42: Science, Religion, Philosophy, and Everything

I have wanted to do a series of posts discussing various topics I find interesting. I love trying to find the cross section between science, religion, and philosophy. Sometimes I have to look really hard to find such a cross section. At any given moment, any two of these areas of knowledge are likely going in such opposite directions that there is no hope of them ever meeting without a major paradigm shift. But I find it fun to try all the same.

I once did a series of posts for Wheat and Tares (M* got pointers to the posts) on epistemology. Epistemology is a fancy word for “theory of knowledge” or, in other words, it’s a word for a theory on how we gain knowledge.

Karl Popper’s theory of epistemology is in the forefront of all other theories of knowledge because his theory is superior to all contenders. However, Popper’s own presentation had some flaws that I felt Thomas Kuhn filled in nicely. (Though Kuhn’s conclusions that there is no such thing as scientific realism seem patently false to me.) My posts made an attempt to integrate some of Kuhn’s better ideas into Popper’s overall framework. In addition, I threw in some of David Deutsch’s improvements on Popper plus some ideas from John Polkinghorne. For those interested, see my summary of this epistemology here. Continue reading

Positivism vs. Scientific Realism: An Example

For those following my series over at Wheat and Tares, don’t miss out on my latest post: Positivism vs. Scientific Realism: An Example. Here is a teaser:

However, Deutsch is right about one thing. Positivism ultimately fails to grasp the value of believing your explanations. It is only through believing your explanations that you can comprehend them. And only by comprehending them can you refine them into something even more useful.

Computability and Comprehension – Is Science About Prediction?

Check out the next post in my “Reason as a Guide to Reality” series over at Wheat and Tares. Here is a preview:

To prove his point of view, Deutsch suggests a thought experiment. Pretend that aliens give us poor humans a magic box, an ‘oracle’ so to speak, that can “predict the outcome of any possible experiment, but provides no explanations.” (The Fabric of Reality, p. 4)  In theory this should be a Positivist’s dream. Since we only care about the predictive power of science, we now no longer need science because we can literally predict anything.

Sam Harris on Science and Morality

Warning: The attached link to Sam Harris’ video includes some fairly small ‘magazine images’ to demonstrate Western views on the female body. He does not condone western views as morally correct, and in fact I think his point of view is in alignment with our values. But I was not comfortable including the video directly on a Mormon website where people might click on it and watch it without realizing what they were about to see.  

Sam Harris’ speech on science and morality made the rounds amongst Internet circles a while back. A non-LDS friend brought it to my attention and was curious what I thought of it. He later told me that he found it enlightening, but felt there was something wrong with it, though he couldn’t put his finger on it.

The idea that “science” (and by that we really mean scientific epistemology of conjecture and refutation) has the ability to explain and answer questions of morality is very appealing to me because it fits properly into my view of an explainable reality, including an explainable God.

I believe that this first part of Sam Harris’ presentation is spot on. I agree with him that “Values are facts about well being of conscious creatures.” Continue reading

Doubting Darwinism – 150 Years of The Origin of the Species

[Cross posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

Romanes's 1892 copy of Ernst Haeckel's embryo drawings

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of “The Origin of the Species” by Charles Darwin. If you’ve followed my blog for a significant time you know that I have doubts about the compatibility of Darwinism and the belief in God as the Creator.

I remember as a high-school biology student, in addition to various other evolutionary facts, our teacher showed us the famous Heackel drawings of the developmental stages of embryos. He made us all memorize the phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” And he insisted that it was a scientific “fact” that proved that Darwin’s theory was undeniably true. It was all very convincing and I believed him. As a faithful member of the LDS church I reasoned that “evolution” was simply the device which God employed to bring to pass the creation. This was in 1989 and little did I know that the “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” hypothesis had, even then, been long discredited.

Continue reading