Creationist Wisdom #411: Education Professor

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Star Press of Muncie, Indiana — the home town of Ball State University. The title is What science really does.

The letter-writer is A. Hugh Jones, described as: “a retired faculty member from the Ball State University Teacher’s College.” We’ll give you a few excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Okay, here we go:

Jones begins by saying that he has problems with the newspaper’s recent editorial about the Ball State imbroglio. We wrote about it in “Academic Freedom” for Creationists Only. The editorial referred to the legislative inquiry into the university’s policy of keeping intelligent design out of science classes as a witch hunt. Jones doesn’t mention that, specifically. Instead he picks on the editorial’s statement that “Science explains the world around us as it is, not the world as others would wish it.” He says:

Science doesn’t really explain anything. It describes things as they are — as we have experienced them so far — but it doesn’t explain them.

Jones has made a career of teaching people to be teachers, yet he is utterly clueless about the difference between a scientific law, which is descriptive, and a theory — which is explanatory. Ah, but he has a very different kind of explanation in mind. He tells us:

To explain something is to answer the “why” question about it, and the “why” question has two kinds of answers: the cause of it and/or the purpose of it. And in all truth, science is not able to give us either kind of answer.

Amazing. Science not only fails to tell us “why” (that’s a theological issue) but he claims it can’t tell us anything. Perhaps we’ve seen too many of these letters, and therefore our judgement is warped, but we’re starting to suspect that Jones craves supernatural explanations, and therefore he’s sympathetic to intelligent design. If we’re wrong, we’ll say so. Let’s read on:

For example, most of us think — even scientists, when we are being sloppy in our thinking — that “unsupported objects fall because of the law of gravity.” But really, the so-called “law of gravity” only describes what most of us have observed to happen when things we think of as “objects” are what we consider “unsupported.”

The law of gravity has no prescriptive power — it does not rule anything, it just tells us what has happened in our experience, so far. And in fact some things do not fall — the moon, or clouds or rainbows, or mirages, or hydrogen molecules or indeed, some of our spaceships. So we rewrite the law of gravity or redefine what we classify as “objects” to fit our wider experience.

It’s creepy when we get a peek into someone’s mind and see nothing but a mass of writhing maggots. Remember those maggots, dear reader, because we’ll return to them before we’re done here. Jones continues:

Or we might think that human beings have, let us say, fingers so that we can grasp things, and point, and write and do things like sewing, knitting and so on. But really — monkeys and apes have fingers, but they don’t point, sew, knit… . Science tells us many things about our bodies, but purpose is not one of them.

Purpose — Jones is looking for purpose, and he finds that science is useless! Then he spends a few paragraphs discussing mathematics and logic, which he thinks are useful — although his logic examples are nothing but simplistic tautologies. That leads him to what he imagines is deep thinking:

This raises a profound question: Are logic and mathematics built into the very structure of the universe, or are they purely a human creation? Or to put the question another way, is God the Great — and original — Mathematician? Or is the powerfully enabling fit between this purely human mental creation and the world around us merely an amazing coincidence?

Aaaargh!! Jones cites no sources, and therefore leaves his readers with the impression that his argument is his own original thinking, but we’ve run into it before — although not in the typical letter-to-the-editor. It’s based on the so-called Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, which mystics claim is evidence of Oogity Boogity. Here’s more:

This is both a scientific and a religious question. It is a question about the very nature of the scientific enterprise — and about the truth or falsehood of any religious doctrine, including atheism (for atheism is a religious doctrine!)

Are you following this guy’s argument? Does he even have an argument? We can’t imagine what it must have been like to be one of his students. Anyway, moving along:

It is a question about the fundamental nature of humanity itself. And both scientists and religionists — human beings all — disagree among themselves about the answer. And it is also the question underlying the “issue of intelligent (or intelligible) design.”

Yup — our suspicions were justified. The creationist simpleton says: “Look out the window, and there’s your proof,” but the sophisticated creationist points to the existence of math and logic. Somehow that’s his proof. Well, we’ve looked at Jones’ so-called proof — it’s maggots, all the way down.

And now, having dazzled us with his brilliance, at the close of his letter Jones declares himself to be a full blown mystic:

Given this, can we really justify forbidding any teacher of any of the “liberal arts” — which include science, mathematics, philosophy, and all of the humanities — all of which are concerned with the cultivation of humanity! — to discuss and communicate his own thoughts on such a profoundly important question?

So there you are. The teacher of teachers is on the side of the Discoveroids. Wasn’t that fun?

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #411: Education Professor

  1. Curmy opines—

    “It’s creepy when we get a peek into someone’s mind and see nothing but a mass of writhing maggots.

