Archive for the ‘science’ Category

To name something is not to know it

March 29, 2013

…to say that migratory birds find their way by instinct is only to say that we do not know how migratory birds find their way

C.S.Lewis, The Abolition of Man

But if we can call migration ‘instinct’ and leave it at that, as if that answers all questions, means we do not need to consider the evidence of design in the creation.

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Soap contained radium for health benefits

September 6, 2011

…immediately before and during the first half of World War I, (Arthur Koestler’s father) made a fortune (soon lost) by manufacturing and selling soap that contained radium. Radioactivity was then a recently discovered phenomenon, and many believed the rays to be life-enhancing and disease-curing.

Theodore Dalrymple

Let’s just say there is a limit to man’s knowledge of his own best interests…

40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed to ‘prevent’ the spread of the 1665 Plague

December 8, 2009

During the Plague of London, 1665, the death toll peaked in September at 7,265, Daniel Defoe..reports that 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed, as it was feared that these domestic animals might be carrying the disease. In fact this was the worst possible action to take, for the real culprits were the fleas carried by the black rats. In the absence of their natural predators, these rats multiplied and the plague spread.

Faith Cook, Fearless Pilgrim: The Life and Times of John Bunyan, Evangelical Press, 2008, p.245

Human solutions are not always beneficial.

Long, long ago, a frog lived at the bottom of a well. One day, the frog looked up and saw a turtle from the Eastern Sea silhouetted against the sky at the edge of the well

November 17, 2009

Long, long ago, a frog lived at the bottom of a well. One day, the frog looked up and saw a turtle from the Eastern Sea silhouetted against the sky at the edge of the well. He tried to convince the turtle to join him in his wonderful well, of which he was the master. The turtle started to descend into the well, but she realized it was too narrow and she would get stuck. So she withdrew and told the frog instead about how deep and wide the sea is. The frog was left dumfounded. He could not imagine the immensity and magnitude of the sea, as he has never seen it. The idiom “frog at the bottom of a well,” or “looking at the sky from the bottom of a well,” which grew out of this Daoist fable, has come to represent a state of limited vision and even ignorance — of not being able to see outside of one’s own immediate environment.

A story by Zhuangzi (c. 369-295 BC), one of the founders of Daoism, sheds light on the ancient Chinese concept of the World (Zhuangzi, Chapter 17: “The Floods of Autumn”).

The Naturalist, life the frog, cannot conceive of miracles because they do not fit his ‘vision’ of the world. They are ‘impossible’ because he knows, as the frog ‘knew’ that the sea cannot be vast, that miracles cannot occur.

Unless Nature always goes on in the same way, the fact that things had happened ten million times would not make it a whit more probable that it would happen again

November 11, 2009

Unless Nature always goes on in the same way, the fact that things had happened ten million times would not make it a whit more probable that it would happen again. And how could we know the Uniformity of Nature? A moment’s thought shows that we do not know it by experience. We observe many regularities in Nature. But of course all the observations that men have made or will make while the race lasts cover only a minute fraction of the events that actually go on. Our observations would therefore be of no use unless we felt sure that Nature when we are not watching her behaves in the same way as when we are: in other words, unless we believe in the Uniformity of Nature. Experience therefore cannot prove uniformity, because uniformity has to assume before experience proves anything. And mere length of experience does not help matters. It is no good saying, ‘Each fresh experience confirms our belief in the uniformity and therefore we reasonably expect that it will always be conformed;’ for that argument works only on the assumption that the future will resemble the past – which is simply the assumption of Uniformity under a new name.

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, 1959, p. 123

I do not believe that there is any way of obtaining knowledge except the scientific way

October 11, 2009

I do not believe that there is any way of obtaining knowledge except the scientific way. Some of the problems with which philosophy has concerned itself can be solved by scientific methods; others cannot. Those which cannot are insoluble.

Bertrand Russell (speaking in 1922), in Bertrand Russell; The Ghost of Madness, Ray Monk, p.20

Does he know this through the scientific method? Of course, it would be impossible to prove scientifically. But then, he claims to know one thing that isn’t proven by science. Not the first of Mr Russell’s problems that are ‘insoluble’.

The whole enterprise of science rests precisely on the assumption that it is an ordered world in which pattern can be discovered and categories established

October 11, 2009

The whole enterprise of science rests precisely on the assumption that it is an ordered world in which pattern can be discovered and categories established. The ordered rationality of the created world, deriving from the transcendent rationality of the creative Word, is a basic asumption…of natural science. There would be no science at all without an ordered world.

David Atkinson, Genesis 1-11, p.19

Why should science work at all? That it does so points strongly to a principle of rationality, to an interpretation of the cosmos on terms of mind as its most significant feature

October 11, 2009

The realisation that our minds can find the world intelligible, and the implications this has that an explanation for the world process is to be found in mental rather than purely material categories, has been for many scientists who are theists, including the present writer, an essential turning point in their thinking. Why should science work at all? That it does so points strongly to a principle of rationality, to an interpretation of the cosmos on terms of mind as its most significant feature. Any thinking which takes science seriously must…start from this…There is clearly a kinship between the mind of man and the cosmos which is real, and which any account of the cosmos cannot ignore.

Arthur Peacocke, Science and the Christian Experiment (1973)

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as science “without any presuppositions”…a philosophy, a “faith,” must always be there first of all, so that science can acquire from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist

October 11, 2009

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as science “without any presuppositions”…a philosophy, a “faith,” must always be there first of all, so that science can acquire from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist…It is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science—and we men of knowledge of today, we godless men and anti-metaphysicians, we, too, still derive our flame from the fire ignited by a faith millennia old, the Christian faith, which was also Plato’s, that God is truth, that truth is divine. — But what if this belief is becoming more and more unbelievable, if nothing turns out to be divine any longer unless it be error, blindness, lies—if God himself turns out to be our longest lie?”…Science itself henceforth requires justification (which is not to say that there is any such justification). Consider on this question both the earliest and most recent philosophers: they are all oblivious of how much the will to truth itself first requires justification; here there is a lacuna in every philosophy—how did this come about? Because the ascetic ideal has hitherto dominated all philosophy, because truth was posited as being, as God, as the highest court of appeal—because truth was not permitted to be a problem at all. Is this “permitted” understood?— From the moment faith in the God of the ascetic ideal is denied, a new problem arises: that of the value of truth.

Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, THIRD ESSAY: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ASCETIC IDEALS?, 24

Why Science arose in Christendom

October 11, 2009

It was not that there was no order in Nature for the Chinese, but rather that it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being, and hence there was no guarantee that other rational personal beings would be able to spell out in their own earthly languages the pre-existing divine code of laws which had been previously formulated. There was no confidence that the code of Nature’s laws could be unveiled and read, because there was no assurance that a divine being, even more rational than ourselves, had ever formulated such a code capable of being read. One feels indeed, that the Taoists, for example, would have scorned such an idea as being too naïve to be adequate to the subtlety and complexity of the universe as they intuited it.

Joseph Needham on why the society that invented printing, gunpowder, the compass etc. did not give rise to modern science. See Science and Civilization in China, CUP, 1954, vol.2, p.581, and Needham, Joseph The Grande Titration. U. of Toronto Press Toronto 1969 p. 327