Researching Creation

Why Creationism can be Methodologically Naturalistic

And Why it Shouldn't Be



I'm almost done reading Gilkey's Creationism on Trial.  It actually covers a wide range of interesting information, and is a usefl read for anyone interested in the way the liberal academy views the relationship between religion, science, and Creationism.  This is very useful because Gilkey's reasoning remains the predominant form of reasoning about these issues today.

Interestingly, I think that Gilkey contains in his argumentation all of the necessary elements for the demise of his conclusions (note that Gilkey's conclusions may have been perfectly valid concerning the case at hand in Arkansas, but my point is that the conclusion is not valid for all possible ways of putting Creationism together).

Here are some of the ideas which Gilkey presents in his book:

  1. Science deals only with materialist causes
    1. This is a limitation of science and not reality
    2. This limitation also limits science's ability to describe people fully
    3. This necessarily means that science is not fully descriptive of reality
    4. It also means that science is not fully descriptive of the events which it covers
  2. Scientists may legitimately use any source for the inspiration and elaboration of their work (see the description of Ruse's testimony, for instance, if you don't believe me)
  3. Sources that may be legitimate for inspiration/elaboration of ideas are not necessarily legitimate for the validation of those ideas (again see the description and Gilkey's comments of Ruse's testimony).
  4. The validation of an idea comes from the scientific community, which is a culturally conditioned unit
  5. Additionally, only ideas which are material causes are considerable within science

Now, there are several important flaws here, which we should take note of in the beginning:

  • Gilkey provides no criteria for determining whether or not a given effect falls within the limitations of science under proposition 1.  If this is truly a limitation of science and not reality then this means that science cannot determine whether or not an event is characterizable scientifically, and therefore it must be done so on other grounds.
  • If the scientific community is the source of validation of ideas, and if the scientific community is shaped by culture, then it is reasonable to think that the validation of sources appropriate for use in validation may simply be a majority vote of the validity of sources for inspiration and elaboration by individual scientists, and thus not differing from each other in kind, but rather simply by popularity.  In this case, the methodology for validating evidence is every bit as culturally conditioned as the methodology for producing insight.  Thus, the disconnect which Gilkey draws is not helpful epistemologically.
  • Item #5 is actually a fairly new description for the limits of science.  The limits of science have been described several times and by several people, and historically all of them have busted.  Newton's notion of gravity violated scientific principles at the time, by introducing "spooky action at a distance" - which is a carryover from Newton's spiritual beliefs.  Science at that time was self-limited to directly-interacting particles.  Action-at-a-distance was contrary to this.  Likewise, quantum mechanics changed the rules of science.  As Einstein said (quoting from memory), science should "be about actual things, and not only the probabilites of their occurring."  This new definition of science is just as new and arbitrary as the previous ones.

So now, let's take a view of Creationism that works as follows:

  1. Fred (a scientist) reads a non-scientific work A, and find out about a work of God, which we will call X.
  2. Fred decides that X itself is outside of science, because it is a work of God
  3. However, X lends itself to physical consequences
  4. The physical consequences of X would be Y
  5. Fred investigates to see if Y is true
  6. Fred validates the validity of Y independently of A according to "standard" scientific markers

It is difficult to see, even following Gilkey's framework 100%, why this should be disqualified as science.  Even if at stage 6 Fred finds contrary evidence, but uses that to reformulate Y into Z, as long as at the end of the day the scientist is not using A to publicly validate Y and is instead using fairly standard scientific logic, then there is no inherent conflict between Creationism and science according to Gilkey's paradigm (although there may have been in the specific instances in the Arkansas trial).

So, some examples:

  • Using the assumption of the Universe created out of water 6,000 years ago, Russel Humphreys devised an equation for determining the magnetic fields of celestial bodies.  This was before any of them were known.  The mechanism for the creation of the planets was outside of science, but their magnetic properties afterwards (which is what Humphreys is attempting to describe scientifically) should be the result of scientific principles.  Humphreys model is validatable independent of the Bible (by measuring the magnetic fields of planets), and has been validated where it has been tested.
  • Using the assumption that the deluge was recently sprung upon a young earth (where the origination of the earth and the origination of the deluge would be outside scientific discovery, but the effects of the flood [for instance, the sediments it deposited] would be understandable naturalistically), Art Chadwick believed that the Coconino sandstone would have been part of what was laid down during the flood.    This would imply that it would have been laid down in an underwater environment, even though most geologists had labelled it as a remnant from a desert.  Therefore, Chadwick examined the trackways of animals in the Coconino, and devised a mechanism for testing whether or not the trackways were made in desert or underwater conditions.  The flume experiments experimentally validated (independently of Chadwick's belief in God's action) that the Coconino was probably laid down in an underwater environment.

It is difficult to see, if science is taken as being a methodological limitation and not a limitation on reality, how such could be excluded from science (whether or not you agreed with the conclusions - note that much of science is not true [i.e. will be proven false] so whether or not you agreed with the conclusions would be irrelevant to whether or not it should be classified as science).

So, in fact, Creationism can be persued in a methodologically naturalistic way.  However, I'm going to go further and say that it shouldn't be.  Reality is not as separable as we might like.  Also, there is no reason why modern limits on science should be carried into the future.  There is no historical validity behind it.  If the goal is to understand reality, then that must include understanding God and His Purposes.  The understanding of God's action is likely to take a different form from current scientific understanding, but nonetheless I think it should be persued.

One instance of this occuring is ReMine's Message Theory (currently reading The Biotic Message - hope to report on it soon).  Here, ReMine is at least attempting to present what he thinks is the message of biology - and it is a message which ReMine thinks is testable and verifiable.  However, messages are not currently part of science, as they depend on non-material causation for their occurence. 

The exciting thing, though, is that computer science already deals with structures which are the results of intelligent causes, so I would encourage anyone who is wanting to understand the non-material aspects of the future science, to study up on computer programming and theoretical programming semantics.  This will prepare you for the future of science which is freed from its materialistic bondage, yet still remains validatable and empirical.