last updated 7-26-2002

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Critical Thought and Religious Liberty

  • Philosophy of Science
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  • Philosophy of Science

    Can We Know the Universe?: by Carl Sagan
    "The search for rules, the only possible way to understand such a vast and complex universe, is called science. The universe forces those who live in it to understand it. Those creatures who find everyday experience a muddled jumble of events with no predictability, no regularity, are in grave peril. The universe belongs to those who, at least to some degree, have figured it out."

    Science as Falsification: by Sir Karl Popper
    "It is easy to obtain confirmations, or verifications, for nearly every theory—if we look for confirmations. Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory—an event which would have refuted the theory. Every 'good' scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is."

    Science as Successful Prediction: by Imre Lakatos
    "Thus the crucial element in falsificationism is whether the new theory offers any novel, excess information compared with its predecessor and whether some of this excess information is corroborated. Justificationists valued 'confirming' instances of a theory; naive falsificationists stressed 'refuting' instances; for the methodological falsificationists it is the—rather rare—corroborating instances of the excess information which are the crucial ones;"

    A Skeptical Look at Karl Popper: by Martin Gardner
    "The more often a conjecture passes efforts to falsify it, Popper maintained, the greater becomes its 'corroboration,' although corroboration is also uncertain and can never be quantified by degree of probability. Popper's critics insist that 'corroboration' is a form of induction, and Popper has simply sneaked induction in through a back door by giving it a new name."

    Naturalism is Today an Essential Part of Science: by Steve Schafersman
    "Naturalism is, ironically, a controversial philosophy… most people, including some scientists, refuse to systematically understand naturalism and its consequences. This paper proposes to show that naturalism is essential to the success of scientific understanding, and it examines and criticizes the claims of pseudoscientists and theistic philosophers that science should employ supernatural explanations as part of its normal practice."

    Hypotheses, Facts, and the Nature of Science: by Douglas Futuyma
    "Any statement in science, then, should be understood as a hypothesis…. Some hypotheses are poorly supported. Others, such as the hypothesis that the earth revolves around the sun, or that DNA is the genetic material, are so well supported that we consider them to be facts."

    Bashful Eggs, Macho Sperm, and Tonypandy: by Paul R. Gross
    "Here I examine one of those: old think and new think on 'conception.' I leave to experts on the other subjects an appropriate response to each. The 'conception' case, though, is one for which I feel a certain urgency. Among other reasons, it has been my field of research for forty-three years. As presented in the Newsweek account — and now in hundreds of college classrooms across the country — the story is pure Tonypandy."

    In Defense of Bacon: by Alan Soble
    "I dare not hazard to guess as to how many people read Harding's article in the Times. How many clipped out that scandalous bit of bad publicity for science and put it on the refrigerator, or how many still have some vague idea tying science to rape. But the belief that vicious sexual metaphors were important to science has gained some currency in the academy."

    Science and Religion

    Hooking Leviathan by Its Past: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "The embarrassment of past absence [of cetacean transitionals] has been replaced by a bounty of new evidence — and by the sweetest series of transitional fossils an evolutionist could ever hope to find. Truly we have met the enemy and he is now ours. Moreover, to add blessed insult to the creationists' injury, these discoveries have arrived in a gradual and sequential fashion — a little bit at a time, step by step, from a tentative hint fifteen years ago to a remarkable smoking gun early in 1994."

    Science and Religion: Bridging the Great Divide: by George Johnson
    "Ever since science began drifting away from religion, centuries ago, each has dreamed of subsuming the other. Scientists, in their boldest moments, speak of explaining away all the mysteries by empirical inquiry. … And the faithful, fervently believing in spiritual forces unmeasurable by any meter, find it absurd that God's children would aspire to heaven solely by building telescopes and computers — scientific Towers of Babel."

