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Archive for the ‘Naturalism’ Category

In ‘Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism,’ Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism excludes the means to validating our cognitive faculties. In a nutshell, Plantinga argues that if the reliability of our cognitive faculties is under question, one cannot answer the question whether they are reliable by pointing out that these faculties themselves deliver the belief that they are reliable; one needs more, one needs good, independent reason to believe our cognitive faculties are reliable. Crudely, Plantinga criticisizes empiricists / naturalists for failing to provide a logically satisfactory argument for asserting that our cognitive faculties are reliable.

Plantinga’s argument, though, does not immediately commend itself to acceptance: Essentially, the empiricist / naturalist must provide an argument for the foundational reliability of our cognitive faculties only if she first accepts a foundationalist epistemology. However, empiricists / naturalists need not accept a foundationalist epistemology. Indeed, the empiricist / naturalist should instead reject the premise that knowledge requires an Archimedean foundation. (I guess Plantinga could assert that the empiricist / naturalist is somehow committed to a foundationalist epistemology, but I would like to see the argument for that. In any case, I have little confidence the argument would work.)

Rather, pace Hasok Chang (epistemic iteration), C.S. Peirce (pragmatism) or W.V.O. Quine (coherentism), the empiricist / naturalist can take other routes. Though I have significant misgivings about coherentism, it remains a viable option. However, a more promising route, I believe, would be Chang’s idea of epistemic iteration, which is a thoroughly proper empiricist epistemology (situated within a largely Peircean pragmatist framework). To see this, let us look at Chang’s analysis of the historical problem of the reliability of thermometry in early and mid 19th science. Though crude and without the requisite scholarly detail, the synopsis should suffice to give the rough view.

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Too many people take the so-called theory of intelligent design seriously, which is unfortunate since nobody who takes a scientific view of the world should, and everyone ought to take a scientific view of the world. As many have argued, ID theory is not, properly, a theistic explanatory model. However, I am not convinced that this is the case, and for two primary reasons. (Though, I find that insofar as ID theories are not theistic models, they actually suffer from more problems, so they really ought to welcome theistic interpretations. But this we may skip for now.) First, the correlation between theism and ID theory is too great for it to be an accident of honest inquiry. The overwhelming majority of ID theory proponents are theists, and theistic conceptions of god are, not surprisingly, suitable candidates for the intelligent designer. Second, the Discovery Institute, the main intellectual impetus behind ID theory in the English speaking world, published The Wedge, wherein they explicitly advocate for a theistic interpretation of ID theory. (FYI: One may read the document here: The Wedge.)

In any case, what is to follow is a rough and ready argument against theistic explanatory models.

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and if Christ hath not risen, vain is your faith, ye are yet in your sins;

1 Corinthians 15:17

I want to grant the strongest possible case allowable for the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, I expect to afford much leeway- indeed, more than is rationally justified- to the claims of the historicity and reliability of the Christian texts. That is to say I will grant, though I do not think it is true, that the eyewitness reports in the gospels and the epistles are from individuals who were neither inappropriately credulous, uneducated, nor emotionally and psychologically unfit to provide generally reliable testimonies. I will further grant, though I do not think it is true, that the gospels and the epistles are independent, generally reliable and unbiased historical documents which track the events under consideration accurately- as accurately as any historical text could, that is. I will also grant, though I do not think it is true, that the testimony of the Church Fathers was generally reliable and has transmitted accurately the succeeding 1,800 years to the current day.

I shall further suppose, though I am not sure how they might accomplish this, that historians can exclude all possible naturalistic explanations, with the exception of so-called swoon hypotheses, to include even future explanations which further scientific investigation might disclose and more elaborate explanations such as extraterrestrial interventions not now seriously entertained. Even then, I shall contend, Christians are not justified in believing that Jesus’ reported postmortem sightings were the result of a Christian miracle. I will argue that even on these favorable grounds the Christian is not justified in believing the Christian god rose Jesus from the dead.

