The science of morality
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20-12-2011, 08:26 PM
RE: The science of morality
(20-12-2011 07:47 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(20-12-2011 03:43 AM)Mr.Samsa Wrote:  Importantly, we've never observed the immaterial interacting with the material, so even if dualism were true, we'd have absolutely no clue as to what to expect or what we were looking for.

If there is interaction, then in principle we can detect it.

How can we know we can detect it if we have no idea what such an interaction would look? You're assuming that an interaction between immaterial and material would behave the same way as an interaction between material and material.

(20-12-2011 07:47 AM)Chas Wrote:  Your not having a clue where or how is an argument from ignorance.

There's no argument from ignorance in my statement above - you've either misread what I've written, or misunderstood what the fallacy means. An argument from ignorance requires me to assert that something is true on the basis of it not having been proved false. I'm not saying that dualism is true, or even that an interaction between the material and immaterial can occur (or that it's coherent to even talk of such things), but I'm simply saying that if it were possible for such an interaction to occur, it does not follow that it would behave in the same way as a material-material interaction. That is, since we've never observed something like that, claims about how it should look or what we should expect to deduce from it, are pure unfounded speculation.

(20-12-2011 07:47 AM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:Of course, I find the idea of immaterial entities to be absurd and I think we can reject them on logical and philosophical grounds, I just don't think it's reasonable to try to reject non-scientific entities on the basis of scientific conclusions.

If an immaterial entity has no effect on nature, then it cannot be scientifically tested. That's a tautology.

Yes, and it's also trivially true that if an immaterial entity has a supernatural effect on nature, then it cannot be scientifically tested.

(20-12-2011 07:47 AM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:I didn't say that we can't interact with anything that is supernatural. We just have no scientific evidence of something interacting with the supernatural, so we'd have no idea what such a thing would look like.

See above - argument from ignorance.

And, as I mentioned above, you've either misunderstood my argument or the fallacy.

(20-12-2011 07:47 AM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:This is either because: a) the "supernatural" is a meaningless concept and all that exists is the natural world, or b) we currently have no tool or method for observing an interaction between natural and supernatural. I personally believe the former, based on numerous logical arguments and philosophies which have been proposed over the years, but the latter is not necessarily impossible and certainly isn't something which can be supported by scientific evidence.

I agree with 'a' - the support for it is the complete lack of evidence, evidence which should be there if it exists.
Proposition 'b' is an argument from ignorance.

There is no way in which (b) can reasonably be interpreted as an argument from ignorance. Look at it in terms of Craig's Kalam cosmological argument. He claims that the rules of causality which prove true within the universe can be applied to the start of the universe (i.e. "outside" the universe). If I try to counter this by claiming that we don't know whether it's valid to apply rules that operate between the variables within a set to the set itself, would you claim it's an argument from ignorance?

In other words, it's not an argument from ignorance, it's a valid application of the fallacy of composition to Craig's (and your) argument.

(20-12-2011 07:47 AM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:Of course we can have no evidence of the supernatural in terms of scientific evidence because, as I've mentioned, science only deals with the natural world and interactions between natural phenomena.

True if and only if you define the supernatural as having no interaction with the natural. Science deals with any interaction with the natural.

Science only deals with natural interactions (i.e. those that are orderly, observable, and measurable). It has to be demonstrated that an interaction between the natural and the supernatural (which is, by definition, disorderly, unobservable and immeasurable) produces a natural consequence that is orderly, observable and measurable.

(20-12-2011 07:47 AM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:However, like with ethics, we have other forms of evidence to support the existence of the supernatural and immaterial. Such concepts therefore are distinct from imaginary objects because they are supported by forms of evidence (e.g. logical arguments).

Logical arguments are not evidence. Logical argument is a tool. Evidence is facts or information that support the truth value of a proposition.
What else do you offer as 'other forms' of evidence?

Logical arguments are, of course, evidence and that's why they are used in science. When scientists generate theories, yes they're supported by facts, laws and data, but they're also supported by logical arguments, mathematical proofs, etc.

But I agree that "evidence is facts or information that support the truth value of a proposition", it's just important to note that such a definition doesn't exclude logical arguments.

