iSoul In the beginning is reality

Centrism

In my usage, centrism is distinguished from moderation as follows:

The moderate seeks the relative middle so if the winds blow in one direction, the moderate moves in that direction to a moderate degree.  In contrast the centrist stakes out a position in the long-term middle so if the winds blow in one direction, the centrist leans against the wind.  The centrist may seem contrarian in two directions at the same time depending on the issue but their focus is always on maintaining a place between the extremes.

Centrists are aware there are always trade-offs and oppositions:  liberty vs. safety, property vs. equality, big business vs. big government, present generations vs. future generations, economic stability vs. economic growth, etc.  Centrists seek a middle way between these extremes, a compromise that is aware of the tension between these extremes and expects adjustments in the future.

Beyond species

Louis Agassiz wrote:
…if species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation theory maintain, how can they vary? And if individuals alone exist, how can differences which may be observed among them prove the variability of species?

Darwin responded to Asa Gray:
I am surprised that Agassiz did not succeed in writing something better. How absurd that logical quibble — “if species do not exist how can they vary?” As if anyone doubted their temporary existence.

The irony is that science works by finding invariants — things that don’t change.  If everything is always changing (and changing in ways that change), science is impossible.

There are many problems with the species concept but the main problem is that species are not even close to a concept of invariant/created kind.  For human beings we cannot accept any speciation; there is only one kind.  On the other extreme for microorganisms we can accept many speciations within a created kind.  Other organisms are in between — it’s something like the more complex organisms are, the fewer species there can be.

A concept of created kinds is not like species because kinds are permanent, like chemical elements.

January 2014

Science and history

Science and history should be complementary disciplines. Science should not dominate history but they should work together.

Science focuses on what does not change – what is conserved, what repeats, what is invariant. History focuses on what does change – the small details that turn out to make a big difference, the unique people and events that are most significant.

History is part of the humanities, not part of the sciences, because its methods are less methodical and more interpretive. History is diachronic – it looks through time, within time, as a participant. Science is synchronic – it looks across space and abstracts time as if observing from the outside (the “view from nowhere” Thomas Nagel called it).

When it comes to scientific matters – objective, unchanging, repetitive – historians should defer to scientists.  When it comes to historical matters – subjective, changing, unique – scientists should defer to historians. In short, when it comes to trans-spatial experience historians should defer to scientists, and when it comes to trans-temporal experience, scientists should defer to historians.

Since scientists find large distances of earth and space, historians should respect that and not confine themselves to small regions. Since historians find less than 10k years of history, science should respect that and not invent time beyond history, even if it makes their job easier.

January 2014

Charles Darwin, colleague

Charles Darwin should be accepted as a colleague of scientists who disagree with him, and one who made significant contributions to the progress of science.  Whatever disagreements there are with what he wrote should not blind people to what he was: a scientist among scientists.

As Newton’s name was used by the so-called Enlightenment to add prestige to a mechanistic and materialistic agenda, so Darwin’s name has been used by ideological evolutionists to promote their ideology.  Darwin does not seem to have been the ideologue that Huxley and his followers today are.  Instead Darwin seems to have been a modest scientist who was surprised by his fame.  As we would not criticize Newton for the things the Newtonians said about a mechanistic universe, so we should not blame Darwin for the ideology of evolutionism (or Darwinism as an ideology).

I agree this is complicated by the use of the term “evolution” by both the scientific literature and the ideological literature.  Perhaps we could distinguish “scientific evolution” from “ideological evolution”.  Evolution is an “ideological fact,” not a scientific fact.  Historians and others recognize the difference.

December 2013

Revelation and detection

I think the following principle is true:  For every divine revelation there is a detectable effect.  Whether this effect is a miracle or not is a separate matter.  How science or history explain the effect is also a separate matter.  The point is that Christian apologetics can show the detectable effect and then point to the divine revelation as its proper cause and explanation.

If we do not accept this principle, we open ourselves up to spiritualism and gnosticism, in which revelation is in a separate reality from what is detectable, and the Bible may be contrary to fact but spiritually true.

I had a theistic evolutionist try to tell me that revelation is undetectable by science.  He gave the example of Communion (the Eucharist) as including a spiritual element completely undetectable by science.  I pointed out 1 Co. 11:27-34 where the apostle links sickness to wrong spiritual attitudes about Communion.  We may not be able to connect sickness to a spiritual attitude but sickness is detectable.

Of course some revelations are about the future and so may not be detectable yet.  But the trustworthiness of the revelation may still be established by the trustworthiness of those giving the revelation and those transmitting it.

In any case, divine revelation has detectable effects.

