Common cause? Lost cause

A lot has been written about “Climategate” and if anyone has missed any part of it, they could start with this, this, and this. Mann’s and Jones’ emails about keeping skeptics out by “redefining” peer-review, and by “stop[ping to] consider” a particular journal as “legitimate” are here and here.

The left has achieved mastery over “intelligent” bullying, name-calling. Calling western countries imperialist while its the Asian ones that are annexing territories and worrying about “spheres of influence”; equating AGW skepticism with holocaust denial, belief in “intelligent design,” and the “flat earth” hypothesis etc is their way of confusing issues. Its probably because of their inability to differentiate between metaphysics, history and science. I don’t want to trivialize issues by debating “flat earth” and holocaust denial. If somebody believes that, good for them, though the latter position, as far as I am concerned, can only be held by people subscribing to a particular kind of politics.

Intelligent design, well, as I see it, it is the position that God created Man, which is what most religious people believe in any case, stated in the language of science. (The problem would have never arisen if idiots in the US had not brought their school system under government control. And parents could have taught their kids anything they wished.) As for the question of ID being science, science has nothing to do with telos. And telos, even if one finds it, is not proof of intelligence.

The theory and law of gravity can explain how it, gravity, works. The more precise the theory, the more precise its predictions. And that can enable man to send crafts to the moon, mars and beyond. But “why” is not the subject matter of science. Why does man exist? Why do mosquitoes? Why does the universe exist? Science cannot answer such questions, only how such and such thing occurred. They, if they can be answered at all, are the subject matter of philosophy in general, and metaphysics in particular. Everything that is outside the purview of causality, and therefore verifiability, is outside the purview of science. Like God, and teleology, and intelligent design. Popper had once called natural selection a “metaphysical research program.” He changed his views later on because he realized that the theory could be disproved, falsified. How do you scientifically prove the non-existence of God? By calling out of your window and confirming that you don’t receive an answer?

There’s a reason I wrote the above. This. Every time the interests of the right and liberty coincide, the right bring their God Stick along with them for the ride-

Outright lies and deception certainly seem to be the case with “Climategate.” The exposed e-mails reveal cherry picking; manipulating data; working behind the scenes to censor dissenting views; and doubting what the measurements say because they don’t fit their pre-determined conclusion. Matt Drudge headlined this yesterday as the “Greatest scandal in modern science.”

I actually think there is another great scientific scandal, but its misrepresentations are not quite as obvious. In this scandal, instead of outright lies, scientific conclusions are smuggled in as philosophical presuppositions. Such is the case with the controversy over the origin of life and new life forms. Did natural forces working on non-living chemicals cause life, or is life the result of intelligent activity? Did new life forms evolve from lower life forms by natural forces or was intelligence needed?


Why is it so hard for Dawkins and other Darwinists to see this? Maybe they refuse to see it. Maybe, like global warming “scientists,” they have their own political or moral reasons for denying the obvious. Or maybe they’ve never realized that you cannot do science without philosophy. As Einstein said, “The man of science is a poor philosopher.” And poor philosophers of science may often arrive at false scientific conclusions. That’s because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do.

The old watchmaker argument again. You know that an abandoned watch was made by a watchmaker because you must have seen a watchmaker make watches. Empiricism at work. The same goes for every analogy wherein you deduce after seeing a man-made object, that man made it. But the same doesn’t hold true for God or aliens. One has, I can’t help the sarcasm, never seen the universe fall out of God’s pocket, or an alien breathe life into the first known life form. One can, at best, say that the universe, and everything within it, is too complex to be the work of randomness, and something must be involved. But saying so is not proof. Telos is not proof. Complexity is not proof. An argument done to death.

Be it the left or the right, one cannot rely on them for consistent support. The former will gag you and bankrupt you, and the latter will let you to keep your assets but will gag you in a different manner plus send its vice squad to do the rounds. Both will claim, however, that they are the true torchbearers of liberty.

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  • Sauvik Chakraverti  On November 26, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Excellent post. Science is “causality”; praxeology is teleological. Think about that >:)

    • Aristotle The Geek  On November 27, 2009 at 2:15 am

      It does seem that way, praxeology. Purpose-driven. But I can’t comment on it unless I read more about Austrian methodology.

