Saturday, May 2, 2009

Initiating Conversation

I'd like to take this opportunity to front-page a comment I made to TAG-Photos on another section of this blog. There has been some decent, earnest conversation between us here, and it would be nice to have wider input from the rest of the readership here, too. TAG's comments will be in red, and mine in black.

"Theistic evolution is a theory such as evolution and the big bang. They are all theories in the big picture."
Theistic evolution in one sense is a theory, you're right. However, what 'theory' usually means in the scientific field is 'a non-falsified, repeatable test that confirms a hypothesis' (a loose definition). Given that, evolution is not a 'theory' in the colloquial sense (i.e., a proposed idea); it is a repeatable experiment that confirms a hypothesis.

But just to complicate things a little more, the naturalist philosopher (archaic term for 'scientist'), David Hume, put forward a revolutionary principle that states that an unrestricted general conclusion cannot be the basis for all concluding knowledge on an item of study and experimentation. Which is to say that once you know something from repeated experimentation, that doesn't guarantee that you will arrive at the same conclusion through the same experiment in all circumstances. And as we know from quantum physics and the Uncertainty Principle, testing often biases the results at an elemental level because all measurement interferes with what's being measured. Hence nothing is known with absolute certainty.

At first glance this would seem to agree with your sentiment that "they are all theories in the big picture", but in admitting this it places you squarely in the position of not being able to defend decisive conclusions like, "There are no experiments that we as mere mortals can do to prove or illustrate points of creationism." For if the zero-point is that right belief depends on "the amount of weight you personally put on the given evidence" then we can reliably suggest that more mathematical proofs, such as Kalam's Cosmological Argument, terminate the opportunity to disbelieve: determine a point that doesn't exist, disambiguate an actual nothing, count to one (with all infinite variables between nothing and one).

The point is that science, Scripture, logic, math all assume a starting point for what is based on the fact that something is. Denial of that is absurd. Thus, we can determine an actual point where something had to have been 'created' or somehow initiated into being; it is scientifically and logically impossible to believe otherwise.

With that in mind, we can now calmly disagree together with your original statement that "The only proof of creationism is the bible, that I am aware of. There are no experiments that we as mere mortals can do to prove or illustrate points of creationism."

Anticipating your reply.

8 comments:

tag-photos said...

Better wording on my part would likely have been better.

Using definitions and analogies here, http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistry101/a/lawtheory.htm we can use the words hypothesis, theory and law more accurately as they apply to science.

Looking at those definitions I will amend my earlier statement.

Evolution is a theory. In that it summarizes a whole slew of hypotheses regarding the current state of a bunch of animals, man included, and how they have come to their modern state.
This of course also includes out of necessity some form of beginning. For man it is primates, such as monkey. Lower forms such as monkey can be hypothesized and guessed at until you reach single cell organisms.
Going that far is of course guess work, at best educated guess, at worst shot in the dark. i.e. missing link.

Creationism, in my opinion, can not even be classed as an hypothesis on it's own. At best it could be used as a portion of the theory of evolution to explain a starting point in evolution. As in how the first single celled organisms came to be. Even that is doubtful though since there are no observable points to creationism.
Excepting the argument that we are simply here. In my opinion observing that things exist is a poor rationalization for creationism. Even a big bang theory has more observable points than that.

The big bang though could actually be classed as an hypothesis that is included in the theory of evolution.
The differing point between big bang and creationism is observation. We can observe celestial objects traveling relative to each other and conclude from those observations a starting point for those movements.

Creationism on the other hand has no observable point to it that I am aware of.
Closest thing I can think of are the old ads for sea monkeys :)

"Which is to say that once you know something from repeated experimentation, that doesn't guarantee that you will arrive at the same conclusion through the same experiment in all circumstances."

Differing circumstances would indicate a different experiment, would it not?


Uncertainty principle. New term to me so from a quick glance at a couple pages I get this.

"According to quantum mechanics, the more precisely the position (momentum) of a particle is given, the less precisely can one say what its momentum (position) is. This is (a simplistic and preliminary formulation of) the quantum mechanical uncertainty principle for position and momentum."

