Posts Tagged ‘logic’

Ever since the Enlightenment there’s been a lot of talk about science, mostly about how great it is. The scientific method of observation and hypothesis-forming has lead to innumerable discoveries and advancements in technology of every kind, from industry to medicine. There are T-shirts, now, which read, “Science: it works, bitches.” No doubt it does! I don’t actually think there’s anyone who denies this. But in the great success of the scientific method, I think people got carried away. They started to think that science was “all one needed,” and somehow (I cannot quite discover how) the jump was made from the success of empiricism to total assent in materialism, and the buzzword of “science” permeating through it all. Empiricism raised its banner in defiance of all other truth-claims. “Truly,” its adherents sighed, “with this we can master all things.”

But wait, we have a problem. The problem is that the empirical method of science is not philosophy. Not philosophy? What does philosophy have to do with this? Well, philosophy was the discipline that used to claim the capacity to answer all of life’s questions, and I think its quite safe to conclude that it still firmly sits upon that throne. What I think was not realized was that science was only a sub-discipline of philosophy, only a small specialization of the great study of Reality. Why is that? Because science cannot answer a number of questions about reality. Which ones? Start at 1:10 if you want to cut to it:

The dubious claim is Atkins’, that “science is omnipotent.” Craig shows by counterexample that this statement is obviously false, and I want to dwell on the last one in particular. Whether or not you buy Craig’s example about the Theory of Special Relativity (or even his other examples) is not the issue, the point he raises is profound: The empirical method is entirely circular: it cannot justify itself. Empiricism lays great emphasis on the superiority of its method, because it yields results which we can touch and see. But what does that mean? Essentially, it’s a claim to the superiority of empiricism because its methods yield empirically-verifiable results. One is appealing to empiricism to prove empiricism to be true, and hence becomes entirely circular.

What are we not saying here? No one’s saying that science doesn’t “work.” Of course it does. What we have discovered is that empiricism cannot itself be its own justification, and therefore is not a substantial, self-subsisting worldview, not to mention the number of other things Dr. Craig points out which science lacks the ability to explain. Why? Because those things are not scientific questions. To quote CS Lewis in Mere Christianity,

“Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, ‘I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2.20 a.m. on January 15th and saw so-and-so,’ or, ‘I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so.’ Do not think that I am saying anything against science; I am only saying what its job is.”

And science’s job, we might add, is not to create a self-subsisting worldview or to “achieve omnipotence;” for it cannot, even in potentiality, do either. Those tasks are the duties of Philosophy and the philosopher, to which Science and the scientist must ever be subservient. The last few centuries have shown science to be a usurper; but the time has come for its humbling.


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As many of you probably already know, there is a measure coming up on the ballots to define what constitutes a marriage in the state of California. Naturally, when these sorts of things happen, the usual tiresome group of loud people presume to make a lot of fuss, argue badly, and waste everyone’s time with nonsensical statements.
Caitlin recently gave me a pamphlet that was mailed (I believe) to her house which attempted to argue against gay marriage, and she was laughing all the way about how the entire thing was a huge logical fallacy. I checked it out and, sure enough, it was a long loop of begging the question (I’ll put some logical fallacies in the “Terms and Definitions” tab here in a little bit). For those of you unfamiliar, Begging the Question is a logical fallacy involved when an argument assumes, as one of its premises, the very conclusion which it attempts to prove. It is circular.

The people pictured above (credit of Wikipedia’s article on Gay Marriage) are of the very obnoxious breed who offer no arguments, but who instead think that plastering unsupported claims on paper are going to do anything at all, other than bully the weak-minded towards their point of view.

Let’s try an experiment in logic and see if we can’t get to the bottom of this.

First, let us talk about what “right” means in regards to this issue, as people keep using that word without giving a very clear inclination as to what that means precisely.

