iSoul Time has three dimensions

Category Archives: Knowing

epistemology, science, kinds of knowledge, methodology

What Jason Rosenhouse finds

Jason Rosenhouse’s “Among the Creationists” (Oxford, 2012) is a journalistic-style exploration of “creationist subculture” by a mathematician who claims to be open-minded but skeptical.  The reality is he’s an atheistic evolutionist looking for weaknesses in creationism while trying to understand these “insular” people.  It’s still a good read but what are the weaknesses he finds?

p51 “Even suggesting the concept of an infallible source of information about nature entails the abandonment of the scientific method.” In other words science must be primary.  This contradicts an earlier assertion (p37): “Scientists think of evolution as a useful theory, not as an all-encompassing worldview.”

p53 “Worse, creationists tend to be inconsistent.  First, they point to some complex adaptation and loudly proclaim it absurd to think it evolved gradually.  Then, when scientists dutifully uncover likely precursors and plausible gradualist scenarios, they say it is trivial to make up a story.”  Apart from the spin, there is something to this.  I think we underestimate the evolutionary imagination.  They really can imagine nature doing everything.  After all, Nature is their god. [?]

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What is the theory of evolution?

Philosophers of biology try to clarify what scientists are really doing. One answer to “what is the theory of evolution?” is given here excerpted from “Philosophy of Biology” by Thomas Pradeu (Paris-Sorbonne University).  http://thomaspradeu.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Pradeu_Philo-bio_OUP_Final.pdf

“Philosophy of biology” refers to the critical examination of the conceptual, theoretical and methodological foundations of today’s life sciences. … Important founders include David Hull (1935-2010), Michael Ruse (born in 1940), and Elliott Sober (born in 1948). …

In this presentation, I hope to show the diversity of the problems posed in philosophy of biology by drawing attention to seven of them. …

1. The status of the theory of evolution
The theory of evolution is generally considered to be the foundation to every proposition in biology, as well as the primary, if not unique, biological theory. What then, precisely, does “the theory of evolution” mean?

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Time

For evolution time and change are critical.  If there is insufficient time for evolution, it fails.  If time and change don’t explain everything, evolution fails.  The backbone of evolution is its dating methods.  Time is the key to evolution.

But time is not a critical variable for creationists.  Creation is basically the same as it was in the beginning.  Variations and catastrophes are secondary to the constancy of creation.  After scientists understand what doesn’t change, then they can fit change into that framework.

Creationists should not follow evolutionists in thinking that time and chronology are the key to science.  They are not.  Invariance is the key to science and it always has been.  That’s why real science studies physical laws and their consequences.

June 2014

A model of the Creator

It sounds outrageous to attempt a model of the Creator but consider this:  there have been models in the past and evolutionists continue to argue against them.  Even atheists have a model of the Creator they reject.

Creationists are at a disadvantage without a better model of the Creator.  It does no good to say that models of the Creator are impossible because that’s equivalent to saying the Creator could do anything at any time and so is a wild card that has no place in science.

The model of the Creator that prevailed in the 19th century included the following:

1.  The Creator created a creation that included all possible forms of life.  This reflected the fullness and glory of God.

2.  The Creator sustains all forms of life so it is impossible for any form to become extinct.  This reflects the power and reliability of God.

3.  The Creator created a hierarchy of life forms with human beings at the top.  This reflects a hierarchical view of everything with God at the top.

4.  The Creator created and sustains every species so that what is observed today is the same as what always existed.  This reflects a static view of the universe.

This model of the Creator was superseded in the 19th century by the discovery of forms of life in the past that no longer exist and similarities between species that was understood as evidence of a common process at work. What is the new model of the Creator?

May 2014

Means and Extremes

Means and extremes in classical mathematics have to do with proportions.

If A is to B as C is to D, we write A : B :: C : D.  This is ordered so that A is greater than or equal to B and C is greater than or equal to D.  A and D are called the extremes; B and C are called the means.

By elementary arithmetic the product of the extremes equals the product of the means:

A x D = B x C.

If B = C, then B is the mean proportional or geometric mean of A and D.  In that case B is the positive square root of A x D.

This provides a basic principle for centrism: the means are between the extremes in a principles manner.

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 to promote the ideology of naturalism.  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 Darwinism.

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