Keep Your Eye on the Cause Ball
|October 4, 2010||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
In his post below Clive Hayden quotes Dr. Bruce Gordon: “spontaneous creation” minus “any cause illustrates the lack of an explanation rather than scientific comprehension.”
nikkipolya objects: “The popular interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is also anything but comprehensible. Yet, it correctly explains most of the phenomena at the atomic level. Comprehensibility is a problem that only exists in the brain. You are trying to correlate two unrelated problems.”
nikkipolya does not appear to understand Gordon’s basic point. The equations of quantum mechanics describe certain regularities (i.e., “laws”) of sub-atomic phenomena. In no sense do the equations of quantum mechanics explain how or why those regularities came into existence in the first place
Thus, at its base, nikkipolya’ objection depends on an equivocation on the word “explain.” “Explain” can mean to describe how something came into being and it can also mean to describe why something came into being. Nikkipolya uses the word in the former sense, while Gordon is using it in the latter.
Here is a rough analogy: Say we can go back in time and videotape Leonardo da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa. We could then analyze that videotape and write a description of everything Leonardo did to create the painting. That description would read something like this: “The painter stretched a canvas on a frame. The then painter dabbed his brush into the blue paint and applied it in four light downward strokes to sector 15 of the canvas. The painter then dapped his brush in green paint and applied two heavy horizontal strokes in sector 23 of the canvas, and so on.” Our detailed account of the painting process would describe how the painting came into being. It would not explain why the painting came into existence (i.e., Leonardo needed to make a living and he was commissioned to paint a portrait and he decided to do so).
In terms of Aristotelian causation, our account of the painting is an account of the material and efficient causes of the painting. It is not an account of the final cause of the painting.
Hawkings runs off the rails when he forgets the first principles of science laid down by Francis Bacon in 1605 when he noted that science takes account of only material and efficient causes. It does not take account of final or formal causes.