Friday, February 13, 2009

What Is Time?

Kevin at After Existentialism, Light wants to celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday by buying this book for every Young Earth Creationist. I looked up some reviews on Amazon and was pleased with what I read:

Young's treatment of origins from a geological point of view is fully cognizant of the theological and doctrinal issues with which Evangelicals struggle and the need to bring science and Scripture into vibrant conversation. And as I said before, the tone is pastoral: the authors have no interest in winning a rhetorical battle. Rather, their wish is to provide a thorough assessment of the available evidence, evaluate young-Earth creationism, and encourage those who hold an Evangelical faith with a paradigm for holding the two worlds together.

I haven't read the book, so I can't comment on its content. But I can zero in on the word "paradigm" at the end of that quote--for that is a word that means a lot more than people seem to think.

Thomas Kuhn turned "paradigm" into a buzzword when he published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962. Here's Wikipedia's current entry on "paradigm shift":

A scientific revolution occurs, according to Kuhn, when scientists encounter anomalies which cannot be explained by the universally accepted paradigm within which scientific progress has thereto been made. The paradigm, in Kuhn's view, is not simply the current theory, but the entire worldview in which it exists, and all of the implications which come with it. There are anomalies for all paradigms, Kuhn maintained, that are brushed away as acceptable levels of error, or simply ignored and not dealt with (a principal argument Kuhn uses to reject Karl Popper's model of falsifiability as the key force involved in scientific change). Rather, according to Kuhn, anomalies have various levels of significance to the practitioners of science at the time....

When enough significant anomalies have accrued against a current paradigm, the scientific discipline is thrown into a state of crisis, according to Kuhn. During this crisis, new ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tried. Eventually a new paradigm is formed, which gains its own new followers, and an intellectual "battle" takes place between the followers of the new paradigm and the hold-outs of the old paradigm.

Kuhn says that scientists have to have a paradigm to be scientists. In general, when a scientist discovers so many anomalies to his existing paradigm that he can't sleep with himself any longer, he doesn't just throw out his old paradigm to go look for a new one. A scientist without a paradigm isn't a scientist--he's just as likely to burn his lab coat and open a bicycle shop.

With all due respect for Young and Stearley, I don't expect God, Rocks, and Time to end the war. The battle between "fundamentalism" and "modernism" has been raging for more than a century, and even though it's Darwin's 200th birthday, there's no evidence that modernism is winning the war. To the secular mind, this just proves how blind and wicked fundamentalists are. They simply won't accept the evidence! To the fundamental mind, this just proves how blind and wicked secularists are. They simply won't believe God!

If there is a God, then He is the God of the evidence. That means that a believer cannot ignore the evidence forever. But if that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible, then we can't ignore that evidence, either. Each approach has too many anomalies to satisfy a believer.

Which brings me back to the title of Young and Stearley's book, The Bible, Rocks, and Time. Modernists are willing to question the Bible; young earth creationists are willing to question the rocks. I'd like to suggest a third option--why not take a fresh look at time?

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