‘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

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Seen and Unseen in Science and Theology

Another interesting paper I have come across recently was published by the American Scientific Affiliation. Hyung S. Choi , 'Knowledge of the Unseen: A New Vision for Science and Religion Dialogue', Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 53.2 (June 2001): 96-101.


A few quotes:

"While contemporary physics and cosmology take seriously the knowledge of invisible realities, the discussion of the unseen in religion has been largely neglected in the recent science-and-religion discussion. Neglecting the issue in theology is ultimately self- defeating since God is considered the Unseen. In light of contemporary understanding of the unseen in science, we contend that that there are significant parallels between scientific and theological claims concerning the unseen. The epistemic distinction between the seen and the unseen does not necessarily imply the ontological demarcation between the natural and the supernatural. New heuristic frameworks such as a multi- dimensional model are suggested for more holistic and dynamical understanding of reality that includes both the seen and the unseen."

"In hindsight, it is an irony that while modernity in its positivistic spirit started out with the notion that the reality perceived by our senses is the only knowable reality there is, we now end up with the idea that the true nature of physical reality is quite different from what we experience through our senses. The legend of the tangibility of matter, or what may be called "the matter myth," which served as the basis for the certainty of knowledge, was lost."

"Here, within science, were raised the problem of reality (an ontological problem), issues of the limits of human knowledge (an epistemological problem), and the problem of testability (a methodological problem). Relativity and quantum physics, which serve as the pillars of contemporary science, and more recently chaos theory, are now presenting us with a radically new physical view of the world in which positivistic, deterministic, and materialistic philosophies no longer have secure places. They present us with deeper, greater, and more mysterious aspects of nature."
Andrew Sibley

Friday, 28 August 2009

Humanists try to Close Christian Zoo

It seems the British Humanist Association (BHA) has become a self-appointed arbiter of science. In criticising a Christian-owned zoo this week, it seems to be aping Richard Dawkins in not only promoting atheism but also pontificating on what is or is not good science.

Mind you, it’s got ‘previous’ on this issue, having waded into scientific arguments on many occasions. And, true to form, it is also trying to squash opposition to evolution, instead of standing for the ‘free thinking’ it claims to embrace.

The BHA says Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxhall, North Somerset, is bad for science, and has been urging tourism boards to boycott the zoo and the local authority to revoke its licence. Of course, the BHA’s concern for good science is a cloak for its opposition to creationism. When else do you ever see the BHA standing up for good science? Answer: only when creationism or Intelligent Design theory need a good kicking. Why? Because such unorthodox science threatens the atheistic view of life that the BHA espouses. It can stomach no opposition.

Signs at the zoo suggest that the "three great people groups" of the world may be descendants of Noah – which a literal reading of the Bible would certainly support. Another sign says animal predation occurred after "man rebelled against God". Now, such views might be typical of traditional Young Earth Creationism (YEC), but the website and two spokespeople for the zoo do say that they view “the natural world around us as a product of both God and evolution”.

A closer look at their website indicates they accept a limited form of evolution and believe that the world may be much older than the typical YEC position of less than 10,000 years. As a spokesperson says, "Although technically creationists, we do not hold the stereotypical creationist views that the world was created in 6,000 years and there is no evolution."

So we are not dealing here with the ultra-traditional creationism that the BHA seems to want to brand this zoo as espousing. But that is no matter to the BHA – any religious view on life must be suppressed. The BHA’s criticism is an attack not only on creationism but on freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

BHA education officer Paul Pettinger says, "We're very concerned because it will undermine education and the teaching of science." First, it’s ridiculous that one small zoo could undermine education as a whole, and second it certainly doesn’t undermine the teaching of science itself – only the teaching of a rigid Darwinian view of evolution. But of course, the BHA needs evolution to reign supreme in order to shore up its atheistic beliefs.

The zoo’s website says that scientists are afraid to talk about "design" in the natural world, and the zoo’s owner Anthony Bush says, "There's a lot of people who believe in Genesis who don't want to come out of the woodwork, but they don't want to come out of the closet because of the thought police."

Well, it’s clear why when the Inquisitors of the BHA come knocking on your door if you cast the slightest doubt on Darwinism.

Bush, a former Evangelical preacher, says his zoo actually presents a variety of views, only one of which is creationist. "I think God created life. I have no idea when," he adds.

One tourism group, Visit England, avoided the issue by pointing out that it only checks a zoo’s visitor satisfaction rating and has no opinion on content. On that score, Noah’s Ark Zoo is clearly a winner. Despite only having 100 animals, it is visited by 120,000 people every year, including members of school parties, yet only gets about ten complaints per year. As Noah's Ark research assistant Jon Woodwood says, "Clearly the public do not share the British Humanist viewpoint.''

