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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/18/2009 :  13:20:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.
Nope.
Yeah, obviously I didn't read that part carefully enough. Just the phrase "enables creationists" was enough to make by blood pressure rise. But you're correct, it's more of a NOMA issue, with Rosenau clearly believing the validity of separate magisteria has been "settled" long ago, and it's just the extremists on both sides who want to disrupt the peace.

I made some other points, too.
Your conclusion was excellent, Dave, and bears repeating:
In other words, if literature tells us that the Earth in 6,000 years old, and literature is just a different "way of knowing" than science, then how can anyone assert that young-Earth creationism is "wrong?"
That's one of the main problems accommodationists have been unwilling to address. I've heard many people who have said that the question of god's existence is not something that science can address since it is unfalsifiable. No matter how many prayer studies one conducts or how many "transubstantiated" Eucharists one investigates under spectrum analysis, believers can simply claim that god doesn't like to be tested and hides his actions.

But that sort of ad hoc excuse-making can be done for absolutely any premise, as Carl Sagan so wonderfully demonstrated in his essay The Dragon In My Garage. Ad hoc excuses can even save young-Earth creationism from absolute disproof if one is determined enough. All that's required is to claim that god made the world with the appearance of age. No matter how many indications we have that the Earth is ancient, it doesn't matter, since that's merely an illusion instrumented by an all-powerful god. Science is incapable of addressing such an assertion.

Yet you never hear the accommodationists trying to defend young-Earth creationism with the same tenacity that they defend the god hypothesis. They clearly reject the former as wrong and false. But on what grounds? How are the faith arguments for a magically-created planet any different than the faith arguments for the magic man himself? Why is the miracle of god speaking all life into existence absurd but the miracle of Jesus' resurrection sacrosanct? Obviously the accommodationalists are using some standards other than empirical observation and falsifiability to determine that young-Earth creationism is untrue by any reasonable standard and the question of god's existence is not, but I'll be damned if I can tell what that might be.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 09/18/2009 13:31:24
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Dave W.
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Posted - 09/18/2009 :  14:10:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert

That's one of the main problems accommodationists have been unwilling to address. I've heard many people who have said that the question of god's existence is not something that science can address since it is unfalsifiable. No matter how many prayer studies one conducts or how many "transubstantiated" Eucharists one investigates under spectrum analysis, believers can simply claim that god doesn't like to be tested and hides his actions.
What's worse is that as soon as that sort of ad hoc reasoning rears its ugly head, "science" becomes nothing more than "the study of that which God allows us to know and which He doesn't change very often," and the ultimate answer to any "scientific" question becomes "because God wants things to work that way right now."

But I don't hear any accomodationist atheists actually making that excuse on behalf of believers. Instead, as Coyne and many others have noted, accomodationist atheists can really only allow for the existence of a god which cannot be tested because it doesn't actually do much of anything for which we could, in principle, gather evidence. And then they try really hard to convince the rest of the world that most of the faithful believe in exactly that sort of god, and just nevermind the explicit dogma of the Catholics, Protestants, Jews, etc., etc.. We're expected to believe that with few exceptions, the only theists who believe anything about their religion literally (like that Jesus was resurrected or that the Jews wandered in the desert for decades) are the fundamentalists, which is so clearly untrue that it's laughable.

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Dave W.
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26004 Posts

Posted - 09/18/2009 :  14:50:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I missed Rosenau's reply to Coyne, in which Rosenau unhelpfully states:
Near as I can tell, Coyne's view is that science is the only path to truth (a problematic claim and one I hope I've misunderstood), and that any other enterprise which purports to produce truth is therefore in competition with science, and ought to be opposed as such. My view is that science has no monopoly on truth claims nor on knowledge, and that other ways of evaluating truth claims are not problematic so long as they are not imposed on others, and don't interfere with anyone's ability to pursue their own course. I oppose authoritarianism, a phenomenon which occurs in some religious communities (but not all), and in various other political and cultural contexts.
How the hell does this guy live with himself as an employee of the NCSE? I guess he must be okay with having scientific truth claims imposed upon others.

