There was once a Youtuber who used to make outlandish videos promoting creationism and the idea that evolution was false. His name was VenomFangx. He eventually got banned from Youtube for filing phony DMCA’s and in turn, his delightful arguments were lost. But he is back and is making videos about God and philosophy and I, in turn, shall attempt to refute his claims. So without further ado here is the first part in my new series entitled:
So in a video entitled “The Limitations of Science and ‘Scientism’” he made an argument that through scientific study you can only tell so much about a painting. You can tell the type of paint, the brush, the number of strokes ect. But you cannot tell who the author was, you cannot tell the purpose and you cannot tell whether the representation is accurate. So to begin we deconstruct his first claim.
You cannot tell the author of a painting by looking at it. VenomFangx (Shawn which is how I shall now refer to him) said that if his DNA were not on the painting nor was his signature we would be unable to tell that he painted it. Well, we could examine the style in which it was painted and conclude it could have been Shawn if we had known him or we could examine the paints that were used and look at other paintings that we know Shawn has made and compare them. And simply by looking at it we can, at the very least, conclude a human made it and is, as will be brought up later, the closest description of God you can get is the he is a God. So his first point is somewhat true. If we only have that painting and no prior knowledge of Shawn or the style in which he paints then we cannot tell it is him but we CAN tell that a human made the painting seeing as if we can examine the fineness of the brush strokes we can establish that a thumb was needed and we are the only animal with thumbs that are used to control things. But I digress; with just the painting the closest description we can get of the author is that he is human, much like God.
The author’s intent or purpose cannot be known using the scientific method. Shawn proceeded to tell us his purpose in painting the picture and then concluded that we could never have known that. Well if we examine the painting scientifically and study the use of color and shading we can get I pretty accurate feel as to the emotions that are being displayed. It’s true we cannot know the exact details that were running through Shawn’s mind when he was painting the picture but we CAN get a pretty good feel for the mood. Take the pictures from Picasso’s “blue period”. Just by looking at those it’s easy to tell depression was setting in. You can tell that by the most basic of scientific inquiry:
1: What do I see?
2: What does it remind me of?
And secondly even if we go with his assumption that the intent can never be known it can only be perceived unless told to us specifically. What is perceived is entirely subjective. Intent as is perceived varies from person to person. I may say Shawn had X in mind whilst Aldon says he had Y. Regardless of what Shawn wanted us to see the mind will see what ever it wants and thus what is perceived as intent is subjective and science cannot deal with it considering that science deals with the objective. The facts. So again Shawn is partly right, science cannot know what was running through his mind while he was painting it but we CAN determine the mood it was set in and what it appears to display.
Science cannot tell whether or not it is an accurate representation of the object it is displaying simply by looking at the painting. Shawn claimed that by just looking at his painting we cannot tell whether the flower in it is actually what a flower looks like. This is true. We cannot tell whether that is actually what a flower looks like assuming we wipe our minds clean of all other memories. If we start with a completely clean mind with no memories of the outside world and we just look at the painting it is true that we cannot tell whether or not the flower is accurate but we can also not tell that it’s a painting or that it was even painted for that matter but seeing as that never happens in the real world, you never have people who have no prior knowledge of what a flower is judging the representation of a piece of art that entails a flower, it really holds no water AND considering this argument is not brought up again there is no point. It is a place holder. But regardless I will respond to it some more. Representations are subjective as well. There is never one exact representation of a flower. There is never one right way and thus science cannot deal with it seeing as it is subjective. If there were one right way, one way a flower must look, then science could test the representation but since there is not Shawn is retreading things that people already know; science doesn’t deal with the subjective.
So now we come to the fun stuff. God. If you don’t want to read arguments about God I suggest you leave now considering the rest of this post will consist of those.
So Shawn makes the claim that science cannot pursue God’s purpose in designing the universe because, as he thinks he’s proven, science cannot deal with finding purpose. Well before we can ever attempt to find purpose in anything it must first be shown to have in fact been made. Before we can look for the purpose in the universe and in life we must prove it was in fact made by a God or Gods which IS treading in the realm of science. If a God or Gods made the universe than that is objective, it is not up for interpretation (the manner in which they made it is but the fact that they made it none the less, isn’t. Of course I am making a huge assumption that it was made by a God or Gods for arguments sake) and therefore, as I hope we have established, science can deal with it. But considering there is no evidence suggesting that the universe was created by an intelligent being then the argument as to its purpose must be disregarded. (There will be those who say “the physical constants were fine tuned for life and thus we can see God made the universe”. In a previous post I dispelled that notion and I shall not retread it here so if you want to read it, click this pretty link.)
But for arguments sake we will assume a God or Gods did in fact create the universe and their purpose can be known. Again we can never know what was running through their mind unless it was told to us (the bible is usually cited here but until it can be shown to be the actual word of God and not just a bunch of circular logic we shall give it no water). But by studying the vast cosmos we can learn about the mood the creator must have been in, for example if we look at the starving kids in Africa we could say “He was in a pretty shitty mood” or if we look at the Eagle Nebula we could say “God is a being of infinite beauty” but again we also border on the subjective. What we see as beauty and purpose is up to interpretation and that is why it is usually LEFT OUT of scientific discussions. It’s not left out because we cannot study it but it is left out because the majority of the time it is subjective and will only lead to pointless arguments.
So let’s do a recap:
- His first point is partly correct. If we only have one painting to study we cannot tell who the author is unless clues are left but we can conclude a human painted it so if we apply the same scrutiny to the universe and assume it was created by an intelligence we cannot narrow down which God made it, just that a God did. **
- His second point is again, only partly correct. We cannot know what was running through the authors mind but we can determine the mood s/he was in. As with God we cannot determine what he as thinking but we can attempt to determine the mood. (And of course all this is assuming that we have the mental ability to comprehend the all knowing all powerful creator of the cosmos)
- His third point is only correct if the person studying the picture has no previous knowledge of what is being painted. The persons mind must be completely wiped but seeing as that is not the case in the real world it is disregarded and also considering it doesn’t relate to anything else we ignore it.
- His final claim that science cannot deal with God is again, only partly true. We would first have to assume that God did in fact create the cosmos to even begin his argument and we do not even know if we could comprehend the all knowing all powerful creator AND his purpose as we interpret it is based on what we perceive and thus is subjective and that is why it is usually left our of scientific discussions. But again if a God made the cosmos we cannot figure out what was running through his mind but we can try to grasp the mood of the “artwork”.
I hoped you enjoyed this and I plan on refuting his other arguments as well. I will also be writing other posts along with this “series” but I wanted to write this one first. As always if you have any comments leave them below. ↓↓↓
**Let it be known that at this point the Intelligent Design proponent will say “We don’t see paintings occurring naturally, they always have a painter so how can the universe occur naturally? Mustn’t it have a creator?” Well first we shall examine the logic in this. We could make the same claim about any natural phenomena. The formula goes something like this: X never creates itself it always has an X-er so how can (insert natural phenomena here) occur naturally? Mustn’t it have a creator?
(Where X is a human creation)
But if we apply the same scrutiny to any proven natural occurrences the claim is absurd. So take the beach. We know paintings of beaches don’t just happen, the need to be created so how can a beach just happen? Wouldn’t we need some sort of magical God who makes beaches? See it’s absurd. The logic is that we take something that is man made and is shown to be so and then claim that because the man made thing doesn’t create itself than other things in nature (usually the universe) must require a creator. You are comparing apples and oranges. The man made with the natural. It doesn’t work.