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Before continuing, I should offer the following caveat. What is to follow is a very rough draft of a paper I threw together. The paper was inspired by another I authored on a similar theme for a PoS class. The following neglects many details and instead provides for a rough outline of a larger, much closer analyzed and ambitious paper I suspect I will write in the near future. So, this post is but an approximation of what is to come. Nevertheless, if the post engenders discussion on any topics pertaining to quantum mechanics, scientific methodology, philosophy of science, verificationism, logical positivism, whatever, and attracts critical first assessments, then it will have served its purpose.

Logical Positivism and the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

“The rise of quantum theory in the years 1900 to 1927 is surely one of the major advances in the history of science- perhaps even one of the greatest intellectual advances ever made by mankind” (Hund 1974, p. 5). The mathematical formulation of modern quantum mechanics consists of a complete and logically consistent framework of mathematical deductions (see, for instance, von Neumann 1955). However, an ordered series of mathematical deductions, no matter how complete or logically consistent, is not a physical theory. In order to obtain the status of a physical theory, the mathematical formalism or, more precisely, the mathematical representations, must be assigned certain, specifiable experimental conditions so as to allow for the determination of measurement procedures which may aid in the confirmation and disconfirmation of hypotheses and in the identification of new and fruitful avenues of investigation. Of course, the experimental data produced by the measurement procedures necessitate interpretation, and that interpretation will run up through the mathematical structure resulting in our view of the theory and its overall implications for our system of the world.

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Should students have to learn mathematics in school? A parody of the answers various Miss USA contestants gave to the question: Should students have to learn evolution in school? I agree with many of the Miss USA contestants. We should teach students both sides of the homeopathy and chemistry debate, too. I mean, like, students should have the opportunity and stuff to decide for themselves if homeopathy is true for them. I mean, like, isn’t logic culturally determined anyways and stuff?

From the blog Logic and Rational Interaction: The new Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy has initiated an iTunes channel with videocasts of lectures presented at the Center. Here is the description of the Munich Center from the iTunes channel:

Mathematical Philosophy – the application of logical and mathematical methods in philosophy – is about to experience a tremendous boom in various areas of philosophy. At the new Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, which is funded mostly by the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, philosophical research will be carried out mathematically, that is, by means of methods that are very close to those used by the scientists. The purpose of doing philosophy in this way is not to reduce philosophy to mathematics or to natural science in any sense; rather mathematics is applied in order to derive philosophical conclusions from philosophical assumptions, just as in physics mathematical methods are used to derive physical predictions from physical laws. Nor is the idea of mathematical philosophy to dismiss any of the ancient questions of philosophy as irrelevant or senseless: although modern mathematical philosophy owes a lot to the heritage of the Vienna and Berlin Circles of Logical Empiricism, unlike the Logical Empiricists most mathematical philosophers today are driven by the same traditional questions about truth, knowledge, rationality, the nature of objects, morality, and the like, which were driving the classical philosophers, and no area of traditional philosophy is taken to be intrinsically misguided or confused anymore. It is just that some of the traditional questions of philosophy can be made much clearer and much more precise in logical-mathematical terms, for some of these questions answers can be given by means of mathematical proofs or models, and on this basis new and more concrete philosophical questions emerge. This may then lead to philosophical progress, and ultimately that is the goal of the Center.

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Patricia Churchland discusses eliminative materialism:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzT0jHJdq7Q

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In a recent and very engaging presentation at UNF, Chris Tucker asked for an argument that shows perception is trustworthy that does not already assume that perception is trustworthy, where perception includes vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell, and proprioception.  It was intended to be a trick question as any argument for one type of perception will depend on another.  For example, when asked how I can trust my hearing – e.g. that who I heard speaking at the lecture was Chris Tucker and not a recording being played in the background- I can respond that I watched him speak with my very own eyes.  So it seems that we are left with basic faculties of perception to form rational beliefs that cannot themselves be verified as trustworthy by argument or experience independent of those faculties.  If this is so, argued Tucker, then a common argument against the use of religious experiences to make religious beliefs rational employs inconsistent standards – higher standards are set for religious beliefs than perceptual.  I would like to look more closely at Tucker’s objection and consider a way of responding by arguing that the standards for religious beliefs are not higher than those of perceptual beliefs and that perceptual experiences are supported for reasons independent of those experiences. (more…)

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