Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Scientific Truth

There is a certain cultist named Ilíon at Victor's blog who continually criticizes the validity of science while presenting himself as the quintessential purveyor of logical truth.  He is completely closed to the notion that he could ever be wrong.
What Gentle Reader will notice is that in no case does B.Pushin'Scientism even attempt to show (nor ever will) that any of my statemets are false, or even badly reasoned.

Furthermore, if he were pushed on the items -- and prevented from running away -- he would acknowledge that every one of them is true.

But, somehow ... because scientism ... true AND true AND true IMPLIES false. To put it another way, I have shined a light on one of his idols, and thus, even though every specific thing I said is true, the concatenation of those individually true statements must (somehow) be false.

Just to be clear: this is *not* how rational persons "reason". - Ilíon
Ilíon is a creationist (evidently YEC), and that explains his disdain for science.  At various times, he has echoed all of the various creationist arguments that attempt to cast doubt on real science.  You can see all these arguments by perusing the creationist websites.  They present them as "the real truth that scientists will never tell you", much the same way as Fox News pushes their own brand of "news" for the right-wing audience.  They do this because real science shatters the plausibility of their creation myths, so they seek to invent their own brand of science that confirms what they believe and disregards anything that refutes those beliefs.  The result is that the outcome of their investigations is a foregone conclusion, and their audience is primed with disinformation to inoculate them against any incursion of facts.

He follows up with this comment:
So, wrapping this up, what *this* ‘Science!’ fetishist is saying is this –
1) Yes, Ilíon, you are correct in what you’ve said – scientific statements cannot be scientifically determined to be either true or false;
2) You are correct that the practice of “science” isn’t even about truth;
3) Nevertheless, we *must* indoctrinate impressionable children that a certain sub-set of scientific statements – the ones that, unexamined, seem to support the metaphysics I want to be true -- as being The Truth;
3a) Teaching children how to critically and rationally evaluate claims made by scientists would defeat the purpose of “education”
This is worthy of discussion, because it reveals his own bias.

1) What he means by "scientific statements" is not clear.  Science is, strictly speaking, a method of investigation.  A given statement, in its own right is not "scientific", but it may be the subject of scientific investigation.  So a statement like "mankind evolved from apes" is "scientific" only in the sense that after scientific investigation, it is the consensus of the scientific community that evolution theory is the best explanation for the genesis of mankind. 

2) Science does not purport to claim that such a statement is true in some absolute sense.  If and when a better theory comes along - one that does a better job of explaining what we observe - that new theory will replace the current one.  Scientists are always cognizant of the tentative nature of their theories, and generally avoid making statements to the effect that their theories are absolutely true.

3) There are two main purposes in teaching science.  One is to provide an understanding of how things work in nature.  This gives us practical means to function and survive successfully in our world.  For example, knowing about biological pathogens gives us a better ability to avoid or treat infections, that is more effective than a shaman's chants.  The other purpose is to understand the process of scientific investigation.  Although it may be true that having scientific understanding tends to discredit various metaphysical views, the process of investigation itself is not directed toward any particular metaphysical view.  What Ilíon fears is that his unscientific beliefs and superstitions will be exposed as incoherent or inconsistent with the overall framework of understanding that science gives us.

3a) Critical and rational evaluation of claims by scientists is an essential part of the scientific process.  All scientific theories and hypotheses must be subjected to critical review, testing, replication, and all manner of verification in order to become accepted.  Indeed, scientific education should emphasize this, not suppress it.  But while Ilíon only wants to use skepticism to debunk mainstream science, you never hear him question the dubious claims of the creation scientists.  Because to him, Truth is just what he believes, independent of any scientific investigation or critical examination, and the only legitimate purpose of science is to confirm what he already believes.

Tomorrow, I will post on the related topic of scientific proof.

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