Wednesday, March 30, 2016

From Robert Larmer's 'is Methodological Naturalism Question-Begging

Larmer considers an argument as follows:

1) If one is a metaphysical naturalist then one should be a methodological naturalist. i. e. refuse ever to postulate nonphysical entities as the cause of a physical event.
2) One should not believe in nonphysical entities without good evidence.
3) There is no good evidence for nonnatural entities.
4) Therefore one should accept metaphysical naturalism, and by logical extension, methodological naturalism.

He then develops a dialogue between the metaphysical naturalist and his opponent over premise 3.

NN: I disagree that there is no good evidence for nonnatural entities.
MN: Such evidence cannot exist.
NN: Why not?
MN: Because any investigation of the causes of physical events must employ methdological naturalism, i. e., it must assume that it is never, in principle, legitimate to posit a nonnatural cause for a physical event.
NN: Remind me once more of your good reason for thinking that metaphysical naturalism is true.
MN: The good reason for thinking that metaphysical naturalism is true is that there is no good evidence that nonnatural entities exist. NN: Would methodological naturalism ever permit one to posit a nonnatural entity as the cause of a physical event?
MN: No. I have already made that clear.
NN: Let me get this right. Your acceptance of metaphysical naturalism is based on the fact that there exists no evidence that nonnatural entities ever cause physical events?
MN: Yes.
 NN: And your endorsement of methodological naturalism follows from your acceptance of metaphysical naturalism?
MN: Yes.
NN: This seems question-begging. You endorse metaphysical naturalism on the basis that there exists no evidence that nonnatural entities ever cause physical events, yet adopt a methodology that rules out the possibility of ever recognizing evidence of nonnatural causes. You are using your metaphysic to justify your acceptance of methodological naturalism, but your acceptance of methodological naturalism serves to guarantee that even if evidence for the existence of nonphysical causes exists it can never be recognized as such.





86 comments:

Joe Hinman said...

I've used several different versions of that idea and identified several circular or question begging positions on the part of atheists. A version of that arguing on a message board the other day where a guy refuses to look at the studies on religious experience in my book because there can't be any such thing as SN so there's no point in examining new claims. Then that reminds me of the circular nature of Hume's argument against miracles. But the claim that they don't happen enough is based upon doing that same move of negating the evidence before you read it then assuming there is none.

Cal Metzger said...

Dialogue like that in the OP is just a way of illustrating how one can fail to understand methodological naturalism (MN).

MN is a process for describing intersubjective reality. That is all.

If MN doesn't support your beliefs about reality, don't blame that on MN. Blame that on (intersubjective) reality.

Edgestow said...

RE: The above comment

Thus saith the circular reasoner...

Ilíon said...

[Methodological Designism] is a process for describing intersubjective reality. That is all.

If [Methodological Designism] doesn't support your beliefs about reality, don't blame that on [Methodological Designism]. Blame that on (intersubjective) reality.

Joe Hinman said...


March 30, 2016 10:42 PM
Delete
Blogger Cal Metzger said...
Dialogue like that in the OP is just a way of illustrating how one can fail to understand methodological naturalism (MN).

MN is a process for describing intersubjective reality. That is all.

If MN doesn't support your beliefs about reality, don't blame that on MN. Blame that on (intersubjective) reality.


That assertion totally ignores the reality of actual atheists and the way they argue. Most atheists on the net argue as though science a big pile of facts and just the fact of having facts somehow disproves the reality of God. They are using MN as an offensive weapon and the basic assumption underlying all of that is the circular argument captured in the OP.

Joe Hinman said...


March 31, 2016 8:05 AM



Blogger Ilíon said...
[Methodological Designism] is a process for describing intersubjective reality. That is all.

If [Methodological Designism] doesn't support your beliefs about reality, don't blame that on [Methodological Designism]. Blame that on (intersubjective) reality.


good one

planks length said...

We should really all be grateful to Cal. In the absence of Skeppy, he provides us with a good laugh. But I really ought to avoid reading his comments while drinking coffee. It's not that pleasant when it spurts out your nose!

Cal Metzger said...

"[Methodological Designism] is a process for describing intersubjective reality. That is all. / If [Methodological Designism] doesn't support your beliefs about reality, don't blame that on [Methodological Designism]. Blame that on (intersubjective) reality."

Did you suppose that I would have a problem with this?

It's true that reality isn't kind to Methodological Designism. And that is on reality.

I'll let this soak in with the peanut gallery for awhile.

jdhuey said...

Methological Naturalism does not accept supernatural causation for the same reason that the US patent office does not accept applications for perpetual motion machines: experience has shown that neither exists.

Metaphysical Naturalism can be thought of as a generalization of Methological Naturalism. That is, Methological Naturalism not only works but it works because it reflects the metaphysical reality. So, it is not so much that Metaphysical Naturalism entails Methological Naturalism but the reverse.

Legion of Logic said...

Thinking that anything that science had found somehow makes God redundant and irrelevant is like studying a vehicle with all labels and stamps removed and concluding no manufacturer exists, since the manufacturer isn't part of the vehicle.

I don't have enough faith to be a metaphysical naturalist, but whatever floats the boat.

B. Prokop said...

"experience has shown that neither exists"

Huh? How did you come to know this by experience? The experience of the Apostles indicated that supernatural causation does exist. The experience of people healed at Lourdes demonstrates the same. Ditto for the experience of Saint Faustina Kowalska. Same thing for Saint Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac. I could name many other experiences. What is your experience to the contrary?

Jezu ufan tobie!

Ilíon said...

Experience! -- Hint: it wasn't methodological naturalism that saved the life if infant Ilíon.

