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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Stockbridge 14: What Did They Discover?

Fourteen people have been invited to a special meeting in Stockbridge Massachusetts (USA). They are: Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Terrence Deacon, Simon DeDeo, Dan Dennett, Owen Flanagan, Rebecca Goldstein, Janna Levin, David Poeppel, Alex Rosenberg, Don Ross, Steven Weinberg, and Massimo Pigliucci. On the first day they discussed "naturalism" (morning session) and evolution, complexity and emergence (afternoon session"). Read the summaries in the links to my first post [The Stockbridge 14].

Now that the meeting is over, there have been several summaries. Jerry Coyne has posted his summary at: Moving Naturalism Forward: my summary. Here are some excerpts from that summary. I think they illustrate the point I tried to make earlier; namely, that this whole exercise is pretty much a waste of time.
At the end of the meeting we were all asked to give our take on it: did we really move naturalism forward, did we change our minds about anything, and what are the exciting questions that remain? I will speak only for myself here (Massimo will likely give a more complete summary of everyones views soon).

I found the conference interesting but inconclusive. We did not even agree (or much discuss) what naturalism really is, and most people agreed that we disagreed in general: we didn’t come to many conclusions about anything. Nick Pritzker, who sponsored the meeting, agreed with this take.
Perhaps the best that can be said is that many of the participants came to the realization that determinism is true and trying to make a philosophical case for free will in a deterministic world is somewhat pointless.
One conclusion, though—one that gratified me immensely—is that several people who did change their minds on an issue said something like: “I decided during the workshop that free will is a philosophical black hole (something that Owen Flanagan asserted at the meeting’s outset) and that we shouldn’t discuss any longer whether it exists.” I think by this they meant that since we are all determinists, discussing whether we have free will becomes a semantic game. Dan Dennett’s claim (see Massimo’s summary) that society will fall apart if we don’t retain some notion of “free will” was not widely shared. I don’t believe it for a minute. That was the claim made for religion, too, but largely atheistic societies, like those in Scandinavia, are pretty damn harmonious!

We all agreed that dualism (often called “nonphysical libertarian free will”) is dead, and that our decisions are determined largely before we become conscious of “making” them. Surprisingly, Steve Weinberg was the one person who seemed to disagree with this, saying that his consciousness had a “role” in making his decision. I claim that consciousness of making a decision may be merely a phenomenon that follows a decison made unconsciously, and, indeed, may have evolved just for that purpose. That is, confabulating may be an adaptation.

At any rate, most didn’t think that we should continue debating whether or not we have free will. I consider that as a small personal victory of sorts. As I noted in my presentation below, that doesn’t mean that substantive, interesting, and socially relevant questions about the illusion of “personal agency” don’t remain.
Note that Jerry calls the discussion a "semantic game." For a scientists, this means the discussion is over. For a philosopher, this means "game on!"

Massimo Pigliucci put up two more post on his blog: From the naturalism workshop, part II and From the naturalism workshop, part III. I'm particularly interested in Pigliucci's take on science and philosophy. In the excerpt below, he complains that we shouldn't play "semantic games" with terms such as "science" and "philosophy" then he proceeds to do exactly that by defining science in a way that many of us reject. It's called having your cake and eating it too!
I began by pointing out that it doesn’t help anyone if we play semantic games with terms like “science” and “philosophy.” In particular, “science” cannot be taken to be simply whatever deals with facts, just like “philosophy” isn’t whatever deals with thinking. So for instance, facts about the planets in the solar system are scientific facts, but the observation that I live in Manhattan near the Queensborough Bridge is just a fact, science has nothing to do with it. Similarly, John Rawls’ book A Theory of Justice, to pick an arbitrary example, is real philosophy, while Ron Hubbard’s nonsense about Dianetics isn’t, even though he thought of it as such.

