Sunday, August 05, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum (2)

This is a continuation of a discussion arising out of comments posted on this blogging site by readers.

The intellectual level of this ongoing discussion surpasses anything else I’ve seen on other blogging sites, and this is due solely to you, dear readers.

Finally this site is attracting the attention of the best and the brightest minds that would be the envy of Charlie Rose, and I’m flattered this is so.

This site can be the venue of a new Bloomsbury Set, a safe haven for artists and intellectuals to say anything they want without fear it may seem too highbrow, for, to me, nothing can be too highbrow.

A new Bloomsbury Set………

Yes……I have a dream.

I pasted the comments below from the comments section of my previous blogging entry. May the discussion continue on many future postings.

This first comment below was a response to my impugning the veracity of the bible:

From Pastor Nebachudnezzar Jones - You don’t know what you’re talking about. Every word in the Bible, both Old Testament and New, is true. I know this because God told me so, and what He tells me, I believe unreservedly, with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts”.

If the Bible is good enough for God, it’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for you, is what I say.

From Christopher - Being the literalist you are, Pastor Jones, you are doubtless a Young Earth Creationist, and therefore one of the 45% of Americans who thinks the earth is less than ten thousand years old; that all species were created by individual acts of divine creation; and that Adam and Eve were historical figures created by God from dust in the Garden of Eden.

You would also be one of the 45% of Americans who believe the geologic strata and the fossils within the various layers were created in a few weeks by the world-wide flood described in Genesis 6 – 9, rather than having been deposited over hundreds of millions of years.

Judging by all those books and videos found in Christian bookstores, you would also believe that no intermediate fossil forms can be found for birds, turtles, elephants, or whales, despite such fossils having been found over recent years.

And you would believe that radioactive dating of rocks and bones and such, is wrong because decay rates have changed over time, which they have not.

You have probably visited museums and theme parks which show humans frolicking with dinosaurs, since Creationists, like you, don’t accept that dinosaurs became extinct long before humans first appeared.

That 45% of Americans like you, Pastor Jones, believe all this in our technological age, is as good an example as any of truth being stranger than fiction.

From Professor Alberto Nakayama - A brilliant riposte to that charlatan pastor, I must say, Christopher.

As a scientist I would like to add to your reply, by pointing out that if the beliefs of Pastor Jones and his ilk - which would include 45% of Americans – were true, it would lead to a complete and irreversible collapse of the sciences of physics, chemistry, cosmology, geology, and biology.

What Pastor Jones and his ilk assert, is like saying two plus two doesn’t equal four.

From Christopher - As a scientist, Professor Nakayama, you’ll be gratified to know the overwhelming flood of scientific evidence in favour of evolution, is beginning to breach the defences of even intellectual dinosaurs like Pastor Jones and his ilk, so much so that they are now arguing that all of this evidence has been designed by God to mislead the Believers, to test their religious faith.

Thus all the radioactive decay clocks, all the fossils, and all of the genome sequences have been intentionally designed to make the universe seem old, much older than the ten thousand years the Creationists know it is.

God is therefore The Great Deceiver.

From Professor Khama Wacky-Brown - As a teacher of philosophy at a prestigious university, I’m interested in the text-book demonstration of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty, as displayed in the Young Earth Creationists depiction of God as The Great Deceiver.

For the edification of any non-university-educated readers out there, Karl Popper’s Principle of Non Falsifiability says, in so many words, that a belief is irrationally held if it cannot be shown to be untrue, no matter what.

Let’s take the Young Earth Creationists assertion that the universe is only ten thousand years old. When they (the Creationists) are presented with carbon-dated evidence of the age of an object, showing it is millions of years old, they assert that rates of decay have accelerated; therefore the results of the carbon-dating must be wrong.

Then when they are shown conclusive evidence that rates of decay haven’t accelerated, the Creationists change the goalposts by saying that God faked the carbon-dating evidence presented by the scientists.

Therefore the Creationist position can never be proved wrong, as far as they’re concerned, because no evidence, however conclusive, will show them as wrong.

From Christopher - That the reasoning power of so many people who should know better, falls victim to Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty, is a sad reflection of the atrophying quality of so much of what is taught in our institutions of higher learning. So I do hope that you, Professor Wacky-Brown, as a university professor, are doing your bit to slow down this atrophying trend, although the battle, in the end, is probably lost.

Another egregious example of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty is shown by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, who assert that the planning for 9/11 was a White House inside job. Many millions believe this, and there are thousands of 9/11 conspiracy-minded web-sites.

One of the assertions the 9/11 conspiracy theorists (“conspiracists”) make, is that a 757 jetliner didn’t crash into the Pentagon. It was, rather, a missile.

The “conspiracists” say that the hole in the wall of the Pentagon building, which the jetliner was supposed to have made, was much too small for a jetliner to have passed through.

How, then, about a missile? since Donald Rumsfeld, who saw the explosion when it happened, said what he saw, seemed like a missile. So, a missile it became, in the minds of the “conspiracists”, based on the size of the hole, and Rumsfeld’s off-the-cuff remark.

But how about that there were over 130 named witnesses who either saw a jetliner hit the Pentagon, or saw it moments before it did? Well, say the “conspiracists”, eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable, based on what’s happened in so many murder trials.

How about that no-one has ever come forward saying they actually saw a missile? This doesn’t mean anything, say the “conspiracists”, because the hole in the wall was big enough only for a missile. Besides, there were no crashed aircraft parts discovered in the Pentagon.

What, then, about those photos showing some damaged aircraft parts amidst the Pentagon debris? Oh, the photos were faked. What, then, about those cell-phone calls received by friends and family from some of the passengers on the hijacked plane? Oh, this doesn’t prove it hit the Pentagon. Well, then, what became of the plane if it didn’t hit the Pentagon? That’s for the government to say, not us. And on and on and on.

Now, it’s possible some of those who say they saw the plane hit the building, did so because they wanted their fifteen minutes of fame. But it’s extremely unlikely that all did. Besides, aircraft, no matter how big, are very collapsible on impact because they are built to be as light as possible, for obvious reasons.

So the airliner in question would have crumpled up as it passed through the wall, making a hole much smaller than if the aircraft wasn’t built for lightness. And engineers have shown how the jetliner would have passed through the hole. But, admittedly, other engineers have disagreed.

As a non-engineer, I can’t say which of the engineers is right, but, based on the eye-witness accounts, the engineers saying the hole was sufficiently big for a 757 jetliner to pass through, were obviously right, and the other engineers were obviously wrong.

I’ve doubtless gone on at inordinate length about all this, but I wish solely to demonstrate the non-falsifiability tendencies of the “conspiracists”, most of whom are keenly interested in politics and public affairs, and would, for the most part, belong to the well-educated professional classes.

But this hasn’t stopped them from being as irrational as died-in-the-wool Creationists.

The human capacity for self-deception is infinite.

And Now For Something Completely Different:

The Flying Purple People-Eater

Do any of us really KNOW for sure that a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people-eater doesn't actually exist?