Monday, June 15, 2009

Putting epistemology first

The debate over so-called accomodationism (notably between Chris Mooney and Jerry Coyne, with significant contributions by Russell Blackford, Jason Rosenhouse and P.Z.Meyers) has, fortunately, raised what I think is the fundamental issue between naturalism and supernaturalism: how we know what's real. The National Center for Science Education and the National Association of Science seem to grant religion a special domain of epistemic competence in being able to decide the question of whether the supernatural exists, a domain in which science, they say, has no competence. But this seems wrong, as argued here. Science can investigate supernatural hypotheses if they have testable content, and religion has no special reliable mode of knowing which shows that something beyond nature exists, although theologians such as John F. Haught try to make the case that it does.

Of course there are important questions we can ask about reality outside the direct purview of scientific theorizing. Supernaturalist Ken Miller suggests some: "Why does science work? Why is the world around us organized in a way that makes it accessible to our powers of logic and observation?" And he points to "the deeper questions of why we are here and whether existence has a purpose." To the extent these questions involve matters of fact, or that they imply a factual state of affairs within which we ask them, we'll want to use our most reliable mode of knowing to ascertain those facts, which is science. What is the nature of existence, that it might or might not have a purpose? What is it about the methods of science that explains why it works so well? Science, and more broadly intersubjective empiricism, obviously has a role in investigating the nature of existence and the nature of scientific practice itself since these are empirical questions. To the extent these questions aren’t directly factual, but involve conceptual analysis, they are ordinarily deemed philosophical. But the neat distinction between empirical and conceptual investigation has been blurred considerably by the naturalistic turn in philosophy over the last century, so that we might call Miller’s questions “philo-scientific” questions, ones which arguably require the collaboration of science and philosophy to address.

What Miller and other supernaturalists such as Francis Collins at Biologos seem to suggest, however, is that religion and religious faith have some additional expertise, knowledge or epistemic competence beyond what science and philosophy have to offer in answering such questions. They believe that there are specifically religious, non-scientific ways of reliably knowing reality that can help answer the questions of why the world is accessible to logic and observation, and of ultimate meaning and purpose. If so, how do these ways of knowing work, such that we can see that they’re trustworthy? Does theology, usually in the business of defending the existence of something beyond nature, have a special philosophical or epistemic competence such that it provides insights into reality not available to naturalistic philosophy? If so, what is this? In a must read essay on naturalism, Barbara Forrest quotes Sidney Hook asking the crucial question:
“Is there a different kind of knowledge that makes ... [the supernatural] an accessible object of knowledge in a manner inaccessible by the only reliable method we have so far successfully employed to establish truths about other facts? Are there other than empirical facts, say spiritual or transcendent facts? Show them to us...”
This is a reasonable demand that any cognitively responsible supernaturalist should be able, and feel obligated, to meet. Of course it isn’t as if naturalists claim to have all the answers to the big or even middle-sized questions, but the methods of inquiry we stick with have been proven pretty reliable. If there are any rival methods that establish the existence of something beyond nature that informs such answers, we want to know about them. If there aren’t, then supernaturalists are skating on thin epistemic ice.


Blogger skeptic griggsy said...

The atellic [ no teleology] or teleonomic [ causalism- natural causes]is that the weight of evidence illustrates teleomomy at work- no pre-ordained outcomes rather than teleology [ pre-ordained ones],so that rather than being compatible with science, God [intentional] contradng natural selection. As the old Omphalos argument has Him deceiving us with putative evidence of evolution, the new one has Him deceiving us with natural causes as the sufficient reason [ Leibniz]. No, science and God contradict each other!
That pace , Drs Ernst Mayr [" What Evolutin Is" and George Gaylord Simpston [ "The Life of the Past," it is indeed a scientific fact, as Dr. Paul emailed me, rather than a philosophical point as my friend Dr. Eugenie C. Scott affirms in her book against creationism.
From the side of superstition, religion and science are compatible in that cognitive dissonance is at work, but from the side of science, they so contradict each other that creationist evolution is an oxymoron and obfuscation.
So, my friends Drs. Jerry Coyne, Paul Kurtz and Steve Schafersman [1996]and Dr. Provine and I are right! Mr.Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth is developing this argument.
His other one is the argument from pareidolia- just as people see Yeshua and Mary in mundane items, so theists see divine mind behind natural causes and patterns as designs. No, no divinity make any designs, just natural causes causing patterns. Causalism rules as Dr. Weisz in ' The Science of Biology notes,not any kind of teleology.
The related argument is the one from beauty that, lo, if one looks around herself, she would acknowledge a divine mind behind everything.
Theists beg the question in assuming divine agency in all teleological arguments- from reason, fine-tuning, probability and design. Dr. Coyne in " Seeing and Believing" and Dr. Ameil Rossow in his essay on Dr. Kenneth Miller@ Talk Reason, and someone in Skkkkkkeptic magazone illumininate this begged question. Coyne and the latter author note there was no pre-ordained outcome for us or any similar organism to arrive.
It is a non-sequitur for Dr. Francsico Jose Ayala to maintain that without Him, this purposeless world is absurd. As Fr. Griggs maintains "Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning."
What a blunder Ayala makes in the last chapter of his book on design! Else where he makes the pathetic argument from angst that we need Him to overcome dread and find meaning; seek counseling for the dread, and make your own meanings! Divinity can add no meaning for our lives!
Bless him and Scott, but they so err!
The presumptions of empiricism, naturalism, rationalism and skepticism rule rather than faith!
Thank you!
We should use Lamberth's two arguments against theism1 Such a destruction of creationist evolution!o

Sep 29, 2009, 6:03:00 PM  
Blogger skeptic griggsy said...

Dr. Paul Draper

Skeptic magazine
Sorry for the typos, but I had great trouble in getting this post in.rateoub

Sep 29, 2009, 6:24:00 PM  

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