Tuesday, 22 November 2011

What is metaphysical naturalism & methodological naturalism?

Dan Dennett talks about naturalism and methodological naturalism in debating John Haught. What's the distinction between these terms? And what is metaphysical naturalism

Dan Dennett on Scientism

source: http://richarddawkins.net/videos/517674-daniel-dennett-on-scientism

my quick and rough synopsis...

Dr John F. Haught (from start)
Religious fundamentalism is literalistic. Scientism is a type of fundamentalism & literalism. Both religious fundamentalism & scientism are saying that their is a 'certainty' or certitude. Scientism says takes nothing on faith - yet it takes faith to embrace scientism. Scientific Naturalism is the view that nature is all that there is. You bound your sense of reality with a type of certitude says Haught.

Dan Dennett (from 4min 55s)
Scientism: I don't know anybody who is guilty of it. Scientism is a strawman used by people who object to science 'poking its nose into places it shouldn't be.' Reductionism / Scientism. Scientists are naturalists -  methodological naturalists which is just built into the scientific method. That isn't to say there couldn't be supernatural things but the burden of proof is on the person who wants to invoke them - thats methodological naturalism. We are not going to let any scientist say 'well my experiment depends on a supernatural element and if you don't believe in it then you won't get the experiment. We don't permit that - thats completely out of bounds - thats naturalism. Comparing a fundamental religionist with scientism - I don't recognise that person who is supposed to be into scientism!

Friday, 11 November 2011

The End of God?: A Horizon Guide to Science and Religion

video source - play until 8:59PM Thu, 17 Nov 2011
First Broadcast September 2010: historian Dr Thomas Dixon explores the troubled relationship between religion and science. From the creationists of America to the physicists of the Large Hadron Collider, he traces the expansion of scientific knowledge and asks whether there is still room for god in the modern world.

Sources of Knowledge: The Scientific Method v Revelation
@ 5:00 Galileo saw moons circling Jupiter - the earth rotates the sun - Heliocentricity of Nicolaus Copernicus Johannes Kepler is right. Heliocentrism is opposed to geocentrism (Earth at centre). Church thought that bible supported geocentrism - convicted Galileo of heresy. 
@ 5:34 Who owns knowledge. What makes one source of knowledge more reliable than another? The scientific method uses observations and logic to produce hypotheses and predictions which are tested over and over again comparing it the evidence then refining hypothesis.
@ 7: 29 Repeatability, accuracy, rigour and relevance is at the heart of the scientific method - not foolproof but in last 400 years has uncovered fundamentals of our world.
@ 8:30 The religious claim to get knowledge through revelation - direct communication from God.

Creationism v Evolution
@ 15: 40 Creationism was taught in American schools and Evolution teaching was banned from 1925 (Scopes trial) until 1987 when the highest court in America ruled that creationism was unconstitutional violating separation of church and state - Creationism was banned from the science curriculum.
@ 16:02 for scientists ancient religious texts are not sources of knowledge about the natural world and to treat them as if they are is absurd. There is no room for biblical creationism in modern science.
@ Creationist & Biochemist Michael Behe claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex, could not have evolved and must have designed in its complete form, by an intelligent designer. This idea was refuted by Kenneth Miller - found examples of simpler flagellum which worked.
@ 20:00 in 2006 Dover court trial ruled that teaching Intelligent Design was unconstitutional, unscientific, was a religious theory; banned from biology classes in public schools
@25: 20. The proposition that an intelligent designer could have created life was not scientific.

God of the Gaps
@26:12 Placing god in the gaps of scientific theory is not a good strategy because the history of science shows that these gaps have a tendency to be filled.
@28:00 Colin Blakemore (Distinguished Supporter of British Humanist Association) visited Lourdes and concluded that the placebo effect could explain 'miracles'. God of the Gaps - healing people has been explained by the science of the mind.

The Sensed Presence - why our brains are god receptors
@35:00 Using the controversial 'god helmet' Michael Persinger suggests that the 'sensed presence' (ie feeling the presence of something bigger than oneself) could be stimulated by activating the right hemisphere temporal lobe. However the helmet could not give a religious experience to Richard Dawkins!
@39:00 in meditation blood flow (red) in the parietal lobes reduces - our sense of time and place is reduced with a loss of sense of self. People who meditate and pray have same brain chemistry effects.