Ilíon said...

hurly-twirly: "Methological Naturalism does not accept supernatural causation for the same reason that the US patent office does not accept applications for perpetual motion machines: experience has shown that neither exists."

Talk about circular "reasoning"

hurly-twirly: "Metaphysical Naturalism can be thought of as a generalization of Methological Naturalism. That is, Methological Naturalism not only works but it works because it reflects the metaphysical reality."

So, the fact that Methological Naturalism clearly *does not* work -- else butterfly collectors, I mean, evolutionary biologists, wouldn't constantly be forced to express their quaint beliefs in terms of Methological Designism -- means that Metaphysical Naturalism *also* does not work. Moreover, precisely because butterfly collectors, sorry!, I mean evolutionary biologists, are forced by reality to use the language of Methological Designism, that means that is is actually Metaphysical Designism which "reflects the metaphysical reality".


honesty, from an 'atheist'?!: "So, it is not so much that Metaphysical Naturalism entails Methological Naturalism but the reverse."

Indeed, the supposed distinction between Methological Naturalism and Metaphysical Naturalism has always been disingenuous. Methological Naturalism was *always* a stalking horse for Metaphysical Naturalism.

jdhuey said...

No 'experience' that pretended to be a supernatural event has ever been unambigiously shown to have a supernatural cause; however, a very large number of claims for supernatural events have been shown to be just natural events - some hoaxes, some just misinterpetation.

WRT Lourdes: http://skepdic.com/lourdes.html

One primary problem with so called supernatural events is that just about every religion from Christianity, to Buddhism, to Hinduism, to animism all make claims to supernatural events based on their own religious perspective. So, why should Christian events be true but Hindu events not? Or, if all of those supernatural events are true then no such event is evidence for any one particular religion.

B. Prokop said...

I'm still genuinely curious as to what experience jdhuey can point to that proves supernatural causation does not exist.

SteveK said...

It might be the same experience one uses to prove that no black swans exist.

Gyan said...

The argument presented here is extremely poor. To start with, a metaphysical naturalist can not be a metThodological naturalist. It is logically impossible.
Only a supernaturalist can be methodological naturalist.

A methodological naturalists makes distinction between two types of events--natural events and supernatural events. The natural events are to be studied using only natural causes--and this is precisely what the method of methodological naturalism is.

Gyan said...

IF MN is so problematic to theists here then the only answer to each and every question of the form "Why this particular thing happened" is God or His Angels did it.
Which may be gratifying to some theists but builds no science.

Joe Hinman said...


March 31, 2016 10:04 AM

Blogger jdhuey said...
Methological Naturalism does not accept supernatural causation for the same reason that the US patent office does not accept applications for perpetual motion machines: experience has shown that neither exists.

Metaphysical Naturalism can be thought of as a generalization of Methological Naturalism. That is, Methological Naturalism not only works but it works because it reflects the metaphysical reality. So, it is not so much that Metaphysical Naturalism entails Methological Naturalism but the reverse.

So now you are a metaphysician? It doesn't work because reality is naturalistic it works because it's metaphysical? How can you get to a metaphysical view of reality through a naturalistic metholology if reality is only naturalistic?

I know metaphysics is not SN per se but there does seem to be a bit of a contradiction there. In pronouncing all of reality naturalistic and then admitting you are making a metaphys8yical statement feels like a comtradiction

Joe Hinman said...

jdhuey said...
Methological Naturalism does not accept supernatural causation for the same reason that the US patent office does not accept applications for perpetual motion machines: experience has shown that neither exists.

that is in contradiction to the point Popper makes about the nature of science. We can't establish the nature of reality by observations because you have to observe the whole history of the universe for all the time it exists. What we really establish is verisimilitude a truncated form of reality sort of short hand reality. Problem is things fall though the cracks. The instances in my own of observing miracles says your abbreviation for reality gets it wrong.

Joe Hinman said...


March 31, 2016 2:58 PM

Blogger jdhuey said...
No 'experience' that pretended to be a supernatural event has ever been unambigiously shown to have a supernatural cause; however, a very large number of claims for supernatural events have been shown to be just natural events - some hoaxes, some just misinterpetation.

that's because you are using the hijack definition of SN. The real SN is mystical experience and good evidence to suggest a transcendent origin.

WRT Lourdes: http://skepdic.com/lourdes.html

One primary problem with so called supernatural events is that just about every religion from Christianity, to Buddhism, to Hinduism, to animism all make claims to supernatural events based on their own religious perspective. So, why should Christian events be true but Hindu events not? Or, if all of those supernatural events are true then no such event is evidence for any one particular religion.

In terms of the true SN--mystical experience==the experiences are universally the same. When they do the studies and take out specific references to traditions (no "Jesus" no Krishna" use neutral language) the experiences are all the same.

Joe Hinman said...

A methodological naturalists makes distinction between two types of events--natural events and supernatural events. The natural events are to be studied using only natural causes--and this is precisely what the method of methodological naturalism is.

Wrong. Christian theology was talking about supernatural (huper Hamousios or physis) 500 years before it ever talked about a Natural/SN dichotomy. It was modern science that invented that dichotomy.

The True Christian Concept of The SN

Joe Hinman said...

The True Christian Concept of The SN

John Loftus said...

I don't think any scientifically minded person is opposed to methodological naturalism. Science cannot work without it. The problem comes when one draws the conclusion from it that metaphysical naturalism is the case. So you're opposed to it only if people conclude nature is all there is, that is, only if it's used as an argument to atheism.

The faith-based argument against this would be either that there is source of knowledge about the world other than science, or that your god lives in the gaps of scientific knowledge, or both. Those two arguments of yours go against the probabilities.

Why don't you tell us what that other source of knowledge is, and compare its merits to the scientific enterprise? Why don't you admit how many times science has forced you to move the goal posts, such that for centuries when theologians didn't think science could solve a problem science marched past it?

