Responding to Dr Liddle’s challenge as to whether science can study “the supernatural”
|June 21, 2011||Posted by kairosfocus under Intelligent Design|
In Gil’s recent ANNOUNCEMENT thread, Dr Liddle has made a summary of her core challenge to design thinkers, at no 6:
Science necessarily involves an a priori commitment to the proposition that natural causes are the reason for everything.
It does not possess the methodology to discover any other kind of cause.
What methodology would you recommend for investigating an un-natural/supernatural cause?
I have thought this is sufficiently focussed to respond on points (currently awaiting moderation, on I think number of links . . . ). I augment that response here where I can use colours [Dr Liddle’s remarks are in bolded green], fill in diagrams and links:
>>Science necessarily involves
a: This is a claim of MUST, i.e this is already a commitment that suggests that apart from this no science, so how do you account for the facts of the founding of modern science and the views of the actual founders thereof, as I have documented say here?
an a priori commitment to the proposition that natural causes are the reason for everything.
b: NIX. Science only implicates the study of empirically observable and testable phenomena, which in turn implicates the question of inference from well-tested sign to signified cause.
c: We may and do categorise these as tracing to chance, necessity and choice, whereby we may further cluster the first two as material or natural, and the latter as artificial. This categorisation is for instance used by Plato, by Newton and by Monod [cf his, Chance and Necessity]
d: We may characterise and study each of these causal factors on their general signs, and further investigate on the specific observed object or phenomenon. To wit, we may see that:
i: by mechanical necessity, we get lawlike regularities — i.e. low contingency of outcomes — under sufficiently similar starting conditions (a dropped heavy object falls at g), a common enough goal of scientific investigation being to identify such laws, e.g. F = m*a
ii: by chance, under similar initial conditions, we have highly contingent outcomes (a dropped die will tumble and settle to various readings) in accordance with a statistical distribution. Sometimes scientific investigations try to characterise such distributions and their roots, e.g. the Weibull distribution of wind speeds etc.
iii: by choice, we will also get highly contingent outcomes under similar starting conditions, but credibly linked to purpose not chance, e.g. the pattern of symbols in messages as opposed to noise — studied in and foundational to information theory.
It does not possess the methodology to discover any other kind of cause.
e: This is premised on an assumption that the only way we may categorise the world is on natural vs supernatural, where the later may be derided.
f: In short, this is an implicit — perhaps unrecognised — assumption of a priori MATERIALISM, not an open-minded, empirically based investigation of the world as is, in light of empirical facts and observations, explained without ideologically censoring possibilities
g: Do we know that all that there is, is “natural,” or that science may only study and explain by the “natural”? That depends, crucially on what you mean by “natural.”
h: If you mean a smuggling in of materialism by assumptions and definitions, that is a major begging of the question, for what science studies is the EMPIRICALLY OBSERVABLE in a world that credibly had a beginning.
i: Such a cosmos, is credibly contingent, i.e. it entails a cause external to itself, as if something may not exist or had a beginning, it has conditions under which it may/may not exist.
j: In turn that points to a causal root in a necessary being, that has no external causal dependency. Such a being has no beginning, and has no end. By logic. (Formerly, until it was recognised that the evidence points to a beginning for the cosmos we live in, the Steady State type view assumed the wider observed cosmos was that necessary being, but now Humpty Dumpty has fallen. [We need not go into the wider discussion of contingency, contingency on a credible beginning is enough to force consideration of possibilities, then.])
k: Multiply by the evident fine tuning of our observed cosmos, that supports C-chemistry cell based life; which is also relevant even in the case of an assumed or speculated wider multiverse, as LOCAL fine tuning is enough. As John Leslie put it:
. . . the need for such explanations [[for fine-tuning] does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor [[emphasis original] alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly.
[[Our Place in the Cosmos, 1998. The force of this point is deepened once we think about what has to be done to get a rifle into “tack-driving” condition.That is, a “tack-driving” rifle is a classic example of a finely tuned, complex system, i.e. we are back at the force of Collins’ point on a multiverse model needing a well adjusted Cosmos bakery. (Slide show, ppt. “Simple” summary, doc.)]
l: That points to functionally specific, complex organisation of a cosmos [and associated complex information], something that is habitually and empirically associated with choice and purpose, i.e. design. Indeed, in every case where we directly know the cause for such FSCO/I, it is designed.
m: So, we have as a reasonable possibility — and, arguably a best explanation — that the observed cosmos is externally caused by a purposive, powerful, necessary being, which has no beginning, no ending, and that based on scientific observation and the logic of contingency. Such a being is warranted on our contingent world, and is causally self-sufficient, i.e. self-explanatory. The real issue is the nature of the necessary being, not its existence, once we have a contingent cosmos to be explained. And, blind necessity or a chaos are vastly inferior to intelligence as explanations of FSCO/I, absent imposition of a priori materialism — i.e. we here see the censoring effect of the materialistic question-begging above.
n: Since, too, we have here a case in hand where science has indeed studied origins, and the beginning of our world, and — absent question-begging censorship — a serious alternative points beyond the contingent “natural” world we inhabit to root cause by an entirely different category of being, we already see that science can not only study natural vs artificial, but design by an entirely different category of being that can credibly be termed, supernatural. That is, beyond nature in the sense of our observed cosmos. (The proposed multiverse we hear about so often today is UN-observed.)
