Accommodationist believer: Doing science is a Christian endeavor (?)

By now we should be able to rebut all of the aruments of this short video sent to me by reader David. It features Andy Bannister,who describes himself like this:

Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, speaking and teaching regularly throughout the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA, and the wider world. From universities to churches, business forums to TV and radio, I regularly address audiences of both Christians and those of all faiths and none on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society.

And YouTube describes the video like this:

Dr. Andy Bannister, Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity explores the question of whether or not science and Christianity are opposed to each other. For more “Short Answers” videos, visit http://www.solas-cpc.org/shortanswers/ or subscribe to our channel.

It’s accommodationist, of course—how could it be otherwise given that Bannister has already drunk the Kool-Aid. He argues these points to show why science is a thoroughly Christian endeavor, even in these days of atheistic scientists.

  •  Christianity is a “firm foundation from which you can do science”, because the founding fathers of science, who “first got the scientific method going” were all Christians. I don’t think so: what about the Arabs and the ancient Greeks? Now, it’s true that the modern protocols of science developed in the largely Christian West, but that’s because everyone was pretty much a Christian. That doesn’t say that science is founded on Christianity—any more than saying that printing is a Christian endeavor because the printing press arose in the Christian West.
  • Christianity explains “the stability of the universe” far better than does the “randomness of atheism.” But since when was “randomness” atheistic? If Bannister means, “How do we explain the laws of physics undergirding the Universe?”, well, then he has to explain the origin of God Him/Her/Xir/Itself, and give evidence for such a God.  His arguments don’t even make sense without evidence of such a God, and besides, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know” as an answer to why physical laws are what they are, any more than saying “I don’t know” if asked if God created those laws. And then there’s the multiverse explanation. ..
  • Christianity is the only viable answer to the question, “Why should we do science in the first place?”  Atheists can say only, “because it works”, or “because it’s interesting.”  But these arguments, say Bannister, come from the Christian notion that finding truth is good in its own right. That is of course bogus: we seek truth because it produces answers that not only satisfy us, but because only truth will tell us how to effect scientific and technological improvements. We never understood how to cure black plague so long as we thought it was an expression of God’s displeasure. Saying “we seek the truth because that is what works” is a purely secular argument, and a perfectly sound one. Since, argues Bannister, God is truth, seeking truth becomes the same thing as seeking God.  My answer to this is, “show me your God, and then we’ll talk.” Besides, what is the motivation of the many, many atheist scientists who still continue to seek the truth? Are they merely acting out the vestigial Christianity that’s really motivating them?
  • “Science sits on the foundation that telling the truth about your results is a good thing.” Bannister says that this is a moral claim that science cannot prove, while of course Christianity can invoke the Ten Commandments. This too is a crock. It’s wrong to lie about your results because lying screws up the system and makes it hard on everybody, as well as impossible to effect progress. In other words, we have a practical rather than a moral justification—one that can be buttressed by outcomes

Whenever I see someone like this argue that God explains everything better than no God, I immediately want to ask the person what the evidence is for their God, and why the Christian God is the right god rather than, say Brahma or Allah. All they can do at this point is babble, referring to ancient texts that they claim are better than other ancient texts. Or they rely on revelation, which is contradictory among people and has no objective verification.  Bannister’s claims won’t convince anyone who isn’t already a believer; his video is a model of confirmation bias.

David added this comment, “Sadly this video featured in the ‘Recommended: Science’ category via YouTube (the rest of the channel looks like standard apologetics – naturally, comments are disabled on the channel.”

18 Comments

  1. Randy schenck
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Such a jerk. All I can think to say is just drink the cool aid and shut up. If he talked any faster, no one would have to listen.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I add undergirding to delve on my list of words that sound too silly to be serious.

    About truth : I’d remark that we live, thanks to Reverend Bayes, in the era of likelihood – what is most likely, vs. what is true? Unfortunately substituting “most likely” for “true” opens up some problems.

  3. Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    The first scientists believed in all sorts of silly things and knew nothing of much that is common knowledge today. They figured out some of it and adjusted their thoughts accordingly. Modern scientists have benefited from that long history of building upon prior discoveries, and have thereby managed to figure out that the Earth is not the center of the universe; that heat is not conducted by phlogiston; and that none of the gods their ancestors believed in were any more real than the enemy gods their ancestors didn’t believe in.

    Christians, in stark contrast, have failed to revise their priors in light of new discovery. That’s as anti-scientific as it gets.

    And as for such idiocy as suggesting that you need Jesus to know that telling the truth is a good thing? Just look at how short the careers are of scientists who falsify their results. Others find out, either by direct challenge or simply granting the benefit of the doubt and having it blow up in their faces. Hey-presto, lie uncovered and nobody wastes any more time with the asshole who proved untrustworthy.

    We’ve performed that experiment — trust without verification. It failed. Repeatedly. Miserably. New attempts at repetition fail just as badly. But he wants us to trust him that trust itself is deserving of trust?

    All his apologetics boil down to personal incredulity that interesting stuff can happen without conscious oversight. So why doesn’t he worship the near-omnipresent sprite who so carefully and neatly arranges the gumballs in literally every gumball machine anywhere?

