“Intelligent Science” – Absoluteness? Absolutely not!

In a post Eric calls “The Atheist is a Thief” (kindof a spooky title), Eric writes this lengthy introduction before delving deeper into the “atheist problems” due to the atheist “hypocritical denial of and reliance on absoluteness”:

What this means…

This basic atheistic position excludes all absolutes.  Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true.  Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws.

How is this a problem for the atheist?  It seems that this position absolves them of any moral responsibility except for what any atheistic individual deems moral for him- or herself.  This position also excludes God on the outset, which suits the atheist well.

Whether the atheist recognizes it or not, he uses absolutes every day.  In fact, the inclusion of absolutes is REQUIRED for his position to be viable.  We will tackle the full extent of this statement in a later post.  For now, we will focus on just one absolute that the atheist uses.

The Uniformity of Nature

This is the idea that nature, given a set of conditions, will act the same way every where at all times.  Meaning that stubbing your toe on leg of a coffee table won’t suddenly become the most pleasurable experience you’ve ever had.  No, it’ll hurt quite the same as it did the last time you stubbed your toe.  For you nerds out there who want to do further research, this is also the idea of induction.

Science depends on the fact that nature behaves in a coherent, law-like way.  For science to be viable not only must nature act law-like now but it must do so in the future.  Nature must also act law-like in every corner of the universe or we wouldn’t be able to depend upon it anywhere.  In order for any empirical result to have meaning five minutes from now, nature must be uniform.”

This is one of my favourite parts in reading and analysing banana-shaped reasoning. For some bizarre reason, Eric makes illogical conclusions, and not only that, those conclusions are made out of invalid premises. Let’s take a closer look.

When Eric says:

This basic atheistic position excludes all absolutes.  Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true.  Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws. “

I seem to be getting the feeling that Eric mistakenly equates “atheist” with “scientist”. And, case in point, that “atheist=someone who thinks according to (Eric’s idea of) the scientific method”.

So, in the first sentence, we can already see bogus reasoning. Why would an atheist need to exclude all absolutes? Why does such reasoning recur in apologetic “rebuttals” of atheism time and again? I don’t think it’s atheists giving themselves a bad reputation (or fellow atheists with different worldviews, Russell notwithstanding) – I think it has to do with some theistic paranoia of a world with no unifying, powerful, protecting authority.

In any event, let’s leave the “atheist=scientist” fallacy alone (whether or not this fallacy has been committed) for a minute and take a look at what Eric says about atheists, and later, how it contrasts with the “atheist appropriation of science”:

Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true.  Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws. “”

This is almost a fascinating exhibition of ignorance. I remember sitting through Thermodynamics class last semester and hearing the professor say, almost to the letter, something like this: “All these laws (and painfully enough, there are so darn MANY of them!) are not real laws. They’re only laws until some observed reality defies them”.

So the atheist/scientist/whatever Eric wants to call it – doesn’t hypocritically “rely on absolutes”. (and I’m really not basing my idea here on a professor’s authority, this was just as an example of how inane Eric’s argument about “the need for absolutes” is)

The mere phrase sounds ridiculous to anyone with a grain of scientific training: Scientific thought and the process of scientific discovery is all about trying to break the rules, finding out new evidence and, in the best cases: change everyone’s mind about the universe. Now, now. I’m not saying that all that scientists try to do is make everyone look silly (not an aspiration I’d like to have as a scientist, anyway). What I am saying is that science works by observing the real world, and trying to figure out more about how it works and why (by establishing causal connections between phenomena), regardless to what we already know. That said, Eric here got it backwards. A scientist (and a “science-inspired” atheist) always seeks to find out where the “laws” don’t work. This is not, of course, a matter of scientists trying to rebel against “laws” or “scientific dogmas”. This is merely a case of refining our knowledge of the universe. Using the classical example of Newtonian physics compared to Relativity, the “laws broken by Einstein” should better be defined as refinements of the “laws” defined by Newton in cases where Newtonian physics fail to give us precise answers.

