Monday, June 27, 2011

Subverting Science

I have just published the following comment on Network Norwich and Norfolk: (See here)

As I have already indicated, I do not accept YEC attempts to make a fundamental distinction between sciences which they try to undermine with the quip “You weren’t there” and those present tense continuous sciences like physics. Since all information arrives at our observational door via circuitous routes in space and time the “You weren’t there” quip could be damagingly applied across the board and, if pressed, subvert the whole domain of science and history.

In this connection the following blog post of mine may be of interest:

The above post links to a post on atheist PZ Myers’ blog where he criticizes to the “You weren’t there” philosophy. The exact circumstances involve Myers criticizing an eleven year old girl who had been taught to parrot this quip by YEC ministries. Myers writes a gentle open letter to the eleven year old.

Myers letter is in my opinion very reasonable; he completely understands that the “You weren’t there” philosophy undermines not just the historical sciences, but the whole of science. (In fact ultimately it even undermines the Bible) PZ Myers is basically assuming the world to be rational and coherent and it is on the basis of that assumption that “You weren’t there” nihilism is prevented from frustrating all science. Where I would disagree with Myers is that the coherent ontology that permits science to prosper is taken for granted by him as axiomatic; for him the highly coordinated patterns of a rational cosmos are just descriptive brute facts of nature; end of story. However, I would want to push the boat out further and suggest that the coherent patterning in nature is not just descriptive but prescriptive, with all the connotations of a guiding a-priori complex intelligence that the term “prescriptive” entails (i.e. God)

My main reason for bringing this up is that in spite of disagreeing with Myers on ultimate origins I’m entirely at one with him on the assumption of the intelligibility of our world, an intelligibility that is undermined by a thoroughgoing application of “You weren’t there” nihilism. Hence I support Myers’ stand against implicit YEC nihilism. What I would like to point out is that in spite of Myers reasonable and gentle open letter to an eleven year old the YEC response to Myers was all but hysterical, triggering off a frenzy of spiritual recrimination. He was accused of all sorts of heinous sins such as “viciously attacking a little girl”, and being “an instrument of Satan” amongst other self righteous fulminations.

Although I differ with Myers’ on many things, in this instance I believe he has been unfairly treated by those who profess to be Christians. My own opinion is that those professing Christians should apologize to Myers for their treatment of him. This, I suppose, is too much to ask, but the least they could do is engage dispassionately with his perfectly reasonable argument rather than unfairly assassinating his character.

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