Saturday, August 10, 2019

Explanatory Power of a Biblical Worldview

As a professor of physics at a research university, I will often get unsolicited papers from non-scientists that propose an entirely different perspective on some known physical phenomena, maybe the electromagnetic force, or how atoms behave. In almost every case I can quickly glance at the paper and recognize that the proposal cannot be true. I may be accused of being arrogant or biased because I quickly dismiss these new ideas with apparently very little thought. But, in reality, most of these ideas can be readily discarded simply because they contradict known data and experiments.

For example, a student once came into my office with an idea that he had been working on since he was very young about how electricity might be described and modeled. It was apparent that, although his idea was clever and inventive, it did not coincide with some of the things we know about the electromagnetic force. Rather than squelch this student's idea outright I simply informed him that since he was a freshman physics major he would learn a lot about electricity during the next four years of college. I suggested that he compare what we know about how the electromagnetic force works with his model and see if his model was able to accurately describe what we know from experimental observation. If it didn't, he'd have to revise or reject his model. If it did, his model may be correct.

In any effort to determine if an idea is true or not, it is vital to compare the predictions of the idea with what is already known to be true. If an idea contradicts known truth, then the idea cannot itself be true.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Evidence for Christianity

If you flip a coin a number of times and 60% of the time the coin shows "heads" while 40% of the time the coin flip shows "tails" would you conclude that the coin is a fair coin that is properly and unbiasedly weighted? As the question is stated, there is not enough information to accurately answer it. For instance, if you flip the coin ten times, it is quite probable that the coin will be heads six times and tails four times. A six to four split should happen about 21% of the time, so such a pattern would not be unusual in 10 coin tosses. But suppose instead you flipped a coin 1000 times and it showed heads 600 times and tails 400 times. That is still a 6/4 ratio but the probability of this pattern appearing is 4.6×10-11. Clearly a coin showing 600 heads and 400 tails is not a properly balanced coin. In order to make a definitive statement about the coin there must be enough data, or evidence, to support the hypothesis. (In reality, it seems to be impossible to make a "weighted" coin by adding weight to one side, but a coin can be made to land on a preferred side by bending it.)

This is the second installment in a series of blog posts dealing with some general questions that can be used to try to determine if a certain proposition is true or not. These principles can be applied to a scientific experiment or to the claims of Christianity to ascertain what conclusion is likely true. In a previous blog post I asked the question of whether or not the data was logically self-consistent. Regarding Christianity, I claimed that the Bible itself is a self-consistent book, and that the message of Christianity regarding the person of Jesus, the character of God, and the nature of humans is also self-consistent.