Sunday, February 14, 2016

Modern Science's Rejection of God is Ideological.





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Moern physicists no longer understand laws of physics as prescriptive injunctions that determine what the universe does. Now they see them as just descriptions of how the universe seems to behave. Is their rejection of law just a desire to get  the law maker (God) out of the picture? That is abundantly clear, at least for some scientists. Paul Davies, a major physicist, thinks so:

Many scientists who are struggling to construct a fully comprehensive theory of the physical universe openly admit that part of the motivation is to finally get rid of God, whom they view as a dangerous and infantile delusion, And not only God but any vestige of God-talk, such as 'meaning,' 'purpose,' or 'design' in nature. These scientists see religion as so fraudulent and sinister that nothing less than total theological cleansing will do. [1]
The concept of law was formed in a time when scientists inextricably linked God with science. Robert Boyle purposely appealed to dive command in creation, as did Newton. [2] These were devout believers, and it was also expedient in the confessional English state. The English dealt with heretics by not inviting them to weekend at Westmoreland or by passing them over for honors. After the time of Newton the field of scientific acuity shifted to France. The French put heretics in jail. The Catholic church was much more in charge in France, enjoying the support of the monarchy, than in Protestant England.[ [3] Thus the French Philosophs rebelled with great ferocity against the Church and religious belief. The French rebellion carried over into all areas of modern letters, not the least in science.

Modern scientists since the enlightenment have sought to take God out of the picture. Philosophers are honest enough to admit there is a problem calling the law-like regularity “description.” After Chalmers explains that Boyle's “stark ontology” made nature passive and left God to do all the work, he writes:
I assume that, from the modern point of view, placing such a heavy, or indeed any, burden on the constant and willful intervention of God is not acceptable. But eliminating God from the account leaves us with the problem. How can activity and law like behavior be introduced into a world characterized in terms of passive or categorical properties only?[4]

At least the scientific realists, such as Calmers know there is a problem in the tension between unalterable regularity, and description. Many scientists either don't see the problem, or refuse to acknowledge it. Some assert a confidence in science's ability to one day answer all questions.

In recent years, under the influence of the new atheism, some physicists have began to compete with God. They claim not only to offer the better explaination, but to learn enough so as to one day erase the God concept from any serious consideration. , (in answer to a question for discussion posed by the Tempelton foundation, “does science make belief in God obsolete?”): “Yes 'science' we mean the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge (including history and philosophy), not just people with test tubes and white lab coats. Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral?"[5] Of course he offers no evidence that science can answer such things (notice he expanded the definition of science to include disciplines many scientists seek to get rid of (philosophy)vi that is an area that could answer the questions that science can't. He also offers no evidence that religion still can't answer them, but he goes on to say, “Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.” So he's made two fallacious moves here, the classic bait and switch and straw man argument. He says science makes God obsolete but then only if we expand science to include non-science. We could just include modern theology instead of nineteenth century theology and bring religion into science. Sorry, but belief in God does not rest with young earth creationism.

Pinker is not just using young Earth creationism to debunck all religion, even though that is a straw man argument. He's really making the same kind of answer that physicist Sean Carroll is making. He's saying “since we now have the capacity to learn everything (someday) we don't need to appeal to God to answer what we don't know thus he asserts that the only reason to believe is the God of the gaps argument). Carroll puts it a bit differently:



Modern cosmology attempts to come up with the most powerful and economical possible understanding of the universe that is consistent with observational data. It's certainly conceivable that the methods of science could lead us to a self-contained picture of the universe that doesn't involve God in any way.  If so, would we be correct to conclude that cosmology has undermined the reasons for believing in God, or at least a certain kind of reason?vii[7]

Of course this is the standard wrong assumption often made by those whose skepticism is scientifically based. Explaining nature is not the only reason to believe in God. Moreover, they are nowhere near explaining nature in it's entirety, the TS argument is the best answer to the questions posed by the transcendental signifiers. It's pretty clear that for Carroll, and those who share his outlook the signifier “science” replaces the signifier “God” in their metaphysical hierarchy. They still have a TS and that speaks to the all pervasive nature of the TS. I've discussed in the previous chapter how the best answer to questions of origin have to be philosophical. That is confirmed by Pinker when he argues philosophy as part of science. The TS argument is philosophical. Science is not the only form of knowledge. Carroll admits there is not as of yet a theory that explains it all. He admits, “We are trying to predict the future: will there ever be a time when a conventional scientific model provides a complete understanding of the origin of the universe?”[8] He asserts that most modern cosmologists already feel we know enough to write off God and that there are good enough reasons. In his 2005 article he says, as the title proclaims, “almost all cosmologists are atheists.”[9]

