Sunday, November 24, 2013

You simply won't believe what the IDiots are saying now!

Do you remember Vincent Joseph Torley (vjtorley)? He's the IDiot with a Ph.D. (2007) from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne (Australia). That's a legitimate university. Apparently Vincent Torley went off the rails sometime after 2007.

Here's his latest post on Uncommon Descent: Does scientific knowledge presuppose God? A reply to Carroll, Coyne, Dawkins and Loftus.
The scientific enterprise stands or falls on the legitimacy of making inductive inferences, from cases of which we have experience to cases of which we have no experience. The aim of this post will be to show that there can be no scientific knowledge if there is no God, and that there is no way of justifying inductive inference on a systematic basis, in the absence of God.

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, etc. etc. etc.

I alluded above to the troubling fact that even if we assume that objects somehow instantiate rules, there remains the epistemic problem of knowing whether we’ve chosen the right model, or identified the right mathematical equation (i.e. laws of Nature) for characterizing the rules that define a certain kind of object – be it a tiny electron or a star, like the sun. But if we make the two assumptions about God which I referred to in the preceding section – that God wants to make intelligent beings, and that God wants these intelligent beings to reason their way to God’s existence – then we can infer that the rules which are embodied by objects in the natural world must be tailor-made to fit the minds of intelligent beings that are capable of contemplating their Creator. In other words, the universe is designed to be knowable by us. Hence we don’t need to concern ourselves with the theoretical possibility that the rules which characterize things might be too complicated even in principle for us to grasp.

God, then, is the ultimate Guarantor that science can work.
Well, that does it for me. Either I stop being a scientist or I have to become a believer in God in order to continue doing science.

Tough choice. Let me get back to you on that one ... anyone want a job as a professor of biochemistry?


22 comments :

  1. It's not clear to me how proposing a being that can break any natural law it wants to and is consistent with any logically possible outcome, even the miraculous, is a good way of grounding scientific inference, but that's probably because I didn't get a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Woolloomooloo.

    Having skimmed that post, it looks like Torley is also going for a Ph.D. thesis on the blue-green members of the ruminant family Cervidae.

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  2. "In other words, the universe is designed to be knowable by us." They love to see hallmarks of design in everything, don't they. It's teleological thinking at its "best"

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  3. Well, just tell us how to firmly establish the existence of God, torley, and everything will be fine. Too bad you can't.

    But if we make the two assumptions about God which I referred to in the preceding section – that God wants to make intelligent beings, and that God wants these intelligent beings to reason their way to God’s existence – then we can infer that the rules which are embodied by objects in the natural world must be tailor-made to fit the minds of intelligent beings that are capable of contemplating their Creator.

    Gee, just make up a God that guarantees that science works, and science is guaranteed to work. Which is good, except for the made up part, which is all that we ever get from them.

    Glen Davidson

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  4. Torley is doing a poor-man's presuppositionalism. Like we haven't seen, and refuted that before.

    "But if we make the two assumptions about God which I referred to in the preceding section – that God wants to make intelligent beings, and that God wants these intelligent beings to reason their way to God’s existence – then we can infer that the rules which are embodied by objects in the natural world must be tailor-made to fit the minds of intelligent beings..."

    He's trying to say that we can explain X by saying that God made X. Obviously this involves a redefinition of the verb "to explain." For theists, any supernatural allegation of cause [SNAC] counts as an "explanation," but if allegations are all explanations, you can't distinguish between an infinity of possibilities.

    How can we distinguish between the following explanations? Under Torley's presuppositional nonsense, they're all equal:

    1. Humans have property X because God gave them property X.

    2. Humans have property X because Allah gave them property X.

    3. Humans have property X because a magic carrot gave them property X.

    4. Humans have property X because an unspecified natural process gave them property X.

    Under Torley's presuppositional nonsense, a SNAC counts as an explanation, so 1-4 above are all equally valid, along with a trillion other possibilities, and you can't distinguish between them.

    Oh, and he's obviously just displaced the problem of explaining why science works, into a magical, invisible realm which we cannot investigate.

    In Torley's invisible realm, the questions he claimed to answer are merely sequestered: "Why would a non-created being be rational? Why would a non-created being create intelligent beings? Why would it next conceal all the evidence and thne make humans minds capable ONLY of concocting proofs of God which depend on multiple logical fallacies? If a God wanted us to "know God", why would it create humans with intellects that most of the time, believe in the WRONG gods or no gods at all?"

    It's like your teacher gives you homework, "What's 7 times 7." The next day at school your teacher asks you what's the answer, and you say, "I did my homework-- but it's buried under the sand of an island in the South Pacific."

    By invoking God as causation, Torley didn't answer the question, rather he asserted the real inaccessibility of the answer. The sophisticated theologians are proud of their great intellectual accomplishment, which is, sequestering forever the questions they cannot answer into an inaccessible realm.

    Theism doesn't explain why science works, it just redefines the meaning of "to explain."

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  5. Meh, "God of the Gaps", only in epistemology instead of biology. Same old same old.

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  6. Piffle. One could just a well argue that God built a universe with humans in it in order to have hosts for growing the smallpox virus.

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    1. Wait a minute! Are you saying that's not true? Are you implying that Satan might have done it instead? :-)

      If Satan created the world then how do you explain goodness? Haven't you heard of the problem of goodness?

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  7. "if we presuppose..."

    That's great. Let's just suppose whatever we want! Magic man made everything for my benefit.

    As usual, this kind of apologetics turns out to be question-begging all the way down.

