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But Some Ravens are Not Black (Problems with the Scientific Method)

March 21st, 2014 | Posted by Lana Hope in Philosophy
crow and hawk

When I was an undergrad, we had to read the French philosopher Deleuze. I was extremely offended  by his suggestion that categories are socially constructed. I took it as a direct attack on Aristotle and biology. I wrote a response by arguing that all intelligent discourse requires categorization. For example, when I see people, I identify them as people and not a bird or fish or a reptile. When I see food, I identify it as food and not a stick. Without this ability to categorize, I wrote, we would not be able to have conversations or eat. I saw poststructuralism not just as an attack on science, but also as an attack on common sense.

It’s take me 5 years to finally understand what the poststructuralists and other anti-moderns were suggesting: the scientific method cannot account for the whole of reality.

When we try to categorize, there is always something that does not fit the box, and it then exposes the fact that the case cannot be generalized as we once thought. This does not mean we cannot categorize; it means that we have to admit that it’s not the whole of knowledge. Take the famous paradox on black ravens.

All ravens are black.
Therefore, all non-black objects are non-ravens.

The second premise is deduced from the first, but what if we find an albino raven? What if we find a pink raven or a purple raven?

Maybe the albino raven does not contain real raven-ness? See, that does not make sense, but if I try to articulate why that does not make sense, I suddenly realize that I cannot define ravenness without socially constructing a category/definition that could still have exceptions (is what makes a raven everything except the blackness? What about ravens without a leg? what if they are missing an organ? what is ravenness?).

In analytical philosophy, we always say that all cases must be generalizable. But we have learned that sexuality is not generalizable no matter how hard we try. First, we thought people were just straight and chose to be gay. Then we learned that people were gay, bi, or straight. At least we could still categorize. Then we finally have realized that there is dozens of ways that people identify their gender and sexual orientation, and it is simply cannot be generalized.

Bringing ravenness closer to home: what about someone born with no male or female genitals? Is the individual not a person? This is obviously false.

According to the scientific method, all cases must support the principle. As I have argued, all cases do not support the principle. We see this with LGBTQ. But what’s interesting to me is that neither does religion always support the principle.

In religion we find cases where people experience miracles, see ghosts or angels, or have visions of Christ. The cases do not support the principle that everything is material, so the cases get categorized under the psychological principle. This assures the secular narrative that the supernatural is not real, and also supports the mental health institutions definition of what equals mental insanity (re: Foucault).

This does not mean that science is bad. The point is that science is limited by our perspective in history. This was what Thomas Kuhn of Harved wrote about in the Structures of the Scientific Revolutions where he argued that paradigms are quietly assumed and come to light with create difficultly; when they do, we have radical shifts in outlook. He argues that we understand science from our point in history, and we don’t see science completely objectively.

The scientific method says that the only justified beliefs (which we call knowledge) is those that support the principle. Anyone who believes a case that goes against the principle is being irrational aka, the person who believes in a spirit.

Perhaps the biggest absurity of the scientific method is that we have to find knowledge before we apply it. This was Heidegger’s critique of modernity. He said that in real life we don’t pull cases aside, test them, find out the truth, and then apply them. We live life, we experience life, and then we understand life. Application does not come after understanding; we apply it, and then we understand.

In science we do not understand apart from sense experience (even if you are a rationalists like Descartes; you still do not know apart from the sense experience). But what Heidegger argues about application is even more clear in the human sciences. We experience a painting. We experience literature. And as I said, we experience life. You can’t *know* the message of a painting apart from the experience of it.

I am not denying that knowledge comes from the principle. I am denying that it’s the only form of knowledge, and I am denying that it is a part from human perspective. If science was the only form of knowledge, we could stop going to plays, music concerts, and would need to close all the history and English departments.

This is why I can be a Christian, but when I articulate this to moderns, I feel like I am talking past them because we are so programmed by the scientific method. I don’t find God apart from experience; I only understand him by living out in relationship with God.

