Thursday, November 05, 2015

Is science coming to an end?


See a discussion of this here. This is a follow-up.

A typical argument is goes this way.

1. Human beings are inherently biased. They will believe what they were taught to believe, or what they want to believe, unless this is somehow corrected.

2. Science, as a way of knowing the world, has a system of inherent safeguards against bias. By adopting a scientific perspective, one will not simply be exchanging one bias for another, one will be able to free oneself from bias.

3. Therefore, regardless of what seems to oneself to be true, we stand the best chance of overcoming bias by adopting a scientific perspective.

4. A scientific perspective has within it no room for faith, and no room for any belief in a supernatural being such as God.

5. Therefore, religious faith should be rejected, including the belief in God.

On the contrary, I think the value of science is context-dependent and contingent. It is a  human institution, and it can be corrupted by human weaknesses. It operates most effectively through the use of high levels of specialization, but success in a highly specialized enterprise does not always translate to effective cognition across the board. There are numerous failed attempts to extrapolate results from some area of scientific success beyond their proper limits.

Here is a interesting set of warnings about what to watch for in science journalism.



24 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

Even if I agree with the conclusion, the rejection of the belief in gods, the approach seems flawed. The rejection does not depend on science but rather on the inability of theists to defend their god belief claims. It's the same as what ID is trying to do, as still being discussed on a previous thread.

Also, this notion of 'The end of Science' reminds me of an excellent point I heard recently:
Why Most People (Even People with Advanced Science Degrees) Are Scientifically Illiterate
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px42_kHWnVw
Teaching better approach to science in general, instead of a narrow focus on one specific field, would certainly help reducing bias in science and avoid 'The end of Science'.

B. Prokop said...

"on the inability of theists to defend their [G]od belief claims"

What in the world are you talking about? I certainly have no inability to defend them. In fact, what I have yet to see from anyone, is a coherent defense of atheism, the most illogical, irrational, nonsensical belief system of all time, one rightly rejected by 99.9% of Humanity throughout the ages.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Hugo Pelland said...

It's really simple Bob: I don't believe you, why should I? That's why I am an Atheist. There is nothing about my Atheism that actually needs independent support because it's not a positive belief; there could still be gods but I don't believe people who argue they exist. What I do need to support is my rejection of your claims, should you make any. But there is no blanket statement I can make because it varies too much from person to person. The reasons why I don't believe in my wife's Hindu gods are not exactly the same as the reasons why I don't believe in your Christian god.

Moreover, the number of people who believe something offers no support regarding the truth of the proposition. And 99.9% of humanity did not have the same beliefs as you, nor me, so your point is completely meaningless.

oozzielionel said...

They forgot "Industry Shill": Seems like there are scientific studies regularly finding new values to products -- Butter is good for you; Wine is healthy alcohol; chocolate has medicinal value; marijuana is safe and harmless; Air travel is the safest mod of transportation;

B. Prokop said...

You appear to be confusing the concept of "defend" with "convince". I have no need to convince you of anything in order to have mounted a successful defense of my beliefs. The Ravens defense doesn't need to score a goal in order to prevent the Broncos offense from scoring one.

And yes, taking all of Humanity from the Dawn of Time to the present day, a figure of 99.9% belief in God is quite probably an underestimate. Hmm... That would make the statement "There is no God" an "extraordinary claim", thus (according to atheists themselves) requiring extraordinary evidence.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Victor Reppert said...

The "burden of proof" argument against belief in God (You theists are making the positive claim, so you've got the burden of proof and you haven't met it) looks good until we start applying exactly the same line of reasoning to the physical world. A physical world skeptic can question anything you throw at them as evidence, and produce all sorts of theories showing that this evidence can be explained without there being a real physical world. The fact that lots and lots of people believe that the physical world is real proves nothing. We could be brains in a vat, we could be deceived by an evil demon, Berkeley's immaterialism could be true, and nothing in science or experience eliminates this possibility.

Besides, the argument involves a questionable commitment to Ockham's razor.

Hugo Pelland said...

Fair enough Bob, I am not in the business of convincing people that Atheism is right, and certainly not that 'There is no God' since that's a silly thing to say, when meant to be taken literally, as I would argue that the implicit meaning is usually 'There is no reason to believe in the God these people are talking about.' So good for you, you can defend your god-related beliefs, but don't care if others also believe them or not. I would say the same about my Atheism, since it's not something I believe in.

Hugo Pelland said...

Victor, as I mentioned on the other thread, the reality of the physical world is a basic assumption yes. You prefer to start with the assumption that your mind is real and that it's somehow part of a non-material existence, from which you look at the other world, the physical one, and cannot find a way to justify your own non-material existence, or your own 'reason' to use your favorite argument. Hence, you conclude that materialism must be false... which it was from the start.

Victor Reppert said...

If there is no mind, there can't be science, since there are no scientists. If there is no matter, science is still possible. If there is no matter, science is still possible.

Cal Metzger said...

I have never seen anyone make this argument.

If this is what you think, then I think it reflects poorly on your thinking.

Hugo Pelland said...

Victor,
"If there is no mind, there can't be science, since there are no scientists. If there is no matter, science is still possible."
If there is no matter, how can scientists or minds exist?
The answer is obvious: because non-material minds exist no matter what. This is a confirmation of your intrinsic bias and assumptions about the nature of reality.

planks length said...

