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My only question is whether this is "2smart" or "patriot" forgetting to sign in, lost in their eagerness to hurl incoherent insults because they know they can't argue the facts.

Unlikely it's PatRat as it's not punctuated with his usual ASININE Kool-Aid remark.

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(Sorry if this is post repeats. It looked like it didn't go through when I tried the first time.)

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: Setting aside for the moment the broad assumption that the Bible was devinely inspired and inerrant, don’t you think the assumption that a given tract was meant to be taken literally is a fairly broad one?

Bryan, Dec 27: That's a safely non-specific question. I don't know. I primarily see it from seriously fundamentalist Christians and the least sophisticated skeptics. I'm not sure how each stacks up compared to the population in general.

Alright, but this was all based on your statements in post 137 that “modern criticism provides the tools for more accurate literal [bible] interpretation”, and that “Bible criticism doesn't go for making broad assumptions”. It seems to me that if modern criticism is assuming that a literal interpretation is accurate, then it does go in for making broad assumptions. I also think that the broadness of an assumption should be judged according to the extent of evidence supporting it, not according to how it stacks up compared to the population in general.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: You asked a question (Is it science to prefer the simpler explanation) preceded by a premise (Copernicus’ idea is unfalsifiable). Neither Paul nor I agreed with your premise (though for different reasons), so we each addressed that first.

Bryan, Dec 27: I failed to detect either answer to the question regarding Ockham's razor as science. You answered a different question, AFAICT.

I addressed the faulty premise on which your question was based.

Bryan, Dec 27: I'd still say you're fudging, since the more complex explanation [of a geocentric universe] hasn't been falsified. The principle of parsimony certainly has utility within the scientific method, but that's not the question. The question is whether is it science per se.

The explanation of the objectively geocentric universe, as favored by the Catholic Church during Galileo’s time, has been falsified. (See post 147). It’s not just parsimony that causes us to reject it. I don’t think anyone would seriously claim that parsimony and science have exactly the same meaning. Is that really what you’re asking?

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: As I said, demonstrating it depends on how it’s defined. I’d define it as the ability to construct and manipulate mental models for problem-solving. Since we can’t see inside another’s mental processes, we can’t conclusively demonstrate that anything in particular is intelligent, but based on behavior and known underlying mechanisms for that behavior we can often demonstrate it pretty clearly.

Bryan, Dec 27: (The Turing test, in effect--Is it science?)

No, the Turing test is completely different. It looks at whether a machine can simulate human conversational behavior. I’m talking about looking for evidence that something is using mental models to solve problems. If you can think one move ahead in a chess game, and act accordingly, you would be showing evidence of intelligence under my definition, but not by the Turing test. I’ll forego answering the “Is it science” question about the Turing test since it isn’t applicable. I do think it is within the purvue of science to define a phenomenon in such a way as to suggest tests that would demonstrate it, which is what I’ve done for intelligence. I don’t think what I’ve done equates exactly with the term “science”, however.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: If something is demonstrating flexible and complex strategies to achieve a goal, and if it has a brain at least superficially similar to our own, chances are it’s demonstrating intelligence.

Bryan, Dec 27: There's no way to calculate those odds. The epistemic difficulty of determining self-awareness in others is a very tall order for science. It comes down to conferring the benefit of the doubt when a machine mimics human behavior, and for humans it's essentially an argument from analogy (He/she is like me in terms of X, therefore he/she is probably self-aware like me).

If by “calculate” you mean figure the odds to three significant figures, I’d agree. If you meant there’s no way of telling the likely from the unlikely, I think you’re wrong. Look at an action, consider whether the best explanation for it involves a mental model, consider whether the actor possesses an organ known to support intelligence, repeat for other actions, and base your determination thereon. It’s not that tough. And there was nothing in the definition of intelligence I provided that requires self-awareness.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: I meant that religion can’t as yet explain how intelligence is produced, particularly in human brains. If you’d like to prove me wrong you have only to offer a (sufficient and falsifiable) explanation based on religion.

Bryan, Dec 27: In my experience, skeptics have only naturalistic explanations in mind when they ask for explanations. Are you different?

You have a non-naturalistic explanation that is sufficient and falsifiable? I’m all ears.

Bryan, Dec 27: The legal system presumes personal responsibility, otherwise there's little sense in offering punishment. That brings up the issue of personal responsibility given determinism. I see the compatibilist argument as very difficult to make.

Although I don’t see anything wrong with Compatibilism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism), I don’t believe I’ve made a Compatibilist argument. I’ve said that one thing that may have helped determine Paszkeiwicz’s behavior was the assumption that he could get away with it, and that some form of punishment would help prevent that assumption from forming in Paszkeiwicz’s mind, or the minds of others, in the future. Nothing in that argument requires either the existence or non-existence of free will.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: The imposition of reasonable punishments can prevent such presumptions from developing in the future.

Bryan, Dec 27: Was that discovered through experimentation? How was the key variable isolated? If you listen to Dennett (as Paul recommended), wouldn't he tell you that the brain determines the thoughts in advance of the thinking? Doesn't that suggest to you the irrelevancy of conscious thought in determining action (consciousness just along for the ride!)?

Is it right to punish somebody for what he cannot help doing just so that somebody else won't do the same thing in the future?

Let's say that we've got a child in school with Tourette's syndrome. Every time he lets out a curse word, the teacher raps him on the knuckles with a ruler so that the other kids will see that cursing is not a rewarded behavior.

Under the assumption that the punishment is reasonable (for the sake of argument), is this an acceptable paradigm?

