02 June 2011

Show me the Sausages!

A philosopher designs a marvellous sausage machine. A scientist comes to marvel at this wonderful creation, and raises an eyebrow.
The philosopher says, "Ah, behold the wonderful cogs and sprockets and temperature-controlled mixing chambers in my wonderful machine - surely you can see how it must produce the most fantastic sausages!"
The scientist says "Yes, that is all very interesting. Show me the sausages."
The philosopher says "How dare you, a mere scientist, question my wonderful philosophical reasoning?"
Scientist: "I'm not questioning your reasoning - I want to know if your machine really produces sausages."
Philosopher: "Can you point to any flaw in my argument that it produces sausages?"
Sci: "I don't know - I just want to know if it produces sausages. Here is some meat. Why don't you feed it through and see if you get any sausages?"
Phil: "And sully my wonderful machine with mere offal?"
Sci: "You said it was a sausage machine. I want to see the sausages."
Phil: "Are you questioning my ingredients?"
Sci: "I'm just questioning whether it produces sausages or not. Show me the sausages."
Phil: "Ah, so you cannot attack my premises and you cannot attack my argument. Therefore I'm right and you lose."
Sci: "Don't be such a melodramatic prancing arse. Show me the sausages."
Phil: "The sausages inevitably flow from the argument. You see my fine machine.  You can even inspect the meat & onions. The sausages necessarily flow."
Sci: "Show me the sausages or I'm off to Tesco."
Phil: "You are a mere scientist with no understanding of philosophical matters."
Sci: "Bye."

105 comments:

  1. Hi Shane,

    Was just checking in on PZ Myers, when I saw a link and it turns out to be you!

    Excellent piece btw

    Hope all well with you and yours

    Harvey

    ReplyDelete
  2. Without sausages, there can be morality

    ReplyDelete
  3. The sausages are the timeless, spaceless, uncaused cause of the universe. Just because you can't see the air doesn't mean there is no timeless spaceless sausage.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Are you calling this 'The Big Banger Theory'? I think we need to be told ...

    Nice post but I predict within ten comments a film geek posting;

    "Show me the money!"

    ReplyDelete
  5. You should include some links with every sausage argument.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "A philosopher designs a marvellous sausage machine."

    Bogus. Philosophers never design sausage making machines.

    They just steal old designs from dead philosophers.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great argument! I think I'll use it myself:

    How do you get life from non-life? Show me the sausages!

    How do you get being from non-being? Show me the sausages!

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Hyper: Life from non-life is easy, and has been shown many times over. There are a number of self-replicating DNA precursors out there, if you took the time to actually read.

    being from non-being: If you mean "get something from nothing", you're making a false assumption: that there ever was a "nothing" in the first place. Prove to me that there was a time when there was nothing, and then I'll accept that I need to prove the possibility of creating something out of nothing, and not before. But even then, the existence of Quantum virtual particles is enough to prove it possible, as long as the total energy of the system doesn't change in the process. That total energy can even be zero, and you could still get virtual particles with enough asymmetry to cause macroscopic effects.

    So go back to banana boy and cry on his shoulder, because his arguments don't make a lick of sense.

    ReplyDelete
  9. They're spiritual sausages.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow... I never sausage a collection of terrible puns...

    ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ommmm...spiritual sausage...(drool).

    But wait!  If my soul gets fat, will it fit through the gates of Heaven?

    Re: Hyper:  Yeah, saw that coming.  I like it, but there is an easy theist/creationist reworking. As we know, creationists often insist there's no actively-occurring, observable evolution.  So just flip the scientist and philosopher around, and now you have a creationist arguing that, yes, you've got a very pretty mechanism there but nothing coming out of it.

    Nevermind the actively-occurring evolution we actually are observing; they dismiss that, apparently because it isn't resulting in crocoducks.

    Nevermind the plausibility inherent in a mechanism; a sausage machine's function is not completely dismissible merely because it isn't switched on (but once they adamantly refuse to...)

    Nevermind that the sausage-machine of evolution isn't expected to crank out 1,000 sausages an hour, and that this is self-evident from any brief examination of it's mechanisms.  

    So generally speaking, I would expect the theist/creationist response to be that your hand-crank andouille-maker disproves the concept of sausages because it can't stock all Tescos with turkey bratwurst and brown mustard.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Figures, philosausages have no meat. I do understand the parallel to theology such as creationism; if you can't know what is wrong, how can you know what is right? Philosophers can tell internal consistence, but never test external applicability. It is story telling.

    [And between you and me, boring stories. I mean "metaphysics"!? Come on, I want to know about the _world_.]

    @ Rebel1:

    - But self-replication isn't enough for life as we know it, which is population change into population under the process of evolution. Life isn't a characteristic of individuals but of populations.

    So we also need variation and selection, at least. Life from non-life is then simplest demonstrated by that it happened on Earth. Next simplest would be making genetic algorithms. As for laboratory experiments, Craig Venter made life out of non-life by putting artificially made genomes into cells which had their genome removed.

    And of course we know it is a simple natural process, since it happened so fast on Earth. A simple Poisson model of abiogenetic attempts is testable due to this speed; conversely it tells us the rate of attempts and/or ease of success was really good.

    - The type of universes that includes our standard cosmology one, FLRW universes, have zero energy (as one can surmise from the our own universe flatness). As Faraoni & Cooperstock points out that means a) new universes can quantum tunnel from old b) there can be _no 3d party_ to this process. It is the feasibly "universes all the way down"* and firm exclusion of creationism.

    -----------
    * Technically it is very unlikely to find a process initially close to its fix point (steady state).

