Re: [asa] What causes students to move from faith?

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Sep 07 2006 - 11:08:40 EDT

Presumably you mean that the "historical sciences" such as paleontology are
more like forensic science than physics, but the analogy is not that clear.

1st, paleontologists are not concerned just with the development of one
organisms whose fossil they've found but with the development of entire
species or even higher taxa. Thus much of the contingency in what they
study is averaged out.

2d, when you say that forensic scientists use "the results of experiments
done by chemists &c" the implication is that they don't do experiments
themselves - & by implication that paleontologists don't. But this is
misleading. Forensic scientists do experiments (on decay of animal
carcasses e.g.) & criminals do lots of other experiments for them. & if
you'll excuse a misleading personification, "Nature" has done many
experiments for paleontologists, the results being all the fossils that are
found &c. Of course the controls aren't as precise as they'd be if
scientists could arrange those experiments themselves but the number of
fossils formed under all different conditions makes that a relatively small

3d, Paleontologists of course make use of more basic sciences such as
physics - but so do chemists & biologists. Different branches of science
are at different levels in that sense but the distinction there is not
between "operational science" (or whatever you wish to call them) &
"historical" ones.

4th, the questionable character of a sharp distinction between physics &
"historical sciences" becomes obvious when you realize that astrophysics is
an "historical science." Everything I've said above about paleontology can
be said, mutatis mutandis, for astrophysics.

Moorad, you keep trying to make this distinction on the list & every time
you do I or someone else demonstrates that it doesn't work, but a couple of
weeks later you say the same kind of thing. Are you paying any attention to
what we're saying?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <>
To: "Michael Roberts" <>; "Ted Davis"
<>; <>; "James Mahaffy" <>
Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2006 9:44 AM
Subject: RE: [asa] What causes students to move from faith?

> Can you tell the difference between a physicist and a forensic scientist?
> The former studies Nature experimentally and creates laws that summarize
> the result of all the experimental data. The latter finds out if O. J.
> Simpson did it or not using results of experiments done by chemists,
> physicists, biologists, etc. Do you now see the difference?
> Moorad
> ________________________________
> From: Michael Roberts []
> Sent: Thu 9/7/2006 2:25 AM
> To: Alexanian, Moorad; Ted Davis;; James Mahaffy
> Subject: Re: [asa] What causes students to move from faith?
> Please learn a little bit more about historical science before repeating
> your previous errors on the subject
> Michael
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <>
> To: "Ted Davis" <>; <>; "James Mahaffy"
> <>
> Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2006 1:32 AM
> Subject: RE: [asa] What causes students to move from faith?
>> The laws of Nature that are based on experimental science are
>> generalizations of historical propositions, viz., data obtained from
>> repeatable experiments. Historical sciences rely on results obtained in
>> the experimental sciences, thus the use of the word science in historical
>> science, but deal with a single, unique event. One is not characterizing
>> one kind as being more or less legitimate than the other but the
>> distinction must be made to shed light in the so-called war between
>> science and religion.
>> Moorad
>> ________________________________
>> From: Ted Davis []
>> Sent: Wed 9/6/2006 5:50 PM
>> To:; James Mahaffy; Alexanian, Moorad
>> Subject: RE: [asa] What causes students to move from faith?
>>>>> "Alexanian, Moorad" <> 09/06/06 4:07 PM >>>writes:
>> Experimental science has nothing to say regarding any particular
>> historical event.
>> Ted responds:
>> Not exactly. True, experimental science can't rule in or out something
>> like the resurrection or the virgin birth. Those events, if they
>> happened
>> (as I believe they did), are forever beyond the realm of scientific
>> confirmation or refutation since we can't rerun the history itself and
>> subject the phenomena to scientific study.
>> However--and this is a very important however--the YECs and some (perhaps
>> many, I'm not yet clear on this) IDs make much hay about the very
>> distinction you are using. In their view, the historical sciences (such
>> as
>> geology, cosmology, evolutionary biology) do not have status as
>> legitimate
>> sciences, or if they have some legitimacy it is quite small relative to
>> experimental sciences. This particular move, in fact, is perhaps the
>> most
>> important way in which they keep Galileo's approach to the Bible (in
>> relation to modern astronomy) out of the garden of Eden. I recently
>> completed an unpublished essay with almost exactly that title (Galileo
>> and
>> the Garden of Eden).
>> One could say a great deal more about this. But I'll add only this.
>> Experimental science *does* have something to say about some historical
>> events, perhaps even a whole lot of them. I offer the following example.
>> We know experimentally/empirically (I fudge the difference here) that
>> Greenland has not been completely submered under water in the past
>> 100,000+
>> years. We know this from evidence buried in ice cores from various parts
>> of
>> that continent. I call this an experimental/empirical claim, even though
>> it
>> has an historical component. We have a continuous record buried in the
>> ice,
>> and it has no evidence of a massive flood. THus, we can conclude that
>> those
>> who interpret Genesis to require a worldwide flood submerging all of the
>> land a few thousand years ago cannot be right. That particular
>> interpretation of world/biblical history is wrong.
>> Ted
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Received on Thu Sep 7 11:09:19 2006

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