Plumbing and Paradigms
Published: 17 December 2013 (GMT+10)
A few years ago we started to get a terrible stench in our main bathroom at home. It varied in intensity but was sometimes an overpowering smell of burnt hair. We have a septic tank system on our property and I began to do some research on the internet regarding bacterial smells from septic tanks. I found that there are a number of reports of people experiencing a similar smell.
I ignored the ones attributing the smell to unhygienic ghosts and found some reports that methane can have this kind of smell. After a thorough clean of the system I introduced a bacterial treatment into the tanks. The smell went away and we believed we had solved the problem. But some time later it was back. The strange thing was that when we opened the manholes, there was no smell in them so the problem must have been in the air traps. I cleaned these out and ensured they were working properly. The smell only seemed to occur at night when my wife used the bath so I began to focus my attention on the bath pipes. I filled the waste pipe with disinfectant being careful to ensure it did not go into the septic tank and kill the beneficial bacteria there. Again this solved the problem for a time and I was so pleased at my efforts. A short while later it was back. I asked plumbers for advice and continued with ever more hysterical and exotic methods to clear our home of this unwanted and embarrassing aroma. Not to mention my long-suffering wife losing faith in her DIY Galahad.
And then one night while lazing in the bath, she saw smoke rising from the light fitting in the bathroom. The smell had been coming from moths attracted to then getting frazzled on the halogen light bulb.
This silly anecdote nevertheless illustrates the power of assumptions. Bad smells in the bathroom come from the plumbing, right? Based on that assumption, I did my research, implemented my ‘cures’ and these were confirmed by my results—except they were all wrong because my starting assumption was wrong.
Everyone works within certain axioms or assumptions; ideas that are just accepted, believed to be true without the need to be proven—and often incapable of proof anyway.1 These assumptions can be based on experience; or cultural, educational and religious conditioning. We interpret the world around us, and often take actions, too, based on assumptions. Even that seeming bastion of white-coated objectivity, science, is done within a framework of philosophical assumptions which often circumscribe research, conclusions and grants. A modern term for this is a paradigm. A paradigm is a framework of thinking that is accepted prior to the evidence, and conditions the collection and interpretation of evidence. This often then also has a practical application that can be dead wrong if the initial assumptions on which the paradigm is based are incorrect. This is nowhere more true than in evolutionary science and its outworking in the world around us.
Earlier this year at question time after a creation talk, a young lady introduced herself as a medical student. She asked whether there were any practical implications, besides the obvious social and theological ones, of a belief in either evolution or the Bible? I recounted to her how as a child, I was aware of many of my friends who had operations to remove their tonsils. Their description of the hospital stay and treatment sounded so exciting to me that I always hoped that my own sore throat would require such an exotic procedure. The common practice in the 60s and 70s of removing these troublesome body parts was directly related to the acceptance back then of so-called vestigial organs.2 Vestigial organs were assumed on the basis of a belief in evolution; to be apparently useless organs, un-needed leftovers from our evolving ancestors. Today of course the tonsils are known to play an important function in the immune system, particularly in children; and removal is normally only carried out in cases of chronic infection. They were designed for a purpose. A similar profoundly destructive idea persists today in the idea of so-called ‘junk DNA’. It has long been known that only a small proportion of our DNA actually codes for proteins, so the rest of it has been assumed to be left-over evolutionary ‘junk’. This notion was criticized by Prof. John Mattick of University of Queensland in Brisbane, a leader in the field who stated, “The failure to recognize the implications of this [non-coding DNA] … will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology.”3
And so actions based on wrong assumptions can have negative effects on society. There have been many cases of wrong paradigms that have hindered scientific and medical advances, sometimes for centuries.
While the paradigm of a geocentric solar system or universe was not necessarily unbiblical, it arose in a non-biblical culture and was eventually overthrown in an age and culture where Christianity was the ruling paradigm. Geocentrism refers to the belief that all the visible celestial bodies circled a stationary earth. It was most notably developed by Aristotle in the 4th century BC, and refined by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. Based partly on Greek philosophy and partly observation, the geocentric universe held sway for about 1500 years. It involved ever more complicated systems of cycles and epicycles within spheres; fudge factors developed to incorporate growing observational evidence within the geocentric paradigm.
Astronomers were enabled by the telescope, invented in the Protestant Netherlands in the early 17th C and very quickly refined by Galileo, to see ever more detail in the heavens. Galileo’s developing Copernican,4 heliocentric model was strongly resisted by many of the scientists of his day who clung tenaciously to the old paradigm. Contrary to modern myth, the resistance he experienced from the established church was more political than scientific or religious in nature.5 It was the German Christian, Johannes Kepler, whose laws of planetary motion finally tore through the veil of the old assumptions.
