How Intelligent Design went agley


As I said in my post yesterday that looked at the moribund state of the ID movement these days, there was always a deep-rooted tension between the Intelligent Design (ID) group and young Earth creationists. The ID people were playing a long game. Their goal was to overthrow the principle of naturalism that governed scientific practice and which they felt ruled out any role for god. As I have said before, naturalism can be divided into methodological naturalism in which you look for natural causes and explanations for any phenomena, and philosophical naturalism, the idea that the material world governed by natural laws is all there is and thus a priori rules out any possibility of any kind of supernatural phenomena.

Whatever else you might say about the ID movement, you have to concede that the leaders were a highly sophisticated lot, well-versed in science and the history and philosophy of science. They believed in an old Earth and almost all of what science teaches. They just felt that naturalism in either form was a bridge too far that had to be blown up. ID theoretician William Dembski explicitly laid out the challenge facing them.

So long as methodological naturalism sets the ground rules for how the game of science is to be played, IDT [intelligent design theory] has no chance [in] Hades…In the words of Vladimir Lenin, What is to be done? Design theorists aren’t at all bashful about answering this question: The ground rules of science have to be changed. We need to realize that methodological naturalism is the functional equivalent of a full blown metaphysical naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism asserts that the material world is all there is (in the words of Carl Sagan, “the cosmos is all there ever was, is, or will be”). (God vs. Darwin, p. 107)

The ID people knew that many mainstream religious supporters of science and evolution were comfortable with methodological naturalism but of course were not philosophical naturalists so their goal was to conflate the two ideas as much as possible so that Christians, confronted with having to decide whether they were anti-evolution or pro-evolution, or pro-ID or anti-ID, would also feel they were choosing between whether god existed or not. The ID goal was to drive a wedge between mainstream Christians, whose various vague formulations of ‘theistic evolution’ made it seem compatible with belief in a god, and the scientific community. They were partially aided in this effort by the bursting on to the scene of the ‘New Atheists’ whose publicly professed naturalistic philosophy was grounded in evolutionary theory. The ID people would point to the New Atheists and say, “See, we told you that evolution as currently taught is anti-god”.

ID strategists felt that if they could split off the mainstream Christians from supporting evolution, then mass opposition to teaching alternatives to evolution in science classes would collapse and theories like ID that had a quasi-scientific veneer, could be taught. That would be the nose of the camel under the tent, the first step in a process in which increasingly religious ideas were introduced into public schools, not to mention prayers and Bible study and the like, leading to the eventual overthrow of evolution as the dominant theory of biology and the replacement of methodological naturalism by theories that allowed for divine intervention.

As I said, this was the long game they were playing that required persuading people that ID was a secular theory that was a viable scientific alternative to evolutionary theory. In order for the strategy to succeed, they had to keep the overtly religious young Earth creationists at arm’s length because the idea of the Earth being 6,000 years old and Adam and Eve being historical figures and the rest of the Genesis story being literally true would be the kiss of death for ID with not only the scientific community but also with mainstream Christianity that had long ago given up on strict biblical literalism.

The problem for them was that the mass of the people who fervently opposed the teaching of evolution in schools, and were the foot soldiers in this battle, consisted largely of young Earth creationists. The IDers needed them to do the ground work but these young Earthers lacked their level of sophistication and never seemed to quite understand this long-term strategy. They wanted religion back in the schools and they wanted it now. They saw the ID people as serving their ends, not the other way around, and seemed to think that the IDers professed beliefs in an old Earth were just a ruse and that they would throw off the mask at some point and reveal themselves to be Biblical literalists.

The ID people tried to placate them as much as possible and succeeded for a while by papering over these differences. But the utterly clueless Dover school board completely messed up the strategy by adopting a policy that mixed ID, young Earth creationism, religion, and evolution into one, big, complicated, but clearly unconstitutional mess that the judge in the Dover trial in 2005 seemed to have little difficulty in throwing out. In the process he ruled that ID was a religious theory, something that the ID people had sought to carefully avoid along, and that sealed its fate.

This story is an apt example of the Robert Burns couplet from his poem To a Mouse.

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley”

All these ideas are explored is some depth in my book God vs. Darwin.

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    An excellent and informative account of the ID movement and of its basis and history, Mano.

  2. says

    Metaphysical naturalism asserts that the material world is all there is

    Can’t these lying rats stop deliberately mis-characterizing science, even to themselves, for a second???

    Naturalism doesn’t assert anything; it’s an epistemology based on observation. It says that all we can know depends on what we can observe, and hypothetical un-observable stuff is unknowable. It’s not that naturalism asserts that the material world is all there is – in fact naturalist physicists have hypothesized plenty of things that are not “there”: cosmic strings, branes and multiverses. Naturalists could just as easily be hypothesizing souls and gods – but they aren’t: because all the evidence for them appears to be carefully crafted to avoid them being observable which is a pretty good indication that they don’t exist. (Though, things that “exist” are observable; that’s part of how we define “exist”)

    They should be polishing their theory of ensoulment: how is it that souls are unmeasurable, unquantifiable, undetectable, and we know nothing about their operation, composition, or how they interact with matter – yet believers insist they “exist”?

  3. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Whatever else you might say about the ID movement, you have to concede that the leaders were a highly sophisticated lot, well-versed in science and the history and philosophy of science.

    “cdesign proponentsists” ? No. I won’t concede that. They’re a bunch of hacks. A couple of them are pretty smart and educated in their domains of expertise, but they generally never have expertise in actual biology. I mean, it wasn’t high school amateur hour, but neither were their arguments terribly nuanced. They didn’t need to be in order to pursue their agenda with their particular plan that they lay out.

    PS:
    As always, I must interject:

    The claim “science and religion are compatible” is false. To make this claim, one also has to artificially limit science in such a way as to make scientists look dogmatic. I’ve argued with plenty of creationists online, and the smart ones see this problem – or they see part of the problem. Inevitably, one of the first things that I ask for is evidence in support of their supernatural beliefs. When I ask for evidence for their god, or for a 6000 year old Earth, etc., the smart creationists will counter this demand as follows:

    Creationist says:
    1- Scientists say that science can only investigate natural claims.
    2- Science is the only correct way to investigate claims with evidence, and justify claims with evidence.
    3- You (the figurative you), the atheist, won’t accept my creationist claims unless I present evidence.

    Thus, you’re asking for the impossible. By the rules that you (the figurative you) the atheist have set up, I cannot win. The game is rigged. You’ve automatically rejected in advance any possibility of me showing that I am right. I cannot present evidence for my supernatual claim, because the only way to interpret evidence is science, and because science can only investigate natural claims.

