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Posted: 16 January 2008 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Salt Creek - 16 January 2008 11:22 AM

Thank you, M. That is so elegant and concise.

People can be haunted by all sorts of spirits. We have on the one hand, people haunted by the Holy Spirit, and those on the other hand haunted by the “spirit of the times” (Zeitgeist). People want to be haunted. We know how that happens. In the end, all it turns out to be is laziness.

Atkins said it best. Theology obfuscates. It may be that post-structuralism is theology’s new best friend. The only way either of them can proceed is by not ruling anything out.

Obviously, if theology was able to rule anything out, there would only be one world religion. The first thing that post-structuralism fails miserably to question in its questioning of knowledge is itself.

It is worth noting in passing that there is only one scientific method. Burt Voorhees, for one, is sometimes frustrated by this, but he, too, is a bit haunted by the ghost of Aristotle.

Saying that there is only one scientific method makes it sound as if that method were cast in stone and is eternal, immutable, in essence,... divine.  In fact, we know that there are a variety of methods in different sciences (after all, not everybody in science is a condensed matter physicist) and that “scientific method”, to the extent that the term refers to the body of procedures that are carried out in the pursuit of science, is something that has evolved over time.  It seems that you are saying here that this evolution has stopped—I would respectfully disagree.

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Posted: 16 January 2008 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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burt - 16 January 2008 01:15 PM

In fact, we know that there are a variety of methods in different sciences (after all, not everybody in science is a condensed matter physicist) and that “scientific method”, to the extent that the term refers to the body of procedures that are carried out in the pursuit of science, is something that has evolved over time.

Would you actually like to make the case for this, Burt? Or should we take it on faith?

Do you want to provide a definition for the scientific method that indicates that it has “evolved” substantially since the Seventeenth Century? Do you want to articulate the differences in the scientific method between condensed matter physics and, say, evolutionary biology? I think not. You can pick at details, of course, as I expect you to. I would expect nothing less of a philosopher who is not really a scientist.

The “essence” is staying tied to the results obtained by experiment and by the definition of what an experiment is. Do you want to dispute this?

[ Edited: 16 January 2008 08:54 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 16 January 2008 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Salt Creek - 16 January 2008 01:49 PM

The “essence” is staying tied to the results obtained by experiment and by the definition of what an experiment is. Do you want to dispute this?

What’s your definition of “experiment”?

Is gathering and cataloging fossils “experimentation”? How about computational modeling?

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Posted: 16 January 2008 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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derekjames - 16 January 2008 02:02 PM

What’s your definition of “experiment”?

Is gathering and cataloging fossils “experimentation”? How about computational modeling?

I’ve done both the collection of laboratory data and computational modeling. I know something about how the results of simulations should be applied. Your experience with the same should tell you this, unless you’ve never been in a laboratory.

Computational modeling is often applied when direct measurements are not possible. In understanding the conditions at the earth’s core-mantle boundary, not all experiments are possible, and not all simulations add to your knowledge. OK?

Cataloging of fossils is not “experimentation”. Making conjectures about what should be discovered in new fossils is part of how the theory of evolution demonstrates its chops.

Evolutionary biology tests itself experimentally in the productions, e.g., of genetic research.

[ Edited: 16 January 2008 09:23 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 16 January 2008 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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burt - 16 January 2008 01:15 PM

In fact, we know that there are a variety of methods in different sciences (after all, not everybody in science is a condensed matter physicist.

When researchers submit a paper for review, they often have a section describing the “Method”.

Maybe they should use a word like “Protocol” instead, to remove this confusion.

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Posted: 16 January 2008 01:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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M is for Malapert - 16 January 2008 06:07 PM

Maybe they should use a word like “Protocol”

Nah. They need to reseve that as a trade name for a new compound that simultaneously treats BPH,  ED and HD/ADD.

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Posted: 16 January 2008 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Salt Creek - 16 January 2008 02:20 PM

Computational modeling is often applied when direct measurements are not possible. In understanding the conditions at the earth’s core-mantle boundary, not all experiments are possible, and not all simulations add to your knowledge. OK?

Sounds good. Then would you agree that not all science is experimentation in a laboratory, and that methods such as computational modeling are scientific tools?

I was basically trying to help Burt out here, and agree with his notion that the scientific method has evolved over time.

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Posted: 16 January 2008 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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derekjames - 16 January 2008 06:33 PM
Salt Creek - 16 January 2008 02:20 PM

Computational modeling is often applied when direct measurements are not possible. In understanding the conditions at the earth’s core-mantle boundary, not all experiments are possible, and not all simulations add to your knowledge. OK?

