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Theory vs. observation

April 27, 2015

My friend Victor has an interesting comment I’d like to highlight:

In general, I find most of academic pursuits to be critical (self)-reflections in the wake of experience. In this case, I’m not really sure it is necessary to intellectualise or debate the issue. It simply is. There simply are people who practice science in various capacities and do it for a living or do it well if not for a living, at the same time that they hold certain religious beliefs.

We don’t have to figure out a theory or prove anything or determine if it is possible. We already observe it. There doesn’t really seem to be an argument. I think we’re sometimes confusing experience and observation with theory and mechanisms.

I see that some people might want to debate what is “really” going on in these cases that we observe which are examples of people holding both together. But in the end it seems like conjecture upon conjecture or hypotheses about hypotheses as it’s extremely difficult to know what is going on in someone else’s head and heart. Even they have difficulty articulating this. It seems enough to say that people exist who hold both in important places in their lives. I’m not so sure that the underlying mechanism or a description of “what is really going on” matters.

It might be better to tally up the number of people who hold both well and do good science and those who hold both and do harm in society through bad science. I think your point is that there are a lot of people in the former group. I haven’t heard you say how many people are in the latter group.

Now in Dan Kahan’s defense, I think it is important to understand what’s “really” going on (see this old post for most details). But nevertheless, I like Victor’s phrasing of an argument I’ve been making since almost day number one of this blog: we know for a fact that some people can do good science and be creationists.

Will try to say more later. But this week is pretty busy for me and so I might not get to it for a while.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Victor permalink
    April 29, 2015 9:28 am

    Uhhh, I don’t have a comment because you just used a previous comment of mine. I’ll just say, I agree with me . . . sometimes. 🙂

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