“Don’t trust claims that there are other, non-scientific, ways of knowing!”

In a post entitled “Why science cannot be the only way of knowing: A reply to Jason Rosenhouse” at Uncommon Descent web site, Vincent Torley writes:

The following is a short (but not exhaustive) list of background assumptions about the world, which the scientific method presupposes. Science would be impossible as an enterprise, if the vast majority of scientists did not hold these assumptions:

(a) There exists an external world, which is independent of our human minds: it’s real, regardless of whether we believe in it or not;

(b) Objects in the external world have certain identifying characteristics called dispositions, which scientists are able to investigate;

(c) Objects in the external world behave in accordance with certain mathematical regularities, which we call the laws of Nature, and which tell us how those objects ought to behave;

(d) Scientific induction is reliable: scientists can safely assume that the laws of Nature hold true at all times and places;

(e) Solipsism is false: there exist other embodied agents, with minds of their own;

(f) Communication is possible: scientists are capable of talking to one another, and sharing their observations, as well as their thoughts (or interpretations) relating to those observations;

(g) The senses are reliable, under normal conditions, within their proper domain, which means that scientists are capable of making measurements on an everyday basis;

(h) There exist standard conditions, under which ordinary people (including scientists) are routinely capable of thinking logically, making rational discourse possible;

(i) Scientists are morally responsible for their own actions – in particular, they are responsible for their decision to tell the truth about what they have observed, or to lie about it; and

(j) Scientists should not lie under any circumstances, when doing science.

Science would also collapse as an enterprise, if these background assumptions were not objectively true.

So, I wonder if Vincent’s list of assumptions that must be true is a fair summary of how scientific endeavour proceeds. I can’t see anything to dispute regarding a): Dr. Johnson’s test works well enough for me.

Point b). Don’t like the look of that word “disposition”! Why can’t we stick with characteristics, properties or observable phenomena? If “disposition” is synonymous, then, OK.

Point c) Disagree. We observe phenomena and attempt to model them mathematically. Good models are descriptive and reliably predict outcomes that fit the data. Particles and waves don’t carry rule books.

Point d) Why “safely”? Induction is a useful process in mathematics and mathematics produce good models for science. Whilst past performance does not guarantee future success, we can make provisional working assumptions until they, well, cease to work.

Point e) Back to Dr Johnson!

Point f) Communication is key to human success as a social species.

Point g) Human senses can be easily fooled. Eye-witness evidence and memory are notoriously unreliable. Nullius in verba. This is why peer review and repeatability are important aspects of scientific endeavour.

Point h) Don’t see the relevance.

Point i) Individual scientists can be mistaken, selectively ignore data that are problematic for their hypothesis, and have been known to falsify data. Repeatability is an effective counter to false claims.

Point j) Humans lie. Scientists are human. Again repeatability is there as a safeguard.

The claim that science would collapse if any of Torley’s points did not hold is not correct.

 

ETA grammar, ETA 2 spelling

106 Replies to ““Don’t trust claims that there are other, non-scientific, ways of knowing!””

  1. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve looked through Gregory’s three recent references. As a result, I can give you the definitive definition:

    scientism: the failure to kowtow to religious bullshit

    </sarcasm>

  2. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert:
    I’ve looked through Gregory’s three recent references.As a result, I can give you the definitive definition:
    scientism: the failure to kowtow to religious bullshit
    </sarcasm>

    I’m sure Gregory is perfectly sincere in his proselytizing, but he reminds me of missionaries who knock on your door and demand you accept and read their tracts. And how stupid you are not to have already done so.

    And while in your living room, they can’t help pointing out how shitty your house is and how much it would benefit from some work done by their friends.

    I guess what I’m saying is that regardless of the merits of Gregory’s thoughts, his salesmanship could use some work.

  3. DNA_Jock
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka: I guess what I’m saying is that regardless of the merits of Gregory’s thoughts, his salesmanship could use some work.

    I’ll say.
    I have a suspicion that Gregory is, in fact, wrong about most of the stuff he rants about, in particular his fetish with labels. But he has failed to communicate either what his point is, or why I should care. It is this latter, spectacular failure that I find the most interesting thing about Gregory.

  4. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Steve,

    Split brains does not debunk the concept of soul. Anyone with half a brain (pun intended) knows that memories are not localized but distributed across hemispheres.

    If memories are in the brain, not the soul, then we lose all memory the moment we die. Are you comfortable with that? Most theists aren’t; they want the soul to remember the life it just lived.

    So asking the right hemisphere “do you believe in God?’, you will get a response based on the right hemisphere’s reconstruction of the (composite) memory, missing those parts stored in the left hemisphere. So the right brain is answering based on partial information. It could very well be that the part of the memory the right hemisphere stored were doubts about the existence of God. Where as the left hemisphere may have perhaps stored experiences that could be chalked up as affirming God.

    If the right and left hemispheres disagree about the existence of God, then what does the soul believe? And if the soul is in control of the body, then why can’t it make both hemispheres give the same answer?

    What exactly does the soul do if it doesn’t control the body and can’t remember anything?

    P.S. You seem to be braver than Gregory, who avoided the issue last year and appears to be doing so again.

  5. Robin Robin
    Ignored
    says:

    Steve:
    keiths,

    Split brains does not debunk the concept of soul.Anyone with half a brain (pun intended) knows that memories are not localized but distributed across hemispheres.

    So asking the right hemisphere “do you believe in God?’, you will get a response based on the right hemisphere’s reconstruction of the (composite) memory, missing those parts stored in the left hemisphere.So the right brain is answering based on partial information.It could very well be that the part of the memory the right hemisphere stored were doubts about the existence of God.Where as the left hemisphere may have perhaps stored experiences that could be chalked up as affirming God.

    Therefore, there is no contradiction in the right hemisphere saying no and the left hemisphere saying yes.Rather split brains simply tells us more about the nature of how the brain stores and distributes information.Nothing more.

    Indeed. So what exactly does the soul do then? Clearly it can go off without memory at all and exist in a state of non-existence if what you’re saying has validity. Thus, your supposed soul would actually be of no consequence. Is that what you are suggesting?

  6. Robin Robin
    Ignored
    says:

    Gregory: (but he continues to not know why I barb and dismiss him-

    It’s rather unrealistic to expect someone to pursue your agenda when you cast aspersions on them and the world. Not a really motivating technique. Thus, my guess is that you don’t really want people here to learn about scientism or whatever since you continue to make taking you seriously a distasteful prospect. If you do wish folks to take you seriously, and in particular to broaden science’s appreciation for philosophy, you might…just might…consider toning down the Angry Important Philosopher schtick. Who knows…if you show some genuine happiness and sanity, people might think your claims have some warm and fuzzy merit.

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