    The problem is that the smart creationist is entirely right.

    Premise 1 is just wrong.

    The proper form of methodological naturalism, tentative methodological naturalism, aka provisional methodological naturalism, is very much like the 1775 declaration of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris: (paraphase) “the Academy will no longer accept or deal with proposals concerning perpetual motion”. This declaration was a time-saving measure. Because of the numerous past failures of perpetual motion machines, the Academy concluded that it’s probably impossible, and they also concluded that further investigation was a waste of their time. It was not a declaration of absolute certainty that perpetual motion machines are impossible. It was also not a declaration with absolute certainty that the Academy would never again investigate perpetual motion machines. Rather, it was the implicit declaration that, pending the independent discovery and widespread publication and confirmation of a perpetual motion machine, the Academy will not investigate such things and will devote its resouces elsewhere.

    The history of empirical observation is countless examples of the failure of supernatural explanations and the success of materialistic, reductionistic explanations. Consequently, the modern scientific community is justified to adopt a similar declaration to the Academy’s declaration. It is not a declaration of absolute certainty that supernatural explanations do not exist. It’s not a declaration of absolute certainty that the scientific method will never be brought to bear on supernatural explanations. It’s the declaration: “Based on past experience, investigations into supernatural explanations are almost certainly a waste of time, and unless that situation changes, we scientists are no longer going to waste our personal time with investigations into supernatural explanations.”

    In short, when the Academy made their declaration, the accumulated evidence was sufficient to adopt the (tentative) belief that perpetual motion machines do not exist. One might call this metaphysical “no perpetual motion machines”. Based on this tentative scientific conclusion, they adopted the time-saving principle of methodological “no perpetual motion machines”.

    In exactly the same way, the evidence is more than good enough for the (tentative) belief that the supernetural does not exist. This can be known as metaphysical naturalism. Based on this tentative scientific conclusion, scientists properly adopt the time-saving principle known as provisional methodological naturalism.

  4. John Morales says

    EL:

    As always, I must interject:

    Nope, you chose to do so. As do I herewith.

    In exactly the same way, the evidence is more than good enough for the (tentative) belief that the supernetural does not exist. This can be known as metaphysical naturalism.

    Told you before, telling you again: if it’s tentative, it’s not axiomatic, and therefore not a metaphysic.

    (The very paper you adduced some time ago to justify your claim even says so: “We conclude that IMN [Intrinsic Metaphysical Naturalism], because of its philosophical flaws, proves to be an ill-advised strategy to counter the claims of IDC [Intelligent Design Creationism]. Evolutionary scientists are on firmer ground if they discard supernatural explanations on purely evidential grounds, instead of ruling them out by philosophical fiat.”

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To John Morales
    Apologies for misusing the word “metaphysical”. I was unaware that the word “metaphysical” necessarily carries the connotation “held with absolute confidence and absolute certainty”. I suspect that you’re wrong on this connotation, but I’ll try to see if I can use alternative phrasings.

  6. John Morales says

    (sigh)

    I was unaware that the word “metaphysical” necessarily carries the connotation “held with absolute confidence and absolute certainty”.

    However did you interpret what I wrote as claiming that?

    Metaphysics refers to ontological issues, whereas empiricism refers to epistemological issues; methodological naturalism is a form of epistemology, whereas metaphysical naturalism is a form of ontology.

    Frankly, the supposed distinction made in that paper between Intrinsic Metaphysical Naturalism and Provisional Metaphysical Naturalism is basically bafflegab — changing the label doesn’t change the referents, which are, respectively, metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism.
    And the very point of that paper was to claim that one should not claim that science is based on metaphysical naturalism (IMN), but rather on methodological naturalism (PMN), because it’s a bad move

    Though it is your move.

  7. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To John

    Can you not make empirical discoveries about metaphysics? I think that you can. That’s what I’m doing / claiming.

    Also:

    And the very point of that paper was to claim that one should not claim that science is based on metaphysical naturalism (IMN), but rather on methodological naturalism (PMN), because it’s a bad move

    This is a wrong understanding of the paper. The paper does not claim that science has a foundation of methodological naturalism. The paper’s position, and my position, again, is this:

    At the start of empirical discovery and investigation thousands / millions of years ago, it was a legitimate open question whether the supernatural existed. Further, it was conceptually possible that the methods of empirical investigation (e.g. science) could have discovered and confirmed that supernatural stuff existed. They could have confirmed that there are river spirits that make rivers flood, etc. After a while, some people noticed that certain explanations, supernatural explanations, never worked, and there was almost always a materialistic, reductionistic explanation that did work. Then, they adopted methodological naturalism to shape future inquiry. Previous inquiry was not so limited. Further, even future inquiry could return to the supernatural after a discovery of very strong evidence that should make us overturn this tentative “ban” on investigation into the supernatural.

    Science came first. Methodological naturalism, and philosophical materialism aka philosophical naturalism aka the belief “there is no supernatural” came second.

  8. John Morales says

    Heh. You keep conflating ontology and epistemology.

    So, you think where Mano has it wrong when he writes “[…] philosophical naturalism, the idea that the material world governed by natural laws is all there is and thus a priori rules out any possibility of any kind of supernatural phenomena.”, because he should rather have written it “[…] a posteriori rules out any possibility of any kind of supernatural phenomena”.

    Ruled out, done deal, chapter closed, matter settled; no new evidence need be considered ever again. Right.

    (For the last time: either it’s provisional, or it’s definitive — but it cannot be both; definitively provisional just means provisional, as does provisionally definitive)

  9. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’m sorry. I’m really not trying to be thick. Could you please try again? I didn’t understand your last post at all.

    Heh. You keep conflating ontology and epistemology.

    Mayhaps.

    Can we try to get some common terms please?
    – Philosophical naturalism, the belief that the natural is all that exists; there is no supernatural.
    – Materialism, see philosophical naturalism.

    Philosophical naturalism can be held as an a priori axiom, or it can be held as a conclusion based on some other reasoning (inductive, deductive, both). Am I ok thus far?

    It’s rather silly to assume philosophical naturalism as an a priori axiom. However, philosophical naturalism is a defensible belief on the basis of existing scientific evidence. With me thus far?

    (For the last time: either it’s provisional, or it’s definitive — but it cannot be both; definitively provisional just means provisional, as does provisionally definitive)

    And you completely lost me. I see no previous use of the word “definitive” in this discussion. I, and the paper, are using the word “provisional” to mean “tentative”, “subject to review”, “subject to change”.

