Is Sufficiently Compressed Thinking Indistinguishable from Magical Thinking?

Andrew Brown is in The Guardian claiming any sufficiently interesting theory of the world is indistinguishable from religion.  There's a lot to debate there, but do you mind if I put the broader issue aside for a second to come to the defense of science!  Brown writes: And atheism can be just as theologically incorrect: today's paper told me that: "our bodies are built and controlled by far fewer genes than scientists had expected". The metaphors of "building" and "controlling" have here taken a … [Read more...]

Here there be Dragons [Reply to JT]

 So, JT asked: 3. You undoubtedly have a logical proof of some sort for a moral lawgiver. What is it? No, I definitely don't have a modus tollens, modus ponens style justification for my new position. I didn't have one for my old position, and I doubt JT's got one for his metaphysics.  As the name suggests, metaphysics are hard to test.So I end up approaching the problem from both sides.  I look for things I'm really confident in or that I'm willing to presuppose (e.g. other minds … [Read more...]

When Do You Reject Your Intuitions?

A while ago, a commenter emailed me to ask if I could recommend any books to read on human cognitive bias, and now that I've finished Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I can, with great enthusiasm.  When we study flaws in human reasoning, we usually start with glaring ones, and find out that they're just the most obvious examples of a broader problem (and the subtler errors are the more pernicious ones).  In the book, Kahneman has a really interesting riff on the Müller-Lyer il … [Read more...]

Is it Maps All the Way Down?

Yesterday, I went to the Dominican House of Studies for a symposium on Creation and Modern Science, and one of the speakers was Edward Feser, author of The Last Superstition (the book that got me started exploring Aquinas and hanging out with the DC Dominicans).  His lecture was on the immaterial nature of thought, and there's one facet of it I'd like to highlight here.Feser was talking about the distinction between concepts and phantasms.  As briefly as possible (i.e. blame me, not Feser, if … [Read more...]

We Go Together / Like Essence and Telos / Doo-bop a doo-bee doo

Here's Adam of Daylight Atheism's reply to the questions I asked him yesterday about the difference between moral and mathematical laws, and whether either is human-independent.  (He also pointed out that we've sparred on this point before, and you may want to refer back to the map-territory post). I believe that mathematics and logic are discovered, rather than invented, although those terms are apt to get us bogged down in deep semantic waters.I think it sheds more light on my position to … [Read more...]

The Black Box Brain Problem

If I found a black box with a number keypad and a printer tape, I could make tables of all the inputs I tested and the outputs.  I put in a 1 and get a 3.  A  7 gets me 127.  Non-integers return 'ERROR.'  Depending on what ends up in my table, I might be able to make some reasonably confident guesses about what was going on inside the box.  Provided I had been careful to watch out for positive bias.  (Go ahead, read the linked article, it's really good and I'll be here when you get back). … [Read more...]

It’s Hard Out Here for a Platonist

Alex Knapp took issue with my quasi-Platonism (and possible math idolatry) over at his tech blog for Forbes.  Here's the crux of his argument: The bottom line is that human beings have brains capable of counting to high numbers and manipulating them, so we use mathematics as a useful tool to describe the world around us. But numbers and math themselves are no more real than the color blue – ‘blue’ is just what we tag a certain wavelength of light because of the way we perceive that wavelength. A … [Read more...]