Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's all about the process

My response to some discussion over at debunking, which is here.

However convinced you may be of the rightness of your overall position, it doesn't warrant you in running roughshod over texts. Marshall's text made certain claims, none of which entailed any denigration of science whatsoever.


Not everything is about the overall debate between Christianity and atheism. Sometimes it's about process, about slowing the process down and making sure that we are in fact representing someone correctly. In all genuinely valuable discussion, (as opposed to a propaganda war) people slow down and make sure that they are accurately interpreting the people they are talking to. Whenever people skip that step and try to win debating points, the value of the dialogue itself just disappears. One sign that you are dealing with an ideologue is that ideologues never take the time to understand the people they are trying to criticize. I don't care how silly you think people on the other side are, if you are going to criticize them, you've got to take the effort to understand what they're saying. In fact, the less inherent intellectual sympathy you have for your opponent, the more effort it will take.

Now, he may have made said something that proves your point, but this wasn't it.



64 comments:

ozero91 said...

"People of faith must denigrate science in at least some areas, simply because science is the major threat to their faith. That’s the nature of faith. People of faith must deny science. To maintain their faith believers must remain ignorant of science." -Loftus

My sides!

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, I say plenty of things. Marshall has a very low view of science, extremely low.

And what is your selection method for deciding which of the things I have written to discuss here?

Why don't you discuss other things I've written, like this:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/12/an-excerpt-from-my-coming-book-on-otf.html

Or this:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/12/dr-james-lindsays-definition-of-faith.html

Or this:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/12/why-creation-science-is-pseudoscience.html

Or, this:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/12/bayess-theorem-and-outsider-test-for.html

Never-mind, do as you will.


Crude said...

So, John, can a person be skeptical or agnostic regarding the truth of naturalism, and still be rational?

Thanks.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

Lofty's too busy debunking to be rational.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm making a point about process. In order to have fruitful discussion, you need a commitment to the process. There may be issues you think are important, and they may be important, but without a commitment to process and procedure, everything will break down and people will talk past one another.

Process matters. In science they know that, at least when they are doing science. When they are just being science cheerleaders, maybe not so much.

David B Marshall said...

I don't know what put it into John's head to start ranting about how I have an "extremely low" view of science today. As you point out, nothing in the quote he cites implies any disrespect for science. As a matter of fact, I sent the chapters from which John extrapolated that quote, in The Truth Behind the New Atheism, to three scientists to check over before it was published -- a physicist at Oxford, a biologist at Oregon State, and another biologist at Seattle Pacific. They offered some specific criticism, which was why I asked them to read the chapters in the first place. But none seemed to think I was dissing science in any way. Nor have any other scientists I know of, who have read the book.

And now my new book has whole chapters by scientists -- one of those biologists, a leading quantum physicist, a couple astronomers, not to mention "social sciences." You'd think I'd want to keep out that rabble, what with my low view of science, and all.

Science is a valid, useful, and fascinating epistemology, as are reading history books, listening to teachers, and to a lesser extent gossipping and surfing the Net. I don't worship science, and don't think anyone else should. But for finding things out about the physical world, science is groovy.

I think John must have picked this charge at random out of his hat, this afternoon. Pick again, John! Now if you say I have a low view of the Senate Majority Leader, I'd have to plead guilty.

John W. Loftus said...

David Marshall siad,

"Actually, John, I would say that almost all scientific evidence COMES TO US as historical evidence. Science is, in effect, almost a branch of history, as it transmits knowable and systematically collected and interpretted facts to our brains."

What then? Does the fact that you are not a scientist mean we don't have to trust it when it comes to certain things an ancient pre-scientific book says?

B. Prokop said...

John,

Your quote in the first posting on this thread shows the shortcoming of scientism (the belief that there is no path to true knowledge other that via the scientific method).

I am worn out over how many times I have had to point out to you the vast number of prominent and influential scientists who are/were believing Christians. (Maybe that's your strategy - to just wear out your opponents.) You also repeatedly discount people like me - who absolutely love science, who can't get enough of it, and "yet" are people of Faith.

I've said this a hundred times before - there is no so-called conflict between science and religion. They are like the right and left wheels on your car. Lose one set, and you immediately run into a ditch. Religion without science is superstition. Science without religion leads to Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the Gulag.

The world needs both.

Eric said...

"I've said this a hundred times before - there is no so-called conflict between science and religion."