Why don't you address why your god set the world up this way, such that reasonable people will follow the probabilities? Even if for some reason, your god could not create the world like this, why don't you admit your God failed to provide sufficient evidence for faith that would overcome the methodological predisposition to naturalism?

If you want a serious discussion you must address these questions.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2016/03/methodological-naturalism-again.html

Steve Lovell said...

Hi John,

There are some interesting issues here. Let me begin with this statement of yours:

"The faith-based argument against this would be either that there is source of knowledge about the world other than science, or that your god lives in the gaps of scientific knowledge, or both. Those two arguments of yours go against the probabilities."

Much depends on whether and how you define "science", but presumably you aren't going to deny that disciplines such as history, archaeology, sociology, linguistics, economics, mathematics, and even philosophy sometimes achieve "knowledge".

Indeed, since you are (I believe) a metaphysical naturalist and agree that there are problems argue for metaphysical naturalism on the basis of methodological naturalism, your own reasons for being a metaphysical naturalist must lie elsewhere ... either in a science which isn't constrained by methodological naturalism or in something outside of science altogether.

I've listed above a few other disciplines which can be sources of knowledge. Now at least some of these could be plausibly thought of as continuous with science "proper" and to deliver knowledge primarily because they borrow the same methodology, applying it to different subject matter or working at different levels of description. That's fine and I don't have a problem with that until you attempt to assume all sources of knowledge under the title "science" ... when the point in my previous paragraph really needs to be addressed.

John Loftus said...

Hi Steve, I do think the other disciplines you mentioned, if done correctly, borrow from scientific methodology. Moving from methodological naturalism to naturalism is not one of strict logical entailment, but it does follow given the results it has produced.

http://infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/naturalism.html

Joe Hinman said...

Hi John good to see you again man.



The faith-based argument against this would be either that there is source of knowledge about the world other than science, or that your god lives in the gaps of scientific knowledge, or both. Those two arguments of yours go against the probabilities.

Yea yea yea, other methods. Trying to draw lessons of God's non reality from scientific data is just as much a metaphysical statement as is belief in God. Now if theist says "God exists because of X" It is not metaphysics to say X does not prove that God exists. But the minute you say "I know there is no God because of science" you crossed the line.



Why don't you tell us what that other source of knowledge is, and compare its merits to the scientific enterprise?

phenomenology, logic, other aspects of theology and philosophy such as Tillichian correlation. Comparison: all science can do is falsify hypotheses, the things I mention can construct positive knowledge.




Why don't you admit how many times science has forced you to move the goal posts, such that for centuries when theologians didn't think science could solve a problem science marched past it?

Science should inform us when our ideas are falsifiable. That is not a "defeat" for religion but a valid use of science in service to religion.

most of atheism is spin doctoring.




Why don't you address why your god set the world up this way, such that reasonable people will follow the probabilities? Even if for some reason, your god could not create the world like this, why don't you admit your God failed to provide sufficient evidence for faith that would overcome the methodological predisposition to naturalism?

If you want a serious discussion you must address these questions.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2016/03/methodological-naturalism-again.html

Joe Hinman said...

Loftus:

Why don't you address why your god set the world up this way, such that reasonable people will follow the probabilities?

We are the reasonable people John, us theistic types



Even if for some reason, your god could not create the world like this, why don't you admit your God failed to provide sufficient evidence for faith that would overcome the methodological predisposition to naturalism?


we have suffientevidemnce--buy my book! ahahahahahahah, I've waited years to say thyat to you LOL;-)


If you want a serious discussion you must address these questions.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2016/03/methodological-naturalism-again.html

I'll make a deal with youJohn. I'll post on DC more and you post on Metacrock and cadre. CADRE is coming back/

Joe Hinman said...


April 01, 2016 4:47 AM



Blogger John Loftus said...
Hi Steve, I do think the other disciplines you mentioned, if done correctly, borrow from scientific methodology. Moving from methodological naturalism to naturalism is not one of strict logical entailment, but it does follow given the results it has produced.

http://infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/naturalism.html

social sciences are science. anthropology and sociology. I also include history even though it's transitional between letters and science. It's becoming like a science more and more. Letters I would include in philosophy (literature).that's why I didn't mention those because I include them in science.:

B. Prokop said...

As long as people like Loftus insist on confining themselves to something called "science", then all their thoughts, all their reasoning, and all their conclusions will be circumscribed by the self-erected walls of their tight little prison. Nothing from the greater world outside the walls is allowed in. In fact the very existence of anything from without is denied, most often simply by definition. I can understand a man blind from birth not being aware of light, but for a man to willingly go through life with his eyes firmly shut by choice, well, that just doesn't make sense to me.

Side issue: Isn't it rather amusing that in almost every case where an atheist is loudly trumpeting "science" as the one-and-only path to knowledge, he is himself not a scientist? If he truly wishes to know anything at all, why isn't pursuing knowledge in the only way he insists one can get it? And if he says he's relying on the word of others who actually are scientists, isn't that just an appeal to authority? Or even (shudder) faith?

Jezu ufam tobie!

John Loftus said...

To comment on your only issue B. Prokop, my claim is that when it comes to the objective world of matters of fact, science is the only game in town for understanding the nature of nature and its workings. It's not that science is the best alternative. It's the only one.

Joe Hinman said...

To comment on your only issue B. Prokop, my claim is that when it comes to the objective world of matters of fact, science is the only game in town for understanding the nature of nature and its workings. It's not that science is the best alternative. It's the only one.

