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Can science be the only source of truth?

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From Ruth M. Bancewicz at Science + Belief, on key points offered by Dutch philosopher Professor René van Woudenberg at a recent Faraday workshop, including:

There are all sorts of ways in which scientists find some theories more satisfying than others, but science itself is not always a deciding factor in the decision. Logic, reason, experience, intuition, aesthetics, personal preference – all of these can play a part. As time goes on, and more data are gathered, we can become more certain which theory is an accurate reflection of reality. Eventually some theories have so much data behind them – gravity or the common ancestry of all living things, for example – that they are treated almost as facts. More.

Presumably, van Woudenberg includes politics and unreasoning bias among the personal preferences. Carl Sagan was willing to believe in talking dolphins but not in God. That is a choice, not an outcome of examining the evidence.

Hat tip: Ken Francis

See also: Science and miracles: The Carl Sagan edition The people who think it anti-science to believe that God can, in principle, intervene in nature should have a look at what is growing up around them in place of that comparatively limited assumption.

“Where can we go to find out what is true? At the Faraday Summer course last week, the Dutch philosopher Professor René van Woudenberg explained why science cannot be relied upon as the only source …”

7 Replies to “Can science be the only source of truth?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    Eventually some theories have so much data behind them – gravity or the common ancestry of all living things, for example – that they are treated almost as facts.

    Hmmm, gravity, via General Relativity, is verified to almost absurd levels of precision, but I can think of no such confirming ‘data’ behind the claim that universal common ancestry is true. In fact, both the fossil record and genetics give us compelling reason to question the validity of the claim that common ancestry is true. Not to mention the fact that no one has ever ‘evolved’ one type of creature into another type of creature.

    Scientific study turns understanding about evolution on its head – July 30, 2013
    Excerpt: evolutionary biologists,,, looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form.
    Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.
    ,,,Dr Matthew Wills said: “This pattern, known as ‘early high disparity’, turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn’t a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals (in the Cambrian Explosion), or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions.”,,,
    Author Martin Hughes, continued: “Our work implies that there must be constraints on the range of forms within animal groups, and that these limits are often hit relatively early on.
    Co-author Dr Sylvain Gerber, added: “A key question now is what prevents groups from generating fundamentally new forms later on in their evolution.,,,
    http://phys.org/news/2013-07-s.....ution.html
    graph
    http://www.pnas.org/content/11.....medium.gif

    Bechly: In the Fossil Record, “Abrupt Appearances Are the Rule” – February 20, 2018,
    Excerpt: , you might think that the Cambrian explosion some 530 million years is a singularity, a freak of nature: the sudden appearance of phyla, major categories of life,,,, Yet Dr. Bechly points out that the problem posed by the Cambrian event is not singular but in fact has been repeated numerous times in the long history of life — sudden explosions, abrupt appearances, followed by diversification. Each should multiply the distress of Darwin’s defenders, if they are honest with themselves about it.
    In a chapter co-authored with philosopher of science Stephen Meyer in the recent book Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique (pg. 340-352), Bechly details 19 such “explosions.” As he observes, in the fossil record, “Abrupt appearances are the rule.” Each such event poses the same challenge to Darwinian thinking that the Cambrian explosion does.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2018/02/bechly-in-the-fossil-record-abrupt-appearances-are-the-rule/

    “The point emerges that if we examine the fossil record in detail, whether at the level of orders or of species, we find’ over and over again’ not gradual evolution, but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another.”
    Paleontologist, Derek V. Ager (Department of Geology & Oceanography, University College, Swansea, UK)

    “It is a feature of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution…This phenomenon becomes more universal and more intense as the hierarchy of categories is ascended. Gaps among known species are sporadic and often small. Gaps among known orders, classes and phyla are systematic and almost always large.”
    G.G.Simpson – one of the most influential American Paleontologist of the 20th century

    “Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document a gradual steady change from ancestral forms to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series.” –
    Ernst Mayr – Professor Emeritus, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University

