Thinking Like a Ph.D.

This course has introduced me to philosophy. Although I had done some reading on the theories of learning and had read a little bit about some of the founders of our field, this is the first time I am fully understanding the philosophical and scientific origins of the field. I have never fully understood the difference between empiricism and rationalism.I have argued fiercely for creation theory to be given equal time in the school system, but when told that creation theory lacks empirical evidence, I would not have been able to refute that by producing some.

This course has had a profound impact on the way I think and how I approach what I read. I want to be regarded by my peers and future (Ph.D.-holding) contemporaries as knowledgeable and able to support what I say with hard evidence and not just conjecture or anecdote. I don’t want to just be opinionated. I’ve always been that. I want my opinions to be based on science. As such, I’ve spent a little time this semester finding the empirical evidence that supports what I believe so that the next time someone says to me there is no evidence, I can provide it.

This week as I read Hollis, his discussion kept reminding me of the battle between evolution science and creation science currently going on in our society. For example, he talks on page 72 of the importance of being able to specify in advance the conditions under which a theory would be proven false, and the need to stick with the results of the test even if it goes against the theory. He cautions against reinterpreting the results or making up reasons for why the test didn’t go as you planned. Yet evolutionists Gould and Eldridge published a paper on Punctuated Equilibria in 1977 to explain the absence of transitional fossil records in support of evolutionary theory.

Hollis goes on to say on page 78-79 that when experience contradicts what we believe, we choose what we’re going to revise, and typically we revise the way we interpret the experience. He states that we may have to choose between rival theories when deciding how to interpret the facts. The battle between evolution theory and creation theory can be summed up as a battle between the interpretation of experiences; the observable facts remain the same. Since there are no examples of macro-evolution in existence and the fossil record neither supports nor refutes evolutionary theory, either theory is still a plausible explanation for the formation of the world. Each of us interprets these facts based on our own world views and then selects the theory that best suits our position.

I think Hollis’ idea of paradigms, and especially how paradigms are bound by our society and our government, explains why the prevailing theory is evolution despite a large percentage of the public who would like to see equal time given to the teaching of both theories in schools (54% according to the most recent Gallop poll). On page 86, Hollis states that scientist rely on funding and must please the government, so science is a part of the political and social system. The currently reigning scientific “paradigm” is evolutionary theory, and our social and political culture support those scientists who follow and practice this paradigm, and “punish” those scientists who dare to challenge it. Although the many members of Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research are highly respected scholars and researchers with Ph.D.s who publish in the peer-reviewed journals of their respective fields, they must be careful to ensure that their research not overtly support creation theory when submitting for publication to these journals or their work will not be accepted. (Read: Myth: Creationists do not publish in the standard scientific journals or do any original research).

I really enjoyed this week’s reading. Further, I’m enjoying the challenge of learning to think like a scientist and a philosopher and starting to challenge what I believe with hard evidence. I am finding foundations on which to base my faith, which is reassuring and strengthening for a person who has always had to set the intellectual aside to embrace the theological.


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