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Author Topic:   Omphalism
Straggler
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Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 1 of 151 (546017)
02-07-2010 12:15 PM


Omphalism is the claim that the universe is not as old as the empirical evidence dictates because it was created fully formed with the appearance of age. It is also known as Last Thursdayism. But the concept is equally (in)valid for any conceivable time in the past.

It could be the case that we were all magicked into existence only moments ago with full living memory of our existence prior to that point. Along with empirical evidence of a planet and indeed a universe that is billions of years old.

The reason I bring this up is because omphalism seems to have a certain hold over people who are otherwise fully functioning members of the pro-science contingent. Those who are happy to expound the virtues of empirical evidence with regard to the age of the Earth and universe in conversations with Young Earth Creationists (YEC's) suddenly become all coy about how old they believe the Earth is in conversations about omphalism. Rather than evaluate omphalistic claims in the context of what they have clearly stated they believe about the empirical conclusions with regard to these matters they instead suddenly profess agnosticism.

History suggests that omphalism is a creationist invention deployed to deny the validity of empirical evidence. But even putting that aside.........

Is it reasonable for those who repeatedly claim confidence and validity in the empirical conclusion that the Earth and Universe are billions of years old to also hold an agnostic position with regard to the non-empirical (indeed I would say anti-empirical) conclusion that the universe could have been created less than 10,000 years ago? Or indeed even last Thursday.

And by agnosticism I don't mean lack of absolute certainty. But I guess we can come to that if promoted.

This is an "Is it Science" topic. If promoted.


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Admin
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Message 2 of 151 (546033)
02-07-2010 4:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
02-07-2010 12:15 PM


If this is intended to capture the two sides of the difference of opinion between you and Nwr, I don't think you have an accurate characterization of what Nwr was saying. If he wants to perhaps he'll send you a PM. I'll leave this open for now.


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 3 of 151 (546086)
02-08-2010 8:16 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by Admin
02-07-2010 4:44 PM


Hi
Myself and nwr have had a private message chat and he says that he is happy to discuss. We both agree that "Is it Science" may not be the best place for it as neither of us are claiming that there is any empirically evidenced difference between the omphalist and non-omphalist universe. It is thus essentially a philosophical question about belief. He suggested the miscellaneaous topics forum. I suggested the faith and belief area. Wherever you think really.

And - for the record - I wasn't trying to present nwr's position in the OP at all. I was representing only my take on this topic and assumed that he would present himself in opposition if it was promoted.


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Admin
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Message 4 of 151 (546089)
02-08-2010 8:45 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Omphalism thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Straggler
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Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 5 of 151 (546090)
02-08-2010 8:48 AM


It is probably worth mentioning that this OP was prompted by a discussion that started elsewhere. Here Message 174 and upthread.

  
nwr
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Posts: 5587
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


(1)
Message 6 of 151 (546094)
02-08-2010 10:25 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
02-07-2010 12:15 PM


We live in a world where our ordinary practices set a context. We understand "age of the Earth" in terms of that context.

When the Omphalist declares that the age of the Earth is something very different, something completely out of context, then I can only conclude that the Omphalist means by "age of the Earth" is very different from what I mean by "age of the Earth."

To say that I am agnostic about Omphalism, is to say that I do not accept its meaning of
"age of the Earth" and that I have no beliefs with respect to that weird meaning. It says nothing about the ordinary meaning of "age of the Earth" that comes from or ordinary and scientific practices.

There is no contradiction between what I might believe with respect to the ordinary notion of "age of the Earth" and what I might believe with respect to the Omphalist's very different notion of "age of the Earth". These are two very distinct notions, so beliefs about them need not be mutually exclusive.

Straggler writes:

It could be the case that we were all magicked into existence only moments ago with full living memory of our existence prior to that point. Along with empirical evidence of a planet and indeed a universe that is billions of years old.


That's the point. "It could be ...", but there could not be any evidence about it. So, in the absence of evidence, it is best not to take a position.

Your turn


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 7 of 151 (546096)
02-08-2010 10:57 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by nwr
02-08-2010 10:25 AM


Empiricism Vs Omphalism
When the Omphalist declares that the age of the Earth is something very different, something completely out of context, then I can only conclude that the Omphalist means by "age of the Earth" is very different from what I mean by "age of the Earth."

Well the biblical omphalist disagrees. He says that the Earth has physically existed for less than 10,000 years as per the bible and that any empirical evidence to the contrary is deceptive.

