Sunday, April 30, 2017

How are scientific beliefs caused?

Assuming no God and setting aside any life on other planets that might have evolved prior to earth's life, no agent-driven teleology has existed throughout virtually all of natural history. 

So, what is happening now? In order for the accounts we have to give a Darwin inferring natural selection from finch beaks, or physicists rejecting the ether theory as a result (among other things) of the Michelsen-Morley experiment, to make any sense, we have to describe them in teleological terms. The reasons, the evidence, have to be causally responsible for the beliefs these scientists came to hold. Otherwise, the presumed advantage of following science as opposed to superstition goes out the window. 

Yet naturalists insist that when minds arose, no new mode of causation was introduced. Matter functioned in the same way, it is just that evolution but it into forms of organization that made it seem as if it had purposes when it really didn't, and this explains the very theorizing by which scientists like Dawkins and philosophers like Mackie reach the conclusion that God does not exist. In the last analysis, you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason. If this is true, how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality?

13 comments:

Mortal said...

How can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality?

Short answer: He can't.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"In order for the accounts we have to give a Darwin inferring natural selection from finch beaks, or physicists rejecting the ether theory as a result (among other things) of the Michelsen-Morley experiment, to make any sense, we have to describe them in teleological terms. "
No, that is theistic thinking. Beaks do not have a property of purpose, they simply function in the propagation of the species depending on their structure.

"In the last analysis, you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason. If this is true, how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality?"
Because rationality is a construct of brain processes, mutually agreed upon by various brains by communicated consensus.

The foundation of rational analysis is a set of axioms, or postulates, which are certain propositions that are taken as self-evidently true for the purpose of establishing a convention of rationality. These axioms or postulates are provisional, meaning they are not themselves proved and are subject to change if they are shown to be false by counter example.

Axioms of logic include the principle of non-contradiction, the identity principle, and others.

We must provisionally postulate that the universe is intelligible and the human senses are basically reliable if we wish to engage in a community of rational discourse.

We must further agree by convention on certain rules of process, of discourse, of symbology.

Once we have established between us by postulate and convention these foundations of rational discourse only then may the discourse commence in a mutually meaningful manner.

By this process of rational discourse I claim atheism to be the rational position and theism to be the irrational position. This claim is deductive in the past of the limited scope of my prior engagements and inductive into the future based upon past deductions.

Hugo Pelland said...

One thing I would add here, that I did mention on the previous thread, is that yes, I do believe largely in that:
"you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason."

We are mostly machines that act based on our previous experiences and knowledge. It is a different type of causation though because it's an emerging property of the brain. It's the same thing as water having different properties than the individual atoms of H2O. Our brains are so incredibly complex that we have this fantastic ability to react, almost instantly, to what his around us AND to what is happening within our own minds. We don't decide to think what we think about. We are experiencing our thoughts popping into our consciousness and are able to just gently drive which direction we want to take next, both mentally and physically. This is why we cannot pretend to have pure free will.

Again, Sam Harris I think has a very elegant way of putting this:
https://youtu.be/pCofmZlC72g?t=2m15s

unkleE said...

Hi SP, I'm interested in Vic's comment and your response. I am a theist, but I'm hopeful we can discuss in a friendly manner.

If I understand you correctly, your basis for rational discourse is postulation, agreement and change if found false by counter example. So I started thinking what counter example might falsify this approach. It can hardly be that somehow we discover that the laws of logic don't apply after all. My thought is that it must be based on the real world - using the logic that you have postulated leads to some real world conclusions that are not correct. Is that how you see it?

It seems to me that this is exactly the point that Victor is making. If a detective is trying to solve a crime, his or her theory has to account for all the facts. It is the same in science. If a hypothesis cannot explain some facts, then it is a poor hypothesis and we must postulate a new one. Your hypothesis of naturalism cannot (in my opinion) explain why the logical system you postulate is actually true or right. It can explain why I am a theist in terms of brain states and psychology, but it cannot allow for me to choose on the basis of evidence, because I cannot choose if naturalism is actually true. There is no "me" standing outside the physical chain of events to make a choice.

