The Greatest Challenge You’ve Ever Faced

We’ll let you deccide, dear reader, if this one from the Discovery Institute is bizarre or brilliant. You’ll find it at their creationist website, titled Jay Richards: Warfare Thesis Ignores the Roots of Science. It’s very brief and it has no author’s by-line. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

On a classic episode of ID the Future [Ooooooooooooh! A Discoveroid podcast!], Center for Science & Culture Director of Communications Rob Crowther interviews CSC Senior Fellow Jay Richards.

Richards? We’ve seen that name before. Ah yes, Jay W. Richards, a Discoveroid senior fellow, along with Guillermo Gonzalez, or “Gonzo” as we call him, co-authored the classic creationist book, The Privileged Planet, a “fine tuning” argument applied to Earth. Richards was a former faculty member at Biola University, a bible college, where he taught apologetics.

Our humble blog mentioned him a few times in recent months — see, e.g.: Discoveroids: The Press Must Promote Creationism, and also Amazing News from the Discoveroids, about the creationist dieting book Richards had just written.

Okay, now that you know what we’re dealing with, let’s get back to the Discoveroids. They say:

Listen in as Richards rebuts the warfare thesis [The What? Oh, they explain it:] — the idea that religion and science are antagonists — and argues that historically, Judeo-Christian culture “was the seedbed from which science emerged.”

The seedbed? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Tell that to Galileo, or Darwin, or anyone who has made a significant contribution to science. But wait — let’s not judge in haste. Maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Anyway, the Discoveroids’ brief post ends with this:

Has science missed out by being partnered with materialism? [Instead of what — supernaturalism?] Download the podcast or listen to it here. [Link omitted.]

Well, dear reader, has your science career suffered because you’ve been missing out on all that great biblical inspiration? Watch Richards’ podcast — if you have the courage — and then let us know what you think of it.

Copyright © 2020. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “The Greatest Challenge You’ve Ever Faced

  1. Michael Fugate

    Given the DI’s propensity to play fast and loose with facts and definitions, when they denigrate science’s partnering with materialism, do they mean they would rather science were partnering with the unimportant, the irrelevant and the unessential or with the spiritual? Doesn’t physics imply physical/material? Without mass can one have force?

  2. @Michael Fugate
    This is just my own practice: I try to avoid expressions which the creationists can play word-games with. For example, I learned not to say that I “believe” in such-and-such.
    So, too, I avoid “material”, and even “physical”, just because I don’t like to get into creationist word games. I don’t
    Object if others use those words. I think that the word “natural”, as opposed to
    creationism’s “supernatural” works for
    me. (BTW, I say “creationism”, even though there are objections to that, because i don’t know any better word.)

  3. @Michael Fugate
    Rejecting materialism (or naturalism) means embracing supernaturalism. This is ok in everyday life, but not acceptable in science. Once you allow non-natural causation to creep into science, you run into all kinds of problems. When do you stop looking for a natural cause for an observed phenomenon once you allow for a supernatural cause? Religion doesn’t benefit either from a god-of-the-gaps.

  4. @hans435
    As I see it, the problem with supernaturalism in science is not with there being supernatural causes (whatever that may mean), but with explanations. To be supernatural is not to be constrained by the natural. And that means that one cannot say what the supernatural will do with a given natural situation. By being super-natural, the supernatural is totally free of the influence of the natural situation. Any result in the natural world makes no supernatural difference.

  5. Dave Luckett

    TomS, precisely. A corollary of “any result in the natural world makes no supernatural difference” is that the supernatural can NEVER be established by any natural means, including the evidential.

    That is to say, any attempt to demonstrate by evidence the existence of God, gods, deities or supernatural entities of any kind is, by definition, bound to fail. In practical experience, any and all evidence of any kind for such things is invariably dismissed by the skeptic as mistaken, delusory or fraudulent on the one hand, or merely a natural effect, perhaps from an unknown cause, on the other. I am not saying that it is wrong to do so, mind. Only that it is always possible, whatever the evidence.

