Friday, December 29, 2006

Caponizing physics


“This suggest you have some special knowledge of the purposes for these
‘Certain natural processes’.”

1.Does this also suggest that I require some special knowledge to deny that a rooster was designed to function as an alarm clock?

2.I’d add that since you subscribe to methodological naturalism, you cannot allow design concepts into the natural sciences; so, from your “agnostic” standpoint, natural processes weren’t designed to perform any function in particular or any function at all—in which case you’re debarred from saying that any natural process was designed to be using in dating.

Methodological naturalism banishes teleology from the realm of scientific explanation.

“What specifically are the processes you are referring to here.”

Processes which are used for relative and especially absolute dating purposes.

“And what is you basis for establish their purpose?”

Are you trying to be obtuse? Do you think the natural purpose of ice sheets (to take once example) is to tell us how old things are? You think that’s why it snows? Timex on ice?

“Mountains don't appear smaller at a distance.”

Go ahead. Deny the obvious.

“Only the most naive sensory reading would suggest that.”

To describe an appearance as “naive” is a category mistake. An appearance is simply the way an object appears or looks (or sounds or feels or tastes or smells) to the observer. It’s the direct, raw impression made by the object on the percipient.

“Naïve” has nothing to do with it. Naïveté would only be relevant if one equated the appearance with reality.

“A small movement of the head will provide parallax cues that place the far away mountain... far away, perceptually.”

Are you trying to be obtuse? Nodding your head doesn’t change the fact that mountains appear smaller at a distance.

Nodding your head may expose a discrepancy between appearance and reality. It may make the observer aware that appearances can be deceiving.

But it doesn’t change the fact that mountains still seem to be smaller at a distance.

Sorry you’re unable to grasp the meaning of the most elementary verbal and conceptual distinctions.

“While a far off mountain may only occupy a small number of degrees in the field of view, parallax informs the viewer that the mountains are very far off indeed.”

Which is irrelevant to whether mountains *appear* to be smaller at a distance.

“Or simply put, far off mountains appear ‘far off’, because they are far off.”

Now you’re substituting a different proposition as if that’s equivalent to the original proposition. To say that mountains appear to be smaller at a distance is not convertible with the statement that mountains appear to be far away.

Have you always been this mentally confused? Or to you become disoriented when debating a YEC?

“The physics we hold to predict exactly that phenomenon.”

Which is irrelevant to the gap between appearance and reality. Physics doesn’t make the phenomenon go away. It just attempts to explain it.

“If that's the case, then what do we do with rocks that appear to be quite ancient, according to the physics applied?”

There is no “we.” Just you and me.

Speaking for myself, I guard against anthropomorphic projections. I don’t equate a rooster with a cuckoo clock.

“Are you embracing the naive view here?”

You’re the one who’s acting dense, not me. Or maybe your not acting—which is even worse.

If you want a textbook example of someone who embraces the naïve view, a splendid example would be a caponizing physicist like yourself, according to whom, if a natural process or natural object like an ice sheet or rooster can be put to human use as a chronometer, then it would be unscientific or mystical to deny that a rooster really is a feathery clock, such that God would be deceiving you if you overslept because the rooster didn’t wake you up in time to catch the school bus.

“There's an implied ‘scientific’ in the use of ‘appear’ in these contexts, such that when I say the rocks in your garden appear old, I don't mean ‘naively appear’, like you're eyeballing it with a confused look. Rather, I mean ‘scientifically appear’ old -- old based on measurements of physical processes built into the rock itself. I have a hard time believing this distinction is lost on you.”

No, you don’t get to arbitrarily redefine basic words, concepts, and distinctions to weasel out of your duplicity. You try to play both sides of the appearance/reality fence, rejecting YCE because it’s supposedly counterintuitive while, at the same time, you fee free to embrace the counterintuitive theories of modern science.

There is no such thing as a scientific appearance. An appearance is inherently pretheoretical.

You are attempting to qualify an appearance in a way that collapses the appearance into reality.

“Naivete again, Steve. When we say ‘appear’, we don't mean some kind of ‘naive appearance’, like answers you might get from a three year old.”

