Creationist Wisdom — Example 74

WHEN someone tries to appear reasonable but is unequal to the task, the results can be quite amusing. To illustrate this, we present to you, dear reader, Faith and reason, a letter-to-the-editor which appears in the Journal Times of Racine County, a rural community in southeastern Wisconsin

There are several letters at the link we provided. You’ll need to scroll down to find the one we’re using, but it’s not necessary. We’ll copy today’s letter in its entirety, omitting only the writer’s name and city, and we’ll add Curmudgeonly commentary between the paragraphs. The bold font was added for emphasis. Here we go:

The letters concerning religion and atheism seem to overlook that as one can have faith without reason (religious fundamentalism) one can have reason without faith (conventional atheism or dialectical materialism), that both are fundamentalisms in polar opposition to one another. One is the inversion of the other. They share a fear of uncertainty.

At the start, we realize we’re dealing with an ignoramus (at best). “Faith without reason” is an unnecessarily verbose term for “faith” — which has been defined by philosophers for centuries as belief without evidence or logical proof. Of course faith is without reason — that’s the definition. And although “religious fundamentalism” is a common manifestation of faith, the range of beliefs embraced by faith is far broader. “Faith” and “religious fundamentalism” are not interchangeable terms.

Then we come to the letter-writer’s bizarre claim that “reason without faith” (an expression like “atmosphere without vacuum”) means the same as “conventional atheism or dialectical materialism.” There probably are more ignorant statements in the world, but the letter-writer’s ranks high among them. Very high.

As the letter-writer gets near the end of his first paragraph, he asserts that faith and reason “both are fundamentalisms in polar opposition to one another.” We agree they’re in opposition to one another, but are they “fundamentalisms”? Does the letter-writer have any idea what he’s saying?

The last sentence in that paragraph, where the letter-writer is still talking about faith and reason, says: “They share a fear of uncertainty.” What? Can this thing possibly get worse? Let’s read on:

I feel it is best to try to marry intuition with reason, though that is an art and does not appeal to the fundamentalists of the scientific bent.

Wrong again. There could be a limited appeal for “fundamentalists of the scientific bent” to artfully use their intuition — for example, to conclude that the letter-writer is a flaming imbecile. Anyway, we continue:

It’s true science has brought us many gadgets – and A-bombs – but the inner quest for something beyond one’s own ego keeps many on one spiritual path or another including me.

Yes, let’s not be blinded by gadgetry. There’s that all-important “inner quest” that makes spiritual people — like today’s letter-writer — so special. Here’s more:

But to be blunt, adding reason to faith means admitting, for instance, the Bible has many irreconcilable contradictions. Just do an Internet search on same for some examples. If it is the word of God, it sure is lacking in, shall we say, “quality control.” And insisting on a beginning with just an Adam and Eve is to admit their children had incest to generate the human race. So much for genetic diversity.

He’s not “adding reason to faith.” He’s using reason — to the extent that he’s capable. Moving along:

And, to be fair, scientific fundamentalists must admit that evolution is not a neatly sewn-up concept. For instance, the fossil record has few transitional forms. That is most curious.

Hang on, dear reader, this mess will be over soon:

But neither side will yield an inch fearing to do so amounts to unconditional surrender.

At last we come to the end:

I rather regard the creation as God’s ineffable experience. And in the interests of not fearing uncertainty, I admit I might be wrong.

[Writer’s name and city can be seen in the original.]

Fascinating. He concludes with an utterly meaningless statement about “God’s ineffable experience,” and then admits that he might be wrong. What a guy!

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

32 responses to “Creationist Wisdom — Example 74

  1. I say eff the ineffible. That way it’s been effed and is no longer ineffible.

  2. LRA, you are even more profound than the letter-writer.

  3. LOL!!! 😛

  4. WTF? I have no idea what the point of this letter is. I don’t think the author does either.

    “They share a fear of uncertainty.”
    Seems a bit of a leap as both extremes of the religious spectrum profess the certainty of their position which is why any argument to the contrary does not persuade them even if they will bother listening to it.

    “I feel it is best to try to marry intuition with reason, though that is an art and does not appeal to the fundamentalists of the scientific bent.”
    It also doesn’t seem to appeal to fundamentalists of the religious bent either. I haven’t noticed that reason matters much to YECs.

