Irony of the day: John Mark Reynolds

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Few things are more ironic than young-earth creationist John Mark Reynolds (theologian at Biola, Discovery Institute fellow, leader in the ID movement) lecturing scientists about truth, stubborn facts, and having an “open philosophy of science.” If there’s an earthquake in LA today, it won’t be the tectonic plates shifting, it will be the simultaneous detonation of thousands of irony meters. How does the man get up in morning, when young-earth creationism is as hopelessly false on the empirical facts as anything ever has been in the whole history of science, and when the fundamentalist movement’s promotion of young-earth creationism is perhaps the biggest example of systematic fraud ever perpetrated on the American public? If you ever need an example of an ID advocate blathering lip service about “truth”, while shamelessly disregarding it in practice at the exact same time, here you go.

27 Comments

He was sort of making sense up to this point:

The goal of a Christian philosophy of science is a “likely story” that takes into account everything known about the cosmos. Since religion provides knowledge, religious truths will have to be included. Since science gives knowledge as well, it will play a role in forming the proper Christian worldview. The Christian is free to consider any number of such stories. He is not constrained to look at only one sort. For example, God may have acted in a given moment of space and time or He may not have done so. The Christian is open to both. Traditional science is locked into an established Darwinian view that does not allow for such freedom of thought.

WTF has Darwin got to do with anything but the seed of biological evolutionary theory?????

Might be natural. Might be magic. You never know.

Small step from here to Shirley Maclaine and pyramid power.

(cartoon wobbly-head noise)

If religion can continue to attempt to invade science classrooms, I propose science should attempt to invade language/vocabulary classrooms.

Every student must be “indoctrinated” to understand the meanings of the word “theory,” in the scientific context and the common context.

Then again that may appear rather hegemonic on the part of science… Although who can argue with the “truth”?

Another thing I find funny is that JM Reynolds actually acknowledges that fundamentalists/conservative evangelicals tend to be very naive, old-fashioned Baconians (“We like facts, theories are just speculation!”) when it comes to science (and, incidentally, Bible interpretation).

But then towards the end he falls right back into fundamentalist naive Baconianism when he starts spewing all kinds of relativist nonsense about scientific theories just being likely stories that can be (he implies) easily kicked aside when they conflict with your Bible reading. Of course, the Bible is the only thing put in the “virtually certain” category for him.

“The Christian religion has been the most important single philosophy in shaping Western culture.” I’ve seen this statement before. While arguably true, don’t these guys realize that such ideas are passe at best, racism at worst? Who cares that it has shaped Western culture so much? As a historical statement, that might be true, but it hardly has any bearing on relative superiority- which seems to be implied as the intent of the statement.

If there’s an earthquake in LA today, it won’t be the tectonic plates shifting, it will be the simultaneous detonation of thousands of irony meters. How does the man get up in morning, when young-earth creationism is as hopelessly false on the empirical facts as anything ever has been in the whole history of science, and when the fundamentalist movement’s promotion of young-earth creationism is perhaps the biggest example of systematic fraud ever perpetrated on the American public?

Agreed. Telling non-Christians there is good evidence for a 6,000 year old Earth/Universe etc. etc. is at best misleading, and at worst telling lies:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/eve[…]vent_ID=5621

Belfast city mission is the outreach arm for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. As a member, I have repeatedly asked them (the church) to clarify their position on “creation”. I have been repeatedly told that “so long as a Christian believes that God created the Heavens and the Earth, how and when he did it is for the individual to decide”. Why then, is the church entertaining an organisation that emphatically does not believe this and which is extremely dogmatic on the issue ? ? ?:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/hom[…]ut/faith.asp

More on their (YEC’s) view of plate tectonics. After denying it for years they finally come up with this nonsense:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/art[…]phic-breakup

Agreed. Telling non-Christians there is good evidence for a 6,000 year old Earth/Universe etc. etc. is at best misleading, and at worst telling lies

Ditto for telling Christians this, of course.

Carl Wieland (August 1997) Wrote:

“Poorly-informed anti-creationist scoffers occasionally think they will ‘floor’ creation apologists with examples of ‘new species forming’ in nature. They are often surprised at the reaction they get from the better-informed creationists, namely that the creation model depends heavily on speciation.”

http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/[…]eciation.asp

After young earth creationists have for decades been denying that species evolve, and denying plate tectonics with all manner of disparaging rhetoric, the AiG branch of young earth creationists have turned this around and now advocate both hyper-evolution, where hundreds of thousands of species can evolve in centuries (i.e., they’re advocating evolution taking place far, far faster than anything ever advocated by evolutionary biologists or paleontologists), and hyper-tectonics (“runaway subduction” or “catastrophic plate tectonics”), where continents can zoom around for hundreds or thousands of miles at velocities almost 100,000,000 (100 million) times faster than what we know about plate movements from geological science. It’s truly amazing how young earth creationists never actually engage in serious scientific research, and completely and totally contradict each other on fundamental points in relevant areas of science such as geology, while still expecting to be taken seriously when it comes to science.

