The Paradigm Argument

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The Paradigm Argument

Postby jon_12091 » Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:28 pm

Not strictly science as such, but this area seems close enough. I keep coming across the paradigm argument that somehow a naturalistic mental straightjacket prevents scientists from properly interpreting the evidence to show that Genesis is correct. The philosophy of science is well out of my range, can anyone give a potted history and summary of the argument?
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby cathy » Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:33 pm

I can't. I don't think I'd ever had any call to use the word paradigm before this forum and I'm pretty sure I'd never heard it used in a science lesson.

I think its definition needs updating. It now mainly seems to mean a lame excuse used incessantly by creationists to cover for a complete absence of evidence for their beleifs.
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby oddbeaver » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:46 pm

I can't give you a history of the argument as used by card-carrying creationists, 'cos I'm not one. But I can maybe give the gist, as Thomas Kuhn's idea of a paradigm (especially in its later sense) is actually tied to the whole idea that our current - let's call it 'mindset' for a minute - has an effect on how we view new information, and that that has an impact on the way science happens.

Kuhn originally suggested 'paradigm' largely in the sense of a simple but informative model, like the example of two balls dropped from the same height, but one rolling down a ramp and the other dropped freely (I think this one was attributed to Galieo - he played with balls a lot). IIRC, the idea of that little model is that asking which ball is travelling fastest helps one understand that 'fast' is a more complicated idea than it first sounds; both balls are travelling equally fast at the end of the fall, but one takes longer to get there. This in turn obliges us to dispense with our original idea of what 'fast' meant and replace it with a set of theories that separates the ideas of speed, velocity and acceleration. One of these comes close to what 'fast' probably means to most folk.

One of Kuhn's extra observations was that after we've done that and have our new collection of theories, 'fast' no longer means 'quick' or 'taking the shortest time', as it might before our theory shift, but perhaps more like 'highest speed'. Our new view of the world changed the meaning of the term sufficiently that we must at least be very vareful about which mindset we're talking in when we say 'fast'. A rather stronger example is what 'heat' was before phlogiston was replaced with energy; then, heat was a fluid, while now it is a manifestation of energy. (That would be a 'paradigm shift'). We can't have useful conversations with a phlogiston scientist if we try to use 'heat' concepts based on our current energy viewpoint.

Kuhn went on to say that while a particular paradigm is in force, science mostly proceeds within that paradigm. We tend to design experiments that test that paradigm, and we tend to interpret the resuts in terms of the paradigm. For example, we now interpret temperature changes in terms of energy movement and look for sources of energy, where a phlogiston adherent would have wondered where the fluid was leaking from or (as Raleigh did) try to weigh it.

Now, from personal experience as a researcher, I would say that Kuhn had a point. While I was looking at the conformational properties of fluorinated olefins during my PhD, there is not doubt that I automatically reached for the then current toolkit; energy, electronic interactions, Slater-type molecular orbital theory and so on. I saw all my observable spectral frequencies as observations of the energy differences between quantum energy levels, not as telling me the size distribution of little packets of phlogiston floating about in my NMR tubes. So all my interpretations were (and still are!) in terms of the current model. Even my instrument readouts were calibrated to give values to quantities that make sense in my current world view - watts, for example, aren't 'cubic centimetres of phlogiston per second'. And of course, being a recent PhD I was still getting to grips with current theory and trying to fit my ideas to that; there was no way I was equipped to say 'hang on a minute; this whole quantum mechanics thing is junk and should be replaced by a continuous universe mediated by tiny invisible green ants who can only carry finite amounts of phlogiston'. (Well, actually I was pretty well equipped NOT to say that, but you get my drift).

This certainly happens in most fields of science.When we have a damn' good theory and a world view that it makes sense in, we do experiments that test it, and we try to interpret them in terms of that theory. When they don't fit a theory that has held up very well to date, we don't change the theory initially, we go looking for the reasons that the answer doesn't fit.

