Religion + Science can often be a slow train wreck 2


tumblr_m2frendwwu1qfkhgco1_1280I’ve often been “inspired” … no perhaps “Amused” is a better word … by some of the attempted shotgun marriages of religious beliefs with scientific fact. Today’s example comes from a readers report in Stuff.co.nz (You might not have heard of it, but it is a well-respected media outlet in New Zealand).

Michael Alexander, the author of the article asserts that there is … “Overwhelming evidence’ world was created” … OK, so let’s take a look (hint, don’t get too excited, you know this is not going to go well for him, and yes, I’ll be posting a link to this under his article for him to read)

I’ve seen a number of stories where universities mock students of faith, which is kinda ironic, as I thought the definition of a university was a bringing together of people with different beliefs in a community, to work and study together.

Why is it that mention of God or belief in creator makes one a subject of mockery in a place of learning.

Well Mike, it works like this, if your going to stand up and promote myths as fact, and dismiss facts as myth,  then you will indeed be laughed at with good reason.

In fact many leading scientists believe there is evidence that points to God, to a creator of the universe.

He might indeed assert that, but it is not a factual statement. (Mike, if you are reading this, please do name these “leading” scientists and also please do cite this “evidence” that convinces them).

famous scientists, like Crick and Collins, went from atheism to belief in a creator, because of the what they discovered about DNA.

More Grade 1 Gold plated bullshit … why oh why can’t he simply fact-check? (or perhaps Mike did, and opted to simply lie for Jesus instead).

You know that if Mike gets such basic very easily verified facts 100% wrong, then you can have exactly zero confidence that anything else he asserts is either factual or correct (No, I’m not ranting, I’m amused by all this, its funny).

So many scientists believe there is evidence for a creator, but it’s staggering that many people believe there is no evidence,

Is there any measure of the specific beliefs of scientists? Yep, Pew Research did a poll back in 2009 and came up with these results …

Scientists-and-Belief-1

I should also add that the reason people tend to believe is not down to evidence … ever … but rather is the product of a cultural influence. His claim that there is evidence is pure fiction.

From a cosmological perspective, when Edwin Hubble discovered the universe is expanding, and eventually went on to prove the universe had a beginning, many scientists reacted negatively. Not for scientific reasons, but because they worried that proving the universe had a beginning gave credence to those of a religious orientation. 

… er no … Edwin Hubble basically did work that confirmed Georges Lemaître‘s discovery that the universe was expanding. All this did eventually lead to what we know as the Big bang model. That is not something that describes the origin of the universe (as is commonly believed), but rather is a model that simply describes the expansion of the early universe. There is (if you really dig into it) no real agreement on the universe actually having an origin in any meaningful sense, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Even Einstein adjusted his equations because he chose to disagree with Mr Hubble’s findings, and later went on to call his mistake ‘the biggest blunder of my life.’

… er no (but you knew that, right?) … one of the great challenges to general relativity was that if it was indeed correct, then the universe could not possibly be stable. At that time in 1917 the current view was that the universe was in a steady state, so to get his equations to work, he introduced an additional term (the “cosmological constant” and that represented a repulsive force that would counter gravity’s attraction, thus yielding a static universe. As time went on and new discoveries were made, this was labelled as a blunder and so we have the story that he called this his biggest blunder. There are two points on all that …

  1. Einstein never actually said or wrote that it was his biggest blunder, that is an urban myth.
  2. It now turns out to be right, we call it dark energy.

So back to Mike, he carries on like this, and continues to bend scientific fact way beyond what is factual, then dresses it all up with fictitious claims as “evidence” for his “God did it” claim. The next gem to emerge is this …

By the early 90’s the COBE satellite experiments proved the universe really had a beginning in a flash of light and energy, although cosmologists who specialise in the study of the universe and its origins, soon realised that a chance cosmic explosion could never bring about life any more than a nuclear bomb would – unless it was precisely engineered to do so.

That meant a designer, and they began to use words like ‘super-intellect,’ ‘creator’ and even ‘supreme being.’

… er no … (are you spotting the pattern yet?) … COBE was all about studying the CMB (cosmic microwave background radiation) and it did indeed provided evidence that supported the Big Bang Model (remember the one that models its early expansion, not its actual origin), and incidentally, no the big bang model was not an “explosion”.

Where is this all coming from?

You can’t help but wonder if he has dreamed this all up himself, so to test that, I grabbed the phrase “the COBE satellite experiments proved the universe really had a beginning” and googled it, and sure enough, up pops the exact same claim, but not by him. So here is what comes out of “Jesus-Online” …

But in the early 20th century, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered the universe actually had a beginning. A beginning implies a “Beginner,” which the Bible had firmly revealed. Concerned materialists like Sir Fred Hoyle scoffed at the idea of a one-time beginning, sarcastically calling the explosion a “big bang.”

