Saturday, February 20, 2010

The position nobody takes

In the creation-evolution controversy, there are many positions available. One I never hear goes like this:

The Bible teaches that God created the world in six literal days, about 6000 years ago. Science teaches the theory of evolution. Scientists are using the scientific method as best they can, but for this, science is just wrong. The Bible is God's word, and therefore science is in error.

The closest I have ever seen to this has been Gosse's theory that God created the world with fossils already in the ground, to fool the scientists into believing that evolution is true.

"He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness." I Cor 3:19.

16 comments:

Stephen S. said...

The reason is because even the creationists bow before the almighty throne of science.

They (creationists) implicitly espouse a strange sort of scientism.

DeanAZ said...

If you assume a 6 day X 24 hour creation it also brings up some other interesting topics;
-Did God only create seeds which grew into trees or did the first tree cut down to make some furniture have wood grain (growth rings)?
-What would those seeds have grown in if there was no topsoil, made from dead and decomposed organic material?
-In the first forest was there any detritus decomposing into fertile soil or was there just plain dirt at the base of the trees?
-Did Adam have a belly button?

Mark said...

Christian Presuppositionalists hew fairly closely to this line, I've found: "The Bible is the only available foundation for our belief system, so any methodology inconsistent with the Bible may be safely rejected." I'm not sure how many Presuppositionalists think that science independently supports OEC, but they all agree that were it to be conclusively established that science and religion conflict, religion would win.

I've also heard of Muslim thinkers who object to scientific arguments for Islam on the grounds that it renders Islamic knowledge subordinate to science. Taner Edis, IIRC, briefly spoke about them in one of his talks or interviews.

I should also remark that I find this sort of uncompromising dogmatism absolutely terrifying.

Bilbo said...

Perhaps I don't understand. Young Earth Creationists say science is just wrong all the time.

Anonymous said...

The uncompromising dogmatism of not wanting one or another faith to be subordinate to science pales compared to the uncompromising dogmatism of demanding all things be subordinate to science. Especially when "science" ends up being misread Animal Farm style to support what looks suspiciously close to "whatever they wanted it to support to begin with".

Give me the people knowingly rejecting science over the people who constantly abuse it and either don't realize they're doing so, or won't admit it.

reborn1995 said...

i'd say that comes fairly close to representing my personal views. But i'd also consider myself close to if not within the camp of presuppositionalists mentioned by Mark.

Mark said...

The uncompromising dogmatism of not wanting one or another faith to be subordinate to science pales compared to the uncompromising dogmatism of demanding all things be subordinate to science.

Sorry, but this sounds like the sort of embittered and ultimately non-sensical tu quoque that I often hear from some frustrated theists. You don't like hearing your side described as dogmatic, so you immediately accuse the other side of dogmatism whether this makes any sense or not. No one is demanding that all things be subordinate to science (whatever that's even supposed to mean; we often decide science is wrong about things and revise it accordingly). What is being recommended is that we not arbitrarily exempt religious belief from the same sort of critical scrutiny we expect of virtually all other kinds of belief. Maybe you can provide good philosophical reasons for so exempting religious belief, but characterizing a plea for intellectual consistency as dogmatic is obviously absurd.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but this sounds like the sort of embittered and ultimately non-sensical tu quoque that I often hear from some frustrated theists.

And this sounds like typical defensive blather from a skeptic spooked that the wrong sort of critics may have a point. No "sorry" from me, it's fun to point out.

What is being recommended is that we not arbitrarily exempt religious belief from the same sort of critical scrutiny we expect of virtually all other kinds of belief.

No, that isn't what you recommended. You made some wussy, dramatic claim about being "absolutely terrified" at the prospect of some religious people suggesting that their faith is not subordinate to "science". I pointed out that religious people aren't the only dogmatists, that some people natter on about the primacy of science (not some vague 'critical scrutiny'), and further pointed out that what is or isn't a "scientific" way of thinking about a subject has a habit of being curiously manipulated.

If you want to argue that dogmatic scientism is the stuff of make-believe, or that "science" is not and has not been wildly abused in the past, go right ahead. I'd laugh, but the joke's been played out here too many times.

Maybe you can provide good philosophical reasons for so exempting religious belief, but characterizing a plea for intellectual consistency as dogmatic is obviously absurd.

I'm not exempting religious belief from some vague "scrutiny". That you have to butcher and rephrase what was written here to this extent speaks for itself.

Mark said...

