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Science is Good, But Not That Good

In a comment to my last post timothya asked “Can anyone provide a brief synopsis of a reliable way of knowing that is founded on a method other than science?”

That timothya would even ask such a question suggests that he is sore tempted by the siren’s song of scientism. To which I say, “lash yourself to the mast timothya, and let me help you sail past this dangerous island.”

Before we can deal with the manifold errors of scientism we must first define what we are talking about. “Scientism” is the idea that science provides the only valid way to know any truth. Some scientists have stretched the idea even further and asserted that since we can know truth only through science, science is therefore the only competent authority on any subject. For example, the article cited in my last post refers to Peter Atkins, who wrote, “There appear to be no bounds to [science’s] competence. . . . This claim of universal competence may seem arrogant, but it appears to be justified.”

It is, of course, true that in the last 400 years science has been wildly successful within its realm of competency. In that relatively brief period through the methods of science we have expanded our knowledge about the world and increased our material comfort in ways unimaginable in the rest of recorded history combined. There is no denying that.

The problem is that the very brilliance of science’s success has blinded people like Atkins to the limitations of the scientific method. Properly understood, science is simply a method of investigating empirical claims that has not changed much since the time of Francis Bacon (ca 1600):

Ask a question about the world: How can I cure this disease?
Formulate a hypothesis: Vaccine X will cure this disease.
Test the prediction of the hypothesis: Perform a double-blind experiment on 5,000 subjects.
Analysis: Compare the prediction of the null hypothesis to the alternative hypothesis.

The first limitation I would point out is that this method does not cover even the whole realm of the “empirical.” Consider history for example. We know with a high degree of reliability that Abraham Lincoln was the president of the United States in 1863. I did not arrive at this knowledge through scientific means. I know it because someone told me, and they in turn learned it from someone else, who in turn learned it from someone else back to the actual people who witnessed first-hand a man who called himself “Abraham Lincoln” sitting in the White House in 1863 and acting for all the world like he was the president of the United States.

Consider geography. I have never been to Russia, but I am quite certain that Moscow is the capital of that country. I did not arrive at this knowledge through scientific means either.

If timothya will stop and think a moment, he will realize that practically everything he knows he knows because someone told him, not because the truth of the proposition has been confirmed by science.

Even some knowledge that is almost universally considered “scientific” was not, strictly speaking, obtained through application of the scientific method. Consider Neo-Darwinian Evolution (“NDE”), the standard model of how life diversified and spread throughout the earth. NDE is an integration of Darwin’s original theory of natural selection and Mendelian genetics. And I am here to tell you that many of the predictions of NDE – including especially its most spectacular claims – have never been (indeed cannot be) subjected to experimental verification.

For example, NDE holds that new body plans result from the accretion of random changes to the genome (whether through mutations or drift or what have you) sorted through a fitness function called “natural selection.” It might come as a surprise to many of my readers, but this prediction of NDE has NEVER been verified experimentally despite countless thousands of attempts (primarily on hapless fruit flies). Let me say that again: No scientist has EVER observed in real time a new body plan coming into existence through a process of random changes to the genome sorted by natural selection.

“What about Darwin’s finches and those white and gray moths and the rise of antibacterial resistance I’ve heard about?” you might ask. Fair question. We absolutely must give Darwin his due. These and other examples of “microevolution” have been observed countless times. But it is one thing to say, for example, that the average size of finch beaks increases in times of famine due to the processes of NDE. It is something altogether different to say that finches themselves came into being in the first place through the processes of NDE. The former statement has been confirmed experimentally. The latter has not. Rather, the latter statement is the product of an inference – i.e., NDE causes small changes to organisms; therefore NDE causes big changes to organisms too.

Note that it is not my purpose here to argue that NDE’s claims about how new body plans came into existence are necessarily wrong (though I think they are) simply because those claims have not been confirmed by direct observation through scientific experiments. My point is that evolutionary biology, as an historical science, is based not on strict application of the scientific method. Instead, it is based on inferences from the data (an extrapolation if you will) that are themselves not subject to scientific verification in the form of direct observation.

Here are some other indisputably true things (or in timothya’s parlance “things we know reliably”) that were not derived through application of the scientific method:

The principles of logic

For any given proposition X, X cannot be both true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances.

The law of non-contradiction cannot be proven or disproven experimentally. It is known a priori.

The principles of mathematics

7 + 2 = 9.

Like the axioms of logic, mathematics is known a priori.

The principles undergirding the scientific enterprise itself

This one might surprise someone like timothya who is tempted by scientism, but the assumptions upon which the scientific enterprise itself is built are not subject, even in principle, to scientific verification or falsification.

For example, scientists assume (they do not know) that scientific laws (e.g., gravity) operate the same way in the furthest reaches of the universe as they do here on earth. Obviously, there is no way to confirm this assumption experimentally and it will forever remain an assumption, not an experimentally verified fact.

Scientists assume the universe is always and in all places rational and therefore it can be successfully modeled. Water runs downhill today and it will run downhill tomorrow. It will not suddenly start running uphill. In other words, scientists assume that the regularities they observe (which they call “laws of science”) will hold. No scientist can say “why” water runs downhill other than to say that gravity makes water run downhill. But the law of gravity is not a causal agent. Rather, it is an observed regularity. In other words, in 100% of the experiments on earth, water has run downhill, and from that we infer a general principle that things on earth always fall down and we call that general principle “gravity.” Thus, saying that water runs downhill because of the law of gravity is at bottom saying nothing more than water runs downhill because water runs downhill. Chesterton was right. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched.

Love

I love my wife. My knowledge of my love for my wife is completely reliable; yet I did not arrive at that knowledge through the methods of science.

Ethics

It is wrong to torture infants for pleasure. The truth of this statement is utterly reliable and timothya knows this even if he refuses to admit it. Neither he nor I arrived at our utterly certain knowledge of the truth of this statement through scientific means.

I could go on, but I think the point is clear enough by now. Science is amazingly successful within its sphere. But the truth uncovered by science reveals only a portion of the truth that is out there, and the claims of the “universal competence” of science are wild exagerations pushed by scientists who want  to be high priests of a secular church.

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80 Responses to Science is Good, But Not That Good

  1. 1
    Kantian Naturalist

    Barry’s examples are good ones for explicating the concept of “science” more carefully.

    (1) The principles and methods of logic

    (2) The principles and methods of mathematics

    (3) The principles that undergird science (which, of course, cannot be proven scientifically)

    (4) I love my wife.

    (5) It is wrong to torture infants for pleasure.

    (1)-(3) are not ‘scientific’ because they are a priori rather than a posteriori, that is, justified by reason alone rather than justified by (empirical) evidence.

    (4) is not ‘scientific’ because it’s a first-person report on one’s own psychological states rather than a third-person claim about how things are in the world.

    (5) is not ‘scientific’ because it’s a prescriptive claim about what one ought not to do, rather than a descriptive claim about what is the case.

    So, taking (1)-(5) together, we can say that science is a kind of knowledge that is empirical (not a priori), available from the third-person perspective (not the first-person), and descriptive (not prescriptive).

    This allows us to reformulate timoytha’s

    Can anyone provide a brief synopsis of a reliable way of knowing that is founded on a method other than science?

    as

    Is there a more reliable way to arrive at empirically-grounded descriptive claims about the world than science?

    And to that, it seems to me that the answer is “no”, because the results of scientific inquiry are a class of empirically-grounded descriptive claims about the world. Put otherwise, science is a sophisticated extension of common-sense, trial-and-error reasoning.

    As I put it in another thread, science can’t explain everything, but nothing else explains anything. That is to be construed as a gloss on how limited explanations are, in contrast with other cognitive practices, such as (but not limited to) conceptual explications, normative justifications (both epistemic and ethical), aesthetic creations, and political critique.

    So, what is “scientism”? I can think of one important distinction:

    Weak scientism says that scientific practices yield more reliable explanations of the world than do other methods for generating empirical knowledge.

    Strong scientism says that scientific explanations are more important than, or have priority over, other cognitive practices, such as justifications or explications or whatever.

    Another way of perhaps putting the point would be to say that strong scientism denies that justifications or explications count as knowledge at all: that there are no ethical facts or normative facts, or that there is no a priori knowledge.

    My charitable interpretation is that philosophers and scientists find themselves on the slippery slope from weak scientism to strong scientism because of a failure of imagination: they fail to realize that there are other kinds of knowledge besides empirical knowledge. (Why they fail to realize this is an interesting psychological question.)

  2. “they fail to realize that there are other kinds of knowledge besides empirical knowledge.”

    Once again kantian I find it very peculiar that you would lecture anyone on ‘science’ since you have no empirical basis to show your non-reductive naturalism conforms to reality.

  3. William Lane Craig vs Peter Atkins

  4. haha. thanks bevets!

  5. Both beautifully lucid and wry, Barry. I love to have my sometimes jumbled thoughts neatly laid out.

  6. 6

    Thank you Axel.

  7. I appreciate the post, but I also think timothya is an immature thinker, and will come to regret the absolutism of his statements as he ages. To have one timothya is not that bad. The real problem is that I think the current university system – with its dismissal of all religion as poppycock ( thus neglecting much wisdom ) , its political correct straight jacket ( thus choosing to subscribe to only non-offensive truth ), and its political correct agenda push ( thus promoting to important ideas which are of no consequence ) we are seeing a continual production of more timothya’s. What a sad state of affairs.

  8. Mr Arrington, excellent as usual. And BA’s vid is a treat. It is sad that we have become so lost epistemologically that we are often led to think in the ways corrected. KF

  9. Sorry, most excellent bevets, master of the rare and exceptional quote!

  10. Though empirical science certainly has its limits, and perhaps the most important knowledge, such as ‘I Love my wife”, is forever beyond the scope of empirical science, I feel that empirical evidence is very important to these questions of origins, especially where different metaphysical hypothesis are concerned. Different metaphysical hypothesis make specific different claims/predictions about what state we should find reality in and these specific claims/predictions can be tested against one another, against the evidence we have found, to see which hypothesis has come out on top.

