The Science of the Supernatural

If Darwinism fails then supernatural causes are back on the table and should be included in science.

I do not think there can be a science of the supernatural.

I do not think that if Darwinism fails that supernatural causes will become acceptable.

If the hope of ID is that supernatural causes will be allowed back into science if they can only just get rid of Darwinism, ID is doomed.

The tools and methods of ID cannot differentiate a supernatural cause from a natural cause anyways.

Thoughts?

1,433 thoughts on “The Science of the Supernatural

  1. Alan Fox: It’s still consensus.

    Where I came from the word ain’t is ubiquitous everyone uses it from little kids to politicians but it was considered incorrect by uppity English teachers.

    peace

  2. fifthmonarchyman:…it was considered incorrect by uppity English teachers.

    I agree that English teachers often forget that rules follow usage rather than dictate it. I have personal experience!

  3. walto: That’s a nice (and well put) theory of justification, I think. Just need to add truth to get knowledge and you’re all set.

    I agree, And if you define truth as ends of inquiry for a set of coherent knowledge claims, they you know you will get there eventually based on above. Or someone will. Unless we go extinct first. Which may well be the better knowledge claim (than getting arbitrarily close to truth)..

    Now as a scientific realist, I’d go further and say we will be able to make true claims about the world as it is, not just the world as depicted in human conceptual schemes.

    That would definitely be stretching the truth for Neil, I suspect. In fact, I am not sure if he thinks science makes knowledge claims at all, other than how-to knowledge claims.

    And I still am not sure out how to relate philosophy of language or if I even need to.

  4. fifthmonarchyman: Acceptable spellings change over time and different countries have different ideas as to what is an acceptable spelling.

    I still have occasional problems sorting out Australian spelling vs. USA spelling.

  5. BruceS: And I still am not sure out how to relate philosophy of language or if I even need to.

    Still has to follow usage. Though it would be marvellous if it led.

  6. Neil Rickert: I still have occasional problems sorting out Australian spelling vs. USA spelling.

    Other languages manage to have reasonably predictable spellings. English? No, it’s about the history and the tradition.

  7. Kantian Naturalist:My current view is that we can make good sense out of the correspondence theory of truth (veritas est adaequatio intellectus et rei, as they used to say) just in case we can understand how assertions play a role within cognitive maps.

    But how do we develop those maps: through active inquiry and reflective equilibrium for consistency, within the scientific process for scientific claims. For personal perception, PP says those are captured by subpersonal Bayesian versions of action combined with adjustment of the levels for consistency in a Bayesian sense (I’m faking that last bit, I should think about it).

    I would still end of at small c correspondence via scientific realism (or IBE to realism for everyday common experience). So 6 of one, half dozen of the other, perhaps. No pragmatic difference from privileging correspondence.

  8. BruceS: if you define truth as ends of inquiry for a set of coherent knowledge claims, they you know you will get there eventually based on above.

    And If we defined truth as chocolate covered peanut butter cups we could buy it at the local Walgreens for about a buck.

    😉

    peace

  9. walto:
    If somebody spells “it’s” wrong, it’s probably a typo. If somebody spells “nauseam” wrong, they may just not know the correct spelling. Kapishee?

    Nice to see I am your goto example for ignorance. Guilty as charged.

    I blame the failure of internet spell checker I rely on. I used to know how to spell better.. I used to know how to do long division too.

    Mr Internet says it is ‘Kapish”. Maybe you are making a subtle comment about correctness rules in slang English versus Italian?

    https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=kapish

  10. Kantian Naturalist: just in case we can understand how assertions play a role within cognitive maps.

    Sorry, I missed the part about assertions in my previous too-quick reply.
    If assertions refers to language behavior, then I think that brings in my concern about philosophy of language and how to relate it.

    To build that relation, perhaps we need to take an intermediary step through linguistics, which has its own mental models, which possibly can be related to the cognitive maps built bottom up from perception.

    Here is an example of a robot building a a model of itself by acting in our world (as opposed to the virtual world of games you often see in examples of deep learning).

    This also relates to your previous posts on how to think about the existence of the self.
    https://techxplore.com/news/2019-01-closer-self-aware-machinesengineers-robot.html

    FMM: This is an example of what I mean by AI teaching itself, rather than having things programmed in. I am not trying to start an argument with you, just provide an example in case it interests you.

    Yes, I realize the designers had to program something in to get the experiment started. Evolution or God does the same for us to get us started..

  11. Alan Fox: Still has to follow usage. Though it would be marvellous if it led.

    “Meaning is use” is more of a slogan than a worked out model of language meaning. AFAIK, Witt did not mean it as a philosophy of language, more as a tool for understanding human language behaviour. My understanding is that his goal was pointing our the errors in attempts to even build a formalized philosophy of language.

    AFAIK, Brandom’s approach is the only attempt to build a fully worked out, naturalistic approach to meaning from community norms (ie use)

  12. fifthmonarchyman: And If we defined truth

    You are right, that was a poor choice of word. “If we understand and successfully explain truth” would be better for what I was trying to say.

  13. Alan Fox: The point is whether the rules grow from usage or whether someone thinks of them. Grammar rules are ad hoc. You didn’t learn your native language by learning rules.

    There are no rules. Just ask the AI guys who tried to build language translators using rules.

    We learn language by feedback from the community. We have learning mechanisms that are somehow able to do the with very limited input (see Chomsky’s poverty of the stimulus argument). Pattern matching and generalization seem to be part of those mechanisms.

    We can do it with limited input. Deep learning machines cannot. Until we understand how we do it, we won’t be able to build generally intelligent AI. That is the the view of some philosophers and AI researchers (I can provide links if you want.). I think they are right.

  14. BruceS: “Meaning is use” is more of a slogan than a worked out model of language meaning.AFAIK, Witt did not mean it as a philosophy of language, more as a tool for understanding human language behaviour.My understanding is that his goal was pointing our the errors in attempts to even build a formalized philosophy of language.

    Did not know that Wittgenstein had said that when I remarked language evolves by usage. Thought it was interesting that Ramsey translated the Tractatus into English in close collaboration with him. Becoming fluent in a second language gives perspective on how arbitrary grammar “rules” are.

  15. Alan Fox: Did not know that Wittgenstein had said that when I remarked language evolves by usage.”

    My very, very limited knowledge of Witt comes from intro texts. This one is very good, I think, and covers both the Trac and his later thinking. The later stuff is where the language games and language is use ideas come from.

    The text is short and comprehensible.

    https://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Wittgenstein/dp/0393328201

    And if you wonder why I use four letter short forms like ‘Witt’, see my reply to Walto re technology-induced ignorance.

  16. BruceS: Yes, I realize the designers had to program something in to get the experiment started. Evolution or God does the same for us to get us started..

    In this case it’s not about getting started. it’s about what happens after the program begins….and it’s certainly not “learning”

    The robot was doing what it was programed to do. It was a very clever program that utilized an interesting technique.

    But there was no actual learning going on all that happened was a robot executed it’s program with increasing efficiency

    peace

  17. BruceS: “If we understand and successfully explain truth” would be better for what I was trying to say.

    So truth is “ends of inquiry for a set of coherent knowledge claims” just in case truth actually is “ends of inquiry for a set of coherent knowledge claims”

    OK

    That certainly begs the question of whether truth actually is “ends of inquiry for a set of coherent knowledge claims”

    peace

  18. BruceS: There are no rules. Just ask the AI guys who tried to build language translators using rules.

    I wonder if our inability to effectively understand and utilize the rules means that there actually are no rules.

    That is a serious question.

    For instance just because a language “mutation” appears to be random does not mean that it is not determined by some rule that we just don’t have a handle on

    peace

  19. Part of the problem with analyzing language is assuming that utterances have denotative meaning. Always or usually.

  20. petrushka:
    Part of the problem with analyzing language is assuming that utterances have denotative meaning. Always or usually.

    Quite right, but few philosophers have assumed that since Bentham, and none since Wittgenstein and Quine.

  21. BruceS: “Meaning is use” is more of a slogan than a worked out model of language meaning.AFAIK, Witt did not mean it as a philosophy of language, more as a tool for understanding human language behaviour.My understanding is that his goal was pointing our the errors in attempts to even build a formalized philosophy of language.

    AFAIK, Brandom’s approachis the only attempt to build a fully worked out,naturalistic approach to meaning from community norms (ie use)

    Just to add more context here: Wittgenstein’s remark is “For a large class of cases — though not for all — in which we employ the word ‘meaning’ it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.” This is rather difficult to parse, since it seems to come to this: we often use the word “means” when we’re actually talking about use.

    This is not to say that meaning is use or that we should embrace a “use theory of meaning.” It is to say, rather, that semantics and pragmatics (however distinct) are nevertheless inseparable and often confused.

    But (it must be pointed out) there have been many philosophers since Wittgenstein who have argued that Wittgenstein is quite badly wrong and that semantics and pragmatics are entirely separable. Jerry Fodor (in The Language of Thought) was entirely clear about this and spends a good deal of his book showing that Wittgenstein’s arguments don’t establish the conclusions that are purportedly attributed to him.

    Still, there’s not much in Philosophical Investigations that amounts to a theory — and it’s one of my all-time favorite works of philosophy.

    What Brandom does in Making It Explicit and Between Saying and Doing is show in fine-grained detail just why it’s the case that semantics and pragmatics are inseparable (but not the same thing).

    He makes two key moves (both of which are, on their own, problematic though interesting).

    First, he takes propositional content to be inferential rather than representational: the meaning of a term is not what it represents in the world but its role in a system of inferences. Thus, the meaning of the color “red” is not the representation of red objects but the role in inferences such as “if something is red, then it is colored” or “if something is red, then it cannot be green at the same time and in the same respects”. (What’s problematic about inferentialism is that it’s not clear how to capture the referring role of words within sentences, though Brandom has a very complicated apparatus for dealing with those cases.)

    Second, he takes assertions as the most fundamental or basic kind of speech act. On his view, propositional content is inferentially articulated and socially instituted. It’s by keeping track of what we say and what other people say — commitments, entitlements, avowals, and acknowledgements — that we keep track of how content is inferentially articulated. (Brandom calls this “deontic scorekeeping”, a notion he takes over from David Lewis.) The big problem here is that Brandom’s model requires him to give a conceptual priority to assertions over all other speech acts. However, as Kukla and Lance argue in ‘Yo!’ and ‘Lo!’: The Pragmatic Topography of the Space of Reasons, it just does not make sense for there to be a language that only consisted of assertions. The practical use of assertions depends on a complex economy of first-person speech acts (e.g. observations) and second-person speech acts (e.g. acknowledgments or vocatives), and without this complex economy there couldn’t be any third-person speech acts (assertions).

    But since the traditional concept of truth-as-correspondence holds that it’s assertions — utterances about what is the case — that are true or false, we do have to get into the weeds about what assertions are in order to make any progress.

  22. I like the word Squirrel! from the movie Up.

    1. Command: look over there!
    2. Information: Over there is something fun to chase, catch and eat.
    3. Disinformation: Look over there instead of looking at what I’m doing.

    So one word encompasses the possibility of conveying information that might be beneficial to the hearer, beneficial to the speaker at the expense of the hearer, beneficial to both (though untruthful), and so forth.

    One can squirrel oneself by trying to think of something other than food while on a weight loss diet. One can arrange distracting events to cover up a scandal.

    I suspect there are utterances that cannot be translated from one language to another, because they involve motives that don’t exist in both cultures.

  23. Kantian Naturalist: Just to add more context here:

    He makes two key moves (both of which are, on their own, problematic though interesting).

    Thanks KN.
    I recall you being a stronger supporter of Brandom’s approach years ago when I first started reading TSZ. Is that correct? If so, anything in particular that changed your thinking?

  24. fifthmonarchyman:
    I wonder if our inability to effectively understand and utilize the rules means that there actually are no rules.

    We can never logically rule things out in science alone. Only work with the best explanation of the evidence we have.

    Of course, some may have better sources of evidence than others. Omniscient, trustworthy, communicative sources being invaluable, if available.

    That certainly begs the question of whether truth actually is “ends of inquiry for a set of coherent knowledge claims”

    I’m a stickler about using ‘begs the question’ in its original sense. So not in the sense of ‘leads to the question’ but rather in the sense of effectively assuming the conclusion in the premises. But since I was referring to a possible IBE argument about how we might explain and understand truth, not a logical deduction, I don’t think the fallacy described in the original meaning applies.

    It is true that my pedantry about the phrase is inconsistent with current usage norms. I find that happening more and more. For example, I tend to need to turn captions on to understand what the hell they are saying in TV starring younger people. Which is most of them these days, relative to me.

  25. petrushka:
    I like the word Squirrel! from the movie Up.

    1. Command: look over there!
    2. Information: Over there is something fun to chase, catch and eat.
    3. Disinformation: Look over there instead of looking at what I’m doing.

    So one word encompasses the possibility of conveying information that might be beneficial to the hearer, beneficial to the speaker at the expense of the hearer, beneficial to both (though untruthful), and so forth.

    One cansquirrel oneself by trying to think of something other than food while on a weight loss diet. One can arrange distracting events to cover up a scandal.