    Evolution as Fact and Theory: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "Yet amidst all this turmoil no biologist has been lead to doubt the fact that evolution occurred; we are debating how it happened. We are all trying to explain the same thing: the tree of evolutionary descent linking all organisms by ties of genealogy. Creationists pervert and caricature this debate by conveniently neglecting the common conviction that underlies it, and by falsely suggesting that evolutionists now doubt the very phenomenon we are struggling to understand."

    The "Threat" of Creationism: by Isaac Asimov
    "[Scientific theories] are firmly founded; all are accepted as valid descriptions of this or that aspect of the universe. They are neither guesses nor speculations. … Creationism, on the other hand, is not a theory. There is no evidence, in the scientific sense, that supports it. Creationism, or at least the particular variety accepted by many Americans, is an expression of early Middle Eastern legend. It is fairly described as 'only a myth.'"

    How Science Responds When Creationists Criticize Evolution:
    by Boyce Rensberger "Unfortunately, many of us challenged by those who call themselves creationists are not well prepared to respond. But science has good answers to these challenges to the theory of evolution. First, thereís absolutely no controversy within science about the reality of evolution. There is a well accepted, solidly established body of evidence showing that evolution is real and, although knowledge of some mechanisms is incomplete, much is known about how evolution works."

    Darwin's New Critics on Trial: by Michael Ruse
    "[Behe] is in as much trouble in the realm of philosophical theology as he was in the realm of biological science. He has offered us a freshened-up version of the old 'God of the gaps' argument for the deity's existence: a Supreme Being must be invoked to explain those phenomenon for which I cannot offer a natural explanation. But such an argument proves only one's own ignorance and inadequacy."

    ID Works In Mysterious Ways: by Michael Shermer
    "I have participated in numerous debates with creationists and theologians. And, in fact, my participation at this conference was a debate with Stephen Meyer in which I did address many of their points. For my money, however, the action is not in the arguments of ID, all of which have been thoroughly refuted by myself and others…but in the psychology of ID. What is really going on here is old-time religion dressed up in new fangled jargon."

    Intelligent Design and the SETI Analogy: by Robert T. Pennock
    "Intelligent-design theorists argue that just as the scientists of the SETI Project seek evidence of intelligence beyond the world, so too do they. …
    I think that if we investigate the question of intelligent design in this context it will be easier to see why the IDC conclusion is not scientific."

    The Wedge: A Christian Plan to Overthrow Modern Science?:
    by Keith Lankford "What is troublesome about the [Wedge] document (and CRSC in general) is that it focuses on overthrowing evolution, not from within scientific establishments, but through convincing the public that its theory is the morally acceptable one."

    Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "Darwin on Trial, hardly deserves to be called a book at all. It is, at best, a long magazine article promoted to hard covers — a clumsy, repetitious abstract argument with no weighing of evidence, no careful reading of literature on all sides, no full citation of sources. . . The book, in short, is full of errors, badly argued, based on false criteria, and abysmally written."

    Darwin's Untimely Burial: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "Natural selection is the central concept of Darwinian theory—the fittest survive and spread their favored traits through populations. Natural selection is defined by Spencer's phrase 'survival of the fittest,' but what does this famous bit of jargon really mean? Who are the fittest? And how is 'fitness' defined?"

    How We Threw the Bums Out: by Adrian Melott
    "I want to look briefly at [creationists] strategies and the strategies we used, and the ones I think might win and might help. One, again, is their wedge strategy: you're with us or you're an atheist. We belie that by having a range of people making statements and explaining that science doesn't have any position on religious issues. It's very simple to say that, but it's very hard to get it across to the public."

    CRSC Senior Fellow Takes Over Creation Week: by J. Elbert Hill
    A revealing account of the events that transpired at the Creation Week public symposium at Whitworth College, November 1998. Hill recalls "What was suppose to be a roundtable discussion with evolution scientist Kenneth Miller became a one-sided affair with the creationists doing all the talking."

