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Science theory concerns itself with the possibilities and the limits of scientific knowledge.
Science theory concerns itself with the possibilities and the limits of scientific knowledge. The basic assumptions of a theory are discussed, applicable methods for increasing man’s knowledge are explained, and, eventually, the validity of scientific pronouncements is reviewed and evaluated. Some basic principles (P1–P11) are enunciated below:
P1: Every theory requires basic assumptions (a priori postulates) which cannot be proved. These presuppositions are not observable, but are of a metaphysical nature (Greek: metà tá physiká = above physics, i.e., not based on observation). Such assumptions are recognized by convention. As W. Stegmüller [S7, p. 33] affirms: “One need not push knowledge aside to make place for belief. Rather, one must already believe something before you can speak of knowledge and science.”
P2: The basic assumptions are arbitrary postulates which appear plausible to the author. According to the theoreticist Karl R. Popper, the fundamental principles of a theoretical system may be compared to the conclusions reached by a jury in a criminal case. The verdict is the basis for the practical processes which comprise the joint deductions made from the statutes of criminal law. The verdict, however, need not be the final judgment; it can be repealed or revised by an appropriate process.
Popper explains [P5, p. 110–111], “The analogy between this procedure and that by which we decide basic statements is clear. It throws light, for example, upon their relativity, and the way in which they depend upon questions raised by the theory. In the case of the trial by jury, it would be clearly impossible to apply the ‘theory’ unless there is first a verdict arrived at by decision; yet the verdict has to be found in a procedure that conforms to, and thus applies, part of the general legal code. The case is analogous to that of basic statements. Their acceptance is part of the application of a theoretical system; and it is only this application which makes any further applications of the theoretical system possible. The empirical basis of objective science has thus nothing ‘absolute’ about it. Science does not rest upon rock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or ‘given’ base; and when we cease our attempts to drive our piles into a deeper layer, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that they are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.”
P3: The initial postulates must be mutually consistent and should be free from inherent contradictions.
P4: When competing theories contradict one another (apart from errors in measurement and observations), the fault is not to be sought in the facts, but in differences in the basic postulates.
P5: The basic postulates may be objectively criticized and even rejected. The quality of the basic assumptions of two competing systems determines the practical success of the ensuing theories.
P6: If a theory is successful, it does not follow that it is correct. “Consequently, theories are never empirically verifiable” (K. Popper; [P5, p. 17]). According to Popper, consistency is not a truth criterion, but, on the other hand, inconsistency does falsify a theory. No all-inclusive theorem, like “All swans are white” can ever be verified, not even by endless experimentation. Theories can only survive, and are only provisionally valid, for as long as they are not shown to be false by empirical reality (when a single black swan is found), and subsequently replaced by a new, better theory.
P7: An empirical scientific system must allow experimentation. Popper proposes the falsifiability of a theory as criterion, not its verifiability. This means that it must be possible to negate a theory by means of methodical experimentation; the logical structure of the system must allow for negation [P5, p. 41]. “It must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience.” One single contradictory experimental or observational result is therefore sufficient to discard a theory in its present form. A theory is good exactly when it can very readily be refuted. If it then survives any barrage of crossfire attacks, it proves its merit. It becomes a “natural law” only after very many substantiations.
The physical law of the conservation of energy is a prime example of a very easily refutable theory, because one single unexpected experimental result will be sufficient to disprove it. This has never happened, and this law is generally accepted. Furthermore, it is a fundamentally important and useful theorem in all the exact and technical sciences. Any theory which ensures itself against falsification, and which is therefore inviolable, is scientifically trivial and untenable. It only provides a philosophical viewpoint.
Consequently, Popper defines the “real sciences” as follows [P5, p. 314]:
Insofar as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable: and insofar as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.
P8: It is necessary to distinguish between structural and exact sciences on the one hand, and historical-interpretive sciences on the other hand, because of fundamental differences. This aspect is discussed fully in [P6, p. 112 ff ].
P9: In contrast to the theorems of the structural sciences (mathematics, informatics), no theorems of the experimental sciences can be proved; they are only more, or less, strongly established: “All knowledge is only inferential. The various conjectures or hypotheses are intuitive inferences. They are weeded out by experience, bitter experiences, and they are replaced by better conjectures: This is the only end result of experimentation in science” (K.R. Popper; [P5, p. 565]).
Popper also states that sure knowledge is denied us. Our knowledge is a guessing game, a network of hypotheses, a fabric of conjectures [P5, p. 278]: “We do not know: we can only guess. And our guesses are guided by the unscientific, the metaphysical faith in laws, in regularities which we can uncover, discover.”
P10: A theory can only be advanced if an example that can be practically duplicated (by experiment or observation), is available. The theorems derived from the theory must be testable, or rejectable by falsification. The acceptance of a theory depends on its repeatability.
P11: A theory must allow predictions. The correctness of such predictions is a prerequisite for the acceptability of a theory.
In what follows, we will discuss the essential theoretical principles of the doctrines of creation and of evolution, and of theistic evolution. It will be patently clear that the two views are so strongly divergent, that reconciliation is totally impossible. This calls for a decision. In chapters 3 to 6 we will show that the observations and facts of the exact sciences can be convincingly explained by the creation model.