It has been discovered through experimentation that reasonable punishments can help prevent future rule violations, and that lack of such punishments can encourage them. New parents rediscover this point all the time. I’ve argued that the reason for this is that the punishments affect the presumptions held by the potential rule-breaker. I think that’s a reasonable explanation, but even if it works for some other reason, the point remains that it generally works and should therefore be applied to Paszkiewicz.

There are some situations, such as with Tourette’s, in which the rule-breaker’s honest attempts to change her own actions are completely ineffective. Punishment does not seem to lessen the likelihood of subsequent rule-breaking in these individuals, and the effect punishment would have on others is likely negligible once they understand the rule-breaker is acting despite her own best efforts to stop. Accordingly, punishment (beyond whatever is necessary to minimize the impact of the outbursts) would be unreasonable (or to use your terms, an unacceptable paradigm). Are you claiming Paszkiewicz was proselytizing in class despite his own best efforts to stop? I thought you were trying to argue instead that his decision not to apply those efforts was itself pre-determined by preceeding circumstances. That’s entirely different. Some of those preceding circumstances included his presumptions regarding the likelihood of avoiding punishment, and can therefore be affected by the application of punishment.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: As for your question regarding metaphysics in science class: as far as I can tell there should be none.

Bryan, Dec 27: I strongly disagree with you. You can't have science at all without its metaphysical foundation, and students should be well aware of the metaphysical model that modern science insists upon in relation to competing models. To proceed otherwise is to indoctrinate students in metaphysical naturalism by default.

This shouldn't be a controversial point, by the way. Philosophy of Science is a huge field ever since Karl Popper. PoS's muddle about in the metaphysics routinely. Science should not be exempt from having its presuppositions examined.

Science does not insist on a metaphysical model. Your numerous statements to the contrary remain unsupported. I agree that the philosophy of science is an important field, but there’s more to philosophy than metaphysics, and it is possible to hold any number of metaphysical presuppositions and still do good science. One need merely follow the scientific method.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: Science class is for science. Metaphysics is beyond science – by definition.

Bryan, Dec 27: Metaphysics is also the foundation for science, by definition. To quickly illustrate: Science cannot confirm intelligence, but the goal of science is to increase knowledge. Science can't confirm the legitimacy of its own goals. It needs a metaphysical foundation.

Metaphysics means “beyond physics”. What definition were you using according to which it is the foundation of science?

Regarding your illustration, I disagree that science has goals. Science is a method of learning about the world, and a body of information obtained thereby. People may use science for any number of goals, but that’s not the same thing. Some folks might use science as a means of paying the bills, but that doesn’t make economics the foundation of science either.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: Teaching metaphysical naturalism is as out of place as teaching any other faith-based idea, and I don’t agree that it is typically done. It certainly wasn’t in my high school science classes.

Bryan, Dec 27: I mean to say that it is common; not necessarily most of the time. Teaching methodological naturalism without any teaching about metaphysics in general is a de facto indoctrination in metaphysical naturalism.

Do you have any examples to show that teaching metaphysical naturalism in science class is common? Do you have any support for your idea that teaching methodological naturalism without teaching about metaphysics in general is de facto indoctrination?

Bryan, Dec 27: Glen, you're a decent debater, but don't put claims into my mouth for me. I'm way too experienced to fall for that garbage. I'd like to hope you did so accidentally.

Here's what I said originally:

"In practice the metaphysics get discussed in science class, but to the exclusion of everything that does not contribute to science (that is, metaphysical naturalism).

Is that a proper education?"

And you replied (bold emphasis added):

"Metaphysical naturalism is the idea that everything is governed by natural laws and nothing can be beyond such laws. Methodological naturalism is the idea that science should proceed in its methods by assuming a phenomenon is produced by natural laws, unless there is evidence to the contrary. What makes you think high school science classes teach the former rather than the latter?"

In short, I never made the claim you're ascribing to me. You employed the fallacy of the complex question (question containing dubious assumption that is affirmed by any direct answer). I suppose I should have called you on it from the first, but I thought I'd simply clarify (under the assumption that you weren't trying to be deliberately tricky).

They teach the former by teaching the latter in an effective vacuum.

You made the claim I ascribed to you in your response right above this one. I said that high school science classes don’t typically teach metaphysical naturalism, and you said it was common. If you weren’t trying to claim that science classes commonly teach metaphysical naturalism, then maybe you should retract that statement and carefully rephrase whatever it is you’re actually trying to say.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: And if metaphysical naturalism is the underlying assumption of science, why are quantum events considered by mainstream scientists to have no natural causes?

Bryan, Dec 27: That's a great question. I often use (random) quantum particle formation as an example of the supernatural in my discussions with skeptics. It tends to make their eyes cross.

The usual response is to claim that science simply hasn't found the answer yet.

I wouldn't be at all surprise if a guest contributed such a comment to this thread.

I think most likely scientists who are not directly involved in quantum physics and the like don't trouble themselves over the fly in the ointment represented by quantum particle formation. Some of the folks I've debated, IIRC, claim to be scientists, and they resist the idea that quantum particles form randomly without cause.

All of which merely provides further support for the idea that there is room for numerous metaphysical assumptions in science.

Bryan, Dec 27: Is there an important difference between philosophy and religion in terms of the establishment clause? Could we indoctrinate children into Stoicism in government schools?

I don’t think we could Constitutionally indoctrinate children into a particular philosophical system, although the particular clause preventing it might be equal protection or due process rather than establishment of religion. I don’t know if the question’s ever been ruled on. I’m not arguing in favor of such indoctrination if that’s what you’re asking. I was merely pointing out that an ethical system based on the Golden Rule need not be considered a religious belief.

