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The hopeless quest of a hopeless theory

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There’s a big “evolution of religion” conference coming up in Hawaii: http://www.evolutionofreligion.org/index.php. Daniel Dennett is among the featured speakers. Here’s a brief description of another featured speaker:

On Sunday evening the Rev. Michael Dowd, who has been called “North America’s evolutionary evangelist,” will share his experience of teaching and preaching a sacred, meaningful view of cosmic, biological, and human evolution to secular and religious audiences of all ages and across the theological spectrum.

You think ID might be a welcomed perspective at this conference?

80 Replies to “The hopeless quest of a hopeless theory

  1. 1
    JasonTheGreek says:

    Sounds like that Darwin Day stuff when they got all the churches to band together to promote NDE. Not knowing that NDE calls for blind watchmaker, accidents to get from goo to you. Many churches were clueless, joined in, then complained afterwards because it surely didn’t fit with the worldview of the church at all. Typing a comment with my browser is very funny. I don’t see anything in the comment box- Iactually see NO comment box at all, just the PREVIEW below, so I’m not sure if this will come out right, as my comment preview is under what I can see on the page, and if I scroll down, I have no idea where to click to type stuff in. Slimbrowser is what I’m using by the way. Very nice layout, but very hard to comment. Might try IE or Firefox to see if there’s any difference.

  2. 2
    idnet.com.au says:

    Can the comments in this new format be numbered?

    I am getting to talk on ID at a conference of Australian religious educators.

    The draft talk is 4 pages long. Any willing reviewers? I’d appreciate pre feedback. email info_idnet@yahoo.com.au

  3. 3
    idnet.com.au says:

    “Talks will represent a variety of naturalistic and religious traditions, with no particular perspective being privileged”

    I find that hard to believe!

    I don’t suppose they have thought to invite Dr Dembski?

  4. 4
    Jon_D says:

    The tide seems to be turning in favour of ID in the academic world.

    The IDM needs to make sure it’s own perpective is promoted at the same time.

  5. 5
    Tom English says:

    Bill,

    I do not believe that science needs protection from religion, but that religion needs protection from scientism. The Rev. Michael Dowd is my worst nightmare. His scientized beliefs are virtually identical to those I expect ID to engender. Just substitute design for evolution in the following:

    Dowd claims that public revelation will usher religion into its greatness in the 21st century. Traditional religion, grounded in private revelation, by its very nature cannot be verified or falsified. Public revelation is gained via a process where claims about the nature of reality (ideally based on measurable data) are proposed, tested, and modified in light of evidence and concerted attempts to disprove such claims. Such a process typically results in a shared understanding that goes well beyond belief, to factual knowledge. Private revelation tends to produce religious believers. Belief is the important thing. Public revelation produces religious knowers.

    In a dynamic, passion-filled presentation, Dowd will outline what he calls “the Gospel According to Evolution.” A sacred, meaningful experience of cosmic, Earth, biological, and human evolution, he claims: (1) transforms people’s lives in a more comprehensive and ongoing way than traditional religion generally can, (2) REAL-izes what were previously imagined to be merely supernatural or otherworldly religious ideals. (3) expands and deepens traditional theology, morality, and ethics, and (4) clarifies our way into the future, personally and collectively – i.e., it shows how “God’s will” is both obvious and universal. [source]

    Dowd worships the senses. He places the communal over the individual and the natural over the supernatural. The general idea is that what people can perceive collectively in nature and interpret by consensus is a higher truth than any the individual can achieve through private and subjective experience.

    Science is no way to the Truth. Science itself tells us that the senses are fallible, and thus undercuts its own empiricism. Reflection upon the nature of consciousness should tell us that there is no clear distinction between self and other. There is no way to escape the ultimately subjective nature of experience, and the only absolute relationship to the Absolute is private.

  6. 6
    shaner74 says:

    “Traditional religion, grounded in private revelation, by its very nature cannot be verified or falsified.”

    Yes this is nightmarish.

    “Private revelation tends to produce religious believers. Belief is the important thing. Public revelation produces religious knowers.”

    Of course, since we all know there is no belief factor in Darwinism. I’m not familiar with Rev. Dowd, but from what you’ve posted it sounds to me like he’s pushing some type of organized religion for atheists, with a dash of paganism for good measure; the church of “nature”.

  7. 7
    Mats says:

    Isn’t Hawaii the place with some dangerous vulcanos? Then again, seeing what will be discussed, perhaps that’s the best place to be.

    You think ID might be a welcomed perspective at this conference?

    I am afraid not, Bill, since religiously motivated doctrines are not allowed, even if the subject of discussion is religion. We can only have the darwinian view point of religion. We can’t allow an intelligent design foot at the door.

  8. 8
    avocationist says:

    Tom English, you have redeemed yourself. That was a very fine post. I begin to understand you a little, although your arguments in favor of NDE still don’t quite make sense to me.
    It seems to me that Dowd is groping toward something true, but in the wrong place as usual. It is good to speak of the fact that private revelation is given over to the public (with a dose of threat thrown in – i.e., “believe or else”) but as you say, trying to make empirical, sense-oriented proofs is probably the wrong way to go, since “the kingdom of heaven is within.” He wants to take people from belief to knowledge, and I think that is another very important point, but in my opinion the way to go is to help people have their own inner subjective experience that is powerful enough so that they are not dependent upon others to stoke their faith.
    And what do you know, when people do have such inner experiences, they will find that they have much commonality after all.

  9. 9
    Tom English says:

    avocationist,

    Wow, I think we agree on something! Luke 17:20-21 is a key passage for me, and I wish the “within you” translation were certain.

    A number of people have asked me why I believe in neo-Darwinism. The fact is that I don’t believe in it. The particle in makes all the difference. As I see it, there is nothing in science that merits that sort of strong belief. And I oppose the notion that some revision of science would make its explanations something one should believe in.

    What I believe (no in) about the neo-Darwinian paradigm is that it is yielding new and significant discoveries at a high rate. This does not mean that the paradigm does not have weaknesses or that “naturalism is true.” It means that science is making good headway at explaining life under methodological naturalism. My acceptance of methodological naturalism in science in no way indicates that I believe in naturalism. It is purely a matter of pragmatism — science seems to work better when we assume that causes are to be found in nature. Perhaps someone will make a strong case for readmitting supernaturalism to science — I am open to that — but I have not seen it yet.

  10. 10
    todd says:

    I think most here are in agreement with you on that point Tom. The problem is when scientists conflate necessary methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. Because science must be limited to the natural, it does not follow that science vindicates Naturalism. This is the view I discern from most of the spittle flecked mouths in the Church of Darwin. 😉

  11. 11
    idnet.com.au says:

    Tom, when is your “Statement on Intelligent Design” going to be available?

    Does ID necessarily transgress methodological naturalism when it infers intelligence?

    I wonder if ID may remain in the methodological naturalism stream unless people insist on identifying the Intelligence.

    I do think the existence of an unevolved intelligence is a very strong implication of ID. String theory has 10^500 universes to play with. Couldn’t we posit the possibility that the unevolved Intelligence could have evolved in a universe with different worlds? That would seem to give at least one “material” theoretical possibility to remove the charge of essential supernaturalism from ID.

  12. 12
    idnet.com.au says:

    By the way, thanks for numbering the posts. Any spell check available? Australian spelling, although different from US spelling, has not evolved far enough to accommodate my frequent mutations.

  13. 13
    avocationist says:

    Tom,

    It would be useful if you write us a little paragraph on why there is no clear distinction between self and other.

    A similar favorite of mine from the apocryphal (probably gnostic) gospel of Thomas is 113:
    His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?”
    “It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look here, or Look there!’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”
    In other words, it’s all about perception and consciousness. The material only follows.

