A Follow-Up Post About Scientism

My earlier post on this subject was entitled “What is Scientism?” because, while I have seen the term thrown around in a number of venues, I have never been entirely sure what it means. Having had a chance now to digest some of the arguments raised in the comments, as well as the thoughts expressed at other blogs, I think it’s time to go another round.

The first point I made in my earlier post was that, in the context of science/religion disputes, to be accused of scientism was to be accused of being insufficiently respectful towards religion. A perfect example of what I had in mind is this post by Ian Hutchinson. He writes:

One of the most visible conflicts in current culture is between “scientism” and religion. Because religious knowledge differs from scientific knowledge, scientism claims (or at least assumes) that it must therefore be inferior. However, there are many other important beliefs, secular as well as religious, which are justified and rational, but not scientific, and therefore marginalized by scientism. And if that is so, then scientism is a ghastly intellectual mistake.

This, I would suggest, is precisely what we need less of. We should reject totally the idea that there are two kinds of knowledge, scientific on the one hand and religious on the other. The relevant distinction between scientific knowledge claims and religious knowledge claims is that the former are based on reliable methods while the latter are not. Those of us keen to stress the centrality of scientific methods in establishing legitimate knowledge claims are usually responding to arguments like Hutchinson’s.

Moving on, my next point was that it is very easy to fall into a definitional morass when discussing this issue. The correctness of the assertion that science is the only way of knowing depends a lot on how you define the phrases “science” and “way of knowing.” It is very easy to render this discussion trivial by taking a sufficiently narrow definition of science.

For example, if you define science so that it is limited entirely to questions about the natural world, then it is obvious that science is not the only way of knowing. Historians produce knowledge, but they do not study the natural world. I would be very much surprised, though, if any of the folks typically accused of scientism actually reject historical scholarship as a legitimate route to knowledge. If history is the refutation of scientism, then no one is guilty of scientism.

It is certainly true that in everyday usage, when people use the word “science” they are usually thinking of something related to the natural world, probably physics, chemistry or biology. But it is equally true that people don’t usually have abstract discussions about ways of knowing. From my perspective, while it may seem odd to consider history a science, it is even odder to say that scientific knowledge is different in some fundamental way from historical knowledge. It is far more natural to say that they are the results of very similar methods applied to different questions.

Every science educator I have ever met has emphasized to his students that science is best thought of as a method of investigation. If you take that seriously, it is clear that the large collection of methods employed by scientists in their work can be applied just as well to questions that have nothing to do with the natural world. The reason we have a term like “social science” is to capture the idea that there are fields of inquiry with enough of the attributes of science to be worthy of the label despite not studying the natural world. I would further note that people routinely speak of having a scientific mindset or of taking a scientific approach to a problem.

So I don’t think it is unreasonable, in the context of these sorts of discussions, to define science very broadly. It just seems silly to me to say that scientific knowledge is one kind of thing, historical knowledge is something else, philosophical knowledge is a third and mathematical knowledge is a fourth. Mathematicians primarily use deductive reasoning in their work, but deductive reasoning is not some special, mathematical approach to knowledge that is separate from what scientists do. The primary tool of philosophy is dialectical argumentation, but this, too, is not something that is foreign to scientific practice. Academic turf-protection is not something I care much about. My interest is in how you justify knowledge claims, and the methods employed in all of these disciplines strike me as instances of applied common sense, to borrow Thomas Huxley’s definition of science.

Defining science this broadly still excludes a great many proposed routes to knowledge, routes, mind you, that many people try hard to defend. There are distinctively religious ways of knowing, such as religious experience, the testimony of holy texts, or the teachings of religious authorities, that are ruled out as illegitimate. Also ruled out are things like oral traditions, folk wisdom, hunches, intuition, gossip or the various pseudosciences that people sometimes advocate. So this is not an issue of “Science is the only reliable route to knowledge” becoming true by definition or anything like that. It captures something important about how we defend knowledge claims, and it is something that needs to be said from time to time in the face of relentless attacks against science and reason.

Some people have suggested that we should just say “reason-based inquiry” or some such, instead of science. I don’t really have a problem with that; it just seems unnecessary to me. But whatever. It seems clear to me that we are just arguing about the meanings of words now, and not about anything important.

(Incidentally, just to head-off another way this discussion can quickly descend into trivia, I would note that there is a practical, everyday sort of knowledge that is established by means that would not generally be considered scientific. If the fellow in the next office tells me the faculty meeting is at 2:00, I can reasonably claim to know that the meeting is at 2:00. But in a scientific context proofs by authority are out of bounds. Once again, if this is the refutation of scientism then no one is guilty of scientism.)

An approach fundamentally different from anything I considered in my previous post comes from Paul Paolini in this post. He writes:

My view is that if scientism does not reside in the content of certain beliefs then it must reside in reasoning that relates to a certain class of beliefs. In particular, I believe that scientism, rather than adherence to specific pro-science beliefs, is a kind of flawed reasoning that relates to pro-science beliefs as a class. This flawed reasoning consists generally, I think, in unjustified inferences from pro-science beliefs to beliefs in general. To be more precise, if this view is correct then the “enthusiasm” of scientism is manifested not by extremeness of positions about science but in a lack of rigor in reasoning about the significance of science.

We may sharpen this account with the notion of a scientistic belief; here I use the word ‘scientistic’ as simply an adjectival form of the noun ‘scientism.’ We shall say that a belief is scientistic just in case it is falsely justified by a pro-science belief; that is, if a belief appeals to a pro-science belief that does not in fact warrant it, then that belief is scientistic. Note that pro-science beliefs may themselves be scientistic, though they need not be. Also note that any belief that is justified by a scientistic belief is thereby also scientistic, even if the relation of justification connecting the two beliefs is sound. This means that a scientistic belief’s false justification can be mediated by other scientistic beliefs.

How about some examples of what might be called scientistic inferences? Below, while the premises are pro-science beliefs that may or may not be scientistic, the conclusions are scientistic beliefs that may or may not be overtly pro-science.

[Premise] Science is the greatest authority on human knowledge.
[Conclusion] If science says that consciousness does not exist, non-scientists should simply accept it.

[P] Science has been far more successful than the humanities in improving human life.
[C] Resources should be directed away from the humanities toward science.

[P] Science provides the truth about reality while religions do not.
[C] The scientific worldview should be preferred to any religious worldview.

In conclusion, what I like about this view of scientism as the phenomenon of scientistic belief, beyond its seeming to be a view that works, is that it divests the act of charging someone with scientism of anti-science connotations, renders the charge of scientism neutral on substantive debate regarding the merits of science — and questions of substantive truth generally — and clarifies the charge of scientism as a relatively simple and objective charge of flawed reasoning.

There’s a lot to mull over here, but since I don’t want to belabor an already lengthy post I’ll just make a quick, general comment. Jerry Coyne has already responded in more detail.

My problem with Paolini’s definition is that it seems like a trivialization of the term “scientism.” When you accuse someone of being in thrall to an “–ism,” you usually have something more in mind than the claim that he made a bad argument. Referring to an “ism” suggests that the person is not merely mistaken, but mistaken precisely because he adheres to a blinkered and erroneous view of the world. In Paolini’s account, by contrast, you are guilty of scientism the moment you make a certain sort of fallacious inference, with no reference to any broader worldview. I don’t see why we need a special epithet for people who make bad arguments starting from pro-science propositions. Just criticize the argument and be done with it.

Time to wrap this up, so I will close with this. The really important thing, as I see it, is that religion be denied any status as a legitimate way of knowing. After that, everything else is a detail.

Comments

  1. #1 Another Matt
    December 27, 2011

    “History” is often brought up in these contexts to refute the claim that “science is the only reliable method for obtaining knowledge” because there are no controlled experiments in historical methodologies, yet we consider true history “justified true belief.” Whatever – if the only definition of science is “experimentation with control,” much of astronomy and cosmology would seem to “unscientific.” “Science” is much broader than what is done in The Lab even in everyday use.

  2. #2 Rosie Redfield
    December 27, 2011

    What if we consider humans as part of the natural world. Then history, literature and other ‘not science’ studies become parts of the science of studying humans.

  3. #3 Leviathan
    December 27, 2011

    If the fellow in the next office tells me the faculty meeting is at 2:00, I can reasonably claim to know that the meeting is at 2:00. But in a scientific context proofs by authority are out of bounds.

    This is not an example of invoking “proof by authority.” If “reason-based inquiry” is your metric, then your belief about the time of the meeting is almost certainly scientific (unless you just have an irrational obsequiousness with respect to your next-office neighbor). If your past experience with the neighbor is that he is reliably accurate when it comes to knowing meeting times, then believing that he is accurate this time is quite justified. But it would not be justified based on his “authority” per se, but rather on the predictive power of a tacit theory you had formed based on past observation of his behavior.

    If, on the other hand, your neighbor was notoriously scatterbrained about remembering meetings, or was known to be an inveterate liar, you most assuredly would seek other evidence of the meeting time rather than trusting his word. Either way, you are relying on reasoning from experience/observation. There is nothing about this that suggests “some other way of knowing”.

  4. #4 The Peak Oil Poet
    December 27, 2011

    Here’s my take.

    Science is only like, uh, 300 years old.

    That’s like baby stuff – it’s a long long way to being a core foundation “theory”.

    Religions have been encapsulating human “truth” for something like 40 times as long.

    If you think that such historical “truth” is going to be supplanted by such a new upstart in terms other than those approaching the geological you really don’t grok humans.
    :-)

    pop

  5. #5 miller
    December 27, 2011

    My favorite example of an alternative “way of knowing” is the discipline of law. When you bring a question to a court of law, the method used to discern the truth has some pretty big differences from the scientific method. And this introduces many weaknesses too; for example, courts value eyewitness testimony very highly even though it is one of the less reliable forms of evidence.

    In the past when I’ve brought this up, and I’ve found that many people think very poorly of our law system. But it seems clear to me that the religious “way of knowing” is inferior to law. The religious way of knowing is comparable to intuitive guessing, so it’s inferior to nearly everything. I don’t think it has anything to do with how great science is, it has to do with how bad religion is.

  6. #6 Anton Mates
    December 27, 2011

    If the fellow in the next office tells me the faculty meeting is at 2:00, I can reasonably claim to know that the meeting is at 2:00. But in a scientific context proofs by authority are out of bounds.

    But it’s not a proof by authority if you have good reason to believe that the fellow in the next office is reliable about such things. There’s nothing unscientific about treating another human as a prediction device, provided you actually test their accuracy.

    (You may well place more trust in this fellow than is warranted by the actual evidence, but in that case I’d say you can’t reasonably claim to know that the meeting is at 2:00; you’re just making an educated guess.)

  7. #7 Anton Mates
    December 27, 2011

    or, what Leviathan said.

  8. #8 Tony61
    December 27, 2011

    I think the word empiricism has to enter any discussion of how we know things, and history certainly is an empiric exercise, as is science. Furthermore, there is a method to recording and reporting history that does indeed take on empiric principles, namely journalism, which is the study of observation and reporting history using the “how, what, why, when, where” questioning. Empiricism reduced to a science.

    If we report or hear a story about a person who is murdered, that’s history of sorts. The first thing we do is entertain all the requisite questions: who is it, why did it happen, where did it occur, etc. Yes, we engage in arguing from authority: a news report from the Weekly World News may not be regarded with the same respect as one from the LA Times, but this is also due to our observations over time and the probability of the truth coming from one source over another. Empiricism, just like science.

    One more item, and that is the propensity of religionists to co-opt empiricism to legitimize their beliefs. Is this necessary if they have some other “way of knowing”, ie, the holy spirit or revelation? Christians will go on at length about how likely (probability) it is that Jesus existed, rose from the dead, etc, in order to make their belief in him valid. This is empiricism, ie, history, like science. If they have some other “way of knowing” that he is divine or supernatural, then why go to the trouble of engaging in empiric proofs? Just believe.

  9. #9 AbnormalWrench
    December 27, 2011

    I guess it is a simple but necessary question, but what does history with no scientific methodology look like, exactly? And who uses whatever that is, and what do they use it for?

    I guess I’m confused at this ambiguity. I don’t know anyone that seriously debates any of these things. I know a lot of religious people that pretend there is a debate, of course. But that goes without saying.

  10. #10 AbnormalWrench
    December 27, 2011

    I guess it is a simple but necessary question, but what does history with no scientific methodology look like, exactly? And who uses whatever that is, and what do they use it for?

    (other than supporting biblical scripture, that is….)

  11. #11 NickMatzke
    December 27, 2011

    Hi Jason,

    I disagree that scientism or the criticism of it is all about religion. It is however true that many who take an especially hard line about religion tend to make scientistic claims which are unsupportable, and which if taken seriously would damage a lot of things besides just religion.

    However, there isn’t much point in trying to argue this from scratch in a comment thread. Here are some very good resources which really ought to be required reading for anyone deigning to comment on “scientism”.

    What Is Scientism?
    Mikael Stenmark
    Religious Studies , Vol. 33, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 15-32
    Published by: Cambridge University Press
    Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008069

    Mary Midgley
    Science as Salvation 1989–1990
    http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPSASV&Volume=0&Issue=0&TOC=TRUE

  12. #12 Neil Rickert
    December 27, 2011

    There are distinctively religious ways of knowing, such as religious experience, the testimony of holy texts, or the teachings of religious authorities, that are ruled out as illegitimate.

    I would not rule those out if they were followed consistently. After all, people who consistently use those ways of knowing would all die out in traffic accidents in short order.

    The problem I have is with people who pick and choose. They fully validate scientific ways of knowing in much of their every day life. But then they arbitrarily reject parts that displease them.

  13. #13 Richard Wein
    December 27, 2011

    Some people have suggested that we should just say “reason-based inquiry” or some such, instead of science. I don’t really have a problem with that; it just seems unnecessary to me. But whatever. It seems clear to me that we are just arguing about the meanings of words now, and not about anything important.

    The meanings of words are important. If different parties to a discussion are using a word to mean different things, they are likely to end up talking at cross purposes. And we see a lot of that happening in the discussion over “scientism”.

    The standard meaning of “science”–to refer roughly speaking to what scientists do professionally–is a useful one, and people are not going to give it up just because some people have adopted a different sense. Indeed, I doubt that you yourself will give up using the standard sense too.

    The word “scientism” is too vague to be useful. But I think there is an important issue lying behind this discussion. In my view many philosophers fail to take seriously enough the lessons of science (standard sense). That’s where so much philosophy goes wrong. New Atheists take the lessons of science (standard sense) more seriously, and that’s why they get accused of “scientism”.

    I think a good definition of “scientism” would be “the tendency to attribute excessive relevance to science (standard sense) in questions not usually considered matters of science (standard sense).” Including the word “excessive” in the definition makes it automatically pejorative, and not the sort of neutral term that anyone would apply to their own position. In this sense I deny that my position is “scientism” because I think I attribute about the right degree of relevance to science (standard sense). I think it’s those who make accusations of “scientism” who are underestimating the relevance of science (standard sense). I think they’re guilty of the opposite of “scientism”, which we might call “science-phobia”, if we wanted an equally pejorative term.

    It’s a nuisance to have to keep saying “science (standard sense)”. But that’s forced on me in this context by your insistence on using “science” in a non-standard sense, when you could more reasonably have said “reason-based enquiry” to express your meaning.

    I think few people will be as scrupulous as me in distinguishing between these two senses of “science”, and the result will be continued confusion and conflation of meanings whenever your non-standard sense of “science” is used.

    (As I mentioned in the previous thread on this subject, I agree that there isn’t a fundamental divide or precise line of demarcation between science and history. But it’s still useful to distinguish between them. It’s often useful to make fuzzy distinctions, such as the distinction between adults and children.)

  14. #14 Tree
    December 27, 2011

    Joseph Campbell frequently said that the major mistake that the religious make is taking metaphor for reality. We pretty much know how lightning forms, why earth quakes happen and that heaven is not a platform in the sky hanging over a flat earth. No one has been able to explain to me why we should prefer Bronze Age science over the systems of investigation we’ve since developed. If Biblical Science was so great, how did Roman Technology so thoroughly crush the Hebrews?

    I’ve suspected for a long time that the main reason that clerical types object to Science is loss of Privilege. The new high priests of our culture are the tech geeks. Instead of spending a few years memorizing scripture, it takes decades to attain the education before one can spend more decades gaining expertise. Science is hard, but comes with societal approval and (some) prestige. On the other hand, any dork can claim special revelation that all the grrls should be married to him and that all the other boyz should go away when they hit puberty.

    I don’t believe that religion is a ‘different way of knowing’ when ‘scripture’ can be interpreted to mean nearly anything the reader wants. Science requires dedication to objective reality (even while knowing that the human brain is kludgy and often shies from reality). If someone claims that Science Sez he (or she) should have all the wimmins, we’re going to want to see his (or her) math.

  15. #15 Your Name's not Bruce?
    December 27, 2011

    What exactly is “religious knowledge?” How are competing claims to religious knowledge decided? In the past, these competing claims were decided on the battlefield or the torture chamber; one simply killed off one’s opponents (if one had the power to do so). This method still seems to be much favoured by some adherents of Islam.

    My guess is that the difference between scientific knowledge and other claims to knowledge is in the answer to the question “How do you know that?”

  16. #16 Iain Martel
    December 27, 2011

    Once upon a time, science was called “natural philosophy”, and “philosophy” was the blanket term for all reason-based inquiry. But there are clear differences between the methods and results of modern philosophy and science, which is why it is useful to separate the terms. The recent tendency of atheists to expand the meaning of “science” to cover all that was once covered by “philosophy” – except, of course, theology! – seems to me a step backward.

    The key difference, I believe, between philosophy and science is in the role of empirical evidence. If someone gives, say, a philosophical argument for why justified true belief is not sufficient for knowledge, empirical evidence plays no role. There are no facts about the actual world that could be cited that would affect the strength of the argument. The facts (or “truths” – these terms are synonyms) that are relevant are a priori facts about the relationship between different concepts. Similarly, mathematical facts are a priori: no amount of empirical evidence could overturn the conclusion that 2+2=4. (Mathematics is, in fact, “purer” than philosophy, for facts about the actual world are *sometimes* relevant to the truth of philosophical claims – especially in philosophy of science.)
    Now science does use the a priori methods used in mathematics and philosophy. But it also uses empirical methods of data gathering as a crucial part of its methodology. The strength of the evidence for a scientific claim must always be susceptible to change with new observations. This is the key difference between the empirical methods of science and the a priori methods standard in philosophy and mathematics.

    I think it is a mistake, then, to blur the empirical/a priori distinction by referring to any reason-based inquiry as science. To do so is to lose one of the key weapons against pseudoscience like creationism: the demand for empirical support. If mathematics is science, then science doesn’t always require empirical support; we cannot then demand it for other supposed sciences. This is silly. Better to confine “science” to empirical studies (which includes, by the way, social sciences and history).

    What, then, of “religious ways of knowing”? Well, theology remains a legitimate branch of philosophy. Theological arguments need not bend to the dictates of empirical science. But that’s OK – good philosophers can see off the arguments of the theologians. That leaves “spiritual knowing” – divine revelation, miracles, etc.. These are claims about the actual world, and as such are subject to scientific investigation. Demand empirical evidence, and refute away. The bottom line is this: science doesn’t have to take over all forms of knowledge in order to squeeze out religion; it is better off acknowledging its reason-based allies, and allowing them to do their job.

  17. #17 Collin Brendemuehl
    December 27, 2011

    It not simply that there is a lack of respect for questions of faith. At the core is a quasi-Platonism arising from the Rationalistic approach. The resulting dualism sets Reason in the upper story and gives excessive capacity to the human mind to discern.
    It is an “ism” because of its history. They had cause to capitalize the “R” of Reason. It was neither accident nor coincidence. Reason was the idol which took the place of faith in the minds of the French Rationalists.

  18. #18 JimR
    December 27, 2011

    In “The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” Nassim Nicholas Taleb discusses the overwhelming impact, but treacherousness , of the narrative explanation of anything. He despises the science presumed to exist in “social science” and economics. His primary point is to be very careful of projecting past experience to the future, because there may be a 30 sigma occurrence waiting for you. I cite his book as countering claims for “knowing” anything outside of anything not available for rigorous testing.

    Outside science what we have available are theories and multi-generational experience. These have had a lot of testing and are “accepted wisdom.” Even relativity’s basic axiom of a maximum light speed is challenged by the CERN neutrinos. Any theory of science is always subject to challenge, and even more so the other sources of knowledge.

    Okay, what does this have to do with Scientism?
    1. Most assertions are flimsy, but arguing against reasonably based scientific conclusions in no way justifies a more improbable assertion.
    2. Humility is a necessary trait for anyone speaking authoritatively.
    3. Most of us speak from authority based on the scientific work of others. Hopefully from at least a decent study of the field(s).

    I think of Scientism as speaking from authority by people that are not sufficiently qualified. They may have come to very strong, valid conclusions about the improbable existence of religion for example, but posit a weak, sciencey sounding counterpoint. It is easy to see why religious supporters are insulted by this behavior.

    This is the Evolution Blog. I see evolution as more of an edifice of a number of theories, many with overwhelming support. There are competing ideas within the edifice, which people despising the whole, try to use to discredit it by its parts. They cite “irreconcilable” differences among evolution supporters. This just shows the strength of the edifice that the disagreements are fine details and over time they will be reconciled. I believe/accept evolution and after a lot of study still would be terrified to try to defend it before a hostile audience. I’m afraid I would come across as using Scientism. I am much more comfortable demolishing “alternative theories”.

    Dawkins argues as authority, not from authority. There is no Scientism involved.

  19. #19 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2011

    Perhaps it might help if, in defining scientism, it was made more clear what the “alternative” view is that is being rejected.

    Just as I am atheist because I reject that there is any reason to believe that God exists, I am anti-revelationist, or anti-gnostic, because I reject that divine revelation/gnosis can be considered a justification of true beliefs.

    So if one is accused of being “scientistic”, one can respond “only in the sense of being anti-gnostic”.

    It’s interesting that some religious people sound like they are anti-gnostic as well — they acknowledge that they have their beliefs, and think they are true, but emphasize that their beliefs arose because of a personal experience that they don’t expect to be convincing to non-believers.

  20. #20 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2011

    The resulting dualism sets Reason in the upper story and gives excessive capacity to the human mind to discern.

    Because the alternative of not using your mind works out so well in matters of discernment … ?

  21. #21 Edgar Manhattan
    December 27, 2011

    Religious persons have great difficulty understanding physicists who say that the possibility of faster-than-light neutrinos is exciting and welcome, since (if it’s proven) it would reveal a major flaw in our understanding of the universe. Or that disproving the existence of a Higgs Boson field would also be exciting and welcome, for the same reason.

    Religionists DO NOT welcome evidence that their view of the world is wrong or incomplete, while the practice of science is BASED on the assumption that our understanding of any phenomenon is quite possibly wrong in some way, and certainly incomplete.

    The invention of “Scientism”, and the construction of numerous “Scientism” straw men (who look remarkably like priests, rabbis, mullahs and clergymen), is just another attack by supernaturalists against the proven and effective process of scientific discovery.

    Which has steadily eroded their power and influence.

    They hate that.

  22. #22 coelsblog
    December 27, 2011

    Iain Martel writes:

    Similarly, mathematical facts are a priori: no amount of empirical evidence could overturn the conclusion that 2+2=4.

    I’m not sure I agree. What you are calling an a priori fact seems to me to derive from long-standing empirical evidence about how the world works. If it were the case that, in our universe, whenever you added 2 items to 2 other items, and then counted them, the result was 5, then that would overturn your claim that 2+2=4.

    And if that suggestion sounds outlandish then that indicates the extent to which our maths and logic is so empirically grounded that it seems blatantly obvious to us, and indeed has been hard-wired into our brains by evolution owing to the empirical fact that it works.

  23. #23 Richard Wein
    December 27, 2011

    Iain,

    You and I agree in being critical of Jason’s (and others’) usage of the word “science”. However, I disagree with you on the difference between science and philosophy. I think the meanings of both terms are necessarily fuzzy, and consequently the distinction is a fuzzy one. There’s a great deal of overlap between science and philosophy, and there would be a lot more still if philosophers did philosophy better. It’s my contention that most philosophers don’t think scientifically enough. They don’t take take the lessons of science seriously enough. (I’m using “science” in its standard sense throughout this comment.)

    If someone gives, say, a philosophical argument for why justified true belief is not sufficient for knowledge, empirical evidence plays no role. There are no facts about the actual world that could be cited that would affect the strength of the argument.

    Philosophers often substitute appeals to intuition in place of empirical evidence. In your example, they appeal to the intuition that certain sorts of belief are or aren’t “knowledge”. I consider intuition to be a form of empirical evidence. Our intuitions are formed by subconscious cognitive processes which process sense data and which are more-or-less truth-conducive. Intuition is a real phenomenon which tells us something about the world, and therefore is evidence about the world.

    A large part of philosophy is rightly concerned with the meanings of words, like “knowledge”. Words get their meaning from how people actually use them. So facts about meanings are facts about the world, which can be inferred from evidence. Much of that evidence comes from intuition. But philosophers would be well-advised to check their intuitions where possible against more systematically collectible evidence, such as observations of the way people speak. Some of this evidence could even be collected experimentally, by asking people to respond to specific questions. (This is known as “experimental philosophy”.)

    Philosophy (rightly understood) is primarily concerned with the working of the human mind/brain. The brain is a physical system which can be understood from empirical evidence. The difficulty is that it’s a vastly complex system to which we have limited access, and that the system under study is the same system that’s doing the studying! We can’t completely escape the use of intuition. But that applies in all empirical inference. Philosophy is just a particularly tricky set of cases where the evidence is in short supply and particularly difficult to interpret.

    Similarly, mathematical facts are a priori: no amount of empirical evidence could overturn the conclusion that 2+2=4. (Mathematics is, in fact, “purer” than philosophy, for facts about the actual world are *sometimes* relevant to the truth of philosophical claims – especially in philosophy of science.)

    To some extent I agree. The distinction between science and mathematics is more significant than the distinction between science and philosophy. Mathematical statements can be treated as pure abstractions. However I reject the existence of an absolute dichotomy between a prior and a posteriori knowledge. I say that all our knowledge is ultimately rooted in experience of the world. Even to the extent that we as individuals start with innate knowledge, that knowledge arises from the experiences of our evolutionary lineage.

    Those who have a dualistic, magical view of the human mind and mental properties will no doubt disagree. But I say that taking science seriously means rejecting such a view.

  24. #24 Verbose Stoic
    December 27, 2011

    coelsblog,

    If it were the case that, in our universe, whenever you added 2 items to 2 other items, and then counted them, the result was 5, then that would overturn your claim that 2+2=4.

    Now, considering that “2″, “+”, “4″, and “5″ are all abstract concepts strictly defined and that can be redefined, how in the world would you expect that to actually happen? Counting itself is predicated on having defined and accepted the definitions of the terms.

    Let me put it this way:

    1+1=2 and 1+1=10 are BOTH true statements. The former is just in base 10 and the latter in binary (base 2). You can count everything in the world in either number system. How, then, can counting settle which of those definitions is right, or ever contradict them?

  25. #25 sean t
    December 27, 2011

    coelsblog,

    I have to disagree with you a bit WRT mathematical facts being empirical in nature. Statements such as “2+2=4″ are factual simply because of the way in which the concepts are defined, or in the axiomatic basis of the system. In this particular case it is the definition of the concepts of “2″, “4″ and “=” that determine the truth of the statement.

    There are other perfectly valid mathematical systems in which the statement 2+2=4 is not factual, but rather nonsensical since the concept of “4″ is not defined (think of arithmetic in a base 3 number system, for example, where 2+2=10). In other systems, such as modular arithmetic, for ex0ample, while 2+2=4 may be true, other statements such as 2+2=0 or 2+2=1 may be equally true. The point is that the truth of a mathematical statement relies solely on the definition of the concepts and the axioms of the system.

  26. #26 coelsblog
    December 27, 2011

    sean t:

    Statements such as “2+2=4″ are factual simply because of the way in which the concepts are defined, or in the axiomatic basis of the system.

    But it’s not just accidental that the axioms our mathematicians base their reasoning on match our empirical universe. All of this, the axioms and the logic, is empirically based. Our brains operate on logic that has been evolutionarily programmed because, empirically, it works.

  27. #27 sean t
    December 27, 2011

    A couple of further thoughts on my post above. Of course the truth of a statement such as “2+2=4″ also depends on the definition of the concept of “+” as well as the concepts that I actually included. Also, there may be a confusion among some who think that mathematics is empirically based. It’s really forgivable, since it took practicing mathematicians more than 2000 years to figure it out.

    The reason that some types of mathematics seem to be empirically based is that the axioms and definitions of those mathematical systems are “common sense” definitions and axioms that were derived from empirical observation. The definitions of the positive whole numbers were in fact, for example, derived from counting objects. However, the real reason that statements about them are mathematically true, however, is that the definitions and axioms of the system imply the statement.

    This is perhaps best illustrated by geometry. The geometry of Euclid was developed over 2000 years before any other geometry. The reason was that Euclid’s geometry was considered THE geometry, since it was the geometry that corresponded to empirical evidence. What mathematicians prior to those who first developed non-Euclidean geometries failed to realize, however, was that Euclid’s propositions were not true because of empirical correspondance, but rather because of the axioms and definitions he used to set up the system.

    It was thought that there was no other possible geometry. However, the development of other “non-empirical” geometries proves that Euclid’s empirically based axioms and definitions are not the only ones that can be used to develop a geometric system. Again, the fact that these “non-empirical” geometries have turned out to be a better description of the actual geometry of the universe than Euclid’s is not the reason that the propositions of these geometries are true. Within their respective axiomatic systems, the propositions of Euclid are no more or less true than the theorems of the non-Euclidian geometries.

  28. #28 sean t
    December 27, 2011

    coelsblog,

    You have correctly explained why the first mathematical systems were the ones that corresponded most closely with empirical reality. However, the statement that 2+2=4 is no more true or less true than the statement that 2+2=1 or 2+2=10. All are equally true in their own axiomatic systems. The reason that 2+2=4 is not that it corresponds with reality, but rather that it is implied by the definitions and axioms of arithmetic.

    Consider, for example, the following two statements:

    1. The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles

    2. The sum of the angles of a triangle is greater than two right angles.

    Which of these is empirically true? Can’t be both since the statements are contradictory. Try drawing a triangle on a piece of paper and measuring its angles. You’d be led to believe that 1. is true. However, consider the triangle formed by the 0 degree longitude line, the 30 degree E longitude line and the equator. The angle between the two longitude lines is obviously 30 degrees. The angle between the equator and each line of longitude is 90 degrees. The sum is therefore 210 degrees which is greater than two right angles.

  29. #29 Art
    December 27, 2011

    I think you, and most people debating this stuff, have missed a grant opportunity to short-circuit the debate entirely. All there is, all there ever has been, or ever will be, is the natural world. Humanity, and everything humanity does, is as natural as ants building anthills.

    Religion is part of this natural world. It is the result of a known defect of the mind that sees patterns where none exist. This is not unique to humans as it is not difficult to induce superstition and ceremonial behaviors in pigeons by allowing them to assume their behaviors change how they are rewarded. The same mechanism is seen in humans.

    The result is that humans have a natural tendency to assume the existence of mechanisms that reward or punish certain behaviors when, in fact, those mechanisms do not actually exist. If the volcano threatens to blow up and you sacrifice a virgin, and the volcano stops rumbling, you think you have placated the mountain much like you might placate an angry neighbor. The end result is anthropomorphism of the world and having to resort to super-naturalism to make sense of it.

    There is no scientism. There is nature and studying nature, reality. There is studying the natural world in logical, repeatable progressions so you don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can cure geological indigestion using virgins.

    I’ve found that it is quite interesting to study magic and primitive religion. The key there is to avoid confusing magic and religion, primitive or otherwise, with science and logic. Magic and religion are the entirely natural and expected consequence of a mind that seeks out and assumes patterns and relationships. They should be studied much as one might study a particular form of brain damage.

    IMHO it is far more efficient to restructure the terms to understand that there is only the natural world, that science, and religion, are as natural to us as a bird building a nest. Science flows from our curiosity and need to understand. Religion is an artifact of an evolution produced tendency to be overactive in recognizing patterns.

    The difference is that science fact-checks the patterns. Whereas religion doesn’t. To study religion, a study in how our brains work, is to practice science. To participate in religion is to indulge our brains natural tendency to see connections where none exist and flatter ourselves by assuming we are the center of the universe; that it is all about us.

  30. #30 sean t
    December 27, 2011

    coelsblog,

    I have tried to leave two somewhat lengthy responses to you, but they haven’t yet been posted. I’ll try a shorter one. Mathematics is nothing more than making assumptions and seeing where they lead. Obviously assumptions based in empirical reality tend to lead to more useful mathematical systems, but pure mathematicians don’t really care if the systems they develop are useful or not. Of course, sometimes even these “useless” systems turn out to have direct applicability (see Riemannian geometry for instance, which is the mathematical basis of general relativity).

  31. #31 coelsblog
    December 27, 2011

    sean t

    Mathematics is nothing more than making assumptions and seeing where they lead.

    Agreed, but in that case mathematicians could base all their efforts on axioms leading to 2+2=5. The fact that they don’t, and instead adopt axioms leading to 2+2=4, is empirical. Even Riemannian geometry is based on axioms/logic rooted in our universe.

  32. #32 sean t
    December 27, 2011

    coelsblog,

    Nope, you missed the point, especially WRT my example of Riemannian geometry. NOW, RG is seemingly based on empirical data. However, its original development was a result of mathematical investigations intended to show that Euclid’s parallel postulate was implied by the other postulates of Euclidean geometry. It was eventually shown that assumption of an alternative to the parallel postulate led to a self-consistent geometry. That geometry seemingly had nothing whatsoever to do with empirical reality.

  33. #33 Iain Martel
    December 27, 2011

    Richard,

    I think you are mixing up the origin of knowledge and the justification of knowledge. Whether our intuitions about mathematics are innate or not, or whether or not they are the result of evolution, is irrelevant to the question of whether our mathematical beliefs are justified. (Though there are epistemologists who would disagree with me on this, there are sound philosophical objections to their view.) Similarly, learning more about the wiring of the brain tells us nothing about whether or not a particular inference is logically sound.

    I don’t want to get into the question of whether mathematical truths are a priori or not, except to note that this is the subject of centuries of philosophical work in the philosophy of mathematics, none of which could be usefully described as empirical. (Also, though much about the status of mathematical truths remains contentious, the general consensus these days is that the purely empiricist approach, found notably in John Stuart Mill, is untenable.)

    OK, I will say one more thing on mathematics. Coelsblog: the “axioms and logic” of mathematics don’t just happen to work in our empirical universe, they are necessary truths that would apply, no matter what the universe was like. That’s what makes them non-empirical. True, certain mathematical structures (such as Euclidean geometries, pre-Einstein) have been found particularly useful in science, but there are always more general structures that apply necessarily.

    And here’s my final observation: all of this is stuff that is part of the training of any philosopher, and there are reams of research on on each the points that have been made in this thread. One aspect of scientism that is particularly annoying to non-scientists (I count myself as part-scientist and part-philosopher)is the assumption that scientists can make pronouncements about the philosophy of science, or philosophy more generally, without doing the philosophical research required to know if their views have already been soundly refuted.

  34. #34 Owlmirror
    December 27, 2011

    Agreed, but in that case mathematicians could base all their efforts on axioms leading to 2+2=5.

    How?

    By redefining “+” to mean adding in another quantity in addition to the explicit operators to the “+”?

    The fact that they don’t, and instead adopt axioms leading to 2+2=4, is empirical. Even Riemannian geometry is based on axioms/logic rooted in our universe.

    While Riemannian geometry can be empirically demonstrated to be applicable in our universe, it isn’t necessary that this empirical demonstration occur for the geometrical system itself to be internally consistent with its axioms, and with manifolds that are manifestly not like our universe.

  35. #35 sean t
    December 27, 2011

    Futher,

    You state that mathematicians could have developed axiomatic systems where 2+2=5, but didn’t. That’s true, but there ARE systems where 2+2=1 or 2+2=10. The original point is that no empirical observation can overturn the mathematical fact that 2+2=4 and that is in fact true. Similarly, no empirical observation can overturn the fact that 2+2=1, which is also true. At least it is so long as you’re working in mod 3 arithmetic.

  36. #36 Russell
    December 27, 2011

    coelsblog:

    But it’s not just accidental that the axioms our mathematicians base their reasoning on match our empirical universe.

    No, it’s not accident. It results from two things.

    On the application side, it’s a matter of people learning where certain mathematical models work, and where they don’t. Arithmetic is almost a perfect fit for tracking dollars, a pretty good fit for tracking sheep, a poor fit for tracking raindrops, and a haphazard fit for tracking volumes of mixed chemicals.

    On the theoretical side, it’s a matter of people looking for mathematical models that work in various domains. The fact that a 4-manifold with Lorentzian signature works so well to model space-time doesn’t mean there is something “true” about its math, and something “false” about the math of Euclidean space. It just means people constructed some math that they then found was good for modeling that problem domain. General relativity is better than Newtonian physics. But math is just math.

  37. #37 coelsblog
    December 27, 2011

    sean t

    Nope, you missed the point, especially WRT my example of Riemannian geometry. NOW, RG is seemingly based on empirical data. However, its original development …

    What I meant was this: RG was a generalisation of Euclid, relaxing some of his axioms. However, the axioms that were left (and which led to RG) were still axioms empirically rooted in our universe.

  38. #38 coelsblog
    December 27, 2011

    Iain Martel

    Coelsblog: the “axioms and logic” of mathematics don’t just happen to work in our empirical universe, they are necessary truths that would apply, no matter what the universe was like.

    How do you know that? Or, perhaps a better question, what do you mean by “true” divorced from any empirical implementation?

  39. #39 JimR
    December 27, 2011

    In the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2011/12/26/4146080/book-examines-americas-turn-from.html) Renee Schoof discusses Shawn Otto and his new book about the decline of science in America. I thought the following quote from the article was incisive. “Science does two things that we don’t love. It does lots of things that we do love, but the two things we don’t love are: Whenever we extend our knowledge, we have to parse that new knowledge morally and ethically . . . . The other thing is that it either confirms or vexes somebody’s vested interested.”

    I tend to agree with Art@29 that Scientism does not exist. I think it is just a charge cast by someone who does not have a better challenge. People quoting science as an authority sound sciencey, but are not practioners of Scientism.

    We really need much better science education.

  40. #40 coelsblog
    December 27, 2011

    sean t:

    The original point is that no empirical observation can overturn the mathematical fact that 2+2=4 and that is in fact true.

    Suppose it had turned out that in our universe it was an empirical fact that adding 2 items to 2 items always resulted (when then counting them) in 5 items (and let’s speak base-10 for ease). Would you then still assert that “mathematically” 2+2=4 was “true” and 2+2=5 was “false”? (And if you did, what would you mean by “true/false”?)

    I suspect that actually you’d have developed axioms appropriate to that universe, and would be asserting that “2+2=5″ was a mathematical fact that no empirical observation could refute!

  41. #41 Verbose Stoic
    December 27, 2011

    coelsblog,

    I suspect that actually you’d have developed axioms appropriate to that universe, and would be asserting that “2+2=5″ was a mathematical fact that no empirical observation could refute!

    The history of mathematics especially non-Euclidean geometries suggest otherwise; even if they do not map to the way geometry seems to work in the real world, mathematicians still consider them valid geometries, useful, and meaningful. Inside mathematics itself, there is little concern about how they map onto the real world. That’s not true of the mathematics used in science, but that’s a small part of mathematics itself.

  42. #42 NickMatzke
    December 27, 2011

    Richard Wein writes,

    The standard meaning of “science”–to refer roughly speaking to what scientists do professionally–is a useful one, and people are not going to give it up just because some people have adopted a different sense. Indeed, I doubt that you yourself will give up using the standard sense too.

    I agree with this. And, another crucial point should be raised. The reasons that “science” is a particularly good thing in most people’s minds is because of all of the successes of standard-sense professional science — e.g., Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein et al., and the technology and revolution in our lives that has resulted.

    This success conveys a *lot* of cred to the scientific approach, and rightly so. *However*, properly speaking, this credibility should really only accrue to narrow-sense science. I would agree that standard science is a subset of “reason-based inquiry”, but I think it is at least arguable that reason-based-inquiry-in-general deserves a large amount of credibility. Arguably, “reason-based inquiry” has been around for millennia, without much in the way of spectacular results until science came along. Academics in the middle ages spent centuries logic-chopping without much (relative to the last few hundred years) to show for it. Ditto for the Greeks.

    It is the success of science-narrow-sense, which inspires attempts to apply science to morality, politics, society, consciousness, etc. And, I agree, it would be really nice if we could solve the problems in all of these areas as decisively and finally as we have been able to solve chemistry or heliocentrism. The problems in making this work, though, are legion. Some of them are:

    * humans are just way more complicated than atoms or orbits, and societies are even more complicated;

    * some of the problems are not about evidence at all, they are about conflicting interests (e.g. politics);

    * when it comes to humans, we have an inside view as well as an outside view. Many of the clashes that occur are about this difference in perspective, and whether or not people are willing to accept more than one way of looking at things as valid

    When a scientist or science-popularizer comes along and declares that the above sorts of problems are solved or will soon be solved by some simplistic science-y sounding solution — usually it’s some of crude reductionism like “it’s all just genes/chemicals and therefore these problematic concepts are just illusions” — well, that’s a case of scientism.

    Some folks in the recent scientism threads seem to be saying that they are happy to acknowledge many of the various caveats and complexities that people have pointed out (history and law are valid, at least somewhat non-scientific ways of knowing, for example; science doesn’t solve political or moral questions, etc.), but that their main point is that religion is bad.

    Well, that’s a fine main point to have! If that’s the point that people want to make, perhaps they should argue as follows: politics, law, history, etc., as well as science, are better done in a secular fashion than in a religious way. This would, I think, find widespread agreement in academia and the culture at large (although of course fundamentalists would disagree). There is no particular need to drag scientific triumphalism and expansionism into it and thereby risk all sorts of collateral damage to worthy-but-non-scientific endeavors in pursuit of the main target, religion. Such a strategy would also avoid irate opposition from historians, philosophers, and other humanities types who are usually as secular as can be, but who know there is more to life and more to inquiry than just science.

  43. #43 Anthony McCarthy
    December 27, 2011

    Religious persons have great difficulty understanding physicists who say that the possibility of faster-than-light neutrinos is exciting …. blah, blah, blah… E. Manhattan

    Typical new atheist nonsense. Most of the nearly panicked reaction I’ve seen to the possibility has been on blogs owned by new atheists, not all of them physicists most of them with absolutely no more ability to understand the arguments for or against the possibility than I’ve got, which I’ll admit is next to none.

    I’m excited by it mainly because cosmologists in their regular tizzies over their pronouncements being overturned is so funny. It’s always fun to see massively arrogant people with egg on their faces.

  44. #44 Anthony McCarthy
    December 27, 2011

    As to the angry rejection of the existence of scientism in this discussion, it’s a bad idea to exemplify something as you’re denying that it exists. And a large percentage of the responses to these two posts would serve well as specimens of scientism as well as ignorant bigotry.

  45. #45 Patrick
    December 27, 2011

    “Suppose it had turned out that in our universe it was an empirical fact that adding 2 items to 2 items always resulted (when then counting them) in 5 items (and let’s speak base-10 for ease). Would you then still assert that “mathematically” 2+2=4 was “true” and 2+2=5 was “false”? (And if you did, what would you mean by “true/false”?)”

    We can’t suppose that. Its not logically possible.

    There are some truths that are axiomatic rather than empirical. If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. That’s not something where you can say, “what if it wasn’t true?” It can’t not be true. The definition of a variable, of “if,” of “and,” of “equals,” and of “then” MAKE it true. You can’t come up with a hypothetical universe that’s different without cheating by changing the meaning of the words used to express that concept.

  46. #46 Raging Bee
    December 27, 2011

    …most of them with absolutely no more ability to understand the arguments for or against the possibility than I’ve got, which I’ll admit is next to none.

    Yeah, Anthony, that’s why all of your obscurantist arguments turn out to be nothing but crap: you admit you don’t understand the arguments you hear from others; but then, from that position of ignorance, you insist that no one else understands anything better than you do.

    On the original topic, I suspect that the word “scientism” used to mean an extremely technocratic attitude, dating back to the post-WW-II era when “science” meant big-budget, high-stakes laboratory-science projects carried out by the most eminent PhDs — atomic power, antibiotics, space travel, new cures for previously-incurable diseases, that sort of thing. For a time (specifically, the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s), it really did seem to many people in the West that ALL problems that have ever plagued mankind could indeed be solved, once and for all, by this new elite of high-tech scientists, including psychological, social, emotional, and philosophical problems that no one had previously thought susceptible to rational inquiry. If I had to come up with examples of this kind of “scientism,” I’d name behaviorist B.F. Skinner and the “modernist” architects who thought they could cure social problems by changing the spaces and structures we lived and worked in.

    And having named those examples of “scientism,” I’d then have to admit that this technocratic attitude has been WAAAAAY out of fashion for decades; and no one, not even the big-budget PhDs, really share or support this attitude anymore. I think that religious obscurantists like Anthony are arguing against something the rest of us left behind ages ago, either because he’s been conditioned to respond this way, or because he’s desperate to pretend we’re something we’re not so he can nurture his own fragile sense of his own rightness.

  47. #47 Kevin
    December 27, 2011

    I think it is important to support your acceptance of historical knowledge with an illustration of a satisfactorily demonstrated historical fact. For example, I accept it as a fact that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, though I admit that I do so on the basis of faith in human testimony – i.e. I have been told it by unspecified others that I rely upon.

    You have mentioned that one shoud not place any faith in “the testimony of holy texts”, and I am going to assume that this injunction applies also to not-holy texts, such as “Commentaries on the Gallic War”. On the other hand, I personally would consider the existence of the latter text as a potentially demonstrable fact that could contribute to the investigation of the above question.

  48. #48 Anton Mates
    December 27, 2011

    Owlmirror,

    Agreed, but in that case mathematicians could base all their efforts on axioms leading to 2+2=5.

    How?

    By redefining “+” to mean adding in another quantity in addition to the explicit operators to the “+”?

    Or by preserving the existing definition(s), but reinterpreting them. Any formal definition is simply a collection of words, and there’s always some latitude in how it will actually be applied in the mind of someone who accepts it.

    Let us say that these people are faithfully using the standard definition of addition from cardinal arithmetic. Represent the addends as disjoint sets of the appropriate cardinalities; then their sum is the cardinality of the union of those sets.

    It might still be the case that when they conceive of the union of two 2-element disjoint sets, they always come up with a 5-element set. From our point of view that would be a severe and strange mental defect, but it’s certainly psychologically possible. In that case, they could use the same arithmetical axioms we do, yet derive “2+2=5″.

    And if you object that this is forbidden by the formal definition of “union”–well, whatever that definition may be, it must rely on prior terms and definitions, and maybe they interpret those differently as well. Turtles all the way down!

  49. #49 Anthony McCarthy
    December 27, 2011

    Kevin, the vast majority of people who accept things within science accept it due to the testimony of scientists, science teachers, science reporters, and a whole host of other people. And most of those people whose testimony they accept also accept it based on the testimony of the very small number of people who witnessed the evidence from nature that is the basis of that science. Other than for those very few people, the entire thing is accepted on the basis of testimony.

    And that’s only on the science for which there is actual evidence. Much of the belief in unverified theory isn’t believed by a single person based on actual evidence, not until and if it is ever verified. A lot of that entirely unverified and, at times, unverifiable conjecture becomes an accepted and established part of science.

  50. #50 JimV
    December 27, 2011

    A couple years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to construct a proof of Fermat’s Prime Theorem (all primes of the form 4N+1 are the sum of two squares). My investigation was highly empirical. I wrote spreadsheets to compile huge lists of numbers and looked for patterns. This led me to find relationships, such as the fact that when you multiply two numbers which are each the sums of two squares, the result is also the sum of two squares. I also found useful patterns in the values of squared numbers mod (4N+1).

    Once I found a pattern, I tried to prove it by manipulating equations, which also seems to be a somewhat empirical process (i.e., does the equation work, or not). (It does in the above two cases.)

    The end result was a mathematical proof which satisfies me as being rigorous, although not particularly elegant. So for me at least, math is not non-empirical. Especially if one regards previously derived results as being part of the empirical world (like biological species or cosmological objects), as I do.

    Fermat did not have Excel, but I’ll bet he spent a fair amount of time calculating and considering lists of numbers before arriving at his results. There’s a reason Dr. Waterhouse in “Cryptonomicon” can immediately tell you something distinctive above most numbers under 1000.

  51. #51 Deepak Shetty
    December 27, 2011

    @Nick Matzke
    Well, that’s a fine main point to have! If that’s the point that people want to make, perhaps they should argue as follows: politics, law, history, etc., as well as science, are better done in a secular fashion than in a religious way.
    No that’s not the only issue. Jason even summarised it for you at the bottom.
    is that religion be denied any status as a legitimate way of knowing.
    usually morality is the major source of disagreement – and not just by fundamentalists.

  52. #52 David Galiel
    December 27, 2011

    In the same spirit (pun intended), folks who believe in spirituality shall henceforth be referred to as “Spiritualists”, and believers in gods and other woowoo as “worshippers of “Spiritualism”.

  53. #53 Anthony McCarthy
    December 27, 2011

    woowoo

    Is something that represents itself as science but is later discarded or refuted “woowoo”? If the speedy neutrinos stand up to review is that part of physics which depends on the speed of light being an absolute limit “woowoo”?

    The number of neologisms that the new atheism depends on is a pretty good indication that it’s anything but an intellectually rigorous endeavor.

  54. #54 Collin Brendemuehl
    December 27, 2011

    Hootie,
    I’m waiting for you to acknowledge the your Platonism and its taint to “science”.

  55. #55 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    Patrick:

    “We can’t suppose that. Its not logically possible.”

    Not possible under *our* world’s logic, or not possible at all? Are you asserting that it is not possible for there to be a universe in which 2+2=5, and that 2+2=4 is a necessary truth that must hold in all conceivable universes?

    If the latter, then I’m certainly interested if that can be demonstrated, though I suspect the demonstration would rest on logical axioms that are either asserted by fiat or rooted in our world’s empirical reality.

  56. #56 David Gerard
    December 28, 2011

    Problems occur with pure philosophy when some philosophers claim, in all seriousness, that coming up with the hypothetical notion of p-zombies therefore disproves materialism. (Thankfully, others call them idiots.) That’s the sort of error that’s bad enough to say “actually, how did your field ever let this through?”

  57. #57 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    David Gerard, materialism has yet to be proved, the question of disproving it is irrelevant in light of that fact. Materialism is an ideology that is accepted on the basis of belief. Not that materialists will admit that anymore than any other species of true believers will.

  58. #58 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Raging Bee, as I said, it’s a really bad idea to exemplify something as you are denying it exists. Scientism and ideological materialism are the foundations of almost all of modern atheism. The literature of modern atheism is based on those and a slanted, often falsified view of history. It’s really not much different from the Biblical fundamentalism that is on display right now in the Republican caucuses in Iowa.

  59. #59 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    David Gerard,

    I just yanked my copy of Chalmers’ “The Conscious Mind” off my bookshelf, and note that he, in fact, actually argued for why it does. It’s too long to go into here, but note that one of the issues you’d be having is that you don’t really get what he means by saying that materialism is disproven. In his view, he simply says that we have properties that would have to be called mental; he makes mental properties a basic sort of property in the world, just like the actual base entities of physics. Ultimately, it’s the idea that you cannot reduce the “mental” to the “physical”, and ultimately that you cannot describe mental terms in light of things like biology or physics without losing something important about them, and that would also mean that you certainly can’t eliminate mental properties.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read the book in its entirety, so I might be saying something wrong here. The point, though, is that in insisting that it’s just stupid you are missing the whole context of the argument, which is what makes it interesting, and arguing based on an objection that Chalmers saw and addressed. You can deny that he did so successfully — and many philosophers do — but that provides far more than a simple assertion.

    Also note that HOW you disagree with it matters. I think Chalmers is wrong and that you cannot have a world with the same external behaviour and physical structure but without consciousnes, because I consider consciousness — ie phenomenal experience — to be input level and so if that input is taken away the rest of the system will have to find a way to make up for that, and so will not be physically identical. But that’s a dualistic position, not a materialistic one.

  60. #60 Richard Wein
    December 28, 2011

    @coelsblog

    If it were the case that, in our universe, whenever you added 2 items to 2 other items, and then counted them, the result was 5, then that would overturn your claim that 2+2=4.

    I disagree. Arithemetic has been abstracted so that it is not dependent on empirical reality. Consider these two sentences:

    (1) When you put two physical objects with another two physical objects you get four physical objects.
    (2) 2+2=4

    The truth of the abstract statement (2) is not dependent on the truth of the empirical statement (1).

    If we lived in a universe like the one you describe, we might adopt a system of arithmetic in which we would say “2@2=5″, where the symbol “@” is an operator that models the way that physical objects combine in the empirical universe. This “@” operator has a different meaning from our “+” operator. “+” already has an established meaning, and it’s important not to conflate it with this new operator that I’m calling “@”. In effect you are redefining “+”. “2+2=4″ may be false in your new sense of “+”. But it is necessarily true given the established sense of “+”. If people in your alternative universe use “+” to mean “@” then they are speaking a different arithmetic language from us.