So science becomes a particular type of structured social activity, characterized by empirically driven hypothesis testing about the way the world works, peer review, technical journals, and so on. And philosophy is about deploying logic and general tools of reasoning and argument to reflect on a broad range of subject matters (epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, etc.) and to reflect on other disciplines (“philosophies of”).
I've criticized this position in earlier posts [Does Philosophy Generate Knowledge?, What Kind of Knowledge Does Philosophy Discover?]. It's not clear whether any of the remaining Stockbridge 13 challenged Pigliucci on this or on his interpretation of scientism. They all seemed to accept that "science" is simply what physicists and biologists do in their professional life. (I don't mean to exclude geologists, chemists, astronemers, etc.) Did they all accept the following statement by Pigliucci's? I don't.
In the end, I submitted that skirmishes between scientists and philosophers are not just badly informed and somewhat silly, they are anti-intellectual, and do not help the common cause of moving society toward a more rational and compassionate state than it finds itself in now.
I'm surprised that Jerry Coyne let that one slip by since I know he was just as annoyed as I was by Elliot Sober's defense of how a sneaky god(s) could direct evolution [The Problem with Philosophy: Elliot Sober]. That kind of criticism of philosophy is neither badly informed nor anti-intellectual.

In spite of the fact that no progress was made on any of the issues being discussed, Massimo Pigliucci concludes ...
This, added to the positive effect of meeting one’s intellectual adversaries in person, sharing meals and talking over a beer or a glass of wine, has definitely made a stupendous success of the workshop as a whole.
I'm wondering if the scientists at the meeting would do it again next year. I'm pretty sure the philosophers would since they delight in just talking, even if no conclusions are possible.

This brings us to Sean Carroll, a physicist who organized the meeting. His summary is at: Nudging Naturalism Just a Bit Forward. (His wife, Jennifer Ouellette, was also at the meeting.)

Caroll seems to think the meeting was a success because everyone had fun being "academic." That wouldn't have been enough for me.
More generally — and probably because of our very short overall amount of time — I thought we had fascinating discussions at a very abstract level, but could have spent more time bringing things down to brass tacks. We clarified some deep issues about (for example) free will and morality, but didn’t really try to go the next step and say “Okay, so what is moral?” There was a fascinating moment when Terry Deacon explained how his willingness to do certain kinds of experiments on certain kinds of animals has evolved over time, but we didn’t follow up on nuggets like that. This might be an unrealistic standard, as there were not enough hours in the day to dig deeply into all the topics we discussed, but it was an absence I felt after all was said and done.

I should reiterate that these minor gripes about my own performance as organizer don’t detract from the overall impression of the meeting, which was a fantastic and singular intellectual experience. As I mentioned on Twitter, if you judge the success of a conference by the extent to which the coffee break and lunchtime discussions follow directly on what was said at the formal sessions, I’ve never been to a more successful meeting. Incredibly smart people, focused on very deep and important questions, thinking their brains out about how to answer these questions. If you’re an academic, these are the moments you live for.


  1. So if I call atheists stupid assholes, I can be excused for not di ing so out of my own free will. If U decide to rape some net also not free will. And lastly when I decide to pop ny neighbour because I like his wife more than him, again no free will. Man this is cool, do what you like because you can't help it.

    1. So if I call atheists stupid assholes

      If you are struggling to suppress what is obviously a tempting urge, perhaps you are not in any case as free as you might suppose. Good of you to exercise your will and suppress the urge thus far, and avoid a charge of bigotry.

      But all our behaviour and judgement is conditioned. We feel we exercise executive control and, for all practical purposes, we do, but it is not wholly independent of all our wiring, chemistry and experience. But whether we are neurons or souls, there is a third-joint element to pontificating on 'true' freedom. "Like, I mean, are we really free? I mean really? Anyone else feeling peckish?".

    2. Whahah you prove my point calling an atheist a stupid asshole, you being one brings out your objective morality in a whim, but because rape and murder does not affect you, no need to comment... stupid atheist asshole!

    3. I predict that you are not going to do any of these things. In fact, I'm certain of it.

      You are not using free will in not doing those things. It is predetermined by the molecules in your brain and the environment you live in.

    4. Hey Anonymous, you don't seem to have given this subject an awful lot of thought.

      Let's make it really simple.

      You're a physical entity. Your brain is sort of analogous to a very sophisticated computer with some basic rules it started out with, a large memory, and the programming that allows it to write and add new rules into that memory. The brain scans the environment with it's senses and filters this information through it's basic and learned list of rules.
      This is how it learned that if it were to engage in rape and murder, the relative stability of the environment it lives in will detoriate, and it will find itself in harder times so to speak. So with it's built up ruleset, the brain-computer computes that rape and murder is bad for it and so stays away from it.

      Also, part of the ruleset of normally functioning brain-computers is that they can experience pain and suffering. And your brain-computer has gathered the information that other brain-computers can suffer and feel pain too. So your brain computer can emphasize with other brain-computers, and reckognize that it wouldn't want this to happen to itself. So your brain-computer has computed that the optimal behavior is to not write a rape-murder program and execute it. This, of course, entails that your brain-computer is not a sociopath(aka. a brain-computer with a ruleset rendered defective through the manufacturing process, or because it was broken through some horrific process after it's birth and childhood).

      So when you tell me you want to pop your neighbor and rape his wife, it's becoming very apparent to me that your brain-computer isn't capable of calculating what's best for itself, and is seriously lacking in the empathy section of it's programming. So I recommend you go see the brain-computer fixer to see if he can do something about it. Or possibly get your brain-computer locked up before it ruins it's own and other brain-computers lives.

      The throwing people in jail solution isn't so much about "revenge", but about preventing faulty brain-computers from causing harm to other brain-computers. And ideally, we'd be able to rewrite the bad bits of faulty brain-computers.

      A bit simplistic of course, but there, that's how you can have no free will and still avoid rape and murder. Because your brain-computer will be locked up if it starts writing programs that are bad for itself and other brain-computers. Your brain-computer now knows this, and will have written and executed a ruleset preventing it from writing and executing a rape-murder ruleset.

      Beautiful, isn't it?

    5. Whahah you prove my point calling an atheist a stupid asshole, you being one brings out your objective morality in a whim, but because rape and murder does not affect you, no need to comment... stupid atheist asshole!

      Whahah indeed. I'm afraid you are just gibbering; I did not really understand any of that. But I'm sure calling the right people assholes is just what your God is looking for as a behavioural standard. Because if you think that the other person has no basis for morality, you can do what the fuck you like to 'em, right?

    6. Eugenics anybody, sounds an awful lot like you think like Butler rumraket..... in any case your machine metaphor is wrong, you see machine can only speak the truth.... humans who are not machines don't... must be really horrible to be trapped b your own limits of thught ... shame

    7. Worse still with your really silly essay is machine are designed entities so I'd say your reasoning is flawed, we're not designed are we?

    8. Hey Rumraket, you don't seem to have given this subject an awful lot of thought. I'll help you with the error of your ways not that I think you'll even undestand it....

      The throwing people in jail solution isn't so much about "revenge", but about preventing jews, blacks,theists and atheists from causing harm to other people. And ideally, we'd be able to rewrite the bad bits of jews, blacks, theists and atheists.

    9. @Andre Gross
      You're trying to imply that we'll be making up the definition of what constitutes bad behavior. I got news for you, we're already doing that. It's called the law, and if you break it you're a criminal.

      You mean to imply that because this system has the potential for abuse or misuse, that we should discard it entirely.

      The only difference between theists and atheists here is that theists relegate the law-making to an imaginary entity(still interpreted by a body of men, of course). But we got over that phase and discarded old and silly stuff from the imaginary law-giver, because we calculated it was a bad idea. Like the whole slavery thing, and the stoning thing, and the witchhunt thing etc. etc.

      All you're telling me is that you want to make sure that other brain-computers around you also calculate that we should make sure our laws aren't misused.

      Incidentally, there is such thing as a sociopath. You know that, right? What's your recommendation here? Should we just kill them? Put them in jail and throw away the key?

      I'm sorry, but there's no flaw in my analogy. The world isn't perfect, and no system of law and crime prevention you'll ever be offered will be. Tough shit, it's time the skydaddy community woke the fuck up and realized that reality doesn't genuflect before their wishful thinking.

    10. @Anonymous
      Machines can only speak the truth? No. Machines can only speak what they calculate they should speak. Whether it's true or not never enters the picture. Same goes for human beings, because *shocker*, we don't really have free will. Whatever you action you calculate you should do and then go do, was based on a long series of material events leading up to it, filtered through your brain-computer and it's rules. It couldn't have happened any other way. You're still not telling me anything is wrong with my analogy.

      Oh and your design proposition is irrelevant. Either humans have free will or not(and we can design laws that work most of the time or we can't), regardless of whether they are designed or evolved. Really, what were you even trying to say here? That evolved entities have free will pr. definition? That designed things don't? You really didn't give this one much thought. Did you?

    11. The great thing about 'objective morality' is that you can stick it in a book, and that makes it objective. If that book says something along the lines of "this is the Word of God. No, really ..." then that removes all room for doubt. Then all those people who mix fibres, allow menstruating women short-sighted people and the disabled into church, covet their neighbour's wives, dishonour their parents and stuff can be punished.

