Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The problem of knowledge through science and religion

I love being an online harpie, ploughing the rough dirt of these them tubes so it can later squirt new life. And my honest self proclaims ideas and thoughts about how to better harvest that which will be beneficial to all. I'm of simple farming stock, you see, like pretty much the most of us, thinking hard about how to get the best yield, and one of the best means of doing so I have found to be engaging with people at the other end of whatever opinion spectrum I find myself on. I am a feminist, so I go talk to misogynists. I am a rationalist, so I go talking with irrational people. I am a misnomer tribulationists, so I go discuss existentialism with sarang optimetriloquists. It's a good thing to pursue your opposites if you are honest about your thirst for knowledge; fresh opinions you may not automatically agree with always makes you re-examine your own. This process is gold.

However, every once in as I engage in online discussions, mostly by commenting on blog posts (because it's cheap and fast) my feeble prose lead to bigger and bigger discussions that in the end undermines the argument and the discussion itself by its very nature. Some times the medium simply needs to change. This time I am a naturalist atheist, so I go discuss with Cory at Joshia Concept Ministries, a theologically inclined Christian of Calvinist leanings. The size and complexity of that online blog post discussion has become too big for the inner peace of comment-systems. No, of course I could ignore it and moved on, but it was about especially a two-step topic near and dear to me;

  • How do you know?

Yes, how do you know what you know? Or even, why do you know? How did you get the knowledge? How did you keep it? What's stopping you from losing it? That's step one. Second step is;

  • How do you know that your knowledge is true?

Indeed. Not surprisingly, as a huge science buff and hobbyist historian / occult philosopher of such, I can't begin to list the thousands and thousands of years of trying (and often failing) to create knowledge that can be separated from hear-say, opinion and outright lying. Knowledge is a dangerous sea of deception where just because you call it knowledge you think it is true. You won't believe just how hard it has been to get bias out of the domain of knowledge, bias you often don't even think is there to distort the truth aspect of it. Thousands of years have passed just to get society at large to even dare question bias and authority in nuggets of knowledge, there's just tons of general knowledge that simply isn't true. Not true by virtue of people actively lying, most of the time, but by how hard it is to just get rid of the stuff, to understand that anecdotal evidence is not evidence, that that story you heard is probably not true even if your grandma told it, and that even if we'd like there to be an Area 51 conspiracy involving aliens doesn't mean there is one. It's toxic. It infects everything around us.

One of the more pertinent concepts of it is that crummy word Epistemology. (Don't worry; you follow the link, I'll wait here until you get back) Lots of concepts enters into this subject, from Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to pragmatic vs. formal version of what is Truth, mathematics and different orders of logic, basic tenants of philosophy and the state of mind, group think, cultural context and psychology, and possibly various notions of neuroscience and the distinctions (yes, plural) between consciousness and cognitive operations. I could go on, but let's keep it reasonably simple with our two questions above while we dig into the meat of the actual discussion. I'm only here replying to Cory's last reply which hopefully will bring enough context (and if not, go and read the whole thing linked above. Again, I'll wait here for you). Let's also create some color: I am green, Cory is blue ;
My tone and venom are generally proportionate to the intelligence level of the argument. I re-read my post, however, and failed to see any venom or scathing tone in the post itself [...]. If the argument is dumb, then I can get a bit mean [...]. 
All of this is subjective, of course, and not humbling in the least. However, tone and venom is normally not something I disapprove of, in fact I can be quite the filth-bucket myself if I feel proficiently self-justified and self-righteous enough about something. I love a good rant, too, often when directed at people I find stupid or misguided. However, I require one thing for it to be the Right Thing [TM] in my book;

A large degree of truth.

It's more than fine to lampoon and make fun of people's opinions except when you do it without any real meat to it, without a certain degree of accepted truth (even if controversial). Racial or misogynist slurs are easy examples of such, and comedians know how to utilize this well. It may indeed be funny, at least for some, but there's a cut-off point where funny becomes unfunny, where the joke you told isn't so much a joke as it is a revealing truth about you that, in fact, might sit a bit uncomfortable with your audience.

