Objective and subjective

This is a topic where we can discuss what we mean by “objective” and by “subjective”.  It is not tied to anything specific.  We don’t have to reach a consensus.

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate the issues:

  1. Is mathematics objective or subjective?  On the one hand, it is mostly a mental construct, so in some views that would make it subjective.  On the other hand, there is very strong agreement between mathematicians, and that seems to suggest that it is about as objective as anything could be.
  2. If we assume Berkeley’s idealism (the world is nothing more than a mental construct derived from our perceptions), would that imply that everything is subjective and nothing is objective?  Or, since we seem to all refer to the same things (cats, trees, etc) should we say that those are objective even if only mental constructs.


Intelligent Design is NOT Anti-Evolution

Thank you Elizabeth for this opportunity-

Good day- Over the past many, many years, IDists have been telling people that intelligent design is not anti-evolution. Most people understand and accept that, while others just refuse to, no matter what.

With that said, in this post I will provide the evidence (again) that firmly demonstrates that ID is not anti-evolution. I will be presenting several authoritative definitions of “evolution” followed by what the ID leadership has to say about evolution. So without any further adieu, I give you-

Intelligent Design is NOT Anti-Evolution

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A curious question by Barry Arrington on UD..

…that I can’t seem to resist posting here:

I have a question for our materialist friends. Let’s imagine a group of chimpanzees. Say one of the male chimps approaches one of the female chimps and makes chimp signals that he wants to have sexual relations with her, but for whatever reason she’s not interested and refuses. Is it morally wrong for the male chimp to force the female chimp to have sex with him against her will?

If you answer “no it is not morally wrong,” imagine further a group of humans. On the materialist view, a human is just a jumped up hairless ape. Is it morally wrong for a human male to force a human female to have sex with him against her will? If you answer “yes, it is morally wrong,” I certainly agree with you. But please explain why on the materialist view it is not wrong for a hairy ape to force a female to have sex with him, but it is wrong for a hairless ape to force a female to have sex with him.


  1. Is it wrong for a man but not for a chimp? Yes, it is wrong for a man but not for a chimp.
  2. Why is it wrong for a man but not for a chimp?
    1. It is a meaningful question in regard to a man, whereas it is not for a chimp, because human beings are capable of moral choice, by virtue of many factors, including our theory of mind capacity, our complex social structures and our capacity for linguistic cultural transmission.
    2. The answer to the meaningful question for a man is “yes”, because prioritizing our own desires the wellbing of others lies at the definitional heart of human morality, and rape is a clear example of such an act.


The problem of consciousness is, notoriously, Hard.  However, it seems to me that much of the hardness is a result of the nature of the word itself.  “Consciousness” is a noun, an abstract noun, derived from an adjective: “conscious”.  And that adjective describes either a state (a person can be “conscious” or “unconscious” or even “barely conscious”) or a status (a person, or an animal, is said to be a “conscious” entity, unlike, for example, a rock).

But what must an entity be like to merit the adjective “conscious”?  What, properties must it possess?  Merriam-Webster gives as its first definition: “perceiving, apprehending, or noticing with a degree of controlled thought or observation doing, or be capable of doing”.  In other words, the properties of a conscious thing refer to its capacity to do something.  And, indeed, it is derived from a latin verb: the verb scire, to know.   In other words, “consciousness” may be better thought of as an abstract noun derived not from an adjective that describes some static attribute of an entity, but from one that implies that that entity is an agent capable of action.

And so, I will coin a new verb: to conch.  And I will coin it as a transitive verb: an entity conches something, i.e. is conscious of something.

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Why Methodological Naturalism is a Questionable Philosophy of Science

Elizabeth started another thread (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=256) stating that methodological naturalism (MN) “underlies the methodology that we call science.” Later she spoke of “methodological naturalism, as in the working assumption that scientists make about the world in order to predict things.” Then she quoted Wikipedia, which states: “all scientific endeavors—all hypotheses and events—are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events,” adding that this is “more or less the definition I have been assuming.” In other words, science studies ‘nature-only’ because it is naturalistic – it sees nothing other than nature that *could* be studied. Elizabeth sticks with this definition when she says “Science occupies the domain of natural explanations.”

Still later, Elizabeth admitted she is ‘not wild about’ MN (or what I suggested as more accurate of her statements: science applies ‘methodological probabilism’) and also that “‘methodological naturalism’ is a poor term.” Thus, her concession: “now that I realise that the term [MN] appears to denote different things to different people, I will avoid it.” So, the main argument in the OP was deserted.

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Why I find ID fallacious

Note that I do not say “wrong”.  I don’t think ID is wrong.  I do think that it is not falsifiable.

That is not in itself a problem.  I’d argue that most theories are unfalsiable.  What are falsifiable are the predictive hypotheses we derive from our theories.

So I’ll go out on a limb and say that neither evolutionary theory nor ID are, in themselves, falsifiable.  However, evolutionary theory generates lots of testable hypotheses.  Many of these have proved confirmatory; some have delivered surprises, and as a result, the theory has had to change.  This is a good thing.

In contrast, I would argue, that ID generates very few hypotheses, one exception being “front-loading”, and this remains rudimentary, and, AFAIK, untested.

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Good arguments and straw men

We seem to have quite a number of posters here who are happy to defend  ID, as well as a number (myself included) who are happy to defend evolutionary theory.

I’m posting this as a kind of straw poll for people to state what they think the major claim of their own position is, and why they find it persuasive; and also what they think the major claim of the opposite position is, and why (if they do) they find it flawed.

It might be interesting to count the straw men standing by the end 🙂  More to the point, it might stop us talking past each other quite so much, and perhaps understand the other side’s position a little more.

Full disclosure: I don’t think myself that the two positions are symmetrical.  But I am constantly brought upn short by the realisation that ID proponents also perceive an assymmetry, but see it as the mirror image of mine.  So I wait enlightenment 🙂

Coyne vs Shapiro

Interesting exchange between Jerry Coyne and James Shapiro at Coyne’s blog, Why Evolution is true: A colleague wrongfully disses modern evolutionary theory.

(Hat tip to news at Uncommon Descent)

I’ve only skimmed Coyne’s piece and Shapiro’s response so far, but it seems to me that they are talking past each other to some extent.  And Coyne says something silly about cats and dogs.

Have at it.  Gotta run.