Jerry Newcombe has a few straw men for you to gaze in wonder at

3q3bvxxf-1353902236Jerry Newcombe has popped up in my RSS feed once again and as usual has constructed a few strawmen that he then proceeds to demolish with vigour.

Least you wonder,  the term “Strawman“is where you setup an argument that is supposedly the argument presented by your opponent and then proceed to demolish it and thus create the illusion that you have successfully refuted your opponents position.

Today’s gem comes from WND, a rather weird fringe site that is supposedly all about “exposing wrongdoing, corruption and abuse of power”, but in reality promotes various conspiracy theories, and also often distorts and misrepresents … so Mr Newcombe should feel very much at home.

Straw man 1 – Atheists claim science Disproves God

The question he ponders over is “Does Science disprove God?”, and so he claims …

on Bill Maher’s television program last month (Oct. 2), he and guest Richard Dawkins essentially declared that science has disproved God.

Nope, I watched that show and that is not what went down at all – this is your classic strawman. The beauty of the Internet these days is that you don’t have to take my word on that, you can simply watch the clip yourself.

There you discover that they were not talking about science “disproving” god, but rather were talking about the fact that we now do understand a great deal and as a result the “God did it” claim no longer applies to rather a lot of things. There are still plenty of questions, things we do not know, and as you might expect, that is where the religious stick the “God did it tag”.

Straw Man 2 – Reason requires “faith”

He also plays the old, “But you have to have faith in reason” card …

Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all

… er no.

OK, so the trap that many fall into is that the word “faith” has multiple meanings. Take two sample phrases …

  1. I have “faith” in Tom
  2. I have “faith” in Jesus

For the first, I am expressing confidence that somebody named “Tom” will be able to do whatever is being discussed. Such confidence tends to be based upon previous information, is not applied to complete strangers, and is not deployed in the complete absence of any real information.

The second is a religious claim. This tends to be grounded in a specific cultural context and it usually has an emotional basis behind it. It is basically a declaration of pretending to know something that is not really known at all, and has no evidence. It is not like the first usage, an expression of confidence, but is instead a knowledge claim.

To put all this another way if you think very carefully about what the words “reason” and “faith” (religious usage) actually mean, then you will soon grasp that they are mutually exclusive, grasping for “faith” is to abandon reason as a source of knowledge.

Truly Weird Claim – Christianity is the Mother of Science

Here he is attempting to claim that Christianity has in some way been responsible for science, and takes this approach …

Alfred North Whitehead said that Christianity is the mother of science because of “the medieval insistence on the rationality of God.” A rational God had made a rational universe, and it was the object of the scientists to – in the words of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler – “think God’s thoughts after Him.”

In the book “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?” D. James Kennedy and I point out (based on the findings of Henry Morris) that virtually all the major branches of science were invented by Bible-believing scientists, including:

Antiseptic surgery, Joseph Lister
Bacteriology, Louis Pasteur
Calculus, Isaac Newton

… er no, apart from the gross misrepresentation of what Whitehead actually said, science, or to be a tad more precise, the scientific methodology, flourished because of the enlightenment, it was all about the rejection of religious dogma, and was not inspired or motivated by it, the claim that these “Bible-believing scientists” did what they did because they were “bible-believing scientists” is a gross misrepresentation of what actually happened. Science flourished because they were able to put aside dogma, not because they embraced it.

I should perhaps also point out that the term “bible-believing” is itself a very misleading term, and might on the surface appear to tell you something, but actually tells you nothing at all. Ask yourself this  – what exactly does that mean in the context of a very vague book, one where nobody actually agrees on what it actually says or means at all. As an example Isaac Newton was incredibly smart, and also very religious, but his specific religious beliefs would be rejected as heresy by almost every single variation of modern Christianity that currently prevails. (Newton personally believed that the very idea of Jesus being God was heresy and he completely rejected that concept)

The key punchline from Mr Newcombe that asserts …

Science was invented by Christians.

… is really not a factual statement in any sense at all. Not only where many throughout history non-Christian, but the very first practitioner of the scientific methodology as we would understand it was Ibn al-Haytham, a Muslim. If curious you can read about it all here.

So yes there were some big contributions by people who would have accepted the tag “Christian”, but their contribution was not because of their beliefs, but rather was despite them.

The Finish

His final claim is …

So, does science somehow disprove God? Not at all. On the contrary, the heavens declare the glory of God.

I do agree that the scientific methodology does not disprove a god, and not because I think it just might be a viable hypothesis, but rather because there is no requirement to disprove something that has never been proven.

The burden or proof rests with those that wish to assert a god claim, and that is something they have completely failed to achieve. Historical attempts to point to the unknown and claim “There, that is proof, god did that, so god is real”, also now fail because we have a very long track record of things that we no now do understand and so have dropped the “God did it tag” off each one by one.

As for Mr Newcombe’s claims … time to roll ones eyes I guess.

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