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Interpretation, Science and Today's News

Today, BBC News has described a man in Canada discovering fish fossils while digging a basement. He called a paleontologist. The BBC reports that the "specimens were in sandstone from the Paskapoo Formation, a Paleocene age sedimentary rock which underlies parts of southern Alberta. The BBC article continues:

About 60 million years old, these rocks preserve evidence of life from the time following the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period, which wiped out three-quarters of all species on earth, including the dinosaurs.

According to the BBC, the paleontologist involved, Dr. Zelenitsky, praised the finder "for his awareness of what the fossils were." She said, "an ordinary person might have just seen blobs in the rock."

The article writes of Canadian newspapers having made much of the belief of the man who made the discoveries being a creationist. It describes the Calgary Sun as having asked the man if his find had affected his view that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. "No, it hasn't changed my mind," he is reported as having told the paper. "We all have the same evidence, and it's just a matter of how you interpret it," he told the paper.

Indeed, it is a matter of how you interpret it, but not just a matter of how you interpret it. His "just" puts him at odds with science. Science tries to determine which among rival alternative interpretations is more credible, which interpretation hangs together in a gathered body of knowledge. Science doesn't deny our subjectivity and it also doesn't leave our subjectivity completely disconnected from the world outside our head including that which we are studying. Science doesn't hold that all ideas are equal. It recognizes variety and does not assume equivalence.

This is close to what I was writing about two days ago, including my view of the ancient philosopher Pyrrho and the twentieth century philosopher Paul Feyerabend.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.