No, that isn't what you recommended. You made some wussy, dramatic claim about being "absolutely terrified" at the prospect of some religious people suggesting that their faith is not subordinate to "science".

Indeed, I find it very frightening that some believers are willing to set their politically consequential (and in many cases I would argue morally monstrous) religious beliefs aside and declare them non-negotiable. That is, in many non-believers' eyes at least, dogmatic. But clearly this isn't to say that I think our scientific beliefs should be non-negotiable instead. There are circumstances under which one should decide that science and scientists have it all wrong, and pretty much everyone agrees on this (contra "everything is subordinate to science"). Rather, it's to say that no beliefs should be non-negotiable, and we should try to evaluate them all in some uniformly negotiable way. And in practice, this will usually involve deferring to the consensus of scientific experts over our culturally-fueled private convictions (religious or otherwise).

I pointed out that religious people aren't the only dogmatists

And I didn't dispute that; that portion of your tangential raving was quite correct. There are people who are dogmatic about various scientific findings, or about what they take those findings to represent. For instance, I find many defenders of eliminative materialism to be highly dogmatic in their approach. But I'm afraid even an eliminative materialist wouldn't be dogmatic to ask you not to hermetically seal off an arbitrary slice of your belief system from any potential scientific evidence whatsoever (as, e.g., Presuppositionalists say we ought to do).

I'm not exempting religious belief from some vague "scrutiny". That you have to butcher and rephrase what was written here to this extent speaks for itself.

Oh, replace "critical scrutinty" with "otherwise uncontroversial empirically-based epistemic defeaters" if you must. It doesn't seem like it's going to do one of your belligerence much good.

natamllc said...

Well, the question to raise against or for the proposition proposed: "The position nobody takes" is, if nobody takes the position, does the position exist at all seeing nobody takes the position?

Or, maybe, "How can one take a position nobody takes"? "Is it because it does not exist so its position can be taken"?


At what point does the position that nobody takes take its position that nobody takes and it then ends up in the nobody takes that position file?

Is it when you took the position that nobody takes?

If that is true then somebody took the position that nobody takes however much or little it was taken so it could be taken and placed in that file, "the position nobody takes".

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic,

I know two HIGH PROFILE young-earth creationists who take the view you say "nobody takes."

Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute takes the position that any God who could raise Jesus from the dead could also create the cosmos in six literal days 6,000 years ago. He said so in Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Zondervan 1999). He doesn't doubt young-earth creationism at all. Of course his uncle wrote The Deluge Story in Stone, so he's a YEC legacy.

Kurt Wise, Ph.D. Harvard in paleontology, is another case in point. He says the reason he's a YEC is because he stuggled over the data, but one day took scissors to his Bible and cut out every passage on creation, and found the Bible literally did not hold together, and he says THAT'S the reason he's a convinced YEC. I'm not joking. He's said this more than once in interviews. I don't know if he was also raised YEC like Nelson.

Edward T. Babinski said...

By the way, Gosse's son wrote a classic book about his coming out of that kind of hard Evangelical belief system of his father. The book was very popular in the Victorian era since so many Victorians likewise came out of that kind belief system.

THE BOOK WAS TITLED

FATHER AND SON

Anonymous said...

Rather, it's to say that no beliefs should be non-negotiable, and we should try to evaluate them all in some uniformly negotiable way.

Shall we start with this one?

Mark said...

Shall we start with this one?

Yes, do your worst.

Anonymous said...

It's obviously false. The belief that my senses give an accurate representation of the outside world, for instance, is non-negotiable. In fact, there is absolutely no way for me to even investigate it. Similarly with the belief that I am conscious, that I have a will of some kind, that I am alive... Just existing in the world requires me to believe these things, so why would I even waste time considering whether or not they are true?

A more accurate statement would be that controversial beliefs should not be non-negotiable.

Mark said...

It's obviously false. The belief that my senses give an accurate representation of the outside world, for instance, is non-negotiable.

Really? You don't think your senses could ever provide you with a defeater for the reliability of your senses?

Similarly with the belief that I am conscious, that I have a will of some kind, that I am alive... Just existing in the world requires me to believe these things, so why would I even waste time considering whether or not they are true?

You wouldn't. You presumably couldn't have a sense-based defeater for your belief in your own existence, etc., in virtue of the fact that you know your existence is necessarily entailed by your sensing anything. But empirical beliefs, e.g., that the world was created 6000 years ago, aren't like this. Why should we abandon our usual epistemic methodology in order to accommodate belief in the Earth's youth? Presuppositionalists in the vein of Van Til at least have an answer to this question.