The Definition Game!

Modern Western Science is an enterprise that was heavily motivated and influenced by Christian thinkers at the time of its birth. However, the initial success of science soon led to scientism where nonbelievers and even many naive Christians tried to explain everything, material as well as immaterial, by physical sciences and physical sciences alone.

The present day conflict between creation-evolution is a good manifestation of this conflict between evidence-based-faith and scientism. While evidence-based-faith approaches the world of knowledge based on the premise that there is plenty of evidence for the hand of God in the Universe, scientism starts by negating the non physical. Thus even if evidence were presented, they would not accept it because such evidence does not exist for them by their first principles.

During my schooldays I acted in a major drama (3 hours long) in which the King tries to solve the complex problems of his kingdom with the help of a mostly sycophant council of ministers. On being reported to him that thousands of people have been dying in his kingdom due to hunger, he solved the problem in a moment.

The king redefined hunger, so that in his kingdom huger was now an abstract desire. Since there was no dearth of abstract concepts to feed abstract desires, there was no longer any hunger-deaths in his kingdom he claimed. People kept on dying, but the definition reduced that to a non event. The same is what we see today. A number of non believers who debate Christians, including many who offer generous amounts of time to read and attack the apologetic articles on this blog, show the same approach to solving problems they do not like to face.

An attempt to obliterate the truth by redefining it is fine in drama and fiction, and it makes good reading, but such an approach leads to serious damages and hurts in the real world. When spiritual truths are denied using this approach, the result is eternal destruction.

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  1. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    At the risk of equivocation: gravity is not a model or an inference. Gravity is the phenomenon. The theory of gravitation is the inference from which you can make predictions. Things falling is the effect of gravity.

    So the evidence of gravity is the observation, and this confirms the theory or inference.

  2. Ian
    Ian says:

    I can accept that terminology. Using that, my point is that knowledge of the theory of gravity is not evidence for the accuracy of the theory of gravity.

  3. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hi Ian,

    That point is very modest. And in my opinion completely reasonable. To expand so I can see more where you are coming from, would you say that gravity (the phenomena itself – things falling) is evidence for the theory of gravity?

  4. Ian
    Ian says:

    Thinking about it more, we need to be really carefully about what exactly the phenomenon is and what the model is. We now call things falling gravity because we have had models that explain it called gravity. However gravity could be disproven in some sense (as indeed Newtonian gravity was) but the observations don’t change. In that sense it is more proper to talk about observations of things falling (or more precisely objects of mass attracting) rather than just calling it gravity. But provided we are clear on that point then your terminology is close enough to proceed.

    would you say that gravity (the phenomena itself – things falling) is evidence for the theory of gravity?

    Short answer: yes.

    Long answer: The phenomena itself is both the source and the confirmation of the theory. To explain: we observe that things fall which then leads us to seek a pattern or explanation. We come up with a model that suggests all things are attracted via the various equations for gravitation which matches the observations to date. This then makes predictions of observations we haven’t yet made which we then try and make to see if they match the prediction. The more observations we get that match, the more accurate the model can be considered. As it happens the Newtonian model of gravity didn’t quite accurately predict everything we saw and relativity took over as a better model.

  5. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi again Ian. Excuse me for one post and I will let you get back to it. I was going to thank you for your last post in the other topic, but the topic closed. So … good job.

    In regard to this discussion, I am pretty sure that the Christians here know how science works. But thanks for the run down. What you have just described is the fatality in the ability of science to recognise any objective morality. If something breaks the model, we have to adjust the model or find a new model.

    Ian wrote (#45):
    You have drifted from the topic now – remember you are trying to convince me that somewhere in morality is evidence that science cannot use. You have shown me that science cannot say what people “ought” do and I agree but that is irrelevant to the question we are working on.

    Science is blind to objective morality. This is what we have actually been saying. If objective morality does exist, science cannot find it. If science could find it, it would be able to plainly tell people what they “ought” to do – with respect to good and evil. For objective morality is non-negotiable. You cannot change it. You cannot make up your own.

    The conundrum arises because objective morality cannot exist without free choice. (Justice and a law-maker are also integral, but currently irrelevant) If you cannot choose to follow good or to follow evil, morality is meaningless. Robots do what they are told. They are not good or evil. As we have previously explored, objective morality cannot exist in a purely materialistic world.

