Thursday, December 29, 2011

Scientism? What Scientism? We haven't seen any scientism...

The New Atheists are currently in the throes of denial that their beliefs about religion and philosophy smack of "scientism." And if you can't answer a charge, what better thing to do than to confuse the issue?

The term "scientism" has been around since the late 19th century, but was known as a concept even in ancient times, and it has been applied frequently to the reductive mode of thought that sees all problems as reducible to strictly scientific problems. It's the "when all you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" problem many atheists have who are blind to their own scientifically unverifiable assumptions as well as the whole range of legitimate beliefs that are immune to scientific testability.

The two main responses of New Atheists like Jerry Coyne and Jason Rosenhouse, two scientific bulls who frequently wander into the philosophical china shop, are that a) their beliefs do not meet the criteria of scientism, and b) there are no such things as criteria for scientism anyway. It's kind of hard to hold both these mutually exclusive positions simultaneously, but it is a feat Jerry and Jason attempt in almost every post they write on the subject.

The fact that you can't just take the methodologies and conventions of one body of knowledge and indiscriminately apply them in other intellectual disciplines was understood as early as the 4th century B.C. In Book I, ch. 3 of his Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle asserts that it is the "mark of an educated man" that not every discipline admits of the same level of precision and that "precision ought not to be sought in the same way in all kinds of discourse."

In other words, you can't verify that, say, Caesar crossed the Rubicon with the same level of precision as you can determine the paternity of a child (at least today)--and you can't use the same methods to determine the former as the latter--and vice-versa.

To use a technical term: Duh.

It's a simple concept, really, but Coyne and Rosenhouse just doesn't seem to get it. So, first, they feign ignorance. Says Rosenhouse:
But I've never entirely understood what scientism actually is. The usual definition is that scientism is the blinkered belief that science is the only reliable “way of knowing,” but this is vague until we have sharp definitions of “science” and “way of knowing.”
And then there are those pesky terms "the" and "only". What do they mean? Are New Atheist scientists really so philosophically challenged that they can't understand a term that has been around in fairly common discourse in the scholarly community for at least 60 years?

Just pulling down a few random books from my office library shelves, I find very quickly this definition given by John Wellmuth, S.J., in the 1944 Aquinas Lecture at Marquette University. "The Nature and Origin of Scientism":
The word "scientism," as used in this lecture, is to be understood as meaning the belief that science, in the modern sense of that term, and the scientific method as described by modern scientists, afford the only reliable natural means of acquiring such knowledge as may be available about whatever is real. (pp. 1-2)
He not only defines it, he describes it and lists its three chief characteristics:
  1. "the fields of the various sciences ... are taken to be coextensive, at least in principle, with the entire field of available knowledge"
  2. "the scientific method ... is the only reliable method of widening and deepening our knowledge and of making that knowledge more accurate"
  3. "either that philosophy should be made scientific by conforming to the methods and ideas of some particular science, or that the function of philosophy is to correlate and if possible unify the findings of the other sciences by means of generalizing on a basis of these findings, after ridding itself of outworn metaphysical notions."
I find basically the same definition in F. A. Hayek's The Counter-Revolution of Science, where he describes it as:
the mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed ... a very prejudiced approach which, before it has considered its subject, claims to know what it he most appropriate way of investigating it. (p. 24)
"Such an attitude," Hayek quotes physicist P. W. Bridgman as saying, "bespeaks an unimaginativeness, a mental obtuseness and obstinacy, which might be expected to have exhausted their pragmatic justification at a lower plane of mental activity." (The Logic of Modern Physics, 1928, p. 46).

Then I grab for a third book: Life is a Miracle, by Wendell Berry, who discusses how "this legitimate faith in scientific methodology seems to veer off into a kind of religious faith in the power of science to know all things and solve all problems, whereupon the scientist may become an evangelist and go forth to save the world." (p. 19)

There you have it: a philosopher, an economics, a scientist, and a novelist, poet, and essayist, over a 60 year period, all of whom have no trouble negotiating the term "scientism." But Jerry Coyne and Jason Rosenhouse just don't get it.

Maybe it's that narrow scientific training they got. Doesn't seem to transfer over too well into all those other disciplines that are supposed to bend the knee to science, does it?