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  8. Sean Boyle:
    "In other words, the universe is designed to be knowable by us." They love to see hallmarks of design in everything, don't they. It's teleological thinking at its "best"

    I only wonder why the universe had to wait 9 billion years before being blessed with the presence of the "knowable us". IMHO, it seems the planet, (and the universe?) might be bette off without us.

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  9. Torley: Perhaps someone might concede that the belief that the sun will rise every morning at the same time for all eternity is an irrational one, but at the same time argue that the belief that the sun will keep rising at the same time for the foreseeable future is a rational one.

    He doesn't seem to know much about the sun, or about sunrise.

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  10. Torley proposes two "minimal assumptions":

    "first, that if God were to create a cosmos, God would want to produce intelligent beings; and second, that God would want these intelligent beings to know that their Creator exists"

    He fails to note a third necessary assumption: we humans are those intelligent beings.

    Why that assumption? There are probably beings on other planets that are millions of years in advance of us. Not to mention that our computers are likely to far surpass us in a much shorter time. As Darwin wrote on the problem of evil, "I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton."

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  11. that God wants to make intelligent beings, and that God wants these intelligent beings to reason their way to God’s existence

    Sounds like a follower of Alvin Plantinga. You know, the one of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

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  12. 11,000+ words? You're kidding. The regularity of the universe is actually pretty depressing. Just once, I'd like to ask a pretty girl out and not have her laugh her socks off.

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    1. It's often said that once you have her socks off, the rest is easy.

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    2. I think it depends on whether you start or finish with 'em. All in theory, of course; my wife has expressed strong views on my exploring such matters, whether domestically or elsewhere.

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  13. I can't be bothered to read that whole turgid mess. Can someone tell my if Torley addresses this objection: How do we know that God didn't deliberately create the universe in such a way that its true nature is obscured from our senses, and instead created the illusion that it operates according to laws that can be understood by humans? That the true nature of the universe is so beyond our comprehension that, if we saw it as it was, our puny brains would explode, so God instead created a fake universe for us to contemplate?

    I also don't see why we can't just presume that the universe is exactly as it appears to us, since Torley feels free to build arguments based on presumptions of his own. To solve what he calls "the epistemic problem of knowing whether we’ve chosen the right model, or identified the right mathematical equation (i.e. laws of Nature) for characterizing the rules that define a certain kind of object," all we have to do is simply presume we've chosen the right model. Problem solved.

    His problem is also easily sidestepped by simply saying that, in the metaphysical sense, we don't really have to claim that the findings of science are "true" at all. We only need say that they accurately describe and predict the behaviour of the universe as we observe it, and so long as it is "true" to that extent that is all we need.

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  14. More circular reasoning. Torley's auxiliary assumptions *are* his conclusion. The comprehensibility of the universe is evidence of god, but only of a god who, he assumes, wants us to comprehend the universe. Similarly, the prevalence of green plants is evidence of god if we assume that green is god's favorite color. And X is evidence of god if we assume that god would make X.

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  15. A more basic question: Since Intelligent Design is purely scientific idea, and not religious at all, why are they printing religious tracts on their website?

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    1. Intelligent Design Creationism is not a purely scientific idea so your assumption is incorrect.

      BTW, I hate to be the one who breaks the news to you, but did you know that some of the arguments made by evolution supporters are also not purely scientific? :-).

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  16. As a graduate of Melbourne (not Philosophy, but History and Philosophy of Science) I note that there is an actual philosophical issue underlying this that has been debated at least since Pythagoras - how do we understand the world if it is not rationally consistent, and if it is, why is it? The traditional argument (put, for example, by Berkeley) is that the universe is rational because God is rational, and we are rational, so we can understand the universe. More recent arguments turn, however, on the principle of least action: the universe tends to do things the simplest, most efficient manner, and what we do in reconstructing the universe in our heads is discover how that is.

    Of course, there is always room for the Pyrrhonian skeptic in philosophy. In science that is precluded in virtue of the fact that we have to learn things rather than deal with universes full of deceiving demons and the like. In short, science assumes we can know the world. The radical skeptic assumes we cannot.

    Berkeley's argument that God underpins all stability, like Descartes' before him (and Aquinas' before him) is special pleading. It runs roughly like this: we do know the world, but we shouldn't be able to, so something (someone) makes it possible by fiat and acts as guarantor. But since Darwin at least, we have had another view. If the Berkeleyan approach is ad hoc, the Darwinian is post hoc. We know the world because the claims we had to know before that failed have been abandoned, and so we are better off with more generally accurate and precise ideas than we were. The sense of knowledge here is a pragmatic sense: if it works better than it used to, then our knowledge has increased. The universe need not be rational, but we must adapt to it in our rationality.

    This "Darwinian" post hoc view of knowledge undercuts the Humean objection against induction. In short, if I may quote another philosopher:

    "Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic, but praiseworthy, tendency to die before reproducing their kind." [W. V. O. Quine]

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  17. I understand the traditional problem and I know that it has been debated, without gettting anywhere fast, for several millenia. Maybe it's worth mentioning in an introductory philosophy class along with a debate about whether life is an illlusion or that chair over there actually exists. But at some time or other don't all philosophers grow up and start dealing with the real world?

    I think this is called "pragmatic philosophy" and I thought you were such a philosopher, no?

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  18. There may be things too complicated for us to grasp by ourselves, but that's why we invented computers. To crunch the vast quantities of numbers down to manageable bits that our minds can grasp. Eventually as we physically merge our biological brains with the silicon variety there maybe nothing that we can't grasp.

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