Creationist Wisdom #992: This One Is Horrible

The countdown is getting ever closer to 1,000. Today’s second letter-to-the-editor appears in the Quay County Sun of Tucumcari, New Mexico (population 5,363). It’s titled Science is justified by belief in God, and the newspaper doesn’t have a comments feature.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a preacher. It’s Gordan Runyan, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari, which has no website. Here are some excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Okay, here we go:

Science is a bad excuse for atheism. In fact, science cannot be a servant to unbelief at all, since atheism cannot provide the philosophical underpinnings that make science a valid pursuit. I mean, there are certain concepts that must be in place and operative from the get-go, before any use of the scientific method of investigation can even make sense. Atheism, as it happens, cannot account for any of those starting-point concepts. (This is not to say that atheists can’t be great scientists. Obviously, they can, and I am thankful for this. It is to say that a consistent atheist cannot provide justification for why science should work in the first place.)

This is starting out strange. We never heard of a scientist who claimed that atheism provides the “philosophical underpinnings” for science. The acceptance of science is based on its verifiable descriptions and explanations of reality. Then the rev says:

For the scientific method to be valid, these are some of the preconditions that have to exist: laws of logic, which govern rational thinking; the uniformity of nature; and, the ability of human observation to discern reality. [Okay, fair enough.] Atheists assume these things are real, but their worldview can offer no reason for them. [Huh?]

This is wacky. Science works, and atheism is irrelevant. That’s the whole story. But the rev thinks he has something profound to say, so he drones on:

First, for science to work, logic has to be a thing, as the kids say. Boil it down, and logic is a set of invisible, pre-existing rules that govern what sorts of thoughts may be considered rational or true. These truth-rules are not subject to experimentation and must be true everywhere or else they can’t be true at all.

What did he say? Who knows? But that was “First,” so he’s just getting started. Now he tells us:

The atheist assumes logic exists and is real, but his atheism can offer no accounting of how it came to be. Whatever argument he might make in favor of logic must first assume logic and follow the rules. This is a logical fallacy all by itself, the assumption of what must be proven.

Aaaargh!! We have to show how logic “came to be”? And we need to prove that logic works or we can’t use it? Jeepers, the rev is really making it tough for us. He continues with his second brilliant point:

Secondly, science requires a basic uniformity of nature, and proceeds to do all its experimentation with the confidence that “tomorrow will be like today, only more so.” Atheism can supply no rational reason why this ought to be the case in a universe randomly made, without purpose. It is simply assumed, because it has seemed to work up till now.

Science doesn’t start out by “requiring a basic uniformity of nature.” Science functions because the laws of nature uniformly govern everything. In a world where the gods are always making miracles, science would be useless. But it’s obviously not useless, Q.E.D. Let’s read on:

However, there are scientific thinkers who are theorizing that the uniformity of nature, the predictability of the world around us, is actually an indication that what they perceive as “reality” is not really real at all. [What?] (Check out “Are we living in a computer simulation?” in the Scientific American.)

This is, without question, one of the ghastliest letters we’ve ever dealt with. And it’s not over yet. Here’s another excerpt:

In the third case [Ah, his third point], observational science proceeds on the assumption that humans can discern the world around us truly. [What’s wrong with that?] Given evolution, however, all our senses must be able to do is keep us alive long enough to pass on our genetic material. Why would a brain that emerged from the muck for no reason necessarily be able to comprehend truth?

Now that was really bad. Here’s more:

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, if our senses were not designed for telling us the truth, there’s no reason to believe that they would.

We’re not going to chase that quote to verify it, because it’s crazy. If our senses didn’t function effectively, it’s obvious that we couldn’t survive. But we do survive, therefore, they function well enough. We can also improve on them, with verifiably accurate results, using telescopes, microscopes, etc. And atheism is irrelevant to the foregoing.

You’ll be happy to hear that we’ve reached the end of the rev’s letter. Here it is:

Contrary to all this, if God created the heavens and the earth, and humanity to flourish in them, then these three preconditions are warranted and rational. [Groan!] We can and should pursue science, precisely because we live in the world God made.

We can’t think of a thing to say — except that reading the rev’s letter was a really horrible experience. What do you think of it, dear reader?

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #992: This One Is Horrible

  1. The pastor says “which govern rational thinking; the uniformity of nature; and, the ability of human observation to discern reality. [Okay, fair enough.] Atheists assume these things are real, but their worldview can offer no reason for them”. ……The curmudgeon says [Huh?]
    I believe , dear SC , that this fellow is suggesting that rational ought, uniformity in nature and human ability to discern reality can only c one as god given gifts. In other words he’s preaching.

  2. @och will
    Let us assume that our senses are designed. Let us, moreover, assume that they are designed for telling us the truth.
    Everybody knows that some times our senses fail in telling us the truth. That’s OK, because we all know that design doesn’t always work. Even the Bible doesn’t always work in telling us th truth. It took a couple of thousand years for Bible readers found out that the Earth was a planet of the Solar System. Even today, there are Bible-reading theists that don’t accept what our senses tell us, that we are related by common physical descent with the rest of the world of life on Earth.
    But how does this mean that theism is any better at telling us the truth?

