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Blinded by Scientism

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posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 04:30 AM
I stumbled across a article I found interesting and wanted to get you people's take:

Blinded by Scientism
by Edward Feser
March 9, 2010
The problem with scientism is that it is either self-defeating or trivially true. F.A. Hayek helps us to see why. The first article in a two-part series.
Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge—that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science. There is at least a whiff of scientism in the thinking of those who dismiss ethical objections to cloning or embryonic stem cell research as inherently “anti-science.” There is considerably more than a whiff of it in the work of New Atheist writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who allege that because religion has no scientific foundation (or so they claim) it “therefore” has no rational foundation at all. It is evident even in secular conservative writers like John Derbyshire and Heather MacDonald, whose criticisms of their religious fellow right-wingers are only slightly less condescending than those of Dawkins and co. Indeed, the culture at large seems beholden to an inchoate scientism—“faith” is often pitted against “science” (even by those friendly to the former) as if “science” were synonymous with “reason.”

Despite its adherents’ pose of rationality, scientism has a serious problem: it is either self-refuting or trivial. Take the first horn of this dilemma. The claim that scientism is true is not itself a scientific claim, not something that can be established using scientific methods. Indeed, that science is even a rational form of inquiry (let alone the only rational form of inquiry) is not something that can be established scientifically. For scientific inquiry itself rests on a number of philosophical assumptions: that there is an objective world external to the minds of scientists; that this world is governed by causal regularities; that the human intellect can uncover and accurately describe these regularities; and so forth. Since science presupposes these things, it cannot attempt to justify them without arguing in a circle. And if it cannot even establish that it is a reliable form of inquiry, it can hardly establish that it is the only reliable form. Both tasks would require “getting outside” science altogether and discovering from that extra-scientific vantage point that science conveys an accurate picture of reality—and in the case of scientism, that only science does so.

The rational investigation of the philosophical presuppositions of science has, naturally, traditionally been regarded as the province of philosophy. Nor is it these presuppositions alone that philosophy examines. There is also the question of how to interpret what science tells us about the world. For example, is the world fundamentally comprised of substances or events? What is it to be a “cause”? Is there only one kind? (Aristotle held that there are at least four.) What is the nature of the universals referred to in scientific laws—concepts like quark, electron, atom, and so on—and indeed in language in general? Do they exist over and above the particular things that instantiate them? Scientific findings can shed light on such metaphysical questions, but can never fully answer them. Yet if science must depend upon philosophy both to justify its presuppositions and to interpret its results, the falsity of scientism seems doubly assured. As the conservative philosopher John Kekes (himself a confirmed secularist like Derbyshire and MacDonald) concludes: “Hence philosophy, and not science, is a stronger candidate for being the very paradigm of rationality.”

Here we come to the second horn of the dilemma facing scientism. Its advocate may now insist: if philosophy has this status, it must really be a part of science, since (he continues to maintain, digging in his heels) all rational inquiry is scientific inquiry. The trouble now is that scientism becomes completely trivial, arbitrarily redefining “science” so that it includes anything that could be put forward as evidence against it. Worse, it makes scientism consistent with views that are supposed to be incompatible with it. For example, a line of thought deriving from Aristotle and developed with great sophistication by Thomas Aquinas holds that when we work out what it is for one thing to be the cause of another, we are inexorably led to the existence of an Uncaused Cause outside time and space which continually sustains the causal regularities studied by science, and apart from which they could not in principle exist even for a moment.

If “scientism” is defined so broadly that it includes (at least in principle) philosophical theology of this kind, then the view becomes completely vacuous. For the whole point of scientism—or so it would seem given the rhetoric of its loudest adherents—was supposed to be to provide a weapon by which fields of inquiry like theology might be dismissed as inherently unscientific and irrational. (Obviously the Uncaused Cause argument for God’s existence is controversial, but it has had, and continues to have, prominent defenders to the present day. For readers who are interested, I explain and defend the argument at length—and show how very badly Dawkins and co. misunderstand it—in my recent books The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism and Aquinas.)

Conservatives, more than anyone else, should be wary of the pretensions of scientism, a Procrustean ideology whose pretensions were exposed with particular insight by F. A. Hayek, one of the great heroes of contemporary conservatives (including, perhaps especially, secular conservatives—Hayek himself was an agnostic with no religious ax to grind). In his three-part essay “Scientism and the Study of Society” (reprinted in his book The Counter-Revolution of Science) and his book The Sensory Order, Hayek shows that the project of re-conceiving human nature in particular entirely in terms of the categories of natural science is impossible in principle.

