Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Touchstone or wishbone?


“That's a categorical claim. Evolution *could* not be true, according to this claim. It's fine to make the claim, but as it is, it's just naked assertion -- ipse dixit. If your claim has any epistemic strength we should be able examine the criteria for this claim. Specifically, what would (proto-)man have needed to survive? You made the claim, not me. If you can't supply even a rudimentary framework for determining what would be sufficient for survival, then let's call your claim what it is - a naked assertion.”

Which I’ve answered on multiple occasions.

You’re problem is not the lack of an answer, but an answer that gives you problems.

You want to impose a set of criteria that shift the burden of proof by treating evolution as a theory which must be falsified by the evidence rather than a theory which must be verified by the evidence.

Since that is not a scientific rule of evidence, I can reject it for that reason alone.

“I understand you feel that way. But others reading might appreciate you actually addressing the question. Perhaps they are able to understand.”

I agree. One reader by the name of Patrick Chan has shown a perfectly lucid grasp of the issues, and he’s still waiting for you to answer my questions.

“I specifically used the word ‘scientifically’ to constrain the discussion to a scientific plane.”

Yes, I’m sure you did. Since you can’t win on the facts, you resort to the old tactic of truth by definition. You try to redefine the rules of evidence, or redefine the key terms in a way that rigs the outcome in your favor.

“I'm quite interested to see if you respond to scientific questions with meta-scientific critiques. If you do, I believe my major thesis here is established -- you cannot engage on science, because science destroys your paradigm. You are divorced from it, and must resort to meta-scientific critiques.”

I don’t cede to you the right to impose on me a tendentious definition of science. You don’t get to define as “unscientific” anything you please.

You don’t get to arbitrarily isolate scientific questions from metascientific questions on those occasions when the answers to, or undecidability of, certain metascientific questions has a direct bearing on the answers, or undecidability of, scientific questions.

When, for example, you demand an answer to the age of an object, the question of dating is inseparable from metascientific questions, such as the status of temporal metrics or the initial conditions.

Likewise, you don’t get to unilaterally define science in atheistic terms, and then treat any appeal to divine creation as “unscientific.”

That is prejudicial. Science is supposed to be descriptive, not proscriptive. Science is supposed to operate on the principle of discovery, not stipulation.

If God is the Creator of the world, then divine agency is a central factor in cosmology, biology, &c.

Methodological naturalism makes as much sense to a Christian as methodological abiogenesis makes to a gynecologist.

“There are several threads currently active in physics that are pursuing the idea that space-time *is* fundamentally quantized, and that Lorentz symmetries break down at or near the Planck scale due to this quantization. Moreover, there's some good observational evidence (type in 'GZK limits' in you Google box for more) that fits with this idea very well.”

And is this “observational evidence” *measurable* evidence? If so, then you need a metric to measure it—in which case you can’t very well use your chosen metric to disprove metrical conventionalism.

The Planck scale is, itself, a metrical artifice.

All you’ve accomplished by this example is to lock yourself inside a vicious circle and thrown away the key. Hope you don’t get dizzy.

“If you have knowledge that this is not the case, you can help them by waving them off their wild goose chase.”

i) Only because you’re too superficial to realize that all your examples take temporal metrics for granted.

ii) I’d add that the ontological significance of quantum mechanics remains a matter of ongoing controversy. For example:

“It is a common view among many of today’s physicists that quantum mechanics provides us with *no* picture of ‘reality’ at all! The formalism of quantum mechanics, on this view, is to be taken as just that: a mathematical formalism. This formalism, as many quantum physicists would argue, tells us essentially nothing about an actual *quantum reality* of the world, but merely allows u to compute probabilities for alternative realities that might occur,” R. Penrose, The Road to Reality (Knopf, 2004), 782.

Continuing with the Evangelutionist:

“I'll spare you a cavalcade of links, but if you dispute this, I'm ready to provide an avalanche of scientific work that operates on the idea that space-time is *not* a smooth continuum.”

And does this avalanche have *measurable* predictions with *measurable* results? If so, then…

“How do you know this? If space-time *is* fundamentally quantized, then time *is* a thing in the most direct immanent sense.”

Unless you’re a throwback to Newtonian physics (a la absolute time and space), then time and space are modal relational properties rather than substantial entities in their own right.

“This works on the assumption that we can only ‘know’ through direct measurement. That's not a limitation in practice. If the quantized model of space-time perfectly predicts and explains physical phenomenon, then it's by definition useful knowledge. Meta-scientific critiques do not change the fact that a successful prediction is a successful prediction.”

Are these predictions *measurable* predictions? The poor guy never knew what hit him.

“I'm looking for a scientific treatment, and I'm getting meta-scientific treatments.”

That’s because you think you can keep scientific questions and metascientific questions in airtight compartments. But the measurement of time is a paradigm-case to the contrary.

For someone who says he affirms the unity of truth, you instantly deny the unity of truth whenever it would threaten your faith-commitment to TE.

“My hypothesis is that you unable to engage on scientific questions, as you fundamentally reject science as an epistemology.”

To classify science as “an epistemology” is a metascientific claim, so your attempt to sequester science from metascience is self-refuting.

“But for you, it's simply a shield to protect yourself from the scientific implications of you interpretation of scripture.”

