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Is Real Knowledge Only Scientific Knowledge?

ScienceTrust

Is science the only legitimate form of rational inquiry? The evolutionary biologist and popular atheist Richard Dawkins thinks so.

In a 2012 debate with Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dawkins claims that religion, as opposed to science, is “a betrayal of the intellect.” He asserts that appealing to God to explain the universe is “a phony substitute for an explanation” and “peddles false explanations where real explanations could have been offered.” What counts as a real explanation? For Dawkins, it’s science.

The belief that real explanations can only be offered by science is a worldview known as scientism. But is scientism itself a real explanation? Is scientism worthy of the human intellect?

I suggest no, and here's why.

A Betrayal of the Human Intellect

First, scientism is self-refuting. The statement “Scientific knowledge is the only legitimate form of knowledge” cannot be verified by scientific methods. It’s a metaphysical proposition and thus not subject to scientific inquiry. No matter how successful science is, it is restricted to physical reality. Metaphysics deals with foundational truths about reality that go beyond the merely physical (e.g., questions about existence itself, time, space, etc.). Science can never go beyond the boundaries of its data source, so, in principle, cannot verify the truth of scientism.

But if science cannot verify the truth of scientism, then scientism is self-refuting.

Moreover, scientism is self-refuting because it undermines science as a rational form of inquiry. Consider that science presupposes various philosophical assumptions that are not subject to scientific verification—e.g., there is an external world outside the minds of scientists, the world is governed by causal regularities, and the human intellect is capable of uncovering these regularities.

Now, in view of scientism, how could science be a legitimate form of rational inquiry if its presupposed assumptions are not the product of scientific inquiry? It can’t. Scientism seeks to exalt science, but it actually undermines it in the process.

No Human Minds Allowed

The second reason why scientism is unsustainable is because it leads to the denial of the human mind. Philosopher Edward Feser argues such in his article “Blinded by Scientism.”

Feser explains how scientism is based on the divide in modern science between the quantitative-objective-real and qualitative-subjective-appearance images of the world. According to this divide, anything that cannot be quantifiably measured is not real. Since scientific inquiry is subject only to the quantitative aspects of reality, scientism views knowledge of such things as the only real form of knowledge. But this causes a problem.

Concerning the mind, Feser correctly argues that it falls on the qualitative-subjective-appearance side. The mental activities in the practice of science such as the formulation of hypotheses, the weighing of evidence, technical concepts, and the construction of causal chains cannot be described in the language of mathematics. There is no microscope or telescope that can show us the existence of mental beliefs. They do not fall within the purview of the quantitative-objective-real image of the world. Consequently, the activities of the mind fall on the side of the divide that is subjective and mere appearance—that is to say the mind is not real.

Now, as Feser points out, rather than seeing scientism as an absurdity and rejecting it in this light, many proponents of scientism follow their logic and reject the mind outright, viewing human thoughts as mere physiological events. But one has to wonder, “How can one argue for scientism when such argumentation presupposes the very thing scientism logically denies—namely, the mind?”

The answer is, you can’t. Therefore, since scientism denies the reality of the human mind, which is needed to argue in support of scientism itself, scientism is not reasonable.

Confusing Methodology with Ontology

Finally, scientism is unreasonable because it confuses methodology (method of knowing) with ontology (reality). Due to the success of the quantitative methodology in modern science, many think the method exhausts nature. But such success shows only that the method is useful for dealing with those aspects of nature that are quantifiably measurable.

To use Feser’s popular analogy, the claim that nothing exists beyond the boundaries of scientific inquiry is like saying plastic cups do not exist on the beach because of the metal detector’s failure to detect them. The metal detector’s failure says nothing whether or not plastic cups exist. It’s simply a manifestation of the limitations of its detecting powers.

Similarly, science’s inability to detect entities that are not quantitatively measurable or empirically verifiable (immaterial entities) says nothing whether or not such things exist. It’s simply a manifestation of the limitation of science’s detecting powers—science detects only physical reality.

Scientism, therefore, commits the fallacy of confusing method with reality—letting the method dictate what is real rather than letting reality dictate the proper method for studying it.

Whether appealing to God in explaining the universe is the best explanation is something worthy of consideration—theists and atheists need to present arguments to substantiate their worldviews. But what is not worthy of consideration is scientism. It’s self-refuting, it undermines science, and it commits the blunder of confusing method with reality.

Dawkins may reject God as the best explanation for the universe on the basis of bad arguments, but he can’t reasonably reject theism on the grounds that it’s not scientific knowledge. To do so would be to betray the human intellect.
 
 
(Image credit: Wilderness Vagabond)

Karlo Broussard

Written by

After a three-year apprenticeship with Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J. PhD., nationally known author, speaker, philosopher, and theologian, Karlo works as a full time apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers giving lectures throughout the country on topics in Catholic apologetics, theology and philosophy. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is one of the most dynamic and enthusiastic Catholic speakers on the circuit today. He resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo's online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

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  • Not to mention that you can't particularly strong conclusions from the generic scientific method (hypothesize a result, test the hypothesis) without committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

    For example, if you reason that if the Big Bang happened there will be cosmic background radiation, you run an experiment that shows there to be cosmic background radiation, and you conclude that the Big Bang happened, you've just straightforwardly committed a logical fallacy.

    • The key is to predict something unexpected from what is known, and then find the unexpected thing, when it easily could have been the case that the unexpected does not exist. This aspect of science greatly weakens your point, it seems. But it also doesn't promote scientism.

      • Luke:

        Even if the consequent is unlikely, it's still a logical fallacy. That is, if you reason in the following way:

        If the scientific theory A is true, the otherwise unexpected result B will be true.
        B is true.
        Therefore our scientific theory A is true.

        Then your argument is simply a logical fallacy. It's one thing to draw softer conclusions (e.g., our scientific theory is not as yet falsified). But whether or not your predictions are otherwise unexpected, you can't draw the strong conclusion "theory A is true" from the predictive successes of that theory.

        • Sure, I'm probably down with Popper's falsificationism (perhaps only under anti-realism). But in this case one can reword @disqus_d9weI6fbAX:disqus's comment appropriately. A global reduction in certainty and a global shift from verificationism to falsificationism leaves a lot of things pretty much the same, in my experience.

    • David Nickol

      I think you are a little bit confused here in applying the fallacy of affirming the consequent to the discovery of the Big Bang. Certainly the discovery of the cosmic background radiation was a major piece of evidence in favor of the Big Bang, but no one ever made a logical argument along the lines of the following:

      If there is background radiation of a certain type, the Big Bang happened.
      There is background radiation of that certain type.
      Therefore, the Big Bang happened.

      If that is all there was to the Big Bang theory, then you might have a point.

      • David:

        You've entirely missed the point. I did not question the Big Bang, nor did I say that the only evidence for the Big Bang is cosmic background radiation. I simply offered an easy example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent so that those who are not already familiar with the fallacy would be able to understand it.

        I could have used the normal example--if it is raining, the streets will be wet; the streets are wet; therefore it is raining--but I wouldn't want to be accused of mistaking people's general beliefs about precipitation!

        • [...] if you reason that if the Big Bang happened there will be cosmic background radiation [...]

          IIRC history does not match up with this. From WP: Discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation:

          The accidental discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964 is a major development in modern physical cosmology. Although predicted by earlier theoretical work around 1950, it was first discovered accidentally by American radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson as they experimented with the Holmdel Horn Antenna. The discovery was important evidence for a hot early Universe (big bang theory) and was evidence against the rival steady state theory. In 1978, Penzias and Wilson were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their joint discovery.

          If you read up on what happened, you will see that Penzias and Wilson thought that they had noise on their microwave antenna, and tried all sorts of things to get it to go away, including carefully scraping off all of the pigeon poop. They were trying to detect radio waves bounced off Echo balloon satellites—they weren't trying to do astrophysics. So, it would seem to behoove you to pick a better example. Two come to mind:

          (1) Avoiding the pitfalls of single particle cryo-electron microscopy: Einstein from noise
          (2) Cosmic Inflation Signal Just Dust

          Along the same lines, it was fascinating to watch the official announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson at 5σ confidence level. Scientists at the LHC explained how they made very careful that they hadn't just encoded the Higgs boson's signature into the noise, with the super-complex computation required to process the 200 petabytes of particle accelerator collision data.

          • Luke:

            You seem to be operating under the misconception that the example I provided makes some sort of historical claim about astrophysics. I've already said I'm not making a historical claim. I don't know what to say other than to say the exact same thing again.

            The traditional example for the affirming the consequent is: a) If it is raining, the streets will be wet. b) The streets are wet. c) Therefore it is raining.

            Had I given that example, it appears you would have run outside, found neither rain nor wet streets, and then chided me for suggesting that the streets might be wet and advised me that I would have been better served to pick an example that corresponds with the current climate.

            Illustrative examples of logical fallacies are just that--illustrative. No need to make more of them than that.

          • Had I given that example, it appears you would have run outside, found neither rain nor wet streets, and then chided me for suggesting that the streets might be wet and advised me that I would have been better served to pick an example that corresponds with the current climate.

            Then the appearances would have deceived you.

            Illustrative examples of logical fallacies are just that--illustrative. No need to make more of them than that.

            But the actual history behind your 'illustrative example' did not match what you did with that example. What you really seem to want is to pull in Popper's philosophy of falsification, whereby there are a number of competing hypotheses A, B, C, where the actual true hypothesis may be none of them. However, reality is clearly constructed such that we can hop from 'wrong' to 'less wrong', so hopefully one of { A, B, C } is closer to the truth hypothesis than the others. Say the best available hypothesis (best available explanation) is B. Then you get three new options: { Q, R, S }. Again, maybe none of those is the explanation. But they will, ostensibly, lead you toward the truth. If you iterate enough, hopefully you get to the truth.

            Or have I misunderstood[, yet again]?

          • "Or have I misunderstood[, yet again]?"

            Yes.

            You continue to think that a syllogism I used to illustrate a logical fallacy was intended as the "actual history" of the big bang, despite the fact that a) I never said that, b) that's not the function of that sort of illustration, and c) I've repeatedly said the example is not supposed to be some kind of historical account of how the big bang theorists argued for their discovery.

            It is no more relevant to object to the illustration I used of the fallacy of affirming the consequent to argue that the "actual history" does not match the example, than to object to the normal rain example that the "actual climate conditions" do not match. In both cases you've misunderstood how illustrations are typically used--to make the logical form easier to see, rather than to make some empirical claim about who said what.

            But I've pointed this simple distinction out to you twice already, so I'm not optimistic you will grasp it on the third go-around.

          • You continue to think that a syllogism I used to illustrate a logical fallacy was intended as the "actual history" of the big bang [...]

            No. I think that attempting to use a false history to build your syllogism deeply harms your ability to communicate effectively with scientifically-minded atheists. If that wasn't your goal, then carry on. If it was your goal, I suggest an approach using a syllogism which doesn't require you to muck with the history. I say this from having spent over 10,000 hours talking to atheists about theism and related issues.

            But I've pointed this simple distinction out to you twice already, so I'm not optimistic you will grasp it on the third go-around.

            Have you thoughts on how I described "Popper's philosophy of falsification"? That seems to undermine your very syllogism, for it says that the most favored hypothesis is not true, but simply the most favored, given the available evidence and methods. Where you might be able to find conceptual trouble is in Popper's idea that knowledge evolves toward the truth. But that's a very different matter than your syllogism, it seems to me.

          • Well, I just looked out the window, and its not raining. I'm writing the publishers of every logic book that uses the example of rain to illustrate the fallacy of affirming the consequent (which is every one I have) to let them know they'd better not use examples that "muck with the weather". It's false weather forecasting.

            It will, apparently, confuse people.

          • Curious. I said nothing to criticize your use of rain.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      You're talking about "the problem of induction." Natural science does not proceed logically, like mathematics. You don't "deduce" a theory;you "induce" it. Bishop Grosseteste back in the Middle Ages called it "resolution and composition." First, you observe experiences (quia) then, from the work of the intellect (negotiatio intellectus), you construct an explanation (propter quid). More to the point, what seems after much skull -sweat over alternatives to be the only possible explanation. But it doesn't end there: Bishop Grosseteste required the natural philosopher to then deduce from the propter quid further quia that were not used to construct the propter quid in the first place.

      This still does not get you to certain knowledge. The positivists thought you could get probable knowledge because the theory would produce multiple conclusions (p implies q1, q2, ..., qn) and the greater proportion of these that were confirmed the more probable (say, k/n) that p was true. Popper destroyed this reasoning and proposed falsification in its place: if p implies q and not-q, then not-p, for any of the q's. However, Duhem had earlier concluded that no theory was ever based on a single hypothesis. There is always more than one p. So if (p1 and p2 and...and pn) implies q and you confirm not-q, you can only conclude that one of the p's has been falsified, not which one.

      The upshot of all this is that scientific theories are underdetermined. Through any finite collection of facts you can draw many different theories.

      • Another way to say this: Popper talked about choice between available hypotheses, with no guarantee that among those hypotheses would be the perfect hypothesis. So while we might be going with the best hypothesis we have, there is no guarantee that it is true/​perfect. This is in great contrast with the idea that sense-data can/​will wiggle our brains into the One True Representation™ [of Reality].

        P.S. There are also the following two SEP articles: Underdetermination of Scientific Theory, Theory and Observation in Science.

      • I suppose I generally agree with that (though the way we think about the scientific method now certainly differs from your summary of Grosseteste). My point would simply be that to draw strong conclusions from testing hypotheses, you need an an additional non-scientific (philosophical) apparatus.

        • My point would simply be that to draw strong conclusions from testing hypotheses, you need an an additional non-scientific (philosophical) apparatus.

          You may enjoy the following from Mary Poovey, which I just read this morning:

              Eventually I discovered that in most of the knowledge projects produced during the long period of modernity, the two functions that appear to be separate in those early nineteenth-century texts actually coincide. Indeed, I discovered that even in those texts the two functions only seem to be distinct, for what look like two functions—describing and interpreting—seem to be different only because one mode of representation (the numbers) has been graphically separated from another (the narrative commentary). I discovered that in those nineteenth-century texts, as in most texts that purport to describe the material world, even the numbers are interpretive, for they embody theoretical assumptions about what should be counted, how one should understand material reality, and how quantification contributes to systematic knowledge about the world. Such figures, which simultaneously describe discrete particulars and contribute to systematic knowledge, constitute examples of what I have called the modern fact.    As I explain in the course of this book, numbers have come to epitomize the modern fact, because they have come to seem preinterpretive or even somehow noninterpretive at the same time that they have become the bedrock of systematic knowledge. Historically, however, there was no necessary connection between numbers and this peculiarly modern epistemological assumption, nor have numbers always seemed free of an interpretive dimension. Even though I began by thinking I was writing about the history and semantics of nineteenth-century statistics, then, I discovered that that history belonged to a larger narrative: the story of how description came to seem separate from interpretation or theoretical analysis; the story of how one kind of representation­—numbers—came to seem immune from theory or interpretation. For want of a better term, I have called this narrative A History of the Modern Fact. (A History of the Modern Fact, xii)

          I'm pretty sure this matches up nicely with SEP's Theory and Observation in Science. See also the following, from Evandro Agazzi and Massimo Pauri:

              The discussions and examples provided lead us to formulate a few fundamental questions. Some contemporary philosophers of science equate observation and perception, and maintain that we cannot, for example, observe electrons because we cannot perceive them. We can only perceive the traces they allegedly produce in a cloud chamber or on a photopiate. Therefore, these scholars conclude: admitting the existence of electrons is simply a consequence of accepting a given physical theory, and of giving to this theory a particular ontological purport. It is clear that this position is not characterized by something that could appear as a mere nominalistic 'simplification' (that is, the equation of observation and perception), but by attributing, to perception alone, the privilege of having an ontological purport, since it is (allegedly) free of theoretical commitments. What perception ostends exists, while what a theory claims might not exist. This position can be challenged for several reasons. First, because it apparently accepts a moderate or minimal level of realism, to the extent that features attested by direct observation are considered to be real. In the second place, however, observation is reduced to perception, thus annihilating almost all the advantages science has obtained from instrumental observation, since such an observation is devoid of ontological purport. In the third place, the reason why perception alone is ontologically committed is because it does not imply theory. Each of these points raises serious questions. (The Reality of the Unobservable, 3)

          Finally, there is my excerpt (on this page) of Colin McGinn's The Subjective View: Secondary Qualities and Indexical Thoughts. What I think you're picking out is that when 'science' is portrayed as only studying primary qualities, it tacitly relies on secondary qualities and indexicals. (At the very least—it may rely on more than that, but certainly not less.)

    • Howard

      That is a weak argument. A logical fallacy really only occurs if there is a claim of logical proof. It really does not apply if the claim is only that "the best explanation based on current evidence is" such and such. This is what science actually does; the claim would not be that a certain model (the Big Bang, as currently understood) beyond question corresponds perfectly to reality, the claim would be that the best explanation we have for a wide variety of observations is the Big Bang.

      By the way, exactly the same kind of reasoning is used in the investigation of the cause for a purported saint.

      • It really does not apply if the claim is only that "the best explanation based on current evidence is" such and such.

        First, I suspect that @disqus_d9weI6fbAX:disqus is targeting those who make stronger claims than "the best explanation ... is ...". But perhaps we can see those stronger claims as somewhat-erroneous elisions of what you've said, which sounds quite Popperian, as I recently articulated.

        However, is the statement "the best explanation ... is ..." actually 'objective'? Or is the term 'best' actually defined by something not-'science'? An example would be 'utility'.

        Furthermore, we must be careful to distinguish between phenomenological descriptions (the system acts as if this model is true), and ontological descriptions (true reality is like this model). How often is a properly phenomeonological description treated as if it is an ontological description? How often is the map mistaken for the territory?

        I'm glad to see you're being as careful as you are, but can you see that perhaps the thinking of many atheists—including famous ones like the New Atheists—might actually not be as careful? Note that articles such as the OP aren't necessarily going to target the clearest, best version of the thinking. There is a reason to do this: the bad thinking is prominent and damaging. However, it is good to note when there is a "closest neighbor" to the bad thinking, which is much better. I wish Christians would do this more with atheists, and that atheists would do this more with Christians. Surely you've seen Dawkins construct straw men and then burn them? And perhaps they are not entirely straw (that is, they refer to some domains in reality), but perhaps Dawkins frequently fails to note the stronger version, in contrast to your asking @disqus_d9weI6fbAX:disqus to note the stronger version?

