Science, faith and limits of knowledge

Occasionally we have debates here about the “limits of science,” “other ways of knowing,” and the old “scientism” label. Recently these issues have received a bit of coverage in  a series of articles at the Guardian.

These have been responses to the question Can Science Explain Everything?

Ever decreasing limits

I really like two of the responding articles. Adam Rutherford, who is an editor at the science journal Nature, wrote Ever-increasing circles of science. His conclusions are summarised in the sentence: “The domain of knowledge amenable to science has only ever changed in one direction: at the expense of all others.”

“Science may not tell us much about history, or aesthetics, or metaphysics. But to underestimate the boundaries of what it can say is a fallacy committed only by those who misunderstand or deny the power of the scientific method. When the comedian Dara O’Briain hears the facile maxim “science doesn’t know everything” his response is, of course it doesn’t, otherwise it would stop. As a way of knowing, there are limits to what science can reveal, but those limits are ever decreasing. Is there a sensible reason why it can’t tell us about love, or psychology, or God or the composition of quarks? Abso-bloody-lutely not.”

If you are not familiar with Dara O’Briain or his work have a look at the video clips in Get in the sack! Really great

Sue Blackmore, whose research interests include memes, evolutionary theory, consciousness, and meditation, produced Science explains, not describes

She says: “The experience of consciousness seems incommunicable and ineffable. Yet science can hope to explain how it arises.” She justifies this by arguing:

“Science can (potentially at least) explain everything because its ways of trying to understand the universe by asking questions of it should not leave any areas off-limits. The methods of openness, inquiry, curiosity, theory building, hypothesis testing and so on can be adapted and developed to explore and try to explain anything.”

As her title implies she concludes:

“conscious experiences may remain ineffable even when science thoroughly understands how and why. In this case I would be right in my intuition that science cannot describe everything but may well be able to explain that which it cannot describe.”

Finally I came across similar sympathies in the article Science and Faith at the blog cgranade::streams. The author Chris Granade, a Canadian Ph.D. student,  concludes:

“Why should we mistake the limits of our current methods as being intrinsic properties of the world itself? That seems like the ultimate leap of faith. To hold some phenomenon to be permanently beyond the realm of understanding, regardless of how much humanity grows (or how much our post-human descendants grow), is to take an unpalatable amount on faith.”

I like it!

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53 responses to “Science, faith and limits of knowledge

  1. I’m sorry Ken but this whole post is just an unfair attack upon Christianity and exposes your scientism.

    Why not have a REAL discusion?

    First, let’s play some games with definitions…

    Your title is “Science, faith and limits of knowledge”.

    Boring.
    That won’t do. It’s clear that you have no theological training whatsoever.
    Where are your scare-quotes?
    How can you have a proper discussion about anything at all without scare-quotes.
    Never type a comment on a blog without them!

    It’s not science but “science”.
    Faith?
    Nope.
    It’s “faith”.
    Knowledge gets the same treatment with “knowledge”.

    There, much better.
    We can now abandon the English language with it’s tediously dull dictionaries and encylopedias and all those pesky definitions and get deep, deep down into the softy fuzz of vagueability, wishywashiness and justmadeitupism.

    What do you really mean by “faith”, Ken?
    And how is that different from “science”?
    Are there truly any “limits” to “knowledge”?

    (insert your own navel-gazing comment here)

    😉

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  2. Thanks for drawing my attention to the series by the Guardian.

    I think it’s worthwhile pointing out that the assumption that no limits exist is on no more solid ground than the assumption that limits don’t exit. Indeed to hold that all phenomenon can be described/explained by a particular method of investigation also takes an unpalatable amount on faith. I think arguments about science, faith and their respective limits some times misses this point. The end result is that the two fields are driven apart. Various radicalising processes kick in and we are left with people who rely on the internet and GPS, but think the world is only 4000 years old.