First that is not true. that's epistemic and ,metaphysical assumption. There's a lot of philosophizing goes into the claim that there are matters of fact or matters of fact are factual. If I wanted to drag this out and you let me play the stranger (sociology game) I would prove this to you. I am from Mars I have no knowledge of earth cultures. prove to me there are matters of fact (playing the stranger).

Moreover, logic is fact given the base assumptions of a logical system. So a is not non a same place/ time is considered a fact as surely as any other fact. I's not derived from science.

Most importantly even if we admitted science is the way to establish facts that would still not prove that establishing facts is the only way to think about reality. Tjere can be other ideas that mater more such aas life transformations.

Legion of Logic said...

Science is the most reliable tool regarding certain aspects of reality, sure. But there are so many things that people figured out long before science, it's impossible to conclude that science is the ONLY tool. Unless of course we redefine the terms so that "science" incorporates any form of logical thinking or problem solving technique.

SteveK said...

>> my claim is that when it comes to the objective world of matters of fact, science is the only game in town for understanding the nature of nature and its workings.

False. Consider the debate over actual universals vs. particulars. Can science tell us which one is true/correct? No, yet one or the other is an objective matter of fact. Does is matter when it comes to scientific discoveries and the knowledge it gives us about nature? I think it does. One view leads to false - yet pragmatically useful - knowledge about nature and the other leads to true knowledge of nature.

If false, yet pragmatic, knowledge about nature is good enough for science then why can't it be good enough for religion?

B. Prokop said...

"my claim is that when it comes to the objective world of matters of fact, science is the only game in town for understanding the nature of nature and its workings. It's not that science is the best alternative. It's the only one."

Then why, John, are you not a scientist? Are you that uninterested in understanding the nature of nature? By your own premises, if you're not actively pursuing scientific research, then you are not engaged in learning actual facts about anything (since you also claim that nature is "all there is"). So we can only conclude that you do not care about knowing anything at all.

Perhaps this is why Dante foretold "the stark death of knowledge" (Inferno, Dorothy Sayers translation) for atheists.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Mr. Green said...

John Loftus: when it comes to the objective world of matters of fact, science is the only game in town

Hm, interesting. Can you describe the experiment you performed to arrive at that conclusion, so I can reproduce it?

Thanks.

John Loftus said...

Mr. Green, would you tell us what the alternative is to science?

Thanks.

John Loftus said...

Mr. Green, would you tell us what the alternative is to science?

Thanks.

William said...

John,

It's a false dichotomy.

John Loftus said...

What else in addition to science is as good of an alternative then?

Cal Metzger said...

The theist responses here are so predictable and rote; science can't tell us about everything, therefore [insert fallacy here]; there are axioms at the heart of scientific thinking (duh), therefore the process of induction invalidates the whole enterprise (wait, what?); we talk about things we agree on in casual and less rigorous language, therefore science isn't involved in huge swathes of knowledge. Etc. All of which attempt to divert from the elephant in the room, namely, that religious belief can only be accepted if one discards the the impartiality and intersubjectivity that we all demand from everyday life.

We are all methodological naturalists, and to the extent that we test and induct (which we all do, everyday) we are all doing some kind of science. Just like some scientists are better (and sometimes luckier) than other scientists, some of us are better at incorporating scientific thinking into our everyday lives. (And yes, many professional scientists fail at this, just like all humans do.)

Science, methodological naturalism, these are just the terms we use for the process of adding to our knowledge about external reality -- an external reality that is examinable, that can be studied objectively, reliably, and verifiably. Sure, there could be an infinite number of other realities than the one we occupy, but they are all meaningless to us, because in order for them to have meaning they have to be discernible, and what is discernible is under the purview of methodological naturalism. And that's all that methodological naturalism acknowledges -- that a world that is imperceptible to others is meaningless to others. Which isn't to say that an individual's internal reality isn't meaningful to that individual, but that our internal reality (and imaginings) are not to be privileged over the external reality that is perceptible, examinable, and meaningful to others.

Unless you think that a bear that exists only in your mind exists in reality because you whatever you imagine is real in the external world. If that's what you think, then no one else can help you.

William said...

"religious belief can only be accepted if one discards"

Cal,

It's a false dichotomy.

B. Prokop said...

"Science, methodological naturalism, these are just the terms we use for the process of adding to our knowledge about external reality -- an external reality that is examinable, that can be studied objectively, reliably, and verifiably."

That's all well and good if the question you are asking is "What happens when this chemical reaction occurs"? or "Is there a link between smoking and cancer?" But when your question is "Why did Napoleon lose at Waterloo?" or "What were the causes for the Fall of the Roman Empire? or even "Did the Resurrection literally and physically occur?" then methodological naturalism is about as useful as the Periodic Table would be in critiquing a Bach Cantata, or the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram in deciding whether or not you should marry a particular person.

Not everything is science, and science is not always relevant to the pursuit of knowledge.

Jezu ufam tobie!

William said...

"Unless you think that a bear that exists only in your mind exists in reality because you whatever you imagine is real in the external world."

Agreed, but caution that the boundary between reification and representation is a vague one. Some reifications correctly represent (and some do not).


Ilíon said...

"It's a false dichotomy."

That's one of his specialties.

Legion of Logic said...

Me: "Unless of course we redefine the terms so that "science" incorporates any form of logical thinking or problem solving technique."

Cal: "We are all methodological naturalists, and to the extent that we test and induct (which we all do, everyday) we are all doing some kind of science."

Predictable.

Ilíon said...

"Not everything is science, and science is not always relevant to the pursuit of knowledge."

It's even worse than that from the point of view of 'Science!' fetishists, since science can't even deliver knowledge in the first place. "Knowlegde" isn't knowledge unless all these conditions are met --
* the alleged knowledge is actually true;
* one knows that it is true;
* one knows *why* it is true.