    It means that science is making good headway at explaining life under methodological naturalism.

    Perhaps, but I draw a distinction between studying life as it really is, for example the krebs cycle and that amazing map of the metabolic pathways that was posted here a few months ago, and the assumptions and extrapolations that go along with it. Assumptions such as that bacterial resistence to antibiotics is evolution in action, that sort of thing. Or that such evolution can be taken as proof that all life arose from similar mechanisms without consciousness or intention.

    science seems to work better when we assume that causes are to be found in nature. Perhaps someone will make a strong case for readmitting supernaturalism to science-
    Yes, maybe it does. I think that one problem with prior science may be because there was so much projection and anthropomorphism onto God and his motives, making of God a small ego rather like ourselves. This whole question of God versus nature is quite dicey. My opinion on supernaturalism is that it doesn’t exist because that which we think of as supernatural is simply that which we don’t understand. Just because the mind of God may be able to bring about results that we cannot is no reason to call it supernatural, any more than our actions are supernatural compared to what animals can do. I can’t divide God from nature, even if God is the ’cause’ of nature. Since I view God as within and upholding all things all the time, and that all things are actually part of God because they arise quite literally OUT of God, I cannot consider God’s actions as supernatural, unless I regard everything in existence as supernatural, which I suppose I do. The idea of God acting outside the laws of nature makes no sense to me and I think it is a fantasy. So, my argument for letting the supernatural into science amounts to saying that if that which we have been calling supernatural exists, it is simply on a continuum unbroken from our three-dimensional world of bodily sense perception, and I fully expect that we will continue to make progress with our instruments and other forms of study into those areas of reality which have hitherto been cut off from our ability to perceive. You mention consciousness research. That is one avenue. Additionally, we know enough now, via the size of the electromagnetic spectrum vs our limited range of perception within it, and our view through microscopes of the tiny world within the cell and the mind-boggling smallness of subatomic particles and quantum physics that there is much more to the world than meets the eye, and that we have not reached bottom. Therefore, it surprises me that materialistic naturalism is rampant now rather than in the past, when a rational person could deny as nearly insane what we accept as commonplace reality today.

  14. 14
    Carlos says:

    I just saw this on Slate:

    “If this person were really someone reasonable, he would not agree to remain at his post one minute, but would convert to Islam immediately.”
    — Mohammed Gaddafi, son of Muammar, on the Pope

    This amuses me, because it’s exactly like what some Darwinists and IDists say:

    “If this person really were someone reasonable, they would accept neo-Darwinism immediately”

    “If this person really were someone reasonable, they would accept ID immediately.”

    I guess all true believers are the same, whether the content of their belief is neo-Darwinism, intelligent design, or Islamicism.

  15. 15
    jerry says:

    Carlos,

    So two views on science are thrown in with a religious belief. A little bit of apples and oranges or are you saying that each is based on faith. Does your comment mean that all believers in something are slavish to that thing. Is there no possibility for reason?

    You should be able to detect the difference by how one defends their beliefs.

  16. 16
    Carlos says:

    14. I was unclear in one critical respect. I was using “true believer” as a term of art, in the sense given to that phrase by Erich Hoffer in his book The True Believer. The “true believer” is an ideologue, a fanatic. Every action that is implied by her ideology is righteous, and every belief inconsistent with her ideology is evil.

    My point is that the attitude of the true believer towards his or her beliefs is detachable from the content — whether those beliefs are scientific, religious, political, etc. Thus, when a militan atheist says that any belief other than atheism is ipso facto outside the bounds of reason, what she is saying is that there’s no possibility of any rational discourse regarding the existence of gods or the role of religious experience in a certain shape of human life.

    Likewise, when a militant IDist says that naturalism is an incoherent or irrational position, she is saying that there’s no possibility of rational discourse — since someone who holds such a belief is outside the scope of reason.

    The relation between naturalists and supernaturalists then comes to resemble the relation between the Catholic Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople, who excommunicated each other.

    What I would like to do is maintain a position of a naturalist who nevertheless thinks that supernaturalism is a rational stance, and even though I regard the prepoonderance of evidence and logic to fall on the side of naturalism, I can see how others may evaluate the situation differently. I think that they are wrong to do so, but they are not irrational in doing so.

    You should be able to detect the difference by how one defends their beliefs.

    If by “defends” one means “justifies,” then yes. On the other hand, some people are very well defended in the psychoanalytic sense. Such people are not amenable to rational discourse with respect to the belief that is well-defended.

  17. 17
    avocationist says:

    Likewise, when a militant IDist says that naturalism is an incoherent or irrational position, she is saying that there’s no possibility of rational discourse — Actually, I said naturalism is incoherent if the person also holds a belief God. Nor does it follow that rational discourse is impossible.

  18. 18
    Carlos says:

    17. Ah, this gets back to that overdue response I still owe you, doesn’t it?

    Promissory note: whether or not naturalism and theism are compatible depends on what one’s naturalism commits one to and what one’s theism commits one to. A suitably odd sort of naturalism and a suitably odd sort of theism could be consistent. Of course, the resulting position might be dissatisfying the majority of naturalists and/or theists, but why care what they think?

  19. 19
    Tom English says:

    todd,

    Because science must be limited to the natural, it does not follow that science vindicates Naturalism. This is the view I discern from most of the spittle flecked mouths in the Church of Darwin.

    I’m going to do what Richard Nixon did back in 1969 — invoke the silent majority. I think that those you are hearing the most from are not typical.

    I am acquainted with a biology professor who once debated Behe at Texas Tech University. I have on multiple occasions heard the guy give a creationist advice on how to gain tenure in the biology department. The real world is not as uncivil as cyberspace, in my experience.

  20. 20
    Carlos says:

    The real world is not as uncivil as cyberspace, in my experience.

    In the real world, one cannot afford to be as uncivil as one can be in cyberspace. In the real world, there are real consequences for uncivility. In cyberspace, the worst that can befall one is to be banned from a site, and with the proliferation of “socks,” even that can next-to-impossible to enforce.

    I’ve been told that I often come across as respectful and polite in cyberspace, and I think that’s because I use the same ‘rules of engagement’ as I do in ordinary conventionalized speech.

  21. 21
    Tom English says:

    id.au.net,

    Does ID necessarily transgress methodological naturalism when it infers intelligence?

    As methodological naturalism is defined in mainstream science, yes. A critical part of the design inference is to rule out natural causes. As I have documented today in some other thread, Bill Dembski used to say that intelligence was non-natural. He shifted in recent years to saying that intelligence is non-material (but natural). But non-material is non-natural for mainstream scientists. And in any case, I think ID was on better philosophical ground when intelligence was non-natural. With the current formulation, natural intelligence can in principle cause miracles (i.e., the probability of an event can go from zero to one).

    That would seem to give at least one “material” theoretical possibility to remove the charge of essential supernaturalism from ID.

    But supernatural is not perjorative for me or for most philsophers. An argument for supernaturalism in science is that it would allow scientists to entertain the possibility that the current notion of nature excludes something that exists and that might be observed. And when the supernatural is observed, it enters the domain of the domain of nature.

  22. 22
    Carl Sachs says:

    An argument for supernaturalism in science is that it would allow scientists to entertain the possibility that the current notion of nature excludes something that exists and that might be observed. And when the supernatural is observed, it enters the domain of the domain of nature.

    I’m not so sure about this one, Tom.

    In order to reject metaphysical naturalism, one would argue that scientists ought to consider that forces and entities which are ontologically distinct from all spatio-temporal, causally-relating entities and forces are nevertheless empirically detectable and should figure in our theories.

