Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Scientism and Heisenberg


"What we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning."*

Heisenberg identifies the chief delusion of scientism-- the delusion that the scientific method reveals truth, in a way that other methods of knowing- metaphysical, logical, intuitive, don't.

Here Heisenberg (who was philosophically quite literate for a scientist) follows Kant. We lack direct knowledge of the world as it is outside of our minds. We perceive phenomena-- knowledge of the natural world filtered through our mind-- rather than noumena, things as they are in themselves.

Scientism is a delusion. The scientific method will never lead us to the full truth about nature in itself. Scientific knowledge is inherently limited by our method of questioning. It does not-- cannot-- provide full certain knowledge of nature. It is inherently limited by our methods and by the ideological presumptions from which we draw our methods.

How then do we get closer to the truth about nature? We do so by acknowledging our bias, and working to ensure that our methods of studying nature don't blind us to aspects of nature as it is.

Such self-blindness is most striking in the dogmatic atheism that afflicts most evolutionary biologists, who refuse to consider purpose in biology, which is replete with purpose. By eschewing causation other than an arid materialism, atheist scientists leave much of nature unexposed to their method of questioning.

Do theists suffer an analogous blindness? No. Most versions of theism acknowledge primary and secondary causes. Where inference to an intelligence behind nature is unnecessary to describe a natural process, none is offered. Where intelligence behind nature is manifest, the truth is acknowledged.

The wisest approach to the study of nature is to keep an open mind, and to eschew dogmatic metaphysical presumptions that prevent us from following the evidence.



*Werner Heisenberg. Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958), 78.

90 comments:

  1. The scientific method is a fine thing. I wish these clowns who comment on this blog would follow it, actually. It seems that their political ideology guides them, not a dispassionate appraisal of the facts.

    The true science haters are all on the left.

    Joey

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    1. It seems that the real war on science is being waged by the progressive left wearing science lab coats much like wolves wearing sheeps clothing. To distract our attention, they raise up a strawman and call it a war of religion against science. When in fact, religion and science aren't even on the same planet. Religion, philosophy, et al are in the mind and of humanity, while science deals with truth observed and measured outside the mind (or it used to). Today scientists, teachers and students are all POW's in the real war against science.

      Delete
    2. Tom Lehrer claimed to have retired doing political satire after Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize on the grounds that he (and no one else) would be able to beat him.

      Going on the comments by Joey and awstar, Tom Lehrer was wrong.

      Probably explains why Chris Mooney wrote a book 'the Democrat War on Science'...

      Delete
    3. The typical response to criticisms of the modern day positivism (scientism) is to deride, insult, and attack the integrity of the critics themselves.
      This tactic betrays a lack of confidence in any real argument against these criticisms.
      'It doesn't exist. You're an idiot.'
      It is an ideological echo that carries over a much broader theme.

      Joey and Awstar,
      Re leftists: I sincerely feel this transcends any sort of political partisanship. There may be more vocal supporters of this counter productive dogma on the trendy, political left. But, I think that is due to the audience they are trying to impress. Politics is a vehicle or tool to transmit these kind of ideas.

      Awstar, I see your comparison to POWs. I get where you are coming from. But, I think a better comparison would be to capitulators. Like some cell turned on the body by a pathogen, they actually reduce the effectiveness of the whole system to resist that which ails it.

      Delete
    4. Crusader Rex,
      I agree that this transcends political partisanship, but at the current time the father of deceit seems to be making the most inroads using the Left.

      I don't see the true scientists as capitulators as much as sheep looking for good green grass to eat. Unfortunately, it's the ones I love the most who seem to be the capitulators. Namely Christian pastors who should be continually warning us to watch out for what the deceiving one is up to. But alas, they want to keep the sheep as content as possible.

      In the mean time, science -- the one tool we have that can help us confirm the truth about the world we live in is being systematically dismantled before our eyes by those who couldn't recognize truth if it bit them on the chin.

      Delete
  2. When someone quotes a single sentence and then builds an elaborate interpretation of what the author is saying, it pays to be suspicious. So I found the text and read the portion surrounding the quoted sentence. My suspicions were confirmed.

    Heisenberg wasn't writing about scientism. He was pointing out that in quantum mechanics a measurement disturbs the system that is being measured. Unlike in classical physics, a measuring device is not merely a passive spectator but it an active participant. It not only determines something about the system, it also affects its state. Therefore, the outcome of a measurement depends not only on the state of the system, but also on how we measure it.

