He Came To Disprove God!

Several years ago a smart-looking young boy came to me and said, "Sir I am an Engineering College student. I have been reading the Bible for some time and have come to you to argue that  that God does not exist. I heard you are an apologist, and also a physicist, so you and I can have a great time talking". I was happy to meet him, and welcomed him for a cup of coffee.

On the appointed day he visited me at my home, and was unusually eager to talk. I once again asked him whether he was sure he wanted to argue with me, and he said yes. I then asked if he would keep his conversation strictly at the scientific level, seeing that is what he said the day before. He said he would keep his arguments strictly at the scientific level, and added that this would be the appropriate approach seeing that he was an Engineering student and I that I had a physics background.

Without delay I invited him to present at least one experimental or observational evidence that disproves God. He was suddenly possessed by silence. In fact he was dumbfounded. He had read plenty of publications written against God, and thought that these are all scientific arguments, but when confronted to support his contention that he would use science to argue against the existence of God, he was unable to advance a single evidence.

He than asked me to list my reasons for belief in God, and that he would refute all of them. I asked him whether such a refutation would amount to a “scientific” proof that God did not exist. He paused for a few moments and then accepted that such refutation would not amount to a scientific proof that God does not exist.

I then reminded that right from the moment he sought me out, he had been working on the premise that he would “disprove” the existence of God using “scientific proofs”. After much silence he asked my leave for a few weeks after which he said he would surely come back to me with such arguments.

The young man never came back. I still wait for him. I wait for him in vain because nobody has proved that God does not exist, though plenty of people claim that science has disproved God. The ball still remains in the court of the so-called “rationalist”.

[Dr. Johnson C. Philip is a physicist, with expertise inter alia in Quantum-nuclear Physics, and has worked extensively on the inner quark-structure of Protons and Neutrons. He has also specialized in Christian Apologetics, Biblical Archeology, and several other fields]

28 replies
  1. Ian
    Ian says:

    It is very very hard to demonstrate anything does not exist, especially something as poorly defined as a god. It is very much easier to demonstrate something does exist.

    Can I also reiterate you would be well advised, in my opinion, to abandon the word “prove” in these discussions :)

  2. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Hi Ian,

    “Johnston”‘s article also tries to imply that it is the job of science to “disprove” the existence of G-d, which is not the case as any scientist knows (and, right there, this makes his “example” debate non-scientific, which is ironic, of course).

    It’s a pointless example anyway as his “argument” is true both ways, but “Johnston” only presents one side (note how “Johnston” side-stepped actually presenting anything in reply, just as he repeatedly does on this blog!).

    Not having an answer to:

    present at least one experimental or observational evidence that disproves G-d.

    would be expected (as you know, consider: if something doesn’t exist at all, but someone claims it does, how would you “disprove” it’s existence?), but not having an answer to:

    present at least one experimental or observational evidence that proves G-d.

    also not only would be expected, but is what happens.

    As neither can realistically be done, the “exercise” demonstrates very little other that there is no substance either way for his “G-d” thing and that “Johnston” claims things to be scientific that are not.

    I agree with you about his use of the word “proof”. “Johnston”‘s use of ‘proof’ runs counter to use that any scientist would take, which ironically makes the “Johnston”‘s contribution to the “debate” in his “example” non-scientific, contrary to what he says that the “debate” should be.

    The ball still remains in the court of the so-called “rationalist”.

    I find this telling, trying to place the burden on others. ‘The burden of “proof”‘ lies with those making the claim of the existence of the thing in question. The religious claim the existence of G-ds; it is for them to “prove” the existence of their particular “G-ds” should they want to, not for anyone else to “disprove”. I wonder if he thinks it is his job to formally “disprove” the existence of the Hindi G-ds?! :-) It would think even he will realise it is more natural and correct for Hindi to “prove” this, than him even attempt to “disprove”.

  3. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    ‘The burden of “proof”‘ lies with those making the claim of the existence of the thing in question. The religious claim the existence of G-ds; it is for them to “prove” the existence of their particular “G-ds” should they want to, not for anyone else to “disprove”.