    However exponential divergence means rapid loss of memory in the system, so we could never tell. Also, environmental selection would make up for any initial improbable state by making it likely anyway.

    So: it is feasible.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Just had to post a conversation with a friend that resulted from your post:

    Friend: The only problem with that metaphor is that if I was standing in front of a sausage machine and someone was refusing to make sausage, there would be a fistfight.
    Friend: I have no patience for purely decorative sausage machinery.
    Friend: I feel like that's a profound statement but I can't figure out why.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Mike... said:
    Bogus. Philosophers never design sausage making machines. They just steal old designs from dead philosophers.
    So - where did the dead philospohers get their designs from?

    I'll be using the New Standard Names: Phil the philosopher and Si the Scientist...

    ReplyDelete
  15. you're making a false assumption: that there ever was a "nothing" in the first place.


    Indeed.

    - It is preposterous from a science viewpoint: you can't define it, so the best you can do is to exclude it. (Like some empirical atheists do with gods.) As theoretical physicist Sean Carroll points out, it is not part of the distribution of universes that inflationary cosmologies leave us with, so why should it be a part!?

    - If you actually try to track physics back, you will note a) laws comes from symmetries and above all their breaking (say, when/if antimatter disappeared from our universe after inflationary reheating created/not created them) b) spontaneous symmetry breaking is a natural process (systems seeking ground states in expanding volumes such as our universe) c) the maximal symmetric initial state is total symmetric chaos. [Paraphrasing Stenger, "GOD - The Failed Hypothesis".]

    - Now it hits me, from another discussion, the following observation. Random variation (chance and contingency) is what creates information, in evolution but also everywhere. (Conversely, selection is what creates function, meaningful information.) Information out of disorder.

    And indeed the fully symmetric state has the most Kolmogorov information. Random variation and maximum number of symmetries have both the least compressibility of description.

    So if we go full monty, a plausible initial state was total chaotic, containing maximum information. Then some part, despite most likely being infinite in extent and time, would eventually be expanding, setting up the environment that leads to selection of laws.

    Proceeding, eventually this spawns relatively few infinite universes where life can exist on the surface of a few planetary bodies in the vastness of their universe. There multicellular life can by chance, "variation and contingency", occur. They being a minute part of the local biosphere, the actual "pond scum" as it were, but declaring themselves in some mindless religions the most important part of the multiverse (as if).

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sounds as much like an economist as a philosopher, actually.

    ReplyDelete
  17. jaranath: As we know, creationists often insist there's no actively-occurring, observable evolution. So just flip the scientist and philosopher around, and now you have a creationist arguing that, yes, you've got a very pretty mechanism there but nothing coming out of it.

    scientist: Look at my sausage machine!
    creationist: Your sausage machine doesn't do anything. Show me the sausages!
    (Scientist presses button, sausage comes out)
    creationist: Yeah, well... that's just microsausages. Show me the macrosausages!
    (Scientist presses button again, another sausage comes out)
    creationist: Yeah, but if that machine makes meat into sausages, why is there still meat?

    ReplyDelete
  18. In the same 'Show-me' spirit: Show me a philosopher for whom this analogy is apposite. No, I don't question the brilliance of your reasoning, but I still want the name of a philosopher. No philosophers' names and I'm off to some other website where analogies make more sense.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Robin Johnson:

    We don't use conventional "meat" to make our evosausages. The meat we use comes from PYGMIES + DWARVES. Don't ask me to explain them.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Phi: Actually, before we get to sausage making I'd sort of like to discuss animal ethics. My general position is sort of that killing animals is not so bad as making them suffer. So I try to get local, free range stuff. As a consequence, because the good stuff is more expensive, I'm mostly vegetarian. I've sort of struggled to articulate general moral principles supporting this position. I'd be curious to know what others think about animal ethics, what principles they relied on to arrive at their position.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This here philosopher guy must be the one who who's cornered the market in tea-pot design.

    ReplyDelete
  22. If you say Jesus backwards it sounds like sausage.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Someone said: Bogus. Philosophers never design sausage making machines. They just steal old designs from dead philosophers. But, you forget that many dead philosophers were scientists (nee Natural Philosophers) and many dead scientists were also doing something like philosophy (thought experiments) or drawing from philosophical work (foundations of mathematics).

    Of course, this isn't to say there aren't sausage makers out there who make imaginary sausages. Yeah, sure, maybe they should get a clue. But, there's a shitton of us out here who do care about making real sausages with our machines maybe even with help from scientific research. Some of that shitton even get NSF grants to provide the casing so we might fruitfully debate things like, say, the meaning of arsenic based lifeforms or artificial cells. GASP!

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is probably the würst metaphor I’ve ever heard of!

    /@

    ReplyDelete
  25. "Wurst argument ever!"

    First, I was like "Huh? How was that the w..."

    Then I was like "HAHAHA" and wiping my monitor clean of Coke.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Antallan, it *does* have a ring of "meat-therefore" in it!

    @ Robin Johansson:

    ROTFSSS! (Rolling On The Floor Snacking on Snaking Sausages.)

    @ oedipus:

    We should beware of analogies, because they can only illustrate. But in this case it illustrates a fact; by design, philosophy can only be storytelling as I mentioned above. Case in point then: Plato with his untestable and unparsimonious platonism. The first makes it not science or math*, the second makes it rejected by realism.

    -----------
    * Which is quasiempirical, since proofs are based on heuristic methods. In effect, making the proof so simple and smoothly progressing that everyone has to agree on the presumed validity of each step.

    @ Jaded:

    "many dead philosophers were scientists"

    So you are saying that they could make sausage machines that worked and sausage machines that didn't.

    What would be the difference with actual research?