Or let's put it another way, how do you think moral systems are devised? Are they simply "made up", or do ethicists attempt to provide facts and information to support the truth value of a proposition?

(20-12-2011 08:23 AM)morondog Wrote:  @ Mr Samsa: I do beg your pardon, I haven't read the whole thread Smile I merely thought that your one statement which I quoted seemed a bit over the top.

No problem. Shy

I disagree of course though, as I don't think my comment was 'over the top' at all since I wasn't really making any kind of outlandish claim - I simply described science.

(20-12-2011 08:23 AM)morondog Wrote:  To answer your points:

1. I do agree I guess, systematic study != science in general. You can systematically study the bible. What I meant though is that... there's no great mystery to the scientific method. All it is, is do an experiment, see what the result is. Maybe modify the experiment. Theorise. You can apply that to virtually any field of study, *including* ghosts and whatnot.

For simple purposes this description is fine, however, when we start talking about 'reality' or the 'supernatural' or 'god' etc, then we need a more accurate description of science. And when we do this, we realise that science assumes that the world is natural, which means that the evidence that it gathers is empirical evidence. As such, any field which cannot gather empirical evidence (history, ethics, metaphysics, etc) cannot use the scientific method.

It's particularly problematic for metaphysics (the study of reality) as it would require theorists to assume that naturalism is true before beginning their study of which ontological position is true.

(20-12-2011 08:23 AM)morondog Wrote:  2. I agree, science has a high chance of converging on truth, but theories are always more or less just simplified models of what we think of as reality. So maybe an unparsimonious theory which included fairy dust is closer to the truth, but rejected because we can make a perfectly good theory without.

I'm not sure I agree that science has a high chance on converging on truth. It might do, but I see no reason to make that leap. I agree with the second bit though.

(20-12-2011 08:23 AM)morondog Wrote:  I disagree that science cannot be applied to the so called supernatural though. For example, ... hmm... ghost claims. If ghosts do interact with people and people are made of matter then ghosts are in principle detectable, if only by watching their interaction with people, right? Therefore it might be *hard* to do science concerning what ghosts can and can't do, but we can certainly study them using the scientific method. Ergo science does *not* automatically exclude the supernatural. We *don't* include supernatural in e.g. explanations simply because so far there has been no need for it. And all supernatural claims which have been investigated so far have turned out dud.

Except this would be a case of a phenomenon mistakenly classified as supernatural when it isn't. That is, if ghosts interacted with the natural world in ways which were observable and measurable and orderly so that they could be studied in scientific ways, and say ghosts were a form of energy made up of ectoplasm or whatever, then this would not prove that the supernatural could be studied by science, it would prove that ghosts aren't supernatural.

The problem (which I discussed briefly earlier in the thread) is that certain phenomena are classified as supernatural due to the category they fit in, rather than based on whether they fit the criteria for "supernatural". In other words, ghosts could be natural or supernatural, psi phenomena could be natural or supernatural, god could be natural or supernatural, etc. They aren't supernatural because they're wacky or weird, categories are classified as supernatural because of their relationship with the world and how they behave.

(20-12-2011 08:23 AM)morondog Wrote:  Yes we can't absolutely exclude the supernatural, in the same way we can't absolutely exclude God. But to argue for its existence is to argue for the existence of fairies and gnomes and sentient pianos and invisible gremlins... oh wait, those do exist.

Certainly, but the problem is not that we can't "absolutely exclude the supernatural" because I think we can make a number of solid cases which suggests that the category itself is incoherent and useless. The problem is that people attempt to misapply a tool in order to reach this conclusion. Science studies the natural world, so the fact that it cannot find evidence for the supernatural is necessarily true. It is fallacious to assume that the supernatural does not exist because a tool that can only observe the natural cannot see it.

(20-12-2011 08:23 AM)morondog Wrote:  Again, haven't read the thread, so unsure what your invisible gremlin's deal is, but unless he actively wants to stay hidden, if he interacts with matter then he can be observed.

In the original scenario I point out that when the gremlin interacts with matter, he does so purposefully in accordance with the laws of gravity. How do you suggest we observe him?

(20-12-2011 08:23 AM)morondog Wrote:  If he doesn't interact, then he might as well not exist, and if he actively wants to stay hidden, and successfully avoids detection, then to argue for his existence is illogical?

