I'm a statistican. I have always struggled with the validity of my discipline. What is probability? How can I forecast things? Isn't God in complete control? How can I justify my job? Shouldn't I throw it in and find something practical to do, with my hands, because this is what keeps me from engaging in vain philosophy?
Of course I engage in (Christian) philosophy in the hope of finding some viewpoint that will help me to understand my position and role in the world, as a professional statistician.
Recently I have come across the philosophy of Herman Dooweyeerd, a Dutch-Calvanist, Reformational Philosopher. His most notable work is a four-volume opus: The New Critique of Theoretical thought, in which he argues basically that all theorizing depends crucially on a worldview or ontology. He has been heralded as "the most profound, original and penetrating philosopher since Kant". The point is, He intended to establish the regulation of theorizing on one's concept of the divine, so as to introdue his own non-reductionist ontology regulated by his Christian worldview.
I am just interested to hear from others about their ideas on the philosophy of science, scientific theorizing and the likes. I am particularly interested in learning more about Dooweyeerd's ideas and the general acceptance/rejection of these amongst the rest of Christendom. And am interested in understanding better, the links or effects of ontology on theorizing, and especially on epistemology (knowing or learning).
I hope to hear from people on this soon.
Grace and peace to you!
I have not had the time to respond to your post properly so i am waiting to do so soon, but i thank you for sharing and want you to know that you are not being ignore.
Matteo, I agree with you that there is no conflict between science and religion. Science does explore the world God created, while religion deals with the spirit of God and all other related issues. The Bible contains science that at times is farther advanced than those who have criticized it. For example, Jeremiah 33:22a tells us: "As the host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured..'" This was written 2500 years ago, when it was believed that the only stars were the 1,100 that were observable from earth. Today with our modern telescopes, we now know that there are billions of stars, more stars than can be numbered, just as Scripture reported way back then.
Isaiah 40:22 which was written 2800 years ago says: 22"It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,"
at a time when most everyone believed the earth was flat, this prophet was led by the Holy Spirit to speak of the earth as round. Christopher Columbus reported that it was this Scripture that inspired him to set sail around the world.
This information is from "Scientific Facts in the Bible" by Ram Comfort, Living Waters Publications.
Yet, some people say the Bible isn't scientific because of scripture that speaks of the four corners of the earth. The problem with this is that the Bible never claims to be strictly a scientific book. It also records history, and it records the words spoken by people, including common expressions used in their day as well as common misconceptions/misunderstandings about the world around them. At times the Bible even includes known lies told by the people as part of the report of history. This does not make the Bible untrue, as some would claim, because those people really did tell the lies or mis state facts they believed to be true. So to report what someone really said, even when it was not true, does not make the Bible inaccurate.
Finally, based upon what I have learned about intelligent design, it is the belief that the earth, planets, stars, and life did not just happen. There was some sort of intelligence that started it all. There is too much that would not work without the balance with other things for evolution to be possible. This intelligent "being" or source of intelligence is not identified by those who believe in intelligent design, but there is room in their beliefs for this being to be the Christian God. A really good discussion on intelligent design is in the dvd "Expelled" by Ben Stein.
Science and philosophy both are theoretical in nature, even if these days science is generally heavily reliant on experiment. The key process involved in either developing a theory or designing an experiment is abstraction; it is the singling-out of a something or things from its (their) relation to the rest of reality. For example, statistics is a theory which claims to allow me to make inferences from a sample to a population; from a part to a whole; from a particular to a universal. Now, without needing much intelligence at all, it is evident that such inductive inferences will require assumptions. It is the nature of these assumptions which bothers me, and here's why. Many people seem to do as some people have done here, and claim that religion has to do with God and science has to do with things other than God, and never the twain shall meet! The problem is that God created everything that science studies, and yet most scientists study science as god, and this is often something they do not consciously know.