    (Sorry if I’m just repeating what a couple of other people have said. But I’m hoping I’ve made the point a little clearer.)

  61. #61 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    coelsblog,

    Not possible under *our* world’s logic, or not possible at all? Are you asserting that it is not possible for there to be a universe in which 2+2=5, and that 2+2=4 is a necessary truth that must hold in all conceivable universes?

    As I’ve said before, I would say that there is no possible world where 2+2=5 without changing at least one of the concepts of “2″, “+”, “5″, “4″, or “=”. Presuming that all of those concepts are used in precisely the same way we are using them when we say that 2+2=4, then there is no possible world where 2+2=5 is a true proposition.

    Now, if you want to change that the concepts mean, then you can get it. But that would be changing the concepts and so wouldn’t help you with claiming that mathematics is empirical because you could go out and find in the world that the proposition is false.

  62. #62 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    JimV,

    Once I found a pattern, I tried to prove it by manipulating equations, which also seems to be a somewhat empirical process (i.e., does the equation work, or not). (It does in the above two cases.)

    Why do you think that asking if the equation works or not is somewhat empirical? If I take an argument, convert it to symbolic logic, and then see if it is logically valid, that is indeed my asking if it works, but it’s a rather odd definition of empirical that would call that empirical at all.

  63. #63 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    Anton,

    Or by preserving the existing definition(s), but reinterpreting them. Any formal definition is simply a collection of words, and there’s always some latitude in how it will actually be applied in the mind of someone who accepts it.

    With any strict definition, reinterpretation isn’t allowed. There is, in fact, no latitude at all in how it is to be applied. People CAN interpret it in different ways, but that doesn’t mean that their interpretation is correct. If they reinterpret a strict definition to match some empirical result, the result is not the same definition reinterpreted, but a different interpretation. This is the whole point of strictly defining something; to make it totally and unchangeably clear what the right interpretation is.

    It might still be the case that when they conceive of the union of two 2-element disjoint sets, they always come up with a 5-element set. From our point of view that would be a severe and strange mental defect, but it’s certainly psychologically possible. In that case, they could use the same arithmetical axioms we do, yet derive “2+2=5″.

    It may be psychologically possible to do that, but they would be wrong. And they would be wrong precisely because, at the end of the day, either they do NOT use the same axioms we do or they apply them improperly, depending on whether they are reinterpreting — and therefore changing — the axioms or are making in error in teasing out their implications.

  64. #64 David Gerard
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony @57 – that’s not relevant to the terrible philosophy. The p-zombie argument is literally “I can conceive of p-zombies, therefore materialism is false.” Advocates literally think that being able to imagine a concept disproves materialism. And this level of really obvious motivated bad reasoning is taken seriously by philosophy. Thankfully not Dr Pigliucci, who’s done his best to deal with this rubbish – but that it’s taken seriously anywhere other than the remotest fringes of the field indicates serious problems.

  65. #65 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    David Gerard,

    Having just read the linked article, I think the terrible philosophy is Pigliucci’s, not Chalmers’.

    One of the commenters put it really well, but I’ll rephrase it to avoid the rather poor objection that Pigliucci levels at it:

    Materialism argues that the physical facts and mental facts are in a tight correlation, such that if the physical facts relevant to the mental change the mental facts change and if the mental facts change the physical facts relevant to the mental change. Chalmers’ argument is that it is conceivable to have a case where the physical facts do not change but the mental facts do. If this is possible, then materialism must be an invalid argument; it is logically possible to change mental facts without having any relevant physical facts change.

    Now, there are two ways to reply to this. One is to deny that you can conceive of such a world, which is the best argument. Unfortunately, Pigliucci concedes that one off the top. The other is to claim that while it may indeed be possible in some universe for that to be the case, it isn’t true in this one, for humans, and so for us materialism is true. Pigliucci may be grasping at that in arguing that conceivability does not entail possibility or actuality, but puts it really badly.

  66. #66 David Gerard
    December 28, 2011

    Verbose @64 – all arguments of the form “I can conceive of X therefore fact Y about the physical world” are fallacious, because they don’t generally work. This is why the ancient Greek philosophers didn’t invent science that worked – they thought experimentation was strictly inferior to what the mind could do on its own, and this was simply incorrect. Science didn’t take off until philosophy started testing its conclusions about the real world against the real world. People can conceive of all sorts of rubbish, but your imagination and what you personally are convinced by has nothing to do with the real world.

    There are other problems (e.g. conceiving of p-zombies as physically identical but mentally different from conscious humans is assuming dualism in the first place), but the real problem is that wishful thinking doesn’t work even if you mix in a syllogism.

  67. #67 Richard Wein
    December 28, 2011

    @Iain

    I think you are mixing up the origin of knowledge and the justification of knowledge.

    I can see how it looks that way from the point of view of traditional epistemology. But I think that traditional epistemology is seriously misguided. I favour a more scientific, “naturalized” epistemology. It seems to me that a significant number of philosophers have now adopted such a view to some degree, and I like to think that the number is increasing.

    One aspect of scientism that is particularly annoying to non-scientists (I count myself as part-scientist and part-philosopher)is the assumption that scientists can make pronouncements about the philosophy of science, or philosophy more generally, without doing the philosophical research required to know if their views have already been soundly refuted.

    We will probably disagree (as will philosophers) about which views have been soundly refuted. Without a clear consensus among philosophers nothing can be considered settled. Non-philosophers must make their own judgements. And since I think science is very relevant to philosophy, I think scientists like Coyne are helped by their good scientific judgement. That’s not to say that Coyne (for example) doesn’t make mistakes, or that he couldn’t avoid some mistakes if he read more philosophy. But I think he gets more right than most of those who accuse him of “scientism” and philosophical naivety. Given how much philosophy is seriously misguided, philosophical “sophistication” is a two-edged sword.

  68. #68 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    David Gerrard, if the term hadn’t been destroyed through thorough misuse by new atheists and “skeptics” your p-zombie argument could serve as the quintessential straw man.

    Materialism is ideological, it is unprovable. Science, which can only deal with the material is incapable of addressing questions of immateriality, in the sense of incorporeality. Scientism is, among other things, an attempt to force questions into science that science is incompetent to deal with. Those who hold with scientism are most successful in demonstrating that they really don’t understand the most basic facts about science, what it can and what it can’t do. Their ideology is all over the worst of modern junk science. As someone pointed out here before, B. F. Skinner’s career is a good illustration of that, though much of the behavioral sciences could serve that purpose. Almost all of organized skepticism could as well.

  69. #69 OldFuzz
    December 28, 2011

    Too much of the science/religion discussion(?) ignores the variety of characterizations of the two. Several terms have been created in the process. Two I find particularly off-putting are scientism and accommodationism, often used to demean, not enlighten.

    If a rational approach is to be taken, I believe two domains deserve characterization: Science/non-science, religion/non-religion. The two intersect–science with non-religion and religion with non-science–but not with each other. A religion that does not accept science is a sham. What is also distracting in the debate is how little so many of the anti-religious know about religion and how little so many of the anti-science know about science each using a personally constructed characterization of the other that fails a test of accepted usage.

    Karl Jaspers posed an interesting model on the proper place for science and philosophy (with which religion is aligned) in The Way to Wisdom. First he stated that scientific knowledge is primary, that any who engage in philosophy must know and embrace all of science that is sufficiently certain. He likened a person’s comprehension as being on an island where the reality of the island environ is science and the ocean on which he cannot travel, except for the tiniest part, is the mystery to be considered philosophically.

    Each of us is on an island of comprehension, ‘knowing’, including the three F’s: facts, fictions, fantasies. To the extent we choose to pursue them, so be it. To the extent others choose to do so, so be it. But what gain exists in imposing one’s fictions or fantasies on another?

  70. #70 Patrick
    December 28, 2011

    coelsblog- Logically necessary truths don’t “rest” on logical axioms. They exist as part of the nature of the logical axioms themselves.

    Let me try to illustrate with an example that’s obviously empirical, and then maybe we can go from there.

    We have two types of truths about the height of Albert and Ben. One type of truth is a descriptive type about their heights: that would include statements like “Albert is six feet tall.” Another type is relational: that would include statements like “Ben is taller than Albert.”

    For a statement of the first type, you can’t get very far from empirical reality. But for the second type, throw in a conditional phrase, and you can go off into fantasy land without any difficulty.

    IF Ben is taller than Albert, and IF Carl is taller than Ben, THEN Carl is taller than Albert.

    Once we get to that point, we no longer need any reference to any actual empirical person, or even any actual empirical height. We can function entirely based on the definitions of the words in the sentence.

    And once we’re functioning entirely on definitions, our truths become “necessary” truths, in that they’d be equally true in any universe so long as you don’t vary the definitions. Because their truth comes from the definitions themselves, not from any variable fact about the world. If the definitions are the same in all possible worlds, then the things that make those statements true are the same in all possible worlds, meaning that this “possible world” stuff is irrelevant to these statement’s truth or falsehood.

  71. #71 David Roemer
    December 28, 2011

    In The New York Times on February 19, 2006, Leon Weiseltier called scientism “one of the dominant superstitions of our day.”

    Science is a method of inquiry based upon sense observations. Scientists use operational definitions. Metaphysics is a method of inquiry that is based on knowledge gained from our ability to make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. Example: Humans have free will.

    People guided by scientism consider metaphysical truths to be untrue or void of content. They insist on getting a definition of free will, for example, and not getting one, assume that free will is an illusion. They live their lives as if they had free will (they feel guilty, apologize, and promise not to do it again), but in philosophical works say that free will doesn’t exist:

    “Free will is commonly interpreted to mean ‘the power of directing our own actions without [total] constraint by necessity or fate.’ The conviction that human beings are endowed with such a power is pervasive, even more so than a belief in the human soul…As a philosophical concept, free will is like an onion whose skin has been completely peeled away: at its core, it ceases to exist. (Lee M. Silver, Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality, p. 59)

    Another example of scientism is this:

    “This book proposes a theory of consciousness that stays carefully on the functional level and does not to try to ‘explain’ how awareness could have emerged from a material thing such as a brain. I believe that we might someday understand how this came to be. However, in my opinion, our present intellectual and scientific resources are not sufficient to give us even the beginnings of such a theory.” (Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare, p. 9)

    There is a tremendous amount of evidence that science will eventually solve all scientific questions like the cause of the universe 14 billion years ago. The evidence is that the scientific method has always worked. But the question Donald thinks will be solved (What is consciousness?) is not a scientific question. Another non-scientific question is: What is causality?

    Rational people, aware of the structure of the human mind, know that human beings are embodied spirits.

    This is discussed more fully in my essay at http://www.newevangelization.info/styled/code-5/index.html.

  72. #72 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    Richard Wein:

    “Arithmetic has been abstracted so that it is not dependent on empirical reality.”

    Your wording here suggests that arithmetic was empirically grounded, but has since been formalised into an independent axiomatic system.

    That admits at least half of what I’m asserting, that our mathematics derives from empirical reality (even if it is now a series of “if {axiom} then …” statements).

  73. #73 Richard Wein
    December 28, 2011

    @Verbose Stoic

    I agree with you, though I would prefer to talk about different formal systems, rather than different axioms. Arithmetic is a formal system fixed by usage, and not originally by stated axioms. Axioms, like those of Peano, were retroactively fitted to a formal system that grew organically. Other branches of mathematics (such as non-Euclidean geometries) may have been defined by axioms from the start.

    What Coelsblog is proposing is a new formal system. “2+2=5″ may be a statement consistent with that formal system, but it’s not consistent with the existing formal system that we are referring to when we do arithmetic. It might be that in Coelsblog’s imagined unviverse his formal system would be a useful one. But it would still be a different one from our arithmetic.

    I think considerable confusion is caused by thinking that “true” and “fact” mean the same thing when we are talking about formal statements (statements within a formal system like arithmetic) as when we are talking about empirical statements (like “the Earth is round”). Empirical statements are models of reality, and are “true” in the sense that they correspond to reality. Formal statements are not models; they are “true” in the sense that they are consistent with a particular formal system. Their “truth” is relative to the formal system in question. Unless someone explicitly relativises to a different formal system, we should interpret arithmetic claims relative to our familiar arithmetic system. And “2+2=5″ can never be consistent with that system.

  74. #74 JimV
    December 28, 2011

    Re: Verbose Stoic at #61.

    It could be I’m using empirical too loosely. To me it means obtaining facts by observing the world. I started by observing that every non-prime in my huge list of numbers which was the sum of two squares had factors which were the sum of two squares (familiar example 25 = 9+16 = 5*5; 5 = 1 +4). Then I wrote the equation (a^2 + b^2)*(c^2 + d^2) = (multiplied it out), and observed that I could rearrange the result into the sum of two squares. That process seemed to me to consist largely of empirical observations about the world (for me the world consists of numbers as well as biological species, geographical features, etc.).

    Underlying this is my personal conviction that there is no magic and that our brains are biological machines which sort through possibilities rapidly (using the computational power of 100 billion synapses, which far exceeds the capacity of the biggest super-computer yet developed), using previously-derived results as short-cuts where possible, so that even parsing symbolic logic – although it may seem like magic since we are not consciously aware of what all our neurons are doing – is not magic, but at base an empirical process, which could be reduced to Turing’s NAND circuits.

  75. #75 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    @Verbose Stoic

    I guess my disagreement with you comes down to a remark of yours in the previous thread:

    “Perhaps it is best to think of it as this: mathematics and philosophy are about universals that apply to all universes. Science is about particulars that apply to this one.”

    Suppose that out of N possible formal-logic systems, that in one of them 2+2=4, and that our mathematicians pick out that system because of the empirical match to our universe.

    Given, that, it would seem to me maths within that one formal-logic system is no more a “universal” than our science is, and indeed is about the particulars of our world in exactly the same way.

    One could propose that examination of the properties of all N possible formal-logic systems would indeed be about “universals”, but that’s not what our maths/philosophy is about, and I have severe doubts that humans are capable of it (programmed as we are with the logic of our world).

  76. #76 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Old Fuzz, “scientism” is a word that has a long history and it isn’t merely invented as a term of invective by religion, there are atheists who have rejected scientism as well as agnostics, I’d guess agnostics should be as skeptical of scientism as they might be of any religious dogma.

    I don’t agree with NOMA for a very simple reason. Science is a formal system invented for the purpose of obtaining greater reliability in what can be known of the PHYSICAL universe. Its methods and practices are made for that and only that. Not all of the physical universe can be successfully subjected to science both because of practical limits in the ability of trained people to do that and because there are parts of the physical universe that we don’t know how to subject to those methods. Whether or not those parts of the physical universe that we can’t presently subject to science could, possibly, be subjected to it resulting in reliable knowledge is unknowable. Anyone who believes that the entire physical universe can be subjected to scientific methods is expressing a belief, not knowledge.

    Science is bound within its self-imposed restrictions, when it has gone outside of those it has produced “knowledge” of less reliability, much of it eventually gets overturned.

    Other areas of thought, history, the law, philosophy, the arts, literature, etc. including religion, don’t have those same restrictions, they are free to consult science in their thinking and their formal writing. Science can only take from those what it can fit into its methods. Science can’t accommodate anything other than what it can subject to its methods and it can’t address anything but what it can subject to its methods. It can tell you that life evolved on Earth over a period of billions of years, it can’t tell you anything about that life except the tiny part of it for which it has physical evidence. It can refute the literal interpretation of Genesis, it can show that it didn’t happen that way. It can’t do much more than that in regard to a belief in the creation of life by a God. You don’t have to believe it but if you think science supports your disbelief, you are mistaken because science can’t deal with that question.

  77. #77 kowalskil
    December 28, 2011

    Futile conflicts between theists and atheists, often amounting to “we are better than you” confrontations, are common, as one can verify by browsing the Internet. Those who promote such poisonous conflicts are usually neither scientists nor theologians. Is it desirable to end such confrontations? Is it possible to end them? If yes, then how?

    Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia)
    http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/life/intro.html

  78. #78 Richard Wein
    December 28, 2011

    @coelsblog

    That admits at least half of what I’m asserting, that our mathematics derives from empirical reality (even if it is now a series of “if {axiom} then …” statements).

    Regardless of how our arithmetic terms were originally derived, their meaning now is overwhelmingly an abstract one. And given that meaning it is necessarily true that “2+2=4″.

    Incidentally, even if we had always lived in the weird universe you posit, there would still be good reason for us to come up with our current system of arithmetic, as well as the one that would be useful for counting physical objects in that universe. Arithmetic is also useful for purposes other than counting physical objects.

  79. #79 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    Richard Wein:

    And given that meaning it is necessarily true that “2+2=4″.

    But it is only “necessarily true” within one particular formal-logic system out of the N possible formal-logic systems (and it will be false in many of these others). That’s quite a restricted sense of “necessarily true”.

  80. #80 Colin Day
    December 28, 2011

    @sean t
    #28

    The two statements are only contradictory if we take the term “triangle” as having the same meaning in both cases. A spherical triangle is not a Euclidean triangle.

  81. #81 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    Richard Wein:

    “even if we had always lived in the weird universe you posit, there would still be good reason for us to come up with our current system of arithmetic”

    Would there? Suppose our current system of arithmetic had no empirical matching to this weird alternative universe. What good reasons would there then be to come up with it? (If there were empirical matching, then yes I agree with you, for that reason.)

  82. #82 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Even more provocative is the question of whether or not arithmetic and mathematics are peculiar to our kind of life, the product of our peculiar mental equipment instead of a necessary conception of the relationships in the physical universe as it is.

    I don’t know if it is or isn’t and I doubt anyone else does either. I’d guess you would have to be able to exit a human POV in order to see that and, unless someone has that ability, no one can. Even if they could how could they inform anyone else of it?

  83. #83 Andrew G.
    December 28, 2011

    Without a clear consensus among philosophers nothing can be considered settled.

    There are, as far as I know, no important questions within philosophy itself for which a consensus answer exists.

    There are statements like “philosophy is useful” which probably do command a consensus, but for such statements we would not regard such a consensus as carrying any weight (we expect philosophers to answer that in the affirmative regardless of the true answer).

    In fact, science gives us a whole load of reasons to distrust philosophy. The fact that philosophers don’t in general converge on a correct answer to a question is in itself an empirical demonstration that philosophical reasoning is not an especially reliable truth-finding procedure; psychology, in turn, tells us why this is the case, by showing us our cognitive biases, our inability in general to correctly follow rational argument, and so on.

    As for other disciplines, we generally find that their reliability depends on the extent to which they use or respect scientific methods. One example mentioned is law; courts rely much more on witness testimony than is scientifically justified, and as a result we find that they have an unnecessarily high error rate.

  84. #84 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    coelsblog,

    Suppose that out of N possible formal-logic systems, that in one of them 2+2=4, and that our mathematicians pick out that system because of the empirical match to our universe.

    Of course, our disagreement is that a) I don’t think that’s what occurred and b) I think that when we actually understand what mathematics and mathematicians are doing, any notion of an “empirical match” is nonsensical.

    So, let’s try to find this so-called “empirical match”. What is it? You’ve said, basically, that you take 2 objects, put them together with another 2 objects, and count them, and get 4 objects. That, then, might be your empirical match. The problem is that you need to have definitions of what “2″ and “4″ are before you can even try to do that, and those won’t be empirically derived. Without the mathematical backing, what you’ll have are meaningless words until you tie it to some kind of number system, so the empirical match must be previous to that sort of observation. So, could choosing the number system be your empirical match?

    Maybe. We work in base 10, and so say that 2+2=4. We could use binary and say that 10+10=100. It’s quite possible — and likely — that the reason we use base 10 is because we have 10 fingers and so counting on our fingers — ie using them as placeholders — makes base 10 more intuitive for us. So that could be your empirical match. But then we turn to computers that use binary because that’s more “natural” for them, and see that it’s a pragmatic choice, not an empirically justified choice. Thus, base 10 is chosen because it’s easier, not because it’s more right in this world.

    It gets worse. When we say that 2+2=4 or 10+10=100, what has changed are the NUMERALS, not the NUMBERS. Both systems refer to the exact same concept of numbers, and so are using the same ones. From that, if I wanted to define a number system where 2+2=5, I could do that as long as the numeral 5 mapped to the number 4 and be correct. If I don’t, it isn’t. So here we can see it is nonsensical to talk about an empirical match or it being any different; as long as you are talking about the number 4, no empirical (or particular) concern can impact your proposition.

  85. #85 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    Andrew G.,

    In fact, science gives us a whole load of reasons to distrust philosophy. The fact that philosophers don’t in general converge on a correct answer to a question is in itself an empirical demonstration that philosophical reasoning is not an especially reliable truth-finding procedure; psychology, in turn, tells us why this is the case, by showing us our cognitive biases, our inability in general to correctly follow rational argument, and so on.

    The problem is that if you then go on to actually look at the philosophy that’s being done, you’ll discover that the reason there is no convergence on a correct answer is that when we look at all the arguments we find that there are it seems very large problems that need to be sorted out before the argument can be accepted. It isn’t any of those psychological reasons that are generally causing the problem, but good, solid, rational objections that are causing the problem. Which, then, shows that in the case of people making the argument you do the problem is not with philosophy, but with the people making the argument not understanding enough philosophy to know what the issues actually are.

  86. #86 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    JimV,

    It could be I’m using empirical too loosely. To me it means obtaining facts by observing the world.

    I think you’re defining “observing” too broadly. I didn’t address it directly, but why do you think that generating lots of numbers and looking at their conceptual properties counts as “observing the world”?

  87. #87 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    Richard Wein,

    I think considerable confusion is caused by thinking that “true” and “fact” mean the same thing when we are talking about formal statements (statements within a formal system like arithmetic) as when we are talking about empirical statements (like “the Earth is round”).

    Well, I think that “fact” and “true” DO mean the same thing across all domains. What differs are the methods for getting at truths and the truth conditions of statements in those domains. The problem, to me, is people mistakenly thinking that methods and conditions of truths are the same thing as truths and then taking their favoured method as the standard across all domains. That’s a recipe for disaster, in my opinion.

    For me, one of the things that’s unique about philosophy is that the method and conditions of truth for a statement must themselves be argued for. You don’t get a lot of backing from previous investigations for a particular method when using it for a new one. Philosophy continually asks “Is this proposition to be justified empirically? Rationally? Psychologically?” for all of its investigations. That’s why we can end up asking if epistemology should be naturalized and what it would mean if we did … and philosophers can argue back as to why it shouldn’t (I’m not a big fan of naturalized epistemology).

  88. #88 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Andrew G. philosophy can deal with problems and issues that science can’t deal with, including problems in the foundations of science.

    psychology, in turn, tells us why this is the case, by showing us our cognitive biases, our inability in general to correctly follow rational argument, and so on.

    You begin by condemning philosophy because it lacks consensus then you turn to PSYCHOLOGY to back it up? The “science” that has disposed of two major schools and countless minor schools in the course of it’s brief existence? Not to mention a third major school which looks to me as if it’s about to teeter into the overcrowded bone yard of decommissioned behavioral “science”. Show me the consensus within psychology.

    I will agree with you that science is dependable to the extent it keeps within the bounds of its abilities and topics which can be successfully treated with scientific methods. There is, however, no way to apply those methods outside of the very small area of human experience which are susceptible to scientific methods.

    Tell me the scientific basis for contract law, due process, the right to a speedy trial and most of the other things which people have invented courts to deal with. The law, like science, are the product of human experience and formal consensus derived from that experience. However, dealing with far more than science can and to areas of that experience which can’t be abstracted to the extent that the topics of science are, the results will be of a different character. Like science, which isn’t an actual intellectual reproduction of nature, when it is done right, it is the current best that we can do in dealing with those parts of our experience.

  89. #89 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    Jason,

    A few people now have go on about what you think is the important point, that religion is excluded as a legitimate way of knowing. But looking back in the post, I don’t see how you actually do that except by stipulation. You in some way tried to argue that scientific methods can be used by other fields, which somehow got mathematics and philosophy in, but then you just listed all the things that don’t make it in without really saying why, except perhaps by a mostly unstated appeal to reliability. So how DO you actually exclude religion as a legitimate way of knowing, and does that exclusion survive the fact that there are at least attempted philosophical arguments for some of what religion claims to be true?

  90. #90 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    So how DO you actually exclude religion as a legitimate way of knowing

    Its knowledge claims are not based on the scientific method (observation, experiment, reason) but on faith and revelation.

  91. #91 Verbose Stoic
    December 28, 2011

    MattiR,

    Its knowledge claims are not based on the scientific method (observation, experiment, reason) but on faith and revelation.

    So? The claim you make above is a narrower form of science than some would like, and might actually exclude things like philosophy if interpreted in some ways as opposed to others. I don’t think that that can be based on a broad enough definition to include philosophy and not religion, especially given, as I said, the fact that there are philosophical arguments for the existence of some religions claims. Even if it did work, without getting a definition that was justified as being THE only way to get knowledge — which yours is not — there’d still be the response that there’s no reason to think that just because it isn’t scientific means that it isn’t a legitimate method for getting knowledge.

  92. #92 Stu
    December 28, 2011

    there’s no reason to think that just because it isn’t scientific means that it isn’t a legitimate method for getting knowledge.

    Why would it be?

  93. #93 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    So?

    So, faith and revelation do not produce knowledge. That’s how we exclude religion as a “way of knowing.”

    Some religious claims may happen to be true by accident, just as some guesses and wishful thinking may happen to be true. But that doesn’t make them knowledge.

    there’d still be the response that there’s no reason to think that just because it isn’t scientific means that it isn’t a legitimate method for getting knowledge.

    Of course there’s reason. How do we choose between multiple contradictory claims of knowledge made on the basis of faith or revelation? What reason is to think that one is true rather than another?

  94. #94 Wowbagger
    December 28, 2011

    I’m wondering – what are the best examples of worthwhile knowledge gained from ‘other ways of knowing’ alone, and which cannot be explained via alternative means? I know we’ve had some generalities listed, but surely there must be some specifics.

  95. #95 dexitroboper
    December 28, 2011

    Mathematics is a language invented to describe abstract patterns of order and symmetry. Sometimes those patterns match the patterns found in the natural world and then mathematics is used in science. ’2 + 2 = 5′ involves a contradiction to the usual definitions of those terms and can’t, therefore, be used to describe any pattern of behavior. If there’s a pattern of behavior that looks like ’2+2=5′ then it would be simpler to invent a new notation to describe this than to use the conventional notation.

  96. #96 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “I think that when we actually understand what mathematics and mathematicians are doing, any notion of an “empirical match” is nonsensical.”

    I flat out disagree — our mathematics was arrived at owing to correspondence with our empirical world (mathematicians might since have turned it into an axiom-based systems, but the axioms are still those derived from our world).

    “You’ve said, basically, that you take 2 objects, put them together with another 2 objects, and count them, and get 4 objects. [...] The problem is that you need to have definitions of what “2″ and “4″ are before you can even try to do that, and those won’t be empirically derived.”

    Of course they are! This stuff, including what “2″ and “4″ and “+” meant, was all worked out empirically centuries before mathematicians later worried about axiomatic logic.

  97. #97 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    “if I wanted to define a number system where 2+2=5, I could do that as long as the numeral 5 mapped to the number 4 and be correct. If I don’t, it isn’t.”

    For clarification, what are you asserting here? Are you asserting that there is no possible formal-logical system in which 2+2=5 (talking base-10)? Thus you are asserting that 2+2=4 is a necessary truth in all conceivable formal-logical systems? (And even ones that *we* cannot conceive of, but could still exist?)

    Or are you merely asserting that in *our* formal-logical system (the one our mathematicians use, which grew out of an empirical rooting in our universe) it is necessary that 2+2=4?

    If the former, then that’s highly interesting, but can you defend the claim?

  98. #98 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    So how DO you actually exclude religion as a legitimate way of knowing

    Its knowledge claims are not based on the scientific method (observation, experiment, reason) but on faith and revelation.

    Posted by: MattiR

    First, you guys will ignore that most of what religion claims isn’t knowledge but belief, which is convenient to the new atheist project but which is a dishonest distortion of much of religion.

    Second you will ignore the enormous amount of what is claimed as knowledge by everyone which isn’t the product of scientific methods, even as you present that kind of knowledge and even much “knowledge” in your comments. How do you know that:

    “Its knowledge claims are not based on the scientific method (observation, experiment, reason) but on faith and revelation.”

    There is no scientific validation of that idea so your statement falls short of your own rule for determining the “legitimate way of knowing”.

    Even more, there is no scientific validation of the idea that “scientific method (observation, experiment, reason)” are the only means of knowing something. I have no scientific knowledge that Christopher Hitches died the other week, in fact, I have no scientific evidence that he ever lived and is not, in fact, a fiction. Am I supposed to stop believing in his existence because of that?

  99. #99 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2011

    Bleh. Mathematics is about quantities; numerals and bases are just arbitrary ways of referring to quantities.

    • • • • = •••• (1+1+1+1=4)

    ••• • = •••• (3+1=4)

    •• •• = •••• (2+2=4)

    How would it be logically possible to combine two sets of two quantities and not get four quantities, regardless of how you chose to refer to them?

  100. #100 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “We could use binary and say that 10+10=100.”

    Saying that we could make 2+2 equal something other than 4 by changing the nomenclature (e.g. IV in Roman) is obvious, trite and uninteresting. What I’m considering is the concept of adding two items to an empty bag, adding two more, then counting the items in the bag and obtaining five.

    Obviously that doesn’t happen in our world, but is there a reason why there could not exist a weird alternative universe exhibiting that behaviour? If so, please explain that reason.

    Also, are you asserting that there could not exist some alternative formal-logical system that mapped to that behaviour? If so, then I accept that 2+2=4 is a “necessary” truth. But if there isn’t, then it’s merely a feature of our universe.

  101. #101 coelsblog
    December 28, 2011

    Owlmirror:

    How would it be logically possible to combine two sets of two quantities and not get four quantities, regardless of how you chose to refer to them?”

    By re-writing logic, obviously! Do you have a proof that our logic is “necessary” in the sense that all possible alternative universes must abide by it, and that they could not operate on their own, different logic?

  102. #102 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    most of what religion claims isn’t knowledge but belief

    The point is that the beliefs are not justified. Religion is not a “way of knowing.”

    Second you will ignore the enormous amount of what is claimed as knowledge by everyone which isn’t the product of scientific methods

    What would that be? Observation, experiment and reason are not limited to formal scientific inquiry. Ordinary people also use them constantly in everyday life. “I know I left my keys on the table because I can see them there” is a perfectly legitimate claim of knowledge. “I know Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour because the Bible tells me so” is not.

    There is no scientific validation of that idea …

    Of course there is. Religious adherents explicitly cite faith and revelation to justify their claims of knowledge.

    Even more, there is no scientific validation of the idea that “scientific method (observation, experiment, reason)” are the only means of knowing something. I have no scientific knowledge that Christopher Hitches died the other week

    You have strong evidence that Christopher Hitchens is dead, in the form of reports from his family and doctors and others who have been around him and his body. It’s possible, but wildly implausible, that his death was faked and that he is still alive somewhere in some secret location. Unless you are some bizarre conspiracy theorist, I doubt you seriously believe that Hitchens is still alive.

  103. #103 Stu
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony, why the sophistry? It’s very transparent and sophomoric.

  104. #104 Wowbagger
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    First, you guys will ignore that most of what religion claims isn’t knowledge but belief, which is convenient to the new atheist project but which is a dishonest distortion of much of religion.

    You’re confusing ‘ignoring’ with ‘rejecting as intellectually dishonest’, Anthony – mostly because when what is considered religious ‘knowledge’ can be demonstrated to be false, it is then argued that it’s actually a ‘belief’ (and has been all along), and therefore is immune from criticism.

    A kind of shell game with a bonus ‘get of out jail free’ card, if you will.

    The best example is the Christian who will argue their god is outside of time and space (and therefore beyond the scope of science), yet is somehow able to communicate his wishes, perform miracles and make his image appear in baked goods.

  105. #105 Stu
    December 28, 2011

    And help Tim Tebow, of course.

  106. #106 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2011

    Do you have a proof that our logic is “necessary” in the sense that all possible alternative universes must abide by it, and that they could not operate on their own, different logic?

    I don’t think you could get a consistent universe, since you would get incoherent math, much like you would get if you “allowed” division by zero.

    How can “=” mean what it does if (2+2=5iverse) •••• “=” ••••• ?

  107. #107 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2011

    in fact, I have no scientific evidence that he ever lived and is not, in fact, a fiction. Am I supposed to stop believing in his existence because of that?

    So who wrote his books and articles, and made his appearances on video?

    If you think that “Hitchens” was some sort of publishing house name, there should be evidence in the form of contracts and other legal and financial instruments.

    It’s not like someone is trying to promote a religion whereby if you believe that Hitchens exists (or existed), you get free alcohol in the afterlife, or something stupid like that.

  108. #108 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    So who wrote his books and articles, and made his appearances on video? Owlmirror

    You know that he wrote those books and articles and made his appearances on video with science? Explain how your knowledge of those things is based on the methods of science? It wasn’t a question of whether or not Hitchens existed, it’s a question of whether or not you know that through the methods of science, or don’t you understand what this discussion is about?

    Wow, Stu, you want to take that question as well?

  109. #109 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2011

    You know that he wrote those books and articles and made his appearances on video with science?

    I sure as hell don’t know it by a revelation from an invisible person with magical superpowers.

  110. #110 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    You know that he wrote those books and articles and made his appearances on video with science?

    Yes, we know those things through observation and reason, through empirical evidence. I don’t know why you’re having such a hard time understanding this.

  111. #111 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    There is no scientific validation of that idea …

    Of course there is. Religious adherents explicitly cite faith and revelation to justify their claims of knowledge. MattiR

    You claimed: “Its (religion’s) knowledge claims are not based on the scientific method (observation, experiment, reason) but on faith and revelation.”

    That’s a universal statement about the “knowledge claims” made by religion, without distinguishing any particular “knowledge claims”. Well, as I pointed out above, there isn’t anything that keeps religion from incorporating ideas from science as part of its “knowledge claims”, so those wouldn’t be covered by your blanket statement. There are other claims that might be based in historical or other well documented facts that are incorporated by religion as well, though you, apparently, don’t count historical fact as “legitimate knowledge”, despite how well it is documented, many of which are far more founded in physical evidence than much of science.

    You also didn’t distinguish among different religions which are of vastly different character in claiming “knowledge”. It’s possible for religion to make very modest claims of knowledge while addressing its substance in terms of belief. Of course, for the new atheist, that is a problem because it doesn’t provide them with any expansive, fundamentalist content for them to knock over with a feather. Which is why new atheists ignore that as they make their own expansive, fundamentalist claims of knowledge, which are often easily refuted, though my experience is that the new atheist will immediately start bawling “straw man” or “goalpost moving” or “cherry picking” or “woo, Overton, or Poe” or some other pseudo-discursive dodge to avoid dealing with their false claims of knowledge.

  112. #112 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Owlmirror, stop dodging. I was refuting a statement of scientism, I wasn’t talking about revelation, which I haven’t given as a source of “knowledge” anywhere online or off.

    If you believe that science is the only source of legitimate knowledge, you can’t legitimately claim to know anything that isn’t revealed by science. Which is probably just about everything you actually believe you know. I’m not surprised to see people pretending to believe that being wildly inconsistent, it’s something that fundamentalists generally are.

  113. #113 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    You know that he wrote those books and articles and made his appearances on video with science?

    Yes, we know those things through observation and reason, through empirical evidence. I don’t know why you’re having such a hard time understanding this. MattiR

    Imagine my surprise that you don’t understand anything about what science is. What method quantitative analysis have you subjected the proposition that Hitchens wrote his stuff and appeared on his videos to? Where did you publish?

  114. #114 Wowbagger
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Well, as I pointed out above, there isn’t anything that keeps religion from incorporating ideas from science as part of its “knowledge claims”, so those wouldn’t be covered by your blanket statement.

    Yes, once a claim that was once considered religious is validated by science/empiricism it can be called ‘religious knowledge’ – but when it is called into question by science, it remains a ‘belief’ and is therefore considered immune from criticism.

    It’s possible for religion to make very modest claims of knowledge while addressing its substance in terms of belief.

    Such as?

  115. #115 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    That’s a universal statement about the “knowledge claims” made by religion, without distinguishing any particular “knowledge claims”. Well, as I pointed out above, there isn’t anything that keeps religion from incorporating ideas from science as part of its “knowledge claims”, so those wouldn’t be covered by your blanket statement.

    I’m talking about religious claims justified by appeals to “other ways of knowing,” most commonly faith and revelation. I deny that there are “ways of knowing” other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, rational inquiry.

  116. #116 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    What method quantitative analysis have you subjected the proposition that Hitchens wrote his stuff and appeared on his videos to? Where did you publish?

    We didn’t publish. We know these things as a matter of everyday knowledge from informal observations of Hitchens’ books and articles and videos, not as formal scientific knowledge published in a scientific journal.

  117. #117 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    I’m talking about religious claims justified by appeals to “other ways of knowing,” most commonly faith and revelation.

    List some of those claims and who is making the claim that those are knowledge instead of belief. Until you do that your statement is a meaningless assertion, not to mention an absurd generalization. I don’t doubt that they are there, though I’m certain that many religious people wouldn’t agree that a single one of them constitutes knowledge as opposed to belief.

    I deny that there are “ways of knowing” other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, rational inquiry.

    I think you might be surprised that science is a bit more than that. It inevitably involves measurement and counting.
    So you do exclude history, personal experience, legal testimony and anything else that hasn’t been produced by science. I wonder how you get through a day? By faith?

    As I said in the first part of this discussion, the fact that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963 is as well known as any factual knowledge provided by science. That there was a massive genocide in Europe in the 1930s and early 40s is another thing that is known as certainly as anything known in science, neither of those are known through the methods of science.

  118. #118 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    We know these things as a matter of everyday knowledge from informal observations of Hitchens’ books and articles and videos, not as formal scientific knowledge published in a scientific journal. MattiR

    As I said, imagine my surprise that you prove you don’t know the first thing about what science is and what it isn’t. By your own criteria, you don’t know those things because what you rely on is completely inadequate as science.

    I think you might want to look at George Edward Moore and his critics before you go wrongly off into the future.

  119. #119 Wowbagger
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    I don’t doubt that they are there, though I’m certain that many religious people wouldn’t agree that a single one of them constitutes knowledge as opposed to belief.

    Why don’t you provide some examples – it doesn’t have to be many, maybe the five (in your opinion) best – of religious claims that constitute knowledge but do not count as beliefs?

  120. #120 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    List some of those claims and who is making the claim that those are knowledge instead of belief.

    Christians often claim to know that there is a God, that God loves us, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins, for example. Christians who say they merely believe these propositions rather than know them face the question of why these beliefs are justified.

    I think you might be surprised that science is a bit more than that. It inevitably involves measurement and counting.

    Formal scientific inquiry conducted by professional scientists obviously involves various practises and conventions that are not present in ordinary, everyday acts of observation, experiment and reasoning. But no one is saying that knowledge is limited to the findings of formal, professional science. That’s just your silly sophistry. As I already told you, a claim such as “I know my keys are on the table because I can see them there” is a perfectly legitimate claim of knowledge. “I know that God loves me, because my faith tells me so” is not. I don’t know why you keep pretending not to understand the distinction we are making.

  121. #121 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Wowbagger, I didn’t make the blanket statement, it’s not my responsibility to clarify it.

    I’ve been reading Joseph Priestley’s book refuting Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason this week. Priestley incorporated his knowledge of contemporary science into his arguments, stating variations on some of the same arguments I’ve used on these blogs. Of course, despite being a very fine scientist in his time, he also believed in phlogiston, which was not an uncommon belief among many of the big names in science at the time. Though I’m sure many of them would have said that they knew it and that even more people reading them would say they knew it existed because the great scientists said it did. Just as many an atheist I’ve argued with says that they know that memes are real on the same basis.

  122. #122 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Christians often claim to know that there is a God, that God loves us, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins….

    Well, some say they know that, those I’m familiar with say that the believe it. Priestley was a Christian who didn’t believe quite a bit of that litany, I’m sure he would be able to distinguish between what he knew and what he believed, though he was also quite brilliant in being able to point out that most of the knowledge that the deists and atheists of his time wouldn’t refute was “known” on them by exactly the same quality of evidence that Christians knew much of what they said they knew. Though, of course, many of them would actually have said that they believed much of it.

    Formal scientific inquiry conducted by professional scientists obviously involves ….

    Please, go on demonstrating that you don’t understand what science is and what it isn’t, you’re providing such a good example for an argument I’ve made all along.

    I’m going to come back later, I’ve got something to do.

  123. #123 Wowbagger
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Wowbagger, I didn’t make the blanket statement, it’s not my responsibility to clarify it.

    But you’ve asserted – numerous times in this thread – that ‘other ways of knowing’ can provide valid, reliable knowledge of something that is distinguishable from a belief that lies outside of science. Surely there must be examples?

    Of course, despite being a very fine scientist in his time, he also believed in phlogiston, which was not an uncommon belief among many of the big names in science at the time.

    Was belief in phlogiston shown to be wrong by virtue of an ‘other way of knowing’, or via science?

    Just as many an atheist I’ve argued with says that they know that memes are real on the same basis.

    Let’s say for argument’s sake that memes aren’t real. Do you think that demonstrating that they aren’t would have more or less impact on those who believe that they are real than demonstrating that (for example) the Christian god doesn’t exist would have on Christians?

  124. #124 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    Well, some say they know that, those I’m familiar with say that the believe it.

    Christians routinely claim to know that their fundamental religious beliefs are true. The Catholic Catechism, which is the official statement of the teachings of the largest branch of the largest religion in the world, repeatedly states that its basic propositions about the existence and nature of God are knowledge.

    As for your religious acquaintances who supposedly claim merely to believe the propositions of their religion rather than know them to be true, they face the question of why their religious beliefs are justified.

  125. #125 Anton Mates
    December 28, 2011

    Verbose Stoic,

    With any strict definition, reinterpretation isn’t allowed. There is, in fact, no latitude at all in how it is to be applied.

    On the contrary, it’s impossible to prohibit reinterpretation. Humans aren’t telepathic, so we have no way to be sure that the concept evoked in my mind by a definition is exactly the same as the one evoked in yours. And even if we were telepathic, I could never verify that you will derive all the infinite consequences and ramifications of your concept “correctly.”

    This is the whole point of strictly defining something; to make it totally and unchangeably clear what the right interpretation is.

    If that was the point, the entire attempt would be futile. In the first place, even the strictest definition is either circular or relies on primitive (undefined) terms. The interpretation of those terms is necessarily ambiguous.

    In the second place, even if others agree with you on the meaning of those terms, it is impossible to unambiguously teach them how to apply the definition in logical reasoning. You may propose rules of inference to guide them, but they may apply those rules “incorrectly” unless you propose additional rules about their application, and so on to infinity. (Lewis Carroll famously pointed this out in “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles.”)

    In fact, strictly defining something is an empirical endeavour. One is looking for a definition which most people appear to apply in the same way every time, if they think about it hard enough, and for which most people don’t seem irresolvably confused about whether any given mental object qualifiies. We can often find definitions which are “strict enough,” because humans happen to to be somewhat similar in their thought.

    It may be psychologically possible to do that, but they would be wrong. And they would be wrong precisely because, at the end of the day, either they do NOT use the same axioms we do or they apply them improperly, depending on whether they are reinterpreting — and therefore changing — the axioms or are making in error in teasing out their implications.

    That merely demonstrates that their axiom interpretations and/or their processes of logical inference are different from ours. It doesn’t do anything to show that we’re right and they’re wrong.

  126. #126 MattiR
    December 28, 2011

    history and law are valid, at least somewhat non-scientific ways of knowing, for example; science doesn’t solve political or moral questions, etc

    But the only way history and law can produce knowledge is through observation and rational inquiry, so you’re not making any relevant distinction here. To the extent that disciplines other than those formally classified as sciences incorporate the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning — they too can produce knowledge. You’re just arguing over words, rather than identifying any substantively different “way of knowing” than the methods of science.

  127. #127 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    MattiR, you must not be aware that at every mass the Creed is recited, I believe in God… and in Jesus Christ…. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints…. There isn’t any place in the Creed that says “I know”. In a quick look at the new catechism, I see the word “know” as in “to know God” but that’s more in the sense of “to be familiar with” than it is to know something on the basis of proof.

    What in the official catechism are are referring to? I would like an actual link to it online so I can find what you’re talking about.

    You really should clear up your pretty sloppy assertions about science because it really does live or die based on its formal methods and not on something that is purported to be merely sciency but which lacks that formal foundation. Though I’m aware that there are many new atheists and “skeptics” who don’t seem to understand that distinction.

  128. #128 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Let’s say for argument’s sake that memes aren’t real. Wowbagger

    Let’s admit that there is not the first bit of evidence that they are real, not to mention that the idea has so many internal inconsistencies (especially in Dennett’s exposition of them) that the idea isn’t even logically coherent. Yet it is fully believed by many, many people who claim what’s claimed by so many that they don’t accept anything except on the basis of evidence of a quality to pass muster as being science. They fully believe it is supported science because Richard Dawkins proposed it in The Selfish Gene. And he’s a scientist.

    I think the arguments about phlogiston are more interesting.

    I forget if it was you or one of your fellow ideologues who falsely claimed that I made some kind of statement about the existence of God being provable. I’ve always said here that the idea that God, defined as supernatural, would be susceptible to the methods of science is irrational and a demonstration of ignorance. The methods of science and logic, validated solely through their application in the material universe, are of unknowable applicability to any proposed supernatural. You might as well propose settling questions of science through politics or create mathematical proofs with the methods they accept as valid in psychology. Though apparently that kind of vagary is acceptable to some of the sciency among us.

  129. #129 Wowbagger
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Let’s admit that there is not the first bit of evidence that they are real, not to mention that the idea has so many internal inconsistencies (especially in Dennett’s exposition of them) that the idea isn’t even logically coherent. Yet it is fully believed by many, many people who claim what’s claimed by so many that they don’t accept anything except on the basis of evidence of a quality to pass muster as being science. They fully believe it is supported science because Richard Dawkins proposed it in The Selfish Gene. And he’s a scientist.

    Are you unaware of what someone means when they preface something with ‘for the sake of argument’? It means the argument itself is irrelevant to the point being made – i.e. it’s not what I asked. I’m not interested in whether memes are real or not, what I’m interested in is your response to this: Do you think that demonstrating that they [memes] aren’t would have more or less impact on those who believe that they are real than demonstrating that (for example) the Christian god doesn’t exist would have on Christians?

    Oh, and just for the record: pointing out that people are capable of believing unsupported claims does not make other, unrelated unsupportable claims any less so.

    I think the arguments about phlogiston are more interesting.

    Once again, not what I asked. Let’s try a second time: Was belief in phlogiston shown to be wrong by virtue of an ‘other way of knowing’, or via science?

    Or was that your oblique way of stating you believe in phlogiston?

    I’ve always said here that the idea that God, defined as supernatural, would be susceptible to the methods of science is irrational and a demonstration of ignorance.

    Where, exactly, did you obtain the knowledge of what God is or isn’t susceptible to in order to make this claim?

  130. #130 Wowbagger
    December 28, 2011

    Anthony, I’m not concerned with the argument for (or against) memes – hence why I wrote ‘Let’s say for argument’s sake that memes aren’t real’. What I’m interested in is this:

    Do you think that demonstrating that they [memes] aren’t real would have more or less impact on those who believe that they are real than demonstrating that (for example) the Christian god doesn’t exist would have on Christians?

    Incidentally, demonstrating that a person believes in unsupported claims (if that is the case with memes) doesn’t make unsupported claims made by other people any less so.

    I think the arguments about phlogiston are more interesting.

    Again, not what I asked. What I asked was this: Was belief in phlogiston shown to be wrong by virtue of an ‘other way of knowing’, or via science?

    Or was your comment your oblique way of saying you believe in phlogiston?

    I’ve always said here that the idea that God, defined as supernatural, would be susceptible to the methods of science is irrational and a demonstration of ignorance.

    How, exactly, did you come by this knowledge regarding what God is or isn’t susceptible to? Defining God as supernatural as one thing, but how do you determine if it’s true or false?

  131. #131 Anthony McCarthy
    December 28, 2011

    Do you think that demonstrating that they [memes] aren’t real would have more or less impact on those who believe that they are real than demonstrating that (for example) the Christian god doesn’t exist would have on Christians?

    If memes are real they present an enormous problem for anyone who tries to get an objective view of the universe, such as scientism believes is possible. There would be absolutely no way to tease an objective view out of the rats nest of memes that would impinge on every aspect of our view of everything. If they don’t exist, that would certainly pose a problem for the true believers in Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, not to mention Susan Blackmore. As most scientists I’m aware of think the idea is anything but entirely superfluous to a load of nonsense anyway, I doubt it would impinge on real science much.

    As Thomas Jefferson called himself a “Christian” (he also endorsed Priestley’s theology) while being a deist (though I don’t understand how he could be if he supported Priestley), perhaps the lack of a God would not be fatal to a belief in the teachings of Jesus. The late, much missed, John Mortimer endorsed a group called “Atheists for Jesus”.

    As to God being supernatural, that’s not an idea I invented. I believe I usually talk about such things in the conditional.

    Incidentally, demonstrating that a person believes in unsupported claims (if that is the case with memes) doesn’t make unsupported claims made by other people any less so.

    I didn’t claim that it did, I was pointing out the lapse in honesty of people who claim to have risen above such error by virtue of their atheistic sciencyness.

  132. #132 Owlmirror
    December 29, 2011

    I’ve always said here that the idea that God, defined as supernatural

    And how do you define “supernatural”?

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html

  133. #133 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Owlmirror:

    “I don’t think you could get a consistent universe, since you would get incoherent math, much like you would get if you “allowed” division by zero. How can “=” mean what it does if (2+2=5iverse) •••• “=” ••••• ?”

    All that shows is that mixing some of *our* axioms cannot be consistent with 2+2=5. You haven’t shown that there is no alternative formal-logic system that is internally consistent and which has the property that adding two items to two items produces five items.

    Since this alternative logic system might have no axioms in common with our own, you cannot use any axioms of our logic to show that this system would inevitably be inconsistent.

  134. #134 Wowbagger
    December 29, 2011

    Apologies for the double post.

  135. #135 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Owlmirror, how do you define “define”? How do you define “how”? The retreat into the definition game is infinitely recursive.

    What I said was within the bounds of comprehension by people of normal intelligence, or what used to constitute normal intelligence. “Supernatural” in this context would certainly be an attribute of the God that most people believe in and so science and logic would be unable to reliably inform anyone of that God because we couldn’t know how to apply them to the endeavor.

  136. #136 sean t
    December 29, 2011

    @colin day #80,

    Exactly my point. Truths in mathematics don’t depend on empirical fact, but rather only on the axioms that are being used within that mathematical system. Both of the statements I gave are true within their own axiomatic systems.

  137. #137 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Let’s admit that there is not the first bit of evidence that [memes] are real …”

    Anyone who knows what “memes” means knows that they are real. You can only doubt that they are real if you don’t understand the memes concept. (Yes, I know, replying to Anthony McCarthy is foolish.)

  138. #138 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    colesblog, how do they know that memes are real? How do you account for the many, many scientists who think they are hogwash? I still think H. Allen Orr put it best:

    This substrate neutrality argument is supremely important to Dennett. It — and nothing else — explains why selection can be lifted from its historical base in biology. It is what makes Darwinism so dangerous. But Dennett slips here. While it is true that many different kinds of substrate can be selected, it is simply not true that Darwinism works with any substrate, no matter what. Indeed Darwinism can’t even explain old-fashioned biological evolution if the hereditary substrate doesn’t behave just right. Evolution would quickly grind to a halt, for instance, if inheritance were blending, not particulate. With blending inheritance, the genetic material from two parents seamlessly blends together like different colored paints. With particulate Mendelian inheritance, genes from Mom and Dad remain forever distinct in Junior. This substrate problem was so acute that turn-of-the-century biologists — all fans of blending inheritance — concluded that Darwinism just can’t work. Modern evolutionary genetics was born in 1930 when Sir Ronald Fisher cracked this problem: Population genetics shows that particulate Mendelian inheritance saves the day. It is just the kind of substrate needed for evolution by natural selection to work.

    What, then, about Dennett’s memes — all those “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes-fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.” Do they show particulate or blending inheritance? Do street fashion and high fashion segregate like good genes, or do they first mix before replicating in magazines or storefronts? Does postmodern architecture reflect a blending of the modernist and classical or the inheritance of distinct LeCorbusier and Vitruvius genes? I do not know the answers to these questions. And neither does Dennett. And neither does anyone else.

  139. #139 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    cont.