From http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-uncertainty/

I am hoping Stanford university is a good enough source...

All I am seeing here is that a particles position and momentum can not be accurately measured simultaneously.

Not sure how, or why, you are applying this universally.


" "they are all theories in the big picture", but in admitting this it places you squarely in the position of not being able to defend decisive conclusions like, "There are no experiments that we as mere mortals can do to prove or illustrate points of creationism.""

I still stand by that there are no experiments that we can do is prove or illustrate points of creationism. Further there is also nothing we can OBSERVE to suggest creationism. Which is why I amended my original statement to creationism can not even be considered an hypothesis.

If you have any ideas on an experiment that can prove any point of creationism i would be very interested in hearing about it.
Likewise if they are any observable points of creationism that we can observe I would also be interested in hearing about it. Remembering I need more than a "Simple look in the mirror".


"The point is that science, Scripture, logic, math all assume a starting point for what is based on the fact that something is. Denial of that is absurd. Thus, we can determine an actual point where something had to have been 'created' or somehow initiated into being; it is scientifically and logically impossible to believe otherwise."

I agree, mostly....

Of course to be a bit of a devil's advocate and continue discussion on the matter, what if the law of conservation of mass was correct? In that matter can not created or destroyed.

Then of course there was not distinct beginning and time is truly infinite.
The big bang could fit into this. For if my memory serves it has been observed that celestial bodies are slowing down.
What if given enough time all the celestial bodies return to their starting point, collide and create a new big bang. What if this cycle continues infinitely and has been going on for an infinite amount of time...

The reason I say I agree with you mostly is simply that the thought of infinite time is just so mindboggingly vast that I can not really begin to fathom it.
Likewise I have a hard time imagining some divine being creating everything.


"Thus, we can determine an actual point where something had to have been 'created' or somehow initiated into being; it is scientifically and logically impossible to believe otherwise."

Using that statement though you would have to agree that God was created at some point as well.


"With that in mind, we can now calmly disagree together with your original statement that "The only proof of creationism is the bible, that I am aware of. There are no experiments that we as mere mortals can do to prove or illustrate points of creationism.""

Oh contrary I think. I still fail to see any observable proof or an experiment to support creationism other than the bible and the simple fact that we exist.
Again I would absolutely love to see any form of observation or experiment to support creationism.


I do have to admit I am a little unclear on this statement.

"then we can reliably suggest that more mathematical proofs, such as Kalam's Cosmological Argument, terminate the opportunity to disbelieve: determine a point that doesn't exist, disambiguate an actual nothing, count to one (with all infinite variables between nothing and one)."

My understanding of Kalam's Cosmological argument is that it is neither mathematical or a proof.

"(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe has a beginning of its existence.
Therefore:
(3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
(4) If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
Therefore:
(5) God exists."

This does not seem like a proof of any form to me.
The mathematical arguments may be sound, but they relate to the concept of infinite.
If infinite is possible than the argument is worthless.

That same argument has serious implication with the existence of god as well.
If there is no infinite, then God has a starting point because God is not infinite.
If god is infinite than the concept of infinite has just been proven and Kalam's argument is false.

So please explain to me where my logic is failing here.

tag-photos said...

http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/673-who-made-god

Wyatt posted this link in any discussion and I think it relevant here.

"(1) God is “everlasting” in nature (Isa. 40:28), which is to say, he is “eternal” as to his very essence (Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17). His existence is “from everlasting to everlasting.” Before the material creation was spoken into existence, he always was (Psa. 90:2)"

If God is everlasting, then he has existed an infinite period of time and will continue to exist for an infinite period of time.
Using this argument, or any others on that site, infinite must exist.
If infinite exists than kalam's argument is false since a fundamental concept in that argument is that infinite can not exist.


Sorry I know someone would argue that God was not created and I found this link from Wyatt and figured I would spearhead those comments.

Christopher said...

TP,

I haven't forgotten about your comments. I will comment on them soon. Sorry about the wait.

Craig said...

