In Defense of Philosophy of Science

| 69 Comments

A week ago, physicist Mark Perakh posted a short attack on Michael Ruse. He prefaced it with the following:

I dare to claim that the sole value of philosophy of science is its entertaining ability. I doubt that all the multiple opuses debating various aspects of the philosophy of science have ever produced even a minute amount of anything that could be helpful for a scientist, be he/she physicist, biologist, geologist, you name it. It can, though, be harmful, as the case of Ruse seems to illustrate.

This struck a few of us involved with PT as being a profoundly nonsensical statement. Now, philosopher John Wilkins offers a defense of philosophy.

69 Comments

If “God exists” is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is “God does not exist” not a religious claim?

This may be a valuable question, but it has no relationship to any valid question in philosophy of science. Science does not make any claims about God.

(Creationists make the claim that certain things have to be scientifically true for God to exist – the earth must be about 6000 years old or their conception of God is false, for example. This is not the fault of science. Science can only test whether or not the earth is about 6000 years old. It cannot test whether that age of the earth is required for God, or whether God exists. The latter two are not scientific questions.)

It is unequivocally illegal for a US public school teacher to announce to a class that God does not exist, for exactly the same reason it is illegal for a public school teacher to announce that one or another god does exist.

I think these points are pretty obvious.

I don’t attack philosophy or philosophy of science in general, but I do condemn that misleading quote, which clearly and falsely implies that science involves direct statements about God. If it is not an attempt to pander to creationists, it is a very good imitation of such.

I have cross posted on Panda’s Thumb.

The first sentence above should have been blockquoted - they are Ruse’s words (but also referenced by Wilkins).

from the original thread, I rather though much of Mike’s commentary was on the mark there:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/201[…]mment-243043

However, somewhere about the middle of the 20th century, those studying philosophy began loosing touch with science and were beginning to make pronouncements that no scientist could recognize or identify with.

yup.

I found philosophy fascinating when I was in college, but now have issues with it (or what passes for it). Too often philosophy is simply a euphemism for ideology – a way to make rationalizing sound like reasoning. If philosophy isn’t grounded in science, you may as well be arguing about how many angels dance on the head of a pin. How can you talk about morality, for example, if you don’t discuss its evolutionary, psychological and neuroscientific determinants?

On a related topic, I just started reading “Einstein’s God” and have been deeply disappointed with the many lame arguments and fuzzy thinking. When an interviewee makes a claim, half the time I want to ask them “how do you know that?” or tell them “are you aware that there exists a body of study on the topic you blithely tossed around as though it were purely a matter of opinion?”

I read Wilkins’ posting. Many words obscured whatever point there was.

Perhaps Wilkins should post a YouTube video that would go viral along the lines of “Mikey bit my finger!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OBlgSz8sSM

Markey, not Mikey!

harold said: It is unequivocally illegal for a US public school teacher to announce to a class that … one or another god does exist.

Well, actually not. We generally frame the constitutional limitations on teaching religion (or, indeed, on any key principle) as pure restrictions, but in fact there are exceptions. Such as, if science proved that one (or another) god did exist.

In a sense, science (and science education) is areligious: whether something is true or not (and whether it is taught or not) depends not at all on whether that thing (or it’s converse!) happens to be a belief in one or more religions. If it is “true” (and I won’t go there on the definition of “true”) it is (or should be) taught. (It is helpful when some unproven thing being taught happens to be religious, since it is easier to get it stopped; for example, it would be much harder to get a school system to stop teaching astrology.)

That’s why the question Ruse posed really showed his lack of comprehension about how the law works.

Doc Bill said:

I read Wilkins’ posting. Many words obscured whatever point there was.

I am very sorry that many words are a barrier to your understanding. I hope you can get over that. Perhaps a job in IT?

While I agree that the statement, “God does not exist,” is a religious assertion, and thus, not scientific, the statement “there is–to date–insufficient evidence to demonstrate that a god or gods exist,” is not a religious statement.

However, depending on how the god in question is defined (i.e. what properties are attributed to said god), one may find internal inconsistencies and logical errors in the definition as well as incompatibilities with the observed world and dismiss such gods as have these problems out of hand.

