Ward's main assertion was this: "many religious statements are naturally construed as statements of fact...." More precisely, they're naturally construed as purporting to be statements of fact. You can't state a fact if it's not a fact--so the "purporting" part is important. Like (Ward's example): "Jesus healed the sick, and rose from death." Obviously, we can all agree only that this purports to state a fact. So that's stage 1 of the argument: religious statements purport to be fact-stating.
Stage 2 is this: "A huge number of factual claims are not scientifically testable." Why? "Many historical and autobiographical claims, for instance, are not repeatable, not observable now or in the future, and not subsumable under any general law." Somebody a long time ago saw something, and told someone else, and we've been playing whisper down the alley for 2,000 years. Science can't go back and confirm or disconfirm. According to Ward, whether we believe the report--for example, about Jesus healing the sick--will depend on "general philosophical views, moral views, personal experience and judgment."
I read Ward as allowing here that someone like me is going to reject Jesus healing the sick as having occurred, because I'm philosophically disinclined to believe in miracles. But someone open to the possibility of miracles might think there really is a reliable chain of reports going back to Jesus healing the sick, and so may think "Jesus healed the sick" not only purports to be fact-stating but states a fact. At any rate, our reasoning about this long ago event falls at least partly outside the domain of science. That's the main assertion in the column--Ward is not here trying to defend specific Christian beliefs.
Stage 3 gets much more exciting. Now Ward says that "God created the universe for a purpose" purports to be fact stating as well, and says that science has nothing to say about that. "The physical sciences do not generally talk about non-physical and non-law-like facts such as creation by God."
My take on all this is-- Stage 1, check. Stage 2, check. Stage 3, groan.
Jerry Coyne (11/6) reacts very differently. Stage 1, check. Stage 2, groan. Stage 3, groan. Stage 2 doesn't pass muster because --
All “facts” must be empirical facts, susceptible to empirical investigation, confirmation by several lines of evidence, and the possibility that the claim can be falsified. That goes for the claim that Ward was in Oxford the night before he wrote this [this is an example of Ward's]. There are many ways to investigate that question, including eyewitness accounts, travel receipts, videos, and so on.He then issues a challenge to Ward--
I challenge Ward to give me just one reasonably well established fact about the world that comes from “general philosophical views, moral views, personal experience and judgment” without any verifiable empirical input.Coyne's response strikes me as being off the mark for two reasons:
First, the challenge is odd. That quoted bit from Ward was merely an allowance that a person's receptivity to testimony about past events will depend on their general philosophical views, etc. He never said those views and judgments could be formed "without any verifiable empirical input." In fact, most people will form those views with input. My "no miracles" view is partly based on my observations, and someone else's "yes, miracles" view will probably turn partly on their observations. Ward's point is only that these views, whatever they are, will influence whether a person believes testimony about the long ago event of Jesus healing the sick.
Second, Coyne's paragraph about "facts" is perplexing. What are these "facts" that must be "susceptible to empirical investigation, confirmation by several lines of evidence, etc."? If by "facts" he means states of affairs in the world, then all that's obviously false. Ward could sneak into Oxford unbeknownst to anyone. That state of affairs doesn't hinge on anyone being able to confirm it.
What Coyne really seems to mean is something like "known facts." But known by whom? A fact known by all of humanity might need to be "susceptible to empirical investigation, confirmation by several lines of evidence," etc. We're not going to put Ward's trip to Oxford into the common repository of knowledge unless it measures up to those kinds of intersubjective standards. But someone could personally know about the trip with much less ado. Like Ward, for example, and he could share that knowledge with anyone who has good reason to trust his veracity. It would be extraordinary if nobody could ever know any facts in the absence of "confirmation by several lines of evidence," etc.
Now the plot thickens. Jim Houston, a blogger at Talking Philosophy, passed along Coyne's challenge to Ward, who said he'd never said anything like that. Ward reiterated his points from stage 2 of his argument, giving an example of "personal knowledge" that can't meet scientific standards. His father told him, and him alone, something on his death bed. Since he has good reason to trust his father, he can know X, but it doesn't follow that X should wind up in the common repository of knowledge. It's not susceptible to enough scientific corroboration for that.
