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Author Topic:   Science: A Method not a Source
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 177 (588960)
10-29-2010 10:49 AM


The Bible and the Scientific Method
I propose that the use of the Bible and other 'historical' literature to generate knowledge about the physical world is not, as many claim, unscientific or (dare I say) 'supernatural', but instead perfectly good science differing only in results (by means of different inputs) from presently accepted knowledge in the overall scientific community. To clarify, I am not addressing specifically the knowledge itself that is so generated, but rather the methodologythat is, the generation of knowledge about the physical world based on the reading of histories.

I also propose that the ramifications from dismissing these methods as unscientific undermine the entire framework of science and the scientific ideals of investigation, skepticism, and minimally assumptive explanations (Occam's Razor). That many in the 'scientific community' are so quick to dismiss these methods as unscientific quackery shows their lack of respect for this framework and these ideals; and these prejudices work hard against the virtues of the scientific method that make it so much a valuable tool of discovery.

To illustrate this point, and justify as properly scientific the use of the Bible and other 'historical' literature in generating knowledge about the physical world, allow me to lay out the following example:

     A young man in an early human social group is just beginning to take interest in learning. His young age brings him fascination of all things old, and he wishes to learn the age of the human race. He lacks the aid of modern technological equipment, and so has no way of examining things in the physical world to determine how old the human race might be. He decides to ask his parents, who tell him that the human race is older than they are, and then proceed to tell him a history of his tribe. This history goes back about five generations, before which, his parents tell him, they have no evidence of anything existing at all. "Interesting," he thinks, "the only evidence I have, the story of my people, tells me the human race is at least five generations old. But I wonder what other tribes can tell me; perhaps they have information that goes back further."
     He goes around the valley, asking the elders of the various tribes how many generations their tribes go back. Some tell him four, others five, and a few tell him six. "How interesting! So, my additional evidence tells me that the human race is a little older than five human generations: about six. So, using only the evidence I have at my disposal, and making as few assumptions as possible, I can conclude that humans have been around for about six generations, or 300 years."
     Never one to be satisfied with a single answer, though, he continues to look for more and more information that may help him refine his conclusion, always aware that he may be wrong at the moment, and so can never stop questioning.

This young man, in his search for knowledge, has investigated the only thing he has the means for investigating and has come to a tentative conclusion that is based only on the evidence available and requires as few assumptions as possible. In every shape and form, this is precisely the way the modern scientific method has been designed to function. Anyone who would argue otherwise would have to accept the following as true of the scientific method:

The scientific method requires modern technology;
The scientific method should lead one to conclusions that are in line with the modern scientific consensus;
The scientific method cannot be used with certain evidence.

The result of rejecting these (obviously rejectable) consequences is that we must accept that histories, such as the Bible, constitute evidence and that their use in discovering truths about the world qualifies as scientific. It would be fallacious to fault any application of the scientific method for any of the above-mentioned features (lack of technology, failure to agree with current data, being the 'wrong' evidence). Nevertheless, it is commonly claimed that these methods are not scientific by folk who simply dislike the conclusions that are drawn. Utlimately this is representative of the faulty thinking that science is about particular sources, when in actuality, science is about the method of manipulating and interpreting those sources.

So, for this thread, I would like to discuss the following points (and any of their possible implications):

Is proper science about the methodology used and not the source of the inputs?
Does use of the Bible and other histories represent an appropriate application of these methodologies?
How can we address the implications of these two points as they relate to our understanding of the conclusions derived from the different inputs, that is, if use of the Bible is properly scientific, then why is it 'wrong' and what/who is the cause of its 'wrongness'?

Jon

Edited by Jon, : + subtitle

Edited by Jon, : - message to admins


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Replies to this message:
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AdminModulous
Administrator (Idle past 266 days)
Posts: 897
Joined: 03-02-2006


Message 2 of 177 (588964)
10-29-2010 11:16 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Science: A Method not a Source thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Coyote
Member (Idle past 268 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 3 of 177 (588965)
10-29-2010 11:23 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-29-2010 10:49 AM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
Science is a method. You are correct on that.

The problem with using the bible as evidence is many folks who favor such use won't accept any evidence to the contrary. Examples: a global flood about 4,350 years ago and claims for a young earth.

How do you deal with that problem?


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Taq
Member
Posts: 7864
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 4 of 177 (588970)
10-29-2010 11:39 AM


Dr. House-isms
As Dr. House often says, people lie.

