iSoul In the beginning is reality

Hegemonic scholastic Darwinism

Science historian John Schuler speaks of “hegemonic scholastic Aristotelianism” during the Middle Ages – lets unpack this a bit:

hegemonic – it dominated society and excluded opposition

scholastic – it resided in the schools, the universities that arose in the Middle Ages

Aristotelianism – it is related to Aristotle’s writings

Hegemonic scholastic Aristotelianism declined with the growth in modernizing movements – the Renaissance, the Reformation, modern science – and alternatives arose – mechanistic thought, scientistic philosophy – until the 19th century when universities increasingly became science-based, government-funded institutions as science became professionalized and grew in prestige.  Latin gave way to the vernacular as education was increasingly democratized.

There is something about universities that inclines them toward a common mindset.  Who will criticize you if you teach the conventional wisdom?  Universities are bastions of academic conformity which today means Darwinism, evolutionism, naturalism, and increasingly atheism.

So in the late-modern/post-modern era we have hegemonic scholastic Darwinism:

hegemonic – it dominates society and excludes opposition

scholastic – it resides in the schools, the universities in particular

Darwinism – it is somehow related to Darwin’s writings

This brings to mind the French saying, translated as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

June 2014

Being and becoming

Evolutionism is a philosophy that looks to science to fill in the details.  It is based on putting becoming before being, contrary to the classical and Christian assertion that being precedes becoming.  We have to know what or who something is before we can understand how it got that way, or what we’re even talking about.  But evolutionists reverse that and say that knowing how something came to be tells us what it is.

So evolutionists do not begin with a taxonomy except to criticize its shortcomings.  Taxonomy for evolution means populations over time, not something with being that is trans-temporal.  Louis Agassiz saw this immediately and completely rejected evolution in the 19th century.

Many who are not evolutionists are following their lead in emphasizing how life and the universe as it is today came to be rather than focusing on what life and the universe are from beginning to end.  We are trying to understand creation as becoming rather than as being as created by God.

How God created life and the universe are less important than that God created them and that what they are is what God created them to be.  We should emphasize questions of what and who rather than how and when.  If we do this, we will find ourselves in a philosophical debate more than a scientific debate.  I know that makes some people uncomfortable but that is where we should be.

January 2015

General correspondence principle

Niels Bohr is credited with first asserting a correspondence principle with respect to quantum mechanics, though the general idea surely predates him. As Wikipedia puts it: “In physics, the correspondence principle states that the behavior of systems described by the theory of quantum mechanics (or by the old quantum theory) reproduces classical physics in the limit of large quantum numbers.”

Heinz Post defined a General Correspondence Principle in 1971: “Roughly speaking, this is the requirement that any acceptable new theory L should account for the success of its predecessor S by ‘degenerating’ into that theory under those conditions under which S has been well confirmed by tests. ” (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bohr-correspondence/#GenCorPri)

The article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy goes on to say, “The generalized correspondence principle here is seen both as a constraint on the development of new theories and as an account of how successor theories are related to their predecessors.”

Darwinism does not follow this principle: it completely denies its predecessor, special creation, even though it uses some of the same terminology such as “species.”

The simplest application of this principle is that every science should account for the common sense world we inhabit in everyday life.  It is notable that Darwinism begins by denying the common sense observation of design in the world.  Darwinists cannot explain how people can see design and so must engage in a campaign to change common sense or change what people say in public.

July 2014

Galileo again

It’s amazing how much “Remember Galileo!” is still used as a warning cry for those who dare question current scientific orthodoxy.  And it’s amazing how much history has been replaced by mythology, meaning something everyone knows but doesn’t check to see if it’s true.

A few salient facts are in order:

Galileo was a life-long member of the Roman Catholic Church.  He could easily have avoided problems with his church but chose to make a nuisance of himself instead.  The reigning scientific view at the time was a variety of Ptolemaic astronomy, which was incorporated into scholastic philosophy and supported RCC theology. Alternatives to Ptolemy were known but they and Galileo did not convince the scholastics to change. The RCC went along with the scholastics whose sophisticated philosophy had no intellectual peer at the time.

But the most important fact is the Galileo was not “right” and the RCC was not “wrong”. There were valid points on both sides and the answer was not obvious at the time.  The main misunderstanding is that the sciences progress by completely rejecting one theory and affirming a completely new theory.  Rather, the sciences progress by improving on a theory so that what was valid in the old theory is maintained in the new theory along with new and better material.  Sciences converge by a kind of alternating series of theories, each one closer to the limit so that the past is prologue, not pseudoscience.