It would only be illogical if proposed as a scientific argument, as science assumes rational skepticism (that we should withhold judgement of propositions until they have evidence to support them). However, it's plausible (although improbable, I'd imagine) that we could come up with logical reasons as to why we should think that such gremlins might exist. This would, in effect, be what theological philosophers do when they attempt to support the existence of god - they present logical arguments that suggest that such an entity may exist. Now, of course, these arguments are usually without scientific evidence because they don't believe god is a natural entity, but it is hardly "illogical" to believe in god when based on attempts to reason his existence. Of course, these arguments are usually quite flawed, but not being omniscient (i.e. knowing what arguments are flawed or not) does not make someone illogical.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
(19-12-2011 10:33 PM)Mr.Samsa Wrote:  Oh I see, then I agree with rejecting morality as it is arbitrary and fallacious, in my opinion. If you were interested, this probably places you in the position of moral skepticism or moral nihilism, and you might be interested in reading some of Mackie's work.
I am not sure if the position is nihilistic. If you want to simply say "nothing is moral or immoral because we are part of nature, and nature is inherently amoral" then yes I guess that's precisely what I am saying. If you want to follow it up with "therefore it's a free for all" then no, I still believe a society is responsible for ensuring it works well, and that includes protecting itself from destructive behaviors, and encouraging constructive ones.

"Moral nihilism" is not the same as "nihilism" - instead it's more in line with what you think. Specifically, it's the claim that nothing is moral or immoral. Moral nihilists are also careful to point out the second part of your reply; that this does not mean that anything is permissable. We can still judge actions and suggest more appropriate or advantageous ones, we just don't see the concept of morality as a useful construct.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
Quote:I don't think your argument follows there. Firstly, I'm not aware of any evidence that we have evolved to abhor rape, but even if we assume that to be true, it doesn't follow that a rich and powerful society would allow rape if we didn't have an evolved sense of disgust towards it.
I am not sure if we evolved to abhor rape or not, we certainly evolved to have empathy. If you see that woman as another human being that feels what you feel, then unless you have a personality disorder, you should feel at least uncomfortable at the thought of raping her.

I'd be interested in seeing evidence of empathy being evolved, if you had any papers on it at hand.

I agree that people without severe mental disturbances should feel uncomfortable at the thought of raping a woman, but this of course would be true regardless of whether empathy was learnt or innate.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  Nevertheless if we want to consider "do not rape" as a meme and think of it in terms of a trait that some societies favored and passed on from generation to generation, then you have to wonder why the most successful societies are the ones that value the individuals, their dignity, their freedom, etc.

The answer to that seems obvious, doesn't it? A society is a collection of individuals. You give the individuals more freedom, more protection, more resources, and you get more happy individuals than angry ones. Happy individuals are more productive and less likely to disrupt societal progress.

No need to invoke arguments of innate empathy there.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
Quote:Most of our complex behaviors like morals are the result of environmental variables, rather than innate behaviors that have been passed down through generations. So to suggest that we should look at what behaviors have persisted in order to determine how to behave is hugely problematic.
I don't see it as particularly problematic. Just as environmental conditions change and organisms must adapt to them, historic contexts change and societies have to adapt to them. There was a time that life span was very short, communities were small and drew strength in numbers. At that time, having multiple wives and as many children as you could was advantageous. Now things are different and societies have to adapt to the new conditions.

Exactly, but this means that looking at behaviors which have persisted throughout our history is not a good way to go about determining what behaviors should be acceptable.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
Quote:Why is murder frowned upon? It's certainly not an innate trait, it's something we've learnt. Altruism and cooperation are a result of our basic laws of learning - that is, if you want to acquire the most materials and remain safe, the best course of action is to share and help others. Altruism is just an extension of the laws which underpin self-control, where 'cooperating' is choosing the larger, delayed reward, and 'defecting' is choosing the smaller, sooner reward. This is what controls the behavior of humans (and animals) in the Prisoner's dilemma game.
I respectfully disagree that altruism and cooperation are learned. Many animals exhibit instinctual cooperative behavior.