    I think it would be better to leave this discussion aside completely and instead focus on building bridges between these communities of thought. The result being, hopefully, that blind rejection of science can be replaced by an attitude of incorporation.

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  3. Sure Ben, but no scientist I know is claiming that no limits exist. This is usually a straw man used by some of the theologically inclined who wish to either deny the power of science or to claim some special role for religion by default.

    Those false assertions do need challenging because they are defamatory to science (hence the “scientism” label they use) and/or are claiming an unjustified role for religion.

    When you ask for this discussion to be left aside you should aim that request at the initiators of the argument. These days science is often under criticism because it does what it does well – questioning and investigation. Religion, in part at least, would rather it didn’t – eg investigate human origins, evolution and morality. They like to claim an expertise in these areas which is false. So they criticize science for what they see as an intrusion.

    I think some degree of religion/science conflict is inevitable and healthy. After all, science is a quest that is continually expanding and encroaching into areas religion traditionally sees as it’s own. It’s only natural for religion to resist. But unfortunate.

    Religion should learn to adapt and to accommodate reality rather than resist by condemning science unjustly,

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  4. Left brain for thinking, right brain for feeling and living. This post reeks of scientism. Rather boring

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  5. As Scientist, I would assert – following in a long line of minds such as Russell, Medawar, Stent, and Barrow – that science cannot now and will never explain everything.

    As Theoretician, I would affirm that theory does explain everything. The ultimate theory, that is.

    Peace,

    Ik

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  7. Ropata – rather lazy of you, isn’t it?

    To use terms of abuse like “scientism” without explaining why?

    Ik – what you say is so obvious it is trivial. Why make the comment? It doesn’t actually relate to anything that Sue Blackmore or Adam Rutherford wrote about.

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  8. Yes, of course. I am obvious. Only ‘I’ decides what does and does not relate. This is My Power.

    What Blackmore and Rutherford write about is speculation. I assumed – it appears incorrectly – that in ignoring their comments this would demonstrate My perspective.

    Since the indirect approach failed, how about a more direct approach: I have and deduce from the ultimate, unfalsifiable, correct, complete and consistent, irreducible, reified, catholic, incommensurable theory of the Universe to know how I control and am My Conscious Mind, My Body, and My Universe.

    With all due respect to those so-called trivialities, all else is speculation. But what do I know, I am just The Theoretician.

    Peace,

    Ik

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  9. Still can’t see the purpose of your comment Ik – or its possible use.

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  10. Thanks for your reply Ken. Sorry about the delay. For some reason I didn’t recieve the email regarding additional comments that I expected.

    I think you misunderstand me. I agree with you. I agree that there definitely is conflict between science and religion. I think this can be easily demonstrated by asking what exactly is the role of prayer. I agree that there is no obvious way to resolve this conflict. You raise a good point regarding the initiators of conversations. I agree that it is usually religious people who challenge us by claiming scientific statements are false. I agree that this requires a reply by the scientific community and I agree with your justification of why that reply is required. I agree that, at a foundational level, it is religion that needs to adapt. The principles that underpin science are of a nature very different to those that underpin religion. This difference entails that, at the foundation, religion must change. Scientists can, however, can the way we engage with people, the way we present science. I agree that some “theologically inclined” people do set up a straw man; “Scientists claim that science has no limits, therefore they must be wrong”. But this is not what I’m trying to say, nor is it what I’m arguing for.

    I do stand by my comments of the second paragraph. I’m not really sure why your first paragraph is relevant here. I’m not stating that science has no limits nor that is has limits. I’m stating that it is impossible to know if it has limits and that discussions about limits are misguided. In fact I think that the demonstration of bounds on system of thought is very hard. How does one demonstrate the limits of a system of thought? A few mathematicians have done this (Godel’s theorem for example), but only in very specific circumstances.