    Here is the sentence in context:

    With regard to this situation Bohr has emphasized that it is more realistic to state that the division into the object and the rest of the world is not arbitrary. Our actual situation in research work in atomic physics is usually this: we wish to understand a certain phenomenon, we wish to recognize how this phenomenon follows from the general laws of nature. Therefore, that part of matter or radiation which takes part in the phenomenon is the natural `object' in the theoretical treatment and should be separated in this respect from the tools used to study the phenomenon. This again emphasizes a subjective element in the description of atomic events, since the measuring device has been constructed by the observer, and we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning. Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means that are at our disposal. In this way quantum theory reminds us, as Bohr has put it, of the old wisdom that when searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both players and spectators. It is understandable that in our scientific relation to nature our own activity becomes very important when we have to deal with parts of nature into which we can penetrate only by using the most elaborate tools.

    I challenge the reader to find in this passage what Egnor ascribes to it, namely that Heisenberg identifies the "delusion that the scientific method reveals truth, in a way that other methods of knowing- metaphysical, logical, intuitive, don't."

    Heisenberg wasn't even talking about other methods of knowing here. He was emphasizing the weird nature of the quantum world, where our old notions of classical physics had to be reexamined. Which, by the way, had been learned through a scientific mode of inquiry.

    Hoo

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    1. Hoo:

      Of course Heisenberg wasn't referring explicitly to scientism. He was talking about epistemology. His sagacious observation applies to scientism, in my view however, and that is the point I made.

      If you believe that scientism is defensible, vis-a-vis Heisenberg's observation, tell us how.

      Delete
    2. Egnor, 6:00 am: "Heisenberg identifies the chief delusion of scientism..."

      Egnor, 8:37 am: "Of course Heisenberg wasn't referring explicitly to scientism. His sagacious observation applies to scientism, in my view"

      This is too funny. You take Heisenberg's quote out of context and ascribe to it a meaning he did not intend. That is what's popularly known as quote mining.

      Hoo

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    3. All quotes are out of context.That's what 'quote" means. Heisenberg was obviously making an epistemological point, which can be readily applied to scientism, which is a variant of positivism, which Heisenberg is quite clearly opposing in his reflections.

      Do you agree or disagree with Heisenberg about the influence of method of questioning on our observations about nature? Do you believe that this issue is relevant to scientism?

      Try addressing the actual point of the post.

      Delete
    4. I could address the other points of the post. However, I would like to first put to rest the notion that Heisenberg "identifies scientism" in his quote. The quote, read in context, is entirely irrelevant to your rant that follows. It isn't at all about scientism, it lends no support to your thesis, and can (and should) be entirely omitted from the post.

      Remove the Heisenberg quote, call your post Scientism, and we will be off to a good start.

      Hoo

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    5. hoo:

      I appreciate your advice.

      What is your opinion on the point I made in the post?

      Delete
    6. The point of your post, as far as I can tell, is that (1) science is limited in its ability to explore nature and (2) we can get closer to the truth if we acknowledge our ideological biases.

      The first half is trivially true: science is not infinitely powerful and it's progress can be excruciatingly slow. It can be hampered by the lack of funding (no new particle accelerators in the nearest future) and by fundamental limitations (can't fly even to the nearest star to explore it on the spot). So here we agree in part, though our reasons are different.

      What you have not provided is an alternative method of studying nature that could put us closer to truth. I am not surprised. Neither philosophy, nor theology would fit that bill. Instead, you offer a completely toothless remark: let's acknowledge our biases, as if it solves anything. It doesn't. Every scientist comes with a personal bias towards a problem. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't. The scientific method ruthlessly filters out that which does not work. Very few ideas remain. Whether they came from a biased scientist or a dispassionate one matters not one whit,

      Our experience over the centuries demonstrates that science is the best and pretty much only method of exploring nature. You fail to even suggest a viable alternative.

      Hoo

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    7. Hoo:

      [Our experience over the centuries demonstrates that science is the best and pretty much only method of exploring nature.]

      What do you mean by nature? Do you mean everything, including trees and love and your own thoughts?

      Or do you mean the physical world around, without abstractions and without minds and beliefs and history and art?

      Is science the best way to study literature, or music, or history?

      Delete
    8. Art, literature, and music aren't parts of nature. They are therefore studied by other methods. Humans are part of nature. There is no reason why they shouldn't be studied by science.

      There are different aspects of humans some of which are clearly suitable to scientific exploration: physiology, anatomy, neuroscience. Cultural aspects are in a different category and science isn't very helpful there.

      Hoo

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    9. hoo:

      [Art, literature, and music aren't parts of nature. They are therefore studied by other methods.]

      They're not part of nature? Are they supernatural?

      [Humans are part of nature. There is no reason why they shouldn't be studied by science.]

      Art, music and history are human artifacts. If humans are part of nature, why aren't their artifacts part of nature? Have we humans created supernatural things?

