Re: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Wed Sep 17 2003 - 12:34:44 EDT

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    Allen Roy wrote, in answer to my comments, the following; my responses to
    his comments are interspersed.

    > There are two problems here. 1. The supposed "empirical data" regarding
    > age of the earth is not empirical at all, but interpretation of data based
    > a paradigm that expects an old age for the earth. 2. That "massive"
    amount of
    > data regarding the age of the earth is only relevant within the paradigm
    > interprets the data (and which calls it empirical). It is irrelevant how
    > interpreted data there is within one paradigm when that interpretation is
    > irrelevant in another paradigm.

    Using the word "supposed" and putting empirical data in quotation marks does
    not change the reality of the situation. Such data is empirical because it
    is drawn from observations, tests, etc. of nature as it is. To say that
    empirical data is relevant only within the paradigm that interprets it is
    nonsense. Data is never irrelevant to any paradigm (see the example of
    Kepler, below). Both statements 1 and 2 show a misunderstanding of both
    "empirical data" and "paradigm."

    > The evolutionary paradigm is just as religious and sacred as a Creationary
    > paradigm. The only difference is that the evolutionary paradigm is based
    > and accepted by blind faith. It is blind because it cannot be confirmed
    > anyone who could know.

    The first sentence of the above paragraph is false. So is the second. And
    the third makes no sense.

    > Your ontological naturalist, when he/she interprets (reads) nature,
    > starts with a philosophical statement which supplies the presuppositions
    > to build a paradigm--1) Nature is all there is; 2) because we are here
    (and 1),
    > Abiogenesis and Evolution are absolute facts; 3) Deep time is extrapolated
    > expected. Thus, Evolutionism is not "solely based on reading nature," but
    > presuppositions about nature that nature cannot supply.

    The statements in the paragraph are typical of YEC arguments that confuse
    the empirical science of biological evolution with a naturalistic philosophy
    that claims to be rooted in and necessarily follow from the science.
    Although this fact has been pointed out repeatedly to YECs they simply
    refuse to acknowledge that there is a difference They are the strange
    bedfellows of adherents of such a naturalistic belief system; in fact the
    two seem to need one another and thrive on each others embrace of this false
    notion. As I once said to a former colleague, "These creationists sure love
    their atheists!" What both reject is any notion that the empirical science
    of evolution and the empirical evidence of an earth 4.6 billion years old
    may be consonant with a Christian theology of creation when biblical
    creation is rightly understood as theology and not science. Thus, an
    evolutionary old earth creationist like myself does not accept any of the
    content of the above paragraph as an accurate statement of the facts.

    > A Creationary paradigm is based upon a revealed history and is accepted by
    > in the truthfulness of God. His word, though written by flawed humans and
    > finite human language, tells us what we need to know. A Creationary
    > also starts with a philosophical statement which supplies the
    > needed to build a paradigm--1) In the beginning God created the universe;
    2) God
    > created by fiat the biosphere on this planet; 3) There has been only some
    > 6000+/- years since the creation of the biosphere; 4) A global cataclysm
    > involving the complete lithosphere reworked the entire surface of the
    globe some
    > 4000 years ago.

    The so-called "Creationary paradigm" is not based on revealed history but on
    a particular interpretation of the meaning of the biblical text by those who
    confuse interpretation with inspiration and collapse the two. What they
    take on faith is not the inspired text but their interpretation of it.
    While both an evolutionary creationist and a YEC agree on statement 1), the
    former would reject statements 2) - 4) for two reasons. First he/she would
    disagree with the interpretations of the biblical texts that lead to those
    statements, and proffer a better interpretation. Second, he/she recognizes
    that the empirical data from the earth itself testifys that statements 2) -
    4) cannot stand either as valid scientific statements or as valid
    interpretations of the text.

    > Those in the Evolutionary/O.N. camp may promote a massive amount of
    > evidence for a vast age of life on the earth. But, to those in the
    > camp, that 'empirical' evidence is irrelevant and seen for what it really
    > is--interpretation within the O.N. paradigm that expects deep time.
    > The paradigm determines the age of life on earth, not the raw data.

    I partly agree and partly disagree. It is true that any empirical evidence
    for the ancient age of the earth is irrelevant to YECs because they simply
    refuse to accept any evidence that calls their INTERPRETATION of the Bible
    into question. I disagree, in that empirical evidence for an ancient earth
    is not interpreted within an ontological naturalistic paradigm; it is
    interpreted within an scientific paradigm. The data determines the age of
    the earth, not the paradigm. The fact that the earth is several orders of
    magnitude older than 6000 yrs (+/- a few) arose as a RESULT of the empirical
    data that determined it. It was the data that finally called the BELIEF in
    a 6000-year-old earth into question. In the same way, the conviction that
    we live in a circular universe, maintained even by Copernicus, was shattered
    by Kepler's discovery that planets move in elliptical orbits. Kepler kept
    trying to fit his data into the circular model, but it wouldn't fit. But he
    didn't say, "Oh, this data is irrelevant because it doesn't fit the circular
    model." Instead, he tried other models, first an oval, which didn't work,
    then an ellipse, which did. YECs do the opposite. They invent arguments
    such as the "moon dust" argument or the "human remains in older rock strata"
    argument to justify their particular interpretation of the Bible to teach a
    young earth. The most they will do is admit that certain of their arguments
    are invalid, such as the above, but they will never, never, never, give up
    their interpretation of the Bible that leads them to hold to the belief in a
    young earth.

    Paradigms are discarded and replaced by new paradigms when the discoveries
    of empirical science demonstrate that the old paradigm no longer does the
    job. It may take some time for this to happen, but it happens. I do not
    expect YECs to abandon their young earth position because they are
    ideological wedded to it, and any evidence to the contrary, as Allen said,
    is irrelevant to them. But they will not convince others who have at least
    some scientific literacy by rejecting well-established scientific evidence,
    and cloaking their ideology in a jargonized use of such terms as "paradigm."

    Bob Schneider

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