What methodology would you recommend for investigating an un-natural/ supernatural cause?
o: First, stop begging metaphysical questions by imposing a priori materialism, or going along with such imposition, not hard as that evolutionary materialism (aka scientific materialism aka [scientific] naturalism etc etc) is already self-referentially incoherent, self refuting and necessarily false, by undermining mind itself. As Haldane summed up the challenge it faces:
“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays , Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]
p: Then, recognise that it is more useful to scientifically study natural and artificial causes on an empirical basis, and so to focus their characteristic signs, than to beg metaphysical questions.
q: Nor should we allow ideologues to rattle us with their Alinskyite uncivil bully-boy tactics of distortion, denigration, censorship and intimidation.
r: For instance, this pattern as follows is reasonable and quite often actually used, tracing to say Hippocrates of Cos and early medicine, and also reflecting Peirce’s more recent logic of abductive inference:
I: [si] –> O, on W
(I infer from a pattern of observed signs, to an objective state of affairs, on a particular warrant [often, inference to best explanation], each to be specified case by case, cause by cause.)
s: Then, proceed on the understanding that we commonly observe causal patterns that may be described with profit as natural or material [= chance and/or necessity], and intelligent [= art or design or choice contingency].
t: In that light, identify and test characteristic reliable signs of these causal processes for aspects of phenomena, processes or objects.
u: Just as, in say studying a pendulum [a case of direct manipulation as experimental design], we identify what is caused by the experimenter manipulating the string’s length, what is or is not due to varying the mass of the bob, what is chance-based random scatter around a line that characterises a law of mechanical necessity, and what is due to the dynamics of a pendulum swinging across an arc in a gravity field. (And similarly, how — using ANOVA — we isolate factors in a control vs treatment study across blocks and plots.)
v: In short, we routinely apply the explanatory filter algorithm in doing scientific studies, so it is not unreasonable to identify general signs of the relevant causal factors, and to trust them if they pass reasonable tests, e.g. necessity produces lawlike regularities, chance produces statistical scatter, and choice produces FSCO/I.
(If you see a pendulum experiment set up with apparatus fitted to the purpose of adjusting length of string, arc, and mass, with a timer sitting nearby and a record of results on say a coded digital tape, do you infer to chance or choice or necessity? Why?)
w: Now, the hard step: have the courage to trust the patterns of warranted inference beyond where we have direct access to observe the causal process. This is the step taken by Newton when he said, in his General Scholium to Principia:
. . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another . . .
x: In short, if we see a tested, reliable pattern of inference from sign to signified state of affairs, we have good reason to trust that it will expend to cases where we cannot directly check.
y: Now, simply apply to the origin of our cosmos, as above. We see signs of art, i.e FSCO/I, in the context of fine-tuning that facilitates C-chemistry, cell based intelligent life. We see also that we have an evidently contingent cosmos that cries out for a root cause in a necessary being.
(You will note that I do NOT use the case of evidence pointing to design in life, as this is a case where, from the very beginnings of modern design theory [i.e. Thaxton et al in TMLO in 1985] — as utterly contrasted to the caricatures being used by objectors — it has been recognised that design of cell based life on earth would be sufficiently accounted for by a designer within the cosmos. Say, a molecular nanotech lab several generations beyond Venter et al.)
z: That is as far as science and logic proper will take us, but:
1: that is far enough to see that a very viable candidate will be an intelligent, extra-cosmic, powerful, purposeful and deeply knowledgeable necessary being;
2: this being a case of empirically based, observationally anchored inference to design or art, as opposed to
3: a priorism-driven inference to or against “the supernatural.”
4: Philosophy and theology will take the ball and run with it from there.
5: Such a being would be a very good example of the super-natural, pointed to by investigations of nature on empirically well warranted patterns of cause and effect.
6: So, we see that science needs not essay to study “the supernatural” only to study natural vs artificial causes on empirically tested warrant.
7: It therefore is high time that the materialists’ favourite “natural vs supernatural” strawman caricature of our alternatives, was laid to rest, with a stake through its heart.
8: We only need to study, on empirical signs, natural vs artificial causes. As was pointed out by Plato, 2,350 years ago, in The Laws, Bk X. Namely:[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them . . . .all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul’s kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body? . . . .when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second . . . .If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]
In short, the matter pivots on breaking a powerfully institutionalised strawman caricature of the scientific method, and our investigatory and warranting options.
Our real, as opposed to strawman options are to study:
Natural vs supernatural artificial causes.>>
In short, I argue that the whole issue being raised of inference to natural vs supernatural as opposed to the reasoning on natural vs artificial causes and signs thereof, is a strawman fallacy, and so also a red herring distractor.
What are your own thoughts, on what grounds? END