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They said it: Dr Nick Matzke vs Dr John Lennox on the Laws of Nature and Miracles

In the ongoing Methodological Naturalism thread, at no. 66, Dr Matzke is on record:

massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen.

In short he holds that the laws of nature forbid miracles. (And recall, here, we are speaking about the late publicist for the US-based NCSE, for quite some years.)

Oopsie.

Double oopise.

Triple oopsie.

And cf. here, too.

In a nutshell, Dr Matzke here seems to make a crude form of the error commonly attributed to Hume (and too often seen as a definitive dismissal of the miraculous). He also reveals that behind methodological naturalism, there may often lurk a prior (and perhaps implicit) commitment to philosophical naturalism.

It is worth clipping the Collins English dictionary (2003) on that:

naturalism . . . 4. (Philosophy) Philosophy [--> Notice, not science!]
a. a scientific account of the world in terms of causes and natural forces that rejects all spiritual, supernatural, or teleological explanations

b. the meta-ethical thesis that moral properties are reducible to natural ones, or that ethical judgments are derivable from nonethical ones See naturalistic fallacy Compare descriptivism

Just because metaphysical naturalism wears a lab coat does not make it into a conclusion of science. And, if it crops up in education, in all fairness we have a perfect right to challenge it, if education is not to become propagandistic indoctrination.

Actually, too, Dr Matzke has evidently only succeeded in begging big questions — inductive generalisations on the observed, usual course of the world, have no proper bearing on whether, say God, could have acted to cause the origin of the world, or that he may sustain its regularity “by the word of his power” and that he may from time to time for particular good purposes of his own act into the world beyond its usual  course. And there is absolutely nothing to block reasonable people of sound mind to be witnesses of a miracle, or even to actually experience one.

To take just one famous case, most of us can tell if event A happens before event B and again before an event C. There is nothing extraordinary about eating a meal with a friend. And, most men of common sense can tell a violently dead man.

So, supper A and death by execution by order of the local governor, B are no great surprise. Supper C is again just a supper, and we have no great problems in observing temporal sequence. The reported miracle of course is that supper C happens after B, i.e. the miracle is not in what is seen as much as in the implications of something that is again not extraordinary, a timeline. And, we have over 500 eyewitnesses as reported in eyewitness lifetime documentation, with about twenty named or identified.

(It goes without needing emphasis that those who experienced the sequence A –> B –> C . . .  here, were at first doubtful or even dismissive, exactly because they knew the usual course of events per the patterns of nature. However, quite reasonably on the grounds of recognising that the Creator of the world has powers beyond those of the usual course of nature, they were open to the possibility of exceptions, they did not close their mind by a priori decision that laws of nature by their logic cannot have exceptions. Indeed, it is worth citing Paul on trial before the king and governor of the jurisdiction where the events in question were reported to have happened: “Why do you people think it is unbelievable that God raises the dead? . . .  . the king knows about these things, and I am speaking freely to him, because I cannot believe that any of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner.” [Ac 26:8 & 26, NET.] Of course, Paul’s underlying point is that once the reality of God is even a possible explanation of our cosmos, we must be open to the possibility that he can act in ways that transcend the usual order of things, for good purposes of his own; on pain of blatant closed-mindedness and self-refuting selective hyperskepticism.)

Dr Lennox (HT: BA77) therefore aptly corrects the error made by Dr Matzke:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

(I also respond here, at 73.)

It does seem rather like the root issue is philosophical, not scientific. END

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37 Responses to They said it: Dr Nick Matzke vs Dr John Lennox on the Laws of Nature and Miracles

  1. Well, obviously you can’t have miracles without natural laws. We wouldn’t be able to tell miracles from anything else, and therefore miracles would lose their power to convey messages from the divine.

  2. Also, how can the Big Bang NOT be a miracle? I mean, it must either be uncaused, or caused by something “before” time and “outside” of space.

  3. To me, some of the interpretations of quantum mechanics seem very miraculous… but that’s just because I thought I knew what the laws were. If the new set of laws are right, maybe a new set of things will start to seem miraculous instead.

  4. I guess the question to ask Dr. Matzke is whether or not methodological naturalism can yield anything but results that comport with metaphysical naturalism.

  5. KF,

    Little wonder. Miracles have always been a madness to the Gentiles. But that is their personal problem.

    However, science understood properly does not rule out any such thing. Cf Gregory Chaitin “The limits of reason” in Sci American where he argues that mathematics has come to the point where it becomes an experimental science in much the same way as physics. The hopes of Hilbert to come up with a unified mathematical theory of everything have apparently failed.

  6. Folks, excellent suggestions and comments, well worth pondering. NB: I have extended the OP and added several key links. KF

  7. 7

    In all fairness kf I think you took Matzke’s statement out of context.

    Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen”.

  8. TM:

    With all due respect, the preface does not change the force of the substance of what I cited. He endorses the sentiment in the part I cited, and that endorsement is an endorsement of philosophical naturalism.

    ALL CITTION AND ALL HIGHLIGHTING WILL BE SELECTIVE, BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT CITATION CHANGES MEANING WHENEVER YOU DO NOT LIKE WHAT IT IMPLIES.

    REPEAT, NM ENDORSED THE VIEW IN THE LAST PART OF THE CITE, I.E. IT IS HIS VIEW. THAT IS WHAT I AM RESPONDING TO IN THE WIDER CONTEXT THAT ALL OF THIS IS ABOUT METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM. (Caps for emphasis not shouting.)

    MN, as a rule, is closely associated with philosophical naturalism, and is often seen as its stalking horse. Turned out to be so in this case and I am taking it up. In so doing, I am correcting that it fails to properly estimate the strengths and limitations of science and inductive reasoning, and expresses a circular, often closed minded argument.

    A fallacy.

    KF

  9. if there was a great God who created the universe in all its ways and means then he’s surely up to other/better ways and means to interfere with his general plan.
    It could only be that way?

  10. 10

    Yeah it’s a cheap out of context quote.

    [--> Onlookers, given the direct personal attack NM has made here and the implications of letting such accusations stand uncorrected, kindly see what is explained in 13 below, on why I am NOT quoting out of context; this is a favourite rhetorical resort of NM's ilk when an accurate quote is inconvenient to their agenda. I am now getting used to seeing such shabby tactics from that ilk. Cf my reply here on in context to the attempt to pretend that my citation and understanding of Lewontin's infamous a priori materialism remarks in his 1997 NYRB article, is "quote mined" KF]

    Kairos is reacting to a position he dislikes which is in his head, it’s not what I was advocating. See the other thread for the full discussion. In fact, therein I specifically disclaimed the position that one can know for sure that miracles are impossible.

