27 February 2007

Who now mourns for Galileo?

According to Q, I don’t understand science (among other things). (I believe he had this posting in mind.) Typically, he offers no explanation of where I went wrong, just makes the assertion that I don’t understand science. (And this in a comment in which he, again, takes me to task for just making "lots of statements.")

I’ve long been amused by the sweeping generalizations made by believers in evolutionism about those who are sceptical of it. You can be sceptical of Big Bang cosmology, as proponents of Steady State Theory once were (in some cases still are). No problem. You won’t be told that you don’t understand science. You won’t be accused of being anti-science. You can be sceptical of the Standard Model of particle physics. No problem. You won’t be told that you don’t understand science. You won’t be accused of being anti-science.

There are about five theories about why the (Western) Roman Empire fell. If you reject one, or even all of them you won’t be told you don’t understand history; you won’t be accused of being an irrational obscurantist. You can believe that mathematics is a true science; or you can believe that mathematics is not a true science. No problem. You won’t be told that you don’t understand science. You won’t be accused of being anti-science.

You can believe, with Einstein, that science ought to proceed from examinations of physical reality and capture all aspects of it, have an emphasis on internal consistency and avoidance of asymmetrical or contradictory explanations, and create a visualizable understanding of the meanings of the scientific theory; or you can believe, with Niels Bohr, that a scientific theory need not capture all aspects of physical reality and therefore did need not possess an intuitive physical meaning or be entirely free of contradictions. Whether you agree with Einstein or Bohr, you won’t be told that you don’t understand science; you won’t be accused of being anti-science.

You can believe that a theory of origins can be properly scientific; or you can believe otherwise. But here it’s different. Here, with a theory of origins which, unlike relativity, cannot be falsified by experiments and which, unlike Big Bang cosmology, does not begin with observations in the present and about present states of affairs and extrapolate from presently observed phenomena past states of affairs -- here it is totally different.

Express the least bit of scepticism about this theory, a single theory -- a single theory, mind you! -- and you are told that you don’t understand science. In fact, you’re anti-science. Think of it! For all science you understand no science, because you are sceptical of a single theory. For all science you are anti-science, because you are sceptical of a single theory.

I wonder why that is? Could it be because evolution, as a theory of origins, has religious implications (for both theists and non-theists), that other theories don’t have?

Q, when you read an expression of scepticism about the scientific credentials of a given theory, responding with "You don’t understand science," in addition to being a bit of overkill, is also ad hominem, an assertion about the person stating a position, rather than about the position itself. (I know you hate hearing that, but it’s not my fault that it’s true.)
Here is a much more intelligent comment on my scepticism of evolution’s credentials. Note that the author of said comment actually presents, however brief, an argument, rather than the ridiculous assertion that for all science I understand no science. Take a lesson.

Bearing in mind that Q has never met me, it may be interesting to note that
Dr Lewis Irving Held, of Texas Tech University thought enough of my understanding of science to recommend me for an undergraduate research fellowship in biology (that recommendation was in the form of a letter of recommendation). (Family matters meant that I could not apply for the fellowship after all, but I think I still have a copy of Dr. Held’s letter of recommendation somewhere in my personal effects.) What may be most interesting about Dr. Held’s recommendation is that I was never -- ever -- a science major at university. I was a liberal arts major. (This was all back in the 1990s, but my understanding of science hasn’t changed. And, what’s more, Dr. Held didn’t think to ask what I thought about evolution when he wrote that letter of recommendation. His recommendation was based on my coursework performance, not my philosophy of science.)

What gets me about these people is that they are often the same ones who mourn for Galileo because of the way the Church treated him for his heterodox views. Kind of like the way that people get treated today for being sceptical today's orthodoxy, evolutionism. Oh, yeah, and global warming.

"You don't understand science," is easy enough to say, but if one's grounds is simply scepticism about a theory -- a single theory -- then "You don't understand science" just isn't enough. Did I also mention that it's ad hominem? Typical Q. Oh so typical.

I await your next brick.


About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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