iSoul Time has three dimensions

Category Archives: Science

Science particularly as related to creation and the creation-evolution controversy

Science is conditional

Science is indifferent to metaphysics. This is seen in the break between science and philosophy in the 19th century, and before that in the rejection of metaphysics by early scientists such as Newton. Don’t expect any metaphysical arguments from a scientist.

The model science since classical times has been mathematics. The geometry of Euclid has been seen as the ideal for all the sciences. It is a model of conditional, systematic knowledge.

Euclid begins by considering definitions and axioms that are sufficiently simple and self-evident that everyone or almost everyone would easily accept them at least provisionally. Through logical argument and inference the reader is led step-by-step to see the derivation of propositions acceptable to common experience. Then new propositions are derived that are either not obvious or counter-intuitive.

In the end a magnificent deductive system has been built that reflects inductive experience. But is it true? Not necessarily. The whole system is conditional on the truth of the definitions and axioms. Within science it is adopted as a convention. Whether or not it is true is not part of any science. (Whether metaphysics itself is a science is another matter.)

The history of science shows the indifference of science to metaphysics, though the success of science led many to accept it as metaphysically true. The most famous case is the geocentric-heliocentric controversy at the time of Galilei. Ptolemy had adopted geocentrism for his astronomy, whereas Copernicus had showed the advantages of heliocentrism. Galilei went beyond Copernicus and promoted a metaphysical heliocentrism, which led him into conflicts.

Geocentrism, heliocentrism, or the current astronomy with no universal center are all conditions that scientists are free to adopt for the purposes of science. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Whether any of them represent reality is a metaphysical issue, not a scientific issue. Science is indifferent to such metaphysical questions.

TH Huxley famously said “Agnosticism is of the essence of science …”. He should have meant that science is indifferent, not necessarily agnostic.  But he went on, “It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe.” Tying science to belief or the lack of belief ties science to metaphysics. This was a mistake.

We all have our metaphysical notions but these should at most provide motivation for doing science or trying a particular line of research. Metaphysical notions, not matter how much commonly accepted, are not part of science. Science is conditional.

Other posts on science and metaphysics are here, here, and here.

The Bible and science

The Bible is unconditionally, unreservedly true. However, the Bible does not contain all truth. And the Bible does not meet every degree of precision. No book or set of books does.

Is the Bible scientifically true? The Bible is better than scientifically true. The Bible is true without qualification. As for science, insofar as science is true, it does not contradict the Bible.

The Bible emphasizes intensional truth. While the Bible does contain some extensions – quantities, places in space and time – the focus is on the meaning and significance of places, people, and actions. In contrast, science is extensional.

Is all of the Bible true? Yes. The Bible has been tried over centuries and peoples, and found true. It has also been misunderstood and misapplied but that is another matter. In any case, our standard of truth is not higher than the Bible, so we are not in a position to judge the Bible against a higher standard.

Some accepted scientific theories seem to contradict the Bible. But the Bible is about reality. Science is completely conditional, and depends on a metaphysics to assert truth about reality. So it is only with a particular metaphysics that science can be said to contradict the Bible. In that case, the metaphysics is false in some respect.

The best metaphysics is one that is based on the Bible. The metaphysics of the Bible is a neglected subject. Roger E. Olson has written an introduction excerpted here.

Synchronic and diachronic time

Synchrony or diatopy means 3D space with simultaneous events in order of increasing time. Space-time is synchronic or diatopic.

Diachrony means 3D time with simulocuous events in order of decreasing distance. Time-space is diachronic.

Chronicles and histories are diachronic. Models and theories are synchronic or diatopic.

Knowledge of the distances between objects is important in order to understand their motions. Knowledge of the modal durations between subjects is important in order to understand their movements. In history travel time matters more than travel distance. In science travel distance matters more than travel time.

For the study of history, 3D time is more significant then 3D space. What matters more is not the distance between places, but the transit time. The reason is that time is the measure of effort to go from one place to another.

Read more →

Science or stories

Science has no stories. Stories have characters, plots, and narratives. Science has data, hypotheses, postulates, and theories. Science and stories are different. They should be kept separate.

Stories can refer to science or be about scientists, but that is not part of science. Science can refer to stories or collect data from stories, but that is not storytelling.

