Coyne and the nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus

Prof. Jerry Coyne writes, “Despite Gould’s claims to the contrary, supernatural phenomena are not completely beyond the realm of science. All scientists can think of certain observations that would convince them of the existence of God or supernatural forces.” We’ve already seen that Coyne changes the focus from science and its realm to people who happen to be scientists and their perceptions. So let’s consider the fall-out from this change in focus.

So how is it that the “supernatural phenomena” (whatever that is supposed to be) falls into the realm of science? Coyne provides an example:

if a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus appeared to the residents of New York City, as he supposedly did to the evangelist Oral Roberts in Oklahoma, and this apparition were convincingly documented, most scientists would fall on their knees with hosannas.

That’s it?! That’s it. So we are supposed to believe that science can determine whether or not God exists because “a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus” would cause Coyne and his colleagues to “fall on their knees with hosannas.” Is this how science works? Why is Coyne’s observation of a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus supposed to be science?

As I explained in the previous message, making an observation does not qualify as science. If Jerry Coyne observed a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus, it might indeed have a great impact on Jerry Coyne, but we could not say from his observation that “science has detected the existence of Jesus.”

Ah, but maybe the science comes in at this point – “and this apparition were convincingly documented.” If so, Coyne provides no clue as to how science is supposed to document an apparition of a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus. Let’s say a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus appeared to the residents of New York City on June 19, 2009. How would science document this? By taking testimony from witnesses? You mean, like interviewing people who have seen UFOs? That’s not science.

Perhaps science can convincingly document the apparition by gathering photographs. You mean, like photos of UFOs? That’s not science.

But let’s say that the National Enquirer has a picture of the nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus and it convinces Coyne and his colleagues to fall on their knees with hosannas. Does this mean the National Enquirer is now part of the scientific community? And one also has to wonder why Coyne and his colleagues are so quick to fall on their knees. How did they use science to determine the nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus was really Jesus? How did they rule out the possibility that some intergalactic alien youths were playing a practical joke on the people in New York?

So while Coyne tells us that supernatural phenomena are not completely beyond the realm of science, his leading example completely fails to support his claim. Observing a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus does not qualify as science for the simple reason that any observation, by itself, is not science. And when it came to convincingly documenting the apparition, Coyne does not provide a single clue as to how science would do this.

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