Friday, September 10, 2010

Scientists Playing at Philosophers

The Economist says that "Professor Hawking and Mr Mlodinow regard a philosophical problem as something you knock off over a quick cup of tea after you have run out of Sudoku puzzles" — Order of creation. Also, "given what the authors have to say about Aristotle, one can only hope that they are more reliable about what happened billions of years ago at the birth of the universe than they are about what happened in Greece in the fourth century BC." More:
    The authors rather fancy themselves as philosophers, though they would presumably balk at the description, since they confidently assert on their first page that “philosophy is dead.” It is, allegedly, now the exclusive right of scientists to answer the three fundamental why-questions with which the authors purport to deal in their book. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? And why this particular set of laws and not some other?
The damning conclusion:
    Once upon a time it was the province of philosophy to propose ambitious and outlandish theories in advance of any concrete evidence for them. Perhaps science, as Professor Hawking and Mr Mlodinow practice it in their airier moments, has indeed changed places with philosophy, though probably not quite in the way that they think.

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26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Asking for evidence of God is scientism? Well gee.

3:57 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Claiming that science alone has answers to the fundamental questions is scientism.

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are "the fundamental questions"?

And why should I believe in an outlandish god in a total vacuum of evidence?

7:43 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

All the evidence you'll need can be found by googling these three words: Johann Sebastian Bach.

"What are 'the fundamental questions'?"

Your earlier query -- "Asking for evidence of God is scientism?" -- suggested to me that you were another functionally illiterate "bright" who has stumbled across this blog, as so often happens. This second question confirms my suspicions. I've learned not to waste my time talking to double-digit IQ atheists.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All the evidence you'll need can be found by googling these three words: Johann Sebastian Bach."

Baroque music is extremely formulaic. It tends to bore me. Also your feelings about J.S. Bach aren't evidence.

"This second question confirms my suspicions."

Confirms your suspicions of what? Being bigoted?

All I'm asking for is evidence of God. No need to get snippy. And you've given me "Bach" as an answer. That's not very impressive.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Once upon a time it was the province of philosophy to propose ambitious and outlandish theories in advance of any concrete evidence for them."

Um see maybe you don't know how this works.

I can't assume there is a god until there is evidence that there isn't one. The burden of proof is on you people.

8:21 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

"Um see maybe you don't know how this works."

I do.

Philosophers and theologians have their own tools, and don't pretend to be physical scientists. Is it too much to ask scientists to stick to their trade?

Evidence is all around you. Start with Aristotle if you need proofs. They're not fool-proof, though.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Philosophers and theologians have their own tools, and don't pretend to be physical scientists. Is it too much to ask scientists to stick to their trade?"

Well some scientists are also philosophers or perhaps vice versa. The Argentinian/Canadian intellectual Mario Augusto Bunge, perhaps better known for his stringent realist philosophy is also a physicist.

And maybe Stephen Hawking is a philosopher too. He doesn't believe in God either. Deal with it. He doesn't have to "stay" in physics just because you don't like his ideas.

"Evidence is all around you."

I need like physical evidence of God. Aristotle's absurdly dated ideas about teleology don't count.

Next thing you'll be telling me that arrows are propelled by currents of air they make for themselves.

9:08 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Glad you're back to the point.

"Well some scientists are also philosophers or perhaps vice versa." Some are theologians as well, like Fr. Stanley Jaki.

If you want physical evidence for the metaphysical, I wish you luck.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Some are theologians as well, like Fr. Stanley Jaki."

Ok.

"If you want physical evidence for the metaphysical, I wish you luck."

So all you have to offer is "I really like Bach therefore God exists?"

Pathetic.

11:13 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

You want arguments? Here: Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God. Get back to me after you've read all of them.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Twenty pathetic arguments for God, ending with the most laughable of all, Pascal's wager.

Nice job.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another, which compared to many other peoples' propositions isn't so radical. Isn't God very improbable? You can't in any logical system I can understand disprove the existence of God, or prove it for that matter. But I think that in the probability calculus I use He is very improbable.

There are a number of ways of making a formal probability theory which incorporate Ockham's razor, the principle that one must not multiply hypotheses unnecessarily. Two are called Bayesian probability theory, and Minimum Entropy. If you have been taking data on something, and the data are reasonably close to a straight line, these methods give us a definable procedure by which you can estimate the probability that the straight line is correct, not the polynomial which has as many parameters as there are points, or some intermediate complex curve. Ockham's razor is expressed mathematically as the fact that there is a factor in the probability derived for a given hypothesis that decreases exponentially in the number N of parameters that describe your hypothesis — it is the inverse of the volume of parameter space. People who are trying to prove the existence of ESP abominate Bayesianism and this factor because it strongly favors the "Null hypothesis" and beats them every time.

