Scientists, God and Logic

Prof,

I agree with much of what you've written. Consider a retort by Donald Rumsfeld to a press agent: "You've started with an illogical premise, and have proceeded perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion."

That comment encapsulates the essense of most "logical" proofs. The "firmament" or foundation of these bad proofs is always in the presuppositions - smuggling in either a fuzzy concept, or an unfounded concept. "A Just God would not do X". "Just" is a fuzzy concept, dealing with the concept of "Justice", as if it were an object with definite and well defined properties.

"I often find the same sort of tail-chasing arguments from non-theist philosophers...conclusions that seem confined to the logical ether; never really checking out well against empirical observation or actually advancing functional knowledge. "

Example?

"Don't get me wrong. I'm a big believer in logic: but not so big that I think logic predetermines reality. It's the other way round. "

No...it's the misapplication of logic for the reasons I mentioned above that SPECIOUS arguments originate, often by very articulate, clever people.

"...but to try to apply scientific reasoning or standards to theological matters is to make some form of category mistake. "

This one drives me nuts...

"Science is basically a set of criteria concerning what counts as knowledge. Period. Not "knowledge of the natural world". These rules are a little fuzzy but would certainly include: "

I disagree slightly. Science is a system with which we can probe the truth of a claim about the universe. Repeatability give more and more credence to the claim.

"Falsifiability Consistency with observed phenomenon Repeatability "

I should have read on... ;)

On falsifiability - agreed.

"Science's famous assumption of methodological naturalism is not an a priori assumption unfairly ruling out other areas (e.g. the supernatural), it is recognition that those other areas necessarily fail to meet the criteria for knowledge. "

I'd say, rather, that the scientific method is by far and away, the must justifiable MEANS of justifying a CLAIM about the nature of reality. Revelation as a MEANS of justifying a claim is inherently problematic, as is appeals to Dogma.

"Some people like to claim that they are making some sort of supernatural connection that is outside the purview of scientific investigation. Remember that science is practiced by people – people who possess the same set of faculties as any other human, and science studies people as well. Thus, far from being deficient of something Theists may have, science comprises all the faculties of human beings AND augments many of those faculties (via instruments). "

True. I think of it this way - IF a supernatural cause has an effect on the universe, it can be recorded and measured, which means the means of testing through the scientific method apply. That's how so many crackpots have been debunked!

"The conclusion is that the criteria for knowledge and "scientific knowledge" are essentially the same. "

...this one is problematic. The criterion for RELIABLE knowledge is through scientific inquiry. What's beyond the purview of Science is, therefore, unreliable as knowledge. I can't be sure angels aren't whispering to me the answers to this post...but such a claim would be at best unreliable, because I can't investigate it with the scientific method. Why? ANGELS ARE INVISIBLE!!! heh...

"This conclusion is often dismissed by theists as hubristic arrogance on the part of scientists, but it isn't. It's the logical conclusion of what science is."

I'd call it dismissed because A) it "puts God to the test" which is a no-no and B) it clearly won't pass the muster of scientific inquiry, which puts into question their authority and credibility.

"The challenge for anyone wanting to allow non-scientific knowledge is to show how a proposition which fails to meet scientific criteria for knowledge can nevertheless still count as knowledge. "

The connection between scientific knowledge and reliability is the scientific method. It's tried and true, as intuitively obvious. The connection between spiritual knowledge and reliability is Faith.

Arguing on the internet is pointless. I should've paid more attention when I read "Candide."

"Arguing on the internet is pointless."

Nah, not really. It can be fun, socially and intellectually invigorating, and you can actually learn something. Presenting an argument to someone else often means you must first come to understand your own position more precisely, which is never a bad thing. You also gain insight into how others think, and may encounter views and information about which you may want to learn more. I've probably learned more over the years about the real world applications of logic/reason and empiricism - the human side of the equation - in on-line discussions than I had from books. Also, I've read quite a few accounts of people who have changed epistemological paradigms (religious to non-religious, and visa versa) via "arguing on the Internet." Here is one really good such story of exactly that happening:

http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=8uhlovs1lspboum0ebku7k2m52qh2bfvqh%404ax.com

Cheers,

Prof.

Some discussions here are being useful to me on my classes of fine arts theories.

Rastus wrote: "I agree with much of what you've written."

Prof: Problem here is, I agree with much of what you've written (and expected as much ;^)
So I won't do a point by point.