    My first point was that discussions about the limits of science and religion are unhelpful because they immediately create a divide between communities. This is because, I think, the need to place limits is a need to demonstrate the confines of the other side. It’s an exercise in demonstrating that what belongs to one side doesn’t also belong to the other (e.g. “That’s mine you can’t have it”)

    My second point was that by avoiding this discussion and by building positive relationships it will be possible for scientific to actually make contributions to religious communities that have positive effects. By phrasing scientific rejection of religious viewpoints in the way that we do we ensure that religious people reject our ideas immediately. They don’t trust us. Indeed this point is relevant in any number of realms where there is a generic and whole hearted rejection of science, e.g. CAMs.

    I simply think that the discussion about the limits of science and religion does us a disservice. It will never convince the people we’re trying to convince. By joining in this discussion we make them stronger by pushing the two communities further apart. Would it not be better to engage with them in a way which is less combative, more diplomatic?

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  11. In many ways I agree with you, Ben. Politically I have always believed we should identify with what unites rather than what divides.

    However, in recent years I have come to see this as more complex. In some areas the politics of united action is not possible either because one component is disregarded, ignored or excluded. Or on the other hand is not sufficiently developed, or conscious of it’s own interests. Both hands actually seem to be related – that is developing a better consciousness of a group’s interests may be necessary to the overcoming of their exclusion from the debate.

    I think this helps explain the effectiveness of the so called “new atheists”. They concentrate on consciousness raising and that is where atheism is at at the moment. That is what is required. Once non-believers are more conscious of themselves as a group and of their interests they will be in a better position to cooperate and work politically with believers. A period of self assertion also seems necessary to overcome current biases which usually leads to believers actively excluding non-believers from activity on issues which are of common interest. Consider the do-called “inter-faith” politics if recent years.

    I agree that my replying to assertions about the “limits of science,” “scientism,” and the critique of “naturalism” are not going to change the views of the believer pushing those arguments. They don’t really concern me (although I admit a certain pleasure in popping some of their bubbles). Of more concern to me is that some of these arguments do infiltrate back into groups who are pro-science. They sometimes will parrot these arguments which have been promoted from the outside. I see one source of the problem in the influence of theology in philosophy sometimes spilling over into the philosophy of science. Consequently I think it is worth raising and debating those issues within the pro-science community.

    As for isolating us from the religious community I think there are a couple of points:

    1: Some religious groups do savery good job of isolating themselves their dogma and claims are so silly – they don’t need help from us;

    2: I think scientists can do a good job of getting out to community groups and do so without worrying about specific religious beliefs. The recent seminar of church groups “Clearing The Air” in Auckland involved scientists putting forward the science of climate change without feeling the need to debate religious dogma they would have disagreed with.

    3: Whereas scientists will talk to believers and non-believers alike sometimes (well actually often) religious groups will stage manage interactions. I can think of religious forums on the science-religion issues where all the science spokespeople were carefully chosen as believers. I personally would like to see more willingness on their side to have open and respectful discussions.

    4: Some of the claims of the religious that they are offended by scientific claims are purely manipulative. In fact, Jerry Coyne has recently exposed one of these theists who had been posing as different people in on-line fora to argue that people were being turned away from science. This person has admitted his lies.

    5: Anyway, respectful discussion is never threatened by honesty – quite the reverse.   I never go into such discussions expecting that the other side should either hide or give up their beliefs. I welcome peoples’ honesty. If my discussion colleagues don’t welcome my honesty I don’t think they are being respectful to me. That rather destroys any possibility of meaningful discussion.

    6: By the way there are different styles for different situations. Blogs are an ideal place to deal with provocative issues. Great for consciousness raising. Fora discussing action for specific issues are not. They are the place for developing unity of action.

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  12. The purpose of my comment was to reveal the falsehood of all current approaches. The use of my comment was – like any other comment – to be received, interpreted, considered, and responded to.

    The use of the information within the comment, on the other hand, that was to impress upon the Reader that I have the correct model, the ultimate theory, that ends all debate, ends all speculation, ends discourse on falsehoods.

