Monday, August 3, 2015

Kirk Pt III: Fantasy and Science

Kirk Durston has yet another post and this one is much less interesting.  Before getting into it, I wanted to comment on the title "Confusing Fantasy with Science".  I don't think real scientists have a problem with confusing the two, after all at one point all science started out as fantasy, didn't it?  Someone had an incredible idea and did the work to not only prove their idea was reality, but take it to a point so that architects and engineers could take the idea and turn it into useful and practical stuff, stuff that actually works.  Sometimes the idea didn't even originate with the scientists, they just happened to be the ones who turned an idea into reality.  Jules Vernes' works are excellent examples.  We've been to the moon, although not using a giant cannon.  We have submarines that travel considerably longer distances than 20,000 leagues, don't we?  Many of the things we see as ubiquitous today were once solely within the realm of science fiction and fantasy.  Cell phones, computers and doesn't the Apple Watch remind anyone else of the Dick Tracy two-way wrist unit?  If real scientists got confused between the science and fantasy, I doubt their success rate would be very high.  They might imagine, but they would never be able to put their imaginations to such practical applications, would they? 

OK, on the Kirk's article.  He starts off with a lie, at least in my opinion it's a lie:

"In order for atheism to survive the advance of science, it must come up with a natural explanation for the origin of the universe, the incredible fine-tuning required for the universe to support life, and the origin of life itself."
The first part of his comment seems pretty ridiculous, "In order for atheism to survive the advance of science . . ."  By definition atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist.  Why is that predicated on anything science comes up with?  The rest of it is just as bad, why does atheism have to develop a natural explanation of the origin of the universe?  Why does it have to explain something that exists only in the imagination of people like Kirk, the so-called 'fine-tuning' argument?  The only way I think any of this could happen is if Creationists are suddenly about to have a breakthrough in which science confirms, undeniably confirms, the existence of  deity and the host of things Creationists insist could have only happened through the actions of said deity.  I don't see that happening, although I bet Kirk is hoping it confirms the existence of an evangelical Christian God, or else the newly identified deity might not take too kindly to Kirk.  Atheism requires nothing like this, so why would Kirk word it this way? 

I think he's doing a couple of things.  First off by stating it this way, he's trying to equate science and atheism, which is a common, and yet disreputable, tactic and one frequently used by the Discovery Institute and their friends.  Science is not 'atheistic', nor is it 'theistic', at best, neutral.  By trying to equate the two, he's attempting to sell people who do believe in one deity or another that they cannot accept science without dropping their belief.  If that were the case then why do so many scientists profess theistic beliefs?  While it's true that the percentage of scientists who profess such beliefs is lower than the general population, it's also true that the better educated you are, the less likely you are to share some theistic belief set.  No wonder the DI is so intent on damaging science education!

Second, I think he's doing a little projection (the defense mechanism).  How I see things is that while claiming atheists have to explain the universe, the reality is if a religion doesn't come up with supernatural explanations, it will not only fail to survive the advances of science, but it will fail to gain adherents..  I mean when you think of it how many supernatural explanations and entire religions have fallen by the wayside of the decades and centuries?

While they blame science, it's not science that is disproving God, it's that people try and use God as an explanation for something they do not understand -- a very self-limiting process.  Once we do understand it better, the God explanation falls flat.  While they like to blame science, the reality is they are doing it to themselves by clinging to superseded ideas in the perception that they are somehow protecting their cherished beliefs.  The reality is they simply look foolish!  This is also know as the "God of the Gaps' argument, and we'll be discussing that more later.

But back to Kirk.  I think he's also using another tactic.  By claiming that atheism HAS to accomplish certain things, he knows that any answer science comes up with will never satisfy someone like Kirk or any of his friends.  Which means as long as he doesn't accept the answer, he can keep claiming science as some sort of failure.  Sort of like the child who sticks his fingers in his ears and making nonsensical noises to avoid hearing something he doesn't want to hear.

