Scientism

Atheistic blogging of late has generated a lot of dry tinder for intellectual cannons. It goes to show, like Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion, that brilliant scientists can make miserable philosophers. Today I’m going to look at what scientism is, and why it’s clearly irrational.

As a methodological principle, if I want a definition for a philosophical term, I go to a philosopher. J. P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology writes;

Strong scientism is the view that some proposition or theory is true or rational if and only if it is a scientific proposition or theory. That is, if and only if it is a well-established scientific proposition or theory that, in turn, depends upon its having been successfully formed, tested, and used according to appropriate scientific methodology. There are no truths apart from scientific truths, and even if there were, there would be no reason whatever to believe them…

[W]eak scientism allows for the existence of truth apart form science and are even willing to grant that they can have some minimal, positive rationality status without the support of science. But, science is the most valuable, most serious, and most authoritative sector of human learning. If strong scientism is true, then theology is not a rational enterprise at all and there is no such thing as theological knowledge. If weak scientism is true, then the conversation between theology and science will be a monologue with theology listening to science and waiting for science to give it support. For thinking Christians, neither of these alternatives is acceptable.1

STRONG SCIENTISM

Now strong scientism is self-refuting. That is, if strong scientism is true, then it is also false by its own merits. At base level, strong scientism is self-referencially incoherent. Things that are self-refuting are not merely false, but necessarily false. To dissect further, lets ask a couple of questions generated in response to the recent statement, “If you don’t use honest process like science you don’t get to the truth.2

Is the statement “If you don’t use [an] honest process like science you don’t get to the truth,” true? If it is not true then it is false. If it is true then that statement, which itself was not arrived at by a scientific process, breaks its own rule. This is a philosophical claim about science methodology, and not a scientific claim established by the scientific process. Therefore, the statement is false either way.

Perhaps what was meant is, “If you don’t use [an] honest process like science you won’t be able to know if the conclusion is the truth or not.3

This rephrasing does avoids self-refutation, but leaves the ‘honest process of science’ self-defeating. As a philosophical statement about how we know truth and not scientific one, we have no way of knowing if the statement itself is true or not. If it is false then we shouldn’t believe that science is the only process by which we attain truth. If it is true, then as the statement did not come via the scientific process, we cannot know it is true.

Perhaps a more generous reading of the modified statement is required, and “an honest process like science” means we should include other methods such as logic, philosophy and experience as ways one can discover and know truth. If that is the case this would severely undermine the charge of scientism displayed by atheistic bloggers and open the door once again for a two way dialogue on God’s existence. Alternatively, perhaps it means to exclude dishonest processes4 such as those supposedly employed by Christian apologists. But as apologists use philosophy and other truth gathering methods that effectively drains away all meaning from the point originally being made (which was it is illegitimate to plug God into a gap where there is scientific ignorance5), and the task of the apologist’s detractor remains the same – to show that the method or argument used in garnering specific truths is faulty.

WEAK SCIENTISM

There are two considerations that equally undermine both strong scientism and weak scientism.

FIRST

It does not adequately allow for the task of justifying the assumptions necessary for science’s success. The practice of science relies upon some necessary presuppositions that themselves need to be supported. Science cannot be strung up on thin air.

But the conclusions of science cannot be more certain than the presuppositions it rests on in order to reach those conclusions. Thus it is philosophy, and not science, which is in a better position and is the far stronger candidate for being the paradigm of rationality.

A list of the assumptions is given here;6

(1) The existence of a theory-independant world

(2) the orderly nature of the external word

(3) the knowability of the external world.

(4) the existence of the truth

(5) the laws of logic

(6) the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified beliefs in our intellectual environment

(7) the adequacy of language to describe the world

(8) the existence of values used in science (honesty)

(9) the uniformity of nature and induction

(10) the existence of numbers.

SECOND

Truth can be known apart from the scientific process. There are many fields outside science and wholly apart from the scientific process that provide us with true, rationally justified beliefs. Highlighted here are five of these areas.

First, logical and mathematical proofs.

  • 1 + 1 = 2
  • Laws of inference, (e.g., modus ponems, disjunctive syllogism)
  • Law of non-contradiction, (e.g., you cannot be man and non-man at the same time and the same place)

Second, metaphysical truths.

  • There are other minds that are not my own,
  • The past was not created five minutes ago with the appearance of age.

Third, ethical beliefs or value judgements of right and wrong.

  • It is wrong to torture babies for fun.
  • Feeding the poor is a virtue.
  • Kicking orphans and widows is wicked.

Fourth, there are aesthetic judgements,

  • A sunrise beaming through a morning fog is beautiful.
  • The glacial lake surrounded by ice-capped mountains is inspiring.
  • Mozart’s second symphony is sublime.

Fifth, certain propositions.

  • Red is a colour.
  • I am now thinking about science.

All these examples are well within our rational rights to believe, though we have no confirmation of their truth from science. In fact, one hundred years from now all these will still be perfectly rational and hold greater epistemic status than certain scientific theories. For instance the metaphysical truth that I am not only a brain being stimulated in a vat, or that absolute truth exists, hold greater warrant than the science that says the plane I’m on will successfully supersede the law of gravity according to the laws of aerodynamics, or the major cause of global warming the human carbon footprint.

CONCLUSION

Considering the above it becomes evident that scientism, in either its weak and strong form, is a hindrance to science. It is also anathema to truth and bears a striking resemblance to the dogmatism the advocates of scientism wish to avoid. It is for this reason that scientism is considered among philosophers to be a bankrupt system of thought and avoided at the cost of rationality. Nicholas Rescher, University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, concludes;

The theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and end-all — that what is not in science books is not worth knowing — is an ideologist with a peculiar and distorted doctrine of his own. For him, science is no longer a sector of the cognitive enterprise but an all-inclusive world-view. This is the doctrine not of science but of scientism. To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it by casting the mantle of its authority over issues it was never meant to address.7

FOOTNOTES

1. J. P. Moreland, Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), P. 144-145.

2. Ken Perrott, “Fine tuning of the universe?”, 75., (http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/fine-tuning-of-the-universe; Retrieved 13 Jan, 2009)

3. Heraclides, “‘Scientism’ in the eyes of the beholder”, 14., (http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/scientism-in-the-eyes-of-the-beholder; Retrieved 13 Jan, 2009)
4. Ibid., 23.

5. Ken Perrott and James, “Fine tuning of the universe?”, 70, 72., (http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/fine-tuning-of-the-universe; Retrieved 13 Jan, 2009). See also Stuart McEwing, “The “god-of-the-gaps” argument”, 6, 7, 11, 17., (http://talk.thinkingmatters.org.nz/2008/the-god-of-the-gaps-argument; 28 Dec, 2008)

6. J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press: 2003) p. 348.

7. Nicholas Rescher, The Limits of Science (Berkley, University of California Press: 1984).

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  1. Simon
    Simon says:

    Stuart,

    Your criticism of truth claims seems to focus on an analytic understanding of truth. You point out the Quinian circularity, which exists for all analytic truth of course. So, I just don’t understand why you have bothered with this. Maybe you mistakenly think that other -isms avoid this circularity? All philosophical viewpoints are underpinned by axioms which are mutually parasitic, as is scientism. So what?
    A Scientismist would essentially state that “Truth cannot be known apart from science” and a Theist would say “Truth cannot be known without God”.

