The tired old anti-science trope

It is difficult to think of anything worse than reading through the tedious, turgid, illogical twaddle of a feminist's hyperbolic arguments. The only thing that I can think of is to read through an otherwise excellent, logical, concise, well-argued and well-supported piece written by a masculine man- only to realise that several of his key premises are completely wrong.

This is exactly what happened when I read through what should have been an excellent article taking feminists to task for their lack of rigourous thinking.

It starts off so well too. It lays out the principles and applications of the scientific method, points out the difference between a theory and an actual law, provides an insight into the ways that the scientific method can be applied to human interaction, and points out that there are numerous disciplines and fields in which the same method can be applied to give rigourous, universally applicable results.

Most importantly, it points out that even the most plausible scientific theory is just that- a theory. No matter how often it has been shown to hold true, if it is disproven even once, it must be revised or abandoned.

And then it all goes horribly, dreadfully, appallingly wrong:
Contrast that with science before Darwin’s voyage. While the concept of experimenting to establish a natural law was long-established, the focus was fundamentally different. Philosophically, science was concerned with confirming truths already revealed or already in place from a divine source. Material discovered by scientific investigation which contradicted a divinely-revealed truth, therefore, was automatically wrong, to be dispensed with, or an act of deception by an agent natural or supernatural. 

To any rational male living today, this sort of thinking is lunacy. It is the sort of reasoning Christopher Columbus probably chuckled at when he fooled a group of Jamaican natives into thinking he, not the predictable orbits of planetary bodies, caused a lunar eclipse on cue. But for people like Galileo Galilei whose observations contradicted “established truth” propounded by religion, it was serious business—to the point of being deadly in the case of Galileo’s contemporary Giordano Bruno and others. 

This is how people who haven’t accepted modernism think. They demand certainty. They demand a conclusion be revealed first—from any pseudo-logical source, it need not be religion—upon which to interpret the world. They cannot conceive of a universe where the underlying order of existence is unrevealed, can’t ever be completely certain to us, and must be uncovered step by laborious step. 

You can still see echoes of the pre-modernist mindset among Young Earth Creationists: it’s not uncommon to hear accusations that dinosaur fossils were placed there by Satan. The same antiquated thinking is in force when a creationist shouts that “The theory of evolution is not proven!” It reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works. Either way, there is a different form of reasoning going on: the predominant reasoning of science prior to 1859.
Lord, here we go...

The implication here- actually, it is rather more than an implication- is that there is no way that science and faith can coexist comfortably. Marcus Aurelius does this by dredging up a hugely misunderstood episode in the history of the Catholic Church- the excommunication of Galileo- to make it seem as though science and faith must perpetually be at odds with each other, since the scientific method accepts that there is uncertainty in the Universe, while faith does not.

This is complete and arrant nonsense.

Let us start with the specific accusations made about Galileo's excommunication. The version of events that has been taught to most people in school (including yours truly) is that the brave and principled Galileo was persecuted by the backward, intolerant, and authoritarian Catholic Church for his discovery of the Heliocentric explanation of the Solar system's movements, which flatly contradicted the then-accepted geocentric wisdom that stated that the stars and planets all revolved around the stationary Earth. (This is just an obnoxious way of saying that Galileo figured out that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the other way around.) The Church's feared Inquisition persecuted Galileo so thoroughly that he was forced to recant his work as heresy, under threat of excommunication and possibly even execution.

This story is a lie.

As with most such lies, the story does contain a small element of fact. Galileo was put under house arrest and threatened with Inquisitorial vengeance under religious pressure. The problem is, that pressure came from Lutherans and Protestants, who espoused a very literal reading of Scripture- and not from the Church.

The truth is that the original discovery was NOT Galileo's to begin with. It was first discovered by a Catholic scholar named Nicolaus Copernicus- perhaps you have heard of him? Galileo's research- which included the construction of one of the world's first telescopes to observe the planets of the Solar System- showed that Copernicus was right on the money, and he took his findings to the Catholic Church to gain acceptance and recognition for his achievements.

Not only were his findings well received, he was granted an audience with Pope Paul V, who explicitly endorsed Galileo's findings, and made it perfectly clear that the Church had absolutely no intention of interfering in his research.

