Saturday, January 12, 2008

Are You Here For An Argument?

It might seem like I am picking a fight. Maybe, I am. Yet, I just think it necessary to make a couple observations about this post over at 4simpsons. It is such a mish-mash, so confusing, with floating, undefined terms, an assumption of having settled an argument, and finally a complete misunderstanding (and misrepresentation) of what science does, it is almost breathtaking in its complete idiocy. I am not being snarky there. If I had this post submitted to me in, say, an undergraduate class on religion, I would give it an "F".

Some might object that is an ideological reaction. It is, rather, a reaction to a lack of any argumentative thread. There are a series of bald assertions ("truth is correspondence to reality") without a hint that such statements might just be controversial, or open to objection. There is the misrepresentation of my own statement about an argument circling back to the Bible, presented in such a way to be seen as something ridiculous, rather than, as it was originally presented, a complaint that tossing around Bible verses is not a way to argue.

I find it fascinating that Neil manages to quote the Fourth Gospel, and still state his unequivocal definition of truth, without ever wondering that he might just have contradicted himself.

Finally, science does not "reveal" anything. Nor does it "discover" (except when a new tool is invented that leads us to see, or otherwise encounter, some part of reality that was hitherto unknown, such as particle accelerators that allow us to "discover" subatomic particles through their destruction). Science is an interpretive tool, a way for human beings to make sense out of their environment. It is extremely useful, often counter-intuitive in its results, and has as little to do with "revealing" anything than literary criticism (to which Richard Rorty once compared it in a famous essay, "Texts and Lumps"). That Neil would actually say that science "reveals" things shows he has no real grasp of what science is. To say such a thing when he denies evolution (kind of important in biology, geology, medicine) and natural cosmology (kind of important to pretty much all the science, but especially astronomy and physics) shows that he is being disingenuous. He qualifies his praise of science by saying that science reveals what God has wrought. Except, of course, where what science "reveals" contradicts one particular interpretation of the Bible, in which case . . . what, exactly? Satan deceived the scientists? The scientists are part of an evil plot? I really don't know. What any of this has to do with the question of the existence of something Neil calls "truth" I really don't know.

There are good arguments to be made against the position I take on the issue of truth as a useful concept. Unfortunately, not only is this not one of them, it isn't even a good argument.

Virtual Tin Cup

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