Coyne’s willing to include miracles in science

Coyne writes: “In a common error, Giberson confuses the strategic materialism of science with an absolute commitment to a philosophy of materialism. He claims that “if the face of Jesus appeared on Mount Rushmore with God’s name signed underneath, geologists would still have to explain this curious phenomenon as an improbable byproduct of erosion and tectonics.” Nonsense.”

Actually, Giberson has a better handle on science that does Coyne. Lets’s imagine that we wake up tomorrow, turn on the TV, and find reporters from all over the world excitedly showing pictures of Mt. Rushmore which now has a fifth head that appeared sometime during the night – the face of Jesus with God’s name signed underneath. Millions of Christians would see this as a sign from God and when Coyne himself traveled to see it in person, he would fall on his knees.

But what about the role of science?

Remember that Coyne has never defined “science” and has shifted the focus from science to the perspectives of those who happen to be scientists. So consider which of the following sentences would best describe this embrace of God belief in relation to science:

A. We have found something that science cannot explain – a miracle.

B. Science has determined that God made the face on the mountain.

I think it obvious that most people would adopt position A and view the face of Jesus on Mount Rushmore with God’s name signed underneath as a sign from God precisely because science could not account for it. If anyone would favor position B, their burden is to outline how science determined God made the face on the mountain.

Coyne also adds:

There are so many phenomena that would raise the specter of God or other supernatural forces: faith healers could restore lost vision, the cancers of only good people could go into remission, the dead could return to life, we could find meaningful DNA sequences that could have been placed in our genome only by an intelligent agent, angels could appear in the sky. The fact that no such things have ever been scientifically documented gives us added confidence that we are right to stick with natural explanations for nature. And it explains why so many scientists, who have learned to disregard God as an explanation, have also discarded him as a possibility.”

At this point you should notice the pattern: nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus, a spontaneous appearance of Jesus’s face on Mt. Rushmore, people being healed of blindness and raised from the dead, etc. Coyne is thus willing to redefine science to include supernatural causation if only he can witness a MIRACLE. Coyne believes science can incorporate miracles as long as science can somehow “document” their occurrence.

In other words, Coyne is like this scientist in the cartoon:

As long as he is personally convinced of the miracle, and the miracle explains something science cannot explain, Coyne feels no need to be more explicit and includes it in science.

So, to make the case that science can incorporate supernatural causation, it turns out that Coyne is arguing that scientists who witness miracles can include such miracles in their science. The only problem, says Coyne, is that no clear miracles have been documented.

Since Coyne believes that, in principle, miracles have a place in science, I’m not sure he realizes just how far out on a limb he is. Let’s see what happens next.

This entry was posted in Jerry Coyne, Religion, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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