iSoul In the beginning is reality

Direction in three-dimensional time, part 1

I

Multidimensional time is easier to see if we look at transportation. Consider the time table of a railway or subway system. Directions are typically shown by the station at the end of each line. The time table lists arrivals and departures – events in space and time. A railway station some distance away is in a certain direction both in space and in time within a system. For example, a famous distance-time graph by Etienne-Jules Marey shows the Paris-Lyons line in the 1885.

If we know something about the geography of the area, that is likely to be in our minds when reading a railway time table. But if we don’t know much about the geography, travel times provide a way to map the railway system. The “time scale” may even be more useful than the distance scale. Here are two examples of time scale maps for the Boston-area MBTA: Time-Scale Commuter Rail Map and Time-Scale Subway Map.

Another way to see time directions is simply to take a time-space or isochron map and remove indications of spatial directions and distances. See for example Travel Times on Commuter Rail. The point is that time directionality is real. To see it requires separating time directions from geographic directions.

II

A degree of space is an angular distance equal to 1/360th of a circle. An arc minute of space is an angular distance equal to 1/60th of one degree of space. An arc second of space is an angular distance equal to 1/60th of one minute of space.

A minute of time is an angular duration equal to 1/60th of a full rotation or cycle at a rate of one rotation per hour. A second of time is an angular duration equal to 1/60th of a full rotation or cycle at a rate of one rotation per minute.

Angular time is measured by a duration of angular movement. For example, if a motor turns clockwise at a rate of one rotation per hour for five minutes (like a minute hand), then turns at a rate of one rotation per minute for ten seconds (like a second hand), the angular duration of motion will be 5:10 minutes but the angular distance of motion will be 90:00 degrees.

III

A direction is in the context of a geometry. A moving object such as a vehicle has a travel distance and a travel time that are both scalars. The odometer is increasing no matter which direction the vehicle is moving. It is only relative to a space and time beyond the vehicle and its movement that one can speak of its direction.

This direction may be conceived spatially and/or temporally. Directions in space and time will be the same if space and time are proportional, that is, distance and duration are proportional. In that case, we might say either there is no time or there is no space, though either statement would not be not strictly correct. There is always both space and time but they may be equivalent, and one may be hidden behind the other so to speak.

Science stoppers and starters

An inference of intelligent design (ID), or any version of creationism, or whatever might hint at the supernatural is often considered a science stopper. See, for example, this and the final chapter of Stanley’s book reviewed earlier. Look at two key examples from the ID literature: Dembski’s design inference and Behe’s irreducible complexity inference. Do these stop further investigation?

One answer is Yes, because ID has a whiff of the supernatural, which some admit or boldly declare, and this violates naturalism. Stanley is right that the exclusion of the supernatural appears arbitrary, as a metaphysical restriction to science. Then who is really the science stopper here? Isn’t it those who insist that science cannot investigate anything with a whiff of the supernatural?

Another yes answer is because these authors have not followed up with more scientific results based on this inference. That is like saying, “I reject your A, B, C because you haven’t followed it up with D, E, F.” But if you aren’t convinced by A, B, C, how are you going to accept any D, E, F that depends on A, B, C? Show us your willingness to accept A, B, C first, and then your desire for D, E, F will be plausible.

Contrary to their critics, the ID community is not a well-heeled group of researchers. Unlike mainstream scientists, they have no funding from government sources. They have no state schools in which they can be employed and also teach or research ID because if any whiff of ID work becomes known, they will lose such employment. So it may take some patience waiting for further ID research.

But an inference of intelligent design or irreducible complexity should be a science starter. These are essentially discoveries of discontinuities, which should lead to new classifications and further research. The presence of a particular irreducible complexity, for example, indicates a particular class or type of organism. What are all of these classes or types? And what is the relationship between them? Here is an opportunity to conduct a whole program of science research.

Invention of the uniformity of nature

Previous posts review Matthew Stanley’s book, which describes how theistic science was displaced by naturalistic science in 19th century Britain. He calls the latter “scientific naturalism,” which is accurate since it is a version of the philosophy, naturalism. It would be opposed by “scientific theism,” though I don’t think he uses that term, perhaps because he didn’t want it to be confused with a particular version, such as the Scientific Theism of Augustus Hopkins Strong (of Strong’s Concordance fame).

One theme of Stanley’s book is the meaning of the uniformity of nature to theists and naturalists. However, he does not say that this was a new principle, one that was not previously thought necessary.

As John P. McCaskey points out in Induction Without the Uniformity Principle, the principle of uniformity goes back to Richard Whately and J. S. Mill and is based on their view of induction, which has this form:

This is true of some.
What is true of some is true of all.
Therefore, this is true of all.

The second statement (the major premise) is a uniformity principle. J. S. Mill made this central to induction. In 1843 he wrote:

Every induction is a syllogism with the major premise suppressed; or (as I prefer expressing it) every induction may be thrown into the form of a syllogism, by supplying a major premise. If this be actually done, the principle which we are now considering, that of the uniformity of the course of nature, will appear as the ultimate major premise of all inductions.

But in fact induction does not require a uniformity principle. McCaskey points out:

The other, and older, way to think about induction—Aristotle’s way, later revived during the Scientific Revolution—was to think not of particular and universal statements but of particular things, kinds of things, and universal properties, especially defining properties. If, say, attracting iron is a defining property of magnets, then by definition all magnets attract iron. In this way of thinking, the hard part is to figure out what properties should qualify as necessary to the class.

McCaskey’s whole article is worth reading but let me quote two more paragraphs:

The whole project of mature abstract thought is to identify similarities and differences, uniformities and changes, and to classify accordingly. And that—to Aristotle and followers such as Bacon and Whewell—is what induction is.

For them, classification, and therefore induction, comes before uniformity, not the other way around. It’s not that you must presume uniformity in order to classify. It’s that you classify to find uniformities. For Whately, uniformity is primary. For Aristotle’s followers, classification is primary.

These two views of induction encapsulate two kinds of science: (1) a science in which classification and the distinction of types is primary, whereas questions of uniformity or change are secondary; and (2) a science in which uniformity and uniform change are primary, whereas classification and the distinction of types is secondary.

The uniformity view of induction prepared the way for Darwin. An extreme version of the uniformity of nature prepared the way for scientific naturalism.

From theistic science to naturalistic science, part 8

Part 7 is here. Chapter 7 is on how the naturalists “won.” In short, they pushed their agenda with their opponents hardly noticing.

p. 242 – Huxley won. Modern science is practiced naturalistically, and most scientists would be baffled to think that there was any other way — precisely what the scientific naturalists were trying to achieve.

This is exactly how Huxley wanted one to think about science — it had always been naturalistic, just at times forced into a theistic prison that disguised it. All that needed to be done was to release it. However, as we have seen in previous chapters, this was not the case. The connections between theism and scientific values were deeply rooted, and indeed seemed completely necessary to most men of science.

The historical arc resulting in modern naturalism is long and complicated. Even in the Victorian period, many of the relevant ideas appeared outside science … However, I am interested in a precise, but critical, part of the story: how did practitioners of science come to embrace naturalism as essential to their work?

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From theistic science to naturalistic science, part 7

Part 6 is here. Chapter Six is on free will and natural laws. A philosophical dispute took center stage, with the future of science and society at stake.

p. 194 – Victorian society’s base assumption was that the soul and will could act freely, whether to select a meal or to accept divine grace. Being divinely created and endowed, the soul was qualitatively different from the crude matter around it and was thus exempt from having all its future states already determined as a rolling billiard ball would.

Applying the uniformity of nature to the mind, [Huxley and the scientific naturalists] said, demanded that animal and humans be considered as automata. The original Greek term meant a self-moving object, but in the eighteenth century it came to refer to an entity incapable of free will, a soulless machine.

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From theistic science to naturalistic science, part 6

Part 5 is here. Chapter Five is on Intellectual Freedom.

p. 153 – The narrative presented by the scientific naturalists was one of liberation. Only with the escape from dogmatic theology was science able to pursue truth and accuracy.

But this value was also widely held by religious figures, including Maxwell and his fellow theistic scientists. They agreed completely with Huxley that intellectual freedom and the right of individuals to pursue ideas were fundamental to science. However, they linked these values to true religion while Huxley defined them as opposite to false theology.

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From theistic science to naturalistic science, part 5

Part 4 is here. Chapter Four on the Goals of Science Education describes how Maxwell and Huxley each volunteered to teach at the Working Men’s College but for very different reasons.

p. 119 – This idea that a religious intent is incompatible with science education is a major part of the educational side of modern scientific naturalism. The claim is that the goals of science teaching are incompatible with theist religion.

We will see that the values and goals of science education for both theists and naturalists found common ground in the classrooms of the working classes.

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From theistic science to naturalistic science, part 4

Part 3 of this series is here. This post covers Chapter Three on the Limits of Science. Note: “man of science” was the common expression for scientist in Britain until the 20th c.

p. 80 – Victorian science saw many dramatic shifts in what counted as “science,” and figures such as Huxley and Maxwell were under constant pressure to justify their work as valid and reliable. Both of them, in rather different ways, struggled to clearly articulate what they saw as the proper limits of science and how their claims fell within them. For Huxley, this took the form of his agnosticism; for Maxwell, his development of scientific models.

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From theistic science to naturalistic science, part 3

Part 2 of this series is here. This post covers the last section of Chapter Two, which is on miracles. I offer some comments of my own at the end.

p. 71 – Miracles

Building on this reading of uniformity, the scientific naturalists thought they had one attack for which there was no counter. Miracles, they said, were the essence of Christianity. And a miracle, it seemed, must be a violation of a natural law, and therefore a violation of uniformity, and thus cannot be consonant with science. Taking a position on miracles, then, forced one into either the theistic or naturalistic camp. This was a maneuver emphasized repeatedly by Victorian scientific naturalists, many of whom were directly inspired by David Hume.

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From theistic science to naturalistic science, part 2

Part 1 of this series is here. The excerpts below barely do justice to what is in the book.

Chapter Two is on the uniformity of natural laws, also called the uniformity of nature.

p. 34 – … the assumption that the universe was governed by uninterrupted laws was a fundamental part of natural philosophy. By the end of the nineteenth century, Huxley and his allies were using this concept as a bludgeon to drive theism out of science, and it continues to be used so today under the rubric of scientific naturalism. It is impossible, say the naturalists, for divine action or intervention to have any role in a world that runs by uniform natural laws.

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