    But it’s worse than this. As Dennett reluctantly admits, memes and genes differ in other fundamental ways. Species, once isolated, almost never exchange genes, while exchange between long-isolated cultures is immensely important in the history of ideas. Moreover, new ideas — but not genes — are produced by a sort of directed mutation. Newton did not uncover the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus by conceiving millions of random ideas. In addition, the fitness of memes is strangely tautological. While we can often point to ecological reasons why certain genes are fitter than others, a meme is deemed “fit” only because it is common. (“Elvis is alive” is certainly a fit meme, but it is neither true nor helpful. It is merely popular.) Last, Dennett confesses that memes often show a Lamarckian, not Darwinian, style of evolution, in that acquired traits get passed along…

    It is probably unfair to brand this zig-zagging, “It’s all Darwin . . . it’s all culture . . .” argument bait-and-switch. I suspect that Dennett is genuinely unsure where to plant his feet. After passionately arguing that the memes of culture can snap the leash of genetic control, why abruptly argue that morality evolved via selection of genes?

    http://bostonreview.net/BR21.3/Orr.html

    Indeed, if these memes are real, there is absolutely no way to tease out the great white hope of evo-psy, genes that instigate behaviors that are propagated and dominate in the species due to their conferring a reproductive advantage from the non-genetic memes that infect our minds. In fact, there is no way for us to come to an objective view of the universe that isn’t deformed by all of this memetic static.

  140. #140 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    And most succinctly:

    What of Dennett’s comments on cultural evolution-memetics? (“Population memetics” is Dennett’s attempt to build a Darwinian science that explains cultural change.) Dennett says my main problem with memetics is that we’re “very ignorant of how humans hold ideas in their heads. . . So how can we possibly conclude that the process ‘must be’ Darwinian?” That is, in fact, half of my problem with memetics and, frankly, it’s the kinder, gentler half. As I made clear, my other problem is that what we do know about how humans hold ideas in their heads suggests that “memes”-ideas, songs, fashions-aren’t anything like genes. And if memes aren’t sufficiently gene-like, we have little reason for thinking that “concepts from population genetics transfer quite smoothly” to population memetics, as Dennett hopes.

    So does Dennett believe that memes are like genes? He admits: 1) Memes are produced by “directed mutation,” while genes are produced by random mutation; 2) exchange between long-isolated cultures has everything to do with cultural evolution, while exchange between long-isolated species can’t happen; 3) memes can blend together, while genes don’t ; 4) memes show a Lamarckian style of evolution, whereas genes show only Darwinian evolution. By the end of this list, one begins to suspect that the most important feature memes and genes share is the sound of the words. This does not, of course, mean that no sort of theory of cultural change is possible. But it does mean that Dennett’s memetics-founded on a strict meme-gene analogy-is in a bad way.

    http://bostonreview.net/BR21.5/orr.html

    Have you ever considered that maybe it’s due to a meme-believing gene. In which case the object of that belief could be as delusional as I suspect you would hold the object of the “God gene” is.

    As I pointed out, if memes are real they would absolutely preclude the possibility of an objective view of the universe and even analysis free of the influence of these infectious memes. Memes mean that the entire basis of scientism is a logical impossibility at most, a complete unreliability at least.

  141. #141 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “colesblog, how do they know that memes are real? How do you account for the many, many scientists who think they are hogwash? I still think H. Allen Orr put it best:”

    Memes are obviously real because all memes are are patterns, patterns of information that form ideas. For example, all of the words you type in your post are memes. Since those words are real, memes are real.

    No scientist who understands the above thinks that memes are unreal, though they may legitimately opine that the meme concept doesn’t amount to much and is of fairly limited utility.

    As for Orr, and the long screed you posted (was that really necessary?), it’s about how similar memes are to genes. That, also, is a legitimate topic, but a different one from whether memes are real. Saying that memes don’t behave like genes or that they are non-Darwinian is not saying that memes are not real.

    And that last bit of your last post just shows that you don’t understand what memes are or what they amount to (try substituting the word “pattern” for “meme” in that paragraph).

  142. #142 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Memes are obviously real because all memes are are patterns, patterns of information that form ideas.

    What you’ve done is redefine “memes” as proposed by Dawkins and others into something that is a mere tautology, essentially that memes are ideas and ideas are ideas. You chop out the only reason that the idea of memes was proposed and the only thing that makes them worth talking about.

    Why don’t you just stipulate that ideas are ideas and cut the meme routine? I know that the neo-atheists feel all sciency and trendy by talking about “memes” but if it’s not what Dawkins and the others propose then it’s just another fad like any other transient pop word or phrase. Why not call them “booglieboo”? Then you could rhyme it with “woo”. Though that also rhymes with “poo” and “goo”.

  143. #143 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    Owlmirror, how do you define “define”? How do you define “how”? The retreat into the definition game is infinitely recursive.

    The game you started, you mean? Do you really think your avoidance and sophistry is fooling anyone?

  144. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Stu, where did I start that game? If you’re out of your depth, just scroll past till you find one of your sci-ranger buddies.

  145. #145 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony… pssst… you shouldn’t say “neo-atheists” out loud… your hostility is showing again…

  146. #146 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    Yes, I wonder who brought up God, defined as supernatural and started the definition game.

    Shouldn’t you be whining over at the Colgate twins graveyard, Anthony?

  147. #147 Owlmirror
    December 29, 2011

    Owlmirror, how do you define “define”? How do you define “how”? The retreat into the definition game is infinitely recursive.

    What weaksauce pompous evasive blithering. I even provided a link to an attempt at a formal definition, and you can’t even be bothered to read it, let alone respond to it.

    “Supernatural” in this context would certainly be an attribute of the God that most people believe in

    Your loopiness is noted. God is supernatural, and supernatural is an attribute of God.

    You haven’t defined “God”, either, come to think of it. Do you have a problem with “invisible person with magical superpowers”? I’ll even define “magical superpowers”: At a minimum, something like ESP or telekinesis, preferably on a massive scale; simultaneous mental communication with 7 billion+ humans and/or the ability to move gigatonnes using telekinesis. Being able to mentally communicate with fewer people simultaneously or move smaller amounts might be acceptable as well, but with more reservation. I might also be willing to waive “invisible”.

    and so science and logic would be unable to reliably inform anyone of that God because we couldn’t know how to apply them to the endeavor.

    Or in other words, “supernatural” can’t be investigated by science and logic, because you say so. Although since you hate both science and logic, this is perhaps to be expected.

  148. #148 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    That’s not true, Owl. Anthony just hates atheists for being meanies. He’ll continue evading direct questions, changing the subject (look for the “that’s not interesting” or “that’s not what I was talking about” gambits), until he can sufficiently frustrate all present into saying something uncivil. After that, he’ll claim oppression, close-mindedness, call us meanies and possibly claim his posts are being deleted or that he has been banned.

    After that, I have no idea. He used to run off to the Intersection to blow hot air after one of these, but I don’t know if he has a new haunt to cower off to.

  149. #149 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    You haven’t defined “God”

    As God is proposed to be all powerful, all knowing, invisible and incomprehensible I don’t think I’d be able to fit it all into one blog comment, not even in several. I don’t want to tax Jason’s patience too much. Not to mention my definitely finite abilities aren’t up to the attempt, and there wouldn’t be any way to check it for accuracy.

    One of the problems with the idea of the supernatural is that our powers of definition are rather severely limited to drawing analogies to the material universe and by attributing observable attributes, that are inevitably the results of physical perception.

    I’ll even define “magical superpowers”: At a minimum, something like ESP or telekinesis,… blah, blah…

    Oddly, while it’s not a topic I’m not especially interested in, Dean Radin, among others, have proposed that those things are part of the physical universe, rejecting supernatural explanations. They do statistical analysis in order to try to discern them and statistics are only known to work in the context of the natural universe. Jessica Utts has pointed out that in the meta-analyses of the published studies that they satisfy the requirements of science. While I’m loathe to second guess one of the most accomplished statisticians in the country, I haven’t gone over the analyses to see if that’s true. You think you can outdo her in her own field of expertise? I doubt it, I’m sure I couldn’t.

    Now, why don’t you deal with what was said instead of what you wish was said. You’ll find I’m not especially cooperative with new atheist goal post moving.

  150. #150 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    What are the “Colegate twins”?

    On second thought, I suspect it could, possibly, introduce an unwanted meme into my mind, if those are real, so don’t tell me.

    Maybe the new atheism is the result of some people having a genetic defect that allow their minds to be clogged up with memes. Maybe the rest of us aren’t troubled by them.

  151. #151 Owlmirror
    December 29, 2011

    As God is proposed to be all powerful, all knowing, invisible and incomprehensible I don’t think I’d be able to fit it all into one blog comment, not even in several.

    I don’t need a maximal definition. I offered a minimal definition (“invisible person with magical superpowers”), and you have not offered any definitive objection to it.

    Dean Radin, among others, have proposed that those things are part of the physical universe, rejecting supernatural explanations.

    Wait, does he think that ESP/PK are real, or is he saying that they would not be supernatural if they were real?

    If the latter, well, I can certainly understand that, as being a more inclusive definition of “natural”, but in that case, “supernatural” doesn’t mean anything at all. It has no referent whatsoever.

    (…later…)

    *facepalm*

    I see that Radin and Utts are both parapsychologists.

    Jessica Utts has pointed out that in the meta-analyses of the published studies that they satisfy the requirements of science. While I’m loathe to second guess one of the most accomplished statisticians in the country, I haven’t gone over the analyses to see if that’s true. You think you can outdo her in her own field of expertise?

    Your argument from authority is so noted.

    She needs to convince other expert statisticians that her analyses of psychic phenomena are correct.

    Now, why don’t you deal with what was said instead of what you wish was said.

    LOL. You’re the one arguing in circles. You break out of your own damn loop, and define “supernatural”. And give reasons why the supernatural cannot possibly be investigated by science and logic — besides your special pleading argument by fiat.

    You’ll find I’m not especially cooperative with new atheist goal post moving.

    Your hate is noted.

  152. #152 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Jessica Utts is a statistician, one of the most accomplished statisticians in the United States. I seem to recall she’s on the board of the AAAS. I used her massive textbook to review statistics a while back. Dean Radin has several different qualifications in science, though I borrowed his book from the library a long time ago and don’t recall those exactly. If you want to read what he said you should read it, though, I’ll warn you, he does go into quite a bit of detail about statistics that isn’t as easy as polishing off one of PZ’s blog posts.

    My hatred? I’m not hating, I’m poking fun at a pompous fad.

  153. #153 Owlmirror
    December 29, 2011

    What are the “Colegate twins”?

    Have you never noted a picture of Mooney and Kirshenbaum smiling together? They have regular features, and excellent shiny white teeth.

    On second thought, I suspect it could, possibly, introduce an unwanted meme into my mind, if those are real, so don’t tell me.

    Too late!

  154. #154 Owlmirror
    December 29, 2011

    I’m not hating, I’m poking fun at a pompous fad.

    Your hypocritical hate denialism is noted.

  155. #155 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Oh, Radin’s CV is online:

    His original career track as a concert violinist shifted into science after earning a BSEE degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude and with honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then an MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For a decade he worked on advanced telecommunications R&D at AT&T Bell Laboratories and GTE Laboratories. For over two decades he has been engaged in consciousness research. Before joining the research staff at IONS in 2001, he held appointments at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, and several Silicon Valley think-tanks, including Interval Research Corporation and SRI International, where he worked on a classified program investigating psychic phenomena for the US government.

    http://www.deanradin.com/NewWeb/bio.html

    Maybe if he works hard enough he’ll eventually reach the pinnacle of an appointment to an assistant professorship at the U of Minn. at Morris.

  156. #156 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Owlmirror, “Colegate twins”, how typically juvenile. I’m unaware of any similar names applied to the greats of new atheism, though, given their quirks, I can think of a number off the top of my head.

  157. #157 Owlmirror
    December 29, 2011

    Owlmirror, “Colegate twins”, how typically juvenile.

    I didn’t come up with the meme; I merely aided in transmitting it.

  158. #158 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “What you’ve done is redefine “memes” as proposed by Dawkins and others into something that is a mere tautology, [...] You chop out the only reason that the idea of memes was proposed …”

    Really? So why don’t you quote Dawkins’s definition of memes and show it is different from mine. And also, what are you claiming is “the reason that memes were proposed”?

  159. #159 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony, knock it off. Intentionally and repeatedly misspelling Colgate Twins when you’ve known for years who are meant by it?

    Pathetic.

  160. #160 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    What in the official catechism are are referring to?

    Here’s a very small sample, from the first section:

    “the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to KNOW him. These are also called PROOFS for the existence of God … one can come to a KNOWLEDGE of God as the origin and the end of the universe…. As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be KNOWN about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them … Thus, in different ways, man can come to KNOW that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God” … Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a KNOWLEDGE of the existence of a personal God”

  161. #161 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    colesblog, you mean you are going on about memes without ever having read the source, itself? Go look at The Selfish Gene and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and The Meme Machine. You might read that review and response by Orr I linked to above as well as some of the other demolitions of the idea.

    I’ve been under the impression that Dawkins is kind of embarrassed by the whole idea, these days. Now that it’s been so well attacked and dismissed. It was a pretty flimsy patch for a hole in his ultra-adaptationist program, but it’s not the only one.

    Stu, you’ll have to excuse me, I don’t pay much attention to adolescent name calling. I don’t consider it a defect in my education to not be up on the current ones.

  162. #162 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR, do you have a link to that? I want to read what you excerpted in context before I say anything about it.

  163. #163 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony, have you asked your religious friends yet how they justify their religious beliefs?

    If you really think there is a “way of knowing” other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning — tell us what it is, and give us some examples of knowledge you think you have acquired from this “other way of knowing.”

  164. #164 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy writes:

    “colesblog, you mean you are going on about memes without ever having read the source, itself? Go look at The Selfish Gene and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and The Meme Machine.”

    I’ve read all of them, thanks. I asked you to point out where Dawkins’s original definition differed from what I said above, and you have simply evaded and waffled.

  165. #165 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR, do you have a link to that?

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

  166. #166 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony, you’re a damned liar.

  167. #167 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    How about a link to the specific page. I don’t have all day to read the whole thing.

  168. #168 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph! As I already told you, it’s in the FIRST SECTION. Click on the link. See the words “SECTION ONE”? Go there.

  169. #169 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    colesblog, I seem to recall that both Dawkins and Dennett think that a meme was quite a bit more than a mere idea, having a generative potency of the same kind that they say genes do. Though, as Orr points out, the idea is so full of internal contradictions it lacks logical integrity.

    If I was really interested I’d go find the most recent pronouncements on memes by Dawkins. Maybe, as a true believer, you could provide that link.

    Stu, I don’t see anywhere I took note of the juvenile name calling in that discussion. I certainly didn’t use it and I must have forgotten having read it in passing. Perhaps “Colgate twins” is a flawed meme that failed to reproduce in my mind. Or maybe my speculation, above, about memes being the product of a genetic defect that renders the susceptible vulnerable to having garbage propagate in their minds explains it. That’s an idea that has as much evidence behind it as memes do.

  170. #170 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR, you mean in the section titled “I Believe – We Believe”, noting the prominent use of the word BELIEVE> Created in God’s image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of “converging and convincing arguments”, which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These “ways” of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person…

    Let me call your attention to this passage of the above:

    not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of “converging and convincing arguments

    Again, “NOT IN THE SENSE OF PROOFS IN THE NATURAL SCIENCES.”

    In other words, “knowing” something in a completely
    different sense of the word than is used in science, in the sense of believing in something, just as I said in my comment to you above.

  171. #171 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anythony McCarthy:

    “If I was really interested I’d go find the most recent pronouncements on memes by Dawkins. Maybe, as a true believer, you could provide that link.”

    In other words you don’t know what you’re talking about and can’t back up your claim that I’d redefined “memes” in my post above.

    As I said above, if you knew what memes were, you’d know that they certainly exist. The issue of whether the concept is all that useful is a different matter.

  172. #172 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    Sure, Anthony. Either you’re too far above the fray, or you’re a lying, evasive windbag.

    I think this thread alone provides more than enough material for everyone to make up their minds on that.

  173. #173 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    In other words, “knowing” something in a completely
    different sense of the word than is used in science, in the sense of believing in something, just as I said in my comment to you above.

    Nowehere does the Catechism state that by “knowledge” it means merely “belief.” You have just invented that claim out of thin air. The fact that the Catechism describes “ways of coming to KNOW” God as “proofs” that “allow us to attain certainty” of God’s existence flatly contradicts your assertion that it is using the word “know” as a synonym for “believe.”

    Still waiting for you to describe these alleged “ways of knowing” other than observation, experiment and reasoning, and to provide some examples of knowledge you think you have acquired through these “other ways.”

    Still waiting for you to explain why your friends’ religious beliefs are justified.

  174. #174 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    colesblog, you seem to have missed the idea that “memes” were propagated in the same sense that Dawkins proposed genes are, through natural selection. That is a rather important part of the idea you seem to have not grasped.

    Where is the evidence that memes are more than a tortured attempt by Dawkins, and even more so Dennett, to apply natural selection way, way outside of where there is actual support for it. As Orr said:

    So what happened? Do we have a Darwinian explanation of our brainchildren or not? Are we left with a science of cultural evolution or a vaguely interesting half-analogy between genes and memes? The answer is clear: Dennett neither describes nor is confident of a Darwinian science of culture. He is in good company; Dawkins backed off his meme-talk long ago. Indeed his more recent (and very sensible) views on the limited usefulness of memes should be required reading for all would-be cultural Darwinists.8 Although Dennett never quite admits it, he has also backed off, as can be seen by comparing his 1990 article on “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination” (see note 1) and his 1991 book Consciousness Explained 9 with chapter 12 of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. Although he still talks up memes ad libitum, he now feels compelled to mention that maybe they’re not so much like genes after all and (gulp) maybe they’re not even Darwinian. They just provide a “valuable perspective.” Given this denouement, Dennett’s habit of ridiculing humanists for their reluctance to face the cold, hard facts of cultural Darwinism is incomprehensible. The fact is there is no such science.

    Ibid

  175. #175 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR, I listed the methods of history and legal processes, personal experience (actually all knowledge has to come down to personal experience of some kind, you don’t know about it without that) and other non-scientific methods of knowing something.

    Most of recent history is more certainly known than much of what is embraced by science. It is absolutely more certainly known than anything asserted about behaviors in the pre-historical period, about which nothing can be known. That doesn’t stop people from trying to assert their story telling about that into science in a way somewhat reminiscent to the methods of the ID industry. That’s a non-, I’d say pseudo-scientific way of “knowing” that is very popular with new atheists in my experience.

  176. #176 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “colesblog, you seem to have missed the idea that “memes” were propagated in the same sense that Dawkins proposed genes are, through natural selection.”

    Nope, I’ve not missed that at all; it’s true but a fairly limited point. And I note that you *still* have not backed up your claim that my post above was at odds with how Dawkins defined “memes”.

    Look, it’s in the Orr quote in your own post: “a vaguely interesting half-analogy between genes and memes”. Read that. That’s what memes are. That’s what they always were, as Dawkins originally defined them!

  177. #177 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR, I listed the methods of history and legal processes, personal experience

    And I have no idea how you think “history, legal processes and personal experience” can produce knowledge other than by employing the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning. What alleged “other ways of knowing” do you claim are involved? Faith? Divine revelation? Guessing?

  178. #178 Verbose Stoic
    December 29, 2011

    coelsblog,

    What I had been trying to do was figure out just what your sort of empirical match was, and was tossing out suggestions and building on it. This is my last attempt to make sense of what you’re talking about, and if it isn’t it then you will really have to explain far more what you mean than you have.

    Imagine that we have this world, where by your argument we have some sort of empirical correspondence for “2+2=4″. Call this world W. Imagine that we have another world where by your argument the same sort of empirical correspondence is instead for “2+2=5″. Call that world W’. Also let’s call the mathematical system that we currently use that defines “2+2=4″ M, and imagine that we can indeed make a mathematical system defining “2+2=5″, and let’s call that M’.

    In W, what we teach in schools before university is M. We can imagine, then, that in W’ what is taught is M’. However, in mathematics departments in both W and W’, both M and M’ can be taught and considered, and neither system is more valid or justified than the other; they are both equally mathematically “correct”. So, in W, we can see that the mathematical system that we use to model the world is M, and the mathematical system that we use to model the world in W’ in M’. And we can indeed argue that M in W and M’ and W’ were invented and worked out to provide the best mathematical system for modeling the world. But no one denies that. What at least I’m denying is that being the best mathematical system for modeling the world in any way justifies M or M’ MATHEMATICALLY over any others. And it seems that that is the mistake you are making. If you aren’t, then I admit that I am clueless as to what point you’re trying to make.

    Also note this: M and M’ are DIFFERENT mathematical systems, and is always true that if you are using M 2+2=4 and if you are using M’ 2+2=5.

  179. #179 Verbose Stoic
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR,

    … the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning.

    I think I owe you a direct response, but to clarify right here do you mean that you have to use all three to be science, or is using any of these enough to make it scientific? We can get into details of what each of these mean once you answer that.

  180. #180 Verbose Stoic
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR,

    Still waiting for you to explain why your friends’ religious beliefs are justified.

    Well, I’m not sure how far I buy this argument (I tend to think it justifies mere belief but not knowledge, but then I am indeed a religious person who claims to have mere belief, not knowledge, and not “religious belief” either), but try this:

    One is justified in believing any successful societal or cultural belief, meaning a societal belief that a society or culture has adopted and has maintained over a significantly long period of time without having to abandon it due to any alternative pressures.

    If this does provide a justification for knowledge, then as it is a belief all it would have to be is true. And in this sense the person believing need not care about the beliefs of other cultures since those would not provide justifications for that person’s belief, and this admits that they could be wrong … but then the idea would simply be to find out which ones are right and which are wrong.

    I’m not going to comment on whether this is scientific or not because I still don’t understand what you mean by scientific.

  181. #181 Verbose Stoic
    December 29, 2011

    coelsblog,

    Memes are obviously real because all memes are are patterns, patterns of information that form ideas. For example, all of the words you type in your post are memes. Since those words are real, memes are real.

    See, this is the exact problem that I have with the broadening and redefinition of the term science, to link it back to the post: if all memes are are ideas, or words, or whatever, then why call them memes instead of ideas or words? Dawkins does this for a reason; by redefining them as memes and defining memes as being associated with a process of natural selection, it can provide conceptual support for natural selection by implication, an implication that does not follow as naturally from the terms ideas or words. And if this is right, he’s clarified a concept. But if it’s wrong, because of that extra implication memes meaning things that do work generally as per natural selection would not, in fact, exist, even as ideas and words would still exist.

    (Of course, the concept of memes — ie things that are like ideas but work generally as per natural selection — would still exist. But it wouldn’t be something that would exist in this world.)

  182. #182 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    Yes, you have correctly figured out what I’m getting at.

    The point I’d then make is that we have possible maths systems M, M’, M”, M”’ …. to (possibly) infinity. The statement 2+2=4 is true in M, but not in M’ and not necessarily in any of the others. It is thus not a “necessary truth” except in a very narrow sense of restricting ourselves to M only. I’d also assert that the only reason for giving primary to M over M’ or M” etc (and thus to 2+2=4 over 2+2=5 or 2+2=6) is empirical.

    That is the sense in which I am asserting that 2+2=4 is empirical. You are right that it follows from the axioms of M, but the choice of M over M’ or M” is empirical.

  183. #183 Verbose Stoic
    December 29, 2011

    Wowbagger,

    Do you think that demonstrating that they [memes] aren’t real would have more or less impact on those who believe that they are real than demonstrating that (for example) the Christian god doesn’t exist would have on Christians?

    And the answer must be: it depends on the person. Some religious people would drop their belief in God if sufficient proof was advanced, while some scientific people would resist greatly even the most stringent proof that their person scientific hobby-horse was refuted.

  184. #184 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    I think I owe you a direct response, but to clarify right here do you mean that you have to use all three to be science, or is using any of these enough to make it scientific?

    I think all knowledge involves reason but not necessarily observation or experiment.

    One is justified in believing any successful societal or cultural belief, meaning a societal belief that a society or culture has adopted and has maintained over a significantly long period of time without having to abandon it due to any alternative pressures.

    Why? “The earth is flat” would seem to qualify as a “successful societal belief” as you define it above. Why do you think you are justified in believing the earth is flat? Why do you think you are justified in believing in the existence of the God of Christianity?

  185. #185 Verbose Stoic
    December 29, 2011

    Anton,

    On the contrary, it’s impossible to prohibit reinterpretation. Humans aren’t telepathic, so we have no way to be sure that the concept evoked in my mind by a definition is exactly the same as the one evoked in yours. And even if we were telepathic, I could never verify that you will derive all the infinite consequences and ramifications of your concept “correctly.”

    That not everyone might get the definition right away does not mean that strict definition does not permit reinterpretation. You are conflating miscommunication with redefinition and reinterpretation, and that’s not correct. For a strict definition, there will be only one correct way to use that definition, whether anyone other than the definer actually figures out what that definition is. For example, I have strictly defined faith on my blog. Even if you take that definition and provide a redefinition, I can always say “That’s not the definition of faith I’m using” and be honest as long as I am consistent with my definition.

    If that was the point, the entire attempt would be futile. In the first place, even the strictest definition is either circular or relies on primitive (undefined) terms.

    Not circular. Tautological. Which is rather the point, actually. And yes, people might find the natural language terms being used ambiguous, but again that’s psychological not definitional/logical.

    In fact, strictly defining something is an empirical endeavour. One is looking for a definition which most people appear to apply in the same way every time, if they think about it hard enough, and for which most people don’t seem irresolvably confused about whether any given mental object qualifiies.

    And I deny that a strict definition is trying to capture what people think is the case. Again, my definition of faith is consistent with at least some definitions, but that’s not how I’m going about trying to demonstrate it or prove it. Why do you think that strict definition is simply trying to find out what people think? What people think is ambiguous, and as I said the whole point of strict definition is to remove that ambiguity, even if some of the things people think are part of the definition no longer are after the definition is done.

    That merely demonstrates that their axiom interpretations and/or their processes of logical inference are different from ours. It doesn’t do anything to show that we’re right and they’re wrong.

    If they are claiming to use the same axioms and logical inferences as we are, then they’re wrong. If they are claiming to use different ones, then I cannot necessarily say that they are wrong, but I can say that they aren’t talking about the same things that we are.

  186. #186 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “if all memes are are ideas, or words, or whatever, then why call them memes instead of ideas or words? Dawkins does this for a reason; by redefining them as memes and defining memes as being associated with a process of natural selection, it can provide conceptual support for natural selection by implication …”

    I don’t think Dawkins was trying to *support* natural selection (as a concept, or as applied to genes), he was trying to *illustrate* how natural selection works, by giving a non-gene example. That example is simply of cultural ideas that might propagate simply because they suited to being propagated by brains.

    It’s really quite a limited concept that has never been developed to much more than that, and probably can’t be owing to the low-fidelity of meme-reproduction and to its non-digital nature. Dawkins never claimed a whole new science that would explain all of culture, and it’s fairly obvious that memes can’t do that.

    A lot of tosh has been written by critics of memes who try to build it up into far more than it was ever proposed to be, merely to then knock it down. To a large extent the critics attack a strawman.

  187. #187 Verbose Stoic
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR,

    So, faith and revelation do not produce knowledge. That’s how we exclude religion as a “way of knowing.”

    Some religious claims may happen to be true by accident, just as some guesses and wishful thinking may happen to be true. But that doesn’t make them knowledge.

    What I’m waiting for is an argument for that. Neither you nor Jason have provided one, which was the point of my original question that you replied to and yet continue to dodge.

    Of course there’s reason. How do we choose between multiple contradictory claims of knowledge made on the basis of faith or revelation? What reason is to think that one is true rather than another?

    Well, to figure that out we’d have to look at the details of the system. Merely having competing theories doesn’t work to exclude it as knowledge because science does that as well, and you have provided no argument or details of religious systems to argue that there is no way to settle that or, even, that it matters.

  188. #188 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Dawkins was trying to prop up his expansive view of adaptationism when he invented memes. He was exploiting natural selection way past where there is any evidence to support it. What he was doing was inventing a simulation of evidence to support his contentions in the absence of there being real evidence that supported them.

    Nope, I’ve not missed that at all; it’s true but a fairly limited point. colesblog

    A “fairly limited point”? It was the entire reason to do it to start with. Memes are the phlogiston of the 1970s. Orr’s succinct disposal of them is as true today as it was when he wrote it.

    And I have no idea how you think “history, legal processes and personal experience” can produce knowledge other than by employing the methods of science — MattiR

    MattiR, you began to demonstrate that your understanding of science is rather wanting at 110 above. Much if not most of what history and legal processes establish as knowledge is not reliant on science at all. History didn’t need science to establish that Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933 and that the events of his administration happened as they did. It doesn’t need science to establish that the conservative wing of The United States Supreme Court intervened in an unprecedented manner to hand the 2000 election to a member of their party through a flawed election in a state governed by their candidate’s brother. Most of the factual knowledge contained in history doesn’t depend on science at all.

    As I pointed out to you above, your faith statements about knowledge having to be scientific aren’t supported by science. Scientism fails its own test of knowledge because scientism isn’t established by science, it is an ideological belief, it is an unsupported statement of faith.

  189. #189 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    What I’m waiting for is an argument for that.

    An argument for what? That faith and revelation do not produce knowledge? Because they cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

    Merely having competing theories doesn’t work to exclude it as knowledge

    I didn’t say it did. Since faith cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones, why are you justified in believing through faith? If your belief is not justified, it’s not knowledge. Even if the belief is true, it’s no more knowledge than a lucky guess.

  190. #190 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    Much if not most of what history and legal processes establish as knowledge is not reliant on science at all.

    You’re evading the question: By what alleged “ways of knowing” other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning — do you claim “history, legal processes, personal experience” can produce knowledge? What are these “other ways of knowing?” Faith? Divine revelation? Guessing? Or what?

  191. #191 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Dawkins was trying to prop up his expansive view of adaptationism when he invented memes. … What he was doing was inventing a simulation of evidence to support his contentions in the absence of there being real evidence that supported them.”

    Sorry, you’re wrong, and thus get memes completely wrong. Dawkins, in those books, was primarily being an *educator*, he was using memes as a way of increasing understanding of genes and their reproduction. He was thus using memes as an alternative to genes in the same way that a maths teacher might teach base-8 primarily to get the students to understand base-10.

  192. #192 jane
    December 29, 2011

    A very interesting series of essays. One of the aspects of scientism that I find most disturbing is the deliberate implication by some of its advocates that cultures that do not practice formal Science possess *no knowledge whatsoever*. Others have tried to avoid the ugly consequences of that position (as well as its obvious ridiculousness, if the ability to survive requires some correct information about one’s environment) by saying that science is not only a formal process done by trained high-status individuals, but simply the process of watching nature, or trying things out, and thinking about what you have observed. Intelligent people from any culture can do that.

    But you rule out as possible repositories of knowledge “oral traditions, folk wisdom….” As I see it, such orally transmitted information represents efforts to pass on information that one’s forebears often got from the science-sensu-lato process of observing nature and thinking about it. Sure, it will contain errors, just as written papers in scientific journals do. But every individual in an oral culture cannot start over from scratch trying to figure out how to use his/her environment. Sharing knowledge with others via oral tradition is, indeed, essential to survival. And most of the facts that repose in an average Westerner’s head, and that we think of as Scientific, are in fact handed down to us by a very similar process (albeit often using written language). We haven’t personally tested them or even seen them tested; rather, we are just told to believe them because they have been “scientifically proven.” Some of those things are actually likely to be wrong. We don’t require that our body of knowledge be perfect in order to agree that we possess knowledge; can you agree that cultures without formal science also know something at least?

  193. #193 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    Look, it’s in the Orr quote in your own post: “a vaguely interesting half-analogy between genes and memes”. colesblog

    Clearly you left out the question mark for a reason, to turn a question into what looks like a confirmation that there is a valid analogy between genes and memes, one that is “vaguely” interesting and a “half-analogy” (and if only you knew how hard I’m resisting making a pun out of that). In light of what else Orr said, destroying the idea that there was any analogy between genes and “memes”, it isn’t even a narrow reed to grasp on to. It’s a dishonest dodge.

    Just noticed above “asserting” instead of “inserting” Editing is the curse of the blogging classes.

  194. #194 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    MattiR, you are clearly not interested in honest argument. I’ve given you examples of things that are known through the methods of history, documentation, consulting witnesses, etc. that produce knowledge of events that are absolutely as solid as any knowledge produced by science. Or are you refuting that the events of December 2000 and 1933 are known?

    I would like to know which eminent scientists would claim they don’t know that Bush II was put into office by the Supreme Court or that Franklin Roosevelt became president of the United States in 1933. Though I’m aware that a knowledge of history among allegedly educated people isn’t what it once was.

    Jason, do you know that Bush II was installed by the infamous five Republican “justices” in 2000? Do you know that Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933?

  195. #195 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Clearly you left out the question mark for a reason, to turn a question into what looks like a confirmation that there is a valid analogy between genes and memes, one that is “vaguely” interesting and a “half-analogy” … In light of what else Orr said, destroying the idea that there was any analogy between genes and “memes””

    Sigh, I knew it was foolish to start interacting with you on this. You are misreading your own quote. Orr was destroying that idea that memes were a lot more than a “vaguely interesting half-analogy” with genes, and saying that that “vaguely interesting half-analogy” was all that they were!

    Here is the Orr quote: “Are we left with a science of cultural evolution or a vaguely interesting half-analogy between genes and memes? The answer is clear …”. That “clear” answer that he gives is the latter, the “vaguely interesting half-analogy”.

    (And, as I said, Dawkins has never really claimed them as much more than that; at no point, as far as I’m aware, has he claimed that memes are a “science of cultural evolution”.)

  196. #196 coelsblog
    December 29, 2011

    jane:

    “One of the aspects of scientism that I find most disturbing is the deliberate implication by some of its advocates that cultures that do not practice formal Science possess *no knowledge whatsoever*.”

    I bet you cannot quote anyone actually claiming that. Everyone that I’ve seen advocating scientism uses a definition of science much broader than a narrow “formal Science”, and would accept that all cultures will have acquired knowledge of their environment.

  197. #197 Anthony McCarthy
    December 29, 2011

    coelsblog, you’re clearly a true believer in Dawkinsism just as MattiR is a scientistic fundamentalist, both ignoring what’s said that contradicts your faith. Whatever anyone who might be reading this could learn has already been said by reading what’s been said already.

    Scientism is unsupported by science, therefore, by the stated dogma of scientism, scientism is false.

    I fully expect evo-psy to tumble into obsolescence sometime in the next decade though “memes” will still be heard among a number of aging people who thought saying the word made them sound like they were in the know in the ’00s. We will be able to see if that prediction comes true ten years from now.

    I’m out.

  198. #198 tomh
    December 29, 2011

    McC
    I’m out

    If only.

  199. #199 Stu
    December 29, 2011

    That is the most pathetic attempt at willful conflation of science and materialism, arbitrarily redefining parts you like and calling it scientism.

    What a wonderful strawman you burn, Anthony. Way to avoid substantive questions asked of you. Maybe it’s that time again to take your infantile sophistry back to your bridge.

  200. #200 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    One of the aspects of scientism that I find most disturbing is the deliberate implication by some of its advocates that cultures that do not practice formal Science possess *no knowledge whatsoever*.

    Which “advocates of scientism” make this claim? Show us.

    But you rule out as possible repositories of knowledge “oral traditions, folk wisdom….”

    I don’t rule out those things as repositories of knowledge. I do think they are very UNRELIABLE repositories of knowledge. There’s a lot of nonsense mixed in with true beliefs. I also deny that they can produce knowledge, rather than merely transmit it.

  201. #201 MattiR
    December 29, 2011

    I’ve given you examples of things that are known through the methods of history, documentation, consulting witnesses, etc. that produce knowledge of events that are absolutely as solid as any knowledge produced by science.

    Reading documents and consulting witnesses are OBSERVATIONS. I asked you what “ways of knowing” other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning — history uses to produce knowledge. Your inability to come up with any “other ways of knowing” is a tacit concession that there aren’t any. Congratulations.

  202. #202 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “coelsblog, you’re clearly a true believer in Dawkinsism just as MattiR is a scientistic fundamentalist, both ignoring what’s said that contradicts your faith”

    Anthony, you resort to that because you have no argument. You accused me of “dishonestly” altering the Orr quote, whereas the truth is that you hadn’t even read your own quote properly and were making a false interpretation of it, based purely on your prejudices. Snivel and whine all you like Anthony!

  203. #203 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    MattiR,

    Reading documents and consulting witnesses are OBSERVATIONS.

    By that, then since religion does do that in the same manner as history does — see, for example, ancient history — then religion uses observation which would, by your definition, make it science. At that point, your only objection to religious claims is that you think they are false, not that there’s any interesting difference in their methods that means that they can’t provide knowledge.

    Your inability to come up with any “other ways of knowing” is a tacit concession that there aren’t any.

    Back to this again. Look, if you define science so broadly that there’s no possible way of knowing that wouldn’t be science by your definition, of COURSE we won’t be able to provide an alternative way of knowing. That’s not going to help your case any, and it also leaves you with the rather embarrassing problem of having to find a way, then, to exclude religion from your global way of knowing.

  204. #204 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    coelsblog,

    I bet you cannot quote anyone actually claiming that. Everyone that I’ve seen advocating scientism uses a definition of science much broader than a narrow “formal Science”, and would accept that all cultures will have acquired knowledge of their environment.

    First, you ignored the whole majority of her comment where she goes on to address the broader notiosn, so it’s unfair to limit your reply just to that.

    Second, of COURSE she can’t quote anyone claiming that, as she said it was an IMPLICATION, and you can’t quote people implying things. And there are cases where you can say that the implication is being made. First, in part by saying that the only way of knowing is science without prefacing it by making it clear that the term “science” is meant broadly, or replying to criticisms that formal science is not the only way of knowing by using the broader definition as if the terms were interchangeable. Add in cases where formal scientific claims are always to be preferred to those for fields that are not formally scientific and some cases can be made.

  205. #205 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    MattiR,

    An argument for what? That faith and revelation do not produce knowledge? Because they cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

    Please describe the portions of faith and revelation as methods that cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones in a manner that is significantly worse and different from other methods, like formal science, philosophy, history, and mathematics.

    I didn’t say it did. Since faith cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones, why are you justified in believing through faith? If your belief is not justified, it’s not knowledge. Even if the belief is true, it’s no more knowledge than a lucky guess.

    Again, what basis do you use to claim that faith cannot so distinguish, beyond there being different religions which you have accepted as not being a valid argument for your conclusion?

  206. #206 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    coelsblog,

    I don’t think Dawkins was trying to *support* natural selection (as a concept, or as applied to genes), he was trying to *illustrate* how natural selection works, by giving a non-gene example. That example is simply of cultural ideas that might propagate simply because they suited to being propagated by brains.

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. If he was trying to illustrate how natural selection worked, he would have chosen an example of it that was uncontroversial and that most people would have simply accepted. Memes/ideas/words are not uncontroversial examples. Add in that he explicitly claims that multiverse theory would demonstrate the great applicability of natural selection and I think the evidence suggests that he is indeed trying to expand the scope of natural selection, not merely illustrate it to others. After all, for any such illustration to work the definition and scope of the theory would have be expanded first anyway.

    Even your base example supports my view better than yours. Teachers generally will NOT explain base 8 in order to get students to understand how base 10 works, since it won’t help at all (and might be confusing). What they WILL do is use base 8 when they want to talk about bases in general, and use that to demonstrate that mathematical bases — including base 10 — are a broader theory than you might think. But that sort of approach is what I’m saying Dawkins was trying to do with memes, not what you are saying Dawkins was trying to do.

  207. #207 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    MattiR,

    Why? “The earth is flat” would seem to qualify as a “successful societal belief” as you define it above.

    No, because it has been rejected by the societies and cultures that believed it. Care to address my actual point?

  208. #208 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    coelsblog,

    The statement 2+2=4 is true in M, but not in M’ and not necessarily in any of the others. It is thus not a “necessary truth” except in a very narrow sense of restricting ourselves to M only.

    But that’s all that we MEAN when we talk about necessary truths in this context. In all possible worlds, if you are talking about M 2+2=4. There is no empirical change that can be made that can invalidate that claim. Why in the world would you think that the claim was ever that the axioms of one mathematical system were true in all mathematical systems?

    I’d also assert that the only reason for giving primary to M over M’ or M” etc (and thus to 2+2=4 over 2+2=5 or 2+2=6) is empirical.

    That is the sense in which I am asserting that 2+2=4 is empirical. You are right that it follows from the axioms of M, but the choice of M over M’ or M” is empirical.

    But I addressed that, and you ignored it. Mathematically, there is nothing to choose between M and M’; they are both equally mathematical systems. In fact, if you are in W and M’ is strongly counter-intuitive, M’ might be preferred to M mathematically because it will allow you to learn more about mathematics without letting intuitions make you think steps are obvious when they need justification. If you are talking about which one will be used to model the world, then of course you will choose M over M’ in W and that might even be called empirical, but that is not in and of itself a mathematical justification, and matters not one whit to mathematics, nor to the justifications of M or M’.

    In short, we don’t know whether M or M’ are valid mathematical systems empirically. We MAY know which one to use to model the world empirically, but that’s not a mathematical problem or consideration.

  209. #209 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “If he was trying to illustrate how natural selection worked, he would have chosen an example of it that was uncontroversial and that most people would have simply accepted.”

    Are there any other examples that he could have chosen, other than memes? I suspect that, had there been, he would have talked about them. And the multiverse thing wasn’t in the original memes account (Selfish Gene?) was it? I’d be surprised if Dawkins were talking about the multiverse that early.

    And yes, Dawkins indeed was trying to talk about natural selection in general, showing that the idea itself was wider than the particular implementation of genes. That’s not the same as saying he was claiming a whole new science of culture.

  210. #210 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “But that’s all that we MEAN when we talk about necessary truths in this context. In all possible worlds, if you are talking about M 2+2=4.”

    OK, agreed. But the sentence: “In all possible worlds, if you are talking about M, 2+2=4″ is different from “In all possible worlds 2+2=4″. I’ve been continually oscillating between whether we’re disagreeing about substance or semantics; the verdict is swinging back to semantics!

    I guess the remaining disagreement (which again may be mere semantics) is whether we regard the word “mathematics” as applying to M, or to the superset {M, M’, M”, M”’ …}. If the former then, yes, 2+2=4 is a necessary mathematical truth. If the latter then it isn’t. Again, the sense in which I’m calling maths “empirical” is in picking out M from that superset.

  211. #211 JimV
    December 30, 2011

    Re: Verbose Stoic at 86

    “… but why do you think that generating lots of numbers and looking at their conceptual properties counts as “observing the world”?”

    I think I already answered this when I said that numbers are part of the world (as an engineer, if I can’t represent something with numbers I don’t understand it at all), but I’ll try again.

    Because I see no conceptual difference between a) me looking at a bunch of numbers, finding patterns, hypothesizing why those patterns might exist, and testing my hypotheses; and b) Darwin looking at the differences in Finch beaks on different islands, and ditto (except that Darwin did a more important and difficult job). If Darwin was only looking at numbers (which described the beaks) instead of beaks, would that be something totally different and no longer empirical? I just don’t see what you’re driving at.

    More on my underlying world view: everything we sense (observe) is due to patterns of electrical and chemical stimulus in our brains, whether it is numbers or Finch beaks (and all of those stimuli can be described with numbers).

  212. #212 tomh
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic wrote:
    Second, of COURSE she can’t quote anyone claiming that, as she said it was an IMPLICATION, and you can’t quote people implying things.

    Oh, please, that’s just silly. Of COURSE you can. The post read, “”One of the aspects of scientism that I find most disturbing is the deliberate implication by some of its advocates that cultures that do not practice formal Science possess no knowledge whatsoever.”

    Fine, so give an example of someone who has implied that. Yes, actually quote someone who implied that. How else would someone imply something if not with words, and if words are used they can certainly be quoted. I doubt she can, since I doubt that anyone, anywhere, ever claimed that any culture possesses “no knowledge whatsoever.” It’s ridiculous on the face of it, just made up by someone who wants to argue against “scientism.”

  213. #213 MattiR
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose

    By that, then since religion does do that in the same manner as history does — see, for example, ancient history — then religion uses observation which would, by your definition, make it science.

    I didn’t say that any discipline that sometimes uses observation is science. Religion is not science, because its claims are based on faith, revelation, prophecy, etc.

    Look, if you define science so broadly that there’s no possible way of knowing that wouldn’t be science by your definition

    I’m asking what “ways of knowing” you think there are other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, reason — and to provide some examples of knowledge you think have been produced by these “other ways of knowing.” Do you have an answer or don’t you?

    Please describe the portions of faith and revelation as methods that cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones in a manner that is significantly worse and different from other methods, like formal science, philosophy, history, and mathematics.

    I don’t know what you mean by “portions of faith and revelation.” Faith and revelation cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones. If you dispute this, give me an example of a belief that you know to be true by faith or revelation and a belief that you know to be false by faith or revelation.

  214. #214 MattiR
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose,

    No, because it has been rejected by the societies and cultures that believed it. Care to address my actual point?

    I am addressing your point. “The earth is flat” is an example of a “successful societal belief” as you defined that phrase. It is irrelevant to your definition that “it has been rejected by the societies and cultures that believed it.” And there may be still be some “societies and cultures” that believe it anyway. There are still a number of primitive hunter-gatherer cultures in Asia and South America that may hold the belief. So again I ask: Why do you think you are justified in believing the earth is flat? Why do you think you are justified in believing ANY “successful societal belief” as you have defined it?

  215. #215 Anton Mates
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic,

    That not everyone might get the definition right away does not mean that strict definition does not permit reinterpretation. You are conflating miscommunication with redefinition and reinterpretation, and that’s not correct.

    Call it misinterpretation or alternate interpretation if you like, rather than reinterpretation; I don’t really care. My point is that, no matter how strict a definition is constructed, it’s always possible for people to read it and come up with differing interpretations. And one cannot determine which interpretation is correct by simply scrutinizing the definition more carefully.

    And I deny that a strict definition is trying to capture what people think is the case.

    Why, didn’t you just assent to that twice in this post?

    For a strict definition, there will be only one correct way to use that definition, whether anyone other than the definer actually figures out what that definition is.

    For example, I have strictly defined faith on my blog. Even if you take that definition and provide a redefinition, I can always say “That’s not the definition of faith I’m using” and be honest as long as I am consistent with my definition.

    Both of these claims seemed to imply that the “correct” meaning of a definition is determined by the thought processes of a person: namely, the definer.

    Or are you objecting because I said that strict definitions have usually been shaped to fit the thoughts of many people, not just one? That’s simply a matter of math, like science, being a social activity. The history of math is full of cases where somebody defined something in a way that seemed perfectly precise and unambiguous to him, but turned out to be hazy and ambiguous to the rest of the mathematical community. In that case, the definition had to be either sharpened up or discarded, at least as far as the discipline was concerned.

    What people think is ambiguous, and as I said the whole point of strict definition is to remove that ambiguity, even if some of the things people think are part of the definition no longer are after the definition is done.

    How can a strict definition remove that ambiguity if, as you said above, its “correct” use and meaning might never be understood by anyone other than the definer?

    If they are claiming to use the same axioms and logical inferences as we are, then they’re wrong. If they are claiming to use different ones, then I cannot necessarily say that they are wrong, but I can say that they aren’t talking about the same things that we are.

    The claim under discussion was that it is possible (and contingent on empirical facts) for mathematicians in some alternate universe to adopt axioms leading to 2+2=5. They’re not claiming to use the same axioms or inferential rules as we are; they don’t even know we exist.

    My and coelsblog’s arguments are somewhat different on this score. coelsblog, as I understand it, is arguing that alternate-world mathematicians might empirically observe a world with different physical behavior. They would then disagree with us on which mathematical system is most “natural” for modeling the results of physical counting of objects and such. Such a mathematician puts two objects on a table, and adds two more objects, and re-counts them and gets five objects. She says “Ah, so to describe the world I should use an addition model where 2+2=5″.

    I agree with coelsblog on that, but I’m also arguing that alternate-world mathematicians might empirically display different psychological behavior. They would then disagree with us about the logical consistency and consequences of various proposed mathematical systems. The mathematician conceives of a two-element set, and another disjoint two-element set, and takes their union, and counts up the elements of the union in her head, and gets five elements. She says, “Ah, so in any valid mathematical system where natural numbers are defined cardinally, and cardinal addition is defined by disjoint set unions, it is logically necessary that 2+2=5.”

    I imagine you would respond by saying that her definitions of “cardinal number,” “cardinal addition” and/or “logically necessary” cannot all be the same as (y)our own, so that she cannot mean exactly the same thing we would mean by that statement, even if she’s using the same English words. That’s probably true. But this is a counterfactual scenario, so we need only be concerned with whether her meaning is as close to ours as possible, given the hypothesized differences in her psychology. Perhaps she can never understand the meaning of our mathematical statements and we can never understand the meaning of hers; regardless, she and her fellow mathematicians would not arrive at the same results that our world’s mathematicians have arrived at.

  216. #216 jane
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic is correct, and three of you are demanding something that can’t be delivered. I have never seen anyone state bald-facedly that they thought indigenous peoples possessed no knowledge at all, hence “implication.” I have, however, seen multiple proponents of scientism, in discussions limited to the topic of traditional medicine, state that they believed none of it was of any value at all because it had not been generated through science. “Prescientific” is a word I have seen used to describe the cultures that practice or did practice forms of traditional medicine. I am sure the three of you are all dutifully anti-TM, but please do not follow the red herring of starting an argument over how much if any of it is worthy in itself or compared to Western medicine. That is irrelevant to this argument. The broader implication is that simply trying things out and thinking rationally about what you observed (which must be the basis for *some* portion of TM, just as it surely was for the discovery and effective utilization of foods, dyes, arrow poisons, etc.), does not, in those people’s view, qualify as science if it is done by unlettered people from a foraging or agrarian culture: they don’t/didn’t use science, period.

    But you will separately see instances where the same defenders of scientism, or their cronies and allies with their apparent full approval, will sit around patting themselves on the back over the “fact” that Science is the only possible path to knowledge. So, though nobody states it all in one place and out loud, you can read between the lines of these assertions an argument like this: Premise 1: Many past or traditional cultures do not practice science. Premise 2: Science is the only means of obtaining knowledge. Conclusion: Many cultures have obtained no knowledge. If you three DON’T believe that, which I would be delighted to hear, I’d like to know with which premise you disagree. (MattiR says that oral tradition cannot generate knowledge, only transmit it. The same is true of scientific journals. If you agree that some accurate factual knowledge is being transmitted within a nonliterate culture, then it must have been generated at some point; would you agree that that process constituted science?)

    To me, another red-flag aspect of scientism as opposed to real science is that the value of formal-scientific data are hinted to be dependent on the cultural background and/or nationality of the generator(s) of the data. Some object to the term “Western” science or medicine, on the ground that everyone else could practice it too (and indeed the benighted heathens should…). But science is culturally informed; the choice of what research questions to investigate, which studies to read and which to ignore, and how enthusiastically the results are implemented (if at all) depend on cultural factors and, increasingly, the quest for profit. Therefore, people with academic credentials in different countries often have different opinions regarding what hypotheses are proven, unproven, and disproven. If Japanese medicine uses a particular practice, following favorable clinical trials involving thousands of patients, that American medicine does not use, a scientistic American confronted with this discrepancy may presume that that practice must be “worthless” or at best “unproven,” because OUR science must always be the best in the world. Certainly, I can’t quote anyone saying outright that whenever Asian or European and American scientists or users of scientific data hold different opinions about what knowledge exists, the foreigners are always wrong. But some obviously behave as if they believe that.

  217. #217 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    MattiR,

    My definition, if you’ll recall, was precisely this (you even quoted it):

    “One is justified in believing any successful societal or cultural belief, meaning a societal belief that a society or culture has adopted and has maintained over a significantly long period of time without having to abandon it due to any alternative pressures.”

    The culture had to abandon it, as they did abandon (ie reject) it. So, then, how is that NOT relevant to my definition when it makes up a crucial part of it?

    And there may be still be some “societies and cultures” that believe it anyway.

    And in those cultures, they would have justification for it. You make the mistake of assuming that if you have justification to believe something, then that must mean that what you believe is true necessarily. But that would only be the case if you have certainty, and we do not have that. By that standard, science — narrowly defined, or even defined by your definition — would not justify any claim.

  218. #218 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    MattiR,

    I didn’t say that any discipline that sometimes uses observation is science. Religion is not science, because its claims are based on faith, revelation, prophecy, etc.

    Well, then you do have a problem, because you said that to be scientific was to use observation, experimentation, and reason, and denied that one had to be using all three. So now you are slipping in other criteria, it seems, to attempt to make your point.

    I’m asking what “ways of knowing” you think there are other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, reason — and to provide some examples of knowledge you think have been produced by these “other ways of knowing.” Do you have an answer or don’t you?

    I don’t know if I have an answer because you keep equivocating on what the terms mean. Again, if you define it so broadly that any possible way of knowing fits somehow into at least one of those categories, then I don’t. But then you can’t reasonably weasel your way out by insisting that field that DOES use one of those methods is not a way of knowing because it uses other methods that could fit into one of those categories by your definition, or more likely that you’ll exclude something as a way of knowing because you don’t like it.

    Faith and revelation cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones. If you dispute this, give me an example of a belief that you know to be true by faith or revelation and a belief that you know to be false by faith or revelation.

    Shifting the burden of proof. If you insist that faith and revelation cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones the burden is on you to examine the methods of faith and revelation and point out what in them causes them to be unable to do so. The burden is not on me to demonstrate one. (And BTW religious people who claim to use these methods DO claim to be able to get both true and false propositions with this method, so that’s a rather odd demand in the first place).

