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How Science Works And Some Logical Fallacies

Recently I have gotten a few emails through my contact form from three Christians saying that evolution has not been proven a fact and never will be. Then they went on essentially like good little soldiers in unison claiming that since evolution was never proven goddidit must be true. Besides being an either or fallacy, they all expressed a profound misunderstanding as to what science is and that prompted me to write this article.

First I will say [and probably surprise a great many of you readers] is that the Christians that emailed me were technically correct. Evolution hasn’t been proven yet it has been shown to be a fact. Proof is in the domain of mathematics and logic. Science uses mathematics and logic but it properly can’t prove anything. One of the main point’s the Christians brought up is that since evolution has not been proven, I must believe it on faith and that is the same for other scientists. That is patently absurd. I have never said I believe in evolution. I accept the evidence showing that it is a fact. There are miles of difference between a faith based belief and an accepted scientific fact.

Another of their parroted objections is the canard we have all heard many times is that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That is deliberately misleading and again based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is and does. Let me say that absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence but that is what it means, there is an absence of evidence. I am not really sure how that relates to evolution but to be fair I will admit they all used the full canard to prop up their goddidit argument yet only the first part to argue against evolution. I can see how, based on their previous misunderstanding, that they would try to say since evolution is not proven then their alternative must be true and then this might conceivably be a necessary statement but I think it was more a case of them throwing ‘sciency’ words around and thinking it made their argument scientific. This, at least as far as evolution is based on the misunderstanding that some people think science reaches concrete answers. That isn’t true. Science is testing and retesting hypotheses and at best reaching a tentative conclusion. As soon as science stops testing a hypothesis, it’s not science. For clear self-serving interests, creationists and their brothers in lab coats [the IDiots] have taken this to mean their arguments are correct. Christianity as a whole has taken this to mean that their mythology can’t ever be disproven by science. I want to take a quick digression to address that last topic otherwise I will get a bunch of angry emails [seems Christians don’t want their hate crap seen in the comments].

Without delving to deeply into the subject, god can’t be disproven [much for the same reason I gave above saying science can’t prove anything] yet if god does intervene in human affairs it can be seen and tested scientifically. What is there to test? Intercessory prayer and in the largest study of it’s kind the results were shall we say interesting. They had three groups take part in the study. One was a control group. One group was prayed for and the third wasn’t. The results showed that intercessory prayer did not lessen the recovery time of those prayed for but the group that wasn’t prayed for had faster recovery. Science has provided evidence that intercessory prayer is bunk and in doing so there is some evidence from science that the Judaeo-Christian god is a myth.

I apologize for the digression so now back to the topic. One thing that these three Christians used [and every other Christian I have spoken with] was an appeal to authority. For example they throw out the PhD of Duane Gish not stopping for a moment to understand that he got it 57 years ago. What I find comical is in this case Gish does have a PhD in biochemistry but not one Christian stops to think that the field changes quite rapidly [especially in 57 years] and not once do they stop to wonder why a PhD in biochemistry gives one any authority to speak about paleontology are any other field outside their expertise. Duane Gish is the one I will mention but the same happens with many of them such as Michael Behe and Kent Hovind. Even washed up actors such as Kirk Cameron use their childhood fame as an actor to replace the credentials of the others. Let me ask you dear reader to do a little experiment. Go to amazon.com or your local bookstore and browse through the theology section looking at the various books about apologetics, creationism and IDiocy [religious fiction in some book stores]. Take note of the many credentials listed directly after the authors names. Now go to the science section [not science textbooks]. Notice a glaring absence of credentials. Not a total absence but almost a 75% reduction? True scientists let their arguments speak for themselves and they do not rely on credentials to speak for them.

Once again sorry for the digression. I just had to write about these three emails because they made it clear to me that a majority of the Christian argument is based on a misunderstanding of what science is and how it works [major failure of the USA educational system] and a few logical fallacies. The rest I didn’t address but to give you the condensed version or the remainder of the emails, I believe because I want to believe.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi there, this is an interesting post, and a well-written one at that.

    Here are some of my thoughts on it:

    When you say, “a majority of the Christian argument is based on a misunderstanding of what science is and how it works [major failure of the USA educational system] and a few logical fallacies.” it appears as if it’s an honest error of judgment. I think it’s a lot more than that.

    You see, most people spend decades of their lives believing in God and miracles, and when someone comes along and challenges those beliefs, it’s like challenging the very bedrock of their existence. Not many people have the courage or open-mindedness to see these arguments in an objective manner. In fact, that’s when their mind starts to rationalize and looks for specific evidence or anecdotes that support its long-held point of view.