Wiki writes:

The Omphalos hypothesis was named after the title of an 1857 book, Omphalos by Philip Henry Gosse, in which Gosse argued that in order for the world to be "functional", God must have created the Earth with mountains and canyons, trees with growth rings, Adam and Eve with hair, fingernails, and navels (omphalos is Greek for "navel"), and that therefore no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable. The idea has seen some revival in the twentieth century by some modern creationists, who have extended the argument to light that appears to originate in far-off stars and galaxies Omphalism

Likewise a Last Thursdayist might say that the Immaterial Pink Unicorn told him that the empirical evidence is deceptive because the IPU created the universe as it is less than a week ago.

To say that I am agnostic about Omphalism, is to say that I do not accept its meaning of "age of the Earth" and that I have no beliefs with respect to that weird meaning. It says nothing about the ordinary meaning of "age of the Earth" that comes from or ordinary and scientific practices.

Well that is the whole point. A biblical omphalist says that scientific practises are irrelevant and that he has a superior method of "knowing" that contradicts the empirical evidence. Likewise Last Thursdayists.

There is no contradiction between what I might believe with respect to the ordinary notion of "age of the Earth" and what I might believe with respect to the Omphalist's very different notion of "age of the Earth". These are two very distinct notions, so beliefs about them need not be mutually exclusive.

Except that those who have actually advocated omphalism "seriously" (as you have described those beliefs you feel it appropriate to declare your agnosticism towards) have done so on the basis that the bible is true and the empirical evidence is misleading. Specifically regarding the age of the Earth.

That's the point. "It could be ...", but there could not be any evidence about it. So, in the absence of evidence, it is best not to take a position.

Except that we do. Don't we? Do you really believe it equally likely that the Earth was created last Thursday as you do that is was created billions of years ago?

Your turn

You say go with the empirical evidence. But the whole point of omphalism is that the empirical evidence is deceptive and not to be trusted as reliable. Thus you cannot be advocating empiricism whilst declaring yourself to be agnsotic with regard to omphalism. The two are mutually exclusive.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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nwr
Member
Posts: 5587
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


(1)
Message 8 of 151 (546101)
02-08-2010 12:40 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Straggler
02-08-2010 10:57 AM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
Straggler writes:

Well that is the whole point. A biblical omphalist says that scientific practises are irrelevant and that he has a superior method of "knowing" that contradicts the empirical evidence. Likewise Last Thursdayists.


And I say that what the omphalist means by "age of the earth" is very different from what I mean.

This gets back to the question of the nature of meaning, which Jon is attempting to discuss in the thread "What's in a Word?".

Let me give you a completely different scenario.

I have a special room in my house. I call it "the shrinking room". There is a special ray being emitted into the room that shrinks everything to half its normal size. If you were to enter that room, you would shrink to half your size. When you left the room you would revert to your normal size.

Naturally, you are skeptical of this. So you want to see it for yourself. You want to go into the room and measure some things to see if they have shrunk. The trouble is that your ruler will also have shrunk to half the size. Your metre ruler will be only 50 centimetres long. So if you use it to measure an item that has shrunk to 50 centimetres, then you will mismeasure that as having a length of 1 metre.

As you can see, this is a similar problem. You cannot get empirical evidence to test my claim of a shrinking room.

This brings us to the question of "what is the meaning of length."

Is length some fundamental property in the structure of the world, perhaps something came from the original design plans of the creator? Or, to say it differently, is length metaphysical in nature; is there some important essence to the property of length?

Alternatively, could it be that early man found that a measuring rod was useful, and just chose "length" as the name for the quantity found by using a measuring rod? That is to say, is the meaning of "length" determined by the measuring conventions that we use to determine length?

The first of those views, that meaning is metaphysical or that there is some essence of meaning, is sometimes known as "essentialism". The second of those views, that meaning comes from human conventions, is known as "conventionalism".

Our real disagreement here, is that you are (or appear to be) an essentialist, and I am a conventionalist.

As an essentialist, you conclude that there is some essence to the meaning of "age of the earth", and that therefore you and the omphalist are talking about the same thing but with different conclusions. So you see your view and that of the omphalist as mutually exclusive.

As a conventionalist, I see that the omphalist is not following the same conventions I am using, and therefore when the omphalist talks of "age of the earth" that has no relation at all to what I mean by "age of the earth". So we (the omphalist and I) are not really disagreeing - we are talking past one another. It make sense for me to be agnostic toward omphalism.