    In order to reject methodological naturalism, one would argue that the methods of the natural sciences are an inadequate basis for determining what exists. Thus, revelation, miracles, personal epiphanies would be brought back in as sufficient grounds for justifying existence claims.

    In other words, if we distinguish between metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism, then we should also distinguish between metaphysical supernaturalism and methodological supernaturalism.

    Metaphysical supernaturalism is consistent with methodological naturalism — that is, one could think that entities outside of the causal-spatio-temporal framework are detectable using methods that are part of, or consistent with, those used in natural and social science. (Apparently, the psychologist and philosopher William James thought that occult phenomena could be so treated.)

    Methodological supernaturalism, on the other hand, would maintain that existence-claims can be justified through traditionally ‘supernatural’ means, e.g. visitations, epiphanies, channeling, past-life regression, divine revelation, etc.

    By the way: I have decided to post, from henceforth, under my real name — Carl Sachs — rather than under the pseudonym “Carlos.” You may refer to me either as Carlos or as Carl; I use both in everyday life.

  23. 23
    Tom English says:

    avocationist,

    I’m in a rush. But for now I’ll say that I have read The Gospel of Thomas a number of times.

  24. 24
    jerry says:

    This is a repeat of what I said yesterday on another thread but seems to apply here as well.

    ID postulates the help of an intelligence. Whether this intelligence is supernatural or non-material, or material is not the issue. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

    If the intelligence exists, the presence of this intelligence does not stop science from trying to find other mechanisms than intelligence in every aspect of the natural world so it in no way inhibits science.

    However, if this intelligence exists then the intelligent thing to do is to admit that there may be some aspect of the natural world for which it may be fruitless to find a non-intelligent based mechanism to explain it. Keep on investigating but be open to the possibility of continued failure in some areas.

    Right now what is mandated out in science is the possibility of an intelligent input at any place in the materialistic world. This is tantamount to saying there is no other intelligence in existence because if such an intelligence did exist, it never did anything which is the same thing as not existing as far as anything that every affected our planet is concerned.

    So now we get to the real problem and why this site exists. Alternative viewpoints are not allowed in the school curriculum on this issue. Only one view point is allowed in US public school curriculums and as hard as many have tried here, no one yet has been able to present any evidence defending that view point. Many of us are still waiting for the overwhelming evidence.

  25. 25
    jerry says:

    As far as the real world not being as uncivil as cyberspace maybe we should start listing the lynchings and intimidations that go on in the real world of biology.

    At various times a thread is listed on what biologists actually do when someone challenges NDE or materialism. It is not pretty.

  26. 26
    Carl Sachs says:

    Real lynchings, Jerry?

  27. 27
    mike1962 says:

    Tom English (9) “It means that science is making good headway at explaining life under methodological naturalism. My acceptance of methodological naturalism in science in no way indicates that I believe in naturalism.”

    Very interesting. In a good way.

    It’s a very good position, I think. And the fact that you made this statement clears up some misconceptions that I, and probably others, have had about you on UD. Which leads to my next point. My personal interest in ID vs Darwinism is mainly one of public eduction policy. I think it is perfectly acceptable to proffer materialistic explanations as long as a strong and obvious disclaimer that the explanations are not necessarily “true”, but are the best explanations in a materialist paradigm.

  28. 28
    jerry says:

    Carl Sachs wrote,

    “Real lynchings, Jerry?”

    I guess that some weak minds might take the comment as literal but I doubt many here would. Any type of real lynching would dominate the cable news channels for months while figurative ones get buried by the press unless they fit a certain political framework.

    Try googling Richard Sternberg to see an example of a figurative lynching in biology.

  29. 29
    Carl Sachs says:

    Re: Richard Sternberg. “Understanding is a three-edged sword: your side, their side, and the truth.”

  30. 30
    Carl Sachs says:

    By the way: I’m the same person as “Carlos.” I decided to stop posting under a pseudonym. You can refer to me either as Carl or Carlos — I use both in real life.

  31. 31
    Carl Sachs says:

    An argument for supernaturalism in science is that it would allow scientists to entertain the possibility that the current notion of nature excludes something that exists and that might be observed. And when the supernatural is observed, it enters the domain of the domain of nature.

    In order to reject metaphysical naturalism, one would argue that scientists ought to consider that forces and entities, which are metaphysically distinct from all spatio-temporal, causally-relating entities and forces, are nevertheless empirically detectable and should figure in our theories.

    In order to reject methodological naturalism, one would argue that the methods of the natural sciences are an inadequate basis for determining what exists. Thus, revelation, miracles, personal epiphanies would be brought back in as sufficient grounds for justifying existence claims.

    In other words, if we distinguish between metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism, then we should also distinguish between metaphysical supernaturalism and methodological supernaturalism.

    Metaphysical supernaturalism is consistent with methodological naturalism — that is, one could think that entities outside of the causal-spatio-temporal framework are detectable using methods that are part of, or consistent with, those used in natural and social science. (Apparently, the psychologist and philosopher William James thought that occult phenomena could be so treated.)

    Methodological supernaturalism, on the other hand, would maintain that existence-claims, equivalent to those used elsewhere in objective descriptions of the world, can be justified through ‘supernatural’ means, e.g. visitations, epiphanies, “intellectual intuition,” channeling, past-life regression, divine revelation, etc.

  32. 32
    Carl Sachs says:

    Hosts: Could some please erase (30) and (31)? They duplicate (22), which I’d thought had gotten lost in the spam filter. My apologies!

  33. 33
    bFast says:

    I am personally quite intrigued by Sheldrake’s work. He has made some studies of “ESP” that are producing early findings that ESP may actually be a phenomenon. I would hardly conclude that his experiments have enough rigor, or have been repeated by other experimenters enough, to become respected science.

    However, Sheldrake’s experiments are showing that the scientific method of running experiments and doing simple statistical analysis (methodological naturalism) is quite capable of detecting phenomenon which are viewed as “metaphysically supernatural”.

    Now, we may find that his experiments prove that ESP exists, then go on to discover a naturalistic cause of these phenomenon, who knows. However, he is showing that the metaphysically supernatural can be explored with a methodologically naturalistic scientific approach.

    If this is so, then the idea that intelligence may be detectable as we study the details of life is hardly a far fetched idea, hardly an idea that is rejected from science a priori.

    The latter, of course, is the current view of the scientific community.

  34. 34
    jerry says:

    Carl Sachs,

    Why don’t you try the truth about Richard Sternberg. We all would love to know what it is. I am not sure what “my side” is but since you seem to imply the truth is available, let’s hear it.

    Otherwise we have to assume you comment is attempt to confuse an issue. Some people try to clarify, while others constantly attempt to obfuscate. So help us clarify the issue.

  35. 35
    Rude says:

    Carlos, provocative as always—but be careful! (you’re too good a man to end up nothing but a “devil’s advocate”)—so in 14 you lump IDists in with “true believers” which you say “are all the same”. Well, no, they aren’t. ID merely asks that “science” license a QUESTION: Can design be detected?

    It’s the most important question in everybody’s book—this no matter how hard we try to cloud the fact. The theist wants to know that God DOES exist, the atheist wants to know that God does NOT exist, and the agnostic wants to know that we CANNOT know. The theistic evolutionist wants to protect his deity (and his turf) from the uncertainties of objective reality, the secular demarcationist wants to own science and inoculate it against design no matter what the facts.

    Yes, as you say, people want certainty. The theist and the atheist want the certainty of belief and disbelief, the agnostic the certainty that he cannot know. Pish twaddle! Vive l’incertitude! Uncertainty is where the adventure is, that’s where discovery is. In another thread Carlos argues that we have to begin with some a priori assumptions—which of course is what ID has been saying all along. But let’s not begin as some with the negative assumption that we cannot know anything, that there is no objective reality “out there”, or that we must not admit to design when it stares us in the face. Let’s begin with the positive assumption that nothing is off limits—not even the most important question of all.

