What is the goal of scientific reseach? Finding the truth or what?

I think this issue is well overdue at TSZ. I have quoted professor Lewontin’s well known statement on another OP that received some mixed feelings. To me, at least, it sheds doubt as to how science is done vs how it is supposed to be done…
Judge it for yourself:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen. “- Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist and one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology.

It is quite baffling how a relatively small group of people has been able to implement this kind of ideology into the world of science and education and bully anyone who dared to challenge this ideology…

There is no difference between Darwinian ideology and Communism, Nazism or any other tyrannical rule by the iron fist…

The minority bullies the majority into their ideology or beliefs system they call “science”.

“A lie repeated often enough becomes true”… – said the best propaganda man of the Nazis…” …and you may even find yourself believing it”

192 thoughts on “What is the goal of scientific reseach? Finding the truth or what?

  1. Neil Rickert: I did not equate supernatural with unmeasurable.

    You said that the supernatural was unmeasurable by definition and if it ever became measurable it would cease to be supernatural.

    Perhaps you meant to say that supernatural things are merely a subset of all unmeasurable things.

    If that is the case I would certainly like to know what exactly distinguish natural but unmeasurable things from the related category of supernatural things.

    And exactly how we could tell them apart since measurement is off the table a priori.

    If you have discovered some way to objectively distinguish between things with out measuring them I would like to hear about it.

    peace

  2. fifthmonarchyman: when science reaches a point where measurement is impossible.”

    Welcome back fifth!

    It’s not bad an analogy but in quantum mechanics scientists see this impassibility of measurement or detection regularly…
    There is more though…
    The interdependence of life systems, or parts of life systems, that ALL have to be present at the same time; functional and without a shred of possibility of decay… just like in case if the “simplest” of cells…
    The interdependence of life systems is more complex than irreducible complexity by Behe but it involves a very similar thought experiment…

    There is just no way that even the “simplest” of cells could have evolve not only by Darwinian evolution but by any imaginable evolutionary process…

    I will say more: even the simplest of cells can’t be assembled by human intelligence…unless scientists one day harness the energy of quantum mechanics, such as dark energy…and even then…

  3. Neil Rickert: Can you tell when there is love? If you can, it is measurable. It might not currently be measurable in a way that science can use, but I would not rule that out as a future possibility.

    Interesting.

    1) I can also sense God’s presence does that mean that that sort of thing is measurable countra what you just said?

    2) So there are reliable ways to measure that are beyond the empirical methods that science can currently use?

    3) Again I’m not especially interested in what you would do I’m really interested to know if there are any limits to what science can determine.

    peace

  4. Kantian Naturalist: The odd capitalization here suggests that you’re imagining these concepts as referring to things, only rather weird ones.

    You should know by now that i capitalize pretty much at random.

    Kantian Naturalist: This is similar to Plato’s error

    how exactly do you know Plato is in error? Is his position measurable?

    Kantian Naturalist: Then one can understand living things as a special kind of dynamical system

    are they

    1) measurable kinds of dynamical systems
    or
    2) unmeasurable kinds of dynamical systems that can be never the less reliably distinguished from supernatural things?

    and by the way, since when are dynamical systems not things?

  5. J-Mac: even the simplest of cells can’t be assembled by human intelligence…unless scientists one day harness the energy of quantum mechanics

    I would certainly agree that elementary particles with a precise momentum/position would seem to be required to assemble cells.

    peace

  6. Neil Rickert: No, I did not say that. Please stop making up stuff.

    I’m sorry

    here is your exact quote:

    quote:
    Science never “reaches the point of supernatural.” Unless and until you can measure “supernatural”, science cannot reach such a point. And if you could measure the supernatural, it would no longer be considered supernatural.
    end quote:

    So you did not mean to say that if you could measure the supernatural, it would no longer be considered supernatural???

    It sure sounded that way to me. What am I missing???
    peace

  7. fifthmonarchyman: So there are reliable ways to measure that are beyond the empirical methods that science can currently use?