      [There are different aspects of humans some of which are clearly suitable to scientific exploration: physiology, anatomy, neuroscience. Cultural aspects are in a different category and science isn't very helpful there.]

      Yes. Science is appropriate to the study of some things, and not very helpful for other things.

      Science is not an appropriate way to study all things in nature (quarks, rocks, humans,love, art, politics..) just aspects of some of them.

      And we must be aware of the influence our method of study has on the kind of knowledge gained.

      A sensible viewpoint, and very anti-scientism. Heisenberg and I agree with you.

      Delete
    10. Leave Heisenberg out of it, Michael. That quote mining doesn't look good.

      Let's take quarks or protons. Which aspects of them are off limits to science? What are the alternative ways of studying them?

      Hoo

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    11. Heisenberg is my guest. Why would I leave him out?

      The subatomic-scale causal relations of quarks and protons, particularly those that are quantifiable, are fine for scientific study. Great science.

      The metaphysical aspects of quarks and protons-- what they are in themselves-- is fine for metaphysical investigation.

      When quarks and protons comprise macroscopic things-- like human beings-- other methods of investigation of them-- art,ethics, history,are appropriate.

      Nature is manifold. There are many fine ways to study it, each according to its place. Science has a place. But not all places.

      Delete
    12. Heisenberg isn't your guest. You've hijacked his quote, attributing to it the meaning he didn't intend, as can be seen in context.

      But let's return to quarks. There is no question that science has had a successful run generating knowledge about them. Thanks to physics, we know that quarks exist inside protons, we know their symmetry properties (spin, charge, etc.) and know how they interact with one another through gluon exchange.

      Can you name any successful metaphysical inquiries into the nature of quarks? In fact, I can't even conceive what the success metric would be in this case.

      Science has its limits, I agree with that. I don't agree at all that metaphysics can tell us something remotely interesting about natural objects such as quarks.

      Hoo

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    13. Hoo:

      [Can you name any successful metaphysical inquiries into the nature of quarks?]

      Until a quark is measured, it exists as a superposition of probability functions. Measurement collapses the waveform.

      Reduction of potency to actuality is a metaphysical inference, first posited by Aristotle in the 4th century BC.

      Quantum mechanics is saturated with metaphysical inferences and dilemmas, which have been the subject of debate and research for a century. Bohr and Einstein and Heisenberg and Schrodinger and Planck and Dirac labored over the metaphysical issues for decades, and metaphysical questions about the inherent nature of matter and space and time remain at the forefront of physics.

      Most of the questions in quantum mechanics (and cosmology, etc) are metaphysical in substantial part. Aspect's experimental confirmation of Bell's theorem, and his finding of the non-existence of deterministic local hidden variables, addressed the EPR paradox. A beautiful example of the blend of superb metaphysics and superb theoretical physics and experimental physics.

      You need to read more widely. There are things in the world not dreamed of in Jerry Coyne's blog.

      Delete
    14. Hoo:

      [I don't agree that all that metaphysics can tell us something remotely interesting about natural objects such as quarks]

      Define "natural" without metaphysical inferences.

      The predicate for even discussing the natural world is metaphysical.

      You're like a sophmore who insists that logic is worthless, not realizing that his argument depends on logic.

      Delete
    15. 'Until a quark is measured, it exists as a superposition of probability functions'.

      Egnor is just parroting quantum physics without the slightest clue what he's talking about. Quarks don't exist on their own. When they're in protons, they're strongly confined to the proton. A limited space. They're not directly measured. The Large Hadron Collider, for example, bangs together two beams of protons traveling in opposite directions at almost the speed of light. A proton as a metaphor is like a swarm of bees, consisting of the three valence quarks (two up and one down - giving the proton its charge and about 2% of its mass) and a host of virtual particles, including virtual quarks and gluons, making up the rest.

      Scientists 'measure' quarks by seeing the products of a collision between one part of a proton with part of the opposite proton (which may be the valence quarks), the rest 'sailing' past unimpeded.

      If you're going to use particle physics, then you should know what you're talking about, instead of pretending that Aristotle predicted them 2500 years or so ago.

      Delete
    16. Egnor: Until a quark is measured, it exists as a superposition of probability functions. Measurement collapses the waveform.

      As bachfiend correctly remarked, this is mumbo jumbo.

      For one thing, a quark is not isolated and its wavefunction is entangled with those of the other quarks and gluons. In fact, the number of quarks does not stay fixed as quark-antiquark pairs appear and disappear. One can speak of the quantum state of the quark field, but that will take us way out of this league.

      If a quark could be isolated from its environment (as an electron can be), then its quantum state would be described by a wavefunction (a vector in a Hilbert space). Any such wavefunction can be described as a superposition of some other wavefunctions. After a measurement it will also be described by a wavefunction, perhaps the same, perhaps not, depending on the measurement and the initial state. A "collapse" may or may not occur.