    Heck, you can be _religious_ and still do valid research! It can't be easy, but it seems some manage it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi folks,
    Thanks all for stopping by, and for some truly excellent punmanship. I had a coke-meets-monitor incident too with the wurst thing.
    @Oedipus, don't sweat it too much - it is a parable, like those on http://churchofjesuschristatheist.blogspot.com

    However, if you want the name of ONE philosopher who regularly makes arguments of this sort, three words. William. Lane. Craig. Kalam is a sausage machine argument (SMA). Craig's argument is *valid*, and even to a very superficial assessment of the premises it *looks* sound, and it's even to some people rationally persuasive. But it does not produce the Sausage it claims - or at least no-one has demonstrated that. Indeed, Craig has even admitted that, and gone from viewing the Kalam as a slam-dunk to saying that it merely contributes to a cumulative case for his particular brand of peculiar protestant fundamentalist theism. Which is like saying by adding on more and more sows' ears, you make a silkier purse.

    However, I do admit that I am hamming it up a bit (geddit?!) for dramatic effect. Philosophers need to be aware that in general they deal with words, and words are labels that may or may not retain their applicability to the real world as an argument progresses. Very many philosophers realise this of course. It's the distinction between verbal and visual thinking, partially.

    Thanks again for blessing my humble blog with all your fun comments - all thanks to the marvellous @pzmyers!

    Cheers,
    -@shanemuk

    ReplyDelete
  28. @Jaded - that's virtually the *definition* of a scientist - a dead philosopher! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  29. Lol, some philosophers are a bit dense, but so are some scientists :D:

    A Scientist designs a marvelous soul-detecting machine. A philosopher comes along to marvel at this wonderful creation, and raises an eyebrow.

    The scientist says, "Ah, behold the wonderful cogs and sprockets and temperature-controlled detecting chambers in my wonderful machine - surely you can see how it must be able to detect souls?

    The philosopher says "Yes, that looks all very interesting. So what do you think a soul is?
    The scientist says “You know, some form of persistence of the individual soul after life ends.”
    Philosopher: Cool, so how do you test for it?
    Scientist: Well, it has to be made up of some sort of particle or a bunch of particles and some kind of force that holds it together right?
    Philosopher: Sure, why not, otherwise it would be immaterial and non-physical right?
    Scientist: No silly, some say it is like some sort of immaterial blob spirit energy that takes up residence near our brain, and drives around our body like a soccer mom driving an SUV.
    Philosopher: Ah, sort of like an immaterial and non-physical blob of energy made up of material particles and held together by a physical force that hovers around your brain like a soccer mom near the school right?
    Scientist: Exactly, and if it exists we should be able to detect it somehow! Clever man.
    Philosopher: Cool bro, I am a bit slow though, why is this “blob of energy” immaterial and non-physical?
    Scientist: That is what some people believe a soul is, an immaterial and non-physical blob of energy.
    Philosopher: But it is made up of material particles and held together by a physical force?
    Scientist: That is it, otherwise we won’t be able to detect it! Wow, philosophers are clever.
    Philosopher: Cool bro, let’s see it in action.
    Scientist: Well, we haven’t detected anything yet and we really are not surprised, there really is no space in Standard Model of particle physics for particles that make up immaterial blobs of energy!
    Philosopher: Brilliant! That settles it, another win for science and I never thought immaterial blobs of energy made up of particles existed anyway…

    ReplyDelete
  30. @antallan
    not all German u's have umlauts.

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wurst

    ReplyDelete
  31. I don't follow you, HM.  No offense, but it seems as if you've muddled some of the conversation's lines.

    Also, if I get the gist of it, then I don't think it's representative.  A scientist would not attempt to disprove the existence of an immaterial thing by designing a test for material things.  If the soul was universally defined as immaterial, then there'd be no point in designing a soul-detector. You're stuck then with indirect evidence.  Of course, it often wasn't defined as such; hence the early attempts to locate the soul in the body, weigh it, etc.

    Ultimately, whether the soul is defined as immaterial or material, if the systems containing it are indistinguishable from those lacking it then the concept should be discarded as superfluous.

    ReplyDelete
  32. "some say it is like some sort of immaterial blob spirit energy that takes up residence near our brain.."

    You've been sniffing Descartes again HM?
    Get that monkey of your back man!!

    ReplyDelete
  33. hi shane. um. it doesn't work because you've got the philosopher doing something philosophers never do. The scientist and your good self have unjustified expectations of the philosopher's job. As far as the philosopher is concerned, as long as the argument is sound his job is done - he needn't "produce" anything else. The sound argument *is* the sausage.
    You speak of WLC [incidentally more highly than i've ever heard you before ... I wonder why that is] as if he expects his arguments to constitute proof for God that scientists ought to accept on scientific grounds. I think you just misunderstand the whole enterprise of philosophy.

    ReplyDelete
  34. HA! It's like the greatest website never released... Developer keeps refactoring to get the code perfect, but won't release anything until it is.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Jeremy, if that is the case, then we don't need philosophers. Any buckaroo can do the job of making sure an argument is valid; *soundness* is a different concept - are you seriously saying that the job of philosophers is simply to string words together into a logical sequence? If that is the case, my little parable is even more apposite!

    ReplyDelete
  36. I come here and expect to see a normal 3 person crowd, I see your post and think to myself "maybe I'll blog this", I put a reaction, I see the number of reactions and think to myself. "hmmm..." that don't look normal. I look at comments, "what something about PZ?".
    Then I see the trackbacks, "Holy shit you got mentioned by PZ" I think immediately. Congrads on the new following, I knew you had potential.

