iSoul In the beginning is reality

Truth and utility

Ancient science was focused on truth, not utility.  It was elitist and unconcerned with helping improve the life of ordinary people.  Pure mathematics retains this attitude with its unconcern for applications, leaving that to others.

Modern science grew out of the Renaissance and original humanist movement (not to be confused with the contemporary humanist movement).  They were concerned with improving the life of ordinary people.  Bacon is clear about this and so focused on material and efficient causes and left the rest to others.  This attitude is retained today in methodological naturalism.  Science has gained an enormous reputation based on its utilitarian focus.

Creationists want to put truth back on the top, with utility second.  It should not be surprising that modern scientists reject this approach.  It is too ancient for the moderns.

May 2013


The strangest thing about the creation-evolution debate is that it is a trichotomy, not a dichotomy.  There are three basic views and the historical creationist position is hardly known today.

The traditional (ancient, really) creationist position is that the world is the same as it was when first created.  There has been no significant change in the earth, the heavens, life, etc.  The classical variant of this view does not include a Fall.  But historically Christian creationists have not made much of the Fall — even today the Fall does not figure in our models as much as the Flood.

The traditional creationist position was undermined in the 19th century because of the discovery of species in fossils and bones that did not match contemporary species — extinction is a change that traditional creationism did not allow.  This is the view the Darwin argued against and it is the view that evolutionists still argue against today.

Evolutionists use the word “evolution” ambiguously but creationists use the word “creation” ambiguously, too.  If there is any significant change in the world since creation, then there is something other than creation going on.  A different word would help to distinguish that.

Creationists make the job of evolutionists easier by letting them argue against traditional creationism and not a modern creationism, for example, that Henry Morris wrote about (as he promoted the dichotomy view).

May 2013

Science and simplicity

Scientific methodology makes extreme simplicity (or parsimony) a key quality of a hypothesis or theory. One flaw in this is that there are multiple kinds of simplicity. The cultural milieu then becomes the arbitrator of which kind of simplicity is preferred. Historically, one version of simplicity becomes dominant until another version overthrows it. Then it may take centuries for science to develop from a simple model to a composite of different explanatory variables.

For example, from classical times the simplicity was favored that the earth and the species on it are the same as they always were so no movement or speciation or extinction was thought to take place.  Discoveries in the 19th century such as extinctions discredited earth and species fixity which was then abandoned in favor of an opposite simplicity: slow, continual change with speciation of all life.

We can easily see where this is leading.  Theories of the future will be combinations of slow and fast changes, of fixity and speciation.

Whatever simplicity science starts with, it ends up in an intermediate place between extreme simplicities.  One conclusion is that simplicity is a simplistic place to start investigation.  Simplicity hurts science because scientists cling to it too tightly and mislead people with simplistic ideas about the world until centuries have passed and more sophisticated theories are developed.  Why not start from at least a combination of extremes instead of picking one and holding onto it until it is proved wrong?  That would be a more flexible and efficient method.

May 2013

A sensible biologist

Some sensible thoughts and observations from an evolutionary biologist: The Folly of Scientism by Austin L. Hughes, Carolina Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina.

A few excerpts:

All too many of my contemporaries in science have accepted without question the hype that suggests that an advanced degree in some area of natural science confers the ability to pontificate wisely on any and all subjects.

To take an obvious example, scientists can be prone to errors of elementary logic, and these can often go undetected by the peer review process and have a major impact on the literature — for instance, confusing correlation and causation, or confusing implication with a biconditional. Philosophy can provide a way of understanding and correcting such errors. It addresses a largely distinct set of questions that natural science alone cannot answer, but that must be answered for natural science to be properly conducted.

Read more →

On Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina

Reference: Discoveries and Opinions of Galileotr. by Stillman Drake, Anchor Books, 1957

Galileo wrote a letter in 1615 “to the most serene Grand Duchess Christina.”  In his second sentence Galileo notes his opponents were “academic philosophers” who held “physical notions” he contradicted.  They were not ecclesiastical authorities as is so often claimed today.  He asserts “they made the grave mistake of sprinkling” their “numerous writings” “with passages taken from places in the Bible which they had failed to understand properly, and which were ill suited to their purposes.”  This sets up the focus of the letter on the proper relationship between what he later calls “mathematics” (which would be called physical science today).