The reason has to do with what Hayek calls the “objectivism” inherent in scientism. Modern science arose in large part out of a practical, political concern—to make men “masters and possessors of nature” (as Descartes put it), and enhance “human utility and power” through the “mechanical arts” or technology (in the words of Francis Bacon). This goal could be realized only by focusing on those aspects of the natural world susceptible of strict prediction and control, and this in turn required a quantitative methodology, so that mathematics would come to be regarded as the language in which the “book of nature” was written (in Galileo’s well-known phrase). And yet our ordinary, everyday experience of the world is qualitative through and through—we perceive colors, sounds, warmth and coolness, purposes and meanings.

How are we to reconcile this commonsense “manifest image” of the world with the quantitative “scientific image” (to borrow philosopher Wilfrid Sellars’ famous distinction)? The answer is that they cannot be reconciled. Thus the commonsense, qualitative “manifest image” came to be regarded as a world of mere “appearance,” with the new quantitative “scientific image” alone conveying “reality.” The former would be re-defined as “subjective” – color, sound, heat, cold, meaning, purpose, and the like, as common sense understands them, exist in the mind alone. “Objective” reality, revealed by science and described in the language of mathematics, was held to comprise a world of colorless, soundless, meaningless particles in motion. Or rather, if color, temperature, sound and the like are to be regarded as existing in objective reality, they must be redefined – heat and cold reconceived in terms of molecular motion, color in terms of the reflecting of photons at certain wavelengths, sound in terms of compression waves, and so forth. What common sense means by “heat,” “cold,” “red,” “green,” “loud,” etc. – the way things feel, look, sound, and so forth in conscious experience – drops out as a mere projection of the mind. The new method thus ensured that the natural world as studied by science would be quantifiable, predictable, and controllable – precisely by redefining “science” so that nothing that did not fit the method would be allowed to count as “physical,” “material,” or “natural.” All recalcitrant phenomena would simply be “swept under the rug” of the mind, reinterpreted as part of the mental lens through which we perceive external reality rather than part of external reality itself.

Hayek’s view was that the very nature of objectivism precludes its coherently being applied across –the board to the human mind itself. Since the mind just is the “subjective” realm of so-called “appearances”—the rug under which everything that does not fit the “objectivist” method has been swept—it cannot even in theory be assimilated via quantificational modeling to the material world, as that world has been characterized by physical science. The very nature of scientific understanding, at least as the moderns have defined it, thus entails what Hayek calls a “practical dualism” of mind and matter—a dualism that the objectivist method itself foists upon us, even if we want to deny (as Hayek himself did) that it reflects any genuine metaphysical cleavage between the mental and material worlds.

To be continued....

[edit on 29-3-2010 by Watcher-In-The-Shadows]

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 04:35 AM

Any attempt to redefine the mind in “objectivist” terms, characterizing its elements in terms of quantifiable structural relations—an approach Hayek himself sketched out in The Sensory Order—would only open the same problem up again at a higher level, as whatever aspects of the mind that fail to fit this objectivist redefinition simply get kicked up to a second-order realm of mere “appearance” (and to further levels still if the method is applied to the second-order realm). Scientism’s attempt to apply the objectivistic method to the human mind itself thus entails in Hayek’s view a vicious regress, a methodological “chasing of one’s own tail” on to infinity. The result may provide certain insights—Hayek thought so—but it cannot hope to provide complete understanding.

The irony is that the very practice of science itself, which involves the formulation of hypotheses, the weighing of evidence, the invention of technical concepts and vocabularies, the construction of chains of reasoning, and so forth—all mental activities saturated with meaning and purpose—falls on the “subjective,” “manifest image” side of scientism’s divide rather than the “objective,” “scientific image” side. Human thought and action, including the thoughts and actions of scientists, is of its nature irreducible to the meaningless, purposeless motions of particles and the like. Some thinkers committed to scientism realize this, but conclude that the lesson to draw is not that scientism is mistaken, but that human thought and action are themselves fictions. According to this radical position—known as “eliminative materialism” since it entails eliminating the very concept of the mind altogether instead of trying to reduce mind to matter—what is true of human beings is only what can be put in the technical jargon of physics, chemistry, neuroscience and the like. There is no such thing as “thinking,” “believing,” “desiring,” “meaning,” etc.; there is only the firing of neurons, the secretion of hormones, the twitching of muscles, and other such physiological events. While this is definitely a minority position even among materialists, there are those who acknowledge it to be the inevitable consequence of a consistent scientism, and endorse it on that basis. But as Hayek would have predicted, the very attempt to state the position necessarily, but incoherently, makes use of concepts—“science,” “rationality,” “evidence,” “truth,” and so forth—that presuppose exactly what the position denies, viz. the reality of meaning and mind. (I have more to say about the incoherence of eliminative materialism here and here.)

