Participants: Clifford Goldstein
Series Code: CFTF
Program Code: CFTF000003
00:21 Clifford Goldstein here
00:23 and I want to welcome you to "Contending for the Faith."
00:27 The talk that I want to do now is called
00:29 the science of knowledge and its part of a series
00:33 I'm doing called faith and science.
00:36 And when we look at questions of science in our modern age
00:40 and how these questions relate to issues of faith.
00:45 They're quite often faith and science are in harmony.
00:50 There are times
00:51 when they are absolutely opposed to each other
00:55 that is if the science is right,
00:59 the particular issue of faith here
01:01 has to be wrong and vice versa.
01:06 Now the question then is not only which is right
01:10 but how do we know which one is right.
01:13 And how can we know that we know which one is right.
01:18 Can we really know it? Okay.
01:20 These things I admit can get rather complicated.
01:25 Nevertheless considering the importance of the issues,
01:30 it certainly well worth our time to try the best
01:34 that we can to work through them,
01:36 at least to the degree we can as human beings
01:40 with a greatly limited in our knowledge.
01:45 Now to begin, I want to look at an article
01:50 that ran in the 2013 edition in the Economist Magazine.
01:56 The Economist is a British,
01:58 is a very-- very well respected magazine,
02:02 and as you can discern by its name,
02:03 it deals with the economic things
02:05 but it deals with politics, foreign affairs, culture.
02:09 It's a very respected magazine and very, very, well done.
02:15 Anyway I was reading from an October 13, 2013 issue.
02:21 And the title of the article was
02:24 "How Science Goes Wrong."
02:29 Science, how does science go wrong.
02:33 Isn't science kind of the ultimate
02:35 standard bearer of truth?
02:37 How does this go wrong?
02:39 I mean, haven't we been told all our lives
02:42 that science is wealthy way to get truth.
02:45 When something is scientific or proven by science
02:50 or comes with all the imprimatur of science.
02:53 Doesn't that sort of have all the authority
02:56 that makes it unchallengeable?
02:59 When science speaks what plea they speak out against it.
03:04 It's been for a long time
03:06 at least in contemporary society,
03:09 contemporary culture,
03:10 a sign of a lack of knowledge of sophistication
03:14 to dare to challenge the findings of science.
03:19 Well, it's fastening because recently a book
03:21 came out called "Mind and Cosmos."
03:25 Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian
03:28 Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.
03:33 The problem however was the author
03:35 was not some dumb hick Bible thumping creationist
03:39 as folks who believe in the Bible
03:41 and the biblical account of origins are often depicted.
03:45 Instead, he is one of the most
03:46 respected intellectuals alive today
03:50 and so those who took umbrage at him
03:53 are daring to challenge the greatest
03:56 and greatest science couldn't easily get off,
03:59 you know, writing off the author Thomas Nagel
04:02 as some illiterate yahoo who didn't get it.
04:06 Nagel, I've read most of his books.
04:08 He's one of smartest,
04:10 deepest thinkers writing today, okay.
04:13 So what was interesting just to see how condescending
04:17 many of the attacks were on him?
04:20 Well, this was just an example
04:22 how the poor man doesn't understand the real issues,
04:25 that kind of things.
04:27 It's out of his ignorance of the facts
04:29 that he would dare to questions
04:31 something as scientifically sound
04:33 and established as the Neo-Darwinian
04:36 Conception of how we got here.
04:41 I'd like to maybe some day come back to Thomas Nagel
04:44 and his challenge to a purely materialist world view
04:48 which is at the heart
04:49 of the Neo-Darwinian view of origins.
04:53 And I think the point is we have been led to believe
04:55 that science is kind of a higher form of truth
04:58 or more certain kind of truth than anything else.
05:01 And I think sometimes we can have good believing--
05:04 reasons for believing that.
05:06 Though what's important to realize,
05:08 and this is something
05:09 that I want to comeback to one day
05:12 that you can have very good reasons,
05:15 very sound reasons
05:17 for believing in things that are wrong.
05:21 Man, I can do a whole project, the whole program on that.
05:24 Stay tuned, I think I will one day.
05:27 Anyway, the point is we have an article
05:30 in a well respected magazine
05:33 talking about how science goes wrong.
05:36 And I think it's something we need to look at.
05:39 Now the jest of the article
05:41 is not science going wrong morally.
05:43 You know, we can split the atom to make a nuclear bomb
05:47 or we can make medicine that kind of thing.
05:50 That's a whole different matter.
05:51 No, the question of the article deals with is how the practice,
05:56 the result, the methods of science
06:00 that are being done shoddily.