Other issues aside, your attachment to allegorical hermeneutics and methodological naturalism are insulating strategies to shield yourself from the scientific falsification of your intellectually divided faith.

“Steve, I think you are confused about the concept of ex nihilo creation. I subscribe to the Big Bang Theory, and identify this as *the* archetype for ex nihilo creation. In other words, the Big Bang was the creation of something -- everything -- out of nothing. Cosmic evolution -- the cooling of the universe and formation of galaxies and planets over billions of years is just a *consequence* of the ex nihilo creation of the Big Bang. There's nothing incompatible between the Big Bang Theory and ex nihilo creation. BBT *is* ex nihilo creation. Unless you are aware of extant material or space-time prior to the Big Bang?”

According to *one* particular version of BBT. But since you’re so fond of quantum mechanical defeaters or undercutters for YEC (as you view them), what about Brane cosmology?

“Yikes, now it's an *internal* relation. Internal to what.?”

Since you’re evidently unaware of this standard philosophical concept, here’s a definition:

“Sure. No problem with that. That's why physicists just shrug when you ask them ‘What came before the Big Bang?’"

Do they, now? What about Brane cosmology (see above).

“If have observational evidences that agree with each other and across metrics and disciplines that make an ancient universe the run-away best performing model, then a hypothesis that ex nihilo creation happened 6,000 years ago has a conflict to resolve with the evidence and observations that make the case for a much older universe.”

The evidence would be empirically equivalent either way. Y

“YECs can take refuge in the pleading for mature creation, suggesting the God made the universe look and act precisely as it would if it were billions of years old.”

That’s a hostile caricature of mature creation. I’ve blogged on this subject many times before, so I’m not going to repeat myself here.

“I don't have to paint creation as a cosmic illusion. I can view God's creation as real, and authentic in that what we observe *does* correspond to the way God made things.”

You repeat your juvenile parody of mature creation.

Other issues aside, if you’re going to go down this road, then a TE has to paint the creation as a cosmic illusion when he says that God made the stars look as if they’re younger than they really are.

Or, since you’re so enamored with quantum mechanics, then a TE like you has to paint the creation as a cosmic illusion when he appeals to quantum mechanics. As John Byl points out:


The basic thrust of his model is that, while the universe may appear to be very old, this is just an illusion. (Tipler's theory, involving retrodiction barriers caused by exploding black holes, is rather technical. For further details the interested reader is referred to his paper). He notes that such an illusionary history is not unique to his theory. The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics requires that, due to the observed interference of probability amplitudes, there are in reality many alternative histories that give rise to the present:

“For example, although it is generally agreed that Julius Caesar existed, there is also a history leading to the present in which he did not exist. The Many Worlds Interpretation asserts that both histories actually occurred and both combined to give rise to us” (Tipler 1984, 891).

Tipler notes that this view requires that the existence of the present historical records should not be taken to imply that any past event has indeed occurred. Although Tipler claims not to believe his theory, he states that he developed it to challenge cosmologists and philosophers to give good reasons for rejecting it on scientific grounds.



“Science, being predicated on methodological materialism, *can't* make metaphysical inquiries, it's incapable by *design*.”

So you say. And you can only say this because you shield yourself from arguments to the contrary.

You specifically challenged me to come up with scholarly arguments critiquing methodological naturalism. Having done exactly what you demanded from me, it is clear that you never intended to read the material, much less interact with the arguments contained therein.

You can’t afford to, for methodological naturalism, along with allegorical hermeneutics, form the glass ceiling which prevents your lower story science from eroding your upper story faith.

You’re a professing Christian on Sundays, but an honorary atheist on Mondays.


  1. "I agree. One reader by the name of Patrick Chan has shown a perfectly lucid grasp of the issues, and he’s still waiting for you to answer my questions."

    I realize Touchstone aka the Evangelutionist and I are now talking about whether Genesis should be read as allegory, but I'll second what Steve notes here: Touchstone has yet to adequately address the original problems Steve presented regarding human evolution (e.g. see this post).

    Not to mention the ones about time, appearance vs. reality, etc. seen in this post and the preceding posts.

    Anyway, I hope this doesn't spell doom for our discussion on whether one should read [the first few chapters of] Genesis as allegory. But I'll admit Touchstone's track record doesn't exactly appear very promising so far.

  2. Patrick,

    You'll have to tell me what claims I've made that I haven't backed up with and argument. And I'm afraid you'll have to provide quotes. Reading the post you linked to, I see that I asked a couple questions, questions that still remain unanswered, and that Steve asks not a single question of me in the whole post. Nor does he make a demand for more information without a question mark, so far as I can see.

    So, perhaps you linked to the wrong post? Whatever the case, I'm happy to have you provide the quotes of my statements which you think need additional clarity or support.

    Just so were clear, in that post, Steve *did* make this claim:

    ii) Assuming evolution to be true, man did not have the wherewithal to survive.

    That's a positive claim that I suspect is wholly indenfensible. But without evening deciding up front whether it *is* supportable or not, I simply want to know the criteria for making the decision Steve made. He decided it couldn't happen, and said so. I'd simply like to know what the criteria was that determined man did *not* have the wherewithal. Saying I haven't proved evolution doesn't change anything, you know that. A claim is a claim.

    Maybe if you asked him to respond, to substantiate the rationale that went into that, he'd oblige you.