I feel like I always have to include this disclaimer because it’s so engrained in us that atheists only use the scientific method and Christians don’t. But Heiddeger was an atheist; Foucault also was not religious. Most of the postmoderns and anti-moderns were not religious. Likewise, the modern Christian project of apologetics uses the scientific method and is a total failure. Therefore, the problem is modernism, not Christianity or atheism. We are so programmed by modernism that we think we have to use to scientific method to prove all of life. That’s exactly why apologetics is a failure.

In recap:

It’s good to identify a raven by its blackness. Don’t claim, however, that all ravens are black. It’s okay to look at a sonograms and realize you are having a girl. Don’t say the woman without a vagina isn’t a woman even when she says that she is. Likewise, it’s okay to test theories and toss out ones that don’t work. But you still need to admit that you might not have all the data.

 

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  • Dan McDonald

    Heiddeger’s emphasis on experience leading to understanding seems like something of an echo of Anselm who said “we believe that we may understand.” For him it was the journey of faith that opened doors to understanding. It also helps explain what modern apologetics (science based) has left out. The journey of faith leads to perspectives allowing for a transformation of our understanding of reality. We do not argue one into the kingdom of God, but rather as A’ Kempis pointed out we recognize one who is saying to us “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and we follow. That invitation goes out freely to everyone whatever category they find or describe themselves as being a part of.

  • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

    According to the scientific method, all cases must support the principal.

    Umm… no. You’re talking about two different things here.

    The method is about how we justify claims. What you call ‘the principle’ is no such thing: it’s a model. Ideally, the best models account for all cases. But no model is held to be immutable for there is always the possibility of a case that doesn’t fit. The scientific method is all about establishing reasonable likelihood for applying confidence to claims made about reality.

    We can theorize all we want, but until our models are applied to reality and the arbitration it provides, we cannot grant higher levels of confidence to our mental musings about reality without taking on board a realization of the likelihood of being fooled, of granting confidence that is not as well justified as an understanding supported by an independent arbitration of the claim. It is this outside arbitration that elevates confidence to our claims of understanding how reality works. That is why science is not about philosophical naturalism (an charge of assuming an a priori philosophical position by those who wish to use a different philosophical position to be sufficient and equivalent justification) but methodological naturalism… a method that uses independent arbitration by reality for claims about reality.

    This understanding is important to appreciate the difference between claims supported primarily by a philosophical and dependent assumption (all ravens are black) rather than naturalistic and independent classification (a large heavily built crow with mainly black plumage, feeding chiefly on carrion. OED). That’s why the charge you make, that “(p)erhaps the biggest absurity of the scientific method is that we have to find knowledge before we apply it” is based on a misunderstanding about what is meant by knowledge in the scientific sense of the term. Because the term ‘knowledge’ is a symbolic representation of ‘a very high degree of confidence in some understanding that seems to work for everyone everywhere all the time’, it is silly to suggest that knowledge and application are mutually separate; one of the most compelling reasons to gain confidence in a claim we make about how reality operates is to justify that confidence by having that understanding work consistently and reliably well demonstrated by applications (as well as therapies and technologies).

    The idea of sense experience as central to science is another trope used by those who wish to make a false equivalency between dependent and independent justifications. We can understand relationships and connections and identify patterns independent of sensory experience. You don’t directly ‘experience’ geometry any more than you do the quantity of ‘four’ but both of these examples show how we symbolically represent reality and try to understand how it operates independent of us and our sensory experiences interacting with it. That’s why its a misnomer to suggest our dependent responses to, say, a work of art, isn’t about ‘knowledge’ in the scientific sense of the term, nor is it a legitimate condemnation of science that might look to the physiological changes in our brain when we encounter a work of art. The ‘knowledge’ we gain through science is about reality itself and not our subjective interpretations of it. This understanding is vital to appreciate why a scientific understanding is qualitatively different than the kinds of ill-defined claims subjectively made about reality dependent on a priori beliefs (and philosophical assumptions accepted about it). We have compelling evidence that empowering our beliefs by philosophical justification alone is a guaranteed way to fool ourselves into thinking that we define reality and not the other way around. Not understanding this crucial difference is how religious belief (making all kinds of claims about reality but exempting reality from arbitrating them) continues to survive.

