Re: Eliezer on Science versus Religion

From: Steve Nichols (
Date: Tue Mar 06 2001 - 12:19:20 MST

Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2001 17:25:54 +1100
From: Damien Broderick <>
Subject: Re: Eliezer on Science versus Religion

At 02:54 AM 5/03/01 -0500, Eliezer wrote:

>> There might be
>> certain kinds of truths, even the most important, which are inaccessible
>> scientific approaches, let alone to falsification tests.

>If so, then they are inaccessible to the people making the claim "There
>are untestable truths". As someone pointed out, none of the Books show
>prophets talking about untestability. Elijah confronting the priests of
>Baal would have understood perfectly the put-up-or-shut-up attitude of
>modern-day science.

>Oh. So you *were* making the equation TRUTH = PUBLICLY ADJUDICABLE AND
>FALSIFIABLE CLAIM. That's such a non-starter (or so it seems to many) that
>I'm a bit taken aback.

>JFK was shot and died, beyond question (unless we call up some absurd
>conspiracy theory). Some account of how his death occurred is therefore
>true, even if it hasn't yet been uttered. There is a truth of the matter,
>known to those who were involved; there would be even if *nobody* knew
>(perhaps a gun went off by accident in an empty room and the bullet
>ricocheted, or he was killed by several micrometeorite fragments). In the
absence of testimony from the killer or killers, or a working time machine,
>there is no way to adjudicate the contesting accounts with finality. Can
>science tell us who killed JFK? Is it competent to tell us if Moses or
>Jesus even lived? No. Can religious prophetic revelation? Hell no (but
>that's beside the point just now). Is there a matter of truth involved in
>such cases? Well, one would *suppose* so...

>Damien Broderick

I think the distinction here should involve *probability* .. since
as Damien points out, not all 'truths' are publicly demonstrable.
What we do NOT want to allow is for highly unlikely religious
claims for "truth" to be accepted just because of this point that
no-one, including scientists, can tell what happened for certain.

But if there is a perfectly good natural theory, I argue this should
take precedence over any competing supernaturalist theories, since
the 'laws of nature/ physics' need not be overturned in order to explain
one or two explanatory gaps if there is an explanation that concurs with
observations from nature.

We have to go with the most likely/ probable theory in the absence of
an absolutely clinching piece of evidence ... and in no cases I am aware
of is a religious account the most probably true theory.

Correct me if wrong ...... maybe someone can summon Jesus to
visible appearance ... or persuade Mohammed to float back down
from the clouds to proof the 'truth' of religious after-life claims &c.

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