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Biophysicist Kirk Durston: Canada’s governor general as a highly visible example of scientism

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Kirk Durston here:

In a recent speech, former astronaut Julie Payette, now the Governor General of Canada, displayed her unquestioning belief that science alone is worthy of our total trust and mocked those who are “still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process!”

Contrary to her leap of faith that science has shown us how life began, real science has utterly failed to reproduce such an amazing feat. Maybe someday, highly intelligent scientists will figure out how to build a simple life form, which will underscore the need for intelligent design, but we have not reached that milestone yet, much less demonstrated how such a stupendously improbable miracle occurred in natural conditions. In reality, we only have creative scenarios and stories, but one must not confuse creative story-telling with the discipline of good science. Creative scenarios without reproducibility equals science fiction. By confusing creative stories and science fiction with good science, the Governor General unwittingly promoted bad science. If anything, the advancement of science shows that the requirements for a natural explanation for life are growing increasingly fantastic, with the discovery of molecular machines, molecular computers, and digital software encoded within the DNA of every living organism. Nature does not write software, but the knowledge of what does is the elephant in the room of scientism.

The third problem with the Governor General’s example of unquestioning faith in science is the corruption that has reached crises proportions in certain areas of science itself, with a special nod to the biological sciences. In 2012 the journal Nature published an exposé which found that 89% of “landmark” papers in the field of cancer research, could not be reproduced. More.

Locally, many of us would describe it as yet another instance of “Trudeaupian arrogance” (the Trudeau dynasty’s low view of Canadians, as opposed to the traditional respectful one): Cool Wins and facts don’t matter.

Because the world has purpose and meaning as well as design, unrepented arrogance is always punished. Its very nature entails that. Of course, it is not always punished by its victims but that is another matter. We shall see whether Canadians are willing to see the message of scientism for what it really is.

See also: Astronaut Julie Payette did not KO God in the first round. With her unprovoked attack on anyone who doubts that life is the outcome of a of a “random process,” she may have undermined the Liberal political party she obviously sympathizes with. In fairness to Payette, she probably learned all the wrong lessons from being a science celeb in the time of Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson. But they aren’t governors general anywhere. So she had better start unlearning some of those lessons fast. A constitutional monarchy is not a totalitarian state run by the Brights.

and

Canadian astronaut turned governor-general trashes all who doubt that life is a “random process” It’s not clear why Payette felt she had to say those things because they’re not related to specific Canadian science policies. Most Canadians believe in God, as reflected in our Constitution. But this is certainly a way for Payette to put her governing Liberal Party voters firmly in their place. People inclined to vote for other parties can simply make a point of continuing to do so and adding daily to their numbers until the next election.

8 Replies to “Biophysicist Kirk Durston: Canada’s governor general as a highly visible example of scientism

  1. 1
    john_a_designer says:

    Durston has an argument that refutes both atheism and scientism.

    Let us define ‘nature’ as follows:

    Nature: the entirety of physical reality (i.e., space-time, matter, energy and the laws of nature that govern these things).

    Given that we cannot escape a beginning for nature, here is the argument …

    (1)The cause of nature is either natural or it is not-natural (i.e., supernatural)

    (2)The cause of nature cannot be natural

    (3)Therefore, the cause of nature must be not-natural (i.e., supernatural)

    Proposition (1) is a true dichotomy (i.e., no middle ground, no third option). Proposition (2) is required to avoid the circular fallacy. Just as a woman cannot give birth to herself, so nature cannot be the explanation for its own origin. In other words, one cannot assume the existence of natural processes in order to come up with a natural explanation for the origin of natural processes; that would be a circular fallacy.

    When there are only two possible options, and one of those options is impossible, then the other option must be true.

    https://p2c.com/students/a-simple-but-elegant-argument-for-the-existence-of-god/

    Therefore a world view based on science, so-called scientism, cannot answer the big questions (Why does anything exist? What causes everything to exist?) that everyone, including atheists, feels compelled to either ask or answer. If they don’t feel compelled they are either not honest or not human.

  2. 2
    jstanley01 says:

    The real story is the alliance of the coercive power of government with dogmatic scientism. If the coupling of church and state was bad, and it was, it pales in comparision to how badly this marriage is going to turn out.

    *cough* global warming *cough* *cough*

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    john_a_designer @ 1

    Let us define ‘nature’ as follows:

    Nature: the entirety of physical reality (i.e., space-time, matter, energy and the laws of nature that govern these things).