        • Howard

          First of all, let me get this off my chest: I don't have a lot of patience for non-scientists trying to dictate exactly what constitutes science. That applies equally to the either extreme: the atheist who worships science from his armchair and the Christian who thinks his knowledge of the faith makes experience with science redundant.

          How often is a properly phenomeonological description treated as if it is an ontological description?

          Not as often as you might think, if we're talking about real scientists. I think many scientists would agree that what we get is only a succession of better approximations, sort of like decimal approximations of an irrational number. The idea of an "atom" is a useful idea, and only the pig-headed would expect (EDIT: doubt) that some form of it will always be with us from now on, but our ideas about atoms have changed dramatically since Democritus. Physicists would be very surprised if photons in the vacuum were found to have a rest mass, but precisely for this reason there have been experiments to look for a photon rest mass.

          However, is the statement "the best explanation ... is ..." actually 'objective'?

          No, it is not exactly objective, at least not in all cases, but that does not mean it is entirely arbitrary, either. A vast number of possible explanations can be immediately discarded because they are not consistent with observation and experiment, but if, for example, you were asking which has better prospects for being developed into a really useful theory of quantum gravity, string theory or loop quantum gravity, that would certainly be a matter of opinion -- but it is a matter of opinion that is restricted to a very narrow range of possibilities, and frankly, not everyone's opinion has an equal claim to respect.

          And then there are "theories" that, though they lead to the correct calculations, add completely unnecessary difficulties. These remind me of a passage from The Hunting of the Snark

          Taking Three as the subject to reason about—
          A convenient number to state—
          We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out
          By One Thousand diminished by Eight.

          The result we proceed to divide, as you see,
          By Nine Hundred and Ninety and Two:
          Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be
          Exactly and perfectly true.

          This, of course,takes us back to 3, but only because it started with 3; everything else is just obscuration. The particular example I have in mind is that of those who claim that geocentrism is Catholic dogma, and try to use General Relativity to support their ideas.

          • First of all, let me get this off my chest: I don't have a lot of patience for non-scientists trying to dictate exactly what constitutes science. That applies equally to the either extreme: the atheist who worships science from his armchair and the Christian who thinks his knowledge of the faith makes experience with science redundant.

            Do you think scientists are the ones best equipped to dictate describe "what constitutes science"? I'm thinking of three groups:

            (1) Philosophers of science who do x-phi, like the Stanford School, actually observe what scientists do, instead of what philosophers would like to believe that scientists do and of what 'scientific rationality' is.

            (2) Sociologists who study how science is actually done, e.g. as reported in Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing up.

            (3) Scientists who were also philosophers, such as Albert Einstein, Michael Polanyi, David Bohm, and Bernard d'Espagnat.

            Are these people transgressing in the way you describe? When I talk about "what science is", I try to both work off of those people, as well as my personal experience with science, via my wife who is a postdoc at a prestigious university and my best man, who has been tenured faculty at a prestigious research institution for over twenty years. Furthermore, I have worked with scientists/​engineers who designed sensors currently flying on spacecraft.

            Not as often as you might think, if we're talking about real scientists.

            One's sampling mechanism is indeed very important. For example, if we're talking Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking—all of whom are serious scientists—we might find some badness in this area. However, if we sampled across all scientists instead of the ones particularly visible to the public, I wouldn't be surprised if you were absolutely right.

            No, it is not exactly objective, at least not in all cases, but that does not mean it is entirely arbitrary, either.

            I actually meant to key in on the use of the word "best". What constitutes "best" seems to be a deeply personal thing. I can articulate, based on scientist–philosopher Michael Polanyi's Personal Knowledge, if you'd like.

            This, of course,takes us back to 3, but only because it started with 3; everything else is just obscuration. The particular example I have in mind is that of those who claim that geocentrism is Catholic dogma, and try to use General Relativity to support their ideas.

            Sure, religious people do silly things, even things damaging to science. And then scientists give talks like these, which are deeply offensive to religious folks and threaten to increase bias and prejudice against scientists who are religious, like my wife. Perhaps we could compare the potential damage of these two things, in this day and age?

            P.S. If you are interested in your history when it comes to the word 'dogma':

                The second of our earlier assumptions has no more historical basis. Any idea that ecclesiastical constraints and controls were relaxed in the 17th century is misconceived: if anything, the truth was more nearly the opposite. Rejecting all the Protestant reformers' attempts to change the institutions and practices of Christianity from within, the Papacy chose direct confrontation, and denounced the Protestants as schismatic. This policy was launched in the late 16th century after the Council of Trent, but culminated after 1618, with the bloodshed of the Thirty Years' War. From then on, backsliders met with no mercy. Theological commitments were not less rigorous and demanding, but more. There was less chance for critical discussion of doctrine, not more. For the first time, the need to close ranks and defend Catholicism against the Protestant heretics was an occasion for elevating key doctrines out of reach of reappraisal, even by the most sympathetic and convinced believers. The distinction between "doctrines" and "dogmas" was invented by the Council of Trent: Counter-Reformation Christianity was thus dogmatic, in a way that the pre-Reformation Christianity of, say, an Aquinas could never have been. Theological pressure on scientists and other intellectual innovators did not weaken in the first half of the 17th century: rather, it intensified. (Cosmopolis, 18–19)

            And if you want to see how philosophers of science (and by proxy, scientists themselves) have been dogmatic, see logical positivism and especially Against Method § Scholarly reception.

          • Howard

            Correct: I have no particular respect for philosophers of science. Philosophers rarely have much real knowledge of science, and I would say that scientists rarely have much knowledge of philosophy, only I think that these days they're not much different from the people who are today called philosophers. At least if you earn a master's degree in chemistry, you will actually learn some chemistry; from what I see in philosophy departments today, all you will learn with a degree in philosophy is sophistry, unless you are fortunate enough to attend one of the very few universities that still believes in truth.

            I'll add this: if I wanted to know what the essence of a soldier really is, I would spend time around soldiers, not around "philosophers of war" who have only read books. Ideally, I would become a soldier myself. The soldiers I would spend time with would not be officers who fancy themselves both soldiers and philosophers or soldiers and poets (like Gen. Tommy Franks, whom I might respect if I had not read his autobiography); they would be soldiers of all ranks, backgrounds, and levels of ability, while they were on duty, while they were off duty, when they were bored, when they were stressed, when they were relaxing -- all of it, but mostly when they are actually being soldiers, not when they are stage-acting the role of soldier. Gradually, over time, a picture would emerge. Even if it corresponded in some way with what one or two of the better "philosophers of war" had written about, it would have a different meaning that could not have been perceived without this direct experience.

            As for Neil deGrasse Tyson, not only would I not consider him a typical scientist, I'm not even really sure I would consider him a scientist. There's a real, if hard to define, difference between him and Carl Sagan. I think it comes down to the fact that, at his core, Sagan really wanted to learn (which requires a degree of genuine humility, even if it is hidden behind a certain amount of pomposity), and he was really excited by the material for its own sake. To me at least, Tyson seems more interested in showing off than in learning, and the material of science is just a means to that end. Sagan spoke to his viewers; Tyson speaks down to his. Of course, Tyson has been trained as a scientist, and in some way he still is one, sort of like Emmanuel Milingo has been consecrated as a Catholic bishop and ontologically still is one (both his baptism and Holy Orders, which he has received to the fullest degree, make indelible marks on the soul); but Tyson is not really acting as a scientist any more than Milingo is acting as a Catholic bishop.

            Well, that's enough of this conversation. I think we're getting nowhere.

          • ClayJames

            Philosophers rarely have much real knowledge of science, and I would say
            that scientists rarely have much knowledge of philosophy

            Isn´t this an indictment of the New Atheist movement since most of them are scientists trying to answer philosophical questions (does God exist?). What would you say if philosophers were primarily focused on answering strictly scientific questions when they have no scientific training?

          • Howard

            I get the impression you think I am defending the "New Atheists". I'm not.

            At the same time, and perhaps because I have no interest in defending them, I don't have tunnel vision on them. Yes, they illustrate the problem, but the problem is broader than that.

            I'm not sure if you would count Roger Penrose as a "New Atheist", but his book Cycles of Time, though it presents some interesting ideas, goes far beyond any physics we can do today, and quite possibly beyond anything we will ever be able to tackle with experiment and observation, because he extrapolates past infinite time. That isn't necessarily as crazy as it sounds, because his argument is that time is, to borrow your words [CORRECTION: Luke Breuer's words], the map and not the territory; if you thought the Mercator map were really accurate, you would think it impossible to walk to the North Pole, let alone walk past it. It may not be demonstrably crazy, but the problem is that's a lot to assume without some real observational evidence to back it up. His real motivation for this extreme suggestion is that he wants to get rid of a moment of creation due to his own philosophical / religious biases.

            If you've ever heard someone ask, "Given what we know about susperstring theory, did God have a choice about the laws of physics?", you've hit on it again. Such talk should send shivers up and down a physicist's spine, because it reinforces the old Greek idea that we can understand the universe just by holding a wine party and telling stories, with the best story becoming the new paradigm even without experiments or observation. In this case it's also extremely dishonest: whether or not superstring theory is right or even consistent, its structure is very heavily constrained by innumerable experiments, and those experiments could have yielded different results.

            I'll even admit to being guilty of it myself. I would be very, very reluctant to embrace the idea that the unobservable many worlds of the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics are somehow "real" or that macroscopic backward time travel is a practical possibility because either would appear to seriously undermine what I take to be the whole purpose of a material universe: to provide an arena in which decisions of real moral weight and consequence can be made. I can easily imagine someone using the excuse, "Well, yes, in this universe I am a horrible person who has committed loathsome crimes, but that was bound to happen in some fraction of universes, but remember, in other universes I am a greater saint than Mother Teresa or St. Francis of Assisi."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Great post. Even though we are in disagreement on the God question, I really enjoy your perspective.

            At the same time, and perhaps because I have no interest in defending them, I don't have tunnel vision on them. Yes, they illustrate the problem, but the problem is broader than that.

            The new atheists just like anyone else are wrong some of the time and right at other times. I see them as having a different perspective on religion. One that I don't always agree with, but one that I don't think is obviously wrong.

            Again - loved your post, although in another universe I hated it. ;-)

          • It may not be demonstrably crazy, but the problem is that's a lot to assume without some real observational evidence to back it up.

            As it turns out, I'm currently reading The Large, the Small and the Human Mind. Penrose writes three chapters, then Cartwright, Hawking, and Shimony respond, then Penrose responds to them. Anyhow, from chapter 1:

                The history of Einstein's discovery of the theory of General Relativity contains an important moral. It was first fully formulated in 1915. It was not motivated by any observational need but by various aesthetic, geometric and physical desiderata. The key ingredients were Galileo's Principle of Equivalence, exemplified by his dropping rocks of different masses (Figure 1.12), and the ideas of non-Euclidean geometry, which is the natural language for describing the curvature of space-time. There was not a great deal on the observational side in 1915. Once General Relativity was formulated in its final form, it was realised that there were three key observational tests of the theory. (21)

            Are you allowing for this method of 'doing science' to be 100% acceptable?

            I would be very, very reluctant to embrace the idea that the unobservable many worlds of the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics are somehow "real" or that macroscopic backward time travel is a practical possibility because either would appear to seriously undermine what I take to be the whole purpose of a material universe: to provide an arena in which decisions of real moral weight and consequence can be made.

            FYI, Penrose also dismisses the multi-verse. As to your argument, is it certain that all "macroscopic backward time travel" must be precluded to obtain "an arena in which decisions of real moral weight and consequence can be made"? It strikes me that perhaps bits could be filled in by consciousness throughout spacetime, that causation simply doesn't have to be locked into [macroscopic] forward-in-time motion.

          • Howard

            I'm not interested in chasing every rabbit you throw in front of me. I really don't care what your reading list is, nor do I feel any pressing need to share mine with you, let alone subject it to your judgment as to whether or not it meets your idea of "scientific" -- as though I or anyone else claimed that it should.

            Let me bring this back to where it started. David Nickol basically claimed that all experimental science is based on logical fallacies. My objection was and is that the experimental sciences do not claim to have the rigor of pure mathematics. Yes, we do sometimes say things like, "The experimental evidence shows that the Big Bang happened about 13.5 billion years ago." That is a little sloppy, but that is only a serious problem for someone who mistakes it for a foundational statement of faith, like the Creed. What it really means, and what it is understood to mean by the people who do science, is, "A range of experiments has failed to rule out the idea that the Big Bang happened 13,5 billion years ago, but it has ruled out all the plausible alternatives we have been able to construct." Whatever Sherlock Holmes might have thought, it is never really possible to rule out all the alternatives; there will always be some implausible ones that remain. (A popular one right now is that we are all part of a giant simulation, like in the movie "The Matrix". If true, this would completely cut us of from all real information about the universe and make human reason completely useless. It may be impossible to logically disprove such an idea, but there is absolutely no reason to entertain it, either.)

            So why should I care if people have a wrong idea about how science works? Partly I care because I respect the subject itself, but an even greater reason for caring is that people need to be able to make good decisions as consumers and as citizens. It is important that people recognize pseudoscience used for scams, like "miracle cure" my dad bought off the Internet for my mom when she was fighting breast cancer. (It scared the crap out of me when I found out about this, and that it contained a high percentage of copper and warned the consumer not to tell the doctor about this, because the doctors are all part of a conspiracy to sell expensive drugs. Thanks be to God she felt sick after one dose and never took any more.) It is important for people to realize that neither Al Gore nor Rush Limbaugh are scientists.

            It is in this context that I will answer your question about Albert Einstein. The short answer is that Einstein's work has been heavily mythologized from the very beginning, and that the combination of his real genius, some astounding luck, and the process by which his work became myth have combined to create a very false impression in the mind of the public about how science actually works. The public believes that if scientists just think hard enough, pure reason will be enough to explain what the material universe is made of and how it works together, and part of the reason the public thinks this is that it seemed to work that way with Einstein.

            And now I've hit the wall and really must go to bed.

          • David Nickol basically claimed that all experimental science is based on logical fallacies.

            Ummm, here's what @disqus_d9weI6fbAX:disqus said:

            T: Not to mention that you can't particularly strong conclusions from the generic scientific method (hypothesize a result, test the hypothesis) without committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

            This is 100% consonant with the idea that experimental science deals with probabilities, not certainties. @davidnickol:disqus actually got tripped up by @disqus_d9weI6fbAX:disqus pseudo-history of the big bang discovery, which I critiqued, again, and again.

            My objection was and is that the experimental sciences do not claim to have the rigor of pure mathematics.

            Then you are not actually objecting to what @disqus_d9weI6fbAX:disqus said. There is zero evidence that @disqus_d9weI6fbAX:disqus necessarily meant to critique mainstream conceptions of "how science is done".

            So why should I care if people have a wrong idea about how science works?

            I care as well. That is one reason I repeatedly link to Against Method § Scholarly reception and note the acceptance of Feyerabend's labors in Penelope Maddy's Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method. It shuts a lot of people up about the idea that there is a "the scientific method" which all scientists follow.

            It is in this context that I will answer your question about Albert Einstein. The short answer is that Einstein's work has been heavily mythologized from the very beginning, and that the combination of his real genius, some astounding luck, and the process by which his work became myth have combined to create a very false impression in the mind of the public about how science actually works.

            Was Roger Penrose wrong in saying what I excerpted?

            The public believes that if scientists just think hard enough, pure reason will be enough to explain what the material universe is made of and how it works together, and part of the reason the public thinks this is that it seemed to work that way with Einstein.

            Do they actually believe this? I've never come across this idea. Is there some sort of survey which demonstrates this with empirical evidence, establishing proper sampling, etc?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            "Let me bring this back to where it started. David Nickol basically claimed that all experimental science is based on logical fallacies."

            I highly doubt David said anything like that

          • Correct: I have no particular respect for philosophers of science. Philosophers rarely have much real knowledge of science, and I would say that scientists rarely have much knowledge of philosophy, only I think that these days they're not much different from the people who are today called philosophers.

            Is your survey of philosophers of science itself scientific? Can you produce the sampling methodology you used to get a good, average idea of how knowledgeable (or not) philosophers of science are, about how science is done? To provide a possible counterpoint to what you say, although your 'rarely' can account for it:

            One thing that unites Stanford School practitioners is a strong respect for scientific practice—actual scientific practice, as displayed in the best examples of scientific discovery and creation. If science has delivered genuine knowledge about our world—as it surely has—then studying its actual practices is the surest guide to an understanding of how that knowledge is gained. Case studies are indispensable for philosophy of science. Though not an end in themselves, they are invaluable for keeping our metaphysical and methodological speculations on track with real science. (Nancy Cartwright's Philosophy of Science, 1–2)

            Note also that I am working off of scientists who are also philosophers—my (C). I wonder if you are failing to take into account the 80/20 rule when it comes to philosophy of science.

            [...] from what I see in philosophy departments today, all you will learn with a degree in philosophy is sophistry, unless you are fortunate enough to attend one of the very few universities that still believes in truth.

            How good is your vision?

            I'll add this: if I wanted to know what the essence of a soldier really is, I would spend time around soldiers, not around "philosophers of war" who have only read books.

            This seems to be a false dichotomy.

            As for Neil deGrasse Tyson, not only would I not consider him a typical scientist, I'm not even really sure I would consider him a scientist. [...] To me at least, Tyson seems more interested in showing off than in learning, and the material of science is just a means to that end.

            Interesting. I lost most of my [tentative] respect for Tyson after I saw this talk. He wants to persecute religious scientists, on unscientific grounds. (I doubt he has a study which shows that religious scientists do worse science than non-religious scientists. Because if he did, he'd talk about it, and his followers would have presented it to me based on the kinds of things I say and ask.)

            Well, that's enough of this conversation. I think we're getting nowhere.

            It's not clear where you were ever going. :-/

  • ClayJames

    This also ties into the ignorant New Atheist belief that most ancient knowledge is fallacious or unwarranted, specifically because they did not have the scientific tools that we have today and that anyone trying to make claims about truth, was necessarily making claims about science. In other words, if Genesis has any truth content, that content must be scientific which is why we can discard all of Genesis because it is scientifically fallacious (ie. the world was not created in 6 days).

