Friday, January 31, 2014

Mind the wheelhouse--theology sees philosophy as theirs

Without having to go into a long-winded discussion about my stances on various aspects of philosophy, I would like to make yet another point in the vein of why it is reasonable that the "New Atheists" have taken a "scientistic turn," to borrow a phrase from Massimo Pigliucci. Before doing so, let me clear up a few loose ends on those matters.

I don't hate philosophy

First, I honor and value philosophy where it should be honored and valued. For a philosopher nearest to my own opinion about the role and value of philosophy, please see Daniel Dennett, whom I respect greatly. I agree with nearly everything I've read from him concerning the importance and role of philosophy (which isn't the same as saying I agree with everything he says more generally). His Intuition Pumps is a great resource in this regard. I also happen to think philosophy, aside from its value, is very interesting and thus a worthy endeavor to engage in for that reason as well.

"Scientism"

Second, I recognize that there is "scientism" of various sorts going on. I could write a post about the many faces of scientism, I suppose, but that would be off my purpose here. I do not, however, think that it is the least bit productive to bring up, discuss, squabble about, or even use the word "scientism," particularly with regard to the "New Atheism movement."

Here's the bulk of why: there are a handful of philosophers and others who are likely to be using the term both carefully and correctly (whether or not Massimo Pigliucci is one of these, despite his frequent vocalizations of it, including in peer-reviewed philosophical papers, is debatable but not on the table at the moment). There are more philosophers--and others--who are not.

By far the most egregious abusers of the term are seeking to shield one of the following from proper criticism: theology, the supernatural, or pseudoscience (see Dennett on "scientism," incidentally; this, e.g.). Those people are bolstered profoundly by making it appear that there is a more legitimate debate about "scientism" than there actually is. Pretty much everyone needs to stop helping them!

"New Atheism"

Third, "New Atheism" and "New Atheism movement." Seriously? If there is such a movement, it is about helping people do better about demanding good reasons for their beliefs, ditching faith, and embracing rational, informed skepticism. That some people seem to translate this into a quasi-religion about science (with Neil deGrasse Tyson as a figurehead) is an issue but separate from the point. Atheism will typically follow from informed skepticism and breaking the reliance on faith as a justification to defend beliefs. There is no need for an "atheism movement" except in certain political regards (American Atheists is working on visibility and Constitutional issues, e.g.), and even there it's a bit shaky to call it an "atheism movement." To go to a "New Atheism movement" is even more bizarre.

Of course, much of my end of the present discussion arises from reactions to my reaction to Pigliucci's paper talking about the "scientistic turn in the New Atheism movement" (will he also write a paper about the the counter-turn to overbearing insistence on everyone becoming savvy at philosophy, including engaging theological sophism like it is serious philosophical material, lest otherwise they be branded anti-intellectual, sloppy, or whatever the going brand at the time is, as it develops? I wonder). Pigliucci insists that the key identifying feature of the "New Atheism movement" is its "scientistic turn."

This is pretty bogus. While there may be a "scientistic turn" going on, there are two key identifying features of what's passing as "New Atheism" with a sidecar that could perhaps be linked to that infamous "scientistic turn." These are, with sidecar listed as number three,
  1. An outright rejection of having to kowtow to religious institutionalized authority, particularly the whinging religious type that demands everyone respect their beliefs and shut up about anything like justifiable criticism of them;
  2. Enhanced attention on the harms of religion historically and today;
  3. (Sidecar) Notable scientists being many of the most vocal voices, bringing their scientific expertise in fields like cosmology and evolutionary biology primarily (no surprises about the reasons why...) to the table instead of lurking quietly and sticking to their peers, and this sometimes, but not always, includes attempts to say things like that "philosophy is dead" (Stephen Hawking, incidentally, not participating in this conversation at all). (PS: Philosophy isn't dead. It can't be. It's too busy trying to kill itself with all this nonsense to be dead.)
The sidecar here has led to what could easily be understood as an overappreciation of science among some notable figures and mostly among bobble-heading, but loud, people who do not have an expert-level grasp upon either field. And welcome to the Internet in the Social Media Age. These people exist everywhere in every kind of discourse now, and so the relevant question is, what would we rather have them yammer about (since measured, self-restrained silence is not a realistic option), something like "science is right; religion is wrong" or "take theological arguments seriously" or what??

