Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Who Is John Gault?

Well, he is a professor of physics at Missouri Valley College, a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.

But he has some strange ideas about science. In a lecture entitled "The First Day of Creation, Light, and the Physical Laws":

He began by asking those in attendance about their beliefs regarding creation: was the universe created by a god or by chance? If by a god, did it take six days or billions of years? Is there a conflict between science and religion, and, if so, how strong of a conflict exists?

"Why is there a conflict?" he asked aloud. "... That's a question I want you to help me answer."

One cause of that conflict, he said, is that some believe evolution is a theory that opposes religious beliefs. But, he said, it does not.

He offered his personal belief that science and religion reinforce each other to the benefit of both. ...

Mentioning Genesis again, he said that Adam was created as an adult, so when the universe was just six days old, as told in the biblical story, Adam was 25 years old or more.

So, Gault asked, couldn't God have created the universe as an "adult?"

Gault used the analogy of walking into a room to find a lit candle sitting on a table in a puddle of wax. The presumption of the observer would be that it began as a taller candle, and the wax was brought into its current location by the burning of that candle.

But, he continued, wax simply may have been poured onto the table, and the candle set into that puddle.

An observer couldn't tell the difference between these two causes, Gault said, if the second option were performed correctly.

"All we can talk about is what we see today," said Gault.

Omphalos? And we cannot trust our inferences about the unseen past based on existing evidence? Then why should we trust our inferences about the unseen present? ... You know, electrons and quarks and neutrinos?

A physics professor who denies the reliability of science? Like I said, very strange.

This is the first in a series of lectures:

Stephen Patton, professor of chemistry at MVC and organizer of the lecture series, said the series is aimed at students "who come from very conservative backgrounds and believe God created the world in six days, and then they come here and hear it's billions of years old, and this is to harmonize all that. There are many Christian positions. ... Evolution is not the property of atheists."

The next lecture, entitled "Noting (sic) in Biology Makes Sense Except in Light of Evolution," is by Sarah MacDonald, MVC assistant professor of biology and botany. Despite the title, given Gault's start, I have a bad feeling about it.

This is why Phillip Kitcher calls contemporary IDists "resurrection men." They spend their time resurrecting failed and long-dead arguments.
So their only way out of the conflict between the evidence and their beliefs is a trickster God? Hardly original and hard to square with the concept of a perfect deity. I often wonder if, as scientists, they are uncomfortable with the shifts and stratagems they have to employ to try and reconcile their faith with their science.
I'm stunned that a physicist would resurrect Omphalos though. The theists and scientists of Gosse's day rained scorn down it. The scientists for the destruction of the very rationale of science and the theists for the notion of, as Ian says, a "trickster god." Poor kids, if this is the school's notion of how to "harmonize" science and religion!
Makes sense to me. Adult Adam, adult universe, baby Jesus, baby carrots with curry sauce, makes perfect sense..
I could accept this if it were a cool trickster god like, say, Coyote. But I doubt he'd go for it.
"IN crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer.
But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there."

Or possibly some joker left it there to trip me up?

Hey this trickster God things answers all problems!

Why are there two creation tales in Genesis - God was having a laugh!

Why did Lot's wife turn into a pillar of salt? God was playing a practical joke.

Voice from the burning bush? Ventriloquism.

You wait until the trickster God reverses the charge on the electron - that will be a real rib tickler!
Mr. Gault just needs some extra cash and hopes to win the Templeton Prize.
Loki created the universe with a belly button knowing that Man (well, scientists) would be tempted to press it. When they do, the sun will extinguish.
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