So in our context, I thought Cory wanted to engage in intelligent discourse about the topic of knowledge. He even included words like epistemology, and went on a big spiel about methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism, which are big words in almost any normal conversation, and for me no more than an invitation to talk about these things a bit deeper. Cory is a Christian claiming to have knowledge about these things, and I always find it interesting to hear what people of such a label has to say, I perk up and listen, especially considering the epistemological weak ground I find they base their whole world model on (more on that underneath, of course).

However, claiming people have a huge amount of ignorance about something (not once, but several times), calling them out, requires that your comeback or argument has serious meat to its bone. But when it doesn't, when it isn't obvious you yourself have the required deep knowledge of the subject at hand, well, the message comes across as snarky, mean and, well, venomous. 

You write that someone is ignorant about methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism and some split down the middle, creating two camps in which you place constraints on the original statement so that they fit with your argument. It's like William Craig Lane when he is refusing to argue against a combatant's argument on the grounds that it is epistemological, he will only address the ontological ones, even when it doesn't matter which way you define certain arguments. In other words, an artificial split has been inserted into an argument so that it becomes easier to refute or dismiss it, even if it was asked for by the other side and still a good argument. Let's keep that in mind while we look at the original statement you criticized ;
Evolution, Physics, Astronomy,etc. describe reality as it is, but do take some effort to learn – theists just want quick answers: god
And the meat of your post is this ;
Monica fails to make two important distinctions
No, no she doesn't. She doesn't have to define anything to make her statement. There's nothing wrong about it as it stands, no philosophical legs broken, no need for an analytic breakdown of its various semantic parts required, no breach of empiric context, no violation of general knowledge. You may argue about the validity of "quick answers" (I know people who went for years to seminary, and those years were far from easy, and that would have been a far better reply), but you don't (at least not here; there's a possible jab at it later). What happens here is that you're reacting to something and so demand that she makes some distinction (which may or may not only be only your own requirement, not the rest of the world) in order for you to accept it. And that is very, very different from your bold assertion which we'll look at next ;
The first distinction is between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism. This is a mistake most atheists make.
No, this is a mistake theologians require of others, nothing more. In the field of natural philosophy (the original name for science, or Naturalism, if you prefer) you will find many, many different definitions, constraints and opposing views of what goes into or should stay outside that bucket we call Science. Let's make a few simplifications for us to follow ;
Methodological naturalism is a way of acquiring knowledge, or the scientific process, if you like, where observation, testing and evidence loops as a means of epistemic statements approaching some sense of Truth.
Metaphysical naturalism is the notion that there's nothing more than nature, that all states of consciousness and being are reducible to natural phenomena.
I don't think many dispute methodological naturalism as a brilliant means of getting to the truth of things. The amount of joint success and prosperity it has brought to the human context is beyond any alternative ever ventured, and I think you'd be quite foolish to claim otherwise (that's not an accusation), and I think most Christians (bar the Creationists and overly literally religious) are happy with this part.

However, it's the second one that is problematic. The theist will always argue it being false, while an atheist will always argue it true. You cannot claim it a mistake atheists do; it is in fact the very thing for atheists to do, it is the definition of what it means to be atheist. Unless you have evidence that shows it to be false, you're just projecting your own wishes unto a definition that doesn't include your opinion, and that's exactly what you're doing. The definition of metaphysical naturalism do not stand in the way of the original tweet message and an acceptable notion of truth; only your opinion does. 

But let's dig further. Next you brush against the point I was making at the top; you're not really caring too much about the distinctions you feel she needs to make;
The tweet is ignorant because theists are not lazy and we do not just punt everything we don’t know to God. We simply leave God as a possible explanation for things, especially things that appear to have no naturalistic explanation.
I could go on for days about the fallacies with that short statement, but I'll make it as short as I can. The main hint lies in this part; "We simply leave God as a possible explanation for things", which, when you look at it should makes us ask a couple of questions ;

1. Simply? I would say whether a person believes in God or not totally and utterly changes that person's life and of those around them, and it certainly changes the mode of thinking. These are not simple things. I understand that's not what you meant (certainly not completely) but you don't simply think God is a possible, you assert that your god is responsible. And here's the clincher; In the presence of alternative explanations, to discard the pragmatic or natural explanations require you to provide some pretty good reasons and / or evidence to the opposite, and to do that is not simple.

