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Ch. 1 - Science: "Truth Without Certainty" 
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Post Re: Dogma, dogma everywhere
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Something I didn't see in this chapter (which has been an extremely accessable education in the fundamentals of science) is an examination of the psychology of the scientist; more to the point: a discussion regarding the motives, agendas and goals that mobilize a scientist to engage her practice and expand her field.


I don't think this information is really relevant to the purpose of the book. It would be a lot like having a cookbook expound on the psychology of cooks along with descriptions of their agendas, goals, and motives.

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I hope it was this chapter, but I was very impressed with the distinctions between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism. An atheist will always be both a philosophical and methodological naturalist, but a methodological naturalist will not always be an atheist or philosophical naturalist.


I don't think it is true to say that an atheist will always be both a philosophical and methodological naturalist. For instance, one can be Buddhist (this entails the denial of philospohical naturalism) and atheistic.

The problem I have with this distinction is that I don't think there is any adequate definition of "natural" or "supernatural". Let us suppose that God suddenly appeared on the horizon and everyone could see him. Astronomers could look at him and physicists could judge his speed and trajectory. What would this mean? Would this mean that God is "natural"? Or would it mean that God is supernatural and we have the ability to know the supernatural?

It seems to me that what marks something as supernatural is its knowability. (Indeed, this is what makes methodological naturalism so plausible. It doesn't take a stretch to say "All we can know is the natural" because if we COULD know something supernatural, we wouldn't think of it as supernatural anymore.) But if this is the case, then it seems to me that the distinction is rather trivial. Philosophical naturalism would seem to be the best view given this stance.

Could something be "unknowable" and exist? I can certainly conceive of something being "unknown" and existing--a rock that I have never seen before would exist even if I never knew about it--but I cannot conceive of something existing and being fundamentally unknowable. For me, "existence" seems to entail knowability. How could we speak of something as existing or being real if we wouldn't even know what we were speaking of--if, indeed, it were conceptually no different from nothingness or a pure void?

I tend to think that saying something exists in a supernatural realm is sort of a logical error, like saying something is round and has four sides.

This all boils down to what we mean by 'existence' as well as 'natural' and 'supernatural'--but how could you even say meaningfully that "The supernatural exists" if you didn't even know what the supernatural was or how it could exist?




Mon Oct 30, 2006 9:34 pm
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Post Re: Dogma, dogma everywhere
St. G: I don't think this information is really relevant to the purpose of the book. It would be a lot like having a cookbook expound on the psychology of cooks along with descriptions of their agendas, goals, and motives.

IF the Cookbook was titled, "Flame Broiled VS. Deep Fried" I think we should be interested in the motivations that dirve either culinary paradigm. Evolution Vs. Creationism is about many things, of which includes the agendas, goals and motives of those involved.




Tue Oct 31, 2006 3:08 pm
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Post Re: Dogma, dogma everywhere
Dissident: Something I didn't see in this chapter (which has been an extremely accessable education in the fundamentals of science) is an examination of the psychology of the scientist; more to the point: a discussion regarding the motives, agendas and goals that mobilize a scientist to engage her practice and expand her field.
Gasoline: I don't think this information is really relevant to the purpose of the book.

I think it's relevant -- at least as relevant as reference to the psychology of anti-evolutionists -- but the operative limitation was probably space. I doubt that Scott would have been able to do justice to her sources on the psychology of scientific work, so it's probably just as well that she omit that topic and leave it to more expansive works to cover it. This is, after all, a primer.

Dissident: An atheist will always be both a philosophical and methodological naturalist, but a methodological naturalist will not always be an atheist or philosophical naturalist.
Gasoline: I don't think it is true to say that an atheist will always be both a philosophical and methodological naturalist. For instance, one can be Buddhist (this entails the denial of philospohical naturalism) and atheistic.

Another example, this one from pop culture biography, might be Salieri is "Amadeus". Definitely atheist (in the strong sense of the word) but by no means a philosophical naturalist.

It seems to me that what marks something as supernatural is its knowability. (Indeed, this is what makes methodological naturalism so plausible. It doesn't take a stretch to say "All we can know is the natural" because if we COULD know something supernatural, we wouldn't think of it as supernatural anymore.) But if this is the case, then it seems to me that the distinction is rather trivial. Philosophical naturalism would seem to be the best view given this stance.

Historically, that wasn't the case. Most of the ancients conceded the knowability of the supernatural. What distinguished the supernatural from the natural -- where such distinctions were acknowledged -- was essentially the simple relation of knowing to the sense impressions created by a thing. Thus, supernatural beings could manifest themselves to the senses, while natural things were always manifest.

I tend to think that saying something exists in a supernatural realm is sort of a logical error, like saying something is round and has four sides.

And it still looks to me like your arguments are derived -- indirectly, perhaps -- from the arguments of the logical positivists. But the logical positivists stacked the decks against metaphysics by asserting that their definitions of existence and nature and so forth were the only reasonable ones.




Tue Oct 31, 2006 4:03 pm
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Post Re: Dogma, dogma everywhere
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And it still looks to me like your arguments are derived -- indirectly, perhaps -- from the arguments of the logical positivists. But the logical positivists stacked the decks against metaphysics by asserting that their definitions of existence and nature and so forth were the only reasonable ones.


I do have a sort of positivist outlook on this subject, but I don't think it is true that I am "stacking the deck" against metaphysics by assuming my definitions are correct and others are flawed. Indeed, I think that the opposition has stacked the deck against themselves by using definitions of existence and nature that don't really make sense, or that are conceptually vacant.

If we were all trapped in a metaphysical box and could not escape it, it would be rather silly to speak of existence outside of this box. We can only know what is inside the box, and thus our concepts of truth, existence, and so on--if we wish to actually know these things--should be based upon life in the box. Whether there is something beyond the box is a meaningless and pragmatically useless question for us to entertain.

Ultimately, I differ from traditional positivists because my justification for this view is more pragmatic than logical.




Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:52 am
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Post Re: Dogma, dogma everywhere
Reminder:

Live chat with Eugenie Scott Thursday at 9:00 pm eastern, 6 pm pacific. Please attend if you can!




Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:35 pm
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