Jerry Coyne responded here, saying "A 'fact' is not a fact if all the evidence supporting it has vanished or is inaccessible." Further down, he writes--
I repeat again for philosophers like Ward and Houston: factual claims are not facts. It is possible that Ward’s father was a double agent, but I won’t accept its truth until there are independent ways to show that.(Not to be fussy, but I don't think either Ward or Houston are professional philosophers. One's a theologian and the other is a philsophy blogger.)
He then excoriates people who come to the defense of theists like Ward--
Increasingly, I find philosophers like Houston presenting claims of theologians like Ward sympathetically. It’s almost as if there’s a bifurcating family tree of thought, with philosophers and theologians as sister taxa, and scientists as the outgroup. That seems strange to me, as I understood that most philosophers are atheists. I’m not clear why I’m attracting increasing opprobrium from philosophers, though one reason may be their irritation that I am encroaching on their territory.And then we get some more scolding--
Back in the old days of the Greeks, philosophy was supposed to be part of a well-rounded life; now any scientist who engages in the practice is criticized for treading on the turf of professional academic philosophers. Suck it up, I say to these miscreants.Finally, the challenge is repeated, despite the fact that it has no connection to anything Ward said, as Ward already explained--
And I invite readers again to give me just one reasonably well established fact about the world that comes from “general philosophical views, moral views, personal experience and judgment” without any verifiable empirical input.
Let's skip the challenge, because, as I said, it's a red herring. Furthermore, I think very few philosophers see much of their reasoning as being entirely a priori -- free of "any verifiable empirical input." Third, to understand how philosophers make progress and "establish facts" would take deep involvement in the discipline. You can't answer this challenge effectively in the space of a comment at a blog, or even a lengthy post.
I already responded above to the business about facts. Discussing Ward, stage 2, becomes hopelessly confused and confusing if we don't carefully distinguish facts (states of affairs in the world), from knowledge-claims. I also think we need to distinguish personal knowledge claims from knowledge that's the common possession of humanity--stuff that goes into science and history books. I know what my father said to me in private conversations he can't remember, like Ward knows what his father told him. We all (uncontroversially) have lots of unsharable, not-scientifically-confirmable knowledge like this.
So what's left is Coyne's puzzlement that atheist philosophers come to the defense of people like Ward.
Well, it's like this: when I teach a philosophical argument, I take my task to have two parts. First, I've got to fairly represent the argument, capturing exactly what the philosopher had in mind. It's a deep-seated occupational habit, I think, to take this duty very seriously, and try to execute it without regard to whether I'm for or against what the philosopher is arguing for. So: we've got to understand what Ward's saying, before we object. Second, it's a sacred duty to be adversarial--strongly inculcated by the guild of philosophers. We need to figure out if there are problems with an argument (whatever we think of the conclusion), and if so, exactly what they are.
In light of all that, if Coyne misrepresents Ward and misidentifies the problem with his argument, a good philosopher is going to say so--even if, ultimately, they're closer to Coyne's intellectual outlook than to Ward's.
"Opprobrium"? Well maybe, just a bit. Because running through some of Coyne's posts is an intermittent skepticism about the value of philosophy. And yet this whole debate about Ward makes it clear why philosophy is so valuable. To discuss all these things productively, we need to have a good grip on: facts, claims, knowledge-claims, evidence, scientific knowledge, empirical knowledge, a priori knowledge, etc.. Whose job is it to sort out how we think about and talk about all of those topics? It's the job of a (wait for it) ... philosopher!
In fact, all this confusion about facts (and the irrelevant "challenge") distracts attention from what's really wrong with Ward's view. I think what's really wrong with it is that while he does show there could be facts (states of affairs) that are known about by some people, but not susceptible to scientific confirmation, he does nothing to show any of these science-eluding facts are "religious facts."
There are lots of good philosophical arguments establishing interesting categories of science-eluding facts*, but also good philosophical arguments establishing that these are not about gods or souls or miracles and such. So: atheism will win in the end, I think, but we don't need to be sloppy about what Ward really said, or discredit everything he said, to make that case.