Non-trivial scientific statements can't deliver those requirements.

Ilíon said...

Regztem Lac: "We are all methodological [super-]naturalists, and to the extent that we test and induct (which we all do, everyday) we are all doing some kind of [non-naturalist metaphysics]."

FIFY

Mr. Green said...

John Loftus: Mr. Green, would you tell us what the alternative is to science?

Hi, and thanks for the invitation, but no, I wouldn't, not at the moment. I'd rather focus on the question that was actually asked, despite your attempt to dodge it like a seasoned politician. (Seriously, "ignore the question that was asked and substitute your own" is something straight out of Yes, Minister.)

My questions was, after all, pretty straightforward: simply describe for us the experiment you performed. You don't even need to spell it all out — a simple reference to a peer-reviewed article would suffice. Although, as Bob pointed out, you aren't actually a scientists yourself, oddly enough, so your experiment probably wasn't peer-reviewed in the first place. That's OK, the results may not be as trustworthy, but I'm always pleased to see someone take the initiative to engage in scientific research even as an amateur. Just give us a brief summary of your experimental procedure, the hypothesis and the findings, how you evaluated the results, etc. I wouldn't expect the full and complete details in a posted comment.

Of course, that's assuming you indeed did perform any such experiment — if you didn't, the answer is even easier. But if you didn't, why not simply come out and admit it? Why this attempt to deflect attention elsewhere?

B. Prokop said...

My New Year's Resolution (since every day begins a new year) is to challenge each and every internet atheist who claims that "science" is the one and only path to knowledge, the "only game in town for understanding the nature of nature and its workings", or even "science is [not just] the best alternative. It's the only one", to please state their own scientific credentials, what research have they themselves conducted, what projects are they involved with right now, and what precisely have they learned about the world from them. Since by their own assertions, no one can learn anything about anything ("there is no alternative") other than by "science", then only scientists can claim to know anything at all.

My second resolution is to take a cue from Mr Green, and whenever they make any sort of philosophical (or historical) assertion, to ask them to identify the experiment used to arrive at that conclusion, and where can I read about it in a peer reviewed publication.

People like Loftus, Cal, Skeppy, et.al., need to be called out on their fundamental hypocrisy on this issue. If I were told that the only way to get to the top of a mountain was to climb it, and if I truly wanted to get there, then by golly I'd climb the dang thing. If there is no way to knowledge other than by "science", then I'd either have to myself be a scientist, or I'd admit to having no interest in knowing anything. In Loftus's own words, "There is no [other] alternative."

And on this Feast of the Divine Mercy, I appropriately close with "Jezu ufam tobie!"

John Loftus said...

John Loftus: when it comes to the objective world of matters of fact, science is the only game in town

Hm, interesting. Can you describe the experiment you performed to arrive at that conclusion, so I can reproduce it?

John Loftus: Would you tell us what the alternative is to science?, and/or, What else in addition to science is as good of an alternative?

Mr. Green: I'd rather focus on the question that was actually asked, despite your attempt to dodge it like a seasoned politician.

---------------------------

Okay, I'll answer your question, but first let's reflect on why you didn't answer mine. It's because you can't. The reason you can't is because, well, you can't. Until you do my point is established, irrespective of me answering your question.

How do we know science is the only game in town when it comes to matters of fact like the nature and workings of the universe? No scientific experiment alone establishes this conclusion. Rather, it's the conclusion of hundreds of thousands of scientific experiments that have told us the truth about nature and its workings, many of which went contrary to our proclivities. To see these results check out "The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference":

http://www.amazon.com/York-Public-Library-Science-Reference/dp/0028604032/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459685957&sr=1-2&keywords=New+York+Science+desk+reference

Take a moment to look inside the pages especially at the chapter headings.

Now you can insist I produce one scientific experiment all you want to, but that is arguing in "bad faith" (look that up).

Let me explain why. Holocaust deniers, just like science deniers, play by a similar rule-book. Holocaust deniers demand one piece of hard evidence to show them wrong. The thing is, no single piece of evidence says "Holocaust" on it. But when taken together the evidence shows conclusively that the Holocaust happened. Michael Shermer wrote a few chapters on this issue and said: "when the denier demands that each piece of evidence independently prove the Holocaust he is ignoring the fact that no historian ever claimed that one piece of evidence proves the Holocaust, or anything else." (Why People Believe Weird Things, p. 216). Cumulatively speaking though, eighteen lines of evidence show it happened.

The same thing can be said when it comes to science. Let me help you: "when the science denier demands that each piece of scientific evidence independently prove science is the only game in town he is ignoring the fact that no scientist ever claimed that one piece of evidence proves science is the only game in town, or anything else."

Let's look at it this way for clarity purposes. If science is the only game in town when it comes to matters of fact, then we wouldn't expect there is a scientific experiment to prove it. Why? For then you would be demanding a meta-justification for science, that is, some evidence above and beyond the mere evidence of science itself that proves science. But, if science is indeed the only game in town there couldn't be a meta-justification for it since science is the only game in town, not meta-science.

Hoping this helps. If not I'm out.

In any case, you might try answering my question now.

Cheers.

B. Prokop said...

Well, I for one am most certainly no "science denier". I love science. My hobby (and that's all it is - I make no claims for anything else) is amateur astronomy. I devour whatever books on (popular) science that I can grab. On my bookshelf right next to me March of the Microbes is right up against Augustine's Essential Sermons. The Brightest Stars shares a shelf with Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth. The magisterial two volume Night Sky Observer's Guide leans against G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man. The Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Forests is next door to Gandhi's translation of the Bhagavad Gita. My own widely read Observing the Nearest Stars mixes highly technical descriptions of various stellar classifications with (I say with all humility) some rather deeply philosophical passages about the meaning of it all. I have the deepest respect and admiration for all the sciences and those who work in them.

