Wednesday, 2 November 2011

More on natural selection


"The fundamental problem is whether natural science suffices to explain human beings."

James Chastek


Continuing discussion from:

Chastek's is an excellent framing of the discussion - with evolution by natural selection seen as merely a subtype of the general class of 'scientific' (non-divine, natural) explanations.


Science gets precision as a by-product of its metaphysical simplification - that which science leaves-out, it does not first disprove, it simply ignores and proceeds on that basis.

The consequent model of reality has no intrinsic validity (no matter how self-consistent that model may turn-out to be) because it is built on deliberately-simplified, and therefore presumably incomplete, foundations.

For the conclusions of science to be valid, would require a demonstration that the deliberate incompleteness of the foundations of science did not (?significantly) affect the validity of the model built upon them.


Interestingly, one of the ways that science has used to assume (without needing to demonstrate) its own completeness is to denigrate common sense, spontaneous knowledge, natural law, the consensus of human history etc.

If common sense is regarded as having zero validity, then the fact that aspects of common sense reality have been left-out of the scientific model is of no consequence.

If the consensus of history is ejected wholesale, this does not matter since it was, anyway, arbitrary.


Humans are (by this metaphysical account - it is not an empirical discovery) born into the world naked of mind and body, to be shaped by society - which itself has no intrinsic validity.

In a word: nihilism.



Anonymous said...

I submit that the Logical Positivists did a very creditable job of trying to build sound foundations for a completely non-mystical approach to science.

(The Logical Positivists failed, of course, when Godel made the scene, but I give them credit for effort.)

If, however, one can handle *both* Logical Positivism and mystical experience, then I think science is quite adequate to explain humans! Further, I think Godel's own personal approach combined both elements, but I can't document that. Godel's proof of the existence of God can be taken as a purely intellectual exercise, like Berkeley.

Bruce Charlton said...

@pg - I think you need to try and join-up your analyses here - they are self-refuting.

More explicitly, this all sounds very 'post-modern' - I mean that you are making things mean what you want them to mean, and then pretending to yourself that doing this all means something.

Godel was undoubtely a theist, by any normal standards of proof - but of course anything is deniable in a post-modern spirit.

HenryOrientJnr said...

I am familiar with Anselm's ontological proof of God's existence, but I didn't know Godel had one. According to Wikipedia he hesitated to publish it, lest people assume "that he actually believes in God, whereas he is only engaged in a logical investigation (that is, in showing that such a proof with classical assumptions (completeness, etc.) correspondingly axiomatized, is possible)".

I was thinking of Godel in connection with these discussions. I think the two modes of thinking (religious vs secular) are somewhat analogous to "completeness" and "consistency" in Godel's theorem.

The religious want the universe to be complete, to have a purpose and a design. The secular prefer that it be consistent: dead mean don't rise up, water doesn't change into wine etc.

Bruce Charlton said...

@HOJ - Godel was religious - read his biography.

The religious and secular perspectives are not mirror images or symmetrical alternatives.

The one is coherent and consistent (but not complete), the other is incoherent and inconsistent (and even less complete).

The incoherence and incompleteness of secularism is just a fact, a fact I experienced for decades - but tolerated on the assumption that I would find a way to make things cohere at some point, that I had made an error of reasoning or something like that.

The incoherence of secularism is not visible to those who do not follow the steps of reasoning (who get bored or become distracted), or do not try to join-up the various aspects of belief, life, practice etc.

- and those who do not care for reason (and are happy to simply belief whatever suits them) naturally do not care about the incoherence of secularism.

But incoherent secularism is, and always has been.

I am therefore immune to the condescension of would-be *reasonable* secularism (that talks of Christianity as if it were mere childishness, ignorance and wishful thinking etc) because I know just how hollow this view really is! I know this from the inside.

ajb said...

"The incoherence of secularism is not visible to those who do not follow the steps of reasoning (who get bored or become distracted), or do not try to join-up the various aspects of belief, life, practice etc."

Which is to say, about 99.99% of secularists!