    Multiple Competing Worldviews – Stephen Meyer on John Ankerberg – video – November 4, 2011 (registration required)
    http://www.lightsource.com/min.....22384.html

    For instance materialism, the main philosophy undergirding neo-Darwinian evolution and even Hawking and Krauss’s cosmology, has made some very specific claims about reality that have directly contradicted theistic claims for reality. These claims can be compared to the empirical evidence we now have in hand to see which hypothesis is closer to the truth. For instance:

    Materialism predicted an eternal universe, Theism predicted a created universe. – Big Bang points to a creation event. -

    Materialism predicted at the base of physical reality would be a solid indestructible material particle which rigidly obeyed the rules of time and space, Theism predicted the basis of this reality was created by a infinitely powerful and transcendent Being who is not limited by time and space – Quantum mechanics reveals a wave/particle duality for the basis of our reality which blatantly defies our concepts of time and space. -

    Materialism predicted that consciousness is a ‘emergent property’ of material reality and thus has no particular special position within material reality. Theism predicted consciousness preceded material reality and therefore consciousness should have a ‘special’ position within material reality. Quantum Mechanics reveals that consciousness has a special, even central, position within material reality. -

    Materialism predicted the rate at which time passed was constant everywhere in the universe, Theism predicted God is eternal and is outside of time – Special Relativity has shown that time, as we understand it, is relative and comes to a complete stop at the speed of light. (Psalm 90:4 – 2 Timothy 1:9) -

    Materialism predicted the universe did not have life in mind and life was ultimately an accident of time and chance. Theism predicted this universe was purposely created by God with man in mind – Every transcendent universal constant scientists can measure is exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon-based life to exist in this universe. -

    Materialism predicted complex life in this universe should be fairly common. Theism predicted the earth is extremely unique in this universe – Statistical analysis of the hundreds of required parameters which enable complex life to be possible on earth gives strong indication the earth is extremely unique in this universe. -

    Materialism predicted much of the DNA code was junk. Theism predicted we are fearfully and wonderfully made – ENCODE research into the DNA has revealed a “biological jungle deeper, denser, and more difficult to penetrate than anyone imagined.”. -

    Materialism predicted a extremely beneficial and flexible mutation rate for DNA which was ultimately responsible for all the amazing diversity and complexity of life we see on earth. Theism predicted only God created life on earth – The mutation rate to DNA is overwhelmingly detrimental. Detrimental to such a point that it is very seriously questioned whether there are any truly beneficial mutations whatsoever. (M. Behe; JC Sanford) -

    Materialism predicted a very simple first life form which accidentally came from “a warm little pond”. Theism predicted God created life – The simplest life ever found on Earth is far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. (Michael Denton PhD) -

    Materialism predicted it took a very long time for life to develop on earth. Theism predicted life to appear abruptly on earth after water appeared on earth (Genesis 1:10-11) – We find evidence for complex photo-synthetic life in the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth (3.8 bya)-

    Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life to be self-evident in the fossil record. Theism predicted complex and diverse life to appear abruptly in the seas in God’s fifth day of creation. – The Cambrian Explosion shows a sudden appearance of many different and completely unique fossils within a very short “geologic resolution time” in the Cambrian seas. -

    Materialism predicted there should be numerous transitional fossils found in the fossil record, Theism predicted sudden appearance and rapid diversity within different kinds found in the fossil record – Fossils are consistently characterized by sudden appearance of a group/kind in the fossil record, then rapid diversity within the group/kind, and then long term stability and even deterioration of variety within the overall group/kind, and within the specific species of the kind, over long periods of time. Of the few dozen or so fossils claimed as transitional, not one is uncontested as a true example of transition between major animal forms out of millions of collected fossils. -

    Materialism predicted animal speciation should happen on a somewhat constant basis on earth. Theism predicted man was the last species created on earth – Man himself is the last generally accepted major, and distinct, fossil form to have suddenly appeared in the fossil record. -

    ””””””’

    For me, when considering the state of evidence that modern science has revealed to us, the correct hypothesis between the two is not even close. Theism provides, by far, the most coherent view of reality!

  11. 11

    A few minor points in response to the Craig-Atkins clip:

    (1) Craig is correct to point out that Atkins commits the genetic fallacy. However, it would not be a fallacy to claim — as Atkins does not, but as more sophisticated naturalists have — that a causal explanation of the origins of a belief bear on how well justified that belief is.

    (2) The genetic fallacy also bears directly on the claim that modern science only makes sense if we presuppose Christian theism. From the fact that the origins of science depended upon Christian culture, it would be a fallacy to conclude that the truth or justification of science depends on that culture.

    (3) There’s no obvious move from a priori knowledge to theism. It all depends on what the theory of a priori knowledge is. There’s a range of views about a priori knowledge perfectly consistent with metaphysical naturalism, e.g. thinking of a priori judgments as expressing the constitutive rules of a particular language-game. Then the judgments are necessary “internal” to the game, so to speak, but there’s nothing necessary about the fact that we play that language-game. If you want to claim that a priori knowledge shows that God must exist, go ahead and make the argument, but it depends on how the details of the theory of a priority get cashed out — it’s not a move one just gets to make for free.

  12. ???? thought out post. Creationists are constantly trying to make this point the difference between science that we do in the lab where we do experiments over and over and verify the results conclusively and “historical science” which cannot be observed, repeated, or verified.

    Science is not the only avenue of knowledge. Think about trying to solve a murder. We look for clues that might help us solve it. We can use science to help find the clues but the science can only give us clues, evidence that we must then fit together to try and figure out what happened. Now if we have a reliable eye-witness, this is even better. But even with a lot of clues, it is conceivable that one could come up with a variety of scenarios to explain what we have found. Even if one particular explanation makes the most sense, it may not necessarily be right. I’m sure that there have been cases where people have been unjustly convicted because the story was found to be the most plausible. Their excuse sounded too wild to believe and yet it might have been true. When investigating the past, we just can never be sure that we have made the right conclusion. It is different that scientific “proof” that we come up with doing experiments that can be validated over and over again. Plus, you never know, there might be some information that we are missing or overlooking which might skew our interpretation of the evidence. So, when dealing with the past, we just cannot be anywhere near as sure about our results/conclusions/interpretations as we can about science that we can verify over and over again.

    Besides, the fact that “science is the only source of true knowledge” did not come from some sort of scientific experiment which would seem to invalidate that claim.

    Here is a brief review by Royal Truman of A Review of The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism by Phillip E. Johnson Intervarsity Press Illinois, 2000.

    Chapter 1 is specifically relevant to the discussion here. Here is the link: http://www.answersingenesis.or.....aterialist

  13. Barry Arrington posted a great deal, so one by one:

    The law of non-contradiction cannot be proven or disproven experimentally. It is known a priori.

    For any given logical system taken as an isolated mental program, this is true. However, the moment one applies the a priori axioms of the logical system to a problem in the material world, the results do become subject to experimental knowledge. That is to say, “knowledge” based on the logical schema needs to account for the reliability of the specific premises being reasoned upon. Which then becomes a scientific question. Of course, if you wish to cleave to a Platonic view of logical categories, this would be unconvincing.

    Like the axioms of logic, mathematics is known a priori.

    Same problem again. It is not the logical or numerical relations accepted a priori into a mathematical schema that is a problem (anyone can enjoy mental number games). The problem lies when the schema has to be applied to a question arising in the real world. At which point the reliability of the measures used need scientific verification.

    For example, scientists assume (they do not know) that scientific laws (e.g., gravity) operate the same way in the furthest reaches of the universe as they do here on earth. Obviously, there is no way to confirm this assumption experimentally and it will forever remain an assumption, not an experimentally verified fact.

    Frankly this one is farcical. Surely you are familiar enough with the methods of science to know that scientists do not “assume” the universal regularities of nature. They provisionally accept the regularities based on the available evidence. When and if evidence turns up to disrupt the apparent regularity, science responds by changing its view. Call this an assumption if you wish, but it is not so.

    I love my wife. My knowledge of my love for my wife is completely reliable; yet I did not arrive at that knowledge through the methods of science.

    Without a precise definition of the term “love”, it is impossible to know what this statement means, other than “I have a feeling in my water”. To repeat an old saw, it is impossible to reason about poorly formed concepts. Good luck with that one.

    It is wrong to torture infants for pleasure. The truth of this statement is utterly reliable and timothya knows this even if he refuses to admit it.

    You could at least avoid telling lies about me. Refer to another thread on this blog where I gave an unequivocal answer to the question. Bad, Barry, bad.

    Even so, my questions concerning the postulate are these:

    1. Is there some point of human development where torture does become permissible (adult terrorists? juvenile terrorists? child soldiers with WMDs in their hands?). Please note that I am not accusing you of necessarily holding that it is permissible to torture a non-infant “for pleasure”. I am simply pointing out that use of the term is tendentious in the absence of more complete understanding of what you mean by “torture” and “infant”.

    Recall, for example, that infant laughter as a result of tickling is interpreted currently as a sublimated fear response on the part of the ticklee.

    2. Certain Christian denominations refuse particular kinds of medical treatment as contravening Biblical teaching. If this refusal applies to a child (when the treatment would cure or alleviate the child’s condition), is this torture of infants? If the refusal is to be condemned universally, on what basis to you form this knowledge? (It can’t be the Bible, since the contravening denomination uses the same source of knowledge as you do, but arrives at a contradictory conclusion).

    I could go on, but I think the point is clear enough by now. Science is amazingly successful within its sphere. But the truth uncovered by science reveals only a portion of the truth that is out there, and the claims of the “universal competence” of science are wild exagerations pushed by scientists who want to be high priests of a secular church.

    The last pontiff who applied the “thus far and no farther” argument on science came off second best. The difference between then and now is that you have to provide evidence (!!) that science has to keep off the epistemological grass. The rack and the thumbscrew are no longer theological arguments.

    As a general comment, I regard the idea that science can or will ever be able to explain “everything” as blatant stupidity. The only worse idea is that it cannot be permitted to try.

  14. Kantian Rationalist posted this:

    As I put it in another thread, science can’t explain everything, but nothing else explains anything.

    And then later in the same post:

    My charitable interpretation is that philosophers and scientists find themselves on the slippery slope from weak scientism to strong scientism because of a failure of imagination: they fail to realize that there are other kinds of knowledge besides empirical knowledge.

    Ummm, well what is it? If “nothing else explains anything”, then what are “the other kinds of knowledge”?

  15. tjguy posted this:

    Science is not the only avenue of knowledge. Think about trying to solve a murder. We look for clues that might help us solve it. We can use science to help find the clues but the science can only give us clues, evidence that we must then fit together to try and figure out what happened.

    Don’t you see the contradiction in your argument? If “clues” are essential to solving murders, and you rely on science to provide the clues, what other knowledge do you use? Do you have some other source of knowledge (other than clues provided by science) to solve murders? What is this knowledge? I will restrain myself from suggesting alternative sources.

  16. 16
    Kantian Naturalist

    If “nothing else explains anything”, then what are “the other kinds of knowledge”?

    I see nothing wrong about “non-explanatory knowledge,” if that’s what you’re getting at. A geometrical proof is certainly a kind of knowledge, but it doesn’t explain anything about the world. (Though it can be used in constructing explanations, it doesn’t constitute an explanation about the world all by itself.)

    Likewise, a conceptual explication, such as (to use the old Aristotelian motif) “a normal mature human being is a rational animal” explicates the meanings of our concepts, but tells us nothing about the world, and so doesn’t explain anything — and yet it counts as a kind of knowledge.

    Parallel cases can be drawn from formal logic and from ethics, but I trust the basic idea is relatively clear.

    I should add, maybe, just to forestall certain misunderstandings, that I don’t think that these principles just tell us how to apply them to real-world situations. And I don’t think that these principles refer to transcendent, Platonic or quasi-Platonic entities. Rather, I do think that they play a fundamental role in structuring our knowledge about the world, in various domains of inquiry (ethical, logical, mathematical, empirical, artistic, and so on). So although there is much to be said about the structure and content of empirical knowledge, I don’t think it’s the only kind of knowledge worth talking about.

    Though I am willing to restrict use of the term “explanation” for a kind or class of empirical knowledge, namely, empirical knowledge in which a model or construction of the relevant causes shows why the observed regularities hold, to the extent that they do.