Well, now, imagine how big the parameter space is for God. He could have a long gray beard or not, be benevolent or malicious in a lot of different ways and over a wide range of values, he can have a variety of views on abortion, contraception, like or abominate human images, like or abominate music, and the range of dietary prejudices He has been credited with is as long as your arm. There is the heaven-hell dimension, the one vs three question, and I haven't even mentioned polytheism. I think there are certainly as many parameters as sects, or more. If there is even a sliver of prior probability for the null hypothesis, the posterior probability of any particular God is pretty small.

5:37 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

The idea that pre-existing laws brought the universe into existence out of nothing strikes me as far more improbable.

Feel free to keep wasting your energy here. This usually happens once a month or so. You "brights" are more persistant than Jehovah's Witnesses.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The idea that pre-existing laws brought the universe into existence out of nothing strikes me as far more improbable."

Why, and under what probability calculus?

Your vague intuitions about what is probable are supposed to count as evidence for your side?

Two thousand years and this is the BEST you people can come up with?

"Feel free to keep wasting your energy here."

Gladly. You're an intellectual bantamweight.

6:13 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

You have your "probability calculus," I have my God-given reason.

I've often wondered why people who are convinced that conciousness is but firing synapses and whatnot are so sure of themselves. Alexis de Tocqueville's observation comes to mind:

"The materialists are offensive to me in many respects; their doctrines I hold to be pernicious, and I am disgusted at their arrogance. If their system could be of any utility to man, it would seem to be by giving him a modest opinion of himself; but these reasoners show that it is not so; and when they think they have said enough to prove that they are brutes, they appear as proud as if they had demonstrated that they are gods."

6:24 PM  
Blogger papabear said...

A reason to disallow anonymous comments.

6:26 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Naw... let them waste their time. Sure, they'll puff themselves up a bit, but they'll win no converts.

The Argument from Consciousness was dismissed (with 19 others) as "pathetic," but this commenter's "neuroscience" has yet to demonstrate how conciousness is material.

He would do well to read this -- Against Neurotrash.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

``You have your "probability calculus," I have my God-given reason.''

Which is?

"A reason to disallow anonymous comments."

Can't stand criticism? Grow a spine.

"but this commenter's "neuroscience" has yet to demonstrate how conciousness is material."

An excuse for a god-of-the-gaps explanation?

"He would do well to read this -- Against Neurotrash."

The author raises a good point about the scientific rigor of a lot of evolutionary psychology; other than that he is saying "materialism is wrong because I personally dislike it."

As are you btw.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a side note: brain science can predict what will happen when, say, bits of the frontal cortex are lesioned. It can even induce sensations of the godlike in many people (see Michael Persinger). Your flapdoodle can't do any of that.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Naw... let them waste their time. Sure, they'll puff themselves up a bit, but they'll win no converts."

The Pope is well aware that the Church is floundering in the developed world and atheism is the fastest growing stance on religion in the United States.

You gotta be kidding me.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Estase said...

I have a hard time feeling sorry for WC, since he calls conservative Catholics racist fascists. I don't agree with Anonymous, but hey, WC, reap the whirlwind buddy. Insult other Catholics, and you're basically on the same page as Anonymous.

3:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No way my arguments are anywhere near as flimsy as those of Joshua "J.S. Bach proves God" Reynolds.

4:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, SNYDER. (Wonder if he has a weeaboo byname.)

4:17 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

"J.S. Bach proves God" was merely shorthand for saying that the composer's music, and music in general, hints at the underlying order of reality, suggesting an Orderer. I believe in spontaneous order to a certain extent in economics, but not in metaphysics.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... merely shorthand for saying that the composer's music, and music in general, hints at the underlying order of reality, suggesting an Orderer."

A lot of my work / interest concerns self-organization.

I might recommend something like "Nonlinear Physics for Beginners: Fractals, Chaos, Pattern Formation, Solitons, Cellular Automata and Complex Systems." The editor, Lui Lam, is clearly azn so you ought to like it. That being said, you appear to have all the answers already so what's the point?

"I believe in spontaneous order to a certain extent in economics, but not in metaphysics."

Anthropomorphizing everything is a sign of having childish thought processes. No, really. Just thought I'd let you know, koreaboo.

10:17 AM  

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