Re: [asa] on "baconianism" & American evangelicals

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Mar 07 2007 - 13:54:45 EST

>>> "Charles Carrigan" <> 03/06/07 3:29 PM >>>asks me
some great questions, which I have converted to [[brackets]] below. I
answer them as they arise.
Concerning the "dragnet" view of science I talked about:

[[Do you think that this view is unique to American evangelicals, to
Americans in general, or also to others?]]

Ted: No, not unique to us, but there are a lot of American evangelicals,
and a lot of them probably hold this view, so it's important in our national
conversation about science.

Concerning this point: ... this is a profoundly unscientific view, in terms
of what
the scientific community has actually done increasingly since the early
century, when Galileo and others started to work with H/D models of
[[What does H/D mean?]]

Ted: It means hypothetico-deductive. Sorry. As is, propose a hypothesis
and then try to test its deductive consequences. If (for example)
Copernicus was right, then Venus should have a full set of unequally size
phases. It does. That seems to "confirm" Copernicus, but of course it
falls short of proof b/c the same conclusion follows from the Tychonic
hypothesis. It does however contradict the Ptolemaic model.

Concerning this: Such models tended to move from the physical sciences into
historical sciences and experimental biology in the early 19th century.
Darwin's case, the influence of John Herschel's "consilience of
was crucial. American evangelicals continue to buy into a philosophy of
science that is nearly four centuries out of date at this point. The
enormous chasm between what they tend to think science is, and what the
scientific community thinks it is, only grows ever larger, esp when the
Dobson's and Ham's of the world are the ones who seem to count.

[[How can this be changed? What specifically can professors of science at
evangelical colleges do to have any affect on this? General education
courses seem to be a prime target, since that is where we impact the
greatest number of students - but they are also usually the classes that
care the least about the issues being raised & discussed. ]]

Ted: Dead on, Charles, dead on. Here are my thoughts, for what they are
worth. To contextualize them, I've taught a lot of high school and college
science, even though for the past dozen years I have taught only history of
science and science/religion. I am (or was) a certified high school physics
teacher before going to graduate school. I believe that the most important
thing to try to accomplish in a gen ed science course, is to give students a
good sense of how science actually works. No specific science content needs
to be taught!! That is, the course might just as well deal with a single
topic like dinosaur extinction or the cause of AIDS or the big bang theory,
but the primary goal should always be to convey a clear understanding of the
nature of science. Get rid of any goals about specific scientific facts and
principles to be conveyed--leave these up to your faculty to pick, based on
their areas of interest and expertise -- and replace them with concerted
attention to how scientists think and work.

In other words, change the science requirement. That's probably what you
need to do, in order to do this right. Replace a lot of science (as
traditionally understood) with a lot of learning *about* science (HPS and
certain scientific information used as a concrete topic to help convey what
science is about).

Having given my thoughts on this, Charles, I would like to read your
thoughts on mine.


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Received on Wed Mar 7 13:55:16 2007

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