There they go again. I've blogged numerous times here about penchant of the adherents of the Religion of Science to step into the little philosophical wading pools they build for themselves, splash around in them with their intellectual floaties thinking they're the philosophical version of Michael Phelps, and then hop out, critiquing the pool setup and declaring how easy it all was.
Jerry Coyne is particularly good at this and has been splashing around a lot recently in posts at his blog Why Evolution is True. He's been doing the same thing with theology too. He gets some books, can't understand much of what they say, turns them upside down to see if they make more sense that way, and then declares that it's all a bunch of hooey.
What would New Atheist types say if a critic of science devoid of any expertise whatsoever in any scientific discipline say if he got a hold of, say a chemistry book, didn't understand any of the terminology, had no clue about the periodic table and didn't know mathematics, but felt qualified to offer learned opinions on the subject?
I've critiqued several of Coyne's past attempts at philosophy here, here, and here. But unfortunately for Coyne and his atheist brethren, philosopher Ed Feser has penned another great take-down at his blog. He's also got some good links to the other articles he's done on the subject.
I think the problem with these people who like to play amateur philosopher every few weeks but don't have the slightest idea what they're doing is that they are exclusively extensional thinkers. In the old system of traditional logic, there was a distinction between what was called "extension" and what was called "comprehension." The philosopher Francis Beckwith has made the same observation in the comments section of this blog.
The extension of a term is its real world referents. If I ask what the extension of the term "man" is, the answer is all the men who ever were, are, or will be. If I ask what the comprehension of the term "man" is, the answer is a rational, sentient, living, material substance. The former doesn't tell me the meaning of the term, but only its application. The latter tells me the intellectual content of the term. It's the difference between defining man as a featherless biped and as a rational animal.
Coyne and his ilk are so used to going around measuring and weighing everything that when they are called upon (or call upon themselves) to address a thing's meaning or significance, they automatically grab for the nearest measuring instruments. And when they don't get a proper reading, they start shaking their heads in confusion, thinking the problem is with what they've read rather than in their own ability to understand it.
I have somethings termed scientific (or, more properly, scientistic) thinking horizontal thinking, and philosophical thinking vertical thinking. This comes out starkly when the cosmological argument for the existence of God comes up. The first thing out of their mouths is a purported refutation of the Kalam version of the argument, which involves the attempt to prove that the universe had a first cause in time. It is a horizontal argument.
But just try to explain to them St. Thomas' version of the argument which has nothing to do with a horizontal chain of causation in time, but rather with the vertical or ontological order of causation that does not assume a beginning of the universe. Plan on spending some time on it.
You will hear this kind of thing voiced here on this blog by several of the commentators who, as much as your Humble Host loves them, can be counted upon to ask me what scientific evidence I have for some philosophical belief I have voiced, wondering what the readings were on my scientific instruments. These are people who think there must be a how answer to every what and why question.
Now, watch them ask me what scientific evidence I have for this opinion.