If there is a problem with this definition, then what is it? There are four basic criteria for a good definition:
  1. that it have both a generic and differentiating element
  2. that the definition and the thing defined be coextensive
  3. that the definition be clearer than what is defined
  4. that the definition be universal (and not individual: you can't define 'Obama', but you can define 'president')
You can find these in ch. 10 of my Material Logic. Wellmuth's definition (and the others) meet all four criteria. So what's the problem? The problem is that the question of what the limits of science are is not a scientific question, but you are arguing with people who think every question is a scientific question, including the question "What is a scientific question?"

The definition of "scientism" is essentially a philosophical endeavor, a kind of question in which Coyne and Rosenhouse have no formal expertise, much less any demonstrated informal facility, and what makes it worse is that they don't seem have a clue that they're insufficient to the task. It's somewhat analogous to a literature professor trying his hand at physics and wondering what all this stuff about time and space really means after all.

To Coyne and Rosenhouse it's all just a religionist plot concocted to cover their own intellectual illegitimacy: "The relevant distinction between scientific knowledge claims and religious knowledge claims is that the former are based on reliable methods while the latter are not." Reliable meaning "scientific." By definition, of course.

The answer? "We should reject totally," says Rosenhouse, "the idea that there are two kinds of knowledge, scientific on the one hand and religious on the other." I would pass this off as merely an attempt by someone trained only in the use of a hammer to redefine everything as a nail, but it is even more strange than that.

Instead of erasing the line between science and religion such that science engulfs religion, instead Coyne and Rosenhouse, in erasing the line between the two, end up only with ... religion. Their religion. It is the religion of science--or, as we said before, scientism. It is, said Berry, "the religification ... of science." The scientist is no longer the dull gray figure putzing around the lab. No. He must be seen in a more heroic role. The scientist now, says Berry, occupies the "place once occupied by the prophets and priests of religion."

But the argument that Coyne and Rosenhouse think is the most telling argument proving that they are not, in fact, guilty of scientism is the very clever procedure of engaging in it in the very process of denying it.

After arguing that this whole "scientism" thing is just a religionist plot (he would say "creationist" plot except the BioLogos people have been using the term), Rosenhouse waxes scientistic in the very process of denying the existence of scientism:
So I don't think it is unreasonable, in the context of these sorts of discussions, to define science very broadly. It just seems silly to me to say that scientific knowledge is one kind of thing, historical knowledge is something else, philosophical knowledge is a third and mathematical knowledge is a fourth. Mathematicians primarily use deductive reasoning in their work, but deductive reasoning is not some special, mathematical approach to knowledge that is separate from what scientists do. The primary tool of philosophy is dialectical argumentation, but this, too, is not something that is foreign to scientific practice.
In other words, how can there be such a thing as scientism (which is the belief that science is the only legitimate mode of intellectual inquiry) when, in fact, we know that science is the only legitimate mode of intellectual inquiry?

We know that everything is, in fact, a nail because, as you can plainly see, all we've got here hammer. QEP (Quod est procusum. Rough translation: "That which was to be proven hammered").

It's nonsense like this that contributes to people like Massimo Pigliucci, an atheist scientist who is at least capable of making a competent rational case for his beliefs, charging people like Coyne with "hero worship and a selective dearth of critical thinking."

26 comments:

Singring said...

'Reliable meaning "scientific." By definition, of course.'

Science and history both rely on empirical evidence to support their respective claims. That's why they are by and large reliable. You rely on them, after all, the moment you switch on your computer or when you go to get a prescription filled.

Philosophy - and especially theology - do not have reliable methods - which is why there is pretty much nothing philosophers or theologians of different stripes agree on. But, more importantly, there isn't even a mechanism that they could use to agree on something - this is the advantage of science.

In science, if I make a claim and scientist B disagrees with me, we can design an experiment or make observations that we both agree could demonstrate my hypothesis to be mistaken. If the experiment or observations do not contradict my claim, then (temporarily at least) it is validated, and the more often we repeat experiments or observations and the results do not contradict the hypothesis, the more we rely on it as being true. This is why 99% of scientists agree on things like the earth being spheroid, plate tectonics, evolution etc. There were many competing ideas and by the above methodology, those that were not true were discarded in a very short period of time.

What is the analogous mechanism in philosophy or theology, Martin? It has been more than two thousand years since the events in the Bible took place and yet you still can't even get those who believe in the Bible as the word of God to agree on their competing hypotheses, much less to figure out a mechnanism by which one or the other can be reliably discarded.

The same applies to philosophy. We still have (some) philosophers debating whether or not Aristotle's ideas about causation are true - thousands of years after they were first proposed! Darwin managed to convince over 99% of his successors of the truth of his claims in about 100 years!