Now, the 'paradigm argument' you refer to is that this - I think real - tendency to see things in terms of the current paradigm is evidence that we scientists (and everybdy else, actually) are blinded by our current theory/paradigm/mindset, call it what you like.

There are two things in favour of this argument (at least, two things that I can think of). First, I believe it is true. To an extent. Initially, as Kuhn said, when cracks in the theory appear, they are regarded as anomalies and not taken too seriously. Second, in current Forensic science we have learned that one should look not only at the support that the evidence gives to a finding of guilt, but also at the same evidence taken as support for the alternative hypothesis of innocence. Working scientists don't tend to weigh up competing theories routinely in that way; they don't always have a single competing theory to consider and perhaps because of that they tend to start with an assumed model and attempt to find evidence against it without considering possible alternatives (this is pretty much Popper's view of scientific hypothesis testing). So we are, I believe, both conditioned to dismiss disagreement with current theory or reinterpret in terms of exceptions, and disinclined or unable to consider how the evidence might support a competing theory.

But Kuhn had rather more to say on the point, and so do I. Kuhn observed that as exceptions accumulate, scientists start to question the current theories and eventually the current paradigm. That paradigm will fall and be replaced by another. Newtonian determinism being replaced by Einsteinian relativity quantum is a large scale example: Newtonian gravity was dented by the observations on the orbital perihelion of Mercury, atomic clocks turn out to change relative time in orbit and electrons need relativistic corrections to get the hydrogen emission spectrum exactly right. It all adds up to newtonianism not being enough and Newtonian mechanics became a special case in a larger paradigm. That is, weight of evidence will (and I would say always will) count in the long run. Scientists change their minds given contrary evidence; it's one of the defining characteristics of science. So just because most scientists are too close to the trees to see the shape of the wood by no means indicates that _all_ scientists are blinded to the possibility of other explanations.

My own extra observations:
One might observe - perhaps a tad cynically - that the leading scientists nowadays, or at least the ones who _want_ to be leading scientists - know only too well that it is the challengers of orthodoxy that get the big prizes and rthe repuitation, not the adherents. Much of western science is led by folk trying to tear it down - there is simply no way these folk are blind to alternatives, although they will, of course, be their own alternatives.

The other thing I'd say is that this paradigm idea cuts both ways, and here, for the first time, I am going to mention creationism as an example, because I can't think of a better one. Creationism is as much a paradigm as the idea of evolution by natural selection. If the paradigm argument holds in science - and I believe it does - adherents to creationist theories are as much blinded to other paradigms as adherents of Darwinian natural selection are blinded to creationism.
But I think there's a crucial difference. Science is based on the testable; we will discard a paradigm if evidence shows that it is wanting. We can and will correct a false scientific paradigm. But paradigm blindness is incurable if there is no possibility of contradictory evidence. A scientist blinded by the current paradigm can be cured. The obvious question, given that noone has yet come up with a method of refuting the hypothesis of a creator capable of adjusting the world arbitrarily to fit any observation, is whether a paradigm-blinded creationist can ever be cured.

Bottom line; there is an element of truth in the paradigm-blindness argument, but it is not the whole truth; paradigms in science can be and are changed given evidence.
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby oddbeaver » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:07 pm

cathy wrote:[Paradigm] needs updating. It now mainly seems to mean a lame excuse used incessantly by creationists to cover for a complete absence of evidence for their beleifs.


Cathy, don't ever make the mistake of saying there is no evidence for creationism. There is evidence everywhere you look. You are evidence; penguins are evidence; the sky is evidence. It all came from somewhere, and it's genuinely hard to explain from purely physical theories. Creationism is one explanation - perhaps the only explanation that fits all the facts with almost no gaps. (the rather big gap is 'who did that and where did _they_ come from?').