Indeed. The real conflict, as the more astute observers of the debate have repeatedly noted, is between naturalism/materialism/physicalism and theism, not between science and theism. And anyone who thinks that science implies naturalism/materialism/physicalism has some serious explaining to do (and referencing Forrest's horrible article in 'Philo' on the topic will not do...).

David B Marshall said...

John: Sorry, but I'm not following your question.

Are you up against a deadline, or something? You know you don't have to post, if you don't have time to think things through clearly, before doing so. Take time to recharge your batteries over the Christmas holidays.

Crude said...

What then? Does the fact that you are not a scientist mean we don't have to trust it when it comes to certain things an ancient pre-scientific book says?

Are there any claims or questions about which science is currently or necessarily silent, John?

Or do you think 'God/gods exists' or 'naturalism is not true' is a scientific hypothesis?

If so, please refer me to the peer-reviewed scientific journal testing those hypotheses. Note, not 'proxies you can, armed with all kinds of questionable assumptions, interpret and extrapolate'.

Eric said...

"Or do you think 'God/gods exists' or 'naturalism is not true' is a scientific hypothesis?
If so, please refer me to the peer-reviewed scientific journal testing those hypotheses."

David Berlinski wrote,

"Neither the premises nor the conclusions of any scientific theory mention the existence of God. I have checked this carefully. The theories by themselves are unrevealing. If science is to champion atheism, the requisite demonstration must appeal to something in the sciences that is not quite a matter of what they say, what they imply, or what they reveal."

I'm quite sure that the case similarly obtains with respect to naturalism.

Now this is quite a conjuring trick the atheist is attempting to pull off! How do you squeeze 'naturalism' or 'atheism' out of premises the complete set of which contains not one that either denotes or connotes them?

William said...

Eric: " How do you squeeze 'naturalism' or 'atheism' out of premises the complete set of which contains not one that either denotes or connotes them? "

Is this a rhetorical question? If so, never mind what's below. If not, let me modify this quote:

"Everything not forbidden is compulsory." --T.H. White

and make it read this way:

Everything not compulsory is forbidden.

compulsory: belief in current pop science, political correctness, and their various icons

forbidden: belief in anything beyond what is required for scientific realism to be true

Tony Hoffman said...

Eric: "How do you squeeze 'naturalism' or 'atheism' out of premises the complete set of which contains not one that either denotes or connotes them?"

Through Occam's Razor, or modesty.

Eric said...

"Through Occam's Razor, or modesty."

You'd have to spell that out a bit more clearly for me! Lead me by the hand step by step, please.

ozero91 said...

Occam's Razor is a heuristic, not a truth finding principle.

Also, see this:

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2012/12/another-argument-on-simplicity.html

Tony Hoffman said...

Ozero: "Occam's Razor is a heuristic, not a truth finding principle."

I thought Eric was talking about science and hypotheses. I understand those to be heuristics.

Eric: "You'd have to spell that out a bit more clearly for me! Lead me by the hand step by step, please."

Are you unaware of Laplace's line about God and hypotheses? I think that is the reply to your question, at least the one that explains the other mindset.

ozero91 said...

Well obviously, science operates via methodological naturalism, and leaves the other issues to metaphysics and philosophy.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ozero: "Well obviously, science operates via methodological naturalism, and leaves the other issues to metaphysics and philosophy."

I agree, and thought that was clear.

Crude said...

I agree, and thought that was clear.

Eric asked for being led through by the hand, step by step.

You said: "Are you unaware of Laplace's line about God and hypotheses? I think that is the reply to your question, at least the one that explains the other mindset."

Not exactly walking through.

Are you saying that you're an agnostic with regards to metaphysical naturalism? After all, LaPlace no more needs the metaphysical naturalism hypothesis than he needs the God hypothesis, given the express limitations of science.

ozero91 said...

Metaphysical Naturalism is, unsurprisingly, a metaphysical position. Thus, it needs to be supported not with sense data, but with logical argumentation.

Tony Hoffman said...

Eric's comment was talking about science and naturalism. By Occam's razor, we confine our theories to the minimal number of entities.

Atheism and naturalism aren't merely connoted and denoted for the practice of science (and methodological naturalism), they are required (in the sense that parsimony is required).

I don't think it needs any steps; it's just all right there.

Now to bed. Cheers.

ozero91 said...

"Eric's comment was talking about science and naturalism. By Occam's razor, we confine our theories to the minimal number of entities."

So, should we reject multiverse theories?

ozero91 said...

