Category Archives: science

Our Brain is a Car

philosophy, psychology, science 4 Replies

I’m going to try to lay out what my personal ‘Philosophy of Mind ‘ is. Most of this has been hacked together from a mix of Psychology and Philosophy classes, years of reading articles, and my own subjective experience. As such, it’s going to be fairly light on links and references.

On the other hand, our research into “consciousness” (what it is, how it works, what it’s not, how it doesn’t work, etc) is so basic, there’s little empirical support for any Philosophy of Mind (at least with regards to consciousness in particular) out there. So sure, I’m just telling a story. But… So is everyone else.

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Your Food Is Killing You!!!

health, science, skepticism Leave a reply

Sometimes terrible things (for a certain value of ‘terrible’) make their way onto your Facebook feed, and sometimes it’s important to dissect them, to display their entirely non-functional innards to the world. To proclaim “Really? I mean, really? You believed this?”

In a transparent attempt to latch on to the general list-mania that Buzzfeed and others use to drive traffic, the Oracletalk website has posted 10 Foods Sold in the U.S. That Are Banned Elsewhere. I really don’t have enough info to judge the rest of their website, but this is quite the indictment.

Oh, and interesting point of fact: the links are *really* hard to see on the page (really? You have black-ink links on a black-ink page? You seriously have to be *trying* to hide your links…), and this whole thing has been stolen from MSN. So yes, MSN also sucks giant donkey turds for publishing this crap.

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On Epistemology

health, philosophy, Philosophy of Science, science Leave a reply

This is my position on epistemology. Actually not just my position, but the position held by many people. While the route taken to this judgement is uniquely mine, the judgement itself (if not this exact expression of that judgement) is shared by many others the world over.

I’m going to deal with a few notions, and I’ll try to be as explicit as possible. If I say that “if you believe that it’s ok to sell alt-med services without some sort of concerted effort to determine if the actually work or not, then you are a moron”, then I will try to define “alt-med”, “alt-med services”, “selling alt-med services”, how “to determine if they actually work or not”, and (of course) “moron”.

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Implications of Intelligent Design

Atheism, philosophy, religion, science 4 Replies

I’ve gotten involved in a fairly lengthy discussion of Intelligent Design on reddit as a result of posting my review of Darwin’s Doubt there. Most of the discussion has centred around a couple of key points, that my interlocutors seem to insist on repeating, ad nauseum.

The first point is the inherent implausibility of Evolutionary Theory with regards to explaining speciation, and the second is their refusal to accept that Intelligent Design is an implicitly religious argument. These two points are critical problems in their treatment of this argument.

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Review: Darwin’s Doubt

Atheism, Book Review, philosophy, religion, science 7 Replies

An acquaintance suggested I do a review of Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen C. Meyer. My approach here will seem odd to folk who are opposed to creationism Intelligent Design being taught in high schools, as their approach is usually to attack the biology-related claims in the book. And it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of false claims about biology (and Evolution) in the book. But I’m not interested in any of that.

What I am interested is, if we just take all the lies and deceit to be true, whether the whole argument hangs together, or not. The subtitle of this book is “The explosive origin of animal life and the case for intelligent design”. Meyer is, according to his biography, someone with a PhD in Philosophy, who specialised in Philosophy of Science. I intend to meet him on that ground, stipulate to all of his claims, and see if this supports the argument that he ultimately makes.

Short version? No, his argument isn’t supported by his claims at all.

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What’s Up With Methodological Naturalism?

philosophy, science 1 Reply

If you listen to creationists like Stephen C Meyer, and other members of the Discovery Institute, you’ll eventually hear them go on at great length about “methodological naturalism”, and that it’s a cornerstone dogma of science, and that it’s bad and wrong and an unfair arbitrary standard that even scientific theories aren’t held to.

This largely hinges on a fundamental misunderstanding of methodological naturalism (MN), and when it’s construed as a “dogma” or a merely arbitrary “rule” that must be adhered to, then of course it’s ridiculous. Fortunately, that’s not what MN is.

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Data Underdetermines Our Hypotheses.

philosophy, science Leave a reply

One of the big ideas to come out of Philosophy of Science is that of Underdetermination. The folk-science view of things is that if you have a collection of facts, then those facts (all neatly tied together) will point at a conclusion.

It may be objected that this is an extremely viewpoint, and that’s also true. A slightly more complex version would that if you have a collection of facts, then those facts (all neatly tied together with a hypothesis) will point at a conclusion. This is also problematic.

It’s problematic because the hypothesis often comes from that collection of facts. We often also have ‘the conclusion’ already, and we’re often stuck trying to figure out how Event A caused Event B. So we look at our facts, we create a hypothesis that accounts for (ideally) all of them, and then we spin out a conclusion (or explanation, or whatever it is we were looking to do), all nice and neat.

But, alas, it’s not nice and neat at all. Because the facts underdetermine the hypothesis.

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Two philosophers walk into a bar…

philosophy, science 48 Replies

This is primarily a response to commenters asking for my own opinion on the origin of the universe.  If this is not your bag, I beg your patience, and suggest you skip on to Crommunist’s and Edwin’s most excellent discussions.

This is written in two parts. First, I’m going to outline the general philosophical discussion on the origin of the universe. This is going to be long. Following that, I’ll express an opinion.

I’m going to begin with Aristotle, and to begin with the three classical laws of logic. You may, of course, disagree with these laws, or disagree that they apply, or whatever the hell you want. That’s fine. Not all Philosophers are committed to these laws. I am, however, not a logician. These rules are the logic that underpins the rest of this essay. I’ll then outline his original position, and how that position has been generalised (and wielded by the religious).

Following that: Kant. Some of you may be giving up on this already. I’d encourage you to bear with me, as I’m going to keep it simple. (Meanwhile, a Philosophy Professor at my Alma Mater will be dying of laughter that I’m going to try to explain Kant to people, should he get wind of this)

Finally, my position will follow, and I’ll rephrase/rehash Krauss’s error in the context of Aristotle and Kant. If all that sounds like a good time, keep reading. I can totally understand if it doesn’t.

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