‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Friday, 1 August 2008

What does Denis Alexander know?

Denis Alexander has a letter in the New Scientist (3oth July 08) 'Advertising Ethics' in which he carefully equates the claims of creationism with astrology as being equally unscientific.

Alexander comments that we 'know from science itself [that the claims of creationism and astrology] are not true.' A strong statement to make. He then comments that 'Science continually throws up big questions, not least ethical questions, which science itself cannot answer.'

Presumably though the origin of life question is a 'big question' also. So some 'big questions' about unrepeatable events in the past have known answers in science, while other 'big questions' cannot be answered by science. I would gently suggest there is an inconsistency there Denis.

Interestingly Steve Fuller, in his latest book, 'Dissent over Descent' compares Darwinism to astrology. According to Fuller, astrology claims causality at a spatial distance, while evolution claims causality at a temporal distance. But I think the problem for Alexander is that he has the wrong view of science. Science is a process of investigation where findings are held provisionally, but Alexander is blinded by science as offering objective, absolute knowledge. Science becomes another word for truth. I would suggest that repeatable science comes close to this, but even here results have to be interpreted within a theoretical framework that is presuppositional, but when dealing with origin science the grounds are far less certain because of the non repeatability of the problem. All scientists can do is make inferences based on probability. So where does Denis get his certainty from to make such a statement about origins when his claims are not testable in science? I would suggest he is engaged in a rhetorical argument to hold together a paradigm that he is emotionally attached to.

Andrew S.

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