But that's fine. I'm happy to talk about some of the subjects that were brought up, one of them by our beloved Singring, a German scientist whose incantation is "empiricism." He thinks if he repeats the term enough times, metaphysics will just go away and leave him alone.
Singring (and he is representative here of many in his scientistic tribe) has two basic problems: First, he mistakenly assumes that all philosophy and theology is non-empirical; and, second, he wrongly thinks there can be an empiricism free of metaphysics.
Let's concentrate on the first of these in this post: Are philosophy and theology non-empirical?
What Martin seems to forget is that philosophy and theology don't make the headlines because they don't do anything useful - they just produce hot air. When is the last time philosophy or theology cured a disease, invented a new material, increased crop yields? When is the last time philosophy came up with a truth that it can show is in fact true with a reliable, sturdy and transparent methodology?Hmmm. I guess I could ask when was the last time science proved the existence of God or answered the question how something could come from nothing (and, no, the equally philosophically naive Lawrence Krauss's completely incompetent handling of this question [in which he doesn't handle it at all, but pretends he does] doesn't count). To ask when the last time one discipline answered the questions of a completely different discipline is hardly a competent critique of that discipline and it's not a great way to inspire confidence in your ability to deal with these questions. But Singring has always been somewhat impervious to basic distinctions.
Nor does it help his case against philosophy when he admits he's not even familiar with any works of philosophy. There's no evidence that his knowledge of theology is even better. It kind of helps to actually know what you're talking about.
He takes the naive view that philosophers think deductively and scientists think empirically:
Scientists think differently. They look at empirical evidence (not 'intuitions', 'looks' or 'self-evident facts) and they see which hypothesis it supports. It's that simple.No intellectually serious person who has looked into this question would ever say this, of course, but it has become a sort of New Atheist mantra anyway.
Oops. Did I use the expressions "intellectually serious" and "New Atheist" in the same sentence? I promise never to do it again.
Singring talks as if a scientist just makes an observation and goes out shopping for the appropriate hypothesis, which is just sitting out there somewhere, ready-made. Either that, or maybe, poof! A hypothesis just appears in the scientists mind! To say that intuition doesn't play a major role in scientific discovery and hypothesis formation is not only to fail to make sense, but to betray complete ignorance of the history of science, another field in which Singring is clearly out of his depth. And the thing is you don't even have to know much about it to see that these kinds of statements are ludicrous. In fact, you only need to know just a little bit about, say, Einstein to know just how great a role these things play.
As Lutheran theologian John Warwick Montgomery has pointed out:
Little more that superficial naiveté lies at the basis of the popular opinion that science and theology are in methodological conflict because the former "employs inductive reasoning" while the latter "operates deductive"! In point of fact, both generally proceed retroductively, and neither is less concerned than the other about the concrete verification of its inference.Singring seems to have dispensed with his use of the specific term "induction." Maybe it had something to do with my pointing out to him that you can't champion David Hume's empiricism and then say that induction is a rationally justified procedure, seeing as Hume dispatched that belief so decisively that no one has ever been able to answer him. But that's what happens when you say things about philosophy without actually having read it.
Like many scientific inferences, the Higgs Boson "discovery" (if that's what it is--there seems to be some lingering doubt) is a prime example, not of anything even resembling strict empiricism. It is an example of "inference to the best explanation," or "abduction" (or "retroduction").
Scientists knew (in the tentative, scientific sense) the Higgs Boson particle was there before they found it. In the case of Peter Higgs (the "Higgs" of Higgs Boson), that was 1964. Why? Because they had empirical evidence of it? Absolutely not. They knew it existed because its existence was necessary in order for their theory of how other particles in an atom have mass. They knew it in the same way they knew Neptune existed before they had empirically observed it: because the positing of its existence was the only thing that could explain irregularities in Uranus's orbit.
The essential place of "imagination" in scientific theorizing has been greatly stressed by Einstein; and its role can perhaps best be seen by introducing, alongside induction and deduction—as, in fact, the connecting link between them-Peirce's concept of "retroduction" or "abduction," based upon Aristotle's type inference. "Abduction," writes Peirce, "consists in studying facts and devising a theory to explain them .... Deduction proves that something must be; induction shows that something actually is operative; abduction merely suggests that something may be.""Physical theories provide patterns within which data appear intelligible," says N. R. Hansen (quoted by Montgomery):
They constitute a "conceptual Gestalt". A theory is not pieced together from observed phenomena; it is rather what makes it possible to observe phenomena as being of a certain sort, and as related to other phenomena. Theories put phenomena into systems. They are built up "in reverse" retroductively. A theory is a cluster of conclusions in search of a premise. From the observed properties of phenomena the physicist reasons his way towards a keystone idea from which the properties are explicable as a matter of course.Induction, despite all its glamour (and despite that Hume showed that it is the last thing you can make sense of if you follow empiricism to its logical conclusion), doesn't play as big a role in science as people think it does, particularly in fields like physics, where abduction seems to be the preferred methodology.
But the more relevant point here is that the same methodology used by science (and one that Singring apparently never noticed) is used by philosophy and theology as well. Scientists uses it in the context of the investigation of nature; philosophers use it to determine whether their own metaphysical explanations best explain the known facts of the world; theologians use it to make the most sense of the revelatory truth they believe they have been given.
This fact puts the lie to the idea that Singring and Art (a University of Kentucky scientist) often repeat on this blog: that science has a reliable methodology to confirm its truth and philosophy and theology don't. In fact, in many cases they use the same methodology, only they apply it to different things.