Craig v Dawkins – sort of

As you might know, although he seems to have a lot to say about how bad the arguments for God’s existence are, Richard Dawkins has always refused the open offer from William Lane Craig to have a debate on the subject. Well, I just spotted this on William Lane Craig’s Facebook page:

I am currently in Mexico to participate in a conference called Ciudad de las Ideas, which is a conference modeled on the TED conference in the US.  It features lots of high tech people, sociologists, psychologists, economists, scientists, etc.

As part of the conference they´re having a panel of six of us debate on the question ¨Does the Universe Have a Purpose?¨  Well. to my surprise, I just found out that one of the three persons on the other side is Richard Dawkins! It´s true! I met him the other night.  When he came my way, I stuck out my hand and introduced myself and said, I’m surspised to see that you’re on the panel.

He replied, And why not?

I said, ¨Well, you’ve always refused to debate me.

His tone suddenly became icy cold. I don´t consider this to be a debate with you.  The Mexicans invited me to participate, and I accepted.¨ At that, he turned away.

¨Well, I hope we have a good discussion,¨ I said.

I very much doubt it,¨ he said and walked off.

So it was a pretty chilly reception!  The debate is Saturday morning, should you think of us.  I´ll give an update after I get back.

This should be very interesting!

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144 thoughts on “Craig v Dawkins – sort of

  1. I’m sure that Dawkins will be as out of his element delving into metaphysics as Craig would be discussing evolutionary biology. That being said, I am keen to hear (or watch) the outcome of the exchange.

    I’ve met Dawkins and he has the social skills of a plant.

  2. @The Atheist Missionary.

    I have to disagree with you regarding Dawkins’ social skills. You see, plants generally don’t have grating personalities. At the worst they give you hayfever.

  3. Looks like an interesting conference – a great range of speakers . Craig seems really out of place in such a line up and I had a hard time finding him.

    However, the panel Craig refers to is:

    Matt Ridley, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins
    vs
    Rabbi David Wolpe, William Lane Craig, Douglas Geivett

    The video of the debate is at Debate – La Ciudad de las Ideas 2010 – Does the Universe have a purpose? I guess the speakers use English – but the running translation probably interferes.

    I don’t know whether plants have great social skills or not but I have always been impressed by Dawkins honesty and fairness – not great skills for debaters. I met him at a book signing and he certainly does give his time willingly for those sort of things. Far more than I expected as it must be very demanding. The queue of people wanting signatures went back to the big bang.

  4. What did Craig ever do to Dawkins to receive such a cold response? He acts all friendly toward people like Alister Mcgrath, at least on TV but then acts like a total douche bag to WLC. Dawkins is a coward and a prick, no doubt about it.

  5. Ken, I’m a little surprised that you’d think William Lane Craig was out of place in this. With a topic like “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?” I would have thought that a zoologist like Dawkins would really be a fish out of water.

  6. Good grief! What a theatrical production. I’ll wait until the Spanish commentary is removed, but it will still be difficult to work through all of the over the top schtick.

  7. No, Glenn, I can understand why he was dragged in for that panel. But he and Geivett are not listed on the programme – presumably because they are not giving separate talks. Ridley, Shermer, Dawkins and the Rabbi are. And many of the other speakers on the programme for the conference (the panel is only a tiny part) are first class. The quality usually found at TED conferences.

    By the way the question of purpose is a philosophical question resolved in the scientific revolution. It’s actually central to Dawkins’ specialty and Darwins writings (where Dawkins has a lot if understanding a familiarity). It’s really a very old debate but I guess a central one in today’s culture wars.

  8. The scientific revolution resovled the question of purpose in the universe? Not even close. Science can’t even put its hands on that question because it lays beyind the domain of the scientific. It’s like science attempting to answer the question of whether or not the universe was intended. It has nothing to say.

  9. Well, the organizers of this conference and the panel discussion obviously don’t have such a hostile attitude or naive attitude towards science. It’s noticeable that the three panellists on one side have all written books on evolutionary science. The question of purpose is central here as the bias of the ancients had to be overcome to make any progress in understanding life. Dennett expressed it quite well in his contrast of sky hooks and cranes in his own book on Darwins contributions. So the organizers obviously saw these three could make an important contribution – as I said Dawkins seems an obvious choice having written so much on this subject.

    As for “scientism” I like Russell Blackford’s recent article where he expresses the belief that peoe who use that word ate usually guilty of intellectual dishonesty.

  10. As for “scientism” I like Russell Blackford’s recent article where he expresses the belief that peoe who use that word ate usually guilty of intellectual dishonesty.

    Yes, he “expresses the belief” but offers no argumentation– other than to say it’s wrong to use the word equivocally, but of course can’t give one example of anybody actually doing that.

    Allow me to express the belief that Russell Blackford is intellectually dishonest– I apparently don’t need to give any reasons for actually thinking that’s the case. Maybe some guys on my little “team” will “like” my blog comment.

    Next.

  11. Ron, you must lead a very sheltered life (and be new here) if you aren’t aware of examples of how this word is dishonestly used as a term of abuse (and avoidance of the real issues).

    If you think Russell is intellectually dishonest why not go over to his blog and let him know. he is, after all, the one to discuss the issue with. I am sure Russell is more than capable of giving you examples.

  12. The word “scientism” is perfectly acceptable and is easily defined as the belief that science is the only way to acquire knowledge.

    I find that those who don’t like the word are simply people who have at one time or another been guilty of scientism and would rather not have people point it out. Interestingly here, the idea that a biologist – by virtue of his scientific background – is capable of addressing the religious and philosophical (not scientific) question of whether the universe has a purpose is to exhibit scientism. it effectively says “well he’s a scientist, so of course he can answer it!” The fact that biology cannot even in principle answer questions of the purpose of the universe seems not even to occur to some people.

    Next people will think that zoologists can tell us whether or not God exists! Oh wait…. they’re already saying this.

  13. How facile. Instead of giving a substantive response to what I said, you merely appeal to common sense and call me names. I especially like how you appeal to his un-argued assertion here, and when it’s challenged here, you tell me to leave and do it somewhere else.

    You are intellectually dishonest Ken, and everybody here totally knows it! /sarcasm

    I find it amusing when people who clearly think they’re something apparently don’t know how to craft a basic argument. Clearly it matters not, because their little sheep are usually right there cheering them on: “I like what you just said!”

    You’re obnoxious. If you disagree you must be sheltered and new here.

  14. That’s how you define the word, Glenn – others define it differently. Eg, my on-line dictionary says “the belief that science alone can explain phenomena, or the application of scientific methods to fields unsuitable for it.”

    But the point is that it is almost always used inappropriately – to describe people who do not say that science should be used in areas which are clearly inappropriate. Usually the people using the word are actually trying to ring-fence reality to exclude science from what is a legitimate area of study – such as the formation of the universe, the origins and development of life, consciousness, origins and sources of morality, etc. And yes – usually the users are trying to claim those areas for their religion.

    I see it as dishonest because its an argument by default. if people believe their religion or philosophy is adequate to investigate a phenomenon – then they should argue the case, justify it. Not set up a straw man, claiming that a scientist is making a claim she isn’t and then using the “scientisim” label.

    As I say – it’s a cop out.

    If you want to argue that the universe “has a purpose” then do so. But do it positively, provide your reasons, give your evidence. Don’t argue by default using straw men or denying others input.

    Biology has no need to derive “a purpose for the universe”. It gets along swimmingly without postulating one. In fact those who postulate purpose in this area (eg special creationists and design merchants) have been incapable of making any progress. Evolutionary science has made incredible progress by adopting the crane, rather than skyhook approach. By ignoring “purpose.” Before doing so it was held back from any understanding.

    And not just biology.

    Human investigation used to be hamstrung by this imposed “purpose”. The history of science is really the struggle to look to reality, use evidence and validation against reality, instead of relying on a dictated “purpose.” As this evidential demand became more pronounced science made more progress. That is essentially the nature of the scientific revolution (and incidentally the source of the science-religion conflict of today). (This is what I taker from Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s rather poetic claim that “philosophy is dead”).

    I have developed these ideas in more detail in my review of Carniero’s book The Evolution of the Human Mind: From Supernaturalism to Naturalism – An Anthropological Perspective (see The human mind – a history).

  15. Ken you are right. Science is how humans know things not religion i don’t know why u waste ur time with religious ppl. If scientism is the belief that only science gives us knowledge then all atheists are believers in scientism as we should be. Empirical proof or it’s not true.

    Give them hell ken!

  16. 🙂

    If scientism is the belief that only science gives us knowledge then all atheists are believers in scientism as we should be.

    Thank you Donald for making our point better than any of us could!

    And to repeat what I said above:

    Clearly it matters not, because their little sheep are usually right there cheering them on: “I like what you just said!”

    Or in this case, “i lyk wat u just sed!”

  17. But the point is that it is almost always used inappropriately – to describe people who do not say that science should be used in areas which are clearly inappropriate. Usually the people using the word are actually trying to ring-fence reality to exclude science from what is a legitimate area of study – such as the formation of the universe, the origins and development of life, consciousness, origins and sources of morality, etc. And yes – usually the users are trying to claim those areas for their religion.

    We all know you’ll never actually substantiate these claims.

  18. OK Ron – here’s a practical test.

    Richard Dawkins has often been accused of “scientism.” He is often quoted out of context or misquoted to convey that impression.

    Do you think he is guilty of “scientism?”

    If so have a look at the video I am posting tomorrow (see Dawkins answers questions), note down where you think he is guilty of “scientism” and pass your comments on.

    We will all have the evidence in front of us so should be able to check out your claims.

    Alternatively you could search back through some of the comments here to see where I have been accused of “scientism” and check out those claims with me.

  19. Ken, substantiate your own claims. Stop attempting to shamelessly shift the burden in my direction, as if I’ve positively asserted anything here about scientism. I’m sure the word is used both correctly and incorrectly. I’m sure some people aren’t even sure what it means and have to check wikipedia to find out. I’m sure it’s been used in a dishonest way, and I’m sure it’s been used appropriately, but still objected to by dishonest people.

  20. Ken don’t be silly. The fact that Dawkins employs scientism does not mean that he does it every time he opens his mouth. How ridiculous, to select a clip and say “note down where you think he is guilty of “scientism” and pass your comments on.” Who, precisely (and be specific) has claimed that in that clip Dawkins endorses scientism? Somebody? Nobody?