    At base I don’t disagree with the essence of your statement that “Truth can be known apart from the scientific process”. But I do disagree with your amour for analytic truth, and I tend to think it is the root of why your views here are a bit zealously naive.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic-analytic_distinction#Quine.27s_criticism)
    Because there is no real analytic-synthetic distinction; there is no such thing as a truth that is not grounded in matters of fact, for those analytic truths which we take as axioms are bestowed upon us by the ‘truths’ of the world; the universe.

    Example: Birds can count. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_intelligence#Counting)
    Is it that this counting ability is analytic? How can it be, for it is not independant of matters of fact; it is not independant of reality: In the real, physical, factual world 1+1=2, and so birds are endowed with this knowledge from birth.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    Analytically the proposition “birds can count” is either true or false. Correct? Its not a self-referentially incoherent axiom like “truth is not absolute”, “moral relativism is best”, and “some proposition or theory is true or rational if and only if it is a scientific proposition or theory.”

    All that is required to refute the three examples above is the law of non-contradiction, which I think is true in all possible worlds. That is to say, the law is necessary and cannot be broken. Completely independent of the physical existence the law still holds.

    On its own, I don’t think ornotholonumerologism (birds-can-count-ism) is self-referentially incoherent. If we found a bird counting down from ten that would show us that ornotholonumerologism is true. Therefore the denial would be false. The same is true visa-versa. But when assessing the three example on the either/or criteria we find that they are false both ways. Unable to escape their falsehood they are necessarily false.

  3. Chris
    Chris says:

    While well-argued, your essay is something of an elaborate strawman: Even granting, for the sake of argument, Moreland’s definitions of ‘scientism’ and your refutations, you have yet to show that practicing scientists actually hold to these philosophies. Scientism doesn’t hurt science if no scientist adheres to it. (It doesn’t matter if non-scientists adhere to scientism; when it comes to determining and expanding the body of knowledge of science, their vote doesn’t count.)

    A rough analogy would be me stating: “All biologists who think dogs can breathe fire and fly are a discredit to their field, and here’s why. . ..” While my argument could (and would) be completely valid, its value as an argument is completely negated by the fact that no biologist actually believes that dogs can breathe fire and fly.

  4. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Chris, a couple of things.

    Firstly, we know for certain of at least one scientist who posts here who is a keen advocate of scientism: Ken Perrott. Ken is retired now, but unless he’s radically changed his views since then, I expect he qualifies as a valid example. Furthermore, what are Christians to make of people like Richard Dawkins—scientists who have gained enormous popular support by writing books which are basically propaganda for scientism?

    Secondly, the issue isn’t whether scientists, per se, are discrediting science, per se. The issue is whether people are advocating a worldview which is patently self-refuting, and arguing against Christianity from the position of that worldview. It goes without saying that there are many New Atheists and just plain Old Atheists who do this, and so it’s a valid topic for a Christian apologetics site to comment on.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  5. Simon
    Simon says:

    Stuart,

    It isn’t as simple as ““birds can count” is either true or false”. (It might sound like I’m just arguing for arguments’ sake, but I’m not.) If you, Stuart, take seriously the truth of the empirical proposition “birds can count”, then you have changed your definition of “bird” such that it includes an ability to “count”. So it’s just not that simple. It is in this way that Quine showed that analytic statements are necessarily circular/synonymous.

    I am quite confident that you would have nothing but contempt for the multiverse hypothesis, and yet you seem to think you know what is in all possible worlds!!?

    But let’s play this argument out; if I can abbreviate your scientism statement to “All truths are scientifically verifiable”, and I defy you and say “Yes, the statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is a scientifically verifiable truth” How would you respond?

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    If you, Stuart, take seriously the truth of the empirical proposition “birds can count”, then you have changed your definition of “bird” such that it includes an ability to “count”. So it’s just not that simple. It is in this way that Quine showed that analytic statements are necessarily circular/synonymous.

    In granting the empirical proposition “bird can count” I don’t see how the definition of bird is changed from a warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrate distinguished by the possession of feathers by including the ability to count. Neither is the definition of bird impaired by the later removal of a counting ability if science comes to say birds cant. So I don’t see any circularity.

    Is the statement “analytic statements are necessarily circular/synonymous” true? If it is true then the statement itself is circular/synonymous, but then why should we believe it? If its not true then why should we believe it?

    I am quite confident that you would have nothing but contempt for the multiverse hypothesis, and yet you seem to think you know what is in all possible worlds!!?

    I haven’t refereed to a multi-verse hypothesis. “All possible worlds” doesn’t mean a planet or even a universe, but rather a complete description of reality, or a way reality might be. To say that God exists in some possible world is just to say that there is a possible description of reality which includes the statement “God exists” as part of that description.1

    1. William Lane Craig, “Question 91: Dawkin’s Critique of the Ontological Argument” (www.reasonablefaith.org.nz; Retrieved 14 Jan, 2008).

    But let’s play this argument out; if I can abbreviate your scientism statement to “All truths are scientifically verifiable”, and I defy you and say “Yes, the statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is a scientifically verifiable truth” How would you respond?

    Simple. I respond by saying how was that statement scientifically verified? hoping to catch you in a lie. Then ask if the final rebuff you gave above scientifically verified?

    Before you respond, I would ask that you clarify what you mean by “empirical” as this seems to be a central in the discussion.

  7. Ken
    Ken says:

    Bnonn – “Firstly, we know for certain of at least one scientist who posts here who is a keen advocate of scientism: Ken Perrott. Ken is retired now, but unless he’s radically changed his views since then, I expect he qualifies as a valid example.”

    This is of course an evidence-free provocation. At this stage I will just ask you for evidence (where have I presented “the belief that science alone can explain phenomena, or the application of scientific methods to fields unsuitable for it.”) You implied either that I am a “keen advocate” now, or before I retired.

    I have been slandered this way several times here and in each case there was no justification. So now is your chance – put up or shut up.

    Specific instance please – not your interpretations.

    Or is your comment “poorly-considered, hastily worded and abusive.”

  8. Simon
    Simon says:

    Empirical: We make analytic models of the world. We alter or supercede those models by further observing the world around us; nuancing definitions within those models, or inventing new definitions, or inventing new models. Empiricism is the act of doing this.

