Re: Rationale for scientific methodology

From: george murphy (
Date: Sun Sep 24 2000 - 12:41:03 EDT

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    Guy Blanchet wrote:

    > george murphy a écrit:
    >> Guy Blanchet wrote:
    >> > Mr. Miller,
    >> >
    >> > The goal of science should be to say everything it can about
    >> natural
    >> > processes. And what it can say may fall into two categories: a
    >> pure physical
    >> > description of a process, and, the reality behind the process (its
    >> deep
    >> > meaning). The first talks about Nature, the second attemps to say
    >> what Nature
    >> > is.
    >> The first is science, the second is metascience (updating
    >> the older
    >> terminology of physics & metaphysics.) Both are legitimate
    >> activities (_pace_
    >> the positivists) but they aren't the same.
    > Correct. They are not the same today ...but does that necessarily
    > mean the situation will never change?

            Such divisions may indeed be erased in the eschaton.

    >> > In developping a theory, one usually establishes a model, a
    >> general concept,
    >> > which is then translated into mathematical relationships.
    >> In modern physics at least, the mathematical relationships
    >> often _are_
    >> the model.
    > True. And that's quite unfortunate because mathematical relationships
    > don't make clear models that promote orderly and focused thinking.
    > Could this be the reason why scientific theories especially in the
    > area of cosmology proliferate more wildly than dandelions?

             One of the merits of mathematics is precisely that it promotes
    orderly and focussed thinking. Moreover, the successes of 20th century
    physics have shown that the order which exists in the physical world is
    mathematical and that other types of models are at best aids toward
    finding the right kind of math to deal with phenomena. Einstein summed
    it up very well: "Experience remains, of course, the sole criterion of
    the physical utility of a mathematical construction. But the creative
    principle resides in mathematics."
            Scientific theories do indeed proliferate, and the task of
    experimentalists is to help us understand which of them (if any)
    corresponds best with observation.

    >> > Limiting the model
    >> > to be observable, i.e. non-supernatural, is a serious and needless
    >> > restriction. No one, worthy of being called a scientist, should
    >> be
    >> > disturbed by a model invoquing the supernatural as long as it
    >> leads to useful
    >> > predictions.
    >> > Those who insist that this is not acceptable practice,
    >> > especially when the supernatural is the Biblical God, are
    >> promoting a
    >> > non-scientific personal agenda.
    >> 1) They may also - as is the case with me and with many
    >> Christian
    >> theologians - be basing their arguments upon theological
    >> understandings of the
    >> ways in which God acts in the world. & whether those are right or
    >> wrong, they
    >> have to be investigated theologically.
    >> Moreover, unless there is some theological
    >> understanding of the
    >> "God" who is invoked by a theory, it of course can predict anything
    >> at all.
    > Agreed. In a scientific theory invoking the Creator, if you have no
    > precise knowledge of Him, you're not going anywhere in terms of saying
    > something precise about His universe.
    >> Of course anything can be "explained" in terms of the actions of a
    >> being with
    >> unlimited power, which is what the word "God" implies in common
    >> parlance.
    >> 2) "No one, worthy of being called a scientist" will regard
    >> putatively
    >> scientific models which invoke "God" as being any more than a
    >> stop-gap. As soon
    >> as it's said that "God does X", one can ask "_How_ does God do X?"
    >> (N.B. I said that such _models_ are stop-gaps, not that
    >> their "God" is.
    >> But it's a short distance from that to "God as a stop gap" = "God of
    >> the gaps.")
    > Yes, one would most certainly have to say "how God does X". Using God
    > merely as a stop gap thinking to have a proper scientific theory,
    > would require a world class idiot.

                Then there are plenty of people to whom you would have to
    apply that epithet.

    >> > I have a copy of a paper entitled "THE CORRECT APPROACH TO
    >> > THEORIES", Apostolos Ch. Frangos, Volume 28, June 1991, CREATION
    >> > SOCIETY QUARTERLY. This paper looks at the problem of intermixing
    >> > philosophical and metaphysical doctrines with empirical science.
    >> It poses
    >> > the problem of correctly identifying the difference between what
    >> is
    >> > scientific and what is not. The author holds that If the ensuing
    >> theory or
    >> > model is subject to a scientific test, then it is scientific.
    >> >
    >> > Of course, the above becomes very academic unless it may be
    >> demonstrated that
    >> > a model invoquing the supernatural may be successfully
    >> constructed. This is
    >> > a subject that has got me going for the past 13 years. If you are
    >> interested
    >> > in knowing more, I'll be pleased to pass on what I've found out.
    >> (Note: In
    >> > my case, by supernatural, I mean the Biblical variety.)
    >> The biblical variety of what? The Bible doesn't use the
    >> categories
    >> of "natural" and "supernatural."
    > True. But in Biblical times the natural and supernatural did exist.
    > The parting of the Red sea was supernatural.

                Exodus 14:21 is germane here. "The LORD" did it via "a
    strong east wind."

    > The drowning of the Egyptian army when the water reclaimed its natural
    > position was equally natural. The natural and supernatural existed so
    > closely together that we could say they coexisted. When God
    > manifested himself, he did so using natural phenomena such as smoke,
    > fire, audible sounds... OT and NT authors quite understandably never
    > felt the need to come up with the two categories. Their understanding
    > of natural phenomena did not allow that. Smoke was smoke... (The
    > only exception to that that I know of is the observation made in the
    > Bible that a certain bush was burning without being consumed.) We
    > talk about these categories today only because of our greatly
    > increased scientific knowledge.


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