iSoul In the beginning is reality

The Bible vs. secular historical sciences

The Bible is diachronic but secular historical sciences are synchronic.  Let me explain.

The term “diachronic” arose in the study of the development of languages over a long time, which was the focus of linguistics in the 19th century.  But to make linguistics more scientific in the 20th century this changed to study languages as systems during particular time periods. The former approach was called diachronic, the latter synchronic.  These terms have come into use in history as the study of a people or place over a long stretch of time (diachronic) vs. the study of a time period over a large area (synchronic).

The Bible follows the Hebrew people over a long stretch of time, from their beginning on, which is diachronic.  The historical sciences are strongly synchronic: they study a wide area over a distinct period (or series of distinct periods) of time.

Synchronic linguistics is unified by the premise that languages have a common origin, a genetic relationship.  So the question becomes how to explain the differences between languages.  When this synchronic premise was applied to biological species, the question became how to explain the differences between species.

The Bible presents the opposite:  that biological kinds/baramin are distinct, though they have the same Creator.  So the question for a biblical biology is how to explain the similarities between distinct kinds/baramin.  A particular study might study a baramin over a long time.  Several of such studies might lead to the discovery of parallel changes in baramin that are explained by environmental changes and similar ways of adapting.  These are diachronic studies.

So the Bible and secular historical sciences diverge, not only because they have different premises but because they have different approaches to historical science.  The Bible is diachronic and secular science is synchronic.

November 2013

Appearance and reality

There’s a common idea that science shows appearances are often wrong.  It is said science shows that earth is not flat, the sun doesn’t go around the earth, and that life is not designed, all despite appearances to the contrary.  I think this is a mistaken view of what science has done.

Surveyors work with a flat earth model that works just fine for most purposes, and the sun’s motion relative to the earth can be described geocentrically.  Newton’s laws work fine for many purposes despite their being superseded by general relativity.

What happens is that theories are extrapolated (or interpolated) too far and they break down. A theory is superseded by one with a larger scope but the old theory may be valid within a restricted domain.  What Niels Bohr called the correspondence principle is the idea that a new theory should reproduce the results of older well-established theories in those domains where the old theories work.

So the problem is over-extrapolation (or over-interpolation).  Too often people make overly broad claims for a theory.  But until the limits of a theory are found, it may not be clear what the scope of the theory really is.

What is the scope of Darwinism?  As far as I can tell its scope is “life” as a single category, without differentiation of kinds organically or temporally.  This is a very narrow perspective, one that does not support the grandiose claims made for it.  And it is not helpful in understanding different kinds of life, particularly human life, or the age of the earth.

The Bible uses the language of appearances.  This is perfectly acceptable.  The Bible also gives God’s perspective, which is not a theory but something that theories can aspire to.  This is essentially what theologies do.

Nature is not out to trick us with deceptive appearances.  Old theories that worked still work.  All theories are limited.

November 2013

 

What is design?

“Design” is one of those terms many people use but few define. Two aspects of design are: (1) to plan and (2) to make. An evolutionist might say that “nature made man” but would never say “nature planned man.” The theistic evolutionist might say “God planned man” but avoids saying “God made man” except in some secondary, remote way. Design involves both planning and making.

There seems to be a third aspect: (3) to partially surprise. Someone who does not plan their days either does the same thing over and over or else has a haphazard kind of life. Language has an element of surprise in what is communicated and redundancy in the medium of communication. An artist who makes something totally unique confuses people; an artist who is too conventional bores people — good art is a design between these extremes.

These two extremes have low and high entropy. So evidence of design in this sense would be an entropy in the middle. A mid-entropy is evidence of design.

October 2013

Different sciences

It’s easy to forget that “nature” means the essence or form of something.  Over the centuries this morphed into nature as a “natural world” as if only some things have a nature, which is mistaken.  Every thing or being has a nature, including God.  A natural science is the study of things/beings with a common nature or essence.

There is a hierarchy of natures/essences.  People have a human nature which includes the properties of an animal nature.  Animals have an animal nature which includes the properties that living beings in general have.  This should mean that the sciences of biology, zoology, and anthropology are related as a hierarchy.

