Most British scientists: Richard Dawkins' work misrepresents science

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by paddoboy, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    Sean Carroll debated William Lane Craig over science vs. creationism. Neither of those individuals are in Loons, but Carroll debated so far over the intellect of Craig that it was obvious to anyone not already steeped in creationism, that Craig really had no chance to win. It was livelier than a similar "debate" by Bill Nye, but still lacking in terms of making the opposition actually do some thinking or reconsideration of their very flawed philosophy of what constitutes a science.

    On the other hand, it wasn't much of a debate either, because Craig would not directly address Carroll's charges that creationism was not tantamount to a science.

    For details about this particular debate along the same lines, consult Carroll's "Preposterous Universe" blog.
    Q-reeus likes this.
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  3. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

    No surprise at all. Carroll is particularly good as an orator, on top of his scientific skills. But if pitted against someone like Peltzer, my bet is Carroll would be the one on the defensive. Hacks like Craig are an embarrassment to watch and listen to.
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  5. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    You don't prove creationism by disproving one experiment about abiogenesis. It doesn't work that way.
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Yes, it probably is stupid. For one thing you're hijacking the thread.

    The thread originally was about how Dawkins (maybe) misrepresents science. If he does that, and I think that he does, one of the ways he seemingly does it is by setting 'science' and 'religion' up in battle, as straw-man adversaries.

    Now you seem to want to do exactly the same thing, from the other theist direction.

    Why did you post that? What has it got to do with Dawkins and his arguments?

    As for your question, Peltzer seems to be pulling various unanswered questions regarding the course of prebiotic organic chemistry out of an entire scientific literature, suggesting that they are insurmountable hurdles for a naturalistic explanation. But if he knows enough about the literature to know about the remaining open questions, then he obviously knows that the origin of life theorists have many speculations and as-yet unconfirmed hypotheses about those questions: chemical evolution&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5

    Peltzer is an analytical chemist whose specialty seems to be hydrates on the ocean floor. Prebiotic organic chemistry isn't his specialty and interestingly, he doesn't even mention it on his website at MBARI.

    The advantage of science's methodological naturalism is that the hypotheses that science advances make reference to known processes, which means that it provides an opening for ID proponents to express skepticism, but it also means that naturalistic hypotheses are testable, unlike pseudo-"explanations" that have to appeal to supernatural agencies that lie outside the scope of science entirely.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
  8. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

    Had prepared a detailed response to someone else, but given your post, will now stash it. This has become a testy environment. As to your question, check my first line in #45. As to your comment about qualifications, so what? Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on who makes them. But anyway, so sorry to have ruffled feathers. Bye.
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Does this mean that there are people who believe that it IS tantamount to a science? This is preposterous. The fundamental statement of creationism is, "God did it and we don't care how."
    danshawen likes this.
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Science is a naturalistic pursuit by definition. It confines its attentions to those aspects of the physical universe that are observable by the human senses (and their instrumental extensions). If science presumes to dismiss "religion", then it would seem to be engaging in metaphysics, passing judgement on existence in general, including things that lie outside its naturalistic sphere of applicability.

    What??? That's just foolishness, Fraggle. I think that people have been giving reasons for their assertions for as long as there have been people, it's inherent in common sense. The whole process was extensively studied in ancient times.

    William of Ockham wrote a commentary on Aristotle's Organon I believe, but he certainly didn't invent inferential reasoning from premises to conclusions.

    So what of the Buddhist monk or the Christian contemplative, who find evidence for what they believe in their own experience? One can certainly compare and contrast this with 'scientific evidence', but to do so would require some philosophical sophistication and knowledge of both science and the contemplative traditions. (A rare combination.)

    How does the 'Second Law of Thermodynamics' account for the existence of the second law of thermodynamics and all the rest of the 'laws of physics' (to say nothing of logical relationships and mathematical structures)? You aren't even close to being able to address the something-from-nothing question, Fraggle. You're just blustering.

    Of course, I don't believe that religious thought is any better off in that regard. When it comes to the ultimate 'why does existence exist?' question, I think that both science and religion are out of their depth. It remains the ultimate mystery and I think that the most intelligent approach to it at this point is agnostic, to admit that we just don't know.

    Except that the theologians argued that God was eternal (much as you seem to be implying that mathematics and the 'laws of physics' are).

    So your own faith seems to run into the same problem of circularity:

    1. You seem to want to claim that the 'second law of thermodynamics', or perhaps the laws of physics and mathematics more generally, account for and explain why everything that exists, exists.
    2. Mathematics and the laws of physics exist (in some poorly understood abstract sense).
    3. Therefore mathematics and the laws of physics must account for and explain their own existence.
  11. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Begs the question, if you can't observe it, why believe it? Science can't say God doesn't exist, but that isn't a reason to believe it does.
  12. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Bingo!!! [the highlighted part by me] But therein lies the rub.
    Religion are then short circuiting the argument by imagining some omnipotent, all powerful eternal deity, while science [as both Dawkins and Sagan are expressing in their arguments] actively does research and collects data looking for an answer.
    Falling for, or suggesting a deity without evidence as Peltzer does, is short circuiting.
    Science may not have all the answers as yet,but they are actively researching that goal.
    danshawen likes this.
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I was arguing against the assertion that not only is science antithetical to religion, it somehow demolishes religion. (That seems to be Dawkins' belief, and Fraggle's as well. I think that it's probably common to most atheists.)