    The purpose of science is to find God. Any less purpose and the great quest will have failed its founders.

  36. 36
    bFast says:

    Rude:

    Yes, as you say, people want certainty. The theist and the atheist want the certainty of belief and disbelief, the agnostic the certainty that he cannot know. Pish twaddle! Vive l’incertitude! Uncertainty is where the adventure is, that’s where discovery is.

    Rude, well put. Uncertainty is a scary place. Children flee from it. Maturity recognizes, accepts, and welcomes it.

  37. 37
    Tom English says:

    mike1962,

    I think it is perfectly acceptable to proffer materialistic explanations as long as a strong and obvious disclaimer that the explanations are not necessarily “true”, but are the best explanations in a materialist paradigm.

    I previously posted on this blog that in high school I requested and received permission to give a talk in my biology class “debunking” evolution. Three years later, I learned a bit about the philosophy of science, and saw that neo-Darwinism made great sense under the assumptions of contemporary science. I also saw that the epistemic value of scientific explanations is limited unless one, as an individual, adds to the assumptions of science. It is very easy, in the present fray, to confuse what vocal scientists say with what science itself says.

    I have long advocated a high school course in philosophy and comparative religion. Among other things, it would introduce the philosophy of science. I think it is vital that children learn the limitations of science. Unfortunately, we will not see the Discovery Institute backing this idea. Comparative religion reeks of relativism, don’t you know?

  38. 38
    Tom English says:

    P.S. — Mike, I personally do not think of scientific explanations in terms of truth so much as data compression. Data compression is deeply related to prediction, and prediction, in turn, is intimately related to control. So I have just divulged that I think the p-word, parsimony, is awfully important in science. This puts me at odds with a number of IDists.

  39. 39
    Carl Sachs says:

    Why don’t you try the truth about Richard Sternberg. We all would love to know what it is. I am not sure what “my side” is but since you seem to imply the truth is available, let’s hear it.

    My remark in 29 was intended — I thought clearly, but apparently not — to suggest that “the truth” is not available. In l’affaire Sternberg, one finds, on the one hand, Sternberg’s own reports. On the Panda’s Thumb, one finds a different version of the situation. Which one is correct? Was he unfairly persecuted, as he claims, or did he abuse his authority? I don’t know, and I don’t pretend to know. That’s all I meant by 29.

  40. 40
    Tom English says:

    avocationist:

    It would be useful if you write us a little paragraph on why there is no clear distinction between self and other. […] In other words, it’s all about perception and consciousness. The material only follows.

    Rude:

    But let’s not begin as some with the negative assumption that we cannot know anything, that there is no objective reality “out there”, or that we must not admit to design when it stares us in the face. Let’s begin with the positive assumption that nothing is off limits—not even the most important question of all.

    The purpose of science is to find God. Any less purpose and the great quest will have failed its founders.

    There is no way for me to tease out the objective from my percepts. For all I know, my percepts are my own creation. They certainly don’t seem to be, but there’s no way for me to deny the possibility. Nor is there any way for me to deny that the apparently objective exists apart from my self. This leaves me with a dialectic — two apparently contradictory ways of seeing the world, and the tension between the two.

    This is not to say, however, that I regard as coequal what comes to me through outward perception and through inward apperception. I have never seen any reason to trust what comes to me through the senses. What I know to be ultimately true comes from turning my consciousness upon itself. And here language breaks down.

    So why should I care about science? Well, I certainly am not looking for God in the universe of phenomena, and as I have indicated in several posts above, I believe that science is overvalued. For me, science is a game and a tool. A great deal of basic science is no more than humans at play in nature. We love to systematize experience. Applied science is essentially a tool for prediction and control of the environment and our own bodies. Obviously there is great pragmatic value in applied science. And there is a certain operational truth in its results — the witnesses of the atomic test blast at White Sands were in no small way impressed by the “truth” of relativity. But I see no Truth in it.

    I cannot agree that the purpose of science is to find God. Science is founded on empiricism, and I believe that no one should vest faith in sensory experience. The kingdom of God is within you.

  41. 41
    avocationist says:

    Now that we have discussed the meaning of supernatural at length, I am so confused I’ll throw in the towel. The reason I dislike the term is because I think it has perpetuated magical thinking. Take ESP, for example. I am quite sure it is real, and equally sure it has a physical, albeit very subtle, mechanism. Yet Tom says once we observe something it becomes no longer supernatural. So it is a movable demarcation. We don’t know what is supernatural and what is not. Let me ask you this, Tom, suppose you get to watch God create the universe. Altho a one-time (or very rare) event, only natural laws and forces are used. Is this a superanatural event?

    Also, intelligence and intent seem more parsimonious to me than blind and random interactions.

    Tom, you also said,
    What I know to be ultimately true comes from turning my consciousness upon itself. And here language breaks down.
    Yet Carlos expressed what so many fear – a chaotic jumble of everyone’s conflicting innner visions. So most people choose to just stay far away from inner exploration, or from trusting it. Have you any advice?

    Well, I certainly am not looking for God in the universe of phenomena,
    Isn’t you deciding to turn your consciousness in upon itself a part of the universe of phenomena?

    Carlos, re 22, I don’t think people are saying that ontologically distinct entities are detectible empirically, but rather their effects.

    Jerry said,

    However, if this intelligence exists then the intelligent thing to do is to admit that there may be some aspect of the natural world for which it may be fruitless to find a non-intelligent based mechanism to explain it. Keep on investigating but be open to the possibility of continued failure in some areas.
    Now this seems pretty logical and I would wonder what someone like Carl, who believes in God, could object to here. And I am not even talking about what should be taught in the classroom, but rather the ridiculing of even holding this viewpoint. But maybe it has something to do with your opinion that supernatural entities are metaphysically distinct from the causal, spatio-temporal realm.

    The purpose of science is to find God.

    Yay!

  42. 42
    jerry says:

    Carl Sachs,

    What a joke of a response. I suggest you read the government report on the investigation of Sternberg’s complaint. The link is here:

    http://www.rsternberg.net/OSC_ltr.htm

  43. 43
    Carl Sachs says:

    35

    In another thread Carlos argues that we have to begin with some a priori assumptions — which of course is what ID has been saying all along. But let’s not begin as some with the negative assumption that we cannot know anything, that there is no objective reality “out there”, or that we must not admit to design when it stares us in the face. Let’s begin with the positive assumption that nothing is off limits—not even the most important question of all.

    The philosopher Donald Davidson has argued — I think correctly — that it is not even possible to begin with the a priori assumption that nothing is knowable, or that nothing outside of one’s own mind is knowable. This is a Cartesian fantasy, nothing more — although one I still enjoy inflicting on my students.

    Interestingly, it is standard practice among philosophers to say that “methodological naturalism” just means that there is nothing a priori, i.e. that there are no principles or beliefs which are immune to revision in light of further inquiry.

  44. 44
    Tom English says:

    avocationist:

    I can’t divide God from nature, even if God is the ’cause’ of nature. Since I view God as within and upholding all things all the time, and that all things are actually part of God because they arise quite literally OUT of God, I cannot consider God’s actions as supernatural, unless I regard everything in existence as supernatural, which I suppose I do.

    I believe that people say what you do only as a matter of private experience. I have said something similar in the past, and it was gobbledy-gook to most people. I think I understand you, and presumably we have had similar private experiences. There is no way to be sure. And there is no way to make empirical science (i.e., consensual interpretation of public experience) accommodate such private Truth.