  • Sauvik Chakraverti  On November 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

    The “science” of the natural world, which is causality, differs from the “science” of human action, which is teleological, in that there is a final purpose or end, which is the satisfaction of a human need. Yet, both are “science.” Mises called this “methodological dualism.”

    • Aristotle The Geek  On November 28, 2009 at 1:01 am

      All human action is purposive? Governed by a teleological process? I would say—yes. Is economics—praxeology—science? As long as it is not considered to be a science in the same way that a physics, chemistry or mathematics is, yes.

      This is what Rothbard writes in his essay on “extreme apriorism”-

      [Mises] “assumes” only that men act, that is, that they have some ends, and use some means to try to attain them. This is Mises’s Fundamental Axiom, and it is this axiom that gives the whole praxeological structure of economic theory built upon it its absolute and apodictic certainty.

      Now the crucial question arises: how have we obtained the truth of this axiom? Is our knowledge a priori or empirical, “synthetic” or “analytic”? In a sense, such questions are a waste of time, because the all-important fact is that the axiom is self-evidently true, self-evident to a far greater and broader extent than the other postulates. For this Axiom is true for all human beings, everywhere, at any time, and could not even conceivably be violated. In short, we may conceive of a world where resources are not varied, but not of one where human beings exist but do not act. We have seen that the other postulates, while “empirical,” are so obvious and acceptable that they can hardly be called “falsifiable” in the usual empiricist sense. How much more is this true of the Axiom, which is not even conceivably falsifiable!

      Positivists of all shades boggle at self-evident propositions. And yet, what is the vaunted “evidence” of the empiricists but the bringing of a hitherto obscure proposition into evident view? But some propositions need only to be stated to become at once evident to the self, and the action axiom is just such a proposition.

      Whether we consider the Action Axiom “a priori” or “empirical” depends on our ultimate philosophical position. Professor Mises, in the neo-Kantian tradition, considers this axiom a law of thought and therefore a categorical truth a priori to all experience. My own epistemological position rests on Aristotle and St. Thomas rather than Kant, and hence I would interpret the proposition differently. I would consider the axiom a law of reality rather than a law of thought, and hence “empirical” rather than “a priori.” But it should be obvious that this type of “empiricism” is so out of step with modern empiricism that I may just as well continue to call it a priori for present purposes. For (1) it is a law of reality that is not conceivably falsifiable, and yet is empirically meaningful and true; (2) it rests on universal inner experience, and not simply on external experience, that is, its evidence is reflective rather than physical; and (3) it is clearly a priori to complex historical events.

      The fundamental axiom, being a self-evident proposition, is metaphysical in nature. That human action is governed by teleology is part of the “nature of man.” One might have deduced it through experience, but it is still a metaphysical construct. One cannot verify teleology like one verifies the theory of gravity. Otherwise, economic laws are subject to causality. Resources are subject to it, human action is subject to it. Since humans are not inanimate objects, however, one must adopt “methodological dualism” when we deal with them and their actions.

      As I said, I have to read some more about it before I can say anything with certainty. Mises’ Theory and History and his Epistemological Problems…, plus Rothbard on Austrian methodology.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On November 28, 2009 at 4:38 am

      Mises’ “The Ultimate Foundations of Economic Science” too is a great source when it comes to his views on metaphysics, epistemology, causality and teleology.

      I’ll revisit this topic in the near future.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On May 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    This was the post i was looking for… “telos”.

    One can, at best, say that the universe, and everything within it, is too complex to be the work of randomness, and something must be involved. But saying so is not proof. Telos is not proof. Complexity is not proof. An argument done to death.

    You put the words together so beautifully.

    It seems that google stops indexing old blog posts as time passes. I tried searching “telos is not proof” at homepage under “blogs” and “comments” field but this page doesn’t show up. Finally tried in the search dialog located at the top of your blog and reached success. I keep coming back to read your old posts because the first time I went through, most of it passed above my head primarily because of my lack of vocabulary skills. I must index your blog with IDM :)

  • Aristotle The Geek  On May 10, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Strange that Google doesn’t work. Neither do Bing or Yahoo. And even wordpress misses this mention while google catches it.

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