jeudi 16 juillet 2015

What was Geological Competence Back Then? Referring to Terry Mortensen

I will cite as a little table seven theses with examples, extracted from a much longer article. The theses deal with Geological Competence in 1820's and 1830's, when the modern Geology was being formed. A little before it provoked Darwinism.

Principle (1-7) Examples named
(1) A competent geologist need not be a member of the Geological Society of London.  William Smith, John Farey, Robert Bakewell, estimated one third of competent geologists 1834–1837 (Devonian controversy).
(2) Being well-travelled, especially internationally, or having firsthand knowledge of the geology and geography of an area was not essential to write competently on geology.  John Macculloch, George Fairholme and Lyell in relation to Niagara falls, James Hutton, Georges Cuvier.
(3) A person need not be gainfully employed as a geologist in order to be a competent geologist in the 1820s and 1830s.  Murchison, part time De la Beche, part time Lyell, George P. Scrope, George Greenough who was the first president of the Geological Society.
(4) A competent geologist in the early nineteenth century did not necessarily have a good knowledge of conchology.  William Smith, "the Father of English Geology", initially Lyell
(5) A person did not need to publish geological articles in scientific journals in order to be regarded as a competent geologist.  William Smith, again
(6) A competent geologist’s interpretations of the rocks were not unaffected by non-scientific considerations.  Buckland as well as Lyell [acc to respectively Nicholaas Rupke and Rudwick]
(7) To be considered geologically competent (even highly so) a person did not need to agree with the dominant theory.  Lyell, William Smith.

My own conclusion, before linking to my source, is that many criteria of competence have been developed lately as pilpuls for exclusion.

As a bonus, I will cite as source for Silmarillion's geology, William Smith. Tolkien gave an Old Earth scenario, which as a Catholic he probably combined with sth like gap theory. He set the end of LotR at Ussher's date for Creation - to indicate, I suppose that all of his works are supposed to refer to a past creation, before the Earth was, as in Genesis 1:2 empty and void. Of course, in his artistic imagination. What is notable about it is that there are several supernatural catastrophes in it. The felling of the two lanterns, as well as some other early ones, up to killing of two trees, the cataclysm end of I age which drowned Beleriand, the cataclysm end of II age which drowned Numenor (alias Atlantis, Tolkien's version differring from that of Cayce), and the upheaval of Mount Doom at end of III age. Now, with this in mind, take a look at these paragraphs, illustrating principle 7:

(7) To be considered geologically competent (even highly so) a person did not need to agree with the dominant theory.

This is obvious, but it is worth stating. Lyell was considered geologically competent when his extreme uniformitarian theory was presented in opposition to the mainstream view of the catastrophists. Therefore, a scriptural geologist could not legitimately be considered geologically incompetent simply because he opposed the old-earth interpretations of the rocks. In the 1820s and 1830s it would have been inconsistent to say that in order to be considered as geologically competent a person could not question the time and natural processes responsible for the production of the whole geological record (as the scriptural geologists did), when catastrophists and uniformitarians were debating over the time and processes involved in producing particular formations or strata within that record. This is especially seen in the case of William Smith, who unlike any other catastrophists and the uniformitarians believed in multiple supernatural catastrophes, each followed by supernatural creation.293 Yet in 1829 Phillips wrote of him,

‘Mr Smith is no theorist in the ordinary sense of the word. His whole life has been spent in practical researches, to prove the truth, and extend the benefit, of those general laws of structure which he was the first to promulgate in England. Besides discovering, at nearly the same period as Werner, the principle of the arrangement of secondary strata, he added the important doctrine, that organic fossils are distributed in the earth according to regular laws, and may be employed to discriminate and identify the rocks. Werner and Smith are, therefore, the leaders of the modern school of geology, and whilst every fresh investigation illustrates the truth of their general principles, their names will be honoured with increasing respect, though every “theory” should be forgotten’.

OK - can we take it that JRRT in his capacity of geology fan and "not quite literal Genesis" creationist (though he tried to bring it closish), was a student of William Smith?

I would not be surprised if it were the case.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Our Lady of Carmel


British scriptural geologists in the first half of the nineteenth century: part 1
Historical setting
by Terry Mortenson


I cite "verdict" (rather "mendacidict", actually, if you know what the Latin terms mean, but that is another matter) of Kitzmiller vs Dover trial:*

Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. (9:19-22 (Haught); 5:25-29 (Pennock); 1:62 (Miller)). This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. (5:28 (Pennock)). Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth. (9:21-22 (Haught ); 1:63 (Miller)). In deliberately omitting theological or "ultimate" explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of "meaning" and "purpose" in the world. (9:21 (Haught); 1:64, 87 (Miller)). While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. (3:103 (Miller); 9:19-20 (Haught)). This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as "methodological naturalism" and is sometimes known as the scientific method. (5:23, 29-30 (Pennock)). Methodological naturalism is a "ground rule" of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify. (1:59-64, 2:41-43 (Miller); 5:8, 23-30 (Pennock)).