But I hold no truck with scientism - the sadly misguided idea that the scientific method and empirical observation is the be all and end all, the "only game in town". At the risk of repeating myself - yes, for some lines of inquiry, it's the most useful and appropriate tool in one's toolbox. But for other questions, it may not be at all helpful, whilst other disciplines (art, history, literature, philosophy, personal experience, even revelation) are far more suitable and efficacious. I believe one can learn objective truth about Mankind's most important questions via these "alternative" paths.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Science and Religion are like the right and left wheels on a cart. We desperately need them both. Lose one or the other and you fall into a ditch. Religion without science runs the danger of being superstition. Science without religion all too often leads to Auschwitz, the Gulag, and Hiroshima.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Green: "My questions was, after all, pretty straightforward: simply describe for us the experiment you performed."

Theists: "Proponents of science are hypocrites because they must rely on philosophical assumptions to do science!" and "In order to defend science you must not admit that you employ any philosophical assumptions!"

Ironic much?

planks length said...

Ironic much?

Nope. Not in the least bit.

Where do you see irony here? Do you even know what the word means?

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "Theists: "Proponents of science are hypocrites because they must rely on philosophical assumptions to do science!" and "In order to defend science you must not admit that you employ any philosophical assumptions!" "

Planks: "Where do you see irony here?"

Really?

In the first sentence, theists (mistakenly) accuse proponents of science of not knowing that they are relying on axioms (an exercise of philosophy) in order to do science (um, yup, so what?), then in the second sentence, theists would like to deny proponents of science the philosophical underpinnings (the acceptance of some axioms) that they (trivially) point out are necessary to the exercise of science. This is sometimes referred to as "Having your cake and eating it, too."

Irony is (unwittingly) adopting a state of contradiction. I just think that writing "Ironic much" is quicker than "Eating your cake and having it, too?"

planks length said...

There's no irony whatsoever.

Proponents of scientism not only assert, they militantly proclaim, that "science" is the sole path to truth, that nothing else counts. Most of the well known New Atheists openly scoff at and deride philosophy (and certainly theology), calling it a waste of time. (See: Lawrence Krauss).

Therefore, what your hypothetical "theist" is asking in your thought experiment, is that the scientismist stick to his publicly maintained principles, and not allow into his argument the least shred of philosophical assumption, on pain of his being outed as a hypocrite.

Plain and simple. No irony called for.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Proponents of scientism not only assert, they militantly proclaim, that "science" is the sole path to truth, that nothing else counts. Most of the well known New Atheists openly scoff at and deride philosophy (and certainly theology), calling it a waste of time. (See: Lawrence Krauss)."

Lawrence Krauss: "So, to those philosophers I may have unjustly offended by seemingly blanket statements about the field, I apologize. I value your intelligent conversation and the insights of anyone who thinks carefully about our universe and who is willing to guide their thinking based on the evidence of reality. To those who wish to impose their definition of reality abstractly, independent of emerging empirical knowledge and the changing questions that go with it, and call that either philosophy or theology, I would say this: Please go on talking to each other, and let the rest of us get on with the goal of learning more about nature."

Misrepresent much?

planks length said...

Misrepresent much?

Nope. I was, in fact, thinking of that very quote when I wrote what I did. Did you even read it? He's saying, in the clearest language possible, that in his opinion philosophy and theology are of no value.

Thank you for citing evidence that so clearly supports my last comment!

Cal Metzger said...

Krauss (and I, and others) happily point out that there is much terrible philosophy, and that all of theology is a waste of time.

But to misconstrue that assessment as ALL philosophy is of no value, well, that reveals more about your intellect and apprehensions than it does the (not so nuanced) view of the rest of us.

Cheers!

Ilíon said...

"scientismist"

That coinage needs no explanation, but it's hard to say.

I call 'em 'scinetistes' -- and (periodically) explain that it's modeled on Miss Piggy's claim to be an 'Artiste'


hmmm ... perhaps I should start mocking all these pretend-atheists as 'atheistes'

Ilíon said...

"Where do you see irony here? Do you even know what the word means?"

You're asking the people who "define" the phrase "begging the question" as "validly reaching the conclusion I hate", and who insist that their own habit of begging the question is really "logical reasoning" at its finest, whether they know what "irony" means?

Cal Metzger said...

Krauss: "I value your intelligent conversation and the insights of anyone who thinks carefully about our universe and who is willing to guide their thinking based on the evidence of reality."
Planks: "[Krauss]'s saying, in the clearest language possible, that in his opinion philosophy and theology are of no value."

So, I can only construe that you must think that philosophy and theology offer no careful thinking and that neither allows for thinking that is guided by the evidence of reality.

Fair enough with regard to theology, but I can't agree with you on the whole of philosophy.

planks length said...

I love how Cal cited the very lines I was thinking of when I wrote Krauss had no respect for philosophy or theology. It causes one to wonder, is Cal functionally illiterate? Why else would he bring up an argument that utterly demolishes his own position?

I'd laugh if it weren't so pathetic. Instead, all I feel is pity.

Cal Metzger said...

Krauss: "I value your intelligent conversation and the insights of anyone who thinks carefully about our universe and who is willing to guide their thinking based on the evidence of reality."
Planks: "I love how Cal cited the very lines I was thinking of when I wrote Krauss had no respect for philosophy or theology."

?

Planks Blinkered Reading of Krauss: "I have no respect for your intelligent conversation and the insights of anyone who thinks carefully about our universe and who is willing to guide their thinking based on the evidence of reality."

M'kay.

planks length said...