  219. #219 jane
    December 30, 2011

    MattiR: “I’m asking what “ways of knowing” you think there are other than the methods of science — observation, experiment, reason — and to provide some examples of knowledge you think have been produced by these “other ways of knowing.” Do you have an answer or don’t you?”

    You addressed Verbose Stoic, but I would take a stab at an answer. I once saw another thinker, at whom you would likely sneer, make the point that science is very bad at addressing things that can’t be quantified [and further, in some people's minds, controlled and replicated], and that some of the most important things to us as people fall into that category. For example, the shape of the earth matters much less to my quality of life than the existence of love and trust between me and my family members. I would comfortably say that I KNOW I love my husband, and I KNOW that he loves me.

    Well, how do I know that? I can directly perceive my own feelings, but if you refused to believe that I had them and demanded that I produce independent proof you could see, what would I do? I have paid attention to the details of how my spouse has treated me for many years and with what attitude, and these are consistent with his professed love being genuine. Does that judgement, involving observing nature and drawing conclusions from observation, count as science? Most people, whether pro- or anti-scientism, would not want the definition of science so stretched as to engulf such commonplace, more or less intuitive inference-drawing (which is regularly practiced even by infants far below the age of reason, not to mention housepets).

    Likewise, there are questions of ethics. I would say that I KNOW, for a fact, that the trust my husband and cat have for me places an obligation on me not to betray that trust. I also think I know that a society that does not recognize honor or loyalty will not be a happy one. If you agree, I am sure that you, like me, cannot cite any scientific publications that prove those to be the correct conclusions. So, I cannot say where that knowledge comes from. I am not a philosopher, but, though not verbose, I do have a fondness for the Roman Stoics. Epictetus said that ethics were the most important part of philosophy, that logic was secondary and supported ethics, and that epistemology was tertiary – but that most would-be philosophers spent most of their time dithering over epistemology and least practicing ethics. I have not spent any time on epistemology, so if you have, my speculation here may seem feeble. But it seems to me that it is possible for some knowledge to be subjective and individualized. It is possible for me to genuinely know it to be true that my husband loves me, while you not only do not but cannot ever know it.

  220. #220 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    tomh,

    Interestingly, you forgot to quote what coelsblog had actually demanded in making your demand and calling my reply “silly”:

    “I bet you cannot quote anyone actually claiming that.”

    He was not asking for a quote of someone implying it, but a quote of someone actually claiming what she said. Which is ludicrous, since you can’t find a quote of someone actually claiming something that they’ve implied. So your demand is a scaled down version of what he actually said. And as for your demand, I argued some ways where something like that might be implied in my comment:

    First, in part by saying that the only way of knowing is science without prefacing it by making it clear that the term “science” is meant broadly, or replying to criticisms that formal science is not the only way of knowing by using the broader definition as if the terms were interchangeable. Add in cases where formal scientific claims are always to be preferred to those for fields that are not formally scientific and some cases can be made.

    Are you telling me I couldn’t find quotes for these sorts of claims? Say, by taking any of the “science defined broadly” comments in this thread or elsewhere, or finding a quote from Jerry Coyne where he, for example, replies to Ward’s criticisms with the broader definition despite Ward making it clear twice that he isn’t using that one, or even looking at discussions of, say, free will and the insistence that science’s hypothesis that our actions are deterministic should mean that we ditch the idea of free will, even though that causes massive problems for fields like morality and even philosophy of mind?

  221. #221 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    coelsblog,

    To see if this is a substantive difference, we need to go back to the original question, which was about the empirical justification for mathematics. So, the summary we have is this:

    We know that in M, 2+2=4, and we don’t know that empirically.

    To make it even more clear, take it this way:

    In W, we know that in M’ 2+2=5, and we don’t know that empirically.

    Thus, there is knowledge we have in W that is not empirical, and thus that is what was to be demonstrated.

    As for whether mathematics covers M only or all M’-type systems, note that Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries are all geometries. I fail to see why differing arithmetic systems — which is what M and M’ really are — would be any different.

  222. #222 Verbose Stoic
    December 30, 2011

    coelsblog,

    You miss the point. The point is that ideas are themselves not uncontroversial examples of natural selection, so using them as an example isn’t actually using an example that really is one, in the same way as other cases wouldn’t really be examples for him to use. Thus, he makes an argument, not just an illustration, because if we don’t buy the argument we won’t accept the illustration.

    I have no idea why you are firing a charge of “making a new science out of it” at me, and am not really clear on what you mean by that anyway. However, Dawkins clearly wanted us to think of ideas and words and things like that as memes and use the natural selection way to analyze them, as demonstrated in many other places when he uses memes to do just that sort of analysis.

  223. #223 MattiR
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose,

    The culture had to abandon it, as they did abandon (ie reject) it. So, then, how is that NOT relevant to my definition when it makes up a crucial part of it?

    First, the fact that they abandoned it does not mean that they “had to” abandon it. But the fact that they abandoned it is irrelevant to the point anyway. As long as they “adopted and … maintained [it] over a significantly long period of time without having to abandon it due to any alternative pressures” then it meets your definition. And the belief that the earth is flat was certainly “adopted and … maintained over a significantly long period of time without having to abandon it due to any alternative pressure.” It was “adopted and maintained” for thousands of years before being abandoned. So it meets your definition. So why are you justified in believing it?

    And in those cultures, they would have justification for it.

    You’re just repeating yourself instead of answering the question. WHY do you think they are justified in believing it? Why are you justified in believing it?

    You make the mistake of assuming that if you have justification to believe something, then that must mean that what you believe is true necessarily.

    I don’t believe that. I think there can be beliefs that are justified but false. You need to read what I write more carefully, and stop attributing to me positions I have not expressed.

  224. #224 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “I have no idea why you are firing a charge of “making a new science out of it” at me”

    That wasn’t aimed at you so much as the thread in general.

    “However, Dawkins clearly wanted us to think of ideas and words and things like that as memes and use the natural selection way to analyze them …”

    Agreed.

  225. #225 MattiR
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose,

    Well, then you do have a problem, because you said that to be scientific was to use observation, experimentation, and reason,

    No, I didn’t say anything about “being scientific.” I said that the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning — are the only “way of knowing,” the only way of producing knowledge.

    I don’t know if I have an answer because you keep equivocating on what the terms mean.

    I haven’t “equivocated” at all. If you think there are “ways of knowing” other than observation, experiment and reasoning, then tell us what they are and give us some examples of knowledge that you think these “other ways of knowing” have produced. If you cannot identify any other “ways of knowing,” then admit it and stop wasting our time.

    If you insist that faith and revelation cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones the burden is on you to examine the methods of faith and revelation and point out what in them causes them to be unable to do so.

    No it doesn’t. If you think faith and revelation CAN distinguish true beliefs from false ones, then give us some examples of such beliefs. If you agree with me that faith and revelation cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones, then admit it and stop wasting our time.

  226. #226 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “He was not asking for a quote of someone implying it, but a quote of someone actually claiming what she said.”

    OK, but the original claim was “*deliberately* implying”, which seems fairly clear cut (not just a misunderstanding of whether a narrow or broad definition of “science” was intended), but you’re right that my phrasing was perhaps sub-optimal. What I meant was saying something that could be taken as “deliberately implying”.

    Anyway, this one really is semantics, I seriously doubt that anyone has “deliberately” implied that many cultures have “no knowledge whatsoever”. If they have, they’re clearly wrong.

  227. #227 MattiR
    December 30, 2011

    jane,

    I would comfortably say that I KNOW I love my husband, and I KNOW that he loves me.

    How do you know these things, if not by the methods of science — observation, experiment and reasoning? Your love for your husband is an emotion that you experience directly. Your belief that your husband loves you is a conclusion from your observations of his speech and behavior.

    Well, how do I know that? I can directly perceive my own feelings, but if you refused to believe that I had them and demanded that I produce independent proof you could see, what would I do?

    You could show me evidence. A record of your behavior towards your husband suggesting that you do in fact love him.

    I have paid attention to the details of how my spouse has treated me for many years and with what attitude, and these are consistent with his professed love being genuine. Does that judgement, involving observing nature and drawing conclusions from observation, count as science?

    Observation is one of the methods of science. Your informal, everyday observations of your husband’s behavior obviously do not qualify as formal, professional scientific research. But no one has said that knowledge is limited to the results of formal, professional scientific research, despite your endless attempts to keep falsely attributing that position to us.

    Likewise, there are questions of ethics. I would say that IKNOW, for a fact, that the trust my husband and cat have for me places an obligation on me not to betray that trust.

    How do you know that obligations are matters of fact rather than subjective preference?

  228. #228 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “To make it even more clear, take it this way: In W, we know that in M’ 2+2=5, and we don’t know that empirically.”

    OK, granted. Although, while we might know that M’ statement in W it isn’t “about” W or about anything really except M’, and it amounts only to a collection of “if … then …” statements.

    Back to the original point I responded to in this thread, which was: “Similarly, mathematical facts are a priori: no amount of empirical evidence could overturn the conclusion that 2+2=4.”

    Now, if we interpret “mathematics” as meaning the superset {M, M’, M” …}, as you seem to in your last post, then the above (2+2=4) isn’t true, since it’s true only in M, not in M’, M”, etc. So for the above to be correct we still need to narrow down the maths to M, and that can only be empirical. (And if we interpret the above as implicitly intending M only, then there has to have been an earlier stage of empiricism in arriving at M, and not M’, M” etc.)

    So perhaps you are right that we can obtain “knowledge” of a sort in W that is not empirical (though it is not about W, so I’d just have to rephrase to the claim that empiricism is necessary for knowledge about W). But a claim that 2+2=4 has to involve some empiricism somewhere along the line (or an arbitrary restriction to “if M then …”).

  229. #229 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    jane:

    “Does that judgement, involving observing nature and drawing conclusions from observation, count as science?”

    Yes (so long as we regard “science” as a matter of degree, not a binary yes/no, but then we have to anyway, since in many parts of science we can’t do replicated, controlled double-blind experiments, and so need to make do with less).

    “Most people, whether pro- or anti-scientism, would not want the definition of science so stretched as to engulf such commonplace…”

    I would, with the above caveat. But the basis of that is that there are no hard demarcation lines, and that knowledge is a seamless whole, with the same ideas of evidence and reason applying everywhere (even if the quality of evidence available differs).

  230. #230 tomh
    December 30, 2011

    @ #217
    I called your statement silly because it is. You claim there are cases where you can say that the implication is being made, but you can’t quote people implying things. You can ramble on about definitions of science, free will, morality, or a dozen other irrelevant issues, but the fact is that if it were true that advocates of scientism IMPLY “that cultures that do not practice formal Science possess no knowledge whatsoever,” there will be a quote somewhere that shows this. Let’s see it.

  231. #231 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    jane:

    “I would say that I KNOW, for a fact, that the trust my husband and cat have for me places an obligation on me not to betray that trust.”

    You don’t *know* it, you *feel* it. Morals are feelings, not truths.

    “I also think I know that a society that does not recognize honor or loyalty will not be a happy one.”

    That claim is indeed one that can be true or false, and for which empirical evidence can be gained.

    “If you agree, I am sure that you, like me, cannot cite any scientific publications that prove those to be the correct conclusions.”

    For the second, empirical evidence (which could be published) can be gained. Answering that question is indeed science. The first one is not a matter of truth/falsehood but of feelings.

  232. #232 coelsblog
    December 30, 2011

    jane:

    “I would say that I KNOW, for a fact, that the trust my husband and cat have for me places an obligation on me not to betray that trust.”

    You don’t *know* it, you *feel* it. Morals are feelings, not truths.

    That opinion I defend at length arguing that science can answer morality questions.

  233. #233 MattiR
    December 30, 2011

    Jane,

    But it seems to me that it is possible for some knowledge to be subjective and individualized.

    Yes, of course it’s possible for some knowledge to be subjective and individualized. If I peel an orange and find that it is rotten inside, I may be only individual to ever know that fact. I don’t know what you think this has to do with “other ways of knowing.” I know the orange is rotten only because I observe it to be so. The fact that I am the only person to know it’s rotten is irrelevant.

    It is possible for me to genuinely know it to be true that my husband loves me, while you not only do not but cannot ever know it.

    Obviously, you could know things about your husband that I could never know simply because I can’t make all the same observations of him that you can make. But again, this is beside the point. The only way you can know he loves you is by OBSERVING his behavior. If you think you know he loves you through some kind of extrasensory, psychic connection between your mind and his, then I’m telling you you are most likely mistaken. There’s no evidence of any such phenomenon. There’s plenty of evidence that people are often mistaken in their beliefs about who loves them.

  234. #234 jane
    December 30, 2011

    MattiE: “endless attempts to keep falsely attributing that position to us”

    I correctly attribute the position to some people whose philosophical position is described by others as scientism. If you are not one of those people, good for you! Reacting to dissent with a pile of false claims regarding the behavior of the dissenter does not strengthen your argument. Incidentally, for you and tomh, I have submitted a lengthy comment responding to the earlier demands made of me, but it has been hung up for several hours in moderation.

    “If you think you know he loves you through some kind of extrasensory, psychic connection between your mind and his, then I’m telling you you are most likely mistaken. There’s no evidence of any such phenomenon. There’s plenty of evidence that people are often mistaken in their beliefs about who loves them.”

    Well, no, I explicitly attributed it to conscious and intuitive processing of behavioral observations (including small behaviors such as tone of voice, facial expression, etc.). I never mentioned ESP, nor do I believe that I possess any. Since you surely regard that as an insult, I can only describe this as an ad hominem attack based on the very silly idea that people who believe one thing you dislike must believe other things you dislike. To address your epistemological point, though, yes, people are sometimes fooled about who loves them. Researchers and doctors are sometimes fooled into believing that worthless drugs are beneficial. In neither case can we conclude that accurate knowledge about the subject is therefore impossible.

    It appears that you and coelsblog (more civilly) both intend to express the opinion that whenever a human being observes things, thinks about them, and draws conclusions, we are seeing science in action (hence, rejecting Premise 1 of the hypothetical argument I present in the hung-up message, which you will hopefully see soon). Although I am happy to have an agreement that non-experts can generate and possess knowledge, I really do not like this definition – nor is it the one used by many whose beliefs may be considered to be scientism. If every baby is doing science when they learn by observation that objects exist continuously, for example, “science” becomes a term so broad as to be almost meaningless. For that matter, while perhaps you will acknowledge acts of reason in very intelligent animals like chimps and elephants, I cannot imagine that either of you wants to say that cats and dogs practice science. Yet if correctly deducing from observations that you are loved (and therefore safe from getting swatted) is a type of science, the cat currently weighing down my lap is clearly capable of it. Earthworms learn by observation to run a T-maze, for Pete’s sake. Where are we going to draw the line here?

  235. #235 Owlmirror
    December 30, 2011

    If every baby is doing science when they learn by observation that objects exist continuously, for example, “science” becomes a term so broad as to be almost meaningless.

    Amusingly enough: The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind.

    I disagree that the term becomes meaningless by being broad, as long as it’s understood to be broad: It can in that sense sense refer to an epistemology that is rooted in contingent empirical observation. How is a baby — or indeed, any human — not doing that when they learn about how reality works by observing reality?

  236. #236 Another Matt
    December 30, 2011

    Re: 2+2=5

    At what point are you willing to say that a proposed math system has axioms that are collectively logically inconsistent rather than to posit a different world W’ with a different M’? Why is a math system with a 2+2=5 theorem “just another world” rather than one that has “inconsistent axioms” (i.e. we can tell the system is incoherent because its axioms yield something contradictory)?

    This isn’t necessarily a challenge (I wasn’t a math or philosophy major), but I want to make sense of what you’re saying. For some reason this example seems a little bit too low-level to even imagine. If we say “in world W’ we teach M’ where 2+2=5 prior to undergrad,” do we also accept that two couples who meet for lunch always have a fifth wheel in this world? Can there be minds in such a world, in other words? Yet it does seem intuitively possible to me to have a world where the space is such that there is a Euclidean 3-dimensional platonic solid with quadrilateral faces, but I think it’s just because it’s harder to imagine what the platonic solids are from the definition.

    Another way of saying this is that some definitions yield the null set, e.g. “‘Shardrilaterals’ is the set of all euclidian-2d regular polygons with angles smaller than 60 degrees” and “‘Splintegers’ is the set of all integers that, when added to themselves yield 5.” Shardrilaterals and Splintegers are the same set. I’m worried that a lot of shenanigans happen when someone asks you to imagine something that seems fuzzily plausible but is not in fact possible (p-zombies or swampman, e.g.).

  237. #237 MattiR
    December 30, 2011

    jane,

    Well, no, I explicitly attributed it to conscious and intuitive processing of behavioral observations (including small behaviors such as tone of voice, facial expression, etc.).

    So you agree, then, that the only way you can know your husband loves you is by OBSERVING his behavior and drawing rational conclusions from those observations. If the behavior you observed was strongly inconsistent with the hypothesis that he loves you, you would most likely reject it. You’re simply following an informal version of the process professional scientists use to produce formal scientific knowledge. The same informal scientific process we all use to produce everyday knowledge of the world around us. Welcome to “scientism.”

    If every baby is doing science when they learn by observation that objects exist continuously, for example, “science” becomes a term so broad as to be almost meaningless.

    Babies make observations and draw conclusions from them just as adults do. Babies just have a more rudimentary capacity for acquiring knowledge because their brains are less developed and they have less experience of the world. But this is obviously a radically different way of forming beliefs than the irrational methods that various people claim to be “other ways of knowing” — religious faith, sacred writings, holy prophecy, prayer, astrology, mediums, tea-leaf reading, and so on. Why you think the distinction between the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning — and these other alleged “ways of knowing” is “almost meaningless,” I have no idea.

  238. #238 Anthony McCarthy
    December 31, 2011

    Whoever it is who followed me through my e-mail address, before I filter you out, MattiR’s conception of science is typical among people who are addicted to pop science and watch junk science shows on the BBC 4 and The Discover Channel. It’s about as much science as the gossipy stuff in Krafft-Ebing was science, it would bring science back to something like the period story telling and rumor as knowledge of pre-scientific Europe, it isn’t science in any meaningful sense of the word, going hand in hand with the degeneration of physics into the period of creating scholastic models of make believe universes.

    That someone could get this far in such an absurd abuse of the word “science” on one of the better known “Scienceblogs” without someone who knows better issuing a definitive correction only shows how badly astray the promotion of materialism can lead people who should know better. Once your eyes are open to it, that result of a fundamentalist adherence to materialist ideology is obvious all over what gets called “science” these days. It’s always been there but it’s proliferated in the last half century and science has yet to take out that trash. Perhaps it’s time someone pointed out that it’s there.

  239. #239 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    Another Matt:

    “Why is a math system with a 2+2=5 theorem “just another world” rather than one that has “inconsistent axioms” (i.e. we can tell the system is incoherent because its axioms yield something contradictory)?”

    If you can show that this system (M’) would indeed be internally inconsistent then please do so. That would show that our maths is “necessary” in the sense of being the only one that is internally consistent, and that would be highly interesting.

    However, showing that it (M’) is merely inconsistent with some of *our* (M) axioms is not the same as showing that there is no M’ that is internally consistent. Also, human intuition is probably a bad guide to the answer, since we’re (empirically) steeped in M.

    “If we say “in world W’ we teach M’ where 2+2=5 prior to undergrad,” do we also accept that two couples who meet for lunch always have a fifth wheel in this world?”

    Yes!

    ” Can there be minds in such a world, in other words?”

    I don’t know. Do you?

  240. #240 Verbose Stoic
    December 31, 2011

    MattiR,

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here, and clarify my initial statement in a way that I didn’t think it needed to be but that you don’t see that is the only way to make your objections sensible in light of your denials:

    For my definition, cultural and societal beliefs are only justified if they are the beliefs of a culture or society that you in some way consider yourself to be a part of, either directly or indirectly.

    Now, does this in any way change your objections, or just what ARE your objections?

  241. #241 Verbose Stoic
    December 31, 2011

    MattiR,

    No it doesn’t. If you think faith and revelation CAN distinguish true beliefs from false ones, then give us some examples of such beliefs. If you agree with me that faith and revelation cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones, then admit it and stop wasting our time.

    I take the third option, and claim that I do not know. I see no reason a priori to think that faith and revelation cannot do that, but you seem so passionate about the claim that they cannot distinguish true beliefs from false ones that I presume that you have some solid arguments and evidence for that claim, which I am waiting for you to supply so that I can be dazzled and amazed.

    Thus, since I am NOT claiming that they can indeed do that, the only person in this subthread making a claim is you. That means that you indeed have the burden of proof, so hop to it.

  242. #242 Verbose Stoic
    December 31, 2011

    coelsblog,

    The problem is that you are engaging in semantics — inadvertently, I think — to avoid the actual substantive point. When I said “2+2=4 is universally true”, that is a statement that requires disambiguation, just like the statement “I am at home” and “It is freezing rain outside” do. Now, normally, we have all the right contexts including the person referred to by “I” and the location and so on and so forth, and so can disambiguate it. And so since we can do that without having to write it into the statement we don’t bother. But the real statement being made is, for example, “Verbose Stoic is at home right now”.

    The same thing applies to “2+2=4″. There are always extra terms that should be specified in order to us to understand it. One of those is base. Another is arithmetic system. Now, I didn’t specify them because, in general, we assume that such statements are made in the default base — base 10 — and the default arithmetic system that we’ve called M for the purposes of this discussion. So my statement always was “In M, in base 10, 2+2=4 is a necessary but non-empirical truth. Therefore, we have non-empirical knowledge”. Your arguments depended in a large sense on ignoring that default presumption.

    Anyway, I have also addressed “selection” of M over M’. There is no mathematical reason to select M over M’, and certainly not one that is empirically based. We DO choose M or M’ to model the world, but that’s not a mathematical concern. And so my point stands: we have non-empirical knowledge. THAT’S what we need to address, and your selection example, to me, has yet to challenge that, and it sounds like you agree with me.

  243. #243 Verbose Stoic
    December 31, 2011

    tomh,

    Nuh-uh. I’m not providing quotes until you accept that the implications I talked about COULD be implications of the sort that jane talked about. If we don’t agree on that, then the instant I provide quotes you’ll just deny the implications, and I argue that if we agree that those sorts of arguments can imply something like what jane said we won’t need quotes because it will be obvious that people take that position.

    Now, I will say that I think the implications are debatable. There’s a reason I talked about “a case can be made” instead of saying that those are what the implications are. My big push, then, was more to dodge the dismissals of “It’s just a strawman!”. There are at least some reasons to think that some people — intentionally or no — are really implying that, and so jane’s concerns aren’t just stupid strawmanny trolling, but at least partially valid interpretations of positions. She may well be wrong, but she is not being dishonestly wrong.

  244. #244 Verbose Stoic
    December 31, 2011

    coelsblog,

    You don’t *know* it, you *feel* it. Morals are feelings, not truths.

    And how do you know that, if moral truths are not empirical as you seem to suggest they are? If I claim that morals are associated with emotions in humans but that those feelings generally get in the way of morality as opposed to furthering or proving it, what evidence — empirical, mind you — will you use to convince me otherwise?

  245. #245 Verbose Stoic
    December 31, 2011

    Another Matt,

    I accepted it for the sake of argument, but it is indeed possible that you cannot build a mathematical system that is coherent based on “2+2=5″. I’ll leave figuring that out to the mathematicians. But it wasn’t relevant to the debate I was having with coelsblog, which was that we can get non-empirical knowledge.

  246. #246 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “When I said “2+2=4 is universally true” [...] my statement always was “In M, in base 10, 2+2=4 is a necessary but non-empirical truth.

    I think we’re close to agreement. I would not originally have interpreted the former statement as having an implicit “in M”, because I’d have interpreted the “universally” to refer to the superset {M, M’, M” …}, but I accept that with that precursor your statement is true.

    “There is no mathematical reason to select M over M’, and certainly not one that is empirically based.”

    Agreed again, and the important word is *mathematical* reason. But here you have stated that there is no mathematical reason to select M, while just above you asserted that the selection of M was so obvious as to be implicit and not needing stating.

    Again, I submit that the only reason to select M is empirical; that is not a *mathematical* reason, granted, but it is the reason for the selection of M in your first statement. If it isn’t, what is?

  247. #247 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “In M, in base 10, 2+2=4 is a necessary but non-empirical truth. Therefore, we have non-empirical knowledge”.

    OK, yes. But a few caveats. First, this “knowledge” is only about the internals of the logic-system M. It is not about W or about any *thing*. Also, this knowledge amounts only to a set of “if … then …” statements.

    If that is the only non-empirical knowlege then it is a rather limited exception, and I can rephrase my claims by saying that empiricism is the only route to knowledge about the world.

    Another deeper caveat is whether humans are capable of arriving at M without any empirical grounding. We were asking above whether M’ is even possible, in the sense of being consistent, and I don’t know the answer. If a human did come up with a fully consistent M’ then that might imply that humans could arrive at M ex nihilo. But no human has ever done that; certainly the route by which mankind arrived at M was empirical. In that sense I’m not quite convinced that humans are, in a practical sense, capable of arriving at entirely non-empirical knowledge of the above sort (even if it might be in principle possible).

  248. #248 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    Verbose Stoic:

    “And how do you know that, if moral truths are not empirical as you seem to suggest they are?”

    I am arguing that there is no such thing as a “moral truth”. Humans have *feelings* about moral issues, and thus humans feel and judge that certain actions are morally wrong or right. But there is no absolute moral arbiter to decide whether those judgements are “true”.

    In the same way, we can say that “Bill likes ice cream” but we can’t say that “ice cream is nice” is a “true” statement, since it has no meaning in the abstract, it only has meaning in reference to someone finding it nice.

  249. #249 jane
    December 31, 2011

    Unlike Verbose Stoic, I’m through giving MattiR the benefit of the doubt. I actually am a professional scientist, which I doubt she is, but not one who thinks that all useful information is generated by those with PhDs. If by “science” we simply mean “observation of the world around us and of our own subjective experiences,” I am quite happy to agree that science is the only way to derive new accurate knowledge. But she cannot avoid the fact that the people who refer to indigenous or past peoples as “prescientific” – something I discuss in the long message that has STILL not been released from quarantine – clearly have a different definition. And when she writes:

    “Why you think the distinction between the methods of science — observation, experiment, reasoning — and these other alleged “ways of knowing” ["faith... mediums, tea leaf reading"] is “almost meaningless,” I have no idea.”

    in response to my statement that the definition of science as any drawing of conclusions from observation is “so broad as to be almost meaningless” – no mention of scriptures or tea leaves – I can only conclude that either her reading comprehension is off today, or it’s another attempt at a childish ad hominem based on the assumption that there are only two kinds of people in this world, the totally scientism-enlightened and the totally benighted. What a waste of breath it is to argue with someone like this.

  250. #250 jane
    December 31, 2011

    Verbose Stoic – Thanks for the sorta-defense, but I recognize tomh to be one of those whose tactic is to make an endless series of demands of any perceived dissenter not so that he can consider changing his view in response to the information provided, but so that he can sucker the victim into voluntarily assuming a subordinate status, like a student being ordered to produce homework that will always receive a failing grade. As an entirely one-sided tactic, it’s not even a high-school debate team argument; it’s certainly not a reasoned argument, much less a civil discussion (which, believe it or not, was what I hoped to get from someone).

    Herewith a shorter version of my argument, which I will try to make terse enough that it is not censored out. Promoters of some strains of scientism explicitly reject the possibility of past or non-industrialized cultures’ possessing any useful knowledge in some areas (e.g., traditional medicine) on the grounds that their “knowledge” was not obtained scientifically. No arguments about the value of traditional medicine will be sustained here: the point is that some of that knowledge, however imperfect, was surely derived from observation, just as was their knowledge of foods, poisons, dyes, etc. and how to use them. Some have actually referred to those cultures as “prescientific,” which clearly indicates that, in those speakers’ view, the fact that those people are/were able to observe and think about things does not make them practitioners of science at all. The term may even be applied to past peoples who made sophisticated astronomical observations, which I would be happy to call science.

    Secondly, we have the bald-faced statement made at different times by numerous individuals that science is the only means of obtaining knowledge. So we can construct a hypothetical argument as follows: Premise 1: Many cultures do not or did not practice science. Premise 2: Science is the only means of obtaining knowledge. Conclusion: Many cultures possessed or now possess no knowledge. I invited the proponents of scientism here to specify, if they did not like the conclusion, which premise was wrong. It sounds like two of them are willing to reject Premise 1, which is fine with me.

  251. #251 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    jane:

    “But she cannot avoid the fact that the people who refer to indigenous or past peoples as “prescientific” … clearly have a different definition.

    You are right, there are different definitions of “science” going around, very different in their breadth. Some use “science” only for the highly formalised methods of today’s professional sciences.

    However, some (such as me) argue that these formal-science methods are only refinements and improvements of what mankind has always done, namely observe nature and make reasoned deductions. Thus there is no dividing line (other than arbitrary ones) between today’s formalised science and the observationally acquired knowledge that a hunter-gatherer society would have about prey animals. The differences are only in degree, and in refinement of the methods.

    The issue arises when some (and I’m not suggesting you) want to argue that “science” is only one way of knowing, and that there are “other ways of knowing” to which scientific evidence does not apply. This is usually a way of avoiding having to supply evidence.

    Those of us who see knowledge as a seamless whole (without demarcation lines) would reply that, no, similar ideas about evidence apply everywhere. And we might call this observation/evidence-based enquiry “science”, but only in a very broad sense, meaning to include the hunter-gatherers above. But I’m open to a better word if you have one!

    The confusion then arises through which sense of “science” is intended. For example the above speaker about “pre-scientific societies” would be using the narrow sense, not a broad sense.

  252. #252 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    jane:

    “Promoters of some strains of scientism explicitly reject the possibility of past or non-industrialized cultures’ possessing any useful knowledge in some areas (e.g., traditional medicine) on the grounds that their “knowledge” was not obtained scientifically.”

    Do they? Or does this impression arise from conflating Person A (who is using a narrow definition of science) with Person B (who is using a broad definition of science) to produce a strawman composite that no-one actually proposes?

    If there are people who advocate the above, then they are (in my opinion) clearly wrong.

  253. #253 Anthony McCarthy
    December 31, 2011

    jane, I certainly didn’t intend to demean non-western or pre-scientific thinkers, I was just pointing out that what they do falls outside of science because science is intentionally restricted to only those observations, etc. that can be treated with the methods of science. I’m, actually, quite disturbed with the amount of stuff that is called science and widely accepted by scientists which doesn’t begin to approach the standards necessary to find information of the enhanced reliability that science can provide. Why do it or fund it if it’s results are no more reliable than conjecture and story telling? If they want to do that they should call it “lore” which is what it is.

    I came across a scientist the other day who said that they’d asked a friend who was a prominent physicist why he should accept the multiple universe conjecture which, it is presently believed, will never have any evidence to support it. His friend said, “That way we can get rid of God”. Which I wasn’t aware was a legitimate goal of scientific research. Though I think is the actual reason a lot of the similar “science” is made up, an impressive amount of which gets junked as fashions among scientists change. Well, you don’t have to believe in God, no one is required to, but multiple universes, which it has been pointed out is an ultimate violation of the principle of parsimony, is about as ridiculous a way of doing it as has ever been done. It’s miles more absurd than the Bayesian arguments for the existence of God and Berkeley’s arguments as well, at least the things those referred to could be perceived and as reasonably known to exist as anything else in the physical universe.

  254. #254 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “I’m, actually, quite disturbed with the amount of stuff that is called science and widely accepted by scientists which doesn’t begin to approach the standards necessary to find information of the enhanced reliability that science can provide. Why do it or fund it if it’s results are no more reliable than conjecture and story telling?

    Your problem is that you see “reliability” as yes/no when actually it is a continuum. And that means that science is also a *continuum* of methods, from which you pick in order to get the most reliable results that you can with the evidence you have available.

    Thus a controlled, double-blind, repeated experiment is the gold-standard, which you do if you can, but in many situations the practicalities mean you can’t, so you then do the best you can, and that is still science!

    “I came across a scientist the other day who said that they’d asked a friend who was a prominent physicist why he should accept the multiple universe conjecture which, it is presently believed, will never have any evidence to support it. His friend said, “That way we can get rid of God”.”

    Ah, a friend of a friend story. How convincing. And likely made up to suit. How about you name this “prominent physicist” and we can ask him whether it is true?

  255. #255 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “… but multiple universes, which it has been pointed out is an ultimate violation of the principle of parsimony, …”

    Only if you don’t understand parsimony, which is really about the amount of information needed to specify something. The recipe:

    “take one universe, duplicate 10^500 times, assign all physical constants at random”

    is actually far more parsimonious than:

    “take one universe, set c = 3 x 10^8 m/s, set h = 6.64 x 10^-34 J s, set e = 1.6 x 10^-19 C and continue for another 30 or 40 constants”.

  256. #256 Anthony McCarthy
    December 31, 2011

    colesblog, I’m not going to bother talking to you, you ignore what other people say when it doesn’t accord with your faith. I certainly never talked about “gold standards” or “double blind” or much of anything except to say that unless there is real physical evidence of something then science is ultimately unable to say anything about it. Though you can make up any “universe” you want to as long as you can balance equations, the kind of “science” that Hawking and his buddies want to substitute for the kind that requires measuring those against observable reality.

    Either you accept that necessity within science or your assertions about the position of evidence among the materialistic and atheistic, guaranteeing that the superiority of science, as well as their pretensions of owning it, is just obvious hypocrisy. And that’s what it’s ever more looking like.

  257. #257 Owlmirror
    December 31, 2011

    But she cannot avoid the fact that the people who refer to indigenous or past peoples as “prescientific” – something I discuss in the long message that has STILL not been released from quarantine – clearly have a different definition.

    It seems clear to me that calling them “prescientific” cannot possibly mean that they make no empirical observations whatsoever, but rather, they themselves do not distinguish between empirical observations, and dreams and/or hunches and/or whim and/or fallacious inferences, or traditions that derive from dreams and/or hunches and/or whim and/or fallacious inferences.

    And the point of traditional medicines is an interesting one. It seems uncontroversial that there is at least some good to be derived from some of the herbs or healing techniques. But the “traditional medicine” of western societies was full of substances and methods that simply did not work — or only worked in a narrow set of circumstances, and were then grossly overapplied, often to the detriment of those they were applied to (leeches, anyone?). So we should be strongly skeptical of traditional medicines of other cultures. Some of them may well do what they are supposed to, but others may just be the result of post hoc, ergo propter hoc being passed down for generations.

  258. #258 coelsblog
    December 31, 2011

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Either you accept that necessity within science …”

    *Obviously* we need empirical evidence of something before it can become accepted within science as true. And that includes the multiverse. Everyone agrees! No-one said otherwise! As usual you’re constructing a strawman (with friend of a friend stories) and then thinking yourself so erudite for sticking a bayonet into the straw.

  259. #259 Another Matt
    December 31, 2011

    If you can show that this system (M’) would indeed be internally inconsistent then please do so. That would show that our maths is “necessary” in the sense of being the only one that is internally consistent, and that would be highly interesting.

    I think you misunderstand my intentions – like I said I wasn’t a math, science, or philosophy major, so I don’t think I have the credentials to say I think you’re wrong – but I’m curious to learn.

    We’re also empirically steeped in a 3-dimensional world so imagining worlds with four spatial dimensions is also taxing, but we can still model it coherently even if it “doesn’t exist in our world”. My question is, at what degree do the gears of logic have to grind before one is willing to “call it” and say that that a system is just incoherent?

    Are the axioms of your proposed M’ potentially completely unintelligible by humans and inexpressible in any possible symbolic system in this world? I can’t show a 2+2=5 world to be incoherent, but I do wonder if anyone has ever produced a set of axioms that would have 2+2=5 (in the basic sense of counting separately and then again in a group) as a theorem? What would some other theorems be: 1+1=x 2+3=x 5+5=x ? If I add two protons to two protons and get five protons, do I also add a proton+electron to a proton+electron and get five subatomic particles just because I can imagine the class of “subatomic particles?” It seems like anything that can be reliably called a discrete object can be counted and that such a world would blow up before it got started because all possibly countable pairs of pairs would have an extra object, making several more pairs with which it could participate, ad infinitum. I think you lose any coherent notion of “counting” or of “discrete object” or both in such a system, but I’d be delighted to be wrong!

    Maybe I’m just being too literal about this; help me out!

  260. #260 Anthony McCarthy
    December 31, 2011

    colesblog, I didn’t construct a straw man, I was relating a story I read. If you want me to take it out of that frame I’ll make a declarative statement. There is no reason, other than the desire to believe it’s true, to believe in multi-universes and I’ve never seen any reason for anyone to believe in it other than that than to bravely make a declaration that God didn’t make the universe (why God, being all powerful, couldn’t make an infinite number of universes is apparently an idea that hasn’t occurred to these great thinkers). Despite my affection for the science fiction of Clifford Simak, I’m able to distinguish between fiction and empirical evidence.

    Why is the creation of self-consistent equations any better than coming up with a good story in determining the nature of universes that are of entirely unknowable character due to the impossibility of observing them? It’s even more absurd than trying to come up with evidence of “other life” which would, at least, share the same universe we do, and contend that that’s a scientific endeavor. You might as well propose an infinity of entities that are not universes and to come up with equations about those.

    You might as well come up with the equally untestable declaration that ours is, in fact, the only universe but that 20th century physics and cosmology are so primitive as compared to the actual nature of the universe that it comes to a limit in the tools and understanding of physics, runs into a brick wall and those turn in on themselves producing the appearance of patterns which are actually only an illusion. Or, in new atheist speak, a delusion, when those are taken as established knowledge. That kind of thing, at least, has an historical precedent in things such as aether. It’s known that things like that can happen as opposed to other universes. “Model dependent realism” is, in fact, a form of neo-scholasticism, not anything to do with anything that can appear to us as reality can. There is every reason to believe that as compared to personal experience it is complete bunkum.

  261. #261 tomh
    December 31, 2011

    jane wrote:

    I recognize tomh to be one of those whose tactic is to make an endless series of demands of any perceived dissenter

    I recognize jane to be one of those who distorts and hyperbolizes the views of any perceived dissenter. After all, I asked for one example of an advocate of scientism who implied “that cultures that do not practice formal Science possess no knowledge whatsoever.” I also recognize jane to be one of those who, when she cannot back up her unevidenced assertions, whines about how uncivil others are, then engages in insults, and finally declares victory and flounces off.

  262. #262 Anthony McCarthy
    December 31, 2011

    “flounces off”

    Another of the standard set phrases that gets worn out by new atheist repetition.

    Well, when one of you filled up my e-mail with insulting junk I decided to flounce back. You like that any better?

    I’ve changed my e-mail address to one that I’m not going to publish, by the way. So you can cut it out now.

  263. #263 Owlmirror
    December 31, 2011

    Well, when one of you filled up my e-mail with insulting junk

    I’m sorry to hear that. While you deserve to be insulted, the privacy of one’s e-mail ought to be respected.

    I decided to flounce back.

    You mean, you’re confessing that you were posting as jane? Or do you just not read for comprehension?

    Not everything is about you.

  264. #264 Anthony McCarthy
    December 31, 2011

    Owlmirror, I’m quite able to sustain the insults of silly people quite remarkably undamaged. I find them rather encouraging. It was the inconvenience of having to change my e-mail address, which has happened due to neo-atheist harassment before, which was marginally annoying. As I have given up blogging with partners I don’t need to give out my address anymore.

    I’m sure Jane is quite able to post as herself, and rather ably.

    And it allows me to recall that it was the very eminent scientist, Martin Rees who was quoted as advocating multiple universe conjecture due to his fervent belief that it disposed of God. It amazes me that as eminent a physicist as Rees couldn’t navigate the flaw in his contention cited above.

    It would lead me to suspect that he is unable to conceive of a singular universe such as ours, able to generate life could have any other explanation than one created for that- perhaps among other- reasons. A matter which, of course, falls entirely outside of the things science can deal with in the positive any more than it can in the negative. There is no scientific reason to believe or to disbelieve in that kind of creator God. I’m sure he must know that, so, I have to conclude that any such unease at the possible implications of a created universe is a case of the personal heebie jeebies, such as should not be introduced into science but which has been periodically all along. The results aren’t generally reliable as knowledge, requiring a predisposition to believe in order to accept them. Though just accepting them on authority is the way most people accept them because they aren’t competent to deal with the arguments involved.

  265. #265 MattiR
    December 31, 2011

    Verbose,

    cultural and societal beliefs are only justified if they are the beliefs of a culture or society that you in some way consider yourself to be a part of, either directly or indirectly.

    Why are they justified in that case, either? Why is anyone justified in believing that the earth is flat simply because they are part of a culture or society in which the belief that the earth is flat is a “successful societal belief,” as you defined that phrase? This is the third time I’ve asked.

    I take the third option, and claim that I do not know.

    Huh? How is it even POSSIBLE? How does faith support any belief over any other belief? It’s like saying that you “do not know” whether random guessing can distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

    And since you say you don’t know whether faith and revelation can distinguish true beliefs from false ones, you’re conceding that they cannot justify claims of knowledge, since knowledge requires that the belief is both true and justified.

  266. #266 MattiR
    December 31, 2011

    jane

    As far as I can tell, all your blather here boils down to is the complaint that, for some reason you cannot explain, you just don’t like the use of the words “science” or “methods of science” to refer to the process of acquiring knowledge through observation, experiment and reasoning. You don’t seem to be able to identify any other “ways of knowing” than these methods. You don’t seem to have any better term to offer to refer to the process people use to acquire knowledge. You’re just arguing over a word. If you truly have a substantive argument to make, if you truly believe that there is some other “way of knowing” than science as we have described it, then tell us what it is.

    We’re still waiting, by the way, for evidence to support your assertion that certain “advocates of scientism” deny that there is any such thing as knowledge at all except for formal scientific knowledge.

  267. #267 jane
    December 31, 2011

    Owlmirror – I will comment once more to assure you that I am not Anthony McCarthy, as you may have meant this innocently (although I have often been annoyed to witness the assumption of some promoters of orthodoxy that only one person on earth could be so stupid and ignorant as not to agree with them, therefore if there are two dissenters in a “discussion,” one must be a sockpuppet). I am in fact both female and an atheist, and assumed that tomh’s use of “flouncing” to express his correct belief that I am not going to jump through any hoops he holds up now or in the future was more likely to represent sexism than atheism. But I am not the dickish type of atheist and don’t hang around gnu websites enough to pick up the specialized “technical” vocabulary. :)

    Really, if I wanted to waste hours going back through the archives of certain Scienceblogs, I could certainly find some quote by a commenter, likely of tomh’s ilk, using the word “prescientific” or denying that the ancient Chinese practiced science, or some such. Anyone who has been hanging around Scienceblogs for long and is intellectually honest knows that such comments exist. Since the commenters are anonymous and unimportant, what is the point of selecting one at random to point and sneer at? It would only make me look like a jerk. Indeed, IF those who are here now can all reject that opinion, it does not matter who may have held it in the past. But I do not hear tomh saying so yet.

    Not only do animals observe, think and learn, but every field of human endeavor with practical results involves observing and learning from it. Whenever you are learning to do anything whatsoever, let’s say sewing or baking bread, or playing the trombone, you try doing things in different ways to see how you can make them go more smoothly or come out better. Almost every publishing academic field involves processing observations – say, if you are a historian you read old manuscripts and then you ponder what conclusions can be drawn from what’s in them. Neither the historian nor the trombone player would agree that, when they were engaged in expanding their knowledge and skills, they were doing Science. If you insist on using common English words in a way that is contrary to the definition used by 99% of English speakers, you are not going to be capable of communicating effectively with most people – which is bad if you are actually trying to spread your beliefs, but okay if you only want to see those who don’t already share your beliefs misunderstand you so you can sneer at how inferior they are.

  268. #268 jane
    December 31, 2011

    Hmm, another comment of mine stopped by the moderation queue. I will try again to make it shorter so that I can reply to assure Owlmirror that I am not a sockpuppet (charming assumption, thanks); that I am in fact female and an atheist and interpreted the use of “flouncing” to describe failure to follow orders as sexist rather than anti-religious.

    I also commented at more length that the definition of Science some of you now claim to prefer encompasses the practice of almost every publishing academic discipline (e.g., history) and practical activity (e.g., learning to play the trombone or bake bread) – and that 99% of the people practicing those activities would not agree that they were doing Science. If you genuinely have any interest in communicating you had better take that into account in deciding how to use the word “science.”

  269. #269 Anton Mates
    December 31, 2011

    jane,

    If every baby is doing science when they learn by observation that objects exist continuously, for example, “science” becomes a term so broad as to be almost meaningless.

    I don’t see why. Presumably babies acquire some of their beliefs by some mechanism other than conscious reasoning from observation, just as adults do. And presumably even their observation-based beliefs may be more or less consistent with those observations. So one could distinguish between “good science,” “bad science” and “non-science” even in the baby case, no?

    Yet if correctly deducing from observations that you are loved (and therefore safe from getting swatted) is a type of science, the cat currently weighing down my lap is clearly capable of it. Earthworms learn by observation to run a T-maze, for Pete’s sake.

    That’s only learning in the straight behaviorist sense, though. (Which, of course, humans can do as well.) I don’t know about Owlmirror and MattiR, but I would say that science involves the learning of propositional knowledge. The earthworm permanently modifies its mazerunning behavior to always go down the same arm of the maze, but I kind of doubt it actually develops the opinion, “this arm of the maze contains the reward.”

    Has your cat correctly inferred that your lap is safe, let alone that you love it? Or has it simply changed its habits in a non-rational response to your lack-of-swattage? I don’t actually know; I don’t particularly see why cats and dogs couldn’t be capable of holding some propositional beliefs, but I don’t think there’s much evidence for it. If they can, then sure, I’d say they can practice some rudimentary science.

  270. #270 tomh
    December 31, 2011

    jane wrote:

    interpreted the use of “flouncing” to describe failure to follow orders as sexist

    Nonsense. I guess I’ll have to show you the proper way to flounce. — Ok, that’s it. You won’t have tomh to kick around any more!

  271. #271 Anton Mates
    January 1, 2012

    Another Matt,

    At what point are you willing to say that a proposed math system has axioms that are collectively logically inconsistent rather than to posit a different world W’ with a different M’?

    Personally, I don’t think these are mutually exclusive alternatives. I have to assess inconsistency according to my own mind; if I think through the consequences of these axioms and arrive at an obvious contradiction, then I’m happy to say that they’re logically inconsistent. Nonetheless, in world W’, everyone might have minds that work differently, and they might find these axioms to be perfectly consistent.

    For some reason this example seems a little bit too low-level to even imagine.<

    From my POV, that’s a good thing for demonstrating the point. If we could imagine it, then we could model it, and then we would agree with the folks in W’ that M’ is mathematically valid. But if they’re working with genuinely different mathematics from the stuff we use, then we must be able to imagine some models they find unimaginable, and vice versa.

    If we say “in world W’ we teach M’ where 2+2=5 prior to undergrad,” do we also accept that two couples who meet for lunch always have a fifth wheel in this world?

    Mmmaybe. But I don’t think we must go that far; we need merely accept that whenever two couples meet for lunch and count themselves, they always end up counting five. Whether, if we visited their world, we would actually see a new person pop out of the ether at that point, or whether we’d just see them counting really weirdly…dunno.

    Yet it does seem intuitively possible to me to have a world where the space is such that there is a Euclidean 3-dimensional platonic solid with quadrilateral faces,

    That would be our world! The cube is such a solid, since a square is a kind of quadrilateral.

    It seems like anything that can be reliably called a discrete object can be counted and that such a world would blow up before it got started because all possibly countable pairs of pairs would have an extra object, making several more pairs with which it could participate, ad infinitum.

    Not necessarily. For one thing, if the equality is transitive, then it’s also true that 5 = 2+2, so maybe whenever you try to divvy up a five-object group into pairs, the leftover object vanishes. That might cancel out the expansion due to counting.

    For another, if we’re talking about counting as an actual mental activity, then there’s a limit to how quickly and how many objects any person can count. So maybe the world is steadily expanding, but it doesn’t blow up instantly or anything.

    Or, yes, this world could be one infinitely huge and complicated chaos–at least as far as we’re concerned.

  272. #272 coelsblog
    January 1, 2012

    Jane:

    “If you genuinely have any interest in communicating you had better take that into account in deciding how to use the word “science.””

    Yes, we do know that, and we do take it into account. That is why we give very explicit definitions of “science” when we advocate scientism. For example several us have explicitly stated the difference between narrow and broad meanings.

    However, please can you give *explicit examples* to support your claim that: “Promoters of some strains of scientism explicitly reject the possibility of past or non-industrialized cultures’ possessing any useful knowledge in some areas (e.g., traditional medicine) on the grounds that their “knowledge” was not obtained scientifically.”

    I assert that there are no such people, and that the impression you might have gained of that was your confusion over what they meant by “science”.

  273. #273 coelsblog
    January 1, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    colesblog, I didn’t construct a straw man, I was relating a story I read.

    So you have no substantiation whatsoever for this friend of a friend story.

    “There is no reason, other than the desire to believe it’s true, to believe in multi-universes …”

    What you mean is that you don’t know of any such reason. But there are some reasons, for example the fact that a multiverse is a prediction of some variants of chaotic-inflationary cosmology that are now gaining empirical support in our universe. But anyway, no-one is yet claiming a multiverse as established truth (it is only a hypothesis being explored and tested).

    “I’ve never seen any reason for anyone to believe in it other than that than to bravely make a declaration that God didn’t make the universe …

    If you think that the original proposal of a universe in cosmology, or it’s subsequent development as a model, has anything to do with “God” or rebuttals of “God”, then you are simply ignorant of the history of the idea, and you laughably overstate the amount of attention cosmologists pay to theology. As usual, religious people think (erroneously) that everything is about them and their God ideas.

  274. #274 Anthony McCarthy
    January 1, 2012

    There is no reason to believe in the physical existence of other universes, especially other universes proposed to have other physical characteristics (and who in the world really knows what that means) without the ability to observe those other universes. There is no way to know if they are real or if they are merely very complex science fiction with equations. None whatsoever. Just because you can come up with equations is no guarantee that there’s anything there, look at the history of the effort to study the aether, something which was eventually discarded – and it is so massively apropos of this discussion – due to its being an unnecessary entity in physics and so was cut out with Occam’s razor.

    The creation of these imaginary entities by multiple universe theory was not done out of anything but a desire to come up with something to plug into a hole in the ability of physics to explain things, quite explicitly stated by a number of scientists as a means of disposing of a creator God. That our lives are believed to be possible by the merest of fine tuning of the laws devised by physicists apparently made many a materialist very uneasy about whether or not it was a hint of someone intentionally causing that to happen, so they invented gazillions of alternative universes, many lifeless (how do they know that) in order to create the possibility that in the case of our universe life being possible is just a matter of random chance. I think that the aether being allowed into physics is far more in line with the principle of parsimony than these universes. Who knows, maybe the aether is hiding out in one of them.

    The idea that that was possible to dispose of or confirm the existence of God with science, held by a qualified, not to say even an eminent, scientist is a good indication that the foundations of science are as little known among many scientists as they are the general public.

    It’s rather remarkable how many scientists have explicitly stated that or its equivalent is a goal of their efforts. If Martin Rees objected that he was misquoted I’ve been unable to find any evidence of it.

  275. #275 Anthony McCarthy
    January 1, 2012

    I think Jane’s deduction about “flouncing off” is spot on. As Raging Bee’s use of it to me it’s also a put down for gay men. If you saw me, you’d quickly see I’m not the flouncing type.

  276. #276 coelsblog
    January 1, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “There is no reason to believe in the physical existence of other universes …”

    Yes there is. As I said: “a multiverse is a prediction of some variants of chaotic-inflationary cosmology that are now gaining empirical support in our universe”.

    “Just because you can come up with equations is no guarantee that there’s anything there”

    Who claimed a “guarantee”?? As I also said: “no-one is yet claiming a multiverse as established truth (it is only a hypothesis being explored and tested)”. You really have no idea about science, do you Anthony?

  277. #277 Anthony McCarthy
    January 1, 2012

    coelsblog, I’m going to have to restate what I said above.

    Either you accept that it is confirmation from the physical universe that verifies the claims of scientists or you don’t. You don’t get to claim that’s your standard and then step away from it when it doesn’t suit you. Not unless you want to be open to a charge of hypocrisy. There is no intellectual requirement to believe something just because one or a group of scientists have said it when there is no physical confirmation of it.

    The aether was considered useful to the people who believed in it, though many considered it an expression of English peculiarity. And it’s not as if multi-universe-string-membrane-who knows what they’re going to come up with next theory is a matter of uniform agreement. Peter Woit and others have noted that the sect of string-etc. theory you buy is likely dependent on which coast of the U.S. you studied on.

  278. #278 coelsblog
    January 1, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Either you accept that it is confirmation from the physical universe that verifies the claims of scientists or you don’t.”

    And we do! As I’ve told you twice, one of the reasons for accepting a multiverse is that: “a multiverse is a prediction of some variants of chaotic-inflationary cosmology that are now gaining empirical support in our universe”. Note the last 5 words. And there are other possible ways in which the multiverse could have observable consequences within our universe. Investigation of those is proceeding. Thus the multiverse is a testable and scientific hypothesis.

