Reply to Carol Regehr

From: John Burgeson (
Date: Thu Aug 31 2000 - 13:08:10 EDT

  • Next message: John Burgeson: "Comment to Ryan"

    Carol Regehr wrote:

    "Personal credulity has a slight advantage over personal
    incredulity, at least for someone of a mathematical turn of mind.
    For example, I remember the moment when I finally "got" the point
    of mathematical proof by induction [(k=n for particular n) and
    {(k=n is true) implies (k=n+1 is true)}]. In the aftermath, I
    also have a metamathematical appreciation of (a) why I didn't get
    it before; (b) why I couldn't articulate, even to myself, just
    what was puzzling me about it; and (c) therefore why no one was
    able to explain it to me. My lack of the teaching gift hinders me
    in helping anyone else across that divide."

    While I understand your point, it does not seem (to me) to suggest
    that "credulity should win over incredulity."

    Some years ago I read, and reviewed for PERSPECTIVES, John Casti's
    superb book, PARADIGMS LOST, 1989, in which he examines, as if in a
    court of law, the claim that "life arose out of natural physical
    processes taking place here on earth." While he found in favor
    of the claim "quickly and easily," I found myself, even with the
    "strawman arguments" then in vogue, notably those of ICR and the like,
    thinking more deeply about how to phrase the questions.

    At some point I began to think of the claim, which to me is an integral
    part of the GTOE, as if I were on the jury and was charged
    with finding the defendant, in this case the simple assertion that the
    GTOE claim is not proven (in legal, not scientific, terms) to the same
    extent as, say, the fact that the earth is a sphere, incorrect. In spite of
    efforts of many good people, most of whom I respect greatly, to
    convince me that the defendant is guilty, I cannot vote that way.
    I understand that Richard Dawkins must therefore put me
    into a category which is either ignorant, crazy or wilfully evil.
    So be it. One day I will know.

    Carol continues:

    "Of course, mathematical "truth" and its apprehension are not
    exactly analogous to truth and learning in the natural sciences,
    for the purposes of your discussion here. But the experience of
    the "aha!" moment cuts across categories. As another example, I
    remember the spacetime coordinates of the event at which I
    finally understood the picture of the 3-sphere. I was walking
    past the bike racks on my way to the pool to swim laps during
    lunch hour, when it came to me. It was a big deal - Polanyi's
    "personal knowledge" - and I flew the rest of the way to the
    pool. Reminds me of a family story about my great-grandfather's
    conversion. One day he took the wagon to town to buy supplies. On
    his way back home, he left town a good and decent man, and
    arrived home at the farm a good and decent Christian man, having
    met no one but Christ along the way. The "aha!" moment."

    I like your grandfather's story. Much the same thing happened to
    me -- although the "event," if it was an event and not a process,
    happened to me unawares and was realized only some time later.



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