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?
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