December 2013

Creationism vs. modern science

What is a real explanation? We are so used to dumbed-down “explanations” we hardly know what a real explanation is anymore. A real explanation describes all the causes of something. These were divided by Aristotle into four kinds of causes: the material, efficient, formal, and final causes.

The early scientific movement of Galileo, Bacon, etc. divided these causes into two groups: the material and efficient causes and the formal and final causes. They considered the former group the province of the book of nature and the latter group the province of scripture or metaphysics. Modern science focused on the former group and left the latter group to others or just ignored it.

Creationists criticize the so-called Enlightenment but haven’t realized how much it was the outgrowth of the modern scientific movement. Since the Enlightenment the material and efficient causes have been considered sufficient to explain something. Nature was substituted for creation and partial explanations were substituted for full explanations. This is the mantra of modern science today: we can explain everything without reference to teleology or intelligent design or God.

Creationists haven’t fully realized that they are trying to put all the causes back together, and put the books of nature and scripture back together, and find full explanations for the natural world, which is the world created by God.

So creationists today are not modern scientists. Though they seem not to realize it, they are trying to return science to the search for full explanations.

December 2013

Understanding creationists

It’s rare to find an attempt to understand creationists.  But here’s one, in an excerpt from “The Intellectual Civil War within Evangelicalism: An Interview with Molly Worthen” by Tiffany Stanley, December 3, 2013:

I think it’s a mistake to understand creationists as “anti-science,” at least if we want to understand how they see themselves. The reality is that the creationist movement comes out of a tradition of Biblical interpretation that understands itself as deeply rationalist, deeply scientific, that rests on the premise that God’s revelation is all one, that God is perfect and unchanging, and therefore his revelation must be perfect and unchanging too. Our two modes of encountering his revelation, in scripture and in the created world, cannot contradict each other. One theologian associated with this tradition named Charles Hodge famously said that scripture is a “storehouse of facts.” A theologian’s job is to “arrange and harmonize” those facts just as a scientist gathers data in nature and makes sense of that data. And so to really understand the creationist movement, you have to see that creationists see themselves as being good scientists, as using the faculties of human reason as God intended, and in a much more effective, truer way than secular, non-believing scientists do. To understand reality accurately, they say, you must take as your founding assumption the truth of God’s revelation. I think that is crucial for understanding the frame of mind of creationists and how they view their project.

December 2013

The theological issue

I agree with those theological critics who say that the age of the earth or universe is not by itself a major issue for theology.  It’s only when the age of the earth or universe are wedded to other ideas that major issues arise.  Two minor issues can make a major issue.

Before the rist of modern science, a constancy paradigm reigned that held there was a large, unchanging supralunary world and a small, sublunary world that varied within limits.  The age of the universe or earth made little difference for the constancy paradigm.  Hence Christians could accept the view that the universe had no beginning, as long as God was understood as responsible for its existence.

Modern science changed all this, first in astronomy and gradually in all the sciences. When the evolution paradigm arose, Christians were told it was a lawful process guided by God’s providence.  Theistic evolutionists still have this idea even though evolutionists have made it clear that evolution is completely unguided.  Now if evolution has less that 10 thousand years to work, it cannot do much and so age becomes a major issue for them.  Hence they defend hypertemporality (deep time) strongly.

At this point the age of the earth is an enabling issue for evolutionary common ancestry.  Now common ancestry should be a theological issue because it says that the difference between all organisms is a matter of degree, not kind.  So theistic evolutionists have to posit undetectable spiritual kinds or become progressive creationists and posit unrecorded miracles.  Either way they have retreated from the Bible.

The main theological issue is the reality of multiple kinds of organisms, which are discontinuous with each other, with a particular discontinuity between humans and non-humans.  Without this, the Bible makes no sense.  Because of this, I’m a multiple kind creationist (MKC).

December 2013

The dialectic of extremes and means

The dialectic of extremes and means is a method of reasoning whereby one begins with extremes and reasons to means or vice versa.  If one begins with means, these are considered as unanalyzed entities, attributes, propositions, etc.  The goal is to work out the implications of them as principles or to analyze them into their constituent parts as a combination of extremes.  If one begins with extremes, these are considered as unsynthesized entities, attributes, propositions, etc.  The goal is to synthesize them into their fullness and completion as integrated means or to work from partial truths toward full truths.

We live among means, that is, we live in the middle ground, a mesosphere where things are muddled and messy but familiar and common.  Philosophy is often said to begin here, with what is commonly known rather than with specialized knowledge.  Whatever we find must come back to the middle ground where we live or else it is like a dream unrelated to our lives.

Classical deductive logic works from truths to their implications while preserving truth.  It assumes that truth is known at the beginning, that truths are known in the middle ground of life.  They may be known because they are axiomatic (worthy of assent) or because they are self-evident, or because they were given by a trustworthy source.  The outworking of such truths leads toward extremes.

