Re: inference

George Murphy (
Wed, 12 Nov 1997 22:31:14 -0500

Paul Arveson wrote:

> 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.
> My response would be along the lines that much knowledge of history is
> based on inference. This includes not only events before humans, but
> anything that wasn't written down accurately and preserved until now. And
> David Hume extended the critique against knowledge of prehistory to include
> even current understanding -- you see an effect, he said, but you cannot
> prove its cause; causality is only a habit of mind. So there can be no
> true knowledge of any process, whether humans were there or not.
> Of course Hume didn't succeed in killing science with this argument; but he
> did create a new career path for philosophers trying to figure out how to
> justify inference.
> 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.

& such questions about inference don't just have to do with
the past. Do we know that there are _really_ electrons, pions, &c? So
some YECs find themselves allied with those post-modernists who think
that scientists have simply "constructed" quarks &c instead of
discovering them. & there is _some_ truth in that - as long as you
don't think that quarks are _entirely_ a construct, no more or less real
than elves and trolls.
George Murphy