How and Why: questions for scientists and philosophers?

The late John Davison often remarked that science could only answer “how” questions, not “why”. It seems to me philosophers, perhaps I’m really thinking of philosophers of religion rather than in general, attempt to find answers to “why” questions without always having a firm grasp on how reality works. Perhaps this is why there is so much talking past each other when the explanatory power of science vs other ways of knowing enters a discussion.

I’ve not been particularly motivated to read the anti-religious output of the “Gnu” atheists. I’ve not read Dawkins’ The God Delusion or any of Sam Harris’ output. I did read God is Not Great because someone lent me a copy which I found an entertaining polemic against some sacred cows (not the least being Mother Theresa) but I doubt I would have considered buying Jerry Coyne’s Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible as I have no need of such arguments being already convinced that no religious dogma has ever yet provided an answer to a “how” question.

But my eye was caught by a post at Uncommon Descent perhaps hopefully entitled “Feser Demolishes Coyne“. I’ve mentioned Edward Feser before (he teaches religious studies at Pasadena City College in California). He’s an outspoken right-wing Catholic blogger with a loyal following and a seemingly intense dislike of Jerry Coyne. The article applauded by Barry Arrington at Uncommon Descent is published at “First Things” (America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion & Public Life ). Feser writes confidently and pejoritavely, finishing with a final barb:

For considered as an omnibus of concrete examples of elementary logical fallacies, Faith versus Fact is invaluable.

By Feser’s standards, the review is brief. Feser lambasts Coyne for choosing to direct his fire on the poster child of anti-science and anti-evolution, US-style Creationism, complains that Coyne defines science too broadly and that Coyne equivocates on the description scientism by embracing it. So I bought the book.

Regarding Feser’s complaint that Coyne focuses on US Creationism, in his first chapter, Coyne goes to some length to explain why he is most concerned with the US and Creationism. Creationism is rife in the US where he teaches, it is anti-evolution, a discipline that he teaches and holds dear and it is the area of scientific/religious conflict that he is familiar with.

As to defining science, Coyne writes (p 39):

In fact, I see science, conceived broadly, as any endeavour that tries to find the truth about nature using the tools of reason, observation and experiment.

Seems reasonable to me. A scientific approach is starting with some observation, some phenomenon, and moving through “that’s interesting” to “what’s going on” to hypothesis testing. But surviving everyday life relies on accepting and working with the regularities we find in the real world around us. Water won’t run uphill without a source of energy, and water running downhill can produce large and useful amounts of energy.

As to the charge of scientism, Coyne tackles this in some detail (according to Kindle, Coyne uses the word 43 times in the book). He points out “scientism” is invariably a pejorative term used to denigrate the idea of scientific endeavour as the only way to know anything about the external world. He demonstrates the equivocal meaning of scientism by suggesting four shades of meaning and embraces the first – that science is “the sole source of reliable facts about the universe.” By that definition, Coyne cheerfully admits:

…most of my colleagues and I are  indeed guilty of scientism. But in that sense scientism is a virtue -the virtue of holding convictions with a tenacity proportional to the evidence supporting them.

I propose Feser’s review as evidence supporting my hypothesis that scientists concern themselves with how things really are and religious philosophers seem to ignore reality when clinging on to their rationalisations of why things are how they assume them to be.

Incidentally, I find Coyne’s book well-written and not at all polemical as might be expected if one assumed Feser’s review was at all accurate.

 

319 thoughts on “How and Why: questions for scientists and philosophers?

  1. I’ve spent 55 years thinking informally about free will. I don’t read professional philosophy, but I do read online debates.

    My take is that as a philosophical problem determinism/free will is not only undecidable, but also undefinable. The elements required for rational discussion are simply not there. For starters, what is this “I” thing that would do the willing?

    Jerry Coyne frequently approaches the issue from a social policy perspective. How can we justify punishing people (particularly, executing them) if everything is determined.

    My thought is that even though we cannot resolve the issue philosophically, we can make operational definitions of free will for the purposes of policy.

    And, of course, we do. The Law is full of concepts for deciding responsibility.

    We have mental capacity, mental health, motivation, coercion, and so forth. These are not without flaws, and they are constantly evolving. But however flawed, they directly address Coyne’s concerns.

    My own loose operational definition of free will is ability to learn. I do not need to worry about agency or invisible and ineffable homunculi. Any system capable of learning, whether human, animal, or computer, is free to the extent that it has the capacity to anticipate consequences.