  11. NickMatzke_UD: “In fact, therein I specifically disclaimed the position that one can know for sure that miracles are impossible.”

    “For sure”? You can’t know at all if they are impossible.

  12. Hello Mr. Matzke. I think I’ll side with KF on this one.

    Like you say, [agreeable introduction]

    science can “comment” on miracles, [specified topic]

    but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because
    massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say [rationale]

    that that miracle thing can’t happen”. [conclusion]

    It doesn’t sound “out of context” to me.

    Actually, for most miracles there is little reason to think they couldn’t happen and that if they did happen they would “violate” some rule of reason or nature. It may circumvent the natural course of events but a beaver damming a river circumvents the natural course of events, nature adjusts to the interruption and carries on. Walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc. are not logically impossible deeds and, in fact, happen quite regularly in the modern world. That someone like God or Jesus was capable of performing such deeds isn’t any less likely than an engineer or doctor performing them.

    And I think it was Chesterton who pointed out that miracles are regularly observed all around the world. We just dismiss the witnesses as unreliable. Why are they unreliable? Because they believe they have seen a miracle. Circular reasoning by Pyrrhonic skeptics who think themselves clever.

  13. DG:

    Thanks for being fair-minded.

    Let us roll the tape from the MN thread, what is now no 68:

    67
    tragic mishapApril 29, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Nick

    [NM, 55:] Normally, 5 fishes + 5 fishes = 10 fishes

    I submit it is possible that Jesus did not break conservation of mass to perform the feeding of the five thousand. He could have simply re-arranged existing matter. This is relevant because it’s exactly the sort of thing ID is talking about.

    [NM, 55:] Science tells you why [a miracle] ought-to-be-impossible.

    Of course it does. Therefore science can properly comment on miracles. Without reference to science we wouldn’t know the difference between a miracle and necessity. Thus if someone wished to proclaim a miracle, they would have to reference science and explain why science makes the event normally impossible. You have given away the farm here Nick. Perhaps you would like to rephrase this?

    ====================

    68
    NickMatzke_UDApril 29, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I submit it is possible that Jesus did not break conservation of mass to perform the feeding of the five thousand. He could have simply re-arranged existing matter. This is relevant because it’s exactly the sort of thing ID is talking about.

    This would still take energy, which is also conserved. It’s the same problem if Jesus poofs the energy into existence.

    Of course it does. Therefore science can properly comment on miracles. Without reference to science we wouldn’t know the difference between a miracle and necessity. Thus if someone wished to proclaim a miracle, they would have to reference science and explain why science makes the event normally impossible. You have given away the farm here Nick. Perhaps you would like to rephrase this?

    No, I still like my phrasing. Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.

    Let’s see, in light of onward context:

    1 –> NM, 55: “Science tells you why [a miracle] ought-to-be-impossible.” Put this in the context of scientism which in effect, per Lewontin et al seeks to get the public to see science as the only or at least chief and most reliable “begetter of truth.” (As in, we were not born yesterday and can read subtext driven by sociocultural context and agenda.) Let’s define:

    scientism noun [mass noun] rare: thought or expression regarded as characteristic of scientists.
    excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques. [The New Oxford Dictionary of English, 2001 CD.]

    Cf Feser here, esp:

    Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge—that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science. There is at least a whiff of scientism in the thinking of those who dismiss ethical objections to cloning or embryonic stem cell research as inherently “anti-science.” There is considerably more than a whiff of it in the work of New Atheist writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who allege that because religion has no scientific foundation (or so they claim) it “therefore” has no rational foundation at all. It is evident even in secular conservative writers like John Derbyshire and Heather MacDonald, whose criticisms of their religious fellow right-wingers are only slightly less condescending than those of Dawkins and co. Indeed, the culture at large seems beholden to an inchoate scientism—“faith” is often pitted against “science” (even by those friendly to the former) as if “science” were synonymous with “reason.”

    Despite its adherents’ pose of rationality, scientism has a serious problem: it is either self-refuting or trivial. Take the first horn of this dilemma. The claim that scientism is true is not itself a scientific claim, not something that can be established using scientific methods. Indeed, that science is even a rational form of inquiry (let alone the only rational form of inquiry) is not something that can be established scientifically. For scientific inquiry itself rests on a number of philosophical assumptions: that there is an objective world external to the minds of scientists; that this world is governed by causal regularities; that the human intellect can uncover and accurately describe these regularities; and so forth. Since science presupposes these things, it cannot attempt to justify them without arguing in a circle. And if it cannot even establish that it is a reliable form of inquiry, it can hardly establish that it is the only reliable form. Both tasks would require “getting outside” science altogether and discovering from that extra-scientific vantage point that science conveys an accurate picture of reality—and in the case of scientism, that only science does so.

    The rational investigation of the philosophical presuppositions of science has, naturally, traditionally been regarded as the province of philosophy . . .

    2 –> Obviously, in a context besotted with scientism, never mind its dubious epistemological credentials, to be labelled not scientific or unscientific or anti scientific, is to have increasingly large scarlet letters branded across one’s forehead.

    3 –> In the wider context, however, scientific laws of nature as stated are inductive generalisations. So like Lord Russell’s inductive turkey who showed up every morning for his 9:00 am feed, we would be wise to realise as Christmas eve comes closer that there may be circumstances where the apparent regularities may have exceptions for reasons we may not know. [The turkey showed up 9:00 am Christmas eve, only to find himself about to become Christmas dinner.]

    4 –> So, we must recognise that any attempt to turn scientific laws into a proscription that forbids exceptions is already reading far too much into them. They tell us the usual or perhaps idealised course of events under certain circumstances, providing they are empirically well supported.

    5 –> And in particular, the possibility of miracles is linked to the question of the possibility of God. So long as God is a possible entity, miracles are possible. So, unless science has proved there is no God — and the big bang and fine tuning of the cosmos point in just the opposite direction if anything — science is in no position to forbid miracles as impossible or even to be dubious and dismissive towards them.

    6 –> NM, what is now 68:

    Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES say that that miracle thing CAN’T happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.

    7 –> Contrary to his cheap shot just above, NM here plainly advocates scientism. Notice, having loaded up on how miracles “ought” to be “impossible” he goes on to assert how “massive” empirical evidence and “THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES,” he speaks with august authority in the name of science, dressed in the Holy Lab Coat:

    massive observational evidence and THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES say that that miracle thing CAN’T happen”.