    Another problem is that Dawkins believes that science can answer unscientific questions when he says that God is a scientific hypothesis. As a scientist, I can´t fully express how dissapointed I am at so called reasonable scientific free thinkers raising the scientific method above all else while at the same time not having the slightest idea of what science actually is, how it operates and what assumptions it makes.

    • Another problem is that Dawkins believes that science can answer unscientific questions when he says that God is a scientific hypothesis.

      It's quite clear that Dawkins conception of 'the divine' (see Roy A. Clouser's A New Philosophical Guide for the Sciences: Ontology without Reduction) excludes YHWH and Jesus, so that if YHWH and Jesus exist, they have to built up from his conception of 'the divine'. Of course, he won't call it 'the divine', but unlike Dawkins, Clouser is attempting to speak in terms of natural kinds:

          As we proceed, we must also keep in mind what any definition must do if it is to avoid being arbitrary. A non-arbitrary definition must state the set of characteristics uniquely shared by all the things of the type being defined. The way this is done is to inspect as many things of that type as possible, and try to isolate just the combination of characteristics which is true of them and only them. This is a difficult thing to do even for objects we can inspect, like computers or chairs, but it is even tougher for abstract ideas such as religious beliefs. (The Myth of Religious Neutrality, 10)

      Dawkins is probably good at identifying natural kinds in the 'natural' world. After all, he made important contribution to science. But he seems terrible at identifying natural kinds when it comes to matters which require understanding mind. This realm is studied by the 'human sciences' or 'social sciences', and there is a dogma which Dawkins (and other New Atheists) has probably not worked through:

          The time seems ripe, even overdue, to announce that there is not going to be an age of paradigm in the social sciences. We contend that the failure to achieve paradigm takeoff is not merely the result of methodological immaturity, but reflects something fundamental about the human world. If we are correct, the crisis of social science concerns the nature of social investigation itself. The conception of the human sciences as somehow necessarily destined to follow the path of the modern investigation of nature is at the root of this crisis. Preoccupation with that ruling expectation is chronic in social science; that idée fixe has often driven investigators away from a serious concern with the human world into the sterility of purely formal argument and debate. As in development theory, one can only wait so long for the takeoff. The cargo-cult view of the "about to arrive science" just won't do. (Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look, 5)

      Some day, the New Atheists will either grow up or go extinct. If they grow up, they can transition from reductionist, rule-driven existence to something much more wondrous. But I think they have required of themselves that they go a while longer without Jesus and without the freedom Jesus brings. What freedom? Oh, the freedom from: "(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable."

      • ClayJames

        Some day, the New Atheists will either grow up or go extinct. If they
        grow up, they can transition from reductionist, rule-driven existence to
        something much more wondrous.

        I am more interested to see the evolution of belief present in those young people that were drawn to atheism because of the New Atheists. This has been a very popular movement that gained steam because of 9/11 but that has, without substance, embraced itself as intellectual and sophisticated when it is anything but. While hoping that these followers of New Atheism become theists might be asking too much, I do hope that at the very least they embrace a more sophisticated form of atheism that rejects scientism, embraces philosophy and does away with much of the social aspects of this modern movement. I realize that I am preaching to the choir since I don´t think any atheist here fits that mold.

        • Oh, I think they're set up to become theists, just like [pejorative] fundamentalists set up their children to become atheists. The mature person does this:

          In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them. (Ecclesiastes 7:15–18)

          The child bounces back and forth between extremes instead of keeping a hold on both and constantly picking the wise point between them, given the situation at hand. Contrast the above to:

          And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11–14)

          If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5–8)

          I will try to ward off inevitable atheist-pouncing on the last passage. Consider a scientist who cannot tentatively believe his/her hypothesis long enough to test it. Suppose this scientist is constantly torn between things being this way or that. The anxiety induces paralysis. Such a scientist probably wouldn't even be a 'scientist', because science requires that you stick with [at least some of] your hypotheses until you've really given them a good shake. God also asks for tentative belief, and ultimately does reward faith with sight. Just look at Abraham, Job, David, or many others in the Bible. Furthermore, the 'tentative' is important, for God hates arrogance: unwarranted confidence. Indeed, Job will be considered a god if he can properly combat arrogance: Job 40:6–14.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Some day, the New Atheists will either grow up or go extinct. If they grow up, they can transition from reductionist, rule-driven existence to something much more wondrous. But I think they have required of themselves that they go a while longer without Jesus and without the freedom Jesus brings.

        :-(

        • You're always welcome to demonstrate an error in my logic which leads to (on naturalistic assumptions): "(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable."

          • George

            Assuming that's actually a problem I should worry about, how do you have the solution?

            God... makes things... knowable?

          • George

            you can spoil the ending for me, I really don't care. Is this related to the rabid presuppositional calvinist apologetics? because I've dealt with that stuff already.

            and is this paradox a problem regardless of what definition of *truth* and *knowing* that one uses?

          • Is this related to the rabid presuppositional calvinist apologetics?

            No.

            and is this paradox a problem regardless of what definition of *truth* and *knowing* that one uses?

            It is predicated upon certain axioms (as every logical argument is), as well as humans alleging that they have "the ability to know and know that knowing-means-truth". I don't think it is brittle with respect to precise definitions of 'truth' and/or 'knowing'.

          • David Nickol

            you can spoil the ending for me

            Fitch is sitting in an ice cream parlor with his family, and suddenly the screen goes blank! Did he resolve the paradox? Did he despair of resolving the paradox? Did the camera just run out of film? Nobody knows!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Looks like EAAN to me.

          • Appearances can be deceiving. Appearances also aren't a demonstration. Neither is analogy.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In order for me to criticize, you would first have to define physical laws. ;-)

          • Must I do all the conceptual work?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No, but it is your argument. I don't want to write a long post and then you say that is not what I mean by physical laws. :-) I don't think physical laws are causal. I think physical laws are descriptions. Perhaps there is a nominalist/realist type difference here.

          • No, but it is your argument.

            That's quite irrelevant; I need to have a way to connect to your own conception of reality. My better explicating what I would mean with the term "physical laws" does not necessarily aid in that endeavor.

            I don't want to write a long post and then you say that is not what I mean by physical laws.

            Given that we intend to continue discussing with each other well into the future, would it really be a waste, even if in this particular instance, there is a communication mismatch on the term?

            I don't think physical laws are causal.

            Are there any [metaphysical] causes?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Given that we intend to continue discussing with each other well into the future, would it really be a waste, even if in this particular instance, there is a communication mismatch on the term?

            No, but I'm under the weather today, so I am not completely up for writing super long posts, especially if I am writing one based on a misunderstanding.

            Are there any [metaphysical] causes?

            I say yes, but I would not call them physical laws. If I throw a baseball, it seems correct for me to say I caused the baseball to sail through the air. Maybe all causation is agent?

          • No, but I'm under the weather today, so I am not completely up for writing super long posts, especially if I am writing one based on a misunderstanding.

            Sorry to hear that. :-( However, as I think you know, I'm in this for the long game, so a multi-day delay is A-OK.

            I say yes, but I would not call them physical laws. If I throw a baseball, it seems correct for me to say I caused the baseball to sail through the air. Maybe all causation is agent?

            That is an alluring supposition, but it seems incredibly unscientific. I am also concerned about unilateral agent causation vs. cooperative agent causation. Add up enough 'cooperative', and you might get phenomena that look awfully like 'physical laws'. Ever read Robert B. Laughlin's A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down? Pretty awesome stuff, and perhaps relevant to this conversation. There is also MIT David Spivak's Project Narrative: Categorical approach to agent interaction, which you may enjoy. Gah, I need to get back to reading Spivak. His Ologs: A Categorical Framework for Knowledge Representation is utterly fascinating.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Perhaps you could give me an example of non-agent causation? Or one that you think is likely non agent.
            I have his Calculus on my book shelf.

          • A rock which smashes a window seems to cause the window to shatter, regardless of whether it was the result of a landslide or a naughty boy.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm going to think about this.

          • You may nevertheless have a point. The word 'agent' is not fixed, and there is precedent for positing heretofore unobserved and per-current-knowledge unobservable entities. See:

                 (1) atoms (pre-Brownian motion)
                 (2) dark matter
                 (3) dark energy
                 (4) strings [of string theory]

            The key is that we expect the entities to ultimately become more and more known. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible agrees:

            For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

            Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2)

            I should read more of Evandro Agazzi and M. Pauri (eds) The Reality of the Unobservable: Observability, Unobservability and Their Impact on the Issue of Scientific Realism.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In the case of the rock smashing a window because of a landslide, I don't think it is accurate to the describe physical laws as causal.

          • How would you instead describe it?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Anyway that has nothing to do with why I gave you a sad emoticon.

          • Ok. You can explain if you wish, otherwise this tangent can die, I suppose.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would think that dialogue with atheists would lead to greater understanding of our positions and view. Not saying that we will grow up or go extinct.

          • One can cease to be a 'New Atheist' and still be an 'atheist'.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You are correct. My bad - I'm being a little testy.

          • It's in the air. Not as bad as Beijing with its air pollution (actually, I hear India is worse in some places), but still pretty toxic.

      • George

        How does jesus make truth and falsity of belief knowable?

        • By making "(1) Physical laws are the only causal powers." no longer true (if it ever was true—this might be debatable).

          • George

            so push the "problem" back and forget about it, I see now.

            "god's immaterial physical laws are the only causal powers, therefore truthiness and knowable-ness are impossible."

            woah, look what I did there. can you refute that?

          • I tend not to try to refute straw men, at least when I know they are straw men.

          • George

            it's a mirror of your own attack.

            you started the infinite regress train. you can stop it if you want.

          • I have no idea what you're talking about.

  • Feser explains how scientism is based on the divide in modern science between the quantitative-objective-real and qualitative-subjective-appearance images of the world. According to this divide, anything that cannot be quantifiably measured is not real. Since scientific inquiry is subject only to the quantitative aspects of reality, scientism views knowledge of such things as the only real form of knowledge. But this causes a problem.

    Another problem is explicated by Colin McGinn:

    7 The Manifest Image and the Scientific Image[1]The world as it is presented to us in perception—the manifest image—includes secondary qualities; but the world as described by (physical) science is independent of this or that creature's perceptual peculiarities—it deals only in primary qualities. The exclusion by the scientific image of secondary qualities implies, by the considerations of chapter 6, that the scientific standpoint is not and cannot be a perceptual standpoint: the content of the scientific conception is not a possible (total) content of experience. Certainly we perceive some of the properties science ascribes to things, for we perceive primary qualities; but it is not possible to perceive only such qualities. Since perception is not a faculty through which it is possible to prescind from our subjective contribution, whereas the scientific image attempts to do precisely that, we cannot hope to make the content of scientific theories intelligible to ourselves by imagining, still less occupying, a perceptual standpoint embodying all and only the representations of the world offered by science: the scientific image is not an image at all.[2] To make sense of science, then, it seems that we need something more like the rationalists' idea of 'pure intellection'—a means of mental representation which is non-sensory in character.[3] (The Subjective View: Secondary Qualities and Indexical Thoughts, 111)

    Using WP: Primary/secondary quality distinction:

         (1) primary quality = quantitative-objective-real
         (2) secondary quality = qualitative-subjective-appearance

    McGinn's major point is that in perception (1) and (2) are convolved or entangled so deeply that they cannot be separated so that (1) can be called 'real' while (2) is called 'subjective'. This torpedoes the kind of scientism Feser is describing and perhaps, a broader category of scientisms.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Good excerpt. This gets at the problem in a more fundamental way.

      In most of our human experience, as far as I can tell, objective reality and subjective reality are indeed deeply convolved. I want knowledge that speaks to the totality of that experience, not just just knowledge about the rare flotsam of objective facts (by "objective facts" I of course mean nearly objective facts, since we know scientifically that no knowledge is purely objective). If I believe the famous Alasdair MacIntryre quote, most people in history haven't suffered from the pretense that the objective world and the subjective world could be cleanly deconvoluted:

      facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a seventeenth-century invention

      I would be willing qualify that and concede that objective facts are more like telescopes than they are like wigs for gentlemen. The conceptual category of "objective fact" is perhaps more than just an idiosyncratic feature of modernity. Facts are useful things, and I personally hope they are here to stay.

      Nonetheless, for all the good that facts provide us, I think it is truly in vain (in every sense of that expression) that one attempts to segment reality into objective and subjective buckets and (as if that clumsy surgery wasn't bad enough already) then declare that only that which is in the objective bucket is real.

      I think some well-meaning anti-scientismists cede too much too early, by agreeing to debate on terms in which the inherently relational nature of our experience of reality is implicitly denied at the git-go.

      This comes up a lot when we ask modern questions of Biblical accounts. We want to ask, "is it an objective fact that this happened?" Once one accepts the categories of reality that are implied by that question, there is no hope of getting at the truth of the matter.

      • Good excerpt. This gets at the problem in a more fundamental way.

        Thanks! Unfortunately, that book is one of the driest books I have ever read. I had to push really hard through section at a time. Basically, I could only get through as much as I did (I still have 20–40 pages left) because I desperately wanted to understand more about what the hell 'secondary qualities' are, and nobody else was being coherent in a way I could recognize as such.

        In most of our human experience, as far as I can tell, objective reality and subjective reality are indeed deeply convolved. I want knowledge that speaks to the totality of that experience, not just just knowledge about the rare flotsam of objective facts (by "objective facts" I of course mean nearly objective facts, since we know scientifically that no knowledge is purely objective).

        I worry that your focus here prioritizes 'being' over 'becoming'. However, I can see other interpretations which do not have this negative proclivity. Instead, I will merely say that I think it is an error to prioritize the universal over the particular or vice versa, and that it is an error to prioritize the timeless over the in-time or vice versa. Indeed, a great book which basically says that balance is super-important everywhere is Roy A. Clouser's The Myth of Religious Neutrality. To think that some part of creation is more important than the rest is to enact the sin of pride. To think that one can look to God without knowing creation is to think that one can love God without [competently] loving one's brother and sister in Christ. 1 John has some things to say about that!

        If I believe the famous Alasdair MacIntryre quote, most people in history haven't suffered from the pretense that the objective world and the subjective world could be cleanly deconvoluted:

        facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a seventeenth-century invention

        I would be willing qualify that and concede that objective facts are more like telescopes than they are like wigs for gentlemen. The conceptual category of "objective fact" is perhaps more than just an idiosyncratic feature of modernity. Facts are useful things, and I personally hope they are here to stay.

        This makes me think of something Randal Rauser wrote in his dissertation:

        According to Ellen Charry, the first millennium of the Church was dominated by a 'sapiential theology' which seamlessly integrated knowledge and goodness in keeping with its Hebraic and Hellenistic origins: 'In a Hellenistic environment, knowledge is true if it leads us into goodness, making us happy and good. The idea that knowing good things makes us good implies continuity between the knower and what she knows. It is not simply to be cognizant of the truth but to be assimilated into it'.[5] As a result, sapiential theology sought to gain the knowledge of God by which people might live in the truth. By contrast, our world today is remarkably fractured. Charry traces the fracturing of theology to the rediscovery of Aristotelianism in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, at which point theology adopted a highly technical, rigorous, and specialized approach that subtly switched its primary focus from sapientia to scientia. As a result, the medieval scholastic was constrained to search for scientia, a knowledge which is both incorrigible (it cannot fail) and indubitable (it cannot be doubted) and which, while formally excluding first principles, included all the deductions from intuitive first principles. (9, Theology in Search of Foundations)

        [5] Charry, 'Walking in the Truth: On Knowing God', in Alan G. Padgett and Patrick R. Keifert (eds.), But Is It All True? The Bible and the Question of Truth (Grand Rapids, Mich./Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2006), 145.

        The problem isn't with 'facts' so much as:

            This change of character, resulting from the disappearance of any connection between the precepts of morality and the facts of human nature already appears in the writings of the eighteenth-century moral philosophers themselves. (After Virtue, 56)

        What/​Who is true was separated into { what is true, what/​who is right }. This was an catastrophic move. 'Truth' itself was redefined, so that it had no secondary qualities or indexicals. Such a notion can only disintegrate: The Deflationary Theory of Truth. Michael Polanyi knew this back in 1964: Personal Knowledge (11,000 'citations').

        Nonetheless, for all the good that facts provide us, I think it is truly in vain (in every sense of that expression) that one attempts to segment reality into objective and subjective buckets and (as if that clumsy surgery wasn't bad enough already) then declare that only that which is in the objective bucket is real.

        It's much worse than that:

        For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18–23)

        You become like what or who you worship. If you worship a 'what', you become a 'what'. If you think only the mechanical is 'real', then you become mechanical. The only alternative to worship is lawlessness, and that's no better.

        I think some well-meaning anti-scientismists cede too much too early, by agreeing to debate on terms in which the inherently relational nature of our experience of reality is implicitly denied at the git-go.

        Fortunately, that's changing; from physicist David Bohm, who probably should have gotten a Nobel Prize for the Aharonov–Bohm effect:

            Indeed, when this interpretation is extended to field theories,[7] not only the inter-relationships of the parts, but also their very existence is seen to flow out of the law of the whole. There is therefore nothing left of the classical scheme, in which the whole is derived from pre-existent parts related in pre-determined ways. Rather, what we have is reminiscent of the relationship of whole and parts in an organism, in which each organ grows and sustains itself in a way that depends crucially on the whole. (Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, xi)

        This comes up a lot when we ask modern questions of Biblical accounts. We want to ask, "is it an objective fact that this happened?" Once one accepts the categories of reality that are implied by that question, there is no hope of getting at the truth of the matter.

        Of course. People have this conceit that their minds are up to understanding all of reality (if only given enough time and scientific funding). Sadly, it was we Christians who started it:

        2. Univocation and the Ontological ArgumentWhy was Anselm's ontological proof neglected in many quarters during the Middle Ages, and why was it so widely acclaimed in the seventeenth century?[10] If successful, it proves God's existence by demonstrating that an adequate notion of God excludes, of necessity, non-existence. Yet many medieval theologians denied that we possess a notion of God adequate to sustain the ontological argument without watering it down. God, according to Thomas, is indeed a notum per se ipsum, but only to himself, not to us.[11] Descartes, More, Leibniz, and Wolff revived the argument because they believed in our capacity to form an adequate and precise, if incomplete, idea of God. Inasmuch as our ideas are clear and distinct, they are, we are told, the same as God's. Descartes chose the term "idea" over others because "it was the term commonly used by philosophers for the form of perception of the divine mind."[12] (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 25–26)

        :-(

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Very helpful response. Thanks. The sapientia versus scientia distinction in the RR quote is really neat.

