Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fan Mail: Something Smells Fishy...

Being the ever-popular blogger that I am, I get the occasional email along the lines of "You're going to hell" and "Jesus loves you, but not your homosexual lifestyle," and all sorts of other garbage full of good intentions and sorely lacking on common sense.

I was recently e-accosted earlier this week by with the following statement:
Christians and non-Christians all have the same evidence—the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars—the facts are all the same.

The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions. These are things that are assumed to be true, without being able to prove them. These then become the basis for other conclusions. All reasoning is based on presuppositions (also called axioms). This becomes especially relevant when dealing with past events.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? I mean, here he is, appealing to the natural world without appealing to the bible. You might read the above and think, "Oh, well, that makes sense--tell me more!"

But let's start off on the right foot, shall we? Sadly, a quick Internet search discovered that this was a cut-and-paste job--that is, "person_of_the_lord" isn't even using their own words (unless "person_of_the_lord" is Ken Ham, founder and curator of the fairy tale known as the Creation Museum, which I highly doubt...)

Second, and perhaps more paramount than the illusion that "person" took the time to think about what they were writing, is the basis of the argument itself: that science "start[s] with different presuppositions." Nothing could actually be further from the truth (which is supposed to set you free...)

Science is not a "grab bag." That is, scientists do not run around saying "We must preserve the theory of evolution at all costs!" Evolution (and as stated earlier, all of the sciences of medicine and biology) are built on solid facts, tested and confirmed theories. Indeed, if one were to attend any type of forum on evolution, one would quickly realize that, not only does every single statement made have a high demand of proof, but that the bar for even being considered part of the scientific algorithm is so high that it takes years, decades, even multiple decades before something is accepted as a part of the evolutionary theory! This isn't a matter of "different presuppositions" but a matter of understanding the basics of science as a whole.

All of science is based on observation, experimentation, more observation, and more experimentation. There is no "guess work," in that, nothing is assumed, and nothing is taken for granted. When scientists discuss the Theory of Evolution (or the Theory of Relativity or the Theory of Flight), they are not expressing reservations about its truth.

Now, is all reasoning based on "axioms"? An axiom, by definition, is a fundamental principle widely accepted on its intrinsic merit. And on the surface of this statement, Ken actually says something true! (I'm a little shocked too!) The problem comes in when Ken (and by default, "person_of_the_lord") stops short of using critical reasoning.

Let's say Marge is a starfish. How many legs does Marge have? It would be reasonable to assume that Marge has five legs. Most starfish do. However, we also know that there are starfish with more (and less) legs than five. Hence, while we can reason that Marge has five legs, when we look at all the criteria for starfish and the number of legs they have, we must then ask follow up questions, such as: What kind of starfish is Marge? Is Marge a starfish at all? Does she live in salt water or fresh?

This is sort of how critical reasoning works: Not assuming anything, not taking anything for granted, but taking what we've observed about the world, and how it may apply to the given situation or question, which in this case is: Is Marge a starfish? And why does the number of legs she has matter in the natural world?

Creationist reasoning goes something like this: Marge is a starfish. How many legs does Marge have? Let us consult the bible.

Granted, a starfish may be a silly example, but it nonetheless proves the point, much as does the comic above. Creationism checks "critical" at the door and expects "faith" to fill that void... Unfortunately, all that's left is... A void.

Time magazine recently ran an article on the up-and-not-so-coming movie Expelled, in which Ben Stein pretends to know something about nothing. One thing the article said, which I think needs to be repeated endlessly until it sinks in through all the self-delusion of creationists is as follows:
But all scientific knowledge is built this way. A fishnet is made up of a lot more holes than strings, but you can't therefore argue that the net doesn't exist. Just ask the fish.
Indeed, just ask the fish. Because creationism smells of hoards of them rotting away in the sun, and people just don't want to take notice.

1 comment:

elj377 said...

Hey...go see Ben Steins new might hate it but it would give you a non Ken Ham approach...or another point of view...

Hope your doing okay....