Author Topic: Stupid guy with funny name attacks science  (Read 363 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Stupid guy with funny name attacks science
« on: September 19, 2013, 01:03:39 PM »
Posted by Rod Dreher at American conservative. 

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114548/leon-wieseltier-responds-steven-pinkers-scientism

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The question of the place of science in knowledge, and in society, and in life, is not a scientific question. Science confers no special authority, it confers no authority at all, for the attempt to answer a nonscientific question. It is not for science to say whether science belongs in morality and politics and art. Those are philosophical matters, and science is not philosophy, even if philosophy has since its beginnings been receptive to science. Nor does science confer any license to extend its categories and its methods beyond its own realms, whose contours are of course a matter of debate. The credibility of physicists and biologists and economists on the subject of the meaning of life—what used to be called the ultimate verities, secularly or religiously constructed—cannot be owed to their work in physics and biology and economics, however distinguished it is. The extrapolation of larger ideas about life from the procedures and the conclusions of various sciences is quite common, but it is not in itself justified; and its justification cannot be made on internally scientific grounds, at least if the intellectual situation is not to be rigged. Science does come with a worldview, but there remains the question of whether it can suffice for the entirety of a human worldview. To have a worldview, Musil once remarked, you must have a view of the world. That is, of the whole of the world. But the reach of the scientific standpoint may not be as considerable or as comprehensive as some of its defenders maintain.

...goes on at great length.
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Offline Hatter23

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Re: Stupid guy with funny name attacks science
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2013, 04:04:09 PM »
Posted by Rod Dreher at American conservative. 

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114548/leon-wieseltier-responds-steven-pinkers-scientism

Quote
The question of the place of science in knowledge, and in society, and in life, is not a scientific question. Science confers no special authority, it confers no authority at all, for the attempt to answer a nonscientific question. It is not for science to say whether science belongs in morality and politics and art. Those are philosophical matters, and science is not philosophy, even if philosophy has since its beginnings been receptive to science. Nor does science confer any license to extend its categories and its methods beyond its own realms, whose contours are of course a matter of debate. The credibility of physicists and biologists and economists on the subject of the meaning of life—what used to be called the ultimate verities, secularly or religiously constructed—cannot be owed to their work in physics and biology and economics, however distinguished it is. The extrapolation of larger ideas about life from the procedures and the conclusions of various sciences is quite common, but it is not in itself justified; and its justification cannot be made on internally scientific grounds, at least if the intellectual situation is not to be rigged. Science does come with a worldview, but there remains the question of whether it can suffice for the entirety of a human worldview. To have a worldview, Musil once remarked, you must have a view of the world. That is, of the whole of the world. But the reach of the scientific standpoint may not be as considerable or as comprehensive as some of its defenders maintain.

...goes on at great length.

Um Ok. Science is not an approach to every question. I agree.

The problem is, the basic question "IS THIS REAL?" is a scientific one. If you make a non sceintific claim; "That was a wonderful meal" sceince is not involved. If you make the claim "That was a low calorie meal," science is involved. Even the basic "This meal did exist" is also a scientific one.

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They claim that science is under attack, and from two sides. The first is the fundamentalist strain of Christianity, which does indeed deny the truth of certain proven scientific findings and more generally prefers the subjective gains of personal rapture to the objective gains of scientific method. Against this line of attack, even those who are skeptical about the scientizing enterprise must stand with the scientists, though it is important to point out that the errors of religious fundamentalism must not be mistaken for the errors of religion. Too many of the defenders of science, and the noisy “new atheists,” shabbily believe that they can refute religion by pointing to its more outlandish manifestations. Only a small minority of believers in any of the scriptural religions, for example, have ever taken scripture literally. When they read, most believers, like most nonbelievers, interpret. When the Bible declares that the world was created in seven days, it broaches the question of what a day might mean. When the Bible declares that God has an arm and a nose, it broaches the question of what an arm and a nose might mean. Since the universe is 13.8 billion years old, a day cannot mean 24 hours, at least not for the intellectually serious believer; and if God exists, which is for philosophy to determine, this arm and this nose cannot refer to God, because that would be stupid.

So, no sir, you are 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.

And you should feel guilty for this. Give me money.

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Stupid guy with funny name attacks science
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2013, 04:46:00 PM »
Oh, joy, another one of these?  I don't have time to do a full "read and refute" at the moment, but I find just the little bit I've already read to be, well, problematic.  For example:

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Only a small minority of believers in any of the scriptural religions, for example, have ever taken scripture literally. When they read, most believers, like most nonbelievers, interpret. When the Bible declares that the world was created in seven days, it broaches the question of what a day might mean. When the Bible declares that God has an arm and a nose, it broaches the question of what an arm and a nose might mean. Since the universe is 13.8 billion years old, a day cannot mean 24 hours, at least not for the intellectually serious believer; and if God exists, which is for philosophy to determine, this arm and this nose cannot refer to God, because that would be stupid.
It's true that many believers don't take Bible scripture literally, at least not anymore.  But enough do that it is a serious problem, and the believers who don't take scripture literally give the ones that do give aid and comfort with the stance that scripture should be interpreted by the individual believer.  A literal interpretation is still an interpretation, and if there is no way to determine what is an acceptable interpretation, then there is no way to rule out interpretations, even ones that are clearly wrong.

The Biblical declaration that the world was created in six days was devised by people who actually had no idea of how the world came to be.  They had no way to determine whether they were right or not.  So to take their six-day figure literally, or even metaphorically, is ludicrous.  To claim that it is the inspired Word of God is worse - because it then puts the Voice of Divine Authority behind words written by ignorant humans, and allows the propagation of those words to others, backed by that same Divine Authority, despite the fact that there was never any way to verify them or even rule out what was wrong.

