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Author Topic:   Does science ask and answer "why" questions?
Modulous
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Posts: 6274
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 301 of 353 (648663)
01-17-2012 1:12 PM
Reply to: Message 299 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 12:58 PM


unstated assumptions
Its still answering an equivocation, not the question that was asked (which had certain underlying assuptions that you removed).

If you want to say 'Science can't answer questions that make unstated assumptions that we stipulate are uninvestigatable through science' then yes, obviously. I believe I said largely the same earlier.

Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.

Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 299 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 12:58 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 303 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 1:20 PM Modulous has acknowledged this reply

    
Straggler
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Posts: 9926
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 302 of 353 (648664)
01-17-2012 1:18 PM
Reply to: Message 300 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 1:01 PM


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

That's one point I was trying to get to: that the catchphrase should be looked at superficially.

Well OK. But this thread was borne from RAZ's rather explicit assertion that "The proper use of "why" is to answer questions of purpose". And his insistence that science doesn't address 'why' questions on that basis.

Given that science demonstrably does address 'why' questions, including some pertaining to purpose where a purposeful agent demonstrably exists - This is factually wrong and blatant nonsense.

CS writes:

Its not proclaiming some limit of science's ability to answer certain semantic structures, but rather, its trying to clarify the differences in the kinds of answers that science and religion try to provide.

I think we have established in this thread that the type of answers that science cannot provide, but which religion claims to, are answers to those questions which pertain to things which are not demonstrably real.

It doesn't matter whether the question is who, what, where, when, why etc. It matters whether it pertains to something that demonstrably exists. The sort of 'why' questions that religions claim to answer are those where the assumed purpose of some un-evidenced entity (whether a higher being or the dualistically assumed disembodied minds of men) is implicit.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 300 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 1:01 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 305 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 1:31 PM Straggler has responded
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Catholic Scientist
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Posts: 9304
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.0


Message 303 of 353 (648665)
01-17-2012 1:20 PM
Reply to: Message 301 by Modulous
01-17-2012 1:12 PM


Re: why we are here
If you want to say 'Science can't answer questions that make unstated assumptions that we stipulate are uninvestigatable through science' then yes, obviously. I believe I said largely the same earlier. .

Yeah, and I agreed with you in Message 71:

quote:
you writes:

Science can succesfully answer purpose questions, where purpose exists. It cannot answer purpose questions where there is no evidence of any purpose.

Right, there you go. I think that's a great way to phrase it.


Further, I think that's what the catchphrase is getting at. From Message 192:

quote:
Its setting up a dichotomy that is practically taughtological - the why-questions that science cannot answer are the ones being referred to that religion can.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 301 by Modulous, posted 01-17-2012 1:12 PM Modulous has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 304 by Straggler, posted 01-17-2012 1:22 PM Catholic Scientist has acknowledged this reply
 Message 307 by bluegenes, posted 01-17-2012 1:55 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9926
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 304 of 353 (648666)
01-17-2012 1:22 PM
Reply to: Message 303 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 1:20 PM


Re: why we are here
CS writes:

Its setting up a dichotomy that is practically taughtological - the why-questions that science cannot answer are the ones being referred to that religion can.

So all religion is essentially a "something of the gaps"........?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 303 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 1:20 PM Catholic Scientist has acknowledged this reply

  
Catholic Scientist
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Posts: 9304
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.0


Message 305 of 353 (648667)
01-17-2012 1:31 PM
Reply to: Message 302 by Straggler
01-17-2012 1:18 PM


Well OK. But this thread was borne from RAZ's rather explicit assertion that "The proper use of "why" is to answer questions of purpose". And his insistence that science doesn't address 'why' questions on that basis.

I read him as saying that the proper use of why, in the context of this catchphrase, is one of purpose, not that he was speaking generally. Most why-questions that are not about purpose can be better expressed with a different question, so even generally, its not a terrible point if you try to get what he's saying rather than try to make him out to be wrong.

Given that science demonstrably does address 'why' questions, including some pertaining to purpose where a purposeful agent demonstrably exists -

Has there been an example given? Are you sure you're not conflating strict scientific testing with simple empirical investigation?

As I said earlier, a paricular human's purpose for doing a particular thing isn't something that you can scientifically control in order to properly test, although you can investigate it empirically.

It doesn't matter whether the question is who, what, where, when, why etc.

