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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Message to Geoff – A Wonderful Human Being

Geoff and I have no grandparents in common. We are not, therefore, cousins. But, we have as many great grandparents in common as we would have if we were cousins. Explain.

What follows is a very slightly modified version of my message to him.

Geoff commented: "Broadly I agree with this although not with your views on science (as a scientist how could I?)"

What are my views on Science (I try to use a capital "S" every time)?

I think that Science is among the greatest achievements of Humanity!

Let's deal with Induction and Deduction - since childhood I have found it impossible to remember which is which. So, I am not going to use these terms, especially since the internet has added to my confusion.

Mathematics is representative of one kind of Science. True (ie irrefutable) axioms lead by logical laws to Truth. Austrians say that Praxeology (their method) is representative of the same kind of Science.

Physics is representative of another kind of Science. Observation leads to speculation. Speculation leads to theorising. Theories require testing by repeated further observation and (where possible) experiment. A theory unrefuted by observation and/or experiment deserves respect - not unconditional acceptance.

There may be competing theories to account for any set of observations. As far as I understand it, theories which explain more deserve more respect than those which explain less. Every theory in the Natural Sciences is at risk of being replaced (in respectability) with a theory which explains more.

Science and its greatest practitioners (Newton is always the best example, although he had loony ideas: numerology and alchemy among them) occupy a place in my thinking alongside St Paul, Shakespeare, Bach and St Thomas Aquinas.

I have no quarrel with Science - never have had.

I have a bitter quarrel with two other schools.

The first is "Scientism", the idea that that the Natural Sciences are sufficient to explain everything. Peter Atkins states this in so many words and gets humiliated by William Lane Craig. Science has nothing to say about Ethics or Aesthetics. Sam Harris, a very decent chap, tries to show that it does - unsuccessfully, in my view.

My other quarrel is with those who take it upon themselves to define Science in such a way to exclude a priori the speculations of others about, for example, Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design is allowed when we are confronted by the Taj Mahal or Mount Rushmore - but not when we are confronted by Information in DNA. Even though whenever we are confronted by Information in any other context, it is always the product of intelligence.

So, I have no reason, from what you have said, to differ from you about Science. Wherein do you think we differ?

Lastly, Geoff, you took issue with my assertion that government funding has corrupted all Science and you gave an important example. I am content to stand corrected. I still think that government funding has a tendency to corrupt.

1 comment:

  1. Chris

    Firstly thanks for your kind comments – not many people think of me as a wonderful human being so I am touched.

    I rather thing you are mixing up the term “intelligence” with the concept of “Intelligent Design”

    The concept of intelligent Design is one of a number a basic religious argument for the existence of God and it is not new. I’m not sure how the term can be applied to the Taj Mahal or Mount Rushmore which are clearly the creations of intelligent men and not God.

    Even though I am your cousin, perhaps shockingly, I do not believe in God and therefore cannot believe in the concept of Intelligent Design.

    For the genealogically minded, Chris’s father and my father were cousins. Chris’s father was also a cousin of my mothers! Thus Chris is my second cousin twice and thus a true cousin.