Saturday, May 05, 2012

Geologic Logic and Faith Principles

Today's post will continue to build your skill in evaluating arguments and identifying presuppositions.

Whenever you hear someone say something with which you disagree, what do you do?  Most people just assume that the other person is stupid or irrational. Some people will even try to convince them that they are wrong.  But not many will ask themselves, "What are they presupposing that would make their conclusion rational to them?"

If people are not crazy and are not stupid, but differ from you in their understanding, then they either know something you don't know, or they are presupposing something you are not presupposing.

If you value the relationship with the other person, you should expend the effort to identify the missing information or to elucidate the unidentified presupposition. To not try to find out why you disagree is a sign of arrogance.  Such pride is the cause of most arguments that do not get resolved.

The resolution may be that we identify our differing presuppositions and refuse to change our minds, and "agree to disagree."  Since presuppositions are accepted by faith and cannot be proved or disproved, we have agreed that we must follow our separate belief systems.

I have one belief system and you have another belief system and those faiths bring us to different conclusions.  I am not a better scientist than you and you are not a better scientist than I am.  We agree on the facts.  That is science.  We disagree on the interpretation of the facts, and that is because of our belief systems, not the facts.

All geologists agree that there are similar layers of rocks found worldwide.  Each layer contains fossils, predominately fossils that resemble other fossils in the same layer, but are different from those of the layer above, and the layer beneath.  Fossils are frequently casts in stone of soft tissue, or the remains of hard body parts such as shells. But they represent plants and animals that had been alive and have died in such a way that their remains formed layers that became lithified due to processes that occurred after their death.

These statements are scientific.  They represent the physical evidence that scientists have found, and there is no disagreement as to what the evidence is.  There are, however, differences in what geologists say the fossil layers mean.

One will look at the layers and say they demonstrate Evolution, and another will say they obviously are the results of a world-wide flood.  Same rocks, same logic processes, but different conclusions!

The instructor for my first course in statistics had been asked to evaluate the entrance requirements for allowing students into Emory University. It was determined that the then-current evaluation criteria were an excellent admissions predictor of success for Emory students.  He had to show them that their data had only included current Emory students who had already been chosen by those criteria, and that it was, therefore, not representative of the general population that might apply to Emory.  Their data excluded students who might have succeeded at Emory but were rejected by the criteria.  This subtle bias was hard for them to accept, because there had been such a high correlation in their results.

The same can be said for people who do not recognize that their own selection bias, i.e. their presuppositions, determine what they see in the data.  If a person says, "There is no world-wide flood," as part of his presuppositions, he will not be able to conclude, upon examining the data, that there was a world-wide flood.  He will have to come to some other conclusion.

We live in an age of religious fanaticism.  Some fanatics are terrorizing the world, killing those who do not agree with them.  Other zealous fanatics are trying to force public education systems to exclude scientific possibilities with which they disagree. They only want one possible explanation, i.e., one set of faith principles, to be taught in schools.  They do not want children to learn how to evaluate faith principles and how to reach their own conclusions.  They want to indoctrinate, not to educate.

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