iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Category Archives: Knowing

epistemology, science, kinds of knowledge, methodology

Turning the issue around

Creationists are allowing their opponents to frame issues backwards, which puts us on the defensive.  The real question they’re trying to answer is, How can modern science fit with the Bible without distorting it?  Their opponents keep asking the reverse: How can the Bible fit with modern science?  That puts the pressure on the defenders of the Bible.

For example, the starlight and time issue should not be a question of “how can the Bible fit with modern astronomy?”  It should be, “how can modern astronomy fit with the Bible without distorting it?”  The pressure should be on astronomers to figure it out.  It is not “our” problem but “their” problem (recognizing that some creationists are also astronomers).

This arises because modern science works independently of the Bible — or any other discipline except for mathematics.  The independence of science is carefully and strongly guarded by science communities.  And no feedback loop from outside of science is accepted.

Oppose the independence of science?  Now that’s controversial.

November 2014

The word “creation”

The word “creation” is used by non-creationists in a minimal sense.  The existence of the universe is explained as the creation of God.  This is the core meaning that all monotheists accept.  But what about the essence and nature of the universe — was that created, too?  The success of physics has led to a minimalist version of creation here.  It is claimed that “a few simple rules” is all the essence needed for the present universe to happen.  The universe of today is only remotely created.

Creationists use the word “creation” in a maximal sense:  almost everything is the result of creation.  Every variety of plant is created, even though we know that artificial or natural selection have a more direct bearing on them than what happened thousands of years ago.  Every beautiful or amazing aspect of the universe is ascribed to creation and every ugly or diseased aspect of the universe is ascribed to the fall, yet no objective criteria are provided to delineate these differences.

In short, one group under-uses the word “creation” and another group (us) over-uses the word “creation”.  This doesn’t foster communication or understanding between people from different backgrounds  A more precise meaning for the word “creation” that is between these extremes would help.

October 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

Poetical truth

Mortimer J. Adler’s “Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth” is very stimulating, though we would disagree on some points.  One point that needs qualification is his unqualified endorsement of Augustine’s principle that religion must always accord with the science of the day.  He doesn’t define science here perhaps because he is taking a broad brush approach as a philosopher.

But he does define poetical truth, p.102: “Utterances are in the realm of poetical truth if they are about what is possible and if they are not subject to contradiction.”  Note that is essentially Popper’s definition of pseudoscience.

MJ Adler doesn’t say it but evolution fits that definition.  Evolutionists argue that evolution is possible, not that it is probable, and they apply evolution to contradictory situations, e.g., what they consider good designs and bad designs.

So evolution is true — poetically true.  That actually may help since many people are wedded to the idea of evolution and progress.

September 2014

Actual infinity

Before the 19th century it was commonly understood that only God (or perhaps the “gods”) were actually infinite.  If one spoke about the actual infinite, one was doing theology.  In mathematics infinity was considered a manner of speaking, which was clarified in the early 19th century with the careful definition of limits.

In the late 19th century Cantor’s infinite sets were seen as a challenge to this because they treated infinite sets as complete entities.  But there is still no need to consider this essentially different from the relative manner infinity is treated elsewhere in mathematics.

The idea that the universe may be eternal is ancient but there has never been a comprehensive treatment of what this would mean.  Theologians are still struggling to understand in what sense time could exist before the creation.  Nonmetric time seems to be the best solution.

The burden is on anyone who speaks of a physical infinite to explain in detail what they mean.  Otherwise, they’re just throwing words around.

August 2014

Philosophy

Robert Sokolowski wrote, “It is notoriously difficult for philosophers to explain, to people unfamiliar with their discipline, what it is that they do.” He goes on in his article entitle, “The Method of Philosophy: Making Distinctions” that the articulation of distinctions is what philosophy is about. (The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 51, No. 3, Mar., 1998).

Locally true but globally false

Naturalism assumes that what is true in local places or times must be true for all places and times — after all, isn’t that Occam’s razor?  But it does not follow.  For example, the earth seems flat in each locality but globally it is not.  In mathematics there are many examples where what is locally true is globally false.

This reinforces the need for creationists to emphasize the global picture and not get side-tracked on the local details.  The global creation, the global flood, and the global confusion of tongues are the three keys of history.

July 2014

Explanation anxiety

One thing I’ve noticed with evolutionists is the level of what I call “explanation anxiety” is high.  That is, they must have an explanation for everything.  If something is observed, they need an explanation for it and they need it now.  They can’t wait.  They must know.  A few minor things can be unexplained for a while but someone should be working on that, too.

The other side of this is the attitude that science already knows nearly everything.  Jason Rosenhouse said 99 percent.  There’s no sense of the enormity of what we don’t yet know.  And there’s no humility about our inability to know everything.

“The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder.”  (said by GK Chesterton or JBS Haldane).

July 2014

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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