    My claim is that science is a fundamentally naturalistic pursuit and that it is out of its depth when addressing hypothetical supernatural realities. When it tries to do that, it's venturing into metaphysics.

    Concerning your question, one might argue that the sensory observation that science is so dependent on isn't the only kind of experience possible.

    Mathematicians certainly seem to intuit with their "mind's eye" abstract mathematical structures and relationships that most of them believe exist objectively and are discovered rather than invented. (What mathematics is and how people know about it are still open questions.)

    Buddhist monastics believe that they intuit things in meditation that somehow confirm Buddhist ideas. I expect that Hindu yogins and even Christian contemplatives feel much the same way.

    Obviously one can subject religious experience to critique. But again, I'm not convinced that science is in the best position to do that. It's a job for the philosophy, for epistemology and for metaphysics.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
  14. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Hypothetical supernatural ideas are out of their depth when addressing whether there is or ever can be reliable evidence to support them. Science can determine what kinds of knowledge can be reliably trusted, and religion fails in this regard.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You're giving religion (and all the other kinds of supernatural bullshit) a thousand times more respect than they deserve.

    The first utterance from a scientist, when encountering something that is said to be new and different, is, "Wow! I wonder how and/or why this can happen."

    The first utterance from a religionist (or any other kind of supernaturalist) in the same situation is, "I don't need to know how or why this happens. My invisible, all-powerful Supreme Being does it all."

    These people are so stupid (or at least poorly educated) that they don't even understand the fallacy in their own belief system.
    • 1. God created the universe.
    • 2. The universe contains everything that exists.
    • 3. God exists.
    • 4. Therefore, God is part of the universe.
    • 5. Therefore, God created himself.
    In other words, they develop a hypothesis, then they test it against reality. This is nothing more or less than science in action. Duh?
    Like most Wikipedia articles, the one on mathematics gives answers to these questions which don't require a university education to understand. I'd guess that any precocious teenager, in a reasonably prosperous urban American community, is not as easily perplexed by the questions you post as you seem to think she is.
    Since I work in the software industry, I know a lot of people from India. Those who are true Buddhists (not as large a portion of the country's population as foreigners assume) tend to avoid the supernatural, and they insist that this in no way conflicts with the Buddha's teachings.

    Hindus, on the other hand, do have some vestiges of supernaturalism. They believe that there is a god (and only one: all of those statues simply show God in different moods and performing different feats), and moreover, that god is the same one that the Abrahamists venerate.
    Sure, but we can't get the religionists to play by the same rules. If a priest is going to stand there with a straight face and insist that evolution is wrong, with all of the evidence we've been gathering for almost 200 years, then turnabout is fair play. We have the right to examine his fairytales with the same tools we'd use to prove or disprove global warming, the microbe theory of infections, or the Sun becoming a red giant several thousand years from now, leaving our planet as a large, superheated, airless cinder.
  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm not giving them any kind of credit. I'm arguing against the idea that science somehow demolishes religion. I don't think that science is in any position to do that.

    Your "scientist" is going to seek a natural explanation for whatever it is, because that's what science does. The "scientist" will attempt to explain the new phenomenon in terms of known physical principles and what is empirically observable. That heuristic (discovery strategy) is called methodological naturalism.

    But (and this is my point) methodological naturalism doesn't justify the move to metaphysical naturalism, the claim that nothing can exist that doesn't belong to the natural world. (Where 'natural world' is defined as the order of things accessible through observation and the methods of the empirical sciences.) There's seemingly no way that your "scientist" could know the truth of metaphysical naturalism, certainly not without abandoning methodological naturalism and venturing into the realm of metaphysics.

    You should know that the epistemological and ontological questions regarding the foundations of mathematics are difficult and perplexing, and have been for thousands of years. What are numbers and other mathematical objects and relationships? What kind of existence and reality do abstract objects like mathematical objects and structures have? How do they come to be known by beings like us?

    My reason for mentioning mathematics was simply to suggest that sensory observation isn't necessarily the only way that human beings come to know things. Mathematics is the paradigm example of that (and one that atheists presumably don't want to dismiss since science depends on it). Mathematicians certainly seem to employ some kind of mathematical and logical intuition, even if nobody can explain precisely what it is, what it's perceiving or how it works.
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I still think the title of this thread and the headline of its linked article misrepresent the situation.