  17. 17
    Kantian Naturalist

    Timothya, if you want a reference that critically examines this distinction between “operational science” and “historical science” that creationists insist upon, try here.

  18. JDH posted this:

    I appreciate the post, but I also think timothya is an immature thinker, and will come to regret the absolutism of his statements as he ages. To have one timothya is not that bad. The real problem is that I think the current university system – with its dismissal of all religion as poppycock ( thus neglecting much wisdom ) , its political correct straight jacket ( thus choosing to subscribe to only non-offensive truth ), and its political correct agenda push ( thus promoting to important ideas which are of no consequence ) we are seeing a continual production of more timothya’s. What a sad state of affairs.

    Sheesh mate, all I did was ask a question. If you want absolutism, go talk to the religious.

    The current university system dismisses religion as poppycock? Ummm, how does that square with the Departments of Divinity (and seminary training schools) strewn about the academic world, or the persistent arguments by academics (of all disciplines) that they are happy to continue to be observant religious believers while accepting the objective evidence of evolution, old earth geology, etc etc.

    The Closed Shop only exists in your mind.

  19. Kantian Rationalist posted this:

    I see nothing wrong about “non-explanatory knowledge”

    I am sorry, but I have no idea what this category means. Can you provide a valuable example of non-explanatory knowledge? What could I do with such a thing?

  20. Kantian Rationalist posted this:

    Timothya, if you want a reference that critically examines this distinction between “operational science” and “historical science” that creationists insist upon, try here.

    Why are we arguing about this? I don’t believe there is any useful distinction between the two forms of enquiry. Both require the same criteria for acceptance of evidence. The distinction is one invented by supernaturalists only for the purpose of justifying their a priori (!!) belief in an anthropomorphic universe.

  21. Kantian makes a weird comment here:

    (3) There’s no obvious move from a priori knowledge to theism. It all depends on what the theory of a priori knowledge is. There’s a range of views about a priori knowledge perfectly consistent with metaphysical naturalism, e.g. thinking of a priori judgments as expressing the constitutive rules of a particular language-game. Then the judgments are necessary “internal” to the game, so to speak, but there’s nothing necessary about the fact that we play that language-game. If you want to claim that a priori knowledge shows that God must exist, go ahead and make the argument, but it depends on how the details of the theory of a priority get cashed out — it’s not a move one just gets to make for free.

    So you think you are ‘playing that language game’ kantian??? Now finally your sophistry makes some sense! It’s all a game to you to bend words to fit your preconceived philosophical bias. Thanks for clearing that up. :)

  22. As to a priori assumptions and Godel’s incompleteness theorem:

    Taking God Out of the Equation – Biblical Worldview – by Ron Tagliapietra – January 1, 2012
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) proved that no logical systems (if they include the counting numbers) can have all three of the following properties.
    1. Validity . . . all conclusions are reached by valid reasoning.
    2. Consistency . . . no conclusions contradict any other conclusions.
    3. Completeness . . . all statements made in the system are either true or false.
    The details filled a book, but the basic concept was simple and elegant. He summed it up this way: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove.” For this reason, his proof is also called the Incompleteness Theorem.
    Kurt Gödel had dropped a bomb on the foundations of mathematics. Math could not play the role of God as infinite and autonomous. It was shocking, though, that logic could prove that mathematics could not be its own ultimate foundation.
    Christians should not have been surprised. The first two conditions are true about math: it is valid and consistent. But only God fulfills the third condition. Only He is complete and therefore self-dependent (autonomous). God alone is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). God is the ultimate authority (Hebrews 6:13), and in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
    http://www.answersingenesis.or...../equation#

    Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem as it applies to material particles and the universe:

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8462821/

    Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, is shown to apply not only to axiom systems but also to material objects in this following video:

    Alan Turing & Kurt Godel – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8516356

    Stated in Formal Language (not ‘word games’ language):

    Gödel’s theorem says: “Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory.”

    *The Church-Turing thesis says that a physical system can express elementary arithmetic just as a human can, and that the arithmetic of a Turing Machine (computer) is not provable within the system and is likewise subject to incompleteness.

    *Any physical system subjected to measurement is capable of expressing elementary arithmetic. (This extends Godel’s incompleteness theorem to elementary particles of the universe and is born out in quantum computation)

    *Therefore the universe is capable of expressing elementary arithmetic and like both mathematics itself and a Turing machine, is incomplete.

    i.e. Any material particle you can draw a circle around cannot explain its own continued existence within space-time. Moreover, this incompleteness principle for material particles has now been born out on the empirical level:

    ,,,Quantum Mechanics has now been extended by Anton Zeilinger, and team, to falsify local realism (reductive materialism) without even using quantum entanglement to do it:

    ‘Quantum Magic’ Without Any ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A team of researchers led by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences used a system which does not allow for entanglement, and still found results which cannot be interpreted classically.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111942.htm

    i.e. Material particles cannot explain their own continued existence within space-time without referring to a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause to explain their continued existence within space-time.

    Of note, Theists have always maintained that God, who is beyond space and time, sustains and upholds this universe in its continued existence, whereas materialists, ever since the Greeks, held that the ‘atom’ was the foundation of reality i.e. that the material particle was ‘self-sustaining’, i.e. ‘eternal’.

    Revelation 4:10-11
    They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

    Further empirical confirmation of Godel’s incompleteness theorem as it applies to the universe is found here:

    “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” -
    Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston (paper delivered at Hawking’s 70th birthday party)
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....beginning/

    “Every solution to the equations of general relativity guarantees the existence of a singular boundary for space and time in the past.”
    (Hawking, Penrose, Ellis) – 1970

    As well, Godel’s incompleteness theorem, since it does indeed apply to ANY material system in the universe, and the material universe itself, is excellent logical proof for Craig’s Kalam Cosmological argument, as well I hold it as an excellent logical proof for Aquinas’s First, Second, and Third way of his ‘the five ways’:

    notes:

    Thomas Aquinas, “The Five Ways”
    Part I. The Argument from Motion. (Thomas argues that since everything that moves is moved by another, there must thereby exist an Unmoved Mover.)
    Part II. The Argument from Efficient Cause. (The sequence of causes which make up this universe must have a First Cause.)
    Part III. The Argument to Necessary Being. (Since all existent things depend upon other things for their existence, there must exist at least one thing that is not dependent and so is a Necessary Being.)
    http://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/aquinas.shtml

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....first.html

    How Did the Universe Begin? (The Kalam Cosmological Argument by William Lane Craig) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N80AjfHTvQY

    William Lane Craig – Hilbert’s Hotel – The Absurdity Of An Infinite Regress Of ‘Things’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994011/

    Kurt Godel was well aware of the implications of his theorem as the following quotes make clear:

    Quotes by Kurt Godel:

    “The brain is a computing machine connected with a spirit.” [6.1.19]

    “Consciousness is connected with one unity. A machine is composed of parts.” [6.1.21]

    “I don’t think the brain came in the Darwinian manner. In fact, it is disprovable. Simple mechanism can’t yield the brain. I think the basic elements of the universe are simple. Life force is a primitive element of the universe and it obeys certain laws of action. These laws are not simple, and they are not mechanical.” [6.2.12]

    “The world in which we live is not the only one in which we shall live,,,.”

    “Materialism is false.”

    quotes taken from – Hao Wang’s supplemental biography of Gödel, A Logical Journey, MIT Press, 1996

  23. KN:

    Pardon, but the chief problem, as you know, is that evolutionary materialism, the cultural programme and worldview that dominates our civilisation at this time (including science — it loves to dress itself up in the holy lab coat) sees the world as unfolding by blind chance and mechanical necessity from hydrogen to humans [via cosmological, chemical, bio-macro and finally cultural evo . . . ], is that its deriving forces are utterly irrelevant to and thus unable to adequately account for the credibly knowing, reasoning, understanding, deciding mind. (Cf. here for my most recent summary presentation at 101 level on this issue.)

    As just one sampler, here is Patricia Churchland (via Plantinga):

    Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in . . . feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principal chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival [[Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever that is [[ --> let's try, from Aristotle in Metaphysics, 1011b: "that which says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not" . . . ], definitely takes the hindmost.

    Similarly, there is a linked breakdown on morals that also involves a breakdown of the ability to make rational decisions (which are exactly what we need for logical thinking, warrant of knowledge and sound decisions). Provine’s well known 1998 Darwin Day presentation at U Tenn is an apt example:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    As I have argued, these are illustrations of a worldview foundational challenge. That is, for both mind and morals, there is but one place that adequate grounds for both the credible mind and the binding force of ought can be introduced — the basis.

    (And yes, I am well aware of the arguments that coherence is enough for a worldview, via rafts under partial [re-]construction metaphors and whatnot. To all such, I point out that there is an implicit foundation that is not being highlighted but without which there would be no raft, no space-ship etc. It is clear to me that worldviews face the challenge of either turtles all the way down, or turtles in a circle or a final, finitely remote Atlas-turtle strong enough to bear the weight. Such avoids circularity by addressing the choice of worldview basis — at community/paradigm level — on comparative difficulties. Yes, I know, I know, I also know that you champion an alternative Kantian Naturalism, that you think bridges the gaps just outlined. That may be a minority view, but it is not the 800 lb gorilla we need to deal with just now. And, I am by no means satisfied that you have bridged the gaps successfully, per the raft that floats on the supporting ocean and requires the undergirding forces and laws of floatation to do so. BTW, my favoured metaphor for worldviews — and for curriculum or web site development too — is a spiral spider web with support lines tied to anchor-points. It is coherent, must answer to the anchoring facts, and must be adequate to do its job of explanation, neither simplistic nor an ad hoc patchwork.)

    The issue comes down to comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and simple but not simplistic and comprehensive explanatory power.

    (Which, also happens to hold as an ideal challenge for origins science theories that seek to reconstruct the world of the remote, unobserved, and unobservable past that we can only assess on traces in the present that we must weave into a comprehensive explanatory framework on dynamics known to be adequate to cause consequences that are directly comparable to the traces; per Newton’s four rules of scientific investigation. The critique you have linked is inadequate to address this, as is to be expected, sadly, of the NCSE. The key gap in their account, is that hey seem impervious to the obvious little matter that we were not there in the remote past of origins and are necessarily inferring on traces in the present. Only such dynamics as have been shown adequate to cause such consequences are reasonable as explanations. For specific instance, no-one has shown that FSCO/I can be produced by blind chance and mechanical necessity in any form. FSCO/I is pervasive int eh world of life and is central to the accounting for novel body plans that credibly require 10 – 100+ mn bits of novel genetic info, which accords exactly with the search-space needle in the haystack challenge that has long been highlighted, where we have the further point that multi-part functionality that depends on fairly specific organisation of matching parts is commonly and on much experience well known to come in small and isolated zones of the field of possible configs of the same components or their constituent materials. The ONLY observed cause for FSCO/I in its various forms, is intelligence. Therefore we are well warranted to infer on signs through best, empirically and analytically grounded explanation to intelligence as credible cause in the remote past. Which is of course the point of design theory.)

