Imagine you and your friend find a coin on the street, and without either of you examining the coin carefully, you make a bet. If a flip of the coin turns up “heads”, you must pay your friend a dollar, and every time it turns up “tails”, he pays you a dollar.
You flip. A “heads” turns up. You pay your friend a dollar.
You make the same deal again, and again a “heads” deprives you of another dollar.
Not wanting to cut your losses, and certain that there are at least a few “tails” ahead, you try again. “Heads”.
You sigh as you hand over a 3rd dollar, but then challenge your friend to a 4th flip. Again you lose. Continue reading →
Is DNA code? This question has been answered affirmatively by some in an attempt to argue that DNA requires an intelligent author. Therefore the more fundamental question is “Did DNA arise from a natural process or from an intelligent designer?”
This is a legitimate question, but not a unique one. Throughout history, millions of similar questions have been asked, all having the basic form of “Does X have a natural or a supernatural cause?” Plug pandemics, lighting or psychotic behavior into X as examples.
For most of these millions of questions of causation throughout history, there have been 2 basic approaches.
The following is a modified excerpt from an e-mail exchange I had with a theist over the earned position of superiority that material causes have over hypothetical immaterial causes.
Imagine back when there was far less of a precedent for material causation, say around the time of Benjamin Franklin. Imagine the conventional understanding of the phenomenon of lightning. There was no conceivable way that this phenomenon could neatly fit into the existing web of material causation that was at that time quite limited to physical objects within the exploratory reach of humans. Were not humans justified in believing that lighting was caused by a supernatural entity?
It was perhaps not until around the time of Benjamin Franklin that the expectation of wholly material causation was warranted. The precedent for material causation had indeed been strong due to discoveries by Newton and others, but I think I would have been inclined to admit the possibility that the supernatural was still a possible candidate for the explanation of lighting. This might have been reinforced by anecdotes of “sinners” who had been struck by lightning. (In fact, the catholic church had been claiming just a few centuries earlier that the actual type of sin could be ascertained by the location of the strike on the body.) There was also the biblical claim that Satan was the prince of the power of the air, a claim that also lead to the slow adaptation of the radio later on among some Christian communities.
However, through the experiments of Benjamin Franklin (though the key on a string story was almost certainly apocryphal) and others, electromagnetism was slowly teased out as a force that did indeed fit neatly into the web of material causation. This was not an overnight process. It took a host of various scientists contributing candidate theories, then modifying or abandoning those theories until electromagnetism emerged as the coherent theory we know today.
Were the incompatible material theories being debated an indication that a material theory was not forthcoming? No. Could the claims coming from the various camps of scientists have been co-opted by amateurs to claim that the concept of electromagnetism was in disarray and in decline? Yes, and they were. Continue reading →
Methodological naturalism has increasingly proven its worth as an essential heuristic in scientific methodology. Its continued use is strongly warranted by the precedent of the success of the science that employs it, and the efficiency of its constraints. This paper examines the historical emergence of methodological naturalism, its current status, and future expectations related to its usage in areas of scientific inquiry that are evermore counterintuitive and complex.
Many of us who have access to various truths that do not have the support of mainstream science have been relentlessly persecuted recently as the more skeptical public clamors ever-louder for sufficient evidence of our claims. This unfortunate state of affairs is largely due to 1) the growing acceptance of the alleged correlation between what is euphemistically called quantitative science, and technological and medical successes, as well as highly coherent explanatory paradigms that have penetrated even the most simple minds, and 2) the reassessment of the virtue of faith. These dark notions are turning the innocent minds that once unquestioningly accepted our unsubstantiated truths into skeptics that will believe only as far as the evidence extends, and thwarts the bald assertions we were once at liberty to make. The virus of rigorous scientific methodology is now thriving, largely due to popular writings of science’s more devious prophets. These prophets have combined their own form of logic with effective rhetoric to make the tools and results of science more accessible. We must stop this epidemic that threatens the virtue of ignorance upon which we base our very livelihood. The following is a list of guidelines that may stay this insidious surge of rationality and science.
In Japan and China, hotel and hospital rooms are not assigned the number 4 due to the similarity of the pronunciation of “4” to the word “death”. This fear is so pervasive in Japan that, in this culture of gift-giving, any gift conaining a package of 4 is a faux pas.
In a study conducted by David P Phillips of UC San Diego it was determined that Japanese and Chinese cardiac mortality on the 4th of each month was much higher than on any other day of the month, and was significantly higher than the number of Caucasian American deaths on the same day.
Having established this correlation between 4 and death in China and Japan, there remains the question of causation. There are 2 primary possibilities.
The number 4 caused the deaths.
Belief in the negative effects of the number 4 caused the deaths.
Science is constraining. It requires that we follow certain rules when assessing reality. These rules cannot be bent by hopes, wants or wild imagination.
Some consider the constraints of science to be uncomfortable, especially when they impinge on our emotional intuitions. When science coldly suggests that we are not the center of significance within our universe, we tend to step over the line of science and subjectively don some warm cloak of significance. When science fails to provide sources of justice, morality and human dignity, we are inclined to ignore the lack of objective evidence, and construct subjective plugs or appropriate packaged ideological plugs for these emotional intuitions. Continue reading →