Thursday, March 11, 2010

Facing Facts



In the end, one of the central criteria of explanatory adequacy of a theory or hypothesis is the extent to which it fits with the rest of what we know about the world.   If someone is going to adopt the view that God exists, there is a long list of these knowns that the God hypothesis needs to be reconciled with.  There are many, but for the purposes of this discussion I have in mind a group of claims that include these facts: 


  • The age of the universe from the Big Bang to now is approximately 13.7 billion years.
  • The Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. (We can find ancient rocks older than 3.5 billion years on all of the continents, and some crystals have been found that are thought to be 4.3 billion years old.[1])
  • Life in the form of the simplest, self-replicating molecules occurs on Earth around 4 billion years ago.
  • The dinosaurs existed during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods from about 208 million years ago to 65 million years ago.
  • Placental mammals arise about 54 million years ago.  
  • Modern humans (homo sapiens) originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago.  (Humans were not, as some people seem to think, contemporary with dinosaurs.)


There are many more.  But for now, let’s just consider these claims about some milestones in the history of the Earth, and we’ll call this list F. 

If it weren’t for the long established religious doctrines that tell a very different story about the history of the Earth, life, and humanity, there would be less cognitive dissonance, at least on the surface between F and the view that God exists.  But those doctrines present believers with the dilemma:  will you accept or reject F in the light of your religious tradition’s denying F?  Of course, some believers deny F.  I don’t want to deal with this position in great detail, but we can say a few things about it before moving on to the main thesis about F and G (God exists.)  To say that the evidence we have in favor of F is substantial is a gross understatement.  We are now in a position where hundreds of thousands or even millions of very smart people, working very hard have amassed a staggering amount of information that proves F beyond any substantial doubts.  We have diverse and thoroughly vetted evidence that has been subjected to rigorous peer review processes from molecular chemistry, geology, anthropology, cosmology, physics, biology, genetics, and paleontology that support F.   During this process, every claim that was part of the case for F has been subjected to the most aggressive and creative attempts at disconfirmation that we could muster.  That is, we believe the claims in F because of their resistance to our best efforts to disprove them.  

As a result, the person who wishes to deny F is in a very difficult position:  she will have to present arguments and counter evidence that is sufficient to undermine or defeat this massive, scientifically sophisticated, and diverse body of evidence.  In effect, she will have to out-science science by producing a means of disconfirmation that is either better than the ones that the scientific establishment has already considered, or that the entire scientific establishment somehow overlooked before they came to their consensus about F.      Some people argue for the fallibility of radio-carbon dating, for example.  But those criticisms haven’t amounted to anything substantial, and the larger problem is that the evidence we have for F doesn’t not rely on any one particular method of corroboration.  Our methods for corroborating F include hundreds of different techniques from different fields that have been tested, retested, vetted, and carefully scrutinized for any possibility of error.  The person who would simply deny F may not appreciate the range, depth, and quality of this evidence, and she has a Herculean task ahead of her in trying to show that all of it is wrong.

On a side note, depending on what sort of God believer she is, she may have this additional problem.  Suppose  she argues that all of the evidence for F, call it EF, is insufficient to prove F because it fails to meet the various high standards of proof that the believer demands.  Presumably, that same believer holds that there is another body of evidence, EG, that is sufficient to prove G, God’s existence.  So in very general terms, this believer is now in the unenviable position of arguing that the quantity and quality of EF is inadequate to prove F, but EG exceeds EF in terms of quantity and/or quality by a margin wide enough to prove G.  (I, for one, am quite anxious to hear what the impressive information in EG is in this case.)  

Here’s another problem that this believer may get embroiled in.  The methods and information that have produced EF are deeply ensconced in much of the rest of what we know in science.  The methods and information that produced EF are so deeply intertwined with the rest of science that denying EF will most likely also have the unintended consequence of forcing the believer to reject a number of other facts.  This will depend upon the details of the case against EF, of course, but I suspect that in order to be consistent, the person who denies EF may well have to also deny claims like e=mc2, Boyle’s law, the Ideal Gas Law, Newton’s laws, Planck’s constant, the atomic weight of hydrogen, the atomic composition of carbon, and so on.  That is, if EF isn’t supported well enough for you, then the evidence for many of those claims won’t be either.  Or in the process of denying EF you’ll be logically, or mathematically committed to also deny some or many of these other central claims in science.  In short, denying F will most likely require you to also deny too many other things that we know are true and that you probably don’t want to abandon.  But deep seated commitments to ideologies make us do surprising things.   Think of the ever sprawling and more bizarre set of claims that the Holocaust denier has to defend in order to consistently reject the murder of 6 million Jews in WWII.  

But let’s assume that the believer has enough sense to acknowledge the reasonableness of F.  What is the problem then?  At least this believer doesn’t have the challenges that the F denying believer above has.  But this believer does need to connect F to G.  God, as most people regard him, is the all powerful creator of the universe.  It was his plan and his act of creation, in some sense, that brought all of this about.  Since God is thought to have had such a broad role in the universe, believing that God is real cannot simply be compartmentalized off from F.  So one would hope that the believer will have some sort of account of how F fits with G.  If humanity has a special relationship with God and God has a particular interest in the existence of humanity in the world, then it’s only fair to ask, how do we reconcile God’s anthrocentric goals and actions with the facts about the advent and development of humans on Earth?  How can the 13.7 billion year age of the Earth or the billions of years of evolution through many lower life forms before humans come onto the scence be reconciled with God’s special intentions for humanity? 

Let me put the challenge another way.  Recent polling data says that only 30% of Americans believe that evolution, unassisted by God, produced humans, while 51% believe that humans evolved with “God guiding the process.”[2]  In some recent, acutely unscientific attempts to clarify, I asked many of my students to speculate about just what form this “guidance” of evolution by God took.  Exactly what work did they think that God did during the process?  A surprisingly large number of them just didn’t know; they hadn’t really thought about it before.  So now I am asking everyone to think about it.  If you think that God is real, and he is in charge of everything, then how does that jive with all of the facts in F? 
  