    So, what would happen if mass had the option to choose whether or not to follow this unseen force that draws it to other mass? In essence, you would not be able to observe gravity. The mass that chose not to obey would defeat any pattern recognition via observation and prediction, thus effectively hiding gravity from view. As you have correctly explained for science, if something breaks the rules, the rules need to be changed.

    The only way you can identify an optional law, is it to acknowledge that it acts upon yourself. It is an internal identification. This is why science cannot find objective morality … but you can.

    OK, I shall exit now. Cheers.

  6. Ian
    Ian says:

    Science is blind to objective morality. This is what we have actually been saying. If objective morality does exist, science cannot find it.

    For this to be true, objective morals can have no influence on the way people behave, their tendency to see things as good or bad, or the way that societies operate. If it does influence any of those things even slightly then science can identify it and work with it. If it doesn’t influence those things then do we really care?

    If science could find it, it would be able to plainly tell people what they “ought” to do – with respect to good and evil.

    Presuming that was actually discernible then yes, quite true. However it is important to note that it would not be science “deciding” how people should act but simply science “reporting” what the objective morals are or how they work.

    For objective morality is non-negotiable. You cannot change it. You cannot make up your own.

    That may be true (although I very much doubt it but that is another debate). Regardless, I am not going to accept it is true on your, nor anyone else’s “say so”. You’re going to have to provide evidence that such a thing actually exists and as soon as you do that science is going to be involved.

  7. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Ian,

    Just so we cam be absolutly clear, are you saying then, that gravity (the phenomena of things falling) is evidence of the reality of the theory of gravitation, but only insofar as it is confirmed later by experiment, and untill then we cannot properly know of gravity – that things will fall?

    In other words: should we only claim to know what science can teach us?

    By the way, your very confused regarding objective morality.

  8. Simon
    Simon says:

    In other words: should we only claim to know what science can teach us?

    In a similar way that you, I imagine, would claim that nothing can be known without god, I think that Ian and I would claim that nothing can be known that is unobservable via science. And so we can only ever know what science knows; and anything that an be known is scientifically observable.

  9. Simon
    Simon says:

    Science is blind to objective morality. This is what we have actually been saying. If objective morality does exist, science cannot find it.

    I disagree with this. What is so special about morality that it is objective in a different way to physical reality? I dare say that no one would disagree with the statement ‘science can make objective models of physical reality’: No one would deny that, say, Newton’s gravity gives us an objective look at the workings of the universe. And if we are afforded an objective perspective of the physical workings of the universe, why not morality too?

    Morality is an inherant and objective part of [being human in] this universe, just like our model of the atom is. Only the naive want to demand that the model of the atom is absolutely abjective. And only the naive – though well intentioned – want to demand that morality is absolutely objective.

  10. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    SImon,

    You have absolutely no idea what it “objective morality” means!

    Its an objective fact that I have no idea what “abjective” means, but that has nothing to do with whether or not there there is an objective meaning to the word “abjective.”

  11. Simon
    Simon says:

    Stuart,

    I know what you mean by “objective reality”. I am putting forward the counter to your platonicly – I have to say – naive view: There is no such magical beyond-observable-reality world where Plato’s Forms exist. All we have are shadows. Our descriptions and models of these phenomena – these shadows – are working definitions. Only a very naive person would demand that the model of the atom was the end of the story. So too with morality! And my point much earlier about stoning adulterers is a perfect example of this.

  12. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Unfortunately Simon, you have not put forward any counters. What you have done is to engage in name-calling and ridiculing in order to justify your view. If we remain silent it is simply because such activities deserve no answer.

    Way back in post 35 you said

    Simon wrote (#45):I largely agree with you Stuart. We seem to need to hold morality as more that just mass opinion. But on the other hand, what about stoning adulterers, Stuart? Stoning people has been dropped by mass opinion.

