Posts tagged ‘science’

October 12, 2012

On science and scientism

by Neil Rickert

Coel Hellier has a new post on his blog, on the subject of scientism:

The tagline of coelsblog is “Defending Scientism” so it is no surprise that Coel is a proponent of scientism.  However, his post also brings out some points on the nature of science, and that’s what I want to discuss here.

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September 16, 2012

Ways of knowing

by Neil Rickert

There have been several posts about scientism over the past few weeks, particularly at

I won’t single out specific posts at those sites, as I will only be making general comments.  Most of the people reading this have probably also read those other blogs and have already seen some of the relevant posts.

The claim made by proponents of scientism is, to perhaps overstate it a little, that the methods of science are the only way to knowledge.  I’ll count the first two of the sites I listed as favoring scientism, and the last two as opposing it.  And I’ll count myself as an opponent.

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August 30, 2012

Answering V.J. Torley’s questions

by Neil Rickert

Over at the Uncommon Descent blog, poster vjtorley has posed “Ten Questions for Professor Coyne.”  I am not a spokesman for Jerry Coyne, and I disagree with some of what he writes.  But I thought I would try giving my own answers to those questions.  I’m pretty sure that Jerry Coyne would disagree with me on some of the answers.

Question 1 – Is science the only road to knowledge?

I’ll note that there is some ambiguity on what is meant by “knowledge.”  For myself, I would never claim that science is the only way to all knowledge, though it is an excellent way to knowledge about the natural world.  In any case, vjtorley breaks this question into several parts.

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August 24, 2012

Science and philosophy

by Neil Rickert

In a blog post last month, John Wilkins expressed concern about what some scientists say about philosophy:

What gets my gander is that Perakh, or more recently Lawrence Krauss, Hawking and Molodinow, and a steady stream of physicists, seem to think that while their own discipline is noble, authoritative and has extensive conceptual ramifications (that we should really call philosophical), my discipline is just “entertainment value”. In a rejoinder to me and others just posted, Perakh tries hard to back down from this, but it’s pretty clear that he, and his entire field, has a set against philosophy. Why is this?

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May 15, 2012

Science and the supernatural

by Neil Rickert

Victor Stenger has written about science and the supernatural in a Huffington Post blog, and Jerry Coyne has further commented at his site.  Toward the end of his piece, Stenger says:

So, scientists and science organizations are being disingenuous when they say science can say nothing about the supernatural.

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May 5, 2012

A semantic conception of mind

by Neil Rickert

In an earlier post, I remarked that philosophy, including philosophy of mind, appears to be a syntactic enterprise, whereas I tend to think of the mind as primarily semantic. In this post, I want to suggest a way of thinking about the mind that better fits with the idea that it is primarily semantic.

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April 7, 2012

Science and scientific theories

by Neil Rickert

This is partly a comment on “The Knight’s Song, or What is a [scientific] theory?” and partly a post on my own view of science and how it differs from what philosophers of science say.

If we follow the Shannon-Weaver theory of communication, then

  • we start with semantic information (the natural world, as studied by science);
  • we encode that in a symbolic form (syntactic information, Shannon information, linguistic representation);
  • that syntactic information can then be transmitted or recorded;
  • a final receiver of the syntactic information can decode it to recover the semantic information.

With science, the method we use for symbolically encoding nature is what we call “measurement”.  This process of encoding produces the data on which science very much depends.  I also discussed this way of looking at measurement in an earlier post.

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