That is enough about the loose ends for now. Now to the point.

Theologians treat philosophy as part of their wheelhouse

We know that philosophy kicked theology out pretty much from the get-go (though, oh, how some philosophers feel the need to stick their toes in the dark arts anyway...). We also know that much of what the theologians try to pass off as philosophy is really sophistry (when one hears "sophisticated theology," sophistry is the proper word to use to understand what is being said). We also, also know that they, theologians and apologists, don't see it that way. Indeed, they treat philosophy as their "handmaid." How much sense does it make to indulge that situation?

The reason philosophy is part of the theological wheelhouse, in an important sense, is because all arguments for theism are of philosophical type. All of them. Pause for a moment to let the gravity of that sentence sink in.

Ask any believer enough questions about why she thinks her beliefs are rational or justified, and you're either going to get back to an honest, but unsophisticated, admission of faith or you're going to get into some kind of philosophical-type speculations (usually about metaphysics or ethics). "Show me why your beliefs are true" always returns either something of philosophical-type or something that depends upon it, unless an honest admission of faith, read: "I don't know that they're true, but I believe them anyway."

A brief aside about staying out of the wheelhouse

Take a moment to realize what a disaster of an endeavor it is to engage an apologist in exegesis of any religious text or scripture. It is these people's jobs to twist those documents to mean whatever they need it to mean. Even an expert counter-apologist with profoundly deep knowledge of scripture and doctrine cannot often win an exegetical battle with a theologian because they have had centuries to practice twisting it all to their purposes. Exegesis of religious texts is in the center of the wheelhouse for apologists.

Treading into exegetical analysis of religious texts is a mistake for a few reasons. First of all, as many of us have experienced, theologians will turn the passages on their heads to make their cases--and how can it be stopped (their bar for success is merely "a possible reading is this," which is always obtainable)? Second, they are very practiced at this very art. Third, it gives up more than needs to be conceded: namely that the texts under examination deserve this kind of attention in the first place. To get into an exegetical analysis with an apologist is to start out losing and with weapons made by Nerf.

Stay out of the wheelhouse. That's where they are strongest, or in this case, that's where they can keep arguing their case with a veneer of respectability. (It's worth noting that most people who will be listening are not going to be philosophically adept and are likely to be taken in by the argument that sounds the best in the sense of agreeing with them already.)

And back to it

Philosophy is very nearly the same.

It doesn't matter that many of the best anti-religious arguments are philosophical--maybe the best ones are. It also doesn't matter that all science depends upon philosophy to mean anything or get going with its business (pardon this, but duh! Move on!).

Philosophy (or arguments of the philosophical type) is how theologians and apologists justify everything, including their exegesis. My recent Faith Discussion with Tom Gilson, in fact, pushed him into starting a series to analyze in detail the reasons "justifying" his faith--the evidence for why he believes. Look at the list of his proposed topics (Link--follow the first two provided to see that they are not actually evidence but preliminary materials he wrote--also, parenthetical annotations in bold are mine):
  1. Philosophical (PHILOSOPHICAL IS LISTED FIRST!)
    • Humanness
      • Consciousness
      • Identity
      • Rationality
      • Morality
      • Free Will
      • Existential
        • The Human Condition
        • Meaning, Purpose
        • Failure and Recovery
        • Personal Experience in Christ
    • Teleology
    • Cosmological
      • Aquinas
      • Leibniz
      • Craig
  2. Historical
    • Resurrection (Requires Christian metaphysics, philosophy)
    • Biblical (Requires Christian metaphysics, philosophy)
      • MSS
      • External
      • Internal
    • Too Good Not To Be True (Philosophy--solipsism?)
    • Christianity Down Through History
  3. Theological (Philosophical-type)
    • Uniqueness of Christ
    • Uniqueness of Christianity Among Religions
  4. Response to Objections (Philosophical)
    • Legend Theory
    • Hume
    • Naturalism
    • Anti-exclusivism/Truth Relativism
    • Christianity’s Moral Record
Despite some real eye-crossers on there, Gilson's entire list of evidences is either philosophical or directly riding upon a particular philosophical interpretation of metaphysics combined with theology. The whole list, except maybe "Christianity down through the ages," which is, I'm guessing, an appeal to the fact that Christianity has worked for lots of people and done lots of good things throughout the ages and therefore is still a philosophical-type argument. Note also that Gilson is going to somehow either beat or usurp Hume!