In fact, the Church's stance on scientific investigation was as clear then as it is now: the Holy See has stated repeatedly that it is the arbiter of the spiritual aspect of Man's character, not the scientific. The Pope and the clergy have been at pains through the centuries to delineate the scope of their authority over Mankind as being entirely religious and not scientific at all- indeed, the Church has for centuries been a great patron of both scientific and artistic advancement. Were it not for the Church, we would not today enjoy the blessings of scientific research and inquiry as we know it.

Things began to go wrong when Galileo responded to a personal attack upon his Heliocentric observational findings- an attack that came about due to the turbulent religious politics of the age, what with the whole Reformation movement at the time- and in the process got a tad carried away. He wrote a letter, and then a book, in which he clearly stepped over the boundary between the scientific and the theological- and if that weren't bad enough, in his book, he seemed to paint the new Pope, Urban VIII (who was a friend of his) as a bit of a twit.

This is the truth of Galileo's so-called "persecution". Examine the details a bit more closely, and you will realise that the Church did absolutely everything it could to spare his life, in a day and age when his theories would have been deemed heretical in the Puritan and Protestant nations of Europe and he would have been killed outright.

Getting back to Marcus Aurelius's article, there is a further assertion within it that those who argue that the theory of evolution is only a theory and therefore find room for intelligent design as an explanation for how the world came to be, are themselves unscientific and backward in their thinking.

This is a breathtakingly short-sighted and foolish view. And it is utterly at odds with what we actually know about the various theories (yes, plural) of evolution.

Let us take the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. We know that natural selection happens, because we can observe it in laboratory experiments involving rats and bacteria and flies and any number of other animals. We know that evolution happens- we can see it in the fossil record and we can observe it through laboratory experiments involving multiple generations of fast-breeding animals exposed to different stresses over time.

We do not know whether evolution happens by natural selection. We only know that natural selection is one of several possible mechanisms through which evolution occurs.

In fact, modern evolutionary biology does not argue that evolution occurs solely due to natural selection. The "modern evolutionary synthesis", as the current literature is known, is still not capable of explaining vast gaps in the evolutionary record; it is simply the best we can do with what we have.

And finally there is the ridiculous manner in which Marcus Aurelius dismisses religion as a "pseudo-scientific source".

I cannot speak for any religion other than Christianity- and as to the latter, only very poorly at that. But anyone who thinks that the great Christian thinkers were unscientific or illogical in their thought processes really needs to wake up. I invite anyone who labours under such happy delusions to read the works of St. Paul the Apostle, or St. Augustine of Hippo, or St. Thomas Aquinas. If you read what these men wrote, you will quickly realise that the astonishing depth and power of their intellectual abilities. These men were no fools; they were the greatest minds of their, and indeed any, age.

Moreover, if you read through the works of these men, what you will quickly realise is that they accepted uncertainty in their world view. Their Christian faith did not give them any guarantees other than the ones that the Lord Christ gave- and He promised that those who followed Him would be persecuted, tortured, and imprisoned for their faith and trust in Him.

Their faith gave them a platform and a foundation for understanding the Universe and its mysteries, because their starting point for pursuing such understanding came from the covenant that the Lord Himself made with Mankind. He swore to us that He would never lie, and in order to comprehend the glory of His creation, He gave Man the power of reason, and made us in His image- which is to say, gave us a tiny spark of that same divine majesty that He embodies.

Faith and reason do not exist at war with each other. They are complementary to each other- indeed, without faith, reason is meaningless. Reason, and the tools of logic and empiricism that are derived therein, gives us the most powerful methods possible of understanding the marvels of our world; but it can only give us an incomplete picture.

To truly understand our world, our Universe, and our purpose, we have to have faith. Which is why faith, of all kinds, has been a cornerstone of the human condition for as long as we have had capacity for reason.

It is entirely right for men like Marcus Aurelius to criticise shoddy reasoning and bad thinking; this is exactly why people like me are so highly critical of feminism in the first place. Feminist "thought" is a bad joke; there is nothing logical, empirical, or moral about its teachings, and it is a philosophy best treated with disdain and contempt because it is made up of a set of very largely debunked theories that fail to fit the facts.

However, it is entirely wrong to then take the same arguments against feminism, where they are valid, and warp them into a poorly constructed and largely ahistorical argument against faith, and especially against the Word. It is high time that we stopped arguing against that which ennobles and elevates us- namely, faith in God and fidelity to His laws- and started using the gifts that He gave us to fight the evils of a feminised society.


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