Saturday, May 06, 2006

Science, facts and religion

One of the blogs I frequent, that of Cathy Seipp, has recently acquired what looks to be a creationist commentator. This person appears to have no knowledge of what science is, or facts, and comes close to denying that facts even exist:

"You touting your theory as science is getting the cart before the horse. Please provide an epistemological basis for determining what facts are, and if indeed, such an animal even exists."

Well, if a creationist has no facts, perhaps it's a clever debating tactic to dispute their reality and throw out a lot of pseudointellectual philosophical mumbo-jumbo. But that's all it is. It's not honest.

One of the things I've noticed about creationists is how much energy they devote to confusing what has long been clarified, such as the difference between science and religion. They do not like the distinction made between investigating nature based on strategies that depend on identifing natural laws, which is science, and an appeal to the supernatural which is to be accepted on faith, which is religion.

Doubting Thomas was acting as a scientist when we wanted to touch Jesus' wounds; today he'd no doubt be asking Jesus for fingerprints and a DNA sample. You can see why religion and science often have a hard time getting along, although there is no necessary contradiction between the two. For example, the Catholic Church has reconciled its faith with evolution.

I recommended that this creationist read Stephen Jay Gould's famous essay, "Evolution as Fact and Theory." It's a great mind-clearer that deserves greater recognition. Here's a sample:

"Evolution lies exposed in the imperfections that record a history of descent. Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor? An engineer, starting from scratch, could design better limbs in each case. Why should all the large native mammals of Australia be marsupials, unless they descended from a common ancestor isolated on this island continent? Marsupials are not "better," or ideally suited for Australia; many have been wiped out by placental mammals imported by man from other continents."

As bloggers like to say, read the whole thing.

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