Philosophy Science

Is logic rising or falling and what difference does it make?

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From philosopher Catarina Dutilh Novaes at Aeon:

In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Immanuel Kant stated that no progress in logic had been made since Aristotle. He therefore concludes that the logic of his time had reached the point of completion. There was no more work to be done. Two hundred years later, after the astonishing developments in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the mathematisation of logic at the hands of thinkers such as George Boole, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Alfred Tarski and Kurt Gödel, it’s clear that Kant was dead wrong. But he was also wrong in thinking that there had been no progress since Aristotle up to his time. According to A History of Formal Logic (1961) by the distinguished J M Bocheński, the golden periods for logic were the ancient Greek period, the medieval scholastic period, and the mathematical period of the 19th and 20th centuries. (Throughout this piece, the focus is on the logical traditions that emerged against the background of ancient Greek logic. So Indian and Chinese logic are not included, but medieval Arabic logic is.)

Up to Descartes’s time, the chief application of logical theories was to teach students to perform well in debates and disputations, and to theorise on the logical properties of what follows from what, insofar as this is an essential component of such argumentative practices. It’s true that not everyone conceived of logic in this way: Thomas Aquinas, for example, held that logic is about ‘second intentions’, roughly what we call second-order concepts, or concepts of concepts. But as late as in the 16th century, the Spanish theologian Domingo de Soto could write with confidence that ‘dialectic is the art or science of disputing’.

o return to Bocheński’s characterisation of the three grand periods in the history of logic, two of them, the ancient period and the medieval scholastic period, were closely connected to the idea that the primary application of logic is for practices of debating such as dialectical disputations. The third of them, in contrast, exemplifies an entirely different rationale for logic, namely as a foundational branch of mathematics, not in any way connected to the ordinary languages in which debates are typically conducted. The hiatus between the second and third periods can be explained by the fall from grace of scholastic disputations, and more generally by the fall of Aristotelianism as a wide-ranging worldview. More.

An interesting essay and a useful backgrounder, to be sure. However, the problems today occur at a much deeper level: We face radical doubt about whether human beings can, or even try to, understand reality, combined with growing conviction that sciences should just grandfather proposition in principle ruling evidence out of the question. For example, we agree (without evidence) that the multiverse exists and therefore any evidence for fine-tuning in the only universe we actually know of can be ruled implicitly irrelevant. Oh, and post-fact science science can still command respect.

That is naturalism’s fatal gift to science.

See also: A scientist on the benefits of post-fact science

The war on falsifiability in science continues

and

Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us

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32 Replies to “Is logic rising or falling and what difference does it make?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    We face radical doubt about whether human beings can, or even try to, understand reality, …

    Not exactly. We have become aware of our limitations, both as biological organisms and in terms of our science and technology. We don’t know if we will ever fully understand the nature of reality but neither do we know that we can’t. All we can do is to keep on trying and see how far we can get. What’s wrong with that?

    …combined with growing conviction that sciences should just grandfather proposition in principle ruling evidence out of the question.

    I don’t see any growing conviction that we should abandon empirical science. Does anyone else?

    For example, we agree (without evidence) that the multiverse exists…

    No, we don’t. It’s a mathematical construct which offers a possible solution to some problems in physics. And if there is no way to test it, that’s all it will ever be.

    … and therefore any evidence for fine-tuning in the only universe we actually know of can be ruled implicitly irrelevant.

    We observe fundamental physical constants whose values must be within a certain narrow range for our universe to exist as it is. We infer that such an arrangement could not have come about by accidental so it must have been the product of intelligent agency. But it is as much an inference as the multiverse and there may equally be no way to prove it one way or the other.

    Oh, and post-fact science can still command respect.

    I don’t know what is meant by “post-fact science”. back in 1981, Stephen Jay Gould wrote as follows:

    Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome.

    In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

    What has changed in “post-fact science”?

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev,

    I see your:

    We have become aware of our limitations, both as biological organisms and in terms of our science and technology.

    I think, rather, that the pivotal issue is that to think and act rationally at all we must be significantly, responsibly free; not programmed mechanically and/or by random factors.

    Where, first, Mathematics — pivotal to sci-tech, is an entirely abstract entity, in effect the logic of structure and quantity. Something that can only be properly engaged through responsible, free, rational introspection. A point where the force of logic becomes a force of reality including empirical reality.

