‘Gradualism’ vs ‘Catastrophism’ – A Layman’s Perspective – Part 1 of at least 1

While I am waiting for something truly catastrophic to happen, and having declared (and by doing so have backed myself into a corner – a corner which fortunately has several escape doors which I may utilise) that nothing else is currently worth pursuing as a subject for me to talk about, I have turned my thoughts to a subject that has always interested me but which has always appeared to be too large a matter for me to handle successfully – given my inbuilt frailties, academic inadequacies and growing pre-occupation with more trivial matters. My blog site is littered with unfinished posts on this and similar other matters that somehow and at some time got put to one side and forgotten. I am fully aware that may also become the fate of this piece but will press ahead with it for now at least.

In any case, it is relevant for today. Deeply relevant, because the foundations of modern society are built on various supposedly scientific theories which became acceptable during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as much by propaganda and constant repetition and the failure of alternative arguments to gain ground among the old religiously inspired white men who exclusively made up the ‘scientific’ community of the day and are still revered today to a large extent even though the basis of the beliefs they held are no longer anywhere so prevalent in modern society. It was always men. I cannot think of a single broadly accepted scientific theory from that era, attributable to a woman. Who, one may ask, gave mainly old, religious, white men exclusive purview over the discovery of ‘facts’ which define our universe, our world, and everything within it? It is time that we questioned the basis on which we have been taught and our children are still being taught about the physical world today.

I originally titled this essay as “Debunking Evolution and Uniformity” but soon realised that represented far too grandiose a concept for whatever lengths to which my current endeavours may stretch. Hence the title as given.

Basically this is going to be about the question “Is uniformitarianism a thing?”, or perhaps more about “Is uniformitarianism a ‘real’ thing? Or is it just somebody’s conceptual portrayal of their idea of reality?”

By happy happenstance I came across this definition of uniformity, copiously referenced, in Wikipedia:

Uniformitarianism, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity or the Uniformitarian Principle,[1] is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe.[2][3] It refers to invariance in the metaphysical principles underpinning science, such as the constancy of cause and effect throughout space-time,[4] but has also been used to describe spatiotemporal invariance of physical laws.[5] Though an unprovable postulate that cannot be verified using the scientific method,[6] some consider that uniformitarianism should be a required first principle in scientific research.[7] Other scientists disagree and consider that nature is not absolutely uniform, even though it does exhibit certain regularities.[8][9]



The pretty pink highlight in the above quote is my own. I thought it too whimsical a point to pass up as an opportunity to state what is a generally, exceptionally and grossly unstated truth – that modern science is without a doubt based almost entirely on metaphysics, a statement that will undoubtedly ruffle a large number of feathers in various places and result in copious splurting and spluttering and not a little choking on and spraying of coffee in the hallowed corridors and tea-rooms of the scientific community. Notwithstanding that, the statement is inviolably true – as any honest scientist would agree.

The first principle to be learned is that there are no science ‘facts’. Everything is a theory and all science endeavour should be relabeled as theoretical scientific discovery. Any scientist worth his/her salt will tell you, as a basic admission of truth, that they actually know nothing. There is a simple reason for that, and it is this: Scientists can only operate on ‘a warrant for inductive inference… which is …the basic mode of reasoning in empirical science.’ (see reference [4]  in the above quote, repeated below, which points to ref [40] in the broader Wikipedia piece)

The assumption of spatial and temporal invariance of natural laws … amounts to a warrant for inductive inference which, as Bacon* showed nearly four hundred years ago, is the basic mode of reasoning in empirical science. Without assuming this spatial and temporal invariance, we have no basis for extrapolating from the known to the unknown and, therefore, no way of reaching general conclusions from a finite number of observations.”

*Sir Francis Bacon – English philosopher and statesman of the Elizabethan era who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. He was and still is a much underestimated man who has been described as someone with his fingers in many pies, not least of which was espionage and the liklihood of his being the alter-ego of the largely mythical William Shakespeare. His works are credited with developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution.”

So, and I must admit I didn’t intend this introduction to be so lengthy (means I will have to do at least a ‘Part 2′), ’empirical science’ – on which many of our non-religious, pseudo-religious and scientific beliefs (and the entirety of our religious beliefs) are based, is nothing more than the products of ‘a warrant’ for inductive inference. A very shaky foundation indeed.

This is not to say that all modern scientific thought is wrong. Although it may well be, and certainly cannot be proven conclusively to be true – any more than any and all religious precept or concept. They are all based on metaphysical principles.

If you are not convinced by that, and who could blame you – it is what we have been coerced (and I don’t consider that to be too strong a word) into believing for our whole lives. Be honest, have you ever been told exactly what the true basis of science (and religion, for that matter – which are mutually interchangeable terms in my view) is? Just what is this ‘inductive inference’ on which empirical science is based?

Well, it is surprisingly difficult to ascertain. Make an online query for ‘inductive inference’ and you will be quickly diverted to references that are mostly based around ‘inductive reasoning’, which is a logic leap to something quite different, comparing that with ‘deductive reasoning’ with arguments that both are useful methods to the understanding of science and our world – a sort of ‘sleight of hand’ diversionary tactic (whether purposefully done or not).

Both deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning rely, for any value they provide, on ‘inferences’ (an ‘inferred’ – not necessarily reality based – truth about something).

Inductive reasoning takes a specific premise (with the assumption that it is true) and leads from that to a general conclusion or inference (and an inferred assumption that the conclusion is also true). Here’s a definition, again from Wikipedia:

Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which the premises (an assumption that something is true) are viewed as supplying some evidence for the truth of the conclusion.[1]

Deductive reasoning takes the inferred truth of one or more general premises to reach a specific conclusion which must be true if the original premises are true. There is a Wikipedia definition for that too.

In my mind there is little difference between the two methods of reasoning. Both use inductive inference, one to argue reductively from the general to the specific and the other expansively from the specific to the general, and since no premise can be established as a starting point for either method without the use of inductive inference, neither separately nor jointly do they form the basis for any solidly grounded field of thought.

Of course we need to have a firmly based framework on which we can make some sense of our existence while operating within the physical world in which (we think) we are living. Otherwise everything would be utter chaos. By repetitively doing certain things and getting the same result every time (or most times) we have been able to judge what works and what does not. But we will never quite know why. Oh, we can formulate our stories and convince ourselves they are true – but we can never be entirely sure. The wise will understand that, and accept it. The foolish will continue to accept everything they are told, and not even bother to think about why that may be foolish.

We only have to look around us to see that neither science nor religion has answers, or the right answers, nor even sensible and fully explainable answers for the things we see.

Which brings me to the subject I first wanted to talk about. Sadly I think I had better finish at this point and begin that story in a Part 2.

Thanks for reading if you actually got this far.

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