However, the evidence for a beginning kept mounting. Finally, in 1992, COBE satellite experiments proved that the universe really did have a one-time beginning.¹ Doubters were silenced by the overwhelming evidence. For lack of a better name, this beginning became known by Hoyle’s label of “the big bang.” (see “Back to the Beginning“)

Oh, that looks eerily familiar, so yes indeed, Mike is not actually the original author of this truly bizarre blending of bits of science with religious fiction, he has cut and pasted, then massaged the words a bit.

Does it carry on and on like this?

Short answer – yes.

What follows is yet more misrepresentations of both scientific facts and also famous scientists in order to try and assert a fine-tuning argument, which  if he really did wish to earnestly assert, then he should do so honestly and not with these cut-and-pasted distortions, and he would also do well to write a rebuttal to the well-known objections to the fine-tuning claim.

We find assertions such as …

Physicists calculated that for life to exist, gravity and many forces of nature needed to be just right, or we wouldn’t be here.

… er no … the existence of stars in universes with different values of the gravitational constant G, the fine-structure constant α, and a nuclear reaction rate parameter C has been done – the result was the discovery that stars can exist in roughly 25% of the parameter space. 

OK, that is stars, but what about life? Well, the assumption that life must be carbon-based is wholly unwarranted and so if conditions had indeed been different, then the life that eventually emerged would also be different. What we are dealing with here is not just a lack of any evidence for any of these claims, but also a complete lack of any imagination at all. Life adapts to the environment, that is the way things are and we are finding life in some very unexpected and extremely hostile (from our viewpoint) environments …

There are lots … and as we discover more we soon begin to appreciate that life can indeed adapt to environments way beyond what we might consider to the the very narrow supposedly fine-tuned limits.

If Einstein gets a mention way can’t Stephen Hawking?

He does of course, because we also have assertions such as …

To get some idea of how exact, Stephen Hawking writes, ‘If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached its present size.’

The reference for this claim is page 126 in Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1996 edition) and you do wonder why these folks can never cite such references. Oh wait, there is no need to wonder, the reason is because the quote has been quote-mined out of context. Back in context you find that on page 133 he addresses the issue he just raised on  page 126 ..

Moreover, the rate of expansion of the universe would automatically become very close to the critical rate determined by the energy density of the universe. This could then explain why the rate of expansion is still so close to the critical rate, without having to assume that the initial rate of expansion of the universe was very carefully chosen.

If you are wondering … well yes, Mike stole this one from William Lane Craig, he trots this one out in many of his debates.

The not so big finish

Mike finishes off like this …

Maybe it’s age, but I see right through my nephew’s cockiness. It was the typical assuredness of a freshman who has come into a little bit of knowledge. He’ll come around eventually, I’m sure.

I’d not be too such about that Mike, he has both the facts on his side and also a really good friend to help. If curious, I’m sure his friend could help you as well, his friend’s name is Google.

Embarrassment Squared

Is Mike embarrassed to promote these fictitious claims as fact? He should be, but I suspect not. He does refer to himself as an older chap so he will be somebody who is deeply invested in all this emotionally, and will be surrounded by many like-minded folks, so if he was to try and come to terms with all this, he would be jettisoning that investment and also potentially loose all his existing social contacts – in a word he is trapped and can’t escape, and so what gets jettisoned instead is reality and the actual facts.

The assertions themselves might indeed be hilarious, but behind it all rests the tragedy of a wasted life, and so Mike primevally deserves our sympathy and not derision because he is the victim here. Luckly this is not all doom and gloom, Mike does actually bring us some fabulous news as well, his Nephew is not drinking the cool aid, and so that does indeed bode well for the world becoming an increasingly more rational and far better place with each and every passing day.


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2 thoughts on “Religion + Science can often be a slow train wreck

  • Chris Petersen

    You seem to fail to look at all the evidence (history) to come to your conclusion that science and religion are “a slow train wreck”- in fact, that’s a highly uneducated and presumptious thing to state. It’s also a very “religious” statement to make, as it goes way beyond the evidence.

    In fact, most scientific discovery we have had come about by scientists with some sort of religious belief (who didn’t let “God did it” ultimatums stop them from research). Off the top of my head- Descartes, Newton, Pythagorus, Aristotle, Plato, Davici, ect- and with no counter examples prior to the 1900s)

    Instead why not look at the evidence to show what has really been happening? Instead of the intellectual honesty to admit the impossibility to prove anything with 100% certainty (like Descartes couldn’t and came up with the “I think so at least I am”), since the later 1800’s man has transitioned from taking the scientific method as a “useful tool” to a “only begetter of fact”, in which the method can actually fail to answer many questions- and even worse, people often confuse rational thought with scientific thought.

