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When believers THINK they are thinking Scientifically, they usually are Not.

22 July 2014, 09:40

When some believers think they are thinking scientifically I am often amazed at how complete their ignorance about the scientific method(s) seems to be.

This piece started off as an answer to a believer who thought he was cleverly using the scientific method to prove the unlikelihood of the big bang and what he saw as the likely existence of god. However the problem is this: What some believers often seem to think is scientific methodology or rational thinking is not at all so. And they often comprehensively misunderstand these concepts. These people think what they write is the scientific method in action and actually believe that the statements/premises listed add up to a concrete hypothesis when their arguments fall utterly flat.

To illustrate I will quote one such believer's argument premise by premise, with his conclusion:

1.  It is scientifically impossible for something to come from nothing!
2.  It is scientifically impossible for something dead, like mud, to become alive all by itself.
So if you want to preach science, then practice science.
The only other option for nothing to become something, and for something dead, like mud, to become alive, is to bring God into the equation!'

Let's take these one by one viewed from a pretty rudimentary scientific point of view and apply a tiny bit of logical thinking to it:

1 - The writer makes this statement without bothering to define his terms. To begin with he makes a massive assumption about what 'nothing' is. Truthfully, we don't know what the exact conditions were before the big bang so there is no way we can make any meaningful statements about that. But we can tell to a reasonably accurate point about what happened after... and  we have learned a lot about what we thought for centuries looked like empty vacuum of space. From which we can deduce some reasonable premises to inform our thinking: eg... Nothing, might not be 'nothing' as we think of it in the very simple way we tend to think of it. As an example: space, which we have believed for an extraordinarily long time to be void and empty, is really packed with energy in the form of light particles, radiation across the entire spectrum of radio waves and the very probable presence of dark energy, dark matter that we are only now beginning to understand. So a simple 'nothing' is LOT more complex that we have ever managed to understand thus far.

What the writer should say is this: 'It is scientifically highly improbable for something to come from nothing and empirical evidence thus far has indicated this to be the case. However, we are learning more and more and will likely improve our understanding of these conditions as research goes on. Though there is a good chance that we may never figure out what happened before the big bang. And it might actually be impossible to do so.'

2 - Again, the ' scientifically impossible' quip is a highly aggressive assumption that cannot be made as a scientifically provable statement, it becomes a matter of probability. On top of that mud is not 'dead' as we understand that term in it's broad meaning. It is inanimate but not inert. Mud (very broad term) is made up of vast numbers of molecules that interact in an vast array of different energetically chemical and molecular ways. In fact living beings share the vast majority of what makes up our bodies with what constitutes 'mud'. At a sub atomic level 'dead' and living material are not so hugely different as many believers seem to think.

'So if you want to preach science, then practice science.' - This is rich since the writer clearly doesn't know how science works. 

'The only other option ... is to bring God into the equation!' - Considering the insistence so far that we stick to science this is a laughably unscientific hypothesis and we are immediately beset by a multitude of scientific improbability problems.

-By bringing god (any god) into the equation we are not addressing the matter at hand (the probability of the big bang) anymore. We are looking at a completely different problem, eg: The existence of god.

-Why is this the 'only other option'? We can also postulate the theory that we are all part of my cat's dream or we exists in a little clump of green putty some god found in his armpit (to paraphrase Douglas Adams). Both these ideas carry the same probability value as any god hypothesis. There are literally in infinite number of other options to consider if we open this avenue of thought.

-By adding a 'god' we are increasing the complexity of the problem not only exponentially, but infinitely. If a self caused big bang seems unlikely why does a god creator not enjoy the same level of scepticism? I find this one of the most intriguing arguments by some believers. They insist on testable evidence for one hypothesis (big bang) but happily accept another many time more unlikely hypothesis (god) without any evidence what so ever. Using the evidence argument is not like taking a taxi and getting off where you like, you have to follow the thinking through to its logical limit.

-Which 'god' are we talking about? The biblical one? If so, why him? Why not any of the myriad other gods mankind has mentioned by name, or even some as yet unnamed deity?

But let us take this argument at face value and see if it contains any internally sustainable premises, cohesive logic or even scientifically valid points.

If there is a god, lets assume we are talking about one -based at least loosely- on the biblical god, we have to discount ALL human experience, ALL human knowledge in the fields of scientific, historical, empirical and biological research (to list only a few) that we have thus far accumulated over thousands of years to suppose that this one particular god does exist. While the myriad other gods that appeared over the eons do/did not. We can already see the rather BIG problem in doing this, since there is no logical or scientific reason at all to do so. In fact the moment we do this, we are well and truly floundering in a morass of informal logical fallacy's with everything from Special Pleading to a rather epic Argument from Ignorance dragging us down.

But discounting every one of the valid objections... let's see what we can say from a scientific point of view to try and rescue this floundering theory. As far as I can see it's probably this:

Everything that is, has a first cause. Thus the universe must have a first cause. Since this idea is not new (Aristotle is first credited with posing it) we might as well call this first cause -however improbable- the Prime Mover or the Unmoved Mover. We can say absolutely nothing about this Prime Mover since we don't know anything about it nor is there any way of finding out anything about it.

 ...And that's it. That's all you can say. In fact Aristotle reasoned that the Prime Mover -if he is perfect and omnipotent- would actually be an Immovable and non moving Prime Mover. And then he and his theory disappeared in a puff of logic. Much like the entire god argument presented here.

So to take stock: Even if we allow a Prime Mover despite the likelihood of such a entity being hugely less probable that a self creating universe, the believer is still left holding his wossname and they have ALL their work ahead of them. Since this Prime Mover says absolutely nothing about their particular god or the exceedingly small probability of his existence, not to even mention the veracity of his holy book. Thus they are still nowhere, suspended in a web of logical fallacy's.

...and we have not even touched on the issue of Infinite Regress... but that is enough for now.

Anyway to end this I think Baron d'Holbach summed it up pretty neatly during the Enlightenment period:

“Why O Theologians! Do you presume to rummage in the impenetrable mysteries of the first being , whom you call inconceivable to the human mind. You are the first blasphemers, in attributing to a being, perfect according to you, so many horrors, committed towards creatures who he has made out of nothing. Confess with us, your ignorance of a creating god.'

And that is pretty much all we can still say about the god hypothesis from a scientific point of view.  

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