And the same of course is true for you. You claim to be an atheist because of rationality and induction, but where in your naturalistic approach is there any place for choice? Your atheism is as much a product of the flow of physical process in your brain as is my theism. I cannot see any way out of that dilemma, can you? And therefore I think we have the counter example that falsifies your approach.

I see two further issues. (1) If we argue that we do indeed have choice based on rationality, we may legitimately ask how such rationality arose from physical processes. We may say that it is a chance emergent outcome of our developing brains that happens through natural selection to give "true" results. But if that is so, then we have to say that the outcome of the majority of human brains is correct. I'm doubtful of that proposition, and I'm sure you are too, since the majority of human brains believe God exists.

(2) How do we ever test that there are counter examples? What constitutes a valid or "true" criterion? Is it just another "agreement"? In which case, we seem to have a circular and therefore false verification.

So I'm interested in how you think your approach meets these challenges. Thanks.

Joe Hinman said...

Now days people like to make a big thing of the idea that science is fact and not belief,I think they are just naive about he nature of fact, On metacrock's blog

can science really prove the basis of modern physics?

Joe Hinman said...

Yet naturalists insist that when minds arose, no new mode of causation was introduced. Matter functioned in the same way, it is just that evolution but it into forms of organization that made it seem as if it had purposes when it really didn't, and this explains the very theorizing by which scientists like Dawkins and philosophers like Mackie reach the conclusion that God does not exist. In the last analysis, you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason. If this is true, how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality?

yet they treasure being thought of as free thinker and it's such a hall of their brilliance that they figured atheism out they call thenselves: "bright"

Stardusty Psyche said...

unkleE said...

"My thought is that it must be based on the real world - using the logic that you have postulated leads to some real world conclusions that are not correct. Is that how you see it?"
A provisional postulate does not need to specify what would falsify it, only recognize that the postulate is not strictly proved.

" It seems to me that this is exactly the point that Victor is making. If a detective is trying to solve a crime, his or her theory has to account for all the facts."
Theists consider god to be real, in which case the detective could consider an act of god as a possible explanation. But miracles are not allowed as evidence in court.

" Your hypothesis of naturalism cannot (in my opinion) explain why the logical system you postulate is actually true or right. "
That's why it is a postulate. However, all our evidence says the postulate of non-contradiction is true, it seems to be true every time we test it, nobody can come up with an explanation as to how it could be false, I cannot imagine how it could be false, so I am willing to provisionally accept the postulate of non-contradiction. Such evidence based inductive reasoning is rational.

"It can explain why I am a theist in terms of brain states and psychology, but it cannot allow for me to choose on the basis of evidence, because I cannot choose if naturalism is actually true."
You choose mechanistically. You make choices, but on naturalism not free choices.

" There is no "me" standing outside the physical chain of events to make a choice."
Our "me" is a dynamic distributed brain process.

" And the same of course is true for you. You claim to be an atheist because of rationality and induction, but where in your naturalistic approach is there any place for choice?"
Are you a coder by any chance? Well, even if not, I am sure you realize that a computer program makes choices. That is how we make choices.

" Your atheism is as much a product of the flow of physical process in your brain as is my theism. I cannot see any way out of that dilemma, can you?"
I don't see any dilemma.

" And therefore I think we have the counter example that falsifies your approach."
Different systems mechanistically choose to do different things. I don't see the dilemma. At one point Victor said something like "we all evolved the same", which is not strictly true, in fact each organism is physically unique.

" We may say that it is a chance emergent outcome of our developing brains that happens through natural selection to give "true" results. But if that is so, then we have to say that the outcome of the majority of human brains is correct."
Natural selection is not true or false, it simply proceeds as it does, absent directionality, or plan, right, or wrong.

