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Tag Archives: History

Thoughts on science and history

History is diachronic. Science is synchronic.

History is a narrative of time. Science is a theory of space.

A scientist sees two things and notices their similarities. An historian sees two things and notices their differences.

A scientist seeks what is universal that explains. An historian seeks what is unique that explains.

For science the default inference is to a universal nature. For history the default inference is to a unique particular.

A history of science is not a science. A science of history is not a history.

Historical science universalizes recent history. Historicism particularizes universal science.

Scientific history, or a science of history, is pseudo-history because it devalues particulars and overvalues universals.

Evolution is a theory of history presented as a science. Whig history is a philosophy of science presented as a history.

Science and history posts

Posts on science and history:

10/17/2018 – Science and history once more

July 27, 2018 – Science or stories

3/13/2018 – Science and history again

2/19/2018 – Distinguishing history and science

January 17, 2017 – Combining history and science

September 19, 2016 – History and science once again

December 15, 2015 – From history to nature

August 8, 2015 – Science in history

February 21, 2015 – History and science

October 12, 2014 – Science and history again

January 21, 2014 – Science and history

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Church and ethnos

Most Christian congregations have an ethnos, a term from cultural anthropology for people with a common national or cultural tradition. Congregations are usually part of a larger network, denomination, or hierarchy, which has at least one ethnos. (Eastern) Orthodox autocephalous churches are national churches, which include the ethnos of their nation. The (Roman) Catholic church incorporates multiple national churches, each with its own ethnos. In places such as the U.S., a Catholic parish reflects the ethnic background of the parishioners, usually Italian, Spanish, Irish, or Polish.

Protestant denominations reflect their national origins. Lutherans have a Germanic or Scandinavian ethnos. Presbyterians have a Dutch, Scottish or Swiss ethnos. Anglicans have a strong British ethnos, which includes the Queen. Many denominations adopt the ethnos of the country they reside in, so for example American Baptists have an American ethnos. The Messianic congregations springing up have a Jewish ethnos.

A church ethnos reflects the way that Christianity is a universal religion that does not replace the ethnos of its adherents. The original Christian church had a Jewish ethnos but as Gentile believers became dominant, Christianity acquired the ethnos of the nations. The apostolic decision that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised or keep the Jewish law affirmed Gentile national customs and laws.

Some worry that a church ethnos may be excessive or even idolatrous. While that is possible, church and ethnos have been together for centuries without significant harm. The excesses that have been pointed out, such as the Russian Orthodox under the Czars or some Lutherans in Nazi Germany, have come and gone. And the Lutheran Confessing Church was a witness against an excessive ethnos in the church.

Creation and flood

The Bible includes a creation narrative of the universe in general and humanity in particular and a worldwide flood narrative. Are these accurate? That is usually interpreted as the question: are these the earliest accounts? Let’s see.

There are many ancient accounts of creation (see here and here) and flood (see here and here). These were written down at some point based on oral sources. So the earliest one written down does not necessarily mean that is the earliest oral source. How can we know what is the earliest one?

There are three approaches to finding the earliest account: (1) the degeneration approach, which says there was an original, accurate account that spawned other accounts that are degenerate accounts; (2) the elaboration approach, which says that there was an original, primitive account that spawned other accounts that are creative elaborations that produced more sophisticated accounts; or (3) the variation approach, which says that all the accounts are variations of one another, and that what happened is the account that best explains how all the other variations came to be.

I submit that (1) is the best approach because the best-preserved account, the Bible, passes the test of what an original account would have in order to explain the other accounts as degenerate in some way. For example, either some details of the biblical accounts of creation and flood are omitted (e.g., the names of the first man and those who survived the flood) or extraneous material is added (e.g., conflicts between the gods). The Bible is the theistic account closest to a naturalistic account.

A previous post related to this topic is here.

History and science once more

History within the bounds of science is surely the only genuine history. That should not be controversial. If perpetual motion machines are scientifically impossible, then claims that one was invented in the past must be rejected.

Does history only within the bounds of science exclude the resurrection of Christ from history? No, since there is no law of physics that says once a person is dead they cannot be resurrected.

Science within the bounds of history is likely controversial. The scientific community resists others except mathematicians telling them what the limits of science are. But if science goes outside the bounds of history, then science becomes a kind of history beyond history.

This is what happens with deep time, the concept of time beyond human history. There are no documents, no artifacts to show that deep time was experienced by anyone. Deep time is disconnected with time as ordinarily experienced; it is in its own world.

Evolutionary and uniformitarian histories are not really histories. The sciences are concerned with all the possibilities of what might happen. If water can take three phases, then a theory of water must cover all three phases. The sciences are also concerned with what always happens. If water freezes at 0º C, then in a theory of water, the freezing point must be 0º C.

