Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

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shunyadragon
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Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Post by shunyadragon » Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:24 pm

Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Dr. Edward Feser is considered one of the prominent Theologians of contemporary Christianity. He has recently published Scholastic Metaphysics where provides considerable detail concerning his view of the problems of the relationship between science and Religion. In this explanation he attacks atheism, but unfortunately misuses science in this misdirected attack. The following is from an interview with Dr. Feser. His unfortunate use of the concept of 'Scientism' further clouds the issues. I believe he makes some of the similar mistakes as Plantinga makes concerning a theological view of science.

BRANDON: You spend several pages engaging scientism. How do you define this notoriously controversial term? Why is scientism popular today, and why do you think it's self-defeating?


Source: http://www.strangenotions.com/scholasti ... ard-feser/


DR. EDWARD FESER: This too is addressed in the book at length. Briefly, scientism is the view that science alone gives us knowledge of reality. Of course, that just raises the question of what we mean by “science.” One problem with scientism is that if you define “science” narrowly -- so that it includes physics and chemistry, say, but not philosophy or theology -- then scientism ends up being self-refuting, because it is not itself a scientific claim but a philosophical one. On the other hand, if you define “science” broadly enough so that it avoids being self-refuting, then it becomes vacuous, because it now no longer rules out philosophy, theology, or pretty much anything else adherents of scientism want to be able to dismiss without a hearing as “unscientific.”

A second problem with scientism is that science cannot in principle give us a complete description of the world, both because science takes for granted certain assumptions it cannot justify in a non-circular fashion (such as that perception is reliable, that there is order in the world that is really there and not just projected onto it by the mind, etc.), and because the methods of science of their nature can obscure as much as they reveal. For example, as the philosopher Bertrand Russell -- who was no friend of Scholasticism or of religion -- often emphasized, the methods of physics give us only the abstract mathematical structure of physical reality, but do not and cannot tell us the intrinsic nature of whatever is the underlying reality that has that structure.

A third problem is science cannot in principle provide a complete explanation of the phenomena it describes. Science explains things by tracing them down to ever deeper laws of nature. But what it cannot tell you is what a “law of nature” is in the first place and why it operates. It really is amazing how unreflectively atheists and advocates of scientism appeal to the notion of “laws,” given how deeply philosophically problematic the very notion is. Earlier generations of scientists were aware of the philosophical puzzles raised by the nature of scientific explanation, and some contemporary scientists (such as Paul Davies) are also sensitive to the puzzles raised by the very idea of a “law of nature” (which is actually a holdover from an idiosyncratic theology to which Descartes and Newton were committed, but which Aristotelian and Scholastic philosophers reject just as much as atheists do).

But most contemporary scientists tend not to have the general education that figures of the generation of Einstein, Schrödinger, and Heisenberg did. They don’t know philosophy well, and they also don’t know what they don’t know. This goes double for the more aggressively atheistic ones among them -- people like Lawrence Krauss, Peter Atkins, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. Hence they repeatedly commit very crude philosophical mistakes but also refuse to listen or respond when these mistakes are pointed out to them.

Anyway, the main reason scientism has the following it does is probably that people are, quite rightly, impressed with the technological and predictive successes of modern science. The trouble is that this simply gives us no reason whatsoever to believe scientism -- that is to say, it gives us no reason to believe that science alone gives us knowledge. To draw that conclusion you need to assume that if something is real, then it will be susceptible of a precise mathematical description that will make strict prediction and technological application possible. Now that is itself a philosophical or metaphysical assumption, not a scientific one. But it is also an assumption that there is not only no reason to believe, but decisive reason to reject, as I argue in the book.

What the mathematically-oriented methods of modern physics do is to focus on those aspects of nature which can be strictly predicted and controlled and to ignore anything that doesn’t fit that method. As a result, physics tends brilliantly to uncover those aspects of reality that fit that method, and which can therefore be exploited technologically. But it simply does not follow that there are no other aspects of reality. To think otherwise is like the drunk’s fallacy of assuming that his lost car keys must be under the street lamp somewhere, because that is where the light is.

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I will open the discussion with what I see as problems right off in the first paragraph: "Briefly, scientism is the view that science alone gives us knowledge of reality. Of course, that just raises the question of what we mean by “science.” One problem with scientism is that if you define “science” narrowly -- so that it includes physics and chemistry, say, but not philosophy or theology -- then scientism ends up being self-refuting, because it is not itself a scientific claim but a philosophical one. On the other hand, if you define “science” broadly enough so that it avoids being self-refuting, then it becomes vacuous, because it now no longer rules out philosophy, theology, or pretty much anything else adherents of scientism want to be able to dismiss without a hearing as “unscientific.”

First, it is false to assume that many or even considerable scientists consider 'science alone gives us knowledge of reality.' In reality only some if not only a few scientists believe this. In reality his description of 'scientism' is not popular today at all. It represents only the extreme of 'Philosophical Naturalism,' which represents only a minority of scientists, and the population in general. Most scientists believe in a diverse variety of beliefs, which do not directly influence their basic philosophical view of science.

I do believe that theological and philosophical considerations are important in the 'technology and application of science for the benefit of humanity.'

Second, he makes the statement that science should include philosophy and theology. In reality science is based on the philosophy of science that has evolved over the centuries on dealing with the nature of 'How science can best interpret and understand the nature of our physical existence. Over the years philosophers like Popper have contributed to the 'Philosophy of Science.'

I do not see any constructive contribution for the advancement of science in the writings of the ancient philosophers, nor theologians. Many contemporary Christian Theologians including Feser and Plantinga offer nothing constructive toward advancing the independent Investigation of Truth in science.