    Of course the entity “bird” does not change much now that it is found that they can count. But it IS changed. If we take the observation seriously that “birds can count”(and we should!) , then “birds can count” becomes an analytic statement and part of our model of the world – part of our worldview. You simply have to agree to that for otherwise the empirical knowledge that birds can count is completely useless/meaningless!
    You seem to be quite enamoured with the safety of propositional logic and platonic ideals; you seem prepared to abide by them to the death! But they all necessarily involve empiricism. When the first ‘taxonomists’ were deciding how to carve up the living world there was no such God-given, hallowed and ever-true category “bird” which was at their disposal. Rather, they had to invent the category “bird” and define it. But how do you define something? Well, you use other words….
    …..It gets worse. Have you ever considered that a dictionary is circular? It has to be for it defines all words in terms of other words. So not only are our categories informed by empiricism but our models of the world are circular. They are still useful, mind, but they are circular. (It does seem at first as though we can get out of this circularity by defining an object – say a bird – by just pointing to a bird. But this does not help us for at least two reasons. One, pointing at an instance of a bird does not help much to define the universal “bird”. Two – and most importantly for the circularity point I am trying to make – what we point at when we are trying to point out a “bird” is entirely dependent on what we would point at when trying to define “warm-blooded”, “egg-laying”, and “feathered”..and on and on……..circular!

    Now to actually playing out the argument about “All truths are scientifically verifiable”:(I’m going to start with “all truths are scientifically verifiable” and I’ll get to “”all truths are scientifically verifiable” is scientifically verifiable” later)
    When I claim that all truths are scientifically verifiable and you ask how I know this, I would respond by saying “For the same reason that you know that “truth is consistent” “ Because, you see, your statement “truth is consistent” is an axiom, as is my “all truths are scientifically verifiable”. And these are axioms to us because they are circular. They are circular because I know that if anything is not consistent, you will automatically discount it as truth, because your a priori notion of truth is that it is consistent. Similarly – and I know that this is/has been true in my own mind – I don’t consider something to be true unless it is scientifically verifiable, and anything that is scientifically verifiable must be true. This is circular.

    Similarly the statement “”all truths are scientifically verifiable” is scientifically verifiable”, then, merely depends upon my definition of “scientifically verifiable”, which itself is parasitic off “truth”. You can see, given my above relation of truth to science, that this statement also is defendable and circular.

    To give an overview of how I would argue this in practice, let’s say that someone challenges me that before science even existed, truths which we would still regard as truths today were arrived at. I would respond by saying that even before the scientific method was explicitly conceived, many of its principles were enacted implicitly, and that where real truths were reached, science was present.
    The same is true for “Truth is consistent”. “Truth and “consistency” are so tightly synonymous to all of us that it is even hard to get you head around. They are so tightly parasitic that it is almost impossible to even imagine a truth that is inconsistent.
    The same type of thing crops up ideas like “God is good”. When confronted with ostensible examples to the contrary, the axiom is defended via circularity like I have just done with science.

    Is the statement “analytic statements are necessarily circular/synonymous” true? If it is true then the statement itself is circular/synonymous, but then why should we believe it? If its not true then why should we believe it?

    Exactly! Exactly! A person who understands Quine’s argument would not have said this. Why? Because Quine’s argument is a poignantly valid(‘true’) statement about the world while at the same time eschewing the simplistic, idealistic notion of true/false dichotomy. The analytic-synthetic distinction which you so adamantly hold to comes crashing down. You almost certainly can’t see this, and I really do recommend spending some time coming to terms with the analytic-synthetic distinction. (Wiki)
    What can be said about the statement “analytic statements are necessarily circular/synonymous” then? It is a useful model of reality (and quite a nuanced one). For that is all we have, models of reality. The same is true of “birds can count” “space is curved” or “truth is universal”. These last three are in descendingly useful order.

    [Sorry, I think I have completely misunderstood wat you meant by all possible worlds]

  9. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    The quote function is the same as italics and bold but type “blockquote” between the less-than/greater-than signs. :-)

    I see you’ve given some thought to this. As a question for further clarification, are you denying the law of non-contradiction?

  10. Ken
    Ken says:

    James – to be honest you should have also included my comment:

    Perhaps I should comment on my use of the word “truth”. Of course it was thrown in as a provocation because those guilty of “religionism” constantly claim they are the only ones with the “truth”. And the provocation certainly got a response, didn’t it???

    But my attitude is that of a philosophical realist. There is an objective reality out there. It is, in principle, capable of being known. We are capably of developing pictures of that reality – imperfect reflections but still connected to that reality. The scientific method enables this – and it enables us to constantly improve the accuracy of our reflection of reality. Sure, we will never get a complete picture (that would be required for the “truth”), but we get closer and closer. We do this because we constant check with reality, we test our theories experientially.

    We know the scientific method is powerful – and it is this relationship with reality which gives it this power, and its dynamic character.

    So, sure, we cannot reach the absolute “truth” using the scientific method – but that doesn’t hand over that role, by default, to religion. Let’s here an evidence-based argument for the claim of “relgionism” that they alone can find the “truth.”

    And neither have I ever claimed that science is the only way of knowing things. You surely know that from our debates but if not refer to these articles:
    Morals, values and the limits of science
    Art and the limits of science
    Can religion answer the questions science can’t?
    Limits of science, limits of religion
    Humility of science and the arrogance of religion

    Sorry for all these links but both Bnonn and Stuart have charged me with “scientism.” As the quote above shows I think honesty and checking against reality are important in such situations – and this evidence should have been consulted.

    I think Chris has a very valid point: “Scientism doesn’t hurt science if no scientist adheres to it.” Neither Stuart or Bnonn has produced evidence that any scientist is guilty of this charge.

  11. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Ken, you impress us all again with your inability to read. You quote yourself with the intent of acquitting the charge of scientism, yet the quote you give is very definition of scientism as Stuart gave it in the article!

    There is an objective reality out there. It is, in principle, capable of being known […] The scientific method enables this […] So, sure, we cannot reach the absolute “truth” using the scientific method – but that doesn’t hand over that role, by default, to religion. Let’s here [sic] an evidence-based argument for the claim of “relgionism” that they alone can find the “truth.”

    Compare this to Stuart’s definition of weak scientism: that it “allows for the existence of truth apart form science […] But, science is the most valuable, most serious, and most authoritative sector of human learning […] If weak scientism is true, then the conversation between theology and science will be a monologue with theology listening to science and waiting for science to give it support.” Note how you demand evidence-based argumentation even for religious (ie philosophical) arguments, which by definition are often non-evidential. Notice how you suppose that “religionists” are claiming that “they alone can find the truth”—a classic case of them-or-us hyperbole. No further documentation by me is necessary—you indict yourself, as anyone who has read your comments here knows.

    Simon,

    Of course the entity “bird” does not change much now that it is found that they can count. But it IS changed. If we take the observation seriously that “birds can count”(and we should!) , then “birds can count” becomes an analytic statement and part of our model of the world – part of our worldview.

    This is equivocal. Some birds can count. We know what birds are. Now we’ve added the information that some of them can count. Since I don’t think that Christians are given to viewing the term “bird” as some kind of platonic form (or “entity” as you put it), but rather as a word for the set of all creatures which conform to a given set of parameters, we haven’t actually changed the “entity” of “bird”. We’ve merely added the information that some creatures in the set can count.

