Debating the "God" Construct

By Matson, Dave E. | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Debating the "God" Construct


Matson, Dave E., Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


A reply to Douglas Navarick's article "The 'God' Construct: A Testable Hypothesis for Unifying Science and Theology," Skeptic, vol.20, no. 3, 2015, pp. 47-51

Dave Matson replies to Douglas Navarick's article "The 'God' Construct"

Douglas Navarick has obviously given some thought to "The 'God' Construct," but the howlers I encountered robbed it of any credibility. For example: "Abiogenesis must be considered speculative considering that every cell ever observed has come from another living cell."

I have yet to hear anyone in the science of abiogenesis claim that a living cell could appear naturally from scratch without benefit of prior cells! Given the complexity of even the simplest prokaryotes, such a claim would be preposterous. The goal of abiogenists is to recover the long pathway that eventually led to the first cells. If that is no longer possible, then the hope is to discover workable pathways. Navarick's demand that abiogenists produce a living cell from scratch, comparing that to the failure to find compelling evidence for ESP, demonstrates a profound ignorance of abiogenesis. Yes, cells come from cells even as cats come from cats. However, the conclusion that cats cannot credibly come from non-cats (based on the observation that every single cat studied traces to a prior cat) is absurd in the light of evolution. Here we have a perfect analogy to Navarick's attempt to discredit abiogenesis! Abiogenists will never witness a cell arising naturally from scratch; we will never observe evolution producing a cat from scratch. Neither predicts as much. Either path is a long, winding story.

Navarick derides abiogenesis for lacking a mechanism. In fact, there are plausible mechanisms now being sketched out. One can hardly expect all the bugs to be ironed out at this early stage; it's a difficult field. Plausible mechanisms, complete with problems, are all that any science has to work with in exploring new areas. One should not confuse plausible mechanisms (with their inevitable problems) with "no mechanism in sight."

The reason for keeping a supernatural deity out of science is that God is an ad hoc story that is compatible with everything and, therefore, explains nothing. Opening the door to supernatural "explanations" of any kind, which by definition cannot be investigated by the laws of nature--the only tool box we have--would turn science into a debating society unable to settle anything. We need not be dogmatic. If we observed a swimming pool that froze solid after the last person left, and became usable the instant someone jumped in, we might reasonably call it a "supernatural" event. However, we can't even assume that such an event had a cause (let alone an intelligent, living cause) since that falls back on natural principles that might not apply to a supernatural event. Even if a supernatural event could somehow be certified, it could never be a part of any scientific explanation. It would forever be an isolated, odd-man-out fact sitting in a corner by itself. Any demand that scientific explanation include the supernatural is, therefore, totally wrongheaded.

Navarick's minimalist construct of God is "A force that operates through and independently of natural laws." Natural law is our best verification, within an appropriate range of measurement, as to what nature actually does. It is supported by countless laboratory experiments that are often done with unimaginable accuracy, and many experiments are conducted under extreme conditions. These experiments and measurements are done by highly trained observers who follow each others' work in scientific journals, who are inclined to check the more interesting results by duplicating the experiments. To claim that a force exists that is not bound by natural law is to throw out the best attested facts in the world in favor of rank speculation. If Navarick's unclear statement does not advocate the occasioned suspension of natural law, then he must deprive God of his super-powers. …

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