    If by Nature we mean the entirety of physical reality, the sum total of everything that can and does exist then, if we subtract that, there can be literally nothing left (assuming it makes sense at all to say that “nothing can “be”). True nothing has no causal efficacy, you cannot get something – anything – from nothing. This means that if there had ever been nothing, there would still be nothing. The corollary is that, since there is something, there must always have been something. There could not have been an uncaused first cause or creation event. This Universe may have had a beginning but it must have emerged from – or been created from, if you prefer – something else. That “something else” – whatever it might be – must still be part of Nature and therefore something that can be investigated by science, at least in principle. In my view, Durston hasn’t laid a glove on either scientism or atheism.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, lessee:

    >>If by Nature we mean the entirety of physical reality, the sum total of everything that can and does exist>>

    You just wrote a priori materialism into the definition of nature. Question begged at outset on a matter that is worldview level.

    >> then, if we subtract that, there can be literally nothing left (assuming it makes sense at all to say that “nothing can “be”).>>

    Consequence of q-begging. Critical error carried forward.

    >> True nothing has no causal efficacy, you cannot get something – anything – from nothing.>>

    Correct, so if something now is, something always was, ultimately the root of reality. However you cannot properly beg the question by imposing physicalism at outset.

    >> This means that if there had ever been nothing, there would still be nothing. The corollary is that, since there is something, there must always have been something.>>

    Correct in the narrow, but in a context of a major begged question.

    >> There could not have been an uncaused first cause or creation event>>

    Double begged question. A necessary being as world root is a viable worldview option, and such would be an uncaused cause. To see necessary being, try to imagine a world without distinct identity thus two-ness. Twoness neither began nor can it cease.

    With a NB world root, there can be an uncaused first cause of the observed cosmos with a credibly finitely remote beginning.

    >>This Universe may have had a beginning but it must have emerged from – or been created from, if you prefer – something else.>>

    Correct but in a wider context of gross q-begging.

    >> That “something else” – whatever it might be – must still be part of Nature>>

    Not as you defined nature, begging the question.

    >> and therefore something that can be investigated by science, at least in principle.>>

    Science does not exhaust the credible means of investigation, warrant and founding knowledge. Philosophy for instance is prior. so is logic. So too, the logic of structure and quantity, i.e. Mathematics. Which last deals with abstract reality. So, we have reason to accept the reality of the inherently immaterial. Which, by definition, cannot be observed as a physical entity, we infer the presence and influence of distinct identity and two-ness, we do not observe it.

    BTW, down this road lies a gap between mechanical computation and rational inference. A difference of kind.

    In fact, the warrant for science as

    >> In my view, Durston hasn’t laid a glove on either scientism or atheism.>>

    Because you begged key questions and erected a strawman caricature of the matter.

    Kindly, think again.

    KF

  5. 5
    john_a_designer says:

    If you go with any type of naturalistic/materialistic explanation you end up with some kind of infinite regress.

    The 17th century philosopher G. W. Leibniz argued that an appeal infinite regress does not provide a sufficient reason to explain the universe or our existence. Notice this is not merely an appeal to intuition.

    For a sufficient reason for existence cannot be found merely in any one individual thing or even in the whole aggregate and series of things. Let us imagine the book on the Elements of Geometry to have been eternal, one copy always being made from another; then it is clear that though we can give a reason for the present book based on the preceding book from which it was copied, we can never arrive at a complete reason, no matter how many books we may assume in the past, for one can always wonder why such books should have existed at all times; why there should be books at all, and why they should be written in this way. What is true of books is true also of the different states of the world; every subsequent state is somehow copied from the preceding one (although according to certain laws of change). No matter how far we may have gone back to earlier states, therefore, we will never discover in them a full reason why there should be a world at all, and why it should be such as it is.3

    (3) Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Philosophical Papers and Letters, ed. by Leroy E. Loemker (Kluwer Academic, 1989); p. 486.

    Using Leibniz’s argument above I think we can conceive of another plausible argument which argues against an infinite regress– an ontologically hierarchical regress rather than a temporal or sequential one. I call it the ontological ladder. The argument begins with the observation that even if we grant, for sake of argument, that an infinite regress of books being copied is possible, the books themselves are insufficient sustain the regress, because a book by itself cannot copy itself. To create a new book requires the existence of things like paper and ink (if it’s being copied by hand) as well the material to bind the book together. Of course, neither are paper and ink etc. sufficient to generate a copy of a book. We need either a conscious agent or a robot to copy the book. If it’s a conscious biological agent then he or she requires a cause as well as habitable world—an earth like planet with the right raw materials to sustain the copyist and provide the materials for book production and some kind technological society in which the copyist can learn to read and write and can manufacture the paper and ink etc. required to create new copies of the book.