06:04 Let me read you a quote from the Economist.
06:07 Listen to this, they were doing some studies on science,
06:12 you know, looking at how science was done.
06:15 See, "Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether
06:18 are the result of shoddy experiments
06:21 or poor analysis.
06:23 A rule of thumb among biotechnology
06:28 is that half of the published research cannot be replicated.
06:32 And even that may be optimistic.
06:35 Last year researchers at one biotech firm,
06:38 Amgen, found they could reproduce
06:41 just 6 of 53 landmark studies in cancer research.
06:47 Earlier, a group at Bayer,
06:50 a drug company, managed to repeat
06:52 just a quarter of 67 similar important papers.
06:58 A leading computer scientist frets
07:01 that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk."
07:06 I mean this to me is incredible,
07:09 at least I would seen that people
07:11 who buy the popular view of science
07:13 as well kind of an exact science
07:16 should be stunned by this, should be stunned by this.
07:19 You know, it's done by a means
07:21 that we're all told it has to be truth.
07:23 I mean, what they're saying one study after another,
07:26 they could be replicated on and on and on.
07:30 So for many people however,
07:32 if you study the philosophy and history of science,
07:37 you look at things quite differently,
07:40 I wasn't surprised at all.
07:42 Even though it was still an amazing article,
07:45 even to me who has been open to these things for a while.
07:49 Let me read you another quote. This was amazing.
07:52 That's why I'd like to be one of these people.
07:54 "In 2000-10 roughly 80,000 patients
08:00 took part in clinical trials based on research
08:04 that was later retracted
08:06 because of mistakes or improprieties."
08:09 Come on.
08:10 That's 80,000 people taking part in clinical trials
08:15 based on mistakes or improprieties.
08:18 I wonder how it made those,
08:19 some of those 80,000 guinea pigs feel.
08:22 The article went on to talk about the reasons
08:25 for many of the problems in science.
08:27 And what are they?
08:29 Okay, they're competing for scarce resources
08:34 and there is as a powerful tendency to exaggerate,
08:37 the article said that exaggeration,
08:39 they talked about exaggeration and cherry-picking of results.
08:44 In science, exaggerating, cherry-picking.
08:49 How do those ideas stood in
08:50 with the image of scientists in a lab
08:53 doing everything rationally, logically, scientifically?
09:00 Also, isn't it something that--
09:03 isn't it something that peer review,
09:05 we've often hear the word peer review.
09:08 Well, it's peer reviewed,
09:10 well, therefore don't question it.
09:13 It's peer reviewed.
09:14 Well, I mean, that what more do you need.
09:16 Well, look at what this says. Listen to this quote.
09:19 Okay, quote, this is again from The Economist.
09:22 "The hallowed process of peer review
09:25 is not all it is cracked up to be, either.
09:28 When a prominent..."
09:29 Listen to me this, this is amazing.
09:31 "When a prominent medical journal
09:33 ran research past other experts in the field,
09:36 it found that most of the reviewers
09:39 failed to spot mistakes
09:41 it had deliberately inserted into the papers,
09:45 even after being told they were being tested."
09:48 Can you believe this?
09:50 They purposely put mistakes in and they missed it completely.
09:54 This is peer review.
09:56 Oh, my goodness, I could spend an awful
09:58 lot of time on this today if I wanted to,
10:01 but I got different fish to fry today.
10:04 Anyway, I'm bringing all this up.
10:06 It's not to dirt science but it's to point out something
10:10 that people tend to forget.
10:13 Okay, and they tend to forget that in most cases
10:17 scientists stick to study the world out there
10:21 objective reality, the things in itself,
10:24 stars and rocks and birds and all that.
10:28 Who is doing the studying, okay?
10:33 Of course it's human beings,
10:37 fallible, bigoted, subjective human beings.
10:42 Science like art and like sports
10:45 and like bridge building
10:47 and computer programming and music is a human process.
10:51 It's something that humans do.
10:53 And thus it comes with all the inevitable
10:56 and inbuilt problems
10:58 that humans by the very nature of how we construct
11:01 or constructed bring to whatever we do.
11:05 And that includes our scientific study
11:08 of objective reality.
11:11 You know, if you ever study the philosophy of science.
11:16 This truth about the limits
11:17 of what humans can do comes home quickly.
11:21 Now some might ask what is the philosophy of science?
11:25 You know, we tend to think of them as the opposite,
11:27 you know, philosophy is this kind of other worldly musings
11:32 about metaphysics and first principles,
11:34 while science is kind of this nitty-gritty
11:37 getting your fingers and hands dirty
11:40 study of reality.