    What childish false bravado.

  21. No, Ron, it was ropata who introduced “scientism”. He seems to have run off and I don’t know why you decided to have a go on the issue.

    Ropata is continually accusing me of “scientism” – always inappropriately of course. His problem is that he can’t accept that my beliefs on religion are different to his and resorts to name calling to avoid the real issues being debated.

    Yes, I agree most people don’t really understand the term. I think it’s really best in such situations to deal with real
    Issues instead of name calling.

  22. Glenn, I guess this: ” The fact that Dawkins employs scientism” is one of the “properly basic beliefs” you guys have! Some people use words like “fact” and “truth” very loosely

    I have usually found this claim evaporates as soon as real examples are considered.

    It’s just that this particular interview dealt with examples where people have misrepresented Dawkins in the past. It’s also very interesting because he comments on Sam Harris’s ideas on morality and science.

    Neve mind – it’s just that these claims can only be tested using specific evidence.

    But no skin off my nose.

  23. Properly basic belief? What a load of irrelevant twaddle you talk Ken.

    Ken, I don’t believe in communist retrials. Eventually when someone is challenged for the hundredth time to back up a claim, he ill say no. I have done it before, and the tactic of trying to wear me down by asking me to back it up again is a bit weak. I am not the only one to have noticed what Dawkins has said. I’ve done it before, and I have no need to do it again.

  24. I didn’t specifically accuse anyone of scientism in this thread. Merely offered an interpretation of the word. It seemed relevant after reading your blog Ken. I am having trouble reconciling some your recent comments about the purity of science not needing purpose, and the earlier (surprising) one that “the question of purpose is a philosophical question resolved in the scientific revolution”.

  25. And you weren’t convincing before either. And no you aren’t the only one making the “scientism” charge – but I do notice the common ideological comitments that these people have.

    But Dawkins is big enough to look after himself (and I guess he doesn’t concern himself with s blog like yours) and he certainly has his support – overwhelming support.

    There is no skin off my nose that some people have this hang up. mam not asking you to discuss it at all. I don’t give a stuff that you don’t like Dawkins – why should I?

    I am prepared, however, to debate with anyone who uses such silly accusations against me. Ropata had done so and run away when I mentioned Russell’s observation about intellectual dishonesty. I certainly don’t know why you should have stepped in for him.

  26. Ropata, so you return after I had given up. I don’t understand what you are saying which suggests you are misinterpreting me. However, have a look at the book review I mentioned above for a bit more depth.

    Now, you have often accused me of “scientism”. Are you changing your mind? And do you think such charges are honest?

  27. What does liking Dawkins have to do with anything? I was merely noting a knee jerk reaction to somebody’s use of the word scientism. It’s a helpful and clear word, and in Dawkins’ case it is accurate.

    Whether I “like” Dawkins or not has no bearing on things. See Ken, you are the one who tries to steer these things into a war of personalities.

  28. He seems to have run off and I don’t know why you decided to have a go on the issue.

    I didn’t “have a go on the issue”. I merely stated the fact that the blog article you were apparently so impressed with never actually presented an argument for its conclusion. I then pointed out that you similarly did not (and would not) substantiate your own claims.

    Nothing to see here folks, move along now.

  29. FWIW I think scientism is a pejorative term that denotes some kind of ideological prejudice. I think it is an appropriate description for the antics of some atheists who like to use science-y arguments as some kind of philosophical bludgeon against theism. However as Ken notes “Biology [and any other natural science] has no need to derive “a purpose for the universe”. It gets along swimmingly without postulating one.” So you agree that the hard sciences do not speak to meaning, purpose, ethics or love.

    However the interpretation of a result such as the Big Bang certainly does have deep implications – but this is venturing beyond the domain of physics/chemistry/biology etc into philosophy. Amateur delving into metaphysics can be really fascinating and fruitful and I enjoy it.

    But a faith based assertion that “science” is the only valid knowledge is indeed scientism. If material/empirical “reality” is the only valid premise then a conclusion of atheism is just a tautology.

  30. Ropata, you are in fine form tonight. What a load of theological bafflegab – rubbish.

    I think Russell is perfectly correct. Most people who rely on the pejorative term “scientism” are intellectually dishonest. You are certainly demonstrating this.

  31. ropata: Ken is understating the facts. It’s not just that biology doesn’t need to derive a purpose for the Universe. Biology cannot do so. Nor can any oof the other sciences. That’s why it’s strange that someone like Dawkins would presume to anser this philosophical and religious question.

  32. I think Russell is perfectly correct. Most people who rely on the pejorative term “scientism” are intellectually dishonest. You are certainly demonstrating this.

    Ken, in Russell’s poorly written and poorly argued blog post, he asserts very specifically that people who use the term “scientism” are often intellectually dishonest because they use the term equivocally. That is, he claims, they start with some general pejorative meaning in mind, but switch to a specific, non-pejorative technical meaning when challenged.

    Ropata clearly hasn’t done this. You probably didn’t even read Russell’s silly little article and merely gleaned enough to be able to triumphantly state, “Russell says that people who say “scientism” are dishonest. HE IS RIGHT!”

  33. Butt out, Ron. Ropata and I have a bit of a history in this conflict. He is always misrepresenting and emotionally attacking me. I quite enjoy it – and especially like to provoke him. These sort of silly attacks really don’t worry me at all. It’s a sport.

    But of course he is using the word completely inapropristely and dishonestly. It’s a way of avoiding the real issues – as the derogatory labeling of people usually is.

    It basically comes down to him being unhappy that someone can have different ideas to him and that he can’t effectively challenge them.

  34. Butt out, Ron.

    It’s understandable that you don’t want me pointing out your blatant errors because you don’t have the tools to effective challenge anything I say. If you don’t like it, you can stop posting here. I guarantee you won’t be missed.

    He is always misrepresenting and emotionally attacking me. I quite enjoy it – and especially like to provoke him. These sort of silly attacks really don’t worry me at all. It’s a sport.

    Nobody cares. Nobody is impressed.

    But of course he is using the word completely inappropriately and dishonestly.

    But of course you are unable to actually present an argument and so resort to merely asserting that such is the case. You don’t seem to understand that making contentious claims while offering no evidence or argumentation is not persuasive. This is why I usually don’t take people whose academic or professional background is science very seriously (unless they are actually discussing science).

    Lightweight. Go play with test tubes or something.

  35. I’m amused that back in comment 17, Ken said that Glenn’s definition of scientism is not the only one – and then proceeded to quote another definition that is very similar to Glenn’s. Not a WHOLE lot of difference between “science is the only way to acquire knowledge” and “science alone can explain phenomena.”

    You’ll notice that the definition Ken quotes also includes somewhat of the pejorative form of the word as well. Maybe all those “dishonest” people are just using the same online dictionary as Ken is.

  36. Interesting, CPE – you missed out “the application of scientific methods to fields unsuitable for it.” And this is the meaning that is commonly used and that ropata keeps using.

    Covering up something?

    There is also a completely unpejorative meaning – just the act of doing science. But we all understand in what sense the word is used here. Clearly pejorative. And considering the specific uses it is intellectually dishonest.

  37. In some other discussions I have noticed that atheists tend to assume their intellectual superiority and then signally fail to understand some simple points. Probably deliberate in Ken’s case, I could make a perfectly factual comment about something on his blog and then face half a dozen self-serving and didactic denials and a few insults for good measure (usually from others). I hope that is not representative of the academic community.

  38. Ah, ropata – you have to say that, don’t you. Got to hate those atheists!

    After all your god says ( Psalm 14:1:

    “The fool says in his heart,
    ‘There is no God.’
    They are corrupt, they do
    Abominable deeds,
    There is none who does good.”

    So that settles it. You have got to hate them.

    Mind you one could be more charitable and recognise that the internet brings out the worst in people (bit like like cars). How often do you find that lone individual who tries to make an honest point and the heavy mob moves in to surround her, kicking her in the guts.

    But ropata – you are not one of them – you say some incredibly stupid and hostile things (I can understand Cedric as I agree sometimes the only way to treat fools is ridicule).

    Perhaps I should put together a list of you gems in one place where people can see how silly you have been in your comments on my blog. Bit like Dawkins reading his hate mail – eh?

  39. Ken, Ken, Ken. How on earth could you possibly think I was ignoring the second part of that definition when I point out that “the definition Ken quotes also includes somewhat of the pejorative form of the word as well”? The definition you quoted has both. Furthermore, it’s not hard to see how someone could conflate the two without any sort of dishonesty – one merely has to think that there are areas in which scientific methods do not apply, and ta-da! The assertion that science is the only way to knowledge pretty simply implies that attempts to apply it to those areas are inappropriate.

    And where on earth does anyone define “scientism” as “the act of doing science?” It’s certainly not anywhere in the definition you quoted! Or any other I’ve ever heard.
    Sounds on par with redefining “atheism” to mean “agnosticism” to make it less offensive. You aren’t fooling anyone.

  40. Ken, thank you for so elegantly demonstrating my point. 🙂

    I admit I have made some intemperate comments on your blog, usually after a long discussion that has descended into farce despite my efforts to communicate using stuff called “evidence” and “logic”.

    I hope Dawkins tries your tactics in the upcoming debate.

  41. Hmm – seem to have lost my reply to CPE. Must have been the boozy afternoon yesterday.

    CPE the first part of the Word on-line dictionary definition for “scientism” is:

    “the use of the scientific method of acquiring knowledge, whether in the traditional sciences or in other fields of enquiry”

    I must say I never hear people use this definition – perhaps because it is not pejorative whereas those using the term usually mean it negatively.

    Just a small question (and putting aside the elephant in the room about how sensible it is to ask what the purpose of the universe is):

    If you think there is a purpose to the universe, why do you think so? What is your evidence? How did you determine your answer?

    Everyone here seems to be so busy attacking science as a way of understanding reality – they say absolutely nothing about the “other way of obtaining knowledge” that they claim to use. The old argument by default, eh?

  42. Alright, thanks for corroborating.

    I suspect that one reason why people tend to use “scientism” mostly in a negative sense is that the neutral sense, well, has more common terms. Like, “doing science.”