    I fully expect that we will continue to make progress with our instruments and other forms of study into those areas of reality which have hitherto been cut off from our ability to perceive.

    I have expressed my openness to the notion that we might infer the existence of something presently unobservable and then learn how to observe it. But I also believe that scientists should resist the introduction of unobservable causes. It should take a lot of evidence to convince them that something other than matter, energy, and their interactions accounts for certain observed instances of complexity in the universe.

  45. 45
    Carl Sachs says:

    42. The link is interesting but inconclusive. This is a preliminary investigation; there is no rebuttal or defense from SI, no evidence of damages to Sternberg (did he lose his job? was he prevented from carrying out his research? was access to the collection cut off?) All the OSC did was say, “yep, it looks like you have a case.”

    If the OSC says it, sure, I’ll grant it. But there’s a big difference between having a case and winning a case — and there’s also a big difference between having a case and deserving to win a case.

  46. 46
    Tom English says:

    avocationists,

    Let me ask you this, Tom, suppose you get to watch God create the universe. Altho a one-time (or very rare) event, only natural laws and forces are used. Is this a superanatural event?

    Natural and supernatural mean nothing in my personal belief system. From the perspective of contemporary science, the creation of the universe by God would be supernatural.

    You have to understand that I look at the world through multiple lenses. I am pretty good at seeing the world in two ways simultaneously, but when I write I must choose one of those ways.

  47. 47
    Carl Sachs says:

    41

    Carlos, re 22, I don’t think people are saying that ontologically distinct entities are detectible empirically, but rather their effects.

    Depends on what’s going to count as “empirically detectable,” I guess. If the effects are such that positing the existence of a transcendent entity is justified by inference to the best explanation, I’m willing to call that “empirically detectable.”

    Now this seems pretty logical and I would wonder what someone like Carl, who believes in God, could object to here. And I am not even talking about what should be taught in the classroom, but rather the ridiculing of even holding this viewpoint. But maybe it has something to do with your opinion that supernatural entities are metaphysically distinct from the causal, spatio-temporal realm.

    My stance on this matter is that methodological naturalism has a pretty good track record, and while that doesn’t show that it must continue to work in future inquiry, it still looks a solid bet. Of course one should be open-minded, but that’s not a philosophically interesting view.

    What would be philosophically interesting would be if one could argue that the nature of the problem — whatever it is — is such that methodological naturalism lacks the conceptual resources with which to construct a satisfactory explanation.

    But one cannot do that without importing some further ad hoc assumption (e.g. theistic realism), thereby violating methodological naturalism’s exclusion of a priori assumptions.

    I do believe in God, but I do not rely on any metaphysical apparatus, whether that of Aristotle or Johnson, in order to understand what it is that I believe. More generally, I do not find that “does God really exist?” to be a very helpful or interesting question — it is on par with “do numbers really exist?” or “does justice really exist?” The question-schema, “does ____ really exist?” does not lend itself to intellectual or cultural innovation. If anything, it begs the question, “what does ‘really exist’ mean?” Forget the ‘really’ — what does ‘exist’ mean? Does ‘exist’ mean the same thing in

    “the coffee cup exists”;
    “there once existed an ancentral Urbilaterian organism”;
    “there does not exist a largest integer”;
    “God exists”; etc.

    You see, I think that there are enormous difficulties here. I’ve been told, sometimes, that I’m just being difficult, and that I’m creating problems where there aren’t any. Whereas I think that there are huge problems that most of us aren’t paying attention to.

  48. 48
    Tom English says:

    Carl:

    The philosopher Donald Davidson has argued — I think correctly — that it is not even possible to begin with the a priori assumption that nothing is knowable, or that nothing outside of one’s own mind is knowable. This is a Cartesian fantasy, nothing more — although one I still enjoy inflicting on my students.

    I dream, therefore I doubt.

  49. 49
    todd says:

    Tom and Carlos (for some reason, more appealling than the truncate!) –

    Thank you both for your tenacious and adoctrinaire opinions. It is refreshing to see temperate, thought provoking and erudite dissent and I wholeheartedly applaud you both. Your recent philosophical musings are knarly thigh bones for mental mastication!

  50. 50
    Tom English says:

    todd,

    Your recent philosophical musings are knarly thigh bones for mental mastication!

    Well, thank you. But Carl and Bill are probably shaking their heads at my philosophical naivete. The upside is that some folks at UD now have a much better idea of what I am about than they did a couple days ago. Here’s to better communication in the future.

  51. 51
    todd says:

    Tom,

    Was it not naivete which asked of the emporer’s clothes?

  52. 52
    mike1962 says:

    Tom English: “It means that science is making good headway at explaining life under methodological naturalism. My acceptance of methodological naturalism in science in no way indicates that I believe in naturalism.”

    After digesting your food for thought, I’m led to a question: what if scientists found an unimpeachable message encoded in the DNA of all humans that said in effect, “Hello, this is Yahweh and I made you. I live outside of time as you understand it, and I created what you call spacetime. So stop wasting time arguing about it. And by the way, be good to one another.”

    Discovering such a message would obviously be a scientific occasion, but how would the message itself (disregarding the bit about being good to each other) fit in the current scientific paradigm of methodological naturalism? Would this not, to you, effectively falsify NDE as a complete *scientific* explanation? And would it not effectively demonstrate in a positive way the limitations of metholodical materialism?

    (One could posit various explanations for how the message got into the DNA without the message itself being true. I can think of a few, but they are not plausible to me.)

    If that scenario is not strong enough, what about the appearance of a superbeing who showed up and could verifiably violate the laws of physics on a whim? And could create life at will out of constituent chemicals. Would it make sense to retain a methodological materialism at that point?

    Maybe I should ask, what would it take for you and/or scientists in general to abandon MM as the guiding philosophy?

  53. 53
    Carl Sachs says:

    49. Just doin’ my job, sir!

    (By the way, Carlos is the nickname; Carl is not truncated. But I prefer Carlos.)

  54. 54
    avocationist says:

    And there is no way to make empirical science (i.e., consensual interpretation of public experience) accommodate such private Truth.

    No, but it is possible to investigate in other ways. Suppose we eventually verify that there are indeed more dimensions in the directions of ‘inward.’ It seems likely based upon the trends we already see that these inward dimensions will be causal to this ‘outer’ reality of 3-dimensions. ( And that due to our very limited ability to perceive and intuit from within these inner dimensions, we have tended to both doubt its realness and use labels like spiritual and supernatural for the perceptions that those inner dimensions grant.) Suppose we continue to understand more about the nature of consciousness, and how it relates to matter.

    But I also believe that scientists should resist the introduction of unobservable causes. Who has observed atomic particles?

    Natural and supernatural mean nothing in my personal belief system. ..
    I look at the world through multiple lenses. I am pretty good at seeing the world in two ways simultaneously, but when I write I must choose one of those ways.

    Well THAT clears things up! (No, I’m not being sarcastic.)

    Carlos,

    What would be philosophically interesting would be if one could argue that the nature of the problem — whatever it is — is such that methodological naturalism lacks the conceptual resources with which to construct a satisfactory explanation.

    Yeah, that’s exactly what I think. As to Johnson’s theistic realism, I agree in part, but I don’t think the personal nature of the creator can be inferred by logic, nor am I convinced it is so.

    It’s alright with me if methodological naturalism has no a priori assumptions. But I think they do.

    So I’m not asking the question, does God exist. I’m asking, given the existence of God what are the implications for a theory that states mindless interactions of matter and energy are sufficient to cause this universe and this world?

    Mike, if that message were encoded in DNA, it would certainly prove design, and it would also answer my question, “Were we designed by aliens, or by God?”