This is a confirmation of your intrinsic bias

To the contrary, it is confirmation of yours. You seem unable to even consider the possibility that mind is immaterial. You have rejected it out of hand. Victor is demonstrating his open-mindedness.

Crude said...

As I keep noting, saying that 'the physical world exists' not only A) goes beyond observation, but B) is empty of ontological force even as an assumption. It's not enough to slap the word 'Physical!' on our experiences. We have to know what the physical is... and observation doesn't get us to that.

For all anyone can demonstrate with science, the 'physical' is actually mental.

You can always remain agnostic, but notice how the people who demand agnosticism about God demand not just blind faith, but blind faith in a particular conclusion (for which what available exists, weighs against it) in ontology.

As I always note, when it comes to suppressing science and reason, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppressed_research_in_the_Soviet_Union>the secular are unmatched</a>.

Gyan said...

VR,
"A physical world skeptic can question anything you throw at them as evidence, and produce all sorts of theories showing that this evidence can be explained without there being a real physical world."

No. It is illogical that a "physical world realist" would produce any kind of theory, write it down on a physical thing (a book, a computer) and convince other beings. This sort of thing is self-refuting. One can read Fr Stanley Jaki on this-e.g. his book Means to Message.

Gyan said...

Crude,
"For all anyone can demonstrate with science, the 'physical' is actually mental."
The atom or an electron as defined in physics is necessarily non-mental by definition.
Otherwise you risk making physics a branch of metaphysics.

B. Prokop said...

Gyan,

A year or so ago, I had a series of conversations with a bona fide (professional) physicist, who schooled me in the intricacies of the subatomic world, while shooting down my many layperson's misconceptions. What blew me away the most was his insistence that at the most basic, fundamental level, down amongst the indivisible quantum level particles, that what we thought of as "matter" didn't exist at all - all was information. "Matter" only begins to make sense as something actually existing at much larger scales (the atomic and molecular).

Gyan said...

B Prokop,
Precisely my view. We need to make a distinction between the everyday objects that we perceive directly and the entities postulated in physics.

Thus, while everyday objects might have non-formal attributes, color or taste or possibly some mentality, it would not be reasonable to make this attribution on entities that are formally posited in physics.

Gyan said...

Fr Jaki-"Means to Message"
"Whenever a philosopher offers the kind of message which is philosophy, it must contain, at the minimum, a justification of the means used to convey the message to beings no less real than the author himself"

It is precisely this criterion that blows all kinds of unwholesome skepticism out of the court. The unwholesome skepticism is the thought that stops all further thought-such as solipsism or Kantiam doubts about ever knowing things in themselves or Berkeley's doubts about physicality of physical objects.

Hugo Pelland said...

planks length said...
To the contrary, it is confirmation of yours. You seem unable to even consider the possibility that mind is immaterial. You have rejected it out of hand. Victor is demonstrating his open-mindedness.
You don't understand; and I don't think you can. I don't know if Victor is open minded but I think he is, and so am I, which is why I am here to discuss. I am definitely biased too; we all are to a certain extent. Again, you don't understand that because you thought that pointing out Victor's bias meant I don't have one. You make wrong assumptions due to your inherent lack of critical thinking skills.

Angra Mainyu said...

No, science is clearly not coming to an end (leaving aside the chance of catastrophes not related to the arguments at hand).

Purely for example, in recent years we learned a lot about Pluto, Mars, etc., as well as exoplanets. Research and discoveries on those matters continue. New telescopes (space-based or ground-based) are planned or in construction. So are new probes. Also, the LHC continues to gather data, which helps advance our knowledge (i.e., as a civilization, not each person's knowledge) of particle physics.
There are relatively new cut and paste DNA techniques, discoveries of new species, etc.

Crude said...

Gyan,

The atom or an electron as defined in physics is necessarily non-mental by definition.
Otherwise you risk making physics a branch of metaphysics.


No, it's not 'necessarily non-mental'. Science is, in fact, necessarily silent about such things.

It's the person insisting that their metaphysical attachments be part and parcel with science itself that makes physics a branch of metaphysics. Metaphysics is prior to physics besides.

Gyan said...

Crude
If you claim that an electron could have any nonformal feature such as mindlikeness TV hen you display a complete ignorànce of physics. What it is and how it works.
Besides you ignore carefully made distinctions between ordinary objects that CAN have mindlikeness and entities posited in physics

Crude said...

Gyan,

If you claim that an electron could have any nonformal feature such as mindlikeness TV hen you display a complete ignorànce of physics. What it is and how it works.

No, Gyan. It's precisely because I understand the limits of science and the proper order of metaphysics that I can note that physics is silent on questions like these.

We've talked about this before. You have no meaningful reply to this other than 'The people who are physicists say this, even though they have no experiments or tests or indeed any scientific way of informing themselves on this issue'.

Go ahead. Play the 'Scientists say it, that settles it' card with me. See how it goes over.

Gyan said...

Metaphysics precedes physics and that's why correct physics requires correct metaphysics
The pathologies of modern physics-quantum paradoxes, multiverses, are rooted in incorrect metaphysics of idealistic type