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Re: It *is* a metaphysical assumption (was No design required? (was Italian ..))

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  • Stephen E. Jones
    Group I can t remember whether I have mentioned it, but I am going to try a new approach of breaking my responses to long posts into smaller chunks and
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2002
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      Group

      I can't remember whether I have mentioned it, but I am going to try a new
      approach of breaking my responses to long posts into smaller chunks and
      answering those. That way I should be able to post more regularly and my
      opponent and I can perhaps agree (or agree to disagree) on some issues
      within a long post and put that behind us, while still continuing the
      debate on other unresolved issues in that post.

      On Sun, 28 Apr 2002 23:54:00 -0000, hecd2 wrote:

      [...]

      >>AM>What is mass spectroscopy and how do you apply that technique to
      >>>Mars from earth?

      [...]

      >SJ>However, if it is a trick question i.e. Alec (who on a list I saw -
      >>it might have been this one - described himself as a "physical scientist")
      >>knows what "mass spectroscopy" is and that it cannot be applied to Mars
      >>from Earth, then I would be most grateful for Alec to set me straight.

      AM>My apologies to Stephen for a cheap shot on my part:

      Thanks to Alec for this and his setting me straight on what "mass
      spectroscopy" is.

      AM>As far as I know, methane hasn't been confirmed in the Martian
      >atmosphere - it would be strong evidence for life on a planet like
      >Mars.
      >Methane is present in trace amounts in the atmospheres of gas giants
      >like Jupiter.

      Again, thanks to Alec. If Earth-based scientists can detect "trace amounts
      in the atmospheres of more distant planets like Jupiter then they
      presumably can do the same for Mars? This was Lovelock's point, that
      Mars' atmosphere was not "made of a complex mix of gases all out of
      chemical equilibrium - as living organisms would be absorbing and emitting
      all kinds of gases they needed for survival" but the exact opposite, "a
      boringly simple atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide plus a few other
      trace gases close to chemical equilibrium" and so "Lovelock was thus able
      to predict that there was no life on Mars, a full decade before any probes
      actually went to look":

      -------------------------------------------------------------------------
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=004341380747885&rtmo=weQQQtlb&atmo=rrrrrrrq&pg=/et/01/2/8/ecftele08.html
      Electronic Telegraph 08.02.01 [...] All you need to seek a Martian is a
      telescope To find life on Mars you may not need to leave the comfort of
      your own observatory, says Robert Matthews [...] Needless to say, my
      five-year-old, Theo, found all this rather boring and wanted to know
      whether there really are aliens on Mars. It was a timely question, as last
      week Nasa scientists claimed to have created primitive "cells" in an
      experiment that may mimic conditions in which life originally formed in
      deep space. Dr Lovelock had the temerity to mention this at a meeting of
      Nasa scientists, and received the obvious rejoinder: how would he conduct
      the experiment? His answer was as radical as it was brilliant. To detect life
      on Mars it isn't necessary to send a multi-million dollar probe at all, he said.
      All that was needed was to use an Earth-bound telescope to analyse the
      planet's atmosphere and look for the tell-tale signs of life. This would take
      the form of an atmosphere made of a complex mix of gases all out of
      chemical equilibrium - as living organisms would be absorbing and emitting
      all kinds of gases they needed for survival. A few months later, the analysis
      was done using the Pic du Midi telescope in the Pyrenees - and it showed
      that Mars has a boringly simple atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide
      plus a few other trace gases close to chemical equilibrium. Dr Lovelock
      was thus able to predict that there was no life on Mars, a full decade before
      any probes actually went to look. Nasa, whose raison d'etre increasingly
      centres on the "search for life", did not and still does not - want to hear Dr
      Lovelock's message. It has continued to send probes to look for life on the
      red planet, and all have failed to find anything. Theo, in contrast, seemed to
      take Dr Lovelock's message about the absence of little green men on the
      chin - but then, he hasn't got a multi-billion-dollar budget to justify before
      Congress. [...]
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------

      >>>SJ>[...] But then the problem is: "Where does it come from? This is a
      >>>>problem which concerns both biologists and philosophers and, at present,
      >>>>science seems incapable of solving it." (Grasse, 1977, p2). Materialistic-
      >>>>naturalistic science, that is!]