      But I digress. A Hilbert-space description of the quantum state of a particle is physics, not metaphysics. There is nothing meta about it. It has come about in a scientific, empirical investigation of mater on the micro scale. It's a scientific theory, not a metaphysical one. Philosophers were late to the party.

      Such is the life of philosophers. Scientists encroach on their turf. Time used to be the realm of philosophers. They would argue about the nature of time, without much progress. Then physicists came along and told them that time is like space, something philosophers never dreamed about. Spacetime turned out to be a physical object that can be studied empirically. Too bad for philosophers.

      Hoo

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    17. Hoo:

      [But I digress. A Hilbert-space description of the quantum state of a particle is physics, not metaphysics. There is nothing meta about it. It has come about in a scientific, empirical investigation of mater on the micro scale. It's a scientific theory, not a metaphysical one. Philosophers were late to the party]

      A Hilbert space is not a space, but a mathematical concept, applied (in this case) to the prediction of causation among physical particles.

      The application of mathematics to physical events is a fascinating metaphysical issue.

      All science is predicated on metaphysical concepts. Some of the metaphysics is so basic to the science that poorly educated scientists often fail to understand their dependence on metaphysics.

      All scientific endeavor is a composite of metaphysical, epistemological, mathematical, logical and empirical work.

      The only reason I can see for to deny this obvious (and frankly beautiful) truth is that you somehow bizarrely associated metaphysics with religion, and hate religion so much you feel compelled to say self-evidently ignorant things rather than admit the obvious.

      Delete
    18. Reduction of potency to actuality is a metaphysical inference, first posited by Aristotle in the 4th century BC.

      I love it when ignorant blowhards pretend that ancient philosophers who are important to their childish religion somehow predicted modern scientific concepts. Aristotle, the Dancing Wu Li Masters, the Secret Bible Code, same old same old crap.

      Delete
    19. Don't forget the MFAM theorists.

      Delete
    20. Michael,

      At least 'MFAM' theorists root their theory in reality. We mightn't have complete fossils of the feet of Austrolopithecus afarensis or Homo erectus but we do have fossilised footprints from the right periods in time to indicate that Austropithecus afarensis was bipedal and walked almost like modern humans and Homo erectus definitely did walk like modern humans.

      Eugene McCarthy has nothing. Human evolution is reasonably well worked out. We'd like to have more detail, but that's just the nature of science.

      Delete
    21. Egnor: A Hilbert space is not a space, but a mathematical concept

      Don't even start. You're out of your league. Space is a mathematical concept.

      Hoo

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    22. Egnor: All science is predicated on metaphysical concepts. Some of the metaphysics is so basic to the science that poorly educated scientists often fail to understand their dependence on metaphysics.

      If we don't even notice it, WTF do we need metaphysics?

      Hoo

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    23. Egnor:

      All carried out by scientists with no input from philosophers. Remind me why we need philosophers again?

      Hoo

      Delete
    24. Egnr: The application of mathematics to physical events is a fascinating metaphysical issue.

      No, it's the run-of-the-mill theoretical physics. Philosophers can either join the rank of scientists or go pound sand.

      Hoo

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    25. Mike.

      "The application of mathematics to physical events is a fascinating metaphysical issue. "
      The folks in tier one research would agree with you 100% on that musing. Fascinating how an abstraction/semiotic finds translation into physical reality, isn't it? How sentient creatures have all adapted to integrate them into their life cycles.
      I don't pretend to understand it all or even most of it, but what I have seen and been introduced to by our beloved 'egg-heads' certainly makes the much vaunted mainstream look like medieval musings on the nature of the moon ;)
      Anyway, that kind of relationship has been an obsession and driving force in those enclaves since the 1940s. It has borne much fruit, from what I have seen. Albeit, some of it originates from some rather nasty fig trees, of you take my meaning. Some of it even gets declassified once in a blue moon.
      Call me a lunatic, but I get the impression the mainstream compartmentalized sciences are missing what's right in front of them.
      There are patterns in some of these abstractions. Some of them are as clear as a summer night sky, but still they have no idea.
      It never ceases to amaze me. But then, I had no idea for years myself. I was given something and simply told to use it. I did my job, and a month later I might begin to wonder how it worked. In my new position, you would think I had been enlightened on some of these issues, but in reality I just have more questions.
      Fascinating point though.
      Sometimes it simply pays to read between the lines.

      Delete
    26. Hoo:

      [Don't even start. You're out of your league. Space is a mathematical concept.]

      So the space between you and the car in front of you is a mathematical concept, and not... a space?

      [If we don't even notice it, WTF do we need metaphysics?]