    • Lana Hope

      If there are a priori beliefs, it would only be logic. Math is different. Egyptians had a 70 point system, today we use the 10. The way we categorize even makes a difference for numbers.

      Science is not subjective but neither is the humanities. That was my point. Both are limited by the human scope. That does not make it relative. It means that we can’t step outside science or history in order to see the world completely objectively. We live in it. Heidegger writes abt this for history and Kuhn for science.

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        It’s my understanding that the Egyptian columnar numbering system contains seven symbols: | for digits one through nine, heel for tens, scroll for hundreds, lotus flower for thousands, a pointy finger for tens of thousands, a bearded fish for hundreds of thousands, and an astonished person for a million! (a base 10 system – same as our fingers). The Babylonians used a base 60 (compass, clock, astronomy). Computers a base 2 (on, off). And so on. These categories are symbolic representations for aspects of reality that require some kind of counting…. counting itself related to comparing quantities. How we express the quantities being described don’t matter (one, 1, un, uno, ichi, I, it doesn’t matter) as long as we keep to the same axiomatic system for comparisons (sort of the, “You can measure at your leisure if your units stay the same” as the kid’s song goes). The a priori assumption is that we can substitute symbolic representations of quantities, manipulate them as long as we use the same rules throughout the manipulation, to produce an answer that we – anyone – can then verify in reality. In order to successfully communicate symbolic representations with another person (and their manipulations), it is a requirement that we then share the same rules. These rules can be considered ‘grammar’ that has to be shared for the full transmission of meaning represented by the symbols to be successful. Sharing the communication, however, isn’t enough to make it ‘knowledge’ unless and until (if and only if, to use the language of logic) it can be verified by reality independent of those doing the communicating.

        Sure, we can calculate particles and graviton waves in field theory physics, for example, and the math can be exquisite, but it’s just so much fluff until reality itself verifies that the Higgs boson really does exist, that the graviton wave can be found. An axiomatic system is only as good as how well it describes reality as verified by reality. Skipping this final step makes the premises of any logic equivalent to assumptions, equivalent to beliefs assumed to be true, equivalent to fluff and wishful thinking (even of the most sophisticated kind).

        Although we cannot step outside ourselves, we can grant a very high degree of likelihood – and therefore confidence – to models that seem to work for everyone everywhere all the time even if the axiomatic systems used to formulate the models are indeed relative. That relativity is not the determining factor: the determining factor is how well reality supports the model. Think of two people and a hungry bear: it doesn’t matter whether we use an imperial or metric system or both to measure which person can run the fastest and what numbers are used to represent these speeds; what we soon discover is that matters the most is which runner is the slowest relative to the other.

  • http://shelteredevangelical.wordpress.com galacticexplorer

    I understand and mostly agree with your assertion that the Scientific Method is only so useful when it comes to lived experiences and thinking categorically can actually limit knowledge and understanding. However, I have two small disagreements. I do not think the problem of categories necessarily lies with the scientific method. After all, while the scientific method may initially classify all ravens as black, if something that appeared to have the other traits of ravenness was found that was not black, the scientific method would demand that our understanding of ravens be revised. We can see this with how the medical community has gradually shifted to a wider understanding of gender as more information comes to light. As such, science is always sort of playing catch-up… the knowledge it offers is never 100% complete, but it does not try to be. It offers a trusted, testable method to improve knowledge that always attempts to approach truth, but never reaches it.

