What Science Isn't

My third video on atheism. In this video, I talk about nonfalsifiable beliefs, problems arguing for creationism based on complexity, and the political (as opposed to scientific) motivations of the intelligent design movement.

I really need to figure out how to adjust the settings when I export to MPEG format, these videos keep getting stretched out.

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Hi, everyone. I’m Al. I’m an atheist. I actively believe that supernatural gods don’t exist.

In this video I’d like to talk about…

(Through grit teeth) Intelligent design.

Sorry about that, but I’ve come to consider…

(Through grit teeth) Intelligent design.

…to be nothing more than a politically-motivated euphemism for creationism, so I loath using the term.

So instead of saying the name as…

(Through grit teeth) Intelligent design.

…I’ll just call it creationism.

Although sometimes I’d like to specifically refer to the recent anti-evolution movement in America, so in those cases I’ll say ID.

Creationism has many problems when it tries to present itself as science.

In this video, first I’ll go into the problems that creationism runs into when it is presented as a scientific theory.

Second I’ll talk about how the ID movement is motivated far more by politics than science.

In my next video, I’ll continue this by talking about why I think there is so much popular opposition to evolution and a natural origin of life.

(first segment)

Let’s start with the definition of falsifiability.

Falsifiability means that an empirical statement has, in theory, some sort of counterexample that could prove the statement to be untrue.

Falsifiable doesn’t necessarily mean false.

For example, the statement, “The sun is really hot.” is falsifiable because you could measure the temperature of the sun and the temperature could in theory turn out to be very cold.

Scientific theories have to at least logically admit a possible counterexample, or some experimental result that could prove the theory to be false. Nonfalsifiable theories are theories that by their design couldn’t possibly be shown to be false.

For example, metaphysical solipsism is a nonfalsifiable belief.

Solipsism is the idea that your perspective encompasses the whole of reality and that the external world and everyone in it is only a mental creation of your own.

You can’t disprove solipsism because any evidence of an external reality could be explained as being yet another of your mental creations.

Nonfalsifiable beliefs are often very conveniently packaged. Many conspiracy theories are also nonfalsifiable.

(to off camera) Well of course the investigators found a weather balloon instead of a spaceship, man. The fact that they didn’t find any extraterrestrial artifacts just shows you how much the government is covering it all up, man. There are no witnesses because the men in black wiped everyone’s memory. They also wiped their memory of having their memory wiped. Believe me, this thing goes deep.

Nonfalsifiable beliefs aren’t very useful because they place themselves above scientific inquiry. There’s no end to the number of nonfalsifiable ideas we could believe in, but a belief in any of them requires a leap of faith.

Now I’d like to show how creationism suffers from nonfalsifiability.

Christian creationists state that living organisms are so complex, they couldn’t possibly have come about through a natural process such as evolution. The biological structures are just too improbable.

This high complexity is held as evidence for their design by the Christian God.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that the creationists also say that God created the universe and everything in it.

When we take something of low complexity, like a pile of dirt, in the creationist view it was also created by God.

Creationists won’t admit that God did not create the living organism or the pile of dirt.

So things of high complexity are evidence of God’s creation and things of low complexity are evidence of God’s creation.

The argument for creationism is mostly based off of complexity, but that argument is nonfalsifiable.

If you want to show that God created man and the universe, you’ll have to prove it in a way other than just using the complexity of living creatures as evidence.

But wait, ID doesn’t necessarily state that the Christian God created living things, just that some intelligent designer did. The designer doesn’t have to be a supernatural entity.

In fact, ID proponents are very careful not to make any claims about the nature of the designer for this very reason, even though most ID proponents are Christian theists.

But they couldn’t get creationism taught in public schools as science instead of Christian theology.

So they relabeled it as intelligent design to admit the possibility that the designer was something other than the supernatural Christian God, even though most of them still believe it is.

But when you try to argue that a natural intelligent designer created life, the obvious problem that comes up is who designed the designer?

And who designed that designer? And who designed that designer? And who designed that designer?

All the same creationist arguments for life being too complex to have come about naturally would also have to apply to the designer. It becomes clear that ID can’t hold water with a natural creator.

You could end the recursion by supposing that supernatural God created the original designer.

But then you have the nonfalsifiability problem again if you want to use complexity as evidence for this supposition.

But almost all of IDs arguments are based on life being too complicated to have formed naturally.

Actually, that’s being generous. I’ve never heard of an ID defense that wasn’t based on the complexity argument.

There are several other problems that creationism faces if it wants to be accepted as a scientific theory instead of a theological theory.

One problem is that creationism fails to specifically define what level of complexity is “too complex” to have formed naturally, but asserts that all life is above this level of complexity.