Of course, because all animals are controlled by the same laws of learning. There's no evidence that this behavior is "instinctual" though. The learning approach is more preferable (in science at least), because it is based on generalised laws and broad principles making it more parsimonious, it accounts for more data (i.e. it can explain why people don't always behave altruistically, which evolved theories cannot), it is more predictive due to the fact that it is easily quantifiable, and it has far more evidence to support it.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
Quote:Except you aren't observing the behavior of the gremlins, you're observing the objects, which can be explained entirely without reference to the gremlins. At best, the gremlins would be hypothetical constructs which operate as a kind of "black box" where we observe the inputs and outputs, and just guess what's happening in the black box. Specifically, the box is considered to be 'black' because we can't observe or measure the contents (i.e. the gremlins).
Many things that are the domain of scientific inquiry are studied through the interaction of the subject of study with other things. Quarks have never been observed with the naked eye, we study them through their interactions. Same with forces, we don't see force, we see interactions and deduce they are due to force being applied.

The problem is that a "force" is simply a mathematical relationship, it's not an entity in itself. And so to claim that there were invisible creatures controlling gravitational forces would require more, and qualitatively different, evidence to support their existence compared to 'invisible' mathematical relations.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  As for your gremlin example, your gremlins are a hypothesis. How do you know your hypothesis is valid? Just saying gremlins exist is evidently not enough. What is your reason to propose the gremlins hypothesis? Usually a hypothesis is supposed to have explanatory power. We see objects falling, we don't know why they fall, let's theorize there are gremlins that make it fall. Very well, but for the hypothesis to be accepted it needs to be tested. So you test your hypothesis and realize that gremlins have no explanatory power because everything about gravity can already be explained through General Relativity. Well then, now what reason do you have to believe in the gremlins? Your initial reason was that objects fall and you don't know why. Now that you know why, and it has nothing to do with gremlins, why continue to insist on the existence of gremlins? Now I am sure that one can continue believing in the existence of those gremlins for no reason whatsoever, but it doesn't seem like a rational behavior to me.

I agree that we have no scientific reason to believe in these gremlins and I understand perfectly why they're rejected from scientific theories, however, my point is simply that if they existed, science could not find them.

The debate isn't over what is and is not reasonable to believe in, because I agree that believing in things that lack all empirical, logical or rational support, is certainly not behavior to be encouraged. But the point remains - if those gremlins did exist, science wouldn't be able to find them. They could pop up one day, tell us about their culture and what they've been doing etc, and then disappear again the next day, and science would still reject them from our theories because (as you state) they provide no explanatory or predictive power. The problem is that some people are then taking the position that because science does not include them in their theories (even if we knew they existed because they popped up and said hi) then they don't really exist.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
Quote:I get what you're saying but I think you're taking the analogy too far. In other words, the "antenna" may be the entire brain itself, as in it may not operate at all without the input from the mindstuff.
Excellent, that's wonderful, and it tells much more than you think. Right now we are trying to find out how the mind works through fMRI, neuroscience, etc. If we ever get to the point we know everything there is to know about neurons, and at that point realize there is no way neurons can generate consciousness, that is neurons inherently are incapable of it, then we are left with no choice than postulate something else, the dualist mind for example.

Except the mindstuff could generate consciousness by utilising proteins and oxygen in order to stimulate neuronal processes. When we look at the brain, we would only see the neurons and brain cells processing energy in ways that are entirely consistent with the laws of thermodynamics.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
Quote:Importantly, we've never observed the immaterial interacting with the material, so even if dualism were true, we'd have absolutely no clue as to what to expect or what we were looking for.
But that's not true. We know that neurons work electro chemically. Then at the end of the day, the effect of the dualist mind must result in electro chemical interactions. If we know through chemistry and physics, that neuron A should interact with neuron B through certain laws of physics, and instead the interaction is off from what's predicted, then something else intervened.

Except dualists don't argue that physical processes should behave any differently. Dualists expect neuron A to interact with neuron B through the basic laws of physics as well.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  You need to keep in mind that a brain boils down to cells, molecules, electrons, etc. Unless of course you don't think that's what a brain is. Sad

Haha, I'm not a dualist, don't worry. I know what a brain is.

