Monday, December 05, 2005

Creationists: Please stop talking about "gaps" in theories

Swiss cheese has gaps. The GAP is also a clothing store. Scientific theories do not have gaps. To be sure, practitioners like to talk about their well-knit theories, which invites the attack that the theory in question is riven with holes and gaps. But this is nonsense. And here is how faithful PeP readers can arm themselves against it.

1. State what a "gap" in a theory means: "the gap only reflects, at most, a limitation now existing but in the future to be done away with."

2. Pre-empt the reply that the "gap" proves the theory to be bankrupt: "even if it is true that science has not yet offered an explanation for X, you cannot derive a positive conclusion from this negative fact. Existing ignorance does not justify the assertion of the existence of another region, not very precisely defined, of a different nature wherein supernatural explanations hold sway."

5 comments:

Confamused said...

Or "gaps in the fossil record." The reason for gaps in the fossil record is so well-understood and logical that it is barely worth addressing (the requirements to make it into the fossil record - having some kind of organic material that can fossilize, and dying under the right conditions - are so stringent that very few organisms make it).

Evolutionary theory is not a fact; that is why it is called a theory. It is supported by facts. This is the definition of a theory: you postulate something logical, you gather data and you test, test, test that theory. The longer that theory stands, the more convinced you become the theory is accurate.

...although I would argue there is an asymptotic (sp?) quality; a true theory can never become true fact. It can become fact for all intents and purposes (e.g. gravity) but never meet the stringent definition of fact...

Anyway, unfortunately you cannot follow this procedure with ideas invoking a higher, immaterial power. The very definition of a higher, immaterial power precludes it from having to follow all the rules that science is based on (science in a strict sense, not the loose sense of generally pursuing knowledge). That is why there are different fields for science, religion, and spirituality.

I personally would be fascinated to see a legitimate scientific alternative to evolutionary theory. At this point I am not aware of any; but if one is proposed, far from the dogmatic willful ignorance scientists are accused of maintaining, there will be a race to see who can work on that theory the soonest.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

"Anyway, unfortunately you cannot follow this procedure with ideas invoking a higher, immaterial power. The very definition of a higher, immaterial power precludes it from having to follow all the rules that science is based on (science in a strict sense, not the loose sense of generally pursuing knowledge). That is why there are different fields for science, religion, and spirituality."

Well put, and that is precisely why ID should not be taught at schools.

Anonymous said...

I think creationism has fell by the wayside and "intelligent design" is the common accepted usage, even if it is true that these propogators of intelligent design were once admitted creationists.-mike ochs

Ilya said...

ID, neo-creos, etc. we're hip to it all at the PeP Mr. Ochs. As you know. I do not like to give the IDers the respect they don't deserve by using the phrase intelligent design.

Anonymous said...

Ochs! From where do you write? And how you doing? (Flying Sphagetti monster by the way, anyone? As offensive as that site may have become...)
-whiteman