11:42 Well, I suppose there is some truth to this,
11:45 but it's very small almost to the point
11:48 of being meaningless.
11:49 The fact is that science,
11:52 yes, science proceeds on philosophical assumptions.
11:58 You can't separate science from philosophy.
12:02 Indeed, in a sense science is a form of philosophy.
12:09 Now I read a lot of philosophy of science
12:13 and I'm reading these books.
12:14 And then one day it suddenly hit me
12:17 as I'm reading these books.
12:19 It suddenly hit me that really all I'm reading
12:22 is I'm studying epistemology.
12:26 Now that's a fancy world.
12:28 What is epistemology?
12:30 I mean, we've heard of biology and theology and immunology
12:36 and astronomy and so forth.
12:40 And their names pretty much say what they're dealing with.
12:44 But what is epistemology?
12:47 Well, it's the study of episteme
12:51 which is from the Greek word that means knowledge.
12:56 Now we have to be very careful here.
13:01 Epistemology is not the study of what we know.
13:07 It's not the study of things like red blood cells
13:10 or how the cells feed our brain
13:12 or that the earth rotates on its axis.
13:15 Or that two plus two equals four.
13:18 No, it's much broader than that.
13:21 Instead epistemology is the study
13:25 of how do we come to know the things
13:28 that we know or say to it that we know.
13:32 It's not the, you know, it's-- when we say that it's not--
13:37 it's the study of things like how we know what we know.
13:40 How do we know that the blood cells,
13:43 what blood cells do?
13:44 How we do know that the earth rotates on its axis?
13:48 How do know that two plus two is equals four?
13:51 Or when I say that I know that Jesus is coming back?
13:56 How do I know that?
13:58 Or when I say that I know that I have a toothache?
14:01 How do I know that?
14:03 One thing is for sure how I know I have a toothache
14:07 is quite different from how I know
14:09 that Jesus is coming back.
14:11 And that's quite different from how I know
14:13 that two plus two that equals four.
14:16 And how I know, you know, and how I know
14:18 that is different from how I know
14:20 that the earth rotates on its axis.
14:24 In each case, I am using the same verb know.
14:30 And I mean pretty much the same thing in every case.
14:34 And that my use of the verb means
14:35 that I'm sure of something that it is correct.
14:40 But in each case I know these things
14:43 in very, very, radically different ways.
14:47 The methods, the reasons, the causes, the steps,
14:50 the procedure, the justifications
14:53 that we use to know something,
14:56 very greatly in these different areas.
15:00 And see the crucial question in epistemology then
15:04 is how accurate are these different ways
15:07 that we come to know what we know.
15:09 Or come to know what we think we know
15:12 because sometimes things we think we know,
15:14 we don't really know
15:15 because they turn out to be wrong.
15:18 How do we know what we think we know is correct.
15:22 This becomes especially important
15:24 because we come to know things in radically different ways.
15:29 And the million--
15:30 it's the million dollar question
15:32 that people have been wrestling with
15:34 since all through known history.
15:37 Solomon said in Ecclesiastes,
15:43 There is nothing new under the sun.
15:47 Think about this for a minute.
15:51 How do I know, how do I know that I have toothache, okay.
15:56 Well, I feel pain in my tooth,
15:58 that's about as immediate sensation as I can have.
16:02 But you know there's something very interesting here too.
16:06 Some would say that this is a form of knowledge
16:08 that I cannot possibly be wrong about.
16:10 I could be wrong about the reasons
16:12 why I have a toothache, too much candy
16:16 or a filling fell out or I have a chipped tooth
16:18 when I fell down last week.
16:20 I can really be wrong about my understanding
16:24 but I can't be wrong about having a toothache.
16:28 Again I could be wrong about the reasons why
16:30 or I guess I suppose I could be dreaming
16:33 or I suppose some evil demon could be deceiving me
16:37 in some way or another.
16:39 But how could I be wrong about the pain in my tooth,
16:43 whatever the immediate cause is.
16:46 I don't see how?
16:48 That is something we could be pretty sure of.
16:51 But you know that's kind of ironic
16:54 because of all the ways
16:55 we come to know truth and come to know things.
16:58 I mean, aren't feelings about the least trustworthy.
17:02 How often we are told not to trust our feelings?
17:06 I mean, feelings can be very, very deceptive, right?
17:10 How often if you had a gut instinct
17:13 your feelings would lead you astray even at the moment
17:17 when you were absolutely sure.
17:20 You were sure that your gut feeling was right.
17:23 I mean, I tell you one thing I'm glad at the men and women
17:26 who fly jet liners don't make most of their decisions
17:29 based on gut feelings.