    But, I deduce, this information content was lost in search of a requisite use.

    Nice chattin’.

    Peace,

    Ik

    Like

  13. But Ik, you haven’t done either. Just extreme statements.

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  14. Of course I haven’t done either.

    Please consider the Paradox of One I – “My Mind doesn’t work when it’s closed” – this means that I am always right and I am always wrong.

    By deduction from the ultimate theory, I am Ken. Nice to meet Me for the first time all over again.

    Peace,

    Ik

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  15. Ah… very good points Ken. I’m not quite sure what to say in reply except perhaps that there is a balance here somewhere.

    I’m a little confused by your point about self-assertion. Why is it that you think atheists need to define themselves? There is a reasonably long tradition of atheist thought and a number of heavy weight thinkers have, in times past, declared themselves to be atheist. I’m clearly missing something here. What is it that needs to be asserted?

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  16. I’m think Ik is smoking one of those funny herbal cigarettes 😉

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  17. Ben – I am thinking more of the person in the street. We have lived in a culture where it has been considered bad to be an atheist. In fact the word “atheist” seems to be shunned even by many non-believers. I can certainly remember the time when we often had to declare a religion on official documents (census, hospital registers, government departments, etc.) and people often chose a religion at random rather than so “no religion.” According to my parents our family was C of E on some forms and Presbyterian on others. In fact we weren’t either.

    I remember being called up for military service. I could have only used the option of consciousness objector if I was religious – bad discrimination in my view then and now.

    And even today the the religious can get charitable status for tax exemption purely through supernatural belief. Another injustice.

    We are moving away from this. Many people are happy now not to make an oath on a bible, or resist pressure to do so. We still confront situations where religious custom or ceremony is thoughtlessly imposed though.

    Young people in particular seem to be more confident about using the word atheist.

    Many of us, of course, are not interested in publicly declaring or coming out. Many really don’t like the word “atheist” because it is negative and we usually have a positive philosophy. And why should we have to declare ourselves for anything?

    But I think we all would like to be accepted for what we are, not considered wrong in some way or immoral. I think the being good without god billboard appeals to many foir that reason (and is hated by some believers for the same reason).

    So in that sense I think we are at a stage (which will pass) where people like Dawkins actually are admired becuase they publicly assert their own beliefs.

    Hopefully in the future this whole thing will be irrelevant.

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  18. You’re indulging in philosophy an awful lot these days Ken, and your campaign against religion is not a good look on Sciblogs which I would hope seeks to be balanced and impartial.

    It is sad to see you continuing to use science as a sledgehammer to bludgeon into submission any who dare to think there may be a supernatural realm or God beyond your equations and relentlessly mechanistic view of life.

    The richness of a balanced human life is not found in systematic theologies, or becoming Einstein, or always being right about everything. The challenge to humanity is “how shall we live“, and the wisdom of religion is that it applies to people’s souls, their character and relationships. An towering intellectual edifice might seem elegant and captivating but if it does not help people it is built on sand.

    From a review of “Voltaire’s Bastards“:
    Voltaire and his contemporaries believed that reason was the best defense against the arbitrary power of monarchs and the superstitions of religious dogma. It was the key not only to challenging the powers of kings and aristocracies but also to creating a more just and humane civilization. While the emphasis on reason has become one of the hallmarks of modern thought, today’s rational society bears little resemblance to the visions of the great 17th and 18th century humanist thinkers, according to Saul. Our ruling elites justify themselves in the name of reason, but all too often their power and their methodology is based on specialized knowledge and the manipulation of rational “structures” rather than reason. Today the link between reason and justice has been severed and our decision-makers, bereft of a viable ethical framework, have turned rational calculation into something short-sighed and self-serving.

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  19. Ropata, I sincerely hope that Sciblogs is not impartial about science.

