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Posted by Harvey on May 1, 2002 02:50:13 UTC


***H: You have reached a fair amount of success in establishing meaning even within a secular humanist framework. However, it's not catching on in the world. And, where it does catch on, there is worrisome signs (e.g., PRC, Soviet Union, etc). M: But again you're arguing only on the basis of faith's usefulness, not its probability of validity. As I said, sure, faith has positive side effects, but using that to say "It works, go with it" is self-contradictory in my eyes.***

There's two issues here. There are statements that we have justification in making. Let's call those 'use statements'. Then there are statements that are true of reality. Let's call those 'truth statements'. Use statements aren't necessarily true, they could be false, but they are warrantably assertable about reality nevertheless. As for truth statements, we may not have justification (i.e., use statements), but they are true about reality nevertheless.

When you say its probability validity, you cannot be referring to truth statements since no one knows if probability correlates with something being true. For example, the probability that a coin turns up heads or tails is 50%, but not if we are talking about a past flip. In that case the flip is either heads or tails, but not both and not 50%. So, you must be talking about use statements. That is, I understand your reply by saying that pragmatic justification is not a use statement (i.e., we are not justified in using such kind of statements to hold a particular position about reality).

The problem with that view is that all use statements reduce to pragmatic justification. So, it cannot be that use statements cannot be pragmatic justifications, otherwise you could never utilize a use statement in the first place. If you think a use statement doesn't reduce to pragmatic factors, then please cite an example.

***You say I have certain core beliefs that I use to hypocritically criticize others' core beliefs, but I wasn't sure exactly what you were referring to. A belief is not a belief if it's stated as an uncertain idea coupled with observational evidence to support it. Then it's a theory.***

A theory in a scientific sense is a hypothesis that is mostly validated based on evidence. A theory in a philosophical sense is a hypothesis that has gained a great deal of attention in the philosophical community. In any case, I don't see how core beliefs can be tentative since whatever you use to disqualify or qualify your belief (so that it is no longer tentative - or for that matter is something that marks beliefs as tentative) is itself a belief that must judge itself as tentative (thereby having a self-reference problem). So, I don't think you can make your core beliefs tentative by nature. They are simply those things which we accept without giving much thought. It is our conceptual framework that you cannot escape (otherwise whatever you escape to would be a conceptual framework).

***I try not to make any absolute statements at all:***

As Julia Roberts' character said in Pretty Woman "you just did".

***never once have I said that God doesn't exist.***

Your words have already betrayed you.

***All I say is don't jump the gun. Name me one instance in which faith has made a discovery or expanded our "knowledge."***

I won't bore you with details, but Einstein's faith in the equivalence principle is a start.

***You say that science is based off of the same pragmatic guesswork that theism is. I disagree. If I were to say "String theory is absolutely correct, hands down." then you would be correct. But I don't do anything like that, and I have never seen a scientist who has.***

Think a little more on this Mario. Every question that science answers, I would like you to answer "how do you know?". If you go back far enough, you will realize that you do not know. You only think you know because it works to obtain some sort of benefit. This is how core beliefs are validated. We get our beliefs validated whenever we are rewarded by nature being predictable (i.e., our actions or thoughts are more useable as a result of being 'right').

***They accept and admit that their theories are just theories, methods to explain the data recieved but not an ultimate answer. Faith does the opposite. It is portrayed both as an ultimate answer and doesn't neccesarily fit the data collected thus far.***

What is an explanation? An explanation is nothing but a heuristic that extends our abilities further than what it was before the explanation entered our mindset. Theories are just tools by which to answer questions that further our abilities. That alone doesn't make theories equivalent to truth statements. Rather, they are use statements that are based on the success of the tool. The less useable the tool in certain situations, the less we value the tool. For example, the Newton laws set of tools is almost unusable in quantum physics, so those tools are hardly given much attention in studying quanta. Are Newton's laws true in quantum mechanics? No. Are they even justified (use statements) in quantum mechanics? No. They are almost non-factors in QM (but not entirely). This illustrates how pragmatic factors decide use statements.

***I don't understand where you draw the paralell between science and theology. As long as the scientist adds in the phrase "but this is just a description" he will always be above the theist who says "this is truth."***

A scientist is talking about use statements that are justified as a pragmatic (instrumental) practice. A theologian is talking about truth statements which is an entirely different issue. Science can't discuss truth statements since nothing can tell us if something is true or not, we can only infer whether we agree with a truth statement based on the pragmatic success of certain use statements. The use statements, however, are ultimately based on some truth statements since we must accept some things as true in order for those statements to be useable. For example, we can't use terms like objects unless we believe that there are objects. However, there is no proof that objects exist (in fact, there's reason in QM and other parts of science to believe that they do not exist).

***Shouldn't any theory be firmly grounded in observational data? Anything else is conjecture, which is fun and diverting, but it's not a solid foundation to build a belief structure on.***

And what evidence is that opinion based on? And that opinion? Ad infinitum.

***Nothing is.***

Sounds very absolute of you.

Warm regards, Harv

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