There is no reliance on absoluteness for (any intelligent, anyway) atheist who thinks and reasons according to the scientific method. There is only the constant, and ever exciting process of refining our knowledge of the universe by learning about new natural “laws”. The word “law” in here is misleading, and Eric falls right for it. “Natural laws” aren’t like human laws. They’re not carved in stone (and in the case of some religious laws I was taught of, they don’t reek of blood). These laws are just human abstractions for phenomena that occur consistently in a particular frame of circumstances and conditions – which are easily broken as soon as these conditions are modified.

5 Comments »

  1. forknowledge Said:

    This is part of an odd strategy employed by many Creationists, which can be summed up as ‘My believes might be irrationla, but SO ARE YOURS!’ (Cue slow, sarcastic applause.)

  2. freidenker85 Said:

    The thing I find most interesting is creationist psychology. Sure, we can snort all day at how creationists deny and reflect when you try to debate them (which is why debating them is so frustrating) – but what I find most interesting is what kind of psychological damage does this to a person, and how can such damage be cured. I really think that being a creationist is, in some nuanced way, a bit dangerous.

  3. Eric Kemp Said:

    “So, in the first sentence, we can already see bogus reasoning. Why would an atheist need to exclude all absolutes? Why does such reasoning recur in apologetic “rebuttals” of atheism time and again?”

    Ok, fine then, what absolutes are you talking about that exist, and where did they come from?

    “That said, Eric here got it backwards. A scientist (and a “science-inspired” atheist) always seeks to find out where the “laws” don’t work.”

    You’re missing the point. I’m not talking about the Laws of Thermodynamics. I’ll be specific, I’m talking about the assumptions of induction and uniformity. Uniformity is the law that states all things in nature, with the same environment and stimulus, will react the same way. The law of induction, states that the results I get now will hold true in the future. These laws are actually assumed to be laws because we could never empirically verify them, but, ironically, we could not empirically verify ANYTHING without assuming these to be true. Think about it.

    I would like to hear the defense of your statement that being a Creationist is dangerous, just out of pure curiosity.

  4. freidenker85 Said:

    “Ok, fine then, what absolutes are you talking about that exist, and where did they come from?”

    I don’t speak of absolutes because I don’t think that absolutes exist! And as a science-oriented atheist, I don’t need to – knowing the tenets of science not owing NOTHING to the existence of absolutes! This is why I found your reasoning regarding “atheists needing absolutes” so absurd. They don’t, and neither do scientists!

    All scientists need is consistency and experience. When this experience is massive enough to allow very strong reliability (that is, very high consistency) – then scientists call certain phenomena “laws”. These are not “laws” like in the legal system or “biblical laws” or anything absolute (!) like that. The word has mislead you, Eric, note the Professor of Thermodynamics I included somewhere in my replies to your posts: These “Laws” are not laws at all! They’re just euphamisms to phenomena that are extremely consistent. The entire scientific enterprise relies on the fact that NOTHING is absolute. If that was one of the scientific method’s basic assumptions, then science could have been stopped by adhering to such totalistic dogma. Scientific laws HAVE been broken, like I’ve mentioned. It’s amazing that “scientific law” has created similar confusion a the term “scientific theory”.

    Many creationists still repeat the “it’s just a theory” nonsensical argument. Now, you’ve been mislead by the ambiguity of the term “law” as it conflicts with popular definitions as opposed to scientific ones.

    Let’s get down to some definitions, then, and to make it as little condescending as possible, let’s use wikipedia:

    “Scientific law
    A scientific law, is a law-likish statement that generalizes across a set of conditions. To be accorded law-like status a wide variety of these conditions should be known, i.e. the law has a well documented history of successful replication and extension to new conditions. Ideally boundary conditions, where the law fails, should also be known.