      So ... you are free to do entirely as you will, without any influence from chemistry or your neural impulses. Seemingly the only thing that keeps you straight is the knowledge that: do the wrong thing and you will be tortured for all eternity. Do you feel like exercising your free will today? Well do ya, punk?

    12. " being one brings out your objective morality in a whim, but because rape and murder does not affect you, no need to comment...."

      Does your God forbid murder and rape because they are bad, or are they bad because God forbids them? In the former case, we can figure out what is bad even if there's no God. In the latter case, good and evil depend on God's arbitrary whim. He might just as well order you to kill and rape to your heart's content, and it would be good by definition. Come to think of it, he ordered Moses to do some terribly bad things, like stoning people to death for offences such as being stubborn and rebellious towards one's parents, or gathering sticks on a Sabbath day.

  2. The word "science" is used to refer to at least four distinct things:
    1) a body of knowledge
    2) a methodology for generating knowledge
    3) an activity engaged in by people
    4) a group of people (as in "science says..." meaning "the consensus of scientists is that...").

    It would have been preferable if we had four different words for these, but we don't. We can't really fault Pigliucci for picking one of them (nr 3) to describe, although he should have clarified that he is not referring to the others (as a philosopher I assume he is well aware of the existence of these multiple concepts all going under the name "science").

    The only problem I have with his description (not a definition, nor did he claim it is one) of science as social activity is that he should have added "deploying logic and general tools of reasoning and argument" to his list of things science is characterized by. Leaving this out (especially when he then adds it to his characterization of philosophy) means that what he is describing is just not science.

  3. This is all very odd to me as a YEC.
    These words and concepts.
    it is simply about truth.
    These groups of subjects simply strive for truth.
    No free will or this or that is simply someone's conclusions about truth.
    prove it or take a vote.

    1. Have you considered doing your posts in haiku ?

    2. @steve
      man, that comment cracked me up!

  4. The meeting sounds like the kind of thing that could/would be fun if done at a bar over rounds of whatever alcohol one prefers. Without the booze, less fun.

  5. Laurence:

    Unfortunately the topic of free will is not as simple and straightforward as you’re making it out to be. Definitions do matter. Recall that no empirical observations are ‘theory free’. Philosophers have known this for a while, as have philosophically-informed scientists (those that have actually engaged with the relevant literature on such topics).

    Regarding Sober: Being “annoyed” is not an argument contra Sober. It seems as if Sober was, principally, making a logical point in his argument. You can no more prove that point--that a deity of some type is and/or has ‘guided’ evolution in some manner--than you can disprove it.

    The general argument advanced by Sober, I find, is a useful corrective to some atheists who make claims regarding the issue of god that are simply too strong, logically speaking (and I certainly say this not as a creationist or intelligent design proponent).

    Sure, you may perhaps think that this question and/or conclusion is not particularly ‘interesting’ to you. You of course have every right to think and feel that way. But that would simply be a subjective, idiosyncratic fact about you, and would not logically impugn either Sober’s argument or those that do find it interesting.

    But what is interesting is that the careful scrutiny that Sober conducted on that issue was bound to upset some atheists, and for reasons now empirically well-documented in social and moral psychology: whenever people sacralize some idea, belief, ideology, etc., they tend to become blinded by it.

    Anything that might be construed as attacking it--even in the form of a rational argument, like Sober’s--is met with resistance and oftentimes hostility, mediated not by careful, controlled, rational reflection, but rather by gut, intuitive flashes of raw affect.

    I fear the same thing happens to some secularists and atheists whenever they come across an argument like Sober’s. We like to think of ourselves as so much more rational than the religious believers, but the truth is we all are just as liable to emotively-fueled irrational spasms, and perhaps also because evolution designed us to be that way.

    You just need to know what people hold sacred, and that’s where their minds often stop thinking. I think people--in this case atheists and secularists--need to step back, take a deep breath, stop sacralizing atheism, naturalism, and so on, and try to think with a clear mind about such topics.

    If we think of ourselves as rational individuals, we should always be open to examining all of our beliefs, without feeling threatened. Indeed, as I’ve just mentioned, the science shows that our emotions and gut reactions mostly get the better of us whenever our proverbial sacred cows (e.g., atheism) get interrogated. Feeling “annoyed”, as you did by Sober’s argument, serves to prove the point.