And yet you are honestly trying to tell us that there are reliable methods for determining truth in philosophy and theology and that us 'scientismists' are way out of line when we laugh at the antics going on in philosophy and theology departments the world over.

33,000 denominations and counting.

What a success story!

'We know that everything is, in fact, a nail because, as you can plainly see, all we've got is there here hammer.'

Once again, Martin, I ask you: Could you name *one* question about reality that philosophy or theology has successfully answered where science has failed (and be careful about those tempting presuppositions)?

Andrew said...

I don't understand your third last paragraph Martin. Please show the logical structure more clearly, along with its relation to the quotation.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Philosophy - and especially theology - do not have reliable methods

So deduction is not a reliable method?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Science and history both rely on empirical evidence to support their respective claims.

The issue here is a) whether scientism exists and b) whether Coyne and Rosenhouse commit it. How does this address either of those issues?

Besides, from the fact that science and history both use empirical techniques (although history is largely dependent on documentary evidence) doesn't show that history is scientific, it just shows that they are both empirical disciplines.

I'm not sure exactly what that proves other than the obvious.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

In science, if I make a claim and scientist B disagrees with me, we can design an experiment or make observations that we both agree could demonstrate my hypothesis to be mistaken ... What is the analogous mechanism in philosophy or theology, Martin?

Logic.

Martin Cothran said...

Oh, and observation too.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

It has been more than two thousand years since the events in the Bible took place and yet you still can't even get those who believe in the Bible as the word of God to agree on their competing hypotheses, much less to figure out a mechnanism by which one or the other can be reliably discarded.

You mean there has not been a consistent core of belief centered around, for example, the statements in the Nicene Creed for 1800 years?

Not only is your denial of this falsifiable, it is false.

Singring said...

'So deduction is not a reliable method?'

'Logic.'

How do you validate the premises of your deductive arguments in philosophy?

'You mean there has not been a consistent core of belief centered around, for example, the statements in the Nicene Creed for 1800 years?

Not only is your denial of this falsifiable, it is false.'

A 'core of belief' is not the issue, Martin. The issue is that the Bible makes a multitude of philosophical and theological claims that not even theologians seem to be able to agree with - let alone Joe Public.

There are many Chrostians in yur very country who believe the church you belong to is of the devil and is headed by the antichrist himself - the fact that you try and suggest that all of you adhere to the Nicene Creed and therefore are theologically in agreement makes my point perfectly.

Thank you.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

How do you validate the premises of your deductive arguments in philosophy?

By prior deductions or experience. Unless they are self-evident, in which case they don't need to be validated.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

It has been more than two thousand years since the events in the Bible took place and yet you still can't even get those who believe in the Bible as the word of God to agree on their competing hypotheses...

Not only is this not the case, as I previously pointed out, but if changes in belief over the history of a discipline are going to be a measure of the legitimacy of that discipline, I'm afraid it isn't going to help your case very much.

Science changes all the time. The science of 200 years ago was very different in its conclusions from the science of 100 years ago, and that science from today. And the science of 100 years from now is likely to be quite different from that of today.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

A 'core of belief' is not the issue

No, excuse me. You made this claim:

"Philosophy - and especially theology - do not have reliable methods - which is why there is pretty much nothing philosophers or theologians of different stripes agree on.

Either you are backing of from your extreme claim here or you are saying that the central beliefs of Christianity--the very beliefs that differentiate it from other beliefs--are "pretty much nothing."

If it's the latter, I'd love to see your argument for it.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

There are many Chrostians in yur very country who believe the church you belong to is of the devil and is headed by the antichrist himself

They are wrong. That's not my problem. They still all belief in every one of the beliefs that were set forth at Nicea, which is the statement set forth to say what Christianity believed. It has believed these things ever since, and just because some protestant sects have added things to it does not change anything.

Can you give me any complete statement of the central beliefs science in the 4th century that are still believed today?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

And I'm interested in your general point here. I argued that scientism is illegitimate because it constitutes a religion of science. How does the fact that religion is not science (which seems to be your chief point here) count against my argument?

Singring said...

'By prior deductions or experience. Unless they are self-evident, in which case they don't need to be validated.'

So in other words: either you do it using science - or you just make them up as you go along and proclaim them to be 'self-evident'. Which creates the philosophical free-for-all we see. QED.

'but if changes in belief over the history of a discipline are going to be a measure of the legitimacy of that discipline,'

When did I say that?

*Of course* science changes with the evidence. That's the whole point. But that's just it - it changes with the evidence. Religions and their denominations pop in and out of existence willy-nilly (witness Mormonism or Mormonism as two recent examples) and wholly removed from the evidence.

