Philosophy isn’t Science (and Other Non-News)

ImageIn continuing on with the Kalam Cosmological Argument, I’d like to reference a common objection given to it: the claim that it this sort of argument isn’t good science.

Of course, I agree that the Kalam isn’t good science (because it is not science at all), but this is hardly detrimental to the argument.

There are many variations of this floating around the internet. But they essentially claim that, because the argument concludes something that is not physically testable and/or because it does not reason inductively (as scientists do in establishing a theory), it is not a valid argument.

This is clearly an invalid objection, but I think it is significant in that I see this sort of mistake being made with respect to many arguments. That is, deductive arguments being treated (either implicitly or explicitly) as if they are scientific hypotheses.

For instance, I’ve heard the objection that the Kalam is worthless because it does not increase knowledge, but merely posits God rather than offering a more scientific explanation of the cause of the universe.

Of course, this is not true (there is an advance in knowledge here–with the opportunity for much more exploration and study), but that is not the key point. The more significant issue is that “this doesn’t advance our knowledge” is not a reason to think a conclusion is untrue. At most, that makes it simply unpleasant.

And that is the thing to remember. The only ways to refute a deductive argument is to offer a good reason why one (or more) of the premises is false, or show a flaw in the logic. Whether we like the conclusion, think it advances knowledge, or find it to be in line with the way science is done are immaterial points.

Of course, one could always offer reasons why the conclusion is false. But, as this would require rejecting one of the premises, these reasons would need to be stronger than the premise(s) being rejected. But, in the context of debates over theism, there are very few positive reasons given which even purport to establish the non-existence of God.

That being the case, it really is a matter of the premises to the arguments for God that are key. Other elements to the debate are significant, of course, and all of it is interesting. Still, much of what is said against these arguments has no purchase–because it misunderstands the nature of deductive reasoning.

But, there are still some questions about the argument’s conclusion. More on this in the future.

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