17:32 Also, can we use our feelings other ways too?
17:36 I mean, I feel this table.
17:39 I can feel this table and it sure feels solid for me.
17:45 I mean, it sure feel-- my nerve endings touched the table
17:49 and send the message to my brain that,
17:51 that table is hard and solid, okay.
17:55 And, yet, but reality
17:57 what do we know the reality about that table?
18:00 Well, we know what has science taught us?
18:03 Science taught us that this table is mostly empty space.
18:07 The atoms that make up a part are tiny entities
18:10 and I've no idea what they really are down there
18:13 that surrounded by electrons
18:15 and they got this wide space between them.
18:18 Somebody once described that they said of something like
18:20 you had a spec of dust on the floor
18:23 and you put it in Westminster Abbey.
18:25 That's how much empty space is here.
18:27 And, yet, my feelings tell me that it solid, it's hard.
18:33 And, yet, how can I be wrong
18:35 when I say that I have a toothache.
18:37 And I came to know it because I can feel it.
18:40 In fact that would be the only, that would be the only way
18:43 I could know I have a toothache.
18:45 How can anybody else come to the knowledge
18:47 not that they have a cavity or they have my chip tooth
18:50 but they had a chip tooth they can know it only
18:53 because they felt the pain themselves.
18:55 That's one way, okay.
18:58 On the other hand, how do I know
19:02 that two plus two equals four?
19:06 I say that I know two plus two equals four.
19:10 And I can say that I know that I have a toothache.
19:14 Again I'm using the same verb know.
19:19 To mean the same basic thing.
19:21 But I have knowledge about those things
19:24 in completely different ways.
19:26 Clearly, how I know I have a toothache
19:29 is not how I know that two plus two equals four.
19:33 I don't feel that two plus two equals four.
19:37 I don't put my hand on the math equation
19:39 and all I can feel it.
19:41 Two plus two equals four.
19:43 And it sends signals to my brain and tells me that.
19:48 Yet I know two plus two equals four.
19:52 Just assuredly as I know I have a toothache.
19:56 And, yet, it's true,
19:58 I know them in radically different ways.
20:01 The equation that comes from a rational understanding
20:05 of what the number two stands for?
20:07 And what the plus sign stands for?
20:09 And what the equal sign stands for?
20:12 And what the number four stands for?
20:14 There's a certain rational and logical formula
20:18 and a logical relationship between the two
20:21 and the plus and the equals and the four.
20:24 And that causes me to say two plus two equals four.
20:28 Fair enough, okay.
20:30 That's basically how we come to knowledge,
20:33 get that knowledge,
20:34 but it's a whole different root thing,
20:35 you know, you have a toothache.
20:38 What else can I say? What else do we know?
20:41 I could say I know that the earth
20:43 is rotating on its axis.
20:45 But how do I know the earth is rotating on its axis.
20:49 I mean, it sure doesn't feel it's rotating on its axis.
20:54 And if I wanted to I could throw something up
20:56 I can do an experiment right now
20:58 or could challenge it.
20:59 I can throw a rock up in the air
21:02 and if I throw it straight up,
21:03 if the earth were rotating
21:05 wouldn't the rock go one way or another way.
21:07 Instead it falls straight down.
21:10 So how do I know the earth was rotating on its axis?
21:14 Yet, I say I know that it is,
21:17 the same way I know I have a toothache,
21:19 the same way I know two plus two equals four.
21:23 It was funny there was a philosophical
21:24 Ludwig Wittgenstein and somebody went
21:26 and said to him was mocking the ancients.
21:29 Those stupid ancients were actually thinking
21:31 the earth stood still
21:33 and the sun moved across the sky.
21:36 And Wittgenstein said, he said, well,
21:39 "I wonder what it would look like
21:40 if the sun really were moving across the sky."
21:44 Of course the point is it would look exactly the same.
21:47 But anyway how many of you listening right now,
21:50 you know, that the earth is rotating on its axis.
21:53 You know it? You're sure of it.
21:56 But you don't know what how you know
21:58 you have a toothache or a backache, do you?
22:01 Or in my case I got a broken finger ache,
22:03 'cause I got to broke my finger.
22:05 Or do you know what rationally.
22:07 The way you know two plus two equals four.
22:10 I mean, there's nothing deducted that must nothing
22:13 that follows at the earth must rotate on its axis.
22:17 God could have created the world somewhere else.
22:20 But you say,
22:21 you know that the earth is rotating on its axis.
22:25 How do you know that?
22:27 Well, that's even another kind of knowledge.