Well, it's not my place here to give Cal lessons in how to actually read and understand. My advice to you, Cal - go find an ESL class and take it. (They offer such things in the evenings, so you should be able to find one.) Till then, please don't embarrass yourself any further. As it is, you just keep digging your hole deeper and deeper.

SteveK said...

>> "How do we know science is the only game in town when it comes to matters of fact like the nature and workings of the universe? No scientific experiment alone establishes this conclusion. Rather, it's the conclusion of hundreds of thousands of scientific experiments that have told us the truth about nature and its workings, many of which went contrary to our proclivities."

The first glaring problem is that you think people can't know anything true about nature unless it's after hundreds of thousands of scientific experiments have been performed. That is false and history is evidence of this fact. Your everyday life is evidence of this fact. If you are including informal, everyday "experiments" done by untrained amateurs then great - but I doubt you are.

The second glaring problem is related to the first. You need to know the true results of experiments 1, 2, 3...etc before you can know what the 100,000 experiments tell you. That means you know something true about nature before you get anywhere close to 100,000.

Conclusion: One single scientific experiment done by untrained amateurs can tell a person what is true about nature. You and I do this everyday.

Victor Reppert said...

Scientism is self-refuting, since statements like "What science cannot discover, mankind cannot know" cannot be justified by scientific experimentation.

Mr. Green said...

B. Prokop: Well, I for one am most certainly no "science denier".

I gotta wonder who is. Have you ever met a "science-denier"? I sure haven't. What would that even mean? Someone who denies that F=ma? Someone who doesn't believe in gravity? Someone who doesn't think there are scientists? (Maybe the term refers to people who deny that "theists" are "proponents of science"??)

for some lines of inquiry, it's the most useful and appropriate tool in one's toolbox. But for other questions, it may not be at all helpful

Nor do we call people who use a screwdriver to drive screws, "hammer-deniers".

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ty się tym zajmij!

Mr. Green said...

Planks Length: Where do you see irony here? Do you even know what the word means?

Not that this is news to you or any of the other regulars, but I'm not bothered to respond to Cal's taunts, since he already admitted in his own words that he is more interested in mocking views he doesn't like than in reasoning about them. As to whether his peculiar comments really indicate that he doesn't understand plain English, or are simply smart-aleckery, I don't suppose it much matters.

Mr. Green said...

John Loftus: Okay, I'll answer your question, but first let's

... deflect from the answer some more. Why, certainly, Minister!

Until you do my point is established,

Uh, wait, you can establish a point by having someone else not comment on a different point? Well, that's fantastic, you just proved that everything I believe is true by not commenting on other stuff! Bully for me!!

Rather, it's the conclusion of hundreds of thousands of scientific experiments

Hang on, are you saying that couldn't answer my question because I asked for just one experiment, and actually "hundreds of thousands" are required? Apart from Steve K's comments, I just want to point out that I wasn't asking a trick question. If you want to list more than one experiment that you've performed, then go ahead! List as many as you like! I just thought it would be easier to start with, y'know, at least one experiment that you did.

To see these results check out "The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference"

Well, that's all about experiments performed by other people... right?

Cumulatively speaking though, eighteen lines of evidence show it happened.

Eighteen? Not seventeen? Not nineteen? I am duly enlightened! But to return to the question at hand, Minister...

he is ignoring the fact that no scientist ever claimed that one piece of evidence proves science is the only game in town, or anything else."

But I wasn't asking about what scientists claimed, I was asking about what you claimed. And you aren't a scientist, right? (Did you ever answer Bob's question? When you're done dodging mine, I'd love to see your response to him.)

But, if science is indeed the only game in town there couldn't be a meta-justification for it since science is the only game in town, not meta-science.

Aha, so if we want to justify physics, then we would need some sort of — to follow your jargon — "metaphysics" to ground it. But according to you, since "metaphysics" is not science, then there could be no such thing as "metaphysics". But that means that physics cannot be grounded or justified. And therefore, there is no rational reason to accept it. Indeed, not merely that there isn't, but that there could never be any rational ground for physics! But if that were true, then physics wouldn't be more than a hunch, a wild guess, an imaginative fiction unmoored from reality. (Hey, maybe science-deniers do exist after all!)

Hoping this helps.

Well, you still didn't describe any experiments you performed, or admit that you didn't perform any. But I guess it helps show why answering the question as I asked it would be a moot point: since you do not believe that science can be grounded, actually worrying about experiments and results and theories would all be rather pointless. I guess that implies the answer to Bob's question too: if for a naturalist, science is indefensible, then there's no reason to be a scientist or do science. (That certainly helps me be grateful I'm not a naturalist!)

In any case, you might try answering my question now.

I might. Or I might decide that anyone who can't figure it out is unlikely to get it even if I spell it out.

Mr. Green said...

Ilíon: "We are all methodological [super-]naturalists"

Considering all the theists who pioneered the discoveries of modern science, and indeed invented it, one has to wonder what this alleged "methodological naturalism" is supposed to be doing differently from what all those non-naturalist scientists did. In fact, if it did something else, wouldn't it therefore not be following the scientific method? And yet "naturalists" seem to do science pretty much the same way as Newton and Galileo and Mendel and Lemaitre and Einstein and Albertus Magnus and Kepler and Collins and Bacon and Pascal and Boyle and Leibniz and Whewell and Maxwell and Carver and Kelvin and... so many others. Why, it's almost as though a naturalistic bias contributes nothing at all to science!

Joe Hinman said...


I.ve written a blog essay Answering Loftus on methodological naturalism In answer to the essay of his that he linked to above at top:

http://infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/naturalism.html

Ilíon said...

"Scientism is self-refuting, since statements like "What science cannot discover, mankind cannot know" cannot be justified by scientific experimentation."