The dialectic of reasoning from extremes to means is focused on the end, not the beginning.  It does not follow from truths; it leads toward truths.  One does not usually begin with truth.  One usually begins with something at hand, something muddled and messy.  Truth is something that must be sought.  This dialectic begins with partial truths and reasons toward full truth.

Extremes express simple but partial truths.  Proverbial statements often express extremes – that’s why there are often contrary proverbs.  For example, the Book of Proverbs includes these two:  Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.  Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.  (Pr. 26.4-5)

There are many pairs of entities, attributes, propositions, etc., which express contrary extremes and are partially true.  For example, a preference for simplicity leads to extremes:  in classification and typology, the extremes are all elements in one class and every element in its own class.  Some people (called lumpers) tend to combine elements into fewer classes and others (called splitters) tend to split elements into more classes.  Who is right?  They are both partially right.

Reasoning from extremes to means may be deductive or inductive.  The deductive form works via a form of backward chaining.  It starts with a mean which is a hypothesis or goal and works backwards from the consequent to the antecedent to see if the extremes will support this or any of these consequents.  Instead of reasoning from truth, it is reasoning from partial truths.  The result is a combination of partial truths, which together form a complete truth.

As an illustration of reasoning from extremes to means, consider arithmetic.  Start by defining numbers recursively: if x is a number, then f(x) is a number.  For example, if x is a number then x+1 is a number.  (Addition could be left undefined at this point but let’s assume it is ordinary addition.)  Next, consider the extremes: what are the first last numbers, if they exist?

Answer A:  There is a first number; call it 0.  There is a last number; call it 2, where 2 is 0+1+1.  This is arithmetic modulo 3.

Answer B:  There is a first number.  Call it 0 (or 1, if you prefer).  There is no last number in the sense that there is no unique last number (the sequence must not converge and one can stop at any number arbitrarily).  We conclude that 0+1 is a number, as are 0+1+1, and so on in sequence without end.

Answer C: There is no first number in the sense that there is no unique first number.  There is a last number which depends on the recursion and the arbitrary first number (called the seed number).  The sequence must be convergent.  For example, let the seed number be 1 and the recursion such that if x is a number, then the reciprocal of x+1 is also a number.  This leads to the sequence 1, ½, 2/3, 3/5, 5/8, and so on.  The last number of this sequence is (-1+√5)/2, sometimes called φ (or 1/φ).  Notice that other seed numbers could lead to the same last number.

In these examples the numbers formed by the recursions are the means.  The extremes (those directly stipulated as numbers or used as seed numbers or formed by sequences) are not really numbers.  From ancient times a number has been defined as a multitude so the first number is the second member of the number sequence and there is no last number.  The extreme numbers are the limits of ordinary numbers.  Ordinary numbers are analogous to partial truths, and extreme numbers are analogous to full truths.

These examples lead to the observation that sometimes the extremes may be contrary in different and multiple ways.  First and last are natural extremes but other attributes may be contrary, too:  definite and indefinite, arbitrary and determinate, convergent and divergent, etc.

Conjecture: convergent and divergent sequences may be put into one-to-one correspondence.

November 2013

Alternate arithmetic

A model is a realization of a mathematical formalism.  So ordinary arithmetic is a model of ordinary algebra.  That is, the algebra of the integers, the rational numbers, and the real numbers is realized by the arithmetic of the integers, the rational numbers, and the real numbers, respectively.  Are there other models of ordinary algebra?  Yes.  One alternate model in particular is a simple opposite of ordinary arithmetic and deserves the name alternate arithmetic.

The one-to-one correspondence between ordinary arithmetic and alternate arithmetic is as follows:

Property Ordinary Arithmetic Alternate Arithmetic
Origin 0
Ultimate 0
Unity 1 1
Duality 2 1/2
Left Order < >
Right Order > <
Minimum Digit 0 9
Maximum Digit 9 0
Minimum Decimal …000.000… …999.999…
Maximum Decimal …999.999… …000.000…

What is alternate arithmetic good for?  Ordinary arithmetic implicitly assumes beginning with nothing and adding something.  So the number N means 0+N.  Alternate arithmetic assumes beginning with everything and subtracting something.  So the alternate number N means 1/N.  That is, ordinary arithmetic is additive and alternate arithmetic is subtractive.  The square of opposition in quantification logic presents something similar.  None and some form an additive logic.  All and not all form a subtractive logic.

Instead of using alternate symbols, we may reinterpret the symbols of ordinary arithmetic.  In this way, alternate arithmetic looks exactly like ordinary arithmetic but means something opposite.  Or we may simply write the alternate number 1/N as N by abuse of notation.

November 2013