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Author Topic:   Does science ask and answer "why" questions?
bluegenes
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Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
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Message 311 of 353 (648682)
01-17-2012 3:51 PM
Reply to: Message 309 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 3:05 PM


Re: how is it that we're here?
Catholic Scientist writes:

I don't exactly know, but I suspect that those don't make the point that I think is trying to be made:..

They don't. But neither does the version in the O.P.. And that's my point.

If the claim is: "Some questions are better answered by science and others by religion", then why not phrase it: "some questions are better answered by science and others by religion"? Or "addressed" instead of "answered".

There's no need to bring the interrogatives into it at all.

If you look at the O.P., I'm talking about wrong and clumsy use of language, more than anything else.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 309 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 3:05 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 315 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 5:40 PM bluegenes has responded

  
bluegenes
Member
Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 313 of 353 (648696)
01-17-2012 4:42 PM
Reply to: Message 308 by kbertsche
01-17-2012 2:34 PM


Re: Middle ground believers in a creator.
kbertsche writes:

Second, science addresses and investigates a number of things which are not demonstrably "real", and which may never be so. Science asks and answers questions about quarks, cosmic strings, multiverses, etc. These provide good models of reality, but they are not necessarily "real" themselves.

For me, science can address any questions about reality. It can ask anything. But we don't know how much it can meaningfully answer. We can't know whether or not humans at some point in the future could have what might be considered a complete understanding of everything through science.

kbertsche writes:

Is there any reality outside of science, in the non-material world? Maybe or maybe not, but science can't tell us one way or the other.

I see science as an attempt to explore reality, so a reality outside science wouldn't make sense, but areas of reality beyond the scope of current science would.

Hypothetically, if there's a "non-material world" that in anyway effects the material world, those effects could be observed and perhaps measured. For example, you mentioned Simon Conway-Morris seeing convergence as evidence for teleology. I see nothing wrong in scientists making such observations. There should be no a priori exclusion of teleology as an answer to the "why" question: Why is there convergence?


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bluegenes
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Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 318 of 353 (648742)
01-18-2012 7:27 AM
Reply to: Message 315 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 5:40 PM


What is the ultimate meaning of life and this thread?
Catholic writes:

The reason that I think the interrogatives are brought into it is that that's how people think about it. When they're looking for some underlying purpose or meaning behind some phenomenon, besides an otherwise mundane mechanical explanation, they'll ask themselves why its happening. For what reason does this occur... not under what conditions, i.e. how it occurs.

Yes, but what I'm saying is that, if they were even half good thinkers, those thought processes would not lead them to the conclusion that because why and what (and reason) can be used in profound philisophical questions of purpose, that questions of purpose are or should be their only use. It's not actually a conclusion you've come to. Where you're wrong in attempting to defend Zen Deist is that it does seem to be a conclusion that he's come to, and that was what I was picking him up on in the other thread when I asked him not to further Dawn's linguistic confusion. Statement 2 in the O.P. is his opinion, it's not the first time he's expressed it, and he's 100% wrong.

Statement 2 from the O.P.

quote:

"The proper use of "why" is to answer questions of purpose."


Message 143

C. S. writes:

I think you're over-analyzing it.

I think I'm just stating the obvious!

BTW, here's the original point I was making to Zen Deist on that thread. Message 137


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 Message 315 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 5:40 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

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 Message 319 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-18-2012 10:48 AM bluegenes has responded

  
bluegenes
Member
Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 321 of 353 (648772)
01-18-2012 11:36 AM
Reply to: Message 319 by Catholic Scientist
01-18-2012 10:48 AM


Re: What is the ultimate meaning of life and this thread?
Catholic Scientists writes:

Whether or not that's proper is a subjective opinion. He's basing his on the primary dictionary definition of "why". You tried to show that the primary dictionary definition included other uses because it had the "or" in there, but I don't think you were correct about that assessment. The defintion read as: for what reason, for what cause, or for what purpose. "For what cause" being a different question than "how" in the sense of how it was caused.

Look up "reason". He is not basing his opinion on "the primary definition", and he does not express the view that it's a matter of personal taste, but aggressively implies that his view is objective.

Catholic Scientist writes:

I presume that "not" I added should be in there... (I forget them too)

No. It shouldn't.

Catholic Scientist writes:

There's some questions that people ask that try to get to an underlying purpose for existence. They're "doing religion" when they do this. They typically use why-questions. Some might feel that this is the most appropriate usage of that word.