* Reading suggestion: Frank Jackson, "What Mary Didn't Know"
...it's a sacred duty to be adversarial--strongly inculcated by the guild of philosophers. Whether I'm for or against an argument, I need to figure out if there are problems, and if so, exactly what they are.
Not to run completely off topic here, but I love this line. I might just make it my e-mail tagline.
Coyne has some weird idea of what a fact is.... He almost sounds like he's a pragmatist about truth. If it isn't testable, then its not true. "Unicorns have one horn", isn't true to him, since its not confirm-able by several lines of evidence, etc.
"Stage 3 gets much more exciting. Now Ward says that "God created the universe for a purpose" purports to be fact stating as well, and says that science has nothing to say about that. "
Well of course science has nothing to say about that. It doesn't have much to say about purposes in general. Suddenly we're thrown back to Aristotle where science needs to investigate final causes now? Moreover, science rejects the existence of God.... So its not going to have any say on the intentions of a non-existent being.
There's a difference between Step 2 and Step 3. Step 2, in principle is investigate-able. If Jesus was alive, and was curing people, we could test him, and see if we can identify the causal nature of his powers. If we can't, then it gives some credibility to the miracle hypothesis. Step 3 is in principle not something that can be investigated by science (barring the assumptions that might be testable or at least supported by careful observation).
Coyne: "All “facts” must be empirical facts, susceptible to empirical investigation, confirmation by several lines of evidence, and the possibility that the claim can be falsified.
I challenge Ward to give me just one reasonably well established fact about the world that comes from “general philosophical views, moral views, personal experience and judgment” without any verifiable empirical input."
What Ward should have said: "OK, how about this fact? All “facts” must be empirical facts, susceptible to empirical investigation, confirmation by several lines of evidence, and the possibility that the claim can be falsified."
Thank you for a clear-headed and fair-minded account. Absolutely, atheists need not - and should not - be sloppy about what religious believers say or be in the business of trying to discredit everything they say.
And certainly, Coyne is right, scientists should not be criticized for treading 'on the turf of professional academic philosophers' - they should only be criticized of they do so ineptly.
I am not a professional philosopher. I do not claim to be a philosopher at all. I am merely a blogger on a philosophy site.
But, not to be fussy, failing to be a professional philosopher does not preclude one from being a philosopher and neither does being being a 'theologian' (if it were otherwise we would have to revise the canon somewhat).
Ward is a former lecturer in Logic at Glasgow, in Philosophy at St Andrews and in Philosophy of Religion at the University of London, and became a Professor of Philosophy there. He was also a Member of the Executive Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and the author of books sych as 'Kant's View of Ethics' and, more recently, 'More than Matter' (a defence of idealist philosophy). That Ward has held postions in divinty faculties, and written and lectured on religious studies and theology (this being subject that includes philosophy amongst other things), does not make it unreasonable for him to describe himself as a philosopher.
@Simon: great answer!
I think this is the old "demarcation" debate, and I still like Popper's point about falsifiability and predictive power.
Science is not interested in the truth of facts per se, but in creating a (coherent) set of predictive theories. There might be an infinite number of truths that are not falsifiable, and thus have zero predictive content.
The universe has a purpose? good, let's find a test, and see if we can falsify it. If it's not falsifiable, then it has no possible consequence on our lives.
Religions are usually not only interested in the existence of God, but in a God whose existence makes a difference in our lives. Thus, in a falsifiable God.
The issue about the existence of "abstract" God is bogus I think, we should just be agnostic. But if religions make practical claims about the consequences of some attributes of the divinity, then they should be tested like any other empirical claim, with the tools of science.
You saw my take on this at Talking Philosophy, yes? I think, though, that I need to write another piece there, as the whole thing now seems even more confused. *sigh*
I largely agree with Jerry, not surprisingly, but he seems to have an overly complicated (and otherwise problematic) idea of what a fact is ... and he really doesn't need it to make his main points against Ward.
One of the depressing things about much intellectual discourse is that the principle of charity is ignored, or even reversed into a principle of uncharity. Most political argument involves finding the most stupid and unbelievable interpretation of your opponent's position and attacking that, and unfortunately much of the debate about religion is conducted in the same way (on both sides). Atheist non-philosophers often can't see why atheist philosophers insist that an argument hasn't been won unless you have won it fairly, and misinterpret stating an opponent's position in its strongest form as supporting that position.