    When I claim that all truths are scientifically verifiable and you ask how I know this, I would respond by saying “For the same reason that you know that “truth is consistent” “ Because, you see, your statement “truth is consistent” is an axiom, as is my “all truths are scientifically verifiable”. And these are axioms to us because they are circular. They are circular because I know that if anything is not consistent, you will automatically discount it as truth, because your a priori notion of truth is that it is consistent. Similarly – and I know that this is/has been true in my own mind – I don’t consider something to be true unless it is scientifically verifiable, and anything that is scientifically verifiable must be true. This is circular.

    You’re equivocating again. These two axioms are not similar:

    1. “Truth is consistent”. I take it that, by this rather imprecise statement, you mean at least that (i) truth is a property of propositions; and (ii) given two or more propositions, consistency between them is a necessary, though not sufficient condition for the property of truth to obtain in all of them. In other words, propositions which are inconsistent with each other cannot all be true at the same time and in the same relationship. That is a logical axiom; it is essentially a restatement of the law of non-contradiction. If you deny it, you affirm it by presupposing it, so it must be true. It is necessarily true. Other logical axioms include tautologies like x = x.

    2. “All truths are scientifically verifiable”. It should be obvious to anyone that this proposition is not axiomatic in the same way. In fact, it’s merely a statement which you’ve assumed the truth of for the sake of your worldview. It’s just a presupposition. That’s fine; but it doesn’t make it necessarily true. You are simply defining it, by fiat, as being a requirement of truth. In other words, you are declaring something about epistemology. But we can still test that declaration to see if it is true. You can’t simply say that it must be true in the same way that the law of non-contradiction is, just because you have used the same word to describe both. That’s classic equivocation, and classically illicit.

    They are so tightly parasitic that it is almost impossible to even imagine a truth that is inconsistent.

    Of course, it isn’t actually almost impossible—it is impossible. You cannot affirm A and ¬A at the same time and in the same relationship. Such a statement is meaningless; and truth, if anything, is meaningful. See above. To say that p is at least to make a statement about the truth of p. So to say that pp ∧ ¬p is self-referentially absurd since it is to both affirm and deny the truth of p.

    The same type of thing crops up ideas like “God is good”. When confronted with ostensible examples to the contrary, the axiom is defended via circularity like I have just done with science.

    You’re equivocating again. In fact, you’re making three separate category errors in one paragraph.

    1. The statement “truth is consistent” (ie, ¬( A ∧ ¬A )) is not the same as “God is good”. One is a logical axiom; one is a presupposition of the Christian worldview. Now, if the Christian worldview is true, as I obviously maintain, then it is necessarily true that God is good. But this doesn’t make “God is good” axiomatic in a broad sense.

    2. The law of non-contradiction is an epistemological truth; “God is good” is an ethical truth. So, by definition, it isn’t going to be self-refuting per se to say that God is not good. It may be necessarily false, and it may even be self-evidently true (as I maintain one day it will be, following the parousia) but that doesn’t make it self-refuting.

    3. The defense of God’s goodness is circular in a different sense than the defense of the proposition that all truths are empirically discoverable. The goodness of God is an ontological issue, wherein it is argued that goodness itself is a property of God. That is why ostensible counter-examples fail: because they illicity attempt to refute an ontological claim with an epistemological argument. That’s a category error: trying to refute the ontological grounds of goodness by appealing to some epistemological grounds for knowing goodness. On the other hand, the discovery of truth through empirical means is an epistemological issue, and so if it can be shown that it cannot justify itself according to its own criteria, then it fails by definition. Since it is self-evidently the case that the proposition “all truths are scientifically verifiable” is not itself scientifically verifiable, it is necessarily self-refuting. Self-refuting things are false by definition, if they are even meaningful enough to be false. So it is absolutely not the case that the axiom “God is good” is “defended via circularity like [you] have just done with science“. The manner of defense is, in fact, utterly different. “God is good” does not refute itself, and is not even an epistemological claim. “All truth is scientifically verifiable” does refute itself, and is an epistemological claim. It doesn’t matter how much circularity you appeal to—it’s still either false or meaningless. You can’t define a false or meaningless statement to be true by fiat just because it suits you.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  12. Ken
    Ken says:

    Bnonn – I am not “acquitting the charge of scientism” – I am saying that your charge that I am a “keen advocate of scientism” is just not true. And all I have to do to prove that wrong is to say that I am not advocating scientism – keen or otherwise.

    The rest is interpretation (or perhaps I should say bafflegab) – and the fact that you have had to rely on a subsequent comment as “evidence” really just underlines that you have no evidence. The quoted comment itself was to reveal that both Stuart and James have been dishonest in their use of my original provocative statement. It has nothing to do with “scientism” – you need to consult the articles I reference to find my attitude towards inappropriate use of science.

    The quote itself relates to the approach of honesty and checking against reality – which applies to logic, philosophy, etc., as much as to science – although your style of argument here indicates that you may disagree with me on that.

    What it boils down to is that in your hostility to science you effectively label all scientists as guilty of “scientism”. But as Chris pointed out there is actually no evidence for that charge. As I said – you and Stuart suffer from “Scientism” in the eyes of the beholder.

    Or, perhaps the flip side is that I should charge you and Stuart as guilty of religionism – using religion appropriately in fields unsuitable for it. Hence your creationism and denial of scientific investigation into the origins and evolution of the universe and life

  13. Simon
    Simon says:

    This is equivocal. Some birds can count. We know what birds are. Now we’ve added the information that some of them can count. Since I don’t think that Christians are given to viewing the term “bird” as some kind of platonic form (or “entity” as you put it), but rather as a word for the set of all creatures which conform to a given set of parameters, we haven’t actually changed the “entity” of “bird”. We’ve merely added the information that some creatures in the set can count.

    (I’d try not to use the word equivocal. To most people all that has been said here is equivocal.)
    Okay, sure, it doesn’t matter what you change, but you must change something, otherwise the information “birds can count” is informationless. Either way we get new synthetic knowledge which, when we incorporate into our mental model of the world we treat as analytic.(NB I don’t think there really is an analytic-synthetic distinction, but I am using that language.)

    1. “Truth is consistent”. I take it that, by this rather imprecise statement, you mean at least that (i) truth is a property of propositions; and (ii) given two or more propositions, consistency between them is a necessary,…

    I derive a use from the idea that “All truths are scientifically verifiable”. Everyone derives use from the idea that “Truth is consistent” So what?
    But my extrapolation of empiricism into logic is not really the point. My point was that the statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is defendable.

    You’re equivocating again. In fact, you’re making three separate category errors in one paragraph.

    No. People defend the statement “God is good” all the time using exactly the subterfuges and unfalsifiable arguments that I am making.

    I see you’ve given some thought to this. As a question for further clarification, are you denying the law of non-contradiction?

    At the end of the day I think the law of non-contradiction is useful in constructing analytical models of the world. The most useful. In this sense, no, I am not denying it.
    Zen Koans, and all that.

  14. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    My point was that the statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is defendable.

    Then how about it? Go ahead and defend the statement. You’ll find you have an immediate problem with the proposition “all truths are scientifically verifiable” because this truth is not scientifically verifiable. It breaks the law of non-contradiction, and as you admit the law is useful and do not deny it the axiom is necessarily false.

  15. Simon
    Simon says:

    Eh? No, because above I have defended the statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is scientifically verifiable”

  16. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    Re:17

    I don’t consider something to be true unless it is scientifically verifiable, and anything that is scientifically verifiable must be true. This is circular.

    Similarly the statement “”all truths are scientifically verifiable” is scientifically verifiable”, then, merely depends upon my definition of “scientifically verifiable”, which itself is parasitic off “truth”. You can see, given my above relation of truth to science, that this statement also is defendable and circular.

    It seems to me your defence of the principle “All truths are scientifically verifiable” relies on a radically redefining the word truth. I take it that truth is correspondence to reality, and I don’t grant your redefinition, for doing so would drastically limit the scope of human knowledge. I think of ethical truths, aesthetic truths, metaphysical truths, etc. (On the scepticism you seemed to be advocating there isn’t even given an account of epistemic virtues and duties, so I can’t really see the legs this critique is standing on).

    I take it that your definition of “scientifically verifiable” functions to limit what is known by humans as “true,” but that seems to me opportunistic and ad hoc. “Scientifically verifiable” means to me to be able to be scrutinised and confirmed by science and it’s methods – not a controversial definition to be sure. But that is not possible for the axiom, “all truths are scientifically verifiable,” just as is not possible to scrutinise and confirm with science’s methods the axiom, “man does not equal non-man (at the same time and place).” Yet this is evidently true, and therefore wholly rational to believe.

    The statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is scientifically verifiable” is subject to the same law of non-contradiction and, given the non-opportunist definitions, is also self-refuting. The defence of the second axiom becomes
    “The statement, “All truths are scientifically verifiable’ is scientifically verifiable” is scientifically verifiable”, and you end up with an infinite regress. Is that what you mean by “circular” and “defendable”? Surely then you spin intellectual webs suspended on nothing, which is to say you discourse without meaning.

    You’ve said before,

    “All knowledge is ultimately empirical”. Even the laws of logic. My reasoning is this: If a knowledge, X, is not discerned empirically, how can we know it? 1

    1. http://talk.thinkingmatters.org.nz/2009/what-makes-a-good-argument; comment 8., January 9th, 2009 8:39 pm

    To which I respond, you need not know how you know something in order to know it.

    I asked you to develop what you meant by empirical, and above you have given a definition, but I must say I don’t like how you are so liberal with the dictionary. Empiricism is a theory that knowledge is derived from sense experience. Empirical means based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. To say “All knowledge is ultimately empirical – even the laws of logic,” is the first step in an infinite regress. You’ll have to defend your first principles with the empirical, but then they wouldn’t be your first principles, and you’ll have to defend the defence of the principle with the empirical, and so on. Again it is a web suspended on nothing.

  17. Simon
    Simon says:

    And I agree with you about the web suspended on nothing. Someone coined the phrase “bootstrapping”, and I have read a couple of authors refer to this process as lifting one’s self up with one’s own bootstraps; Douglas Hofstadter, for one. But that is how human reasoning seems to work.

    Sure, lets take your definition of “Empiricism”, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, even with my definition the criticism of infinite regress is still valid.

    To which I respond, you need not know how you know something in order to know it…………..Empirical means based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic…………..

    But at the heart of my position is that there is no analytic-synthetic distinction; there is no distinction between observation&experience vs. theory&logic. Again, you will not understand me until you understand Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism, an argument which most philosophers accept.

    Don’t get me wrong, though. I am not denying that logic is the most fundamental and universal knowledge that we have – but I am arguing that it is is the most empirically verifiable!

    An example of the circularity of “Truth/logic is consistent” – in the same way that my “Truth is scientifically verifiable” – would be the following: An ancient man counted that he had felled five beasts one night; the same as the previous night, and that therefore there would be enough to feed his tribe. To his surprise there was not enough(because the beasts were smaller). Now, we know it is stupid to throw the counting numbers out in dispair; rather we form more complex concepts with which to describe the world. But the act of doing this; the act of defining when and where the counting numbers are applicable is the act of sheilding them from falsification, and at once it is the act of empiricism.

    There is no reason that ethical truths, aesthetic truths, and metaphysical truths can’t be scientifically demonstrable.

    “Scientifically verifiable” means to me to be able to be scrutinised and confirmed by science and it’s methods – not a controversial definition to be sure. But that is not possible for the axiom, “all truths are scientifically verifiable,” just as is not possible to scrutinise and confirm with science’s methods the axiom, “man does not equal non-man (at the same time and place).” Yet this is evidently true, and therefore wholly rational to believe.

    Re: “all truths are scientifically verifiable”. Like I say, I think it depends on what you mean by scientifically verifiable and bootstrapping. If I grant you that it is not possible to verify this statement by scientific verification, what of truth? There is a certain circularity here which I am not certain is valid. How valid is it for a concept to refer to itself? So when we state a proposition it presumes to be true, but how can a proposition refer to truth to which it is itself subject in the first place? This is exactly analogous to science saying “science is scientifically verifiable, including this statement”. It is invalid, yes? Whatever it is that we hold to be ultimate, we cannot speak of it for then it would be referring to itself This is as true for you as it is me.

  18. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Stuart:

    Perhaps what was meant is, “If you don’t use [an] honest process like science you won’t be able to know if the conclusion is the truth or not.“3

    This rephrasing does avoids self-refutation, but leaves the ‘honest process of science’ self-defeating. As a philosophical statement about how we know truth and not scientific one, we have no way of knowing if the statement itself is true or not. If it is false then we shouldn’t believe that science is the only process by which we attain truth. If it is true, then as the statement did not come via the scientific process, we cannot know it is true.

    While I’m “flattered” (i.e. not) that you have “quoted” me, you have left out the context of the quote.

    This includes later statements that this needed to be reworded: see posts 18 &21 of that thread. It incorrect (dishonest?) to present this as my word on this, when I explicitly wrote that it needs to be reworded. I wrote this well before you retrieved what you quoted, and before post 23 which you cite, so you certainly had opportunity to see it.

    On top of this you try to wriggle out if it with a silly piece of (pseudo) “logic”! One I believe I also dealt with, which you also seem to have “overlooked”.

    *Sigh*. There’s nothing quite like creationist quote-mining and illogic…

    The paragraph your quote is from is:

    I personally would have chosen a very slightly different wording, which comes to the same thing, but gives a indication of why in the statement: “If you don’t use honest process like science you you won’t be able to know if your conclusion is the truth or not”. By using a dishonest process you might by chance happen to get the right answer, but because the process by which you derived it is dishonest you won’t be able to determine if it is actually the truth or not.

    My addition wasn’t to avoid “self-refutation” or limit myself to any one process, but, as I elaborated at the time, to allow people to (accidentally) get “the truth” by other means, but note that unless those means are derived from an honest process they won’t be able to know if their conclusion is “true” (the best possible answer given current evidence and knowledge) or not.

