steve davis

In case you haven’t been around these here parts in some time, over the past few weeks Dr. Steven Davis has been fielding a number of questions that I’ve thrown at him.  You see, although he used to be a Christian and he was my theology and apologetics professor during my undergrad adventures, Steve (we’re on a first name basis now) has recently left his Christian college position and announced to the world that he is an atheist.

Today’s post is part of an ongoing conversation that I am having with him about his journey from adamant Christian to skeptical atheist.  Whereas Part One and Part Two of this series have surrounded Steve’s personal quest for truth, today he shares with us some of that hard-hitting, underlying, philosophical stuff that actually made up his transition to atheism.

As I’ve mentioned before, if you have questions or comments for either Davis or I, please feel free to share those in the comments section below.  You can also email me, or contact Davis via Facebook or Twitter.  And, as always, if you can’t think of how to respond in a constructive way, be sure to consult the magic pyramid of disagreement.

Okay, let’s get into it.


In both the podcast and on your Facebook page, you’ve made a point of highlighting the need to address underlying assumptions. In fact, I remember that being a staple of your approach to teaching. Can you talk a little about what you see as a proper philosophical starting point. In particular, what is Rational-Empiricism, and how might that differ from Critical Realism?1

Let’s begin with a side-by-side comparison of the two epistemological positions:

Davis Chart 1

(FYI, unlike elsewhere on the page, footnotes inside of tables are not clickable.  You’ll have to scroll down to the bottom to see them.  Our elves are working on making this magic happen for future posts.  Thanks for being understanding!)

Based on the above definitions, Rational-Empiricism and Critical Realism appear to be similar, if not synonymous, epistemologies. Ah, but not so fast! Critical Realism, as “scientist theologians”3 use the terminology, is a ploy “motivated by the apologetic necessity (not the self-evident possibility) of positioning the theological enterprise on the same epistemic footing as the natural sciences.”4 Why would apologists for theism feel that it’s necessary to legitimate a theological epistemology? Because, frankly, theism started losing to science centuries ago, and the losses continue. Theological Critical Realism is a desperate attempt to salvage the already discredited theological enterprise.

How many natural explanations can you think of that have been replaced by supernatural ones? How many supernatural explanations have had to be modified to correspond with scientific discoveries? That’s what I thought! “Bit by bit, the list of phenomena that once demanded an explanatory God is being whittled down to nothing.”5 So, “sophisticated” theologians have endeavored to manufacture a viable epistemological position in a pitiful attempt to get back in the game. I’ll come back to the topic of critical realism below, but, for now, let me address the “underlying assumptions/philosophical starting points” portion of your question.

Once we make it past I think, therefore I am we have to start making assumptions, so here are the foundational three simply stated:

  1. The universe is real.
  2. The universe is intelligible.
  3. Models with predictive capability provide the best means for understanding the universe, i.e., the scientific method.

There is no good reason to add to these three basic assumptions. They’ve served humanity well for several hundred years.6 In addition, don’t think about science too narrowly. It’s not just about test tubes and microscopes. A scientific model can be legitimately applied to most areas of life.7 Science “is simply a method for understanding how the universe (matter, our bodies and behavior, the cosmos, and so on) actually works.8 Do I really have to demonstrate the triumph of science over every other methodological and epistemological rival? The evidence is ubiquitous! Most people are fine with modern science until it conflicts with their religious beliefs. But, the fact is that science works, and faith does not.9

science faith flowchart

Enter the scientist-theologians. They’re not satisfied with the above three assumptions. They want to add a fourth: The existence of God. But why is this necessary? If there is a God or gods, evidence of his/her/its/their existence will be discovered via a rational-empiricist model. If not, there’s no good reason to think he/she/it/they exist. And, guess what? God is nowhere to be found!10 Higher Criticism (a scientific method of literary analysis) has clearly demonstrated that the Bible is a purely human document, and modern science has obliterated the viability of any theistic position. But some theists are too deluded to recognize defeat, so they invent questionable strategies, like a theological brand of critical realism, in order to keep their wishful thinking alive. However, theological critical realism fails miserably in its effort to establish itself as a workable epistemological position:

The arguments of the scientist-theologians presuppose a basic commitment that goes so systematically unexamined as to become buried under the theoretical manoeuvres which follow from it. The critical realism advocated by the scientist-theologians is able, when applied to science, to explain how we get to know external reality – it is an epistemological doctrine which derives the existence of an external reality which we come to know from empirical data. When this critical realist position gets forcefully adapted to theology, its epistemological value is warranted only by an a priori, ontological belief in the existence of a personal deity which can be the object of rational, albeit imprecise, knowledge. The ontological reality of God is therefore the starting point of such a theological realism, occasionally defended by reference to either Scriptural ‘evidence’ or the ‘data’ that is revelation. In other words, the thesis which the scientist-theologians are at pains to uphold, that theological language makes ‘cognitive claims about reality’, can be valid only if we pre-emptively assume the existence of a divine (necessary and omnicreative) reality that is the referent of those claims. This rather crucial point has been, (perhaps not so) surprisingly, largely ignored by the scientist-theologians.11

Once we disinter and reject the founding metaphysical presuppositions at work in the discourse of the scientist-theologians …, the whole project of science and religion – ostensibly based upon some kind of realism, and aimed at defending theology against the prestige of science – becomes vacuous.12

Now, let’s contrast the two epistemologies:

Davis Chart 2

(FYI, unlike elsewhere on the page, footnotes inside of tables are not clickable.  You’ll have to scroll down to the bottom to see them.  Our elves are working on making this magic happen for future posts.  Thanks for being understanding!)

There’s no reason for anyone, including religious folk, to fear the scientific method. Unless, that is, they have something to hide. “What do you think science is? There’s nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. Which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?”21

science ongoing process

Until next time.22

1: Rocky's Note:  The reason I ask about these two philosophies in particular is because Rational-Empiricism is the view that Davis has stated elsewhere he now holds to, and Critical Realism is the epistemological position that I hold to largely as a result of my studies under Davis.

