Response to Ashley Smith — Part I

Hello skeptics, Good evening, Good morning, whatever,

This is the first time I write on my own personal blog during my time in Germany, and strangely, it has nothing to do with Germany. I wish to discuss today a recent string of comments and emails sent to me by an “Ashley Smith” (I assume by the non-gendered first name and common last name that it is a pseudonym, I will refer to them as a ‘she’ for simplicities sake) concerning the topic of the distinction between science and the supernatural. This is a topic I find quite interesting, and it’s a topic that I have talked about before. I will discuss specifics through the post, but in general, this topic surrounds the question of what is testable and what is not testable by science, and what it means for the supernatural, and specifically a universe-creating, all powerful Deity.

The three comments left on the blog can be found in my article here Science is the Only Way to Test Reality if you wish to respond to them, or look at them first hand and the post that provoked them. However for the sake of making my own notes on the comments, I will have them here.

The first comment reads like so (Italicised to break it from the body of the post):
You have no idea what you are talking about. Science has its considerable limitations and things it does NOT do. It CANNOT and does NOT address the supernatural OR God. This falls WAAAAY beyond the BOUNDARIES of what science can actually do. Science and spirituality are NOT at war. That is an Internet MYTH perpetuated by clueless and uneducated people. They do different things. Science does not get involved in that.

What Dawkins does is a complete misuse and abuse of science for his underlying dubious agenda. He should know better.

Lastly, there is NO such thing as “the scientific method.” There is NO singular method that all scioentists follow. What we all learned in 6th grade is a VERY INACCURATE picture of how science works as conducted by professional researchers around the world. It is outwright wrong and far too simple.

I suggest you educate yourself. The Internet contains A LOT of MISINFORMATION.

—END COMMENT—

Lets tackle some of the claims made in this comment. I’ll try and respond to her points in order.

The first claim made by Ashley (can I call you Ash?), is that the supernatural and God fall beyond the limits of science. This is the main claim I have a problem with from this commenter. YES, it is true that the supernatural and God fall beyond the limits of science, because these hypothesises are unable to be disproved. There is no way that a testable hypothesis can be made about these two things, which means they fall beyond the realm of science. Lets look at it closer.

Now, science, as I discussed in the blog post I linked to, is, in my opinion, the only way to TEST reality. This is because science is the only effective method we have for testing things that exist. Things that exist are in reality. If we make the assumption that things that exist and have some tangible effect on reality can be observed in some way, then this means they can be tested by science.

Lets take God for example, because he’s a hot topic issue. We’ll take the claim that God exists, created the universe and occasionally comes down and messes with it in so-called ‘miracles’. We can make the assumption that such a being would have an effect on reality, quite a tangible effect, seeing as he created it all. So, we can also then assume that we should be able to measure this effect, by either observing a miracle or by looking into the past and finding that it just doesn’t add up without the huge assumption of a God who started it all. Is it only coincidence then that we haven’t seen any verified, proven miracles yet, and our knowledge of the beginning of time is getting greater and greater every day?

Nothing in Science points to God. Science is the only way that we can observe things that have an effect on reality. Therefore, by claiming that God is outside of the realm of science, a statement which I agree with, we are forced into two options. Either God exists but influences reality in no way what-so-ever, didn’t make it, doesn’t perform miracles with it, and doesn’t take our brain to his house when we die, OR God doesn’t exist. Neither option I think my commenter would like to agree to.

So she’s right, but it means God does’t exist.

Next is her claim that Science and Spirituality are not at war, and that the idea that they are is an internet myth perpetuated by clueless and uneducated people. Uneducated people like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris? If you call them uneducated and clueless, then you are quite wrong, nothing else. It is not an internet myth, it is a fundamental problem with the two endeavours. The basis of Science and Spirituality are polar opposites. Science believes that the universe is orderly, follows a set of rules, is constant, and is ruled by cause-and-effect. Spirituality is exactly the opposite, the belief that all of the rigidness of reality science claims can be completely disregarded if you pray hard enough. They must be at intellectual war, there is no other way about it.

Next her statement against Richard Dawkins. She presents no evidence whatsoever for this claim, just makes it out of thin air. However she seems to be part of a group with a specific agenda against Richard Dawkins, one of those who thinks all atheists worship him and Charles Darwin.

The last point raised in this comment is the notion that there is no such thing as ‘the scientific method’. No evidence is put forward to prove that, but the claim is made that not all scientists follow the scientific method in their research. This is completely false. Every single piece of scientific research ever done follows the same process.
1. Observation
2. Hypothesis made from observation
3. Hypothesis is tested using rigorous standards and bias and variable control
4. Conclusions are drawn from results.
5. If hypothesis was correct, good, make another one. If it was incorrect, bad luck, make another one.
6. Rinse and Repeat.