Evolutionism undermines this hierarchy.  Evolutionism makes zoology a mere subset of biology.  But zoology should be more: it should be concerned with how the natural kind called “animal” is different in kind, not merely in degree, from other living beings.  Evolutionism denies that some beings are different in kind from other beings.  In fact extreme evolutionism makes everything from molecule to man to differ only in degree, not in kind.  Hence evolutionists talk about “science” rather than “sciences” because the differences are considered minor.

Different sciences should be distinguished according to the different kinds of things/beings that are studied.  This applies to geology, for example.  If geology is merely physics applied to earth, it is different in degree but not in kind from physics.  Geology should be understood as studying a unique kind of thing, the earth.  We could we even distinguish antediluvian geology as a separate science since the earth then was different in kind, not just in degree.

October 2013

Progress

Emil Brunner in Christianity and Civilization (1948) wrote: “the popular belief that the idea of evolution and progress was first worked out within natural science, and thence affected the conception of history, is false. The reverse is true: the idea has been transplanted from an evolutionary conception of history into natural science. Lamarck and Darwin are not the pioneers but the heirs of this modern idea. The real pioneers are men like Rousseau, Lessing, Herder, Hegel. The idea of progress and evolution is a child of the optimistic philosophy of the Enlightenment.”

Darwin cannot be toppled without toppling Rousseau/the Romantics, Hegel/Marx/”the Left”, Adam_Smith/Herbert_Spencer/”the Right”, etc.  The idea that progress is natural, inevitable, unlimited, etc. is thoroughly embedded in contemporary thought. No one wants to be on “the wrong side of history.”  So shooting at Darwin does not get to the foundations of the problem.

The idea of progress is seductive and has enough association with Christianity to make Christians fall for it.  After all, there is progressive revelation, Christianity has led to moral progress, knowledge has increased, etc. But true progress requires spiritual and moral development or intervention by God.  Progress is not naturalistic.

One thing creationists can do to make a difference is supporting alternatives to naturalistic progress.  As an example, the sustainability movement is aware how the myth of progress impedes the ability of Western civilization to continue much longer.  While political interests try to co-opt movements such as this, there is the potential for creationists to provide a biblical and scientific foundation for sustainability.  To do this would require an enlarged vision about the problem and the solution.

October 2013

Scientific history

The discipline of history investigates what actually happened in the past as far as that is known from records or other evidence.  Scientific history is what could have happened in the past without being inconsistent with the data or laws of science.  Note the difference: scientific history is about possibilities; real history is about actualities.

Scientific history is open to abuse by historical ideologies which are mere possibilities but are promoted fervently by their adherents.  Such historical ideologies arose in the 19th century with Marxism and evolutionism.  Ideologues use the language of science to claim the high ground which will only be given up if others show the impossibility of their ideologies.

It is analogous to a judicial court in which the defendant is “innocent until proven guilty.”  The prosecution must show that every reasonable construal of the evidence is against the defendant; otherwise the verdict must be “not guilty.”  On their telling the only thing evolutionists need to do to defend themselves is show that evidence presented against them can be construed neutrally or in their favor.  They do not have to present any evidence that supports their case.  Judicial courts give an advantage to the defendant but science should not have an inherent bias.

The problem is one of flawed logic.  Scientific history is flawed unless it is grounded in what actually happened in the past, not merely what could have happened.  Creationists use the Bible as the source of history to ground the practice of scientific history.  Conventional scientists have nothing on which to base their historical science so they adopt ideologies instead: naturalism and scientism.  The advantage of evolution to their mind is that it is possible and consistent with “science” which they define ideologically.

It would be a mistake to accept evolutionists’ terms of the debate and try to show that evolutionism is impossible.  It should be rejected on the basis of logic and the avoidance of ideology.  Evolutionary science is captive to ideology.

The Bible is a trustworthy chronicle of history, not merely a spiritual revelation.  This is important to critics who accuse creationists of being sectarian.  The Bible is in the first place a book, not religious object.  Much of it is a chronicle of a particular people, and the earliest part chronicles universal history.  Even the first chapter of Genesis comes to us as Adam’s chronicle, and although he did not observe it all, he was in the best position to know what happened.

