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Tag Archives: Science

sciences in general, what they are and their methods

Demi-Creator Postulate

I introduced the Demi-Creator Postulate (DCP) here. This post explores the concept further.

Young-earth creationism (YEC) accepts what might be called the Biblical Creator Postulate (BCP). This postulate is an attempt to bring the Creator as described in the Bible into science. Not only does this bring theological debates into science but it also makes scientists attempt to determine what the Creator should be expected to do that could be observed, which makes scientists into theologians. This is science as practiced in the Middles Ages, when the Roman Catholic Church’s status in Europe ensured theological conformity. The Reformation and the Scientific Revolution have prevented such a situation since the 16th century.

In contrast, a demi-creator (DC) is a hypothetical being definable for the needs of science and observable only indirectly. Whether or not a demi-creator is a window on the Creator of the theologians is a metaphysical question, and so not a concern of science.

I would initially describe a demi-creator as a master designer and builder, who meets their given design criteria, whether these criteria are unknown to us or are specified in a separate postulate.  This demi-creator is like us in their intelligence and reasoning ability, only greater and with the ability to produce an extremely complex design that works. This enables us to make inferences about what to expect they have done given what has been observed.

The DCP enables science to consider the possibility of a creator without going outside of science. It posits more than the intelligent design (ID) proponents have been willing to admit but less than what is assumed by the YECs with their BCP.

Addendum (12/2018): The DCP could perhaps better be called the Designer and Builder Postulate (DBP). Intelligent design implicates a designer, and there must also be a builder to implement the design. This designer and builder is not necessarily a creator in the sense of creatio ex nihilo. What is necessary is that the design should be intelligible to us and that the making should be possible.

A demi-creator for science

Creationists reject what might be called the Deep Time Postulate (DTP): that long stretches of time existed before the earliest humans ever lived. The DTP enables uniformitarianism in geology, evolution of all species in biology, and evolution of the solar system in astronomy. DTP enables science to insert a kind of history before history, that is, before written records or human artifacts.

Without the DTP, less than ten thousand years have transpired in the universe, that is, the time since humans and other living kinds appeared on the earth as determined from human artifacts and records. Instead of the DTP, creationists accept what might be called the Demi-Creator Postulate (DCP): that a demi-creator exists (or existed) who formed the earth and celestial bodies as well as the kinds of organisms that originally populated the earth. The DCP enables large-scale catastrophism in geology and creation in biology and astronomy.

Why “demi-creator” instead of Creator? The answer is that science does not use scriptures and so a scientific creator lacks the full range of characteristics that a theological Creator would have. For the purpose of science all that is necessary is a being like Plato’s demiurge*, who is like us but with much greater power and intelligence. I am calling this being a “demi-creator” since it is a partial creator. Whether it is the same being as the Creator of the theologians is for them to decide. For science a creator-type being is like us, not creating from nothing but forming a product from something else.

From the existence of a demi-creator one may infer that the creation is intelligible by us and that it exhibits features that are recognizable by us as intelligently designed. From knowledge of some parts of the creation, we may be able to infer the character of other parts, since they would exhibit similar characteristics, as a design engineer implements an overall design in every part.

One consequence of the DCP is that the creation is finite because a demi-creator is only capable of what we could do given greater intelligence and power. Creationists take this as supporting the creation of a finite number of different kinds of organisms. Different kinds of organisms likely exhibit similar design features, in what those who accept the DTP would call convergent evolution.

* The demi in demiurge is not from demi, meaning half or partial, but from demos, common people; nevertheless, it suggests something less than divine.

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

Read more →

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.

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. The scientific community doesn’t make metaphysical arguments.

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 not obvious.

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 conventions 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. That 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 commitments, no matter how much they are 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 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. Science seeks truthlikeness. If parts of science are true, they do 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 possibly 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.

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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.

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.