The first thing that occurs to me about something being “right” in a society is actually just a variation on the word “natural.” If you consider it, you’ll find that eating, sleeping, working, raising a family, and so forth, are all considered “right.” That is, the things that occur in nature are usually our basis for what we consider right and wrong to be. We tend to think of a boy marrying his mother, as one example, to be not natural, because of the ill effects this has on the gene pool (though the average person will not frame the problem in those terms; and I realize that there are Freudian issues to discuss on that example, but let’s leave those out). Now, when we go to fit homosexuality into this framework of the “natural”, we see that it doesn’t actually fit. Now, agree or disagree with the practice itself, one must admit that, from a strictly evolutionary perspective, a homosexual couple does not contribute to the all-encompassing organismic march through the gene pool, as homosexuality does not produce new offspring, and creatures of the same sex who ignore other members of the species of the opposite sex do not pass on genes, do not advance the species, but merely serve as one other unfortunate “mistake” which gets weeded out of the gene pool in favor of organisms better suited to survival in their environment. As the saying goes, there are no “if’s, and’s, or but’s” about this. Reactionary readers who might be offended by this statement are advised to pick up Darwin, or at least read a summary (I do not recommend Origin of Species as light reading).

Moving on, it becomes clear that homosexuality does not fit in our usual framework for what we consider “right.”
Very well, then, you might say, nature is not the end-all for all, or even for most, people. Let us, as it were, appeal to a higher court.

Now, the higher court in the considerations of morals is of course the spiritual one. Spiritual systems of morality and ethics –namely, religion– tend to not only bypass or ignore the state of things in nature, but often go against them, or at the very least, try and show that man is more than animal; namely, that he is a pure spirit and should live his life in such a way as to reflect this. Perhaps it is in within this framework that we may find a home for homosexuality.

The problem with “appealing” the homosexual case to this higher court is that the spiritual plane, and all the various religions, are very occupied with sexual purity, many going so far as to declare sex itself to be impure (as priests are required to take vows of celibacy) and many others tolerate sex only grudgingly as a specific thing, to be done in a specific way, with a specific partner, in a specific situation (i.e, a member of the opposite sex, in marriage, etc.). It goes without saying that homosexuality is far from acceptable, and is often considered to be outright sinful virtually across the board. Why this is so is the start of another topic.

Again, this is how things are. Reactionary readers are again advised to pick up a Bible, a Qur’an, a copy of the Torah, some words on Buddhism (specifically the quest to escape from desire), or to take a World Religions class.

Very well, you might say, all the rules, laws, and ethical systems view homosexuality as negative in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

Why do we care about laws and rules and systems anyway? You might say that we don’t need those things –or even– that those things aren’t real, and don’t have any weight in the first place. Welcome to Nihilism: nothing matters, the whole of existence is meaningless, there is no right or wrong, now can we just go off and do what we want to?

…and the answer is, well, frankly, yes; yes you can go do what you want. HOWEVER (and this is the tricky part where people don’t take thier Nihilism seriously) you can NOT go on blathering about what is RIGHT and wrong, what people deserve, how freedom is so great, ETC., because you have just destroyed the moral systems which you felt were preventing you from doing what you want. You said they were meaningless. But then, you go ahead, and start cheating on Nihilism by saying that some things are “right” and others are “wrong”, namely, that freedom is “right” and people should be free.

Let’s phrase this as a deductive argument:

Freedom to choose is a good thing.
People should be allowed to do what is good.
Practicing homosexuality is a person’s free choice.
Therefore, practicing homosexuality is good (and further, just as good as doing anything else).

Now, what I want to call into question with this argument is premise number 1. Why is freedom to choose a good thing? Says WHO?

Now you begin to see the problem.
Advocates of homosexuality (or really any normative claim about rights, for that matter) try to establish a standard of good after having previously rejected the idea of an absolute standard to judge things by!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t care what you believe or what you do as long as it’s internally consistent.

Lucky for me, I make it a habit to only accept that which is logical and internally consistent.

And so should you! Go out! Challange terms! The next time someone starts trying to sway you, demand definitions on terms! KEEP demanding definitions on terms! Force the average person out of his little world of comfortable, pre-constructed arguments. Stir things up.
Be a gadfly.

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