Bryan, Dec 27: Those who believe that everyone should not be treated equally are obviously under pressure to conform. Take a Hindu, for example. There's this Untouchable class, and this "treating everyone equally" stuff very obviously militates against his religious beliefs.

Is that credible?

The Hindu in question need not treat everyone equally. He in fact has the Constitutional right of freedom of association. It is the government that is required to treat everyone equally. And even for the government we are only talking about the avoidance of special treatment based on group membership, and that only within the group of adult citizens. If, however, the Hindu wants to shoot an Untouchable for being an Untouchable, the government will attempt to prevent that, regardless of whether it’s allowed or required by the Hindu’s religious beliefs. And that’s OK. Laws passed for the general welfare are Constitutional even if they impair religious practice. See http://www.oyez.org/cases/case/?case=1980-...89/1989_88_1213.

Bryan, Dec 27: Well, I was trying to drive at the notion that ethical systems are inherently religious (based on some type of faith commitment or metaphysical alignment), but you're not going there so far.

Nope. :)

Bryan, Dec 27: Thanks, Glen--I enjoy debating a good opponent. Knock off the straw man stuff and you'll be a friend with whom I disagree.

Thanks yourself. I don’t think I’ve employed any strawman stuff.

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The stationary earth hypothesis had been falsified by experiments. Such as Foucault Pendulum. A stationary earth could not have produced this experimental result.

Actually it could, at least according to general relativity. Foucault’s pendulum measures the coriolis effect – the tendency of a mass to veer in the direction of rotation when moving from the edge to the center, and in the direction opposite to rotation when moving from the center to the edge. You are effectively arguing that if you were in a closed room, and you suddenly felt a force pulling you towards the wall, you could tell whether that force resulted from rotational acceleration or from gravity by throwing a ball across the room and watching to see if it would veer. Gravity, you might argue, affects all masses in the room regardless of motion, but the coriolis effect only applies to objects moving across the frame. Unfortunately, according to general relativity, gravity includes a force called gravitomagnetism (see http://tinyurl.com/w5hhd) that exactly mimics the coriolis effect. It’s analogous to the situation in electromagnetism where a current is going around a circular area that contains a test charge. So long as the test charge doesn’t move, the magnetic field produced by the circling current doesn’t affect it, but move the test charce across the area and the magnetic field will cause it to veer just as if it were experiencing a coriolis effect.

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Guest 2smart4u
Actually it could, at least according to general relativity. Foucault’s pendulum measures the coriolis effect – the tendency of a mass to veer in the direction of rotation when moving from the edge to the center, and in the direction opposite to rotation when moving from the center to the edge. You are effectively arguing that if you were in a closed room, and you suddenly felt a force pulling you towards the wall, you could tell whether that force resulted from rotational acceleration or from gravity by throwing a ball across the room and watching to see if it would veer. Gravity, you might argue, affects all masses in the room regardless of motion, but the coriolis effect only applies to objects moving across the frame.  Unfortunately, according to general relativity, gravity includes a force called gravitomagnetism (see http://tinyurl.com/w5hhd) that exactly mimics the coriolis effect. It’s analogous to the situation in electromagnetism where a current is going around a circular area that contains a test charge. So long as the test charge doesn’t move, the magnetic field produced by the circling current doesn’t affect it, but move the test charce across the area and the magnetic field will cause it to veer just as if it were experiencing a coriolis effect.

Glen, you need to get your nose out of the science books. Go take a jog around the block.

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Of course there is great randomization in our genetics as there is great randomization in the entire universe. There is a lot of "junk" in our genetic makeup like viruses and abnormalities which cause disease and birth defects. However, the right combinations of genetic material and radiation have made us what we are today. There is a force greater than ourselves, but we won't know what it is sitting on our butts, quoting from ancient books. Life is about change and some people are more comfortable in the security of having the same old material, same old job, same old building, nothing new, nothing scary... this personality type should not be an educator... even history has been misquoted, misleading, and inaccurate, and changes with newly found material. One thing that has always bothered me about our history and institutionalized religion.... women are not important enough. The big subject for both is war, and killing. That alone makes me wish for the human race to EVOLVE at a faster pace.

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(Sorry if this is post repeats. It looked like it didn't go through when I tried the first time.)

If the moderators are even half awake they're likely to catch the problem. B)

Bryan, Dec 27: That's a safely non-specific question. I don't know. I primarily see it from seriously fundamentalist Christians and the least sophisticated skeptics. I'm not sure how each stacks up compared to the population in general.

Alright, but this was all based on your statements in post 137 that “modern criticism provides the tools for more accurate literal [bible] interpretation”, and that “Bible criticism doesn't go for making broad assumptions”. It seems to me that if modern criticism is assuming that a literal interpretation is accurate, then it does go in for making broad assumptions.

Modern criticism does not make that assumption. It judges on the basis of genre. If the writer seems to be writing as though he expects his account to be taken as history or the like, the genre should reflect that fact (for example, Homer's works were in verse, which lends itself to embroidery).

Since modern criticism doesn't make that assumption, don't make that assumption about modern criticism.

Criticism expanded the toolkit. It did not lay down a roadmap for all to follow.

I also think that the broadness of an assumption should be judged according to the extent of evidence supporting it, not according to how it stacks up compared to the population in general.

That's nice, but you should weight your evidence carefully.

Message boards, for example, do not necessarily provide an accurate cross-section.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: You asked a question (Is it science to prefer the simpler explanation) preceded by a premise (Copernicus’ idea is unfalsifiable). Neither Paul nor I agreed with your premise (though for different reasons), so we each addressed that first.

Bryan, Dec 27: I failed to detect either answer to the question regarding Ockham's razor as science. You answered a different question, AFAICT.

I addressed the faulty premise on which your question was based.

The question was not based on any (false) premise. I commonly use questions to elicit a more accurate picture of the other person's views, and to challenge their conceptions of science.

Try identifying the supposed false premise, BTW.

Bryan, Dec 27: I'd still say you're fudging, since the more complex explanation [of a geocentric universe] hasn't been falsified. The principle of parsimony certainly has utility within the scientific method, but that's not the question. The question is whether is it science per se.

The explanation of the objectively geocentric universe, as favored by the Catholic Church during Galileo’s time, has been falsified.  (See post 147).

[Galileo] invited the university professors to see the heavenly wonders for themselves, but was met with hostility. Some refused to look through the telescope at all, others looked but professed to see nothing, others claimed that what they saw was a flaw in the optics.

Galileo had better luck with the Jesuit astronomers in Rome. They had obtained a telescope and had confirmed what Galileo had found. Galileo went to Rome for a triumphal visit. Even old Father Clavius, the author of the Gregorian calendar, who had scoffed earlier, gave in gracefully. Cardinal Bellarmine, the chief theologian of the Church, asked the Jesuits for an official opinion of Galileo’s views, and got "the most favorable letter you could think of".

http://www.ips-planetarium.org/planetarian...hofgalileo.html

The geocentric view was probably popular with Catholics because it was popular with scientists.

It's an ever-popular technique to take the claims of science and show them vindicated in the pages of the Bible.

At the higher level, however, the Roman Catholic Church was a source of scientific advancement in Galileo's time.

They were right to criticize Galileo's evidence while welcoming the hypothesis.

It’s not just parsimony that causes us to reject it.

What's the other thing(s) that causes us to reject it?

I don’t think anyone would seriously claim that parsimony and science have exactly the same meaning. Is that really what you’re asking?

I'm not asking Paul if he claimed that science and parsimony have the same meaning, if that's what you're asking.

I'm asking him a question intended to get him to think about the epistemic foundation for the claims of science.

The issue potentially touches on the notion of "religion" since scientific claims seem to meet the criteria that are sometimes offered for religious claims.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: As I said, demonstrating it depends on how it’s defined. I’d define it as the ability to construct and manipulate mental models for problem-solving.

That sounds like a job for Self-Awareness!

Unless mental models may be constructed and manipulated unconsciously in the abstract?

How would science demonstrate self-awareness?

Since we can’t see inside another’s mental processes, we can’t conclusively demonstrate that anything in particular is intelligent, but based on behavior and known underlying mechanisms for that behavior we can often demonstrate it pretty clearly.

(appealing to an argument by analogy)

Can't problem-solving behaviors be explained without the added notion of "intelligence" as you have defined it?

Bryan, Dec 27: (The Turing test, in effect--Is it science?)

No, the Turing test is completely different. It looks at whether a machine can simulate human conversational behavior. I’m talking about looking for evidence that something is using mental models to solve problems.

Wouldn't a machine probably need to construct mental models to solve the problems of simulating a human conversation?

"Turing originally proposed the test in order to replace the emotionally charged and (for him) meaningless question "Can machines think?" with a more well-defined one. The advantage of the new question, he said, was that it "drew a fairly sharp line between the physical and intellectual capacities of a man."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test#V...the_Turing_test

If you can think one move ahead in a chess game, and act accordingly, you would be showing evidence of intelligence under my definition, but not by the Turing test. I’ll forego answering the “Is it science” question about the Turing test since it isn’t applicable. I do think it is within the purvue of science to define a phenomenon in such a way as to suggest tests that would demonstrate it, which is what I’ve done for intelligence. I don’t think what I’ve done equates exactly with the term “science”, however.

The last sentence answers sufficiently.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: If something is demonstrating flexible and complex strategies to achieve a goal, and if it has a brain at least superficially similar to our own, chances are it’s demonstrating intelligence.

That's an argument rooted in analogy. It's not a bad argument, but as you've noted it isn't especially scientific, either.

Mental models are tough to quantify (Hubbard's results with the e-meter notwithstanding!).

If by “calculate” you mean figure the odds to three significant figures, I’d agree. If you meant there’s no way of telling the likely from the unlikely, I think you’re wrong. Look at an action, consider whether the best explanation for it involves a mental model, consider whether the actor possesses an organ known to support intelligence, repeat for other actions, and base your determination thereon. It’s not that tough. And there was nothing in the definition of intelligence I provided that requires self-awareness.

I think if you look at the steps you use to determine "whether the best explanation for it involves a mental model" you won't find much there beyond the argument from analogy.

Bryan, Dec 27: In my experience, skeptics have only naturalistic explanations in mind when they ask for explanations. Are you different?

You have a non-naturalistic explanation that is sufficient and falsifiable? I’m all ears.

You could have just said "no." :(

The (philosophical) principle of sufficiency is questionable, BTW.

For one thing, there's no sufficient explanation for it. :)

Bryan, Dec 27: The legal system presumes personal responsibility, otherwise there's little sense in offering punishment. That brings up the issue of personal responsibility given determinism. I see the compatibilist argument as very difficult to make.

Although I don’t see anything wrong with Compatibilism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism), I don’t believe I’ve made a Compatibilist argument.

I don't think so, either--but neither have you tipped your hand.