The only thing required for doing good science is methodological naturalism.

In regards to simplicity, readers should check out the following posts by Pruss:

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2012/11/simplicity.html

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2012/11/simplicity-and-multiple-universes.html

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2012/12/another-argument-on-simplicity.html

William said...

Tony:

In the interest of parsimony, whendo you believe that one should select a simpler but somewhat incorrect theory over a more complicated one which fits one's data better?

Crude said...

Eric's comment was talking about science and naturalism. By Occam's razor, we confine our theories to the minimal number of entities.

No, that's not even Occam's razor. It's not the minimal number of entities, period - it's the minimal number of theories requires to adequately explain what you're attempting to explain.

So you're both going to have to give an argument that naturalism has fewer entities to adequately explain what you're attempting to explain (Ozero's links will be of use here, as a start), and eventually that some things should not be explained (which science as science can't tell you, for obvious reasons.)

So, no - philosophy and metaphysical discussion is going to be unavoidable for you.

Atheism and naturalism aren't merely connoted and denoted for the practice of science (and methodological naturalism), they are required (in the sense that parsimony is required).

The same problems obtain.

I'm afraid you're going to have to make an argument here to get anywhere, Tony. In fact, you're going to have to make several.

Personally, I dispute that MN is even required for science (the restriction is far tighter and less opaque), but even granting that, you need arguments.

It'll be a pleasure to see them in action.

Crude said...

Pruss is a doubly good reference here, given the PSR and how it relates to this question.

Crude said...

it's the minimal number of theories requires to adequately explain what you're attempting to explain.

Er, minimal number of posits, that is.

Dan Gillson said...

I'm with Crude here: why does one need to assume metaphysical naturalism in order to do science? Good scientific conclusions have been reached in the absence of metaphysical naturalism, e.g., Francis Collins' work on the human genome, so how is it a requisite for the practice of science?*

*Metaphysical naturalism is probably a requisite for Tony's idea of science, in that for Tony, science must conclude that God doesn't exist qua metaphysical naturalism.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ozero: "So, should we reject multiverse theories."

It's my understanding that the multiverse is less complex than a universe plus God, because a multiverse is not another entity per se -- it's merely a multitude of universes. This is like saying oxygen is necessary for burning (whether or not it's one molecule or many moles) is a simpler explanation than oxygen plus phlogiston.


William: "In the interest of parsimony, whendo you believe that one should select a simpler but somewhat incorrect theory over a more complicated one which fits one's data better?"

I suppose it depends on the task. If you're shooting billiards Newtonian physics accounts for things well enough. If you're gazing over astronomical distances (or zipping GPS satellites around the earth) I believe you will find you need to account for Relativity as well.

That being said, Occam's razor isn't really a requirement that explanations be simple. It's a requirement that we favor the more simple explanation that is also correct. This leads to methodological naturalism in the pursuit of scientific explanations (every time so far, at least), whether one is a theist or an atheist. God has, so far, been superfluous to all of our scientific explanations. If God, added to our hypotheses, makes them more accurate, then voila -- methodological naturalism is no longer a feature of science.

ozero91 said...

"It's my understanding that the multiverse is less complex than a universe plus God, because a multiverse is not another entity per se -- it's merely a multitude of universes. This is like saying oxygen is necessary for burning (whether or not it's one molecule or many moles) is a simpler explanation than oxygen plus phlogiston."

Did you read the posts by Pruss?

Crude said...

If God, added to our hypotheses, makes them more accurate, then voila -- methodological naturalism is no longer a feature of science.

Then you apparently don't understand methodological naturalism. It has nothing to do with worries about the proposition of God failing to 'make our hypotheses more accurate', and everything to do with the supposed limitations of what science can investigate to begin with. That's why, even in situations where scientists haven't a clue of how to explain given phenomena (from the quantum physics realm to biology to otherwise), appeals to God or the supernatural are verboten even in a theoretical sense.

Seriously man, think it through. And when will you start giving arguments? Ozero and William have both shown that even if you cite 'Occam's Razor', you still have to argue your case.

grodrigues said...

@Tony Hoffman:

"It's my understanding that the multiverse is less complex than a universe plus God, because a multiverse is not another entity per se -- it's merely a multitude of universes."

And since God is held to be metaphysically simple (at least, by mainstream, orthodox Christianity), how can God and the universe be more complex than a multitude of universes? What measure of "complexity" are you using?

What do you mean by a "multitude" of whatevers is not an "entity per se"?