    That’s pretty loose, but it’s refinable.

  2. I think it is foolish to try and define “science” and “religion” (or “faith”) except relative to some specific intellectual project or inquiry — say, in sociology, history, or theology. (On “faith,” I like Tillich: “the object of ultimate concern”.)

    That said, I think it is a serious mistake to say that “science” should be “broadly defined” as any attempt to find out “the truth about nature using the tools of reason, observation, and experiment”. On the contrary, I think that science is a very specific kind of conceptually structured social practice that is distinct from (but not separable from) other conceptually structured social practices such as art, religion, philosophy, cooking, dancing, etc.

    What is important to science isn’t that one just looks around at what there is and describes it, but that one deliberately intervenes in some way to tease apart the tangled skein of causal powers.

    This can be done through very careful and disciplined observation — a field ecologist has to be trained in how to record social relationships, a paleontologist has to be trained to recognize a tiny outcropping of rock as a hippopotamus ankle-bone — as well as through various kinds of laboratory experiments through which phenomena are shielded from one another and deliberately manipulated in order to generate data for model-construction.

    Given that, I think that the sciences are quite different from other kinds of understanding or other kinds of making sense of the world as we experience it.

    I won’t pretend to define “religion” — I don’t know enough about the philosophy of religion or sociology of religion to venture that far.

  3. vjtorley: Evidently you agree with Jerry Coyne’s characterization of science as “trying to find out the truth about nature using the tools of reason, observation and experiment.” But regardless of whether it succeeds or not, it seems to me that religion uses these same tools to try and find out the truth, at least sometimes. Neil Rickert is therefore correct in concluding that science and religion can overlap.

    Hmm, vjtorley agrees with me. Is that bad ?

    I was engaged with Christianity during my teenage years. And it never interfered with science. And there never was any cognitive dissonance. That’s why I argue, from my own experience, that they can overlap.

    I eventually gave up on religion, but it wasn’t because of any conflict with science.

    Sure, I read genesis 1, and saw that it was a very outdated (pre-scientific) view. My conclusion: the bible wasn’t meant to be a science textbook. Similarly, I never saw it as preventing me from considering evolution. I took the bible to be a guide to theology, not an encylopedia everything. I only dropped out after I began to question the theology.

  4. Neil Rickert: I only dropped out after I began to question the theology.

    I could say something like the same thing, but a scientific reading of history impinges on theology. At least when theology is based on revelation.

  5. Kantian Naturalist:

    keiths: How do you address the following asymmetries, which seem obvious and inescapable to me?

    1. Organisms are composed of atoms, but not vice-versa.

    2. The behavior of organisms is determined by the behavior of their constituent atoms, but not vice-versa.

    I think the first one is true, but the second one is not.

    I agree with you on the second of those. I’m not so sure about the first.

    We say that organisms are composed of atoms. That is, their being composed of atoms is on our say-so. And, in some sense, our say-so participates in the composition of atoms.

  6. petrushka: My take is that as a philosophical problem determinism/free will is not only undecidable, but also undefinable.

    That has been my view for many years.

    Jerry Coyne frequently approaches the issue from a social policy perspective. How can we justify punishing people (particularly, executing them) if everything is determined.

    That’s what bothers me about Coyne’s arguments on free will.

    He is, in effect, saying that the criminal could not choose to not do the crime. Yet we can choose to change how we punish the criminal.

    If effect, he seems to be saying “We academic elite have free will, but the hoi polloi don’t.” It’s an ugly classism.

    But it can be fun to watch the arguments from the sidelines.

  7. Neil Rickert: If effect, he seems to be saying “We academic elite have free will, but the hoi polloi don’t.” It’s an ugly classism.

    But I would say (from my own operational definition) we do have free will, and that the educated and financially well off classes do have more free will than impoverished classes. My definition of free will is not philosophical, or at least not respectably philosophical.

  8. Neil,

    If effect, he seems to be saying “We academic elite have free will, but the hoi polloi don’t.” It’s an ugly classism.

    That’s a complete misunderstanding of Coyne. He holds that none of us, including the “academic elite”, have free will.

  9. keiths: That’s a complete misunderstanding of Coyne. He holds that none of us, including the “academic elite”, have free will.

    I agree, but that creates a strange loop.
    And Coyne is judgmental. I guess he can’t help it. 🙂

  10. I think that Dennett pretty much gets it right in Elbow Room: there’s nothing in science which shows that we don’t have free will, and free will is indispensable to how we think about agency, freedom, and responsibility.

    I would say that determinism is only true if (1) scientific realism is true (no instrumentalism); (2) the unity of science thesis is true (no disunity of science); (3) the unity of science thesis entails that everything reduces to physics (no non-reductive physicalism or emergentism); (4) physics is deterministic (particles as microscopic billiard balls).

    I think that only (1) is true, and even then, it’s only with significant caveats and restrictions. I think that the sciences are disunified and I also don’t think that our ordinary macroscopic intuitions about “deterministic causation” really work at the level of quantum fields.

  11. keiths:
    petrushka,
    Could you describe the loop?

    People cannot ethically be punished for their behavior, because they could do no otherwise. People who punish other people should not be scolded, because they can do no otherwise.

    But Jerry is a scold. He wants people to change.

    My personal take is that people can learn, and if we are unhappy with aspects of society, we need to learn better ways of managing people. I disapprove of [most] punishment , not for ethical or moral reasons, but because it is counterproductive.

    Well, ethical reasons, because I personally don’t like seeing people hurt. I suppose if we punished people with comfy chairs, I’d have to rethink this.

  12. keiths: 2. The behavior of organisms is determined by the behavior of their constituent atoms, but not vice-versa.

    If atoms have behaviors, do they ever behave abnormally?

  13. KN:

    I think the first one is true, but the second one is not.

    Neil:

    I agree with you on the second of those. I’m not so sure about the first.

    This calls for a cage fight.

  14. keiths:
    CharlieM,

    How does it achieve that effect?How does the ego — a spiritual entity, in your account — alter the behavior of the body, a physical entity?

    The laws of physics, applied to the body, predict one chain of events.The ego causes a different chain of events to occur.How did it “persuade” the body to violate the laws of physics?If our bodies routinely violate the laws of physics, why has science been unable to detect those violations?

    Which law or laws of physics do you think are violated by my version of events? Living bodies do not conform to Newton’s 1st Law which he stated as follows:

    Every body continues in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a right line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.

    Organisms are not billiard balls which only move when acted upon from without. They can move due to an inner compulsion or volition. They don’t violate the laws of physics they transcend them. Life cannot be understood using physics and chemistry. Problems of cause and effect are fine for billiard balls but a science of life needs a totally different approach. And this is what Goethe was trying to do with his gentle emipicism.

    If I had a dualistic outlook then I might have issues with a spiritual ego interacting with matter, but I am more of a monist. For me matter is just condensed spirit so that interpenetration and interaction between them is natural and to be expected. I presume you have no problem with picturing the organism as consisting of solids, liquids, gases and energy all intermingling and participating in its existence.

  15. CharlieM,

    You may not realize this, but the bodies of organisms actually follow the laws of physics to the letter. No exceptions are known. If any are discovered, it will be earthshaking news.

    The bodies of organisms follow the laws of physics, yet those laws do not take spirit into account in any way.

    You say that your ego — a spiritual entity — is what caused your body to move when you decided to get up from the couch. Presumably, you also believe that had your ego not made the decision to get up, your body would have remained where it was. Two completely different outcomes, and what caused the two scenarios to diverge, according to you, was the action of your non-physical, spiritual ego.

    How could this be, if the laws of physics do not take spirit into account? And if it does happen, why would this not appear to be a violation of those laws?

  16. keiths, to Neil:

    That’s a complete misunderstanding of Coyne. He holds that none of us, including the “academic elite”, have free will.

    petrushka:

    I agree, but that creates a strange loop.

    keiths:

    Could you describe the loop?

    petrushka:

    People cannot ethically be punished for their behavior, because they could do no otherwise. People who punish other people should not be scolded, because they can do no otherwise.

    But Jerry is a scold. He wants people to change.

    There’s a difference between punishing and scolding if the scolding is done for purposes of persuasion, not punishment.

    There is nothing inconsistent about a) believing that people don’t have free will and b) trying to persuade them to change their behavior.

  17. Nor is there anything inconsistent in trying to deter crime by executing criminals.

    It may be ineffectual and barbaric, but it is not incompatible with determinism. The invocation of determinism is superfluous.

  18. keiths: 2. The behavior of organisms is determined by the behavior of their constituent atoms, but not vice-versa.

    If atoms have behaviors, do they ever behave abnormally?

  19. keiths:
    CharlieM,

    You may not realize this, but the bodies of organisms actually follow the laws of physics to the letter.No exceptions are known. If any are discovered, it will be earthshaking news.

    Sounds like an article of faith 🙂

    The bodies of organisms follow the laws of physics, yet those laws do not take spirit into account in any way.

    We apply the laws of physics to organisms. But if that is all we do we will never understand nature, especially human nature.

    You say that your ego — a spiritual entity — is what caused your body to move when you decided to get up from the couch. Presumably, you also believe that had your ego not made the decision to get up, your body would have remained where it was.Two completely different outcomes, and what caused the two scenarios to diverge, according to you, was the action of your non-physical, spiritual ego.

    How could this be, if the laws of physics do not take spirit into account?And if it does happen, why would this not appear to be a violation of those laws?

    The laws of physics do not take human emotions, animal behaviour nor creativity into account, and this is as it should be. The fact that we love, hate and are reduced to tears when the TV brings us pictures of disasters and the mysery of strangers on the opposite side of the planet is far removed and of no account with regards to the laws of physics. Who would say of these things that they violate the laws of physics?

    Human creativity has produced countless objects, all of which can be understood by using the laws of physics. But if we look for the source of any of these objects you will find that it originates in the imagination of individual humans. They start out as an idea in the mind and only afterwards become physical objects. How often has it been that a person has an idea of some device, but the object cannot be constructed until technology has come up with the materials needed for it to be capable of functioning.

  20. petrushka: My take is that as a philosophical problem determinism/free will is not only undecidable, but also undefinable. The elements required for rational discussion are simply not there. For starters, what is this “I” thing that would do the willing?

    I believe that by following the maxim at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi,”Know Thyself” is a good place to start when thinking about the “I”. I cannot see why anyone who thinks that the “I” is just an illusion would argue from a position where the “I” is a reality, without feeling some sort of internal conflict.

    My take on free will is that its pointless to say that we have it without giving a concrete example of a situation in which we demonstrate it. Having free will means performing an action totally initiated from within one’s own being.

    To give an example, a thief in the act of stealing is not acting freely. The item he is stealing is the object of his or her desire and it is obviously external. One can only act freely out of love for the deed which can only come from within. To act selfishly is to act in unfreedom. True freedom is true love; something which cannot be enforced from without.

    So we all have the potential for free will, but from my experience, none of us has demonstrated it.

  21. keiths:

    There’s a difference between punishing and scolding if the scolding is done for purposes of persuasion, not punishment.

    There is nothing inconsistent about a) believing that people don’t have free will and b) trying to persuade them to change their behavior.

    petrushka:

    Nor is there anything inconsistent in trying to deter crime by executing criminals.

    That’s right. Coyne doesn’t object to deterrence per se. He objects to capital punishment on different grounds.

    It may be ineffectual and barbaric, but it is not incompatible with determinism. The invocation of determinism is superfluous.

    No, because Coyne uses determinism to argue against capital punishment as retribution, not against capital punishment as a deterrent:

    If you’re a determinist like me who feels that criminals, acting under the influence of their genes and environments, simply had no choice about committing their crime, then you see only three rationales for punishment. These are deterrence, rehabilitation, and removal of offenders from society. Retribution isn’t included since it does nothing but cater to an outmoded desire for revenge. And even if you’re not a determinist, government-sanctioned revenge killing simply isn’t rational.

    None of the three goals are met by capital punishment, and maybe not by automatic life-without-parole sentences, either.

    The argument against capital punishment as a deterrent is that it is, as you say, ineffectual and barbaric.

  22. Mung,

    If atoms have behaviors, do they ever behave abnormally?

    That depends on what you regard as abnormal behavior.

  23. keiths:
    keiths:
    petrushka:
    That’s right. Coyne doesn’t object to deterrence per se. He objects to capital punishment on different grounds.
    No, because Coyne uses determinism to argue against capital punishment as retribution, not against capital punishment as a deterrent:

    The argument against capital punishment as a deterrent is that it is, as you say, ineffectual and barbaric.

    Retribution is barbaric, but I see no conflict with determinism. Maybe my understanding of retribution is flawed, but I think it means you hurt someone who hurt you, because it feels good.