He can say what he wants about science, but at least science has a way to rule out things which are clearly wrong, instead of passing wrong conclusions down with right conclusions for generation after generation with no end in sight.

Offline Fiji

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Re: Stupid guy with funny name attacks science
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2013, 01:09:35 AM »
I just have to go there ... Wieseltier ... that sounds like a wesen from Grimm
Science: I'll believe it when I see it
Faith: I'll see it when I believe it

Schrodinger's thunderdome! One cat enters and one MIGHT leave!

Without life, god has no meaning.

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Stupid guy with funny name attacks science
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2013, 10:14:25 AM »
Quote
Interpretation is what ensues when a literal meaning conflicts with what is known to be true from other sources of knowledge. As the ancient rabbis taught, accept the truth from whoever utters it. Religious people, or many of them, are not idiots. They have always availed themselves of many sources of knowledge. They know about philosophical argument and figurative language. Medieval and modern religious thinking often relied upon the science of its day. Rationalist currents flourished alongside anti-rationalist currents, and sometimes became the theological norm. What was Jewish and Christian and Muslim theology without Aristotle? When a dissonance was experienced, the dissonance was honestly explored. So science must be defended against nonsense, but not every disagreement with science, or with the scientific worldview, is nonsense. The alternative to obscurantism is not that science be all there is.
This is a fairly clever red herring/strawman.  Nobody (or at least, nobody I've ever heard of) is suggesting that science could be all there is, let alone that it should be.  The problem is not, and never has been, about the idea that philosophical and religious beliefs could be true.  It is about the lack of factual evidence to support those beliefs.  And by that, I do not mean hijacking scientific evidence and claiming that it could be evidence for the existence of some god.

If there were unambiguous facts that showed that a god actually existed, there would be no problem with such beliefs.  But there are not and never have been.  Belief in gods is very largely fueled by a lack of understanding, usually of natural phenomena.  And it is this that is nonsense.  If a person claimed that they could control lightning or cause earthquakes, most people[1] would expect them to demonstrate that they could before believing them.  But if a person claims that it is instead their god that controls lightning or causes earthquakes, suddenly a much larger percentage of people is primed to believe them without demonstration or proof.

I know that not all theists succumb to this, but enough do that it is a serious problem, and one that cannot be ignored or given cover by those who do not.

Quote
The second line of attack to which the scientizers claim to have fallen victim comes from the humanities. This is a little startling, since it is the humanities that are declining in America, not least as a result of the exaggerated glamour of science. But some scientists and some scientizers feel prickly and self-pitying about the humanistic insistence that there is more to the world than science can disclose. It is not enough for them that the humanities recognize and respect the sciences; they need the humanities to submit to the sciences, and be subsumed by them. The idea of the autonomy of the humanities, the notion that thought, action, experience, and art exceed the confines of scientific understanding, fills them with a profound anxiety. It throws their totalizing mentality into crisis. And so they respond with a strange mixture of defensiveness and aggression. As people used to say about the Soviet Union, they expand because they feel encircled.
Excuse me, what?  First off, his declaration that the humanities are declining in large part because of the "exaggerated glamour" of science needs facts to support it - facts which are utterly absent in his response.  Second, I think that his attitude that science requires other things (such as the humanities) to submit to it is more than a little ridiculous.  It seems that his statement is largely based on a so-called "scientism apologetic" by Steven Pinker, which, after having read it, is anything but.

Pinker's basic premise is that 'scientism' (as he calls it, an ill-defined term which can mean just about anything, depending on the speaker's intentions) has two basic premises - that the world is intelligible and can be explained by general principles, and that it is difficult to acquire an understanding of those general principles.  Neither of these are in question.  It is what follows that causes problems with a lot of people, uncomfortable with the implications.  I think they would be perfectly happy if science stayed in the business of producing things like medicine and computers, and left morality and philosophy alone.  But that is not reasonable.  It is nothing less than asking scientists to practice cognitive dissonance, to pretend that their knowledge doesn't have any application in other realms of human thought.  In other words, it is exactly what theists like Weiseltier are accusing 'scientism' of doing with the humanities.

Understanding the biological nature of faith doesn't require that one abandon it.  Understanding the physical nature of a sunset does not prevent one from appreciating its beauty.  Understanding how morality evolved over the thousands upon thousands of years that humans have existed on this planet doesn't turn it into a scientific theory.  And so on and so forth.  And this is Pinker's point.  Having an understanding of how science intertwines with the humanities doesn't weaken them, or turn them into the "handmaiden of the sciences...dependent upon the sciences for their advance and even their survival".  It simply allows one to have a greater understanding of those humanities.  It uplifts them, rather than assimilating them.

Weiseltier would have us believe that 'scientism' is like the giant cube-ships of the Borg, arrogantly assimilating everything in sight and enmeshing them in a cold, unfeeling framework.  But that is not at all true.  Science helps to enrich the human experience, and provides a much more solid basis for it than theistic beliefs, most of which are based on ancient superstitions, justified by philosophical thinkers.  Trying to keep science out (except in purely materialistic matters) causes many problems and solves none.

Indeed, Pinker makes a strong case for the primary reason that the humanities are in trouble - because many of them are trying to keep things the way they have always been, rather than adapting to a changing reality.  This does not mean that they must adopt science in all its particulars - that would be silly.  Instead, they should be open to new ideas, whether from 'scientism' or from tradition, and not simply attempt to fortify themselves in bastions which only serve to cut them off the rest of the way.
 1. except the extremely gullible