Re: [asa] Demarcation was Re: thinking was prosecutors and not that of the judge

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Mon May 07 2007 - 15:24:29 EDT

On 5/7/07, Terry M. Gray <> wrote:

> David,
> Exactly. This is part of my general complaint about the naive
> definitions of science floating around on this list and in our
> courts. Classification, careful observation and description, data
> collection--these are all part of science. Yes, we strive for
> explanation, prediction, postdiction, etc. But, often, and, this is
> particularly evident if we take the long view of the history of
> science, "mere stamp collecting" is the crucial predecessor to
> hypothesizing and theorizing. And contrary to some opinions on the
> list, I don't believe that science is restricted to physical
> phenomena. Biology, psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics,
> anthropology, etc. all are sciences. Granted we may want to
> distinguish between physical sciences, biological sciences, human
> sciences, social sciences, etc. but this in no way is prejudicial to
> a proper, broad definition of science. Also, if the supernatural is
> causal in some extraordinary way, why can't it be part of the
> explanation? (Please notice the "if"). I don't see any "in principle"
> reason to exclude it from the side of science. (My personal
> opposition to such has more to do with a theological perspective than
> a scientific one.)

My take on science is it can be like the little, little, girl with a curl in
the middle of the forehead. When it is good, it is very, very, good, but
when it is bad it is horrid. Taking the common perspective that you, David,
and I have, I start here:

1. There is real truth "out there"
2. Error and the noetic influence of sin is also real and must be dealt with

Given these you can have methodologies that find some but not all truth as
long as they are properly limited. [Note to David and Terry: I am trying
very hard to have a posteriori rather than a priori demarcation here.] When
it is not possible to be within the limitations is when it seems that most
people -- inexplicably in my mind -- lose it. The insistence on having
testability of some sort is a way to deal with the two presuppositions
above. The tests drive even a biased observer to the truth "out there" but
again even here not by itself. There needs to be an enforcement mechanism
against fraud. This mechanism is the peer review system and independent
replication. You can look at the narrow demarcation as being pretty much
analogous to regulated capitalism. Capitalism takes people driven by self
interest to do good things for society and the regulation keeps them in line
and away from cheating.

Another way you can look at this is like a sandbox around the Java
interpreter. Useful things can be done while the sandbox blocks the software
from becoming malware. Let's say you have a program that's not in Java. Does
it make it not a useful program? No, it's just not sandboxed. Such programs
are just not given implicit trust like Java. Things that are not narrowly
science in my definition are the same. We cannot give them the same level
of trust that we do for tested propositions. My point that appears not to be
getting through is we should not be implicitly trusting a broadly-defined
science and while it may still be true it requires us to be extra skeptical
of it.

There is still another analogy. In Protestant theology there is the doctrine
that only Scripture can bind the conscience. That's because we have implicit
trust for Scripture and religious doctrine not derived from Scripture while
possibly true does not have this implicit trust and further justification is

Now the question that dogs this list and the our entire organization is what
happens when the two things (tested natural propositions and Scripture) we
implicitly trust appear to conflict. As Hamlet said while considering
another quandary, "Ay there's the rub." What you and David need to note is I
am not saying one whit about this because I only dealt with the easy
problem. Please do not infer what I am not implying.

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Received on Mon May 7 15:41:14 2007

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