As I argued in part I, scientism—the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge—is either self-refuting or trivial. Moreover, consistently pursued, it leads to the “eliminative materialist” position that the human mind itself is a fiction—that there are no such things as thinking, perceiving, willing, desiring, and so forth. This position is not only incoherent, but undermines the very possibility of science itself—the very thing scientism claims to champion.

Why would anyone be attracted to such a bizarre and muddleheaded view? The answer—to paraphrase a remark made by Ludwig Wittgenstein in another context—is that “a picture holds us captive.” Hypnotized by the unparalleled predictive and technological successes of modern science, contemporary intellectuals infer that scientism must be true, so that anything that follows from it—however fantastic or seemingly incoherent—must be true as well. But this is sheer sophistry. If a certain method of studying nature affords us a high degree of predictive and technological power, all that shows is that the method is useful for dealing with those aspects of nature that are predictable and controllable. It does not show us that those aspects exhaust nature, that there is nothing more to the natural world than what the method reveals. Neither does it show that there are no rational means of investigating reality other than those involving empirical prediction and control. To assume otherwise is fallaciously to let one’s method dictate what counts as reality rather than letting reality determine what methods are appropriate for studying it. If wearing infrared night vision goggles allows me to perceive a certain part of the world remarkably well, it doesn’t follow that there is no more to the world than what I can perceive through the goggles, or that only goggle-wearing methods of investigating reality are rational ones.

That there is indeed more to the world than scientism would allow is evident from what has been said already. But it is evident too even from the deliverances of science itself. Consider this passage from Bertrand Russell (yet another secularist thinker, entirely unmotivated by sympathy for religion):

It is not always realised how exceedingly abstract is the information that theoretical physics has to give. It lays down certain fundamental equations which enable it to deal with the logical structure of events, while leaving it completely unknown what is the intrinsic character of the events that have the structure. We only know the intrinsic character of events when they happen to us. Nothing whatever in theoretical physics enables us to say anything about the intrinsic character of events elsewhere. They may be just like the events that happen to us, or they may be totally different in strictly unimaginable ways. All that physics gives us is certain equations giving abstract properties of their changes. But as to what it is that changes, and what it changes from and to—as to this, physics is silent. (My Philosophical Development, p. 13)

By “the intrinsic character of events when they happen to us,” what Russell means is the “subjective” world of “appearances” that makes up our conscious experience. That world—the world which (as we saw in part I) the “objectivist” approach of scientism regards as an embarrassment, and which the eliminative materialist accordingly seeks to banish entirely—that is what we know most fully, for Russell. By comparison, the knowledge physics gives us is so “exceedingly abstract”—that is to say, physics goes so far in the direction of abstracting away from the objects of its inquiries whatever does not fit its quantificational methods—that it leaves it “completely unknown” what the inner nature of those objects, apart from their mathematically definable properties, really is. And yet since the physical world is not a mere abstraction—physics itself presupposes that it is not an invention of the mind, and that we can know about it via perception of concrete reality—they must indeed have some inner nature. If we are to know what that inner nature is, and to know of anything else about which empirical science is silent, we must go beyond science—to philosophy, the true “paradigm of rationality,” as John Kekes puts it.

But can philosophy really tell us anything? Don’t philosophers notoriously disagree among themselves? Even if it is conceded that there is more to the world than science tells us, mightn’t we nevertheless be justified in throwing up our hands and concluding that whatever this “more” might be, it is simply unknowable—that scientism is a reasonable attitude to take in practice, even if problematic in theory?

The trouble is that this is itself a philosophical claim, subject to philosophical criticism and requiring philosophical argumentation in its defense. The very attempt to avoid philosophy implicates one in practicing it. As the philosopher and historian of science E. A. Burtt stated in his classic The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science:

Even the attempt to escape metaphysics is no sooner put in the form of a proposition than it is seen to involve highly significant metaphysical postulates. For this reason there is an exceedingly subtle and insidious danger in positivism [i.e. scientism]. If you cannot avoid metaphysics, what kind of metaphysics are you likely to cherish when you sturdily suppose yourself to be free from the abomination? Of course it goes without saying that in this case your metaphysics will be held uncritically because it is unconscious; moreover, it will be passed on to others far more readily than your other notions inasmuch as it will be propagated by insinuation rather than by direct argument… Now the history of mind reveals pretty clearly that the thinker who decries metaphysics… if he be a man engaged in any important inquiry, he must have a method, and he will be under a strong and constant temptation to make a metaphysics out of his method, that is, to suppose the universe ultimately of such a sort that his method must be appropriate and successful… But inasmuch as the positivist mind has failed to school itself in careful metaphysical thinking, its ventures at such points will be apt to appear pitiful, inadequate, or even fantastic. (pp. 228-29)


Continued on next post.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 04:37 AM

We have no choice but to engage in philosophy. The only question is whether we will do it well or badly. Those committed to scientism pretend not to do it at all, but what they have really done is (as Burtt puts it) “made a metaphysics out of their method.” And as we have seen, it is a very bad metaphysics indeed. Only those who do not eschew philosophy—and especially those who do not engage in it while pretending not to—are going to do it well.