    8 –> Massive cluster of fallacies driven by ideological scientism and underlying naturalism as philosophy. However, this is also a wedge rhetoric statement, to split the readership into two, where the “good guys and gals” know, just know, that if you disregard what has been pronounced in the name of science and the logic of our understanding of scientific laws, you are irrational or at least deeply suspect of being irrational.

    (In fact for 20 centuries, there have been literally millions of witnesses to miracles in answer to prayer in the name of Jesus. And if you will, that starts with miracles of life rescue, cf here the AA etc 12 step programme, which relies on the intervention of God to give us the ability to turn our lives around. And, there are thousands living who have received one degree or another of healing in the same Name, myself included. Apart from that, I would not have the breath or back to be able to type here. Indeed, apart from one of those subtler miracles of guidance, I would probably be dead 40 years now. Let’s just say when in answer to a prayer of surrender, you cannot get help at a leading medical centre, and walk out to find an open taxi door with a driver saying that he knows just the doctor, which doctor then proceeds to work medical miracles that saved my life, that is a miracle of guidance by which — just as with Jeremiah’s miracle of the Potter’s house — no natural laws are broken, no energy or matter is created out of nothing, no bondage of decay is miraculously reversed, but the wisdom — relevant and otherwise inaccessible information — that saved my life is plainly from Above. And I am in no wise irrational to believe that. Just so, the millions who understand that “by the word of his power” the orderly system of our world is sustained, and that for good reasons of his own He may occasionally act beyond the usual course of the order that he actively sustains — the same general order that some are wont to reify into a substitute deity, are by no means of dubious rationality or credibility as witnesses. Not so long as the existence of God is merely possible. Cf here on in context.)

    9 –> So, he now continues, in full Lewontinian dudgeon:

    If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.

    10 –> Message to in-group: to insist on believing in miracles in the teeth of the logic of our — the good folks — understanding of science is to be unscientific. Tantamount to irrational and stupid.

    11 –> In that context you will understand why I will assert with high confidence that the immediate previous sentence:

    If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one.

    . . . is little more than weasel words for the patsies who are so irrational and dumb that they (poor fools) insist on stepping outside the boundaries of the only or at least most reliable and trustworthy begetter of truth: SCIENCE.

    12 –> And, “hypothetically” here plainly means, of course you can construct some sort of worldview or argument that may make it seem plausible to you, who want the crutch of “faith,” but we sterling brights know better. That particular dismissive trick has been going on ever since Hume’s laughing up the sleeves weasel words on those who insist on believing in miracles anyway.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Dr Matzke, I am afraid, my reading is precisely because I (and many others) do understand the context, immediate and remote, all the way back to the issues that are in play in the subtext, agendas and wider cultural battles. And with a whole lot more justification than those who are seeking to witch hunt out Creationist bogeymen in the mildest protective legislation for science teachers and educational administrators who are willing to at least let students know the limitations and weaknesses of scientific reasoning as an inductive exercise, and the consequent points of contention regarding certain politically correct scientific theories. Notice, in the recent issues over Tennessee and Louisiana laws on this subject, the pivotal agenda being pushed by your side is exactly what I have describes as scientism.

  14. Mike

    Thanks for standing up, too.

    KF

  15. 15

    The biggest miracle I’ve seen so far is that Kairosfocus thinks he magically knows what I’m really saying, even when I say the exact opposite. Ditto when he claims I’m a bright, in complete ignorance of what the New Atheists think of my positions.

    The whole point of using the words “ought to be impossible” in the first place was to *distinguish* two positions: (a) science says miracle X is impossible, flat-out, for sure, versus (b) science says that if our understanding of natural laws and their universality is correct, then miracle X ought to be impossible given those laws, but the whole point of someone claiming a miracle is that they are asserting that what is normally impossible, actually isn’t impossible, because divine intervention occurred. All I was saying was (b), which even many miracle-believing Christians endorsed in the other thread. There is no point in talking about the importance of miracles in the New Testament, if they weren’t actions that were normally impossible in the usual course of events.

    And, none of you live your actual lives as if you thought there was a realistic chance of natural laws suddenly making normally-impossible things highly probable. You are assuming the constancy or virtual constancy of natural law every time you drive a car, ride a plane, decide that trying to swim across a swift river is a bad idea, etc.

    So, I still haven’t seen anyone present a good argument as to why we can’t just say that science is the study of the usual course of events, and theology is what you go to when you want to study miracles. If you think science should have *everything* in it’s domain [1] — well then, that’s scientism.

    1. We say an example of this from Dembski today, using language that the ID people frequently use to the effect that we need to put miracles into science because science is what is respected in the culture. Just another expression of scientism, really:

    Now the theistic evolutionist might reply that creation does indeed testify to the divine glory, only this testimony looks not to scientific evidence. But in that case, how is the creation providing a general revelation of God and what exactly is it saying? Given that science is widely regarded as our most reliable universal form of knowledge, the failure of science to provide evidence of God, and in particular Darwin’s exclusion of design from biological origins, undercuts (C2). [ C2 = The statement that "The world reflects God’s glory, a fact that ought to be evident to humanity." ]

    (From current post at BioLogos)

  16. 16

    We say an example –> We see an example

  17. 17

    One final correction: it should have been obvious that “…the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules” was I typo I made, I meant to say “the logic of our understanding of natural laws/rules”. It’s not clear to me that that was obvious to Kf.

  18. Onlookers:

    Dr Matzke is telling us not to believe our “lying” eyes.

    Let us remind ourselves of the specific words at stake, which are as plain a statement of scientism and of support for naturalism as we could want, given what has been going on for years:

    Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move . . .

    Remember, to those caught up in scientism, “science” and its “Method” constitute the sole or the far and away most reliable basis for knowledge. (this embeds a self referential absurdity as this is a phil claim, but that is just a footnote.)

    In the context that we are discussing here, to turn away from science is — in the minds of those enmeshed in scientism — to turn aside into irrationality and superstition. After all, 1984 and the warnings on doublespeak were around since 1948.

    So, we see how allegedly massive evidence is called on, but scientific observations of the usual course of events cannot — as induction from what is commonly observed — rule out exceptional and different results in some cases, or under some circumstances. There just isn’t an understanding that for miracles to be possible we have to have an orderly world, not a chaos. (Lewontin fell into this same trap.)

    I think we can leave Dr Matzke to reflect on the language he used, if he did not mean to communicate a commitment to scientism and to philosophical naturalism. Which, given what keeps coming up among advocates of methodological naturalism, seems to be the underlying implicit assumption or agenda among the dominant school of thought that pushes MN.

