Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hard questions for scientism

The difficult part in science-oriented philosophy is to get science to do the type of thing we don't normally think of it as being good at doing. Science is great at showing how things work. But a lot of people struggle with the idea of using a scientific approach to asking certain types of questions, such as
1) Why do I exist?
2) Why is there a material world at all?
3) What should I do with my life?
4) Is there a given purpose for my life that I ought to fulfill?
5) What kinds of social and economic structures promote happiness the most? 
6) Is my wife faithful? 
The last question is an interesting one because while there is a scientific approach to it, actually having to answer it scientifically (by having your wife followed everywhere she goes) is precisely thought of by most of us as being a good reason for thinking that one's marriage is in real trouble, either because of your lack of trust, or because she has given you good reason to doubt her fidelity. If you need science for this one, you are already in trouble. 

15 comments:

jdhuey said...

Someone once said that Democracy is a bad form of government but that all the alternative forms are worse. Science may not be good at answering these types of questions but other ways to generate answers are worse.

1. Biology/evolution
2. Quantum Field Theory
3. Psychology
4. Psychology/sociology (but the answer is no. Purposes are chosen, not given.)
5. Sociology/ Economics (duh!)
6. Agree with your assessment.

Really bad ways to get an answer:

1. Religion
2. Religion
3. Religion
4. Religion
5. Politicians
6. Your own imagination/ gossip / projecting your own infidelity onto your wife.

Gyan said...

jdhuey,
The Quantum field theory or any other physics theory one cares to name DOES NOT answer the question "Why is there a material world at all".
It does not even answer the question "How is there a material world at all?"
Physics presupposes an existing universe of interacting things. It does not and indeed can not account for the presence of the things.

jdhuey said...

That depends on what you mean by the question "why". If you are asking "why" in terms of purpose then you are correct (but you are also presupposing the existence of purpose). However, if by asking "why" you mean "what is a good explanation" then Quantum Field Theory seems to be it.

jdhuey said...

By the way, the simple answer to the question "Why is there a material world at all?" is that because the absence of a material world (nothing) is extremely unstable. There is a material world for the same reason that pencils balanced on their points tend to fall over.

Gyan said...

"Nothing is extremely unstable"
why? How?
How does one show that nothing is unstable?

Bear in mind that vacuum state of a quantum field is not "nothing". It assumes existence of
1) The quantum field.
2) Space-time continuum or dimensions.
3) Laws of quantum mechanics.

This is plenty of things, not nothing.

Gyan said...

The laws of quantum mechanics, meanwhile, assume existence of observers and measurement apparatus. The physicists are fond of talking about observer-created reality. Hence, on their telling, not ours, the quantum vacuum states assumes existence of conscious observers.

Joe Hinman said...

JC Huey science cannot tell us the basis of it's most basic concepts, such the nature of matter. What is a subatomic particle made of? more sub atomic particles. what's wrong with that picture? There is no way to prove string theory.

READ: "Science Can't prove the basis of physics"

Joe Hinman said...

Social science is more complex than hard science. It's silly to say that that it's a bad way to know things, merely because it uses multiple models, the variables are more complex.

Even sillier to say religion is a bad way to know things. here's a case in point this really cool book by this real genius called The Trace of God

Ground breaking research that boosts religious arguments for God to a much stronger level. It makes experience arguments some of the most formidable. Empirical scientific studies demonstrate belief in God is rational, good for you, not the result of emotional instability. Ready answer for anyone who claims that belief in God is psychologically bad for you.

Of course not absolute knowledge but it is empirically validated by peer reviewed published studies. As I just demonstrated science doesn't give us absolute knowledge other. These studies give us enough to justify using religion as an answer to the big questions in terms your life on an idea. as the author puts it "navigation of life."


Page on Amazon

btw the name of the genius who wrote the book, Joseph Hinman ;-)

(well maybe genius" is a bit strong)

thanks for giving me an opening to plug it.

Joe Hinman said...


January 31, 2016 11:47 PM

"Blogger jdhuey said...
By the way, the simple answer to the question "Why is there a material world at all?" is that because the absence of a material world (nothing) is extremely unstable. There is a material world for the same reason that pencils balanced on their points tend to fall over."

circular reasoning. Like saying there's a material world because the world is made out of matter. You assume the "laws" of physics and of nature could not fail to be as they are. that is unfounded.

B. Prokop said...

Joe beat me to it, but yes - if the reason for there being "something rather than nothing" is because nothing is unstable.. then what jdhuey is calling "nothing" is actually something (because it has a property - that of being unstable). A true "nothing" would have no descriptives whatsoever.

All jdhuey has managed to do is to add yet another car to the train of causation. He still needs to explain where this mis-named nothing (which is actually "something") came from.

And by the way, you cannot define jdhuey's "nothing" as a non-contingent, necessary being or as a First Cause, because by his own admission, it is unstable.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Joe Hinman said...

"And by the way, you cannot define jdhuey's "nothing" as a non-contingent, necessary being or as a First Cause, because by his own admission, it is unstable"

excellent. Also when atheists try to propose necessary beings or a ground of being not God I makes specify how that differs from God, They usually say it's not personal I say so you are not an atheist you just a non Christian godest?

B. Prokop said...

Never lose sight of the fact that when discussing these matters with atheists, by and large they do not understand the terms they are tossing about so casually (such as contingent, first cause, necessary, or even "nothing"). Worse, many of them do not even bother to try to understand.

So Stephen Hawking can get away with writing such nonsense as "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing," seemingly blissfully unaware that the law of gravity is not nothing.

And as I said above, jdhuey can think that "nothing" has properties. But once you assign properties to something (note that I had to use that word), it's no longer nothing.

Jezu ufam tobie!

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"And as I said above, jdhuey can think that "nothing" has properties. But once you assign properties to something (note that I had to use that word), it's no longer nothing."

Note that jdhuey assumes that there are these mysterious things, the laws of quantum field theory, that exist *independently* of the material world and are the cause of it. Therefore the laws of quantum field theory are not material. Ergo materialism is false. On the other hand, if he backtracks and takes the laws of quantum field theory as simple Humean regularities (as most naturalists are wont to), then they cannot explain anything at all, and we are right at the beginning.

Edgestow said...

Do I hear "Circular" out there? Anyone?

Joe Hinman said...

I said it. also, any time an atheist argues determinate laws he is contradiction their only answer to my argument from natural law which says laws don'[t exist disembodied floating around. Descriptive laws are not based upon totally complete understanding and thus miracles are must more descriptions. If they want determinative laws (prescriptive)then must show where they come from how they work part from mind.