“I don’t know,” shouldn’t satisfy us for several reasons.  Since the facts in F are so obviously inconsistent with the traditional religious stories about the origins of the Earth and life and humanity, those facts are at least some prima facie grounds for rejecting the whole account that God did it.  Another way to put it is that the view that God is real should not continue to be the default position once we have rejected the Genesis story.  For eons, people’s doctrines about God and creation have been built around stories that are soundly refuted by F.  So at the very least, we want to hear some account whereby God “creates” it all by way of F.  Even better, we would like to hear some substantial argument that F is in fact the means by which God did it.  Of course, none of the traditional religious doctrines contain such stories.  None of them suggest anything even remotely like the facts in F.  How could they?  Those religious books were written just a few thousands of years ago (after humans had been around for 200,000 years) and we have only come to understand F in the last century or so.  Furthermore, those books tell just the sorts of stories about creation and the history of life that we would expect primitive people to come up with 10 or 15 thousand years ago.  They do not tell the sorts of creation stories that we would expect the infinite creator of the universe to have communicated, given that such a being surely would have known that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and that life evolved on Earth for 4 billion years before humans came along.  That is, the facts in F come as a complete surprise to those who believe G.  And at the very least, the believer must admit that F doesn’t sit comfortably or easily with G as God has been traditionally conceived.  There’s some explaining that needs to be done to have F and G both be true.  "I don't know" is an evasion that is increasingly difficult to hide behind.  As the "I don't know's" accumulate about how a favored hypothesis can be made to cohere with the facts a reasonable person should reach a tipping where they realize that  there are too many gaps or outright  conflicts between F and G to sustain them both.  

Ideally, this is a set of questions that I think the believe who accepts F should want to answer for themselves.  And they are the questions I’d like to hear answers to:

  • How does it fit into God’s plan for humans to have them evolve from other life forms by natural selection for 4 billion years? 
  • What was the purpose or role in God’s overall scheme of creation of all of the other creatures like the dinosaurs? 
  • If God intended for humanity to arise out of his creation, why would they come about by way of a process that seems to make God’s involvement unnecessary?  
  • That is, how is it that God is in charge of it all, but it all unfolds according to mindless, blind natural principles exactly as if there were no God?
  • Why is God hiding? 
  • If God played a role in the evolution of humans, what exactly was that role? 
  • What did he do?  
  • Did he bring it about that some species died instead of others?  
  • Or that some genetic mutations rather than others occurred?  
  • Did he send forest fires to wipe out the Cro-Magnons so that other Homo Sapiens could ascend?
  • What grounds do we have, aside from a prior commitment to the view that God exists, to think that there was any supernatural involvement in any of these events?
  • How come F runs so deeply counter to traditional religious doctrines about the advent of the Earth, life, and humanity?  
  • Why is it we’re just finding out about F (if God knew all along)?
  • Why is it that God hasn’t appeared to want us to know F?
  • Why is it that it has been human ingenuity and the rigors of the scientific method that have produced our knowledge of F and not God?  
  • What else are we going to find out besides F that will be suprising in light of G? 
  • Can any religious doctrines give us any insight now into other facts about the universe that we’re going to figure out in the future? 
I know that there are some believers such as Craig or Dembski who have attempted to tackle some of these questions.  I do not present these questions as a solicitation for book recommendations—I’ve read those books and I’ve found those attempts at answers to be insufficient for a variety of reasons.  But what I hope to do here is solicit the believer to try to fill in some of the these gaps herself and for us. 

That ultimate answer, I think, is that it becomes too difficult to try to reconcile the God hypothesis with F, if that characterization includes many of the details of Christian or Muslim doctrine.   Reconciling F with G requires too many ad hoc provisions, special pleadings, and equivocations.  This isn't just atheist wishful thinking on my part.  Believers have seen the light on this point by the thousands.  Extensive polling data has shown a robust negative  correlation between education and belief in God and religiousness.  That is, as education (about the claims in F among other things) goes up, belief in God goes down.  Why?  As people learn more about science, as they see how powerful the scientific method is and how predictive it is as a model of reality it simply gets more and more difficult to sustain the religious commitment that they during their more ignorant phase.  As these tensions between F and G build, they give G up.


So for the remaining believers who acknowledge on the one hand that F is true, and who wish to be reasonable, they should be wondering, as we are, what is the back story that can reconcile them?

The answer that I'm suggesting and the one that all of those people in the polls have acknowledged is that the  God hypothesis must be rejected because of its overall failure to fit with the rest of what we know about the world. 

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems like the argument here is that theist have an inconsistent position because they may not believe every scientific theory i.e. evolution? I just don’t see this as a problem.

But how is "inconsistency” being used here? Is it inconsistency in practical terms (political etc) or inconsistency as in a contradiction (philosophically)?


How consistency is defined really matters here because I really don’t think it can argued that a theist worldview is logically contradictory. Perhaps it is not popular among hard lined scientist and atheist and is thus politically inconsistent within this groups framework of beliefs. I would imagine Ludwig Wittgenstein would disagree with the professor here.

CS

mikespeir said...

From my perspective, it matters little that believers might find a way to incorporate F into their system of belief. More critical, I think, is that F (and other considerations) has robbed them of their traditionally assumed right to insist that everyone else agree.

Eric Sotnak said...

This is somewhat tangential, but did you see this recent study in which students were more likely to accept evolution if they also accepted a 4.5 billion year old earth?

http://tinyurl.com/yeuyynd

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks for the quick responses, guys. Eric, no I didn't see it. But I agree that the problem here is just education. The reason that I am getting 20 year olds in college who don't know how old the Earth is, or when dinosaurs lived is that their K-12 education is inadequate. They are only able to say things like "dinosaurs and humans coexisted a few thousand years ago." out of ignorance.

CS, there's not a hard argument here for the inconsistency or logical contradictions in theism, although I think that many versions of theism are clearly both. Here I've just sketched out a set of challenges. If the theist denies F, then he's got a huge challenge to show that it's reasonable. He won't succeed. If the theist accepts F, as he should, then there are a bunch of vitally important questions that he should answer and that I am desperate to hear the answers to. If you think those questions are easily met, then great. Let's hear how and why you think that dinosaurs and australopithecenes fit into God's plan.

MM

Richard Schoenig said...

One explication of inconsistency that F-denying theists might have to answer for is that it seems to be inconsistent of them to reject F and yet accept virtually all the rest of the scientific output of the same sciences, staffed with the same practitioners, acting in the same manner as they did in producing their F-related results. This discrepancy may not amount to a formal contradiction, but it does call for more explanatory justification than has been forthcoming so far from F-deniers. Also, a small point, Cro-Magnon were homo sapiens. Perhaps MM meant "Neandethals" in that sentence.

David Fryman said...

“I don’t know,” shouldn’t satisfy us for several reasons.

The "I don't know" response of many of your students may not mean what you think it means. For some, you're probably right that they simply haven't thought about it rigorously. For others though, it may be a recognition of limited understanding.

