I got name-dropped as the bad guy in an article titled “Are miracles outside the realm of science?” You see, this guy, Carl Drews, published an article in PLoS One that made up a convoluted scenario to explain how Moses could have parted the Red Sea, taking advantage of some unlikely wind patterns. I objected to it. I guess that still burns Mr Drews.
The biggest threat to scientific inquiry came from the New Atheists. The New Atheists are a small group of militant atheists who have taken it upon themselves to attack religious beliefs using science. A blogger named PZ Myers stated that he would reject the published paper out of hand if he were selected as a peer reviewer. The comments on his blog were similar to the hostility endured by climate scientists in publishing their research. The journal PLoS ONE came under pressure to retract the paper. Fortunately for me and for science in general, the executive editor, Damian Pattinson, held firm. I wrote about these events in my book “Between Migdol and the Sea.”
Except that my objection wasn’t because I’m an atheist — it’s because this article was bad science. Here’s my article that so annoyed Drews, and this was my conclusion that led Drews to feel that atheists were oppressing him:
And how is this garbage getting published in PLoS One? If a paper like this were plopped on my desk for review, I’d be calling the editor to ask if it was a joke. If it wasn’t, I’d laugh and reject it — there is no scientific question of any significance being addressed anywhere in the work. Is this representative of the direction PLoS is going to be taking, with low standards for acceptance and what had to have been nonexistent review?
A suggestion for Mr Drews, the author, who sounds like he is a software developer affiliated with a research institution: you aren’t a scientist, stop pretending to be one. I’ll also say the same thing I tell every creationist pseudoscientist who tries to resolve their mythical stories with unconvincing handwaving about science: it doesn’t work. We see right through you. Bad, overstretched technical justifications for miraculous events are even less persuasive than simply declaring “My omnipotent god did it with magic”.
His article was nothing but some contrived jiggery-pokery to rationalize a miraculous event described in his holy book that we don’t know even actually happened. This is not an interesting question. As I said then, “It should have been rejected for asking an imaginary question and answering it with a fantasy scenario.”
My atheism gives me the privilege of being able to look at his arguments from outside the Christian bubble, but I didn’t say it shouldn’t have been published because God doesn’t exist. I even pointed out that his rationale doesn’t work from an honest Christian perspective.
It doesn’t even make sense from the perspective of a believer. So one of the great miracles of the Bible is being reduced to a meteorological fluke with an entirely natural explanation? It makes bible stories compatible with science by making the supernatural elements of the story completely irrelevant, which is nice if you’re an atheist, but only if you’re an atheist who is very gullible and willing to accept other elaborate prior premises.
I said “honest Christian”, although I sometimes doubt their existence. I think Mr Drews is playing games.
I approached the Biblical story of Moses crossing the Red Sea respectfully, knowing that this epic event is very important to many religious people — myself included. I recognized the limits of what science can and cannot conclude. We can state that the narrative is plausible, but we cannot state that God was or was not involved. In particular, I avoided the use of the word “explain,” because to many people that term means to “explain away.” Exodus portrays the crossing of the Red Sea as a mighty work of God, and the hydrodynamic details of the crossing do not take away from that faith-based view. Most readers could understand that idea, whether they were religious or not.
Let’s cut through the crap. Drews believes a super-powerful, omnipotent being purposefully parted the Red Sea for Moses, and he wants to simultaneously argue that mundane, natural processes could have separated the waters, which makes his magical explanation superfluous. He uses the mundane explanation as an excuse to get his religious story published in a scientific journal. You shouldn’t have to be an atheist to be able to see right through that.
Also, by the way, note what he did there: he says his work makes the Bible story “plausible”. That’s not true. If you read the PLoS article, you’ll learn that it is actually an implausible and unlikely event, requiring a “particular circumstance of topography and wind direction”. Bad science is bad science, whether you’re an atheist or a theist.
Drews does answer the question in the recent article’s title.
By its very nature, that miracle — the resurrection — is outside the realm of science. I define a miracle as God’s temporary suspension of natural laws in response to human need.
Yep. But that won’t stop him from trying to publish religious apologetics in science journals.