This "expert testimony" was obviously as incompetent in history as is usually the case with Natural Scientists (especially non-creationists) who unwarily stumble into that area.

William Smith, as cited above, very clearly did NOT consider that "science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena" in the early 19th C, and much less than so since the 17th C.

What is perhaps rather the case is that those 17th C. scientists who are read with appreciation now by the "scientific community" (that sect! or most of them at least) are the ones who do so restrict themselves, except perhaps as to easily isolated aspects of their work.

So, what did Miller say on the purpose?**

Q. Could you please read for the record the highlighted passage?

A. Be glad to. This is the opening of the third section of this book, and it opens basically by defining science. And it says, and I quote, Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from confirmable data, the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not part of science.

Q. Do you agree with that statement?

A. I certainly do.

Q. How long have these rules of science been in effect?

A. I'm tempted to say forever, but I think certainly for the last 200 years of contemporary science, the notion that science -- in other words, all of the 19th Century and all of the 20th Century and now into the 21st -- the notion that science can only deal with empirical data, what we can see, what we can observe, and what we can measure, has been part of the common understanding of science in all people in all cultures.

Q. So science doesn't -- these rules don't just apply in the United States?

A. No, sir, they don't. I think science might be the closest thing we have on this planet to a universal culture, and these rules apply everywhere.

Q. Why are these rules important?

A. These rules are important because if you don't have these rules, you don't have science. The entire -- human beings are fallible, and I mentioned that science is a human activity. It's a systematic search for natural explanations for natural phenomena.

And if you invoke a non-natural cause, a spirit force or something like that in your research and I decide to test it, I have no way to test it. I can't order that from a biological supply house, I can't grow it in my laboratory. And that means that your explanations in that respect, even if they were correct, were not something I could test or replicate, and therefore they really wouldn't be part of science.

Q. So supernatural causation is not considered part of science?

A. Yeah. I hesitate to beg the patience of the Court with this, but being a Boston Red Sox fan, I can't resist it. One might say, for example, that the reason the Boston Red Sox were able to come back from three games down against the New York Yankees was because God was tired of George Steinbrenner and wanted to see the Red Sox win.

In my part of the country, you'd be surprised how many people think that's a perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened last year. And you know what, it might be true, but it certainly is not science, it's not scientific, and it's certainly not something we contest. So, yes, those rules certainly apply.

I think Miller was foresworn, unless he simply was unaware of William Smith, who wrote later than 200 years before the trial, and therefore broke this statement of "universal scientific culture". Indeed, I think Miller got this idea of an universal scientific culture from 20th C. Communists more than from an objective study of what 19th C. scientists actually said and wrote.

His example of how not to include a supernatural explanation in science is very ill chosen.

Whether God was tired of George Steinbrenner or not is not a scientific question, not because it involves God, but because it deals with one particular event.

No one can have scientific certitude of what I ate for yesterday's breakfast, and that has nothing to do with yesterday's breakfast being a miracle in the usual sense, but simply with the fact that breakfasts vary.

One man can eat bacon and egg, one man can eat a bakery sweet, one man can eat toast ... in my case, as I am homeless in France, bakery sweets is most likely most breakfasts, but nevertheless other possibilities cannot à priori be excluded. Plus one can eat for breakfast what one could have eaten for a larger meal the day before. Therefore, some particular person's breakfast on a particular date is not a scientific question (except when dead people are dissected). And this is also true on why Providence favoured such and such a team win - what if the real reason was someone in Red Sox was tired of life, and needed a girl friend and got one he impressed by those three wins of the Red Sox? We cannot know, there are so many other single person factors to be considered by God that we cannot know which of them was decisive.

Precisely as with breakfast menues there are so many possibilities, including no solid at all, that one can have, if any, only historic certainty of yesterday's breakfast.

What one can say with scientific certainty about teams winning, is : there is no known mechanism to scientifically guarantee one team wins, since any mechanism used by one team can also be used by the other, therefore, even naturally speaking, there is always room for Providence to decide, even without miracles.

God being a supernatural explanation is therefore NOT the reason why "God was tired of George Steinbrenner" is not a valid scientific explanation for Red Sox winning.

Miller was as bad on philosophy of science as on its history.

Other reason given by Miller, one cannot order a spiritual force for the lab and test it. Well, duh, aren't there a lot of things in the universe or history of life on earth which for exact same reason are not science, where even what you say cannot be tested. It could at the most be tested by parallel. And for spirits conducting matter, you have your own soul deciding what letters your pen or keyboard writes. That is as much a parallel as "stone on string" (a bad parallel! so it is more of a parallel than stone on string) for Newtonian explanation of two body problems in celestial mechanics.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
later on
Our Lady of Carmel

* Whether ID is science?

** Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
Trial transcript: Day 1 (September 26), AM Session, Part 1