Page 113 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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understanding offers affordances for action. The more we know about the world, the better
we are at manipulating our environment towards our own ends. (Boyd 1983)
Thus far, I have argued that the creationist is committed to accepting the central
claims of scientific realism. While this is plausibly the case with regard to the realist’s
semantic and ontological commitments, the case is more complicated when it comes to the
realist’s epistemological commitments. Our previous discussion of Ham’s distinction
between historical science and observational science is a particular case of a more general
problem for creationism.
Keep in mind that the creationist’s aim is to demonstrate that creationism is the best
explanation of the appearance of design. If the creationist can achieve this goal then, because
G-d is a theoretical entity in the creationist’s explanatory scheme, the creationist will have
given us good reason to believe that G-d is real. This line of reasoning presumes that the
practice of science provides evidence about the nature of the world. Establishing that
creationism is the best scientific account of the appearance of design is only a feat worthy of
mention if the methods of science are a reliable way to find out about the nature of our
universe. This suggests that the creationist’s project presupposes the realist’s epistemological
commitment. The project only makes sense if the creationist shares the realist’s view of the
epistemological merits of the methods of science.
The problem is that the creationist must also
deny
the realist’s epistemological
commitment. By the light of scientific standards for theory assessment, creationism is
not
a
viable scientific hypothesis. If the creationist agrees with the realist about the epistemic status
of the methods of science, she must admit that neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory is the best
explanation of the appearance of design. In this way, the creationist wants to have her cake
and eat it too. The creationist must simultaneously accept and deny the evidential weight that
the realist places on scientific inquiry.
Naïve Objections to Realism
In casual conversation with other academics, I have often been surprised by the incredulity
directed towards scientific realism. To my surprise (and disappointment), I often find that the
degree of vociferousness with which others rail against scientific realism is often matched by
the irrelevance of their objections. In this section I want briefly to introduce and diffuse a
handful of the most prevalent and least convincing objections I have heard against scientific
realism, as well as to comment thereon with regard to creationism and evolution.
Realism is false because science is a human construction
I have frequently heard realism rejected out of hand because “science is a human
construction.” The argument appears to have the following structure:
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