  10. John Morales says

    EL:

    Mayhaps.

    <snicker>

    Again: epistemology is about how stuff is known; ontology is about what things exist.

    Can we try to get some common terms please?
    – Philosophical naturalism, the belief that the natural is all that exists; there is no supernatural.
    – Materialism, see philosophical naturalism.

    – Philosophical naturalism, yes.
    – Materialism, not quite. The concept to which you mean to refer is ‘substance monism’.

    Philosophical naturalism can be held as an a priori axiom, or it can be held as a conclusion based on some other reasoning (inductive, deductive, both). Am I ok thus far?

    But science holds it in neither way; it investigates whatever is amenable to investigation — which hitherto has been explainable as natural stuff*; its origin was the philosophical branch called ‘natural philosophy’, in contrast to other branches.

    It’s rather silly to assume philosophical naturalism as an a priori axiom. However, philosophical naturalism is a defensible belief on the basis of existing scientific evidence. With me thus far?

    Now you’re conflating science with scientists. Science extends as far as physics, but not to metaphysics.

    It’s rather silly to assume philosophical naturalism as an a priori axiom. However, philosophical naturalism is a defensible belief on the basis of existing scientific evidence. With me thus far?

    Well, yes — it’s a belief every bit as defensible as the belief that all swans must be white was, back in the day. As defensible as the belief that the Sun could only possibly be a few hundred million years old, back in the day.

    And you completely lost me. I see no previous use of the word “definitive” in this discussion. I, and the paper, are using the word “provisional” to mean “tentative”, “subject to review”, “subject to change”.

    Synonyms and near-synonyms avail you nothing; but if you mean to say that tentatively, and subject to review and subject to change, everything science has so far explained resorts only to substance monism, then I grant you that.

    However, when you claim that science has proven that there is no such thing as the supernatural, I again refer you to my original claim that you over-reach — even if you claim that putative proof is a posteriori rather than a priori.

    * Which is not to say that unnatural stuff would not perforce be amenable to investigation.

  11. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Science extends as far as physics, but not to metaphysics.

    Chances are, I simply reject “metaphysics” as a meaningful concept and a meaningful field of study, but hopefully we can ignore that for now.

    Synonyms and near-synonyms avail you nothing; but if you mean to say that tentatively, and subject to review and subject to change, everything science has so far explained resorts only to substance monism, then I grant you that.

    However, when you claim that science has proven that there is no such thing as the supernatural, I again refer you to my original claim that you over-reach — even if you claim that putative proof is a posteriori rather than a priori.

    In your apparent meaning of the P word, I have made no such claim, and I have never made any such claim. In previous threads where I, unfortunately, used the P word, I carefully defined the P word to its more common colloquial meaning along the lines of “demonstrated likely to be true to a high degree of confidence, in the normal scientific sense of tentative confirmation of a hypothesis”.

    In this thread, the only person to use the P word (“proof” or “prove”) is you. In this thread, I used phrases like: “the evidence is more than good enough for the (tentative) belief that the supernetural does not exist”.

    Finally, you’re speaking in vagueness, and it’s hard to know what you’re addressing. Given that you’re attributing statements to me that I have not made, and explicitly distanced myself from, I don’t know what to do.

    Given my naive philosophical understanding, and with a bit more – a lot more – principle of charity on your part, I would like you to try again on my post #3, and explain where you think that I went wrong. In particular, replace “metaphysical” with “philosophical”, please, and reply again.

  12. John Morales says

    EL:

    In particular, replace “metaphysical” with “philosophical”, please, and reply again.

    That would be pointless. All metaphysics is philosophy, but not all philosophy is metaphysics.

    My position was well-put by Mano in an earlier post, which directly addressed your claims: ‘Proving’ a negative: “So while I agree with EL’s concluding statement that “the evidence strongly supports an impersonal, material world that evolves according to simple, impersonal, material, mathematical laws”, it is quite a different matter to go from there to argue that therefore we have proved it to be so with any sense of certainty.”

    (So, we are all in agreement, right? 😉 )

  13. John Morales says

    PS EL — re your #3:

    To make this claim, one also has to artificially limit science in such a way as to make scientists look dogmatic.

    A classical definition of knowledge is justified true belief (Gettier put a kink on that), and scientists (such as our good host) when being scientific only claim justification, not truth.

    If they did claim truth, as well, then they would indeed be dogmatic, not just look dogmatic.

  14. John Morales says

    PPS re #3 still:

    [Mano]Whatever else you might say about the ID movement, you have to concede that the leaders were a highly sophisticated lot, well-versed in science and the history and philosophy of science.

    “cdesign proponentsists” ? No. I won’t concede that. They’re a bunch of hacks. A couple of them are pretty smart and educated in their domains of expertise, but they generally never have expertise in actual biology. I mean, it wasn’t high school amateur hour, but neither were their arguments terribly nuanced. They didn’t need to be in order to pursue their agenda with their particular plan that they lay out.

    So their strategy and their method allowed for the pursuit of their agenda without requiring terrible nuance.

    How is that unsophisticated?

    (And it’s cute that you write as if IDC was about biology, rather than about social engineering)

    Do you dispute this claim from the OP?

    [EL] The ID goal was to drive a wedge between mainstream Christians, whose various vague formulations of ‘theistic evolution’ made it seem compatible with belief in a god, and the scientific community. They were partially aided in this effort by the bursting on to the scene of the ‘New Atheists’ whose publicly professed naturalistic philosophy was grounded in evolutionary theory. The ID people would point to the New Atheists and say, “See, we told you that evolution as currently taught is anti-god”.

  15. John Morales says

    [mutter…] The bracketed attribution above was intended to be in the second item of the first quotation for balance; I hope it’s obvious to the reader that the second quotation is from the OP and not from EL.

  16. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I largely agree to what Mano writes here:

    The ID goal was to drive a wedge between mainstream Christians, whose various vague formulations of ‘theistic evolution’ made it seem compatible with belief in a god, and the scientific community. They were partially aided in this effort by the bursting on to the scene of the ‘New Atheists’ whose publicly professed naturalistic philosophy was grounded in evolutionary theory. The ID people would point to the New Atheists and say, “See, we told you that evolution as currently taught is anti-god”.

    Two nits.