    There seem to be. They depend on us being finely tuned into our relationships with other people. I’m not sure that science will ever get there, but we cannot rule it out.

  8. Kantian Naturalist: really know what “supernatural

    Kantian Naturalist: Kantian Naturalist

    August 18, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    J-Mac: What if science reaches beyond naturalism? What if the only explanation is supernatural?
    These questions aren’t specific enough for me to know what to do with them. I don’t really know what “supernatural” means, for starters, or what it would mean for a scientific explanation to involve “the supernatural”.
    I could give all sorts of interpretations to that notion that would make sense to me, given my philosophical commitments, but I have no idea if you would accept any of them.
    I didn’t notice any of your comments on “Does embryo development process require ID?” OP…
    That’s because I regard the question as too silly to be worth my time.

    You have contradicted yourself… again..
    First, you demand specifics… and when the specifics are presented, you dismiss them as silly…
    Why should I continue any further discussions with you? Give me one reason!
    I don’t know what to say…
    I might consider putting you on ignore but I’m too lazy to hold a grudge…

  9. J-Mac: Why should I continue any further discussions with you? Give me one reason!
    I don’t know what to say…

    Intelligent design has nothing to do with the supernatural. It would only if our best understanding of intelligence showed that intelligence is not itself natural. But that’s just not true.

  10. fifthmonarchyman: how exactly do you know Plato is in error? Is his position measurable?

    We’re talking about the role of measurement in scientific explanations. There are lots of different kinds of understanding besides scientific explanations.

  11. fifthmonarchyman: So you did not mean to say that if you could measure the supernatural, it would no longer be considered supernatural???

    That’s not a definition. It is my assessment (opinion) about how people would react if such measurement became possible.

  12. Kantian Naturalist: Intelligent design has nothing to do with the supernatural. It would only if our best understanding of intelligence showed that intelligence is not itself natural. But that’s just not true.

    Who are you representing now? Intelligent Design?

  13. J-Mac: Who are you representing now? Intelligent Design?

    It is actually possible to understand a theory that one disagrees with.

  14. Neil Rickert: but we cannot rule it out.

    That seems odd. Is there absolutely nothing that we can ever rule out when it comes to science??

    Can you think of any other human endeavor that works like that?

    peace

  15. Kantian Naturalist: It is actually possible to understand a theory that one disagrees with.

    Yes. It’s called “the waste of time theory or simply put the goodbye theory…”

    I hope you understand and I hope I remember..;)

  16. Neil Rickert: That’s not a definition. It is my assessment (opinion) about how people would react if such measurement became possible.

    So people will decide that measurable means not supernatural and that does not constitute a definition?

    what exactly is a definition in your view except the collective understanding of people when it comes to the meaning of a term?

    peace

  17. Kantian Naturalist: It would only if our best understanding of intelligence showed that intelligence is not itself natural. But that’s just not true.

    You don’t know how strongly I disagree with that assessment.

    IMO Intelligence is actually the prototypical supernatural thing.

    We have no “best understanding” of intelligence. All we have are some speculations.

    peace

  18. Kantian Naturalist: There are lots of different kinds of understanding besides scientific explanations.

    But they are all potentially subsumed into science,
    correct?? After all “we can’t rule it out”

    peace

  19. fifthmonarchyman: That seems odd. Is there absolutely nothing that we can ever rule out when it comes to science??

    Can you think of any other human endeavor that works like that?

    peace

    As I understand it, in scientific testing the null hypothesis is that the hypothesis under test is wrong. And I’ve read that most experiments are constructed in such a way that if it’s wrong, the hypothesis being tested is ruled out — and that this occurs in the significant majority of the time.

    Science can be regarded as being in the business of ruling ideas out. That’s what testing does. Conversely, the hypothesis can rarely if ever be proved, it can only be supported as being consistent with evidence. Science can prove things wrong but not right.

