Volume 10, Number 1
Commentary on the Patterson/Walters Exchange
Dr. Robert A. Gange
An important perceptual difference between Tracy Walters and
Dr. Patterson appears to lie in the relationship, if any, between
science and the supernatural. Accordingly, I offer the following
remarks as context for the particular points discussed below.
- Natural science is an enterprise committed to discovering
physical truth. It functions under a feedback cycle that gathers
reproducable data, creates falsifiable hypotheses, and makes
logical predications that direct the gathering of future data.
The latter is used to retain, alter or replace the hypotheses.
An hypothesis is retained when it answers every question we can
think to ask of it, and discarded when it can no longer be altered
to make its predictions fit the data. This latter condition is
known as "falsifiability."
- Supernatural explanations -- while they may, in principle,
be true -- ordinarily lie outside the jurisdiction of science
because they are not falsifiable. To say that when "natural
processes don't operate" we can "call that supernatural"
is a choice motivated by theistic philosophy. But, of course,
we are also free to view the matter as originating from a natural
cause yet to be discovered. This seems to be Dr. Patterson's
view. However, while it is true that "the working assumption
in modern science is that all phenomena in the universe are natural
ones," the assumption is, in principle, unessential to the
operation of science. In this case the belief has its origin
in materialistic philosophy -- not demonstrable fact. The freedom
to interpret unexplained events in terms of supernatural cause
versus incomplete knowledge is, it seems to me, something that
neither can deny the other.
- Natural science is provisional knowledge about the physical
world acquired through the feedback cycle outlined above. However
the pursuit of that knowledge does not demand, apriori, that
its ultimate cause have a natural origin. It merely requires
that the feedback cycle be operative. For example, if at some
future date it should be suspected that starlight originates
from interstellar cheesecloth designed by galactic imps to deceive
us, the hypothesis might inspire novel decoding and communication
attempts that could prove successful e.g., the imps might acknowledge
their identity and activity, thereby giving us knowledge regarding
the origin and nature of certain measurable signals that permeate
the "universe." This process satisfies the feedback
cycle and, therefore, qualifies as natural science i.e., we would
have discovered provisional knowledge about our physical world.
Yet the relationships engineered by the imps for the radiation
amplitude, phase, intensity and angular spread can hardly be
regarded as data from a "natural" origin. I cite this
highly unlikely possibility to illustrate that the investigation
of natural phenomena is quite a separate matter from its presumed
natural cause. The latter is an apriori commitment that stems
from materialism -- not science -- and it presupposes that all
that exists is matter and motion.
Dr. Gange received his Ph.D. in 1978 for
extensive research on the application of cryophysics to information
systems. He has been on staff for over 25 years at the David Sarnoff
Research Center in princeton, New Jersey. In the course of his
scientific career, he has received nine corporate awards and has
been honored seven times by the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration. More recently, he is the author of the book, Origins and Destiny, published in 1986 by Word books,
Waco, Texas. In this article, Dr. Gange addresses some of the
points raised by John Patterson and Tracy Walters in the last
issue of Origins Research.
Copyright © 1997 Robert A Gange. All rights
reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 3.13.97