      Did you notice electricity when you typed that?

      [All carried out by scientists with no input from philosophers. Remind me why we need philosophers again?]

      Scientists are philosophers. They do philosophy all of the time, in their presuppositions and their inferences etc. Some of them just don't know it.

      [No, it's the run-of-the-mill theoretical physics. Philosophers can either join the rank of scientists or go pound sand.]

      Oh. Then as a scientist you should have no problem presenting me with the data explaining why mathematics corresponds so beautifully with some aspects of nature.

      Delete
    27. crus: The folks in tier one research would agree with you 100% on that musing.

      May I suggest that you speak for yourself, crus? I am one of these Tier One folks, and I don't agree with that characterization. Maybe I am an exception, but still, stick to what you feel and don't speak for others.

      Cheers,

      Hoo

      Delete
    28. Egnor: So the space between you and the car in front of you is a mathematical concept, and not... a space?

      You started the equivocation, not I. When I spoke of space, I explained what I meant. Not my fault that you wish to mix things up.

      Hoo

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    29. Egnor: Scientists are philosophers. They do philosophy all of the time, in their presuppositions and their inferences etc. Some of them just don't know it.

      Then you should sleep well at night. Yet you get hot and bothered all the time. Why? I suppose because scientists are doing all the work and not crediting philosophers anymore. My sympathies!

      Hoo

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    30. Egnor: Oh. Then as a scientist you should have no problem presenting me with the data explaining why mathematics corresponds so beautifully with some aspects of nature.

      I have a theory. It's because God snorted scientists out of his left nostril as he did crack.

      Feel free to present your own theory and provide a way to decide whose theory works better.

      XOXOXO

      Hoo

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    31. crus: Call me a lunatic, but I get the impression the mainstream compartmentalized sciences are missing what's right in front of them.

      Yeah, you're a lunatic.

      Hoo

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    32. "Yeah, you're a lunatic."

      Says the MFAM guy.

      Delete
    33. Speaking of MFAM, have you retracted your lie about Gene McCarthy yet?

      Hoo

      Delete
    34. He's a Darwinist who believes that man is explained in totality by an animal that f***** an animal. This is just a little squabble over which animals.

      A Darwinist, drivin' right down the middle of Crazy Street.

      Delete
    35. Fine, I'm crazy. You're the one who is dishonest. (Not in my value system as I obviously don't have one. In your own.)

      Hoo

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    36. Face it, doc. You have no choice but to retract your ludicrous characterization of Gene McCarthy as a mainstream evolutionary biologist from a major research university. You know it's not true. Your own conscience is going to eat you alive. Baby Jesus is going to hate you.

      Repent, bastard.

      Hoo

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    37. Hoo,

      Do you have more than four bars on your shoulder? Maybe St Edward's crown? Maybe you have lions on your sleeve? If so, just let me know and the reason why I should shut up. I will explain why I should not and direct you to the correct channels.
      If not, please have the courtesy NOT to give me orders.
      Thanks.

      I am not stating the opinion of my opposite numbers, or those of my American or other NATO colleagues - although I am sure (as in positive) that many of them would agree.
      I am simply giving the impression I have from the men I work with on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Those people are T1 with L3, not commercial/industrial scientists.
      They are not contractors confined to there compartment. They are project researchers, engineers, and hard science types. They have been recruited from all over the globe to work on research and application. Many of them are also certifiable, but brilliant none the less.
      Many, whom I have had occasion to LIVE with for weeks at a time in some very remote locations, are fascinated by precisely the relations noted above.

      Delete
    38. Michael,

      You're the result of two apes f***ing, exactly the same as 7 billion humans living on Earth (save the ones conceived by IVF).

      Human evolution is reasonably well explained by common ancestry with chimps and descent with modification in response to periods of climate change, often severe.

      The hominin species which led to us were living just fine in their conditions. There was no plan on their or any other one's part to lead to us.

      Eugene McCarthy is just crazy. For a geneticist, at least by training, it's peculiar that he's made no effort to find pig genes in humans.

      At least there are Neanderthal and Denisova genes in modern humans, indicating that there was some hybridisation between close relatives of the Homo genus.

      Delete
    39. crus,

      I have five bars on my shoulder. Even so, I am not giving you orders to shut up. I am merely tell you that you are crazy. We're not missing what's right in front of us any more than you do.

      Keep up the good work.

      Hoo

      Delete
    40. "Yeah, you're a lunatic."
      A prerequisite condition for my current position. Thanks.
      You're not too shabby either.

      "Baby Jesus is going to hate you. "
      Jesus was 33 when He was crucified and Ascended.