–W. H. Heydt

Old Used Programmer

However, somewhere about the middle of the 20th century, those studying philosophy began loosing touch with science and were beginning to make pronouncements that no scientist could recognize or identify with.

My impression is that this goes both ways. I have taught mathematical modeling to many future physicists, and I am always aghast at the unwarranted conclusions they draw from models.

What we have here is a just a manifestation of the silo mentality that plagues modern academia in general.

Just a quick question though, for those who are claiming that philosophers in the latter half of the 20th century have abandoned science altogether, I’m curious as to which philosophers they are thinking of in particular. I mean as a graduate student working in philosophy of math, two philosophers of biology that I know have done graduate level studies in biology, and one teaches population genetics for undergrads at my university.

It strikes me as a hard line to take that recent philosophers in general have completely disregarded science in developing their views. What about Dennett, Pat Churchland and others?

However, somewhere about the middle of the 20th century, those studying philosophy began loosing touch with science and were beginning to make pronouncements that no scientist could recognize or identify with.

One only has to reflect on the development of philosophy of biology (for example) to see how wrong this statement is.

While I agree that the statement, “God does not exist,” is a religious assertion, and thus, not scientific, the statement “there is–to date–insufficient evidence to demonstrate that a god or gods exist,” is not a religious statement

Except, of course, that “sufficient evidence to demonstrate any gods” may itself be impossible to operationalize. In which case, positing that there IS such a thing as sufficient information to make this claim, itself becomes a positive religious statement.

I made a philosophical response to John on his website. Here I just want to point out that the usual attacks on philosophy in these parts are, from a structural point of view, rather similar to the thinking behind racism. The guys who flew the planes into the buildings on 9/11 were Muslims, ergo Muslims have a lot of nerve building a mosque in the neighborhood because they somehow share in the guilt = There are scientifically naive philosophers, therefore philosophy in general is hogwash, etc. Well, I’ve met some pretty absurd assistant profs in physics departments so I guess I’m entitled to reject the whole subject by the same logic.

Jim Harrison said:

I made a philosophical response to John on his website. Here I just want to point out that the usual attacks on philosophy in these parts are, from a structural point of view, rather similar to the thinking behind racism. The guys who flew the planes into the buildings on 9/11 were Muslims, ergo Muslims have a lot of nerve building a mosque in the neighborhood because they somehow share in the guilt = There are scientifically naive philosophers, therefore philosophy in general is hogwash, etc. Well, I’ve met some pretty absurd assistant profs in physics departments so I guess I’m entitled to reject the whole subject by the same logic.

Sorry Jim, but your invocation of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is not helpful here. Incidentally there are many Muslims and Muslim Americans who oppose its construction, simply because they recognize that building it near Ground Zero is needlessly offensive to the families of the victims and the survivors of the 9/11 attack. Some of the most prominent critics - who are Muslim Americans - include Wall Street businessman Mansoor Ijaz (who tried to assist the Clinton administration in extraditing Osama bin Laden from the Sudan) and former United States Navy officer Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser.

“there is–to date–insufficient evidence to demonstrate that a god or gods exist,” is not a religious statement

…not likely to be publishable as science either

John Kwok said:

Jim Harrison said:

I made a philosophical response to John on his website. Here I just want to point out that the usual attacks on philosophy in these parts are, from a structural point of view, rather similar to the thinking behind racism. The guys who flew the planes into the buildings on 9/11 were Muslims, ergo Muslims have a lot of nerve building a mosque in the neighborhood because they somehow share in the guilt = There are scientifically naive philosophers, therefore philosophy in general is hogwash, etc. Well, I’ve met some pretty absurd assistant profs in physics departments so I guess I’m entitled to reject the whole subject by the same logic.

Sorry Jim, but your invocation of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is not helpful here. Incidentally there are many Muslims and Muslim Americans who oppose its construction, simply because they recognize that building it near Ground Zero is needlessly offensive to the families of the victims and the survivors of the 9/11 attack. Some of the most prominent critics - who are Muslim Americans - include Wall Street businessman Mansoor Ijaz (who tried to assist the Clinton administration in extraditing Osama bin Laden from the Sudan) and former United States Navy officer Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser.