    1: I skipped this earlier, but I’ll say it not. I would note that this is not specific to the “new atheists”. This proper and correct belief “science and belief in god are incompatible” goes back way longer to that, and to much older atheists, such as Baron d’Holbach in 1770 with his The System Of Nature, which exposes basically the same view. Baron d’Holbach uses (Newtonian) physics instead of evolution to argue for the conclusion “there is no god”. Just like Sean Carroll uses modern theories of fundamental physics to argue that there is no god. It’s all roughly the same idea, and it’s been around for quite a while, and it’s about time that self respecting scientists, especially atheist scientists, stop denying that science (and the available evidence) lead to these conclusions, and it is perverse to disagree.

    2; Going off the above point: I would disagree on one other substantial point. I think that telling the truth is more effective in the long run compared to telling a lie. Telling religious people “science doesn’t contradict your religion” is a lie, and I think our movement would be better served by telling the truth, and that truth is “science contradicts your religion”. For example, the tactics of the NSCE and Eugenie Scott may have been politically wise for achieving the short term goal of winning the Dover trial, but their core arguments involving Gould’s NOMA are flatly wrong, and I believe that relying on these falsehoods will do more harm than good overall.

    My position was well-put by Mano in an earlier post, which directly addressed your claims: ‘Proving’ a negative: “So while I agree with EL’s concluding statement that “the evidence strongly supports an impersonal, material world that evolves according to simple, impersonal, material, mathematical laws”, it is quite a different matter to go from there to argue that therefore we have proved it to be so with any sense of certainty.”
    (So, we are all in agreement, right? ? )

    Perhaps. Mano’s statement is confusing. I don’t understand how evidence can “strongly support” a claim, and yet be unable to prove the claim with any sense of certainty. If the available evidence strongly supports a claim, then the claim is demonstrated to a high degree of confidence. Isn’t this what the words mean? I am confused.

    If you agree that the only reasonable conclusion from looking at the evidence is “there is no supernatural, there are no gods, there is no magic, etc.”, and if you believe that we arrived at this conclusion by using the methods of science on the available historical evidence, then we agree. Otherwise, we disagree.

    PS:

    A classical definition of knowledge is justified true belief (Gettier put a kink on that),

    The whole arcane discussion about what it means to be “knowledge” or not – it’s just not interesting, nor relevant. It’s word games. I am thoroughly unimpressed with Gettier problems. It’s attacking an artificial and irrelevant definition of “knowledge”. I don’t care if my beliefs qualify as “knowledge” or not under some arcane definition. I care about whether my beliefs are true. While not entirely accurate, I like how Matt Dillahunty puts it: I want to have as many true beliefs as possible, and as many false beliefs as possible. I care about whether my beliefs are true. I care about how much certainty and trust I can put into my beliefs. I care about how frequently my beliefs are wrong. Thus, I care about the processes by which I arrive at my beliefs, because that process is what determines these things.

  17. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PPS:
    I believe that I am thoroughly unimpressed with Gettier problems because I long ago accepted that all of my beliefs are held to non-absolute standards, and that I can be wrong about practically anything. I realized this most clearly when I read Richard Carrier, and realized that the Bayesian approach is the correct formal idealized approach to all empirical (and historical) reasoning.

  18. John Morales says

    EnlightenmentLiberal, feeling loquacious, so…

    I largely agree to what Mano writes [..]

    Therein we are agreement.

    Two nits.

    1: I skipped this earlier, but I’ll say it not. I would note that this is not specific to the “new atheists”.

    But there was no such claim. The claim was “They were partially aided in this effort by the bursting on to the scene of the ‘New Atheists’ ” — which you actually quoted — and not that it was specifically aided by them.

    (Hey, good that you will say it. And you did!)

    Then,

    2; Going off the above point: I would disagree on one other substantial point.

    Not only would you, you actually did.

    (Your use of the subjunctive entertains me)

    I think that telling the truth is more effective in the long run compared to telling a lie.

    A quaint belief. Personally, I think it depends.

    For example, the tactics of the NSCE and Eugenie Scott may have been politically wise for achieving the short term goal of winning the Dover trial, but their core arguments involving Gould’s NOMA are flatly wrong, and I believe that relying on these falsehoods will do more harm than good overall.

    Interesting. I actually read this post as implying IDC is a spent force, which hardly seems like doing more harm than if it were otherwise.

    (Obviously, I concur; cf. my #1)

    Perhaps. Mano’s statement is confusing. I don’t understand how evidence can “strongly support” a claim, and yet be unable to prove the claim with any sense of certainty. If the available evidence strongly supports a claim, then the claim is demonstrated to a high degree of confidence. Isn’t this what the words mean? I am confused.

    You certainly are!

    Mano was quoting you therein — comment #34 in the thread which prompted the post I adduced.

    You wrote therein: “It was obvious to Baron d’Holbach, who is one of the first famous modern western atheists. His writings (circa 1770) are clear, and quite insightful. Some of his particular scientific ideas were wrong, but he was right in his general position that the evidence strongly supports an impersonal, material world that evolves according to simple, impersonal, material, mathematical laws.”

    If you agree that the only reasonable conclusion from looking at the evidence is “there is no supernatural, there are no gods, there is no magic, etc.”, and if you believe that we arrived at this conclusion by using the methods of science on the available historical evidence, then we agree.

    Yep, I concur that we agree. Not that I thereby resile from anything I’ve posted herein.

    The whole arcane discussion about what it means to be “knowledge” or not – it’s just not interesting, nor relevant.

    Ahem. You’ve just dismissed the very field of epistemology. (!)

    It’s word games. I am thoroughly unimpressed with Gettier problems. It’s attacking an artificial and irrelevant definition of “knowledge”.

    Well then, you are less ignorant than I.

    (Care to share the non-artificial and non-irrelevant definition which puts mine to shame?)

    I don’t care if my beliefs qualify as “knowledge” or not under some arcane definition. I care about whether my beliefs are true. While not entirely accurate, I like how Matt Dillahunty puts it: I want to have as many true beliefs as possible, and as many false beliefs as possible. I care about whether my beliefs are true. I care about how much certainty and trust I can put into my beliefs. I care about how frequently my beliefs are wrong. Thus, I care about the processes by which I arrive at my beliefs, because that process is what determines these things.

    Unreal.

    You care whether you believe is true, seeking that it be so, yet care naught about whether or how those beliefs qualify as “knowledge”. Got it.

    While not entirely accurate, I like how Matt Dillahunty puts it: I want to have as many true beliefs as possible, and as many false beliefs as possible. I care about whether my beliefs are true. I care about how much certainty and trust I can put into my beliefs. I care about how frequently my beliefs are wrong. Thus, I care about the processes by which I arrive at my beliefs, because that process is what determines these things.