All religious arguments for the justification of their beliefs depend entirely upon philosophy (or sophistry so disguised) at every level. All of them. Again: "Philosophy is rightly the handmaid of theology." (William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed., 2008, p. 48).

If philosophy is the best counter-argument to any or all of these arguments, using it comes at a cost: going into their wheelhouse. (That they are wrong doesn't matter--to them, which is all that matters here.) I'm utterly convinced at this point that theologians will philosophy away good philosophy forever (Hume is on Gilson's list!), and dealing with their philosophical arguments just keeps the conversation going and pushes them to ever slipperier ones (sort of--they still trot out old favorites that are centuries old too).

Let me make this abundantly plain: all theologians and apologists can do to defend their belief in God is to make philosophical-type arguments, so engaging in those carries an element of going into their wheelhouse.

Indulge a ridiculous thought experiment (that I don't suggest at all) for a moment. What would happen if pure philosophical-style arguments were taken off the table? How much of a case could an apologist make?

When they counter "what about you? Without philosophy you can't prove evidence matters!" throw a glass of water in their face to wake them up to the fact that evidence matters to everyone willing to be honest. That tactic is bullshit and they know it as well as you know it, and so should philosophers that try to trot it out while complaining about "scientism."

Summary

Philosophy is taken by theologians and apologists to be the central tool in their wheelhouse, and so a "scientistic turn" is justified if we want to be effective at working outside of their wheelhouse. Thus, any "scientistic turn" that has cropped up within the "New Atheism movement" is not only not surprising but probably wise.

This isn't a condemnation of philosophy or a statement that it isn't important, valuable, or awesome in its own ways. This is a statement that philosophy doesn't change the conversation the way that other tactics might, and in particular, cries of "scientism" from philosophers (which are usurped and wielded by those with a desire to protect theology, supernaturalism, or pseudoscience) aren't helping matters much and might be hurting them.

50 comments:

  1. I'm confused as To the evils of scientism

    Interesting post on apologists

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  2. I really don't understand if there is supposed to be a criticism here James, do you think arguing with respect to the existence of God is supposed to be a scientific question, rather than a philosophical one? So what if we put so much emphasis in philosophy? This topic has its own branch of philosophy that is the philosophy of religion, and this is taught in big Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. Lastly I can't but are you throwing atheist philosophers of religion under the bus when you boo hoo theology? Any talk about is Theology, even if one is arguing against God, that's still Theology. So if you're going to bash theology, then I suggest you be consistent and stop saying things about God, even if you're putting forth objections against God's existence. Problem of evil that's theology, divine hiddenness that's theology as well. This is mentioned in academic introductory books to philosophy of religion.

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    1. It would be the greatest of successes if we could all just stop talking about "God," but ignoring a cancer doesn't make it go away.

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    2. Edit any talk about *God* entails Theology.

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    3. James maybe you should stop presupposing God's nonexistence or give us a better explanation for why a universe exists, have you ever used any skepticism whatsoever towards the view that nature is all that exists? Why should I believe an unconscious, nonrational, purposeless, unintelligent naturedidit mechanism provides the best explanation for the question 'why is there a universe'?

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  3. I get your frustration, but I'm not sure what we can do. To engage on the topic entails philosophy, and these apologists know how to talk a good talk to either sway people in, or (more likely) prevent people from leaving the fold.

    If we want to have an effect in driving religion into irrelevance to reduce its harm (and that's the best we'll ever do), then we have to engage on this front.

