Monday, December 01, 2008

Falsifying Scientific Arrogance

The place had that old smell of a large building that existed one-hundred years too long. As I entered the bedraggled auditorium the metal frames and vaulted ceiling silently spoke of a bygone age when 'God' was not a dirty word and science was less hostile to Christianity.

I was late. The lunch meal took too long. But it was enjoyable. Being tardy didn't especially matter as the lecture started about fifteen minutes late while people trickled in. Finding a seat in a sea of uncomfortable 70ish chairs, I sat in the middle left side with a good line-of-sight of the speaker-to-be. The speaker, Mr. Stenger (of the infamous book, God: the Failed Hypothesis), was introduced as a professor of philosophy and a practicing physicist of many, many years. As I adjusted my paper, pen and books, the aged professor plodded purposefully to the podium. He introduced his thesis with relative clarity and somewhat proper philosophical considerations--definitions, deductions and whatnots.

After a surprisingly short 35 minute presentation, he had given the highlights of his thesis that the God hypothesis is a failure, useless and patently absurd. It was time for Q&A. I quickly scanned my notes, knowing that only one question would be practically allowed, I thought, what is the best question to ask?

The atheist club coordinators took a practical approach to the Q&A time by handing the mic to those in the front row and continued to worm their way to the back. Only one question was clearly Christian, asking an important question of what constituted "independent verification." Other questions were more of a benign nature or reinforcing the professor's thesis. I listened intently. What should I ask?

One gentleman--a scientist--challenged the lecturer's premise that the God-question could even be answered by science. But the point was not pushed. Another more excitable speaker--in the row right before me, what am I going to ask?--reiterated the old atheist canard about God not existing because evil exists.

Ah, yes, my notes from his book
. Here, the hole in the book as large as the universe. The mic was handed to me: "Yes, thank you. Sir, you wrote in your book, and I quote..."

"I can't hear you," the professor replied. The acoustics were bad. So I summarized:

"You wrote that there was no consensus among philosophers of science on what actually constitutes real science as over and against pseudo or non-science, correct?"


"You also wrote that the methodology that will be used to disprove the God-hypothesis is the approach by the philosopher, Popper. It is known as 'falsification'--using tests to try to disprove a given hypothesis."

"Yes, but..." and the disgruntled professor tried to run rough-shod over my question. Perhaps he thought I had asked my question. Or knew where I was going with it...

"Excuse me, sir, I have not properly asked my question yet."

"Go ahead."

"You wrote that the falsification method cannot 'sufficiently'--your words--account for the difference between science and non-science. If this is true and you believe this, then how can the falsification method be used to falsify the God-hypothesis when the method itself is not 'sufficient' to distinguish between hypotheses, between science (truth) and non-science (falsity)?"

"!!! Here now, science has done great things for us...!!"

He was none too happy.



Nel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Ah, I love beating a man about the head and shoulders with his own argument.

Well done.

Jim Mill said...

Sweet! Very Very SCHWEET!