Plumbing and Paradigms
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.