I’ve said that one thing that may have helped determine Paszkeiwicz’s behavior was the assumption that he could get away with it, and that some form of punishment would help prevent that assumption from forming in Paszkeiwicz’s mind, or the minds of others, in the future. Nothing in that argument requires either the existence or non-existence of free will.

Again, it's tough to make the Compatibilist case that Paszkiewicz is morally culpable if he could not help acting as he did.

Sitting on the fence just makes you look partial to Compatibilism. ;)

Bryan, Dec 27: Was that discovered through experimentation? How was the key variable isolated? If you listen to Dennett (as Paul recommended), wouldn't he tell you that the brain determines the thoughts in advance of the thinking? Doesn't that suggest to you the irrelevancy of conscious thought in determining action (consciousness just along for the ride!)?

Is it right to punish somebody for what he cannot help doing just so that somebody else won't do the same thing in the future?

Let's say that we've got a child in school with Tourette's syndrome. Every time he lets out a curse word, the teacher raps him on the knuckles with a ruler so that the other kids will see that cursing is not a rewarded behavior.

Under the assumption that the punishment is reasonable (for the sake of argument), is this an acceptable paradigm?

It has been discovered through experimentation that reasonable punishments can help prevent future rule violations, and that lack of such punishments can encourage them. New parents rediscover this point all the time. I’ve argued that the reason for this is that the punishments affect the presumptions held by the potential rule-breaker. I think that’s a reasonable explanation, but even if it works for some other reason, the point remains that it generally works and should therefore be applied to Paszkiewicz.

There are some situations, such as with Tourette’s, in which the rule-breaker’s honest attempts to change her own actions are completely ineffective.

You don't sound much like a Compatibilist at the moment--not that somebody could not be pre-determined to earnestly try to do other than what he (or she) is causally determined to do!

Point being that the physical malady is intended as an analogy to and example of causal determinism. Take Tourette's as a special case from that POV and you're engaged in the fallacy of special pleading. You make it look like you're assuming free will.

Punishment does not seem to lessen the likelihood of subsequent rule-breaking in these individuals, and the effect punishment would have on others is likely negligible once they understand the rule-breaker is acting despite her own best efforts to stop. Accordingly, punishment (beyond whatever is necessary to minimize the impact of the outbursts) would be unreasonable (or to use your terms, an unacceptable paradigm).

Uh, Glen, you were asked to take the punishment as reasonable for the sake of argument. The failure to do so results in begging the question.

Are you claiming Paszkiewicz was proselytizing in class despite his own best efforts to stop?

No. What could have given you that idea?

I thought you were trying to argue instead that his decision not to apply those efforts was itself pre-determined by preceeding circumstances. That’s entirely different. Some of those preceding circumstances included his presumptions regarding the likelihood of avoiding punishment, and can therefore be affected by the application of punishment.

The point is that science cannot find Paszkiewicz guilty under its normal presuppositions. A different epistemology much come into play.

You can't have science at all without its metaphysical foundation, and students should be well aware of the metaphysical model that modern science insists upon in relation to competing models. To proceed otherwise is to indoctrinate students in metaphysical naturalism by default.

This shouldn't be a controversial point, by the way. Philosophy of Science is a huge field ever since Karl Popper. PoS's muddle about in the metaphysics routinely. Science should not be exempt from having its presuppositions examined.

Science does not insist on a metaphysical model. Your numerous statements to the contrary remain unsupported.

The mainstream scientific community, which is aptly termed "science" insists on philosophical naturalism. I agree with you that (idealized) science need not rely on philosophical naturalism.

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Enterprising.cfm

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/schafersman_nat.html

http://www.naturalism.org/begley.htm (don't stop at the title)

http://www.naturalism.org/science.htm#integrity

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/naturalism.html

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/bar...naturalism.html

http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk/ug_study/ug.../Naturalism.pdf

book review

http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/cata...n=9780521609937

I agree that the philosophy of science is an important field, but there’s more to philosophy than metaphysics, and it is possible to hold any number of metaphysical presuppositions and still do good science. One need merely follow the scientific method.

And there's the rub, since there really isn't any rigid scientific method. The criteria seem to have exceptions invariably.

Glen Tarr, Dec 27: Science class is for science. Metaphysics is beyond science – by definition.

Bryan, Dec 27: Metaphysics is also the foundation for science, by definition. To quickly illustrate: Science cannot confirm intelligence, but the goal of science is to increase knowledge. Science can't confirm the legitimacy of its own goals. It needs a metaphysical foundation.

Metaphysics means “beyond physics”. What definition were you using according to which it is the foundation of science?

1. the branch of philosophy that treats of first principles, includes ontology and cosmology, and is intimately connected with epistemology.

2. philosophy, esp. in its more abstruse branches.

3. the underlying theoretical principles of a subject or field of inquiry.

See #1 and #3, especially.

Or was I supposed to go for dubious definition for the prefix "meta" ("beyond"? No kidding?) combined with the term "physics"?

meta philosophy

/me't*/ or /may't*/ or (Commonwealth) /mee't*/ A prefix meaning one level of description higher. If X is some concept then meta-X is data about, or processes operating on, X.

For example, a metasyntax is syntax for specifying syntax, metalanguage is a language used to discuss language, meta-data is data about data, and meta-reasoning is reasoning about reasoning.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/meta

Regarding your illustration, I disagree that science has goals. Science is a method of learning about the world, and a body of information obtained thereby.

Okay, and if you don't have the goal of learning abut the world, or some purpose in mind for the information--where does that leave science (it'd be like having a pipe wrench while having no inclination to work on pipes)?

In short, I think you misconstrued my point. Science in one sense is absent all values, but the enterprise of science is based squarely on the question for knowledge. Science itself can't justify the question for knowledge.

If there is no goal for science--why do it?

Bryan, Dec 27: I mean to say that it is common; not necessarily most of the time. Teaching methodological naturalism without any teaching about metaphysics in general is a de facto indoctrination in metaphysical naturalism.

Do you have any examples to show that teaching metaphysical naturalism in science class is common?

Did you read what preceded your comment?

Do you have any support for your idea that teaching methodological naturalism without teaching about metaphysics in general is de facto indoctrination?

Isn't that self-evident?

Just pretend that I taught you an epistemology based on empiricism and nothing else.

What metaphysical position squarely underlies that epistemology?

Bryan, Dec 27: Glen, you're a decent debater, but don't put claims into my mouth for me. I'm way too experienced to fall for that garbage. I'd like to hope you did so accidentally.

Here's what I said originally:

"In practice the metaphysics get discussed in science class, but to the exclusion of everything that does not contribute to science (that is, metaphysical naturalism).

Is that a proper education?"

And you replied (bold emphasis added):

"Metaphysical naturalism is the idea that everything is governed by natural laws and nothing can be beyond such laws. Methodological naturalism is the idea that science should proceed in its methods by assuming a phenomenon is produced by natural laws, unless there is evidence to the contrary. What makes you think high school science classes teach the former rather than the latter?"

In short, I never made the claim you're ascribing to me. You employed the fallacy of the complex question (question containing dubious assumption that is affirmed by any direct answer). I suppose I should have called you on it from the first, but I thought I'd simply clarify (under the assumption that you weren't trying to be deliberately tricky).

They teach the former by teaching the latter in an effective vacuum.

You made the claim I ascribed to you in your response right above this one. I said that high school science classes don’t typically teach metaphysical naturalism, and you said it was common. If you weren’t trying to claim that science classes commonly teach metaphysical naturalism, then maybe you should retract that statement and carefully rephrase whatever it is you’re actually trying to say.

The claims are not the same. Place them next to one another and focus. Your version of my claim suggested that metaphysical naturalism was taught rather than methodological naturalism. My claim is that instruction in a methodologically naturalistic epistemology is a de facto indoctrination in metaphysical naturalism. That is true because (where) the epistemology of the metaphysical position is taught to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Recall that you were against teaching the metaphysics behind science.

Bryan, Dec 27: That's a great question. I often use (random) quantum particle formation as an example of the supernatural in my discussions with skeptics. It tends to make their eyes cross.

The usual response is to claim that science simply hasn't found the answer yet.

I wouldn't be at all surprise if a guest contributed such a comment to this thread.

I think most likely scientists who are not directly involved in quantum physics and the like don't trouble themselves over the fly in the ointment represented by quantum particle formation. Some of the folks I've debated, IIRC, claim to be scientists, and they resist the idea that quantum particles form randomly without cause.

All of which merely provides further support for the idea that there is room for numerous metaphysical assumptions in science.

Once science begins calling the formation of quantum particles "supernatural" I'll agree with you.

Don't hold your breath on the former. Everything is considered "natural" in mainstream science. I doubt the average scientist can come up with a definition "supernatural" that passes the test of coherency.

Bryan, Dec 27: Is there an important difference between philosophy and religion in terms of the establishment clause? Could we indoctrinate children into Stoicism in government schools?

I don’t think we could Constitutionally indoctrinate children into a particular philosophical system, although the particular clause preventing it might be equal protection or due process rather than establishment of religion. I don’t know if the question’s ever been ruled on. I’m not arguing in favor of such indoctrination if that’s what you’re asking. I was merely pointing out that an ethical system based on the Golden Rule need not be considered a religious belief.

I'm trying to challenge you as to how you define "religious belief."

Science isn't going to discover morality for you (though it might describe norms).

There's a hint of a "yes" in answer to my question about the "important difference." If your answer is "yes" then it would interest me to see your description of the important difference.

Bryan, Dec 27: Those who believe that everyone should not be treated equally are obviously under pressure to conform. Take a Hindu, for example. There's this Untouchable class, and this "treating everyone equally" stuff very obviously militates against his religious beliefs.

Is that credible?

The Hindu in question need not treat everyone equally.

So what? That misses the point. Society is coercing his conscience. Infringing his rights by favoring the group of religions that recognize equality. Forcing its own views onto him in opposition to his religious beliefs.

He in fact has the Constitutional right of freedom of association.

That's kind of like "For the other contestants we have this gift package from Wal-mart," isn't it?

Would you comfort Matt LaClair with freedom of association?

"Don't worry about Paszkiewicz. Join the New Jersey chapter of American Atheists!"

It is the government that is required to treat everyone equally.

If the government is required to treat everyone equally, then why does the government institutionalize the beliefs of the religions at odds with Hinduism on the issue of equality?

Don't you see the problem?

And even for the government we are only talking about the avoidance of special treatment based on group membership, and that only within the group of adult citizens. If, however, the Hindu wants to shoot an Untouchable for being an Untouchable, the government will attempt to prevent that, regardless of whether it’s allowed or required by the Hindu’s religious beliefs. And that’s OK. Laws passed for the general welfare are Constitutional even if they impair religious practice. See http://www.oyez.org/cases/case/?case=1980-...89/1989_88_1213.

A 6-3 decision, with the swing voters joining the conservative justices. Let's not pretend that the courts, collectively, are a model of consistency. If you believe that the government treats all religious views equally, then you should be troubled that those guys in Washington can't smoke peyote as part of their religious observance.

The discussion brings us to the point where the "general welfare" can trump religious beliefs.

