Essay:Six points from Sarfati

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Jonathan Sarfati, the duckspeaking shill prominent scientist from Creation Ministries International, some years ago condescended, in an article entitled Presuppositions Required For Science, Christian v. Atheist Atrocities, Defending the Faith[1], to share with the rest of us his thoughts on what constitutes the basis of all scientific disciplines. He states that "these propositions are deducible from the axioms of Bible [sic], while atheists must merely accept them as given because they can't deduce them from their axiom `God does not exist.'"[2]

He gets off to a great start by shooting himself in the foot with a Godwin's, reminding us in a nice little blue box with enormous quote-marks on it that "the atrocities of 20th century Nazis and Communists were totally consistent with evolutionary teaching."

Said atrocities are of course no more deducible from the "axiom" of evolution than any principle of science is deducible from the metaphysical premise of atheism. But in Sarfati's book, it is not good for atheists to accept scientific principles as given, because that does not serve his point, while it is perfectly all right for Nazis and Reds to take their genocidal philosophies as given, because that allows him to trot out the Hitwin.

Later in the article, he posits six particular philosophical propositions on which science is supposedly based, deducible from the Bible, not from the metaphysical premise of atheism. I present here a side-by-side commentary on these points.

Point Counterpoint

1. The universe is real (because it was created—Genesis 1), not an illusion as New Agers believe.

What is "real"? How do you define "real"?
—Morpheus, The Matrix

New Age woo-meisters might believe that the universe is an illusion; Christian Scientists certainly believe it. For all young-earth creationists claim that the universe is real, they only partially believe this; they consider the Bible a higher authority than observation.

On the other hand rationalists accept whole-hog that the universe is real, and furthermore that it is more real than anything else conceivable, and from thence springs the rest of their philosophy.

But supposing we go overboard and take the (provably false) assumption that there are "no absolutes," neither is there any particularly meritorious criterion by which to define the term "real," and scientists can adopt the common-sense one, or if they want to be picky, one that philosophers-of-science make for them.

2. The universe is orderly, because God is a God of order not of confusion—1 Corinthians 14:33. But if there is no creator, or if Zeus and his gang were in charge, why should there be any order at all? If some Eastern religions were right that the universe is a great thought, then it could change its mind any moment.

The ancient Greeks certainly did not share Sarfati's characterization of "Zeus and his gang" as not being able to bring order to the universe. In Greek mythology is related the story of the Titanomachy, a conflict that saw the Titans overthrown and the present world order established under the Olympian Twelve. All the planets known at that time were thought to be Zeus and his entourage.

And for a population that could not conclude that the universe was orderly, the ancient Greeks (and the Romans after them) certainly accomplished quite a lot in the science area; accomplishments in astronomy, mathematics, architecture, engineering, etc. that were not equaled until the Renaissance, and only then because these accomplishments had been rediscovered.

As to the question of "why should there be any order at all?", uniformitarian scientists accept this principle to a much greater degree than young-earth creationists, the creationists assuming that the laws of physics, instead of being constant and uniform, swing all over the place in myriad chaotic directions so as to accommodate a literal interpretation of the Bible.

3. Man can and should investigate the world, because God gave us dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:28); creation is not divine.

Sarfati is making a non sequitur here, of course; besides the imperative to investigate the world not following logically from the Bible verse, the entire Bible is rife with imprecations against worldly wisdom, contradicting the imperative.

Also obviously, the conclusion that "creation is not divine" very much follows logically from the proposition that "God does not exist."

4. Man can initiate thoughts and actions; they are not fully determined by deterministic laws of brain chemistry. This is a deduction from the biblical teaching that man has both a material and immaterial aspect (e.g. Genesis 35:18, 1 Kings 17:21–22, Matthew 10:28). This immaterial aspect of man means that he is more than matter, so his thoughts are likewise not bound by the makeup of his brain. But if materialism were true, then "thought" is just an epiphenomenon of the brain, and the results of the laws of chemistry. Thus, given their own presuppositions, materialists have not freely arrived at their conclusion that materialism is true, because their conclusion was predetermined by brain chemistry. But then, why should their brain chemistry be trusted over mine, since both obey the same infallible laws of chemistry? So in reality, if materialists were right, then they can't even help what they believe (including their belief in materialism!). Yet often call themselves "freethinkers," overlooking the glaring irony! Genuine initiation of thought is an insuperable problem for materialism.

The Calvinists, with their doctrines of predestination and unconditional election and their rejection of free will, would very emphatically disagree with Sarfati here. And Sarfati is being deliberately obtuse if he cannot conceive of any sort of deterministic system in which one entity is pre-ordained to come to a correct conclusion and another is pre-ordained to come to an incorrect conclusion; it is done in computer algorithms all the time.

But in any case, Sarfati appears here to have digressed and is just bashing evilutionists, because free will has nothing at all to do with science, and the idea that "people's thoughts are not bound by the makeup of their brains" is not only not a basis for science, but is flat-out contradicted by all post-Dark Ages medicine.

5. Man can think rationally and logically, and that logic itself is objective. This is a deduction from the fact that he was created in God's image (Genesis 1:26–27), and from the fact that Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the logos. This ability to think logically has been impaired but not eliminated by the Fall of man into sinful rebellion against his creator. (The Fall means that sometimes the reasoning is flawed, and sometimes the reasoning is valid but from the wrong premises. So it is folly to elevate man's reasoning above that God has revealed in Scripture. See Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation.) But if evolution were true, then there would be selection only for survival advantage, not rationality.

Or, put another way, the Bible is above questioning and any arguments against the Bible are categorically invalid. Very logical.

But, not only is Sarfati incorrect (the fact that we can think logically follows from most definitions of logic in the context of systems of formal logic), but he is once again digressing into sermon-mode.

6. Results should be reported honestly, because God has forbidden false witness (Exodus 20:16). But if evolution were true, then why not lie?

Sarfati is shattering every irony meter from here to Timbuktu with this one, given that intellectual honesty among young-earth creationists appears more the exception than the rule.

But beside that, the Ninth Commandment does not forbid false witness against the natural world, only one's neighbor. Hence, one could argue with equal or greater validity from the premise of rationalism that reporting observations is better than reporting lies about observations.


  2. This can be answered by pointing out that young-earth creationists take the Bible as given, so young-earth creationism just adds a layer of indirection when it comes to taking things as given. It can also be answered by pointing out that the vast majority of atheists are also strong rationalists, a much stronger philosophical position, whence they derive their atheism.

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