          I agree 100% with the caution you laid out at the beginning of your response. It was a bit of giddy rhetoric to refer to objective facts as "rare flotsam" :-) In retrospect, I would prefer to convey a more balanced message, as you did.

          • If you like RR's note, then I highly suggest reading Ellen T. Charry's essay, "Walking in the Truth: On Knowing God", in But Is It All True?. Here's how she starts off:

            The Changing Meaning of Knowing[1]Christian theology began in a time of epistemic security, when God was believed to be real and some knowledge of him and wisdom through him to be possible. Under these conditions, the goal of reflection on God and the things of God was to understand them for the sake of a good life as well as eternal life. Theology rapidly became a philosophical outlook that interpreted Scripture and philosophical-spiritual traditions in light of the events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, including reports of his appearance after his death that were interpreted as signs that presaged escape for others from death and the corruption of the body (1 Cor. 15). The goal was both (1) eternal life (in some form or other), and (2) a way of life that contributed to a just and benevolent community within a larger, hostile culture. Epistemic security about God is the normal condition for Christian theology of this primary, sapiential kind, which asks who we should become and how we should live. This primary, sapiential theology rested on an epistemology that joined knowing God to living rightly. (144)

            A bit later on:

                Several epistemological crises undermined this vision of truth. The first epistemological crisis came with the West's recover of Aristotle in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Theology was pressed in ever more theoretical and less practical directions. It became an academic discipline for the purpose of suppressing heresy and sustaining the unity of the Latin church. The academizing or disciplinizing of theology separated the knower from the known and paved the way for modernity: knowing the truth became a matter of obtaining technical skills in the method of disputation. This distancing made normal theology impossible. Gradually, knowing something to be true took on overtones of acknowledgment and assent to what one judges to be the case rather than being an investment in understanding for the sake of becoming happy, wise, and good. (145)

            In a sense, the difference is simple:

                 (I) knowing about
                (II) knowing

            You can know all about a person, without knowing the person. To truly know someone is to have a connection at the deepest level. One might say a 'root', or ῥίζα. This helps make sense of:

            “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21–23)

            The people Jesus is addressing within the parable knew about him, but did not know him. There is a difference from being with Jesus and abiding in Jesus. Judas did the first, while the rest of the disciples also did the second. Judas had subject–object knowledge, while the rest of the disciples had an I and Thou relationship. Judas did not participate in Jesus, while the rest of the disciples did.

            When taken to its conclusion, knowing about leads to idol-worship. A great book on this is Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry—Barfield was one of C.S. Lewis' mentors and best friends, and one of the Inklings (along with J.R.R. Tolkien and Chalres Williams).

        • David Nickol

          Thanks! Unfortunately, that book is one of the driest books I have ever read.

          You mean all those other books you have cited have been interesting??? ;-)

  • The following juxtaposition needs to be spammed all over the internet:

    In the 1960s, for example, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, wrote that

    It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people. ... Who indeed could afford to ignore science today? At every turn we seek its aid. ... The future belongs to science and to those who make friends with science.[3]

    Views like Nehru's were once quite widely held, and, along with professions of faith in the 'scientific' political economy of Marx, they were perhaps typical of the scientism of politicians in the 1950s and 1960s. (Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science, 2)

    +

    Huffington Post, 05/02/2012: We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People -- and Still Can't End Hunger

  • David Nickol

    We have heard parts of this argument in many guises before. Science is not the be-all and end-all, because you have to make some metaphysical assumptions to do science. The implication seems to be that somehow metaphysics is anterior to, and superior to, science. (I believe Aquinas called metaphysics "queen of the sciences," although we do not think of it as a science these days.)

    But metaphysics can no more prove itself true than science, and of course one metaphysicist's assumptions may be, to another metaphysicist, utterly wrongheaded. So it seems to me one could argue that since virtually everything requires metaphysical assumptions, and metaphysics cannot demonstrate its own validity, everything is built on unverifiable assumptions.

    It also seems to me possible to argue that most of what is called metaphysics is pointless fantasizing, and what few "metaphysical" assumptions are required for science (and everyday life) are common sense assumptions, and metaphysics as a field of study is a waste of time.

    • So it seems to me one could argue that since virtually everything requires metaphysical assumptions, and metaphysics cannot demonstrate its own validity, everything is built on unverifiable assumptions.

      Welcome to postmodernity. :-)

      It also seems to me possible to argue that most of what is called metaphysics is pointless fantasizing, and what few "metaphysical" assumptions are required for science (and everyday life) are common sense assumptions, and metaphysics as a field of study is a waste of time.

      False. See the issue of 'causation', and then deal with the fact that if there is only the 'laws of nature' kind of causation, then it is true that: "(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable."

    • ClayJames

      what few "metaphysical" assumptions are required for science (and
      everyday life) are common sense assumptions, and metaphysics as a field
      of study is a waste of time.

      Why is it a waste of time?

      • David Nickol

        When I say, "It also seems to me possible to argue . . . ." I do not mean, "It is my argument that . . . ." But while I would not argue that metaphysics as a field of study is a waste of time, I would say that I wouldn't advise college students to major in metaphysics.

        Perhaps there is some confusion about what we mean when we say metaphysics. It seems to me the field of metaphysics requires, first of all, a basic knowledge of what the ancient Greeks thought, and how (for example) Plato and Aristotle differed. And from there it requires a knowledge of what the greatest or most influential philosophers throughout the ages have thought. This is entirely unnecessary to scientists making "metaphysical assumptions" to do science. You don't have to know anything about the field of metaphysics in order to make "metaphysical assumptions." It seems to me that "metaphysical assumptions" were made long before there was a field that could even remotely be described as metaphysics. And probably most scientists today pay scant attention to the philosophy of science. Also, it is not the case that all scientists (or philosophers of science) have the same metaphysical assumptions.

        • ClayJames

          It seems to me possible to argue just about anything and I agree with you that metaphysics as a field of study (which clearly overlaps with other philosphical fields of study) is not a waste of time. If you wouldn´t advise college students to major in metaphysics the same way you wouldn´t advise students to major in theater, as more of pratical career advice, then I don´t necessarily object.

        • Also, it is not the case that all scientists (or philosophers of science) have the same metaphysical assumptions.

          That quantum physicists differ widely on which of the many interpretations of quantum mechanics to adopt does not mean there isn't great agreement among them.

          Similarly, that scientists differ widely on some aspects of metaphysics does not mean there isn't great agreement among them, on metaphysics.

          And probably most scientists today pay scant attention to the philosophy of science.

          How is this relevant? For example, Karl Popper thought "how hypotheses are synthesized" was irrelevant to his philosophy of science work:

          I said above that the work of the scientist consist is in putting forward and testing theories.    The initial stage, the act of conceiving or inventing a theory, seems to me neither to call for logical analysis nor to be susceptible of it. The question how it happens that a new idea occurs to a man—whether it is a musical theme, a dramatic conflict, or a scientific theory—may be of great interest to empirical psychology; but it is irrelevant to the logical analysis of scientific knowledge. The latter is concerned not with questions of fact (Kant's quid facti?), but only with questions of justification or validity (Kant's quid juris?). (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 7)

          And yet, science may well stagnate without better understanding this process. For evidence of this, see how desperately machine learning folks are trying to get computers to form hypotheses about data that aren't rigidly constrained by the programming they are given by humans.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          And probably most scientists today pay scant attention to the philosophy of science.

          True dat. Most auto mechanics pay scant attention to thermodynamics, as well. They don't need it to do their day jobs.

          The last generation of scientists to be philosophically literate (as opposed to technically trained) were the likes of Einstein, Heisenberg, Poisson, and the like. In fact, it was Heisenberg who made the observation about methodology v. ontology:

          What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.
          – Werner Karl Heisenberg
          Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science

          • Don't forget Bernard d'Espagnat, 1921–2015 (obituaries: NYT, The Telegraph)!

                Bohr's starting point is a conception of science which—as may easily be guessed—does not define it in terms of a given intrinsic reality that it would purport to describe. In fact, in Bohr's writings, science appears to be essentially a collective endeavor at unambiguous communication among men, a communication concerning "what we did and what we have learned." In other words, science to him seems to be a synthesis of that part of human experience that is communicable to any human being. In his view the concept of reality is secondary to such an objective, and I believe that he perhaps would have preferred not to have to make use of that concept. When a discussion forces him to introduce that word, reality, in his writings, it always appears as a mere construct, as a general label that covers a great many phenomena. And in the attempts to bring it to the level of an absolute entity, he undoubtedly beheld serious dangers of unjustified extrapolation.
                But then, some will say, Bohr was philosophically an idealist.
                Such a view is too simplistic and Bohr would undoubtedly have rejected it. The reason why it is too expeditious is the existence of an intermediate level that Bohr introduces between atom and man that I have no mentioned yet. This is in fact simply the measuring instrument. Bohr considers, it seems, as clear and distinct the notion of the reality of instruments. At any rate, with regard to them, he takes for granted a view that he does not accept with regard to electrons or atoms. He takes it for granted that an instrument, even when it is not observed, always is in a well-defined state, occupying a well-defined portion of space. In the eyes of his numerous non idealist followers, this would suffice to clear him of the sin of idealism. Let us not enter into such a debate here, except to observe that a word such as "idealism" would presumably have been criticized by Bohr as an imprecise and unjustified generalization. Nevertheless, it remains true that according to this author (this is quite clear in some of his writings),[8] the measuring instrument is mainly defined as such. In other words, it is defined not just with reference to its composition and structure, but also with reference to the fact that it is used as an instrument by members of the community of human beings. Hence, since Bohr defines reality with reference to the phenomena, the phenomena with reference to instruments, and the instruments with reference to their use by the community of human beings, it is quite clear that ultimately his notion of reality refers to human beings. (In Search of Reality, 17–18)

            See also his On Physics and Philosophy; for a sneak peek at the end: pp410–411.

          • David Nickol

            Most auto mechanics pay scant attention to thermodynamics, as well. They don't need it to do their day jobs.

            I wouldn't say thermodynamics is to auto mechanics what philosophy of science is to scientists. I'd say philosophy of auto mechanics is to auto mechanics what philosophy of science is to scientists.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I was thinking of it in terms of studying the fundamentals that lie behind the particular methodology. But I agree that people engaged in a task do not often worry about much outside task execution. No science (o.s.) can demonstrate its own postulates. Biology takes life as given; physics takes motion as given. Natural science in general takes the existence of a rational, objective universe as given. To study the foundations you need something else. Most people get on quite happily without ever worrying their pretty little heads about the things they take for granted.

          • ThoughtorTwo .

            I love your comments "Ye Olde Statistician." You correct and inform from a depth of knowledge and rational thinking that goes beyond my limited capabilities. Here is an article on a new bestseller in physics that may interest you.

            http://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/12/a-poetic-and-jargon-free-textbook-on-theoretical-physics-is-a-surprise-christmas-bestseller/

          • ClayJames

            I actually think this is a very good analogy. Thermodynamics leads to the definition of tools that are used by auto mechanics in the same way philosophy or metaphysics leads to tools used in science.

          • One can only see this if one's consciousness is stretched out over enough time. Otherwise, it looks like philosophy ain't done nothin'.

        • Andrew Y.

          You don't have to know anything about the field of metaphysics in order to make "metaphysical assumptions."

          Of course. But I think you ought to know something about the field of metaphysics in order to make metaphysical claims, such as the claim that there is no such thing as metaphysical assumptions.

          • David Nickol

            . . . . such as the claim that there is no such thing as metaphysical assumptions.

            Who has made the claim that there is no such thing as a metaphysical assumption? Certainly not me.

          • Andrew Y.

            No, not you David. Dawkins and his cronies. I was (attempting to) agree with you.

  • VicqRuiz

    like saying plastic cups do not exist on the beach because of the metal detector’s failure to detect them. The metal detector’s failure says nothing whether or not (sic) plastic cups exist.

    Not much of an analogy.

    Give me five hundred people of various (adult) ages, genders and levels of learning, selected from cultures around the world, with the only qualification being normal capabilities of sight and touch.

    I'll have each of them walk the beach with a rake in hand. And I'm confident that each one will not only be able to find the plastic cup, but be able to describe its shape, size, and color in a way that's consistent with what the other four hundred and ninety-nine have said.

    Now give me five hundred people of various (adult) ages, genders and levels of learning, selected from cultures around the world, and ask each of them, "What is the nature of God??" To the degree that each one's response is consistent with what the other four hundred and ninety-nine have said, that's the degree to which there are "truths" which have been discovered via theism.

    • Rob Abney

      And then ask them to explain the theory of evolution, same result.

      • VicqRuiz

        Ok, I'll bite:

        Ask 500 professional biologists at random from cultures all over the world, and ask them to explain evolution.

        Now ask 500 professional clerics at random from cultures all over the world, and ask them to explain the nature of God.

        Your serve, Rob!

        • Now ask 500 professional physicists which interpretation of quantum mechanics each prefers.

          • Michael Murray

            It would be interesting to see the answer to that. If you ask physicists at a "foundations" meeting you will get the split here

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/01/17/the-most-embarrassing-graph-in-modern-physics/

            But you would then have biased to those that care about foundations enough to attend a conference.

            My guess (as a non-physicist) would be that a random sample of physicists would go for Copenhagen or some form of instrumentalism captured succinctly by "shut up and calculate". I would be interested to see a survey of particle physicists say attending a particle physics convention.

            The theologians of course have to care about foundations because they can't actually calculate the answer to anything. Sad really.

          • My guess (as a non-physicist) would be that a random sample of physicists would go for Copenhagen or some form of instrumentalism captured succinctly by "shut up and calculate".

            But why? Is it because they don't have enough time to care about such things? (In my experience and the experience of [at least] one University of Washington professor, scientists are increasingly overworked these days.) Is it because there has been much argument and little progress? (For some possible progress, see Can the quantum state be interpreted statistically?.) Is it because these physicists do not have the appropriate training to think about such things? There are many, many possible explanations, and which are true of how many physicists is very important for this discussion.

            The theologians of course have to care about foundations because they can't actually calculate the answer to anything. Sad really.

            What is the calculated answer to: "Are all people equal?" or "Ought all people have the same access to the opportunity to thrive?" Perhaps theologians are more interested in creating new reality (participating in the Kingdom of Heaven breaking into reality) than merely describing reality as-is, as if they had no power to alter it. Perhaps theologians are following God's blueprints for what constitutes human thriving and what does not.

          • Michael Murray

            But why?

            You should ask this question at Estranged Notions. I know josh, Andrew G and epeeist have thought about this more than me.

          • Michael Murray

            You might be interested in some of the really early posts here by physicistdave. For example

            https://disqus.com/by/physicistdave/

            Unfortunately he became tired of the biased moderation and left.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            "Unfortunately he became tired of the biased moderation and left."

            Now don't start that again.

          • I must say, I am unimpressed with his logic, with his rationality, and his attitude. For example:

            pd: But, try to work out a formulation of “possible,” “necessary,” etc. tout court, and, well, let’s just say there is no such formulation built into standard logic. Again, I am well aware that people have played such games in “modal logic,” in “possible-worlds” metaphysics, etc. but to put it mildly, such intellectual structures are certainly not obviously correct, nor are they available to the ordinary educated person (or, of course, to Aristotle or Aquinas).

            pd: I could go and on: I’ve been studying the foundations of logic for nearly fifty years and I therefore know a lot more than you about all this.

            From Amos Funkenstein:

            [...] André Goddu's interpretation of Ockham's physics as a reification of modal categories [...] (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, x)

            The reification of modal categories was a central problem to medieval Scholasticism and remained so in the seventeenth century—though with crucial changes in emphasis. (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 129)

            As it turns out, the logic of the scholastics was modal-like and probably required for Galileo to make his discoveries:

                Medieval theologians engaged in a new and unique genre of hypothetical reasoning. In order to expand the logical horizon of God's omnipotence as far as could be, they distinguished between that which is possible or impossible de potentia Dei absoluta as against that which is so de potentia Dei ordinata. This distinction was fleshed out with an incessant search for orders of nature different from ours which are nonetheless logically possible. Leibniz's contraposition of the nécessité logique (founded on the law of noncontradiction) and the nécessité physique (founded on the principle of sufficient reason) has its roots in these Scholastic discussions, and with it the questions about the status of laws of nature in modern philosophies of science. But medieval hypothetical reasoning did not serve future metatheoretical discussions alone. The considerations of counterfactual orders of nature in the Middle Ages actually paved the way for the formulation of laws of nature since Galileo in the following sense: seventeenth-century science articulated some basic laws of nature as counterfactual conditionals that do not describe any natural state but function as heuristic limiting cases to a series of phenomena, for example, the principle of inertia. Medieval schoolmen never did so; their counterfactual yet possible orders of nature were conceived as incommensurable with the actual structure of the universe, incommensurable either in principle or because none of their entities can be given a concrete measure. But in considering them vigorously, the theological imagination prepared for the scientific. This is the theme of my third chapter. (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 10–11)

            So if physicistdave is going to be so ignorant of an area he claims to be an expertise of his, what will he likely do in other areas? Oh, I just found SEP: Medieval Theories of Modality.

          • Michael Murray

            I am shocked to discover that.

          • Michael Murray
          • Thanks; I'd seen the oil drops on vibrating oil pan (have they gotten an analog of entanglement, yet?), but not the experiment attempting to distinguish the psi-epistemic and psi-ontic classes of QM interpretations. I was aware of Matt Leifer's 2011 blog post Can the quantum state be interpreted statistically?, but hadn't kept up on the state of things. I'm nervous about the 20% detection efficiency in Measurements on the reality of the wavefunction, so I look forward to improvements in experimental materials and technique!

          • VicqRuiz

            which interpretation of quantum mechanics

            Now you're at the front edge of physics, where the observations can support multiple interpretations, and no single "best fit" has proved convincing.

            Which is where theism has been for the last several millennia.

          • Now you're at the front edge of physics, where the observations can support multiple interpretations, and no single "best fit" has proved convincing.

            One way to split the interpretations of QM is into deterministic and indeterministic. That debate has been going on for millennia.

            Which is where theism has been for the last several millennia.

            What is your evidence and reasoning for this? After all, you seem to be making a "no progress" claim. For you to make such a claim (vs. "I don't know if there has been progress"), you need evidence and reasoning. Where is it?