  55. 55
    Carl Sachs says:

    I’m asking, given the existence of God what are the implications for a theory that states mindless interactions of matter and energy are sufficient to cause this universe and this world?

    In order to get any talk of “implications” off the ground, we first have to have some confidence that we’re not talking about the implications of the rainy season in the Serengeti for the price of tea in China. In other words, we have to have some confidence for thinking that one has anything at all to do with the other. And I don’t have that confidence — not by a long shot.

    In part it’s because I don’t think that the concept of creation — which appears in assertions such as “God created (or creates) the world” — is the sort of concept that can play a role in a scientific description of things.

    If someone were to say that there’s nothing of value in Hamlet because Hamlet never actually existed, one would say that they are missing the point. The character of Hamlet, one would respond, speaks to aspects of the human situation — the existence of a real person by such a name is entirely besides the point.

    The Bible is not merely literature, but that is because there is no such thing as “mere literature.” Some literature transcends its own time and creates a new cultural understanding. The Bible announced a new concept of what it meant to be a god, much as Don Quixote announced a new concept of what it meant to be an individual (alternatively: what it meant to be a work of fiction).

    Some people would say that meanings, values, and ideals aren’t “real,” that aren’t part of how the world “really is” — that they are only a subjective “projection.” And in response to this, it can seem necessary to defend religion by treating religious concepts, ideals, and values by interpreting them as part of a scientific conception. But this is to betray them. A more honest defense would be to question the very assumption — that values and ideals cannot be just as real as facts are.

    On the view I am trying to develop, the distinction between facts and values, and the priority of methodological naturalism in discovering what the facts are, does not detract from the objectivity or reality of values.

    It is not an entirely satisfactory account, but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with so far.

  56. 56
    mike1962 says:

    Carl: “A more honest defense would be to question the very assumption — that values and ideals cannot be just as real as facts are.”

    What does it mean then when two different brains hold conflicting values? Hitler held certain values about the Jews, and the typical American held contrary values. The Jews were “facts.” Values towards them cannot be facts in the same way.

    What you seem to be saying is software is as real as hardware. This does not smell right to me. Hardware is a configuration of atoms. Software is a configuration of a configuration. How can that be “just as real?”

  57. 57
    Carl Sachs says:

    The fact that there can be fundamental disagreements between values doesn’t show that values are subjective or unreal. Indeed, I’d be willing — at least as a first pass — to insist that unless we assume that values are objective, we will be unable to explain why we were right and the Nazis were wrong, and we shall end up saying, as some of my students do say when pressed, that if the Nazis had won, they would have been right and we would have been wrong.

    What you seem to be saying is software is as real as hardware. This does not smell right to me. Hardware is a configuration of atoms. Software is a configuration of a configuration. How can that be “just as real?”

    I tend to think of everything biological/physical as the hardware, and everything cultural as the software. Does that track your intuitions?

    If so, I would continue that software is just as real in this way: yes, the hardware can be described as configurations of atoms, but the fact that software can be described as the configuration of a configuration shows that it is just as real. The fact that the same atomic configuration can take on many different digital configurations doesn’t make those digital configurations less real than the atomic one. If it did, one would also have to say that atoms are more real than cells, and that cells are more real than organisms.

    This looks like a confusion between levels of complexity and levels of reality — whereas I would say that levels of complexity subsist within reality. And at the highest order of complexity that we know of so far, we find cultures, forms of life, ethical practices, etc. They are no less real than the biological or the microphysical levels.

    The fact that different cultures of the same species can have fundamental disagreements about moral principles is an interesting fact about that species, just as it is an interesting fact about a carbon atom that it can occur in a cell or a diamond.

  58. 58
    jerry says:

    mike1962,

    Methodological materialism or methodological naturalism (whatever the term used) is not necessary to do science. It never has been, never will be and any link of it to the success of failure of science is absurd. There isn’t one finding or theory in science that requires it.

    Individuals may subscribe to it but it doesn’t help them do better science. So to connect the two is bogus. There may be other philosophies that may inhibit the pursuit of science but the fact that you reject methodological materialism is not one of them.

    Also the idea that NDE is the paradigm that has produced the best scientific results in life sciences is also absurd. NDE by itself is a limiting philosophy because it hypothesizes a specific mechanism for all life’s changes, which would inhibit findings not in sync with it.

    ID encompasses NDE and as such is a broader philosophy than NDE. ID would be consistent with other naturalistic methods of life changes as well as NDE. As such it is a more robust approach to science because it does not reject any specific mechanism for events in the cosmos. It just widens the range of acceptance.

    There is not one scientific finding in the history of science that is not in sync with ID.

  59. 59
    Joseph says:

    “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” Albert Einstein

    Tom English:
    P.S. — Mike, I personally do not think of scientific explanations in terms of truth so much as data compression.

    I guess that all depends on how one defines “truth”.

    Why are we compressing data if not to find the truth, ie the reality, of the situation? Also we would have to know if the data is true.

    Linus Pauling, winner of 2 Nobel prizes wrote,

    “Science is the search for the truth.”

    “But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding.” -Albert Einstein

    “A healthy science is a science that seeks the truth.” -Paul Nelson, Ph. D., philosophy of biology.

    The truth need not be an absolute truth. Truth in the sense that Drs. Pauling, Einstein & Nelson are speaking is the reality in which we find ourselves. We exist. Science is to help us understand that existence and how it came to be.

    As I like to say- science is our search for the truth, i.e. the reality, to our existence via our never-ending quest for knowledge.

  60. 60
    Carl Sachs says:

    Minor quibble: if one thinks that Popper’s falsificationism is the right way to think about theory selection, then one will have to abandon the assumption that scientific theories are, or could be, true. And then the very idea of science as a search for truth becomes questionable, at best.

    Re: 58

    There is not one scientific finding in the history of science that is not in sync with ID.

    I agree completely.

  61. 61
    Rude says:

    Major quibble: if one thinks that Popper’s falsificationism is the right way to think about theory selection, one will NOT have to abandon the assumption that scientific theories are, or could be, true. Science is a faith project. Truth is the goal which we approach through falsification and faith (“useful fictions” are useful only in technology) . By the way, you should read Sheldon Glashow who argues that all discoveries are made by those who somehow just know deep in their bones, all evidence to the contrary, that things are good. Pessimists never discover anything. Also I must say that Popperian falsification is not the ONLY avenue to truth. In historical linguistics, for example, we cannot prove that languages are NOT genetically related—we can only prove that they are.

  62. 62
    mike1962 says:

    Carlos: “to insist that unless we assume that values are objective, we will be unable to explain why we were right and the Nazis were wrong”

    Why should we assume that?

    Carlos: “If so, I would continue that software is just as real in this way: yes, the hardware can be described as configurations of atoms, but the fact that software can be described as the configuration of a configuration shows that it is just as real. The fact that the same atomic configuration can take on many different digital configurations doesn’t make those digital configurations less real than the atomic one. If it did, one would also have to say that atoms are more real than cells, and that cells are more real than organisms.”

    They are real, yes, but not *just as* real, in my view. It’s the “just as” part I have trouble with because the configuration (epiphenomenon) can never be an “ontological peer” with the medium. There is a existential dependency in the relationship.

    When people have differing values, it means their software is different. Unless a particular value is real in the same way as the Absolute Ontologically Independent Reality (AOIR), whatever that is, what does it matter? Of course, what I’m driving at is without “God”, that is, without values having some correspondence with the AOIR “itself”, values cannot be real in any “univeral” way. Values would be mere subjective curiousities. Just a mere arrangement of something more fundamental.

    As for the Nazi’s and the Allies, the Allies would have been no more “right” than a yawn or a belch. It can’t be real in the same way the AOIR is real. Therefore, not “just as” real.