Here's the thing: science is not some independent entity which can be coherently divorced from belief in God. Divinity beliefs enter into science both through concept-formation, and through underlying philosophical assumptions. Whatever someone considers to be independently self-existent corresponds to that person's divinity belief. They make their god whatever is independently self-existent in their view. Many physicists make their god to be the material universe, for example. They don't say that, or believe that's what they're doing necessarily, but they do it nonetheless. They presume that everything is, at base, physical. Now this kind of monism is easily defeated by asking them to state their belief. As soon as they state their belief, they have used an entity which exhibits explicitly linguistic qualities. The words we use to speak are not just physical noises. Sure, we may measure the frequencies of the noises and display them as sound waves and so on, but this is just an aspect of speech, it is not the whole of speech. Moreover, to measure frequencies or wavelengths, we have had to utilize the concept of number, and ordering, and these are not physical in and of themselves. If there were no physical world, number would still be a concept. How? Well, in my view this is evidenced by the fact that God was a trinity well and truly prior to His creation of the physical world. There is the concept of the one, the many, and the infinite, all of which are wrapped up in God and our inability to conceive of Him in any way, shape or form apart from our limited interpretation of the limited degree to which He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ, and through the scripture. But people who do not believe in God are not convinced by that argument. Ordering is not necessarily physical either, because we may abstract away all spatial or temporal relevance and single out just the structure of ordering, and come up with an algebraic structure such as a pre-order category. The fact that our most ready intuitions of ordering rely upon space and/or time is an artifact of our familiarity with these notions within space and time, to which we are bound in the physical facet of our existence.
Divinity beliefs regulate how scientific data is interpreted. Divinity beliefs regulate how theories are made and interpreted. Statistics is not just statistics; their are perspectives on statistics. Some people believe that inference can be done on the basis of frequency probability; others believe that inference can be done using probability as a measure of degree of belief. There is subjective probability and objective probability. Subjective probability places the locus of probability within the subject who is doing the statistics; while objective probability places the locus of probability in the object, so that, for example, there is an intrinsic probability that a radioactive atom will decay, and this is a property of that atom, not a valuation assigned to the atom. Now, it seems to me that probability is modal also, but I digress.
The important point to note is that statistics (or statistical inference) rests on probability theory, and probability theory is not at all clear in its interpretation. Moreover, probability is only one approach to inductive inference, and there are some people who argue that different approaches should be used to suit the different contexts in which they are used. This is a big issue because we use statistics and probability to inform decision-making. It seems to me that we cannot do this with integrity, without first developing a theory of inference that is regulated by our knowledge of God. I mean, does it make sense to predict the future on the basis of the trend we perceive in the past? Who is to say that the past is in any way, shape or form anything like the future? But on an even deeper level, there is the issue with the difference between the goals of science and faith. We humans seek to regularize and control; but faith seeks to believe in God, trust in Him with all of our hearts and LEAN NOT ON our UNDERSTANDING. The scientific quest is to know, and understand. But as i see it, the quest of faith is to believe in God and to bring our lives into submission to Him, for His glory. We are to make every effort to "make much of God" for His infinite and unending glory. Science seems to rob me of this. I need to ask, do I need know? Do I need to take things into my own control? Or can I just let it be, and concentrate my attention of making much of God forever.
I'm not sure I am making my point well. And I am tired, so I will stop here. But I basically don't see that science and faith are complimentary at all. I see that science, being a part of reality, is dependent on the transcendent creator of what is real. But the theories we are taught in science are not founded on this religious belief in the most part, and so whenever a Christian engages in doing science, they are often engaging in what the bible calls "vain philosophy" and are hence being deceived. It is not to say that science is bad. It is to say that science is not honest about its divinity beliefs and until it is carried out with blatant honesty in this regard, it is an issue for me as a Christian, as to whether I ought to engage in it at all.
I completely disagree with you.. Science is not "vain philosophy." "Vain philosophy is , in essence, vain :) Philosophy is not necessarily vain, and it is a responsible thing imo, to use probability regarding certain things.. We shouldn't place our faith in them of course.. Our faith is in God, and just like our perception of God is limited and flawed in some ways, so is everything else we humans undertake.. If one can improve the community through using statistical inference, coupled with a heart for God and the knowledge of human nature that the Bible clearly teaches, I see that as using wisdom.. Of course we are not to lean on our own understanding, and that is why you have a Godly worldview as your lens.. Studying what God has given to us gives more cause to worship Him.. Applying that knowledge to better business is being a good steward of a company.. So, being that your field of study branches out into many different applications, you are free to seek the Lord to go in a direction that can best glorify Him.. Yes, you are in a field where there are many unGodly people, but all the more reason to study science for the glory of God, or use it to meet the practical needs of a business.. Or both.. (One as a source of income, and one to study God.. I believe that you could theorize to the glory of God, just don't make the field of study an idol, but worship the one Who is revealed in the study) :)
I believe that you could also carve out your own niche.. I don't believe you would get acceptance from the Scientific community though, and it could be your life's (unpaid) work that may or may not be noticed in your lifetime.. I may not be the smartest person, for I am only of slightly higher than average intelligence, (Keyword: slightly) but from reading your response my suggestion is that you would probably love to study Quantum Mechanics :)
Of course everything I just said is my own outlook and you must go with your conscience, but maybe your perception might change, idk.. I really don't see the two as being mutually exclusive, even though this unGodly world does.. (Just my 0.02, and I hope it made sense) ♥
I don't think people should confuse science with scientist. Science is neutral, it's the scientist that can interpret the data in a theistic or atheistic way. I see no incompatibilty between science and religion since they're looking at 2 different things. Science can answer why in terms of mechanisms but not in terms of purpose. Any conclusion whether God exists or not goes beyond the evidence. Science at worst leads to agnosticism.
