How We Gain Knowledge

Popper and KuhnBefore I disappeared from blogging, I had finished up reposting my Wheat and Tares posts on epistemology (i.e. theory of how we gain knowledge. Good summary of my posts found here. Full series found here, in reverse order of course.) But the truth is that throughout my series, I never really had a single post that attempted to explain what epistemology really is.

Conjecture and Refutation

To summarize how epistemology works, the basic idea is that scientific progress is made through a process of conjecture, criticism, and then refutation. Essentially we see something in the world that we wish to have explained or (even more likely) a problem that we can solve if we can explain it. Continue reading

The Growth of the Church Today and in the Future

In a few weeks lesson #9 in Gospel Doctrine focuses on the organization of the Church. While I was studying this lesson for an upcoming Interpreter Scripture Roundtable, I did a quick napkin calculation of the Church’s growth. At a current modest 2.5% growth rate, the LDS Church could have over 33 million members in 30 years, more than doubling the number today, and adding almost 1 million members per year at that point. Reflecting back, it took 117 years to reach just 1 million members total in 1947. The Church has added nearly 10 million just since I was born in 1981, an increase of almost 300%, or a 3 fold increase. For members in their 60s, they’ve seen over 10 fold growth since their birth, and those in their 80s, over 20 fold growth. See the charts I made below: Continue reading

Kuhn’s Insight – John Polkinghorne and The Value of Value

In my last post, I declared victory for Scientific Realism over Positivism on the grounds that even if Positivism is right, it’s first “prediction” must always be that we ignore it as “truth” – at least to some degree – and be committed to our theories a “the truth” or else we can’t make scientific progress.

I therefore declared that on the point that Kuhn and Popper disagree, that Popper wins by default.

However, Kuhn had many insights that Popper missed or downplayed that help fill in the explanation gaps in Popper’s own theories. One of these is the fact that “refutation” really only happens between two (or more) competing theories. While Popper does not deny this, he really didn’t make it as clear as Kuhn either. We will eventually see that this insight is a key point in understanding the value of Theology.

Another explanation gap that Kuhn fills for Popper is explained in this quote:

Fortunately, there is also another sort of consideration that can lead scientists to reject an old paradigm in favor of a new. These are the arguments, rarely made entirely explicit, that appeal to the individual’s sense of the appropriate or the aesthetic – the new theory is staid to be “neater,” “more suitable,” or “simpler” than the old. (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 155) Continue reading

Why Scientific Realism Wins

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

Stephen Hawking’s Defense of Positivism

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.

Continue reading