  279. #279 Rosita
    January 1, 2012

    The reasoning of mathematics can be ambiguous at times. For example:

    1 + 1 can equal 3, for cases of heterosexuals who do not use condoms.

    but

    1 + 1 can equal 0, for cases of male homosexuals who do not use condoms.

  280. #280 Anthony McCarthy
    January 1, 2012

    We do? Where’s the evidence?

    “Are now gaining empirical support in our universe”.

    I’ll await the full payment on that promissory materialist note, cosmologists have such a long history of bait and switch and switch and switch…..

    What if there are universes where the physics contradict the “physics” on which multiple universe theory rests? Can multiple universes both exist (based only on some very tenuous, speculative cosmology in our universe on the vague edge one set of physical principles) and not exist (based on their own physics)? I’d think that physicists have more than enough work trying to figure out the one universe they’ve got access to to be getting on with. Though with this kind of stuff the problem is that they weren’t getting on with it. And, as always with physicists, the speculations about life in other places is rather dangerously naive about the complex questions that would involve. As my biologist sister-in-law likes to say, biological sciences aren’t rocket science, they’re a hell of a lot harder than that.

    You’re opening up physics to infinite speculation that will make medieval philosophy and theology look level headed by comparison. And allowing all of the speculation to be called science. Do not be surprised if physics loses its more than nearly sacred status when that happens. I’ve been expecting that to be the result if Krauss’ ideas about the impossibility of black holes forming gains traction. Maybe even if they don’t.

  281. #281 Anthony McCarthy
    January 1, 2012
  282. #282 Anthony McCarthy
    January 1, 2012

    I especially liked this story Woit linked to in the hype list.

    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=3879

    Especially noting that the BBC is notorious for pumping up and fluffing the hype for this kind of stuff. I’ve found they’re especially prone to, let’s be honest, falsifying what researchers have said about their studies to promote the Brit brand of materialist Marmite, sometimes even in contradiction of what the researchers have said.

  283. #283 coelsblog
    January 1, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “We do? Where’s the evidence?”

    For example, in chaotic inflation (the standard multiverse model) one can predict the power spectrum of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background. Results so far from WMAP confirm these predictions. This will be soon be tested further by the new more-sensitive Planck satellite.

    For all your snivelling, cosmologists do know what they are doing, and the multiverse scenario can be tested empirically through the predictions it makes about our observable universe.

  284. #284 Anthony McCarthy
    January 1, 2012

    As I said, I’ll wait for the cosmological dust to settle and who knows how many different scenarios they’ve gone through before I buy. That is if anyone’s still paying attention by the time I go to the great perhaps.

    In so far as I can understand them, Woit’s critiques look valid to me.

  285. #285 coelsblog
    January 2, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “I’ll wait for the cosmological dust to settle … before I buy.”

    That’s ok, I’m sure cosmologists won’t care whether you personally buy. What they’ll care about is whether they can empirically test multiverse models. Which is why cosmologists are already writing papers doing just that.

  286. #286 MattiR
    January 2, 2012

    jane,

    I also commented at more length that the definition of Science some of you now claim to prefer

    “now” claim to prefer? Where did anyone here defending “scientism” ever claim that they were using the word “science” to refer only to formal scientific research, rather than in the broad sense that we have repeatedly explained to you? Your pretense that we have flip-flopped on our definition of science is very dishonest.

    encompasses the practice of almost every publishing academic discipline (e.g., history) and practical activity (e.g., learning to play the trombone or bake bread) – and that 99% of the people practicing those activities would not agree that they were doing Science.

    Huh? First, no one here has claimed that the kinds of study and activity you list should be classified as formal sciences, like physics or psychology. So this is just another strawman on your part. But in fact (human) history, to use your “publishing academic discipline” example, is sometimes classified as a social science. History is a broad field that encompasses both the use of the scientific method to produce knowledge about historical events and processes, and creative writing to describe or interpret that knowledge in a manner similar to fictional literature. History, as an academic discipline, is not pure science, and no one here has claimed otherwise.

  287. #287 Verbose Stoic
    January 2, 2012

    coelsblog,

    Think about this example:

    There are two people outside on a winter’s day. One remarks to the other “It’s cold”. Both understand that what is being referred to is the weather.

    There are two people sitting at a table. One takes a sip from a cup of coffee and remarks “It’s cold”. Both understand that what is being referred to is the coffee in the cup.

    That’s precisely the same way that I was able to assume M and base 10 without even conceiving that we could mean different things. But that’s not any sort of interesting “selection”, nor does it change the initial argument which was that mathematical knowledge is knowledge but is not empirical.

  288. #288 Verbose Stoic
    January 2, 2012

    MattiR,

    Why are they justified in that case, either? Why is anyone justified in believing that the earth is flat simply because they are part of a culture or society in which the belief that the earth is flat is a “successful societal belief,” as you defined that phrase? This is the third time I’ve asked.

    No, as I recall you’ve never ASKED. You’ve raised objections, but never asked.

    First, if cultural or societal acceptance is not, in fact, sufficient to justify, then that would apply to true beliefs as well, not merely false ones, so your focus on false beliefs seems to be confusing the issue.

    Second, we would need to decide what it means to count something as justified so that we can believe it. This runs right back to the problems I had with Jason’s post: he and you have given no reason for why some things count as ways of knowing and some don’t.

    Third, if I accept the culture or society, then there are beliefs that I must accept, and I also must accept that if that society or culture is successful those beliefs participate in that success (perhaps). That, then, makes them successful at some level and so is likely sufficient to justify me in accepting them as beliefs, and likely in at least a similar way to any of the other ways of knowing that you and Jason claimed were justified. How do you justify the others?

  289. #289 Verbose Stoic
    January 2, 2012

    MattiR,

    Huh? How is it even POSSIBLE? How does faith support any belief over any other belief? It’s like saying that you “do not know” whether random guessing can distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

    Well, if you think it that obvious, provide your evidence for that contention. That IS a question that I have asked multiple times, and you have refused to answer it every single time, instead demanding that I prove that it does. Hence the move to the third option of “I don’t know”.

    And since you say you don’t know whether faith and revelation can distinguish true beliefs from false ones, you’re conceding that they cannot justify claims of knowledge, since knowledge requires that the belief is both true and justified.

    Which would only mean that I’m claiming that I do not know if they can justify claims of knowledge. That they can’t is what you’re supposed to prove, remember?

  290. #290 MattiR
    January 2, 2012

    verbose,

    Well, if you think it that obvious, provide your evidence for that contention.

    Two people each hold a certain belief as a matter of faith. The two beliefs contradict each other. One must be true. The other must be false. How is it possible for faith to distinguish the true belief from the false one when both beliefs are held as a matter of faith?

    Which would only mean that I’m claiming that I do not know if they can justify claims of knowledge.

    No, it means you’re claiming that they’re not justified in holding the belief, which means you’re claiming the belief is not knowledge.

  291. #291 MattiR
    January 2, 2012

    verbose,

    No, as I recall you’ve never ASKED. You’ve raised objections, but never asked.

    I asked you repeatedly, and you have evaded the question each time.

    … if I accept the culture or society, then there are beliefs that I must accept, and I also must accept that if that society or culture is successful those beliefs participate in that success (perhaps). That, then, makes them successful at some level and so is likely sufficient to justify me in accepting them as beliefs,

    Incomprehensible. I don’t know what you mean by “accept” the culture, “accept” the beliefs or “successful” culture or society. Why would the fact that a belief “participates in” the “success” of a culture or society mean that the belief is justified? Your “perhaps” is a concession that the belief might not “participate in the success” anyway.

  292. #292 Anthony McCarthy
    January 2, 2012

    What they’ll care about is whether they can empirically test multiverse models. Which is why cosmologists are already writing papers doing just that. colesblog

    I think you just revealed why you are intellectually unable to see the problem. Writing a paper isn’t sufficient to the problem.

  293. #293 Anthony McCarthy
    January 2, 2012

    MattiR and colesblog

    Is this the best thinking that blog materialism can produce in defense of scientism? Two-stepping and double talking?

    Sadly, on many, many blogs this represents the default faith of people who take themselves as being well versed in science and rigorous thinking. You’d think more people who knew better would do something about it. This isn’t science literacy it’s an over-inflated balloon.

  294. #294 ildi
    January 2, 2012

    jane:

    Therefore, people with academic credentials in different countries often have different opinions regarding what hypotheses are proven, unproven, and disproven. If Japanese medicine uses a particular practice, following favorable clinical trials involving thousands of patients, that American medicine does not use, a scientistic American confronted with this discrepancy may presume that that practice must be “worthless” or at best “unproven,” because OUR science must always be the best in the world. Certainly, I can’t quote anyone saying outright that whenever Asian or European and American scientists or users of scientific data hold different opinions about what knowledge exists, the foreigners are always wrong. But some obviously behave as if they believe that.

    This is utter bollocks. Please cite some evidence to support the contention that research is ever evaluated based on the nationality of the researcher. Or admit that you have made this up out of whole cloth.

  295. #295 Anthony McCarthy
    January 2, 2012

    ildi, you must not read Orac’s blog.

    And, as your buddies here have asserted, evidence isn’t necessary to know something, you just have to frame it as propping up a materialist narrative.

  296. #296 Owlmirror
    January 2, 2012
    And since you say you don’t know whether faith and revelation can distinguish true beliefs from false ones, you’re conceding that they cannot justify claims of knowledge, since knowledge requires that the belief is both true and justified.

    Which would only mean that I’m claiming that I do not know if they can justify claims of knowledge. That they can’t is what you’re supposed to prove, remember?

    If the “argument” for faith and revelation, such as it is, rests on logical fallacy, is that not sufficient to prove that it cannot justify knowledge claims?

    Revelation, after all, posits than a putative invisible person with magical superpowers exists, and can provide the putative “truth” under discussion to the revalatee (perhaps, for the sake of argument, the putative “truth” of its own existence), and has indeed provided the putative “truth” being claimed.

    But this putative “truth” is not supported by any external logic, nor by any sort of demonstrable evidence, and so is indistinguishable from a special pleading argument by fiat that assumes its conclusion. Or in other words, a trifecta, or perhaps a trinity, of logical fallacy.

    Faith — as in, faith in the existence of a putative invisible person with magical superpowers that has allegedly revealed its “word” in a big book of Middle-Eastern fairy-tales — similarly fails to provide logic or evidence in support of what it pretends, and short-circuits in the same way as revelation.

    Are you going to argue that logical fallacy is not logical fallacy?

  297. #297 coelsblog
    January 3, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “I think you just revealed why you are intellectually unable to see the problem. Writing a paper isn’t sufficient to the problem.”

    Idiot. As I said, “cosmologists are already writing papers doing just that”, where “that” was “empirically test[ing] multiverse models”.

    Cosmologists are making predictions from multiverse models, then analysing data to see whether those predictions bear out, and then writing papers reporting the results. If you don’t think that is scientific then you’re an idiot. But I think we already knew that.

  298. #298 coelsblog
    January 3, 2012

    Dear Verbose Stoic:

    So after our lengthy discussion I think we are differing merely over semantics. You thought I was talking about weather whereas I thought I was talking about coffee!

    In claiming that 2+2=4 was “empirical” I was not doubting that if you start from the axioms of M then you can derive 2+2=4 without any empirical input. I agree with that entirely. I was targetting the deeper question of how we arrive at the axioms of M (whence 2+2=4).

    Either that is empirical (a picking out of M from the set {M, M’, M” …} owing to the empirical match with our world), or it must be the case that M is “necessary” in the sense that M’, M” … cannot self-consistently exist (no-one has shown this latter, but I’m interested if anyone thinks they can show it).

    Anyhow, I think we’re perhaps not actually in disagreement about this? (Though it took quite a bit of interesting discussion to arrive there!)

  299. #299 Anthony McCarthy
    January 3, 2012

    colesblog, you should go read those posts from “Not Even Wrong” that I linked to above.

    I think this stuff is pretty much the same kind of phenomenon that evo-psy is, an attempt to fill in areas where real science can’t be done with a mere simulation of knowledge, it’s pretty much the same thing that the authors of Genesis did only with equations.

    Leaving aside, for the moment, the large problem with the meaning of “exists” that multi-universe speculation forces, let’s say that, say, a two-dimensional universe really exists somewhere. That’s one of the claims I’ve read in passing from a proponent of this stuff. Despite what it says in “Flatland”, no human being has ever experienced what existence in two dimensions would be like, what it would consist of, indeed, if it would consist of anything. Every single thing we have experienced exists in more than three dimensions, without those added dimensions human beings are incapable of experiencing anything that can be articulated. Would that universe have anything in it? Would there be anything like matter or energy there? And without those, the very stuff that science was made to study, how can science have the first thing to say about it? How can anyone have the first thing to say about it? Not to mention the “one dimensional universes” I heard about from the same sources. I don’t think it’s possible for people to really conceive of two dimensions existing by themselves. I don’t think we’re capable of even imagining what it could be like. Our mathematical representation of two dimensions is entirely imaginary, existing in more than three dimensions. I’ve never thought it through to anything like an end but I’m skeptical that two dimensions is more than imaginary in terms of absolute, independent existence. I think it’s just a step into a formal, artificial imaging of our experience.

    While I’ve been very impressed by the calculation of the eight dimensional figure that David Vogan and others calculated a few years back,that kind of thing produces other questions, including that if no one human being can have a full grasp of it, is it really understood? Considering the wonderful declaration that if the mathematical description of it was written on a piece of paper it would cover Manhattan, I’ve wondered what the difference between that one figure and any other entity that is too vast for human understanding to grasp it is. Not to mention how carefully its verification can, actually, be. How reliable is our knowledge of that one, asserted, eight-dimensional figure? I especially like this paper, noting how he both posed questions an intelligent person might ask, (eg. Sixty gigabytes? Which byte do I care about?) and the ones he’d rather deal with.

    http://www-math.mit.edu/~dav/E8TALK.pdf

    So, I’m kind of skeptical of all of this speculation, beautiful as some of it might be, I doubt that any of us can really conceive of what qualities these proposed, “other dimensioned” universes could contain because it is entirely foreign from our only frames of reference, all of which consist of our experience of the perceived world around us. And, even more restrictive than our experience, limited to only those things we can articulate about that in terms that we and other people can understand. I don’t think we’ve even got that good a grasp on our own experience.

    About the only thing I’ve ever accomplished in all of this blog brawling is when I blackmailed Sean Carroll into admitting that there isn’t a single object in the universe that physics knows comprehensively and exhaustively, not a single one. Given that admission, and it was like pulling hen’s teeth for two weeks to get him to say it, I’m certain that a ‘Theory of Everything’ that will stand the test of time will not be found in the coming weeks, months, years or decades. I doubt any human being is capable of containing one.

  300. #300 ildi
    January 3, 2012

    ildi, you must not read Orac’s blog.

    Link to just one OP where Orac criticizes research based on the nationality of the researcher and not flaws in the research itself.

  301. #301 coelsblog
    January 3, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy writes:

    “[much fairly ignorant and idle twittering by someone who seems to think that his twittering amounts to something]“

  302. #302 Anthony McCarthy
    January 3, 2012

    coelsblog, I don’t titter, these issues require more than 140 characters, I doubt that a generation that gets into the habit of dealing with the world in aphorisms is going to represent anything but a serious regression to stupidity. Wittgensteins don’t abound in the world.

    How about you tell me what in a 2-dimensional universe, which could contain no matter or energy would have in it for science to address. Why would science, made to deal with matter and energy in the dimensions of our daily experience, be relevant to it?

    Why isn’t it a legitimate question as to whether our science would be quite lost in an 8-dimensional universe, a universe very likely having qualities that our science hasn’t got the ability to address or us the ability to articulate or, quite possibly, imagine? Just consider the different qualities that a representation of three dimensions adds to that of two dimensions, leaving aside the fact that, flat as you can get it, any representation of two dimensions we can see exists in three (+?)dimensions.

    Short of that, why don’t you tell me why my skepticism about these things should be satisfied by what our quite dimensionally challenged science. There isn’t any reason for anyone to accept it based on authority, especially such authority as cosmologists have earned with their eternally revised authoritative statements on these things.

  303. #303 Raging Bee
    January 3, 2012

    Still blathering about evo-psych and insisting that not knowing everything is the same as not knowing anything? One-track troll is one-track. Seriously, boy, the accomplishments of rational inquiry — unmatched by any other human endeavor — flatly refute your know-nothingism.

  304. #304 coelsblog
    January 3, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    I know that I’m foolish for getting drawn into responding, but:

    “How about you tell me what in a 2-dimensional universe, which could contain no matter or energy would have in it for science to address.”

    I have no idea. Did anyone assert that there would be things in a 2-d universe for our science to address?

    “Why would science, made to deal with matter and energy in the dimensions of our daily experience, be relevant to it?”

    Who said it would be?

    “Why isn’t it a legitimate question as to whether our science would be quite lost in an 8-dimensional universe, …”

    Who said it was not a legitimate question?

    “… why don’t you tell me why my skepticism about these things should be satisfied by what our quite dimensionally challenged science.”

    Who said it should be? This I why I talked about “idle twittering”. If you want to attack something that mainstream scientists have proposed then first quote them saying it. If not, why is this sort of idle twittering of yours interesting?

  305. #305 Anthony McCarthy
    January 3, 2012

    Raging Bee, still proving that you’re clueless.

    Did anyone assert that there would be things in a 2-d universe for our science to address? colesblog

    You mean you never read “Flatland”? What do they to to try to blow the minds of college Frosh these days? You’ve never heard that speculation from the string-membrane-multiple universe people? I’ve heard them speculate on one dimensional universes. It’s about as odd an idea as I’ve ever heard, far more odd than a lot of speculation that is held in complete disdain by the faithful of scientism.

    As to the questions about eight-dimensional universes (I wonder why it seems to be assumed that ours isn’t), given the panicked reaction to the innocent point that science can’t even deal with everything in our daily experience gets, they’re not more open to pointing out that it’s far less able to deal with “universes” that have totally unexplored dimensions to them. Yet so many confident statements are made about what those must consist of, such as Rees’ statement about them.

    As I’m skeptical of their existence, or of our ability to even conceive of them due to the limits of our perception and articulation, and so the speculation about them is of entirely unknowable, though I’ll assert, vastly unlikely, reliability, I’ll just say that anyone who wants to do science about them had better come up with some actual evidence that they’re more than make believe.

  306. #306 Verbose Stoic
    January 4, 2012

    coelsblog,

    I was targetting the deeper question of how we arrive at the axioms of M (whence 2+2=4).

    Either that is empirical (a picking out of M from the set {M, M’, M” …} owing to the empirical match with our world), or it must be the case that M is “necessary” in the sense that M’, M” … cannot self-consistently exist (no-one has shown this latter, but I’m interested if anyone thinks they can show it).

    But isn’t this all settled by noting that in W we can arrive at the axioms of M’ (mostly by imagining/inventing them) and in W’ we can arrive at the axioms of M? Neither of those cases are in any way empirical, and yet there’s no reason to claim that they cannot all exist as part of an overarching mathematics. You can’t USE both at the same time, but I fail to see why that matters.

    So I do think there’s something more than semantics going on here, but again I have no idea what you mean by selection of or arriving at axioms. Is our use of M inspired by the mathematics we invented to model the world? Of course. Is determining what system is best used to model the world empirical? At least in part, sure. Does this mean that M is justified by its match to the world, and so is justified empirically? No. This leaves us, again, with knowledge that is not empirical, and that’s all I had to provide.

  307. #307 Verbose Stoic
    January 4, 2012

    MattiR,

    Two people each hold a certain belief as a matter of faith. The two beliefs contradict each other. One must be true. The other must be false. How is it possible for faith to distinguish the true belief from the false one when both beliefs are held as a matter of faith?

    Again, why WOULDN’T it be possible, or even more difficult than it is for other methods like science? Science can produce multiple contradictory beliefs as well, and the only ways it has to deal with it is either experimentation or authority. For example, it’s almost always possible to patch up a theory against empirical disconfirmation by changing it slightly or introducing special cases, so science appeals to two things to settle these. The first is the arbitrary principle of parsimony. The second is the authority of the scientific community itself (ie what gets taught).

    But even worse is that you are asking about knowledge that you know, not justification. In any case of conflicting beliefs, we may indeed be justified in believing either. If only one can be true, then only one person really knows, but we don’t know which person really knows. And this also presumes that faith and revelation are supposed to be general justifications as opposed to personal ones, which is more likely to be true.

    But, again, you have not outlined what you think the methods of faith and revelation are and so have given no evidence that they cannot settle such questions. Start with that and perhaps there’ll be something to say.

    No, it means you’re claiming that they’re not justified in holding the belief, which means you’re claiming the belief is not knowledge.

    Which belief, specifically, are you claiming that I’m claiming they aren’t justified in holding?

  308. #308 Verbose Stoic
    January 4, 2012

    MattiR,

    Incomprehensible. I don’t know what you mean by “accept” the culture, “accept” the beliefs or “successful” culture or society. Why would the fact that a belief “participates in” the “success” of a culture or society mean that the belief is justified? Your “perhaps” is a concession that the belief might not “participate in the success” anyway.

    So, do you consider yourself a member of any cultural or societal group? That’s what’s meant by “accept”. If you do that, you have to accept the beliefs of that society or culture or else you aren’t really a member of it. And if the society or culture is successful, then that success in some sense justifies the beliefs it holds.

  309. #309 Verbose Stoic
    January 4, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    If the “argument” for faith and revelation, such as it is, rests on logical fallacy, is that not sufficient to prove that it cannot justify knowledge claims?

    Logical fallacies cause issues for deductive arguments that require absolute certainty. For justification, we do not require certainty. Good thing, too, because the generalizations of science — that we do think justified — are based on the inductive fallacy. So, we can be justified in believing something and justified to the extent of knowing even if we don’t have a deductive justification and so don’t have deductive certainty.

    Take, for example, appeals to authority. Logical fallacy. And yet in some sense all formal education appeals to it; I know much of what I learn in classes based on an appeal to an authority who should know those facts. The field I’m learning might not have to appeal to that, but I do. And yet it is sufficient justification. As I move on I may indeed get other justifications by testing directly, but that doesn’t make the things I learned not knowledge if I don’t go deeper.

    Only if you demand certainty do logical fallacies matter in at least justifying whether or not you’re justified. And if that’s not what you meant, then I’m a bit unclear as to what you think the problem is. And no, appealing to “invisible supermen” is not, in and of itself, a problem.

  310. #310 coelsblog
    January 4, 2012

    Verbose Stoic:

    “but again I have no idea what you mean by selection of or arriving at axioms.”

    I mean that the reason that mathematicians use M, with axioms A1, A2, A3 … (and not M’ with axioms A1′, A2′, A3′ …) is that those axioms has been arrived at by their empirical match to our world.

    You explained above that “context” led you to interpret a statement as being about M. That context is entirely empirical. (In the empirical context of W’ you’d have assumed M’.)

    Thus if someone asserts that “2+2=4″ then they are doing so because of the empirical context of our world.

    That is different from the assertion that “in M, 2+2=4″ which I accept is a set of “if {axioms} then …” statements that does not have empirical input in going from the axioms to the conclusion.

    PS I still don’t think that we’re actually disagreeing!

  311. #311 Anthony McCarthy
    January 4, 2012

    Two people each hold a certain belief as a matter of faith. The two beliefs contradict each other. One must be true. The other must be false.

    They could both be false. They could both contain some truth and some false information. No human conception is without the possibility of error, none of our ideas is a comprehensive representation of anything. That includes every single idea that science holds at any time, despite the clear falsely believed in thing they call “science” that those who would like to turn science into a religion believe in with all their hearts. Science exists in no place outside of human minds, it isn’t a thing which exists without human beings and groups of human beings agreeing to things, including ignoring the many, many mitigations required for them to go on with things. In those mitigations are a myriad of contradictions and fudgings that, by agreement, are held to be either unimportant or too inconvenient to mention.

  312. #312 Raging Bee
    January 4, 2012

    Science exists in no place outside of human minds…

    So you’re saying all the things that have been accomplished by rational inquiry are imaginary? Crybaby subjectivism rears its whiny tail once again.

    In those mitigations are a myriad of contradictions and fudgings that, by agreement, are held to be either unimportant or too inconvenient to mention.

    List those contradictions and fudgings in detail, or, as usual, you have no substantive case. This is just a re-worded “presuppositional bias” argument, where science is accused of being based on arbitrary presuppositions that are never specified. Yes, Anthony, we’ve heard all your obscurantist bullshit before, and no, you’re not clever enough to disguise the old arguments or fool anyone here. Go to bed.

  313. #313 couchmar
    January 4, 2012

    Reentering the discussion from the earlier blog.

    Jason,

    Regarding your initial post, I agree that we should take a broad view of what counts as knowledge and not restrict ourselves to the natural sciences. Properly understood, there are various fields which produce knowledge: science(narrow)/history/math/philosophy/etc. and it’s benighted to suggest otherwise. This point has emerged in this thread as a contrast between two definitions of science: science(narrow)= physical sciences/physics/chemistry/biology and then science(broad)= science(narrow)/math/history/philosophy/etc. I would disagree, though, that this issue is “merely” terminological. You’re correct that it’s terminological, but, as several people have noted, terms are important. I’m in philosophy, and along with the history department, am housed with the humanities faculty. So when someone says in a blog/book/newspaper that “science is the only way of knowing” this is likely to be heard as the narrow meaning, and make us rather defensive. Additionally, it is also likely to alienate secular, non-scientists of all stripes who are allies in critiquing religion (as V. Stoic/Nick have noted). Finally, if you think the problem caused by the terminological confusion isn’t real, look at the damage done by Sam Harris with his poorly subtitled book “The Moral Landscape: How Science can Determine Human Values.” There has been a huge amount of confusion caused by reading this narrowly. Simon Blackburn and Peter Singer have both read Harris this way. A lot of spilled ink could have been prevented if Harris used the broader term “reason and evidence-based inquiry” instead. Not that there aren’t large problems with his book, but that’s for a different thread.

  314. #314 Anthony McCarthy
    January 4, 2012

    Raging Bee, you have a gift for adding one and one and coming up with crab apples.

    Tell me where science exists outside of human minds.

    List those…. I wrote that for people with the ability to sort of figure things like that out for themselves. You ever heard of “outliers”?

  315. #315 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    For example, it’s almost always possible to patch up a theory against empirical disconfirmation by changing it slightly or introducing special cases,

    Scientific theories aren’t “patched up against empirical disconfirmation”. They change as the result of empirical disconfirmation.

    so science appeals to two things to settle these.

    What do you mean by “settle”?

    The first is the arbitrary principle of parsimony.

    The Pixies of Anti-Parsimony forced your fingers to type that. Of course, they did that because the Gremlins of Incoherency were holding razors to their throats.

    What make the principle of parsimony arbitrary?

    ======

    For justification, we do not require certainty.

    Would you agree that justification does require consistency?

    Good thing, too, because the generalizations of science — that we do think justified — are based on the inductive fallacy.

    Inasmuch as the scientific method eliminates the false, it cannot be based on fallacy. And the justification of the scientific method is not inductive, but hypothetico-deductive.

    Take, for example, appeals to authority. Logical fallacy. And yet in some sense all formal education appeals to it; I know much of what I learn in classes based on an appeal to an authority who should know those facts.

    Not all appeals to expert opinion are fallacious. The fallacy is better called “argument from inappropriate authority”, or even “argument from celebrity”. And of course, an expert in a field is not necessarily an expert on everything.

    The reason that Isaac Newton’s angelology and alchemy were not and are not taught alongside his physics, optics, or calculus, is that while his science and math were based in evidence and logic, his theology and mysticism were not based on evidence or logic.

    Only if you demand certainty do logical fallacies matter in at least justifying whether or not you’re justified.

    I demand consistency, not certainty.

    And no, appealing to “invisible supermen” is not, in and of itself, a problem.

    An “invisible person with magical superpowers” is not logically impossible, but neither is it consistent with anything empirical. So saying that one exists based on nothing else besides logical fallacy is a rather huge problem.

  316. #316 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    [Gah. Trying again, shorter:]

    For example, it’s almost always possible to patch up a theory against empirical disconfirmation by changing it slightly or introducing special cases,

    Scientific theories aren’t “patched up against empirical disconfirmation”. They change as the result of empirical disconfirmation.

    so science appeals to two things to settle these.

    What do you mean by “settle”?

    The first is the arbitrary principle of parsimony.

    The Pixies of Anti-Parsimony forced your fingers to type that. Of course, they did that because the Gremlins of Incoherency were holding razors to their throats.

    What make the principle of parsimony arbitrary?

  317. #317 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    [2nd part]

    For justification, we do not require certainty.

    Would you agree that justification does require consistency?

    Good thing, too, because the generalizations of science — that we do think justified — are based on the inductive fallacy.

    Inasmuch as the scientific method eliminates the false, it cannot be based on fallacy. And the justification of the scientific method is not inductive, but hypothetico-deductive.

    Take, for example, appeals to authority. Logical fallacy. And yet in some sense all formal education appeals to it; I know much of what I learn in classes based on an appeal to an authority who should know those facts.

    Not all appeals to expert opinion are fallacious. The fallacy is better called “argument from inappropriate authority”, or even “argument from celebrity”. And of course, an expert in a field is not necessarily an expert on everything.

    The reason that Isaac Newton’s angelology and alchemy were not and are not taught alongside his physics, optics, or calculus, is that while his science and math were based in evidence and logic, his theology and mysticism were not based on evidence or logic.

    Only if you demand certainty do logical fallacies matter in at least justifying whether or not you’re justified.

    I demand consistency with the empirical, not certainty.

    And no, appealing to “invisible supermen” is not, in and of itself, a problem.

    An “invisible person with magical superpowers” is not logically impossible, but neither is it consistent with anything empirical. So saying that an invisible person with magical superpowers exists based on nothing else besides logical fallacy is a rather huge problem.

  318. #318 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    [2nd part]

    For justification, we do not require certainty.

    Would you agree that justification does require consistency?

    Good thing, too, because the generalizations of science — that we do think justified — are based on the inductive fallacy.

    Inasmuch as the scientific method eliminates the false, it cannot be based on fallacy. And the justification of the scientific method is not inductive, but hypothetico-deductive.

  319. #319 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    [3rd part]

    Take, for example, appeals to authority. Logical fallacy. And yet in some sense all formal education appeals to it; I know much of what I learn in classes based on an appeal to an authority who should know those facts.

    Not all appeals to expert opinion are fallacious. The fallacy is better called “argument from inappropriate authority”, or even “argument from celebrity”. This is because an expert in a field is not necessarily an expert on everything.

    The reason that Isaac Newton’s angelology and alchemy were not and are not taught alongside his physics, optics, or calculus, is that while his science and math were based on evidence and logic, his theology and mysticism were not based on evidence or logic.

    Only if you demand certainty do logical fallacies matter in at least justifying whether or not you’re justified.

    I demand consistency with the empirical, not certainty.

    And no, appealing to “invisible supermen” is not, in and of itself, a problem.

    An “invisible person with magical superpowers” is not logically impossible, but neither is it consistent with anything empirical. So saying that an invisible person with magical superpowers exists based on nothing else besides logical fallacy is a rather huge problem.

  320. #320 MattiR
    January 4, 2012

    verbose,

    So, do you consider yourself a member of any cultural or societal group? That’s what’s meant by “accept”.

    Then I don’t know why you didn’t write “if I consider myself a member of the culture or society.” Your writing is full of this kind of confusing phrasing.

    If you do that, you have to accept the beliefs of that society or culture or else you aren’t really a member of it.

    Says who? Why can’t you really be a member of society without accepting all of its beliefs? Not that it’s clear to me what set of beliefs “the beliefs of a society or culture” is supposed to refer to anyway.

    And if the society or culture is successful, then that success in some sense justifies the beliefs it holds.

    Again, WHY? The belief may have nothing to do with the success of the society or culture. It may be irrelevant to the success, or actually work against success. It’s hard to see how the belief that the earth is flat, for example, “participates in the success” of a society or culture. And even if a belief does “participate in the success,” why does that justify it? A belief might promote social harmony, for example, even though there is evidence that the belief is false. A belief can be useful without being true.

  321. #321 MattiR
    January 4, 2012

    verbose,

    Again, why WOULDN’T it be possible,

    Because faith doesn’t support the true belief any more than it supports the false belief. So how is faith any better at distinguishing truth from falsehood than random selection? How is this possible?

    Science can produce multiple contradictory beliefs as well, and the only ways it has to deal with it is either experimentation or authority.

    Science provides METHODS for distinguishing true beliefs from false ones. Observation, experiment, reasoning. What methods does faith provide?

    Which belief, specifically, are you claiming that I’m claiming they aren’t justified in holding?

    Whatever the belief is that they hold through faith or revelation. That’s why it doesn’t qualify as knowledge.

  322. #322 Anthony McCarthy
    January 4, 2012

    The principle of parsimony is arbitrary, it’s not some magic spell, though the “skeptics” and their allies seem to think it is. While it’s difficult to figure out which of the small lexicon of buzzwords is most abused by them, “Occam’s razor” is probably in the top three. There have been criticisms of the idea, especially when it becomes doctrinaire. Leibniz wasn’t all that impressed with it. Neither was Kant.

    I’m skeptical that a “theory of everything” that starts out by ignoring huge parts of known experience is bound to end up as a “theory of some things”.

  323. #323 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    The principle of parsimony is arbitrary,

    I see that the Pixies of Anti-Parsimony (who are threatened by the Gremlins of Incoherency (who are being blackmailed by the Hobgoblins of Inconsistency (who owe money to the Demons of Stupidity (who are … and so on, ad infinitum)))) are forcing your fingers as well.

  324. #324 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    #253:

    multiple universes, which it has been pointed out is an ultimate violation of the principle of parsimony

    (Demonstrating that you have no idea what the principle of parsimony is, but never mind that for now.)

    #320:

    The principle of parsimony is arbitrary

    Clearly, the Demons of Stupidity, in your case, are the slaves of the Ghosts of Contradictions Past (who were summoned by the Reverse-Vampires of Ignorant Incompetence (and so on)).

  325. #325 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    (Does anyone else remember G.O.D. Over Djinn?)

  326. #326 Agent Smith
    January 4, 2012

    Anyone know the origins of the term “scientism”? The first context I heard the word was in the work of Frederick von Hayek, the economist and philosopher.

    Dictionary of Economics:
    Hayek used the term scientism to refer to the slavish imitation of the methods of the physical sciences without regard for the innate differences between physical and non-physical reality. Scientism, which unavoidably overlooks crucial aspects of social reality, such as perception, intent, and anticipation, was the focus of two long and critical articles published by Hayek during World War II. It was mostly used as a criticism of logical positivism as applied to economic and political questions.

    Hayek’s friend and well-known philosophy Karl Popper used in a similar sense I believe. Although I think Hayek’s original insights as important, it appears the term has been grossly overextended in order to protect indefensible religious positions.

  327. #327 Raging Bee
    January 4, 2012

    I’m skeptical that a “theory of everything” that starts out by ignoring huge parts of known experience…

    Which theory are you talking about, and who, exactly, is articulating such a theory? Please provide a citation to the specific published theory you’re complaining about; if you don’t, then it’s obvious you’re making shit up about things that don’t really exist. Again.

  328. #328 Owlmirror
    January 4, 2012

    if you don’t, then it’s obvious you’re making shit up about things that don’t really exist.

    Now, now. We cannot rule out that he received a Special Revelation from the Ontological Elves.

  329. #329 Anthony McCarthy
    January 4, 2012

    Raging Bee, read a few books.

  330. #330 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    No, No. Atsa no good. That’s too nice. Too helpful. Too specific.

    If you really want to demonstrate supercilious assholery, tell people to read your mind.

  331. #331 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    Owlmirror, you can keep your methods. I don’t choose to imitate them.

    How about it, show us where science exists outside of human minds. Obviously, that’s something that never occurred to you before.

  332. #332 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    Agent Smith, the dictionary is your friend.

    2: an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)
    — sci·en·tis·tic adjective
    First Known Use of SCIENTISM

    1870

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scientism

  333. #333 Raging Bee
    January 5, 2012

    And you can’t even specify which books to read? Nothing but empty incompetent bluffing from Anthony, as usual.

    How about it, show us where science exists outside of human minds.

    I already specified that, in comment #312 above. Uneducable troll is uneducable, by choice.

  334. #334 Raging Bee
    January 5, 2012

    Agent Smith: yeah, that’s probably at least part of where the term “scientism” came from. And as I said when I offered a definition in comment #46 above, the term was coined to describe something that pretty much doesn’t exist anymore, except in the imaginations of people like Anthony, who are clearly desperate to defend their indefensible religious positions. Notice how Anthony never actually addressed either your definition or mine, even though they were much more descriptive than the lame-ass dictionary definition he cited?

  335. #335 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    Raging Bee, apparently you aren’t even able to read what you wrote at 312 above, which is useful only in that it shows how much nonsense the new atheists can tolerate from one of their fellow (dis)believers.

    It’s one of the most interesting features of this discussion how you and your sci-ranger buddies insist on seeing religion in the discussion where none has been inserted. Something you call “science” is the functional equivalent of religion for you. It’s just as with Biblical fundamentalists whose faith in religion would crumble if a word of that collection wasn’t absolutely true, and so there is a frenzied reaction to any critical look at it, you can’t tolerate a factual look at what science is, what it isn’t, what it can and what it can’t do. The fact is, and brace yourself, that science not only resides only in human minds, it’s an invention of human beings, in its foundational period just about 100% of them being professed Christians. That’s one of those facts of history which is far more reliably known to human beings than that there is even one other, not to mention a bajillion other universes.

    By the way, who died and made you the pope of lexicography?

  336. #336 Raging Bee
    January 5, 2012

    …in its foundational period just about 100% of them being professed Christians.

    “Foundational period?” Excuse me, moron, but the “foundational period” of modern science consists of ancient Pagan Greeks (suppressed by religious bigots during the Dark Ages), with a hefty later boost from Muslim physicians and mathematicians, who gave us (just for starters) the numbers we count with. (Ever heard of something called the Renaissance? That’s French for “rebirth,” as in the rebirth of knowledge once suppressed by Christians like yourself because of its Pagan origins. Oh, and a major contributor to that Renaissance was the translation of Arab math and science texts into Latin.)

    The fact that you ignore and deny this fact of history proves you’re a liar with a bigoted religious agenda. You really can’t hide your religious mindset, can you?

    Lying Christian troll is lying for Jesus. Don’t you Christians have a Commandment against bearing false witness?

  337. #337 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    As we’ve seen in this discussion, a lot of you have some very odd, not to say strange, not to say fluid, not to say self-serving definitions of “science”. The kind of terminology creep that you have been engaged in is an intellectual dodge. It’s unfortunate that English words can have more than one denotation. Maybe some day we’ll talk about how science, which is, inescapably expressed in human language, suffers to an extent due to the inherent ambiguity of language. Though I doubt you’d really enjoy that.

    Copernicus, Galileo, Steno, Bacon, Newton, Kepler,…. were all professed Christians, two of them ordained priests, they are among the actual inventors of science in the sense of the word that puts the “science” into ScienceBlogs. As I’ve already objected to Hawking’s attempt to establish a neo-scholastic standard of “evidence” within science, you can’t imagine that I’d be in favor of going back to the quintessential scholastic authority in natural philosophy, Aristotle. That is if you understand what I just said which I doubt.

  338. #338 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    Owlmirror, you can keep your methods. I don’t choose to imitate them.

    Obviously. I mean, if I were to recommend books to read, I would do something like giving the title and the author name.

    Eg: Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science, by Alan Cromer.

    Shocking, I know.

    Imitating that particular method must be impossible for you.

  339. #339 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    Owlmirror, obviously you’re primarily a thrill seeker. If you want heretical, try my current favorite, Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum, though it’s probably harder going than you’d welcom. Or, the truly heretical, Against Method or The Tyranny of Science by Paul Feyerabend.

    Really, there’s nothing I’ve said that’s any great shock to anyone who’s ever read much about these issues. That science exists only in human minds is so self-evident that I’d wonder about the mental capacity of anyone who it takes more than two seconds to understand that point.

  340. #340 Raging Bee
    January 5, 2012

    Fuck off, Anthony, you’re been repeatedly exposed as an ignorant liar, and now you’re down to hysterical, hyperventilating name-calling and grade-school crybaby subjectivism (which the kids today seem to be calling “postmodernism”). You’re a liar with a reactionary authoritarian religious agenda, and you’re not even competent enough to disguise it as anything else. You have no credibility.

    Oh, and re Weizenbaum and Feyerabend: what important question have they answered, what useful tool have they invented, and/or what problem have they solved, that science has been unable to address? In short, can you cite any objective accomplishments of theirs that even remotely compare with those of rational inquiry?

    Didn’t think so. In the immortal words of Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson, “Go the fuck to sleep!”

  341. #341 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    Raging Bee, you clearly have issues. Strangely enough, I’m not sorry to have to tell you that you’re not the boss of me.

  342. #342 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    Owlmirror, obviously you’re primarily a thrill seeker.

    For posting a book reference?

    Does posting book references give you a thrill? Please, spare us your bibliotypographic paraphilia. And please refrain from projecting it onto others.

  343. #343 Wowbagger
    January 5, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    The fact is, and brace yourself, that science not only resides only in human minds, it’s an invention of human beings, in its foundational period just about 100% of them being professed Christians.

    It’s amazing what people will claim to adhere to when their livelihoods – and probably their lives as well – depend on them claiming to adhere to it.

  344. #344 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    OM, You’re the one who flashed the word “heretic”. Which reminds me, Alexander Cockburn pointed out that, these days, among the would be intelligentsia that asserting the existence of a Supreme Being would be the daring position.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/16/farewell-to-c-h/

    Wowbagger, it could be pointed out that until he got on the religion-hatin’ bandwagon Hitchens was a relatively obscure, backstabbing ex-lefty. Well, what passes for a lefty in the U.S. in the past forty years. Dawkins would be relatively obscure, Dennett more so. Harris would be entirely obscure. And no one outside of Morris, Minn. would have ever heard of PZ Myers. And that’s not counting those more obscure figures in new atheism who still labor in obscurity.

    The historical fact is that modern science was invented by Christians in Christian Europe. There’s not much you can do about that but pretend it’s not a fact, as you are doing.

  345. #345 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    You’re the one who flashed the word “heretic”

    I see that in the McCarthyverse, “flash” means “type a subtitle”.

    Clearly, this is a new twist to the bibliotypographic perversion.

    The historical fact is that modern science was invented by Christians in Christian Europe.

    I see that in the McCarthyverse, cum hoc, ergo propter hoc.

    Ew. Just, ew.

  346. #346 Wowbagger
    January 5, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy,

    The historical fact is that modern science was invented by people who identified as Christians in Christian Europe; this, of course, was a time when (and a place where) admitting to being anything other than a Christian – including, in many places, being a different kind of Christian, as was the case with Newton – would mean being excluded from society, if not physically harmed or murdered by Christians.

    FIFY.

  347. #347 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    [[The historical fact is that modern science was invented by people who identified as Christians in Christian Europe; this, of course, was a time when (and a place where) admitting to being anything other than a Christian - including, in many places, being a different kind of Christian, as was the case with Newton - would mean being excluded from society, if not physically harmed or murdered by Christians.]]

    And, in addition, much of the work that was done by these Christians — nominal or real — was built on the work of Muslim and Pagan natural philosophers, and these Christians often considered themselves as being natural philosopher heirs of these Muslims and Pagans, and these Christians did not, in fact, use any dogma of Christianity while doing the natural philosophy that eventually became called “science”. Indeed, these Christians often worked against the dogma of then-current Christianity, and in some cases, suffered from it.

    Moar fixd!

    That having been said, I was reading a bit about Kepler and the nova of 1604, and he did kinda posit that perhaps the nova, which followed a certain planetary conjunction, might have been something similar to the star of Bethlehem, and calculated that a similar planetary conjunction occurred around the time of the putative birth of Jesus, about 5 BC (apparently even then they were aware of the the goof-up of Dionysius Exiguus). But I note that that particular thesis was not retroactively considered science, but rather consigned to the non-science of astrology.

  348. #348 ildi
    January 5, 2012

    Copernicus, Galileo, Steno, Bacon, Newton, Kepler,…. were all professed Christians, two of them ordained priests, they are among the actual inventors of science in the sense of the word that puts the “science” into ScienceBlogs.

    Well, except for Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040) who wrote Book of Optics and went beyond the Greeks’ method of observation and measurement to develop the concept of experimentation. Al-Haytham’s scientific method involved the following steps:

    -Observe the natural world;
    -State a definite problem;
    -Formulate a robust hypothesis;
    -Test the hypothesis through experimentation;
    -Assess and analyze the results;
    -Interpret the data and draw conclusions;
    -Publish the findings;
    -Make sure your experiment is repeatable;
    -Replicate results.

    Praise Allah for the scientific method!

  349. #349 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    [Sb hates cited text, among other things. Take 2.]

    And, in addition, much of the work that was done by these Christians — nominal or real — was built on the work of Muslim and Pagan natural philosophers, and these Christians often considered themselves as being natural philosopher heirs of these Muslims and Pagans, and these Christians did not, in fact, use any dogma of Christianity while doing the natural philosophy that eventually became called “science”. Indeed, these Christians often worked against the dogma of then-current Christianity, and in some cases, suffered from it.

    Moar fixd!

    That having been said, I was reading a bit about Kepler and the nova of 1604, and he did kinda posit that perhaps the nova, which followed a certain planetary conjunction, might have been something similar to the star of Bethlehem, and calculated that a similar planetary conjunction occurred around the time of the putative birth of Jesus, about 5 BC (apparently even then they were aware of the the goof-up of Dionysius Exiguus). But I note that that particular thesis was not retroactively considered science, but rather consigned to the non-science of astrology.

  350. #350 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    [Sb hates cited text (?) among other things. Take 2 3.]

    And, in addition, much of the work that was done by these Christians — nominal or real — was built on the work of Muslim and Pagan natural philosophers, and these Christians often considered themselves as being natural philosopher heirs of these Muslims and Pagans, and these Christians did not, in fact, use any dogma of Christianity while doing the natural philosophy that eventually became called “science”. Indeed, these Christians often worked against the dogma of then-current Christianity, and in some cases, suffered from it.

    Moar fixd!

  351. #351 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    [Take 3, pt 2]

    That having been said, I was reading a bit about Kepler and the nova of 1604, and he did kinda posit that perhaps the nova, which followed a certain planetary conjunction, might have been something similar to the star of Bethlehem, and calculated that a similar planetary conjunction occurred around the time of the putative birth of Jesus, about 5 BC (apparently even then they were aware of the the goof-up of Dionysius Exiguus). But I note that that particular thesis was not retroactively considered science, but rather consigned to the non-science of astrology.

  352. #352 ildi
    January 5, 2012

    (Second try)
    A Mc: “Copernicus, Galileo, Steno, Bacon, Newton, Kepler,…. were all professed Christians, two of them ordained priests, they are among the actual inventors of science in the sense of the word that puts the “science” into ScienceBlogs.”

    Well, except for Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040) who wrote Book of Optics and went beyond the Greeks’ method of observation and measurement to develop the concept of experimentation. European scientists didn’t start building upon the work of the Greek and Muslim scholars until after the early Middle Ages (Age of Faith).

    But then, you’ve been corrected on this many times…

  353. #353 eric
    January 5, 2012

    AMC:

    The historical fact is that modern science was invented by Christians in Christian Europe.

    And their Christianity had about as much to do with it as their European-ness. Or their maleness (all the figures you mentioned in an earlier post were men). Or their literacy in latin (everyone you mentioned read latin). And IIRC they all lived during Europe’s little ice age. So maybe we should be thanking Weather for science.

    As someone earlier mentioned, post hoc ergo propter hoc is not exactly a stellar argument. I’m surprised even you think its convincing.

  354. #354 ildi
    January 5, 2012

    (fourth try)

    Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040) wrote Book of Optics and went beyond the Greeks’ method of observation and measurement to develop the concept of experimentation and replicability as part of the scientific method.

  355. #355 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    eric, I didn’t argue that their Christianity was the reason that they invented science. Imagine you knowing the term but failing to see that I didn’t make that argument. Kind of a waste of erudition if it fails in application due to irrelevance.

    What their Christianity or nationality had to do with it is, generally, unknowable, though, clearly, neither was it a hindrance. The use of Latin was, actually, probably, a big help in the dispersal of scientific knowledge and thinking, as it was the lingua franca of educated Western Europeans, though any language would have served the same purpose if it had served the purpose. Though, the fact is, that it was the Catholic church that was responsible for it being the lingua franca of educated Europe, not least because the Church was responsible for education throughout just about all of Europe in the preceding centuries.

    I would argue that in the case of Copernicus it was his status as a priest that gave him the time to develop his great contribution, as it would Mendel a few centuries later.

    Other than that, whatever influence their religion could have had on their scientific thinking can only be known from their own witness.

  356. #356 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    Owlmirror, they also didn’t use their fashion style or other information outside of their observation, measurement and analysis of physical phenomena. As no competent scientist would, though, in the case of ideological materialists, especially in the so-called sciences, they often insert assumptions from their ideology into their science, at times with resulting unreliability. I’d assert that materialist ideology is the ideological junk most often inserted into science in the present day, taking the place of racial, ethnic, gender and class bigotry, which was casually inserted into science in the past, and to an extent, today.

  357. #357 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    I’d assert that materialist ideology is the ideological junk most often inserted into science in the present day

    I see that in the McCarthyverse, asserting that scientists are doing something you can’t even define takes the place of any sort of intelligent argument.

  358. #358 Anthony McCarthy
    January 5, 2012

    Owlmirror, say it with me. “an-throp-ic prin-ci-ple”. I wasn’t expecting to find an intelligent argument here at this point. I was expecting to find out more about the cluelessness of materialists. Which I’m finding.

  359. #359 Owlmirror
    January 5, 2012

    “an-throp-ic prin-ci-ple”

    I see that in the McCarthyverse, there is no sanity clause in cosmology, or, indeed, anywhere.

    I wasn’t expecting to find an intelligent argument here at this point.

    It’s hardly surprising that the McCarthyverse was founded on intellectual perversity.

  360. #360 eric
    January 5, 2012

    AMC:

    I didn’t argue that their Christianity was the reason that they invented science

    So why bring it up? It makes as much sense as bringing up their fashion style.

    I think you’re being duplicitous or at best naive here. The vast majority of people who use the “X famous scientist (Newton, Galileo, etc) was a Christian” argument do, in fact, mean to imply that their Christian beliefs made some contribution to their scientific discovery or what have you. Either you’re one of this vast majority and backtracking in the face of your post hoc argument being called out, or you are unaware of the main use of the argument you’re using. And I think the former is more likely than the latter.

    in the case of ideological materialists, especially in the so-called sciences, they often insert assumptions from their ideology into their science, at times with resulting unreliability.

    What assumptions are being inserted? I’m not aware of any. Scientists look for material causes because that has worked in the past, while looking for nonmaterial causes has been entirely unsuccessful. Thus, ‘the explanation for this is likely some material cause’ is not an assumption, its good old fashioned empiricism. We look for material causes for some physics phenomena for the same reason we look for human murderers rather than space aliens with laser beams; because in the past, every murderer has been human and none of them have been space aliens with laser beams.

    Now, you are welcome to look for space aliens with laser beams when you come across a murder scene…with your own money. But claiming that scientists are blinkered or myopic when they don’t consider the space alien-as-murderer option is just silly. And in case that analogy isn’t clear – claiming scientists are blinkered or myopic for not considering nonmaterial causes when every discovered cause in history has turned out to be material is equally silly. Even more silly than the space alien thing, in fact.

    It is the folks who insist that nonmaterial causes should be considered who are acting nonempirically. You’re essentially expecting each next cause to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before, rather than being like everything else we’ve seen before.

  361. #361 Wowbagger
    January 6, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    I was expecting to find out more about the cluelessness of materialists. Which I’m finding.

    I suspect it’s been a very long time indeed since you’ve found something that doesn’t fit your existing opinion and preconceived notions on, well, anything, Anthony.

    Funny, that.

  362. #362 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    Wowbagger, on the contrary, I used to have a preconceived notion that, at least, the most obvious facts about science such as that it was a human activity, that it was an intellectual activity, that it was something that was the product of human invention in human history …. would be commonly known even among the most unaware fundamentalist and scientistic of materialists. This week I’ve found that those facts are a big surprise to many of them and that they are in denial of them. While that does, actually, back up my previous conclusion that the new atheism was an expression of a fundamentalist faith of scientism, I didn’t realize it was that bad among the self-congratulating “Brights”.

    I do wonder why the responsible adults among the ScienceBlog audience don’t at least correct that level of ignorance among the rabble. Maybe there is more to learn about that yet to come. Perhaps, as Weizenbaum said, those things are news to them as well.

  363. #363 Raging Bee
    January 6, 2012

    eric, I didn’t argue that their Christianity was the reason that they invented science…

    No, you argued that Christians “invented science,” and that argument is not only dead wrong, it’s a bigoted lie; and no amount of pompous lecturing, hand-waving, semantic quibbles or cries of “materialism” will make it anything else.

  364. #364 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    Raging Bee, I’m not responsible for the obviously widespread ignorance of the substance of and history of science or resulting scientistic superstition, or for the obvious bigotry that springs from those. And I’m not under any obligation to pretend that many comments on these blogs is a full demonstration of those or to pretend that they are anything but a blight on contemporary culture.