  5. comradebillyboy

    A walk through the depths of this person’s intellect would scarcely get one’s feet wet.

  6. Gabriel Hanna

    Where do the postulates, without which reason cannot operate, come from?

    For example, you have to have faith that the information your brain gets from your senses reflects in some way the real world; you have to have faith that there even IS a real world, and you’re not a brain in a vat or something.

    It is impossible for faith and reason to be mutually exclusive.

  7. Gabriel Hanna asks: “Where do the postulates, without which reason cannot operate, come from?”

    They’re axioms. Don’t like ’em? Try to function without them.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    They’re axioms. Don’t like ‘em? Try to function without them.

    Even a fundamentalist creationist can reason as well as you; but his axioms will be different. Doesn’t mean he’s not reasoning at all, and just operating by “faith”.

  9. Gabriel Hanna says: “Even a fundamentalist creationist can reason as well as you; but his axioms will be different.”

    If a creationist’s axioms are different from mine, then he’s not reasoning. These are some of the principal axioms that underlie reason, and creationists reject some or all of them:
    1. The laws of logic (it’s a big jump to label this an axiom, but I’m being lazy here).
    2. The objective existence of reality apart from our own thoughts.
    3. The validity of sensory evidence.

  10. Gabriel Hanna

    If a creationist’s axioms are different from mine, then he’s not reasoning. .

    I have a net that can catch all the fish in the sea. It has holes in it about three feet wide, and so I can confidently state that there are no fish in the sea less than three feet wide.

    What, you say, there ARE fish less than three feet wide? What nonsense! If my net can’t catch it, it’s not fish.

  11. Gabriel Hanna

    1. The laws of logic (it’s a big jump to label this an axiom, but I’m being lazy here).

    Most people do this.

    2. The objective existence of reality apart from our own thoughts.

    There might be some DI fellows who are hard-core Platonists. But very few creationists think the universe is a product of their own imaginations.

    3. The validity of sensory evidence.

    We agree on this one; to them their understanding of the Bible, rather than its text, trumps any sort of physical evidence whatever.

    That’s where postulates come in.

    Have you ever had to do something that required concentration while really drunk? Remember that trick you learn freshman year of college; if the room spins while you are lying down, then you put one foot on the floor. When you are drunk you can’t trust your senses, and I assume the same must be true for LSD and such.

  12. Gabriel Hanna says: “But very few creationists think the universe is a product of their own imaginations.”

    Oh? Their 6,000 year-old universe, with the Garden of Eden and all the rest — that’s not imaginary? Silly me, I must have overlooked their evidence.

    Wait — I see your point. The creationists themselves claim that their myth is the real world, and not a fantasy. Well, that just shows how seriously they take their own fantasies.

  13. Gabriel Hanna

    Wait — I see your point. The creationists themselves claim that their myth is the real world, and not a fantasy.

    Like you, they claim to be seeing the objectively real world for what it objectively is.

    The difference between your views and theirs lies elsewhere.

    We don’t have appearances on our side. You can’t see anything evolving. You can’t see atoms either. You don’t know that evolution and atoms are real because they are obvious, because they aren’t.

  14. Gabe, are you going over to the dark side?

  15. Gabriel Hanna

    Gabe, are you going over to the dark side?

    My monocle just dropped.

    NO! Unthinkable.

    Certainly one reason that so many people don’t believe in evolution is that they don’t want to. But there were a lot of things people didn’t want to believe, like that cholera might have anything to do with putting raw sewage in the drinking water, or that there are such things as germs, or that people should put up lightning rods.

    These ideas got accepted because they have an obvious utility.

    Evolution, and the kinds of physics I study, are things that are not obvious. They contradict common sense. If we want people to believe in them, we have to show them HOW to think about them.

    It’s no good saying that it’s just obvious that science is right. Science has been wrong, and will be wrong in the future. We want people to believe it anyway.

    It’s 1940, and you’re accusing me of being pro-German because I’m saying we can’t count on the Maginot Line!

  16. Gabriel Hanna

    Besides writing my thesis, and carrying on this conversation, I’m going through your older posts on the Discoveroids.

    This philosophical nonsense I’m pestering you with is exactly the sort of thing those guys know really well. It’s what I got pestered with when I took a class in philosophy of science, about ten years ago. I HAD to learn to engage philosophical criticisms because I’d get an F if I didn’t. I was a slow learner, and hostile.