My argument was that science has a *mechanism* by which to sort out the true from the untrue claims fairly reliably. That is why Darwin needed less than a century to convince virtually all biologists of his ideas, whereas Aristotle has been in and out of fashion as the times change. Once a scientific idea is discarded (say, creationism) - it stays dead because it has been falsified. Not so with religion or theology, which pop up again and again because philosopher X takes a fancy to them. There is no way to put them to rest because there is no such truth-detecting method to these disciplines.

If Aristotle's and following on from that Aquinas' ideas can be deductively shown to be true and this is the truth-detection method in philosophy - then why is the majority of philosophers atheist? Are you going to cook up some 'liberal conspiracy' excuse to explain this?

Seriously...

'If it's the latter, I'd love to see your argument for it.'

The Nicene Creed starts out to say that Christians believe in 'God'. Problem is that every denomination
believes in a different kind of 'God'. So right off the bat the Creed illustrates how - even in professing shared beliefs - Christians disagree. Or are you not a member of a church that believes in a God that has an earthly representative whereas other denominations believe in the exact opposite kind of God - one that has the Pope become the antichrist?

Call this a 'core' belief if you want - but if you do, it just illustrates my point.

'They are wrong.'

Oh?

Problem is, they would tell you the same thing.

By what *method* can you show me they are wrong?

How come, after 2,000 plus years of studying the same book using the supposedly so reliable methods of deductive logic, there are millions who still believe this - and theologians who still espouse it?

Singring said...

'They still all belief in every one of the beliefs that were set forth at Nicea, which is the statement set forth to say what Christianity believed.'

Problem is, that belief starts out with a 'God' that is drastically different among denominations - see above.

'Can you give me any complete statement of the central beliefs science in the 4th century that are still believed today?'

Of course not. But again, Martin - constancy of beliefs over time is not the argument I am making and the more you try and flog that horse, the deader it gets.

The argument is that scientific ideas are discarded if they are not supported by the evidence. This is why they are sorted out very quickly and a string scientific consensus tends to build rapidly. This consensus may change - if new evidence becomes available - but scientific ideas never revert back to what was believed a hundred or two hundred years earlier. This is a sign of strength in method. There are virtually no more flat-earthers, there are virtually no more heliocentrists, there are virtually no more creationists. Those scientific ideas have all globe the way of the Dodo.

The Bible has been around much, much longer than any scientific idea that is accepted today (as you point out yourself). So it should have had more time than even the oldest scientific idea to persuade any and all philosophers and theologians the world over.

And yet we see the exact opposite trend - in the competition between science and Christianity it has been a one-way street for the last five hundred years or so. How do you explain that if religion and philosophy have these reliable methods to sort out the true from the untrue?

Why are the competing ideas of Catholicism and Protestantism still around in force if there is a clear method to distinguish which is true and which is false?

'I argued that scientism is illegitimate because it constitutes a religion of science.'

Good question, it does get to the heart of the matter.

Your likening of scientism to religion implies that scientismist (I guess you would call them that) are dogmatic. Of course they are not, as Coyne and Rosenhouse have said. Scientismists simply see no good reason to believe that anything besides science provides us with knowledge of the truth about reality.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

So in other words: either you do it using science - or you just make them up as you go along and proclaim them to be 'self-evident'.

Only if you are practicing scientism do you think that science has a monopoly on deduction and experience. In fact, logic itself, which science uses, is a branch of philosophy, not of science.

And by "experience" I meant to include subjective experience.

Also, your comments here seem to suggest that scientists take nothing for granted as being self-evident. Is that what you believe?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

When did I say that?

You implied it in your first post.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring:

Religions and their denominations pop in and out of existence willy-nilly...

Either you are suggesting that all religions pop in and out of existence, in which case your suggestion is false and your argument fails; or only some religions pop in and out of existence, and, since science has the same problem--many scientific schools of thought having popped in and out of existence, in which case your argument tells just as strongly against science.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

My argument was that science has a *mechanism* by which to sort out the true from the untrue claims fairly reliably. That is why Darwin needed less than a century to convince virtually all biologists of his ideas, whereas Aristotle has been in and out of fashion as the times change. Once a scientific idea is discarded (say, creationism) - it stays dead because it has been falsified. Not so with religion or theology, which pop up again and again because philosopher X takes a fancy to them. There is no way to put them to rest because there is no such truth-detecting method to these disciplines.

