@Professor Kent: You’re absolutely right; I laugh at any claim …

Comment on The Credibility of Faith by Sean Pitman.

@Professor Kent:

You’re absolutely right; I laugh at any claim that physical scientific evidence supports the belief of creationists that God formed all major life forms instantaneously or that physical scientific evidence supports the belief of evolutionists that all major life forms are descended from a single one-celled organism that formed autonomously. Neither notion can be falsified or verified. Surely you agree with this.

Your assertion that neither notion can be falsified is mistaken. Both notions can be falsified. The claims of evolutionists for the creative potential of various mindless mechanisms can be falsified, statistically, beyond very low levels of functional complexity. If its basic assumptions could not be falsified, even in theory, it would not be a valid scientific hypothesis. Since it can be subject to testing and potential falsification, at least statistically speaking, it remains within the realm of a valid scientific proposition, prediction or hypothesis – whatever word you like best.

The same is true for the notion that high level intelligent design is required to explain the existence of these higher levels of functional complexity within living things. All one has to do to falsify the requirement for intelligent input is to actually show that a mindless mechanism is statistically likely to be able to do the job in a reasonable amount of time. Such a demonstration would falsify the hypothesis that ID is required. Don’t you see that?

But what about verification of these hypotheses? Science is unable to absolutely verify hypotheses. Science can falsify hypotheses, or bring falsifying evidence against hypotheses, but it can never fully verify a hypothesis. That is a basic limitation of science. Passing a test isn’t the same thing as fully verifying a hypothesis. Additional tests could still prove the hypothesis wrong. If a hypothesis could ever be fully verified, science would no longer be needed at that point. Science is only useful when there is less than complete information and when there is still a potential for error or falsification with additional information.

This is why science requires a “leap of faith” from limited data to conclusions that are always incompletely supported by the data. The question in play is, which competing hypothesis carries with it the greatest weight of available data? – the creation of life over vast periods of time via a mindless mechanism? – or the creation of life over a short period of time via intelligent design.

I think the available evidence clearly supports the latter falsifiable hypothesis.

If we go by your argument that if THEORY X is supported by physical evidence for claims A, B, C, and D, therefore claims E, F, G, and H must be valid, then I think there is more scientific evidence to support evolutionism over millions of years than creationism in 6 days 6000 years ago. That’s the way I personally interpret the physical evidence, as do many honest Christians, including YEC scientists like those at GRI. The problem both theories (evolutionism and creationism) have is in concluding that claims E, F, G, and H are valid when there are no empirical data to support them. And that’s the problem I have with your approach: you simply cannot assert that, just because there is physical evidence supporting claims A, B, C, and D, then claims E, F, G, and H which lack physical supporting data (which you yourself have labeled “metaphysical claims”) are true, valid, or “supported.”

Do you not consider inductive reasoning, extrapolation beyond a limited data set, to be part of scientific reasoning?

Again, science always takes leaps of faith beyond what can be absolutely known or demonstrated. Science is always based on limited data from which extrapolations or predictions are made that are not known and cannot be known to be 100% accurate. That’s the whole purpose of scientific methodologies – to make useful predictions or leaps of faith based on limited information. All that can be known via scientific reasoning is if A, B, C, and D have or have not been falsified by the weight of the currently available evidence. If they have been falsified, then the conclusions E, F, G, and H, which rest upon the validity of A, B, C, and D loose scientific credibility.

Again, Jesus used this very same logic to support His metaphysical claim to be able to forgive sins. He connected this claim with an empirical demonstration to be able to heal a paralyzed man. In other words, if He had failed to heal the paralyzed man, His associated non-testable claim to be able to forgive sins would have failed as well.

Sorry, but one can only accept 6 days 6000 years ago based on faith in God’s Word. Is there physical evidence to support the validity of God’s word? Some, yes.