    These people who are supposedly “dishonest” in their use – when confronted on their pejorative use and asked for a definition, which definition do they use? If it’s the definition of simply “doing science,” then that’s silly of them. But if it’s the belief that “science is the only way to know, y’all” then there is no inconsistency, is there?

  43. OK CPE. But what about my questions? What are these other ways of knowing? Which one is used to claim a purpose for the universe? How was that question answered? What evidence was considered?

    Isn’t talk of “scientism” just a cover? For the fact that one can’t think io a credible other way to know? Nor can one refer to evidence to justify the claim of purpose?

    And WTF is that purpose you have detected, anyway?

  44. Ken, if it’s not “sensible” to ask whetgher or not there is purpose in the Universe, then why do you think Dawkins is well equipped to answer the question?

  45. Come on Geoff – watch the debate if you are seriously interested in Dawkins’ explanation.

    But what about you having a go at my questions – or are you faking it as well? Seeking to avoid the real issue? Using “scientism” as a smoke screen? Have no idea what these other ways of gaining knowledge are?

    Or just afraid of appearing silly?

  46. Ken – avoidance? I believe I am the one who first pointed out that is was strange for a zoologist to address questions of purpose in the universe.

    You defended Dawkins for doing so, claiming (incorrectly) that the concept was integral to some of his work.

    Now Ken v 2.0 suggests that the question isn’t even sensible. All I have done is remind you of what Ken v 1.0 said. How can you accuse me of avoidance?

    If other people acted as confused (or duplicitous) as you are now, you’d immediately tell them that they were jelly wrestling and angaging in a “typical debate tactic.”

    Get your version of the story straight: Is it sensible for a zoologist to claim expertise in this question or not? If so, then why do you now suggest that the question isn’t sensible? If not, then why did you earlier suggest that Dawkins was well qualified to answer the question?

  47. You guys can certainly weave a story, can’t you? I suppose it’s part of the training.

    It’s well understood how Darwin broke through the purpose prejudice with the concept if natural selection. Introduction of Dennett’s cranes and replacement of the religious sky hooks which had never worked. As a specialist on Darwin I guess the conference organizers saw Dawkins as one of the obvious panel members. Especially as he was already presenting at the conference. And he certainly does attract the crowds

    Now to get back to my questions? What about some answers? Or will you continue avoidance by attempting to spin your little story even further?

    Come on – what is your problem? Why do you use “scientism” as a smoke screen? Why are you ashamed to describe your other ways of knowing?

    Not used to honest scrutiny?

  48. Ken, so when someone recounts precisely what you said, they’re weaving a story?

    See, you wax rhetorical about dishonest “debate tactics,” and then you do it yourself. If you don’t want to explain the conflict between your comments, that is fine. But it’s not honest to imply that you’re the one trying to get straight answers. You’re ducking and weaving to avoid them.

    You have yet to give a straight answer: You have suggested that the question of purpose in the universe isn’t even a sensible one, and you’ve also said that Dawkins is ideal to answer it. You have done nothing to explain this conflict. Instead now you have just gone back to your earlier view that Dawkins is the man for the job!

    Utterly evasive Ken, as always.

    Now, you didn’t originally direct your question to me, so I cannot be accused of evading it. However, one very obvious way of acquiring knowledge that doesn’t involve any of the sciences is logical inference, either from analytic truths or from other truths that might be scientific or might not.

    There, I have answered your question explicitly. I gave one method of obtaining knowledge that doesn’t employ the sciences. Now, if you’re not feeling too evasive, would you mind explaining your apparently conflicted view over whether or not the question of purpose in the universe is a sensible one?

    Thanks.

  49. “You have suggested that the question of purpose in the universe isn’t even a sensible one, and you’ve also said that Dawkins is ideal to answer it. You have done nothing to explain this conflict.”

    There’s no conflict. The obvious answer is that people who are not sensible have the best competence to answer questions that are not sensible. Therefore, Dawkins is the ideal person to answer this question. 😉

  50. Why do the words blood and stone keep coming to mind.

    Anyway, thanks Glenn for your description of “another way of knowing.”

    However, I can’t understand why you claim this “doesn’t employ the sciences.” I certainly in my work used “logical inference, either from analytic truths or from other truths that might be scientific or might not.” Very often. It is an important part of the scientific process. But only a part. (The scientific relvolution did not by any means throw away logical inference).

    Logical inference was an important part of my speculation and of arriving at hypotheses. Of course the aim was always, wherever possible, to test these hypotheses and validate any resulting ideas and theories against reality. That is the other extremely important part of modern science.

    My experience told me that one must beware of “logical inference” in isolation. Why? because I often found my speculations, hypotheses etc., were wrong. (Discovering mistakes in ones thinking is an important and normal part of the scientific process). I discovered they were wrong becuase I mapped them against reality. (Yes I know in theology one never does this so one can always assure everyone that one is 100% correct).

    This is not to say that there is something wrong with “logical inference”. Just that we are all human. Our human desires and prejudices inevitably get involved. This effects the purity of our logic, and our choice of starting premises. (There is also the extremely interesting point that Frank Wilczek argues – classical logic proves to be inadequate in the investigations occurring at some of the boundaries of our knowledge – at least in modern physics).

    So here we are. I have been using one of your other “methods of obtaining knowledge” all along. I thought it was part of science – who am I kidding, of course it is part of the scientific method.

    But it does make me wonder about those people accusing me of “scientism.” Of ignoring “other methods of obtaining knowledge.” If this is what they mean by “other methods.”

    Similarly these criticisms of Hawking for his “scientism”. For his suggestion that M theory is a candidate for a “theory of everything.” Turns out all along that he has just been using your “other method of gaining knowledge.” Logical inference.

    Of course that is why there is criticism from the scientifically literate who love to point out that M theory has not yet been tested. Not mapped against reality. That it is not a theory, more an hypothesis or even just speculation. (A point, incidentally, that Hawking well appreciates).

    So, this is what all this hysteria about “scientism” is based on. Interesting. Just goes to show this science-religion conflict has not really changed in essence over the last 400 years.

  51. Yes Zen. Actually that’s what the modern scientific method is all about. One validates the ideas/theories one forms through experience by having new experiences – testing against reality.

    Can you tell me what these other ways are of knowing that people like me, guilty of “scientism’ are ignoring?

  52. Forgive me, but it doesn’t seem as though the fact that a legitimate way of knowing, such as by logical inference, can be embedded or form a necessary part of a separate way of knowing, such as inductive inference, should lead us to disqualify the former way of knowing as a way of knowing in its own right. The fact that I might make logical inferences in scientific investigation does not make it the case that I cannot use solely deductive inference to know that no one both exists and does not exist at one and the same time. Wasn’t that meant to be the strength of Dr. People’s claim that logical inference ‘doesn’t employ the sciences’?

  53. However, I can’t understand why you claim this “doesn’t employ the sciences.” I certainly in my work used “logical inference, either from analytic truths or from other truths that might be scientific or might not.” Very often. It is an important part of the scientific process. But only a part. (The scientific relvolution did not by any means throw away logical inference).

    Ken, you are not explaining how logical inference employs the sciences.

    You are describing the opposite: how the sciences employ logical inference. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not what I said. What I said is that strict logical inference doesn’t employ the sciences, and yet it is a way of knowing.

  54. So Glenn, you accept that science uses logical inference. We are on the same page.

    But I am asking for a description of other ways of knowing which science doesn’t use. The argument that is used to justify the derogatory labeling of me and other scientists as guilty of “scientism” because (it is claimed) we don’t acknowledge them.

    It really surprises me after all this criticism you guys are not prepared to describe these other ways. Obviously you are so used to justifying these “other ways” by default (by pointing to limitations of scientific method only) and are completely stumped when asked to front up with a description of these “other ways.”

    I really thought someone would do better than this.

  55. Ken, we aren’t on the same page because you haven’t grasped this point yet:

    Logical inference is a way of knowing that does not depend on science. Science may use logical inference, but you can use logical inference to know things without using the sciences at all. So it’s a way of knowing that’s independent of science.

    You didn’t ask for a way of knowing that scientists didn’t use. You asked for a way of knowing that doesn’t use science. I have given you one.

    To be honest I didn’t expect better from you than this.

  56. Glenn, you are attempting to create a conflict which doesn’t exist. We both accept that logical
    Inference is part of the scientific process. It always has been but of course is integrated with empirical enquiry in much of science today . Certainly wherever possible .

    But the charge has been made that I ignore “other ways of knowing.” CPE talks of “scientism” as the belief that “science is the only way to know, y’all”. That charge has been laid against me and other scientists like Dawkins.

    Now I can think of ways we make decisions outside of science. These involve emotion, instinct and judgement. Scientific information helps but in the end the non-scientific processes are involved in the judgements. They must be. It’s the nature of our species.

    So I want your examples of what you mean by claiming that I ignore “other ways of knowing”. You may be right but I want you to tell me what they are.

    So far you mention only logical inference which clearly I don’t ignore or reject. I use it.

    Perhaps you are arguing for pure logical inference divorced from reality, from any checking or validation. If that is the case I can understand why you might be supporting it as “a way of knowing”. But if you are then you are only going back to the time before the modern scientific revolution when the conflict between pure logic and empirical approaches raged. That is well settled now but I can appreciate that some do want to return to that time. That is certainly a strong factor in the Wedge Strategy.

    But if that is your case, then I have presented reasons why pure logical inference has problems. I don’t reject it but only use it with an awareness of it’s limitations and in cases where it is not possible to check and verify against reality. I think that is the case with most scientists.

  57. Ken, I am not attempting to create a conflict.

    There is no conflict between logical inference and science. I never said there was. The point, which you’re choosing not to acknowledge, is that logical inference is a way of knowing that does not employ the sciences.

    It is just naive to say, as you do, that pure formal logic without empirical reference is going back to before the scientific revolution. Logical inference is a tool that existed long before science. Scientists recognised this, and they used it, but logic stands or falls without science.

    I have not seen any reasons from you as to why pure logic has problems. For instance:

    ~(A.~A)
    A
    Therefore ~(~A)

    This is pure logic. It is true. It presents a way of knowing, and the sciences have nothing to do with it.

    Therefore you are mistaken if you think that science is the only way of knowing, and all the charges of scientism stick like glue. I suspect you don’t even know what the above logical notation even means, which is why you should have asked for help rather than justa ssuming that you know the facts of the case. Oh wait, you’re a scientist. You don’t need other disciplines. 🙂

  58. Actually Glenn my concept of science is not narrow and I have always understood that what we call philosophy has in the past been our science. And of course the human attempt to explain, understand and know go well back before philosophy was recognized.