(20-12-2011 11:59 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
Quote:We have no way of knowing whether that's a valid inference to make as causality may only be a property of the universe, or it may behave differently before the creation of matter and time. The same applies to your "antenna" argument, as this makes sense when we're talking about two material objects interacting, but we have no way of knowing whether this makes sense when talking about the interaction between immaterial and material.
If causality doesn't apply to the supernatural then the supernatural has no influence on the natural, that is the supernatural is inconsequential. Then its existence is also inconsequential and becomes just an intellectual exercise.

There's no need to claim that the supernatural has no influence on the natural if the laws of causality don't operate the same in such an interaction. All we need to conclude is that the effect it would have on the natural is unknown, and we wouldn't know what it would look like.
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20-12-2011, 10:46 PM
RE: The science of morality
You are correct that you were not making an argument from ignorance; I mis-spoke.
What I meant was that you are making an argument from incredulity.


(20-12-2011 08:26 PM)Mr.Samsa Wrote:  How can we know we can detect it if we have no idea what such an interaction would look? You're assuming that an interaction between immaterial and material would behave the same way as an interaction between material and material.

Science only deals with natural interactions (i.e. those that are orderly, observable, and measurable). It has to be demonstrated that an interaction between the natural and the supernatural (which is, by definition, disorderly, unobservable and immeasurable) produces a natural consequence that is orderly, observable and measurable.
Any interaction with the natural world is detectable because it has an effect. Just because you don't know how that could be done doesn't change that it can be done.

Unless you are saying that the supernatural has some undetectable effect. If so, then that is the same as no effect.

Quote:
Chas Wrote:If an immaterial entity has no effect on nature, then it cannot be scientifically tested. That's a tautology.

Yes, and it's also trivially true that if an immaterial entity has a supernatural effect on nature, then it cannot be scientifically tested.

What is a supernatural effect on nature? Please give an example.

Quote:Logical arguments are, of course, evidence and that's why they are used in science. When scientists generate theories, yes they're supported by facts, laws and data, but they're also supported by logical arguments, mathematical proofs, etc.

No, logical argument is the tool used to weave facts and evidence into the fabric of a theory. The tool is not evidence.

Quote:Or let's put it another way, how do you think moral systems are devised? Are they simply "made up", or do ethicists attempt to provide facts and information to support the truth value of a proposition?

Moral systems are not science. While moral systems are not simply made up, they are invented. No moral system is either true or false.

There is good evidence that the basis for morality is evolutionary, but moral systems are a human invention.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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21-12-2011, 12:37 AM
RE: The science of morality
(20-12-2011 10:46 PM)Chas Wrote:  You are correct that you were not making an argument from ignorance; I mis-spoke.
What I meant was that you are making an argument from incredulity.

Still not applicable to my comments. An argument from incredulity requires me to suggest that because I cannot imagine how a supernatural effect could be studied, it therefore must not be possible to study it. This of course is not my argument.

Instead, my argument suggests that because we have not yet observed an interaction between material and immaterial, it is problematic for us to speculate as to what such an interaction might look like based on what we know about interactions between material-material. Your argument is like suggesting that after learning everything there is to know about wolves, you know that interactions between two organisms require one organism to bow down and lick the inner gums of the other organism - so when a wolf meets a mouse, you believe that the wolf will bow down and try to lick the gums of the mouse. What I'm saying is that if we've never observed a meeting of wolf and mouse, then we need to be careful about what we suggest should and should not happen.

More simply, I'm trying to point out the fact that you are committing the fallacy of composition, or even hasty generalisation. To call my valid criticism of your arguments 'fallacious' is nonsense.

(20-12-2011 10:46 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(20-12-2011 08:26 PM)Mr.Samsa Wrote:  How can we know we can detect it if we have no idea what such an interaction would look? You're assuming that an interaction between immaterial and material would behave the same way as an interaction between material and material.

Science only deals with natural interactions (i.e. those that are orderly, observable, and measurable). It has to be demonstrated that an interaction between the natural and the supernatural (which is, by definition, disorderly, unobservable and immeasurable) produces a natural consequence that is orderly, observable and measurable.
Any interaction with the natural world is detectable because it has an effect. Just because you don't know how that could be done doesn't change that it can be done.