The fact that the CSC and their sycophants not only refuse to criticize such blatant pseudoscience as young earth creationism, even to the point that they maintain young earth creationists such as John Mark Reynolds as Fellows of the CSC, just goes to prove that all of their talk about being concerned about science is nothing more than a facade for pushing religious belief, because if their expressed concern about science was genuine they’d be criticizing the sheer nonsense of YEC pseudoscience right along with everyone else who takes science seriously. This is indeed why IDists have been working so diligently to try to cover up their connections to young earth creationists, because all of us including them knows how this reveals so obviously the religious nature of the ID movement.

[Deleted inappropriate remark about the recently deceased B.C. cartoonist Johnny Hart. Yes, he was a creationist, but the man just died, for goodness sake.]

Memo to Board Censor re: Death of St.Johnny Hart

So what is the expected “moment of silence” over against diatribes concerning Creo Cartoonist Johnny Hart? A.) 3 Days?(great symbolism!) B.) 3 weeks? C.) 3 months? D.) 3 years? E.) Until Kent Hovind is released from Federal Prison? F.) Until his Sainthood is approved by the Catholic Church? G.) Never! This Board Censor grew up with Johnny Hart gosh darn it, and will NEVER allow anything bad to be said about him, so forget about it!

As ever, there is scientific truth and there is religious truth. The first relies on evidence and testing, the latter relies on emotional preference. The former strictly limits what can be supported to what reality ratifies. The latter suffers no restrictions at all, not even as to statements about science!

I see nothing particularly ironic about Reynolds’ positions. He declaims what he WANTS to be true, and by the religious method, it becomes true. This is the only way things come true in the religious world. If tomorrow he says something different, then THAT becomes truth instead. Kind of like playing tennis where there’s no boundary, no net, and you get to make up the rules as you go along. You can’t lose. You don’t need any skill, you don’t need to practice, you don’t need anyone else’s agreement. You can’t lose. For some players, this seems to be fully satisfying.

yeah we all know about creo “kinds” and the runaway goddidit speciation/speculation

get them to answer a question about mitochondrial endosymbiosis and ask them which one (the plastid or the rest of the eucaryote) was specially created

[…]young-earth creationism is perhaps the biggest example of systematic fraud ever perpetrated on the American public”

you got that right

Steve Greene Wrote:

The fact that the CSC and their sycophants not only refuse to criticize such blatant pseudoscience as young earth creationism, even to the point that they maintain young earth creationists such as John Mark Reynolds as Fellows of the CSC, just goes to prove that all of their talk about being concerned about science is nothing more than a facade for pushing religious belief, because if their expressed concern about science was genuine they’d be criticizing the sheer nonsense of YEC pseudoscience right along with everyone else who takes science seriously.

Exactly. The very least ID could do to back up (1) its pretense at being scientific and (2) its claim of being not “creationism,” is refute YEC. But what annoys me just as much as the IDers’ strict adherence to the “pseudoscience code of silence” is when critics, by calling particular IDers “YECs,” imply that they don’t refute YEC because they actually believe YEC. All we know is that they promoted YEC directly at least once, and need political support from real YEC believers, like many (most?) of their clueless followers. We also know that the “religion” behind ID and classic creationism (e.g. YEC, OEC) is one that has a vested interest in telling fairy tales to the “masses.” Fairy tales that ID leaders, if not classic creationist leaders too, must know are contradicted by the evidence, or else they’d jump at the chance to promote them on their own merits, without reference to problems with “Darwinism.” YEC in particular needs no reference to anything in biology, let alone the same old telltale canards. Whereas YEC at least makes a half-hearted attempt to promote one of many mutually contradictory fairy tales directly, ID has shrewdly discovered that one can indirectly promote them all — without risking exposing the fatal flaws and irreconcilable differences between them. That’s why many “YECs” have defected to ID.

Using the word “truth,” even when qualified as “scientific truth,” takes us away from the processes of science. “Truth” implies a degree of perfection that is incompatible with the scientific method.

