Post-Empiricism Science

From: allenroy (
Date: Sun Sep 14 2003 - 04:03:03 EDT

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    We've been talking about how YEC interpretation of the Bible causes them
    to have bad science--i.e. that they try to force science into
    preconceived, religious notions. In light of that, I have here some
    edited sections of an article by Del Ratzesch, Professor of Philosophy
    at Calvin College, called, "Cradled Science: Examining the Cosmos in the
    context of Faith." (Journal of Adventist Education, Summer 2002, pp.

    He starts with the concepts of Baconian science and moves on to the
    influences of Popper and Kuhn.

    [begin selected material]

    Baconian science rests ultimately on pure, objective dispassionately
    collected observational data.
    Scientists then applied special logical procedures to those data in
    order to produce scientific theories.
    This set of stringent procedures constituted the 'scientific method.'
    Bacon's views are generally
    referred to as 'inductivism.'

    This view of science achieved dominance, becoming practically the
    official cultural conception by the
    earth 20th century, and still underlies many popular ideas about
    science. But however attractive its
    promises, Baconian inductivism is in fact irreparably defective,
    disintegrating at nearly every point.
    Among its many problems are these: (a) There simply is no form of logic
    by which theories, laws, and
    the like can be inferred from empirical data; and (b) Empirical
    procedures cannot confer certainty
    upon any scientific theory. The only way to test proposed theories or
    hypotheses was to deduce
    experimental or other observational predictions from the theory or
    hypothesis (hence the term
    hypothetico-deductivism), then see whether or not the predictions
    matched observed reality, thereby
    confirming or contradicting the theory.

    Hypothetico-deductivist believed that although theories could not be
    proved true, they could at least
    be empirically confirmed. Not everyone agreed, A number of people
    (claiming to follow Karl
    Popper) concluded for technical, logical reasons that theories could not
    even be confirmed, much less
    proved. But in their view, science could at least prove specific
    theories to be false by uncovering
    empirical data contrary to predictions of those theories.
    Unfortunately, even this modest claim turned
    out to be too strong.

    Historically, it was almost universally believed that perception was
    neutral, in the sense that genuinely
    honest and careful observation was unaffected by beliefs,
    presupposition, philosophical preferences,
    or similar factors. This neutrality guaranteed the objectivity and
    utter trustworthiness of empirical
    data, which constituted the secure foundation of science. But that
    perceived neutrality came under
    attack in the mid-20th century. Thomas Khun, for example, argued that
    perception itself was an
    active--not a passive--process, deeply colored by the broader conceptual
    matrices, or paradigms, to
    which one had prior allegiances.

    Thus, this view not only destroyed the allegedly rigid, logical
    structure of science, but also threatened
    the pure objectivity of its foundation. Furthermore, paradigms
    influenced not only perception, but
    also theory evaluation and acceptance, conceptual resources, normative
    judgments within science, and
    a host of other consequential matters. And, according to Kuhn,
    paradigms were partially defined by,
    among other things, metaphysical commitments and values. Thus,
    non-empirical, human-suffused
    perspectives had seeped into the no-longer-inviolable scientific method
    at all levels, from empirical
    bedrock to theoretical pinnacle.

    One consequence of underdetermination was that no amount of (even pure)
    empirical data could point
    to just one theory among competitors. Thus, if one adopted a realist
    stance toward theories, claiming
    that come specific scientific theory was actually true, rather than
    merely a useful model, the selection
    of that specific theory had to involve (at least implicitly) factors
    beyond just the empirical. Kuhn's
    own list of operative non-empirical principles was relatively
    tame--simplicity, fruitfulness,
    measurability, accuracy, and the like. But some postmodernists went
    much further, claiming, for
    instance, that the very heart of science contained political agendas,
    social biases, dominance
    hierarchies, gender prejudices, and so on.

    But what can no longer be denied is that a science with utter
    objectivity, absolute logical rigidity, and
    purely empirical foundations is not an attainable ideal. Most
    contemporary mainline commentators
    argue that despite the unavoidable dependence of science upon resources
    other than just empirical
    data and reason, scientific results can still claim significant rational
    justification and epistemic
    legitimacy. Rigor, objectivity, and warrant may be less than absolute,
    even less than many fervently
    hope, but science can still get at theoretical truth. A tempered
    realism still seems defensible.

    Realist claims are plausible only if we have grounds for confidence in
    the human perceptual and
    cognitive structures that, inescapably, function within science. Beyond
    that, the principle of
    underdetermination of theory by data indicates that science requires a
    conceptual environment
    extended beyond the merely empirical. Historically, that indispensable
    confidence and conceptual
    richness were drawn from religious principals. Some current historians
    argue that without the broader
    Christian conceptual matrix, modern science might never have arisen.

    Ideally, a worldview should be a unified, integrated whole. But for
    much of the 20th century, many
    people thought that religion and science were simply irrelevant to each
    other. At worst, religion was
    seen as fighting a rearguard action against the seemingly inexorable
    advance of a science destined to
    conceptually engulf everything it touched. Science is now recognized as
    (1) at least partially
    embedded in a wider conceptual context and (2) unavoidable drawing
    resources from that wider

    'Science' can thus be locked into place within a number of different
    worldviews, with advocates of
    each claiming that it confirms their particular view. There are many
    who insist on some version of
    methodological naturalism--that whatever the ultimate metaphysical
    reality, genuine science as
    science must (either definitionally or practically be completely
    detached from everything other than
    the purely natural. But rigid cases for such prohibitions are
    increasingly difficult to construct, and
    even some secular thinkers now admit that there are no compelling
    reasons why Christian thought
    cannot contribute to a legitimate conceptual context for science.

    [end selected material]

    Thus, it seems to me that Emperical data and science is pretty much an
    imaginary idea. What we are really dealing with is interpretations of
    data and science within philosophical foundations. These can include
    Ontological Naturalism, Methodological Naturalism, and even Creationism
    (typically YECism). OECism apparently finds its foundation in
    Methodological Naturalism. And some on this net seem to function as if
    Baconian science is still valid and ignore the enlightenment of Popper
    and Kuhn.


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