Tag Archive: Dawkins

Science: It works, bitches

Question: The question is about the nature of scientific evidence. You both said, and I think most people here would agree with you, that we’re justified in holding a belief if there is evidence for it or there are logical argumentes we can find that support it. But it seems like this in itself is a belief, which would require some form of evidence. If so, I’m won­dering what you think would count as evidence in favour of that and, if not, how do we justify choosing that heuristic without appealing to the same standard that we are trying to justify?

Dawkins: How do we justify, as it were, that science would give us the truth? It works. Planes fly, cares drive, computers compute.

Law: It’s an inductive argument.

Dawkins: If you base medicine on science, you cure people; if you base the design of planes on science, they fly; if you base the design of rockets on science, they reach the moon. It works … bitches. [1:10:30]

Non-overlapping magisteria

Während sich im philosophischen Denken heute die Idee der kritischen Prüfung unter Lösung vom Rechtfertigungs­denken durchzusetzen scheint, ist gleichzeitig eine Tendenz zu beobachten, die Anwendung dieser Idee nach Mög­lichkeit auf gewisse Bereiche einzuschränken und für andere Bereiche andere Möglichkeiten zu postu­lieren, vor allem: hier ältere Denkformen und traditionelle Methoden aufrechtzuerhalten. Man versucht, gewisse Bereiche gegen das Eindringen kritischer Gesichtspunkte zu immunisieren, während man andere dafür frei gibt, so, als ob die Annäherung an die Wahrheit bzw. die Eliminierung von Irrtümern, Fehlern und Mißverständ­nissen im einen Falle durch Kritik geför­dert werden könne, während im anderen Falle kritisches Denken eher schädlich sein müsse. Solche an sich nicht sehr überzeugende Einteilungsversuche sind wohl in allen Gesell­schaften an der Tagesordnung, da es stets Überzeugun­gen zu geben scheint, die so wichtig sind, daß ihre kritische Untersuchung Unbehagen erzeugen muß.

Futile refutations

Dawkins has somehow become the public defender of scientific rationality against, of all things, creationism, and more generally against a pre-scientific world-view that has been obsolete since Galileo. The frustrating thing about all this is that, so long as the proponents of our best theories of the fabric of reality have to expend their intellectual energies in futile refutation and re-refutation of theories long known to be false, the state of our deepest knowledge cannot im­prove. [335]

Objective growth of knowledge

So the growth of objective scientific knowledge cannot be explained in the Kuhnian picture. It is no good trying to pre­tend that successive explanations are better only in terms of their own paradigm. There are objective differences. We can fly, whereas for most of human history people could only dream of this. The ancients would not have been blind to the efficacy of our flying machines just because, within their paradigm, they could not conceive of how they work. The reason why we can fly is that we understand ‘what is really out there’ well enough to build flying machines. The reason why the ancients could not is that their understanding was objectively inferior to ours. [324]