Sunday, June 25, 2023

Karl Popper against materialism


One dividing point bewteen left and right

 Some people believe that government's primary role is to protect people from violent threat, but not so much to protect people from misfortune that does not stem from violent threat. Liberals wonder whyconservatives are so strong on national defense and law enforcement but less motivated toward government action to protect us against disease. I think this is a dividing point between liberals and conservatives historically. 

Monday, June 19, 2023

J. B. S. Haldane's argument for atheism


“My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.”

― J.B.S. Haldane, Faith And Fact

Moore replies to Balfour

 Balfour’s presentation in Foundations of Belief faced a well-known critic, G.E. Moore. Moore wrote;

For it to be true that beliefs were evolved, then the belief that they were so must have been evolved. And this, according to Mr.Balfour, is a reason why we must doubt its truth. That is to say, the fact of (naturalistic) evolution is a reason for doubting the fact of evolution. It is inconsistent to believe in the fact of evolution, if at the same time we believe in the fact of evolution. The inconsistency, we may in fact reply, is all the other way. It is, in fact, contradictory to believe that the validity of a belief depends on any way on the manner in which it was acquired.
Students of the Lewis-Anscombe exchange will notice a predecessor to Anscombe’s criticism of Lewis here. In fact, noticing this put my dissertation advisor, on to seeing the similarity between Balfour’s argument and Lewis’s. But is it inconsistent or contradictory to argue say that the validity of a belief depends on the manner in which it was acquired? This what we seem to object to when we make charges of genetic fallacy or ad hominem circumstantial. But let us take ad hominem circumstantial. Here you simply find a motive in someone psyche that might motivate someone to believe something whether or not it is true or false, and conclude from that that the person’s belief lacks validity. Or in case of the genetic fallacy, the belief may have originated in a non-rational way in someone’s mind. That wouldn’t mean that the belief couldn’t have been tested further down the road in a way that would render it rational.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Science and mentalistic explanations


In science, how beliefs are produced seems to matter, and matter profoundly. Some belief-forming mechanisms work effectively without our knowing how they work. Star basketball players would be hard-pressed to provide algorithms as to how they decide when to shoot, pass, or drive the lane. But science depends crucially on or ability not only to make inferences, but to communicate those inferences in such a way that others in the scientific community can repeat the process and determine whether they concur or not. The paradox of science is that while science seems happiest analyzing realities that are mindless machines, the description they have to give of their own activity in order for that activity to be legitimate is invariably and inescapably mentalistic. Propositions are chosen, and others rejected, on the grounds that they conform to the evidence. In fact, atheists like Richard Dawkins never tire of telling us that their process of selecting beliefs concerning religious claims is evidence-based, while the religionists they criticize ignore evidence. In other words, Dawkins is saying that, unlike religionists, his activities in choosing to accept or reject religious claims can be explained in mentalistic terms, the terms of evidence evaluation. But wouldn’t that be nonsense if nothing in the universe, in the final analysis, has a mentalistic explanation?


Friday, June 16, 2023

Science vs Naturalism


1.      If naturalism is a rational position, then science is a legitimate way of knowing the world, if not the only legitimate way of knowing the world.

2.      If science is a legitimate way of knowing the world, then some people infer their beliefs from other beliefs. This is essential to the scientific method.

3.      If some people infer beliefs from other beliefs, then some things in reality act for reasons.

4.      But if naturalism is true, nothing in reality acts for reasons. Everything acts due to non-rational causes.

5.      Therefore, if naturalism is true, science is not a legitimate way of knowing the world.

6.      Therefore, if naturalism is true, naturalism is not a rational position.

7.      If a thesis can be a rational position only if the position is false, then that thesis if not a rational position.

8.      Therefore, naturalism is not a rational position.


Saturday, June 10, 2023

The paradox of the materiaiist evidentialist

 If materialism is true, it's impossible for evidence to determine what ssmeone believes. What someone believes is determined by the basic forces of physics. Evidence is not a basic force of physics, so it cannot really cause belief if materialism is true. People who believe in materialism based on evidence exist only if maeriaalism is false.

Balfour's argument from reason


Lewis mentions Balfour’s Theism and Humanism in one place, but the closest parallel to the argument Lewis used in Miracles comes in Lewis’s book The Foundations of Belief, originally published in 1895.

Balfour’s argument derives four propositions from what he calls the “naturalistic creed.”

1)      My beliefs, in so far as they are the result of reasoning at all, are founded on premises produced in the last resort by the “collision of atoms.”

2)      Atoms, having no prejudices in favour of truth, are as likely to turn out wrong premises as right ones; nay, more likely, inasmuch as truth is one and error manifold.

3)      My premises, therefore, in the first place, and my conclusions in the second, are certainly untrustworthy, and probably false. Their falsity, moreover, is of a kind which cannot be remedied; for any attempt to correct it must start from premises not suffering from the same defect. But no such premises exist.

4)      Therefore, again, my opinion about the original causes which produced my premises, as it is an inference from them, partakes of the same weakness; so that I cannot either accurately doubt my own certainties or be certain of my own doubts.

In other words, if naturalism, then skepticism. But if skepticism is true, then we have to be as skeptical about naturalism as we are about anything else    

Importantly, Balfour considers the Evolutionary Rebuttal to this argument. Evolutionary biology “establishes the existence of a machinery which, irrational thought it may be, does really bend gradually, and in the long run, to produce true opinions rather than false.” That machinery, of course, is natural selection. This brings the organism into more and more perfect harmony with the environment.

But he finds the Evolutionary Rebuttal to be less than adequate. He writes:

But what an utterly inadequate basis for speculation is here. We are to suppose that the powers that evolved in primitive man and his animal progenitors in order that they might kill with success and marry in security, are on that account, sufficient to explore the secrets of the universe. We are to suppose that the fundamental beliefs on which these powers of reasoning are to be exercised reflect with sufficient precision remote aspects of reality, though they were produced in the main by physiological processes which date from a stage of development when the only curiosities that had to be satisfied were those of fear and those of hunger.

            He concludes:

            I do not think believe that any escape from these perplexities is possible unless we are prepared to bring to the study of the world the presupposition that it was the work of a rational Being, who made it intelligible,  and at the same time made us, in however feeble a fashion, able to understand it.

This is the Foundatons of Bellief, available in its entirety on Google Books. 

The passages I quoted from start on p. 306.