Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Dear friends engaged in the discussion of beliefs (both atheistic and theistic),

Abu Ali al-Basra (a Tenth Century Persian scientist, also known as Ibn Al-Haytham, 965-1039 CE) interests me because my wife is an optometrist, and his Book of Optics has greatly influenced the development of lenses, mirrors, refraction, and theories of vision and the dispersion of light.  This great Muslim scientist is “a pioneer of the scientific method,” that is, the search for truth.  He said, “Truth is sought for its own sake.  And those engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things.  Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough.”  (Physical Thought from the Pre-Socratics to the Quantum Physicists;© 1979, ISBN 0-87663-712-8)

I bring him into our discussion because I love his take on the search for truth, and the fact that he is seen as the “Father of the Scientific Method.”

The Scientific Method was described in laymen’s terms by “Ubiquitous Che” – a commenter in my previous blog articles on Atheism and Theism – this way:

“I was drawn to atheism for a very simple reason.  I find the naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is to be wholly satisfactory.  (my emphasis) From this, I find it highly irrational to propose a supernatural entity as an ‘add-on’ explanation when no add-on was needed in the first place.

“Also, because the naturalistic explanation is … well … naturalistic, it means that we can get stuck into it very deeply.  It removes the foggy, murky veil of mystery and brings the picture of the universe into sharp focus, allowing us to peer deeper and deeper into its workings and bring about change according to our will.

“There’s more to it than just that, but it’s the core of the matter.”  (Ubiquitous Che, 5/04/2008)

I will paraphrase/interpret the quotation above this way:  Natural Science (Che’s “… naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is”) is the truth.  It explains the origin of the Universe in a way that satisfies man’s search for the truth. 

While there is much more to his rationale, Che says that Naturalism provides “the core” for his belief system.

The Scientific Method involves the collection of observable, empirical and measureable data (“evidence of and for cause and effect”), observation, experimentation, and the formulation of a theory (“hypotheses”) based on reasoning. 

This 20th Century “hypothetico-deductive model” of the Scientific Method has been the engine that has driven the study of physics and biology – the very foundation stones of Naturalism.

But because the Scientific Method has its limitations when talking about the origin of the Universe (you and I can’t collect observable, empirical DNA-rich data, experiment with it, and then observe measurable cause-and-effect outcomes).  Because of these limitations, the scientific community had to develop a whole “new class” of scientists:  scientific philosophers.  (These are the “atheologians” of the atheistic community.)

This new class of scientist is not limited in their search for truth by the Scientific Method’s primary requirement – “proof.”  Their only limitation has been the span and capacity of human imagination.  These new scientists (the “Darwinist Class”) began with (and still begin with) a belief – what they call their “theory” – and they search for evidence that will reinforce their belief.

In the scientific community, the guardian of the Scientific Method was “peer review.”  The object of these guardians of truth – peer scientists – was to find possible mistakes in observations, reasoning, and the interpretation of data.  [The way out now for peer review, when it comes to the origin of the Universe anyway, is simply that peer review only applies to the “experimental sciences” (physics, chemistry).] 

When it comes to proof, scientific philosophers are exempted!  They are not held to tough, evidentiary standards when it comes to defending their theories.  Scientific philosophers don’t have to “substantiate” their beliefs.  They just have to write about them, and see if the ideas postulated will find an accepting audience.  And they do, because now there are more scientific philosophers than true scientists.  Scientific philosophers have bastardized the proof systems inherent to the Scientific Method’s search for truth … and then these people have the audacity to say to people of faith (i.e., believers in God), “Show us your proof!”

Honest biologists and physicists are coming forward now, swimming against the tide of atheistic belief, saying, “There are unexplainable gaps in the evolutionary chains,” and “There are mysteries that defy logical human interpretations when it comes to what we are observing in the Universe.”  They are daring to suggest that Naturalism is built on “un-faith,” so to speak.  They are challenging the scientific philosophers to defend their un-beliefs.