    Questions such as- do we see all of reality/ is there more? Well if science is predicated on what we can observe, how can it answer to what we cannot? Then it becomes a question of rationality, to which we realize that we cannot know.

    This is what is actually really funny. The truest objective would say “scientifically and rationally speaking, we cannot know.”, while those who do not truly believe science is the only begetter of truth will claim “there is nothing beyond it”

    And the reasoning “there is no evidence to support the opposing belief” becomes the only evidence to support your belief, which is not a positive belief, and is entirely foolish, because in it lies the arrogance to say “if it was true I would be able to notice it.”

    All that to say- scientists use more than pure information gathering to create their beliefs, that man was fine in their advancment in science before “disbelief” became a sheepish popularity, and that man is often blind towards examining the very tools they use, causing great and unseen arrogance.

    • Daniel

      //your conclusion that science and religion are “a slow train wreck”

      He said “Religion + Science can often be a slow train wreck”. Key point: can often be. He didn’t say “are”. He never gave the impression that it’s always the case, like you are doing in your strawman.

      //It’s also a very “religious” statement to make, as it goes way beyond the evidence

      It’s so funny when religious people try to demoralize an argument by compairing them to religion. You don’t realize you are saying religious arguments are bad and that’s so funny.

      But you are wrong. He’s talking about a specific case that it’s a train wreck: Michael Alexander’s case. The whole article is Dave’s evidence for it. Did you read the article?

      //In fact, most scientific discovery we have had come about by scientists with some sort of religious belief

      The point being?

      Did any of these religious scientists used religion to make their scientific discoveries? Did they go into their labs, kneeled and started praying, or did they conducted rigorous scientific experiments in them?

      Have you seen the cartoon where a student presents his discoveries to his professor and in the middle of it, says: “Step 2: and then a miracle occurs”? The professor replies: “you have to be more specific in step two”.

      //who didn’t let “God did it” ultimatums stop them from research

      That is a serious lack of knowledge from your part.

      As an example, after Newton had came up with his laws that explain gravity between two bodies (Earth and the Sun, Earth and the Moon and etc), he applied it to more than two bodies (like the whole solar system) and the equations showed that planets would have to fall into the sun or be thrown out of the solar system in no time. He had two contradictory ideas at hand: one, his equations were right, and two, the solar system was not disintegrating. He solved this apparant paradox by saying, and I’m quoting him here: “God did it”.

      He stopped persuing knowledge because he felt “God did it” was a suficient explaination. It took manking 100 years, in the figure of Marquis de Laplace, to understand why the solar system hadn’t collapsed already. When asked what was God doing to keep the solar system intact, Laplace famously replied: “I had no need for such an hypothesis”.

      Your assertion is just factually wrong. It’s almost as if you don’t care about facts.

      //Instead why not look at the evidence to show what has really been happening?

      Psychological projection: humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others.

      //impossibility to prove anything with 100% certainty

      I don’t know if that’s the case, and you don’t either. Maybe there is a Theory of Everything. Maybe not. We simply don’t know. But you don’t have the intellectual honesty to admit that (psychological projection again).

      And quoting Dawkins, maybe science can’t know everything with a 100% certainty, but that’s a lot better than knowing nothing with 0% certainty, like what religion does.

      But even if is impossible to know everything, what does that have to do with the discussion at hand? I simply did not follow your comment on this. It’s a complete red herring. Maybe you wish science to be unable to answer everything, because you want to keep using arguments from ignorance like the one you used now. You want there to be gaps, so you can put your god in them.

      You accuse science to pretend to have answers for everything, when it’s religion that pretends to have answers. Science is a collection of questions that may never be answered. Religion is a collection of answers that can never be questioned. Your psychological projection is astonishing.

      //is entirely foolish, because in it lies the arrogance to say “if it was true I would be able to notice it.”

      Stop with the strawmans already. Especially the ones you use quotation marks. It’s tiresome.

      //scientists use more than pure information gathering to create their beliefs

      I’m sure they do, like anyone else. But to create knowledge, that’s something else. They have to use the scientific method. Otherwise, it isn’t knowledge.

      Let me paraphrase something I read the other day, because it fits when talking to you: given the obstinate nature of religious faith and the wilful ignorance it cultivates in the mind of the believer, I am quite certain that this response to you will not be the final nail in this rancid and rotting coffin. Having said this, I do hope it will contribute to the arsenal required by those who value reason, facts and evidence, in their struggle against the fallacies perpetually flaunted by those who do not value the truth above their own egocentric delusions, delusions inspired by an unquenchable thirst for security, no matter how frighteningly false its foundation.