    Logged Out – Scientists Can’t Find Darwin’s “Tree of Life” Anywhere in Nature by Casey Luskin – Winter 2013
    Excerpt: the (fossil) record shows that major groups of animals appeared abruptly, without direct evolutionary precursors.
    Because biogeography and fossils have failed to bolster common descent, many evolutionary scientists have turned to molecules—the nucleotide and amino acid sequences of genes and proteins—to establish a phylogenetic tree of life showing the evolutionary relationships between all living organisms.,,,
    Many papers have noted the prevalence of contradictory molecule-based phylogenetic trees. For instance:
    • A 1998 paper in Genome Research observed that “different proteins generate different phylogenetic tree[s].”6
    • A 2009 paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution acknowledged that “evolutionary trees from different genes often have conflicting branching patterns.”7
    • A 2013 paper in Trends in Genetics reported that “the more we learn about genomes the less tree-like we find their evolutionary history to be.”8
    Perhaps the most candid discussion of the problem came in a 2009 review article in New Scientist titled “Why Darwin Was Wrong about the Tree of Life.”9 The author quoted researcher Eric Bapteste explaining that “the holy grail was to build a tree of life,” but “today that project lies in tatters, torn to pieces by an onslaught of negative evidence.” According to the article, “many biologists now argue that the tree concept is obsolete and needs to be discarded.”,,,
    Syvanen succinctly summarized the problem: “We’ve just annihilated the tree of life. It’s not a tree any more, it’s a different topology entirely. What would Darwin have made of that?” ,,,
    “battles between molecules and morphology are being fought across the entire tree of life,” leaving readers with a stark assessment: “Evolutionary trees constructed by studying biological molecules often don’t resemble those drawn up from morphology.”10,,,
    A 2012 paper noted that “phylogenetic conflict is common, and [is] frequently the norm rather than the exception,” since “incongruence between phylogenies derived from morphological versus molecular analyses, and between trees based on different subsets of molecular sequences has become pervasive as datasets have expanded rapidly in both characters and species.”12,,,
    http://www.salvomag.com/new/ar.....ed-out.php

    Sweeping gene survey reveals new facets of evolution – May 28, 2018
    Excerpt: Darwin perplexed,,,
    And yet—another unexpected finding from the study—species have very clear genetic boundaries, and there’s nothing much in between.
    “If individuals are stars, then species are galaxies,” said Thaler. “They are compact clusters in the vastness of empty sequence space.”
    The absence of “in-between” species is something that also perplexed Darwin, he said.
    https://phys.org/news/2018-05-gene-survey-reveals-facets-evolution.html

    Scant search for the Maker
    Excerpt: “But where is the experimental evidence? None exists in the literature claiming that one species has been shown to evolve into another. Bacteria, the simplest form of independent life, are ideal for this kind of study, with generation times of 20 to 30 minutes, and populations achieved after 18 hours. But throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another, in spite of the fact that populations have been exposed to potent chemical and physical mutagens and that, uniquely, bacteria possess extrachromosomal, transmissible plasmids. Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms.”
    – Alan H. Linton – emeritus professor of bacteriology, University of Bristol – Scant Search For a Maker – April 20, 2001
    http://www.timeshighereducatio.....ode=159282

    Darwin vs. Microbes – video
    https://youtu.be/ntxc4X9Zt-I

  2. 2
    Dick says:

    OP: “Eventually some theories have so much data behind them – gravity or the common ancestry of all living things, for example – that they are treated almost as facts.”

    Evidently, for Professor van Woudenberg, personal preference plays a large role not only in deciding what counts as a good theory but also in deciding what counts as data.