    Appeals to probability of cause (“What is more likely?”) are mistaken. Who is to know how likely the supernatural is? Or God Himself?

    I have been running my head against that blank wall for more years than I like to think. All I can say is that I don’t know.

  6. “Listen in as Richards rebuts the warfare thesis”
    It’s actually the Conflict Thesis, popular at the end of the 19th Century and subsequently rejected. No serious historian defends it anymore since more than a century.

    “Judeo-Christian culture “was the seedbed from which science emerged.”
    On this one there is historical near-consensus as well. Christianity (judaism had become marginal) was a necessary condition (albeit not the only possible one – think of India and China) but not a sufficient one.
    It’s unfortunate that our dear SC flies off the rails himself and immediately:

    “Tell that to Galileo, or Darwin, or anyone who has made a significant contribution to science.”
    Or ask Michael Faraday and Max Planck. Our dear SC now can make my day by declaring that they didn’t make significant contributions to science.

    “The book of nature which we have to read is written by the finger of God.”
    “Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: ‘Ye must have faith'”.
    “Both religion and natural science require a belief in God for their activities, to the former He is the starting point, and to the latter the goal of every thought process. To the formere He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the efidice of every generalize world view.”

    I obviously disagree, but somehow I think religion was not a problem for neither. Not for Galilei either btw. He was a devout catholic during his entire life.

  7. @MichaelfF and TomS: my approach is very similar. While I do use the word materialism I make very clear that to me it’s a synonym for naturalism. Any creacrapper who claims otherwise exposes himself (hardly ever a herself) as a liar, which suits me fine.
    Indeed I do avoid the word “believe” too.
    As for creationism, given the inherent dishonesty of its fans I deny them the right to define it themselves. The three criteria I formulated (with many thanks to our dear SC) work fine.

    @Hans and TomS: the way I see it the problem with supernaturalism in science is neither with causes nor with explanations (though whatever they mean indeed). The problem is with incoherence (DaveL gave an example) and with the lack of a reliable methodology (which some of Hans’ questions were about).

  8. @TomS & FrankB
    Being unconstrained is part of supernaturalism. Same with incoherence. Anything goes when you invoke the supernatural. You can make wine out of water, or out of nothing (and I don’t mean that now in any defamatory sense).

  9. How do you know? What method have you used to conclude that “being unconstrained is part of supernaturalism”? For instance the Greek gods of the Olympus apparently were not unconstrained at all. And some christian theologians maintain that their god is constrained by his goodness and/or by logic. How do you decide who is right? Or, if you reject them all, like me, how do you avoid attacking a strawman?
    No matter how entertaining they are, creationists are not representative for all believers. What works against them may not work against many others.

  10. When the Discoveroids say that Judeo-Christian culture “was the seedbed from which science emerged,” I should have said that it was the Greeks who first developed what we would recognize as science, and it was the Muslims who built on that Greek foundation, which eventually found its way back to Europe after the Crusades — and sparked the Renaissance. So why don’t the Discoveroids give credit to the Olympian gods?

  11. @FrankB
    If the creationists have an example of how a supernatural designer of life (that being the topic of concern here – supernatural design versus natural evolution) could be constrained by nature, let them describe that. Or, for that matter, what unconstrained design would be like. I am not asking for a sure example, for proof, or evidence; just something to consider.

  12. @SC: “it was the Greeks who first developed what we would recognize as science”
    Depends on how you define science. The Greeks are not particularly famous for systematically collecting empirical data. It were the Babylonians who did that first.
    What the IDiots from Seattle and actually all apologists do is in fact taken over from Greek philosophers. It’s even in your description of the creacrap method. Take a few observations, rely on logic (ie deduction) and draw a conclusion. What the christians added a few centuries later is combining this with faith. All this makes your question even more pressing ….