    Going back to roots of worldviews, it will be easy to see that mind and morals as well as a world of life chock full of FSCO/I and a finely tuned cosmos that facilitates C-chemistry aqueous medium cell based life alike can reasonably be explained on a cosmic scale architect who purposed to create such intelligent biological life as we experience. Add in that such is a necessary being with inherent goodness and that minded life should be under moral government makes excellent sense. In short, generic ethical theism rooted in a good, necessary, intelligent and powerful architect and maker of the world including ourselves, is a solid framework for a worldview. When it comes to the Christian form of that worldview, my 101 level grounds for selecting such (in outline) would be here.

    What is the connexion of all this to science?

    Science is of course a rational-empirical exercise that — as the endarkened and destructively abusive science of the Nazi era showed beyond all reasonable doubt — is critically dependent on the ethical behaviour of scientists as a community. So, it needs to be adequately grounded as a worldview and cultural programme.

    The Judaeo-Christian worldview not only provided the vision that fired the passion to understand the world that was expected to be intelligible and rational because of its intelligent Architect, but served to provide the ethical framework in which — until the Nazis and their forebears came along from mid C19 — science could safely operate as a profession and cultural project. That is obviously still relevant today.

    Evolutionary materialism, by contrast, is inherently and inescapably self-refuting by undermining the mind, and it is patently amoral and thus morally bankrupt. It has nothing in it that can stand up to the might and manipulation make ‘right’ nihilists who are already pounding on our doors.

    But it is not just this form of naturalistic philosophy that faces such challenges. Those forms that hope to isolate mind and morality in a circle that somehow is regarded as “emergent” as a brute fact in our world, are equally groundless, and face unbridgeable gaps.

    Given the Alinskyite rules for radicals nihilists and would be Nietzschean superman political messiahs pounding on our doors and demanding admission as those with the magic bullet solutions to the “unprecedented” crises our civilisation faces, we had better have a good, cogent and convincing reason to keep the door barred. (And, not to mention the Delilahs within the doors.)

    “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”

    KF

  24. TA:

    It may be worth your while to see the course of theology in the academy over the past several centuries as I outlined here. In particular, it is worth reflecting on the late Eta Linneman’s acerbic but sadly apt note:

    Theology as it is taught in universities all over the world . . . is based on the historical-critical method . . . . [which] is not just the foundation for the exegetical disciplines. It also decides what the systematician can say . . . It determines procedure in Christian education, homiletics and ethics . . . . Research is conducted ut si Deus non daretur (“as if there were no God”). That means the reality of God is excluded from consideration from the start . . . Statements in Scripture regarding place, time, sequences of events and persons are accepted only insofar as they fit in with established assumptions and theories . . . .

    Since other religions have their scriptures, one cannot assume the Bible is somehow unique and superior to them . . . . It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God’s word are not identical . . . the New Testament is pitted against the Old Testament, assuming that the God of the New Testament is different from that of the Old, since Jesus is said to have introduced a new concept of God . . . . Since the inspiration of Scripture is not accepted, neither can it be assumed that the individual books of Scripture complement each other. Using this procedure one finds in the Bible only a handful of unrelated literary creations . . . . Since the content of biblical writings is seen as merely the creation of theological writers, any given verse is nothing more than a non-binding, human theological utterance.

    For historical-critical theology, critical reason decides what is reality in the Bible and what cannot be reality; and this decision is made on the basis of the everyday experience accessible to every person [i.e. the miraculous aspect of Scripture, and modern reports of miracles -- regardless of claimed attestation -- are dismissed as essentially impossible to verify and/or as merely “popular religious drivel”] . . . .

    Due to the presuppositions that are adopted, critical reason loses sight of the fact that the Lord, our God, the Almighty, reigns.[3: Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), pp. 83 – 88 as excerpted. Emphases in original; parenthetical notes in square brackets: [ ].]

    That sort of hyperskepticism is what EA alludes to.

    If you need to go back to roots and lay again your foundation, I suggest the outline here (which pivots on adequately explaining the credible “minimal” historical facts surrounding Jesus), or the more detailed 101 here and here.

    KF

  25. This comment about the incompleteness theorem has always been very interesting for me:

    “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove.”

    Because,,

    Proverbs 8:26-27
    While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, or the primeval dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, when He drew a circle on the face of the deep,

    Planck satellite unveils the Universe — now and then (w/ Video showing the mapping of the ‘sphere’ of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation with the satellite) – 2010
    http://phys.org/news197534140.html#nRlv

    The Known Universe by AMNH – video – (please note the ‘centrality’ of the Earth in the universe in the video)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U

    It is also interesting to note just how precise, and mysterious, the ’roundness’ of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is:

    The Cosmic Background Radiation
    Excerpt: These fluctuations are extremely small, representing deviations from the average of only about 1/100,000 of the average temperature of the observed background radiation. The highly isotropic nature of the cosmic background radiation indicates that the early stages of the Universe were almost completely uniform. This raises two problems for (a naturalistic understanding of) the big bang theory.
    First, when we look at the microwave background coming from widely separated parts of the sky it can be shown that these regions are too separated to have been able to communicate with each other even with signals traveling at light velocity. Thus, how did they know to have almost exactly the same temperature? This general problem is called the horizon problem.
    Second, the present Universe is homogenous and isotropic, but only on very large scales. For scales the size of superclusters and smaller the luminous matter in the universe is quite lumpy, as illustrated in the following figure. ,,, Thus, the discovery of small deviations from smoothness (anisotopies) in the cosmic microwave background is welcome, for it provides at least the possibility for the seeds around which structure formed in the later Universe. However, as we shall see, we are still far from a quantitative understanding of how this came to be.
    http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/ast.....y/cbr.html

    Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe – Main result
    Excerpt: The microwave background is very homogeneous in temperature (the relative variations from the mean, which presently is still 2.7 kelvins, are only of the order of 5×10?5.)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.....ain_result

    The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole.
    Dr. Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate in Physics – co-discoverer of the Cosmic Background Radiation – as stated to the New York Times on March 12, 1978

    “Certainly there was something that set it all off,,, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match Genesis”
    Robert Wilson – Nobel laureate – co-discover Cosmic Background Radiation

    “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”
    George Smoot – Nobel laureate in 2006 for his work on COBE

    From initial entropic considerations, the precision of the initial isotropic (uniform) condition of the ‘sphere of the universe’ really stands out:

    The Physics of the Small and Large: What is the Bridge Between Them? Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: “The time-asymmetry is fundamentally connected to with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: indeed, the extraordinarily special nature (to a greater precision than about 1 in 10^10^123, in terms of phase-space volume) can be identified as the “source” of the Second Law (Entropy).”

    How special was the big bang? – Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.
    (from the Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose, pp 339-345 – 1989)

    “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”
    Alan Sandage (preeminent Astronomer)

    The Theist holds that God is ‘outside the circle of the universe’ and the Theist has some pretty impressive empirical evidence to back that assertion up:

    Quantum Evidence for a Theistic Big Bang
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1agaJIWjPWHs5vtMx5SkpaMPbantoP471k0lNBUXg0Xo/edit

    Whereas the materialist/naturalist, because of the extreme fine tuning of the universe’s laws finds himself in a fairly embarrassing situation trying to ‘explain away’ that extreme fine tuning:

    Infinitely wrong – Robert Sheldon PhD. physics – November 2010
    Excerpt: So you see, they gleefully cry, even [1 / 10^(10^123)] x ? = 1! Even the most improbable events can be certain if you have an infinite number of tries.,,,Ahh, but does it? I mean, zero divided by zero is not one, nor is 1/? x ? = 1. Why? Well for starters, it assumes that the two infinities have the same cardinality.
    http://procrustes.blogtownhall.....rong.thtml

    Baron Münchhausen and the Self-Creating Universe:
    Roger Penrose has calculated that the entropy of the big bang itself, in order to give rise to the life-permitting universe we observe, must be fine-tuned to one part in e10exp(123)?10^10exp(123). Such complex specified conditions do not arise by chance, even in a string-theoretic multiverse with 10^500 different configurations of laws and constants, so an intelligent cause may be inferred. What is more, since it is the big bang itself that is fine-tuned to this degree, the intelligence that explains it as an effect must be logically prior to it and independent of it – in short, an immaterial intelligence that transcends matter, energy and space-time. (of note: 10^10^123 minus 10^500 is still, for all practical purposes, 10^10^123)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....selfc.html

    The only other theory possible for the universe’s creation, other than a God-centered hypothesis, is some purposeless materialistic theory based on blind chance. Materialistic blind chance tries to escape being completely crushed, by the overwhelming weight of evidence for design in the fine-tuning of the universe, by appealing to an infinity of other un-testable universes in which all other possibilities have been played out. Yet there is absolutely no hard physical evidence to support this blind chance conjecture (Penrose; Woit). In fact, the ‘infinite multiverse’ conjecture suffers from some very serious, and deep, flaws of logic.

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory & The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video
    http://vimeo.com/34468027

    The End Of Materialism? – Dr. Bruce Gordon
    * In the multiverse, anything can happen for no reason at all.
    * In other words, the materialist is forced to believe in random miracles as a explanatory principle.
    * In a Theistic universe, nothing happens without a reason. Miracles are therefore intelligently directed deviations from divinely maintained regularities, and are thus expressions of rational purpose.
    * Scientific materialism is (therefore) epistemically self defeating: it makes scientific rationality impossible.

  26. As well, this hypothetical infinite multiverse obviously begs the question of exactly which laws of physics, arising from which material basis, are telling all the other natural laws in physics what, how and when, to do the many precise unchanging things they do in these other universes? Exactly where is this universe creating machine to be located? Moreover, if an infinite number of other possible universes must exist in order to explain the fine tuning of this one, then why is it not also infinitely possible for a infinitely powerful and transcendent Creator to exist? Using the materialist same line of reasoning for an infinity of multiverses to ‘explain away’ the extreme fine-tuning of this one we can thusly surmise; If it is infinitely possible for God to exist then He, of 100% certainty, must exist no matter how small the probability is of His existence in one of these other infinity of universes, and since He certainly must exist in some possible world then he must exist in all possible worlds since all possibilities in all universes automatically become subject to Him since He is, by definition, transcendent and infinitely Powerful.,,,

    The preceding argument is actually a formal philosophical proof:

    The Ontological Argument (The Introduction) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQPRqHZRP68

    God Is Not Dead Yet – William Lane Craig – Page 4
    The ontological argument. Anselm’s famous argument has been reformulated and defended by Alvin Plantinga, Robert Maydole, Brian Leftow, and others. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive of anything greater than God, then that would be God. Thus, God is the greatest conceivable being, a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? He would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. But then we can argue:

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    Now it might be a surprise to learn that steps 2–7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers would agree that if God’s existence is even possible, then he must exist. So the whole question is: Is God’s existence possible? The atheist has to maintain that it’s impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor or a round square. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn’t appear to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, all knowing, and all-good in every possible world seems perfectly coherent. And so long as God’s existence is even possible, it follows that God must exist.
    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....ml?start=4

    I like the comment about the ontological argument from Dr. Plantinga:

    “God then is the Being that couldn’t possibly not exit.”

    As weird as it may sound, this following video refines the Ontological argument into a proof that, because of the characteristic of ‘maximally great love’, God must exist in more than one person:

    The Ontological Argument for the Triune God – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGVYXog8NUg

    Verse and music:

    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    MercyMe- “You Reign” Music Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....38;ob=av2e

  27. kairosfocus posted this, inside another quote but with his emphasis:

    Due to the presuppositions that are adopted, critical reason loses sight of the fact that the Lord, our God, the Almighty, reigns.