Evolution is not real history; it is imaginary history.  We have real history as our starting point.  That is our best argument.

October 2013

Time and biological diversity

Based on the standard biological taxonomy here is a logarithmic model of the relationship between the time it takes life to reach the diversity that is observed today and possible positions on the lowest rank of the initial taxa of life, which I shall call prototypes.

Prototypes of the species rank would take tens of years to arrive at presently observed diversity.  This represents the position of biologists a few centuries ago in which species were considered fixed and the age of the earth was immaterial.

Prototypes of the genus rank would take hundreds of years to arrive at presently observed diversity.

Prototypes of the family rank would take thousands of years to arrive at presently observed diversity. This is approximately the position of YECs today.

Prototypes of the order rank would take tens of thousands of years to arrive at presently observed diversity.

Prototypes of the class rank would take hundreds of thousands of years to arrive at presently observed diversity.

Prototypes of the phylum rank would take millions of years to arrive at presently observed diversity.

Prototypes of the kingdom rank would take tens of millions of to arrive at presently observed diversity.

Prototypes of the domain rank would take hundreds of millions of years to arrive at presently observed diversity.

A prototype of the life rank would take billions of years to arrive at presently observed diversity.  This is the position of evolutionists, who accept only a single prototype (or LUCA) for all organic life forms.

ID advocates seem to place prototypes somewhere below the kingdom rank.

This model of time and diversity provides a simple way to compare different positions in a common framework.

October 2013

Undetermination and dependence

The underdetermination of scientific theory is well-known in the philosophy of science.  It comes down to the fact that if theory A implies fact B and fact B is observed that does not logically confirm theory A.  Without multiple controlled experiments to isolate causation (which can only be done some cases), there is no logical confirmation of scientific theories: other theories could also work (or seem to work).

Add to this the background assumptions that are required for any scientific explanation and modern science loses its claim to pure objectivity.  This is part of the post-modern impasse that contemporary culture is in.

In practice this has led to other criteria being used for theory selection: parsimony and naturalism in particular.  For creationists, consistency with the Bible is the other criteria.

There is no way within science to overcome underdetermination.  Science must ally itself with a philosophy or a religion.  That does not necessarily make science part of that philosophy or religion.  It means science is dependent on a philosophy or a religion, contrary to the claims for independence that are made for science.  Creationists and materialists accept that.  Others have yet to realize it.

September 2013

Semi-transformism

In the late 18th and early 19th century several proposals were made such as Lamarck’s that species were transformed into new species.  This culminated in Darwin’s theory that all species were transformed from other species (hence there is common descent).  In the 19th century creationists continued to hold to a non-transformist view that all species were specially created by God and were fixed and unchangeable.  A new creationist position arose in the 20th century that might be called “semi-tranformism” because it allows for speciation and extinction but affirms the creation of a limited number of fixed kinds of organisms.

This simple narrative is not being communicated very well.  Creationists today are still considered non-transformists because they have not clearly articulated the difference between the new creationism and the old creationism.

July 2013

Biblical realism

Philosophical realism basically means that the objects of ordinary perception exist independently of our minds.  We apprehend objects independent of our understanding what happened or how they got here.  This common-sense realism is assumed by most people but denied by most philosophers since Descartes.

Observations of objects do not need interpretation for us to record that something is there or something happened.  Further investigation can answer the what and how questions.  Similarly, it is not necessary to delve into theological interpretations to find that the chronologies in the Bible are an accurate record of things that did happen and so should be acceptable to unbelievers and believers alike.  Anti-realists insist on knowing how things could have happened before they accept what exists or existed but for realists that is a secondary matter.

Creationism does not rise or fall on its interpretation of the evidence but on accepting the most accurate record of ancient chronology, the Bible.  In the 18th century anti-realists invented their own non-biblical account:  the myth that mankind was originally in a primitive “state of nature” and only gradually developed civilization.  Since it made sense to them, it had to be true.  They take the same approach to evolution and everything else: what should be true (to their thinking) must be true.

July 2013