I would like to add some quotes here that may be of use or just provide other view points:
"Science simply cannot (by it's legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God's possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm not deny it; we simply can't comment on it as scientists" - Stephen Jay Gould
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use" - Galileo
"Either half my collegues are enourmously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs and equally compatible with atheism" - Stephen Jay Gould
"The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five Books of Moses, the Psalms and the Bible as a whole" - Arno Penzias, Noble Prize winner
"Science can proceed, only if the scientist adopts an essentially theoligical world view. Even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a law like order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us" - Paul Davies
And as always, the last word goes to C.S. Lewis:
"If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe - no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find in ourselves. Surely this ought to arouse our suspicions?" - C.S Lewis
I also have a Master's Degree and my thesis was based in stats. We must always remember that God limits himself so that we have free will....otherwise he would stop all evil and there would be no free will. Your stats just give a probability on if we will follow free will or God's.
I hope this helps to clarify. As Dr. Phil says past history IS a predictor of future actions. If a person tends to follow their own selfishness then he will continue to do so until something "happens" ...and you use stats to make that prediction.
I do not believe there is ANY confloct, unless you use this in your own personal life and use this to decide what to do instead of asking God about what you should do.
In response to a portion of the last reply I would say that God is sovereign.. We cannot completely figure Him out, but the Bible shows clearly that "free will" is certainly very limited if it even exists in the way that most define it. That doesn't negate our personal responsibility and therein lies the paradox, because God certainly is good and just. He is beyond total comprehension and so we just thank Him that we were shown grace instead of wrath..
Liam, I believe that true science will never contradict but will glorify God, always :) IMO, I do not see probability as a form of divination (If that was what you meant by "forecasting things"). I believe it is a real science and can be used for good or for evil. Of course I have never studied your field but I think that probability might be useful for business advice (market research/trends perhaps?) Perhaps then the money you make in your career can then be put to the Lord's work, however you are led of Him.. Depending on what you are doing career-wise will depend on if you are glorifying the Lord with your talent or not.. You could quite possibly help a great company or other kind of organization to succeed.. My only hesitation would be in church organizations, because I believe that churches that bring in things "of the flesh" to cause "church growth" are falling away.. (Just my 0.02) :)
We cannot deny that science teachers teaches conflict from the creation against big bang theory up to the resurrection of the dead against the clinically dead. Ever since human is trying to prove that the God who created everything is not the Creator but just a magical thing. Human is trying to out do Almighty God. Cloning and robots as a replacement for the human being who dearly love by God even we are still in our mothers womb. Test tube babies, heart transplant and robotics is a very good development but Faith in God is slowly deminishing somehow because of science. We can say it depends on the understanding of the person who God is and what is the role of science in christian life. I agree that scientific view must to praise and glorify God not to rob Him of the glory that only belongs to Him.
The author has very little idea about the issues and indeed about faith. Faith does not require evidence - er.....yes it does and there's plenty of it. Experiences of God and the historical evidence for Christ and his resurrection for a start.....Faith without evidence is blind faith and Christianity is anything but blind. The author seems to have bought into the Dawkins school of thought
This may not be the right place to post this question, but I don't know how else to do so.
I heard that recently scientists have discovered the 4 pillars or 4 cornerstones on which the earth is placed, proving that the Bible is not contradictory toward science, but, in fact, has the correct information that scientists are now finding out. It is suppose to show that the Bible stated that the earth is round, not flat.
I have exhausted my resources in search for this info. Does anyone know where it is found or at least an author who wrote about it?