Monthly Archives: July 2014

Science + Determinism = Nonsense?

This post is inspired by Gene Callahan’s on scientific presuppositions. I did a bit of my own thinking, however, and started wondering “what would it even mean for someone to believe in both determinism and science?”

If the universe is deterministic, then all our actions are no different, other than perhaps in the degree of complexity, from those of atoms and molecules. This means that the scientist, too, is predetermined. He does not choose to do science, he simply does science. As such, if we want to hold the knowledge gained from science as truthful, we must say that the scientist is predetermined to do science correctly. He must both be predetermined to follow the scientific method and “think” he is following the scientific method. He must be predetermined to “pick” the correct conclusions rather than the incorrect ones.

But then what occurs is that the determinist is no longer merely saying the universe is deterministic: he’s actually proposing specific content for his determinism, namely, at least, that the scientist is predetermined to follow the scientific method and pick conclusions correctly. What reason we would have to expect this, I have no idea. It instead seems like something one would have to take up on faith.

Perhaps one would counter that the applications of technologies we eventually achieve through science clearly practically work, and that validates it. For example, the validation of certain scientific research on electricity could be shown through its application in functional electric vehicles. But if that’s the case, then couldn’t we also be predetermined to (falsely) think that there are practical applications of science? If one is going to propose something as inane as that we are predetermined to follow a particular method correctly to achieve true knowledge, then I don’t see how this other possibility is any more ridiculous.


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