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Author Topic: The Slow Death of Knowledge and The Coming Dark Age.  (Read 1471 times) Average Rating: 0
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ozgeorge
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« on: January 28, 2007, 09:41:34 PM »

Last night on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), I watched a documentary about the debate surrounding "Intelligent Design".
Before I go on, I just want to say that I'm not an advocate of Intelligent Design.
On the one side of the debate were people like the biochemist, Michael Behe, who posited the theory of "Irreducable Complexity" using the example of the flagellum of E. Coli and the blood clotting cascade, as well as the mathematician, William Dembski, who posited the theory of "Specified Complexity".
On the other side of the debate were people like atheist, Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion".
What concerned me was the nature of the "debate".
Behe and Dembski were explaining and putting forth what they claimed were scientific theories, while Dawkins was simply dismissing them without even examining them, and at one point, stated that even examining these theories was "a waste of time". What struck me was that it was Dawkins who was taking an obviously philosophical stance by refusing to even examine the theories. Not once did he address the science behind Irreducible Complexity or Specified Complexity, but instead, kept stating that they were "unscientific" and "anti-science" and that only an ignorant person would believe them, and that their acceptance would mark the end of Science as we know it...and so on....in other words, he was simply taking the same fanatical approach that "Creationists" initially took towards Darwinism without actually examining it, simply because it threatened their position.
Dawkins foretold a coming "Dark Age" if the theories of "Irreducable Complexity" and "Specified Complexity" were even examined; but I was left wondering who it was that was actually leading us in to a Dark Age when scientific theories aren't even examined simply because of a particular dominant philosophy in our culture.
I think that any death to dialogue, whether caused by the philosophies of "religion" or "science" will lead to a Dark Age. What do you think?
« Last Edit: January 28, 2007, 09:56:57 PM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2007, 10:26:22 PM »

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I think that any death to dialogue, whether caused by the philosophies of "religion" or "science" will lead to a Dark Age. What do you think?

I do you that you are largely correct.  Now I do not really believe a dark age is coming, but when we refuse to examine something out of arrogance, we  are simply rejecting the search for knowledge.  Even, if you study something useless, the knowledge can be quite beneficial.  Alchemy is a useless pseudo-science.  And one could easily make the claim to study it is a waste of time.  Nevertheless, to study it from a humanist perspective provides a load of information about the period and scientist of the period.  Nonetheless, with this idea in the forefront, science has gone off in different perspectives whether it is changing molecules or in 1980 actually changing lead into gold.  Although I detest his philosophy, Thomas Aquinas, whom I would claim as the cornerstone of the scientific revolution, began all his theories by examining false ones.  To dismiss theories right off hand, especially, in a science is simply bad science.  Also, to further add, ID does bring up some legitimate questions.  I fail to understand how a good science can research while refusing to even look at questions present in the current theory.  I had some other thoughts, but they slipped me.  I'm sure they're return later.
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2007, 11:37:49 PM »

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What struck me was that it was Dawkins who was taking an obviously philosophical stance by refusing to even examine the theories

Perhaps because ideas like irreducible complexity have already been completely and repeatedly disproven in scientific literature, some of which can be found with a Google search? Or perhaps Dawkins figured no one would take ID seriously after the debacle in Dover; for one embarrassing example, Behe was forced to admit under oath that, according to his position, if intelligent design was ok in science class rooms then so is astrology. Do you want YOUR kids being taught that astrology is a viable "science"? I think Dawkins is a bit too narrow in his approach, and really has no understanding of the religious mindset (actually I would argue that he is largely incapable of understanding it). But from his perspective, all of this stuff has already been dealt with, and irreducible complexity is just the latest, albeit more sophisticated, repackaging of the old design theory.

Like any good scientist (or so the philosophers of science say--I expect they'd know), if he believes that something is solidly established by science, then he will hold to that until it is disproven. He will even hold to it even when the weight of the evidence is against him. But Dawkins is not the personal God of science. If Dawkins or the beliefs he holds to are wrong, then they will be shown to be wrong. We are no more on the edge of a dark age today than we were in past centuries when the majority of scientists, clinging to incorrect theories, laughed at those who actually held to more correct theories. Truth will win out in the end, the people are largely irrelevant. A thousand years from now people might know the name Dawkins, or Newton, or Augustine, or Plato, but few people would actually care about them as people. All that will matter is what they can teach us.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2007, 11:41:11 PM by Asteriktos » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2007, 11:51:03 PM »

Perhaps because ideas like irreducible complexity have already been completely and repeatedly disproven in scientific literature, some of which can be found with a Google search?

I'm sure that's part of, the ID theories have already been utterly destroyed, as the arguments are nothing more than pointless fallacies, they take questions that we have not yet been able to answer and conclude that because we have not yet been able to give a sound answer, God must have done it.

Which leads to a fundamental problem in their approach...scientific ideas MUST, by definition, be based on observable phenomena, if you claim is that a metaphysical entity was involved, then you're doing theology, not science. If these people are going to claim to be scientists they must adhere to the accepted standards of scientific proof and, by definition of science, cannot make metaphysical claims.
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2007, 05:22:29 AM »

I'm sure that's part of, the ID theories have already been utterly destroyed, as the arguments are nothing more than pointless fallacies, they take questions that we have not yet been able to answer and conclude that because we have not yet been able to give a sound answer, God must have done it.
I can't seem to find any literature disputing the irreducible complexity of the disulfide bond in proteins. In fact, I can't seem to find any scientific papers which discredit the theory of irreducible complexity. All they seem to say is that "You don't need a God to do it"- which is fine, but who was asking whether a God did it? All that is being asked, really, is whether things exist in the natural world which are irreducibly complex. If one holds that nothing exists which is irreducibly complex, then one has to prove it, not simply say that "it evolved as a whole and not in stages." That's just a cop out. One might as well say "God did it"- either way one is being unscientific.

I'm sure that's part of, the ID theories have already been utterly destroyed, as the arguments are nothing more than pointless fallacies,
Are you sure of this? Can you repeat even one of the scientific proofs that nothing irreducibly complex exists? Or are you merely repeating the position of someone else, and entrusting your own opinion to them in the hope that they've done a scientific examination of the facts with repeatable experiments to prove their hypothesis?

they take questions that we have not yet been able to answer and conclude that because we have not yet been able to give a sound answer, God must have done it.
The science behind the theories of irreducible complexity and specified complexity is what matters, not the philosophy of those who posit them. Just like the science behind the theory of evolution is what matters, not the philosophy of those who argue that this is the only theory which must be taught. This is my whole point. The nature of the discussion is turning "philosophical" and very unscientific. Both sides are losing their objectivity. They may not be mutually exclusive, but how will we know if we don't examine them objectively?

Which leads to a fundamental problem in their approach...scientific ideas MUST, by definition, be based on observable phenomena,
And irreducible complexity is an observable phenomenon.

if you claim is that a metaphysical entity was involved, then you're doing theology, not science.
That's a big "if". The question of the cause of irreducible complexity is completely seperate. The fundamental question we must answer first is: "Do things exist which are irreducibly complex?"

If these people are going to claim to be scientists they must adhere to the accepted standards of scientific proof and, by definition of science, cannot make metaphysical claims.
But irreducible complexity is not necessarily a "metaphysical claim". In itself, it is simply an observation.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2007, 08:26:06 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2007, 06:14:20 AM »

Do you want YOUR kids being taught that astrology is a viable "science"?
I would want my children to be taught how to think. Not what to think.
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2007, 08:38:07 AM »

I think that any death to dialogue, whether caused by the philosophies of "religion" or "science" will lead to a Dark Age. What do you think?

I think you are absolutely right. Such is true whenever a single party tries to control discourse.

What you have described is not out of character for Dawkins either. His reputation has earned him the nickname "Darwin's rottweiler". I'm not sure Darwin would care for that if he knew what all Dawkins is hawking nowadays. But, yes - he has an agenda he is committed to and so the time for argument is over on his part. His dogmatic insistence on the 'Brights' being exclusively in the right has also earned him a bit of lampooning in the popular media (ie, Southpark) . He was a much nicer fellow when he actually wrote about science, now it just seems to be hogging the spotlight and abusing his chosen enemies. Sad, as he is quite a bright scientist himself - I enjoyed the Selfish Gene and the Extended Phenotype though both are a bit dated, but where he has gotten political or religious I've lost interest. (Personally, I think Stephen Jay Gould was more convincing.)
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2007, 10:06:17 AM »

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I would want my children to be taught how to think. Not what to think.