    I’m certainly not responsible for that among the allegedly educated people of the English speaking world. Maybe some of them should have been getting a broader education than their narrow specialty necessitated, which leaves a shocking number of them as susceptible to saying amazingly stupid things outside of their specialty, easily refuted by looking at things such as history, which is propagated in the culture due to mistaken attributions of authority by other ignorant people.

    Wittgenstein said, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” maybe he was too polite to add, “or risk spouting nonsense that could be believed by the gullible.” though he did submit it as a doctoral dissertation to the positivists, who wouldn’t have been very receptive to that being said, explicitly.

    Children always think that adults talking like adults
    sound pompous.

  365. #365 Raging Bee
    January 6, 2012

    Anthony, the fact that you’re now talking down to us and pretending we’re the children, after we’ve exposed you as a pathological liar, once again proves you’re nothing but a backward religious authoritarian who will tell any lie, and play any manipulative con-game, to reinforce the made-up authority of his made-up self-serving religion. Seriously, just get a job with the Vatican, I hear they need faux-rational propagandists. Or are they too “materialistic” for you?

  366. #366 Owlmirror
    January 6, 2012

    Seriously, just get a job with the Vatican, I hear they need faux-rational propagandists.

    Or the Templeton Foundation. They’re more ecumenical.

  367. #367 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    I don’t happen to be a Catholic, I don’t happen to be a Christian. If you had read the archive of my posts at the blogs I used to write for you would see I’ve been very critical of the Pope and bishops and other religious figures.

    You act like children and you talk like children. Maybe its time someone pointed out that if you want to be treated like adults you should act like adults. No one is under any obligation to pretend that adolescent prattle is anything else.

  368. #368 Owlmirror
    January 6, 2012

    I don’t happen to be a Catholic, I don’t happen to be a Christian.

    Templeton Foundation it is, then.

  369. #369 Owlmirror
    January 6, 2012

    It is the folks who insist that nonmaterial causes should be considered who are acting nonempirically. You’re essentially expecting each next cause to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before, rather than being like everything else we’ve seen before.

    It’s worse than that, though. Consider his statement @#128 above:

    [[I've always said here that the idea that God, defined as supernatural, would be susceptible to the methods of science is irrational and a demonstration of ignorance. The methods of science and logic, validated solely through their application in the material universe, are of unknowable applicability to any proposed supernatural.]]

    He’s basically saying that when it comes to the nonmaterial, science and logic don’t matter. He rejects that empiricism is of any use with the immaterial, and therefore, immaterial space aliens with immaterial lasers that cannot be detected by any material means whatsoever are just as good an explanation as an actual material cause of death.

  370. #370 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    Martin Rees was given the Templeton Prize and he’s an atheist.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/06/martin-rees-templeton-prize-god-wars

    You might want to read this article which has a lot of interesting points in it. You might want to read what he says about Hawking’s scanty knowledge of philosophy and theology. Rees, by the way, is a far more eminent scientist than Dawkins.

    What part of a proposed immaterial entity do you propose to observe, quantify, and analyze. You can publish about it but that’s called “metaphysics” or “theology”. As with all human assertions, including all those of science and mathematics, the goal is to persuade people to accept what is being said, but it’s not science unless you use the methods of science to do it.

    Considering how many neo-atheists are fans of sci-fi, especially the Trekkies among them, I’d think you would hold your alien talk for them. As you can see elsewhere in this discussion, I’m not a big fan of speculation about them. Other than Simack and Le Guin, I’m not all that big on science fiction. I always thought the idea that women were going to dress in those ridiculous Star Trek outfits in the future was hilariously 60s.

  371. #371 eric
    January 6, 2012

    What part of a proposed immaterial entity do you propose to observe, quantify, and analyze.

    The part that makes an impact on the material world. If, OTOH, it has no impact on the material world, then there is not much reason to study it.

    Science studies all sorts of things indirectly, via their impact on the world around them. A nonmaterial entity would be no more challenging in this respect than Neptune was in the 1800s, things like x-rays and neutrinos in the early 1900s, or black holes in the late 20th century.

    If you can’t see the rock, study the ripples it makes in the water. If it makes no ripples, then there’s not much reason to care about the rock.

  372. #372 Onkel Bob
    January 6, 2012

    You might want to read what he says about Hawking’s scanty knowledge of philosophy and theology. Rees, by the way, is a far more eminent scientist than Dawkins.

    Good to see you throwing in an argument from authority to go with the plethora of other banal jibberish you proffer. Dig, dig, dig, you’ll be hitting gold in no time.

  373. #373 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    eric, there is no way to know if an immaterial entity would be subject to the same conditions of cause and effect that we can observe physical entities do. It’s quite possible that they could have an effect on physical entities that falls outside of causality, which was only noticed in terms of physical entities acting on other physical entities. It’s possible that those effects are continuous or that they are too rare to show up in any collected data, there simply isn’t any way to know. At any rate, there isn’t any reason to expect that non-material entities would have the same characteristics, qualities and exigencies that material objects get from the nature of their physical being.

    I’m more interested in whether or not entities or forces from those proposed dimensions higher than those we can directly experience and address have any interaction with our world of experience and, if they don’t, do they really fall under the category of things we assert “exist”.

    I can’t remember the psychologist I read a couple of weeks back who insisted, rather conveniently for their ideology, that quantum physics is irrelevant to our experience. I might get into looking for other sci-guys who hold that, somehow, a part of physics with such massively impressive verification is irrelevant to our lives. If that’s true, then why not exclude consideration of other areas of science being relevant to our lives? Considering the suggestions some scientists have made about possible quantum level effects being an explanation for some things, it could be an interesting thing to look into. I suspect a lot of you folks would like some of the possible implications.

  374. #374 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    Make that ” I suspect a lot of you folks would NOT like some of the possible implications.”

    Seed should spring for a commenting system that allows you to edit stuff a few minutes after it’s posted.

  375. #375 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    Make that ” I suspect a lot of you folks would NOT like some of the possible implications.”

    Seed should spring for a commenting system that allows you to edit stuff a few minutes after it’s posted.

  376. #376 Owlmirror
    January 6, 2012

    Martin Rees was given the Templeton Prize and he’s an atheist.

    … and a cosmologist. You know, someone who advocates and studies the multiverse theory that you hate, and promotes the anthropic principle that you despise.

    Rees, by the way, is a far more eminent scientist than Dawkins.

    Well, hooray for eminence, then. But I guess that eminence is insufficient for you to not hate everything he studies and promotes.

  377. #377 Verbose Stoic
    January 6, 2012

    coelsblog,

    Let me reformulate.

    Let’s use the letter M to represent the mathematics in the mathematics department of a world. So the world W (2+2=4) has M, and the world W’ (2+2=5) has M’. Let’s use A to represent an arithmetic system, where an arithmetic system is one that specifies what numbers and the “+”, say, operator mean. A is the arithmetic system where 2+2=4, and A’ is the arithmetic system where 2+2=5.

    Now, in M, A will surely exist. But, I contend, A’ can exist. And, conversely, in M’ A’ will surely exist, but A could exist as well. In M, then, mathematicians can find a way to select the axioms that would give them A’, despite the fact that as this is in world W the empirical data would — by our earlier presumptions — indicate or support A, and not A’. Thus, if mathematicians can select axioms in M that are against the empirical state, then selecting mathematical axioms can be done non-empirically. And from there, we return to the argument that since A and A’ are equally justified in M, then the justification of mathematics or even of the axiom selection is not empirical. Therefore, mathematical knowledge is not empirical.

    And I have no idea what the “if-then” structure you keep referring to is supposed to add to the discussion.

  378. #378 Owlmirror
    January 6, 2012

    there is no way to know if an immaterial entity would be subject to the same conditions of cause and effect that we can observe physical entities do.

    If there’s “no way to know”, what does it even mean to pretend that there might be?

    It’s quite possible that they could have an effect on physical entities that falls outside of causality, which was only noticed in terms of physical entities acting on other physical entities. It’s possible that those effects are continuous or that they are too rare to show up in any collected data, there simply isn’t any way to know.

    So, maybe something that can never be detected is doing something that can never be distinguished from statistical noise. Hooray for immaterialism!

    Do you really not care how incoherent your ideas are when they’re examined closely?

    At any rate, there isn’t any reason to expect that non-material entities would have the same characteristics, qualities and exigencies that material objects get from the nature of their physical being.

    So maybe something completely incoherent is maybe doing something that makes no sense at all, if we could even tell if it was happening, which we can’t.

    I’m more interested in whether or not entities or forces from those proposed dimensions higher than those we can directly experience and address have any interaction with our world of experience and, if they don’t, do they really fall under the category of things we assert “exist”.

    Or in other words, how many immaterial angels can dance on the head of an immaterial pin.

    Of course, if they don’t ‘fall under the category of things we assert “exist”‘, then materialists/naturalists are right!

    Hooray for mystical obscurantism that crawls up its own ass and shoots itself in the foot!

  379. #379 eric
    January 6, 2012

    AMC:

    eric, there is no way to know if an immaterial entity would be subject to the same conditions of cause and effect that we can observe physical entities do.

    The ones that are can be tested. The ones that aren’t, are irrelevant. You cannot even defend the latter group’s potential existence, since typical defenses of supernatural entities rely on causal relationships just like natural entities do (Examples: a ghost made that the ouija planchette move; God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt). A non-material, non-causal entity is hardly worth studying, because it does nothing and has no impact.

    It’s quite possible that they could have an effect on physical entities that falls outside of causality,

    How about you give us an example of the sort of effect you mean. I think you will quickly find that all supernatural actions or effects fall into one of two categories; those that are at least theoretically open to testing, and those that don’t matter.

  380. #380 eric
    January 6, 2012

    AMC:

    Make that “I suspect a lot of you folks would NOT like some of the possible implications.” [Of some psychologist claiming QM is irrelevant to our lives, and possibly other highly confirmed things in science not being relevant]

    One – that psychologist was wrong. Without QM, he would die of chronic x-ray exposure from his oven. Or a turned-on car, or any other piece of hot metal he regularly comes near – it is the quantization of electron energy levels that prevents heated metal from spitting out x-rays. Something he should’ve learned in high school chemistry.

    Two – I am perfectly fine with the implications of the existence of non-material, non-causal, non-interfering entities. As far as I can tell, “the implications” of such entities are, um, nothing.

    I can claim that zillions of such creatures sit on my shoulders, right now. The wrong question to ask is “do they exist or not?” The right question to ask is “why should you care about my claim.” And the right answer is: you shouldn’t. Likewise, why should I care about your claim of similar entities?

  381. #381 eric
    January 6, 2012

    VS:

    Now, in M, A will surely exist. But, I contend, A’ can exist.

    Have you taken linear algebra? Novel operators are discussed in such classes. Of course one can make up any operator one wants. “+” could denote addtion…or summation, or division, or integration, or some complex function like “add the two quanities, then add 1 to the result.” Under the last definition, 2+2=5 is correct.

    And, conversely, in M’ A’ will surely exist, but A could exist as well. In M, then, mathematicians can find a way to select the axioms that would give them A’, despite the fact that as this is in world W the empirical data would — by our earlier presumptions — indicate or support A, and not A’. Thus, if mathematicians can select axioms in M that are against the empirical state, then selecting mathematical axioms can be done non-empirically. And from there, we return to the argument that since A and A’ are equally justified in M, then the justification of mathematics or even of the axiom selection is not empirical.

    No, your argument doesn’t work because “are equally justified” does not follow from “can be done non-empirically.” I can pick a horse to bet on non-empirically, but it does not follow that such a method is as justified as, say, using their past race record to pick.

    IANAM, but I expect mathematicians likely pick their operators (their A’s) out of a combination of historical momentum and current utility for the problems they want to solve. The reason nobody uses “+” to denote “add the two values together, then add 1″ is because it is terminologically confusing; the reason nobody uses any other symbol to denote that operation is because it is not very useful for helping solve or clarify problems math-users think are important.

  382. #382 Owlmirror
    January 6, 2012

    Novel operators are discussed in such classes. Of course one can make up any operator one wants. “+” could denote addtion…or summation, or division, or integration, or some complex function like “add the two quanities, then add 1 to the result.” Under the last definition, 2+2=5 is correct.

    Or “add the quantities and 25% of each quantity” Or “add the quantities and ½ for each quantity”. Or whatever. Just throwing out different examples that will yield the same result.

    The thing is, each of them start with a “base operation” of normal addition. Normal addition is the default, when quantities are combined serially.

  383. #383 coelsblog
    January 6, 2012

    Verbose Stoic:

    “And from there, we return to the argument that since A and A’ are equally justified in M, then the justification of mathematics or even of the axiom selection is not empirical. Therefore, mathematical knowledge is not empirical.”

    OK, but at that point you don’t know what 2+2 amounts to, you have “2+2 = more or less anything depending on which axioms we select”. I’m still sticking to my original point in this thread, that a bald declaration that 2+2=4 had to have had empirical input somewhere along the way.

  384. #384 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    If there’s “no way to know”, what does it even mean to pretend that there might be? Owlmirror

    You are using the word “pretend” when “imagine” is appropriate. Pretending is a kind of imagining but imagining also includes the possible and even the knowable. It’s not possible to know that non-material things might act on objects and forces in the physical universe so you can’t know if imagining that possibility is to pretend it. But you can pretend that you can dismiss the possibility out of anything other than personal preference just as you can pretend that you know that they can.

    Imagining is an essential part of science and just about every other mental act we can do.

    I am perfectly fine with the implications of the existence of non-material, non-causal, non-interfering entities. As far as I can tell, “the implications” of such entities are, um, nothing. eric

    Well, knock me down with a Higgs boson, if they exist.

    Doesn’t matter if you’re fine with them or not. I’m not bothered if you vehemently deny them, “interfering” or not. Just, that if you’re going to use them in an argument as you did, I’ll point out that you’re attributing characteristics to them and limits to them that you might be able to reliably assign to physical objects but you can’t just assume that non-material entities would have the same characteristics. Since the evidence is that it’s the structure and composition of physical objects that give them those characteristics, it’s not likely that non-physical objects would have the same characteristics. It’s possible that they have entirely different characteristics rendering our physical laws entirely irrelevant to them.

  385. #385 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    Oh, by the way, Owlmirror, that “angels on pins” stuff, I’ve never read a theologian who brought that up. I have heard, though I don’t know, that it was invented by a Brit as part of an anti-Catholic polemic. You know where it comes from?

    Angels were held to be immaterial so, I’d guess, an infinity of them could dance on a Higgs Boson, if they can dance. If they exist. Both the angels and the Boson. I don’t see anymore problem to that than the idea that an infinite number of lines can intersect at a single point or that the universe expanded from something, well, however the cosmologists are talking about that these days. If you want to get into whether or not the immaterial lines of plane geometry exist, since they are immaterial, and the implications of that for the physical universe, I’d guess it might take another hundred comments.

  386. #386 Owlmirror
    January 6, 2012

    It’s not possible to know that non-material things might act on objects and forces in the physical universe so you can’t know if imagining that possibility is to pretend it.

    Since your notion of the immaterial is that it is impossible to know if the immaterial acts on objects and forces in the physical universe, I can indeed know that imagining the possibility is indistinguishable from pretending it.

    that “angels on pins” stuff, I’ve never read a theologian who brought that up. I have heard, though I don’t know, that it was invented by a Brit as part of an anti-Catholic polemic. You know where it comes from?

    You could pray to God, or to Google, and see which one answers first.

    Angels were held to be immaterial so, I’d guess, an infinity of them could dance on a Higgs Boson, if they can dance.

    Your answer differs from Thomas Aquinas’s. Although, since there is no coherent definition of the immaterial, I suppose that the difference is immaterial as well.

  387. #387 eric
    January 6, 2012

    AMC, I am not sure how bringing up the Higgs Boson supports your case, given that (1) it is expected to have mass and is therefore material, (2) it is expected to be causal, since its action causes other particles to have mass, and (3) its existence is theoretically open to testing.

    Thus in has none of the properties of your supposed immaterial object.

    You seem to be confusing “directly observable” with “material.” Objects that are not directly observable can still be material. As I said, Neptune was not directly observable in the 1800s but people figured out it was there due to its gravitational effects on the other planets. Likewise, if any supernatural entities really did exist, we could either in principle detect their effects on other material objects, or if they didn’t have any detectable effect, we wouldn’t care about them.

  388. #388 Anthony McCarthy
    January 6, 2012

    Owlmirror, unlike many neo-atheists, the angels on head of a pin stuff doesn’t interest me. I’m not certain it’s a Brit materialist myth but it sure smells like one.

    Unlike you, I don’t care what other people believe, I only care if they spout illogical nonsense about it in public. Materialist mythologizing has spread all over the place and it’s having a malignant effect on politics and society, not to mention science. It’s only in those manifestations that I care about it and it’s cousin, biblical fundamentalism.

  389. #389 eric
    January 6, 2012

    AMC:

    Materialist mythologizing has spread all over the place and it’s having a malignant effect on politics and society, not to mention science.

    A longer reply got stuck in moderation so I’ll just ask – what malignant affect is it having on science? What empirically credible nonmaterial hypotheses are we not considering that we should? It seems to me that there are none, because no nonmaterial cause or force has ever been observed. You are asking scientists to seriously consider hypotheses with as much credibility as tinkerbell. Sure, she could exist. Its theoretically possible. But there is no rational reason to spend research resources looking for her at this time.

  390. #390 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    unlike many neo-atheists, the angels on head of a pin stuff doesn’t interest me.

    Then why did you even bother asking, and posting your own speculations on the topic?

    I have no idea why (other than your usual intellectual dishonesty) you would write that “many neo-atheists” are interested in angels on pins, since you posted what you pretended you thought was the right answer, and under atheism, the question is silly and meaningless, and most Gnu Atheists would be glad to say so.

    Unlike you, I don’t care what other people believe

    If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t post. The only way that you could demonstrate that you really didn’t and don’t care would be to remain silent.

    So you must be lying — probably even to yourself — about not caring.

    Materialist mythologizing has spread all over the place and it’s having a malignant effect on politics and society, not to mention science.

    Gosh! People demand real evidence for real effects in the real world, and that’s just so evil.

    It’s only in those manifestations that I care about it and it’s cousin, biblical fundamentalism.

    …and yet you’re here, rather than arguing on Rapture Ready, or wherever. Once again, you’re implicitly lying with your actions: you care far, far more about being an asshole here than with being an asshole to biblical fundamentalists.

  391. #391 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    what malignant affect is it having on science? eric

    You mean you haven’t noticed the increasing hostility to science on the part of people turned off by neo-atheist hectoring of the majority of the population going back to Thomas Huxley and before? Not to mention the use of you folks by the Republican-right in elections going back a while. Not to mention the enormous waste of time and, I’d guess, research dollars spent on tail-chasing like the “anthropic principle” and the creation myths of evo-psy.

    Here, you don’t have to just take my word for it, here’s what it said on PhysicsWorld:

    So what does this have to do with Stephen Hawking and M-theory?

    Physicists need the backing of the British public to ensure that the funding cuts don’t hit them disproportionately. This could be very difficult if the public think that most physicists spend their time arguing about what unproven theories say about the existence of God.

    http://physicsworld.com/blog/2010/09/by_hamish_johnstonstephen_hawk.html

  392. #392 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    Can you document anyone who has applied to the federal government to look for Tinkerbelle? Actually, there’s no mystery about her provenance, since she was known to be the creation of James M. Barrie. That’s the kind of thing you can actually know due to the normal methods of literary research, not to mention copyright law far more certainly than you can the conjectures W.D. Hamilton came up with to dispose of intentional kind acts by making them a covert form of selfishness so it could be pretended that natural selection is an absolute natural force instead of a merely formal explanation, an attempt to explain the fact of evolution.

    Not to mention the heaps of money spent on the social “sciences”, not a small amount of it on some of the most obviously non-scientific garbage that has ever been dreamed up in the history of government grants.

  393. #393 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    Gosh! People demand real evidence for real effects in the real world, and that’s just so evil. Owlmirror

    Given what you and your sci-ranger buddies have been arguing on these threads, you should can the claims about your valuing a strict adherence to evidence. It’s the devout believers in scientism in this discussion who have proven all too willing to dispose of the need for evidence in science when it suits their ideological purposes.

    The “Rapture” doesn’t appear in the Bible, it was an invention of a bunch of 19th century British protestants. Having grown up in New England, it’s something I never remember hearing mentioned until the 1980s, when the televangilists started swamping the airwaves. Thinking that the Book of Revelation was the most unfortunate addition to the canon of the 2nd Testament, well, maybe after some of the pseudo-Pauline letters,I certainly don’t hold with it.

    You people can’t argue these things on an adult level because you don’t know much more than you’ve gotten from badly researched, intentionally dishonest, new atheist tracts.

  394. #394 coelsblog
    January 7, 2012

    Anthony Mccarthy writes:

    Quoting: “This could be very difficult if the public think that most physicists spend their time arguing about what unproven theories say about the existence of God.”

    That’s ironic, since you are the person here most likely to claim that scientific ideas are all about, or motivated by, the existence or non-existence of God.

    Actually, almost none of physics research is motivated by ideas of gods (that’s about 300 years out of date) — though that doesn’t stop popular books about science addressing the issue, often at the request of publishers wanting them to sell better.

  395. #395 coelsblog
    January 7, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    Oh, and Anthony, have you yet come up with an answer to my question of which scientists have claimed that in a 2-dimensional world there would be things our science can study? Or was that simply another of your strawman inventions that you can then claim to be erudite in doubting?

  396. #396 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    Colesblog, perhaps you don’t understand that when I said, “you don’t have to just take my word for it, here’s what it said on PhysicsWorld”, when I italicized the passage I copied from PhysicsWorld and then gave a link to the source, I was indicating that I wasn’t the one who said what was quoted but that’s what it means.

    I would certainly agree with the idea that real sciences is motivated only by phenomena in the physical universe which are susceptible to the methods of science. I’ve been pointing that out continually in this discussion as well as the fact that most of the phenomena of our experience isn’t susceptible to the methods of science and that other means of investigating some of those have been devised, history, judicial process, etc.

    However, there is a long record of scientists, Laplace, a famous example, who contended that science was able to address the big one, the one you and your pals keep bringing into this, religion, when that is as irrational idea and an attempt to drag science into areas where it is incompetent. I mentioned Thomas Huxley, also a famous example of a scientist who wants to do that. I could add Steven Weinberg who not only does that but ridiculously said ” for good people to do evil—that takes religion,” when, as many of his colleagues prove, promoting a career in physics is far more effective motive in massive evil doing. Though, I’m afraid, petro-geology might be the science that does us all in before the products of nuclear physics do.

  397. #397 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    I’m going to have to learn to go with the first draft. It’s obvious I’m no editor.

  398. #398 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    And, as to 2-dimensional “universes”, I’m not the one who proposed they exist, apparently it’s an idea that some physicists talk about. Though, as my point about the unlikelihood of matter or energy being present in those “universes” maybe they should call them selves “meta-physicists” when they put that cap on. Or, maybe, that they’ve yet to realize that a 2-d universe wouldn’t have any matter or energy in it, or at least that their presence requires an explaination, hasn’t come to their notice as they groove on the 11th dimension. If what I said is true, and if the 2nd dimension is a real thing then that would imply that immaterial entities would be a ubiquitous feature of the universe that science studies. The implications of that could really give a materialist the fantods.

    I am quite convinced that it was the unease of the atheists with that conjecture about the fine-tuning of the universe (another idea that isn’t mine) implying the possibility of there being a creator God that motivated a lot of that stuff. As the famous statement Hawking made about related speculation disposing of God shows, as well as the enthusiastic support of that silly declaration by Sean Carroll, not to mention the communion of blog atheists, the desire to disprove peoples’ belief in God is baldly stated as part of the effort. As was Francis Crick’s desire to “put the nail in the coffin of vitalism” was of much of his scientific activity.

    You guys don’t get to deny that’s going on when it’s as clear as the blog in front of your nose and the comments you make. Though I’m prepared to believe most of you don’t have much to do with actual science on a professional level.

  399. #399 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    re “angels dancing on the head of a pin”

    Having not much work to do this morning I looked up that question and found this:

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1008/did-medieval-scholars-argue-over-how-many-angels-could-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin

    Which seems to match what I recall about that stuff being an anti-Catholic fiction invented by Brits and further pushed by “enlightenment” Brits who didn’t have much use for accuracy or honesty.

  400. #400 eric
    January 7, 2012

    AMC:

    what malignant affect is it having on science? eric

    You mean you haven’t noticed the increasing hostility to science on the part of people turned off by neo-atheist hectoring of the majority of the population going back to Thomas Huxley and before?

    So, you think science has a PR issue due to scientists speaking out as materialists? I’m good with teaching kids the difference between methodological and philosophical naturalism.

    Not to mention the use of you folks by the Republican-right in elections going back a while.

    You’ve got it exactly backwards. It is GOP politicians – not Democrats – who regularly use the exact same argument you use in your post. Like you, they pluck out some specific scientific topic they don’t like, ignore the context or justification for the work, and use it to complain that scientists are elitist and out of touch with the needs of the people. You pluck out evo-psych, Palin plucked out fruit fly research, but except for topic you’re the same anti-science argument conservatives do.

    Not to mention the enormous waste of time and, I’d guess, research dollars spent on tail-chasing like the “anthropic principle” and the creation myths of evo-psy.

    If you think current research in biological origins of psychology are going in the wrong direction, offer a better direction. Propose an alternative hypothesis. I’ve already asked you what non-material hypotheses you think we should be paying attention to, and you have yet to answer.

    C’mon Anthony, stop being shy about what you support and just out with it. If you were head of NSF and had a million dollars with which to fund your non-material research, what specific work would you fund?

    I mean, good lord man, if you’re going to play armchair quarterback then at least have the courage to tell us what play you would run instead.

  401. #401 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    Science has several problems. 1. Scientists who don’t seem to understand that the one and only thing that science can address is the physical universe which is susceptible…. what I said above. 2. That science is unable to address anything that can’t be successfully AND HONESTLY be studied with its methods. 3 That people don’t especially like being told that they are stupid, especially by a bunch of people with a large percentage of conceited jerks among them. 4. That people are not required to believe scientists when they are speaking a. entirely outside of their professional competence, b. when they are asserting things which they hope is true but which has insufficient evidence to support it, c. whenever people choose not to believe them, perhaps because they’ve been insulted by those or other scientists. It’s quite possible for rude jerks in a group to come off on other members of that group. 4. that in democracies even those people get to vote and put people into office who are a lot more beholden to the voters than they are scientists who do not win friends and influence people because they’re more attached to their high opinion of themselves than they are their research programs.

    I have yet to hear a right-wing Republican make the arguments I’ve made here. Can you quote any?

    Given its history, I’m entirely skeptical of the idea that psychology is a science and that human behavior and consciousness can be successfully studied with science. I’m even skeptical of the idea that those follow any kind of physical law. As far as I can see, the only reason that was asserted in the 19th century was to try to gain the same status as actual science for the study of phenomena that have few obvious similarities to physical objects. Evo-psy is based in making up stories of unobservable “behaviors” in the Paleolithic period and farther back. It can’t even be ascertained that those “behaviors” happened and it never can be because that information is lost forever. That is unless you propose some kind of psychic recovery of them. I am expecting to live long enough for it to join other schools of psychology on the scrap heap.

    C’mon Anthony, stop being shy about what you support and just out with it. If you were head of NSF and had a million dollars with which to fund your non-material research, what specific work would you fund?

    Are you reading impaired or are you 12? I said over and over again above that science can’t study the immaterial. Though, as I expect that the NSA gives money to study “behaviors” in the lost past, maybe you should look at whe re that money is going now.

  402. #402 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    Eric, The NSF is supposed to deal with science, I’ve been pointing out TO YOU that science can’t address any proposed immaterial entity for at least a day or so, having made a number of points supporting that assertion. If you’re not going to bother reading what I said TO YOU why should I answer you?

    Having read what Feynman said about the NSF, I don’t think I’d want to be a member of it.

  403. #403 coelsblog
    January 7, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Colesblog, perhaps you don’t understand that when I said, “you don’t have to just take my word for it, here’s what it said on PhysicsWorld”, when I italicized the passage I copied from PhysicsWorld and then gave a link to the source, I was indicating that I wasn’t the one who said what was quoted but that’s what it means.”

    Why yes, Anthony, I did indeed understand that you were quoting.

    “most of the phenomena of our experience isn’t susceptible to the methods of science and that other means of investigating some of those have been devised, history, judicial process, etc.”

    Which use the methods of science (namely dependence on evidence and reason).

  404. #404 coelsblog
    January 7, 2012

    “And, as to 2-dimensional “universes”, I’m not the one who proposed they exist, apparently it’s an idea that some physicists talk about. Though, as my point about the unlikelihood of matter or energy being present in those “universes” maybe they should call them selves “meta-physicists” when they put that cap on. Or, maybe, that they’ve yet to realize that a 2-d universe wouldn’t have any matter or energy in it …”

    Or maybe no-one has proposed 2-d universes containing matter and energy, and it’s all just your strawman. Afterall, you haven’t quoted anyone claiming that.

  405. #405 coelsblog
    January 7, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “I am quite convinced that it was the unease of the atheists with that conjecture about the fine-tuning of the universe (another idea that isn’t mine) implying the possibility of there being a creator God that motivated a lot of that stuff.”

    Hmm, I would think that you being “quite convinced” by something is strong evidence that it is wrong. Anyhow, the “fine-tuning” argument is so bad that atheists are not “uneasy” about it, they just laugh at people using it to buttress their faith in God. (See my blog for an example of the obvious refutations.)

  406. #406 coelsblog
    January 7, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “I’ve been pointing out TO YOU that science can’t address any proposed immaterial entity …”

    First define “material/immaterial”, then explain why science cannot address it. Suppose the “immaterial” entity affected material. Why can’t science then study it through its effect on that material, in the same way that it studies most material things indirectly? On the other hand, if your “immaterial” things is hypothesized as having no conceivable effect on the material world, why should we care about it?

  407. #407 Verbose Stoic
    January 7, 2012

    coelsblog,

    OK, but at that point you don’t know what 2+2 amounts to, you have “2+2 = more or less anything depending on which axioms we select”. I’m still sticking to my original point in this thread, that a bald declaration that 2+2=4 had to have had empirical input somewhere along the way.

    Well, you do indeed have no idea what 2+2 amounts to until you specify what A that’s in. That’s what mathematics does. It seems odd to deny that.

    And I already addressed what my bald declaration arose from: a presumption that that was the context of discussion. If you want to argue that determining the context of discussion is somehow empirical or requires empirical input, I won’t disagree. But it is no more meaningful than my saying “You can exceed the speed of light” as a bald declaration if it was clear that the context was the Star Wars universe, and it does not in any way imply that mathematics justifies the things in it empirical. Again, if I can claim that A’ is justified in M, then A’ cannot be justified empirically, and that’s sufficient for me to demonstrate non-empirical knowledge, no matter what else you might think of it.

  408. #408 Verbose Stoic
    January 7, 2012

    eric,

    No, your argument doesn’t work because “are equally justified” does not follow from “can be done non-empirically.” I can pick a horse to bet on non-empirically, but it does not follow that such a method is as justified as, say, using their past race record to pick.

    Fortunately, my argument is the converse: they ARE all equally justified and yet all but one cannot be done empirically in any one world. Therefore, you can do them non-empirically. Further, you can do all of them non-empirically or else you’d have the same things with different justifications, which seems odd to say the least.

    To translate:

    1) If mathematics is to be claimed to rely primarily on empirical justification, then its systems will have to be derived empirically.
    2) In W, A can be derived empirically (by definition).
    3) In W’, A’ can be derived empirically (also by definition)
    4) In W, A’ cannot be derived empirically (also by definition).
    5) In W, A’ could be a justified arithmetic system.
    6) Therefore, in W, you could have a justified mathematical system that cannot be derived empirically.

    C) Therefore mathematics cannot be claimed to rely primarily on empirical justification (modus tollens and 1 and 6).

    You can try to deny 5), or 1). Which is it?

  409. #409 Verbose Stoic
    January 7, 2012

    MattiR,

    Because faith doesn’t support the true belief any more than it supports the false belief. So how is faith any better at distinguishing truth from falsehood than random selection? How is this possible?

    I keep asking you for your evidence for this, including what you think the methods of faith and revelation are so that you can claim that they simply cannot do so. You keep refusing to do so. Again, the burden of proof is on you, not me, and I rightly refuse to simply take your word for it that faith cannot support the true belief more than the false one, especially since you aren’t even clear on what you mean by “support”.

    Science provides METHODS for distinguishing true beliefs from false ones. Observation, experiment, reasoning. What methods does faith provide?

    You tell me, since you are the one claiming that the methods it uses do not work. How do you know that faith doesn’t use one of those very ones, for example?

    Whatever the belief is that they hold through faith or revelation. That’s why it doesn’t qualify as knowledge.

    Except I’ve never claimed that they aren’t justified in holding that belief. I’ve merely claimed that I don’t know if they are justified in holding that belief or not. You’re the one claiming they aren’t, and I’m arguing with you.

  410. #410 Verbose Stoic
    January 7, 2012

    MattiR,

    Then I don’t know why you didn’t write “if I consider myself a member of the culture or society.” Your writing is full of this kind of confusing phrasing.

    And here’s where you learn that people don’t all think the same way you do. I don’t find what I wrote a confusing phrasing whatsoever, and picked the stronger form deliberately to avoid issues, which will come up in a minute. That you find it confusing is not my problem … or, at least, it’s not ENTIRELY my problem.

    Why can’t you really be a member of society without accepting all of its beliefs?

    It’s this objection that encouraged me to use “accept”. If you accept the culture, you accept its precepts and its conclusions, and therefore its beliefs. Now, there are always degrees of this sort of thing, but if you considered yourself part of a culture but agreed with none of the beliefs that are considered part of that cultural heritage, you would be WRONG to consider yourself part of that culture. Accepting the culture means, of course, accepting at least most and the most critical of its beliefs.

    The belief may have nothing to do with the success of the society or culture. It may be irrelevant to the success, or actually work against success.

    Perhaps so. So the culture may be wrong in holding that belief, and holding a false belief. But that has nothing to do with the justification the person has for believing it. They believe it because the culture holds it, and has succeeded holding it. If it turns out to be false in a way that matters, the culture will stop believing it, the person will lose their justification, and the person will stop believing it (and will have never actually known it). But their justification doesn’t stop just because you can say that they might be wrong, or else science provides no justification whatsoever. Note, of course, that you’ve conceded that justification does not require the belief to actually be true.

  411. #411 Verbose Stoic
    January 7, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    Scientific theories aren’t “patched up against empirical disconfirmation”. They change as the result of empirical disconfirmation.

    And the question is that should you get empirical disconfirmation for a theory, at what point do you change it versus saying that the theory is false? The answer is that it isn’t always clear when you do that, and it’s almost always possible to change a theory versus tossing it out. Ie Patching it up instead of abandoning it.

    What do you mean by “settle”?

    Decide between.

    What make the principle of parsimony arbitrary?

    That it has not been justified to actually provide or improve truth, but is only a sometimes useful commitment. You can refuse to accept parsimony as an overall and absolute principle and still discover truths perfectly well. Much of the time, there will be no difference as common sense says that if you have two theories with the exact same explanation but one has more entities you really should ditch the entities that add nothing to the explanation. But in cases where you have two different theories with completely different explanations where one simply has one more entity, applying parsimony or not applying parsimony is not really any better a way to decide between them. You might as well just flip a coin. Why? Because the number of entities will not have any impact on what the future investigations will uncover; they will support one or the other regardless of what entities they posit.

    Once the theories are pruned down by common sense, parsimony is simply arbitrary. But you don’t need a principle of parsimony to apply common sense.

  412. #412 Verbose Stoic
    January 7, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    Would you agree that justification does require consistency?

    Define “consistency”. Some justifications might not need, for example, a strict logical consistency, as you can indeed have justified statements that are logical fallacies, at least in my view.

    Inasmuch as the scientific method eliminates the false, it cannot be based on fallacy. And the justification of the scientific method is not inductive, but hypothetico-deductive.

    I’m really not clear on how you get your link between “eliminates the false” and “not being based on fallacy”. In some sense, you could argue that but the problem is that science does not actually eliminate the false when it uses induction or abduction, since all of those propositions might still be false, and the ones it thinks false might be true. Also, science uses induction to make all of its generalizations and so it cannot provide certain justification for any universal proposition. That’s the inductive fallacy, by definition, and yet science relies on it.

    Not all appeals to expert opinion are fallacious. The fallacy is better called “argument from inappropriate authority”, or even “argument from celebrity”. And of course, an expert in a field is not necessarily an expert on everything.

    Logically speaking, it is always a fallacy to claim that something is true because an expert said it, because except in extremely limited cases it is always possible that the expert is wrong. However, it is not wrong to claim that you are JUSTIFIED in believing something that an expert says about their area of expertise. It IS wrong to claim that you are justified in believing something that someone of note says about an area that is not theirs. If we keep this straight, we can see how justification and deductive logic are not identical.

  413. #413 Verbose Stoic
    January 7, 2012

    Owlmirror,

    (Sorry about this last one; if I’d realized I had so little say about what was left I’d have just stuck it into the previous one).

    An “invisible person with magical superpowers” is not logically impossible, but neither is it consistent with anything empirical.

    It’s not necessarily inconsistent either, and you are assuming your conclusion by insisting that it must be consistent with the empirical. Maybe that’s not something that can be demonstrated empirically. Maybe consistency with concepts is all we can get.

    So you really do need to highlight, in detail, what sort of consistency you are looking for.

  414. #414 Anthony McCarthy
    January 7, 2012

    Colesblog, as I said to your tag team buddy, I’m not going to get into the endless recursions of definitions with you. If you don’t know the difference between the material universe and things proposed to be immaterial you don’t belong in this discussion.

    As I said to eric, there is no way of knowing if our expectations of cause and effect would hold for things outside of the physical universe where we learned about those things. I’ll add that there is no way to know if probability and statistical analysis would be relevant to them, those are only known to have validity through their application in the physical universe. Given a proposal that immaterial entities can have an effect on material entities, there is no way to know and no reason to expect that they would be evident to us in the same way that the effects of material entities acting on other material entities would. Given what modern physics holds about what it is in the structure of matter that gives it the properties it has, there is no reason to expect that if there are non-material entities that those would have the same properties.

    I’ll add that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the consciousness is the immaterial acting in the material universe, which is one of the reason so many materialists have been eager to deny that consciousness, the absolute basis of all experience and observation, doesn’t exist. I’ll add to that that I suspect most people of normal intelligence of more would think anyone who denies that consciousness exists is a raving nutcase. I do.

  415. #415 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    You mean you haven’t noticed the increasing hostility to science on the part of people turned off by neo-atheist hectoring of the majority of the population going back to Thomas Huxley and before?

    A citation for this claim is needed. There’s a Pew survey of religious attitudes toward science, but doesn’t seem to have anything that shows them changing over time for the worse, let alone changing over time for the worse based on theistic bigotry.

    Not to mention the use of you folks by the Republican-right in elections going back a while.

    Republicans do offer anti-atheist bigotry, but does that translate into anti-science bigotry? Let’s see some data, please.

    Not to mention the enormous waste of time and, I’d guess, research dollars spent on tail-chasing like the “anthropic principle” and the creation myths of evo-psy.

    If you think that bad science is being done, the only thing that can possibly replace it is better science, not incoherent and insubstantial ideas like immaterialism.

    Here, you don’t have to just take my word for it, here’s what it said on PhysicsWorld:

    He doesn’t show that funding cuts have happened or will happen based on theistic bigotry; he just claims it, or implies it. Scaremongering is not data.

  416. #416 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    Given what you and your sci-ranger buddies have been arguing on these threads, you should can the claims about your valuing a strict adherence to evidence. It’s the devout believers in scientism in this discussion who have proven all too willing to dispose of the need for evidence in science when it suits their ideological purposes.

    Current hypotheses about cosmology and other sciences are based on the supporting evidence, and strive, at least, not to contradict the evidence. And scientists who propose them do strive to think of ways of falsifying their ideas.

    Incoherent concepts like immaterialism are based on a complete absence of evidence, and reject any sort of falsification or standard of empirical falsifiability.

    The “Rapture” doesn’t appear in the Bible [...] I certainly don’t hold with it.

    For pity’s sake, is your reading comprehension so terrible that you think I was suggesting that you do believe in the Rapture? I was offering an example of a group of biblical fundamentalists of the type you said you disagreed with!

    And I doubt you would actually last long at the Rapture Ready forum itself. Their policy towards anyone who disagrees with them is banning. With you, it would probably happen on your first post.

    There might be other biblical fundamentalist sites which are less censorious, though. Why don’t you try and find them and be an asshole there?

    You people can’t argue these things on an adult level because you don’t know much more than you’ve gotten from badly researched, intentionally dishonest, new atheist tracts.

    You can’t argue these things on an adult level because you are not just intentionally dishonest, you are intentionally dishonest and you have no idea how to bloody well read for comprehension.

  417. #417 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    [take 2, pt 1]

    Given what you and your sci-ranger buddies have been arguing on these threads, you should can the claims about your valuing a strict adherence to evidence. It’s the devout believers in scientism in this discussion who have proven all too willing to dispose of the need for evidence in science when it suits their ideological purposes.

    Current hypotheses about cosmology and other sciences are based on the supporting evidence, and strive, at least, not to contradict the evidence. And scientists who propose them do strive to think of ways of falsifying their ideas.

    Incoherent concepts like immaterialism are based on a complete absence of evidence, and reject any sort of falsification or standard of empirical falsifiability.

  418. #418 eric
    January 7, 2012

    AMC:

    I have yet to hear a right-wing Republican make the arguments I’ve made here. Can you quote any?

    Palin (and I think McCain) made essentially the same comment about fruit fly research that you make about evo-psych. And Rick Santorum has echoed your philosophical point in saying “Well maybe the science points to the fact that maybe science doesn’t explain all these things” during a meeting with the Nashuah Telegraph board. Its on video, you can find it pretty easily on the internet. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you’re apeing standard creationist arguments, which tend (but not always) to come from politicians on the right, since more of their constituents are creationists.

    The NSF is supposed to deal with science, I’ve been pointing out TO YOU that science can’t address any proposed immaterial entity for at least a day or so…

    So, excuse my french, but what the fuck do you want us scientists to do about immaterial stuff then? You seem to be simultaneously complaining that we aren’t recognizing immaterial beings and that we can’t recognize them. Do you want us to simply agree with your baldfaced assertion that there’s this stuff we can’t possibly observe, but take Anthony’s word for it, it really is there?

    Given its history, I’m entirely skeptical of the idea that psychology is a science and that human behavior and consciousness can be successfully studied with science.

    So, name a better way of studying human psychology. If you can’t, get out of our way.

    You really don’t get the futility of your negative arguments, do you? Humans want to understand the world around them, and they will use the best instrument available to do so, no matter what its flaws. Like creationists, you seem to think people will stop using science on certain subjects if you point out its problems. They won’t. They’ll only abandon it when you make a positive proposal of an alternative method for studying that subject that works better. Negative arguments might win high school debates, but few adults take them seriously unless you have an alternative to propose along with them. Do you?

  419. #419 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    [take 3, pt 1]

    Given what you and your sci-ranger buddies have been arguing on these threads, you should can the claims about your valuing a strict adherence to evidence.

    Current hypotheses about cosmology and other sciences are based on the supporting evidence, and strive, at least, not to contradict the evidence. And scientists who propose them do strive to think of ways of falsifying their ideas.

    Incoherent concepts like immaterialism are based on a complete absence of evidence, and reject any sort of falsification or standard of empirical falsifiability.

  420. #420 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    [take 2, part 2 - punting on pt 1]

    The “Rapture” doesn’t appear in the Bible [...] I certainly don’t hold with it.

    For pity’s sake, is your reading comprehension so terrible that you think I was suggesting that you do believe in the Rapture? I was offering an example of a group of biblical fundamentalists of the type you said you disagreed with!

    And I doubt you would actually last long at the Rapture Ready forum itself. Their policy towards anyone who disagrees with them is banning. With you, it would probably happen on your first post.

    There might be other biblical fundamentalist sites which are less censorious, though. Why don’t you try and find them and be an asshole there?

  421. #421 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    [take 2, part 3]

    You people can’t argue these things on an adult level because you don’t know much more than you’ve gotten from badly researched, intentionally dishonest, new atheist tracts.

    You can’t argue these things on an adult level because you are not just intentionally dishonest, you are intentionally dishonest and you have no idea how to bloody well read for comprehension.

  422. #422 eric
    January 7, 2012

    VS @408:

    You can try to deny 5), or 1). Which is it?

    I think I’m denying 4). Specifically, in this world W we CAN empirically decide to create an operator that means “add the two quantities together, then add 1.” We would do so if such an operator was useful to mathematicians for solving difficult problems. Any time people are trying to solve said math problem because they have a real-world application in mind, I think we can reasonably call the decision to create that operator an empirical one.

    Need an example? The integral function was invented to (among other reasons) help solve the problem of calculating exact areas and volumes of shapes – like odd-shaped storage barrels. Figuring out how much beer you can fit in a novel sized curved-sided barrel before you build it is a very empirical justification.

  423. #423 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    I’m entirely skeptical of the idea that psychology is a science and that human behavior and consciousness can be successfully studied with science.

    Because humans are not physical?

    Why do you keep mistaking your own ignorance for expertise?

    I’m even skeptical of the idea that those follow any kind of physical law.

    And yet you incoherent immaterialists fail to demonstrate that they don’t follow any laws at all. So what exactly are you arguing?

  424. #424 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    I’m not going to get into the endless recursions of definitions with you.

    You can’t define what you’re discussing, because your concepts are incoherent.

    If you don’t know the difference between the material universe and things proposed to be immaterial you don’t belong in this discussion.

    Since you don’t know what the immaterial is, you shouldn’t be discussing it.

    I’ll add that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the consciousness is the immaterial acting in the material universe

    It can’t be, by your own argument. Consciousness is, at the very least, a known effect in the material world.

    I’ll add to that that I suspect most people of normal intelligence of more would think anyone who denies that consciousness exists is a raving nutcase. I do.

    This is so badly written — yet another editing failure?

    I note that your statement, above, that immaterial entities may not ‘fall under the category of things we assert “exist”‘ means that you are implying the possibility that consciousness may not “exist”, and therefore, that you might be one of the raving nutcases.

  425. #425 MattiR
    January 7, 2012

    I keep asking you for your evidence for this,

    You’re responding to a question. I don’t know what you mean by providing evidence for a question. Here’s the question again: How is faith any better at distinguishing truth from falsehood than random selection? How is this possible? Do you have an answer or don’t you?

    including what you think the methods of faith and revelation are

    I’m using the word “faith” in the standard sense to mean a belief or a justification for belief that is not reasoning or empirical observation or self-awareness. It is commonly defined as something like “belief that is not supported by evidence.” Religious believers often define it as “the hope of things unseen,” or words to that effect. How do you think faith, so defined, can distinguish true beliefs from false ones? If you have another definition of faith, tell us what it is, and explain how you think faith as you define it can distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

    You tell me, since you are the one claiming that the methods it uses do not work.

    I don’t think faith does have any methods for distinguishing true beliefs from false ones. That’s why I asked you, since you believe it might be able to do that.

    Except I’ve never claimed that they aren’t justified in holding that belief.

    Yes you did. You said you “don’t know” whether faith can distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

  426. #426 MattiR
    January 7, 2012

    I keep asking you for your evidence for this,

    You’re responding to a question. I don’t know what you mean by providing evidence for a question. Here’s the question again: How is faith any better at distinguishing truth from falsehood than random selection? How is this possible? Do you have an answer or don’t you?

    including what you think the methods of faith and revelation are

    I’m using the word “faith” in the standard sense to mean a belief or a justification for belief that is not reasoning or empirical observation or self-awareness. It is commonly defined as something like “belief that is not supported by evidence.” Religious believers often define it as “the hope of things unseen,” or words to that effect. How do you think faith, so defined, can distinguish true beliefs from false ones? If you have another definition of faith, tell us what it is, and explain how you think faith as you define it can distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

    You tell me, since you are the one claiming that the methods it uses do not work.

    I don’t think faith does have any methods for distinguishing true beliefs from false ones. That’s why I asked you, since you believe it might be able to do that.

    Except I’ve never claimed that they aren’t justified in holding that belief.

    Yes you did. You said you “don’t know” whether faith can distinguish true beliefs from false ones.

  427. #427 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    And the question is that should you get empirical disconfirmation for a theory, at what point do you change it versus saying that the theory is false? The answer is that it isn’t always clear when you do that, and it’s almost always possible to change a theory versus tossing it out. Ie Patching it up instead of abandoning it.

    Can you give an example of this?

    What do you mean by “settle”?

    Decide between.

    Yet scientists (as a group) don’t decide between alternatives whose validity remains in question. Actual undecided issues are kept open, and advocates try and argue them out in the scientific literature with more and better evidence.

    What make the principle of parsimony arbitrary?

    That it has not been justified to actually provide or improve truth, but is only a sometimes useful commitment.

    Actually, I understand that parsimony — minimum description length — has been proven to almost always be useful in hypothesizing, and making predictions. Does that not count as sufficient justification?

    To quote abb3w:

    Under the assumptions that Wolfram’s Axiom is valid for inference between compound propositions; that the joint affirmation of the Zermelo-Fraenkel Axioms of Extensionality, the Unordered Pair, Subsets, the Sum Set, Infinity, Replacement, and Foundation (no position required on Power Set and Choice) is self-consistent; and that Reality (aka, “the universe”) produces Experience (aka, “data”) with a formal complexity recognizable via some ordinal degree of hypercomputation; it follows that the criterion for each is Minimum Description Length. This is a formalization of the idea of Occam’s Razor that “the simplest explanation is most probably correct.” See (doi:10.1109/18.825807).
    Note that Description Length counts the length of conjecture and length of the condensed data under the conjecture, but does not count the number of steps to re-create the data. In lay terms: “Hard to understand” is not a valid criterion.

    The DOI points to:

    Vitányi P. M. and Li, M. (2000) Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism, and Kolmogorov Complexity. IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. v 46; pt 2, pp 446-464.

    It’s behind a paywall, but there is a free preprint on arxiv, if you search for it in Google Scholar

  428. #428 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    [take 2, part 1]

    And the question is that should you get empirical disconfirmation for a theory, at what point do you change it versus saying that the theory is false? The answer is that it isn’t always clear when you do that, and it’s almost always possible to change a theory versus tossing it out. Ie Patching it up instead of abandoning it.

    Can you give an example of this?

    What do you mean by “settle”?

    Decide between.

    Yet scientists (as a group) don’t decide between alternatives whose validity remains in question. Actual undecided issues are kept open, and advocates try and argue them out in the scientific literature with more and better evidence.

  429. #429 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    [take 2, pt 2]

    What make the principle of parsimony arbitrary?

    That it has not been justified to actually provide or improve truth, but is only a sometimes useful commitment.

    Actually, I understand that parsimony — minimum description length — has been proven to almost always be useful in hypothesizing, and making predictions. Does that not count as sufficient justification?

    Vitányi P. M. and Li, M. (2000) Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism, and Kolmogorov Complexity. IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. v 46; pt 2, pp 446-464.

    It’s behind a paywall, but there is a free preprint on arxiv. You can also search for it in Google Scholar and find PDFs.

  430. #430 Owlmirror
    January 7, 2012

    [take 2, pt 3, rearranged a bit from the original attempt]

    To quote abb3w:

    Under the assumptions that Wolfram’s Axiom is valid for inference between compound propositions; that the joint affirmation of the Zermelo-Fraenkel Axioms of Extensionality, the Unordered Pair, Subsets, the Sum Set, Infinity, Replacement, and Foundation (no position required on Power Set and Choice) is self-consistent; and that Reality (aka, “the universe”) produces Experience (aka, “data”) with a formal complexity recognizable via some ordinal degree of hypercomputation; it follows that the criterion for each is Minimum Description Length. This is a formalization of the idea of Occam’s Razor that “the simplest explanation is most probably correct.” See (doi:10.1109/18.825807).
    Note that Description Length counts the length of conjecture and length of the condensed data under the conjecture, but does not count the number of steps to re-create the data. In lay terms: “Hard to understand” is not a valid criterion.

    The DOI points to the paper in the previous post.

  431. #431 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    You can refuse to accept parsimony as an overall and absolute principle and still discover truths perfectly well.

    Such as?

    Much of the time, there will be no difference as common sense says that if you have two theories with the exact same explanation but one has more entities you really should ditch the entities that add nothing to the explanation.

    So “common sense” supports parsimony!

    But in cases where you have two different theories with completely different explanations where one simply has one more entity, applying parsimony or not applying parsimony is not really any better a way to decide between them.

    What do you mean by “completely different explanations”? Expand on this example.

    Because the number of entities will not have any impact on what the future investigations will uncover; they will support one or the other regardless of what entities they posit.

    If the explanation with more entities makes better predictions of what future investigations uncover, then clearly the additional entities of that explanation are necessary, and it is indeed the most parsimonious.

    Parsimony does not suggest choosing one theory arbitrarily because it has fewer entities, but because all entities posited are necessary for the explanation. “As simple as possible [to describe and explain], but no simpler.”