    Remember, there is an underlying ideological presumption among the in-group that is extremely dismissive of any knowledge claims that do not come wrapped up in a lab coat. As I cited above, this reduces to absurdity quite rapidly, as it is epistemologically and logically rather shaky.

    Let’s clip Lewontin as a case in point from that infamous 1997 NYRB article:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[--> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[--> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[--> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated . . .

    Coyne writes in very similar vein, in a 2010 USA Today article, failing to understand that starting form first principles of right reason and worldview foundations, reason and belief are inextricably intertwined in our thinking and knowing, including in science. Notice, how he assumes that science explains in “material” terms and displaces “religion.” He evidently does not understand that he is actually delving on matters philosphical and is running into serious problems on what an inductive genralisation can ground and to what level of certainty:

    Science nibbles at religion from the other end, relentlessly consuming divine explanations and replacing them with material ones. Evolution took a huge bite a while back, and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head. We now know that the universe did not require a creator. Science is even studying the origin of morality. So religious claims retreat into the ever-shrinking gaps not yet filled by science . . . .

    Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible, and for precisely the same reason that irrationality and rationality are incompatible. They are different forms of inquiry, with only one, science, equipped to find real truth. And while they may have a dialogue, it’s not a constructive one. Science helps religion only by disproving its claims, while religion has nothing to add to science . . . . any progress — not just scientific progress — is easier when we’re not yoked to religious dogma . . .

    Got that, only science with its material explanations can find real truth. That is only science can ground knowledge and science lives in a world that is material. The Lewontinian a priori materialism and the question-begging assumption that science has cornered the market on producing valid knowledge seep out, from leak after leak.

    The US NSTA lets us know the agenda that is being promoted in the name of science and education, in their 2000 statement:

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work . . .

    It is in that context that we may read from the 2008 US NAS pamphlet on “creationism”:

    In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [[Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, p. 10]

    Subtler in wording but he same underlying agenda is plain.

    And when we examine Dr Matzke’s words, they fit this agenda like a hand in its glove.

    It fits, so we will not acquit.

    In short, such scientism-based naturalism influenced views are hardly idiosyncratic or exceptional among the elites who dominate in institutional science and science education as well as popularisation. And when Dr Matzke resorts to lanfguage that in such a context echoes some very familiar sentiments, weasel words notwithstanding, we have every right to take the words and agendas of the former publicist of the US NCSE at their reasonable value.

    Next, if you will pause to look at the Lennox video, you will see why such scientism and a priori naturalism (often announced as methodological naturalism) fall apart logically and epistemologically.

    And that is before we get to the point that design thought is about the inference to ART on empirically warranted signs, and has been since Plato in The Laws Bk X. That is, all this huffing and puffing over natural vs supernatural is a strawman substitute for the real question being asked by design theorists: nature vs art.

    And, again, from the outset of modern design theory, the inference has been to art and the inference has been that evidence of FSCO/I in life forms points to design not specifically to creation by a supernatural being.

    I myself have repeatedly pointed out that the work of Venter et al shows in principle that we can manipulate the molecular components of life through nanotech and other techniques such that it is already credible that within this century a molecular nanotech lab will effectively create a life form de novo, not just manipulate existing ones. In short an advanced molecular nanotech lab would be sufficient to account for life as we see it on earth.

    That’s no big problem for me, as I know the real evidence that points to intelligent design beyond the material world is not there, it is in the physics of the cosmos, which has been in many ways fine tuned to support a cosmos in which C-Chemistry, informational macromolecule, aqueous medium cell based life is possible. And my star evidence starts with the water molecule, not even the big bang. When we come tothat bang and the ways that cosmology seems fine tuned, that points to a beginning thus a cause for our cosmos capable of creating a cosmos hospitable for life and cap[able of making the settings. That such could have been done by chance in a multiverse, is an outright philosophical speculation without any empirical warrant, and we are at the level of comparative difficulties across fundamental premises. It turns out via Leslie’s lone fly on the wall swotted by a bullet discussion, that even a multiverse speculation does not undercut the force of the inference. For when a lone fly on a wall is swotted by a bullet the best explanation plainly is a good marksman with a good rifle and scope. Even if other sections of the wall elsewhere are positively carpeted with flies. A locally finetuned cosmos is just as wondrous in the end as one that were isolated as the sole point on all the wall with a fly, one that gets swotted by a bullet.

    As a worldview level matter I can look back at the evidence of life and join it with that of cosmology and then make a pretty good case that the best explanation for a world that actually contains designed life would be that since it sits in a cosmos set up very carefully for that, someone intended that here be life and made it, directly or indirectly is of little difference.

    KF

  19. Nick,

    #15,

    I am just curious. Do you believe that man has free will? Do you believe that love is reducible to chemistry? Do you accept a possibility that there exists something that cannot be formalised in principle? Thanks.

  20. F/N: One point requires some further explanation. Above, NM has made a pretty strong prohibition on miracles in the name of science: “massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen.” We can be quite confident that if he did not adhere to scientism, he would not have said that, as the problem here is that scientific, inductive generalisations cannot forbid rare exceptions by the nature of induction, as the story of the inductive turkey reminds us. So, it is in the context of the known harshly dismissive attitude of scientism to “religion,” “faith,” “miracles,” or the “supernatural,” that we must take his further remarks on how:

    If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move . . .

    In short you are choosing to act in defiance of “massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules.” In a social context dominated by scientism — the in-group, that’s code words for, you are an idiot: ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.

    Problem is, NM let these words slip in a situation where he is not speaking off the record to the in-group.

    Oopsie.

    But that gives us fair warning about where he is really coming from, and where his former home for years, NCSE, is coming from.

    The doublespeak game is over.

    KF

  21. 21

    KF, you’re just repeating yourself, adding massive spin to plain, normal words like “hypothetical”. I tried to clarify, but you’re not listening, so I’m done.

  22. Dr Matzke, The doublespeak game is over; and, your words advocating scientism already have spoken for themselves, loud and clear. Put them in the context of scientism’s contempt for those who would dare cross the naturalistic methodologies of the adherents pushed under the false colours of “science,” and we have every reason to see the words on “hypothetical” as weasel words for patsies. The doublespeak game is over. Good day. KF

  23. So, I still haven’t seen anyone present a good argument as to why we can’t just say that science is the study of the usual course of events,…

    I agree with that so I won’t be presenting any argument against it.

    In the usual course of events agencies, and only agencies, are responsible for complex specified information and irreducibly complex configurations.

  24. Joe:

    Precisely correct.

