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8/01/2003

 

anglican church true to form



the church of england was formed when king henry the eigth decided that he wasn't going to take "no," for an answer.

"no," said the pope to henry "you may not divorce your wife."

"no," said henry to the pope "you're not the boss of me. i'll form my own damn church."

and so he did.

and now, nearly five hundred years later, the church founded on the proposition that no Biblical injunction, however clear, should prevent you from doing whatever (or whomever) you want, once more finds itself teetering on the brink of disintegration.

will the separatists go through with it? hey, why stop now? on the other hand, this is a church that knows how to look the other way when it comes to sex, so why start now?

frankly, i hope they do split. i hate all the senseless divisions in protestantism, but this one makes sense. and no, it has nothing to do with gay bishop whatshisface. he’s not the problem: he’s a symptom of the problem. here's the deal: you've got two ways of looking at the Bible. the first is to read it and do what it says. the second is to pick and choose the parts you like and ignore the rest. that's a fundamental rift that no church can--or should--survive.

locdog thinks there’s a time to gather stones, and a time to cast them away





 

metaphysical vs. methodological naturalism



ok, ok. don't be skeered away by da fi'ty-cent subject line, girly man. the concepts these fancy-pants words obscure are simple and you'll recognize them at once. why should you care? i care because i just had a final exam on this stuff so it's fresh in my head, but as for you, well, stick with me.

metaphysical naturalism: atheism. the belief that the supernatural doesn't exist.

methodological naturalism: agnosticism, or, atheism or theism that keeps its opinions to itself.

see, methodological naturalism is the "official" standard of science. when the supreme court defined science in mclean v. arkansas board of education, what they said was that science isn't about what you believe, it's about what you can taste, touch, see, hear, and smell. metaphysical beliefs, such as a belief in supernatural causes for observable events, are fun and all, but they can't be tested by science so as far as science is concerned, they're useless. "scientific" explanations must be both natural and falsifiable. if you don't get the concept falsifiability, it just means that there must be some conceivable experiment which could demonstrate that a theory isn't true. for instance, young earth creationists, who believe the earth is only around six thousand years old, sometimes argue that God created the world so that it would look much older than it really is. there belief is useless scientifically because it can't be disproved. whatever evidence you present to them for the earth’s old age, they can simply blow it off by saying God rigged it that way.

metaphysical naturalism, on the other hand, should have nothing to do with science. but it all too often does. i once heard the results of a survey that found something like 80% of biologists in america's universities were atheists. these are the same sort who tell us that inferring design from the complexities of nature is invalid, that science and metaphysics shouldn't mix. that a scientist only goes where the data leads and has no philosophical presumptions. that science is all about objectivity. uh huh. the thing about metaphysical naturalism is, it's unconstitutional--at least as far as education is concerned. oh, you can certainly teach methodological naturalism in a public school science class. but if you teach your students that God does not exist, you've violated the famed "separation of church and state." now, there must be some correlation between methodological naturalism, that is, science's assumption of natural causes, and metaphysical naturalism, the assertion that only natural causes exist--why else would so many scientists be atheists? they must be drawing inferences from their empirical research about the non-existence of God. but what they've done is open the door to intelligent design, because if it's legit to draw inferences about God's non-existence from nature, then it's valid to draw inferences of His existence. no use crying unfair.

finally, perhaps you are thinking "well what's the difference whether a scientist is an atheist or not? he can only test for natural causes one way or the other, so in practice metaphysical and methodological naturalism are the same thing." not so. there's a big difference. the difference is that scientists are actively working to box God out of the universe rather than simply taking what the universe gives them. they’re trying to make science fit their own philosophy--just like they always accuse the creationists of doing.

"no, not scientists," you say. "they're perfectly objective. they'd never do anything like that."

sure they would, and i'll give you a perfect example: the "multiverse" theory. heard this one yet? intelligent design theorists have argued that the apparent "fine tuning" of cosmic constants is evidence for a supernatural designing intellect. these constants had to be precisely balanced to give rise to human life. change this force or that by one part in a billion and you wouldn’t be reading this. coincidence? they think not. in response, secular science has offered up the multiverse theory, a theory which states that our universe is one of infinitely many. now the laws of physics don't preclude the existence of other universes, so it's a legitimate hypothesis in that sense, but the problem is, according those same physical laws, nothing from those other universe can be observed. hence, the theory is not subject to empirical verification and cannot be falsified.

“but that means,” says you “it fails as a scientific theory for the exact same reasons that the ‘apparent age’ creationist argument would.” and you’d be right, except the scientists really ought to know better and have less of an excuse. the multiverse theory tells us nothing about the natural realm, adds nothing to our understanding of physical law, can never be observed or falsified in any way, and exists for no other reason than to preserve metaphysical naturalism. right? after all, if our universe is one of infinitely many, then we just happen to be the lucky ones who won the cosmic version of the publisher’s clearinghouse sweepstakes.

this is junk science of the worst sort, and, what's more, it's not just a useless, non-scientific theory, it's actually damaging to science. why? because, if we believe in this absurd multiverse idea, what motivation is there for us to unlock the true cause of the fine tuning of cosmic constants? it does seem like one helluva coincidence. seems like just the sort of thing science ought to be trying to explain. but, no, they don't need to now. they can just throw up their hands and say "multiverse!"--the god of their gaps. they may as well suggest that volcanoes erupt because the fire god wants it that way and be done with naturalism all together. now if i, on the other hand, believe in intelligent design, then i believe that the universe had a rational creator whose fingerprints can be seen in his handiwork. it fills me with curiosity, gives me a hunger to "know God's thoughts" as einstein put it. you kids have probably never been told this, but science arose from a belief in intelligent design. you can trace it all the way back to aristotle, and it's the reason modern science came out of the west--their metaphysical belief in a rational creator told them that exploring the universe in a systematic, logical way wasn't a fool's errand. they knew that there would be something there to find, and--surprise, surprise--they were right.

locdog believes that the multiverse is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state