    ReplyDelete
  37. The great thing about folk tales and parables is that they often develop more than one version as they get retold:

    A philosopher designs a marvellous sausage machine. A scientist comes
    to marvel at this wonderful creation, and raises an eyebrow.
    The philosopher says, "Ah, behold the wonderful cogs and sprockets and
    temperature-controlled mixing chambers in my wonderful machine -
    surely you can see how it must produce the most fantastic sausages!"
    The scientist says "Yes, that is all very interesting. Show me the sausages."
    The philosopher says, "Here you go."
    The scientist says, "Gee, ta. Yummy. Hey, I have some burgers. Can you make something that brews beer?"

    There, that was nice, wasn't it?

    ian

    ReplyDelete
  38. i am the sausage and the sausage maker; i am you and i am me; i am everything and nothing... and i love you.

    ReplyDelete
  39. For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten sausage...

    Chaps, you're right! Boundless sausage!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Yeah, but can it make bacon?

    ReplyDelete
  41. I'm reminded of a song my parents used to sing to me on car trips:

    Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Burbeck
    how could you be so mean
    I told you you'd be sorry for
    inventing that machine
    Now all the neighbors cats and dogs
    will never more be seen
    They'll all be ground to sausages
    in Johnny Burbeck's machine!

    And my parents wonder why I don't believe in God any more!

    ReplyDelete
  42. ah, i see - i've clicked some links and it's a theist/athiest thing, isn't it? and now i've found out all about the courtier's reply and that has been interesting but i'm not sure i get it: the point is that you're not meant to have an opinion on anything unless you've studied it loads or something. but that's why i go to a doctor instead of a homeopath - cos he's studied it but the homeopath is just making it up; i don't have enough time to listen to the opinions of idiots. the point of the courtiers in the story is that they didn't know anything either - they were just PRETENDING to. they were scared to show up their lack of knowledge; if they were experts they would have had the confidence to point out it was bunkum. the scientists are the con-artists, obviously, cos they get away with the money (obviously not individual scientists but Big Pharma) and believers are the little boy cos they're so stupid they don't even know to pretend they're clever. wait, that can't be right. the con artists must be the church, cos it's obvious, innit, and philosophers are the little boy because they naively point out the truth. no, scientists are the little boy because they point out simple things which are obvious, like the earth is flat and that heavy things fall faster than light ones. no, that can't be right either...

    what was the point of the story again? i forget...

    ReplyDelete
  43. Please name one philosopher who claims to be doing what you assert. It's easy to talk abstractly about a class. Naming names will force you to come to terms with your hasty generalizations and confused understanding of philosophy. But, of course, you are just joking around, right?

    ReplyDelete
  44. It never occurred to me the Emperor's New Clothes was such a difficult tale to digest. As a fan of the Courtier's Reply, puns AND sausage I need not read another post for the remainder of the day. The utter confusion in the comments is just mustard for the wurst. Tasty hilarity.

    ReplyDelete
  45. To retain respect for sausages and laws of physics, one must not watch them in the making -- Otto von Bismark

    ReplyDelete
  46. argumentum ad sausagem ? gonna keep it in my book ;)

    ReplyDelete
  47. In Soviet Russia sausage make you!

    ReplyDelete
  48. @kinzuna kid - it's not that difficult, i remember now: i think the point is not to be scared to ask stupid questions, which is what i'm doing now. how does the courtier's reply work as a defence of dawkins?

    are we really suggesting that we should consider the opinions of non-experts on everything? hold on while i consult my dentist about myopia...

    ReplyDelete
  49. Excellent, excellent piece!

    ReplyDelete
  50. In the story of the Emperor's New Clothes NO-ONE has a belief that the Emperor is wearing clothes, not even the Emperor. He is pretending because he is afraid of looking stupid and his servants are pretending because they are afraid of him. This is where the analogy falls down then. Whether you like it or not Christians have a genuine belief in God, they are not pretending.

    ReplyDelete
  51. tumnus: actually, everyone pretends because they think the clothes are there, but they may be too stupid to see them -- but everyone else says they're there, so "maybe it's just me". (you're right that the Emperor himself knows he's naked.)

    Besides, the Courtier's Reply is not an analogy for Christianity (or religion in general), but for the argument that you can't dismiss religion without studying theology in detail (or reading treatises on invisible fabrics).

    ReplyDelete
  52. jaranath,

    Yeah, it is a bit silly isn't it.. trying to disprove something that is immaterial and assuming it is made up of particles. Sean Carrol might think otherwise though, oh well.

    It is also a bit silly to try and disprove something that has been derived via deductive logic with empirical science. Like souls, vacuum states, the Pythagorean theorem etc. Vacuum states are impossible to achieve experimentally (one might say the same for Cartesian souls and triangles on an Euclidean plane) yet they are BY DEFINITION states with the lowest possible energy and NO particles or the lowest possible energy that a quantum mechanical physical system may have. It is a logical deduction based on observable (and perhaps logical) premises.

    The Cartesian dualist might also deduct the existence of souls in a similar manner. For example:
    1) A mechanistic view of nature is assumed to be true.
    2) Therefore nature is assumed to be like a machine made up of physical/material parts and the physical/material parts on their own have no goal-directedness, purposiveness or natural ends.
    3) Humans are material/physical things and they too are assumed to be made up of parts that have no goal-directedness, purposiveness or natural ends.
    4) Intentionality means "to point (at)" or "to aim (at)". The term is used to refer to the capacity of mental states to "to point" or to be about, or to stand for or aim at something beyond itself. It is also assumed that intentionality is a property of the human brain.
    5) Goal-directedness, purposiveness or natural ends are properties of intentionality.
    6) Therefore, intentionality can not be a physical/material part of the brain and therefore has to be a non-physical/immaterial part of the brain.
    7) Therefore some form dualism is true (substance dualism in the case of Cartesian).