    A desire to make morality real does not make it so. Either there is a right and wrong or there is not. If humans invented morality, then there is no such thing as objective morality. If there is no such thing as objective morality, all we have are personal opinions that can be collated into group-opinions. A group-opinion has no more weight than a personal opinion. It is just more common. As such, you have no ground to stand on when condemning the stoning of adulterers. You are merely claiming that your opinion is a better opinion than that which the people had in the cultures that did stone peoples. Yet, without any objective standard, such a claim is meaningless. It cannot be “better”. For better has no meaning. Better means that you are getting closer to the correct standard, closer to the objective standard. What you actually mean is that you like not stoning adulterers, better.

    What does objective morality require?
    1. Free choice – if you cannot choose, you can not be held “wrong”
    2. Intelligence and reason – you cannot have (1) without these things
    3. A justified law maker – rules on behaviour could only be set by a valid authority
    4. Another dimension – the matter based world does not have objective morality
    5. A method of making the beings aware of the morality
    6. A reward and penalty system – if there is no penalty for breaking the moral right why is there such a thing?

    It is very clear that objective morality can only originate apart from our physical world.

    How does the materialistic worldview approach these ‘requirements’
    1. Free choice seems real but it is a wonderful illusion. We are really just a bunch of chemical reactions that somehow give us the illusion of being able to choose.
    2. Intelligence and reason seem real. But we are just a bunch of chemical reaction that somehow developed the ability to reason. (The use of you own term – magical – might be appropriate here)
    3. There is no justified Law-Maker. Saying that an intelligent being exists outside the materialistic world is just naive, Platonic thinking! Intelligence and reason only exist in matter – somehow?
    4. There is no other ‘spiritual’ dimension. See 3.
    5. See 3.
    6. There is no Law Maker so there is no penalty. See 3.

    With all this in mind, you dared to embark in a baseless condemning of the stoning of adulterers. Yes you can have your opinion. But so can they. Yet more importantly, you claimed that morality has changed because we (the followers of Christ and God) do not stone adulterers any more.

    And again, you have totally missed the point. The “Objective Morality” has not changed at all. It has always been to love the Lord your God with all you heart and all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. Recall if you will, that objective morality can only be sourced outside of the materialistic world, so do not be surprised that it is not actually a list of what atomic being can and cannot do.

    “on the other hand, what about stoning adulterers, Stuart?”

    Yes, what about it? It was a penalty for breaking objective morality. No, the objective morality has not changed. Adultery is still wrong. The penalty may have changed, and it seems that it might be harder to bear now, than it was back then. We all still believe that people who do ‘wrong’ should face a penalty. It is only right. And that could only be true objectively speaking.

  13. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    I think you miss my argument. But I probably should have spelled it out better:

    A desire to make morality real does not make it so. Either there is a right and wrong or there is not.

    Bear with me for a minute: Humans are attracted to fatty foods. Certainly there will be exceptions – people will have different preferences when it comes to food, but en-mass it is an objective observation that humans are attracted to fatty foods. Now, WHY are we attracted to fatty foods? Well genetics, experience, upbringing….
    Now who in their right mind would demand that there MUST be an absolute edict somewhere commanding humans to like fatty foods? Such a person could also demand that personal opinion counts for nothing and that either humans have been admonished to like fatty foods or there is absolutely nothing but personal opinion. But such a person is clearly blind to the obvious fact that the human attraction to certain foods is determined by their makeup.

    SO TOO WITH MORALITY. It is determined by our genetics, the world around us, experience, and happenstance.

    If humans invented morality, then there is no such thing as objective morality. If there is no such thing as objective morality, all we have are personal opinions that can be collated into group-opinions. A group-opinion has no more weight than a personal opinion. It is just more common.

    Firstly, humans no more invented morality than they invented themselves (their genes). Personally I think that mass-opinion is very important, which is the main reason that I treat religion seriously (as opposed to being dismissive of it. It clearly has a purpose.) I can only hope that you will one day see that genetic-environmental – empirical, if you will – determined morality is no threat at all. Indeed, it is what has emancipated us from horrors of the likes of stonings.

    As such, you have no ground to stand on when condemning the stoning of adulterers.