And when you asked me what the methodology was in philosophy, I told you: deduction [and induction too, now that I think about it]. In philosophy if you find an argument to be inconsistent or in violation of experience or some other self-evident truth (experience after all only authoritative because it is self-evident, otherwise why do you accept it) you throw it out.

I don't understand what your problem with this procedure is. Do you have problem with deduction? Do you have a problem with the method of investigating an argument to see if it yields a contradiction?

And are you even aware that science depends for its methodologies on philosophy, since reasoning is itself a branch of philosophy? Where do you think science got its methodology in the first place?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

If Aristotle's and following on from that Aquinas' ideas can be deductively shown to be true and this is the truth-detection method in philosophy - then why is the majority of philosophers atheist?

Answer A: They're mistaken.
Answer B: On what basis do you believe that most philosophers are atheist?
Answer C: Even if most philosophers were atheists at the present time, most astronomers rejected Galileo's views during his lifetime. So what.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

The Nicene Creed starts out to say that Christians believe in 'God'. Problem is that every denomination
believes in a different kind of 'God'. So right off the bat the Creed illustrates how - even in professing shared beliefs - Christians disagree. Or are you not a member of a church that believes in a God that has an earthly representative whereas other denominations believe in the exact opposite kind of God - one that has the Pope become the antichrist?

Call this a 'core' belief if you want - but if you do, it just illustrates my point.


You apparently do not understand the distinction between an essential feature of something and an accidental feature of something. All Catholic and protestant denominations (with the exception of some pentacostals) agree in their view of God's essential nature: triune, everlasting, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, creator and sustainer of the universe. Always have.

All of these denominations agree on every section of the Nicene Creed with the one exception of the filioque clause, which Eastern Orthodox churches reject. The agree on everything and have implicitly for 2,000 years and explicitly for 1,600.

You have yet to give me any core set of scientific beliefs as exhaustive as those in the Nicene Creed that scientists have believed in for anything like that length of time.

I'm still waiting...

Singring said...

'And by "experience" I meant to include subjective experience.'

Oh, I understood that - I am perfectly familiar with the theological argument that runs something like 'I felt a warm glow when I got on the bus this morning - therefore God exists' line of argument and if you want to champion that as a way of confirming the truth of premises for deductive arguments, feel free to do so and see how far that gets you in terms of a reliable method.

'Also, your comments here seem to suggest that scientists take nothing for granted as being self-evident. Is that what you believe?'

Nope. Never claimed that, never believed it. Not the issue. Move on please, I thought you disliked topic-hopping.

'You implied it in your first post.'

I didn't. I explained clearly that my argument is based on the speed and success with which ideas are accepted in science vs. philosophy.

'...or only some religions pop in and out of existence, and, since science has the same problem--many scientific schools of thought having popped in and out of existence,... '

The operative term was 'willy-nilly', Martin. Religions come and go with the cultures, with the fashions or they are destroyed by scientific progress or - more frequently - by the aggression of competing missionaries. Or are you going to tell me that the Incas and Mayas converted based on the fact that they found the philosophical 'methodology' of Aquinas to be convincing? Are you telling me that Mormonism was founded on some kind of rational bedrock of philosophical methodlogy? Be serious now.

With every single major development in science we can point to precisely the evidence and the debate on that evidence using a clear, reproducible and agreed-upon methodology that has brought a change in scientific knowledge about. In those areas where the evidence is unclear or still developing, the debate rages on, as in comsology, quantum physics or cancer research, for example. Moreover, science *works*, which is illustrated by the fact that we are having this discussion even though we are separated by thousands of miles.

Which brings me back to my original question, which you sadly ignored once again:
Could you name *one* question about reality that philosophy or theology has successfully answered where science has failed (and be careful about those tempting presuppositions)?

Singring said...

'In philosophy if you find an argument to be inconsistent or in violation of experience or some other self-evident truth (experience after all only authoritative because it is self-evident, otherwise why do you accept it) you throw it out.'

Dismissing only arguments that are inconsistent or in violation of 'experience' (and incredibly vague term when used in this context, Martin) or that conflict with 'self-evident' truths is wholly insufficient to detect truth, this should be glaringly obvious to anyone.

Most of quantum physics violates everyday 'experience'. Do we then just through it out? What about 'subjective' experiences that you apparently want to include? I felt Vishnu's hand in my life this moring - therfore Vishnu exists? Is that how you want to detect detect truth? Or how about our vivid discussion of the 'purpose' of the sex organs'. You proclaimed that they 'self-evidently' had some metaphysical 'telos' - but not only that - you were able to tell us that they 'self-evidently' are only intended for one particular use.

