The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

From the thread "Evidence is Silent; It is Always Interpreted in the Light of Our Theories"

Post of the Month: June 2001
by Steven J.

Subject:    Re: Evidence is Silent; It is Always Interpreted in the Light of Our Theories
Date:       June 14, 2001
Author:     Steven J.
Message-ID: (Mike Goodrich) wrote in message
> In article <>, A Pagano wrote:
-- [snip]
> > Pagano replies:
> >I'll pipe in with my usual boring drum beat: Apart from drawing some
> >low-level (and in many cases trivial) generalizations the evidence is
> >completely and utterly silent. In fact it is doubtful that any set of
> >evidence no matter how perfect or complete could uniquely define or
> >point to only the one true theory. Artificial intelligence researchers
> >have been disappointed in this regard.
> >
> >Evidence is never gathered in isolation. The gathering of evidence is
> >always preceded by the introduction of a problem to be solved and some
> >preliminary conjecture explaining the problem. It is the conjecture
> >(however preliminary) which suggests where to even look for evidence and
> >how to interpret that evidence once found. Evidence is always, always,
> >always interpreted in the light of our conjectural theories.

Charles Darwin not merely admitted, but insisted on this: evidence must be evidence for or against some hypothesis to be evidence at all. And certainly, evidence is interpreted in light of theories. The progressive refutation of various scientific assumptions, to which you so often allude, is evidence that evidence is not always interpreted as CONFIRMING these theories -- except when "creation scientists" are proposing the "theories" and evaluating the evidence.

> Much as I had to say here:
> URL: >>
> >It says
> >nothing without man's wonderful intellectual inventions---his
> >conjectures. The secularists have no explanation of how man creates
> >such new information, such new inventions almost "from nothing." But
> >christians have no trouble explaining this.
> >*****************************
> >
> >
> >Regards to my compatriots,
> >T Pagano
> >
> Indeed, since secularists are precommited to a
> naturalistic-materialist-reductionist "explanation". But if man is more than
> a mere collection of 'particles' moving in concert, then his thoughts, will,
> and spirit cannot be analyzed by materialism redux. Thus man is not then a
> purely natural entity; the results of his action cannot be explained as the
> result of natural law. This would imply that man is "supernatural" (in the
> literal sense of the term), and the results he produces likewise.

(1st) If man is indeed more than a "mere" collection of particles, then his mind cannot be explained by materialism. However, there is a difference between "cannot be explained" and "has not been (fully and convincingly, even to the most biased and scientifically illiterate) explained." It does not follow that because the human mind *has not* been explained, in materialist terms, to your satisfaction, that it *cannot* be so explained. In other words, there are insufficient grounds for your dogmatic assertion that man is not a purely material entity. In point of fact, your antimaterialism is at some small pains to explain the demonstrated impact upon personality and thought by brain injuries and many drugs, or the observable changes in brains during different sorts of mental activities. Our minds are evidently at least partly materialistic in nature and function.

(2nd) If man is not a purely material entity, that is *still* not enough to prove that man is not a purely natural entity. The theologian R.C. Sproul argues that science cannot (or at least has not) told us what energy *is,* but only what it does. This does not mean that energy, or matter, or gravity, or any of several phenomena of which the same claim could be made, are not natural phenomena. They exist and act in our universe. They demonstrate certain regularities which may be inferred and studied. Interestingly, the same is true of our minds, REGARDLESS of what they are and how they work. Even granting your assumption that minds can never be explained in terms of matter and energy, it does not follow that they do not exist, and follow the laws of their own nature, in our universe. Our minds are "natural," in precisely the sense that anything else studied by science is. So are the results they produce.

(3rd) The same points apply to miracles. A miracle is more than simply an exception to natural law -- it is an event which reveals and/or furthers God's purposes in the universe. To call something a miracle presupposes that God's purposes can be at least partly known, and that hypotheses based on them can be formulated and tested. Part of what you call "supernatural" events are hypothetical NATURAL events (taking place in our universe, producing observable effects, and following discoverable laws). It should be possible to test, using the methods and assumptions of "secularist" science, to see if they occur. Of course, part of what you call "supernatural" events are just excuses for why you either fail to pose testable hypotheses about creationism, or why, if you do so, the evidence fails to support them.

> Christians have an additional truth authority which trumps all others;
> the revelation of God.

Is not creation, the physical, natural universe, itself supposed to be a revelation of God?

Do you have any reasons why we should regard your additional truth authority, and, beyond that, your personal interpretation of it?

> Secularists typically deny that there are any truth authorities, except of
> course science; they ascribe to the imperialism of science. Since for them,
> science is the only possible truth authority, no wonder they fight so hard
> to prop up their embattled 'king'. If only they would come to know the true
> and eternal King.

It would be more accurate to say that the basic methods of science, reliance on logic and evidence, are accepted methods of arriving at an acceptable approximation of truth in day-to-day life. We rely on them every day, for all manner of questions, and tend to regard as very eccentric and arrogant demands that propositions be accepted without for which no evidence is adduced, or which seem grossly offensive to logic. "Science" is not some "thing" which is set up as king; and its methods are not based on exotic or arbitrary approaches to dealing with reality.

> my $0.02

Yes, but with inflation, two cents isn't worth what it used to be.

> Besides, it only takes a few compatriots to start a revolution, no?
> -mg

-- Steven J.

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