Freedom means that you have the right to be offended. Nor is it needlessly offended. Those who oppose the mosque are, in general, bigots.

Malchus said:

John Kwok said:

Jim Harrison said:

I made a philosophical response to John on his website. Here I just want to point out that the usual attacks on philosophy in these parts are, from a structural point of view, rather similar to the thinking behind racism. The guys who flew the planes into the buildings on 9/11 were Muslims, ergo Muslims have a lot of nerve building a mosque in the neighborhood because they somehow share in the guilt = There are scientifically naive philosophers, therefore philosophy in general is hogwash, etc. Well, I’ve met some pretty absurd assistant profs in physics departments so I guess I’m entitled to reject the whole subject by the same logic.

Sorry Jim, but your invocation of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is not helpful here. Incidentally there are many Muslims and Muslim Americans who oppose its construction, simply because they recognize that building it near Ground Zero is needlessly offensive to the families of the victims and the survivors of the 9/11 attack. Some of the most prominent critics - who are Muslim Americans - include Wall Street businessman Mansoor Ijaz (who tried to assist the Clinton administration in extraditing Osama bin Laden from the Sudan) and former United States Navy officer Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser.

Freedom means that you have the right to be offended. Nor is it needlessly offended. Those who oppose the mosque are, in general, bigots.

RED HERRING ALERT!

Time to settle this issue of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero once and for all. Read this, everyone!

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/n[…]eligion.html

Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

Opponents of the Park51 project say the presence of a Muslim center dishonors the victims of the Islamic extremists who flew two jets into the towers. Yet not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition.

If there were Muslims working and even WORSHIPPING at the World Trade Center itself before it was destroyed, how can anyone be offended by the presence of an Islamic center two blocks from where it once stood???

BTW, many non-Muslims see nothing wrong with the Islamic center, including Unitarian Universalists like me.

And that’s the last I will say on that specific matter.

Freedom means that you have the right to be offended. Nor is it needlessly offended. Those who oppose the mosque are, in general, bigots.

If there were Muslims working and even WORSHIPPING at the World Trade Center itself before it was destroyed, how can anyone be offended by the presence of an Islamic center two blocks from where it once stood???

Clearly, this controversy centers not around individuals or prior practices, but around symbolism. If those who destroyed the WTC had been fanatical vegetarians (or Chinese, or obese people) who also happened to be Universalist Unitarians, then whom would we hate? Unitarians, or vegetarians, or fat people?

What seems to matter here is the CAUSE for which the terrorism was performed. Was it done primarily for religious reasons, or for economic reasons, or for political reasons, or for social reasons, or what? Should we be persecuting Muslims (religious reasons) or oil billionaires (economic reasons) or Theocrats (political reasons) or men in general (gender reasons)? Why exactly did this happen, what were the motivations behind it?

I’ve never been real clear on exactly which causes were supposed to be forwarded by these acts. I’m willing to oppose those causes, as soon as I can identify with them. Right now, they seem vaguely political…

Malchus said:

John Kwok said:

Jim Harrison said:

I made a philosophical response to John on his website. Here I just want to point out that the usual attacks on philosophy in these parts are, from a structural point of view, rather similar to the thinking behind racism. The guys who flew the planes into the buildings on 9/11 were Muslims, ergo Muslims have a lot of nerve building a mosque in the neighborhood because they somehow share in the guilt = There are scientifically naive philosophers, therefore philosophy in general is hogwash, etc. Well, I’ve met some pretty absurd assistant profs in physics departments so I guess I’m entitled to reject the whole subject by the same logic.

Sorry Jim, but your invocation of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is not helpful here. Incidentally there are many Muslims and Muslim Americans who oppose its construction, simply because they recognize that building it near Ground Zero is needlessly offensive to the families of the victims and the survivors of the 9/11 attack. Some of the most prominent critics - who are Muslim Americans - include Wall Street businessman Mansoor Ijaz (who tried to assist the Clinton administration in extraditing Osama bin Laden from the Sudan) and former United States Navy officer Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser.

Freedom means that you have the right to be offended. Nor is it needlessly offended. Those who oppose the mosque are, in general, bigots.