    So – a law requires a set of conditions being met and a well-documented history of replication. This is called “consistently in a certain framestructure”. Not “dogma”, not “Shalt and Shall Not”. – Just consistency. Now that I’ve firmly hammered the “scientific law means absolute faith” fallacy completely, let’s move on.

    “You’re missing the point. I’m not talking about the Laws of Thermodynamics. I’ll be specific, I’m talking about the assumptions of induction and uniformity. Uniformity is the law that states all things in nature, with the same environment and stimulus, will react the same way. The law of induction, states that the results I get now will hold true in the future. These laws are actually assumed to be laws because we could never empirically verify them, but, ironically, we could not empirically verify ANYTHING without assuming these to be true. Think about it.”

    I’m not missing the point at ALL, Eric. You said that atheists require a belief in absolute laws such as those that exist in science. If in science there is a “law of uniformity” (whether this is an empirical law or a metaphysical one) – there is nothing in science that claims (see above definition of scientific law) that we must presuppose everything happening the same way everywhere in the universe. We could say that, say, physical laws that occur only in very high temperatures (like ideal gas laws, for example) – will completely fail given they’re implacement somewhere far away in the universe where temperatures are always close to absolute zero. This is a clear, plain example of the “law of uniformity” being broken.

    If this is a metaphysical law, then we got ourselves a more interesting discussion.

    To assume absolute uniformity in the whole of the universe would be against MY worldview. Again, I didn’t take “philosophy of science” classes and read Karl Popper before I “converted into scientific atheism”. I merely practiced a realistic, experience-based worldview, and that eventually led me to disband the God hypothesis, being the only reason why I lack the faith in gods.

    To be perfectly honest with you: I don’t assume that there’s uniformity in all of the universe. I see that there’s uniformity everywhere on the surface of the earth because this has been exhibited. It might have also been exhibited in areas of the universe that we could observe – even those that are very far away. Frankly, I don’t understand why atheists or even scientists would have to assume such a thing, and I’d be happy if you refer me to where you explained why this should be the case.

    “These laws are actually assumed to be laws because we could never empirically verify them, but, ironically, we could not empirically verify ANYTHING without assuming these to be true. Think about it.”

    I have! And you’re right. I cannot “empirically verify” the law of induction. I merely discover induction to be a practical, and most importantly, WORKING method of reaching real-life conclusions. If jumping on one foot while kissing a fish produces better results, then I’m inviting you to a fish-hopping-kissing party, say, my place. But induction simply WORKS. That said, I don’t even feel the need to prove it. Even the very idea of needing to prove something is something we intuitively use induction for. To me, it’s like you’re saying that I need to prove that what my eyes see are really what my eyes see. In that case, your request to prove the validity of induction is just as meaningless and senseless.

    Induction is a metaphysical assumption that people make intuitively. Not that this in any way proof. But metaphysical assumptions, by definition, CANNOT be proven empirically.

    This only leaves me with these 2 questions:
    A.So what?
    B.You do the exact same thing regarding anything in the universe except about God, or maybe not even in this case… So what exactly is your problem with the principle of induction?

    “I would like to hear the defense of your statement that being a Creationist is dangerous, just out of pure curiosity.”

    Well, diving deep into the “evolution-creationism” controversy for the past 3 years has shown me what creationist reasoning leads to. Allowing for such irrational belief to permeate the minds of, say, people of authority and government officials is, quite obviously, a threat to science education (since creationism, you’d probably agree, is not a scientific theory), and in the case of serious slippery slopes – an actual danger to personal freedom.

    Inoculating creationist thought allows for irrationality to impose itself on morality. Creationism is strongly linked to stark denial of real-world evidence. I think this point speaks for itself. But feel free to question it further.

  5. […] argument riddled with anti-metaphysical bias.  This particular atheist is Freidenker85 over at Obsessed With Reality.  I would like to respond to some of things he stated as an example of anti-metaphysical bias and […]


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