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Discussion 10 to Talk Back 86
The simplicity of the scientific method

by: Rob Lockett

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The simplicity of the scientific method

Questions:

Is science empirical?

What exactly is science?

Beginning with the relevant terms, science is simply ‘knowledge’ in the original Greek. The scientific method employs various tests in an attempt to verify our knowledge as legitimate. In modern usage, as well as for the purposes of this proposal, the term ‘science’ assumes the scientific method. The empirical, is the physical world as perceived with the five senses.

My proposition is that the law of contradiction (also known as the law of non-contradiction) is the philosophical foundation of scientific methodology and where science begins. Furthermore, the law is the bricks and cornerstones by which we proceed. It is also the capstone by which we can look back and examine our progress and thereby detect missing or misplaced stones. With this law we begin, build, and test our theories regarding our empirical impressions of existence.

Science is accomplished only when a test for contradiction has been performed. If, for example, scientific testing reveals a contradiction, then the accuracy of our ideas is held to be in question. We are forced to believe before we begin the journey, that the empirical world is ordered logically and coherently and is intelligible to us only if our analysis is also coherent and therefore compatible with the assumed order. This point begs to be repeated; if nature is ordered in an intelligible, logical, and coherent fashion, then our philosophical constructs (theories) regarding it, must also be coherent if they are to be compatible with the assumed empirical order.

Many in the scientific community claim that science is primarily a search for empirical evidence. Susan Kruglinski, the editor of Discover Magazine reported that, since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth”.[1]

That is fascinating since coherence is both the authority that founds science, and the revelation given by the scientific method.  Natural science is the application of the law of contradiction to the empirical world. The science itself is a philosophical construct. The term empirical is a corruptive and deceptive label that conjures images of material certainty. This is not the case! The empirical world is only one of the entities in a natural science equation, and it must be tested against our ideas in order to provide a tested result. In other words, we must look at the evidence through the lens of logical coherence.

Scientific testing is done with the assumption that ‘cohering two or more entities into a systemic whole is a reliable scientific method’. Coherence is the only objective revelation and authority. Logic does not give us the prerogative to smuggle in our own bias. As scientists, we cannot simply assert by ecclesiastical authority that empirical evidence is proof of anything without first having faith that our reasoning is valid.  I am afraid that the only cure for this situation is omnipotence (which we dare not claim).

C.S. Lewis pointed out the illusion of a purely empirical or natural science in his book’ Miracles’.

He said, “…Unless human reasoning is valid, no science can be true. It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory itself would have been arrived at by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved no argument was sound -a proof that there are no such things as proofs- which is nonsense.”[2]

Scientific Reasoning vs. Religious Reasoning?

The conflict between science and religion is not over the existence of God because the terms God and reality are synonymous. Both are absolute, ultimate, and sovereign. The question is really one of God’s (or reality's) characteristics. Is reality a living being or merely an impersonal material force? Whatever or whoever reality is; reality is God by definition. It is what it is or I am who I am. The only difference between the philosophies of naturalism and monotheism is the nature of God. All reasoning is philosophical. Whether we use inductive or deductive reasoning (and we rely almost exclusively on deduction) contradiction and coherence are what we seek in order to verify or refute premises and conclusions.

Definition of God / 1capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality[3]

It matters not whether our philosophy is monotheistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, atheistic, etc. The deist philosophizes that Theo (God) has left the building. All philosophy is theistic. Even the agnostic is in the same boat, since his philosophy purposely excludes deciding the question of Theo. To put in plainly, without theism, there is no such thing as an agnostic. The absolute character of reality (irrespective of its/his other qualities) does not give us the option of excluding ourselves from philosophizing about Theo.

Moving on to more difficult terrain, our current definition (or convention) of science is called Methodological Naturalism. It says thatonly material explanations are scientific'.  It asserts and exalts this philosophical position, yet is itself not a material explanation, and thus, cannot be stated with internal coherence. In fact, it is imposed without any logical authority whatsoever. It is an ecclesiastical proclamation.

In case you missed it, our current definition of science says that 'only material explanations are scientific' though that definition is itself only a philosophical proposition. So, if philosophical propositions are not scientific, then neither is the philosophy of ‘methodological naturalism’. Can a naturalist prove that methodological naturalism is scientific? Actually, the answer is yes; but, only if he/she throws away the term ‘empirical’ and instead uses the law of contradiction. But as C.S. Lewis pointed out, it self destructs.

Naturalists cannot predetermine where logic can and cannot lead us. The objective authority of scientific revelation is found in the power of logical coherence. The whole purpose of science is to lead us wherever logic will go without bias. If logic is valid, and science is logical, then methodological naturalism cannot be what science is. Thus, the naturalist has only one option to support his proclamation, and that is to say that we don’t have all the evidence to support his position. He may invoke a scientific ‘realism’ that means that in principle, his theory may still be true. However, what we are concerned with a present is the available empirical evidence which we do have, not what may or may not be found in the future.

Listen to how Paul Davies (theoretical physicist / Arizona State University) admits this, yet still dodges the implications. “The worldview of a scientist, even the most atheistic scientist, is that essentially of Monotheism. It is a belief, which is accepted as an article of faith, that the universe is ordered in an intelligible way.

Now, you couldn’t be a scientist if you didn’t believe these two things. If you didn’t think there was an underlying order in nature, you wouldn’t bother to do it, because there is nothing to be found. And if you didn’t believe it was intelligible, you’d give up because there is no point if human beings can’t come to understand it.

But scientists do, as a matter of faith, accept that the universe is ordered and at least partially intelligible to human beings. And that is what underpins the entire scientific enterprise. And that is a theological position. It is absolutely ‘Theo’ when you look at history. It comes from a theological worldview.

That doesn’t mean you have to buy into the religion, or buy into the theology, but it is very, very significant in historical terms;  that that is where it comes from and that scientists today, unshakably retain that worldview, as an act of faith. You cannot prove it logically has to be the case, that the universe is rational and intelligible. It could easily have been otherwise. It could have been arbitrary, it could have been absurd, it could have been utterly beyond human comprehension. It’s not! And scientists just take this for granted for the most part, and I think it’s a really important point that needs to be made.”[4]

So science is also faith. And it is faith in logic.

That is a very interesting observation since now we must remember that, any equation or test requires at least two entities. The coherence of at least two entities becomes the third element in the equation.  Assuming the entities involved achieve coherence, then theory + evidence = knowledge. All scientific observation is therefore triune in principle. There is no escaping this reality. “If an idea is not testable, repeatable, observable, and falsifiable, it is not considered scientific”.[5]All of those qualities assume the law of contradiction to be valid. Now note this; The law of contradiction itself, is the only thing that cannot be falsifiable

No test for authoritative(scientific)  revelation can be achieved with less than a triune character. Although our knowledge based upon this faith in logic is not comprehensive, it is our only light. We simply have no other authority for any form of objective revelation. That is not an ecclesiastical proclamation, but is the self evident and profound nature of logical propositions.

Methodological naturalism is neither logical (philosophically), nor scientific (empirically) when exalted to the status of an absolute. The only absolute in science is logic and coherence. Logical coherence (non-contradiction) must be assumed to be reality (God), in the triune sense extrapolated to us by the apostle John:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

So science is indeed a triune and monotheistic affair. Paul Davies understands the history of scientific thought very well. Logic is our only authority. Without Its coherent order, all things would become unintelligible and the empirical world would fall to pieces materially.

Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (cohere).

Non-contradiction is the law of laws and reflects the logical and intelligible character of the living triune God. Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. The coherent quality of His work is the intelligibility behind the physical laws, and the power and certitude of our moral laws (love thy neighbor as thy self).

What I want to know, is how did 16th and 17th century philosophers (who were ironically called empiricists) fool us for so long into framing every question in a form such as ‘what is life?’, ‘what is reality?’, what is energy?’  And did you know that energy is defined (by naturalism) as 'the capacity to do work'John 5:17 Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."

Jesus claimed to have a lot of capacity.  I mean really now, just who does He think He is, God?

John 10:17 “…I lay down my life--only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again..."

Was it a lack of intellectual capacity on our part that made us prone to asking questioned that assumed reality is a ‘what’, or was our dilemma really only an intellectual/moral discontinuity? One need not look far for the answer. It has been in plain sight on our shelves for at least two thousand years.

Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Ultimately the question has always been, ‘who is reality’. ‘Who’ is this holy, logical and coherent Spirit of truth that we are necessarily dependant upon and implicitly commanded to worship and seek as our only light and savior? Since this holy spirit of coherence is the only intelligible self evident truth, and our only way to finding God, then if logic could speak, what would He say?

John 14:6 "…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 8:12 "…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

In conclusion, is empirical testing really science, or is a group of mystical philosophers giving the illusion of breath, voice, and speech to the material beast called the empirical world that in and of itself is deaf, dumb, and blind? If we have been deluded, I have to ask myself, ‘what exactly is this image I have been bowing to for most of my life’?

Can we answer that question?

Let’s go straight to the words of David Hume the 17th century empiricist/philosopher whom when speaking of books like the Bible said the following:

"When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, ‘Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number’? No. ‘Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence’? No.

Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."[6]

Dr. Ravi Zacharius explained that Hume’s logic is fatally flawed because his own statement does not contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number. Nor does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence. The 16th and 17th century empiricists like David Hume missed something vital. And the best way to see the illusion is to ask the question Dr. Ravi Zacharius asked when faced with Hume’s remarks. He asked, “How do we make a meaningful statement that is metaphysically stated, in order to tell us that metaphysics is meaningless”?[7]

In case you had trouble with that, I’ll put it another way. ‘How do we propose a philosophy that says that philosophy is meaningless?’ It’s like saying, ‘English is unintelligible’, or ‘words do not have any meaning’. Fascinating!  It takes a spirit to deny spirit. It takes an intellect to deny intellect. And that is what we should expect, since the empirical world does not deny anything. If anything, the rocks cry out that, ‘God is not mocked’.

Our propositions concerning the empirical world must also support our own propositions as a real insight and as meaningful, otherwise we are all just speaking empty, dead, and incoherent gibberish.

C.S. Lewis said it well, "To be ignorant and simple now - not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground - would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether."[8]

Science is the honest application of the law of contradiction, and within those boundaries we find the only words and facts of life that we are capable of knowing meaningfully.

Footnotes:

[2] C.S. Lewis /  Miracles / Chap 3 The Cardinal difficulty of Naturalism pgs 21,22

[4] Paul Davies / The Privileged Planet  Q&A segment

[6] David Hume / An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding / sec. XII, pt 3

[7] Ravi Zacharius / The Loss of Truth and a Proposal for its Recovery

[8] C.S. Lewis / Learning in War-Time 1949, pg51

Editor's Note:

After Rob Lockett's previous item was published, I advised him:

In my view, this discussion has reached the point where there is nothing to add. If you want to take another shot, go ahead, but I do not plan on responding.  However, others will be welcome to do so if they wish.

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