Sounds good. Then would you agree that not all science is experimentation in a laboratory, and that methods such as computational modeling are scientific tools?

I was basically trying to help Burt out here, and agree with his notion that the scientific method has evolved over time.

Let me just point out that, in reference to the core-mantle boundary conditions, the details of the simulation are forced to be consistent with seismic data. Notice the word “data”. A computer simulation experiment is an experiment, but the results of computational experiments are not necessarily “data”.

Simulations may or may not lead to physical insight, and you should not assume that they always do. It is a delicate dance.

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Posted: 16 January 2008 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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Regarding the evolution of science and scientific method over time: the changes since the 17th century have been at a relatively low level: development of statistics for data analysis, refinement of experimental protocols, etc.  That doesn’t mean that no major changes will occur in the future—after all, pre-17th century science had very different methods.  While Salt Creek claims that the basic thing is sticking to experimental data and having theory follow the data, this ignores the question of how the data is to be interpreted and what experiments are actually relevent to a given theory.  Those questions can only be answered by referring to the more general conceptual framework.  Current scientific method doesn’t have precise criteria for dealing with this.  And of course, as a theorist I can always take comfort from Paul Adrian Maurice Dirac who said that it’s better to have beauty in the equations than to have them agree with experiment.

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Posted: 16 January 2008 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Salt Creek - 16 January 2008 06:12 PM
M is for Malapert - 16 January 2008 06:07 PM

Maybe they should use a word like “Protocol”

Nah. They need to reseve that as a trade name for a new compound that simultaneously treats BPH,  ED and HD/ADD.

I was thinking maybe a fragrance…

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Posted: 19 January 2008 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Reply, at last, to M’s first/main answer. [The connectivity problems persist, and there are others. Matters should be better in about 10 days, when I’ll be back in the first world.]

M is for Malapert - 13 January 2008 11:23 PM
keith - 13 January 2008 11:08 AM

in any case nothing can now be ‘proved’ in any meaningful sense against the backdrop of our intellectually dominant post-structuralism/knowledge-relativism,

I suppose this is true among some philosophisers, but most people have no idea what “post-structural knowledge relativism” means, and others have a clue but disagree.

K: You’re right. But it doesn’t help us. The poison has completely saturated our intellectual discourse. 

even if it could be, the theists would simply fall back on their ancient and widely accepted ‘faith’ escape clause.

That, and their acceptance of different kinds of knowing—everything from faith to “what the bleep”. 

K: This is fine. All we need do is ask them to provide some coherent explanation of how these ‘different kinds of knowing’ work. How do they functionally distinguish knowledge from non knowledge? We know how ours works. I want to explain it clearly to the theists, and then ask them to return the favor. If - as I’m about 99.9999% certain - they can’t, then I want to trudge patiently forward, through all of their BS and obfustication, until they’ve got none left and we’re standing face to face on the epistemological bedrock; from where I’ll finally be able to say to them something like ‘OK, now that you’ve got all that out of your system, let’s consider together, and honestly, what you really know and how you know it.”

For instance, you prefer “X is observable” to “X is observably true”, but you are going to come a cropper here (in this forum, I mean) over how “observable” is to be defined. 

K: I’m not sure why. What is complex or difficult about on-demand-repeatable physical observation according the greatest certainty in a functional knowledge justification heirarchy? On people believing that ‘the Bible’ is evidence: this is -  with the greatest sadness and sympathy - observably due to their minds having been badly damaged. The only ground from which they can coherently advance the Bible as evidence over, say, ‘DC Comics Adventures of Superman’ is reason. And from this ground there can be seen to be a logically exclusive knowledge system that is far better, in all respects, than the Bible.

We have people here who believe that the Bible is evidence;
we have others who stoutly defend their own subjective “experiences” as observations. 

K: I’d be very interested in hearing these stout defenses.

Bruce Burleson, for instance, has had an “experience” which I don’t think he has ever described, but which convinced him that Jesus walks and talks with him (apparently).  And your request that he take you to where you, too can have the same observation will be dismissed.  Maybe you can get through to him to explain why he shouldn’t do that, but none of the rest of us can.

K: Bruce; you out there?

I mean, you say:

But what about the rest? Is any of it observably more firmly grounded than science? Can we see ourselves to have some competitive and superior basis for any of it?

You’d get a hearty Yes from the theists here.

K: If give a hearty Yes to the proposal that the moon is made of mozzerella, will you let me get away with it; and even treat me with respect and deference? Exactly this is what we have, ultimately unkindly, been doing to the theists.

