Re: [asa] Empiricism, Faith and Science

From: Vernon Jenkins <>
Date: Mon Sep 18 2006 - 17:43:15 EDT


You wrote:

"The main reason why science shuns this 'other' (the supernatural) is because we have no way to set up controlled experiments to examine it...So 'empirical' in the sense of 'experimental' knowledge of religious truths is basically ruled out in this picture because we have no means whereby to achieve interaction with it..."

I observe that forum members are apt to say this kind of thing from time to time - but the fact is that the claim is manifestly untrue! Better than any 'controlled experiment' - as David suggests - is an examination of the historical records: in this case, the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures which form the basis of all Bible translations. A potentially significant feature of these writings is that they may also be fairly read as _sets of numbers_; in other words, stripped of their literal/interpreted meaning they rest, ultimately, on a solid numerical _ground_. And while it may be supposed that such a ground must, in itself, be devoid of all meaning, a cursory examination of the 7 Hebrew words of the Bible's opening verse suffices to prove otherwise - its representative numbers and their combinations being observed to make a great deal of numero-geometrical sense! Indeed, such is the richness of these 'pyrotechnics' that Genesis 1:1 - already a powerful and strategically-placed assertion, and most widely read sentence of all time - must be rated _the most remarkable combination of words ever written_! [Details provided here:]

Wayne, just recently - as I'm sure you've noticed - I've been attempting to draw attention to two paradoxes which TEs like yourself appear happy to live with; I have termed these 'a pilgrim's paradox' and 'the paradox of misplaced allegiance', respectively. Now it appears we have a third, viz 'the paradox of data non grata'. In other words, a self-evident truth emerges from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures (covered by the Apostle Paul's "All scripture...") which appears to be - indeed, can be conclusively proved to be - the outcome of _divine intent_; yet, apparently, no one in this forum sees it as being of the slightest significance whatsoever! But, the implications of this _real_ event surely demand the urgent attention and close scrutiny of all who earnestly seek truth; wouldn't you agree?



  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 2:41 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Empiricism, Faith and Science

    W.D.: The main reason why science shuns this "other" is because we have no way to set up controlled experiments to examine it.

    D.O.: But the same is true for much of science itself. Historical science, as the recent discussion here highlighted, can make predictions about anticipated observations that should follow from the model deduced from historical facts, but it often can't be subject to controlled experiments. We can't re-run the early universe or biological evolution in any meaningful way against a control. That doesn't make cosmology or evolutionary science non-empirical.

  You may have a point to some extent. I am writing down what
  I sense is my job as a scientist and a physicist, but whether
  this is "fair" to addressing religious truths may be another

  My take on it is that, if I want to demonstrate that a religious
  assertion is true, the burden of proof is solely on me. It is
  very high bar, aggressive, and adversarial environment. Even sound
  arguments with sound facts and sound experimental evidence can be
  scoffed at. So how can one expect to argue persuasively with
  religious views where there are often questionable facts, and
  little or no experimental data to support them.

  With history or evolution, you can always ask, are the claims
  consistent with things that are possible, is the corroborating
  evidence from independent sources, are there any artifacts that
  we can point to? So practically, history yields less friction.
  Evolution has a fair amount of corroborating evidence to help
  support it. Cosmology is sometimes a bit difficult for me to
  decide whether the line is being crossed, but, the arguments
  are posed in the realm of plausibility.

  There may be some double standard in this, as I have observed
  disparaging words and people questioning a person's integrity
  on skeptic lists when a scientist dares to confess that he/she
  believes in God.

    W.D.: So "empirical" in the sense of "experimental" knowledge of religious truths is basically ruled out

    D.O.: I agree, if "empirical" only means "controlled experiments."

    W.D.: we have no means whereby to achieve interaction with it, except possibly at a very personal level and at a time of God's own unknown choosing.

    D.O.: But here I disagree. This is the big epistemic issue as I see it. I think stating it this way capitulates to the positivist / empiricist's epistemology.

  Why thank you. Were I to have posted this to a skeptic list,
  I expect I would have been mob beaten, berated and called less
  than charitable things. If I'm seen as positivist and empiricist,
  I'm hardly any of the things they would likely call me. :-)


    D.O.: We can achieve and observe interaction with "it" through God's working in history. Exhibit A is the cross and the resurrection. Our faith is warranted not only by incommensurable personal experiences, but historical observations and by rational presuppositions about God and our capability to understand that God has acted. I agree that personal experiences provide the assurance of faith and constitute part of the warrant for belief, but I can't agree that the sphere of "faith" is grounded in incommensurable personal experiences alone.

  As a fellow Christian, I strongly agree. The problem is that people
  outside the faith may refuse to believe the testimony, and some
  would feel free to insist that I show a resurrection before they
  will believe it. To us, that is arrogant and sinful even to
  demand such a demonstration, and even Gideon was at least
  respectful and humble before God in making his request. It
  also strikes me as a double standard that anyone should out and
  out insist that that the apostles were lying, but that's the world
  for you, I guess. You'd wonder why they don't think their friends
  are lying also, and they would resent having to appear in a court
  where they were presumed guilty before proven innocent, but again,
  that is the world.

    W.D.: So, if you ask me for proof, I would have to be silent,

    D.O.: I agree and disagree. I agree there is no "proof" of faith claims. But I agree with that because I think the notion of "proof" is not well defined. There's no "proof" of most claims, including most claims of science, if "proof" means certainty beyond any possible question. In contrast, I think there can be good "warrant" for faith claims, such that it can be rational to make them and to use them as anchors for one's worldview.

  I think this is a very interesting point. Even the argument
  that there is lack of extra-biblical sources does not completely
  rule this out (unless one is predisposed to quickly rid the
  point, of course). It is quite a common strategy for powerful
  people to ignore someone they do not agree with. Sometimes this
  is because it is well deserved, sometimes it is because it is
  not. Even the issue of voluminous records cannot firmly address
  this point. People were not dumb back then (any more than they
  are now), and I'm sure the natural reaction by "reputable"
  authors to a resurrection claim was "that's absurd", back then
  as it is now. So demands for extrabiblical sources and opposing
  views does not really answer this central issue.

  It is possible we have
  developed a culture that does not explore all forms of proof
  adequately. Being a religious man who believes in God and is
  a Christian, I see that "empirical" has serious limitations to
  answering all my questions. It seems empirical answers the easy
  questions, but for the truly hard questions that really matter,
  we cannot really pose these questions in a way that science can
  explore them for the most part.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Mon Sep 18 17:45:47 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Sep 18 2006 - 17:45:47 EDT