    Creationist Deception Exposed: by Barry Williams
    In this article Barry Williams (a writer at The Skeptic), reveals how a creationist group in Australia tricked zoologist Richard Dawkins into giving them a bogus interview. When the interview was released, Dawkins — much to his dismay — was made to look as though he, and evolution as a science, couldn't address the feeblest criticism. Here Williams documents their methods and the latest example of "telling lies for God."

    The Anthropic Coincidences: A Natural Explanation: by Vic Stenger
    "Based on all we currently know about fundamental physics and cosmology, the most logically consistent and parsimonious picture of the universe as we know it is a natural one, with no sign of design or purposeful creation provided by scientific observations."

    God and the Big Bang: An Online Correspondence: by Tod Billings
    An online discussion between a Christian-theist and an atheist Physics undergrad on the theological implications of the "Big Bang." For example; according to the Big Bang model, does the universe require a cause? If so, need the cause be supernatural; and if this is the case, is it reasonably fair to ascribe this 'cause' to Yahweh, the Christian god of the Bible? These questions and many others are tackled in this very provocative exchange.

    Leading scientists still reject God: by Edward Larson
    "Our chosen group of 'greater' scientists were members of the National Academy of Sciences. Our survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers."

    The Lady Hope Story: A Widespread Falsehood: by Simon Yates
    If lying about natural history wasn't bad enough—here presented are various excerpts refuting the often repeated historical myth that Darwin's recanted his theory of evolution, as well as his religious agnosticism.

    Has NASA established the missing day of Joshua: by James Lippard
    There is a very popular urban legend circulating in Christian circles which claims that some time in the late 1960s NASA had unwittingly discovered astronomical proof of a Biblical miracle: the day that Joshua made the sun stand still. In this joint-article, the story is finally put to rest, showing how the legend came about and why it couldn't have happened to begin with.

    Science Articles

    Up from the Apes: by Michael Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman
    "Asfaw and White's team made another dramatic announcement. A fragmentary skull found near Bouri, an Ethiopian village in the Middle Awash region northeast of Addis Ababa, could well be from the missing australopithecine that sired the human race."

    Velikovsky in Collision: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "We know that many fundamental beliefs of modern science are grows as heretical speculations advanced by nonprofessionals. Yet history provides a biased filter for our judgment. We sing praises to the unorthodox hero, but for each successful heretic, there are a hundred forgotten men who chalked prevailing notions and lost."

    Stephen Hawking's Universe: by Stephen Hawking, et al.
    "For thousands of years, people have wondered about the universe. Did it stretch out forever or was there a limit? And where did it all come from? Did the universe have a beginning, a moment of creation? Or had the universe existed forever? The debate between these two views raged for centuries without reaching any conclusions. Personally, Iím sure that the universe began with a hot Big Bang. But will it go on forever? If not, how will it end? I'm much less certain about that."

    Out of Africa vs. Multiregionalism: by Tod Billings
    "All anthropologist with few exceptions believe that the hominid line evolved only in Africa, and then spread out throughout the rest of the world. The focus of this debate however isn't where 'humans' in the interchangeable sense of simply 'hominids' evolved, but rather where did our specific subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens…evolve?"

    Planet of the Bacteria: by Stephen Jay Gould
    "Not only does the Earth contain more bacterial organisms than all others combined…not only did bacteria alone constitute the first half of life's history, with no slackening in diversity thereafter; but also, and most surprisingly, total bacterial biomass may exceed all the rest of life combined, even forest trees… Need any more be said in making a case for the modal bacter as life's constant center of maximal influence and importance?"

    The Wing of Archaeopteryx As a Primary Thrust Generator: by Phillip Burgers and Luis Chiappe, in Nature.  "Despite broad acceptance of the idea that birds evolved from bipedal and predominantly terrestrial maniraptoriform dinosaurs, the cursorial model of flight origins has been less successful than the arboreal model.…This study indicates that Archaeopteryx's wings may have been an efficient aerodynamic thrust generator."

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