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Science Can’t Explain It!

The science of biology has things it can’t explain
Though it’s “Science has the answers!” as the boast.
You can search the latest journals, but you’ll find you search in vain
For the transubstantiation of the host!

The biologists won’t touch it; it’s a truth they’ll never find—
They refuse to even look for their solution
It shows that there are answers of a different, better kind…
And it clearly puts the lie to evolution.

So, yeah, I was looking through my aggregator’s suggestions, and found a blog I’d never heard of before, but which I clearly should have, a conservative political/religious blog by “Archbishop Cranmer” (roughly a Church of England version of Rush Limbaugh, in terms of political spectrum and self-importance). Today, he was grousing about Richard Dawkins. But my verse is actually prompted by one of the comments there, which takes Dawkins to task for the inadequacy of his scientific world view (excerpt):

But can he explain consciousness? Well, no he can’t.

Can he explain conscience? No he can’t.

Can he explain the existence of morality? No, he can’t.

Can he explain irreducible complexity? No, he can’t.

Can he explain the connection between the brain and the mind? No, he can’t.

Can he tell me what a thought is? No, he can’t.

Can he explain the mathematical impossibility of the formation of so much as even one protein molecule of RNA? No, he can’t.

Can he explain the uncaused cause for existence? No, he can’t.

Can he find any purpose or meaning in the existence of man external to man’s own individual desires? No, he can’t.

Can he even so much as show me the data that validates the models upon which he bases so many of his conclusions? No, he can’t. He has no data.

I suspect he also can’t tell how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Now, I have a couple of immediate reactions to this comment–the first is, most of these are difficult to answer only because they are phrased so poorly. They are framed in dualistic terms, so the scientific work that goes into investigating the related phenomena will be rejected for answering a different question. Secondly… it doesn’t seem to bother the commenter that his own world view is likewise unable to answer the questions. “Goddiddit” is as close as they come.

Sometimes, the inability of science to answer a question is simply evidence that it’s a bad question.

Comments

  1. Rodney Nelson says

    Can he explain irreducible complexity? No, he can’t.

    Actually he can and has in The Blind Watchmaker.

  2. mck9 says

    Can he extract any coherent meaning from the jumble of words “one protein molecule of RNA?” No, he can’t.

  3. Francisco Bacopa says

    The best answer to “Science can’t explain it” is to say “So?” and remain completely unperturbed. Just because some things aren’t explained is no reason to reject those things that do seem explained. “Goddidit” isn’t really an answer.

  4. says

    In pretty-well unrelated matter, while at schooI I was in the play ‘Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury’ by Charles Williams. I played the Skeleton Figura Rerum, and had this great line that I actually remember after 50 years, something like “to certain chosen spermatozoa is revealed semper, ubique, the propriety of proprietorship”.
    Ah! Happy days. (Williams is total pretentious rubbish though. I mean CS Lewis liked him!!!)

  5. The Lorax says

    Let’s see… now I am not a scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    But can he explain consciousness?
    - Consciousness is the reciprocity of the human brain, allowing it to sense itself and, by analyzing its own patterns, allow considerations beyond instinct. I think therefore I am, in a sense.

    Can he explain conscience?
    - Biological instinct which encourages us to not harm our fellow humans, because groups tend to survive better than individuals (at least, for our species). Conscience has been naturally selected for. Quite literally, being nice to one another helps us survive.

    Can he explain the existence of morality?
    - Morality is, I would say, the same as conscience. However I would add to it that our consciousness allows us to see beyond our personal survival, and allow us to be selfless (harming ourselves) for a greater good for humanity (like putting in time to recycle to help the environment).

    Can he explain irreducible complexity?
    - Yes; there’s no such thing. Next question.

    Can he explain the connection between the brain and the mind?
    - Already answered that with ‘consciousness’. Please try to keep up.

    Can he tell me what a thought is?
    - Consciousness is a sequence of thoughts, therefore a thought is a moment of consciousness. See above.

    Can he explain the mathematical impossibility of the formation of so much as even one protein molecule of RNA?
    - No such thing, given the amount of time which goes into it. Oh sure, in a small jar in a laboratory, it’s next to impossible. But over all of the oceans of the primordial Earth, and over millions of years, all those ‘mathematical impossibilities’ become… inevitable.