    Well there is your problem.

    It isn’t a “fact” that your deity reigns. That is a presupposition, an assumption on your part, an assertion for which you have to provide evidence. Otherwise a reasonable sceptic will say you are just blowing smoke.

  28. Kantian Rationalist posted this:

    Though I am willing to restrict use of the term “explanation” for a kind or class of empirical knowledge, namely, empirical knowledge in which a model or construction of the relevant causes shows why the observed regularities hold, to the extent that they do.

    I am grateful for your epistemological condescension, but I defy you to parse that collection of words into a coherent sentence. What do you mean?

  29. Kantian Naturalist

    If you want to claim that a priori knowledge shows that God must exist, go ahead and make the argument, but it depends on how the details of the theory of a priority get cashed out — it’s not a move one just gets to make for free.

    Are you suggesting that metaphysical commitments have implications?

  30. Don’t you see the contradiction in your argument? If “clues” are essential to solving murders, and you rely on science to provide the clues, what other knowledge do you use? Do you have some other source of knowledge (other than clues provided by science) to solve murders? What is this knowledge? I will restrain myself from suggesting alternative sources.

    No I don’t see the contradiction. You still have to use your brain to interpret the clues. And not all clues require science.

    Like I said before, how do you know that you have all the clues necessary to come up with an accurate interpretation, an accurate assessment of the crime? Science can’t help you there.

    Even though the evidence may point to one scenario, that still is not proof. The best you can say is that the evidence we currently have points to “X” as the most reasonable conclusion. Other interpretations may be possible and even accurate.

    No one is saying that science cannot help us arrive at knowledge, but it is not the only avenue. In the case of a crime, for instance, eye witness testimony is very important. We believe we have eye witness testimony in God’s Word which should not be ignored.

    The point is that this type of science has so much more potential for error than the type you can do in the lab, repeat over and over again and verify with your own eyes.

    I don’t think this point has escaped you.

  31. TA:

    Are you reading carefully, or simply snipping words out of context to make talking points?

    I must ask this, because your first error is a gross reading out of context.

    (And have you taken time to see who Eta Linneman was, that equips her to speak like that? As in, a former Bultmannian theology professor and member of the Society for NT Studies who applied the hyperskeptical a prioris that Lewontin documents for origins science, then had a life crash-burn, THEN personally met God in the face of Jesus, then rethought her worldview from the ground up? That is, she speaks, not from a prioris but from life transformation by the power of God in the face of Christ; as do millions across the world and for 2,000 years. So, your first problem with your attempted twistabout dismissal, is that if the human mind — including any number of pivotal people in our civilisation’s history — is THAT delusional, then on what basis do you think that you are not delusional in your own worldview core claims?)

    Next, maybe you did not take time to glance at the linked above.

    You seem to be having worldview foundation troubles so I suggest you read here on in context and get back to us.

    Notice, particularly, the issue of turtles all the way down, vs turtles in a circle vs a well warranted set of first plausibles in light of live option alternatives examined on comparative difficulties. What is your worldview, and against which live options was it compared on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory simplicity but not simplisticness — cf. here on the primer I taught to students (and yes, those were seminary students).

    If your choice is evolutionary materialism-driven naturalism and scientism (the issue in this thread) how do you answer to the issue of self-referential incoherence and the undermining of the credibility of our minds, e.g here?

    In short, worldview choice is a little more involved than imagined- to- be- clever quips.

    KF

  32. 33
    Kantian Naturalist

    In response to TimothyA:

    Why are we arguing about this? I don’t believe there is any useful distinction between the two forms of enquiry. Both require the same criteria for acceptance of evidence. The distinction is one invented by supernaturalists only for the purpose of justifying their a priori (!!) belief in an anthropomorphic universe.

    You and I aren’t arguing about that distinction at all — I only pointed out the NCSE reference because I thought it was useful. If you didn’t find it useful, no harm. I regard the distinction between “operational science” and “historical science” as wholly spurious.

    Though I am willing to restrict use of the term “explanation” for a kind or class of empirical knowledge, namely, empirical knowledge in which a model or construction of the relevant causes shows why the observed regularities hold, to the extent that they do.

    I am grateful for your epistemological condescension, but I defy you to parse that collection of words into a coherent sentence. What do you mean?

    I’m sorry you thought I was being condescending. Sometimes my thoughts come so fast I don’t slow down and express them carefully enough. (It’s one of the reasons I have a terrible stammer and prefer on-line communications.) So let me try again.

    Suppose we observe such-and-such regularities. We describe the regularities, form some generalizations about them, maybe even discover a law, or not. Even if we do discover a law, we also observe conditions under which the law doesn’t hold. That’s not yet an explanation, in the sense I mean. We get an explanation when we build a model which shows why those regularities hold, to the extent that they do.

    Here’s an example: Boyle’s law of gases is a well-confirmed, mathematically precise description of the relationship between the pressure and volume of a gas if the temperature doesn’t change and the system is closed. But we also want an explanation of why the law holds, and to do that, we need a model of what a gas is. That’s what we find in the kinetic theory of gases. The kinetic theory of gases explains why the gas laws hold, and why they hold under certain conditions and not others.

    That’s what I was trying to get at, by trying to say that explanations are models of the causes of observable regularities.

  33. 34
    Kantian Naturalist

    In response to bevets:

    If you want to claim that a priori knowledge shows that God must exist, go ahead and make the argument, but it depends on how the details of the theory of a priority get cashed out — it’s not a move one just gets to make for free.

    Are you suggesting that metaphysical commitments have implications?

    I’m not quite sure what’s going on here, but as I understand “metaphysical commitments” and “implications,” then “yes, obviously”. But I don’t understand how they question functions as a response to what I’d said above.

  34. KN:

    Actually, you are in error.

    There is a material and decisive difference between experimental and observational sciences [in the former one is able to manipulate variables, in the latter one must try to correlate observations -- e.g. chemistry vs volcanology], and there is a further distinction where one may not actually observe the realities one is interested in, but must observe traces in the here and now and then project explanations based on causal processes we see in the here-now present that are shown to be adequate to give those traces or the like, and which are characteristic so that the traces may be viewed as signs of the causes.

    Failure or refusal to address those differences is a root cause of some pretty serious errors, including in the recent history of Montserrat, a case of the over-estimation of the reliability of scientific models and projections on consensus.

    People paid with their lives for that error.

    GIVEN WHAT IS POTENTIALLY AT STAKE, please, think again; as was already highlighted.

    KF

  35. “but I defy you to parse that collection of words into a coherent sentence.”

    i.e. “there’s nothing necessary about the fact that we play that language-game.

  36. F/N: And while I am on pet peeves, there is a material difference between reality and computer simulations also. I cringe when I hear such simulations — often, in an education context — discussed as “experiments.”

  37. 38
    Kantian Naturalist

    Kairosfocus,

    Somewhere on another thread I’d responded to your critique of the raft metaphor. I don’t recall your response. I don’t mind re-writing the critique, if you’ll consider it seriously.

    Also, if you’re going to cite Churchland’s remark, “truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost”, a certain degree of courtesy recommends that you cite her original article, in context. It’s called “Epistemology in the Age of Neuroscience“, and she makes completely clear why she rejects the Aristotelian approach to truth. One might take issue with her rejection — I certainly do! — but then again, I’ve taken the time to read her work.

    In fact, I think that Plantinga’s interpretation of Churchland is quite badly mistaken, and that naturalism does not suffer from the self-referential incoherence Plantinga and others believe it does. I’m sorry, but from what I tell, Plantinga is just wrong, and here’s why.

    Plantinga’s EAAN (evolutionary argument against naturalism) aims at motivating doubt that unguided natural selection could have resulted in reliable cognitive capacities. (Plantinga calls this “Darwin’s Doubt,” for the obvious reason.) In order to motivate the Doubt (as I shall call it), Plantinga needs to drive a wedge between semantic content and adaptive behavior. But can he do so, and if so, how?

    From what I’ve seen of the argument, the really crucial moves depend entirely on what we can coherently imagine or conceive of — we can coherently imagine situations under which semantic content and adaptive behavior are teased apart in odd ways that deviate from how we usually think about their relationship. But that establishes nothing worth taking seriously.

    Suppose we grant, for the sake of argument, that conceivability entails possibility. If I can conceive of not-P, then it is possible that not-P. And possibility entails the negation of necessity: if not-P is possible, then P is not necessary.

    What Plantinga has done, then, is show at most that the connection between semantic content and adaptive behavior is not necessarily true. But so what? Naturalism doesn’t claim that it is necessarily true, only that it is actually true. And Plantinga’s argument doesn’t so much as affect that claim one way or another, it can’t affect it, because Plantinga is arguing completely a priori. Hence, I conclude that Plantinga’s EAAN doesn’t work, because the Doubt should not be taken seriously to begin with.

  38. But on naturalism how do you know what you just tried to ‘explain away’ is true? Should I talk your deterministic brain state as more true than my deterministic brain state? If so, how?

  39. Should I take your

  40. KN:

    First, thanks for giving a reference.

    I did not notice your response (if it is other than the similarly challenged spacecraft metaphor), but am pretty sure you will be facing the grounding issue again in some form, as the underlying logic is clear. All reasonable worldviews must be finite and all worldviews face difficulties. So, the issue is, where do we stop and whether the stop is circular and question-begging. The solution to that is, comparative difficulties at base level, where I would argue that self-evident first principles of right reason and related points are critical in finding a good choice, cf the Royce, Error Exists point.

    As tot he issue of the difference between the adaptive and the accurate to reality, the existence of modelling theory immediately pivots on that. Models are usually presented as useful simplifications that capture key behaviours of reality and are helpful guides to action, most obviously in engineering, management and the like.

    At the next step, such models are by definition inaccurate, i.e. false. BUT THEY ARE USEFUL. In short the adaptive and the accurate are not equivalent. And, we have no good reason to infer that a blind process rooted in chance and necessity will be not only adaptive but also accurate. (Indeed, even at the level of perceptual senses, such as vision and hearing, we know the systems do what we would call false colouring in instrumentation. For instance, we see roughly log sensitivity, used to compress signals, and leading to a response to fractional change in signal rather than linear increment. You may not know about electronic tricks like suppressing bass in audio, the ear supplies the perception. (Used to be used a lot with transistor radios in the old days. Likewise, phone signals have about a 3 – 4 kHz band and reportedly 6 kHz or so is indistinguishable form full band audio for speech.)

    When it comes to more sophisticated issues of reasoning, theories, worldviews and the like, we know that perceptions and realities are not equivalent. Newtonian dynamics, is a well known case. Scientific inference on best empirically grounded explanation is not to be equated to truth or even fact.

    I need not go into the ways that say a Marxist will end up in self reference, or a Freudian or a Behaviourist etc.