    KF

  25. This to-ing and fro-ing reminds me of the contrast between the perspectives of Fat Tony and Dr John, two characters in a parable thought up by Nicholas Nassim Taleb, illustrating the limitations of permitting “ivory tower” correctness to override common sense/experience.

  26. http://iterativepath.wordpress.....n-between/

    I wonder what our materialist friends would make of this (the teeny coverage of it in Wikipedia speaks volumes):

    http://olrl.org/stories/lourdes.shtml

  27. Pity about the deluded, bombastic, triumphalist, Tridentine-type coda to the story of Jack Traynor.

  28. 28

    http://iterativepath.wordpress…..n-between/

    I wonder what our materialist friends would make of this (the teeny coverage of it in Wikipedia speaks volumes):

    http://olrl.org/stories/lourdes.shtml

    And I wonder what our Protestant friends would make of the concluding sentence in that link:

    The gift of miracles has never ceased to show its presence in the Catholic Church. “If you would not believe Me” said Our Lord to the Jews, “believe the works I do.”

    “The Catholic Faith alone produces miracles, which are never seen among heretics. Plants of this sort cannot grow in a soil cursed by God; they can take root only in that Church where the True Faith is professed . . . God cannot sanction the performance of a miracle except in favor of the true religion; were He to permit it in support of error, He would deceive us.”

    St. Alphonsus Marie de Liguori, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

  29. So, I still haven’t seen anyone present a good argument as to why we can’t just say that science is the study of the usual course of events, and theology is what you go to when you want to study miracles. If you think science should have *everything* in it’s domain [1] — well then, that’s scientism.

    Excellent ripost! Unfortunately it misses the mark. I have noticed a trend among those who, for lack of a better term I will call progressives, to accuse those who dissent from the progressive narrative of believing the very things progressives believe. So you accuse those who say that science (as defined by materialism) does not account for the totality of reality of indulging in scientism.

    Science (in its materialist mode) insists that all of reality is in its domain. Those things which can’t be quantified – miracles, theology, philosophy, the liberal arts and even the human mind – reside in the domain of the unreal, by which the “scientism-ist” means the materialist’s formulation of Hindu/Buddhist maya.
    But then, Buddhism and materialism are opposite sides of the same coin. The materialist believes everything real is made from matter and that which cannot be described in material terms is illusion – a ghost in the machine, whereas the Buddhist believes the “ideal” is all of reality and that everything material is an illusion – a machine in the ghost. Both make the same error of seeing too little. “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio.”

  30. Dr. Matzke,
    Say that after much investigation theology arrives at the conclusion that miracle “X” has occurred.

    If I understand you correctly science would say miracle X has in fact, not occurred. Miracles are impossible.

    Which is true?

  31. #29

    dgosse,

    Where does science say everything is in its domain? I think you expect from science much more than it can deliver. If you like, words themselves are too coarse for some part of our reality. In undergrad calculus courses they study limits. Since man is limited, I can see no reason why I should suppose our reasoning is not. So to me, scientism looks like an outward philosophical assumption (by the way, terribly outdated now) that has nothing to do with the scientific method per se. Some time ago I saw someone commenting on this blog that nature was a big computer that computed itself. Solipsists claim that everything we observe is an illusion.

    One cannot either prove or disprove such claims without making further philosophical assumptions.

  32. Dr Selensky (and Dr Matzke):

    You are right, Dr Selensky.

    Dr Matzke has been a national level spokesman-publicist for the NCSE, a pressure group that ostensibly promotes science education in the leading sci-tech nation on earth, and thus tends to set trends.

    That means that he has a particularly grave responsibility to speak accurately, in a balanced and informed way and to be fair.

    What this thread documents, then, in light of the blatant, ill-informed, tendentious and biased, even bigoted scientism we have seen instead, is a major dereliction of patent duties of care. Where, scientism is either patently self-referentially incoherent, or else it so broadens the definition of what counts as “science” to include any species of knowledge, that it becomes trivial, a synonym for epistemology.

    If scientism boils down to being the Lewontinian assertion that “science . . . [is] the only begetter of truth,” then it self destructs as this is patently a philosophical claim and an illustration of how philosophy is a better claimant to the title, grounder of knowledge.

    If instead, one implicitly broadens the meaning of science to effectively equal epistemology, the result is even more surprising, as the Routledge Enc of phil summarises:

    Epistemology is one of the core areas of philosophy. It is concerned with the nature, sources and limits of knowledge. Epistemology has been primarily concerned with propositional knowledge, that is, knowledge that such-and-such is true, rather than other forms of knowledge, for example, knowledge how to such-and-such. There is a vast array of views about propositional knowledge, but one virtually universal presupposition is that knowledge is true belief, but not mere true belief (see Belief and knowledge). For example, lucky guesses or true beliefs resulting from wishful thinking are not knowledge. Thus, a central question in epistemology is: what must be added to true beliefs to convert them into knowledge? . . . .

    The historically dominant tradition in epistemology answers that question by claiming that it is the quality of the reasons for our beliefs that converts true beliefs into knowledge (see Epistemology, history of). When the reasons are sufficiently cogent, we have knowledge (see Rational beliefs). This is the normative tradition in epistemology (see Normative epistemology). An analogy with ethics is useful: just as an action is justified when ethical principles sanction holding it (see Justification, epistemic; Epistemology and ethics). The second tradition in epistemology, the naturalistic tradition, does not focus on the quality of the reasons for beliefs but, rather, requires that the conditions in which beliefs are acquired typically produce true beliefs (see Internalism and externalism in epistemology; Naturalized epistemology) . . .

    Trivially, and as a reminder, epistemology is one of the main branches of philosophy: metaphysics, logic, ethics, epistemology. So, it turns out that on either horn of the dilemma, the evidence points to philosophy as the proper grounder of knowledge.

    So, it is quite clear that philosophical considerations are inextricably intertwined with the core of science, once we ask, to what extent can science fulfill the core issue embedded in the root meaning of its name: knowledge.

    Now, above, in one of the comments Dr Matzke has made, he has asserted, 15 supra:

    I still haven’t seen anyone present a good argument as to why we can’t just say that science is the study of the usual course of events, and theology is what you go to when you want to study miracles. If you think science should have *everything* in it’s domain [1] — well then, that’s scientism.

    As a national level spokesman with grave responsibility, we can immediately point out how he has of course willfully ignored Russell’s problem of the inductive turkey. Namely, and as is pointed out in the original post, scientific inferences on observed patterns are inductive generalisations and meet the problem that these days is often called the black swan.