Interesting, don’t you think?

I really like Ubiquitous Che’s style, and respect his intelligence.  (I even like the name he has chosen to describe himself because his peers are “everywhere, omnipresent!”)  U-C is a modern “every-man.”

Would his friends please care to comment on what I have written above.

Comments on: "Calling All Atheists and Theists #3" (6)

  1. I get a creationist vibe (a fair generalization if your going to use “Darwinist class”) from the later parts. I have to ask, did you cut parts of this from an article or write it all? We can probably prove evolution, you just wouldn’t like us turning off parts of a chickens DNA till we had a form from the fossil record.

    To a certain degree the reasoning has foundation, we can’t travel back to before the big bang or just after to see what happened. Thus any theories on the subject are more philosophic than observed, even when based in observed phenomenon from current study (though we are building particle excelerators to try and solve that, you know cause the possible destruction of earth is a fair risk to learn more). I guess one of the main questions here is Who is coming forward and do they have a better theory to put forth?

    Theres a subtle line between propaganda and an idea of scientific merit. Comparing the movies An Inconvenient Truth, Expelled, and The Horizon Project; all suggest they have a following of ‘honest and respected’ scientists supporting their core message, but they are delivering the message to masses of people without the body of knowledge to take informed and educated conclusions from many places other than the films themselves. They are easily capable of producing a political or social movement but it takes more than 90 minutes to overwrite scientific study.

    [I figure i might need to expand on the horizon project as you’ve probably not heard of it. Its a film that claims to answer the question of how the next few years will go, centering on 2012 and prophecies of the world ending. They put forth an interesting idea I’ve seen elsewhere since, but the main ‘scientist’ they talk to with ‘hundreds of research papers’ (couldn’t turn up any on the net) is all over for wanting to lead an expedition to inner earth, a weather control conspiracy film about the HAARP facility in Alaska.]

  2. If you get a creationist vibe it shouldn’t come from my fair generalization of a (relatively) new class of scientist fitting the Charles Darwin mold. (Actually, my comment was a salute to his impact on our world and its thinking.)

    I wrote most of the article, but borrowed extensively from several different sources. A Wikipedia verification check led me down several rabbit trails. I do have materials from my father’s library and my own research, but I’ve done the comparing of positions (more than a dozen in the scientific community alone) on evolution and creationism mostly by following the subject for more than 35 years now.

    Each position – be it evolution, biblical evolutionism, creationism, naturalism, scientism, etc., etc., ad nauseam, have led me to one, I believe fair, conclusion. Each position requires “faith” …faith to bridge gaps, eons, fossil records, Big Bang inconsistencies, climate records, etc., etc., ad nauseam again! If your Messiah is Jesus or Charles D., Moses, or Nostradamus – each subscriber must exercise faith.

    And I quote, “We can probably prove evolution,” is a faith statement – a doctrine, a dogma based on faith in Darwin and Darwinian prophets of years gone by, not your own research. (That is, you weren’t on the The Beagle.)

    I believe that an honest conversation about atheism must include the faith/belief component. That has been, not an aim, but my position. Whether or not you “admit” to a faith bias for or against God is not my aim, sincerely. I just wish each person owning a position would agree that to accept any dogma requires faith, and involves a bias. A bias against, or a bias for, God.

    I was fascinated by many of the sidebar factoids you brought up, Prez. Movies, the various “honest and respected” scientists, weather conspiracies, and particle accelerators (check spelling).

    I respect your positions – I honestly do, but I wish to bring you back to my original question: Why? Why do you have your position? Who influenced you? Is there a moment in time, say, when you “knew” what you believed (see, there’s “belief” again).

    Thank you for writing.