What of the disagreements among philosophers? Many of the so-called “traditional problems” of philosophy are in fact no older than the scientific revolution. In particular, they are a consequence of an increasing tendency over the last few centuries unjustifiably to privilege what Hayek calls the “objectivistic” method of empirical science (described in part I) and to apply it to areas in which it is inappropriate, such as ethics and the analysis of human thought and action. Redefining the natural world in exclusively objectivistic terms has made an affirmation of moral values, irreducibly mental phenomena, and free will seem mysteriously “dualistic.” Denying the reality of these things seems to lead to nihilism and even (as we saw in part I) incoherence. Disagreement within modern philosophy is largely an artifact of this impasse, as thinkers dispute precisely which version of these two unhappy extremes is the best—or the least bad, anyway. Beholden as intellectuals in general are to the scientistic spirit of the age, too few think to question the assumptions that led to the impasse in the first place. Far from being a point in favor of scientism, the disagreement that plagues contemporary philosophy is largely a consequence of scientism, or at least of a methodological bias that scientism has raised to the level of an ideology.

What happens when we do reject this bias? The right answer, in my view, is a return to the philosophical wisdom of the ancients and medievals. Their physics, as Galileo, Newton, Einstein and co. have shown us, was indeed sorely lacking. But their metaphysics has never been surpassed. And while they certainly had disagreements of their own, there is a common core to the tradition they founded—a tradition extending from Plato and Aristotle to the High Scholasticism of Aquinas and down to its descendents today—that sets them apart from the decadent philosophical systems of the moderns. This core constitutes a “perennial philosophy” apart from which the harmony of common sense and science, and indeed even the coherence of science itself, cannot be understood. And it is also in this perennial philosophy that the rational foundations of theology and ethics are to be found.

That, needless to say, is a long story—a story which I have told in The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism and Aquinas. But what has been said here should suffice to show that it is only those who know something about philosophy and its history, and who have grappled seriously with its questions, who have earned the right to pronounce on the rational credentials of theology and traditional morality. And that most definitely does not include those blinded by scientism.


posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 04:56 AM

There is no such thing as “thinking,” “believing,” “desiring,” “meaning,” etc.; there is only the firing of neurons, the secretion of hormones, the twitching of muscles, and other such physiological events.

Its the patterns in these events that give rise to science.

Its ok to believe that a magical fairy created all of existance.... but your little box is getting smaller and smaller as discoveries chip away at ignorant faith. So when is this guy going to turn hes energy towards the bible or religious faith? It seems like him and all of religion is playing with a double edged sword.

Is the sheer mass of delusion and ignorance its own evidence? Many could deduce that god must exist if only because of the seemingly endless hordes of idiots that believe it.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 05:09 AM
reply to post by Wertdagf

Oh really. What praytell is my faith? You referenced a line to go off on your own little rant.
Care to address the article?

[edit on 29-3-2010 by Watcher-In-The-Shadows]

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 05:38 AM

The rational investigation of the philosophical presuppositions of science has, naturally, traditionally been regarded as the province of philosophy.

The philosophical assumptions of science are philosophical....

Well I don't suppose a scientist would argue with that statement.

There is also the question of how to interpret what science tells us about the world. For example, is the world fundamentally comprised of substances or events? What is it to be a “cause”? Is there only one kind? (Aristotle held that there are at least four.) What is the nature of the universals referred to in scientific laws—concepts like quark, electron, atom, and so on—and indeed in language in general? Do they exist over and above the particular things that instantiate them?

I have a bunch of questions that would be easier to answer with my guess work rather than objective study.

Scientific findings can shed light on such metaphysical questions, but can never fully answer them.

Here's where he starts reaching. They are not metaphysical questions. They are physical. We can explain them all away with invisible gnome gods, if that makes it easier.

Yet if science must depend upon philosophy both to justify its presuppositions and to interpret its results, the falsity of scientism seems doubly assured.

Wrong. The philosophical presuppositions (assumptions), and subsequent interpretations, both must be justified by scientific inquiry. Not the other way round.

As the conservative philosopher John Kekes (himself a confirmed secularist like Derbyshire and MacDonald) concludes: “Hence philosophy, and not science, is a stronger candidate for being the very paradigm of rationality.”

Hrmm. This one caused me to think longer than 10 seconds.
I think yes, I agree.
Because ultimately how we imagine the world works depends on the evidence we have. Whether it be our observations, feelings, thoughts, or the data we are fed, we assimilate this information to form a philosophical view.

But then I also think that is what science benefits us.

We can look at a plant grow, and if that is all the information we have, we can philosophically reason that it must be underground gnomes pushing the plant out of the ground.

Or we could approach it scientifically. Verify and test our assumptions (remember its this way around - not the other), dig underground and look for gnomes. We can also look closely at the plant, shield it from light, stop watering it.

The scientific approach doesn't make our new philosophy meaningless, IMO it makes it more meaningful.

This whole text is quite ridiculous to me, the author seems to use non-statements, then tying these statements to his argument, followed by making false claims to reinforce.

Saying science is something it isn't, is not a criticism of science or 'scientism'.

And for the record science doesn't presuppose that everything is causal, that's a philosophical presumption. not scientific. If science were to prove that something can exist without cause; (ie: A function that defines nothing, upon which something depends) Then we loose our causal philosophy.

Our causal philosophies is what leads us to things like the belief in deities. When we say - How did the Earth come to be? The various religious philosophies might say Prometheus? Christian-God? Islam-God? the Bathala? The rainbow serpent? The flying spaghetti monster?
Science says lets take a look and find out. Then you can make a better guess.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 06:38 AM
reply to post by countercounterculture

I take it by translation you mean your take on it. Or at least that is my translation of your comments.

Here's where he starts reaching. They are not metaphysical questions. They are physical. We can explain them all away with invisible gnome gods, if that makes it easier.

Actually, no, if you define metaphysics at it's definition as found in the dictionary. Not the current common personal defintion, usually in the vein of neo-paganism shops.

Main Entry: meta·phys·ics
Pronunciation: \-ˈfi-ziks\
Function: noun plural but singular in construction
Etymology: Medieval Latin Metaphysica, title of Aristotle's treatise on the subject, from Greek (ta) meta (ta) physika, literally, the (works) after the physical (works); from its position in his collected works
Date: 1569
a (1) : a division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and often epistemology (2) : ontology 2 b : abstract philosophical studies : a study of what is outside objective experience

Merriam Webster

Wrong. The philosophical presuppositions (assumptions), and subsequent interpretations, both must be justified by scientific inquiry. Not the other way round.

Hmmm. I don't think you are quite understanding what he means. Science does depend upon philosophy just as "thought" depends on the "mind". The underpinnings of science is certain philosophies *materialism for one*upon which it depends.

Saying science is something it isn't, is not a criticism of science or 'scientism'.

Yet you do quite the same thing. This article was not a critique on science but on the over emphesis placed on it by scientism.

And to the rest I again point out that the underpinnings of what we call "science" is philosophy. You cannot after all create thought independent of the mind that thinks it.

[edit on 29-3-2010 by Watcher-In-The-Shadows]

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 07:01 AM
I only read the first half of the first post you made, because I'm trying to focus on my homework, so forgive me if I get something wrong...!

I just recently learned the word "Scientism" in a slightly different context. I'm pretty sure it was Charles Fort's The Book of the Damned, but it might have been a book I'm reading about the influence of HP Lovecraft on the Ancient Astronaut theory. In any case, the sense I learned it in was "dogmatic adherence to current scientific theories." I have a much larger problem with that than with the version of scientism this article works with, because it runs directly contrary to the efforts of science to dogmatically adhere to what we theorize now.

More relevantly, I'm not sure about the argument for scientism's self-refutation. It seems to be making a claim which isn't actually a part of the idea -- sort of like what the Tortoise does in Lewis Carrol's dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise. Throwing in "These premises are true" as an additional premise, when in fact that's a slightly different matter...

I also think your article writer misunderstood Aristotle's four causes, but that's really neither here nor there.

In any case, I too hate the form of scientism that this article argues against. It discounts so much of human experience, but that's more because of it's claim that rationality is better than anything else than because of its claim that science is the max of all rationality. Human life is so fundamentally irrational in addition to its rationality; I think the entire universe is. It's sort of a yin-yang thing, but it's really more of a Sacred Chao thing. Humans are essentially beings who do things that make no sense, who try to understand the world as making sense; who do science and write poetry; who observe reality and imagine unreality.

Rationality needs to get taken down a peg.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 11:07 AM
This is a challening article, thank you. S&F. If you're a scientist, or someone who values science, and you dismiss the points in this article without careful consideration, the only explanation can be that you didn't understand it. It's not a compelling case to reject scientism, but it presents legitimate challenges.