    I do for the same reason that I can embrace the modern model of the atom as supeior to whatever came before. To embrace the modern model of the atom I have to accept certain philosophical axioms* – as many people here like to keep pointing out. Building upon these it can be ‘proven’ that the modern model is better. Similarly, using certain axioms, I can ‘prove’ that stoning adulterers is not the best policy.
    Your claim that I have no ground to stand on is to question those moral axioms, and the scientific equivalent is argued by Dale……. *here:http://www.fruitfulfaith.net/2009/07/two-thomist-tasters/

    Somehow, we know a better model of physical reality when we see it. The same is true with morality, I think. Some of us just get a little caught up in the models.

  14. Ian
    Ian says:

    @Stuart (#57)

    Just so we cam be absolutly clear, are you saying then, that gravity (the phenomena of things falling) is evidence of the reality of the theory of gravitation, but only insofar as it is confirmed later by experiment, and untill then we cannot properly know of gravity – that things will fall?

    Gravity is far far more than a theory of things falling. Things falling is an everyday experience to us macroscopic inhabitants of earth. Things don’t really fall though, they are just attracted to other things and we happen to exist on a particularly massive object that we are very much attracted to. That is what the theory of gravity predicts. In other words things falling and gravity are connected but not synonymous. In fact one of the great things about gravity is that it actually predicts that if you get far enough away from earth you’ll actually fall “up” relative to the earth – i.e. towards bigger things like the sun.

    In other words: should we only claim to know what science can teach us?

    IMO we should only claim to know as objectively verified fact things that have been subjected to scientific study or some other valid method of determining the accuracy of claims.

    By the way, your very confused regarding objective morality.

    I suppose I probably am – but I attribute that to the concept itself not really making any sense :)

  15. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Ian,

    First off the concept of objective moraility is perfectly coherent.It’s simply the idea that somethings are right weather or not anyone agrees or believes different, and somethings are wrong wether or not anyone agrees or believes differently. It is the opposite of subjective morality. You can dispute whether the definition applies but throwing aspertions on the coherence of the definition (well accepted and in common use within the philosophy of ethics and religion) is just a substitute for poor thinking.

    That’s all I have time for now. I’ll get back to the rest later.

  16. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Its pretty clear I was in a rush when I wrote that last. I mean a substitute for good thinking, a.k.a. poor thinking. And I do know how to spell weather, whether or not it is spelt right above. :-)

    Ian,

    Gravity is far far more than a theory of things falling. Things falling is an everyday experience to us macroscopic inhabitants of earth. Things don’t really fall though, they are just attracted to other things and we happen to exist on a particularly massive object that we are very much attracted to. That is what the theory of gravity predicts. In other words things falling and gravity are connected but not synonymous. . .

    For one you agreed on the terminology (and I qualified what I was meaning all along with parentheses) so all this is really backtracking. Gravity (things falling, objects attracting, etc.) is the phenomenon. In your thought, is the phenomenon itself adequate evidence for the theory of gravity? or must it be verified by science before it can be said the theory of gravity (which I take to be assurance that things will always fall down/attract – whatever -) is known?

    IMO we should only claim to know as objectively verified fact things that have been subjected to scientific study or some other valid method of determining the accuracy of claims.

    This statement is as slippery as can be. In your thought what is a permissible “valid method” other than science which can determine a claims truthfulness? Can experience be this? Why/why not?

  17. Ian
    Ian says:

    I’m not getting into a discussion about objective/relative morality in this thread lol although I do concede that one was probably my fault for not being able to resist my comment ;).

    In your thought, is the phenomenon itself adequate evidence for the theory of gravity? or must it be verified by science before it can be said the theory of gravity (which I take to be assurance that things will always fall down/attract – whatever -) is known?

    All we can say is that relativistic theory fits known observations and has a great track record for accurately predicting future observations. Therefore at the moment the theory of relativistic gravity can be considered accurate and useful.

    This statement is as slippery as can be. In your thought what is a permissible “valid method” other than science which can determine a claims truthfulness? Can experience be this? Why/why not?

    I can’t think of any but I don’t rule out their existence hence the caveat. Experience alone is not sufficient because we have far too much evidence of the fallibility of individual perception, recall and interpretation hence the need for a method like science that tries to rule this out.

    Moral issues are a good example of this . Let us say that I feel deep down that rape is fundamentally wrong. Does that mean that I now have evidence that rape is fundamentally wrong? No – I only have evidence that I think deep down that rape is fundamentally wrong. Why do I think that is the case? That is still an unknown, even to me, based on that experience I just presented.

