Author Topic: The presumpositions of a materialist?  (Read 703 times)

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Offline rickymooston

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The presumpositions of a materialist?
« on: September 19, 2011, 11:49:23 PM »
What are they?

A presumposition, which I've probably mispelled, is something one has to assume without being able to prove it.

Here are some I've thought of. (With hints from others over the years)

Minimal presuppositions for science

1. The world follows regular laws which can be observed.

Practical presuppositions -- These are necessary because we don't have time to check every result for ourselves
1. As a whole, the scientific establishment has integrity and employs the scientific method, accurately reporting results and correcting ones that are wrong.
2. Reasonably reliable sources of information exist.

Feel free to add or substract from the list.
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Offline dloubet

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2011, 01:41:49 AM »
Actually, "Presumposition" is a great new word meaning "presumptuous presupposition"!  I love it!

We can observe that the world appears to follow regular laws, so I would think the minimal presupposition would more likely be something addressing the reliability of observation. Unfortunately, if cognitive science teaches us anything, it's that our powers of observation are not reliable.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2011, 07:18:35 AM »
Minimal presuppositions for science

You switched from "materialism" to "science".

1. The world follows regular laws which can be observed.

I think that is an observation, not an assumption.  If the universe did not follow observable laws, we would not be observing them and we would know it. 

If the laws were not regular[1], that would show up in our observations.  We would not be able to come up with relationships like
E=mc2

or
F=G(m1m2)/r2

because they would be changing, there would be no constants, etc. One minute it might be E=mc3, the next it might be E=mck +pi, the next it might be E=mc/g...

1. As a whole, the scientific establishment has integrity and employs the scientific method, accurately reporting results and correcting ones that are wrong.

I think it is more assumed this is not the case.  That is why we have the scientific method.  Part of that method says results must be repeatable.  So if a scientist is either dishonest or incompetent, another scientist somewhere else will try to replicate the experiment.  If that fails, the first scientist will be revealed.  Science ferrets out these types of problems.  It is sort of like natural selection.  Only the best ideas and best thought out experiments make it through the gauntlet or peer review.

2. Reasonably reliable sources of information exist.

?  I don't see the connection.

Ricky, I do not get the impression you have a very strong background in science.  Here are some links for a start:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_science  <--this one talks more about assumptions as so may be more on topic.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask a scientist.

 1. assuming that means they are not changing
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Offline rickymooston

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2011, 07:56:07 AM »
Quote
Ricky, I do not get the impression you have a very strong background in science.

Strong is a relative term. I've two bachelors degrees (math and computer science) and have taken a few graduate courses. I don't have a phd in anything.  I've forgotten the details of most of my math courses, except for the one's applying to computer science.

Your impressions could in fact simply be based on miscommunication. I'm perfectly aware of how the scientific method works. What i'm talking about is however complexity. As a race, we have a massive body of information that nobody as an individual can independently verify.

A lot of what I say, when I'm not making bad jokes, contains some degrees of subtlety but I've never taken a course in philosophy tho and some of my terminology on that isn't standard. The weakness in my discourse has more to do with a lack of formal grounding there than a lack of training in the scientific method.

Checks and balances exist. I think they work but they aren't always perfect.

You switched from "materialism" to "science".

They are related. Obviously, in theory, you can have science without materialism but at the end ofALo the day, if you only believe in the material, your truths are mostly scientific ones for questions about reality.

Quote
I think that is an observation, not an assumption.  If the universe did not follow observable laws, we would not be observing them and we would know it. 

I agree but sometimes we don't readily find the answers and we look for them assuming they exist. Science hasn't answer "everything"; it does seem to answer quite a lot of things and possibly most things to some extent.

An awesome example would be "miracle" cancer cures, it many cases it was impossible to validate whether they happened or not but apparently they do.  While some people "assumed" miracles (aka God did it), science has, after much effort, found explanations. I'm unsure if any of those explanations are definite or not.

Quote
If the laws were not regular[1], that would show up in our observations.  We would not be able to come up with relationships like
E=mc2

or
F=G(m1m2)/r2
 1. assuming that means they are not changing

Again, we are in agreement but your example about Emc2 is a good one; in fact, that was a case where, "science appeared to break down"; i.e., our previous 400 year old science (Newtonian physics) failed to make some predictions. However, as you correctly observe, the failures occurred consistently.

Quote
1. As a whole, the scientific establishment has integrity and employs the scientific method, accurately reporting results and correcting ones that are wrong.

I think it is more assumed this is not the case.  That is why we have the scientific method.  Part of that method says results must be repeatable.  So if a scientist is either dishonest or incompetent, another scientist somewhere else will try to replicate the experiment.  If that fails, the first scientist will be revealed.  Science ferrets out these types of problems.

I agree and disagree completely. My point was, we, as ordinary mortals still don't check it. If scientists were for example as corrupt as church leaders,

Quote
It is sort of like natural selection.  Only the best ideas and best thought out experiments make it through the gauntlet or peer review.

I agree but in the short term at least, other factors have sometimes consistantly interfered with the process. It sorted things out for the reasons you mentioned but sometimes money is thrown consistantly at scientists to tempt corruption. In some cases, this has happened; e.g., there is some contraversy about tobacco, drug research, global warming research where some interferences may have been involved in some cases. In Russia, the government interfered with some biological output.

In addition, political factors can play a part. For example in the global warming debate, which crosses a large number of fields, there could be political pressure to make the "right" conclusions. Very few people are qualified to judge some of the results.

It gets ironed out eventually but sometimes the convergence is painful.