    @TomS: As soon as creationists deliver such a description I’ll repeat my question: how do they know? What’s their method? How did they decide that that particular description is correct and another, contradictory one, is not?
    At this point I’d like to remind you of Dougie Axe and his blabla about intuition. It’s a pathetic attempt to answer this question.

  13. @FrankB
    To make one point clear, when I asked about design without constraints. The creationists claim that their supernatural designers can do much more than is possible under science’s natural constraints. Maybe that is not totally without constraints. Maybe. But if it within supernatural constraints, then, to make their argument work, we have to assume that what supernatural constraints there are, they must make supernatural design better (in some sense, the sense to be described by the creationists).
    BTW, yes, it would be nice if the creationists would present evidence, but I am being generous. I just want to understand what they are talking about.

  14. David Sedley, in “Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity” (U. California Press, 2007) in making the case that Socrates was the first to use the “arguement for design”, says that Socrates “has turned a direct comparison into a contrast, using it to emphasize the vast superiority of divine to human artisty.” (page 84 and similarly on pages 85, 205, 214-5, citing Xenophon “Memorabilia” I 4.2-7).

  15. “I just want to understand what they are talking about.”
    The mistake you fall for again and again is that you think this stuff further through than the creationists themselves. If you get them to talk about it my bet is that their god is totally unconstrained when it suits them and isn’t when it doesn’t. Such are the wonders of Oogity Boogity Land. The rules you follow don’t apply there.
    Remember? YECers claim to be literalists. They are, except when they aren’t (four corners of the earth, pillars of the earth). Etc. etc. This is the key to understanding what they’re talking about. Digging deeper is useless and hopeless. And indeed way too generous.

  16. Michael Fugate

    Yes, as you mentioned with Axe and intuition – in my gut or heart or my immaterial mind (anywhere but my physical brain) – I pray there is a god, a god that cares about me personally and deeply. What this has to do with the origins of the universe or the origins of life – I have no idea – nor why it matters in the grand scheme of things.
    It is as if a sunset created supernaturally is prettier than one created naturally. A purposeful sunset is superior.

  17. @FrankB
    Okay, it’s a fair cop. I confess, I don’t really think that any creationist is ever going to think it through.
    It reminds me of the beginning of Goethe’s Faust, where Faust is complaining of all the subjects that he has been studying, “leider auch Theologies”.

  18. @TomS: Of course my mild criticsm shouldn’t stop you at all from pointing out that the creationist pseudoconcept of “design” is meaningless; and if it had meaning that it would be incoherent – well, you get my drift.

    @MichaelF: “A purposeful sunset is superior.”
    Yup. Because it makes the creationist feel special and important. As our dear SC never fails to point out Ol’Hambo is the embodiment of the deadly sin of superbia. He never disappoints.

  19. Michael Fugate

    It really is the loss of teleology that creationists lament. Their authoritarian personalities need it to control themselves and others.

  20. @FrankB
    I enjoy our give and take.
    @Michael Fugate
    My guess is that the real problem is being related to other animals. Most especially in being related to chimps and other apes. Especially so, because it is so obvious.
    Remember that in “Origin”, Darwin took care to mention very little about our evolutiion. Yet the immediate universal reaction was of the sort “was it from your grandmother that you claim ape ancestry?”

  21. “Being related to other animals” is the flip side. If we are, as we totally do, we humans are not special and important anymore. Just take a look at this:

    Every single question is about “I want to feel special and important and God makes that happen and you evilutionist want to rob it from me.”

  22. @FrankB
    But if I want to feel special, if I want
    feel as though the creator shows a individual interest in me, then I should reject the idea of randomness in genetics, or that one lucky sperm, etc. Evolution is about populations, not individuals.

  23. Dave Luckett

    My take on God is perhaps even simpler. I really want it to be true. But I am very much aware that that is, in itself, a reason for treating the proposition with extreme skepticism.

  24. Karl Goldsmith

    That really should say Creationists and science. As they are the ones that have the pretence of doing science, so much so they create their own research science journals.