Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tom Gilson Replies to My Response to Chapter 12 of True Reason

Tom Gilson has responded to my latest installment of my review of True Reason. In my response to Chapter 12, titled “God and Science Do Mix” Tom Gilson quotes Lawrence M. Krauss, who in turn quotes J.B.S. Haldane, from a 2009 Wall Street Journal article:

My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world. (129)

Gilson responds in his chapter: “He is right, of course, to take it that science depends on nature generally behaving itself. But he is wrong to think this is incompatible with Christianity.” He continues by making a series of arguments about how god wishes to communicate with his creations; god wants his creations to be “responsible moral agents;” and god also wants his creations to learn from experience. All of these things would not be possible if we lived in a world “of constant supernatural intervention” because “if there is to much chaos (“noise”) in a transmission, the message (signal) can't get through to be clearly understood.” (130)

As I said in my review of the Chapter:

Essentially all Gilson is arguing is that his god doesn’t want to dazzle his creations with constant supernatural interventions because he wants us to be able to predict with enough regularity the workings of the cosmos so we can do science and be responsible for our actions and learn from our experiences.

This argument fails for three reasons. First, it completely defies typical Christian experience; second, it contradicts the very foundation of Christianity; and third, this argument does not fit with what we know (or rather, don’t know) about the universe.

I go on to elaborate on these points. Gilson argued that god wants regularity in nature for the above reasons, but I argued that Gilson's argument contradicts the facts in a number of ways. First, it defies typical Christian experience, when Christians see miracles occurring in their lives on a daily basis; second, the very creation of “something from nothing” is another miracle claim, and third, despite Gilson's claims to the contrary, the universe is not as logical as he makes his readers believe. While our logical minds can grasp the universe on larger scales, our logical minds have much difficulty grasping the seeming illogical nature of the quantum world, where things appear to happen randomly and spontaneously without apparent reason or cause, which puts the universe at odds with our logical minds. Gilson's reasons contradict everything we know about the universe and about Christianity.

Why Gilson seems so confused is beyond me. In the final paragraph he writes,

God's desire to have a relationship of communication with humans, to give humans moral responsibility, and to make a world in which we can learn and grow, can all be found in pages of Scripture that predate modern science by millennia. (132)

He also says this on page 131: “Again, chaos of the sort Krauss envisions would clearly work against God's purposes.”

But as I demonstrated, the Christian world is not as orderly as Gilson argues with the many violations of natural law that are claimed to happen to Christians on a near daily basis. Now, I did not address Gilson's claim here that “And what is science but systematized learning from experience?”

His other argument appears to revolve around the idea that because god wants his creatures to learn “from experience” this makes Christianity compatible with science. This argument was so nonsensical I did not feel it merited a response so I focused on what appeared to be Gilson's main argument, since it took up over 90% of the chapter, describing the ways in which god wants an orderly universe for his creations. Since that series of arguments are flawed his very conclusion is also flawed.

Science is defined as “a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning, 'science' also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied.”

Gilson's definition is horribly simplistic, but if one properly defines science Christianity has nothing to do with it at all. Christianity is based upon faith, not testing, nor searching for answers outside of their limited belief system. In his work The Prescriptions Against the Heretics I think Tertullian summed up the typical anti-scientific views of most Christians when he said:

After Jesus Christ we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of research. When we come to believe, we have no desire to believe anything else; for we begin by believing that there is nothing else which we have to believe...

In conclusion, I believe Gilson either did not grasp the counter-argument I was making, or this is just another example of sloppy writing on his part.

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