    So now, the point comes back: physical cause-effect chains shaped by chance and mechanical necessity simply do not equate to ground-consequent logical relations, and indeed the calculators and computers that perform arithmetic and logical operations do so because we have found a way to organise matter to do so. The electrons, semiconductor junctions and the like neither know nor care about accuracy in what they are doing. And if you will recall the infamous Pentium math coprocessor recall, you will recall that there is the distinct possibility of built-in error. BTW, for some calculations — last time I checked — Excel is defective, and Gnumeric is preferred. (I need not bother with the differences in answers on different financial calculators!)

    So, sorry, but the concern expressed and given colourful form by Plantinga and others, is very much still on the table.

    KF

  41. 42

    In re: 49:

    But on naturalism how do you know what you just tried to ‘explain away’ is true? Should I talk your deterministic brain state as more true than my deterministic brain state? If so, how?

    I don’t think the content of our thoughts (yours, mine, ours) is determined by our neurophysiological processes. I think semantic content (the content of our thoughts) is determined, first and foremost, by mastery of a shared language. Intentionality is social, not biological.

    There is a kind of ‘natural intentionality’ as well, which is the intentionality of bodily orientations, and this does ground some ‘simple thoughts’, of the sort probably found in pre-linguistic humans and non-linguistic animals, but I think that the acquisition of language radically transforms the kinds of thoughts that one is able to have. Unlike some (many?) naturalists, I do think there is something right about the traditional distinction in kind between rational animals and non-rational animals. I just don’t think that distinction in kind is best explained by rejecting naturalism.

    Also, I don’t think that neurophysiological processes, or biological processes generally, are “determined” in the sense of the billiard-ball model of efficient causation. I think that “determinism” only makes sense given very simple systems. Our thinking about complex, dynamical systems should not be held hostage to the dogmas of 17th-century mechanism.

  42. I find it telling that a Darwinist would call you on your incoherent word salad! such as you just did again,,, Either my thoughts are deterministic by whatever state the material particles in my brain are in or I have a transcendent component to my being that exercises free will to either acknowledge or reject, and choose to believe or to not believe, the truth of a proposition or not. Playing word games as you do does not negate this simple fact:

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66221.html

    Moreover Kant, you have zero empirical evidence, and no I do not consider your incoherent word games as empirical evidence, whereas I do have empirical evidence that I have a free will that exercises dominion of material states:

    In the following video, at the 37:00 minute mark, Anton Zeilinger, a leading researcher in quantum teleportation with many breakthroughs under his belt, humorously reflects on just how deeply determinism has been undermined by quantum mechanics by saying such a deep lack of determinism may provide some of us a loop hole when they meet God on judgment day.

    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3ZPWW5NOrw

    Personally, I feel that such a deep undermining of determinism by quantum mechanics, far from providing a ‘loop hole’ on judgement day, actually restores free will to its rightful place in the grand scheme of things, thus making God’s final judgments on men’s souls all the more fully binding since man truly is a ‘free moral agent’ as Theism has always maintained. And to solidify this theistic claim for how reality is constructed, the following study came along a few months after I had seen Dr. Zeilinger’s video:

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: Being correct 50% of the time when calling heads or tails on a coin toss won’t impress anyone. So when quantum theory predicts that an entangled particle will reach one of two detectors with just a 50% probability, many physicists have naturally sought better predictions. The predictive power of quantum theory is, in this case, equal to a random guess. Building on nearly a century of investigative work on this topic, a team of physicists has recently performed an experiment whose results show that, despite its imperfections, quantum theory still seems to be the optimal way to predict measurement outcomes.,
    However, in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (*conscious observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice, free will, assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

    So just as I had suspected after watching Dr. Zeilinger’s video, it is found that a required assumption of ‘free will’ in quantum mechanics is what necessarily drives the completely random (non-deterministic) aspect of quantum mechanics. Moreover, it was shown in the paper that one cannot ever improve the predictive power of quantum mechanics by ever removing free will as a starting assumption in Quantum Mechanics!

    Henry Stapp on the Conscious Choice and the Non-Local Quantum Entangled Effects – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJN01s1gOqA

    of note:

    What does the term “measurement” mean in quantum mechanics?
    “Measurement” or “observation” in a quantum mechanics context are really just other ways of saying that the observer is interacting with the quantum system and measuring the result in toto.
    http://boards.straightdope.com.....p?t=597846

    Needless to say, finding ‘free will conscious observation’ to be ‘built into’ our best description of foundational reality, quantum mechanics, as a starting assumption, ‘free will observation’ which is indeed the driving aspect of randomness in quantum mechanics, is VERY antithetical to the entire materialistic philosophy which demands that a ‘non-telological randomness’ be the driving force of creativity in Darwinian evolution! Also of interest:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiments, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

    Of note: since our free will choices figure so prominently in how reality is actually found to be constructed in our understanding of quantum mechanics, I think a Christian perspective on just how important our choices are in this temporal life, in regards to our eternal destiny, is very fitting:

    Is God Good? (Free will and the problem of evil) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_1UAjeIA

    Ravi Zacharias – How To Measure Your Choices – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Op_S5syhKI

    You must measure your choices by the measure of
    1) eternity
    2) morality
    3) accountability
    4) charity

    notes:

  43. 44

    In re: 41

    Well, we’re definitely starting off on the same page, insofar as we’re starting off with a conception of human cognition as intrinsically fallible. But, as sometimes needs to be pointed out when fallibilism rears its head, human cognition is not only fallible but corrigible (correctable). So the question would be, can unguided evolution explain how human cognition is fallible-yet-corrigible?

    physical cause-effect chains shaped by chance and mechanical necessity simply do not equate to ground-consequent logical relations, and indeed the calculators and computers that perform arithmetic and logical operations do so because we have found a way to organise matter to do so.

    I agree entirely, but perhaps for different reasons than you do. Logic is normative, and causation is not. So for me the really hard question is, from whence normativity? (Robert Brandom, whose work on the subject I find deeply compelling, calls logic “our semantic self-consciousness,” which I find positively delightful.)

    The reason I’m dismissive of Plantinga is because I have basically different starting-points from him. Plantinga, from what I can tell, has a basically Cartesian starting-point for thinking about semantic content. (I say this in part because of his frequent allusions to “modern philosophy from Descartes to Hume and Reid,” a phrase he often uses.)

    My starting point is basically anti-Cartesian, because I take my point of departure from Peirce. (For Peirce’s anti-Cartesianism, see “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities“.) The pragmatist tradition, as it runs from Peirce through Dewey and Sellars to Brandom, emphasizes that semantic content is normative because is fundamentally social, not individual. And this ‘grounds,’ so to speak, the fundamentally communal or social character of not only intentionality (semantic content) but also the fallible-but-corrigible character of human reasoning.

  44. supplemental note:

    Here’s a recent variation of Wheeler’s Delayed Choice experiment, which highlights the ability of the conscious observer to effect ‘spooky action into the past’, thus further solidifying consciousness’s centrality in reality. Furthermore in the following experiment, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is falsified by the fact that present conscious choices effect past material states:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

  45. 46

    Either my thoughts are deterministic by whatever state the material particles in my brain are in or I have a transcendent component to my being that exercises free will to either acknowledge or reject, and choose to believe or to not believe, the truth of a proposition or not.

    Hard as this may be for you to believe, I regard that as a false dichotomy. I’ve tried explaining what the third option consists of, but apparently I’ve not yet done a very good job.

  46. What Plantinga has done, then, is show at most that the connection between semantic content and adaptive behavior is not necessarily true. But so what? Naturalism doesn’t claim that it is necessarily true, only that it is actually true. And Plantinga’s argument doesn’t so much as affect that claim one way or another, it can’t affect it, because Plantinga is arguing completely a priori.

    The fact that Plantinga’s argument is an a priori argument doesn’t matter much given what he’s aiming for. He points out that given naturalism + evolutionary theory, the odds of our beliefs about things (including naturalism) are either low or inscrutable. The goal of the argument isn’t to show that, given E+N, our cognitive are ‘actually’ unreliable. It’s that we should conclude their reliability is either low or inscrutable based on E+N. It’s still in principle possible for them to be reliable – we just shouldn’t expect that given the conjunction.

  47. Kant, the empirical evidence I cited from Zeilinger does not care how clearly you have explained your naturalistic position for free will. The empirical evidence, which has final authority in science, unambiguously shows that I have a transcendent component to me being that is effecting material states into the past, a component to my being that is independent of any possible naturalistic space-time story you would wish to invoke for free will, no matter how convoluted is your naturalistic ‘explanation’ is! (including the extreme many-worlds ‘explanation’ for quantum correlations if you were to go that far!)

    note:

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: To derive their inequality, which sets up a measurement of entanglement between four particles, the researchers considered what behaviours are possible for four particles that are connected by influences that stay hidden and that travel at some arbitrary finite speed.
    Mathematically (and mind-bogglingly), these constraints define an 80-dimensional object. The testable hidden influence inequality is the boundary of the shadow this 80-dimensional shape casts in 44 dimensions. The researchers showed that quantum predictions can lie outside this boundary, which means they are going against one of the assumptions. Outside the boundary, either the influences can’t stay hidden, or they must have infinite speed.,,,
    The remaining option is to accept that (quantum) influences must be infinitely fast,,,
    “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142217.htm

  48. Here is another one that you can put in your pipe to smoke:

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    “Thus one decides the photon shall have come by one route or by both routes after it has already done its travel”
    John A. Wheeler

    Alain Aspect speaks on John Wheeler’s Delayed Choice Experiment – video
    http://vimeo.com/38508798

  49. 50
    Kantian Naturalist

    In re: 47

    He points out that given naturalism + evolutionary theory, the odds of our beliefs about things (including naturalism) are either low or inscrutable.

    Right, but why should we believe that “given naturalism + evolutionary theory, the odds of our beliefs about things (including naturalism) are either low or inscrutable”?

    The argument for this is completely a priori. Plantinga identifies four logically possible options:

    (1) there is no causal connection between behavior and belief;
    (2) there is causal connection between behavior and belief, but the causal connection has nothing to do with the semantic properties of beliefs (“semantic epiphenomenalism”);
    (3) there is causal connection between semantic properties and behavior, but selection tends to favor false beliefs, rather than true ones;
    (4) there is a causal connection between semantic properties and behavior, and selection tends to favor true beliefs.

    Needless to say, (4) is the option almost all naturalists would think is the right one, assuming they accept how Plantinga sets up the relationship between belief and behavior in the first place. (I say ‘almost all’ because one might interpret Nietzsche as holding a cross between (2) and (3).)

    Plantinga’s argument, then, depends on his response to (4). And here, too, his argument depends entirely on a priori considerations: that “there are any number of belief-cum-desire systems that equally fit a given bit of behavior”. That is, there are any number of conceivable or possible belief-cum-desire combinations that equally fit a given bit of behavior. So this too turns out to be a strictly a priori objection to (4).

    And then it’s just not clear how seriously naturalists ought to take this concern, because all that’s shown is that the causal connection between semantic content and adaptive behavior is not a necessary connection — but whoever thought it was?

  50. 51
    Kantian Naturalist

    Bornagain77 — how to put this? — I don’t know you, and I don’t know much about quantum mechanics. So I can’t tell if you’re a competent authority about quantum mechanics or if you’re just cherry-picking the articles about quantum mechanics that support your own a priori metaphysics.

