Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Loftus vs. Carrier, Science vs. History

About a month ago, John Loftus picked something I said about science and history as his "quote of the day," which in this case meant, silly Christian comment to mock:

Actually, John, I would say that almost all scientific evidence COMES TO US as historical evidence. Science is, in effect, almost a branch of history, as it transmits knowable and systematically collected and interpretted facts to our brains.

John tossed the first stone (I think it was pumice) at this construct:

What then? Does the fact that you're not a scientist, and therefore have to trust what scientists say, entail that you don't have to trust science when it contradicts what you find in an ancient pre-scientific holy book based on the supposed historical evidence? Historians do not have at their disposal very much evidence to go on in many instances, especially the farther back in time they go. A miracle cannot be investigated scientifically since if it happened then the past is non-repeatable. Science however, progresses in the present with experiments that can be replicated in any lab anywhere on the planet. The only reason you want to bring science down to the level of the historian's very difficult but honorable craft is because you need to believe your faith-history is on an equal par with scientific results, only you place it above science because you say science is a branch of history, and not the other way around. You are therefore an ignorant science denier. You could become informed. You could visit a lab. You could notice the consensus of scientists on a vast number of areas. But no, you'd rather stay in your ignorance in order to believe in talking asses and that a sun stopped and moved backward up the stairs. Science or faith it is, and you choose faith. I choose science. The divide could never be more clearer.

John's acolytes duly followed by tossing their own varigated pebbles at the accused. 

I have to admit, John had my number, here.  Yes indeed, he read me right.  I do indeed think it follows that science is incapable of disproving miracles, because they are non-repeatable. I also think science is utterly incapable of disproving the claim that Washington crossed the Delaware, Spartans fought at Thermypolae, or that I took an 8th Grade science class in Skagway, Alaska.  None of these events are repeatable.  Science is completely incapable of proving or disproving that they ever happened -- neither physics, nor glaciology, nor radiology, nor chemistry, nor even biology.  Yet shameless curmudgeon that I am, I claim without a qualm of trepidation that all these events really did occur.

Furthermore, I also claim that almost all scientific facts I or you know, come from other people, who discovered, gathered, systemetized, and reported those facts historically. 

Does that make me an "ignorant science denier?"  (One who, moreover, has never visited a lab?  Though I think I remember dissecting a turtle in that science class -- in fact I owned its shell for many years?) 

Does it leave us with a brutually stark choice between "science or faith?"  A clear divide, like light and darkness, virtue and sin, Republican and Democrat, writers who contribute to my Faith Seeking Understanding vs. writers who contribute to John's Debunking Christianity

Well, no, it does not.  

Or if it does, as I recently noticed, it leaves one of John's favorite and most profligrate contributors, Richard Carrier, in the utter, outer darkness and gloom:

In truth, science is actually subordinate to history, as it relies on historical documents and testimony for most of its conclusions (especially historical records of past experiments, observations, and data).  Carrier, Proving History, 48

Dang if it doesn't look to me as if Carrier wasn't also claiming that scientific facts are known by means of history, yet (somehow) without sinning.

Since we both now appear to be "ignorant science deniers," should I ask Carrier to write a chapter for my next book?  Or should Loftus invite me?

1 comment:

Longstreet said...

John Loftus is the living embodiment of the not-so-old saw "Before the Internet, the village idiot stayed in his village."