Page 116 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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provide maximally complete descriptions of subjects; that is, scientific claims fail to express
the full truth.
Problems arise when we consider premise (3). Why would the fact that scientific
claims fail to express the full truth entail the falsity of realism? One might be tempted to
endorse something like the following conditional: If a proposition fails to capture the full
truth, that proposition is false. This conditional, in conjunction with (2), would entail the
falsity of realism. The conditional is, however, obviously false. Were it true, every written
and spoken sentence, the conditional under consideration included, would be false. No
written or spoken sentence captures the full description of any subject.
One might be tempted to understand (3) in another way. The thought might be that
scientific claims fail to capture the full truth because the set of widely accepted scientific
claims includes false propositions. It is, however, unclear how one might move from this
observation to an objection to realism. The realist is perfectly willing to admit that a large
portion of our contemporary understanding of the world is inaccurate. The realist is not
committed to the wholesale truth of our best scientific theories. Much more modestly, the
realist is only committed to the
approximate
truth of our best scientific theories. Noting that
even our best scientific theories fail to successfully capture the way the world
really
is does
not constitute an objection to realism.
Returning to creationism, Johnson notes that Darwinism cannot explain many things.
Thus, he argues that evolution can be accepted as a method or as a description of a method
that G-d employs to do his work. If this argument were accepted, then science classrooms
should indeed be presenting evolution as perhaps a tool of G-d.
Realism is false because all natural laws are context sensitive
I have heard opponents of realism employ the following argument:
(1)
All natural laws are context sensitive.
(2)
If realism is true then there are natural laws that are not context sensitive.
(3)
Therefore, realism is false.
Again, the argument rests on a subtle ambiguity. Consider the first premise. We might
understand the claim that “natural laws are context sensitive” in two ways. The first is very
plausible. The context sensitivity of laws may merely be a way of noting that, when
describing the natural world, one must take into account more than a single law. By way of
contrast, consider how we are first taught physics. In high school physics classes, we are
asked to calculate, for instance, the velocity of a ball as it rolls down a frictionless ramp.
When doing such a calculation, we leave out important factors that would influence any
actual ball rolling down any actual ramp. If the claim that “all natural laws are context
sensitive” merely points out that the phenomena we encounter in our day-to-day lives cannot
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