Another saw worth mentioning is that the victors write the histories.

While I wouldn't go as far as to call historical narratives unscientific quackery I would say that written accounts are the worst possible source of scientific evidence.

Let's say that we have a historical account which claims that Culture A was wiped out in the year 1550 by invading Marklars (just as a hypothetical).

We then find the cultural center of Culture A and start dating charcoal from fires and other artefacts. We find that there is absolutely no interruption of Culture A from the years 1300 to 1700. So what do we go with? The written account or the evidence acquired through modern techniques?


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


Message 5 of 177 (588971)
10-29-2010 11:41 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-29-2010 10:49 AM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
Are you suggesting that the sort of methods you describe above give equally accurate answers to questions such as the age of the Earth as more conventionally accepted scientific approaches?

Or do you accept that some methods give more accurate answers than others?

Jon writes:

How can we address the implications of these two points as they relate to our understanding of the conclusions derived from the different inputs, that is, if use of the Bible is properly scientific, then why is it 'wrong' and what/who is the cause of its 'wrongness'?

An entirely subjective foundation that results in inaccurate conclusions.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 10-29-2010 10:49 AM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 177 (588984)
10-29-2010 12:48 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Coyote
10-29-2010 11:23 AM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
How do you deal with that problem?

I think you hinted on it in your post:

many folks who favor such use won't accept any evidence to the contrary

This represents an issue (I will not call it a 'problem') not in the method, but in certain folk who employ the method. In as much as the methods of someone who disagrees with smaller amounts of evidence to form a dissenting view from the scientific consensus (e.g., in developing various models of human evolution) cannot be unbiasedly labeled 'unscientific', so too can we not label the methods of someone disagreeing with somewhat more evidence to form other dissenting views.

That someone may discount specific sources of evidence in applying the method is their problem, not the method's. So long as the method meets the criteria for being 'scientific', and I believe in many cases it does, we cannot label that method as unscientific merely because we do not like the results of the people who use it. We may attack their inputs; we may attack their prejudices; but attacking their method, when that method meets all the criteria for being 'scientific', is simply irrational and hinders productive debate.

Jon


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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 177 (588986)
10-29-2010 12:51 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Straggler
10-29-2010 11:41 AM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
Are you suggesting that the sort of methods you describe above give equally accurate answers to questions such as the age of the Earth as more conventionally accepted scientific approaches?

Methods do nothing without inputs.

Or do you accept that some methods give more accurate answers than others?

Methods do nothing without inputs.

An entirely subjective foundation that results in inaccurate conclusions.

Case in point: is this a method or an input that you have described?

Jon


Check out Apollo's Temple!
This message is a reply to:
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 266 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 8 of 177 (588990)
10-29-2010 1:12 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-29-2010 10:49 AM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
So, using only the evidence I have at my disposal, and making as few assumptions as possible, I can conclude that humans have been around for about six generations, or 300 years

Scientific conclusions should be logical. The only scientific thing this young man can actually say is

quote:
So, using only the evidence I have at my disposal, and making as few assumptions as possible, I can conclude that humans have been around for at least six generations: 300+ years

And the confidence would be increased by independent convergent lines of evidence.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 10-29-2010 10:49 AM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 9 of 177 (588991)
10-29-2010 1:14 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Jon
10-29-2010 12:51 PM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
Jon writes:

Methods do nothing without inputs.

OK. Do all inputs lead to equally accurate conclusions?

Or do you accept the pragrammers maxim of "rubbish in rubbish out"? No matter how logically valid ones method in-between may be.

Jon writes:

Straggler writes:

An entirely subjective foundation that results in inaccurate conclusions.

Case in point: is this a method or an input that you have described?

I guess technically it is an input.

But I suspect that where we are going to disagree is as to our ability to seek objective inputs as well as methods.

So - Do all inputs lead to equally accurate conclusions?


This message is a reply to:
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Phage0070
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 177 (589000)
10-29-2010 3:59 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-29-2010 10:49 AM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
Jon writes:

Is proper science about the methodology used and not the source of the inputs?

Absolutely.

Jon writes:

Does use of the Bible and other histories represent an appropriate application of these methodologies?

It depends on how you use them. The explanations provided in the Bible and other histories can be considered to be theories explaining why the universe operates the way it does. Those theories can be tested in exactly the same manner as theories concocted today by scientists.

