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The Labeling of "Science Deniers"

Current Events

by Miles DeBenedictis

The Labeling of "Science Deniers"

Our culture loves to pigeonhole, label and "straw-man" nearly everything it disagrees with. Which means, if you're a miracle-believing Christian, then in the eyes of a growing demographic, you are branded a "science denier." And in 21st century western culture, because of the high value placed upon "science," that’s among the worst things you could be accused of. But foundational Christian teachings such as the incarnation, death, burial and resurrection of Christ, will earn you the badge faster than just about any transgression.

Acceptance of the Biblical narrative causes many non-theists to view Christians as "irrational." They conclude that the Christian's faith "does not align with clearly established science." The Bible speaks of miraculous events, and miracles are difficult (at best) to support scientifically. Therefore, Christian, you’re a "science denier." For some Christians, the moniker is (strangely) worn as a badge. But for the larger majority, once labeled, many will back quietly away from the conversation. Why engage when you're going to be branded and stigmatized?

Science is the new faith and doctrine of many naturalists. For them, Christians (i.e., "science deniers") probably believe the Earth is flat, and that we didn't go to the Moon too. In fact, if you listen to some skeptics, in their perspective, Christianity is the greatest of all conspiracy theories to be foisted upon us throughout history. But as you probe a bit deeper, one must ask, do not many naturalistic atheists also deny (certain) science? Do not many that hold to strong "left-of-center" political and social views, and often pride themselves as having progressed beyond "belief," do this as well?

Non-theist naturalists deny (certain) science too.

Perhaps deny is too strong a word. "Selective," where science is concerned is probably more appropriate.

Take as a first example a TED talk I watched some time ago called * "The History of the World in 18 Minutes." In the opening minute of the well-produced talk, presenter David Christian (ironic last name) grips the viewer's attention with a video of scrambling an egg. But the mind quickly registers an inconsistency. The egg, which at first appeared to be scrambled was actually reconstituting, from scrambled, to a whole egg. As it does, Christian narrates:

"...We all know in our heart of hearts that this is not the way the universe works. A scrambled egg is mush—tasty mush—but it's mush. An egg is a beautiful, sophisticated thing that can create even more sophisticated things, such as chickens. And we know in our heart of hearts that the universe does not travel from mush to complexity. In fact, this gut instinct is reflected in one of the most fundamental laws of physics, the second law of thermodynamics, or the law of entropy. What that says basically is that the general tendency of the universe is to move from order and structure to lack of order, lack of structure—in fact, to mush. And that's why that video feels a bit strange."

To that point, the theist is tracking perfectly with Christian. But he continues:

"So here's a great puzzle: In a universe ruled by the second law of thermodynamics, how is it possible to generate the sort of complexity I've described, the sort of complexity represented by you and me and the convention center? Well, the answer seems to be, the universe can create complexity, but with great difficulty."

Entropy. It's "one of the most fundamental laws of physics." Miracle. "A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws." David Christian's presentation doesn't jive with one of the most fundamental laws of physics. It doesn't align with "science." It sounds a lot like a miracle. But that doesn't change his naturalistic conviction. Is he a science denier?

A second example. The science is becoming clearer every day. Life begins at conception. Call it a fetus all you want. It is not—as was wrongly assumed 50 years ago—just a “clump of tissue.” As ultrasound technology has refined, and the ability to study in utero child development has advanced, it has become increasingly difficult to conclude that a fetus is not a human life.

To this reality, many non-theist naturalists have chosen to call the fetus a "potential human being." But they refuse to ascribe "personhood" to the unborn child. Some sociologists even argue for extending non-personhood beyond birth! Apparently, it's legitimate to deny clear medical and biological science when it fits with a social position. This seems like scientific malpractice for the sake of strongly held personal or political convictions. Or perhaps social science is higher on the hierarchy of value than biological or medical science? It appears that grant dollars and media space think so.

Consider a third example. Gender studies departments, in the humanities sector (again, within the social sciences) of the modern western "church"—the university—have promulgated theories that are in outright, and even hostile opposition, to extensively researched and peer-reviewed biological science regarding sex. What becomes very clear when you begin reading the publications from these institutions is that they love to attach the word "science," or better yet "established science" to anything that has received grant dollars and has been researched according to a scientific method. Then, if anyone speaks up with counterfactuals, even scientifically researched ones, they are lambasted and labeled "junk science."

For most people, ideology and political persuasion trumps science.

Let’s be very clear, politics is the new religion of the West. In the United States there are two state denominations (i.e.parties), and within those denominations, many factions and networks. And although a large segment of theistically minded individuals (who often lean right politically) are accused of science denial as a result of their beliefs, those that adhere to the religion of Leftism, fight ardently for worldview positions that, also, do not align with many of the sciences. They too do so because of ideology. Generally, this ideology has been birthed and has grown through the evangelical and discipleship efforts of higher education. Especially the humanities. So why the pejorative labeling?

Agreeing to disagree, agreeably.

I suggest that neither the theistically minded Christian or the atheistically minded naturalist are necessarily science deniers. Science isn't a worldview to deny. It's a methodology of hypothesis, observation and experimentation, to discover the legitimacy of our worldview. But such scientific endeavor is always biased by preliminary assumptions. In other words, you can use "science" to "prove" a lot of different things. Just like wrongly interpreted, or out-of-context Biblical study can be used to approve all kinds of abhorrent positions.

To my leftist and non-believing friends—and I do have them—let's dispense with the nonsensical ad-hominem attacks, labeling people "science deniers." As if that somehow ends the debate. Let's agree that in the hierarchy of values you (and we) have elevated, or the convictions (be they religious, ideological or political) we maintain, that they are more ideological and religious than scientific. Which means that we need to return to a rigorous debate of ideas, evidenced by logic and science-based rationale. Let's acknowledge that conversations that descend toward character assault and bluster rarely produce anything worthwhile and are typically employed when one has no further winning argument.

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