Saturday, June 28, 2014

Carrier and I agree on something!

A redated post.

Hence, I propose a general rule that covers all and thus distinguishes naturalism from supernaturalism: If naturalism is true, everything mental is caused by the nonmental, whereas if supernaturalism is true, at least one thing is not.

Friday, June 27, 2014

ID and open-mindedness

Bob Prokop called attention to this essay, and asks why the exclusion of intelligent design from serious dialogue doesn't have the same bad effect. Here. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why I don't buy "trajectory of science" arguments

I should say that I am unpersuaded of "trajectory of science" arguments which suggest that as we investigate further we will find greater and greater support for reductionism. Two aspects of the materialistic vision of the world as it has been historically understood are the following: 

1) The universe had no beginning, and has always existed. 

2) The universe is deterministic, and as we do science we will come closer and closer to finding determining causes for everything. 

Now, thanks to the development of the Big Bang theory in the first instance, and quantum mechanics in the second instance, confidence in both of these theses has eroded in comparison to what might have been thought in the early days of the 20th Century. 

Now, of course, naturalists have revised their conception of what is naturalistically acceptable to accommodate a universe with a temporal beginning, and a universe with quantum level indeterminism. But the point is that science frustrated the expectations of what at the time were the expected results of the naturalistic thrust of science. 

With respect to the analysis of mind, I see a lot of bravado about reductive analyses but no real hard evidence that reductions are going to be successful. In fact, given the fact that "the material" or "the natural" has to be defined in terms of the absence of the mental, it looks to me as if reduction of the mental to the physical is logically impossible, and that the more we study things scientifically the more evident this will become.

Bottom line: future science is FUTURE science. Who knows where it will go. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Can we talk? Some concerns and fears

Thinking of how things have gone on this blog in the last couple of years, I have struggled with my real purpose. 

Thinking about the New Atheism, I think it really doesn't attempt to argue against religious belief. The point isn't debate, it's marginalization. It's keeping religious believers off the "adult table," as Boghossian likes to say. Treating it as argumentation, I think is a mistake. I have complained about the underlying attitude. I think it is socially dangerous. But I think my complaints are pointless, in a way. 

Polite respectful dialogues isn't just to be nice. People naturally tend to represent positions they don't like poorly. When we have the enterprise of defending our own positions, yes we like our positions and we like seeing people embracing them. But we also have to commit ourselves to the health of the community of dialogue. If I were to have a public debate with someone on belief in God, I would feel as if we are opponents in one sense, but we also have a cooperative goal of enhancing understanding of the issues at stake. Without a sense of this common goal, discussion inevitably degenerates. 

The latest crop of anti-theists aren't saying Christianity or theism is wrong, they are trying to get across the idea that it is not even wrong. I don't know how I would construe the rules of dialogue for dealing with something you consider to be not even wrong. Normal dialogue is aimed at showing that something is wrong, and gives a certain respect to the opposing view in order to refute it. 

I still hate banning people, but I think that if you think you have nothing to learn about questions surrounding religious belief and other philosophical matters, I will just say that Dangerous Idea is not for you. 

I am not concerned about an impending "End of Faith." I am concerned about the possibility that we are evolving toward a situation where believers and unbelievers can't even talk to one another without the discussion degenerating. We've had good discussions here,  but I have been seeing less and less of it as time has gone on. A kind of intellectual apartheid is where I am afraid we are headed as a society. 

If you find someone on the other side isn't giving you real dialogue, then know what to ignore. Don't waste time telling someone they're an idiot. There is no constructive purpose in doing that. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Here is the Scientific Method

This is an overview of the scientific method. But can you do experiments like this in evolutionary biology? 

Loftus sometimes says that there is no Christianity, only Christianities. I wonder if someone could say that there is no science, only sciences. Some things seem appropriate for physics but not for biology, others for psychology and sociology. Then there are people who follow Rutherford say that science divides between physics and stamp collecting.  


Key Info

  • The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments.
  • The steps of the scientific method are to:
    • Ask a Question
    • Do Background Research
    • Construct a Hypothesis
    • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    • Communicate Your Results
  • It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.
  • While scientists study how nature works, engineers create new things, such as products, websites, environments, and experiences.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The AFR, the Fallacy of Composition, and Underdetermination

A lot of anti-AFR arguments make the charge that it commits the fallacy of composition. My claim is that sometimes the status of the upper-level state follows necessarily from the base-level states, and sometimes it leaves the hopelessly underdetermined. The state of a planet seems to be fully determined by the states of the particles that make up the planet (plus relations to the star it revolves around, etc.) Mental states are, as I see it, hopelessly underdetermined by the physical. The physical states are compatible with numerous mental states, or even a complete lack of mental states entirely. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Del Ratzsch on ID in 2004

This is a Panda's Thumb response, and I am somewhat surprised by the PT commentators' level-headed responses.