    38 of 1500 scientists is not "most", 38 of 137 scientists is not "most", and having cited a small non-random subset of a small non-random subset renders the fraction "cited" dubious in its representation of the whole.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2016
  18. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That depends on the religion. Science is in a very good position to demolish any religion whose core beliefs rest on incorrect assumptions about the physical universe.
  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I agree with that. I can't think of a religion that fits that description though.
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yes, you are. You consistently say that even though the supernaturalists haven't got one frail shred of empirical evidence to support their fairytales, they nonetheless deserve the same respect and attention that we give to scientists.
    Science is a search for the truth by the use of hypotheses that can be tested by empirical observation, logic and reasoning. Supernaturalists thumb their collective noses at almost any whiff of logic, and most of their hypotheses are derived from premises that they insist cannot be tested because their imaginary leader can make all the evidence vanish whenever he wants to.
    Did you have a hard time keeping a straight face when you wrote that? Science is all about nature! Scientists don't squander their finite resources in the investigation of hypotheses that are presented with no supporting evidence!

    One of the fundamental premises of the scientific method is that only positive assertions will be investigated--for the obvious reason that a positive assertion is almost certain to be supported by evidence! How in hell can anyone investigate an assertion that has no supporting evidence? What, exactly, is there to investigate? Verses in a book of fairytales that was written in the Bronze Age? Statements made by people who have earned the trust of their clan simply because they can speak well?

    At some point we simply have to start criticizing bullshit that came about during an era when it was difficult to discern bullshit from reality.
    You're talking to a man who studied at CalTech. I'm just not falling for your crap. You seem to have reduced the universe to a conflict between reality and abstraction, but that sure ain't the way the scientists under whom I studied looked at it.
    You say that as though it's a startling revelation that's going to change civilization. You obviously didn't have the same kind of education that I had, or you'd understand that humans have a large set of tools in our heads beside observation.
    Mathematicians have skills that other people don't have... just like musicians, dancers, and rodeo clowns. In case you haven't noticed, we're all different. Some of us have the skills to be mathematicians, but most of us don't.
  21. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm arguing against the idea that science somehow demolishes religion.

    Right. Empiricism is a theory that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience.

    So by implication, an empirical pursuit like science can only produce knowledge of whatever realities are accessible to sensory experience (and its instrumental extensions).

    I wrote:

    "Your "scientist" is going to seek a natural explanation for whatever it is, because that's what science does. The "scientist" will attempt to explain the new phenomenon in terms of known physical principles and what is empirically observable. That heuristic (discovery strategy) is called methodological naturalism.

    But (and this is my point) methodological naturalism doesn't justify the move to metaphysical naturalism, the claim that nothing can exist that doesn't belong to the natural world. (Where 'natural world' is defined as the order of things accessible through sensory observation and the methods of the empirical sciences.) There's seemingly no way that your "scientist" could know the truth of metaphysical naturalism, certainly not without abandoning methodological naturalism and venturing into the realm of metaphysics."

    Of course science is all about nature, that's methodological naturalism. Which implies that science would be violating its own principles if it tries to argue for the existence or non-existence of hypothetical realities that transcend the realm of nature.

    So you're agreeing with me that natural science isn't concerned with hypothetical supernatural realities that lie outside its scope?

    Of course we still haven't really established that religion has no supporting evidence. The suggestion so far is merely that it lacks empirical evidence. (Evidence obtained by sensory observation, broadly conceived.)

    Meditation, yoga and the Western contemplative traditions all (arguably) provide experiential evidence of purported realities inaccessible to the senses. (Their epistemic status remains very controversial.)

    I'm a Nobel Prize winner. Any of us can pose as whatever we like on the internet.

    No, no, no, no. My point was that abstractions like logical relationships, numbers and mathematical structures can't be observed with the senses. They aren't empirical. They are intuited with the mind's eye, so to speak. The ontological status of logic and mathematics (mathematics is seemingly objective and appears to be discovered rather than invented) is still controversial and their epistemic status (how we come to know about logical relationships and mathematical objects) is controversial too.

    My point being that scientists (and atheists along with them) already accept the reality of non-physical realities known by intuitive means other than the senses. Realities that lie outside the realm of natural science per se, that aren't part of physics' inventory of physical reality, but which natural science in its modern (post-scientific-revolution) form seems to be heavily dependent on.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2016
  22. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    You mean like magnetic fields, spacetime and spacetime curvature, including gravitational waves?

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    Although they may not have been part of the original physics' inventory, as our technology and observational powers have improved, we have literally observed these phenomena by their effects.
  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    No, I was thinking about mathematical objects like numbers and more abstract things like groups, rings and fields (in the mathematical sense). Formal logical systems would be another example.

    These kind of things seem to have some kind of ideal reality and they aren't physical objects. They seem to be intuited by the intellect, by the mind's-eye so to speak.

    Yet they nevertheless seem to possess some kind of objectivity. Mathematicians discover them and explore their properties. Logical and mathematical proofs are supposed to be valid for everyone, not just for the individual who concocts them.

    Language and its meaning might arguably be something similar. The meanings that strings of symbols seem to possess do seem to have some intersubjective reality, since two people reading the same text derive similar meaning from it. Yet meaning isn't a physical object. We just kind of intuit its presence somehow.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2016

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