Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dogmatic sceptics

Anon: In the philosophy of science, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to experience formed through deliberate experimental investigation. I realized a home schooled fundy like yourself has never actually studied, or ever performed any scientific experiment, so I don’t expect you to understand any of that.

SH: How many of Anon’s scientific beliefs has he personally subjected to scientific experimentation?

He talks about experience and experimentation, but, of course, this is really a camouflaged appeal to the argument from authority.

Anon: It is generally taken as a fundamental requirement of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than relying on intuition or the revelations of anonymous ancient near east tribal shamans, or some 16th century religious pyscho named Calvin.

SH: Testing theories against observations of the natural world makes certain crucial assumptions about the observer’s perception of the natural world.

If Anon were truly conversant with the history of empiricism, he would realize that the relation between appearance and reality is a very vexed question in empiricism.

Anon: So, the common descent and gradual evolution of species by biological, reproductive processes on a geological timescale,(3.5 billion years) has been established as a scientific FACT based on the overwhelming empirical evidence that supports it , and based on the fact that there has not been found any evidence that falsifies it.

SH: Several problems with this assertion:

i) It ignores scientific dissent. It ignores the many arguments to the contrary.

ii) His scientific “facts” are predicated on unverifiable and metascientific assumptions involving the uniformity of nature and methodological naturalism.

iii) It is also quite possible to formulate a theory which is so flexible that it’s unfalsifiable.

iv) Assuming that naturalistic evolution is true, evolutionary psychology logically leads to scepticism. If it’s true, it’s false: therefore, it’s false.

Anon: Under certain circumstances, these ignorant, gullible people can be convinced by their cult leaders to kill themselves, so that a spaceship hiding behind a comet will take their "souls" to heaven.

SH: For someone who claims to be so concerned with the facts, note how he instantly transitions from Christian “fundamentalism” to secular ufology, as if these were interchangeable.

Anon: The worldwide scientific research community from over the past hundred years has discovered that no known hypothesis other than biological evolution and universal common descent can account scientifically for the unity, diversity, and patterns of terrestrial life.

This hypothesis has been verified and corroborated so extensively that it is currently accepted as FACT by the overwhelming majority of professional researchers in the biological and geological sciences, which includes many Christians. No alternate explanations compete scientifically with common descent, primarily for four main reasons:

1. The predictions of common descent have been confirmed from many independent areas of science.

2. No significant contradictory evidence has yet been found.

3. Competing possibilities (such as biblical creationism) have been contradicted by enormous amounts of scientific data.

4. Many other explanations (ie “theistic” evolution) are untestable, though they may be trivially consistent with biological data.

But then, you're not really interested in what the data and facts show, you're only interested in what some ancient myth says.

SH: There’s only one little problem with this assertion: he hasn’t marshaled any facts or predictions or biological data or scientific evidence.

All he’s offered us is a string of vouchers issued by the bank of City Groupthink. We’re given consensus in lieu of argument.

And those of us who, unlike Anon, follow both sides of the debate also know that his appeal to consensus is strategically overstated.

Anon: I have a graduate degree, but more importantly, what I don't have, is a Christian mind virus, that infects my thoughts and forces me to swear my allegiance to the ancient creation stories and allegories of my ignorant ancestors.

Several more problems:

i) The creation/evolution debate is quite interdisciplinary. No one man is expert in all of the salient fields.

For some reason, there are unbelievers who imagine that just because they have a degree in science, that somehow qualifies them to make dogmatic pronouncements far outside their area of study.

You’d think that a degree in science would have the opposite effect. That the more I learn about my own field of research, the more I realized how extremely specialized the sciences have become, so that I ought to cultivate a spirit of intellectual humility—especially when speaking outside my field of study.

ii) Then, for all his stated devotion to the “facts,” he resorts to the junk science of memetics.

iii) And even if memetics were hard science rather than pseudoscience, appealing to memes is a double-edged sword.

Are Christians infected with a Christian “mind virus”?

Or is it, rather an acute case of infidels infected with an infidelic mind virus?

iv) Notice, as well, the discrepancy between his stated emphasis on the facts and the moralistic tone he adopts.