    Well, we’ve looked at Jones’ so-called proof — it’s maggots, all the way down.”

    Indeed, and of course some maggots will never fly.

    More generally, A. Hugh Jones may just as well marvel at the “unreasonable effectiveness of abstraction in the acquisition of knowledge” and, er, abstract therefrom that all abstract speculation is worthy of respect. He has given us a blinding example where such is patently not the case.

  2. ladyatheist

    I wonder if he was on the search committee that hired Gonzalez

  3. Mark Germano

    My layperson understaing is that the moon – and spaceships! – are indeed falling. They just keep missing the Earth.

  4. docbill1351

    Please enjoy the wonderful Richard Feynman on Why.

    I think Feynman’s restraint is admirable!

  5. docbill1351 says: “Please enjoy the wonderful Richard Feynman on Why.”

    Yes — as a Discoveroid would say, he does an excellent job of dodging the overwhelming evidence of intelligent design.

  6. Charles Deetz ;)

    I was thinking more a Nancy Kerrigan kind of “WHY WHY WHY WHY”.

  7. Why do creationists often talk about logic but never use it?

  8. Actually I agree with Jones – science doesn’t explain anything, it describes (to be precise: how). So it’s even more fun how completely wrong he goes:

    “the cause of it and/or the purpose of it”
    Both totally describe how; describing in terms of teleology though was a total failure. That’s why only nerds study the physics of Aristoteles these days.

    “And in all truth, science is not able to give us either kind of answer.”
    So according to Jones F = m*a is a failure. That’s new indeed! See, what we read here is “force changes the direction and/or magnitude of velocity” ….

    “But really, the so-called “law of gravity” only describes …”
    One of the best (worst) false dichotomies I have ever met. It describes this in terms of …… exactly, causality. Starting point: two point masses bring a force upon each other – ie the cause of gravity is mass.

    “Are you following this guy’s argument?”
    Yes.

    “Does he even have an argument?”
    No. Jones doesn’t know and/or understand the difference between the event and the description of the event. If he were consistent with his “science only describes” he should add “by means of mathematics and logic”. That implies math and logic are products of human thinking.

    “it is also the question underlying the “issue of intelligent (or intelligible) design.””
    Well, this is original. “Only god can account for math and logic means the Universe is Intelligently Designed, else it doesn’t make sense we can use math and logic at all”. Sound plausible, eh? Except that it’s exactly the opposite of Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, which argues that the scientific method contains a logical contradiction. Plus except that some theologians and/or philosophers of religion postulate that the Universe can’t be completely described by means of math and logic.
    So what we have here:
    1. everything can be described by means of math of logic, hence god.
    2. not everything can be described by means of math of logic, hence god.
    Anyone amazed yet that theologians and philosophers of religion get so little respect?

  9. @Ed: you can really expand your question.

    “Why do creationists, theologians, philosophers of religion and other apologists often talk about logic but never use it?”

  10. Maggots? No he doesn’t show enough intelligence to justify maggots. His skull contains nothing beyond the hollow echo of his irrelevant theology.

  11. Ball State is beginning to look like a real maggot-pit of creationism. I’m glad this guy is now retired.

    But then, Ball State has never been mistaken for a midwest Harvard. Its most famous alumnus is David Letterman, and its biggest splash in the news before this current creationist imbroglio occurred when the students rioted because the bars’ closing time was moved up an hour.

    Gives you an idea of the place’s academic rigor. I’m sure this A. Hugh Jones guy fit right in.

  12. Ceteris Paribus

    The Muncie’s Uncle writes:

    Or we might think that human beings have, let us say, fingers so that we can grasp things, and point, and write and do things like sewing, knitting and so on. But really — monkeys and apes have fingers, but they don’t point, sew, knit

    Yes, monkeys and apes do have fingers, and are famously known to use them to fling gobs of their own poop. Now what was the point that this retired “faculty member” trying to make about his own fingers?

    (Any bets on the odds of a retired faculty “member” going around writing letters using the name “A. Hugh Jones”, NOT being a poser?)

  13. Doctor Stochastic

    Doesn’t the “Principle of Least Action” roughly translate much of mechanics into a teleological modality. (Needed some funny words look erudite.) Or in some case, the principle of extreme action (whose school I attended.)

  14. Ceteris Paribus: “(Any bets on the odds of a retired faculty “member” going around writing letters using the name “A. Hugh Jones”, NOT being a poser?)”

    I was thinking that as well, but his photo appears with his letter at Curmy’s link. He’s a geezer. No poser would post a photo like that.

  15. Sure wish we had a preview.