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

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Thu Sep 07 2006 - 09:09:38 EDT

>>> "Randy Isaac" <> 09/06/06 9:20 PM >>>writes:
     Au contraire, may I suggest that to "shed light in the so-called
between science and religion" it is important to emphasize that there
is no
distinction between historical and experimental science. It's an
distinction that I believe, though I'm not completely familiar with the
history of the idea, has been emphasized, if not created, in order to
doubt on theories of origins.

Ted comments:
Not exactly, though (as with Moorad's post) it captures some of the
truth. Certainly this distinction in a very strong form has been
crucial to YECism, absolutely crucial. Without it, the view would
not exist at all.

But a weaker form is surely somewhat on target, and this may have
been what Moorad was getting at. For example, that famous
creationist the late Ernst Mayr (if am I allowed a little joke), in
his final (I think?) book, What Makes Biology Unique? (2004), wrote
extensively about this very distinction. I'll quote a review by
Lukas K. Buehler: “With this book Mayr demands a philosophy of
biology that treats biology as an autonomous science, distinct in
many respects from the dominant hard science (Wissenschaft) of
physics and chemistry, and similar to the soft science of the
humanities (Geisteswissenschaften), particularly history.”

"Mayr distinguishes two aspects of biology: functional biology that
relies on experimental approaches of the hard science and asks how
something happens, and evolutionary biology that is driven by asking
why and uses methodologies familiar to the humanities like historical
narratives and comparison, for instance in anatomy and genomics
(studying similarities).”

I think Mayr was right. As I've argued here sometimes in the past,
the historical sciences are rather like forensics, like a prosecutor
trying to prove (and here I use this verb deliberately, in the legal
sense of showing beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt, but not
absolute demonstration) that Mr Simpson (let us say) killed his ex-
wife, even though no living person says that they witnessed same.
IMO, YECs who say that we can't draw legitimate inferences in the
historical sciences are also admitting implicitly that they would not
have voted to convict Mr Simpson. They are rather like some of the
jurors in that case--they don't trust the authorities to tell the
truth about the evidence.

But most conservative Christians probably do agree that people can be
convicted of capital crimes on the basis of circumstantial evidence,
just as in the particular case in point they probably believe (as I
do) that Mr Simpson did it. The problem for them in dealing with
origins is, that they believe there IS a living witness to the
creation, and he has told us precisely how it took place--insofar as
we will ever understand what happened. No amount of circumstantial
testimony will overcome the veracity of that witness.

Frankly, I believe that much more careful study and thought is needed
on this particular crucial issue of the experimental/empirical vs the
historical sciences. The methods are *not* identical in all
respects, though there is much overlap. The process of reasoning is
more hypothetical, IMO, in the historical sciences; but this doesn't
mean that those hypothesis are not subject to empirical checks, even
though they may not be as easily and readily checked. This is a
grant proposal waiting to be funded, and probably in a big way. If I
weren't already committed to too many things that remain unfinished,
I'd be tempted to write the proposal myself.


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Received on Sat Sep 9 13:48:29 2006

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