Saturday, December 30, 2006

Introduction to the Controversy - Part 3.

Contributed by Howard Taylor.

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

POSTSCRIPT – FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS.

The Argument from Design – Bertrand Russell and David Hume.

Russell.
Bertrand Russell greatly respected the argument from design especially as expounded by Leibniz. (He regarded Leibniz, in whom he specialised, as "one of the supreme intellects of all time") BR writes: "This argument contends that, on a survey of the known world, we find things which cannot plausibly be explained as the product of blind natural forces, but are much more reasonably to be regarded as evidences of a beneficent purpose."
He regards this familiar argument as having no "formal logical defect". He rightly points out that it does not prove the infinite or good God of normal religious belief but nevertheless says, that if true, (and BR does not give any argument against it) it demonstrates that God is "vastly wiser and more powerful than we are".
(See his chapter on Leibniz in his History Of Western Philosophy.)

Hume[1].
It is important to appreciate that, religious sceptic though he was, (but not one who ever characterised himself as an atheist), Hume shows no sympathy to the approach we calling “methodological materialism”. That is, in Hume there is no trace of the idea that teleological concepts such as “intelligence” and “design” are inappropriate on methodological grounds in the context of biological explanation. As was usually the case with thinkers prior to Darwin, the basic question for Hume was how much soundly based knowledge can the Argument from Design yield. In Hume’s view, in turns out, the answer to this most general of questions is “not as much as previous philosophers have hitherto imagined”, but this conclusion does not depend in any way on the notion that the concept of “design” itself is in some sense inadmissibility at the outset of an investigation into the features and origin of organic nature.

What is Hume’s most general verdict on natural theological reasoning? The third sentence of his earlier work The Natural History of Religion of 1751 will surprise those who, without properly studying him, hail Hume as a committed metaphysical atheist. Hume in fact writes as follows:

“The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no
rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a
moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism
and Religion.”


ID – A threat to science?
Some allege that it is. But what do they mean? They are usually unconsciously using a definition of science which says it is that subject which only looks for physical causes for physical effects.
But what is the basis of that definition? It assumes that physical nature is a closed system of cause and effect. However we can’t assume that. There is no evidence for that belief. Some have argued from an interpretation of Godel’s theorem that the physical world is not a closed system. Why not define science as that discipline which seeks to explain physical effects by following the evidence wherever it leads rather than be bound by an unprovable metaphysics which denies that non-physical realities impinge upon the physical world?

One seamless whole?
It is often claimed by theistic evolutionists and atheists that nature is ‘one seamless whole’. That is to say it must be regarded as one without the need to postulate further creative acts. But what is the basis of this belief? It isn’t scientific because science has not shown it to be true. There is still no viable theory of how lifeless matter turned into living organisms. It is not philosophical because there is no convincing ontology to give basis for the belief. It is not theological because the Bible does not teach it. It is a prejudice.

God of the gaps.
It is often alleged that ID people are evoking the dreaded ‘god of the gaps’. This criticism is based on the assumption that all physical effects have physical causes. Just because many physical effects have been found to have physical causes, does not mean that we can assume that all will. That is an unwarranted assumption. Further the ‘god of the gaps’ gets less as science advances.
However with the biological understanding of life, the advance of science has revealed a world of marvels unthought-of before. The ‘gaps’ or mysteries are getting greater.

False dualisms in criticism of ID by some Christians.

I. Spiritual/Physical.
It is alleged that Genesis 1 and other Biblical passages are ‘spiritual’ or ‘theological’ and not ‘physical’. However Genesis 1 and other passages have as their subject God and the physical world. Theology is concerned, not only with the spiritual, but also with the physical. Hence, although the Resurrection of Christ had a spiritual dimension, it was nevertheless a Resurrection of the Body.

II. Creation/Redemption.
Many Christians accept the miracles of Redemption as seen in Jesus but reject the Divine creative input expounded in Genesis 1. The Incarnation holds together the Creation and Redemption and therefore they should not be treated as totally distinct.

ID makes no predictions as normal scientific theories do.
This is a common criticism of ID. However it should be remembered that the theory of evolution makes no predictions either. It is ‘immunised’ (Karl Popper’s phrase – see below) against such a test. Actually ID does make predictions. It predicts that there will always be a discontinuity between non living matter and living matter. The exclusively physical properties between non-living matter and living matter will never be found. The basis of this prediction is that the DNA and RNA (essential to life) are a form of code – see section above entitled: Messages, languages, and coded information ONLY come from minds.

Karl Popper.
He says Evolution is not a scientific theory because it cannot be tested. He regards theories as ‘immunised’ as those that are protected against all future discoveries because they can be reconciled with anything[2]. His theory of falsification says that for a theory to be counted as scientific, the proposer must be able to stipulate what new facts if found in the future would falsify his theory. Evolution in its modern form fails this test and is ‘immunised’ against all possible future discoveries. He regards this as a bad thing. He says ‘Evolution’ is at best a philosophical framework in which other scientific disciplines can find their home. He therefore reluctantly accepted it.
But can it provide such a framework? This leads us to the next topic.

