Bifurcation of the mind

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  • #1
Evo
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Let's keep this about the subject. This isn't about religion, but about people believing in one thing (creationism) and pursuing an advanced scientific degree. Some say it is for carrying the "legitimate" degree in order to give credibility to creationism and shouldn't be allowed if they really don't believe in what they are doing.

They do excellent work on the secular side, but admit they don't believe in it.

Although this guy teaches at a Jerry Falwell University, he claims not to push students either way. He may be an exception.

What are your thought's on this? I think it's rather interesting. People gathering useful data although they don't believe in it.

Believing Scripture but Playing by Science’s Rules

His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is “impeccable,” said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser. “He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework.”

But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a “young earth creationist” — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/12/science/12geologist.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
 

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  • #2
siddharth
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What are your thought's on this? I think it's rather interesting. People gathering useful data although they don't believe in it.

I think this is very strange.

For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”

I wonder how he's able to hold such a belief based only on faith, while understanding the scientific evidence which contradicts that belief.
 
  • #3
I wonder how he's able to hold such a belief based only on faith, while understanding the scientific evidence which contradicts that belief.
He just doesn't mind a little inconsistency. There can be more than one type of "belief", you know.
 
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  • #4
Curious3141
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Well, microbiologists are supposed to be staunch believers in evolution, seeing as we observe its effects on a daily basis. Yet most of my senior microbiology colleagues are Christian creationists. They justify the apparent contradiction by claiming they believe in "microevolution" (evolution within a species taxon) but not "macroevolution" (speciation by means of evolutionary processes).
 
  • #5
Moonbear
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I don't know how someone can believe simultaneously that something they are studying is millions of years old, having occurred on a planet they believe is only 10,000 years old. It seems at least a little dishonesty must be involved, either in what he is willing to admit to the public about his beliefs, or in what he is trying to force himself to believe.

I can better understand what Curious describes, where someone attempts to rationalize the conflict away.
 
  • #6
verty
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I don't know how someone can believe simultaneously that something they are studying is millions of years old, having occurred on a planet they believe is only 10,000 years old.

I don't think science requires belief. One can produce theories that serve to explain things without any pretense at ultimate truth. It's quite consistent (but unfounded) to suppose that the world popped into existence but had a nature that appears to have existed for longer.
 
  • #7
Ivan Seeking
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I see no problem here. One key aspect of science that one's personal opinion doesn't matter. Should String theorists be banned from teaching LQG? Also, this whole notion smacks of fear of skepticism.
 
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  • #8
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How can you believe that the earth is less than 10 000 years and at the same time present evidence that says fossils that have substantial evidence to be much older? It is just a step away from the so called "creationism science".

I agree that personal opinion on most things does not matter to science. A scientist is not less respected if he is a liberal than if he was a social democrat.

However, would you like a have a politician in charge of infrastructure and faced with a decision to ban or penalize a casino if he has a massive amount of share in the business? There is a risk that his opinion on making money from the shares affects his decision on the issue.

Would you accept an active child molester working as a social worker? A known serial rapist working as a judge in rape cases or having jury duty? Would you approve of a outspoken and practicing Islamic Jihad terrorist working with US government nuclear confinement and disposal?

I do agree that scientists that has some kind of religious beliefs are not less credible generally, but you cannot escape the underlying conflict; fundamental creationism cannot successfully be united with science and scientific methodology.

Science is a gradual improvement of the body of knowledge, incorporating experimental data. Creationism is about turning untested beliefs based upon scriptures to absolute truth, caring little about the world around us.
 
  • #9
Astronuc
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He just doesn't mind a little inconsistency. There can be more than one type of "belief", you know.
I agree that such minds dwell in inconsistency, and like Siddharth mentioned, I find it strange, or perhaps odd.

It troubles me that people 'believe' something is truthful even in the face of evidence which completely contradicts the truth. The power of denial is very strong it seems. I wonder if there is some underlying fear in such minds, and that fear overwhelms the rational being.
 
  • #10
verty
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I think (perhaps naively) that when scientists start to believe in science they can become dogmatic and resistant to change. These world-view arguments are philosophical rather than scientific and should be seen as a separate issue.

Scientific theories serve to explain things far more precisely and predictably than any other methodology but yes each is 'just a theory'. Of course, scientific theories are justifiably better than any other theory out there for the purpose of explanation but I don't think we should become dogmatic in defense of a scientific world view.

If a scientific world view is better than some other, that is a separate philosophical issue.
 
  • #11
arildno
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Of course, scientific theories are justifiably better than any other theory out there for the purpose of explanation but I don't think we should become dogmatic in defense of a scientific world view.
Since the only "scientific world view" I know of says that we need to study nature if we are to understand nature, I really don't see how it ever is going to be wrong.
 
  • #12
Kurdt
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Of all the people out there scientists perhaps have the greatest right to be dogmatic about certain things, yet most are not.
 
  • #13
verty
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I mean dogmatism for theories like phlogiston theory or caloric theory, or like that in other disciplines for behaviourism or cognitivism. Theories like these come and go but the method remains.
 
  • #14
verty
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Let me elucidate. It's like the scientific method transcends world views but by "scientific world view" I mean any such current world view as put forward by scientists, like that dark matter exists or whatever.
 
  • #15
arildno
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Darwin once said "a wrong theory is an inconvenience, a wrong fact is a disaster".

Most practising scientists live by that rule, I believe.

The main problem with the creationist "scientist" is his basic intellectual dishonesty. Whether or not God exists is an issue to be decided FACTUALLY (since it by itself is no model for predictions that can be verified/falsified), and hence, he should not, when being true to scientific principles, accord that belief any weight unless he has ascertained the statement's truth by empirical means.
 
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  • #16
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I can see a problem with believing something that is contradicted by experience.

I don't see any problem with believing something that is at odds with the beliefs of all the other scientists in the world.

I can see a problem with someone who can't distinguish between these two.
 
  • #17
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verty, science and scientist does not try to conserve some kind of status quo. As a matter of fact, science is open to everything, provided that it follows scientific methodology. Even quite pathetic phrases such as "You will be hit by a car during the next minute" is a scientific hypothesis, because experiments can be done to disprove it.

'A scientist is happy, not in resting on his attainments but in the steady acquisition of fresh knowledge.' - Max Planck

You need also separate the terms 'scientific theory' form just any another linguistic meaning of 'theory'. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses."

A theory in the general, unscientific sense, means nothing more than barely an education guess.

Science does not ignore evolution just because it is a theory; there are investigations into scientific theories, because most of science is scientific theories.
 
  • #18
Moonbear
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Also, this whole notion smacks of fear of skepticism.

I don't think that's the problem at all. When I was still an undergrad, I knew a geology grad student who was a Y.E.C. as well, and asked her how she could reconcile studying a subject where dating systems had shown things were millions of years old with her belief that the Earth was only a few thousands of years old. In that case, she explained that her reasons were that she wanted to understand enough to interpret the evidence for herself, and seemed at least somewhat open to changing her view if the evidence satisfied her. Beyond that, she also was doing her dissertation work in an area of geology that did not require knowing or accepting evidence on the age of geological formations (as an example, those drilling for oil don't really care how old the rock is that they're drilling through, but they still need to know its composition and how many layers and how deep it is and if there are any faults in it in order to select the right location and equipment for the drilling). I wish I had kept in touch with her to find out if the evidence was ever enough to sway her beliefs, or if she ever even looked at it, or just avoided anything about dating of geological formations.

Now, the one possibility here is that the article is misrepresenting just what he wrote in his dissertation when it says, "His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago."

For example, if what he really wrote was something like: "...monosaurs, reported to have vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era..." and then cited the relevant studies, then he would be writing in a scholarly manner without claiming he agreed with those studies.

But, if his work was dependent on dating of the materials he was working with, then I don't know how he could be satisfied his methods were valid while not believing the results, or without that validation of the method convincing him that his previously held beliefs were incorrect.
 
  • #19
Gokul43201
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I don't see any problem with believing something that is at odds with the beliefs of all the other scientists in the world.
But that's not what is described in the OP. This is about you believing something that is at odds with what you (not all other scientists) believe.
 
  • #20
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I can see a problem with believing something at odds with what you believe.

But I disagree with you about what the OP said. The OP says its:

"about people believing in one thing (creationism) and pursuing an advanced scientific degree."

Where is the part about believing something at odds with what you believe?
 
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  • #21
Astronuc
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Where is the part about believing something at odds with what you believe?
I believe the inference is the conflict between rational thought (science or scientific method) and mythical thought (creationism).

In the context of the OP, a scientist (Dr. Ross) reportedly believes that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, which contradicts the observation (evidence) that the mosasours existed 65 million years ago.

Moonbear said:
Now, the one possibility here is that the article is misrepresenting just what he wrote in his dissertation when it says, "His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago."
That's a good point. Is someone reporting the facts, or reporting some of the facts, but not the whole story.
 
  • #22
verty
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Whether or not God exists is an issue to be decided FACTUALLY (since it by itself is no model for predictions that can be verified/falsified), and hence, he should not, when being true to scientific principles, accord that belief any weight unless he has ascertained the statement's truth by empirical means.

I read 'scientific principles' as being purely methodological. If he can separate his personal belief from his work, there should be no problem. It is for science to investigate the question of whether such a person can be impartial; any results it finds will be according to science. If science can benefit from the work of impartial theists then that is good for science.

It remains for each of us to choose choose our methodology. Certainly a theistic scientist can believe that there is place for them in science, but science will only accept a scientific argument to that effect (I mean to argue before the question of who bears the burden).

I am using the term 'methodology' here to mean 'approach'. Perhaps the correct word is method but it seems that a method presupposes certain aims and goals. I think scientists and theists generally have different aims and goals, so I would say they differ in methodology rather than in method.
 
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  • #23
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the observation (evidence) that the mosasours existed 65 million years ago.
I expect that you and I will disagree forever on what constitutes an observation. By that word I mean something that you percieved with the senses. Probably, the dating of mosasours is done with some kind of radioactive dating technique. What was observed was the readings on the equipment. It takes theory to turn those observations (needle readings) into dates. As I said, beliefs at odds with those readings are problematical in my estimation. However, a belief at odds with the theories that link those readings to dates is not. If you actually observed the passage of 65 million years, that would change my stance in this case.
 
  • #24
Evo
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For example, if what he really wrote was something like: "...monosaurs, reported to have vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era..." and then cited the relevant studies, then he would be writing in a scholarly manner without claiming he agreed with those studies.

But, if his work was dependent on dating of the materials he was working with, then I don't know how he could be satisfied his methods were valid while not believing the results, or without that validation of the method convincing him that his previously held beliefs were incorrect.
In the article it says

"And though his dissertation repeatedly described events as occurring tens of millions of years ago, Dr. Ross added, “I did not imply or deny any endorsement of the dates.”

Also -

"Others say the crucial issue is not whether Dr. Ross deserved his degree but how he intends to use it.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Ross said his goal in studying at secular institutions “was to acquire the training that would make me a good paleontologist, regardless of which paradigm I was using.”

Today he teaches earth science at Liberty University, the conservative Christian institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell where, Dr. Ross said, he uses a conventional scientific text.

“We also discuss the intersection of those sorts of ideas with Christianity,” he said. “I don’t require my students to say or write their assent to one idea or another any more than I was required.”

But he has also written and spoken on scientific subjects, and with a creationist bent. While still a graduate student, he appeared on a DVD arguing that intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, is a better explanation than evolution for the Cambrian explosion, a rapid diversification of animal life that occurred about 500 million years ago.

Online information about the DVD identifies Dr. Ross as “pursuing a Ph.D. in geosciences” at the University of Rhode Island. It is this use of a secular credential to support creationist views that worries many scientists."

The article is short and raises some interesting points pro and con.
 
  • #25
Gokul43201
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I expect that you and I will disagree forever on what constitutes an observation. By that word I mean something that you percieved with the senses. Probably, the dating of mosasours is done with some kind of radioactive dating technique. What was observed was the readings on the equipment. It takes theory to turn those observations (needle readings) into dates.
It takes a theory to make anything out of any observation. If you see a thing with beak and wings, and "know" you're looking at a bird, you have applied (albeit subconsciously) a theory that talks about the common characteristics of things that are assigned the label "bird" and a theory that tells you how light carries information to you about these characteristics.

So there really is no difference between seeing a bird and deducing it's existence from less direct observation, barring, perhaps that one theory takes more involved learning to be familiar with than the other. In the end, it's exactly the same thing.
 
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  • #26
I prefer the Catholics view of Creation, that God invented the Universe and everything was a natural progression of the starting conditions of the Universe, Science wouldn't have any problem with this or indeed anything to say.