    Wow.

    I have already in this comment quoted you: “The whole arcane discussion about what it means to be “knowledge” or not – it’s just not interesting, nor relevant.”.

    How does that concord with the part I emphasised?

    I believe that I am thoroughly unimpressed with Gettier problems because I long ago accepted that all of my beliefs are held to non-absolute standards, and that I can be wrong about practically anything.

    Gettier cases. You apparently miss their significance. It’s not about whether one can be right, is about how someone can accidentally be right.

    Someone can be right, thereby having true (True!) knowledge, they are justified in believing they are justified in that belief… but their justification is not veridical.

    I realized this most clearly when I read Richard Carrier, and realized that the Bayesian approach is the correct formal idealized approach to all empirical (and historical) reasoning.

    !

    PS exposes → espouses @16.1. I get you.

  19. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    But there was no such claim. The claim was “They were partially aided in this effort by the bursting on to the scene of the ‘New Atheists’ ” — which you actually quoted — and not that it was specifically aided by them.

    Just being clear. Sorry. I thought it might be read to say that.

    Ahem. You’ve just dismissed the very field of epistemology. (!)

    (Care to share the non-artificial and non-irrelevant definition which puts mine to shame?)

    You care whether you believe is true, seeking that it be so, yet care naught about whether or how those beliefs qualify as “knowledge”. Got it.

    The word “knowledge” is just a word. I can live my life just fine without pontificating over the exact meaning of the word “knowledge”, and what qualifies as knowledge, and what does not. Imagine a culture that doesn’t speak English. Imagine a culture that speaks a language that has words that roughly mean “true”, “reason (for having a belief)” e.g. “justification”, and “belief”, but no word that corresponds to the English word “knowledge”. They could get along just fine, doing all of the science that we do. There’s no need for this annoying word “knowledge”.

    Do my methods lead to situations where I’m right by luck? Well, if this happens often enough, then there’s a contradiction almost by definition. If the method happens to produce true beliefs 99.99% of the time, then it’s not “by luck”. The method works. To arrive at a true belief “by luck”, that implies that the method misfired. But, all methods will misfire, e.g. have false positives. This isn’t terribly noteworthy. This is a simple – and quite obvious – fact about life. I do strive to reduce false positives, e.g. false beliefs, and I strive to do that by improving my epistemological methods. Does that mean I sometimes fall prey to what some people call Gettier problems? Sure. So what? I don’t have this arbitrary and unnatural absolute standard of 100% absolutely true. I don’t work in absolutes. No one does. We work in probabilities, estimates, levels of confidence, degrees of certainty. Doubt is ever-present. Again, the Gettier problem seems to apply only to certain academic, and esoteric, analysis of epistemology.

    Take the standard example. A person is on a road, and sees many fake barns. These barn-like things are just the front of a barn that faces the road. In addition to the dozen barn-like things, there’s one real barn. The person believes that they are all barns, and therefore he also thinks that “barn-like thing #N” is a barn, where barn-like thing #N is the real barn, and the other barn-like things are not real barns. So, he has a bunch of false beliefs, and one true belief. He used the same reasoning to arrive at all of these beliefs, aka the same justification. Most of the beliefs are false, but one of the beliefs is true. This bothers some people. It doesn’t bother me. I almost see why it should bother me, but I have to twist my mind so much into this unnatural way of thinking, and I cannot quite do it.

    In my language, if I am in this barn situation, and I later found out that these barn-like things are not real barns (except for the 1 real barn), then the proper thing to do is to examine my epistemological methods for errors and for possible improvement. After reflection and self examination, it may be that I properly determine that my methods are as good as they can be, and that there is no possible improvement to my methods. All possible methods that a human being, a finite creature with limited access to reality, can misfire. All possible methods can produce false negatives, and they all can produce false positives, e.g. Gettier true beliefs. What’s the big deal? I don’t see it. There is no problem here. There only appears to be a problem in a highly artificial analysis that depends on a certain esoteric goal (the goal to obtain knowledge) which is embodied in this peculiar and highly esoteric definition of the word “knowledge”. As soon as you word taboo the word, the problem goes away.
    http://lesswrong.com/lw/nu/taboo_your_words/
    The seeming Aesop of this story is to recognize that we are all fallible beings, and we might be wrong about any of our beliefs, and we should expect to be wrong frequently (with lots of beliefs every day, almost inevitably some of those beliefs are going to be wrong), and that we cannot escape this situation because all possible epistemological methods have these “problems”.

  20. John Morales says

    EL:

    The word “knowledge” is just a word. I can live my life just fine without pontificating over the exact meaning of the word “knowledge”, and what qualifies as knowledge, and what does not.

    Yes, yes you can.

    But then, as I noted, you also claim “I care about whether my beliefs are true. I care about how much certainty and trust I can put into my beliefs. I care about how frequently my beliefs are wrong. Thus, I care about the processes by which I arrive at my beliefs, because that process is what determines these things.”

    How you manage that without pontificating over the exact meaning of the word “knowledge”, and what qualifies as knowledge is — at least so far — a mystery to me.

    Imagine a culture that doesn’t speak English. Imagine a culture that speaks a language that has words that roughly mean “true”, “reason (for having a belief)” e.g. “justification”, and “belief”, but no word that corresponds to the English word “knowledge”. They could get along just fine, doing all of the science that we do. There’s no need for this annoying word “knowledge”.

    Not in that imaginary culture, no.

    [stuff]

    The seeming Aesop of this story is to recognize that we are all fallible beings, and we might be wrong about any of our beliefs, and we should expect to be wrong frequently (with lots of beliefs every day, almost inevitably some of those beliefs are going to be wrong), and that we cannot escape this situation because all possible epistemological methods have these “problems”.

    Seeming, because you’ve asserted it is such. Sure.

    And therefore, you can’t claim that science proves there is (and cannot be) such a thing as the ‘supernatural’, right? Because it is not an analytic, but rather an empirical claim.

    (And yet, analytic knowledge actually exists — though Gödel proved it cannot necessarily be provable or complete)

  21. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    How you manage that without pontificating over the exact meaning of the word “knowledge”, and what qualifies as knowledge is — at least so far — a mystery to me.

    Similarly, it’s a mystery to me why you are obsessing over a particular word of the modern English language. It’s just a word. It’s also a mystery to me why you’re obsessing over a very peculiar and artificial definition of “knowledge”, and treating this as the holy grail of epistemology. It’s not. One can have a quite workable epistemology by just throwing that particular concept to the side, and adopting a slightly different perspective in its place. You asked “what perspective?”. I tried to answer. Let me try again.

