Monday, August 24, 2015

Historical/Observational Science

I don't often peruse the pages of Answers in Genesis (AiG) mainly because I have trouble stomaching most of it.  Seriously!  I have trouble with how wildly little kennie ham and his worshipers twist reality around to justify their narrow belief set to themselves.  It's really hard to take.  Being ignorant happens, but I have trouble with not only willful ignorance, but active participatory willful ignorance.

One of the common themes I read about often is little kennie's interpretation of 'observational' science vs 'historical' science.  Luckily we don't rely on kennie to define our scientific terms for us!  In my opinion, all he is doing is attempting to confuse people.  Actually ham's basic definitions aren't that bad, but what he does, as he always does, is insert the Bible as the authoritative source of historical information.  There, he's done, basically 'if it ain't in the Bible, it ain't', to paraphrase.

"What we can do, however, is check our historical research against a trustworthy eyewitness account. But what about for the history of the earth? Does something like that exist? You bet—and this amazing compendium of history isn’t hard to find. Just pull out your trusty Bible. . . .Starting from the Bible, given to us by the Creator of all things, we know when we’re on the right track"
So according to kennie the Bible, the book he worships, is not only a science textbook, but a history text as well.  I'm sure if I dig a little deeper we will find kennie using it as a sociology text, a mathematics text, and even a human sexuality text as well.  Well I guess he already does that last one, since homosexuality is one of the more written about subjects on AiG:  "Are there really Gay Christians", "Homosexual Behavior vs. The Bible" and "How to Deal with the Homosexual War" are just a few examples.  You don't need to click on the links, just look at the titles.  Yes, kennie ham and his followers are rampantly homophobic as are most evangelical Christians.  They do spend an inordinate amount of time writing about it, usually in pretty venomous terms:
  • The Bible not only describes homosexual behaviour as detestable, but it also calls for the punishment of those involved (Leviticus 20:13). 
  • Their unrepentant attitude caused God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24–25).
  • Just as homosexual conduct has been punished in the past, so it will also be punished by God in the future. “ … Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).

I raise this for a reason, and yes, it's on point of the topic.  Little kennie ham's issue with historical science is that when you look at things that happened in the past, you have to interpret them.  Interpretations are inherently bad because they are influenced by many things outside of the item you are looking at, therefore without eye witnesses, historical science is not particularly reliable.  In keeping with that theme, he then puts the Bible up as the ultimate eye witness, so therefore when you use the Bible to base historical science on,there are no problems.

Here's my point, let's take Leviticus 20:13 as references by kennie.  Does he bother advertising the fact that the translation that he uses, one that is common in most english versions of the Bible is not well supported by the original Hebrew text?  Yes, I know the King James version of the Bible is widely used and very popular, but when you go back to the original works that were translated (interpreted) and became the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, you find many changes and even many discrepancies.

So typical of kennie.  He berates the idea of interpretations, yet he is using them himself to justify his belief set.  If he really wanted to know more about the Bible, he might study up a bit.  Even just reading the instructions given to the committees writing the KJV was interesting:
Further, the King gave the translators instructions designed to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England.  Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in a manner that reflected the traditional usage of the church.  For example, old ecclesiastical words such as the word "church" were to be retained and not to be translated as "congregation".  The new translation would reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and traditional beliefs about ordained clergy. (King_James_Version)
Ecclesiology is a word I wasn't familiar with, so I followed the link to get a handle on it.  What I found was that ecclesiologies changes from one institution and the next, the word may also refer to a particular church or denomination’s character, self-described or otherwise – hence phrases such as Roman Catholic ecclesiology, Lutheran ecclesiology, and ecumenical ecclesiology.  So, in other words, King James made sure his version of the Bible reflected his particular belief set, and not necessarily the beliefs of the Bibles originators.  Certainly would make more people think, but not kennie, oh no, not kennie! 

What little kennie also seems to be trying to do is another rather typical creationist canard, a binary set.  He treats these two concepts as 'types of science' and seems to want to not just draw a line between the two, but build an insurmountable wall between them.  The reason seems simple, it's similar to the artificial distinction Creationists keep trying to make about evolution, the whole micro vs macro foolishness.  By convincing people that the two 'types' of science are incompatible, it gives little kennie an out when he cannot deny the evidence from science, he labels it as Observational, He simply tosses the parts of science he doesn't like over the wall and claims that it's nothing but an interpretation of events no one actually witnessed.  Pretty weak argument, but then does he have any stronger ones?

As usual, the reality is much different than whatever kennie says.  According to the NCSE:
"Philosophers of science draw a distinction between research directed towards identifying laws and research which seeks to determine how particular historical events occurred. They do not claim, however, that the line between these sorts of science can be drawn neatly, and certainly do not agree that historical claims are any less empirically verifiable than other sorts of claims. "
I do tend to try and boil things down to something more understandable, at least to me.  I see observation, or experimentation, science as the 'What' and historical science as the 'How'.  Look at it this way, scientific theories are the best possible explanation, based on the evidence, for a given occurrence.  That being said, an occurrence means something happened.  We saw something, dug something up, discovered something . . ..  The 'what' is understanding in detail what actually happened.  Very rarely is the occurrence simple or easily understood.  Even an apple falling on a head isn't as simple a just an apple falling.  Yes, I know it's a metaphor and not historical fact, but just go with it for a few.  The research, experimentation, and repetition, all go into understanding exactly what happened.  Along the way we formulate various laws to codify the happening.  We make science predictable in that way.  Therein is the observational science.

Once you get past the 'what', you want to know 'how' something occurred.  You want to identify the source, how did it develop, for example where does the force we call Gravity come from and not only how does mass affect gravity. but does it affect it at all? . . . the list of 'how' questions might seem endless, but that is the direction our curiosity takes us.  We don't just want to understand what we can see, touch, replicate, we want to know more than that.  We've taken the theory of gravity from explaining the what and how objects fall to the formation of the Earth, the solar system, and even the universe.  That's what you get from historical science and observational science as well!  They aren't two separate entities so kennie can split scientific hairs, they are two sets of methodologies, each used in building more complete explanations than either can build alone.

I think kennie's wall started crumbling well before he laid the first brick.

As for little kennie's prejudices, I would like to say one more thing about this particular subject of AiG and Homosexuality.  In the history of the United States the activity of denying rights to a group of people is doomed to failure.  Many of the arguments today being used against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) folks are the same arguments that were once used against women and minorities in previous decades.  Eventually the majority of US citizens remember how futile and foolish it is to deny any group the same rights that we tend to assume for ourselves and they are given the rights that should have never been withheld in the first place!  The downside is the time it takes and what Americans are capable of doing to each other often in the name of religion.  I would like to think that as a nation we tend to learn from our mistakes, but that doesn't always seem to be the case.  But it does seem that eventually we reach the just decision. 

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