    The other thing is, as a scientist, I do not think it is quite fair to blame science for viewing history with a secular lens. After all, we have no proof that miracles happen, ghosts exist, or angels or demons appear. Most such cases that have been thoroughly investigated in modern times turn out to be able to be explained through mundane reasons. Indeed, it is our JOB to find mundane reasons for things. If we fail at that job and can find no mundane reason whatsoever, then considering supernatural explanations is valid. But until we reach that point, accepting a supernatural explanation is simply being closed-minded. It is a cop-out answer, if you know what I mean, because the supernatural cannot be tested and understood. So, if I hear a strange noise outside, I can say “it’s a ghost!” and feel no further need to understand the underlying mechanisms of the event because it is supernatural and thus cannot be entirely understood or tested. OR I could go outside, search the yard, listen for more sounds, look for physical clues, and eventually conclude that a raccoon got tangled in a wire fence and was making the noise. This conclusion is something I can find evidence for. If I had just settled on a supernatural explanation, I would never have needed to investigate or find evidence to support me. So, can science explain everything? Maybe, maybe not. But it is our job to try, and the supernatural simply cannot factor into that until all natural explanations are exhausted.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the article (since I am struggling to understand my own gender so this is pretty close to home) and there’s my two cents! =)

    • Lana Hope

      I’m not saying that science is necessarily wrong that all ravens are black. But anyway we group things is constructed and could have been constructed a different way. I don’t see how finite creatures could claim anything else.

      Yes good point on not necessarily believing the ghost is there. My problem is that there are 1000s of cases of supernatural encounters. I don’t see how they can all be wrong. Some seem very legit, but they can’t be verified as tightly as I can verify that I have a toe.

      I think that science has eliminated the need for god. There has always been atheists. But even people like Plato had forms. That is very different than materialism. Science cannot explain the immaterial.

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        Well, I think reality has indicated the extreme unlikelihood of a ‘supernatural’ realm and agencies it supposedly contains interacting with our own. For this notion to gain confidence requires reality to support it, and we find no anomalies to suggest it is possible. Imagine, for example, what would happen if prayers to a certain god produced statistically verifiable correlational effect, that people really could be healed by enough people wishing it were so or making specific sacrifices. What’s lacking in these claims is something verifiable for everyone everywhere all the time in comparison to our understanding that reality operates according to rule we can use to successfully build applications, therapies, and technologies that do.

        We have a very rich history of finding out that what we presumed were interactions and interventions by a mystical divine agency were, upon further study, entirely natural and understandable events. This is why such beliefs in the supernatural seem to reliably and predictably be synonymous with “I don’t know so I’ll make something up that seems to fit this circumstance.”

        Even big brained people like Plato can fool themselves. And I’m no Plato, but I have been lucky enough to be educated to respecting reality’s arbitration. Understanding that forms are symbolic representations of essential properties means that I understand forms are not present in reality; stuff that contains properties we use to categorize things do. There is no uber-chair floating about in the aether from which we then extract the meaning to apply to a local chair, a less-than-real chair. Plato had it exactly backwards; we produce forms to facilitate communication about reality. Of course science as a method can’t explain the material existence of the immaterial; for that we require philosophers and metaphysicians to obfuscate the language of meaning enough to make black seem to be another kind of white and up to be another kind of down. But what we can do is examine reality closely enough and distantly enough to discern if the patterns we think are present are, in fact, present. And that require hard work to isolate variable and figure out how causal effects are linked… not by magic but by mechanism. This is where knowledge resides – applicable to everyone everywhere all the time. Magic and superstition and religion are simply shortcuts that end up explaining… nothing.

        • http://wideopenground.com Lana

          Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think Plato was incorrect about the forms. But check out Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel, who himself said that naturalism cannot account for the immaterial mind. I think my point is that there have been many different ways throughout history to deal with the “gaps” that we see; for Plato it was forms. For Christians it is a god being. Not everyone is correct on what it is, but the material cannot explain it all. Nagel as an NYU atheist professor of analytical philosophy recognized this, and now he’s tribe is slamming him.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            You are using ill-defined terms that cause confusion. This is misleading.

