Here is my second rebuttal.
On Lepp’s opening salvo about the burden of proof, his first premise in his argument is “‘Falsifiable’ means ‘can be proven false.’” I showed precisely what I meant in my first rebuttal:
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.
This is how things “can be proven false” in terms of scientific falsifiability and John does nothing to explain why false, by scientific standards, should work any other way. What’s more, science using this process can certainly confirm things (the fact that John uses the internet to post his response that he typed on a computer that could not function without confirmed experiment on electromagnetism establishes this). So in reality, John’s claims are even worse than being scientifically false (in the sense that his predictions don’t match experiment) – in his case they actually conflict with what experiment elsewhere has confirmed about the world. They’re worse than false.
John keeps going back to this idea that the findings of science are false or in conflict (it’s his third premise). He first tried to establish this with the second law of thermodynamics (the very basics of which he misunderstood), and failed. Now, in his rebuttal, he goes back to trying to show this in other ways.
First thing to say is that the scientific disciplines are broad and complex. To navigate them requires a tremendous amount of understanding that laymen simply do not have (most don’t even have the basics, see John’s attempt to use the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). That’s why these matters are decided by the consensus of scientists, rather than by laymen (I consulted a cabal of physicists for much of the information in this post, otherwise some of it would’ve gone over my head, and I’m a fairly well-informed layman – big thank you to Jeff, John, Amanda, Enda, Kevin, and everybody else). If someone argues that science confirms the existence of god to you, they are presenting it to the wrong people. So far such people have failed to convince scientists, and that’s what matters. This is why, in my opening, I said:
And geologically speaking, there was never a global flood. Sure, apologists may be able to cite individual scientists who think there was such a flood, but so far those individuals have failed to convince the consensus of the geologists (on the rare occasion they have even tried). Hence it would do a person no good to try this line of argument as scientific fact is determined by peer review, not by lone persons with credentials but who seem more interested in convincing non-experts.
But this is precisely what John has attempted to do, only with physics rather than geology. Except he’s not even citing lone experts who operate contra to the scientific consensus. John, himself, is making claims that flat out contradict how scientists understand their field and expecting me (and you) to simply accept them.
John insists the Big Bang Theory should have been falsified because the Horizon Problem contradicts it (or that the BBT should be accepted and that contradictions just aren’t that big of a deal in science). You can imagine what shocking news either claim would be to physicists (including Guth). So let’s talk about the Horizon Problem.
As far as the problem goes, it’s a “problem” because vastly separated parts of the universe are the same temperature, even though they (in the Standard Big Bang Model) could not possibly have had enough time to interact. Inflation actually solves this by putting those parts of the universe close together at very early times.
Here are some videos that explain it:
So no, the Big Bang should not be ruled false. Try sending an email to a physicist making this claim and see what you get back. This isn’t to say the BBT is not falsifiable, because it is, just that John’s claim leaves out science that resolves the problem (the problem when you take arguments from websites and not from textbooks/the scientific consensus), and so that claim in particular doesn’t falsify the BBT.
It’s important to know how scientists use words. This is underscored by creationists who think “theory” means a guess when that is not at all how scientists use the word (and reveals the creationist’s ignorance of science). Likewise, when scientists talk about problems, it’s not that science contradicts itself, it’s that the assumptions of the theories are violated (more on that in a moment) or we have incomplete information.
We know that things work differently at a micro vs. macro level (see classical physics vs. quantum mechanics). Scientific methods to deal with a basketball are different than those dealing with subatomic particle interactions. It doesn’t mean they conflict, it’s just a difference of scale – and one we don’t completely understand yet, which makes for apparent “conflicts (which is why Guth worked on this, same with any other physicist).
Many of the “conflicts” in physics occur for the physics of even smaller scales (e.g. planck length). This regime of physics is too small for us to have any good direct data, although it can have implications for things we haven’t yet observed/understood at larger scales (e.g. dark matter, dark energy, unobserved particles, obscure particle interactions, what takes place on the surface of a black hole, what did the earliest moments of the universe look like, etc.). The apparent contradiction is not due to a conflict in the findings of science, as John would have us believe, but rather to our lack of information.
Quantum mechanics and relativity each work very well for things that are well-observed at those appropriate scales, but if you take the default assumptions of these theories and extrapolate into this very very small physics regime, you find that those extrapolations are in conflict. But really, there are a variety of “quantum gravity” theories which reconcile the two fields in different ways and make predictions that haven’t been tested yet. We don’t yet know which of these QG theories are correct, but it is reasonable to suppose that one of them is or something similar is. In principle, there is no conflict, but neither can one say the conflict has been definitively resolved.
And this is the critical difference with John’s analogy. When it comes to conflicts between science and Christianity, it’s not reasonable to assume that the conflict is resolved in ways we don’t know about yet. John hasn’t demonstrated a single plausible mechanism whereby they could be resolved, where QG has plenty. He’s not shown Christianity to provide useful insight into nature (i.e. predictive power) that would put it on equal footing with established science (or nullify Christianity’s offensiveness to established science). Neither does he make any testable predictions for any possible reconciliation between Christianity and science. And most importantly he’s dismissed, without cause, the clear way to resolve the observations of science and those of Christianity – namely that Christianity is based on one of the many outlandish and untrue tales written down in a pre-scientific age.
And why has John done this? What conclusions are we to take away from his complaint that science contradicts itself (even though unknowns don’t actually amount to contradictions the way he’s using the word)? By John’s logic is there any assertion, no matter how ludicrous, no matter how transparently at odds with reality, that can be proven false? I can’t think of one. This is a bit like trying to tear down your opponent’s basket so they can’t score and claiming triumph because you’ve managed a tie game. When you’re trying to slide in claims of talking snakes and global floods, this standard where nothing can ever be called false is particularly useful. But that is simply not the standard of science. This is what I’m talking about when I say that John, unable to pull Christianity up by its bootstraps, continually tries to weaken science so he can say the two aren’t at odds. John needs science to be something it’s not in order for claims of a global flood to not be considered false.
But science does rule things false (Does John honestly believe it doesn’t? Or is this just a line of argument convenient to his conclusion?), and I explained how in my first rebuttal (which John ignored). John can keep throwing out asserted cases where scientific fields lack agreement for me to chase down like some amateur game of scientific whack-a-mole, but it should be obvious at this point that such arguments have failed to convince the consensus of scientists. It’s not up to me to beat down each one, it’s up to him to convince the fields of science to change their minds. Until then, all I need to do is point out that he’s failed to do this, and to reject John’s implicit assertion that he, and not scientists, should get to decide how science works.
John can’t rightly claim that science has nothing to say about contradictions with talking snakes because of apparent contradictions in experimental physics, because the science of talking snakes, rising from the dead, walking on water, global floods, etc. is very well understood. What’s more, these things operate on the same physical level (macro), so they are governed by the same rules – rules that explicitly (and obviously) render them false.
John also said:
Hence, considering science can conflict with itself, it is not at clear of what a conflict with Christianity would necessarily consist.
Which captures the crux of his (new) argument (after he abandoned the supernatural talk from earlier). Science does not have all the answers, and it doesn’t claim to. But it has explained much, and what it has explained at present could not hardly conflict with the truth claims of the bible more.