" (2) How do we ever test that there are counter examples? What constitutes a valid or "true" criterion? Is it just another "agreement"? In which case, we seem to have a circular and therefore false verification."
Our absolute truths are limited to those strictly confirmed by our self awareness. Unsettling to most people, I realize, but there it is.

" So I'm interested in how you think your approach meets these challenges. Thanks."
I hope I have answered your questions meaningfully.


April 30, 2017 6:33 PM

Victor Reppert said...

How could you have evidence the postulate of noncontradiction is true? What evidence could possibly falsify it? Everything follows from a contradiction, so no particular fact could confirm or disconfirm the principle of contradiction.

unkleE said...

Hi SP, thanks for your response. But I’m sorry, I don’t see many answers there. Do you mind if I reiterate some of the questions?

”A provisional postulate does not need to specify what would falsify it, only recognize that the postulate is not strictly proved. “
You said ”are subject to change if they are shown to be false by counter example”, so I asked how you would find a counter example, if not finding something in the real world that was inconsistent with your assumptions. This doesn’t answer that question. Have you actually tried to find falsifying counter examples?

” all our evidence says the postulate of non-contradiction is true, it seems to be true every time we test it, nobody can come up with an explanation as to how it could be false, I cannot imagine how it could be false, so I am willing to provisionally accept the postulate of non-contradiction”?
You and I have different belief systems or worldviews, as do you and Victor. I don’t question the postulation of non-contradiction, and I doubt Victor does either. So I don’t think that is an example that is helpful to this discussion. Victor’s post was about naturalism and scientific beliefs. Most scientific beliefs are not matters of mere logic, but of empirical observation and conclusions drawn from them. Our question is how empirical evidence can be “causally responsible for the beliefs these scientists“, when physical events in the brain are causally responsible. I haven’t seen how you would explain that naturalistically.

”I don't see any dilemma.”
The dilemma is this, and I imagine you have heard it expressed better and more fully than I do here. Under naturalism, every physical event is explained or caused by previous physical events, for there is nothing else to cause them. So how does the truth of some statement cause the physical event of you or I concluding some worldview is true?

”Natural selection is not true or false, it simply proceeds as it does, absent directionality, or plan, right, or wrong.”
I didn’t say that natural selection was true or false, I said our brains apparently are able to reason to generally true conclusions, and I cannot see you have offered any explanation of how our brains are able to do that via natural selection.

”Our absolute truths are limited to those strictly confirmed by our self awareness. Unsettling to most people, I realize, but there it is.”
Again, it seems to me that this avoids the question rather than answers it. As in my first comment, I asked how you would determine if your postulations were “shown to be false by counter example”, if not by an inability to explain some empirical fact - including the ability to show something to be false. As I suggested previously, if we cannot agree on some criterion for what is true, your continuing to accept the provisional reliability of your cognitive processes is circular and self-fulfilling, and seems to avoid facing the difficult questions.

Please feel free not to discuss further if you wish, but I am interested in hearing how you explain rational thought and science granted naturalism and the consequent lack of libertarian free will. Thanks.

David Brightly said...

Yet naturalists insist that when minds arose, no new mode of causation was introduced. Within the scientific image, which at its most basic recognises no causes at all, this is true. But within the manifest image, which does admit causes, there does seem to be a new source of change.

...you became an atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state... 'Being an atheist' is a description within the manifest image whereas 'a configuration of atoms' is a description within the scientific image. The relation between them cannot be causal because causes operate only within the manifest image. The relation is one rather of identity: distinct descriptions of the same thing from two different viewpoints.

How can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality? I suppose that an atheist could say that just as organs evolve to be more 'in tune' with their environment so the configurations of atoms in his brain had 'learned' to be more in tune with reality. More a smug debating tactic than an argument, perhaps.

Hugo Pelland said...

unkleE said...
" I don’t question the postulation of non-contradiction, and I doubt Victor does either. So I don’t think that is an example that is helpful to this discussion. Victor’s post was about naturalism and scientific beliefs."
FYI, this was actually a follow-up of other threads, one of which was specifically about the principle of non-contradiction, and that post was also a response to another thread. It's hard to keep track of this all as a single 'discussion'.