Men whose only concern is with the dry, stubborn “facts” don’t assume the unctuous tone of the pulpiteer.

It’s clear that Anonymous has a deep, emotional investment in the outcome of this debate.

Anonymous is a poor man’s Richard Dawkins, while Dawkins is a frustrated priest.

12 comments:

  1. Steve,

    I've noticed that "hard" science folks can usually pull down their PhDs without having any learning in the philosophy of science, as our friend "anon". Their level of philosophical naivete is astounding.

    And, of course, "hard" science guys, at least in fields like evolutionary biology or cosmology, really do not and cannot test their hypotheses directly. They can only take data from existing observations and extrapolate backwards mathematically to verify their models. That is because things like, say, the Big Bang, are not repeatable phenomena that can be reproduced.

    This is why the field of engineering is clearly superior :)

    Our designs are subject to direct testing, and their operation, along with the conditions they operate in, are reproducible and repeatable.

    And, if we are wrong, our design is easily falsifiable. We don't have to wait for peer-reviewed dissent in obscure journals based on 4th-order mathematical abstractions. When we are wrong, our stuff simply does not fly - literally.

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  2. Genuine question, folks. Has anyone ever found a 'meme'? What does one look like and how can I locate it?

    Last time I looked, which I'll willingly admit was about 1999 (could have been 2002, depends which train I was on), this was simply a belief. I don't say theory as the only evidence, according to the Spectator and the Daily Telegraph was Richard Dawkins' dogmatic belief. Have things moved on, or is a 'meme' simply something invoked to explain those things which evolutionism can't account for?

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  3. David,

    That [the superiority of engineers over "hard" scientists] has been clearly noted before, especially in its manifesting as an interesting phenomenon: the high percentage of subscribers to ID who are engineers.

    Hmmm...people who design things for a living that see "design" in the world around them...insurresting...

    Gerard,

    I would say that we can trace the evolution of ideas and language through culture pretty easily. Viewing generalized concepts like "God" or "religion" or "Christianity" in this way is rather problematic though, as you might suspect.

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  4. I've noticed that "hard" science folks can usually pull down their PhDs without having any learning in the philosophy of science. . .

    And what courses did you take in philosophy of science in your engineering program, David?

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  5. And what courses did you take in philosophy of science in your engineering program, David?
    Glad you asked. The answer is: none.

    I happily admit that the modern academy has failed both hard science and engineering fields in educating students in important matters such as the philosophy of science.

    I was not implying that engineering was superior because we have a broader, more unified curriculum in your typical university classroom. That is demonstrably false - sadly.

    I had to make up this deficiency with my own, independent learning and reading. It all started with Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" (that much WAS required reading - in a general ed class), and I have continued to digest philosophical literature (of all kinds) ever since college.

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  6. Daniel, I know darn well how we can track the development of ideas, etc. in societies. I've done cultural history like anone else.

    My point is, is there any evidence that this is in any way biological, as Dawkins' language in 'The Selfish Gene' suggested? Or does that come from Dawkins' a priori commitment to vulgar materialism?

    Again, I ask because I wish to know.

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  7. SH: How many of Anon’s scientific beliefs has he personally subjected to scientific experimentation?

    He talks about experience and experimentation, but, of course, this is really a camouflaged appeal to the argument from authority.


    No, it’s an appeal to the scientific method and the skeptical peer review process that requires scientists to publish their theories, predictions, experiments and data so that it may be challenged and/or corroborated by other scientists working in their field.

    Of course I wouldn’t expect a science illiterate fundy to comprehend that process. But trust me, it’s quite a bit different than pointing to the musings of some first century cult leader named Saul and exclaiming:

    “Look! The Word of GAAAWD!”


    SH: Testing theories against observations of the natural world makes certain crucial assumptions about the observer’s perception of the natural world.

    Yes it does.

    It assumes the natural world isn’t really being manipulated by all the invisible good and evil spirits that make up your imaginary pantheon.

    Sorry, science doesn't indulge your insanity. But hey, the moment your immaterial spirits or god-men make themselves available for empirical investigation, that will change.

