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Posts Tagged ‘misconceptions’

Koukl is a religious man and the main point of disagreement is based upon the idea the new atheists make assumptions in order to make their argument work. In particular he attacks Dawkins in the God Delusion based on the summary on page 188, although it is clear that most likely a summary of what is being said is only as strong as the arguments that precede it, he does not concern himself with that in this presentation. Unlike Koukl I’ve actually read the argument before I got to the summary so I understood where these comments came from. By the same measure I would be guilty of committing the logical fallacy of ‘straw man’ by suggesting that Christianity is appalling as it teaches that it does not matter what actions you perform, no matter how morally wrong they are, after all if you say sorry then you will be forgiven. Of course this is not true and is an oversimplification based on not knowing enough about Christianity. Koukl is making it seem very easy to discount what Dawkins is trying to put across, the fact that people are listening to him worries me greatly since he does not actually show why it is wrong. Saying “this does not advance the argument” over and over again as a criticism of Dawkins is at least hypocritical since, as Robin Ince puts it, the suggestion is the religious argument is “the magic man done it”. For this reason I think it is fair to cite religion has an inhibitor of generating knowledge as it is normally the end of the conversation never the start. Let’s go to Koukl’s points:

Dawkins summary point 1 is “One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how one of the complex, improbable appearances of design in the universe arises” Koukl responds to this by saying that statement does not advance the argument, it’s just an opening assertion and has nothing to do with the conclusion [post hoc: god does not exist]. This is really relevant, to give you a taste of it what Dawkins meant, he wrote about why it took us so long to see evolution as the possible creator of the complex things that are in our environment. That first makes it clear that it is difficult to understand the place we find ourselves in and also that we have the need or want to understand it at least in some form. In particular God is one of the possible answers, it fills the need that we all have. Dawkins highlights the argument of the worship of the gaps, in other words when we cannot explain something either by lack of intelligence, knowledge or ability then it is very simple to argue God did it. From what we do understand about our place in the universe it seem so difficult to us to imagine the forces that created the complex objects in it. I think this speaks to our psychology and it is relevant because it shows us explaining things is not only difficult it also goes to explain that we often get it wrong. This is why religion is here, not as a true account for things but as a useful tool set (to an extent).

Dawkins summary point 2 is “The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design with actual design itself…” Koukl responded by saying it is natural to assume design when things look like they have been and therefore, again this does not advance the argument. Dawkins is very clear on this point, mostly because Koukl missed out the second half of this statement. We see complex objects that are designed by us, for example a watch or computer, using this same form of logic we can then assume that in order for humans to exist therefore, something more complex than us must have designed us. In other words we cannot see that the horseshoe could have made the blacksmith, it is not how our experience allows us to think. Just because something comes to us naturally that does not result in it being true. Taking an example from another Dawkins book, the blind watchmaker, it is perfectly logical to see a beach where the large stones are set further away from the water and the smaller stones closer to it. If you don’t understand roughly the ideas of wave power and gravity then how could you assume anything other than someone sorted the stones out to make that pattern. Just seeing something which appears to be designed does not mean that it has been designed, that is just another assumption. It advances the argument because it challenges our assumptions of the forces that could have created living things, including us and the universe.

Dawkins summary point 5 is “although we currently have no natural explanation for the appearance of design but we should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.” Koukl responded by saying we don’t have evidence but maybe we will get some, these are irrelevant features of the dispute because yet again this does not advance the argument. Dawkins and Koukl, at least I think Koukl is, referring to the key numbers that allow for the right chemical and physics conditions which allow for living things to exist, such as the power of certain forces that appear to be constant everywhere. I have a problem with Dawkins, which I don’t have with many other writers, rather than sticking to the subject Dawkins talks about science as almost the replacement for religion. Don’t get me wrong it is and I can see how this argument is formed, it is just most people don’t understand science and it creates comments like Koukl’s. I think the correct response to Koukl is in the summary point made by Dawkins; we as yet do not know how the universe was created to which we may not have answers for a long time. Still the point is before evolution we did not see how the complex objects on earth could have been created without a creator, so the door is open for an explanation similar to that of evolution to explain the universe. This I suggest is much more of an honest approach than God done it. If we can get to an explanation for the universe which is equal to evolution in terms of its power, then the requirement for God is once again reduced.

Koukl misses out large parts of the summary points, there is of course 187 pages before Dawkins makes the summary points so no one is better to explain how Dawkins got there than Dawkins. The point is missed and although I have only highlighted certain issues you can see the general direction and how it does provide the all important advancement to the argument. Koukl argues that all these points of at fault due to Circularity still this is not how I see it. Go and read the book for yourself because the answers are all in there, it is a shame that Koukl did not really bother to do that. Stating Dawkins summary point 1 is the start of the argument does show that he either did not read or did not understand all the pages leading up to summary points on page 188. Koukl is guilty of not advancing the argument and circularity, he does not understand critical thinking and reasoned thought, and that is what is wrong with Christian views – they are unable to see how other people don’t think like them! Dawkins added something to the debate, Koukl did not!