    • I'll have each of them walk the beach with a rake in hand. And I'm confident that each one will not only be able to find the plastic cup, but be able to describe its shape, size, and color in a way that's consistent with what the other four hundred and ninety-nine have said.

      Bad analogy. Better analogy: what do scientists believe in terms of:

           (1) interpretation of quantum mechanics
           (2) Paradigms in Theory Construction (psychology)
           (3) ontology of human being for sociology, politsci, economics†

      ? Oh, there's rampant pluralism? Well, I'll be.

      † See:

          There are several reasons why the contemporary social sciences make the idea of the person stand on its own, without social attributes or moral principles. Emptying the theoretical person of values and emotions is an atheoretical move. We shall see how it is a strategy to avoid threats to objectivity. But in effect it creates an unarticulated space whence theorizing is expelled and there are no words for saying what is going on. No wonder it is difficult for anthropologists to say what they know about other ideas on the nature of persons and other definitions of well-being and poverty. The path of their argument is closed. No one wants to hear about alternative theories of the person, because a theory of persons tends to be heavily prejudiced. It is insulting to be told that your idea about persons is flawed. It is like being told you have misunderstood human beings and morality, too. The context of this argument is always adversarial. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences, 10)

      +

      Much contemporary moral philosophy, particularly but not only in the English-speaking world, has given such a narrow focus to morality that some of the crucial connections I want to draw here are incomprehensible in its terms. This moral philosophy has tended to focus on what it is right to do rather than on what it is good to be, on defining the content of obligation rather than the nature of the good life; and it has no conceptual place left for a notion of the good as the object of our love or allegiance or, as Iris Murdoch portrayed it in her work, as the privileged focus of attention or will.[1] This philosophy has accredited a cramped and truncated view of morality in a narrow sense as well as of the whole range of issues involved in the attempt to live the best possible life and this not only among professional philosophers, but with a wider public. (Sources of the Self, 3)

    • ClayJames

      Finding a diference that has nothing to do with the analogy does not invalidate an analogy, or else, the only analogy that is valid is X is like X.

      Consensus is a terrible way to determine the validity of truth. There is also lack of consensus regarding what follows from rejecting the belief that god exists. Atheists can´t agree whether this question is unknowable or we just don´t know yet, that its a scientific question or a philosophical one, that we can claim that god does not exist or simply that there is no reason to believe that he does, that it follows from this that morality is subjective or objective, that religion is evil or morally neutral, that naturalism is true or false, that free will exists or not. Does it then follow, that the lack of consensus shows the degree of truths regarding atheism?

      This also leads to conclusions about the level of truth regarding specific religious beliefs where there is consensus. The vast majority of people agree that naturalism is false and that there is an afterlife. Does it then follow that this consensus shows truth?

      • VicqRuiz

        My objection to the analogy was not that "the majority rules" but that Broussard was analogizing from something easily observable in a consistent way by every human on earth (a plastic cup) to something often hidden and when revealed, often inconsistently (God).

        Does it then follow, that the lack of consensus shows the degree of truths regarding atheism?

        I would immediately concede that atheism does not possess perfect, objective truth, and that any atheist who claims to do so is talking through his hat.

        regarding specific religious beliefs where there is consensus. The vast majority of people agree that naturalism is false and that there is an afterlife. Does it then follow that this consensus shows truth?

        I'm not sure if those two positions, taken just as they are without further theistic accretions, rise to the level of "religious belief".

        • ClayJames

          My objection to the analogy was not that "the majority rules" but that
          Broussard was analogizing from something easily observable in a
          consistent way by every human on earth (a plastic cup) to something
          often hidden and when revealed, often inconsistently (God).

          And my point is that your objection is irrelevant to the analogy. Broussard states that ¨scientism is unreasonable because it confuses methodology (method of knowing) with ontology (reality)¨ and then supports this by using an analogy. How consistently observable or hidden the thing in question is, has nothing to do with the analogy.

          I would immediately concede that atheism does not possess perfect,
          objective truth, and that any atheist who claims to do so is talking
          through his hat.

          But it is impossible for both theism and atheism to not be ¨perfectly¨ and objectively true. Defined properly, this is a perfect dichotomy and one is 100% objectively true and the other is 100% objectively false. You are doing exactly what Broussard is charging scientism of doing, confusing methodology with ontology.

          I'm not sure if those two positions, taken just as they are without
          further theistic accretions, rise to the level of "religious belief".

          You can define those beliefs as anything you want, if it follows that the degree of consensus points to the degree of truth, then it does say something about the degree of truth regarding those beliefs. Whether they are religious or not is irrelevant.

          • VicqRuiz

            But it is impossible for both theism and atheism to not be ¨perfectly¨ and objectively true. Defined properly, this is a perfect dichotomy

            I don't see it that way. I see rock-ribbed atheism at one end of the spectrum and equally rock-ribbed theism at the other end, with softer versions of both, plus pantheism and deism, occupying the middle ground.

            And I do agree that there is a point along that spectrum that corresponds to The Way Things Really Are. But I remain unconvinced of humankind's ability to determine that point. Which is why I prefer to call myself a skeptic rather than an atheist.

          • ClayJames

            The way things are is not reflected by a point along a spectrum. It is either 100% theism (god does exist) or 100% atheism (god does not exist), there is no spectrum since this is a true dichotomy.

            There is a spectrum regarding our methods of knowing where we can say what is probable and what is not and this is where disagreement exists.

            The problem is when you conflate a probabilistic method of knowing (methodology) with what is actually true (ontology) and say that consensus regarding our methods of knowing (methodology) reflects the degree of truth (ontology).

          • To what extent do you think it this a matter of not understanding the difference between 'appearance' and 'heart', or 'appearance' and 'substance'?

          • ClayJames

            That is a philosophical discussion that is worth having but I think the explanation is much simpler than that. The popular atheist movement pushed by the New Atheists is linked to science at the hip which puts popular atheists into one of three camps 1) those that accept only scientific claims, 2) those that believe science is the best source of truth or 3) those that accept philosophy´s importance in intellectual pursuit but feel no need to focus on it because all that can be said about philosophy has already been said.

            It is important to study philosophy in the same way it is important to study basic mathematics, not as a way to discover something new but as a lesson in how to think. The question of God is not a scientific question and yet, most of the famous proponents of the new atheist movement are scientists and when a scientist with no philosophical training uses science to discuss a philosophical proposition it leads to all kinds of very basic contradicitons.

            There are many atheists here that want to give Dawkins the benefit of the doubt and I wonder if these people have actually read Dawkins. We are talking about someone who´s central argument against the existence God given in the God Delusion is ¨Who designed the designer? ¨. In his book The Magic of Reality, he makes the following claim:

            ¨We come to know what is real, then, in one of three ways. We can detect it directly, using our five senses; or indirectly, using our senses aided by special instruments such as telescopes and microscopes; or even more indirectly, by creating models of what might be real and then testing those models to see whether they successfully predict things that we can see (or hear, etc.), with or without the aid of instruments. Ultimately, it always comes back to our senses, one way or another.¨

            And yet, you still have people trying to argue that scientism is not a position that people (including Dawkins) actually hold. I do think some level of scientism has lead to the increase in popular atheism and while many atheists educated in philosophy see the obvious problems with this view, they don´t want to talk against it since they would be speaking against the catalyst in the popular atheist movement of the last 15 years.

          • The question of God is not a scientific question and yet, most of the famous proponents of the new atheist movement are scientists and when a scientist with no philosophical training uses science to discuss a philosophical proposition it leads to all kinds of very basic contradicitons.

            So... they have a hammer, and therefore everything must be a nail, or at least approximated as a nail? (Even morality—see Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape.)

            In his book The Magic of Reality, [Dawkins] makes the following claim:

            We come to know what is real, then, in one of three ways. We can detect it directly, using our five senses; or indirectly, using our senses aided by special instruments such as telescopes and microscopes; or even more indirectly, by creating models of what might be real and then testing those models to see whether they successfully predict things that we can see (or hear, etc.), with or without the aid of instruments. Ultimately, it always comes back to our senses, one way or another.

            But this is a presumption that "appearance is all that exists", modulo that niggling "creating models", where those models might not 100% supervene on appearances. However, that "creating models" can be subsumed under Kant's [fixed] categories, which are implanted by evolutionary processes (which is the selection of some appearances over others).

          • Michael Murray

            It is important to study philosophy in the same way it is important to study basic mathematics, not as a way to discover something new but as a lesson in how to think.

            That is certainly one reason for studying mathematics but it is also actually useful !

          • ClayJames

            How is it useful?

          • Michael Murray

            You've never had to add up a list of numbers or count something ? Or flown in an airplane, driven a car, used the internet, used a phone, watched a video, used electricity, driven over a bridge, banked online, taken a drug, had a medical test, etc, etc

          • ClayJames

            Absolutely, I wasn´t questioning that mathematics is not useful, just your implication that philosophy is not as useful. We use philosophy every single day in coming to reasonable conclusions, answering questions of ethics and, for many of us that spend a significant time on here, attempting to answer the big questions.

            To me (and probably to most people) attempting to answer the question ¨Does God exist and what does that mean for my life?¨ is more important than watching a video or flying on a plane, or maybe its not, but we can only arrive at this conclusion through the usefulness of philosophy.

          • Michael Murray

            Absolutely, I wasn´t questioning that mathematics is not useful, just your implication that philosophy is not as useful.

            OK. I didn't get that from your reply. Let me answer that question then.

            I'm not questioning the utility of philosophy in general just the kind of metaphysical philosophy so popular here amongst this particular section of the religion I was born into. I am yet to be convinced (after nearly three score years) that the big questions are well defined or have answers of the kind you are looking for. I am very much less convinced that the kind of metaphysical speculation Catholic theologians use to supposedly study these big questions is going to find those answers. My problem is the lack of connection with reality. There is too much thought about thought. There is also too little precise definition and too many holes in the logic.

            I should add that I don't think that philosophy has to be useful to justify it as a subject of study. I've been studying pure mathematics for some 35 years so claiming everything has to be useful would be a serious hypocrisy ! But that time has left me with perhaps on overly developed sense of the importance of precise definitions and rigorous logic if you don't want to end up talking complete rubbish.

            I am a little more sympathetic to people who have had some kind of numinous experience and are searching for answers to that. They at least have a question that makes sense. Of course I think the experience is purely based on physical phenomena and processes.

          • ClayJames

            This is a complete tangent, but your comment about the usefulness of mathematics reminds me of having to take partial differencial equations as an undergrad engineering student where the most common question amongst my classmates regarding this course was ¨Why?¨. I also found it funny that even though mathematics has great pratical use and all of my professors were absolutely brilliant people, it seemed to me that they did not live in this world (aliens perhaps?)

            About what you said regarding philosophy, for some reason many people think that the use of philosphy within scientific discourse is limited only to metaphysics. This could not be further fromthe truth. I think philosophical training helps people apply the rigorous logic that you extol. The most famous atheist of our times believes that the central argument against God is to ask ¨Who designed the designer?¨ and he is also the head of the Richard Dawkins foundation for Reason and Science. A 101 Logic or Philosophy class would point out why that statement is false and yet, this is the kind of discourse that is prevelant in the New Atheist movement.

          • My problem is the lack of connection with reality.

            I have to agree with you there, wholeheartedly. It's not that there is absolutely no connection, but rarely is it teased out in any convincing way. An old pastor of mine, who is a disciple of Timothy Keller, once mentioned in a sermon that the hardest part of pastoring was helping people live out doctrine. Here, too, theory was very much disconnected from practice.

            I should add that I don't think that philosophy has to be useful to justify it as a subject of study. I've been studying pure mathematics for some 35 years so claiming everything has to be useful would be a serious hypocrisy ! But that time has left me with perhaps on overly developed sense of the importance of precise definitions and rigorous logic if you don't want to end up talking complete rubbish.

            Have you considered that because you were working in pure math, you were allowed the luxury of "precise definitions and rigorous logic", whereas if you were working in applied math, things might be messier? Rom Harré, whom Wikipedia describes as "a distinguished British philosopher and psychologist", said the following along with his co-author E.H. Madden:

                The assumption that there is an exclusive dichotomy between the formal and the physiological is, in our view, an error of enormous consequence. We shall maintain that the most important metascientific concepts with which philosophy deals, such as cause, law, explanation, theory, evidence, natural necessity, and the like, have not been shown to be capable of adequate characterisation in wholly formal terms. We hold that adequate accounts of those concepts which are neither purely formal nor simply psychological can be achieved by attention to the third element in our intellectual economy, namely the content of our knowledge, content which goes beyond the reports of immediate experience. We shall show in a wide variety of cases that the concepts with which we are concerned, and particularly the concept of Causality, can be adequately differentiated, the rationality of science defended, and the possibility of the world preserved only by attending to certain general features of the content of causal propositions by which they can ultimately be distinguished as having a conceptual necessity, irreducible either to logical necessity or to psychological illusion. In this way we resolve many of the problems which the tradition has bequeathed us. (Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity, 2–3)

            I'm kicking myself for not writing it down, but I read somewhere that the 20th century obsession of analytic philosophy to come up with "clear and distinct concepts" for everything was finally revealed to be a pipe dream. True reality is gritty and apparently contradictory (GR + QFT, anyone?) and just not susceptible to beautiful, hygienic, formal descriptions. Are you aware of this? And yet, in spite of the lack of perfect formality, much can actually be said, research can actually be done, etc. One is not automatically reduced to "talking complete rubbish" if one does not have rigorous formalisms.

          • VicqRuiz

            Whether or not "god exists" is a question with no impact on our lives.

            Whether or not there is a supernatural entity/entities which interacts with humanity is a question with enormous impact.

            How we should deal with such a supernatural entity is an even more important question, and one which does not have a binary answer.

            I'd much prefer to discuss the latter two questions than continue to rehash the arid "proofs" of the first.

          • ClayJames

            Nothing you just said is at odds with anything I have said and I do agree with you regarding the focus of the overall conversation.

            This interaction started with my questioning of your idea that consensus renders the analogy given above to ¨not much of an analogy¨ when you simply offered a difference without a true distinction.

            You also confused lack of consensus with a lack of truth in saying that ¨To the degree that each one's response is consistent with what the other
            four hundred and ninety-nine have said, that's the degree to which
            there are "truths" which have been discovered via theism¨

            I think I have done enough to refute both of these claims and I look forward to discussing the important questions with you in future articles.

          • How do you define 'supernatural'? Please note that the fuzzier 'natural' is, the fuzzier 'supernatural' is.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    These scientism articles fundamentally misunderstand the point that people like Dawkins are trying to make. Setting up a self-refuting statement and than refuting it is not really covering new ground, and it is something of a strawman of what most atheists believe.

    The people you accuse of scientism, more accuratelybelieve that the scientific method is the surest method of gaining knowledge that we have yet found. This is not trivially self-refuting.

    • Andrew Y.

      How did they gain the knowledge that the surest method of gaining knowledge is science?

      • Ignatius Reilly

        It is an empirical statement. We observe the different ways of obtaining knowledge. The sciences have had the best track record.

        • Andrew Y.

          The sciences are of course our best source of scientific knowledge. That is their purpose. But what about knowledge we gain through logic? In what way does logic have a poorer "track record" of obtaining knowledge than science?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Logic cannot operate without foundational premises. How do we know what foundational premises to use?

            Unless you are only using logic to test coherency

          • Andrew Y.

            How do we know what foundational premises to use?

            We don’t. But that doesn’t prevent logic from providing us with useful knowledge based on certain foundational premises, in the same way that the sciences provide us with useful theories based on certain metaphysical assumptions.

            Why is empirical observation a more accurate, reliable, or fruitful method of obtaining knowledge than logic?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            To adequately answer that question would probably take a post longer than I want to write. Also, I disagree with the your first paragraph.

            In short, I would ask you to name a few logical truths (outside of mathematics) that are derivable and universally accepted by experts. I can name a lot of such scientific truths.

          • Andrew Y.

            The phrase “scientific truth” doesn’t make sense; I think you probably meant something else. Of course science does not claim to be true, but rather suggests that a certain conclusion is likely based on a certain observation.

            Now logical truths are not my expertise, but from personal experience as a software architect, I deal with the concept of truth constantly when testing, and when reasoning about the correctness of a program. Algorithms, patterns and practices I use every day are based on models developed by mathematicians using nothing but pure reason. My understanding of a program with respect to its correctness is most definitely knowledge in itself, and in my view this kind of knowledge is at least as accurate (and useful) as knowledge obtained by empirical observation.

            So, no, I do not think that the sciences are a “better” way to obtain knowledge in general. The sciences are only a “better” way to obtain scientific knowledge.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Algorithms are a subset of mathematics, so that does not apply to my non-mathematics criteria. Perhaps it would be easier to cut to the chase and name a few religious or metaphysical truths that are widely agreed on by a group of experts.

            So, no, I do not think that the sciences are a “better” way to obtain
            knowledge in general. The sciences are only a “better” way to obtain
            scientific knowledge.

            I don't disagree. The point is that the subset of knowledge that is scientific is the most reliable knowledge that we posses. Gravity following an inverse square law is more reliable than say that God is Trinity.

            Aristotle thought that one should be virtuous, because it makes one happy. Science does have something to say about what tends to make humans happy. The lines between science and philosophy are more blurred than the new theists like to imagine.

          • Andrew Y.

            The point is that the subset of knowledge that is scientific is the most reliable knowledge that we posses.

            So we are in agreement that there exists such a thing as knowledge that is not scientific. Your claim is that this type of knowledge is unreliable because it cannot been obtained by empirical observation, and because no group of experts has agreed upon it.

            Logic and reason are perfectly capable of being used to obtain knowledge, and the knowledge obtained from these methods is more reliable than scientific knowledge. The Pythagorean theorem has stayed true for 2500 years. How many scientific theories have lasted that long? Did the many “experts” who believed geocentrism was true contribute to its reliability?

            But as @Luke Breuer said, you have indeed stacked the deck by saying that mathematical knowledge is out. It seems to me you are more interested in playing trap-the-theist than have an intellectual discussion about epistemology. I don't have anything else to add to this discussion. Peace bro

          • Perhaps it would be easier to cut to the chase and name a few religious or metaphysical truths that are widely agreed on by a group of experts.