Naïveté again, T-stone. There’s no difference in the way a mountain *appears* to a three year old, and the way it appears to Ed Witten.

There may well be a difference in the way they interpret the mountainous appearance, but the mountain itself doesn’t appear one way to a three year old, and another way to Witten. At a phenomenal or sensory perceptual level, which is the level at which appearances operate, the mountain looks just the same regardless of whether Witten is three years old or thirty.

*Appearances* aren’t *answers*. Is there some reason you’re so persistently dim on this elementary and irreducible distinction?

“Rather, the intent is to suggest "scientifically appear", which is more clunky in terms of the prose, but apparently necessary here.”

You’re trying to smuggle the corrective of reality into the definition of appearance. That violates the concept of an appearance.

“So, no, I don't see that the stars "scientifically appear" to be younger than they really are. Although that presumes my own estimates of their ages, I guess.”

Your estimate of their ages has nothing to do with how old they look in a telescope.

To the contrary, you are reinforcing the gap between appearance and reality when you contrast the way they look to an observer with their actual age (as you take it to be), after you correct for the time-lag. But that adjustment presupposes and intensifies the gap between appearance and reality.

“You've not been willing to stick your neck out far enough to venture a guess as to how old *any* star really is, from what I've seen.”

Because, according to metrical conventionalism, they don’t have a real or actual age. Are you trying to be obtuse?

“It's too scientific, perhaps?”

No, it’s too unscientific.

“You keep bringing this up.”

That’s because you keep acting as if, by shutting your eyes and clicking your heels, the problem will go away.

“Can you lay out how this applies here?”

Been there, done that.

You can’t recognize the answer because you keep asking the wrong question.

“In any case, maybe you could boldly venture out from behind that term and explain how it attaches here?”

I’ve explained both the term and its application on multiple occasions.


“He's not just throwing that out there because some guy thought it up to harmonize the wackiness of Gen 1 and 2...he throws it out there because its clearly and OBVIOUSLY stated in the book.”

Actually, the difference in the narrative viewpoint is pretty obvious if you bother to compare Gen 1 and 2.

But even if it weren’t “obvious,” it doesn’t have to be “obvious” to be true. Exegesis can uncover subtle differences as well as obvious differences.

And the perspectival distinction I’ve drawn can be found in the standard literature. Try reading a few major commentaries on Genesis.


  1. Speaking of Genesis commentaries, have you checked out the ones by Victor Hamilton? I'm wondering how good they are, or if there are better ones to start off with.

  2. Steve,

    Regarding metric conventionalism, you offered up the subject of metric conventionalism in response to Anonymous who said:
    "If you want to move the creation event up to 4004 BC, then you either have to reject science, or you have to ignore all prior appearances of natural history as a carefully crafted illusion."

    Anonymous can clarify for him/herself, but I think the clear intent of the comment hear was the "scientific appearance" -- the result of scientific measurement and calculation. That's why s/he said you would have to reject science, in my view.

    So let me ask again:

    How does metric conventionalism apply to Anonymous' comment here. I've looked up past references on your part to 'conventionalism', and don't see it attaching to the 4004 BC date. Maybe you can point me to where you did apply it to that date, or explain how it matters here.

    Also, teleology is enthusiastically accepted by science (methodological naturalism). Remember those spears we were talking about from 375,000 years ago that got dug up. Those spears were identified as the target of teleology -- a goal-oriented effort on the part of the makers to fashion raw materials into spears. Arson investigators and homicide detectives work at determining whether teleology (human planning and execution) was at work in starting the fire or causing the victim's death.

    Oh, and of course SETI looks for teleology in communications or modulated phenomena. You get the idea -- teleology is not forbidden as a factor in science.

  3. A couple more things. Maybe to prevent the pedantry here we can agree on the term "scientific estimate" -- the best practices judgment of science regarding some kind of phenomena. It's not interesting scientifically to wonder about what a three year old entertains as visual stimuli. For the purposes of making headway, let's assume I'm thinking in terms of scientific investigation.

    That means that far off mountains are "estimated" to be, well, "far off", in terms of science. Some stars "appear" (are estimated to be) many hundreds of years old, based on the physics applied to the light arriving here on earth.