What point, exactly, are you trying to make? The way that words are used is a reality that can be researched. "Proper" just means "well established". It isn't determined by Zen Deist's religious whims or anyone else's whims, religious or not.


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 Message 319 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-18-2012 10:48 AM Catholic Scientist has responded

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 Message 322 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-18-2012 12:24 PM bluegenes has responded

  
bluegenes
Member
Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 324 of 353 (648790)
01-18-2012 2:11 PM
Reply to: Message 322 by Catholic Scientist
01-18-2012 12:24 PM


Re: What is the ultimate meaning of life and this thread?
C.S writes:

From dictionary.com:

quote:

reason

noun
1. a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc.: the reason for declaring war.


So, the reason for declaring war wouldn't be a scientific description of the way that cultures interact, or how the brain makes decisions. It'd be something like "for their oil". It'd be the purpose of the war.

Would it? Why? (For what reason?)

Ironically, if you were looking for underlying reasons rather than perceived reason or purpose, it would be more like your first suggestion. But as humans are involved in that particular example, purpose could certainly be involved in many potential answers. Concentrate on the definition, rather than the random example. Other examples might help. The basis or cause of an explosion in your lab, for example. Or the reason for a traffic accident. Note the word "fact" above, and think about the reason that the sky appears blue, or the basis or cause of the fact that the sun is warm.

But importantly, think about about "basis or cause."

C.S. writes:

Here's the first definition of "why:

quote:

why
adverb
1. for what? for what reason, cause, or purpose?: Why did you behave so badly?


The primary definition is one of purpose.

??????!!!!!!!

C.S. writes:

The answer to "Why did you behave so badly?" is not a scientific explanation on how the brain causes certain behaviors, nor is it asking about the phycological cause of said behavior. Its asking your purpose behind your behavior.

It's asking for reason, cause or purpose. Some examples of answers that do not include purpose are:

Because I'm a bad tempered sonofabitch. (reason - basis)
Because I was mad. (reason - cause)
Because I was tired. (ditto)
Because I'm suffering from schizophrenia. (reason - basis)

Again, the example happens to concern human behaviour, so there's certainly often purpose.

Because I wanted to make you mad. (that's a reason, and there's an intentional purpose for the bad behaviour in this case).

Topically, because I wanted to troll you. (reason + purpose)

Note that the question is best described as "for what reason did you behave so badly", because that covers all possible answers. "For what purpose" doesn't, because there could be none.

Perhaps the tendency of dictionaries to give examples relating to human behaviour helps to confuse you and RAZD, but even within the world of our behaviour, purpose is only part of the job of the word "why".

When you're looking for the basis or cause of phenomena outside the animal world and the things we make, we have yet to find any purpose, so why automatically deals with its other jobs of asking about reason (basis or cause) when we're being scientific.

C.S. writes:

In that case, I do think he's right: that the proper definition of "why" is a question of purpose.

Think again. The dictionary definition isn't giving you anything improper.

C.S. writes:

Especially when contrasting it against the other interrogatives. Sure, the meaning can be others and the word can be used differently, but the most well established meaning behind the word is a question of purpose.

Probably reason, actually, which pretty much covers the other two. But that doesn't matter. "Proper" means any well established meaning of a word. If you and RAZD are at the basic level of thinking that words only have one "proper" meaning, you've got a lot to learn about language.


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 Message 322 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-18-2012 12:24 PM Catholic Scientist has acknowledged this reply

  
bluegenes
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Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 351 of 353 (650646)
02-01-2012 3:20 PM


Summation time.
Apparently, it's summation time.

I'll stick mainly to my points about language, and probably leave the other (very interesting) stuff that's come up to other participants.

I object to this: Science doesn't ask/answer "why" questions, because it's a completely false statement, and I hope we won't see it again on EvC!

Equally to this: The proper use of "why" is for questions of purpose.

Again, that's demonstrably wrong, and I hope this thread has destroyed the misconception for all time in our little community.

I hope I and others have succeeded in explaining why those statements are wrong to the doubters (who were few, as I expected).

Initially as a side point, I mentioned that, as well as addressing why questions concerning reason and cause, science actually does address questions relating to purpose in a number of fields. Archaeology is an obvious example, but the cognitive sciences are certainly concerned with purpose, including questions about intent and purpose themselves, what they are, and how and why they came about in our species and others.

It was things related to that side point that have produced a lot of interesting discussion, and could perhaps merit a spin off thread.

So, over to you "questions about purpose in science" debaters, and thanks to all who participated in the thread in any way from any angle.


  
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