07 March 2010

Evidence as a Facade

In The Geography of Nowhere, author James Howard Kunstler commented on the Beaux Arts architectural style of the late 19th century, an example of which is seen above. While buildings planned in this style often used Greek-style pillars, Kuntsler notes that the pillars are a lie. They are a facade: they have no functional purpose other than to decorate the building. These buildings are not fashioned on classical principles, but modern: their infastructure is provided by a steel skeleton, not  Doric columns. The buildings pretend to be classically-derived, but they are more modern than not.

That came to mind today when thinking about explanatory models and theories, more particularly about the distinction between a theory that rises from the evidence and a theory that only uses the evidence. This is the difference between evolution, for instance, and creationism. One is the result of Darwin's lifetime of peering at the facts as he knew them. The strength of Darwin's theory lies in his collection of the evidence and his attempt to find explanations that fit it. This is not the case with creationism, particularly the young-earth variety. There, the heart of the idea is belief: belief in the Bible, trust that the words of parochial iron-age personalities thousands of years ago are valid. To be a young-earth creationist, you must use the Bible: that's your "support".  The same is true for holocaust denial: its true base is hatred of Israel. In both instances, the evidence -- Greek pillars -- may be applied to the model in order to justify it, but the real heart of these ideas, their true infastructure, is something else altogether. Thus, these models of evidence are only a facade.

1 comment:

CyberKitten said...

Tis a lovely building though..... [grin]