    It does point out a common psychological trait, which is coupled with a tendency that has its roots in evolution itself — the tendency of blindly believing people who have authority. I’m no expert on evolution, but I do know that evolution always prefers a stable system than an optimum solution. Therefore, while we’re not all geniuses, most of us are smart enough to live a lifetime and produce enough offsprings that ensures the survival of our species.

    I know you’ve heard about Richard Dawkins, therefore, I’ll recount an explanation I found in “The God Delusion”. (I apologize if you’ve already read this before.)

    This case of belief in religion is actually a misfiring of an otherwise useful trait in humans — to blindly follow our parents and elders, which helps us survive through our early years of life when we’re most dependent on them.

    This is similar to the case of a moth that flies straight into fire and dies. Evolution didn’t design the moth to die. In fact, despite this tendency moths aren’t extinct. The thing is, fire is a relatively new invention in terms of evolutionary timescale. When moths evolved, they had the sun and the moon as their sources of light — and they still do in most parts of the world. These sources being at almost infinite distance, their rays are parallel to one another. The moths can therefore easily navigate by maintaining an constant angle to the rays. However, a burning fire, which is at a much closer distance does not give out parallel rays. Therefore, maintaining a constant angle with its rays creates a curved trajectory that leads the moth straight inside the source.

    Of course, some creationists use this example to say that evolution can’t be true. But again, even if they didn’t have this point — if they didn’t ANY point — they’d still find a way to believe in God. Not because they don’t want to be rational, but simply because for most people it’s a lot easier to live with and to not take too much responsibility of their own lives — to continue to depend on other people or heavenly beings with authority for their most difficult conundrums now that they’ve outgrown their dependence on their parents.

  2. “…most people spend decades of their lives believing in God and miracles, and when someone comes along and challenges those beliefs, it’s like challenging the very bedrock of their existence.”
    So how do rational people get the message to these believers? If they just took the time to read and understand the science, the need fo a god would be dimished. Oh how I long for a time when I don’t fear for my grandchildren.

    • @Interested: Well, the only thing rational people can do is try to make their ideas as logically explained in a simple manner as possible. Hopefully SOME one will pick up, and eventually, when more people do, the momentum will rise.

      But we can’t quite go about trying to “convert” believers into atheists — or the saying “atheism” is just another religion” might actually become true 😉

      You can’t make people think one way or another. You can only appeal to their common sense, and hope that they’ll see what you see. Unless they see it for themselves and come to a conclusion that we’re right, no amount of knowledge that we shove down their throats would do them any good.

  3. Good post! My first time reading your blog – I will be back. I have the urge to be flippant at times and in response to christians who try to use the THEORY = unproven, I say, “Gravity is a theory and I don’t see you jumping off a cliff.”

    To Kushal’ comment: Not many people have the courage or open-mindedness to see these arguments in an objective manner. – – I am not sure open mindedness is an issue…courage yes. My take on the unwillingness of christians to see the evidence is visceral. The mere thought of questioning god brings about an instant, deep and gripping FEAR. You can see the genius of the ancients who came up with the idea of “to question god is to die” – the mere thought of exploring any other possibility creates the PHYSICAL REACTION (which they call god conscience) of an impending car crash.

    If we want believers in the super-natural to “come around” – find the ability to even pose the question so that they CAN see the evidence, we will have to proceed slowly and with kindness. WE know that knowledge will not kill them (like Adam and Eve) but they sense impending doom. Once the gate is open they will have to give up many comforts like an afterlife, prayer instead of action and be responsible for their bad choices (divine forgiveness, even if you don’t forgive me).

    • Thanks Paige, glad you enjoyed the blog. Look around you won’t be disappointed.

      Yeah I kinda find that annoying. I mean just because they don’t understand what a scientific theory is that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I often get a bit ‘high strung’ and ask them to stand in front of something emitting alpha radiation then tell me atomic theory is just an unproven theory.

      One major annoyance are the people that try to use a ‘scientific’ loophole to justify their belief or possibility of a supernatural god. That is the dumb question that science has already answered, why is there something rather than nothing. Even when directed to the answer given by a physicist, they refuse to believe it and then show their propensity to believe woo by citing William Craig Lane and claiming he destroyed Victor Stenger in a physics debate.

      • I wrote something up – inspired by a few blogs I follow. I will tag you in the FB note!

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