    But I think I get the message that you are promoting a pure logic as an alternative to science. In other words you are promoting a logical process divorced from reality – from checking and validation.

    I think I have made clear the problems I see in this . Something I would only use in situations where checking and validation are not possible. Bit like M theory. So with those limitations I don’t see pure logic as an alternative to science.

    But in the current disputes between science and religion I detect your argument as common on the religion side. Of course I can see why this is promoted, and why the Wedge Strategy promotes it. Reality is a bugger isn’t it? It can destroy the most passionately supported beliefs. Better to avoid it.

    Still it’d been an interesting exercise. When these arguments by default get challenged one sees how fragile they are. Even the most vocal suddenly seem to want to hide away or divert the discussion.

  59. Ken, nobody is presenting logic as an alternative to science. You pulled that out of thin air.

    All I have said is that logic is a way of knowing that is not dependent on the sciences. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s no diversion here. You haven’t given a single reason to doubt this. All you’ve done is try to divert by trying to put different claims in my mouth. I get the feeling that you really know what logic is and that’s why you’re not comfortable with the idea. As painful as it might be to countenance the thought that the sciences are not the exhaustive domain of knowledge, it might be time to consider this new idea (new to you, anyway, but not knew to philosophers – or scientists!).

  60. As I said, Glenn, we are on the same page. Logic cannot be an alternative to science. – its a component of science.

    But I have been asking for the alternative “other ways of knowing”. Neither you, ropata, zen tiger, Haecceitas, Geoff, Anon or Ron have been able to answer my question. None of you. Despite this common charge accusing me and other scientists of “scientism” – which implies a rejection of these other ways of “knowing.” You even repeat this by implication in your last comment suggesting it is painful for me to acknowledge “the sciences are not the exhaustive domain of knowledge.”

    (You purposely ignore my comment “Now I can think of ways we make decisions outside of science. These involve emotion, instinct and judgement. Scientific information helps but in the end the non-scientific processes are involved in the judgements. They must be. It’s the nature of our species.” – I guess your way of knowing is to ignore evidence!!)

    So a complete fail on your part guys. When push comes to shove you just shut up an run away.

    Although I think, Glenn, there is something in what you say. While logic is certainly not an alternative to science, reliance on pure logic in the absence of evidence, and ignoring evidence, ends up to be an alternative – or at least an alternative that produces different answers, and convenient answers.

    It’s really a “stripped down” version of science where the empirical aspects are rejected.

    But actually its a return to more primitive “ways of knowing” and no-one in their right mind would surely advocate it as an alternative to today’s science. Except, of course, for the reasons I mentioned earlier it does have the advantage of producing answers which confirm one’s biases. Just as long as you keep them away from evidence.

  61. But I have been asking for the alternative “other ways of knowing”. Neither you, ropata, zen tiger, Haecceitas, Geoff, Anon or Ron have been able to answer my question.

    It’s called logic Ken.

    Nevermind – this is the best you’ve got, it seems. If you weren’t able to understand after the explanation I’ve already given to try to help you, then it’s not going to happen.

    Don’t worry about it.

  62. So a complete fail on your part guys. When push comes to shove you just shut up an run away.

    There is not one instance of you challenging me that I did not respond to. Prove me wrong you liar.

    It is you who has refused to substantively respond* to a number of my posts (e.g. 13, 20, 36 and 38) where I shellacked you, and not just in this thread.

    You are intentionally being dishonest. You are a bad person.

    * Examples of responses that are not substantive are: calling me names (“sheltered”), telling me to post somewhere else, telling me to “butt out”, appealing to common sense, trying to shift the burden of proof to me and merely asserting your contentious claims with no evidence or argumentation (“but of course…”).

  63. Ron, I have been asking for examples of these “other ways of knowing” – alternatives to a scientific approach. This is basic to the charge of “scientism” and I think the fact that no-one has produced an alternative (with the possible confused exception of Glenn) Russells’ suggestion of intellectual dishonesty seems quite realistic.

    However, perhaps you could overcome your silly anger long enough to give your own alternative “way of knowing.”?

    Or perhaps IIon could do so?

    You know what it means if you can’t though?

    You should stop using the “scientism” word.

  64. Hear that Ron? Your problem is that you’re angry. Here, lie down on this couch. 😉 Ken doesn’t recognise actual examples when they are handed to him and generously explained when he has difficulty, so I think it’s safe to say that his chest beating can be ignored.

  65. I have been asking for examples of these “other ways of knowing” – alternatives to a scientific approach.

    You never asked me. In fact, this never came up between us. I stopped responding to your posts when you conspicuously ignored a number of aforementioned shellackings.

    So the fact that you included me in your list of people who have not been “able” to answer your question and that “run away” just shows what a bad person you are. Shame on you Ken.

    This is basic to the charge of “scientism” and I think the fact that no-one has produced an alternative (with the possible confused exception of Glenn) Russells’ suggestion of intellectual dishonesty seems quite realistic.

    Russell actually gave an example of this in his own article– you know, the one you never actually read? Here: I don’t think…that distinctively scientific techniques are much use in understanding or staging Macbeth, or that studying great literature is useless anyway.

    There. We learn about and understand literature and art through methods that are not distinctively scientific.

    Moreover, Glenn’s example is good enough on its own. So when he confronts you with “a way of knowing” that doesn’t use science, you just blatantly and dishonestly alter you challenge to: But I am asking for a description of other ways of knowing which science doesn’t use.

    Hilarious. Well yes, Ken, science uses experience and observation through the senses and the various types of logical inference. For you to dismiss a persons answer to your challenge because their answers just are (or employ) experience, observation or inference is just beyond laughable. I can see right through your flimsy and dishonest little tactic, junior. You keep giving us reasons why we shouldn’t really take “scientists” seriously about anything but actual science. 🙂

    However, perhaps you could overcome your silly anger long enough to give your own alternative “way of knowing.”?

    1. You are blatantly lying about me. My anger is therefore justified and not “silly”.

    2. This challenge of yours is eerily similar to this: http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/index.php/homosexuality-and-islam-two-unpopular-statistical-realities/comment-page-1/#comment-5302

    You remember Ken, The Atheist Missionary kept begging someone to give one example of how the percentage of homosexuals in a population could be “relevant to anything”. You joined hands with TAM and blathered “As most people here seem to have accepted the survey numbers may be fairly correct they ask “so what?’ And surely that is the real interesting quesdtion. But Glenn, and the rest of you, have ignored TAM’s repeated question”

    I then rattled off three examples off the top of my head. In response, TAM was not “able” to respond to me and “ran away”, and you summarily dismissed my examples as “minor”. To this, I gave a such a devastating response to you that you in turn “ran away”.

    You know what it means if you can’t though? You should stop using the “scientism” word.

    Don’t be silly. Even Russell, in his poorly written and poorly argued article, acknowledged that there is an appropriate use the of the term. Sorry, I keep forgetting that you never actually read it.

  66. Ron – “Moreover, Glenn’s example is good enough on its own. ”

    I’ll put you down as another one for pure logic as an alternative to science then. That makes 2.

  67. Ron, I will be producing a post at Open Parachute on this suggested “other way of knowing.” There is a story in it and it is worth making the philosophical points – in depth. (I think they would be wasted here, anyway).

  68. Hear that Ron? Your problem is that you’re angry. Here, lie down on this couch. 😉

    Ha! My problem is that Ken is a passive-aggressive, dishonest troll who just makes stuff up as he goes.

    Ken doesn’t recognise actual examples when they are handed to him and generously explained when he has difficulty, so I think it’s safe to say that his chest beating can be ignored.

    In all honesty, he should be ignored, but I just can’t help myself. It’s a major problem.

    Just for the joy of it, here is a paraphrased version of Ken’s recent “challenge”, the responses to it, and his dishonest replies (with comment number references).

    Ken (45): People who attack science as a way of understanding reality say nothing about “other way of obtaining knowledge” [me: right off the bat, Ken dishonestly sets up a straw man by claiming that people attack science as a way of understanding reality.]

    Glenn (48): [responding to something else Ken said in (45)] If it’s not “sensible” to ask whether or not there is purpose in the Universe, then why do you think Dawkins is well equipped to answer the question?

    Ken (49): [“runs away” from Glenn’s legitimate reply to (45) because he is not “able” to answer it] You’re avoiding my questions.

    Ken (51): [responding to Geoff’s quip in (50)] You can’t answer my questions either. What other ways are there of gaining knowledge? [me: note right off the bat Ken’s bizarre implication that there are no ways other than “science” of gaining knowledge. In Russell’s article, he actually says that people who make these claims can legitimately be accused of scientism. Ken doesn’t know this because he still hasn’t actually read the article]

    Glenn (52): [Dismantles Ken regarding the sensibility of asking about purpose– which was one of the original issues here before Ken went off on a ridiculous tangent regarding scientism and an article that he never read.]

    Ken (53): [changes his mind again about the question of purpose not being sensible] You’re still avoiding my questions. Why are you ashamed to describe your other ways of knowing?

    Glenn (55): [points out that Ken keeps flip-flopping on the sensibility of asking about purpose] You didn’t ask me the question, so you can’t say that I’m avoiding it [me: Ken has the tendency of asking specific people questions, and then then accusing everyone on the board of “avoiding” him when specific person doesn’t answer within a few hours. But when someone does reply to a post not addressed to him, Ken tells them to “butt out”. True story (37)] But if you want an answer, logical inference is a way of acquiring knowledge that doesn’t use science.

    [me: right here an honest person would have just conceded that Glenn gave a perfectly reasonable and true answer to Ken’s silly challenge. But Ken isn’t about to go out like a punk!]

    Ken (57): How can you say that logical inference doesn’t employ the sciences? Science uses logical inference! [me: yes, this is actually his response] You can’t use logical inference by itself. [rambles on for paragraphs about how science uses logical inference, then bizarrely concludes that since he and others (Hawkins) use logical inference, they should therefore not be charged with scientism. Me: Yes, this really is his argument]

    ZenTiger (58): Experience is a way of knowing that doesn’t use science.