    Even robots, which could theoretically build a copies of themselves could not simply be floating out in space. They also would need the raw materials to copy themselves and the books. So besides the books we needs a lot of other things that need to be explained. Furthermore, we know that people, robots, stars and planets are not the kind of things that have always existed, so we cannot claim that they are the kind of things that in and of themselves necessarily provide us with the complete reason or explanation as to why anything at all exists. But what does? If we continue to climb this ontological ladder, the argument goes, we seem to be moving towards some kind of higher being, a self-existing mind or intelligence, which is needed to explain not just the books but also the copying of the books. Theist would argue only an eternally-existing transcendent mind (God), which avoids an infinite regress, is a sufficient explanation.

    Furthermore, the naturalist/materialist cannot prove the premise that nature (mindless natural causes acting all alone) is all that exists– nor can they claim is it self evident. Therefore, whatever they believe they believe on faith.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, yes. Material, unintelligent causes must work by blind mechanical necessity and/or equally blind chance. This works even for computational substrates, given the garbage in, garbage out principle [GIGO] — unless set up and programmed right, they have no common sense to detect and correct errors. Matters not if the processor is digital, analogue or neural network etc. And we can see that a causal chain invites infinite succession, whether temporal or ontological: why A, B. Why B, C. And so forth. A causal circle implies some X caused its own existence, which fails the something from nothing test. Infinite regress is highly dubious (though we have had objectors at UD try to argue for it), leaving the best explanation as a finite chain. Where too things involving text that is functionally specific and complex beyond 500 – 1,000 bits cannot reasonably be explained on blind search . . . though again objectors have made a career out of pretending to the contrary. To all such I still challenge: show us a single credible case. There are trillions where intelligent cause is reliably the source of such FSCO/I and the analysis of search challenge in beyond astronomically large configuration spaces backs it up. Of course, said objectors have played every selectively hyperskeptical game to dismiss search challenge. Recently they sniff “big numbers,” as though the mere presence of such an analysis is grounds to dismiss. Telling. In the end, such FSCO/I demands a finitely remote intelligent first cause acting through intelligently directed configuration. And, if one looks at the living cell, s/he will immediately see that this entity contains textual, coded, functionally specific and highly complex information starting with DNA, tied into equally functionally specific complex coherently functional organisation. The evidence is clear, but in times like these it takes a great effort to state the obvious. But if you make a crooked yardstick your standard of straightness and accuracy, what is straight and accurate cannot pass the crooked test. We need a plumbline to show up the crookedness. And even then some will object. KF

  7. 7
    john_a_designer says:

    What I call the ontological ladder above @ #5 Ed Feser terms “an essential series of causes” (vs. “an accidental series of causes.”)

    I briefly discuss his argument (actually Aquinas’ argument) here:

    https://uncommondescent.com/philosophy/philosopher-ed-feser-offers-some-fun-richard-dawkins-vs-thomas-aquinas/#comment-643349

    Also see #5 on that thread.

    And then take a look at this interview where Feser very clearly and succinctly lays out his argument:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R3BXJVjwKI

    He seems to do a much better job IMO when he is discussing his argument casually and extemporaneously.

  8. 8
    john_a_designer says:

    The following is an argument I’ve developed for the existence of a transcendent, self-existent mind (God) which is a logical defeater for the idea that an infinite regress of “natural” causes is a good explanation for our existence.

    (1) Everything that begins to exist is contingent.

    (2) Anything that is contingent has an explanation for its existence. (It must be caused by something else.)

    (3) If the universe is contingent it has an explanation for its existence.

    (4) If the universe began to exist it must be contingent.

    (5) However, it is logically possible that something exists which is not contingent.

    (6) If such a being exists it exists necessarily. In other words, it is eternal or self-existent.

    (7) A necessary or self-existent being is not explained by anything else.

    Conclusion #1: Therefore, only a necessarily existing being could be the ultimate explanation for everything else.

    Conclusion #2: Therefore an infinite regress of contingent causes can never reach an ultimate explanation.

    Some implications:

    A necessary or self-existing being must have causal power. If it is the cause of the universe it must have the power to cause the universe.

    It must have volitional intentionality. In other words, it does not need to create anything, it freely decides or chooses to create.

    It must be transcendent due to the fact that it is not contingent.

    It must have mind and intelligence as well as personal self-consciousness.

    This idea fits very nicely with a basic classical conception of God.

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