Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Philosophy of science 101 for Hallquist


Science 101 for Triablogue
Over on Triablogue, there's some fairly standard creationist nonsense in response to a comment from Daniel Morgan on one of their posts.

First, Daniel asked "Were the species all created ex nihilo?" In response, he was told it's a question of "kinds," not species.

This leads quickly to another question: what in the world is a "kind"? Creationists talk about it a lot, but never explain it.



Actually, I did explain it, but I’ll go into more detail:


There is no evidence in these texts [Gen 1:11-12,20-21,24-25] for taking min [“kind”] as a technical term corresponding wit precision to family, genus, or species. (b) Min is used to indicate that the world is not a disorganized mass but a well-ordered subdivided whole, each individual plant and animal fitting into its own “kind” which in turn fits into a larger group. Min is a key term used for articulating the theme of order through separation. (c) This biblical taxonomy, of which min is a part, does not reflect a modern taxonomic perspective, but uses “the language of visual appearance.” While modern taxonomy separates birds from bees, the biblical perspective groups them together as “winged creatures” (Gen 1:20-21). Both are legitimate perspectives.

Of interest is Lev 11:16=Deut 144:15, which list nes among unclean birds. Nes has been identified as “Falco (Genus) peregrinus (species),” yet has subdivisions called min (apparently varieties within species), offering further evidence for the defiance of min to be correlated with a single modern category such as genus or species.

New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis 2:934.


Continuing with Hallquist:


A useful contrast is the Biological Species Concept--the idea that two populations are the same species if they can mate and procude fertile offspring. Because we know, among other things, that new species can evolve, creationists can't use "species" as "kind," but how do they propose to test whether two populations are the same "kind."


The identification of a natural “kind” in Scripture is an exegetical question, not a scientific question. What’s the semantic range and domain of Biblical usage in this respect? That’s the question.

And whether or not that allows for speciation is likewise a semantic question.



In a similar vein, in response to the question of "Are the biologists lying about the descent with modification of species from common ancestors?", Daniel was told that the "It fails to distinguish between evidence for microevolution and evidence for macroevolution." Again, what is macro/microevolution? Mircoevolution has to include speciation. On the other had, the evidence for evolution at the level of taxonomic families is much the same as the evidence at the level of phyla. We're talking about things like the nested hierarchy, which most scientists think works at all levels. Do the Triabloggers think it works for families but not phyla? If so, what's their evidence?


i) Here’s one way of unpacking the micro/macroevolutionary distinction:


After Darwin, the first phenomenon (changes within an existing species or gene pool) was named "microevolution." There is abundant evidence that changes can occur within existing species, both domestic and wild, so microevolution is uncontroversial.

The second phenomenon (large-scale changes over geological time) was named "macroevolution," and Darwin's theory that the processes of the former can account for the latter was controversial right from the start. Many biologists during and after Darwin's lifetime have questioned whether the natural counterpart of domestic breeding could do what domestic breeding has never done—namely, produce new species, organs, and body plans.



ii) The nested hierarchy is one of the phenomena specifically addressed by Kurt Wise, which I already referred the reader to. Cf. J. Moreland, ed. The Creation Hypothesis (IVP 1994), 217-21.

Moving along:


The section on the age of the earth is rather confused. It's major points are something about resetting clocks, and "that radiometric decay rates are not designed to tell the time. That is not their natural function." For not recognizing these things, scientists are called "terribly gauche, which, in some ways, is worse" than being liars. Sorry guys, scientists are going to try to figure out how the world works, and they're going to do so without worringy about untestable hypotheticals. They will use electron mircroscopes to investigate matter even if Zeus didn't design electrons for that purose. They will use light to try to figure out the chemical composition of distant stars, even if Ra might be holding up a big mirror to confuse them. That's how science works. Deal with it.


i) How is what I said rather confused?

ii) Dating the age of the earth by linear extrapolation from radiometric decay rates is, itself, an untestable hypothetical.

iii) Once again, Hallquist resorts to an androcentric defense of his untestable assumptions: this is the way a human scientist goes about his work: deal with it!

a) This is quite ironic coming from a secularist. His position is more androcentric than the anthropic principle.

He doesn’t believe that the universe was fine-tuned for human life, but he acts as if the universe, even though it wasn’t fine-tuned for human life, was fine-tuned for human science.

He doesn’t believe that it was actually fine-tuned for human science, but he acts as if the universe can be treated as though it were fine-tuned for human science, even though it wasn’t.

Isn’t secular faith beautiful to behold?

b) My point is that a radiometric process is not a clock. To equate it with a clock fails to distinguish between its natural function, and our anthropomorphic analogy.

Hallquist is a secular version of Paley. He’s mounting an argument from analogy between a clock and a natural process which he equates with a timepiece.

Once again, this is all very ironic coming from a secularist.

c) I don’t object to a scientist using a periodic process as if it were a chronometer.

But my point is that unless we are going to delude ourselves with anthropomorphic projections onto the natural world, we need to draw an elementary distinction between what things are, in and of themselves, and how we use them—then make allowance for the fact that if we put a natural process to an unnatural use, it may let us down.

Hallquist is an Oreo atheist. He’s an atheist on the outside. But on the inside he acts as if the natural world were a set of artifacts, like an abandoned clock shop, designed by the divine watchmaker to tell him the time.

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