Evolutionary stories are not part of science. Evolution without stories is part of science. But evolution without stories is variation and adaptation.

The science community and its boosters confuse science and stories. They are different and should be kept separate.

History is a chronicle, a narrative, a story. But history is not science.

The Bible is a story of stories. It includes chronicles, poetry, parables, and letters. The Bible may refer to science, but the Bible is not part of science.

The stories of the Bible are not inconsistent with science as long as science is not confused with stories. If science is confused with stories, then there may be inconsistencies with the Bible. The answer is to stop confusing science and stories.

Biblical creationists follow the science community and its boosters in confusing science and stories. Creationism is about history and theology, not science.

Science or stories: focus on one or the other but don’t confuse them.

Technology and science

It’s not uncommon to hear an argument like this: “If you use modern technology, you are buying into all of modern science.” But that’s like saying, “If you celebrate Christmas, you are agreeing with all Christian doctrines.” For example, many Japanese celebrate Christmas, but only 1% of the country is Christian. Similarly, all sorts of people use modern technology, from children to terrorists, who aren’t adopting modern science. So this argument is not true.

This is related to the argument that modern science deserves all the credit for modern technology. But that’s like saying all the credit for modern science should go to mathematics, since science uses mathematics. So this argument also not true.

Consider some great inventors: Cai Lun (paper), Johannes Gutenberg (movable type), Jethro Tull (seed drill and horse-drawn hoe), Abraham Darby (pig iron), John Harrison (marine chronometer), Alessandro Volta (electric battery), Samuel Morse (telegraph), Karl Benz (petrol-power automobile), Thomas Edison (electric light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera), Alexander Bell (telephone), Nikola Tesla (fluorescent lighting, induction motor, AC electricity), Rudolf Diesel (diesel engine), Wright brothers (airplane), Alexander Fleming (penicillin), John Baird (television), and Enrico Fermi (nuclear reactor).

A few of these inventors are known as scientists (Volta, Tesla, Fleming, Fermi) but most are not. They had various backgrounds and much of their interest was in practical advances, not theoretical ones. Also, the practical use of technology requires advances in engineering, which is not the same as science. Engineers do much of the work implementing technology but get little credit.

Moreover, the development of technology arguably derives the most impetus from those in business and investment who provide the capital to market and improve the devices. Without them, inventions would remain like Da Vinci’s diagrams lying dormant for centuries.

The science community does often get (or take) credit for technology. And they have an incentive to, since they are a prestige-driven occupation. The amount of funding that goes to basic research is directly related to the prestige of scientists. And scientists in the universities are part of the prestige-driven model of funding and promoting higher education.

So no, someone using modern technology is not buying into all of modern science. Nor do scientists deserve all the credit for modern technology.

From natures to nature

This post follows on a previous post here.

How did we get from natures to nature? In a word, nominalism. The many natures of pre-modern science have been transformed into one nature or Nature, reified if not personified as a thing or force or being.

Nominalism is the teaching that universals or qualities or natures do not exist. Only particulars or quantities or individuals exist. And the result is that only one universal or quality or nature is acknowledged to exist, the somewhat mystical universal quality or nature of everything that underlies all the particulars and quantities and individuals.

We can see nominalism in physics and chemistry, with the rise of the atomic model of nature as composed of one kind of atoms, with only different quantities and configurations to differentiate them. We can see nominalism in biology, with the rise of the evolution model of nature as composed of one kind of life, with only different lines of descent to differentiate individuals. We can see nominalism in politics and economics, with the rise of the equalized person interchangeable with any other person.

By why should this one universal or quality or nature exist at all? Why not go all the way and deny any universal or quality or nature? Nominalism has no defense against such a move. And so we are seeing nominalism end in nihilism, the denial of nature altogether.

We are also seeing the rise of an opposite extreme: that every individual is a unique kind of person and that every individual life is a species. If there are no permanent kinds or species, then individuals are the only kinds. Every person has a right to a unique identity, unique treatment, and unique pronouns.

