Thursday, February 27, 2014

Matter, truth, and C. S. Lewis

We are compelled to admit between the thoughts of a terrestrial astronomer and the behaviour of matter several light-years away that particular relation which we call truth. But this relation has no meaning at all if we try to make it exist between the matter of the star and the astronomer’s brain, considered as a lump of matter. The brain may be in all sorts of relations to the star no doubt: it is in a spatial relation, and a time relation, and a quantitative relation. But to talk of one bit of matter as being true about another bit of matter seems to me to be nonsense.{18}

C. S. Lewis "De Futilitate" 

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

This book revolutionized how we look at science. Here is an account of it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dawkins fails the defeasability test

Here.  Matt McCormick's Defeasibility test is here.

Motivated reasoning isn't science, so long as we don't like your motives?

I'm Skeptical wrote:

"So is the denial of design (or perhaps the failure to mention design) a necessary condition for doing science?"

No. What's necessary for doing science is to follow scientific method. Victor, you don't seem to understand why ID is shunned by the scientific community. It isn't because it is based on religious beliefs. It is because of the fact that it isn't science. 

In science, you have to be driven by the evidence. The folks from DI are driven by their beliefs. They search for evidence to support what they already believe. That's not scientific method, because it leads them to ignore evidence that doesn't fit their objective. If you ignore evidence, you can't hope to move scientific understanding forward.


OK, let me see. I think most of us would say that Richard Lewontin is a scientist, right? Here's what he wrote. Now you may agree with it or not, that's not the point. The point is, that if you are driven by your beliefs, you'll ignore evidence that doesn't fit your objective, right? You've seen the quote, surely. 

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen.

Now,  based on this, how can anyone use the reasons you provided for denying that ID is science, and also say that Lewontin is also doing science. Or is it that you can't reason from pre-established beliefs so long as they are materialist pre-established beliefs? 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Arguments that Don't Mix One More Time



  • So is the denial of design (or perhaps the failure to mention design) a necessary condition for doing science? Fine, we can go that way. But if you do, it then becomes trivially true that scientists haven't discovered any design. The minute they claim to have discovered it, you can then say they've stopped doing science. Heads, I win, tails you lose. If science answers the question of whether or not there is design, then there has to be a mechanism within science to identify it it is (or had been) there. Otherwise, it's like saying "I took a metal detector all of the beach and didn't find that $100 bill that I lost. I guess someone must have taken it."

      Saturday, February 22, 2014

      A peer reviewed paper that supports ID

      Here.  Oh, but there are no such papers.

      A Reply of mine on Debunking Christianity

      The discussion is here. 


    • You say we need evidence of design. On your view, is such evidence of design by non-humans even conceivable, or do you accept in-principle arguments that rule it out? A lot of times people say "Show me the evidence, and then, come to find out, they buy in on in-principle arguments that rule out those kinds of design inferences across the board. For example, if the galaxies in the Virgo Cluster were to spell out the words "Turn or burn, SmilidonsRetreat This Means You", there are arguments that lead to the conclusion that even if such a case, attributing that to God would be to commit the God of the Gaps fallacy. So, when you say "Show me the evidence," I would like to know if there is some possible evidence you might accept. See Lydia McGrew's discussion here.
      Finally, you say, To consider design as an option, we need to know who did the designing? How? When? On what things?
      No, I am afraid I don't buy that principle. Consider McGrew again.
      It would be a very different matter if, far in the future, we managed to take pictures of the region around Alpha Centauri (where no humans had ever gone) and found incontrovertible evidence that a Volkswagen Beetle was orbiting a planet there. We might indeed wonder why anyone, particularly any non-human, would want to make that object just there. Nonetheless, the fact that the object would be virtually type identical to objects known to be made by agents, and the vanishingly small probability of its arising in any non-intentional fashion, would make it only reasonable to conclude that the car was designed by someone or other. The design claim in biology is best construed as saying something much like this: We have found complex biological machines. These machines, being in some cases part of the human body, or predating human life on earth, could not have been made by humans. But even if we do not know who designed such machines or why, it does not follow that we are incapable of telling that they were designed.

        Monday, February 17, 2014

        Utilitarianism and racial justice

        Suppose a utilitarian were visiting an area in which there was racial strife, and that, during his visit, a Negro rapes a white woman, and that race riots occur as a result of the crime, white mobs, with the connivance of the police, bashing and killing Negroes, etc. Suppose too that our utilitarian is in the area of the crime when it is committed such that his testimony would bring about the conviction of a particular Negro. If he knows that a quick arrest will stop the riots and lynchings, surely, as a utilitarian, he must conclude that he has a duty to bear false witness in order to bring about the punishment of an innocent person (127).

        H. J. McCloskey

        Dostoyevsky was right!

