Friday, February 21, 2014

Mangling Science Part 4: Worms all the Way Down

It's a long way to the bottom of this tin

In blog post entitled “More Evolutionary Fiction” and dated 19 February Ken Ham confidently pronounces:

The book of Genesis tells us that God created every creature “according to its kind” (Genesis 1:25)—meaning creatures also reproduce after their kinds. And, unlike molecules-to-man evolution, we can directly observe creatures reproducing after their kinds in the world around us!

With this statement Ham is deceiving both himself and his followers. Reproduction “according to kind” is a concept that cannot be observed directly; we can adduce data samples relevant to the very general theoretical proposition of “reproduction according to kind” but we can never, of course, observe the super-set entailed by “reproduction according to kind” in its entirety. Compounding the problem of moving from observation to theory here is Ham’s failure to put the Biblical text in its historical context and therefore obscure what the text meant to the arcardian people in whose times it was written. In that context “Biblical kind” would not be a precisely defined category as per what one would expect of modern science, but a fuzzy category based on what was available to the senses of arcadian people. The inevitable fuzziness in this arcadian category and the fact that it refers to the n+1 th generation means that it actually provides enough latitude for it to be entirely consistent with a substantial drifting in organic form for the n+m th generation, where m is large; given what Ham stands for this is very ironic! If one attempts to give a more precise definition of “kind”, say along the lines of species, it inevitably leads into a more theoretical concept thus removing “reproduction according to kind” even further from “direct observation”.

Ham’s motive, of course, is that he seeks an epistemic criterion that allows him to declare so called “observational science” to be “real science” on the basis that this kind of science’s theoretical objects somehow have an assured connection to his senses, whereas historical science, he naively thinks is not “observational”. Ham’s distorted notion of observational science sets the scene for the grosser distortions of the Flat Earth society who attempt to give observational authority to their opinions with their so-called “Zetetic Method”, a method which labours under the false belief that the observations of “honest and true” people can lead very directly and logically to the “truth” of Flat Earth doctrines, thereby bypassing what Flat Earthers think of as highly theoretical speculations.

Observationally speaking the Sun is very different from the stars; so much so, in fact, that it is no surprise the arcadian Biblical writers put the Sun into a different category to the stars; after all, like the theories of geocentrism and Flat Earthism, this is a reasonable approximation given the very practical everyday farming concerns of arcadians!. However, one Biblical literalist has used this natural Biblical distinction to claim (“from the Bible” of course) that  the Sun is not a star!  It goes to show how raw observation seldom gives us a very direct depiction of reality. The kind of thinking behind “the Sun is not a star” is the same sort of self-deception that has motivated Biblical geocentrists and Flat Earthers – and, I might add, Answers in Genesis – all of whom are inclined toward the same kitschy sentiment which leads them to believe that solid no-nonsense right-wing rubes and Biblical literalists can trust the common sense of their direct perceptions and use these perceptions to challenging the theoretical subtleties of the much hated publicly funded academic community!

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