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October 15th, 2009

A Portentious Concatenation

The Imperial March

JJ Brannon sends an email with a Q&A with Dawkins on philosophers:

Q: I've heard it said that you're just trying to put your case across, and trying to be charming with people you don't necessarily agree with. I suppose it's difficult, especially when you're trying to keep the science on one track and keep the philosophy on a different track. Or do you see those tracks as very much related?

[Dawkins]: I think they're pretty much related. Questions about the existence of the supernatural are actually scientific questions. I don't think philosophers have any particular expertise to bring to bear. Certainly theologians haven't any expertise to bring to bear on anything. These are largely questions that scientists should be able to deal with. --
Richard Dawkins,

Well, one would expect that he doesn't put much stock in philosophers because he doesn't seem to have much of a rigorous grasp of philosophy.  :> )

* * * 

It's true that Dawkins has come into criticism from philosophers for his sloppy logic and writing.  Midgley and Stove come to mind -- and those two certainly cannot be accused of carrying "theistic" water.
  It's primarily a question of not really questioning one's ground assumptions.  This is not necessarily a handicap.  Many a person happily drives an automobile, perhaps even makes a good living driving an automobile, without the least understanding of auto mechanics, let alone of thermodynamics or petroleum geology. 

The portentious concatenation is a parallel post by another well-known non-philosopher, P.Z.Meyers.  (Note that he is another two-initials man.)  Myers posts on a review of Dawkins's most recent book by one Nicholas Wade, quoting Wade as saying:
He [Dawkins] seems to have little appreciation for the cognitive structure of science. Philosophers of science, who are the arbiters of such issues, say science consists largely of facts, laws and theories. The facts are the facts, the laws summarize the regularities in the facts, and the theories explain the laws. Evolution can fall into only of of these categories, and it's a theory.
to the which, Meyers comments:
Whoa. Scientists everywhere are doing a spit-take at those words. Philosophers, sweet as they may be, are most definitely not the "arbiters" of the cognitive structure of science. They are more like interested spectators, running alongside the locomotive of science, playing catch-up in order to figure out what it is doing, and occasionally shouting words of advice to the engineer, who might sometimes nod in interested agreement but is more likely to shrug and ignore the wacky academics with all the longwinded discourses. Personally, I think the philosophy of science is interesting stuff, and can surprise me with insights, but science is a much more pragmatic operation that doesn't do a lot of self-reflection.
I'll give him the "arbiter" complaint.  Scientists don't like to think they are arbitten by anyone.  But not only is Meyers not a philosopher, he is also not a writer.  Otherwise, he would not have used such that locomotive-of-science metaphor.  If the locomotive is science, we should remember that locomotives run down tracks laid by someone else and can only go to those places to which the tracks already run.  A nice metaphor for Kuhn's "paradigm science," to be sure -- or perhaps for the effect of government funding on the direction of science -- but did Meyers really intend to suggest science was like that?  Or was it one of those Freudian slip thingies? 

In any case, readers of Midgley's The Myths We Live By will recognize the mythos of Omnicompetent Imperial Scientism busily colonizing all aspects of life.  Patronization drips from every word. 
But Let's Consider This Further, perhaps outrageously so...Collapse )

Name the savants: l. to r.: Poincare, Mach, Duhem.  Is it my imagination, or do they sorta look alike?  Are you positive?

(*) our brains impose patterns on the world. 
Dennett, Dawkins, et al use this to argue that God is a delusion.  It works just as well as an argument that evolution is a delusion.  Just a pattern imposed by the brain.  That's the problem with nihilism.  Those dudes may be the greatest underminers of Darwin around today!

(**) adumbration.  I've always wanted to use adumbration in a sentence.  Now I can cross that off my to-do list!


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