    Note carefully that this statement does not say an honest process automatically or always gives correct answers, as you try to make out that said. The statement is worded in the negative. Read in the positive “don’t use [an] honest process like science” becomes “use a dishonest process”, i.e. it is “If you use a dishonest process, you won’t be able to know if your conclusion is the truth or not”. (“Truth” in the looser sense of “the best possible given current evidence and knowledge.)

    And if you want to write it only in terms of “honest process”, as you tried to, and use correct logic in doing it (which you fail to), and include the rewording I did indicate is needed (which you “overlooked”), you get something loosely along the lines of:

    “If you use an honest process, you may be able to know if (determine if) your conclusion is the the best possible answer given current evidence and knowledge or not”.

    (I write “loosely” as I haven’t time to refine this. Reality and all that. Note this statement is not about absolutes.)

    Perhaps a more generous reading […] Here’s a novel suggestion. If you can’t work out or understand the intended meaning, ask.

    Besides, the sentence immediately after what you quote, rather suspiciously gives a more than a small clue as to the correct meaning… so why leave it out?

    […] means we should include other methods such as logic, philosophy and experience as ways one can discover and know truth. If that is the case this would severely undermine the charge of scientism displayed by atheistic bloggers and open the door once again for a two way dialogue on G-d’s existence.

    Now this really is silly! Of course, logic, philosophy, experience and evidence (now why would you leave that out…?) could be used. By anyone, for any purpose. Usefully and uselessly. Those things are tools. Use the tools inappropriately and of course you’ll get nonsense. The tools themselves are not going to “open the door once again for a two way dialogue”, as you try make out. It is your incorrect use of these tools that leaves you drawing silly claims in the first place. And as long as you misuse them, it’ll stay that way.

    I note that this statement relies on you incorrectly conflating the tools with a processes that (might) use these tools. This “confusing of two things” (fallacious conflation, if you will) is a common error I see in creationists’ arguments.

    One point of an honest process is it tries to avoid misuse of the tools it makes use of. I get a distinct impression that creationists have tools, as everyone does, but no process to make sure they are used sanely. Furthermore, creationists seem to have pre-set conclusions that they wish to “achieve”. But if you insist on a pre-set conclusion, it means that you have never come up with an honest process to deduce what is likely to be correct or not.

    So, here’s a simple challenge. Tell readers (not me) what process you have for determining the best possible answer given the current evidence and knowledge. I would like to repeat my suggestion that not only do you not have an honest process for doing this, you don’t have a process for doing this at all.

    But, if you try this exercise, remember:
    – Take care not to conflate the tools used in the process with the process itself. Remember, too, that all tools have their applications and some are quite unsuited to some tasks. Philosophy has it’s limits (as you seem to claim yourself), and “experience” is extremely limited at determining “correctness” (I’ve seen you try to wildly overreach with this previously). As you choose your tools, you will have to deal with their limitations.
    – Quoting scriptures, or other writers, is not a process in itself, it is presenting arguments (possibly unsupported, even unjustifiable). (It could be part of a process, but it should be obvious that you’ll have to have a means of showing what they too are able to conclude, etc.)
    – Having pre-set conclusions that you wish to conclude with, will preclude you from deriving any honest process, as it excludes the possibility of other answers. (An honest process must leave the possibility that you are wrong about anything, including “that there is a G-d”, “that the bible is correct”, etc.)
    – I’ll leave any more for others as I have things to do; I’m out of time again…

    PS: “open the door once again for a two way dialogue” assumes this ever existed.

  19. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    There is no reason that ethical truths, aesthetic truths, and metaphysical truths can’t be scientifically demonstrable.

    By all means, then, explain how.

    This is exactly analogous to science saying “science is scientifically verifiable, including this statement”. It is invalid, yes?

    It’s invalid because it’s necessarily false. You haven’t interacted with the fact that your position has not only been refuted, but it refutes itself.

    Whatever it is that we hold to be ultimate, we cannot speak of it for then it would be referring to itself This is as true for you as it is me.

    Of course we can speak of it. But it needs to be self-referentially coherent. It needs to provide an adequate justification for itself, and an adequate justification for the rest of your worldview. You’re simply talking about having a first principle. Well, the first principle which you’ve offered is self-refuting. But a Christian first principle is not.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  20. Simon
    Simon says:

    It’s invalid because it’s necessarily false. You haven’t interacted with the fact that your position has not only been refuted, but it refutes itself.

    It can only be invalid in your mind for two reasons. (i) A naive and simplistic concept of what science is or (ii) Because it is circular.
    But all of anyone’s first principles are going to be circular.

    Of course we can speak of it. But it needs to be self-referentially coherent. It needs to provide an adequate justification for itself, and an adequate justification for the rest of your worldview. You’re simply talking about having a first principle. Well, the first principle which you’ve offered is self-refuting. But a Christian first principle is not.

    First of all, if a first principle can justify itself then that is empiricism!!
    Can you give me an example of what you’d regard as a valid [perhaps Christian] first principle?

  21. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    It can only be invalid in your mind for two reasons. (i) A naive and simplistic concept of what science is or (ii) Because it is circular.
    But all of anyone’s first principles are going to be circular.

    Are you serious? Could you perhaps have failed to note option (iii), which I actually explained in some detail: namely, that it is necessarily false because it refutes itself?

    First of all, if a first principle can justify itself then that is empiricism!!

    I have no idea what you mean by this.

    Can you give me an example of what you’d regard as a valid [perhaps Christian] first principle?

    Sure. I’d say that the Christian first principle is adequately stated in the proposition: The Bible is the word of God.

  22. Simon
    Simon says:

    What I’m trying to say is that no matter what we hold to be Ultimately True, when we speak of it, we are all circular. So if a person believes that X is the Ultimate Truth, they are stating “X is the ultimate truth, is true” But this assumes a notion of truth that subsumes that Ultimate Truth! The only way out of this is to incorporate the statement itselt within that Ultimate Truth. The statement then becomes X is the ultimate truth, and it includes this statement”
    This is exactly why I said “Science is Scientifically verifiable, including this statement”

    Ultimately we are all hopelessly circuar.

    The reason I have been trying to make this point is because the original “Scientism” article makes it sound as though scientism is less sensible than other [unstated] positions. But it doesn’t matter what a person ultimately believes, it is just as incoherent as scientism.

    For your example, The Bible is the word of God, you are implicitly stating that “The Bible is the word of God is true”. But your ability to state this as a truth assumes a notion of truth that subsumes the statement The Bible is the word of God in the first place! This subsuming truth, call it the Ultimate Truth, cannot be spoken of. For if it is, it will necessarily be self-referential.

    So if I chase your beliefs back beyond the assertion that the bible is the word of god, just as this article chases scientismists back beyond the assertion that science is the ‘word of god’, you will be as circular and self-defeating as the scientismists.

  23. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Simon, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to back up. You seem to be quite confused. Please could you explain what exactly you mean when you speak of “what we hold to be Ultimately True”? Are you simply referring to an epistemological first principle a la some kind of foundationalism? Or are you referring to something ontological as well? You seem, to my mind, to be implicitly conflating epistemology and ontology.