I left the following comment:
I really don't understand how Joshua can say that he's just fine with all sorts of different "ways of knowing" so long as their believers don't try to impose them on others, while working for a group which seeks to impose its favored "way of knowing" on schoolkids all over the U.S. Isn't this just hypocrisy on a grand scale? Doesn't this demonstrate all the philosophical dressings to be nothing more than obscuring pretensions, and the critique of philosophical naivete to be particularly obscene?
I am, I think justifiably, disgusted.

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Dave W.
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Posted - 09/18/2009 :  20:37:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Rosenau has made two more posts on his latest self-initiated brouhaha. I left the second comment on the second post:
Rosenau wrote:
To return, then, to ways of knowing, I'll define them as systematic methods of evaluating truth claims against new sources of knowledge...
And how, precisely, is "literature" in any way a "systematic method[] of evaluating truth claims against new sources of knowledge?" Will you be defining the word "literature" in such a way as to include only those works which are serious examinations of serious questions, and excluding all works which consist of stuff the author just made up for fun? Since it's inconvenient, we can ignore the fact that serious literature often disagrees with other serious literature regarding their truth claims.

But more importantly, Mr. Rosenau, you seem to be making the same mistake in these latest two posts that you were making four posts ago: confusing the
conveyance of knowledge (or "delivery" of knowledge, to use Kazez's term) with the discernment of knowledge.

For example, the Bible may convey many truths, but it doesn't help in the matter of telling truth from falsehood (in fact, it muddies the waters by giving out self-contradictory advice on discriminating between the good and the bad).

Literature, art, golf, chess (etc.) may all convey truths, but they aren't tools for learning what's true and what's not.
That is the goal of science, and that's what makes it a "way of knowing" while all those other human endeavors are not, no matter how many truths they actually do deliver, or how much meaning people derive from them.

That's why we don't teach literature in science classes, which you should already understand, given your job and your studies.

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/18/2009 :  22:25:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
H.H. said:
That's one of the main problems accommodationists have been unwilling to address. I've heard many people who have said that the question of god's existence is not something that science can address since it is unfalsifiable. No matter how many prayer studies one conducts or how many "transubstantiated" Eucharists one investigates under spectrum analysis, believers can simply claim that god doesn't like to be tested and hides his actions.


My position on this would probably be called extreme by many, but I think it is the only reasonable position to take.

Anyone can assert any claim. Unless they provide evidence, then I can accurately describe such claims as bullshit. If they have some evidence, but the evidence they present doesn't actually support their claim, then I can accurately describe such claims as bullshit.

FSM, Hypnotoad, IPU, none of those are falsifiable!


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2009 :  00:21:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude
My position on this would probably be called extreme by many, but I think it is the only reasonable position to take.

Anyone can assert any claim. Unless they provide evidence, then I can accurately describe such claims as bullshit. If they have some evidence, but the evidence they present doesn't actually support their claim, then I can accurately describe such claims as bullshit.

FSM, Hypnotoad, IPU, none of those are falsifiable!
That's not at all extreme. In fact, I pretty much consider it a skeptical truism that claims asserted without evidence may be rejected without evidence. I don't need to prove that what you believe isn't true, the burden of proof is on you to prove that it is true. That's the law in this town.

And usually, most sane people agree to this standard. But there's something about the subject of religion that makes a lot people want to suddenly turn the rules on their head. Nearly all of the apologetical arguments marshaled forth in defense of god would be laughed off as preposterous, silly, or unreasonably credulous if attempted with any other subject matter.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 09/19/2009 00:22:30
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2009 :  08:18:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
H.H. said:
In fact, I pretty much consider it a skeptical truism that claims asserted without evidence may be rejected without evidence.
...
Nearly all of the apologetical arguments marshaled forth in defense of god would be laughed off as preposterous, silly, or unreasonably credulous if attempted with any other subject matter.

Yeah. People create special exceptions for their personal religious beliefs all the time. I take it a step further than just rejecting the claims though. In that awesome comic you posted I would not end with WTF, I'd end with "So, you are full of shit and don't actually have a baseball."