    Two observation (a mechanistic view of nature and intentionality) and a conclusion... dualism.

    You can deny it by pointing out that premise 1 is unnecessary or just deny intentionality is real. I think premise 1 is unwarranted therefore Cartesian dualism is false anyway :).

    ReplyDelete
  53. If you run it in reverse, you have to put your wiener in and may - just may - get some soylent green flavouring come out ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  54. "2) Therefore nature is assumed to be like a machine made up of physical/material parts and the physical/material parts on their own have no goal-directedness, purposiveness or natural ends."

    emergent properties, anyone? I mean, what is a 'natural end?' When oxygen gas and methane are combined with a spark, some very predictable things happen, naturally, and no other things will happen. This isn't 'goal directed,' but surely it is a natural end.

    Doesn't science simply posit that there is no need for the immaterial to explain things as they are?

    (As I assume you did,in this context I am using the word 'material' to encompass quantifiable energy, which technically isn't material in the 'has mass' sense)

    ReplyDelete
  55. @ Rebel1,

    "Prove to me that there was a time when there was nothing, and then I'll accept that I need to prove the possibility of creating something out of nothing, and not before."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

    'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009 '

    >;^)

    ReplyDelete
  56. Lori,

    Sure, that is probably one of the best reasons to abandon a mechanistic view (and hence Cartesian dualism)... natural ends. Natural ends of course imply that there is a necessary connection between cause and effect. If it is is the natural end of oxygen, methane and a certain amount of heat (the causes) to result in water and CO2 (the effects) then there is a necessary connection between cause and effect contra Hume. This of course fits very well with the Aristotelian view of nature where every substance has certain natural ends or final causes and these natural ends are as a result of what kind of thing the substance is (its formal cause) (see you methane-oxygen example).


    Does science simply posit that there is no need for the immaterial to explain things as they are?

    No, that is a philosophical question and it depends on your understanding of "material/physical". There is no need to assume that the only things that matter must be quantifiable. It might be irrelevant to empirical science but not science (which just means knowledge) in general.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Why did you transcribe a William Lane Craig debate?

    ReplyDelete
  58. HM:  Um...I think you're missing it. 

    The problem with your Cartesian example isn't that it's mechanistic. Lori tried to explain the problem to you.  It's in your strange assertion in your second point that "physical/material parts on their own have no goal-directedness, purposiveness or natural ends".

    We don't seem to have reason to think that's true.  Rather, we have plenty of evidence that those things are emergent properties of certain types of systems.  The complex, beautiful patterns of large flocks or schools are explained handily by small subsets of simple rules.  Likewise, neuroscience is supporting the idea that "I want to go shopping tonight" is the result of a melange of mechanistic processes in the brain. We've found no need to look elsewhere to explain "goal-directedness, purposiveness or natural ends," which I assume you're also equating later on with intentionality.

    You already assume later on that intentionality is a property of the human brain.  Sure!  But the fact that an individual neuron may not be seen as intentional doesn't mean such cannot emerge from a collection of many and diverse neurons and other cells, any more than the property of flight is denied an airplane merely because its individual parts are earthbound, or the properties of a compound are denied merely because it's constituent elements lack them.

    Of course, you may choose to redefine intentionality in some way, as you seem to be redefining science.  Even under your definition, the question would remain "HOW do you know", which is why we came up with what you call empirical science in the first place.

    You assert that there is no need to assume that the the only things that matter must be quantifiable.  I disagree. I think the point you're ultimately driving at is the same one I see argued over and over by countless theists and supernaturalists:  That God/Souls/The Supernatural are Real Things that influence material reality in significant, meaningful ways...but are immaterial and aren't detectable. But that's bunk. Anything that has a significant effect on the material world is at least indirectly detectable through that very effect, like the pull of dark matter.

    Yes, dark matter could be real but so small that it's pull was undetectable. In that case, we would assume the null and would not include it as a factor in our models, because it wouldn't matter.  The models would work just as well with or without dark matter, and did.  So it goes with gods, souls, and the supernatural.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Rocinante:  No, the point isn't that we should weigh non-experts the same as experts. The point is that non-experts are capable of detecting fundamentally flawed first premises, and are not obligated to engage with the experts in their general area of expertise when challenging that premise.

    Consider the creationist wishing to challenge evolution. He might want to argue that one or two positive, simple point mutations may be feasible evolutionary mechanisms but that evolution requires complicated, compound positive mutations that are not feasible. That's fine; then he pretty much needs to be an expert, or consult heavily with experts, to make that challenge.  But if he wants to assert that organisms simply do not evolve--that mutations don't occur, that there's neither evidence for nor appearance of common descent, that fossils don't exist--then he probably need not be much of an expert.

    If biologists built the grand edifice of evolutionary biology on premises like the latter, when there actually was no evidence for fossils, common descent, etc., then a challenge of those things would be valid and could destroy the theory that's grown out of them.  They would be silly to insist that the creationist debate the probabilities and utilities of various types of mutations when there wasn't even evidence that mutations ever happen.

    That's what the Courtier's Reply is about. Many outspoken atheists are criticized for not understanding various finer points of theology, when the fundamental premise of theology, upon which theology necessarily depends (God exists) is not supported.  Why should I care about the debates over angels on pinheads when there's no evidence for the former?  Why should I care about debates over the details of Obama's plans for implementing Sharia when there's no evidence he's a radical fundamentalist theocratic Muslim?  Why should I care about debates over the Emperor's gold filigree when there's no sign of any clothing to be filigreed in the first place?