    Ken (59): Experience is basically what science is. [me: at this point it should be obvious to any semi-intelligent person what Ken’s tactic is]

    Glenn (61): [points out the obvious] You are not explaining how logical inference employs the sciences. You are describing the opposite: how the sciences employ logical inference.

    Ken (62): But I am asking for a description of other ways of knowing which science doesn’t use. [me: Ken just blatantly changes his challenge. What can you even say to a person like this? No really. How can Ken live with himself after being this dishonest on a public forum?]

    Glenn (63): [basically repeats what he said in (61), seeing that there isn’t much else he can do at this point]

    Ken (64): [inexplicably accuses Glenn of “creating conflict where it doesn’t exist”. Me: I literally have to words to describe this canard] You can’t use bare logic by itself as an alternative to science. I’m am asking for an alternative to science. [me: Here Ken brazenly changes his challenge for the second time]

    Glenn (65): [again just basically repeats unequivocally true statements made in (61) and (63)]

    Ken (66): So a complete fail on your part guys. When push comes to shove you just shut up an run away! [then makes the bizarre claim that logical inference is a “stripped down version of science”– as readers of this blog sit in stunned silence and as I fantasize about how an in person debate with Ken would go down]

  69. Ah, Jeremy.

    Perhaps you could put your own view in the hat.

    Specifically what “other ways of knowing” can you suggest as an alterative to science?

    Pickings have been pretty lean here.

  70. Stress? I rather enjoyed that!

    By reading Ken’s comments, I’ve come to the knowledge that he is a troll.

    Yes Ron, but scientists do a lot of reading, so you’re basically just doing a slimmed-down version of science!

  71. Glenn (67): “Ken, nobody is presenting logic as an alternative to science. You pulled that out of thin air.”

    Ken (to Ron, referring to the fact that Ron agrees with Glenn): “I’ll put you down as another one for pure logic as an alternative to science then.”

    My oh my. Some things never change. Ken, I suppose we are on the same page and I should put you down as agreeing that I am right and you are wrong. Heck, I had no idea we could just put people down as saying whatever we like.

  72. OK, Glenn. I will scrub your name. You officially are not suggesting any “other way of knowing” as an alternative to science.

    I guess Ron will want to withdraw his name too.

    Really makes this “scientism” label look very weak, doesn’t it?

  73. Ken wins! And just when I thought I had the upper hand!

    Glenn, why do you even allow this clown to post here? It’s like conversing with Baghdad Bob.

  74. Ken, I will assume that you are just trying to look slow for the purpose of irony or something else. Let me spell it out for you:

    Scientism = science is the only way to know.

    I have said that there are other ways of obtaining knowledge – and I used pure logic as an example. Logic is not an alternative to science. It does not present a way to know the same thins that scientists tell us, reached another way. It is not an alternative to science. It is merely the admission that scientism is false, and there are things to be known that are not revealed by the sciences.

    Ken, you’re stuck ont he idea that if something is a way of knowing apart from sicence, then it must somehow be an alternative to science. This mistake on your part arises just because you think science covers all knowledge, so if knowledge is acquired another way, this must involve setting science aside and using an alternative. Not at all! You only see it this way because you’re committed to scientism. If you didn’t have this committment, then you’d realise that science is perfectly adequate in addressing scientific question, but for other fact questions that do not fall withint he purvey of science, other methods are used. They aren’t alternative ways of investigating the questions that science properly investigates. They are the proper ways of investigating fact questions outside of the sciences.

    If only you would give up scientism, then you’d realise that such questions exist.

  75. 1 perception/observation
    2 reason/logic
    3 authority [ includes teaching / recorded knowledge ]
    4 intuition/ inspiration/ revelation
    5 experience

    NB science does use some of these but that does not make any of them science.

  76. Glenn, I think your problem is that you attempt to impose your own fantasy onto the real world instead of deriving your knowledge from the real world.

    You accuse me of “scientism” using the definition that “science is the only way to know”.

    Yet I clearly don’t say that, never have, and even gave you an example in a previous comment. Emotion is known to play an important role in judgements and decisions. Science informs these but in the end human devisions involve intuitions and emotions. In fact it seems that decisions based on facts alone are actually very difficult for our species.

    So, despite clear evidence, you continue to make charges against me and other scientists which are clearly wrong. But that doesn’t seem to worry you – suggests that you don’t have sufficient respect for truth.

    Your problem arises because you want to ring fence parts of reality to protect it from rational and empirical investigation. In saying:

    “science is perfectly adequate in addressing scientific question, but for other fact questions that do not fall within the purvey of science, other methods are used”

    And who is going to define what these “other fact questions” are? Who defined what a “scientific question” is? Who constructs the fence?

    Obviously that requires a lot of arrogance. Possibly you don’t have sufficient because despite such vague talk you refuse to state what these “other fact questions” are.

    My understanding of scientific philosophy and the attitude of practicing scientists is that we don’t assume we will ever understand reality completely. We always acknowledge that there may be questions which just aren’t accessible to empirical and logical investigation. And there may be questions which are beyond us because of technological and/or intellectual limitations.

    But humans being what they are don’t give up before we start. The only way we will find our limits is by making the effort. That is an honest and humble position. And, surprise, surprise, we have come to understand far more io reality than we ever honestly expected to.

    We are happy to acknowledge there may be areas of reality where logical and empirical investigation prove inadequate. But just because these could fail does not mean that “another way of knowing” can be successful by default. Yet that is the argument that is commonly heard from those of a theological persuasion. If science doesn’t have the answer hand the problem over to a theologian , an Imam, the pope, etc.

    Well, I have seen no credible “other way of knowing” employed by these upstarts. And you guys have not presented any.

    So, come on. What specific “other fact questions” are not amenable to rational and empirical investigation (science)? And what “”specific “other way of knowing” do you suggest should replace logic and empirical investigation?.

  77. Jeremy, you acknowledge that many of the suggestion in your list are used in scientific investigation. (Basically we can define the scientific method as doing everything possible to avoid being fooled by reality).

    I suggest the odd ones out are “authority” (sure valid in teaching but not research) and revelation (never used in research).

    So I take it you define revelation as “another way of knowing” and you would accuse scientists of “scientism” because they don’t see it as a valid method.

    If that is the case I think you have a job to do to support such a claim. Why do you consider it a valid method? What is your evidence that it works? And how does one do it?

    Otherwise you are going to be laughed at when you effectively use the derogatory label of “scientism” on all scientists.

  78. “Glenn, I think your problem is that you attempt to impose your own fantasy onto the real world instead of deriving your knowledge from the real world.”

    Oh, so that’s what I’ve been doing wrong. Thanks for setting me straight Ken… (I really do wonder why I bother)

  79. @Ken
    you asked someone to list “ways of knowing” other than “science”, i listed five [included quite a few synonyms].
    You seem fixated on “research” as some kind of defining parameter with respect to “knowing”, its not.
    So far to the best of my recollection i have not accused you “scientism” but given the level of trust and faith and evangelical fervour you so obviously display with respect to “science” it could well be an appropriate label.

    While we are talking about “ways of knowing”, having gained knowledge, how using scientfic methods would you go about gaining “wisdom” in the use of that knowledge?

  80. Basically we can define the scientific method as doing everything possible to avoid being fooled by reality

    That’s enough Ken.

  81. Yes, Ron. However I must acknowledge that its not original. I got that definition from Neil deGrasse Tyson. I like it because it is not algorithmic, accepts that the scientific process is a very human one.

  82. @ Ken

    “Basically we can define the scientific method as doing everything possible to avoid being fooled by reality”

    Well i am so glad you have finally come to understand, what better way to avoid being fooled by reality than to heed the advice and instruction of the Creator. Who would know better than God our limitations and the difference between what we can find for ourselves and what we will need to be revealed to us?
    Well done Ken.

  83. Yes, I got the message, Jeremy. You think revelation is a valid alliterative to science as “another way of knowing.” obviously I, and most scientists, disagree so we are guilty of “scientism.”

    I have noted your alternative – the only real one offered so far.

  84. @Ken
    Cant quite take a joke there mate.
    Actually offered 5 ways of knowing, some of which science uses, but using them doesnt mean you are doing science, unless of course you just keep expanding your definition of science.
    Neither did i say revelation was an alternative to science in the sense that it was one or the other.
    What gets you accused of scientism and what gets up peoples noses so much is the arrogant and condescending attitude that science is only way of knowing. You complain of “holy men” and “holy books” etc, well i’ve got to tell you that to the majority of the worlds population the high priests of science come across in exactly the same way, hence “scientism”.

    While we are on the subject, how are you going to use science to develope wisdom, build character, develope good and meaningful relationships, love you wife and children, make a marriage work, appreciate art, music, literature. There is so much in life to learn and know that science cannot teach us. It may be a useful tool, but thats all it is a “tool”, and you need to know how to use a tool properly and its applications and limitations before its of any real use to you. Which reminds me of a little piece of wisdom i heard somewhere, “if the only tool you have is a hammer you will see everything as a nail to be hammered”. Maybe you need some more tools inthe box Ken.

  85. Jeremy, seeing that no one has claimed that science is the only way if knowing, especially in the areas you mention, your little rave is rather disingenuous. Where does the accusation “arrogant and condescending attitude that science is only way of knowing” come from?

    I suggest there is something basically working within you to ignore what people say and to impose your own prejudices on them.

    Far from scientists wanting to impose inappropriate methods in the areas you mention we have the direct opposite. Religionlists attempting to impose inappropriate methods in areas where science is actually successful. An example could be the use of revelation, prejudice, desire to attribute a specific history and purpose to the universe. When experience shows that the logical and empirical procedures of science are very successful in studying the universe.

    These religionless actually want to expire science from commenting on things like the origin of matter and the possibilities of purpose which are empirical facts (or not), something science specializes in. And yet they cannot, or are unwilling to describe what alternative method they wish to replace science with in these cases.

  86. “Jeremy, seeing that no one has claimed that science is the only way if knowing” – Ah, and it all comes undone. Ken, you’ve spent a while now incredulously challenging people to come up with alternative ways of knowing – alternatives to science. And now you reverse your stance and pretend that you weren’t doing this all along.

    Two words: Jelly wrestling.