    According to what logical law? According to what convention of argument? You seem to be making the claim that there exists a rule about the burden of proof being on claims of existence—so let’s see you apply that rule to your own claim.

    I wonder if he thinks it is his job to formally “disprove” the existence of the Hindi G-ds?! :-)

    I can’t speak for Johnson, but in conversation with a Hindi, I would certainly take it as incumbent upon me, as a Christian, to show that his worldview is irrational and that Hindi gods are false gods or do not exist.

  4. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    The person who makes the claim that God does not exist certainly does have a burden of proof. This is a claim to knowledge and requires evaluation and the support of arguments, just as much as the Christian who maintains that God does exist. As this student agreed that conversation should be kept on a scientific level, it was certainly appropriate to ask for scientific validation of that specific truth claim.

    The students silence was telling, and that silence is maintained in atheistic forums today. What that silence means is this: when assessing which position it is more rational to hold, the Christian need only present one argument and the opposition is already on the back foot. The atheist to win the debate/discussion needs to not only pull down all the theistic evidences that support belief in God, but also present a positive case for his own position.

    I say let the debate begin. Who has the better case?

  5. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    while this has no bearing upon the content of the debate, and while I have no problem if someone wrongly spells my name, I still wish to point out that my name is not Johnston but Johnson. You have spelled it Johnston 6 times. Not a good testimony anyway to the observational accuracy of someone who has carefully been combing through my articles. (I have not added up the earlier comments where you made the same mistake).

    Let us strive for accuracy in whatever we do!! I know you can be accurate when you want because you have been googling with my correct name for some time!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  6. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Ian

    Can I also reiterate you would be well advised, in my opinion, to abandon the word “prove” in these discussions :)

    I reported an event from common life, not from a discussion in a mathematical journal. In common life proof is the most commonly used word, though “evidence” or “establish” would be used in a more formal setting.

    Obviously, the young man who spoke to me kept using the word “prove” and I reported it accurately.

    Johnson C. Philip

  7. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    Bnonn and Stweart have made an excellent start, as far as the questions from Ian and Heraclides is concerned, and I will hold my peace till Ian and Heraclides respond to them. This will minimize the number of threads in a give post.

    But before things go forward, I wish to point out to Bnonn and Stewart that Heraclides harbors the erroneous belief that a “theory” can be used to establish that another “theory” is right. This is a totally wrong notion as per the canons of evidence. As a result, Heraclides tends to write things which are not proof, evidence, demonstration at all of his position.

    Johnson C. Philip

  8. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Bnonn:

    According to what logical law?

    Common sense, Bnonn, for goodness sake. I’ll start back the beginning for you. If you make an empty claim, no-one need address it because it’s empty, right? It’s up to the person making the claim that something exists to provide some substance to the claim. Until then, there is nothing to address. Not rocket science, eh?

    In order to make a claim that a thing didn’t exist, someone (else) first had to claim that it did. If they leave that claim that it did exist as an empty claim (i.e. with no backing) it’s an irrelevance and can be ignored. It’s up to them to give backing to their claim, or there is nothing to consider.

    Common sense, right?

    Johnson’s story is a “standard” effort to start at a later step and conveniently “forget” that the earlier claim that the thing existed had to be made first. And without substance to that claim, the whole thing is moot. (He even side-steps it in the story.) As such it just another fallacy. It’s not very original either, there are countless variants of this around.

    Stuart:

    Sorry, but you don’t even seem to get the point I made.

    Johnson:

    Heraclides harbors the erroneous belief that a “theory” can be used to establish that another “theory” is right.

    Hahahahaha. Oh, what a joke :-) Still trying to foist this on me and make out that I have erred as if this were some grand triumph for you? Sorry for laughing at you, but it’s pathetic, it really is.