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    1. I don't disagree with that. The main thing I think we can do is stop complaining about scientism. It may also help to continuously point out that while philosophy is both important and valuable, it is a sure sign of a huge problem that theology has no other road to walk.

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    2. Scientism should be complained about because scientism has problems. Christians also use history in the formations of their theological positions.

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    3. I agree cse, scientism is pretty silly when you think about it as it can't even justify itself

      1 The only things that we can know are those that are scientifically proven to be true.
      2 Premise 1 hasn't been scientifically proven to be true.
      3. Thus, based off of premise 1 and 2, there's no reason to believe 1.
      4 Therefore it is self-refuting and incoherent to think that we can't know something just because it hasn't been scientifically proven.

      ^QED

      as far as verificationism goes, this methodology leads to a solipsism

      As Hilary Putnam points out in his newest book ‘Philosophy in an age of science’ If correctness is identified with ‘being verified’ – as verificationism implies, then my correct attribution of mental states to others hinges on these attributions being verified by me in my own experience. These attributions are only intelligible to me as a device for making statements that are or will be verified by my experiences. This is indeed a solipsism, so if you are a solipsist then we can end the discussion here.

      Science depends upon philosophy for its functioning. Unless and until that is proven wrong, I rest my case.

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  4. James, I have a project for you to try. Could you try re-writing this post, please, only this time, since you have such disdain for it in arguments relating to religion (of which this is one), remove all usage of philosophy? Or is philosophy allowed after all, if it's used strictly in service of your conclusion?

    (There's a name for that error; unfortunately, it's a philosophical term.)

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    1. Tom, you're making exactly the same error the guy above did.

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    2. I agree Tom and look at how james uses philosophy as part of his wheelhouse. He thinks he has the 'truth' on his side and acts like knowing the truth even matters in this godless universe when he says he wants to get rid of the cancer that is ' a belief in God' but why does he act like he is fulfilling some ultimate purpose for humanity in this godless mechanistic universe? And since when does science tell us that knowing the truth even matters? Yep he uses philosophy as part of his wheelhouse!

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  5. I made a request, James, not an argument. Sure, I speculated on one possible error you might make if you offered a certain response, but that was hypothetical.

    Where was my error?

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    1. I believe it's called "missing the point."
      (You might re-read the second paragraph to see why your request is ridiculous.)

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    2. I have re-read it. I recognize that you value philosophy in certain contexts. My question is whether this post fits into a context that you disdain instead. You say that Christians can get nowhere using philosophical arguments, but you use philosophically-based arguments to demonstrate it. What principle is it that distinguishes the effectiveness of philosophy in general when you use it from its effectiveness when we use it?

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    3. And while I'm at it (though I don't want it to distract from my prior questions), who are the "we" who "know that that philosophy kicked theology out pretty much from the get-go"? Are you referring to those of us who know about Plato? Aristotle? Augustine? Boethius? Scotus? Abelard? Aquinas? Descartes? Berkeley? Locke?

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    4. I'm not really sure if there is a point to be missed here. Theologians have only philosophy to use to support their arguments? Aside from being a groundless assertion that's probably wrong to begin with, what's the point? Are you mad because it's an area you don't specialize in? Have you seen a lot of poor philosophical arguments from the Christian side and are lamenting it? There is really no clear point you're trying to drive home here with this long post.

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    5. I'm inclined to agree with cse here, excellent point!

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    6. Right. Pretty cogent analysis.

      "Theologians have only philosophy to use to support their arguments?"
      And therefore they have no means to demonstrate that they're talking about reality.

      "Aside from being a groundless assertion that's probably wrong to begin with, what's the point?"
      See above.

      "Are you mad because it's an area you don't specialize in?"
      No.

      "Have you seen a lot of poor philosophical arguments from the Christian side and are lamenting it?"
      If talking about theology, that's all I've seen.

      "There is really no clear point you're trying to drive home here with this long post."
      Except that it was written to advise atheists, particularly philosophers among them, who are discussing with theologians not to wade too deeply into the philosophical nets that theologians cast so that they get to keep talking about their dressed-up nonsense.