2: Paul Hiebert, “Epistemological Foundations For Science and Theology,” TSF Bulletin 8 (March-April 1985): 5-10. I first became aware of Hiebert’s Taxonomy of Epistemological Positions (page 2 of the aforementioned document) when I read his book, Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994). Since my copy of Anthropological Reflections is in storage, I’m unable to provide you with a page number from that work, so I provided a link to the above document for reference.

3: Fabio Gironi, “The Theological Hijacking of Realism: Critical Realism in ‘Science and Religion,’” Journal of Critical Realism 11.1 (April 2012): 40.

4: Ibid., 42. In order to be fair to Hiebert, his article deals with utilizing a critical realist epistemology as a standard to assess competing biblical interpretations and theological positions. I use his definition because it’s easier to understand than the more “sophisticated” versions.

5: Jerry A. Coyne, Fact vs. Faith: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, (New York: Viking, 2015): 16.

6: I’m merely starting with the advent of modern science. However, mankind has been practicing a rudimentary form of the scientific method via trial and error for millennia.

7: Science obviously doesn’t apply to matters of preference or personal opinion. For example, science can’t declare that you’re right or wrong for liking a particular style of music.

8: Coyne, Fact vs. Faith, 28.

9: See Victor J. Stenger, God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion, (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012).

10: I’ll have more to say about this in the next part of this interview.

11: Gironi, Theological Hijacking, 55-56.

12: Ibid., 67.

13: Ibid., 65.

14: Ibid., 42-44.

15: Of course, the myriad of non-Christian religions just confuse the situation even more.

16: William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 48. View Craig on Faith and Doubt for a refutation of Craig’s epistemology.

17: Coyne, Fact vs. Faith, xii.

18: David Eller, Natural Atheism, (Cranford, NJ: American Atheist Press, 2004): 187.

19: Follow this link to learn more about the Ambiguity Fallacy.

20: Originally used as liberal portrayals of neo-orthodox theologians, but I think it also applies to the theological critical realists. See Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 571.

21: Check out the video, What do you think science is?

22: I don’t have the space, the time, or the desire to expound on every point that I made above, in the comment section of this blog, or on my Facebook page. I shouldn’t be, but I’m still surprised when people believe issues that fill volumes can be solved in a few remarks. It makes me wonder if such folk have ever read an academic treatise or understand scholarly disputation. I think it’s more likely that their “research” experience consists of searching the internet to find information that confirms their preconceived notions. However, if you decide to attempt a rebuttal in the comments, make sure that you provide all relevant information in order to avoid fighting a strawman. If you would like to contact me directly, please feel free to do so at nosacredcows01@gmail.com.

| Science | 35 comments so far

Ready for another article?

Rocky Munoz
Jesus-follower, husband, daddy, amateur theologian, former youth pastor, nerd, and coffee snob. Feel free to email me at almostheresy@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter (@rockstarmunoz)

35 Comments

  1. Austin Bazil, November 30, 2015 at 4:49 pm:

    Glad to see the influence dropping off. I wonder if Steven has ever addressed “lies in the textbooks” such as gill slits in the embryo, still taught to this day. Is a lie wrong if it accomplishes a task that your biological make up perceives as good? How about glued together skulls, feathers, and other such nonsense? What about poly strata fossils, and soft tissues in dino bones? What is the scientific method for those? Where are the trillions of examples we need to disprove irreducible complexity? Does he even know the scientific method for dating fossils or rocks. What if God created a mature universe were start light was in place? How do you explain energy loss and extremely complex information that science does not yet understand. What is gravity? How do you have chemical evolution past iron? He does not use scientific method to answer thousands of questions. These fake charts do not make up anyone’s world view. It is pretend that his decision comes from proof or scientific method. It is clear he believes that it is smarter to have faith in something other than Lord Jesus. The indoctrination of humanistic evolution is apparent but is not based on fact or scientific method. In a live debate people are always left with an insult to education or intelligence, even though the person with the highest measured IQ says you can easily prove God. Rocky I wonder if you believe what the Bible has to say about someone who wants to believe there is no God. Romans 1:19-20, Eph 4:18, Psalm 14:1, 1 Timothy 4:1-5 . Feel free to respond by email if you fear you will upset Steven. I would like to point out in this interview Steven constantly makes the assumptions that anyone who believes in God is not honest or rational and he does not provide evidences, just general statements about how to perceive reality that was created for him.

    • Rocky Munoz, December 2, 2015 at 6:15 pm:

      Hey there, Austin! Thanks for keeping up on the interview series. I get the sense that you don’t trust a lot of the philosophical assumptions undergirding a lot of scientific investigation (but, correct me if I’m wrong), which is why you brought up the whole evolution thing. If so, what are the exact principles that you disagree with? I don’t want to spend too much energy focusing on the specific issues you brought up, since this post wasn’t so much about science (and certainly not evolution) as it was about the philosophy employed by science. If you’re interested in theistic evolutionary explanations for some of the specific issues you raised, I’d recommend checking out what the folks over at BioLogos have put together. I don’t really have a problem responding on here. Steve knows where I’m at on a lot of this stuff, and I doubt I’ll upset him. (If you want to dialogue on the topic of evolution, feel free to shoot me an email. I think it’s a fascinating discussion.)

      In response to your question about passages in the Bible regarding atheists, I do believe that a good many people come to atheism for foolish, arrogant, or self-serving reasons. And based on what Steve said in footnote 4 of the second interview, I think he would agree. However, I don’t think that every atheist rejects belief in God for these reasons, nor do I think the passages you presented demand such a notion. I’ve dialogued with enough atheists to know that some have accepted a non-theistic worldview for largely (if not entirely) intellectual reasons. Granted, not all; but certainly some.

