Friday, November 30, 2007

Stir the stew

On October 30th I posted some thoughts on Gordon Clark's criticism of scientific induction and its connection, in my mind, to James F. Ross's argument for the immateriality of the intellect from the incommeasurability between formal operations and physical instances of them. Clark's criticism of scientific induction is that it commits the fallacy of "affirming the consequent", or, "If p, then q; q; ∴ p." As Clark says,

A simple argument of verification proceeds as follows: The given hypothesis implies certain definite results; the experiment actually gives those results; therefore, the hypothesis is verified and can be called a law. Obviously, this argument is the fallacy of asserting the consequent; and since all verification must commit this fallacy, it follows that no law or hypothesis can ever be logically demonstrated.

Well, one reader took great exception to Clark's comments and replied at some length, a rarity from him which I appreciated. So I replied:

Hey Michael,

Thanks for stepping up this time and making some sustained comments. I will say you are off-base on a number of points, but I haven't the time now to go into details. If you think no one has used Newtonian mechanics to refute theism, you'[v]e thereby turned a blind eye to your own Enlightenment-legacy. Do the names Laplace, de la Mettrie, d'Holbach, et al., mean anything to you?

In any case, do you think I actually agree with everything I post at FCA? Clark is an operationist [about the philosophy of science], which I am not (bei[n]g a realist), so I disagree with his radical severance between science (as a laboratory method) and truth, though I give him his fundamental point: unless you can say methodical science gives you truth, rather than just contingent "results", you can't use its findings as proof (ie., truth) against religious claims. Even Nietzsche said, Just because something works doesn't mean it's true [or, just because it makes you happy and successful, doesn't mean it is true]. Of course, I believe you have a very dim view of something called "truth", so it probably doesn't matter to you whether man can grasp it or not.

The bottom line, which you consistently enjoy hovering over, is that induction does commit a basic logical fallacy, so your typically snide dismissal of Clark's statement about verification is just that: a mere snide dismissal. It does [no] good, logically, to say hypotheses are descriptive predictors of experimental subjects based on standing models, since the models themselves are only drawn on the basis of a string of induction. A model is but a coherent set of "affirming the consequent" statements. It doesn't matter how many times you say, "if p, then q; q; thus, p," since each instance is itself a fallacy.

I would like to have a look at Giere's books, thanks. I can pick up mail at the Shuinan Catholic Church, 17 Chong Ching Road, Beitun (406). 水楠教堂在北屯區17中清路. The nán should actually be "a yuènán de nán" with a water-radical at left, but it's an obscure third tone character I can't find on my Mac.

I only drag this back up a month later because I have not heard anything back from Michael and perhaps he missed my reply in the combox.

No comments: