Saturday, October 03, 2015

The power of paradigms

One objection to creationism is simply the fact that so many scientists subscribe to evolution. Why would they do that? Is there a scientific conspiracy to reject Christian theology? Did they get together and take a vote? 

i) To begin with, a certain percentage of scientists are, in fact, hostile to Christianity, Christian ethics, the idea of God. That's clear from surveys as well as outspoken critics. That's not a hidden agenda. That's upfront. 

ii) But another factor is the power of a paradigm. By "paradigm" I mean an interpretive grid. People who are trained in a particular way of seeing a problem and solving a problem may find it almost impossible to conceive of any other way to analyze problems in their field. To deny the paradigm is a hallmark of irrationality. 

Paradigms have a powerful conditioning effect on how we frame issues, what solutions we consider to be acceptable. Many people find it difficult, even for the sake of argument, to step outside of their paradigm and consider the evidence from a radically different perspective. They've lost the capacity for critical detachment. They are so used to operating with the paradigm that it dominates their thinking. 

Paradigms are appealing or seductive because they seem to offer a unified explanation for complicated phenomena. You're confronted with a range of apparently disparate factors. How do you sort it out? Is there a common thread?

A paradigm offers a unifying principle. A way to simplify the analysis by reducing it to some general explanatory dynamics. 

For instance, some people have compared reading Marx to a religious conversion. Suddenly, all the pieces fell into place. 

This is true for many academic disciplines. Take different approaches to psychology, viz. behaviorism, depth psychology, evolutionary psychology.

Take different theories of mind, viz. functionalism, computationalism. 

Take different theories of historical causation. What's the "root cause"? Is history driven by ideas, individuals, economics, luck? 

Some paradigms have, or seem to have, great explanatory power. An ability to integrate wide swaths of data. They can be very persuasive. 

A breaking point is when a paradigm tries to explain too much. The paradigm no longer explains the evidence; rather, the theorist labors to show how the evidence is consistent with the paradigm. He may introduce makeshift modifications to the paradigm, or speculate on how the total evidence would be consistent with the paradigm if only we had a larger sample. 

A paradigm may explain, or appear to explain, a lot of evidence, but when it becomes strained or overextended, that reveals internal weaknesses in the paradigm. It's like a half-truth. It may capture some truth, approximate the truth in some respects, but it's off the mark. 

When we evaluate a paradigm, we need to take into account, not only what it seems to explain, and so without difficulty, and what it fails to explain. It's a question of starting-points. Do you begin with what the paradigm seems to explain with ease, take that as confirmation that the paradigm is roughly on target, then chalk up difficulties to remaining problems to be resolved, which you have faith are ultimately soluble within the parameters of the paradigm?

Or do you begin with problems it has difficulty assimilating? Do you take that as an indication that the paradigm may be flawed? When you evaluate a paradigm, do you begin with apparent problems or apparent solutions? With what it can it explain or what it can't? Which endpoint is your frame of reference? 


  1. "The paradigm no longer explains the evidence; rather, the theorist labors to show how the evidence is consistent with the paradigm."


    1. "The paradigm no longer explains the evidence; rather, the theorist labors to show how the evidence is consistent with the paradigm."



    2. This comment isn't necessarily targeted at Dale since he already knows my views.

      As as former Unitarian I STILL CONCEDE that Unitarianism is intuitively and aprioristically to be preferred. That it should be the default position until proven otherwise. Since there is no clearer and more fundamental Biblical truth than that there is ONLY ONE God. Most Trinitarians have merely inherited their Trinitarianism from the group that converted them. Like an infant consuming alcohol from it's mother's milk while breastfeeding. They haven't really considered the opposing arguments and evidence. They've never felt the weight and pressure of those arguments. It hasn't kept them awake at night or haunted them in their dreams. They've never read Scripture without their Trinitarian glasses on.

      However, having said that, the a posteriori Biblical evidence persuades me personally of the truth of Trinitarianism (or something very much like it). For myself, I cannot turn away from Trinitarianism unless and until the evidences and arguments I've gathered on my blog Trinity Notes have been refuted.

      It's like the Biblical teaching of other topics. Whether it be justification, predestination, etc. The preponderance of the evidence upon surface level reading may lead one directly, but a deeper reading and the weight of the opposing lesser (by comparison) evidence outweighs the former. It would be like comparing the weight of 100 pebbles with the weight of 5 boulders. Sure, there are more pebbles than boulders, but the weight of the (mere) 5 boulders literally outweighs the 100 pebbles (even 1000).

      For example, if one reads the Bible in a cursory fashion one can easily conclude that salvation is by our good works alone (Pelagianism) OR in conjunction with God's graciously enabling and acceptance (hence the intuitive appeal of Semi-Pelagianism, something which even Catholicism rightly rejects officially). It would seem neither our works alone or God's grace alone is sufficient, or is the grounds of salvation.


    3. However, a deeper reading of Scripture clearly teaches that salvation is by God's grace alone and that our works and (even) our faith are manifestations of God's salvific work and process. We must work to finally be saved, but the basis of our justification is the perfect work of Christ's active and passive obedience. Sola fide is theological shorthand for salvation by perfect works, viz. Christ's work, received by faith alone.

      Similarly, the Biblical data has many more statements which can lead people to believe Jesus is only a human being or is a "god" in a lesser sense than the Father. But there are data points which are fewer in number than the former, yet nevertheless still numerous enough and (more importantly) more weighty on the subject of Christ's person and identity which fit best with His full deity. The only way around it it to question the correctness of the Canon and/or the nature of inspiration and whether it entails infallibility and/or inerrancy. For Protestant Infallibility and Inerrancy are often synonymous (since they mean the same thing etymologically). But for others (e.g. some Catholics) Scripture can be infallible without being inerrrant. But even were one to reject inerrancy and go only with general infallibility, the Scriptures would still clearly imply the full deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. One virtually has to say that God stuttered while inspiring Scripture if non-Trinitarianism is true. Or (or in conjunction with that) God wasn't sovereign enough to make sure the right books were included in the canon and the wrong books excluded.

      For myself, abductively, Trinitarianism has the greatest explanatory power and greatest explanatory scope. That's why I continue to hold to Trinitarianism.

    4. Typo Corrections:

      The preponderance of the evidence upon surface level reading may lead one directly [IN one DIRECTION], but a deeper reading and the weight of the opposing lesser (by comparison) evidence [pointing another direction] outweighs the former.

      Also, I'm impressed by how entire books of the New Testament favor Christ's full deity. See for example my analysis of the Christology of Gospel of Mark which everyone agrees has the lowest Christology of the four canonical Gospels. Yet, even in it, the Christology is so very, very high [ingeniously veiled, sometimes, as it is]. If Jesus weren't fully divine and equal with the Father, the writers of Scripture shouldn't have been so careless in implying it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

      I wants me a EHCC [Early High Christology Club] mug!!!

  2. Just to add to Steve's excellent post:

    1. Many evolutionists have a vested interest to subscribe to the neo-Darwinian paradigm inasmuch as their careers depend on it.

    It's also the reason people like William Dembski and Richard Sternberg are so odious to the academy: they refuse to conform to the collective academic hivemind in this regard.

    Indeed, thanks to their imperfect allegiance to the accepted neo-Darwinian paradigm, even otherwise secular (atheist) evolutionists like James Shapiro and Denis Noble (to say nothing of philosophers like Jerry Fodor and Thomas Nagel) are often relegated to the kooky fringes by these Borgia Borgs.

    2. And, of course, as Lewontin once candidly admitted:

    "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of the failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so-stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."