Monday Musings for January 08, 2018

Good morning, Musers,

I bowl in a candlepin bowling league, and I have a running (but good-natured) argument with the league director about how he lists our averages. He lists mine as 95.7. But I understand it to be 95. You see, I’m sort of an honest fellow, and I don’t want to be credited with that fraction of a pin. Why not? I’ve tried… but I’ve never been able to knock down anything but whole pins.

What’s going on here is the math is just having its way with the averaging sheet. If you are taking an average of whole numbers, you will often get a value with a decimal remainder. But that remainder is, practically speaking, an artifact when you are looking at something whole like bowling pins.

There are a number of ways to deal with this, including rounding. Now, rounding-up would be a poor choice because this decimal value is just the result of math. It does not — nor does it purport to — represent any part of a pin. Rounding-down “fixes” the issue to my mathematical satisfaction. Indeed, this method reflects my true whole-pin average. But I have a philosophical issue with this. I don’t want my average rounded-down. I want it truncated.

Here’s the thing (and yes… there’s always a thing). Since partial pins do not exist, we should not honor them.… and that’s what rounding does. Now, if we round the value down, then that “fixes” the averaging sheet. But it does so by making us evaluate entities that don’t exist… and this gives them a kind of credibility. Truncating, on the other hand, cuts off the decimal values without considering them. So we don’t give those non-existent pins the time of day.

I bring this up to demonstrate that science does not hate us (although I cannot speak for every scientist). But also, so that we do not hate science in return. You see, scientific methodology has a truncated scope. It cuts off non-physical entities (like the soul) from consideration.

A previous questioner apparently did not understand this, so today’s Q & A is a follow-up about the soul. But science does not even purport to evaluate whether or not the soul exists. The soul is outside of its considerations methodologically… and that’s the truncation that I’m talking about. By declaring that it will only consider the physical world, science is not declaring that the soul does not exist. It is declaring that it cannot have a scientific opinion on the matter.

I used to call this action dismissive… but I’ve changed my mind. Science does not dismiss the notion of the soul. Dismissing requires consideration (as does rounding-down a bowling average).  Science truncates it — and it does so definitively — because the scientific method limits the scope of investigations to the physical realm. The result is that non-physical entities have no standing… and I have no problem with this.

I do have a problem with the illogical conclusion that since we can only examine physical entities, then only the physical entities exist. Does anyone really believe that limitations in testing limit what actually exists? Besides, that’s not a statement based on science. That’s a statement of philosophy… unless I missed the soulometer article in the latest issue of Scientific American.

An honest statement of science’s relation to the soul would be, “Given our physicalistic philosophy and methodology, we believe self-awareness (the soul) to be an artifact of brain chemistry.” And ours would be, “Given our respect for God’s word, we believe that the soul (our self-awareness) is a non-corporeal entity that transcends — and is therefore ontologically discrete from — the body.” … but then we should both concede that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of the soul… nor can we Christians.

So, what do we do… flip a coin? Heads God’s right… tails he’s wrong? Nope. We make an informed choice.

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV)

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