The unfalsifiable descriptor, if accurate, doesn't only mean that a claim can't be dis-proven, it means the claim is inherently ridiculous. In any case except religion almost all people would also agree that an unfalsifiable claim is little more than the result of an overactive imagination.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26004 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2009 :  09:07:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Yeah. People create special exceptions for their personal religious beliefs all the time.
Russell's Teapot:
If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2009 :  16:49:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, I'm familiar with the teapot. I'm saying that many skeptics adopt some soft agnostic position on religion and defend it with the "unfalsifiable" argument. But if a thing is really unfalsifiable, it is also unprovable.

That is not the soft statement many people take it to be, thinking that unfalsifiable means there is some possibility of it being true. Any claim that can accurately be described as unfalsifiable is nonsense.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26004 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2009 :  19:35:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Yeah, I'm familiar with the teapot. I'm saying that many skeptics adopt some soft agnostic position on religion and defend it with the "unfalsifiable" argument. But if a thing is really unfalsifiable, it is also unprovable.
Yeah, that's the "respect" that the theists demand. Skeptics give them that respect because of teapot-like thinking. It's the skeptic's way of saying "we won't touch that, because it's personal." And sure they are personal, but so is a person's taste in interior design, and we don't generally have a problem ridiculing that.
That is not the soft statement many people take it to be, thinking that unfalsifiable means there is some possibility of it being true. Any claim that can accurately be described as unfalsifiable is nonsense.
I would only make the distinction between unfalsifiable in principle and unfalsifiable for practical reasons. Things that are unfalsifiable now, just for a lack of resources or time or what-not, should be "left alone," in that we shouldn't dismiss them out-of-hand. For example, at this moment, we've got zippy evidence in favor of the existence of the Higgs boson. But when the LHC finally does start working, impractical unfalsifiability for that particular question may be eliminated.

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2009 :  20:47:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Unfalsifiable in principle is what I meant.

Higgs boson, ET life, and the list of things that are not practically falsifiable do have to be left tentatively open, I agree.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26004 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2009 :  21:37:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Unfalsifiable in principle is what I meant.
Yeah, I was saying that I would be more pedantic about it.

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Dave W.
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26004 Posts

Posted - 09/23/2009 :  17:16:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks to Ophelia Benson, I have learned that the University of New Mexico History Department is selling science short:
It is important to realize that our desire to protect the integrity of science as a distinct intellectual discipline is not an attempt to elevate science above all other intellectual endeavors; quite the contrary. Science is one way of knowing the world ; it is not the only way of knowing, and it is certainly not the only way of knowing everything. Indeed, in the grand scheme of human thought and action, the domain of science is modest the realm of natural phenomena. Science, as it has developed historically, will not and can never tell us anything about the nature of beauty, or the attributes of justice, or the qualities of goodness. There are many ideas and many truths (like the belief that all people are created equal, or that they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) upon which science must remain mute.
What utter crap. In the last decade, scientists have learned that people find symmetrical faces more beautiful and that chimps understand at least a rudimentary form of justice. These may not meet everyone's definition of "the nature of beauty" and "the attributes of justice," but they're just a start, and more data, experimentation and explanation come every damn day. "The qualities of goodness?" We can empirically determine that once we know what you mean by "good" (hypotheses cannot exist in a contextual vacuum).

Biology tells us, in no uncertain terms, that "the belief that all people are created equal" is flat-out wrong. However, the ideal that all people in a fair society should be given equal opportunities by the government is eminently testable, as soon as a hypothetical outcome for that ideal is introduced. Whether or not people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is nothing more than a claim about the laws of the land, and cannot be elevated to a science-can't-touch-this plane simply because someone says that science can't touch it.
Supernatural creation stories may, in fact, be true; but science, as only one way of knowing, will never tell us this.
Which story? Genesis is falsified by the fossil record. What science can't compete with are ad hoc excuses for why God created the world according to Genesis anyway ("He must have re-ordered the fossils," for example).
Science is simply not equipped to speak on supernatural issues, and it would be a mistake to try to force it to do so.
Science is perfectly equipped to speak on supernatural issues made "real" by the many claims of believers that science can prove them correct. Rather than placing artifical and (seemingly) wholly fictional limits on science, perhaps the History department should be telling the religious folks to make their beliefs less materialistic and testable.

