Posts tagged ‘causation’

June 9th, 2013

The Philosophy of Science Directory

by Max Andrews

This is a compilation of posts, which focus on the philosophy of science. These posts will cover a broad spectrum within the philosophy of science ranging from multiverse scenarios, scientific theory, epistemology, and metaphysics.

  1. MA Philosophy Thesis: “The Fine-Tuning of Nomic Behavior in Multiverse Scenarios”
  2. Natural Law and Scientific Explanation
  3. Science and Efficient Causation
  4. Which Comes First, Philosophy or Science?
  5. The Postulates of Special Relativity
  6. There’s No Such Thing as Creation Science–There’s Just Science
  7. Time Travel and Bilking Arguments
  8. “It’s Just a Theory”–What’s a Scientific Theory?
  9. Exceptions to a Finite Universe
  10. Teleology in Science
  11. Duhemian Science
  12. The Relationship Between Philosophy and Science
  13. The History of the Multiverse and the Philosophy of Science
  14. Where’s the Line of Demarcation Between Science and Pseudoscience?
  15. Miracles and the Modern Worldview
  16. Mass-Density Link Simpliciter
  17. Scientific Nihilism
  18. Q&A 10: The Problem of Defining Science
  19. Q&A 6: Scientism and Inference to the Best Explanation
  20. The Quantum Universe and the Universal Wave Function
  21. The History and Macro-Ontology of the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Physics
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February 11th, 2013

Q&A 10: The Problem of Defining Science

by Max Andrews

thQuestion:

I’m not grasping the foundations of some claims in your paper “What’s Science…..”  I realize, or think I realize, that you are expanding on concepts relating to the subject matter as introduced by other philosophers.  Choosing to accept Augustinian Science as inclusive of metaphysical presuppositions is in and of itself not scientific, as there is no way to reliably ascertain a metaphysical construct relative to a physical construct.  How can you demonstrate any kind of cause and effect?  In addition, some things that were assumed to be metaphysical are now known to be physical as a result of rigorous scientific analysis.  I’m referring to our ability to artificially manipulate cognition during neurosurgery in coordination with fMRI and other scanning resources. If I’m misreading please let me know. Can you provide examples of scientific theories that are not founded in empiricism? How can metaphysical evidence be reliable when it is not falsifiable? But is there an example of scientific theories that are not falsifiable?  I can’t think of any. I’m not suggesting that a pseudoscientific claim cannot be falsifiable, but I don’t see how a theory that is based on data accumulation, investigation, analysis, review and verification can be defined as unfalsifiable.  It would render the review process inconsequential. Theories that are falsifiable promote and require continued investigation as no theories are an end in themselves.  The reason I bring this is because your article says that falsifiability is not required…and I don’t see how that is in fact conclusive. Is there a specific definition of science that you are basing your views on?
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July 5th, 2012

Teleology in Science

by Max Andrews

Many scientists believe teleology involves human action. The role of necessity and contingency are vital. Phrases like, “In order to…” and “It just so happens that…” are contingencies.  Before proceeding I’ll make a quick distinction between metaphysics and epistemology. Metaphysics includes being and becoming. Each have respective higher and lower forms. Being’s higher form is beauty, justice, etc. The lower form is triangularity, humanity, etc. Becoming’s higher and lower are sensible things and images, respectively. Epistemology includes knowledge and opinion. Knowledge pertains to understanding and reasoning. Opinion refers to perception and imagination.

Teleology refers to final causation.  Aristotle’s science included four different causes: material, formal, efficient, and final. For instance, consider a marble statue of a man. The material cause is the stuff, the marble.  The formal cause is the whatness/sort, the statue.  The efficient cause is that which brings it into being, the sculptor.  The final cause is the end purpose, David.

Can teleology simply be an implication? Information has origin in mind but we know minds act in accordance to purpose, thus teleology is an implication and not a direct conclusion.  Natural causation cannot bring about directionality or intentionality. Many philosophers of science, i.e. Alex Rosenberg, want to get us as close to nomic necessity as possible. Simply put, many philosophers, including Rosenberg, believe efficient causation is not satisfying.