      "Repent, bastard."
      1. He does frequently. He's a Catholic. You should try it some time.
      2. IF he was a bastard, it would be his parent's fault not his own. As it stands, I have no idea about the marital status of Dr Egnor's parents. Do you?

      Take a deep breath, Hoo. You're starting to act like Troy. You're pissed, I get it. But that shit is beneath you.
      No?

      Delete
    41. Lighten up, crus. It's all in good fun.

      Hoo

      Delete
    42. I am only half-joking, of course.

      Hoo

      Delete
    43. Hoo,
      "I have five bars on my shoulder. "
      Nobody has five bars, my friend. Not in these forces.

      "I am merely tell you that you are crazy."
      Of course I am. Who else would do what I have done and now do for a living?

      "Keep up the good work."
      Cheers. You too.



      Delete
    44. "Lighten up, crus. It's all in good fun. "

      Fair enough...

      Delete
  3. For all his anti-science rhetoric, Egnor has failed to share a single thing he knows about nature beyond what he sees as manifest design. “God did it” has always been the favorite answer of the scientifically illiterate and the more educated theists who can always find a smaller box in which to cram their god of the gaps.

    It’s sad to see such an accomplished man arguing that science shouldn’t be trusted, and that it’s possible to know the truth about nature “intuitively”. I guess keeping the sheep stupid is necessary to maintain good order and discipline in the flock.

    -KW

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    1. KW:

      Could you provide the scientific evidence supporting the points you made in your comment? Please provide the data, literature references, statistical analysis for each point you made. Then do the same for your compliance with the request.

      Scientism is a idiotic sham. It's your religion, and has nothing to do with real science, which, first and formost, knows its limits.

      Delete
    2. Scientific evidence for what? I’m not making any claims about nature. You are the one claiming superior ways of knowing the natural world. Your intuitive feelings and metaphysical musings provide zero evidence to support your claims. When your special insights provide a novel and testable prediction about the natural world I would gladly reconsider my position, but I’m not going to hold my breath because in thousands of years of history it hasn’t happened yet.

      -KW

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    3. KW:

      [Scientific evidence for what? I’m not making any claims about nature.]

      Your thoughts are not part of nature?

      Why... you're ...SUPERNATURAL.

      Delete
    4. You’ve got nothing.

      -KW

      Delete
    5. You're part of nature, KW.

      If materialism and atheism and scientism are true, you're a meat robot. Why do you hesitate to use your scientific method to investigate meat?

      Delete
    6. I don’t pretend to claim that I know everything, or that everything is knowable, but I do know your way of knowing isn’t going to answer a single question. You are deceiving yourself if you think your argument is anything more than a version of “god of the gaps”, and you have yet to claim a single fact not derived from observation and experimentation. Ultimately “God did it” is the only claim you make.

      -KW

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    7. KW:

      I haven't said a word about God in this thread. Why are you so religiously obsessed?

      I (like all sapient Christians) recognize primary and secondary causes. God directly causes some things (creation, miracles) and indirectly causes others (via laws of nature).

      I'm fine with secondary causes, without invoking immediate unnatural divine intervention. Why would you assume otherwise?

      Delete
    8. You didn’t mention God by name, but your ID jargon is a dead giveaway. You, like all good intelligent design advocates, know to avoid mentioning God because it immediately undermines your credibility. Wiggle all you want, but you’re not fooling anybody.

      Again, can you not provide one fact, one useful piece of information, one non-trivial thing, other than “God did it”, from your better than scientism way of knowing? Come on, surely you can come up with one?

      -KW

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    9. Andrew Lloyd Weber writes beautiful music.

      It's useful (makes me buy his soundtracks) and non-trivial.

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    10. You like Andrew Lloyd Webber (get his name right!)?

      Reminds me of a joke about opera. How do you tell a tragic opera from a comic opera? If at the end, all the characters are dead, it's a tragic opera. If some are still alive, then it's a comic opera. And if there's just one good song, and it's repeated, then it's 'Cats'.

      Personally, I prefer Bernstein's 'Candide'. Much better music. Superior philosophy with its criticism of theodicy. Deeper exploration of what being human means.

      Delete
  4. Funny, Not long ago I read an article that not only explores what is necessary for something to be called “music” regardless of culture, but also offered a biology based hypothesis for why these elements where necessary.

    Be that as it may, “people like music” is not a fact that requires your special beyond science way of knowing to know. It is indeed trivial.

    -KW

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    1. KW:

      If beautiful music is trivial, explain its beauty, scientistically.

      Oh... Oh... it reminds us of hominin mating calls on the savannah...

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    2. Mike,

      At least KW is honest about his disdain and dismissive attitude. He does not deny the existence of scientism, rather he defends the position.
      He's half way there.