            Can you list any metaphysical truths oughts which "are widely agreed on by a group of experts"? If it is the case that isought, then any statements about ought are meta-physical, instead of physical. Right?

            Now, suppose that there are no widely agreed-upon oughts. Is that perhaps a very precarious position for modernity to be? Now, perhaps there aren't. After all, perhaps egalitarianism (a metaphysical position) is losing its foundation, and will soon crumble:

                The possibilities [for grounding equal worth] are frighteningly innumerable. My point is that you need some metaphysical explanation to ground the doctrine of equal worth, if it is to serve as the basis for equal human rights. It is not enough simply to assert, as philosophers like Dworkin do, that their egalitarian doctrines are "metaphysically unambiguous." But, of course, there are severe epistemological difficulties with the kinds of metaphysical systems I have been discussing. My point has not been to defend religion. For purposes of this paper I am neutral on the question of whether any religion is true. Rather my purpose is to show that we cannot burn our bridges and still drive Mack trucks over them. But, if we cannot return to religion, then it would seem perhaps we should abandon egalitarianism and devise political philosophies that reflect naturalistic assumptions, theories which are forthright in viewing humans as differentially talented animals who must get on together. (Equality: Selected Readings, 296)

          • Aristotle thought that one should be virtuous, because it makes one happy. Science does have something to say about what tends to make humans happy.

            Science cannot decide what constitutes 'happy'. It cannot decide which self-reports of 'pain' to count as true pain. (Want examples where self-reported pain was dismissed because there existed no scientific/​medical understanding of it? Fibromyalgia.) Science also cannot tell us how to balance this vs. that in terms of optimizing for happiness. For example, do we weigh all humans' happiness equally? Or do we say “one American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.”, cited in Samantha Powers, A Problem from Hell, 381? (Quote obtained via Randal Rauser.) Can science condemn the west for the facts found in Rwandan Genocide § United States?

          • In short, I would ask you to name a few logical truths (outside of mathematics) that are derivable and universally accepted by experts. I can name a lot of such scientific truths.

            You've stacked the deck!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think the point is clear though. I an list a how bunch of theorems and things we know from science. They philosophical and theological list is much much more difficult. Although if there is a philosophical consensus, it is atheistic according to that one poll.

          • But what is the cause of the difficulty for philosophy and theology? Is it perhaps that those subjects are terribly more complex than physics? Let's ensure that our analogies are proper, before we go off making all sorts of claims. If the lack of deep agreement in matters involving humans and humans in society is because humans and humans in society are much more complicated than particles and particles in fields (especially the very carefully selected cases studied by physicists), then the argument at play here would seem to crumble [like Quark's gold-pressed latinum].

        • It is an empirical statement.

          False. What has 'utility' is not a product of sense-perception.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Try reliability than. I'm not measuring utility.

          • What is 'reliable' is still not something you received via sense-perception. You made a judgment call that was 100% non-empirical. Think about it: in Aristotle's time, a slave could easily come up with a set of 'laws' which were 100% reliable. When you throw a rock at your master's head, you get whipped or worse. When you drop a rock, it falls to the ground. And so forth. There are, however, areas where science is not reliable. For example: it was predicted that we only needed science and technology to feed the world, and yet now we can feed 10 billion and yet some of our ≤ 8 billion starve to death. Science is not 'reliable' in that realm. Why? Because science is much better (much more 'reliable') in the non-human realm than the human realm.

    • The people you accuse of scientism, more accuratelybelieve that the scientific method is the surest method of gaining knowledge that we have yet found. This is not trivially self-refuting.

      Yes, it is self-refuting. Why? Because it rests, critically, upon the metric used to determine "surest knowledge". And yet, the metric does not come from science. And so, the very determination which puts science on the high pedestal comes from outside of science. Usually, I see it come from 'utility'. That leads to a fun story.

      Sometimes it is said that Aristotle did as much science and philosophy as he needed to have a nice life. Because he had slaves, he just didn't need the kind of technology that would reduce the demand for slaves. Indeed, Aristotle thought slavery was natural and good. So, he simply had no interest in pushing human knowledge into certain territory. His life was just fine, as it was!

      Consider that the metric that the modernist uses is quite different from Aristotle's. This is well-articulated by looking at Francis Bacon's decision to take Aristotle's Four Causes in hand, break it into two groups, and discard the formal and final bits. But what happens when you do this? Well, 'utility' flies out the window. After all, what constitutes 'utility' can only be expressed in formal, final, and/or teleological ways. Dump those off of the science bandwagon and 'utility' is simply rooted, grounded, in something non-science.

      Now, what about an endeavor humans used to think was important—figuring out what 'the good life' is? In the past, this was often seen as the most important kind of knowledge one could obtain. These days, the word 'wisdom' is used, but it used to be that 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' were deeply intertwined. These days, 'wisdom' is much less important than power. Power to do what? Well, power to manipulate. Power to bend nature, and people, to one's will. Yes science gives understanding, but not about the good life. It gives power to manipulate, dominate, control. And that, Ig, is the kind of knowledge you are prioritizing.

      The kind of knowledge Max Weber said would lock us inside an iron cage—although the German stahlhartes Gehäuse is perhaps better translated as something like "shell as hard as steel"; see Talcott Parsons' translation in context:

      The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter's view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the "saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment". But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage.[2] (The "Iron Cage" and the "Shell as Hard as Steel", 153–154)

      That's what you're celebrating by implication, Ig. The pretty world of products is a veil which has been pulled over your eyes, Matrix-style. Want evidence? Look at all those predictions that science and technology would reduce the workday to 4 or 6 hours. Look at what was promised. Look at what was delivered. (example)

      Your criticisms pick out accidental aspects of the article, not essential ones. Science as top dog, with science as currently defined, is a slave driver, not provider of freedom. Want to see this in the popular mind? Consider Hollywood films and how they portray science and technology. See what kind of plots the market rewards. (I was first turned onto this by Peter Thiel; I just found out that Ian Hacking noticed this in 1992.)

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Yes, it is self-refuting. Why? Because it rests, critically, upon the metric used to determine "surest knowledge". And yet, the metric does not come from science. And so, the very determination which puts science on the high pedestal comes from outside of science. Usually, I see it come from 'utility'. That leads to a fun story.

        I really don't see how utility applies here. Although from the rest of what you say I think you may misunderstand me.

        Now, what about an endeavor humans used to think was important—figuring
        out what 'the good life' is? In the past, this was often seen as the
        most important kind of knowledge one could obtain. These days, the word
        'wisdom' is used, but it used to be that 'knowledge' and 'wisdom' were
        deeply intertwined. These days, 'wisdom' is much less important than power.
        Power to do what? Well, power to manipulate. Power to bend nature, and
        people, to one's will. Yes science gives understanding, but not about
        the good life. It gives power to manipulate, dominate, control. And
        that, Ig, is the kind of knowledge you are prioritizing.

        I do think figuring out how to live morally and how to live a good life is of prime importance. I think science can give us some understanding into how to live a good life, but I think wisdom and experience are more important. What I do think, is that our scientific theories are more reliable than our theories about living a good life. Gravity having an inverse-square relationship is settled. Am I better off living as a Stoic, an epicurean, or something else is not yet determined. I'm not denigrating non-scientific pursuits, honestly I prefer those. I'm saying that we have a lot less certainty. I'm saying these straw man attacks on new atheism and scientism miss the point entirely.

        • I really don't see how utility applies here. Although from the rest of what you say I think you may misunderstand me.

          Is it about reliability? In a sense, the traditions of the medievals in 1400 were 'reliable'.

          I do think figuring out how to live morally and how to live a good life is of prime importance.

          Can you in any way divide up how science can, and cannot, help in this endeavor? Is it 'knowledge' you use to do this figuring out?

          What I do think, is that our scientific theories are more reliable than our theories about living a good life.

          I'm curious; how do you test 'reliability'? Could it be the case that 'science' cherry-picks those phenomena which are most reliable, and thus your claim here is sort of tautologically true?

          I'm saying these straw man attacks on new atheism and scientism miss the point entirely.

          Only when we've hammered out that word 'knowledge' a bit more, will this be possibly supportable. For example, there is still the problem of how we know that "scientific theories are more reliable". After all, that underlined "know" does not seem to be the result of science? Indeed, the strength of it seems to come from something distinctly not-science.

    • ClayJames

      You previously admitted that you have not read Dawkin´s works on atheism and religion. Where do you get the idea that this is not the point people like Dawkins are trying to make? Which other New Atheist have you read?

      People that defend scientism, more accurately believe that the scientific method is the only or best way to arrive at truth, specifically as it relates to philosophy. This is a self refuting claim.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        You previously admitted that you have not read Dawkin´s works on atheism
        and religion. Where do you get the idea that this is not the point
        people like Dawkins are trying to make? Which other New Atheist have you
        read?

        I'm somewhat snobbish when it comes to what I read. I don't read new atheists. I have heard them speak. I've read a few essays. They don't seem to be making these kinds of statements. I've talked to atheists influenced by the new atheists and they do not make these self-refuting statements.

        People that defend scientism, more accurately believe that the scientific method is the only or best way to arrive at truth, specifically as it relates to philosophy. This is a self refuting claim.

        That is not what they believe. They believe that science is more reliable in the scientific domain than philosophy is in the philosophical domain. Also, I do not think there is as clear of a demarcation between the domains as you like to think. Psychology is scientific, but it also speaks to philosophy.

        It cannot be maintained that philosophy has had any very great measure of success in its attempts to provide definite answers to its questions.-Bertrand Russell

        ...only the philosophical question is perennial, not the answers.-Paul Tillich

        Seems like I have some heavyweights on my side here.

        • ClayJames

          I'm somewhat snobbish when it comes to what I read. I don't read new atheists. I have heard them speak. I've read a few essays. They don't seem to be making these kinds of statements. I've talked to atheists influenced by the new atheists and they do not make these self-refuting statements.

          I have also talked to atheist influenced by new atheism and many do support some version of scientism. Don´t you think that actually reading the new atheists´ most famous works should be a prerequisite to defending the charge of scientism, especially if one is so adamant that the charge is not warranted? I find it odd that you seem very sure that we are misinterpreting these writers when you have read very little of what they have written.

          That is not what they believe. They believe that science is more reliable in the scientific domain than philosophy is in the philosophical domain. Also, I do not think there is as clear of a demarcation between the domains as you like to think. Psychology is scientific, but it also speaks to philosophy.

          If by reliable you simply mean that it is more methodological and contrained, then while true, that is not all that they believe. Not only that, that observation says very little of significance. I could equally say that the metric system is more reliable in measuring distance than science is in the scientific domain, but while true, this simply states that systems of measurement are more methodological and contrained. The question is, so what? Should we use the metric system to explain everything else because of this?

          Where the new atheists err is to confuse the diference in methodology with a difference in ontology (see Karlo´s piece above). To say that because science has a more contrained methodology that leads to more concrete answers, we should use science to determine the truth of everything else, including the unscientific and especially philosophical questions.

          Here is a quote by Dawkins from his book The Magic of Reality and please explain to me how this not scientism and self refuting:

          ¨We come to know what is real, then, in one of three ways. We can detect it directly, using our five senses; or indirectly, using our senses aided by special instruments such as telescopes and microscopes; or even more indirectly, by creating models of what might be real and then testing those models to see whether they successfully predict things that we can see (or hear, etc.), with or without the aid of instruments. Ultimately, it always comes back to our senses, one way or another.¨

          • David Nickol

            As I understand these things, the last paragraph (quoted from Dawkins) is precisely the definition of empiricism. Are you claiming that empiricism and scientism are identical? If so, why do we need to discuss scientism?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            As Hume famously says:

            If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

          • Do you think that statement fails to be self-undermining?

          • ClayJames

            Not identical but they do share many of the same beliefs and flaws.

          • WP: Scientism: Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society, draws a parallel between scientism and traditional religious movements, pointing to the cult of personality that develops around some scientists in the public eye. He defines scientism as a worldview that encompasses natural explanations, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces empiricism and reason.[42]

      • VicqRuiz

        The scientific method has demonstrated that it is the only successful approach with which to analyse, model, and predict events in the physical world.

        When philosophy and theology confine themselves to concepts that are not discernable in the physical world, they may well find truths that science cannot.

        But when they assert that the supernatural extends its reach into the physical world, they may expect that they will be asked to play by science's rules.

        • ClayJames

          When philosophy and theology confine themselves to concepts that are not
          discernable in the physical world, they may well find truths that
          science cannot.

          You do see that the truth finding capabilities of science are completely and 100% dependent on philosophical truths that are derived without the strict constrained methodology of science, right?

          But when they assert that the supernatural extends its reach into the
          physical world, they may expect that they will be asked to play by
          science's rules.

          So when non-natural events, reach into the natural world, we should expect them to play by naturalistic rules? How does this make any sense?

        • neil_pogi

          then tell me how the mind originated when the organism is still developing (no nervous system yet)?

        • The scientific method has demonstrated that it is the only successful approach with which to analyse, model, and predict events in the physical world.

          Where is this demonstration documented in a peer-reviewed fashion?

    • neil_pogi

      are secular scientists doing scientific methods in their researches? ( for example, that non-living things became living things) or they use their own biases instead?

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Yes, neil, they generally are. I would suggest you do some reading on evolution instead of creating these straw men.

        • Lazarus

          You may have to be more specific there, Ignatius, if you don't want Ken Ham quoted at you in future discussions ;)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Where you there?

          • Lazarus

            Lol

        • neil_pogi

          reading what? 'just so' and 'make-believe' stories?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            neil, evolution is a fact. I am not going to be able to explain it to you in a commbox. If you want to understand it, you will most likely have to read books about it.

          • neil_pogi

            it is a theory! be glad i didn't say it is JUST a theory!

        • Did you know that the definition of 'life' is actually nontrivial?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Yes, it is fuzzy at the borders, but I don't see why that matters here.

          • It's not at all clear that it's merely "fuzzy at the borders". Here's why. We can split thinking about reality into two extremes: top-down and bottom-up (e.g. top-down and bottom-up design). When one is engaged in bottom-up thinking in the sciences, generally the elements of theoretical physics are taken as your building blocks, and the dogma is that everything else can be constructed from them. When one is engaged in top-down thinking, one talks in terms of wholes and purposes. But are 'purposes' real, do they have ontological import? Wikipedia articles such as Intentional stance, Teleonomy, and Dysteleology show how this top-down thinking is frequently disparaged or at least, thought of as 'instrumental' instead of 'ontological'.

            When it comes to what 'life' is, the question is whether you can actually do what the reductionists want to do. Yes, there is a way of talking about 'life' where one uses plenty of concepts which have no clear grounding in the entities of theoretical physical. But the question is, can they actually be rigorously grounded in the entities of theoretical physical? Because if they cannot, then that may actually produce a severe problem when it comes to evolution explaining them—or at least, current formulations.

            Now, what I want to suggest to you is that the problem I allege exists (I can provide rigorous mathematical foundation via mathematical biologist Robert Rosen's Life Itself) may only appear to be one of "fuzzy at the borders", but that it could easily be a much, much deeper problem. It could be that 'life' is irreducibly predicated upon something like intentionality, a thing which some atheists, like Erik Wielenberg, think we don't have an explanation for, in terms of being grounded in the entities of theoretical physics. He's skeptical that we'll ever find such grounding—that is, he thinks the problem is so severe that we don't know what we don't know in this domain.

            The way Robert Rosen presents the problem, to define what 'life' is, we need more kinds of entailment than is available in partial differential equations and differential equations. We need more kinds of entailment than those very particular mathematical formalisms. But "more kinds of entailment" is what is precluded in the argument which leads to my "(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable." So I think there's actually a very deep problem here, which folks like @neil_pogi:disqus may only know intuitively, but which I can probably explain explicitly. We can dive into this matter, if you'd like.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I thought you were travelling ;-)

          • I got some unexpected downtime.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    There is a third possibility: Maybe some knowledge is not scientific knowledge and theology is still nonsense.

    • ClayJames

      How can ¨the study of religious faith, practice, and experience : the study of God and God's relation to the world¨ (Merriam Webster) be nonsense?

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        I'm pointing out the logical possibility. Simply because not everything is science, that doesn't mean theology is worthwhile.

        I met a theology student at University of Edinburgh and got into a great conversation with him about his research. I then asked him which church he attended, and he said none. He said he was an atheist. I asked, what's the use of theology if God doesn't exist? He answered that Shakespeare's Hamlet doesn't exist, but people study him anyway. Maybe this is the way theology is sensible. It's the study of a fictional character.

        There's another way in which theology could be meaningful. If God is understood as the ultimate and singular substance of reality, to do theology is to study the body and mind of God: the physical universe and the mathematical principles that govern its existence. In this case, the physical sciences themselves, along with philosophy, are all that theology is. There is nothing else.

        • VicqRuiz

          Paul, were you the poster on an earlier thread who said something like:

          "God created the universe. That's indisputable. God may or may not have written a book. That's up for debate."

          A great comment, whoever came up with it.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I hope I said that.

          • Rob Abney

            He created the universe and he did not write a book, both are indisputable!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Muslims dispute one and atheists the other.

      • George

        how do you know you're actually studying God at all?

        • ClayJames

          So you can´t study Zeus because he doesn´t exist? Even if God did not exist, you can still study the idea of God and the cultures, influences and beliefs that people hold about that god.

          Even if God did not exist, it does not follow that theology is nonsense. There are many atheists that study theology.

  • In spite of his scientism, Dawkins' argument, Why there almost certainly is no God, is not based on scientism. It is based on the principle that probability is a valid explanation unless the value of probability is too low. Fr. Robert Spitzer invokes this same principle in his anthropic argument in favor of the existence of God.

  • Is science the only legitimate form of rational inquiry? The evolutionary biologist and popular atheist Richard Dawkins thinks so.

    Is there reason to believe this statement is true? It's hard to miss that the quotes Karlo offers from Dawkins don't support it. Googling around for a few minutes, I can't find support for this claim from Dawkins, but I do find that he casts doubt on the idea in regard to moral values.

    And lo, Jesus said unto his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about the sources of your strange notions, or whether they are credible, or whether you slander another on account of your faith. Is not knowledge more than truths one has justification to believe, and are not lazy good intentions the gateway to heaven?"

    :)

    • Does the following qualify?