  20. fifthmonarchyman: But they are all potentially subsumed into science,
    correct?? After all “we can’t rule it out”

    peace

    When I read your stuff, it is like my really looooong conversations with Mormons… They appear to be lovely people, but their long-term or final goal is to make one believe that Mormon is the Guy…

  21. Flint: Science can be regarded as being in the business of ruling ideas out. That’s what testing does.

    is testing not a part of science???

    Flint: I’ve read that most experiments are constructed in such a way that if it’s wrong, the hypothesis being tested is ruled out

    The hypothesis in this case is that science is capable of explaining absolutely everything.

    Is there really no way to ever falsify it??

    peace

  22. fifthmonarchyman: I’m sorry

    here is your exact quote:

    quote:
    Science never “reaches the point of supernatural.” Unless and until you can measure “supernatural”, science cannot reach such a point. And if you could measure the supernatural, it would no longer be considered supernatural.
    end quote:

    So you did not mean to say that if you could measure the supernatural, it would no longer be considered supernatural???

    It sure sounded that way to me. What am I missing???
    peace

    My reading is, if something can be reliably measured, then it never was supernatural to begin with, it was only not clearly defined. I think of “supernatural” as meaning “inherently incompatible with any possible operational definition.” Which is a close approximation of “we don’t really know what we’re talking about.”

  23. fifthmonarchyman: is testing not a part of science???

    The hypothesis in this case is that science is capable of explaining absolutely everything.

    Is there really no way to ever falsify it??

    peace

    This is an interesting semantic puzzle. Testing is a foundation of science, to the point where if something cannot in principle be tested, that that something lies outside the boundaries of science. You will have to ask KN whether such things are “somethings” at all.

  24. J-Mac: When I read your stuff, it is like my really looooong conversations with Mormons… They appear to be lovely people, but their long-term or final goal is to make one believe that Mormon is the Guy…

    My long term goal is to get folks to examine their unsupported presuppositions that is all. I don’t have any goal about making people believe anything. That is way above my pay grade

    My short term goal at this time is to explore Neil Rickert’s interesting comment about measurable things being not supernatural

    peace

  25. Flint: I think of “supernatural” as meaning “inherently incompatible with any possible operational definition.” Which is a close approximation of “we don’t really know what we’re talking about.”

    That to me would be a very deficient definition though it would explain some of your hostility to explanations that involve the supernatural.

    Just so you know when I say some thing is supernatural I simply mean that it can’t be entirely reduced to matter and motion.

  26. Flint: This is an interesting semantic puzzle.

    I thought so. 😉

    Flint: You will have to ask KN whether such things are “somethings” at all.

    I’m not sure he has a good handle of what constitutes a “thing” as he apparently excludes dynamic systems from that category 😉

    peace

  27. fifthmonarchyman: what exactly is a definition in your view except the collective understanding of people when it comes to the meaning of a term?

    But we only have my opinion. If supernatural ever becomes measurable, then we can begin to see what is the collective understanding.

  28. fifthmonarchyman,

    Just so you know when I say some thing is supernatural I simply mean that it can’t be entirely reduced to matter and motion.

    Do you consider information supernatural?

  29. fifthmonarchyman: I’m not sure he has a good handle of what constitutes a “thing” as he apparently excludes dynamic systems from that category

    peace

    I think you can compile a pretty interesting list of “things” that most people will agree are real, but which fall outside your definitions. I see that information and math have already been mentioned. You can expand this to include opinions, political consequences, predictions, superstitions, illusions, convictions, logic, and so on. I think we can agree that all of these exist, though they can’t be strictly measured (and attempting to measure most of them wouldn’t make much sense – we’d end up with results but not know what those results describe, if anything).

    For many of us here, I suspect “supernatural” is a term without any referent that people could agree on. It’s clear to me that we have here multiple conceptions of what it might mean, entirely incompatible. And so we don’t know what we’re talking about, in the sense that we can’t communicate it and there’s no consensus.

  30. Neil Rickert: But we only have my opinion.

    In the end isn’t that all we can ever hope to have in your worldview?

