Saturday, April 26, 2008

The fight for Middle Earth

I’m reposing something I originally said over at Green Baggins in response to an orc that invaded the Shire.

Scott Jorgenson said,

“But it is unconvincing at least as far as a physically-global flood is concerned, because there would be ruins everywhere.”

i) As I’ve said twice now, I’m noncommittal on the physical extent of the flood due to difficulties in correlating geographical markers in the text with our contemporary preconceptions. It would be anachronistic to take a modern map of the world and superimpose that on Gen 6-8—in a one-to-one correspondence—since I doubt that Moses or his audience was using satellite cartography. This doesn’t mean that Moses had an inaccurate notion of the world. But we can’t begin with our sense of scale, and then presume that an ancient author is using geographical markers to denote equivalent distances.

ii) Whether there would be ruins everywhere makes extratextual assumptions about the extent of prediluvian human dispersion as well as the durability of building materials.

When I interpret Scripture, I use the grammatico-historical method. That means the studious avoidance of extraneous, anachronistic interpolations into the text.

“The only distinctive physical reminder near the Mesopotamians would be the ark itself.”

Which would be an outstanding memorial.

“Migrating people groups would encounter reminders everywhere in the devastation of the earth, as would those who remained near the ark.”

i) That assumes a global flood, which may or may not be the correct interpretation.

ii) It also makes gratuitous assumptions about the flood mechanism. The degree of devastation, as well as the rate of renewal, would depend on the flood mechanism.

This is all highly speculative. Different models will yield different results.

iii) I also don’t assume that a global flood would be uniform in its effects. That would vary with the natural terrain.

“To apply your example, Americans to this day retain great affinity with English culture.”

No, that’s your example—not mine. You’ve substituted English immigrants for French immigrants.

“Because when the English migrated to America they culturally interacted relatively little with the Native Americans they found here (considering them sub-human).”

That’s one reason. Another reason is that English culture was (for a long time) the dominant culture in the U.S.

“Much as the French would like to think otherwise, they have been influenced substantially by the rest of the continent.”

A process vastly accelerated in the case of French immigrants to the U.S.

“And I would be careful how much the argument is pressed, as scholars date the earliest written Mesopotamian accounts (Atrahasis) earlier than even traditional dates for the Pentateuch.”

The Pentateuch is inspired.

“Yes, theories have been subducted in science, paradigms have changed, but always in directions which build upon and incorporate the data that previous scientific ideas explained.”

That’s simplistic. Larry Laudan, for one, is less sanguine.

You’re also equivocating. For example, Newtonian physics is still useful for computational purposes. However, Newtonian physics is underwritten by views of time and space which are fundamentally at odds with Einstein.

“Now I know that many here will simply chalk this up to the corrupting effects of sin.”

I have’t used that argument, although many secular scientists are quite public and militant about their agenda.

“Utterly unfalsifiable, it could just as well be used by Mormons (and it is) to counter scientific proof against their ideas of American pre-history.”

Mormonism is falsifiable on many different fronts. We know a good deal about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. We know a good deal about 19C American history. Not to mention the many contradictions between the Mormon canon and the canon of Scripture—even though Mormonism pays lipservice to the authority of Scripture.

“I am an engineer. I cannot seal my worlds apart from one another like you suggest.”

I don’t know what this is alluding to. I don’t think that Kurt Wise or John Byl (to take two examples) is out of touch with nature.

Likewise, when I refer to temporal metrical conventionalism, that’s a scientifically respectable position which has enjoyed the intellectual patronage of many distinguished scientific minds.

“I know no technical person (engineering, science, medicine, etc) who can. I beg you to reconsider your dismissal of the fruitfulness of critical/scientific method for ascertaining things about the physical world, including its history. Everything surrounding you right now — your computer, your clothing, the materials constituting your furniture and the building you occupy, the food in your stomach, and the antibiotics in your blood the last time you were sick — they are all proof of this fruitfulness.”

i) This is philosophically naïve. Successful theories can be false. For a theory to succeed, all you need is a reliable correlation between the distal stimulus, the proximal stimulus, and the percept—along with a theory that accurately captures that correlation.

This, however, doesn’t mean the theory is true—any more than my mental representation must be isometric with the distal stimulus.

For example, I can use a keypad to successful withdraw money from an ATM, yet the appearance of the keypad tells me nothing about the money inside. The money is several steps removed from the keypad by physical, electronic, cryptographic, and mechanical processes which intervene to implement my command.

ii) Indeed, a scientific analysis of sensory perception accentuates the distance between appearance and reality. What I perceive is not the extramental object, but encoded information.

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