    Once the theories are pruned down by common sense, parsimony is simply arbitrary. But you don’t need a principle of parsimony to apply common sense.

    You’re confused, here. The theories are not pruned down by common sense; they are pruned down by parsimony.

  432. #432 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    [Sigh. Take 2, editing down]

    You can refuse to accept parsimony as an overall and absolute principle and still discover truths perfectly well.

    Such as?

    But in cases where you have two different theories with completely different explanations where one simply has one more entity, applying parsimony or not applying parsimony is not really any better a way to decide between them.

    What do you mean by “completely different explanations”?

    Because the number of entities will not have any impact on what the future investigations will uncover; they will support one or the other regardless of what entities they posit.

    If the explanation with more entities makes better predictions of what future investigations uncover, then clearly the additional entities of that explanation are necessary, and it is indeed the most parsimonious.

    Parsimony does not suggest choosing one theory arbitrarily because it has fewer entities, but because all entities posited are necessary for the explanation. “As simple as possible [to describe and explain], but no simpler.”

    Once the theories are pruned down by common sense, parsimony is simply arbitrary. But you don’t need a principle of parsimony to apply common sense.

    You’re confused, here. The theories are not pruned down by common sense; they are pruned down by parsimony.

  433. #433 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    [Sigh. Take 3, pt1]

    You can refuse to accept parsimony as an overall and absolute principle and still discover truths perfectly well.

    Such as?

    But in cases where you have two different theories with completely different explanations where one simply has one more entity, applying parsimony or not applying parsimony is not really any better a way to decide between them.

    What do you mean by “completely different explanations”?

  434. #434 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    [Take 3, pt 2]

    Because the number of entities will not have any impact on what the future investigations will uncover; they will support one or the other regardless of what entities they posit.

    If the explanation with more entities makes better predictions of what future investigations uncover, then clearly the additional entities of that explanation are necessary, and it is indeed the most parsimonious.

    Parsimony does not suggest choosing one theory arbitrarily because it has fewer entities, but because all entities posited are necessary for the explanation. “As simple as possible [to describe and explain], but no simpler.”

    Once the theories are pruned down by common sense, parsimony is simply arbitrary. But you don’t need a principle of parsimony to apply common sense.

    You’re confused, here. The theories are not pruned down by common sense; they are pruned down by parsimony.

  435. #435 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    [Take 4, pt 2]

    Because the number of entities will not have any impact on what the future investigations will uncover; they will support one or the other regardless of what entities they posit.

    If the explanation with more entities makes better predictions of what future investigations uncover, then clearly the additional entities of that explanation are necessary, and it is indeed the most parsimonious.

    Parsimony does not suggest choosing one theory arbitrarily because it has fewer entities, but because all entities posited are necessary for the explanation. “As simple as possible [to describe and explain], but no simpler.”

  436. #436 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    [Take 5, pt 2]

    Because the number of entities will not have any impact on what the future investigations will uncover; they will support one or the other regardless of what entities they posit.

    If the explanation with more entities makes better predictions of what future investigations uncover, then clearly the additional entities of that explanation are necessary, and it is indeed the most parsimonious.

  437. #437 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    [Take 5, pt 3]

    Parsimony does not suggest choosing one theory arbitrarily because it has fewer entities, but because all entities posited are necessary for the explanation. “As simple as possible [to describe and explain], but no simpler.”

    Once the theories are pruned down by common sense, parsimony is simply arbitrary. But you don’t need a principle of parsimony to apply common sense.

    You’re confused, here. The theories are not pruned down by common sense; they are pruned down by parsimony.

  438. #438 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    Sb has no problem with obscenity [damn, goddamn, asshole, shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits], but hates parsimony.

    And also information theory, and scholarly citations.

  439. #439 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012
    Would you agree that justification does require consistency?

    Define “consistency”

    Based on prior knowledge, and not in contradiction to that prior knowledge.

    Some justifications might not need, for example, a strict logical consistency, as you can indeed have justified statements that are logical fallacies

    Examples being?

  440. #440 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    I’m really not clear on how you get your link between “eliminates the false” and “not being based on fallacy”.

    The scientific method, considered as an iterative algorithm which adds to and corrects prior beliefs given more data, using logical/mathematical axioms to evaluate that data, is not based on logical fallacy.

    In some sense, you could argue that but the problem is that science does not actually eliminate the false when it uses induction or abduction, since all of those propositions might still be false, and the ones it thinks false might be true.

    How? What is the iterative algorithm missing? What is it that you think there is that reverses truth values? Are you suggesting that reality itself changes arbitrarily?

  441. #441 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    Also, science uses induction to make all of its generalizations and so it cannot provide certain justification for any universal proposition.

    That’s why empirical knowledge is provisional, not universal. Obviously, if some new data comes along and contradicts the current model, the model needs to change.

    Propositions are never actually universal, but are understood to be universally qualified. “As best we understand, with the current data.”

    That’s the inductive fallacy, by definition, and yet science relies on it.

    Not at all. That’s the whole point of falsifiability, which is what science actually relies on, along with parsimony.

  442. #442 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012
    An “invisible person with magical superpowers” is not logically impossible, but neither is it consistent with anything empirical.

    It’s not necessarily inconsistent either, and you are assuming your conclusion by insisting that it must be consistent with the empirical.

    If it isn’t consistent with the empirical, what is it supposed to be consistent with?

    Maybe that’s not something that can be demonstrated empirically.

    If you can’t demonstrate that a person has the qualities of a person empirically, how do you demonstrate it?

    How is this any different from having an imaginary friend, or some aspect of your own mind that you’re mistaking for a real person separate from you?

    Maybe consistency with concepts is all we can get.

    We can do better than that, if we actually care about what is and isn’t true.

  443. #443 coelsblog
    January 8, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “If you don’t know the difference between the material universe and things proposed to be immaterial you don’t belong in this discussion.”

    Well indeed I don’t know what “immaterial” means or what such things are. Given your word “proposed” I presume you can’t give actual examples of things that exist and are “immaterial”?

    “Given a proposal that immaterial entities can have an effect on material entities, there is no way to know and no reason to expect that they would be evident to us in the same way that the effects of material entities acting on other material entities would.

    So what; if it has some effect, then we can detect that effect, and that’s all that science needs in order to be able to study it.

    “… most people of normal intelligence of more would think anyone who denies that consciousness exists is a raving nutcase.”

    So what?, no-one does deny the existence of consciousness! Duh! Another of your silly strawmen Anthony.

  444. #444 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    Palin (and I think McCain) made essentially the same comment about fruit fly research that you make about evo-psych. eric

    For pity sake, eric, you’ve stretched so far that you’ve fallen flat.

    “Fruit fly research” means nothing unless you specify what “fruit fly research” you’re talking about. I’d guess there has been plenty of total wacky “fruit fly research” and I’d guess you could find scientists who would slam quite a bit of it.

    But it is indisputable that researchers have fruit flies available to do research about, they are here, now, where the researchers are. Paleolithic “behaviors” are not available to be studied by researchers today, there were no evo-psy guys around in the paleolithic period to rigorously collect data and do the quantitative and qualitative analyses necessary to generate valid science from them. And, since it is intrinsic to the claims of evo-psy, they cannot show that our ancestors who performed those “behaviors” left more descendants than people who performed those “behaviors”. Nor can it show that those descendants also performed those “behaviors” and that they also left more descendants than the (fewer?) descendants of those who didn’t do it. I could go on with the description of what evo-psy can’t do which only sounds ridiculous because what they propose to call science is inherently ridiculous due to the impossibility of them collecting the data they would need to support their contention. As it is, evo-psy isn’t science, it’s lore, folk lore in its popular manifestation, folk lore which has provided the likes of Anthony Sullivan and David Brooks and others a justification of sexism, class inequality and others, including some rather renowned scientists, a fig leaf to cover the shame of their racism as well.

    eric, I don’t want scientists to do anything about the immaterial because their profession leaves them unqualified to do anything about it. It’s one of the most hilarious of common delusions that a profession that concentrates solely on studying the physical universe would give its practitioners credentials to talk about ideas that are not about the one thing they have some expertise in. Scientists have exactly as much credibility to discuss religion as store clerks, plumbers and the homeless on the street. They might, generally, have less credibility on most of religion than other people because their training gives them tunnel vision, as can be seen when most of them opine on topics outside of their professional competence.

  445. #445 coelsblog
    January 8, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy writes:

    Paleolithic “behaviors” are not available to be studied by researchers today, there were no evo-psy guys around in the paleolithic period to rigorously collect data …”

    You really don’t understand science Anthony, just because we don’t have every type of data that we might want doesn’t mean that it isn’t science or that we can’t do quite a lot with the types of evidence we do have. Large swathes of science depend on making do with the data we can obtain.

  446. #446 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    So, name a better way of studying human psychology. If you can’t, get out of our way. eric

    Exigency doesn’t cut it, eric. There are lots of things about which it would be very, very nice to have information of the reliability that real science can provide. Real science provides that enhanced reliability about a very limited number of things BECAUSE THOSE THINGS CAN BE AND HAVE BEEN successfully subjected to the methods of science. When you can’t successfully subject something to the methods of science or when those can’t be applied to it, you can’t come up with the same quality of information about it. Most of human experience can’t be subjected to scientific methods, pretending that they can be is the major superstition of scientism. The second superstition of scientism is that anything that can’t be successfully subjected to science is either an illusion or unimportant.

    I doubt that human minds will ever be honesty subjected to science, I’m pretty confident that they haven’t as of today. I think people are too varied, too subject to change, both due to external influences and conscious thought and intention of the individual. And peoples’ minds are not directly observable, you will always be reliant on people reporting on what’s going on inside their minds and self-reporting cannot be of known accuracy and reliability. People lie about their activity, pretending that they don’t is one of the main agreed to lies of the social sciences. And that’s even true of human activity that can be observed or quantified (numbers of sex partners, the quintessential and known examples). When it’s something like what’s going on in their own mind, the self-reporting about which an individual can be anything from intentionally deceptive to mistaken to purposely or involuntarily ambiguous, data collection is wildly unreliable and totally undependable no matter how many of the trappings of science you try to prop it up with.

    It doesn’t matter one bit how much you’d like psychology to produce information of the same reliability as chemistry or physics at times can. The simple fact is that it doesn’t, it’s a reasonable conclusion to believe it never will. Politically, ethically, psychology has an abysmal track record of mirroring the prevailing prejudices of the societies that make use of it, only at times mitigated by the predispositions of individual psychologists. And I haven’t gone into the appalling research methodologies accepted by the publication establishment in psychology. Some of what gets published is so bad that it’s only valuable for the insight the trappings of science can give to total nonsense. At the worst, it can be an example of a mass delusion.

  447. #447 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    coelsblog, leaving aside the problem of identifying contemporary “behaviors”, that, presumably, can be observed today, evo-psy claims to be able to identify “behaviors” in the Paleolithic period and earlier, to claim that those “behaviors” are the products of genes (in itself not an established fact) and that those “behaviors” and so the “genes” that motivate them have a reproductive advantage due to the individuals who contain the “genes” and perform the “behaviors” left more descendants (without a single bit of data to document those proposed descendants) than individuals who didn’t. They propose to do that, not only at one point in the lost past but in every generation, under varying conditions in each and every intervening time period, all unobserved until the often incomplete and ambiguous historical period. And to call the resultant mountain of speculation “science”. You see, I think I do understand the actual situation instead of the claims made by would be researchers with a vested interest in those claims and those who have an emotional need to believe them, often out of nothing but an asserted authority or because they imagine themselves among the “fitter” of the human species.

    Given the spotty success of behavioral “science” in identifying “behaviors” and analyzing them today, I don’t think extending that effort to discern and analyze entirely ephemeral “behaviors” into the lost, entirely undocumented past is not much more than a sciency sounding construction of creation myths.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/01/08/some-cultures-have-their-own-ways-going-mad/fSuwCngcHbTpMZdBzSFagI/story.html

  448. #448 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    You can’t define what you’re discussing, because your concepts are incoherent. Owlmirror

    If that’s the case it’s a lot more of a problem for materialists than it is for me. If the “material” isn’t definable then their claim that only the material universe exists can’t be known to be true, something I believe I said earlier in this discussion. So materialism has no more validity than other, competing, ideologies and materialists should be a lot more humble about asserting the rationality of their assertions in these areas.

    It’s also a problem for scientism because science only deals with material of a very specific kind, the kind of material that is successfully and demonstrably subjected to the methods of science. If the “material” is a larger set of entities then scientism even fails within the material universe because science can’t reliably deal with all of the possible material universe. Another thing I said earlier in this discussion.

    I said that any proposed “immaterial” was of unknown character, though I pointed out that it very possibly would have different properties than those of the material universe of our experience, certainly of that which science has studied since the observable properties of material objects and forces working on them were derived from the constituents and properties of those objects. So, I’ve said all along that it wouldn’t be possible to know about any possible “immaterial” entities and what possible influence those might have on our experience. Something I also pointed out about whatever is in those “higher dimensions” that are so fashionable among so many materialists who don’t seem to want to consider the problems that could pose for their very 3-4d based materialist assumptions.

    I don’t have any problem saying those three words that men find it so hard to say, “I don’t know”. I also don’t have any problem with admitting that all of this, including science and materialism are, when you get down to its most basic level, a matter of believing, of accepting, of being persuaded.

  449. #449 coelsblog
    January 8, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “coelsblog, leaving aside the problem of identifying …”

    As I said, Anthony, you really don’t understand science. Pointing out that there are some types of data that we don’t have doesn’t mean it isn’t science. As I said: “Just because we don’t have every type of data that we might want doesn’t mean that it isn’t science or that we can’t do quite a lot with the types of evidence we do have.”

    To give an example, we can learn quite a lot about the internal structure of a star through studying their pulsations (sound waves traveling inside a star). No doubt you would whine and dismiss this as “science” because we don’t have any of our satellite probes inside any star.

  450. #450 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    Coelsblog, no observed “behavior” in the crucial period, no data of the frequency of that “behavior”, no link between individuals performing those “behaviors” and numbers of reproducing children as opposed to fewer reproducing children for individuals who have reliably been shown to not perform those “behaviors”, no demonstration of those in succeeding generations…, when your entire proposal is based on stuff that is only honestly marked “tacit” from the data then that’s a pretty absolute bar to what you come up with honestly being considered science.

    we can learn quite a lot about the internal structure of a star through studying their pulsations

    You are doing what all of the true believers in evo-psy seem to, you are drawing analogies from things which have available physical evidence to evo-psy, for which that evidence is not only unavailable, but which is not evidence at all but the product of conjecture based on an ideological reading of natural selection of the ultra-adaptationist kind. There is no evidence to support the basic contention of evo-psy, there is only story telling which is entirely unverifiable.

    Really, it’s very odd that no one seems to have noticed that I’m among the very small number of people in this discussion who have spoken in favor of evidence being required for science. Considering the typical claims about you guys being the “only evidence” side of things.

  451. #451 eric
    January 8, 2012

    AMC:

    Scientists have exactly as much credibility to discuss religion as store clerks, plumbers and the homeless on the street.

    Until you provide some positive methodology for studying the immaterial, scientists also have exactly as much credibility to discuss religion as theologians and (non-science) religious believers.

    If there is no methodology that any human can use to study the immaterial, Sagan’s opinion on the matter is just as valid as the Pope’s. Or yours. And if you think there is a better methodology to study it, frakking describe it already. To be justified in listening to theologians, you cannot simply keep complaining about the methodological problems of science – at some point you have to give some evidence that some alternate theological method for learning about the immaterial works better than the scientific method.

    If science can’t possibly study these immaterial objects you claim exist, what method can study them, and what evidence do you have that that method actually works as advertised?

  452. #452 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    Eric, there is nothing to bar a scientist from submitting a scholarly article to a theology journal and seeing if it will be published. Though they might want to have done a bit more reading of the literature of theology than, say, Dawkins exhibited in his meisterstuck on the subject.

    However, I was talking about religion and not theology, which are quite distinct things. Carl Sagan certainly talked about religion, with varying levels of accuracy, and anyone who wants to take what he said seriously is free to do it, though they might want to fact check what he said about those things which can be verified first. However, his scientific credentials, in astro-physics, I believe, would not have given him the first bit of added credibility on topics outside of that specialty. I have read criticism of his statements on history and even a couple on what he said about scientific topics outside of his competence. I remember, in The Dragons of Eden, I seem to recall it was, that he attributed “near death experiences” to forgotten memories of the birth experience, without a shred of evidence that those memories even exist in a single person. I remember reading that back in the 70s and it being the beginning of my skepticism about the reliability of Sagan’s popular writing. Which hasn’t meant that he didn’t collect a coterie of true believers who mistook his late pastiche as a textbook of logic and rational discourse, when it wasn’t.

    You seem to have a basic misunderstanding about proposals about immaterial entities, which, indeed, can’t be studied by science or even directly for all the reasons stated above. Most of what is said about them is asserted to be based on some kind of experience or insight or intuition, and, rarely, direct revelation. What is said about them can be studied, just as what is said about literature can be studied, you can write about what people say and point out why you find it persuasive or why you find it unpersuasive. That’s not much different from other areas of life such as politics or philosophy. All of which fall outside of science, though, as Joseph Weizenbaum pointed out, science and even math, at its absolute, ground-floor level depends on persuasion. If you need that to be getting on with science, and even math, as no less than Bertrand Russell said, it’s hardly a valid criticism for other parts of human thought.

  453. #453 coelsblog
    January 8, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “you are drawing analogies from things which have available physical evidence to evo-psy …”

    We have no direct evidence of the internal structure of a star. However we can make solid inferences about it from indirect evidence (such as pulsations). We have no direct testimony from human minds a million years ago, but we have lots of avenues of indirect evidence. That makes it science.

    As I said, you don’t understand science. “We don’t have data of Type A” is not an argument that it is not science if we do have other types of evidence.

    “Really, it’s very odd that no one seems to have noticed that I’m among the very small number of people in this discussion who have spoken in favor of evidence being required for science.”

    You have far, far too narrow a view of science. It’s only people who don’t understand science who think that science is limited to things one can directly view under a microsope in a laboratory.

  454. #454 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    We have no direct evidence of the internal structure of a star. However we can make solid inferences about it from indirect evidence (such as pulsations). colesblog

    If there was a symbol for smacking the hand the the forehead, I’d put it here.

    What do you think those pulsations are but physical evidence! Don’t try to wriggle out of it by now stipulating “direct evidence”. Presently available indirect evidence is evidence. And, let me point out, that in addition to the problem I pointed out to eric in 433 and to you at 437, there is the additional problem with 1. organisms being far more complex and capable of exhibiting far more varied and unpredictable behavior than the objects studied by physics do, 2. the behavior of a species can be quite different at different times and within different contexts depending on their reaction to their surroundings.

    Even if you could, by some occult means, establish that the same “behaviors” that you assert you can see today had happened in the past, you would have to actually count how many individuals in a given population did and didn’t perform it in their lifetimes, if they all performed it if the circumstances under which they performed it had anything to do with a. their pre-reproductive mortality, b. the number of surviving, reproducing offspring they had, c. whether or not those offspring performed or didn’t perform the behavior, d. the numbers of surviving, reproducing offspring in the the third generation, …. I left out making a plausible connection between the behavior and their reproductive success and, ultimately, that the behavior was the products of genes.

    Evo-psy is an astounding simplification of what, in reality, would have had to be a very complicated matter. Animals aren’t peas and peas aren’t atoms or subatomic particles. Their behaviors aren’t the rate of expansion of a known substance upon heating at a given rate to a given temperature, or other very reliably predicted and measured physical phenomena. Evo-psy is an absurdly stated reduction of what’s known about genetics and the vast complexity of observable behavior in an unknowable context into an easily related scenario. Its simplicity is the secret to its success with the predisposed and easily converted as were behaviorism and a myriad of other, now, discontinued claims of psychology.

  455. #455 Raging Bee
    January 8, 2012

    Notice how Anthony just keeps on repeating the same empty assertions over and over, no matter how conclusively they get debunked and refuted? He’s a classic crank, stuck in his own world, completely divorced from reality, and refusing to even begin to comprehend what anyone else says. There’s really no point in arguing with someone who was never willing to engage with the reality in which the rest of us are based. Cranky troll is cranky.

  456. #456 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    Raging Bee, you are a 3rd rate, jr. high school level name-caller and not much else.

    There are two long answers in moderation.

  457. #457 eric
    January 8, 2012

    Anthony, there’s no reason you need a long answer for my last post. “No, there is no other methodology and you’re right, every person’s opinion on the immaterial is equally valid” takes only a few lines. As does the opposite answer, “Yes, I think [revelation/authority/intuition/whatever] is a superior method for understanding immaterial things, and as evidence I cite [confirmed discovery arising from that method].”

  458. #458 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    “No, there is no other methodology and you’re right, every person’s opinion on the immaterial is equally valid” takes only a few lines. As does the opposite answer, “Yes, I think [revelation/authority/intuition/whatever] is a superior method for understanding immaterial things, and as evidence I cite [confirmed discovery arising from that method].”

    “Immaterialism is not a methodological theory, and it’s not immaterialism’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling methodological stories.”

    Heh.

  459. #459 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    I do hope someone else is reading this exchange because it shows a lot of the wishful thinking of materialism and scientism.

    Eric, I don’t know how you would access validity when it’s something like you propose. You would have to have some standard to judge validation, an agreed to standard if you want someone to agree to it. As I said in one of the stuck comments, you can write about assertions about proposals about immaterial entities but that’s generally done for purposes of persuasion, just as is done in politics or philosophy.

    “Immaterialism is not a methodological theory, and it’s not immaterialism’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling methodological stories.” Owlmirror

    Is that something you’d imagine I’d say? Because I certainly wouldn’t. Considering the exchange about evo-psy you might want to watch your glass house as you throw rocks.

  460. #460 Owlmirror
    January 8, 2012

    Is that something you’d imagine I’d say? Because I certainly wouldn’t.

    Really? It looks very much like a summary of the paragraph you addressed to eric.

  461. #461 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    Owlmirror, I’m sure you think you’re an entirely objective, disinterested interpreter but I have rejected your translation. Maybe that’s characteristic of the new atheists, always twisting things to suit them when what was said doesn’t.

  462. #462 eric
    January 8, 2012

    AMC:

    I don’t know how you would access validity when it’s something like you propose. You would have to have some standard to judge validation, an agreed to standard if you want someone to agree to it.

    Yes, exactly. Unless you have a method for assessing immaterial stuff, and a way of testing or validating the method (i.e., you use it on a problem you already know the answer to, but your method-user doesn’t – i.e. a blind test), you can’t make any positive claim about immaterial stuff. Any positive statement about it, including the claim it exists, becomes nothing more than pure, unadulterated, speculation.

    So, why are you making positive claims about it?

  463. #463 Anthony McCarthy
    January 8, 2012

    Eric, do you imagine that existence awaits your assessment? Do you imagine that the existence of anything depends on our or every single other human beings acceptance of it? You and Margaret Fuller, it seems.

    You can make any claim you want about anything, if you’re prepared to to take your chances on rejection or acceptance.

    Any positive statement about it, including the claim it exists, becomes nothing more than pure, unadulterated, speculation.

    This is ironic, coming from someone who is prepared to consider evo-psy to be science.

    So, why are you making positive claims about it?

    Where did I make a positive claim about any possible immaterial entity? It should be easy enough for you to list them. Actual quotes.

    I was under the impression I’d only made negative claims about what we couldn’t know about them with any confidence. The only one I recall that even got close to positive is that there was no reason to believe they would have the same qualities of physical objects.

  464. #464 Wowbagger
    January 8, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Where did I make a positive claim about any possible immaterial entity?

    We wish we knew, Anthony. But, since there are hagfish out there who envy your sliminess, we’re not going to hold our collective breath waiting for you to make any.

    And it’s been the same since you first entered the discussion, which – simplified – has gone something like this:

    Us: These so-called ‘other ways of knowing’ are not valid.
    AMC: Preposterous!
    Us: Okay, give us an example of a valid ‘other way of knowing’.
    AMC: Science doesn’t know everything!
    Us: Okay, we’ve established know you hate and fear science when it’s used against you. Fine. Let’s stick to what the ‘other ways of knowing have provided, shall we?
    AMC: Dawkins believes in memes!
    Us: Yes, we know. But that’s not the point – can you give us an example of an ‘other way of knowing’ that’s produced knowledge without drawing on empirical methodology (i.e. science) of some kind?
    AMC: Evo Psych is bad!
    Us: Um, okay. How about that example of a successful ‘other way of knowing’?
    AMC: Christians invented science!
    Us: [sigh]

  465. #465 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Reading oneself according to the neo-atheists is always such a revelation. Not in ones own thinking but in their ability to twist anything you say so they can dismiss whatever it is that doesn’t match their fundamentalist creed.

    Us: These so-called ‘other ways of knowing’ are not valid. Wowbagger

    So, you do reject that history, the judicial process, etc. are able to produce knowledge. The facts produced by history without science are not knowledge. You deny that it’s possible to know if someone is innocent of guilty of a crime through a well conducted trial with valid evidence.

    If that last paragraph is wrong then state so explicitly or own it.

    As for the rest of it, I’ve said all along that you can’t know about any proposed supernatural topic in the same way you can know about the reliable products of science or history or the judicial process, what you can do is believe or disbelieve those on the basis of persuasion. Though I’m sure you didn’t like the point about the foundations of mathematics and science also resting on things you had to accept on the basis of belief and persuasion, point Bertrand Russell discovered when his brother offered to teach him geometry and he found out you had to just accept its basic ideas.

    That the founders of science were professed Christians is an historical fact. Copernicus, Galileo, Steno, Kepler…. they were all Christians. Name your alternative founders of science who didn’t profess Christianity.

  466. #466 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “So, you do reject that history, the judicial process, etc. are able to produce knowledge.”

    If you’d paid the slightest attention to this thread you’d realise that we scientismists include history etal in our broad definition of “science”, since it is based on the same principles of evidence and reason that science is — that *evidence* is exactly what you *don’t* have about these supposed “immaterial” things you keep twittering about.

  467. #467 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “I’ve said all along that you can’t know about any proposed supernatural topic …”

    How do you know that? If those claimed “supernatural” things have some effect on our material and observable universe, then why can’t we detect and study these things through that effect on the observable?

    On the other hand, if these “supernatural” things of yours are hypothesized as having no effect whatsoever on anything in our universe, then, ok, we can’t study them, but why would we even care?

  468. #468 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    coelsblog asked (of Anthony McCarthy):

    How do you know that?

    Uh-oh. I’m pretty sure I can hear Anthony lacing up his best pair of tap shoes; I’d say the chance of your getting a straight answer out of him is far less likely than your getting yet another load of the same waffling obfuscation; the same meandering, disingenuous and irrelevant non-sequiturs; and the same bald-faced, dishonest avoidance of the actual issues at hand.

    Heck, he’s so well-known for his duplicitous weaselry that, were someone to post a straight, honest answer to a question like that under the name Anthony McCarthy, I’d assume it was a sock-puppet.

  469. #469 Wow
    January 9, 2012

    “However, the statement that 2+2=4 is no more true or less true than the statement that 2+2=1 or 2+2=10″

    Wrong.

    2+2=4 is correct and the two statements 2+2=1 and 2+2=10 are wrong (if you’re running in base 10 for the latter).

    Because one object is not the same number of objects as two objects. And ten objects is right out. To abuse Python…

  470. #470 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Wowbagger, you didn’t confirm that you deny it’s impossible to know things revealed by history or by the judicial system. What’s the matter, you don’t want to tell us whether or not you believe in “other ways of knowing” than the way of science? That you’d have to deny the validity of history and the law in the process surely must be the sticking point. Go on, be a bold new atheist and declare those two important means of establishing knowledge. You can’t deny there are “other ways of knowing” unless you don’t do that.

    If you want to discuss these issues you’d better be prepared to go into a lot of detail because they’re not as easy as lying on a blog thread.

    colesblog, thank you for demonstrating another habit of the neo-atheists, chopping up what was said to distort meaning. Here is what I actually said, with capitals for emphisis.

    As for the rest of it, I’ve said all along that you can’t know about any proposed supernatural topic in the same way you can know about the reliable products of science or history or the judicial process, WHAT YOU CAN DO IS BELIEVE OR DISBELIEVE THOSE ON THE BASIS OF PERSUASION.

    I’ve distinguished between knowledge and belief all through this discussion, pointing out that scientism was not only a statement of belief instead of knowledge but that, as such, it contained its own refutation.

  471. #471 eric
    January 9, 2012

    AMC:

    Where did I make a positive claim about any possible immaterial entity?

    If you have been arguing for 400 posts that science can’t understand something you don’t believe exists, I really don’t see the point in continuing.

    So, do you believe there is one or more nonmaterial things that science can’t study, or not? If not, this will likely be my last post on the topic.

    I’ve said all along that you can’t know about any proposed supernatural topic in the same way you can know about the reliable products of science or history or the judicial process, what you can do is believe or disbelieve those on the basis of persuasion

    What should persuade me to believe? The authority of some speaker? Deductive argument from a set of reasonable premises? Inference from some set of epmirical evidence? Personal revelation?

    What is a legitimate basis for being persuaded when it comes to the subject of immaterial beings, Anthony?

  472. #472 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “I’ve said all along that you can’t know about any proposed supernatural topic in the same way you can know about the reliable products of science or history or …”

    And I’ll repeat the question, how do you know that you cannot know about proposed “supernatural” things? If those claimed “supernatural” things have some effect on our material and observable universe, then why can’t we detect and study these things through that effect on the observable?

  473. #473 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Eric, neo-atheism has been arguing that science can do what it can’t do for most of the past decade. I’ll stop when they stop.

    I think I’ve presented anything I’ve said about the non-material in terms of things people have proposed and people have proposed lots of things, some of which I, personally, find unconvincing, some of those very unconvincing, indeed. Some I find more convincing. But if they are claims about the immaterial I can’t address them in terms of evidence. Any claims they make about the physical universe in terms of the immaterial might be checked for accuracy to see if the physical aspects of those claims have any validation in evidence, which is how science can dispose of a literal assertion of a 7 day creation. But for someone who believes that evolution, as it actually happened, as opposed to how any person thinks it happened, was done through the intention of God, science can’t touch that belief and I’ll bet that just about any religious person who accepts evolution believes that if you put it in those terms.

    Of course, there are such proposals which are claimed to be unique in all of history and, for which, there is no available physical evidence, such as the Virgin Birth, which science can’t honestly address. You can believe them or not, which I don’t happen to in that case, but your disbelief doesn’t have any solid basis in science. It is claimed to be unique in history so if you want to compare it to other known births a believer can point out that, since it is unique, your comparison doesn’t address it and there is no physical evidence of the claimed event. I happen to disbelieve that one on the basis of history agreeing with Crossan that it was probably a story told to claim a status superior to that of Augustus for Jesus.

    I don’t care what you believe or disbelieve, as I already pointed out above. But if you make a claim and it’s demonstrably wrong I’ll point that out. Just as I will when religious fundamentalists do the same thing.

  474. #474 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    Where did I make a positive claim about any possible immaterial entity?

    Right here, you lying hypocrite:

    http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/07/are_evolution_deniers_scientif.php#comment-4642595

    Here’s the money quote:

    I believe in God, I believe God created the entire universe and everything about it. I believe that God is not susceptible to the network of causality that contains the subject matter of science. I believe it is an act of idolatry to turn some human conception of God into a mere thing that can be subjected to science. The insistence that God can be seen through science is an act of desecration. That God might be seen in the majesty of the universe is not the same thing, it is an acknowledgement that God is only knowable, in an absurdly miniscule part, through living experience of a kind far to broad and far too complex for science.

    Seriously, boy, do you really think you’re smart enough to hide your backward religious agenda?

  475. #475 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “there is no available physical evidence [for] the Virgin Birth, which science can’t honestly address. You can believe them or not, which I don’t happen to in that case, but your disbelief doesn’t have any solid basis in science.”

    No, the disbelief does rest on a solid scientific basis. The idea of Occam’s razor, that one doesn’t claim out-of-the-ordinary things without good evidence, is one of the principles of science.

  476. #476 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    I’ve said all along that you can’t know about any proposed supernatural topic in the same way you can know about the reliable products of science or history…

    We can know that there is, quite simply, no reliable evidence to support any of the stated beliefs about any supernatural beings or events. We can, and do, also know that the overwhelming majority of allegedly supernatural events are, sooner or later, found to have a perfectly rational explanation that doesn’t involve supernatural anything. What else is there TO know?

  477. #477 Wow
    January 9, 2012

    “If you really think there is a “way of knowing” other than the methods of science”

    Anthony doesn’t. All he has is a hate.

  478. #478 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    …your disbelief doesn’t have any solid basis in science.

    Yes, it bloody well does: first, if you start believing supernatural claims without supporting evidence, then you open yourself to a literally unlimited range of unproven beliefs, from all past cultures as well as present delusions and hallucinations.

    And second, history shows, with very little doubt, that humans tend to get all sorts of untenable claims stuck in their heads, and that stories of great deeds tend to get wildly exaggerated by sotrytellers with each generation’s retelling. The Virgin Birth is one of many such untenable claims (for which numerous more mundane explanations suffice); therefore we must conclude that it cannot be held literally true.

    For both of those reasons, disbelief in supernatural claims does indeed have a solid basis in science. Once again, Anthony, you’ve been proven dead wrong.

  479. #479 eric
    January 9, 2012

    But for someone who believes that evolution, as it actually happened, as opposed to how any person thinks it happened, was done through the intention of God, science can’t touch that belief

    If someone has a hypothesis about the “intention of God,” we can certainly test to see if the world is consistent or inconsistent with it. Many fundamentalists claim exactly this: that evolution is inconsistent with what they know about God.

    Of course, there are such proposals which are claimed to be unique in all of history and, for which, there is no available physical evidence, such as the Virgin Birth, which science can’t honestly address. You can believe them or not, which I don’t happen to in that case, but your disbelief doesn’t have any solid basis in science.

    We can certainly have a solid induction-from-observational-evidence basis for rejecting the resurrection: resurrections don’t regularly occur, while people writing “true” stories about untrue vents occurs regularly. That rejection is tentative and open to revision from future evidence. Hmmm…what methodology does that sound like?

    Empiricially, I can’t 100% rule out a historical resurrection. Or an immaterial entity. Or an invisible dragon in my parking spot (I have no garage), an 1800′s teacup orbiting the earth, or fairies in my garden, either. But I will treat these claims with equal skepticism until some proponent demonstrates to me why their pet subject is worth more of my belief than the others.

    So I guess that, for me, it comes down to immaterial entities having equivalent justification as fairies in my garden. They are not 100% guaranteed impossible in a philosophically absolute sense. If that equivalency was all the consideration you wanted me to give them, then we are in agreement. If you want me to give them more, you’re going to have mount a positive argument for their existence.

  480. #480 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Ignoring Raging Bee and Wow, except to point out that they are nothing if not irony generators.

    Wowbagger, you haven’t admitted either that you don’t believe history and the courts can establish knowledge or that you do. I wonder why not. Only not very much.

    Colesblog, ignoring, for the momement, that you have entirely botched a statement of what Occam’s razor states, you think Occam’s razor is part of science? Really? What part of science has produced evidence that supports Occam’s razor. Show me where to find the publication that does that.

    What part of science can show that the claims of the Virgin Birth can’t be a unique event in all of history and how do you compare any other event to one that is claimed to be unique? Any and all other births you could propose to compare to what is claimed by The Virgin Birth is ruled out of relevance by that part of the claim, anyone who believes in it would be on solid logical ground in pointing that out. Other than that insurmountable problem the only other way for science to address the claim of The Virgin Birth would be with physical evidence and there isn’t any. You would need actual evidence like DNA from Jesus, his mother and a proposed human father in order to establish that Jesus had a human father and to undermine the claim that his mother was a virgin at the time of his birth.

    You can try to undermine confidence in the belief by waving some sciency sounding claims against that belief, and that would be enough for those predisposed to disbelieve it, but you wouldn’t actually be using science to address what is claimed and anyone who was disposed to believe it would be entirely right to point that out.

    This is, as always, useful mostly in pointing out how little your typical true believer in scientism DOESN’T know about science and logic and the distinction between the two.

  481. #481 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    If someone has a hypothesis about the “intention of God,” we can certainly test to see if the world is consistent or inconsistent with it. eric

    Tell me how you would test that any phenomenon in the physical universe happens as it is, happens by the intention of God, which was, by the way, exactly what Deists claimed to believe as well as theists, possible intervention into the normal operation of the universe being one of their points of disagreement. Tell me how you would use science to falsify the contention that the universe operates as it does by the intention of God.

    Go on, eric, support your claim by telling us how you could test that point with science because science is something that is done and not just asserted. Or at least it’s supposed to be that.

    Many fundamentalists claim exactly this: that evolution is inconsistent with what they know about God. eric

    Evolution is as solid a fact as is known by science, it is the most massively supported fact revealed by science through evidence. I’d put quantum physics as almost as impressively established, though not on the mass of evidence. Biblical fundamentalists choose not to believe that, insisting that it’s not true. There’s not much that you can do about that.

    Non-fundamentalist believers accept that evolution is how species came into being from other species and many of them, if asked, would say that they believe that evolution is the way that God has produced the variety of life on Earth today. That’s what they believe. Since they accept what science is able to tell about that, they have no belief that is inconsistent with science.

    Some more aware believers would probably point out that evolutionary biology, even as accepted by atheists, is not a fixed body of knowledge but one that changes and develops because no one knows all that much about how evolution actually happens in great detail. No person has a full knowledge of the universe, every single person’s knowledge of it is incomplete at best, containing misconceptions, I’d say most likely. You can look at the disagreements of atheists such as Wilson, Dawkins, Gould and Lewontin to see that (I’m more influenced by Lewontin, just in the interest of full disclosure), so even the most genuinely scientific of atheists know that.

  482. #482 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Colesblog, ignoring, for the momement, that you have entirely botched a statement of what Occam’s razor states, …”

    No I didn’t.

    “What part of science has produced evidence that supports Occam’s razor.”

    Most parts of science, really. For example, it is a simple fact that unevidenced claims have never been productive in producing verifiable predictions. One can also produce a probability argument, in that, given the number of possible unevidenced claims, the likelihood of any one of them turning out true by chance is very remote.

  483. #483 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “What part of science can show that the claims of the Virgin Birth can’t be a unique event in all of history ..”

    Science isn’t about absolute proof, it’s about assessment of likelihoods. So science doesn’t say it absolutely “can’t” have happened, it says that the chances of such an abnormal and unevidenced claim being correct are close to vanishing, and that (Occam’s razor) the burden of proof is on those claiming that it did.

  484. #484 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Colesblog, you didn’t support your contention that Occam’s razor was a part of science. It is, actually, as Bertrand Russell said:

    This maxim says: “Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity.” Although he did not say this, he said something which has much the same effect, “It is vain to do with more what can be done with fewer.” That is to say, if everything in some science can be interpreted without assuming this or that hypothetical entity, there is no ground for assuming it. I have myself found this a more fruitful principle in logical analysis.

    Bertrand Russell: A History of Philosophy

    Apropos of this discussion, Occam’s razor isn’t supported by any science at all so, by the faith of scientism, it can’t be validly known.

    You know, or maybe not, that William of Ockham was a very devout Franciscan priest, a member of a faction of the Franciscans who were so devoted to the Rule of their order that he got into a lot of trouble with one of the Avignon popes and had to take it on the lam to avoid being arrested. He explicitly stated his belief in God as the only truly necessary entity, all others being secondary to God. A fact that never ceases to amuse me when new atheists cite him as supporting their atheism.

    There is absolutely no way to determine the probability of a unique event which is unlike any other event of the kind that is claimed in The Virgin Birth. Just as I ask in my last withheld comment to eric, show me how you would do the math to figure out the probability of The Virgin Birth, as it is stated by believers, happening. Something I believe I asked Jason about a couple of years back.

  485. #485 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    Ignoring Raging Bee and Wow, except to point out that they are nothing if not irony generators.

    In other words, pretending to ignore Bee and Wow because we’ve debunked your horseshit and there’s no way you can deny it.

    What part of science has produced evidence that supports Occam’s razor[?]

    Centuries of experience have shown that it is a very useful and indispensible tool/guideline (one of many, of course) for ruling out outlandish claims and focusing on what is coherent and provable. The proof is, it generally works.

    What part of science can show that the claims of the Virgin Birth can’t be a unique event in all of history…

    That part that has long ago proven that a) virgin birth is physiologically impossible (you know, the part you should have at least started learning in your teens); and b) there’s no evidence to indicate any mechanism by which it could happen even in rare cases. In short, it’s an extraordinary claim, without even a scrap of evidence to counter the overwhelming mass of evidence against it.

    …and how do you compare any other event to one that is claimed to be unique?

    Easy: by lumping it with all the other events that are claimed with no supporting evidence.

  486. #486 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    You know, or maybe not, that William of Ockham was a very devout Franciscan priest…

    So what? We don’t use Occam’s Razor because Occam was a Franciscan; we use it because of its demonstrated usefulness as an investigative tool/guideline. You’re getting really desperate with the anti-rationalism, aren’t you?

  487. #487 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Raging Bee, just because no one else has pointed it out, what you don’t know about science and logic could fill the curriculum of another Oral Roberts University.

    How about your faith, Paganism. What does that consist of?

  488. #488 eric
    January 9, 2012

    What part of science can show that the claims of the Virgin Birth can’t be a unique event in all of history…

    There are lots of such unique events claimed by various pantheons. Alexander the Great claimed to be a descendant of Zeus through Heracles. Science treats all such claims the same: tentatively (and subject to future revision) best explained by people lying rather than actual miracle.

    Now, if your goal was for science to admit that the inductive conclusion about Mary is as tentative and open to revision as the inductive conclusion about Alexander, then congratulations! Mission accomplished, we already do.

    If, OTOH you want science to treat the Mary claim with more respect than the Alexander claim, you’re going to have stop repeating different paraphrasings of the problem of induction ad nauseum, and provide a positive argument for this particular claim.

  489. #489 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    What part of science has produced evidence that supports Occam’s razor.

    Information theory.

    Show me where to find the publication that does that.

    See comments #422 & #423 above.

  490. #490 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    Yeah, I’m sure Oral Roberts’ curriculum is filled with nonsensicasl attempts to pretend rational inquiry is invalid and no one else knows anything except through the Bible. That’s probably ALL their curriculum consists of. Interesting that you would mention Oral Roberts U. (named after a well-known religious con-artist who never did anything good for humanity) and not a real college with a curriculum of real knowledge.

  491. #491 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    eric, What part of science has disposed of Zeus? A Pagan god, I’ll point out for Raging Bee’s benefit. If you mean psychology, I’d like to look at the papers and the, uh, “methodology” they used. Being used to the, um, “methodology” acceptable in the… “science” of psychology.

    Owlmirror, provide links.

  492. #492 Tlazolteotl
    January 9, 2012

    AMC: Show me where to find the publication that does that.

    Owlmirror: See comments #422 & #423 above.

    It won’t do any good to ask him to go actually read the scientific literature. He has never gone beyond an abstract and has no idea what is in a scientific paper beyond what he can access through Google University.

  493. #493 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Colesblog, you didn’t support your contention that Occam’s razor was a part of science.”

    Oh yes I did, post 466 (2 posts above yours), 2nd bit.

    “A fact that never ceases to amuse me when new atheists cite him as supporting their atheism.”

    Yes, it is indeed true that it was Christians who came up with a lot of the science that then went on to demolish theism as an intellectually justified stance.

    “There is absolutely no way to determine the probability of a unique event which is unlike any other event of the kind that is claimed in The Virgin Birth.”

    Yes there is, see my previous posts 466 and 467.

  494. #494 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    You know, or maybe not, that William of Ockham was a very devout Franciscan priest, a member of a faction of the Franciscans who were so devoted to the Rule of their order that he got into a lot of trouble with one of the Avignon popes and had to take it on the lam to avoid being arrested. He explicitly stated his belief in God as the only truly necessary entity, all others being secondary to God. A fact that never ceases to amuse me when new atheists cite him as supporting their atheism.

    But the principle of parsimony does support atheism. Either William of Ockham understood this, and refused to state it explicitly, or he compartmentalized his religious belief and his secular reasoning. He would hardly be the first religious scholar to do so, and obviously not the last either.

  495. #495 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Raging Bee, go on, tell us what your Paganism consists of. You told me back in August that you were a Pagan. Tell us what your Paganism is.

  496. #496 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    I see Tlaz has taken the sock off her hand. Ask her about the time I quoted a well known speech that Richard Feynman gave, WITH A FULL CITATION AND A LINK and she accused me of saying it.

    My, Bee, you are mighty silent on your faith.

  497. #497 Tlazolteotl
    January 9, 2012

    What sock would that be? You think I’ve been posting here under some other name?

    Tell us what full scientific papers you have read recently, we’re all eyes.

  498. #498 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    Owlmirror, provide links.

    Lazy ass that you are. You have the entire damn citation right there. What part of “Google Scholar” did you fail to understand?

    Will a link go through?

    http://homepages.cwi.nl/~paulv/papers/mdlindbayeskolmcompl.pdf

  499. #499 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    colesblog, If that’s your idea of supporting your contention that Occam’s razor is established by science, it doesn’t surprise me.

    Did I mention that the speech Tlaz thought I’d written was the one famous one when Feynman called psychology “Cargo Cult Science,” and laid out some of its basic deficiencies in methodology that kept it from being a science? One famous enough to have its own Wiki article, I just discovered as I looked for a link to it.

    http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

  500. #500 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Oh, I should have guessed it was the bird, Tlaz. I’d thought it might be the Bee.

    That’s a paper about data compression, I searched it for evidence supporting Occam’s razor, scientifically, and only find that it presupposes its validity and that it comes up with what’s asserted is a mathematical statement of it. What section of it supports the validity of Occam’s razor? I don’t see any evidence to support it but the use of the “razor” to support their contention.

  501. #501 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “colesblog, If that’s your idea of supporting your contention that Occam’s razor is established by science, it doesn’t surprise me.”

    Occam’s razor is amply supported by science. It works. That’s clear. And science appropriates what works. That’s why it is now part of science (regardless of the fact that it is named after a theologian, who, IIRC wasn’t actually the first to state it anyhow).

    Anthony, if I told you that yesterday I had been visited by a delegation of aliens from the planet Zog — for the first and only time in our history and thus a “unique event” — would you really maintain that you had no way of evaluating the likelihood that my statement was true, as oppose to me just making the story up?

  502. #502 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Good Lord, colesblog, if you’re going to bring aliens into it you should know I’ve written about the absurdity of Hawking, Dawkins, and Sagan’s statements about “other life” and, yes, “aliens”. There isn’t the first bit of evidence that there is “other life” anywhere.

    Maybe you should go have a talk with your atheist pals about what they’ve said about them instead of falsely implying I think they’re regular visitors looking to get lucky or something.

  503. #503 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    That’s a paper about data compression

    You cannot possibly have read the paper and understood its full implications.

    What is the empirical universe, if not data that can be studied by the scientific method?

  504. #504 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony, I don’t have to tell you anytyhing about my beliefs, because: a) they’re irrelevant to this conversation; b) my statements here can stand on their own merits without reference to any pantheon; c) I’m under no obligation to answer to a lying wanker like you in personal matters; d) I don’t believe there’s a Hell you’d go to if you didn’t convert to my beliefs; and e) I don’t have to let you change the subject after you’ve been proven wrong in everything you’ve said.

    What part of science has disposed of Zeus?

    The part that finds absolutely zero evidence to indicate that he exists.

  505. #505 Tlazolteotl
    January 9, 2012

    You cannot possibly have read the paper and understood its full implications.

    That’s par for the course for Anthony. We’re talking about someone who launched into a full-throated critique of a paper’s methods after reading accounts of the findings in the popular press and then glnacing at the abstract. He had no idea what a “Materials and Methods” section was, or why it was relevant.

  506. #506 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    “Owlmirror”, where in that paper is there scientific validation for Occam’s razor? I looked at it and only saw that they’d come up with a mathematical expression they asserted was a formal statement of it. I’m kind of pressed for time this afternoon or I’d try to deduce a connection to that and spreadsheet wizardry. But, I think you know what I’m getting at.

    Tlaz, if you’re going to use sockpuppets, don’t give it away by using phrases you’ve used in the same context on three blogs, by my memory. You can give the same advice to your best buddy who I’ve also caught doing the same thing.

    I’m saving this thread as a specimen of the demonstrated erudition about science and logic among the new atheists. What do you think, Jason? Would it pass muster in a class as rigorous reasoning?

    Oh, and as to being lazy, I forgot to mention that Tlaz said that what she thought I’d said, but which Richard Feynman said was evidence of my ignorance of science. And I do still have that link, Tlaz. So, we can see how well Tlaz can tell the sciency from the scientific illiterate.

  507. #507 Tlazolteotl
    January 9, 2012

    I’m shaking in my ‘boots.’

    I’ve been watching this thread for over a week…haven’t commented on it until today, and don’t comment on blogs except using this nym. Sock puppets? You’re imagining ghosts. Science can’t explain it!

    But you still haven’t answered the questions of anybody in this thread, you just bring up some new shiny argument that doesn’t hold together. And hey, when I see somebody who doesn’t know what a Methods section is, that’s pretty much a tell as to scientific illiteracy in any meaningful sense.

  508. #508 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    “Owlmirror”, where in that paper is there scientific validation for Occam’s razor?

    We already answered that question, you stupid asshalo.

    I’m saving this thread as a specimen of the demonstrated erudition about science and logic among the new atheists.

    Another childish bluff (or should I say flounce?) from a childish authoritarian charlatan. You clearly lost the argument in its entirety, none of your lame attempts to change the subject worked, you’ve been shown up as a pompous, empty, shambling pseudointellectual fraud (again), but you’re gonna “save” this thread (like you have the option of deleting it? Please), and show some other audience, at another unspecified time, how you were right all along, and we’ll all be sorry we crossed you. You’ve lost every argument you get into on SB, but you’re gonna win the next one hands down? Grow the fuck up.

  509. #509 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    What do you think, Jason? Would it pass muster in a class as rigorous reasoning?

    It would, at the very least, serve as a good example of the persistent dishonesty and willful ignorance with which the anti-rational religious community responds to skepticism and rational inquiry.

  510. #510 coelsblog
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “Good Lord, colesblog, if you’re going to bring aliens into it you should know I’ve written about the absurdity of …”

    Why Anthony, anyone might think that you are avoiding the question. Here it is again: Anthony, if I told you that yesterday I had been visited by a delegation of aliens from the planet Zog — for the first and only time in our history and thus a “unique event” — would you really maintain that you had no way of evaluating the likelihood that my statement was true, as oppose to me just making the story up?

    “There isn’t the first bit of evidence that there is “other life” anywhere.”

    Well, yes, there is evidence: the fact that (1) there is life here, and (2) there are similar conditions elsewhere is evidence (though not proof). But anyhow, that’s irrelevant to the above question. Care to attempt it?

    “… instead of falsely implying I think they’re regular visitors looking to get lucky or something.”

    Stupid Anthony, I didn’t imply anything such. Now, care to attempt the question?

  511. #511 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    I’ve been watching this thread for over a week…haven’t commented on it until today, Tlaz

    Uh, huh. I see. I wonder if you’ve been blathering about it at Eschaton as you did during that brawl I mentioned above. Perhaps some of your good buddies are also here undercover. Hi.

    colesblog, 1. produce the math you would use to be able to shove that claim of an alien visit into science. 2. send your paper to a reputable journal. 3. in the seeming unliklihood that it passes by the referees as anything but a spoof and is published. 4. stand by for the feedback from the relevant scientific communities. Though why you don’t use the example I mentioned of The Virgin Birth, as it is claimed by those who believe in it, to produce your “science” I wonder. What kind of mathematics would you use to come up with the probability of a one-time miracle happening in the human species? Jason, you have any suggestions as to how that could be done, as I asked on this blog several years back?

    I’ve got no one problem with someone believing in flying saucers as long as they aren’t cheating people out of money over it. I’m not bothered by casual eccentricity, not when there’s so much wackiness among the self-appointed defenders of science.

    I’ve argued with neo-atheists more than enough to know that their pulling out the flying saucers, unicorns, elves, fairies and Zeus in an attempt to discredit their opponents by trying to associate them with pseudo-science (perhaps of a “Pagan” variety with the unicorns and elves) is an unvarying feature of these brawls. Maybe I could do a statistical analysis of a valid selection of blog brawls of this type to see how likely it is that one will feature at least one of those canards. That means “duck” Tlaz, if you need another alias.

  512. #512 eric
    January 9, 2012

    AMC @475:

    eric, What part of science has disposed of Zeus?

    With 100% philosophical certainty? No part has. Like fairies in the garden or invisible dragons in the garage, the two different claims of divine birth are rejected tentatively, with that rejection subject to revision.

    But the point of bringing up these examples is that they are equivelant. Inductively equally justified beliefs. Believing in one divine birth because its not-disproven while rejecting another because ‘not-disproven’ isn’t a good enough reason for belief is irrational; you should either tentatively accept all of them, or tentatively reject all of them.

    To parahprase Stephen Roberts, we are all skeptics of divine births; I’m just skeptical of one more of them than you. When you understand why you reject Alexander’s claim, you will understand why I reject the Bible’s.