Two opinions
Not being in the same scientific league as many geneticists I cannot argue with their biology. However it is often said that Darwinian evolution provides the paradigm within which all biological research is carried out. For example Denis Alexander who has made his case against ID, says in his otherwise very good book ‘Rebuilding the Matrix:
The theory gives coherence to an immense varied array of research fields, including and behavioural psychology, to name but a few [3].
Now compare that statement with the following statement from Professor Philip S. Skell, Member, National Academy of Sciences (a very prestigious body), Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus Penn State University. He researched researchers. He asked them to consider a world where there was no theory of evolution. What difference would it have made to their research?
In 2005 he said:
I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.
Many of the scientific criticisms of (neo-Darwinism) are well known by scientists in various disciplines, including the disciplines of chemistry and biochemistry, in which I have done my work. I have found that some of my scientific colleagues are very reluctant to acknowledge the existence of problems with evolutionary theory to the general public. They display an almost religious zeal for a strictly Darwinian view of biological origins.Darwinian evolution is an interesting theory about the remote history of life. Nonetheless, it has little practical impact on those branches of science that do not address questions of biological history (largely based on stones, the fossil evidence). Modern biology is engaged in the examination of tissues from living organisms with new methods and instruments. None of the great discoveries in biology and medicine over the past century depended on guidance from Darwinian evolution---it provided no support.

Dawkins and the Origin of Complexity.

So who made God? This question is the essence of Richard Dawkins' argument on page 141 of his ‘The Blind Watchmaker’[4].

He says a Creator, in order to make such a thing as the DNA would have to be at least as complex as the DNA. If we have to explain the origin of the DNA's complexity then we must explain the origin of the complexity of God. What is wrong with this argument? It assumes that the laws of nature (i.e. cause and effect) apply to that which is beyond nature - a patently false assumption. If God exists then He is, by definition, beyond nature. Dawkins goes on to say:
"You have to say something like 'God was always there', and if you allow yourself that sort of lazy way out, you might as well just say 'DNA was always there', or 'Life was always there'. and be done with it."

Although, no doubt Dawkins means this as a rhetorical sentence, its rhetoric can only be effective if the sentence makes any sense. But it doesn't. It is beyond dispute that DNA and life were not always there! No one pretends that they were. We do not know the laws that relate to the Eternal existence of God who is beyond nature, but what we do know is that life has not always existed. [5]
It is a common claim of Richard Dawkins and others that a cause for nature’s complexity must be more complex than nature itself. Thus that complex cause’s existence must call for explanation. However is this true? For example a war between nations maybe very complex, but the cause of the war maybe one man’s greed, jealousy or ambition. Just as we invoke non-complex but personal causes for complex situations, why not invoke a Personal cause for the existence of life?[6] Indeed Thomas Aquinas argues that God must be simple i.e. He must have no component parts.
[1] I owe this section on Hume to Dr. T. S. Torrance, senior lecturer in Economics and Philosophy at Heriot-Watt University.
[2] Unended Quest.
[3] Page 289.
[4] The Whole Book is reviewed in www.apologetics.fsnet.co.uk/dawkins.htm
[5] I give another response to this often asserted Dawkins argument at the end of the ‘philosophy’ section in the appendix on Intelligent Design.
[6] This is the essence of Keith Ward’s argument in a Tablet article in January 2006.

35 Comments:

Anonymous Hrafn said...

"They are usually unconsciously using a definition of science which says it is that subject which only looks for physical causes for physical effects.
But what is the basis of that definition? It assumes that physical nature is a closed system of cause and effect. However we can’t assume that."


Howard:

In order to claim that "we can’t assume that" you first must first specify a practicable definition or Philosophy of Science that involves non-physical causes.

Unless you can come up with such a definition/underlying Philosophy, we must, as a matter of simple practicality, assume only physical causes. Because of this, the definition is not used "unconsciously," but rather completely consciously of the practical consequences of the definition.

Can you present such a Philosophy/definition?

"Karl Popper.
He says Evolution is not a scientific theory because it cannot be tested."


This is a FALSEHOOD! Popper does not "say" this: he SAID it, but he later RETRACTED it!

Howard: how do you expect to receive any credibility at all, when you repeat this CHEAP PIECE OF CREATIONIST DISHONESTY!

1:00 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation."
From "Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind", Dialectica, vol. 32, no. 3-4, 1978, pp. 339-355
Full context of quote can be found at:
http://www.geocities.com/criticalrationalist/popperevolution.htm

1:07 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"It is often alleged that ID people are evoking the dreaded ‘god of the gaps’. This criticism is based on the assumption that all physical effects have physical causes."

This claim is false. The criticism is NOT "based on the assumption that all physical effects have physical causes," but upon the fact that ID arguments are NOT positive arguments for ID, but rather negative arguments against evolution. This was admitted by the Dover ID expert witnesses.

These arguments therefore seek to create "gaps" in the Theory of Evolution, which ID seeks to fill (via the false dichotomy of "the Theory of Evolution is false, so ID must be the true explanation") with its 'Designer' (aka God).

1:17 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"However it should be remembered that the theory of evolution makes no predictions either."