Ok. So you'd prefer a class on astrology which taught them how to think about life and how to learn about things, rather than a class that actually said "astrology teaches X...".   Brilliant.
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2007, 10:37:52 AM »

He was a much nicer fellow when he actually wrote about science, now it just seems to be hogging the spotlight and abusing his chosen enemies.
Seems to be the general trend of those who seek to slay discourse on the basis of a blind adherence to a philosophy.
"Death to discourse by a thousand paper cuts"....the Dark Age cometh I tell you!
« Last Edit: January 29, 2007, 11:02:53 AM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2007, 01:42:25 PM »

Asteriktos:
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Ok. So you'd prefer a class on astrology which taught them how to think about life and how to learn about things, rather than a class that actually said "astrology teaches X...".   Brilliant.

Astrology doesn't teach how to think, but what to think - so the analogy would be backwards. So one doesn't learn to think just by imbibing a particular worldview (whether astrology, the Koran, or a political philosophy - ie, Fascism, Socialism, Feminism, Racism, etc.) Learning to think is tool building - the how rather than the what. The tools are the ability to think clearly and rationally, to learn from one's experiences and even more important the ability to think in the abstract and make informed decisions without the harsh hand of experience. Another way to look at it is that the student who is taught how to think becomes a thinker, the student who is only taught what to think is merely a consumer. The analogy would be that 'How to think' can cook for themselves, 'What to think' depends entirely on the cooking of others.

Strangely enough, the classical education indeed teaches one 'how to THINK' rather than 'WHAT to think'. The tools of logic, rhetoric, and philosophy used to even be required at the collegiate level - we suffer that they are not. As a contrasting example, cults make sure that their people are taught only what to think.
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2007, 11:06:28 AM »

I blogged on something related to this topic recently.  The heart of the problem is that we're already in a great "dark age", whether by Christian or Classical standards - namely, we've forgotten that there are many sciences, and that those pertaining to the workings of the physical world have traditionally (and rightly) been understood to be the lowest.  Indeed, for the physical sciences to have any sound application, there has to be some involvement from the practice of the philosophical and theological sciences.  By this I don't mean some kind of "Church censor" - rather, I think that genuinely "educated people" need a robust classical liberal arts education as their foundation.  The idea that someone is truly "educated" while lacking proper training of the intellect and the will (ex. liberal arts background, plus good religious formation) is absurd - defects in either of those prerequisites are going to make the provisional conclusions of such "scientists" suspect from the beginning.

That this is a real problem is obvious to anyone paying attention.  Now, it seems higher education has been reduced to a kind of glorified tradesmanship - qualitatively not much different than being a mechanic, just dealing with more "complicated schtuff."  Not that there's anything wrong with being a tradesman, of course (around here, we need more of them, actually) - simply that this sort of background doesn't qualify one to deal professionally with "ideas."

On it's own, the physical sciences provide us with observations, and provisional conclusions.  The quality of those conclusions, goes well beyond observation - claiming that "science disproves the existence of God" is not a conclusion based purely on observation, and anyone saying as much is a damned liar.

Sadly, you can see the problem quite concretely when you read some of the ignorant stuff this type of activistic-atheist will spout.  It goes beyond the quality of their reasoning (the whole philosophy problem) - they often don't even understand the subtleties of what they're attacking.

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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2007, 02:14:16 PM »

I blogged on something related to this topic recently.  The heart of the problem is that we're already in a great "dark age", whether by Christian or Classical standards - namely, we've forgotten that there are many sciences, and that those pertaining to the workings of the physical world have traditionally (and rightly) been understood to be the lowest.

If this is the sign of a dark age, then I pray to God that the world will never again see enlightenment. Whatever shall we do without crusades, superstition, religious wars, inquisitions, and the burning of 'heretics.'

Quote
Indeed, for the physical sciences to have any sound application, there has to be some involvement from the practice of the philosophical and theological sciences.

And yet, while you claim that this is non-existant (we are in a 'dark age' afterall), our culture and society continues to advance to heights never dreamt possible by past generations. Someone out there seems to be finding useful applications...now I dont know if they'd meet your definition of 'sound', but ultimately anyone's opinion as to what is sound is irrelevant, progress speaks for itself.