  3. Guess what our senses WERE NOT MADE to tell us the truth. Why do you think we are so bad at finding it and why optical/audio/and touch illusions work so well!! He’s too dim to mess with.

  4. chris schilling

    Pastors shouldn’t try to think out loud — it makes everyone else’s brain hurt, and that’s not fair (why should innocent people suffer?).

    As soon as this latest pastor starts making intimate bathroom noises public, and starts going on about “a basic uniformity of nature”, by rights he should rule out miracles — which, after all, are violations of the very thing he’s trying to argue was divinely established in the first place.

    Is the rev willing to forego miracles? Not bloody likely!

  5. Michael Fugate

    Can’t you imagine God creating Adam from dirt and animating him, then realizing Adam needs sex? – why the hell else did I give him a penis just to masturbate? Then God slaps the old cranium and claims “I’ll take out a rib of him and fashion something to have sex with.” It’s plausible, no? Who would come up with a story like that? Logic, uniformity, truth?

    It fits none of the 3 criteria: organisms arise by reproduction, showing it all to be a pack of lies.

  6. I’m no fan of Thomas Hardy, but I remember one character in “Far from the Madding Crowd”: Parson Thirdly, a country clergyman whose lengthy sermons were divided into three parts, much like the Trinity. The present correspondent is one of his kidney, it seems.

    Like Parson Thirdly’s standard three points, the Rev’s boil down to just one: reality is perceptibly consistent. That’s it. That’s about all of it. If it were not perceptibly consistent, reason itself – even such expeditions into ratiocination as the Rev embarks on – would be pointless, and mind itself entirely redundant. But reality is consistent. Well, pretty much, at least until you get to considering the statistical realities behind quantum theory.

    What are we to make of reality being consistent? Can we conclude that it is the production of a mind? One mind? Er, no. That doesn’t follow. Consistent reality selects for mind, not the other way around. A mind that comprehends (and exploits!) reality is a useful tool for living in reality. The more it does that, the more useful a tool it becomes. There is no reason for assuming design in this. Our senses perceive reality because if they did not, they would not be selected. They perceive it with greater efficiency because efficiency is selected for, IF improved efficiency is an advantage – which is not necessarily the case.

    Yes, evolution selects for life that successfully passes on its genetic material. Many life-forms do so once only, and then die. Human beings are a slightly odd case, in that the group is advantaged by having members who will no longer or who never have offspring, but contribute economically. Traits that improve the chances of members of the group successfully passing on genetic material, are selected. That’s evolution.

    There’s a huge gulf between consistent reality and designed consistent reality. The Rev simply pretends that it’s not there. He’s kidding himself.

  7. Someone should point out to the Rev that logic is not a basis for science. Science is based on observation, and it works. For example, logic isn’t necessary for the fact that matter and energy are inter-convertible and that the conversion constant is the square of the speed of light, but that’s the way the world is. And boy, would the Rev be depressed if he tried to apply logic to understanding quantum mechanics. (Full disclosure: I’m an atheist and was a moderately successful scientist, and never had the need of a god hypothesis in my laboratory).

  8. “This is not to say that atheists can’t be great scientists. Obviously, they can, and I am thankful for this”
    What on earth is he thankful for? What am I missing here?

  9. “Science is a bad excuse for atheism.”
    Then pastor Runyan will be delighted that “there is no god ‘cuz science” is not one of my arguments.

    “atheism cannot provide the philosophical underpinnings ….”
    Again correct! However atheistm doesn’t conflict with them either.
    Our dear SC highlights the wrong stuff today:

    “a consistent atheist cannot provide justification for why science should work in the first place”
    Classic. Pastor Runyan jumps from “atheism cannot” to “the consistent atheist cannot” – and carefully omits to provide any justification for this jump himself! As a result this is as stupid as saying “were FrankB and DaveL consistent atheists they could not provide justification for or against Brexit”.

    “The atheist assumes logic exists and is real”
    Christians like pastor Runyan assume that logic exist and is real “‘cuz God” and at the same time postulate that this very same god can violate logic at will. And what did he say again?

    “[Logic] must be true everywhere or else they can’t be true at all.”
    Pastor Runyan just has provided an argument against his own god! When god sets aside the truth-rules of logic, especially when performing miracles, these truth-rules are not true, hence they are not true at all, hence logic and pastor Runyan’s god are incompatible.
    Btw our dear SC recognizes this exact contradiction regarding the uniformity of our natural reality. According to pastor Runyan that one is incompatible with his god as well. That’s to say, were he to follow the truth-rules of logic he thinks so important.

    “This is, without question, one of the ghastliest letters we’ve ever dealt with.”
    Indeed – but there are two remarkable points connected to it.
    1. It’s one of the most honest displays of the Argument from Logic and Science any apologist ever has presented;
    2. Thus far no creacrap is involved!