    So here’s my epistemic situation: I’m in no position to evaluate your claims, and since I don’t know you, I have no reason to trust you (or distrust you). So I hope you’ll understand if I take your claims with a few grains of salt.

  51. timothya:

    It isn’t a “fact” that your deity reigns. That is a presupposition, an assumption on your part, an assertion for which you have to provide evidence. Otherwise a reasonable sceptic will say you are just blowing smoke.

    lol

    And of course, we know all this because we applied the scientific method at each step of the way.

    Yes, even timothya has non-scientific beliefs. He ought to discard them right now, but he won’t.

  52. Needless to say, (4) is the option almost all naturalists would think is the right one, assuming they accept how Plantinga sets up the relationship between belief and behavior in the first place.

    Not really. You can see as much in the responses to Plantinga. Now, maybe you mean that you think 4 is the most viable route to respond to Plantinga – that’s a different story.

    And then it’s just not clear how seriously naturalists ought to take this concern, because all that’s shown is that the causal connection between semantic content and adaptive behavior is not a necessary connection — but whoever thought it was?

    I think it’s pretty clear how serious, given what Plantinga’s written. I don’t think pointing out that Plantinga’s argument is an a priori argument does much to undercut it – it’s not like this is some kind of shocking revelation Plantinga didn’t account for.

    Not only is it not a necessary connection, but the ‘tendency’ is undercut as well. So you’re right on back to low or inscrutable.

    Now, here’s a part Plantinga doesn’t focus on, but I do: insofar as someone attempts to conceive evolutionary theory such that it has a fundamental tendency to favor true beliefs over false ones, they’re sacrificing their naturalism to secure their result. Evolution has some teleology built into it anyway that’s already problematic – but evolution as the natural process that basically is governed by a law such that true beliefs are evolutionarily favored over false ones? That’s a kind of directionality that would and should make a lot of naturalists choke.

  53. well KN, I’m not asking you to trust me (I certainly don’t trust you!), I’m asking you to be faithful to the empirical evidence! The empirical evidence I cited is unambiguous. i.e. there is a transcendent ‘free will’ component to our being!

    notes as to consciousness:

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: Many realizations of the thought experiment have indeed verified the violation of Bell’s inequality. These have ruled out all hidden-variables theories based on joint assumptions of realism, meaning that reality exists when we are not observing it; and locality, meaning that separated events cannot influence one another instantaneously. But a violation of Bell’s inequality does not tell specifically which assumption – realism, locality or both – is discordant with quantum mechanics.
    Markus Aspelmeyer, Anton Zeilinger and colleagues from the University of Vienna, however, have now shown that realism is more of a problem than locality in the quantum world. They devised an experiment that violates a different inequality proposed by physicist Anthony Leggett in 2003 that relies only on realism, and relaxes the reliance on locality. To do this, rather than taking measurements along just one plane of polarization, the Austrian team took measurements in additional, perpendicular planes to check for elliptical polarization.
    They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.”
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

    “I’m going to talk about the Bell inequality, and more importantly a new inequality that you might not have heard of called the Leggett inequality, that was recently measured. It was actually formulated almost 30 years ago by Professor Leggett, who is a Nobel Prize winner, but it wasn’t tested until about a year and a half ago (in 2007), when an article appeared in Nature, that the measurement was made by this prominent quantum group in Vienna led by Anton Zeilinger, which they measured the Leggett inequality, which actually goes a step deeper than the Bell inequality and rules out any possible interpretation other than consciousness creates reality when the measurement is made.” – Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., Calphysics Institute, is an astrophysicist and author of over 130 scientific publications.

    Preceding quote taken from this following video;

    Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness – A New Measurement – Bernard Haisch, Ph.D (Shortened version of entire video with notes in description of video)
    http://vimeo.com/37517080

    further notes:

    kant, It is interesting to point out a certain quote from a earlier article I cited on Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment:

    And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.

    Now Kant, do you believe that 2+2 equals 4 ‘infinitely fast’, or do you believe that it takes time for 2+2 to equal 4 ? If you rightly believe that it is instantaneously true that 2+2 equals 4 why do you not also believe the results of quantum mechanics, which are based purely on mathematical prediction, are infinitely fast also?

  54. …but evolution as the natural process that basically is governed by a law such that true beliefs are evolutionarily favored over false ones?

    But that would include belief in the supernatural.

    Wouldn’t it? Charybdis?

  55. 56
    Kantian Naturalist

    insofar as someone attempts to conceive evolutionary theory such that it has a fundamental tendency to favor true beliefs over false ones, they’re sacrificing their naturalism to secure their result. Evolution has some teleology built into it anyway that’s already problematic – but evolution as the natural process that basically is governed by a law such that true beliefs are evolutionarily favored over false ones? That’s a kind of directionality that would and should make a lot of naturalists choke.

    I’m not averse to teleology as such. But I think that the teleology involved can be described slightly differently than this. It could be put as, “For those organisms that instantiate cognitive representations of their environments, reliability is adaptive.” Then the question becomes, what’s the relationship between ‘true beliefs’ and ‘reliable cognitive maps’?

    On my view, ‘true beliefs’ pretty much just are more-or-less reliable cognitive maps plus the semantic resources of a public, norm-governed language, including socio-linguistic practices of detecting errors and correcting them. I don’t think there needs to be some other thing that true belief consists of.

  56. 57
    Kantian Naturalist

    As for the question, “isn’t it natural to believe in the supernatural?”, I’m not entirely sure. If there is a ‘natural religion’, so to speak, I conjecture that it would be animism. But I think that animism is false? On the contrary!

  57. KN:

    I’m not averse to teleology as such. But I think that the teleology involved can be described slightly differently than this. It could be put as, “For those organisms that instantiate cognitive representations of their environments, reliability is adaptive.” Then the question becomes, what’s the relationship between ‘true beliefs’ and ‘reliable cognitive maps’?

    And what about those beliefs which are not beliefs about the environment? What are they instantiations of?

  58. I’m not averse to teleology as such.

    Maybe you’re not. Other naturalists? I gotta be honest man – you occupy an extremely niche ‘naturalist’ position as it stands, given our past discussions about the meaning of the word. You could flip yourself, call yourself an agnostic non-naturalist, and who would be able to argue you’re not?

    Whether you’re saying beliefs or ‘accurate maps’ that cash out to beliefs, you’re importing serious teleology into evolution.

    It could be put as, “For those organisms that instantiate cognitive representations of their environments, reliability is adaptive.”

    I don’t think that’s going to get you any further against Plantinga, and has the added effect of mostly obscuring the topic.

  59. KN:

    The onward discussion is somewhat tangential, but significant, I think I’ll just make a bit of a footnote.

    My own first remark, then, is that we know that we can reason and know accurately, including on pretty abstract things.

    The problem is to explain adequate, credible cause for that.

    The further point is that chance plus necessity mechanisms are severely challenged starting with say linguistic ability, then moving on to abstract thought. I won’t even bother with the notorious knot of hard problems connected to consciousness or conscience.

    Plantinga and Lewis are by no means isolated in pointing out that evolutionary materialism-based Naturalisms have a serious problem accounting for such, indeed they are self referential and self stultifying. (And if your Naturalism embraces purpose in the material world, or its kissing cousin, it sounds a lot like panentheism to me.)

    And, when it comes to socio-cultural relativism, let’s just say I cut my eye-teeth on Marxists. We learn, think, know and are influenced in community, but at no point am I willing to concede that our thought is materially determined by such community. The self referential absurdity of such a view is patent.

    We really are back at comparative difficulties and I suggest that the purposeful shaping of our mental capacity to be able to apprehend truth (however partially), is about the best I can find.

    And, that brings us full circle to the point of worldview grounding, where I insist the worldview warranting capacity of a finite and fallible mind is finite, so our first plausibles need to be assessed on the issue of comparative difficulties on pain of circularity.

    KF

  60. PS: Case in point on abstractions: 1 + e^i*pi = 0. (I am tempted to say on beholding this astonishing result, QED, there is a God and he is a Mathematician! [And that is a seriouis concession for someone from my discipline.])

  61. 62
    Kantian Naturalist

    Mung:

    And what about those beliefs which are not beliefs about the environment? What are they instantiations of?

    I don’t have a really good answer for that question, but I have the beginnings of one: I don’t think that pre-linguistic and non-linguistic animals, insofar as they have beliefs at all (and of course many of them do, but in a qualified sense), can so much as entertain any beliefs that are not about their environments. The capacity to have beliefs that are not about the animal’s environment comes into being with the acquisition of language.

    Nullasalus:

    It could be put as, “For those organisms that instantiate cognitive representations of their environments, reliability is adaptive.”

    I don’t think that’s going to get you any further against Plantinga, and has the added effect of mostly obscuring the topic.

    Well, I’m not on Plantinga’s side, am I? :)

    Seriously, though, you now see what I’m trying to do here: I think that a good naturalistic response to Plantinga would be to reject his initial assumption, that a reliable cognitive capacity is one that produces mostly true beliefs. There is a deep connection between reliability and truth, but it’s not one of identity — I believe that’s where Plantinga errs.

    Instead, I’d prefer to build up the account of reliable animal cognition without talking about “true belief” at all, and then show how to get “true belief” on top of that, when we’ve got (maybe) an acquired language. (I guess I think my cats have very simple beliefs of some sorts, but describing those kinds of beliefs is really hard.)

    I don’t expect you’ll agree, but hopefully at least now you can see just how deep my anti-Cartesianism runs!

  62. Sigh. Barry, did you meant to say, Science is god, but not that God?

  63. KN:

    I don’t expect you’ll agree, but hopefully at least now you can see just how deep my anti-Cartesianism runs!

    We always suspected you were anti-science!

  64. 65
    Kantian Naturalist

    We always suspected you were anti-science!

    That’s right! Science = Cartesianism!

  65. Science = Cartesianism!

    Indeed! Reality is orthogonal to imagination.

  66. Alan Fox:

    Reality is orthogonal to imagination.

    Is there some reason you’d care to share with us here at UD why when keiths sets off on flights of imagination over at TSZ you remain totally silent?

  67. AF: FYI, and in the context of your false accusation of dishonesty, there is a discussion of Mr Dawkins on the RNA world OOL scenario at the Jerad thread. As the earlier issue of Dawkins’ gross exaggeration of warrant possible for things on the remote, unobservable remote past joined to invidious association of questioners with holocaust deniers suggested, the required warrant simply is not there. Given also the context of your false accusation of “dishonest[y]” you need to address the matter as a basic issue of civility, or stand exposed as a willful false accuser. (Folks, pardon a cross-thread, but given the polarisation tactics being used, it is necessary, on substance and to understand just what we are dealing with.) KF

  68. F/N: From the OP here, it looks like the pattern being played by Mr Coyne, is the all too familiar one of red herrings led away to a strawman caricature then soaked in ad hominems and rhetorically burned to cloud, confuse, choke, poison and polarise the atmosphere. Just a note on rhetoric, pardon. The problem of scientism still needs to be addressed. KF

  69. Mung posted this:

    Yes, even timothya has non-scientific beliefs. He ought to discard them right now, but he won’t.

    Not wishing to make this thread an interrogation of me, but.