    Having asked for clarification, I will venture a cautious response nonetheless. Assuming you’re referring to an epistemological first principle, you say that “the statement then becomes X is the ultimate truth, and it includes this statement”. With that I can certainly agree—but the inclusion does not have to be explicit. For example, the first principle I have articulated, namely that the Bible is the word of God, does not explicitly state “and the Bible is true” or something similar. But of course, it does implicitly include this proposition (cf 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 6:18). The Bible is a very, very large set of related true propositions. However, the mere fact of assertion of truth does not make the first principle valid. It is a necessary condition of self-justification, but not a sufficient one. Another necessary condition is self-referential coherency. Hence, when you say that—

    This is exactly why I said “Science [sic; I assume you mean “all truth”] is Scientifically verifiable, including this statement”

    —this is merely your attempt to declare by fiat that your first principle is workable. But of course, as I’ve pointed out, the proposition “all truths are scientifically verifiable” is not scientifically verifiable, so simply adding “including this statement” to the end of it doesn’t gain you anything. It simply makes explicit the patent absurdity of the proposition as a first principle. It reveals it as a bare-faced lie, basically.

    Ultimately we are all hopelessly circuar.

    I disagree. Ultimately we are all circular; true. But we are not all hopelessly circular. Not every first principle is made equal. Some, like yours, are necessarily false. They literally cannot be true by definition. Others, like the Christian first principle, are an appeal to an ultimate epistemological standard. The only reason they’re circular is that it is insensible to appeal to a higher standard than the source of all truth—God himself. When God swears, he swears by himself, since there is nothing higher. That’s circular; but it’s not “hopelessly” circular. It’s just the nature of being the ground of all knowledge.

    The reason I have been trying to make this point is because the original “Scientism” article makes it sound as though scientism is less sensible than other [unstated] positions. But it doesn’t matter what a person ultimately believes, it is just as incoherent as scientism.

    The original article certainly does make the point that scientism is less sensible than other positions—namely Christian theism. And it certainly does matter what a person ultimately believes, since Christian theism is in no way incoherent, while scientism is. More importantly, though, in terms of our discussion here: if it genuinely doesn’t matter what a person ultimately believes, and if it is genuinely the case that all beliefs are equally incoherent, then it certainly doesn’t matter what you believe, since your beliefs are just as incoherent as ours, and I’m left absolutely bewildered as to why you bothered to come and comment here at all. Or do you maybe think that your particular beliefs are more coherent than anyone else’s?

    For your example, The Bible is the word of God, you are implicitly stating that “The Bible is the word of God is true”. But your ability to state this as a truth assumes a notion of truth that subsumes the statement The Bible is the word of God in the first place! This subsuming truth, call it the Ultimate Truth, cannot be spoken of. For if it is, it will necessarily be self-referential.

    I actually have no idea what you mean when you say that this “Ultimate Truth cannot be spoken of”. In what sense can it not be spoken of? Do you mean that we can’t know it in some sense? Do you mean that it is dependent on our prior epistemological presuppositions? You are being extremely unclear. In fact, it’s hard to see that you really know what epistemology is at all. The first principle of an epistemology needs to contain sufficient information to elucidate a theory of truth. That’s the point of having a first principle—to justify all the consequent propositions of a given worldview. Yet another reason that your verificationalist first principle fails, since it contains virtually no information, and certainly not enough to deduce any kind of consistent theory of truth.

    So if I chase your beliefs back beyond the assertion that the bible is the word of god, just as this article chases scientismists back beyond the assertion that science is the ‘word of god’, you will be as circular and self-defeating as the scientismists.

    False. You can’t chase my beliefs back beyond the assertion that the Bible is the word of God, because that is the linchpin of everything I claim to know. And that first principle certainly is circular, as all first principles necessarily are—but it isn’t self-defeating.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  24. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    “X is the Ultimate Truth” […] “X is the ultimate truth, is true” […] “X is the ultimate truth, and it includes this statement”

    is not self-referentially incoherent. It is either true or false. It is not circular. But…

    “All truths are scientifically verifiable”

    is self-referentially incoherent (according to commonly accepted definitions). Therefore, it is necessarily false. It is false by definition, just like “there is no such thing as a square with three sides.”

    But all of anyone’s first principles are going to be circular.

    How is the law of non-contradiction circular?

  25. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Er, Stuart, are you claiming LNC as a first principle…? We are talking about epistemological presuppositions here; not logical axioms.

  26. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Heraclides,

    Its true I’ve used your words a spring-board into discussion. I recognise the modifications you suggest in the article above, but my criticisms of them still hold. One avoids self-refutation thus undermines my charge of scientism, but remains self-defeating. Another I agree with, but drains all meaning away from the point originally being made, as is the case with the following modification you provide.

    If you use an honest process, you may be able to know if (determine if) your conclusion is the the best possible answer given current evidence and knowledge or not

    In future lengthy replies, instead of just indicting the article as ‘illogic’ you may want to show how.

    “open the door once again for a two way dialogue” assumes this ever existed.

    Comments like this show you are either ideologically opposed to two way dialogue on God’s existence thus a paragon of the dogmatism you so vehemently oppose, or else show you do hold to some form of scientism.

    So I’m looking forward to future intelligent and stimulating two-way dialogue with you.
    Regards,
    Stuart

  27. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Bnonn,

    By Simon’s reasoning the LNC must be circular, so the question by itself is justified. I think the logical axiom makes a good candidate for a first principle in reason, and I see no reason to exclude it from our basic set of epistemological presuppositions. I’ll rely on you wax eloquent on the laws of logic requiring a transcendental foundation.

  28. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Heh, I’m not suggesting LNC should be excluded from our epistemological presuppositions—obviously it’s necessary to them. I think LNC, identity, and excluded middle are fundamentally equal principles of reason, along with maybe commutativity, distributivity and associativity. But although they underwrite the cogency of our worldview’s first principle, they can’t function as a first principle themselves—they’re merely laws of inference, not propositions which can underwrite everything we know.

    I might need to explain this in more detail; probably really something for the journal though: an introduction to presuppositionalism or summat.

  29. Simon
    Simon says:

    False. You can’t chase my beliefs back beyond the assertion that the Bible is the word of God, because that is the linchpin of everything I claim to know. And that first principle certainly is circular, as all first principles necessarily are—but it isn’t self-defeating.

    If I can’t chase your beliefs beyond the statement the Bible is the word of God – or rather the implicit ” “the Bible is the word of God” is true “. Then you can’t chase the statement “All truths are scientifically berifiable”. Both are merely first principles, which are – as you point out – necessarily circular.

  30. Simon
    Simon says:

    The Bible is the word of God
    All truths are scientifically verifiable

    The latter is invalid because it assumes a truth that subsumes the statement itself; a truth which is not science. Agree?
    The former is invalid because it assumes a truth that subsumes the statement itself; a truth which is not the Bible or God.

