Re: inference

Bill Payne (
Wed, 12 Nov 1997 21:39:52 -0600

Wed, 12 Nov 1997 15:45:28 -0400 Paul Arveson wrote:
> >> No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any
> >> statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact.
> >
> > This contains "we can't see the past" argument, the use of which
> >is _prima facie_ evidence of incompetence.
> > George Murphy
> I've been seeing this argument in creationist literature for a long time.
> I believe it could be classified as irrational, but maybe we need to spell
> out why, instead of just dismissing the argument. Most people have not
> been trained in logic or scientific method.


> Despite this philosophical conundrum, I think it's fair to say that science
> has made some progress since the 18th century.
> Apparently some young-earth creationists are so desperate to defend their
> view that they are willing to tear down all other knowledge in order to do
> it. Kind of like tearing down a city to get material to build barricades.

I have (perhaps unfairly) the impression that the Alabama State Board of
Education textbook statement has been shoved into a YEC pigeon hole to
permit the wholesale dismissal of the statement without having to
examine the distress some of us feel when our fundamental beliefs are
challenged to be reconsidered with an "open mind" as theory and not as
fact. Have we come to the point that urging students to keep an open
mind is philosophically equivalent to "tearing down a city to get
material to build barricades?"

I am quite familiar with the argument that Christians are closed-minded
to reality because they think they have the "hide-bound" truth as
revealed in the Bible. It strikes me as incongruous that a similar
argument is used to protect the "hide-bound" doctrines of naturalism.
The OEC flow of thought seems to be that the miracles of Jesus in the
New Testament are acceptable because we have eye witness verifications,
and therefore there is no deceit. But to extend this concept back into
Genesis violates the rule of "better sense" of Ramm as stated in the
conclusion of the Gosse post
[] from John Burgeson [Tue,
28 Oct 1997 09:11:11 -0700]:

"The weakness of Gosse's theory is not that we can find some
indications of real time, but in the thinness of the theory. If the
earth were perfectly antiquated then it would be impossible to tell the
difference between (i) a world which actually went through long
processes of aging, and (ii) a world which was perfectly antiquated.
If the two are impossible of differentiation, common sense prefers (i)
over (ii). If we conduct our science and geology on the grounds of a
world having gone through such a process, it would be rather absurd
to affirm that it had not really gone through such a process. Such a
scheme as Gosse propounds, clever as it is, is a tacit admission of
the correctness of geology. Better sense will state that the ideal time
the real time. If this is done Gosse offers us no basis of the
reconciliation of geology and Genesis and, therefore, we must look

(Ramm B. "The Christian View of Science and Scripture", Paternoster:
London, 1955, p133-134).

Ramm's view offers us no reconciliation of common sense and the miracles
performed by Jesus. Gosse's argument is irrefutable because we have no
way of testing the past. Although the miracles of Jesus were observed
by eye witnesses, we also have no way of testing the miracles, and so
have to rely completely upon the eye witnesses to validate the miracles.

In this Gosse/Ramm paradox, we are being logically inconsistent if we
accept the miracles of Jesus because of eyewitnesses, but reject the
miracles of Genesis because of Ramm's appeal to "better sense." To say,
"God is deceitful if the universe is in fact young but appears old, and
therefore the universe must be old", may be rational within our frame of
reference, but the logic is not consistent with the appearance of age in
the wine-from-water miracle.

As Mooran has pointed out, when dealing with historical science, we have
no experimental verification of our inferences. To draw rigid
conclusions about past events that were not observed and may not be
experimentally verified is to extrapolate beyond the support of our
data. To present extrapolated inferences as fact rather than theory is
to overstate our level of confidence and curtail the inquisitive nature
of science.

Bill Payne