, it would follow

6)  In science even a scientific hypothesis must be able to be in conflict with the findings of science.

Which is fine if you are OK with requiring, as would follow from step 5, science to be false.   Otherwise

7) “In science even a scientific hypothesis must be able to be in conflict with the findings of science.” is false.

Therefore, by reductio de absurdem,

8) By JT’s criteria for “false”, and the demarcation that JT makes between scientific hypotheses and non-scientific hypotheses (namely that scientific hypotheses are falsifiable, and non-scientific hypotheses are not), JT’s argument is self-contradictory.

And when are the findings of science actually false? Whenever the findings of science disagree with reality.  Feel free to examine, say, the evidence for Phlogiston theory, or the discovery of Vulcan, or many other instances, for examples of where scientific findings disagreed with reality. Some statement disagreeing with science is not equivalent to some statement disagreeing with reality.  Hence JT’s argument is false.  It is necessarily, logically, false.  Hence JT has failed to show that science refutes Christianity in any sense, for JT’s argument is false in every sense. Q.E.D.

What if JT were to abandon his criteria for falsehood?    His argument would fail.  JT, rightfully, recognized that in order for the findings of science refuting Christianity, the findings of Science would have to establish the truth and the only physically possible result.  Allowing for exception outside the laws of science would make it impossible for science alone to refute, for an appeal to the exceptional case is possible.

What if JT were to abandon his contention that science is falsifiable? Again, his argument would fail.  JT, rightfully, recognized that he needed to supply a criteria that would separate body of scientific statements from the body of theological Christian statements.  What semantic property separates Science from Religion?  JT is using “falsifiability” as such a criterion (perhaps so that he can also take a stab at using Bertrand Russell’s “flying tea-pot” argument in an attempt to shift the burden of proof on to me – but I digress.)  Were JT to abandon falsifiability, he would effectively be abandoning his demarcation of scientific statements from the claims of Christianity.

JT’s argument is damned if he abandons his criterion of “false” or the characterization of Science as falsifiable, and his argument is damned if he does not.

Now with JT’s argument proven to be self-contradictory, the debate can be concluded.  Even were any of the problems cited earlier in my opening accepted, JT will have failed to prove his position.   That JT’s argument has also been shown to be self-contradictory sufficiently proves that he, JT, has not showed that the findings of Science has refuted Christianity since self-contradictory arguments cannot refute any proposition.

So JT has to now show two things for his position to survive:

1)      “Science does NOT refute Christianity” is an assertion.  If he can show that, I will have the burden of proof.

2)      His opening argument is not self-contradictory.

I wish him luck with that.  In the meantime, let me clarify a few misunderstandings.

I should apologize for my convoluted attempt at using Schrodinger’s dilemma (from “What is Life?”) to demonstrate conflict between the Natural Sciences.  I thought that by bringing up the dilemma (which was subsequently resolved by limiting the scope of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) I could show how the Sciences are not unified and the laws of Science only cover so much.  As I said before, “I’m just showing that scientific laws only cover so much, and just because there is apparent conflict does not mean there is a refutation.”   All that said, my use of Schrodinger’s 2nd Law of Thermodynamics “dilemma” was not clear.

Perhaps I should have mentioned other conflicts, where the resolution isn’t as well known.  Let me give you a different conflict to consider.  According to the General Theory of Relativity, a singularity has a 0 radius.  It would follow from the Uncertainty Principle that a singularity would have a radius 10-73m. (Before you bring up that this conflict has been resolved by the theory of Quantum Gravity, hold your horses.  Quantum Gravity is still being worked on, and considered highly theoretical.  It has not been verified, falsified, corroborated, or anything.)  Simply put, at least part of the way science progresses is by having conflicts between laws and various theories.

Science, itself, is not unified and there can be accepted scientific laws and theories which conflict with other accepted scientific theories.  Hence, considering science can conflict with itself, it is not at clear of what a conflict with Christianity would necessarily consist.  Now if JT were to accept all this, he could resolve the self-contradiction of his main argument.  He would simply accept step 4 in that chain of reasoning and the self-contradiction in his argument would be avoided.   But such a resolution would come at a cost to showing that science refutes Christianity.  So long as science conflicts with itself, so long as science changes, so long as science cannot settle on a truth, science would not be in a position to refute Christianity.

The thing is, JT, your dream of a unified science has flavored your view on the history of science.  You, JT say, “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).“   For starters – I was talking about the hypothesis that the Earth is stationary, not flat.  Admittedly it took the Catholic Church a little while until they accepted the legitimacy of Galileo’s findings.  But let’s not pretend that the world of Western Science instantly accepted Galileo’s findings.  It didn’t.

There were three schools of astronomy: Ptolemaic (Aristotelian), Copernican and Tychonic.   In Ptolemy’s  system and Tycho Brahe’s system, the Earth is stationary.  In Copernicus’s system, the Earth rotates.  Take note, the Catholic Church did not imprison Nicolaus Copernicus.  You should also note, most scientists were not (unlike Galileo Gallilei)  supporters of the Copernican system.

Galileo presented evidence for the Earth’s motion and Copernicus’s system.  Still, JT, Galileo’s evidence for his hypothesis was weak when he presented his argument for the Earth’s rotation in 1610.  Galileo’s evidence was only made conclusive nearly 100 years later upon the publication of Newton’s Opticks in 1704.

Galileo compiled his evidence for Earth’s motion using the then recently invented telescope.   The thing is, the science to verify the legitimacy of  telescopic data was lacking.  As secular Historian of Science Paul Feyerabend, in his classic  Against Method: “His [Galileo’s] telescope gave surprising results on the earth, and these results were duly praised. Trouble promptly arose: the telescope produced spurious and contradictory phenomena and some of its results could be refuted by a simple look with the unaided eye.”  Without Newton’s theory of Optics, which could explain magnification, accepting Galileo’s evidence for the Earth’s motion was an act of faith.

Now onto my getting Science from Christian websites.  Ha Ha.  Very funny.  You might dislike my citing the isotropy problem (aka the horizon problem) as a legitimate problem for the “big bang” scenario, but it is.   Here, look at it yourself:  If it’s not a difficulty, why would Alan Guth waste his energy trying to solve it?    If it is a difficulty, what makes it not a falsifiable instance?  The uniformity of background radiation is contrary to the expected result.   JT – please explain the difference between such unexpected problems and falsifying instances.  If you can’t, and you have not so far, then your criterion establishes the uniformity of background radiation as a falsifying instance for a big bang scenario.

I request, though, that you first resolve the self-contradiction contained in your opening argument before telling me why your demanding “falsifiability” in science would not entail that the big bang hypothesis has been falsified.











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