Howard:

If the theory of evolution made no predictions, then it would not have changed as some of those predictions were falsified. That it has changed considerably since the time of Darwin is evidence that it makes predictions. One prominent example is the prediction of strict gradualism made by the New Evolutionary Synthesis. This prediction was falsified by Stephen Jay Gould who presented Punctuated Equilibria as an alternative.

Here are some links to some more predictions:
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html
http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/evo_science.html

A more thorough rebuttal of this argument can be found here:
http://wiki.cotch.net/index.php/Evolution_doesn't_make_predictions

Howard: your comprehension of evolution gives every appearance of being superficial in the extreme. Why do you insist on expounding on a subject in which you are woefully under-informed?

1:36 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

I would also point out that Howard has still not answered my question from Part 2:

Can Howard provide a reputable Computer Scientist or Information Theorist (hint: William Dembski is neither) who will substantiate the assertion that "the transfer of information cannot produce more information only a change (usually a detrimental change) in the original"?

3:33 am  
Anonymous Karl Popper said...

Hrafn said...
"I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation."
From "Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind", Dialectica, vol. 32, no. 3-4, 1978, pp. 339-355


Clearly, you haven't read what I said. I simply recanted my earlier belief that natural selection was a tautology. I still believe that it constitutes a suggestive metaphysical research programme for doing empirical science, from which testable theories may be derived. You have no right to jump on Howard like that.

1:10 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

The late Karl Popper (1902-1994) also said:
"The Mendelian underpinning of modern Darwinism has been well tested, and so has the theory of evolution which says that all terrestrial life has evolved from a few primitive unicellular organisms, possibly even from one single organism."

This clearly indicates that he believed that the Theory of Evolution is testable (although he also believed that some areas of it are more easily tested than others).

In fact he believed that being untestable and being a tautology were closely related:
"The fact that the theory of natural selection is difficult to test has led some people, anti-Darwinists and even some great Darwinists, to claim that it is a tautology."

It is therefore unlikely that he would recant "tautology" without also recanting "untestable."

I would therefore suggest that the dishonest little troll who is impersonating the late Dr Popper should have read his works (or at least the passage I cited) a bit more carefully before attempting the deception.

2:03 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"One seamless whole?
It is often claimed by theistic evolutionists and atheists that nature is ‘one seamless whole’. That is to say it must be regarded as one without the need to postulate further creative acts. But what is the basis of this belief? It isn’t scientific because science has not shown it to be true."


It is parsimonious to hold this position, and parsimony has long been an important underlying concept in Science (dating back to Occam's Razor).

2:44 pm  
Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Parsimony disallows belief in other minds - Plantinga. But since belief in other minds actually seems reasonable, parsimony is not terribly useful as a regulatory principle.

Or, if it is acceptable to believe in other minds despite our lack of certainty that they exist, belief in God can hardly be excluded on the same grounds.

11:40 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Parsimony disallows belief in other minds - Plantinga."

My contacts with Alvin Plantinga (both direct and indirect) have not led me to accept his assertions without substantiation (in that I tend to be sceptical of unsubstantiated assertions in general, and have found his assertions often lack adequate substantiation).

In this case, I think there is a sufficient body of evidence, from the fields of psychology and neurosciences, to conclude that "other minds" exist. I would suggest that any hypothesis that wished to deny other minds in the furtherance of parsimony would end up bogged down in 'special pleading' in order to explain away this evidence.

1:54 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Or, if it is acceptable to believe in other minds despite our lack of certainty that they exist, belief in God can hardly be excluded on the same grounds."

But nor can Krishna, Odin, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or a host of other mutually exclusive deities.

The ability of the argument to reach mutually exclusive conclusions would appear to indicate that the argument is flawed.

2:31 am  
Anonymous karl popper said...

Dear hrafn,

You should not have so much to drink before you pen your posts. It only helps to undermine the credibility of what you say.

I’ve been presuming that English is your native language. If so, then you can appreciate a bit of nuance?

When Howard said that evolution by natural selection ’cannot be tested’, he clearly meant that the theory cannot be falsified in any straightforward way. If you doubt this reading, then here’s a little experiment for you. Since you seem to know more about my works than I do, perhaps you can do a google search – your usual brand of scholarship – to find a place where I provide a test whereby evolution by natural selection could be falsified ONCE AND FOR ALL. I doubt you will be able to find such a thing. That’s what keeps the theory in the realm of a metaphysical research programme.

Of course, evolution by natural selection is ‘testable’ in the weaker sense of making predictions that turn out to conform to the observed data – but then lots of competing theories can do that. (After all, in most cases, ID does not assert ~p when Darwinism asserts p.)

Also, dear boy, I hope you don’t conflate what I say about Mendelian genetics with what I say about Darwinism – the two theories are independently testable, even if the former has now been colonised by the latter!

1:43 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"When Howard said that evolution by natural selection ’cannot be tested’.."

Dear, pathetic, False Popper, maybe you should learn to read. Howard did not say that. What he said was:
"[Karl Popper] says Evolution is not a scientific theory because it cannot be tested."

