iSoul In the beginning is reality

A dual biology

Evolutionists argue that, in general, homologous (similar) structures or genes are evidence of common (joint) ancestry between the species. They also argue that vestigial (useless) features show common ancestry between the species and a similar species in which they are functional.

Critics of evolution can equally well argue that, in general, heterologous (dissimilar) structures or genes are evidence of disjoint ancestry between the species. They can also argue either that alleged vestigial features are in fact useful or that our lack of knowledge about their utility does not make them useless.

These two groups could go back and forth ad nauseum, or they could call an armistice and accept that in some cases one of them is right and in other cases the other is right. What would biology look like in that case? Biology would admit a dual explanatory regime.

What would this dual biology look like? It would look like a common classification problem to determine for each pair of objects whether they are in the same class or in different classes. The answer is not: all objects are in the same class. Nor is it: each object is in a different class. The correct classification is somewhere in between.

Why is this so difficult for biologists? Perhaps because there are so many organic species that a simplistic answer to their relationship is better than no answer. But in that case it would be best to have both groups compete for the best answer. Don’t give a monopoly to one group (i.e., the evolutionists) but encourage their critics to give a better answer. Ironically, that’s close to where biology was before evolutionists took over.

Unfortunately, the academic world doesn’t do well with competition. So academic science tends toward monopolistic science. The competition takes place outside the academy, in independent research institutes. That’s where the cutting edge of biology is.

 

Belief and knowledge

Knowledge is conditional. Knowledge starts with an antecedent, which is assumed, and proceeds from there. Its consequences are therefore certain, but relative to the antecedent. “If P, then Q” is the form of knowledge.

Belief is unconditional. Belief is a beginning; it does not begin from something else. “In the beginning God…” is the form of belief. Belief is a commitment; it is not hedged. Belief has no Plan B.

Theology, history, philosophy, science, etc. are all knowledge. Religion, dogma, ideology, way of life, etc. are all belief. Knowledge is accepted conditionally. Beliefs are affirmed unconditionally.

Law is knowledge. Gospel is belief. Biblical knowledge is conditioned on the Bible. Biblical belief is unconditional affirmation of the Bible.

Belief grows through knowledge. Biblical belief grows through knowledge of the Bible. Knowledge matures through belief. Biblical knowledge matures through believing the Bible.

The naive person has beliefs but lacks knowledge. Socrates believed he knew nothing, which is the ground for learning. One who believes they have knowledge but doesn’t cannot learn.

The skeptical person has knowledge but lacks belief. If the skeptic is willing to know their beliefs, they can grow in faith. Otherwise they cannot have faith.

Belief and knowledge should be balanced. If knowledge outstrips belief, skepticism and doubt ensues. If belief outstrips knowledge, naivety and presumption ensues.

To the believer, it is better for belief to outstrip knowledge than the other way around. To the unbeliever, it is better for knowledge to outstrip belief than the other way around.

Constitutional law is conditioned on a constitution. Belief in principles that are seen to underlie a constitution is not constitutional. A constitution is accepted conditionally; it is subject to change.

Secularity is knowledge that beliefs can divide the public, so it is best that the public square should not be committed to any one belief. The secular public square is full of knowledge but lacks belief.

However, if the knowledge that beliefs can divide the public becomes a principle of public belief, it will divide the public. Secularism is the belief that the secular is superior to the non-secular, that the non-secular should be kept private or not tolerated at all. Secularism will divide the public. Secularity will not.

Secularism excludes and denigrates other beliefs. Secularity separates beliefs but does not denigrate them. Beliefs strengthen secularity but threaten secularism.

 

Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical

This post is about the words catholic, orthodox, and evangelical and what they mean. The first question is whether only one branch (denomination) of Christianity can legitimately use any of these words. The answer is No; many churches can use them.

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed includes the words “In one holy catholic and apostolic Church”. So any church that accepts this creed has some claim on the word catholic (as well as the word apostolic).

Catholic means universal so any church that identifies with the universal church (whether as part of it or the whole of it is another matter) has a claim on this word. This includes every branch of Christianity, though the Church of Rome has taken it their moniker.

It is similar with the word orthodox. Any church that considers its doctrine to be orthodox Christianity has a claim on this word. That covers every branch of Christianity, although the churches of Eastern Christianity have taken it as their moniker.

The word evangelical simply means “pertaining to the gospel.” Any church which promotes the gospel has a claim on this word. That covers every branch of Christianity, though some Protestant churches (especially revivalist ones) have taken it as their moniker.

We could say that the words catholic, orthodox, and evangelical have generic and specialized meanings. Their specialized uses are usually capitalized. No one branch of Christianity has a monopoly on any of these words, though it sometimes seems so.

 

Negation and logic

Two propositions are contrary if they cannot both be simultaneously true but it is possible for both to be simultaneously false. For example, the proposition that “every man is just” is contrary to the proposition that “no man is just,” since both propositions may be false if some men are just.

Two propositions are contradictory if both cannot be simultaneously true and both cannot be simultaneously false. The proposition that “not every man is just” is contradictory to the proposition that “every man is just,” because both cannot be simultaneously true, nor can they be simultaneously false.

Note that contraries are two universal propositions and contradictories must have one universal and one existential proposition. And note that one proposition is the negation of the other — but there are two kinds of negation: contrary and contradictory.

Fregean logic handles these two kinds of negation by segregating them: contradictory negation goes before the quantifier and contrary negation goes after it. So these expressions are equal:

All x aren’t y as -∀x: x ⊂ y = ∃x: x ⊂ -y

and

Some x aren’t y as -∃x: x ⊂ y = ∀x: x ⊂ -y.

The other purpose of quantifiers is to bind a variable as universal or existential.

George Spencer Brown’s Laws of Form does something similar in two dimensions with his “cross” symbol ( ⏋). Contradiction is represented in the horizontal dimension via the Law of Calling. Contraries are represented in the vertical dimension via the Law of Crossing.

The intersection of horizontal and vertical crosses is a single cross, which in the interpretation for logic represents negation. With a variable under or ‘inside’ it, the cross represents “non” or “no” as in “non-A” or “no A”.

 

Million-dollar parable

You’re broke. You don’t have enough the pay the rent at the end of the month. If your car breaks down, you can’t afford to have it fixed. Your bank account is almost empty. You’re at the end of your rope.

Then an old friend stops by, someone you knew in school who happens to be very wealthy. He says he heard you’ve been having a hard time so he went to your bank and deposited a million dollars in your name. You can hardly believe it. You thank him and he leaves.

Then you start wondering, Is this for real? So you go down to the bank and ask for your balance. The clerk gives you a slip of paper with the balance and, sure enough, it says there’s a million dollars there. You take that slip of paper home and keep it with you. Sometimes you take it out and read it to remind you this is for real.

It starts to sink in and you tell others what happened. You think of all the things you can do with the money now. You can take your family on a vacation. You can pay for your kids to go to college. You can even give some money away.

You keep in touch with this old friend — after all, friends like this are good to have. You thank him every time you meet. You tell others about this friend’s generosity and how you didn’t earn a penny of it. You’re very thankful that your life has turned around.

This changes your life but it didn’t have to. You could have told your old friend, I appreciate your concern but I believe in earning my own way in this world — I don’t want to be dependent on anyone else. Thanks but no thanks.

Or you could have gone down to the bank and told them, There’s been a mistake — take that million dollars off the account. You don’t want it, you don’t need it, you’re not going to keep it.

Either way, the gift is for you. The million dollars is put on your account. Your finances are secure — unless you reject this gift. And if you keep it, your life will be changed.

The problem with “evolution”

The first edition of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species published in 1859 did not contain the word evolution (though evolved was the last word). By the sixth edition the word evolution was used 15 times, yet it was not defined. Nor did he specify what he called “the great principle of evolution”. Alas, it is much the same today. One might say (in the manner of Mark Twain on the weather), “Everyone talks about evolution but no one defines it.”

Intelligent design proponents have noted several uses of the word evolution:

  1. Change over time — small-scale change in a population of organisms over time, often called “microevolution”.
  2. Universal common descent — the view that all organisms are related and are descended from a single common ancestor.
  3. Natural selection and random mutation as the main cause or mechanism of change during the history of life — the idea that an unguided process of natural selection acting upon random mutations is sufficient to produce the new forms of life that appear during that history as well as the appearance of design that living forms manifest.

Only definition #3 fits that of a scientific theory. Definition #2 has to do with the scope of a theory of evolution. Definition #1 is a very general and trivial statement, which is often used to make critics of evolution seem to oppose a truism.

Critics of evolution most commonly criticize the adequacy of definition #3. Definition #2 is actually the most deficient: it confuses a scientific theory with its scope.

Compare Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation. He did not claim that gravitation was by definition universal. Instead, he claimed that the scope of the law that he developed was universal. However, since the emergence of relativity and quantum mechanics, Newton’s law of gravitation is known to be limited. It is not universal.

Newton’s laws of motion are an example of what Werner Heisenberg calls a “closed theory.” While it was superseded, it is still valid within certain limits. An “open theory” is what he calls a theory whose limits are unknown.

In The Origin of Species Darwin proposed universal common descent by a general, basically philosophical, argument:

Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that all animals and plants have descended from some one prototype. But analogy may be a deceitful guide. Nevertheless all living things have much in common, in their chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their cellular structure, and their laws of growth and reproduction. We see this even in so trifling a circumstance as that the same poison often similarly affects plants and animals; or that the poison secreted by the gall-fly produces monstrous growths on the wild rose or oak-tree. Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed.

Natural selection was the only mechanism he proposed to explain universal common descent, as if it were sufficient. Darwin was indirect in asserting the connection between natural selection and universal common descent, all the better to avoid arguing directly for its sufficiency. But evolution as universal common descent is not established by any mechanisms. They are independent assertions and must be established independently.

Science progresses from open to closed theories in Heisenberg’s sense. Every mechanism has its limits, which eventually will be discovered, though the limits of each mechanism are rarely admitted by the scientific community. Meanwhile the search for more mechanisms goes on, and the search for alternative theories is derided.

Joshua’s long day and miracles

Joshua’s long day has a long history of debate but is often forgotten today. The book of Joshua 10:13 says:

So the sun stood still,
And the moon stopped,
Till the people had revenge
Upon their enemies.

It is often said that this contradicts heliocentric astronomy. Actually, it contradicts geocentric astronomy, too: the sun and moon are supposed to keep moving.

Joshua 10:13 is a piece of data, an observation; it is not a model or theory. Those who construct models or theories would certainly consider it an extreme outlier and no doubt delete it from consideration. But is this justified?

Science values larger extensions and Joshua’s long day would limit the scope of a theory if it were accepted. So scientists have an incentive to remove it and claim a theory with large extension. Furthermore, Hume and others argue that the more unusual the claim, the greater the evidence needed to justify it.

But this betrays an extensional bias. What if the extreme outlier is highly meaningful, highly intensive? To delete it would be a great loss of intension. A more balanced science would be reluctant to delete it without due consideration. The fact that this is preserved in the book with the greatest intension, the Bible, should lead us to be reluctant to delete it.

Meaningful miracles do happen. We have sufficient testimony to them and sufficient incentive to preserve them for their intensionality, even if it means losing some extensionality in our theories.

Biases of modern science

Mainstream modern science is biased…

  1. toward what it calls “primary qualities” (and against other qualities)
  2. toward greater and greater extension (and less intension or meaning)
  3. toward efficient and material causal factors (and against formal and final ones)
  4. toward repeatability (and against the unique)
  5. toward positive results (and against negative results)
  6. toward the current paradigm (and against alternate paradigms)
  7. toward greater abstraction (and away from concrete experience)
  8. toward greater specialization (and against general observations)
  9. toward naturalism (and against the supernatural)
  10. toward materialism (and against the immaterial)
  11. toward empiricism (and against other kinds of experience)
  12. toward positivism (and against other kinds of knowledge)
  13. toward scientism (and against the humanities)
  14. toward secularism (and against interaction with any theism)
  15. toward linearity (and against the ancient bias toward circularity)
  16. toward nominalism (and against metaphysical realism)
  17. toward minimal kinds of things (and against balancing things and kinds)
  18. toward more state funding for science (and against reduction of state funding).

Distinctions of Genesis 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless, and indistinct; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. The evening and the morning were the first day. So the first distinction was between Day and Night.

Then God said, Let there be a space in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. Thus God made the space, and divided the waters which were under the space from the waters which were above the space; and it was so. And God called the space Heaven. The evening and the morning were the second day. So the second distinction was between waters below and above Heaven.

Then God said, Let the waters under Heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the Earth; and it was so. And the Earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. The evening and the morning were the third day. So the third distinction was between the Earth and the Seas.

Then God said, Let there be lights in the space of Heaven to distinguish the Day from the Night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the space of Heaven to give light on the Earth; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the Day, and the lesser light to rule the Night–and also the stars. God set them in the space of Heaven to give light on the Earth, and to rule over the Day and over the Night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. The evening and the morning were the fourth day. So the Day was marked with the greater light and Night was marked with the lesser light.

Then God said, Let the Seas abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the space of the Heavens. So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the Seas, and let birds multiply on the Earth. The evening and the morning were the fifth day. So the Seas were marked with fish and Heaven was marked with birds.

Then God said, Let the Earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind; and it was so. And God made the beast of the Earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the Earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the Seas, over the birds of the Heaven, and over all the Earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the Earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply; fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the Seas, over the birds of Heaven, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.

And God said, See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the Earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the Earth, to every bird of Heaven, and to everything that creeps on the Earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. The evening and the morning were the sixth day. So the Earth was marked with man.

Thus the Heaven and the Earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all His work which he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made. So the seventh day was marked with the Sabbath.

Virtue or righteousness

While Aristotle talks about virtue, the Bible talks about righteousness but there are similarities in what they say. Both take an “agent-centered” approach rather than an “action-centered” approach. The way to virtue or righteousness is not via doing virtuous or righteous actions. That doesn’t make us virtuous or righteous. These are qualities, not quantities, as one put it.

Being leads to doing, not the other way around. The virtuous do the right thing, the fine and excellent thing. The righteous do the right thing, the good and godly thing. But one can be virtuous only by a virtuous upbringing and education. One can be righteous only by repentance and faith in the Righteous One.

Moral education has almost been forgotten it seems but has its value in producing virtuous citizens. Children baptized, raised in a Christian family, and confirmed with a confession of faith are righteous in the Lord. Others who repent and believe as adults are, too. That is the foundation of a good and just society.