Of course, he is right about several of the philosophical issues facing science. Our paradigm is based on a number of assumptions which we simply must accept without proof in order to proceed. These are the premises on which the scientific worldview is founded. I think these are the important ones:

1) Realism - There is a world "out there" independant of the observer.* Science is very much based on the idea that observations can be independantly verified by multiple sources. This only makes sense when seen as an attempt to access "truths" which are independant of any one observer. This is where the notion of objectivity is applied, as opposed to subjectivity which is applied to the aspects of experience which are unique to an individual observer and which cannot be independantly verified.

2) Induction may be applied freely - this is a complex idea. On the surface this means that if you observe that some state of affairs results in a certain outcome consistently, then you are justified in believing that that state of affairs will continue to result in the same outcome in the future. For example, if water boils at 100C at sea level on earth every time such conditions are manifest, then in the future water will continue to boil at 100C under the exact same conditions. If this doesn't hold true, we assume that the conditions must not be exactly the same as they were when we first observed the phenomenon.

The functional aspect of this is that we can make predictions based on past obervations, and we can develope explanatory theories which should be applicable to the present and future even though they are based on past observations. The philosophical aspect of this is that we assume without proof that the objective reality referenced in "realism" above does not behave arbitrarily. We believe that consistencies underly all phenomena. If something is true once, it is always true, and if it becomes false it did not do so spontaneously, something changed which caused our observation to be different. This amounts to believing that nothing is spontaneous, every change has a cause, and that the relationship between cause and effect can be described in terms of some consistent underlying "laws" or equations or truths.

3) Locality - causes operate locally. Changes only result from local effects; this includes local fields even if the entity responsible for the field is far away. Without this principal limiting effects to local action, we could never explain anything. Every time we observed some phenomenon we would never know if it was caused by something local or something far away. We are limited to explaining events in terms of local factors.

*All of you who will rush to refute this with the measurement problem of quantum mechanics must remember that there even though your measurements have an effect, there was undoubtedly something there to measure before you came along.

But, let's not rush to dismiss the system because it has premises. It has been proven for some time that no system of sufficient complexity to use arithmetic can be both complete and consistent. All worldviews/belief systems have central premesis. If we are to think about things, we ought to decide which worldview is best.

So the question is, "why accept science?" Well let's first admit that science is a form of philosophy. It is a certain type of philosophy which proceeds according to a handful of strict rules. Any scientist worth his salt has spent some time understanding philosophy of science, and metaphysics. Scientists are aware that they proceed according to premises which must be accepted without proof. Science is based on claims which aren't scientific. No argument there. The western world has been aware that we have to accept certain premises without proof since Descartes. He showed us that we can never be sure we're not dreaming, or hallucinating, or being deceived by an evil spirit. But, we can't give up because of that. We want to proceed as best we can and that involves making certain assumptions. Any investigation of the world does. We just have to find out what the best assumptions are, and we can evaluate them based on our success using them.

Reading this article I am reminded of a quote Terrence McKenna who said that "science is nothing but a useful metaphore which is easily translated into the production of shiny toys for healthy children." What he meant was that when you ask I scientist how they know science is accessing the truths of reality, the scientist will show you all of the technology that he has been able to build based on scientific theory; all of his toys. McKenna and others suggest that this a naive position. As the author mentions, perhaps scientists are only accessing those truths which are relevant to building toys, and leaving out other truths.

This argument is augmented by the hard problem of consciousness; qualia. The real issue is this: science is great for understanding everything accept qualia, the catch 22 is that qualia is the only thing humans can be sure exists. I would refer the skeptics of science to its successes - as the author anticipates - but I would add to the technological and predictive success this one: progress is made in science. The mystical worldviews that dominated human beliefs for 100 thousand years before science are characterized by absolute stagnation. No progress was made. They just change names of gods. There's no where to go, so to speak, with the mystical worldview. Not only is it useless it terms of it's predictions and technology, it's useless even as a philosophy because claims are made and either accepted or not. There's nothing to be done, no deeper understanding to be had, only different stories to be told. Science is characterized by progress, which looks like it will continue infinitely. No other worldview has any meaningful progress to demonstrate its worth.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 11:28 AM
reply to post by OnceReturned

The more I think about it, the logical arguments of this article are trivial. Epistemology is eternally burdened in principal by Descartes' argument. We absolutely cannot be sure of anything except the immediate quality of our conscious experience. When we see the blue sky, we can only know that what we are having a visual experience of a blue sky. We cannot - even in principal - be wrong about this. We cannot ever say that that visual experience corresponds to anything in reality without making assumptions; for example that there is a reality outside of ourselves. But, of course it's not enough to just be aware of our conscious experience. We have to form beliefs which correspond to things outside of our immediate consciousness. There are various methods for doing this, all of which involve assumptions made without proof.

