Friday, December 17, 2010

God's Quality Control 3.9

Here I continue my review of the discussion guide published by the Prestonwood Christian Academy as a companion to the Hitchens-Dembski debate on November 18, 2010. The honorary author of this section of the guide will be John Klingstedt, Prestonwood's Assistant Head of School. I encourage you to complain to Mr Klingstedt on behalf of all those kids who are being deliberately misled for the sake of filling Mr Klingstedt's pockets.
  • p.15 "[C]an science and miracles coexist?" No. Here's why: part of any proper experiment is something called a control. Genie Scott has an excellent example: if you want to test a new kind of fertilizer, you don't just go put that fertilizer on a field of crops and note the results. If the crops do well, you can't know whether it's due to the fertilizer or some other factor, such as the soil quality or the weather. You must also set up a field of crops under all the same conditions as the first field, but let the crops grow without the fertilizer. This second field is called the control. With this control in place, you can say something meaningful about the fertilizer, based on the differing outcomes based on only one difference in the conditions. Now if miracles are possible, and I perform this experiment, then I cannot say anything meaningful about the fertilizer, because I have no way of knowing whether Jesus performed a miracle (or a curse) on either field. The experiment is ruined by the unknowns. Further, Jesus could be lying. Many of you will reject this possibility because you believe that Jesus cannot lie. So let's use a different example: say there is some being out there, not Jesus, but someone else, that has control over everything, down to the smallest subatomic particle. That being could easily manipulate our minds to perceive all sorts of outcomes for the experiment, and there would be no way for us to know. Therefore, we either allow ourselves to believe our senses, or we allow that there is a supernatural element; you can't allow for both without deluding yourself. And just in case anyone wants to gripe about my idea of believing our senses, I'll note that I don't mean just believing the senses of one person; I mean believing the senses of a community of experts who regularly challenge each other's work, and often enjoy discrediting each other.
  • p.15 "[A]ll science rests on a basis of faith, for it assumes the permanence and uniformity of natural laws." This is a seriously dishonest statement. It's true that we assume these things, but not in the way that is suggested here. Specifically, if these assumptions were shown to be false, we'd cease making them. This is the big difference between the so-called faith in science and the faith of superstitionists. We show you over and over that your claims are false, inconsistent, often even impossible, but you never stop making them. All you have to do is show us once that we're wrong and we'll change our minds. In fact, many of us are very excited whenever some accepted scientific claim turns out to be false. It means that there are still new things to learn about reality.
  • p.15 "[I]s there a limit to the understanding of what science can tell us?" Of course there is. Science definitely can't tell us anything about the supernatural. Now, if only you guys would admit that there's a limit to what your homophobic poltergeist can tell us, we could possibly have a conversation.
  • p.15 William Lane Craig, that great apologist, tells us that "the presupposition of the impossibility of miracles should play no role in determining the historicity of any event." Fine. Let's allow your miracles. Is Yahweh good? No. Is it worthy of worship? No. Why do people consider Yahweh good? Because they're afraid of it. If it were possible to overpower Yahweh, no one would follow it.
  • p.15 Mr Klingstedt gives us some examples of what he considers miracles: "parting the Red Sea, to the virgin birth to the resurrection." The funny thing is, no miracle is required to make any of these things happen. The so-called parting of the Red Sea, if it really happened, was most likely a tsunami. But even if it really did happen like it did in that Chuck Heston movie, is that necessarily a miracle? Can you not imagine a technologically advanced civilization that could make that sort of thing happen? I can. And virgin births and resurrections are possible today. In vitro fertilization has been going on for decades, as well as various resuscitation techniques. We're not experts yet at resurrecting people, but we're getting better at it all the time. I've asked this question before: why is it that if Jesus does something unusual, it's a miracle, but if I do it, it's a result of cool technology?
  • p.16 In the section entitled "Biblical Errors," Mr Klingstedt hits us with that old saw about how we can't understand the bible because our hearts aren't right, because we're "irreverent and censorious." Mr Klingstedt, how do you explain all those billion-plus Muslims who would say that it's your heart that isn't right? Are they irreverent and censorious? Are they blind to truth? How would you answer those Muslims who say these things about you?
That's 3.9. Thanks for watching.

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