Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Historical and interpretive science versus observational testable science

The question of the difference between a historical and interpretive science and an observational or testable science has been run through the EvC standard variety of misinterpretations -- I hope all possible misinterpretations, meaning I hope they've run out of them.  As often happens with subjects that matter to me, I thought the distinction was pretty clear from the beginning but soon found out how many different ways there are to misconstrue my meaning. 

I thought for instance that because the concepts were described in a paper published in a Geological publication as a critical view of Geology held by members of the scientific community, though the author disagreed with them, that should suffice to pin down what I had in mind.  Nope.

Then along comes a working Geologist who is all put out at me for calling his science interpretive although that's the term used by other people too, even those who oppose me, and when he described what he actually does to find oil  I had concluded that was a good example of real observational science and not interpretive science, because everything he described had to do with the physical position of the rocks and nothing to do with Old Earth assumptions.  I guess he didn't believe me?

Then I was informed that Historical Geology simply IS Geology, ALL Geology, so that my making a distinction between theoretical or Old Earth Geology as historical and interpretive science, on the one hand, and on the other practical working Geology that is done in the field, which I was calling Observational Science, is unacceptable. 

Somebody else then makes the pedantic point that all science is both observational and interpretive in some sense, without bothering to inquire how I was using the terms or taking seriously anything I'd said to try to define them.  He also argues that my classification of the discovery of the DNA double helix structure as observational science isn't correct because that scientific discovery requires interpretation, since the evidence is the x-ray diffraction pattern, a photograph not being possible. OF COURSE you have to be able to interpret the x-ray diffraction pattern, but my point is that what you are studying is IN THE PRESENT, bazillions of examples of it, and anybody who can learn to interpret that pattern is a WITNESS to it and having so many witnesses is what makes the discovery testable and provable.  But I'll get to the witness idea farther down.

Then he totally misinterpreted my interest in the paper about Geology as an interpretive and historical science as if I didn't know the paper was arguing against the denigration of Geology for that reason.   Even if such a misunderstanding is inadvertent it's a wearing experience to have to deal with it along with all the other misunderstandings.

Then another poster at least made an attempt to correct that misunderstanding but added one of his own in the process:
Faith's point was that the paper acknowledged that other people held biology in lower regard as a science. Of course she took the point as being supportive of her efforts to dismiss all geology that is not Genesis friendly.
Oh I guess you could put it that way, but of course it implies that I just made it up. I'd been trying for a long time already to get across my own view of Old Earthism as interpretive and therefore unprovable.  It was fascinating then to find that there are noncreationists who also see Geology that way.

But he goes on to make an interesting point nevertheless:
Today's sciences rely on a tremendous amount of inductive reasoning, a skill that geology has perfected Inductive reasoning is because such reasoning is the only available strategy. We have to live with both the strength and weaknesses of such reasoning, the primary weakness being that nothing generalization is ever proven and no conclusion is inescapable.
I don't know to what extent inductive reasoning may describe the phenomena I had been imputing to historical and interpretive science but perhaps at least to some extent.  The Wikipedia discussion says two things I'd been saying about Old Earthism for quite some time.  First, that this debate is about a war of Plausibilities.  They make the point that inductive reasoning doesn't lead to a certain conclusion as deductive reasoning is supposed to, but is considered to be probable.  Probabilities would work where I say plausibilities, but it also goes on to use the term "credible" which is even closer:  
Inductive reasoning, as opposed to deductive reasoning, is reasoning in which the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is supposed to be certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument is supposed to be probable, based upon the evidence given.

...Inductive reasoning is inherently uncertain. It only deals in degrees to which, given the premises, the conclusion is credible according to some theory of evidence.
And the other point I've tried to make is that you can't ever get past theory or hypothesis with the sciences of the prehistoric past, and the Wikipedia article says essentially the same thing about inductive reasoning:
Inductive reasoning is also known as hypothesis construction because any conclusions made are based on current knowledge and predictions. As with deductive arguments, biases can distort the proper application of inductive argument, thereby preventing the reasoner from forming the most logical conclusion based on the clues.
I'm not going to argue that the article is making the exact same point I'm making, but the similarity of terminology certainly suggests a general affinity.

I've been arguing for ages that Old Earthism -- AND the Theory of Evolution --  can never be proved because they are about the untestable past.  The best they can ever offer is hypothesis or theory, never certainty the way the "hard" sciences can.

To be continued.

No comments:

Post a Comment

PLEASE just register somewhere, there seem to be many options. A Google account is easy. And give SOME kind of pseudonym at least. THANKS!