Nominal breakthroughs

Modern science is quantitative, not qualitative. The top breakthroughs in modern science have broken through traditional distinctions of quality or kind. Consider the following:

(1) Newton’s theory of gravitation broke through the traditional distinction between the sublunar and supralunar universe (e.g., the earth and the heavens). All motion is subject to the same laws.

(2) The atomic theory of matter broke through the traditional distinctions between different kinds of matter (e.g., water, earth, air, and fire). All matter is merely a combinations of atoms (or subatomic particles).

(3) Darwin’s theory of evolution broke through the traditional distinctions between different kinds of organisms (e.g., humans and animals). All species are merely variations of life (or genes).

(4) Einstein’s theory of relativity broke through the traditional distinction between space and time. All dimensions are subject to the same laws.

Read more →

Wise knowledge

Presuppositions are a priori suppositions, usually unstated. They are not inevitable. Presuppositions may be replaced with suppositions. That is, presuppositions may be made explicit.

For example, someone might say, “I will flip a coin. If it is heads, I will adopt presupposition A; if it is tails, I will adopt presupposition B.” In that case, neither A nor B are presuppositions; they are suppositions that are chosen a posteriori.

Mathematics is the discipline that is based entirely on suppositions. It is purely conditional. “If X is supposed (or given), then Y follows necessarily.” If X is rejected, then something else may follow.

The existence of mathematics shows it is possible to have knowledge that is truly universal. Science is the attempt to mathematize all knowledge and remove all subjectivity. That is the “view from nowhere”. See here for how induction works through formal definitions and conditions.

But is it wise to remove all subjectivity? No, for the simple reason that it would turn us into mere objects. The person in us cries out, “I am not a number; I am a free man” (The Prisoner). We are subjects and so want a “view from somewhere”.

Read more →

Middle ontologies

As the previous post noted here, nominalism seeks a minimal ontology, that is, a minimum of qualities. This qualitative parsimony leads toward the ultimate minimum ontology: an ontology of one. That is, the assertion that there is only one quality, one kind of stuff, whatever it may be called – matter, energy, or whatever.

This is a bias toward one extreme. Compare the opposite extreme: quantitative parsimony, which leads toward the ultimate of one member in each kind of thing so that each thing is unique. This has the advantage that it allows the individuality of every thing to be emphasized rather than obscured by being merely one member of a large class of things.

But either bias is a bias and so predisposes the search for knowledge toward a biased answer. It would be better to adopt a neutral ontology, or seek one, in order to avoid biasing the result. Such an ontology would be between these two extremes, somewhere in the middle. That allows a great deal of flexibility for research and discussion, contrary to the take-it-or-leave-it attitude that goes with an extreme ontology.

A middle ontology could be a common sense ontology, at least as a starting point, since common sense recognizes some qualitative distinctions. A middle ontology could be a mid-entropy ontology, with some notion of middle to select the best frequency or probability distribution. In any case, the search for knowledge should prefer middle ontologies, and only if all middle ontologies fail should an extreme ontology be considered.

Scientific nominalism

Nominalism has three senses:

  1. A denial of metaphysical universals.
  2. An emphasis on reducing one’s ontology to a bare minimum, on paring down the supply of fundamental ontological categories.
  3. A denial of “abstract” entities.

William of Ockham, the name most associated with nominalism, agreed with the first and second senses, and in a lesser way, the third sense. The scientific principle called “Ockham’s razor” (or “Occam’s razor”) focuses on the second sense.

Ockham’s “nominalism,” in both the first and the second of the above senses, is often viewed as derived from a common source: an underlying concern for ontological parsimony. This is summed up in the famous slogan known as “Ockham’s Razor,” often expressed as “Don’t multiply entities beyond necessity.” Although the sentiment is certainly Ockham’s, that particular formulation is nowhere to be found in his texts. Moreover, as usually stated, it is a sentiment that virtually all philosophers, medieval or otherwise, would accept; no one wants a needlessly bloated ontology. The question, of course, is which entities are needed and which are not.

What this means for science is not a vague simplicity but qualitative parsimony:

This distinction is between qualitative parsimony (roughly, the number of types (or kinds) of thing postulated) and quantitative parsimony (roughly, the number of individual things postulated). The default reading of Occam’s Razor in the bulk of the philosophical literature is as a principle of qualitative parsimony.

Read more →