Andrew, I agree with some of that ... but I think Jerry has been treated unfairly in some of this (as if he did something dishonest, uncivil, or otherwise disreputable in his "challenge" to Ward's view, which I don't think he did at all).
The lesson of Elevatorgate, for me, is that we all need to try to take a deep breath and be as charitable and civil as we can when we feel annoyed. Otherwise, reasonable views get silenced and we end up with just a train wreck.
In my opinion, Jerry is considerably more sinned against than sinning in that regard. But, ahem, even I have said things that I now regret during some of the recent flame wars.
"Atheist non-philosophers often can't see why atheist philosophers insist that an argument hasn't been won unless you have won it fairly, and misinterpret stating an opponent's position in its strongest form as supporting that position."
Exactly. This is an occupational tendency because this is how we spend our time in classrooms, as writers, etc--as a philosopher, half your job is always just representing positions accurately. That's not an easy thing to do, when the author is (say) Aristotle or Kant or some technical contemporary philosopher, so philosophers become experts at exegesis. It's a big deal to do it right, and it's to your discredit if you don't. It's also to your discredit if you identify the problem with an argument as X, when it's really some subtley different thing, Y. It's no excuse that the person who made the argument is overall unimpressive, or the conclusion is palpably absurd.
Jim, Jerry seems to be interested in the "taxa" of philosophers, as opposed to theologians or scientists. That taxa includes numerous species, the one I know best being the professional analytic philosopher. This creature is mostly found in English-speaking countries, and at universities, though the habitat is a little wider than that. The habits of the creature come about because of a "philosophy culture" that's passed on in graduate schools, through standard reading lists, through standards maintained by academic journals ... etc. If Coyne wants to understand this particular species, then he has to pick his specimens carefully.
Russell, I think your TP post is all very reasonable, but I don't see what it has to do with Ward. He didn't postulate any "spooky" ways of knowing", did he? Not in that particular column, anyway. He postulated perfectly ordinary ways of knowing that happen to be distinct from science. Knowing what his father said on his death-bed, for example--what's spooky about that? Yet what his father said cannot be added to the repository of scientific knowledge.
Another example of non-spooky and non-scientific knowledge--Jackson's famous article about what Mary didn't know. I know what the color red looks to me, but a neuroscientist studying me can't get at that. It doesn't follow there's something "spooky" about how I know how red things look to me.
Russell, Re: "the challenge". I didn't think there was anything uncivil about Jerry's issuing it to Ward, but (as I argued in the post), it's a red herring. The quote was lifted out of context and Jerry interpreted it as saying something Ward clearly never said.
Maybe if Coyne doesn't want opprobrium he should stop writing paragraphs like this:
"Back in the old days of the Greeks, philosophy was supposed to be part of a well-rounded life; now any scientist who engages in the practice is criticized for treading on the turf of professional academic philosophers. Suck it up, I say to these miscreants."
I can't even comment on it.
And certainly, Coyne is right, scientists should not be criticized for treading 'on the turf of professional academic philosophers' - they should only be criticized of they do so ineptly.
There is a petulance. ("Miscreants," really?) Coyne in this affair is like a man who won't learn to read music, and who only picks up new tunes by ear grudgingly, who brings his violin down to orchestra hall and then complains that none of the musicians want to jam with him.
Yes, yes, yes... but let's give credit where credit is due. "Suck it up, I say to these miscreants" is FUNNY!!!
Well as Coyne has noted, atheists have a better sense of humor! That's why he makes so many good jokes, inadvertent though they may be.
That's interesting, Jean. If Ward wasn't getting at the ability of religion to provide knowledge through spooky ways of knowing, I'm frankly flummoxed as to what he thought he was contributing to the debate. His piece certainly looks like the numerous ones I've seen that say: there are other ways of knowing (apart from science), such as testimony, direct perception, reading things that are written in a language you've learned, etc., therefore we should not discount the possibility that the spooky ways of knowing provide genuine knowledge (and scientists cannot/do not/should not criticise them). After all, the argument against this cannot be that science is the only way of knowing.
