Friday, May 11, 2012

Rocks and Layers

In a prior essay, we looked at the geology of sedimentary rocks and at the conclusions that can be drawn from the existence of the layers.  We saw that a presupposition of uniformitarianism yields a conclusion more in tune with the theory of Evolution, but a presupposition of catastrophism produces a conclusion that favors a world wide flooding over a short period of time.

Uniformitarianism is currently in vogue, but there is so much to commend Catastrophism that some geologists try to join the two concepts into a different theory called Punctuated Uniformitarianism, to account for the evidence that supports both theories.  This theory suggests long periods of uniform activity punctuated by major catastrophic events.

Part of the reason for the need for a combined theory is found in the layers, themselves.  What makes a layer a layer is the fact that everything in it is similar material.  Being similar to itself means it is different from the layers above and below it.

The homogeneity of a layer causes some logical problems.  Why would a layer contain only a limited number and type of life forms?  If you would look in a river delta or a lake where dead things are being deposited by current runoff and erosion, you will find multiple life forms, including both unicellular and complex. You may find  algae, oysters, alligators, fish, and perhaps, a human corpse.  These things are all living in today's ecosystem, so if they died and were fossilized, the deposits would contain a diversity of fossil life forms, not uniform layers of index fossils characterizing just one group or age, unless there was something other than time, e.g., density, by which the layers were established.

The interfaces between two layers also present problems.  Was there a layer that originally existed between the two layers we find in today's rocks?  And did that layer get eroded (uniformly across the globe) so that all the life forms in it were totally annihilated by some global events?  The reason this is an important question is because Uniformitarianism and its associated consequence, Evolution, would require that life forms represented in one layer evolve to life forms in a later layer.

There would need to be evidence of gradual changes from one life form in one layer to more complex forms in the next layer.  Because there are no fossils showing intermediate forms, these "missing links" (missing between any fossil and its supposed ancestor, not just ape and man), must be assumed to be in the layers that are not present, i.e., the layers that must have been washed away by erosion, washed away, incidentally, without any evidence or any fragments of preexisting fossils in more recent layers that should contain such runoff.  [Note: this kind of argument is called "argument from silence," indicating it is implied by the absence of data.  Although it is not necessarily a fallacy, an argument from silence is weak, at best.]  The global extent of the layers and the uniformity of the extant layers makes the absence of any intermediate forms anywhere, a convincing statement.  Sometimes, the absence of data is because it never existed in the first place.

The third problem evinced by layers is the limestone/coral problem.  Some limestones are formed mostly of the fossilized remains of coral.  Coral are known to grow only at certain temperatures and water depths, so coral-limestone should form in linear bands along the coastlines of continents.  The fact that some of the layers, e.g., in the southeastern United States consist of many miles of coral-based limestones, indicates that the delicate ecosystems that support coral growth moved over time.  It is postulated that the limestones in the layers in the southeastern US were formed as the polar ice caps melted and the ocean advanced onto the continent, and then moved back to their present locations.  This would mean that these limestone regions represent large periods of time and that they cut across time, not that they represent a particular time.

Here we see some of the problems posed by the existence of layers.  The problems must be accounted for by the presuppositions. Otherwise, the presuppositions need to be modified or rejected in order to account for the data problems.

As we have seen, presuppositions determine conclusions, but presuppositions must also be consistent with the data being analyzed.  Remember that presuppositions are just paradigms that are accepted on faith.  Clark Pinnock once said, "The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false." (Set Forth Your Case, Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey, 1968.) Your faith must be reasonable to you, but, in the end, it is faith, nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Limits of Presuppositions for Scientists

Up to this point we have seen that presuppositions determine conclusions, major premises determine interpretations, and that only what goes into the deductive reasoning process can come out.  Reason and argument do not add anything to a system that was not already there.  For this reason, it is said that all reasoning is circular reasoning.  This does not mean that all reasoning is fallacious, however.  It only means that all reasoning depends on the truth of its premises.

Reasoning can, in itself, be instructive.  Sometimes combinations of truthful statements shine new light on a problem that allow insight to be gained, and sometimes, reasoning confronts us with the limits of our presuppositions.

Let us take time as an example.  Time is defined as a succession of moments or even as a dimension in a multidimensional space.  Time is important in both science and history.  Existentially, we move through time from one day to the next, or one moment to the next.  Time is an essential ingredient to human personality.

In mathematics, we talk about time as existing from minus infinity to plus infinity and use symbols like the indefinite integral to represent functions whose time-frame goes from minus infinity to plus infinity.  However, in the real cosmos, we know that this is not a true construct.