When I'm investigating something in our lab, I never get into the why's of things and I don't care at all about them. I want to figure out how things are happening, the conditions that cause them to happen, but any underlying purpose behind all of it is totally irrelvant to my scientific tests. In that sense, science does not answer the why-questions.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 302 by Straggler, posted 01-17-2012 1:18 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 306 by Straggler, posted 01-17-2012 1:48 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9926
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 306 of 353 (648669)
01-17-2012 1:48 PM
Reply to: Message 305 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 1:31 PM


CS writes:

I read him as saying that the proper use of why, in the context of this catchphrase, is one of purpose, not that he was speaking generally.

The only context RAZ ever mentioned was the context of science and it's inability to answer 'why' questions because he had already defined 'why' questions as pertaining to purpose.

CS writes:

Most why-questions that are not about purpose can be better expressed with a different question, so even generally, its not a terrible point if you try to get what he's saying rather than try to make him out to be wrong.

Yet in RAZ's actual posts questions like 'Why are plants green' and 'Why is the sky blue?' are being pointlessly and clumsily rephrased as 'How is the sky blue?' and 'How are plants green'.

Did you actually read his posts in the thread this one is a spin-off from?

CS writes:

Has there been an example given?

An example of science studying human purpose? Isn't that what a large part of psychology is innately about?

CS writes:

Are you sure you're not conflating strict scientific testing with simple empirical investigation?

Are you sure that you are not conflating practical limitations with what science can in principle study? The fact that we are not all walking around with sophisticated MRI scanners attached to our heads recording every neurological event doesn't mean that our thoughts and associated purposes are inherently beyond the scope of scientific enquiry (not unless you are adopting the dualistic position already discussed anyway)

CS writes:

As I said earlier, a paricular human's purpose for doing a particular thing isn't something that you can scientifically control in order to properly test, although you can investigate it empirically.

You blatantly are conflating existing practical limitations with what science can in principle explore. Why can't we scientifically investigate a "paricular human's purpose for doing a particular thing"......? Imagine everyone walking around with tiny MRI recorders in their head sending the results back to a lab.

CS writes:

When I'm investigating something in our lab, I never get into the why's of things and I don't care at all about them. I want to figure out how things are happening, the conditions that cause them to happen, but any underlying purpose behind all of it is totally irrelvant to my scientific tests. In that sense, science does not answer the why-questions.

These 'why' questions that you are talking about above - Whose purpose are you referring to exactly?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 305 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 1:31 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 310 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 3:06 PM Straggler has responded

  
bluegenes
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Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.0


Message 307 of 353 (648671)
01-17-2012 1:55 PM
Reply to: Message 303 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 1:20 PM


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

Further, I think that's what the catchphrase is getting at.

I wonder why it wasn't phrased: "Science answers the why questions, and religion answers the how questions."

Or: "Science answers the how questions, and religion answers the what questions."

Then, the type of people that I've noticed on the internet coming up with the ridiculous "science doesn't answer why questions" could instead make the equally silly mistakes of saying "science doesn't answer how questions" or "science doesn't answer what questions."

I say this because what, how and why can all be used to ask questions about the meaning and purpose of the world, and about the purposes and actions of God, Satan and the angels.

So, choosing how and why in the particular order they are chosen in statement three is actually pretty random.

A better statement would be: There are certain questions that science doesn't address, but which religion does, like "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" and "how charitable should Christians be to non-believers" and "what was God's purpose in making the world".

As I say in the O.P., why pick on why?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 303 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 1:20 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 309 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 3:05 PM bluegenes has responded

  
kbertsche
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Posts: 1062
From: San Jose, CA, USA
Joined: 05-10-2007


(1)
Message 308 of 353 (648676)
01-17-2012 2:34 PM
Reply to: Message 302 by Straggler
01-17-2012 1:18 PM


Re: Middle ground believers in a creator.
quote:
I think we have established in this thread that the type of answers that science cannot provide, but which religion claims to, are answers to those questions which pertain to things which are not demonstrably real.

You have claimed this, but I don't think we have established it. And I don't think it is true.

First, what do you mean by "demonstrably" real? Presumably you mean things which can be demonstrated through testable, scientific evidence. But if so, all you have done is to state a tautology. The only things that science can address are the things that science can address. 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.

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.