I should warn you to be careful on your response to that last question, or you may find yourself disagreeing with naturalists like Quine, some forms of class nominalism, trope nominalists that eschew the eliminativist route and take abstract singular terms to reference sets of tropes, bundle theorists, etc. and along the way give moderate realists like myself more ammo to shoot at these guys.

Crude said...

Dan,

I'm with Crude here: why does one need to assume metaphysical naturalism in order to do science? Good scientific conclusions have been reached in the absence of metaphysical naturalism, e.g., Francis Collins' work on the human genome, so how is it a requisite for the practice of science?*

Well, it's nice to be agreed with - and I agree that metaphysical naturalism is utterly unnecessary for science to be done, (I'd add that it doesn't follow nor is it implied by science).

But I actually meant that methodological naturalism isn't necessary for science. That doesn't mean I think God, etc, are subject to scientific investigation in the relevant sense. It means that I think that there is a methodology to science, that 'methodological naturalism' is inaccurate, and in reality that methodology is bother tighter (various 'natural' possibilities are ruled out or cannot be investigated), along with some other qualifications.

William said...

Tony,

Can there be true data that is not scientific data?

Eric said...

I have a question for those who claim (not argue, but claim -- I've seen no arguments) that science implies atheism or naturalism via Occam's Razor, or the Principle of Parsimony.

Science undeniably begins with experience, right? Well, why not, as so many of the great empiricists have argued, either stop there, or at least concede (with Kant etc.) that as far as reason is concerned, we must stop there? This is much more parsimonious than positing, without argument, a material/physical world in space and time that includes of trillions of trillions of quarks operating according to a variety of natural laws? Why not, like the positivists (Hawking is one of them), say that scientific theories model our experience, but say nothing about the world as it is, for talk of the world as it is is meaningless? Or Why not say, with the Kantians (Einstein as one of them) that our minds impose certain structures on the world of experience, and it's this that makes science possible, but we can't say anything about things as they are in themselves? Why not go with Locke and Hume and say that yes, all we can know about is experience, but common sense (not argument, not Occam's Razor) leads us to believe that there's a world of objects existing independently of us? All of these options are much more obviously in keeping with Occam's Razor than naturalism is, so you cannot ground naturalism as you're attempting to ground it.

Eric said...

Hmm, I wonder if John would say that Kantians and positivists are science deniers?

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Hoffman said...

"Did you read the posts by Pruss?"

No, sorry, I haven't read them yet. I was (am) responding based on my current understanding.

GRodgriguz: "And since God is held to be metaphysically simple (at least, by mainstream, orthodox Christianity), how can God and the universe be more complex than a multitude of universes?

Well, I think that it's reasonable to consider God's supposed metaphysical complexity a questionable premise. But more to your question, I understand Occam's razor to be about explanations, not things. I am the reason a cookie is missing from the cookie tin is a simple explanation, although I am a complex thing. So, regarding an explanation for apparent fine tuning, the multiverse could be considered a simpler explanation because the answer is made up of one type of thing (a universe, albeit an infinite number of them), whereas God and the universe is made up of two things (the universe and now God) without providing what we normally expect from a good explanation.

GRodriguez: "What measure of "complexity" are you using?"

I'm not "using" any measure of complexity. I'm trying to explain my understanding of methodological naturalism, Occam's razor and their relationship to science.

GRodriguez: "What do you mean by a "multitude" of whatevers is not an "entity per se" "

I said it was not "ANOTHER entity per se." I meant that increasing the number of universes does not necessarily mean that one is increasing the complexity of the explanation (for the multiverse as an explanation for fine tuning) in the same way that discovering new viruses does not increase the complexity of germ theory.

Tony Hoffman said...

Crude: "Then you apparently don't understand methodological naturalism. It has nothing to do with worries about the proposition of God failing to 'make our hypotheses more accurate', and everything to do with the supposed limitations of what science can investigate to begin with."

I think methodological naturalism is a statement of fact (a description) about a method of investigation. It is a positive description, not a proscriptive one, so I am not sure why you think methodological naturalism should be all about what is not. It is, more accurately, what it is.

Crude: "That's why, even in situations where scientists haven't a clue of how to explain given phenomena (from the quantum physics realm to biology to otherwise), appeals to God or the supernatural are verboten even in a theoretical sense."

I have to ask -- what hypothesis are you thinking of where a supernatural explanation should be tested?

Crude said...

