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Category Archives: History

history

Creation history

A prima facie case can be made that mainline science conflicts with the Scriptures, that is, the Bible. For one thing, mainline science excludes final causes and follows naturalism so some conflict is inevitable. Naturalism excludes all miracles. The chronology of nature adopted by most science institutions is contrary to some historical parts of Scripture, at least if those parts are read as history. All these things come together in the question of the origin of creation.

Christians have dealt with these issues in various ways, and the main point to note is that there are reasonable ways of dealing with the question of origins that are consistent with Christianity. However, Christians disagree with one another on what is the best approach. Some consider science and Scripture to be operating in mutually exclusive realms that have no interaction (an idea that is found among some non-Christians as well). Often Christians accept as much science as they can and modify a few points to avoid head-on conflict. This is complemented by interpreting Scripture in a way that is compatible with mainline science. Theistic evolution and progressive creation are leading examples of this approach.

Intelligent design is a newcomer to the field of origins. ID proponents bring final causes into natural history and take exception to the assumption of naturalism. They accept mainline science in so far as it doesn’t presuppose naturalism. Finally, there are the creationists, who go beyond denying naturalism and declare boldly that the history presented in Scripture is correct and should be incorporated into science. This last group will be the focus here.

The study of origin of the universe, the earth, life, and humanity touches on science, history, philosophy, and theology. These short essays endeavor to show how they inter-relate.

The Creation Paradigm

Explaining Everything

Nature, Creation, and Science

A Short Critique of “The Short Proof of Evolution”

The Short Proof of Creation

Origins Links

History

In broad terms there are two kinds of history: diachronic and synchronic history. The history of a people or nation over generations and centuries is told by diachronic history. The history of a time or period across peoples or nations is told by synchronic history (also called synchronistic history). The diachronic history of Western Civilization leads back through Roman history to Hebrew history to the Great Flood and ultimately to Creation Week. This formed the storyline of the Grand Narrative of Western Civilization.

A synchronic history from natural science achieved prestige in the 19th century in which human history is overshadowed by a deep time of evolution across species, the earth, and the stars. An anthropocentric diachronic history was ignored in favor of a mechanistic, evolutionary history that determined the destiny of every atom, organism, and population.

The evolution paradigm says that synchronic history moves from primitive to advanced, from simple to complex, and from weak to strong. This paradigm of progress is seen to be played out in every aspect of the world, from nature to economics, from politics to religion. It is a Grand Narrative that is askew of the traditional diachronic narrative.

A comparison of the diachronic narrative with the synchronic narrative leads to comparing evolution with creation. As the study of evolution vastly expands synchronic history, the study of creation expands diachronic history. The creation paradigm says that history moves chronologically from creation to corruption to redemption, from a golden age to a dark age to an age of light. This is not a paradigm of mere regress or progress, although there is some of both.

As an example, compare the history of mythology. The evolution paradigm sees mythology as comprised of primitive nonsense, which is gradually replaced by explanations that are more sophisticated until myth simply means falsehood and science is the only explanation left standing. The creation paradigm sees mythology as a corruption of early history and looks for the true diachronic history behind the myths.

Since time is time, one would hope that diachronic and synchronic history would converge but the tendency has been for one to gain prestige at the expense of the other. There are some researchers who try to reconcile them without denigrating either but these people have been widely derided in the late modern age. Surely the civilization to come will seek a genuine harmony of diachronic and synchronic history.

Justification of tradition

Like many people born after World War II, tradition doesn’t come easily to me. We’ve prided ourselves on making our parents justify every practice they tried to pass on to us. If it didn’t make sense to us, it was oppressive or foolish and should be stopped. Automatic acceptance of tradition was unthinkable.

Tradition was another way of saying “we’ve always done it that way” even though no one could explain why. Tradition seemed to be something someone made up a long time ago and everyone since had to follow along even though it made no sense. Unthinking robots adhered to tradition and impersonal society imposed tradition on people. Tradition was the civilization Huck Finn escaped from and Tevye complained about.

But gradually I’ve come to see the value of tradition. Let me explain. What is tradition? Tradition simply means practices handed down from generation to generation. Note that each generation must practice them in order to pass them on to the next generation. So tradition preserves practices through time. However, traditions are usually not unchangeable; every generation makes some modifications. Here are seven reasons why tradition is valuable.

Tradition is a good place to begin. We may wonder how best to do something but often it is something that has been done many, many times before us. Why go to all the trouble of coming up with a new way of doing things when there is a way that worked before? If no good reason exists to do things another way, go with tradition. The burden of proof is on someone who would change things to show that these changes are better than tradition.

Tradition is familiar. We learn many traditions growing up. We hear or read stories that show traditional practices. People know their roles and the roles of others. But new practices may be strange and confusing; they have to be explained to people who may be skeptical of them or comfortable with a well-worn path. Tradition is like a friend we’ve known for years.

