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Demarcation Revisited

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Posted

Those of you with an interest in the demarcation problem or the battles surrounding the status of Intelligent Design might be interested in a recent issue of Synthese called Evolution and its rivals. (You should be able to access some of the papers.) It includes an awful piece by Robert Pennock entitled Can't philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?: Demarcation revisited. Brad Monton, who is criticised by Pennock, called this issue "disappointing"; Brian Leiter described Pennock's argument as a "purported defense of the demarcation problem against Laudan's famous critique". Still, there may be some aspects of the papers we could discuss here.

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Posted

Just to let folks know -- open access to the articles supposedly lasts only through the end of this month. So, download them now.

Michael

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Posted

Do the papers exhibit any philosophical balance, or are they all more or less of the Pennock-style argument?

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Posted

Do the papers exhibit any philosophical balance, or are they all more or less of the Pennock-style argument?

So far I have only gotten about half of the way through the Pennock paper. There is also a paper by John Wilkins. You can find some comments about the papers in general from the Prosblogion crowd here.

Michael

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Posted

I've now read half the Pennock paper myself.

I suggest moving this discussion over to Nullifidian's "Philosophy of biology" thread, which he will be returning to. His starting text for that thread is a book edited by Michael Ruse on the philosophy of biology, but this issue of Synthese can serve as a companion launching pad for discussion.

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Posted (edited)

Just to add: one way to advance this discussion would be if Hugo would review the Pennock piece, which I plan to do myself after I've finished reading it.

Edited by davidm

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Posted

I had intended to write some critical comments but the paper really is so bad that I don't know where to start. I'll see if there's some way to make it useful.

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Posted

I had intended to write some critical comments but the paper really is so bad that I don't know where to start. I'll see if there's some way to make it useful.

Its badness should make it easy for you, though. B)

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Posted (edited)

Larry Laudan’s essay “The Demise of the Demarcation Problem” may be found here, though note that 3 pages are missing because of copyright limitations as to the number of pages that can be displayed, and you can’t print the page or copy and paste the content to a different program like Word and then print in that program. Moreover, if you want to buy the book in which the essay resides, you will have to part with a handsome 264 U. S. dollars. :yup:

I would find it very interesting if Hugo would post his detailed analysis of Pennock’s essay.

I think Pennock and others in this debate need for there to be a legal finding along the lines that ID is warmed-over creationism and therefore religious; and that religious views, or religiously motivated views, cannot be scientific. Or they need something like that. The problem with the Laudan essay is that Laudan pretty convincingly shows that they can’t get what they legally need; or rather, they can get it, if a judge rules so, but that does not make the judge’s ruling philosophically sound.

I don’t know why so much venom is directed at people like Laudan and Monton. Pretty clearly they are not supporters of ID/Creationism (or however you wish to label it). Monton makes that point very explicitly. What they object to, as Monton quotes Laudan from his essay, is the disinclination to drop “hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us.” Phrases, Laudan elaborates, like “pseudo-science” and “unscientific.” But, again, legally, Pennock et al feel they need these sorts of labels to stick on ID to keep it out assuredly out of the classroom, which is their main goal. But as Monton notes, what really can keep ID out of class is that, even if we say it’s science, it’s bad and unevidenced science, and shows no sign of getting better. Also, religious motivation cannot logically be used to exclude science, or science-like forms of research, from the classroom; for if so we’d have to exclude the body of work of Newton.

Anyway, I’m reading through the available papers; some are quite interesting.

Edited by davidm
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Posted

From the Synthese article entitled ”The Science Question in Intelligent Design”

… note that most philosophers of science have long abandoned a sharp

line of demarcation between science and non-science. Some, such as Quine, have tended to deny the utility of all such dichotomous distinctions on pragmatic grounds. In particular, Quine argued for continuity between science and philosophy (as part of a comprehensive naturalism in philosophy), a position that denies the possibility of a strict demarcation between the two spheres. It is therefore not surprising that, when demarcation criteria were invoked in legal contexts during attempts to introduce Scientific Creationism into US high school science curricula in the 1980s, critics pointed out that its role was rhetorical and political rather than substantive. Laudan (1983,p. 349) puts this point forcefully: “If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo-science’ and ‘unscientific’ from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us.” Ruse (1982), who had deployed the falsifiability criterion in court testimony, conceded that the demarcation criterion was being deployed for political ends, and pointed out—with some justice—that the most promising legal strategy for excluding creationism from science classes was by arguing that it was religion rather than science on the basis of

a demarcation criterion.

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Posted

I'm thinking about writing a critique of this paper but I note that it's been out a while. Brad Monton has a few blog entries about it here and here.

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Posted

I'm thinking about writing a critique of this paper but I note that it's been out a while. Brad Monton has a few blog entries about it here and here.

Well, Pennock's paper has been out for nearly a couple of years, but I gather the issue of Synthese in which it appears is new? In any case, regardless of the age of the article, I think it'd be a great service for you to do a critique of it, which it richly deserves. Monton's two blog entries only touch on a couple of points, one of them the egregiously offenisve tone of the piece and the other demonstrating the falsity of the claim that supernatural claims can't be tested. Now it's time for you to step up and take Pennock's piece down comprehensively. B) After which perhaps he could be sent a link to your piece.

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Posted (edited)

Here's a good one at Panda's Thumb, in which it is noted that the sole value of the philosophy of science is its "entertaining ability." Edited by davidm

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Posted

it is noted that the sole value of the philosophy of science is its "entertaining ability."

That's a compliment. The entertainment of others is the most any of us can aspire to. The highest form of human life is the stand-up comedian.

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Posted

My latest blog, The Great Danger that is Creationism, analyzes/critiques/criticizes the Pennock diatribe and also brings in another of the Synthese papers that had been available.

Michael

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