    You are beginning to sound like Ian Wishart who has already complained to the Minister of Science because there was too much science of the climate variety on Scinlogs. The minister told him (politely of course) to piss off. I am sure you would get the same response.

    Ropata, the fact you resort to personsl attack andto abusive and irrelevant commentary indicates to me that you can’t actually find a way to disagree calmly and rationally with the writers of the Guardian articles.

    I think they did a good job. If you disagree why don’t you calm down, take a few deep breaths, Marshall your thoughts and provide some rational argument.

    Your personal attacks do nothing for your case.

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  20. Unfortunately Ken your post was not really about science it was about your new technocratic religion, and how it purports to answer everything. As Stephen Barr wrote:
    the conflict is not between religion and science, it is between religion and materialism….a philosophical opinion that is closely connected with science. But it is not science.

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  21. Richard Christie

    Ropata,

    An towering intellectual edifice might seem elegant and captivating but if it does not help people it is built on sand.

    Yet you would claim exactly that for religion, a construct founded on the sand of blind faith.

    Like

  22. It’s interesting how god botherers wanting to slander something think the worst bit of abuse is to call it a religion.

    Interesting psychology there!

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  23. You are beginning to sound like Ian Wishart who has already complained to the Minister of Science because there was too much science of the climate variety on Scinlogs. The minister told him (politely of course) to piss off. I am sure you would get the same response.

    Did he?
    That is great news!

    I will write to the minister too.

    SciBlogs is a propaganda site

    Nothing more, nothing less.

    Intellectual Copraphagia

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  24. Richard Christie

    Yes, you do that Fred, you tell them.
    [snigger]

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  25. Richard Christie,
    Thank you for confirming my “volatire’s bastards” quote, helping people is clearly at the bottom your your agenda.

    Ken,
    I note that you haven’t denied your ideological campaign against religion, just continued it. That seems like religious argumentation to me.

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  26. Richard Christie

    Just pointing out your internal inconsistencies Ropata.
    That’s being helpful, isn’t it?

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  27. Get stuck into it Fred.

    But could you send me a copy of your letter to the minister?

    And the reply if and when you get it?

    Ian made his own letter available but was rather shy about the reply. I got that from someone else.

    Look forward to the correspondence.

    Like

  28. Hey, Ropata, are you gong to complain to the minister too?

    After all, it would be a natural part of the campaign – even if the result is predictable.

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  29. Science is not God and neither are you..

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  30. What, specifically, is upsetting you, Ropata?

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  31. “So in that sense I think we are at a stage (which will pass) where people like Dawkins actually are admired becuase they publicly assert their own beliefs”

    I think I might be one of the few sciency types who find Dawkins crusade against religion a little distasteful. As much as I agree with his sentiment, I wonder if he isn’t doing us a disservice with his sometimes rabid dislike of organised religion. I do understand, however, why he is like this, he must get very frustrated.

    In my view scientists ought to tend towards arguments based on fact, reason and intellectual integrity, and generally this has been my experience. Those who have an agenda to deny scientific findings seem not to set themselves the same constraints or standards. It seems like hypocrisy in the extreme when those claiming a moral superiority happily distort facts or completely fabricate truth in order to “prove” their point.

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  32. Science is not God and neither are you..

    Huh?
    Where did that come from?

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  33. Richard Christie

    In my view scientists ought to tend towards arguments based on fact, reason and intellectual integrity, and generally this has been my experience. Those who have an agenda to deny scientific findings seem not to set themselves the same constraints or standards. It seems like hypocrisy in the extreme when those claiming a moral superiority happily distort facts or completely fabricate truth in order to “prove” their point.

    I agree and one step further to conclude that all believers in religion are engaging in a fundamental lie.
    Belief is an assumption of a construct. Science acknowledges its assumptions, in contrast, religion does not and cannot. For religion to acknowledge that belief is an assumption and not fact or reality is for religion to deny its raison d’etre.
    I prefer the company of those who don’t lie or who have the acumen to see the lie for what it is. .

