November 23, 2015

Is the concept of god outside of science?

David Ottlinger, a former philosophy prof on a personal sabbatical, says yes

I say no. And, I offer a no that isn’t a scientism-based no.

First, I have to respectively disagree with Ottlinger on how we define the "sciences." I count the social sciences as sciences. If anything, it seems to be quasi-scientism to claim they’re not.

And, I'll also have to respectively disagree with the details of why we disagree. Psychology is becoming more scientific, through folks such as Kahnemann, Ariely, et al, on a regular basis, as far as gathering empirical data, analyzing it, and constructing theories. And, of course, evolutionary psychology — done correctly! — is just the fusion of this with evolutionary biology. Evolutionary anthropology is a similar fusion with cultural anthropology.

There are differences, of course.

For example, to go to history, now that I've touched on psychology and anthropology, and indirectly on sociology.

Historic events are multi-causal, of course. There was no "one" cause (and even no "three" causes) of, say, the American Revolution. And, historians will disagree which of those causes to weight more. But, history can and does conclusively rule out that, say, Manchu China had any causal contribution to the American Revolution.

Therefore, this:
Arguments modeled on science tend to fail because they do not appreciate the subtleties of the concepts and the ambiguities of implication.
Is precisely how the social sciences, at their best, are both social and scientific, because they appreciate the subtleties of concepts involved, but still bring a scientific eye to bear as much as possible.

To be specific, evolutionary psychology ideas of things like pattern detectors and agency imputers being part of the basis of religious evolution, even if ev psych can never meet provability hurdles of modern psychology, do seem reasonable and fit with what we know about human mental development.

While said social sciences can't provide "the answers" on this issue, they certainly can — and, in my opinion, should — "inform" philosophy.

Hence, my "philosophism" tag, for attempting to unduly exclude the sciences from this issue.

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