I will freely admit that I don't understand a great deal about how God interacts with the world. So what? My lack of understanding (or more likely, my inability to understand) is not, in and of itself, evidence against the so-called "God hypothesis".

Anonymous said...

I am not sure education about evolution is going to change much in terms of a person changing their religious beliefs. It may help weed out folks who blindly follow a hard line doctrine of a 6000 year old year but many other theist will just incorporate evolution into their worldview.

I took physical anthropology in college and got an A. I am not included to agree with human evolution as understood by scientists but something more of a mechanism that God put into place. I don’t think God just waves a wand and things appear or disappear but rather is a grand scientist utilizing creation through governing laws. As we see in human creation the complexity of inventions and its efficiency appears to go hand and hand to give value.

Why am I skeptical of human evolution as the scientist community portrays as unintelligent? Well, despite the theory of human evolution being a quite elaborate and neat theory it is not as strong as say other scientific theories that attempt to explain the physical world i.e. second law, general theory of relativity, Heisenberg uncertainly principle. The following list can be proven in laboratory conditions over an over again. But human evolution is rather an explanation using a generalization of species A1, A2, B…

Such a series of connections are more in tune with social science or what we call the soft sciences yet implicates claims that at the very least hard science can stand the test of. The common response by a theist suggesting human evolution is just a theory may invoke absurdity among scientists and the like but it does point to an interesting problem with the theory of human evolution - it is base on scientific thinking that adherers to a consensus of the scientific community but it does not utilize other hard scientific theories nor is it based on perceived self evident truths (classical mechanics and its premises etc). So essentially, human evolution as accepted in the scientific community is a soft scientific theory that is alleged to somehow dismantle philosophical beliefs. This I believe is not only insufficient but falls short as even the theory of general relativity does not negate philosophical beliefs about presentism or fixed time.

I hate to reiterate this but I think the debate among theists and atheists is rather a case of misunderstood communication (Ludwig Wittgenstein). Essentially, atheists cry foul at theists for holding philosophical positions in light of scientific evidence, which does not in any way aim to resolve philosophical problems but practical or concrete problems about the world. True, science gives us information about the world but it doesn’t attempt to answer the why, who, or what (debatable?) but the how.

The following two precepts below I believed hint at the problem between atheism and theism in the question of God. Atheists tends to pursue the question of God scientifically whereas theists philosophically:


Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein



“4.111 Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences. (The word "philosophy" must mean something whose place is above or below the natural sciences, not beside them.)

4.113 Philosophy sets limits to the much disputed sphere of natural science”


The following premises if held true also present a problem for philosophical naturalism


So this is my attempt to rationally justify a theist view and still deny human evolution or certain scientific theories and still be consistent. I would be inconsistent with the scientific community and their set of true propositions but surely not with the rest of the world - I just happen to disagree with scientists on a theory that I see having philosophical implication and has to my knowledge over stepped its boundaries in scientific discovery.


CS

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks Richard. Yeah, the tension between using your microwave oven with confidence or your cell phone, on the one hand, while rejecting the grounds for evolution on the basis of some detailed, but misguided, critique of scientific methods ought to give the F deniers a headache. This is one of the sorts of conflicts that I have in mind. What the strikes me in the F denier cases is what disparate and ad hoc levels of skepticism or thresholds of proof they are demanded for the different concerns. They deny global warming, or radio-carbon dating on the basis of complex scientific arguments, but abandon this hard minded skepticism when it comes to analyzing the religious book that tells us that Jesus rose from the dead.

You've also got my intent on the Cro-Magnon, Neanderthals points. But it looks like from Wikipedia at least, there's some issue about the relationship between homo sapiens and Cro-Magnons.

MM

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Matt,

Excellent post. It seems so obvious that the religious stories were, as you say, what we would expect from primitive peoples who did not understand much of anything about cosmology, yet people mindlessly cling to them today. I think that is because of the emotional and psychological benefits they get from their religions. Religion meets some type of need in the human psyche that we don't fully understand yet. Once we understand that, we will understand why people cling to religious myths which are so obviously wrong.

Matt McCormick said...

CS, thanks for reading and thinking about this.

The Wittgensteinian analysis is interesting, but implausible. Many Wittgensteinian's seem to recommend that we treat the two spheres as distinct, with separate rules and separate goals and functions. But the simple fact is that the W description just doesn't fit with the speech acts, behaviors, claims, and beliefs of too many religious believers. There are millions and millions of people in this country and elsewhere who believe not just that their God claims satisfy a certain set of purposes, but that they are really true. They think God is a real thing, and that the claims in F are false. But the W view is subject to a host of well-known problems that I won't detail here.

One more thing:

"Atheists tends to pursue the question of God scientifically whereas theists philosophically:"

This may appear to be the case in this blog post, but I want to be clear. There are a number of philosophical arguments that I have been offering for atheism. There is a huge literature of philosophical atheism arguments that I have been trying to draw your attention to. And it is a mistake to conflate requests for evidence with requests for scientific, empirical evidence. As I've said before, I am construing evidence in the broadest possible way that includes a priori, conceptual justifications, arguments, abstract reasoning, moral reasoning, as well as empirical evidence. And I've offered numerous arguments that reject the existence of God on all those vectors. Theists who wave off atheist objections with vague comments that science doesn't give us all knowledge just aren't paying attention to the arguments that they have been presented with. I'm not sure that this is a mistake you're making, C S, but I get it several times a week. It should also be clear that the possibility of other, non-scientific knowledge alone shouldn't be treated as sufficient non-scientific justification for believing. Possible doesn't equal probable or reasonable. But, as I say, that's not really what you're maintaining.

MM

Matt McCormick said...

CS, you said:

"I am not sure education about evolution is going to change much in terms of a person changing their religious beliefs. It may help weed out folks who blindly follow a hard line doctrine of a 6000 year old year but many other theist will just incorporate evolution into their worldview."

In fact, we have a great deal of evidence on this. There is a robust negative correlation between education and religiousness. As education level (and I.Q., incidentally) goes up, religiousness goes down.

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=359

http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=490

http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=275

MM




MM

Anonymous said...

Matt,

I am entirely open to being completely wrong about my framing of the atheism and theism debate. In fact many of my beliefs are tentative and value the importance of being wrong, which can lead me to more correct beliefs - the true spirit of the philosopher in my opinion.

That being said, perhaps there is a discrepancy between what an atheist values in his/her totality of evidential propositions as opposed to a theist? Does the atheist consider the weight of scientific evidence more than a priori evidence in their final decision to believe God does not exist? Does the theist downplay the scientific evidence in favor of a priori evidence? This is really a question that revolves around value. And value theory is a very complicated area in philosophy, which seems to boil down to empiricism verses rationalism. Nonetheless, resolving any discrepancy in values between atheism and theism seems very complicated.

