Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quote of the Day: Swimming in materialistic waters


"In my experience most scientists are not even as aware as Rothman of how underlying philosophical assumptions shape their conclusions and limit their choices: Materialism is the water they swim in, the tenet whose falsity is literally unimaginable."

-- Michael Behe

The full article is well-worth reading:

http://oldarchive.godspy.com/issues/Scientific-Orthodoxies-by-Michael-Behe.cfm.html

10 comments:

rabbit said...

I see two anti-scientific groups these days.

One is from religion. Many people can't understand why science resists religious views being made part of science (Answer: Because science, pretty much by definition, is the study of the natural world.)

The second comes from the left. Postmodernism attempts to deny the existance of objective reality - everything is a matter of viewpoint, everything is political.

Postmodernism seems to be dying out. The attack from religion, however, seems to be growing.

RkBall said...

I'm not sure I would call it an attack, more of a push-back, perhaps.

A person who is stuck with having to come up with a material explanation for everything, when there are none for some questions, is not open-minded.

In addition to your definition of science, the definition of science has also been wedded to the philosophy of materialism -- the unproven, unprovable assertion that the material world is all that exists, with no possibility of immaterial realities or of an immaterial Creator who brought the laws which govern the cosmos into being. This is considered a "scientific" position when in fact it is a philosophical position.

I believe the push-back is warranted.

rabbit said...

Science idoes not say that the non-materialistic world does not exist (although many scientists do). Indeed it has nothing to say on that point.

Ignoring the spiritual or non-materialistic side of life has been a massively successful strategy for science, and it would be a serious mistake to change now.

Saying "and then a miracle happened" is just another of saying "I dunno".

The A-Team said...

rabbit pretty much hits the nail on the head. The science method has thus far an undefeated record when it comes getting to the bottom of things and so far I can't think of a single long-held idea for which there is a scientific consensus that has failed to meet predictions, at least as far as it's practical to us. In a rare fluke, The Ptolemy Model of the Universe did make accurate predictions but eventually, Copernicus successfully overturned that paradigm with extraordinary evidence in favor of a new model. The lesson here is: good science is always subject to revision upon new evidence and it's most wise to go with the evidence.

And for all the creationist talk of materialism being wrong, I've yet to meet one willing to prove this with a simple leap out of a 30-story window. They survive that and I'd be willing to at least concede that they might be onto something. Until then and until an equally compelling experiment is proposed and is successfully tested, to the extent that it is practical to our lives, materialism's reputation remains secure.

RkBall said...

I think rabbit has a better grasp on the distinction between science and materialism than you do.

"The science method has thus far an undefeated record when it comes getting to the bottom of things and so far I can't think of a single long-held idea for which there is a scientific consensus that has failed to meet predictions, at least as far as it's practical to us."

The conclusions of "materialistic science", as opposed to "science" are completely wrong when it comes to discerning who we are as human beings. According to godless materialism, we have no purpose for existence, beyond, perhaps, procreation; you may find that a satisfying condition; I do not.

According to the Bible, man is a tripartite being consisting of spirit, soul, and body. According to materialism, man is body-only. Materialism has tremendous difficulties coming to grips with things such as consciousness, free-will, and the sense of "I" apart from the body.

Plus, as I have been arguing on this site, materialism does a weak job of explaining the apparent existence in reality of immaterial things such as logic, mathematics, "laws" of physics, rational thought, and concepts such as justice, morality, love, honor, dignity, etc.

In a materialistic world all of these concepts of love, justice, morality, honor, dignity, etc. can be nothing more than fictitious inventions of mindless evolution. Hardly a satisfying conclusion when you are seriously wronged in some matter, or when you hold your newborn baby in your arms.

Furthermore, darwinianism and materialism have led to abominable practices such as eugenics, including its greatest accomplishment, the Holocaust, gender-reassignment of infants whose genitals were mutilated by a botched operation (scientific-oriented doctors thought they could just turn the boy into a girl, since boy/girl was nothing more than social conditioning+genitals), the social confusion caused by rejecting the biological distinctions between men and women for the trendy notion of "sexual orientation", and the current suppression of free and independent inquiry in western universities.

Plus, we get frankly nonsensical absurdities like evolutionary psychology, which is nothing more than undemonstrable speculation, which nevertheless somehow passes for science.

"The lesson here is: good science is always subject to revision upon new evidence and it's most wise to go with the evidence."

I could not agree more with this statement.

"And for all the creationist talk of materialism being wrong, I've yet to meet one willing to prove this with a simple leap out of a 30-story window."

Perhaps you do not understand what is meant by materialism -- it is not a denial of the material universe or the ordinary working of the laws of nature.

There are recorded examples of a person walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, and himself being raised from the dead.

If true, would this disprove materialism to your satisfaction, or would you say these are impossible because materialism is true -- a scientifically undemonstrable assertion?

In which case, the foundation of your beliefs is not scientific, it is in the philosophy of materialism.

"They survive that and I'd be willing to at least concede that they might be onto something. Until then and until an equally compelling experiment is proposed and is successfully tested, to the extent that it is practical to our lives, materialism's reputation remains secure."

I, and you, exist -- not just our bodies, but the "I" part of us. That by itself should be sufficient intellectual, rational, and empirical evidence to demonstrate that the universe we live in consists of more than merely atoms, molecules and mindless chemical reactions.

The A-Team said...

You seem to be confusing the usages of the word "purpose." From an evolutionary perspective we are indeed driven to procreation, but philosophically, we make our own purposes. Or to a certain extent our purposes are chosen for us by an infinite regress of cause and effect relationships extending back at least as far as time began. That you feel purpose can only be assigned by an external anthropomorphic deity for it to have any meaning is your own presupposition. But of course this is all a total non-sequitur. Whether there is meaning or not has no baring on the truth.

