Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tripping out

i) One of the pressing challenges for YEC is reconciling its interpretation of Biblical chronology with the results of conventional dating techniques. 

Mine you, there's a sense in which naturalistic evolution has the opposite problem. If YEC needs less time, naturalistic evolution needs more time. Since naturalistic evolution relies on dumb luck, it demands potentially infinite amounts of time for nature to randomly crack the safe. 

ii) However, one of the deeper issues is the nature of time itself. Can timebound creatures ever know what time is really like? We are so enmeshed in time that we can't detach ourselves to from time view time apart from our experience of time. We can't stand outside of time to assume the objectivity necessary to arrive at a truly third-person description of time. We don't know what time is like apart from what time is like for us. 

To take a comparison: the experience of time's "passage" is different when we dream. We know that because we can sometimes compare it with our waking state. And our waking state supplies the frame of reference.

But suppose we lived our entire lives in a dream world. That's the only way we'd experience time. From within the dream. There's be no external standard of comparison. 

Suppose the dreamer was a physicist or philosopher of time. He'd theorize on the nature of time. Yet his model of time would be based on how a dreamer perceives the passage of time. That would be "real time" for him. 

(Strictly speaking, we'd have nothing to dream about absent memories of the sensible world. That's what furnishes the dreamscape. To be pedantic, suppose I fell asleep at the age of twenty and never awoke. The only "world" I'd be aware of is the dream world. That's the only kind of time that I'd perceive.)

And, frankly, why assume our psychological perception of time when we are awake is truer? We are still unable to view time independent of our experience–be it dreaming or awake. We are simply made to register time in particular ways. 

iii) And this is greater a conundrum for physicalism. What we take to be the external world is a mental construct. How our brain interprets sensory input. Energy stimulating our surfaces (skin, eyes, ears, tongue, nasal passages). 

That doesn't mean the world is just a mental construct. But our perception of the world is a mental construct of the brain–given physicalism. And that may be far removed from what the world is really like.

Take someone who's high on LSD. He misperceives his surroundings. Yet, in his impaired condition, he isn't cognizant of the distortion. It seems real to him. 

In naturalistic evolution, it's not so much the brain that's high on LSD, but the evolutionary mechanisms that produce the brain in the first place. The brain is the byproduct of a brainless process. 

From a naturalistic perspective, why assume our perception of time–or anything else–is reliable? What's the difference between a blind clockmaker and a clockmaker who's dropping acid? 

Naturalism has a category for what's normal, but not for what's normative. There is no right way for things to be. 

iv) On a related note, critics of creation science are conflicted. On the one hand, they want to say creation science is falsified by mountains of empirical evidence.

On the other hand, they want to say mature creation is unfalsifiable. That's because falsifiability is a conventional criterion to demarcate science from pseudoscience. In that case, creation science isn't real science to begin with. 

v) One obstacle facing this allegation is that falsifiability is a controversial criterion. Take what one Caltech physics prof. recently said:

Modern physics stretches into realms far removed from everyday experience, and sometimes the connection to experiment becomes tenuous at best. String theory and other approaches to quantum gravity involve phenomena that are likely to manifest themselves only at energies enormously higher than anything we have access to here on Earth. The cosmological multiverse and the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics posit other realms that are impossible for us to access directly. Some scientists, leaning on Popper, have suggested that these theories are non-scientific because they are not falsifiable. 
The truth is the opposite. Whether or not we can observe them directly, the entities involved in these theories are either real or they are not. Refusing to contemplate their possible existence on the grounds of some a priori principle, even though they might play a crucial role in how the world works, is as non-scientific as it gets. 
Of course, that gets dicey. If physicists who espouse string theory or the multiverse can get away with that, why can't Christians who espouse mature creation? 
vi) Is science falsifiable? Should it be? One problem is whether we can meaningfully generalize about "science" as a whole. Some branches of science are more down-to-earth than others. 

Take medical science. Surely falsifiability is crucial in medicine. Theories should identify the true sources or causes of medical conditions. Theories should identify efficacious cures or solutions.

vii) The question suffers from ambiguity or equivocation. Parts of science can be, and should be, falsifiable. But science requires presuppositions which may be unfalsifiable. Take the existence of the external world. Or bodies with organs that perform specific functions.

That's a necessary presupposition of medical science. But it's unprovable. Consider those science fiction scenarios in which what we take to be the "real world" is a computer simulation. 

In that respect, if mature creation is unfalsifiable, so is physics. Physics presumes the existence of real space. But that's unprovable. Likewise, physics presumes the existence of time. But that circles back to the original question: what's the nature of time? 


  1. While many naturalists are quick to point out non-naturalistic theistic presuppositions, they seem necessarily blind to their own non-naturalistic presuppositions. Perhaps one reason is because naturalistic epistemology is, well, limited to naturalism, while naturalist's presuppositions are necessarily non-naturalistic. So they don't recognize their presuppositions and don't think that there's anything there to prove. They simply assume and assert them as though naturalism itself were self-evident - as though everyone can see the same LSD hallucinations they do. Most orthodox Christians, at least, cessationists and continuationists alike, recognize that others don't have the benefit of the Holy Spirit. There are other sources of knowledge than naturalistic discovery.

  2. This is another reason why VanTillian or modified VanTillian presuppostionalism is so powerful.

    It doesn't grant the unbelieving worldview carte blanche to secretly camp out on the Christian theists' worldview without epistemic challenge.

    It points out the naturalist's hand is in the theist's cookie jar.

  3. Hi Steve:

    Would you be willing to comment on this article?

    Is it logically possible for the universe to have had no beginning? That is, is it possible for the universe to move from time, t(negative infinity) to time, t(present)?


    1. http://news.sciencemag.org/physics/2015/01/curtain-falls-controversial-big-bang-result