June 13th, 2012

Problems with Efficient Causality

by Max Andrews

Any type of efficient causality is typically associated with being an unscientific explanation—explanations nonetheless but unscientific.  It is believed that if biology, chemistry, physics, etc. rested explanations in final causation then it would be a science stopper.  This is where the distinction between Duhemian science and Augustinian science must be made. I would deny the use of Duhemian science.  This method, or philosophy, has a goal of stripping science from all metaphysical imports.  Augustinian science is open to metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Francis Bacon and Descartes used and allowed for formal and final causation in scientific explanation.  Newton entered science and postulated that the universe was entirely mechanistic, which was a denial of Baconian and Cartesian science (at least their versions of scientific explanation) but offered no explanation for the appearance of final causation and efficient causation.  Darwin came along and provided a plausible material mechanism for the appearance of final and efficient causation (at least for the special science of biology).  In the mid 1800’s William Whewell was the first to restrict science to only mean natural science.  Pierre Duhem followed this idea and constructed a methodology, which barred explanations to material causes.  For instance, agent causation is completely compatible with Augustinian science but is prohibited as a scientific explanation in Duhemian science.  Agent causation is something that can be observed but isn’t necessarily reductionistic in the material sense as with material causation because agent causation has metaphysical import.

January 11th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday 1/11/12

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Quantum-Logic

Definition:  An interpretation of quantum mechanics developed by John von Neumann in the late 1930′s.  Quantum logic says that everyday logic cannot be applied to the quantum world.  Contrary to Boolean logic, quantum logic says that and and either do not have the same meaning in the quantum world.

More about the term:  This interpretation isn’t known to be deterministic or indeterministic.  That is still up for debate.  However, there is no collapse of the wave function.  Also, local causation is uncertain as well.  There is little debate on the issue but the majority understanding of this is that it has a unique history (contrary to other non-collapse interpretations like Many Worlds).  When using Boolean logic to assess quantum logic it may seem that quantum logic is self-contradictory; however, if quantum logic is assessed internally it is indeed consistent.  The major problem for this system is extrapolating applied logic.  Boolean logic is certainly valid in everyday life but is invalid in the quantum world.  One way or another it seems that contradictions may arise somewhere along the way.  For more information see John Gribbin’s Q is for Quantum.

Example of use:  Consider the double slit experiment where a photon is shot at a wall with two slits and the photon goes through either one (or both).  So, because there is no wave collapse the photon actually goes through both slits.  There’s a different logical significance in this experiment.

October 13th, 2011

Is Heisenberg a Defeater for an Evidentialist Epistemology?

by Max Andrews

(For further context on my epistemology see Einstein’s Impact on the Epistemic Method.  I would consider myself a moderate evidentialist.)

Scientific theology takes Einstein’s knowing and being and his understanding of reality as a whole and applies this method of theology in Christian theology.  If the world is indeed the creation of God, then there is an ontological ground for a theological engagement with the natural sciences.  It is not an arbitrary engagement, which regresses back to Newtonian engagement, but it is a natural dialogue, grounded in the fundamental belief that the God about whom Christian theology speaks is the same God who created the world that the natural sciences investigate.[1]

A major problem that presses my theory of knowledge is the Heisenberg Principle.  This principle states that an observer changes the current state of affairs being observed.  For instance, if I am measuring the velocity of a particle I cannot know the position of the particle and vise versa.  This is called uncertainty.  How this comes into the epistemic process is whether or not this principle is epistemic or ontic.  This uncertainty creates an epistemic limit.

If this principle is epistemic then what relationship does the nature of reality have on our epistemic faculty?  Heisenberg himself believed that this uncertainty was not merely epistemic but it was ontic. Back to the example of velocity and position, if Heisenberg’s ontic uncertainty is true then if an object that is not in an eigenstate[2] of position then the object does not have a position.  Position then becomes a potential property.  When the observer measures the position it is then actualized.[3]

If this principle is ontic then this may potentially be a defeater for my position.  By way of realism, there is a certain element of reality that truly is uncertain.  Causation is even worse than what Hume told us.  That is still not to say that causation does not occur, it must, but this ontic uncertainty may affect more than just the quantum world.  If all of reality is composed of particles then there is a certain extent to which properties of particle can be extrapolated to a set aggregate of particles.  It’s easy to see how this can affect evidence and meeting sufficiency for belief.  I do not believe that ontic uncertainty makes reality unknowable since, intuitively, there are some propositions that we do know to be true such as the reality and existence of the external world.  So, even if it were the case that there is an element to ontic uncertainty it would not affect my epistemic theory in a capacity that would render it void and untenable.  There may be minor nuances to my theory that would render this theory questionable but given epistemic charity or probability one may still be justified in believing any proposition that is onticly uncertain as true as long as it meets the criteria for sufficiency.


            [1] Both the natural sciences and Christian theology are to engage with the nature of reality—not deciding this in advance, but exploring and establishing it through a process of discovery and encounter.  Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004),  21-22.

            [2] An eigenstate is a state corresponding to a fixed value of a physical variable.

            [3] Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality:  Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 250-251.