            ‘Natural’ is not synonymous with ‘material’ yet you use them interchangeably. You also say as if true, “naturalism cannot account for the immaterial mind.” Immaterial? A ‘thing’ that exists that has no thing-like properties? Says who and by explanations answers the question, “How do you know that?”

            The mind seems to be what the brain does and for this hypothesis there is compelling evidence. In other words, the ‘mind’ is one of those ill-defined terms upon which so much bullshit is built. By assigning it to be a separate entity yet with no discernible or independent properties from the brain, we get dualism by fiat, yet the evidence from reality is very convincing that the mind (or consciousness if you prefer) is an emergent property of a functioning brain. To insist that the mind IS a ‘thing’ and yet immaterial, one is making a philosophical claim unavailable to reality’s arbitration of it. This is not a path to knowledge but a way to avoid seeking it with pseudo-answers that explain nothing but sound reasonable given their utter reliance on ill-defined terms, pseudo-answers that provide neither means nor opportunities to build further understanding… understanding that should work (if it is an accurate reflection of how reality operates… with immaterial minds floating about causing real effect) to yield some kind of application, therapy, or technology, knowledge that powers more than a pseudo-understanding that should work for everyone everywhere all the time… if it were indeed a knowledge-producing undertaking. The silence from this endeavor is complete: such metaphysical musings produce zero knowledge. That’s a clue…

          • Lana Hope

            Just read Mind and Cosmos. Then you can get back to me.

          • Lana Hope

            there is some variation on how people define materialism and naturalism, but they are very, very close. Naturalism says that everything that exists can be explained by nature, and materiaism that everything that exists is material. People don’t usually use the term materialism anymore, but the belief is still there. Nagel’s book also has the word “naturalism” in the title, and he discusses the immaterial mind. That’s why I said – read the book if you want to understand his position more.

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        Lana, you assert

        there are 1000s of cases of supernatural encounters. I don’t see how they can all be wrong. Some seem very legit, but they can’t be verified as tightly as I can verify that I have a toe.

        I understand and am sympathetic to thinking this way because I used to think this way, too (great minds, and all that). It really does seem reasonable… until you begin to seriously question not the claims themselves but how they are reached (the method used to justify this kind of applied confidence). That’s why I’m such a proponent of methodological naturalism: not only does it work to produce explanations that work for everyone everywhere all the time but demands the kind of rigor needed to reveal the difference between very strong and very weak claims… weak claims that should then translate into us reducing the confidence we want to place in them. THIS would be reasonable… if people actually were concerned about what’s justifiable beyond wishful thinking (and the biases we use to maintain it). The problem is, far too many of us don’t apply this reasonableness into beliefs we really don’t want to challenge. Changing one’s opinion can be hard; changing one’s beliefs even harder. I get it.

        Regarding why we think mind (or consciousness, if you prefer) is somehow distinct from the physiological and chemical processes of the brain, let’s turn back to methodological naturalism and see where it takes us. Consider the evidence reality provides us for this claim: from Steve Novella (and a older blog many good scientists write for NeuroLogica):

        “There isn’t a single line of scientific evidence that objectively establishes a phenomenon that represents consciousness affecting reality. The author (tildeb: referring to a publication that asserts consciousness alone does affect reality), like many proponents of this claim, combines misinterpretation of real science (like quantum mechanics) with dubious claims about psi phenomena.

        No such phenomena, however, have been established to anything even close to a reasonable threshold of acceptance. Believers simply accept low grade evidence, usually by the same small group of researchers who are dedicated to promoting psi belief. As I wrote yesterday, we never meet the following minimum criteria for being taken seriously:

        1- statistically significant results
        2- reasonable signal to noise ratio (meaning a good effect size)
        3- rigorous methodology
        4- independently reproducible consistent results

        Instead of one single line of compelling scientific research, we get piles of low grade dubious evidence. It is all a useful example, however, of the nature of pseudoscience.”