I thought that argument was implicit in what he said. It's pretty explicit in a lot of things I've read or heard in this years, even from atheistic scientists who think we should not rock the boat by criticising religion. Eugenie Scott made this argument very strongly when she spoke at Dragon*Con a couple of years ago, for example, and it received a fair bit of discussion, but it always seems to be coming up.
It's a very bad argument, but it's not straightforward to untangle just why.
I suppose it's possible that Ward didn't think he was contributing to that debate, but I've got to say that that never even occurred to me until I read your comment just now. If he wasn't, I honestly don't know what he did think he was doing.
The standard non-accommodationist position is simply that the spooky ways of knowing have a bad track record and no credibility, and that scientists and others should feel free to say so and not suggest otherwise. As I say, unless Ward was trying to reply to that ... what was he trying to do?
I should add that Ward's piece was in reply to a piece by Julian Baggini, but it seems to address Baggini's piece in a rather oblique manner, so that doesn't help a lot. I'll think some more about this.
And I now see that Ophelia Benson has also written on the subject, though her take is rather different from Jerry's (she seems to have made her contribution about the same time I made mine).
"If Ward wasn't getting at the ability of religion to provide knowledge through spooky ways of knowing, I'm frankly flummoxed as to what he thought he was contributing to the debate."
I have to get on with T'giving stuff, so have to be brief. I think Ward is countering the notion that once you admit religion purports to be about real events and states of affairs, you automatically must concede that religion and science are in competition. So his focus is on sheer eluding of science, not on special kinds of knowing. There's a difference, which is particularly clear with his example involving his father. There's no spooky, religious "way of knowing" there--just a fact to which Ward has special access, in a very unproblematic sense.
Okay, I see that. But apologists for religion will often use the admission that we know some things in ways that are not distinctively scientific (such as via someone's testimony about what they saw) as a wedge to get us to admit that we can know things in spooky ways (such as via divine revelation). The idea seems to be that once you admit that there are these "ways of knowing" that don't fall under science then you should have no objection to the spooky "ways of knowing". It's a terrible argument, but one that I hear and see all the time.
But if Ward is not trying to do this, and his the argument is simply: there are things that we know that don't require us doing anything distinctively scientific ... Well, fine. But that doesn't seem to answer Baggini's point, which seemed to be that religion fares poorly against non-spooky inquiry as a whole (i.e. not just against distinctively scientific inquiry).
One problem for Ward is that science is not restricted to the sorts of distinctive scientific activities that he imagines (such as carrying out controlled experiments in laboratories). Scientists have full access to all the non-spooky methods of inquiry (even if, in practice, they may have to call in expert humanist inquirers such as linguists), and non-spooky humanistic inquirers now have full access to the methods of science (even if, in practice, they have to call someone in). I don't follow Jerry in using the word "science" to cover almost all rational inquiry, but I do agree with him and Julian in thinking that the issue is about how religion fares against rational inquiry as a whole, including (but not limited to) science.
Anyway, no matter how you interpret what Ward is doing, I find it hard to see how he has really addressed the thrust of Baggini's piece.
But again, maybe I'm missing something and will read both pieces again. Probably it's time for me to step back and take another look at the logic of the original two pieces.
Hello, I am someone who sat in Philosophy of Religion tutorials many years ago, and formed the predjudice that theologians do not do any useful work. I am grateful to Ward for now demonstrating, to me at least, that I was wrong.
Can I first pick up on some of Jean's statements which appear to me to be contentious.
"Science can't go back and confirm or disconfirm."
This is figure of speech, which I am not criticising, put I simply need to state in order to make my point. Science is always done in the here and now, but it makes many claims about the past, including events which go back many billions of years ago. DNA is one way that could, in principle, be used to challenge some factual claim made by the Bible. I thought this is self-evident, but I respect that Jean may have a different view.
"Ward could sneak into Oxford unbeknownst to anyone."
If Ward were to have been suspected of some heinious crime, the police would employ forensic techniques in order to establish his whereabouts. Ward cannot sneak in and out of places without leaving forensic evidence. He is not a ghost.
"It would be extraordinary if nobody could ever know any facts in the absence of "confirmation by several lines of evidence," etc."
