Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The New Atheism As A New Dark Age by Anthony McCarthy

Are the ScienceBlogs supposed to be a place where people can go to find out more about science and reason? Is it unreasonable to ask a ScienceBlogger with a PhD in Mathematics, who teaches mathematics at a university, to clear up a disagreement about his subject on the thread of his blog?

The question is whether or not mathematical probability could deal with the proposal that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, conceived by miraculous means and born to the Virgin Mary. What are the odds of The Virgin Mary conceiving a child by the Holy Spirit and giving birth to the only begotten Son of God, an event held by those who believe it to have happened exactly once in all of history.

I thought probability couldn’t honestly come up with the odds of that happening, apparently some of the new atheist faithful at the blog of Jason Rosenhouse PhD thought it could. I had pointed out exactly why science couldn’t deal with the question on the thread.*

Having had enough of trying to reason it out with the new atheists on his blog, I asked Jason Rosenhouse to settle the question by either telling us how it could be done or to say that it wasn’t possible to apply probability mathematics to that claim. If he thinks it can, would he sign his name to an attempt?

In the process of participating in the thread discussion this request was made in, it became clear to me that the new atheist program is a manifest failure. All over the blogs, the knowledge of the most basic requirements of science and logic demonstrated by the new atheists who post comments there, proves that they are generally quite ignorant of those. In many cases they are abysmally ignorant and as ready to spout their clueless blather as the most ignorant religious fundamentalists. If they can spout it on ScienceBlogs, without having their many errors corrected by others reading it, what does that tell you about the general culture there?

Many of the fundamentalists at least have the excuse that they’re not trying to pass themselves off as practitioners of science.

Is the level of science knowledge demonstrated by the new atheists of the blogs really what the new atheists are aiming for? Because it looks more like the dark ages to me, complete with sectarian bigotry and irrational hatred and fear by those who know better, correcting the most absurd error.

I thought that some other people might be interested in this question. Pass it on, if you think it’s interesting.

* 81 They are at odds because the scientific process by which one arrives at an understanding of the formation of, say, the blood clotting system is fundamentally *incompatible* with the theological process one uses to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was the product of a Virgin birth.

I'm glad you used th Virgin birth, which I don't happen to believe in [see below], because it's such a good example of why you can't subject it to science.

1. There is no physical evidence to examine 2. It is held to have happened miraculously 3. It is held to have happened once in history

No evidence means no evidence that could identify a human father.

It happened miraculously, which means there is no way to explain how it couldn't have happened.

It is held to have happened once in history. As a unique event you could not debunk it by pointing to another or even every other human birth in history.

There is absolutely no reason you should believe it, as I said I don't, but any statement that you can subject the actual assertion to science only shows that you lack any real understanding of science.

[Note: I should point out I don’t believe in the literal truth of the story. I fully believe in the allegorical truth of it.]

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