Non-sequitur in five parts

| 96 Comments

After having retired from a university where I taught physics, I was approached by some friends who requested that I reply to a number of very popular books whose authors diligently tried to prove the compatibility of the biblical story with science. Among the writers subjected to my critique happened to be both religious preachers (like Grant Jeffrey) without any scientific credentials, and also holders of advanced degrees, sometimes from prestigious institutions, for example from MIT (Gerald Schroeder), or from some other good universities (Hugh Ross) and even professors currently teaching physics at quality universities (like Nathan Aviezer). However, there was little difference between writing of either Jeffrey or, say, Aviezer, in that both not only offered plainly fallacious arguments, but also displayed sometimes amazing lack of knowledge and understanding of even seminal concepts of science in general and physics in particular. It was easy to dismiss pseudo-arguments of, say, Schroeder, by pointing to such absurd claims as his statements that masers emit atoms, or that mass and weight are the same, or, say, by revealing the misinterpretation of probabilities by Aviezer. What credibility could be afforded their pro-biblical “arguments” if they obviously were confused about elementary facts of science and/or math?

Recently a friend wrote to me about another book written by a professional physicist, a professor of physics, thus my younger professional colleague, Stephen M. Barr, which seemed to also promote the thesis about modern science allegedly supporting faith. Unlike the likes of Schroeder or Ross, Barr seems to be indeed a well qualified scientist, with a real knowledge of modern science, and a talent for offering seemingly strong arguments in favor of his position.

Barr’s book was reviewed a number of times, mostly in religious periodicals (like First Thing) and on websites (like Metanexus) where it was acclaimed in superlative terms. The religious reviewers unanimously praised Barr’s “accessible” writing, stressed his impeccable scientific credentials and asserted that he has brilliantly proved his thesis about the supposed “fall” of “materialism” as a consequence of scientific discoveries of the 20th century.

In this review I shall discuss Barr’s opus from the standpoint of a secular scientist, thus estimating whether or not Barr’s arguments sound convincing for a skeptic.

Continue reading Non Sequitur in Five Parts at Talk Reason.

96 Comments

Mark,

Excellent review! Covers the main issues very nicely.

As we have seen from the comments of some “anti-naturalism” posters on other threads, the war against “naturalism” is primarily emotional and irrational. Members of these religious sects seem to have a very strong psychological need for an alternative justification to accept the Christian bible as the foundation of all knowledge and, hence, the primary perspective from which all else is to be interpreted. It is simply the old bi-polar view of the world (Light versus Darkness, Right versus Wrong, Good versus Evil.) expressed in a new language, with terror in Hell versus security and happiness in Heaven as its ultimate outcome.

Not even the fact of thousands of warring sects within the monotheist religions raises questions about the reliability of their “supernatural insights”.

I suspect that fear is at the root of this. It’s the Pascal’s Wager phenomenon at work, but with the negative connotation that says in effect, “If I turn out to be wrong about doubting the truth of the bible, I will be damned for eternity.” We see this as a common theme coming from the leaders of these religious sects. Recently there has been a very big upsurge in demonizing liberal thinking, science, objective reporting, and critical analysis; in other words, any form of questioning mind that would raise doubts about the absoluteness of their sectarian world view. Along with these come the misconceptions and misrepresentations of science and scientific evidence that become entrenched because these allow the prior commitment to the sectarian view to continue and comfort. Furthermore, it justifies the rightness of their cause in their minds, and it justifies their preemptive war on any world view that doesn’t agree with theirs.

This is just the kind of soil opportunistic politicians love to cultivate.

thanks, Mark. this one is being saved to my archives. I’m sure I will be sending the reference to more than a few people.

I want one a them atom emitting masers!

hmm…

Atomic Maser

Taser?

no wait, that one’s already taken.

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Lemme get this straight: Jewish law predates Jesus?

You’re grasping at straws.

grrr. “…postdates Jesus?”

actually, I think RO is trying to say that this interpretation of jewish law postdates Jesus.

However, who the fuck knows, as RO NEVER bothers to actually followup his drivebys with any coherent explanations.