He didn't mention "natural selection" once in the entire post (let alone in the Popper section of it). If you weren't an ignorant troll, you would know that the modern Theory of Evolution has included a number of mechanisms beyond natural selection (e.g. Genetic Drift) for several decades.

But even if that had been what Howard had said, Natural Selection makes numerous testable predictions, and so is itself fully falsifiable.

"Since you seem to know more about my works than I do..."

Karl Popper is dead, so they're not your works you complete cretin.

"...to find a place where I provide a test whereby evolution by natural selection could be falsified ONCE AND FOR ALL."

You are not Karl Popper, so you provide nothing whatsoever, beyond your puerile posts on this thread.

The real Karl Popper was a Philosopher, not an Evolutionary Biologist, so would not provide tests of natural selection.

Finally, no single test will falsify natural selection "once and for all" -- that is not how biological sciences work. Unlike Physics, they do not involve universal laws, subject to falsification by a single test, they involve localised mechanisms, that require testing to delineate their predictive power.

The tests will show where natural selection does/does-not have a significant impact. One example is the evolutionary biology of 'speciation' (the atomal macroevolutionary event of one species splitting into two). Research has shown that, contrary to earlier speculation, natural selection does not play a significant role in these events, and that speciation is primarily caused by other evolutionary mechanisms, e.g. genetic drift and (reduced) genetic flow.

If natural selection lacked predictive power over a wide range of evolutionary observations, it would be marginalised to a niche hypothesis, and become vulnerable to being replaced by a competing hypothesis with wider predictive success. As it is, natural selection explains a large proportion (though not all) of evolutionary observations, keeping it at the centre of evolutionary research.

3:04 pm  
Blogger Crandaddy said...

hrafn,

Re: #1,

"Unless you can come up with such a definition/underlying Philosophy, we must, as a matter of simple practicality, assume only physical causes. Because of this, the definition is not used "unconsciously," but rather completely consciously of the practical consequences of the definition."

Do you presume that all explananda can be fully explicated in physicalistic terms regardless of whether a given explanandum has a physical ontology or not? Do you think a successful physicalistic reduction of Folk Psychology can be had?

Re: #3,

"This claim is false. The criticism is NOT "based on the assumption that all physical effects have physical causes," but upon the fact that ID arguments are NOT positive arguments for ID, but rather negative arguments against evolution. This was admitted by the Dover ID expert witnesses."

Your focus is misplaced. You seem to be looking for a toolmark, as it were. To see a toolmark is to see a physical effect of some physical cause which is, in turn, the effect of some other physical cause, etc., etc...The physical chain of cause and effect neither produces nor carries original informational content, so in order to understand that agency has caused the derivitave informational content that we see in the physical world, we must see that a cause has acted that is not a physical cause. So positive evidence for design is the absence of plausible naturalistic causes for what is seen. Understand? :-)

4:12 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Do you presume that all explananda can be fully explicated in physicalistic terms regardless of whether a given explanandum has a physical ontology or not? "

Crandaddy, do you always answer a question with another question? As I can see no immediate relevance of your question to the one I asked, I will simply ignore it as an irrelevant piece of pointless polysyllabic masturbation.

Answer my question, demonstrate how your question is relevant to mine, or get a room (so you can gratify yourself without annoying the rest of us).

For your question to be relevant, I would suggest that you need to demonstrate how a serious Philosophy of Science would attempt to include an explanandum that has a non-physical ontology into its definition of 'Science.'

"Do you think a successful physicalistic reduction of Folk Psychology can be had?"

Given that there is no consensus that Folk Psychology is a genuine psychological theory, I see no need to make such a demonstration (as an inability to so demonstrate could easily be explained by it simply not being a genuine psychological theory).

"Your focus is misplaced. You seem to be looking for a toolmark, as it were."

No. I am not. What I was stating was that all ID-arguments are arguments of the form "Evolution is impossible because..." (i.e. negative arguments against evolution) not arguments of the form "ID is likely because..." (i.e. positive arguments for ID).

In fact I was discussing nothing even vaguely analogous to a "toolmark" so have no idea what it is that you are blathering on about.

9:14 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"So positive evidence for design is the absence of plausible naturalistic causes for what is seen."

This argument contains a whole host of logical fallacies. Let us uncouple them:

1) Because (not being an evolutionary biologist) I do not properly understand the Theory of Evolution, I choose to reject it (Argument from Personal Incredulity).

2) Because I have rejected this naturalistic explanation, I argue that there is no naturalistic explanation (Argument from Ignorance).

3) Having (improperly) rejected all naturalistic explanations, I arbitrarily choose a specific supernatural one, i.e. a supernatural Intelligent Designer, in spite of the fact that there is a large (and possibly infinite) number of alternative supernatural explanations.

"Understand? :-)"

Thank you, I understood perfectly. Thank you for demonstrating how logically deficient ID-Creationist arguments are. >:D

9:32 am  
Anonymous Karl Popper said...

Hrafn, dear boy,

You really should have finished up that degree in philosophy, biology or whatever you intermittently claim competence in. This latest display is, to use one of your own words, ‘pathetic’.