  18. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Ian,

    All we can say is that relativistic theory fits known observations and has a great track record for accurately predicting future observations. Therefore at the moment the theory of relativistic gravity can be considered accurate and useful.

    I agree. But this is not answering the question. I want to know if observation of phenomena itself is efficacious for knowledge.

    It seems to me you do accept – indeed know of – experiential evidence, for in your own words there is “evidence of the fallibility of individual perception, recall and interpretation.” How do you know this? Where did this evidence come from? And before you knew it, and used it to argue in favour of the claim that “reason alone is not sufficient,” was there a tested scientific hypothesis or theory to verify it?

    Just because I can’t verify something, doesn’t mean I don’t know it!

  19. Ian
    Ian says:

    I agree. But this is not answering the question. I want to know if observation of phenomena itself is efficacious for knowledge.

    One observation is not very efficacious for knowledge. Lots of observations can reveal underlying patterns however which is much more useful.

    It seems to me you do accept – indeed know of – experiential evidence, for in your own words there is “evidence of the fallibility of individual perception, recall and interpretation.” How do you know this? Where did this evidence come from?

    Observations. Lots and lots of observations. Experiential evidence is very useful but we have to be wary. For a simple example, someone saying “I experienced god” when what they really experienced was a feeling of elation is a good example. Perhaps the elation was caused by god but to make that leap and then present that as a direct experience is flawed.

    That is why lots and lots of observations are needed in controlled circumstances to narrow down just what is actually going on compared with what is being claimed.

    And before you knew it, and used it to argue in favour of the claim that “reason alone is not sufficient,” was there a tested scientific hypothesis or theory to verify it?

    I don’t follow – it seems to me you are asking whether there was a tested scientific hypothesis before there was a tested scientific hypothesis?

  20. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    One observation is not very efficacious for knowledge.

    Either it is or it isn’t. Which?

    I met someone earlier today that I used to go to school with. I have no corroborative evidence of this however. But surely I do know it. The evidence for it is grounded in my own experience. Or – if you were in a similar situation – do you need many obeservations or lines of evidence before you accept that you can know it.

  21. simon
    simon says:

    I agree with you Stuart, I think that experiential evidence is evidence (ultimately it is all we have, in a way). However, communal knowledge – e.g. religion or science – is far more potent (according to most poeple’s experiential knowledge (: )

  22. Ian
    Ian says:

    I met someone earlier today that I used to go to school with. I have no corroborative evidence of this however. But surely I do know it. The evidence for it is grounded in my own experience.

    From your point of view:

    Observation: You have memories of meeting that friend which seem real.
    Logic: The memories seem real, I had planned to meet this person for a while, I have a receipt from coffee, I recall a particular conversation, etc, so I assume it is true.
    Inference: You met someone you used to go to school with.

    Now internally we can shortcut all of that by simply assuming the observation is true and that is how we operate on a daily basis. Assumptions like that drive our perception of the world and rightly so. Nonetheless science can deal with this observation and potentially independently confirm the inference.

    From my point of view:

    Observation: You claim you met someone you used to go to school with.
    Logic: Since you have nothing to gain by lying, it is a simple claim, and it is a common occurrence to meet people you used to go to school with, it is probably true.
    Inference: You met someone you used to go to school with.

    Science can deal with this observation too.

    ———————————————–
    (slight aside)

    The situation you gave is quite different from a broader statement however. The more general and/or more extraordinary a claim, the more corroborating evidence it needs before we will believe it.

    If I said that I met a old school mate for lunch today you would probably believe me.
    If I said that everyone meets old school mates for lunch on Tuesdays you’d question me because it is too general.
    If I said that I met an old school mate who is an alien from alpha centauri, you’d question me because it is too extraordinary.

    —————————————————–

    So to return to our discussion, where is this evidence that science cannot use?

    I get the sense you are trying to say that your knowledge that you met your friend cannot be used by science and I would tend to agree but only in the sense that no-one but you can actually use that for anything. What is more important is the fact that you think you met your friend, which can be used by science.