"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." Albert Einstein

I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously. Erwin Schroedinger


This message is a reply to:
 Message 302 by Straggler, posted 01-17-2012 1:18 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 312 by Straggler, posted 01-17-2012 4:21 PM kbertsche has not yet responded
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Catholic Scientist
Member
Posts: 9304
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.0


Message 309 of 353 (648678)
01-17-2012 3:05 PM
Reply to: Message 307 by bluegenes
01-17-2012 1:55 PM


Re: how is it that we're here?
I wonder why it wasn't phrased: "Science answers the why questions, and religion answers the how questions."

Or: "Science answers the how questions, and religion answers the what questions."

I don't exactly know, but I suspect that those don't make the point that I think is trying to be made: that the kinds of answer that science and religion provides are different in the way that you can discribe how something occurs or you can speculate on what purpose it serves, i.e. the how and the why.

Like I said, its not about proclaiming a limit on the abilities of science to answer specific semantics.

A better statement would be: There are certain questions that science doesn't address, but which religion does, like "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" and "how charitable should Christians be to non-believers" and "what was God's purpose in making the world".

As I say in the O.P., why pick on why?

Because what people mean by "why", in the context of "for what purpose", is what the catchphrase is trying to touch on.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 307 by bluegenes, posted 01-17-2012 1:55 PM bluegenes has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 311 by bluegenes, posted 01-17-2012 3:51 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

  
Catholic Scientist
Member
Posts: 9304
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.0


Message 310 of 353 (648679)
01-17-2012 3:06 PM
Reply to: Message 306 by Straggler
01-17-2012 1:48 PM


The only context RAZ ever mentioned was the context of science and it's inability to answer 'why' questions because he had already defined 'why' questions as pertaining to purpose.

The context I saw was DB saying that the TOE wasn't falsifyable because it didn't address the purpose behind evolution and then RAZD countering that by saying that, as a scientific theory, it isn't supposed to be addressing that question because, in general, science doesn't address the why-questions.

Yet in RAZ's actual posts questions like 'Why are plants green' and 'Why is the sky blue?' are being pointlessly and clumsily rephrased as 'How is the sky blue?' and 'How are plants green'.

That was to distinguish between the question of the conditions and functions of plants being green with the question of some underlying prupose for plants being green.

An example of science studying human purpose? Isn't that what a large part of psychology is innately about?

I'm not sure. Can you come up with an example?

Are you sure that you are not conflating practical limitations with what science can in principle study? The fact that we are not all walking around with sophisticated MRI scanners attached to our heads recording every neurological event doesn't mean that our thoughts and associated purposes are inherently beyond the scope of scientific enquiry (not unless you are adopting the dualistic position already discussed anyway)

That's true, but beside the point.

You blatantly are conflating existing practical limitations with what science can in principle explore. Why can't we scientifically investigate a "paricular human's purpose for doing a particular thing"......? Imagine everyone walking around with tiny MRI recorders in their head sending the results back to a lab.

With which we can make theories about why people do things in general, but you wouldn't be able to determine why a specific individual made that particular choice. Without multiples of that individual, how could you introduce a scientific control to eliminate other variables in the decision making process?

These 'why' questions that you are talking about above - Whose purpose are you referring to exactly?

I'm not referring to anyone's exact purpose...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 306 by Straggler, posted 01-17-2012 1:48 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 314 by Straggler, posted 01-17-2012 4:45 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

  
bluegenes
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Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.0


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

  
Straggler
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Posts: 9926
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 312 of 353 (648689)
01-17-2012 4:21 PM
Reply to: Message 308 by kbertsche
01-17-2012 2:34 PM


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

I think we have established in this thread that the type of answers that science cannot provide, but which religion claims to, are answers to those questions which pertain to things which are not demonstrably real.

K writes:

You have claimed this, but I don't think we have established it. And I don't think it is true.

OK.

K writes:

First, what do you mean by "demonstrably" real?

I suppose it boils down to being able to be objectively evidenced (in principle even if not in practise for mundane reasons of technological limitation or absence of equipment or whatever). Scientific hypotheses are not limited to that which is demonstrably real. But scientific answers are.

K writes:

Presumably you mean things which can be demonstrated through testable, scientific evidence. But if so, all you have done is to state a tautology. The only things that science can address are the things that science can address.