He goes on to quote St. Augustine to the effect that “dubious points” should not be used to “conceive a prejudice” against something that may later be shown to be true of the Bible.  He goes on to affirm he holds the Bible, theologians, and Church Councils “to be of supreme authority” as any good Catholic would but this is hedged by saying “when employed according to the usage of the holy Church.”

He holds “the sun to be situated motionless in the center of the revolution of the celestial orbs while the earth rotates on its axis and revolves about the sun.”  Note the key issue is motion, not centricity, as Galileo accurately states it.  The Ptolemaic position is that the earth is still and the sun in motion around it.  He goes on to assert his opponents “have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible.”

Galileo states he is not asserting novel opinions but is the “restorer and confirmer” of the opinions of Copernicus who was a Catholic in good standing with the Church.  Then he makes this statement about his opponents:

Contrary to the sense of the Bible and the intention of the holy Fathers, if I am not mistaken, they would extend such authorities until even in purely physical matters – where faith is not involved – they would have us altogether abandon reason and the evidence of our senses in favor of some biblical passage, though under the surface meaning of its words this passage may contain a different sense.

He notes about Copernicus —

For Copernicus never discusses matters of religion or faith, nor does he use arguments that depend in any way upon the authority of sacred writings which he might have interpreted erroneously. He stands always upon physical conclusions pertaining to the celestial motions, and deals with them by astronomical and geometrical demonstrations, founded primarily upon sense experiences and very exact observations.  He did not ignore the Bible, but he knew very well that if his doctrine were proved, then it could not contradict the Scriptures when they were rightly understood.

So Galileo is confident that arguments that do not depend in any way upon the authority of sacred writings are not subject to questions about misinterpretation, and further, could not contradict the Scriptures when rightly understood.  So these empirical arguments are more assured than the sacred writings because they bypass hermeneutical questions – first by being independent of sacred writings and then by reaching conclusions which will be reached from the sacred writings when they are properly interpreted.  One might react, “who needs interpretation if you can know the right answer without the text?”


Three kinds of science

Aristotle laid much of the foundation for modern science but failed to take the final steps.  He articulated the logic, the four causes, sensory realism, and the importance of observation.  But he didn’t have the Bible when he tried to start with final causes and used philosophical speculation instead.

Bacon and the early modern scientists partly corrected this by focusing on material and efficient causes and leaving the others to the philosophers.  This has worked well for inanimate nature but is deficient for animate and historical nature.  Late modern scientists keep trying to force a mechanistic approach onto all sciences and trying to ignore the need for formal and final causes.

The intelligent design movement is incorporating formal causes into the science of animate nature.  They need to go further and bring final causes into historical nature, too.  They will be unable to understand human nature or the origin of nature without knowledge of final causes.

Creationists begin with the Bible, which provides knowledge of final and some formal causes in God’s purpose and design.  They also incorporate knowledge of other causes from mechanistic science.  They are working on a complete science, one that properly considers all four causes.  In a sense this is an integration of the Bible and Aristotle.

January 2013

Laws of nature

While the early scientists expected God’s creation to be orderly and show God’s lawfulness, that is certainly not the case with conventional science today.  While we can say that’s because of the Enlightenment, there’s more to it than that.

There’s something called the ontological inversion.  Basically, at first science is very empirical: what is real is what is observed.  But as a body of accepted theory grows, there comes a point at which the theory is considered more real than observation.  One problem with this is that anomalous observations may be rejected or ignored. Philosophy first took an ontological inversion with Kant who made Newtonian physics a starting point for philosophical reflection.

Today the laws of nature are commonly considered as foundational reality in a secular or Spinozan way.  Nature is law and law is nature and if God exists, God is law.

It seems to me that this ontological inversion works very much against creationists.  They believe in recent creation not because they have a law that proves it (though they try to use laws to bolster their case) but because they have particular records and revelations in the Bible that shows it.  If all is law, it’s very difficult to get to a belief in early creation because laws don’t have inherent beginnings.  They just sit there, timelessly (in fact the essence of law is its trans-temporal nature).