    ReplyDelete
  60. Example of a philosopher that does just this: Aristotle.

    "Dur, I'm Aristotle and things fall at a rate according to their masses, and there are 4+1 elements, and matter is infinitely divisible."

    @Jaded, Ph.D.
    There are very good reasons that Mathematicians and Scientists do not call themselves philosophers. Even early scientists like Maxwell and Newton took pains to append "Natural" the the beginning of that word to make sure people understood the difference. The difference is this: While Wittgenstein is sitting there yammering on about beetles in boxes and feeling extra clever, scientists are investigating the physical foundations of language to determine how it REALLY WORKS.

    @HM
    You're a dense one.
    Here's the difference with a scientist:
    A scientist DISCOVERS a machine and marvels with the philosopher and the layman. The scientist gets to work messing with the machine to try and see how it works, noting that there are many sausages in a bin next to an opening on one side of the machine, and opening up the panels he can find notes the presence of various meats and a chamber filled with dried out intestines. The scientist proposes a hypothesis that the machine is meant for making sausage. The layman asks "how do you know that?" and the scientist says "I don't, but at the moment it seems like a good hypothesis, I'm going to test it for a while and see how it holds up, then I'll get back to you." The layman accuses the scientist of being arrogant, insists that the machine is meant for making pancakes, and storms off in a huff.
    The philosopher is also fond of the pancake hypothesis and proposes a solid argument with elegant internal consistency of logic that holds as long as its premises hold true.
    Of course, there's no evidence for the premises and the philosopher has no interest whatsoever in finding supporting evidence, but the philosopher is happy to write several books on the subject. The scientist, meanwhile, has published several studies on the internal workings of the machine, culminating in a test that, perhaps accidentally, leads to the machine actually making sausage. The scientist finds no evidence to suggest the machine is capable of making pancakes. The philosopher still argues that the machine must make pancakes because the argument is sound and deductive.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I'm popping in to point out three things.

    1. The fact that (e.g.) Aristotle (who is, by the way, a foundational figure in the sciences of physics, biology, astronomy, medicine, as well as logic, etc) said some stupid and/or unscientific things is not a good argument that philosophers are useless or that philosophy lacks value. It doesn't matter who you substitute in for Aristotle--even the dreadful W. L. Craig. Philosophy might well be valuable even if Aristotle's philosophy is not valuable (or whoever else). (Also, the idea that Aristotle's philosophy is not valuable is awfully silly.)

    2. jrshipley's comment above has decisively refuted the view that philosophy has no valuable contributions to make.

    3. No less a dyed-in-the-wool scientist than PZ Myers recently posted this video of the philosopher Bertrand Russell stressing the importance of scientific literacy. The idea that there is some kind of conflict between science and philosophy is wrong. There is, at best, a conflict that pits a minority of the philosophers against the scientists and almost all of the philosophers.

    ReplyDelete
  62. FWIW, I don't generally bash philosophers or find them necessarily contradictory to good science. I understand how some might think that way, but I don't. Which is not to say I don't find certain philosophers annoying from time to time. :)

    ReplyDelete
  63. @ jaranath

    "Many outspoken atheists are criticized for not understanding various finer points of theology, when the fundamental premise of theology, upon which theology necessarily depends (God exists) is not supported. Why should I care about the debates over angels on pinheads when there's no evidence for the former?"

    That's not the criticism being raised against new atheists like Dawkins. The criticism is that the new atheists do not engage with the best current arguments for the existence of God. Let me repeat, new atheists are not being criticized for failing to understand the "finer points" of theology, they are being criticized for ignoring current arguments for the claim that God exists.

    You might think that at the end of the day, the best current philosophical arguments for the existence of God are crap. The majority of philosophers think that they are crap, so you'll be in good company. But you can't know that they are crap until you actually engage with them, and to write a book in defense of atheism without engaging with the best arguments for theism is, well, intellectually dishonest.

    ReplyDelete
  64. What - atheists don't engage with the "best arguments" for the existence of the gods? That itself is crap. These "best arguments" don't even get close to the sausage machine! Even Craig himself admits this. Precisely how crap is "best" in the world of theistic apologetics??

    And my argument is not a blanket panning of philosophers - it is a parable against a certain mode of thought that is indeed all too common among some philosophers - that they can make truth statements about the universe, based on logic, that they can just accept as true without testing them against how the universe actually behaves.

    Chill - we've all seen it; you could just as well argue against the parable of the Good Samaritan (see http://churchofjesuschristatheist.blogspot.com ) by pointing out that some Samaritans are proper bastards.

    *Real* philosophers would not have a problem with my wee story :-) Thanks again everyone for popping by - feel free to explore the other crap I have on offer on my wee blog!

    ReplyDelete
  65. Mostly Anonymous:

    I repeat: Anything that has a significant effect on the material world is at least indirectly detectable through that very effect. As such, I don't give a flying frak about the best current philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Show me the sausages!

    I also recommend you go read (or re-read) the Reply, and the review that precipitated it, which Myers points out was the type specimen of the arguments he was satirizing. You're making precisely the sort of argument the Courtier's Reply lampoons.

    God is a scientific hypothesis; there's really no way around that, except to allege that God is real but undetectable...just like the emperor's clothes. I'm happy to concede the possibility of real-but-undetectable clothing, but that does relegate it to irrelevance, so what's the point?

    ReplyDelete
  66. @ jaranath,

    Sure, God is a scientific hypothesis in the sense that if someone showed up with God in the back of his truck, that would count as evidence that God exists. But the existence of God might be entailed by an axiomatic system that some people accept. If so, that is itself an interesting fact, isn't it? If you don't want to believe in God, then it seems you should reject such an axiom system, and any independent reason to accept such an axiom system is a reason to believe that God exists.