There are two levels to this argument: 1. at the theoretical level, science must always hold out the possibility that even a well-established theory is inadequate in some respect and can be disproved, at least for selected circumstances (think of Newtonian physics).

2. at the empirical level, science has a well established and effective method for testing the accuracy of its predictions. This distance is measured in the error term. (Presuming good measurement, of course.)

One of the really nice requirements of the scientific method is that we are forced to specify precisely what we mean so that it can be measured. Yet we never apply this requirement to such a global term as “scientific truth.”

I submit that the closest science can ever get to “truth” is to minimize the error term, and only then until the hypotheses are improved and the error term is further reduced at some time in the future.

In my opinion we proponents of science subvert our own arguments by trying to qualify a colloquial term like “truth” and to claim it as a goal of science.

Ted

I would generally agree with the statements of Ted Scharf,

Using the word “truth,” even when qualified as “scientific truth,” takes us away from the processes of science. “Truth” implies a degree of perfection that is incompatible with the scientific method. …. In my opinion we proponents of science subvert our own arguments by trying to qualify a colloquial term like “truth” and to claim it as a goal of science.

However, one thing that science can do is to determine “untruth”; i.e. we can definitely determine that some statements or hypotheses are incompatible with reality. For instance, the geocentric view of the universe, the concepts of “ether”, “caloric”, and “primordial ooze”, and aristotelian physics have been shown to be false according to the data that scientists have collected over the past 500 years or so.

Similarly, the statements (even hypotheses) of creationists (YEC or OEC) have been thoroughly disproved as not consistent with the reality of our world. The reason that ID is so difficult to eliminate (aside from the attractiveness of its pseudoscientific babble to creationists) is that they refuse as much as possible to make testable hypotheses. Not surprisingly, when they do make hypotheses (the flagellum and eye’s IC) they fail.

The problem is not, of course, a scientific one, it’s a sociological one.

Diatribes about Johnny Hart’s creationist views are fine (although off-topic). Gloating over his death ain’t.

Someone quotes Ted Scharft:

Using the word “truth,” even when qualified as “scientific truth,” takes us away from the processes of science. “Truth” implies a degree of perfection that is incompatible with the scientific method.…. In my opinion we proponents of science subvert our own arguments by trying to qualify a colloquial term like “truth” and to claim it as a goal of science.

I think people who say this kind of thing, while they have a useful subtle point, are missing the big picture. Deep down, every scientist thinks their goal is to find the truth, or at least a better approximation of the truth.

Sure, we never know anything absolutly 100%, but this is a general philosophy problem, not something specific to science. Within the world that everyone believes in, e.g. “rocks exist”, science is pretty darn good at finding truth.

”…young-earth creationist John Mark Reynolds…”

I’m not familiar with Reynolds, but this article does not sound like young-earth creationism to me. There are a number of statements which a YEC would find quite repulsive. Given that his audience is probably mostly Christians, this is quite brave of him (“baby steps, baby steps…”).

You may not agree with what he writes about science and naturalism, but give credit where credit is due (unless this is a pass-fail test, in which case you are advocating the same kind of false dichotomy that many Christians advocate).

Also, please don’t equate YEC and ID (or whatever it is he is espousing). There are many Christians who have repudiated YEC, while at the same time trying to reconcile science with faith in some meaningful way that doesn’t destroy either.

Reynolds defends the young-earth view in this essay, among other places:

Nelson, P. and J. M. Reynolds (1999). Young Earth Creationism. Three views on creation and evolution. J. P. Moreland and J. M. Reynolds. Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Pub.: 41-75.

Nick said:

“I think people who say this kind of thing, while they have a useful subtle point, are missing the big picture. Deep down, every scientist thinks their goal is to find the truth, or at least a better approximation of the truth.”

(Sorry, I have not learned how to create the nice offset box.)

I don’t want to get into an argument with one of the chief Heroes of Dover, but language does matter, and this is a very important part of the big picture.

I argue against applying the term “truth” to science for the same reason that Genie Scott is trying to get all of us to quit using the colloquial term “believe” with respect to scientific results. As she states, we “accept” (i.e. fail to reject) results and findings.

By contrast, Dawkins really does believe his results and because he confuses personal belief with scientific findings in a public forum, he helps to prolong the misunderstanding of science by the lay public.

Make your own observations. Here is the key question: how often in the writings and speeches of Creationists, including IDC’s, do you read or hear some reference to an abstract truth - where “truth” is rarely defined (except in reference to the Bible or God)? Then scientific results are somehow shoehorned onto the same obscure metric of truth and found to be wanting (big surprise), and from this conclusion, science on the whole is condemned.

