Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Consilience: Welcome to the Post-Scientific, Post-Catholic World

You believe that the Universe (the better informed among you believe that our Hubble bubble) originated in a Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago.
You believe that the Earth is about 4 billion years old; that life has evolved from one or more primordial ancestors (most of you believe in abiogenesis as well, but are at pains to insist that you are not required to say so, since you cannot demonstrate this belief experimentally- but as we shall see, most of you think you have even better grounds upon which to believe it anyway).
You believe that random mutation and natural selection are completely adequate means by which to explain the observed biodiversity of our world.
The vast majority of you believe that man’s appearance is also explainable by these means. 
A (much smaller and understandably shrinking) subset of you believe that God must have intervened in the process at the point where man first appears.
The better informed among you are aware that none of these assertions has been demonstrated experimentally (that is, not one of these assertions is scientific, as that word has been understood by Einstein, by Popper, by every great discoverer of scientific principle in history.......until the advent of this post-scientific world).
But even (especially!) the better informed among you believe these things, and you believe them so strongly that you scorn any suggestion that experimental demonstration of these beliefs might reasonably be demanded.
You believe that you have something better than experimental demonstration, which confirms you in these beliefs.
That “something better” is consilience.
Consilience is the only persuasive argument that the post-scientific worldview (the worldview of inflation, of dark matter and dark energy, of the multiverse, of String Theory, of “Deep Time” neo-Darwinism) has ever advanced.
It has persuaded you, and it has persuaded (may God help us), even Princes of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church now proposes consilience as relevant- in some vague but apparently real way- even for Catholics:
.......new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.  It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge.  The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”--
Pope John Paul II, Address to Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 1996
Here it is proposed that the note of scientific truth is found, not in experimental test with the intention of falsifying assumed knowledge, but in the “convergence, neither sought nor fabricated” among independent branches of research.
Consilience is also a key to understanding the Nouvelle Theologie: instead of the Traditional Catholic proclamation “outside the Church there is no salvation”, we are presented with a dialogue among mutual seekers of Truth, all of whom “tend to converge” upon some objective Truth which lies, perhaps, somewhere further down the road of the “convergence” (consilience).
In the scientific world, something was established by experiment, and always subjected to crucial experiment, ceaselessly, *with the intention of falsifying what we might think we know*.
In the post scientific world, experiment exists merely to resolve difficulties in the path of the consilience, of that which we *already have determined that we know*.
In the Traditional Church, salvation was something possessed by the Catholic Church in its fullness, and all dialogue was intended to assist the pagan, the Jew, the heretic, the schismatic, in coming to understand and accept this.
In the modern Church, salvation is, also, something dispensed in unknowable ways by God, to those who seek that consilience, that Truth, which lies somewhere, perhaps, down the road of the dialogue, closer to the convergence of the consilience among the truth-seekers.
Truth is objective, in Traditional Catholic teaching.
Scientific truth is the result of ceaseless experimental challenge, in the scientific world.
Truth is relative, evolving, and the mutual object of truth seekers more or less aligned with the consilience toward which they are “converging”, in the Nouvelle Theologie.
Scientific truth is the result of consilience between lines of investigation, in the post scientific world.
Welcome to the post scientific world.


  1. Nice rant Rick.

    Indeed, welcome to the world where Relativism dominates. There are no absolutes anymore. Everyones point of view must be heard.

    Wasn't this the goal of Satans religion of "scientism" in the first place? To knock God's absolutes off its perch and install a bunch of new laws that proclaim a "politically correct" seat at the table for pretty much any wind of doctrine or moral standard?

    Once you have put into the minds of the masses that there are no scientific absolutes, how easy to turn them over to this new religion's moral relativism too?

    And suddenly you end up with a new, totally counter intuitive physics....and...

    ....homosexual priests.

    And where did it all start pray tell?

    "But among all the discoveries and corrections probably none has resulted in a deeper influence on the human spirit than the doctrine of Copernicus…. Possibly mankind has never been demanded to do more, for considering all that went up in smoke as a result of realizing this change: a second Paradise, a world of innocence, poetry and piety: the witness of the senses, the conviction of a poetical and religious faith. No wonder his contemporaries did not wish to let all this go and offered every possible resistance to a doctrine which in its converts authorized and demanded a freedom of view and greatness of thought so
    far unknown indeed not even dreamed of.”

    - Johann von Goethe, Zur Farbenlehre, Materialien zur Geschichte der Farbenlehre, Frankfurt am Main, 1991, Seite 666.

    [The Copernican Revolution]"..outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and Reformation to the rank of mere episodes, mere internal displacements, within the system of medieval Christendom. Since it changed the character of men’s habitual mental operations even in the conduct of the nonmaterial sciences, while
    transforming the whole diagram of the physical universe and the very texture of human life itself, *it looms so large as the real origin both of the modern world and of the modern mentality, that our customary periodisation of European history has become an anachronism and an encumbrance."

    - Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science: 1300-1800, 1957, pp. 7-8.

    Rick, can you PM me on my forum with an email address I can reach you at please?

    Cheers, Doc.

  2. Interesting article (and blog) here:


  3. "Truth is objective, in Traditional Catholic teaching."

    Do you expect to convince any non-Catholics that this is true? What evidence do you have for this?

    Also, a side question about geocentrism. Which scientific arguments for geocentrism would change if you substituted Mars for the Earth? Why isn't Mars being the center of the universe an equally valid frame of reference?

  4. "Do you expect to convince any non-Catholics that this is true? What evidence do you have for this?

    >> Of course we expect to convince, ultimately, a great many non-Catholics of this, and we do, by the millions, each and every year.

    An example.

    How would a Catholic persuade a non-Catholic, say, that marriage. objectively involves a a union of the genders; that it is, objectively, something that occurs between a man and a woman.

    We do this by pointing to the theological, metaphysical, and scientific evidence in support of the objective nature of marriage-

    1. Theological (the clear testimony of Christ in the Gospels)- no non-Catholic (at least no non-Christian) will accept this as dispositive but it does establish the consistency of the Catholic Church's teaching with that of Her Founder.

    2. Metaphysical (the testimony of the intelligibility of creation; we know that our species, constituted in two complementary genders, cannot reproduce without both, and that this aspect of reality should be reflected in the organization of human behavior concerning families and child-bearing and rearing)-- even atheists can access this level of the argument since, after all, it is indisputably the case that every human society, for as far back as we have records, has, in fact, organized itself so as to recognize, foster, and protect the long-term, stable union of the genders in what has universally come to be called "marriage". Some particulars can change from age to age, from society to society, but the fundamental, constitutive element that is *always* present is exactly the union of the genders, for the purpose of securing the next generation, best nurtured.

    3. Scientific (the biological fact of gender complementarity is certain, and any scientific attempt to sever procreation from this fact will, of necessity, undermine if not destroy altogether the relationship of child to parents, as well as introduce truly terrifying revolutions in customized humans purchased from corporations which own the genetic material from which the children are processed)--a thing which is objectively true will, if abandoned and negated, involve consequences far beyond those merely immediately evident. Since it is objectively true that everything the Church has received from God on this question is completely consistent with the evidence of an intelligible creation, and the evidence of biology itself (as well as social scientific research into outcomes for children raised in families by their own mother and father).......


    In this general way the Catholic Church hopes to persuade even non-Catholics of the objective truth of Her doctrine on this matter.

    "Also, a side question about geocentrism. Which scientific arguments for geocentrism would change if you substituted Mars for the Earth? Why isn't Mars being the center of the universe an equally valid frame of reference?"

    >> If Relativity is true, then Mars would be an equally valid frame of reference, and the question of geocentrism would be forever removed from the realm of scientific investigation, since scientific procedure would be incapable of establishing an absolute frame.

    Geocentrism at this point would be adopted or rejected on metaphysical and/or theological grounds.

    If Relativity is false, then we would expect to see empirical evidence of a Universe which *does* disclose a preferred frame; one in which Earth occupies a privileged, non-random position wrt the large scale structure of the Universe (I would argue the discovery of isotropic but non-homogeneous concentric shells of preferred periodic redshifts for galaxies, centered on our location, already provides us evidence of this, along with the truly astonishing Axis in the CMB, a universe-spanning Axis aligned with the ecliptic and equinoxes of Earth).

    If Relativity is false, we would also, perhaps, expect a different outcome in, for example, a Michelson-Morley type experiment conducted on Mars.

  5. A brief afterthought, Jon, concerning the metaphysical grounds upon which geocentrism might be adopted, even in the absence of a falsification of Relativity......

    A very smart fellow recently observed that, of all the frames conceivable within space-time, the one arguably most relevant to us would be the Earth Centered Inertial or Earth Centered Earth Fixed frames.