How many *decades* has this been widely understood, and still these stuck-in-the-past 'Science!' triumphalists keep trumpeting that *they* are the rational ones?

"... since statements like "What science cannot discover, mankind cannot know" cannot be justified by scientific experimentation."

Even a more modest statement, such as "That star/galaxy is X light-years away from us" cannot be justified as being true by scientific experimentation.

Ilíon said...

Mr Green: "... Why, it's almost as though a naturalistic bias contributes nothing at all to science!"

I'm thinking it applies a brake, at best, and more likely a black-hole.

Steve Lovell said...

I'm going to throw a bone to the scientism's defenders. I reckon the argument they are looking for goes a little like this:

1) No alleged source of knowledge can justify itself along "classical foundationalist" lines.
2) It is therefore not a special problem with science that it cannot do this.
3) But some alleged sources of knowledge can't even justify themselves on "coherentist" grounds. The output from those sources varies across time and culture.
4) The sciences, and other empirical disciplines using methods continuous with science, are the only alleged sources of knowledge with a track record of consistent results repeatable across time and culture ... though this is admittedly a matter of degree.
5) Therefore, we ought to think of science as having a privileged status among our (alleged) sources of knowledge, and it is not incoherent to regard it as the only source of knowledge.

Now, I don't buy this argument ... but it's not quite the car crash of mere assertion we've been getting from scientism's defenders above. Not even when "science" is understood as necessarily underwritten by Methodological Naturalism.

Supposing you reject the argument, does that change if we remove the final clause beginning "and it is not incoherent ..."?

John Loftus said...

Steve Lovell, Dr. Maarten Boudry and I are in contact with each other. Along with Dr. Massimo Pigliucci they are editing a book on Scientism. Maarten sent me his chapter. I also have a summary of Stephen's Law's chapter. You should get this book, seriously.

Here's the closing paragraph of Law's chapter:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2015/12/dr-stephen-laws-upcoming-chapter-on.html

Boudry calls scientism a boogeyman. Its title is "Science Unlimited? On the Challenged of Scientism." Here is his abstract:

"Scientism, by definition, is that which pushes science beyond its epistemological limits. If there are no such limits, then there is no such thing as scientism. First, I will defend the naturalist conception of the web of human knowledge, in which science is interwoven with everyday knowledge, philosophy and other academic disciplines. Drawing inspiration from evolutionary epistemology, I argue that what we now identify as the borderlines between folk knowledge and science are contingent on our cognitive make-up, and thus are largely accidents of history and biology. From this naturalist vantage point, I then try to find out if there are any clean “breaks” in the web of knowledge, which even an inveterate naturalist should be willing to accept. Working by elimination, I discuss two ‘realms’ that are often regarded as necessarily beyond the purview of science: the supernatural realm and the moral realm. In the case of the supernatural, I defend the inclusive nature of science and attack the methodological strictures imposed on science by those who want to reconcile it with religion. In the case of morality, finally, I argue that science reaches some sort of limit. But this, as we will see, still provides no succor to advocates of “other ways of knowing.’”

John Loftus said...

The title to Boudry's chapter is "Why science does not have limits." That's the theme of many essays in the book.

So deal with it when it comes out.

John Loftus said...

In my own soon to be released book, "Christianity in the Light of Science," there is nothing inside its pages where the boogeyman of scientism can be raised against it. So scientism is indeed a canard. It doesn't touch that book and yet it demolishes Christianity.

For more:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2016/03/blurbs-for-my-anthology-christianity-in.html

B. Prokop said...

"Scientism, by definition, is that which pushes science beyond its epistemological limits.

No, scientism is the belief that there is no valid path to true knowledge other than by empirical observation and the scientific method. Or, to put it into positive terms, scientism is the assertion that "Science is the only game in town. ... Scientism is the insistence that "science is [not only] the best alternative, It's the only one." (John Loftus, from this very conversation)

Hmm.. I see no "limits" being put to science in those statements.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

On a side note, isn't it rather odd that Loftus titles his blog Debunking Christianity? Since "bunk" is a term of derision, as in "That statement is pure bunk!" then to debunk something ought to mean you're validating it. So I will proudly "de-bunk" Christianity whenever I demonstrate and defend its truth.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

Correction! The quotation in my posting of 7:02 AM should have read:

"Science is the only game in town." ... Scientism is the insistence that "science is [not only] the best alternative, It's the only one." (John Loftus, from this very conversation)

The missing quotation marks after the word "town" make it appear that the following five words are Loftus's (which they are not). I apologize for the error.

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"but it's not quite the car crash of mere assertion we've been getting from scientism's defenders above."

I disagree with this, although I suppose it hangs on what one means by "car crash". At any rate the argument is still dreadful because there is a straightforward counter-example to its conclusion: Mathematics. As far as depth, vastness and degree of certainty, theoretical physics, the gold standard for the empirical sciences, is a veritable joke when compared to what Mathematics has attained.

But since theoretical physics presupposes and needs Mathematics (and the relation here is asymmetrical in the relevant sense), it follows it neither has a privileged status and that is indeed incoherent to regard it as the only source of knowledge.

Legion of Logic said...

I an highly confident that the new book does not even scratch the surface of Christianity, let alone demolishes it, if The Christian Delusion is any indication, but I suppose it is theoretically possible that an atheist might have finally written a book that does so.

Ilíon said...

... for some definitions of "theory".

Steve Lovell said...

@grodrigues,

I agree, but my feeling is that the defender of such arguments will be happy to give a similar status to mathematics and logic and say the argument is limited to alleged sources of knowledge yielding claims with non-analytic content (not that I agree with the background assumption that logical and mathematical truths do not have semantic content, but it's a common position), or at any rate sources "other than mathematics and logic".



lamer said...

Nailed it!