    Or if God or the Bible are allowed to fully encompass the truth to which the entire former statement is subject, then so is the latter

  31. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    The statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is invalid because this one supposed ‘truth’ is not arrived at by a scientific process, thus not all truths are scientifically verifiable. That is, it is self-referentially incoherent and therefore necessarily false.

    The statement “The Bible is the word of God” is not self-referentially incoherent. It is either true or false by definition. To be invalid it would have to shown that either God does not exist, or God did not inspire the Bible at all.

  32. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Then you can’t chase the statement “All truths are scientifically berifiable”. Both are merely first principles, which are – as you point out – necessarily circular.

    I don’t care. Your first principle is NECESSARILY FALSE. This is the last time I’ll say it; if you don’t engage with this fact, I’m simply going to ask you to stop posting as it’s a waste of time.

    The former is invalid because it assumes a truth that subsumes the statement itself; a truth which is not the Bible or God.

    Again, you are going to need to elaborate on what you mean. Are you speaking ontologically or epistemologically?

  33. Simon
    Simon says:

    Oh, I do not think there is any real line that separates ontology from epistemology. Take whichever, because I want to apply the same to both statements.

  34. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Okay, what about the statement “Science is the word of God“

    Simon, Simon, Simon…

    You need to define your terms if you insist on being this liberal with the dictionary. This statement is not self-referentially incoherent (based on commonly understood definitions), and will either be true or false.

    As I understand the “word of God” is something that is necessarily true based upon His character, the statement is false. Science at the best of times can only be true with a high degree of certainty. At the worst of times is highly speculative and uncertain. Explanatory scientific theorems are always provisional and that does not fit the description of God’s word.

    Other than that, I don’t know what to make of your comment 37, accept that it looks like a vain attempt to save your theory of knowledge from collapsing into complete incoherence. As it stands (and if that is what it is), it has failed. Sorry to be so short.

  35. Simon
    Simon says:

    Ah! And this is my point:

    As I understand the “word of God” is something that is necessarily true based upon His character…

    So REALLY the statement “The bible is the word of God” is underpinned by the statement “The word of God is truth”
    Which, you can see, is just as coherent and just as incoherent as “Science is truth”

  36. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    I said the statement “Science is the word of God” is not incoherent. Just false. That is, false by definition. Just like the statement “A square has three sides.” The statement “the Bible is the word of God” is not incoherent at all. It is either true or false based upon the definitions ascribed to “Bible” and “word of God.” Just like the statement “A square has four sides.”

  37. Simon
    Simon says:

    This is irrelevant to my point.

    It remains that the statement The word of God is truth is just as coherent as the statement Science is truth

  38. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    It remains that the statement The word of God is truth is just as coherent as the statement Science is truth

    I agree its coherent.

    The point is “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is self-referentially incoherent, therefore necessarily false – that is, there is not possible way that this can be true given standard definitions.

  39. Simon
    Simon says:

    I was meaning “Science is truth” and “All truths are scientifically verifiable” to be equivalent.
    Because the statement “Science is truth” cannot be determined by science, agree?

    Then go back and read 42.

  40. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    If I may re-render your words of 42 based on 44.

    It remains that the statement “The word of God is truth” is just as coherent as the statement “All truths are scientifically verifiable”

    You’re not listening! The two are not just as coherent as one another. The former is coherent – it may be true and it may be false. The latter is self-referentially incoherent (i.e., self-refuting) so it cannot be true and must be false.

  41. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    So REALLY the statement “The bible is the word of God” is underpinned by the statement “The word of God is truth”

    No, it isn’t. Did you not read what I said? Look, here’s how it works:

    1. If the Bible is the word of God, then the word of God is truth [from Hebrews 6:18].
    2. The Bible is the word of God [first principle; cf 2 Timothy 3:16].
    3. Therefore, the Bible is truth [modus ponens].

    Notice that (2), my first principle, proves (3). It is not underpinned by (3), as if there is some logically prior proposition in my worldview. That is why “the Bible is the word of God” is my first principle!

    Which, you can see, is just as coherent and just as incoherent as “Science is truth”

    Since you’re completely wrong, which frankly is beginning to become a monotonous trend with you, that isn’t the case. Firstly, a proposition cannot be both coherent and incoherent at the same time and in the same relationship. Not unless you’re denying both the law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle. Secondly, your first principle isn’t coherent. We’ve proved this repeatedly. The Christian first principle, however, is. Thirdly, even if your first principle was coherent, it doesn’t provide the necessary foundation to build any kind of worldview. It doesn’t function to justify any rigorous and complete epistemology, metaphysic, ethical theory, anthropology, etc.

    I do not think there is any real line that separates ontology from epistemology.

    Fortunately for us, it doesn’t matter what you think. There is a real line which separates ontology and epistemology. You cannot legitimately conflate the two; the fact that you keep doing that is no doubt leading to all your very evident confusion and errors.

  42. Simon
    Simon says:

    I can’t believe you can’t see this!!

    “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is self-referentially incoherent because, according to you, the statement itself can’t be science.
    “The word of God is truth” is exactly the same! It is self-referentially incoherent because the statement itself can’t be the word of God.

  43. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is self-referentially incoherent because, according to you, the statement itself can’t be science.

    Is that what I said? No. I said that it’s self-refuting because the statement cannot be scientifically verified to be true.

    “The word of God is truth” is exactly the same! It is self-referentially incoherent because the statement itself can’t be the word of God.

    What, are you blind? What part of Hebrews 6:18 was unclear? “It is impossible for God to lie”. What part of 2 Timothy 3:16 was unclear? “All Scripture is breathed out by God”. How much clearer do you need this?

    1. All Scripture is breathed out by God (ie, the Bible exhaustively is the word of God).
    2. It is impossible for God to lie.
    3. Therefore, all Scripture is true (ie, the word of God is truth).

  44. Simon
    Simon says:

    So,

    What makes your statement “the word of god is true” more coherent than “All truth is scientifically verifiable.

    Don’t say that my statement is incoherent, state how yours is better!

  45. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    That “All truths are scientifically verifiable” is self-referentially incoherent presupposes at least 3 things. (1) There exists such a thing as truth. (2) There exists a set called “All truths.” (3) Things can be scientifically verifiable.

    Points 1 through 3 should be self-evident. What makes the statement self-referentially incoherent is that it must be a part of the set of “All truths,” but it itself is not scientifically verifiable. And so the statement must be false.

    “The word of God is truth” is exactly the same! It is self-referentially incoherent because the statement itself can’t be the word of God.

    As Bnonn pointed out, the statement itself can be apart of the word of God.

    The statement “The word of God is truth” commits itself to at least two assumptions. (1b) There is such a thing as “the word of God.” This is the subject of the sentence. (2b) There is such a thing as truth.

    The “word of God” (for the purposes of this discussion) is the contents of the Bible. Truth shouldn’t need to be defined, but I take it as correspondence to reality. The statement “The word of God is truth” is coherent. It is either true or false. It either has correspondence to reality or not. What more can one say?

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