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How to make Religion and Science Agree - Debunked. Part 1

27 February 2014, 10:10

How to make Religion and Science Agree - Debunked. Part 1

Introduction

Recently a trilogy of articles were published here on NEWS24 by the author XFactor. They can be found here:

Article 1 How-to-make-Religion-and-Science-agree

Article 2 Science-and-Religion-Part-II

Article 3 Science-and-Religion-version-3

The articles certainly generated much debate; however they were bursting at the seams with logical fallacy, scientific untruths, misconceptions, wishful thinking and poor arguments.

The title of the first article “How to make Religion and Science agree” is particularly telling and speaks to the authors own cognitive dissonance. Indeed how it is that one has to “make” the two subjects agree? It’s almost as if the author is tacitly acknowledging that it’s not an easy task, which one really has to work at trying to reconcile.

In a series of articles I will be tackling the several deficiencies of these articles and I hope to demonstrate to the reader that not only are the author’s reasoning fallacious but that science and religion cannot be “made” to agree because they are so very different indeed.

Article 1 - How to make Religion and Science agree

The author kicks off his article with the following Yes, I am a Christian and scientist at the same time!”. It is a claim that underpins his argument since he is trying to convince the reader that it’s possible to be both at the same time. Right at the outset when readers attempted to confirm whether the author was indeed a scientist, it became clear that whether or not the author had formal training in natural sciences, he was not going to reveal the fact to the readers.

To be clear in computer science the word science is used in a broad sense to denote reliable and teachable knowledge about a topic, as reflected in modern terms like library science, social science or political science. The author appears to be using the mileage on the term scientist, knowing full well the implications of the term in the context in which he uses it.

That being said of course the veracity or content of an argument has no bearing on the author’s qualifications, although the premise of his argument appears at the outset to be somewhat compromised.

The author then launches into his reasoning with a classic logical fallacy. He says “the scientific process cannot, with scientific certainty, prove that God does not exist! Nor can it disprove that the very scientific processes we celebrate today like evolution and natural selection have been in fact defined or put in place by a superior being!”, falling bum first into the burden of proof trap.

Scientists of course never made the claim of supernatural beings and as such have absolutely no burden of proof whatsoever. Theists make the claims that an intervening deity exists and has guided evolution and as such take on the heavy burden of demonstrating the claim. It’s really that simple. Don’t accuse science of not looking for your imaginary friend if you lost him in the first place.

This fallacy is repeated again later in the article “And to Science I say because you haven't seen God, it doesn't mean He doesn't exist!”. I’ll leave the why-it’s-not-science’s-business to look for your imaginary friends for a later article.

The author then proceeds to layout “assumptions” made by science, “One such law in physics is the law of conservation of energy, which “cannot” be broken. And one scientific assumption is that the same processes taking place today are the same ones that have always taken place in the past.” engaging in a strawman fallacy since the conservation of energy is a scientific law (a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspect of the world) and therefore not an assumption and uniformitarianism, while an assumption, is one based on tried and tested science for over two hundred years and hardly some arbitrary notion invented by scientists to deceive theists. The author proceeds to lump these two “assumptions” together for his strawman coup d’etat where he declares “How can the universe exist if both of these are true? It's easy to conclude that they cannot ultimately be both correct because we exist! So either one of these scientific tools is wrong, or both of them are inaccurate in some way.” Easy it appears to the author, who does not know a law from an assumption, strange that not a single real scientist has bothered to bring the profoundness of this fact to the attention of science!

The final paragraph of the first article is then used as an opportunity to trundle out the crowd favourite – Einstein, with the now famous aphorism “Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind”. Now a good lesson for the author is that if you are going to use the “Argument from Authority”, at least make sure your authority has the same opinion as yours. Needless to say Einstein was not a theist and took pains on many occasions to distance himself from theists who liked to use his comments (as in this case) to bolster their arguments. Furthermore a cursory study would have shown that this quote although used thousands of times by theists, has nothing to do with religion and is in fact together with the remainder of the full quote an explanation of how scientists have “faith” that the universe can be explained in some logical manner.

Finally, in the introduction to his first article XFactor says:

 “there are flaws in the scientific process that leaves enough room for “God””

This statement really sums the essence of the first article up. The author’s deity resides in the current “knowledge gaps” or “flaws” (mostly as a consequence of the author’s ignorance) in science. The author attempts to demonstrate “flaws” in science where the preferred deity can reside. It is a logical conclusion therefore that as science fills these gaps so the author’s deity will recede into ever smaller gaps.

In part two of my series of articles I will be investigating the second article in the trilogy of scientific nonsense.

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