Book Release – Naturalism and Its Alternatives

I thought you all might be interested in a book we just released this week – Naturalism and Its Alternatives in Scientific Methodologies. It has been heading up the Amazon charts, and hit the #1 Hot New Release spot today on three lists – Scientific Research, Epistemology, and Psychology.

This book is based on the Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism conference earlier this year. Anyway, I hope some of you check it out and see what you think!

248 thoughts on “Book Release – Naturalism and Its Alternatives

  1. This might be worth an OP:

    Even philosophical naturalists have sometimes seen the problems with adopting a rigid naturalistic stance, not the least of which is the ability to defend the theory of evolution in an objective manner.

  2. fifthmonarchyman: I really don’t want to derail this interesting thread so I think this will be my last comment on the subject of miracle and the scientific method.

    But it does appear to be on topic for this thread. Here’s why:

    …the intuitive perception that “life is a miracle” … is consistent with standard practice in science. (p. 230)

  3. Mung:
    This might be worth an OP:

    Even philosophical naturalists have sometimes seen the problems with adopting a rigid naturalistic stance, not the least of which is the ability to defend the theory of evolution in an objective manner.

    This blog is a perfect example of that

  4. Our very own Salvador has a chapter in the book, even though he forgets to mention any of us in his acknowledgements section. Not even his good friend Patrick, who claimed he is “an admitted child abuser.”

  5. Mung:
    Our very own Salvador has a chapter in the book, even though he forgets to mention any of us in his acknowledgements section. Not even his good friend Patrick, who claimed he is “an admitted child abuser.”

    Keeping beating that horse, moderator trainee

  6. newton: Keeping beating that horse, moderator trainee

    Give Mung credit. He’s better at keeping that carrot shoved up his ass than any other Creationist around here.

  7. Mung: That we can make pretty good prediction about predictable things isn’t that great a nod towards our current understanding of physics. People have been doing that for millennia.

    But we make far better predictions now, than was possible in past millennia.

  8. johnnyb: I appreciate the thoughtful reply. However, if you look at my full paper from my previous book, Engineering and the Ultimate, I think I adequately responded. I agree that humans are not a full halting oracle. But that doesn’t mean that everything short of a full halting oracle is computable. What I show is that humans can produce axioms that allow us to convert non-algorithmic problems to algorithmic ones. These we produce at a semi-reliable pace, in a semi-reliable order, which is what leads to the many instances of simultaneous discovery in science. The oracle we likely have access to is an oracle more limited than the full halting problem, but beyond computability nonetheless.

    Thanks. I’ve taken a quick look through the paper. I agree that there are things other than the full halting problem that’re beyond compatibility, but I don’t think you’ve made the case that humans can do anything in that category.

    First, maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see the connection between insight and new axioms. I’d describe insight as being more like thinking of a new way to apply existing axioms. Take the example you give of a “bottom-up axiom”:

    An example of a bottom-up axiom is an axiom which says that if a program has a loop whose control variable is monotonically decreasing and has a termination condition which is greater than its start value, then that program will never halt. That axiom, which is provable by induction, will then allow a programmer to determine the value of the halting problem for an infinite subset of programs.

    As you say, it’s provable by induction in second-order logic. No new axioms needed, just a powerful enough system of logic.

    (It’s also not necessarily correct, due to overflow conditions. See the story of Mel, a Real Programmer for a particularly subtle example — a loop that had no test at all, but still exited cleanly. But if you do your logic right, you’ll catch weird conditions like this.)

    Another example: Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s last theorem. AIUI it required significant new insights (as well as drawing on past insights from a number of other mathematicians), but no new axioms; just old ones applied in ways nobody had thought of before.

    Which brings me to the second problem I have with your argument: as far as I can see, humans aren’t particularly good at choosing new axioms. If Wiles had made up any new axioms for his proof, I’m pretty sure the general reaction would have been something like “How do you justify this step? Oh, you just made it up? Well, that’s pretty useless, then.” Rather like the reaction fifthmonarchyman’s “decision” about Goldbach’s conjecture would get.

    Basically, what my problem comes down to is that if you don’t place any significant quality requirements on new axioms, then computers can produce them; if you do place significant quality requirements (like being guaranteed to be true, or even just contradicting your other axioms), humans will fail at it. My poster child here is going to be Gottlob Frege, a brilliant mathematician whose proposed axiomatization of math turned out to include an axiom that (while intuitively obvious) implied Russell’s paradox, which is a contradiction.

    I don’t see any criterion for new axioms that humans can be shown to meet, but computers can be shown not to.

  9. fifthmonarchyman: Gordon Davisson: I use my creative powers as a human to “decide” that you’re wrong about whether it halts?

    You can do that but when you did you would have granted my point.

    No, I adopted it temporarily in order to refute it via reductio ad absurdum. That is, I assume it’s true, show that it leads to ridiculous/contradictory results, and conclude that it must be false. In this case, the contradictory result is that the Goldbach program both halts and doesn’t, or maybe halts for me but not for you.

    My actual point: neither one of us gets to decide whether the program halts, any more than we get to decide what 2+2 is. It halts or it doesn’t; we have no say in the matter.

    BTW, in the jargon of computer science, yes/no problems that cannot be answered algorithmically (like the halting problem) are called “undecidable”.

    fifthmonarchyman: Gordon Davisson: I can say that you don’t have an adequate basis for your claim [that you know that the program doesn’t halt].

    What would constitute an adequate basis for making such a claim? Be careful not to beg the question.

    A proof of Goldbach’s conjecture. Do you consider that begging the question? I don’t. From experience, we know that logical proofs are far more reliable than human intuition. Especially in areas like this, where the untrained intuition isn’t really worth much.

  10. Gordon Davisson: That is, I assume it’s true, show that it leads to ridiculous/contradictory results, and conclude that it must be false. In this case, the contradictory result is that the Goldbach program both halts and doesn’t, or maybe halts for me but not for you.

    Why is that a contradictory result? I’m not making any claims to some sort of big T objective truth when I say it does not halt. Even if I was there is no compelling reason why your individual observations should correspond to that Truth.

    Gordon Davisson: From experience, we know that logical proofs are far more reliable than human intuition.

    Does “more reliable” equal true in your worldview? Why is that?
    What is wrong with other criteria like explanatory utility or psychological benefit or coherence to existing knowledge ?

    Be careful not to question beg

    peace

  11. Gordon Davisson: BTW, in the jargon of computer science, yes/no problems that cannot be answered algorithmically (like the halting problem) are called “undecidable”.

    If something is undecidable by algorithmic means does that mean no decision at all is possible?

    BTW computers never ever decide, persons sometimes decide using algorithms at other times we use other methods.

    peace

  12. Neil Rickert: But we make far better predictions now, than was possible in past millennia.

    I suspect that is in part because there are more of us to check the work.

    peace

  13. Neil Rickert: You have, several times, said that I am an instrumentalist.

    I do not have any problem understanding scientific progress.I do not see any need for it to require miracles.

    I wasn’t referring to you with that remark. I was picking up on Sal’s (?) comment that science should be metaphysically neutral. I was saying that one way of getting a metaphysically neutral science is by being an instrumentalist, such as Van Fraassen, but that approach has (to my mind) unacceptably high costs. So I conclude that science cannot be metaphysically neutral.

  14. colewd:
    Robin,

    They apply to all special pleading that is a gap argument.

    I would agree if you (or someone) could provide an example of such special pleading being applied specifically to an area science has yet to successfully address. Thus far however, all you’ve offered is an anecdote of conversations you’ve had with an (alleged) scientist who opined that science would one day address some unknown. So did said scientist fill said “gap” with naturalism? No. He or she simply noted that one day science would likely address it. Hardly a firm slam of any door on any other possibilities.

    By contrast, creationist’s arguments are actual attempts to find some god in places where science has not found an explanation. People like Kathy Martin, Duane Gish, and William Lane Craig have stated that their god can be found in those gaps. Not exactly the same thing.

    If God is then natural philosophy is also.

    Only if they are used in the same kind of argument. Thus far, I’ve not see such applied to “naturalism”.

    ETA: I should note, the one thing you’re going to have really trouble with on this subject is somehow showing a parallel between the perspective on a philosophical position and a perspective on a supposed deity.

  15. Kantian Naturalist: I was picking up on Sal’s (?) comment that science should be metaphysically neutral.

    I’ll admit that I don’t know what it means, to be “metaphysically neutral”.

    In any case, my own view of science is (I think) very different from that of van Fraassen.

  16. colewd:
    Robin,

    I have had conversations where it is claimed that the person had faith science will eventually solve the problem.This claim was made by a scientist.This is naturalism of the gaps.Yes, I had heard this claim more then once.

    God of the Gaps is considered fallacious reasoning.I think naturalism of the gaps is in the same boat.When there is a collection of evidence and not just pointing to a single gap,then you can make an inference.