  63. 63
    Carl Sachs says:

    Rude: I’m going to dig in my heels with respect to Popper. I mentioned falsificationism because I know it’s a widely respected approach. But the whole point of falsificationism is just that no theory can be true. Theories are divided into two categories: those that have been refuted, and those that have not yet been refuted. But “not yet refuted” does not mean “true.” Part of Popper’s insight was to see that if one is willing to sacrifice truth, then one can avoid the entire problem of induction.

    I have no quibble with anyone’s wanting to say that scientific theories are true, but that’s because I don’t think falsificationism is the right way to go.

    Mike: so you want to say that if x depends on y, then x is less real than y? That strikes me as odd. Then you’d have to say that colors are not as real as the atoms which comprise the reflective surface or the photons which are emitted by that surface. Etc. And what holds true for colors also holds true for sounds, smells, etc. Then one has quickly emptied the entire phenomenological sphere of all reality. The result is a deeply alienating philosophy.

    As for your “absolute ontologically independent reality” — yes, I can certainly see what you mean by this. There’s no shortage of candidates for the role of AOIR, historically or today. Some will insist that it’s God; others insist that it’s matter, etc.

    But as for me, I place my opposition elsewhere; I accept the tentative first steps made by James and Dewey in thinking that the very idea of an “absolute conception of the world” is an incoherent notion.

    And with that thought in place, I find it then very easy to resist the series of moves you find inescapable which lead you to deny the reality of the phenomenological sphere, including values.
    And so I do not need to ground values in anything absolute in order for them to count as real.

  64. 64
    Carl Sachs says:

    Avocationist,

    Would you still like me to answer your questions from the previous thread from last Friday? Or have my scattered remarks here and there satisfied you?

  65. 65
    Rude says:

    Carlos, I’m sure you know Popper better than I, and I’m with you if falsification is the ONLY guide to truth, but of course it isn’t. Yes, a risky theory that proves predictive garners faith, and then—as you know—according to some beauty is the best guide to the truth, yet here again it cannot be the ONLY guide. Of course “not yet refuted” does not mean “true,” but it does indicate “possibly true” and a motive for further investigation. I remember when the big science guru at our university started having cross-disciplinary meetings (with computer sci, cog sci, philosophy, etc.) but finally had to abandon the philosophers. All they could do was play devil’s advocate—had he kept listening he’d have given up and gone home. He just couldn’t take the incessant negativity and still do his science. Science suffers because most scientists know so little of the philosophical foundations of their project, but then maybe the philosophers share some guilt in driving them away. There’s a difference between saying that we have apprehended the truth and making truth is our goal, and if truth eludes us that is no reason to throw in the towel.

  66. 66
    Rude says:

    Carlos, are you saying that “an ‘absolute conception of the world’ is an incoherent notion” is an absolute conception of the world?

  67. 67
    Carl Sachs says:

    66

    On second thought, I think that “incoherence” is far too strong an indictment. The concept of a square circle is incoherent. The concept of an absolute conception of the world is not incoherent. If it were, it would be impossible for there to be serious discussion about it. So I’d like to retract that indictment, if you’ll let me.

    (After all, I’m lecturing on Descartes tomorrow, and I can hardly tell my students that the Cartesian project is incoherent!)

    What I would like to say instead is that the concept of the absolute conception of the world, like the concept of phlogiston, is a concept that we can dispense with without sacrificing any intelligibility or understanding. It is a useless concept.

  68. 68
    Rude says:

    But how can you know it’s a useless concept? And would you say then that the only useful concept is a “useful fiction”? It seems to me that that’s a science stopper. If my aim is not an absolute conception of reality then I’ll be content at some point to stop pondering. It’s one thing to admit that I’ll never get there, it’s quit another to quit trying.

  69. 69
    Tom English says:

    mike1962:

    [W]hat if scientists found an unimpeachable message encoded in the DNA of all humans that said in effect, “Hello, this is Yahweh and I made you. I live outside of time as you understand it, and I created what you call spacetime. So stop wasting time arguing about it. And by the way, be good to one another.”

    If we entertain the possibility of such a message, we should be equally prepared for:

    What is the ape to man? A laughingstock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughingstock, a thing of shame. Let your will say: The Superman shall be the meaning of the earth!

    The medium of the message does not validate the content, in my opinion. Most religions posit the existence of spiritual tricksters. And science acknowledges the existence of natural tricksters. I see no way to evaluate the content but to shine one’s own light upon it. There is no self-effulgent message.

    Would this not, to you, effectively falsify NDE as a complete *scientific* explanation?

    First, no one regards the neo-Darwinian account as complete. Almost all of the shortcomings in neo-Darwinian theory that IDists emphasize appeared first in the mainstream scientific literature. Second, neo-Darwinian theory (mass noun) is an ever-growing collection of theories. Falsifying one of the theories does not necessarily reduce the utility of the others. For instance, Darwin originally formulated five theories, by Ernst Mayr’s count, and one of them, the “theory of use and disuse” (Lamarckian inheritance), was subsequently falsified. In your scenario, I think the scientific response would not be wholesale falsification of any theory, but creation of an exception for the human species. From what I have read on falsification, Popper, in his later work, acknowledged that scientists patch up theories by adding exceptions, and that falsification is a matter of degree.

    And would it not effectively demonstrate in a positive way the limitations of metholodical materialism?

    I am not sure that the discovery would reduce the usefulness of assuming that the natural universe is closed. Again, I see science as a utilitarian enterprise in data compression, not a mode of truth acquisition. Furthermore, many people have become more receptive, since ID came on the scene, to the notion that extraterrestrial visitors may have intervened in terrestrial affairs. Perhaps we will find in the human genome a copyright notice and a strong warning to Wes Elsberry.

    Maybe I should ask, what would it take for you and/or scientists in general to abandon MM as the guiding philosophy?

    Science is driven by pragmatics. If someone can persuade scientists that they are missing out on something of practical import by assuming a closed natural universe, then they will likely let methodological naturalism go. (If physicists entertain string theory, what will scientists not consider?) A key to persuasion is to participate within the scientific community, not to stand without and engage in political action to promulgate “scientific” beliefs as yet unaccepted by the community.

  70. 70
    jerry says:

    Methodlogical naturalism is not necessary to do any science. Any one who subscribes to ID can do exactly the same science.

  71. 71
    Rude says:

    Tom English: “I see science as a utilitarian enterprise in data compression, not a mode of truth acquisition.” Wow! I’m sure glad Newton and Einstein didn’t see it that way.

    “A key to persuasion is to participate within the scientific community, not to stand without and engage in political action to promulgate ‘scientific’ beliefs as yet unaccepted by the community.” Have you read Kuhn?

  72. 72
    Tom English says:

    Regarding the notion that software is less real than hardware because it depends upon the hardware, I should observe that any system implemented in software may also be implemented in hardware. In fact, the way to get the best performance in a system is to make it all hardware. But in real-world engineering, we partition functionality into hardware and software components to achieve an acceptable cost-performance tradeoff.

    The upshot is that what is hardware and what is software is simply a matter of how you draw boxes.

  73. 73
    avocationist says:

    Carlos,

    Don’t go back to the House Divided thread, anyway. It’s probbly under water by now. I’m really just trying to hone in on your conception of God and how that relates to reality.

    The Bible announced a new concept of what it meant to be a god,

    Do you mean monotheism?

    I don’t know about that. Perhaps in the first few chapters of Genesis, it describes a real God. But for the most part, it seems the Hebrews were henotheists, as that whole meditteranian worlds seems to have been. That there is an Absolute is taught by Hinduism, and that probably predates Judaism. True monotheism was at least one of the things taught by the Egyptians. And, I think many native peoples understood that there was one ultimate God.