I think methodological naturalism is a statement of fact (a description) about a method of investigation. It is a positive description, not a proscriptive one, so I am not sure why you think methodological naturalism should be all about what is not. It is, more accurately, what it is.

That's a jumble, Tony.

Methodological naturalism as presented is exactly what I said it is - a statement of the limitations of scientific investigation. Even as such, it's a flawed statement, but the fact remains that metaphysical views and various conceivable entities (God, atheism, etc) are simply not subject to scientific testing. It's a narrow set of tools for a particular set of phenomena.

I have to ask -- what hypothesis are you thinking of where a supernatural explanation should be tested?

Where in the world did you get the idea that I'm advocating that 'supernatural explanations' are subject to scientific testing? My point has been that they simply aren't and can't be. Science is dead quiet on a variety of questions - including metaphysical views, Gods' existence and non-existence, etc.

That was the point of the example. Even when no 'natural' explanation is on offer, or may even be possible in principle, 'God' does not get brought in as a scientific hypothesis. Nor, for that matter, does metaphysical naturalism.

Now, if you want to say 'I only accept what can be scientifically demonstrated, and otherwise I'm agnostic and modest', that's fine. It simply means you're going to be agnostic regarding atheism and naturalism. You're limiting yourself to what science can say - and 'what science cannot say' happens to be tremendous, and covers wide metaphysical ground.

That's the short of it. You want to hold metaphysical views (atheism, naturalism)? Then you'll need metaphysics, philosophy and arguments that go well beyond science's realm.

Eric said...

"You want to hold metaphysical views (atheism, naturalism)? Then you'll need metaphysics, philosophy and arguments that go well beyond science's realm."

Indeed.

William said...

TH: " I meant that increasing the number of universes does not necessarily mean that one is increasing the complexity of the explanation (for the multiverse as an explanation for fine tuning) in the same way that discovering new viruses does not increase the complexity of germ theory."

I think you know that you are equivocating on the word complexity a bit here?

What would increase the complexity of the germ theory is if we had to redefine the basics of what what it meant to have infection for billions of different categories of germs.

And that is what the multiverse does when one posits completely different laws of physics, not just many very different universes with the same physical laws and constants.

The analogy works well only if all the universes have the same physical laws, like the laws that allow us to define terms like infection, vector, transmission, etc.

grodrigues said...

@Tony Hoffmann:

"Well, I think that it's reasonable to consider God's supposed metaphysical complexity a questionable premise."

What you "think", your opinions, matter little to me. I said orthodox, mainstream Christianity maintains that God is metaphysically *simple* (not complex, typo I hope). There are arguments that back this up. What is wrong with them?

"I understand Occam's razor to be about explanations, not things."

Ockam's razor is irrelevant to the issue, as there are *deductive* arguments that show that God must be metaphysically simple. What is wrong with them?

"So, regarding an explanation for apparent fine tuning, the multiverse could be considered a simpler explanation because the answer is made up of one type of thing (a universe, albeit an infinite number of them), whereas God and the universe is made up of two things (the universe and now God) without providing what we normally expect from a good explanation."

Ok, so you do not know what metaphysical simplicity is, neither you know what questions the existence of God is supposed to explain. Hint: no, it is not the fine tuning, although God's creative action could also explain that, but it is fine if the question is answerable by purely scientific terms (ultimately it is not, but this is besides my current point).

And I repeat what I said, what measure of complexity are you using? Because I can also say that even if we have two different types of "things" (not that God is a thing, but nevermind), God, a *metaphysically simple* being, and *His* creation, is far more simple than a multiverse whose ultimate laws are brute facts which have no explanation, not even one in principle -- and btw, this is the real value of the cosmological fine tuning argument; to highlight that the metaphysical naturalist *must* posit brute facts and as such, all talk of the supposed "simplicity" or "superiority of explanations" is just so much smoke and mirrors.

And before the idea crosses your mind, no, God (as classically conceived) is not a brute fact.

You know what? Forget I asked anything.

Tony Hoffman said...

GRodriguez: "What you "think", your opinions, matter little to me."

Okay. Then you shouldn't ask me to reply to your comments. Because that is, you know, where people normally exchange what they think, their opinions, etc.

GR: "I said orthodox, mainstream Christianity maintains that God is metaphysically *simple* (not complex, typo I hope). There are arguments that back this up. What is wrong with them?"