    What a huge pile of BS. First off, you affirm that assuming science will eventually solve a problem is naturalism of the gaps. Really? Isn’t your point that science shouldn’t be committed to Naturalism? If it isn’t or wasn’t, it doesn’t follow that believing science will find an explanation to a problem must mean that it’s a naturalistic explanation. Way to shoot yourself (and ID) in the foot

    Second, you’re distorting the meaning of the fallacy: god of the gaps means assuming natural explanations cannot exist for a given problem, therefore god. If you are going to call something Naturalism of the gaps it should retain the same meaning, but you change it to “assuming nature can explain X”. The only way to avoid that would be to assume nature cannot explain X, which is the very premise of the God of the gaps! So your essentially equivocating to stick to your god of the gaps fallacy

    Why would it be fallacious to assume one might be able to explain something by means of an incredibly successful tool like science has been? If one was to buy your crap, science would have never made any progress because if assuming there’s a scientific explanation is the wrong thing to do, no one would have ever even tried to propose a hypothesis.

    It’s always the same with you guys. You keep affirming you’re all for science, but as soon as you start making your case it becomes obvious that you hate and fear science with all your might

  17. Kantian Naturalist:

    I was picking up on Sal’s (?) comment that science should be metaphysically neutral.

    Yes that was me. For the record it appears I’m at sharp variance with other YECs, OECs, IDists and creationist who insist the Bible (or their philosophy) has authority over what science can and cannot report. I argue against doing science that way. If science makes measurements that challenge ones theology, so much the worse for one’s theology.

    Science is supposed to be self-correcting, it doesn’t need the theological thought police putting spin on every measurement made. Such theological fiat, like that against Galileo, has a way of driving quality minds from the church and putting dogmatic thugs in charge that prefer having parishioners in their congregation which they can manipulate. I’ve seen it in the Christendom more than I care to ever see, and I want no part of it.

    So I have as much issue against putting ID, or creationism into basic science. Creation science, to the extent it is just making measurements and reporting them as relevant to the theology of creationism, I have no problem with — a good example is the junkDNA debate.

    I think science should have the minimum axiom of something like this:

    the scientific method is observation, hypothesis forming, testing of hypotheses

    reality is structured to make the scientific method effective at making extrapolations about nature that cannot be formally tested

    For example, we have an idea of the atom. We cannot formally examine every atom in the universe, not to mention it would lead to almost Godel-like incompleteness problems since our measuring instruments would also be made of atoms! We test a few atoms here on Earth, and as long as our theories look reasonably consistent, we extrapolate the properties of our findings to all nature. It is a small, but reasonable leap of faith that cannot be formally justified as far as I can tell.

  18. Robin: By contrast, creationist’s arguments are actual attempts to find some god in places where science has not found an explanation.

    LoL! And archaeologists use actual attempts to find artisans in places where science has not found an explanation. Forensic science use actual attempts to find criminals in places where science has not found an explanation.

    So I call bullshit on Robin. ID says intelligent design is the explanation and that is based on our knowledge of cause and effect relationships.

    “Our ability to be confident of the design of the cilium or intracellular transport rests on the same principles to be confident of the design of anything: the ordering of separate components to achieve an identifiable function that depends sharply on the components.”- M Behe DBB

  19. dazz: It’s always the same with you guys. You keep affirming you’re all for science, but as soon as you start making your case it becomes obvious that you hate and fear science with all your might

    I know, right? If there were more science at this site I’d probably have to leave. But as long as it is dedicated to slinging feces at each other I feel right at home.

  20. the dazz projector:

    It’s always the same with you guys. You keep affirming you’re all for science, but as soon as you start making your case it becomes obvious that you hate and fear science with all your might

    Nice projection. The comments of you and yours prove that you loathe science or perhaps you just don’t understand what it entails.

  21. fifthmonarchyman: Computers are not persons so they can’t decide. They simply execute predetermined responses to stimuli based on the program they are running.

    Some software is like that, but some is not. I work with systems that modify their behavior based on information gained over weeks or months. Their output given a set of inputs will change as they integrate additional data. In short, they learn and they make decisions based on what they’ve learned.

  22. johnnyb:
    We are showing that you can get around the limitations of computation by inserting an entity that does not operate by computation (i.e., a human).

    I don’t see that you’ve made the case for the claim that humans do not “operate by computation”.

  23. stcordova:
    If science makes measurements that challenge ones theology, so much the worse for one’s theology.

    Says the YEC.

    The science says that the world is old. The science says that humans evolved over 100,000 years ago. The science says that there was never a global flood in the past 10,000 years.

    So much the worse for your theology.

  24. Frankie: LoL! And archaeologists use actual attempts to find artisans in places where science has not found an explanation. Forensic science use actual attempts to find criminals in places where science has not found an explanation.

    So I call bullshit on Robin. ID says intelligent design is the explanation and that is based on our knowledge of cause and effect relationships.

    One of these days Joe I’m betting that you’re going to surprise me and post something A) comprehensible and B) responsive to what someone else writes. I doubt it will be any time soon, but then…that’s what makes reading your responses so exciting!

  25. I’d like to thank everyone who has purchased the book. This is a snapshot as of today, 1/31/17

    #13 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Science > Essays & Commentary

    #16 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Science > Experiments, Instruments & Measurement > Methodology & Statistics

    #18 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Science > Education
    > Research

  26. Frankie:
    the dazz projector:

    Nice projection. The comments of you and yours prove that you loathe science or perhaps you just don’t understand what it entails.

    All I’m going to say to you from now on is…

    Frankie: dazz, negative arguments are the basis for all design inferences. So clearly you don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

    …just to remind you how fucking retarded you are

  27. Robin: One of these days Joe I’m betting that you’re going to surprise me and post something A) comprehensible and B) responsive to what someone else writes. I doubt it will be any time soon, but then…that’s what makes reading your responses so exciting!

    LoL! One of these days Robin I”m betting that you are going to make an actual argument. My response is to your saying shit about God of then gaps argument. See, you can’t even follow along

  28. dazz: All I’m going to say to you from now on is…

    Frankie: dazz, negative arguments are the basis for all design inferences. So clearly you don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

    …just to remind you how fucking retarded you are

    Ok…so likely going to guano, but I gotta admit, this made really made me laugh! 🙂

  29. What? dazz doesn’t realize that all design inferences mandate that blind and mindless processes be ELIMINATED first? So because dazz doesn’t understand science nor Occam’s Razor I am retarded? Really?

    How does that work, dazz?

    When scientists say Stonehenge is an artifact they are also saying that blind and mindless processes did NOT produce it. So what I said is true. I don’t know what dazz’s problem is.

    Again, for dazz who is either unwilling or unable to learn:
    negative evidence

  30. Robin: …just to remind you how fucking retarded you are

    Ok…so likely going to guano, but I gotta admit, this made really made me laugh!

    It makes me laugh to. But I am sure not for the same reasons. I laugh because it exposes dazz’s total lack of understanding of how science works, ie Newton’s four rules of scientific investigation and Occam’s razor. And also because once we infer something is an artifact that means we are saying it could NOT have been produced by blind and mindless processes.

  31. Frankie: LoL! And archaeologists use actual attempts to find artisans in places where science has not found an explanation. Forensic science use actual attempts to find criminals in places where science has not found an explanation.

    Those actual attempts stem from knowledge of mechanisms human designers use and evidence for the use those mechanisms evaluated by scientists means

  32. Robin: …just to remind you how fucking retarded you are

    Ok…so likely going to guano, but I gotta admit, this made really made me laugh!

    That’s a remarkable moment in Joe’s history because it’s quite likely the first time he’s been right, the day he realised ID is a big fat unscientific argument from ignorance

  33. Robin,

    Ok…so likely going to guano, but I gotta admit, this made really made me laugh!

    Unless Dazz can empirically demonstrate that Frankie is retarded Mung’s admission that he was retarded has been thrown out due to a lack of empirical evidence. 🙂

  34. Earth to dazz- the design inference is based on our KNOWLEDGE of cause and effect relationships whereas your position is based on ignorance- as in no one knows how to test the claim that the vision system evolved let alone evolved by means of blind and mindless processes.

  35. newton: Those actual attempts are knowledge of possible mechanisms human designers use, and evidence of those mechanisms.

    But why do they consider that supernatural beings might be responsible for archaeological designs, crimes, etc.?

    Oh, they don’t? Damned atheistic materialists and/or theistic suck-ups to same.

    Glen Davidson

  36. colewd:
    Robin,

    Unless Dazz can empirically demonstrate that Frankie is retarded Mung’s admission that he was retarded has been thrown out due to a lack of empirical evidence.

    Easy peasy!

    Frankie: ID makes positive arguments

    Frankie: dazz, negative arguments are the basis for all design inferences. So clearly you don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

  37. GlenDavidson: But why do they consider that supernatural beings might be responsible for archaeological designs, crimes, etc.?

    ID doesn’t require the supernatural.

  38. LoL! @ dazz- just because the ELIMINATION of necessity and chance are t6he basis for any design inference that does not mean that positive evidence isn’t also mandatory. And the positive evidence for ID has been presented

  39. netwon:

    Those actual attempts stem from knowledge of mechanisms human designers use and evidence for the use those mechanisms evaluated by scientists means

    They can’t possibly know the mechanisms actually used. And they can determine an artifact exists before knowing who and how.

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