  87. Glenn – calm down and get a grip. You guys and the Sunday incense!

    1: Typically when people want to put down science (rational logic and empirical investigation) they will talk about the things that science can’t do: Jeremy talks about “build character, develop good and meaningful relationships, love you wife and children, make a marriage work, appreciate art, music, literature. There is so much in life to learn and know that science cannot teach us.

    It’s not honest of course because its a diversion from the real point of discussion. But every scientist will acknowledge that they don’t use science in these areas – and they will look at you sideways for even having suggested such silliness. That should take the wind out of your sails.

    But for some reason you guys choose to ignore those statements and attitudes and instead rant on about “scientism.” I don’t think you really can have missed my several comments making this point before. Nor can Jeremy have missed the specific comments I made to him.It’s a response I always give in such discussions (as you well know).

    2: Glenn, you yourself acknowledged that there are areas where science is the chosen, only, method. Obviously not the areas Jeremy presented – and I agree with you there. However you clearly want to “ring fence” these areas – but refuse to give your criteria for doing so.

    3: However in this discussion you have specifically declared science has no input into determining if the universe has a purpose, or what such a purpose is.

    In a previous discussion (regarding your response to the recent book by Hawking and Mlodinow) you specifically excluded science from determining the mechanism of the formation of the universe.

    4: Let me assert that when it comes to the nature and history of the universe human use of science (rational logic and empirical investigation) has been extremely successful. I think that if we ever can develop a verified mechanism for the formation of the universe it will be by using science. Similarly if the universe has “a purpose” this will be manifested in the material reality of the universe and will be discoverable by science.

    5: You obviously disagree with me there – but still maintain you have ways of discovering if the universe has a purpose, what it is if it has one and how the universe formed. You don’t arrive at these through science – the use of logic and empirical investigate together.

    6: So my question is what this alternative method is that you use? Especially as you have come up with answers well before scientific approaches have firmed up.

    You refer to “pure logic” – which I assume means you are rejecting the empirical investigation aspect of science. (I have told you where I see problems with that – but it is an interesting conflict which goes back centuries and is basic to the science-religion conflict).

    Jeremy has lumped for “revelation.” That is of course something that can be debated and tested in practice.

    7: So Glenn, lets put aside those areas where we agree science does not play a role (eg “build character, develop good and meaningful relationships, love you wife and children, make a marriage work, appreciate art, music, literature. There is so much in life to learn and know that science cannot teach us.”) Lets concentrate on where we disagree.

    When it comes to determining if the universe has a purpose and how it was formed I am asserting that science (use of rational logic and empirical investigation) has a legitimate role, and I can’t see any other way of answering such questions. I certainly reject any idea that religion can answer that sort of question any better the the waste disposal business.

    But my understanding is that you and Jeremy suggest there are other ways of obtaining answers to these questions.

    So when it comes to discovering of the universe has a purpose and how it formed what is your “other way of knowing.”? Is it just pure logic (stripped down science because the empirical investigation has been removed)? Is it revelation ? And how do you check if your conclusions are correct in either case?

  88. Wow… what a stream of consciousness rant that was. But at least you gave me my shrink services for the day. “Calm down” is exactly what I needed to hear, because this is all about me being upset.

    I simply conclude that you’re unable to follow a conversation Ken. Goodness, you’re even making up rubbish like, “which I assume means you are rejecting the empirical investigation aspect of science.”

    Yeah, because I clearly rejected science and empirical investigation. See Ken, this is why you never make progress. Just stop making things up. It happens every time.

  89. No Glenn, not upset. More on a Sunday high. (My very religious brother used to attend 2 churches on Sunday, fast from Saturday night and raid the fridge on Sunday night so he was a bit delirious by then).

    Still I have asked questions, they are straightforward and don’t require any snarky reply or avoidance. Like if you don’t reject empirical investigation in investigating purpose and origin (when you say “pure logic”) just say so.

    Perhaps you should wait until the Sunday high disappears.

  90. @Ken
    you are misrepresenting me again, i suggested 5 ways of knowing other than science amongst which i included intuition/inspiration/revelation.
    You claim not to be claiming that science is the only way of knowing but so far you have acknowledged no others. Still only one tool in your box.
    Maybe you could mention some other ways you know things, then we can establish whether we are even in the same ballpark?
    You might repeat you usual specific responses that you mentioned making because i clearly missed them or failed to notice the relevence.
    Thanks
    Jeremy

  91. What’s with you guys? I have mentioned several times during this discussion the role of emotions in decision making by our species. This is extremely important and in fact it seems impossible for us to make choices or decisions based purely on objective information.

    An obvious example is the issue of climate change. Clearly science can and does inform us on what is happening. It can also help us forecast likely effects for different economic scenarios. But the actual decisions about handling this problem are not scientific. They are political, sociological, even psychological. Judgements are made by humans with a range of ideas and requirements. Some will be more concerned about what their grandchildren will face than others. Some will be more concerned about investment choices in the present.

    But in determining what is actually happening with the climate, the mechanisms of heat retention, emotion is an interferent. Science has methods to overcome prejudices and bias confirmation. It is the most successful way of getting an accurate (but never completely exact) picture of the objective reality invoked in heat retention.

    Similarly it is by far the best way of understanding the history and nature of the universe. By far. If we want to determine mechanisms involved in formation of the universe or if there is a purpose in the universe we turn to science. Of course scientific investigation may not answer all the questions we have – but what other alternative is there on such specific, objective and material questions?

    I have yet to hear any realistic alternative. Plenty of wishful thinking like revelation. But nothing realistic.

  92. So now we’re talking about climate change?

    Ken, you’re losing it. It seems you just didn’t understand the “other way of knowing,” so it’s fading from your memory. ANything that clashes with your metaphysical beliefs, like “revelation,” is also dismissed because – well, you’re a scientist and that’s not science, so you know it’s wrong.

    I get the feeling, Ken, that anything that isn’t science will be not undertood, or it will be ignored in a similar way. You know that science is the only way to know, and that is that, therefore science is the only way to know – case closed.

    It’s funny how much your scientism resembles fundamentalism, Ken. Really insightful, actually. Most telling.

  93. Ken, you want a list of ways of knowing that are not science.

    1, Morality, known through moral intutions and a priori reasoning from them.

    2. apriori knowledge of logic, concepts etc common in metaphysics

    3. Knowledge that other people exist. Very difficult to prove this scientifically, but yet known immediately and instinctively by all properly functioning adults.

    4. Memory, immediate knowledge of my past experiences and events

    5. Testimony, knowledge of certain facts and events on the say so of others

    6. introspection, knowledge of my own concious states and existence, again not something that can proven in a non circular fashion with science yet something all sensible people know. In fact this is probably the most certain knowledge people have.

    7. direct experience of an existing external world.

    8. Knowledge of causation, all we percieve is a constant conjuction of experiences ( ala Hume) yet we instinctively attribute causal relations between some of these conjunctions, science assumes this it does not show it.

    9. Revelation, a version of testimony whereby one learns through the say so of God

    10. Instinctive religious awareness, most people have been instinctively aware of a deity.

    I could go on.

  94. Pash, Matt, but they all involved knowledge, therefore they involve science (except revelation of course, because everybody knows that God isn’t real).

    😉

  95. Good on you Matt. You have volunteered some answers (at least 10 – as you say you “could go on”) where your off-sider feared to tread.

    Now tell us which of these methods was used to determine if the universe had a purpose and what this purpose is?

    Also which of these methods was used to determine that one could not investigate such questions using scientific methodologies? That is – what method you guys use to locate the position ring fence you construct?

  96. “Also which of these methods was used to determine that one could not investigate such questions using scientific methodologies?”

    AH, Ken, the ball is actually in your court. If someone offers you another way of knowing (I gave one, which is enough, and now Matt has given more), then you either retract your challenge, regarding it as answered, or you show why the proposed alternatives are science after all.

    You don’t then demand that people jump through hoops for you twice in a row without any quid pro quo. If you think that all of the examples are actually science after all then say so. If not, then acknowledge it.

  97. Glenn – I thought we had exhausted our discussion.

    My questions are aimed at Matt – who produced a list of 10 methods. I want to see them applied.

  98. Ken you are a riot.

    Stop avoiding the question. It’s great when one comes along to the conversation after a lot has already been said, and after reading it through in one sitting, my word Ken, you are a master at shifting the goal posts. It seems you have no desire to actually engage in anyone’s response.

    Emotions are not a way of knowing. Emotions are a reaction to knowing. Decisions are based on assessing knowledge, whether instinctively or through careful consideration. Decisions are not new knowledge.

    I have a hunch that all this so hard for you because you struggle even to accept that knowledge gained through conversation isn’t necessarily scientific. Are you scared that if I told you about my day’s experience you’d not be able to scientifically test it, and therefore you’d have to conclude it wasn’t true? Let me tell you Ken, I really did have a colleague say “Good morning” to me when I arrived at work yesterday, and I really did say goodbye to a guy that was working for me that didn’t have the skills that I needed. I’ve now told you this, and now you know, and you can’t test any of it scientifically. Oh my!

  99. Yes Nathan. You want to get your boot in too. I understand

    But what relevance is all that drivel to the questions of:
    Does the universe has a purpose?
    If yes, what is it?
    Where specifically do you place your ring fence to exclude science from investigating parts of reality?

    And why not let Matt speak for himself?

  100. Mind you Nathan – please don’t let me put you off.

    Have a go, yourself, at Matt’s list.

    Are any of them “ways of knowing” according to your criteria?

  101. Ken, I’ve little troll feed left in my bucket to give you. I’m hoping you’ll just answer the question, rather than shifting the goalposts. Matt has already spoken for himself, but you’ve yet to show why his examples (or Glenn’s example – perhaps do his first as he’s been waiting the longest) of ways to attaining knowledge require science.

    And to reiterate what others have said already, many times, just so it is plain to you, and for the avoidance of any doubt: No one has ever, at any point during this thread, said that science should be excluded from investigating “parts of reality”. You really need to understand that, otherwise continuing is pointless. Really, why won’t you answer the question? And I bet you’ll accuse me of not answering a question or make some other silly attempt to draw attention away from yourself, but in the end you still won’t answer the question.

    Come on Ken, have a go. If it helps, pretend you’re the little red caboose.

  102. “Glenn – I thought we had exhausted our discussion.”

    Ken, does that mean that you do grant that Matt’s list (and my lone contribution) consitutes ways of knowing other than science, or that you don’t? I can’t tell because your comment (which I just quoted) dodges the question.