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  5. I don't agree with Heisenberg, or Kant, that we only experience mental events. Mortimer Adler identifies this as error #1 in his Ten Philosophical Mistakes .

    Descartes and Locke are the original culprits.

    On this view, it's not exactly clear how we could ever know anything, in the last analysis. So sure it refutes scientism... but what else goes with it?

    - Curio

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    1. Curio:

      Excellent point. I need to read up more on realism and I need to read Adler's Ten...

      I share the disdain for many aspects of Locke and Descarte and Kant, but direct knowledge of mental states, and indirect (but not necessarily unreliable) knowledge of sensory data seems intuitively true.

      We know our mental states in a way that is different from the way we know the external world. I hew to the hylemorphic understanding of intentionality-- that we hold the forms of substances and concepts in our mind, which is itself a form-- but I accept the assertion that we know our mental states in a more direct was than we know the external world.

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    2. Curio,

      I had high expectations for you. Don't disappoint me.

      Love,

      Hoo

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    3. Likewise Hoo, likewise.

      I'm just trying to root out some residual Cartesian dualism.

      Dr. Egnor - I'm no expert, just an amateur philosophy enthusiast. You are likely the most qualified among us to refute Descartes errors. Have you ever seen a patient with a damaged pineal gland? How was their soul doing? Did it have any trouble interacting with the body?

      - Curio

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    4. Curmudgeon of the century David Stove thought the general thrust of the whole Descartes/Kant thing to be the worst argument of the century.

      http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/stoveworstargt.pdf

      Analogous to the form "we have eyes, therefore we cannot see" as one of his colleagues put it.

      - Curio

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    5. Excuse me, "worst argument in the world". It has unfortunately lasted for several centuries

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    6. Curio said: "Have you ever seen a patient with a damaged pineal gland? How was their soul doing? Did it have any trouble interacting with the body?"

      According to Wikipedia: The pineal gland was originally believed to be a "vestigial remnant" of a larger organ.

      Therefore, according to evolutionary science, souls (if they existed, which they don't) would not be affected by a damaged pineal gland because they are declared not to have any function. -- unless real science proves this assertion wrong. But then the soul would still not have any trouble interacting with the body, because evolutionary science still asserts that there is no soul.

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    7. Awstar,

      And your point? The pineal gland was thought to be vestigial a hundred years ago. It's known to have a function. It's an endocrine organ similar to the pituitary (secretes hormones into the blood stream). It produces melatonin, which regulates the circadian rhythm.

      I've seen a patient with a pineal tumour, which presumably had some effect on its function. He did appear to have any disturbance of his 'soul', because the 'soul' has so little external effect that it might as well not exist.

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    8. My point is. If one hundred years ago, fifty years ago, or even twenty-five years ago scientists were allowed to discuss "why was this designed this way" instead of "it must be junk" then your patient and millions of others who suffer from disease would have had a better chance for a fix to a broken design, and thus been saved some trial and tribulation deep down in his soul.

      Fortunately most scientists and doctors do seek fixes to broken designs. They They just can't teach children that in science class that all life forms were designed to begin with, and not evolved by shear dumb luck.

      And that's because the deceiver is holding them as POWs in his war against science.

      Catch my drift?

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    9. "Catch my drift?"
      I do indeed. Your comment simply uses the pineal as an example. You are not defending Descartes assertions about that organ or suggesting that the function is some sort of anchor to the soul.
      I tend to agree with the trend you note, at least on some levels.
      But, I still think you're being far too generous with the POW analogy.


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  6. Awstar,

    No, I don't catch your drift. You're making a nonsensical point. Even if the pineal gland was completely vestigial, with absolutely no function at all, it still could be the site of tumours requiring treatment.

    The appendix is vestigial. Doctors don't worry that it's 'broken design'. If it becomes inflamed, it's surgically removed without causing harm to the patient.

    Evolution isn't 'shear (sic) dumb luck'. The forms that survive in a particular environment and have the most surviving offspring didn't do so by luck.

    Try again...

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    1. I'm not catching a whole lotta drift either, awstar.

      My point was pedantic, I admit it. I was just pointing out a specific, empirically testable assertion passed down to us from ol' Rene. Namely, the pineal gland is the organ by which the "soul" interacts with the body.

      Obviously one can be a Cartesian dualist and not think this. Cartesian dualism altogether fails on philosophical grounds. I expected most commenters would agree on this, theist and atheist alike.

      On a note unrelated to philosophy of mind - Bachfiend, what were the effects of the pineal tumor? Were your patient's sleep cycles thrown off?

      - Curio

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    2. Curio said: "Cartesian dualism altogether fails on philosophical grounds."

      Could you explain why it fails on philosophical grounds to me? I would like to learn more. I've already learned two facts about the pineal gland already in this thread.