The point is not the lack of evidence, it is that the same evidence supports other theories. If a scientist dismisses creationism, it should not be because there is no evidence. It should be because the alternative explanations have better support or are - to them - more compelling. As to why they are more compelling, that's a long post indeed. For me, it's mostly the way science explains the details we didn't know were there until we looked.
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby Michael » Sat Feb 19, 2011 5:31 pm

I have no truck with the Paradigm argument.

1. Kuhn's case is weak as in scinece there is never a complete replacement of old ideas. eg Heliocentricity took 14- years to effect and many of the principles, ways of observation remained the same. It was the same with evolution; the geology didnt change, nor the comparitive anatomy etc

2 Creationists argue for alternative paradigms whereas they are bullshitting. Creationism is no scientific paradigm as it is a farrago of bad science nonsense and lies. If anything it is simply Parastic on real science as it selects what it likes and rejects the rest and lo - we have a creationist paradigm. It is just a pernicious parasite.
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby jon_12091 » Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:25 pm

Thanks for the potted explanation - as for the 'history' anyone want to bet good money that creationists didn't latch onto it until after Kuhn died or am being cynical!
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby Michael » Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:55 pm

jon_12091 wrote:Thanks for the potted explanation - as for the 'history' anyone want to bet good money that creationists didn't latch onto it until after Kuhn died or am being cynical!



correct but realistic
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby psiloiordinary » Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:38 am

Oddbeaver;

Any conceivable evidence at all is all evidence in favour of creation. An all powerful god can do anything.

Therefore it isn't evidence in the normal sense in that evidence against creation is impossible.

This is also why creationism is not science and can have no scientific evidence in favour of its broad claim i.e. it isn't testable and what you can't test isn't science.

Specific claims of creationism are testable - and every claim made so far that was specific enough to be tested failed the test.

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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby cathy » Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:17 pm

Cathy, don't ever make the mistake of saying there is no evidence for creationism. There is evidence everywhere you look. You are evidence; penguins are evidence; the sky is evidence. It all came from somewhere, and it's genuinely hard to explain from purely physical theories. Creationism is one explanation - perhaps the only explanation that fits all the facts with almost no gaps. (the rather big gap is 'who did that and where did _they_ come from?').

The point is not the lack of evidence, it is that the same evidence supports other theories. If a scientist dismisses creationism, it should not be because there is no evidence. It should be because the alternative explanations have better support or are - to them - more compelling. As to why they are more compelling, that's a long post indeed. For me, it's mostly the way science explains the details we didn't know were there until we looked.

I'm unaware of the evidence that puts the age of the earth at 6000 years old, that proves that all kinds of things were created simultaneously or that proves the earth was once covered by a global flood that drowned everything? I would imagine that should those events have happened so relatively recently we'd have at least chanced upon something by now.

Those tend to be the creationist arguments I've heard and as far as I'm aware not only is the evidence against more compelling the evidence for is non existent. As for the bigger questions you refer to about the existence of a supernatural being and the who did it etc-they are beyond the current remit of science.Untestable.

As for paradigms, I understand the argument but it still really doesn't give any credibility to the creationist case at all. Paradigms change with new evidence, scientists become famous by overturning paradigms and creationists are stuck in the biggest paradigm lock of all in that they can only interpret anything in the light of the first few pages of the bible. So I stand by my original comment on their use and abuse of the word. It is the only thing they have because as Psi as already said all the specific testable claims they've made have been disproved.
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby Roger Stanyard » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:35 pm

oddbeaver wrote:
cathy wrote:[Paradigm] needs updating. It now mainly seems to mean a lame excuse used incessantly by creationists to cover for a complete absence of evidence for their beleifs.


Cathy, don't ever make the mistake of saying there is no evidence for creationism. There is evidence everywhere you look. You are evidence; penguins are evidence; the sky is evidence. It all came from somewhere, and it's genuinely hard to explain from purely physical theories. Creationism is one explanation - perhaps the only explanation that fits all the facts with almost no gaps. (the rather big gap is 'who did that and where did _they_ come from?').

