Thursday, October 26, 2006


Irrational Numberers

Hey, kids! . . . Know what time it is?!?!?!

It's Forehead Slap Time!!!!

And Chuck ("I found Jesus at my sentencing hearing") Colson is our guest host today.

In an article, "Something Beyond Nature," for The Christian Post, Colson briefly recounts some recent psychology studies. In particular he appeals to an experiment done by Bruce Hood, who asked people if they would take cash to try on a blue sweater. Everybody volunteered. Then Hood informed the people that the sweater had belonged to a mass murderer, "and suddenly, almost no one would put it on, even for money."

Take a moment to savor the possibilities and see if you can anticipate what Colson will make out of this. Ready?:

These studies don’t prove the existence of God or moral absolutes. No scientific study can do that, because materialists are correct: The purpose of science is to study nature, and God is outside of nature. But the studies do something pretty important: They suggest, from scientific evidence, that God may play a role — that is, there is a cause beyond nature. Materialists’ entire view of the universe, and the philosophy that comes out of that, depends upon the notion that nature is all there is. Let science point to even the smallest suggestion of something more, and their worldview falls apart. That’s why materialists fight intelligent design so hard, because that is a case where the scientific study of nature points to a cause beyond nature.
Notice how this proceeds ... Colson starts from a correct notion of science (a bit of a forehead slapper in and of itself) as not being able to study that which is outside of nature, i.e. god(s), but then proceeds, nonetheless, to say that science can "suggest" the existence or non-existence of god(s) (which sounds more like theology than science to me), then equates everyone who fights against Intelligent Design to materialists (totally ignoring Ken Miller, Francis Collins and many others) and brings us full circle to contradict himself, all in the space of one short paragraph, by ending with an assertion that a scientific study of nature can indeed provide evidence of "something beyond nature," i.e. god(s).

Not content with that display of headache inducing prowess, Colson then (more or less) quote mines Professor Hood:

In short, as the Guardian summed up Hood’s viewpoint, "The battle by scientists against [so-called] ‘irrational’ beliefs such as creationism is ultimately futile."
While the quote is attributed to a Guardian article (that is not linked to) and is supposed to be a 'summation' of Professor Hood's views (actually it was the opening of the article, no doubt meant to be a "grabber") and the phrase "so-called," was put in brackets, as presented it fails to remotely reflect Professor Hood's conclusions or opinions. Hood meant "irrational" quite literally and the futility didn't arise from those beliefs being correct:

I think it is pointless to think that we can get people to abandon their belief systems because they are operating at such a fundamental level. No amount of rational evidence is going to be taken on board to get people to abandon those ideas.
Colson tries to put the following spin on the work, quite contrary to Hood's apparent results:

This kind of thinking sends famous Darwinists like Oxford professor Richard Dawkins and the late Carl Sagan into fits. To them, the whole future of mankind depends on being able to coax people away from their so-called "irrational" beliefs and to establish that there are no explanations of human nature that go beyond nature. But there are, and for those of us who believe, it’s just one more sign that if anybody is being irrational here, it’s not us.
Hood did say that he thought that some people, such as the biologist Richard Dawkins and the philosopher Daniel Dennet, had adopted a counterproductive and "simplistic" approach to such irrationalism.

They have basically said there are two types of people in the world - those who believe in the supernatural and those who do not. But almost everyone entertains some form of irrational beliefs even if they are not religious.

For example, many people would be reluctant to part with a wedding ring for an identical ring because of the personal significance it holds. Conversely, many people are disgusted by an object if it has associations with "evil".
Hood does not, in this article at least, suggest in any way that irrational beliefs are immune from reason because they are correct. For example, he certainly doesn't think putting on a mass murderer's sweater is going to harm anyone. While he does not reveal what, if anything, he thinks might or should be done about irrationalism, it's hard to imagine that Hood would agree that mental gymnastics like those Colson displayed above can in any way be called rational.

Thanks for clarifying my position here.
Bruce Hood
"But the studies do something pretty important: They suggest, from scientific evidence, that God may play a role — that is, there is a cause beyond nature."

Huh? The cited experiment suggests nothing of the sort; it demonstrates that people sometimes base their decisions on irrational feelings. The "ick factor", in other words.

(I would have tried on the sweater.)
Thanks for clarifying my position here.

Happy to ... not that it was hard to do. Simply reading the article was enough to see how Colson was misrepresenting you, which is probably why he failed to give a link to it.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education