  23. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Ian,

    To that last it seems to me as if you are equivocating on “science” – which has gone from meaning empirical investigation to simply the broad use of logic.

    In any case, you can’t put a memory in a test tube. Neither can science dissect a moral ought (you admit as much above). Neither can you put a logical inference in a petri dish. In each of these cases knowledge is conferred and empirical science was unnecessary. Only in the case of the latter – the logical inference – could empirical science possibly offer corroborating evidence.

    You misrepresented me above as well. I would say;
    1) I have a memory of x
    2) My memories are generally reliable.
    3) In the absence of defeaters for x I am justified in believing x.
    4) Therefore, I have knowledge of x.

    Empirical investigation, scientific hypotheses and theorising and testing, making inferences, etc., was not involved at all in order that I might know. Any of those above are simply extra and therefore superfluous. At most I see them as adding justification, which I already have.

  24. Joshua Ajao
    Joshua Ajao says:

    Science is hardly consistent. Theories and formulas of yesteryears are now falling under the weight of evidence -based faith. Dr. Johnson, You are a blessing to this generation. Thanks

  25. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Simon. Firstly, excuse my tardiness in responding. I would love to be a more regular contributor, but am sadly (and happily) occupied in many other activities. Secondly, post 63 was a pretty good effort in avoiding derogatory comments and explaining your position. Congrats.

    Now on to the meat …

    You have made the definite claim that morality is an evolved attribute like an instinct or a desire to eat fatty foods. Then you claimed that your “preferred instinct” or “desire” is better for the same reason that the model of the atom is better than the model of, well, whatever came before it. And here is where you lost me.

    The model of the atom is a representation of a physical entity that appears to have a very specific set of universal attributes. The model of the atom is better because it fits with these “physical laws” like a glove on my hand. On the other hand, you are trying to say that your model of what you hold as “right and wrong” (morality), is better than what anyone previously (different) held … because … well, “because it is different, and the model of the atom is different to what people held previously so what I hold as the correct morality is better than what people held before”. You did not tie your version of morality to a physical law like the model of the atom is tied to the physical entity. I am not ridiculing you here. I am expressing exact reasoning that I saw you make to claim that your current morality is better.

    I understand you when you claim morality is just a product of genetics, the world, environment, experience, happenstance or instinct. It can be nothing more than this to you. What I do not understand is how after making this claim, you can engage in claiming that your taste, your genetics, your experience, your happenstance … is modern, and thus, is the correct one. The extent of your argument appear to be that your idea, (or the general consensus,) on what is currently morally right is correct because it comes “built-in”, it is the latest version.

    My claim is that your morality is not, and can not be, more correct (or better). It is just different. You cut it lose from representing something real, like the model of the atom represents a physical entity adhering to physical laws. Thus your morality is merely personal taste. Today is again the day, where I see that this genetic-environmental determined morality is no threat at all. But that is because I see that it has no substance. Yet, it is a threat because the lack of substance allows it to wander, and this can best be illustrated by the modem adoption of wholesale abortions. Stoning adulterers may seem barbaric, yet how many people were stonned? And weren’t they aware of the ‘laws’ and prescribed penalty before deciding to risk the transgression? The same cannot be said about our propensity to indiscriminately kill, millions, today.

    At this point it is worth explaining again that this is not what I know morality to be. What is “right” sits above and in judgement of my instincts. It is not an instinct itself. Behavioural laws, to be real, do not fit into a naturalist worldview. I accept right and wrong as real. I accept good and evil as real. This simply demands that I discard a naturalist worldview.

    It is not modern morality that has freed us from the “horrors” of the past. It is the acknowledgment that there is a real good and that we should be living according to it. It is the acknowledgment that while justice is right, mercy and forgiveness are greater. It is the acknowledgment that I personally am in transgression of the real good.

    If you want to have another crack at justifying your instance of relative morality, go for it.

  26. Ian
    Ian says:

    @ Stuart

    It seems we are going around in circles so I am going to have one last reply and then back out of this discussion.

    To that last it seems to me as if you are equivocating on “science” – which has gone from meaning empirical investigation to simply the broad use of logic.

    My point was not that the inference was “science” but that the inference and the observation were not the same thing. In terms of morality you observe that you think x is bad, not that x is universally bad. The latter is necessarily an inference and it is a testable one. Any such testing is science.

    In any case, you can’t put a memory in a test tube.

    No but there are whole academic journals dedicated to memory research so science does have a whole lot to say about memories.

    Neither can science dissect a moral ought (you admit as much above).

    No, I say that science cannot prescribe an ought. It can certainly dissect it if such a thing is possible. More important to our discussion however is that no other mode of discourse can offer any more than science can.

    Neither can you put a logical inference in a petri dish.

    Not literally but science thrives of logical inferences. If they didn’t work then science wouldn’t work and the fact I’m posting this comment is testimony to the contrary of that idea.

    In each of these cases knowledge is conferred and empirical science was unnecessary.

    We are not talking about the necessity of science, we are talking about the inaccessibility of certain realms of evidence to science and you still haven’t provided any that are accessible to other modes of discourse.

    Thanks Stuart, it has been an interesting discussion and I look forward to your reply but I am not sure we can gain much more from the discussion continuing much further. If you disagree then let me know and I’ll re-engage :)

  27. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Ian,

    I’m keen to make this the last as well.

    In terms of morality you observe that you think x is bad, not that x is universally bad.

    I’ve never spoken of universal moral values. Rather, I have always spoken of objective moral values. I’m not sure what you mean by it, but if you think they are synonymous this might be the cause of all your confusion on the subject.

    On morality:
    1) Empirical science cannot prescribe or determine things to be right or wrong.
    2) That which cannot prescribe or determine things to be right or wrong has no knowledge of the truth of moral statements.
    3) Therefore, empirical science has no knowledge of the truth of moral statements.
    4) There is knowledge of the truth of moral statements.
    5) That which can be known can be used as evidence.
    6) Therefore, there is evidence that is inaccessible to science.

    No but there are whole academic journals dedicated to memory research so science does have a whole lot to say about memories.

    Equivocating on “memory research”. Memory research cannot give you the specific content of any knowledge bearing memory. This research will be either psychological, sociological, or studying the electrochemical phenomena in the brain. Possibly also equivocating on “science” again, as an academic journal is not necessarily empirical science.

    On memories:
    1) I have a memory of x
    2) My memories are generally reliable.
    3) In the absence of defeaters for x I am justified in believing x.
    4) Therefore, I have knowledge of x.
    5) Knowledge of x can be used as evidence.
    6) Empirical science cannot access the specific content of a memory.
    7) Therefore, there is evidence that is not accessible empirical science.

    (1) No, I say that science cannot prescribe an ought. (2) It can certainly dissect it if such a thing is possible. (3) More important to our discussion however is that no other mode of discourse can offer any more than science can. [numbers mine]

    Regarding (2): how does empirical science analyse a prescription, as prescriptions are by nature non-physical?

    You concede (1) and immediately contradict yourself in (3). If its true that science cannot prescribe an ought, then science is inept at moral discourse and blind to moral knowledge.

    Not literally but science thrives of logical inferences. If they didn’t work then science wouldn’t work

    So science relies on the logical laws of inference and cannot function without them. I agree. It follows then that the logical laws of inference epistemically precede empirical scientific investigation. And because that which we know can be used as evidence, it follows from the above that there is philosophical evidence that empirical science was unable to obtain. So the position “science is reliable” is only reasonable because there is philosophical evidence that underpins the entire discipline.

    Related to philosophical evidence is theological evidence. For instance, empirical science is unable to determine if God is triune. Yet the Christian who holds scripture to be true is able to find ample evidence for the Trinity. So theological evidence is another realm of evidence that is inaccessible to science.

  28. Ian
    Ian says:

    Lol I knew you’d save the good stuff for last :) Nonetheless I said I’d let it end unresolved here and that is what I shall do – thanks for an invigorating discussion and I’ll see you at the next one!

  29. Damian
    Damian says:

    Whatever happened to Johnson C Philip? It seems that one minute we were asking for a list of books he claimed to have purchased and the next he was gone. He didn't get asked to move on by the keepers of this blog did he?

  30. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Definitely not. I suppose he thought he could make better use of his time elsewhere, rather than arguing with you lot.

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