However, maybe it appears unfair to many atheists that theists can use the ole trump card and claim their belief in God is properly basic. But don’t atheist have a priori basic belief? Is it hard empiricism (excluding a priori), which necessitates the right amount of value to reject God? Maybe its scientism? Naturalism?

I personally believe philosophy is above science - it is the foundation for all disciplines of academia. And thus I do hold more weight in self evident and a priori truths than scientific truths. Scientific truths seem to guide everyday decisions about the world. But without philosophical truths scientific truths lack interpretation. The theory of human evolution requires the intervention of a philosophical debate because it has been incorrectly framed as dissolving a scientific problem - the question of a God creator.


CS

Anonymous said...

Matt,

I am surprised you would claim that the few studies listed showing a correlation between religiosity and education is even remotely a convincing case of strong evidence. I don’t think your going to get any group of well represented academics to back up the studies you posted in psychology or sociology. In fact, correlation studies do not show causation and only hold weight if they can be repeated, which the studies you listed do not and are obscure with no real precedence.

Further, if we were to agree that there is a correlation between religiousness and education we cannot conclude that religiousness causes a lack of education nor intelligence, in fact because ewe have no causation we could also claim that religiousness attracts uneducated people or low intelligence people because it is more popular than atheism or other beliefs. The key here is “popular”, which we all conceive of is effective in attracting the masses. Trends in clothing and automobiles are predicated on “in group” phenomena. Why would an uneducated person join the ranks of atheism when it isn’t even popular?

I am sure that I can post many correlation studies linking African Americans and crime rates. But I wouldn’t take this as evidence of any of the implications that come from such studies. Comparing demographics of people to other people is a poor use of scientific reasoning, particularly when external variables and cofounders are widely abound.

CS

Anonymous said...

Matt and his flock will like this...


A very funny video of atheist going door to door. Skip to 3.00 to pass the rant part

Door To Door Atheist

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dW-bt_1LzY

CS

Richard Schoenig said...

Here is some additional information on the relationship between religious conviction and intelligence/education/accomplishment.

1. From “Leading Scientists Still Reject God,” Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, Nature, 394:313, July 23, 1998:

Larson (a Methodist) and Witham (“reared as a Lutheran”) present the results of a replication of 1913 and 1933 surveys by (atheist) James H. Leuba. Larson and Witham used the same wording as in Leuba’s studies and sent the questionnaire to 517 members of the National Academy of Science (the latter including mathematicians, physicists and astronomers) Return rate was slightly over 50%.

The article shows that the percentage of the most accomplished US scientists who believe in the existence of a personal god (theists)has steadily declined from 27.7% in 1914 to 15% in 1933 to 7.0% in 1998. At the same time the percentage of those scientist who disbelieve in a personal god (atheists) has steadily increased from 52.7% in 1914 to 68% in 1933 to 72.2% in 1998. The percentage of these scientists who neither believe nor disbelieve in a personal God (agnostics) has stayed fairly constant: 1914 it was 20.9%, in 1933 it was 17%, and in 1998 it was 20.8%.

2. In The Psychology of Religious Behavior, Belief and Experience, by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi and Michael Argyle, the authors mention unpublished data collected by Beit-Hallahmi. He reports that among Nobel Prize laureates in the sciences as well as in literature, there was a remarkable degree of irreligiosity, as compared to the populations they came from. The reference is to Beit-Hallahmi, B. (1988) “The religiosity and religious affiliation of Nobel prize winners.” Unpublished data.

3. Burnham P. Beckwith, “The Effect of Intelligence on Religious Faith,” Free Inquiry, Spring 1986, pp. 46-53. Beckwith did extensive literature searchs of studies correlating intelligence and religious convictions. The results: in 39 of the 43 studies, other factors being equal, the more intelligent a person is, the less religious she/he is.

4. A survey of Royal Society fellows (UK) found that 3.3% believe in a God vs. 68.5% of general UK populace. (from article in the journal Intelligence by Prof. Richard Lynn, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Ulster U.)

5. In a recent meta study, "Average Intelligence Predicts Atheism rates Across 137 Nations" in Intelligence, Volume 37, Issue 1, January-February 2009, pp. 11-15, Richard Lynn, John Harvey, and Helmuth Nyborg identified the following:

i) Worldwide, there is a substantial negative correlation between intelligence and religious belief. That is, as intelligence goes up, religious belief goes down.

ii) There is a significant decline of religious belief with age among children.

iii) In the 20th century, as the intelligence of the population has gone up, religious belief has gone down.

Of course correlation is not causation. Nevertheless, when the correlations are relevant, accurate, and abundant, that provides compelling inductive support for asserting that something more than mere corellation is in play.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks Richard. This is thorough and your comments are right on. C S: Of course correlation is not causation--I spend the better part of every semester trying to communicate that to my freshmen students. I won't launch into a detailed defense of the causal claim here, but I maintain that it's there. For the purposes of my blog post, you could spell out the correlation this way: As acceptance of F goes up, acceptance of G goes down. If you really want to argue that that is an accidental or third cause relationship in the light of the prevalence and strength of the correlation, go ahead. You'd be proving one of my other points: People apply a high level of scrutiny and skepticism to claims that are incompatible with G and then they suspend that same level of critical analysis when it comes to evaluating the case for G.

For a primer on the state of the discipline on a priori knowledge and a priori justifications for beliefs, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/apriori/

In particular, note some of the summary comments in the last paragraph: (This is a big topic).

Empirical approaches to philosophy seem unable to do away with appeal to intuitions as the grounds for believing some conclusion follows from the premises, to support ampliative inferences that go beyond observations to more general claims, or to discover the essence of concepts that non-natural kind terms express. Pragmatic approaches to philosophy seem to require reliance on intuitions to determine relevant epistemic goals and to stop a threatening regress. In the past it was widely held that a priori knowledge could only be of necessary or analytic truths, and that all necessary truths were capable of being known a priori. Similar things were thought of a priori justification. In light of developments in the last half of the 20th century, all of these claims about the relation between a priori knowledge and justification on the one hand, and necessity and analyticity on the other, seem false. Further, a priori justification is fallible, and both it and a priori knowledge are defeasible, both by a priori and empirical evidence. Kant seems right in arguing that not only analytic propositions can be justified, and known, a priori, though many reject his account of how synthetic a priori knowledge is possible as obscure and unconvincing. Perhaps philosophers were mistaken in thinking that if there is an explanation of how a priori justification, and knowledge, are possible it must be of just one type. Maybe at least two different accounts must be given, one in terms of concept possession; the other, in terms of the inability to find counterexamples.

Matt McCormick said...

Much of what I have to say about agnosticism (which seems to be one of the interesting background issues here) is here:

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/perpetual-motion-machines-and-argument.html

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/whats-left-to-be-agnostic-about.html

Matt McCormick said...

Try that again with the links live:


Perpetual Motion Machines

What's Left To Be Agnostic About?

paulv said...

What rings false for me in this analysis, is the fact that 33% of current scientists believe in god, (Pew) compared to less than 5 percent who don't think humans are a factor in global warming (Doran), or the infinitesimal number that don't believe in evolution.

If a third of our scientists can reconcile F and G, then it is hard to see how F can be logically incompatible with G, unless we want to believe that scientist are on average not that good at reasoning. (Should we then doubt all their other conclusions)

But perhaps we should instead believe those atheist scientists who hold (and have data supporting the claim) that religious beliefs are quite compatible with scientific ones ie. Scot Atran.

While we laugh at evolution deniers, we should remember that the philosopher Karl Popper, while believing in evolution, considered evolutionary theory a pseudo-science, like Freudian psychology and Marxism.

paulv said...

More pertinent data, might be what percentage of philosophers consider that any belief in a god is incompatible with acceptance of the current scientific history of the earths evolution? This would give us non-philosophers an accurate snapshot of the field.

M. Tully said...

"Why am I skeptical of human evolution as the scientist community portrays as unintelligent? Well, despite the theory of human evolution being a quite elaborate and neat theory it is not as strong as say other scientific theories that attempt to explain the physical world i.e. second law, general theory of relativity,..."

CS,

How do I say this, OK, your wrong! Not really so much wrong as WRONG!

This is from someone who makes their bones in the physical and not the biological world (so it pains me to say), evolution has much more laboratory repeatable evidence than general relativity does. I hate it, but it's true. Come on, bending space-time, the equations are there and then there is the wait for evidence from photons that were emitted long before any of us were born.

Biologists on the other hand, have with viruses, bacteria, Drosophila and more corroborated in the lab those things things that they had observed in the fossil record. We may have better equations (but then again purely inorganic systems have less variables than organic ones), but they do have much better laboratory evidence.

So, my point really being, if you are withholding acceptance of evolution because the physical sciences are more demonstrable, then by all means accept evolution of biological species and deny general relativity. Although, if you want to show that the weaker theory of GR is incorrect, you had better pack a large lunch.

M. Tully said...

Eric,

"This is somewhat tangential, but did you see this recent study in which students were more likely to accept evolution if they also accepted a 4.5 billion year old earth?"

Actually, it's not surprising at all. If the earth was only 6,000 YO, evolution would be untenable. Lord Kelvin made that very argument to Darwin. If chemical reactions were the source of the sun's energy, evolution doesn't work. If nuclear fusion had never been demonstrated, you would have hard time convincing me of evolution. I would still hold the omni-god hypothesis fails but I would be a vocal member of the "evolution has a major hole" camp.

M. Tully said...

paulv said...

What rings false for me in this analysis, is the fact that 33% of current scientists believe in god, (Pew)

Yeah, I read that same poll. What it didn't ask is, "which god?"

Spinoza's god? Einstein's god?

It also didn't ask, what I believe to be the key question, "Is your belief in god based on the same methodology that you use to determine what is true in your scientific inquiries?"

If the answer to that question is no, than stating that the person is a scientist when asking about their religious beliefs is truly and purely a dishonest representation of fact.

It is an attempt to put the authority of science behind religion without warrant to do so. That is to say, as clearly as possible, a bald-faced lie.

I for one would encourage a poll of scientists that ask the above questions. I'm even willing to contribute to have the poll commissioned. Any theologians willing to join me?

How about you guys at the Templeton Foundation? I'll wait. Hell, history will wait.

Richard Schoenig said...

paulv said: "we should remember that the philosopher Karl Popper, while believing in evolution, considered evolutionary theory a pseudo-science, like Freudian psychology and Marxism."

Popper did think for awhile that Darwin's principle of natural selection was an ultimately unscientific doctrine. However, he later changed his mind about this, arguing that the Darwinian claim about the survival of the fittest is not a mere definition of fitness (and, hence, unfalsifiable) but instead implies historical hypotheses about the causes of traits in current populations.

M. Tully said...

Paul,

"Karl Popper, while believing in evolution, considered evolutionary theory a pseudo-science"

Read Popper's later writings, he realizes he erred on the testability of evolution.

paulv said...

M Tully said "That is to say, as clearly as possible, a bald-faced lie. "

Of scientists who are strong atheists, can they claim that it is "based on the same methodology that [they] use to determine what is true in [their] scientific inquiries?"

I have yet to see them present the same degree of evidence, or of consensus. When people trot out figures about the majority of scientist being atheists, it must then also be an attempt to put the authority of science behind atheism without warrant to do so.

It is I think still valid to trot out the figures to show that atheism is worth considering.
or to dispute claims that religion and science are incompatable,

As for POpper, you are correct, that he did recant, but still held that "The claim that [evolution] completely explains evolution is of course a bold claim, and very far from being established. All scientific theories are conjectures, even those that have successfully passed many severe and varied tests. " from Wikipedia.
So if it was a tricky call to make for him, we can forgive lesser people for getting it wrong. Yet I know of no creationists who claim that breeding animals to achieve certain traits is impossible, or dispute that if we allow only short giraffes to breed, we will be left with only a breed of short giraffes.

yashwata said...

This post, and most of the comments thereon, are based on a false dichotomy. It is not true that theists believe X while atheists believe Y. This situation is not nearly so symmetrical. As you know, it would be more accurate to say that theists believe X, Y and Z while atheists believe none of those things. Atheism is not a belief, it is a refusal to believe. Just as "not collecting stamps" is not a hobby, "not believing in gods" is not a belief.

But we can go much farther than this. Not only is there no evidence for most religious propositions, there is no evidence that anyone believes them. And if people don't believe them, this neatly explains how people can claim that "belief" in rationality and "belief" in god are compatible. People do believe in rationality (in the weak sense that they find it useful) but they do not believe in gods. Thus, they are not faced with a conflict between two belief systems because they don't have two belief systems, only one.

As a philosopher, Matt, you should know that a report of a belief is not the same thing as a belief. People report religious beliefs all the time. This does not prove that they actually have such beliefs. I think they don't.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Placental mammals arise about 54 million years ago.

I wouldn't say that, although it depends on what you mean by "arose."
Earliest Known Ancestor of Placental Mammals Discovered
125 million years old.

The age you mentioned is about when they rose to prominence after the demise of the dinosaurs, but they were tip-toeing around the margins for quite some time.

In a similar fashion, modern humans may date to about 200,000 years ago, but they did not poof suddenly into existence. They arose from earlier hominin and primate populations.

Reginald Selkirk said...

M. Tully: "Biologists on the other hand, have with viruses, bacteria, Drosophila and more corroborated in the lab those things things that they had observed in the fossil record."

Note that CS specifically runs on about "human evolution," as though there were some reason to believe that evolution of modern Homo sapiens is different from that of all other known species on our planet.

CS is wrong in the comparison to physical theories such as relativity and quantum mechanics. While there is excellent data supporting both relativity and quantum, and excellent real-world examples of each (relativity is supported by observed gravitational lensing and GPS navigation satellites require relativistic corrections, quantum theory underlies much of modern technology such as lasers and semiconductor electronics) the two have not been completely reconciled, and the discovery of dark energy has put the ultimate accuracy of relativity in question.

Meanwhile, there is no scientifically credible competitor to evolution, and no large set of data which would require a different theory.

Note that the Wikipedia article on Cro-Magnons classifies them as "early modern humans," clearly related to but with some noticable differences from modern Homo sapiens, and that it cites the DNA study which backs up that classification.

Richard Dawkins has a nice chapter on human evolution in his latest book (The Greatest Show on Earth) in which he stresses the gradual change apparent in the fossil record. Several fossil species have been moved back and forth between Homo and its predecessor Australopithecus.

Reginald Selkirk said...

More on human evolution: Aside from the plentitude of fossil evidence, there is the DNA evidence linking us to chimps, Neandertals - and to every other species known on the planet. Phylogenetic trees based on this DNA evidence correlates very strongly to trees based on fossil and anatomical comparisons, which are based on thoroughly different experimental methods. If some supernatural being specially created humans separate from all other species, He/She did it in a way which has the appearance of evolution. CS is way off base to suggest otherwise.

M. Tully said...

Paul,

"Of scientists who are strong atheists, can they claim that it is "based on the same methodology that [they] use to determine what is true in [their] scientific inquiries?"

Short answer, yes. Long answer, depends on the deity we are talking about. If someone wants to propose the deistic god who doesen't now nor has during the last 13.7B years actively interacted with the natural universe, then no. Scientists don't argue from a scientific perspective (that deity is left to philosophers who, by the way, are also largely atheistic).

However, if we are talking about a deity that takes an active part in the natural universe, then yes it is from a scientific perspective that that those gods are falsified. A proposed entity that results in a change in the course of events that would be expected without that entity in the natural universe, is a question for science. Those entities would be at the heart of the majority of theistic belief on the planet today and they have been, beyond any reasonable scientific doubt, falsified.

M. Tully said...

"So if it was a tricky call to make for him, we can forgive lesser people for getting it wrong."

Curious, how do you define "lesser?"

I'll be honest with you, I don't consider you in anyway to be lesser than a dead guy named Popper.

But can we all err? Absolutely. Are we all susceptible to pre-existing biases? Without a doubt.

Knowing that we all need a way to decide what is really true. I have chosen evidence. That which has successfully explained the past and can accurately predicate the future.

What do you base truth on? And I am really curious, why?

Anonymous said...

Tully,

Human evolution is connecting the dots to form a scientific theory. It more a soft science in terms of how its reaches its conclusions utilizing the rationalization of available data to connect species. Its much different than lets say a scientific law like gravity or the second law of thermodynamics, which really aren’t up for debate anytime soon nor are constantly being revised.

Perhaps using GR was not as appropriate to show its strength giving its relies on the law of gravity but I wonder why you didn’t address the second law I mentioned? You cannot possibly think human evolution theory is as strong as the second law? Will you address this? After all my point was the strength of human evolution compared to other more stronger scientific theories and its contentious/revisable nature. Science is revisable but its theories are not. And when scientific theories are revisable they are not good theories. Usually they are abandoned but human evolution seems to be except here and I am not sure why.

I do believe evolution is true in a general sense but I am not content with the broad and speculative nature of the connection of species.

CS

Anonymous said...

Regina,

Please address the strength of my argument (scientific laws verses human evolution theory) and not nick pick at the GR stuff. Is EVT a strong scientific theory, why is it revisable, laboratory experiments for species connection etc

You're right though I was hinting at a difference between human evolution and evolution.

CS

Anonymous said...

Here is a case among others where evolution theory gets revised and a reason why I am not totally sold. Many other scientific theories have been wrong and abandoned but evolution seems special. Why? I want good science and evolution and its faithful followers seem determine to make it work.

Am I wrong for being skeptical here?


"Shaking Up the Tree of Life

Among the study's surprising findings is that the comb jelly split off from other animals and diverged onto its own evolutionary path before the sponge. This finding challenges the traditional view of the base of the tree of life, which honored the lowly sponge as the earliest diverging animal. "This was a complete shocker," says Dunn. "So shocking that we initially thought something had gone very wrong."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080410153648.htm

CS

Anonymous said...

Christians are linked to positive emotional intellgence.

Yeah these studies remind me of forbes best places to live, eat, work, and die...

Humans are human...


Results showed a positive correlation between intrinsic religious orientation and perceived EI, and in particular, its subcomponent emotional understanding
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V9F-4JWMT04-1&_user=10&_coverDate=08%2F31%2F2006&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=2ad3a55312f560382ddeb324cad1e851

CS

Reginald Selkirk said...

Its much different than lets say a scientific law like gravity or the second law of thermodynamics, which really aren’t up for debate anytime soon nor are constantly being revised.
...
Science is revisable but its theories are not. And when scientific theories are revisable they are not good theories.


Your statements have no basis in reality.

Newton's formulation of gravity was the reigning explanation for a couple centuries. Relativity may be viewed as a tweaking of Newton's laws of motion for cases of very high velocities and very high masses, Newton's laws are still taught in schools and are sufficiently accurate for a great many daily tasks.

As I already mentioned, general relativity itself may have to be tweaked to account for the observations of "dark energy."

As to whether such theories are being "revised" or "discarded" seems to be a semantic exercise on teh slippery slope.

Regina,

F*ck you, asshole.

Please address the strength of my argument

Your argument has no strength to address. Besides being wrong, it was rather lacking in the detail necessary to even discern your intent, let alone address the direction of your error.

... and not nick pick at the GR stuff.

There you go. Your argument was that theories like general relativity are more solid than the theory of evolution. Obviously, there are two ways to address that; to establish the strength of the theory of evolution or point out the weaknesses of general relativity. Your objections are fatuous.


Is EVT a strong scientific theory, why is it revisable, laboratory experiments for species connection etc

You're right though I was hinting at a difference between human evolution and evolution.


How many textbooks do you want me to regurgitate right here? Is there some reason you have not/cannot find this material at length in other places? I could suggest a few books to start with.
Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer covers the basics.
If you feel you're ready for it,
Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne covers specifically the evidence supporting belief in the theory of evolution in depth. Like most current books on evolution, it dedicates a chapter to human origins; not because we are different in any relevant respect with re3gard to evolution, but to refute Creationists who cannot give up human exceptionalism.

To mention a few specific points, the DNA evidence is very clear that we share a common ancestor with chimpanzees dating to a few million years ago. The similarities go beyond merely gene sequences to overall chromosomal organization and noncoding elements of our genome. You can read up on SINEs (short interspersed nuclear elements) and LINEs (long interspersed repetitive elements) for example.

laboratory experiments for species connection etc

Look up "camel llama hybrid."

paulv said...

Tully,

While a large number of scientists are atheists (I don't know they outnumber the agnostics), many of those do not hold that belief in god is illogical or that their atheism is something they have proved logical or demonstrated scientifically. I think it is absurd to claim that Occam's razor say is the same as a logical proof rather than a form of belief. In addition many atheist scientists like Scot Atran make a much stronger claim, that the data shows that religion and science can be quite compatible. Certainly one can pick a religion that is not compatible with science, like one can pick a system of government that is not compatible with free speech, but to go from there to imply that no system of government is compatible with free speech is plainly false.
As is a claim that one can operate without some system of belief, as if Hume's problem of induction or Godel's theorem don't exist.

History has shown that people (who believed the sun went around the earth) are quite capable of believing that the earth revolves around the sun, without losing their belief in God. There is no reason to believe that people will be unable to believe in both God and a 13.7 year old universe and all that goes with it.

Some people will undoubtably lose faith in all notions of god if their current notion is incompatible with new facts they come to accept, as some people (anarchists) lose faith in all systems of government. Most people however will just alter their idea of god or good government and continue to believe as before.

Matt McCormick said...

Retreats to a defense of compatibilism (between science and religion) on the basis of its logical possibility misses the point, by and large. Certainly there is a way to engineer one's God beliefs in a way that carefully navigates around any conflicts with scientifically justified knowledge. And certainly that are people who claim to be both, although the fact that people, given their general propensity to inconsistent belief systems, do it is a pretty weak justification. There will be a couple of problems with this project, as I see it. First, the notion of God that has been adapted (ad hoc) to avoid any conflicts with scientific knowledge ends up pretty impoverished not very philosophically interesting or significant. He doesn't have a brain, so he's not conscious, and so on. Second, the engineered notion of God is miles away from the sort of being that the vast majority of believers believe in and the one that is the center of the major religious traditions. So going to church on Sunday and then going your biology lab on Monday morning amounts to a lie. It's disingenuous to actively propagate the traditional God of religions that is deep problematic and then retreat to the sanitized God when the problems are pointed out. And it's even worse to defend this duplicity by a retreat to the logical possibility of their compatibility. Mere possibility is never enough to justify, and contrary to the claims being made here, science does give us a number of powerful reason to doubt that such beings are real. So what's needed is an actual justification for believing. And part of adopting the God view, I've been arguing, is addressing some serious questions about how G fits with F. We've been assured that it's possible that a person can believe both. What I want to hear are some reasons to think that they are both true, and that God, as the almighty creator of the universe, had some hand in F. How is it exactly that God is the almighty creator of everything when from all appearances our physical theories give us a framework that already accounts for everything? What work needs to be done by God that couldn't have been done by evolution or physics? Unless we have some positive reasons here, it's just as silly for me to insist that my belief in invisible fairies is compatible with all of the known scientific facts. It might be compatible in some sense of the word, but that doesn't make it not an assinine thing to believe. (I think the fundamental confusion between possible and probable is one of the biggest errors I run into in these discussions on a daily basis.)

MM

M. Tully said...

"Its much different than lets say a scientific law like gravity or the second law of thermodynamics, which really aren’t up for debate anytime soon nor are constantly being revised.

"Perhaps using GR was not as appropriate to show its strength giving its relies on the law of gravity but I wonder why you didn’t address the second law I mentioned? "

Anon,

OK, one time, just for you (usually I wouldn't, but I think you might benefit). GR IS a theory of gravity. It solved Newton's, "I can't describe the force, but live with it, the equations are pretty accurate." Einstein proposed a space-time tensor that allowed the disposal of some, "spooky action at a distance." OK, so GR is a theory of gravity and is one that is still today being tested, being pushed to see if it breaks down. Check some fairly recent pop science literature, physicists as population aren't done trying test whether it not it will fail under certain conditions. On the other hand, they are quite sure that breaks down at the quantum level. Einstein wrote it himself, Hawking is famous for pointing it out again with the big bang singularity.

As for the second law I agree, no serious physicist is testing it to see if it breaks. There has to date been no evidence that it might. Along that same line of reasoning, no serious biologist is testing the theory of evolution to see if it breaks. There has to date been no evidence that it might. That is not to say that there are not certain people testing it (people still try to get patents for perpetual motion machines) but serious scholars in both fields are strongly convinced of the sustainability of both the second law and evolution.

Side note: There is a serious scientist proposing the second law as a catalyst for evolution. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/files/2010/03/Whitfield-Nascence-man.pdf

I hope that clears up a couple of things for you.

M. Tully said...

Anon,

By the way, did my above response answer your,

"You cannot possibly think human evolution theory is as strong as the second law? Will you address this?"

The answer is, yes I do, and I beleive I have!

Reginald Selkirk said...

Just one of the many evidences in our genomes for common descent with other primates:
(From 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution at Talk.Origins)

We require vitamin C in our diets because we have a broken gene for L-gulano-γ-lactone oxidase, one of the enzymes in the biosynthetic pathway for ascorbate, aka vitamin C. Lo and behold, apes and many other primates also require vitamin C because they have the same mutation in the same gene. In computer science, such similarity would be known as "bug for bug compatibility." The most parsimonious explanation: common ancestry.

Anonymous said...