  513. #513 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    I’m posting comments held for moderation at a new blog.

    http://thinkingcriminalslair.blogspot.com/

    eric, tlaz, colesblog

    Don’t bother with the e-mail, I’ve stopped using it due to troll spam.

  514. #514 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    where in that paper is there scientific validation for Occam’s razor? I looked at it and only saw that they’d come up with a mathematical expression they asserted was a formal statement of it.

    Where in Jason’s posts on Euler’s identity is the validation for Euler’s identity? The two posts, taken together, are the validation.

    The entire paper — all of the concepts; everything they reference — is the validation for Occam’s razor. The fact that you don’t understand it all is irrelevant, any more than a failure to understand all of the math in Jason’s posts is irrelevant to the point that eiπ+1=0.

    I’m kind of pressed for time this afternoon

    That’s OK. You can devote the copious spare time you have free from not needing to validate immaterialism to studying up on information theory.

    But, I think you know what I’m getting at.

    I think you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Oh, and as to being lazy, I forgot to mention that Tlaz said that what she thought I’d said, but which Richard Feynman said was evidence of my ignorance of science.

    Richard Feynman said there was evidence of your ignorance of science? Extraordinary!

    I’m intrigued by this evidence that you were just as ignorant at least 24 years ago or so as you are now.

    And I do still have that link

    A link, yet! To Richard Feynman saying there was evidence of your ignorance of science?

    Please, post it!

  515. #515 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Raging Bee, why are you so reluctant to tell all your Scienceblog friends about your Paganism? Are you ashamed of it?

    Eric, we are all born skeptics of science, since we have to be convinced of every single part of it. Stephen Roberts’ insight is rather banal in its obviousness.

    Though, as mentioned way above, no less an authority than Sean Carroll was obliged to admit that science doesn’t have an comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of even one object in the universe. Despite the pretensions of the, no doubt profitable, quest for a Theory of Everything, science doesn’t even have everything about one thing, never mind the universe. With that in mind, God is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite. No person could possibly have a comprehensive view, in light of that so no one can even comprehend that God. If that is accurate then no one can really believe in God, they might be able to believe in part of God but they couldn’t believe in all of God, not to mention come to anything like an adequate conception of God.

  516. #516 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Where in Jason’s posts on Euler’s identity is the validation for Euler’s identity? “Owlmirror”

    My but you seem to have given up on that paper’s proof awfully easily. Did you just read it for the first time?

    Ah, but you miss a point, Occam’s razor is about things other than mathematical reasoning. In its use by the sci-rangers here, it’s about things in the natural universe and, by illogical extension, their desire to apply it outside of the natural universe. When you do that you need more than to come up with a mathematical proof of it, you have to demonstrate it with evidence. As with the gazillions of “universes” of M-theory, you can balance all the equations you want to, that doesn’t mean there’s any there, there.

  517. #517 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    Though, as mentioned way above, no less an authority than Sean Carroll was obliged to admit that science doesn’t have an comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of even one object in the universe. Despite the pretensions of the, no doubt profitable, quest for a Theory of Everything, science doesn’t even have everything about one thing, never mind the universe. With that in mind, God is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite.

    I guess you’re not just ignorant of science, you’re ignorant of logic, too. You just committed the committing the logical fallacies of argument from ignorance and non sequitur.

    You’ve refused to define the immaterial. Can you try defining “omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite”?

    No person could possibly have a comprehensive view, in light of that so no one can even comprehend that God.

    So how do you know — or even think — that you can know that God is “omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite”? If God weren’t omnipotent, or omniscient or infinite, how would you know?

    If that is accurate then no one can really believe in God, they might be able to believe in part of God but they couldn’t believe in all of God, not to mention come to anything like an adequate conception of God.

    So you’ve just shot your “omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite” argument in the foot. Bravo! Well done! You lose by self-refutation!

    Just like every other apologist.

  518. #518 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    You just committed the committing the logical fallacies of argument from ignorance and non sequitur. “Owlmirror”

    Elucidate your point about me committing the fallacy of “argument from ignorance”, when I was citing ignorance as a reason for people not knowing something.

    Where’s the non sequitur?

    You folks have got to stop using Carl Sagan as a logic textbook. You’ve got the phrases pat but your application, yeesh! The language of formal logic isn’t a security blanket and a thumb to suck when you’re feeling insecure.

  519. #519 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    My but you seem to have given up on that paper’s proof awfully easily.

    Yes, you did.

    Did you just read it for the first time?

    Did you read any of it at all?

    Ah, but you miss a point, Occam’s razor is about things other than mathematical reasoning.

    If “other things” — such as everything in the empirical universe — cannot be understood using logic and math, they cannot be understood at all.

    In its use by the sci-rangers here, it’s about things in the natural universe and, by illogical extension, their desire to apply it outside of the natural universe.

    It’s illogical of you to posit that the natural universe has an outside. Where is this outside? What does “outside” even mean? How do you know that it’s there?

    When you do that you need more than to come up with a mathematical proof of it, you have to demonstrate it with evidence.

    The proof is the evidence. Go ahead, prove that it’s not.

    As with the gazillions of “universes” of M-theory, you can balance all the equations you want to, that doesn’t mean there’s any there, there.

    Which is why cosmologists are actually looking for empirical evidence! See, they’re less lazy than you are.

  520. #520 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    coelsblog wrote:

    Why Anthony, anyone might think that you are avoiding the question.

    Well, like I said earlier, there are hagfish out there who envy Anthony his sliminess.

    Oh, and to answer your question, Anthony, the main reason I didn’t respond earlier – well, apart from the fact your questions have been answered in this thread numerous times, by several different posters; a courtesy, I might add, you’ve neglected to extend to any of us – is that I’m in Australia, and was therefore asleep.

    Or does your demented anti-rationalism mean you deny the existence of a spherical earth as well?

  521. #521 Onkel Bob
    January 9, 2012

    Though, as mentioned way above, no less an authority than Sean Carroll was obliged to admit that science doesn’t have an comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of even one object in the universe.

    Out of curiosity, in your definition, what makes one an “authority”? It appears you are enamored with that role, and my interest is somewhat piqued. How does one gain this lofty achievement? Does infallibility come with that?

    With that in mind, God is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite.

    I dunno, Zeus is often thwarted by actions of the other Gods, Thor has Loki to contend with, heck even that Yhwh character has needed to reset the table once or twice. Omnipotence doesn’t seem to be what it was, and infinite, well that just marketing puffery.

  522. #522 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    Elucidate your point about me committing the fallacy of “argument from ignorance”, when I was citing ignorance as a reason for people not knowing something.

    Are you not arguing that because people don’t know everything, there exists an invisible person with magical superpowers that is “omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite”?

    If you’re not, you’re committing the logical fallacy of argument by fiat.

    Where’s the non sequitur?

    Regardless of whether you’re arguing from ignorance or fiat, positing that an invisible person with magical superpowers that is “omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite” exists doesn’t follow from anything.

    You folks have got to stop using Carl Sagan as a logic textbook.

    What does Carl Sagan have to do with you not knowing what you’re talking about? Did he say that he has evidence that you are ignorant of logic? Can you post a link?

  523. #523 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Wowbagger, you must have missed the link where I posted my answer to colesblog. That is if you actually understand the accusation instead of just parroting things your buddies have said, or should I say “horsing around”?

    You really believe that equations alone are adequate to address the physical universe, without physical evidence? I rest my case on the sci-rangers not knowing the first thing about science. And my point about new atheism being the home of neo-scholasticism as science.

  524. #524 eric
    January 9, 2012

    AMC:

    Though, as mentioned way above, no less an authority than Sean Carroll was obliged to admit that science doesn’t have an comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of even one object in the universe.

    Yes, yes, science is imperfect, flawed, and limited. Yawn. You still haven’t given any good reason why I should give your chosen bit of immateria more credence than the fairies in my garden.

    I agree that science has the problem of induction. You can stop repeating that it does, endlessly. We get it. Now, tell us why we should accept your unproven-but-not-philosophically-impossible sprite A, in all his incomprensible majesty, while rejecting unproven-but-not-philosophically-impossible sprites B-Z, when the evidence for sprites A through Z is the same?

  525. #525 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    With that in mind, God is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite.

    Held by whom? How do you know whether this is anything more than an unfounded assertion? If you don’t know that it’s not anything more than an unfounded assertion, why would you even mention it?

  526. #526 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    “Owlmirror” quote me in that comment arguing for the existence of God. Like eric and colesblog, you purposely ignore parts of what is said because it doesn’t suit you. Here’s what I said about “God” in that comment, with capitals and bolding for emphisis:

    With that in mind, God IS HELD to be omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite. No person could possibly have a comprehensive view, IN LIGHT OF THAT so no one can even comprehend THAT GOD . IF THAT IS ACCURATE then no one can really believe in God, they might be able to believe in part of God but they couldn’t believe in all of God, not to mention come to anything like an adequate conception of God.

    I was arguing from a given point of view, not asserting that the point of view was accurate.

    Kids. What has happened to liberal education in the English speaking world?

  527. #527 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    They already know about my paganism, dumbass. They also know I never lied or tried to discredit rational inquiry to make my religion look credible.

    So why are you so desperate to change the subject? Are you suddenly ashamed of the crap you’ve been spouting here? Are you suddenly more ashamed when faced by a Pagan who doesn’t have to be as dishonest as you are?

  528. #528 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    I’d like to say that seldom have I been witness to so much dishonesty in argument as the new atheists are showing this afternoon, but I have watched Republicans debating.

    Who was it who pointed out that the materialists are, basically, right wingers with a few personal kinks?

    I’ll answer again when someone says something honest and interesting.

  529. #529 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Raging Bee’s clearly ashamed of her faith. Do you paint yourself blue? Do you try to call down the moon? Perform secret rites? What is it that you do that makes you a “Pagan” or is it just a style choice because it makes you feel groovy?

  530. #530 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    You really believe that equations alone are adequate to address the physical universe, without physical evidence?

    Of course not. No-one here does. That would be something stupid, like your “immaterialism”,

    I was arguing from a given point of view, not asserting that the point of view was accurate.

    So you were arguing that theists are wrong? Then why did you preface it with all that about scientists not knowing everything? It’s still a non-sequitur.

    What has happened to liberal education in the English speaking world?

    Were you ever able to write coherently or cogently, or have you just started having these language failures recently?

    Maybe your immaterial mind is being eaten by an immaterial Mind Flayer.

  531. #531 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    You really believe that equations alone are adequate to address the physical universe, without physical evidence?

    Feel free to cite the post where I made that claim. Go on, I dare you.

    Raging Bee’s clearly ashamed of her faith. Do you paint yourself blue? Do you try to call down the moon? Perform secret rites? What is it that you do that makes you a “Pagan” or is it just a style choice because it makes you feel groovy?

    How, precisely, are Raging Bee’s religious views any less valid than those you’ve been arguing can be held (and justifiably so) by those who believe – without any evidence to support that belief beyond ‘other ways of knowing’ – in an ‘omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite’ god?

    Are you so lacking in perception that you don’t realise you’re now completely contradicting yourself?

  532. #532 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Wowbagger, all I know about Raging Bee is that it’s an angry, ignorant sci-groupie, well, another one of those, who has called itself a “Pagan”. It could be one of your sockpuppets, which might explain its inability to talk about Paganism. I was testing that idea, not making fun of Paganism. I think Bee is a sock puppet just as “Owlmirror” and “wow” almost certainly are. You get jumped by the neo-athes enough, you start noticing identical phrasing.

  533. #533 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Wowbagger, all I know about Raging Bee is that it’s an angry, ignorant sci-groupie, well, another one of those, who has called itself a “Pagan”. It could be one of your sockpuppets, which might explain its inability to talk about Paganism. I was testing that idea, not making fun of Paganism. I think Bee is a sock puppet just as “Owlmirror” and “wow” almost certainly are. You get jumped by the neo-athes enough, you start noticing identical phrasing.

    Even it that was true – which is quite obviously isn’t; their styles aren’t even vaguely similar – that wouldn’t change the fact that if Raging Bee was a pagan, it’s hypocritical of you to decry her religious beliefs when you’ve been arguing that religious beliefs are immune from criticism because ‘other ways of knowing’ are valid sources of knowledge.

    In other words, all Raging Bee needs to do to defeat you is claim ‘other ways of knowing’ as the reason why she does what she does, and you’re stuck.

    Or are you saying that some religious beliefs can be subject to criticism? If so, which – and why?

  534. #534 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    It could be one of your sockpuppets, which might explain its inability to talk about Paganism.

    The only one talking about Paganism here, is you. Just because you’re obsessed with it doesn’t mean everyone else is.

    Including Pagans, come to think of it.

    I think Bee is a sock puppet just as “Owlmirror”

    Are Raging Bee and I supposed to be sockpuppets of the same puppeteer, or different ones?

    Whose sockpuppet am I supposed to be?

    You get jumped by the neo-athes enough, you start noticing identical phrasing.

    It’s true that your intellectual dishonesty and idiocy are easily refuted by phrases short enough to be usable by anyone. What exactly do you have in mind?

    If Jason posted saying that we all have distinct IP addresses, would that satisfy your raging paranoia? Or is Jason included in your raging paranoia?

    Would anything satisfy your raging paranoia?

  535. #535 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    I don’t see Raging Bee disavowing its claims made to me on a couple of other blogs that it’s a “Pagan”.

    Does it hold with sacrificing 9 of every animal, including people to Odin, I can’t remember, was it every nine years? Or every year? Odin’s a Pagan god. How about murdering a slave girl so she can be the “wife” of a ruling class thug? That’s another thing those particular Pagans did. Does “Raging Bee” hold with that?

    I’m pretty sure that the owner of this blog has enough headaches without the sock puppets accusing him of having one on his own blog.

  536. #536 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Owlmirror (sorry, “Owlmirror”) asked (of Anthony McCarthy):

    Would anything satisfy your raging paranoia?

    I doubt it. Remember, this is the person who claimed to have been banned from Pharyngula and his comments deleted – despite never appearing on the ‘dungeon’ list and his comments still showing on the threads; then, after having this pointed out to him, he insisted that PZ must have reinstated them in order to make him look bad, which would have also meant checking each individual comment in those threads to ensure any that referred to post numbers (which change when deletions/insertion occur) were altered to maintain continuity.

    Raging paranoia indeed.

  537. #537 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    You’re sounding a lot like JR. “Wowbagger”.

    1. I’ve been over that big of blog atheist lore enough times, though I’ll provide the link and the quotes on provocation. Including where I told him that his fan boys would always regurgitate it because they’re really not that Bright.
    2. Imagine the nerve of someone saying that Myers does what he so proudly and cruelly does, ban people from his blog, Though he hides behind his pznut gallery because he’s essentially all bluff and bluster and not much else.

    But you’re off topic, “Wowbagger”.

  538. #538 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Does it hold with sacrificing 9 of every animal, including people to Odin, I can’t remember, was it every nine years? Or every year? Odin’s a Pagan god. How about murdering a slave girl so she can be the “wife” of a ruling class thug? That’s another thing those particular Pagans did. Does “Raging Bee” hold with that?

    But, according to everything you’ve been arguing for in this thread, if Raging Bee (sorry, “Raging Bee”) claims this is what she needs to do according to what she’s learned via ‘other ways of knowing’, how can she be wrong to believe this?

  539. #539 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    I was asking “Raging Bee” what its “Paganism” consists of. For a bunch of opponents of superstition and religion you folks are oddly lacking in curiosity about someone’s asserted “Paganism”. Considering some of the things that are classfied as “Pagan”, including a number of the things you guys are always trying to insert into these discussions, “elves” which I’ve certainly not mentioned, just in the last couple of hours, I’m curious to know why “RB” is all hands off when you can’t stop distorting what other people say in order to imply things vaguely paganish to them.

    Which reminds me of another, my longest blog brawl with PZ”s fan boys when they objected to my Great Skepticism. Maybe I should write it up, it could be lots of fun.

  540. #540 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    Imagine the nerve of someone saying that Myers does what he so proudly and cruelly

    “proudly and cruelly”?

    does, ban people from his blog,

    Has anyone denied that PZ bans people from his blog?

    While it’s true that PZ bans assholes from his blog, and you are a proud and cruel asshole, it doesn’t follow that you are necessarily one of the assholes banned from his blog.

    Unless… you were one of the assholes using a pseudonym, whose pseudonym was banned.

    So, which one were you? Please, tell us, and set the record straight that you were indeed banned from PZ’s blog.

    But you’re off topic,

    You’re the one who changed the topic to be about your paranoia.

  541. #541 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    “Owlmirror”, your best friend won’t tell you, so I will. You are blithering. As usual.

  542. #542 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    I’m pretty sure that the owner of this blog has enough headaches without the sock puppets accusing him of having one on his own blog.

    But the only one accusing people of being a sockpuppet is you!

    Wait, are you confessing to being a sock puppet, too?

    That would explain so much!

    =======

    Which reminds me of another, my longest blog brawl with PZ”s fan boys when they objected to my Great Skepticism.

    Where was this? Were you using a pseudonym? Did you use sockpuppets? Who, exactly, is included in the term “fan boys”?

  543. #543 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    You are blithering.

    I’m sorry that you think that logic is blithering, but it does explain your own blithering idiocy,

  544. #544 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    For a bunch of opponents of superstition and religion you folks are oddly lacking in curiosity about someone’s asserted “Paganism”.

    If/when Raging Bee decides to argue the validity of her beliefs based on ‘other ways of knowing’ then she’ll be asked the same questions we’re asking of you – and which you, in all your oleaginous glory, have avoided time after time after time.

    But you’ve still not answered the question, so I’ll ask it again: if Raging Bee does claim to believe in things because of ‘other ways of knowing’, no matter what those beliefs are, is she – in your opinion – wrong for accepting that as a reason? If so, why?

  545. #545 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    This is such a great display of the erudition of the new atheists. I think it’s such a perfect example of the ignorance, bigotry, pretension and shallowness of the fad that I’ll copy it for further reference and put it away as material for a future post.

  546. #546 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    I think it’s such a perfect example of the ignorance, bigotry, pretension and shallowness of the fad that I’ll copy it for further reference and put it away as material for a future post.

    You’d better take out all of your own comments, then, Anthony; anyone reading the entire thread with them included is probably going to come away with the opinion most people who’ve encountered you online have of you: that you’re a profoundly intellectually dishonest coward of the worst kind; a slimy, disingenuous sneak and bald-faced pathalogical liar – and, if this particular thread is anything to go by, one who’s starting to come apart at the seams.

    Be sure to include this next comment from me in your ‘future post’, Anthony.

    Because in this thread along you’ve failed to answer straightforward questions asked over and over again; you’ve posted incoherent screeds irrelevant to the topic at hand, often including long non-sequitur cut-and-pastes of others’ writings; you’ve ranted about non-existing sock-puppets and raged about being conspired against by blog-owners – and then, to top it off, after making dozens of posts defending religious beliefs gained via ‘other ways of knowing’ you’ve mocked as foolish someone else’s religious beliefs, simply because that person happens to disagree with you on another issue.

    I honestly have no idea how your head doesn’t literally explode from all the confusion that’s so obviously taking place in your mind.

  547. #547 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    This is such a great display of the erudition of the new atheists. I think it’s such a perfect example of the ignorance, bigotry, pretension and shallowness of the fad that I’ll copy it for further reference and put it away as material for a future post.

    Will you at least link back to the original thread so that people can see exactly who was really being ignorant, bigoted, pretentious, and shallow, or will you compound your intellectual dishonesty and utter assholishness by quote-mining and lying about what was actually written, and leaving no way for anyone to see the actual context?

    Just curious.

  548. #548 eric
    January 9, 2012

    AMC:

    Like eric and colesblog, you purposely ignore parts of what is said because it doesn’t suit you…I was arguing from a given point of view, not asserting that the point of view was accurate.

    I was not ignoring parts of what you said about God; my argument is that all* the various conceptions of gods and other immaterial beings are equally well empirically justified at the moment, since there’s no evidence of any of them. Your complaints about the limitations of science might protect some conceptions of immaterial beings from scientific investigation, but they do not give you any justification for believing any one of those protected conceptions is more likely than any other. Thus, you can protect your dragon from investigation by saying its invisible, but you still have the problem of justifying why you believe in dragon and not pixie, Zeus, or Yahweh. Or vice versa.

    *Excluding any logically self-contradictory conceptions. Those can be addressed via deduction and so there’s no real need to address them inductively.

  549. #549 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    eric wrote:

    Thus, you can protect your dragon from investigation by saying its invisible, but you still have the problem of justifying why you believe in dragon and not pixie, Zeus, or Yahweh. Or vice versa.

    Ah, but clever Anthony has an out for that; you see, they’re not his beliefs (funnily enough, he’s never answered the question about what he, personally, does or doesn’t believe), he’s just arguing about what someone else believes, and if you want to challenge that, you have to take it up with them.

  550. #550 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    (funnily enough, he’s never answered the question about what he, personally, does or doesn’t believe),

    Well, we do have a few statements.

    Here’s one @#367 above:

    I don’t happen to be a Catholic, I don’t happen to be a Christian.

    So we know at least one thing he’s not. No Trinitarianism in the McCarthyverse. No crackers from Jesus.

  551. #551 Anthony McCarthy
    January 9, 2012

    Wowbagger, I have said what I believe, your fellow bit of hosiery quoted it above. Not that it will prevent you from lying.

    It might be the reason I do this. Seeing how dishonest you guys have to be to defend your faith always encourages me that it’s even more shallow and baseless than I’d originally assumed.

    Eric, look above when I asked you if you are 12.

  552. #552 Raging Bee
    January 9, 2012

    Despite the pretensions of the, no doubt profitable, quest for a Theory of Everything, science doesn’t even have everything about one thing, never mind the universe. With that in mind, God is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite.

    “Science doesn’t know everything, therefore GOD?!” That’s easily one of the top ten most ridiculous non-sequiturs I’ve ever heard. Even if we accept your premise (and we have good reasons not to, which I won’t bother explaining tonight), the conclusion not only doesn’t follow — it isn’t even connected in any way at all. I could just as plausibly say “H.L. Mencken wasn’t right about everything, therefore Herbert Hoover’s policies were always right.”

    The least I can say for most sleazy con-artists is that they know they have to work to sound plausible, otherwise they don’t get paid. You, Anthony, are too insecure, and too full of yourself, even to clear that low bar. No wonder you suddenly feel this burning need to talk about my religion — you need to run away from your BS without admitting you’re running away.

    I think it’s such a perfect example of the ignorance, bigotry, pretension and shallowness of the fad that I’ll copy it for further reference and put it away as material for a future post.

    Yeah, yeah, you said that already, and it doesn’t sound convincing no matter how many times you say it. What sort of response were you expecting — grovelling apologies? Go to bed.

  553. #553 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    Wowbagger, I have said what I believe, your fellow bit of hosiery quoted it above.

    @#474, you mean? Are you standing by that?

    Not that it will prevent you from lying.

    I wonder, what would prevent you from lying, and confusing not being intimately and immediately familiar with every word of a 500+ comment thread with lying?

    Seeing how dishonest you guys have to be to defend your faith always encourages me that it’s even more shallow and baseless than I’d originally assumed.

    Huh. Weird. That exactly what everyone who isn’t you might have written about your blitherings.

    LOL, immaterialism.

  554. #554 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:

    Wowbagger, I have said what I believe, your fellow bit of hosiery quoted it above.

    What, that vague, non-specific, ripe-for-later-equivocation drivel about what you don’t ‘happen’ to be? If you’d left out the weasel-words I might believe you; as it is, it’s quite obvious you’re leaving a loophole that you can can use to ooze your way out of if necessary.

  555. #555 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    What, that vague, non-specific, ripe-for-later-equivocation drivel about what you don’t ‘happen’ to be?

    I don’t think he meant me, but rather Raging Bee. I know it’s hard to tell; I thought he meant me and my post at first as well. When he’s feeling more assholish than usual, he becomes even more vague and incoherent and obfuscatory.

    See @#474, which has a creed, much like the Apostle’s or Nicene, but without Jesus and with immaterialistic incoherence.

  556. #556 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    (Of course, if you were my sockpuppet, or Raging Bee’s, you should have realized that!)

    I wonder if Anthony McCarthy is a sockpuppet of (stupid trolling wanking) Robert O’Brien? Maybe that’s why he claimed to be banned at Pharyngula!

  557. #557 eric
    January 9, 2012

    AMC:

    Eric, look above when I asked you if you are 12.

    The only thing this communicates to me is that you probably don’t have a solution to the equivalency problem I mentioned first in the bottom half of @479. By claiming we can’t study your preferred immaterial phenomena, you’ve made it equivalent to all the other unstudyable immaterial objects people have posited over the years.

    You’re going to find it difficult to argue that your immaterial object is more credible than any other claimed immaterial object as long as you say no empirical evidence for it can exist. But maybe you’re up to that challenge – I’ve asked you several times for a positive case for your immaterial object, and despite the insult am still happy to listen to your positive case if you want to present it.

  558. #558 Owlmirror
    January 9, 2012

    I’ve asked you several times for a positive case for your immaterial object

    “Immaterialism is not a positive case theory, and it’s not immaterialism’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling positive case stories.”

    Heh.

    Actual words from the McCarthyverse: “I believe it is an act of idolatry to turn some human conception of God into a mere thing that can be subjected to science.”

  559. #559 Wowbagger
    January 9, 2012

    If what Raging Bee posted in #474 is an accurate description of what Anthony believes, I’d like to see him acknowledge that – in an unambiguous way.

    My bet is that he won’t, and will claim he only wrote that at the time because it suited the argument he was making against someone who adheres to a different flavour of woo from his own.

  560. #560 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    Jason, how about them new atheists!

    You proud of their demonstrated knowledge and mastery of honest intellectual discourse as demonstrated in this thread? You ready for the low level neo-scholasticism they want to replace science with?

    Someone tell PZ I’m going to write up the two or three blog brawls I’ve had in which he’s the topic so I’ll be able to just link to them when JR or Wowbagger or one of the other frequently encountered neo-athes and their sock puppets rolls it out again, as I predicted they would back when it all started. I’m sure he’ll find the one about my Great Skepticism over his Great PR Stunt lots of fun. As will his critics.

  561. #561 coelsblog
    January 10, 2012

    Dear Anthony McCarthy, rather unaccountably you seem to have overlooked replying to my question. So here it is as a reminder:

    Anthony, if I told you that yesterday I had been visited by a delegation of aliens from the planet Zog — for the first and only time in our history and thus a “unique event” — would you really maintain that you had no way of evaluating the likelihood that my statement was true, as oppose to me just making the story up?

    That’s your position re Mary’s virgin-birth claim, isn’t it? You’re saying that since it is postulated as a unique event we have no way of sensibly assessing the likelihood of the assertion. So, am I correct that you’d say exactly the same about my claimed visitation from the planet Zog?

  562. #562 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    coelsblog, I answered you yesterday, going to the bother of starting up a new blog when it was being held in moderation so you could see that I’d answered you. As you can see at 513 above. Perhaps you missed that among the attacks of the sock puppets.

    Show me how you would come up with the mathematical probability of that being true if you are going to assert that’s possible. Since you and your sci-pals have been asserting the supremacy of science for this entire discussion, show us how you could show it’s probability with your one and only means of producing valid knowledge. If you use any other kinds of arguments they fail as valid knowledge by the standard of scientism.

    I will admit that even having reviewed that branch of mathematics a couple of years back, I don’t see any way of determining the probability of The Virgin Birth for the reasons I’ve already stated. It is claimed to be unique in all of human history and it will never happen again, it is claimed to be by other than natural means and so is not like any birth in the natural world, there is no physical evidence at all to subject to the methods of science. If you’re going to believe or disbelieve it you’ll have to do it with something other than science or mathematics. As I also pointed out, history can address it and has which is what I base my conclusion on.

    In that context, I’d call your claim to be able to do that rather extraordinary. If you can do it, by the standard you and your sciency buddies insist is the only valid one, it’s up to you to show us how. Go on, show us. I’ve been challenging new atheists to do that for several years, ever since I wrote a post about Dawkins’ claim that the question of The Virgin Birth was able to be addressed by science and I realized he was full of malarkey when he said it, just as he was on a number of other occasions. It’s a good window into his understanding of science and, frankly, I’m very unimpressed.

  563. #563 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    Oh, let me also mention that I’ve heard several working geneticists I know with much more scathing things to say about Richard Dawkins’ competence in science. Absolutely merciless, they were.

  564. #564 coelsblog
    January 10, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “coelsblog, I answered you yesterday,…”

    No, Anthony, you mean you gave an evasive non-answer. And since you ask me how science would deal with it it is quite easy: Known alien visitations are vastly rarer than known examples of humans making up stories. Therefore the overwhelming likelihood (absent any strong evidence for the visitation claim) is that I made it up (Occam’s razor again). Oh, and science would say the same about Mary’s supposed virgin birth.

    But what *science* would say about it is irrelevant to my question which was what ***you*** would say about it.

    If I told you that yesterday I had been visited by a delegation of aliens from the planet Zog — for the first and only time in our history and thus a “unique event” — would **you** really maintain that **you** had no way of evaluating the likelihood that my statement was true, as opposed to me just making the story up?

    Your non-answering is revealling about your lack of a coherent stance, your lack of honesty, and your lack of a clue.

  565. #565 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    coelsblog, I answered you. I don’t see any way of determining the probability of a single alleged alien visit. I don’t happen to believe it’s happened but I can’t say I know it hasn’t and my skepticism is not based on science or mathematics, it’s based on nothing much more than personal disposition.

    Given that the context of your subject changing to aliens was my assertion that The Virgin Birth, as stated by those who believe it couldn’t be handled by science or mathematics and, least you forget, the theme of this blog thread, I challenged you to back up your contention with the only methods for knowing something you and your buddies have been asserting for going on 600 comments, now.

    You can’t do it or you would. When put to the test your scientism fails. Period. Which was my point about the idiotic assertion that The Virgin Birth and purported miracles with similar characteristics not being susceptible to being investigated with science. Though there are some, for which there is physical evidence, which can be looked at with science.

    I could have gone into a lot of detail about the difference between something that it is asserted will happen only once in history, like The Virgin Birth is and something like an alien visit, which has been claimed many times as a complication in your subject changing attempt but that wouldn’t have done more than confuse the very easily confused new atheists who are in such a hindrance to a rational discussion of these issues. It’s my experience that they, like most fundamentalists, see what they want to see no matter how carefully you try to say what you really mean. And a number of them I’ve encountered are habitual liars. So much for their regard for truth and knowledge.

  566. #566 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    Someone tell PZ I’m going to write up the two or three blog brawls I’ve had…

    So fucking what? You’re going to “write up” something that’s already been written and is already available for all to see? How is that supposed to impress PZ or anyone else? What kind of reaction are you expecting here — you think PZ is suddenly going to beg Jason to delete this whole thread before you can archive it so we can all slink away and pretend we never crossed you?

    This is the THIRD TIME you’ve trotted out that bluff, after being called on it twice before. You can’t even bluff, let alone argue like a grownup.

    BTW, I’ve never engaged in any form of sockpuppetry, except in rare instances that were obviously humorous, and obviously me. Nor, to my knowledge, has anyone else used the handle “Raging Bee” anywhere. I find it amusing — in a make-fun-of-homeless-drunks sort of way — that you only accuse me of sockpuppetry AFTER I’ve debunked your last lame-assed arguments. I eagerly await your next pathetic excuse to pretend I don’t exist.

    Oh, let me also mention that I’ve heard several working geneticists I know with much more scathing things to say about Richard Dawkins’ competence in science.

    Another empty assertion with no specific citations. Why am I not surprised? Also, do you really think that discrediting Dawkins would make any of your bullshit arguments more plausible?

  567. #567 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    When put to the test your scientism fails.

    What about MY “scientism?” I also responded to your claims about the Virgin Birth (as if there’s only one such story), and like the cowardly fraud you are, you completely ignored it because you know I’m right.

  568. #568 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    Raving Bee, you should go blither with your fellow sock puppet.

    I wonder if some neo-atheist came up with the idea of using sock puppets to agree with what they said like the right-wing gun nut John Lott did.

    http://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/10/john-lott-strikes-again/

    And once they had the puppets, they found they had other uses.

    Why does this remind me of the time Randi and Shermer, at the ‘Amazing Meeting in 2005 advocated that “skeptics” could become media “experts”, not through learning the difficult and exacting disciplines of mathematics and science, but merely by declaring themselves to be “experts”?

    It’s pretty clear that a lot of the self-appointed guardians of science here are stunningly ignorant of science, well, I am prepared to believe that some of them are in psychology or some other alleged science. Though I’m pretty confident that Bee isn’t even that much of an “expert”.

  569. #569 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    What about MY “scientism?” Raving Bee

    I don’t find “your scientism” to be worth discussing as it is so much lower in quality than that of coelsblog’s or eric’s or even some of your fellow socks. I think “your scientism” is better called “derangement”, as with “Wowbagger”.

  570. #570 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    It’s pretty clear that a lot of the self-appointed guardians of science here are stunningly ignorant of science…

    …says the guy who (among other obvious lapses) forgot about the role of pagan Greeks and Muslims in the invention of science.

    I don’t find “your scientism” to be worth discussing as it is so much lower in quality…

    Keep telling yoruself that, boy; you’re the only person you’re fooling here.

  571. #571 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    I don’t find “your scientism” to be worth discussing…

    One moment you’re pompously demanding I answer to you about my religion; next moment you’re trying to brush me off and pretend I’m not worth your time. Do I really make you so scared that you can’t even keep your bullshit talking-points from contradicting each other? What a ridiculous, overinflated joke.

  572. #572 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    I challenged Wowbagger to come up with an alternative list of the founders of science, Bee, it couldn’t do it, perhaps knowing, as you and a number of others in this discussion obviously don’t, what doesn’t come up to the normal standards of science.

    Hey, Jason, let us know, do you find Raging Bee’s idea of “science” to match yours?

    Forget what I said about Oral Roberts U, yesterday, what you don’t know about science and logic could be the curriculum of a “college” As Seen on TV. Or the back of a match book.

  573. #573 eric
    January 10, 2012

    AMC:

    I don’t see any way of determining the probability of a single alleged alien visit. I don’t happen to believe it’s happened but I can’t say I know it hasn’t and my skepticism is not based on science or mathematics, it’s based on nothing much more than personal disposition.

    You might use personal disposition, but most of us use a qualitative form of induction. Without math, induction won’t give you an absolute probability of your conclusion being true, but it can still tell you whether A is more likely than B, which is generally good enough to make decisions about which one to believe.
    Like so: (1) I observe many people making up stories about alien visits. (2) I observe zero actual alien visits. (3) Since “many” is greater than “zero,” the statement “I observe more instances of people lying about being visited by aliens than instances of people being visited by aliens” is a true statement, and consequently (4) I inductively conclude that “this is made up” is more likely than “aliens visited.”

    Since its an induction, its tentative and open to future revision. In fact there have been some pretty famous and spectacular failures of such qualitative induction (black swans for philosophy, meteorites for science, to mention two). But you can reach inductive conclusions without math.

    And, of course, this same reasoning can be applied to virgin births, resurrections, or other miracles.

  574. #574 coelsblog
    January 10, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “coelsblog, I answered you. I don’t see any way of determining the probability of a single alleged alien visit.”

    Well, that’s honest of you, but distinctly crackpot if you really think that my Planet Zog claim is as credible as the idea that I made it up.

    “The Virgin Birth, … couldn’t be handled by science You can’t do it or you would.”

    I’d done it already (post 564): Known human virgin births are vastly rarer than known examples of humans making up stories. Therefore the overwhelming likelihood (absent any strong evidence for the virgin birth claim) is that it is made up. See? That was easy.

    “… the difference between something that it is asserted will happen only once in history, like The Virgin Birth is and something like an alien visit, which has been claimed many times …”

    Excuse me, but lots of mythologies have claimed virgin births.

  575. #575 eric
    January 10, 2012

    AMC:

    I could have gone into a lot of detail about the difference between something that it is asserted will happen only once in history, like The Virgin Birth is and something like an alien visit, which has been claimed many times…

    Such detail is unnecessary. I already showed how we could inductively conclude that P(virgin birth) is lower than P(story’s untrue). Since P(virgin birth AND its the only one in history) is less than or equal to P(virgin birth) by mathematical necessity, it is necessarily also lower than P(story’s untrue).

    Add conditions and details to your event, and the inductive conclusion that it’s untrue becomes stronger. That seems counter-intuitive to a lot of people, but it’s true.

  576. #576 Wow
    January 10, 2012

    “Excuse me, but lots of mythologies have claimed virgin births.”

    Heck, wasn’t one of the Godesses of the Greeks “born” when Zeus’ head was split open? Not only virgin, but not female to boot!

    And Shakespeare had a man not of woman born in The Play Not To Be Mentioned.

  577. #577 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    “coelsblog, I answered you. I don’t see any way of determining the probability of a single alleged alien visit.”

    Well, that’s honest of you, but distinctly crackpot if you really think that my Planet Zog claim is as credible as the idea that I made it up. coelsblog

    Well, that’s dishonest of you to ignore that I didn’t talk about your made up account but about any “single alleged alien visit”. The problem of figuring out the probability of allegations of alien visit intended to be taken seriously aren’t matched by yours, clearly not asserted to be more than a made up story for the purpose of this blog discussion.

    That might be a subtle point but it’s a real distinction in claims such as those you are defending about using science and probability to deal with real life claims. Real world problems aren’t as easy as stories constructed by “skeptics” to knock down. Especially when they claim that something like scientific knowledge of those is possible when, in the abstract, only belief or disbelief is.

    Known human virgin births are vastly rarer than known examples of humans making up stories. colesblog

    Your problem is that it’s possible to come up with as many instances of people making up stories as you want to, something that has been done in science, especially in the social “sciences”- and I recall providing some pretty scandalous examples here – it wouldn’t necessarily make other, similar claims false and it wouldn’t give you any way to determine the probability of those other claims being true or false. I can’t remember a claim of science being debunked by other scientists merely on the basis of that kind claim about its probability. Do you know of any? Show me.

    You see, just as with a conjurer being able to simulate something someone said, claiming that their demonstration MIGHT show you how someone could fake it in real life, that doesn’t disprove that what they saw wasn’t authentic.

    And, conjurers being in the business of deception, often at a highly accomplished, paid, professional level of deceptive ability, you can’t be any more certain of what they’re showing you than you can of what they claim to reproduce. Who investigates the “skeptics”, especially when they have a professional and financial interest in their “skepticism”? You have to catch the fake red-handed in order to show they’re a fake. Which isn’t a matter of science but more like detective work.

    I’ll take this opportunity to recommend reading the always interesting “Retraction Watch” blog.

    http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/

  578. #578 Wow
    January 10, 2012

    “With that in mind, God is held to be omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite.”

    No he isn’t.

    He’s a very naughty boy.

  579. #579 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    eric, demonstrate it or admit you can’t, just as I challenged you to demonstrate your other claim in my comment posted on that new blog linked to above.

    I’m quite willing to let Jason judge whether or not it meets the objections I raised about that possibility. I’ve asked others, who purported to be mathematicians, to do the same thing and none have taken up the challenge. While I would consider him a biased judge, I don’t think he’d risk being deceptive about it in public. Though, I’ll want to run that by a few more mathematicians if the arguments get too twisted to follow, and none of those can be by mere analogy but actually have to be directly relevant to the claims as laid out.

  580. #580 Wow, God
    January 10, 2012

    It seems to me that the belief in miracles relies on this statement of faith: God *can* produce miracles. *If* he felt like it.

    Well, *I* have never felt like producing a miracle. But there’s nothing says I couldn’t.

    Therefore, I’m God.

  581. #581 coelsblog
    January 10, 2012

    Anythony McCarthy:

    “Well, that’s dishonest of you to ignore that I didn’t talk about your made up account but about any “single alleged alien visit”.”

    Sure, and my above claim about vistors from Zog was indeed a “single alleged alien visit”. So your claim that “I don’t see any way of determining the probability of a single alleged alien visit.” applies to my claim.

    And as I said: it’s distinctly crackpot if you really think that my Planet Zog claim is as credible as the idea that I made it up!

    “The problem of figuring out the probability of allegations of alien visit intended to be taken seriously aren’t matched by yours, clearly not asserted to be more than a made up story for the purpose of this blog discussion.”

    Oh I see, so now you are saying that you *can* evaluate claims of alien vists and that you *can* assess the likelihood that they are true as opposed to made up! Ooops, Anthony, you’ve flatly contradicated yourself now.

  582. #582 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    Coelsblog, here is what you said at 501 above:

    Anthony, if I told you that yesterday I had been visited by a delegation of aliens from the planet Zog — for the first and only time in our history and thus a “unique event” — would you really maintain that you had no way of evaluating the likelihood that my statement was true, as oppose to me just making the story up?

    You said from the start that your example would be a made up story made for the purposes of this argument. It wasn’t a “single alleged alien visit,” it was a bad, impromptu, analogy. Assuming you weren’t being deceptive, and on my assuming your good faith, there is no reason to believe it’s anything else. That’s not the same as a story asserted to be true. If you had asserted it was true and gave details, there might be a way to check the details of your story to see if those plausibly happened or, if something was found, to try to figure out if it was plausible that it was the result of space folk making it here. But, as you propose it or without the ability to look at physical evidence, there isn’t any way to know if it’s probable or not.

    Let me take this opportunity to point out that if those speedy neutrinos are really faster than the speed of light, that would have to change the probabilities that some exo-bio types have tried to figure out for alien visits. Lots of probabilities that have featured the, then obsolete, limit on possible speed as a factor would, possibly, be obsolete as well.

    I take no position on that happening because, frankly, as I’ve already admitted, I, as just about everyone in this discussion, don’t have the math or technical knowledge to understand the arguments about them. And, frankly, I don’t much think there’s anything I can do about it so I don’t really care.

  583. #583 eric
    January 10, 2012

    AMC:

    You have to catch the fake red-handed in order to show they’re a fake.

    Showing is nice when you can do it, but it isn’t necessary to inductively disbelieve a con-artist’s trick. You only need to assess based on past experience whether the likelihood of it being a trick is higher or lower than the likelihood of it being real. Zero observations of people actually flying under their own power. Many observations of stage magicians and hollywood faking it. Inductively conclude: yogic flying is fake. Tentatively and subject to future revision, of course.

  584. #584 coelsblog
    January 10, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy:

    “You said from the start that your example would be a made up story made …”

    Umm, no I didn’t. Nowhere did I say it wasn’t true.

    “It wasn’t a “single alleged alien visit,” it was a bad, impromptu, analogy.”

    Nope, it was a very good analogy, one that now has you squirming and evading.

    “Assuming you weren’t being deceptive, …”

    But you can’t assume that, any more than you can assume it about the writer “Matthew” (whoever he was) who decided to sex up a story by adding in miraculous elements about a birth (just as the North Korean propagandists have done).

    “… there is no reason to believe it’s anything else.”

    Just as there is no reason to think that the virgin birth is anything other than made up.

  585. #585 Wow
    January 10, 2012

    AMC’s post 578 is basically him saying “prove that multiplying two numbers that are between 0.0 and 1.0 exclusive together produce a smaller number than any one of the numbers alone”.

    For his next demand, AMC will insist that eric prove that adding two positive nonzero numbers makes a larger positive number.

  586. #586 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    Forget what I said about Oral Roberts U, yesterday, what you don’t know about science and logic could be the curriculum of a “college” As Seen on TV. Or the back of a match book.

    So…you’re saying the things I don’t know about science would fit on a matchbook? Are you saying my knowledge of science is that complete and comprehensive? Or is your talent for analogies as pathetic as your talent for bluffing?

    Just be sure you write that up for PZ’s enlightment or whatever.

  587. #587 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    For his next demand, AMC will insist that eric prove that adding two positive nonzero numbers makes a larger positive number.

    I’m guessing he’ll insist that eric prove that simple arithmetic exists outside anyone’s mind.

    Also, I believe you were referring to comment #577. Not that it matters, since #577 is nothing but pure incoherent diversionary rambling. Now he’s bringing stage-magic acts into the discussion? Why not add something about hedgehogs, crop-circles, and the price of tea in Baghdad? As long as he’s going to be nothing but a relentles attention-seeking troll, why not try to make it mildly amusing and put a little dignity back into it?

  588. #588 eric
    January 10, 2012

    AMC @579:

    eric, demonstrate it or admit you can’t,

    I am honestly unclear about what you want me to demonstrate. The mathematical probability of a single alien visit? No, AMC, I can’t demonstrate that.

    The point we keep making and which you seem to keep missing is that an absolute mathematical probability is not needed for a person to arrive at an inductive conclusion. Induction works just fine by considering past incidences of the possible explanations and ranking the ones that occur more often as more likely. Since the number of confirmed alien visits in my experience has been zero, the number of humans acting deceptively is greater than zero, I rank the alien visit explanation lower than the deceptive human explanation. Ditto virgin births.

  589. #589 eric
    January 10, 2012

    Hmmm, I didn’t consider that anyone would challenge me to demonstrate P(A&B) is less than or equal to P(A). Well, that one he can look up himself.

  590. #590 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    I take no position on that happening because, frankly, as I’ve already admitted, I, as just about everyone in this discussion, don’t have the math or technical knowledge to understand the arguments about them. And, frankly, I don’t much think there’s anything I can do about it so I don’t really care.

    Yeah, that’s pretty obvious from the get-go — you don’t know shit, all of your arguments are based on total ignorance, you don’t know enough to judge how knowledgeable anyone else is, and you don’t care enough to even look in a mirror and see whether anything you say even sounds plausible. So why the fuck are you wasting so much time here, with your shit-stained pants on your head, spouting ignorant bullshit about things you don’t care about? To hog attention and pretend you’re better than anyone else? To make up for the embarrassment of taking your infantile religion to college?

  591. #591 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    If what Raging Bee posted in #474 is an accurate description of what Anthony believes, I’d like to see him acknowledge that – in an unambiguous way.

    So far, he’s completely ignoring it. He knows he’s been caught in a lie (again), and he doesn’t have the guts to do anything other than run away and pretend it never happened. Just like every other religious con-artist who claims to be infallible.

  592. #592 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    Flesh it out, eric, show it matches the two cases you asserted you could show how science can be used in the two instances you have. Just coming up with a formula doesn’t do that. Put it in terms a Bee could understand.

    Raving Bee, more honestly, Nattering Gnat. OK, explain the arguments for and against neutrinos being measured as traveling faster than the established speed of light and why we should believe one of them. Go on, show us you understand those arguments. And then tell us, if the “faster than light” results begin to be noted yet again, what do you propose to do about it.

    I suspect that most of a century of materialist claims made on behalf of the reliability of science, resting, in part, on that point, could quickly and tragically turn into a major fiasco of loss of credibility among the majority of the population, so scientists should be prepared to handle the aftermath if that finding turns out to be reliable. Which is why so many on the sci-blogs are rather panicky about it. Just as it could if Lawrence Krauss’ ideas about black holes not forming turn out to be true or just as it could as they begin to notice that the promissory note of genome mania keeps coming up marked “unpaid” – quite literally.

    I don’t expect you’ll understand any of that but I’m assuming someone might read might, possibly.

  593. #593 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    I’m still waiting, Bee. Explain the reason that they’ve concluded, twice, that they’ve observed neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light and give us the reasons that that isn’t credible. Show us what you know that the folks that came up with the positive results, twice, don’t know.

    Or is it just going to be one more of the many, many times that you brilliant Bright “experts” are all bad-mouth and no substance.

  594. #594 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    Prove my intelligence to someone who’s already admitted he neither knows nor cares what he’s talking about? Fuck off, Anthony, you’ve already proven yourself a lying ignoramus, and every single one of your basic arguments have already been repeatedly debunked by myself and others; so you don’t get to demand anything of anyone.

    Demanding I talk about neutrinos as just as much a transparent, cowardly diversion as your earlier demand that I talk about my religion.

    I suspect that most of a century of materialist claims made on behalf of the reliability of science, resting, in part, on that point, could quickly and tragically turn into a major fiasco of loss of credibility among the majority of the population, so scientists should be prepared to handle the aftermath if that finding turns out to be reliable.

    Yeah, and when Obama turns out to be the Antichrist and the world ends with the skies on fire everywhere, this coming Winter Solstice, we’ll all regret doubting your petulant little God, right? You’re just another lazy escapist crybaby hiding from reality in apocalyptic end-of-everything fantasies. Seriously, grow the fuck up and get help.

  595. #595 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    Bee, you can’t because what I said was true, you don’t understand the evidence or the arguments made that they observed neutrinos traveling faster than the supposedly constant speed of light anymore than I do. You don’t understand that or why it might be incorrect because you don’t understand those arguments. Neither do I but I was honest enough to admit it and, unlike you and so many a blog atheist, I don’t hold an opinion on that out of sheer ignorance.

    And you don’t understand what a major deal it would be for science or the huge blow that would be for the public acceptance of science. Richard Lewontin, reviewing that Sagan volume so many of you mistake to be a logic text book, warned about scientists overselling science and the disastrous consequences that could have. Only I don’t think he anticipated something that could shake it this deeply. I think that if the very atheistic Lawrence Krauss is right about the impossibility of black holes forming, it could have an even more disastrous effect because those have been even more over sold than something as basic as the speed of light as a constant.

    I don’t believe your “Paganism” is any more but a pose. Given the number of times I’ve had elves and fairies thrown at me by your fellow neo-atheist bigots, I’m within my rights to question a professed “Pagan” who is so able to flitter around on these blogs without that happening to them. It’s a question of basic integrity, or, rather, the lack of it among the you atheisty folk.

    I got a new Fresnel lens, so I’m hoping there will be fewer typos.

  596. #596 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    My, my, first you try to pretend I’m not worth your time and you can ignore me, now you’re desperately going out of your way to discredit me — which doesn’t exactly work AFTER I’ve shown the fallacies and falsehoods of nearly all of your anti-rationalist know-nothing arguments.

    And you don’t understand what a major deal it would be for science or the huge blow that would be for the public acceptance of science…

    When has any major scientific revolution ever been a “huge blow” for the public acceptance of science? I don’t recall any huge grass-roots rejection of physics when Einstein showed up.

    I don’t believe your “Paganism” is any more but a pose.

    That’s probably because your own religion is nothing but a pose, and you can’t bear to imagine anyone having a more honest religion than your own.

  597. #597 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    Given the number of times I’ve had elves and fairies thrown at me by your fellow neo-atheist bigots, I’m within my rights to question a professed “Pagan” who is so able to flitter around on these blogs without that happening to them.

    I can’t speak for others on this, but I suspect that they don’t throw stupid woo at me because — unlike so many Christian bigots — I don’t throw stupid woo at them.

  598. #598 eric
    January 10, 2012

    AMC:

    Flesh it out, eric, show it matches the two cases you asserted you could show how science can be used in the two instances you have. Just coming up with a formula doesn’t do that. Put it in terms a Bee could understand.

    Flesh what out? How one uses induction when you don’t have mathematical probabilities to work with? I’ve given you examples of that in @573, @583, and @588. Coelsblog also did it in @574. I am really not sure how to be clearer. Can you point out the specific step you have a problem understanding? Is it determining potential explanations? Counting experiences? Assigning relative likelihood based on count?

    If you’re asking me to flesh out the P(A&B) thing, here you go: in probability calculations, AND functions are denoted by multiplication. P(A&B) = P(A)*P(B). When P(A) and P(B) are both real numbers between 0 and 1, their product is always smaller than either P(A) or P(B).

  599. #599 Anthony McCarthy
    January 10, 2012

    Eric, as I said to you yesterday:

    If someone has a hypothesis about the “intention of God,” we can certainly test to see if the world is consistent or inconsistent with it. eric

    Tell me how you would test that any phenomenon in the physical universe happening as it does, happens by the intention of God, which was, by the way, exactly what Deists claimed to believe as well as theists, possible intervention into the normal operation of the universe being one of their points of disagreement. Tell me how you would use science to falsify the contention that the universe operates as it does by the intention of God.

    Go on, eric, support your claim by telling us how you could test that point with science because science is something that is done and not just asserted. Or at least it’s supposed to be that.

    It is a claim of some religions, including this Deism stuff some of you are always going on about, that God is responsible for the normal operation of the universe, what science studies, as well as any “miracles” that happen(not Deists for that last one, though). How would you test that claim with science? How do you use the normal operation of the universe to dispel the idea that God is responsible for the normal operation of the universe? Taking into account that it is held that God is responsible for the normal operation of the universe. You asserted it could be tested, tell me how.

    The other one is, of course, the probability of The Virgin Birth happening. Of course, since you want to get rid of what people who believe in TVB believe, you’re going to have to take into account what they believe, that it happened, intentionally, by other than natural means, once in the entire history of the world and, so, it couldn’t be compared to any other birth. And it has left no physical evidence for science to evaluate.

    Show us how you would figure out the probability of that happening according to what is claimed without twisting it into something which isn’t part of the claim to suit your purpose.

    Raging Bee, still unwilling to shower us with your Brightest erudition on the question of the speedy neutrinos, huh? You ever considered anger management?

  600. #600 Raging Bee
    January 10, 2012

    So…now you’ve given up trying to discredit science as a whole; and your next stunt is special pleading for your particular supernatural claims (but not anyone else’s)? Jesus, boy, if you need to keep pestering us to validate your superstition, that’s probably because you know it’s bogus but can̵