Explanation vs Rationalization

One of the chief obstacles to understanding is the unavoidable human habit of rationalization. We tend to favor some beliefs, and to resist others, and have a natural tendency to explain away any evidence that leads to conclusions we don’t like. What’s even worse is that most of the time we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. Fortunately there’s a simple rule of thumb that can help us easily separate rationalizations from legitimate explanations.

In a genuine explanation, we describe something in sufficient detail that we can tell what specific, observable consequences would result from our claim being true, as distinct from the consequences that would result if our claim were not true. This makes our explanation testable: since we know what real-world consequences correspond to our explanation being true, we can simply observe the real world and see if those consequences are, in fact, present.

A genuine explanation, in other words, is a tool that helps us distinguish what’s true from what’s not true. Rationalization, on the other hand, has the opposite goal. The purpose of rationalization is to prevent us from telling the difference between a premise that’s true and one that isn’t. The rationalization takes a desired premise, and the observable evidence, and then throws in speculations and supposed extenuating circumstances designed for the sole purpose of making essentially any observed outcome seem consistent with the premise.

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Creationists blame evolution for poor US science showing

Writing in a guest column for dnj.com, a certain Ned Myers blames Charles Darwin for Americans’ poor scientific literacy.

…American public school students place 23rd in scientific literacy when compared to 34 other developed nations.

A strong case can be made that one reason for this poor showing is that we teach evolution as science. Webster’s dictionary defines science as, “Knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws, especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” Macro evolution, whereby one species evolves into another, falls short of this definition. Evolution cannot be considered a general truth because it cannot be experimentally tested or proven by using scientific methods.

Hmm, chicken and egg problem here: is Myers’s scientific illiteracy due to his study of evolution, or are his conclusions about evolution due to his scientific illiteracy? He blames scientific illiteracy on the fact that evolution is taught as science, but then leaps straight from there into a laundry-list recital of standard creationist talking points about why evolution must be false. Not only does he fail to show any connection between evolution and the illiteracy level, he fails to even try.

I mean, suppose it were true, suppose evolutionists like Richard Dawkins were scientifically illiterate, and only “scientists” like Jonathan Wells (cited in the article) were scientifically literate. Myers is “up” on all the creationist literature. He’s done his homework. He ought to be scientifically literate by now. So shouldn’t he realize that his claim (evolution causes scientific illiteracy) needs to be supported by valid studies? Shouldn’t he be conducting (or at least citing) studies that compare students of creationism with students of evolution (plus a neutral control group of, say, physics students) to see which population scored higher on scientific literacy tests?

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Gospel Disproofs #4 & #5: Heaven and the Ascension

One of the oldest myths in the Bible is the idea of heaven, the abode of God, as a physical place up in the sky over Palestine. Genesis 1 kicks off the myth by describing the creation of the heavens along with the creation of the earth, with a “firmament” between the two. The fact that this heaven was intended as a physical place is seen in the fact that it holds water and has doors in it, which can be shut to stop any of the water from falling as rain, or opened to make it rain, or opened really wide to make it flood. And if He’s in a good mood, God can even open these doors and drop a little food down for his hungry followers. Not metaphorical food, either—real food you can gather and eat and live on for forty years (or so Exodus claims).

Numerous passages attest to heaven’s physical location as being up above the earth. From heaven, God looks down on men, and when men want to turn to God (usually to ask Him for something) they turn their attention up to heaven. Up there is where the angels are too, and when God sends one or more of them, He sends them down to the earth. In fact, Jacob (aka Israel) happened to stumble upon the very spot where the gateway to heaven was, and in a dream he saw the actual ladder between earth and heaven, with angels ascending and descending it. A very few lucky people even made the trip up to heaven.

The only trouble is, of course, that it’s not really up there.

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Skeptics to protest “museum”

San Diego area atheists and agnostics will be gathering for a protest, I see.

September 12, 2011 (Santee) –San Diego New Atheists and Agnostics (SDNA), a Web-based organization of over 700 members, plans a demonstration against the Creation and Earth History Museum in Santee on September 24. That’s the same date when the Museum plans to participate in a nationwide “Museum Day” organized by the Smithsonian Institute…

Not a bad idea, but if I were running that protest, my theme would be, “Attention Christians: this museum teaches that God FAILED to create a design as good as Darwin’s!”

Bet there’d be some interesting sidewalk conversations at a show like that.


Golden Oldie: If it goose-steps like a duck…

[Here’s another encore, this one from May of 2008]

Over at Discovery Institute’s “Evolution News and Views,” Senior Propagandist Jonathan West criticizes Dawkins for—are you sitting down?—comparing a rabbi’s speaking style to Hitler’s.

Now, after denouncing Expelled as “wicked, evil” and an “outrage” for pointing out that Darwinism was one of the intellectual influences on Nazism, Dawkins has compared a popular Rabbi who dares to criticize him to Hitler! And he did it no less on World Holocaust Remembrance Day. No, I’m not joking. As I’ve said before, it’s getting really hard to parody the Darwinists. They do it so well themselves.

Who knows what West thinks the “parody” would be here. Apparently, you can accuse “Darwinists” of promoting Nazism all day long, and everything’s just peachy, but if one of THEM dares to do the same to YOU, why, gosh, that’s just so over the top, it’s, it’s…well, I mean really. Even if that’s not actually what they really said.

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