When I was a child, like many my age I had a fascination with dinosaurs. The animals existing so many years in the past was hard for my young mind to comprehend. All I knew was that great monsters once roamed the land. What we knew of them came by digging the bones out of deep rock and dirt. Names for beasts were long and complicated, but flowed smoothly from child lips proudly pronouncing each syllable.
The idea these real myths came from a long natural process never crossed my mind until later in life. These creatures at first came fully formed in my imagination. My wonder came from the wide variety of large herbivorous animals forging for plants or carnivores hunting. Again, I loved learning about and pronouncing Saurischia Theropods and Sauropods to the Ornithiscia plated and horned. To date my favorites are not actually dinosaurs, but the more ancient mysterious Theropsida that are said to have given rise to mammals.
Evolution entered my thoughts and vocabulary only when extending interest to what came after the dinosaur extinction. If they lived, why are they no longer here and how do we have life now? This brought me to the study of what scientists call human ancestors. Books told the story of bones that looked like humans and yet were not, at least not completely. There was some discussion of the “missing link” that incidentally hasn’t been missing since the 1950s and 60s discoveries. Knowing the Adam and Eve story since before my interest in dinosaurs, it was all so confusing. I began asking religious questions relating to all these past lifeforms. The answers I got back from others were less than helpful, but I had faith in God from Scriptures and ancient life in fossil remains. Continue reading
In my last post I quoted Stephen Hawking’s defense of Positivism. He even goes so far as to suggest that there is no all encompassing view of reality but instead only “a family of interconnected theories, each describing its own version of reality…” (p. 70)
But accepting Positivism as the true nature of reality has consequences.
A famous real-world example of different pictures of reality is the contrast between Ptolemy’s Earth-centered model of the cosmos and Copernicus’s sun-centered model. Although it is not uncommon for people to say that Copernicus proved Ptolemy wrong, that is not true. …the real advantage of the Copernican system is that the equations of motion are much simpler in the frame of reference in which the sun is at rest. (p. 71)
Boy, are you ready to accept this? That the earth is no more revolving around the sun then the sun is revolving around the earth and that the only real reason we believe the earth revolves around the sun is because the math is simpler that way? Continue reading
In my last post I finished comparing Popper and Kuhn and again concluded that there really isn’t much difference between the two other than on the issue of Scientific Realism vs. Positivism. That is to say, Popper believes that science actually discovers theories closer and closer to the truth whereas Kuhn believes it becomes more useful over time in ways that we humans wish it to be, but that there is not necessarily some underlying truth to be discovered.
In a previous post I previously considered the advantages of Scientific Realism vs. Positivism. (See also here) Both have pros and cons, but Scientific Realism is the clear winner when it comes to generating new conjectures and theories. If one were to solely believe in Positivism one would never actually believe in their own theories enough to think up new questions/problems to solve and test. The end result would be the stagnation of science.
However, this fact aside, does this mean Scientific Realism is actually true and Positivism false?
Hawking’s Defense of a Positivist View of Reality
Recently Hawking wrote a book called The Grand Design. In that book, Hawking makes a number of controversial assertions. The one that got the most press time – don’t you just love the media? – was the claim that the laws of physics are sufficient to create the universe and that God has no role to play. This is, actually, a very interesting point and one that deserves rigorous criticism – which I’ll gladly give it in the future.
But in reality, this wasn’t the most important challenge that Hawking makes. The really big challenge Hawking makes in his book is that Positivism is actually the nature of reality, not Scientific Realism. We saw in this past post that Hawking is a Positivist.