Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
Dumb Smart Folks
Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute and the team leader on the Human Genome Project is a smart guy, obviously. And yet he still falls prey to the Argument From Personal Incredulity, sometimes stated as "I don't know how it happened, so it must have been God".
[link] "When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it," he said. "But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.
"When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can't survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can't help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God's mind."
This provides to me an underline in what I have come to accept as part of the human condition; that is to say the human tendency to become overwhelmed by something - information, data, whatever - and have your brain retreat into an unreal fantasyland, almost like a defense mechanism. It puts me in mind of a bunny rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, stuck, quivering, won't go forward, won't go back. At that point a human being uses it's wonderful brain to rationalize themselves into a position that they can accept without going insane.
In Collins' case he seems to have latched onto "theistic evolution" as his escape hatch.
More below the fold...
The fact is that the "3.1 billion letter instruction book" that Collins was so awed by (and is indeed awe-inspiring), is better explained by evolution using naturalistic means than it ever will be by invoking an unnecessary "creator god" entity and tacking it onto the end of the explanation. Like that somehow explains anything. It doesn't. All it does is add another inscrutable layer to an already complex explanation. It could be used as a textbook example of why Ockham's Razor is so necessary to the scientific method.
Collins believes that science cannot be used to refute the existence of God because it is confined to the "natural" world. In this light he believes miracles are a real possibility. "If one is willing to accept the existence of God or some supernatural force outside nature then it is not a logical problem to admit that, occasionally, a supernatural force might stage an invasion," he says.
Smart people can be so dumb sometimes. If one is willing to posit any "supernatural" fairy princess or avenging god-thing, beyond our mortal ken, unbound by the laws of nature, why, then this opens the floodgates wide and allows you to rationalize any weirdo, "miraculous" crapola. Why stop at "miracles"? What stops you from believing in leprechauns, invisible monsters under your bed, or the little angels and devils that live on your shoulders and whisper morality instructions into your ears?
How the fuck are you supposed to continue being a scientist if you believe that the physical properties of our universe can be circumvented at the whim of a magical magic man in the sky at any point?
Thanks for the genome thing Francis. We do appreciate that part. Keep your woo-woo fantasyland crackpot ideas about magical miracles to yourself in the future, though. It cheapens the whole project.