Yes on typo (thanks). I don't remember the orthodox (mainstream?) arguments for why God is simple. (I doubt very much that 1 in 100 Christians could provide you with them as well, which makes me wonder how mainstream they actually are.) I merely think the notion that minds are simple is contradicted by the evidence that our brains are exceedingly complex, and all evidence points to the fact that what we call mind is a product of our brains. So, for starters, that's a fairly high hurdle for this argument (that God is actually simple, despite what we know about minds) to overcome, and all the arguments I've seen for dualism, etc., so far seem fanciful, to say the least.

GR: "Ockam's razor is irrelevant to the issue, as there are *deductive* arguments that show that God must be metaphysically simple. What is wrong with them?"

Honestly, I can't remember. I think I am compelled to read about divine simplicity every 9 months in comments like this, and every time I find the notion incoherent. Do I really need to go and bring up the normal objections to divine simplicity, and are you really going to pretend that divine simplicity is a) coherent and b) not controversial? More importantly, do you think that God's purported simplicity is relevant to the practice of science, methodological naturalism, and Occam's Razor?

GR: "Ok, so you do not know what metaphysical simplicity is, neither you know what questions the existence of God is supposed to explain. Hint: no, it is not the fine tuning, although God's creative action could also explain that, but it is fine if the question is answerable by purely scientific terms (ultimately it is not, but this is besides my current point)."

I did indeed think that Christians widely hold that God is the reason the universe began to exist. I don't imagine I am alone in this regard.

GR: "And I repeat what I said, what measure of complexity are you using?"

And I answered your question, that I am not "using" any measure of complexity, but am providing my understanding of Occam's Razor, methodological naturalism, and science (more below).

GR: "Because I can also say that even if we have two different types of "things" (not that God is a thing, but nevermind), God, a *metaphysically simple* being, and *His* creation, is far more simple than a multiverse whose ultimate laws are brute facts which have no explanation, not even one in principle -- and btw, this is the real value of the cosmological fine tuning argument; to highlight that the metaphysical naturalist *must* posit brute facts and as such, all talk of the supposed "simplicity" or "superiority of explanations" is just so much smoke and mirrors."

I think you raise an interesting question (one that I am unqualified to discuss in any detail) regarding complexity in explanations -- more specifically, how we measure and compare complexity between competing explanations. I think this becomes especially difficult (impossible?) when one introduces entities that are of a different category (a God of divine simplicity) than other types of entities. I'd like to think about this a bit before I answer.

GR: "You know what? Forget I asked anything."

This seems disingenuous. If you truly wished me to forget you asked anything, the easiest thing to do would not be to submit your questions.

ozero91 said...

This link is always relevent.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

This paper is pretty cool as well:

http://faculty.washington.edu/bonjour/Unpublished%20articles/MARTIAN.html

ozero91 said...

“I merely think the notion that minds are simple is contradicted by the evidence that our brains are exceedingly complex, and all evidence points to the fact that what we call mind is a product of our brains. So, for starters, that's a fairly high hurdle for this argument (that God is actually simple, despite what we know about minds) to overcome, and all the arguments I've seen for dualism, etc., so far seem fanciful, to say the least.”

I don’t want to strawman, but is this you’re thought process?

1) God’s mind, if it exists, is describable/explainable based on our knowledge of human minds.
2) It is the case that human minds depend on complex physical structures.
3) From 1 and 2, God’s mind must be dependent on complex physical structures
4) Therefore, God is complex.

Please correct me.

ozero91 said...

Edit:

For Premise 3, you can also take the "physical" out and have it read as "From 1 and 2, God’s mind must be dependent on complex structures."

Tony Hoffman said...

Ozero,

Thank you for your careful question -- I appreciate it.

I don't think you have straw manned my thought process, but I'd soften/ modify the language slightly, for instance, I'd have written something like this:

1) Everything we know about minds indicates that they are the product of complex structures and interactions;
2) If God is to have a mind, it is probably (based on what we know) best explained as the product of complex structures and interactions;
3) Therefore, if a God with a mind exists, that God is probably complex.

But all of this talk about God's simplicity is, I think, misguided in this discussion. We could posit that phlogiston is the simplest substance in the universe, but that does not mean it should not be removed from the explanation of why things burn. That is because while we can posit that phlogiston is simple, etc., it is either extant in every circumstance and cannot be isolated, or does not exist. In either case it is superfluous to our explanation.

So, the question about explanations becomes, what purpose does God serve in that explanation? If you remove God from the explanation of why things burn, they still burn. If you remove God from the explanation of why germs spread, they still spread. If you remove God form the explanation of, well, you get the picture.