One lesson is that evolution is not 100% wrong.  It’s that the next theory will preserve what is valid and drop what is not valid plus add new material from a different paradigm.

September 2014

Academic conformity

It seems that when science in the 19th century separated from philosophy and joined the university curriculum on its own that science came to be subject to the same pressures that other academic subjects deal with.  That includes the pressure to conform.  Why conformity?  If you’re a knowledge institution, there are two things you don’t want to say to your students: (1) we don’t know or (2) we can’t agree with each other.  If either of these are true, the academic institution will lose credibility.  (You also can’t write a dissertation that concludes we don’t know.)

So every academic institution says “we know” and (to a great extent) “we agree with each other” and presents a united front to the students and public.  Of course academics have their squabbles but they mostly concern who gets credit and arcane matters that no one else cares about.

Can this lead to a stultification of knowledge?  Yes, and there is precedent for that — Scholasticism.  The Scholastics became dogmatic Aristotelians (Aristotle would not have approved).  They did some wonderful things especially in logic (specialists are still trying to figure out their fine distinctions).  But they became dogmatic and wouldn’t allow different approaches so much that the early modern scientists rebelled and became rabid anti-Scholastics (they over-reacted in my opinion).

The same thing is happening today.  It may also be related to political correctness in general but the pressure to conform is strong in all academic subjects, including the sciences.  Hence Darwin doubters, global warming doubters, etc. are unwelcome in academia.

Outside the academy there is still freedom of thought.  For now.

July 2014

Old theories

Newton’s theory of gravity was superseded in the 20th century. Orthodox Popperians should therefore throw it on the dustbin of history. But Newton’s theory is not rejected because his laws are still valid within a limited range that is very useful. Similarly, we still speak of the sun rising and setting even though absolute geo-staticism has been superseded.

In short, the narrative that science “disproves” old theories is wrong. Old theories do not necessarily go away; they may remain indefinitely. True, some theories such as the phlogiston theory of combustion collapse on their own. But well-established theories persist as limiting cases of more general theories.

Niels Bohr called this the correspondence principle and applied it to quantum mechanics. This principle should be applied to ancient science as well, notably the science contained in the Bible. While it would be improper to speak of the Bible as proposing a theory, the Bible does use the vocabulary of ancient science.

This means we should not interpret the Bible in terms of modern science; instead modern science should include science in the Bible as a limiting case. The refusal to do this retards science today.

Every scientific theory has limits which will be found after sufficient investigation. If the limits of a theory are unknown, it is foolish to say or imply that the theory has no limits. Notably, evolutionary theory has limits. Once we accept that we can investigate the limits but if such investigation is hampered, the development of science will be retarded.

November 2014

Reductionism and kinds

Reductionism goes beyond naturalism to say that biology is reducible to chemistry which is reducible to physics.  The acid of reductionism turns fixed kinds into temporary kinds and differences in kind into differences in degree.

The paradigmatic example of differences in kind is the periodic table of elements.  This structure is fixed and unchangeable.  But it is problematic because it can apparently be reduced to the physics of atoms.  This is considered to reflect the maturity of chemistry — that it can be reduced to something else, that its limits are known.  But that undermines the reality of kinds.

Can we get rid of reductionism?  No, in some ways it reflects what is there.  Instead we have to counter reductionism with its opposite.

Reductionism says the universe is constructed from many simple entities.  That is not untrue but it is not the full truth.  The universe is also reconstructed from one complex entity, called the earth in Gen. 1:2.  The division of light and dark, of land and sea, of land and sky, and of creatures in these various divisions are a testimony to this.

Modern science began with a turn away from explanations in terms of the “metaphysical” causes of teleology and design to the “empirical” causes of efficient/temporal and material explanations.  The former are top-down explanations, the latter are bottom-up explanations.  We need to bring both of these together.

To do this requires a dynamic method — a dialectic that allows these two halves to work together without either replacing the other.  This means seeing them as complementary rather than conflicting.  That would be new in Western culture, where a fixed method or contradictory dialectic has dominated.  This would also be consistent with the Genesis mandate to be stewards of nature rather than the modern mandate to command and control nature.