    Firstly, I didn’t actually write to that effect.
    Secondly, you really need to define what you mean by ‘theory’ ;-)

    I’m sure this will boil down to you having a different idea of what ‘theory’ means.

    But until you reply, let’s have some fun and trace this for you. The first instance of this claim was made by… you, not me! Let me quote it for you, from post 51 in the original thread:

    You are working with this understanding that a “theory” can be used as evidence to support another “theory” which is totally opposite to the established principles of the canons of proof.

    Note how it’s not quite the same claim as you now make, either (your recent addition “as right” shifts it from evidence to mechanism of “proof”).

    And I suspect you mean your “canons of proof”, not “the” canons of proof ;-)

    Anyway, what I actually wrote that you replied to above was:

    Any time you take experimental data and do any analysis of any kind on it, you are adding theoretical precepts to the data. Even just calculating a simple average of scores does this. It’s pure semantics.

    So that’s what I actually said: that essentially all data analysis involves theoretical constructs.

    The easiest explanation for your claim that theories cannot be used to support theories is that you are confusing theory for hypothesis. (I pointed this out earlier, too.) It would make a sound explanation of why you are getting this wrong.

    So… why don’t you define what you mean by ‘theory’?

  9. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Common sense, Bnonn, for goodness sake. I’ll start back the beginning for you. If you make an empty claim, no-one need address it because it’s empty, right? It’s up to the person making the claim that something exists to provide some substance to the claim. Until then, there is nothing to address. Not rocket science, eh?

    1. Common sense is not a criteria for determining burden of proof. That’s because common sense is rarely common.

    2. The theistic claim is not empty, so your example doesn’t apply.

    3. It may equally be that it’s up to the person making the claim that something does not exist to provide some substance to the claim. There isn’t some hard and fast rule—individual claims need to be evaluated on their own merits. The claim that the Christian God exists is not on the same rational footing as the claim that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, or the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    In order to make a claim that a thing didn’t exist, someone (else) first had to claim that it did. If they leave that claim that it did exist as an empty claim (i.e. with no backing) it’s an irrelevance and can be ignored. It’s up to them to give backing to their claim, or there is nothing to consider.

    4. Which tacitly begs the question re what you consider “backing”. Theistic claims, of course, have plenty of evidence to back them. However, the claim that God exists is not a scientific claim. It is not empirically verifiable. It isn’t a claim about a function of the universe. So if you’re excluding, a priori, non-scientific evidence, then we need to address that problem.

  10. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi folks! First contribution for me. I have been reading the articles here with some interest for a while now. Although this reply is in a very specific section, my thanks go to all the people who post the thought provoking articles. Cheers.

    Another good blog Philip. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the read.

    On the side, I did want to mention in a most friendly manner that you happened to misspell Stuart twice in comment #7. It seems to me that you have a wicked sense of humour or were an inadvertent victim of our common attributes of humanness. Was quite obvious after the comments on Heraclides making the same error. Glad you took no offence there.

    (I am surprised that your antagonists didn’t jump all over that. Maybe they were being very magnanimous … hmmm)

    To add to the topic, I think Ian is correct that you cannot disprove God … and that just validates what Philip was recounting in his story. Indeed, it is nigh on impossible to demonstrate that invisible pink unicorns do not exist. But who actually believes that they do and on what do they base this belief? Like Bnonn says, a rational footing is all-important and should be explored. The question really is whether there is evidence for God or not. A large number of people do think that there is conclusive evidence. The evidence they hold can be examined and subsequently rejected or accepted.

    Was interesting how a simple story raised all these objections on the definition of proof and burden of proof along with various other claims. I guess people need to grind their axes. Contrary to subsequent accusations, I could not see where Philip claimed that science can prove the existence of God. It seems to me that Philip was merely illustrating how some people hold the erroneous view that science can disprove the existence of God. Everyone here seems to agree with that. That is nice! To the other people out there, who think that science can disprove God, the ball does remain in the court of these so-called “rationalists”. Well put Philip, and easily understood.

