Sunday, February 23, 2014

But I didn't actually do the research

We've recently had a mostly non-religious, liberal Christian poking us with a stick. It's particularly annoying because he technically, kinda has a point.

As a counter-apologetic atheist, I'm constantly pointing out that theists are believing things for irrational reasons. Their holy book says so, or their pastor says so, or they tell each other things - and these claims are accepted as true without good cause.

The stick I'm enduring being poked with, essentially accuses us of the same thing. While an evolutionary biologist might have done actual scientific research on evolution... I haven't. So I'm basically just taking these peoples' word for it. I'm accepting it as true because books/people tell me so.

I personally haven't done the scientific research.
It stings, because it's basically true.

It's not that unlike Ken Ham's "where you there" arguments - borderline solipsistic... except, not dumb. The argument reeks, however, of "Well fine, I can't actually know what I believe... BUT NEITHER CAN YOU!"

I don't think my position, as a science enthusiast, is all that dire (and ultimately, why I don't find the argument to be all that convincing).

I'll come right out and say, that yes, I am relying in part on the credibility and trust that the scientific community has earned from me. I'll grant the theists a similar context, as our baseline of comparison.

Peer Review

Unlike religious doctrine, science is highly competitive and at times, downright vicious. Scientists get credit for disproving each others' work, as well as positively demonstrating something. This is central to science's self-correcting nature.

On a very basic level, if there's something wrong with something science asserts as true, it'll be revealed and corrected in time.

One isn't allowed (as much as they'd like to think) to question/thrash concepts in religion. At best, they attempt to rationalize what's already accepted as true, despite reality. The languages is often clear - they set out to "remove doubt" from the minds of their followers. That, in their eyes, is the problem.

On-Demand Epistemology

On any point that an apologist (or scientist) would like to challenge me, I can investigate it myself, because ultimately, it was people who did the investigations. I can look up the data and/or do the experiments myself. With an skeptical and sober mind (as in, nothing is done to alter my mental state to be more accepting and less skeptical), I can confirm whatever I need to confirm.

You can't do that in religion.

I can cite the research for the theist to refute/debunk. At least I can cite actual empirical research, unlike the theist. I may not have done the research, but you can take it up with the people who did.

Congruency

What science reveals corresponds and corroborates what I observe, myself, in reality. Evolution explains why the flu viruses change each year. The theory of gravity explains well the states of the moon, and the round-Earth model explains the seasons and days-and-nights phenomena well.

Even more importantly, they agree with each other. Suppose you are assembling a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. If a puzzle piece you're trying to put insert, doesn't fit alongside one piece, it's also going to be incompatible with the other adjacent pieces as well.

If the flat-Earth model is true, the gravitational model stops making sense. If the gravitational model stops making sense, the Law of Gravitation stops making sense, and minor fluctuations in the 9.81m/s2 acceleration rate at the Earth's surface stops making sense. If all that stops making sense, having visible satellites (to the naked eye) in orbit, that we placed there, stops making sense (what's keeping them up?). Likewise, how do the rocket-science calculations of thrust versus mass, as the rocket becomes further from the center of gravity of the Earth, make sense?

Once one piece is wrong, red flags start sprouting up all over the preponderance of evidence. The only places in science where something could be so fundamentally wrong, is on the fringe/edge of investigation (or puzzle assembly), where there's effectively no other adjacent pieces yet to contradict it.

Ultimately, the probability of all the scientific puzzle pieces fitting together, doing so very well, and being wrong is astronomically low. Though, that's not to say that it's right, because it's internally consistent, but it sets up the game for high-efficacy validation.



I'm happy to say that our scientific epistemological methods are not perfect. They may not even be great. It's the best we've got, however, and it actually, demonstrably works (I'm plunking up this article on a computer). Religion is smoke-and-mirrors, in terms of "investigating" the world, and literally has nothing to show for it. Instead of making discoveries going into the future, they look at what science has discovered in the past, and retroactively fits it to something the Bible said, saying "see? now we know this bit in the Bible corresponded to something in reality, apparently though, it doesn't give us the ability to actually know what it's talking about ahead of time."

As I often make an offer to theists - let me know when you have a valid, effective epistemic alternative.

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