    If science just doesn't have any relation to reality in your view, I'll accept that position, that's been the direction I've seen you leaning from the start. But if scientific estimates *do* have some correspondance to reality -- something we can rely on, then, how does a YEC dispose of all the estimates that come in at hundreds of thousands, millions and billions of years?

    And as for age, let's start with something simple. Do you have an actual age? Even approximately? How many years old were you on the day of your tenth birthday, approximately? (Cesium clocks are fine as the measuring tool here).

    I think if that's too vexing a question for you, then science really is something you've pushed quite a ways away.


  4. Touchstone said: I think if that's too vexing a question for you, then science really is something you've pushed quite a ways away.

    Just a quick comment:

    Touchstone often attempts to obfuscate the actual issues at hand by putting forth (his version of?) certain scientific facts or theories.

    Of course, it's perfectly legitimate to bring up scientific facts or theories in order to support one's argumentation.

    But in this case, the issues go beyond the scientific facts or theories, and move into the philosophy of science. "What is time?" "What does it mean to measure time with an artificial or natural instrument?" Etc.

    So it would seem Touchstone keeps bringing up scientific facts and theories not to support his argumentation, but in order to avoid dealing with issues originally raised.

  5. Steve, your voluminous blogging serves as ample advertisement of your naiveté. Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!

  6. Patrick,

    As I've said from the beginning, I'm operating from the understanding that YECs must resort to scientific solipsism in order to maintain their views -- Steve's divorced from science, in other words.

    It's fine to ask: "What is time?" For my part, I don't mind discussing it, but the important observation is that when you ask a YEC how old something is, you get answers like "What is time, really?"

    If we just note that you're obliged to offer such responses to basic scientific questions, my primary point is made, thank you. Readers can make up their own minds as to what a response like that means.

    As for "what is time?" I still don't have a clue how Steve (or you for that matter) thinks conventionalism applies to estimating the age of the earth. All I've heard is "what about metric conventionalism" as if there's some obvious implication. If you go ask your local geology professor what the age of the earth is, do you think he will tell you it all centers on metric conventionalism? Heh.

    So, when I read through the research papers on the supernova SN1987A or radiometric dating techniques, or even ice rings, I don't see metrical conventionalism invoked as a problem in the publications. Are these guys just nuts compared to Steve here?

    I suggest that either Steve has a handful of Nobels in physics coming his way for noticing what everyone else missed -- that metrical conventionalism invalidates Einstein's GR and a host of other established theories in physics, or Steve's just offering some convenient bits of solipsism that keep him from having to address the scientific evidence.

    As above, though, the bottom line is that when science comes into view, YECs proceed by asking things like "What is time?" and "What does 'real' really mean, anyway?"...


  7. Steve,

    I’m a bit confused by your references to ‘metrical conventionalism’. How precisely do they impugn naturalism but not the exegetical methods that scholars employ to, say, date the book of Mark?

    More specifically, since time is amorphous by your own account, time would be just as much a problem for the bible scholar’s dating techniques as well, no?

    Additionally, I’m aware of no time keeping device that does not index itself to some observed phenomenon (spring rates in wind-up clocks, atomic clocks, sundials). Natural phenomena is *all* we have to guide us, so why does the use of ‘natural’ phenomena (to establish the age of the earth, for instance) constitute a weakness of some sort?

    The notion of time that we *all* use can’t be separated from the periodicities we perceive in the natural world (including crowing roosters, or the rising and setting sun). What else is there?

    More to the point, according to my understanding, a rooster and a cuckoo clock are essentially the same: both are time keeping devices identified by humans to keep time quite reliably (though neither perfectly) and both are based on processes that are thoroughly naturalistic.

    The only difference is that the clock is designed to model what the rooster presents to us as a ‘paradigm of periodicity’. I’d therefore say that *designed* time keeping devices are no better than the periodic *natural* phenomena that they model. They are, in fact, synonymous.

    Maybe you could you spell out more completely your conception of time and precisely how it improves upon the standard usage?

    You’re referencing philosophical nuances that I’m just *not* managing to wrap my brain around.



  8. Happy new year