    Secondly, evolutionary materialist scientism is fundamentally self-referentially incoherent by way of reduction to blind chance and/or mechanical necessity.

    Until this is squarely faced we cannot move beyond a dead end.

    KF

  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    Be careful with the term ‘scientism’ Kairos, increasingly atheists are embracing it. I accept being called a ‘scietismist’ is supposed to be an insult, but so were the terms, ‘queer’, ‘suffragette’, and ‘Tory’, before they were coopted by those very groups.

    As to the post, I am no logician (is there such a word?), but it would appear to me that as we move away from all forms of superstition, logical dedusction, guided by scientific evidence is gaining more adherents, except in certain plainly theistic regions of the world.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8:

    Evolutionary Materialist Scientism is inescapably incoherent, as can be seen from its epistemological-logical reduction to absurd self referential incoherence. Even, the very claim, inference or implication — three distinct stances — that science exhausts credible knowledge or serious knowledge is an EPISTEMOLOGICAL (thus, philosophical) claim.

    As for the need to deeply involve the utterly abstract, introspective realm of Mathematics — the logic of structure and quantity (including “spaces”) — as integral to ascience should give pause.

    Your resort to “superstition” as a practical equivalent to ethical theism is also all too revealing of a subtext of ill-advised dismissiveness and appeal to hostile prejudice.

    FYI, ethical theism is a serious worldview, believing in a necessary, maximally great, inherently good being as root of reality is a powerful worldview start-point, and — despite too often willful blindness to abundant evidence and reason pointing to God — there are millions of people who have excellent reason to integrate their lives around transformational encounter with God, often in answer to prayer. Without such an answer I would literally be long since dead.

    KF

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Nancy Pearcey should give some pause to those who wish to make an imagined virtue out of clinging to a worldview incoherence:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . . An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.

    [–> that is, responsible, rational freedom is undermined. Cf here William Provine in his 1998 U Tenn Darwin Day keynote:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will [–> without responsible freedom, mind, reason and morality alike disintegrate into grand delusion, hence self-referential incoherence and self-refutation. But that does not make such fallacies any less effective in the hands of clever manipulators] . . . [1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address, U of Tenn — and yes, that is significant i/l/o the Scopes Trial, 1925]

    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.” [ENV excerpt, Finding Truth (David C. Cook, 2015) by Nancy Pearcey.]

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Rosenberg fails:

    Alex Rosenberg as he begins Ch 9 of his The Atheist’s Guide to Reality:

    >> FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, WE’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside. Without scientism, we look at life from the inside, from the first-person POV (OMG, you don’t know what a POV is?—a “point of view”). The first person is the subject, the audience, the viewer of subjective experience, the self in the mind.

    Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. [–> grand delusion is let loose in utter self referential incoherence] Even after scientism convinces us, we’ll continue to stick with the first person. But at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates [–> bye bye to responsible, rational freedom on these presuppositions].

    The physical facts fix all the facts. [–> asserts materialism, leading to . . . ] The mind is the brain. It has to be physical and it can’t be anything else, since thinking, feeling, and perceiving are physical process—in particular, input/output processes—going on in the brain. We [–> at this point, what “we,” apart from “we delusions”?] can be sure of a great deal about how the brain works because the physical facts fix all the facts about the brain. The fact that the mind is the brain guarantees that there is no free will. It rules out any purposes or designs organizing our actions or our lives [–> thus rational thought and responsible freedom]. It excludes the very possibility of enduring persons, selves, or souls that exist after death or for that matter while we live.>>

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    rvb8

    I don’t think the term scientism is meant as an insult. Certainly, I don’t mean it that way when I use it. It’s just a descriptor. “Science is the only valid method of thought”. It’s a self-refuting concept, but that doesn’t stop people from believing it. But it’s like the term “nihilist”. It is said with scorn at times, but it’s a means of describing a certain kind of thought.

  8. 8
    bFast says:

    From Severski(1)

    Stephen J. Gould says:
    “Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts.”

    and

    “In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.””

    From what I can see, Gould has offered us two distinct definitions of “fact”. As the current debates are carried out in our society, I see the latter definition accepted, not the former. It is our society’s pattern (and quite clearly our scientists’ pattern) to select which data to call data and which to call dross based upon its fit to the “theory which is established to the point of being worthy of the title ‘fact'”.

    For instance, in my entire discussion about origins I hold a commitment to not reject data out of hand. As I analyze data (though I recognize my knowledge of data far from complete) I do not see a compelling case for the modern synthesis. Rather, I see a compelling case for intelligent agency.

    Gould says that evolution is a “fact” (though he was one of the loudest voices challenging the theory.) Evolution can be seen as a fact only if the most general definition of evolution is applied — change over time. Even UCD is not “fact”, it is theory. (I happen to hold to UCD, though in the last year my grasp on it has loosened.)

    The way “fact” is currently used: ““confirmed to such a degree …” it is merely a conversation killer. One side stands up and yells “fact”, and believes that in doing so it has shut up all dissenting voices. Unfortunately for the “fact of science”, there is the internet.

  9. 9

    Atheism, materialism, scientism, and every form of Darwinism can rightly be described as a superstition.

    —–
    Superstition (Merriam-Webster):

    1
    a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
    b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition

    2
    : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    There’s evidence and then there’s scientific evidence, and then there are philosophies about whether there is really any difference between the two and if so how to tell the difference.

    If only the fans of scientism knew what it is they are really embracing.

  11. 11
    rvb8 says:

    SA,

    I don’t know who coined the word ‘scientism’, but I’m sure the motives were less that friendly towards scientists. For example, how does ‘Christianism’ ring with you?

    ‘Isms’ are usually mocked or derided. Comminism springs to mind. It is held up as the source of so much evil, and yet at its Marxist roots it is perhaps the most humane doctrine ever developed. It is only that humanity, evolved as we are, is utterly incapable of living by its noble precepts.

    So, in short words, names, matter. I like ‘scientism’, and look forward of being accused of it in this blog; I am completely guilty. Understanding the physical world requires certain tools, science gives us these tools, by trial and error we have learned nothing else does.

  12. 12
    REW says:

    rvb8

    I am no logician (is there such a word?)

    Yes. As in:
    Three logicians go into a bar. The bar tender asks, “Will all three of you be having beers?” The first one says “I dont know” The second one says “I dont know” The third one says “Yes”

  13. 13
    REW says:

    Evolutionary Materialist Scientism is inescapably incoherent, as can be seen from its epistemological-logical reduction to absurd self referential incoherence

    I find these claims fascinating. I assume its related to the assertions of Plantiga, which is based on Rabbi Heschel, which is based on a medieval theologian whose names escapes me.
    It seems to me that hidden within all these arguments is the idea, held by a handful of both amateur and professional philosophers, that logic and rational thought can somehow contain and mold reality. Evolution and NS is a fairly simple and straightforward idea for which we can gather evidence for and against. But how can arguments about the reliability of our minds have any relevance to that? If there seems to be an incompatibility shouldn’t we rethink the problem or do our philosophical constructs somehow retroactively erase whats happened in the past?
    I’ve heard that most of the ancient Greeks disdained observation and evidence and believed we could figure out anything about the world we wanted by just sitting and thinking about it. I think this idea is still lurking in many arguments.

    I suppose one could salvage the above arguments by claiming that the human mind is incompatible with evolution and so its existence is evidence against evolution. But this never seems to be the main thrust of any ones argument, probably because its so easy to refute.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    REW,

    Here is J B S Haldane, making much the same point:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. Cf. here on (and esp here) on the self-refutation by self-falsifying self referential incoherence and on linked amorality.]

    And yes, he is highlighting that evolutionary materialistic scientism and/or any other similar scheme ends in self-referential incoherence.

    This is of course the same well known Haldane.
    KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Here is the US National Science Teachers association inadvertently bringing out why evolutionary materialistic scientism is a serious ideological imposition issue [and you can cf other statements on record], not mere name-calling, cf its July 2000 Board declaration:

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts [–> ideological imposition of a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, aka natural-ISM; this is of course self-falsifying at the outset] . . . .

    [S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific [–> loaded word that cannot be properly backed up due to failure of demarcation arguments] methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> declaration of intent to ideologically censor education materials] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work [–> undermined by the question-begging ideological imposition and associated censorship] . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> question-begging false dichotomy, the proper contrast for empirical investigations is the natural (chance and/or necessity) vs the ART-ificial, through design . . . cf UD’s weak argument correctives 17 – 19, here] in the production of scientific knowledge.