    What a shame your man-god was in such a hurry to leave the planet and "fly" off to "heaven", which your ignorant first century cult members thought was just above the moon in the sky.



    If Anon were truly conversant with the history of empiricism, he would realize that the relation between appearance and reality is a very vexed question in empiricism.

    LOL…I’m VERY conversant in empiricism, and I’m also aware that “reality” is a meaningless term outside the context of human perception.


    SH: Several problems with this assertion:

    i) It ignores scientific dissent. It ignores the many arguments to the contrary.

    It does nothing of the sort.

    Scientists become famous and earn prestige via dissent and showing where prior theories were wrong or need to be adjusted. But they only do that with scientific evidence.

    In this respect, science is very much unlike theology, where those who show dissent get burned at the stake, like Servetus.

    If you want to show why something other than biological evolution and common descent explains all the incredible amount of cross discipline data of geology, biology, paleontology, genetics, etc., please feel free to publish your theory, and your data in a peer reviewed science journal. I’m sure you’ll win a Nobel prize.

    If on the other hand you’re a Christian fundy who just wants to make some quick money appealing to the ignorance of the mass Christian fundy market, just write a bombastic book attacking evolution without ever doing any real science to support an alternative theory. Guys like Dembski, Johnson, and Behe have all made a pretty good buck using this approach.


    ii) His scientific “facts” are predicated on unverifiable and metascientific assumptions involving the uniformity of nature and methodological naturalism.

    The facts of biological evolution have been OBSERVED in the lab and in nature. They are completely verifiable. And yes, they are predicated on the “assumption” that your immaterial, invisible spirits, goblins and 3 headed gods aren’t directing every sperm, every climate change, and every meteor that strikes the earth.

    Just like we make the “assumption” some invisible angels aren’t pushing the earth around the sun.

    The fact is that you fundys are still living in mindset of 600 BCE, but some of us have moved on from the superstitious ignorance of that time.


    iii) It is also quite possible to formulate a theory which is so flexible that it’s unfalsifiable.

    Biological evolution and common descent is completely falsifiable. Feel free to present your fossil data that confirms all extant species suddenly appearing fully formed a few thousand years ago.

    Sorry Fundy…the earth is 4.5 billion years old, single cell microorganisms show up ~ 3.5 billion years ago, the first vertebrate fossils ~ 525 million years ago, the first mammals ~ 120 million years ago, the first bipedal hominid ~ 4 million years ago, and our species, H. Sapiens, shows up ~ 200,000 years ago.


    iv) Assuming that naturalistic evolution is true, evolutionary psychology logically leads to scepticism. If it’s true, it’s false: therefore, it’s false.

    Not sure what this babble means Fundy. But I’m sure it must sound brilliant to your slobbering fanboys though.

    “Evolutionary psychology” has nothing to do with the FACTS of science I’m talking about.

    Science is based on skepticism. And science never claims to have complete or “absolute” truth about “reality”. Science is a self correcting process where better, more complete explanations are constantly refining older, less complete explanations.

    It’s the antithesis of your fundy mindset of idolatrizing the musings of some ancient, dead cult leaders or tribal priests.

    Remember fundy, your homeboy Paul says you can't be "wise", but instead you have to be a FOOL to believe his tripe.

    So please stop pretending you're wise, when you know you're supposed to be a fool. When you've been told that you're supposed to have the mind of a child, to believe all the inane, unbelievable crap Christian theology is comprised of.




    SH: For someone who claims to be so concerned with the facts, note how he instantly transitions from Christian “fundamentalism” to secular ufology, as if these were interchangeable.

    The Heaven’s Gate cult was just another evolved religion that combined elements of Christianity and beliefs in UFOs.

    To us sane people, it doesn’t really appears not much different than the kind of tripe being sold by mainstream Christianity, like that Left Behind twaddle.


    There’s only one little problem with this assertion: he hasn’t marshaled any facts or predictions or biological data or scientific evidence.

    All he’s offered us is a string of vouchers issued by the bank of City Groupthink. We’re given consensus in lieu of argument.

    LOL….sorry Fundy…I’m not here to give you a high school biology class. Sorry you were home schooled or weren’t paying attention.

