Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is reason central to science? I think so.

Science is wedded, at least in principle, to the evidence. Creationism is unabashedly wedded to doctrine, as evidenced by the statements of belief required by various creationist organizations and the professions of faith made by individual creationists. Because creationism is first and foremost a matter of Biblical faith, evidence from the natural world can only be of secondary importance. Authoritarian systems like creationism tend to instill in their adherents a peculiar view of truth.

This is from the Talk-Origins archive. Notice something about this argument: that ir presupposes a difference between proper and improper ways of getting the truth. Some methods are superior to others. "Works for me" isn't good enough in this arena of inquiry; genuine standards of right and wrong reasoning have to be applied.


IlĂ­on said...

Another thing to notice -- and always keep at the forfront of one's mind -- is that "science," at any rate since it was redefined in terms of 'positivism,' isn't even *about* truth.

Some given scientific statement *may* be true, or it may not; yet it is nonetheless a valid scientific statement.

One simply cannot use "science" to ever determine that any scientific statement is actually true.

Jim said...

Paul Churchland wrote, "Truth, as currently conceived, might seem to be an aim of science." (“The Ontological Status of Observables: In Praise of the Superempirical Virtues.” A Neurocomputational Perspective: The Nature of Mind and the Structure of Science, 150)

Unfortunately, he's completely wrong.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Jim: Are you saying he is wrong that truth might seem to be an aim of science? Or is he wrong that the superempirical virtues are important?

His new book, just out, discusses his take on truth versus pragmatism in more detail.

Ilion: Consider the claim "A rat can discriminate more than 4 odorants." It is true. How do we know it is true? By science. How is this not simply using science to determine that the statement is true?

As for the original quote, I don't want to get into the argument from reason. One thing to note, though, is that the quote doesn't do this either. It talks about standards of evidence. We could also talk about standards of justification in science without worrying about how the mind works. We can study patterns of inference in scientiic papers, conferences, and the like, and learn about how they operate, what the norms are, without making assumptions about the propositional (or not) structure of our brains' reactions to such scientific methods.

Much of what people confidently claim about human thought is really just a surrepticious importation of claims about public argument/linguistic structures into the head. Whether this importation is valid is questionable.

Victor Reppert said...

The point here is that the secular enterprise relies heavily on the existence of reason. It has a strong vested interest in, for example, denying that the Social Constructivists are right about science. If there are no objectively legitimate standards for going about science, then their condemnations of the creationists fail. At best they can say "We don't play that language game that way," and the creationists can say "But we do." And the debate will be over. any debate would be talking rort, uh er, taking rot.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I guess it depends what you mean by reason. If you mean conforming to the scientific standarsd of evidence and justification, then I'd agree. But I don't think that's what you mean by reason. There is no theory of mind required to believe in epistemic standards.