Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Eternity and Temporality

With the Evolution and Intelligent Design debate raging, I need to establish some foundational concepts here for future posts on this subject. To whet your appetite for what would otherwise be very dry heady stuff, I'll mention that these foundational concepts demonstrate that conservative Christian Apologetics (why Christians like myself believe what we believe) is made of the same fiber as true science. What?!? But one is faith and the other is science, you may argue. Such an argument betrays an ignorance of what faith is. But let me build this from what we know. (For any readers who are philosophically savvy, I'm leaving out much detail because most people won't bother to read past the first couple of paragraphs much less the first fifty if I make a complete treatise.)

The physical properties of this universe can be broken down to a simple formula of definition. Classical Logic spells it out in the law of contradiction: 'A' is not 'not-A'. This implies but not prove that if you have 'A' there is something that is 'not A'. A simple observation of the universe indicates that for every discernible thing there is indeed something that it is not. The fact that the laws of physics are discernibly consistent throughout the universe is an indication that there is something that is absolute. In other words, there is something that transcends the law of contradiction. For example, while we can say that there is something besides the law of gravity, there is no instance where the law of gravity is nonexistent. This absolute context is difficult to represent. While not precise in its representation, the law of identity will work: A = A. If we can derive an absolute context, there must be an ultimate context that has no context in which it resides. This cannot be represented so much as explained as that which alone is self-identified.

In other words, I can say that the planet earth is one thing and Mars is another. Mars is not Earth. However, they both exhibit a predictable gravitational relationship with the sun, each other, the other planets, moons, even their components. This same gravitational property is observable throughout the known universe. Gravity, therefore, is an absolute context within the context of this universe. But the universe must have a context. If it has no transcendent context, then the universe itself is self-defined. The argument to this point doesn't specify what is self-defined. If the nested contexts are infinite, then their infiniteness is the self-defined context.

If your brain doesn't hurt yet, then understand that this argument has been made by classical apologists centuries ago. They used different words and different approaches, but the argument is basically the same. The philosophical problem with saying that this fully describes the nature of God still holds. We can discern some aspects of the nature of God in other ways. The goal at this point is to turn back to the law of contradiction and explain how good science and conservative Christian apologetics are both dependent on this principle.

I'll skip the raw derivation, so suffice it to say that the law of contradiction yields the basic deductive logical syllogism:

Relationship: If 'A', then 'B'

Observed: 'A'
Conclusion: Therefore, 'B'

or...

Observed: 'Not B'
Conclusion: Therefore, 'not A'



Science begins with the observation of evidence. No conclusions should be drawn based these observations. However, speculation helps us develop a Scientific Theory which must properly meet a stringent set of criteria in order to be considered so. These criteria can be roughly summed up in two of the criteria: A Scientific Theory must be 1) testable and 2) negatable. In other words, it must follow the basic syllogism and its negation as I have outlined above. A theory may spawn one or countless hypotheses. Therefore, a theory serves as a reference for continuity in scientific study. If it were to be negated, it must be modified or trashed completely in order to conform to the conclusions derived by the testing of hypotheses. A hypothesis is simply a testable statement that can conform to the relationship the syllogism is built on. A controlled experiment is the means by which the truth value of the relationship is tested. Empirical data from the experiment is observed and analyzed statistically in order to derive a likelihood for the truth value.

Conservative Christian Apologetics works much the same way. Evidence, particularly about the Bible, is observed. Theories about the Bible are developed. Hypotheses testable by the analysis of additional evidence are developed, and the likelihood of the hypothesis calculated. There typically doesn't need to be much in the way of experimentation, because historical science is the stuff of the past and can only be tested by analyzing evidence relating to the hypothesis. Such analysis is not reproducible in the sense that historical events don't repeat themselves in identical historical contexts, but it is reproducible in the sense that other scholars can review the material and present evidence and analyses not taken into consideration.

Understand that individual scientists do bad science about as much as individual Christians do bad apologetics. That said, I will do my best to present my analyses as accurately as possible when addressing science and Christian issues. "But this Blog is about religion and politics," you may argue. Yes, but bad science is all too frequently used to advance political ideologies and religion is all too often used to cloud the truth about God. AS it is, I call this Blog "Religion and Politics" to illustrate that I'm willing to perform the social taboo of discussing the beliefs and ideologies that we take so personally. You know there are two things you should never talk about (besides personal finance)...

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