  11. Dr. Johnson C. Philip
    Dr. Johnson C. Philip says:

    Dear Jonathan,

    thank you very much for your comment.

    Thanks for catching the spelling mistake.

    Thanks for summarizing what I presented in this post. You have given an accurate summary.

    I was not trying to claim, as you correctly noticed, that one can prove the existence of God with the help of science.

    The following summary you wrote is a classic and thanks for it:

    It seems to me that Philip was merely illustrating how some people hold the erroneous view that science can disprove the existence of God. Everyone here seems to agree with that. That is nice! To the other people out there, who think that science can disprove God, the ball does remain in the court of these so-called “rationalists”. Well put Philip, and easily understood.

    Johnson C. Philip

  12. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Well, Johnson, going to define what you mean by ‘theory’ sometime?

    @10: Slightly misses the point, I believe. He implies that science should disprove G-d, which isn’t true. Seeing that “Should” precedes “could”, at least for this application, I’d say his incorrectly implying that it “should” is pushing a fallacy.

    (I am surprised that your antagonists didn’t jump all over that. Maybe they were being very magnanimous … hmmm)

    Maybe they aren’t “antagonists” in the way that you make out. Johnson has made out that I attack him, when what I “attack”, if anything, is his arguments: the extraordinarily poor logic, the fallacies, the claims to know science when he clearly doesn’t, etc..

    The evidence they hold can be examined and subsequently rejected or accepted.

    Except, that in practice they try have it both ways and say that they have evidence, but it can’t be examined (and therefore, contrarily, can’t be evidence; see below).

    Regards burden of proof, please re-read what I wrote. Before there is even a “thing” to claim does not exist, someone had, absolutely must, have claimed it existed first. If that claim is empty, there is nothing to address. So, it is absolutely true that the first “burden of proof” like with the person who claims the thing exists first. Johnson’s “story” is a pretty standard one that tries to walk around this, by conveniently side-stepping the first step.

    @9:

    1. Common sense is not a criteria for determining burden of proof.

    I never said it was. I was just saying your noggin, think. The reason that I wrote that is you and other creationist here constantly expends energy avoiding things, side-stepping around them, etc., as your post 9 but never seem to think. It’s why I personally, in my own time, call this place the “nonthinking place”! (With reference to the name, of course.)

    I also have to admit I find it hilarious how you lot always claim there is plenty of support for “G-d exists”, but then immediately go on try “redefine” evidence, or say there is no support, e.g.

    Theistic claims, of course, have plenty of evidence to back them. However, the claim that God exists is not a scientific claim. It is not empirically verifiable.

    Let’s see. You say it has evidence, but it’s not empirically verifiable, which means it has no evidence. Gee, sounds like a complete contradiction in terms to me :-)

    It sounds more like wishfully inventing another “realm” that you can make all your beliefs true in, a bit like a young childhood fictional fantasy land.

  13. Dominic Bnonn Tennant
    Dominic Bnonn Tennant says:

    Regards burden of proof, please re-read what I wrote. Before there is even a “thing” to claim does not exist, someone had, absolutely must, have claimed it existed first. If that claim is empty, there is nothing to address. So, it is absolutely true that the first “burden of proof” like with the person who claims the thing exists first.

    Let’s see. Is this true when I claim that I exist? No? So why would it be true when God claims that he exists? Or are you just begging the question against the Christian again?

    Common sense is not a criteria for determining burden of proof.

    I never said it was.

    Well, actually yes you did. Remember, you said that “‘The burden of “proof”‘ lies with those making the claim of the existence of the thing in question.” I asked, “According to what logical law?” You responded, “Common sense, Bnonn, for goodness sake.” If that isn’t what you meant to say, maybe you should avail yourself of the “preview” button I installed specfically to help people who tend to shoot off their mouths.

    I also have to admit I find it hilarious how you lot always claim there is plenty of support for “G-d exists”, but then immediately go on try “redefine” evidence, or say there is no support, e.g.