BHA director of education and public affairs Andrew Copson also accuses the zoo of deceiving people about its creationist views: ''We believe Noah's Ark Farm Zoo misleads the public by not being open about its creationist agenda in its promotional activities.”

This is clearly untrue as the zoo website has a whole section on creationism and is completely open about its stance. And as Jon Woodwood points out, the zoo is actually named after the biblical Noah’s Ark – might that not be a big clue as to its viewpoint?!

As for undermining science education… ''Our education policy is purely based around the National Curriculum. We are offering our visitors the chance to look at the evolution/creation debate. As it is a free country, that is within our right. Contrary to a small minority of people's claims we do not teach false science.

''This is clearly shown within the zoo, with one exhibition talking about Darwin and another offering another point of view.”

Fortunately the director of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Miranda Stevenson, is perceptive: ''I find it extraordinary that an organisation that I thought promotes free thinking appears to want censorship.''
By Andrew Halloway

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Theos and Mary Midgley

Nick Spencer of Theos has interviewed Mary Midgley as part of their Rescuing Darwin project. This is written up in a report entitled Discussing Darwin. It would seem though that Midgley is closer to post-modernism and a multi-faith approach to truth, than the type of objective modernism that Darwinists believe underpins their science. Is she really the person to ask to defend science? Both Dawkins and scientific creationists have one point of agreement, that there is such a thing as objective truth.


While she has a few good points to make, she believes for instance that Darwinism is the creation myth of our age, she seems in reality muddled by post-modern ideas. I am not convinced that Darwinists would really find such ideas of relative truth helpful to the advancement of objective science. She comments;

“Yes, we all have myths through which we explain the world. The word ‘myth’ is a bit awkward because it is sometimes used simply to mean ‘false’, but I find its other meaning very useful. I also talk about dreams and dramas and visions and so forth. Whichever way one talks about it, it’s about an imaginative background, a way of seeing a problem in the world which determines what questions you ask, how you select your questions.”(p. 13)

“I suppose it sounds less surprising if one refers to ‘visions’. It’s an imaginative framework within which one fits the different elements. (p.14)

“So if one asks what myth the term ‘evolution’ is propagating, it is rather a pernicious one in many ways, because whatever the right way to justify some policy may be, it never is that it is the only road to the future.” (p.16)

But while she believes in having one’s own ‘myth’, and recognizes the subjective and perhaps ‘pernicious’ nature of such beliefs; ‘revelation’ she thinks is dangerous. “You need to have an awareness that other people have views and that your position is just your position and not revelation. The idea of revelations is a dangerous one.” (p.15)

In this statement she is making the mistake of collapsing a belief in literal truth into militant fanaticism. That does not follow by necessity and is offensive to many people, but it is a prejudice of our age where liberals have an antithesis towards those who believe strongly in objective truth, whether it is suicide bombers, or those who uphold the absolute sanctity of life; but what of nihilism – and the darker side of Darwinism that comes out of ‘myth,’ isn't that potentially dangerous also?

So biblical literalism is apparently irrational and dangerous. That sounds to me like an argument that objective truth is irrational or relative truth is rational. As Mike Peter’s of the pop group the Alarm said, ‘The truth is the truth or the truth is surely a lie.’ Or as St Paul said, ‘let God be true and every man a liar.’

It is part of the muddled thinking of post-modernism where the only acceptable intolerance is towards those who are deemed intolerant because of their belief. I might ask on what basis and by whose authority should we reject objective truth - not on the basis of reason and logic I would guess. So why might I disagree with her article - perhaps for no other reason than it makes me feel good and it isn’t in accord with my ‘myth’, but that would be wholly unsatisfactory.

Midgley though thinks that creationists and intelligent design supporters are cutting themselves off from others. I would suggest the reverse is the case, that the liberals who accept Darwinism are expelling and ostracising those who want to believe that there is a truth and objectivity in the universe worth finding, a 'myth' that is ultimately true is the great hope of humanity.

Andrew Sibley

Saturday, 15 August 2009

James Lovelock calls for mitigation strategies

James Lovelock commented to an audience at the 'Ways With Words' literary festival at Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon that; "It's not going to take much of a sea-surge to knock out London. We should be spending money strengthening defences there rather than vain efforts to improve renewable energy."

Although he thinks renewables are a good idea, he is right to note that they are not very practical at present, instead more work needs to be done in developing mitigation strategies around the world to protect against sever weather. That would have a benefit to the world whether global warming is real or not.
Renewables are a waste of time, says James Lovelock Telegraph 14th July 2009
Andrew Sibley