I began my commentary on Conservapedia’s ludicrous entry on E=mc2 by fisking its opening paragraph. Beginning with the false premise that the equation “purports to relate all matter to light,” the entry then introduces the principle of “Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge” and how BSF makes it clear that any unification theory is doomed to fail.
As I explained in the last post, E=mc2 does not purport to relate all matter to light — in fact, light does come from matter — but it suggests that matter and energy are essentially the same thing. The author of the Conservapedia entry, Andy Schlafly, clearly does not understand this basic fact of physics. I’m not sure he really understands Scriptural analysis, either, as we shall see.
Paragraph 2 of the E=mc2 entry goes like this:
Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge predicts that a unified theory of all the laws of physics is impossible, because light and matter were created at different times, in different ways, as described in the Book of Genesis.
Before I analyze this statement, which incidentally is offered with no further explanation, I need to introduce some terms.
- Cherry picking: selecting only that evidence which apparently supports one’s argument, while ignoring all contradictory evidence.
- Quote mining: selecting quotations from a source, usually out of context, so as to support one’s argument, or to denigrate the opponent’s argument by creating a “straw man” position.
- Prooftexting: selectively choosing portions of a text, usually out of context, so as to support one’s argument, though the document as a whole has no bearing on the argument.
Conservapedia (and pseudo-historian David Barton) are guilty, guilty, guilty of all three of these logical fallacies. BSF is one prime example. Conservapedia and its fearless leader, Schlafly, expect us to swallow the assertion that the Bible successfully predicted most of modern science, based on his creative interpretation of carefully selected passages.
The following comes from the BSF entry.
Biblical scientific foreknowledge is how the Bible shows a comprehension of scientific knowledge far ahead of its time. Biblical scientific foreknowledge illustrates what is possible.
Bible deniers — such as atheists and evolutionists — engage in liberal denial about the many truths in the Bible. Their irrational closed-mindedness against the Bible obstructs the advancement of science.
Biblical scientific foreknowledge has another benefit: it facilitates improvements in the translation of verses that describe scientific-related events, such as Jesus’s Calming the Storm and the reference to the universe in Hebrews 1:10.
As I recall from my history classes, there was this period of time in Europe when the only books studied in any depth were the Bible and the lives of the Church Fathers. You remember, “the Dark Ages.” Then, literature from ancient Greece and Rome found its way back into Europe around the 13th century, leading to the startling realization that smart people (pagans, even!) lived long before Jesus was a glimmer in his father’s eye. Eventually all this study of the classics lead people to wonder that maybe the Bible, and the institutions that depended on it — the Church, the scholastics, the monarchy and aristocracy, and all authority in general — were all a lot of hooey. This crazy-ass thinking led to stuff like the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.
None of which is even whispered about in the Bible, which rather favors a more top-down style of human resource management.
Nor does the Bible say anything about airplanes, telephones, automobiles, television, wristwatches, typewriters, vacuum cleaners, nail clippers, DNA, hydroelectric dams, contact lenses, the existence of galaxies outside our own, and a myriad of other things we now take for granted. (Coffee! No one drinks coffee in the Bible. I could reject its predictive ability just on that alone.)
In fact, if scholars had relied on the Bible as the final arbiter of things scientific, instead of rejecting it during the Scientific Revolution, we might not have had any our current scientific and technological advances. So, I find it hard to believe that anyone with any sense can state unequivocally that scriptures written 2,000 to 3,000 years ago can be used as a science text.
Of course, some people do.
We can look back at Scripture — or really any ancient text– knowing what we know now, and say, sure, what they say sounds a little bit like quantum physics or aliens from outer space. Anyone remember von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods or Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision? Or more recently, The Mayan Prophecies? But if we didn’t know anything about quantum physics or modern cosmology in the first place, we still wouldn’t know it by reading the Bible. It’s not a science text. There are no equations, no deductive proofs, no evidence, and no repeatable experiments. (Go ahead, blow that horn and see if my walls fall down. Yeah, and make the sun stop moving across the sky while you’re at it.)
What Schlafly does with his Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge claptrap is to take his pitifully weak understanding of modern science, and scour the Bible to find passages that he avers predict the modern science that he so artfully misapprehends. Likewise, David Barton scours documents from colonial and post-colonial America to find anything, anything at all, to support the contention that the Founding Fathers intended the USA to be a “Christian nation.” [“Look!” he says. “Here’s a form letter signed by President Thomas Jefferson that uses the phrase, ‘in the year of our Lord.’ So, Jefferson wanted a Christian nation. I rest my case.”]
Science relies on logic. There is none of that in Conservapedia’s BSF section. It’s just one logical fallacy after another: quotemining, prooftexting and cherry picking. And a whole lotta creative interpretation.
The entry for BSF is quite long, as it deals with practically every branch of science and mathematics, so I will limit my fisking to only the physics section. It goes on for quite a bit, so bear with me.
(to be continued)