Basically, that we should abandon our traditional attack in terms of ‘our truths’ v ‘their truths’ (post-structuralism being right in that no resolution is possible at this level) in favor of the simpler and deeper attack of informing them that their proposals cannot be understood to qualify as knowledge upon any basis that can be understood to be capable of yielding knowledge*; with expression of our willingness to demonstrate this to them through direct physical observation.

While I agree with a lot of what you have to say, I think you’ll find that some of us already don’t argue “our truths vs. your truths”; we don’t think much about post-structuralism; we’re already telling them that “their proposals cannot be understood to qualify as knowledge”, and somehow that doesn’t dramatically reclarify the debate at all. 

Just informing these folks that their proposals are not knowledge (already leaving “truth” out of it) makes little impression, because they’re ignorant, they’re convinced, and they don’t have the respect for science that you do.  At all. 

K: You’re right in that ‘informing’ would not succeed. But what about innocently asking them for their basis for their irrational proposals, and then leading them patiently, step by difficult step, to the realization that they have none?

You say okay, not at this level maybe, but at a higher one.  And hope it filters down? 

Aren’t Sam and the rest already doing this? 

K: No. They are still allowing the discussion to be framed in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘proof’. In these areas we have ours, and the theists have theirs, and never the twain shall meet. Sam and the rest are a little like Dorothy in Oz. The ruby slippers have been on their feet for the past 70 years, but they haven’t grasped how to click the heels together.

I have, as implied, already been reworking if for the past few years in order to incorporate or address a lot of critical feedback.

It was very hard for me to understand what you were getting at.  Can you come up with a simpler version? 

K: I’m still trying, but the central question (the one that’s introduced generally, and then asked explicitly to the reader) is about as simple as I’ve been able to make it so far. 

Also, I’m afraid that your footnote…

Or is it finally for the sake of this implication, that you wish to maintain ‘truth’? If so then please just tell me that - clearly, honestly, once and for all - and I will not insist on being your Socratic gadfly. I will withdraw to some Walden, or Kozinski cabin [but of course, sans bombs] and live out my life.

...probably hits pretty close to the truth.  (Ooops, sorry.)

K: It may be what I end up doing. But while I’m still here I might ask you, M, what you mean - non redundantly of course, in that we’re both creatures of reason - by that word.

Got to run now; and I still haven’t dealt with Chicago! I thought it was in this post, and I’d get to it as I worked down. I will find it for next session, and answer Unbeliever.

My best to all,

Keith

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Posted: 19 January 2008 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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keith - 19 January 2008 10:20 AM

 
If give a hearty Yes to the proposal that the moon is made of mozzerella, will you let me get away with it; and even treat me with respect and deference? Exactly this is what we have, ultimately unkindly, been doing to the theists.

No, I won’t let you get away with that; and no, I haven’t been letting the theists get away with it either in terms of deferring to their “different kinds of knowledge”.  Same with many of the rest of us here.  However, we’ve made no impression whatsoever as far as I can tell. 

When you get the chance, just watch that video.  When Wolpe argued with Sam about his observation—this isn’t even an opinion—that there is no question which science used to answer, but which religion now has a better answer for, while there are innumerable examples to the contrary, what can you do?

You’re right in that ‘informing’ would not succeed. But what about innocently asking them for their basis for their irrational proposals, and then leading them patiently, step by difficult step, to the realization that they have none?

I recall several examples of people asking theists what their basis for belief is—e.g. Noggin, specifically wrt to the Mormon church.  There hasn’t been any leading them to the realization that they have none.  I certainly encourage you to try, though.  Why not try with a theist or two on this forum, so we can see how you do it?

They [Sam et al.] are still allowing the discussion to be framed in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘proof’.

Really?  I don’t remember Sam using those words. 

I might ask you, M, what you mean - non redundantly of course, in that we’re both creatures of reason - by that word.

Which word?

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Posted: 19 January 2008 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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M is for Malapert - 19 January 2008 06:54 PM
keith - 19 January 2008 10:20 AM

 
They [Sam et al.] are still allowing the discussion to be framed in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘proof’.

Really?  I don’t remember Sam using those words.

We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation, or any of the other fantastical notions that have lurked in the minds of the faithful for millennia because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

...

Many religious moderates have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths, but in doing so they neglect to notice the irredeemably sectarian truth claims of each.

...

Even most fundamentalists live by the lights of reason in this regard; it is just that their minds seem to have been partitioned to accommodate the profligate truth claims of their faith.

...

To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it.

Hell, that’s just from the first ten pages of The End of Faith.

A lot of people on this forum got their panties in a bunch when I invoked the concept of truth, but they apparently don’t apply the same level of scrutiny to Harris’ actual writing.