  3. The annoying thing is I recently encountered the faith issue on another post, I don’t really think it leads anywhere. I have faith that Athens or Tokyo exists, but I cannot know that it does without having been there; I have faith in the sources that say they do exist thus supporting my confidence in the original assertion, but it remains that i cannot know. Bringing a discussion of epistemology up destroys all arguments because a person can’t really know anything not subject to their senses or conclusions drawn from them. It doesn’t really promote anything except itself for discussion.

    There are gaps in scientific theory that continue to be researched, expanded upon, and proven false. Science is the attempt to take observations made at present and achieve a unity between them that can also explain events in the past and aid in predicting future changes. At all times it attempts to be a study of cause and effect, the philosophical aspect is an attempt to explain things we weren’t present at. Anything I point to in support of this is the theory of someone else built upon the foundation of other theories. Its a good argument for defending the right to believe in a god, but simultaneously defeats any argument for believing in one.

    The philosophic realm of scientific study is the attempt to relate information we hold as true now and relating it backwards and forwards from this point in an attempt to understand things further. It is fair to say that science as a whole is an attempt to rationalize experience into a definable set of rules (changing the rules when found lacking). I trust in the empiric attempt because were I to look at the same information I would come to the same conclusion, the attempt to apply these rules backward and forwards is sound to me because its logic based on the available information. I will fully admit that I cannot know anything, but to me Empiric logic is the closest we can come to reaching an agreed center.

  4. Excellent! I got quoted!!!!

    Still, I think that your response here is definitely getting into the “there’s more to it than just that” territory. :D

    What we’re coming to here is a point that comes up a lot – the fact that certain things cannot be absolutely, conclusively ‘proven’ due to the finicky nature of epistemology. It’s become an interesting move on the religious front to say that since both the naturalistic and supernaturalistic worldviews cannot be conclusively proven, they’re equally valid and both matters of faith.

    They’re not. This is why I used the term ‘wholly satisfactory’. This isn’t to mean that I just believe the naturalistic worldview because I prefer to do so – although I should get my bias out in the open by admitting that I very much do prefer the naturalistic worldview. The main reason why I believe the naturalistic worldview is because it is strongly supported by physical evidence.

    I’ll admit that there’s a distinction between ‘proven’ by evidence and ‘supported’ by evidence, so you could argue that to believe something based on overwhelming support is still belief without proof, and therefore is faith. But it’s not an argument I have a lot of time for. Even if it were the case – and I’m not conceding that it is – it would still be a more rational faith than the faith which is deployed in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    So on the subject of evolution, it claims that at no point will we ever discover human skeletons in rock from the same geological period as dinosaurs. If such evidence were to be discovered, evolution would be wrong. Also, a few years ago evolutionary scientists made a claim that rock of a certain age and a certain type would contain a transitory fossil between primitive fish and primitive amphibian. Scientists spent a few years digging, and found Tiktaalik as predicted.

    So does this count as a conclusive proof of evolution? No. But predictions such as these – and there have been an overwhelming number of these predictions – provide a very strong basis of support for the overall idea of the evolution of life as opposed to intelligent design.

    It should be noted that at the end of the day intellignet design makes no falsifying or validating claims at all. That’s part of what makes it such sketchy science.

    I hope I haven’t gotten too far off the point. Looking forward to your response. :D

  5. I enjoyed your essay on science and atheism, especially your comments about Ibn al-Haitham. I end my new book Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist, the world’s first full biography of the eleventh century Muslim scholar known in the West as Alhazen with another quotation you might find interesting:

    “The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the job of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.”
    Ibn al-Haitham‘s deep skepticism was the natural outgrowth of his Muslim faith. He believed that human beings are flawed and only God is perfect. To discover the truth about nature, he reasoned, one had to eliminate human opinion and error and allow God’s creation to speak for itself through verifiable, physical experiments. He wrote, “It became my belief that for gaining access to the effulgence and closeness to God, there is no better way than that of searching for truth and knowledge.”

  6. Hey Bradley,

    Thanks for commenting. I plan to visit your site and learn a little more about Alhazan, the man.


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