Unless you are saying that the supernatural has some undetectable effect. If so, then that is the same as no effect.

The consequence of the effect is observable, but the supernatural cause is not. For example, if an immaterial mind caused consciousness in the brain, then the interaction produces a detectable effect (i.e. we observe consciousness), however, the cause and interaction is not detectable.

If the variable causing an effect cannot be observed or measured, then science cannot study it. How can scientists experimentally alter a variable which, for all intents and purposes, does not exist?

(20-12-2011 10:46 PM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:Yes, and it's also trivially true that if an immaterial entity has a supernatural effect on nature, then it cannot be scientifically tested.

What is a supernatural effect on nature? Please give an example.

The dualists would argue that the immaterial mind causing consciousness is an example of a supernatural effect on nature.

(20-12-2011 10:46 PM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:Logical arguments are, of course, evidence and that's why they are used in science. When scientists generate theories, yes they're supported by facts, laws and data, but they're also supported by logical arguments, mathematical proofs, etc.

No, logical argument is the tool used to weave facts and evidence into the fabric of a theory. The tool is not evidence.

Logical arguments are not simply the tool, they also constitute evidence. That's why when competing theories are debated in the scientific literature, not only is the data presented, but logical arguments are as well. For example, when choice theorists debated the comparative merits of the matching law over the contingency discriminability model, they presented the empirical evidence that separates the two, as well as the logical evidence that separates the two. Specifically, researchers argued that the 'sensitivity to reinforcement' parameter from the matching law presents us with a number of logical inconsistencies in the theory when applied to extreme situations, but the CDM's 'discriminability' parameter presents a more logically sound construct.

As such, the CDM is preferred over the matching law because the evidence weighs in its favour - the empirical data is largely inconclusive because they make similar predictions and account for the same data, however, the CDM is also supported by the evidence from logical arguments which tips the balance. A major scientific theory being accepted on the basis of the evidence from logical arguments.

I really cannot understand how you're failing to count logical arguments as evidence. I can't think of any articles I've read recently which didn't include at least one logical argument as part of its evidential basis.

(20-12-2011 10:46 PM)Chas Wrote:  
Quote:Or let's put it another way, how do you think moral systems are devised? Are they simply "made up", or do ethicists attempt to provide facts and information to support the truth value of a proposition?

Moral systems are not science. While moral systems are not simply made up, they are invented. No moral system is either true or false.

Doesn't matter if they are "true" or "false", evidence only deals with whether a proposition is true or not. There are some ethicists who argue that moral claims are not truth-apt (i.e. non-cognitivists), but they represent a minority position.

Importantly, you have to keep in mind that "true" does not refer to "objective truth"; i.e. moral claims can still be said to be "true" or "false" regardless of whether they are made up by humans or not. As an example of this, scientific claims are not aimed at being objectively "true" (i.e. science doesn't deal with reality), yet scientific claims are still truth-apt.

(20-12-2011 10:46 PM)Chas Wrote:  There is good evidence that the basis for morality is evolutionary, but moral systems are a human invention.[/b][/color]

Well that's debatable..
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21-12-2011, 01:32 AM
RE: The science of morality
Hm... I think I get what you're saying Mr Samsa.

Anything which does interact with the natural is not supernatural.

Anything which absolutely does not interact but still exists is supernatural and cannot be studied by science.

OK, there exists the *possibility* that it exists. But to *assert* that it exists I contend is unreasonable, yes?

It's like alternate universes. Sure. Possible. Do you *assert* that there *is* an alternate universe where you are exactly the same except you're wearing a green top hat as you sit at your keyboard? (If you are wearing a green top hat, greetings from another dimension).

But you said somewhere that supernatural can interact with natural. Through what? dreams? late night hallucinations?

If Mr Invisible Gremlin exists and always acts in accordance with the law of gravity... then he *is* the force of gravity, he's just got a different name, the invisible gravity gremlin. And he *has* been detected, because every time you detect gravity at work, you're detecting Mr Gremlin.
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21-12-2011, 02:57 AM
RE: The science of morality
(21-12-2011 01:32 AM)morondog Wrote:  Hm... I think I get what you're saying Mr Samsa.

Anything which does interact with the natural is not supernatural.