If you are going to call Miss USA, a Muslim American, Rima Fakih, a bigot, then be my guest. Same is true for those two prominent Muslim Americans I had mentioned. Or other Muslim Americans who, like them, have spoken out against building the “Cordoba House” Islamic Center (Of course I am also against it, but am definitely not a bigot.).

Many good points here (in the posts of John Lynch/John Wilkins, not in the Cordoba House sideshow which is way, way, off-topic – although anyone who believes in religious tolerance ought to condemn the crazies who created opposition to Cordoba out of thin air for crass political gain in the election. My last comment. I won’t take any action now but if the sideshow takes over the thread I will start moving comments to the Bathroom Wall).

Ahem. Like I was saying, many good points here.

However, Ruse could have avoided annoying someone like Perakh by making his point more clearly. Half of the critics of Ruse’s post are saying (like Perakh, and Rosenhouse), “Duh, obviously science is constitutional, because atheism isn’t a claim of science/evolution!” A careful, sympathetic reading of Ruse (and some vague recollection of his work over the years) would have told them that… this is exactly the point Ruse was making!

Ruse is criticizing the people, basically the more extreme wing of the New Atheists, who say that atheism *is* a claim of science/evolution. *If* one takes this position, says Ruse, *then* you’ve got a constitutional dilemma on your hands. Obviously, if you don’t, you don’t – although Ruse uses this as an argument for a fairly strong version of science/religion independence which is more than he needs to argue for here, and which is part of what annoys pretty much all New Atheists, even the more moderate ones.

Comment in response to this response to Ruse on the PaleoErrata blog:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 Answering Michael Ruse Michael Ruse asks a question, and John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts thinks he has a point. I don’t.

Here is Ruse’s question:

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution separates science and religion. (Don’t get into arguments about wording. That is how it has been interpreted.) You cannot legally teach religion in state schools, at least not in biology and other science classes. That was the issue in Arkansas and Dover. (I am not talking about current affairs or like courses.) But now ask yourself. If “God exists” is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is “God does not exist” not a religious claim? And if Creationism implies God exists and cannot therefore be taught, why then should science which implies God does not exist be taught?

Let me field that one, Michael.

“God exists” is NOT a fundamentally religious claim. “God does not exist” is not a fundamentally scientific one. The specific reason WHY the claims are made is what separates religion from science.

This question is a point of confusion only for those who argue that belief in God or the supernatural is BY DEFINITION, a non-scientific issue, something that I have argued in the past is bullshit. Science makes claims about things that are real vs. imaginary, not things that are “natural” vs. “supernatural”, and the latter terms don’t really mean anything anyway. If the REALITY of the “supernatural” (i.e. forces acting outside of the known laws of physics and chemistry) could be demonstrated by repeatable scientific testing, they would be scientific…but it can’t, so it is unscientific, and also therefore probably imaginary (i.e. bullshit).

Disbelief in God is not necessarily scientific; people can certainly reject God for irrational and emotional reasons (although this is not the case for most atheists I know), just as they can accept His existence for irrational and emotional reasons. However, atheism as I “practice” it is scientific. Rejecting claims for which there is no evidence is about as scientific as you can get.

Ruse’s confusion is yet another reason why I consider the NOMA approach to be not just misleading, but downright destructive of to our understanding of what it is that science actually does. If Michael Ruse, someone who has been writing on the Creationism-Evolution debate for some time, can actually be confused about why rejection of the supernatural is a scientific AND non-religious position, how can the general public be expected to understand what science is at all?

LNJ Posted by Jeffrey W. Martz, PhD at 5:36 PM

My reply:

On your argument, it would either be perfectly Constitutional to teach atheism in science class, because atheism is a scientific conclusion, or it would be unconstitutional to teach science, because science concludes atheism is true.

Do you think the Supreme Court would agree with either option? I don’t. And I think the Supreme Court would be correct to disagree. The theism/atheism issue is not within the domain of science, it is philosophy, theology, etc.