Creationism also cannot calculate the probabilities of something like an eye or the immune system to have come about naturally, but at the same time asserts that the probabilities are too small.

ID also makes the argument that even small incremental changes of the evolutionary process are such huge leaps that the increments themselves are irreducibly complex.

But at the same time ID doesn’t give a precise, objective answer for what makes something irreducible complex or not, it just states that biological features such as the eye or immune system are irreducibly complex.

ID is accused of merely filling in the gaps of our knowledge with divine creation.

Creationists use the existence of these gaps in our scientific explanation as evidence for a supernatural God.

Using one theory as a default winner when another theory doesn’t have an answer isn’t science.

And some of these gaps in our scientific understanding, such as the defensive mechanism of bombardier beetles, have been explained in evolutionary terms.

Any lack of evolutionary evidence isn’t evidence for the existence of God.

Some moderate Christians have reconciled their belief in evolution and their religion, by saying that God is guiding the formation of life through the method of natural selection.

While I respect their willingness not to let their religious beliefs dismiss the empirical evidence for natural selection, I still disagree.

The reason I disagree is because I’ve seen religious explanations retreat so much as science provides more and more understanding of natural phenomena.

For example, the sun was once observed as being very bright [because God made it that way.]

Then we find that brightness of the sun is caused by intense amounts of energy given off through radiation and convective processes [because God made it that way.]

This energy is created at the stellar core of the sun when hydrogen is converted into helium through nuclear fusion [because God made it that way.]

Nuclear fusion gives off the energy when light elements are fused together and can become a self-sustaining reaction [because God made it that way.]

This begins to sound like a nonfalsifiable argument.

You could take the deist position and say that God is simply the creator of the physical universe but doesn’t intervene.

And while we’re at it, we could also say that this god is composed of a pile of spaghetti with two giant meatballs and flies through the air.

It’s just as unproveable and offers the same amount of explanation for the universe.

And we don’t have any solid evidence for one god over the gods of the thousands of religions human civilizations have held.

When you compare the everyday beliefs of Christianity today compared to the Christianity of a thousand years ago, you find that many Christians rely less and less on the supernatural because science can account for so much more today.

One of the reasons I’m an atheist is because it made much more sense to me that religion was a provider of explanations for the unknown at a time when science was too underdeveloped to provide these explanations.

This would also explain why religious belief is so universal among all cultures, even though their specific beliefs are completely different.

(second part)

Much in the same way, it makes a lot more sense to me that the creationist theory of ID is more politically motivated than scientifically motivated.

The proponents of ID learned from their failure to implement creationism in public schools that they can’t argue for creationism based on appeals to scripture.

ID is very careful to avoid using religious terms in order to make it appear more scientific.

But the arguments are inherently the same, ID proponents simply use “designer” instead of the G-word.

(as voice over to graph) As you can see in this chart, there was a large pause about six-sevenths the way into the design process.

The ID think tank Discovery Institute had a leaked memo called the Wedge Document, which outlined the public relations strategy for swaying public opinion towards their conservative evangelical Christian viewpoint.

I feel that this document betrays the Institute’s purpose and agenda as being far more political than scientific.

I think the fact that majority of ID proponents are Christian creationists backs up the assertion that ID is a politically expedient label for what otherwise is the same old thing.

I believe that because their first priority is political, they start with the creationism conclusion and try to fit the agreeable data to it.

And the arguments they use against evolution and the origin of life seem to use God as a default explanation if the naturalist explanation is inconclusive.

That’s not science.


I think there’s a large hostility towards the scientific establishment in religious countries such as America because science reinforces atheists to their beliefs.

And atheists are the most distrusted minority in America because of the many misconceptions we’ve been painted with.

Many people have adjusted their religious beliefs to be reconciled with the evidence and discoveries that scientists have made.

As I said before, while I disagree with this reconciliation I still hold a respect for it.

After all I can’t completely prove that a supernatural god doesn’t exist, I just follow what the evidence I’ve seen point me to.

What I don’t have a respect for is when people allow their religious beliefs to dismiss the empirical observations that science has made.

I especially hold in contempt political maneuverings to paint religious beliefs as something they’re not.

But the mere fact that evolution and the scientific explanations for the origin of life have caused such controversy in the religious world has puzzled me for a long time.

In my next video I’d like to go into the reasons I believe cause evolution to be such a contentious issue.

Until then, I encourage you to think about the things I’ve said. And if you have anything to say to me, feel free to leave a comment. A transcript of this video is on my website at coffeeghost.net.

And no matter what your beliefs are, take care, and thanks for watching.

(Long pause) “Because God made it that way. Because God made it that way. Because God made it that way. Because God made it that way?”

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