Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Austin American-Statesman of Austin, the capital of Texas, and it’s titled Science doesn’t explain everything about life’s origins. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis.
We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians or otherwise in the public eye), so we usually omit the writer’s name and city. In this case, however, the letter-writer is already out there in public view. He’s David Sweet, described as “pastor of Hays Hills Baptist Church in Buda.” Yes, that’s the town’s name. This is the church’s website. Okay, here we go:
A proven scientific theory is consistently disliked and opposed for philosophical reasons. Alternative theories are offered, primarily driven by ideology. I’m referring to the more than 80 years of disdain materialistic-minded thinkers have had for a model so well-proven that it earned the name “The Standard Theory” (“The Big Bang”.) Many decades and millions of dollars have been committed to replacing it, yet it still stands.
That’s a very strange beginning. Is the rev actually defending the Big Bang theory, when so many creationists abhor it? In a sense, yes, but that’s because he doesn’t understand it. Hey — has anyone ever heard the Big Bang referred to as the “Standard Theory”? Well, that’s the least of this letter’s problems. Then he says:
Why so much energy given to overthrowing the Standard Model in the face of consistent, confirming evidence? Because a singular origin of the universe is too close for comfort to certain religious explanations of origins. Also, the perceived odds against a singular beginning resulting in a universe like the one we have appear to be mind-numbingly astronomical. One way to try to slightly mitigate against these crazy odds is to add more universes. It turns out that it’s not just fundamentalist Christians who have ideological issues with science.
Lordy, lordy. We’ve found another creationist who attacks the multiverse concept, thinking it was devised as an atheistic plot to undermine the science that “proves” Genesis — which the rev thinks the Big Bang somehow does. Let’s read on:
Yet despite its failure to bring down the Standard Model, materialism has largely co-opted science. Science seems untouchable today, and so materialism seems untouchable.
Aaaargh!! The rev complains that materialism has co-opted science. He’s confusing philosophical materialism, which is atheism, with something very different — methodological materialism. The latter is a procedure (not a philosophy) which is inherent in the scientific method. Because of the rev’s confusion, he thinks all of science is atheistic, and he longs for the good old days when supernatural ideas ruled minds of men.
Then he mentions some philosophers who seem to hold his point of view, and after that he gets around to evolution (you knew he would):
One problem with teaching evolution in public schools (and it should be taught) is that, inevitably, it is over-simplified — as though evolution were an uncomplicated model with no loose ends. Students don’t hear of the fierce debates about various models within evolution or the constant mini-revolutions. (One way to give students an inkling of the complexities of the evolutionary enterprise is to have them read some articles over a few months from leading scientific magazines.)
High school students don’t need that level of detail. Besides, the rev is wildly exaggerating the “fierce debates about various models within evolution.” But it’s generous of him to allow that evolution should be taught — his way. The letter continues:
A watered-down version of evolution contributes to the false implication that evolution is so well worked out that there is no longer room for mystery. Certainly materialists hope that this is the implication students go away with.
No room for mystery? We pretty much know what kind of mystery the rev has in mind. Yes, mystery (supernaturalism) is omitted when evolution is taught — or in the rev’s way of describing it, watered down. Here’s more:
Is it true that there are no longer any mysteries? The origin of the universe clearly seems to qualify for “mystery.”
The mystery of the rev’s letter is coming into focus. The only way to grasp what he’s saying is to realize that he sees “materialist” science as being engaged in a vast conspiracy against his church, and his understanding of everything he thinks he knows about science is filtered through that perception. Moving along:
Darwin had no clue of the mind-blowing complexity of a single cell, complete with information systems, so the mystery has only deepened with scientific knowledge. Is it too much to say that the appearance of life from non-life is a mystery?
It’s not yet known, but it’s not the rev’s style of mystery. Rather, it’s an unsolved scientific question, the solution of which will never be found by people who think like the rev. Another excerpt:
Is it fair to lead students to believe that there is no mystery in what we know so far about origins and evolution? Is it only for adults to grapple with the great questions, but leave young students with the impression that it’s all solved?
The problem is materialism’s admixture with science. When materialism gets confused for science, students suffer. Science-education leaders should be equally concerned about the co-option of science by materialism as they are about its co-option by creationism.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The rev has no grasp of the fact that science is all about the natural world, which is understood — demonstrably so — in terms of natural causes and effects. Scientists have no way to explore the supernatural. That vast, murky domain is the exclusive province of people like the rev. We come at last to the end of the letter:
An overly-simplified teaching of evolution without any disclaimer leads students to assume that the enterprise of science itself claims that the origins of the universe and other phenomena can be entirely explained in terms of a closed universe and physical laws? Science does not — and thus far — cannot make such a claim.
We are grateful for the rev’s letter, and for the advice he offers. He probably regards it as yet another mystery that no one is interested in following his advice. Hey, rev: it’s not very complicated. Your advice — that science should embrace the supernatural — doesn’t provide any verifiable information at all. It never has, and it never will. But please, keep writing your letters. They’ve very enjoyable.
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