    Or, in the more colourful terms of Lord Russell’s turkey, getting fed every morning at 9:00 am may lead to a surprising result (to the turkey) come Christmas eve.

    In short, science — on the logic of induction — is inherently incapable of forbidding, dismissing or rendering the miraculous incredible. And indeed, as has also been pointed out repeatedly, the very nature of the miraculous would require that there be a usual order of the world, against which the black swan type event will stand out as a significant sign pointing beyond that usual course. (Indeed, let us note how Dr Matzke has borrowed the “usual course” language without acknowledging the relevance, significance and cogency of the context in which it was presented.)

    So, Dr Matzke has refused to acknowledge a plainly cogent argument that fatally undermines scientism and antisupernaturalism. He has in effect flicked it away with an irresponsibly dismissive remark.

    Indeed, theology studies the significance of God in and for the world, in light of experience, reflection, conscience, traditions, scriptures and philosophical considerations. That means it has to look at some pretty significant black swans, such as the significance of events A, B, C in succession c. 30 AD — A and C being two suppers with a friend, B being a trial and execution by kangaroo court — as pointed out in the original post.

    (Also neatly ignored. So, let us note again: neither temporal succession nor eating supper with a friend are “extraordinary” and “dubious” events in themselves, i.e. the miracle here lies in the implications of the timeline, not that it is a timeline or what is on the timeline: two suppers — A and C — and a kangaroo court — B. the problem for those who would dismiss the 500+ witnesses, 20 or so being identified and present at C, is not the nature of what is seen, but the timeline locus of B, Between A and C. Where, to tell which came first and which came after, is a matter of common sense. Just as, to recognise a friend sitting and conversing at supper is equally common sense ordinary reality. If one wants, on what is plainly antisupernaturalistic, hyperskeptically dismissive prejudice, to argue for delusions of one kind or another — the price cheerfully paid for the testimony we are looking at immediately removes fraud from serious consideration — then one is perilously close to fatally undermining the credibility of the human mind as an instrument of knowledge and reasoning. )

    That means that theology can be an effective ground of knowledge, in the relevant sense: well-warranted, credibly true belief. Just as science can produce in its proper domain, the exploration of the usual course of the world in light of empirical observation, experiments, inductive and abductive analysis, logical-mathematical analysis and responsible discussion among the informed. But in its proper sphere, science provides no grounds for the sort of scientism that Dr Matzke has plainly embraced and in so embracing has asserted — without any possible good reason, given the above:

    Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but ONLY [--> note this carefully, it is where the scientism is committed] to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES say that that miracle thing CAN’T happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.

    This statement first claims for science just what — as an inductive field of study, given the logic of induction — it cannot do: forbid the existence of a black swan, or assume that Christmas eve is not possible. In short, it endorses scientism. In so embracing scientism, it cannot then pretend that it is improper that we should infer the dismissive attitude to other claims to knowledge and the contempt for especially Judaeo-Christian theology, that are strongly and indelibly associated with such scientism. We can never forget Dawkins’ ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.

    It is in that context — given the grave issues at stake — that we must understand the assertion that “massive observational evidence and THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES say that that miracle thing CAN’T happen.” In effect, Dr Matzke here follows a popular form of Hume’s attempted dismissal of the miraculous, and does that which science precisely cannot do given its epistemological and logical limits: dismiss the possibility of black swans and Christmas eves.

    That then decisively colours how we must understand the onward assertion:

    If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.

    Let us notice the loaded language: deciding to believe in a miracle ANYWAY — and anyway driven by how science augustly rules that miracles “can’t happen.” Remember, here, Dr Matzke has already in effect committed himself that science delimits genuine knowledge, and indeed is here using scientific claims (as he imagines them) to rule against theology.

    Once that is on the table in such a context, the rest is plainly weasel words, here, words to distract from the iron fist in the velvet glove and soften the initial impact of the blow on the intended target. Until, one is in the grip of the iron fist.

    In that context the resort to, you are repeating yourself, sniff, exposes itself as empty rhetoric. More weasel words. I have put forward a cogent argument, which has been distracted from, and derided or dismissed, in some cases — and remember, I am thread owner — with ad hominems. That you have repeatedly dodged aside has done nothing to change its cogency, Dr Matzke. And saying now that here you come repeating again that argument I ducked, does not change the fact that the argument is cogent.

    Only, it is a well known tactic of rhetorical distraction, creating a squid ink cloud behind which one may effect an escape from responsibility for — in this case — some pretty grievous words and irresponsible assertions and actions. Assertions and actions that, in the broader context, have been part of the agenda of an important pressure group, the NCSE, that has affected national science education policy and the climate of public opinion. In ways that have been shown here to rest on key fallacies and can be shown to have had deleterious impact.

    That behaviour is noteworthy, and it is a reasonable act of public service to headline and correct such a gross error. Including, by providing an analysis of the context of the words you have used, and of the ways in which they are fallacious and misleading, Dr Matzke.

    Accordingly, Dr Selensky, I think it has been important for you to have intervened: Where does science say everything is in its domain?

    Science cannot, but scientism, robed in the holy lab coat, routinely does. And, uses that improperly borrowed prestige to dismiss and forbid from the field of possible knowledge in the name of science that which per the black swan-inductive turkey issue, science is properly powerless to dismiss.

    Such fallacy-riddled rhetorical games need to stop, now.

    Already, a lot of harm has been done, and it is high time that responsible people acted to highlight the errors and harm done, and set about correcting it.

    GEM of TKI

  33. kairosfocus-

    Perhaps you could start a new thread that declares Matzke says ID is scientific as he says “science is the study of the usual course of events” and in the usual course of events agencies, and only agencies, are responsible for complex specified information and irreducibly complex configurations.

    That would put a bee in someone’s bonnet…

  34. 34

    I think Kairosfocus has talked so long he ended up endorsing my position. He just said:

    Just as science can produce in its proper domain, the exploration of the usual course of the world in light of empirical observation, experiments, inductive and abductive analysis, logical-mathematical analysis and responsible discussion among the informed.

    …which is exactly my position on what science’s proper domain is.

    The rest is just hyperventilation over some imagined slight against the miraculous, inferred through very unfair reading between the lines.

  35. Joe:

    Correct again.

    KF

  36. Dr Matzke:

    More squid ink.

    Sad really.

    Sadly revealing.

    The point that I have repeatedly underscored by highlighting Lord Russell’s story of the inductive turkey and alluding to the black swan, is that inductive generalisations — properly applied — cannot FORBID exceptional events of various kinds. Instead, they are subject to correction and limitation based on contrary observations.