But anyone can come up with any kind of nonsense, say it is 'self-evident' or that it intuitively appeals to them (formal and final causes are a good example) without any penalty whatsoever. After all, what is 'self-evident' is true by feat and as long as we can remain logically consistent we can cook up any kind of nonsense we like (Russel's teapot is a good start) and claim it as truth.

It is precisely this mess of competing metaphysical assertions and intuitive misunderstanding of nature that science has has to weed out, and thank goodness it has done such a good job of it, otherwise we verly likely wouldn't be sitting here today.

'Do you have problem with deduction? '

Again, where did I ever say that? I have a problem with how you get your premises from which you deduce things.

'Do you have a problem with the method of investigating an argument to see if it yields a contradiction?'

Not at all. But non-contradiction is nowhere near enough to reveal truth. A flat earth is logically consistent, so are pink unicorns.

'And are you even aware that science depends for its methodologies on philosophy, since reasoning is itself a branch of philosophy?'

So now you want to claim science for your side of the aisle? Fine, be my guest, play semantics all you want. I thought we were debating methodologies.

'Answer A: They're mistaken.'

Wow. I must say, that is a convincing argument. So they all get the methodology wrong then?

'Answer B: On what basis do you believe that most philosophers are atheist?'

There are not a lot of surveys out there, but have a look at this one:

http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

(you can read more about the survey if you click on the 'back to contents' link at the bottom of teh page)

Atheism comes in at 73 %, theism at 12.5 %. Even if the methods or sample population is way off, I think it would be still safe to say that atheist have a majority.

Singring said...

'Answer C: Even if most philosophers were atheists at the present time, most astronomers rejected Galileo's views during his lifetime. So what.'

Remember, we are discussing methodology and how reliable it is.

Within a hundred years or so of Galileo virtually every other fellow scientist accepted his ideas and they still are accepted today. Moreover, he laid out a clear methodology and line of argument based on the empirical evidence as to why his ideas were true. The same applies to Darwin.

Aristotle laid out his ideas more than 2,000 years ago and Aquinas over 700 years ago and if anything, they are losing out in a big way among philosophers - even though they had more time to convince their contemporaries than either Galileo or Darwin have had. What does this say about the reliability of any supposed philosophical 'method'. Deductive logic is meant to be pretty unambiguosu in its conclusions, so why, after 2,000 years, is there no consensus, nor any clear method as to sort out whether Aristotle actually got it wrong or right (I would suspect that the majority of atheist philosophers have dropped Arsitotle not because they can deductively prove he was wrong but simply because they see no reason to think he was right)?

'All Catholic and protestant denominations (with the exception of some pentacostals) agree in their view of God's essential nature: triune, everlasting, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, creator and sustainer of the universe. Always have.'

That's nice. But are you trying to tell me that theology has a reliably methodology if 33,000 denominations of Christians supposedly agree on some of God's characteristics but then are unable to agree on whether a gay man goes to heaven or hell (or if tehre even is a hell)? Not very convincing.

'You have yet to give me any core set of scientific beliefs as exhaustive as those in the Nicene Creed that scientists have believed in for anything like that length of time.'

Again, Martin - my argument in this context is not about the stability of 'cores of belief' over time, it is on the methodology and how repidly and successfully an idea is accepted within a discipline, which is illustrative of how reliable a method the discipline proviodes.

Get off that topic-hopping trampoline, Martin.

TC said...

"Aristotle laid out his ideas more than 2,000 years ago and Aquinas over 700 years ago and if anything, they are losing out in a big way among philosophers."

What are you talking about? Many of the most influential philosophers in the academy are Aristotelians: Martha Nussbaum, Alastair MacIntyre, etc. Even philosophers who don't really identify as Aristotelians are heavily influence by him: e.g., Putnam. Many of the greatest modern philosophers are deeply indebted to Aristotle: e.g., Hegel and Heidegger. Aristotle is one of the most studied philosophers in the academy.

You also seem to think there's some general philosophical method, which of course isn't true. Philosophers use many methods: predicate logic, sentential logic, traditional logic, deduction, induction, dialectic in all its various forms, phenomenology, deconstruction, historical methods, and on and on. These methods have varying degrees of precision, just as scientific methods have varying degrees of precision. To require a method to be more reliable than the subject allows, as Aristotle says, is a sign of a poor education.

Tauheed Sohail said...
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