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Because Science

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Humanistic Naturalism as a Religion

A recent Federalist article was titled with the startling accusation:

Bill Nye Is A Huckster

The writer called out Nye for putting ideological beliefs over good science.

Bill Nye fashions himself a voice of rational thought and scientific inquiry. His shtick has gotten him into classrooms and on an endless loop of evangelizing TV appearances. Yet nearly every time he speaks these days, Nye diminishes genuine science by resorting to scaremonger-y nuggets of easily dismissible ideologically-motivated nonsense.1

Well, that’s from the Federalist, but I was quite surprised to see similar sentiments coming from well known skeptic, agnostic, and science journalist John Horgan. His article in Scientific American skewers the “lesser priests” of scientism2 dropping names like Neil de Grasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Ray Kurzewiel in his indictment.

Last month, Neil de Grasse Tyson said “the likelihood may be very high” that we’re living in a simulation. Again, this isn’t science, it’s a stoner thought experiment pretending to be science.

So is the Singularity, the idea that we’re on the verge of digitizing our psyches and uploading them into computers, where we can live forever. Some powerful people are believers, including Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil. But the Singularity is an apocalyptic cult, with science substituted for God.

When high-status scientists promote flaky ideas like the Singularity and multiverse, they hurt science.

It’s my observation that much of what passes for humanistic materialism today is “flakey” science, hopeful stories without any real scientific evidence – only the a priori assumption that naturalism is the Truth.

I grew up admiring Bill Nye, the Science Guy – I loved his experiments and the hands-on nature of what he did. But somewhere along the way he became Bill Nye the Atheist Guy, and his humanistic “huckstering” does little to promote the advance of science. Instead, we get his ideology.3

One other observation. The main point of John Horgan’s article is that Skeptics with a capital “S” often pursue the “soft targets” of religious belief and quack science instead of attacking harder targets like war, modern medical practices, and astronomical theories like the multiverse. As a Christian, I think sometimes that we spend too many resources attacking the soft target of naturalistic humanism, and not enough attacking the hard targets found in the misapplication and misinterpretation  of biblical doctrine. I disagree with Hogan on many points, but we can both agree that our belief systems spend too much time preaching to our choirs and not enough time challenging them.


  1. I used the title, “Because Science,” because that’s the argument that most naturalistic humanist use when they are asked to explain a naturalistic ideological position that can’t be explained by actual science. []
  2. an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, including philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities []
  3. Which apparently includes throwing dissenters in prison: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/apr/14/bill-nye-open-criminal-charges-jail-time-climate-c/ []

Truth vs Everything Else

I saw the following ironic statement on io9:

Interestingly, all humans may be descended from a common female ancestor, the so-called Mitochondrial Eve. But that’s science, not Biblical conjecture. [Emphasis and italics added]

The quote’s author is forced to include may, because science doesn’t claim to give us truth. In fact, science starts with conjecture and often end in conjecture [an idea based on incomplete or inconclusive information]. The Bible, however, is a historical record. It’s either correct or incorrect, but it’s certainly not putting out a hypothesis. It claims to be Truth.

Why is Biblical truth important? As discussion of the article developed into an argument for or against the validity of the Bible, one of the commenters said the following:

The rapacious need of Christian fundamentalists that the Bible be word for word literally true is born of this tendency of the last couple of centuries of Western thought that the only truth that matters is the logocentric, the literal, physical, rational truth. Therefore, to be of value to humanity, the Bible must be literally, physically, rationally true. It is important to note that this error of thought and logic is only a couple of centuries old in religion. Anti-theists make the same error.

In short, what difference does it make if one says God started a process if our investigation of that process is completely separate from and independent of that doctrinal insistence – as the Catholic church has tenaciously advocated for a century? Perhaps if we on the irreligious side of these issues could drop our own dogmatic doctrinal insistence on the absolute absence of any Creator, we could rob fundamentalists of the ammunition they use against us.

There are two key points here: The nature and value of truth. First, by nature truth is literal and rational. The commenter posits the value of “mythocentric truth,” but it does not exist. If it were to be anything else [non-literal or non-rational] it would no longer be truth, merely myth. Secondly, lies can contain extrinsic value, but not intrinsic. The value of a lie is subjective. Its only value is in the response of the hearer. The value of truth is objective: Regardless of the response, it simply is. To be intrinsically valuable to humanity, the Bible must be true. The writer says that we shouldn’t care if there is a Creator or not, if he is not involved now, what does it matter? If the Bible is a lie, at least it fortifies believers from a cold and impersonal universe [extrinsic value]. Another commenter replied to this, saying, “The way I see it, if their [sic] is no creator, then everyone is equal and your choices are your own.” For this commenter, the truth matters. He understands that the existence of God is not subjective; it is either true or false, and knowing which is incredibly valuable to how one acts.