    I’m glad it amuses you, because obviously that’s all it’s ever likely to do. You are too wilfully obtuse to recognize that we aren’t “redefining” what evidence is—we are actually just admitting of evidences other than empirical ones. As you yourself do on numerous occasions. Just not when it doesn’t suit you…like when dealing with Christian truth-claims. You hypocrite.

    Frankly, Heraclides, I despair of you ever coming to any sophisticated, intelligent positions on these topics. However, in an effort to kick your lazy, boorish atheist mind into gear (yeah, you heard me), let me offer ‘The Definition of “Atheist” and the Burden of Proof’, and ‘Are There Any Rationally Compelling Arguments for Substantive Theses?’

    Let’s see. You say it has evidence, but it’s not empirically verifiable, which means it has no evidence. Gee, sounds like a complete contradiction in terms to me :-)

    Only to someone who is so thick that they think “evidence” means “empirical evidence” even after having this frankly retarded idea dissected, explained, and rebuffed numerous times in the past. Don’t post here again if you’re going to keep pushing such a philosophically infantile agenda.

  14. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi again. My apologies Johnson for using your surname Philip. I just assumed that it was around the other way for some unknown reason.

    Hi Heraclides. Not trying to pick on you mate, but I would like to clarify the parts where you addressed my comments:

    @10: Slightly misses the point, I believe. He implies that science should disprove G-d, which isn’t true. Seeing that “Should” precedes “could”, at least for this application, I’d say his incorrectly implying that it “should” is pushing a fallacy.

    I do try my best not to miss points. I have no real issue if you believe that I have slightly missed the point. I do have issues about whether something is true or not. So thank you for providing what you hold as evidence to back that belief of yours.

    I can not find the place where Johnson specifically said that science should disprove God. I can find where he said that no one has disproved God, and that science can not disprove God. But not where he said that science should disprove God. So where do you get that notion? Ah yes, you say that he implied it.

    It seems to me to be very subjective and erroneous to assign motives to people or to read-in what you believe they are implying. Doing so is certainly not a scientific action or method. The funny thing here is that from reading exactly the same thing as you, I did not get get the implication that you did. Even worse, I was left with the impression that Johnson would actually agree with your claim of fallacy for: science being required to disprove God. And that is directly against your claim that he holds such.

    The very beginning of the Christian claims: God is meta-physical. That is, he exists apart from the physical universe. If science is the study of how the physical universe functions (a very loose definition I know), God is simply beyond the reach of science. Thus it is a fallacy for any Christian to say that science should disprove God. Nice to know you agree with the Christians.

    Maybe they aren’t “antagonists” in the way that you make out. Johnson has made out that I attack him, when what I “attack”, if anything, is his arguments: the extraordinarily poor logic, the fallacies, the claims to know science when he clearly doesn’t, etc..

    A little tongue-in-cheek there, when I made the “antagonists” remark. I need an ‘attempted humour’ icon that I can add into the text.

    I am puzzled though, on how you can say that you do not attack Johnson, when it appears that you are inventing his views and reading-in what you want to see – and then attacking that? Classic strawman. Prime example being where you wrote; “He implies that science should disprove G-d, which isn’t true.”

    So you claim to attack arguments. But by inventing what a person holds, you have already attacked that person. Misrepresenting someone is an attack upon that person.

    Again … Johnson was actually saying that science could not disprove God, and (it appears to me at least), that that is the entire point of his story. Whether science should or shouldn’t disprove God only surfaced when you assigned the idea ”that it should”, to Johnson, and then called him incorrect for having that idea. Gee, that almost looks to me like you were attacking the person and not attacking his argument?

  15. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Jonathan

    Dear Jonathan,

    you need not apologize for addressing me as Philip. I am addressed numerous ways in India. All of these are totally acceptable because of the multi-cultural society here.

    Why, in the Hindi world I am addressed by neither of these names. They call me Shastri. So do not worry about these things.

    I agree with the observations you made in the above post. You have understood and summarized my arguments accurately.

    Greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  16. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Heraclides is well known for “redefining” people’s posts so that he can then grind his particular atheistic axe. When this is pointed out, he claims innocence and surprise. He has been warned repeatedly, but continues to drag the level of discourse here into the mud. He therefore won’t be allowed to post again.

  17. ed thomas
    ed thomas says:

    So Johnson showed up an engineering student for not understanding the nature of a “proof” in science as well as a physicist does. Who expects an engineer to understand theoretical science in the depth a physicist should? They do two different types of work.

    As a newcomer here, I can only assume that this article pertains in some way to the curent evolution/ creationism set-to. I wonder if Johnson has ever explained to any fellow believers, who often seem to think that poking holes in the theory of evolution “proves” that creationism is true, the logic behind his 4th paragraph.

  18. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @ed thomas

    Welcome Ed to Thinking Matters. I hope that you will like this place and that you will keep interacting with the writers, even if you are not a creationist.

    Who expects an engineer to understand theoretical science in the depth a physicist should?

    Nobody expects them to have the same depth in theoretical science — and that was not the main issue. The main issue was to show him, and many who think along the same lines, that his reasoning was flawed and that therefore he should think afresh on the issue rather than harbouring false confidence.

    I wonder if Johnson has ever explained to any fellow believers, who often seem to think that poking holes in the theory of evolution “proves” that creationism is true, the logic behind his 4th paragraph.

    Poking holes in the viewpoint of another person does not establish that one’s own viewpoint is right. Nor was that the purpose of this interaction.

    This young man came to demonstrate something to me, and he could not do what he thought he could do. Others who think they can do it would also be not able to do that. Showing that much to them, and also to my current readers was the purpose of the present post.

    You need not read anything more than that into the current article.

    You have correctly interpreted the logic behind 4th paragraph. It applies to all sides in a discussion.

    As to whether I explained the above-mentioned principles to my fellow believers, you will know when you read more of my writings, which are considerable.

    With greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  19. ed thomas
    ed thomas says:

    I take your points Mr. Johnson. In my experience though, the “disproof of yours= the proof of mine” argument seems to be much more widely used by the creationist side. Otherwise, why would so much of their literature be taken up with that “discredit evolution” line, instead of offering some positive evidence for creationism/ I.D., etc.? My guess Mr. Johnson, is that most adherents to the creationism side, judging by the comments I’ve read elsewhere (newspaper, blogs, web sites, etc.) could use some enlightening by somebody, at least as much as that engineering student. Which is why I asked the question.

    The “god vs. no god” debate is a young man’s game though, I think. Its intellectually interesting (at least when somebody says something that I haven’t heard to death before), but the discussion hasn’t moved much in the fifty years I’ve been paying attention. When one side thinks that the natural universe is sufficient to understand and explain the everything in the natural universe, and the other side thinks that it isn’t, that some outside “supernature” is required, how can you resolve anything?

  20. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @ed thomas

    Dear Ed,

    thanks for your comments. I very much appreciate your desire to enter into a dialog and I am sure that both the sided will be able to learn from each other.

    You said

    My guess Mr. Johnson, is that most adherents to the creationism side, judging by the comments I’ve read elsewhere (newspaper, blogs, web sites, etc.) could use some enlightening by somebody, at least as much as that engineering student. Which is why I asked the question.

    I very much appreciate the comments. I have been reading material (ranging from the popular to the most technical ones) since at least 1970 and wish to assure you that the picture you have in mind is incomplete.

    Actually there are ignorant people on both sides. People on both the sides make mistakes. People on both the sides need to listen to each other. Many do not do this. But on the other than, there are many who definitely do this.

    The more you read, the more you will notice that there is the full spectrum of people on both the sides.

    When one side thinks that the natural universe is sufficient to understand and explain the everything in the natural universe, and the other side thinks that it isn’t, that some outside “supernature” is required, how can you resolve anything?

    Difference of worldviews is an integral part of man’s quest of knowledge. I strongly urge you not to be worried about that.