Watching your abysmal performance round after round makes me understand how it’s possible to become a barfly blogger, punch-drunking his way from one logical blunder to the next. It’s too bad the referee doesn’t call a time out!

OK, here comes the elementary lesson in critical thinking.

Lesson 1 (really important!): If you read nothing else, read what you yourself write!

So, here’s little hrafn’s scrawl:

If you weren't an ignorant troll, you would know that the modern Theory of Evolution has included a number of mechanisms beyond natural selection (e.g. Genetic Drift) for several decades.

But even if that had been what Howard had said, Natural Selection makes numerous testable predictions, and so is itself fully falsifiable.

The tests will show where natural selection does/does-not have a significant impact. One example is the evolutionary biology of 'speciation' (the atomal macroevolutionary event of one species splitting into two). Research has shown that, contrary to earlier speculation, natural selection does not play a significant role in these events, and that speciation is primarily caused by other evolutionary mechanisms, e.g. genetic drift and (reduced) genetic flow.

If natural selection lacked predictive power over a wide range of evolutionary observations, it would be marginalised to a niche hypothesis, and become vulnerable to being replaced by a competing hypothesis with wider predictive success. As it is, natural selection explains a large proportion (though not all) of evolutionary observations, keeping it at the centre of evolutionary research.


Charming. You have basically denied in practice what you assert in principle. You claim evolution is falsifiable and then you undercut your claim by showing that, no matter what happens, you can invoke one or another type of evolutionary explanation, which together account for all the possible empirical outcomes. So, if natural selection doesn’t do the trick, then genetic drift might work the charm. The evolutionist simply can’t lose this game. That’s what ‘unfalsifiable’ means in my book.

You really should have finished that degree…..

10:22 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

To the ignorant troll pretending to be Karl Popper:

I was merely attempting to explain to you how falsification works in a complex and fluid environment such as the biological sciences. If you find my explanation inadequate, then you are welcome to read a book on the Philosophy of Biology.

Regardless, you are not Karl Popper, and do not speak for him, and thus cannot retract his words accepting that Natural Selection, while difficult to test, is nonetheless testable.

Your posts have been completely contentless drivel - the sort of (largely irrelevant) reflexive naysaying and nitpicking that is typical of high-school debaters and internet trolls.

At this point, I put up the "don't feed the trolls" sign and will ignore you hereafter.

1:19 pm  
Anonymous Karl Popper said...

Hrafn said...
To the ignorant troll pretending to be Karl Popper:

I was merely attempting to explain to you how falsification works in a complex and fluid environment such as the biological sciences.


Well, you failed. In any case, stop pouting, pick up your toys and go home....

3:24 pm  
Blogger Crandaddy said...

"Crandaddy, do you always answer a question with another question? As I can see no immediate relevance of your question to the one I asked, I will simply ignore it as an irrelevant piece of pointless polysyllabic masturbation."

I was wondering if you would be willing to countenance epistemically irreducible items which may have a physical ontology (e.g. mental phenomena).

"Thank you, I understood perfectly. Thank you for demonstrating how logically deficient ID-Creationist arguments are. >:D

I don't think so. I'm not resting my argument upon lack of understanding; I'm resting it upon the understanding (via introspection) that agency constitutes a fundamental causal type. Since the content of other minds cannot be directly perceived, it must be inferred from the absence of other fundamental causal types.

What do you think would constitute positive evidence for design?

7:24 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I was wondering if you would be willing to countenance epistemically irreducible items which may have a physical ontology (e.g. mental phenomena)."

Can you demonstrate why, in an age of modern neuroscience and psychology, mental phenomena are "epistemically irreducible items"? This seems highly unlikely.

Also, you have yet to demonstrate why this line of questioning has any relevance to my original question. My "irrelevant piece of pointless polysyllabic masturbation" objection thus still applies.

"...I'm resting it upon the understanding (via introspection) that agency constitutes a fundamental causal type."

Your introspection is not and cannot be considered scientific evidence (as it cannot be reproduced).

I have yet to see any evidence that the claim that "agency constitutes a fundamental causal type" has been accepted outside the ID echo chamber.

"Since the content of other minds cannot be directly perceived, it must be inferred from the absence of other fundamental causal types."

Incorrect. The fields of psychology and neuroscience provide considerable evidence for the existence of other minds that share numerous commonalities with our own.

"What do you think would constitute positive evidence for design?"

In the first instance, some hypothesis that follows the normal course of forensic investigation as to whether an event occurred due to natural causes or artificial intervention: e.g. motive, method & opportunity (or similar). This is why ID's adamant refusal to identify any specifics relating to its hypothetical designer makes it an automatic non-starter.

Thereafter, evidence that this hypothesis has explanatory and predictive power (beyond that of competing hypotheses).

3:38 am  
Blogger Crandaddy said...

“Can you demonstrate why, in an age of modern neuroscience and psychology, mental phenomena are ‘epistemically irreducible items’? This seems highly unlikely.”