    But I learned a great deal about why I know the things I know and how I know them.

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    Anyway, appeals to Popperian incantations and “reason” are the Maginot Line of science.

    Rationalists were anti-science as often as pro-science; and even when they were pro-science they were always trying to twist it into something it wasn’t.

  18. Gabriel Hanna says: “Evolution, and the kinds of physics I study, are things that are not obvious. They contradict common sense.”

    I don’t agree. Well, it’s true on first impression regarding quantum mechanics (which is why I ignore the topic, suffering not even the slightest inconvenience), but evolution? The concept is simple. It can be immediately grasped. Even I understand it. Geology too. And although we don’t literally “see” the formation of rock strata and the evolutionary processes that require millennia, we do see the evidence of such things, and there is no contrary evidence.

    Creationists’ “interpretation” of that evidence is nothing but distortion, evasion, and denial — resulting in a creationists’ fantasy world that is inconsistent with all objectively verifiable evidence.

  19. Gabriel Hanna

    And although we don’t literally “see” the formation of rock strata and the evolutionary processes that require millennia, we do see the evidence of such things, and there is no contrary evidence. Creationists’ “interpretation” of that evidence is nothing but distortion, evasion, and denial — resulting in a creationists’ fantasy world that is inconsistent with all objectively verifiable evidence.

    The evidence is there and it’s really real and it really means what we think it does. But it’s only the first link in a chain of reasoning. We accept evolution and geology and atoms based on the chain of reasoning. Facts by themselves don’t tell you anything, they must be interpreted by a theory.

    There is a type of reasoning that is legitimately scientific and there are types that are not.

    You said something interesting here:

    The concept is simple. It can be immediately grasped. Even I understand it.

    And almost everyone DOES accept “microevolution”. That’s because it makes so much sense, even creationists believe in it.

    But they won’t allow the rest of the chain of reasoning, you see. They don’t believe you can extrapolate from things you can see to things you can’t.

    That’s one reason I’m so against attempts to teach creationism in school; because physics is the same sort of thing. Most of the progress made in physics over the last 400 years is about denying the obvious, for very excellent reasons which are NOT obvious.

  20. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Anyway, appeals to Popperian incantations and “reason” are the Maginot Line of science.

    Catchy phrase. What do you think might do an end-run around the Maginot Line? Are you thinking of a “theory” that isn’t testable, or that isn’t reason-based?

  21. Gabriel Hanna

    For example, F = ma. We all learn it in school, and we all know that in real life you have to push on things to get them to go anywhere, just like Aristotle said. But in physics you idealize everything–we have an inside joke about “the spherical cow”. In problems involving cows, first approximate the cow as a sphere.

    Why should we trust our ideas over our common sense? Because the ideas teach us about real things that our common sense could never have figured out on its own. They’re like the falsework that supports the arch.

    At first nobody believed in germs. You can’t see them. But over the years people saw that once they stopped dumping shit everywhere and starting washing their hands more and drinking clean water they got sick a lot less–the Broad Street pump handle was a dramatic incident–and eventually people got to thinking that germs were “obvious”.

    But 7000 of “common sense” never figured it out; and the FACTS never changed, you see.

  22. Gabriel Hanna

    Catchy phrase. What do you think might do an end-run around the Maginot Line? Are you thinking of a “theory” that isn’t testable, or that isn’t reason-based?

    People have to learn to believe in things they can’t see and the results of logic they can’t follow; for reasons that don’t have to do with authority or emotion. Because religion is too far ahead of us on that score.

  23. Gabriel Hanna

    I’ve got a comment in moderation limbo, btw.

    You can delete this one too.

  24. Gabriel Hanna says: “I’ve got a comment in moderation limbo, btw.”

    You had a word in it that triggers moderation. Considering the context, I’m allowing it as an exception. The duplicate is deleted.

  25. Gabriel Hanna

    You had a word in it that triggers moderation. Considering the context, I’m allowing it as an exception.

    Oh, well, feel free to change it to “sewage”.

    On that subject, if you ever get a chance read The Ghost Map. It’s about London cholera and the Broad Street pump handle. Snow’s efforts to stop the spread of cholera were hampered by the scientific and medical community, which thought that disease was caused by poisoned air, from all the raw sewage in cesspools and whatnot. They killed people by dumping the raw sewage in the river, thinking that they were SAVING people.