2. "we do not just punt everything we don’t know to God". Yes, yes you do. Anything that you don't understand (and this includes swaths of what theology itself comes up with), anything that seems to need or have a divine answer, you attribute to God, usually in mysterious ways. Not sure why you want to claim otherwise, as most of your posts do exactly this; invoke God in the holes of your knowledge. Don't fully understand why your god had to sacrifice himself to himself without it being a true sacrifice? There's god staring back at us. Not sure about the meaning of the trinity? Let theology fill the gaps with god. I'm sure your argument here is that theology isn't worthless, that it provides some degree of epistemics into the dogma of your choice, but I'm inclined to point to 2000 years of historical Christian doctrine as a counter-example of how Augustine still today is perhaps the most important Christian escapologist throughout time and the 38.000 denominations that has come through it (although, to be fair, it's not always through Augustine, but I dare say half of those denominations are directly linked to his thinking).
The universe itself, life, consciousness, and intelligence. None of these things have natural explanations, or has science finally explained how I can create an original thought and I missed the memo?
What, exactly, do you mean by a natural explanation? All of these things have natural explanations (that is, rooted in naturalism or natural philosophy) with tons of epistemic knowledge to back it up that reaches far, far beyond anything any religion would ever hope to come up with. What is your measuring stick? I'm starting to suspect that your 'natural explanation' isn't how scientists would use the term (or normal people, come to that), and we have perhaps more a problem of language than we have of evidence or explanations.
What science can ever explain how I can just construct a story?
I'm puzzled by this assertion. Neuroscience, of course, the science of how the brain works. Very interesting field which I follow very, very closely. (It's no accident that some of the most high profile atheist have degrees in or around neuroscience, like Sam Harris and Michael Shermer of experimental psychology, or PZ Myers as an extension to embryology and brain development)

I suspect (but feel free to correct me) that what you mean is some level of explanation that we simply do not yet have, like the edge of current scientific knowledge where complexity of the brain reaches outside of what we currently are able to figure out. Note, however, that I do not accept God of the gaps, the notion that our holes in our knowledge can be filled with god; it has been proven over and over throughout time to be simply wrong. Why is it that every time science reach a limit (of understanding, of instrument, of observation, whatever) the religious are fast to shout "God!"? I kinda understand that you don't agree with God of the gaps either, but when we really scrutinize theology, what apart from God of the gaps is there on any important religious doctrine?
I don’t see how there could ever be a scientific explanation for Stephen King having a flash of inspiration, working with it, and then churning out Carrie, or The Dark Half, or the story collection Four Past Midnight.
Is this assertion based on your knowledge of neuroscience, or the lack of it? In other words, could it be that you "don't see how something can be" some way simply by virtue that you don't understand it? The opposite end require that you have deep knowledge about the subject before you can reject its premise.
The point of my entire rant is that the metaphysical naturalist precludes even asking the question “why” by eliminating the supernatural on a mere definition rather than investigating it.
Okay, so we're finally coming to the meat of it; the never-ending why vs. how question. However, there's some glaring problems with this notion which we'll soon see, but first we're heading back into knowledge land;
As to your second point, I am not attacking anything imaginary. These distinction most certainly exist. It is you, the metaphysical naturalist, who doesn’t want them to exist. As hard as you fight to rid even the possibility of anything supernatural existing, it is clearly your side that seeks to suppress any voice of reason from my side.
This paragraph is lush in problems, but you're simply missing the point; I wasn't claiming that the distinction was imaginary, I said the constraints you make through them were. I'm not fighting hard to keep the supernatural out of these categories; they are by their very definition supernatural-free (that's pretty much the definition of Natural). It is your job to provide evidence that there is such a super thing in addition. Don't put the burden of proof on those who don't see what sounds like your imaginary things.