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    From the linked article at Science + Belief:

    Fifth, some things are simply brute facts. Scientists are very familiar with the fact that they can explain things in lawlike ways. Light travels at a certain speed, things fall in certain ways if you drop them, and water bends light in particular directions. There may be higher laws, yet to be discovered, that explain why these things behave in the ways they do, but at some point there has to be an ultimate explanation of what makes the higher laws the way they are. You can’t simply keep on inventing ever-higher laws to explain the other laws. In the rest of life, we are familiar with personal explanations – someone left a book on my desk. Science cannot provide that sort of explanation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility…

    We would have to evaluate whether the thesis, “someone left a book on my desk” is consistent with other data before we would accept it as a viable “explanation.”

    ID has greater “explanatory power” because it says that “someone” is responsible for the complex, specified information we see in living systems. This ‘thesis’ is consistent with what we know of in computer science, e.g. In terms of forensic science, this is much more plausible that Darwinian pseudo-explanations.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    PaV at 3,

    “You can’t simply keep on inventing ever-higher laws to explain the other laws. In the rest of life, we are familiar with personal explanations – someone left a book on my desk. Science cannot provide that sort of explanation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility…”

    Science does not rule out agent causality as a valid explanation. Only the artificial and unwarranted imposition of methodological naturalism onto science rules out agent causality as valid explanation prior to any investigation being done.

    As Dr. Paul Nelson noted, methodological naturalism entails an ontology in which minds are the consequence of physics, and thus, can only be placeholders for a more detailed causal account in which physics is the only (ultimate) actor. You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed you of that event after the fact. “That’s crazy,” you reply, “I certainly did write my email.” Okay, then — to what does the pronoun “I” in that sentence refer?
    Your personal agency; your mind. Are you supernatural?,,,

    Do You Like SETI? Fine, Then Let’s Dump Methodological Naturalism – Paul Nelson – September 24, 2014
    Excerpt: “Epistemology — how we know — and ontology — what exists — are both affected by methodological naturalism (MN). If we say, “We cannot know that a mind caused x,” laying down an epistemological boundary defined by MN, then our ontology comprising real causes for x won’t include minds.
    MN entails an ontology in which minds are the consequence of physics, and thus, can only be placeholders for a more detailed causal account in which physics is the only (ultimate) actor. You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed you of that event after the fact.
    “That’s crazy,” you reply, “I certainly did write my email.” Okay, then — to what does the pronoun “I” in that sentence refer?
    Your personal agency; your mind. Are you supernatural?,,,
    You are certainly an intelligent cause, however, and your intelligence does not collapse into physics. (If it does collapse — i.e., can be reduced without explanatory loss — we haven’t the faintest idea how, which amounts to the same thing.) To explain the effects you bring about in the world — such as your email, a real pattern — we must refer to you as a unique agent.,,,
    some feature of “intelligence” must be irreducible to physics, because otherwise we’re back to physics versus physics, and there’s nothing for SETI to look for.”,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....90071.html

    Ruling agent causality out of ‘scientific’ bounds as a valid explanation before any investigation has been done is more than just a minor nuisance. The artificial imposition of methodological naturalism onto science leads to the catastrophic epistemological failure of science.

    Darwin’s Theory vs Falsification – 39:45 minute mark
    https://youtu.be/8rzw0JkuKuQ?t=2387
    Excerpt: Basically, because of reductive materialism (and/or methodological naturalism), the atheistic materialist is forced to claim that he is merely a ‘neuronal illusion’ (Coyne, Dennett, etc..), who has the illusion of free will (Harris), who has unreliable beliefs about reality (Plantinga), who has illusory perceptions of reality (Hoffman), who, since he has no real time empirical evidence substantiating his grandiose claims, must make up illusory “just so stories” with the illusory, and impotent, ‘designer substitute’ of natural selection (Behe, Gould, Sternberg), so as to ‘explain away’ the appearance (i.e. illusion) of design (Crick, Dawkins), and who must make up illusory meanings and purposes for his life since the reality of the nihilism inherent in his atheistic worldview is too much for him to bear (Weikart), and who must also hold morality to be subjective and illusory since he has rejected God (Craig, Kreeft).
    Bottom line, nothing is real in the atheist’s worldview, least of all, morality, meaning and purposes for life.,,,
    Paper with references for each claim page; Page 37:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pAYmZpUWFEi3hu45FbQZEvGKsZ9GULzh8KM0CpqdePk/edit

    Thus, although the Darwinian Atheist firmly believes he is on the terra firma of science (in his appeal, even demand, for methodological naturalism), the fact of the matter is that, when examining the details of his materialistic/naturalistic worldview, it is found that Darwinists/Atheists are adrift in an ocean of fantasy and imagination with no discernible anchor for reality to grab on to.

