Kerry Shirts recently started a thread on MD&D arguing that Mormonism and science are not "completely" compatible (http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/58445-is-mormonism-and-science-compatible-attn-bcspace/
I've often found that nothing makes apologists howl more than claiming that Mormonism is somehow incompatible with science (or, more broadly speaking, "reason"). It is understandable in a way since no one likes to be called an idiot (and that is certainly what militant atheists like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al. do when speaking of believers). Kerry's thread follows a very familiar pattern:
First, intellectuals (for lack of a better word) argue for the superiority of the scientific method over faith. Here is Kerry's admittedly rough crack at it:
Kerry Shirts wrote:
Science is a method, not a person in the sky. Evolution and science is NOT about religion, it is about the changes of lifeforms through eons of time. Science won't discover god, because it has no need of that hypothesis. It isn't even looking. It is about understanding our material world, not some fairytale made up thing floating around in the sky somewhere. Science is grounded in observable reality, not tissues of non-evidential faith
The typical apologist's response is to invoke arguments from the philosophy of science to discredit empiricism generally, and Thomas Kuhn is consistently their all-time favorite source. Here is part of Kevin Christensen's response to Kerry (in which he included several citations to Kuhn):
Kevin Christense wrote:
For the record, science has absolutely caved in time and time again to the knowledge and findings of science. Just as religion has caved in time and time again to the findings of religion. The issue is always whether one's paradigm is based a on definition that includes self correction as a matter of course, rather than a paradigm for which any revisions, any repentence in thinking brings grounds for an epistomelogical and ontological crisis.
This is, as many of you know, just the Mormon variation of a very old debate regarding epistemology (specifically, confirmation bias and other dangers of empiricism). For Mormons, it essentially boils down to whether or not we should accept the methodology described in Alma 32 and Moroni 10 as a valid way to gain knowledge of truth. Apologists often argue that the scientific method also involves faith (meaning a hope for things that are not seen). In this view, scientists have a hypothesis (something unseen), that they test with experiments. Obviously, they want to prove their hypothesis, so the scientist's bias is to look for confirming evidence while downplaying any contrary evidence. Apologists usually point to this and argue that this is not really all that different from the mustard seed method set out in Alma 32. Given that, apologists argue that all scientific challenges to Mormonism (or believers in general) can be easily met by challenging the underlying assumptions of the scientist's theory. They also like to invoke Kuhn's famous "paradigm shift" argument to point out how many times science has supposedly "got it wrong." Many of the apologists on the thread make the argument more eloquently, but just for fun and familiarity I'll post Droopy's version of it here:
Unfortunately, this is what can happen when science is wrenched and torn out of its proper sphere and deployed as a religion in its own right. Kerry is using the term KNOW, over and over again, in areas where the terms "believe," "theory," "hypothesis," and "evidence" would be much more appropriate. Kerry is grossly exaggerating what science is capable of doing, as well as what it has done - the many times its been dead wrong and had to be corrected, even against relentless hostility from academic and professional peers.
The apologist's basic underlying assumption is that all scientific paradigm shifts will eventually lead to real truth, and that when we are perfected in the afterlife we will be able to understand this truth, but in the meantime we are far too imperfect (i.e., stupid) to do so. In their minds, the key for this life is to stay humble and keep your mind flexible enough to deal with new scientific discoveries so that they don't cause a faith crisis. An easy example of this "flexibility" for Mormon apologists is the limited geography theory of the Book of Mormon.
So now that I've laid out the typical apologetical argument, I'll call it for what it is: classic obfuscation (i.e, BS). It's far too easy for apologists to simply point out that scientists have confirmation bias issues because it is true, but what this argument ignores is that confirmation bias is bad because it makes people lazy. We do need to challenge key underlying biases, dogmas and assumptions, but apologists are usually not willing to do so. Apologists, for example, are fine with discarding the traditional hemispheric model of Book of Mormon geography for the limited geography hypothesis, but they are not willing to discard the notion that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God even though he clearly believed in the hemispheric model. Why will they never challenge that notion? Because they "know" Joseph Smith is a prophet because God told them so via the Holy Ghost, and that evidence is not subject to any scientific challenge. Again, it is far too easy (and lazy) to say that certain "fundamental" truths are simply off the table and not subject to challenge. It's BS because they are subject to challenge by evidence. I don't accept anyone claiming messages from God anymore (whether they be Pres. Monson or Tobin) because there are simply far too many people claiming the exact same thing.
I'm not a "greedy reductionist." Any one familiar with the history of science can see that it is not perfect by any means (just read up on the life of Albert Einstein to start). However, simply pointing out these problems to justify one's own set of unfalsifiable beliefs is not OK. Science has its issues, but I definitely prefer its epistemological problems over the problems of "Moroni 10" epistemology. Kerry definitely shows tendencies towards reductionism in his posts, but I thought his response to Droopy was pretty much spot on:
Kerry Shirts wrote:
The irony of you using science (your computer) to say science has not done as much as I have noted is indeed fascinating to me. Pray tell, do you drive a car too? Telephone, ipad or ipod? fax? In an office building? Watch television? Get information on the internet which the entire rest of the world does, and which science is literally getting rid of dictators which religion has failed to do? Wherein have I over exaggerated science accomplishments? The only reason we have an inkling of what the universe is really like is not because we read the Book of Abraham cosmology which bros Peterson, Hamblin, and Gee have shown was the ancient and incorrect geocentric view, (gee, why doesn't God ever just tell the facts correctly to man?) but because we use spectral lines in science, hence learning their chemical compositions on their surfaces, the space telescope, giving us a much clearer picture about reality than any vision ever recorded in antiquity or since. The mathematics to learn of the beginning, unfolding, and potential future of the universe, etc. The only reasons we know much about anything these days is not due to prayer, but to science. Not due to religion which keeps rehashing the ancient stuff that is so out of date none of us subscribe to the morality of those people, but to science which has opened up the entire world (literally) to knowledge. Pray tell what accomplishments have religion accomplished besides the wars, bloodshed, genocides and infantcides, and flying of airplanes into buildings recently? The comparison of accomplishment is so lopsided as to be astonishing. The only thing more astonishing is the people who obviously cannot see it for bias and fear of offending someone somewhere. I am simply giving credit where credit is obviously due.