The point is not the lack of evidence, it is that the same evidence supports other theories. If a scientist dismisses creationism, it should not be because there is no evidence. It should be because the alternative explanations have better support or are - to them - more compelling. As to why they are more compelling, that's a long post indeed. For me, it's mostly the way science explains the details we didn't know were there until we looked.


I think there is some muddled thinking here. The creationists dismiss any and all evidence that contradicts their literal interpretation of the Bible. Marc Surtees, for example, is a proponent of this. Creationism is simply not evidence-based.

Worse still, creationism has no predictive ability whatsoever. It's not an explanation of anything at all.

Creationism is not science; we've seen court case after court case in the USA which have confirmed that it is a religious, not a scientific, position.

Worse, still, there are huge "gaps" in creationism as an explanation of the age of the earth and the differences between species - that's why the creationists are forced to dismiss evidence that contradicts them.

Even Phillip Johnson, the brains behind the Discovery Institute, has spelled out what the real position is of his creationism. He admits that not only is it not a theory, it's not even a hypothesis; it's no more than a set of ideas.
Those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities - Voltaire
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby Michael » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:27 pm

Should we not call it the PARASITE argument, as YEC is parasitic on science
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby marcsurtees » Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:09 am

Roger Stanyard wrote:
I think there is some muddled thinking here. The creationists dismiss any and all evidence that contradicts their literal interpretation of the Bible. Marc Surtees, for example, is a proponent of this. Creationism is simply not evidence-based.


I have to disagree with Roger and agree with Oddbeaver on this one, the evidence is all around us and as far as biology is concerned fits perfectly with the idea that an intelligence designed it all.

Roger Stanyard wrote:Worse still, creationism has no predictive ability whatsoever. It's not an explanation of anything at all.


Considering that some aspects of modern biology (e.g. taxonomy, genetics) were invented by creationists, I think that you would have difficutly sustaining that argument.
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby Michael » Tue Mar 01, 2011 2:19 pm

Mark

Just what is the evidence that is all around us that the earth and its life is intelligently designer. Appeals to baaeuty awe and function do not count.

As for creationists inventing certain disciplines, you are eliding the use of the word creationist to imply your sort of YEC not the fuzzy old earth creationists who never went in for YEC nonsense and porkies.

A duplicitous post
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby cathy » Wed Mar 02, 2011 3:34 pm

have to disagree with Roger and agree with Oddbeaver on this one, the evidence is all around us and as far as biology is concerned fits perfectly with the idea that an intelligence designed it all.

Where is this evidence Marc????????? And don't say you're bored with telling us what it is because that's the answer you always give but I've yet to see you give any!!!! And don't give us a load of old creationist terms like specified complexity cos technically that isn't evidence either is it-it's just a bunch of empty words. Give me the evidence that irreducibly complex organisms are actually irreducibly complex and had a designer, or even some way of testing it other than lots of parts that do something. Otherwise you're just re-doing the God of the gaps argument.

Marc wrote: Considering that some aspects of modern biology (e.g. taxonomy, genetics) were invented by creationists, I think that you would have difficutly sustaining that argument.

Disingenous and dishonest yet again Marc. Creationism as we understand the term here, means people locked in a religious paradigm that forces them to reject any science that does not fit with their literal interpretation of the first couple of pages of the bible. You know that, and you also probably know that Mendel certainly did not reject Darwinism! Try openess honesty for once in your life!!!!
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Re: The Paradigm Argument

Postby Mike Morgan » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:28 am

marcsurtees wrote:Considering that some aspects of modern biology (e.g. taxonomy, genetics) were invented by creationists, I think that you would have difficutly sustaining that argument.



Mendel's work and the implications for it are entirely independent of any theological ideology he may have adhered to. That's the wonderful thing about the scientific method there are checks in place to prevent and discover vested interests and bias. Granted they may not be 100% perfect, but the implications of a piece of work can be independently verified, over and over and over and over and over again. Or they can be falsified.
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