    But Snow was an anesthesiologist, the very first, and he knew that you can stand right next to someone breathing ether and not be affected yourself. So he thought there must be some kind of germ carried in the water.

  26. Gabriel Hanna says:

    People have to learn to believe in things they can’t see and the results of logic they can’t follow; for reasons that don’t have to do with authority or emotion.

    I think you’re worried that some science is insecure, but I don’t think there’s much reason for this — except for the peculiar matter of creationism.

    Take the case of a difficult theory like general relativity. There are some stray competing models, but as far as the public is concerned, I’m not aware of any serious acceptance problem. But that’s because: a) the theory is supported by the available evidence; and b) it’s been successfully tested (when possible) by making predictions that have been verified by observations. Like all theories, it might be superseded by something better, but there’s no acceptance problem of which I’m aware.

  27. Gabriel Hanna

    I think you’re worried that some science is insecure…

    Not quite. More that people who defend science perhaps feel too secure, against a type of attack with which the enemies of science are all too familiar.

    WE are not going to convince THEM; the question is who will convince society.

    Take the case of a difficult theory like general relativity. There are some stray competing models, but as far as the public is concerned, I’m not aware of any serious acceptance problem.

    First, most people have only a hazy idea of what it’s all about. When they first are exposed to the consequences, they think it ridiculous. The arguments for relativity are based on methodological notions of what space and time are, notions which most people don’t share. In any undergraduate class on modern physics there is always some student who says, “I understand about the problems with MEASURING time, but how do they know there isn’t some REAL time?”

    Second, so what if relativity is true? Nobody’s ox gets gored, nobody’s Bible stories get messed up, (if you don’t know anything about it, at least), and we get GPS navigation out of it. (A big exception for the morons at Conservapedia who have a bee in their bonnets about it, and for the postmodernists who think E=mc^2 is a gendered equation which discriminates against women.)

    Evolution gores people’s oxen. So does the study of the genetic basis of human intelligence and abilities. If you want people to believe in science they don’t want to believe in, there is no point in pounding on “facts” and “reason”, except to scientists. Because only scientists are going to share the scientific postulates that let us convince one another. People who have Marxist or creationist or post-modernist postulates are going to attack your postulates and your methods of reasoning, and you have to know how to defend them, not just take them as given.

  28. Gabriel Hanna

    Here’s an example:

    SC: Science shows that nothing can travel faster than light.

    Post-modernist: “Science” is a tool of elite white males to delegitimize the ideas of women and minorities, thus preserving the power structure that underlies Western imperialism.

    Now what do you say? “You’re an idiot”? Sure, and I say that too, but there are people teaching classes and training new generations to parrot this nonsense. We have to show WHY this criticism is not valid.

  29. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Post-modernist: “Science” is a tool of elite white males to delegitimize the ideas of women and minorities, thus preserving the power structure that underlies Western imperialism.

    Now what do you say?

    I say this: I’ll continue to focus on the creationists, and leave the crazy ladies to you.

  30. Gabriel Hanna says:

    If you want people to believe in science they don’t want to believe in, there is no point in pounding on “facts” and “reason”, except to scientists. Because only scientists are going to share the scientific postulates that let us convince one another. People who have Marxist or creationist or post-modernist postulates are going to attack your postulates and your methods of reasoning, and you have to know how to defend them, not just take them as given.

    You can’t persuade true believers, and it’s a waste of time to try. With people like that, you really have to rely on results to persuade the rest of the population. Science gets results. Creationism, Marxism, and post-modernism produce only more true believers.

  31. Gabriel Hanna

    You can’t persuade true believers, and it’s a waste of time to try.

    You’re right. But you need to argue better than they do before people who haven’t decided who they should believe. Why should anyone pick your postulates over theirs?

    Science gets results. Creationism, Marxism, and post-modernism produce only more true believers.

    This is probably the line I’d take, but science can’t make you feel like these others can; like you’re the only people in the world with the secret.

  32. Gabriel Hanna says: “… but science can’t make you feel like these others can; like you’re the only people in the world with the secret.”

    Fine. Science will attract people who want to live in the world, and those with “the TRVTH” will drop out and get ready for the rapture. Good luck to ’em.