You might prefer to treat religion as just another crank pseudoscience, and you have every right to your view, but I think it should be realized that a fundamental part of the social contract upon which Western Civilization is based is that some things (like science) are matters of public evidence and reason and can serve as the basis for governmental policymaking, government-sponsored education, etc. – whereas other things (like religion) are about ultimate matters that are not unambiguously decidable on public evidence and reason, and involve private conscience and emotion and faith, and thus society is much better off if government leaves itself out of these issues and leaves the public completely free to make up its own mind.

Messing with this arrangement, or pretending it isn’t there, strikes me as hazardous at best.

Ruse wrote, “If “God exists” is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is “God does not exist” not a religious claim? And if Creationism implies God exists and cannot therefore be taught, why then should science which implies God does not exist be taught?”

This is an asinine question. It can only be asked by nitwit creationists, or philosophers of science.

The creationist claim is that the action of the transcendent/divine is observable, and identifiable. The creationist cannot have any truth argument unless first they are correct in assuming a supernatural agent exists.

The materialist claim is that what is observable is the result of natural properties of matter. There isn’t a necessary assumption in the sciences that if no evidence for a supernatural agent can be found, that one cannot exist. The existence, or non-existence of a supernatural agent does not need to be determined for scientific work to proceed.

The scientific rejection of the creationist claim is that there is no supernatural agency manifested, things are explained by the properties of matter, NOT that there is no supernatural agent. The sciences do not need to say that there is no God. In fact, it is outside the competence of science to do so. The sciences can say, in the words of Laplace, “[Sire,] je n’ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse.”

And this is why I think that the question was a good example of philosophical circle-jerk; Ruse has mixed definitions, and misrepresented arguments. He posed a question that should seen to have an obvious resolution, he echoes creationist bafflegab, and sits back a laughs. Very philosophical, unless you wonder what the point of philosophy or philosophers of science might be. At the very, very best they might be helpful as independent, external observers of those of us who do real science. Mark Perakh merely hoped for entertainment. Ruse has provided neither; not accurate observation, nor entertainment. He has, at most, fed a few more creationists with quote mines that they didn’t need.

Evangelical atheists, like Dawkins, Hitchens, Coyne, or Myers, make the identical mistake that the extremist creationsits like Ham, Sarfati, Wells, or Meyer have made. They all insist on the same “false duality” that was found against in Kitzmiller v Dover, “Dr. Miller testified that a false duality is produced: It “tells students … quite explicitly, choose God on the side of intelligent design or choose atheism on the side of science.” (2:54-55 (Miller)).”

You want it both ways? You cannot have it both ways.

Gary, please reread Nick’s 11:59 post, because you’re doing just what he warned against. Ruse is arguing that IF you think science implies atheism, THEN you end up in the position you find asinine. He, like you, thinks that this is an absurd conclusion, so he concludes (like you) that science does NOT say anything about God’s existence. Philosophers call this little move modus tollens, and it’s a perfectly valid form of argument. You seem to be in agreement with this view, so where’s the beef?

I offered a comment over at Jason Rosenhouse’s orginal discussion, and think it might be relevant here: the issue that is being danced around is a variant on Gould’s NOMA: there is a NOMA2 divide, but it is not between science and religion but between decidable versus undecidable propositions. Religions usually straddle the line because they have inherited loads of mythical baggage that makes claims about the decidable realm (where science is the analytical tool of choice).

But “scientism” comes in when folks try to apply the wrong tools to the undecidable realm (that of ethics, purpose, etc, where philosophy is the tool of necessity).

As a devout agnostic (and functional atheist) I don’t feel I’m giving away any turf to note that science can say a lot about the decidable issues of life but very little about the undecidable. A seasonal fictional illustration:

When Jack Skellington tries to figure out what Christmas “means” in The Nightmare Before Christmas he slides down the logical positivist rabbit hole by examining cranberries under a microscope and performing thermal tests on Christmas balls. He gets nowhere, and rightly so.

Once you get a grip on the decidable/undecidable dichotomy all sides can avoid making category mistakes, as though “science” can ever rule on the claimed reality of Buddha’s enlightment or Jesus’ resurrection in the way it decidedly can squash the ripping people’s hearts out Quetzalcoatl/sun rising theory or that there was a global flood per YEC mythology.