      Like I said to Tom: Missed the point. Entirely.

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  6. "See above."
    I did, and I was remarkably underwhelmed.

    "Except that it was written to advise atheists, particularly philosophers among them, who are discussing with theologians not to wade too deeply into the philosophical nets that theologians cast so that they get to keep talking about their dressed-up nonsense."

    Oh, so just look out for bad arguments? That's all you had to say bro.


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    1. "Oh, so just look out for bad arguments? That's all you had to say bro"

      Yeah that's pretty much what I took from it as well.

      I really don't see why this blog article was even made.

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    2. Do you at least target ethicists for their lack of utilizing science too? And if you do, could you at least describe how one can ever base their ethical systems on science alone?

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  7. cse2015: Thank you for your cogent summary. I can't see anyone disagreeing with you on that!

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  8. "'Theologians have only philosophy to use to support their arguments?'
    And therefore they have no means to demonstrate that they're talking about reality."


    Is it your position, James, that philosophy excludes empiricism?

    If so, David Hume would be rather surprised to hear that. You do respect Hume, don't you?

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    1. Let me ask that question more carefully.

      Is it your position, James, that philosophy excludes reference to what can be studied and known through empirical means, and tested through those means?

      Hume would be surprised at that, too.

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    2. James Lindsay thinks that tweeting our comments to his fanboys will magically make everything that he says plausible....

      /Godzilla Facepalm

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    3. I figured it was kinder than pointing out directly on here that you clearly can't read.

      Read the second paragraph I wrote in the first place again. Go read some Dennett. Stop thinking stupid things like that I don't see the value, importance, and requirement of philosophy. Realize that the point is that we should be engaging minimally in philosophizing when talking with people who believe in God.

      Godzilla Facepalm indeed.

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    4. "Realize that the point is that we should be engaging minimally in philosophizing when talking with people who believe in God."

      Let me offer you some help here man, you're trying really hard and that is admirable, but you can't say things like this and expect us to think you know what philosophy is. Btw putting this stuff on twitter is kind of passive aggressive.

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    5. James "I figured it was kinder than pointing out directly on here that you clearly can't read.

      Read the second paragraph I wrote in the first place again. Go read some Dennett. Stop thinking stupid things like that I don't see the value, importance, and requirement of philosophy. Realize that the point is that we should be engaging minimally in philosophizing when talking with people who believe in God.

      Godzilla Facepalm indeed."

      I know you value philosophy, so stop attacking strawmen

      What I'm laughing about is how you have a problem with Theists when they use philosophical arguments to give evidence for the better explanation for 'why there is a universe' in God.

      So you value philosophy, only when it's your side doing the philosophy.

      I guess you like having your cake and eating it

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    6. csea: "Let me offer you some help here man, you're trying really hard and that is admirable, but you can't say things like this and expect us to think you know what philosophy is. Btw putting this stuff on twitter is kind of passive aggressive."

      Hey, Bro, let me help you out. This post just calls out your little group of theologians for hiding behind obscurantist philosophy, and sabotaging the grand goal of philosophy (real understanding) in order to steal respectability your ideas can't earn. Man.

      But, um, man, I love it when you guys invoke Hume. Cracks me up. Man.

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    7. I was wondering when the fanboys were gonna start coming out of the woodwork.

      Cal, there is nothing substantial to this post- nothing. It's basically a long rant about apologists using philosophy for bad arguments. I can do a word-search on this document and take out "apologist" and put in "atheist" and post it on a blog to call out atheists for poor arguments because its just that type of post- one that simply says "apologists and their arguments suck" and nothing more.

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    8. CSE, you sure do comment and complain a lot on a post that contains nothing substantial. LOL, bro.

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    9. What is the grand goal of philosophy Cal, I didn't realize this universe provided us with one?

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    10. "CSE, you sure do comment and complain a lot on a post that contains nothing substantial. LOL, bro."

      So?

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  9. Unanswered questions still remain for you, James.