When we use a term like “truth” that has colloquial meaning and is poorly defined, we create trouble for ourselves. (I strongly agree with the earlier comment about using scientific results to reject flawed hypotheses and theories, etc.)

We have to defend our definition of “theory” because it is integral to the scientific process, and it can be distinguished from the colloquial expression. But the term “truth” is an abstract and misleading term with too many referents and subtle shadings to be useful to science.

Ted

If what we’re talking about is communicating with the public, it is disastrous to say that science isn’t about truth. It may be useful to distinguish between truth in the everyday sense and “Truth” with a capital “T”, i.e. absolute metaphysical certainty, but making that distinction would be a somewhat different than argument you are making.

Also, please don’t equate YEC and ID (or whatever it is he is espousing). There are many Christians who have repudiated YEC, while at the same time trying to reconcile science with faith in some meaningful way that doesn’t destroy either.

ID is just a stripped-down version creation science, made strategically vague on the age of the earth in order to (1) unite conservative evangelicals, both young-earthers and old-earthers, under one banner, and (2) dodge the previous court rulings.

ID is agnostic-age creationism. The one thing it has not done is repudiate YEC.

Re “it is disastrous to say that science isn’t about truth.”

Just say it’s about the evidence - no particular need to use the word “truth”.

Henry

The problem the secularist has with Noah’s flood is not with the flood itself. The secular scientist may believe there is not evidence for such a flood, but is in principle open to such a thing happening. Floods after all really do occur. Global catastrophes, like the one that destroyed the dinosaurs are known to have happened. The fundamental difficulty is that Noah’s flood demands an active God. God did things, like preserve the ark, during the flood. No naturalistic account of the Flood, even if produced by pious Christian, can do that fact justice. Of course, the point here is not to argue for one view of the Flood, or that the Flood even happened. Naturalism, methodological and otherwise, is the problem. It must be rooted out of science like a dandelion on a putting green. To allow even a root of it to stay destroys the ability of science to look at all the options.

That is quite possibly he most gobsmackingly inane thing it has ever been my misfortune to read.

Nick Matzke Wrote:

ID is just a stripped-down version creation science, made strategically vague on the age of the earth in order to (1) unite conservative evangelicals, both young-earthers and old-earthers, under one banner, and (2) dodge the previous court rulings.

ID is agnostic-age creationism. The one thing it has not done is repudiate YEC.

Don’t forget the most important (3) - cover up the fatal scientific flaws and irreconcilable differences among YEC, OEC and all other positions that claim to be the alternative to evolution. If any one of those positions had the slightest scientific promise, they’d be all over it.

IDers would love to have something other than agruments that they know are (1) strictly negative (offer no support to a potential alternative explanation), (2) undermine their desire to distance themselves from YEC/OEC, and (3) have been thoroughly exposed as nothing but misrepresentations of evolution.

JKC might be referring to some ID followers who refute YEC arguments, but sooner or later they learn the strategic value of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Henry Wrote:

Just say it’s about the evidence - no particular need to use the word “truth”.

Yes, it seems more appropriate to discuss facts and reality than truth.

What Ted says seems correct, the best we can do from the standpoint of method is to improve observations and theory. This is the fact part, however you parse the qualitative difference between it and accepted theory (or not make such distinction).

However, this is an operational description akin to the instrumentalist “shut up and calculate” quantum mechanic interpretation. When pressed, I would think that many scientists are realists, acknowledging that our models may possibly converge on a complete description. (But probably not.) This is the reality part, however you accept the concept or not. It is at the very least a convenient fiction.

Using truth has other problems than conflating it with reality.

Truth values is logic properties of the models we use. And they are only correct mappings in the case we have already amassed all the observations they can predict. Before that ‘true’ is not a coherent description of the model regards observational facts.

Truth values are also an inadequate description of the logics of observations and theory, since “don’t know” is the corresponding and adequate logic description of not yet done or confirmed predictions and observations. (This seems to be part of the reason why intuitionist and modal logics were invented, AFAIK.)

As Ted I don’t see any particularly reasonable use of “truth”, and even true/false have different and limited scopes IMHO.

Flint Wrote:

Kind of like playing tennis where there’s no boundary, no net, and you get to make up the rules as you go along.

Calvinball.

I tried grabbing the feed for the RSS for your blog but it is not properly showing up in Google Chrome. Any ideas?

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on April 9, 2007 12:38 PM.

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