Ruse arguing that a scientific proposition is unconstitutional is a political argument, not a philosophical one. If the claim that science shows no evidence of god is religious, and to teach it violates the US first amendment, that doesn’t make the science wrong.

And furthermore is any philosopher of science going to argue that Darwin didn’t address Natural Theology by arguing against Paley in the Origin? Does that mean that the Origin is a religious work and not science?

Nick (Matzke) said:

However, Ruse could have avoided annoying someone like Perakh by making his point more clearly. Half of the critics of Ruse’s post are saying (like Perakh, and Rosenhouse), “Duh, obviously science is constitutional, because atheism isn’t a claim of science/evolution!” A careful, sympathetic reading of Ruse (and some vague recollection of his work over the years) would have told them that… this is exactly the point Ruse was making!

Ruse is criticizing the people, basically the more extreme wing of the New Atheists, who say that atheism *is* a claim of science/evolution. *If* one takes this position, says Ruse, *then* you’ve got a constitutional dilemma on your hands. Obviously, if you don’t, you don’t – although Ruse uses this as an argument for a fairly strong version of science/religion independence which is more than he needs to argue for here, and which is part of what annoys pretty much all New Atheists, even the more moderate ones.

Ruse’s point was perfectly clear, thank you, and I addressed it appropriately. I pointed out that he is simply caricaturing the views of those with whom he disagrees. I wrote:

The first problem with Ruse’s argument is the word “implies.” So far as I know, nobody is claiming that evolution implies that Christianity is false, if we are using that word in the way it is used in logic. Certainly Barash made no such claim in his post. What many of us do claim is that it is very difficult to reconcile evolution and Christianity, to the point where a reasonable person should not accept both. But that, you see, is a matter of opinion.

Who, exactly, believes that God’s nonexistence is an implication of evolution? David Barash certainly said no such thing in the post that triggered Ruse’s reply. Richard Dawkins certainly doesn’t say that, he expresses his argument in terms of probabilities. Jerry Coyne made the same point I did in his own reply to Ruse. Victor Stenger comes closest to making that claim, given the subtitle of his book, but if you read past the cover it becomes clear that he is not suggesting that science logically implies that God does not exists, which is what Ruse needs for his analogy to work.

Ruse has simply created a strawman, as have you.

Jason Rosenhouse said: Victor Stenger comes closest to making that claim, given the subtitle of his book, but if you read past the cover it becomes clear that he is not suggesting that science logically implies that God does not exists, which is what Ruse needs for his analogy to work.

In agreement, JR. I would add something that often crosses my mind every time I hear someone say that science rules out the Big G: “Okay, but … would any outspoken atheist making such a claim disagree that simple LOGIC and common sense rule out God? If so, why single out science? Would you need a degree in science or even any real knowledge of it to decide there is no God?”

Not that I, in my reluctance to be sucked into the God Wars, would make such a claim. Still, from that point of view it renders the dispute over science versus God absurd.

I will note that there is now very little discussion on Wilkins essay, and one of its central points, namely the general hostility of scientists in general to philosophy of science.

There is? News to me. I was only vaguely aware that it even existed. We never had much more of it than a few odd minutes here and there at the universities.

IMO, Philosophy of Science is running into Sturgeon’s Law. 90% of everything is garbage.

I won’t even go that far with philosophy of science. There are some good ones, Wilkins, Popper, Dennet Pennock, Barbara Forrest etc. who have made real contributions to our world.

There are a lot of bad ones. The Postmodernists who were just wrong, Monton, Plantinga, and so forth. The Postmodernists made the mistake of assuming there was no real world, objective reality. There is. A lot of the others seem to have found that attacking evolution in particular and science in general is a quick and cheap hit.

They get lots of attention for attacking science, positive from the fundie xian cultists, negative from their victims, the scientists. Plus, the cultists are always willing to toss money at anyone with real or presumed credentials who attack their enemies, reality and science.

Philosphy itself has/is undergoing a sort of crisis. The so called big questions of free will, consciousness, causation, time, the nature of reality, ethics are being looked at in new and (to my mind) far more scientific ways. A number of those questions are addressed, but only in part, by physics. A more important issue is just how does a human (the mind, whatever that is) comprehend these things. And as always “is versus ought” remains.