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  34. I disagree with you on this Richard.

    While I think that this is true of many Christians it is not true of all. The acknowledgement that belief is an assumption forms a vital role in the spiritual life of many Christians I know. The refrain “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” is an important one.

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  35. Richard Christie

    Bit like Clayton’s liquor isn’t it? the belief you have when you don’t really believe.

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  36. Richard Christie

    For those outside NewZeqland, one of NZ’s most spectacular marketing failures was the launch of a non alcoholic drink in 1980s which mimicked alcoholic spirit.
    The marketing slogan was “Clayton’s; the drink you have when you are not having a drink”.

    Like

  37. That is funny! Since I was away from NZ during the 80s, and reasonably young, I’d never heard of Clayton’s. You inspired a fruitful and enjoyable few minutes of internet browsing. Hilarious…

    Like

  38. We mercilessly teased one of our university peers called Clayton, he was the person you’re having when you’re not having a person. To be fair he was a bit of a personality vacuum… I guess I’m going to hell for that 🙂

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  39. Richard, you’re telling people what they believe, and then mocking them for correcting you? How insane of you

    Ken, I’m upset by the deceitfulness of atheists who co-opt science for their campaigns against religion. Science is not philosophy or theology! And you refuse to acknowledge that is what you are doing.

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  40. Ropata, I enjoy a bit of philosophy but keep well away from theology. It’s not an honest subject and I want nothing to do with it.

    However, you still can’t specifically say what I have done to upset you.

    I am forced to conclude this is just a bout of religious indignation and bigoted judgementalism. Something the religious are prone to.

    Get real. People do have different beliefs. That’s just a fact of the rich diversity of life in a pluralist society like ours.

    I am happy to discuss real issues but I don’t think you have any.

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  41. Richard Christie

    Ropata
    The act of believing is to accept an assumption. To acknowledge that the act is an assumption is to allow for the possibility that the assumption may be falsely held. For those believing in a god, that is to admit that their god may not exist.
    Ropata, do you admit your god doesn’t exist?

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  42. Richard Christie

    Or even may not exist?

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  43. I think it is quite probable that God exists but I have my doubts. This is how faith works: not knowing everything, having an incomplete picture, but proceeding in hope and trust in the unseen. To claim absolute certainty is dogmatism. To have absolute certainty is delusion.

    An hypothesis that has passed numerous tests is a workable theory, but not a certainty

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  44. Richard Christie

    Thanks for the straightforward reply.
    I would argue that you don’t believe in god then, but only in a chance that it exists. Whether by high or low chance/margin is irrelevant to my observation.
    In my viewpoint you are therefore, not a believer in religion.

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  45. In this case Richard there are a great number of Christians who you would not consider Christian. May I suggest that you attempt to engage with and understand this aspect of Christianity? There are plenty of Christians who claim absolute knowledge of the existence of God. I think you’re right to call them out on this. In fact I think other Christians should do the same.

    To claim to have an absolute definition of religion and then to say that anything that doesn’t fit your definition is therefore not religious, all the while doing so as an enemy of religion and in the face of someone like Ropata (who surely qualifies as religious – by any dictionary definition), is both offensive and allows you to focus a generic anti-religious sentiment against a very specific group of religious people. While not, technically, a straw man it does allow you to sound like you validly have complaints against all religious people while just focusing on the group for whom your complaints are valid.

    I whole heartedly encourage you fight against religion but I think you should do so by first accepting a definition of religion that encompasses all religion or that you alter your statements to selectively fight against those religious people for whom your definition is valid.

    As an example, I have great respect for the Meta-magician, he is an atheist who understands these nuances in Christianity and who targets specific arguments against specific groups. He doesn’t just fight against a small group of Christians, he targets all Christians, but he ensures that his tool is fit for purpose.