I don't believe this line is true either:
" . . . scientists have pointed out that the universe appears to be unbelievably fine-tuned to be able to support life".  
Scientists have not done this in any way, in fact they have shown the opposite.  The majority of the universe we have discovered, granted is a tiny part of the whole, but it is incapable of supporting life as we know it.  You would survive for how long on the Moon, or Mars, or Jupiter if you were suddenly transported their in your shirt sleeves?  Minutes, seconds, even less?  I know Creationists like to point out that the Earth and the Universe is somehow fine-tuned, but that doesn't fit the evidence, not that they will ever admit it.

He also states that Eugene Koonin basically says life is highly improbable, therefore "Koonin's solution is to propose an infinite multiverse".  Eugene Koonin did not propose an infinite multiverse, at best he philosophically thinks that it might increase the odds of life forming somewhere.  But it has nothing to do with the fine-tuned idea.  The multiverse is more a philosophical question than a scientific question and has been hypothesized in cosmology, physics, astronomy, religion, and even science fiction.  But scientists engaging is a debate doesn't automatically make it a viable scientific theory, which Kirk seems to want it to be so he can try and poke holes in it.

What he is doing is another common tactic.  Building a straw-man so he can tear it down.  In this post he's redefined atheism, misrepresented science claiming that it has 'proven' the fine-tuning nonsense, and it looks like he's quote-mining Eugene Koonin to build a straw-man.  Halfway into Kirk's article and he's already used a number of disreputable Creationist tactics.  The Discovery Institute must be so proud.

He finally got to his main argument, that  . . . well let him tell you:
"So the multiverse has become atheism's "god of the gaps" but some scientists point out that multiverse "science" is not science at all. Mathematician George Ellis wrote of multiverse models, "they are not observationally or experimentally testable -- and never will be."
His link is to his own blog where he postulates that the whole idea of the multiverse is mainly to avoid the idea of one unseen creator.  So according to Kirk science invented a whole concept just to avoid the possibility of one particular version of a deity?  Sounds more like something Creationists did, as in Creation Science, when they invented a whole new conceptual view of religion in order to avoid facing the reality of science.  So much projection in one short posting!

In order for the multiverse to be a 'God of the Gaps' argument, some scientists would have to stand up and claim the multiverse is the answer for a specific set of questions for which there is no other current answer, or one for which current answers are rejected at least by the scientist making the multiverse claim.  That's how the God of the Gaps argument works.  We see it every time someone like Michael Behe tries to pass of irreducible complexity as science, or Wild Bill Dembski tries to convince us of his specified complexity filter, or any time kennie ham posts  . . . well . . . anything.  What we see are 'explanations' devoid of any scientific support other than wishful thinking.  Is that what we see when scientists debate the many ideas about a multiverse?  The four types, the nine types,and all the potential permutations?  It's still way too soon to call the multiverse the answer to anything, while no one knows what future discoveries might change that, Kirk is trying to discredit it already. 

At this point the multiverse is an idea, barely a hypothesis and one they readily admit may never go much further.  There are any number of ideas about it,  I think Kirk is more afraid of what the multiverse would do for his religious beliefs. Imagine if we found a multitude of other universes and what if none of them provide any evidence of a deity? 

It seems that Kirk doesn't want scientists to be able to imagine and debate fantastic ideas at all.  After all what is Creationism/Intelligent Design but a flight of fancy centered around a narrow view of one particular deity.  How dare scientists make flights of fancy of their own, especially ones that fail to pay homage to Kirk's version of a God!

What Kirk appears to fail to realize is that where innovation comes from?  It doesn't stem from staring at the tried and true, but from an individual, or group of individuals, looking at something from a unique angles, developing the ideas, and proving the ideas in ways no one previously had imagined.  Not all ideas will pan out, as Kirk and his buddies prove on a daily basis.  But it's that fantastical thinking that offers a way to the future that Kirk wants to deny to anyone but I guess himself.

Let's see so far, Kirk has questioned belief in science, the peer-review process, and now the multiverse.  And yet is all three posts he hasn't really offered anything but the usual creationist canards about science and how scientists work.  At best he's reiterated some of the negative aspects of science -- things already recognized and often being addressed by real scientists, while at the same time he's misrepresented a great deal, like peer review, the multiverse, Eugene Koonin, and even the God of the Gaps argument.  You're not doing to well, Kirk.  And I thought your posts might be a bit more fun.  Hey Kirk, don't you have anything original?

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