Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dinesh D'Souza & the Apologetic Sleight of Hand

The following quote is from the debate Does Science Refute God? Shermer/Krauss vs D'Souza/Hutchinson and it has been bothering me for a week.

“The scientific explanation doesn’t refute the purposeful explanation; it coexists alongside it and so it is with god.”  

In typical D’Souza fashion, this is a sleight of hand. No, science cannot actually refute “god” (however you define it), but this statement is still just a slick invocation of the God of the Gaps and Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA).

What I find so “brain wormy” (just made that term up) about this is that D’Souza is inserting the “purposeful explanation” as if it is a valid counter-point. I think he does this to accomplish two things: 1) suggest a minimization of science‘s ability to determine reality and 2) not seem like an anti-science wanker at the same time.

It’s a lovely little bit of sophistry.  

In my opinion, D’Souza is employing the God of the Gaps and NOMA arguments concurrently as it is suggesting science cannot understand god and that god exists/operates outside of scientific inquiry (i.e. nature). This is special pleading as the basis of that argument insists an exception be made for their contention to be held true. We know of nothing that exists outside of nature. It is foolish to speculate in such specific detail and label it “truth” based on an uncorroborated exception.

The claim is that the Christian god is a god of purpose therefore everything in the universe has a purpose and science can only ask the how, not the why? We have heard this before. Not only is the god concept a baseless assertion, but so is the concept of a “purposeful explanation.” Why?  Is purpose even necessary in the universe? This is just as much of a baseless, unsupported claim as any supernatural one. I have previously written about the assumptions of theistic evolution and that it breaks the Law of Economy (Occam’s razor). I think the same logic applies here: If a natural process can evolve and operate without a deity, why is it necessary for the deity to exist in order to create that natural process?