    It would be hard to fathom a worldview more antagonistic to modern science than Atheistic materialism and/or methodological naturalism have turned out to be.

    2 Corinthians 10:5
    Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

    Moreover, agent causality, since it is true, is not so easily dismissed from science. In quantum mechanics we find that our free will choices are central to our understanding of quantum mechanics:

    What Does Quantum Physics Have to Do with Free Will? – By Antoine Suarez – July 22, 2013
    Excerpt: What is more, recent experiments are bringing to light that the experimenter’s free will and consciousness should be considered axioms (founding principles) of standard quantum physics theory. So for instance, in experiments involving “entanglement” (the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), to conclude that quantum correlations of two particles are nonlocal (i.e. cannot be explained by signals traveling at velocity less than or equal to the speed of light), it is crucial to assume that the experimenter can make free choices, and is not constrained in what orientation he/she sets the measuring devices.
    To understand these implications it is crucial to be aware that quantum physics is not only a description of the material and visible world around us, but also speaks about non-material influences coming from outside the space-time.,,,
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/what-does-quantum-physics-have-do-free-will

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,,
    In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11
    Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,,
    Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,
    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....mechanics/

    Moreover, at the 7 minute mark of the following video, Anton Zeilinger, a leading experimentalist in quantum mechanics, weighs in on free will in quantum mechanics and states “we know that it is wrong to assume that the features of a system, which we observe in a measurement exist prior to measurement.”,,, what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”

    “The Kochen-Speckter Theorem talks about properties of one system only. So we know that we cannot assume – to put it precisely, we know that it is wrong to assume that the features of a system, which we observe in a measurement exist prior to measurement. Not always. I mean in a certain cases. So in a sense, what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”
    – Anton Zeilinger –
    Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism – video (7:57 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/4C5pq7W5yRM?t=500

    Thus, as far as quantum mechanics is concerned, agent causality is very much a central part of science and agent causality is certainly not to be regulated to the sidelines by the artificial imposition of methodological naturalism onto science.

  5. 5
    john_a_designer says:

    From the article cited in the OP:

    [T]here are the sources of knowledge that are outside of science. To know something, you need to believe it is true. For example, no one knows that Paris is the capital of the UK. In other words, you need a reason to believe something, and that reason can come from outside of science. Some things – such as my name, who my parents are, whether I feel that I have a headache, or my obligations to my family – seem to be beyond scientific investigation. Moral and religious truths, especially, are ‘irreducibly extra-scientific knowledge’ – they can’t be discovered by doing scientific experiments.

    Let’s focus on one statement.

    “To know something, you need to believe it is true.”

    However, because I believe something does that make it true, or is Truth something that transcends our personal beliefs and opinions.

    Historical knowledge is generally something that is not considered to be part of science. There is no way for example to scientifically prove the Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March (3/15) in 44 BC as he entered the senate house in Rome. Science can help us with the dating and chronology however it can’t establish whether reported events actually happened. Those rely on eyewitness accounts and official records at the time.

    Consider the following historical claim.

    “The first woman to travel around the world by air made the journey in 1929 as a passenger on board a luxury airliner that was over 700 feet (213 meters) long.”

    According to logic propositions are either true or false. Is this proposition true or false? How do know that? How would you verify or falsify it?

    I can. Can you?

  6. 6
    jdk says:

    Just saw the OP. My answer to the question is “No”.

  7. 7
    ET says:

    jdk:

    My answer to the question is “No”.

    What are the other sources?

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