Quote
By this I don't mean some kind of "Church censor" - rather, I think that genuinely "educated people" need a robust classical liberal arts education as their foundation.  The idea that someone is truly "educated" while lacking proper training of the intellect and the will (ex. liberal arts background, plus good religious formation) is absurd - defects in either of those prerequisites are going to make the provisional conclusions of such "scientists" suspect from the beginning.

And yet the so-called educated people are completely inept and incapable of intelligently discussing the science at hand. I have heard from these so-called educated people that they dont agree with the theory of relativity for philosophical reasons...so what if you dont agree, it's how things are, get used to it...looks like it's time to change your philosophy if the theory of relativity contradicts it, because your philosophy must be wrong. Of course, these people probably have no understanding of the theory or what it entails, as I'm guessing most never even made it through a Differential Equations course, yet despite the fact that they don't understand 17th century mathematical concepts they want me to believe they're educated because they've read a few philosophers?

It is because of nonsense like this that is so often seen comming out of the academic community you praise (consider the early opposition to the use of cadavers in medical research or modern opposition to stem cell research if you need some more examples) that scientists have rejected their input for the uninformed and uneducated postulating that it is.

Quote
That this is a real problem is obvious to anyone paying attention.  Now, it seems higher education has been reduced to a kind of glorified tradesmanship - qualitatively not much different than being a mechanic, just dealing with more "complicated schtuff."  Not that there's anything wrong with being a tradesman, of course (around here, we need more of them, actually) - simply that this sort of background doesn't qualify one to deal professionally with "ideas."

Since these so-called 'mechanics' actually researched, discovered, and developed the 'ideas' I would submit that no one is more qualfied than them to deal professionally with said ideas. The fact of the matter is that the philosophers and theologians are simply unable to play on the same field as modern scientists. Theology and philosophy have become irrelevant. For while we may be unable to prove to the standard of the mathematician the existance of our physical world and that we can interact with it, it's existance would seem to be the most reasonable of assumptions to make. And thus with this one assumption, and this one assumption alone, all of science is born. The theologian and philosopher are now at a disadvantage because they require several more assumptions, and with each assumption the chance for error is greatly multiplied, thus their fields are less precise and in the end nothing more than mere opinion. They often play around with several ideas, but none of them have any evidence to support them, none of them are the equal of a single scientific observation.

We have a philosophy that our society has settled on: empiricism. It requires the fewest unprovable assumptions and therefore is the most objectively reasonable. We no longer have a need for philosophers and theologians.

Quote
On it's own, the physical sciences provide us with observations, and provisional conclusions.  The quality of those conclusions, goes well beyond observation - claiming that "science disproves the existence of God" is not a conclusion based purely on observation, and anyone saying as much is a damned liar.

And to say that the existance of God can be proven is a conclusion based purely on subjective opinion, and anyone saying otherwise is a damned liar. However, the fact that God can be neither proven nor disproven basically means that the existance of a deity is an unknown variable and thus should not be used in our calculations or considerations. Science may not disprove the existance of God, but science does make God irrelevant.

Quote
Sadly, you can see the problem quite concretely when you read some of the ignorant stuff this type of activistic-atheist will spout.  It goes beyond the quality of their reasoning (the whole philosophy problem) - they often don't even understand the subtleties of what they're attacking.

What you see in this case is the principles of science being upheld, and not allowing theists to introduce unnecessary unknown variables into scientific theories.

The fact of the matter is that the scientific community has explained away every instance where irreducible complexity has been applied and, of course, chaos theory dictates that the entire concept of irreducible complexity is flawed. What is being reacted against is creationists with an anti-scientific agend using the fact that science has yet to answer every question in exquisite detail to conclude that a deity must have been involved. Rather than adopting the scientific position that in the absence of evidence, ignorance must be assumed, these pseudo-scholars would have us assume divine intervention in the absence of evidence. If you want to claim 'intelligent design' it is not enough to prove that natural evolution was impossible (which they haven't done), all that demonstrates is general human ignorance of the subject, you must also prove the existance of some such being...until you do that, your opinion is theological rather than scientific.

Ultimately, what science does is keep people honest by requiring a certain standard of evidence.
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