September 2014

Flawed scientific method

The idea that science begins with hypotheses instead of data arose in the 19th century, first in the work of William Whewell, and was very influential on Charles Darwin.  It is scientific orthodoxy today but is a flawed methodology.  Here are three flaws:

  1. Positive bias: It’s virtually impossible to demonstrate a negative empirical conclusion because “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.  So there’s a bias in favor of any positive hypothesis.
  2. Cherry-picking bias: Evidence against an hypothesis can easily be avoided, ignored, deprecated, etc., even unconsciously since the search is for positive evidence.  Researchers are pressured to show results so there is pressure to ignore contrary evidence. This is a huge problem is medical science.
  3. Inconsistency bias: There is no requirement that hypotheses be self-consistent.  Since a contradiction implies everything, a self-contradictory hypothesis explains everything and so is the ideal hypothesis. The prime example of this is evolution. What doesn’t it explain?

One supposed fix is the requirement that hypotheses be consistent with the science that is already generally accepted. The flaw in this is that what is accepted science may be flawed itself. Evolution is again the prime example.

Conclusion: Science as it is practiced today is flawed. Scientific methods today are flawed.

The fix to all these flaws would mean beginning with the widest collection and compilation of data, not hypotheses. Generalizations of data should come from the bottom-up, inductively. That is what Isaac Newton did and he was right to say “I frame no hypothesis”.

November 2014

All horses are the same color?

Recall that mathematical induction has two requirements: a base case and an inductive step. Show that a statement is true for x=1 and show that if it is true for x=n, then it is true for x=n+1. The induction follows as a falling series of dominoes.

Evolutionists try to do something similar. They show that evolution is true in some cases (microevolution) and they show that if it is true up to a certain level of adaptation or complexity, then they can show a plausible scenario in which it is true of the next higher level.

But consider a ‘proof’ that all horses are the same color as proposed by Joel E. Cohen: The base case is n=1 which is trivially true: a single horse has the same color as itself. Then if we assume that all groups of n horses have the same color, we can show that all groups of n+1 horses have the same color. First remove the last horse so only n horses are left; they must have the same color. Then remove the first horse so only n horses are left; they must have the same color too. Thus the (n+1)th horse has the same color as the others.

The flaw in this ‘proof’ is that the base case does not match the inductive step. If the base case were n=2, it would be valid but n=1 does not have a valid comparative.

The problem with evolutionary induction is similar: the base case does not match the inductive step. Variation within a kind is not variation between kinds. If it could be shown that variation between kinds exists, then they might have a case but they have only shown that variation within a kind exists. By focusing on ‘species’ they have used variation within and between ‘species’ to promote their case but that begs the question of whether species are proper kinds or not.

December 2014

Scientism and creationism

Scientism asserts the superiority of natural science over all other sciences, disciplines, or teachings.  Mikael Stenmark proposed the expression scientific expansionism as a synonym for scientism.  That’s a good suggestion because scientism is essentially a boundary-breaker.  Scientism says that science is superior wherever it goes and it goes anywhere it wants.  (That’s analogous to the word statism — the assertion that the state is sovereign wherever it goes and it goes wherever it wants — which is off-topic except for the ways scientism and statism work hand-in-hand.)

My assertion is that evolution and deep time depend on scientism.  Deep time undermines the disciplines of history and archaeology by jumping behind them to assert knowledge of a prior temporality.  Geologists and biologists should allow archaeologists and historians to take the lead on deep time.  Some of this did happen in the 19th century (see Man Among the Mammoths) but the archaeologists and historians lost control of deep time to the geologists and biologists.

It’s ironic that the theologian-philosopher William Paley’s book Natural Theology is considered the foil for Darwin’s Origin of Species.  Natural theology and natural science are two different disciplines.  Many scientists today assert that science cannot talk about God but apparently science can talk against God.  The main point I would make is that scientism allows scientists to dictate to theologians and philosophers (and artists) what nature is.  A theology or philosophy of nature is disallowed by scientism.  (That is one reason why today there is philosophy of science  but no longer philosophy of nature.)

The mainstream scientific associations are scientistic, though they try to do so without alienating the public.  They oppose limits to the domain of science — even the oft-stated limit of separation from religion or values does not limit what naturalistic explanations are allowed to replace.

Because of the above the main opponent of creationism is scientism.  Fortunately, many people with various views are critical of scientism.  So creationists should built on anti-scientism to make a place in public discussions for creationism.

September 2014