    Neil Rickert: If supernatural ever becomes measurable, then we can begin to see what is the collective understanding.

    I think that the supernatural is often measurable right now. Just not empirically measurable.

    The collective understanding as far as I can tell is that it does not cease to be supernatural

    colewd: Do you consider information supernatural?

    you bet

    Neil Rickert: Are you implying that mathematics is supernatural?

    hell yes

    peace

  31. Flint: I think you can compile a pretty interesting list of “things” that most people will agree are real, but which fall outside your definitions.

    They might fall outside of your definitions but they don’t fall out side of mine.

    Those things are all supernatural acouriding to my definition because they can’t be reduced to matter in motion.

    Flint: It’s clear to me that we have here multiple conceptions of what it might mean, entirely incompatible.

    I’d agree and I’d say that means that at least one of our definitions is incorrect.

    Flint: And so we don’t know what we’re talking about, in the sense that we can’t communicate it and there’s no consensus.

    You need to speak for yourself. I certainly know what I’m talking about and have no trouble communicating it to you.

    In my opinion the reason we can’t come to a consensus is because you have a deficient definition.

    This is conclusively demonstrated by the fact that you have no way of distinguishing the supernatural from the nonexistent as far as I can tell.

    It’s not my responsibility to dissuade you from a deficient definition I only need to show you that it is deficient and offer you a workable alternative.

    I’ve done that, the ball in is your court.

    peace

  32. The Bible does not use the term “supernatural”.

    Instead it talks about the contrast between things that are “natural” and things that are “spiritual”.

    here is the strongs definition of that word.

    quote:
    phyoo-mat-ik-os’–non-carnal, that is, (humanly) ethereal (as opposed to gross), or (daemoniacally) a spirit (concretely), or (divinely) supernatural, regenerate, religious: – spiritual.
    end quote:

    That is pretty much what I mean when I speak of something being “supernatural.”

    peace

  33. Flint: As I understand it, in scientific testing the null hypothesis is that the hypothesis under test is wrong. And I’ve read that most experiments are constructed in such a way that if it’s wrong, the hypothesis being tested is ruled out — and that this occurs in the significant majority of the time.

    Science can be regarded as being in the business of ruling ideas out. That’s what testing does. Conversely, the hypothesis can rarely if ever be proved, it can only be supported as being consistent with evidence. Science can prove things wrong but not right.

    Just to take this a bit further, in many cases the body of evidence becomes so overwhelmingly in favour of a particular theory that for most intents and purposes it can be said to be accepted as a representation of the true state of affairs. That is not to say that there won’t be any data that doesn’t fit the theory, but rather that any such data is considered ‘noise’ that at most highlights some imperfections in the theory, but doesn’t disprove it.

    That goes on for a while, but then sometimes someone comes along who looks a bit deeper into the ‘noise’ and comes up with a more comprehensive theory that explains both the data as well as much of what was previously considered ‘noise’. The new theory then replaces the old one which is discarded, or relegated to being an approximate subset of the new theory. In further research, new data points are then found that look like noise even in the new theory – and on it goes.

    Personally I believe that humans have limited intelligence and may never be able to understand all of the intricacies of the universe. I even suspect (but can’t prove it) that it may be logically impossible for us, as part of the system, to ever fully understand the total system we are part of. This should not stop us from trying to refine our current understanding, nor does that constitute an opening to force in a wedge of ‘supernatural’, which I think is nothing but a cop-out.

  34. fifthmonarchyman:

    I think that the supernatural is often measurable right now. Just not empirically measurable.

    Is ’emotion’ another word for ‘non-empirically measurable’?

  35. walto:
    BruceS,

    Yes. Let me again recommend Psillos’s book, Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth. He discusses all of these issues clearly and well.

    I’ve read and enjoyed it. But he is an entity realist so does give the realists last word against anti-realist arguments. That’s fine with me. But he also prefers entity to structure realism. That I am not so sure about.