      >>AM>The only sort there is!

      >SJ>So says Alec! But he is just playing a word-game. That is, Alec
      >>>*defines* "science" as "materialistic-naturalistic" (according to his own
      >>>personal atheistic *philosophy* of how he *wants* the universe to be), and
      >>>then he excludes anything that does not fit the Procrustean bed he has made.
      >>Alec is of course free to do that, but that does not make it *true*.

      AM>This is not a word-game. The scientific paradigm assumes that
      >observed phenomena have natural causes.

      It *is* a word-game! No one would dispute that "*observed* phenomena
      have natural causes". What we are in dispute about is the causes of *un*-
      "observed phenomena", i.e. unique origin events that happened millions,
      and in some cases billions, of years ago.

      AM>Allowing other than natural
      >causes moves one's endeavour fromn science to metaphysics or
      >theology - this is not to belittle these pursuits at the expense of
      >science: it's just that this is the only credible definition of
      >science.

      If it is a matter of "definition", then it is a *verbal* distinction. That
      is what I mean by "a word-game".

      AM>Any discovery of any sort that has ever been made using the
      >scientific method uses this paradigm - that observed phenomena have
      >natural causes. Can Stephen suggest one example - just one - that
      >does not fit this rule?

      See above. The issue is *not* "observed phenomena". That is peppered
      moths and finch beaks. In the case of *origins* of moths and birds (for
      example), we are talking about *un*-"observed phenomena".

      As Dobzhansky conceded, "These [macro-] evolutionary happenings are
      unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible. .... The applicability of the
      experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is
      severely restricted before all else by the time intervals involved ...
      Experimental evolution deals of necessity with only the simplest levels of
      the evolutionary process, sometimes called microevolution." (Dobzhansky,
      1957, p.388) (see tagline).

      AM>Furthermore, Stephen jumps without justification to the assumption
      >that because I give a definition of science (the only sensible
      >definition of science by the way)

      This is just a value-judgment by Alec. In the case of *origins* it is *not* a
      `sensible definition of science". It is a *question-begging* `definition of
      science":

      "An argument is said to `beg the question' if it assumes an answer
      to the very point that is in dispute. Here's a simple example:
      Question: Why should I believe the Bible? Answer: Because the
      Bible says so. Arguments defending Darwinism often seem to beg
      the question because they assume the point at issue, which is
      whether the scientific evidence really does support the theory.
      Here's a typical example: Question: What evidence proves that life
      evolved from nonliving molecules? Answer: Don't reject a scientific
      theory just because you have a religious prejudice. The answer
      assumes the point in dispute, which is whether the evidence for the
      chemical evolution of life is so overwhelming that only a prejudiced
      person would be skeptical of it. Question-begging arguments
      typically assume that science or reason is on the arguer's side; then
      the person tries to put you in the position of arguing against science
      and reason. If you let a straw-man maker define the terms of the
      argument that way, you've lost before you make your first point."
      (Johnson P.E., `Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds,"
      InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, p.42)

      AM>that he doesn't like that I am an
      >atheist. I don't remember stating my position on this matter on this
      >list. There are many theists who agree that within science one
      >always seeks natural causes for observed phenomena.

      If Alec denies God's existence in science, then in that area he is an
      "atheist", i.e. a *practical* atheist, living as though God did not exist.

      As I pointed out to a theistic evolutionist former member, one can even be
      a theist, yet be a practical atheist:

      "Finally, practical atheists confess that God exists but believes that
      we should live as if he did not." (Geisler N.L., "Atheism," in "Baker
      Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics," Baker: Grand Rapids MI,
      1999, p.56)

      [...]