        If there is no God, then everything is permitted. According to this atheist. HT: Triablogue.

        A redated post.

        Friday, February 14, 2014

        "I don't want to discuss evidence"--Richard Dawkins

        Richard seemed uneasy and said, “I’m don’t want to discuss evidence”. “Why not?” I asked. “There isn’t time. It’s too complicated. And that’s not what this programme is about.” The camera stopped.


        Here. 

        Feser on the Courtier's Reply

        Here.  It reminds me of the comments of Representative Earl Landgrebe, who, confronted with the evidence for Nixon's guilt during Watergate, said Don't confuse me with the facts. I've got a closed mind.” 

        Wednesday, February 12, 2014

        Lowder on the Pastafarian analogy

        Nothing gnu here from Lowder, and believe me that's a compliment.

        Lydia McGrew on In-Principle Arguments against Miracles

        I think this would be a good occasion to bring up a suspicion of mine, and a source of frustration for me. On the one hand, the atheist seems to be complaining about lack of evidence, or claiming that the evidence supports his own atheistic view. That seems to suggest that the world happens to be one that lacks evidence for a deity, and even empirical evidence for a deity.

        However, there also seem to be in-principle arguments designed to show that saying Godidit is wrong on principle. It seems to me that if a skeptic says we don't have any evidence, or any empirical evidence for God, the soul, or whatever, we need to first ask them what they think of attempts to show that that sort of evidence is impossible in principle. If the skeptic claims to reject such arguments, then we have to insist that the skeptic be consistent in rejecting them, and that they not bring them in through the back door as the discussion proceeds.

        As Lydia McGrew writes:

        Among in-principle objections, a set frequently encountered involves the claim that it is always illicit to use the action of God (characterized dismissively by the atheist as the claim “God did it!”) as an hypothesized cause for any event in the real world. When we consider that atheists also think Christians irrational for believing on the basis of insufficient evidence, the “heads I win; tails you lose” nature of this objection should be self-evident. How is it at all reasonable to tell Christians that they do not have enough evidence for their belief and then to tell them, in the next breath, that any evidence they do bring to the bar must be ruled out of court? Yet the claim that Divine action can never be rationally hypothesized can be surprisingly slippery and hence can seem surprisingly difficult to answer.

        McGrew's paper is here. 

        Oderberg on the first two ways

        Here.  You can go in through Oderberg's index here.  It's number 37.

        Let's try this.

        Feser reviews A Universe From Nothing

        Here.  HT: Mark Shea.

        Friday, February 07, 2014

        God, Authority, and Electrons

        Atheists often make the claim that the burden of proof lies with the believer, not the unbeliever. They would ask whether you can prove that the nonexistence of anything. Rather, it should be up to the person who makes the positive claim to provide proof, not the people trying to prove a negative. 
        However, there are many things that are invisible that I might have trouble proving. Let's take electrons,  for example. I've never seen one myself. Many people believe in them simply on the authority of scientists. People also believe in God, even though they can't see God, because they take his existence on the basis of authorities. What's the difference? 

        Wednesday, February 05, 2014

        Archaeological Evidence for the Bible

        Here. 

        Different kinds of proof

        It could well be that different kinds of things require different kinds of proof. For example, should we ask for a mathematical type of proof for something to decide whether your significant other loves you? On the other hand, you could simply refuse to consider evidence that a spouse was unfaithful, and that would be a problem. As would hiring a private investigator without probable cause. 

        20 Arguments for God

        Here. 

        Ht: Planks Length

        Brick Walls, Moral Facts, and Mental States: How to avoid the fallacy of composition

        In the case of the brick wall, the state of the bricks entails the state of the wall, therefore it is the fallacy of composition to say that since the wall can't be six feet tall because none of the bricks are six feet tall. With the question of whether a homicide was morally justified, the physical facts don't entail the moral fact, so you would not be committing the fallacy of composition by claiming that no moral fact is entailed by the physical facts. I was claiming that the problem of mental facts is like the moral case, as opposed to being like the brick wall case. When all the facts at the physical level are given, the mental fact is still an open question. But since the state of the physical is supposed to close the question (what else is supposed to close it?) of the state of the mental, saying that there might be no mental given the state of the physical does not commit the fallacy of composition.

        Tuesday, February 04, 2014

        Saturday, February 01, 2014

        From the physical to the mental? You can't get there from here

        Let’s consider a couple of types of arguments to see what our situation is with respect to our mental states. Consider the case of the size of a brick wall, based on the positions of the bricks. In the case of the wall, given the state of the bricks, the question is closed as to whether or not the wall is there, or how tall it is. Even though none of the bricks is six feet tall, they can be added up in such a way that the height of the wall is a determinate fact based on the sizes of the bricks, and the sizes of the bricks are determinate facts based on the sizes of the elementary particles that make them up.