    I think it’s best not to confuse the issue by using the Bible. Why do you believe in God and how do you account for existence?

  74. 74
    Rude says:

    Tom English, interesting take on the software-hardward distinction. Software is always–that we know of–instantiated in hardware, be it an automobile or etched in a microchip or scribbled in a book. The one is precisely what ID calls design, the other–be it silicon or iron and rubber and whatever–may also themselves be the instantiation of software, but from a different source than the designer of the software in the chip or the car.

  75. 75
    Tom English says:

    Rude, I said:

    I see science as a utilitarian enterprise in data compression, not a mode of truth acquisition.

    You said:

    Wow! I’m sure glad Newton and Einstein didn’t see it that way.

    Einstein came closer to seeing it that way than you think. He indicated that he, and not nature, was the source of his theories. Sorry I don’t have the quote at hand. Einsteinian mechanics, though more complex than Newtonian mechanics, reduces the prediction errors of Newtonian mechanics under all circumstances. Of course, the errors of Newtonian mechanics for bodies moving at very high speeds are huge, and thus Einsteinian mechanics, with its relatively small errors, is the better data compressor of the two.

    Have you read Kuhn?

    Yes. Have I forgotten some paradigm shift forced by political powerplay? I know about Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union, but Kuhn does not cover that.

    Have you read Jorma Rissanen’s Stochastic Complexity in Statistical Inquiry? That’s the book in which he describes the Minimum Description Length principle (about the same as the Minimum Message Length principle of C. S. Wallace). For explicit connection of the MDL principle to data compression, see Li and Vitanyi, An Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and Its Applications, section 5.5.

  76. 76
    Rude says:

    Tom English, you’re probably right about Einstein–he’s generally sited as a Spinozan. As for reading in your field I’ve so much on my plate right now I’ll have to leave that to others. In my field the minimum unit of information is the proposition/function/clause, and if it turns out that science is only about “compression” a la Ockham’s razor–well–science has become pretty much a bore.

  77. 77
    Tom English says:

    I’ve fallen way behind here, and I have other things to do. Sorry not to have responded to some of you.

    11. idnet, I will post the statement on ID at my web site after I submit a book chapter on ID. I have been struggling to figure out what I really want to say.

    22. Carlos, I spent quite a bit of time looking into supernaturalism on the web, and I never quite figured out how to respond to your post.

  78. 78
    mike1962 says:

    Carlos: “Mike: so you want to say that if x depends on y, then x is less real than y? That strikes me as odd. Then you’d have to say that colors are not as real as the atoms which comprise the reflective surface or the photons which are emitted by that surface.”

    (Sidebar: there is no “color” with regards to photons emitted by surfaces. “Color” is a conscious experience.)

    I didn’t use the terms “less” or “more”. I object to your use of “just as”. “Just as” implies an ontological qualitative equivalence. Water can make waves, but waves can’t make water. They are both “real”, but the waves are not “just as” real as the water.

    Carlos: “But as for me, I place my opposition elsewhere; I accept the tentative first steps made by James and Dewey in thinking that the very idea of an “absolute conception of the world” is an incoherent notion.”

    Do you reject the very idea that the universe has a specific and real ontological nature, regardless of whether you can apprehend it?

    Carlos: “And with that thought in place, I find it then very easy to resist the series of moves you find inescapable which lead you to deny the reality of the phenomenological sphere, including values.”

    I don’t deny the reality of the phenomenological sphere.

    Carlos : “And so I do not need to ground values in anything absolute in order for them to count as real. ”

    Like I said, I didn’t say they weren’t real. I despute the characterization that they are “just as” real, which I find to be patently obvious.

    You didn’t reply to the thing I was hoping you would reply to the most: upon what basis can a value have any absolutely real “weight” outside of the brain’s own “software” if it is not in resonance with the ontology of the fundamental reality, the AOIR? Why is any epiphenomenal values of any weight except to the value holder?

    In plain lingo, if I want to rob a guy, and he doesn’t want me to rob him, why should I care?

    Oh, I’m sure you’ve dealt with all this before, but what the heck. 🙂

  79. 79
    mike1962 says:

    Tom: “There is no self-effulgent message.”

    True, perhaps, but there are degrees of certainly. On a normal, everyday, kind of level, wouldn’t find such a message in the DNA constitute powerful evidence to you? Esp if the DNA came from some human 3000 years ago, and foretold all the important historical events up to now? (I know I’m adding to the original content here.)

    Tom: “Regarding the notion that software is less real than hardware because it depends upon the hardware, I should observe that any system implemented in software may also be implemented in hardware.”

    Sure. A clearer analogy for my purposes would be water and the waves upon it.

  80. 80
    Carl Sachs says:

    73 I’m really just trying to hone in on your conception of God and how that relates to reality.

    In recent post over in the Dawkins topic, I’d suggested that God is not a concept — and so not the sort of thing one can have a conception of — but rather a name one uses to direct attention to the limits of our conceptual capacities. When we speak theologically — which is very different from speaking religiously — we conceptualize this limit. Under those circumstances we might talk about “the concept of God.” But even then it’s a very peculiar sort of concept — a concept which refers to the limits of conceptuality.

    Perhaps in the first few chapters of Genesis, it describes a real God.

    I think it’s best not to confuse the issue by using the Bible.

    I wanted to use the Bible because Torah — or, more precisely, Torah as interpreted through the lens of Talmud — marks the beginning of a new way of thinking about what a god is.

    Throughout the ancient civilizations — from Norse mythology to Sumer to the banks of the Ganges, and in Mesoamerica — the gods are lords and rulers, kings and queens. They are sovereigns, and one had better do what they say, or else.

    The Hebrews began one version of the process of breaking away from this. (Buddhism and Greek philosophy were other versions.) Firstly, the Hebrew god is not identified with any particular part of the visible world. (However, I have heard it claimed that the Hebrew god was a god of the air, which is why he is not visible. It’s an interesting thought.)

    Secondly, the Hebrew god is a substitute for an earthly sovereign. This comes out clearly in the rebellion against Pharoah in Exodus, but it’s re-emphasized at the beginning of First Samuel, when God tells Samuel that the Israelites have rejected Him by wanting a king like the other peoples.

    I interpret this as the beginning of a transformation in how one thinks of God’s relation to authority and to power — it is the beginning of a notion of justice. In the prophets, God is not on the side of the lords and kings; He is on the side of widows, orphans, and the oppressed. Spinoza and Levinas, for all their vast difference, concur: God is not a sovereign.

    Like Nietzsche, I see the “slave revolution in morals” as a turning point in the development of human consciousness. But Nietzsche was ambivalent about it — it had positive consequences, such as making people psychologically interesting, but it also had negative consequences, such as liberalism, socialism, and feminism. Since I’m a socialist and feminist, I’m less ambivalent about the slave revolution in morals than Nietzsche was — although I do agree with him that human life would be much improved if we were less crippled by resentment and guilt.

    Why do you believe in God and how do you account for existence?

    Well, I suppose I want to answer “why do you believe in God?” somewhat naively — a “second innocence,” following my recovery from atheism — by saying that I experience the numinous — that I know what it means to say that the universe has a face and is looking at me — and that in light of the tradition in which I’ve been raised and which is pivotal to my identity, I call the numinous “God” rather than “Waka Tanka” or “Vishnu.”

    Now, as for existence: well, I think of the material world as self-supporting, in the sense that I don’t rely on my religious notions in explicating the course of events from the Big Bang to now. But in my heart of hearts, I’m an ontological pluralist — I think that there are many different kinds of existence — there are as many different kinds of existence as there are sense of the term ‘exist.’

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