    This makes clear why so many regular philosophers think so low of apologetic scholars. They are just more verbose because they need to hide how hideous the Argument from Logic and Science actually is. So all atheists should actually thank pastor Runyan.
    In the same way we should thank him for expertedly exposing how badly Plantinga’s EAAN [Bleep!}

    “We can’t think of a thing to say …”
    I can – pastor Runyan also expertedly jumps over agnosticism – the option that we cannot sensibly say anything about god(s). Thus he creates the false dichotomy “either theism or atheism”, which he needs to maintain the non-sequitur “atheism can’t hence God can”. Btw the popular “no evidence hence no god” suffers from the same flaw. Everyone has a similar burden of proof.

    1. The apologist when saying “there is a god”;
    2. The agnost when saying “you can’t know whether there is a god or not;
    3. The atheist when saying “there is no god”.

    Science is neutral on this issue; eventually all three can use philosophy of science, which is not quite the same.

    “What do you think of it, dear reader?”
    Pastor Runyan’s letter is a perfect example of “the more intellectually honest apologetics becomes the less convincing”. As an argument his letter hence is useful for both the agnost and the atheist.

  10. @DaveL raises an interesting point:

    “But reality is consistent. Well, pretty much, at least until you get to considering the statistical realities behind quantum theory.”
    The statistical realities behind QT are consistent as well. The famous example is wave-particle duality. For a couple of centuries this was a hot issue, Huygens leading the wave camp and Newton and co defending the case for particles. Then physicists simply declared that there was no contradiction and/or inconsistency involved. Highly intelligent people thinking there is one only demonstrates that counter intuitive and inconsistent aren’t synonyms. This illustrates what TomS and L.Long bring up.

  11. @Abeastwood also raises an interesting point:

    “would the Rev be depressed if he tried to apply logic to understanding quantum mechanics”
    Actually QM urged me to make the step from agnosticism to atheism, because I realized that a natural reality according to QM was incompatible with deterministic gods like almost all versions of the abrahamistic one. Only later I learned that there are god-images that are compatible with QM as well. Indeed I’d bet that such god-images would depress pastor Runyan. I always find it funny and remarkable how carefully Ol’Hambo, Klunkcerduncker and their mates avoid this issue.
    That said I’ve met an IDiot on internet, quite a few years ago, who thought it terrible that according to QM our natural reality is probabilistic and not deterministic.

  12. Just think of some of the things that “cannot provide the philosophical
    underpinnings that made science a valid pursuit.”
    The Pythagorean Theorem, the Periodic Table, the US Declaration of Independence, Beethoven’s symphonies, The Mona Lisa, The Great Wall of China, Mount Everest, …
    Why would anyone find it interesting to argue for yet another addition to such a pointless list?

  13. “As C.S. Lewis pointed out, if our senses were not designed for telling us the truth, there’s no reason to believe that they would.”
    As W. v. O. Quine pointed out, “Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind.” (“Natural Kinds”, in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (1969), p. 126)

  14. I think it’s clear that science can never disprove the existence of gods. Take any well-supported scientific explanation of some class of phenomena, and add a god. It still works. For example, Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism: they work, because the god Thor ensures that they work. Or abiogenesis: it depends on the Hephaestus, the god of chemistry, co-operating with Loki, the god of thermodynamics.

  15. I should have mentioned evolution: it works because JHVH (or possibly Jesus) makes the right mutations occur.

  16. Aaaarggghhh! Theistic evolution! Unacceptable!
    For creacrappers, that is.

  17. A very wordy argument from ignorance. Yawn.

    What if the scientists are wrong? Response: what evidence do you have that they’re wrong?

    What if god is hiding stuff from us? Response: what evidence do you have of this hidden stuff?

    What if there is stuff we don’t know about? Response: there may be but then we don’t know about it.

  18. What if the scientists are wrong?
    If the scientists are wrong, that doesn’t mean that the creationists are right.
    Because, in the first place, the creationists don’t have an answer to the questions that the scientists are asking. If they don’t have anything positive to say, then they aren’t right.
    For example, why are humans most closely related to chimps and other apes, among all of the forms that life on Earth takes? Why does all of life that we have evidence of, whenver and whenever, fall into its place in the nested herarchy known as the “tree of life”/
    Because when the scientists are wrong, they are closer to the truth than the earier ideas.
    For examople, when the early scientists followed Aristotle and Ptolemy in the geocentric model of the motions of the heavens, they were closer to the truth than those who thought that the stars were living beings, moving in unpredictable ways. When Kepler said that the orbits of the planets were ellipses, he was closer than Copernicus. When Einstein said that the the motons were governed by the laws of the General Theory of Relatvity, he was closer than Newton.
    When Newton said that the force of gravity and momentum caused the motions of the lights in the sky, he was closer than Dante, who said, ““Love, that moves the sun and the other stars” (the closing of The Divine Comedy).