Not true. I know what I had for breakfast through memory alone.
"We all (uncontroversially) have lots of unsharable, not-scientifically-confirmable knowledge like this."
I beg to differ. I believe all knowledge is shareable, and this is how science actually works.
A word about knowledge: there are exactly three types of knowledge.
1, There are things I know.
2, There are things I have agreed with others.
3, There are things others have agreed, which I can study.
Scientists "do" 1 (empiricism), then 2 (research) and then 3 (publish).
Enough for now, I still haven't quite figured out what philosophers and theologians do, but I promise to come back to you, if it ever comes to light.
Like others, I love this passage -
"when I teach a philosophical argument, I take my task to have two parts. First, I've got to fairly represent the argument, capturing exactly what the philosopher had in mind. It's a deep-seated occupational habit, I think, to take this duty very seriously, and try to execute it without regard to whether I'm for or against what the philosopher is arguing for. So: we've got to understand what Ward's saying, before we object. Second, it's a sacred duty to be adversarial--strongly inculcated by the guild of philosophers. We need to figure out if there are problems with an argument (whatever we think of the conclusion), and if so, exactly what they are."
I have a question: do philosophers, do you, experience those two parts as pulling in different directions? I mean, is it hard to do both and do them well?
I think what I'm getting at is that some people actually obscure their own meaning, and that itself can make it farking difficult to do both. Ward is a pretty good example of that, in my view. It's hard to pin down both exactly what he means and exactly what he had in mind. I think at least some of the time it's not an accident that it's hard: I think he swaps terms sometimes and smuggles in non sequiturs sometimes, on purpose. The most glaring example of the latter that I found was "Much history, like much religion, is evidence-based, but the evidence is not scientifically tractable." The way he did that was almost like sleight of hand.
Now here's the thing: people who do that make it very difficult to do the fair representation of the argument bit. Or at least, they do for me; that's why I wonder if it's different for philosophers. We've debated about this in the past, when my whole point has been to point out what I take to be manipulative wording, and your dedication to doing a fair reading has pulled in the other direction. I think this is interesting, because I see what you mean about taking the duty very seriously - I see it better than I have before; yet I also still think that manipulative wording should be named as such.
On the argument itself - on step 2 check versus step 2 groan. I balk at step 2 more than you do, I think. That's partly because it ended up with that non sequitur, which reading backward seems to inflect what Ward meant by that passage.
A huge number of factual claims are not scientifically testable. Many historical and autobiographical claims, for instance, are not repeatable, not publicly observable now or in future, and are not subsumable under any general law. We know that rational answers to many historical questions depend on general philosophical views, moral views, personal experience and judgment. There are no history laboratories. Much history, like much religion, is evidence-based, but the evidence is not scientifically tractable.
He starts slowly and then goes faster and faster so that he can leap over that "like much religion" without the reader saying "what?!" He shifts his ground throughout - first it's factual claims, then it's rational answers, then suddenly it's evidence-based. He's fiddling with us. There's an agenda, so I think we should be cautious about agreeing with him on step 2. You said "our reasoning about this long ago event falls at least partly outside the domain of science" - but even the outside part, if it's any good, is closely related to science...no? You're as you said "philosophically disinclined to believe in miracles" and other people aren't - but your reasons for being philosophically disinclined are better than other people's reasons for being inclined, and those reasons are as it were next door to science. Aren't they? I'm thinking Barbara Forrest on methodological naturalism here: because it has such a good record, it provides good reasons to buy into philosophical or metaphysical naturalism too. There's a relationship. I think Ward and people like Ward want to suggest that there's a radical discontinuity.
"A huge number of factual claims are not scientifically testable."
Ophelia identifies here a claim that I would say is highly dubious. Factual claims are only countable in small numbers, like when you say: "Ten things you didn't know about Greece." If I showed you any empty box, you would not be able to count the number of factual claims you can make about the inside of the box.
Jean, I can support a point you made on this topic (more explicitly elsewhere) -- that each person has knowledge that is private, with a barrier of transmission to other people. I'll write the example that means the most to me, from a tribute the trumpet player Doc Severinsen wrote about the trumpet player Maynard Ferguson. Doc recalled one night in particular:
"I heard [Maynard] do a Maynard warm-up for close to two hours. It was astonishing and I can still hear it whenever I need to or want to. It will always be for me one of the most incredible displays of trumpet playing I have ever heard."