Another problem with this is that you make claims that your super-natural domain seeps into and reacts directly with the natural world. At that point the super-natural enters the natural world, and it can be measured, tested and prodded to see if the super-natural indeed has any effect. And this is the problem; when we do measure, test and prod, we do not find anything but that which exists in the natural world. This is the constraint you are trying to break down, so I'm not suppressing your voice of "reason", I'm not trying to get the super-natural out of the bucket of answers for things, I'm saying that you are making claims of a category that don't show up in that category. What does it even mean to be super-natural when the effect is claimed to be in the natural world? If its effect is in the natural world, it belongs in the testable domain of metaphysical naturalism.

In other words; what is this super natural domain of which you speak? Seriously; what is it?
An argument from ontology would point you to the fact that this is how we came about the knowledge of the Big Bang, quantum states of the universe (positive gravity energy counters out mass of the universe, etc.) and the red-shift origins and direction of the universe, how it began and how it probably will end. Your argument is just not very sharp; knowledge in science is a string of connected pieces of evidence and further knowledge, and trying to make everything black and white is not going to make you understand much, if anything. The understanding of something – almost anything! – will lead to understanding of something else. There is no finite knowledge in science, only in religion.
I don’t have a clue what you’re tying to say with your jab on religion. 
It wasn't a jab. Finite knowledge, absolute truth, is what religion is all about. It says in the bible that X and Y are so (Was Jesus the son of God? Yes, or no? Very absolute, and not open to discussion), therefore it is so. You might argue that theology tries very hard to make biblical knowledge more plastic and flexible, but it certainly doesn't lead to a unity among Christians (rather the opposite), and it seems only to be able to shift dogma in the very outer reaches of faith and hardly ever on core parts of it, so you can have theology challenge the meaning of Psalm 129, but no theology can alter the meaning of John 3:16 (although we atheists do, much to your chagrin and invocation of the dreaded 'you don't know theology!'). Within science on the other hand, there is no dogma; that would be hunted down, and rooted from the system of knowledge very fast; bias is shunned; opinion is bunk. If Einstein said something dumb, no scientist would claim it otherwise. Newton was a genius who shaped much of modern math and physics, but he also meddled in alchemy; he's not remembered for the latter, nor did the latter become true or respected because of him. Opinion is truly bunk. Theories change with more evidence. Scientific knowledge is always moving, until they become so undeniable that we call them laws, however, even "laws" are nothing more than strong theories for which there is no counter evidence. But we're still open to them changing, and that is the beauty of science.
But here’s where I think you’re wrong with the rest of what you’re saying here: the Big Bang, quantum states, and red shift can tell us things like what happened at the moment time began, how the universe consists, and how old the universe might be. None of these pieces of evidence can explain why any of this is in motion. That is where theology comes into play.
I can only assume your "why this is in motion" here has nothing to do with actual motion, but more about the reason they exist, yes? I'm sorry if I've missed some important sermon of late, but what does theology in fact tell us about the purpose of any of those things? Or even why your god created humans, or anything else. Or why he or she did X over any Y.

The distinction between why and how is bunk and bogus, a linguistic construct. "Why does the Earth orbit the Sun?" has a ton of empiric knowledge and evidence that doesn't discriminate using the question "Why?" If you're going to proclaim that theology ponders why something is, you need to explain what that actually means, what specific thing you require a Why for, and how theology answers it better than Science.

Why did I have chicken for lunch today? I have good empirical explanations for that. Why is there a universe? I have good empirical evidence for that, too. You may not like or understand those reasons, but I think this is again more a failure of communication and language than of the meat of the discussion. Theology doesn't answer any why's at all, when you think about it; it speculates, ponders, tries to explain stuff in a framework that's already on shaky epistemic ground, that usually only works within its framework but not when applied to science and the natural world. Theology is nothing short of speculation and opinion, and does not give us answers to Why. I dare you to provide Why questions theology solves that Science have nothing on.
Some scientists probably are pondering the why, but philosophy gets them there, not science.
I'll let this stand as a testament to your knowledge on what science is. Like why it used to be called natural philosophy.
Science can inform or shed light on philosophical musings, but will never actually provide a why answer. God of the gaps covers “how”–we don’t know how DNA got there, so God did it! But that’s not what I’m saying here at all. I’m saying that we can know how DNA got here through science, but we won’t know why without philosophy or theology.
Show me the Why. What Why? What Why compel us to reach for theology? The more knowledge about anything that is accumulated, the complexity of the knowledge-base gets funneled into a narrower and narrower definition of explanation, and it matters not whether you call it a "why" or a "how" question.