And that is the point I started out trying to make here. It is not that science and methodological naturalism and Occam's razor rule out God (or phlogiston), it is that those three things are able to operate as they do without including God (or phlogiston). We are all free to make our own determinations about why that should be.

ozero91 said...

"1) Everything we know about minds indicates that they are the product of complex structures and interactions;
2) If God is to have a mind, it is probably (based on what we know) best explained as the product of complex structures and interactions;
3) Therefore, if a God with a mind exists, that God is probably complex."

Well now we have something to work with. I can't comment on it now, but I think Crude, grod, William and company might oblige you. There is a LOT to say about premises 1 and 2.

Crude said...

If you remove God from the explanation of why things burn, they still burn. If you remove God from the explanation of why germs spread, they still spread. If you remove God form the explanation of, well, you get the picture.

That perspective is misguided on multiple levels.

For one thing, most explanations of various phenomena don't include exhaustive reference. You can actually do quite a lot of work in biology without having to grapple with, say, quantum physics - but that doesn't mean quantum physics is superfluous. It's simply part of another discipline. Closer to home, biology theories don't make reference to 'Monsanto' - but if you think Monsanto is therefore superfluous as a factor in some biological development, have I got news for you.

Second, you describe it as if our theories are supposed to literally change reality. Things 'still burned' even when the phlogiston model was the prevailing model, and they still burned after that model was removed. Put another way, the naturalist says that there is no God - and yet God still exists.

It is not that science and methodological naturalism and Occam's razor rule out God (or phlogiston), it is that those three things are able to operate as they do without including God (or phlogiston).

Er, phlogiston theory, as it was, was ruled out. Now, maybe you mean that phlogiston theory could have been updated and amended to forever somehow fit the data - but that actually highlights a problem with theories in general.

And yes, methodological naturalism is - by definition - able to 'do without' God. Even in the face of confusion or no explanations, it can do so: posit brute forces, say more time is needed, say it's a mystery, etc.

1) Everything we know about minds indicates that they are the product of complex structures and interactions;

Except that's not obviously the case, certainly if you're talking about metaphysics and philosophy. Even in science, minds being 'the product of' such things isn't know. It's, at best, modeled and posited.

Your fundamental understanding of these subjects just seems so ridiculously off-base. You don't even seem to realize that methodological naturalism is necessarily limited in scope - origins of laws (or meta-laws, if you go for multiverses) and various other questions are not addressed within that framework.

And you're right back where you started. Science doesn't even make God superfluous - it's incapable of deciding the question in either direction. What you need are arguments, philosophy and metaphysics. You stumbled in that direction with the brains talk - but that's not going to do the trick, for reasons which will likely become clear soon.

Crude said...

1) Everything we know about minds indicates that they are the product of complex structures and interactions;
2) If God is to have a mind, it is probably (based on what we know) best explained as the product of complex structures and interactions;


To throw more light on this.

For 1, no, that's not everything we know - because our knowledge is going to come back to metaphysics and philosophy. That's going to mean the Cartesian arguments (where the mind is a separate, simple substance), hylemorphic arguments (where the intellect is immaterial), and even more (panpsychist arguments, idealist arguments, etc.)

So right there, you've got your work cut out for you. To say nothing of how God is reasoned to by both classical and personalistic theism - in the former case, where the arguments aren't even probablistic fundamentally.

ozero91 said...

I also want to see a sub-argument in defense of Premise 2. I need to see the steps in between.

William said...

William: "In the interest of parsimony, whendo you believe that one should select a simpler but somewhat incorrect theory over a more complicated one which fits one's data better?"

TH:

I suppose it depends on the task.

Excellent! I agree.

I still need to know your answer to whether there be true data that is not scientific data?

ozero91 said...

1) Everything we know about minds indicates that they are the product of complex structures and interactions;
2) If God is to have a mind, it is probably (based on what we know) best explained as the product of complex structures and interactions;
3) Therefore, if a God with a mind exists, that God is probably complex.

Also, isn't this reasoning circular? Compare the conclusion to premise 2.

Zach said...

Saying God has a mind is like saying God has hands.

Zach said...

But even if God did have a literal mind, who is to say it would be instantiated as ours is? You might as well say that God has a brain, because our mind requires having a brain.

Tony Hoffman said...

Crude: "Put another way, the naturalist says that there is no God - and yet God still exists."