That may be true of cosmologists but I doubt it, and I have good reason to. First, I don't see any poll of physicists in the article. He only argues anecdotally by quoting a few people. If there was a poll it would be at least as old as 2005. A More extensive study from 2007 (two years after publication of Carroll's article) don't back up those findings. This study was done by Harvard professors who find the majority of science professors believe in God.[10] They present a bar graph that show about 35% professor's ar elite research universities believe in God with no doubt. About 27% believe but sometimes have doubts. About 38% are atheists. That actually means that 60% are not atheists. True that's not cosmologists but there is good reason to think the majority of cosmologists are not atheists. The most atheistic groups in the study were psychologists (61%), biologists (about 61%), and mechanical engineers (50%), not physicists (among whose ranks cosmologists number). [11]Contrary to popular Opinion, atheists and agnostics do not comprise a majority of professors even at elite schools, but they are present in larger numbers than in other types of institutions.”[12] No group has “almost all” as atheist. Even if cosmologists are mostly atheists (not studied because they are a handful and highly specialized) it's still appeal to authority and could be based upon hubris. They do not have any empirical data at all to prove the universe could spring from nothing. I will will demonstrate the problems with this view much more clearly in the next chapter. Let's just remember the atheist position on this point is an appeal to faith.

[1] Paul Davies, Jackpot...op. Cit.,15.

[2]  Alan Chalmers, “Making sense of laws of physics,” Causation and Laws Of Nature, Dordrecht, Netherlands : Kluwer Academic Publishers, (Howard Sankey, ed.), 1999, 3-4.

[3]  Joseph Hinman, God, Science, and Ideology. Chapter 2.

[4]  Chalmers, op., cit.

[5]  Stephen Pinker, quoted on website, John Tempelton Foundation, “A Tempelton conversation, “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?” The third in a series of conversations among leading scientists...Onlne resource, website. URL: http://www.templeton.org/belief/ accessed 9/4/15.
Tempelton bio for Pinker: Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

[6]  Anthany Mills, "Why Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Hate Philosophy," Real Clear Science. (May 22, 2014) OnLine resource, URL: href="http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2014/05/22/why_does_neil_degrasse_tyson_hate_philosophy.html accessed 10/7/15.
"In a controversial interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as “distracting.” The host of the television series Cosmos even suggested that philosophy could inhibit scientific progress by encouraging “a little too much question asking.” He thus follows a growing secular trend that cordons Science off from all other forms of inquiry, denigrating whatever falls outside science’s purported boundaries – especially the more “speculative” pursuits such as philosophy."

[7] Sean Corroll, Does The Universe Need God?” on Sean Carroll's website, Perposterous Universe.com, online resource, URL: http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/dtung/ accessed 9/4/2015
Carroll is an astrophysicist and a theoretical physicist, Moore Center for Theoretical Physics and Cosmology, California Institute of Technology. He's authored many books.

[8]  Ibid.

[9] Sean Carroll,"Why (Almost All) Cosmologists Are Atheists," Faith and Philosophy, 22, (2005) p. 622.

[10] Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “How Religious Are America's College and University Professors.” SSRC, (published feb. 2007), PDF URL, accessed 9/4/15 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Gross_Simmons.pdf Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org. sample was 1,417, representing over 300,000 professors.
Neil Gross is assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University. He works on classical and contemporary sociological theory, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of intellectuals. His first book, tentatively titled Richard Rorty's Pragmatism: The Social Origins of a Philosophy, 1931-1982, is forthcoming.

Solon Simmons is assistant professor of conflict analysis and sociology at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His recent work has focused on values talk in congressional speeches, third party political candidates, industrial reorganization and the ongoing conservative critique of American higher education

[11]  Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

4 comments:

Mike Gerow said...

"Why Cosmologists are bad statisticians"

Does he deal with the correlation problem here? Possibly, if what he clams is true, it's because atheists are drawn to cosmology,not the other way around. And if that's not considered, then there's nothing more you need to say.

Btw, Rubenstein gets into this trend a bit - science as religion replacement - in her multiverse book, and elsewhere. Old story, according to her....

Joe Hinman said...

those are both excellent points. Darn I meant to say that. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My mother worked as a pychologist in the school system for many years.

Once, she told me about a teacher who claimed to her that counselling was proven to be ineffectual because, statistically, those children in counselling were having demonstably more trouble than those who weren't.....

Joe Hinman said...

ROTFLOL! that's funny Anon I am reminded of Bob Dylan's line (the premise of the song is he dreams of WWIII) went to psychiatrist and told him the dream, "said it was a bad dream. those old dreams are only in your head."