Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Acme Philosophy Corp.
Sometimes you just have to wonder:
I'm starting to realize that my quest for free will in philosophy may be futile, because I have a narrow notion of what I mean by the term. I see free will as the way most of us conceive of it: a situation in which one could have made more than one choice. If that's how you see it, and you're a determinist—which I think you pretty much have to be if you accept science—then you're doomed.
Jerry is not the least bit shy about calling out others who write about topics they have little expertise in. Philosophy is clearly an area that he has little aptitude for (e.g. the repeated conflations of "science" and "naturalism"). He is not obliged to post about it on his blog (which is supposedly dedicated to subjects Coyne knows about, like Evolution) but when he does, it seems only fair that his pseudo-intellectualism is noted for the record.
Were professional theologians correct to argue that Richard Dawkins needed to study theology before he could write about 'The God Delusion'? Many people thought that attacking the man and avoiding debate was, well, avoidance.
Yep. That's exactly what Coyne does repeatedly. He is the one who popularized the term "faithiest," after all. When someone embarks on that game, they are hanging the target on their own back.
Turnabout is fair play.
Were professional theologians correct to argue that Richard Dawkins needed to study theology before he could write about 'The God Delusion'?
You can certainly quibble about what Dawkins did or did not know about theology/religion but, yeah, pointing out that that someone is criticizing a subject s/he is ignorant of is a valid objection. After all, don't we (rightfully) mock Ray Comfort for his "criticisms" of evolutionary science based on his bizarre understanding of what it holds?
Now I freely admit that I’m not deeply trained in philosophy (viz., Massimo “The Decider” Pigliucci), so perhaps I’m missing some of Dennett’s subtler and more convincing points. In that case perhaps the readers will enlighten me.
Plus the emphasised 'accept' may not necessarily imply free will. I suspect, but don't know for certain, that Jerry used the word 'accept' rather than 'believe in' which carries even more alternative meanings.
A person might be compelled by deterministic factors to 'accept science'. Just because we think we are free to make choices does not necessarily mean we actually have the freedom to do so. We may be mad, deluded, or justifying our unconscious behaviours retrospectively.
Coyne clearly sees the opposite of "accepting" as "rejecting" and that the acceptance of science is based on "rational scrutiny." None of those are possible without choice. Now, the notion that there is no such thing as choice is a perfectly respectable (though highly nihilistic) position, you can't hold, at the same time, both the position that there is no such thing as free will and that there is such a thing as accepting science based on reason. The two thoughts are ... well ... incompatible.
Sure you can as evidenced by those that do.
Besides it's not like we have any choice in the matter.
P.S. I had to say that.
P.S.S. And that as well.
But... your feeling of acceptance of science, your feeling of choice and decision, may be emotional states generated by purely deterministic factors. The rational element of illusory choice may be a retrospective justification for behaviours already initiated.
In which case determinism could be all there is, but the feeling of freedom and choice can exist too - but is merely a powerful illusion.
Quite true. But, then, everything else that Coyne says about science is false. Which is fine but which is also worthy of mockery.
Yes, absolutely. Had he confined his criticisms to things he was knowledgable about he would not have made such a fool of himself.
"Many people thought that attacking the man and avoiding debate was, well, avoidance."
Well yes, anyone who said: He does not know anything about theology so his argument is not worth addressing" would be avoiding the argument by attacking the man, but since the criticism was "Look at these terrible arguments he is using, and look at how little he knows about these things he's writing about, he really should have confined himself to writing about stuff he actually knows about", that isn't a problem.
"yeah, pointing out that that someone is criticizing a subject s/he is ignorant of is a valid objection"
Quoted for truth.