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Science is fallible and changes a lot, but it is a reliable guide to truth?

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Remember Alex Rosenberg, the professor we quoted last Sunday to the effect that our brains just didn’t evolve in such a way as to understand that atheism is true? Here’s more from the 2012 interview at Talking Philosophy interview:

You assert that “science’s description of the world is correct in its fundamentals; and that when ‘complete’ what science tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today.” Perhaps you could say something about those fundamentals, why you think they are unassailable and how much can be derived from them?

I argue in The Atheist’s Guide that all the science we need to answer the “persistent questions” that keep most thoughtful people up at night, are physics’ rejection of final causes, entelechies, prior designs in nature, along with the 2d law of thermodynamics. Those two are enough to give us natural selection, and together with them it is enough to solve all the other problems most people have about reality, the meaning of life, the nature of the mind, free will, ethics and the trajectory of human history.

But these established parts of science are of course not enough to answer all the scientific questions about these matters. To answer the questions of science (quite different from the limited questions of philosophy that people commonly ask themselves and their religious “advisers”) requires all the rest of science, including the parts that are still subject to development, change, revision, and even in a few cases, revolution. But nothing at the frontiers of any science is going to overturn the 2d law of thermodynamics, natural selection or the basic molecular biology of the neuron.

Is the fallibility of science a weakness in your argument or one of its strengths?

Science is common sense recursively reconstructing itself. The reconstruction reflects the fallibility of common sense. Insistence by science on the tentativeness of its results at its ever-shifting research frontier, is what gives us confidence that after repeated test the parts most distant from that frontier are unlikely to be called into question.

So, science is fallible, with an ever-shifting frontier but nothing will overturn current insights which contain enough information to answer most key questions? Hmmm.

Science is fallible and changes a lot, but it is a reliable guide to truth? Well, that would make truth fallible and inclined to change a lot too. Increasing numbers of people, it seems do think that way, but it’s unclear how it could possibly be an advance in clarity of thought.

5 Replies to “Science is fallible and changes a lot, but it is a reliable guide to truth?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    He seems to live in a cocoon, wrapped within fantasy world. Too strange to be anything but sad.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    notes:

    Is Faith in God Reasonable? FULL DEBATE with William Lane Craig and Alex Rosenberg – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ge#t=3641s

    Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? – William Lane Craig – video clip of Rosenberg’s reducto ad absurdum on (at least) eight points:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ

    The Atheist’s Guide to Intellectual Suicide – James N. Anderson PhD. (Rosenberg’s position is picked apart towards the end of the lecture) – video
    https://vimeo.com/60437420

  3. 3
    Barb says:

    Modern science sometimes fosters the arrogant notion that human reasoning and knowledge should be the ultimate guide. However, human knowledge is and will remain limited.

    “Science deals with the measurable, religion deals with the immeasurable,” suggested author William Rees-Mogg. He said: “Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, any more than it can prove or disprove any moral or aesthetic proposition. There is no scientific reason to love one’s neighbour or to respect human life . . . To argue that nothing exists which cannot be proved scientifically is the crudest of errors, which would eliminate almost everything we value in life, not only God or the human spirit, but love and poetry and music.”

  4. 4
    vjtorley says:

    Hi News,

    The philosopher Ed Feser has written an excellent series of articles taking apart Alex Rosenberg’s book, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.jp.....undup.html .

    I’ll be writing a piece shortly on why science by itself can never be a reliable guide to truth. Thanks very much for this post.

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    There is no such thing as science.
    Its just people thinking about stuff and drawing conclusions they say are better drawn.
    Science is a verb and not a noun.
    At best they can say science is a high standard of investigation that can demand a high confidence in its conclusions.
    Its a methodology better then usual methodology people use successfully.
    BANG BINGO.
    This is the target for criticism of evolution.
    nOt the facts or debunking their facts!!
    Rather its attacking whether they use scientific methodology!!!
    if evolution is false then how could a methodology of high standard of led people to think its true??
    HOW?
    It couldn’t!
    Therefore evolution is not using scientific biological investigation in drawing its conclusions.
    Thats the ticket ID folks.
    Thats why evolution is mostly about fossils, genetics, morphology, and a few others wrapped into lines of reasoning.
    Only a tiny bit of selectionism in the lab comes up.
    Evolutionism was never based on scientific biological evidences but rather evidences off broadway.
    ID people take on the evidence but in so doing confirm the continuing error of non scientific biological investigation.
    Cambrian explosion stuff confirms fossils as biological scientific evidence for biological processes.
    Thats the logical flaw.

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