Third, including Theology in science is dangerous turf. The foundation of science is 'Methodological Naturalism,' which fortunately does not make any theological assumptions nor 'belief' considerations in science. This separation includes the rejection of any assumptions of atheism, nor the existence nor non-existence of Gods.
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outhouse
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Re: Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Post by outhouse » Fri Mar 25, 2016 4:53 pm

He is a nutty character.

I have been debating his minions in another forum and know his work. Each were worthless. I started a thread on Feser being a fraud, a few of his children agreed with me in a round about way, until they figured out how I trapped them in their own circular thinking.


Like him, they ride fallacies and ignore direct questions. They chose to debate a god of classical theism which they have done so out of desperation.


By using this concept which is just a god concept created in a philosophical classroom, they are limiting what can and cannot be addressed. They hide behind this concept, is the best way to put it. They understand that the theism can be attacked historically, so they chose their own definition as if it would help.


As typical with philosophers, he is king of weasel words but still shows his theistic bias in his hatred of atheism.

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MrMacSon
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Re: Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Mar 25, 2016 11:57 pm

.
I agree with outhouse.

This is illogical -
DR. EDWARD FESER:: scientism is the view that science alone gives us knowledge of reality. Of course, that just raises the question of what we mean by “science.” One problem with scientism is that if you define “science” narrowly -- so that it includes physics and chemistry, say, but not philosophy or theology -- then scientism ends up being self-refuting, because it is not itself a scientific claim but a philosophical one. On the other hand, if you define “science” broadly enough so that it avoids being self-refuting, then it becomes vacuous, because it now no longer rules out philosophy, theology, or pretty much anything else adherents of scientism want to be able to dismiss without a hearing as “unscientific.”
scientism is a concept that misrepresents science: a misrepresentation of science that its proponents then attack as a de facto attack on science.

It's a classic strawman fallacy.

Essentially, science and theology are separate subsets of philosophical discourse ie. subsets of the broader concept of philosophy itself

Other subsets/components of philosophy are (i) ethics, (ii) logic, and (iii) discerning truth.

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Re: Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Post by outhouse » Mon Mar 28, 2016 3:14 pm

MrMacSon wrote:.
I agree with outhouse.

This is illogical -
DR. EDWARD FESER:: scientism is the view that science alone gives us knowledge of reality. Of course, that just raises the question of what we mean by “science.” One problem with scientism is that if you define “science” narrowly -- so that it includes physics and chemistry, say, but not philosophy or theology -- then scientism ends up being self-refuting, because it is not itself a scientific claim but a philosophical one. On the other hand, if you define “science” broadly enough so that it avoids being self-refuting, then it becomes vacuous, because it now no longer rules out philosophy, theology, or pretty much anything else adherents of scientism want to be able to dismiss without a hearing as “unscientific.”
scientism is a concept that misrepresents science: a misrepresentation of science that its proponents then attack as a de facto attack on science.

It's a classic strawman fallacy.

Essentially, science and theology are separate subsets of philosophical discourse ie. subsets of the broader concept of philosophy itself

Other subsets/components of philosophy are (i) ethics, (ii) logic, and (iii) discerning truth.
Here he is trying and failing, at using philosophical arguments to create a safety zone for his definition of theism so it can be applied to the natural world.

It is fallacious that he is trying to create a foundation for his arguments that just does not exist.

The man is very careful not to let his bias show, but at times he crosses the lines and its blatant.

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Peter Kirby
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Re: Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Apr 01, 2016 8:06 pm

But most contemporary scientists tend not to have the general education that figures of the generation of Einstein, Schrödinger, and Heisenberg did. They don’t know philosophy well, and they also don’t know what they don’t know. This goes double for the more aggressively atheistic ones among them -- people like Lawrence Krauss, Peter Atkins, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. Hence they repeatedly commit very crude philosophical mistakes but also refuse to listen or respond when these mistakes are pointed out to them.
"Philosophical mistakes"? Like what? What does a philosophical mistake look like? How is it different from an error of logic?
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Re: Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Post by andrewcriddle » Sat Apr 02, 2016 2:56 am

Peter Kirby wrote:
But most contemporary scientists tend not to have the general education that figures of the generation of Einstein, Schrödinger, and Heisenberg did. They don’t know philosophy well, and they also don’t know what they don’t know. This goes double for the more aggressively atheistic ones among them -- people like Lawrence Krauss, Peter Atkins, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. Hence they repeatedly commit very crude philosophical mistakes but also refuse to listen or respond when these mistakes are pointed out to them.
"Philosophical mistakes"? Like what? What does a philosophical mistake look like? How is it different from an error of logic?
FWIW I presume that by 'philosophical mistake' Feser means a mistake in the special field of knowledge called 'philosophy'. In the sense that an 'anatomical mistake' is an error in the special field of knowledge called 'anatomy'.

I do not necessarily agree that philosophy is a special field of knowledge in this sense, but Feser apparently believes this.

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Re: Feser - Problems with his view of science and religion

Post by DCHindley » Sat Apr 02, 2016 6:08 am

andrewcriddle wrote:FWIW I presume that by 'philosophical mistake' Feser means a mistake in the special field of knowledge called 'philosophy'. In the sense that an 'anatomical mistake' is an error in the special field of knowledge called 'anatomy'.

I do not necessarily agree that philosophy is a special field of knowledge in this sense, but Feser apparently believes this.
"Philosophy of science" and "philosophy of history" are both taught in university, and chiefly have to do with epistemological issues (i.e., what do we really "know"). I think Feser may be referring to "my particular brand of philosophy" which he assumes covers all the bases, but there is really no such thing as "a" philosophy of science or history or even any sort of unified POV on epistemology.

DCH :goodmorning:

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