And as I recall The Bible also says there was a magic talking snake, so I have to say your source material is on shaky ground. Meanwhile, our current understanding of neuroscience shows the brain can do pretty much everything the soul was said to do by a bunch of illiterate Bronze Age shepherds, making the soul redundant and unnecessary as an explanation. And since there's zero evidence for the soul in the first place Occam's Razor slices it out completely. No mere argument from ignorance can save the soul hypothesis. There must actually be positive evidence for it.

Materialism can't explain math? Really? You have one rock. You find another one and now have two rocks. Oh yeah, that's a real tough one. All the things you describe are not actual things; they are man-made constructs. And this little game works both ways. Why does god exist instead of not existing? Why does god have the traits and qualities he has instead of other traits? Why is god's will effective rather than ineffective? As a Christian, these are things YOU cannot account for.
You believe god is the default condition that is proceeded by nothing. We obviously can't give god credit for his own existence as god has no power over whether he exists, since if he did not exist he couldn't cause himself to exist. He'd have to exist first to do that. So you must believe that this god just IS and is the way it is FOR NO REASON, WITH NO CAUSE. You think you're accounting for the laws of logic with god but if god only exists because god just happens to exist and god has the traits and qualities he has just because he happens to have those traits, all for no reason or cause then the laws of logic you claim are contingent on this being are also just what they are for no reason or cause. So you've accounted for nothing at all. You're in the same boat as the materialist, only you've got a far bigger thing to explain the purpose of than the materialist. Laws of logic are not laws at all. We use the word "laws" to make it easier to understand. Rather, laws of logic are merely a tool and a language we use to describe how all things that exist consistently and reliably behave. For instance, it is a precondition of existing that something cannot be both X and not X at the same time and in the same respect. It is a precondition of existing that something is itself; if it weren't itself it would be something else. And that something else is itself. And if something is not itself or something else, it isn't. The laws of logic are not for the universe but rather are how we understand the universe. It's not that things follow these "laws." It's that we have created these laws to follow things that exist. Concordantly, things just behave the way they behave.

Again, why do you insist the truth has to be satisfying? This suggests a failure of imagination on your part unless you care to explain why the truth cannot possibly be unsatisfying to you. Otherwise this is an argument from personal incredulity.

Your Holocaust gambit is another total non-sequitur. It has no baring on the truth value of Evolution. And in addition to your exploiting the most despicable and repulsive gambit of the modern era, exploiting the Holocaust to associate one's political opponents with Nazis, the gambit also has the misfortune of being wholly inaccurate. Sure Hitler exploited science to promote both blind nationalism and the absolute authority of the state. He exploited Christianity no less for the same endgame. Hitler used science, religion, the motion picture, and everything else including the kitchen sink to manipulate the masses into obedience. To quote Seneca, "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

Now your point about evolutionary psychology is a pure strawman. Evolutionary psychology is a mere scientific hypothesis that only a minority of scientists put any stock in at all. It is a mutually exclusive claim from traditional Evolution and even those scientists who subscribe to it will admit that it lacks the evidence of Darwinian evolution.

And yes, the Christian view is a denial of the material universe at least in it's denial of mortality. If you're so certain death will bring you to paradise then why see a doctor or go to a hospital when you're sick or injured? Why mourn the dead? Why look both ways before crossing the street? Why lock your doors at night? Why view events like 9/11 as tragedies? In other words, why go to great lengths to prevent your own death if you're convinced death is the ultimate winning lottery ticket?

Those recorded examples of "miracles" are contained in obviously fictional stories and at best are easily fakable, especially in more superstitious times. On YouTube you can see Criss Angel "walking on water" and Peter Popoff "healing the sick." Ann Stratton has "raised people from the dead." John Edward "talks to the dead." In fact, there isn't one alleged miracle that isn't ambiguous and unexplainable by natural means. Why won't god do something that's actually impressive like healing an amputee? That would at least be worth of my attention.

You seem to suggest science is some sort of belief system; it's not. Science is a methodology for determining truth. It does not begin with presuppositions, at least when it's done right.
If ever anything truly happened that could not be explained with scientific investigation, that phenomena would only create a whole new field in science for scientists to devote their careers investigating. Scientists crave new mysteries and would jump at the opportunity of exploring a whole new field of science. But one thing science does not do is simply throw up its hands when it can't figure something out and declare it's just unexplainable--the end. Science doesn't accept lazy answers like it must be magic or god must have done it. Only god can prove the existence of god. No mere unexplainable phenomena is capable of proving one god or another. If there was enough evidence to link an unexplainable phenomena to a particular being then it wouldn't be unexplainable. Science by definition can only address falsifiable claims in the natural world. Unfalsifiable claims are no more science than history can be math. But unfalsifiable claims are useless since they can't be proven or disproven. So what do we need them for?

"I think, therefore I am." --How appropriate this should be expressed by a skeptic. You can play semantic games all you want but neuroscience has already localized the sense of self in the material human brain, all without appealing to voodoo explanations.

RkBall said...

"Science is a methodology for determining truth"

All truth?

Or some truth?

The A-Team said...

truth (with a lowercase t). As rabbit stated and I originally agreed, science is the best known method to determining truth, infinitely better than a Bronze Age mythology book full of folktales.

RkBall said...

Can science determine whether someone loves you or not?

The A-Team said...

To a large degree, yes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love#Scientific_views

But what about the previous points that have already been made? Does the lack of rebuttal mean you agree with them or that you're throwing out a whole new pile arguments because you don't want to concede that the previous ones weren't very good?

How about we just skip ahead to what you think is the one single most compelling argument from your non-materialist position, so that after I refute that, we can just call it a day?

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"