Who gets to decide what's in the interest of the general welfare? The courts, by fiat, or is there some objective correct answer somewhere?

Thanks yourself. I don’t think I’ve employed any strawman stuff.

It is not my position that metaphysical naturalism is taught instead of methodological naturalism.

Teaching methodological naturalism as if it were the only epistemic approach is proselytizing, as the term is used by some of Paszkiewicz's accusers.

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Guest CG

Paul:

Your posts are well-reasoned and cogent. It is too bad that some people degrade themselves by resorting to ad hominen attacks instead of addressing the issues that you've raised. We can agree to disagree on the issues, and we can do it through civil dialogue.

For me, the most commonly overlooked point, fundamental to this relationship between science and theism, is that their methods of thought are profoundly different:

I addressed this in another thread, so I'll respond to this by pasting that response here. Specifically, although their methods may be "profoundly different", both science and religion share common limitations (something which I think that you've acknowledged in this post).

"I find it interesting how this has devolved into arguments from two diametrically opposed camps-- the pro-religious and the scientists. I think that it is important to recognize that these two camps, while espousing world views that seem wholly disparate, are in essence mirror images of each other, and therefore, share some commonalities: intolerance for each other's point of view and/or the inability to reconcile the legitimate and positive purposes that are attributable to both.

It is easy enough to dismiss religion or to criticize its many faults, as those faults tend to be more readily acceptable in most Western societies (thanks, in large part, to the way that Martin Luther's reformation shed light on the foibles of a particular sect of Christianity, and by extension, organized religion in general). I won't, therefore, discuss this at length.

However, "scientists" will reflexively react to any analogy between science and religion denying that there is any similarity between the two. Think again. As has been pointed out by studies in the sociology of science (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions being the seminal work, although Wittgenstein's work on the foundations of logic and limitations of language are also apropos):

1. science is not a homogenous, objective, point of view but is a method of thinking that possesses, like all human form of knowledge, its own biases. Granted, science's biases are not the biases of religion, but they are biases just the same.

Now, even if one accepts that there is objective, knowable reality that can be observed by human beings (quantum mechanics in general and the uncertainty principle in particular cast serious doubt on this, since the the knower activity changes the known by merely observing it), one need only point out that two human beings can look at the same numbers and come to completely different interpretive positions, depending largely on their own particular points of view. Notice how (gross generalizations to follow), liberals and conservatives:

-look at the global warming data and align their conclusions along the lines of their liberal/conservative ideologies....There is no need to point out where along this spectrum Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" falls. There is an undeniable liberal bias in our educational system and teachers should not preach their political ideology to their students. A public school teacher clearly should not preach religion in the classroom, but isn't it equally obvious a teachers' political views should be kept out as well, or at the very least, that competing ideas are presented together? I saw one teacher rant for 30 minutes on the evils of George Bush, in an English class, of all subjects. This kind of political proselytizing, from either side of the political spectrum, unacceptable. That, my friends, is an inconvenient truth...

-the definition of what is life vis a vis abortion differs....etc etc etc.

In short, in the hands of fallible human minds and equally fallible human institutions science can, and has been, as destructive as religion. If one doubts this one need only study second world war, which many books have pointed out, dealt with a conflict between two scientific points of view: Germany's racially perverted version of Darwinism biology vs. the Soviet Union's "scientific" economics. Both were catastrophic for humanity.

Keep an open and critical mind at all times..."

1. All scientific truths are provisional, meaning they are always subject to further evidence, examination and change. By contrast, while theistic beliefs change in practice over time, many theists claim their beliefs to be unchanging and eternal.

Not only are they provisional, but they are also eventually supplanted and proven wrong by emerging paradigms (Kuhn). "The idea is that Archimedes or Aristotle, encapsulated in their ancient world-view, would have been unable to see what Newton was getting at in his 'Principia'; and likewise Newton if you gave him a copy of Dirac's 'Quantum Mechanics'. This has been held to have implications for epistemology, viz: it is a mistake to think of the evolution of science (or any rational endeavor) as 'progress' in the sense of bringing us closer to an accurate picture of the world. Kuhn's position can be likened to Darwinian evolution: progress *from*, yes; progress *towards*, no."

2. Science begins with a hypothesis, and proceeds through the collection of data toward theory. By contrast, theism begins with doctrines and dogmas, sometimes looking at evidence along the way but sometimes ignoring the evidence to preserve current belief. Interesting enough, scientists sometimes do that too, but once it is recognized, it is considered a departure from the scientific method.

Another similarity. Science does do that, as you've mentioned.

1. Your assertion that science begins with a hypothesis and looks for evidence while religion begins with dogmas and ignores evidence infers one of the limitations of science. The potential problem with begining with a hypothesis is that you will then look for specific evidence to support the hypothesis or view the evidence through the bias of the hypothesis (Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, the observer influeces what is being observed simply by observing it). There is no getting away from the phenomenology of science. Furthermore, scientifc theories become rigid orthodoxies, much like religious dogma, and contrarian theories are often ostracized an ignored when they contradict the accepted theory. Evolution theory is an example of this.

Now, I must preface this by making it clear that, by expressing the following, I am not rejecting the theory of evolution and/or stating a preference for creationism. I am simply using the theory of evolution to make a point about aforementioned limiations and biases.

The central tenets of Darwin's theory of evolution, mainly, the gradual evolution of species from one from to another, are simply not supported by the fossil records or archeological evidence. If species evolved over time, where is the archeological evidence? The fossil record is characterized by "large gaps", in other words, there is no proof of the intermediary stages of evolution between the species, as Darwin hypothetized. As a specific example, the turtle just appears on the fossil record (Olivier Rieppel, “Turtles as Hopeful Monsters,” BioEssays 23 (2001): 987-991.)

"The origin of turtles, with their distinctive shells, has long been an evolutionary enigma. “The turtle shell,” write Scott Gilbert (Embryology, Swarthmore College) and his colleagues, “represents a classic evolutionary problem: the appearance of a major structural adaptation.” Could the characteristic features of turtles have arisen gradually, in a long series of Darwinian steps? “The problem for an evolutionary biologist,” comments systematist and reptile expert Olivier Rieppel of the Field Museum (Chicago), “is to explain these transformations in the context of a gradualistic process” (p. 990). But the first turtle in the fossil record appears abruptly, fully turtle: “The Chelonian Bauplan [turtle body plan] appears in the fossil record,” Gilbert et al. observe, “without intermediates, and the relationship of turtles to other amniote orders is not certain.” What inference should one draw from these patterns of evidence? “The absence of intermediates or transitional forms in the fossil record,” speculate Gilbert et al. -- especially when the fossil record is coupled with the developmental and anatomical novelties exhibited by turtles -- “could indicate that turtles arose saltationally” (p. 56). That is, turtles did not evolve by a gradual Darwinian process; as Rieppel describes this hypothesis, turtles may be “hopeful monsters.” (Neither Rieppel nor Gilbert and colleagues, however, provide a detailed model of this rapid evolutionary transition, but rather refer to the need for further research.)

At the very least, there is disagreement on this assertion, yet the theory has accepted as truth. While I would not advocate the teaching of creationism in the classroom due to the constitutional constraints that would be involved, the scientific evidence, both pro and con, should be taught. In other words, Teach the controversy.

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/in...nd=view&id=1209

3. Sometimes hard-line theists (not all theists fit this description!) mock people of science because their theories are constantly changing over a broad span of time. What those changes represent is growth. There's little to be proud of in never changing. It means there is no growth....

it is a mistake to think of the evolution of science (or any rational endeavor) as 'progress' in the sense of bringing us closer to an accurate picture of the world. Kuhn's position can be likened to Darwinian evolution: progress *from*, yes; progress *towards*, no."

4. Many theists can reconcile their beliefs with science. For example, some have no difficulty accepting evolution of species and still believing in the Bible...

Accepting the evolution of the species on what basis? The scientific evidence supporting evolution is inconsistent, at best, with some evidence supporting the theory while other aspects of the theory is simply unsupported by concrete scientific evidence (see the points above). Also, have you ever considered that maybe both religion and science are incapable of truly answering this question (i.e. that they are both wrong to a certain degree or that they can only provide incomplete answers)?

I'd be interested in people's thoughts on evolution of species as it pertains to the relationship between science and theism, or for that matter between science and religion. Most people do not realize how thoroughly well established evolutionary theory is, how thoroughly modern biology depends on it, or how many of the recent medical advances that have extended lifespans in the developed world by more than a decade in the past generation or two are based on it.

Evolutionary theory is throughouly established and generally accepted, but that does not mean that the tenets of the theory have been scientifically proven. Evolutionary theory is still theory. There are yet too many gaps in the empirical evidence (the fossil record) to definitive prove the theory of gradual evolution from one species to the next.

Please read the excerpts from these scientific articles to see the many as yet unanswered questions that undermine the central tenets of the theory of evolution. Again, does that mean that intelligent design or the idea of a deity are the explanations of the origin of life? Hardly.

They also do not realize the size or extent of the enormous data base that now supports evolutionary theory, or how many different ways the theory is tied together and proved beyond any reasonable doubt to most knowledgeable scientists all over the world. This is among the most striking points listening to the early sessions in Matt's "history" class this season.

The theory of evolution, or specifically the gradual evolution of the species from one form to another, is not supported by an "enourmous database", as you've stated (see above). The theory is full of gaps and unanswered questions, yet it is still accepted as fact. As one scientist stated, "The fossil record provides no evidence of the gradual evolution of the species, but overall, biology would not make sense without it." See the parallels between this and religious belief? Evolutionary theory has become dogma. To some, science has become their secular religion (with all of the concommitant problems associated with the latter).

Finally, that word "theory." The common misconception is that "theory" implies an absence of proof. Just the opposite is true. A hypothesis is an organized explanation of phenomena or events that lacks sufficient supporting evidence to be considered reliable. A theory is an organized explanation that has sufficient supporting evidence to be considered reliable. A theory can also be a fact. A hypothesis can also be a fact. The difference is in the degree and quality of the evidence supporting it.

In this case, it is not a fact:

1. the fossil record is full of the "missing links" that are needed to support it.

2. the evidence is open to competing interpretations.

What is true of evolution is that it has been widely accepted as true, so that all other contrary evidence (if there is any) and unresolved questions are ignored. Is this in accordance to or contrary to the scientific method?

Of course, that last sentence will not satisfy those who demand final answers even as we just begin to ask the questions. That last statement is a good illustration of the difference in the scientific and hard-line theistic modes of thought. It also explains why having a discussion with some of the folks who post here is practically impossible.

1. Having read "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", you should know that there is no such thing as "final answers." Do you think that evolutionary theory can ever provide this?

2. Eastern, and particularly Budhist, phenomenology, suggests that it is impossible for human beings to fully and truly grasp reality.

3. Quantum physics and and chaos theory supports this and casts serious doubt on what we think we know.

Finally, I suggest that you read Forbidden Archeology for an excellent example of the way that science suppresses evidence that does not fit easily into entrenched and accepted theoretical frameworks.

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