Why is there a fire hydrant in the middle of Forest Park?

February 26, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More

Why is this fire hydrant in the middle of Forest Park, in St. Louis, Missouri?  Is it there for the firefighters in case an ant hill catches fire? A flower?hydrant-distant1

If I used the logic employed by Creationists, I might simply say that God put that fire hydrant there.   To the extent that anyone accepts such an explanation, there would be no need for further  inquiry (nor any real possibility for further inquiry).

To the extent that someone accepts the “explanation” that “God did it,” he or she would miss out on a rich factual history, teaming with direct evidence upon which one can build an incredibly strong circumstantial case. One really can explain the presence of this hydrant, even without direct evidence (presumably, no one who saw this hydrant being installed is still alive).

I’m working on a post regarding creationism (including its modern version,  “intelligent design”). Yesterday’s walk in the park reminded me that circumstantial evidence can be strong, indeed.   In fact, circumstantial evidence can make for airtight cases.  Circumstantial evidence can even be much stronger than authority (because authorities–e.g., the park police–are often wrong).   Therefore, people who really want to know don’t simply throw up their hands and declare that the hydrant is there “Because God put it there” even when a person in a position of authority tells them this story.

hydrant-up-close1An inspection of this hydrant shows that it was manufactured in 1887 (or is that number 1881?).   It was thus  installed sometime after 1881.  Why would it be installed in the middle of a park?  Perhaps it wasn’t just a park back then.  Perhaps it was installed because that land was to be the location of a huge construction project:  the 1904 World’s Fair held in St. Louis.   Perhaps, after the Fair was over, this hydrant was not removed.   Perhaps there are some photos of the Fair that would include this little fire hydrant, a vestigial reminder that something much more elaborate once occupied this place. All of these questions can be answered if one takes the time to examine real evidence that is currently available.  If one looked further for evidence, one would find tons of corroboration, including a huge “Flight Cage” that now houses a bird exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo, also an original part of the 1904 World’s Fair.  Of course, one could also find numerous books filled with photos, names, dates and interviews. Notice that I’m referring to corroborative written materials–many sources that overlap–not simply reading one book over and over until one is more and more convinced.

Creationists are happy to employ these open-minded investigative methods almost always, in almost every aspect of their lives.  This method of asking questions and then following the evidence wherever it leads is actually an extension of common sense.   It’s a shame that when it comes to one particular incredibly important aspect of their lives, determining what kind of beings we are, creationists refuse to use this direct extension of common sense.

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Category: History, ignorance, Religion, scientific method

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Ryan says:

    Eric,

    So this is a response to both this post and the post on creationists/ism.

    I appreciated the points your raised on the circumstantial evidence issue, confirmation bias, and selective skepticism.

    I would like to think that for most people (regardless of the issue or their persuasion) these fallacies are employed without intent to be deceptive or dishonest, and more out ignorance or instinct, but perhaps I am too optimistic.

    I do think that many people convince themselves that they are more intellectually honest and consistent in their beliefs than they really are, and it also seems to be true of a most people that they just will not be persuaded into believing something that they don't want to believe.

    I am curious if you have ever read any of Alvin Plantiga's works about warrant? I don't assume that it would ground-breaking for you or anything but you might be able to appreciate his thoughtfulness a bit more than some of your recent interlocutors. He is a Christian philosopher, though I admittedly don't remember how he approaches the creationism/evolution issue off the top of my head.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Ryan: Thanks for your comment. Could you suggest a link to some of Plantiga's work?

    • Ryan says:

      A bit of sleep makes all the difference for me. First off, I misspelled his name in my 24 waking hour stupor, it is Alvin Plantinga.

      Here are a couple links I found on Google-scholar. It is kind of a lot of information, which I don't intend to use to overwhelm. A summary of some of his ideas can be found on his wikipedia entry.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantinga

      Unfortunately, like many philosophical arguments, it is hard to appreciate the short form without all of the explanation leading up to and flowing out from the argument itself.

      http://books.google.com/books?id=9X-3sPj9m34C&amp

      http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&i

      These look to be decent previews of a couple of his articles. The first one is what I was referring to before, the second is an evolutionary argument against naturalism.

      I don't agree with 100% of his views, but I find him to be thoughtful and thought-provoking. I also appreciate that he has many published exchanges with critics of his views (critical articles also available on google Scholar), which is often lacking in any kind of serious way in this kind of (theism vs naturalism) writing.

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