    Similarly, whether you can trisect an arbitrary angle with a straight edge and compass is also a scientific hypothesis in some sense or other. You could demonstrate its truth by producing the relevant sausage -- by carrying out the construction. But except for a few cranks, nobody tries, because the impossibility of such a construction follows deductively from an axiom system that most everyone accepts, and the independent reasons we have for accepting that axiom system are reasons for believing that such constructions are impossible.

    As to the Courtier's Reply, I think there is one sort of criticism for which the Courtier's Reply is entirely apt and another for which it just misses the point. The criticism correctly lampooned by the Courtier's Reply has the form: "You say that there is no G, but here is a theory that attributes properties x, y, and z to G. You haven't said anything about x, y, and z, so how can you say that there is no G?" I take this to be the "finer points of theology" style criticism, and I agree that the Courtier's Reply is fair in this case.

    But there is another criticism that runs like this: "You criticize argument A for the conclusion that G, but argument A is a very old argument with well-known weaknesses. Friends of G don't use argument A anymore, rather they use a variation, A*, that they think patches up the weaknesses in A. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. But, today, if you want to show that G is false (or that we don't have any evidence for G), then you need to criticize A*, not A. Criticizing A is strawmanning." I don't think the Courtier's Reply really works against this criticism. If it did, it would work equally well in all cases of strawmanning.

    Parallel: A creationist reads Darwin's Origin (bear with me, it's a fictional example) and says, "Evolution can't be true because Darwin's theory of inheritance is all wrong." A contemporary biologist replies, "Yes, Darwin's account of inheritance was wrong, but contemporary evolutionary biology doesn't use that account of inheritance, you're strawmanning." To which the creationist retorts, "Oh don't tell me about the color and texture of the emperor's clothes!"

    @ Shane,

    Was there something overheated in what I said in my last post? I am not objecting to your fable. I'm not sure I quite understand your fable, since I'm not sure I quite know what a sausage is supposed to represent (a truth, a piece of evidence, an argument, a practical application, an experiment, ...). But really, I didn't take myself to be attacking your fable.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Shane: You've now got the blogs of academic philosophers linking to this post. So we're all heading over here with no context whatsoever and are assuming that by 'philosopher' you mean what we mean by the word. After reading through the comments and glancing at other posts on this blog, it seems (I'm hoping) that you're using 'philosopher' in your sausage story a bit more narrowly--specifically, to refer mainly to individuals who defends Thomistic-style arguments for the existence of god (or any argument for the existence of god, for that matter).

    I don't know whether I'm a real philosophers (occupational hazard, the not-knowing), but as someone who teaches philosophy classes, I cringe to think that I'm lumped together with this very small group. I'm sure you can think of a pseudo-scientist analogous to Craig; someone who, if lumped together with respectable scientists by a layperson, would have you squirming.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Don, yes, you are completely right. I am playing a little fast and loose with the term "philosopher" here. It is simply a device to illustrate a certain type of thinking.

    MostlyAnonymous is doing a great job of highlighting exactly my point. The "best arguments for the existence of god" are pointless, other than for entertainment purposes. They *cannot* be taken as showing that a god exists (in some uncharacterisable relationship with our world, which for the sake of argument we'll call the "real" one). It doesn't matter how much superydooperier argument A* is than A - if A* doesn't actually produce sausages (and I think most philosophers *would* agree with me that there is no argument for the gods that has sausage-positivity), it is pointless. And this seems to be Jaranath's point.

    Axiomatic systems and all the rest are all very fun, but the real world (vs) doesn't have to match the axioms, and it is irrelevant whether "we" like certain axioms or not. Euclidean space is a wonderful axiomatic construction, but *real* space is curved on the large scale, which monkeys with its applicability somewhat.

    In the case of theism, people *want* to believe in the gods, so they construct arguments that appear to prove the gods. If a sausage actually came out of their machine, I think they would be shocked ;-)

    I have more posts on the sort of erroneous thinking that trips even quite smart people up from time to time...

    ReplyDelete
  69. @jarantha cool, thanks for that - i appreciate the explanation [even if i still think that an analogy which requires an explanation isn't doing it's job very well!]

    re your last paragraph. what if a particular theology defined god as e.g. "everything there is"? i'm just thinking of the way some people have redefined their use of the word to make it unfalsifiable. that's hardly playing fair, but there we go. i mean it's all very well to say your first premises are wrong, but not all first premises are easy just because they come first. not all words have simple meanings just cos they're short and in common use (i hear advanced physics is rife with that sort of thing as well, but a long way from first premises). i mean, i started trying to read some aquinas for an essay i had to do about aztec human sacrifice, and to be honest, getting to the point where i understood his first premises was pretty tricky: the gap of centuries of time, "translation lag" and just that some of the concepts were particularly abstract. it was hard. so i know that the meaning of "god exists" seems pretty clear, but at the same time i can understand that some might argue that both the concepts of "god" and "exists" could do with a little unpacking, and i guess that's where the theology/philosophy starts and why someone might suggest that a little background reading might help. it's a far cry from pointing at the emperor and shouting "ha ha i can see his dick!" (and another thing, surely someone should have realised that if stupid people couldn't see the cloth, then just perhaps the emperor should have some underwear? maybe they had a different modesty code...)