    One might conceivably, based on such a metaphysical hypothesis, explore even scientific applications which might yield objectively measurable increases in, say, the field of power generation.


  6. Doc S, just so you know, I put my email in a PM to you on your Wilderness site.

  7. Since you were kind enough to leave some charitable comments on my post, I thought I'd return the favor. You make a strong case for a different (older?) sort of science.

    I have to say that I agree with John Paul II here. What's the surest sign of truth in a theory? In order of importance:

    1. Beauty and elegance
    2. Consilience between fields and subfields
    3. Experimental evidence

    Lots of scientists would disagree with me. But that's what I think and that's how I do science.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Paul.

    I am a disciple of Popper, since his understanding of falsification as the irreducible, defining characteristic of the scientific method has been shared by essentially every great scientific discoverer of principle, and even great theorists such as Albert Einstein, who sums up Popper's whole point in one extraordinarily powerful sentence:

    "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."

    Paul: You make a strong case for a different (older?) sort of science.

    >> Not so much "older"- it just goes in and out of style. All true scientific discoveries of previously unknown principle have been accomplished by those who were trained in this way, who approach science in this way.

    A classic example of this type of thinking is that of Bernard Riemann, who blew Newton's whole theory into tiny little smithereens by noticing Newton's hidden, *metaphysical* assumption, smuggled into his physics as a "given"- absolute space.

  9. Paul: "I have to say that I agree with John Paul II here."

    >> I understand the passage was actually written by Fr. Stanley Jaki, but the Pope said it, which gives it the weight it would otherwise not possess, at least for Catholics.

    But it is not a statement of Faith or morals, and hence can be disagreed with, on adequately defensible grounds.

    I disagree with it :-)

    Paul: What's the surest sign of truth in a theory? In order of importance:

    1. Beauty and elegance

    >> I think this is a crucial component of the creative hypothesis. The great discoverers (like the great composers) often speak of the "flash of insight" which comes out of the blue, when a problem long worked on suddenly resolves. This is indeed an aesthetic, a beautiful, as well as a scientific phenomenon.

    But I disagree with your criteria as being the most important, since 99.99999% of even the most beautiful creative insights will, alas, be shown to be wrong, and all of those in exactly one way:

    by crucial, repeatable experimental test.

    So I counter propose this as the single most important criterion: validation by crucial, experimental test (with the intention to falsify it!) of a creative scientific hypothesis.

    Paul: 2. Consilience between fields and subfields

    >> This is exactly where Popper makes his most crucial point.

    "Confirming evidence should not count except when it is the result of a genuine test of the theory; and this means that it can be presented as a serious but unsuccessful attempt to falsify the theory. (I now speak in such cases of "corroborating evidence.")-----Karl Popper, "Science As Falsification", 1963

    The problem with consilience is that it is the highly predictable outcome of any research program dedicated to the preservation, rather than the experimental test with intention to falsify, a given theory.

    An example:

    1. Galaxies are observed to rotate in violation of Kepler's (and Newton's and Einstein's) Laws.
    2. Instead of launching an exhaustive, fundamental research program into the assumed correctness of our gravitational theory, dark matter is invented and plugged into the equations to bridge the gap between observation and theory.
    3. Photographs are then published- in peer reviewed publication!-where empty space is described as "fingers of dark matter", since the overwhelming consilience of our gravitational observations at solar system scales is determined to trump the possibility that our theories of gravitation might in fact be drastically wrong- observably so at scales larger than a stellar cluster.

    It is exactly in this way that science is perverted into metaphysics; that is, all experiments are undertaken with the intention of defending, not falsifying, a given theory.

    The sure sign that this has occurred is, when our theories continue to return unphysical results, new "Sciama demons"; entities which exist only to explain the anomaly (dark energy, inflatons, space time curvature, multiverses) are introduced, and begin to rapidly multiply.

    It sank Ptolemy, and it will sink concordance cosmology.

    Paul: Lots of scientists would disagree with me. But that's what I think and that's how I do science.

    >> I think the next great scientists will be those who go back and look for the critical fork in the road.

    The critical fork in the road was Michelson Morley.

  10. And Jesus wondered aloud if he would find any Faith left on earth, when he returned. I'm not inclined to believe that Our Lord intends to accept relativism and modernism as any reasonable facsimile of Faith. Bless the Fathers and Bless the ways that have stood the test of time - old ways, not, new!