Questioning ‘How to debate a creationist’ by Michael Shermer
A skeptic’s advice is self-refuting, showing a religious bias
[CMI Editor: Murk Post, from Canada, wrote to Dr Michael Shermer, editor of The Skeptic, who wrote a booklet titled, How to debate a creationist, asking him some questions and making some observations. It is a very interesting, incisive response, presented here with a couple of editorial additions, but substantially as Murk wrote it.]
Shermer: “With so many mutually-exclusive creationist doctrines all claiming infallibility and final Truth, a logical default position to fall to is science because it never makes absolutist truth claims. In science, all conclusions are provisional, subject to new evidence and better arguments, the vary antithesis of religious faith.” (p. 22 in the booklet).
You present 6 points:
- Conflicting truth doctrines exist
- Logical default position = science
- Because it never makes absolutist truth claims
- In science all conclusions are provisional (tentative)
- Science is subject to new evidence and better arguments
- Science is counter proposition—in direct contrast to religious faith (antithesis)
Inspecting the six points:
- Since many counterfeit moneys exist should we then say real money does not exist?
Is the counterfeit not dependent on the real? How can science be the real one if it cannot tell us what ought to be? How can something that is ‘always tentative’ be authoritative?
[CMI: Also, there are many conflicting evolutionary positions: atheistic evolutionists, theistic evolutionists (whom atheists co-opt as ‘useful idiots’ but regard with complete contempt), New Age evolutionists, astrology-believing evolutionists (New Ager astrologers nearly all have an evolutionary mindset), crystal-power–invoking evolutionists, Raëlians, and even flat-earth evolutionists …]
- Invoking logic means you invoke a universal, conceptual limitation—thus an absolute truth—the very thing you are attempting to deny.
- “Because it never makes absolutist truth claims”. This one is so obvious I’m sure you already realize this.
This is an absolutist truth claim—therefore it is not science by your own standard. So what religion are you then pushing?
- “All” says it all. The whole of science is tentative—but this statement is not. As above, this statement cannot therefore be scientifically known, yet your science rests on this statement. You’re OK with this? Your religion professes the dogma of non-certainty supported by certainty. To be an irrationalist (no a priori exists) you must first be a rationalist (a prioris exist) because to hold as true that no a prioris exist is an a priori position.
- “Subject to new evidence”—sounds an awful lot like a prediction about the future that cannot be scientifically confirmed because science is ‘always tentative’. Do you have a scientifically verified crystal ball?
“Better arguments”? To have a better argument means an argument that conforms more with the truth than another argument. You must assume absolute truth to deny absolute truth. Your dizziness tolerance is admirable.
- By your own standards, it is revealed that your asserted “antithesis” actually rests on ‘just so’ statements that are based on a belief that the statement itself attempts to deny.
‘Science is always tentative’ is a position about the nature of reality that is not tentative—therefore it is not science. This is sufficient to expose that science requires belief.
Everyone starts from faith. It is not given to man to do otherwise—this is the nature of reality. God has set limits to possibility and no matter how we humans may try, we cannot get around it. It is not a matter of starting from belief or not, rather if we start from a belief that is true or not.
A rebuttal comes in these forms:
- absolute truth does not exist (absolutely?)
- absolute truth cannot be known (and this is absolutely true?)
- there is no certainty (this much must be certain)
- we cannot know anything for sure (are you sure?)
- we should believe only claims that can be verified scientifically (can you verify this claim scientifically?)]
Are you interested in finding truth? Or have you determined beforehand that only naturalistic explanations are allowed? (Again the irony of this is glaring; asserting that only naturalistic explanations exist requires the metaphysical belief that the nature of reality is only material.)
You see, metaphysical (religious) assumptions cannot be avoided—to deny the possibility of them requires invoking them (it is one of the limits of possibility that God has determined so that all people can plainly see that He did this).
[CMI: Also, your faith in science ignores the meta-science issues of what makes science possible. Historically and logically, science grew out of the biblical worldview you try to undermine.]
If you substituted science with naturalistic explanations you would be a little more accurate—however, as I’m sure you already know, this would expose the fact that you are pushing a religion. This position does not allow for looking for truth ‘where it may be found’ because it limits the search to material explanations—before the search has even begun!
Truth is necessary—no man can avoid it. Truth can only be guaranteed by one possible source. He has revealed himself. If you are looking for truth you will find Him. If you do not wish to find truth—it is not because of an intellectual problem or logical difficulties (as I’ve shown your religion is incoherent and self refuting) rather, it’s a problem of your will.
You know He exists—you have an axe to grind and do not want to face Him. You cannot escape the reality that you are made in His image—you cannot but work for Him, which you are doing, though unwittingly. Wouldn’t it be nice to be in agreement with the one who determines reality?
With him this futility ceases. “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (Jesus)
I hope we can discuss—thank you,