Re: Theological theory evaluation (Was: The forgotten verses)

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. (
Date: Thu Jun 19 2003 - 15:00:28 EDT

  • Next message: Graham E. Morbey: "[Fwd: Re: Theological theory evaluation (Was: The forgotten verses)]"

    On Thu, 19 Jun 2003 09:47:48 -0700 "Jim Armstrong" <>
    > Aye! Outside of science, the criteria to be satisfied become more
    > subjective and the results idiosyncratic. JimA
    > Alexanian, Moorad wrote:
    > >The scientific method is nothing but human reasoning applied to the
    > study of the physical universe. Theological/philosophical musing are
    > also governed by the very same human reasoning but the subject
    > matter, what constitutes evidence, and the method of establishing
    > truth or falsehood are different from that of experimental science.
    > >
    > >Moorad
    > >
    May I suggest that scientists are pretty good at ignoring data? Snakeroot
    was discounted as superstition because it was part of traditional
    treatments and touted by Indian physicians. But Rauwolfia extracts have a
    place in contemporary medicine. Barbara McClintock's "jumping genes" in
    /Zea mays/ was long discounted, but she eventually received the Nobel.
    Wegener was considered a nut when he originally presented continental
    drift theory. There is the comment that scientists do not change their
    minds so much as that old scientists die. Eventually, of course, evidence
    mounts and such "discoveries" as N-rays, anomalous water and cold fusion
    are rejected.

    It is easier to come up with wilder variations in the soft sciences. I
    recall a sociologist telling me that there were members of his discipline
    who spent their time trying to devise a new twist to the data that they
    could tack a new name to in the hope of getting a moment's notoriety in a
    citation somewhere. I have also been told that it is not difficult to
    find contradictory theories in the education journals, an area I have
    deliberately avoided.

    In mathematics, which is as logically rigorous as anything human beings
    do, the only criterion ultimately is consistency. One may add any axiom,
    provided it is consistent (which may not be demonstrable), to any set of
    axioms and ring the changes. Some pioneers invented new notions which
    were generally held to be problematic. I think of Newton's
    infinitesimals, which some held to be equivalent to dividing by zero. But
    the power of the resulting calculus has led to its general adoption.

    It is far easier to ignore something in an area that is harder to pin
    down, and there are no areas less amenable to rigor than theology and
    philosophy, which are inevitably intertwined. One definition of theology
    makes it the application of philosophical method to the data of
    revelation. There are also principles that cannot be either demonstrated
    or disproved. For example, there are distinctive hermeneutics in
    different denominations. I cannot expect to persuade George Murphy that
    Zwingli and the Anabaptists have the correct view of the Lord's Supper.
    Additionally, there are few things that can get more emotional than pain,
    especially to an innocent, and the eternal destiny of a loved one. But
    emotional involvement often produces rationalization, even when a person
    is trying to reason. I recall a noted fundamentalist preacher who
    denounced all divorce as sin, with remarriage almost unpardonable, until
    his son was involved in a very messy divorce case and then remarried.
    Then it became OK, at least under circumstances that included his son.
    The historical evidence for evangelical theology can easily be ignored.
    Despite claims to the contrary, there is no proof of God's existence.
    When theology, history and science come together, note the differences
    among Ruest, Fisher, Roberts and others, not to mention YECs.

    I think all this falls under the recognition that scientists, historians,
    theologians, philosopher, etc., are all human.

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