[ Edited: 19 January 2008 02:07 PM by derekjames]
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Posted: 19 January 2008 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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derekjames - 19 January 2008 07:03 PM
M is for Malapert - 19 January 2008 06:54 PM
keith - 19 January 2008 10:20 AM

 
They [Sam et al.] are still allowing the discussion to be framed in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘proof’.

Really?  I don’t remember Sam using those words.

We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation, or any of the other fantastical notions that have lurked in the minds of the faithful for millennia because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

...

Many religious moderates have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths, but in doing so they neglect to notice the irredeemably sectarian truth claims of each.

...

Even most fundamentalists live by the lights of reason in this regard; it is just that their minds seem to have been partitioned to accommodate the profligate truth claims of their faith.

...

To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it.

Hell, that’s just from the first ten pages of The End of Faith.

To me, the phrase “truth claim” (or similar) is pejorative, probably much in the sense you mean it.  On the other hand, “to speak truthfully” is just a careless colloquialism. 

When Sam is debating theists, I just don’t hear it as a battle of “my truth vs. your truth”.  But I Could Be Wrong.  Furthermore, I’m not a huge Sam fan so this isn’t a question of defending my hero.

Regardless, I still don’t think it’s a question of reframing the debate.  I don’t think there is any way to get theists to understand, or to care, that their beliefs aren’t founded in observation or reason.  For many that is a badge of honor.

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Posted: 21 January 2008 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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derekjames - 13 January 2008 05:17 PM

Hi Keith. You’re essay is reasonably coherent, but there’s a lot I find to argue with, especially your apparent desire to toss the concept “truth” in the dustbin. You say:

Please accept my apology; for the long delay, and wrong attribution of your Chicago criticism to M. I’ll respond in your text.

derekjames - 13 January 2008 05:17 PM

Hi Keith. You’re essay is reasonably coherent, but there’s a lot I find to argue with, especially your apparent desire to toss the concept “truth” in the dustbin. You say:

Again: If we have, on balance, sufficient justification for embracing any proposal as knowledge, then why should we not do so upon the direct basis of that justification, and for exactly as long as that justification can be seen to be sustainable? And if we lack such justification, then how/why should we embrace the proposal? Exactly where - in this apparently simple honest and transparent process - is ‘truth’ needed? Or, to look at it from the other side: what additional utility can we imagine our ‘truth’ concept to have been offering us, beyond the ability to maintain as knowledge proposals that we know, at some level, we ought not to be maintaining?

Let’s say Bob has two friends, Alice and Carol. Both friends seem as reasonably honest and reliable as the other. Alice has told Bob that she was born in Chicago. Carol has told Bob that she was born in Detroit. Bob is reasonably justified in believing each of them. However, in fact, they were both born in Chicago.

According to you, there is no qualitative difference between Bob’s beliefs about where Alice and Carol were born. Both are justified…what else is there?

K: Nothing. You understand my position perfectly. Bob is equally justified in his belief - about both Alice and Carol - that they were born in Chicago. So he should hold it for exactly as long as this situation pertains. Your example doesn’t seem to me to show any utility for our ‘truth’ concept. Rather, if anything, the opposite. Would Bob gain anything by taking his belief (that they were both born in Chicago) to represent the actual state of reality? Wouldn’t this merely form an additional barrier to his arrival – as when relevant new evidence might surface – at the belief that Carol was either lying or confused?  And could he in reason be justified in making this additional step when he can see that he, and Alice and Carol and Chicago, are merely divisions being ascribed to reality by beings with his (and yes of course Alice and Carol’s) specific perceptive and cognitive capabilities? Your ‘in fact’ here seems to me to be an invocation of exactly the qualitatively better knowledge basis that ‘Truth?’ was written to call into question. Or to flip this over: If we can know ‘facts’, in the special sense that you are still assuming here – without having controverted any of ‘Truth?’s’ points – then we can of course know ‘truths’. They would be the same thing. My claim in the essay is that your underlying assumption (that we can have such a special kind of knowledge) can be clearly seen to be wrong.   

How about accordance with objective reality?

K: Against the backdrop of ‘Truth?’s’ Point 1; what, exactly, do you know about objective reality?

And this would be where the concept of truth comes in. You seem to want to equate justification with truth and that just doesn’t work.

K: It wouldn’t, and I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to equate anything with truth. I really, genuinely, do want to send our ‘truth’ concept to join phlogiston and the lumineferous ether.

Best regards,

Keith


Sometimes we happen to believe things that are very poorly justified, but true, and vice versa.

K: As in ‘Chicago’; if they are poorly justified then their being held as ‘truths’ will in no sense help us to accept such stronger and controverting justifications as may later arise.

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