    Let the dialog continue and many will come to see the truth because both the sides cannot apparently be true!!

    With greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  21. ed thomas
    ed thomas says:

    Mr. Johnson, you are a new experience for me, after years of conventional bible quoting creationists, and more recently the I.D.ers. You have a sort of eastern approach to questions. In fact, I almost wonder if you are a Turing program. You aren’t, right? (Nah.)

    Still, I’m left to wonder if you correct the sloppy logic of creationists who attack evolution, in the mistaken notion that that makes their case for inserting creationism into science class. Educating the masses of your cohorts might be the best thing you could do for the cause.

    And, as much as your column appeals to me, I can’t get past the realization that science can not allow within its arc, the acceptance of anything supernatural, that is not positively evidenced (that is, no fair saying “it must be true, because I don’t know any other answer to the problem?”, you must have something measurable). Whereas creationism rests on a belief (faith, whatever) in a supernatural god, whose existance can not be proven. That’s it in a nutshell, all else is commentary.

  22. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @ed thomas

    Dear Ed,

    thanks for more of your comments. You proposed a good hypothesis and I enjoyed reading it:

    In fact, I almost wonder if you are a Turing program. You aren’t, right? (Nah.)

    I know two things:

    1. I am an enigma for a number of people in your area of the world, and their speculation about me has not come to an end. This includes the speculation that I am an “entity” created by some clever creationist. You would also notice that the photographs that appear with my name on this blog also look like they has been manipulated a bit here and there. Just as there is not end to this speculation, there is no end to my joy at this speculation!!

    2. My presentation tends to be more empirical than many creationists. Part of the reason that I came from evolution/agnosticism to creation and the empirical outlook remains. Another reason is my training which has helped me to separate that which is empirical from that which is philosophical and metaphysics.

    And, as much as your column appeals to me, I can’t get past the realization that science can not allow within its arc, the acceptance of anything supernatural

    This is only one way of looking at science. However, if those who look this way at science are willing to restrict themselves to empirical observations and if they are willing to separate their “speculation” from their “observation”, I can have a great level of communication and understanding with them in matters empirical.

    You are true about my Eastern background. (Alternately, whoever created the Turing program or the identity named “Johnson” definitely has an eastern background).

    Let us keep up the dialog. Let us also integrate some humour here and there. Great will be the going!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  23. ed thomas
    ed thomas says:

    True, Mr. Johnson, any particular description of science is “only one way of looking at science”. So the view that science rests in this natural universe, and can’t wander around outside it, is just one view. There are those who are pleased to consider a variety of views of almost any topic. And, I must confess that it is an intellectual exercise that occupies too much of my time (from time to time).

    This is the western world, however (and I’m a creature of the west) and we westerners eventually call an end to speculation and consideration, and sellect a course of action. What to teach in the public school classroom is such an instance. There are about seven hours in the instructional day, 180 days in the instructional year, twelve years of instruction allowed to each and all. That’s it. No more.

    With all due respect to the modern penchant for “multitasking”, the more things one tries to do at once, the less well one can do any of them. So, we must select one view per class, the best view we can, given our duty to educate the mass of future citizens for the world in which they will live. (Ignore for now the truism that in more than a few areas the students know more about that world than do the teachers.)

    The view of science supposedly adopted for schools nationwide is the conventional view, the view shared by the mass of scientists, the view which I described above. I say “supposedly” because that’s what school boards and state legislatures have said, over and over. Yet, too many of them have shrunk back from that view, when challenged by their constituents’ (or their own) personal beliefs.

    We are now treated to the spectacle of hardware store owners who are elected to local school boards, and insurance lawyers who are part-time state legislators, many of whom subscribe to every known variety of logical scientific fallacy, and every sort of misunderstanding of science themselves, defining science for science teachers, flying in the teeth of virtually universal dissent among actual scientists. You have to wonder what Galileo, Newton, Einstein and the rest, not to mention Jefferson, Adams, or Hamilton would make of it.

