Thursday, April 3, 2014

Science and Faith in the News ("On Sceptics")

A couple of weeks ago, scientists announced findings consistent with the so-called “Big Bang Theory.“  Gravitational waves, dating back to the “birth” of the universe, 13.7 billion years ago, were recorded.

A few weeks prior, a televised debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye made the news.  The bow-tied Bill Nye, the Science Guy, is familiar to television-viewing audiences, but Ken Ham was a new name to many.  Ham is a biblical literalist who heads both the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis (AiG), the leading voice of “young Earth” creationism.  I met Ham once when I was doing a short documentary on the museum for a class I was taking at the time.

Ham is a skeptic when it comes to the claims of science.  Nye is a skeptic when it comes to Ham’s religious notions.

David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher, also questioned science’s findings. Hume identified, what he called, “the problem of induction.”  On the predictive value of observational data, he wrote: “Although the sun arose every single morning of my life, I cannot assume that it will necessarily do so tomorrow.” Why not? Because “if we proceed not upon some fact, present to the memory or senses, our reasonings would be merely hypothetical.”

The problem of establishing an incontestable link between cause and effect, in Hume’s view, relates to the credibility of past events. Both prediction and historical accounts require a certain degree of trust.

Hume’s insistence that we cannot definitively prove causal relationships notwithstanding, practically speaking, most of us cannot live comfortably without trust, even if we recognize that some cause-event-connections and witnesses are more trustworthy than others.

Skeptics endure doubt-filled lives since there are many claims about the nature of reality that we cannot test and confirm for ourselves.

See—-peter-han.  Han is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago.  His recent article inspired my blog entry above.

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