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    3. Awstar,

      Few things, off the cuff: (and open to correction, as always)

      Cartesian dualism posits a radical divide between soul and body. Who you really are is your soul, not your body. Body is expendable. After you die, your soul escapes that meat machine and flies free to the Great Beyond (or wherever)

      On this view, your wife doesn't kiss you, just your body. Rape becomes a property crime. These two examples I stole from Alex Pruss.

      Further, it's unclear exactly how the soul and body would interact. Descartes thought the pineal gland. That's obviously wrong. But how would any bodily organ be able to link the spiritual to the material, if the organ itself is material?

      And how can we have true knowledge? All we're ever acquainted with are our thoughts. If nothing from the outside world ever enters in, we have to posit some sort of innate knowledge. We're literally "locked" in our own mind. I stole that one from Adler, and in the context of his chapter, it was an accidental double entendre. Pushed to its logical conclusion, we're forced into solipsism or some sort of Platonic thing. Both seem wonky to me.

      - Curio

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    4. Curio, I can't remember whether my patient's sleep cycles were thrown off by his pineal tumour as it was so long ago, in 1979. I do remember he had Parinaud's syndrome (which includes the inability to look upwards).

      Sleep disturbances in modern societies is so common, such that having a normal one is almost abnormal. My 15 year old dementing collie had a very disturbed sleep last night, that I also had a very disturbed night too. With my current tiredness, I'm wondering if he's got a pineal tumour?

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    5. One way to find out...

      http://protoscience.wikia.com/wiki/Soul_Detection_Devices

      - C

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    6. Curio,

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. Now I can add "solipsism" i.e. "the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist." to my list of things I've learned in this thread.

      Boy, it must be hell having such an intelligent mind that forces you to go around digging up knowledge from dead men to try to piece together answers for all of lifes tough questions.

      It's so much easier having a simple mind that trusts in the knowledge already conveniently written down by 44 Jewish men but reads as if it were all written by one mind, with every thought all neatly partitioned by covenant, book, chapter and verse. (Matthew 11:28-30)

      My wife's body's lips may be touching my body's lips, but those are just our present user interfaces we were born in. We're IN our body, but not OF it. It really is my wife kissing me. (Matthew 10:28)

      And rape, no matter how you describe the mind/body relationship, it is still a crime against the one who created our bodies. (James 2:10)

      Trusting in the Bible as my axiomatic starting point seems wonky to most, but as that great philospher on Madison Ave once said (paraphrasing now): "It's only wonky if it doesn't work"

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    7. Cartesian dualism is totally opposed to the Christian view of the person, I should add. Whats the point of the resurrection, if what we really are is a disembodied soul!
      - C

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    8. Curio: "Cartesian dualism is totally opposed to the Christian view of the person"

      Wikipedia suggests it is compatible. How is it opposed?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism_(philosophy_of_mind)#Cartesian_dualism

      Curio: "What's the point of the resurrection, if what we really are is a disembodied soul!"

      What's the point of God having created angels in heaven? (Matthew 22:30)
      Evidently it pleases Him to have his creatures embodied and working in concert to glorify Him.

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    9. Awstar,

      'Evidently it pleases Him to have his creatures embodied and working in concert to glorify Him'.

      And you know this how? Besides being a contradiction of Aquinas' 'Summa Theologia' on the nature of God.

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    10. Awstar,

      What the heck. I replied to you, and it vanished. I think the computer was having some interaction problems (just like Cartesian dualism, hah)

      I actually wanted to clarify I should have written "Biblical view" when I said "Christian view". Descartes was apparently a devout believer his whole life. "Totally incompatible" may have been a bit strong... though I'm still not sure how Descartes reconciled his philosophy with his faith.

      My point was just that Scripture presents a more unified view of man, more than a mere ghost in a machine. And besides, Descartes came pretty late in the game. The Apostles, Church Fathers, and Medieval Scholastics did just fine without him

      - C

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  7. bach:

    Awstar is speaking analogically about God.

    Don't pretend you know anything about theology.

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    1. Michael,

      The question still remains - how does awstar know that God feels pleasure at being glorified? Seems like a pathetic need for a all-powerful entity. And isn't it a metaphor rather an analogy?

      I don't pretend to be an expert in theology. But I do know incoherence when I read it.

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    2. Bachfiend said: "how does awstar know that God feels pleasure at being glorified? Seems like a pathetic need for a all-powerful entity. And isn't it a metaphor rather an analogy?"

      Answer: I googled it "God feels pleasure at being glorified"

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    3. Answer: I googled it 'God feels pleasure at being glorified'.

      LOL.

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    4. I'm glad you had an opportunity to expand your horizons -- and be cheered up, as well.

      To God be the Glory!!

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