No, what needs to happen here is that you need to come up with a category of questions that theology only can answer that isn't religious-specific (so, questions about the world to which only religion has an answer) that do not rely on the linguistic definition of it.
James Hannam’s blog is dedicated to debunking myths about the Middle Ages, especially the myth that the Church is anti-science. A longer, more involved primer on this would be The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark. Here’s a post from a Christian lamenting the hostility between Christians and atheists over science; both use science to support their respective positions and it gets ugly. That’s not necessary.
Science and scientists do not care what other scientist think, feel, or opine as long as good science is performed. And good science is backed by evidence. Inside that process you can believe whatever you want, and Christian scientists - as well as atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan or any other belief system person scientist - are lauded for their science, and not for their other thoughts on stuff. And that's the rub, isn't it? Science within the domain of science is what we all agree on is good and well. This is the methodological naturalism we talked about earlier, the process that - as long as we all abide to it - creates good, trusted, evidence-based science, a uniting force for the betterment of mankind.

It's when the Christian scientists stops being a scientists we say that their purported science isn't science anymore. It's when their faulty logic or reasoning seeps into their science we proclaim it to be wrong. And this is especially noticeable when scientific evidence and theories rubs against religious dogma and doctrine. When we finally all agreed that the planet we lived on was round and like a ball, theology came along to tell us that the mountain in Matthew 4:1-11 really was an allegory, or that the expression "all the kingdoms of the world" was, or many other versions on the same topic, trying to fit the words of the bible fit with new scientific knowledge, no matter if that's the word written in scripture. Christians then needed to make a choice; accept theology, or stop believing (because, what is it that compel us to accept that one part of the bible is true while some other part is allegory or just wrong? Surely Christians wouldn't pick and choose that which suited them ...). This process is happening in Christians all the time, especially among those who actually cares about the truth rather than care about their religious belief.

As to the original point that many Christians were scientists, and that science came out of a Christian society and culture, I'm sorry but you need to back that up with some well-founded rhetoric; all the evidence - all the writings of thousands of scientists throughout history - lament religious rejection as evidence appears in varying degrees, with few exceptions. You cannot argue that Newton was a Christian even if he believed in God, because in his time there was not an option not to believe it. Societal allowance of your own religious beliefs - or lack of any such - is a fairly modern invention.
So the old canards that scientists are scientists despite their religious background, the Catholic Church suppressed science in the Middle Ages, and faith is antithetical to reason are just bogus.
Galileo Galilei's struggles were bogus? You're perpetrating a myth.
There are plenty of reasonable religious people who aren’t reasonable despite religion, but reasonable and religious. Strange to many atheists, I know. But it is true. And church history is filled with such folks.
You got this backwards. Some good scientists are Christian, for sure, but they a) probably didn't become Christian after they became scientists, and b) we humans have a cunning ability to hold both rational and irrational thoughts at the same time. I have an irrational fear of darkness, but also have a rational stance on spiders. I have an irrational view on the meaning of love, but I have a rational way of dealing with it. If people who have irrational beliefs are able to make compromises in their heads that do not interfere with their science, I won't protest, it's their own business.
“Indeed, only theology is capable of establishing why.” 
No, what you really mean is “Indeed, only theology is capable of establishing a religious-framed, dogma-based why.” 
Don’t tell me what I mean. 
 As as rhetorical device, I think you understand well what that phrasing is supposed to mean;

  1. I disagree with what you're saying
  2. Here's a revision to emphasize where you're wrong
And as such, let me make this glaringly clear; theology only works if you accept the tenants of religious belief. Saying outright that everybody else who don't subscribe to your faith-based model of thinking is wrong, and that your theology is the only option for truth (or the nonsensical "why" questions), then you are far beyond arrogant and reasonable; you've entered the waters of the lunatic religious who can't tell the difference between your opinion and evidence to back it up, or between a rational argument and a religious one.