Ratzsch's attitude is pretty close to mine. I recently did some re-reading in Dembski's book The Design Revolution, and I think it contains two significant overreaches. First, he rejects Bayesian inference, probably because he doesn't want prior probabilities to undermine his case. Lydia McGrew argues that this is a mistake, and I agree. Second, he was touting "Of Pandas and People" as a way of recruiting people to ID, and supporting the attempt to get this into the K-12 classroom. I think that's an overreach, too. 

I don't think ID, or even the Discovery Institute, deserves the kind of demonization that we often see. I think evolution advocates are guilty of some pretty egregious overreaches themselves. 


Suppose a parent were to tell a child the following: 

Now, son (or daughter) I am not telling you what to believe. As the great Richard Dawkins says, if I were to label you as a child according to my beliefs, I would be guilty of child abuse. But, when you decide what to believe, just remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and no religion is worthy of belief unless it passes that Outsider Test for Faith, as defined by John Loftus. 

Indoctrination? Yes, no, maybe so?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Rate yourself morally

I wonder if anyone things of themselves as an immoral person. I wonder what the results would be if people were to rate themselves on a percentile scale as a moral person.

Did J. B. Phillips see C. S. Lewis after his death?

Randal Rauser poses this question here.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Leaving the fold, atheist style

Apparently, children of atheists don't always keep the, uh, un-faith.


A real socialist on Obama's "socialism"


The Jones Decision: Evolution's Trojan Horse?

The decision by Judge Jones excluding intelligent design from public education has been lauded by defenders of evolution, including atheistic evolutionists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who use evolutionary biology as a launching point for a defense of atheism. However, it seems to me that if we look carefully at the foundations of the Jones decision, the decision really makes sense only on the basis of arguments that decisively undermine the attempt to base a case for naturalism on evolution.
The Evolutionary Argument For Naturalism (EAFN) goes like this:
1.       If naturalism is false, and theism is true, then we should be able to find evidence of design through biological investigation.
2.       But we do not find that evidence of design through biological investigation. Instead, (to use the phrasing found in the subtitle of The Blind Watchmaker), the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design.
3.       Therefore evolutionary evidence supports naturalism, and provides evidence against theism.

Now let’s look at the basis on which Jones rejects ID. He maintains that ID fails to be scientific on the grounds that “it violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation.” In other words,  the problem with ID is methodological.
This methodological argument gets ID out of the way all right. But it’s a poison pill for the EAFN. If you are maintaining that the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design, then you are perforce presupposing that the evidence of evolution could have revealed something else had the evidence been different. But it does so at a heavy price for the EAFN. It effectively supports a very different argument, an argument I shall call the Methodological Argument for the Metaphysical Neutrality of Science, or MAMNS.

A good statement of MAMNS is found in the philosophy of religion textbook Reason and Religious Belief by Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger. They write:
“As we try to assess ID, it is difficult (to) feel the force of its criticism of methodological naturalism per se. Methodological naturalism is simply the process of looking for natural causes for natural phenomena, a disciplined focus that has been the secret of science’s success. Methodological naturalism is neutral about whether any nonnatural phenomenon or supernatural reality exists. The fact the some atheistic scientists---such as Dawkins and others---believe that methodological naturalism favors philosophical naturalism reflects their own misunderstanding of the neutrality of science.  Ironically, this misunderstanding is shared by ID thinkers! So the theme of conflict between religion and established science is very strong in both groups.”

MAMNS could be formalized as follows:
1.       Evolutionary biology is the result of the application of methodological naturalism to biological phenomena.
2.       If evolutionary biology is methodologically naturalistic, then it is not equipped to adjudicate between naturalism and theism, without begging the question.
3.       Thus while the evidence of evolution is not free to mention design as an explanation for biological phenomena, neither can it actually establish the lack of design. All it can do is to provide the best account of biological phenomena that we can come up with without appealing to design.
It is important to remember the context of this decision. The plaintiffs in the case were trying to impugn ID as violation of the Establishment Clause. Now if you accept the EAFN, then just as you have to worry about ID violating the Establishment Clause if you teach it in school, you would then have to also worry about the claim that the teaching of evolution in school violates the establishment clause, since the evidence of evolution would then be used to support a religious position, namely atheism. Such a difficulty could be avoided if Jones were to embrace MAMNS, however. Under MAMNS, evolution is just science doing its job, but ID is an overstepping of the boundaries of science. The Jones decision (made by a churchgoing Republican judge) makes sense only if MAMNS is a good argument.

If the argumentation here is correct, then you can accept the Jones decision, or you can accept the EAFN. But you cannot do both. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

It all depends on your priors

I think an argument can be good even when it isn't strong enough such that it ought to convince any unbiased person. An argument might provide some evidence for its conclusion, which might be sufficient or insufficient given someone's personal prior probabilities.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The problem of motivated reasoning

The problem I am posing here is whether one side or the other of the religious debate can be accused of being more influenced by non-truth-conducive considerations than the other. Is there anything to be gained on either side by saying "you only believe that because you want to." It is my contention, going back to C. S. Lewis, is that these wish considerations pretty much cancel each other out. and nothing is to be gained by motivational speculations. We are not in a position to judge our opponents' thinking as "motivated" while our own position is free from motives.