    I don’t recall much in that book about process philosophy. I also don’t think he talks much about scientists motivation and search for credit nor even Kuhn’s work.

    That book is almost 20 years old. I linked in other threads to his 2011 “Choosing the Realist Framework” which I think is a weakening of his realist position in some sense.

  36. J-Mac: I might not be aware that Nazis lost the war…;-)

    Do you believe the earth is round? If not, then we can stop there.

    If you do believe the earth is round, what’s the difference between the idea that the earth is round is a conspiracy and the idea of that evolution is a conspiracy?

  37. faded_Glory: Personally I believe that humans have limited intelligence and may never be able to understand all of the intricacies of the universe. I even suspect (but can’t prove it)

    Again with the personal opinions.

    Why be satisfied with mere personal opinions when you have such a powerful tool as “science” to test the hypothesis?

    Surely the hypothesis that science is unlimited is falsifiable.

    Paradoxically If that particular hypothesis not falsifiable then it is falsified. Take a minute to chew on that………….

    faded_Glory: This should not stop us from trying to refine our current understanding, nor does that constitute an opening to force in a wedge of ‘supernatural’, which I think is nothing but a cop-out.

    “It should not”,………. “I think”

    Again with the personal opinions and preferences. I thought “science” was supposed to replace that sort of thing with hard fact.

    unless you are saying that “science” is utterly incapable of determining it’s own boundaries.

    peace

  38. faded_Glory: Is ’emotion’ another word for ‘non-empirically measurable’?

    no, but I would say that emotions like love and hate are real and measureable but not empirically measurable.

    That is what makes them supernatural

    peace

  39. Some of you might remember the “mood ring” it was an attempt to make money on the idea that emotions were empirically measurable.

    In fact the ring did not in anyway measure moods all it did was measure the relative temperature of it’s wearer. You can’t empirically measure emotions.

    That does not mean that love or compassion or hate is not noticeably stronger at some times and weaker at others.

    peace

  40. Neil Rickert: Science is neither omniscient nor omnipotent.

    Oh I completely agree that is not at issue.

    What is at issue is whether “science” is capable of testing a particular hypothesis.

    peace

  41. fifthmonarchyman: What is at issue is whether “science” is capable of testing a particular hypothesis.

    No guarantees.

    Here’s my general description.

    We test out stuff to see what we can do.

    If we find something that we can do, and that seems worth doing, we add that to our repertoire. Note that the “seems worth doing” is the pragmatic part.

    Using our increased repertoire, we test out stuff to see what we can do. And so on.

    Note that this is all behavioral, and “truth” does not come up.

    At various times, we try to describe what we are now able to do. This involves inventing new language and new concepts. And this is where “true” comes in, for evaluating our descriptions.

    Once we have enough language, we start inventing hypotheses and problems that we have already solved, and we declare that we are able to solve them. That allows us to pretend that we are far more brilliant than we really are.

  42. BruceS: I’ve read and enjoyed it. But he is an entity realist so does give the realists last word against anti-realist arguments. That’s fine with me. But he also prefers entity to structure realism. That I am not so sure about.

    My main worry about structural realism is that it’s not clear to me how structures have any causal powers, whereas entity realism makes some intuitive sense to me. Even more if we can allow relations and processes to count as ‘entities’.

  43. fifthmonarchyman: Those things are all supernatural acouriding to my definition because they can’t be reduced to matter in motion.

    Even if one begins with the assumption that “natural” means “reducible to matter in motion”, one still needs some further assumption that licenses the inference from epistemology to metaphysics.

    There’s a need for something like, “if we don’t understand how to reduce X to matter-in-motion, then we are justified in believing that X is supernatural”.

    Good luck with that.

    Anyway, there’s no reason why any naturalist should accept “reducible to matter in motion” as definitive of what counts as natural. But if you like attacking straw persons, good luck with that, too.

  44. Neil Rickert: Here’s my general description.

    I like that description my would be very similar.

    It’s pretty much irrelevant to the question I’m asking though

    peace

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