 

In Defense of the Scientific Method

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Humanistic Naturalism as a Religion

I read an interesting quote by Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame. He said the following in a Popular Mechanics podcast:

Like I said, the newspapers talking about evolution versus creationism is very much an attack on science as a type of religion—believing that the scientific method is some type of religious belief. And it’s not! That kind of attack absolutely is damaging science exploration across the whole country. I do think that’s a significant problem. And until we can get our head out of the sand and realize that science isn’t about truth…

Adam makes a couple of good points in this quote. He says that the scientific method isn’t “some type of religious belief.” He’s right, too. The scientific method is a tool. However, religious belief does factor into the scientific method.  Religious belief is the bias that inherently determines how one interprets the results of the scientific method. These results can provide support for vastly different presumptions, whether they be of supernatural creation or evolutionary naturalism.

And evolutionary naturalism is a religion, a dogma as faith based as any religion. Consider this statement that the famous evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky, quoted in The American Biology Teacher journal: “Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow.”1 Or Michael Dini, the Texas Tech University professor who refused to give letters of recommendation to students who would not verbally confess the truthfulness of evolution. Which brings one to the second part of Adam’s quote.

Adam’s statement that, “science isn’t about truth,” is also correct. This doesn’t make science useless; far from it! The results of scientific endeavors have greatly benefited the quality of our lives. But scientists don’t know everything, and therefore science deals in theories, both weak and strong, but never in facts, and no matter how strong a theory is, it is always subject to change.

In summary, science and the scientific method cannot confirm the origin of life for evolutionary naturalist, and it cannot do this for creationists either. As a tool, what it can do is affirm what we already believe.


  1. “Nothing In Biology Makes Sense Except In the Light of Evolution”, The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, pp. 125-129 []

Hallelujah! – May the Force Be with You!

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Humanistic Naturalism as a Religion

In the previous post in this series, I said that naturalistic humanism borrows from religion the meanings of joy and good. I have found no greater example of this than in the writings1 of Carolyn Porco. Dr. Porco is a planetary scientist and currently leads the imaging science team on the Cassini mission now in orbit around Saturn. She was awarded the Carl Sagan Award in 2010 for “magnifying the public’s understanding of science.”

The confrontation between science and formal religion will come to an end when the role played by science in the lives of all people is the same played by religion today.

At the heart of every scientific inquiry is a deep spiritual quest — to grasp, to know, to feel connected through an understanding of the secrets of the natural world, to have a sense of one’s part in the greater whole…

Spiritual fulfillment and connection can be found in the revelations of science. From energy to matter, from fundamental particles to DNA, from microbes to Homo sapiens, from the singularity of the Big Bang to the immensity of the universe …. ours is the greatest story ever told. We scientists have the drama, the plot, the icons, the spectacles, the ‘miracles’, the magnificence, and even the special effects. We inspire awe. We evoke wonder.

These are reasons enough for jubilation … for riotous, unrestrained, exuberant merry-making.

So what are we missing?

Ceremony.2

Imagine a Church of Latter Day Scientists where believers could gather. Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way. Or others rejoicing in the nuclear force that makes possible the sunlight of our star and the starlight of distant suns. And can’t you just hear the hymns sung to the antiquity of the universe, its abiding laws, and the heaven above that ‘we’ will all one day inhabit, together, commingled, spread out like a nebula against a diamond sky?

One day, the sites we hold most sacred just might be the astronomical observatories, the particle accelerators, the university research installations, and other laboratories where the high priests of science — the biologists, the physicists, the astronomers, the chemists — engage in the noble pursuit of uncovering the workings of nature herself. And today’s museums, expositional halls, and planetaria may then become tomorrow’s houses of worship, where these revealed truths, and the wonder of our interconnectedness with the cosmos, are glorified in song by the devout and the soulful.

“Hallelujah!”, they will sing. “May the force be with you!”


  1. Dr. Porco’s essay has been edited for brevity. The full essay was included in Edge.org’s 2006 compilation, “What is Your Dangerous Idea?” and can be found at http://edge.org/response-detail/11273.  []
  2. The word “Worship” would be far more appropriate here, considering what Dr. Porco describes in the following paragraphs. []