"The influence of evolutionary thought reaches far beyond science. Consider, for example, the histories we are given of how the theory of evolution arose. Charles Darwin and co-founder Alfred Wallace were deeply influenced by non scientific considerations and these influences have, to a certain extent, been explored. Janet Browne, Peter Bowler, Michael Ruse, Keith Thomson, Neal Gillespie, Adrian Desmond and James Moore are but a few of those who have elucidated the cultural, political and other non scientific forces that influenced Darwin and Wallace. As Bowler explains, historians are now far more concerned about the social environment within which scientific knowledge was generated, and far more willing to admit that the development of science is not the inevitable triumph of a series of factually true assertions about the natural world. That sounds like good, solid historiography. But there’s a catch.
Today’s history tellers cannot avoid the undeniable non scientific influences in evolutionary thought. But they do avoid the obvious implication; namely, that evolution entails non scientific premises. It is, as it were, a social construct. Evolution is a theory created by humans, out of human concerns that have very little to do with science..."
Monday, April 26, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
"One of the reasons evolutionists are convinced their theory is true is because of the way the species compare to each other. The patterns we find amongst the species, say the evolutionists, prove Darwin’s idea beyond a shadow of a doubt. Such arguments pervade the evolution genre—from textbooks to popular literature—but what exactly do they mean? To understand this we must understand the evolutionary mind. These arguments have circuitous histories and baked-in assumptions that are now long forgotten. But they are worth remembering. Here is one example.
In the early years of modern science it was argued that motion was caused by contact between masses. In this mechanical philosophy, influences in the natural world were assumed to be transmitted only by direct mechanical contact. And while this may seem intuitive, the related assumption that there can be no vacuum was less obvious. But it was taken to be a fact. As Rene Descartes wrote in 1644, “some make the mistake of imagining [the heavens] to be a totally empty space … there can be no such vacuum in nature.”
For Descartes the planets moved around the sun because they floated in a cosmic whirlpool. And although Isaac Newton later disproved any such Cartesian whirlpool effect, the Lutheran philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz later promoted Descartes’ ideas. As Leibniz explained in 1715, the principle of plenitude disproves the existence of vacuums in nature:Now let us fancy a space wholly empty. God could have placed some matter in it without derogating in any respect from all other things. Therefore he has actually placed some matter in that space; therefore there is no space wholly empty; therefore all is full.It was a good example of how rationalism can produce certainty in even the most obscure notions. Empirical evidence gives one a healthy respect for nature’s complexities, but thought experiments lead to tidy conclusions..."
Sunday, April 4, 2010
"The sad confession which every true scientific man learns to make is, 'I am ignorant; I want to learn'" - Louis Agassiz
The history of science is one of my primary interests. What constitutes science, how scientific opinion and data has changed or appeared, and what sort of influence the whole field of science has on culture, as well as vice versa. Despite all its glory, science is, after all, a very narrow vacuum of understanding when viewed in a historical context. It can only tell us so much, and when the majority of society places upon it burdens and responsibilities it cannot live up to, distortion is inevitable.
Hmm, perhaps a chiseling of definitions is in order. After all, science can apply to different things when used in a general context (i.e., historical science). In the comments on my last article, a debate erupted over whether or not Creation and Evolution are falsifiable and therefore “real science.” I tried to explain that Creation and Evolution are scientific worldviews whose sub-hypotheses constitute predictions, which are falsifiable, which thus constitute “real science.” After thinking things through for awhile and looking things up, I realized why there was so much confusion over what is true science.
Empirical science, technically, is true science. Empirical science is a system of study which deals with observable and repeatable – and therefore testable or experimental – evidence. I suppose we could call it the “useful science,” because it is from empirical science that we get medical advancements. Sounds like the sort of material that should be able to solve all the world’s problems, right? Before you place your faith in it, consider this...
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…Asteroids, asteroids, we all fall down.
“Evolution is so ‘out there’ that it’s on its way out,” a friend told me. She had many reasons to conclude that it is irrational of some scientists to proclaim that macroevolution is fact. But I’m unable to agree that it is on its way out. After all, since when has being wrong ever warranted removal from discussion in contemporary science and media? There is a sort of philosophic necrophilia permeating the evolutionary realm – evolutionists will cling to the dead body of their hypothesis like William Faulkner’s eccentric character Miss Emily did in A Rose for Emily just because it is too desirable to give up. One atheistic scientist interviewed by Ben Stein said that he couldn’t imagine anything more boring than to believe that the world was created. Au contraire, but have it your way if you must.But you have no reason to assert that Evolution is science and Creation is not. They are two different models offered to explain what we see in the natural world today. We must admit that a broad generalization is in this mix, as there are different flavors of creationism (i.e., old earth, young earth). Beneath these scientific worldviews are different hypotheses pertaining to specific areas of study. The idea is to see which model best explains the data that we have from research. An example of this method in action is that of the theories used to explain where the electrical current in the earth’s core comes from.