During meditation... 
blood flowing to parietal lobes is reduced
How did our Universe start?
@44:00 god is being pushed into smaller and smaller crevices.
@49:00 the Higgs Particle if found at LHC may explain the 75% of the universe is Dark Energy
@51:00 gravity strength is just right. Paul Davies (Goldilocks Enigma) says the universe is a 'put up job'. Some have seen the sheer improbability of our existence as evidence of a higher being but Stephen Hawking disagrees. Their may be an infinite number of (multiple) universes or multiverses. But if multiverses cannot be tested for, is science and religion so different after all? Why does anything exist at all? Why do humans finds ourselves on this Earth? And whats it all for?

Will the idea of God ever go away?
@56:00 Thomas Dixon asks: When scientists have a total understanding of our universe (scientism) will the idea of gods go away? TD says probably not because science can not give something that religions offer - meaning and purpose to our lives. Religion has extreme tenacity (a digression: Richard Dawkins interviewed by Jeremy Paxman about The God Delusion). Whether or not God exists it seems we find it very easy to believe in him, because the brain has evolved to believe in the god hypothesis.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

'Science is independent of humanism' Julian Baggini

Science is independent of humanism, atheism and religion says Julian Baggini (Distinguished BHA Supporter) in The Guardian.  He says some atheists believe that not only is science 'on their side', but it is their saviour too. This is scientism - the idea that if science cannot speak, we must remain silent. By contrast, some say that, as science leaves many questions open, in such cases, man is entitled to base his judgements on non-scientific grounds.

Science can threaten secular humanist ideas. For example, humans have been viewed as autonomous, free, rational individuals. However science has shown that human beings are far less autonomous, rational and free than some secular humanists might suppose, says Baggini.

Atheists are naturalists (the universe contains only natural entities and forces). H4S take a naturalistic view, believing that science is a fundamental part of humanism and that science provides the best way to understand the universe.

Can science be applied to problems of human welfare (2002 Amsterdam Declaration), asks Baggini? In Sam Harris's book The Moral Landscape (subtitled "How science can determine human values") Harris talks of science as though it is the source of all the knowledge and wisdom we need to live by. But, says Baggini, science can never tell us what we should value, because when it tells us how things are, we are always left with the question, what ought we to do about it? This is David Humes' famous is-ought argument. So can or should science be directed to humane and ethical ends, as some H4S suggest?

Baggini says science can tell us that X produces more happiness than Y, but it cannot tell us that we ought to do whatever produces the greatest happiness (Jeremy Bentham & John Stuart Mills' Utilitarianism).


Humanists4Science (H4S) Mission is "To promote, within the humanist community, the application of the scientific method to issues of concern to broader society"

H4S Vision is "A world in which important decisions are made by applying the scientific method to evidence rather than according to superstition."

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Pinker's Angels

Steven Pinker is in town. The Harvard Professor of Psychology has a new book to push and in the last three days alone he's spoken at the LSE, the RSA and the Royal Institution.

And that's good because Steven's new book - The Better Angels of our Nature - is important.

In his RI lecture he presented a vast amount of data showing that human violence has declined over thousands of years. Looking at deaths relative to population he traced falling rates of death in war and by private murder. The showed the second half of the 20th century to be a peaceful period - and the first decade of the 21st century to be even more so. These findings will surprise many and shock some - even humanists sometimes forget how bad the past was - but the evidence, from history and archaeology, is overwhelming.

Steven traces the decline in violence before, say, 1700, to the establishment of states, trade and the rule of law. For the last three centuries he also pointed to literacy, printing, the Enlightenment and the 'decline or domestication of religion' as causes. His data suggests at least one further factor - the sheer destructiveness of modern warfare between major states has made those states avoid such warfare - at least with each other.

This is a profoundly optimistic view. It's not optimistic despite the facts but because of them. It holds that things have got better fairly consistently over a long period and that they can continue to get better.

It also a humanist view - ascribing the improvements to the spread of reason, the rule of law and an expanding circle of compassion. And it shows, as H4S believes, that scientific method is applicable to history, politics and even morality.
Steven Pinker. Photograph: Graeme Robertson