107

I think part of the problem is: Science doesn't prove anything. Science, at its core, is simply a method of generating testable hypothesis that explain events, which are valued because of their use in predicting future results. Let me give an example. Based on observations, science came up with a theory for an orbital period, correlating orbital speed and ...


86

The slogan different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions. is misleading in the context of the "debate" between evolution and creationism. Scientists aim to explain how the world works. If two scientists disagree about some issue, then at least one of them is wrong. That is, at least one of them has ...


68

The issue here, as it often is, is that colloquial English is horribly ambiguous, which makes any sort of precise and rigorous discussion difficult. But with sufficient effort, it is possible to make claims precisely, and once you do that, the problem disappears. Alice states that the sky is blue. Bob states that we live in a simulation. Let's assume for ...


64

I think the distinction is that people often conflate "negative obervations" with "absence of evidence". To take the Santa example - if you simply declared "I have no evidence that Santa exists, therefore he does not exist", then you would be arguing from an absence of evidence. However, if you said "Santa is said to travel in a flying sleigh, and no radar ...


57

Technically speaking a fallacy is an invalid argument. In practice, what we would expect to see is two people starting from shared premises, and reaching contradictory conclusions, because (at least one) has made a logical error, or fallacy. But in this case, there are no shared premises. This is actually Mr. Black's biggest strategic error. It happens ...


47

First, I would say that many supporters of science are too proselytizing, too reluctant to admit the ambiguities and necessary limits of science. This merely harms their own case by opening them up the same skeptical attacks so easily employed against religion. Second, I would observe that science and religion are by no means mutually exclusive. It is only ...


42

The big picture of current evolutionary theory draws from many different fields, like biology, paleontology, geology, physics (radiometric dating) and chemistry. There is a strong consensus between scientists that the results of their respective fields support the big picture, e.g. evolutionary synthesis is a consensus among biologists. So, while different ...


29

Elliot Sober offers a useful argument on this : "Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" is a slogan that is popular among scientists and nonscientists alike. ... There has been some philosophical work on the motto that doesn't use a probability framework and it provides a good way of isolating the problem I want to address. Here are ...


24

I think the honest answer is best viewed through the teachings of Karl Popper, notably the Falsifiability Criterion, according to which anything scientific has to supply a self refuting empirical criteria. That is, in the absence of an empirical way to test the hypothesis -- upon failure of which the theory is refuted -- the theory in question is hereby not ...


22

Turn the is vs. ought problem on it head. Science, when it is being most scientific, only provides instrumental oughts; religion, when it is being most religious, provides only moral oughts. Science can tell you that if you want to avoid X degrees of global warming you should (instrumentally) reduce carbon emissions by Y amount; but not whether the harm ...


21

Your sceptic must understand what the symbols 1+1 means otherwise he is not justified in claiming that 1+1 is two. For example there are number systems in which there isn't a 1, or certain operations are undefined, or 1+1=0. But one could also imagine that the symbol '1' means a drop of water, and '+' means physical addition, so that 1+1 means add one drop ...


21

Do you only think in words? Personally, I find I often think in images too. And sometimes my thoughts take a shortcut and skip all words and images and just take me straight to the answer? Michael Phelps is famous for thinking in terms of "the perfect race," a thought stream without words describing exactly how he would race from start to finish. There ...


21

One has to keep apart different layers: a) abiogenesis (the emergence of life) vs. evolution (the development of existing life over generations) and b) the incompatibility of biblical accounts of the origin of species with evolution vs. the incompatibility of the belief in God being the creator of life with evolution. I will first answer the title question ...


20

We cannot really prove that there is reality What would it mean to prove reality? Simone Weil, philosopher and younger sister to the famous mathematician Andre Weil (who solved the local Riemann hypothesis) wrote in her Lectures on Philosophy - which are in fact notes compiled by one of her students: One can never really give a proof of the reality of ...


20

No fallacy, two people have stated their opinions The whole issue resolves itself quickly with one small clarification (my addition in boldface) Mr. Black then confronts Mr. Pink one day at lunch, claiming that it is his opinion that all new age magic power b.s. is in-fact, nonsense Mr. Pink then asks in return: "Why does it matter? Why are you so [...


19

Welcome to the demarcation problem of science. What is this thing called science? In lower levels of education, one is often given the impression that 'science', whatever that may be, exists as a monolithic entity. There is no sufficiency and necessity definition of what science is. It's better to say 'sciences' or 'scientific' when speculating as to this ...


18

Two interesting arguments from recent decades relevant to this are Wittgenstein's Private Language Argument and the doctrine of Semantic Externalism. Wittgenstein argues in Philosophical Investigations that it is impossible for there to be a language which only referrs to private, inner sensations. Very roughly, the idea is that there is nothing which ...


18

An important thing to keep in mind when reading Nietzsche is that most of the time he is trying to reveal things through insights. The point of this particular quotation is to reveal the assumption at the base of many philosophies (in this case, most specifically positivism): that objective facts exist. Positivism holds, roughly, that the phenomena we ...


18

“different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.” This is true so far as it goes, but it stops before the critical step that distinguishes natural science from creationism: scientists then check their conclusions against reality, and reject or change their assumptions if reality and conclusion don't match. ...


18

The Stack Exchange methodology is based on the original Stack Overflow, which is for CS and programming questions. For those types of questions, the answers are objective in the fact that they either solve the OP's problem or they don't. People are free to upvote for the wrong ones, and it does happen occasionally, but overall, there are enough people who ...


16

1) Regarding the question Are we free to choose our beliefs? Since you posted in a philosophy forum, I take it that you are not interested (only) in the empirical question pertaining to psychology. The technical term in philosophy is doxastic voluntarism (DV), i.e. the thesis that beliefs are subject to the will and, as such, that we are able to choose ...


16

Attempts to show that God exists by looking at nature such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument can only assert "generic theism", as you rightly point out. If the argument holds, then how does anybody know anything about this god/God? The answer is revelation or prophecy. When theologians talk about revelation, they are talking about ways that God ...


15

The dichotomy you state between agnosticism and atheism is false. This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood terms of the 21st century. You can be an agnostic atheist and an agnostic theist. In general, the split between agnostic vs. gnostic theists is more in the middle (closer to 50/50), whereas most atheists are agnostic atheists (there's just no way ...


12

It's not clear how much you've read, but consider that you reading a small handful of papers doesn't exactly give you a good perspective on the field. I studied both perception in philosophy as well as perception in psychology, and in my readings (philosophy was after the psych course), I do not recall the philosopher's theories conflicting with the science ...


12

What you're touching on, of course, is a couple of basic facts about epistemology — and how they impact the activity of proseletysation: the attempt to get someone to believe in an idea (whether religious or secular) which they not only did not know, but did not even concern themselves with, before. The short version is that because original discovery ...


12

A theory is a model that has predictive power. When scientists talk about evolutionary theory they make statements to the effect of "If this is true we'd expect to see such and such". They then go and see if they can find "such and such". If they cannot then the model is revised. The model is always as consistent as possible with the entire body of ...


12

Metaphysics today, as a special sub discipline of philosophy considers a really large number of important topics. For instance, all of the following are live metaphysical questions: The Mind/Body Problem: How is it possible that we have subjective experiences (like the feeling of seeing the colour red, or understanding a poem) given that the other things we ...


12

Your (1) and (2) are not enough. Here is an example: suppose I have excellent reasons to believe that the earth is round (I've seen photos, listened to lectures, etc.), and that it is in fact true that the earth is round, but nevertheless I do not believe it (because I'm irrational). Clearly this is not a case of knowledge. There is a recent view, however, ...


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