Wow regina you still are the angry atheist. You werent exactly the best student in class and your post speak volumes

Anonymous said...

Matt,

“Unless we have some positive reasons here, it's just as silly for me to insist that my belief in invisible fairies is compatible with all of the known scientific facts”


In your response you attack compatibilism pretty strongly. Yet it would be very difficult to demonstrate that compatibilism is incoherent or philosophically contradictory. Are you saying religion and science are practically inconsistent? Because this is the only argument I think would circumvent a logical contradiction yet would still fly in the face of the masses who believe in God, angels, and demons - essentially the majority of society. Thus I am curious in what sense you can claim that science and religion are inconsistent if not practical (asinine beliefs etc) or logically?

However, if we consider that compatibilism is false then it seems that this can extend to mind dependent objects, which have no physical basis to their material counterparts. Such entities as color, notions (love, mental states etc), and many other things we give countenance to are pure fantasy in a position of non compatibilism. Is this what you are arguing and do you agree with the aforementioned implication?

CS

Reginald Selkirk said...

Wow regina you still are the angry atheist.

MM: It appears a rude and immature troll has infested your site.

Explicit Atheist said...

Anonymous:

"I personally believe philosophy is above science - it is the foundation for all disciplines of academia. And thus I do hold more weight in self evident and a priori truths than scientific truths. Scientific truths seem to guide everyday decisions about the world. But without philosophical truths scientific truths lack interpretation. The theory of human evolution requires the intervention of a philosophical debate because it has been incorrectly framed as dissolving a scientific problem - the question of a God creator."

Weight of the evidence is literaly the only basis we have to justify our beliefs. Philosophy that is grounded in weight of the evidence has substance, philosophy that is not grounded in weight of the evidence has no substance. To me, its an important ethical imperative, as well as a pragmatic imperative, to ground our beliefs in weight of the evidence. Without that there isn't a rational anchor and we are lost in circular reasoning. We can disagree about what the weight of evidence is and what it implies. Skepticism and doubt are needed because the weight of the weight of the evidence is often lite or absent. But if one side dispenses with weight of the evidence and appeals to faith or personal interpretations of personal experience or tradition or non-empirical based authority instead of or contraty to weight of the evidence then we don't have a rational common ground for debate.

Explicit Atheist said...

Anonymous:

"However, if we consider that compatibilism is false then it seems that this can extend to mind dependent objects, which have no physical basis to their material counterparts. Such entities as color, notions (love, mental states etc), and many other things we give countenance to are pure fantasy in a position of non compatibilism. Is this what you are arguing and do you agree with the aforementioned implication?"

Everything you mention has a physical basis. Color, for example, only exists in the context of a physical detection of light of different lightwaves. We don't have a material explanation for color perception, but we have every reason to consider it an emergent property of material phenomena. Color perception doesn't exist independently of the material. Different light detecting organs in different organisms detect different ranges of wavelengths like different audio detecting organs in different organisms detect different ranges of audio. We don't know if the experiences are qualitatively the same but insofar as we have a common evolutionary history it appears to be likely that our qualitative experiences overlap. Those qualitative experiences may be somewhat, or even entirely, arbitrary, except to the extent they were directed by the natural selection pressures.

Anonymous said...

Explicit atheist,

I cant see how you think color or other mind dependent objects have a physical basis. Rather, mind dependent objects seem to be a basis for many so called behaviors and notions. Mind dependent objects are a big problem for the naturist movement as it struggles to explain away mental phenomenon that has no external reality outside our minds. Again, if you deny that there are mind dependent objects then you have a lot of work to do in explaining why we countenance entities that are only descriptive by well more descriptions. I am sure you believe in things being true by definition. Well if so then you believe in mind dependent objects.


Color does not have a physical basis as its a property of the EMR field X and derived from the mind. You cannot describe me what the color of red is physically but you can point to its association with a physical object. Colors are defined into our schemas and it is entirely possible that the color green could have been associated with such and such wave length instead of red. Another example of a mind dependent object is love. Love is true by its definition and only after understanding its definition we apply it to behaviors that contribute to its existence. So to physically associate such and such wavelength as a basis for a color is to confuse the order of its basis - that being a mentally produced object.

Essentially, it is really not possible to describe red as it has no weight, height, mass or any other physical characteristics. But is does have a an association with many physical. Objects i.e. fire engines, wave length X,

CS

Explicit Atheist said...

I don't see any evidence that sound perception, color perception, and perceptions of all types generally, exist independently of the material. Since they don't exist independently of the material it follows that they appear to be dependent on the material. That dependency, in turn, implies that perceptions have a material basis. Given this material dependecy circumstance I can't derive the reality of the supernatural, which is the notion that there is a mind independent of the material, from the phenomena of perceptions.

Explicit Atheist said...

Anonymous (CS) said...

"Here is a case among others where evolution theory gets revised and a reason why I am not totally sold. Many other scientific theories have been wrong and abandoned but evolution seems special. Why? I want good science and evolution and its faithful followers seem determine to make it work.

Am I wrong for being skeptical here?"

Skepticism is one thing, adopting an all or nothing false dichotomy is something else. The example you cite shows nothing more than that this: When we follow the weight of the evidence we are obligated to change our minds when new evidence changes the overall weight of the evidence. Over time we accumulate more evidence, and insofar as the evidence reflects an underlying truth about the nature of our reality, we can expect our understanding of the nature of our reality to tend to become more complete over time. Its not a straight path with an a-priori known ultimate destination, nor is it an undirected random walk. Its a curved path and when you look at small segments of that path its not clear that it has an overall direction. But when you take a birds eye view of the entire path it does have an overall direction despite its local curves. That is why an empirical, weight of the evidence approach works well. We know it works because it has taken us places. Religion, in comparison, has not taken anywhere with respect to knowledge of how the work works.

Matt McCormick said...

CS, one of the pieces that is widely credited in philosophy with thoroughly refuting the "phenomenal qualities like colors are non-physical" argument that you are presenting here is Paul Churchland's
The Rediscovery of Light, (1995) Journal of Philosophy 93 (5):211-28.
You'll have to get it from the journal directly or from an anthology, however, because I can't find a free, electronic copy of it.

And I'm not offering an argument from authority here, but here are the numbers for professional philosophers' attitude about the question of non-physicalism:

Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?

Accept or lean toward: physicalism 526 / 931 (56.4%)
Accept or lean toward: non-physicalism 252 / 931 (27%)
Other 153 / 931 (16.4%)
Source: http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

That 56% of them accept or lean towards physicalism amounts to a huge mandate among people who are professional contrarians.