                    Contrast this with the case of whether a homicide was justified or unjustified. Here we can look at the homicide at every scientific level; the physical, the chemical, the biological, the psychological, and the sociological, and no entailment can be drawn as to whether or not the homicide was justified or unjustified. Something over and above the physical data must be brought in to make this kind of a judgment. Either there is some nonnatural fact that makes the statement concerning the rightness or wrongness of the homicide justified or unjustified, or the matter is a subjective matter, determined by the preferences of an individual or a society.
        We might express this difficulty in the following way. Suppose we are given a complete list of physical facts, facts about where all the particles are. The information, thus given is insufficient to determine a unique mental state that a person is in. There is no entailment relation of any kind to the relevant mental state.

                    In virtue of what is some physical state about some other physical state? This is the familiar worry about intentionality, a worry made more difficult by my claim that the kind of intentional states involved in rational inference are states in which the content is understood by the agent and put into a propositional format. Is there a set of necessary and sufficient conditions which are physical in the sense in which we are understanding it here, and which jointly entail the conclusion that agent A is in the state of believing, or doubting, or desiring, or fearing, the proposition P is true? If the fact about what a person’s mental state is about does not follow from the state of the physical, then there is nothing else from which it can possibly follow. In the case of mental states, I do not see how the physical states can possibly “add up” to any determinate mental state. There is a qualitative difference between the physical base and mental content, that no amount of investigation can possibly overcome.  
                    We might express this difficulty in the following way. Suppose we are given a complete list of physical facts, facts about where all the particles are. The information, thus given is insufficient to determine a unique mental state that a person is in. There is no entailment relation of any kind to the relevant mental state.
        In virtue of what is some physical state about some other physical state? This is the familiar worry about intentionality, a worry made more difficult by my claim that the kind of intentional states involved in rational inference are states in which the content is understood by the agent and put into a propositional format. Is there a set of necessary and sufficient conditions which are physical in the sense in which we are understanding it here, and which jointly entail the conclusion that agent A is in the state of believing, or doubting, or desiring, or fearing, the proposition P is true? If the fact about what a person’s mental state is about does not follow from the state of the physical, then there is nothing else from which it can possibly follow.

                    You would think that this line of argument would be opposed by philosophers in the naturalistic camp, but this seems to be the upshot of, for example Quine’s argument for the indeterminacy of translation, and Davidson’s argument against psychophysical laws, and is defended by Daniel Dennett. As Dennett writes:
        And why not? Here, I think, we find as powerful and direct an expression as could be of the intuition that lies behind the belief in original intentionality. This is the doctrine Ruth Millikan calls meaning rationalism, and it is one of the central burdens of her important book, Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories, to topple it from its traditional pedestal (Millikan, 1984. See also Millikan forthcoming).  Something has to give. Either you must abandon meaning rationalism--the idea that you are unlike the fledgling cuckoo not only having access, but in having privileged access to your meanings--or you must abandon the naturalism that insists that you are, after all, just a product of natural selection, whose intentionality is thus derivative and potentially indeterminate.
        So perhaps we can live without determinate mental content. Or can we?
        Given naturalism’s commitment to the natural sciences, the naturalist must presuppose the existence of mathematicians as well as scientists. Therefore, some serious consequences follow from the indeterminacy of mental states. It would mean that what Dawkins means by atheism is indeterminate. It means that it is not literally true that Einstein developed his theories of relativity from Maxwell’s equations.
        When we consider material entities that exhibit intentionality, we see that they do not have their intentional content inherently, but have it relative to human interests. The marks on paper that you are reading now are just marks, unless they are related to a set of users who interpret it as such. In other words, it possesses a “derived intentionality” as opposed to “original intentionality.” As Feser points out

        More to the point, brain processes, composed as they are of meaningless chemical components, seem as inherently devoid of intentionality as soundwaves or ink marks. Any intentionality they would also have to be derived from something else. But if anything physical would be devoid of intrinsic intentionality, whatever does have intrinsic intentionality would thereby have to be non-physical. Sine the mind is the source of the intentionality of physical entities like sentences and pictures, and doesn’t get its intentionality from anything else (there’s no one “using” our minds to convey meaning) it seems to follow that the mind has intrinsic intentionality, and thus is non-physical.51

        Is the granting of a marriage license morally neutral?

        The role of government in marriage licensing is a critical part of the discussion of same-sex and other kinds of marriages which is often overlooked. Is government's granting of marriage licenses to gay couples, or to polygamous partnerships, entail a moral approval of those relationships. Robert George argues yes, here. 

        Yet, clearly our government does give marriage licenses to people whose relationships do not pass any kind of moral test. For example, the government has no qualms in giving licenses to couples who began their relationships in adulterous affairs.