But history is concerned with what actually happened in the past, whether it happens repeatedly or is something unique. In fact, to cover the full detail of history, everything that happens must be unique, because the exact same point in time and space will never occur again. History does not cover the full range of possibilities, only those possibilities that are actualized.

Time in evolutionary and uniformitarian histories is theoretical, not actual. The concern is with what might have happened, rather than what actually happened. If it were the latter, then a chronology of events would be developed before proposing a theory. But evolutionary and uniformitarian chronologies are hypothetical, and their histories are pseudo-histories.

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.

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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.

Beginning of the American revolution

The following chronology is based on the Timeline of the Revolutionary War and other sources.

French & Indian War 1754-1763 (part of the European war called the Seven Years War) – English victory was at the cost of a large debt. “It was that debt that caused the escalation of tensions leading to the Revolutionary War.”

Proclamation of 1763 – King George III’s proclamation that closed off the frontier to colonial expansion, which was resented by the colonists, who felt penned in on the East coast.

Sugar Act of 1764 (The American Revenue Act) – An act of Parliament that reduced the rate of tax on molasses and added other taxes, while Lord Grenville took measures that the duty be strictly enforced. This disrupted the colonial economy by reducing the markets to which the colonies could sell, and the amount of currency available to them for the purchase of British manufactured goods.

Currency Act of 1764 – An act of Parliament that prohibited the issue of bills of credit, which made it more difficult for colonists to pay off their debts to Great Britain.

Stamp Act of 1765 – An act of Parliament that imposed many taxes to pay Great Britain’s debt for the French & Indian War. It was their first serious attempt to assert governmental authority over the colonies.

Quartering Act of 1765 – An act of Parliament that required colonial governments to provide and pay for feeding and sheltering any troops stationed in their colony.

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Interesting universe

This post continues a series on history and science, see here and here.

The development of the comparative method in linguistics led to the genealogy of languages in the 19th century. This diachronic approach was largely abandoned in the 20th century with the rise of synchronic theories. In short, linguistics pivoted from history to science.

Modern science is basically synchronic, that is, spatially broad within a narrow time period. This arises most commonly with empirical methods, which can range throughout the earth and beyond but focus on contemporary observations. While it is possible to focus on a different time period, the common procedure is simply to assume that the past is like the present. We might call this the boring universe postulate: nothing significantly new ever happens.

Such an anachronistic method is anathema in the discipline of history, that is, diachrony. One cannot assume the past is like the present without evidence from past sources. Moreover, significant events are pivotal for history, unlike science. It is difference, not similarity, that drives history.

History is basically unpredictable, no matter how much minor predictions can be made. The empirical sciences extract what can be predicted from empirical sources but leave the unpredictable out, relegated to noise or chance. It would be better for the sciences to leave the unpredictable to history than to sideline it as if it were unimportant.

Historical science or scientific history are oxymorons. They seem to mean a science of history. The search for a theory of history was a focus of the 19th century with uniformitarianism and Darwinism (and Marxism for some) providing the top candidates. But the project is misguided: it would mean history in a boring universe, which would be history without meaningful history.

The history of the universe or nature or life are within the domain of history. Science is able to assist but it is presumption to substitute a boring universe for the real one. The universe, nature, and life are too interesting and meaningful for that.

Ordering events

There are many ways to order events. One way is by time. Events happening at the same time are put in an equivalence class, which is then ordered from the earliest time to the latest time. History is usually ordered this way. With the advent of mechanical clocks and watches, modern people typically experience events as ordered by time.

Note: Events ordered by time make up a chronology. In a chronology time is employed to order events. But a chronology should not be confused with time itself. Chronology is an application of time.

Another way to order events is by distance from a particular location, such as a city center. Events happening at the same distance from the city center are put in an equivalence class, which is then ordered from the shortest distance to the longest distance (or vice versa). Commuting events might be ordered this way. Ancient literature such as the Bible exemplifies the place of events being as much or more significant than their time.

Another way to order events is by their importance. One might start with their wedding, then order other events by their significance: having children, remodeling a house, going on a special vacation, etc. Minor events would come last in this scheme. That could be a way of organizing an album of photographs.

The order of events is the sequence of events as they occur in a story. Storytellers – authors, playwrights, screenwriters, speakers, etc. – have many ways to order events. For example:

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, the narrative switches regularly from events occurring in one location (Gondor) to events occurring almost simultaneously in another (Rohan). Because to offer a play-by-play juxtaposition of events in these two locations with chronological integrity would demand inscrutable dialogue volleying, Tolkien orders these two narrative segments by alternating chapter. Narrative Wiki

Flashbacks fill in the audience with the backstory. Some stories begin with the end and then recount the events leading up to it. Or a story can be retold by different authors in a sequence of stories, as with the four gospel stories in the Bible.

The order of events is not the same as time, although time is often used to order events.