The source Perakh is citing here postdates Jesus by almost two centuries; you cannot extrapolate those strictures back that far.

Yeah right. Canonical law 2 centuries old or new is just a baby in those terms. I believe the ten commandments have enjoyed several millenia and are still going strong.

You OTOH, are extrapolating a mythology written by nomads barely out of the stone age 5,000 years ago to make more sense than 2000 years of science.

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Lemme get this straight: Jewish law [postdates] Jesus?

You’re grasping at straws.

No. You cannot argue that rules governing the Sanhedrin from circa 200 C.E. were in force 170 years prior.

No. You cannot argue that rules governing the Sanhedrin from circa 200 C.E. were in force 170 years prior.

oh, you’re SO close to making one, entire, coherent, supported thought.

don’t stop now!

connect the dots and complete your thought. then MAYBE someone might actually be able to engage you.

stop the endless drivebys, would ya?

No. You cannot argue that rules governing the Sanhedrin from circa 200 C.E. were in force 170 years prior.

Oh really? Why not? Laws especially religious laws change very slowly. Examples:

1. The US constitution is still the law of the land. It is over 200 years old.

2. The ten commandments are 4,000 years old. Still in effect as far as I know.

3. A lot of the laws in the Roman Catholic church are centuries and even millenia old. Church laws tend to change very slowly as witness the Catholic church.

4. Don’t know too much about the Talmud and Torah laws but some of them date back long before JC. Things like clean and unclean animals and so on. Try feeding an orthodox a ham sandwich and see where that gets you.

Oh really? Why not? Laws especially religious laws change very slowly. Examples:

1. The US constitution is still the law of the land. It is over 200 years old.

2. The ten commandments are 4,000 years old. Still in effect as far as I know.

3. A lot of the laws in the Roman Catholic church are centuries and even millenia old. Church laws tend to change very slowly as witness the Catholic church.

4. Don’t know too much about the Talmud and Torah laws but some of them date back long before JC. Things like clean and unclean animals and so on. Try feeding an orthodox a ham sandwich and see where that gets you.

That’s nice and all, but it does not change the fact that the rules Perakh relies on in his criticism of the Passion narratives cannot be dated to the time of Jesus. In fact, I think it is entirely possible that the rules from 200 C.E. were written in light of the Gospels.

I think it is entirely possible that the rules from 200 C.E. were written in light of the Gospels

This is an outrageous assertion. AFAIK, Talmudic scholars do not, as a rule, think much about what amount to heretical texts when they make their interpretations of canonical ones. Cite your source for this. I mean a single scholar of either the gospels or Jewish law who thinks this would make any sense.

Mark Perakh seems to be bragging here about all the science-bible compatibility gladiators he has slain. He seems to be smirking between the lines as he declares, “Bring ‘em on. Next case.” And on one level he is justified in doing so since he performs a superb job of organized analytical dissection of many of the spurious claims out there.

Except for one huge hole in his record. Perakh is for some reason very reticent to take on the substance of Judah Landa’s IN THE BEGINNING OF (other than a few silly comments about the transliteration style) in which Landa very convincingly demonstrated that science and the original Hebrew bible are compatible even if the bible is interpreted literally, so long as the ordinary rules of ancient Hebrew contextual and grammatical analysis is followed.

Stating this otherwise, ALL the so called conflicts between science and a literal reading of the Bible are entirely based on sloppy and incorrect Christian (and others) misunderstandings of the original Hebrew and on deliberate distortions.

Why is Perakh afraid of Landa? Does he fear that the feathers of his anti-bible mindset will be ruffled? Go for it, Mark, what have you got to lose but your own misconceptions, not about science (which Landa meticulously supports) but about the Bible?

This is an outrageous assertion. AFAIK, Talmudic scholars do not, as a rule, think much about what amount to heretical texts when they make their interpretations of canonical ones. Cite your source for this. I mean a single scholar of either the gospels or Jewish law who thinks this would make any sense.