    At the most basic level: I have goals. I want to achieve my goals. Thus, I want to make effective plans to achieve my goals. Thus, I want to have useful beliefs about my external reality, in order to make effective plans, in order to achieve my goals. Thus, I must have effective methods to obtain useful beliefs, in order to obtain useful beliefs, in order to make effective plans, in order to achieve my goals. “A set of effective methods to obtain useful beliefs” is an epistemology. The study and investigation of plans for their effectiveness at finding effective beliefs – that is the study of epistemology. This is all I care about. I care about having beliefs which are useful in the context of creating effective plans in order to achieve my goals. In normal conversation, I use the word “true” as an approximate synonym of “useful” in the above context.

    Will I suffer from Gettier problems? Yes. So will anyone else using any possible epistemology. It’s inescapeable consequence of using empirical, error-prone reasoning.

    analytic knowledge actually exists

    Yes and no. I’m of the faction which says that there is no hard line between synthetic and analytic. I’m also of the extreme faction that says that there is no such thing as a knowable pure analytic claim.

    To illustrate, take the example of the recent “proof” of the Kepler conjecture. The initial version was judged by professional mathematician referees, who reported that they were “99%” confident that the proof was correct. That sounds pretty Bayesian to me.

    For the moment, I’ll accept the notion that it’s a brute fact that either the proof is correct according to the normal rules of mathematics, i.e. ZF, or it contains an error. Similarly, I’ll accept the notion that it’s a brute fact that either the number of gumballs in this jar is even, or the number is odd (assuming a well-formed-ness number of gumballs, i.e. no “half a gumball”). Both are brute facts about “reality”. However, we only have partial access to reality. For the gumball jar, I can take it open and count them, but I might make a mistake while counting. For the proof of the Kepler conjecture, I can verify every step by hand. In both cases, I might make a mistake during the verification process. In both cases, my knowledge, my belief, about the world is not held to absolute certainty. There is possibility of error, even for this purely analytic claim.

    What I said applies equally well to the notion “there are no married bachelors”. The proof of that statement is trivial, whereas the proof of the Kepler conjecture is very long and complicated. However, in both cases, I only have approximate, inexact, error-prone access to the truth. Even for the trivial purely analytic statement “there are no married bachelors”, I believe that it is true, but I am not convinced beyond all doubt that it is true. I might have made a mistake in the analysis of the proof. The odds of me making a mistake in the confirmation of the proof is extremely small, but still non-zero. In sum, all of our knowledge of purely analytic statements are themselves products of empiricism and error-prone processes. — Take along look at the language used by the referees who judged the first version of the Kepler conjecture: “99% certain” (IIRC).

    So, if you mean to say that you can know the truth of some analytic statement beyond all doubt, with no chance of error, then I say that you are wrong and you are fooling yourself. Even for the simple bachelor statement (“there are no married bachelors”), you cannot be absolutely certain of its truth.

    And therefore, you can’t claim that science proves there is (and cannot be) such a thing as the ‘supernatural’, right? Because it is not an analytic, but rather an empirical claim.

    I really don’t understand what you’re getting at. You’re not making any sense.

    Please stop attributing claims like this that include the P word (“proof” and “prove”) to me. I’ve already made it abundantly clear that I’ve made no such claim in the sense where “prove” means “show true beyond all doubt”. I have only made the much more modest claim that, starting with the available historical evidence, with science, one can demonstrate – not prove – demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt – not all doubt – that supernatural stuff does not exist. Again, the confidence of this claim, this belief, is very high, but not absolute. No absolute 100% confidence here. Just 99.9% confidence (grossly approximate number). Some degree of confidence that is high, but less than 100%.

    I don’t know anything to absolute certainty, but I do know that the supernatural does not exist, just like I know that the Sun will rise tomorrow, just like I know that I have 10 toes even though I cannot currently see my two feet right now (I’m wearing shoes). I could be mistaken on any of those claims, but I’m probably not.

    (Where I use the word “(to) know (something)” to simply mean that I believe [something is true] with a high, but not absolute, degree of confidence.)

  22. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Wait what? I just noticed this:

    And therefore, you can’t claim that science proves there is (and cannot be) such a thing as the ‘supernatural’, right? Because it is not an analytic, but rather an empirical claim.

    Specifically:

    (and cannot be)

    What the fuck are you talking about? How could you possibly get that from what I’ve written? I again am forced to question your honesty, integrity, and / or reading ability. There is no possible way that you could get that from what I’ve written extensively written to the contrary in discussion with you. This is also explicitly contradicted by the Boudry paper.

    Quoting the Boudry paper:
    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/methodological-naturalism
    Bolding and italics in original

    In contrast with this view, which we will criticize in the section below, we defend an alternative view of MN and of its legitimate function in scientific practice. According to what we call Provisory or Pragmatic Methodological Naturalism (PMN), MN is a provisory and empirically grounded commitment to naturalistic causes and explanations, which in principle is revocable by extraordinary empirical evidence. According to this conception, MN did not drop from thin air, but is just the best methodological guideline that emerged from the history of science (Shanks 2004; Coyne 2009; Edis 2006), in particular the pattern of consistent success of naturalistic explanations. Appeals to the supernatural have consistently proven to be premature, and science has never made headway by pursuing them. The rationale for PMN thus excludes IMN: if supernatural explanations are rejected because they have failed in the past, this entails that, at least in some sense, they might have succeeded. The fact that they didn’t is of high interest and shows that science does have a bearing on the question of the supernatural.

    Emphasis: Might have succeeded in the past. In principle, could be overturned in the future by extraordinary empirical evidence, e.g. it might succeed in the future. The supernatural might exist.

    To attribute to me the position “science proves there cannot be such a thing as the supernatural” is flagrantly ridiculous. I just spent so many words, saying in so many different ways, that I don’t assert “the supernatural cannot exist by definition”, nor “the supernatural does not exist by axiomatic fiat”, etc. I just spent so much time saying that I could be wrong, and the supernatural could exist, and science could confirm this. How the fuck can you get the exact opposite from that?

    Seriously. I know that you are not this incompetent. The only plausible alternatives seem to be maliciousness (pretending my position is something else), or willful negligence (not even bothering to read what I’m writing, nor read my sources such as the Boudry paper, for full comprehension).

    You’re such a fucking dishonest shit.