My point is in this phrase -- "I can still hear it whenever I need to" -- i.e., when Doc is playing, or about to play, he can remember the knowledge transferred from Maynard to Doc that night by trumpet sound. I'll draw this parallel:
-- Someone can read our words, and "get" our meanings behind our words, and "get" our intentions behind all that.
-- Doc heard Maynard's warm-up, and Doc "got" what Maynard was doing (physically and psychologically, via Doc's empathy with another trumpet player), and Doc "got" Maynard's intentions behind all that.
This is a big deal to me, because I know basically everything Maynard would say to people in clinics via the verbal channel (and Doc would too), but I didn't experience what Doc got that night via that non-verbal channel, and Doc is saying that was a big deal to him.
And as a footnote to the barrier to transmission between people -- I changed how I play trumpet in 2007 to a "jaw-forward" technique (that moves my lower lip forward to vibrate differently), and now I find that advice Maynard would tell people "works" for me (it didn't "work" before). So for Doc to "get" what Maynard was doing (by hearing that warm-up), it helps that Doc and Maynard both played with jaw-forward technique (as my link above shows in a photo of them together, from the time Doc recalled).
I used to feel exasperated when people online seem clueless about, or implicitly deny, the existence of these forms of knowledge and communication that are non-verbal and non-mathematical -- exasperated because this is stuff everybody does!! Of course we transmit knowledge outside the verbal and mathematical channels, because the human mind has dimensions that predate language and math. I only use the performing arts as examples, not because the arts are special, but because examples in the performing arts are more clear and vivid, by being set apart from everyday familiarity.
Hi, Charles Myro here,
"All facts must be empirical facts".. etc., etc.. Except it can be argued that that assertion--asserted apparently as a fact-- itself cannot be proven by empirical facts,it is rather an assumption.
And so many things, as you suggest, are unconfirmable as facts---the past for instance. It can be argued that the past is something unconfirmed by material facts; one cannot confirm it, since one has no access---by definition ---to the past. if you go to a location intending to confirm that an item is where you claim you placed it---you cannot go back to the past to confirm that your memory of having placed it is correct---perhaps another placed it and you are mistaken. In fact (I use that term deliberately)
you cannot confirm it was placed there by anyone at any time, since no one can confirm their memory by going back. That is the nature of time as we define it.
Define fact and proof as you will and you will always confirm your point,but there can always be another story to explain a phenomenon and "empirical fact" is a fairly flexible term. All of science is founded upon such assumptions as: all scientific laws
apply all the time everywhere---
that is assumption if there is any such thing. Has anyone ever done and all-the-time and everywhere experiment? no.
I find Mr. Coyne frankly naive.
Gotta be quick(ish), because of T'Giving ...
Russell, Good idea to reread Baggini. Yes, there's something oblique about Ward's reply. Baggini's point is that religious "why" stories invite scientific "how?" questions, so science can undermine religion. We can't just accept purely mental causation "Let there be light!" Science rightly asks how the thought "Let there be light!" can bring about light.
Ward's response doesn't really deal with that very good question, but rather charges Baggini with moving too quickly from "religion deals with facts" to "religion clashes with science" by pointing out that some facts elude science. That strikes me as true, but not a direct challenge to Baggini's very good point about "how?" questions.
Ophelia, I would have trouble trying to charitably interpret Ward if I thought he were deliberately trying to pull the wool over our eyes, but for whatever reason, I didn't get that impression from his column, and I don't know Ward apart from the column. There are things he says that may mislead the unwary reader, but if it's not deliberate ... well, then it makes sense to help him out. For example, his example about his father is not ideal, so why not just brush it up so we can recover the point, apart from difficulties with the example? I suppose I wouldn't bother if I thought you wouldn't thereby recover anything the least bit worthwhile ... but there's something worthwhile in there. I think there really is knowledge that eludes science (so Ward is right as far as that goes), but it's not about Jesus or God (so I'm not in his religious camp).
Dave, Nice example!
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