Theology is making the impossible seem plausible in the light of contradictory evidence, and is not something anyone should be proud of (not to mention the implications for just how loud and clear your god’s message in the bible really is, needing an army of theologians to explain and ponder and postulate and theorize and channel and project and often just make up stuff in order to make sense of the bible and often to try not to look too embarrassed about what it actually says …) 
And your rumination on theology is totally misguided. Theology is gaining knowledge about God, which we do through the study of nature and Scripture.
Where is the evidence of this? And what do you mean, knowledge about God? You've got the bible - a book, a finite set of scriptures - and a culture of religious belief and doctrine. From this you try to make compromises between the doctrine, the scripture and the real world, and this is called theology; explaining to people how these three fit together. Most of the time theology tries to explain scripture in lieu with developments in the real world, be it societal or scientific (ie. how does the story of Job fit with the notion of unnecessary suffering or fairness? Or, what do we think about God's commands of genocide in the old testament, and the Geneva convention? [or, you know, just our ethical inner lives]), but where does this constitute knowledge about God? It is just your opinion! You may proclaim that it's the holy ghost that leads you down the garden path of this knowledge, which is, as you well know, another statement based on a severe lack of evidence, just like all "revealed truths."

You claim to understand epistemology, that thing I started with at the top, yet as soon as you find yourself or shaky epistemic ground, you shun it and leap straight for theology as if it was some kind of safe harbor? Theology is opinion. Prove me otherwise.
Perspicuity of Scripture is a central tenet of Christianity, and (as both Indy David and I have been attempting to explain to Boz) Scripture is abundantly clear. I know this because even the dimmest atheist can turn on the TV and realize that televangelists like Joel Osteen and TD Jakes are full of it. 
I'm sure we agree that they're full of it, but they use the same methods as you (theology), same source as you (scripture), over the same culture as you (doctrine), bent over the same epistemological anvil (faith).

How do you explain this? As far as I can tell, what sets you apart is your own opinions (which you may or may not attribute to the holy ghost, or revealed truth, which both are ripe with epistemic problems) and rationalizations, that the person you are will weigh the outcome / theology of your process.
Because even the atheist, allegedly unable to grasp Scripture (Ehp 4:18), can still—based on Scripture!–see that these people are selling something different than what the Bible says. I’m betting you, or any atheist in this thread could refute Paula White using the Bible.
Oh, absolutely! But that's because we understand theology, and we can refute both her and you and any other Christian that has their own theology about something or other; the Bible is so full of contradictions, vague notions and concepts, stories and ideas that, frankly, any position on almost anything is possible through it. What makes me different from Paula in regards to you is that I don't use faith as part of my reasoning, I don't allow irrationality in. However, it unites the two of you far stronger than it unites you and me, to put it that way. Theology is that point where you accept the irrational into critical analysis.
Christians agree far more often than we disagree. We may get to those same conclusions by different ways, but the point is we do get there. But so what? Does disunity necessarily disqualify from truth? Science isn’t unified at all, and changes quite frequently everything it says. Is fast food harmful or good for you? Scientific studies that support both can be found. Is Ida the missing link in human evolution? A best selling book said yes, but a panel of other scientists soon concluded no. What about global warming? I’ve seen both sides argued convincingly. What’s the point? That scientists argue methods and conclusions can’t be used to know objective truth. Yet, when theologians argue methods and conclusions about the Bible, it somehow becomes proof that theology is nonsense. What a fantastic double standard!
I don't think you understand science. Now, I'm not saying that to be mean or to lament to make a stronger argument, but simply state it from reading your take on science. I've written before about the difference between science and scientists (and I seem to come back to that all the time), where we humans are biased and fallible (hey, we agree on the basic tenant of sin, although disagree wildly on what it is and why it is there). We all are tempted to make money, to gain power, to get our faces or names known, to be at the center of controversy, to lead the way, and the sad fact is that some of us humans are simply better humans than others, despite being scientists, atheists, Christians, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan or otherwise.