  16. 16
    REW says:

    KF,

    re Haldane.
    He begins by wondering if his beliefs are ‘true’, whatever that means. But of course some of his beliefs are certainly true, or at least ‘true-enough’ and some of his beliefs are false. I’m sure he would have agreed with that. So this means that if his inference is valid, then his mind isn’t a “mere byproduct of matter” But we already knew this is true and I doubt anyone would seriously assert it. Our brains are composed of matter and our minds are causally linked by the laws the govern reality but thats not the same as saying thats ‘all’ the mind is. For that matter its downright incorrect to say that a molecule is ‘merely’ a collection of atoms, much less a mind.

  17. 17
    REW says:

    I disagree with the above standards, as well as your assessment of them. Science doesnt look for naturalistic explanations. Its looks for explanations period and I think the natural/supernatural distinction is nonsensical. If anything has effects in the real world, and this includes God, angels demons etc, then this is part of the causal chain that science seeks to understand. So I would define anything that can have an effect in the natural world as part of the natural world. If something was truly supernatural then it would have no effect on the natural world and be utterly undetectable. Even the multiverse doenst fit this criteria.
    The NST standard above is just a convenient way to keep religious explanations out of the science classroom.

  18. 18
    Silver Asiatic says:

    REW 16

    I didn’t quite follow this …

    He begins by wondering if his beliefs are ‘true’, whatever that means.

    He begins by pointing out that if his mind is “determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain”, then he would have no reason to trust his judgement.

    But of course some of his beliefs are certainly true, or at least ‘true-enough’ and some of his beliefs are false. I’m sure he would have agreed with that.

    Yes, that’s his point. He knows his beliefs are true, so therefore his mind cannot be determined by the motions of atoms in his brain.

    So this means that if his inference is valid, then his mind isn’t a “mere byproduct of matter”.

    Yes, he is pointing to a non-material aspect of the mind.

    But we already knew this is true and I doubt anyone would seriously assert it.

    I think we have quite a large number of quotes from materialists who do assert that this is true. Bornagain77 and KF frequently post these sorts of things from well-known atheists. Rosenberg’s Atheist’s Guide to Reality is one such source.

    Our brains are composed of matter and our minds are causally linked by the laws the govern reality

    Are you saying that there is a non-material causal aspect to the mind? That would be something not determined by matter and physical laws?

  19. 19
    Origenes says:

    REW: I suppose one could salvage the above arguments by claiming that the human mind is incompatible with evolution and so its existence is evidence against evolution. But this never seems to be the main thrust of any ones argument, probably because its so easy to refute.

    And what is this easy refutation?

  20. 20
    Silver Asiatic says:

    REW

    So I would define anything that can have an effect in the natural world as part of the natural world. If something was truly supernatural then it would have no effect on the natural world and be utterly undetectable.

    What is your explanation for the origin of the natural world?

  21. 21
    Origenes says:

    REW

    So I would define anything that can have an effect in the natural world as part of the natural world. If something was truly supernatural then it would have no effect on the natural world and be utterly undetectable.

    The free rational human mind cannot be explained by the natural world and is therefore ‘supernatural’. It obviously has an effect on the natural world and is self-detecting.

  22. 22
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 2

    Secondly, evolutionary materialist scientism is fundamentally self-referentially incoherent by way of reduction to blind chance and/or mechanical necessity.

    I would say that what you call “evolutionary materialist scientism” has been extraordinarily successful at investigating and building a degree of understanding of at least some of the natural world. There is still a great deal we don’t know, in particular there is still a profound mystery about the origins of our universe and why it is the way it is. But there is no good reason to give up on methodological naturalism just yet.

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    The actual hard work of empirically grounded, operational science got us to the Moon; the ideological imposition of evolutionary materialistic scientism now threatens to lead to a bad echo of the collapse of Athenian democracy through the Peloponnesian war and aftermath.

    I suggest, the tendency to conflate the two and draw on the credibility of the one to paper over the fatal foundation cracks of the other — notice, you are unable to address the substantial issue of incoherence cogently — is a fallacy of conflating two very distinct things through halo-covered ambiguities.

    I draw to your attention, Lewontin’s cat out of the bag moment:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads [==> as in, “we” have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge] we must first get an incorrect view out [–> as in, if you disagree with “us” of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations,

    [ –> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying “our” elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to “fix” the widespread mental disease]

    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth

    [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [–> “we” are the dominant elites], it is self-evident

    [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]

    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

    KF

    PS: Notice, in the just above, the power of an undisclosed, question-begging, controlling assumption . . . often put up as if it were a mere reasonable methodological constraint; emphasis added. Let us note how Rational Wiki, so-called, presents it:

    “Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method. Methodological naturalists limit their scientific research to the study of natural causes, because any attempts to define causal relationships with the supernatural are never fruitful, and result in the creation of scientific “dead ends” and God of the gaps-type hypotheses.”

    Of course, this ideological imposition on science that subverts it from freely seeking the empirically, observationally anchored truth about our world pivots on the deception of side-stepping the obvious fact since Plato in The Laws Bk X, that there is a second, readily empirically testable and observable alternative to “natural vs [the suspect] supernatural.” Namely, blind chance and/or mechanical necessity [= the natural] vs the ART-ificial, the latter acting by evident intelligently directed configuration. [Cf Plantinga’s reply here and here.]

    And as for the god of the gaps canard, the issue is, inference to best explanation across competing live option candidates. If chance and necessity is a candidate, so is intelligence acting by art through design. And it is not an appeal to ever- diminishing- ignorance to point out that design, rooted in intelligent action, routinely configures systems exhibiting functionally specific, often fine tuned complex organisation and associated information. Nor, that it is the only observed cause of such, nor that the search challenge of our observed cosmos makes it maximally implausible that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity can account for such.

  24. 24
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 5

    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    That argument is fatally undermined by the flawed assumption that truth-value and survival-value are mutually exclusive when they are not.

    Clearly, the chances of survival in any environment must be greatly improved if the organism knows what areas are dangerous and what areas are relatively safe, which plants are nutritious and safe to eat and which are poisonous and so on. An organism which is quick to grasp these truths about its environment has a better chance of surviving in it than competitors which are not so sharp. It is absurd on its face to suggest that searching for truth has no survival-value.

    That doesn’t mean that false beliefs or, at least, those which we have no good reason to believe to be true can’t have survival-value. As an atheist/agnostic, of course, I would say religious belief falls into that category. Whether or not they are true, I would argue that societies which share such beliefs are bound together more strongly by them. They are much more resilient in the face of all manner of stresses and challenges. Those beliefs, right or wrong, have survival value and that is why they persist and even flourish today.

  25. 25
    Seversky says:

    Origenes @ 21

    The free rational human mind cannot be explained by the natural world and is therefore ‘supernatural’. It obviously has an effect on the natural world and is self-detecting.

    If the brain is damaged then the conscious mind of the victim can be observably altered or impaired. Destroy the brain and the conscious mind is gone permanently. Find an example of disembodied consciousness and you might have a case. Otherwise, what we observe points to the mind having a physical basis even if we can’t explain how just yet.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    Pardon, but you first plainly did not read in sequence with recognition of true force, what Pearcey — a competent philosopher — actually wrote. Here is her response to Crick specifically:

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.

    Truth — accurate description/understanding of reality — and survival — differential reproductive success — may partly overlap, but that does not change the categorical differences involved. Survival value, here and now, is simply not in the same class of things as truth.

    Nor, do we get to being able to ground the responsibly, rationally free, capable mind in a processor boiling down to some stardust allegedly shaped and driven by accumulated blind chance and mechanical necessity. That has long been the critical, fatal crack in the foundation of the evolutionary materialist edifice. Here is Reppert, drawing out the point:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    This matter is truly foundational and decisive.

    Nor does appeal to emergence get us any further towards a solution, as this is suspiciously close to the joke about “then a miracle occurs”.

    KF

  27. 27
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 23
    I think I know that Lewontin quote by heart now and there are key points I don’t agree with. For example

    Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . .

    Nonsense, in principle the door is always open for those who want to walk in with new ideas, hypotheses or explanations and the arguments and evidence to support them. That’s not to say there aren’t some who use materialism as a means to exclude the possibility of God. But those who want to admit it, at least in the sense of an omnipotent Christian God, have a big problem. If literally everything could be God’s handiwork, how on Earth do you prove it? And how does it help us explain how that creation works, which is what we are asking of science, by speculating on whodunit?

    “Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method. Methodological naturalists limit their scientific research to the study of natural causes, because any attempts to define causal relationships with the supernatural are never fruitful, and result in the creation of scientific “dead ends” and God of the gaps-type hypotheses.”

    In my view, that which exists and therefore has a nature and is thereby part of Nature is all there is. There is no supernatural, only the unknown and unexplained.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, you still have yet to address the self-referential incoherence and the linked issue of computing on tissue [a cause-effect chain, GIGO-programming process] vs actual freedom to infer on sound principle rooted in understanding, from ground to consequent. An issue on the table since Haldane and even Darwin (who tried to use it to selectively dismiss doubts about his theory). As for Lewontin, there is good reason to take it seriously that he has summarised a widespread and even dominant ideological imposition present starting with the scientific elites and key establishments; regardless of “nothing to see here, move along” talk-points. KF

  29. 29
    Origenes says:

    Seversky @25,

    If the brain is damaged then the conscious mind of the victim can be observably altered or impaired. Destroy the brain and the conscious mind is gone permanently … what we observe points to the mind having a physical basis even if we can’t explain how just yet.

    The body is a vehicle in the material world. If any part gets damaged functionality is reduced. If his piano is out of tune or damaged, then the pianist’s ability to produce music will be impaired or even nullified. It doesn’t follow that a pianist has a piano basis even if we can’t explain how just yet …
    In the same way, if a person’s instrument of physical observation and expression, the brain, is damaged or adversely affected, then a person’s ability to observe and communicate in the material world will be impaired or nullified.

  30. 30
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Scientism is the notion that “the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything” (The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, Alex Rosenberg, 2012).

    This notion is absurdly and laughingly self-refuting. It’s a standing contradiction in itself. But this doesn’t stop the entire atheistic worldview from making this kind of boldly naive and ignorant sort of statement.

    Even if scientism could be implemented as a worldview or philosophy, it would necessarily be destructive of values, as evolutionary thinking is. Values (good, bad, true, false) are unnecessary in the evolutionary, scientistic worldview. Beyond that, they cannot be evaluated scientifically. Chemicals do not bind together because they evaluated the truth about it. Plants give no evidence of seeking the truth about where to survive. Things like concepts are immaterial essences, they can’t exist in a material/physical world. “Analysis of concepts” is an immaterial process. So is “the future” – a state that never exists. Chemicals do not plan for the future. With evolution, there is only the present need, not a future one. Nothing needs to survive. Materialism is utterly indifferent to whether a thing “survives” or is reduced to non-living matter. Either state has the same degree of value – namely, none. Evolutionary scientism is another term for nihilism. There is no meaning or value. There is no success or failure.

    A person arguing to convince people that a certain viewpoint is true, while at the same time admitting that evolutionary success may be better achieved by accepting false belief, is contradicting his desire to have “his truth” received and accepted through argument.

    The educational process is destroyed by scientism since false views may have more survival value than true ones (as is claimed with evolutionists who reject religion as false but claim that religion has survival advantages).

    Again, we see no indication that plants have needed any evaluation of truth of falsehood in order to survive and propagate across the earth. In terms of overall population, plants are more successful than truth-telling organisms.

  31. 31
    Seversky says:

    Origenes @ 29

    The body is a vehicle in the material world. If any part gets damaged functionality is reduced. If his piano is out of tune or damaged, then the pianist’s ability to produce music will be impaired or even nullified. It doesn’t follow that a pianist has a piano basis even if we can’t explain how just yet …
    In the same way, if a person’s instrument of physical observation and expression, the brain, is damaged or adversely affected, then a person’s ability to observe and communicate in the material world will be impaired or nullified.

    It’s a nice analogy but, like all analogies, you need to look at where it falls down.

    Specifically, the argument is that whatever agency is using the physical body needs it in order to interact with the physical world. The problem with that is that the agency has to interact with the physical body in order for it to do anything at all. But if it can interact with the physical body why not interact directly with the physical world? Why waste time and effort using the body as an intermediate at all?

  32. 32
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 26

    Seversky,

    Pardon, but you first plainly did not read in sequence with recognition of true force, what Pearcey — a competent philosopher — actually wrote. Here is her response to Crick specifically:

    I’ve read that argument several times and the fundamental flaw remains the assumption that survival-value and truth-value are mutually exclusive or, at least, the overlap is insignificant.

    If we evolved a brain which is capable of taking in information about its environment, picking out the bits which help it survive in that environment, then we have a brain which learned some truth, however limited, about that environment. It is not so hard to see that such a capacity for truth-seeking could be developed and adapted to serve what we now think of as science and philosophy.

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