There are obviously a lot of disagreements over the essentialism/conventionalism issue. When a physicist writes a book named "The Fabric of Space-Time" you can be pretty sure that he is taking a metaphysical view, rather than a conventionalist view.

For myself, if meaning is metaphysical then I don't see how we could possible get to know meanings. The only possibility would be if they are innate - transmitted by the genes - and there does not seem to be nearly enough DNA for that to be possible.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Straggler, posted 02-08-2010 10:57 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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 Message 10 by Modulous, posted 02-08-2010 1:48 PM nwr has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 9 of 151 (546103)
02-08-2010 12:58 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by nwr
02-08-2010 12:40 PM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
Do you believe in the validity of empirical evidence? Because according to omphalists "no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable".

So this isn't just about the age of the Earth. It is about simultaneously pronouncing belief in the validity of empirical evidence whilst claiming agnosticism towards something which denies the validity of empirical evidence.

And I say that what the omphalist means by "age of the earth" is very different from what I mean.

But those who have advocated omphalism disagree with you.

Wiki writes:

The Omphalos hypothesis was named after the title of an 1857 book, Omphalos by Philip Henry Gosse, in which Gosse argued that in order for the world to be "functional", God must have created the Earth with mountains and canyons, trees with growth rings, Adam and Eve with hair, fingernails, and navels (omphalos is Greek for "navel"), and that therefore no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable. The idea has seen some revival in the twentieth century by some modern creationists, who have extended the argument to light that appears to originate in far-off stars and galaxies Omphalism

Why do you get to tell them what they believe? And this isn't just about the age of the Earth. It is about the validity of empirical evidence. The whole point of omphalism is that the empirical evidence is deceptive and not to be trusted as reliable. Thus you cannot be advocating empirical conclusions whilst declaring yourself to be agnostic with regard to omphalism. The two are mutually exclusive not just with regard to the age of the Earth but also with regard to the validity of empirical evidence

So you see your view and that of the omphalist as mutually exclusive.

As do those who have advocated omphalism.

For myself, if meaning is metaphysical then I don't see how we could possible get to know meanings.

The omphalist is making a statement about the length of time that the Earth has physically existed. What metaphysical claim do you think the omphalist is making?


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Replies to this message:
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 440 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 10 of 151 (546107)
02-08-2010 1:48 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by nwr
02-08-2010 12:40 PM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
Naturally, you are skeptical of this. So you want to see it for yourself. You want to go into the room and measure some things to see if they have shrunk. The trouble is that your ruler will also have shrunk to half the size. Your metre ruler will be only 50 centimetres long. So if you use it to measure an item that has shrunk to 50 centimetres, then you will mismeasure that as having a length of 1 metre....You cannot get empirical evidence to test my claim of a shrinking room.

As a piece of pedantry I should note there are ways to ascertain if everything else has shrunk in this situation that don't involve a ruler. For example: Light still travels at 300,000km/s. If according to your 'ruler' light travels at 600,000 kms - you know it's because your ruler has shrunk. Acceleration due to gravity would appear to change too in your room.

You need to change time as well as space to make your analogy work

Even then - I think you might still be able to tell via fundamental physics.

As a conventionalist, I see that the omphalist is not following the same conventions I am using, and therefore when the omphalist talks of "age of the earth" that has no relation at all to what I mean by "age of the earth".

I disagree. When an omphalist says the world is 6,000 years old, we agree on what '6,000 years' means. It is not like the shrinking room at all. Omphalists are NOT saying "The earth is 6,000 years old, but it appears to be 4billion years old because we're using different conventions of time recording". They are saying "The earth is 6,000 years old. Not 4billion years old. It appears to be 4billion years old because it was created with the appearance of having been 4billion years (less 6000)"

We all agree on what 6,000 means.
We all agree on what 4billion means.
We all agree on what a year is.
We all agree on what 'age of earth' means.
We all agree on what age the earth appears to be.

This is not a difference of convention. We're in complete agreement on that. The only disagreement is on how much time has passed between the time when the earth was a reasonably solid sphere of heavy elements and now.


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nwr
Member
Posts: 5587
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 11 of 151 (546110)
02-08-2010 2:21 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Straggler
02-08-2010 12:58 PM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
Straggler writes:

Do you believe in the validity of empirical evidence?


As a conventionalist, I believe that the meaning of "age of the earth" is determined by our empirical practices. Of course, we could misuse the evidence and get invalid results. But we cannot appeal to anything beyond evidence, since our empirical practices define what we mean.

Because according to omphalists "no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable".

