Back Off Science

Battles with rationalists

Posted in 1 by backoffscience on September 17, 2009

Reading around on the Dawkins forums, its clear that the attitude I’m trying to pry of the rock is both widespread and very hard to dispute. What evidence do you use to persuade someone that there are real things for which there is no evidence?

As I hope you can see, I’m still trying to find out exactly how this idea works. But I think I got closer in the last line of a forum post –

There are things that are not grounded in any way that science can investigate, but at the same time are not magical or illusory.

As odd as it seems to me, that does appear to be the mindset of the rationalist, that there is just one kind of answer – one about the stuff you know from scienceĀ  – and everything else people talk about is some kind of illusion or fallacy or magic or delusion.

So numerically, it is only a very small step the rationalist needs to make – from one kind of answer to two.

Because there really are just two abstract groups of concepts – matter and language.

These are neatly represented in the incredibly dry and dull discussion over philosophical epistemology. Some knowledge, knowledge of matter, is foundational. It hits bottom on provable facts. Other knowledge is contextual – facts are supported by other facts on huge web of self-supporting connections. The rock bottom is action. That is how language works.

(It gets especially confusing when there are aspects of both kinds of knowledge – ie. the neuroscience of belief.)

But to say there is only one kind of answer means you completely remove the possibility of there being value, meaning, quality, emotion, responsibility and so on. As these things obviously do exist, there has to be a different kind of answer.

And after that appalling pastiche I think I’d better go.

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