Creationism is a strange beast because it only really exists in any widespread form in the US as far as I can tell, even fundamentalists in the UK seldom believe the Earth is 10,000 years old. Most don't even believe in old Earth creationism, ie that the Earth could possibly be millions of years old and God made the Earth and the animals etc.

I really don't think it is necessary for scientists to give much of a nod towards creationism or intelligent design for that matter, unless it's to defend its own assertions; how as a scientist do you argue with people who will quite happily maintain that either: God put dinosaurs there to test us, or that geological science is in error, or that the reason we see billions of billions of stars is because of some closed universe theory with some patently absurd preconditions and so on. Or even that God changes the experimental results as in radio carbon dating.

I mean really is there any point of discussing the rational with those who chose not to approach science with anything like a rational idea or theory? It's probably as useless trying to convince them that the Universe is roughly 15 billion years old as it it is that God doesn't exist. I really wander sometimes why Richard Dawkin's bothers, it's not like he's going to convince anyone who is not already convinced they are delusional anyway.

I mean if I said for example that a pink rhinocerous created the Earth about 5 billion years ago and let all the animals flood out from his enormous mouth? No one would take me seriously, so why bother with creationism? It's hardly any more cogent.

I can understand how some people might work in science and pick and chose their beliefs about evolution, fine if you want to do this, at least you're adding to science, the creationists who are out to destroy evolution - great take your best shot - but those who are out to put their message into science classes or to claim that science is absolutely wrong aren't really worth the effort, and frankly it amazes me they're taken seriously at all.:confused:
 
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  • #27
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It takes a theory to make anything out of any observation.
That's probably true.
In one of Feynmann's books he speaks of the "electron theory". He said that electrons were a theory because no one had ever seen one. Surely he knew of scintillation counters which spark when struck by an electron. Why was he unwilling to call the spark an electron? I think he was making a distinction between what he saw and what he "knew". I do too.
 
  • #28
Gokul43201
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In one of Feynmann's books he speaks of the "electron theory". He said that electrons were a theory because no one had ever seen one. Surely he knew of scintillation counters which spark when struck by an electron. Why was he unwilling to call the spark an electron? I think he was making a distinction between what he saw and what he "knew". I do too.
I'd like to see the exact quote before I believe any of that. I'd have to know it's true if I am to respond.
 
  • #29
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I'd like to see the exact quote before I believe any of that. I'd have to know it's true if I am to respond.
This site recounts the story. The original is in the book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman"
http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/52377.html

In _Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman_, Richard Feynman tells a
wonderful story about a philosophy seminar that he attended, in which
the participants were discussing Alfred North Whitehead's theory of
'essential objects'. After they'd been talking for a while, someone
asked Feynman if he thought that an electron would be considered an
'essential object', according to Whitehead's definition. Feynman
hadn't really been paying attention, so he decided to ask a question
of his own, which would help him figure out what they'd been talking
about.

He asked: "Is a brick an essential object?" He was going to ask a
followup question - "Is the _inside_ of a brick an essential object?"
- and then argue that an electron is like the inside of a brick, in
the sense that we _know_ that they exist, but no one has ever really
seen one. (You can't see the inside of a brick, because if you break
the brick in two, you just have two new bricks, and you can only see
their outsides!)
 
  • #30
Astronuc
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In _Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman_, Richard Feynman tells a
wonderful story about a philosophy seminar that he attended, in which
the participants were discussing Alfred North Whitehead's theory of
'essential objects'. After they'd been talking for a while, someone
asked Feynman if he thought that an electron would be considered an
'essential object', according to Whitehead's definition. Feynman
hadn't really been paying attention, so he decided to ask a question
of his own, which would help him figure out what they'd been talking
about.

He asked: "Is a brick an essential object?" He was going to ask a
followup question - "Is the _inside_ of a brick an essential object?"
- and then argue that an electron is like the inside of a brick, in
the sense that we _know_ that they exist, but no one has ever really
seen one. (You can't see the inside of a brick, because if you break
the brick in two, you just have two new bricks, and you can only see
their outsides!)
Isn't this limiting 'observability' to 'see-ability', i.e. only direct observation counts, and indirect observation doesn't?

One could 'see' inside a brick with X-ray tomography, or doesn't that count. One could determine the mass of the brick and knowing the density (determined from experiment) of the material determine that the brink must have an inside of the same substance.
 

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