    The ball remains in your court in regard to the list.

  103. Nathan:

    1: Glenn specifically claimed that there is factual knowledge not accessible to science. He has clearly stated that science cannot discover a purpose for the universe (hence his opposition to scientists presence on this panel).

    2: The question you refer to is not clear. Glenn had advanced pure logic as “another way” of gaining knowledge. He acknowledges it is not an alternative to science (rather obvious as logic is a component of the scientific process). We have completed that discussion.

    3: I have here (in this discussion) and elsewhere explained that most scientists do not claim all of reality is accessible to human investigation for reasons of technological and/or intellectual limitation.

    4: I have also explained that it is defeatist, and against human nature, to declare beforehand that parts of reality are out of bounds, ring fenced from human investigation without reason. This contradicts Glenn’s assertions hence my question.

    5: Therefore I assert that the question of the universe having a purpose is at least accessible to human investigation using science. This does not mean we will ever be able to finally answer that question. But I suggest to you that if science can’t we can be sure that religion can’t either. Nor can accountancy, street cleaning, etc.

    6: However I have an open mind. I am prepared to be proved wrong. But that requires evidence. So I continue to ask what “other method of knowing” is Matt suggesting can answer that question and why?

    7: This is not a idle question because current scientific ideas in cosmology, biology, etc., do not provide a purpose for the universe. In other words, we have not (yet?) seen any evidence for one and nothing suggesting one comes out of current theory.

    So if Matt has better methods I am all ears and I am sure humanity would be grateful if he can substantiate such a claim. (Bloody he’ll, there would be a Nobel Prize in it).

    It’s just that I don’t take such vague claims seriously. I ask what methods have been used and what results obtained.

    Significantly that seems to produce around here a silence or angry attempts at diversion.

  104. Bugger. Bloody iPod spell check always replaces hell with he’ll. Also please appreciate that I have use the word accessible in slightly different ways here.

  105. “The question you refer to is not clear. Glenn had advanced pure logic as “another way” of gaining knowledge. He acknowledges it is not an alternative to science (rather obvious as logic is a component of the scientific process). We have completed that discussion.”

    Ken, I understand that you didn’t want to talk about it anymore. But the fact is, logic is independent of science. This is the bit that I think you were having problems with. You were saying (and you now say again) that since science uses it, it’s really just part of science.

    This is a short cut out of the discussion, and it was a choice not to actually look at the issue raised. I provided a logical formula for you which is true and which has zero to do with science. The fact that science does indeed borrow from logic does not reduce the fact that logic doesn’t depend on science. It’s the other way around. Analytical reasoning can be done without any use of the sciences to obtain knowledge.

    You basically walked away from the htorny issue and you now declare thatthe conversationw as “exhausted”! Well, you may have become exhausted with it, but the isse was simply left sitting there.

    But in any event, the ball is in your court. If you think that really Matt’s list is a list of things within science and that he;s mistaken, you should say so. If you grant that those things are not dependent on science, then that concession would really be the honourable thing.

    Curious minds are waiting!

  106. Ken, I’d hate to distract you from replying to Glenn, but just to clarify a couple of things that seem immediately obvious from your response:

    Point 3: whether or not scientists claim this is beside the point. Your point doesn’t address whether or not there are other ways of knowing things that are accessible to human enquiry. Interesting that you would say some things aren’t. Out of interest, what kind of things do you say aren’t accessible?

    Point 4: Again this simply doesn’t follow (aside from the fact that no one said this). You would only need to make this assertion if you presuppose science as the only way of knowing.

    Point 5: “But I suggest to you that if science can’t we can be sure that religion can’t either. Nor can accountancy, street cleaning, etc.”

    This is where you seem to contradict yourself. You say that only science can tell us something, i.e. it is the only way of knowing, yet you also suggest in point 3 that there are some things that aren’t accessible to science.

    Can you let us in on the evidence you base your suggestion on? Exactly how does it follow that if science can’t tell us something, nothing can?

    (But please, respond to Glenn first, as that response will probably answer this post too.)

  107. Nathan, both you and Glenn are avoiding my question (and Matt seems to be avoidance mode again) which I will repeat:

    “Does the universe have a purpose?
    If yes, what is it?
    Where specifically do you place your ring fence to exclude science from investigating parts of reality?
    And why not let Matt speak for himself?”

    I think I have made my position very clear. So what about you guys responding. And what about telling us which of Matt’s 10 methods you use to derive your answers. (Glenn has already acknowledged that pure logic doesn’t do it.)

    Apart from that, and in the interests of clarity I will be posting within the next few days on Open Parachute with a summary of the scientific position and my responses to Matt’s (and Glenn’s) suggestions.

    These comments are, after all, very relevant to the content of my blog. And I might get more sensible answers there.

  108. Ken, I find that you like things to be all one sided. You demand answers, people kindly spend their time giving them to you, the ball enters your court, and then you demand more answers with no interaction with the previous answers. When people don’t reply to you twice in a row with nothing in return, you then accuse *them* of avoiding an answer.

    I consider that rude, and it displays either a lack of social skills or a fear of answering because of what your answer will show. That is not how conversations work.

    You are not owed an answer yet, Ken. You owe an answer.

    You asked for ways of knowing that do not depend on science. You were given those answers. You now need to ackowledge that genuine examples were given, or else explain how they are not genuine. When you’ve done that, if you have a new question, you can then expect people to consider it.

    It’s called taking turns.

    Thanks.

  109. Glenn – I had already responded to you point about pure logic. I thought we have a fair bit of agreement on this. Only thing is that why you should use that alone, avoiding all empirical evidence or testing, to determine if the unvierse has a purpose? Also, why you insist that science has no role in determining such things? You have not explained either.

    As for Matt’s suggestions. Some of these boil down to your point about logic. Some appear irrelevant and my intention is to deal with any more meaningful ones in my post at Open Parachute. Some of these may well supply knowledge – but not in any exact way, and not about objective reality. And none of them provide a means of determining when one is wrong.

    If you wish me to deal with any of Matt’s suggestions here – could you identify the one or more relevant to the question at hand (“Does the unvierse have a purpose?”) and tell me why it works in the place of science. With that information I will be only to happy to respo0nhd here.

    Otherewise check out my blog in a few days time.

  110. At what, Glenn? Honesty?

    Neither you nor Matt have explained a “way of knowing” about the universe separate from science? Nor have you justified your rejection of science?

    It’s a cop out on your part – and an obvious one. But typical of the theological jelly wrestling we have come to expect.

    No skin off my nose – but does show you up, doesn’t it?

  111. Ken, you asked afor examples. Examples were given. You are refusing to comment on them.

    You can choose to back away from it and just heap more questions on people without contributing anything yourself, but it’s pretty silly to start saying that other people are copping out. Clearly you are. You are dodging, ducking and diving – doing whatever it takes to avoid a painfully simple question: Now that you have been given examples of methods of gaining knowledge that are not part of science, do you accept or reject those examples? Do you agree that the examples are indeed ways of gaining knowledge? If not, why not?

    Come on Ken, you’re able to do it, surely. As I said, once you’ve done this, you’ll be in a position to ask more questions, but just deal with the answers you’ve been given first. I know you don’t want to, but have a go anyway.

    It’s certainly noticeable when other people are more than happy to answer you, but you’re reluctant to answer them. Telling, I think.

    Oh, by the way: “typical of the theological jelly wrestling we have come to expect” – Who the heck is “we”? Referring to yourself in the plural?

  112. Glenn, I believe I replied extensively to your suggestion of pure logic. Pointing out that science includes logical reasoning but importantly also empirical evidence and validation. I included a description if some of the pigeons amd weakness of logic alone. For Christs sake don’t expect me to repeat all that again.

    I also provided examples of how humanity aquires knowledge in the moral, political and social spheres which is not directly dependent on science. Although very often informed by science. I described the role of emotions in many human decisions in these spheres. I gave the example of political, economic and social decisions we face on climate change. Decisions science cannot make for us.

    This example seemed to upset you – unpleasant associations, perhaps?

    Neither you nor Matt have explained how your suggested methods should displace science in investigating the universe. I don’t believe you can. But I am willing to consider anything you suggest.

    Now don’t expect me to accept any of your relevations or other alternatives to science in answering questions about the universe just because you have suggested them. I need more than that.

    But, look. Why worry? I don’t think you expect to be able to justify your claims about science to yourself let alone others. This won’t change your beliefs though, will it?

    So why bother?

  113. Ken, you make me grin every time you play psychiatrist and start waxing about how upset I must be. I’m not sure why you do it, but it has become a trademark tactic.

    I understand that you wanted to say that logic was really just part of science. I actually already explained to you the problem here. The issue raised was whether or not there is a way to gain knowledge that doesn’t depend on science. Logic is such a way. That scientists borrow logic and make use of it is not the point Ken – as I’ve already explained. Logic is not grounded scientifically. Logic is independent of the sciences, whether scientists use it or not.

    There’s no need to explain your comments again. They were understood, and a response was made. Now we have from you simply more questions with no answers. You just have not been able to understand that logic is a way of knowing that is independent of science. This is why I said to you back then – this is the best you can do, don’t worry about it. You literally do not understand the philosophical issues involved, so from your perspective it’s other people who need to explain things better. No, that’s not the issue. You’re just demanding answers that you don’t understand, and when they are given you (understandably) find them inadequate).

    What’s more, you haven’t yet gained the right to say that anything is needed to “displace science” (your choice of words) in answering the question of whether or not there is a purpose to the universe. This is because you haven’t yet set forth any account of how science could answer that question. Science has no privileged position here, and it doesn’t need to be displaced at all.

    If you’re going to demand examples of ways of knowing, but ultimately keep it a secret whether you think they are genuine examples or not, why even ask?

    See Ken – you want others to do all the work while you lounge back and just ask questions when you have no answers of your own.

  114. A simple explanation of the requirement of modern science (logical reasoning plus empirical evidence and validation) in answering questions about the universe.

    If there is a purpose to the universe this will be reflected in the way the universe operates, is organized and in it’s history. You can surely understand that with human manufactured artifacts. Just as with the universe or living beings.

