Letter to the Editor

 

Bube, Meyer and Moreland: A Middle View

 

From: PSCF 46 (September 1994): 216-217.

J. P. Moreland, "Conceptual Problems and the Scientific Status of Creation Science" (Perspectives, 45:1, pp. 2-13) and "Response to Meyer and Bube" (ibid., pp. 22-25) takes the position that divine creation is acceptable in a valid scientific theory. Stephen C. Meyer, "The Use and Abuse of Philosophy of Science: A Response to Moreland" (ibid., pp. 14-18) endorses this view on the grounds that no line of demarcation has been successfully drawn between acceptable and illegitimate concepts for scientific theories. Richard C. Bube, "Is Creation Science an Oxymoron?: A Response to Moreland") ibid., pp. 19-21) rejects their contention.

I understand Bube. In his basic discipline, physics, every acceptable theory has a logico-mathematical model as its core. Every such model has to make predictions which can be empirically tested, at least in principle. When it was proposed in 1948, Gamow's Big Bang cosmology could not be confirmed. Its predicted isotropic 3 K radiation was not measurable. Wilson and Penzias detected this radiation in 1965, confirming the theory. Most physical theories are more easily tested, often experimentally. The need for auxiliary theories does not essentially alter this requirement. For example, Newton depended on the earth and moon to confirm his gravitational theory, and was at first put off by erroneous data. Etvs, more than two centuries later, measured the minute attraction between two masses in the laboratory.

A physicist may posit an unobservable entity or quality, but it has to make an observable difference. Further, it must be quantitative, not qualitative. Thus there are no designer nuclei, though elements have been produced artificially. Esthetics enters physics only as applied to theories. Yukawa, for example, declared Einstein's General Theory of Relativity beautiful. This parallels the mathematicians' recognition of elegant proofs. Consequently, one may consider discounting Bube's view as biased.

Moreland and Meyer approach the matter philosophically. They properly note the distinct nature of historical science, including Gamow's cosmology. While historical science may call on experimental evidence, it ultimately cannot be tested by experiment. This was not recognized when logical positivists set out to develop a purely scientific language, one free from metaphysics. Their expectation was jolted by Carnap's 1956 declaration that any such language was too restricted for scientific theory construction. Now our authors note that no demarcation between acceptable scientific concepts and non-scientific language can be drawn. So they add notions of miracle, creation and design to the vocabulary of "normal" science.

I would be more impressed with their approach if philosophers were able to demonstrate more. For example, as Augustine noted, and Descartes emphasized, I have irrefutable internal evidence that I exist. But I cannot demonstrate it to another, nor can I get such evidence from another. Solipsism is a logical possibility. Philosophical demonstration is impotent to defend what we all assume, that we exist together and that communication is not talking to oneself. Again, there are philosophical arguments for strict determinism which some people find compelling. One such person importuned one of my colleagues day after day. Finally, frustrated, he asked, "Why won't you accept it?" "Do I have a choice?" was the rejoinder. My friend recognized what determinists overlook, their assumption that everyone is free to choose to believe determinism. This inconsistency is not demonstration, for we may still be automata with the delusion of freedom. Only uninformed dogmatists are sure they have unconditional proof in this area.

In preparing my dissertation, I found no comprehensive criteria for declaring an observed sequence causal. But there are grounds for declaring that Aristotle's "First Cause" is not univocal with "cause" in cause-effect contexts. So, if a designing or originating deity is to be included in science, it will be with a telling difference. Is this change so great as to transform science into something abnormal? This question is not addressed by our authors.

Virtually everyone makes a distinction between historical scientific explanation and other explanations. For example, Exodus 14:19-31 describes Israel's passage through the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh's pursuing army. Nof and Paldor explained how this could happen. They modeled the floor of the Gulf of Suez, a northern extension of the sea, and showed that a strong wind will uncover a ridge, leaving water on either side. When the wind stops, the water surges back. This model is unquestionably scientific. But the declaration that the Lord caused the wind to blow is not normally considered a scientific statement. A scientific explanation of the wind would have to be in terms of the placement of meteorological highs and lows. Ascribing the action to God is, in contrast, a theological explanation.

If we turn to cosmology, we have a scientific explanation back to 10-43 second after the Big Bang. Is it scientific to extrapolate back that fraction of a second to declare the Big Bang creatio ex nihilo by God? Most people will say "No." If "quantum fluctuations in the vacuum" are shown to be relevant, the extrapolation to divine origination will surely be seen as a "God of the gaps" move.

Despite our authors' protestation that all demarcation arguments fail, it seems to me that we have a fairly clear idea of the distinction between scientific and non-scientific constructions. The simple rule asks: Does the factor make an observable difference? Einstein thought his cosmological constant did, though it later was judged superfluous. But the claim that the world was brought into existence ten minutes ago with all the appearance of age is not a scientific claim. Changing minutes to millennia does not alter this judgment. This is one reason why most young-earth creationists have abandoned it, opting for the Flood or a gap to explain the current state of the earth.

Do Moreland's and Meyer's demarcation arguments counter this traditional attitude? Clearly, the lack of a criterion to exclude any concept from scientific contexts provides that references to God, creation, design, miracle, etc., cannot be arbitrarily proscribed. Does this establish that their inclusion is relevant? Moreland tacitly assumes that the answer is "Yes."

Let's look again at the crossing of the Red Sea. What difference does claiming that God caused the wind make? How, apart from the biblical statement, can I determine that it was God, rather than Satan or Caicas, who sent the wind? Further, what changes when we make God the source of the Big Bang? What would alter if, pantheistically, we insert god as the ylem, identifying him (it ?) with the expanding universe? Is not such an insertion of a supernatural actor essentially parallel to the ten-minute universe? It seems evident that, even though we may not have a defensible criterion for language in general, we have a robust criterion for the utility of concepts within scientific explanations. This argument is strengthened by another consideration. "Atom" is a useless term in psychology, as "emotion" is in physics. Reverse the disciplines and both terms are relevant, indeed, vital. This clearly suggests that there can be concepts which have no place in any science. Perhaps the failure to establish a demarcation springs from the attempt to cover all the sciences simultaneously. Would a search for criteria limited to one discipline be successful?

Because Moreland and Meyer have assumed that demarcation is the only relevant criterion, they have come up short. Moreland needs to establish empirical relevance in order to establish that creation science is science. It thus appears that Bube, far from pushing an outdated view of science, is onto something.

David F. Siemens, Jr., Ph.D.

2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 85213-2384