22:31 This is the type of knowledge that is revealed to you,
22:35 told to you by other sources.
22:37 And, please, how reliable is that.
22:41 I mean, come on, have you not been told things by others
22:44 that have turned out to be utterly, utterly wrong.
22:48 How much wrong information is out there?
22:51 How many people believe things,
22:54 wrong things that have been told to them?
22:56 And, yet, think about it too.
22:58 There's an awful lot we know because it's been told to us.
23:02 Where were you born?
23:04 How do you know that you have been born
23:05 where you were told you were born?
23:07 I was born in Albany, New York.
23:10 I mean, I was aware of my birth
23:11 but it doesn't do me a whole lot of good,
23:13 at least as far as epistemology goes,
23:16 I know I was born there because I've been told
23:19 and I have pretty good reasons
23:20 to believe those who told me that.
23:24 But this leads to something else.
23:27 Maybe people told you in the past things were right.
23:31 Maybe they told you those things were right.
23:34 They tell you this new thing and every time you get
23:36 or maybe somebody told you something
23:37 and every time they told you it was right, okay.
23:40 Thus you have valid reasons for thinking each time
23:43 this person told you something it was right, okay.
23:48 And maybe you do.
23:49 But maybe just because the source
23:51 was right the first time
23:53 or the first 50 times or the first 50,000 times.
23:57 Does it mean the source is gonna be the right
23:59 the next time it gives you information.
24:02 You know, we can get into all things like
24:04 odds and statistics
24:05 and someone told you something, correct 100 times in a row.
24:09 Then you would have reasons to believe
24:11 and to trust him for the 101st time,
24:14 instead if he told you something
24:15 once you have believes and the trust,
24:17 we can get into all that.
24:19 The point is there's still a chance
24:21 of what they told you being wrong.
24:26 Thus the question is, the question in all of this is.
24:31 How reliable are the means
24:34 that we come to the various ways
24:37 we know something.
24:39 And this comes back to what I said earlier.
24:43 I said, when you study science,
24:46 you were studying a form of epistemology.
24:50 It's a very distinct means of synching
24:52 to come to knowledge.
24:54 And if some would argue, it's not a really very reliable
24:59 means of coming to knowledge.
25:01 And we're gonna look at that more in our next--
25:03 we're gonna look at that more in our next talk.
25:06 But as we close,
25:08 I want you to look at one more question about
25:12 when we look at epistemology and we look at science.
25:15 How reliable it can be because again
25:17 we look at those studies in the beginning.
25:20 They got all the scientific method, all these things
25:24 and look at all the mistakes that they made.
25:27 But see epistemology though presents a very big problem.
25:33 Let say I want to study my epistemology.
25:35 I want to come to know
25:36 how it is I know the things I know.
25:40 But that leads to a big problem.
25:44 How do we study epistemology itself?
25:49 How do we study the methods of knowledge
25:53 when they are the very things
25:54 we are using to study to begin with?
25:57 The methods of knowledge.
25:58 These are the things we're questioning.
26:01 We can study biology, we can study physiology,
26:05 astronomy, theology using various methods of,
26:10 methods of epistemological tools.
26:13 Reason, logic, our senses, revelation,
26:16 things revealed by God or humans or revealed to us
26:20 by someone else and that's all fine.
26:24 But how do we study these tools themselves.
26:28 When the tools themselves are the very things
26:30 that we are questioning.
26:32 How do we study the very things
26:34 that we are using to conduct the study itself?
26:38 If you are using reason to study reason,
26:41 you are kind of going in a circle, right.
26:44 And if you are using your senses
26:45 to study your senses then you are going in a circle.
26:49 How can you trust your senses to teach you about your senses
26:54 especially when your senses are the very things
26:56 you are questioning in the first place?
27:00 And I guess this all boils down.
27:04 I think in many ways, I think
27:07 when we look at science we have to remember
27:10 we are looking at a fallible human endeavor.
27:16 We're looking at fallible subjective
27:19 human beings with prejudices,
27:23 with their own ideas, with their own agendas.
27:28 And I think what we looked at
27:29 in the beginning shows this that
27:31 because science is a form that we said of epistemology,
27:36 it's a form of know--
27:39 it's a way of trying to learn about the world
27:44 and it can be a very, very fruitful way
27:48 but it also can be a way filled with a lot of pitfalls.
27:52 And I think I think I can so relate
27:55 to the words of the Apostle Paul.
27:59 Because even though he was talking
28:00 specifically about faith.
28:03 It's broader than that.
28:06 He said, "For we see through a glass, darkly."
28:11 That's his way of saying we are limited in what we know
28:14 and that includes science as well.