      >SJ>Writing under a sub-heading also called "What is this thing called
      >>Science?" (i.e. the core of his book) Chambers' conclusion is that there is
      >>no "single category `science' ... that various areas of knowledge, physics,
      >>biology, history, sociology and so on, either come under that category or do
      >>not", and he does "not know how such a general characterization of
      >>science can be established or defended" ... (Chalmers A., "What is this
      >>thing called Science? ..., 1994, reprint, p.166)

      AM>Well, I haven't read this book, but Stephen's quote from it seems to
      >indicate that Chalmers is unable to answer the question he has set
      >himself. If he is unable to tell which of these fields of knowledge,
      >physics, history, sociology, fall within the category of science,
      >then I would suggest he is seeding uncertainty and obfuscation where
      >none should exist.

      Maybe Alec *should* read the book. The fact is that the people who
      actually study science as a topic in itself are not scientists but
      *philosophers* of science:

      "Certain issues must be clarified before we can proceed. For one
      thing, consider the following propositions: 1. By its very nature, NS
      [natural science] must adopt MN [methodological naturalism]. 2.
      Theistic science is religion and not science. It is important to
      remember that these claims are not first-order claims *of* science
      about some scientific phenomenon. Rather, they are second-order
      philosophical claims *about* science. They are metaclaims that take
      a vantage point outside science and have science itself as their
      subject of reference. Thus the field of philosophy, especially
      philosophy of science, will be the proper domain from which to
      assess these claims, not science. Scientists are not experts in these
      second-order questions, and when they comment on them, they do
      so qua philosophers, not qua scientists." (Moreland J.P., "Theistic
      Science & Methodological Naturalism," in Moreland J.P., ed., "The
      Creation Hypothesis," 1994, p.43. Emphasis in original)

      And it is AFAIK the universal consensus among philosophers of science
      that the naive view positivist-inductivist view of science held by most
      scientists is untenable. That is in fact what they are teaching us in this
      Bachelor or Science (Biology) course, and our lecturer is no mere
      academic philosopher. She is in fact a former nuclear physicist!

      >SJ>Chalmers notes that there is no principled way "to legislate on the
      >>criteria that must be satisfied if an area of knowledge is to be deemed ...
      >>`scientific': ... (Chalmers, 1994, p.166).
      >>
      >>He concluded that "we do not need a general category `science' with
      >>respect to which some area of knowledge can be acclaimed as science
      >>or denigrated as non-science":

      AM>I simply disagree with him and since what you quote of what he says
      >is supported by no evidence whatsoever, it is simply an assertion
      >that carries no more weight than my position.

      Not so. I have quoted from a current philosophy of science textbook, and
      Alec has just given us his "assertion".

      As for Alec disagreeing with Chalmers, his book "What Is This Thing Called
      Science", although it is Australian, is possibly the leading philosophy of
      science textbook in the world. As evidence in support of this, I entered "Chalmers" and "What Is This Thing Called Science" in Google and it came back with 1340 hits. I presume that these hits were mostly either
      professors' course materials or students' bibliographies.

      According to Chalmers' home page, this book of his has been translated into
      many languages:

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
      http://www.usyd.edu.au/su/hps/staff/alan.html
      What Is This Thing Called Science?, Queensland University Press and
      Open University Press, 1976, pp. 157 + xvii. (Translated into German,
      Dutch, Italian Spanish and Chinese)

      What Is This Thing Called Science?, Queensland University Press, Open
      University Press and Hackett, 2nd revised edition (6 new chapters), 1982,
      pp. 179 + xix. (Translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch,
      Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Portugese, Polish , Danish, Greek, Swedish,
      Korean and Estonian.)
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------

      AM>Indeed, I am able to
      >define what I mean by science, I am able to include certain fields of
      >knowledge within science and exclude others, and I can back this up
      >with reference to the history and current pursuit of science, and so
      >I would suggest that my views carry more weight than this rather
      >feeble quotation.

      Chalmer's (and AFAIK the consensus among philosophers of science) point
      is that these naive views of science held by most scientists are
      simply untenable.

      AM>I asume that in his book, Chalmers has more of substance to say than
      >that which Stephen has quoted.

      Well then, Alec should read the book for himself and quote those sections
      where he thinks Chalmers contradicts what I have quoted!

      >SJ>"It does not follow from this that no area of knowledge can
      >>be criticized. We can attempt to criticize any area of knowledge
      >>by criticizing its aims, by criticizing the appropriateness of
      >>the methods used for attaining those aims, by confronting it with an
      >>alternative and superior means of attaining the same aims and so on. From
      >>this point of view we do not need a general category "science"
      >>with respect to which some area of knowledge can be acclaimed as
      >>science or denigrated as non-science." (Chalmers, 1994, p.166)
      >>
      >>Chalmers above uses the term "area of knowledge" as a synonym for
      >>"science", and according to the Websters Dictionary, "science" is
      >>just a word for "knowledge", or "systematized knowledge", or "knowledge as
      >>distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding", and there can
      >>even be a "science of theology":

      AM>Now, of course it is Stephen who is playing word games. It is quite
      >plain from the context of our discussion that we are talking about
      >natural science and not about the usage of the word science to mean
      >knowledge in abstract.

      There are no "word games". The above definitions apply to "natural science"
      to.

      AM>If this has not been clear to Stephen so far let me make it
      >explicit: within the natural sciences, physics, chemistry, biology,
      >geology, astronomy, observed phenomena are ALWAYS assumed to have
      >natural causes without exception.

      See above on "observed phenomena".

      Alec is playing another word game (although I don't claim he realises it).
      The question is whether *all* "phenomena" (i.e. both "observed" and *un*-
      "observed") "within the natural sciences, physics, chemistry, biology,
      geology, astronomy," *have* in fact "... ALWAYS" *had* "natural causes
      without exception".

      Since Alec now concedes it is an *assumption*, he has concedes my main
      point.

      [...]

      >SJ>So Alec and his fellow atheist/agnostics can band together and
      >>decide among themselves that "[m]aterialistic-naturalistic science" is "[t]
      >>he only sort there is". But that is not itself a scientific finding, but a
      >>*metaphysical assumption* which can only be enforced by *political
      >power*.

      AM>It *is* a metaphysical assumption. The metaphysical assumption
      >within the natural sciences (I am forced now to use this term by
      >Stephen's wordplay) is that observed phenomena have natural causes,
      >and a very successful assumption it is too.

      Thanks to Alec for finally conceding my point!

      So in future maybe Alec will be a little more tentative, as befits "a
      metaphysical assumption" - as distinct from "a scientific finding"?

      I will deal with Alec's "very successful assumption" (i.e. the naturalistic
      argument from success) in my continuation of this thread.

      [continued]

      Steve

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
      "Mutation is a basic physiological process which is studied experimentally,
      with the aid of physical and chemical methods. On the other hand, it is
      manifestly impossible to reproduce in the laboratory the evolution of man
      from the australopithecine, or of the modern horse from an Eohippus, or of
      a land vertebrate from a fishlike ancestor. These evolutionary happenings
      are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible. It is as impossible to turn a land
      vertebrate into a fish as it is to effect the reverse transformation. The
      applicability of the experimental method to the study of such unique
      historical processes is severely restricted before all else by the time
      intervals involved, which far exceed the lifetime of any human
      experimenter. ... Experimental evolution deals of necessity with only the
      simplest levels of the evolutionary process, sometimes called
      microevolution." (Dobzhansky T., "On Methods of Evolutionary Biology
      and Anthropology," Part I, "Biology," American Scientist, Vol. 45, No. 5,
      December 1957, p.388)
      Stephen E. Jones sejones@... http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones
      Moderator: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreationEvolutionDesign
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