Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scientific anti-realism and science-bashing

A redated post.

According to anti-realists in the philosophy of science. 

... a theory should never be regarded as truth...Proponents believe that science is full of theories that are proved incorrect, and that the majority of theories ultimately are rejected or refined. Great theories, such as Newton’s laws, have been proved incorrect.

That sounds like science-bashing to me, doesn't it? But, do scientists take umbrage? No,

This is the attitude of most scientists; they try to ignore the debate and let the philosophers decide the fine details about the nature of reality! 

Nice of them to leave us philosophers with some work to do.

Actually, if you were a complete scientific anti-realist, the whole creation-evolution issue wouldn't even arise.

16 comments:

Andrés said...

It's only science bashing if a theist like yourself does it. When folk like Loftus do it it's called "humility."

Roffle said...

How would you respond to Isaac Asimov's writing concerning the topic (The Relativity of Wrong)?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tcOi9a3-B0

Hiero5ant said...

Surely the emphasis in the last sentence has to be on the word "complete". It's not as though one could describe the antirealism of the logical empiricists as "science-bashing".

In science as in meta-ethics, it would be nice if we could convince people that antirealism per se is not synonymous with absolute nihilism about the subject matter.

John W. Loftus said...

But Vic, you're not an anti-realist! So why would you ever embrace what these philosophers say in order to make a point? Since you are not an anti-realist then you're bashing science. You're doing so now with this post. These anti-realists would most emphatically not be Christians so to use them in defense of your faith is disingenuous. Besides, I think even they would not deny the progress of science on the macro level. It's at the micro level they think so. You bash science on the macro level.

See, that what easy. In fact responding to you is easy. Do you have anything else? I sure hope so.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm trying to get clear on the concept of what it takes to be really bashing science. Apparently anti-realist philosophers of science aren't science bashers, at least scientists don't think they're science-bashers.

I don't see why as a Christian I ought to embrace scientific realism. But that's neither here nor there. The point is that you have a conception of science-bashing that is not clear or consistent. Someone points out the fact that people in the scientific community suffer from all kinds of bias, and that the practice of science isn't always a great example of intellectual sainthood, and this is science bashing. If I argue that science may not be a single, monolithic enterprise whose methods may rationally differ from discipline to discipline, and that's science bashing. Pointing out the getting anti-religious consequences from scientific developments is an extrapolation that may not be warranted is science-bashing. Arguing that there are disciplines of thought that may not be strictly speaking science but are legitimate ways of discovering the truth is science-bashing. Aruging that a poll of the percentage of members of the NAS who believe in God isn't really very telling, given the fact that these people are not opining on something strictly speaking withing their field of scientific expertise is science-bashing.

I suppose John Polkinghorne, the Christian theologian and theoretical physicist, is a science-basher, as is mathematician John Lennox, not to mention Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project. Try explaining to them that they have to bash science in order to believe in Christianity and see how far you get.

The science-bashing charge doesn't have much strength to it unless we have a clear idea of what science-bashing is.

Victor Reppert said...

It's very easy to answer me when you miss my point entirely.

Anonymous said...

"These anti-realists would most emphatically not be Christians so to use them in defense of your faith is disingenuous."

False, Bas van Frassen is a (prominent) Christian philosopher of science and he is an anti-realist.

"Besides, I think even they would not deny the progress of science on the macro level. It's at the micro level they think so. You bash science on the macro level."

This is a response? I don't even know what it means.

"But Vic, you're not an anti-realist! So why would you ever embrace what these philosophers say in order to make a point?"

Because the evidence for Christianity is so strong that even if there was an objection from science against Christianity, it would be rational to reject scientific realism rather than Christianity.

Clayton said...

Hi Victor,

It's helpful to say what the anti-realist's view is and not just what it's not. One sort of anti-realist view says that the proper attitude to take towards scientific theory is not belief that the theory is true but a kind of acceptance where this is cashed out (on one version) in terms of a belief in the theory's empirical adequacy. That's cashed out in terms of the way in which a theory can accommodate observation. If you were an anti-realist, the creation-evolution issue could arise if there were competing theories that differed in terms of what observations they predicted. Depending upon your version of creationism, I take it that the anti-realist would say that we oughtn't accept the theory precisely because no one should believe that the theory saved the phenomena. You could sophisticate the creationist view, but then (depending upon how the details went), it might lose explanatory virtues falsified simpler versions of creationism had.

Victor Reppert said...

In terms of creationism, the bad predictions in flood-geology versions of creationism would make it a bad theory. Theories like Omphalos-style creationism, where God puts the fossils in the ground to make it look like evolution, would fare a lot better, though that one is, shall we say, theologically bothersome.

Clayton said...

"Theories like Omphalos-style creationism, where God puts the fossils in the ground to make it look like evolution, would fare a lot better, though that one is, shall we say, theologically bothersome."

I think we're in agreement, but it's worth stressing that the theory is still a bad theory. It's not a virtue to escape falsification by making no falsifiable predictions whatsoever.

Victor Reppert said...

Actually, I suppose an Omphalos-theory could be disconfirmed if there were fossil evidence for creationism.

cl said...

Loftus,

"Since you are not an anti-realist then you're bashing science. "

Hey now there's a cogent argument! Sheesh. And you really think you're an "expert" at this kind of stuff!

cl said...

Victor,

I'm trying to get clear on the concept of what it takes to be really bashing science.

As you should, else, how are we supposed to know what Loftus & Co. are charging us with? To me, bashing entails--but need not be limited to--the act of denigrating others. I think it's fair by every sense of the words to say Loftus "Christian bashes" when he makes various claims, so... when I hear you or anyone else saying all scientists are "deluded," perhaps then we can say "science bashing" has occurred. Until then, skepticism of scientific realism--and especially scientism--are good things, IMO.

Crude said...

It's not a virtue to escape falsification by making no falsifiable predictions whatsoever.

Better notify Dawkins, Myers and Shermer about their stances re: God, then.

Gyan said...

SO one should adopt an anti-realist stance towards Big Bang theory as well.
Then, we should not hold it true that the universe began 14 billion years ago.

Some arguments for the theism are undercut by anti-realism towards Big Bang. I would say good riddance for they were fallacious arguments anyway.

Ilíon said...

"science-bashing"

The mind-set of someone who would even accuse someone else of "science-bashing" is a prime example of scientism (among other things).

Can one rationally accuse another "hammer-bashing" when he points out that a hammer is JUST A TOOL and that it is a limited one at that and that while its use may be appropriate in Situation A, its use is wholly inappropriate in Situation B?