Posts Tagged ‘Neil DeGrasse Tyson’

Why I Don’t Use Wikipedia For Debate

November 5, 2014

Is there a better source that you can go to? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’d like to clarify that this is for the purpose of debate. As a gamer, I have no problem going to something like the Final Fantasy Wiki for information on something in Final Fantasy and I don’t mind pop culture wikis as well. These are areas that are controlled by a fan base where much of the information is agreed upon. What I do object to is in regular debate on controversial issues, people using Wikipedia as a source.

I do not doubt that Wikipedia was founded with a good goal in mind. Surely if we can get the people to come together and share their knowledge and correct one another, then we can get a good and reliable source. The problem is the same as happens when you often have a Bible study. You do not often get common knowledge with some as much as you get common ignorance. When people come together with misconceptions, all that is required is the mass speak very loudly and the minority who actually knows what they’re talking about be shut down by gatekeepers.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia has this problem. When you read something on Wiki, you have no idea who really wrote it. It could be by someone who is a Ph.D. in a relevant field. That’s always a possibility. It could instead be a fifteen year-old kid who is just sharing what he learned in his high school classroom that day.

Most likely, it will be the latter. People who are Ph.D.’s and work hard to get where they are don’t generally just freely give out their information. They might be glad to give a talk somewhere, which happens, and they could have a blog, but for their best information, you have to go and buy the books that they write. That’s how it should be.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia can be badly misused because the gatekeepers are quite likely not really knowledgeable in each subject they watch over. How do they know how to separate the wheat from the chaff? Also, as it stands, Wikipedia can be easily fooled and the misinformation can sometimes be hilarious. (For some hilarious reading on bad writing on Wikipedia, I recommend the Ebooks “Citation Needed.” They can be a bit crude at times, but there is much in there that will literally have you laughing out loud, and I do mean literally in this case.)

One example of Wikipedia being misused was the Shane Fitzgerald case. Fitzgerald was a student at Dublin University and was doing a test. He wanted to see how well the media would do its research in out globalized age. His poetic but entirely fake quote did make several newspapers because, hey, it was on Wikipedia.

More recently is the case of Neil Degrasse Tyson. Many quotes Tyson had given had been fabricated or ripped out of their context. The gatekeepers of Wikipedia worked to stop this from being mentioned on his Wikipedia page. This should be enough to cause anyone to be concerned, and there’s no picking on Tyson because he’s a non-Christian. It’s because fabrication like this is wrong whoever does it. We should condemn a Christian doing it just as much.

Now someone might say “But Wikipedia can have good references.” Okay. If you want to give me information in a debate, then point me to those references, unless of course you haven’t read them. The problem with the internet is anyone can look like an expert when you just do a cut and paste job from a blog or a web site such as Wikipedia. (And yes, I have seen this happen online repeatedly and I always make it a point to call out someone when they do a cut and paste job without proper citation because hey, sometimes there is a citation needed.)

Until then, if you debate me, do not bother citing Wikipedia. I have a firm rule. If it is a debate on these matters, I will not even bother reading Wiki. I will not click the link. Give me a real source because if your claim is true and it is being said by scholars in the field, then you can find a real source.

That could require work. I realize that. If you’re not willing to work in the debate, then don’t show up. That applies to Christians and non-Christians both.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Why Neil DeGrasse Tyson Should Stick To Science

June 9, 2014

Is science unique for the reason Tyson thinks it is? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

How many of you have seen this meme in some form around the internet?

goodthingscience

The sad reality is that this gets shared in several places since some atheists seem to actually think this is an argument in some way. In fact, the reason Tyson himself said the quote is because he believes it is a powerful statement about a unique aspect of science. Of course, this is why he has been called a Philistine.

The reality is that about 10 seconds worth of thought on this quote would be enough to show that it is a terrible argument, but since there’s a meme of it it sadly seems to have some rhetorical power. How is it nonsense? Simple. Substitute anything in for science and see how it works.

“The good thing about astrology is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”

“The good thing about the Book of Mormon is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”

“The good thing about the moral acceptance of genocide is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”

Tyson’s claim should not be read as a claim about science per se, but rather a claim about the nature of truth. If anything is true, and that includes science, it is true whether or not anyone believes in it. If it’s true that Julius Caesar sneezed after he had lunch on his 21st birthday, it’s true whether you believe in it or not.

“Well we can’t prove that that’s true.”

Doesn’t matter. If it’s true, it’s true whether you believe in it or not.

“Well we have no evidence.”

Doesn’t matter. If it’s true, it’s true whether you believe in it or not.

Now Tyson could say that science can be done repeatedly in experiments so we can test a truth claim. Indeed it can and this is something that is unique, but it still doesn’t lend support to his earlier claim. This is just one way that distinguishes science but it doesn’t distinguish the nature of the claims themselves. All claims about reality that are true are true whether they’re believed in or not.

The real problem is a sort of scientism here that science is the highest way of knowing truth and sometimes the only way of knowing truth. Both of these should be rejected by everyone. Now if materialism was true and everything that was in the universe was matter, then you could perhaps have a start of a case, but that is not known through science. That is known by doing philosophy instead.

When it comes to understanding the way nature behaves in the material world, then science is without a doubt the best tool that we have. If you want to know what makes water what it is or how an internal combustion engine works or what the nature of planets in other galaxies are, then science is the way to go!

In fact, if anything can be demonstrated scientifically, the Christian should have no fear of it. After all, all truth is God’s truth and if Jesus rose from the dead, not a single fact established by science can ever overturn that. In fact, this is why I recommend that when you argue against a scientific position, don’t bring Scripture into it. That makes it the Bible vs. Science and guess which way your atheist opponent is going to go.

Honestly, if you’re not well-read in science, I wouldn’t even argue science at all. If you are, then if a claim about science is false, then that is simply bad science being done. How do you overturn that? You do good science instead!

Suppose you don’t believe macroevolution is true. Okay. That’s fine. If that’s what you think then you don’t need to go to Genesis which your opponent does not accept. It means as much to him as it does when a Muslim quotes you the Koran.

Instead, if macroevolution is false, then those who believe in it are somehow doing bad science. How will you demonstrate this? You’ll do what you think is good science. Now whether macroevolution is bad science or not is not my call to make, but if it is, it will only be overturned by good science. If it is not, then it will not be overturned.

While we should be thankful and celebrate people getting a more scientific education, let’s be wary of philosophy going around masquerading as science and not just philosophy, but bad philosophy (Which needs to be overturned by good philosophy). Tyson certainly has authority in his field of science, but when talking about the nature of truth, he is outside of his field and should not be taken as an authority.

In Christ,
Nick Peters