If you believe in such a being then that conflicts with science as a way of knowing because you are believing in something without reliable evidence to support your belief. Scientists shouldn't do that and neither should any others who practice the scientific way of knowing. Denis Alexander thinks there are other, equally valid, ways of knowing but he wasn't able to offer any evidence that those other ways produce true knowledge.
Matthew Cob wrote a letter to the editor in which he asked, "I wonder if Dr Alexander, or indeed any reader, could provide an example of knowledge gained through theology, and above all tell us how they know that knowledge is true?" [see Matthew Cobb battles with the faithful over my book].
Denis Alexander replied in another letter to the editor. He proposed three examples of knowledge gained through theology. Let's see how they stand up to close scrutiny ...
The first relates to reflection on the properties of the universe, a procedure known as ‘natural theology’. Inference to the best explanation points to a creative Mind underlying features of the universe such as its anthropic fine-tuning, its intelligibility (without which science cannot even get going), the mathematical elegance displayed in the properties of matter and energy, and the emergence of human minds by an evolutionary process that can gain some understanding of these properties. Theological knowledge here refers to interpretation not to description, but the scientific enterprise likewise involves much interpretation of data, so there are some interesting parallels, remembering of course that there are many ways of ‘knowing’.There's so much faulty logic here that it's hard to know where to begin. The biggest flaw is that you have to assume the existence of a creator god before you would even think of interpreting the natural world as the produce of his creative mind. If you begin with the assumption that a creator god exists then, of course, you are going to think that the world looks like he/she/it made it. This is not "inference to the best explanation" because you are assuming the answer—existence of a supernatural creator—before you begin.
Theology doesn't produce the knowledge that such a creator god exists because that question isn't addressed. This is just question begging.
Most of this true knowledge about physics and biology is only 150 years old. Theology (religion) did not produce any of this knowledge but religoin is obliged to recognize it and modify beliefs in order to accommodate the new truths. Denis Alexander is confused about the twisting and turning that religion needs to perform in order to adjust its views to the discoveries of science. He thinks that apologetics is a way of knowing.
Second, theological enquiry, at least within the Abrahamic faiths, involves historical enquiry and interpretation of their Scriptures. Christian theology includes textual analysis and study of the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. For example, the belief of the early church in the resurrection of Christ, had it not occurred, could readily have been refuted by the discovery of the embalmed body of Christ in a Jerusalem tomb, easily recognisable by his family and disciples. The Apostle Paul clearly stated that his faith (and that of other Christians) was a waste of time if the resurrection had not occurred. Clearly we do not now have access to the data in the same way as the first century Christians, but again there are some interesting parallels here with scientific enquiry. The principle of refutation can apply (in some cases) to history as well as to science.
He's well aware of the fact that much of what's written in the Bible has been falsified. In fact, he's written a book about it: Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose?. Apparently it's not true that his religion is wrong when its fundamental beliefs are falsified.
He suggests that theology/religion discovers truth because, like science, it is subject to falsification but he fails to offer any knowledge that theology has produced. It's absurd to claim that the resurrection of Jesus is an example of such knowledge simply because the Bible says that the embalmed body of Christ was missing. He knows full well that much of what's in the Bible cannot be believed.
It's doubly absurd because we all know that even if those bones were, or had been, discovered, Christian theologians would immediately shift to a belief in the spiritual resurrection as opposed to a corporal resurrection. The stories in the New Testament would become metaphors or analogies not to be taken literally. That's how apologetics works. Everything can be rationalized if you have faith. Faith cannot be falsified as easily as scientific hypotheses and models.
This is not a way of generating true knowledge. Strike two.
Third, theology (which means ‘knowledge of God’) also investigates religious experience, a widespread human trait. In the Christian tradition, knowledge of God is practiced through prayer, meditation, reflection, communal worship and, in some cases, ecstatic experience. There is no particular reason why personal knowledge of God should not be included as an important ‘way of knowing’.Yes, there is a particular reason why personal feelings should not be counted as a way of arriving at truth. We talked about this in our discussion. Denis Alexander admits that the Greeks' personal "knowledge" of Zeus and his friends is not real knowledge and he admits that the beliefs of native Americans don't count as knowledge no matter how strongly they were convinced that they were right.
I pointed out that there's a reason why Richard Dawkins titled his book The God Delusion. It's because we are familiar with delusions. We know that people believe silly things that aren't true. It's not good enough to claim that your thoughts are a way of knowing the truth—you have to prove to an outside observer that you are not deluded. The only way to do that is to provide evidence that your god is real and that's the scientific way of knowing.
I'm really shocked that "sophisticated" believers still use this argument. I guess it stems from a powerful experience they must experience whenever they talk to their gods. They probably can't imagine that their experience is a delusion even though they are perfectly willing to conclude that the ancients Greeks and native Americans were deluded.
You're out, Dr. Alexander. This is a baseball analogy. When I say you've stuck out it means that you have not answered Mathew Cobb's question. You have lost your wicket. You are dismissed.
You have not made a case for the ability of theology to produce true knowledge. Thus, for the time being, science is the only proven way to arrive at true knowledge.