Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You can do science without believing the science

One remarkable and, to my mind, wonderful thing about science is that you can do very good science without even thinking that the science you are doing is literally true. Many great scientists have been scientific anti-realists. 

Reasonable Faith on Dating Advice for Hermaphrodites


What does causation mean?

Causation can mean a couple of different things. Something can be a cause if it guarantees its effect, or if it is a necessary condition  for its effect. When we say smoking causes cancer, we don't mean to say that it is guaranteed that if you smoke you will get cancer. Some people smoke and smoke, and never get cancer.

This is Elizabeth Anscombe's famous essay on the question.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why the Prove-It Game can't be won

It's the regress problem. Here is a discussion by Maverick Christian.

Suppose we define evidentialism as follows:

A belief B is justified just in case there is a justified proposition C, which constitutes sufficient evidence for B.

I used to call this "the prove-it game." You need proof for everything you believe, and then proof of the proof, and then proof of the proof of the proof, and then proof of the proof of the proof of the proof, and then proof of the proof of the proof of the proof of the proof, until you finally get tired and give up.

Is there such a thing as science, or are there just sciences?

Opponents of Christianity sometimes argue that there is no Christianity, only Christianities. Could we just as easily say that there is no science, only sciences?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Determinism and responsibility

If determinism is true, then given the past, you could not have done otherwise from what you did. If you committed a murder, it is because, given the actual past, you could have done nothing other than commit that murder, and the past stretches back before you were born. If you bravely save people from a burning building, then given the past, which you did not control, you could have done nothing else. Ultimately, if determinism is true, whether we are virtuous or not is a matter of happening to be on the end of a good or bad causal chain. If that's true, how can anything really be anyone's fault, or to anyone's credit, any more than winning or not winning the lottery is to anyone's credit or discredit? 

If morality is subjective, everything is permitted

If morality is subjective, then the belief that it is wrong, always and everywhere to believe anything for insufficient evidence is also subjective. That I should care about truth as opposed to comfort is also subjective. That I should treat gay people as equal to straight people and not discriminate against them is also subjective. Or that I should treat black people as equal to white people and not put up "Whites Only" signs in my restaurant is also subjective. That women should be given equal pay for equal work, and not be restricted to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen is also subjective. That I should have sex with someone only if I have their consent is also subjective. That it is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement is also subjective. That I should care about the poor and the oppressed is also subjective. That I should want slaves to be freed from bondage is also subjective. That the Holocaust was despicable is also subjective. That 9/11 was morally wrong is also subjective.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

DougJC on the teaching of evolution

And I am just as concerned that teaching evolution as a recruiting tool for atheism would downplay legitimate data, downplay certain areas of uncertainty and basically present an incomplete and misleading picture. Educators (along with scientists) should be expected to be superbly trained at leaving personal philosophies at the door of the classroom.

VR: I find comments like this very heartening. I think that people trying to tear evolution apart should be perceived as doing a service to science. The harder a theory has to work to be defensible, the better the science in the long run. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Something I don't understand about the Kitzmiller decision

As I understand it, central to the argument in Kitzmiller was the claim that Of Pandas and People started out as a straightforwardly creationist textbook, and then was altered in response to Edwards v. Aguillard. But Edwards said that even though you can't teach creationism, you do some other things.

We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. . . . Teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.

OK, so the court says "You can't teach out and out creationism, but you can do this," so someone alters a creationist text in order to do just this, and then Kitzmiller says that it's wrong to do "just this."

This I don't understand.