For instance...
1) If there is a brain, there has to be a mind that is not a brain
2) The principle of noncontradiction
3) Why the Is-Ought Problem Will Not Go Away: A Reply to Stardusty Psyche
...to list just 3.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Victor Reppert said...

" How could you have evidence the postulate of noncontradiction is true?"
The apparent impossibility of the contrary. The observation that things are not X and ~X simultaneously.

" What evidence could possibly falsify it?"
I can't imagine any such thing. My brain is not that capable. I never observe X and ~X simultaneously. I observe many Xs. I observe many transitions to ~X, but I never observer X and ~X simultaneously. That is pretty good evidence that X and ~X cannot simultaneously be the case.

" Everything follows from a contradiction, so no particular fact could confirm or disconfirm the principle of contradiction."
Indeed, the seeming impossibility of the contrary is very strong evidence for the validity of the principle of non contradiction. Thus it is virtually universally accepted by postulate and communicated convention.

The fact remains, however, that this principle is not strictly proved, only postulated.


May 01, 2017 1:26 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger unkleE said...

" I asked how you would find a counter example, if not finding something in the real world that was inconsistent with your assumptions. This doesn’t answer that question. "
True. But I do not feel compelled to answer the question.

"Have you actually tried to find falsifying counter examples?"
Only incidentally over many trials. I have observed many Xs and many transitions to ~X, but never observed X and ~X simultaneously.

" You and I have different belief systems or worldviews, as do you and Victor. I don’t question the postulation of non-contradiction, and I doubt Victor does either. So I don’t think that is an example that is helpful to this discussion."
Granted, areas of disagreement are generally more interesting and educating. But sometimes it is nice to start with a fundamental agreement so we have a least some common basis for communication.

" Most scientific beliefs are not matters of mere logic, but of empirical observation and conclusions drawn from them. Our question is how empirical evidence can be “causally responsible for the beliefs these scientists“, when physical events in the brain are causally responsible. I haven’t seen how you would explain that naturalistically."
Empirical evidence causes brain processes which we call beliefs. Taking in evidence is a physical process, analyzing that evidence is a physical process, a belief is a physical process. One process leads to another and another on and on...

How is this any sort of problem to explain on naturalism?


”I don't see any dilemma.”
" The dilemma is this, and I imagine you have heard it expressed better and more fully than I do here. Under naturalism, every physical event is explained or caused by previous physical events, for there is nothing else to cause them. So how does the truth of some statement cause the physical event of you or I concluding some worldview is true?"
A real physical event (true event) is observed and internally modeled in the brain. The brain is a very complex multiprocessing serial parallel network of pattern correlation and signaling that derives confidence levels. When a conclusion is assigned and crosses a high confidence level (probability estimate) it is assigned the binary state of "true" (personally convinced).

I just do not see any dilemma or problem of any sort on naturalism. Where do you suppose the disconnect or chasm exists that is somehow unbridgeable on naturalism?



" I didn’t say that natural selection was true or false, I said our brains apparently are able to reason to generally true conclusions, and I cannot see you have offered any explanation of how our brains are able to do that via natural selection."
Brains that tend to model reality poorly tend to get eaten alive.


" if we cannot agree on some criterion for what is true, your continuing to accept the provisional reliability of your cognitive processes is circular and self-fulfilling, and seems to avoid facing the difficult questions."
It is functionally useful in the ordinary primitive survival sense. The system of logic applied to observation seems to be very consistent over vast numbers of trials. I just don't see what the problem is that you seem to think exists on naturalism.


" I am interested in hearing how you explain rational thought and science granted naturalism and the consequent lack of libertarian free will."
Animals are biological robots. At what point from amoeba, worm, crustacean, fish, lizard, rodent, lemur, monkey, ape, human did things suddenly start happening by free will?

Behaviors have gotten very complex as organisms have gotten very complex. What need is there for free will to explain any of it?



May 02, 2017 12:53 AM