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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A true believer

I've been trying hard to stop rising to the militant atheists' bait. I can't blog about everything, for heaven's sake. Progress not perfection, though...

In a recentish post Oliver Kamm, who is generally excellent when he's not tackling the Big Questions, buttresses his case against 'Intelligent Design' with a quote from a biologist who says, inter alia:-

'the living world, through evolution, can be explained without recourse to supernaturalism'

I just wonder if it's occurred to OK that on occasion scientists say things about science which are not scientific, and that this is certainly one of them. How do we explain the existence of a material universe made of the kind of matter capable of being operated on by evolution? Does it just happen to be that way? Or do universes have to be that way by definition? What kind of experiment can we conduct to prove either of these hypotheses?

Evolution is a neat theory and it may indeed be capable of explaining everything it claims to be able to explain. I'm not a biologist, I can't say. But to take a scientist's word for it that it has disposed of the God question suggests something approaching a religious faith in the infallibility and omniscience of scientists.

PS This, from a salutary article by the Spectator's Hywel Williams entitled 'Please can we have our Enlightenment back?', is rather apposite:-

'David Hume’s sceptical refinement makes him the Folk Enlightenment’s pin-up boy. But it was that same scepticism which made him doubt science’s objectivity: genuine knowledge, he said, was based on sensory evidence, and science was therefore authentic enough. But for Hume that also made science subjective — the product of one person’s experience. It’s also Hume who taught us how weak a thing reason really is — a ‘slave of the passions’, as he puts it — reflecting our interests, ambitions and prejudices. A little less cockiness about reason as their private possession might cure our present-day crusaders of their vulgar certitudes.'

PPS By the way, I see the citizens of the People's Republic of China are increasingly failing to appreciate their liberation from feudal superstition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Suppose the statement had been "The positioning of the continents, through plate tectonics, can be explained without recourse to supernaturalism." By your argument this would also be an unscientific statement, since continents, plates, and the earth itself consist of matter whose original origin cannot be scientifically proven.

Or is I were to follow my newspaper from its printer to my doorstep, and then say "the delivery of my paper can be explained without recourse to supernaturalism" -- nope, by your reasoning that's unscientific too. By your logic, then, there is nothing that happens that is NOT supernatural.

The idea that if one thing is unknown, then nothing is known is classic fallacious reasoning.