Critique of "The Scientific Worldview": Part 3 The Ten Assumptions of Science: Materialism

The difference between immaterialism and idealism. Collingwood's criteria for fundamental assumptions.

The Ten Assumptions of Science

Just to repeat: I agree with nearly all of your propositions, so these comments are primarily semantic quibbles and stylistic tangents.

I agree with the overall intent of Chapter 3, but I think you've mixed some concepts.

"First Assumption of Science, materialism, posits an external world of material objects that exists after the observer does not."

... or before the observer exists. It's called "objective realism" (not "materialism): all things exist independent of any observation (which puts a dent in many interpretations of the Uncertainty Principle), similar to "Aristotelian Realism", absent any Prime Mover.

There's an interesting heterodoxy in Aristotle's consideration of a Prime Mover (God):

"At the end of this line of argument, Aristotle comes to the conclusion that God knows only himself; so he does not know this physical world that we inhabit, he does not have a plan for us, and he is not affected by us."

That really pissed off Thomas Aquinas, who used Aristotle's erroneous cause reductionism as his first "Proof" of God's existence.
"Materialism: The external world exists after the observer does not."

I don't think it's proper to conflate "materialism" and "objectivism", as you do throughout. They are related, but quite different things:

Materialism: The doctrine that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications.

Objectivism: The belief that certain things exist independently of human knowledge or perception of them.

You could rhetorically coin a new word and combine them: Objective Matter in Motion: OMaMo?? However, it's confusing for the reader when you SAY you're talking about materialism, but the argument is for objectivism.

[Bill, my intent was to state all the assumptions in forms that would fulfill Collingwood’s criteria for fundamental assumptions:

1.    The assumption must have an opposite, which is true if the first is not.
2.    The assumption must not be completely provable (i.e., this explains why determinism-indeterminism arguments are interminable).
3.    The assumption must be consupponible with all other fundamental assumptions.

So, I stated materialism this way: “The external world exists after the observer does not.” That clearly has an opposite, as many idealists, or subjectivists, have demonstrated, and it clearly cannot be proven by anyone still alive. I might better have stated it this way: The First Assumption of Science is materialism (The universe displays only two basic phenomena: matter and the motion of matter). That, of course, is a bit more subtle. One would need to define matter and motion, which are themselves points of philosophical contention.

Note that, unlike dialectical materialists, for instance, I consider the opposite of materialism to be immaterialism rather than idealism. As I have pointed out many times, we use idealism in science all the time (e.g., ideal empty space vs. ideal solid matter, neither of which actually exists, but both of which are useful for describing the reality between them). Thus, I don’t necessarily see idealists as the bad guys. Immaterialists are the bad guys. This helps me understand regressive physics, with its massless photons and immaterial fields, etc.]

"We observe the external world, however, only through our five senses - far from perfect instruments."

True, but we have confirmed the validity of instruments with our senses, then used them to perceive things beyond our senses. Our knowledge of Ursula Minor is not limited to seeing a dot in the sky.

"... the indirect and incomplete evidence that is available to me is sufficient to lead me to the "leap of faith" that is the primary basis for all science.

Bad choice of words. It isn't "faith" to note that, in every case of a person "observing" an object, there was no effect from their ceasing to observe it. It has been objectively verified throughout human history. It is an "unmitigated truth", whereas "faith" most commonly refers to the adoption of claims, for which there is no objective evidence whatever.

[No, good choice of words, and the example you give is a good example of why it is: “in every case of a person "observing" an object, there was no effect from their ceasing to observe it.” Surely, you know that, in quantum mechanics (QM), exactly that claim has been said to have been disproven. Both you and I don’t agree with the QM claim, but the fact that the indeterminists of regressive physics are taken seriously on it means that “faith” is involved. It is the same “faith” as when we say there are material causes for all effects. You can call it unmitigated and objectively verified all you want, but until we discover all the causes for all effects, it will remain a “faith” or “assumption.” That will never happen, of course, because the universe is infinite. Those who believe in some sort of finity, like yourself, still hold out hope that we will discover some absolutes that have no plus or minus variation and need not require squishy metaphysical precepts for interpretation. Not gonna happen.

Remember that my claim that the philosophical struggle is faith vs. faith, not fact vs. faith, is critical to our whole program for replacing the Big Bang Theory with the Infinite Universe Theory. Not being a cosmologist, I am not about to dispute the “facts” of the BBT. I agree that the galactic redshift mostly increases with distance, but I do not agree that means the universe is expanding. The expansion interpretation is based on incorrect assumptions, among them being the immaterialist “faith” that light is a massless particle.]  

I find it a little off-putting that you seem to equate "unmitigated truth" from scientific investigation with the blind "faith" in religious doctrine, or purely arbitrary "assumptions", or axioms beyond logical validation.

[This from Jerry Coyne’s blog of 20130529, in which he reprinted a comment from a creationist:

“ “the·o·ry

1.A supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be...: "Darwin's theory of evolution"

2.A set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based: "a theory of education"; "music theory".

According to the dictionary EVILution is just a supposition. Thank you for your time and God bless!

Jerry writes:

love the "God bless!"

Do you suppose that if Fantazunique Brown read my book, he/she would show that evolution is a fact, even if not "conclusively proven" as a fact (because, of course, science isn't in the business of conclusively proving anything)?”

This means, of course, that there are no facts that will change indeterminist Brown's belief in creation, just as there are no facts that will change Jerry's belief in the BBT. If it were only a matter of facts, Brown would not be a creationist and Jerry would not be a big banger, and you would not believe in free will and microcosmic finity. That does not mean that people (even Jerry and yourself) will not eventually change their minds after seeing enough facts. But remember that there can be no such change without a revolution: the replacement of one fundamental assumption by its opposite. That is a huge, dramatic change that is difficult, and for many folks nearly impossible. It is not to be taken lightly, for it must affect all subsequent thinking.]

"... without observations and experiments, and without a firm belief in materialism, science may slip into idealism, the belief in immaterialism, its opposite."

Again, conflating concepts. Subjective Idealism is not the same as "immaterialism" or "spiritualism". For example, one may believe that the material world exists, but claim that it is caused by human consciousness. Another person may believe that the material world exists, but that it was "designed" to work that way by a "higher power".

"To improve our confidence in our sensory perceptions, we seek confirmation of our initial conclusions."

That's what makes them "objective", rather than "subjective": the observer's biases and errors can be discovered by multiple people independently (mitigating their truth), or confirmed by repetition and additional evidence.

[Bill, you are right that the distinction between “materialism” and “objectivism” amounts to mere quibbles. I prefer “materialism” because it helps get across the points I want to make. It is all matter in motion here. To be truly “objective,” one has to remove oneself from the picture entirely, following the causal chain wherever it may lead. That, of course, is not completely possible, as your previous arguments for free will demonstrate. And as creationist Brown showed above, there is never enough “additional evidence” to convince a person holding the opposing fundamental assumption.]

Next: Causality

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