    With regards to countering the specific claim that Clayton Christianity isn’t real Christianity I suggest that you read a book called “The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform” by Roger Olson. It is very accessible and written from a Historical perspective. It has little religious bias and does an excellent job of selecting the necessary highlights. It doesn’t gloss over the arguments and divisions. It does demonstrate that uncertainty in the existence of God has and is a powerful theme in the theological development of Christianity.

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  46. Richard Christie

    Ben, I’ve tried writing various replies to your and comment obviously sincere advice.

    But I basically return to the fact that it’ll take me quite some while to get my head around accepting the existence of a state of being a believer and not being a believer at the same time. If I ever can. I don’t know if I really want to read a book that purports to explain how you can.

    If the book is merely a history then know that I already accept that there are many who acquiesce to the general codes and tenets of religion (btw I never mentioned christianity) without believing in the supernatural aspects. Such acquiesce often happens in response to any dominant cultural tenet. Such followers are not necessary believers and I do not accuse them of the big lie of denying the very nature of belief. They have other inconsistencies to answer for.

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  47. Yes the book is mostly history. It doesn’t specifically address your point, but it demonstrates that even some of the very great Christians had strong and abiding doubts and that these doubts have, in some sense, been built into (some strands of) Christian theology.

    I agree regarding the presence of other inconsistencies. People like Spong have other (and I think perhaps harder to defend) problems on their hands.

    Yes I agree about the acquiesce that happens. In fact I’ve often wondered whether the current fundamentalist Christian trends are a (long lasting) reaction against the accommodations that 19th Century Christians made in order to try and fit science and religion together. But I don’t really know enough to make educated comments.

    I bought up Christianity in particular because I don’t feel sufficiently familiar with other religions to comment about them. I had noted that both you and Ken deliberately made comments about religion in general rather than making specific comments about any particular religion. I think this is commendable, but I just don’t know enough to do the same.

    You’ve clearly thought about what I said in a constructive way. Thank you! I also welcome criticism as I’ve much to learn.

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  48. Richard’s complaints are valid. Christian theology is logically built with a starting assumption that God exists. (They call it a properly basic belief and some assert it doesn’t need to be justified)

    I can’t always be revising my philosophy from first principles so I generally perceive life with that assumption too. Maybe I don’t have ‘belief’ in Richard’s definition but I have hope and bits and pieces of evidence that are convincing enough to my mind and heart. God doesn’t function like gravity, he’s a mystery

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  49. Ropata:

    1: It seems to me that a “properly basic belief” is the start and end of theology. So why bother with arguments like the cosmological argument, the fine tuning argument and the moral argument? Surely they are superfluous – really just argument after the fact to justify a preconceived position? They are therefore opportunist and unconvincing. And I believe they are basically “scientism” in that they use science inappropriately and in a distorted way.

    2: We could all use that “properly basic belief” For example – I think a properly basic belief in a personal conscience is probably universal. This serves much the same purpose as personal gods do – moral guide, guilt, full awareness, and even punishment. In fact many people probably label their conscience as their personal God.

    3: Of course having postulated a properly basic belief in a conscience we are free to try to understand it. To investigate the role of emotions, intuitions and reason. And to understand the origins of the moral guidance it gives us. In other words we are not ring fenced by words like mystery (and we don’t have to equate our conscience to gravity).

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  50. Richard Christie

    I think Ropata sees my point.

    Intoning properly basic belief just shuts down examination of the act of forming that belief.

    Funny things happen to logic in there, it’s a logic warp.

    Like

  51. That is funny! Since I was away from NZ during the 80s, and reasonably young, I’d never heard of Clayton’s. You inspired a fruitful and enjoyable few minutes of internet browsing. Hilarious…

    Like

  52. Pingback: Science and Metaphysics Blog Event Kicks Off (via Deontologistics + Speculative Heresy) « MİNİMAL VE MAKSİMAL YAZILAR

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