I think the answer is a strong empiricism which never gets to the ontological inversion.  Reality is still what is observed (and revealed) despite discovering a body of regularities we call laws of nature.  In philosophy that is know as realism.

December 2012

Creation and evolution paradigms

The evolution paradigm begins by doubting ancient peoples and ancient history.  They’re all seen as primitive peoples with worthless myths.  Compared to modern societies and technologies, they don’t have anything to offer us.  We should dismiss them, ignore their writings, and start from scratch.  It’s no wonder we come up with evolutionary theories that place modern society at the top of the process and feed the modern ego.

The changes we observe must be extrapolated back in time.  There’s really no other option.  The past is just more of the present.  We get very excited about even small changes because we run with them as far as they will go.  With this paradigm we can imagine explanations of everything from astronomy to zoology.  Even ancient history can be studied but only within the evolution paradigm.

In contrast, the creation paradigm begins with taking ancient peoples and histories seriously.  Not that we naively accept them.  In fact we find much to question.  Many ancient writings have little concern about the truth.  They puff up a particular people or king.  There is clearly much exaggeration going on.  But there is one people who have a genuine interest in truth.  Their writings show the bad and the good about themselves.  One set of writings in particular they carefully copy to avoid mistakes or changes creeping in over time.  Can it be that this is the key to ancient history?

Yes, this book, the Bible, is the key to understanding ancient history.  Compared with it the writings of other peoples are mostly legends and myths.  We can even see much of the other writings as corruptions or exaggerations of people described in the Bible.  For example, the ancient Greek myths can be seen this way (see the Parthenon Code, for example).  Many cultures have stories of a great ancient Deluge.  The Bible shows us what really happened.

From the Bible we note several salient historical facts:  (1) the universe and the earth began a relatively short time ago, (2) all life forms began a relatively short time ago, (3) something happened at the beginning to make a paradisical world into a flawed world, (4) a catastrophic worldwide Deluge happened in very ancient times, and (5) an explosion of language differences happened in very ancient times.

These historic facts form the backbone of the creation paradigm.  A few inferences from these facts tie them to things we observe today:  (1) all life forms observed today are biologically related to the life forms at the beginning, (2) major geological features originated with the Deluge and its effects, and (3) all languages observed today are linguistically related to the language used by the earliest people.

The creation paradigm is based on ancient history but is open to scientific investigation today, which can provide details and explanations that fill out the paradigm.  However, such science is secondary to the historical facts of the creation paradigm.  This paradigm does not feed the ego, either ancient or modern.  It glorifies the Creator.

Which paradigm is superior?  The one that explains the present with reference to the past or the one that explains the past with reference to the present?  How do we explain a person?  Do we explain their past by reference to their present state or do we explain their present state by reference to their past?  The latter.  That is the only consistent approach to the past and present.

October 2012


Definition of creation

“Creation ex nihilo” means creation from nothing, which signifies that creation means bringing into being out of non-existence.  Creation from nothing is beyond what humans can do no matter what degree of talent they possess.
But the usage of Hebrew (bara or asah) and English (create or make) include both creation from nothing and creation from something.  There must be two different kinds of creation acts.  Making a man out of dust is an act of creation, too.  This means the difference between humans creating things and God creating things in the second sense is a matter of degree.
Since creation in the second sense takes time for us, it makes sense that it would take time for God, too, though less time that it would take us. It takes us a long time to move a mountain; less so for God.
October 2012

Testimony-based science

We’ve heard of evidence-based medicine and science in which test data are the standard of comparison. But what about testimony-based science? This means testimony is the standard of comparison, as is done in courts of law.  A prosecutor cannot just put objects or data in front of a jury.  There must be a witness who introduces the evidence and testifies to where it came from and why it is significant.

Of course, both testimony and evidence/data are forms of evidence/attestation but modern science deprecates testimony as if data are independent of testimony.  An excessive depersonalization characterizes scientific works which obscures their testimonial connection.  There is also a low view of human ability and willingness to provide accurate information.  The older the testimony, the greater the unwillingness of modern science to consider its evidentiary value.  Hence the bias against the Bible.

Creationism requires testimony-based science.  It looks those who only consider data/evidence-based science.  Creationism makes sense only by considering both testimony and data.

September 2012