Consider this argument:
- If Christianity is right, every assertion of rightly interpreted Scripture is true.
- Genesis 1-3 is rightly interpreted literalistically.
- The approximate truth of our best relevant science contradicts the assertions of Genesis 1-3 when these texts are interpreted literalistically.
- Our best relevant science is approximately true.
- So, Christianity is not right.
Liberal Christians reject (1), and often (2) as well. Young Earth Creationists either engage in revisionary science and deny (3), or they simply deny (4).
The right way out of the argument is, of course, to reject (2). But in this post I want to undercut the argument in a very different way. Basically, I will argue against (3) by offering a defense–a logically possible story that is compatible with both our best science and a literalistic reading of Genesis 1-3, without scientific revisionism, scientific irrealism, or invocations of divine or demonic deception.
I am not claiming the story is true. In fact, I think it’s false. It is in tension with the Thomistic view of the soul which I hold (but I think it may be logically compatible with it). As I said, the right way out is to deny (2). My story is inspired by a hypertime story that I heard Hud Hudson give in a talk, but this version doesn’t need any hypertime.
When one’s book in sexual ethics is coming out (shameless self-promotion), one’s thoughts naturally turn to the philosophy of science. 🙂 A standard line of thought is that naturalism is a simpler theory than theism in that it only posits one kind of entity, the natural world, while theism posits that and God.
A standard theistic response is to concede the point but say that theism wins out through greater explanatory power. Trent and I have, however, been exploring a different line of thought: One measures the simplicity of a theory (with “simplicity” understood in such a way that it is an intellectual merit of a theory that it be simple) primarily by looking at the simplicity of the theory’s explanatorily fundamental posits (this has some structural resemblance to Huemer’s work) rather than at claims explained by the theory.
For instance, suppose that according to our best physics certain laboratory conditions not occurrent in nature produce a Zeta particle. Alien scientists, who are the only ones ever to have the technology for this, are facing a great natural disaster they cannot avert that will destroy their civilization. As one last hurrah for science, they plan to produce a Zeta before the disaster. Unfortunately, at the last minute, they find that an extremely expensive part, which there is no time to repair, has only probability 1/2 of functioning.
Consider the theories: (S) They will succeed in producing a Zeta due to the part functioning and (F) They will fail in producing a Zeta due to the part malfunctioning. Theory S posits the instantiation of a new kind of particle that F does not. If explained phenomena also count towards the complexity of a theory, S is more complex. But that just seems wrong: S and F are on par simplicity-wise. Besides, if S were more complex than F, then if all other intellectual merits are equal–which they sure seem to be–then we should take S to be more likely than F. But that would violate what seems an unproblematic instance of the Principal Principle–F and S should have the same probability.