    As Newton pointed out in Principia and Opticks, 300 and more years ago.

    In particular, scientific generalisations cannot forbid that which is exceptional.

    Unfortunately for you and your cause, you have tried to do that, revealing that you are not doing science, but instead dressing up scientism in a lab coat.

    Let us be plain: science based on sound inductive thinking is simply not able to say that the laws of nature forbid or render inherently dubious and dismissible, the miraculous. (And, BTW, how dare you dismiss the testimony of millions of witnesses who have observed or experienced the miraculous at close hand, over thousands of years with a sweeping fist. That is rude, arrogant and outright disrespectful. As well as self-referentially absurd: if the human mind is THAT delusional, the projects of knowing and reasoning are hopeless. And in this regard, Hume did no better.)

    The laws of science — as inductive generalisations on finite samples in the face of an indefinitely large set of potential evidence — are only able to say that such and such is the general or usual course of nature; in a context where we have a confidence — a trust, a faith (yes, a faith) — that the world is an orderly cosmos not an utterly unpredictable chaos. A faith that historically derives from the worldview confidence of those much derided Bible-believing Christians and Jews who set the stage for the rise of science and played such a large role in its founding: God is a God of order, and created a cosmos not a chaos, so that by doing science we may to a limited extent think his creative and sustaining thoughts after him, hopefully for the benefit of humanity. And that “only,” BTW, is by way of contrast with your own use of that word.

    What is lurking here is that you and many others have reified inductive generalisations from the typical course of the world, into a small-g god dressed up in a lab coat that rules that without exceptions such and so happens. In our day, that is usually by way of swallowing naturalism, or its fellow travellers. Again, too often philosophy dressed up in a lab coat.

    That is the quite evident basis on which you portrayed the notion that scientific law and observations could forbid miracles or deem them effectively impossible or so highly dubious that the many observations that have been reported can be dismissed, swept away by the sweeping generalisations about “massive observation” that you have made.

    To cite your remarks from 68 in the MN thread again, by way of showing the key commitments you made, with emphases added:

    Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but ONLY [--> note this carefully, it is where the scientism is committed] to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence [--> you just swept aside millions of observers to the contrary, many of them of the highest calibre . . . ] and THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES [--> notice your misreading of the relevant logic of inductive generalisations and their limitations] say that that miracle thing CAN’T [--> Notice, that forbidding language] happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway [ --> i.e. in defiance of the only "begetter of truth" or almost the only grounder of truth worthy of the name . . . ], well that’s your choice [--> Dawkins' ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked lurk here], and hypothetically it might even be a good one [--> weasel words]. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move [--> doublespeak: stepping outside of science attracts branding with a red letter of shame and dismissal, A for ANTI-Scientific, from our so-called "brights"].

    In fact it is scientism and naturalism that try to twist the laws of nature into a proscription against the miraculous. A sound understanding of the logic of induction on observations, by sharpest contrast, will see that a generalisation extrapolated from observations and inferred patterns cannot — in principle, cannot — establish a pattern beyond possibility of exception. So, had there been a sound framework of thought, the above cited statement would never have come from your keyboard. But, it plainly did.

    What lurks beneath, never mind the obfuscatory squid ink, is that you have plainly locked yourself up to scientism and naturalism or one of its fellow travellers, whereby the laws of nature are all there is in effective control of the world. Sound philosophy and theology, in direct correction, will tell you that the God who made the world obviously has power to intervene therein for good reasons of his own; in ways that go beyond the usual order he sustains (but also sustains the world in such a way that such signs will be evident as just that: signs by contrast with the usual order). That is, we have an orderly cosmos reflecting its orderly source, and room for occasional signs that go beyond the usual course of the world, for good reason.

    Pardon my having to be direct, to try to get through the many layers of rhetorical defences that are obviously at work: by attempting to say or suggest any at all that science, observations/experience and the logic of science forbid the possibility of the miraculous, you have made a capital blunder that reveals ignorance of the strengths and weaknesses of inductive reasoning; a matter of logic, not science BTW. In that context, the immediate underlying issue becomes scientism dressed up in the holy lab coat. And, such scientism, notoriously sees science as the source or the prime source of knowledge and of warrant for knowledge claims. Itself an error, as the real context of warrant is matters of epistemology and logic, which are in the province of learning known as philosophy.

    But also, in that context, we easily see that there is a particular contempt for knowledge claims or beliefs that are outside the context of science. So, when one advocates stances of scientism like you have, then turns around and speaks of believing in miracles “anyway,” the conclusion is quite plain: weasel words (a common ad and PR technique) are being used, to take in those too unwary to see the subtext of contempt.

    That is why — never mind that the supernatural is not the main focus of UD, I have decided to call you on this.

    The bobbing and weaving and personalities you have indulged yourself in above give me no reason to believe that calling you on this is not needed.

    Just the opposite.

    And of course, on the subject of this blog, design, there are well established signs of design, which are based on abundantly repeated patterns of what happens when intelligent agents act. So, we have signs that reliably point to ART. This gives us the epistemic right to infer from such signs to ART as cause, as opposed to chance and necessity. This is of course subject to empirical test and falsification, but is known on billions of test instances to be reliable.

    So, contrary to the scapegoating, ad hominem laced strawman contrast your side is ever so apt to make: natural vs supernatural, the proper contrast, ever since Plato in The Laws Bk X, is nature vs art. Just as the UD weak argument correctives have pointed out for years.

    Please correct this second blunder.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  37. Onlookers:

    It is time to draw some conclusions.

    The root of this thread was a remark by NM — a former publicist for the US-based NCSE — at 68 in the defining Methodological naturalism thread.

    From the language that says that it infers from science that miracles are impossible and specifically that this is the ONLY thing that science can say on this subject, based on “massive observational evidence” and “the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules,” it is fair comment to infer commitment to scientism and to a gross error that utterly misunderstands the nature and inescapable limitations of inductive generalisations. The ghost of the inductive turkey who, according to Lord Russell, turned up for his usual 9:00 am feed on a certain fateful Christmas eve should suffice to make this point. Similarly, the remarks — following Hume’s gross error — arrogantly sweep off the table the massive body of eyewitness experience that miracles do and have always occurred.

    In the original post, I pointed this out.

    In his first significant response [10 above], NM asserted: “it’s a cheap out of context quote,” going on to say how in the previous thread he “specifically disclaimed the position that one can know for sure that miracles are impossible.”