In the real universe, we have observed what we know as the Law of Entropy, which states, among other things, that things go from more ordered states to less ordered states, from more energetic states to less energetic states as they progress through time.  This is why a pan of boiling water cools off, if you turn off the heat under it.  We can take measurements of the surrounding environment and the current temperature and volume of the water, and extrapolate back to the time the water was at a full boil.  Eventually, the water and its surrounding environment will be the same temperature.  If it has cooled for a long time, the water will be as cold as its surroundings.

This principle of Entropy, when applied to the cosmos, and especially to "hot spots" in the cosmos, such as our sun, indicates that there was a definite point in time when the sun was formed.  If there were an infinite time period, all "hot spots" would have cooled, and everything would now be the same temperature.  That fact has led scientists to postulate a beginning point.for all things, a "big bang" or "creation" event.  It means there is no such thing as "minus infinity" on the time line.

The mathematician is free to use the indefinite integral and to study functions involving the concept of minus infinity, but physicists and other natural scientists must limit themselves to a "t sub zero," the first instant in time as the starting point in their time formula and the lower limit of their time integration.  I am afraid most scientists do not consider t sub zero when extrapolating backwards on the time line.  It is possible using mathematics to extrapolate backwards to minus infinity, but any extrapolation prior to t sub zero is an error, in the real world.

There is another presupposition problem most scientists ignore.  We know from experiments that mathematics allow us to represent equations for systems such as the flow of electrons in a circuit.  However, we also know that these equations only work when the circuit is at steady state, but do not apply at the instantaneous state when the circuit is first energized.

We know that a circuit behaves very differently when the power goes from zero to some steady value, than it does after a certain period of time has elapsed, and the circuit has stabilized.  The circuit demonstrates transient effects when it is first energized, and these effects last a definite, but transient period of time.

By analogy, we should expect to see transient effects at a creation or big bang event.  We normally use another mathematical construct, differentiation, to help explain changes over time, but differentiation doesn't apply to a time between the first instant, and the non-existent instant before it. Some transient effect must occur, which can resemble the effects of division by zero.

Normal assumptions do not apply to transient situations.  The definition of some things becomes meaningless at such a point.  Things such as velocity, for example, expressed as a value "per second" don't have meaning in that period leading to the first second.  Even such equations as E=mC^2 need special attention at the first instant, because C, the speed of light, is expressed in terms of "per second."  What does that mean when time is going from zero to one second, causing transient effects?  Can C be a constant in such a situation?

I don't know the answers to these transient time questions, but I do know that one should be cautious in making definitive statements regarding time and the Big Bang or Creation.  The point I am making is that one's presuppositions need to be examined.  They sometimes contain limits.  In order to be consistent in our argumentation, we need to remember the limits of our presuppositions.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Theories are Presuppositions

Today's lesson will demonstrate how viewing the same data using two different presuppositions yields two different interpretations of the same data.

Prior to the 18th century, scientists depended on the Bible to inform their presuppositions.  In the 18th century, James Hutton, known as the father of geology, suggested that the time line of the Bible wasn't long enough to account for all the earth's features to be formed.  He observed processes such as erosion, runoff, flooding and deposition, that could account for the earth's features, given enough time.

Hutton speculated ". . . that processes occurring in the present were the same processes that had operated in the past, and would be the processes that operate in the future."*  These thoughts were formalized as the Theory of Uniformitarianism.  In the 19th century, Sir Charles Lyell popularized Hutton's ideas in his book,  Principles of Geology (1830)*.

The contrasting view prevailing at the time, was named Catastrophism, to indicate that immense, catastrophic events were involved in the formation of the earth's features.

Let us use these two different Theories as major premises and see how they are used to interpret the same data.

First, let us limit ourselves to the class of rocks called sedimentary, those which appear to be formed from the deposition and hardening of rocks, sand, silt, and clay and those formed from prior plant and animal life, primarily oil, coals and carbonates.  The other kinds of rocks, igneous and metamorphic, are not generally categorized in the same way as the sedimentary rocks, because of the absence of fossils in them.

Sedimentary rocks are found worldwide in layers.  Each layer is identified because it contains the same materials and the same kind of fossils.  Assuming that layers are formed as a process, the layers can be numbered or named in regard to where the layer fits in relation to the other layers.  Assuming they have not been inverted, the ones on the bottom are considered to have been deposited prior to the ones above them, and the ones on the top are considered to have been deposited most recently.

A laboratory experiment can easily verify that these assumptions have merit.  If I take a glass jar and pour black sand in it, then yellow sand, then red sand, followed by white sand, the layering of the colors corresponds to the order in which the layers were poured.

Geologists call the bottom layers the oldest ones and the higher layers the newer ones, thereby assigning a time dimension corresponding to the differing layers.

If you assume Uniforitarianism, all these statements are logically consistent, and indeed, this is the view of most modern geologists.

What if, on the other hand, you assumed Catastrophism?  What if all the layers were deposited in the same period of time?  What if a tremendous event eroded the land surface and mixed the sand in the sea bottom, all at the same time?  In that case, the layering would not represent time, but it would represent something else.

A laboratory experiment can also be suggestive as to how layers could be formed in this scenario.  Suppose I take a large bucket and pour in many different kinds of rock-making particles, from silts and clays to sand to pebbles to rocks.  No matter what order I put these things into the bucket, when I add water and shake the bucket violently, the particles group themselves into layers, based upon particle size and density.  The smallest particles group themselves at the bottom, and the largest ones are grouped at the top.

The rock layers exist, but what do they tell us?  The meaning we give to them depends upon which major premise we use in our syllogism.  The minor premises are the observations.  There are layers.  There is no argument about that.  But there is room to argue on the meaning of the layers.

One geologists begins with Uniformitarianism and concludes the layers correspond to time.  Another geologist begins with Catastrophism and concludes the layers do not correspond to time.  Both geologists might have the same degrees and be equally competent scientists, but they have different starting points, different presuppositions, different faith-principles, different faiths.

Please note, the argument is faith vs. faith, not faith vs. science.  Also note that these faiths used entirely secular terminology.  One's faith doesn't have to be a religious faith associated with a particular religion or sacred text.  Faith is what one accepts because he or she thinks it is true, not because it can be demonstrated to be true.

Notice that I have neither said that Uniformitarianism is true nor that Catastrophism is true.  I have only demonstrated that choosing a theory or major premise to accept in an argument will determine your interpretation of the reality you are investigating.  Obviously, we choose to believe things that do not conflict with what we believe based on our life experience.  In this case, the theories are both bigger than anyone could experience in a lifetime, so neither theory conflicts with what we accept as true.

This still leaves the question, Are all theories equal?  Does it matter what I presuppose?  Is one theory better than another?  I will try to address these issues in later essays.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Consistent Logic is Faith-Based

Up to now in this series of essays, we have looked at the topic of logical consistency, and have seen that deductive argumentation (what we normally associate with being rational or being logical) depends on two types of premises, major premises and minor premises.  We have seen that major premises are things we accept (by faith), and minor premises are things we observe.

We have seen that two people having access to the same scientific observations can nonetheless come to different conclusions about the interpretation or meaning of the observations.  Both people would be considered rational, intelligent beings who follow the same principles of logic.

One one level, all major premises are of equal validity, i.e., they can neither be proved nor disproved.  They can only be accepted or rejected.  This is the realm where philosophy and science intersect.  And the most two people who come to different conclusions about the meaning of their observations should do, in the way of relating to each other, is to say, "If your presuppositions are true, your conclusions are true, but I do not believe your presuppositions, so I reject your conclusions."  Likewise, the other person may take the same stance against the first person's presuppositions and conclusions.

Note that they are both performing the same logical operations and taking the identical stance in reaching their conclusions.  One is not more intelligent or more scientific than the other.  I belabor this point because I have seen some arrogant pseudo-scientists try to put down other scientists because they reach different conclusions with the same data.  Rather than acknowledging their own presuppositions or analyzing those of the other scientist, they claim to be right by assertion instead of by demonstration.  "I am right because I say I am right (and they sometimes add that an individual or community agrees with them)!"

You may have observed this kind of behavior in the "global warming" dialog.  This problem is obviously one of such a grand scale that it cannot be demonstrated in a scientific laboratory.  The atmosphere of the entire Earth is involved, and processes involving the Sun and the Moon are involved in the creation of our climate.  Geological data seems to indicate that the magnetic poles have moved in the geologic past, which may mean that the Earth has changed its orientation in relationship to the Sun, thus moving the polar ice caps by melting at a prior orientation and refreezing at another..  Some studies also show much cyclical temperature variation in geologic history.  To claim that man has done something in the recent past, or is doing something currently, to upset those processes, is simply a statement of faith, not a scientifically-demonstrated phenomenon.

Human-caused global warming may be possible; it may not.  The observations of a few years temperature and weather pattern changes really don't give us enough information (compared to geologic time frames) to determine whether or not the data indicates a pattern, much less the scale of the pattern.

The passion of the debaters for global warming points to their faith in their conclusions.  They have far more passion than the data warrant, partly because of the bleak consequences of the scenario they predict if their conclusions are true.

Can you see that their conclusions rely on their presuppositions more than (or at least as much as) on their conclusions?  This battle is one person's faith versus another person's faith.  It is not science.  It is not logic.

The same is true of the Origins debate.  Where does everything come from?  In another essay, I will demonstrate how different presuppositions affect the geologic argument for Origins.  How can two scientists with the same number of advanced college degrees come to different conclusions about Origins?  Is it because one went to a "better" school?  Is one of them smarter?  Or is it only because they embrace different religions?