In other words, the validity of the very specific historical claim that creation only took 6 literal days within 6000 or so years is based on the credibility of the Bible which makes this claim. And, the credibility of the Bible is based on what should be very good empirical evidence – evidence which you yourself have proposed in the form of various historically fulfilled prophecies.

The question is, does the empirical evidence in support of the credibility of the Bible trump the empirical evidence that opposes or seems to falsify the claims of the Bible? In other words, where is the total weight of available empirical evidence? Do we really believe the Bible to be historically credible in the same way the LDS believe the Book of Mormon to be historically credible? – Because we think the Holy Spirit has impressed us deep inside with the truth? – despite all the empirical evidence that may come against us? I would hope not!

As Galileo once said, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

I believe it; you believe it. Is there physical evidence to accept 6 days 6000 years ago that cannot be interpreted differently? I don’t think so.

I don’t think so when it comes to evidence that is inconsistent with the 6-day 6000 years ago hypothesis – as is the notion that life has existed and evolved on this planet over the course of hundreds of millions of years. This hypothesis, if accepted as true, is completely inconsistent with the 6-day creation hypothesis.

Fortunately the weight of empirical evidence is far more consistent with the 6-day hypothesis than it is with the hundreds of millions of years hypothesis (in my own opinion at least). If you really do think otherwise, you must have empirical evidence to support the credibility of the Bible’s claims that is at least as compelling, and then some, compared to the evidence that you consider to be in clear opposition to the Bible’s claims. Otherwise, you really are relying on a blind leap of faith beyond what the weight of available evidence can support. You are making, and have made in this forum, the very same argument that my LDS friends have presented to me – that the Holy Spirit gives privileged information to some people (like you and my LDS friends) that He hasn’t given to everyone who honestly wants to know the right answers to such questions (to include me).

And I’m glad you don’t believe I’m immoral if I disagree with you (not that I really care what you, Ron, Bob, and Bill believe about my morality).

Great! I really don’t care what you, Ron, Bob and Bill think about my morality either – so we’re in agreement on at least some things 😉

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

The Credibility of Faith
@George Hilton:

I do not for one millisecond take the position that I believe without evidence. However, a large amount of my evidence is not based on what most scientists would consider “scientific data.” My faith is based on a consortium of evidence. Some of it is scientific, some of it is metaphysical, some of it is prophetic, and some of it is experiential. The truth is, I have no proof whatsoever that my source of authority is superior to that of Muslims. There is plenty of reason in my mind to believe that there is, but that is unlikely to be sufficient to convince many of them.

Many people forget that science requires leaps of faith beyond which the data actually goes. That’s what science is all about – making educated leaps of faith that cannot be absolutely proven to be true. The same thing can be true of religion.

I see all empirical data is “scientific data” and I think that science can be and must be done, ultimately, by the individual. Again, science isn’t about absolute “proof”. Science never proves a hypotheses or theory to be absolutely true. Science can falsify hypotheses or theories, but it can never fully prove them.

As far as convincing someone else that your own hypothesis is the correct one among many options, that’s a different story. What seems favored by the weight of evidence from your particular perspective may not seem so conclusive from someone else’s perspective. As you point out, there are many factors involved when it comes to making decisions as to what is and is not most likely true – and not all of these factors are based on logical reasoning. There is also the factor of personal feeling or desire or motive.

Since only God can accurate judge the motive or hearts of us humans, the best we can do is share what has been so convincing and helpful from our own perspective. The rest is up to God and the promptings of His Holy Spirit… as you also point out.

My whole point here is to explain that one’s own personal choice as to what is and is not most likely true should be based on more than some sort of internal feeling or strong impression. It should be based on the weight of available empirical evidence. You list biblical prophecy as one of your evidences, for example. You suggest that the evidence of prophecy is not “scientific evidence”. Yet, scientific reasoning can indeed be employed in the evaluation of the hypothesis of fulfilled prophetic statements: Were they really fulfilled in actual history? Were they really made before they were fulfilled? What is the statistical value of the prophecy regarding the need for Divine or superhuman input vs. the alternate null hypothesis of random chance?