    It might be rationalized as tit for tat, which is actually an effective deterrent, in some game theories.

    But as vengeance, it simply feels good, and that is compatible with determinism.

  24. petrushka:

    Retribution is barbaric, but I see no conflict with determinism.

    Retribution can happen in a deterministic world, so there’s certainly no conflict in that sense.

    Coyne is arguing that retribution serves no positive purpose in a deterministic world.

    I think it serves no positive purpose in a non-deterministic world, either.

  25. I can’t really argue against Coyne’s position, but I think it is also ineffectual.

    Over time, I think arguments from utility prevail over arguments from ought. I think, buried somewhere in Coyne’s writing, the notion that hurting people is immoral or bad.

    Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t seem to be as effective as arguing successfully that a policy goes against your interests.

    It is very difficult to convince people to look at long term interests, and almost as hard to convince people that you can foresee long term interests. But in my optimistic moments, I think we are getting better at it.

  26. keiths: Mung: If atoms have behaviors, do they ever behave abnormally?

    That depends on what you regard as abnormal behavior.

    Behavior that would make biological life as we know it impossible.

  27. Mung: Behavior that would make biological life as we know it impossible.

    I think the “atoms with funny ideas” theory of disease is more entertaining than the “possessed by the devil” theory.

  28. Flint: I think the “atoms with funny ideas” theory of disease is more entertaining than the “possessed by the devil” theory.

    Positrons are known to be gay.

  29. I recently toured CERN. If I heard “Don’t make me come down there!” once, I heard it a thousand times.

  30. Mung:

    If atoms have behaviors, do they ever behave abnormally?

    keiths:

    That depends on what you regard as abnormal behavior.

    Mung:

    Behavior that would make biological life as we know it impossible.

    Then atoms don’t behave abnormally, by your strange criterion.

    The fact that they don’t violate your norm hardly means that your norm is essential to their not violating it.

    Think, Mung.

  31. How the Snake Lost its Legs
    Do you suppose this book really tells us how these things came to be? Or perhaps there’s more to science than stories about how.

    1. The first two-sided animal
    2. The fly
    3. The butterfly
    4. The snake
    5. The cheetah

  32. keiths: The fact that they don’t violate your norm hardly means that your norm is essential to their not violating it.

    I never said it did. Are you an essentialist about atoms and elements but not about living organisms?

    Atom

    An atom is the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter that has the properties of a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms.

    Every atom is composed of a nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus. The nucleus is made of one or more protons and typically a similar number of neutrons (none in hydrogen-1). Protons and neutrons are called nucleons. Over 99.94% of the atom’s mass is in the nucleus. The protons have a positive electric charge, the electrons have a negative electric charge, and the neutrons have no electric charge. If the number of protons and electrons are equal, that atom is electrically neutral. If an atom has more or fewer electrons than protons, then it has an overall negative or positive charge, respectively, and it is called an ion.

    Electrons of an atom are attracted to the protons in an atomic nucleus by this electromagnetic force. The protons and neutrons in the nucleus are attracted to each other by a different force, the nuclear force, which is usually stronger than the electromagnetic force repelling the positively charged protons from one another. Under certain circumstances the repelling electromagnetic force becomes stronger than the nuclear force, and nucleons can be ejected from the nucleus, leaving behind a different element: nuclear decay resulting in nuclear transmutation.

    The number of protons in the nucleus defines to what chemical element the atom belongs: for example, all copper atoms contain 29 protons. The number of neutrons defines the isotope of the element. The number of electrons influences the magnetic properties of an atom. Atoms can attach to one or more other atoms by chemical bonds to form chemical compounds such as molecules. The ability of atoms to associate and dissociate is responsible for most of the physical changes observed in nature, and is the subject of the discipline of chemistry.

    Life depends on it. But then, I’m sure you know that.

  33. It was detumescent when I was there a few weeks ago, and you don’t really get to see the LHC at all. I did see the Atlas detector control room, as well as CERN’s original synchrocyclotron, built in the 50’s and decommissioned in about 1990. Awesome technology for the era.

  34. Rich,

    KeithS has been to the large hardon collider. Repeatedly.

    Who wouldn’t be turned on by 13 TeV?

  35. Someone please wake me up if Mung ever answers this query:

    Mung, tell us why norms are needed for life, and identify some of those norms for us.

  36. petrushka:

    I can’t really argue against Coyne’s position…

    Though you’ve been trying.

    …but I think it is also ineffectual.

    Over time, I think arguments from utility prevail over arguments from ought. I think, buried somewhere in Coyne’s writing, the notion that hurting people is immoral or bad.

    No, he accepts the need for punishments that can hurt people:

    Even without free will then, we can still use punishment to deter bad behavior, protect society from criminals, and figure out better ways to rehabilitate them.

    However, he rejects the notion that the suffering of criminals is desirable in and of itself. And it isn’t buried in his writing — it’s front and center:

    What is not justified is revenge or retribution — the idea of punishing criminals for making the “wrong choice.”

  37. Revenge and retribution aren’t justified. They just feel good. And like a lot of things the feel good, we do it regardless of whether it’s in our long term interest.

    The best argument against retribution and vengeance is not that it isn’t justified, but that it’s against our interest.

    I know that people make up justifications, but I find that beside the point.

  38. Answer the query, please:

    Mung, tell us why norms are needed for life, and identify some of those norms for us.

  39. CharlieM,

    Here’s a case for you to consider:

    Take the 2000 case of a 40-year-old man we’ll call Alex, whose sexual preferences suddenly began to transform. He developed an interest in child pornography—and not just a little interest, but an overwhelming one. He poured his time into child-pornography Web sites and magazines. He also solicited prostitution at a massage parlor, something he said he had never previously done. He reported later that he’d wanted to stop, but “the pleasure principle overrode” his restraint. He worked to hide his acts, but subtle sexual advances toward his prepubescent stepdaughter alarmed his wife, who soon discovered his collection of child pornography. He was removed from his house, found guilty of child molestation, and sentenced to rehabilitation in lieu of prison. In the rehabilitation program, he made inappropriate sexual advances toward the staff and other clients, and was expelled and routed toward prison.

    At the same time, Alex was complaining of worsening headaches. The night before he was to report for prison sentencing, he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, and took himself to the emergency room. He underwent a brain scan, which revealed a massive tumor in his orbitofrontal cortex. Neurosurgeons removed the tumor. Alex’s sexual appetite returned to normal.

    The year after the brain surgery, his pedophilic behavior began to return. The neuroradiologist discovered that a portion of the tumor had been missed in the surgery and was regrowing—and Alex went back under the knife. After the removal of the remaining tumor, his behavior again returned to normal.

    That story makes perfect sense from a physicalist perspective. How do you explain it?

  40. Neil Rickert:
    Critical Rationalist, Your post was marked as spam (I’m not sure why).I’m sorry that I didn’t notice it earlier.

    My apologies too. I rarely look in the spam folder as, thankfully, almost no spam makes it through. As Critical Rationalist’s comment is so far back it is likely not to have been seen by anyone, I’ll copy it here:

    Critical Rationalist writes:

    An infinite regress isn’t actually a problem unless your a Foundationist of some sort, such as Empiricist. While it was useful because it help promote observations, Empiricism has it backwards. Theories are tested by observations, not derived from them.

    All knowledge is conjecture controlled by criticism in some form or another and we tentatively accept hard to vary ideas that we have no criticism of. For example, I can’t think of a harder to vary explanation of why 2+2 = 4 than 2+2 actually equals 4. It’s nearly impossible to vary, with the exception of extremely large integers. That’s it.

    Popper’s theory of knowledge is universal because it includes knowledge in genes, books and even brains. And it’s objective because it doesn’t require a knowing subject. It unifies several fields, which is how we make progress.

  41. Responding to Critical Rationalist, I agree that infinite regress can be ignored when asking “how”. Science advances by biting off pieces of reality small enough to chew. There are theories that give us over-arching explanations like relativity or evolutionary theory but this is a bonus rather than a restriction on scientific endeavour; anomalies (real or apparent) can be fruitful areas for research to focus on.

    Asking “why”, on the other hand, soon takes us back to whether one is satisfied by natural or religious explanations or whether one settles for “I don’t know (yet)”.

  42. I see Feser is continuing to bash Jerry Coyne at his blog.

    I thought I’d post a comment and ask this question that must either be too naïve to be worth responding to or so devastating that everyone is avoiding it.

    Assume EAAN is true, assume Aquinas was right, Craig’s Kalam cosmological argument is true…

    How do derive your attributes? Which manifestation, which version, of God to you pick?

    link

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