I challenge Ash to present one piece of published, peer-reviewed, credible scientific research (if she’s ever read a scientific paper) which does not follow the structure of hypothesis-test-conclusion. Then we can discuss the scientific method and how it’s not true. Now onto the next comment, which will be in the second instalment.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Response to Ashley Smith — Part I

  1. First off, I’m glad in your post you say that it’s your OPINION that science, however, I do want to jump back to the beginning and reply to your first post.

    Your mother is correct in that there are more ways that just science to come to know things. You argue that logic and philosophy “stem” from science.

    That is incorrect.

    Science presupposes logic, philosophy, and math. So you have it backward. Science stems from logic, math and philosophy – it is the outgrown of those areas. Which is what it means to “stem from.”

    Point of fact, logic doesn’t need science. However, science DOES need logic.

    I can make logical inferences and come to logical conclusions outside of science. Science PRESUMES logic. Science works because of logic, not the other way around.

    Guess your mom isn’t too ignorant after all…you should apologize to her for even thinking so. I’m serious.

    Now, you state this: “the fact that science is able to test anything is not just some blatant statement, it’s true.”

    Actually it’s not. There are more than a few things that science cannot test and thus affirm or deny (like many of the claims your are about to make).

    So no science cannot test “anything” it can however test “some things.”

    That is no small distinction. For if science COULD and DID test everything, than you might have a better case, however, science is limited – in which we will get into – of what it can test.

    But what about supernatural? Well, as you state: if something is testable, it is not supernatural. So no science cannot test supernatural events. That moves beyond it scope, if we find it CAN BE tested, you are correct – it’s not supernatural, and thus never was.

    You then say: “there is no possibility of something having an effect of the universe around us…….and not be testable by science.”

    More than one thing wrong with your statement. 1) it’s not a scientific statement. Your proposition as you have it stated is NOT testable. 2) it claims complete and absolute knowledge. “There is no possibility of something having an effect of the universe around us…” How do you know this for 100% certainty beyond opinion and bias? Simple: you don’t. In addition, you actually have no way of knowing this either.

    One of science’s limitation is this: it’s behind reality. What we have learned and “discovered” through science existed prior to our discovery. IE – the rate of standard gravity was 9.80665 m/s prior to our discovering this fact. The discovery didn’t create the rate, only revealed it to us. Science was behind reality.

    Another limitation of science is it is limited to our current knowledge ( because we don’t know, what we don’t know) and ability (we can only test, what we can only test) based on our current assets of tools, funding, manpower, etc.

    Now, let’s takes the second part of your sentence – not testable by science. Correct, as there are many things currently not testable by science, but that doesn’t mean:

    1) they don’t exist

    2) they will NEVER be able to be tested.

    You also incorrectly assert that if one cannot test the cause, the cause must not exist. This of course is false, we can test the effects of gravity, yet have we discovered a way to test the cause of gravity. Yet gravity exists.

    So how does this apply to God?

    In your reply to AS you say, “We’ll take the claim that God exists….and messes with it (the universe) in so-called miracles.” You then say that we should be able to measure these effects, “by either observing a miracle or by looking into the past and finding that it just doesn’t add up without the huge assumption of a God who started it all. Is it only coincidence then that we haven’t seen any verified, proven miracles yet, and our knowledge of the beginning of time is getting greater and greater every day.”

    Well, people do claim to see miracles happen. As for looking into the past – science cannot speak about the past. That’s another limitation of science. Example: science cannot prove that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. You cannot “prove” history. Certainly not by using the scientific method. Yet there are realities of history that you accept because of other means other than the scientific method.

    And while you haven’t seen verified miracles yet, doesn’t mean they don’t happen. As I stated other people say they have, now while you cannot replicate the miracle (which stands to reason since it IS a miracle) as I said, you cannot prove the past. If a singular event happened, even a natural one, you cannot prove scientifically that it DID happen. Sure, for a natural even you could show it “could” happen, but you can’t ever prove it did. For a supernatural event, well, it would stand to reason that we wouldn’t naturally be able to show it could as it was beyond such – thus, SUPER natural.

    You then make the claims that Science is the ONLY way that we can observe things that have an effect on reality and that God is outside the realm of science, which you agree with, we are FORCED into two options: 1) God exists but doesn’t influence reality or 2) God doesn’t exist.

    But there are problems with your assertions. 1) both are non-scientific statement. 2) your two options ignores several other options (one is such that God could CHOOSE not to influence our universe) which shows bias and NOT scientific. 3) much of what effects reality, you see everyday and do not use science. And much of what you accept as reality cannot be affirmed via science either.