You’re not terribly familiar with philosophy of mind, are you? If you were, then you would realize that there are mental phenomena which are, at the very least, quite problematic for materialistic reductionism. One example is intentionality. Intentionality is the property of a mental state that it can be essentially of or about something, but how can any material state be essentially of or about any other material state? What’s more, how can any material state be essentially of or about abstracta or nonexistent subjects? Such a material state cannot even be coherently conceptualized in the mind. How, then, could it ever be discovered in the brain?

“Also, you have yet to demonstrate why this line of questioning has any relevance to my original question. My "irrelevant piece of pointless polysyllabic masturbation" objection thus still applies.

Looking back at the first comment on this thread, it appears that you’re wanting a “practicable definition or Philosophy of Science that involves non-physical causes”. It seems to me that the most practical “definition or Philosophy of Science” would be one which allows explananda to be explained by using whatever hypothetical entities work best. These may be recognizably physical in nature or they may not be. The reason I brought up FP is because it appears that mental phenomena it encompasses may not be reducible to recognizable physical entities.

”Your introspection is not and cannot be considered scientific evidence (as it cannot be reproduced).”

Introspection is used to achieve first-person experience with agency and to understand it as an epistemically fundamental causal type. To justify a belief that another mind has acted, one must eliminate other fundamental causes as efficient causes.

”I have yet to see any evidence that the claim that "agency constitutes a fundamental causal type" has been accepted outside the ID echo chamber.”

Come on, hrafn! Are you telling me that you’re not in control of your own actions? In that case, why should I even waste my time typing responses to you?

”Incorrect. The fields of psychology and neuroscience provide considerable evidence for the existence of other minds that share numerous commonalities with our own.”

The fields of psychology and neuroscience cannot detect intentional representations, and even if they could ever provide a physicalistic reduction of the corresponding actions, they could not provide a better common sense justification of belief in agency than a survey of fundamental causal types.

”In the first instance, some hypothesis that follows the normal course of forensic investigation as to whether an event occurred due to natural causes or artificial intervention: e.g. motive, method & opportunity (or similar).”

I don’t concede artificiality. If you say something is artificial that I haven’t made, then I want to know why I should believe it. I also want to know how motive, method, and opportunity are relevant to a justified belief in design.

”This is why ID's adamant refusal to identify any specifics relating to its hypothetical designer makes it an automatic non-starter.”

What designer? ID is a study of patterns, not designers.

”Thereafter, evidence that this hypothesis has explanatory and predictive power (beyond that of competing hypotheses).”

Predictions of acts of agency are made on the basis of FP. For this, it seems we would need to know a reason for why an agent would choose to act and need to see the actions of the agent in order to verify the accuracy of our predictions. This is why I hold in question the status of ID as science.

6:16 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"One example is intentionality. Intentionality is the property of a mental state that it can be essentially of or about something, but how can any material state be essentially of or about any other material state?"

The same argument could as easily be made about books and computer programs - which are frequently "of or about [another] other material state, but are themselves unambiguously material states.

Likewise intentionality does not render a process irreducible - a book can be reduced on one side to the printing process (and thereafter to the manufacture of paper, ink and printing presses) and on the other side to the process of authorship, editing, publishing houses and publicity.

Mental phenomena can be reduced to sensory stimuli, learning processes, neural networks, neurons and so forth.

"Looking back at the first comment on this thread, it appears that you’re wanting a “practicable definition or Philosophy of Science that involves non-physical causes”."

Please note that I said Philosophy of SCIENCE!

Please note that I said aPRACTICABLE definition of science!

Please now explain a philosophy of science that allows for the practicable scientific study of "epistemically irreducible items", "intentionality" and similar artifacts of other branches of philosophy.

You make the rather obvious error of assuming that, just because something can be conceived of, that Science ought to be able to study it. Science is intentionally more limited to that, and any meaningful Philosophy of Science must acknowledge those limits.

"The reason I brought up FP is because it appears that mental phenomena it encompasses may not be reducible to recognizable physical entities."

You have presented no evidence that Folk Psychology is Science, or countenanced within any credible Philosophy of Science. This renders it completely and utterly irrelevant!

Further, as the "mental phenomena it encompasses may not be reducible to recognizable physical entities" it is likewise true that "the mental phenomena it encompasses" may "be reducible to recognizable physical entities." Your claim simply contains too much equivocation to have any probative value whatsoever.

"Introspection is used to achieve first-person experience with agency and to understand it as an epistemically fundamental causal type."

Yes Crandaddy, your introspection is only available to you and to nobody else. It thus has zero value as evidence in any argument! Its inclusion in this discussion is thus another irrelevant piece of mental masturbation on your part.

"Are you telling me that you’re not in control of your own actions?"

No, I am not. However you have presented no evidence whatsoever that "control of [my] own actions" necessitates that " agency constitutes a fundamental causal type".

"I don’t concede artificiality."

Nobody was asking you to. However if you don't want to concede a dichotomy between "natural causes or artificial intervention" then it is up to you to present a third option.

"What designer? ID is a study of patterns, not designers."

Ahh, the old "design without a designer" argument - a truly moronic position. How can it involve "intelligence" without a designer (because if the designer doesn't exist, who is it that is "intelligent"), and how is "design without a designer" different from Dawkins' concept of a 'Blind Watchmaker'?