    I’m sure as a member of a religious cult, one of the common strategies to maintain your cult, is to claim there is a worldwide conspiracy of tens of thousands of scientists, across countless disciplines, of every nationality and religious background, who have all been indoctrinated into the belief that biological evolution is a fact.

    LOL…maybe “satan” is behind it all? Trying to tempt the faithful into believing it? So they will lose their eternal life prize your cult promises?

    Thanks for amusing me with your fundy, paranoid delusions. You should start a compound in Waco to protect your members from hearing all these lies.


    And those of us who, unlike Anon, follow both sides of the debate also know that his appeal to consensus is strategically overstated.

    There aren’t two sided to the debate in the scientific community. There is plenty of debate around specific mechanisms and evolutionary processes, but there is no debate around the FACT that biological evolution and common descent is the best explanation for the current terrestrial life forms we observe.

    The only “debate” is between Fundy whackos and the occasional fundy scientist who wants to pander to the anti-evolution fundy market.

    Feel free to link to any article in a peer reviewed science journal that challenges biological evolution with a better, falsifiable, scientific theory.

    Oops…you can’t do it.


    For some reason, there are unbelievers who imagine that just because they have a degree in science, that somehow qualifies them to make dogmatic pronouncements far outside their area of study.

    For some reason, a fundy lawyer named Philip Johnson, with no science degrees, can write a series of books trying to refute biological evolution without ever having done any REAL science, without ever having published one peer reviewed paper in a science journal with any empirical data or evidence that contradicts biological evolution or common descent.

    Yet ignorant, rabid, anti-science fundys lap it up like mothers milk.

    Again, there is no “debate” about biological evolution in the science community, it is an established FACT. There is also no “debate” that the earth is revolving around the sun, Fundy.


    That the more I learn about my own field of research, the more I realized how extremely specialized the sciences have become, so that I ought to cultivate a spirit of intellectual humility—especially when speaking outside my field of study.

    LOL…what’s your “field of research”? The theology of Calvin? Sorry fundy…that’s not considered science.


    ii) Then, for all his stated devotion to the “facts,” he resorts to the junk science of memetics.

    LOL…who said anything about the science of “memetics”? Not me. I think you’re imaging things again fundy…seems to be a common infliction of your cognitive dysfunction.


    It’s clear that Anonymous has a deep, emotional investment in the outcome of this debate.

    Anonymous is a poor man’s Richard Dawkins, while Dawkins is a frustrated priest.

    And you’re a hilarious fundy frightened by the facts of science.

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  8. Daniel, I know darn well how we can track the development of ideas, etc. in societies. I've done cultural history like anone else.

    My point is, is there any evidence that this is in any way biological, as Dawkins' language in 'The Selfish Gene' suggested? Or does that come from Dawkins' a priori commitment to vulgar materialism?


    Dawkins never claimed that the transfer of cultural ideas was a "biological" phenomenon, except that it is being done by biological organisms. It was just an analogy of how discrete bits of culture like language, fashion, music, religious, etc. replicate, mutate and are reproduced in human minds.

    I'm sorry you find "materialism" so vulgar, as opposed to all the lovely magical spirits and gods of your mythology that commit all kinds of genocide and infantcide on behalf of their loyal cult members.

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  9. Vulgar materialism is not an insult. Rather, it is a technical description of the belief that matter is all there is and the dismissal of all metaphysics. It comes from political science/ history of ideas.

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  10. Oh, and I assume then memes are 'evoltion of the gaps', then

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  11. Good day fellow historians, I couldn't help but notice a one named Gerard Charmley, I have searched and searched the internet to talk to you but you never reply to my e-mails, i hope i have the correct adress because i would feel like a right nana if i got it wrong. I am a history teacher and i wish to bring christianity into my teachings, however, the big wigs wont allow it. I need some advice and some encouragment from a fellow believer, please get back to me as i will be waiting for your reply. P.S. can anyone who sees this please contact Gerard immideately as time is short. Thankyou.


    Robert Howard.

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  12. Hey just in case you want to find me, ive recently joined the blog so anyone out there who could help me find Gerard Charmley, I am looking forward to discussing issues with him as i agree with almost everything he said.

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