  2. Austin Bazil, December 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm:

    http://biologos.org/common-questions/scientific-evidence This website, of which I am familiar with says many things not provable by any scientific method. I brought up the things I pointed out because you cannot establish age of the universe or earth by anything but faith. It would not be honest to say that you can trust a scientific method that uses false information and assumptions. If Evolution is true death brought man into the world not the other way around. I would have to ask any person who feels like they are a biblical scholar how then then reconcile this, and how they pick scripture that you feel is not mistaken. Evolution is simply a try at explaining the universe (which means single spoken word or phrase) in an irrational way. I am sorry that Biologos group pretend to know things they don’t. The first and most blatant lie is they know the age of rocks. Have you asked how they date them? I was fortunate to have one of my best friends from high school become a supervising Nuclear engineer that graduated the top of his class. I could have him tell you it is not by any decay rate. Another topic is chemical evolution, it is impossible and most skip it. At this point you are left to hope without a method to prove it, that information existed and was arranged without God. This is only dreamed by people who hoped biology worked in a way that nothing else observable or testable has ever worked. It is not rational. This is seen easily by the lack of freedom accompanied in higher education to keep your job if your work argues any question of that flawed thinking. Both Timothy and Peter say people who arrive in disbelief do so to indulge in sin. You think a group of people arrive in an honest way, maybe in a way the bible forgot to cover, or would be incomplete or out of date?

    • Rocky Munoz, December 4, 2015 at 10:11 am:

      I’m afraid I must disagree with you on the whole evolution and age of the universe thing there, Austin. The evidence that I have seen is pretty compelling, and I think it’s no coincidence that the vast majority of scientists (certainly those at the head of their fields) are convinced by it. Again, if you’re interested in discussing science, feel free to shoot me an email. However, regarding the philosophical underpinnings of scientific investigation, do you have or know of a better philosophical starting point?

      As for you final question on what the Bible says about atheists, I would say that there are expressions of the human experience that the Bible simply does not cover. In this sense, while there are certainly people who arrive at atheism for sinful reasons, there are also those who have come to it in an honest effort to have intellectual integrity. To deny this is to assume a motive in others that you simply cannot know.

  3. Austin Bazil, December 4, 2015 at 12:18 pm:

    What is the best “evidence” you have seen? The majority of professors in many countries teach things that don’t get them fired. The only philosophical underpinnings that would allow you to look at the creation of God is to use that as your underpinning. The intellectual dishonesty is in itself prophesied in 2 Peter 3:5-6. I only trust in what the Bible tells me in and about sinful nature. I think you are assuming much about the honesty of people who no longer have the burden of honesty.

    • Andrew, December 6, 2015 at 8:10 am:

      Professors teaching the age of the universe are teaching cosmology, they waste very little time on the fact that the Planck’s results say it’s about 13.8 billion years. That’s not their job, if they harped on the age of the universe, they would be fired.

      Any student in a cosmology course is expected to already come in knowing at minimum some statistical mechanics and linear algebra. Both of which generally require you at minimum know calculus before going in.

      Calculus professors are teaching math. Do you accept math? Do you accept “1+1=2”? Why? Did you know “1+1=0” is useful for other systems?

      Planck says the universe fits the Lambda-CDM with a hubble constant age at 13.8 billion years. The Lambda-CDM makes sense if you have any understanding of what the FLWR metric is. The FLWR metric makes sense if you understand statistical mechanics. Statistical mechanics makes sense if you understand probability and calculus. Calculus makes sense if you understand algebra. Algebra makes sense if you understand arithmetic. Arithmetic makes sense if you understand concepts like “1+1=2”.

      That’s a long convincing process, but the ‘underpinnings’ are very, VERY basic.

      The only thing that would get a calculus professor fired is not teaching calculus. Not teaching students how to prove it from things like algebra. (A bad algebra teacher would fail to teach students to prove things from arithmetic)

      The only thing that would get a statistical mechanics professor fired is failing to teach statistical mechanics. Not teaching students how to prove it from things like calculus.

      And by that standard, the only thing that would get a cosmology professor fired is not teaching cosmology. Teaching students how to prove something like the FLWR metric using things like statistical mechanics.

      You might suggest the ‘bible’ instead of ‘math’ as a starting point, but ‘math’ seems a lot more successful, and better still, you can prove it for yourself. The universe very much appears 13.8 billion years old, but to accept that as true, you must at minimum accept the truth of at least *some* mathematical axioms.

      If on the other hand, you assert ‘all math is a lie’ and refuse to even accept the validity of “1+1=2” if it might in some way challenge your faith, then I’m afraid that you’re correct, no one could give you evidence that the universe is that old.

      I’m convinced, but I had a very long convincing process, I called it university. Perhaps it sounds like an intellectually dishonest path, but I feel it was fairly rigorous. Math isn’t trivial, but it’s essential for understanding the evidence.

      As a side note, calculus is sorta inescapable if you really want a resolution to Zeno’s paradox.

  4. Austin Bazil, December 6, 2015 at 8:54 am:

    (“Planck says the universe fits the Lambda-CDM with a hubble constant age at 13.8 billion years. The Lambda-CDM makes sense if you have any understanding of what the FLWR metric is. The FLWR metric makes sense if you understand statistical mechanics. Statistical mechanics makes sense if you understand probability and calculus. Calculus makes sense if you understand algebra. Algebra makes sense if you understand arithmetic. Arithmetic makes sense if you understand concepts like “1+1=2”.)