Anything which absolutely does not interact but still exists is supernatural and cannot be studied by science.

OK, there exists the *possibility* that it exists. But to *assert* that it exists I contend is unreasonable, yes?

Firstly, it's not necessarily true that anything which interacts with the natural is not supernatural.

But on to your question: I agree that it's unreasonable to assert that something exists if there is no empirical or logical evidence to support it.

(21-12-2011 01:32 AM)morondog Wrote:  It's like alternate universes. Sure. Possible. Do you *assert* that there *is* an alternate universe where you are exactly the same except you're wearing a green top hat as you sit at your keyboard? (If you are wearing a green top hat, greetings from another dimension).

Agreed, but the discussion is not over what is reasonable to believe and what is not. The question is over what science does and does not study.

In other words, we can agree that believing in the supernatural is unreasonable. However, my point is that believing that the supernatural is impossible or unlikely based on scientific findings is unreasonable.

(21-12-2011 01:32 AM)morondog Wrote:  But you said somewhere that supernatural can interact with natural. Through what? dreams? late night hallucinations?

I'm not sure, but the dualists normally assert that the supernatural operates through brain processes, and theists tend to assert that the supernatural operates through the laws of physics.

(21-12-2011 01:32 AM)morondog Wrote:  If Mr Invisible Gremlin exists and always acts in accordance with the law of gravity... then he *is* the force of gravity, he's just got a different name, the invisible gravity gremlin. And he *has* been detected, because every time you detect gravity at work, you're detecting Mr Gremlin.

Not quite. If I throw a baseball and you develop a model which explains the relationship between baseballs hovering between 1-2m before extending slightly backwards and then thrusting forward, with no reference to me, my hand, muscle fibres, choice to throw objects, etc, then it's not accurate to say that the "law of spontaneously moving baseballs" is synonymous with a theory that explains the movement of objects by appealing to the fact that some guy chucked them.

The gremlin is not relabelled as a "force", it is replaced and ignored in favour of a description of the relationship between observable objects.
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21-12-2011, 03:11 AM (This post was last modified: 21-12-2011 03:14 AM by morondog.)
RE: The science of morality
But if the supernatural operates through the laws of physics, then unless it causes a deviation from those laws it cannot be detected right?

If it *does* cause a deviation, then we can study it and it becomes "natural". As far as I can see this is what you claimed on the ghost example.

If the supernatural operates through brain processes (which are natural physical processes as far as we can tell), that's causing a deviation from the norm and we can hook someone up to an eeg or something (in principle) and figure out what's potting, so we can study it = science not excluding the supernatural.

Quote:However, my point is that believing that the supernatural is impossible or unlikely based on scientific findings is unreasonable.

If the supernatural operates as asserted by e.g. ghost and UFO hunters (woo woo noises, lights in the sky), we can definitely use science and scientific findings to cast doubt on the likelihood of its existence. If it's just a blanket undefined term for "stuff we don't know about yet", then yes, it is unreasonable to believe that it's impossible based on scientific findings.
Thank you for being patient with me re the gremlin. I get what you're saying on that score I think. He's the real reason behind gravity but we can't observe him so we say nothing about him in our theories...
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21-12-2011, 03:25 AM
RE: The science of morality
(21-12-2011 03:11 AM)morondog Wrote:  But if the supernatural operates through the laws of physics, then unless it causes a deviation from those laws it cannot be detected right?

Agreed. That's the point I've been trying to make but other people disagree and seem to think it should be detectable somehow.

(21-12-2011 03:11 AM)morondog Wrote:  If it *does* cause a deviation, then we can study it and it becomes "natural". As far as I can see this is what you claimed on the ghost example.

If it causes a deviation, then we could see the effect but still couldn't study the cause - unless the cause turned out to be natural. That is, it doesn't "become" natural, but rather it always was natural, but incorrectly labelled as "supernatural".

(21-12-2011 03:11 AM)morondog Wrote:  If the supernatural operates through brain processes (which are natural physical processes as far as we can tell), that's causing a deviation from the norm and we can hook someone up to an eeg or something (in principle) and figure out what's potting, so we can study it = science not excluding the supernatural.

I'm not sure why you count it as a deviation? The point is that dualists argue that brain processes should look exactly as would be expected if materialism were true. Where is the deviation?

(21-12-2011 03:11 AM)morondog Wrote:  
Quote:However, my point is that believing that the supernatural is impossible or unlikely based on scientific findings is unreasonable.

If the supernatural operates as asserted by e.g. ghost and UFO hunters (woo woo noises, lights in the sky), we can definitely use science and scientific findings to cast doubt on the likelihood of its existence. If it's just a blanket undefined term for "stuff we don't know about yet", then yes, it is unreasonable to believe that it's impossible based on scientific findings.

Firstly, UFOs are not supernatural (at least under any description I've heard of them).

But I agree that with things like ghosts, which are posited to be observable and have clear effects on the natural world, then science can be used to support or disconfirm such ideas. For example, if someone suggests that ghosts exist because they can hear voices at night, or doors open randomly, etc, then we can test to see whether any voices occur by setting up audio equipment, and we can test the door claim by measuring the force of the drafts in the house etc.

(21-12-2011 03:11 AM)morondog Wrote:  Thank you for being patient with me re the gremlin. I get what you're saying on that score I think. He's the real reason behind gravity but we can't observe him so we say nothing about him in our theories...

No problem, and yes that's essentially my point. If such a creature existed, and even if he popped up to say hi, science would conclude that he doesn't exist because he is unnecessary in our theories.
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21-12-2011, 03:50 AM
RE: The science of morality
Er... so let me get this straight:

I expect that the interactions will *look like no interaction is happening*??? In other words if a ghost is whispering in my ear it will *look like* a hallucination... it will look like a self-generated delusion, if I could see all the atoms moving, as opposed to an external reality.

Oh well Tongue In that case, if these supernatural things are so well behaved that they always act as if they're not there, then I'm happy. My scientific picture of reality may be missing absolute truth, but as long as I can use it to make predictions I don't care about invisible gremlins.
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21-12-2011, 03:58 AM
RE: The science of morality
(21-12-2011 03:50 AM)morondog Wrote:  Er... so let me get this straight:

I expect that the interactions will *look like no interaction is happening*??? In other words if a ghost is whispering in my ear it will *look like* a hallucination... it will look like a self-generated delusion, if I could see all the atoms moving, as opposed to an external reality.

Yes, that's more or less the point that most dualists or theists, or supernaturalists in general, will make. Most of them aren't (completely) stupid, they aren't going to posit something which is flatly contradicted by basic observation (i.e. they aren't going to argue that brain processes aren't necessary for consciousness).

The issue, they assert, is a metaphysical one and as such can't be decided by observations.

(21-12-2011 03:50 AM)morondog Wrote:  Oh well Tongue In that case, if these supernatural things are so well behaved that they always act as if they're not there, then I'm happy. My scientific picture of reality may be missing absolute truth, but as long as I can use it to make predictions I don't care about invisible gremlins.

I like to go one step further, and accept that my scientific picture is not one of reality at all. It may describe reality, or achieve some reasonable approximation of it, but ultimately I'd have no way of knowing so I think it's better just to remain skeptical. Believing that science describes reality doesn't improve our lives in any way, and it obviously doesn't affect the process of science as the method itself is entirely agnostic on the issue of reality, so I don't see any advantage in making the logical leap of asserting that science describes reality.

But yes, I see no reason to accept that gremlins exist either. The only point I wanted to make is that even if they did exist in the way I've described, then science wouldn't be able to discover them.
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21-12-2011, 04:16 AM
RE: The science of morality
(21-12-2011 03:58 AM)Mr.Samsa Wrote:  Believing that science describes reality doesn't improve our lives in any way, and it obviously doesn't affect the process of science as the method itself is entirely agnostic on the issue of reality, so I don't see any advantage in making the logical leap of asserting that science describes reality.

Er... why do we do science then? What do you mean by reality? If you mean that if I hit you on the head with a stick then it's gonna hurt, then science is the tool for understanding that.

I mean, we make theories and we bear in mind that they may be wrong. But even with an incorrect theory of heat James Watt made a steam engine (no reference, just something I read somewhere). Science may not *exactly* describe reality 'cos we're not super bright, but it's a damn good working hypothesis.

I think you're playing semantic games...
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