Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

 Reply by D. F. Siemens

From: JASA 20 (June 1968): 60

In Parelius' attempted refutation (here and June, 1967) of my article and letter (Sept., 1966, and Dec., 1967), there are evidences that he has failed to follow the arguments. For example, he says that uncritical acceptance of errors is basic to the unscientific outlook of Arabs, Greeks and Chinese. But, as should be obvious, critical thought involves the application of reason to matters which are believed to be rationally comprehensible. The man who is persuaded that a matter cannot be rationally comprehended does not attempt to think critically about it: no man attempts what he is persuaded is impossible, whether his belief is well-founded or not. On the other hand, the uncritical acceptance of faulty explanations (I take "incorrect answers" to mean this) is often compatible with scientific advances, as may be noted in both Ptolemy's and Copernicus' systems, with their insistence on circular motion, deferrents and epicycles, or in the more recent use of "electric fluid", "ether", "atomic orbits", "animal magnetism", etc.

I do not doubt that Parelius finds my comments on the rationality of the universe confusing, for he has managed to collapse at least two senses of "rational" into one hodgepodge in both of his letters-even after I had remarked on the distinction, using terminology usual in philosophical discussions. To be sure, the dictionary recognizes the sense of "rational" he appeals to-and the meaning he confusedly introduces, and a goodly number of additional meanings. All of these meanings are acceptable, used one at a time, although philosophical analysis may involve further distinctions. Otherwise one falls into the fallacy of ambiguity or equivocation, which is generally recognized as a gross error.

Parelius further writes, "although most Christian apology deals with the problem of pain, I have not read any that clearly refutes what Clemens wrote." I add a precisely parallel argument: although all geography deals with the approximate sphericity of the earth, I have not read any statement from any geographer that clearly refutes all the points raised by a statement from the Flat Earth Society that I ran across last year, Lest this seem too flippant a dismissal of a point seriously intended, it is relevant to ask why I have found no geographer who attempts a point-by-point refutation, just as it is relevant to ask why Parelius has found no apologist who refutes Clemens. Not to be neglected in answering such questions are breadth of reading, the state of the science, the reader's ability to follow an argument, his insight into the scope of its application, to note just a few matters.

Parelius attempts to make many other points in his lengthy letter. They might have been considered one after another. But after pointing out an instance of inadequate analysis, a case of ambiguity and a use of the notorious argumentum ad ignorantiam, need more be said?

David F. Siemens, Jr.
Instructor in Philosophy
Los Angeles Pierce College
Woodland Hills, California 91364