    1. Neitzsche says,

      Unfortunately the topic of free will is not as simple and straightforward as you’re making it out to be. Definitions do matter.

      In most cases, I agree with you. Definitions do matter. In the old debate between free will and determinism everyone understood what was at stake. 'Free will' lost that battle and now everyone who thinks seriously about the problem is a determinist.

      So what happened next? The people who weren't relly comfortable with determinism redefined 'free will' so they could be compatibilists. In other words, they could accept determinism and still believe in free will without being a dualist. Many philosophers love this new definition of free will because it ensures them of lots more books, meetings, and publications. Problem is, nobody really understands what kind of free will they're talking about. If you know, then please enlighten us on the new definition of compatibilist free will.

    2. Neitzske says,

      Regarding Sober: Being “annoyed” is not an argument contra Sober. It seems as if Sober was, principally, making a logical point in his argument. You can no more prove that point--that a deity of some type is and/or has ‘guided’ evolution in some manner--than you can disprove it.

      I guess you didn't read my posts or Jerry Coyne's post. We agree that Sober made a sound argument based on certain premises. We agree that the premises are silly and that's why Sober's case is ridiculous. He could have used exactly the same form or argument to prove that the Flying Spaghetti Monster steals meatballs when nobody is looking.

      This kind of argument about what god(s) can do if you arbitrarily assign them certain properties is at least one thousand years old. You would think that by now philosophers don't need to repeat it in the 21st century. It has never convinced anyone.

      I don't need to prove the nonexistence of god(s). There's no evidence that evolution has a purpose of has been guided. In the absence of such evidence it's up to those making the extraordinary claim (god exits and he/she/it guided evolution) to provide extraordinary evidence. Silly old philosophical arguments don't cut it in this case.

    3. Larry you say that:

      "Perhaps the best that can be said is that many of the participants came to the realization that determinism is true and trying to make a philosophical case for free will in a deterministic world is somewhat pointless."

      You are forgetting Monod Le Hasard et la Nécessité.

      "on the microscopic level there exists a further source of still more radical uncertainty, embedded in the quantum structure of matter. A mutation is in itself a microscopic event, a quantum event, to which the principle of uncertainty consequently applies. An event which is hence and by its very nature essentially unpredictable"

      The universe and evolution are fundamentally stochastic not deterministic. In the quasi-classical domain determinism is an emergent property just as statistical thermodynamics is. This is physics not philosophy. Chance and Neccessity

  6. Confabulating may be an adaptation

    Actually, I rather suspect it's cultural. People are taught from a very young age that they are in fact aware of their own motivations, and after a while they become adept at "divining" the careful conscious deliberations that underlie everything they do.

    It's much like channelers who manage to truly convince themselves that they have an open line to the spirit world.

    Unlike channeling, nothing is considered to be remarkable about this sort of divination, so the realizaton that it's a bunch of baloney comes as a shock to almost everyone.

  7. Laurence,

    Much like compatibilists these days, I also accept determinism in the sense relevant to the issue -- viz., as predominantly, if not entirely, operative at the macro-scale of physics, and particularly at the ontic scale of brain structures and processes on which (we justifiably think) cognition supervenes.

    And, much like contemporary compatibilists, I would charge those thinkers of yesteryear who propounded libertarian views of free will of not really having a coherent concept of what they were talking about.

    Libertarianism about free will is like one of those beliefs that people may possess -- the concept of god being one example (in many cases) -- which seems intuitively plausible and coherent pre-reflectively at a gut level, but which nonetheless is exposed as vacuous or incoherent when brought to light.

    To put that point concisely, you could ask, ‘Alright, so how did (or do) libertarians think free will operates?’ And I think if they are being honest, they haven’t a clue, else have some quantum-indeterministic notion in mind which similarly is revealed to be not-what-libertarians-originally-thought-they-had-in-mind when cashed out.

    (This assumes that such quantum-flavored libertarians do not descend into mystical woo-woo and who are thus revealed as only paying lip service to having their philosophizing tethered to our contemporary understanding of physics and the natural world at large.)

    Wielded by biological agents such as ourselves, free will is an emergent concept intrinsically imbued with ‘intentional’ meaning (intentional, in the technical philosophical sense). More to the point, the notion does not stand or fall on whether determinism is true in the relevant contexts.