The foundational assumption of evolution is that all material phenomena can be explained by natural causes. A corollary of evolution is abiogenesis; life must have arisen from non-life at some time in the past in order for mutations and natural selection, the ‘engines’ of neo-Darwinian evolution, to act upon that first living organism. In earlier times, many seeking to deny the Creator’s hand believed in the spontaneous generation of life. Hard-to-explain occurrences of life such as maggots and even mice, were attributed to spontaneous generation. This often resulted in a ‘c’est la mort’ attitude to death by infection in medicine. Well into the 19th century, encouraged by a belief in evolution, scientists believed in the spontaneous generation of microbes. It was work by Christian creationists such as Louis Pasteur6 and Joseph Lister7, against much resistance and ridicule, that led to an understanding of the germ basis for infection, that life only comes from life–the Law of Biogenesis. Consider what multiple benefits we enjoy today due to people like these refusing to accept the ruling assumptions of their day.
Though increasingly challenged today by even secular cosmologists, the Big Bang remains the domineering theory of the origin of the universe. As observational data has accumulated, increasing layers of fudge factors have been added to the model in order to keep it viable. These fudge factors are assumed to be true for the model to work. Some of these assumptions, never proven or observed, are that the universe has no centre, that it has no edge, and that approximately 70% of this universe of mass-energy consists of dark energy, and 25% dark matter—where ‘dark’ means totally unknown and unobserved. This means that only about 5% of the mass-energy in the universe consists of ordinary, known forms of matter or energy that can be observed and measured. It is not biblical creationists who rest on blind faith for their origin assumptions. Those questioning the Big Bang have to do so in teams in order to avoid being crushed by the bouncers defending the naturalism nightclub.8
The list goes on and on of those bound by the evolutionary paradigm, zealously defending their turf; ignoring counter evidence, manufacturing evidence, coming up with ‘just so stories’, and generally giving their assumptions all the devotion and orthodoxy of a zealous believer.
Of course, biblical Christians also have two major assumptions—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”; and that He has given us an objective, written record of His works. The Bible tells us of a perfect creation, cursed because of sin, and promised redemption through the loving sacrifice of God the Son on a cross 2000 years ago. These assumptions provide a model or framework of all of reality without the need for fraud and fudge factors to support it.
The question all need to resolve is; which set of assumptions is the Truth?
References and notes
- How do you prove, for instance, that the law of gravity will not change from one moment to the next? Return to text.
- creation.com/vestigial-organs-questions-and-answers. Return to text.
- Mattick, J., cited in: Gibbs, W.W., The unseen genome: gems among the junk, Scientific American 289(5):26–33, November 2003. Return to text.
- Nicolaus Copernicus was a 16th century astronomer who developed a heliocentric model of the solar system where the sun and not the earth was at the center. Return to text.
- creation.com/the-galileo-affair-history-or-heroic-hagiography. Return to text.
- creation.com/louis-pasteur. Return to text.
- creation.com/joseph-lister-father-of-modern-surgery. Return to text.
- creation.com/secular-scientists-blast-the-big-bang. Return to text.
DJ asks; "How can we tell if our assumptions are correct? Is there a way?"
All thinking, and all worldviews are founded upon assumptions. Can we prove which assumptions are correct? No; at least not apriori, not before we start. You can take the assumption of materialism and the assumption of biblical theism and see which makes most sense, see which comports most with human experience - but ultimately, according to the bible, the Holy Spirit convicts who He will of the truth of God's word.
- To say that "X is a fact'' is basically to say ''according to my wview, X is a fact.'' i.e. all truth claims are based on wview assumptions. Without a wview we can't make judgments upon the truth (or reality) of things. What I think you're asking is this; is there a way by which I can judge my wview? i.e. is there something more ultimate than my basic assumption? (If there were, this would really be your basic assumption.)
Some people say the law of contradiction should be ultimate over all assumptions... but this too is a wview assumption. If the law of contradiction is your most basic assumption (as it was for the theologian Ronald Nash) then what are you going to use to test the truth of this?
Everyone needs a starting place, and since we are finite creatures we must operate in terms of faith. (e.g. We can say amen to biblical theism or we can say 'amen' to Materialism.)
Excellent article Mr. Ambler. I am glad to have read it and I enjoyed the plumbing bit. I once asked an evolutionist friend if he believed evidence required interpretation. This was an attempt to see if he would say evidence speaks for itself. He actually replied “it’s the other way around.” Please correct me if I’m wrong but to say that interpretation requires evidence implies that evidence speaks for itself by assuming that ‘plumbing is the problem’ so to speak. Great article, God bless.