    In addition, you are correct, we can measure the EFFECTS on reality, but that speaks NOTHING to the cause of said effects or whether the cause exists or not. That you cannot measure the cause is only a fact of: you cannot measure all causes. And if were to extend this to the supernatural – it holds as rational that we wouldn’t be able to measure the cause, as we cannot naturally explain it or understand it as being supernatural it would be beyond our scope. That is, unless you want to claim that we currently possess all the knowledge that there is to posses even just in the natural world and no further knowledge is to be gained ( I highly doubt you are willing to claim such, despite you making claims that assume such knowledge)

    As for the science v. religion debate. I have to admit I was a bit stunned by what you said. “…her claim is that science and religion are not at war, and that the idea that they are is an internet myth perpetrated by clueless and uneducated people.” You then reference Dawkins and Harris and call it a “fundamental problem.” That they are “polar opposites”. And say that Science believes that the universe is orderly, follows rules, constant and follows cause and effect and that spirituality is the opposite and claims that these rules can be broken if you pray hard enough.

    Wow.

    An appeal to authority to “prove” your point about science and religion being at war – not scientific, ST. Just because Dawkins and Harris say there’s a war between the two doesn’t make it so. In fact, if we take Dawkins at his own words that he is out to “kill” religion, we see that Dawkins actually has a bias and a motive for perpetuating such and idea.

    I as a person of faith, do as well believe the universe to be as you described it to be. The ONLY difference between my faith and your belief is that I believe it’s due to a creator and not just popped out of nothing. It’s the “why” to the order and constants that we see. Such as logic…how does logic just naturally exist? Science cannot tell you, as science needs logic and that would be circular.

    To even point further that there isn’t a war between spirituality and science, one can look at Christian universities. Do they not have science departments? Why? If their spirituality is at odds with science, why would they have science departments?

    Also, I have emailed you a podcast about this very issue as well. If you wish to continue to assert that religion and science are at odds, you have to do better than just cite two very biased people.

    As for prayer – you again are making a statement that you cannot prove scientifically and make no actual logical argument against it. You ASSERT that God cannot intervene, however that too is not a scientific statement as you do not possess full knowledge of the world natural and otherwise. Not to mention that we have such limitation in science because of our limited knowledge and abilities.

    All you have done here is actually AFFIRM Ash’s point about the chasm between the two. It is perpetuated by those with a bias and agenda, just as you have done here. You have shown that you either do not consider that someone of faith can love science and work in scientific fields, or you just plain ignore it and hold onto your un-scientific belief that faith and science cannot stand together.

    Either way, you look biased…not skeptical.

    Lastly here, I would like to address your flippant remarks to Ash about the scientific method.
    You claim “EVERY single piece of scientific research EVER done follows the same process.”

    Really? (oh, and this too is another UN-scientific claim about reality)

    digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=educ_fac_pubs

    (more links to follow)

    You then ask Ash to provide evidence that the SM isn’t followed and in what journals:

    amasci.com/miscon/myths10.html

    And just in case you wanted a bit of evidence of a discovery made by chance:

    accessexcellence.org/AE/AEC/CC/chance.php

    And I found all these links with only five minutes of searching on the web….I wonder if I might find even more if I actually put effort into it.

    I suggest SK that before you make such bold, and incorrect statements, that you do a bit of research yourself. You show your 1) bias toward your view, 2) that you don’t truly look into opposing views, 3) you don’t test other’s claims, only make statements you believe to be true, yet aren’t.

    Skeptism is not beholding to one side, while ignoring and not investigating the other side.

    I’m skeptical about ghosts, myself, but you know what? I watch everything I can on them. I read what I can, I even went ghost hunting…am I still skeptical? Yes, but I open myself up to their possibility because I am interested in the truth of the matter. Do you do the same about God?

    Sure doesn’t appear so.

    Doesn’t appear that you even look at science objectively or with a critical eye…

    In any event, what we have seen so far is that you claim that science in the ONLY way to test reality. Well, you finally admit that it is your opinion, though in your first post on the matter you claim it as fact. To support your “fact” you make “truth” claims about reality that we cannot scientifically test. Yet, you say that ONLY science can test reality….you’re in a bit of a pickle there, ST.

    So I ask you, if we cannot truly test these claims scientifically and ONLY science can test truth and reality: how do you know your claims are in fact true and reflect reality? We can’t test them after all.

    You also resort to general statements of which you do not back up: IE ALL scientific research ever done follows the same process. Which you should now know is actually false. Again shows bias, not skepticism.

    You also appeal to authority when it comes to the science vs. spirituality issue. Not to mention, misrepresenting spirituality.

    So while Ash may have not made her case, you have failed to make yours as well.

  2. Two additional links regarding the “myth” of the scientific method:

    sciencenewsforkids.org/2012/07/problems-with-the-scientific-method/
    dharma-haven.org/science/myth-of-scientific-method.htm

    So, it appears your “rinse,repeat” scientific method…well, in the real world of science, doesn’t exist (at least, not as you think it does).

Tell me what I did wrong or what a great job I did (comment)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s