  23. John Morales says

    EnlightenmentLiberal:

    What I said applies equally well to the notion “there are no married bachelors”. The proof of that statement is trivial, whereas the proof of the Kepler conjecture is very long and complicated. However, in both cases, I only have approximate, inexact, error-prone access to the truth. Even for the trivial purely analytic statement “there are no married bachelors”, I believe that it is true, but I am not convinced beyond all doubt that it is true. I might have made a mistake in the analysis of the proof.

    Remarkable. For you, logical entailment is nonexistent, nor is empiricism.

    So, if I were to say that it’s analytically true that the set {1, 2, 4} contains the element {2}, you would not be convinced — you seriously hold that it’s possible that the set {1, 2, 4} does not contain the element {2}, even though it’s fully enumerated and it is most evidently there.

    (Also, presumably, you would doubt that the cardinality of that set is 3)

    We live in different worlds, EnlightenmentLiberal.

  24. John Morales says

    PS EL @22:

    To attribute to me the position “science proves there cannot be such a thing as the supernatural” is flagrantly ridiculous.

    Fine. Therefore, your claim is that it is not your position that “science proves there cannot be such a thing as the supernatural”.

    (I certainly don’t dispute that claim!)

    The supernatural might exist.

    Fine. In your very own words, too.

    So, surely I am being honest if I claim that EnlightenmentLiberal asserts this professed belief: “The supernatural might exist”. Right?

    (You entertain the possibility that the supernatural exists!)

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Remarkable. For you, logical entailment is nonexistent, nor is empiricism.

    So, if I were to say that it’s analytically true that the set {1, 2, 4} contains the element {2}, you would not be convinced — you seriously hold that it’s possible that the set {1, 2, 4} does not contain the element {2}, even though it’s fully enumerated and it is most evidently there.

    (Also, presumably, you would doubt that the cardinality of that set is 3)

    You’re simply not engaging with my arguments at all. You’re just expressing incredulity, and repeating yourself. Again, my argument is: For your example, maybe one of us made a mistake. It’s exceptionally, exceptionally unlikely in this case, but it’s possible. In the general, people make mistakes in math proofs all the time. People make mistakes verifying math proofs all the time. Just because a T.A. didn’t notice a mistake in your proof on a math test doesn’t mean it’s error free. The T.A. could make a mistake too. And so on. tl;dr Just because you have a verified math proof does not mean that you should be convinced beyond all doubt that the proof is correct.

    So, surely I am being honest if I claim that EnlightenmentLiberal asserts this professed belief: “The supernatural might exist”. Right?

    Pedantically correct. However, context matters, and that could be easily misconstrued. I’d prefer the following context: The supernatural might exist, and the sun might not rise tomorrow. Both are exceptionally unlikely, but we cannot rule out either with 100% confidence. (Practically, we cannot rule out anything with 100% confidence.)

  26. John Morales says

    EL,

    You’re simply not engaging with my arguments at all. You’re just expressing incredulity, and repeating yourself.

    You’re trying to apply epistemic doubt within a domain where it can not apply.

    Again, my argument is: For your example, maybe one of us made a mistake. It’s exceptionally, exceptionally unlikely in this case, but it’s possible. In the general, people make mistakes in math proofs all the time. People make mistakes verifying math proofs all the time.

    That people make mistakes has nothing to do with whether analytical propositions are provably true.

    If ‘bachelor’ means ‘unmarried person’, then the proposition that “All bachelors are unmarried” is necessarily (and thus provably) true. Neither mistakes nor epistemic doubt impinge on that, because it deals with abstracta rather than with reality.

    Just because you have a verified math proof does not mean that you should be convinced beyond all doubt that the proof is correct.

    What I wrote just above extends to logic and mathematics; given a set of axioms and a set of rules of inference, certain propositions can most certainly be irrefutably proven. To doubt that is perverse.

    Where epistemic doubt comes into play is when applying the same operations in the real world — if you have two gummy bears, then if you eat one of them you will have only one gummy bear remaining.

    Pedantically correct. However, context matters, and that could be easily misconstrued. I’d prefer the following context: The supernatural might exist, and the sun might not rise tomorrow. Both are exceptionally unlikely, but we cannot rule out either with 100% confidence. (Practically, we cannot rule out anything with 100% confidence.)

    Surely you mean to write that you do prefer it, not that you would prefer it subject to some unspecified criteria. Trust me, your abuse of the subjunctive mood does not make you more orotund.

    Anyway. Your revised context-rich formulation still means exactly the same thing, so I don’t understand why you imagine it matters.

  27. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Anyway. Your revised context-rich formulation still means exactly the same thing, so I don’t understand why you imagine it matters.

    Quantifying the degree of doubt is important. Imagine the quote mining that could happen otherwise. Plenty of proper credentialed evolutionary biologists will tell you that evolution might be wrong. Without further qauntification of the word “might”, that can easily be misinterpreted by other people to mean that these evolutionary biolgists are harboring serious misgivings and doubts about evolution. It would be a creationist quote-mine bonanza.

    I do not want to be misinterpreted as having serious doubts about my claim “there is no supernatural”. In other words, I’m pretty damn certain. Simultaneously, I do not want to be misinterpreted as holding this belief beyond all doubt and beyond all possibility of revision.

    You’re trying to apply epistemic doubt within a domain where it can not apply.

    But it does apply. Sure these claims might deal with “abstracta” instead of reality, but our knowledge of this abstracta is still imperfect, and we are still fallible creatures, even when dealing with “abstracta”. Are you going to say to me with a straight face that there are certain situations where you are absolutely infallible? When you make that kind of claim about bachelors, are you going to claim absolute, inviolable, infallibility? I won’t make any such ridiculous claim, and if you try to make that claim, then I’ll call you out on it.

  28. John Morales says

    EL:

    I do not want to be misinterpreted as having serious doubts about my claim “there is no supernatural”. In other words, I’m pretty damn certain. Simultaneously, I do not want to be misinterpreted as holding this belief beyond all doubt and beyond all possibility of revision.

    Heh. Like being an agnostic atheist rather than merely an agnostic 🙂

    And so, we circle back to your very first comment on this thread:

    In exactly the same way, the evidence is more than good enough for the (tentative) belief that the supernetural does not exist. This can be known as metaphysical naturalism.

    It really, really isn’t that.

    You make an epistemic claim, and what you’re describing is epistemic naturalism — in contrast, metaphysical naturalism is an ontological claim.