But, a couple of points:

I wrote: "I'm a big believer in logic: but not so big that I think logic predetermines reality. It's the other way round. "

You wrote: "No...it's the misapplication of logic for the reasons I mentioned above that SPECIOUS arguments originate, often by very articulate, clever people."

I'd say we should be careful here. Specious arguments - in the sense of "Apparently right...but not so in reality" - need not be the result of the misapplication of logic. A specious argument may employ perfectly reasonable application of logic, built upon reasonable premises. But they can still be wrong because the empirical base turns out to be wrong. Case in point: the ancient belief in a flat earth. Before men had acquired indisputable evidence the earth was round, the conclusion that the earth was flat was reasonable, rational, logical and fairly built upon observation. That future empirical study showed the flat earth conclusion was wrong does not mean that the flat earth conclusion was a result of misapplied logic. The conclusion was justifiable at the time. Which, again, shows how conclusions are best drawn from observation of reality, not upon logic itself. Because, at the very least, such method of reaching conclusions has the best chance of being self-correcting.

We developed logic based upon our observations of reality. For instance, the logic of cause and effect was drawn from observation of how the world works (first intuitively, later intellectualized) - the logical syllogisms did not come first; they were forged out of observation. Therefore, I believe my point stands: reality has determined logic, not the other way around.
If observation shows cause and effect breaks down at some point (as it seems to in Quantum Mechanics), we must bow to observation, and not to logic.

cont'd...

Rastus wrote: "I'd say, rather, that the scientific method is by far and away, the must justifiable MEANS of justifying a CLAIM about the nature of reality. Revelation as a MEANS of justifying a claim is inherently problematic, as is appeals to Dogma."

Yes, we agree. But the point I'm making is that we usually stop at such comments, which leaves unnecessary wriggle room for supernatural claims. And my point mainly is concerned with claims about supernatural knowledge vs scientific claims of knowledge.

I'm trying to make clear that I don't believe there is the division between "scientific knowledge" and "non-scientific knowledge," unless someone can make the case for "non-scientific knowledge," which I don't think they can. It's very important to remember my position that, here, "scientific knowledge" simply means using the types of criteria science uses to arrive at knowledge (people often get tripped up thinking of science as scientists/labs/white coats, the establishment etc.).

Especially regarding supernatural claims, I was trying to express why the whole mindset of thinking "here's the sort of knowledge claims science can address and over here is the sort of knowledge claims which science can't address" is wrong. People who claim knowledge of the supernatural have to
justify how we can have knowledge of the supernatural.

My other concern is that "supernatural" is an incoherent concept anyway. "Natural" simply means all that exists. If the supernatural exists it is part of all that exists and hence part of nature, if it doesn't exist then, well, it doesn't exist. To imply that there is something out there which exists, about which _we can have knowledge_, but which is not subject to scientific criteria is to concede too much.

(BTW, while I'm trying to stick to supernatural vs natural, some may try and point to natural claims that are "beyond scientific inquiry," such as "love." To do so is to mistake the lab-coat/instruments idea of science for the set of knowledge criteria view. The point is that, without applying what is essentially a set of scientific criteria to your *experience* of love, you cannot translate your experience of love into *knowledge* that what you are experiencing is what humans have defined as "love." That version may be too short to make sense at first glance, but for now I'm going to leave it because I want to concentrate on scientific vs supernatural knowledge claims).

Talking about what constitutes knowledge tends also to veer into the problems of what criteria we use to arrive at our "knowledge." There are definitely problems to overcome. Certainly a problem is that rational, empirically-oriented types like me, when talking to theists, find that we have different standards for what constitutes "proof." It can be fairly said that there is no objective (absolute) standard of "proof." What's really required is that, if you want someone to change his mind, you meet his standards of proof.

I think this problem can be addressed by first building a bridge between two people with different standards of proof. One way is to first establish the criteria for proof: concentrate first on convincing the other person that my criteria for proof is more reasonable than theirs - and this is not impossible (as is shown in the link I provided toddseney). Once the other person concedes the reasonableness of a criteria, a bridge of understanding is built, they cross it, and we can examine the nature of a claim with like mind. It goes both ways: a theist may attempt to build the same bridge to me by establishing a persuasive criteria for supernatural knowledge. Which is where we stand.

My challenge to anyone who wants to allow a form of "knowledge" that can not meet scientific criteria, is to explain how it can still count as "knowledge."

Thanks Rastus. (And whoever else gets in on this).

Prof.

"Therefore, I believe my point stands: reality has determined logic, not the other way around."

