Thursday, August 14, 2008

D'Souza Agrees That Science "Works" But...

D'Souza has argued Kant's position that science cannot access noumenal reality to prove that there is noumenal reality, or reality essentially undetectable by the 5 senses. If that is so then it follows that empiricism is not capable of judging that non-empirical reality does not exist.

D'Souza then asks about those who say something like "So what - science works!" He quotes astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson: "Science's biggest success rests on the fact that it works." (What's So Great About Christianity, 186) D'Souza explains: "If science did not accurately describe the world, then airplanes would not fly and people who undergo medical treatments would not be cured... Better to fly in an airplane constructed by the laws of physics, Tyson scornfully says, than to board one "constructed by the rules of Vedic astrology." (186)

OK. D'Souza agrees that science works. "But it doesn't follow that scientific laws are known to be true in all cases." (187) D'Souza then proceeds to show how, in a Kuhnian way, the history of science is the history of error. For example, Newton's laws of physics worked for many years, only to have Einstein's theories of relativity contradict Newton. And one day Einstein's may be equally contradicted.

Examples like this caused Karl Popper to conclude "that no scientific law can, in a positive sense, claim to prove anything at all. Science cannot verify theories, it can merely falsify them." (187)

D'Souza's point is that what "works" today in science may be refuted in the future, thus leaving us skeptical of science's claims to special epistemic access to reality. And science qua science proves nothing, if we mean by "proof" absolute certainty. Science gives us "best guesses" about the world. "What we call laws are nothing more than observed patterns and sequences. We think the world works in this way until future experience proves the contrary."

A final note. Imagine X sees a truck coming at them, jumps out of the way, and saves their life. In this case their 5 senses seem to "work." OK. But such utilitarianism cannot provide us with a theory of truth except for: "truth" = what works. I don't see how one could argue for the truth of consequentialist theories.

1) It "works" to save my life when I see a truck coming at me.

2) Therefore, my senses are properly informing me.

I don't think so.