Tuesday, March 09, 2010


PZ Myers, UFOlogist

Chris Schoen, at u n d e r v e r s e, has a nice take on the latest accommodationism-incompatiblism flap:

Once we have dismissed religion as a source of legitimate beliefs based on its inability to scientifically verify those beliefs, we have to likewise bear the egress of other non-verifiable means of human expression and understanding: Art, politics, fashion, jurisprudence, history, and many others.

Nobody wants this, and so these endeavors must be smuggled back as actually scientific. Taking up this burden is PZ Myers. To John Pieret's question (originally posed to Moran) whether he has "decided he loves his wife because he has performed scientific tests on himself?" Myers answers:

John, yes, we carried out a long period of empirical investigation. It's called "dating". Both my wife and I studied the problem carefully, and if I'd been a jerk or she'd tormented me cruelly, we'd probably have reached the rational decision that we shouldn't marry.

I really don't understand how people can fail to recognize that we do carry out critical examinations of others and ourself. Love doesn't just pop into existence in the absence of knowledge or experience.

And as I predicted, you do have a naive view of what "scientific" means. It does not mean hormones and [EEGs.] You don't have to put on a lab coat to do it. It's simple, rational, evidence-based thinking. (my emphasis)

And later, in follow up comments,

Are you suggesting that I was just imagining things when we had long conversations? That first kiss was just a fantasy?

Seriously, man. Human beings actually interact physically and intellectually with other human beings -- we have evidence. People are always measuring each other up on the dating scene. Watch an eHarmony ad sometime. (my emphasis)

No doubt the probability of denial was bound to increase in proportion to how personal the counterfactual is (your wife.) But it is remarkable how much a scrupulous scientist has left out of his definition. White lab coats aside, without hypothesis testing and publication and replication of results, Myer's courtship is about as scientific in its method as UFOlogy. Probably less, given the number of publications devoted to the latter. Which is not to say, of course, that PZ's love is not real, or that his knowledge of it is flawed.


Oh, and now John Wilkins has weighed in too:

PZ Myers, who I also claim as a friend and will be flying to meet when he finishes the Atheism Lovefest in Melbourne (no, I'm not miffed I wasn't invited to speak, why do you ask?), makes the same mistake – he tries, as Chris Schoen discusses, to show that his love for his wife is a scientific inference. I think there's a clear is-ought fallacy here; trial and error may explain why Paul and his Trophy Wife[tm] found each other compatible, but the justifiable belief that he loves her is not the result of anything like a scientific inference. It's what linguistic philosophers call a "performative": he loves her in virtue of expressing the love. How he got there is beside the point.


The question still remains as to whether the claim that one's knowledge is scientific is a scientific claim?

Does one do a double-blind test on one's own knowledge? Does one, at some random times, deliberately believe something irrationally, just to check whether irrationality is still failing?

Tom S.
Does one, at some random times, deliberately believe something irrationally, just to check whether irrationality is still failing?

Naw. Apparently you just cuddle.
I love PZ and all, but I'm firmly on your side in this debate. I wish more people saw the actual arguments the way we do.
I wish more people saw the actual arguments the way we do.

Of course. That's one of the consequences of being right!

I enjoy following both sides of this debate. I am curious as to your definition of science, as it is obviously at odds with the dissenting side.
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