        And this is my point, that explanations for claims about reality that rely on some other method than methodological naturalism are worth less – not more – confidence. But I don’t see this in practice. I see strong infusions of confidence in claims about reality least worthy because the evidence from reality is so weak. And this is the gateway drug – empowering other ways of knowing than reality’s arbitration of the – into pseudoscience and the kind of delusional thinking held to be a virtue when it comes to religious claims that stand contrary to the way we understand and use reality to be.

  • sgl

    re: categories

    “the map is not the territory”

    from wiki: “When Plato gave Socrates’ definition of man as “featherless bipeds” and was much praised for the definition, Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato’s Academy, saying, “Behold! I’ve brought you a man.” After this incident, “with broad flat nails” was added to Plato’s definition.”

    and a seemingly unjust real-world example of these binary gender categories:
    ———-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santhi_Soundarajan
    —–
    Santhi Soundarajan (also spelled Santhi Soundararajan, born April 1981) is an Indian athlete who competes in the middle distance track events. She was stripped of a silver medal won at the 2006 Asian Games after failing a gender verification test, disputing her eligibility to participate in the women’s competition. Currently she is working as a daily wager at a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu.

    —–
    According to her coach, P. Nagarajan, her upbringing in impoverished rural India, where she reportedly only started eating proper meals in 2004, could be a reason behind the test result.[4]

    Media articles later reported that Santhi might have been born with an intersexed condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS).[5][6] This condition includes the existence of a ‘Y’ chromosome in phenotypic females (typically only associated with a male genotype) and results in an inability to respond to Androgens. This unresponsiveness leads to a female body without female internal sex organs. Although the body produces testosterone, it does not react to the hormone.

    ———-

    john michael greer, writer of the archdruid report blog, posits that science is a tool for establishing facts, and that religion is about values. that’s the most cogent description of a reasonable separation of the two realms that i’ve come across. however, both get into trouble when they wander outside their realm (and both are doing it today), and in particular, when people don’t realize they’ve wandered outside those realms.

    not the example he uses, but consider the debates about nuclear energy. science can tell us the physical laws about radiation, but it’s value judgement not a “fact” on whether the risks outway the benefits. yet listen to the debates, and anyone opposed is considered a “luddite”, as if the safety (and future safety) was a “fact” rather than a value judgement. part of the mythology or religion of progress.

    on the other end are the fundamentalists, who try to use the bible as a science and archeology and astrophysics reference, with disastrous results. but this is the main view that many people have of christians. as one wag said, “religion is like a swimming pool, all the noise comes from the shallow end.” and public perception resulting from this foray is shown in the comment summarizing the book “unChristian”, a survey of what young non-christians think of christianity:

    ———-
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R8YIGA2YV38S5/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0801013003&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=

    According to Kinnaman’s Barna study, here are the percentages of people outside the church who think that the following words describe present-day Christianity:

    * antihomosexual 91%
    * judgmental 87%
    * hypocritical 85%
    * old-fashioned 78%
    * too political 75%
    * out of touch with reality 72%
    * insensitive to others 70%
    * boring 68%

    ———-

    • Lana Hope

      Boring! LOLz

    • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

      If science is not allowed to have any say in value judgements, then on what basis does religion gain privilege? This accommodationist assertion for ‘realms’ is as baseless – and just as wrong-headed – as assigning authority to gender to establish ability.

      • sgl

        re: “This accommodationist assertion for ‘realms’ is as baseless – and just as wrong-headed – as assigning authority to gender to establish ability.”

        can you prove that scientifically? is that a “fact”? or is that your personal value judgement? if it’s not a scientific fact, what name do you want to give to your personal value judgement?

        • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

          You don’t use science to ‘prove’ anything; you use the method to help utilize what reality has to say in the matter. And in the case of value judgements, we can adduce all kinds of evidence and apply the scientific method to help inform whatever metric we use. For example, if you value, say, health, then you can utilize the scientific method to enhance that which reality shows promotes and sustains health. If you think it is only right and proper to turn only to the prescriptions from scripture about health, then that still doesn’t support your assertion that religion has ownership of the ‘realm’ because it involves value judgements.

          If you bothered to read my criticism, it was aimed at asking you to provide a compelling reason why religion should be privileged to have ownership of this supposed ‘realm’ and why science was relegated to second class status? Rather than answer this question directly to support your argument, you flip it around and insist my question must be scientifically validated first! That’s a weak defensive tactic you employ simply to avoid having to back up your sweeping claim that, as far as I can tell, has no more merit than presuming that gender determines ability. In other words, it’s a very silly argument that ignores compelling and evidence to the contrary. This is why Gould’s NOMA assertion (non overlapping magisteria) is seen for what it is: apologetics to try to allow the square peg of religious faith-based belief claims about reality to fit into the round hole of evidence-based beliefs arbitrated by reality… by declaration that is factually and demonstrably wrong.

          • Lana Hope

            Nobody has said that science is second class to religion.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            It was not stated (which is why I did not use a quote) but implied.

            SGL wrote, science is a tool for establishing facts, and that religion is about values. that’s the most cogent description of a reasonable separation of the two realms that i’ve come across. however, both get into trouble when they wander outside their realm (and both are doing it today), and in particular, when people don’t realize they’ve wandered outside those realms.

            The meaning here is clear: when it comes to considering values, science we are told is wandering outside its realm. I think that’s bunk. That’s why I asked why religion should be given this privilege when we know it has no means at its disposal to evaluate by reality’s arbitration the merit of these value assertions that supposedly fall within its realm… making science and its method second class by fiat.

            In addition, sgl states that the role of science is to produce facts. This is not true. The role of science is provide a very useful and productive method of enquiry that tests models we produce and grants reality the authority to evaluate their function, which then indicates how much or little confidence we can justify to the models’ hypotheses. My point here is that this method works very well for establishing comparative value judgements, too, whereas religious belief lacks any equivalent means except by assuming some interpretation of some divine authority is qualified.

          • sgl

            first of all, i’m not religious. however, i realize that i hold a number of views that are values, not “facts”. eg, i believe that democracy is a better form of gov’t than other forms, because i place a high value on individual freedom. i also believe in separation of church and state, and freedom of religion, even tho i think that quite a few religious people are deluded. however, those are values i hold, not scientific facts. i was using “religion” as a broader term than you apparently take it. if you don’t like to use religion in that way, i was requesting that you chose another term.

            i think it’s confusing, and often dangerous, to confuse facts with values, and that’s the point i was trying to get across. i didn’t intend, nor do i think i implied, that religion was “priviledged”.

            re: “If you bothered to read my criticism”
            “supposed ‘realm’”
            “it’s a very silly argument”

            you’ve projected onto me a whole host of assumptions about my views, as if i was a fundmentalist christian hell bent on an inerrant bible for running my life. i’m not. but everyone has values that they hold, whatever term we want to call that, and those values cannot be proven by science.

            however, your response drips with so much condescension, that it’s clear to me you have no interest in actually understanding my views, or have an actual discussion. in short, i think you’re a jerk. so, i don’t intend to respond to you any further, as it’s a waste of my time.

  • Pingback: But Some Ravens are Not Black (Problems with the Scientific Method) | Wide Open Ground | This is Important()

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  • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

    Just a quick quote from Sean Carroll about the BICEP2 graviton discovery and why the notion of methodological naturalism seems so valuable:

    “Naturalness is a subtle criterion. In the case of inflationary cosmology, the drive to find a natural theory seems to have paid off handsomely, but perhaps other seemingly unnatural features of our world must simply be accepted. Ultimately it’s nature, not us, that decides what’s natural.

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