Posts Tagged With: science

Do You Have to be a Scientist to Understand?

Molecular biologist Douglas Axe, whose credentials include U.C. Berkeley, Caltech and Cambridge, has written quite the clarion call for us to return to sound science in Undeniable. As the subtitle How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed indicates, a central focus is the debate on the successes, or failures, of Darwinian biology to explain life as we know it. Indeed, Axe brings some detailed and technical science to bear on this topic, but he is using that discussion to explain how science is not unreachable or unknowable by the masses. We need not blindly follow experts or celebrity scientists unquestionably. To do this, we first must rid ourselves of flawed views of science.

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Detecting Nonsense

In 1988, Stephen Hawking’s runaway bestseller A Brief History of Time made history in making astrophysics accessible to everyone. Relativity, black holes and multi-dimensional physics were no longer some ivory tower subject. He would follow the book up with others, but none had the same effect. Then came the The Grand Design in 2010 which claimed science had banished God. In the process, the eminent scientist apparently left the world of science and entered scientism. Oxford mathematician John C. Lennox details this fall in God and Stephen Hawking.

Hawking begins his argument by claiming philosophy is dead and suggesting science is the root of all knowledge – itself a philosophical statement. Other scientists before him – like Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins – have also fallen into this trap. So enamored by the promise and power and science, they have made it a religion. Ironic for professing atheists. Nevertheless, Hawking also seems now very willing to abandon science.

Lennox goes into much more detail, but Hawking contradicts himself in “asserting that the universe is created from nothing and from something – not a very promising start.” Then he says the universe creates itself. Then gravity somehow explains the universe’s existence as if it was a Creator. Lennox concludes, “…the main conclusion of the book turns out not simply to be a self-contradiction…but to be a triple self-contradiction.”

It appears that Hawking, so bent to justify his belief in no God, has abandoned his previously astute scientific understanding no matter how ridiculous. His “science” and reasoning in this latest book has been criticized by many. To be fair, this scientism of his and other scientist “celebrities” like him, has been challenged by even those who share his beliefs on God. All belief systems have those who tumble into irrationality. And as Lennox writes, “What this all goes to show is that nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.”

So what’s the point? We shouldn’t be taking claims from “authorities” blindly. In today’s 24/7 news cycle especially, where sound bites take the place of true discussion, we need not be quick to nod our heads in agreement. Whether scientists, politicians or “experts,” we need to think, reason and test. Even authorities err, experts disagree and much ado can be made about nothing. Hawking’s earlier books are still some of the best. But this one? It’s a shame that Hawking has abandoned the science he once championed, but it serves as a lesson for all of us.

Nonsense is constantly trying to overwhelm us, but we don’t have to let it win.

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Reclaiming Science: Stop the Abuse

We often equate science with facts and laws of nature, therefore we tend to hold writings couched in scientific lingo in high regard. To a fault we have become too trusting and forget that people write or say these things and people have agendas (purposefully or not). Yes, this is going to be one of those critical thinking posts (I know, it doesn’t quite fit with the theme of the site anymore, but I still occasionally touch on these topics).

Not that the abuse of science is anything new, but it seems to me like it’s becoming more prevalent. With technology so pervasive, we think we know science and trust anything that sounds vaguely like it. That can be a mistake. Take this article on “Finding Israel’s First Camels.” Innocent sounding enough, isn’t it? But very quickly we see an agenda materialize when we read, “Their findings further emphasize the disagreements between Biblical texts and verifiable history.” So is this on an archaeological find or a theological debate?

Reading further we don’t really learn about claimed “disagreements” other than, “archaeologists have shown that camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.” This is quite the statement and one would expect serious proof, yet the authors of this report don’t do this. The careful reader will note that they base their claim on the assumption that they have found the oldest camel remains.

The rational reader then will ask, “How could they possibly know they have found the oldest remains?” Well, they cannot, but these finds support their particular view of the Bible, so why bother with logic? Amazingly, this article actually waves a couple of red flags on its own:

“In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later…The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels…the origin of the domesticated camel is probably the Arabian Peninsula…In fact, Dr. Ben-Yosef and Dr. Sapir-Hen say the first domesticated camels ever to leave the Arabian Peninsula may now be buried in the Aravah Valley. [emphasis added]”

Almost? Probably? May? And so they did find “earlier” remains that are “probably” wild?

Wow. This is the “science” that leads to the proclamation that “the Bible’s historicity” is challenged?

I don’t think the Bible has much to worry about here (and others have pointed out that the researchers above have ignored other research outside of Israel). My goal here isn’t to start a fight between “believers” and “non-believers,” but to show that conclusions couched in science or coming from scientists doesn’t mean we should not test their claims. Often, as with this example, it is not that hard. Another recent example was the recent Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham spectacle, portrayed as some great intellectual moment between science and religion.

It was more between two people who promote the “science and religion” aren’t compatible myth, albeit from different ends of the spectrum. One thinks science can’t see into the past (Ham), the other thinks science too dumb to detect design (Nye). Funny, I look at the Sun and see it as it was eight minutes ago and archaeology and forensics detect design every day.

These are the best we have to debate serious issues? They are not, but serious doesn’t sell.

We should be concerned that science and theology are so easily hijacked. Those who are well-schooled in the issues often don’t want to jump into the fray, they have better things to do. We cannot, however, give up on science, critical thinking and flushing out those who abuse these things and other higher fields of learning such as theology. We’ve let the few, the entertaining, and the media take over our learning for far too long.

Pope John Paul II said it best with, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”

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More than Flesh

Since the dawn of man, there have been pervasive whispers of the beyond. Much more than vague imagination, it has been innate to our existence and nearly all of our belief systems. In our enlightened age it is common to hear that this has all been in our heads. No next life. No heaven. No souls. Such things are unscientific and have been explained away. But have they?

Not quite.

No matter how skeptics have tried to disprove what they see as remnants of superstition, science has bit back. Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard marshals and impressive array of this evidence in Brain Wars and The Spiritual Brain that the mind and the physical brain and entirely two different things.

In other words, a nonphysical essence of us exists. A soul.

While Beauregard doesn’t delve into analyzing what religions say on the matter, he does show how weak the critics’ attempts to demote us to nothing but flesh. The point? Too often people take as gospel whatever the day’s headlines or the current special on the Discovery Channel proclaim as truth. Sometimes we are a bit too trusting in what “authorities” (or those who have proclaimed themselves such) tell us. Not that the majority of the world has given up their “superstition” at any rate.

Science has declared they don’t have to.

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