This point is extremely subtle, so I want to carefully describe my position: take a logical proposition, if p then q. THAT is not logic. That is an assertion. It may or may not be true. Logic would tell us that not q implies not p. This contrapositive logic IS NOT TAUGHT THROUGH EXPERIENCE. The original assertion is taught through experience.

"If observation shows cause and effect breaks down at some point (as it seems to in Quantum Mechanics), we must bow to observation, and not to logic."

Cause and effect are not "logical". They're empirical.

I put my thoughts about free will on the "everything happens for a reason" thread.

Rastus, good points. We are almost in agreement, with perhaps some quibbles.


==== Rastus wrote: "Cause and effect are not "logical". They're empirical." ===

Logic is a formal description of cause and effect.

The foundations of logic were originally drawn from the perceived cause/effect observed from the macro world - the one in which we humans operate (therefore getting me off the hook regarding causality breaking down in the world of micro-physics).

The temporal priority of the "cause" (i.e. its first) is contained in logical propositions such as: If A, then B. Or in any logical syllogism.
Causality was a necessary principle of knowledge in the foundation of logic.

We agree there are abstractions found in logic. However, that logic grew to include abstractions (often coming from Pure Logic) does not invalidate my claim of it's empirical, observation-based foundations.
The point I'm making is therefore, fairly general (with room for us to quibble and agree).

So cause and effect is a _logical proposition_ or a principal of logic drawn from empirical observation. My subtle point here would be that: *Specific instances* of cause and effect are observations (as you say "empirical"). However, the general principal of "cause and effect" is a logical principal - a logic tool.

BTW, even though I'm postulating logic as tightly bound to cause and effect, it can be demonstrated that logic can be a poor model of cause and effect. This is illustrated when causes and effects become circular, as in a simple buzzer circuit..this causes havoc with the "if/then's" of Logic. Still, it doesn't invalidate logic's observational origins, however. It'd just show that, even when Logic is trying to closely mirror causality, it's not always a great model of reality. (Sorry for the tangent).

I really enjoy your feedback. Admittedly though I'm more interested in the "foundation of scientific knowledge/spiritual knowledge" question. I'm sort of surprised some theists haven't jumped all over me on it.

Prof.

I should add this, which might illustrate my "reality determines our logic systems" assertion.

Can you imagine our current logic system originating in a world in which cause and effect was absent, or utterly unpredictable? To refer to the weather example often used in logic 101:
Imagine a world in which it rained both when it was cloudy, or not cloudy...a world were effect did not necessitate cause. Can you imagine our logic system being the same?

Prof.

Hey prof,See, we're still in a profound state of disagreement as to the nature of logic. You are suggesting that logic is learned based on experience; whereas, I say logic is the intrinsic fabric of reality. It is not possible to have the contrary of logic as a possibility.Consider this syllogistic construction:S is not P;
M is P:

therefore, S is not M.The first and second statements are empirical. They are not logical. They are givens that allow us to apply logic. The third statement is true because it uses the laws of logic.S = A Man
P = An invertibrate
M = A jellyfish
"A man is not an invertibrate." Empirical.
A Jellyfish is an invertibrate. Empirical.
therefore, a man is not a jellyfish. logical conclusion!So LOGIC is not bound to cause and effect, or even empiricism. Logic is the fabric of reality.Here is where our opinions meet - Successful use in logic requres strictly accurate empirical givens!!!Consider this fuzzy logic, using cognitive, metaphysical objects, rather than actual objects.S = A Liberal
P = A Patriot
M = A true American
A liberal is not a patriot.
A true American is a patriot.
therefore, a liberal is not a true American.The logic is sound. What is NOT sound are the givens!!! It's for this reason that I've stated the logical errors are made with "begging the question",where tautological relations exist between what appear to be distinct metaphysical objects, such as "mind" and "intellect" and "free will".As always, I enjoy delving into these subject with you, prof.

"Imagine a world in which it rained both when it was cloudy, or not cloudy...a world were effect did not necessitate cause. Can you imagine our logic system being the same? "

This construction is faulty. Logic dictates that if the construction "if P than Q" has a false supposition in P...then any conclusion, Q, is true.

You're going into a specific case of a false P, and asking me to comment on a conclusion, Q, given a false P! I'm saying the very construction is faulty, which makes any conclusions which assume it of no substance.