Tradition is empirical. There is a history of experience with tradition. Many others have tried tradition and found that it works. There is a kind of science to tradition: traditions have been tested many times and the results are well known. New ideas lack the knowledge-base of tradition; they need years of experience to fully check them out. Tradition is “tried and true”.

Tradition is evolutionary. Each generation has an opportunity to make minor modifications so traditions are never out of date. Traditions can be adjusted to suit new circumstances. Major blunders are avoided because something that has worked before will work again more or less. There is change as well as continuity.

Tradition is non-ideological. Because tradition evolves and incorporates change gradually, there is no one ideology that drives the process. Tradition is far different from an ideology that would revolutionize things according to some rule or idea. Many things influence tradition over the years. No party or faction controls tradition.

Tradition is worth passing on. Life is short and each generation desires to pass on something significant to the next generation. Tradition is a valuable gift for parents to give their children. It allows each generation to feel part of a chain of events reaching back in time and forward in the future. Tradition connects generations across time.

Tradition is long-lasting. Many things come and go in life but tradition continues year after year. Traditions begin in the distant past and continue for a long time. Fashions change year to year. Many new ideas are short-lived. Tradition remains through it all.

In the end it’s not that tradition has been fully justified. But I don’t demand that tradition be justified anymore. I may still wonder why a tradition is the way it is but there are other things I wonder about more. Tradition simply is. It’s everything else that needs to be justified.

2008

Dissident scientists

There is a curious paradox about the science community. On the one hand scientists have a reputation for independent thinking but on the other hand the science community likes to present a solid front. The latter is closer to the truth: most scientists are conformists. It is well known from the history of science that dissent is not welcomed in the scientific community. Dissidents are roundly condemned and ostracized — until they turn out to be correct. Then history is rewritten from the perspective of the new paradigm (it’s called a Whig history).

Also, along with so many aspects of the modern world, science has become increasingly politicized. Since much research funding is government controlled, it’s not surprising that politics gets involved. So perhaps we should pay more attention to dissident scientists. Below are some links.

Big-bang Dissidents

Global Warming Dissidents

Goethean Scientists

Darwin Doubters

Intelligent Design Scientists

Creation Scientists

Historical sciences

Ben Jeffares wrote a useful article “Testing times: regularities in the historical sciences”  (http://www.ege.fcen.uba.ar/ecodes/Integrantes/Javier/cursos/PDFs/(02)%20Jeffares%202008.pdf):

Abstract

The historical sciences, such as geology, evolutionary biology, and archaeology, appear to have no means to test hypotheses. However, on closer examination, reasoning in the historical sciences relies upon regularities, regularities that can be tested. I outline the role of regularities in the historical sciences, and in the process, blur the distinction between the historical sciences and the experimental sciences: all sciences deploy theories about the world in their investigations.

This is based on his dissertation “Testing Times: Confirmation in the Historical Sciences”  (http://philpapers.org/archive/JEFTTC.pdf) which concludes:

To conclude, I will outline what I take to be the confirmation strategies of a good historical science. Firstly, a good historical science will utilise the understandings of regularities that the sciences in general use. These regularities will be well tested, using all the apparatus of experimentation, repeated observations, and intervention in processes that allow us to understand the relevant variables. They will be regularities that are well confirmed. Secondly, historical scientists will engage in research to determine how these regularities leave traces that can act as evidence for their occurrence. This dispersal of consequences also utilises regularities that can be tested, observed, and understood.

Utilising these regularities in dispersal allows researchers to choose between alternative hypotheses. Hypotheses about the past should have distinct signatures of downstream consequences. They should also make predictions about additional lines of evidence.

From the side of history Robert A. Hurley wrote “The Science of Stories: Human History and the Narrative Philosophy of Science” (http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10063/2227/thesis.pdf?sequence=2) which argues that history is an epistemic narrative, different from literary narrative but essentially the same as the historical sciences.

September 2014

History and science again

I keep coming back to the difference between history and science. It seems to me that creationists treat origins primarily as an historical matter and secondarily as a scientific matter, which I think is correct. This is one reason why Bible history is very relevant to origins. But our opponents treat origins as primarily a matter of science and do not see historical works as relevant. One reason they do so is their belief in long ages so that historical data are spread too thin in time to do real history.

People frame origins as a matter of science but it should really be framed as primarily a matter of history. If origins is primarily a matter of science, then the evolutionists are right in insisting on an over-arching scientific theory that explains as much as possible about how the current universe came to be. Whatever the failings of evolution, it does provide a general scientific theory that can be incrementally improved.

Creationists do not have a competing theory to evolution – they have a competing history. This history depends critically on the Bible, though it can be justified with reference to other historical sources. Calling the Bible “science” just confuses things.

So let’s tell people how sacred history is superior to profane science (to use the old-fashioned terms).

October 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

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

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