Res our understanding of physics-mathematical statements as metaphor. I don’t see how one can escape concurring. The metaphors are very good, correspond to phenomena to a very high degree. But as an example, lots of discussion on galaxy rotation that either (more probable) dark matter invovled or gravity has to be changed. Or even more probable current understandings do not entirely reflect reality/phenomena.

Inescapably our understanding of ‘our’ universe is metaphorical - what else could it be given the nature of the human mind?

raven said: IMO, Philosophy of Science is running into Sturgeon’s Law. 90% of everything is garbage.

Please! If you’re going to quote Sturgeon’s Law, please get it correct… “90% of everything is crap.”

–W. H. Heydt

Old Used Programmer (& SF fan)

RobLL said: Inescapably our understanding of ‘our’ universe is metaphorical - what else could it be given the nature of the human mind?

Metaphor is understaning one thing in terms of another. If all our understanding is metaphorical, what is the thing PV=nRT is a metaphor for?

eric said:

If all our understanding is metaphorical, what is the thing PV=nRT is a metaphor for?

Yeah, “metaphor” is the wrong word here. Physical theories are models of reality. We could and do put together computer simulations of various aspects of reality; they are valuable only to the extent that observations show they correspond to reality. If they don’t correspond to reality, we tweak the model.

Sure, we can come up with different models, but the constraints of observations generally tend to winnow them down over time. Anybody got an alternate model of the combined gas law that’s more accurate, and isn’t just a rephrasing using different nomenclature?

Who, exactly, believes that God’s nonexistence is an implication of evolution?

THANK YOU.

seriously, am SO FUCKING TIRED of that strawman being trotted out by accomodationists.

sorry Nick, but Ruse must be inventing the people who say science=atheism, just like you and Mooney do.

again, having read through your responses to Nick, it’s readily apparent you entirely evaded a simple answer to his question I quoted above. What you quoted from Coyne does not bear on his question to you at all. It does NOT support your statement, or Ruse’s, for that matter.

Jason hit it right on the head. Not for the first time, btw, but likely the 100th.

When someone who is intelligent enough to have been accepted into a science PhD program, can CONTINUALLY repeat the same refuted strawman, over and over again, shouldn’t you be concerned that there might be something broken in your thinking on that issue?

seriously Nick, if it isn’t a deliberate attempt at intellectual dishonesty on your part (which I believe it IS with Ruse), then you really need to take a time out and consider WHY you keep saying this shit, cause it certainly implies some kind of mental block on your part.

God, as defined by the prime source for it, the bible, can be shown not to exist easily enough by science. A god, that is vaguely defined, of course can’t be. The problem is that we need to define what we mean by “God”. Is it only the J/C/I version or something that can always retreat into the shadows as soon as science gets near it? That’s why I find any religion or philosophy to be simply pointless navel gazing. Religion and philosophy always retreat in front of science to be left on the dunghill of history. Wilkins does nothing more than try to claim who the “real” philosophers are and just more “non-overlapping magisteria” attempts to say “you can’t look at my god/philosophy with science because everything tells you they don’t exist and that’s not “fair”.

and to address the claim that saying “God doesn’t exist” being religous, I don’t see where it is, other than by the sole fact that it talks about God. It is a declaration that there is no evidence for a being called God and thus little reason to claim there is one. Is there any? No. This seems to be the usual old saw that theists use when trying to claim atheism is a “religion”. Would anyone claim that saying that “Darth Vader doesn’t exist as a being.” as religious? I rather doubt it.

again, having read through your responses to Nick Jason

fixed.

I will note that there is now very little discussion on Wilkins essay, and one of its central points, namely the general hostility of scientists in general to philosophy of science.

Indeed. This has turned into the same tired old science/religion, atheist/accomodationist wankfest that so many threads here and elsewhere turn into. Sometime I wonder whether you all that think about anything else!

For the simple reason that you’ve gotten off the topic of the post, I’m closing comments.

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This page contains a single entry by John M. Lynch published on December 29, 2010 6:38 PM.

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