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    1. I'm not your dog, Tom. Go read Dennett and ask better questions if you want answers.

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    2. Ironic, Tommy, that you would write this, when it's been who knows how long that you've been too busy, etc. to ever (ever) get around to providing cogent answers to why your religious beliefs aren't special pleading, etc. Every single time you get asked that, you're all about "go read my book, scour my website, not here at this time, in my upcoming set of posts, etc."), and still, you never quite get around to answering that question now, do you?

      Every theist comment here is just an obvious case of psychological projection in reaction to the simple observation that it makes.

      Classic.

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  10. And I guess the one that puzzles me most comes out most clearly in your closing paragraphs:

    "Philosophy is taken by theologians and apologists to be the central tool in their wheelhouse, and so a "scientistic turn" is justified if we want to be effective at working outside of their wheelhouse. Thus, any scientistic turn' that has cropped up within the "New Atheism movement" is not only not surprising but probably wise.

    "This isn't a condemnation of philosophy or a statement that it isn't important, valuable, or awesome in its own ways. This is a statement that philosophy doesn't change the conversation the way that other tactics might, and in particular, cries of 'scientism' from philosophers (which are usurped and wielded by those with a desire to protect theology, supernaturalism, or pseudoscience) aren't helping matters much and might be hurting them."


    First, let me say that scientism as usually understood is the belief, doctrine, or practice whereby science is regarded as the sole reliable means to acquiring knowledge. PBS's website puts it this way:

    "Unlike the use of the scientific method as only one mode of reaching knowledge, scientism claims that science alone can render truth about the world and reality. Scientism's single-minded adherence to only the empirical, or testable, makes it a strictly scientifc [sic] worldview, in much the same way that a Protestant fundamentalism that rejects science can be seen as a strictly religious worldview. Scientism sees it necessary to do away with most, if not all, metaphysical, philosophical, and religious claims, as the truths they proclaim cannot be apprehended by the scientific method. In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth."

    Now, this has been widely recognized as self-defeating: if scientism is true, then scientism cannot be known to be true, for its truth cannot be discovered or tested by scientific methods. I don't know if that's the use of scientism you have in mind, for you decided it was unproductive to "squabble" about the meaning of the term; but it is the most common one. The problem with scientism, then, is not that it is being co-opted by metaphysically minded philosophers and theologians. The problem is that it's an irrational position to adopt.

    So I'd like your response to that, please.

    Next, I'd like you to respond to this observation: that the reason you're promoting scientism is not because it's true, but because it works to advance your view of reality. In fact, it's quite likely not true, so any deployment of the term, while it might be strategically useful, is most likely false and/or dishonest.

    How do you respond to these two observations/questions, James?

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    1. By telling you to go read Pigliucci's paper (link in the post) and try talking about the same thing I'm talking about before requesting responses from me.

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    2. Wow. You're angry. I'll go away.

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    3. He is angry, it is possible that he doesn't like being critiqued. So much for that doxastic openess.

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    4. Tom, it appears that only a doltish (and insincere) theologian would think to respond to this post by mischaracterizing the author's position and (this is my favorite part!) trying to use that mischaracterization as means to divert the topic to one in which there could be another meaningless philosophical squabble.

      You are like the boring guy who only talks about the weather, who in order to demonstrate that he's not the boring guy who only talks about the weather wants everyone to listen to his 2 hour slide Powerpoint on why the weather isn't boring.

      You are a troll. Why are you a troll? Well, among other things, after trying to taunt and divert and make an arse of yourself without getting much of an emotional reaction, you choose to characterise this response to your question -- "How do you respond to these two observations/questions, James?":

      "By telling you to go read Pigliucci's paper (link in the post) and try talking about the same thing I'm talking about before requesting responses from me."

      as one in which there is discernible anger, forcing you to withdraw. I defy you to copy and paste that into any other comment thread, anywhere, and see if it is read with your (revealing) reaction.

      Here's the obvious truth to anyone reading here: you are smarting from getting your behind whipped by James here, on your blog, on social media, and in front of your toadies. But instead of addressing the reasons you feel angry -- the fact that trying to defend your beliefs makes you act hypocritically, dishonestly, and lash out in shabby ways -- you project those feelings onto the person who you blame for making you feel that way.