  24. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @ed thomas

    Thanks Ed for your reply. You have tried to give a very fair and balanced view, and I very much appreciate that.

    While I am now a creationist, I am not of the viewpoint that Creationism should be taught in the classroom. That is only the viewpoint of some creationists based in the USA who do not realize that the world is not USA. I am not an American thinker.

    As I repeatedly said, if classroom teaching is strictly restricted to empirical observations, and if the philosophy (both the athesitic as well as the theistic) part is kept away, I have no problem. But if one is taught the other must also be taught because it amounts to indoctrination if that is not done.

    By the way, thank you very much for the following statement

    True, Mr. Johnson, any particular description of science is “only one way of looking at science”. So the view that science rests in this natural universe, and can’t wander around outside it, is just one view. There are those who are pleased to consider a variety of views of almost any topic. And, I must confess that it is an intellectual exercise that occupies too much of my time (from time to time).

    with greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  25. ed thomas
    ed thomas says:

    Dang! I did the name thing, too. My bad Johnson. Anyway, we are center stage in the creationist assault on science class, at the moment. But, the war may be headed your way. Seems the Islamic world is headed for its own “creationism versus evolution” battle . I have to wonder if James Dobson, et al, realize who shares their position in that set-to. Imagine, the Christian right and Osama bin Laden, and Mullah Omar on the same side!

    Your latest made me reconsider this. You blew my mind. You said, “if classroom teaching is strictly restricted to empirical observations, and if the philosophy (both the athesitic as well as the theistic) part is kept away, I have no problem. But if one is taught the other must also be taught because it amounts to indoctrination if that is not done. ” What? Will you say to the students, “These are the observations. See you tomorrow, for our next topic.”? Would you ask for any explanations for the observations? Would you accept any explanation that made sense to any particular student? Would you give any instruction in how to come to a scientific explanation? What would be your “Goal Statement” for the lesson plan?

    Your second sentence puzzles me even more. You said if one philosophy is taught, the other must be taught also, or it is “indoctrination”. Surely instruction, in any area, is partly indoctrination. History, English, Art, Music, Math, et al, all have doctrines, and beginning students at least, must be “indoctrinated”, no? Which is an aside.

    I am most intrigued by why you left the “s” off the word “other”. Surely you are aware that there are dozens, maybe hundreds of other explanations for how life got here. If covering only one is “indoctrination”, isn’t covering two equally indoctrination? Do we then teach all the theories that anyone is aware of? But, we will need time for “cells”, “photosynthesis”, “kingdoms of life”, “DNA”, etc., you get the idea. So much to cover already, and so little time. Oh, and the period ends in 47 minutes.

    I vote we teach science, as scientists define it, and leave religion to mom and dad.

  26. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    A small observation is response to Ed Thomas.

    Science is not defined by scientists. When someone defines science, they are making a philosophical judgement about science, and is therefore apart of the discipline of philosophy of science. A scientist can make that judgement, but when her/she dose so that action itself is not science.

    A lot of your other questions and problems raised in comment 26 would be solved if you could, in your mind, make the distinction clear between science and philosophy of science.

  27. ed thomas
    ed thomas says:

    Academically speaking, science may not be defined by scientists. As a practical matter though, it seems to me that whatever it is that scientists do, think, and understand, ipso facto, that’s science. And, you didn’t answer the question. Is it atheism & christianity, or is it atheism & and all variety of theisms?

    The thrust of your comment though, in truth, is correct. I am more concerned with the practical side of science, including what constitutes evidence, what a hypothesis is, what the definition of science is, etc., than with the philosophy of science per se.

    By the way, I was serious. What would be your goal in introducing theology into class? Do you think the philosophy of science should be taught? Do you think most creationists really give a hoot about this stuff? You already know my opinions, want to share any of yours?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] reminded of this hypocrisy by the recent banning of a commenter from the local creationist “Thinking Matters” blog. I was also banned there a while back. Many of us have experienced banning from local […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *