Philosophism


I have seen scientism, and it’s usually not us. The most blatant example recently was Pinker’s appalling essay in which he suggested that Hume could have used some instruction in molecular biology; I’ve seen people like Hawking and Krauss claim that philosophy is dead, killed by science. But usually the prominent atheists manage to step back from the brink and acknowledge that there is virtue to the humanities that is not dependent on science (but make no mistake, poetry is not a tool for generating new knowledge, but for communicating insights into human nature, which is fine and valuable — science is the tool we have for testing and verifying, and for acquiring new information about the universe).

Massimo Pigliucci has written a paper chastising the New Atheists for taking a turn towards scientism. But take note of my first paragraph: I’ve already given more specific examples of scientism than Pigliucci does in his entire paper. I’d also consider them illuminating: Krauss has retracted his sentiments, both Krauss and Hawking took a lot of flak for their weird ideas about philosophy (science is a branch of philosophy, so I found both rather discombobulating), and Pinker…well, I’d consider that the most damning evidence for a plague of scientism within atheism, that so many praised that blatant example of ahistorical and aphilosophical BS. Pinker isn’t even mentioned anywhere in the paper.

Pigliucci has picked his scientistic enemies: Dawkins, of course, and Harris and Stenger, adding just for the sake of completeness a couple of other scientists, me and Jerry Coyne, who also strongly criticizes the paper. Hitchens is dismissed as a mere polemicist, while Dennett, as a philosopher, causes some discomfort to his thesis, Pigliucci simply acknowledges that he can’t accuse him of scientism and moves on to his other targets.

But he can’t really defend his accusation against any of the others, either, and he doesn’t seem to care that there is a range of perspectives on philosophy even within his hand-picked sample. I consider myself to have a strong appreciation of philosophy and the humanities, and have even proposed to colleagues that a real liberal arts education ought to require learning some philosophy. Stenger’s work is full of history and philosophy; read God and the Atom, for instance, to see what I mean. I think Harris’s The Moral Landscape was all kinds of awful, but that he exercised some bad philosophy does not support his claim that the New Atheists reject it.

And look who he leaves off: Susan Jacoby, David Silverman, Hemant Mehta, Greta Christina, Ibn Warriq, Ophelia Benson. And worse, he has to explicitly deny that AC Grayling is a New Atheist! The impression I get is that what he has done is not find prominent New Atheists who endorse scientism, but prominent New Atheists who also happen to be trained as scientists, and then clumsily elided “is a scientist” into “is practicing scientism,” while also glossing over the existence of philosophers in our clan. We have a word for this: cherry-picking. It’s not a compliment.

Then he tries to define New Atheism, mentioning that nothing in it is actually “new” (a point that I think all of the New Atheists have made repeatedly! It’s a stupid name we got stuck with by a journalist writing in Wired). Here’s his definition.

Rather, it seems to me that two characteristics stand out as defining New Atheism apart from what I refer to as classical Atheism, one extrinsic, the other intrinsic. The extrinsic character of the New Atheism is to be found in the indisputably popular character of the movement. All books produced by the chief New Atheists mentioned above have been worldwide best sellers, in the case of Dawkins’s God Delusion, for instance, remaining for a whopping 51 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. While previous volumes criticizing religion had received wide popular reception (especially the classic critique of Christianity by Bertrand Russell), nothing like that had happened before in the annals of Western literature. The search for the reasons explaining such an unprecedented level of popularity is best left to sociologists, and at any rate is not really relevant to my aims here. It is likely, though, that the New Atheism qua popular movement is a direct result of the complex effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We have seen that the first book in the series, by Sam Harris, was written explicitly in reaction to those events, and I suspect that careful sociological analysis will reveal that that is also what accounts for Harris et al.’s success.

The second reason is intrinsic, and close to the core of my argument in this paper: the New Atheism approach to criticizing religion relies much more forcefully on science than on philosophy. Indeed, a good number of New Atheists (the notable exception being, of course, Daniel Dennett) is on record explicitly belittling philosophy as a source of knowledge or insight. Dawkins says that the “God hypothesis” should be treated as a falsifiable scientific hypothesis; Stenger explicitly—in the very subtitle of his book—states that “Science shows that God does not exist” (my emphasis); and Harris later on writes a whole book in which he pointedly ignores two and a half millennia of moral philosophy in an attempt to convince his readers that moral questions are best answered by science (more on this below). All of these are, to my way of seeing things, standard examples of scientism. Scientism here is defined as a totalizing attitude that regards science as the ultimate standard and arbiter of all interesting questions; or alternatively that seeks to expand the very definition and scope of science to encompass all aspects of human knowledge and understanding.

So he’s got two criteria: 1) We’re popular. That’s an accusation that has me stumped; would we be more respectable if nobody liked us at all? 2) We’re scientists and take a scientific approach. Well, we’re not all scientists, and what’s wrong with looking at an issue using evidence and reason? Why shouldn’t we reject ideas that might be pretty to some people, but contradict reality? It’s not as if we can’t appreciate beauty or justice, entirely non-scientific ideas, unless they’re also counter-factual. Beauty and justice are best when they aren’t wrapped around lies and nonsense!

I’m going to start replying to these broad-brush accusations of scientism with my own accusations of philosophism. It seems to me we’ve got a plague of people who resent the success of atheism and respond by belittling it with trite claims of it being “bad theology” or “naive philosophy”. I’m about to be served with a big plumbing bill for a frozen pipe — I wonder if I can get a discount if I argue that those two guys with the big toolboxes were insufficiently appreciative of the philosophy of flowing water, and are unwarrantedly popular with homeowners this time of year. Damn plumbists.

Comments

  1. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    1. Sam Harris is still a thing?

    2. Does Pigliucci know it’s not 2009 anymore?

  2. gussnarp says

    So I guess the first New Atheist was an old Christian? Wasn’t it Newton who proposed that we ought to stop philosophizing about the nature of light and start testing it?

  3. moarscienceplz says

    So he’s got two criteria: 1) We’re popular. That’s an accusation that has me stumped; would we be more respectable if nobody liked us at all?

    Hell, yes. If the unwashed masses who never studied philosophy and can’t tell their Existentialism from their Pragmatism like you, then there MUST be something wrong with you. Publish a few weighty tomes that only get bought by university libraries, and THEN you will be someone worth taking seriously.

  4. gussnarp says

    science is a branch of philosophy

    I feel like this is a really obvious thing that a lot of people forget, ignore, or just don’t get. Science didn’t exactly kill philosophy, but it did change things rather radically with the notion that testing ideas was a much better way of finding out whether they are true than just thinking about them. I think philosophy is great, it produced science. It gave us logic and reason. But when we have tested, scientific knowledge, that bit of philosophy trumps the bit that’s just a thought experiment in someone’s head. The pure thought is very useful, but when it leads us to testable hypotheses, we test them, and they withstand our efforts to disprove them and withstand decades or centuries of use and further testing, then we can safely say that any philosophical ideas that exist purely as the product of thought that contradict those results can be discarded.

    If that’s scientism, then I’m guilty as charged. But if that’s scientism, then scientism is a good thing.

  5. David Marjanović says

    science is a branch of philosophy

    No. It’s an application of philosophy.

    Engineering and medicine aren’t branches of science, they’re applications of science.

  6. kosk11348 says

    Dawkins says that the “God hypothesis” should be treated as a falsifiable scientific hypothesis.

    Pigliucci says this as if it is a bad thing. Has he ever said why the god hypothesis should not be judged on the basis of evidence?

  7. Iain Walker says

    kosk11348 (#7):

    Has he ever said why the god hypothesis should not be judged on the basis of evidence?

    It’s because he thinks that the god hypothesis is too vague and fluid to be pinned down enough to be testable. This might be reasonable if the only god hypothesis on offer were Karen Armstrong’s, but what he seems to forget is (a) some versions of the god hypothesis are less vague than others, and (b) even a completely incoherent or self-contradictory hypothesis can still be tested if it contains testable sub-hypotheses. For example, if one claims that X, Y and Z are true of God, then even if X, Y and Z turn out to be mutually incompatible, one may still be able to derive testable predictions from each claim individually. Victor Stenger’s God: The Failed Hypothesis does a fairly good job of breaking down traditional theism into potentially testable packets, and seeing how they pan out, while at the same time acknowledging that there are serious conceptual difficulties with the overall theistic hypothesis. Stenger, of course, far from being a raving proponent of Scientism™, is a philosopher as well as a physicist.

  8. says

    explicitly belittling philosophy as a source of knowledge or insight.

    Philosophers crown jewels, Sextus Empiricus and David Hume pulled the carpet out from under philosophy’s ability to make claims of knowledge, and it’s science’s fault? If you can’t stand the products of your wanking, do try to wank less!!

  9. says

    Is Massimo really criticizing the popularity of new atheism, or just observing the fact? I can’t tell from the excerpt.

  10. says

    So he’s got two criteria: 1) We’re popular. That’s an accusation that has me stumped; would we be more respectable if nobody liked us at all?

    (dons hipster glasses) Because if you weren’t an atheist before it went lamestream, you’re just a poser. Argumentum ad hipster is a popular (heh) fallacy with the trolls I’ve met. It is to argumentum ad populum what the appeal to novelty is to the appeal to antiquity. It’s an equal and opposite form of stupidity that tries to distract people with irrelevancies. It doesn’t matter how old or popular an idea is because those things have nothing to do with merit.

    I also consider science to be a branch of philosophy and an amazingly successful one at that. Looking at it as an application of philosophy like technology is an application of science sounds pretty good, too.

  11. Iain Walker says

    As regards to the apparent “who makes a better atheist” subtext to Pigliucci’s paper, I tend to find that philosophical critics of theism seem to be better at combating the more abstract theistic arguments, while the scientific critics seem to be better at combating the more empirical (or would-be empirical) arguments. But that’s simply a reflection of their different areas of expertise. Would I like (e.g.) Dawkins to demonstrate a little more awareness of the relevant philosophical debates, and hence why such-and-such a theistic counter-objection really fails? Yes. But I’d also like some of the philosophers to be a little more up-to-date on the relevant science, too. I’ve seen otherwise masterful philosophical take-downs of theism spoiled by the omission of a key science-based argument.

  12. says

    “Pigliucci says this as if it is a bad thing.”
    It is a bad thing if God isn’t a coherent enough concept for science to apply to it. Any specific claim can easily be waved away by ad hoc handwaving, reinforcing the notion that God is best dismissed as being vacuous rather than as being wrong.

    As the responses to the new atheists have shown, the idea of taking God as something amenable to a scientific hypothesis leads theists to accuse atheists of arguing against a caricature. They are right, God is much to nebulous and incoherent to be attacked by its failure as a scientific hypothesis.

  13. says

    This seems of a piece with the complains from certain theists that “at least the OLD atheists appreciated theological arguments and/or felt bad about losing their faith.” Both camps seem to place a very high value on academics and showing respect for a certain privileged way of addressing the issues. There seems to be a serious resistance to the idea that we can address theism without getting into a deep philosophical exploration… not coincidentally, the thing that they have the most skill at, and that allows them to exclude us “unwashed masses” types. It seems like a desire for relevance in a world that no longer sees their value (or at least exclusive value) in tackling certain issues.

    And the scientism thing? Often looks to me like a complaint that some of us expect all that thinky work to at least roughly map to something in reality.

  14. doublereed says

    So

    1) Suddenly atheism is super popular! While 9/11 is a big deal, the Internet is also another one. It’s kind of like homosexuality, in that atheists are kind of be randomly dispersed throughout the populace (unlike ethnic and racial groups which bond in specific neighborhoods and such). Therefore the internet gives the more isolated homosexuals and atheists an opportunity to talk, discuss, and share. Both are small, marginalized minorities that can attempt to ‘blend in’ if necessary, so they won’t necessarily meet one another otherwise.

    2) It’s kind of ridiculous to suggest that empirical and real-world evidence can’t inform moral decisions. You can’t philosophize un-amputating a leg or something. It’s just weird. He really doesn’t counter their arguments other than labeling them “scientism.” You’re only allowed to do that sort of laziness if you’re being funny.

  15. says

    PZ,

    With all due respect, I think you’re being uncharitable to Massimo here. He does mention you in his paper twice, true, but without an accusation of scientism. Having been a careful reader of Pharyngula for the last couple of years, I’d say you’re pretty good at not succumbing to scientism. So it seems to me that you can legitimately disagree with Massimo regarding the broad brush with which he has painted the movement, but maybe you could attribute that to a certain level of approximation that he’s going for. It would be interesting to try and push him on this.

    Likewise, I don’t think he, being a trained scientist, finds any problem with taking a scientific approach. It’s rather that those steeped in scientism sometimes overreach what science can legitimately tell us. And that does happen; as an example on which I side with Massimo against at least some in the community, I think that atheism itself is not a scientific position, but a philosophical position heavily informed by science, the difference arising due to the fact that, as Massimo has noted, it is pretty much impossible to pin down a set of specific ‘God hypotheses’ that we could mechanically verify or falsify. To be more concrete, you say “Why shouldn’t we reject ideas that might be pretty to some people, but contradict reality?” To which I reply: because you can’t actually show that those ideas contradict reality. What you can do is show that given the theories which form our best-supported science and a satisfactory philosophy of science, those ideas ought to be rejected. To say that science itself has done the work is to skip a step, which may seem nitpicky here, but can be crucial when the science is at least a bit hazy and can be perceived by some as ambiguous – in the case of evo psych, say.

    Also, I thought that Jerry’s reply was awful. It opens with an ad hom, spends more time on the perceived tone than the content, and when it finally gets to the point of the paper, it’s given a very uncharitable reading. And one of the bottom paragraphs explicitly rejects all calls for nuance.*

    Dom

    *My local organisation is currently engaged in a pretty rough dispute over what I perceive to be muslimophobia of some of the members. It’s precisely the nuance which Jerry derides that prevents these issues.

  16. pikaia says

    I have never understood what Philosophy actually is. What is the difference between philosophy, on one hand, and thinking about things, on the other?

  17. doublereed says

    Yea, when I think “science” I think of a guy in goggles in a lab yelling “SCIENCE!” I understand that. Makes sense to me.

    But what’s philosophy? The best I have is that statue “The Thinker.” Can’t quite grasp it.

  18. Scientismist says

    Reading Massimo Pigliucci’s columns over the last couple of decades is what made me decide on an on-line name. I recall when “scientism” was an epithet for the practice of taking a piece of science out of its context as part of how we humans understand ourselves and our universe while trying not to deceive ourselves, and treating it as something that must be true, irrespective of evidence (the cult followings for Lysenko and Freud were examples). Now it come to be applied to any attempt to take science seriously, and to denigrate anyone who asserts that supernatural claims can and should be subject to scientific scrutiny. I agree with Stenger, Dawkins, and others that the hypothesized existence and creative activity of a non-evolved intelligence are testable claims, have been tested, and have been found to be highly improbable. If that be scientism, then, contra Pigliucci’s claim that nobody would ever call themselves a “scientismist”, I must embrace that term, even if it is linguistically clumsy.

  19. says

    pikaia (#17):

    The point of philosophy is to take an activity which involves a lot of concepts and see how they fit together, even if the activity can be performed quite well without that philosophical knowledge. For example, philosophy of quantum mechanics is concerned with a -massive- gaping hole in its very foundations, despite which the theory can make astonishingly accurate predictions. It’s certainly interesting to try and figure out why that might be.

    So to answer your question, the difference is that philosophy is more systematic, has a narrower scope, is definitely a communal effort, and is just plain hard.

  20. gussnarp says

    @Dominik #16

    To which I reply: because you can’t actually show that those ideas contradict reality. What you can do is show that given the theories which form our best-supported science and a satisfactory philosophy of science, those ideas ought to be rejected.

    As far as I can tell, these are exactly the same statement. The first is put simply, in a way most people can understand, and in a way that corresponds with the way most people think about things and live their lives. The second says the exact same thing, just with a whole lot of caveats that might be necessary to satisfy someone trying to be extremely philosophically rigorous, but is completely unnecessary for all but the most academic of discussions. Only someone giving the most uncharitable of readings would require us to explain before every conversation just exactly what we mean by “reality” and “contradict reality”.

  21. enki23 says

    This opinion probably isn’t worth much, but I admit to loving both science and philosophy. They both have excellently useful toolsets. Science is the only game in town when it comes to deciding whether or not an idea contradicts reality. Non-scientific philosophy is useful when you want to see if ideas conflict with each other, or when an idea conflicts with itself.

  22. justawriter says

    I blame Plato. He got the message of the parable of the cave backwards. His ideal forms are the shadows of the wall cast by reality. So rather than the ideal Dog being the apotheosis of all living dogs, Dog is set of characteristics allowing us to separate dogs from non-dogs, also known as cats. So the philosophers search for the dog most like Dog (which must be the best dog of course) rather than enjoying the diversity that is dog, from toy chihauhau to great dane. There is no Dog, there are just dogs.

  23. says

    @gussnarp #21

    Yeah, that’s what you would think, but it’s pretty much an open question in philosophy whether science gives us theories which are true, or theories which give correct predictions for observable phenomena. The two are actually distinct. (To see this, think what either view tells us about whether we should believe that quarks exist.) There’s a pretty clever argument to be made which could show that if the latter conception is correct, then it’s rational to believe in God. But the current majority opinion is that it is the former conception which gives a more satisfying view of science, and that one doesn’t allow you to use the same trick. (You’ll have to take this paragraph on trust I’m afraid.)

    So there is a way to try to construct faith as rational despite any and all evidence you could bring to the table, while still being pro-science. There is a way to block it, but it’s philosophy that does the job.

    At the risk of sounding patronising, I think people often find this confusing and very academic because they have an idea of what scientific knowledge is and what it can tell us, and that view happens to also be the majority view in philosophy of science. Hence it appears as if that were the only possible rational view, but it’s not clear that it is. I personally think so, but, again, for philosophical reasons.

  24. Sastra says

    What I do object to is the tendency, found among many New Atheists, to expand the definition of science to pretty much encompassing anything that deals with “facts,” loosely conceived. So broadened, the concept of science loses meaning and it becomes indistinguishable from just about any other human activity. One might as well define “philosophy” as the discipline that deals with thinking and then claim that everything we do, including of course science itself, properly belongs to philosophy. It would be a puerile and useless exercise, and yet it is not far from the attitude prevalent among the New Atheists.

    As Jerry Coyne pointed out — and as PZ acknowledges above — we so-called New Atheists generally don’t have a problem with saying that “science itself properly belongs to philosophy” (as a branch or, per DM #6, “application.”) So the anti-philosophy accusation is bizarre.

    And then there’s this:

    I think that atheists need to seriously reconsider how they think of human knowledge in general, perhaps arching back to the classic concept of “scientia,” the Latin word from which “science” derives, but that has a broader connotation of (rationally arrived at) knowledge. Scientia includes science sensu stricto, philosophy, mathematics, and logic—that is, all the reliable sources of third person knowledge that humanity has successfully experimented with so far. In turn, when scientia is combined with input from other humanistic disciplines, the arts, and first-person experience it yields understanding.

    So, if I understand Pigliucci correctly, it’s scientism and thus wrong to “broaden the definition of science” to include all reliable means of knowing but it’s NOT scientism and perfectly acceptable to instead talk about “scientia,” which includes all reliable means of knowing.

    Hey, let’s all the New Atheists adopt Pigliucci’s term of “scientia” and turn him into a New Atheist, thus soothing his concern that New Atheists don’t have enough philosophers! Or pissing him off! I don’t know which it would be!

    As for “God” being too “squishy” to be a proper scientific hypothesis, it’s apparently concrete enough for believers to use it as an explanation for observations and to claim that experiences have tested it as true. They’re thinking of something, there’s a concept, and its derived from evidence. It’s hypothesis enough for practical purposes.

  25. says

    Sastra:

    As for “God” being too “squishy” to be a proper scientific hypothesis, it’s apparently concrete enough for believers to use it as an explanation for observations and to claim that experiences have tested it as true.

    Though part of that is because they’ll take it as truth no matter what. God has answered their prayers, or God had good reason to deny their prayers. You see God’s design in the world, but sometimes his apparent purpose for things is not clear. One can see God’s hand in particular events, but God works in mysterious ways. They have their cake and eat it too – it’s tested as true in the same way as a psychiatrist sees Freudian subconscious desires at the heart of any given behaviour. I really don’t think there’s a clear thesis to be found!

    In the words of Karl Popper:
    “As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, Although he had not even seen the child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. “Because of my thousandfold experience,” he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: “And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold.””

  26. says

    I’m gonna be such an unpopular poster tonight.

    @Sastra 25:

    As Jerry Coyne pointed out — and as PZ acknowledges above — we so-called New Atheists generally don’t have a problem with saying that “science itself properly belongs to philosophy” (as a branch or, per DM #6, “application.”) So the anti-philosophy accusation is bizarre.

    My reading of Massimo is that New Atheists often proclaim interest in philosophy, but very rarely take that interest beyond mere lip service. (For the record, I still hold that PZ is an exception in this regard and that Massimo probably acknowledges that to some extent.)

    Hey, let’s all the New Atheists adopt Pigliucci’s term of “scientia” and turn him into a New Atheist, thus soothing his concern that New Atheists don’t have enough philosophers!

    You seem to be implying that this would make no difference. I disagree; the difference between scientism and adopting the concept of “scientia” is the breadth of authority that a scientist commands. By using Massimo’s preferred terminology, it would be clear that being a scientist does not mean that one can speak authoritatively on all interesting subjects, as Massimo implies is the case now. You could disagree with his observation, but I think his solution of the perceived problem is better than you’d give him credit for.

    They’re thinking of something, there’s a concept, and its derived from evidence. It’s hypothesis enough for practical purposes.

    I wish! “God works in mysterious ways,” remember? That clause makes it a shit hypothesis, but that’s arguably for philosophical, not scientific reasons.

  27. says

    The arguments about “scientism” get messed up because people are obsessed about religion. I’ve tried at times to point out that there are problems with the self understanding of science retailed by New Atheists and their allies that have nothing to do with theology. It never works. You might as well try to get a dolphin to talk about something besides fish. I don’t know about Pigliucci. He does write about science and religion. For me, though, the worst thing about “scientism” is not that it creates problems for the faithful—I don’t give a damn about that—but that it is a folk positivism, i.e. an amateurish philosophy of science, that completely misrepresents what actually happens in the sciences. It isn’t just unfair to philosophers or historians or lawyers or poets or plumbers or even theologians, whatever they do. It’s also unfair to scientists.

    Actually investigating what happens in laboratories is extraordinarily difficult and probably calls for the skills of an anthropologist more than those of a philosopher. I’m certainly not going to take a whack at it in a comment thread. I’m simply making the point that for lots of us what’s at stake goes a long way beyond or at least besides the warfare of science and theology.

  28. consciousness razor says

    So he’s got two criteria: 1) We’re popular. That’s an accusation that has me stumped; would we be more respectable if nobody liked us at all? 2) We’re scientists and take a scientific approach. Well, we’re not all scientists, and what’s wrong with looking at an issue using evidence and reason? Why shouldn’t we reject ideas that might be pretty to some people, but contradict reality? It’s not as if we can’t appreciate beauty or justice, entirely non-scientific ideas, unless they’re also counter-factual. Beauty and justice are best when they aren’t wrapped around lies and nonsense! [my emphasis]

    Concerning the first point, you certainly could be respectable and unpopular. You don’t get my respect simply because what you do is popular. So you’ve stumped me with that response.

    You mischaracterized the second one badly, and may be exemplifying it. If you can have knowledge of something, if there is a fact to know about it, must it be scientific? Are the sciences the only valid approaches to knowing about reality, as a whole, meaning anything and everything that there is? Are the sciences the only disciplines using evidence and reason? Whatever your answer, he certainly does not say there is anything wrong with that. And we may “appreciate” lots of things, but what sorts of things can we know about them, if any? How do you know those you mention are “entirely non-scientific”? Do they in fact contradict reality, and how do you know that? It is not the case that we can appreciate them only if they are false, or only if they fail to have a truth value, but who says those are false or non-factual, or maybe that they somehow aren’t a part of reality at all?

    All that said, there are plenty of scientistic atheists out there, along with plenty of anti-philosophical atheists (which I count as two distinct problems). Most of the “big names” don’t make those mistakes for long, not vocally, because they can get an earful of well-earned criticism about it, and like zombies they are hungry for our brains.

    But Pigliucci is just flailing wildly. He’s beating the wrong dead horse, because it’s his hobby horse. So don’t take this as me agreeing with him, about this or a lot of other things. Tell me something about scientism among theists, or “the new theists” maybe — isn’t that a huge problem? Isn’t the way the “god debate” is construed most of the time problematic?

  29. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @consciousness razor:

    concerning the first point, that is PZ’s point.

    There is no relationship between popularity and being deserving of respect.

  30. kosk11348 says

    @ Kel

    It is a bad thing if God isn’t a coherent enough concept for science to apply to it. Any specific claim can easily be waved away by ad hoc handwaving, reinforcing the notion that God is best dismissed as being vacuous rather than as being wrong.

    Incoherent concepts of god are best dismissed as vacuous, but not all concepts are incoherent.

    As the responses to the new atheists have shown, the idea of taking God as something amenable to a scientific hypothesis leads theists to accuse atheists of arguing against a caricature. They are right, God is much to nebulous and incoherent to be attacked by its failure as a scientific hypothesis.

    No, wrong. Only a small fraction of the various conceptions of God are not amenable to the scientific method. A few are, granted. And these few can be dismissed as vacuous. But the vast majority of people in the world believe in the kind of gods who are very much amenable to scientific testing. If this sort of god is a caricature, then it’s still worthwhile deconstruct, since it’s the concept most theists hold.

  31. Al Dente says

    consciousness razor @29

    If you can have knowledge of something, if there is a fact to know about it, must it be scientific?

    Why not? Philosophy deals with conjectures, the “what if” questions. Science takes those conjectures and sees if there’s evidence to support or disprove them.

    We see philosophers specifically rejecting science and facts. Plantinga’s objections to “naturalism” are partially based on his misunderstanding of evolution. The post-modernists are infamous for their rejection of mere facts which go against their ideas.

    Even if philosophy does not result in anything concrete as science does can it not still be valuable as a particular form of thought, debate and discussion? Marxism exemplifies that philosophy is, if not desirable or useful, at least influential.

  32. Sastra says

    Dominek Miketa #27 wrote:

    I disagree; the difference between scientism and adopting the concept of “scientia” is the breadth of authority that a scientist commands. By using Massimo’s preferred terminology, it would be clear that being a scientist does not mean that one can speak authoritatively on all interesting subjects, as Massimo implies is the case now.

    Perhaps, but I think the focus in New Atheism is the atheism, and whether or not science and a scientific approach can say something significant specifically concerning the existence of God, Harris’ attempt to ground a science of morality to the contrary. I don’t see much distinction between “science broadly construed” and “scientia,” and suspect that if Dawkins had written the passage Pigliucci would have read darkness into it (though that may be unjust to Pigliucci.)

    Accusations of “scientism” always remind me of the story (perhaps apocryphal) of Ayn Rand declaring that one can logically and rationally prove that Wagner was the greatest composer. But the examples given are never that outrageous and now that I think about it this sounds more like Philosophism than Scientism.

    I wish! “God works in mysterious ways,” remember? That clause makes it a shit hypothesis, but that’s arguably for philosophical, not scientific reasons.

    True. I think it’s important though to note that the goalpost moving excuses are not intrinsic to the claim: they are reactions, immunizing strategies which can be discarded.

    Consider an analogy between a hidden, mysterious God which requires faith and the “healing energy” which reiki masters insist cannot be measured by any scientific instrument. What would happen if someone invented a machine which measured and thus demonstrated the existence of “healing energy” to the satisfaction of mainstream scientists, who all sheepishly admit that the reiki masters were right? Is “cannot be measured by any scientific instrument” SO intrinsic to the claim that the reiki masters would reject the apology and — despite any amount of correlation and evidence — insist that no, it CAN’T be healing energy because it was measured? Like hell.

    If science finds God they say their hypothesis is now proven. When science fails to live up to expectation then God is either untestable or hmmm, conditions weren’t right after all. The hypothesis AS a hypothesis is open to objective scrutiny and confirmation. What the disappointed believers do is technically a social problem, not a scientific one. Physicists do not claim that “healing energy” is beyond science. Vitalism is a dead hypothesis.

  33. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Consider an analogy between a hidden, mysterious God which requires faith and the “healing energy” which reiki masters insist cannot be measured by any scientific instrument.

    Reiki has been falsified by a (then) thirteen-year-old young woman. There is often something in the claims that is susceptible to empirical scrutiny. Like people, not scientific instruments, can detect the energy field *snicker*.

    My favorite example of ludicrous theological claims is that an omnipresent deity can be kept out of a school if the students don’t forcibly pray to that deity….

  34. Sastra says

    Kel #13 wrote:

    As the responses to the new atheists have shown, the idea of taking God as something amenable to a scientific hypothesis leads theists to accuse atheists of arguing against a caricature. They are right, God is much to nebulous and incoherent to be attacked by its failure as a scientific hypothesis.

    God is seldom so nebulous or incoherent that it lacks any mental component at all — by which I mean awareness, intentions, values, emotions, morals, consciousness, and so forth. The Sophisticated Theologians can protest that they’re not “anthropomorphic” till their blue in the face, but the term was never limited to the body. Even apophists like Armstrong can’t go on saying empty nothings for long without this necessity for mental content creeping in, because a God which does not resemble in any way the best and highest human attributes of the Mind (Love, Goodness, Creative Impulse, Intelligence, Peace, Harmony, etc.) is not a god at all, but atheism trying to be cute.

    Dualism (or its cousin-in-crime Idealistic Monism) is hypothetically testable and demonstrable and has wandered into human assumption and explanation, otherwise known as ‘hypothesis.’ People believe it because of observations, experience, and intuition. When they don’t worry about being called on it they’ll say quite a bit and put out too much. Not incoherent; wrong.

  35. kosk11348 says

    I think it’s important though to note that the goalpost moving excuses are not intrinsic to the claim: they are reactions, immunizing strategies which can be discarded.

    Exactly. And neither is this tendency to rationalize or explain away failure particular to religion. It can be found in practically all pseudo-scientific ideas. Any hypothesis can be saved from “disproof” if enough ad hoc excuses are invented. If a cult of physicists had spent centuries reworking the concept of phlogiston to avoid having to abandon it altogether, I would imagine the results would seem very family to anyone who’s ever read religious apologetics.

  36. says

    @kosk11348

    But the vast majority of people in the world believe in the kind of gods who are very much amenable to scientific testing.

    I used to think this way, but I’m not so sure any more. My experience has been that people hold a generally malleable conception such that it definitive statements about its nature. It’s no surprise that the problem of evil is still debated to this day, because the idea of god being good and being all-powerful are to the extent of the definitive properties that believers will actually give. And that’s after thousands of years of it being a central feature of the Western intellectual tradition!

    Certainly individual claims about god(s) can be coherent, and subject to empirical investigation/falsification. But I wouldn’t take it from particular claims about god(s) to meaning that god(s) is amenable to scientific testing. There are just too many ad hoc manoeuvres one can do to wriggle out of failed predictions. Every time there is a doomsday prediction, for example, is another chance for falsification, yet we don’t see people give up the idea – they just revise the date or declare it beyond the veil of human knowledge. Creationists will make some definitive claims about the age of the earth and how species came to be, but will retreat behind the Omphalos Hypothesis when those claims are inconsistent with the evidence.

    So I’m really no longer convinced that most believers hold conceptions of god that are amenable to scientific testing. Some may, but ideas generally are far too malleable to pin down. Most people may be able to in principle reflect on what they mean by god(s) such that they can propose tests, but I’d imagine that most people wouldn’t abide by the practice of doing so and sticking to the results. God is just too pre-scientific a concept for that sort of inquiry.

  37. says

    @Sastra

    God is seldom so nebulous or incoherent that it lacks any mental component at all

    I agree with you, but I’m not sure how it would follow that god can be turned into a scientific hypothesis and those properties measured. The best I could see is that some of those mental properties could be shown as empirically inconsistent with the world (e.g. the evidential problem of evil, “bad” design in nature) but again that’s not really going after god scientifically.

    by which I mean awareness, intentions, values, emotions, morals, consciousness, and so forth.

    So how would you test these scientifically?

  38. Sastra says

    Kel #38 wrote:

    So how would you test these scientifically?

    God is made in our image just as much as we are made in its image. Proponents claim that the physical theory of mind is constantly being undermined by abundant evidence for ESP, PK, the power of prayer, OBEs, ghosts, and so forth and so on. They know what is riding on this. God. They claim this triumphantly as refutation of atheism.

    If mental things come as the result of a long process of evolution and depend intrinsically on mindless matter and energy then their hypothesis is wrong. Let’s look at their evidence, re-do the tests perhaps.

    It can’t just go one way, this testing. And a God which confirms our deep intuitions about our own minds can’t hide behind special pleading. It was introduced to fit harmoniously into reality and explain mental things by a sky hook. Cranes will dismantle it, bit by bit.

  39. says

    Sastra:

    If mental things come as the result of a long process of evolution and depend intrinsically on mindless matter and energy then their hypothesis is wrong.

    To play devil’s advocate for a moment, why would this hypothesis demonstrate that mental things cannot exist any other way as opposed to simply that they cannot be any other way for us? I can hear the objection now that God is not a natural phenomenon, so it would be unfair to judge a non-natural phenomenon by how a natural phenomenon works. That in our case, yes we need physical bodies for our existence, but that’s simply the way the supernatural being realised us in the physical world. It didn’t have to be this way, but God being all-knowing and all-powerful understood this was one way that He realised his imagery. Just as when God is referred to as He, it doesn’t mean God literally has a penis or a Y chromosome, but that it’s the best way to make sense of God given our vantage point as natural beings.

  40. Azuma Hazuki says

    Something often missed in conversations about apologetics is that the “ground-up” arguments (ontological, transcendental, presuppositionalist) aren’t actually Christian arguments. Oh, the van Tillianite camp will insist they are, I had one particularly persistent Calvinist dingleberry constantly harping on that “the Bible is the claim, not the evidence,” but when you get right down to it…these are Deist arguments.

    Somewhere, somehow, the theist must smuggle Yahweh in wholesale. The jump from the perfect “philosopher’s God” of omni-everythingness to the scatalogical, vengeful, genocidal Canaanite murder-idol Yahweh is absolutely huge, yet almost no one seems to catch that it’s even being made!

    This is where the “God hypothesis” goes from squishy to testable. With this jump, the apologist has gone from making vague claims to making very concrete and testable ones. The lack of evidence for the Exodus, or the fact that Luke-Acts plagiarizes heavily from Josephus, is not germane to the Deist God…but it is a massive problem for the Yahwists!

  41. says

    I’m going to criticise all scientists: there are scientists like James Shapiro who insist that bacteria are intelligent. Consequently, science is a bad thing.

    Listen, the bulk of philosophy is nothing at all like the kind of caricature that you are identifying as the exemplars of philosophy, Paul. So I think this is a bit of a strawman.

  42. stevem says

    re johnwilkins @42:

    Are you calling Pinker a caricature of a philosopher? Who do you consider an exemplar?

  43. anteprepro says

    I’m going to criticise all scientists: there are scientists like James Shapiro who insist that bacteria are intelligent. Consequently, science is a bad thing.

    By god, could you miss the point any harder?

  44. robotczar says

    Geez, is new atheism defined by what PZ Myers says? I hope not because he says a lot of things that have nothing to do with atheism, new or old school. He also has not been designated to speak for atheists, nor does he speak for scientists. I am one atheist that thinks it ridiculous to say science is a branch of philosophy and then offer no support for that assertion. What the heck is a “branch” anyway? The fact that before science had a name they were called natural philosophers and even did some philosophy does not in any way imply that one is a branch of the other. By that argument, philosophy is a branch of religion. Religion is older, seeks answers, and has some philosophers did religion. And, religious intellectuals claim to be philosophers.

    Science and philosophy (and religion) have similar goals (to answer questions) but are as separate as two cultures can be in how they operative and what they value. One relies on empirical evidence and one doesn’t. That is more than a branch. It is a paradigm sift of major proportions, as can be observed in the results that have occurred since science was invented. Not much changed after philosophy was invented.

    Science is certainly not an application of philosophy because philosophy doesn’t have any application other than mental masturbation. No useful result or natural principle has come from philosophy, ever. No, the fact that a philosophy once claimed that maybe everything was made of atoms is not a natural principle–it was speculation. (And, it is wrong anyway). Let me just point out that making “arguments” about how philosophy is really science is really not going to cut it–that is philosophy, which I just said has nothing like empirical evidence to guide us to “truth”. Let’s just say one works for controlling and predicting events, and one does not–a fairly significant difference.

  45. dongiovanni (Now onto Wagner) says

    So what about, say, the entirety of formal logic? Deeply philosophical and very, very useful. Now please stop spouting your bullshit about the lack of useful results.

  46. Nick Gotts says

    robotczar@48,

    Science and philosophy (and religion) have similar goals (to answer questions) but are as separate as two cultures can be in how they operative and what they value. One relies on empirical evidence and one doesn’t.

    The contrast you draw is, of course, a philosophical one.

    Let me just point out that making “arguments” about how philosophy is really science is really not going to cut it–that is philosophy, which I just said has nothing like empirical evidence to guide us to “truth”.

    Well of course, no-one has said philosophy is science. Rather, PZ said that science is a branch of philosophy, so I’ll be charitable and assume this is what you were denigrating as mere philosophy. But then how do arguments that science is not philosophy escape the dread charge of themselves being philosophy – and therefore utterly useless?

    Science is certainly not an application of philosophy because philosophy doesn’t have any application other than mental masturbation.

    Then I should imagine it must be one of your favourite activities.

  47. susanvan says

    It’s clear to me that philosophy is a branch of science. A “branch” simply means it “comes after” or “is supported by.” Science comes first. You need science to even have a philosophy. If all humans ceased to exist, there would still be science, but there would be no philosophy.

  48. says

    Some philosophy uses empirical data: look up experimental philosophy.

    Some science has no empirical foundation: string theory, anyone?

    I didn’t define what New Atheism is here: Massimo Pigliucci did.

    You do realize that arguing about what is and isn’t science is a philosophical issue, don’t you?

    Man, robotczar, you’re helping Pigliucci’s argument by acting as an example that some of the dumbasses in atheism have no clue about philosophy at all.

  49. says

    It’s worse than I thought — robotczar sounded familiar so I had to look him up. He also denies the value of sociology, and has spent a lot of time arguing for the validity of racism.

    Some people really are too stupid to post here.

  50. Arren ›‹ idée fixe oblique says

    susanvan:

    Science is every bit as contingent upon sentience as philosophy. The natural world would of course still exist, but science means knowledge of that world — and for there to be knowledge, there must be a capacity for knowing.

    Additionally, the historical development of science derived directly from philosophy. This is a plain fact.

  51. susanvan says

    Arren:

    Give me an example of the science of something changing because of a philosophy.

  52. brianpansky says

    @57

    what do you mean by “the science of something changing”? is that the accepted conclusions that are changed about the world? or is it the methods of finding out about reality? or what?

    and… why is your challenge the final say on the issue?

  53. susanvan says

    What is you definition of science. That’s probably our misunderstanding. To me science is what is. What is you word for real things?

  54. says

    @52 (PZ):

    Actually, I think that people like robotczar are exactly who Massimo was referring to. The article can be faulted for being ambiguous about whether the same charges are levelled at you or not, true – and Massimo should be called out on that. I think that if you just search & replace ‘New Atheism’ with ‘a prominent line of thought within New Atheism’, the original critique applies, but to a strand of atheism that is external to FTB.

    It seems to me that you took the article too personally, although reading it, I can see why you would. Frankly, when I first saw it, I thought you would support the conclusion that the atheist movement would be improved by philosophical reflection.

  55. chigau (違う) says

    susanvan #59

    To me science is what is.

    It is likely that you are the only person using this definition.

  56. Arren ›‹ idée fixe oblique says

    susanvan:

    The definition of science is not an arbitrary opinion; it is not one thing to me and another to you. For convenience, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

    Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

    You seem to be conflating the natural world (your “real things” & “what is”) with the study of same. It’s the latter that’s science, per se — and the epistemic framework that serves as the foundation of science is indelibly philosophical in nature, full stop.

  57. brianpansky says

    OR, just answer my questions.

    but, you know, saying “science is what it is” just really needed to happen at least once in this highly intellectual conversation.

  58. says

    I didn’t take it personally, I agree that more philosophy would help the New Atheist movement, and I certainly do know that there are lots of atheists, like robotczar, who aren’t very bright (ever since I pointed out that ‘dictionary atheists’ are intellectually vacuous years ago, I’ve had whining complaints plopping regularly into my mailbox).

    But I think Pigliucci made his argument very poorly. He made a list of atheists who were scientists, dismissed the exceptions to his rule, and then tried to put them all in the anti-philosophy camp by implication.

    A paper by Pigliucci in which he pointed out all the deep philosophical foundations of atheism, to make the case that philosophy ought to be more important to us, would have been good and useful. He’s in a position to do that, far more than most of the big names of New Atheism (Dennett excepted).

  59. says

    susanvan: You are missing a critical point. Reality is not synonymous with science. Most scientists will agree that there is a reality (some won’t!), but what we do in science is gather data and build models called theories that approximate reality as well as we can. We use the tools we inherited from philosophy to construct theories, and one serious source of error for scientists is when we mistake our models for reality.

    We change our ideas thanks to philosophy all the time. Personally, I was greatly influenced by Susan Oyama, a philosopher, who brought a very different perspective to development and evolution. Her ideas are hard to implement and test (look up Developmental Systems Theory sometime), but over and over when I’m reading a paper, I think to myself, “how would this be interpreted in a DST framework?”, and it makes me rethink alternatives.

    That’s important. Especially on the edge of scientific research, there can be many competing ideas about how to interpret the data (that is, “reality”), and to dismiss the philosophical context in which we generate hypothesis-testing protocols is pure folly.

  60. Rob Grigjanis says

    robotczar @48:

    No useful result or natural principle has come from philosophy, ever.

