Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Comment on draft of book on "Humanism: reason, science and skepticism"

source: http://stephenlaw.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/rough-draft-for-comments.html#more

This is the draft of the first chapter of a book sent to Stephen Law to make comments on. Add YOUR comments here on Stephen Laws' blogspot. Please remember to say you heard about this request for comments via Humanists4Science.

What are science and reason?

Humanists expound the virtues of science and reason. But what are science and reason? And we should we think it wise to rely on them?

By science, I shall mean that approach to finding out about reality based on the scientific method. This is a method that was fully developed only a few hundred years ago. Science, as I’ll use the term here, is a comparatively recent invention, its development owing a great deal to 16th and 17th Century thinkers such as the philosopher Francis Bacon(1561-1626).

So what is the scientific method? Here’s a rough sketch. Scientists collect data through observation and experiment. They formulate hypotheses and broader theories about the nature of reality to account for what they observe. Crucially, they then test their theories. Scientists derive from their theories predictions that can be independently checked by observation.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

New Scientist returns to nature/nurture debate

Did you know that "lower heart rates are a better indicator of criminal behaviour than smoking is of lung cancer"? Nor me, yet this is a key point in understanding the biological, often genetic, origins of crime.

Most humanists, I guess, think of crime as a response to bad circumstances. We don't like to call people evil because that sounds religious and because it sounds incurable. Yet there's lots of evidence to implicate the effects of the physical environment (eg lead poisoning) and, more controversially, genes as causes of crime.

Humanists should be guided by the evidence so its worth looking at NS's review of The Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Are Humanists4Science Positivist-ish or Scientistic-ish or Naturalisic-ish? - Part 1 of 4 - Positivism

I was prompted by Brian Cox twitter profile @ProfBrianCox to investigate Positivism - wikipedia.
I've been mulling over Scientism - wikipedia for some time, especially since I organised for Prof. Alex Rosenberg - wikipedia to talk to Atheism UK about his book 'The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions'. Alex's talk on Youtube was recorded for Atheism UK by Mark Embleton at Conway Hall in London on 25th February 2012.

Alex Rosenberg (personal website) is very pro Scientism & describes himself as a Naturalist - NY Times blog (Naturalism - wikipedia).