And isn't this what you say about the televangelists above? You are a better Christian than them? There are good and bad scientists. But here's the difference; science, as methodological naturalism, has tons of methods and mechanisms in place to root out the bad, and preserve the good, by focusing on evidence (the opposite of opinion), and allow bad theories to die away, to always be ready to update or revise current thinking in lieu of new evidence. A lot of the examples you bring up is just scientists acting badly (or stupidly), like Ida being some kind of missing link (no serious scientists believes there's missing links, that's purely a media construct) which was ferociously debunked, not by clergy, or politicians, or normal people, or otherwise clever people, but by other scientists! This is how Science always wins out over scientists, and this distinction is vital to understand. No one fights new evidence in science as hard as other scientists. This is what leads to strong trust in fallibility, predictability and evidence.
If we mutually respected one another and left the questions each is equipped to answer in the domain it is meant to stay (science = how; theology = why) there would be far less problems in this area. Problem is that scientists are trying to venture into areas that theology is better equipped to answer, and our fighting it is caricatured as our “knowing” that science will disprove God and wreck our faith. Nope. We just know that science cannot answer questions of why we are humans with the faculties we have, and moreover it can’t tell us a moral use of these faculties. Science has its place. But so does theology. One will never unseat the other.

Spoken like a true faith-based religious theologian. Your assertion "science cannot answer questions of why we are humans with the faculties we have" is demonstrably false, and holding on to this nonsense is exactly why people like me needs to engage with people like you; for some reason you are weaving yourself into a model of thinking that is two steps removed from reality, where your language is semantically disjoint from a discourse than can happen between your lamented mutually respected parties. If you insists on opinion having any truth value, then you've got the wrong idea about how to engage with rationality and - dare I say it? - the real world.

There's just too much space between us to make it to a rational level. The How vs. Why distinction is not real, theology is mere opinion to the rest of the real world (even if you think it's truth or valuable or knowledge in your head), science answers far more questions than you care to admit, and the categories you give each team is artificially disjointed by constraints of faith.

Lastly, "Science has its place. But so does theology. One will never unseat the other" is damn true; Science proves itself again and again to have actual results and empirical values of truth, while theology makes the religious cope with the onslaught of scientific knowledge upon a frail epistemic faith-based world view. Theology will never take over science, by virtue of being opinion not based in anything close to empiricism, and science will never take theology's place by virtue of its definition;
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions.
Note those two latter; can you test it? Can you make predictions on it? No? Then it isn't science, and you can call it whatever fairy name you want. Like, religion, and that's fine, but don't insert your own criteria into a debate, don't serialize and split apart natural philosophy in order to shoot it down with theology. Calling that a straw-man argument is being far too polite.

How do you know that your knowledge is true? You claim theology to generate knowledge, but how do you know your knowledge is true? It has no value if it isn't true, in fact I'd say it has some pretty clear disadvantages if it isn't true; it means your life is based on a fantasy, on knowledge that isn't true. For every statement ever made from the Bible, how do you know your knowledge is true?

How do you know your knowledge is true? Methodological naturalism. QED.


  1. Nicely done. Too bad those who most need to understand your points will close their minds to them. I was about to say would never understand them -- but I've seen people grow and change so there is hope :) (from Pharygula BTW)

  2. Hi Kelly, and thanks for the pat. So many words said, so little eyes have seen them. :)


All are allowed to comment here, I don't discriminate against anyone's opinion (ie. I delete nothing, except spam and bad personal attacks). Don't be too rude, try to stay polite, but above all, engage using your best arguments, especially towards other commenters (they may not laugh it off as easily as I do). And allow some air between paragraphs and rebuts. Don't get off the lawn. Have fun. Enjoy.