8:16 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

This thread is getting bogged down in irrelevancies.

Philosophy of Mind contains numerous concepts that are not considered reasonable topics for scientific investigation (as would, for example, Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion). For this reason, the postulation of these concepts is completely irrelevant to discussion of what practical limitations Philosophy of Science might identify for scientific investigation.

Likewise, "Folk Psychology" has not been established as a genuine scientific theory, nor has it been established that it contains non-physical causes. Until these two issues have been established it is likewise irrelevant.

So, I return to my original question:
Can you present a practicable definition or Philosophy of Science that involves non-physical causes?

8:34 am  
Blogger Crandaddy said...

"The same argument could as easily be made about books and computer programs - which are frequently "of or about [another] other material state, but are themselves unambiguously material states."

For someone who so authoritatively and condescendingly pontificates, you sure do say some dumb things. Notice that I said essentially, i.e. intrinsic to the substance. Words on a page, for example, possess derivative intentionality. They only have meaning in a person's mind. It is this meaning that is a real bitch for materialism.

"Mental phenomena can be reduced to sensory stimuli, learning processes, neural networks, neurons and so forth."

I've tried to explain to you why I think they can't be. I would ask you to explain to me how you know they can, but you would probably just embarrass yourself by pontificating on matters you know little to nothing about and throwing in the occasional masturbatory remark for good measure.

"Please note that I said aPRACTICABLE definition of science!"

"Please now explain a philosophy of science that allows for the practicable scientific study of "epistemically irreducible items", "intentionality" and similar artifacts of other branches of philosophy."

Okay, so I misread "practicable" as "practical". Big deal.

FP, by relying on such intentional states as beliefs, desires, etc., appears to be the only way we have of predicting and justifying belief in acts of agency. Howzat?

"You have presented no evidence that Folk Psychology is Science, or countenanced within any credible Philosophy of Science. This renders it completely and utterly irrelevant!"

If behavioral predictions based on FP are ever explained away by neuroscience, then we are left with no way to defend a belief in external agency, as intentional representations are merely epiphenomenal. Mechanistic material causes and effects could then account for all human behavior.

FP stands as as our only indicator of external intentional states. If it goes, so goes agency since agency is understood to originate with intentional representations.

"Further, as the "mental phenomena it encompasses may not be reducible to recognizable physical entities" it is likewise true that "the mental phenomena it encompasses" may "be reducible to recognizable physical entities.""

If you're willing to entertain the possibility of a square circle, yeah, maybe.

"Yes Crandaddy, your introspection is only available to you and to nobody else. It thus has zero value as evidence in any argument! Its inclusion in this discussion is thus another irrelevant piece of mental masturbation on your part."

I'll try this one more time...

My understanding of agency as a fundamental causal type comes from my understanding of myself as a cause, seeing the effects I produce, and comparing it to causes and effects which are not my own (i.e. chance and necessity) I can then look for agency outside of myself by looking for causes and effects which cannot be explained away by chance and necessity.

"No, I am not. However you have presented no evidence whatsoever that "control of [my] own actions" necessitates that " agency constitutes a fundamental causal type"."

You're talking ontology, and I'm talking epistemology. From you're point of view, you cause; you are not the puppet of something else.

"Nobody was asking you to. However if you don't want to concede a dichotomy between "natural causes or artificial intervention" then it is up to you to present a third option."

There is no "third option". I subsume "artificial" items under "natural", as in non-intentional or can be chalked up to mindless mechanism unless I am given sufficient reason to believe otherwise.

"Ahh, the old "design without a designer" argument - a truly moronic position."

I'm not talking about design without a designer. I'm saying that the way to justify a belief in a designer is by first justifying belief in design.

9:10 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Crandaddy:

Explain how "intentionality" (be it essential, derivative, or of angels-dancing-on-a-the-head-of-a-pin) can be studied scientifically, or take your irrelevant masturbations elsewhere!


The reason all this blather sits in Philosophy of Mind NOT the scientific field of Psychology, is because it cannot be studied scientifically!

Substantiate both how "Folk Psychology" is a formal scientific theory (under a recognised Philosophy of Science) and how it simultaneously encompasses mental phenomena that are definitively irreducible to recognisable physical entities, or take your irrelevant masturbations elsewhere!

Oh, and Crandaddy, MY introspection tells me that your introspection has as much value as anything else you pull out of your arse. INTROSPECTION IS NOT INTERSUBJECTIVE! As such it has no value, no standing and no relevance in any argument with anybody other than yourself. This will be true no matter how many more times you "try this"!

Crandaddy, I will accept no more ephemera out of Philosophy of Mind from you. I want things that Science CAN study (and which you can demonstrate that Science can study) and Philosophy of Science that codifies how this study occurs. ALL ELSE IS UNACCEPTABLE IRRELEVANCE!

10:27 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

Please remember that this is not your internet nor is it your Blog you are commenting on. I at least am interested in what Crandaddy is saying and the way you are responding to his arguments.

10:42 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

What I think Crandaddy fails to realise is that Philosophy is chock full of ephemeral concepts which not only are impossible to study scientifically, but which no reasonable philosopher would expect Science to even attempt.

An example is "Free Will" - for which I have yet to find a good description contrasting the effects of its presence versus its absence. It is either argued to be so pervasively present that its absence is inconceivable, or so pervasively absent that its presence is inconceivable. I therefore sincerely doubt that even a single philosopher has ever suggested that science ought to be able to test for the presence of free will.

10:45 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

Feel free to start a Philosophy of Mind thread to discuss these issues. Do not however expect me to take kindly to it being dragged up in purported response to a question it has no relevance to.

My original question was about Philosophy of Science and how its deals with the practical limits on scientific study.

Crandaddy has insisted (despite my repeated objections) to bring up philosophic issues that are not conducive to scientific study, and are therefore irrelevant to my original question.

10:54 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

I do not mind in the least you arguing that Crandaddy's comments are irrelevant. Please feel free. However calling someone's comments "verbal masturbation" and telling them to "take their irrelevant masturbations elsewhere" and telling him what you will or will not "accept" is unhelpful to reasoned debate and out of place on this blog. I am well aware that these issues raise passionate feelings and that blog commenting debates can be highly frustrating at times but I think it is appropriate to try as hard as we can to be civil... I think we may make progress that way even if it is hard work.

11:15 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

All that Crandaddy's arguments to date have shown is that various branches of Philosophy (specifically Philosophy of Mind, but almost certainly also Philosophy of Religion and Metaphysics) raise issues that Science (as it is currently formulated) is unable to deal with.

My response is "so what?"

Unless Crandaddy can formulate ot cite a Philosophy of Science that renders these concepts (or any other postulated non-physical phenomena) amenable to practical scientific study, he has not demonstrated that the currently accepted formulations (which all include some form of explicit or implicit Methodological Naturalism) is sub-optimal.

11:16 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

Crandaddy, right out of the gate asked:
"Do you presume that all explananda can be fully explicated in physicalistic terms regardless of whether a given explanandum has a physical ontology or not? Do you think a successful physicalistic reduction of Folk Psychology can be had?"

This was in a thread that had previously not involved any discussion of the concept of explanandum (and its relationship with explanans), physical versus non-physical ontologies, or the scientific status (or any discussion at all of the nature of) Folk Psychology.

The question therefore had every appearance of obfuscation not elucidation (as well as appearing to be wholly irrelevant), hence my description of its as "polysyllabic masturbation".

When Crandaddy resisted my repeated attempts to get him to explain how his line of questioning/reasoning related to the question of what science can practicably study, I became (not unreasonably) irate.

I am still sufficiently irritated that I will not respond to any further discussion on this thread that does not relate to what Science can, and cannot, as a matter of practicality, study -- hence my "take it elsewhere" statement.

So, unless somebody else is willing to take up the subject with him, intentionality, Philosophy of Mind's views on mental phenomena and Folk Psychology are all dead issues.

11:54 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"One result of this is that specialists in the philosophy of science stress the requirement that observations made for the purposes of science be restricted to intersubjective objects. That is, science is restricted to those areas where there is general agreement on the nature of the observations involved. It is comparatively easy to agree on observations of physical phenomena, harder for them to agree on observations of social or mental phenomena, and difficult in the extreme to reach agreement on matters of theology or ethics."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_science

12:51 pm  
Blogger Crandaddy said...

hrafn,

I'll try to summarize my positions as clearly as I can:

You wanted a "practicable definition or Philosophy of Science that involves non-physical causes", and I submitted to you that the closest thing we can have to a scientific model of agency that does not dispense with it altogether is Folk Psychology. Science or not, FP enables us to predict and understand human behavior in a way that physical neuroscience cannot. The mental entities proposed by FP appear to have real explanatory and predictive power just as physical entities would in a hard science such as physics or chemistry and appear to manifest themselves in a way that can never be successfully reduced materialistically.

Physical causes are nonrational; that is to say they are nonpurposive. Therefore, any justification of a rational act that cannot be directly perceived (does not originate with the self) must rely upon the absence of understood nonrational causes (i.e. chance and necessity). Physical conditions surrounding an act of agency such as bodies, methods, opportunities, etc. are irrelevant since they appeal to nonrational entities.

The only irrelevancy we appear to have addressed is the nature of intentionality. Granted, in retrospect, it appears we went off on a tangent with this, and I'm sorry if it caused any confusion.

I think this will be my last comment on this thread. You may have the last word if you wish.

3:06 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Strange, I don't remember asking for a "scientific model of agency".

And "the closest thing we can have to a scientific model" sounds suspiciously equivocal.

For that matter, I strongly suspect that Folk Psychology lacks a well-defined set of contents (being defined simply as "the set of background assumptions, socially-conditioned prejudices and convictions that are implicit in our everyday descriptions of others' behavior and in our ascriptions of their mental states"), making any attempt to scientifically test or falsify these contents problematical in the extreme.

I would therefore claim Folk Psychology as an example of a concept that Science should not seek to study, and whose exclusion from scientific endeavour the Philosophy of Science should attempt to codify.

12:28 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home