Of course. As essentialists, they believe that there is an essence to meaning, and that the empirical practices are not guaranteed to conform to that essence.

So this isn't just about the age of the Earth. It is about simultaneously pronouncing belief in the validity of empirical evidence whilst claiming agnosticism towards something which denies the validity of empirical evidence.

It is about essentialism vs. conventionalism. It is about whether the meaning of words comes directly from God, or the meaning of words comes from the way that we use them.

It is about rationalism (innate knowledge and meaning) vs. empiricism (knowledge comes from experience).

It is about conservatism vs. pragmatism.

And I say that what the omphalist means by "age of the earth" is very different from what I mean.

But those who have advocated omphalism disagree with you.


That is to be expected, given their essentialism.

Why do you get to tell them what they believe?

I don't. And, similarly, they don't tell me what to believe. It is up to each of us to make our own decisions on that.

And this isn't just about the age of the Earth. It is about the validity of empirical evidence.

Actually, no, it isn't about the validity of empirical evidence.

If I want to cross the street, I first look to make sure that there is no oncoming traffic. If they want to cross the street, they also look to make sure that there is no oncoming traffic. We are both using empirical evidence for deciding empirical questions.

They do not accept empirical evidence as settling metaphysical questions. But then, again, I also do not accept empirical evidence as settling metaphysical questions.

The big difference is that I don't believe that there are any metaphysical questions that have relevance to us, while they believe that many ordinary questions are metaphysical.

So you see your view and that of the omphalist as mutually exclusive.

As do those who have advocated omphalism.


Well, sure, that's to be expected since they are essentialists.

The omphalist is making a statement about the length of time that the Earth has physically existed. What metaphysical claim do you think the omphalist is making?

The omphalist sees the meaning of "physical" as metaphysical. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" is a metaphysical claim about the origin of the physical.

Galileo didn't get into trouble with the Church for reporting empirical evidence -- he got into trouble for challenging their metaphysics.

At the root of the disagreement between evolution and creationism, is that the creationists think that the question of origin of species is a metaphysical question, and that it therefore cannot be settled by empirical evidence. If the evidence for evolution should become so overwhelming that even they cannot deny it, then they will resort to theistic evolution rather than to naturalistic evolution, because their metaphysics demands it.


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 Message 9 by Straggler, posted 02-08-2010 12:58 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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PaulK
Member
Posts: 15622
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 12 of 151 (546113)
02-08-2010 2:50 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by nwr
02-08-2010 2:21 PM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
So to sum it up, when you say that he Earth is 4.5 billion years old, you mean that the empirical evidence indicates that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. You are not taking a stand on the actual age - as most people would think of it - at all.

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nwr
Member
Posts: 5587
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


(1)
Message 13 of 151 (546120)
02-08-2010 4:14 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Modulous
02-08-2010 1:48 PM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
Modulous writes:

You need to change time as well as space to make your analogy work


Agreed. I was trying to keep the example simple. The point is that if you don't tie your concepts to empirical data, then all kinds of games can be played.

We all agree on what a year is.

I don't think so. We mostly agree about a contemporary year, though I'm not sure even that holds for advocates of LastThursdayism. And we mostly agree that we should extrapolate from our concept of current time intervals to get to time intervals in the past. But there is a lot of disagreement on how to extrapolate.

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 Message 10 by Modulous, posted 02-08-2010 1:48 PM Modulous has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Modulous, posted 02-08-2010 5:08 PM nwr has responded

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5587
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


(1)
Message 14 of 151 (546121)
02-08-2010 4:19 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by PaulK
02-08-2010 2:50 PM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
PaulK writes:

You are not taking a stand on the actual age - as most people would think of it - at all.


Practically speaking, there cannot be any useful meaning of "actual age" other than what we can, at least in principle, determine.

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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1033 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 15 of 151 (546122)
02-08-2010 4:43 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Straggler
02-08-2010 12:58 PM


Re: Empiricism Vs Omphalism
Hi, Straggler.

I enter this discussion with much hesitance.

Straggler writes:

Because according to omphalists "no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable".

I felt it important to add one thing to the discussion: the omphalist believes that the empirical evidence tells a coherent, internally consistent story, because the evidence is planted deliberately with the intent of telling that specific story. However, that story is wrong.

Omphalism isn’t just the notion that the empirical evidence will always tell the wrong story: it’s that the empirical evidence will always tell the same wrong story. Since the story is internally consistent, it’s still useful for an omphalist in solving practical problems that are part of that microcosm. So, there is no contradiction in an omphalist advocating empiricism.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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