"The temporal priority of the "cause" (i.e. its first) is contained in logical propositions such as: If A, then B."A proposition is not logic. It is an empirical observation, not logic. The difficulty of applying logic to a faulty construction...ahhh...therein lies most of the human error!"Or in any logical syllogism."A syllogism is not a matter of empiricism. It is a necessary state of reality, GIVEN ACCURATE FORMATIVE STATEMENTS."Causality was a necessary principle of knowledge in the foundation of logic."I agree with this statement, so long as we're not talking about logical conclusions. Let's look at examples of something as banal as p->q (p implies q, for the logically impaired).Patriot -> Republican. Is this a logical statement? Not at all! It relies on an intuitively understood, prima facie observation. The logical construction is flawed right off the bat! Anything derived further from this is also flawed.Once again, in the words of Don Rumsfeld to a reporter asking a question to him, "You've started with an illogical premise [false premise, better stated], proceeded perfectly logically, and arrived at an illogical conclusion."

Let me be more clear with the distinction between cause and effect and logic: cause and effect are temporal relations. Logic describes existential relations.For this reason, logic is beyond cause and effect. It has nothing to do with cause and effect, which are temporally bound relations.

Rastus, I understand your point, you've stated it very well. I'm still left disagreeing on some matters.

Prof: The temporal priority of the "cause" (i.e. its first) is contained in logical propositions such as: If A, then B.

Rastus: A proposition is not logic. It is an empirical observation, not logic.

Prof: Disagree. The very fact that logic uses "If A then B" shows the proposition has been abstracted to a construct (logic ordering pattern). That's why we can discuss the logical construct as "If A then B," before any empirical observation has been inserted.

There is, as of yet, no empirically derived information in the A-B statement.** The statement is a logical construct *into which we may insert an empirical observation.* A-B is a logic tool, waiting for a use. It is not empirical in of itself, nor does it necessitate an empirical connection (which can be shown by the fact that we can substitute any unobserved assumption we want: A= I'm a bird. B=I can lift a car).

So, when you say of A-B: "They are givens that allow us to apply logic."

I say: A-B itself is a construct designed to *accommodate* what may be empirically derived givens. The construct *itself* is not an empirically derived given.

Therefore I do not think you can separate the propositional aspect of any syllogism as being "not of logic." It may be a different stage, category or whatever of logic, but as propositions may be framed in abstract logical constructs, they are part of the logic tool box.

You say: "For this reason, logic is beyond cause and effect..."

I'd amend that to: Logic *may move* beyond cause and effect (to useful abstractions not directly implied by cause and effect).

You continue:"... It has nothing to do with cause and effect.."

With which I disagree. Logic is *not* cause and effect. But the basis of logic - which is a cognitive tool - is profoundly related to cause and effect.

WARNING...Tangents ahead!!!

Rastus wrote: "Logic is the fabric of reality."

Prof: Interesting, and I understand you are not alone in that view. I'd expect you might be sympathetic to theoretical physicist John Wheeler's speculation that ultimate reality was just an agglomeration of statements of predicate logic (The Big Bang was essentially a burst of becoming logically self-consistent).

Do I infer correctly then that, for you, logic is something objective that we discover? VS my concept of logic as simply an ordering tool of cognition?
I'm sure you know that these are just the questions physicists and theoretical mathematicians are asking themselves: is math a tool we use to model reality? Or is it becoming apparent to us that math is in fact a discovered characteristic of reality? (Which leads to more discussion of the fact that it can be said science is leading toward abstraction in it's reliance on mathematics. And that, gasp, in String Theory, scientists may be on the cusp of accepting a theory that is not empirically testable, which should have Theists grinning).

Sorry for the tangent; this stuff just gets the brain spinning, don't it?

Prof.

(Whose poor brain needs a break). **(BTW, my account will not let me type the arrow portion of the A-B statement, as it views me as trying to place HTML into the post).

We should call Dogbert, I think he is pretty good in Logic.

WOULD YOU GUYS SHUT UP!!!... ALL YOUR FANCY SHAMNSEY BOOK LEARNING IS GIVING ME A HEAD ACHE!!!...THAT IS ALL...I GOTTA GET BACK TO MY BENCH PRESS WORK OUT!!

yours in Christ

sherm

Sherm,

LOL! Thanks for the smack upside the head. Sometimes I need it to snap back into reality.

Who's Dogbert? Bring 'im on! I'm no logician, so if he has something to bring to the table I'd enjoy hearing it (and no doubt I'll learn something).

Prof.

"Who's Dogbert?"

He is young MAN ;) from Austria that studies Logic and Economics. He seems to know what he is talking about.

I´ll try to get his attention on the Philosophyground were he mods.