The religious scholars who composed the Talmud were aware of the Gospels and included anti-Christian propaganda in response to those narratives. There is nothing “outrageous” about the idea that they would write about the Sanhedrin in such a way as to serve their apologetic purposes.

Folks,

Perakh is absolutely correct about the Sanhedrin and its procedures. Not only are these recorded by Josephus who was virtually a contemporary of Jesus, even the Talmud which was completed centuries later contains the opinions and statements of individuals who lived much earlier and who unanimously confirm these procedures.

Long before Jesus, Jews would not even engage in battle with their mortal enemies with whom they were at war, on the sabbath, unless their lives were immediately at stake.

The big wrinkle in this, is that Jesus lived at a time when the Roman occupiers had corrupted the leadership of Israel, from the king to high priest to the Sanhedrin and all other institutions.

Robert O’Brien is well known to the visitors to PT. His newest comments in this thread show that his understanding and knowlegde of the stuff in this thread rival his understanding and knowledge of Kantorovich metrics which he promised to explain, I believe, a couple of years ago. We’re still waiting, Robert.

Re: Carol’s comment179979. Dear Carol Clouser: Are you back to serve as a shill for Landa’s drivel? Can’t you finally understand that PT denizens have no interest whatsoever in his opus? PT administration seems to have an unlimited patience and tolerance, but still it may come to an end some day.

Carol: why should any of us bother criticizing Landa’s book, when your statements in support of his thesis have already been punk’d, junk’d, debunk’d and defunk’d many times over? You’ve stated Landa’s thesis in general, but have been unable honestly to deal with the many specific counter-examples offered in response, without fudging on those exact “literal” meanings on which your thesis is based. Every time you shill for Landa, you come out looking like a loon. (Tell us again what “day” really means in Genesis?)

Also, we still remember how silly you looked after trying to tell us that polytheists didn’t do any real science;* so your statements kinda lack credibility.

*(See the PT post titled “Egnor Responds, Falls Flat on His Face,” if it’s still available through the Archives. The Farce was strong with her that day.)

Perakh is absolutely correct about the Sanhedrin and its procedures. Not only are these recorded by Josephus who was virtually a contemporary of Jesus…

Provide the citation from Josephus.

Bot Fight!

Here’s the link to Carol’s last meltdown:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]esponds.html

The fun begins at Comment #163100.

I had forgotten that Carol not only made that completely idiotic and unsupportable assertion, but had to lie about it later when several of us nailed her to it.

I have removed a comment by Robert O’Brien because he had the gall to use obscenity addressing a comment by some other commenter. There was nothing in the deleted comment besides that obscenity. Such offensive and contents-empty comments will not be tolerated. Although O’Brien has most brazenly overstepped the boundary of the tolerable behavior, there are other comments, albeit not as offensive as that by O’Brien, still using ad-hominems. Ladies and gentlemen, please behave as ladies and gentlemen. Ad hominems only weaken your arguments. Thank you.

Robert O'Brien, in #179919 Wrote:

Cite your source for this and the date of your source.

Robert O'Brien in #179961 Wrote:

In fact, I think it is entirely possible that the rules from 200 C.E. were written in light of the Gospels.

Anybody detect a double standard here? Anybody? Nevermind; I’m sure it’s just me.

While we’re reviewing books (and I found this review quite nice indeed!) are there any plans afoot to handle Behe’s latest offering, The Edge of Evolution?

Carol Clauser claimed:

ALL the so called conflicts between science and a literal reading of the Bible are entirely based on sloppy and incorrect Christian (and others) misunderstandings of the original Hebrew and on deliberate distortions.

Sorry gang, but OK Carol, I’ll bite. How about Gen 30:37-39. This story, at least how it reads in my English “Revised Standard Version”, has Jacob doing something contrary to science, namely causing sheep to have spotted and striped lambs by having them look at spots and stripes when they mate.

So what are the misunderstandings and/or distortions that clear up this apparent conflict with science? How should the English text read?

Science Avenger wrote:

“So what are the misunderstandings and/or distortions that clear up this apparent conflict with science? How should the English text read?”

