Monday, May 11, 2009

Another reply to libtard

First of all, I genuinely appreciate your engagement with my arguments. So thanks for that. Now, to the business at hand.

You say: "Or are you arguing that science can be performed without the need for naturalism?"

The answer is yes. It is yes because I include reason as necessary to the truth seeking enterprise about the entire universe. Whether the subject is the physical world of sub-atomic particles in energy fields or language and information, mathematics, economics, etc..., reason is the Sovereign of truth. I use a capital "S" for a reason and it's explained in an earlier post. Reason is the ultimate authority of what is and is not true. Think not? Then argue with me about it and you are forced to reason. Facts are not "subject" to reason. They just are. But the explanation of those facts, aaah, now that's another story. Any explanation of anything that contradicts itself cannot possibly be true. Let me pick on the poster child for scientific irrationality, Richard Dawkins, who says that there is NO PURPOSE IN THE UNIVERSE on the one hand and then writes books about how the struggle to surive is at the bottom of the evolutionary process. Well, which is it? How is "struggling to survive" not purposeful? How is his writing a book not purposeful? His metaphysical claim is false or his empirical claim is. Actually, in this case, they both are false but that's another story. How anyone can take that guy seriously is beyond me. Way beyond.

If science is about making inferences from data (reasoning from effect to cause, essentially) then reason is part of the natural world. But they say it isn't. I don't get that.

The first question is ontological. What exists? If we get that wrong, everything else is wrong. But we can get that right through the exercise of pure reason. With apologies (not really) to Kant. But science rejects reason in that capacity yet relies on it for "scientific" explanations. Seems odd to me.


libtard said...

You made this statement: "All truth claims, whether "scientific" or "theological" must ultimately be grounded in facts about the world explained in a logical way."

Why? Early man could tell you that every day, without fail, the sun rises. But he could not say why (or made up a story to explain it). Science would call this an observation. Its also a truth, even without the capacity to understand or explain it.

There are two components to this; the observation that the sun rises, and a reasoning for that behavior of the natural world. The observation is a direct result of the natural world. Reasoning is a construct of man.

I do not claim that reasoning is part of the natural world; it most certainly is not. However, I do claim that all reasoning *about* the natural world must be based on observations of the natural world. And ultimately reasoning is persisted via thoughts in our physical brains, and language on physical paper, etc. (So in one sense, even our reasoning is a physical process, albiet one that we do not understand).

Yes, reasoning can occur without observations, but this reasoning is not with respect to the natural world. For example, a proof of the Pythagorean theorem can be constructed in a vast number of ways (at least 367). But all of these proofs rely on geometric of algebretic reasoning. Which leads us back to consider mathematics itself.

Where did math come from? Counting! And what is counting but observations of the physical world? Once one can count, the process can be abstracted; this is a gift unique to man. Abstractions such as math have a physical existence; in the human mind, and through written language. The Pythagorean theorem is an explaination of one aspect of our natural world, and remains true regardless if man knows about it or not.

To conclude, we currently live exclusively in the natural world. The natural world is governed by sets of laws, regardless if we understand them or not. If we wish to understand them, we observe, reason an explaination, and search for more observations to confirm or deny that explaination.

You said: "[Kurtz claims] Methodological naturalism is the only valid way to understand the natural world. Therefore, the natural world is all that exists. There is no logical connection between the two statements and both of them are patently false."

Well, what other way would you use to understand the natural world, other than by observing it, or using reasoning which is ultimately rooted in observations? Mathematics evolved from counting and geometry (the precursor to logic) from physical measurements.

We can make the same argument about another great abstraction, language. Based on the prevalence of less-than-language, but still true communication systems in other lesser species, it is reasonable to assume that man also had this faculty. Now as to why man can develop increasing degrees of abstraction is a rather unanswered question.

But the fact that we can develop abstractions in no way seperates us from the ultimate truth of the physical world. For example, if through a convoluted mathematical proof, you concluded that 2+2=5, a physical world observation would quickly prove this wrong.

It seems that you wish to claim that because man has developed abstractions, that naturalism is false. Is that right?

Can you give me an example of a truth upon which we both accept, that is not ultimately grounded in the natural world?

I do not claim that the natural world is all that exists, nor does naturalism, in my opinion. Rather it says that the natural world is all that we can *know*. In fact, even within this physical world, we can only 'know' about events within our "light cone". This does not preclude the existence of a higher being, alternate dimensions, heaven, etc. It does however preclude any sort of observation of those, and without direction observations, or the ability to infer existence via observations, we (or at least I) cannot definitively say from a scientific perspective that these things exist. Nor can I say they do not exist. But I can however say that we cannot observe them, and unless that changes, its unlikely they are causually connected to our natural world.

In this regard, naturalism is not at odds with the idea of "God as the watchmaker". In fact, the overwhelming complexity of the natural world that we observe actually gives some credence to this argument. But to causually connect the supernatural with the physical world is akin to nonsense; and I say this with respect; let me explain.

While your worldview of the supernatural's causal connection to the natural world may indeed be correct, I can offer an unlimited number of alternate supernatural causual connections. For example, consider the great number of variations of the Creation myth in various cultures. Which one is correct? Are any?

We do not know definitively how the Universe began (hopefully this we can agree on). But we can offer any number of explainations, as has been done since the dawn of man. Which one is 'best'? Naturalism suggests that the explaination that is consistent with physical observation is the 'best' explaination to use, at least while we reside within this natural world.

Naturalism makes no claims about the existence or non-existence of the supernatural, precisely because such a thing/world is not subject to natural observation.

RkBall said...

"Naturalism makes no claims about the existence or non-existence of the supernatural..."


RkBall said...

"Abstractions such as math have a physical existence; in the human mind, and through written language. The Pythagorean theorem is an explaination of one aspect of our natural world, and remains true regardless if man knows about it or not."

This raises the whole issue of the reality (or not) of abstracts. If the pythagorean theorem is true regardless of whether there is a man around to perceive it, then it seems to me it has an existence, regardless of whether or not it has a material manifestation e.g., on a piece of paper or in a brain.