    …and then he offers up that incomprehensibly confused chaos of constant contradiction that is Christianity as the alternative, and wonders why nobody who hasn’t already drunk the magic Jesus wine takes him seriously….

    Cheers,

    b&

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:43 am | Permalink

      Errm, I’m not aware that the heat-conducting properties of phlogiston were ever defined (though I could have missed that bit). It was primarily the element that was given off by burning substances (actually, in many ways similar to carbon dioxide).

      In fact it explained a lot of phenomena and it was only by very careful measurement that it was disproved.

      Sorry for the nitpick.

      cr

      • Posted February 27, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Ben Goren and (I think) infiniteimprobabilit are confusing caloric (the supposed heat stuff) and phlogiston, which is what supposedly reacted with calxes or “earths” to form metals. (Yes, that’s where the negative weight/mass comes in.)

        Lavoisier was one of ones who really pushed for the use of the balance, etc. which made p. hard to understand. Additionally, he found something not mysterious to understand as a “replacement” – oxygen. (Which is named based on a misapprehension; and so it goes.)

  4. Ken Phelps
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    So, gatling guns, napalm, and H-bombs – all solidly founded in Christianity!

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m beginning to get the sense that accommodationism comes in many flavors and varieties like ice cream ranges from Haagen-Dazs to Dairy Queen.

    Since the first accommodationist I was ever exposed to was the fairly thoughtful Alfred North Whitehead (I read his “Science and the Modern World” when I was quite young), I have long been inclined to regard it as a reasonably respectable position (provided the religion in question is not heavy on creed, dogma, and easily falsifiable historical claims).

    This video is plainly off-base, and on two obvious grounds!!

    1) Much progress in scientific method was done in ancient pre-Christian Greece. Theophrastus but biology on a systematic footing. Archimedes founded hydrostatics, etc. (And I believe eye-glass lenses were developed by Arabs.)

    2) All three of the Christians credited with establishing the modern scientific method (Newton, Francis Bacon, and John Locke) are non-Trinitarian (small ‘u’ Unitarian) Christians who rejected most of classical Christian theology.

    And as JAC so rightly says, “why [is] the Christian God is the right god rather than, say Brahma or Allah” (other than for the historical reasons of modern science developing largely in the Christian West).

  6. Marilee Lovit
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Ridiculous.

  7. Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    This is off-topic, but I couldn’t help stumbling over the expression “drunk the Kool-Aid,” a reference to the “Jonestown Massacre,” which occurred 40 years ago this year in a remote jungle settlement in Guyana. I wrote a screenplay about Jonestown and in the process learned much that I hadn’t known. Hence, some fact-checking is in order.

    First, the drink wasn’t Kool-Aid, it was Flavor Aid laced with cyanide. The error stems from the fact that in an early inquest coroners referred to the drink as “Cool Aid” [sic]. Second, many of the group—notably elders, children, and babies, who were the first to die—didn’t drink the poison at all but had it squirted into their mouths. Among the rest of the group, who were predominantly African Americans, many if not most were under the impression that this was just another training drill known as a “White Night,” in which Jim Jones had his followers practice committing suicide. Given all this, the actual event itself was hardly a mass suicide but a mass murder of horrific proportions.

    Knowing all this, I cringe a bit whenever I come across the phrase “drank the Kool-Aid” used cavalierly. I would suggest that we avoid using it out of respect for the 918 people of all ages who died in Jonestown, victims of one man’s megalomania.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      I had made a hard-wired association of the phrase with Ken Kesey and his Band of Merry Pranksters – On The Bus – just going from memory here…

  8. Bruce Gorton
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I always find it vaguely racist whenever that defense gets employed. It is as if they do not recognize the contributions to science – at all stages – by people who were not in fact white Christians.

  9. Sastra
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I think the apologist has to decide between Christianity as the better explanation and Christianity as the better motivation. If you think about it, they tend to cancel each other out.

    If Christianity explains why science works better than atheism, then there’s not really much to stand on when arguing that belief matters when actually doing science. If Christians are more motivated to do good science than atheists, then whether the religion is true or not isn’t particularly relevant.

  10. ploubere
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    One can make a stronger case based on evidence that christian churches have opposed and impeded science instead of helping it progress.

    Re printing, the first moveable type printing method was developed in China in the 9th century. Paper was invented there even earlier, in the 1st century. So definitely not christian.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I agree with ploubere that the printing press first arose in China, not the Christian West, assuming that my memory is still intact.

  11. Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    As far as I can remember, the printing press first arose in China, not the Christian West.

  12. Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Grossly misleading to the point of tempting or courting some irascible responses aside, has Andy even been properly trained in science and logic?

  13. Hrafn
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Bob Seidensticker has been covering Andy Bannister’s ludicrous Christian counter-arguments in ‘The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: The Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments’ over at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/

  14. Posted February 27, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Heretics almost to a man, as I’ve said before. When will this bad history die?

    (Presumably after they realize that Hitler was a theist.)


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