As for the accounts of events being considered data, thats a much more tenuous prospect. Most of these accounts are quite unreliable from a factual standpoint; there simply isn't any reason to be confident that Jesus actually came back to life after 3 days of being dead for instance.

Jon writes:

How can we address the implications of these two points as they relate to our understanding of the conclusions derived from the different inputs, that is, if use of the Bible is properly scientific, then why is it 'wrong' and what/who is the cause of its 'wrongness'?

The Bible isn't "scientific", mainly because that term doesn't properly apply to such a record. The Bible is "wrong" in the sense that it is an unreliable account of historical events. To be sure there are *some* agreements with accepted history but it deviates significantly overall. This assessment is backed up with hard data; there simply wasn't a global flood as claimed in the Bible. Period.

The Bible should be approached from the same standpoint of recovered lab notes from an alchemist 800 years ago which tell of an experiment which successfully changed lead into gold through the combination of lead with powdered unicorn horn, heated with dragon's fire.

The claim and theory can be taken at face value, but the recorded data of the experiment is unreliable. Current tests and competing theories soundly trounce the alchemist's theory, so we should dismiss the claim and ignore the data.


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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 177 (589002)
10-29-2010 4:39 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-29-2010 10:49 AM


A fundamental equivocation
The flaw I perceive in your OP is that you start out talking about one thing and then try to prove something else.

the use of the Bible and other 'historical' literature to generate knowledge about the physical world

You then go on to a story of a young man using the scientific method to find out what his tribe's origin stories are.

Those are two completely different things. The Bible is a perfectly permissible, scientific source for information about the origin stories and religious practices of ancient Jews and early Christians. It's frequently used this way by investigators of all religions. The Bible is a completely illegitimate source for geology, human history, biology, cosmology, and the like, and there is by definition absolutely nothing scientific at all about misusing it for this purpose.

Utlimately this is representative of the faulty thinking that science is about particular sources, when in actuality, science is about the method of manipulating and interpreting those sources.

Absolutely wrong. Science is both a means of deriving conclusions from sources and a means of judging which sources produce reliable information about the physical world, and the context in which that information is probative. Science is a source - it's a source of information about the reliability of sources. If your young man fails to apprehend that his parents are the Villiage Liars, or apprehends it but accepts their testimony at face value regardless, he's failing to appropriately apply the scientific method. Ultimately, the scientific method is one of skepticism about sources. Your position is one of complete credulity towards a particular, unreliable source. Nothing about that is scientific.


This message is a reply to:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 177 (589003)
10-29-2010 4:47 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Modulous
10-29-2010 1:12 PM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
The alteration you've suggested may indeed be appropriate; I even considered using that very wording, but was not convinced that it was much different than the wording I ended up going with. I did indicate further along in the post that his conclusion was admittedly tentative, and that he was always willing to admit more evidence as it became available.

This one change in wording aside, though, I believe the point of the post still standsno matter which wording is chosen. Would you agree?

Jon


Check out Apollo's Temple!
This message is a reply to:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 177 (589004)
10-29-2010 4:51 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Straggler
10-29-2010 1:14 PM


Re: The Bible and the Scientific Method
So - Do all inputs lead to equally accurate conclusions?

This is not the topic of this thread.


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This message is a reply to:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 14 of 177 (589005)
10-29-2010 4:55 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Taq
10-29-2010 11:39 AM


Re: Dr. House-isms
We then find the cultural center of Culture A and start dating charcoal from fires and other artefacts. We find that there is absolutely no interruption of Culture A from the years 1300 to 1700. So what do we go with? The written account or the evidence acquired through modern techniques?

This is an issue of sources, though, not of methods. Discounting certain evidence, as someone who disagrees with the results obtained using modern techniques might do, is an issue of personal bias, not of methods.

Isn't the scientific method a method?

Jon


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This message is a reply to:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 177 (589007)
10-29-2010 5:07 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by crashfrog
10-29-2010 4:39 PM


A false equation
I believe you are conflating the epistemological framework known as empiricism with the methodological approach toward rational understanding of the empirical world known as science. There are many empiricists who are not scientists. These two things aren't the same. If you'd like to see why, feel free to check out my thread on the topic of epistemologies; you can find it by clicking on my name.

Jon


Check out Apollo's Temple!
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