On a similar but different topic. I had a good question put before me today.
If we dismiss the 7 day creation as a myth, do we necessarily loose the concept of fallen man and original sin with it and in doing so make the entire gospel incoherent?

Tag-photos said...

In My Humble Opinion...

(Fallen man is Adam and Eve right) :)

If we dismiss the 7 day creation as myth, or even as I previously wrote, agree with 7 day creation but initial creation is of single cell organism(s) instead of evolved species, than the fallen man as anything other than as analogy makes no sense.

Of course the story still makes sense in the same way as the same story in other mythologies. Such as Pandora's box.

Adam and Eve is a very similar story except of course the garden, snake and apple. The apple of course being replaced with a box.

I have no direct knowledge, BUT, I do remember hearing that it is a common story in mythology. Basically going as Mankind lived in paradise until women screwed things up.

I believe one of the reasons for this story is to simply keep women subservient to man. The story of course illustrates how Women are morally weaker than men. Which can also extend to intelligence, wisdom, and so on.
These stories combined with the obvious physical strength superiority in men would have worked great to keep women in their place.

Edward said...

Craig,

I don't think so. But that's not to say there'd be no difficulties in sorting everything out. And I'm not sure I could convince someone who disagreed with me. But I still don't think so.

Tag-photos said...

I was thinking today, again on a tangent.

This time actually about incest in the bible.

If Adam and Eve were the only two people, then the next generation would all be sisters and brothers.
So you have sister and brother couples reproducing and all their offspring would be sister, brother, or first cousin.
So again another generation of incestuous relations.

Of course this happens again after Noah and the flood.

I got thinking about this because of contradiction in the logic of the creation of the universe and God.
I am also assuming that somewhere in the bible is says incest is bad,

Christopher said...

TAG,

At long last, I get to your responses. Please forgive my delay.

You wrote: "Creationism, in my opinion, can not even be classed as an hypothesis on it's own." And I quite agree with you given the scientific definition of the word 'hypothesis'. I don't think Scripture places itself in modern scientific terms in any way, and is thus a non-scientific recounting of creation.

Given that, it would seem obvious that any attempt on the part of a believer to quote-mine from Scripture a scientific understanding of the natural world is simply ignorant, and insincere.

You continued with: "At best it could be used as a portion of the theory of evolution to explain a starting point in evolution." Again, we agree. Looking at it abstractly, something at some point had to start being. As practical and logical as that is, creationism can be a plausible explanation for the beginning of what is.

Again on an abstract note, we can blindly accept that 'something' has always existed and we simply emerged from whatever that 'something' was; or we can blindly accept that 'something' was created at an (as of yet) unidentified point in linear time. In the first case, we end up with the endless regress of infinite emergence: what was the start of emergence? Really, it boils down to the same question on a more abstract scale, "where did we come from?" In the second case, we concede that something happened to make the transition from 'nothing' to 'something', and other 'stuff' started emerging from there. In either case, we're left with the undeniable fact that we actually are, so both positions are taken as a supposition.

Now, you contrasted creationism with the big bang by suggesting that creationism has no observable starting points, and the big bang does. You imply that creationism can be at least somewhat ratified by the simple expedient that we are here. It should be noted, however, that the big bang model, while it is almost unanimously agreed on as the best explanation for the genesis of our universe, operates of the same expedient noted above: the singularity had to have come from somewhere, and that can't be denied since we are here. So while creationism has no testable starting points, the big bang, as a cosmological starting point, still has to answer the question of its own origin: why is there something rather than nothing?

And the answer to that, my friend, is irrefutably, and hideously difficult. Respectable public figures such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, et al. will all admit that they don't know why there is something rather than nothing, and that our current scientific models are largely incapable of answering the 'something vs. nothing' question. So, I'm inclined to play the agnostic on that question: I don't know why there's something rather than nothing. All I know is that there isn't nothing, so it must've gathered together somehow. At that point, I feel free to play both sides of the fence between creationism/ID and Darwinian evolution. Scampering to either side of the extremes seems philosophically irresponsible to me, and a little more like a shady form of religious, or scientific fundamentalism.