    Science (logical reasoning and empirical evidence and validation) is well accepted as the best way of understanding and gaining knowledge of the universe, it’s operation and history. It had been incredibly successful in this.
    Surely you agree? Modern cosmology can provide an incredibly detailed and well validated history going back to fractions of a second from the beginning – and is continually pushing back further. Modern biology has been incredibly successful in describing the development of life. No sensible person relies on the special creation myth now.

    Empirical evidence and validation are vital parts if this. Pure logic alone (as the ancients relied on) gets us nowhere. Worse, it is open to manipulation through choice of premises, poor logic and confirmation bias. Without empirical testing and validation it is most likely to produce the wrong conclusions (although admittedly ones the manipulator desires).

    By the way it is childish to talk about science “borrowing” logic. It’s always been part of humanity’s attempts to understand reality. It’s an integral part of science. But no credible scientist  today would ignore or deny the role of empirical evidence and validation where this is at all possible. And we are always very worried about situations where we have to rely on logic alone for technological reasons. That’s why we say that “string theory” is not a scientific theory – more speculation.

    So if there is a purpose in the universe it will be manifested in ways we can detect and science is the obvious way to do this. Pure logic alone is unreliable. Revelation has been shown wrong every time. Matt’s moral intuitions and memory are silly answers. And, very importantly, none of the suggested methods provide any mechanism for detecting mistakes, preventing bias or knowing when you are completely wrong.

    Now thanks very much for providing me with a platform to describe the role of science in deciding such questions. Several times over at that. Much appreciated. 

    But I thought you would be more interested in justifying your own claim that science has no role and describing how religion and philosophy can answer the question.

    Strange that you have avoided doing so!. Perhaps you have just assumed such matters and haven’t really thought it out? How else can we explain your reluctance to justify your own claims?

  115. If there is a purpose to the universe this will be reflected in the way the universe operates, is organized and in it’s history. You can surely understand that with human manufactured artifacts. Just as with the universe or living beings.

    That’s an interesting assumption, but it’s perfectly clear that it’s not obvious. The observation that you’ve made has more to do with natural artefacts that we find in the universe. But even then, you’ve strayed out of science and into metaphysics. Whether things that are good at X were purposefully meant to do X is not a scientific claim but a religious claim. This is why Richard Dawkins, on account of his atheism, insists that evolution has no purpose in mind, it has “no mind’s eye” and “no mind.” You’re familiar with this much, I will assume. But even then, that’s not about the universe as a whole.

    Science (logical reasoning and empirical evidence and validation) is well accepted as the best way of understanding and gaining knowledge of the universe, it’s operation and history. It had been incredibly successful in this.

    Yes, science is the name for the method of observing, testing and gaining knowledge about how the matter and energy in the universe operate.

    Of course, nobody will slip from this into the very different claim that the sciences have a method of getting “behind” the physical world to see why it is here and what it is here for. These are questions of purpose.

    Surely you agree? Modern cosmology can provide an incredibly detailed and well validated history going back to fractions of a second from the beginning – and is continually pushing back further. Modern biology has been incredibly successful in describing the development of life. No sensible person relies on the special creation myth now.

    If we grant all of this, how does it connect to questions of purpose? The fact is that it quite plainly does not. You are talking here about descriptions of what has taken place. That is not at all the same as a claim about whether or not there was a purpose in things taking place.

    Thus far your comments haven’t even wandered into the relevant subject matter.

    So if there is a purpose in the universe it will be manifested in ways we can detect and science is the obvious way to do this.

    Well Ken, you haven’t given one single good reason for thinking so. Not one.

    Why is that I wonder?

  116. One other thing Ken:

    You have misled people and shifted the goalposts int he title of your own blog. The issue that we had been discussing was whether there are “other ways of knowing” than the sciences. Other ways of knowing anything. That is consistently what we were talking about, which is why it was so crystal clear that you were endorsing scientism.

    At the last minute you got cold feet and changed the subject to whether there’s any way of knowing about purpose in the universe. Well, that’s an interesting subject, and the fact is that science can’t answer that question. But it’s not truthful to pretend that this was the only issue all along.

  117. So Glenn you are proposing the creation of a universe with a purpose or intent. But this purpose or intent has had no influence at all on any detail of the universe. A bit like manufacturing a watch without springs and cogs looking exactly like a rock. In fact a watch with absolutely no purpose! 

    But Rev Pailey can assure us that the rock has the purpose of telling us the time. How goes he know? Because he is a rev!

    Sounds to me like the Rev is a con man, trying to fool us into supporting him with alms, moolah and respect.

    It is really arrogant to deny humanity the usual successful tools for investigating the universe while assuring us that it us a job for religion! Which has failed miserably in the past on such jobs. And all without any justification, any description of a valid “other way of knowing”. Just religion.

    Yeah right. Pull the other one.

    How can religion possible investigate, let alone determine, such questions?

  118. “So Glenn you are proposing the creation of a universe with a purpose or intent.”

    No, I am pointing out that you have not given any answers as to how the sciences might address that question.

    Why is this so hard for you to understand, Ken?

  119. Excuse… naivete…

    Can a purpose of a thing be determined from the effect resulting from its existence? Or is a purpose of necessity predetermined – before the existence of the thing in question?

    for example. If a tree grows of its own accord in a particular place where it happens to provide a pleasant sort of shade, and if because of that shade it becomes common for people to use it to sit under to eat their lunch, is there a point at which we can say that the purpose of that tree is to provide shade at lunchtime?

    If the former is the case then from our own point of view we could happily argue that the universe exists, purely from the effect of its existence, to create a set of conditions that enable a solar system to form with a watery planet the right distance away from it on which we could live.

    That sounds nice. But to me the word purpose suggests intent, and the word intent suggests intelligence. According to the meaning of the word as I understand it, to use the word purpose accepts the existence of a creator.

    With science we can happily explain the purpose of a made thing like an umbrella, or a nuclear powerplant. “this thing was created to give this effect”.

    I don’t believe, if we keep to the definition of purpose that I’m using (leap in and tell me if there’s an accepted defintion that allows the argument you’re having here) then we just can’t, with science, explain the purpose of a bacterium or a rock without accepting the existence of a creator. We can describe the bacterium’s interaction with its surroundings, we can explain how it grew and give an account of the general effect of its existence. We can also theorise an how to alter that effect if we find it inconvenient. But without acknowledging a creator we cannot say what the bacterium is actually (intended) for. It surely follows then that we can’t explain with science the “purpose” of something really big like the universe.

    So it seems to me that there should be no argument at all here. Yes, I can imagine some scientist extrapolating mathematically against all intuition and somehow coming to a conclusion that leads us to isolating and measuring a mysterious controlling intelligence in the laboratory. Think of quantum physics. I can also imagine God showing his face and letting us all into the secret.

    Until that happens science and religion serve completely different ends. There’s nothing to argue about here.

    Christians – I know it stung when you had to admit the earth was not flat, I know it stung when you had to admit that the stars didn’t go around the earth. But I really don’t think there’s anything you can afford to get defensive about here. If one day science stumbles on actual purpose in the universe that contradicts what you believe… well waddya gunna do? It’s not looking like happening anytime soon. Until then you have the monopoly on meaning.

    Scientists – I know you’ve every reason to be defensive, but christians don’t as a rule burn people for contradicting them these days. If they did you wouldn’t be silly enough to be arguing with them now would you? I now it’s a little irritating when people claim things to be fact that you haven’t found proof of yet but it’s not like you haven’t done that yourselves over the years.
    Besides which, you’ve better things to worry about. Figuring out if climate change is anything we can actually do about is probably more pressing just now than worrying about a few guys with clean feet poking their tongues at you because you can’t prove them wrong over something that even if it was going to affect our existence over the next fifty years you couldn’t do anything about it if all you’re doing is arguing.

    But otherwise, by all means carry on.. it’s better than shortland street on here.

    Sorry Glenn, more stream of conciousness here.

    excuse… naivete

  120. This question was answered centuries ago when the Reformers wrote the Westminster Catechism [ a q&a summary of Biblical doctrine]
    The very first question
    q, What is the whole purpose of man?
    a, To know God and enjoy Him forever.

    Science could never have come up with this answer, the atheists all miss out but they dont mind cause they dont believe anyway.

  121. Were you talking to me Jeremy? I burbled on so long I’d forgotten I ‘d asked a question.

    A better question is why do atheist invest so much energy in trying to undermine belief? Except on flat earth type issues there seems to be very little at stake for them. If they’re as rational as they claim to be why should it matter either way what somebody else believes?

    Similarly on the other side. I know an honest attempt to spread the word is expected, but on rejection the advice is simply to shake the dust from one’s feet as one walks away to find somebody one can actually help is it not?

  122. The question of purpose. As to you other comments i’d have to agree, except the Christians dont seem to try as much/hard as they are supposed to and the Atheists seem to ty far harder than is warranted, go figure.

  123. Glenn – your claim “No, I am pointing out that you have not given any answers as to how the sciences might address that question.” is not valid. I briefly justified the role of science in such questions above This is covered in more detail in “Other ways of knowing” purpose? and the discussion there.

    I have yet to see your justification for the claim that science cannot address this question. Considering that theologians all the way from Craig to the Wedge people do use scientific claims (although poorly and opportunistically) to justify purpose your position seems a bit unique.

    The question of “other ways of knowing anything” is not at issue. We both agree that there are many areas where we don’t use science. The only difference is whether we can use science to investigate and determine an answer to the question does the unvierse have a purpose?

    That is our only difference. I claim it is a job for science (so does Craig and the Wedge people). You claim it is a job for religion. But you give no justification either for your rejection of a role for science or acceptance of a role for religion.

    And you avoid completely the question of how do you determine if you are wrong when using religion?

  124. Ken, questions were put to you on how the sciences could – even just in principle – determine a purpose of the universe. Those questions have not been answered, in spite of being put to you more than once. You were silent.

    I offer no comment on why this is the case.

    By contrast, I’ve given you explanations about ways of knowing, which is what your main challenge was.

  125. I don’t blame Dawkins for “refusing” to debate Craig. He makes his reasons plain at http://richarddawkins.net/articles/643584-why-i-refuse-to-debate-with-william-lane-craig.

    Many atheist may agree that situational ethics have a place within the context of human creativity, but will draw the line at infanticide.

    Craig “brilliantly” reasons that no such evil was done to the children of Canaan as they were fast-tracked to heaven. Wow! I had no idea that it was so simple!

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