Wednesday, February 20, 2008

There's much more to it than just the data

Choosing non-inerrancy over inerrancy involves a number of factors that seems to have less to do with the data observed in scripture and more to do with the psychological and social location of the person doing the observing. Philosophy of science has helped us realize that more is involved in deciding which theory to adopt than simply observing the data at hand:

“The knower is seen as a kind of conquerer, like Julius Caesar winning his battles according to the formula ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ A person who wants to know something, so he makes his observation or experiment and then he knows. Even research workers who have won many a scientific battle may believe this na├»ve story when looking at their own work in retrospect.

At most they will admit that the first observation may have been a little imprecise, whereas the second and third were ‘adjusted to the facts.’ But the situation is not so simple, except in certain very limited fields, such as present-day mechanics, in which there are very ancient and widely known everyday facts to draw upon. In more modern, more remote, and still complicated fields, in which it is important first of all to learn to observe and ask questions properly, this situation does not obtain—and perhaps never does, originally, in any field—until tradition, education, and familiarity have produced a readiness for stylized (that is, directed and restricted) perception and action; until an answer becomes largely pre-formed in the question, and a decision is confined merely to ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ or perhaps to a numerical determination; until methods and apparatus automatically carry out the greatest part of our mental work for us.” (Ludwig Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, 84, italics in original)