These questions can be tested and potentially falsified via forms of scientific investigation and logical arguments based on the weight of empirical data. This sort of investigation is a form of scientific reasoning.

Again, while such scientific reasoning may not reach the level of absolute proof, while it may not be able to convince everyone, “even if someone were raised from the dead some will not believe…” (Luke 16:31), it doesn’t mean it isn’t valid scientific reasoning from your own perspective… and potentially useful for other candid minds who sincerely come to you and ask you the reason for the hope that is within you… a reason that is something more than an internal impression that is only useful for you as a valid reason…

Sean Pitman

The Credibility of Faith
@Professor Kent:

So the conclusion to all of this appears to be that, for SDAs, science and evidence trump faith. I completely disagree, but so be it.

If “faith trumps science and evidence”, as you suggest here, then what conclusion can one make except to see this as an argument for blind faith? – faith that is not based on any kind of scientific reasoning or evidence? – faith in a particular point of view that can stand even if all available evidence is pointing in a different direction?

In short, how is your faith in the Bible, faith that is not based on science or evidence of any kind, superior to the same type of faith expressed my LDS or Hindu or Muslim believers in the superiority of their own sources of authority compared to your Bible? How are you so sure you’re right and they’re wrong? How do you know that your “faith” is superior to theirs? Upon what basis do you make such a bold assertion? – a basis that would have general appeal to candid minds beyond your own?

Sean Pitman

The Credibility of Faith
@Professor Kent:

I respectfully disagree, even though I believe in the latter, non-falsifiable hypothesis.

Is it not uncharitable of you to argue that the vast majority of scientists are obviously wrong? wrong in their claim that the biblical notion of a recent creation of life on this planet has in fact been clearly falsified by the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence? I mean, every time I suggest that anyone might be mistaken you suggest that I’m being uncharitable. How about you then? Does the same argument apply to you?

You see, you’re not just disagreeing with me here. You’re disagreeing with the majority of mainstream scientists who think that your claim to the non-falsifiability of the biblical short-age model of origins is obviously mistaken – that this model for the origin of life on this planet has clearly been falsified by the overwhelming weight of empirical evidence. The very fact that you yourself recognize that empirical evidence can indeed be brought to bear against the biblical position on origins should be enough to convince you of potentially falsifiable nature of the biblical account (in the same manner that many of the historical statements in the Book of Mormon are open to potential falsification and have in fact been falsified).

The only basis that you have consistently forwarded to believe that the biblical claims are still correct despite all the falsifying empirical evidence is your “faith” in the Bible despite all the physical evidence to the contrary – faith that is largely supported by what you feel are the impressions of the Holy Spirit along with a few relatively weekly supporting empirical evidences in the form of fulfilled historical prophecies. That’s it. That’s all you’ve really argued for as far as I’ve been able to tell.

From a rational basis, your claim that the biblical position on origins is not at all subject to empirical testing or the falsifying weight of empirical evidence simply doesn’t hold water for the vast majority of intelligent minds who have thought seriously about this issue…

It is fine if you want to believe despite in the face of what you consider to be the overwhelming weight of empirical evidence to the contrary. Just don’t call your belief or faith anything other than blind faith – i.e., faith that isn’t based on the weight of empirical evidence. Faith that is based on something other than the empirical evidence is blind to that particular type of evidence since it doesn’t take it into serious account.

The kind of faith that is independent of the weight of physical evidence may be helpful for the individual, but it really isn’t helpful when it comes to convincing minds that do not have access to whatever other type of non-empirical evidence you seem to have access to. I certainly do not have access to this other type of evidence that seems so convincing to you in the face of the overwhelming weight of empirical evidence to the contrary.

I, personally, would have to go with what I saw as the weight of empirical evidence. This is why if I ever honestly became convinced that the weight of empirical evidence was on the side of life existing on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, I would leave not only the SDA Church, but Christianity as well…

Sean Pitman

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