      What a miserable, tortured life it must be inside there. But so long as you choose to lash out and blame others, it's difficult for the rest of us to feel much sympathy for you.






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    5. I guess cal thinks that by using insults this magically makes his arguments sound.

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    6. "What a miserable, tortured life it must be inside there. But so long as you choose to lash out and blame others, it's difficult for the rest of us to feel much sympathy for you."

      That wasn't a very nice thing to say.

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  11. "Unlike the use of the scientific method as only one mode of reaching knowledge, scientism claims that evidencealone can render truth about the world and reality. Scientism's single-minded adherence to only the empirical, or testable, makes it a strictly scientifc [sic] worldview, in much the same way that a Protestant fundamentalism that rejects science can be seen as a strictly religious worldview. Scientism sees it necessary to do away with most, if not all, metaphysical, philosophical, and religious claims, if the truths they proclaim cannot be proven or disproven using evidence. In essence, scientism sees evidence as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth."

    Fixed that for you, my alterations are in bold.

    The point is that philosophy alone is just thinking about things, and rules of logic are attempted to be applied to this thinking. There is not a single advocate of scientism that is saying that thought and logic play no role in science, so the way it is used in conversation, as Dr. Lindsay says, is as a talisman meme, to protect one's own beliefs from attack be citing scientism as an attempted disproof of a claim. Of course, it is invalid, because scientists are open to being shown that their position is illogical, so the trick used by philosophers is to render the argument in abstraction, to hide the idiocy of the position.

    If you tried to claim that science was flawed because it demands evidence that evolution is true, because science is not self-justifying, then you would look ridiculous. The haters try to say that god is not a scientific claim and so people using that line of argument are accused of scientism to prevent them from making further claims. Next the haters proceed to trample over the various empirically-tested claims of science, like neuroscience and psychology (by positing dualism), biology (by positing creationism and intelligent design) and cosmology (by positing a creator of the universe).

    These are scientific claims and so scientism is not an insult, or a weak position, but is a compliment for someone who shows skepticism and demands evidence outside of repeated truth claims about the nature of reality. It isn't even a strawman! It is a talisman to avoid honest conversation.

    The god advocated by anti-scientismists (see why it's a stupid word?) is reduced by their own arguments to an epiphenomenal god, one which never interacts with nature (because then it would be open to scientific enquiry). If you want to give out about scientism, stop making truth claims about the natural world and maybe we'll listen.

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    1. Octo is this a scientific reply or just you philosophizing?

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  12. >> "I'm guessing, an appeal to the fact that Christianity has worked for lots of people and done lots of good things throughout the ages and therefore is still a philosophical-type argument."

    I don't understand the objection here, James. Isn't this the same argument structure that you use for your own view? In other words, substitute "Christianity" with whatever you feel is accurate to put into its place and the logic is the same.

    I realize that Tom's #3 wouldn't make your list, but the major headings that Tom has assembled for 1, 2, and 4 would also make your list if you were to put one together for why you think naturalism is true.

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  13. SteveK, you need to work on your thinking and writing skills. Honestly, it's hard to charitably construct a contribution to the dialogue from what you usually write.

    For instance, look at the "this" in your first sentence in your comment above. What objection does the "this" even refer to? What makes you think that James' writing, which you chopped oddly, is even an objection?

    It seems like you so routinely make a mess of what is otherwise perfectly understandable discourse that in order to respond it would require many, many levels of remedial training.

    My advice to you is to try and really, really read a post or comment first, make sure you understand it, and if you still have a legitimate question or issue you should try and craft your comment in the shortest and most efficient way possible. Then try and rewrite it several times and make it even more efficient -- read it like an editor, or someone who doesn't share your innermost thoughts.

    Please, try and improve. At least a little.

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    1. >> "What objection does the "this" even refer to?"

      It refers to the similar structure of James' arguments in support of his view that the scientific method has worked throughout the ages and theology has not.

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