With what does science deal?

Why, reality, of course.

If that seems like a simple answer, it’s because the answer is simple. We could break everything down, get more particular, explore general concepts, use specific examples, etc. That would give us a better understanding of how science works, but the answer to the question of with what it is science deals is the same: reality. Unfortunately, not everyone understands this:

Science is great for material things, but by definition it doesn’t deal with immaterial things.

This comes from our friend Neil. I usually reserve him for use in my “Punching Bags” series, but I’m actually still trawling his comment section to find more unique bloggers (not to mention bloggers who actually dare to defend their positions). As a result, I’m not particularly reading his writing – in fact, I’m not going to bother reading the rest of his post – but the above comment did catch my eye. It represents a weak mind.

Making the point that science only deals with material things, not immaterial things, is like saying science only deals with material things, not unicorns. It’s a meaningless statement. Unless, that is, Neil has provided evidence for the immaterial. But wait! Then he would have to use the material world and thus science. Since, by definition, he cannot use these things to study the immaterial (or unicorns), his views are fundamentally anti-science. In fact, the same goes for absolutely anyone who believes in the supernatural. It’s just kooky thinking.

The red herring theist returns

I wrote a couple of months ago about the notorious red herring theist. That’s the person who will move the discussion from whatever the topic at hand is in order to attack atheists. It’s the same thing every time: “What? You think something is wrong? You have no basis for saying that because you don’t believe what I believe! Morality must be objective in order to say anything is true!” It’s tiresome if only because it’s pathetic. What’s more, there isn’t a person on the planet who somehow adheres to any sort of objective morality. People will claim they do, but they are necessarily interpreting ideas subjectively. When a believer says “God tells us what is moral”, they are coming to their conclusion through a subjective interpretation of (what they think is) the evidence. Furthermore, even if I grant that morality can be objective, theists undermine their case all the time.

What brings this on is my recent participation at the site of a religious nutbag. My first comment was to his bad post about Planned Parenthood. The important part of his post claimed that humanity begins at conception (whereas the rest of his post was the use of anecdotes to draw broad conclusions). When pressed on why conception is the best marker of humanity, he just kept repeating his position, sometimes citing anti-abortion websites which said the same thing. Great. But that doesn’t tell me anything. I eventually got one user to answer the question when she cited the coming together of chromosomes, but I was unable to get her to go further before the administrator nearly banned me. And I was the most respectful person the whole time. I know. It’s crazy.

I plan on making a separate post about abortion, so I will address their dogma arguments there. Of course, that would be the appropriate thing to do, right? Not according to Roxeanne. She insisted that I tell her my personal views in response to the questions I was posing. That is logically inappropriate. The issue at hand needs to be resolved; it is only a red herring to go after my views as a means of defending her views. To help clarify:

And she isn’t even a Christian.

She violated number 1 in the list over and over again. That apparently makes me dishonest. Oh, and a “jerk” and “stupid” and somehow sexist. Okay, okay. The sexist part doesn’t come from that, I admit it. I actually accused her of grabbing the mantle of science. We all know how sexist that is, amirite? (Oh, and for the record, she said I called her anti-scientific; her point in claiming that was to brag about her undergraduate degree in engineering (because that constitutes authority in biology?), but she was wrong. She may very well be as anti-scientific as a creationist theist (just like the blog owner), but I was calling her position an attempt to misuse science. I said very little of her.)

Then there comes the Comments tab. The blog owner goes on and on about some random Internet guy and his supposedly bad arguments, but he only quotes one supposed comment. Who knows what the real context was. But since the author had some obvious flaws in what he said, I quickly pointed them out: 1) In addressing the charge of being censorious, he cited that awful creationist movie Expelled; 2) he said Darwinists insist that evolution explains the origins of the Universe; 3) he said reason and logic are “clearly” immaterial. The issues are obvious: 1) the false charge that anyone from Expelled was censored doesn’t even begin to address whether or not he was right to censor others; 2) it is creationists who often conflate evolution with the Big Bang – I have never once witnessed a Darwinist (he means atheist) do that; 3) reason and logic are products of the electrical impulses in our brains. So are our thoughts, our feelings, our perception of reality.

Of course, he hardly responded to any of that. Of what he did say, he had two revealing replies. First, I pointed out that when he says “morality”, he really means objective morality. This is a common error of assumption theists make. It’s annoying. If we’re going to compare objective and subjective morality, we need to use our qualifiers. Aside from creating a lack of clarity in discourse, it’s begging the question: if we’re trying to determine what is moral and one side is asserting that objectivity is the key factor, then they don’t get to assume “objective” in front of morality. It would be like saying, “What makes objective morality objective is objectivity.” This shows an unwillingness to approach the topic in a way resembling any sort of fairness (or logic). Second, he claimed that he embraces science. Let’s take a peek.

I don’t reject science, I embrace it as discovering how God put his universe together.

That sure doesn’t sound like an “embrace” of science to me. It sounds like he will only accept science which reaches the conclusion he already has. Need more proof? No problem.

My evidence comes before science. I see the evidence for God and the supernatural and I see evidence in the natural and how science sometimes gets it right.

That is an outright rejection of what science is, of what it stands for. By only accepting what reaches his pre-held conclusion, he shows an unwillingness to look at any evidence objectively; every idea he will ever have on science must be distrusted. He’s a walking stereotype.

The primary reason for this post was that I was apparently banned (despite being the only respectful person there – and you all know how dirty that makes me feel). I have no idea where the administrator said I would no longer be allowed to post, but I thank Dan Trabue for letting me know before I made some big reply. As it turns out, my comments are ‘only’ being held in moderation. As a result, I won’t be making any further posts over there; someone who feels the need to moderate perfectly rational discourse for no more reason than because he disagrees with it is not someone I can trust.