    Can he explain the uncaused cause for existence?
    - He has, actually. I’m not sure in which one of his works (I think “The Greatest Show On Earth”), he uses the analogy, ‘What is north of the north pole?’ Naturally, that question is framed to deny an answer; there is no such thing as “north” of the “north pole” since “north pole” is as far north as you can possibly be by definition. Time began when the universe began, and causation depends on the existence of time. Thus, nothing could cause time to begin, otherwise time would have had to have begun before it began. Yeah, work that one around your noodle for a bit.

    Can he find any purpose or meaning in the existence of man external to man’s own individual desires?
    - Mankind, having a reciprocal consciousness (again, see above, and try to keep up) allows him (or her, or variations thereof) to create individual desires and apply meaning. Thus, meaning is a creation of mankind, not what is implied by the question, that there is greater meaning to the universe. It is worth asking, does the universe need meaning?

    Can he even so much as show me the data that validates the models upon which he bases so many of his conclusions?
    - It’s not just him, it’s every scientist. And yes, he can. You can find them in your local museum. It should be noted, of course, that most data is rare and precious (fossils, etc) and not allowed to be handled or examined by non-scientists (Egyptian mummies exist and we don’t let you touch those either), but to imply that “we don’t want you to break this” in actuality means “we don’t have it” is childish. Furthermore, the models are NOT that “which he bases so many of his conclusions” upon, the models ARE the conclusions. Models themselves make predictions, and the data which creates them are like parts to an engine. Scientists put the puzzle together and turn the thing on; the conclusions are there, just waiting to be found.

    Whew! Well, that was fun.

  6. nakarti says

    Cuttlefish, re:disagreements: all it takes is admitting you’re a determinist. Anybody who understands determinism can predict the changes you’d make to the consciousness(and related) explanations.

  7. Cuttlefish says

    Actually, nakarti, even within determinism there are many different attempts at explaining or understanding consciousness–one way of sorting them out is by level of analysis; some are more reductionist than others. Lorax’s focus on the “reciprocity of the human brain” puts that explanation at a much different level than my own (and–again, another post for another time–I’d call it a less useful analysis, although a far more popular one).

  8. sosw says

    Can he explain irreducible complexity?
    - Yes; there’s no such thing. Next question.

    In principle there could be something that was, in a sense, “irreducibly complex”, in that it would require the collusion of a statistically improbable number of different features that were individually useless or even harmful that formed a beneficial whole…but none of Behe’s examples have stood up to scrutiny (nor have they even been complex enough to discount chance even if the sub-steps hadn’t been found to be likely positive traits).

    Based on our observations, evolution does not result in “perfect” solutions, but a variety of “good enough” solutions that follow from natural evolutionary paths, often in rather convoluted and impractical ways.

    Some things may seem hard to explain, but so far the track record seems to indicate that once you look into things closely enough, they turn out to be entirely natural.

    The problem with suggesting that something is irreducibly complex is that it’s essentially an argument from ignorance. The fact that we can’t yet find the evolutionary pathway to some trait doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.

    The only way we could conclude that something was irreducibly complex would be for us to observe (or simulate, but that’s even harder) every generation along the way to some extremely complicated, unexpected trait.

    Perhaps ironically, the common creationist demand that evolution have one species turning into a significantly different one in a single generation could instead be evidence of irreducible complexity…although even then the more likely explanation would be genetic engineering and fraud.

  9. tulse says

    Sometimes, the inability of science to answer a question is simply evidence that it’s a bad question.

    That is truly brilliant, Cuttlefish — what a great way to put it.

  10. MNb says

    Can Dawkins explain the tonality of snow? He can’t.
    Can Dawkins explain the colour of velocity? He can’t.
    Can Dawkins explain the taste of music? He can’t.

    And, biggest question of all:

    Can any cosmological argument fan explain why a radioactive atom decays at this exact moment and not before or later?

  11. had3 says

    I tell my religious friends that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, & if god is the answer then doing anymore research on the topic is a waste of resources.”

  12. says

    It’s all because there’s more to responding a question than an answer. If science can’t (currently) answer a question, it may or may not be bad.

    If science can’t ADDRESS a question, it’s a bad question. End of.

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