Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pensées July 10, 2007

Some scientists, especially the popularizes, claim to embrace philosophical materialism for scientific reasons. Yet, many philosophers know that there are no scientific reasons for philosophical materialism. In fact, philosophical materialism does not fit the criteria of a scientific hypothesis. It is neither quantifiable nor empirical. Neither is the argument that hypothetical materialism is more suited to scientific endeavor to any effect since the method is limited to the mathematical principles of natural objects and is neutral with regard to immaterial objects.

Thus the claim to espouse philosophical materialism for scientific reasons is, at root, confusion common among non-philosophers, whether they are scientists or not.

7 comments:

Colin said...

"Neither is the argument that hypothetical materialism is more suited to scientific endeavor to any effect since the method is limited to the mathematical principles of natural objects and is neutral with regard to immaterial objects."

It may have some usefulness, insofar as it assumes a priori that natural phenomena have natural (physcial, broadly speaking) causes. Such an assumption may not be correct, but it seems to have been (at least immediately) in 99% of cases and at least militates against the complacency of attributing effects to immaterial causes, a temptation that is best avoided by the natural scientist.

Thomas said...

Such an advantage, if it truly exists, is entirely accidental to the scientific method per se. It might theoretically assist the 'scientist' if he were prone to superstition. However, orthodox Christian belief is also an antidote to superstition. There is no a priori restriction to the use of mathematical physics in the Christian world-view.

Colin said...

"However, orthodox Christian belief is also an antidote to superstition. There is no a priori restriction to the use of mathematical physics in the Christian world-view."

That depends on which "Christian worldview" you mean. E.g., some have thought it crucial to the Christian worldview that the universe have a beginning in time. That is a fideistic article that bumps heavily into the natural order and upon which the natural sciences may yet heap serious doubt. And that would not be the only time the "Christian worldview" had to widen to accomodate the probable conclusions of the natural sciences, whose exponents often had to brook some opposition before ecclesiastics or the faithful would accede.

I won't bother to mention the obvious and hackneyed examples of heliocentrism or evolution, the former of which is overblown, but the latter of which of course remains a serious logjam for many of our fundamentalist friends (and even some influential Catholics, viz. Cardinal Schonborn).

Colin said...

I shall also note that the Magisterium of the Church claims authority on matters of faith and morals without qualification. It would be quite possible for the Magisterium to establish a de fide position that would be at odds with the empirical data. E.g., the descent of the human race from two parents.

Colin said...

All due respect of course to Cardinal Schonborn, who I am told is a very capable theologian and pastor. I was only making the point that he seemed (for a time) uncomfortable with the results of evolutionary biologists. I do believe he since clarified his position.

Thomas said...

It is true that ‘creatio ex nihilo’ is an article of faith. However, it must be such so long as philosophical arguments fail to demonstrate the impossibility of an eternal creation. On the other hand, philosophy has also failed to demonstrate the necessity of an eternal creation. It is difficult to see how mathematical physics could answer this question. How might one go about observing the eternity of the universes?

Colin said...

With a very long telescope ;-)

Actually, I wasn't referring to creatio ex nihilo, but to the condemnation of Thomas by Stephen Tempier. Wasn't Thomas' forebearance with Aristotle on the point of a beginning in time one of Tempier's targets?

As we just discussed, creatio ex nihilo is a separate matter and maybe compatible with an temporally eternal universe.