    I asked you for your best evidence and you gave me hypothesis. I do believe in math, I understand mathematics. I actually posted a video with the Lamba-CDM on Steven’s Facebook page that he erased. However you miss the point entirely. How old would the universe look if God formed it fully mature at creation? What were the physical properties, rates of decay, and such day one? You don’t know. You seem to use the same validation for your assumptions that Steven does. That you had a long education process. And yes if you come up with a theory in this model that does not include billions of years then you could be fired no matter what the Math tells you. There is little academic freedom in this area I am afraid and I guess if your unwilling to understand that I could give you some guys to call that have lost their jobs for it. The point is you go on like I wouldn’t agree with the Math, but I do, I don’t agree with the assumptions that neither he nor you can provide. The Billions of years model falls instantly if God spoke a fully formed and mature universe in to being. Again if you believe this theory that is fine is one of the models that fits a timeline but needs millions of assumptions to be true that are mathematically impossible. This is not evidence, however it is an accepted theory by some. There are millions of people in the field of math that believe the earth is young and that Math proves it. Many people attended a university, however it is application that makes and education good. Sometimes education is indoctrination. You stated you have seen evidence that convinces you evolution is true. I asked to see the best “evidence” you have seen. Am I assuming this was it?

  5. Maverick Christian, December 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm:

    I found this to be misleading:

    >>
    Whereas Part One and Part Two of this series have surrounded Steve’s personal quest for truth, today he shares with us some of that hard-hitting, underlying, philosophical stuff that actually made up his transition to atheism.
    <>
    If there is a God or gods, evidence of his/her/its/their existence will be discovered via a rational-empiricist model. If not, there’s no good reason to think he/she/it/they exist.
    <<

    Unless God exists; if God exists then our intuitions of God existing are probably rational (on theism, it seems plausible that God designed us in such a way that when human cognitive faculties are functioning properly they intuit God's existence). Steve could argue that people's intuitions of God existing aren't rational because God doesn't exist. Maybe, but then to show that such people don't have adequate rational grounds to believe God exists he'd have to show that God does not exist, and he's done nothing of the sort in this blog entry. Steve has not adequately supported his claim here.

  6. Andrew, December 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm:

    “How old would the universe look if God formed it fully mature at creation?”

    Well this is just “Last-Thursdayism”, it’s possible that none of my life has been real and I only existed as of twenty seconds ago, with my memories artificially created. If we’re going to that extremes, then yeah, I still can’t really prove anything.

    But since that to me sounds like saying “the universe is effectively one giant elaborate lie”, I don’t give that worry much thought.

    Those are the things that count as evidence to people who have studied the subject, but you’ve proposed very little as an alternative here.

    You posted about the “Lambda-CDM”, ok, does that include a discussion of it derived from the FLWR? Do you know statistical mechanics? These aren’t ‘hypothesis’, stat mech for example is an entire field of physics.

    The “assumptions” made are “the universe is real, induction works, and our senses/direct observation can tell us something about it”.

    You just rejected the third of those, and to a certain degree, the first. If I cannot trust even that my senses tell me what actually happened thirty seconds ago, such that the universe was artificially formed with me remembering a false history, I cannot know anything or have evidence for anything.

    I am pretty sure the same could be said for you. How could you have evidence for anything if you are effectively saying the universe could be a lie?

  7. Austin Bazil, December 7, 2015 at 4:18 pm:

    “You posted about the “Lambda-CDM”, ok, does that include a discussion of it derived from the FLWR?” I think the discussion was, “no one gives evidential examples of God”. The FLWR needs origin and made up unknown stats to begin by its own admission. I do know about statistical mechanics and while the usual use to explain or predict natural phenomena, it provides no answers without becoming theory and starting with many assumptions when USED in a” billions of years model”. The assumptions you jump to are really misleading about an opposite view point. In this case the assumption of what I must think. Every single explanation of life from evolution attempts to explain creation without a divine creator and uses no math structure to arrive at the data. It simply needs to leave God out. Math for a young earth works great and is only probable and testable model. You would have to have an unknowable source of energy to keep things hot and speeding up and millions of exceptions to any mathematical rule for chemical evolution which is necessary. Would it be more accurate to say that you have not seen evidence, but that you identify and believe more closely with the evolutionary line of thinking? I think the Statistical Mechanics structure needs an assumption base line, in that it looks at what has been created. In my opinion the flaw comes when you try and predict a creation model where you are measuring and counting without the creator in mind. This is why much of the data has in its origin many assumptions that need an outside force, this is rarely addressed and merely side stepped. This leaves us with a construct of faith in random processes that are mathematically impossible and have no explanation by any known scientific method. It is a hope in random processes that some think would need billions of years to create possible complex and diverse laws material and intelligent biological beings. I can use math to easily eliminate this possibility. This is just a blatant rejection of the God of the Bible and I don’t see logic in it. I do see a real hope and faith in it that has millions of flaws and ignorant consequences. Assuming we are created, have value, and can observe, what is the best “evidence” you have seen for evolution?

    • Rocky Munoz, December 8, 2015 at 10:30 am:

      “It is a hope in random processes that some think would need billions of years to create possible complex and diverse laws material and intelligent biological beings. I can use math to easily eliminate this possibility.

      I’d be curious to see you do this, Austin. :)

    • Andrew, December 8, 2015 at 5:28 pm:

      “The FLWR needs origin and made up unknown stats to begin by its own admission. I do know about statistical mechanics and while the usual use to explain or predict natural phenomena, it provides no answers without becoming theory and starting with many assumptions when USED in a” billions of years model””

      What are you talking about? The ‘basis’ are GR, and again, statistical mechanics, which isn’t ‘unknown stats’, we *know* the scale factor for a photon-dominated universe, for example, a(t)~t^(1/2). This comes directly from applying what we know about photon gases to fitting the terms in Einstein’s field equations. What are the ‘unknown stats’?

      That’s how we got the FLWR. You say things are ‘unknown’, but I don’t know what you’re referring to, because I took the classes to teach me what the underlying stats were. I know how we derived the equations of state for a matter-dominated universe, I even can give you various textbooks that include that derivation itself.

      If you’ve had statistical mechanics though, terms like a photon gas shouldn’t be foreign to you. You should already know what statistics various particles obey. These are all very well defined concepts.

      No part of this assumes ‘billions of years’. That is a fitted parameter, the hubble constant tells us the age of the universe, but it’s just a parameter, we *measure* that, the ‘assumptions’ aren’t ‘the universe is old’ but ‘all the math and physics we did was correct’.

      You can shout “it’s not”, “it’s ambiguous” all you like, but you’ve given me nothing to indicate what you already accept and do not.

      You say you accept calculus and math. Ok, so do you accept the construction of the canonical ensemble? Is that where you break down? Do you have problems with the idea of phase spaces? If not, then what problem do you have with the equations of state used to solve Einstein’s field equations? Or is your problem with General Relativity? Special relativity requires no more than vector calculus to first grasp, so I hope you at least accept that. Or do you have problems extending your math toolkit to tensors?

      You say “math for a god works great” but what math is that? Is ‘god’ a set, a number, a group, an axiom, a transformation, a… what? Anything specific? “Everything”? How can I do actual math with that? How could I prove anything if god isn’t defined in any robust way?

      I’m not going to bother with things like evolution, I’d let someone who majored in biology handle that. I studied physics. So I will focus on what I know very well.

    • Brandon, May 25, 2017 at 11:16 am:

      He may not be able to Rocky, but you and I both know that I can. Remember that while you may underhandedly mock someone for not being as scientifically or mathematically competent as you are (or think he may be), know that there are people who are. I expected better from you than something like that.

      • Rocky Munoz, May 25, 2017 at 2:14 pm:

        Hi there, Brandon! Thanks for commenting. I’m afraid it’s been quite some time since this post was first published (along with the comments). Could you help me understand what you are referring to here?

  8. Austin Bazil, December 8, 2015 at 10:54 am:

    Borel’s Law of mathematical probability has done it. You need impossible assumptions to even assume a mathematical equation exists. Each mathematical probability has a new equation that outnumbers the first one at each step and there are trillions. By the time you get the biological dna structures with information that could fit in a teaspoon while in single file line would reach to the moon and back 4 times is undeniably impossible by random process. Borel’s Law tells us that anything with a probability less than 1 in 1050 is “mathematically impossible.” Trillions of times random processes far exceed this number making evolution mathematically absurd. One of the many examples would be a protein forming randomly into a specific human protein is 1 chance in 20100. Since, as we’ve just observed, it’s “absolutely impossible” for even one protein to form by chance, then it is “beyond insane” to believe an organism—astronomically more complex than a mere protein—could spontaneously generate itself by chance.

    Translation: The concept of Chemical Evolution is scientifically absurd.

    • Andrew, December 8, 2015 at 5:42 pm:

      So you’ve really never had a probability course? Seriously, ever? What’s this “Borel’s Law” I’ve never heard of it, and I *HAVE* had a probability course.

      Had to look it up, apparently it’s a favorite among creationist literature.

      Here’s what probability looks like to me to say something is ‘impossible’. P(x)=0. “The probability of observing x is zero”.

      Imagine you flipped a coin. One thousand times.

      What’s P(1000) for all the first 500 being heads, and all the second 500 being tails? Well, that’s just 1/(2^500)*(1/2^500), or rather, 1/2^(1000).

      That’s a LOT smaller than 1 in 1050, or even 1 in 10^50. In fact, it’s damn near impossible. But it’s not zero. But we’re not done there. Lets say “ok, first was heads, and 999 were tails”. So that probability is 1/2*(1/2^999)=1/2^1000, and once again, we’re back to the same absurdly low probability.

      Ok, ok, how about first two heads, and then ALL the rest tails? Same thing.

      Toss a coin 1000 times, and the probability that you would have gone through *any specific* ordered set of heads and tails flipping is 1/2^1000. It’s tiny. It’s insignificant. It’s also irrelevant, because the fact of the matter is, when you went through flipping a coin 1000 times, you still ended up on one specific configuration whose probability was 1/2^1000.

      So does this mean tossing a coin 1000 times is “absolutely impossible”? Just because any specific configuration has a low chance of occurring after a long number of iterations, doesn’t mean that each iterative step between the formation of that configuration would have been absurdly low probability.

      This would be the kinda faulty thinking I’d imagine a proper probability course would have to stamp out before you even begin to take a statistical mechanics course.

  9. Austin Bazil, December 8, 2015 at 6:55 pm:

    “statistical mechanics, which isn’t ‘unknown stats’, we *know* the scale factor for a photon-dominated universe, for example, a(t)~t^(1/2). This comes directly from applying what we know about photon gases to fitting the terms in Einstein’s field equations. What are the ‘unknown stats’?”

    It makes fundamental assumptions. Pretty basic. And yes 1 in 10^50 not 1 in 1050, typo. To answer your question that seems really easy to me, the FLRW metric starts with the assumption of homogeneity and isotrophy of space. It also assumes that the spatial component of the metric can be time-dependent.
    This results in basic assumptions and does not tell us how the universe looked or measured in creation. Your coin illustration is simple you would need trillions of coins to arrange themselves with laws and in extremely complex structures.
    “If you’ve had statistical mechanics though, terms like a photon gas shouldn’t be foreign to you. You should already know what statistics various particles obey.”
    Photon gas is not foreign to me. Its in my kids textbooks by 5th grade.

    “Ok, so do you accept the construction of the canonical ensemble? Is that where you break down? Do you have problems with the idea of phase spaces?”
    Why would this be where anyone breaks down? How would this use the scientific method to tell how old the universe is? How would it provide how old it looked at the beginning? Every equation in all of the Microcanonical ensembles have assignments given to origin and guesses about how and when. In practice, the microcanonical ensemble does not correspond to an experimentally realistic situation. With a real physical system there is at least some uncertainty in energy, due to uncontrolled factors in the preparation of the system.
    Is this where you break down? I took science and physics at K-State. I thought I might be an engineer like my dad and all my best friends from High School.

    “I’m not going to bother with things like evolution, I’d let someone who majored in biology”
    A biology major has to make trillions of the same base assumptions and has no hope of defending his position.

    The major problem with evolution does not start with biology it starts with chemical evolution. You have stated earlier that you have seen evidence of evolution. Do you now deflect because this is not evidence.
    Let me state it clearly when you break down a proton or measure probability, or even use statistical mechanics to predict events, you have assumptions in place that are impossible by a random process.Billions of years are used as a spring board to explain the universe without the God of the Bible. No scientific method is available.
    I would think with a proper course in the Bible you would know that this not only is incorrect but impossible. God is the creator not death. God would not need trillions of mistakes and death to created life. This would totally undermine the Blood of Christ in its victory over the grave.

    • Andrew, December 9, 2015 at 5:35 am:

      (Oh, and if your 5th grader’s textbook has a derivation of blackbody pressure complete with integration, I give elementary school *WAY* too little credit. And was apparently introduced to calculus way too late)

  10. Andrew, December 9, 2015 at 5:30 am:

    “To answer your question that seems really easy to me, the FLRW metric starts with the assumption of homogeneity and isotrophy of space. It also assumes that the spatial component of the metric can be time-dependent.”

    Which means that if, for example, space *isn’t* homogeneous and isotropic, we should see significant disagreements from models using predictions that it is. We conducted a very accurate measurement of the CMB.

    It was called WMAP, whose plot may not have won a nobel prize like COBE, but was still just as accurate. That may not convince you, but physicists were convinced enough to say ‘if there is any disagreement with the model, it is a very small magnitude’.

    Those errors by the way are explicitly captured in the uncertainty, which was small for WMAP, even more accurate for Planck, and *both* independent experiments had data which confirmed each other.

    So if the fit works, then how is the model wrong? If it’s wrong, at what scale, because it’d have to be *VERY* wrong to change the hubble constant by something akin to an order of magnitude. Let alone several.

    “This results in basic assumptions and does not tell us how the universe looked or measured in creation.”

    It doesn’t have to. Why would it? It’s a model describing the universe going from a smaller state to a bigger one, we know nothing about the Planck era, but recombination and decoupling for example is well well within our ability to study.

    The big bang isn’t just some single giant monolithic idea, filling in details about the Planck epoch won’t fill in many details about something like re-ionization. They happened at entirely different timescales.

    “Your coin illustration is simple you would need trillions of coins to arrange themselves with laws and in extremely complex structures.”

    Oh, ‘with laws’, you say. Well that changes probability quite a bit since you’re no longer saying things are happening purely randomly. Incidentally, this is kinda how statistical mechanics is built. Although I wouldn’t say that ‘complex laws’ are responsible, perhaps the simplest, ‘principle of least action’. It’s responsible for why gases form liquids as they cool, and why liquids form solids. It’s responsible for why you really can get ‘complexity’ and ‘order’ from ‘simple rules’. (Just look at a snowflake)

    Is god needed to form chemicals? Is god needed to sustain human metabolisms?

    This is no longer a ‘probability’ argument, this sounds like a biochemistry argument. Something very different.

    “Every equation in all of the Microcanonical ensembles have assignments given to origin and guesses about how and when. In practice, the microcanonical ensemble does not correspond to an experimentally realistic situation. With a real physical system there is at least some uncertainty in energy, due to uncontrolled factors in the preparation of the system.”

    What? The canonical ensemble is written with a Hamiltonian. You’re thinking of a classical picture, but physics kinda abandoned that at the turn of the century.

    As to what argument you’re trying to make I’m not really sure.
    Ask yourself three questions: “Can the model be solved”? If so, “what predictions would it make”. Finally “Are those predictions confirmed by observation”? In the case of the Lambda-CDM, that seems to be pretty strongly ‘yes’. That’s all we’d need to establish to within an order of magnitude. (No discovery of any light any further away via any other methods, and far away objects being very hydrogen rich also kinda helps)

    Obviously this didn’t convince you. But it convinced me, and nothing you’re saying seems to refer to anything my education didn’t cover far more in depth already. I took years to study the subject from people far more knowledgeable about it than I am. It’s going to take more than appeals to informal probability arguments to sway me from the beauty of GR, its implications, and data.

    ” You have stated earlier that you have seen evidence of evolution.”

    Did I? I’m pretty sure I’d said “I’d let a biologist handle that”. Not that I haven’t, I just don’t think I said it. Specifically because I want to handle the subject I studied, which was not biology, nor chemistry, but rather, physics, *including* cosmology.

    I know people involved in some of the experiments I’ve mentioned, so it is a lot closer to home to me than any other topic.

    “Let me state it clearly when you break down a proton or measure probability, or even use statistical mechanics to predict events, you have assumptions in place that are impossible by a random process”

    That isn’t stating anything clearly. Stating it clearly would be referring to exactly what the ‘assumptions are’, and explaining how they are used in specific cases where they produce wrong answers. “The FLWR calls the universe isotropic and homogeneous” for example, isn’t a be all and an end all. Maxwell’s Equations, taken on their own, imply that electrons would spin into atomic nucleus near instantly. We can, and have, *tested* this assumption, and to a mild degree, have actually found statistically significant variation from what’s expected. That’s *exciting*. That’s the stuff of new discoveries and new physics. But if you look at the actual magnitude of what those differences are, they’re still remarkably tiny, meaning to most scales, the ‘assumption’ holds up. We have reason to believe most of our ‘assumptions’ break down when we get to the planck era, something we have no clue how to test right now, but that’s a long time before many of the things that *are* well established.

    Physics is a process of increasing precision. No one is claiming it has all the answers concerning the big bang, but to deny that it has at least the basic structure, or timescale, requires calling quite a bit of physics wrong.

    You’ve questioned the result, but given little indication for where your true problems lie, or what scale you believe data is off by.

    • Andrew, December 9, 2015 at 5:44 am:

      I don’t think I’m going to poison this blog anymore though with more pointless debate.

    • Rocky Munoz, December 9, 2015 at 9:03 am:

      Thanks for your contribution on here, Andrew. Although we certainly went far afield from the original topic of this post, I know that I personally enjoyed reading this conversation.

      I’ve kept out of the debate recently because math is not my strong suit and I have no idea what half of those equations and acronyms meant. However, my wheelhouse is theology and biblical studies, so I’ll speak to Austin’s last point. Having taken several proper courses on the Bible, I can assure you that it is not at all impossible for evolution to fit within the Christian faith and even the biblical narrative. We simply have to be willing to read the text as it is, a collection of ancient religious texts, and not as the science textbook we Western, post-Enlightenment, post-Gutenberg, Americans would probably have it to be. True, God may not have needed the trillions of deaths inherent in the long evolutionary history of our planet. However, this doesn’t mean that God therefore couldn’t (or even didn’t) use those to bring about the complexity of life we see today.

      Moreover, I find nothing in Christ’s atoning work that is incompatible with evolution. It is only by insisting on a literalist interpretation of Scripture (which is itself problematic for reasons inherent in the text alone) that one is forced to reject evolution a priori.

      • Andrew, December 9, 2015 at 6:53 pm:

        The terms and acronyms I cited really do have specific applications, so a google search should hopefully give the context of a basic outline of ‘what topics physics students are introduced to before they discuss cosmology’.

        I really wasn’t kidding that the age of the universe is pretty much not touched on in any cosmology course, there’s really too much actual material for any professor to much time talking about that or else they aren’t doing their jobs and aren’t teaching the subject. So the most I can hope is often to just provide a brief roadmap for some of the required bits of knowledge used to build up the conclusions we’ve obtained.

        I’m not a theist, so I obviously wouldn’t address the theology of squaring god with what we know about reality, I just feel it’s important to point out that these conclusions are built upon a lot more than just casual assertions. I hope my sentences read like more than just empty jargon.

        I doubt I’d ever be able to really convince Austin, but putting the material out there can’t be a bad thing.

        • Rocky Munoz, December 10, 2015 at 2:59 pm:

          I’ve really appreciated having your voice in the discussion, Andrew. Although my grasp of cosmology is purely philosophical, I’ve enjoyed gleaning what I could from your posts! :D

  11. Austin Bazil, December 14, 2015 at 10:27 pm:

    “5th grader’s textbook has a derivation of blackbody pressure complete with integration” Probably need to reread the comment I made, because this is a weird thing to say. I think the point that you keep missing is that all of the examples that you point out have no scientific method for origin and can’t tells us the starting equations, they assume. They don’t address the age and origin not because it takes to long, it is because there is not scientific method for it. Ages of billions of years is the mechanics needed for evolution and is not science.
    2 Peter 1:20-21New King James Version (NKJV)

    20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,[a] 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God[b] spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

    Evolution directly contradicts the Bible in many ways that are easily pointed out. For anyone who believes the bible of course. Thanks for the time.

    • Rocky Munoz, December 14, 2015 at 11:20 pm:

      Thank you for taking the time to respond on here, Austin. I do believe the Bible, although perhaps not in the same way that you do. Could you point out one of these direct contradictions between the Bible and evolution for me? :)

  12. Austin Bazil, January 2, 2016 at 12:26 pm:

    Problems arise and are a base for anyone studying the Bible. How many times is Genesis quoted? Did death bring man into the word, or did man bring death into the world? If the first part of Genesis or scripture is a myth then how do you decide which parts are true or untrue? The answer would be you cannot with any measure of truth. Is all Scripture good or only some? I would say the who dating system has been proven false by many Dino bones being carbon dated (no fossil should carry a carbon reading) in the last 10 years so the whole construct is unnecessary but people who bent to try to accommodate a model created to try and explain life without God really are “taking the bait”.

    • Rocky Munoz, January 4, 2016 at 3:22 pm:

      We would need an actual paleontologist to weigh in this, but (barring a huge conspiracy theory) given that most scientists consider the dating system to be credible, I have trouble accepting your claim that the whole thing has been proven false.

      I love the question you raised. “If the first part of Genesis or scripture is a myth then how do you decide which parts are true or untrue?” However, I think your answer is off. By taking into account literary genre, as well as insights from other disciplines (such as archaeology and ancient Near East studies), we can actually come to an accurate understanding of when and where Scripture employs myth without simply saying the whole thing is myth.

  13. Austin Bazil, January 5, 2016 at 5:46 pm:

    Well google search it and find out. There are hundreds of examples of this and I only need one. I’m sure you think my answer is off because I believe the Bible is true and scientifically accurate. You cannot possibly teach the Bible or begin understand how it fits if you cannot rely on its truthfulness. You also cannot establish a basis for which parts you deem true because of a dig you heard of read about. People lie. You and I have been lied to. Good thing we have the Bible.

    • Rocky Munoz, January 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm:

      Yeah… maybe I didn’t do it right, but a quick Google search didn’t bring up any credible sources saying that the fossil dating system had been entirely debunked. Do you have a specific source (perhaps a peer-reviewed journal article) that demonstrates this?

      From the sound of it, your basis for believing in the Bible’s authority for your life is its historical/scientific accuracy. That seems like a strange connection (to me at least). Why is that your source for biblical authority? How does scientific or historical accuracy equate divine inspiration? Do you see all such documents as being divinely inspired?

      Also, the whole “People lie. You and I have been lied to” makes it sound like your rejection of archaeological evidence that conflicts with your position requires postulating a grand conspiracy among archaeologists. Is that what you’re saying?

  14. Austin Bazil, January 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm:

    Icr.org has listed many peer reviewed results in which dinosaur bones have been carbon dated which is impossible for something like a fossil of that supposed age. Also listed from South Carolina University we have soft tissue being found all over the place in these same “fossils”. Archaeology is fine but yes the dating system for evolution is needed to supplant God. The Bible says in the last days they will be willingly ignorant of the flood and creation. I simply believe that to be the case. I think God is smart enough to by historically accurate and scientifically accurate. So the Bible is accurate and archaeology proves it. I’m not sure why anyone would believe the bible and somehow remove the accuracy in those two areas. I would think it would be a God sized task for you then to decide what then is and is not accurate in the Bible. Is that what you do?

    • Rocky Munoz, January 19, 2016 at 3:36 pm:

      I gotta hand it to you, Austin. I didn't think you could actually provide a peer reviewed journal supporting your views. I stand corrected. Admittedly, I have my hesitations:

      1. This journal assumes its conclusion and seeks to substantiate it. Peer reviewed articles are presented at the International Conference on Creationism, which is sponsored by the Creation Science Fellowship, which explicitly hosts the conference “to inform and educate the community in the Biblical model of creation.”  The overt bias of this journal almost goes without saying.
      2. The rest of the scientific community finds this journal to be bogus.  This also seems to go without saying, but I figured I’d point it out anyhow.
      3. If this is where you get all of your peer reviewed articles, then small wonder why you make universal claims about science that are only universal among young earth creationists.

      I’ll admit that when I asked for a peer reviewed journal supporting your position, I had in mind publications like the Journal of Paleontology, the Journal of Tissue Science and Engineering, or perhaps the Journal of Phylogenetics and Evolutionary Biology.  But, touché.  You were able to produce a publication that in some sense does technically qualify as peer-reviewed (if by “peer” we mean other young earth creationists).

      You said, “I think God is smart enough to by [sic] historically accurate and scientifically accurate.”  I would agree, but that’s not what we’re talking about.  The question is not, “could God have made the Bible 100% historically and scientifically accurate?”  Rather, the question is, “did God do it this way?”  And I don’t see any good reason to believe that He did.

      I can certainly understand how it could seem like a God-sized task to discern what is and is not historically/scientifically accurate in the Bible.  Thankfully, we have whole disciplines and fields of study to help us.  It’s a group effort.  And once we have a literary understanding of the books of the Bible, it really becomes a manageable endeavor (although no one person will probably ever fully master it).  On the other hand, it seems to me that the struggle to defend the historical and scientific accuracy of every single verse of the Bible is itself a God-sized task.  And having spent part of my life attempting to do so, I have concluded that such an effort is neither possible nor fruitful.

  15. Austin Bazil, January 19, 2016 at 4:32 pm:

    Well it is a belief in defending a position only developed to explain life without God. It is too bad that you believe them. Their articles that I have pointed about Carbon Dating dinosaurs are articles found in American Association for the Advancement of Science and so on. Many of their articles simply point out the faith in evolution and the massive ages are simply scientifically impossible. I believe that 3 points are simple debunked by pointing them back. Show me the scientific method that proves chemical evolution or biological evolution or the beginning of anything. After a long answer about how they cannot you are left with a faith that only exists because people want and explanation that does not involve God. Of course they don’t like Icr.org how fast did you run to their little website to see what they have to say about them. I value no ones observation of creation if they deny the creator. How ridiculous is that? So it is correct however when they found soft tissue that was carbon dated the game is over, truth is no scientific method allows for that. Also I believe if you look Richard Dawkins mentor came to Christ because of Micheal Behe’s research on cellular complexity. I have found it is extremely fruitful to teach the truth and do not need to shy away from this at all because it is a belief system that is false. Fruit being baptizing and growing many Christians, who are ministers and now themselves baptizing and winning people to Christ. I believe it would be very dangerous on the back of a group who’s construct is made to oppose God, to then not defend scripture. You may want to reattempt using new resources and study. I does not detour me to hear liars don’t like the truth. Most people don’t know how they decided ages of fossils, I do. Absurd. Thanks for your always kind responses. I hope this helped.

    • Rocky Munoz, January 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm:

      I will admit that I am not fully versed in the science of molecular biology, nor am I much interested in it. As such, I do tend to accept what the consensus of scientists say when it comes to topics of science. While I’m sure you don’t mean for it to come off this way, I can’t help but sense that you see all scientists that don’t find the ICR credible (much less convincing) to be part of some grand conspiracy against theism.

      Like I mentioned elsewhere, my fields of study are in biblical and theological studies. Personally, I abandoned a need for young earth creationism as a result of my biblical studies years before I ever came to accept the science supporting evolution and an old universe. With a proper understanding of the biblical texts, and a coherent theology centered on Jesus Christ rather than the first few chapters of Genesis, I lost any need for a conspiracy of atheism among scientists to explain why most scientists are not young earth creationists.

      • Austin Bazil, January 19, 2016 at 9:42 pm:

        I would disagree you can still see in 2015 textbooks in every major public school and college text book 8 to 12 regular known lies that have been proven wrong for a really long time. Atheism is the reason evolution theory is needed Hitchens and Dawkins both admit this freely. Most scientists are maybe not young earth to keep there job. Not by scientific method. There is no proper understanding of biblical text without it being true. Jesus is literally the remedy for the first few chapters. LOL.

        • Rocky Munoz, January 20, 2016 at 10:19 am:

          I would certainly agree that the biblical text reveals truth. But I don’t think that means we need to take everything in it as being literally true. Even fiction can sometimes reveal truth with an efficacy that non-fictions can’t. Jesus’ own parables are a prime example of this. I think that part of treating all of Scripture with respect means reading each passage in accordance with its respective literary genre, even if that genre is a type of fiction.


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