His answer implies that he already has an 'interpretation' before he even looks at the evidence. This was the point of the article and many like it on our website. The fact is that when it comes to accounting for the past events or causes that lead to the present effects, facts, or evidence that we observe in the present, we either need a reliable eye witness account or else we need to interpret the evidence in the present. Our assumptions about the past unavoidably play a huge role in that interpretation. This is true whether we are dealing with Gettysburg or the Grand Canyon. The former had reliable eye witnesses, the latter only features such as rock layer and fossils that require interpretation. Christians have both a reliable eye witness to creation, the Creator Himself, as well as an accurate framework or worldview from the Bible within which to interpret the 'pieces of the puzzle', not expressly given in the Bible. The catastrophe of the Genesis Flood provides us with the perfect context within in which most of the geological features of the world make perfect sense.
For Hans, Psalm 93 is poetry. To say that 'the earth...shall not be moved', in context of the other verses 'the floods have lifted up their voice' and 'the Lord is robed' it is clear that these are not to be taken literally. I don't read it to mean physically moved. I'm sure that can be debated but genre is crucial.
Excellent article. However, it also might be inadvertent evidence of the spontaneous generation of moths from bathwater. :-)
"While the paradigm of a geocentric solar system or universe was not necessarily unbiblical, it arose in a non-biblical culture"
I cannot see how Psalm 92 (or 93 in Protestant Bibles) can be seen as "unbiblical."
The earth is established and shall not be moved.
God's throne is also established, but it does conspicuously not say it shall not be moved. From the Gospel we can identify God's throne as Heaven. According to Geocentrism earth shall indeed not be moved and Heaven is moved every day. And the first one to protest against Galileo was NOT a Church man devoted to Aristotle, but a Dominican who saw the anti-biblical implications which Galileo had sometimes been writing out in full.
The Hebrew word 'moved'is môt which can be translated as moved, shaken, diverted or dislodged and so implies that it cannot be moved from its course or position that God has ordained. This would allow for the possibility of either a geo or heliocentric system and that is why I said that a geocentric universe was not 'necessarily unbiblical'. But the word certainly allows for the heliocentric system which all observations confirm. Your apparent assertion that God's throne (heaven) 'moves' in relation to the earth is a non-starter. Psalm 93:2 tells us that God's throne is eternal, i.e. it has existed forever and therefore transcends this space/time universe. The idea that it somehow moves relative to the earth or this universe is therefore unsupportable.
I love the plumbing analogy of chasing smells, only to find it wasn't a plumbing problem at all! Analogies like this one are excellent for reaching the minds of ordinary people, who hardly ever challenge their own "plumbing" assumptions. They trusted their teachers, who in turn trusted their teachers, and so on.
What is remarkable is the ferocity with which the secular scientific establishment behaves in protecting its own "plumbing". The open-minded dispassionate examination of the evidence is conspicuous by its absence.
However, there is so much evidence accumulating against the big Bang Theory and Evolution that they cannot stand up to legitimate scrutiny much longer. There will such a loss of faith in the scientific "plumbing" system when they fall, not only in the evolutionary paradigm, but also in true operational science, by association. This will be a great pity since it is true operational science which has brought us so many benefits, which, we should add, owes its origins to its Christian roots.
I love articles like this one, explaining the problem by analogy with everyday experience. Please keep up the excellent work.
Arthur F Green, Author of "When fables Fall - Unmasking the Lies of Distorted Science, Secularism and Humanism".
"The question all need to resolve is; which set of assumptions is the Truth?"
That is the question. How can we tell if our assumptions are correct? Is there a way?
How would we even know unless God told us? And He has! Unless there is a transcendent authority for those assumptions, Who has revealed the truth to us, all efforts to establish whether our axioms or assumptions are valid, are in vain.
Why always talking to a brick? They want to go to the evolutionary heaven made from nothing, I go to the heaven my heavenly Father made for Himself and me.
You must remember that our ministry is primarily aimed at equipping God's people with answers to the claims of philosophical materialism, i.e. evolution. This provides a platform from which to confidently share our faith which is a biblical instruction that Jesus gave to His disciples. Of course, our prayer is that some that are entrapped in this anti-God worldview, might be jarred in their thinking, question their assumptions and turn to Christ. We have many testimonies from people who have done just that having found that there are rational, scientifically sound answers within the framework of Biblical creation and history of the universe.