• Post Hoc Analysis

    People deal with new discoveries in a variety of ways. When I talk to scientists and people who like science, I tend to hear “Cool! Check this out!”.  When dealing with science deniers I don’t hear anything until, sometimes months later, we get a sudden, “You remember that? It just supports what we think.”  What I think really happens in their minds when a new discovery comes out is “Oh shit!” followed by a “How can we spin this?”.

    But that doesn’t really help them at all. Rational and skeptical thinkers know it doesn’t. I think that the science deniers themselves know it doesn’t*, but they need to put up a good front for the people they have fooled.

    So what is this thing that they do? It’s called a post hoc rationalization. Post hoc means “After this”. The Oxford dictionary has this definition for post hoc:


    Occurring or done after the event: a post hoc justification for the changes

    What is really happening here is that a new discovery is made (sometimes) and the science denier figures out a way that this new data supports their conclusion. Which is exactly the opposite of how science actually works.

    There is an excellent example of this here on Jerry Coyne’s blog: The Best Argument for God.

    Look at the above: the author is telling us that it’s likely that God, had he created the Universe, would have created a multiverse (that’s what Draper means by “many worlds”)!

    That’s pure crap. What has happened is that some scientists predicted a multiverse. Basically, some of the math that accurately describes our universe also predicts multiple universes. Even now, scientists are looking for evidence to support or disprove this idea.**

    But, in this case, someone has taken the idea of the multiverse (correct or not) and decided that this supports the idea of god, because (for some reason) god would create multiverses. If evidence of the multiverse is found, then the writer probably thinks that we would have evidence for god.  Of course, if no evidence is ever found, then god remains safely hidden. And if scientists finally disprove the idea of the multiverse, then god can safely remain hidden.

    It’s all very “Tails, I win. Heads, you lose.”

    This doesn’t help them, but they can’t understand that. What they are doing is modifying their beliefs to fit new data. Notions, like creationism, become so generic as to be meaningless.

    One of the principle ideas behind science is that of discrimination. Not the segregation of people into in-groups and out-groups. In this case discrimination is a way of determining which idea is correct. The ideas must have some difference that be used to decide between them, once data is found that supports one or the other.

    For example, scientists wondered whether the universe would continue expanding or eventually begin to contract. The scientists determined a difference that could be measured between the two ideas. Then they went looking for the data. Eventually, they determined that the data shows that the universe will keep expanding infinitely.

    Creationism though, has been taking in every idea from science and accepting it into their notions. There’s no way to discriminate between evolution and creationism, by using data.

    There is a way though. That is the use of predictions. Evolutionary principles are used to make predictions about certain aspects of the world. Where we might find a fossil that is transitional between fish and tetrapods, for example.

    But that hasn’t been done by various anti-science groups. They cannot make a prediction in advance of new discoveries.

    Which is why these groups are not science.

    * In my opinion, this is because the leading lights of these movements know that they are wrong. However, they have a built in bias that must be supported (religion, capitalism, SJW, etc) and they do what they can to support their agenda. Plus, continuing to deny reality can, for some, pay the bills. Stephen Meyer, for example, makes almost 4 times what I do… and I make about the same as the average scientist.

    ** There isn’t any physical evidence of multiple universes. To find that evidence, we would have to be able to see things that don’t exist in our universe. Which is… slightly difficult. Scientists are looking for evidence that other universes have collided with our own, but the results are disappointing.

    A slightly different multiverse is the one caused by hyperinflation of the early universe (which may still be happening). In this idea, it’s not so much that there are totally separate universes in a sea of something (or nothing), but that there are other areas of our own universe that it is impossible for us to see/get to. Again, this is a consequence of the math that does accurately describe the universe we live in. It’s all very cool and cutting edge stuff.

    Category: CreationismfeaturedScienceSkepticism


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • azportsider

      A word to the wise, Smilodon: don’t ever call Jerry’s website a bl*g to his face. He’ll chide you roundly.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        I hope so, maybe it’ll drive some more traffic here. 😉

      • Doc Bill

        Yeah, best not to mention canines (d*gs) or that 140-character thing (tw**ts) or certain people (D**pak). Actually, I’ll send you the User Guide.

        • azportsider

          The Roolz, as it were.

    • While I don’t doubt that some creationists and other science deniers know that what they are doing is wrong, it is possible that many do not. “Motivated reasoning,” where people try to fit facts to a preferred outcome is very common in all human beings, including scientists. The strength of science is that it is made up of a diverse group of people with many different beliefs, philosophies and preferential outcomes. Moreover, science as a career, rewards people who demonstrate that preferred beliefs are wrong. One example of this: a planet (actually called “Vulcan”) was predicted, in 1859, to exist inside Mercury’s orbit. It was proposed to explain an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury known as the precession of the perihelion. In short, Mercury’s orbit shifts slightly after each turn about the sun. This might not seem to be such a great problem … except that Newtonian mechanics couldn’t account for such behavior. Newton’s mechanics had worked so well (and still works so well, except at speeds near that of light or deep in a gravity well) that, instead of questioning the theory, many scientists tried to fit the facts to the theory.

      Then along came Einstein, who became the most famous and honored scientist of his time by looking to see if the theory was wrong.

      Creationism, on the other hand, is made up of people who have a very narrow set of beliefs, philosophies and preferential outcomes. To them, the existence of God is a given and, often I believe unconsciously, facts are fitted to that prior belief. They are not rewarded for upsetting the apple cart (William Dembski was almost fired from his job at a seminary for even suggesting that Noah’s flood was a local, instead of global, event) but are rewarded only for managing to raise enough doubts about the facts that the faithful can continue to believe.

      It is no accident that creationists claim that all scientists are materialists or atheists because, at some level, they know that they are fitting the facts to their preferred beliefs and assume that everyone else is doing the same.

    • Void Walker

      After having been a Christian and a YEC for 10 years, I’m all too familiar with the inherently cathartic nature of the Christian faith. The notion that we’re all here for a “reason”, that, upon death, we will find ourselves in an eternal paradise replete with joy, an absence of pain/death, and abilities that transcend our current limitations, etc. are all incredibly satisfying and comforting beliefs. Many Christians deny that they subscribe to their faith for even a couple of the above noted reasons, but it’s become glaringly apparent to me that they’re in denial.

      When a cherished belief is confronted by mountains of evidence to the contrary, belief bias and confirmation bias seem to take the reigns; any attempts to rationalize with an individual who’s mind has already been made up, and who’s happiness and certainty is on the line, seems rather fruitless. But….it isn’t always the case. I honestly do believe that science is one of the best tools we have for flushing ignorance and denial down the toilet. It’s a shame, then, that so few Americans are scientifically literate. Great article, Smilodon. You really should write a book (or maybe you already are?).

      • RexTugwell

        And maybe you could review it, Void … chapter by chapter. LMAO!

        • Void Walker

          O_o Rex….have we been doing lines again? Next time at least tell me so I can have some!