Joined: Dec. 2007
Just thought I'd mention a possible or impending bannination of Seversky over on UD.
It's not a formal ban - not yet at least - but posts are being held in moderation until they disappear upthread. Or they just disappear.
The last one was at 173 on the Shermer thread. I think it was quite mild compared with what the likes of Joe put out.
|vjtorley @ 166 |
As regards the reliability of scientific reasoning: you cite the commonality of our empirical experience, and our ability to test our theories as a warrant for science. But what I’m more worried about is: how do we know that we’re even asking the right questions in the first place? How do we know that our science is not full of huge, gaping logical flaws that we’ve never noticed? That’s what I mean when I say that an atheist has no good reason to simply assume the reliability of our speculative reasoning. For there are 101 ways in which it could go off the rails in matters speculative - and we’d never know.
I would be wary about using the word “never”.
The problem we face as a species in trying to understand the world we see around us is that, if we cannot rely on divine revelation to meet all our epistemological needs, we are going to have to try and work it out for ourselves.
Plainly, the existing religious texts cannot help. The Bible, for example, does not include something equivalent to a diagnostic and therapeutic manual for the identification and treatment of all the illnesses to which the human body is prone. The Koran does not contain the blueprints and operating principles of combustion engines or cell phones. The Bhagavad Gita does not explain how to build and program computers.
All this hard-won knowledge - and much more - we have had to gather for ourselves. Agreed, it is a far from perfect process. There have been many false starts, fruitless detours and dead-ends along the way. But the fact is we have made progress, it is something we have done for ourselves and that - admittedly limited - success is a good enough reason for us to continue what we are doing until we find it no longer works.
I think, however, you raise pertinent questions when you ask how do we know that our science is not full of gaping holes, how do we know that we are asking the right questions in the first place? The simple answer is that we do not. But we have to start somewhere - it doesn’t really matter where - study what we see, concoct some sort of an explanation, test it and take it from there, where we take it being dependent on the results.
The ongoing discussion about the cosmological argument is a case in point. We observe a world which is apparently the product of long chains of cause and effect which stretch back into the mists of time. An infinite causal chain, however, is felt to be unacceptable for reasons already given. It is argued that the only conceivable alternative is an uncaused First Cause, even though that also has problems. Given that the two candidate answers are equally unsatisfactory, albeit for different reasons, could the solution be, as you have suggested, that we are asking the wrong questions?
Certainly the evidence we have gathered so far points towards our Universe having some sort of beginning but, as Nakashima has pointed out, if we think circular rather than linear we can have a causal chain which has no beginning. While it may not be the correct solution it does, at least, represent an attempt to get round the present impasse by ‘thinking outside the box’.
As an agnostic atheist my view is that it is perfectly acceptable to say that we simply don’t know. I find the concept of an infinite causal chain unsatisfactory although I do not see a Universe that was designed to satisfy my personal needs. An uncaused First Cause is equally unsatisfactory because it sounds too much like special pleading and an attempt to cut off all further debate by fiat.
Personally, I was prepared to give Clive and Barry the benefit of the doubt what with that ringing Churchillian declaration of 'we can take it' from BArrington. Now,I think they're full of it
I set expectations at zero, and FL limbos right under them. - Tracy P. Hamilton