If you are talking about metaphysical naturalists the first half of your claim might be true. If you are talking about the practice of science, I disagree, for reasons I have already stated.

Crude: "Er, phlogiston theory, as it was, was ruled out."

What I am saying is that Occam's razor removes those things that are superfluous to our explanations. Phlogiston appears superfluous to our explanation of why things burn. God appears to be superfluous to our explanation of (insert phenomenon here). We are free to infer what we like from this. I don't think anyone here disputes any of this.

Crude: "Now, maybe you mean that phlogiston theory could have been updated and amended to forever somehow fit the data - but that actually highlights a problem with theories in general."

I think that Occam's razor is pretty effective with regard to ad hoc rationalizing, so I don't agree. I also think this demonstrated by the fact that phlogiston was removed (per Occam's Razor) as a possible explanation for why things burn a long time ago -- precisely because it could not be made to somehow fit the data. And what you call a weakness about scientific theories -- that they can constantly be updated and amended (as in, nope, Phlogiston just doesn't seem to fit the data) -- I see as their strength. I think it's probably good that we don't waste more time on phlogiston theory. I think this is the opposite of a problem.

Tony Hoffman said...

Me: "1) Everything we know about minds indicates that they are the product of complex structures and interactions;
2) If God is to have a mind, it is probably (based on what we know) best explained as the product of complex structures and interactions;
3) Therefore, if a God with a mind exists, that God is probably complex."

Ozero: "Also, isn't this reasoning circular? Compare the conclusion to premise 2."

Yeah, I agree.

I'd amend 2 to just read

2) God has a mind.
3) God's mind is probably the product of complex structures and interactions.

That's not the only problem, but that's the first one that came to mind for me. Like I think I said above, I don't really think the purported simplicity of God is even that relevant to the application of Occam's razor.

ozero91 said...

Premise one refers to our understanding of animal minds, and then premise two seems to refer to any mind whatsoever, including non-animal minds. Equivocation?

Crude said...

If you are talking about metaphysical naturalists the first half of your claim might be true. If you are talking about the practice of science, I disagree, for reasons I have already stated.

Science is utterly silent on God's existence in either direction. Science does not conclude 'God does not exist' - the question doesn't even come up. Nor does science assume the truth of atheism - the question can't be investigated, much less concluded, in science's scope.

What I am saying is that Occam's razor removes those things that are superfluous to our explanations.

Except that applying it in proper context, it doesn't work the way you've implied that it does with regards to God. You don't seem to understand that in a variety of contexts, the razor's use doesn't even get off the ground because the mode of investigation doesn't even touch on the subject matter being referred to.

To use one example, if you're trying to find a good recipe for apple pie, 'Occam's razor' can allow you to rule out more fundamental effects of physics. It's not a relevant variable for most cooking, you can ignore it in your recipes. But it doesn't even begin to imply that therefore gravity isn't active in an apple pie recipe.

I also think this demonstrated by the fact that phlogiston was removed (per Occam's Razor) as a possible explanation for why things burn a long time ago -- precisely because it could not be made to somehow fit the data.

It could entirely be made to fit the data - you just update and amend phlogiston theory ad nauseum. When you can amend your theories, fitting the data is the easy part. Now, you can possibly make a razor reference depending on how that update goes, but it also leads into the very issues Pruss spoke about.

And what you call a weakness about scientific theories -- that they can constantly be updated and amended (as in, nope, Phlogiston just doesn't seem to fit the data) -- I see as their strength.

You don't seem to understand what I mean by theories being updated and amended. You can add epicycles. You can add special conditions. ('Theory X holds, save for cases of A.' instead of 'Theory X has been falsified by A.') You can appeal to wait for more data. You can do quite a lot of things, really, to avoid giving up your theory.

Which is why Planck made that statement about how science advances one funeral at a time.

Now, obvious it's an intellectual problem that can be practically gotten around - but then you're going to have to see how and why it's gotten around. 'Well, look at the data!' doesn't play the role you think it does - nor does the razor heuristic.

It gets especially problematic to even begin to bring up with regards to God - look, for starters, at Grod's talk about the place of brute facts.

Tony Hoffman said...

Ozero: "Premise one refers to our understanding of animal minds, and then premise two seems to refer to any mind whatsoever, including non-animal minds. Equivocation?"

What do we know of other (non-animal) minds?

Crude said...

What do we know of other (non-animal) minds?

That's right back to the metaphysical arguments.

ozero91 said...

Doctrine of Analogy, etc etc.