    For compatibilists, the relative degree to which one is unconstrained in the exercise of their decisions, preferences, and actions, etc., is the degree to which one possesses volition (free will). If Laurence wishes to have a glass of wine and can pour one out of the wine bottle in his cabinet, then he possesses free will in that case by dint of the fact that he can drink a glass of wine. Hence his preferences and desires in that case are unconstrained in the relevant sense.

    It matters not that almost everything, if not everything, that is causally relevant is deterministic -- including the fact that all of the cognitive structures and processes that subserve our beliefs, desires, etc., supervene on physical, neurobiological substrates which are no less causally deterministic. To be sure, the deterministic aspect of the scale of nature at which the human condition is lived is a very profound fact about it. But as intentional agents our concept of what free will is, or isn’t, is emergent.

    Also, many of the participants at the Stockbridge meeting are compatibilists, and not just some of the philosophers there, scientists too. They have a good understanding of the notion of free will being deployed. Pigliucci’s summary of the meeting highlights all this. It’s a very intellectually respectable position to hold.

    A good outline of a naturalistic, evolutionarily-grounded view of compatibilist free will that is informed by contemporary understanding in cognitive neuroscience can be found in Daniel Dennet’s book ‘Freedom Evolves’, who of course was also one of the participants at the meeting.

    1. "Free will" is gibberish. It's a conflation of two things, liberty and volition, that are conceptually distinct (as has been understood since John Locke).

      This exercise is as productive as trying to pingeonhole some physical phenomenon as correspondng to chi just because past generations mistakenly built a bunch of conceptual machinery predicated on the idea that there was such a thing.

      Can people act of their own "free will"? No. There's no such thing as "free will".

      Can people act freely and of their own will? Yes.

      Why would anybody ask for more than the latter? Does it not satisfy everything that one could ever have reasonably demanded of "free will"? Do you demand a refund on your purchase of gasoline because there's no phlogiston in it?

  8. Laurence,

    Regarding whether Sober would mount an argument “proving” that a Flying Spaghetti Monster steals meatballs:

    It is unknown whether Sober would issue forth such an argument. But more to the point, I’m perplexed as to why you think he was “proving” anything. He isn’t.

    Secondly, your counterexample of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, though perhaps plausible at some intuitive level, is potentially disanalagous when probed further.

    As I understand Sober’s argument, the notion he has of a deity guiding evolution -- specifically via guided mutation -- is a supernatural one. Ergo (and to skip to Sober’s conclusion), it is logically possible that such a deity could intervene in evolution via guided mutation, albeit supernaturally.

    The counterexample of a Flying Spaghetti Monster supposedly proffered by you and/or Coyne, on the other hand, may or may not be intended to be naturalistically construed. Either way, an implicit facet of the hypothesis needs to be articulated explicitly so we can resolve the ambiguity (viz., whether it is to be taken naturalistically or supernaturalistically).

    If it is cast in naturalistic terms, however, one should, at a minimum, explicitly describe some of the characteristics of the postulated Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    There is at least one critical reason why this would therefore be requisite: However characterized, the postulated Flying Spaghetti Monster would therefore be subject to all of the various relevant physical and biological constraints, inter alia, that apply to all other naturalistically understood ontic entities within our universe.

    For instance, is such a Flying Spaghetti Monster actually physiologically possible, given all such constraints we know to be operative scientifically, or is the very conception, once scrutinized, revealed to be a chimera that was only intuitively coherent?

    (E.g.: Can spaghetti-constituted entities propel themselves at a sufficiently high enough velocity without succumbing to disintegration against all of the relevant physics operative in such a case?)

    As should be apparent, upon examination the offered counterexample does not seem to hold up that well if construed naturalistically. And even if construed supernaturalistically, it is still an open question whether it would be analogous to Sober’s argument.

    Sober’s argument actually provides details and arguments to justify his conclusion. He is centrally concerned about conjoining analysis of those details and arguments with those theistic conceptions of god that are predicated on supernatural and interventionist assumptions, and that do not necessarily run afoul of known science.

    Either way, this issue necessarily features philosophical substance. One simply cannot avoid doing philosophy when taking a stand on it, one way or the other.

    Needless to say, calling his overarching argument “silly” is not an actual argument. Philosophical issues require philosophical arguments, and Sober has marshalled a formidable one.

    Here’s a link to Sober’s paper on this matter: