Philosophy of Science Q : Facts and their interpretations

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by christianyouth, May 18, 2009.

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  1. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    Hey all,

    I was watching this video this morning and it raised a lot of questions. While I don't agree with theistic evolution, I think this speaker does a great job at demonstrating how Darwinism does not equal naturalism.

    So I think he has raised a good point, and it got me considering the relation between data and the interpretation of data. It seems that data can be interpreted in any number of ways, as all Presuppositionalists acknowledge. SO we could look at planetary movements and say with Newton that it's God's handiwork, or we could look at the movements of planets and say it's 'nature's' handiwork.

    Yet I have this Catholic friend who constantly sends me quotes from these atheist writers he's reading, and the quotes are always "Science disproves religion". I know that's stupid. I even think that I have demonstrated it's stupid, but it would be great if I could find more info on this. So do any of you want to try to explain to me this divide between scientific data and analyzing it's implications on matters metaphysical? Or does anyone have any links discussing this maybe? Aren't there hundreds of apologetics websites that are supposed to be answering questions like this?

    Thanks! :)

    (the video I mentioned, here it is) - Keith Ward: Misusing Darwin
  2. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    This area has always been interesting to me. I would make two quick observations. Those who would say the planetary movements are nature's handiwork, have falling into a quasi-mystical/magical mindset (along with those who speak of Mother Nature). Handiwork implies intelligence, and the consistent atheistic scientist could only use the term "nature's accident" because it came about at random.

    The other observation is a bit humorous (at least to me). I agree that the statement "science disproves religion" is stupid. So, why would I want to spend time arguing with the stupid?

    Cut to the presupposition below that statement. The syllogism tends to be:
    a. God (supernatualism) and science (naturalism) cannot both be true.
    b. science is true, therefore
    c. God cannot be true.

    I think both Van Til and Clark would attack premise b and ask how does science define truth and how can it know what is true? Usually the answer in premise b is empiricism, so then attack the reliance on empiricism for the knowledge of truth.
  3. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    A good place to see this fleshed out is in Tim Keller's The Reason for God. One of the things he stresses is that atheists explain belief in God as an evolutionary development that improves fitness and survival, and thus should not be trusted since it comes only from the human mind. But of course this is highly hypocritical, since scientific discovery and our interpretation of scientific facts are also derived from the human mind. So if the human mind is not to be trusted in matters of religion, why should it be trusted in matters of science? How do we know our interpretation of scientific fact isn't a subconscious evolutionary mechanism to improve survival? If the human mind is weak and cannot be trusted, how can we trust it to "disprove" God?

    Of course he goes into much more detail in the book, but the basic principle that science can disprove God is ludicrous. After many hours of biology and evolutionary course work, I can tell you it takes more faith to believe in Evolution than it does to believe in God.
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    There is an essay in the book Reason for the Hope Within (edited by Michael J. Murray) that deals with the differences in methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism, which I believe is at the heart of your question. He deals pretty well the problems of the Conflict Thesis, which is were much of this myth of science v. religion stems from.
  5. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    Thanks for the great responses!
  6. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Can you explain to me how it is that the speaker you referenced showed conclusively that Darwinism =/= naturalism? I'm not sure exactly what you meant by that either - that is, did you mean to say that the speaker gave sound arguments that:

    a) A commitment to Darwinism does not require a commitment to naturalism
    b) A commitment to naturalism does not require a commitment to Darwinism
    c) Darwinism is possibly compatible with God's creative work as outlined in the Bible

    or something else? What exactly did you mean, and how exactly did the speaker prove this?

    Of the 3 options I gave above, I think a) and c) are false and b) is true.
  7. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    Hey Tod, the speaker above was arguing for A. I didn't listen to the entire video, so he may have argued for C too.

    EDIT : I realize that I wasn't too clear above, I just got done re-reading it and I realized that it could be ready any number of ways. What I should have said in the original post was that this speaker did a good job of showing how Darwinism does not necessarily prove naturalism, thus disproving the claim that many put forth that evolution somehow proves their naturalistic world view.
  8. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    I guess I'm still confused.

    Did the speaker argue from the point of view that Darwinism is proven as a scientific fact? Or, more like what you say in the end - was he arguing that the facts which are used to support evolution do not necessarily require evolution in the Darwinian scheme?

    Who was the speaker and what was the video? That might help us understand what you're referring to and what your statements mean.
  9. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, the speaker believed that Darwinism was an established fact. He just doesn't think that atheists have a right to draw support for their world view from Darwinism.
  10. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    I would agree with that speaker. It is logically possible to believe in a false god and believe in Darwinism at the same time. Suppose that a person believes in some supernatural being that is not identical with the God of the Bible. He could believe that this supernatural being used evolution to create all living things.
  11. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    Defining terms here is very important. I have always understood Darwinism to be atheistic at its core. Remember, Charles Darwin was an atheist and believed that his Evolutionary theory disproved the creation account. Hence Darwinism is fundamentally atheistic - I don't see how the speaker could be correct in distinguishing atheism from true Darwinism.

    On the other hand, if he defines Darwinism as simple evolutionary principles, then he certainly has a point: believing in evolutionary concepts does not preclude a belief in God or the Genesis 1 account. But Darwinism includes the belief that all life arose from inert matter, something fundamentally opposed to the Bible. Without seeing this talk, I have no idea how the speaker defines his terms. So I agree with Todd, this seems a bit confusing. :scratch:
  12. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    I don't agree with this, I don't think - Darwinism does not allow for
    "guided" processes by definition. Special creation by any God, false or
    true, is denied by Darwinism. Perhaps if this discussion is to go forward,
    the term "Darwinism" needs to be defined properly.
  13. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Heh. Answering the same question at the same time...
  14. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    :lol: Great minds think a like...and so do ours.
  15. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    Cold, this is how I've thought too, and that's why I want to see how far people can push that distinction between facts and the interpretation of facts. It seems like you get to the point eventually where the facts lend themselves to a particular interpretation, IE Darwinism lending itself to the atheist position, or the anthropic principle lending itself toward the theistic position.

    But I would like to see what some philosophers of science have to say about this. Is every metaphysical inference from science wholly arbitrary?

    Also, I was using Darwinism just to refer to current evolutionary theory, championed by Darwin. I didn't know that atheism was implied in Darwinism.
  16. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    No, Darwinism by definition claims that there is no God. Some of Darwin's contemporaries rejected his atheism but accepted his evolutionary theories - they would not be true "Darwinists." So Darwinism cannot be separated from atheism - they are fundamentally one and the same; Darwinism is the atheist conclusion drawn from evolutionary principles. Evolutionary principles, on the other hand, are valid and one need not be an atheist to fully embrace them as part of God's plan for His creation.

    As far as metaphysical inference from science being arbitrary - from a Christian perspective I would say yes if it doesn't correlate with the non-arbitrary truth of Scripture. For example, atheistic evolutionists reject the creation account in Genesis because they say evolutionary principles are valid (and I agree with them), and believe that those principles guided the evolution of all living things from simple molecules to life as we know it today. Not only is this bad science apart from any biblical consideration, but it is also arbitrary because it ignores the truth of Scripture that God created the universe out of nothing. So their inference that God cannot exist because there is no place for Him in their explanation of life on Earth is very arbitrary. I think the same can be said of any metaphysical inference apart from the truth of God's Word.
  17. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    Well, sorry for all of the hassle I've caused, but this is pretty much what the speaker was saying. He is saying that evolutionary principles don't lend themselves to either interpretation, and so atheists cannot appeal to evolutionary principles as a justificaiton for their position.

    Again, sorry for not being too clear. Thanks to you and Todd for taking the time to respond and seek clarification. :)
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