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Image taken from - www.d.umn.edu One thing that amazes me is that science tends to work quite often; I don’t need to tell you that you already know. The point here is that it tends to work, still there are places where the misunderstanding of science comes in, these are my thoughts on how science sometimes is not based upon real knowledge rather agenda based needs. The aim of the positivists who had its home in part in Vienna, one of the most liberal places in the world at the turn of the last century, was to create an independent body of knowledge that in affect was a real reflection of the world as it exists. In truth as the result of the Vienna circle and those the preceded & came after the circle created three types of worlds, the members are most likely known to you such as Comte, Ayer and Carnap. Ok you have only heard of Comte, that’s ok the names are not that important here. The first world they created was that of Faith and habit, this world was seen as those unimportant things each generation picked up and their children adopted this meant very little because they could not be seen as true and were different from person to person. The second world was that of the metaphysical, in other words religion and its use of explaining the events that where happening. Since this again can’t be observed and tends to differ, this world was also dismissed. The third world was created by the rational and logical person, with the assumption of the scientific method; there are many assumptions in this method. The idea was not that these three worlds could survive side-by-side rather, the second world had replaced the first and the third would replace the second.

 Science as the key to Understanding the world – Science can get it very wrong – In the 19th Century there was a strong organic model that was adopted from the field of biology and was used on one group of people, the poor. This I could describe as the first type of eugenics formed by science, it saw those suffering from poverty not as the result of the society being unfair as it was at the time rather a different and dangerous race of people. At the time of the research there was a great worry about the conditions people were living in and the diseases that were being created by the support of the industrial revolution that were forming tightly packed cities. The poor were seen has having a choice about how they lived when clearly the choice was never given to them, there was no welfare state and if you did not work then you did not eat. Science got this approach wrong and was later dismissed as working and living conditions improved. Still this idea of the race of the poor came about because the scientists involved used their personal experience to understand a social problem and they were not objective.

Science as the progress of society – Newton published in “The Opticks” 1704 the results of how light when it goes through a prism Image from www.wikimedia.orgseparates into the colour spectrum, removing the idea that white light itself cannot be broken down and is only made up of one element. Why did this even matter to Newton? He could have not understood the benefits that would later be developed from this idea; in part we can thank him for the ability to understand radiation and infrared light which are also based on the same spectrum. Perhaps the drive to understanding the world was his greatest force. Newton did provide something much more useful, the idea of induction. I won’t go into induction that deeply here but it is the idea that first you can close the world off and take out the things you want to test putting them in an artificial environment in the process. In other words putting the objects of study into an experiment to see their nature & relationship and this is where science can also go wrong. Taking the objects of study outside of the real world so we can test them, means something more – it means that we are unable to test them in the world, so effectively science never deals with the reflection of the world. Just a controlled version of it! Most science is pushed into explanations of real world things, it is important to remember that science is simply a theoretical model and theories sometimes go wrong.

So why does Science appear to be a contradiction and wrong at times, it’s first that scientist belong to a society and being part of the society with values & social identities, those can get in the way of a rational and logical person. Although the aim is to remove the first and second worlds, they do exist and what we take from them affects who & what is studied and with what aims. This is still happening and if you don’t believe me maybe you would like to visit the Creationist museum in Kentucky. Even if the creationist museum is right, not that I believe it is, then there are still others to provide the contradiction. The second is the misunderstanding of science, it is in essence a working model of the world which does not mean that it will predict or be able to control events in real life from those working models. This is not to say there should be an abandonment of science, it is very useful. Things have come from science that are valuable and people rely on it every single day, so although it can be powerful that does not mean that science is 100% a true reflection of the world, rather it is closer to the true reflection than any other body of knowledge. Evidence that refutes current belief changes that belief and this is why the model of science keeps on growing. The ability to explain and provide is not enough, the ability to change and stand up against evidence is its greatest strength even if it can only be 95% effective at best.

We come to why science happened and took hold in Europe, this is not a simple question to answer because during the dark ages Europe dismissed science and others in the world had a much greater use of it. There came about a new set of social and historical conditions, this was a move away from the divine and the rejection of God as the one in control of the world. Human knowledge took control and this came about through four sets of general changes. With the development of the nation states across Europe it developed the idea of liberalization and social reform. The idea of making your country better and dealing with social problems was at least on the table and the solutions to the problems could be allowed to grow. There was also a change in attitude; people started to think that reason could hold the key to the ability of changing the world. If there was ever going to be a method of making life better science was seen as the most effective one to meet that aim. The old methods of the divine had its chance and it fail to make the necessary improvements. Religion itself caused the place where science could slowly form; it was because of differing religions that caused so many wars and conflicts that resulted in the social development of an understanding for the tolerance of new concepts and ideas. Once people got fed up with conflict they allowed others to think what they would like to and this opened the door for the scientific method. Last of all there was a change in the model of business; once the industrial revolution happened there was a value change in people and by this I mean how much they were worth to a society. With the development of the capitalist market just because someone was a lord it did not matter, money really did make the world go around. This rejection of the old ways allowed the successful and intelligent a place to do their work, rather than a presubscribed position being allocated.

The power of the new idea of humans and their role to play started the shift away from the traditional towards the new methods. The needs of humans became the force of the aims of science. They were able to work together to produce a new set of knowledge and the more success supplied, the higher the role and importance of science. This is of course is a very short history but it is the general direction that happened. I would like to put the reference links in here but that seems too lengthy a process however, if you are interested in the reference books please let me know and I will give them to you. I would recommend Smith’s Social Science in question, ISBN 0-7619-6041-4 if you are interested in learning more.

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