Given the thread topic - Pointing out that the reason science cannot answer questions pertaining to the purpose of purposeful agents which don't demonstrably exist is because they don't demonstrably exist seems fair enough. Call it tautological if you will. But there seem to be enough people who don't realise this and who want to grant 'why' questions some special status for the point to be relevant. Science cannot answer who what when or why questions about the motives or actions of imagined entities. The phraseology as 'why' has nothing to do with it.

When people ask "why" in such a way that religion can (apparently) provide an answer but science cannot whose purpose are they purporting to have found answers for? For every purposeful "why" there must be an agent of purpose must there not?

K 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.

And if they are found to be false models they will be abandoned by science. If they are found to be in accordance with reality then science will have provided answers about the nature of these things. Scientific hypotheses are not limited to that which is demonstrably real. But scientific answers are.

We can all ask "are quarks real or just models borne of our perceptual limitations". But equally we can ask "are bananas real of just models borne of perceptual limitations". But what matters in both cases is that the "model" is based on demonstrable aspects of reality.

K writes:

Is there any reality outside of science, in the non-material world?

Whether there is or not can you explain how anyone claiming to know anything about this immaterial reality could possibly do so?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 308 by kbertsche, posted 01-17-2012 2:34 PM kbertsche has not yet responded

  
bluegenes
Member
Posts: 2812
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007
Member Rating: 2.0


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?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 308 by kbertsche, posted 01-17-2012 2:34 PM kbertsche has not yet responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9926
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 314 of 353 (648697)
01-17-2012 4:45 PM
Reply to: Message 310 by Catholic Scientist
01-17-2012 3:06 PM


Whose Purpose Is Being Investigated?
I think you are being particularly charitable to RAZ and that your interpretation of his position isn't justified by his actual responses to bluegenes. Why don't you explicitly ask RAZ himself if science can and does answer 'why' questions and if it does what sort of 'why' questions it can and cannot answer?

CS writes:

That was to distinguish between the question of the conditions and functions of plants being green with the question of some underlying prupose for plants being green.

Whose purpose?

Straggler writes:

These 'why' questions that you are talking about above - Whose purpose are you referring to exactly?

CS writes:

I'm not referring to anyone's exact purpose...

If there is purpose about which questions can be asked then there must be an agent capable of purpose behind the phenomenon in question must there not? If you ask "Why are plants green?" and demand an answer involving purpose there must be an agent of purpose behind the colour of plants in order to make the question meaningful - Right?

Straggler writes:

Are you sure that you are not conflating practical limitations with what science can in principle study? The fact that we are not all walking around with sophisticated MRI scanners attached to our heads recording every neurological event doesn't mean that our thoughts and associated purposes are inherently beyond the scope of scientific enquiry (not unless you are adopting the dualistic position already discussed anyway)

CS writes:

That's true, but beside the point.

It is entirely the point.

CS writes:

Without multiples of that individual, how could you introduce a scientific control to eliminate other variables in the decision making process?

Hold on - Are you seriously claiming that science cannot investigate and answer questions pertaining to individual one-off events? Even if all the data pertaining to that event has been recorded?

CS writes:

Straggler writes:

An example of science studying human purpose? Isn't that what a large part of psychology is innately about?

I'm not sure. Can you come up with an example?

Science can and does study why it is that people come up with teleological answers to questions of why natural events happen.

CS writes:

With which we can make theories about why people do things in general, but you wouldn't be able to determine why a specific individual made that particular choice.

With detailed enough knowledge, recorded neuron level information of brain activity and full data of sensory input, why not?

You are simply going down the substance dualist path without realising it......


This message is a reply to:
 Message 310 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 3:06 PM Catholic Scientist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 316 by Catholic Scientist, posted 01-17-2012 5:42 PM Straggler has responded

  
Catholic Scientist
Member
Posts: 9304
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.0


Message 315 of 353 (648710)
01-17-2012 5:40 PM
Reply to: Message 311 by bluegenes
01-17-2012 3:51 PM


Re: how is it that we're here?
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.

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.

That's just how some people think and those are the ones who take the most meaning from the statement.

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

I think you're over-analyzing it.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 311 by bluegenes, posted 01-17-2012 3:51 PM bluegenes has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 318 by bluegenes, posted 01-18-2012 7:27 AM Catholic Scientist has responded

  
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