filosophy food fight

by Neil Rickert

[update 9/04/12: added round n+5]

(Okay, some odd spelling there, to have every word start with ‘f’).

Draw up your chairs.  Bring plenty of popcorn.  This might be fun.

I’m not a great fan of philosophy, as it is practiced.  This blog attests to some of my disagreements.  However, some of the recent attacks of philosophy seem to go way overboard.

The recent rounds seem to have grown out of a talk by Eliot Sober, defending theistic evolution, and criticisms of that talk on several blogs.  I am still puzzled by that episode.  Those criticizing Sober did admit that, in a strictly technical sense, Sober was correct.  That is to say, science cannot disprove evidence free assertions about undetectable theistic interference.  So why did they criticize Sober?  I don’t understand that.  Perhaps they think he should not have given a talk on that topic, but what’s so bad about freedom of speech?  What Sober talked on was the kind of thing that philosophers do.  And it is surely also the kind of imaginative speculation that scientists do from time to time, though scientists usually don’t go public with it.

I understand that biologists are feeling beleaguered by the constant stream of attacks coming from creationists.  However, the talk Sober gave is of no help to the creationists.  When they tire of attacking evolution, the creationists take a break by attacking the kind of view that Sober was discussing.  I’m inclined to think that biologists hurt their own cause when they object to the kind of analysis that Sober was giving.

Well, that’s how I see it.

Sit back and enjoy the entertainment.

feel the fur fly

(okay, I changed the metaphor, but kept the leading ‘f’).

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3 Comments to “filosophy food fight”

  1. That should be “filosofi” … Danish/German spelling, if I remember correctly.

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  2. >Those criticizing Sober did admit that, in a strictly technical sense, Sober was correct.
    >That is to say, science cannot disprove evidence free assertions about undetectable
    >theistic interference. So why did they criticize Sober? I don’t understand that.

    Because it gave cover to supernaturalists by telling them science can’t disprove their claims about the real world when it can?

    The whole idea of the talk is verbal claptrap and exposes the emptiness of philosophy and this philosopher. If a god behaves in exactly the same way as unguided evolution then the set of properties of god is equal to the set of properties of no god and it doesn’t matter if that god exists or not. If something exists in or affects our reality it can be tested and thus is subject to the scientific method. If it neither exists in nor affects our reality then it is irrelevant whether it exists or not. If a god exists but orders the universe in such a way that it behaves exactly as it would if the god did not exist than the god is irrelevant as well. Occam’s razor also comes into play.

    The claim can’t be falsified and thus tells us nothing about the real world.

    >Perhaps they think he should not have given a talk on that topic, but what’s so bad about
    >freedom of speech?

    Ask yourself “What’s so bad about reinforcing people’s erroneous beliefs” and the question answers itself, doesn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with free speech – there is something wrong with using it for bad ends. If someone gets up and gives a lecture claiming Obama is a foreign-born illegal President and Muslim sleeper agent and I object, do I hate “free speech” or am I outraged at the racism and Islamophobia compounded with the way it may sway the ignorant and gullible?

    >What Sober talked on was the kind of thing that philosophers do.

    Doubletalk in nonsense to give the appearance that they actually do anything? A philosopher has nothing of value to say about evolution and can’t learn anything about evolution from verbal gobbledygook. Sober used verbal gobbledygook to tell theists that theism (which also has nothing to contribute to the study of evolution) can apply to evolution after all. It’s like being made the Duke of Narnia by someone who professes to be the Queen of Candyland. Worse, someone’s actually paying the Queen.

    >And it is surely also the kind of imaginative speculation that scientists do from time to
    >time, though scientists usually don’t go public with it.

    A scientist would test an hypothesis they formed and then publish the result. Sober simply made stuff up and then went out and said it as if it was true. There’s a tremendous difference. He attempted to wrest a question purely within the purview of science and tell theists that nothing they claim about it can ever really be ruled out, permitting them to continue to make truth claims about the origin and evolution of life through theistic means.

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