    Dead German bloke would have disagreed with you;

    The reciprocal relationship of epistemology and science is of noteworthy kind. They are dependent upon each other. Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme. Science without epistemology is—insofar as it is thinkable at all—primitive and muddled. (Einstein, 1949)

  61. says

    Okay, I think that him having dismissed the exceptions is a completely fair criticism – after all, Massimo seems to be in favour of nuance, and your suggestion would surely fit that framework.

    I’m not completely convinced that he was wrong in pointing out some of the philosophical transgressions of the big names of New Atheism. I haven’t read Stenger, so I won’t comment on him, but would you agree that Dawkins, for all of his brilliance as a populariser of science, sometimes lacks nuance when it comes to more philosophical issues? As for Harris, I guess our opinion is the same.

  62. mhph says

    The article appears to be behind a paywall, but I really would like to know more about why he leaves out Dennett (I mean, aside from the fact that he should be leaving out basically everyone he talks about).

    ‘Scientism’ is not a scientific mistake, after all, it’s a philosophic one relating to the what (and how) science can and can’t explain. As often as not this involves: taking a philosophic problem, which like most is characterized by the trickiness of saying anything about some phenomenon; defining some of the key terms in very specific ways (usually without attempting a justification of those definitions); doing empirical testing related to those terms as defined; and declaring that evidence for a philosophic view has been found (or even declaring the problem solved). Usually the actual evidence and scientific investigation are interesting itself, but because of the initial step don’t actually do much work when it comes to the philosophic problem.

    The actual problem here isn’t with the science at all – once the terms are granted it’s usually done well. The problem is with starting with one problem, and then pretending that a separate problem which can be more easily dealt with scientifically is the same thing.*

    But saying that someone can’t hold a (bad) philosophic position or make a conceptual mistake because they are a philosopher is a very strange thing to do. (Trust me, I am a philosopher and that happens all the time because philosophy is hard in exactly this way.) This is especially strange since Dennett’s early work displays a bit of a tendency towards exactly this mistake (though I think it probably doesn’t go far enough that way to count).

    It’s also worth noting that ‘Scientism’ is sort of a tricky thing to talk about, since it’s both a mistaken view and a problematic tendency in people’s thinking – but the two don’t always come together. Conflating the two tends to end up causing all sorts of trouble as people with views that don’t count as scientistic get (accurately) accused of scientism due to the problematic tendency involved and then that is taken as a problem for the view itself.)

    *See, e.g., Krauss’ “I can answer why something came from nothing. Step one, by “something” I mean the stuff we see around us in the physical world as generally understood.” Step two, by “nothing” I mean stuff that is different from it”.” The science itself is interesting, but the relationship between it and the philosophic question is questionable.

  63. says

    @Dominik #60:

    I think that if you just search & replace ‘New Atheism’ with ‘a prominent line of thought within New Atheism’, the original critique applies, but to a strand of atheism that is external to FTB.

    Well, if we judge Pigliucci’s article by rewriting it in our head the way we wished he’d written it, I guess it’s easy to agree with him.

  64. robotczar says

    Dongiovanni, does labeling my assertions as bullshit qualify as “formal” logic or does it just make you feel manly? Formal logic, like all of math, can be useful. But, it doesn’t tell you anything about the universe, which need not follow your logic. Logic does not explain natural principles, it merely says whether statements (words again) are logically valid. Please indicate how formal logic provides useful results or shut up. If it did, we would have seen a boom in useful technology or social mores after logic was formalized. Did that happen?

    Nick Gotts, you don’t get to just label all discourse as philosophy, but worse you don’t get to claim that discourse offers some kind of validity in the sense that empiricism does. I said that I am looking for actual, useful descriptions of the universe–not discourse. What possible difference does it make if my statement is philosophical? That ploy is stale and without logic. What I implied is that science IS SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT than philosophy, which makes labeling it a “branch” sort of not useful. Whether philosophy is my favorite activity has no bearing on the topic of how related science and philosophy are.

    Susanvan, as I tried to show, by that logic, philosophy is a branch of religion. “Comes after” is a very useless definition of branch. Why even bother labeling something a branch? Does that label validate it is some way? The two things are distinct and not very related. Science is not “supported by” philosophy or visa versa. Myers himself identified many scientists who support this claim.

    PZ, to the extent that some philosophy uses empirical data means it is scientific. It does not follow that because some philosophy is scientific that science is philosophy or both are related (um, I think that is by formal logic). The fact that some speculation labeled science has no empirical evidence does not make science philosophy. Science involves some things other than empirical evidence, but string theory would not be accepted as scientific until it does have some empirical evidence. It is a hypothesis in search of empirical evidence.

    I think I have some clue about philosophy. I suppose I can simply claim you don’t–now that’s more like philosophy that science, isn’t it? Any please stop trying to poisoning the well by attacking me personally. I deny the scientific basis of much or most of sociology. You have never offered a shred of contrary evidence. Your argument is something like,”it end in ‘ology’ so it is a science.” Much of sociology is simply ideology, involving little or no empiricism. And, please provide some evidence that I argue for the “validity” of racism. That is a ridiculous slander I disagree with what you say about facts related to race, so you label it racism to try to win an argument by name calling. That is so hypocritical from someone who passes himself off as rational and fair.

    I agree on one point, Lots of stupid people post here. Mindless minions mainly.

  65. says

    robotczar #71

    Hi, mindless minion here.

    Formal logic, like all of math, can be useful. But, it doesn’t tell you anything about the universe, which need not follow your logic.

    How are you defining “useful,” if not as “tells you something about the universe”? Assuming that definition, the two sentences I quoted are mutually exclusive. Please make your mind up.

  66. ChasCPeterson says

    I’d say because garbage in, garbage out. Formal logic applied to fallacious prepositions or assumptions won’t tell you anything useful about the universe. That’s why science has to start with empirical observations and apply formal logic to those to be useful. It’s also why string theory might not be science at all whereas plumbing might.

  67. Al Dente says

    robotczar @71

    I think I have some clue about philosophy.

    Does the expression “Dunning–Kruger Effect” mean anything to you?

    I suppose I can simply claim you don’t–now that’s more like philosophy that science, isn’t it?

    You can claim anything you want. However when we compare what you say to what others say, then some of us come to a different conclusion than you do.

    Any please stop trying to poisoning the well by attacking me personally.

    You’re one of those people who think free speech goes only one way. You can sneer at anyone you want for any reason you want but nobody better say anything about you. Incidentally, criticism is not poisoning the well. You might want to learn the difference between them.

    Much of sociology is simply ideology, involving little or no empiricism.

    We can add sociology to the numerous topics of which you’re ignorant.

    I agree on one point, Lots of stupid people post here.

    With you as Exhibit A.

  68. says

    Arren #73

    Thanks. :-)

    Chas #74

    Formal logic applied to fallacious prepositions or assumptions won’t tell you anything useful about the universe.

    Aye, but formal logic combined with observation is how hypotheses are tested. If X is true, then we should see Y, so look to see if Y is true. I’d agree that on its own, logic has little use, but that’s not what robotczar said.

  69. dongiovanni (Now onto Wagner) says

    I would like to point out that just about all computers and similar digital systems rely on formal logic to function. So the answer to your question regarding technology is an emphatic yes. Also, you appear to be implying that the universe is not constrained by logic, which is an assertion that is utterly incoherent, given that it implies that all physical laws are meaningless and have no predictive power at all.

    Lastly, I’m not calling your assertions bullshit because I want to “feel manly”, I’m calling your assertions bullshit because I’m tired of people like you maligning my occupation while completely ignorant of it.

  70. jefrir says

    Susanvan, science is the study of reality. It is not reality itself, any more than insects are entomology, or people are sociology.

  71. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Can anyone give an example of when reality is not synonymous with science?

    Science is not a noun, but rather a verb. Just one method (probably the best) of study for reality, based on philosophy, from which it diverged circa 1500-1700’s. Too many folks call the “facts” as science has determined to be “science”. But science is always not absolutely true, and revision will be made based on the evidence. Which is why religious absolutists detest science….

  72. brianpansky says

    now i’m pondering the reality-ific study of migration…

    @susanvan, 78:

    do you know the distinction between the map and the territory? if you do, then science is a method of cartography, it is not the territory.

    use the word “reality” to refer to the territory.

  73. susanvan says

    If humans are not on this planet, a map of the territory does not exist.
    If humans are not on this planet, does that mean science doesn’t exist?

    I am not comfortable saying this because this is not how we use the word science.

  74. ChasCPeterson says

    Can anyone give an example of when reality is not synonymous with science?

    Later this afternoon, some journal will publish some paper that contains some data and logical conclusions therefrom that nobody ever knew before. That information is right now part of reality, but it won’t be part of science until later this afternoon.
    In 1950 all of molecular biology was part of reality, but it wasn’t (yet) part of science.
    In 1921 Piltdown Man was part of science, but we now know that it never was part of reality.

    Science is not a noun, but rather a verb.

    Of course it’s a noun.

  75. brianpansky says

    @83

    this is not how we use the word science.

    often the word gets used in different ways, i suppose. for instance, from wikipedia:

    Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[2][3]

    In an older and closely related meaning, “science” also refers to a body of knowledge itself

    however notice that these two definitions say that science is either the practice of building the maps (in the first definition there) or the map itself (in that last sentence). in neither case is science the territory, or the universe itself.

    it’s possible you are also using the word “reality” to refer to an ‘accurate map’ or something, i’m not sure. but we tend to use the word “reality” to refer to the territory around here.

  76. susanvan says

    ChasCPeterson: In 1921 Piltdown Man was part of science, but we now know that it never was part of reality.

    Piltdown wasn’t science because it wasn’t done correctly, and when science was done correctly the error was found.

    ChasCPeterson: Later this afternoon, some journal will publish…

    So the heliocentric view of our solar system wasn’t scientific before the 15 century. Do you hear the problem with the way you are using the word science? It is not how everyone uses the word.

  77. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Example of an early attempt at the speed of light, 140,000 mps. Now it is known as 299,792,458 metres per second, known to be accurate to 4 ppb, and used to define a meter. Scientific knowledge asymptotically approaching the truth.

  78. susanvan says

    Does science exists outside of human thought?

    I think it does. If you think it takes a human to create science, then this argument is going no where, and I will stop responding to this thread. Out definitions do not match.

  79. brianpansky says

    @89

    if you are simply using the word science to mean reality, the territory, the universe, then yes, our definitions do not match.

    you should consider using the actual definition, not your ignorant impression of the definition.

  80. susanvan says

    No, you are being ignorant because you have refused to answer my challenge. Please just try to answer my question:

    Was the heliocentric view of our solar system unscientific before the 15 century?

  81. says

    @92 (susanvan):

    It wasn’t part of science before the 15th century. I’d say ‘scientific’ doesn’t mean ‘part of science at the time’, it carries far too many implications for that.

  82. susanvan says

    So those of you who agree with Dominik Miketa that prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific have explained to me why religious people call science just another religion.

    I do not agree with you. I think science exists outside of humans. We simply uncover reality by using good science.

  83. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So those of you who agree with Dominik Miketa that prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific have explained to me why religious people call science just another religion.

    They try to denigrate scientific method as a way of knowing reality by pretending it is just a presuppositional as their babble. But, when asked to show how their babble changes with increasing knowledge, silence is deafening. Which is prima facie evidence they know they lie and bullshit.

    Scientific knowledge, at the moment isn’t the final word. If you think so, you are full of shit.

  84. brianpansky says

    @susanvan

    you are the dunning kruger effect in action. slow down a bit.

    first acknowledge that you are using the wrong definition for science, as i have pointed out.

    unless you get a grip here, you are just weaving a more and more tangled language barrier that will prevent any useful discussion.

    we are going to have to take baby steps in this conversation in order to get anywhere.

    this also might have to move to the off topic area, the thunderdome.

  85. chigau (違う) says

    I think reality exists outside of humans. We simply uncover science by using good reality.

  86. says

    Also, I explicitly refrained from saying whether heliocentrism was scientific or not.

    (Oh, and a fun fact: The Ptolemaic system is just a Fourier transformation of the heliocentric model.)

  87. Rob Grigjanis says

    I think science exists outside of humans

    Science is a human activity. I have no idea what you mean. In what sense did science exist before we started doing it, or defined it?

  88. susanvan says

    Well, Dominik Miketa, you sure did refrain from saying whether heliocentrism was scientific or not. That we can agree on. The fact that you aren’t willing to commit is my point.

    Was heliocentrism scientific before the 15 century?

    Come on, how do we use the noun “science” and adjective “scientific”? Let’s all be honest. Don’t run to the dictionary. The dictionary is not the law. Usage is the law.

  89. mhph says

    I’d just like to call some attention back to this bit from robotczar:

    Please indicate how formal logic provides useful results or shut up. If it did, we would have seen a boom in useful technology or social mores after logic was formalized. Did that happen?

    This is something that someone wrote on a computer. But I suppose it may have been a coincidence that the formalization of logic directly preceded the invention of a device that uses formal logic to do things. That would probably have happened anyway.

    As far as the social mores go, though, apparently being very openly, publicly stupid has become ok. I don’t know if that’s what I’d call a “boom”.

  90. Anri says

    susanvan @ various:

    Is scientific knowledge complete? Does it cover all of reality?

    Does reality cover all of reality?

    If science does not – at present, or at any time – correctly describe all of reality, and reality itself is in fact the same as reality (which is to say, is accurately describes itself by, yanno, being itself), then science cannot be equivalent to reality.
    If science does not map 1:1 with reality, it can’t be reality.

    Let me put it another way: do you believe science has improved at all in the 20th century?
    Has reality improved by an equivalent extent? Or is it merely our imprecise, imperfect, incomplete scientific understanding of reality that has improved?

  91. susanvan says

    Rob Grigjanis, the “scientific method” is the human activity. Sometimes humans use the word science when they really mean the scientific method. Science is only wrong when the method to uncover it is wrong. So we say the heliocentric view of our solar system was always science, but the scientific method used was wrong until the 16th century.

    Do you think epileptic seizures were at one time scientifically proven to be demonic possession?

    Science is NOT the human activity because humans get it wrong. The scientific method is self-correcting, but the science was there all along. This is how most people use and understand the word science. If you want to change the word, then you are turning it into a religion. I am not a fan of religions.

  92. susanvan says

    Anri and all the others,

    I really don’t care what you think “science” means. I want you to prove what everyone means when they use the word “science.”

    No one uses the word science in a forward-only sense. No one says, “Oh, now that humans get it, it is now science.” We all use the word to mean we get it now so therefore it extends backward in time as well.

    I am sorry if that doesn’t match with your dictionaries. But this is how the word “science” is used. Any misunderstanding between intelligent people resorts back to equivocating. Therefore, PZ is wrong to say that science comes from philosophy.

  93. chigau (違う) says

    Science is NOT the human activity because humans get it wrong. The scientific method is self-correcting, but the science was there all along. This is how most people use and understand the word science.

    [citation needed]

  94. chigau (違う) says

    I want you to prove what everyone means when they use the word “science.”

    A very scientific realistic request.

  95. Rob Grigjanis says

    So we say the heliocentric view of our solar system was always science, but the scientific method used was wrong until the 16th century.

    No, “we” don’t say that. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone say that. We might say that the earth has orbited the sun as long as earth has existed, and that the heliocentric model was conceived at some point (16th century, 3rd century BCE, whatever).

  96. susanvan says

    Hi chigau,

    TRUE or FALSE
    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

    How do YOU define the word “scientific”?

  97. susanvan says

    So Rob Grigjanis, you hear people say that the earth’s ability to orbited the sun only became science in the 16 century.

    No one I know talks like this. Perhaps we orbit in different circles.

  98. Anri says

    susanvan @ 108:

    I really don’t care what you think “science” means.

    Clearly, however, we should care what you say it is.
    Because reasons.

    I want you to prove what everyone means when they use the word “science.”

    …and is ‘everyone’ doesn’t hold a unified idea of what science is – what then?

    And not to ask a stupid question, but why do the people here arguing what science means not count as part of ‘everyone’?
    If they do – how can you ignore their definitions?
    If they do not – why not?

  99. susanvan says

    Hi Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall,

    How do you use the word “science” and its adjective “scientific”?

    TRUE or FALSE
    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

  100. susanvan says

    Hi Anri.

    How do you use the word “science” and its adjective “scientific”?

    TRUE or FALSE
    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

  101. Anri says

    susanvan @ 117:

    Let me propose a counter-example as a question:

    Was belief in Jovian Satellites science in the era of naked-eye astronomy?

  102. brianpansky says

    @108

    No one uses the word science in a forward-only sense. No one says, “Oh, now that humans get it, it is now science.” We all use the word to mean we get it now so therefore it extends backward in time as well.

    citation needed.

    also, remember, some words are used in MULTIPLE ways, not just one way. please acknowledge this.. you are, at best, describing layperson terminology. according to layperson terminology, cucumbers are vegetables, spiders are “bugs” or insects, and “theory” means “guess”.

    layperson terminology is pretty bad to use in a highly intellectual discussion like “is science part of philosophy”. this is kind of THE ENTIRE POINT of there being such a thing as technical terminology to begin with!

  103. chigau (違う) says

    So Rob Grigjanis, you hear people say that the earth’s ability to orbited the sun only became science in the 16 century.

    Now I’m calling Troll.

  104. says

    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not a widely-held idea. Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was correct but unappreciated. Prior to the 15 century terracentrism was the widely-held view, although it would later be shown to be incorrect.

    In the sense that both ideas were/are concerned with the nature of the universe, then yes, the ideas were/are “scientific.”

    Planets orbit suns. The action of orbiting a sun is not science. The study of orbiting bodies is science.

  105. susanvan says

    I am totally using layperson terminology. If you can’t deal with me on that level, there is no point going anywhere else, is there?

    Religious use this excuse: If you can’t use our understanding of reality in a highly intellectual discussion like God. this is kind of THE ENTIRE POINT of there being such a thing as religion to begin with!

    Do you hear how hollow that sounds? That’s you trying to explain what science to you.

  106. Rob Grigjanis says

    So Rob Grigjanis, you hear people say that the earth’s ability to orbited the sun only became science in the 16 century.

    No, never heard that either. That’s just weird. I wrote the kind of thing I have heard (and said), and you ignored it. But then I only orbited in physics circles for 15 years or so, and only read and talked about it for another 20+ years, so I might have missed something.

  107. susanvan says

    chigau (違う),

    How do you use the word “science” and its adjective “scientific”?

    TRUE or FALSE
    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

  108. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Science is NOT the human activity because humans get it wrong.

    Science is a human activity, and it can be wrong. Period, end of story. Think Cold Fusion. I, as a working scientist, had no doubts that reality would be be shown one way or the other. That it ended the way I expected, is not disappointment.

    So Rob Grigjanis, you hear people say that the earth’s ability to orbited the sun only became science in the 16 century.

    What a fuckwit. Only it took that long for empirical evidence and theory to match.

    How do YOU define the word “scientific”?

    Obeying the empirical observational rules at that time. In chemistry, the Philolostogen theory was supplanted by oxide once oxygen was discovered. Science is fluid and changes because of evidence. Why do you appear to think otherwise….

  109. susanvan says

    Rob Grigjanis,
    I know you have never heard it. That was my point. You said, “That’s just weird” because no one uses the word science in the way.

  110. Anri says

    susanvan @ 120:

    First answer my question. Okay?

    Ok, I believe it was still able to be argued scientifically, but was wrong.

    Your turn to answer.

    @ 123:

    I am totally using layperson terminology. If you can’t deal with me on that level, there is no point going anywhere else, is there?

    I’m a layperson.
    I presume I don’t count, though, for reasons.

  111. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Susanvan,
    Science is like Current Good Manufacturing Processes, which changes as technology is updated…. Why do you think it is static?

  112. susanvan says

    So, Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls, “science is fluid and changes”? That just sounds like religion. So do you realize that by your definition of science, that science is not necessarily real. How, in your mind, is science any different from religion?

  113. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    That just sounds like religion.

    Show me how religion changes with empirical evidence. Or shut the fuck up.

  114. susanvan says

    Hi Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall, I didn’t ask for a dictionary definition. I asked how you use the word.

    Do you think science changes? YES or NO
    Do you think human understanding of science changes? YES or NO

    If you say YES and YES, then I will stop talking to you because we do not agree on terminology.
    I think NO and YES. So we can cut to the chase. philosophy

    Do you think philosophy changes? YES or NO
    Do you think human understanding of philosophy changes? YES or NO

    To this I can answer YES and YES.

  115. chigau (違う) says

    susanvan #137
    The definitions of “science” and “philosophy” that they are using at your Bible College are not the definitions in use anywhere else.

  116. susanvan says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls: Show me how religion changes with empirical evidence. Or shut up.

    Too easy: Vatican II. And recently what some are calling Vatican III.

  117. consciousness razor says

    TRUE or FALSE
    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

    True!

    Heliocentrism has never been and never will be scientific. I win!

    Because, in reality, there is no center. The way most people use these terms, they don’t ever say the equivalent thing like so: “in science, there is no center.” After all, the science (i.e., the conclusions) may well be wrong, and we’d need some way of talking about that clearly and consistently should that be the case. Indeed, the conclusions can be wrong even while using non-faulty methodology — it may be your methods are valid, but only valid for a certain class of phenomena. Newtonian gravity applied to quantum or relativistic settings does not work, yet Newton’s work remains perfectly good science. Anyway, there must be some term in all this that relates a method (and interpretations of it) to reality itself, because mistaking it for reality itself can easily become part of problem. There’s reality, then there’s the science we come up with to understand and explain it.

    Then there’s all of the other non-scientific stuff we do (which is not only philosophy!), which is what this thread used to be about. Briefly.

  118. susanvan says

    Hi chigau (違う, you said “The definitions of ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ that they are using at your Bible College are not the definitions in use anywhere else.”

    So prove your point. How do you use the word “science” and its adjective “scientific”?

    TRUE or FALSE
    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

    If you don’t answer, I will ignore your posts as I have asked you this already.

  119. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Too easy: Vatican II. And recently what some are calling Vatican III.

    And the EMPIRICAL Changes are what? Document your conclusion.

    Remember, all Earth satellites, including the GPS array, use corrections based on Einstein to maintain time. Interplantary probes, like the Mars rovers, us Newtonian physics. Now, what is your problem?

  120. brianpansky says

    @susanvan

    How do you use the word “science” and its adjective “scientific”?

    TRUE or FALSE
    Prior to the 15 century heliocentrism was not scientific.

    let me pick this apart once and for all.

    1) the question looks like word salad. you might as well be asking me “YES OR NO: was chewing gum velocity?” i think this is why no one can answer you with a yes or a no.

    2) originally the discussion was about science itself. when it comes to the word “scientific”, that might work differently sometimes.

    3) it is so unusual to use “scientific” in that kind of sentence about the past. you might as well ask “were you happy 3000 years ago?” what am i supposed to answer with, no? i was un-happy?

    4) i don’t even know much about that topic. besides, the sun is not the center of the universe. so i’d rather use “was relativistic physics scientific 3000 years ago?”

    5) NO, relativistic physics was not scientific 3000 years ago. but see above points for why neither a yes or no answer feels right at all.

  121. brianpansky says

    * for number 4, heliocentrism and the whatever century are the topic i don’t know much about.

  122. susanvan says

    Anri, you wonder why I am not answering your question?

    I guess you forgot that I had asked you one first that you refused to answer?

  123. brianpansky says

    in other words, the “how do i use scientific” cannot be answered with either yes or no to that question. i simply don’t use “scientific” in that kind of sentence AT ALL.

  124. susanvan says

    1) was chewing gum velocity? Irrelevant. No one asked this. People did make a claim about how our planet was connected to other heavenly bodies.

    2) originally the discussion was about science itself. when it comes to the word “scientific”, that might work differently sometimes. And you accuse me of word salad?

    3)“were you happy 3000 years ago?” Irrelevant. Did people presume to answer that question? But people did presume to answer our view of our solar system.

    4) and 5) I am sorry but I am bored with your ideas. I’m sorry. No offense and all but this is no longer interesting to me.

  125. says

    susanvan #137

    Do you think science changes? YES or NO

    Rephrasing that, do I think nature changes? No.

    Do you think human understanding of science changes? YES or NO

    Do I think human understanding of nature changes? Yes. To take your example, we changed from a terracentric to a heliocentric view of the solar system.

    You need to get into your head though that science is not a synonym for nature. Science is the study of nature, and as such does, and should, change as our understanding of nature changes. The practice of science relies on a world-view: that ideas and assertions should be treated sceptically. Scientific methodology is a set of formalised ways to be as sceptical as possible about ideas, so that bad ideas such as terracentism may (eventually) be cast aside. Given the over-arching idea that the Sun orbits the Earth, deferents and epicycles were “good ideas.” They made more accurate predictions possible, and so were borne out by observation. Post-Kepler, they became not only bad ideas, but unneeded ideas—because Copernicus and Kepler made even better predictions possible, as verified by observation. So yes, science—or rather, scientific ideas about the world—changed. But what went before was still science. It was still people studying the universe and forming ideas about how it works.

    Do you think philosophy changes? YES or NO

    Yes, obviously.

    Do you think human understanding of philosophy changes? YES or NO

    This question does not make sense. Philosophy, like its offspring, science, is an attempt to understand. It is not the thing which is being discussed, it is the discussion.

  126. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m sorry. No offense and all but this is no longer interesting to me.

    Which means your inability to provide real empirical evidence is no longer of interest to you, and you concede every argument against your inane and irrational points….

  127. susanvan says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls
    Oh, God, how even cares any more. This discussion is boring. The empirical evidence is that they stopped giving their sermons in Latin.

    Vatican III: atheists are okay.

  128. chigau (違う) says

    #143
    Good then.
    Does anyone think this is worth an Alert?
    It’s getting repetitious but if y’all are still having fun …

  129. susanvan says

    Do you think human understanding of science changes? YES or NO

    THERE. That’s it!

    Science does not change! Our understanding of it changes!

    THAT’S ALL I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO SAY.

    Peace out.

  130. Anri says

    susanvan @ 147:

    Anri, you wonder why I am not answering your question?

    I guess you forgot that I had asked you one first that you refused to answer?

    The briefest glance at #129 should clear things up for you.
    So, no, I didn’t forget.
    And I’d appreciate it if you’d quote me where I refused to answer. Just to clear things up, as I don’t actually recall doing that.

  131. consciousness razor says

    Rephrasing that, do I think nature changes? No.

    Well, I do, because it does change, in some ways. I see it happen literally all the time, without fail.

    The way I’d put this, scientific laws are describing regularities in nature. Not every conceivable aspect of nature is “regular,” but we will have to work with whatever regular patterns we happen to find. If we thought there was a pattern and called that a “law” (or “science” to be very unclear about it) but it turned out not to be the very same pattern as we initially thought, we ought to change what we think. Science is what we think about these things, and that does change. Obviously. However, if what we think is true in reality, so that it is actually a law of nature, it changing cannot happen by definition.

  132. susanvan says

    Anri, you wrote, “The briefest glance at #129 should clear things up for you.”

    Thanks, I didn’t see that concession.

  133. consciousness razor says

    Vatican III: atheists are okay.

    I don’t think you, like most people, were paying close attention to the pope and his lackeys.

    The message was this: “atheists can be redeemed too! So come join our church, and let us put teh Jebus back into you, because we know how to do it right!”

    It has a somewhat different meaning.

  134. susanvan says

    I am new to this blog. Does claiming someone is an >expletiveexpletive< constitute rational thought?

  135. susanvan says

    consciousness razor, Oh I know what this pope said. All I am saying is that it is a HUGE jump from what previous popes said. You’d agree with that, right?

  136. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I am new to this blog. Does claiming someone is an >expletiveexpletive< constitute rational thought?

    Compared to your irration meanderings, YES. Expletives tell you are far out of the normal, rational, thinking patterns, and it is time for you to look at Feymanns first quote:

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/richardpf137642.html#Vmfz0ZCZ3kVt7CAs.99

    . You have obviously fooled yourself.

  137. susanvan says

    teehee? really? That’s all you got? And you want to send an ALERT against me? You are a robot, aren’t you?

  138. susanvan says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls
    Expletives tell people that you have no more rational ideas.

  139. says

    susanvan #163

    I am new to this blog. Does claiming someone is an >expletiveexpletive< constitute rational thought?

    Yes. Now ask if it constitutes rational discussion. (Answer: it depends….)

    You might want to familiarise yourself with the rules, recommended attitudes and so forth (to be found here), which include this piece of advice:

    This is a rude blog. Expect rough handling.

    (You should also be aware, given the above discussion, that many of the commenters here, including some of those who you’ve been telling what science is, are practising scientists. Not a good start.)

  140. consciousness razor says

    All I am saying is that it is a HUGE jump from what previous popes said. You’d agree with that, right?

    No. Just to make this abundantly clear: yes, that is apparently what you’re saying; but no, it isn’t true. Also, no, I don’t agree with it. The lack of a substantial difference is there, plain as day, for all to see, in what was said/written. Distortions of it by other people (including but not limited to a lot of mass media) are clearly not relevant. Also, “Vatican III” is a comparison which suggests there is some genuinely new theological or organizational policy which has some noticeable effect on the RCC as a whole, which is nothing like someone saying a few weasel words which confuse some people (even if it truly were a giant leap from what the previous weasels said, though it was not).

    But that isn’t what this thread is about either, so thunderdome would be a better place to continue this, if you won’t bother to look it up yourself on your own time.

  141. chigau (違う) says

    susanvan

    If you don’t answer, I will ignore your posts as I have asked you this already.

    {>expletiveexpletive< deleted} liar.

  142. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Expletives tell people that you have no more rational ideas.

    Your tone trolling tells me you never had a rational idea….. You are wrong. Deal with it….

  143. susanvan says

    consciousness razor,
    The pope saying atheists can desire peace is NOT a huge jump from what previous popes said?

    Do you see why I think our discussion is tedious?

    Let’s end it. We just don’t agree on definitions.

  144. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Do you see why I think our discussion is tedious?

    Yes, you are bullshiting without evidence.

    Let’s end it. We just don’t agree on definitions.

    Fine, you acknowledge you are wrong, and reality, not your version of it, is right… You first….

  145. susanvan says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls,

    Am I the first person you have called a “troll”? How often have you resorted to this defense?
    Only you know the answer. Think it over.

    Is this your default way of responding to people who don’t agree with you? Maybe we can just say we don’t agree without either of us being nasty.

    I don’t think you are a troll. I think you really believe what you say. I see that I can’t change your mind. That’s okay. My failure does not make you a troll.

  146. consciousness razor says

    Let’s end it. We just don’t agree on definitions.

    Or science, or reality, or whatever. You giving no substantial response to anything I’ve said is reason enough to concede the argument to myself. But it is kind of sad: if I were wrong, it would only help to hear from someone who isn’t just bullshitting.

  147. Anri says

    susanvan:
    At the risk of being boorish in quoting myself:

    So, not answering, then?

    I can restate the questions if you’ve forgotten them.

  148. susanvan says

    Yes, please do. I thought your concession rendered your follow-up irrelevant. Perhaps I am wrong.

  149. susanvan says

    If science changes, then it isn’t necessarily real. If science changes it is a religion.

    If we can say our understanding of science changes, but science doesn’t change, then science is not a religion.

  150. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Is Jovian Satellites science in our era?

    Irrelevant fuckwittery…

  151. susanvan says

    If you want to use the word “science” without modifiers to mean a changing understanding, then your understanding of science is no better than the word religion. I always thought science meant more than religion. But maybe I am wrong. If that is the case, I will no longer trust science. I will look for a new word.

    But I don’t think I need to do this. No layman uses the word science as the 2 or 3 of you here have been using it. That’s why I asked you to give me real world uses of the word science. No one uses it as you or the dictionary wants it to be meant. Sorry. Usage rules.

  152. chigau (違う) says

    Daz
    susanvan uses “science” and “reality” interchangeably.
    It is not possible to determine which meaning is intended.

  153. susanvan says

    On a jet ski or not, Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall, your usage is not the common parlance of the term. Sorry.

  154. susanvan says

    chigau (違う).
    I think you know it is possible. Do a goggle/news search on the term “science.” See how often you can replace the word with “reality.” Sorry. I am right.

  155. chigau (違う) says

    susanvan
    How can you not have noticed that you are completely alone on this thread in equating the words “science” and “reality”?

  156. says

    No one uses it as you or the dictionary wants it to be meant. Sorry. Usage rules.

    Great. Then you should be able to link a few reputable articles using the word “science” as a synonym for “nature,” rather than as a word meaning “the study of nature.”

    Evidence or fuck off. You’re getting tedious.

  157. susanvan says

    Guys, it’s been fun, but I have to go. I am sure you are incredibly intelligent people. No need to get nasty. We just don’t agree. Life is a lot of fun. Keep arguing!

  158. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I always thought science meant more than religion.

    Yes, it means interpretation based on the evidence at that point in time. It isn’t static. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM, other than your presuppositions.;….

  159. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Still no evidence whatsoever presented by susanvan. Ergo it is all dismissed without evidence….That is science, not presupposition….

  160. consciousness razor says

    If science changes, then it isn’t necessarily real.

    If X doesn’t change, it isn’t necessarily real. Suppose unicorns don’t change. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you also suppose that unicorns aren’t real, at least for the sake of argument. But do you see how pathetically fallacious your argument is?

    And what the fuck does “isn’t necessarily real” even mean to you? It could be the case that it isn’t real? The way I read it, being possibly-unreal does not imply that it is, in fact, unreal — only that it could be unreal. But we know that we do science, so at least in that sense it is in fact a real thing which happens, even if not “necessarily” so.

    Please note that I don’t need to be disagreeing with some private definition of yours. I am simply failing to make any sense out of it. Because it doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps that’s boring to you, but that is what I think is happening.

    If science changes it is a religion.

    Are religions not real? Is it the case that there is no phenomena in reality corresponding to what we call “religion”? Or do you mean to be saying that deities and spirits aren’t real? And if religions didn’t change, do you think would that say anything whatsoever about the existence of deities or spirits? Would they fail to be religions, according to your definition, if they didn’t change? Would a religion also be a science if this were true, simply by virtue of being unchanging?

    If we can say our understanding of science changes, but science doesn’t change, then science is not a religion.

    If we can say our understanding of unicorns changes, but unicorns don’t change, then unicornism is not a religion.

    You and thinking clearly: DOIN’ IT ‘RONG.

  161. Anri says

    susanvan @181:

    Yes, please do.

    See below.

    I thought your concession rendered your follow-up irrelevant.

    You ever seen Colbert do this bit where he asks a guest an innocuous question, and then, when they guardedly agree with him, say “I accept you apology.” The difference is, Colbert knows it’s comedy.

    Perhaps I am wrong.

    Yep.

    Anyway:
    Was belief in Jovian Satellites science in the era of naked-eye astronomy?

  162. chigau (違う) says

    Nerd
    Try susanvan’s google suggestion in comment #190.
    I do not think it “prooves” what susanvan thinks it does.

  163. chigau (違う) says

    Never mind unicorns, vampires have changed.
    They never used to sparkle in sunlight, they used to disintegrate.
    Explain that.

  164. brianpansky says

    @149

    1) was chewing gum velocity? Irrelevant. No one asked this. People did make a claim about how our planet was connected to other heavenly bodies.

    you don’t seem to understand illustrative examples.

    you don’t seem to understand a lot of things.

  165. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Try susanvan’s google suggestion in comment #190.
    I do not think it “prooves” what susanvan thinks it does.

    Faux News prove anything????? Bwanhahahahahahhaha.

  166. says

    Long-time lurker here.

    I just want to comment on everyone’s patience with susanvan. I am completely and utterly baffled by her line of reasoning/thought, but it was entertaining while it lasted. Too bad she is so easily bored.

    On this subject I have to confess too little knowledge to engage, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this thread.

    Re-lurking
    Corgilvr of Horace

  167. burgundy says

    I have a fantasy of introducing susanvan to a really articulate postmodernist, just to see what would happen. For anyone who thinks philosophy doesn’t produce anything useful – in addition to what’s already been said, the entertainment that conversation would provide would be amazing.

  168. Arren ›‹ idée fixe oblique says

    Jesus Fucking-A-Scientific-Pogo-Stick Christ!

    Expletives notwithstanding, in my view the patience shown to susanvan is a credit to Pharyngulites’ genuine helpfulness and willingness to engage in good faith with people — a less-recognized underlying counterpoint to our* merciless treatment of ideas.

    I’m actually somewhat shocked at the forbearance with which susanvan was treated, considering xir onslaught of inane goalpost-shifting**, the trollacious redundancy of xir Humpty Dumpty declarations….. and the pure absurdity of a loudly self-proclaimed pro-science person snottily refusing to consider the sincere attempts at education by some actual scientists here on the grounds that Faux News uses science and reality interchangeably.

    (chigau, thanks for the ::snortles:: of laughter.)

    * After one lurks for so many years, one takes liberties of association that might be a bit far-fetched.

    ** ANSWER THIS QUESTION!

  169. says

    Now who can argue with that? I think we’re all indebted to nancyvan for clearly stating what needed to be said. I’m particulary glad that these lovely children were here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a level of intellectual incompetence little seen in this day and age.

  170. susanvan says

    Science is reality, right? If it isn’t, it was just done wrong. Philosophy is thinking about reality. Philosophy comes after science. That’s why philosophy is a branch of science.

    Seems like I’ve confused you guys. Sorry about that.

  171. susanvan says

    Science describes reality. Philosophy describes how to think about reality. The describing comes before the how to think about it. Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough before.

  172. Rob Grigjanis says

    Science is reality, right?

    Wrong.

    Seems like I’ve confused you guys. Sorry about that.

    Seriously, don’t worry about it. No confusion here.

  173. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The describing comes before the how to think about it. Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough before.

    Yeah, you’re nothing but a idjidt fuckwit without an degree of context or rationality. That has been clear from the beginning. My hope is that you were rational, and would accept historical facts. Evidently you don’t accept facts that disagree with your presuppositions, like any crebot, godbot, IDiot, etc.

  174. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Seriously, don’t worry about it. No confusion here.

    Nope, most of the working scientists here agree you Susanvan, are the confused one. Lose the trolling, Only makes you look stupid. Think about that before your next non-sequitur post.

  175. susanvan says

    What is the first science experiment performed by a living thing?
    What is the first philosophical experiment performed by a living?

    Even if you can’t answer it, you can tell that the first science experiment was performed by evolutionary slime.
    The first philosophical experiment was performed by a human.

    So what came first? Science came first.

  176. Rob Grigjanis says

    What is the first science experiment performed by a living thing?

    Now I get it. The first science experiment in our carport last summer was the first swallow chick exiting the nest. The first philosophical inquiry was the other chicks watching her. The lesson learned? Experimentalists and goaltenders* are weird.

    *Nah, I learned that many years ago.

  177. susanvan says

    No, pz, you are wrong. Science is just an experiment with nature. Walk on that thin ice? Learn not to do it again. Not much philosophy involved in that.

  178. says

    So…Francis Bacon, totally superfluous? Those long millennia where human beings fumbled about with little real progress didn’t happen? The hundreds of years in which philosophers struggled to work out how to empirically analyze the universe were unnecessary?

    Weird. You’re kind of an ahistorical dingbat.

  179. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    susanvan: define science however you want. Realize that your definition is not what anyone is talking about here.

  180. ChasCPeterson says

    Philosophy is bullshit right? If it isn’t then it’s not philosophy ipso facto. But bullshit is real, and science is reality, so bullshit is science. Philosophy is bullshit, bullshit is science, so philosophy is science and conversely science is philosophy.
    hth

  181. Rob Grigjanis says

    susanvan, the irony is that you’re as dogmatic as the worst of the religious folk you say you oppose.

  182. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Dominik Miketa

    it’s pretty much an open question in philosophy whether science gives us theories which are true, or theories which give correct predictions for observable phenomena. The two are actually distinct.

    This is IMHO the epitome of bad philosophy. It’s inventing a problem of its own existence, which by careful construction will never be solved and will have absolutely no practical benefit whatsoever. For this purpose, I subscribe to some of the ideals of logical positivists and post positivists: If you cannot describe any observable difference for things like this, then there is no difference, and I literally have no clue what the hell you’re talking about. The only possible way that I might understand what you’re talking about is to appeal to some human-like observer who could see a difference.

    @jimharrison

    For me, though, the worst thing about “scientism” is not that it creates problems for the faithful—I don’t give a damn about that—but that it is a folk positivism, i.e. an amateurish philosophy of science, that completely misrepresents what actually happens in the sciences. It isn’t just unfair to philosophers or historians or lawyers or poets or plumbers or even theologians, whatever they do. It’s also unfair to scientists.

    Sure. I can agree to that. For example, Kuhn is great.

    @Al Dente

    The post-modernists are infamous for their rejection of mere facts which go against their ideas.

    Post modernist epistemologists and cultural relativists are infamous for rejecting the mere existence of universal facts in general.

    @PZ

    Some science has no empirical foundation: string theory, anyone?

    Come on now. You of all people should know better. String theory is not considered by anyone to be a scientific theory. The name is a misnomer. It’s a bunch of people working out mathematical models in the hopes that it can be tested and “graduate” into an actual scientific theory. Of course it doesn’t have an empircal basis. All scientific theories began as scientific hypotheses without good empirical grounding. What you said was misleading and dishonest, or ignorant.

    @susanvan

    If science changes, then it isn’t necessarily real. If science changes it is a religion.

    If we can say our understanding of science changes, but science doesn’t change, then science is not a religion.

    This is too ambiguous and confused to make sense of. The values of science don’t really change (evidence, understanding the world around us, honesty, logical consistency, parsimony, etc.). The conclusions we reach based on evidence do change. The scientific world view of specific facts changes every day, and becoms a better approximation of reality every day. This is a good thing. Science has no faith in gods or miracles, no rites or ceremonies, no worship, no dogma apart from its basic values (evidence, understanding the world around us, honesty, etc.), no authorities (apart from evidence), and thus science is not a religion by any useful metric.

  183. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    And last bit for a while.

    @PZ

    But usually the prominent atheists manage to step back from the brink and acknowledge that there is virtue to the humanities that is not dependent on science (but make no mistake, poetry is not a tool for generating new knowledge, but for communicating insights into human nature, which is fine and valuable — science is the tool we have for testing and verifying, and for acquiring new information about the universe).

    So, poetry is a tool for communication. Some forms of poetry result in better communication than other forms of poetry. How do we determine which forms of poetry communicate better than other forms of poetry? Surely by evidence. This sounds like a science to me. I’m not understanding your point.

    I really don’t understand what people mean by “scientism”. For example, is the following claim scientism? “The supreme and sole method for determining, discovering, and verifying material truth about our shared reality are the formal scientific method and the methods of informal scientific reasoning and evidence-based reasoning.” I really hope that’s not scientism, or if it is considered scientism, then I proudly embrace scientism. (And if god exists, that is a material fact about our shared reality for which science is the only method qualified to make answer.)

  184. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Correction: Of course methods other than science can be useful for formulating new hypotheses about our shared material reality. I’m not going to deny a model which was hypothesized because of someone’s dream or vision if the evidence bears it out.

    I’m not saying that the only proper way to think is “scientifically”. I’m making the narrower claim that the only proper way to think when (tentatively) verifying or falsifying material claims about our shared reality is scientifically .

    Beauty, art, the human experience, etc etc., are all wonderful things, and it seems almost as if someone will confuse my position as denying the applicability and usefulness of those things. It’s basically a straw-vulcan strawman.

  185. consciousness razor says

    If you cannot describe any observable difference for things like this, then there is no difference, and I literally have no clue what the hell you’re talking about. The only possible way that I might understand what you’re talking about is to appeal to some human-like observer who could see a difference.

    Yet I bet you’d agree that mathematical propositions can be true or false, even though they don’t involve any sort of “observation.” Or are they utterly meaningless too, because of your stubborn lack of imagination or whatever it is?

    String theory is not considered by anyone to be a scientific theory.

    Have you ever seen Brian Greene or Michio Kaku talking about it on television? Do you think anyone else watches that crap? Maybe you should at least back away a bit from saying “anyone.”

    Surely by evidence. This sounds like a science to me. I’m not understanding your point.

    Not every way of evaluating “evidence” (using your apparently very loose definition) ought to be considered scientific. You certainly could gather scientific data about poetry or music or whatever (or their psychological effects, for example), like a lot of people already do, but that will not get us very far in understanding certain things. I don’t want to strawman you here, but it is not enough just to drone on about how “wonderful” (your word) the arts are — there is some actual truth to be known about them, and I don’t think those are only scientific truths.

    I really don’t understand what people mean by “scientism”.

    Different people mean different things.

    For example, is the following claim scientism? “The supreme and sole method for determining, discovering, and verifying material truth about our shared reality are the formal scientific method and the methods of informal scientific reasoning and evidence-based reasoning.”

    Well, first, what do you mean by “material truth”? Something Schopenhaueresque, or do you mean truths about matter? What about, say, dark energy or something? Or more generally, what if something — anything — turns out not to be “matter”? Hasn’t our concept of matter itself changed enough in just the past century to be at least a little paranoid about thinking we’ve got all our bases covered?

    And are you implying there’s some other reality, which isn’t shared by us? If not, suppose it’s true that there is some other reality, but we can’t observe any difference from there not being one. Are you telling me you sincerely do not understand the words I’m typing right here because they literally have no meaning? Because I don’t think you sincerely mean that. Remember, I’m not a goddist, so you don’t have to put on your show and act like a hardass. Please don’t even mention supernatural shit. Just try to think about it clearly.

  186. susanvan says

    Consciousness razor: Not every way of evaluating “evidence” ought to be considered scientific.

    I disagree. Everything is ultimately science. Philosophical ideas can be tested for their value by using science. That’s why science is reality.

    Consciousness razor: You certainly could gather scientific data about poetry or music or whatever (or their psychological effects, for example), like a lot of people already do, but that will not get us very far in understanding certain things.

    Yes, it will. In fact much literature is specious and counterproductive because it is a good story, but it does not tell us the truth about reality. The same goes for much poetry and much philosophy and all religions. The only way to know if a plot, a line of verse, a thought experiment has truth is to test it with science.

  187. says

    susanvan:

    Is this your default way of responding to people who don’t agree with you? Maybe we can just say we don’t agree without either of us being nasty.

    Oh quit whining. This is a rude blog. When people like you come here with your unevidenced truth claims, you get shot down. Quickly. Many people are not going to give your ideas consideration without an attempt on your part to explain them AND offer evidence that said ideas are truthful. You’re not going to be coddled here and your opinions are not treated with respect just because you have them. The net is vast, and I’m certain there are many blogs where people will coddle you and be polite.

    Oh I know what this pope said. All I am saying is that it is a HUGE jump from what previous popes said. You’d agree with that, right?

    I won’t speak for consciousness razor, but I certainly would *not* agree with that. Here’s a recent post by PZ where many of the regulars discussed our feelings about the Pope’s Pathetic Platitudes. Of the few hundred comments, many of them illuminate the problems with holding up the pope’s words as anything other than hot air.

    Guys, it’s been fun, but I have to go.

    Keep trying, you’ll master the flounce yet.

  188. Anri says

    So… still no answer, susanvan?

    I was polite enough to answer your question.
    Please either answer mine or wave it off as beyond you.

    Either suits me.

  189. consciousness razor says

    Consciousness razor: Not every way of evaluating “evidence” ought to be considered scientific.

    Hey, that’s what I said!

    Never mind blockquotes. You can’t even use fucking quotation marks. I bet they’re still on your keyboard somewhere. Have you tried looking for them?

    I disagree.

    Who fucking cares?

    Everything is ultimately science.

    I was pretty sure it was unicorns.

    Science is something people do. It isn’t what all people do all of the time, much less is it what everything is. You, for example, haven’t done one bit of science in this thread. And this doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, since you haven’t diverged from your boring little script, so it looks like, “ultimately” speaking, you’ll be doing no science in the foreseeable future. (At least not here. Maybe in your imagination.) Therefore, not everything is ultimately science. I might go back to my unicorn theory, since you’ve convinced me so thoroughly that yours isn’t supported by anything and doesn’t work.

    Philosophical ideas can be tested for their value by using science.

    And they can be tested other ways. We could test them with unicorns, if only we had some to spare….

    I’m done taking you seriously, but I kind of want to be helpful here: communicating isn’t really your thing, is it? Language matters a whole lot, you know. Maybe I’m biased somehow as a musician, but in a way, listening is a good way to start if you’re having trouble being understood. (It’s not typically someone else’s fault when it happens.) So, to be as polite as I feel I need to be right now, try to shut the fuck up and listen. That’s the best advice I’ve got for the moment. Maybe you’ll accidentally learn something, instead of just hearing yourself say the same stupid shit over and over.

    That’s why science is reality.

    This is, at best, a bare assertion that you keep repeating, without ever supporting it. But you’ve not said a single word explaining “why.” In any case, it doesn’t track well at all with the meanings of the words, as the vast majority of people understand them.

  190. consciousness razor says

    Myself:

    Hey, that’s what I said!

    Of course you omitted a key portion: “(using your apparently very loose definition).” Referring to EnlightenmentLiberal, not susanvan. Something tells me the two of you are probably working with different definitions, but whatever. Keep your quotes honest, or your tweaked-up copypasta, or whatever you call it.

  191. susanvan says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    I would love to hear what you think about my idea that “much literature is specious and counterproductive because it is a good story, but it does not tell us the truth about reality. The same goes for much poetry and much philosophy and all religions.” You asked for evidence. Emily Dickinson said “Most madness is divinest sense.” There is no truth in psychosis. It’s a silly idea. F. Scott Fitzgerald asked his readers so admire a mob boss. A foolish idea. Homer has a husband waste 10 years in sexual escapade only to return and be suspicious of his wife’s fidelity. There’s more, but you get the idea.

    You don’t agree with me about the pope. But instead of you explaining your thoughts, you refer me to a different issue. Yes, yes, the pope’s platitudes are pathetic, but they are LESS pathetic than his predecessors.

    We don’t agree on the definition of a “flounce,” a beautifully descriptive word. I am not impatient with you and the others. I wanted to argue with you more, but I knew I couldn’t. Then Minnesota weather intervened and gave me extra time. After today I will have to leave.

  192. David Marjanović says

    Science is reality, right?

    No. Science is the attempt to understand reality by applying the scientific method.

    It’s something you do, not something that is out there, waiting to be discovered. That’s what the “it’s a verb, not a noun” nonsense above was about.

    You would do well to ponder comment 209.

    Nope, most of the working scientists here agree you[,] Susanvan, are the confused one.

    Not “most”. All.

    I disagree. Everything is ultimately science. Philosophical ideas can be tested for their value by using science. That’s why science is reality.

    And why colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

    The word science is a technical term with an agreed-upon definition. You can’t just make up your own.

  193. susanvan says

    David Marjanović, I am unclear about your argument. What does the verb/noun thing mean to you? You know the word is a noun, right? I agree that the scientific method is what we do to understand reality. But that doesn’t turn the word “science” into a verb.

    Words have more than one definition. We also use the word to mean something that is waiting to be discovered. We use it in phrases such as, “the science isn’t in yet” and “science will show….”

    Tell me why you think the “furiously green” quote supports your argument?

  194. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But that doesn’t turn the word “science” into a verb.

    You still don’t get it. I use the Scientific Method in my work. That work is doing science, a verb since it is an action. You are confusing the body of facts that people call science, with what a scientist actually does. While the body of facts science has established overlaps with reality, it isn’t reality, but rather just a description of reality and how it works. Some parts of reality are still under investigation.

    Words have more than one definition.

    Wrong, they have more than one AGREED upon definition. You simply can’t come up with a new definition and say it is what it means to you. If nobody else agrees with your definition, and keeps applying the standard agreed upon definitions, you come off sounding like a series of non-sequiturs.

    Tell me why you think the “furiously green” quote supports your argument?

    A nonsense phrase is equivalent to your nonsense definition.

  195. David Marjanović says

    What does the verb/noun thing mean to you? You know the word is a noun, right?

    Yes, of course. My point is that science is an activity – and I’m sure that was the point of comment 80, which said the wrong thing but probably meant the right one.

    We also use the word to mean something that is waiting to be discovered. We use it in phrases such as, “the science isn’t in yet” and “science will show….”

    “The science isn’t in yet” isn’t something scientists ever say; but anyway, it means not enough science has been done on the problem in question. “Science will show [whether an idea is wrong]” means that science will be done on the idea, the scientific method will be applied to it.

    Tell me why you think the “furiously green” quote supports your argument?

    It supports a completely different argument of mine: that “Everything is ultimately science. Philosophical ideas can be tested for their value by using science. That’s why science is reality.” doesn’t make any sense whatsoever – I don’t even know where to begin.

  196. David Marjanović says

    That work is doing science, a verb since it is an action.

    “Do” is a verb. “Doing science” is a whole phrase.

  197. says

    susanvan

    David Marjanović, I am unclear about your argument. What does the verb/noun thing mean to you? You know the word is a noun, right? I agree that the scientific method is what we do to understand reality. But that doesn’t turn the word “science” into a verb.

    He just explained it to you, pretty much holding your hand.

    Words have more than one definition. We also use the word to mean something that is waiting to be discovered. We use it in phrases such as, “the science isn’t in yet” and “science will show….”

    “We” don’t, you do.

    Troll.

  198. susanvan says

    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall,

    Reading can be used to refer to a book, as in “I left my reading on the table” or “That book is a great read.” Even geography can be interchanged with planet, and sometimes “geography” refers to other territories (“the geography of the mind”). That’s because words have more than one meaning

    But all these things (bike, road, geography, etc.) are reality, and all are therefore science. What is not science are god, devils, angels, miracles.

  199. says

    Jesus fucking Christ on a four-masted wheelbarrow!

    The act of reading is not the book which is being read. Etc. Science—the act of studying nature—is not the thing which is being studied.

    And yes, “there is a god,” is a claim which can be examined. It is therefore a “scientific” claim; a claim which may be tested by looking for supporting evidence.

  200. Rob Grigjanis says

    In fact much literature is specious and counterproductive because it is a good story, but it does not tell us the truth about reality. The same goes for much poetry and much philosophy and all religions. The only way to know if a plot, a line of verse, a thought experiment has truth is to test it with science.

    But all these things (bike, road, geography, etc.) are reality, and all are therefore science. What is not science are god, devils, angels, miracles.

    Stick an ‘Amen’ on the end of that, and we have the Susanvan Creed.

  201. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And how do you test for a god scientifically?

    You’re the one with the answers. You tell us.

  202. Rob Grigjanis says

    Susanvan, I stopped taking you seriously around comment #114. You’re utterly impervious to education.

  203. susanvan says

    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall: Why did you reject the idea that a god exists?

    Because it cannot be scientifically tested.

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls: You’re the one with the answers. You tell us.

    Yes, I am. The answer is you can’t test for it scientifically. Science is reality…remember?

  204. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yes, I am. The answer is you can’t test for it scientifically. Science is reality…remember?

    Gee, what a pile of crock. Typical from idjit trolls.

    If you understand how science does works, you can apply the principals to god claims if they are specific enough. Funny how god has to keep hiding until by parsimony, you get the same answer with or without a god. Which makes god irrelevant.

  205. says

    Why did you reject the idea that a god exists?

    Because it cannot be scientifically tested.

    Why not? Are you saying that purported supporting evidence (the book of Genesis, for example) for the proposition cannot be sceptically examined?

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here, and assume that you have rejected such claims because you, after having examined them, have found them unconvincing.

    You looked at them sceptically.

    And that, somewhat simplified, is science. Applied scepticism.

  206. susanvan says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls, Give a god claim that is specific enough to be tested. You will find that it is not the lack of specificity, but the lack of reality that keeps god claims from being scientifically tested.

    So go ahead and try to give us a specific god-only claim that you can use science to prove its nonexistence or existence.

  207. susanvan says

    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall, same to you. Give us a specific god-only claim that you can use science to prove its nonexistence or existence.

  208. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Give a god claim that is specific enough to be tested. You will find that it is not the lack of specificity, but the lack of reality that keeps god claims from being scientifically tested.

    Existence of an eternally burning bush, the power of prayer, etc. There are lots of claims that can and have been tested. All failed. God is hiding, afraid to show itself to the people who believe in it.

    Your non-sequiturs are inane and stupid. You have no point.

  209. David Marjanović says

    But all these things (bike, road, geography, etc.) are reality, and all are therefore science. What is not science are god, devils, angels, miracles.

    Things aren’t science. Ideas (hypotheses, theories) can be scientific; to test them is science.

    And how do you test for a god scientifically?

    Depends on the god…? “There is an ineffable god” is not testable, though still accessible to the principle of parsimony. “There is a god that hits you with lightning if you do X, Y or Z” is rather easily testable.

    “There is a god that will prevent the sun from rising unless living human hearts are sacrificed to him every day” was experimentally falsified about 500 years ago.

    Science is reality…remember?

    Will you please stop stating your homebrewed definitions as fact?

  210. susanvan says

    What does the scientific experiment for an eternally burning bush look like?

    Prayer has been tested scientifically and does have an effect if the person is told they are being prayed for. That’s science.

  211. susanvan says

    A god who hits you with lightning. Tell me about that test.

    Tell me how they falsified god 500 years ago?

  212. susanvan says

    Actually I’m not sure they would call it placebo because that means to please. The impact turned out to be overall negative. Apparently sick people felt worse because they weren’t getting better, and they felt they were letting down those who had prayed for them.

  213. Dhorvath, OM says

    They told you about these things. I can do X, Y, or Z and not be hit, likewise someone else who has done none of them will be hit. The claim is refuted. The sun continues to rise, ergo no deity requires human hearts to ensure continuity of day and night.

  214. Dhorvath, OM says

    Susanvan,
    It’s still not the prayer is it? It is the expectation of those who are receiving the notice, not the action, which is causing impact. This is why we do a variety of different protocols when testing, to tease out what is psychosomatic and what is physiological. People aren’t simple, but groups allow for more concrete data.

  215. susanvan says

    Dhorvath, OM,
    The god claim is not refuted. Just because god decided not keep the sun from shining today does not prove that he doesn’t exist. You know how this goes, right? God is not scientifically testable.

    And yes it was the prayer. It’s just that prayer is as scientific as mediation. They human activities.

  216. Dhorvath, OM says

    Susanvan,
    Did you read what I wrote? The deity claim about lightning was refuted. The deity claim that human hearts are required to ensure day follows night was refuted. This is what happens when people make stuff up, they get called on it when reality behaves differently. The point is, that in the absence of behaviour that exists above the level of noise there is no reason to postulate the existence of deities. What have the believers to point at that doesn’t collapse once inspected?

  217. David Marjanović says

    What does the scientific experiment for an eternally burning bush look like?

    Hypothesis: An eternally burning bush exists.
    Test: Look for it.

    A god who hits you with lightning. Tell me about that test.

    Duh.

    Hypothesis: if you do X, Y or Z, a god will hit you with lightning.
    Test: do X, Y and/or Z, and see what happens!

    Are you trolling…

    Tell me how they falsified god 500 years ago?

    …or is your reading comprehension just shit? I was talking about Huītzilopōchtli, not about some nebulous concept of “god in general” or whatever you’re imagining.

    Do you understand the concept of a god?

    Actually I’m not sure they would call it placebo because that means to please.

    *eyeroll* No, it means “I will please”. I can outpedant you any day of the week and twice on Sundays, don’t bother starting.

    And yes it was the prayer.

    WTF, no, it was being told that people pray for you. It was not the prayer itself.

  218. susanvan says

    Dhorvath, OM,
    I brought in mediation as an analogy. Both prayer and meditation have provable scientific properties–neither of them have supernaturally proven scientific properties. That’s oxymoronic. And that’s my point. Science can only test the natural world. It can not prove that supernatural prayer will never work.

    chigau (違う)
    Have you looked up the derivation of placebo yet?

  219. says

    What does the scientific experiment for an eternally burning bush look like?

    Find a bush.
    Set it on fire.
    If it burns without consuming the bush, you have found an eternally burning bush.

    More generally, can we find any material which oxidises, but does not combine with oxygen? The answer should be obvious, but we still had to examine the claim in order to refute it.

    Susan, have you not noticed that as more and more people join this conversation, you are still the only one clinging to a definition of science which you claim to be that used by the majority? Do you not spot something of a paradox here?

  220. susanvan says

    Actually I’m not sure they would call it placebo because that means to please.

    *eyeroll* No, it means “I will please”

    Now why would you roll your eyes when I was right? I guess you want to avoid talking about the real argument that I was winning. I don’t blame.

    How do you design a scientific experiment that looks for a burning bush?

    Dhorvath, OM,
    I did read what you wrote. The deity claim about the lightning was refuted. But the claim about the deity was not. All future claims about a deity’s use of lightning can NEVER be refuted. Because once they prove false, they are no longer FUTURE claims. I am not playing word games; I am trying to explain why supernatural claims are not falsifiable. But I am guess you guys know all this and are just having fun. That’s okay. It’s fun to watch your frustration even if you might be faking it for show. You have to admit chigau (違う)’s “Oh no. Humpty strikes again” was priceless.

  221. David Marjanović says

    Science can only test the natural world. It can not prove that supernatural prayer will never work.

    “Will never” is a silly thing to say in the first place. “Making predictions is difficult, especially about the future.” Perhaps shift from proof to parsimony?

    More generally, can we find any material which oxidises, but does not combine with oxygen?

    …Not sure what you mean, because there’s lots of stuff that doesn’t burn in oxygen but burns wonderfully in fluorine or chlorine trifluoride or other such hardcore oxidisers.

  222. chigau (違う) says

    susanvan
    You wrote “placebo because that means to please”
    that was defining the word in the present not a discussion of etymology.

  223. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    . It can not prove that supernatural prayer will never work.

    Sorry fool, the null hypothesis is that the stupornatural does not exist, as there is no evidence for it. Which is why positive evidence is required to change our minds, You can talk about the stupornatural all you want. It’s the same as talking about Harry Potter and his world of magic. Nothing but fiction until proven other wise.
    By the way, prayer has been tested and found to be equivalent to not praying. In fact, not being prayed for gave a slightly better result.

  224. David Marjanović says

    Now why would you roll your eyes when I was right?

    You’re not right. “To please” is the present infinitive, and that’s placere. Placebo is the first person indicative active future, “I will please”.

    I had six years of Latin in school. You have just showed that you hadn’t.

    How do you design a scientific experiment that looks for a burning bush?

    No.

    Experiments are not a necessary part of the scientific method.

    Observations are – but experiments are just a convenient way to arrange for the possibility of repeated observations. Experiments cannot always be done.

    Or do you deny that paleontology and astrophysics are sciences?

    All future claims about a deity’s use of lightning can NEVER be refuted.

    What nonsense. “If you will do X, a deity will hit you with lightning” is about the easiest thing to test ever!

    I am not playing word games; I am trying to explain why supernatural claims are not falsifiable.

    Trouble is, lots of claims about supernatural things are falsifiable. That’s what we’ve been trying to explain to you. Too bad you’re dogmatic like a creationist about your paint-by-the-numbers understanding of science theory.

  225. susanvan says

    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall, have you not noticed that when you are losing an argument, you resort to the bandwagon fallacy? Just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make that belief true.

    Back to the argument: You said, “If it burns without consuming the bush, you have found an eternally burning bush.” Let’s take this seriously. If science found this burning bush, would you agree that we have to rewrite the laws of nature? That what we know of science would no longer be science. Indeed, reality would not be what we once thought of as reality.

  226. says

    Not sure what you mean, because there’s lots of stuff that doesn’t burn in oxygen but burns wonderfully in fluorine or chlorine trifluoride or other such hardcore oxidisers.

    I was trying to keep it simple. But okay, have bushes or other plants ever been found which are made of such stuff?

  227. susanvan says

    David Marjanović: Trouble is, lots of claims about supernatural things are falsifiable.

    True, but I was talking about future claims. Also I am talking about the existence of god and the supernatural. Science cannot falsify those.

  228. David Marjanović says

    But okay, have bushes or other plants ever been found which are made of such stuff?

    No (unless you count their phytoliths, which consist of silica).

    It’s difficult to express what you clearly wanted to express, because an eternally burning bush would be a perpetuum mobile of the first kind: it would create energy. It’s not easy to talk about such nonsense in chemical terms!

  229. stevem says

    It can not prove that supernatural prayer will never work.

    YES!! That is science; science can’t prove that X will NEVER cause Y, but it CAN show that Y does not require X for Y to happen. People heal with or without prayer; that does not imply prayer did nothing, but it is testable. Find a population of sick where some heal, *only* when prayed for, and those who were not prayed for stay sick and never heal. You totally do not understand science if you think science can disprove any assertion you can think of. “That man just got hit by lightning. Prove that God didn’t do it.” Science can’t prove that. Science will just show what physical conditions are more likely to result in a lightning strike. The goal of science is not to disprove God exists, but to understand how reality works, even if god does not exist. Science is not Reality, but Understanding Reality’, don’t swap the two concepts.

  230. David Marjanović says

    True, but I was talking about future claims.

    “If you will do X, a deity will hit you with lightning” is a claim about the future.

    Also I am talking about the existence of god and the supernatural. Science cannot falsify those.

    As I’ve already said, that depends on what they’re supposed to be like! The hypotheses of the existence of some gods were falsified long ago! An ineffable god, by contrast, is not falsifiable.

  231. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    If you cannot describe any observable difference for things like this, then there is no difference, and I literally have no clue what the hell you’re talking about. The only possible way that I might understand what you’re talking about is to appeal to some human-like observer who could see a difference.

    Yet I bet you’d agree that mathematical propositions can be true or false, even though they don’t involve any sort of “observation.” Or are they utterly meaningless too, because of your stubborn lack of imagination or whatever it is?

    Key phrase: “for things like that”. It was in the context of a material claim about our shared reality: “whether science gives us theories which are true, or theories which give correct predictions for observable phenomena”. The only way any of us understand that is from the perspective of some assumed hypothetical human-like observer who can tell the difference.

    Well, first, what do you mean by “material truth”? Something Schopenhaueresque, or do you mean truths about matter? What about, say, dark energy or something? Or more generally, what if something — anything — turns out not to be “matter”? Hasn’t our concept of matter itself changed enough in just the past century to be at least a little paranoid about thinking we’ve got all our bases covered?

    Anything that has material causal power. Anything which has effect on my sensory experience. Anything which could conceivably kick me in the knee. Trees and dark matter can do that. Gods can do that. Math cannot. Morality cannot.

    Are you telling me you sincerely do not understand the words I’m typing right here because they literally have no meaning? Because I don’t think you sincerely mean that.

    No. But if someone says this: “whether science gives us theories which are true, or theories which give correct predictions for observable phenomena”, I literally do not understand that. I don’t. Platonic realism makes no sense. It’s a framework of its own creation, just like ZF, but at least math has utility.

  232. susanvan says

    David Marjanović: It’s not easy to talk about such nonsense in chemical terms!

    It’s impossible to talk about. Impossible because it’s not real.

  233. says

    If science found this burning bush, would you agree that we have to rewrite the laws of nature?

    We’d sure have to re-evaluate some ideas, yes.

    That what we know of science would no longer be science.

    Makes no sense. Let me fix it for you.

    That what we know thought we knew of science nature would no longer be science true

    Indeed, reality would not be what we once thought of as reality.

    Indeed. What you don’t seem to understand is that “reality” and “science” are not synonyms. The latter is the study of—the act of studying—the former.

  234. stevem says

    That what we know of science would no longer be science. Indeed, reality would not be what we once thought of as reality.

    Did reality change when Einstein published Relativity, effectively disproving Newton’s “Laws”? Is reality only what science tells us reality is? Science is a MODEL of reality, a tool we use to understand what might happen in reality if certain events happen. Science is not Reality itself, just what we call our Model of reality. The science of Newton was accurate but incomplete, Einstein filled in more details to make it more complete, but incomplete it still is [looking at you, Quantum] Bad Science and is still science, we’ve just improved it in the meantime. Ptolemy’s model of the Solar System is still science even though we’ve replaced it with Copernicus’ model. But both are just models, both are science, just one is used and the other disused.

  235. David Marjanović says

    It’s impossible to talk about. Impossible because it’s not real.

    Wow. Fiction is impossible?

  236. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    That what we know of science would no longer be science.

    Sorry, the methods of science would still be in place. What you are trying to say is the knowledge that science has found would be expanded to allow for the new evidence. DUH. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

  237. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @stevem

    Did reality change when Einstein published Relativity, effectively disproving Newton’s “Laws”?

    Tangent:

    Relativity didn’t disprove Newtonian mechanics. Don’t give the science-deniers that much credit. Instead, relativity was a slight tweak, or update, to Newtonian mechanics. In almost every area of your life, and in almost every piece of technology you use, was built using only Newtonian mechanics (and quantum mechanics) and no relativity. (AFAIK, the one exception is GPS.) Newtonian mechanics works today just as well as it did 400 years ago when it was first written to paper.

    This is unlike geocentrism. When that was overturned, AFAIK basically nothing survived of the model. It was all wrong.

    This is something important to know about science. Tomorrow, anything we know from science might be wrong, but the chances that a whole branch of scientific knowledge is simply shown to be wrong is so astronomically small. That’s not how science works. Even during the great revolutions of Newtonian mechanics, and later during relativity and quantum mechanics, most of what came before was just as correct.

    In another thread somewhere, I was trying to explain how the theory of evolution isn’t going away because of the amazing mass of evidence, just like the Newtonian theory of gravity isn’t going away. We’re going to be teaching Newtonian mechanics to students for a long long time, and we’re going to be using Newtonian mechanics for almost all of our engineering needs for a long long time.

  238. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @susanvan

    It can not prove that supernatural prayer will never work.

    Yes it can.
    Prayer is an act of our shared reality. We can measure that. Whether the prayer works is also part of our shared reality. We can measure that. Science can totally do that.

    If you mean some kind of absolute “never ever” absolute certainty, none of us care about that. We don’t deal in absolutes in science. 99.999999% confidence is good enough for me, and that’s roughly where I’m at for prayer not working.

  239. Dhorvath, OM says

    Susanvan,

    The deity claim about the lightning was refuted. But the claim about the deity was not.

    The claim was about the character of the deity; that the deity responds to certain actions with it’s own specific action.

    Because once they prove false, they are no longer FUTURE claims.

    If the character of a deity that is being discussed is that open to change, then yes, it’s never open to be encountered in reality. The set of things which fit that description, that is to say the set of things which can be imagined which are not approachable through reality, fits within the set of things which can be imagined. Many things which belong to the set of things which can be imagined are approachable through reality, but the more we know, the more things we can imagine that lay just, or far, past what we know. So why is it that I ought give special credence to any supposition which is not approachable through reality? What distinguishes silly from revered? I mean, I have this here snot theory of cosmic origin. I even read about it in a book with a long title.

  240. susanvan says

    David Marjanović: An ineffable god, by contrast, is not falsifiable.

    This is a start. An ineffable anything is not falsifiable.

    stevem: The goal of science is … to understand how reality works.

    Bingo. And that’s why science is reality. Do we at least agree that science will never be able to explain how supernatural things like gods and burning bushes work.

  241. susanvan says

    If science found this burning bush, would you agree that we have to rewrite the laws of nature?

    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall: What we thought we knew of nature would no longer be true.

    That is not true. Science is explanatory in a certain way. science only explains the natural world. If we found an instance of a miraculously burning bush, we would no longer have nature or science. Science would cease to have its explanatory power. Science could not be looked to for answers about how reality works.

  242. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @susanvan

    Bingo. And that’s why science is reality. Do we at least agree that science will never be able to explain how supernatural things like gods and burning bushes work.

    Absolutely not. Unequivocally no.

    If it’s an observable part of our shared reality, we can do science on it. No exceptions. If there is a burning bush, I’m going to do science on it. And if we can do science on it, then there is no acceptable method except science for verifying or falsifying claims about it.

    Supernatural is a word that people use to weasel in a denial of the primacy and applicability of science on verifying or falsifying claims of our shared material reality. “Supernatural” is a bullshit word.

    See the following quotes. Understand the implications. (Replace “magic” with “supernatural”.)

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    -Arthur C Clarke

    “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!”
    http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081205

    “I’m writing a book on magic”, I explain, and I’m asked, “Real magic?” By real magic people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts, and supernatural powers. “No”, I answer: “Conjuring tricks, not real magic”. Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic.”
    ― Lee Siegel, Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India

  243. susanvan says

    stevem: Science is not Reality itself, just what we call our Model of reality.

    Science is both the model of reality and the reality itself. What is reality that isn’t science?

  244. David Marjanović says

    David Marjanović: An ineffable god, by contrast, is not falsifiable.

    This is a start. An ineffable anything is not falsifiable.

    Your point being?

    BTW, typing this:

    <blockquote>quoted text here</blockquote>

    results in this:

    quoted text here

    stevem: The goal of science is … to understand how reality works.

    Bingo. And that’s why science is reality.

    The goal of science is… to understand how babby is formed. Bingo. And that’s why science is babby.

    Shall I taunt you a second time?

    Do we at least agree that science will never be able to explain how supernatural things like gods and burning bushes work.

    That’s a useless blanket claim. Give us more precise hypotheses, and we can tell you whether they’re testable or not.

  245. susanvan says

    I said: Do we at least agree that science will never be able to explain how supernatural things like gods and burning bushes work.

    EnlightenmentLiberal:Absolutely not. Unequivocally no.

    So you are a scientist and you stumble upon a magically burning bush. Your science can’t explain it because by definition it is a magically burning bush.

    Magic and supernatural can be synonymous when used by some people. Those words are unlike reality and science, which are always synonymous. If you so science, you are checking on the reality claims.

  246. says

    susanvan

    When quoting someone:

    <blockquote>Quoted text goes here</blockquote>

    Produces:

    Quoted text goes here

    Anyways…

    Science is both the model of reality and the reality itself.

    No. It. Fucking. Isn’t. You have been told this multiple times. You have been told this by practising scientists, for Pete’s sake. You are wrong.

    Please stop. Just stop.

  247. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Science is both the model of reality and the reality itself. What is reality that isn’t science?

    Why are you persisting with this purposefully confused terminology?

    Science is not reality. Science is (1) the methods for verifying and falsifying material claims of our shared reality, and (2) science is the the accumulated knowledge about our shared material reality. Reality is reality.

    Obviously our accumulated knowledge does not cover all of reality. Obviously our accumulated knowledge contains factual errors and does not accurately describe reality in every case. Obviously following the methods of science can sometimes produce wrong results.

  248. David Marjanović says

    If we found an instance of a miraculously burning bush, we would no longer have nature or science. Science would cease to have its explanatory power. Science could not be looked to for answers about how reality works.

    That’s a bit rash, don’t you think?

    Science is both the model of reality and the reality itself. What is reality that isn’t science?

    Why do you insist that everyone use the definitions you just made up?

  249. susanvan says

    I said: Do we at least agree that science will never be able to explain how supernatural things like gods and burning bushes work.

    David Marjanović: That’s a useless blanket claim.

    Apparently not, David, EnlightenmentLiberal is vehement in his denial.

  250. says

    susanvan @237:

    I’d ask if you’ve learned to blockquote, but somehow I doubt it.

    You asked for evidence.

    Which your comment still does not provide. You think science (which has been defined for you by actual scientists in this thread several times) is the same thing as reality. Since you’re so fond of demanding people answer your questions, why not try answering some yourself? Why do you think science and reality are the same thing? Where is your evidence this is true?

    You don’t agree with me about the pope. But instead of you explaining your thoughts, you refer me to a different issue

    Do you really need your hand held here? As I said in my original comment, that thread has numerous commenters explain their problems with the pope-specifically as related to his comments about atheists.
    Here is one of my comments specifically about the pope’s “outreach” to atheists. You could have read it yourself had you clicked the link.
    Here is another commenter who feels the pope’s words are empty.
    Here is one more for good measure.

  251. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @susanvan

    EnlightenmentLiberal:Absolutely not. Unequivocally no.

    So you are a scientist and you stumble upon a magically burning bush. Your science can’t explain it because by definition it is a magically burning bush.

    You’re right. My current accumulated knowledge cannot explain it. That’s why I’m going to start poking and prodding it, and doing experiments to it, to increase my knowledge. I’m going to do science on it! And then, I will be able to give a predictive model of its behavior (such as: “it burns without consuming fuel”). If I’m lucky, I might even be able to explain its functioning in terms of a more-basic model, such as a possible “mana field”.

    Again:
    “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!”
    – Girl Genius Webcomics

  252. susanvan says

    David Marjanović: you keep saying I make up these definitions. I keep giving examples for you to disprove my claim/ But you ignore my challenge. So let’s try again. What is reality that isn’t science?

  253. David Marjanović says

    So you are a scientist and you stumble upon a magically burning bush. Your science can’t explain it because by definition it is a magically burning bush.

    Seriously, go back to comment 298 and read the comic. This is not a joke.

  254. Dhorvath, OM says

    What is seen through a telescope but isn’t optics? Seriously, it’s like you are trying to obfuscate now.

  255. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @susanvan
    Definitions and arguments over terminology is one of those rare times in which appeal to consensus and appeal to authority are the only good arguments. Language is arbitrary. It’s an arbitrary cultural tradition. There’s no reason why the word “school” is better than the word “école”. It’s just that my cultural history happened to use English and not French.

    Thus, there is no possible “evidence” that we can bring into this conversation. The only thing we can do is cite surveys which show the common consensus understanding, and surveys which show the common consensus understanding amongst technical speakers. In both cases, the consensus uses the word “science” differently than you, which makes you wrong. Stop being an asshat, stop inventing your own language, and start speaking the same language as the rest of us.

  256. susanvan says

    Stevenm: Bad Science and is still science.

    No, I this is not how people use the word “science.” For example, we don’t say creationism is bad science. There is no science in it. I would never say stamp collecting is bad babysitting.

  257. susanvan says

    EnlightenmentLiberal: The only thing we can do is cite surveys which show the common consensus understanding.

    I agree. That’s what I’ve been trying to show you. How do normal everyday (nonreligious) people understand the word science and reality? In everyday parlance, they mean them synonymously. That’s why I said to try a google check (use News to eliminate the religious nuts) and see if you can’t just replace the word science with reality.

    And that is why philosophy is a branch of science.

  258. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @susanvan
    Ever consider the possibility that maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about, and the many trained professionals in this thread who actually believe in science and do science every day are right and you are wrong? Just sayin…

  259. susanvan says

    Five NASA Earth-science missions blasting off in 2014
    Five NASA Earth-reality missions blasting off in 2014

    Science Is Telling Us Something [about climate change]
    Reality Is Telling Us Something

    How a New Science of Cities Is Emerging from Mobile Phone Data
    How a New Reality of Cities Is Emerging from Mobile Phone Data

  260. susanvan says

    EnlightenmentLiberal,
    Ever wondered why you give up and appeal to supposed authorities.

  261. David Marjanović says

    No, I this is not how people use the word “science.” For example, we don’t say creationism is bad science. There is no science in it.

    But that’s not because creationism isn’t reality. It’s because it doesn’t use the scientific method! Instead of comparing its hypotheses to reality in order to test them, it compares them to old books; to do that isn’t science.

    The only thing we can do is cite surveys which show the common consensus understanding.

    I actually disagree. The term science is a technical term; it is owned and defined by the community of scientists, not by everyone in the world. Surveys of people other than scientists are not very relevant for the understanding of this term.

    the many trained professionals in this thread who actually believe in science

    *cringe*

    “Believe in” doesn’t apply to science!

  262. David Marjanović says

    Five NASA Earth-science missions blasting off in 2014
    Five NASA Earth-reality missions blasting off in 2014

    What?

    The purpose of these missions is to do geology – to study the Earth. Reality is not a purpose! Reality isn’t something you can do!

    Science Is Telling Us Something [about climate change]
    Reality Is Telling Us Something

    Both of these are shorthand. Doing science to learn something about reality is telling us something.

    How a New Science of Cities Is Emerging from Mobile Phone Data
    How a New Reality of Cities Is Emerging from Mobile Phone Data

    Here you completely change the meaning. The first line means that a new way of studying cities is emerging now that these data are available. The second means that the cities themselves are changing! If you can’t understand that that’s not the same, there’s no hope you’ll ever learn anything.

  263. says

    susanvan:

    So you are a scientist and you stumble upon a magically burning bush. Your science can’t explain it because by definition it is a magically burning bush.

    Why would you assume that if a scientist stumbled upon a burning bush that it had to be magical? How would you know if it’s magical or not? I’m thinking tests would need to be done on the bush before any determination could be made.

    However.

    “It’s magic” or “goddidit” have been consistently replaced by naturalistic explanations of the world around us. If a scientist stumbles upon a burning bush, based on what we know of the world around us-up to this point-odds are the burning bush is *NOT* magical. I suppose it’s a remote possibility, but as we’ve seen nothing magical in the world up to this point, I see no reason to think we ever will (though if a magical doodad surfaces, stands up to scrutiny, and still violates the laws of physics, I’ll amend that opinion).

    Susanvan, you have made it clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about, are highly resistant to logic, and are averse to offering explanations for why you choose to use words the way you do. You’ve also made the assumption that you know the gender of EnlightenmentLiberal (are you sure they are male? Why do you default to using gendered pronouns if you don’t know for sure the gender of the individual you’re speaking to?).
    Why are you here?

  264. says

    susanvan:

    I keep giving examples for you to disprove my claim/ But you ignore my challenge.

    False.
    You keep making assertions as if they’re true. You have not backed those assertions up yet. Take for instance, your assertion that science=reality. You keep saying this. You keep saying that this is what people mean when they speak of science and reality, yet you’ve offered no evidence to support that.
    *WHY* do you think your definition is the layman’s definition of science? You’ve arrived at this opinion *somehow*. If you did so by looking at surveys or polls or if you knocked on the doors of 75,000 people, then show your evidence.
    I’m asking you to prove that your assertions are true, rather than just restating them.

    At this point, though, I’m with chigau. I think you’re a troll here to stir the pot (rather like our friend Rusty a few weeks back).

  265. susanvan says

    me: For example, we don’t say creationism is bad science. There is no science in it.

    David Marjanović: But that’s not because creationism isn’t reality. It’s because it doesn’t use the scientific method!

    David, it’s for both reasons. It doesn’t use the scientific method and there’s no science in it.

  266. Tethys says

    Do we at least agree that science will never be able to explain how supernatural things like gods and burning bushes work.

    No, I cannot agree with this statement because it fails in basic logic.

    Science has taught us that there are no such things as gods or supernatural occurances.

    If it exists, it can be observed, measured, and quantified. We call this science.

    The words are not interchangable. Reality is what is observed, science is the process of observing reality.

  267. says

    Monitor Note:

    You may be banned from a comment thread if:

    You cannot control your posting habits, and are dominating the discussion.

    Your comments are repetitive, especially if you repeat arguments that have already been addressed.

    You demonstrate that you are unwilling to have read previous comments or the opening post.

  268. says

    For the lurkers out there (though really, this isn’t that difficult to grasp, which is why I think susanvan is being a dishonest troll):

    Five NASA Earth-science missions blasting off in 2014
    Five NASA Earth-reality missions blasting off in 2014

    Science Is Telling Us Something [about climate change]
    Reality Is Telling Us Something

    How a New Science of Cities Is Emerging from Mobile Phone Data
    How a New Reality of Cities Is Emerging from Mobile Phone Data

    Going back to the Wikipedia definition provided back at #62:

    Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

    Let’s see what Wikipedia says about ‘reality':

    Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined.[1] In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. A still more broad definition includes everything that has existed, exists, or will exist

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality

    Nope. Not the same thing. Reality =/= science.
    Susanvan this is what I (and others) mean when we ask you to provide supporting evidence for your opinions.
    At this point, since you’ve provided not a shred of evidence to support your belief, your opinions can be dismissed as unproven assertions.

  269. susanvan says

    David,

    Your cringe over the words “the many trained professionals in this thread who actually believe in science” and “The only thing we can do is cite surveys which show the common consensus understanding” is for EnlightenmentLiberal.

    Just making sure.

  270. susanvan says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!:Why would you assume that if a scientist stumbled upon a burning bush that it had to be magical?

    Because Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!, that was our premise. We said it was a miracle. If it was burning for natural reasons, it would be reality and be discoverable by science.

  271. susanvan says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!, you say I presume to know the gender of EnlightenmentLiberal, asking if I am “sure they are male?”

    “they”: Good point, EnlightenmentLiberal might be more than one person. Good job!

  272. says

    susanvan:

    Because Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!, that was our premise. We said it was a miracle. If it was burning for natural reasons, it would be reality and be discoverable by science.

    That’s *your* premise. You presuppose if someone finds a burning bush, it is magical.

    I hate to break this to you, but Someone Is Wrong On The Internet–and it’s you.

    I can’t believe you actually think scientists would start with the assumption that a burning bush is magical. You won’t know if there’s a naturalistic explanation for the burning bush or “magic/goddidit” until you run tests on the bush.

    Fuckwitted troll.

  273. David Marjanović says

    David, it’s for both reasons. It doesn’t use the scientific method and there’s no science in it.

    That’s a single reason. “There’s no science in it” means that it doesn’t use the scientific method.

    Your cringe over the words “the many trained professionals in this thread who actually believe in science” and “The only thing we can do is cite surveys which show the common consensus understanding” is for EnlightenmentLiberal.

    Just making sure.

    Yes. I’m capable of disagreeing with more than one person at the same time. More importantly, I’m capable of disagreeing with more than one idea at the same time.

    I don’t care whether you said something. I care whether it’s wrong! :-)

  274. Tethys says

    Seems like susanvan is trying for their pit star with the sudden veer into social justice trolling.

  275. susanvan says

    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall, rudeness, swearing, appeals to bandwagon, Monitor Notes

    Why not try logic?

    When is science not about reality?

  276. says

    susanvan:

    you say I presume to know the gender of EnlightenmentLiberal, asking if I am “sure they are male?”

    “they”: Good point, EnlightenmentLiberal might be more than one person. Good job

    Of For Fuck’s Sake. Are you really this dense? They–used in the singular–has long been used in the place of gender specific pronouns.

    Singular they
    Main article: Singular they

    Since at least the 15th century, they (used with verbs conjugated in the plural, as with you), them, their, theirs, and themselves or themself have been used, in an increasingly accepted fashion, as singular pronouns. This usage is often called the singular they. It is widely used and accepted in Britain, Australia, and North America in conversation. At least one style guide has, in the past, advised against this use.[17]

    I say to each person in this room: may they enjoy themselves tonight!
    Anyone who arrives at the door can let themself in using this key.
    Eche of theym sholde … make theymselfe redy. — Caxton, Sonnes of Aymon (c. 1489)

    They may be used even when the gender of the subject is obvious; they implies a generic (or representative of type class) rather than individuated interpretation:[18]

    ‘Tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o’erhear the speech — Shakespeare, Hamlet
    There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me / As if I were their well-acquainted friend — Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors
    If some guy beat me up, then I’d leave them.
    Every bride hopes that their wedding day will go as planned.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-specific_and_gender-neutral_pronouns#Singular_they

    You really should stop shitting your ignorance all over the place. We’re still cleaning up from the gun nuts, and here you come along adding to the mess.

  277. susanvan says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!: [The burning bush is] *your* premise. You presuppose if someone finds a burning bush, it is magical.

    No, that was Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls’ premise in #260.

  278. says

    Monitor Note:

    I have already advised you to acquaint yourself with the rules commenters here are asked to follow. Please do so,taking especial note of those which I posted in my previous note.

    Please also be advised that “they” as a singular pronoun is perfectly good English. As in “If someone doesn’t abide by the rules, then they must be prepared to suffer the consequences.”

  279. says

    susanvan:

    Why not try logic?

    Logic is your kryptonite. That’s why you avoid it. Nearly every other poster in this thread has been using logic. You have not been.

    When is science not about reality?

    Science is a process of acquiring knowledge about reality. It’s *always* “about” reality. But science is NOT reality.

  280. susanvan says

    A little thin-skinned are we, Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!?
    Of course, “they” is commonly misused, just as you complained about my misuse of the sexist masculine pronoun.

    Seems you can dish it but can’t take it.

  281. says

    susanvan:

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!: [The burning bush is] *your* premise. You presuppose if someone finds a burning bush, it is magical.

    No, that was Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls’ premise in #260

    You dishonest nitwit, not only is it easy to re-read Nerd’s comment @260, he doesn’t say what you think he says

    Here:

    Existence of an eternally burning bush, the power of prayer, etc. There are lots of claims that can and have been tested. All failed. God is hiding, afraid to show itself to the people who believe in it.

    Nerd is talking about the testable claims people make about the existence of god. One of the claims made is god created an eternally burning bush. That’s a claim about reality that can be tested by science. Nerd is not presupposing eternally burning bushes exist.

  282. susanvan says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!,

    Yes, yes, we all recognize that “science is a process of acquiring knowledge about reality. It’s *always* ‘about’ reality.”

    That’s as close as I am going to get for an admission of my point. So let’s move on. Is philosophy always about reality? For example, the Swamp Man thought experiment. It’s an interesting concept, but we know our genetic material cannot be turned into a tree. So the philosophy, while interesting and valuable to think about, is NOT reality, right?

  283. says

    susanvan:
    I give you a link to show its common usage (you know, as *people* use the word; evidence for which is included in the link I provided) and you say it is misused?

    Troll.

    Oh, and yes, I’m so thin skinned. You got me. I’m wounded.
    Devastated. I must retreat to lick my wounds.

  284. stevem says

    When is science not about reality?

    Read your own words. Science is about reality. You said it yourself. Science is not reality itself; it is about reality. The way we understand reality. Reality and science are two different things. Is “history” the stories we use to understand past events, or the events themselves? Science in a language, Reality is things.

    And, yes scientists can study that “magic bush” you proposed. And they could indeed prove that it’s burning is “magic”. They won’t say that it IS magic, only that it doesn’t burn based on any science known at the time. But such a thing, if it existed, would then become included in science. Science is always looking for the unknown and looking to explain things it didn’t before. Reality just is, science is defined to be incomplete, to forever be extended. What exactly were you trying to prove with your “hypothetical”?

  285. susanvan says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!,

    I asked Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls to give me a philosophical supposition. I said “Give a god claim that is specific enough to be tested.” He or she responded with the “Existence of an eternally burning bush.”

    But, that’s boring. Let’s move on to Swamp Man.

  286. David Marjanović says

    Of course, “they” is commonly misused

    Have you read comment 337? You just accused Shakespeare of misusing the English language! :-D

    But hey, if you’re too stupid to understand the difference between “reality” and “about reality”, it’s not surprising that you have trouble reading…

  287. susanvan says

    Stevem, A magical burning bush cannot be included in science as we use the term today. A scientist could NOT explain the magic of a burning bush. We would have to change what science means in order to do that. Magic or the supernatural is the opposite of science.

    The fact that you admit that “they won’t say that it IS magic” only means they cannot understand it with science. They have 3 choices: they can scientifically find out why it is burning (thus rendering it non-magical) or wait until new science can explain it (thus rendering it non-magical) OR admit it is really magic and science can no longer be used to explain reality. Simply saying that magic is real and therefore science = magic is not an acceptable answer because you have changed the definition of science. Science means something. It means reality. When you use the word you do not mean magic, you do not mean supernatural, and you do not mean creationism. You use the word science to invoke reality.

  288. susanvan says

    David Marjanović,
    Do you think Shakespeare was performing for the masses or the upper class? I accuse him of using stupid plots, but the guy was a genius with language.

  289. says

    You can use the plural pronouns ‘they’, ‘them’, ‘their’ etc., despite the fact that, technically, they are referring back to a singular noun:

    If your child is thinking about a gap year, they can get good advice from this website.
    A researcher has to be completely objective in their findings.

    Some people object to the use of plural pronouns in this type of situation on the grounds that it’s ungrammatical. In fact, the use of plural pronouns to refer back to a singular subject isn’t new: it represents a revival of a practice dating from the 16th century. It’s increasingly common in current English and is now widely accepted both in speech and in writing.

    The Oxford fucking Dictionary

  290. says

    susanvan:

    I asked Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls to give me a philosophical supposition. I said “Give a god claim that is specific enough to be tested.” He or she responded with the “Existence of an eternally burning bush.”

    The existence of an eternally burning bush is a god claim specific enough to be tested. Believers say it exists. They want to convince others that it exists. To do so, they need to present this burning bush, so that it can be studied.

    Remember the purpose of all that? Testing the god claims to determine if a particular deity exists. If god #4556 is said to exist and causes ball lightning to fly from the asses of believers, that’s a claim that can be tested. As each new claim is tested and discarded, the likelihood of god #4556 existing diminishes more and more; to the point that there is no reason to believe the deity exists (at least not as ‘defined’ by its believers).

  291. susanvan says

    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!: I give you a link to show its common usage (you know, as *people* use the word; evidence for which is included in the link I provided) and you say it is misused?

    More evidence for my point, Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop! Thanks. We agree. I agree I was as guilty of a sexist common usage as you were with your plurality. I totally, totally, agree. This has been my distinction all along. We laypeople use words in many ways. Uptight pedants can call us on it, but we shrug if off and say, “Hey, it’s what is really meant when people use the word. Back off!”

    So…when we use the word science we are talking about reality. When we use the word philosophy we know we are in the realm of “suppose.” Swamp man is philosophy created by humans. It’s okay. It’s just not reality.

  292. David Marjanović says

    Do you think Shakespeare was performing for the masses or the upper class?

    Huh? How is this relevant?

    We would have to change what science means in order to do that.

    What makes you think it’s impossible to make testable hypotheses about an eternally burning bush?

    Have you finally read this comic?

    it represents a revival of a practice dating from the 16th century

    Was it ever extinct??? It’s not like it’s never been used between Shakespeare and the 20th century. Jane Austen used it, for instance.

  293. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @David Marjanovic

    The only thing we can do is cite surveys which show the common consensus understanding.

    I actually disagree. The term science is a technical term; it is owned and defined by the community of scientists

    You snipped my quote. The full sentence is:

    The only thing we can do is cite surveys which show the common consensus understanding, and surveys which show the common consensus understanding amongst technical speakers.

    In context, that was talking about arguments over definitions in general. As for the definition of “science”, I agree that it is a technical term and that we should appeal to experts in the field of science for its definition. You don’t disagree with me. You merely misread what I wrote somehow…

    @David Marjanovic

    the many trained professionals in this thread who actually believe in science

    Yes it does. Science is an axiomatic value system. The methods of science rely on several axiomatic values, including:
    – valuing conclusions based on inference, evidence, Bayesian reasoning, etc.,
    – valuing logical consistency,
    – valuing learning about the world around us,
    – valuing intellectual honesty,
    – valuing parsimony,
    and more.

    You do not “believe in” any particular scientific fact. You do not “believe in” the community of scientists. However, you do believe in the value of using evidence to create predictive models of the future and the other axiomatic values of science. “Believe in” is exactly the right phrase to describe this.

  294. says

    susanvan:

    A scientist could NOT explain the magic of a burning bush.

    You know this how? Have you met any scientists unable to explain the magic of burning bushes?
    Seriously, scientists are trying to increase our understanding of the world around us. If this supposed bush turned out to defy all laws of physics and keep burning do you imagine scientists would throw their hands in the air and give up?

    We can’t find a naturalistic explanation for this burning bush therefore it’s magic” is not very scientific.

    Also, even if the bush thwarted scientists until the end of time, that doesn’t make it magic.
    Just like even if the Big Bang didn’t happen, that doesn’t mean god created the universe.

  295. Tethys says

    Swamp man is philosophy created by humans.

    No idiotic cupcake, swamp man does not qualify as philosophy. Neither do Dracula, Frankenstein, or the Mummy.

  296. says

    susanvan:
    Ye Gods you are a ridiculous fuckwit.

    I agree I was as guilty of a sexist common usage as you were with your plurality.

    If you actually read my #337, you’d see I was NOT wrong using ‘they’ in place of a gendered pronoun to refer to EnlightenmentLiberal.
    Your assumption of their gender was wrong to do. Unless you know the gender of an individual, you shouldn’t assume they are male.
    My use of ‘they’ was correct, and in common usage. That you are unfamiliar with its usage doesn’t make it wrong. In fact, I provided a link to support my assertion. Something you’ve proven you have no desire to do.

    Troll.

  297. susanvan says

    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall, you can keep repeating that the plural pronoun is in common usage and is still by some pedants to be grammatically correct. I agree.

    I love the democratic use of words. Your argument actually supports mine: Usage dictates reality.

    People use the word science to mean reality. And they should. Because none of you can give an example of actual science that isn’t reality. We use the words interchangeably and that’s why philosophy must eventually bend to science. Good philosophy is only good when it defers to science.

  298. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @susanvan
    Your definition of “magic” is some thing in our observable shared reality which is not susceptible to science. Bullshit! If it’s observable, it’s susceptible to science. End of discussion.

    If I found an everburning bush, I would poke it and prod it. Maybe it violates all known laws of physics. Ok, time for a new law of physics: “Except that one bush which burns eternally without consuming fuel”. We could start making predictive models, such as “That one bush is going to burn forever without consuming fuel”.

    The problem is that you do not understand science. You should read some Popper and Kuhn. Most importantly, you should watch this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM
    In short, let’s talk magnets. How do magnets work? No one knows. All I can say is that they do work, and we have evidence which shows that they work, and from that we can explain a great many other facts about the world. Does that mean that Maxwell’s equations aren’t science? Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetics doesn’t explain how magnets work. It just models quite accurately what magnets do. Why do two magnets stick together? No one knows.

    Similarly, if we found that everburning bush, maybe we will never be able to explain how it burns, just like we may never explain how two magnets attract each other. However, in both cases, we can form predictive models. We can take measurements, gather evidence, and model the phenomena in order to predict the future. That’s science.

  299. susanvan says

    Oh dear, Tethys, look up Dan Dennett’s new book about Intuition pumps. Clearly, the rabid responses from all the foolish people on this list have swayed you to think I don’t know what I am talking about. You might all want to reflect on that and your bandwagon Group Think.

    I have to go back to work now. So I will leave this list with much sorrow. It was very fun. Perhaps another time. You all were very enjoyable.

    Maybe PZ will disparage what he dismisses as scientism again and I will notice.

  300. says

    susanvan:

    Clearly, the rabid responses from all the foolish people on this list have swayed you to think I don’t know what I am talking about.

    Doubtful. Your very words prove you haven’t the faintest clue what you’re talking about.

  301. David Marjanović says

    You snipped my quote. The full sentence is:

    …Wow. I meant to snip it, because I’m fine with the rest of the sentence, but I really didn’t mean to put the period at the end of the snipped quote!!! :-o That’s disturbing that I did that without even noticing!!!

    I apologize.

    Science is an axiomatic value system.

    I need to think about that more.

    (But I’ll say that the epic battle of frequentism vs. Bayesian inference is still ongoing. :-þ )

    People use the word science to mean reality. And they should. Because none of you can give an example of actual science that isn’t reality.

    Word salad!

  302. chigau (違う) says

    susanvan
    It’s good to see you acknowledge your abject failure.
    Bless your heart.

  303. Rob Grigjanis says

    susanvan @360:

    Because none of you can give an example of actual science that isn’t reality.

    Oh, that’s easy. The Standard Model is pretty much state of the art science now, right? But it can’t correspond to reality, because it predicts behaviour at very large energies which is nonsense (an unstable vacuum, for example). I can provide more examples if you like.

  304. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @ David Marjanović

    (But I’ll say that the epic battle of frequentism vs. Bayesian inference is still ongoing. :-þ )

    I have no stake in that battle. Just some sort of basic value or fiat assertion to overcome the problem of induction.

  305. consciousness razor says

    EnlightenmentLiberal:

    Key phrase: “for things like that”.

    I missed that. Then I guess you really don’t get what “scientism” means and why it’s a problem. You say you’re with the positivists (who’ve long been discredited), but you either don’t understand what that means or your agreement with them is about something irrelevant.

    Anything that has material causal power. Anything which has effect on my sensory experience. Anything which could conceivably kick me in the knee. Trees and dark matter can do that. Gods can do that. Math cannot. Morality cannot.

    Then what you said is trivially true, and it isn’t what anyone is disputing. No one who is anti-scientism has a problem with using science to understand scientific, empirical phenomena. The problem is basically saying that there are no other things to know, of any kind, or falsely claiming that about specific things. People say that’s because either science is up to the job, so those things are already included; or because those things aren’t truth-apt or we can’t accurately be described as being knowledgeable about them.

    And lots of people would disagree with you about math and morality, among other things. So how do you think you know that? I get that math is non-empirical, but in what sense do you think the benefit or harmfulness of an action is not an observable effect? Or a judge might know what the law is, but can’t the judge also know how best to interpret it? What sort of thing is a legal interpretation, if you believe such things exist? Or what exactly happens when we interpret or appreciate a work of art, let’s say — is it not material or causal, or is it not due to some kind of sensory experience? The arts are extremely focused on sensory experience — they’re all about that — yet I don’t see you acknowledging that understanding it is possible, except understanding it scientifically as an empirical phenomenon. It goes without saying that literary critics and musicologists do very different things than sociologists or psychologists or physicists. So what do you think people in those disciplines do? Do they produce some form of knowledge, or should the universities scrap all of those non-scientific subject areas because they can’t do anything scientifically “useful” or say anything about “material truth”?

    No. But if someone says this: “whether science gives us theories which are true, or theories which give correct predictions for observable phenomena”, I literally do not understand that. I don’t.

    If a theory implies what I just said about “another reality” (which you say you understand), gives correct predictions for observable phenomena, yet it is not true that there is some “other reality” because those correct predictions of observations aren’t in contradiction with it being false, then you do understand what I’m saying. You might justifiably claim the theory is unparsimonious and reject it on those grounds, but the problem isn’t that you fail to understand it.

    Platonic realism makes no sense. It’s a framework of its own creation, just like ZF, but at least math has utility.

    I wasn’t talking about platonism, but okay. I suppose you want me to find some Platonists to argue with you about its utility or lack thereof?

  306. Al Dente says

    The SIWOTI compulsion is strong in many of you. I supposed you’ll continue to bash your heads against susanvan’s arguments by assertion.

  307. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    You say you’re with the positivists (who’ve long been discredited), but you either don’t understand what that means or your agreement with them is about something irrelevant.

    I was careful with my phrasing. I said I took part of what they said. Obviously a regime of “strong verification” is stupid.

    And lots of people would disagree with you about math and morality, among other things.

    For those who think math is an empirical science – those people are silly. Math is in large part mere formal logic, sometimes with some second order logic thrown in. Modern set theory ala ZF is just logic. Logic is a foundation of science, and thus science cannot be a foundation of math / logic, as that would be circular.

    As for morality, I’m with Sam Harris on this one. One clarification: It’s a minor pedantic point which Sam doesn’t give enough emphasis or proper emphasis IMHO, but he makes the point. In my own words, you just have to grant me that anyone who says we should act to increase the suffering of every human being for its own value is insane.

    Imagine I met a “biblical chemist” who says that the bible says water existed before stars, and obviously oxygen comes from stellar nucleosynthesis, and thus water is not two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. If he doesn’t already accept the values of science, there is no possible argument I can make against his insane position. However, my inability to refute his point doesn’t change the facts of the matter that there is a discoverable universal truth about the chemical composition of matter. We all dismiss such insane people regularly, and we get on with science.

    Similarly, I might not be able to convince people that we should not act to increase the suffering of everyone, but anyone who makes that statement is insane. That insane people exist does not change the basic moral fact that increasing the suffering of everyone (for its own end) is bad. From this very humble beginning, we can get a science of morality.

    PS: I’m not with Sam completely that this necessarily nails down every possible moral problem, but it definitely pins down a lot of real world problems, and even admitting that there can be objectively right and wrong answers to moral questions changes the game in a fundamental – and good – way.

    If a theory implies what I just said about “another reality” (which you say you understand), gives correct predictions for observable phenomena, yet it is not true that there is some “other reality” because those correct predictions of observations aren’t in contradiction with it being false, then you do understand what I’m saying. You might justifiably claim the theory is unparsimonious and reject it on those grounds, but the problem isn’t that you fail to understand it.

    That’s a lot of clauses.

    Ok, so let’s pretend that we have some predictive model of reality. The model makes reference to some normally inaccessible part of reality, and says that the parts of that normally inaccessible part of reality are accessible through the phenomena which are modeled and predicted by this model. Furthermore, the predictions of this model are demonstrably correct. I’m with you thus far.

    Now is where you lost me with your poor phrasing, but I think I’m agreeing with you.

    I don’t know what it means for that “normally inaccessible” part of reality to exist apart from the observable consequences of its existence vs non-existence. This is what I said earlier. I don’t know what it means for a completely non-interfering god to exist vs not because it cannot make a difference for any human-like observer ever.

    I believe someone earlier mentioned the existence or non-existence of quarks as one good example. F’ that. Let’s talk about the existence or non-existence of chairs. I’m sitting on a chair right now. Let’s break down what that “really means”. On one hand, it’s appealing to a sort of philosophical realism, which I reject as meaningless. On the other hand, I can break down “I am sitting on a chair” in terms of predictions of future sensory experience of human-like observers. I can predict that I feel the chair on my back. I can predict that others in the room see me in a sitting posture on a particular object of a particular color, shape, and texture. All useful meaning of “I am sitting on a chair” is reducible to predictions of future sensory experience and no more.

    As another example, let’s talk The Matrix. I don’t reject that I’m in The Matrix. I just find that other models are simpler to work with, and better for communication because of certain arbitrary cultural conventions. Doesn’t matter to me if I’m in The Matrix. The hunger I am going to feel tomorrow if I don’t get (virtual) food is just as real, and I am going to need to take the same actions to solve that problem.

    The only things I legitimately have to duck by fiat is Last Thursdayism (the world wasn’t made 5 minutes ago with all of my memories constructed) and hard solipsism (I am not special / the world doesn’t revolve around me / these other humans have minds like me).

  308. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    A scientist could NOT explain the magic of a burning bush.

    Science already explains how a bush burns. It could explain the apparent eternally burning bush as fraud if combustion by-products like carbon dioxide and water emanate from it. Then the scientist, professional debunker, and magician start looking for a possible fuel feed lines.

  309. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Sorry, maybe important clarifications:

    I recognize at least these several classes of statements in my ontology. There are descriptive statements about our shared (material) reality, e.g. the empirical sciences. There are proscriptive statements, e.g. morality. There can be other families of statements, for example some logic systems, math. There’s the family of statements in the framework of ZF set theory.

    I accept Hume’s is-ought distinction in this sense – you can never derive values or proscriptive statements from only scientific facts. However, scientific facts exist only in a certain axiomatic value system, science. You cannot derive proscriptive statements from mere descriptive statements, but you also cannot even have a conversation about descriptive statements without first accepting some proscriptive statements (the axiomatic values of science).

  310. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Maybe PZ will disparage what he dismisses as scientism again and I will notice.

    Gee cupcake, you think you had a point. You never showed a point and properly evidenced it, unlike those arguing against your fuckwittery. PZ is just quaking in his boots—NOT. You will be a chew toy again.

  311. consciousness razor says

    For those who think math is an empirical science – those people are silly.

    Agreed, very obviously silly. The question, in the case of math, was simply how you think you know that.

    As for morality, I’m with Sam Harris on this one.

    That means you’d claim morality can be a science (even if we’re not there yet), not that it cannot be one. That’s definitely a contradiction.

    Ok, so let’s pretend that we have some predictive model of reality. The model makes reference to some normally inaccessible part of reality, and says that the parts of that normally inaccessible part of reality are accessible through the phenomena which are modeled and predicted by this model. Furthermore, the predictions of this model are demonstrably correct. I’m with you thus far.

    Now is where you lost me with your poor phrasing, but I think I’m agreeing with you.

    Sorry for my phrasing, but no, I’m not saying anything about accessibility or switching it around so that something is somehow both observable and unobservable. Let’s go with a dumbed-down version of a multiverse to make it a little clearer (it makes sense to think in terms of only one “reality”), even though I don’t want people to think I’m criticizing actual theories about a multiverse.

    Suppose some physicist has a theory. It makes correct predictions about observable phenomena in our universe, where we can actually observe things. At the same time, it implies there is another universe (or many), meaning that it claims there is a multiverse. Now follow me, right here: it is true that there is only this universe, and the theory is wrong about the other universe. We have no way of knowing that’s the case, because we have no access and cannot observe anything about the other universe to verify it or falsify it or anything else; but whatever our epistemological problems may be, that is the truth. The theory is in some sense not completely wrong about this universe, because it makes correct predictions of the observables we actually do have access to. But I’m not making up some impossible scenario here: observations don’t always require you to interpret them one and only one way, and they don’t interpret themselves for you, so your theory might well be making up a bunch of garbage that isn’t true, even if it seems to agree with your observations.

    Now do you see the distinction between the truth (with a capital T if you like) and making accurate predictions about observables? Science might (at least sometimes) deal with the latter rather than the former. I honestly don’t know what to think about it sometimes, but that’s not because the idea is incoherent or meaningless. Confusing? Sure, I’ll grant that. We’re not “finished with science” anyway, as if we already know everything there is to know about the universe, so it doesn’t make a huge difference either way; but I don’t see the use in making a counterfactual claim about it hypothetically having some kind of access to the truth if we were finished somehow. And I don’t think we ever could be in that situation, so it’s not just counterfactual but impossible.

  312. consciousness razor says

    I accept Hume’s is-ought distinction in this sense – you can never derive values or proscriptive statements from only scientific facts.

    Not what Hume said.

  313. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Again, with your multiverse example, you are implicitly appealing to the existence or non-existence of hypothetical human-like observers in that “parallel universe”. I can understand what it means for there to be someone who can see things I cannot. What I don’t understand is the difference between quarks “really being there” and every test imaginable – future and present – confirms to the theory of quarks.

    I really do want to strongly reject realism as stupid. Maybe not meaningless, but any meaning it has is entirely detached from science, and thus completely detached from discoverable reality. And then, I take the “shut up and calculate” approach, because the difference you draw is a problem which has been specifically designed to be both unsolvable and irrelevant. This is a waste of time and effort – except for the pleasure someone might get while pontificating on completely useless, unsolvable, artificial problems of their own design.

    Not what Hume said.

    But the misattribution is so common that using that name for this idea is an efficient means of communication, and so I will continue to do so.

  314. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    That means you’d claim morality can be a science (even if we’re not there yet), not that it cannot be one. That’s definitely a contradiction.

    Sorry. I might have been unclear. We can define science according to the usual empirical definition, scientific method, etc. We can then talk about a science of medicine. Medicine is a science, right? Medicine is about what methods are proper to make people healthy. Similarly, we can talk about a science of well-being, which is about what methods are proper to make people happiness, safe, free, materially secure, their well-being, and the other values of humanism. The existence of suffering and well-being are not ill-defined, any more than healthy or unhealthy are ill-defined. It’s a science.

    Then, all you have to do is grant me the premise that generally people should rather be healthy than not. Then we can and should use the fruits of the science of medicine. Oh wait – morality. All you have to do is grant me the premise that generally people should not suffer needlessly. Then we can and should use the fruits of the science of morality.

    In other words, I cannot make a coherent argument that you should use science if you don’t already value science, but that doesn’t make me less confident in my scientific values. Similarly, I cannot make a coherent argument why suffering is bad and well-being is good, but that doesn’t make me less confident in my moral values. It’s self-evident. Seriously – the alternative is that you have to say that you’re open to the possibility that it’s ok, or acceptable, or maybe we should act to make everyone suffer just for the sake of more human misery. Anyone who can say that is insane in exactly the same way that anyone who can say that I’m not sitting on a chair is insane, and there is no reason to take such people seriously.

  315. Anri says

    Late to the party, but since my question was apparently just too much:

    susanvan @ 259:

    Give us a specific god-only claim that you can use science to prove its nonexistence or existence.

    The god lives in a marble palace atop Mount Olympus.

    Next?

  316. Tethys says

    look up Dan Dennett’s new book about Intuition pumps.

    Why? How is Dennets opinion on anything relevant to your idiotic assertion that reality is science?
    Also, why are you randomly capitalizing Words?

    Clearly, the rabid responses from all the foolish people on this list have swayed you to think I don’t know what I am talking about.

    No fool, your words are sufficient to demonstrate that you don’t have a fecking clue as to what you are talking about.

    I will paraphrase your illogic as ; “if we assume supernatural burning bushes, then obviously that falsifies science.”

    Utter nonsense and trolling. susanvan is a most unsatisfactory chew toy.

  317. Anri says

    Suppose some physicist has a theory. It makes correct predictions about observable phenomena in our universe, where we can actually observe things. At the same time, it implies there is another universe (or many), meaning that it claims there is a multiverse. Now follow me, right here: it is true that there is only this universe, and the theory is wrong about the other universe. We have no way of knowing that’s the case, because we have no access and cannot observe anything about the other universe to verify it or falsify it or anything else; but whatever our epistemological problems may be, that is the truth. The theory is in some sense not completely wrong about this universe, because it makes correct predictions of the observables we actually do have access to. But I’m not making up some impossible scenario here: observations don’t always require you to interpret them one and only one way, and they don’t interpret themselves for you, so your theory might well be making up a bunch of garbage that isn’t true, even if it seems to agree with your observations.

    Sorry, I’m going to take issue with your example: if our universe is not interacting with this other universe, then by definition, its existence or lack thereof (let alone the details of its existence) can’t alter any theory about our universe. If something in our universe requires something in another universe to be a specific way, you can’t claim they’re not interaction – clearly they are.

    If two things do not interact, you can’t make aspects one contingent upon aspects of the other.

    It’s why we can safely dismiss the idea of a god who can’t be detected and doesn’t do anything – there is literally no difference between such a god and no god at all. The difference between such a god existing and not existing is itself non-existent.

  318. David Marjanović says

    Just some sort of basic value or fiat assertion to overcome the problem of induction.

    I flatly deny that the problem of induction concerns science at all. :-) Science famously deducts predictions from hypotheses and then tests them. The reason I’m so sure “the sun will rise tomorrow” isn’t induction, it’s the fact that physics – gravity, inertia and such – has held up so well in so many tests.

    The only things I legitimately have to duck by fiat

    You don’t have to. You can simply dismiss them as ridiculously unparsimonious.

    Medicine is a science, right?

    I’d rather say, and have already said in this thread, that it’s an application of science.

  319. ChasCPeterson says

    Medicine is a science, right?

    Wrong. Medicine can be, and very often but not always should be, an application of science.

  320. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The reason I’m so sure “the sun will rise tomorrow” isn’t induction, it’s the fact that physics – gravity, inertia and such – has held up so well in so many tests.

    Are you serious? Is that a joke? What you said makes no sense. When you said “[because it] has held up so well in so many tests”, that’s induction. That is the textbook definition of inductive reasoning. What the hell could you possibly mean by these words?

  321. consciousness razor says

    If something in our universe requires something in another universe to be a specific way, you can’t claim they’re not interaction – clearly they are.

    I mean to be talking about what the theory implies, not what any observations supporting the theory require. Take string theory as another example. There are lots of “hidden” dimensions in many versions of the “theory” (it would legitimately be a scientific theory, if it gets a little more support than it has now). That implication is due to some math, which I frankly don’t understand. But I’ll grant that the math in this case might well be interpreted as indicating extra dimensions. But it isn’t data. It’s not an interaction with this universe. It isn’t an observation of any kind. It’s just math. If string theory is supportable and testable on any other count than the number of dimensions, it’s a scientific theory making correct predictions about observable phenomena. Yet this one part of it may not be true. It might work just fine to interpret that bit of the math very differently, without significantly affecting the “scientific” parts.

  322. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It isn’t an observation of any kind. It’s just math.

    Quarks are just math. Atoms are just math. At least to some degree. Have you ever seen an atom without the aid of tools? Nope.

    Obviously atoms are closer to direct perception than quarks, and quarks closer still than any extra dimensions of string theory (assuming string theory is correct). However, there is no bright line that let’s you put the extra dimensions of string theory on one side and this chair on the other. You know about the existence of both only from testable predictions of models. That’s what “exist” means in this context. At least, that’s the only “cognitively meaningful” sense of the word “exist” in this context.

  323. consciousness razor says

    Quarks are just math. Atoms are just math. At least to some degree.

    Nope, they’re just physical objects. And you just said math is not empirical. It also makes zero sense to say it is “just” this or that, at least to a degree! Consistency is just not your thing, I guess. And for someone so critical of supposedly meaningless concepts, you’re having a hard time of it yourself. Try getting more “enlightened,” instead of bullshitting about everything.

    Have you ever seen an atom without the aid of tools? Nope.

    Have you ever seen a number, ever, with or without tools? Doesn’t even make sense to say that you’ve seen a mathematical concept? Nope. Do you get that seeing requires a physical eye, interacting physically with some other physical stuff?

    Obviously atoms are closer to direct perception than quarks, and quarks closer still than any extra dimensions of string theory (assuming string theory is correct).

    “Closer to direct perception” = utterly irrelevant.

  324. Anri says

    consciousness razor:

    I mean to be talking about what the theory implies, not what any observations supporting the theory require.

    Well, regardless of what you mean to be talking about, your example pretty clearly set out the idea that the theory in question specified conditions in a universe not actually interacting with ours. That’s why I took issue with your example.

    Stating that what we can detect currently may differ from Real Truth is obvious.
    Stating that what we cannot detect even in theory has relevance is incorrect.

  325. consciousness razor says

    Stating that what we can detect currently may differ from Real Truth is obvious.
    Stating that what we cannot detect even in theory has relevance is incorrect.

    Where did this come from? It “has relevance” to what? I’ve said nothing about its relevance or lack of relevance.

    I’ve been showing how there’s a clear distinction between the truth, no matter its relevance to anything of your choice, and making correct predictions about observations. That is what this long, boring derail has been about. Even if it’s not relevant to anything we do or won’t affect anything we’ll ever experience, it is nevertheless the truth that it exists or doesn’t exist (i.e., hidden dimensions, other universes, etc.). It must be one or the other. If we can’t know the truth about that, then fine, we won’t know it. If we don’t care about it, because it isn’t relevant to us, then we won’t care. So what? Our disposition toward it doesn’t change anything about the reality.

  326. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor

    Quarks are just math. Atoms are just math. At least to some degree.

    Nope, they’re just physical objects.

    How do you know that?

  327. David Marjanović says

    When you said “[because it] has held up so well in so many tests”, that’s induction.

    No, I just didn’t express it well. :-) I deduce from physics that “the sun will rise tomorrow”. Physics – relativity, Standard Model, blah blah – is a set of theories that have had many opportunities to be falsified but haven’t been; therefore I provisionally accept them as correct, for a rather theoretical level of “provisional”.

    It would be induction if I accepted them as absolutely true.

    Have you ever seen an atom without the aid of tools? Nope.

    Ooh, you don’t want to go down that hole. :-) What makes you think your eyes or your very brain are any more reliable than a force microscope? There’s a good reason positivism has been abandoned.

  328. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @David Marjanović

    therefore I provisionally accept them as correct, for a rather theoretical level of “provisional”.

    It would be induction if I accepted them as absolutely true.

    Ok. So this is the word game you’re playing.

    I’m not as well versed as I could be, but I’m pretty sure you’re not using the words as they’re commonly understood in philosophy circles. The problem of induction is not “does inductive evidence-based reasoning always lead to absolute / incontrovertible proof?”. The problem of induction is “does inductive evidence-based reasoning work better than throwing dice?”. As such, IMHO you’re doing a very dishonest word game.

    At the very least, it seems that the usual go-to quick-reference on philosophical subjects agrees with me, not you.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/

    Have you ever seen an atom without the aid of tools? Nope.

    Ooh, you don’t want to go down that hole. :-) What makes you think your eyes or your very brain are any more reliable than a force microscope? There’s a good reason positivism has been abandoned.

    I don’t know what you think I’m doing, but you’re probably wrong. I’m not advocating strict “logical positivism”. I’m denying realism. There’s a difference.

    How do we know atoms are “real” and are “physical objects”? Because our instruments give measurements which match the predictions of the model. I fail to see any honest and meaningful criterion which we could apply to say quarks and atoms are real, but the extra dimensions of string theory are not (assuming string theory gets some verified falsifiable predictions going).

  329. David Marjanović says

    Induction is a perfectly fine way for generating a hypothesis. (So is dreaming.) It just can’t test. Want to test the hypothesis that “the sun will rise tomorrow”? Wait for tomorrow. :-|

    The problem of induction is “does inductive evidence-based reasoning work better than throwing dice?”.

    I’m used to “given that induction doesn’t safely lead to truth, we can’t actually know anything”. Your link to the Stanford Encyclopedia supports that: it talks about absolute certainty.

    I’m denying realism.

    Oh. Why did you use something so close to Mach’s silly wisecrack, then. Anyway:

    “In general, where the distinctive objects of a subject-matter are a, b, c, … , and the distinctive properties are …is F, …is G, …is H and so on, realism about that subject matter will typically take the form of a claim like the following:

    Generic Realism:
    a, b, and c and so on exist, and the fact that they exist and have properties such as F-ness, G-ness, and H-ness is (apart from mundane empirical dependencies of the sort sometimes encountered in everyday life) independent of anyone’s beliefs, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and so on.

    Non-realism can take many forms, depending on whether or not it is the existence or independence dimension of realism that is questioned or rejected. The forms of non-realism can vary dramatically from subject-matter to subject-matter, but error-theories, non-cognitivism, instrumentalism, nominalism, certain styles of reductionism, and eliminativism typically reject realism by rejecting the existence dimension, while idealism, subjectivism, and anti-realism typically concede the existence dimension but reject the independence dimension. Philosophers who subscribe to quietism deny that there can be such a thing as substantial metaphysical debate between realists and their non-realist opponents (because they either deny that there are substantial questions about existence or deny that there are substantial questions about independence).”

    That’s a wide spectrum. At one extreme, I gather, realism could entail the obviously false claim that perfect 1 : 1 translation from any language to any other language is always possible. At the other end, it could just mean “reality exists”, denied – to the best of my knowledge – only by Sokal’s hoax and perhaps the numbskulls who accepted it for publication.

    So, which version of realism do you deny?

    Do you perhaps deny the somewhat naive version that says observable reality (for some definition of “observable”…) is the same as metaphysical truth?

    I fail to see any honest and meaningful criterion which we could apply to say quarks and atoms are real, but the extra dimensions of string theory are not (assuming string theory gets some verified falsifiable predictions going).

    You may have noticed that I haven’t participated in that discussion at all. But anyway: the Standard Model predicts the existence of quarks and atoms, and there are plenty of observations that fit those predictions, not only others that the Standard Model also makes. Once a prediction of string theory that is not also made by the Standard Model and is not the prediction of extra dimensions found itself in the same situation, the theory as a whole would have survived a test, and it would become a parsimonious assumption that all other predictions of string theory, such as extra dimensions, will also pan out; but the then still untested prediction of extra dimensions could still be falsified much more easily than the predictions of quarks & atoms.

    OK. That got a bit convoluted. If one prediction of a theory passes a test, that doesn’t mean that any other prediction of the same theory will also pass tests; it does increase the probability we should ascribe to their being correct, but it doesn’t increase that probability to 1.

    Newton’s theory of gravity predicted that the inverse-square law would hold even at small distances, and it predicted that the perihelion of Mercury wouldn’t move except by the influence of other planets. The first keeps being confirmed (it’s been tested pretty often lately because, IIRC, various MOND theories contradicted it), the second is wrong.

    Even shorter: quarks and atoms have a very high probability of being real; the extra dimensions would gain probability if some other novel prediction of string theory turned out to fit observations, but they would still have a lesser probability of being real than quarks and atoms.

    As such, IMHO you’re doing a very dishonest word game.

    …You know, I’m… rather stunned that you infer malice.

    What exactly is wrong with you?

  330. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    What is wrong with you? How can you have such a wildly out of whack definition of “induction”? It’s like I’m dealing with someone who hasn’t read Popper and Kuhn and who has this incredibly naive understanding of falsification.

    “The sun will rise tomorrow.” “There are 8 planets orbiting Rigel.” One of those statements is demonstrably true. One of those statements is not. Both statements have not been falsified. Why do we say that the first is demonstrably true and the second is not? Because we have an abundance of evidence which shows that the first is true, and we do not have evidence for the second. This is induction.

    This is going from the series of observations “the sun rose yesterday, the day before, the day before that, and every day before that I can remember, and thus it will rise tomorrow” to “the sun will rise tomorrow”. If you prefer, it’s going from “every observation we’ve ever made – and there have been a lot of them – has been consistent and supportive of known physics for the simple purposes of orbits in the solar system” to “the sun will rise tomorrow”.

    It is going from a finite set of samples from the set to a conclusion about the whole set. That is not deductive. That requires inductive reasoning.

    How do you know that the laws of physics won’t change tomorrow? How do you know that tomorrow will not be different and the sun will not do something different? Almost equivalently put it’s the uniformity principle. You cannot make a deductive argument why these things are true. This is the problem of induction. In practice, we ignore it / we fiat by axiom that inductive reasoning generally works / we fiat that we should use inductive reasoning.

    I have to ascribe to you either malice, or gross ignorance, for you to have said the things you have said.

  331. says

    That requires inductive reasoning.

    Yet that is not the scientific argument, and completely against the conception of epistemology that Popper proposed. The argument simply isn’t that we are inductively going from the past to the future, but that the best theory we have (heliocentrism) best explains the observations we have accumulated. The reason, on this view, isn’t anything to do with induction but with what the model tells us. Popper’s view isn’t induction-dependent except in the special sense that we are taking experience as a data point. The scientific statement that a Popperian would make is that it’s defeasibly true that the sun will rise tomorrow based on our best observations of the relationship between the earth and sun – that the earth rotates on an axis once every ~24 hours, and based on the tilt on the earth and its relative position in its cyclical orbit around the sun, the idea of the sun rising tomorrow follows.

    For a good summary of this, David Deutsch’s The Fabric Of Reality has a chapter explaining just why Popper’s epistemology isn’t based on induction.