That is obviously a long story beyond the scope of a quickie post in this thread. But there are some good books on the subject such as the one I alluded to above.

by the way, for any noobs, carol’s entire “thesis” has been thoroughly rebutted here, and everywhere, MANY times over the last 3 years.

which is exactly why many of us no longer bother and just prefer to snipe.

and on that note, while fun for a while, even the snipes get repetitive after all this time.

so I yawn at myself and say adieu to Carol.

(I AM in the business, as you may know.)

And people in “business” never lie or fudge the facts to further their business objectives, do they?

But you must be blind as a biblical bat to accuse ME of denigrating OTHERS here.

So to STJ’s list of offences we need to add phony crybaby victimhood. Not to mention flat-out lying about what she had previously said, as I proved via the link to the Egnor thread.

And on top of all that, Carol’s offenses are committed for a cause that is even more pointless than ID. She’s gotta be the saddest bot ever to jump a track.

Torbjörn Larsson Wrote:

This is confusing two different situations by similarity. …etc… In summary: Gödel’s theorems has nothing to say on how nature is. But they have plenty to say on how powerful our formal theories are.

well Penrose would surely disagree with you Torbjörn. The issue here is perhaps semi-scientific semi-philosophic. To put it very mildly and very crudely, parsimonious reasoning seems IMO to demand somekind of simple simplicity :-) of only few or even only 1 axiom(a) explaining everything. If the axiom(a) should be self-explaining that would be also very good. 0 axiomata would be even better. :) 0=0 is IMO a very good approximation,a very good beginning in this line of reasoning, in this quest for the Supertheory.:-) of course all this are by no means obligatory or possible to say the least.

PS

1.Apropos,I must note here that the first time,the first moment in my life that I bumped onto this (equivalently this), was divine,mystical,apocalyptical,magical,…

2.I won’t go on any further cause I’m seeing Glen revealing himself from his camouflaged sniper hide out position pointing at me with his high energy antiplatonic superweapon. In advance: Glen I’m joking,please don’t retaliate or please retaliate humorously :)

hhmm, ok thanks Thanatos, I shall have to go back and re-read stuff.

Carol Clouser wrote:

Is “bird” wrong? Not really, it is just an oversimplified and inaccurate translation.

So, it’s inaccurate, but it’s not wrong.

Th-th-th-th-th-th-that’s all folks.

guthrie Wrote:

hhmm, ok thanks Thanatos, I shall have to go back and re-read stuff.

you’re welcome. As a last note I would like to clarify that what Torbjörn has written is not,well, exactly wrong. What I’m saying is that Russell Paradox along with Goedel’s Theorem lie in the core of deep philosophical issues like realism vs antirealism ,platonism vs antiplatonism,noesiarchy vs aesthesiarchy and/or empiricism,reductionism vs antireductionism (note holism,emergent properties,complexity is not obligatory to be in principle opposites of reductionism) positivism vs antipositivism,metaphysics(rational not mystic or religious),… In a word core-problems,meta-problems. Perhaps these are false dichotomies(in fact that’s almost very probable if not certain). A superposition of them may be more correct. (But then again the problem is how to choose between and explain the correct superposition.Science of course is the Way but that doesn’t mean that a solution is possible) Nevertheless mathematics(including logic) are fundamental to human thought and science so “problems” in the core of mathematics are …important.

As a friendly advice ,read and search topics on Goedel’s theorem in connection with Russell’s Paradox(very important) and try to make “gedanken” or more “practical” correlations with the concept of self-reference,the concept of infinity (oo), the measurement problem-paradox of quantum mechanics,chaos and complexity, the problem of consciousness,continuum vs discrete,Zeno’s paradoxes etc. Studing the history and evolution of all this issues-topics is also very helpful,enlighting and important. I admit that my advice is in a way equivalent to saying study every discipline of science-rational thought. :-) Well yes it’s time consuming,almost certainly impossible and perhaps not very good because it may lead to superficial and so perhaps erroneous knowledge of each discipline(therefore of all). But I don’t really see another way for us mortals.At least for us of IQ below genius.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Perakh published on May 29, 2007 11:38 AM.

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