Really the only issue that is of serious concern here is the one of consciousness. Science seems to be able to describe physical reality in a fundamentally correct way, but consciousness - specifically qualia and awareness - are outside of the scope of science in principal. How to resolve this issue is far and away the most important and interesting question in the world. For both scientists and philosophers, the answer will change everything in an important way, and no one has any idea what it is.

I think the best way to proceed is to ask ourselves if we think that our minds are somehow different from the rest of physical reality. It's hard to commit to an affirmative response here given the undeniable evidence for a direct corrolation between neurobiology and consciousness. The current paradigm in science is that the mind a process and not a thing, it is what the brain does. This still doesn't provide us with anything satisfying to say about qualia and awareness.

My take on the matter is an agreement with a position adopted by certain philosophers of mind and metaphysics. It seems that the fundamental nature of reality is information. There seems to be information which exists objectively, that is why math seems to be the language of reality. I think that all of information has two fundamental aspects; physical and phenomenal. We measure one of these aspects objectively, and describe physical reality using it. The other - the phenomenal aspect - is "what it is like" to be the information itself. Our consciousness and awareness and qualia are a function of the phenomenal aspect of the information which makes up our brains. Some will interpret this stance as epiphenomenal with regard to consciousness. I would said that both the physical/mathematical/objective description of information and the phenomenal aspects are epiphenomenal; arising from a deeper inaccessable "form" of the information which - in a very literal way - is reality.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 12:03 PM
What fantastic read I can't wait for part two, could you post it when you have it? ty

I'm going to read on about his views on naturalism.


posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 01:55 PM
Yeah in the last 100 years we have made so much progress, but the religious still hang on to the tenuous thread of conciousness. Its a pity you cannot comprehend the rapid advancement of knowledge.

I do understand that you MUST believe in something supernatural or something that will never be explain EVEN if it is incredibly ignorant to do so. You need this like a drowning man needs a lifevest. The advancements in understanding the function of the brain are coming fast. We can now predict throughts... and map the firing of neurons to produce an image of what you are thinking about. We are almost done with the human genome and super computers around the world are are working on artificial intellegence.

But obviously you must ignore these things and continualy march to the tune of a magic deity to tuck you in at night, otherwise WHY would anyone not rape or murder? Why would you be a good person or love anyone if there were no rewards in heaven?

[edit on 29-3-2010 by Wertdagf]

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 02:57 PM
reply to post by Wertdagf

There remains the question, though, of whether or not there will be anything left to explain about reality once science is finished.

I think the answer must be yes, there will. For example, the initial conditions of the universe: the starting state and the laws which govern the developement of the universe over time. If we explain things in terms of their causal predecessors - as we do in science - these things are beyond our scope. Either things have always been this way, or time had a begining and things started out this way(by this way I mean with these physical laws in place). How can we explain the origin of such physics? Something must have cause it, there must be some explanation, certainly it can't just be arbitrary. But, we quickly see that the if we try to find any causes for the initial conditions we run into the problem of infinite regression. It's logically impossible to overcome this problem using science.

Another explanation which elludes us in principal is the relationship between phenomenal experience and neurobiology. The contents of my consciousness are only accessable by me, and I can't be wrong about them. You can look at my brain all you want, if you look at my brain while I look at the sky you won't see blue, but I will. Since you cannot - even in principal - access my conscious experience, so you can't possibly measure it objectively. Therefore, it is beyond the scope of any objective science.

Be careful not to confuse understanding the brain with understanding the mind. They're not identical. We understand their relationship by corrolating brain states with states of consciousness, but as soon as we admit that that is how we start the task - by corrolating two things - we ackowledge the existance of two things. If they were one, then I looked at the blue sky and had "blue" conscious experience, you should be able to find something blue in my brain.

I'm not arguing in favor of religion, I don't think anyone here is. I'm calling to your attention to fact that it very much seems like there are certain parts of reality which science just can't get to.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 03:43 PM
reply to post by OnceReturned

If the universe was fractaly structured it would solve your infinite regression problem.

blue is a frequency of light.... and soon you will find the neuron that fires in the brain signaling a blue sky experaince.

As if infinite regression in and of itself is any more evidence of a magic fairy that sneezed everything into existance. The religious belief actualy has the same problem.

Who created god?

[edit on 29-3-2010 by Wertdagf]

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 04:04 PM
I believe that, while not all knowledge has to come from science, all knowledge should be provable by basic scientific method. I would think that most people would agree. Faith is, while not always rational, not entirely excluded from truth. Faith should just be able to stand up to science. Thus, philosophy.

[edit on 29-3-2010 by TruthOverload]

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 04:40 PM

Originally posted by TruthOverload
all knowledge should be provable by basic scientific method.

'Should be', yes - but many things that 'should be' in this world, are not. Basic scientific method requires a repeatable experiment. A repeatable experiment requires a controlled (or at least 'accounted for') environment.