    (Also, as noted elsethread, your conception of the ‘supernatural’ is that of something in principle practice scientifically detectable — which is the normal conception of the ‘natural’)

    But it does apply. Sure these claims might deal with “abstracta” instead of reality, but our knowledge of this abstracta is still imperfect, and we are still fallible creatures, even when dealing with “abstracta”.

    Abstract logical systems are still logical systems.

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It really, really isn’t that.

    You make an epistemic claim, and what you’re describing is epistemic naturalism — in contrast, metaphysical naturalism is an ontological claim.

    Again, apologies. I seemingly misused the word “metaphysical”.

    (Also, as noted elsethread, your conception of the ‘supernatural’ is that of something in principle practice scientifically detectable — which is the normal conception of the ‘natural’)

    We can start this argument again if you want. If the definition of “supernatural” is that it cannot be detected by science, then by definition it does not exist. The distinction between “undetectable” and “non-existence” is irrelevant.

    Abstract logical systems are still logical systems.

    What’s your point? Our knowledge of them, and our use of them, is still fraught with error. We are not infallible.

  30. John Morales says

    EL:

    We can start this argument again if you want. If the definition of “supernatural” is that it cannot be detected by science, then by definition it does not exist.

    The which contention has the hidden premise that science can detect everything which exists.

    I note that the historical record shows science has, over time, detected stuff it could not detect in earlier times due to its advance. Presumably, that stuff the more advanced science detected existed before its detection. Has current science achieved apotheosis?

    As far as definitions go, it’s up to the proponent of a proposition about the supernatural to propound its definition. You made such a proposition, I noted a paradoxical but implicit aspect to it.

    Abstract logical systems are still logical systems.

    What’s your point? Our knowledge of them, and our use of them, is still fraught with error. We are not infallible.

    Domain of applicability. Within those systems, certainty can exist.

  31. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To John
    Short thing first:

    Domain of applicability. Within those systems, certainty can exist.

    What does this even mean? You’re speaking nonsense. Certainty is a property of a belief and a person who holds the belief. Again, we fallible humans don’t have full infallible access to these systems. We only have approximate, error-prone access to these systems. We’re discussing epistemology of humans.

    As for your other bits.

    I am not using the word “science” to refer to “the currently available detecting technology”. I am not using the word “science” to refer to all actual future detecting technology. I am not using the word “science” to refer to all possible detecting technology. I am using the word “science” to refer to the general methods, principles, and values of science, such as the scientific method.

    I am taking the positivism-like approach where I say that if something cannot be detected, by any hypothetical observer, even in principle, then its existence is indistinguishable from its non-existence, and arguing about whether it exists is just as pointless and nonsensical as arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    I am taking the position that the only way that we can learn about our shared observable reality is by using empiricism and evidence, aka science.

    It may be that we never develop technology X, and therefore humans will never be able to “see” the part of the universe Y. However, some hypothetical observer could, in principle, develop technology X, and “see” the part of universe Y. In this case, I’m ok with talking about the potential existence or non-existence of Y. In other words, “existence” as a concept is defined in terms of our sensory experience. In other words, if there is a hammer that I cannot touch, see, smell, taste, or hear, even indirectly, and even including potential other innate senses like telepathy, and including the use of external technological aids, then its existence is indistinguishable from its non-existence, and talking about the existence of such invisible things is nonsense.

    You made such a proposition, I noted a paradoxical but implicit aspect to it.

    No, you made the definition. I just ran with it.

    In the general case, no matter how you define “supernatural”, there are two basic possibilities. 1- If supernatural stuff can be observed, then the general methods, principles, and values of science are the only correct and reliable way to learn about it and investigate it. 2- If supernatural stuff cannot be observed, then there is no epistemological method that can shed any reliable information on it whatsoever – it is outside the bounds of knowledge.

    Perhaps due to the advancement of technology, some phenomenon moves from one category to the other. Perhaps something that was unobservable in practice becomes observable in practice because of the development of a new technology. With this new technology, then the methods of science can be brought to bear, and then we might gain reliable beliefs about it. While it was still unobservable, no one has reliable beliefs about it. One might call this scientism. If you want to call it that, I’m ok with it.

  32. John Morales says

    EL:

    I am taking the positivism-like approach where I say that if something cannot be detected, by any hypothetical observer, even in principle, then its existence is indistinguishable from its non-existence, and arguing about whether it exists is just as pointless and nonsensical as arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you make claims such as “If the definition of “supernatural” is that it cannot be detected by science, then by definition it does not exist.”!

    One might call this scientism. If you want to call it that, I’m ok with it.

    Ah, the appeal to science. The very approach the YEC poster Gary took to sustain his creationist claims.

    (You’re probably no less confident about your interpretation of said science being correct as he is about his interpretation 🙂 )

  33. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you make claims such as “If the definition of “supernatural” is that it cannot be detected by science, then by definition it does not exist.”!

    Sure, with the given caveats and clarifications that I made above.

    Ah, the appeal to science. The very approach the YEC poster Gary took to sustain his creationist claims.

    (You’re probably no less confident about your interpretation of said science being correct as he is about his interpretation 🙂 )

    I am not saying that my particular interpretation of the evidence is correct. I am saying 1- the only way to learn about reality is by using evidence, 2- the only correct way to interpret evidence is to use the basic methods, principles, and values of science.

    There’s a lot of room in that position for legitimate disagreement between reasonable, respectable persons.

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Correction: I am saying that my interpretation is correct. I am saying that maybe I’m wrong. I am also saying that I’m very sure, but not absolutely sure, that the only correct way to interpret evidence is science (which leaves lots of room for error and disagreement), and I am saying that I’m really sure that the only reliable way to learn about reality is to use evidence and science.

  35. John Morales says

    EL:

    I am saying 1- the only way to learn about reality is by using evidence, 2- the only correct way to interpret evidence is to use the basic methods, principles, and values of science.

    Which is the approach the ID movement took.

    (Irreducible complexity!)

    There’s a lot of room in that position for legitimate disagreement between reasonable, respectable persons.

    Again, part of the ID playbook.

    (Teach the controversy!)

  36. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Yes, and? Those connections are pretty specious.

    Are you saying that there’s another reliable way to learn about reality? And what, pray tell, is that? Give me an example.

  37. John Morales says

    I wasn’t, but of course there’s other reliable ways to learn — just not as systematic or good.

    Trial-and-error guesswork. Life experience. School of hard knocks.

    They all teach you about reality.

  38. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Those all sound like science to me, albeit less refined versions of science, and therefore consequently less reliable than the refined versions of science.

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