I was going to dump a lot of this on the NCSE's feet, because the piece I'm criticizing is a part of the NCSE's "Voices for Evolution," in which they try to present a diverse selection of people defending evolutionary biology. However, because the UNM Histoy Dept. does so at the expense of science in general makes me unhappy. If the NCSE included that piece only to be inclusive, they've done their readers a disservice. Especially since none of my defenses of evolution are included.

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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 09/24/2009 :  21:52:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.
These may not meet everyone's definition of "the nature of beauty" and "the attributes of justice," but they're just a start, and more data, experimentation and explanation come every damn day. "The qualities of goodness?" We can empirically determine that once we know what you mean by "good" (hypotheses cannot exist in a contextual vacuum).

What about the idea that people should have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Maybe that single statement is false, but how can we ever prove a "should" statement with science? If we cannot prove any "should" statements, and that "should" statements are therefore useless, do we not become complete moral relativists? There are actual moral philosophies involving only reason (e.g. Kant), but I am unsure of any based purely on science (without an arguable definition of "goodness").

I agree we could empirically determine the qualities of goodness once we define it, but defining "good" is most of the battle. Without a definition of good, we cannot prove any of those should statements. I agree that in the event that we could define the good and the goals we should pursue, science could evaluate which actions would be most effective in pursuit of those goals.

Science is perfectly equipped to speak on supernatural issues made "real" by the many claims of believers that science can prove them correct. Rather than placing artifical and (seemingly) wholly fictional limits on science, perhaps the History department should be telling the religious folks to make their beliefs less materialistic and testable.

What of David Hume's claim that we cannot prove our perceptions accurately and fully represent reality? Of course, this does not give any justification whatsoever to religious claims of knowledge, but it does seem to imply that science, since it depends on our assumption in the uniformity of nature and causality, may have limits, or that we have not proven it does yield unlimited and infallible knowledge.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
Edited by - Machi4velli on 09/24/2009 21:54:28
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26004 Posts

Posted - 09/24/2009 :  22:37:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Machi4velli

What about the idea that people should have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Maybe that single statement is false, but how can we ever prove a "should" statement with science? If we cannot prove any "should" statements, and that "should" statements are therefore useless, do we not become complete moral relativists? There are actual moral philosophies involving only reason (e.g. Kant), but I am unsure of any based purely on science (without an arguable definition of "goodness").
Again, hypotheses cannot exist independent of context. The "should" statements are all hypotheses that rely upon the contexts of the goals, either explicit or implicit, that accompany them. If your goal is to rule the world with an iron fist, then it's likely that people having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will conflict with your goal, and cause empirically determinable failures in your quest to reach your goal. If your goal is a happy and socially stable nation, then there are likely tests which can be formulated to determine if granting said rights (singly or together) will help or hinder your realization of the goal, and perhaps by how much.
I agree we could empirically determine the qualities of goodness once we define it, but defining "good" is most of the battle. Without a definition of good, we cannot prove any of those should statements. I agree that in the event that we could define the good and the goals we should pursue, science could evaluate which actions would be most effective in pursuit of those goals.
Yes, that's exactly my point. "Goodness" all by itself is a meaningless term, it requires context.

Of course, the people in the UNM History Dept. are free to making context-free (and thus meaning-free) statements, but to do so as if they are meaningful and then to claim that science can't address those issues is nothing more than feel-good pablum to appease the religious.
What of David Hume's claim that we cannot prove our perceptions accurately and fully represent reality? Of course, this does not give any justification whatsoever to religious claims of knowledge, but it does seem to imply that science, since it depends on our assumption in the uniformity of nature and causality, may have limits, or that we have not proven it does yield unlimited and infallible knowledge.
Don't get me wrong: science does have limits. I'm not a big fan of scientism, the idea that eventually science will answer all our concerns.

For example, science cannot be used to determine our goals, it can only be used to tell us whether the set of rules we have chosen will move us closer or further from those goals. Well, I suppose science could tell us that we should pick a goal other than "rule the world with an iron fist" if it can empirically determine that our preference for unbridled civil liberties would necessarily make the "iron fist" part difficult to achieve.

Science also can't tell us why existence... exists. "Why is there something rather than nothing?" We'll never know through scientific means alone.

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