    This is of course to start with a personality-laced accusation. It also follows with an appeal to weasel words. The fundamental issue being, that one who has a sound understanding of the limits of induction will never write as NM did in 68 in the MN thread:

    Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES say that that miracle thing CAN’T happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move. [Block caps added]

    DG, at 12 above, tore this apart:

    I think I’ll side with KF on this one.

    Like you say, [agreeable introduction]

    science can “comment” on miracles, [specified topic]

    but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because
    massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say [rationale]

    that that miracle thing can’t happen”. [conclusion]

    It doesn’t sound “out of context” to me.

    Actually, for most miracles there is little reason to think they couldn’t happen and that if they did happen they would “violate” some rule of reason or nature. It may circumvent the natural course of events but a beaver damming a river circumvents the natural course of events, nature adjusts to the interruption and carries on. Walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc. are not logically impossible deeds and, in fact, happen quite regularly in the modern world. That someone like God or Jesus was capable of performing such deeds isn’t any less likely than an engineer or doctor performing them.

    And I think it was Chesterton who pointed out that miracles are regularly observed all around the world. We just dismiss the witnesses as unreliable. Why are they unreliable? Because they believe they have seen a miracle. Circular reasoning by Pyrrhonic skeptics who think themselves clever.

    When I got back, at 13, I laid out the full context,and have continued to show how the commitments made in and directly implied by the words used by NM — once one knows the history of ideas context (history, pace Henry Ford, is NOT “bunk”) — lead to the concerns I have last highlighted in 36 just above. Let me highlight the marked up version of the same words by NM from 36 above:

    Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but ONLY [--> note this carefully, it is where the scientism is committed] to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence [--> you just swept aside millions of observers to the contrary, many of them of the highest calibre . . . ] and THE LOGIC OF OUR UNDERSTANDING OF NATURAL LAWS RULES [--> notice your misreading of the relevant logic of inductive generalisations and their limitations] say that that miracle thing CAN’T happen”. [--> Notice, that forbidding language] If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway [ --> i.e. in defiance of the only "begetter of truth" or almost the only grounder of truth worthy of the name . . . ], well that’s your choice [--> Dawkins' ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked lurk here], and hypothetically it might even be a good one [--> weasel words]. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move [--> doublespeak: stepping outside of science attracts branding with a red letter of shame and dismissal, A for ANTI-Scientific, from our so-called "brights"].

    Of course, to one who embraces scientism, to take a step outside methodological naturalism controlled “science” is to take leave of rationality. And, it is absolutely clear that here NM has endorsed scientism, has given a simple form of Hume’s dismissal of miracles, and has specifically endorsed the notion that all that science can say — the ONLY thing it can say — is that miracles CAN’T happen, on the alleged ground rules of science seen as being established by massive observational evidence.

    So, the ghost of Lord Russell’s turkey has a thing or two to say to NM. And, in light of this context, we have a perfect right of fair comment to set aside any assertions that NM has specifically “disclaimed the position that one can know for sure that miracles are impossible” as weasel words. No-one who properly understands that per the limitations of inductive logic,and who has seriously heard out the testimony of the many credible witnesses to the miraculous across time and today with an open mind, would appeal to science like that.

    So, when we see at 34 above:

    The rest is just hyperventilation over some imagined slight against the miraculous, inferred through very unfair reading between the lines

    . . . we have every right to see that NM (an experienced dirty tactics publicist for a known manipulative advocacy group NCSE) is here indulging in the tactic of barefaced denial, as the audience he hopes to appeal to will not bother to check out what is going on in the details on just what he has actually said, what they mean and where he has blundered.

    Sad, sadly revealing, and sadly predictable.

    On the actual main subject of UD, NM has indeed endorsed a key point that decisively undercuts his and NCSE’s position. As I said, science studies the usual course of the world. It does so inductively and so it is forced to confront the massive observational evidence that the only — and, routinely — known source of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information is intelligently directed contingency, AKA design.

    And that is exactly what a responsible addressing of the evidence would conclude by generalising: the only known sufficient cause for FSCO/I is design, so when we see it, we are entitled per scientific inductive generalisation, to infer that the best explanation for such FSCO/I is design.

    Even, when that is inconvenient for those committed to scientism, Darwinism, methodological naturalism and outright metaphysical naturalism or a priori evolutionary materialism.

    That is the real problem in our time.

    And it is telling, absolutely telling that one of the favourite talking points of NCSE, has for many years been that by making such an inductive inference to ART on characteristic signs, design theorists are thereby injecting the supernatural into science, and — bogeyman stereotypical scapegoat warning — are creationists in cheap tuxedos.

    So, it is right for us to lay out the fact that it is philosophy not science that is the real locus of studying that which turns beliefs into knowledge, i.e. warrant (however provisional), i.e. epistemology. So, “science” is not the “only begetter of truth.” Similarly, the headless ghost of Russell’s inductive turkey (head tucked under a wing) reminds us that inductive generalisations are not in any position to “forbid” exceptions and limitations, but are instead SUBJECT TO AND CORRECTED BY them, with Newton’s ghost nodding in the background. In that context, to sweep away the centuries of evidence that miracles do happen, is not only grossly disrespectful to both people and evidence, but would entail such a proneness to delusions, that the credibility of the reasoning and knowing human mind would be decisively undercut.

    In short, the only fair conclusion from the observational evidence we do have and the logic of science, is that science studies the usual course of the world, which science cannot properly rule as closed off from the possibility of miracles. Where also, sound philosophy an theology tell us that the God who created our world, providing such a God is at all possible, would have power to intervene in the usual course of the world for good purposes of his own, where also to stand out as signs such wonders would HAVE to be quite rare.

    So, if we want to know if miracles did or didn’t happen, or do or don’t happen, we need to listen honestly, humbly and fairly to the witnesses.

    So also, if we respect inductive reasoning, we would take seriously the massive observational evidence — the Internet alone provides multiplied billions of test cases — that FSCO/I is an empirically well tested, and reliable sign of design. So, the usual course of the world grounds the conclusion that where we see such FSCO/I we are looking at traces of design. This implicates the living cell, major body plans including our own, and the underlying cosmos based on complex fine-tuned physics that undergirds the possibility of such life, as credibly being designed, art not chance and or blind necessity acting on matter in arbitrary initial conditions.

    Signs of design on earth, of course need point no farther than a high tech molecular nanotech lab several generations beyond that of Venter et al. It is cosmological design that — even through a multiverse hypothesis [which is arguably phil not sci] that points to a massively intelligent powerful and purposeful necessary being as the best explanation for the world in which we live.

    In which case the precise mechanisms and possible secondary causes that have led to us are immaterial, we credibly live in a designed, created universe.

    GEM of TKI

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