Aunt Matilda’s cake

This section begins on 41 and as there’s too much to quote here it’s much easier if you read it yourself. The gist of it is that all the scientists in the world can’t explain why Aunt Matilda made her cake. Lennox introduces it as “Perhaps a simple illustration will help convince us that science is limited.”

All it does illustrate is that Lennox has little imagination in real-world problem solving, for most people could without too much difficulty come up with ways to approach this problem. If the cake has a message on it (it is after all a birthday cake) then one could read the cake or see if there are candles on it. One could look at the style of the cake and compare it to other cakes. If one wanted to go the more science-orientated route then one could compile a database of all known cake recipes and then compare the ingredients of this cake to it. Police work in interviewing Aunt Matilda’s friends and family could turn up her nephew’s imminent birthday. Reading her diary, snail mail, e-mail or checking her FB timeline would also be helpful. Of the more melodramatic solutions a polygraph, truth serums, torture or the threat thereof to her family might also secure the information. If all else fails that guy from “Lie to Me” knows everything just by looking at people. And if he’s not available and we’re in the case of what to do when the all else fails, fails, we can just say ‘God did it’ and then there’s no recourse.

Lennox forgets, or rather doesn’t want to acknowledge, that science is more than just collecting data about the natural world. It’s also finding the coherent story that is supported by that data. And it’s being done by more than one person in one field, and those fields feed off and support each other. So yes, he is right in saying that a chemist can tell us about the elements in the cake and their bonding, and that that doesn’t really tell us why the cake was made. But that chemist doesn’t work in isolation; he or she has a whole world of knowledge that they contribute to and draw upon. If this were “CSI: Miami” then Lt. Caine would have something witty to say now about sweets.

Lennox tries to convince that science isn’t very good at answering ‘why’ questions, but in almost all cases that’s just an exercise in rewording the question so that ‘why’ replaces ‘how’. What he actually claims is that science isn’t good at answering questions of ultimate purpose; the big WHYS. These are the areas that he referred to earlier in the book – the origin of the universe, the origin of life and the workings of the mind. It’s a sad state for religionists when the only areas of inquiry that they can hold sway in are these three questions of ultimate purpose. Especially as science never sleeps.

12 thoughts on “Aunt Matilda’s cake

  1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    I was just hoping that you would get on to Aunt Matilda’s cake so I could repeat something I said before about what a crazy-brave metaphor it is:

    ‘…theists claim that there is someone who stands in the same relationship to the universe that Aunt Matilda stands to her cake.’

    Since Aunt Matilda made the cake for her nephew’s birthday, these particular theists would be good subjects for a Lovecraftian short story. “The worshippers of Pzgra claim that the end of time she will give the universe to her nephew Pthaak-Zroghoroom, who will eat it, after first blowing out the suns to the strains of music beyond human comprehension.”

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      I’ll see your Aunt Matilda’s cake with “For Moses and the Prophets it was absurd to bow down to various bits of the universe such as the sun, moon and stars as gods. But they regarded it as equally absurd not to believe in and bow down to the Creator God who made both the universe and them. What had saved them from that superstition was the belief in One True God, Creator of heaven and earth” (50)

      I’m not sure if it reads any better with the removal of the ‘that’ in the final sentence.

      Reply
  2. Marco

    Like my conversation with my 10 year old boy:
    Me: Do you pray in religion class?
    Him: No, I don’t believe in God.
    Me: Do you believe in Evolution?
    Him: No. Evolution is a fiction! Invented by the creators of Pokemon to describe how one type of pokemon can become another.
    Me: Hm. No. That’s not what I mean, but I see your point.

    Reply
  3. Nathanael

    Here’s some thoughts from a guy I know on the supernatural / superstition issue:

    http://scottjhiggins.com/do-you-have-to-be-an-idiot-to-believe-in-devils-and-demons/#.URAfS-iDi_E.facebook

    I suspect where the gap will exist is in the statement that: “…belief must be reasonable. But I don’t think it has to be scientifically proven to be so. Collective experiences and revelation are also sources of truth, even if the certainties are not the same.”

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      I’m sure your friend is very earnest in his belief in spirits, but reading this blog post is like reading Lennox. Everything is ‘could it not be said’ or ‘isn’t it reasonable to say’ statements that are so weak that when applied to non-Christian supernatural events are shown to be wishy-washy. Substitute demons for the Loch Ness monster in the blog and you’ll see what I mean. And ‘I’ve got a friend who saw something twice that he couldn’t explain so it must have been demons’ is hardly convincing.

      Lennox claims that the order to the universe shows there must be a Creator behind it. I’d say the opposite is true. The reason we don’t see the unexplainable everyday is because there is no intelligence behind it.

      Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        The existence of order points to a source of order; and a Creator is a reasonable hypothesis for this source of order.
        Not seeing the unexplainable everyday points to the absence of an *Interventionist* Creator.
        The two observations do not cancel out.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          As I’ve said before it is reasonable hypothesis but… It doesn’t have to be interventionist. The creator could have built falling up waterfalls into the creation before retiring to an existence of non-intervention.

          Reply
      2. Marco

        Wouldn’t a falling up waterfall be mischievously preplacing disorder amongst order just to show off? There’s plenty of unexplained things I see every day, and plenty of seemingly random things that may or may not have intelligence behind them, human or otherwise. I have faith that the Universe/nature/God makes things happen with plausible natural explanations. The Universe/nature/God can make things happen working through/by intelligent natural agents, human or otherwise. Get a human to construct an upward flowing waterfall, and make him think it was his idea. Everyone’s belief has a grain of truth.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Wouldn’t a falling up waterfall be mischievously preplacing disorder amongst order just to show off?

          You can subscribe any meaning you like to it. The point is there are none yet there could be. Everything obeys laws. Lennox sees that as evidence for a creator. Sure, why not. I see it as evidence for no creator. It’s the same as saying prayers work because missionaries going to Africa is god working through man. Really? God can do anything yet what we get is a universe of laws and people toiling to make a difference in a world the creator made. That god is an underachiever.

          Reply
      3. Marco

        Really? Underachieving is not whatI’d describe as a resultant nature of life in the universe. Whether it be by design, dumb luck, or as an expectant result of random forces and natural selection given the laws of the universe however they came about – it is still a notable achievement worth singing about. I don’t really perceive any notable difference between being in awe of the universe as everything or being in awe of God. I perceive it more about which group one identifies with.

        Reply
  4. Marco

    Wouldn’t a falling up waterfall be mischievously preplacing disorder amongst order just to show off? There’s plenty of unexplained things I see every day, and plenty of seemingly random things that may or may not have intelligence behind them, human or otherwise. I have faith that the Universe/nature/God makes things happen with plausible natural explanations. The Universe/nature/God can make things happen working through/by intelligent natural agents, human or otherwise. Get a human to construct an upward flowing waterfall, and make him think it was his idea. Everyone’s belief has a grain of truth.

    Reply

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