    Hang about, this is not a discussion about belief. In my mind, a belief is more or less “a statement of position” and I’m happy to admit that I hold some beliefs that would not survive intelligent, critical scrutiny (my undying devotion to the artistic merit of The Pogues, for instance, or the aesthetic qualities of the game of cricket).

    It is a discussion about knowledge which (once again, in my perhaps idiosyncratic view) always carries a residuum of empirical utility.

    A piece of knowledge has to have the characteristic of retaining its Truth Value (and its utility) when communicated from one person to another. This does not mean that the item of knowledge has to be acted upon – good if it is, but its value to the receiver may simply be that it informs and supports a consistent, general worldview. But even so, knowledge has an attribute of reliability (high, low, dubious etc) that is not demanded of belief, and is independent of the strength in which a belief is held.

    That’s why evidence matters, and why the charge of scientism is largely spurious when directed at people who use evidence as a benchmark for the validity of any opinion, on any subject.

  70. TA: Knowledge is a species of belief, namely warranted and credibly true. This leads to the issue of what warrant is and how it supports beliefs to that degree that we should treat such with confidence. All of which are about philosophy, not science. Our educational and cultural systems have profoundly misled us on the significance of science as the ground for knowledge; and, sadly, to a significant degree — if we are to believe Lewontin — that is deliberate. Ironically, just the question, what is knowledge, suffices to show the limitations of science. KF

  71. TA: You further have the challenge of infinite regress or circularity to face. For any A, why — what argument, observations, testimony, record etc — should we accept it? That leads to B, thence, C, D etc. An infinite regress of warrant (especially per empirical observation, which I suspect dominates your concept of “evidence”) cannot be traversed by a finite mind or a finite collection of such, not to mention that once the minds are fallible, such will fail. So, we must have a finitely remote set of first plausibles, F, which are the heart of our worldview. These are not further warranted but are accepted as the start-point for such. First principles of right reason are a classic. The issue then is that we may beg questions and fail to have an adequate start-point. The answer to that is to compare alternative sets of first plausibles, and assess them on factual adequacy, coherence and being simple without being simplistic. Those sets of first plausibles are our faith points. That is a further reason why the tendency to denigrate beliefs, is wrong-headed. The issue is not whether we take things on trust, but which, and whether we have seriously compared the alternatives. If you have not done so, you will be apt indeed to fall into worldview level question-begging, which is both blinding and a source of a sort of triumphalism that imagines it has cornered the market on the truth. (By contrast, the issue of comparative difficulties underscores that all serious worldview options have significant difficulties or outright anomalies that one has to choose to live with.) KF

  72. As to this observation from Mr. Arrington:

    scientists assume (they do not know) that scientific laws (e.g., gravity) operate the same way in the furthest reaches of the universe as they do here on earth. Obviously, there is no way to confirm this assumption experimentally and it will forever remain an assumption, not an experimentally verified fact.

    It is interesting to point out where the Christian founders got this presupposition:

    Psalm 119:89-90
    Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations;,,

    Psalm 119:89-91
    Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.

    That the laws of the universe should be invariant is of no great surprise to the Christian Theist, yet to the atheist this should be a great mystery. In fact, the fact that atheist a priorily expect variance in their worldview is revealed by the fact that many stringent tests have been conducted trying to find variance in the laws of the universe, none of which have been successful in finding variance, and yet I still find some atheist clinging to a hope that some small variance should be found in the universal laws (Elizabeth Liddle held this position). This ‘hope’ for variance in the universal laws is a very strange position for a ‘scientist’ to hold since if the universal laws were not invariant, but varied by some random, unpredicatable, amount, then our mathematical equations that describe the relationships of those universal laws would breakdown and be of no use to us:

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    Also of interest to the unchanging nature of the transcendent universal ‘information’ constants which govern this universe, it should be noted that the four primary forces/constants of the universe (gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces) are said to be ‘mediated at the speed of light’ by mass-less ‘mediator bosons’, yet since time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light this gives these four fundamental universal constants the characteristic of being timeless, and thus unchanging, as far as the temporal mass of this universe is concerned. In other words, we should not a-prorily expect that which is timeless in nature to ever change in value. Yet contrary to what would seem to be so obvious about the a-piori stability of the universal constants (that we should expect from a ‘scientific’ point of view), when some ‘scientists’ actually measure for variance in the fundamental constants of the universe they always seem to end up being ‘surprised’ by the stability they find even though variance should not to be a-priorily expected. Here are a few notes on the stability of the universal constants that has been found:

    Latest Test of Physical Constants Affirms Biblical Claim – Hugh Ross – September 2010
    Excerpt: The team’s measurements on two quasars (Q0458- 020 and Q2337-011, at redshifts = 1.561 and 1.361, respectively) indicated that all three fundamental physical constants have varied by no more than two parts per quadrillion per year over the last ten billion years—a measurement fifteen times more precise, and thus more restrictive, than any previous determination. The team’s findings add to the list of fundamental forces in physics demonstrated to be exceptionally constant over the universe’s history. This confirmation testifies of the Bible’s capacity to predict accurately a future scientific discovery far in advance. Among the holy books that undergird the religions of the world, the Bible stands alone in proclaiming that the laws governing the universe are fixed, or constant.
    http://www.reasons.org/files/e.....010-03.pdf

    This following site discusses the many technical problems they had with the paper that recently (2010) tried to postulate variance within the fine structure constant:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-367471

    Stability of Coulomb Systems in a Magnetic Field – Charles Fefferman
    Excerpt of Abstract: I study N electrons and M protons in a magnetic field. It is shown that the total energy per particle is bounded below by a constant independent of M and N, provided the fine structure constant is small. Here, the total energy includes the energy of the magnetic field.
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/2367659?cookieSet=1

    Testing Creation Using the Proton to Electron Mass Ratio
    Excerpt: The bottom line is that the electron to proton mass ratio unquestionably joins the growing list of fundamental constants in physics demonstrated to be constant over the history of the universe.,,,
    http://www.reasons.org/Testing.....nMassRatio

    Finely Tuned Gravity (1 in 10^40 tolerance; which is just one inch of tolerance allowed on a imaginary ruler stretching across the diameter of the entire universe) – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/7659795/

    Einstein’s General Relativity Tested Again, Much More Stringently – 2010
    Excerpt: As Müller puts it, “If the time of freefall was extended to the age of the universe – 14 billion years – the time difference between the upper and lower routes would be a mere one thousandth of a second, and the accuracy of the measurement would be 60 ps, the time it takes for light to travel about a centimetre.”
    http://www.universetoday.com/5.....ringently/

    According to the materialistic philosophy, there are no apparent reasons why the value of each transcendent universal constant could not have varied dramatically from what they actually are. In fact, the presumption of materialism expects a fairly large amount of flexibility, indeed chaos, in the underlying constants for the universe, since the constants themselves are postulated to randomly ‘emerge’ from some, as far as I can tell, completely undefined and unverified ‘random’ source.

    further notes:

    Quantum mechanics, which is even stronger than General Relativity in terms of predictive power in science, is now so solid within science that researchers were able to bring forth this following proof from quantum entanglement experiments;

    An experimental test of all theories with predictive power beyond quantum theory – May 2011
    Excerpt: Hence, we can immediately refute any already considered or yet-to-be-proposed alternative model with more predictive power than this. (Quantum Theory)
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1105.0133.pdf

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: However, in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

  73. Now this is completely unheard of in science as far as I know. i.e. That a mathematical description of reality would advance to the point that one can actually perform a experiment showing that your current theory will not be exceeded in predictive power by another future theory is simply unprecedented in science! I’m surprised that this test has not recieved more attention than it has for it is surely a unmatched milestone in the history of science!
    Here are a few more interesting notes on the ‘beyond space and time’ world of quantum mechanics:

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: The remaining option is to accept that (quantum) influences must be infinitely fast,,,
    “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142217.htm

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    LIVING IN A QUANTUM WORLD – Vlatko Vedral – 2011
    Excerpt: Thus, the fact that quantum mechanics applies on all scales forces us to confront the theory’s deepest mysteries. We cannot simply write them off as mere details that matter only on the very smallest scales. For instance, space and time are two of the most fundamental classical concepts, but according to quantum mechanics they are secondary. The entanglements are primary. They interconnect quantum systems without reference to space and time. If there were a dividing line between the quantum and the classical worlds, we could use the space and time of the classical world to provide a framework for describing quantum processes. But without such a dividing line—and, indeed, with­out a truly classical world—we lose this framework. We must ex­plain space and time (4D space-time) as somehow emerging from fundamental­ly spaceless and timeless physics.
    http://phy.ntnu.edu.tw/~chchan.....611038.pdf

    Music and Verse:

    Mary Mary – Shackles – Music Videos
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=K77WKWNX

    Isaiah 40:18
    To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?

  74. kairosfocus posted this:

    You further have the challenge of infinite regress or circularity to face. For any A, why — what argument, observations, testimony, record etc — should we accept it? That leads to B, thence, C, D etc.

    Yep you have pretty much captured the problem of dealing with reality. Which never goes away. What is your solution?

  75. TA: I pointed you to the linked for some time now. Kindly see. Also, you will see that above I outlines the alternative of a finitely remote basis in first plausibles and how one avoids circularity by comparative difficulties leading to a grand inference to what one accepts as best overall explanation. Please read. KF

  76. 77

    KF, thank you for your excellent additions to this post.

  77. KN: BTW, I think Plantinga read the issue correctly in context. Just, PC, I think did not fully recognise the implications of what she had to say, and that starts with the opening dismissals. KF

  78. PS: Let me just say that while obviously there are no foundational systems that we can access that are beyond error or possibility of error and comprehensive enough to be relevant, the issues of truth, necessary finitude of worldviews accessible by us and particularly chains of warrant lead to the issue of foundational presuppositions, axioms etc. And, truth considered as that which accurately refers, is still highly relevant; indeed it is implicit in PC’s declarations, where she intends to assert what is, not what she merely perceives or believes, or should I say, what her neuronal networks trigger.

  79. 80
    Kantian Naturalist

    In response Kairosfocus’ (78) and (79), I don’t fully agree, but I’m not unsympathetic to the criticism, either.

    I’ve studied the Churchlands’ work quite closely (I say “the Churchlands” because they are a husband-and-wife team, Paul Churchland and Patricia Churchland), and I think there is a glaring flaw in their approach: on the one hand, they do not identify assertions with neuronal networks, so it’s a misinterpretation to accuse them of doing so.

    But, on the other hand, they do not explicate, to my satisfaction, just what the relation is between assertions and neuronal activity. It can’t be identity, but if not identity, then what? I have my own views about it, but whether my views are what the Churchlands would say, I don’t know.

    To some extent, I’m more sympathetic to Dennett’s approach, which is at least to acknowledge that the problem is to show how the personal level of discourse — which is the level at which we have assertions, judgments, inferences, and so on — is related to the sub-personal level of discourse, at which we have patterns of activation across populations of neurons. I don’t find his view entirely satisfactory, either, but in my estimation, he acknowledges the problem more forthrightly than the Churchlands do.

    Put somewhat otherwise, Plantinga’s criticisms would apply to any view which identifies assertions with neuronal patterns, but the Churchlands don’t do that, and neither does Dennett.

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