What if there are things in our environment that cannot be completely controlled or accounted for? Things, perhaps, related to our own consciousness and/or awareness. I'm reminded of the idea of a fish trying to examine its tank from within.

I think the sooner science admits that there are things in the world that cannot be proven or disproven by 'the scientific method', and that science itself (and the esteemed concept of 'peer review') is just as fallible as any of the world religions, the better off we will all be.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 06:20 PM

Originally posted by Wertdagf
Yeah in the last 100 years we have made so much progress, but the religious still hang on to the tenuous thread of conciousness. Its a pity you cannot comprehend the rapid advancement of knowledge.

My entire problem is that I comprehend and thus see the fool's erand for the the limited perspective it promulgates, even if it were the tool to use. And, even if it were the very, most perfect tool to use, in the hands of the maladroit, the results won't afford more truth and insight than the imposed and self-imposed limitations of those handling it.

The consciousness thread is in no way tenuous. It's a giant hemp rope.

Edit: Misspelled "tenuous" because I was thinking of "hemp" at the time.

[edit on 3/29/2010 by EnlightenUp]

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 06:25 PM

Originally posted by Wertdagf
reply to post by OnceReturned

As if infinite regression in and of itself is any more evidence of a magic fairy that sneezed everything into existance. The religious belief actualy has the same problem.

Who created god?

Noone created anything. Nothing was ever created, ever, ever, except when it was, if you understand what I mean. There's no infinite regress.

I'm growing weary of explaining that all and everywhere on these boards, so you can Google up those gems yourself, if in fact you care to demonstrate your own reason to exempt yourself, to yourself, from the Darwinian culling game.

posted on Mar, 29 2010 @ 11:22 PM
reply to post by Wertdagf

I didn't say that infinite regression was evidence favoring religion. I said it's a problem which cannot be solved logically - even in principal. A fractal universe still has repeating fundamental characteristics. They were set at some point. By what? When? What about before that? There cannot be an explanation, in principal. Isn't this clear? You can always ask what about before that. It's not a solvable problems; by science or religion. I'm just letting you know that it's not solvable by science, because that proves that science is not a method which is capable of explaining everything.

Of course you can find the blue light, and you can find the neuron that was excited by the light. What you can't find is my experiece of it. If you were colorblind, you could never know what it was like for me to see blue. It's not communicable information. A complete physical description of the light, the eye, the brain, and everything in between still does not contain any information about what it is actually like to experience it. That information is not accessible to science.

Have you ever heard of the mary experiment?

Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like ‘red’, ‘blue’, and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence ‘The sky is blue’. [...] What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not?

In other words, Mary is a scientist who knows everything there is to know about the science of color, but has never experienced color. The question that is raised is: once she experiences color, does she learn anything new?

Ontologically, the following argument is contained in the thought experiment:

(P1) Any and every piece of physical knowledge in regards to human color vision has been obtained (by the test subject, Mary) prior to her release from the black-and-white room. She has all the physical knowledge on the subject.

(P2) Upon leaving the room and witnessing color first-hand, she obtains new knowledge.

(C) There was some knowledge about human color vision she did not have prior to her release. Therefore, not all knowledge is physical knowledge.


Please don't respond by telling me again how this is not evidence for anything religious. I'm not saying it is, and no one has suggested that to you yet you are constantly responding to that claim. We're discussing the limits of science, not the validity of religion.

[edit on 3/29/10 by OnceReturned]

posted on Mar, 30 2010 @ 12:15 AM
reply to post by OnceReturned

Science is about discovering new knowledge and testing theorys. Infinite regression is sloved by fractality. The caual chain would go on infinitly and would awnser all of your questions...., so unfortuantly your argument is that you cannot understand such a principal so it must be false.

Obviously if the whole base of scientific knowledge was unable to go far enough into its explination of the experiance of color to acuratly discribe it so as no new information was gained it must be magical. right!?!?!?! The technology to explore these things have existed for several decades and they still havent been able to figure it out?!?!?!? WHAT A BUNCH OF IDIOTS!!!!

soon you will be able to see the information programmed into the brain network. Just because we cannot store and duplicate the experiance of the color blue, according to the human eyes, currently..... does not make it impossible. The development of color sight was just one of the many stages of the camouflage arms race.

It is all programmed data put into a network... and very rapidly it is all becoming clear. When memorys are directly shareable via data straight from the brain your position will be illogical. Ever scince the beginging of human civilization there have been people like you drawing lines in the sand saying, "science can never udnerstand or measure this", and every time the waves of progress wash away your preconcived limits.

[edit on 30-3-2010 by Wertdagf]

[edit on 30-3-2010 by Wertdagf]

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