      CJ: In his book The Magic of Reality, [Dawkins] makes the following claim:

      We come to know what is real, then, in one of three ways. We can detect it directly, using our five senses; or indirectly, using our senses aided by special instruments such as telescopes and microscopes; or even more indirectly, by creating models of what might be real and then testing those models to see whether they successfully predict things that we can see (or hear, etc.), with or without the aid of instruments. Ultimately, it always comes back to our senses, one way or another.

      Google Books link

      • There's still an awfully big gap between "we come to know what is real, then, in one of three ways" and "science [is] the only legitimate form of rational inquiry". Does he count directly observing something with his senses as science? Does he deny the possibility of rational inquiry about what isn't real, such as inquiry into what kinds of astrophysics might hold in the Game of Thrones fictional world? We'd need a Yes to both for the quote to qualify.

        • Can you get 'knowledge' from something ¬'science' that is ¬'mathematics'? Remember, the key is that the result must qualify as 'knowledge'.

          • You yourself already posted the answer in the quote above. Dawkins said he thinks direct observation counts as a source of knowledge.

          • Wait, I thought that disciplined observation counts as 'science'.

  • First, scientism is self-refuting. The statement “Scientific knowledge is the only legitimate form of knowledge” cannot [sic] be verified by scientific methods.

    I think this quote near the beginning is representative of the limpness of this article's arguments. Beyond the factual error, the deeper of its problems is that it's attacking the weakest possible version of scientism. Thus, at best, this kind of argument would wean people from the weakest possible version of scientism, leaving all the more interesting kinds untouched. Why not instead engage with an adult position that is actually held?

    I happily endorse scientism in the sense that is now increasingly common, that science can (and does! all the time!) study anything which affects the real world, including anything which affects our brains and behavior. Given that, I can't think of anything which we could justifiably call real that would be beyond the scope of science to study and enlighten us about. Can you?

    • Perhaps you can tell us whether or not you accept the conclusion of this argument:

      LB: I think that one of the biggest problems the naturalist faces is this:

           (1) Physical laws are the only causal powers.
           (2) All beliefs are caused by physical laws.
           (3) Some beliefs are true, others false.
           (4) Physical laws cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.
           (5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.

      This would help us all understand whether or not you are laying a claim to knowledge, or something else, in your brand of 'scientism'. What the above essentially says is that 'rationality' cannot exist, because it has nothing to 'support' it under any known naturalistic metaphysics.

      • I reject premise (1) on account of it depending on a non-logical "only", and also premise (2) as it omits physical objects, and also premise (3) as it is phrased to connote a false dichotomy without denoting it, and also premise (4) for the same reason as 2, and also conclusion (5) as unsupported and ridiculous.

        • (1') What other causal powers are there other than physical laws?
          (2') How can you get causation without... causation?
          (3') What false dichotomy? (3) allows for 'unknown'.

        • D Foster

          This seems like a matter of simply rejecting everything, rather than trying to carefully sort out truth from falsehood.

          Most importantly, if you reject (1), then you reject scientism (and agree with the original post that it is false). Of course the "only" is non-logical, that is theist's point.

          • All five of Luke's numbered statements were badly wrong. There's no sense pretending otherwise to appear more evenhanded.

            *Non-logical* "only" refers to the linguistic distinction that it cannot be rephrased in terms of conjunctions, disjunctions, and negations - it has nothing to do with being *illogical*.

            As I've already given the definition of scientism which I happily accept, your proposed identification of scientism with Luke's #1 is only your own preferred definition and of no relevance to me.

          • D Foster

            All five of Luke's numbered statements were badly wrong. There's no sense pretending otherwise to appear more evenhanded.

            I've made my position clear. I'll not argue that point.

            *Non-logical* "only" refers to the linguistic distinction that it cannot be rephrased in terms of conjunctions, disjunctions, and negations - it has nothing to do with being *illogical*.

            Apologies for the lack of clarity there. I hadn't meant to accuse it of being illogical (though it is). I'd meant to say exactly what you've said here. So long as one rejects the view that premise one can be accepted without conjunctions, disjunctions, or negations, then one is rejecting scientism.

            And, yes, that remains true in spite of:

            As I've already given the definition of scientism which I happily accept, your proposed identification of scientism with Luke's #1 is only your own preferred definition and of no relevance to me.

            I've checked your version. It seems to me that this is simply attaching the label "scientism" to something which allows that there are methods other than the scientific which discover reality.

            But that's simply changing definitions. Whatever we call that latter approach, everyone here agrees that it is better than one which insists that the scientific method is the only view.

            So, it seems to me that you do reject what we've been calling scientism. You'd simply like to use that word to describe what, in academia, is called "naturalism". I agree that it would take a different and longer line of argumentation to refute naturalism.

        • I reject premise (1) on account of it depending on a non-logical "only" [...]

          Ok, I'll transform:

               (1) Physical laws are the only causal powers.

               (1') ¬∃c(¬P(c))

          (1'), translated to English: "There does not exist a cause c such that P(c) is false, where P(c) is true iff c is a physical law."

          • I did recast the numbered sentences into the most similar form that I'd accept - to see if they supported some conclusion. They didn't, though, so I omitted them.

            An acceptable version to me of (1) would be: "No regularities are known to be irreducible to physical regularities." It's similar to yours but limited to what is actually known and avoiding unnecessary complications about "causes" and "existence", which people often mean very different things by.

          • (A) What's wrong with my own rephrasing, with (1')? You complained about (1) being "non-logical"; is (1') "non-logical"? Yes, or no?

            (B) No, this is not acceptable, because not all causal powers necessarily lead to the full range of possibilities of the term 'regularities', given that you haven't explicated what that means. For example, your 'regularities' might or might not be caused by singular causation. (Perhaps see also Chris Hitchcock's singular vs. general causation; I haven't read the paper, but I did take a class by him and have read another of his papers.)

          • The word "only" is non-logical in the sense that it isn't reducible to a combination of conjunctions, disjunctions, and negations. Your (1') fixes that.

            I'm familiar with singular versus general causation and they're not of concern to me here. The two biggest ambiguities of "cause" that I wanted to avoid were:

            * Causes as processes versus causes as things in the processes versus causes as standalone things.

            * Causes as externally existing realities versus causes as contrastive mental models about counterfactual histories.

            And, of course, I don't believe in physical laws as efficacious entities. They could simply be the observed regularities. So I'd accept physical laws as causes in the contrastive mental model sense but not in the other senses above.

          • You seem to have a more articulate 'metaphysics of causation' (or if you don't like that, perhaps: 'system of causation') than most people I encounter on the internet. Would you be willing to explicate it a bit, or at least point to scholars who have articulated a similar system? I think that would greatly help us communicate on this matter.

          • Like many geeks online, I rely on the SEP to get an overview of philosophy. The professionals describe it so much better than I can. Here are three that I found particularly helpful:

            1. Probabilistic causation
            2. Causal processes
            3. Counterfactual causation

            ...though of course you might get lost clicking links to many other fascinating discussions. :-)

            In terms of those articles, I accept two kinds of causation. First, I accept that there are physical causal processes underlying the behaviors studied in fundamental physics.

            However, these processes can't do the conceptual work we want. People in ordinary life want to know what will happen if they pull a string, push a ball, say what they're thinking, or otherwise act on their environment. Or they want to know what would have happened if they had done something else. This requires thinking about counterfactuals, and about probabilities of events and degrees of influence over them. That is to say, causal thinking in this sense is not only about what's really out there in the external world.

            Here's a mathy example.
            A= The bush died.
            B*=I watered the bush.
            B=I failed to water the bush, maybe because I was too exhausted from work.
            So if I think B and P(A|B)>P(A|B*), then I think my failure to water the bush caused it to die.

            Sometimes the choice of B* matters a lot, such that people disagreeing about what the alternative being compared against is will reach opposite conclusions about what was a cause and what was not. See the examples about smoking and moving to the countryside in the linked articles.

          • Thanks for the response! Note that those SEP articles do not cite a sole point of view. However, you did give some more details. First, I have a question about part of your comment.

            In terms of those articles, I accept two kinds of causation.

            Do you have an idea of how those two kinds of causation interact? For example, suppose I have a futuristic MRI machine which is as accurate as the laws of physics allow. Can I use it to investigate the non-physical-causal-process kind of causation you describe?

          • Yes, you could use the MRI that way. Though since the type of causation being examined is just people's concepts about how the world works, it'd be cheaper to ask them. :-D

          • It would appear that there is only one kind of evolution of state, then. Which means my original argument would seem to still be valid, in a modified form. Shall I try to present such modifications to you, or can you see what it would look like and respond to it?

      • George

        does jesus solve that supposed problem, luke?

        • One might say that he opened up the way, and given that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction, that would make him the way if he did the opening with his entire being:

          Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20–28)

    • VicqRuiz

      "First, scientism is self-refuting. The statement “Scientific knowledge
      is the only legitimate form of knowledge” cannot [sic] be verified by
      scientific methods."

      This elevating of statements to meta-statements is called the "Road Runner tactic" by Turek, Craig and other apologists. They think it's devastating, but it's really only a word game.

  • Rudy R

    “Scientific knowledge is the only legitimate form of knowledge” is a false dilemma. Most scientists would agree that there is more than one form of legitimate knowledge; however, the methodology used by science has proven to produce the highest probability, than the other forms, in answering how the universe works. So scientism is only just a "straw-man" argument to de-legitimize the scientific method as a possible means to reject theism. Dawkins may have bad arguments to reject God as the best explanation for the universe, but so what? Many reputable scientists and philosophers do have good explanations that reject theism that don't rely on "scientism".

    • neil_pogi

      science can't explain why killing and stealing are evil.

      • Rudy R

        What can explain killing and stealing is evil?

        • neil_pogi

          then how do atheists know that they are evil? where are your 'scientific' proof?

          • Rudy R

            I didn't make a claim that science can explain killing and stealing are evil. You made the claim that science can't. Since you made the claim, I'm just asking what is it then, that explains killing and stealing are evil.

          • neil_pogi

            that's why science can't explain everything!

          • Rudy R

            I ask again, if not for science, what explains killing and stealing to be evil?

          • neil_pogi

            that's why the existence of God is real. science can't explain that!

        • George

          god will ultimately make sure you suffer if you kill and steal and don't repent.

          it's consequentialism wrapped in a magical veneer.

          • Rudy R

            What is moral, or evil, is determined by what God commands?

          • Lazarus

            Ah, the Harry Potter generation. Struggling to understand the difference between magic and theology.

          • George

            All I know is that the Neo-Dumbeldorians are heretics for refusing to accept the Esoteric-Flamelist's doctrine of Heptomorphic Horcruxy.

          • Lazarus

            Can't trust those people ;)

  • Peter

    There are two ways the human mind can learn about its origins: one is quantitative, the other qualitative. The quantitative method is the scientific method which stems from the mind's inbuilt capacity to comprehend the workings of nature.

    The second, qualitative, method is also an inbuilt capacity no less valid than the first. It is the mind's ability to perceive the universe in non-quantifiable terms such as its beauty and elegance, harmony and serenity.

    Both ways, quantitative and qualitative, are different manifestations of the inbuilt capacity we possess which makes the universe naturally intelligible to us. The former allows us to amass scientific knowledge, while the latter creates in us a sense of profound awe and wonder at what we observe.

    If we deny our proper humanity and focus purely on our quantitative abilities and their findings, we will see the universe in only a dark light. But if we open our minds to their full extent to include also our qualitative powers, we will see the universe as far more than the mere operation of natural laws. We will see it in all its grandeur, in its exquisite order and graceful consonance, as the handiwork of a great mind.

    • neil_pogi

      atheists explain that the mind is entirely the product of millions of years of evolution. they failed to explain why a rock suddenly is capable of developing a mind. one can't even draw a line without invoking the mind to do so. i don't know why organism has to evolve when it has no mind at all. atheists have tough time to explain mind's origin.

      • Lazarus

        Your rock that "suddenly" develops a mind is a straw army, possibly unintended even, but yes, the origin of the mind and consciousness in general is a fascinating challenge for the atheist.

        • neil_pogi

          well, atheists might say that the origin of consciousness and awareness are 'unknown natural causes'.. i'm waiting for someone to offer that answers/explanations. if that will be the answer, then, nobody should study science because the explanations are 'unknown natural causes'... just like the frequent answers they have offered to evolution: 'thru natural selection' 'thru mindless and unguided processes' (but in reality they don't know the answers)

          • Lazarus

            Isn't that grossly unfair? Today's unanswered or unknown cause could be tomorrow's scientific reality. Science does it all the time. Do I understand you correctly - you want to have, insist on, answers for big questions, with no "unknown natural causes"?

          • neil_pogi

            atheists said that the origin of the universe is 'unknown' (what happens to the big bang, steady state, etc?). they say 'give us time and we'll resolve that issue'

            when in comes to vestigial organs, all they say is, 'vestigial organs have no biological purpose or functions inside the body'.. and why atheists stop studying them? they say that 98% of DNA is junk.. and why they stop studying it? today, science says vestigial organs have major functions in the body, that junk DNA is just a myth. so why atheists missed that? or they just don't want to hear updates in sciences?

          • Lazarus

            So you're in favor of "updates in sciences"?

          • neil_pogi

            of course, updates in science makes atheists so afraid

          • Lazarus

            So on the one hand you blame them for using science, for accepting science ... and on the other that (new) science makes them afraid.

            My nose started to bleed trying to keep up.

          • neil_pogi

            i didn't say i 'blame' them for using science.
            they say that evolution is a scientific fact. i demand for experimentations and observations, all they have is 'make-believe' and 'just-so' stories. and that made evolution a 'pseudo-science'

            they say that the first organism (LUCA) evolved into different forms of life. i demand for experimentations and observations, they offererd none, instead 'just-so' and 'make-believe' stories. do you think a single cell is able to evolve? what did it eat? you abandon a human infant in a room and wait what happens to him, let alone a single cell. sometimes common sense makes sense!

          • Lazarus

            Ignatius suggested that you do some reading on science, or the interface of science and religion. Why don't you have a look at the ease with which strong Christians like Ken Miller, John F. Haught or John Lennox fully accept science (including evolution) and how that actually enhances their faith. I don't mean that as criticism of you, it's just that I think you are needlessly tilting at non-existent windmills.

          • neil_pogi

            christians are greatly divided on evolution issues. just like christian doctrines. catholics believe that Mary is the 'mother of God', but i refused to believe that, because, how would she be a mother of God when she was just used by God for Jesus' birth?

            john lennox, i admire him for defending God, but if he believes in evolution, i'm sorry, i won't support him for that.

            i just want proof for evolution. all i hear, all i read are just fantastic claims.

            i ask you, what will happen if you abandon a human infant in a room?

          • Lazarus

            So dismissing evolution and Mary as the mother of God, and that on a Catholic website, is how the Gospel according to Neil is spread. There really is no getting through to you, is there? You have one of the most closed minds that I have ever come across on the Internet.

          • neil_pogi

            i only demand experimentations and observations for evolution, is that how you make me 'most closed mind'??

            how could Mary the mother of God when the Bible explicitly declared that God is the Creator?

          • Lazarus

            The commenting rules of this forum precludes me from answering you fully, Neil. Mercifully so.

          • Doug Shaver

            do you think a single cell is able to evolve?

            No, I don't think that, and neither does any scientist. Nobody is saying that individual organisms evolve. And you would know that if you actually understood what evolutionary theory actually says. You never criticize evolution. You always criticize gross caricatures of evolution.

          • neil_pogi

            will you explain further the statement that says: 'all living things evolved from LUCA (which is the first single cell)?

          • Doug Shaver

            will you explain further the statement that says: 'all living things evolved from LUCA (which is the first single cell)?

            No, I won't. I've never made that statement, so I have no obligation to explain it.

          • neil_pogi

            why you can't explain that? you're supposed to know that?

            or are you making a fool out of me again?

          • Doug Shaver

            you're supposed to know that?

            To know what?

          • neil_pogi

            why not just explain how your LUCA evolved into various forms of living things... atheists are simply great in mockery

          • Doug Shaver

            Willful ignorance is easy to mock.

          • neil_pogi

            ignorance of what?

            i'm only asking for you to explain further how a single celled organism is able to evolve itself to become another organism. what food it eat for its daily survival?

          • Doug Shaver

            i'm only asking for you to explain further how a single celled organism is able to evolve itself

            Why ask me that? I have never said that any organism could evolve itself.

          • neil_pogi

            it's only you who said that!

            while 99.99% of atheists believe that a single-cell organism evolved.. that's why you are making a fool of me!

          • Doug Shaver

            while 99.99% of atheists believe that a single-cell organism evolved.

            I am obliged to defend only what I say, not what anyone else says. Even if I agree with them, I have nothing to prove until I say I agree with them.

          • neil_pogi

            the lone atheist contradicts what the majority of atheists are believing.

          • Doug Shaver

            You have no idea what the majority of atheists believe, but it doesn't really matter one bit. Being in a minority doesn't make anyone wrong about anything.

          • neil_pogi

            it's not the numbers that count. it's the evidences that someone is showing. unfortunately, atheists have failed to show up any evidences, most of them are 'make-believe' and 'just so' stories

          • Doug Shaver

            it's not the numbers that count

            Then your remark about contradicting the majority was irrelevant.

          • neil_pogi

            it's the evidence-based that counts, and not the majority of scientists who say evolution is true, for example

          • Doug Shaver

            the lone atheist contradicts what the majority of atheists are believing.

            Fine. That means that if I'm wrong, then the majority of atheists are right. I can live with that.

          • neil_pogi

            therefore my claims about atheist's belief: 1. non-living matter evolving into living matter , for instance, is true. the they are deadly wrong, their beliefs are just based on wishful thinking

  • Peter

    "...Dawkins claims that religion, as opposed to science, is “a betrayal of the intellect.” He asserts that appealing to God to explain the universe is “a phony substitute for an explanation” and “peddles false explanations where real explanations could have been offered.”"

    The danger of new atheism is that it seeks at a fundamental level to deny us our full humanity, by reducing us to mere agents of quantitative measurement. Dawkins appeals to the human intellect as justification for this, as though that is all the intellect is good for. But by limiting the intellect to its quantitative powers, Dawkins is committing a grave error and a grave wrong: an error because the human intellect also has qualitative powers, and a wrong because he knows this but nevertheless denies it.

