No, you didn’t answer what I asked. I didn’t ask you “what it is” you’re saying. I asked you to confirm specifically that you believe “The universe is billions of years old” has not been confirmed by any degree at all to be more probably true than “The universe is only six thousand years old.” You’ve dodged that question several times now.

Anyway, you say you accept scientific theories on a “provisional” basis. That’s just my pragmatic defense of science, so we agree there. But then you go on to say you’re not willing to say such theories are confirmed with any degree of certainty, “because confirmation is not within the power of science, without a solution to the problem of induction.”

I addressed that latter slide from the power of science to theories about science. Again, it’s possible to succeed at doing something without understanding how the success is achieved. Many artists, for example, not only don’t know how their creativity works, but they steer clear of learning how that sausage is made for fear of losing their ability by becoming self-conscious about it. Likewise, it’s fallacious to say that because we don’t understand how science works, therefore science doesn’t have the properties it would need to work. That’s a non sequitur.

What science can do is one thing. What we understand about how science works is another. The problem of induction goes to our theories of how science works. If you don’t think science establishes that some statements are more probably true than others, not even on a pragmatic, provisional basis, you don’t think there’s any such thing as science. Once you accept the success and thus the existence of science, you’ve got to distinguish between that and our ability to understand how science works.

The two hypotheses about the age of the universe are linked because they’re rival accounts of the same thing. There’s the Bible-based account and then there’s the modern cosmological one. Which is better at explaining the data? Which best satisfies the epistemic criteria for an empirical explanation? The Bible-based one is actually ruled out quite early in the process of evaluation because it posits miracles and therefore violates the fundamental scientific commitment to methodological naturalism.

Now do those epistemic criteria establish that the cosmological account of the universe’s origin is more likely true than the biblical one? Again, if the answer is no, I don’t see how science would even exist as a discipline.

You concede that science falsifies theories, but you deny that science thereby establishes the probable truth of rival theories. But there’s still the mere analytical matter that the concept of falsity makes no sense without that of truth. So if “The universe is only six thousand years old” has been falsified, the converse that “The universe is older than six thousand years” must be true. You ought to concede that as well, as far as I can see. Yes, we wouldn’t thereby know exactly how old the universe is. Is it 6,001 years old? Is it a million or a billion years old? But that’s where more scientific work would have to be done to narrow down the options, and of course that’s happened. Cosmologists have hardly rested their case with the falsification of the Bible.

Sure, if theory X is falsified and there are infinite alternative explanations, that one falsification by itself doesn’t help us decide which theory is true. We’d still be in the dark. But we don’t deal with infinite alternatives, because our minds can’t encompass them all. We’re stuck with considering the finite number of options that seem plausible to the human mind. We can test only those hypotheses that make a lick of sense to minds with our faculties and experience. This is the Kantian aspect of knowledge. So because the practical options are finite, science deals only with probable, not with absolute truth.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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