Quote
2. Reasonably reliable sources of information exist.
?  I don't see the connection.
[/quote]

When people make arguments, they by necessity have to supply information that they didn't gather themselves.
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Offline Hatter23

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2011, 07:58:40 AM »
Practical presuppositions -- These are necessary because we don't have time to check every result for ourselves
1. As a whole, the scientific establishment has integrity and employs the scientific method, accurately reporting results and correcting ones that are wrong.

I would like to clarify that the "corrrecting" aspect is the one often is ignored by theists and conspiracy theorists. "The only way to acclaim in the scientific community is to prove another great scientist wrong"
An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2011, 08:10:06 AM »
Ricky,

Then I think I completely missed your intended point in the OP.  It was not so much about science as it is how "laypeople" function as materialists.  Is that correct?  How does the non-scientific population at large - which depends greately on science and technology - function as materialists?

I am not sure it does.  We have large swaths of the population who reject science and wage a political war against it.  But that does not matter.  Their vaccines, airliners, computers, smart phones, cold medicines, all function because they are not dependent on the users' beliefs.  Because of the division of labor, nobody has to create their own Theraflu from first principles.  So, materialism is sort of irrelevant, unless you are in the business of a science.  And even then, it may not matter all that much. 

It reminds me of Orwell's 1984.  The population had to exercise thought control to conform to the Party's propaganda.  If the Party said 2+2=5, then it was 5.  If they said 2+2=3, then it was 3.  But sometimes 2+2 had to equal 4, if you wanted your train to work or your medicine to not kill you.  And so the religious today practice a sort of thought control.  Doubleplus ungood for the rest of us.



« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 01:09:52 PM by screwtape »
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Offline rickymooston

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2011, 08:13:39 AM »
I would like to clarify that the "corrrecting" aspect is the one often is ignored by theists and conspiracy theorists. "The only way to acclaim in the scientific community is to prove another great scientist wrong"

This is somewhat true but on the other hand, human psychology sometimes plays a part. A total revolution will sometimes go through periods of rejection. Paradigm shifts, sometimes take decades to gain acceptance. People are naturally lazy which is why for example, the patent office no longer accepts perpetual motion machine discriptions .... The laws of thermodynamics are firmly enough established that they are not prepared to waste their time on them.

Its often a pain in the ass to verify a complex work and show its wrong. In mathematics for example, there were hundreds of proofs that the fifth postulate was implied by the other 4 of Euclid. Some of the proofs involved thousands of pages of work and some of the flaws were pretty subtle.

There are cases where revolutionary results were largely ignored for various reasons.

Political pressure can have an effect.

A famous example of this was Georges Couviers influence in delaying the acceptance of theories similar to those of Lemarkian and Darwin. There is a saying that sometimes the old generation has to die off before a real paradigm shift is allowed to happen.

Again, the devil is in the details. Sheer complexity is definitely a concern. The rate of increase of knowledge is unprecedented.

At one time, it was possible for a genius like Goete or Newton to know all the important results in science as a whole. Now, you can't even know all the important results in say 'physics'. Obviously, a base exists that everybody does in fact know.
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Offline rickymooston

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2011, 08:34:22 AM »
"Because of the division of labor, nobody has to create their own Theraflu from first principles."

Yes. This is definitely part of it.

Screwtape, let my think about it more; I'm late for work.  In our complex modern society, (or given the division of labour as you phrase it), everybody is a layman outside his own field, even if you disregard the psychology of bias. (The psychology of bias is a great subject in itself and may explain quite a lot of religious thinking.)

I may have been biting off more than I can chew but I was trying to think about what assumptions a modern materialist world view requires. I'm not sure I've hit the nail on the head yet. I may have thrown too many scattered thoughts into this.

Proof is in the pudding, this consistant point you've made in your posts is of course dead on and is the essence of science. (Bohr has a joke about this which paraphrases your post somewhat; "It works whether you believe in it or not". He applied it to a lucky horseshoe but was likely discussing science and quantum mechanics)

I don't think its easy to identify our assumptions because we typically don't even think about them at all.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 08:36:19 AM by rickymooston »
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Offline pianodwarf

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2011, 09:17:18 AM »
Doubleplus ungood for the rest of us.

Not sure how interested or concerned you are about it, but if you want to be true to the text, the correct phraseology would be "doubleplus ungood".  Not that it matters much, of course.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 01:10:04 PM by screwtape »
[On how kangaroos could have gotten back to Australia after the flood]:  Don't kangaroos skip along the surface of the water? --Kenn

Offline screwtape

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2011, 01:10:36 PM »
Doubleplus ungood for the rest of us.
... the correct phraseology would be "doubleplus ungood". 

yes.  That's what I said.
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Offline pianodwarf

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2011, 01:20:02 PM »
Doubleplus ungood for the rest of us.
... the correct phraseology would be "doubleplus ungood". 

yes.  That's what I said.

OK, that's definitely among the weirder of the brainfarts I've ever had in my life.  I have no idea how the hell that happened.
[On how kangaroos could have gotten back to Australia after the flood]:  Don't kangaroos skip along the surface of the water? --Kenn

Offline screwtape

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2011, 01:35:05 PM »
We have always been at war with Eurasia.
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Offline pianodwarf

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2011, 01:43:22 PM »
We have always been at war with Eurasia.

Oh, I get it.  Cute.  *chuckle*
[On how kangaroos could have gotten back to Australia after the flood]:  Don't kangaroos skip along the surface of the water? --Kenn

Offline rickymooston

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Re: The presumpositions of a materialist?
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2011, 07:25:46 PM »
Nice 1984 reference!!!
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.