Re: historical science, from Payne-Miller

Date: Tue Jun 19 2001 - 04:20:13 EDT

  • Next message: John W Burgeson: "Re: Divine vs creaturely action"

    Joel Bandstra wrote:

    > To add to David's chemistry experiment example, in this case the data are,
    > generally, removed from the interpretation not only in time but also in
    > kind. The data produced by chemistry experiments often consist of
    > absorption of electromagnetic radiation over a spectrum of frequencies.
    > The interpretation, however, usually has something to do with atoms and
    > molecules and electron orbitals and so on, yet, no molecules or electrons
    > or any such thing were observed. In this sense, observing a structural
    > pattern in a rock out-cropping and subsequently interpreting something
    > about sedimentation is really no different than looking at an FTIR spectra
    > and interpreting something about the kinds of chemical bonds present
    > between sorbed molecules and a clay surface. The monikers "historical" and
    > "empirical" do not provide two disjoint categories. All science may well
    > fit into both categories.

    Perhaps Bills point is that historical data lacks reproducibility.
    In that lab, you can (if you had the patients) demonstrate an experiment
    to me (the skeptic) as many times as necessary and by as many avenues
    as I require to convince me that some phenomenon is true. Of course, I
    can keep dreaming up of counter interpretations, so these things can take
    a lot of patients and a lot of independent examples, but in principle, this
    the way we reach the conclusion that the earth goes around the sun rather
    than visa versa. It is not one example, but numerous corroborating examples
    that finally lead us to conclude that something is true. It was the lack of
    corroborating evidence that made Copernicus' model difficult to accept for
    a long time. Although the church is regularly depicted as a bunch of
    lunkheads, they where not stupid and (with the evidence they had), they had
    little reason to doubt geocentric interpretation at that time. By now we have
    a multitude of independent ways to show that this is so, hence the church
    looks to us like a bunch of stubborn minded politicians. The sad note is the
    folly that came with such disputes.

    On the other hand, whereas it is in essence true that history tends to repeat
    itself, you cannot reproduce the rise and fall of the Ming dynasty. Neither
    you demonstrate with absolute certitude that the main flaw in the Ming
    dynasty was a rapid burgeoning of bureaucracy, over commitment funds
    to building enormous palatial tombs, nepotism, and growing lack of attention
    needs and concerns the farmers and the growing threat of invasion from the
    countries (i.e., Mongolia). There was a tendency for almost all Chinese
    to fall into that pattern, but it is also quite easy to cast that whole lot
    into that
    category. So history does tend to be more subjective and subject to the mind
    and bias of the person relating the historical sketch.

    Rock formations are perhaps a bit more reproducible in the sense that many
    similar examples can be provided with a scenario that at least fits the
    but it would represent a greater degree of uncertainty than a textbook example
    of a chemistry experiment. Bill does have a point that the weakness is there.
    However, we have to make a choice somewhere about what we think is
    reasonable, and at least for myself, the standard models _appear_ to be
    reasonable in as far as I can discern. I'm open to admitting that I've missed
    something and I do accept that it is sometimes good to be stubborn, but

    It is by Grace that we proceed,

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jun 19 2001 - 04:20:37 EDT