    I suspect there are utterances that cannot be translated from one language to another, because they involve motives that don’t exist in both cultures.

    See Witt’s discussion of ‘Slab!’ in his Philosophical Investigations. (I’m guessing that’s where all the ‘squirrel’ stuff came from!)

  26. BruceS: I’m a stickler about using ‘begs the question’ in its original sense.

    Uh-oh. That may even be worse than caring about spelling!!

    🙁

  27. BruceS: We can never logically rule things out in science alone. Only work with the best explanation of the evidence we have.

    Of course, some may have better sources of evidence than others. Omniscient, trustworthy, communicative sources being invaluable, if available.

    I was thinking of something much more mundane than that. For instance we know that in order for an element of language to be valid it must facilitate communication.

    That seems to me be a universal rule. I think that other more specific rules could possibly be deduced from that one.

    I’m not sure of this of course but I’ll bet the endeavor would be fun and interesting and a better approach than just throwing up our hands and exclaiming that there are no rules just because they appear to be difficult to program.

    peace

  28. BruceS: I’m a stickler about using ‘begs the question’ in its original sense.

    What is funny is that I hesitated for a moment in using the phrase the way I did for exactly that reason. But I went ahead and used it in the spirit of this conversation.

    Your response is interesting to me. You clearly knew what I meant yet you felt compelled to correct me.

    I’m not trying to pick on you or Walto here I do the same sort of thing as well from time to time.

    I just wonder why

    peace

  29. walto: Uh-oh. That may even be worse than caring about spelling!!

    How about “most unique”. Comparatively speaking, that bugs me about as much as misuse (by my standards) of “begs the question”.

    Yet Mr Google says “most unique” is not wrong, since “unique” can mean unusual which literally can be qualified. Go figure!

  30. BruceS:…since “unique” can mean unusual which literally can be qualified…

    What can you do? Shoot the language anarchists?

    Almost unique?

  31. fifthmonarchyman:

    Your response is interesting to me. You clearly knew what I meant yet you felt compelled to correct me.

    I was not trying to correct you as much as clarity what I meant when I used the phrase earlier to describe my concerns based on the way I understood your comments in the exchange about whether humans could do things AI could never do.

  32. fifthmonarchyman: I was thinking of something much more mundane than that. For instance we know that in order for an element of language to be valid it must facilitate communication.

    OK. I was thinking of rules for meaning. And by rules I mean something like “if x then y”.

    First, directly implementing that type of rule (or similar) is what I meant by the GOFAI research program that failed.. It is true that modern approaches program learning algorithms, But for me that is just giving the AI a subset of the same set of tools that babies have and so is a valid way of studying and trying to model learning in humans.

    Also, I don’t think human understanding of language works by rules of that if-then sort. I don’t think we can model meaning that way. Maybe we can do useful modelling of syntax that way, to a point. But maybe not: there are linguistic theories that claim that even syntax cannot be separated from meaning and pragmatics (eg cognitive linguistics).

  33. Alan Fox:
    BruceS,

    I am a language anarchist. Shoot the grammar police!

    I don’t like the analogy (metaphor?) to police, since police enforce existing laws; they do not make the laws.

    I prefer to say that we pedants are fighting a losing battle in trying to influence the community laws/norms of usage. But you know what the poet said about facing fearful odds. Not that I am literally putting my life on the line, of course.

  34. BruceS: OK. I was thinking of rules for meaning. And by rules I mean something like “if x then y”.

    me too

    BruceS: It is true that modern approaches program learning algorithms, But for me that is just giving the AI a subset of the same set of tools that babies have and so is a valid way of studying and trying to model learning in humans.

    I think that the fact that AI inevitably fails to learn language yet babies can tells you a lot more about AI than it does about rules.

    BruceS: Also, I don’t think human understanding of language works by rules of that if-then sort. I don’t think we can model meaning that way.

    I don’t think we can model meaning at all.
    I do think there are rules though. Without rules meaning could change randomly and arbitrarily at any time. That clearly does not happen or we would not be communicating right now.

    For anyone interested in exploring this topic I would suggest this free book.

    https://frame-poythress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/PoythressVernInTheBeginningWasTheWord.pdf

    peace

  35. Language pedantry began with the publishing of dictionaries.

    Without some sort of governor on the engine of language, we would lose the ability to read anything more than a few hundred years old.

    I suspect spell checkers will save us from that.

    Latin is a fossilized language, but still in use. Standard English may become the same kind of thing, no longer spoken, but required for documents and for international publishing.

  36. petrushka: Without some sort of governor on the engine of language, we would lose the ability to read anything more than a few hundred years old.

    Well, bear in mind that English was the language of the common people when our Norman rulers were using Latin and Norman French. English was allowed to go its own way. Newton published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in Latin in 1687. Now, we can’t easily read Shakespearean English and the English of Chaucer is almost a foreign language. Yet French written 500 years ago is easily understood by a French speaker of today.

    Which was the better outcome?

  37. Is there supposed to be an answer to that?

    The French have frozen their language by law. English is loose and promiscuous.

    India settled on English as their Lingua Franca. Arabic has a lot of speakers, but little commerce, Chinese is hampered by their alphabet.

    So English is the world language. It changes all the time at the edges, but no one has trouble reading Hamilton or Fielding. Spell check and autocomplete slow down change. Shakespeare uses some obsolete words, but his writing is no more difficult than modern regional varieties.

  38. petrushka: Without some sort of governor on the engine of language, we would lose the ability to read anything more than a few hundred years old.

    I really like this.

    So dictionaries, grammar guides and self appointed spelling police act as a sort of Rosetta stone allowing us to listen in to the communication of others in different times and places that was not originally meant for us.

    They would not be needed if folks were more generally well read but serve as an invaluable shortcut ultimately making our lives a lot richer.

    Excellent

    peace

  39. fifthmonarchyman: me too

    I think that the fact that AI inevitably fails to learn language yet babies can tells you a lot more about AI than it does about rules.

    AI does currently fail to match human ability to use and understand language, So scientists invent metrics to measure how well it is doing, like this one.
    https://gluebenchmark.com/
    These show understanding by AI is improving. The gap between humans and AI is narrowing. There is no scientific reason to think it cannot be eventually closed.

    I don’t think we can model meaning at all.
    I do think there are rules though. Without rules meaning could change randomly and arbitrarily at any time. That clearly does not happen or we would not be communicating right now.

    I think your post and others in this thread mix three things that need to be separated.

    1. Can we successfully implement AI understanding of language by rules alone? The answer is no.

    2. Can grammarians capture current standard language use sufficiently to help people participate in a language community. The answer is yes.

    3. Do rules dictate how language standards change? Or do they capture after the fact how communities change the standards as part of living in their world? The answer is the latter; that is, communities change and those changes are then documented. Dictionaries do not dictate usage; they document current successful usage for people who want to understand and employ that current usage.

    Pedants are participating in the ongoing process of communities changing their standards. They are the conservatives in the process.

  40. BruceS: These show understanding by AI is improving. The gap between humans and AI is narrowing. There is no scientific reason to think it cannot be eventually closed.

    It’s an ontological gap.
    A rock can’t become a walrus by a series of incremental steps.

    The only way to hold out hope that AI as presently configured will eventually close the gap is to assume that persons are reducible to physics.

    The thought experiment we’ve been disusing and the qualifier “artificial” closes that door.

    That is not to say that scientists won’t some day be successful in creating actual rather than artificial intelligence but they won’t get there with out a major rethink.

    peace

  41. BruceS: Do rules dictate how language standards change? Or do they capture after the fact how communities change the standards as part of living in their world? The answer is the latter; that is, communities change and those changes are then documented.

    Language has three components meaning, presence and control. In genuine language you can’t have one of these three without the other two simultaneously existing.

    “Control” what you are calling rules is entirely bound up in meaning and presence (usage).

    It’s not that the rules change it’s that there are different specific rules depending on the context and the people communicating.

    Attempts to codify general rules can never be entirely successful because “general” must by definition be separate from meaning and presence.

    The reason that AI is unsuccessful in genuine communication is that not being conscious it has no presence and does not understand meaning.

    It tries to get by with increasingly complex and comprehensive “general” rules. You can’t get there from here

    peace

  42. fifthmonarchyman: Language has three components meaning, presence and control.

    You forgot nice red uniforms.

    Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise….

  43. Why the sarcasm? Do you think I pulled my comment out of my butt? Do you have a better list of things that are necessary for language to exist?

    Or were you just in the mood for some more drive by mockery?

    Peace

  44. I forgot. Three is a magic number for you. But wait–i can play too! What about connotation, denotation and tone? Or syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Meaning, reference, and use?

    I note (what I hope is obvious) that we can map each of those threesomes to Larry, Moe, and Curly.

    I know the objections: “What about Shemp? What about Curly Joe?” Well, surely we need not take all objections to our trinity seriously, no matter how puerile! I mean, there must be a limit!

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