    Is this what new atheism is all about, then: a unashamed denial of the obvious in the hope and expectation that others will blindly follow? As conscious beings, we not only possess the ability to quantify our observations, but also to marvel at them. The breathtaking splendour of the cosmos in qualitative terms is no less a manifestation of reality than the calculation of the laws that govern it. Our full humanity naturally enables us to appreciate and perform both. Only by perceiving the cosmos in both quantitative and qualitative terms can we be truly human. New atheists aim to reduce us to being less than human.

    • Michael Murray

      New atheists aim to reduce us to being less than human.

      Rubbish. Why not actually make that claim somewhere that there are some atheists who can respond like

      http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com

      Or are you happier in this echo chamber where you won't be challenged ?

      • Lazarus

        Has this indeed become an echo chamber? I haven't considered that possibility with much attention before now. It would be rather silly participating in that type of site, if what you're saying is correct.

        My largely unconsidered view has been that despite the fact that the site would be a lot better with the bulk of the banned posters allowed back here, we still have some brilliant atheist and non-theist posters here, yourself included, certainly enough good people to prevent an echo chamber developing.

        If someone like you however experiences it as such though ...

        I will need to give that some thought.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          My largely unconsidered view has been that despite the fact that the site would be a lot better with the bulk of the banned posters allowed back here, we still have some brilliant atheist and non-theist posters here, yourself included, certainly enough good people to prevent an echo chamber developing.

          I think the problem this site is having is keeping the atheists/skeptics interested. Perhaps I am just projecting, but I find arguing over whether or not Dawkins is a follower scientism to be very tedious. Also, I have no desire to argue with people who are going to say things like....well I'll spare you the list. ;-)

          I usually now hesitate to comment on here, because the responses I receive often completely miss the point. Catholics on here are refusing to even consider that theological truths are much more tenuous than scientific truths, and instead are tearing down straw men. I fail to see how dialogue can happen in that case. No common ground for dialogue. Way too frustrating. Maybe I'm just burnt out. Or I suppose I could be missing some self-evident truth that you theists are privy to - wouldn't be the first time.

          Edit: I think the fact that the non-Christian theists and deists are almost always siding with the atheists may be indicative of a problem.

          • Lazarus

            These concerns all seem quite reasonable. I hope the site management consider it and take some action.

            I would like to see some stats as to current posts - number of, frequency, number of articles etc, compared to say 6 months and a year ago.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't write any articles and I would imagine it can be difficult to find good ones, but considering that most of the atheists on this site are well read and polite, I would think it would be better if the article focused on deeper issues rather than scientism. This isn't a knock on Karlo, he actually wrote one of my favorite articles on SN. It was actually a series. Here is the first one:

            http://www.strangenotions.com/why-must-there-be-at-least-one-unconditioned-reality/

            I don't know the commenting stats. I comment less and so does WD, but I don't know about the other regular heathens. We used to have three articles a week. I don't know if one article a week is the new norm, or if management is busy.

          • Lazarus

            I agree that we should give scientism a break for a year. Or two.
            And yet ... it generated some 250 comments in just a few days, so maybe we are in the minority here.

            Personally, I would like to see some resurrection and original sin debates again, but also some on more specific Catholic doctrines, like transubstantiation, miracles, Marianology, exorcism ... there are some great topics out there.

          • "Personally, I would like to see some resurrection and original sin debates again, but also some on more specific Catholic doctrines, like transubstantiation, miracles, Marianology, exorcism ... there are some great topics out there."

            Good to know, Lazarus. I'll see if we can bring in some articles on those topics. We've typically shied away from them because they are (mostly, with the exception of miracles) in-house topics for Christians, primarily between Protestants/Catholics. I'm worried our atheist readers and commenters won't be interested, for instance, in whether and how the Eucharistic bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus, or the nature and role of Mary. But perhaps I'm wrong! We'll try to get some articles posted and see the reaction. Thanks!

          • Lazarus

            Thank you for at least considering these topics. You may be right, maybe they would be too narrowly focused. Still, they could make for some good debate. I will leave that in your capable hands.

          • "We used to have three articles a week. I don't know if one article a week is the new norm, or if management is busy."

            Since "management" is essentially a one-man crew, I can speak for the whole team by affirming your supposal. Life has been extra crazy for me lately, especially with the holidays. It's just no longer feasible for me to post new content every weekday anymore.

            But once 2016 rolls around, we should get back to the thrice weekly postings. We have some fun stuff in the queue, so stay tuned!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            As a former Catholic, I often find the articles on interpreting scripture to be the most interesting. Others probably have different tastes. I think an atheist could probably write a very interesting article against the free will theodicy.

            Merry Christmas!

          • "Catholics on here are refusing to even consider that theological truths are much more tenuous than scientific truths, and instead are tearing down straw men."

            This is such a broad charge. Certainly some theological truths are more tenuous than some scientific truths, but the reverse is certainly true as well. This idea that scientific truths, in general and by their nature, are someone more trustworthy than theological truths is the result of "scientism" and its implications. It's precisely the problem that several posters here have identified and challenged.

            "I fail to see how dialogue can happen in that case. No common ground for dialogue. Way too frustrating."

            I agree that if we toss around broad, over-generalized criticisms like this, it's almost impossible to have fruitful dialogue. The discussion ends up being nothing other than battles against straw men.

      • I would prefer SN as it is to EN's hostile environment—if I didn't have a better, third option.

      • Peter

        Do you know, I would happily do so, post on EN, that is.

        The problem there is that I simply don't have the time to respond to relentless multiple postings from an army of eager polemics who, in their forced exile, are most evidently starved of challenging and controversial discussion, to the extent that they pounce en masse on anyone who ventures to provide it.

        BTW, you're an atheist. Why don't you respond constructively instead of just complaining?

      • "Rubbish. Why not actually make that claim somewhere that there are some atheists who can respond like (website)....Or are you happier in this echo chamber where you won't be challenged?"

        .....says the challenger, who is here responding. And the insinuation that EN is something other than an echo chamber--the irony!

        • I have spent an extraordinary amount of time over at EN and find them to be largely an echo chamber. While there is a bit of echo chamber character at SN, I find it less severe than on EN. I doubt one can avoid being a bit echo chamber in pretty much any domain of reality. You even get it in academia! Incidentally, you may find the following interesting:

          LB: You see, SN did not want to foster the hostile environment there, which so clearly exists in EN. By collecting some of the people banned, EN has helped illustrate what kind of people they are. A person's behavior, you see, is not 100% divorced from his/her character. Yes, a particle will act differently in different fields, but there are still invariants which are field-independent. If there are no field-independent invariants, the particle has no identity, and therefore cannot complain.

          IA: What they are is a bunch of atheist's who feel slighted by the nefarious shenanigan's of a two faced, lying hypocrite with DOUBLE STANDARDS and who have a place to collect and sound off about it...if they want...without some knob calling them on it...usually.

          This will perhaps explain why EN is more of an echo chamber: they have an enemy.

          • "This will perhaps explain why EN is more of an echo chamber: they have an enemy."

            I think that hypothesis is true. And it goes right in line with the late René Girard's theory of scapegoating.

          • Well, they can legitimately claim that SN is not 100% perfect. Only Jesus is. While we may attempt to imitate him, and while he may help us in that process, perfection is not something we are told we can attain in this life—1 Cor 13:12 and 1 Jn 3:2.

          • Lazarus

            I can't see how SN can be described as "a bit of an echo chamber". It is or it is not. An echo chamber is a site where one point of view or philosophy is espoused and tolerated, with no meaningful counterpoints either allowed or encouraged. At SN we have comprehensive debates on the article topics. I don't believe that (necessary) strict moderation detracts from that fact. Atheists and non-theists are encouraged and allowed to vigorously debate their points of view. I think we often learn from each other here. How can that be an echo chamber?

            EN, in ostensibly having little or no moderation, results in an extremely hostile and unpleasant environment for most theists posting there. It is seldom that I have seen such a few posters so effectively dictate the spirit of a discussion board. I'm sure it's not planned that way, but the result is that EN is most definitely an echo chamber. Two years on they still exist mainly to comment on articles here, complain about their banning (and argue with you, but that's another topic ;) ) . Debunking Christianity and Why Evolution Is True are other prime examples.

            Compare SN to any of those sites, and then let's see how this is an echo chamber.

          • I can't see how SN can be described as "a bit of an echo chamber". It is or it is not. An echo chamber is a site where one point of view or philosophy is espoused and tolerated, with no meaningful counterpoints either allowed or encouraged.

            What if it is the case that by and large, "one point of view or philosophy is espoused and tolerated", but where once in a while, "no some meaningful counterpoints either allowed or encouraged"? Would that break down the currently-un-blurrable dichotomy in your head?

            Atheists and non-theists are encouraged and allowed to vigorously debate their points of view. I think we often learn from each other here. How can that be an echo chamber?

            If very little new gets discussed, compared to what has been discussed before. If the same things are rehashed over and over again, with mostly just a new paint job, if even that.

            Compare SN to any of those sites, and then let's see how this is an echo chamber.

            As I said, (1) SN less of an echo chamber than EN; (2) I'm not sure one can fully avoid 'echo chamber' status. Do I need to demonstrate that academia itself can be an echo chamber?

          • Lazarus

            The only possible qualifier that in my view could save your statement that SN is somewhat of an echo chamber is "if very little new gets discussed" and I cannot agree that such is the case. It is a Catholic specialist website.

            We seem to have slightly different views of what/when echo chamber status has been reached. As such I do believe that echo chamber status can, and has, been avoided by SN.

            Parts of academia may very well be echo chambers, I have no doubt, but that would still not excuse SN from becoming one. As I have intimated earlier, if ever I should regard this site as an echo chamber I would cease participating in it.

          • At this point, I can only cede the floor to any atheist who wants to describe patterns that seem to always get repeated, with little new.

            Actually, there's another way one might get to 'echo chamber': if there is certain territory which is assiduously avoided. If a person's pet topic is for some reason un-discussable, I could see him/her kind of blurring everything else into being "the same thing".

          • Lazarus

            While waiting for any atheist replies to your invitation I would say, as a very unscientific and personal reflection, that we do seem to have a lot of articles on the proofs for God, scientism and how the lack / absence of God leads to difficulties. Any such pattern, if in fact they exist, would still in my view fail to in itself establish an echo chamber.

          • Peter

            I don't think that EN is particularly hostile. Being Catholic in a pagan world, we should expect some hostility, especially on an open thread. I am happy to be Catholic and make no apologies or concessions to anyone for my beliefs. If people don't like that, it's their problem not mine.

            The difficulty with posting at EN is that you have to reply to an avalanche of responses from different individuals, most of which cover the same subject. It gets very frustrating because you want to respond to all of them but, by doing so, you are repeating yourself which is very tedious and time-consuming.

            On a more fundamental level, I do take serious issue with those who try to tell me how to think. I take issue with those who try to tell me that science is the only way to the truth, when I know full well that it is not the only way, and when I know that they know that it is not the only way.

            These individuals are trying to trivialise my inbuilt sense of beauty, make it superfluous and ephemeral, when I know for a fact that it is that very sense which makes me human, which sets me apart from the animals. They are trying to turn me back into an animal, and I object strongly to that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think the data bear that out. As a somewhat non-reflective first pass, I would say that the top 10 active, regular, substantive contributors at SN are:

            David Nickol: vaguely theist but with heavily agnostic sympathies
            Paul Brandon Rimmer: Spinozan pantheist
            Ignatius Riley: atheist
            Michael Murray: atheist
            Doug Shaver: atheist
            Brandon Vogt: Catholic
            Lazarus: Catholic
            Ye Olde Statistician: presumably Catholic (interestingly, I can't recall that he has ever been explicitly confessional in the comboxes ... but it is not hard to read between the lines).
            William Davis: pantheist-ish .
            Luke Breuer: non-denominational Protestant

            (I want to also mention Steven Dillon, resident pagan, because he is a favorite of mine, but unfortunately he doesn't comment very often on either site).

            Meanwhile, the top 10 active, regular, substantive contributors at EN who come to mind are:

            Ignatius Riley: atheist
            Michael Murray: atheist
            Geena Safire: atheist
            epeeist: atheist
            Andrew B: atheist
            Andrew G: atheist
            William Davis: pantheist-ish.
            Luke Breuer: non-denominational Protestant
            Paul B. Lot: atheist
            I don't know ... felixcox, Pofarmer, Susan, ... anyway: atheist

            We could argue all day long about why things are the way they are, but at the end of the day it is not hard to figure out where the most echoes will occur.

            EDIT: Let me hasten to add: there many less frequent, but still substantive and much appreciated contributors on both sites!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm curious, do you lurk over at EN? I wonder if you have any thoughts on our 8 weeks of meta discussion

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I lurk enough to be aware that it is happening, but I have not read any of those threads.

            I will say that I realized in my own EN experience that I was going to have to either descend into the morass of unquenching meta-discussion or else stop playing the game altogether. What happens is this: some people there will tell you (with sincere goodwill) that your presence is appreciated don't need to respond to everyone's comment to everyone's satisfaction right away. Super. But should you actually try that, you can be assured that there will be several asinine comments about how you are "running away" from this or that conversation, how you are dodging this or that main point, and generally condescending presumption that you clearly don't know what you are talking about, or clearly don't know how to communicate. You can try ignoring all that, but again, you will be accused of cowardice or incompetence, take your pick. So, you end up in a situation where you actually need to teach people how to have a polite conversation, i.e. you descend into meta-discussion. I tried that a little bit, but I don't have the patience for it. Apparently Luke does.

            Based on the 5% of Luke's comments that I do read, I would rank him as one of the more insightful commenters I have ever seen here. I might put him second only to Johnboy Sylvest in terms of the depth of his theological insights. (And I put Johnboy just behind Saint Paul and Saint John the Evangelist!) Johnboy was more of a saint and Luke is more of a streetfighter, but even Luke seems to reserve his pugilism for those who come at him swinging. When people ask him intelligent respectful questions about why he believes what he believes, they get intelligent respectful answers. If they listen to those answers with a sympathetic ear rather than adopting a combative stance, I believe they would usually learn something valuable. I wish more people would try this.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            "Based on the 5% of Luke's comments that I do read, I would rank him as one of the more insightful commenters I have ever seen here."

            You are going to make him unsufferable. Kidding, of course, I like Luke.

            One of the things I find interesting (in an amusing sort of way) is the tendency for the dialogue to go back and forth forever, with the assumption that entire worldviews will be defended or overturned in a commbox. Usually, I would think that after 6 or so comments everyone has defended their view as coherently as they can. On some occasions their is value in continuing the conversation, but often it seems we expect to much out of Internet conversations. Worldview adjustments take time

          • Alexandra

            I truly respected that you defended Luke. That took courage.

  • neil_pogi

    'science doesn't prove anything' that is, according to atheists...

    'non-living things' evolve into 'living things' (i wonder why living things die?)

  • Amrita Sharma

    The belief that real explanations can only be offered by science is a worldview known as scientism. But is scientism itself a real explanation? Is scientism worthy of the human intellect?

    http://www.sifliamal.com/rohani-amal-for-rizq/

  • Doug Shaver

    But is scientism itself a real explanation?

    Explanation of what?

    Scientism is a judgment about kinds of explanations. I have never seen it offered as an explanation for anything.

  • Doug Shaver

    The statement “Scientific knowledge is the only legitimate form of knowledge” cannot be verified by scientific methods. It’s a metaphysical proposition and thus not subject to scientific inquiry.

    Whether or not it is subject to scientific inquiry, it is not a metaphysical proposition. Any statement about knowledge is an epistemological proposition.

  • David Hennessey

    Before the advent of modern science, before the Renaissance in the Roman Empire, science and religion were one and the same, the people who studied nature, the stars, the properties of matter were the priests and what they learned was often manifested as magic, closely guarded and considered holy.

    Science began to expand beyond and differentiate itself from religion primarily because of the failure of religion to explain the nature of the universe and their dogmatic insistence that their outmoded revealed knowledge was still true. Secular science is not a newcomer, however, it is much older than Judaism or Christianity and existed in areas where they didn't hold sway. Science existed before men climbed down from trees, when men sought evidence to draw conclusions, that was the birth of science, it is part of man's nature, not an invention.

    The Roman church actively repressed knowledge, promoted illiteracy and punished objective scientists who challenged dogma even to death and persecution. That doesn't mean science is a magical system and everything about religion is opposed to truth, both have found answers to important questions and both have done evil. The biggest problem with religion is that it claims 100% knowledge of everything from quarks to quantum physics for their all-knowing God yet Jehovah seems limited to the knowledge level of his worshipers when there is no reason to display ignorance or make false scientific assertions.

    Science knows it is human, has procedures to safeguard against persistent error and can actually add to our knowledge base, religion is still trying to explain why Jehovah thought there was firmament in the heavens and has produced not one new revelation about the nature of the universe for two thousand years.

    Oh, sorry, the YEC's are pumping out some new theories about dinosaurs and Noah's Ark but it isn't new revelation, just new explanations. They don't do independent research so they are accepting data produced by real scientists which means they submit to scientific authority.

    "Whether appealing to God in explaining the universe is the best explanation is something worthy of consideration—",

    It was considered over 2000 years ago, it proved to provide no explanations or demonstrably wrong ones and science has been the ONLY vehicle of expanding knowledge ever since, science makes it possible for me to type this, science teaches me the size of the universe, that the stars are not night lights, that the earth is round and not the center of the universe.

    Science teaches me infinitely more than religion has ever taught, when it has failed, it has changed, it hasn't insisted on infallibility, science is a humble truth seeker to religion's arrogant boaster.

    • neil_pogi

      science only explains the 'hows' and not the 'whys'

  • neil_pogi

    we all know that structures like the pyramids and bridges are the products of human's creative works. the cause itself is intelligence

    we all know that we are just byproducts of star dusts, but the question is 'who' or 'what' caused these stardusts to become a living matter?

    scientists have discovered that 'organic' molecules are just at the edge of this planet or just hanging around, and they conclude that these were the ones which started the life on earth. ok, even if it's true then 'who' or 'what' caused them to become living things? computers are also composed of earthly materials and elements that are abundantly found in our planet, but the question is: 'who' or 'what' caused them to become a computer? --of course, the answer is man. 0nly man has the capabilities to create intelligent machines as computers. we can not attribute it as the works of nature. just like creating a life, the Creator needs material things (ex: stardusts) in order to create a living thing,

    because science don't allow 'intelligence' as cause in its effort to explain things, therefore, science can not explain the origin of life by pure naturalistic explanations.