    ReplyDelete
  70. @rocinante: Yeah, I know what you mean. Of course, most religions aren't that obtuse (at least in their most basic ideas), but if they're alleging the existence of the supernatural then I think you can still shortcut to that. To me, the supernatural is an essential part of the definition of "religion", though I know some would look at that differently (extreme political philosophies, for instance...) Or if it's simply unfalsifiable, then it's the invisible dragon in Sagan's garage, or Russel's teapot.

    As for defining God as "everything there is", I suppose that amounts to semantics. What that theology called "God" I'd call "the universe", and it would be impossible to distinguish between the two. I would think the closest you could get to a religion with that would be something like Einstein's sentiments.

    ReplyDelete
  71. @jaranath yeh, i know. i was just using "everything there is" as an example, by the way cos lowly me couldn't think of anything else. but that's more or less what i mean: once we start discussing a definition of god, whether russel's teapot or einstein's sense of the numinous or something else, and whether we believe it or not, then we're already doing theology - we're potentially just not doing it very well. but that's how people get to point the finger and sneer. sorry i'm so incoherent, it always seems to be quite late when i end up here...

    ReplyDelete
  72. http://www.livestream.com/pdf2011/video?clipId=pla_8a026681-a944-4459-a735-6ff526f72b5a

    "God is just what happens when humans are connected... my religion is the internet."

    ReplyDelete
  73. That's an interesting point, which recapitulates something that once arose on Ian's http://irrco.org Irreducible Complexity blog - "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst." We create the "god illusion" by our interactions.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Philosophical sausages produces so far include:

    -the scientific method

    -modern science of economics

    -many economic systems

    -modern psychology

    -crucial developments in modern cognitive science

    -modern sociology

    -many kinds of political systems

    -political science

    -crucial developments in decision theory

    -crucial developments in logic resulting in the modern electronic and computer revolution

    -foundations in our legal systems

    -our modern conceptions of justice

    -conceptions of morality

    -our modern common sense views on a host of issues

    Philosophy does not need lesser men to smugly demand it produce more "sausages."

    ReplyDelete
  75. Oh dear - better read the post again! The message is that if you turn on the machine and it *does* produce the sausages, then you have done the job - you get the credit. If you think my post is an attack on philosophy in general, you are committing a fallacy right there. However, some philosophers (not all, and I am not saying this is exclusively the case) think that they can make truth claims about the universe without testing. And that is what I am challenging. Until you have sausages, all you have is hypothesis.

    ReplyDelete
  76. First of all, "you've done the job" is not anything substantive. Einstein didn't do any testing and yet it is foolish to say he has not produced any "sausages." Philosophy has produced results highly important such as the examples I've given. Now others may test them or put them to use but to devalue or vitiate the findings because they were not "tested" by philosophers is the ultimate fallacy. Just because Einstein didn't test his theories doesn't mean he doesn't deserve any "credit."

    Second, lots of things are not testable, at least if what testable means is empirically testable, and yet highly valuable. Take a look at results in math and logic (of which philosophers have had tremendous impact). How would you empirically test the Goldbach conjecture? You can't.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Well again you're not reading what I've written. I am not decrying *philosophy* but rather a peculiar mode of thought engaged in by some philosophers who seem to look down their noses at scientists, and feel that actually testing their ideas (which may even have merit) is somehow beneath them, or (worse) that their ideas don't *need* testing; that the testing lies in the premises and the validity, and the outcome is not in doubt. THAT is the entire point of the parable.
    Indeed, I specifically made the point about Einstein - mathematically and philosophically his ideas make perfect sense (although we know them to be incomplete) - but we still launched Gravity Probe B. We still test.
    You will also note from the discussion above that I am chiefly referring to truth claims about the universe, not to mathematics and logic per se. In mathematics, a proof is a proof, but unless we know the precise mathematical basis for the universe itself (which we don't), a mathematical proof needs tested against what really happens before you can say it applies to *this* universe. And when something gets properly tested, it ceases to be mere philosophy, and becomes elevated to the lofty pedestal of science.
    If you read between the lines, you should be able to see that the main line of "philosophy" I have in my sights is theistic philosophy, and specifically the incredibly lame pseudoproofs of the existence of gods offered by the likes of Craig, Swinburne or Plantinga. But as others have pointed out, most *philosophers* recognise these arguments to be flawed (indeed, even their proponents see the flaws, and nowadays try to weave them into "cumulative" arguments, which is a bit comical - like saying you can make a silk purse if only you add *more* sows' ears to the mix).
    So, yes, this is something of a caricature, but the fact that most people seem to have hit the nub suggests that it contains a useful lesson.

    ReplyDelete
  78. @shane

    Don't know if this idea has merit - wanted to see what people think.

    I've always considered one of the differences between truth-claims about the universe and truth claims about math is that truth claims about math tend to wind up reducing down to tautologies and things that are 'trivially true' by definition.

    Example: Yeah, you think we need evidence to know things? Well, I know that we'll never find a circle (in a two-dimensional plane) with corners! But I don't need evidence for that!

    In the example, part of the definition of 'circle' entails 'has no corners' - so the claim becaomes 'I know that we'll never find a thing with no conrers that has corners!' - which, while true, seems a rather thin and trivial kind of 'knowledge'.

    Contrast this against knowledge about reality, which is not reducible to tautologies and routinely proves our carefully-phrased logic to be wrong.

    Example: In the two-slit electron experiment, when we do not measure which slit an electron passes through, we still know that the electron has either gone through slit A and not slit B, or through slit B and not through slit A.

    Perfectly straightforward and you can even produce a logically-valid proof for it from true premises.

    But it's still wrong - we need the experiment to drive us out into the unknown. Which in turn seems to me to justify induction as the only possible option. Deductive reasoning only works by restating the premise in a new and interesting way. It can't generate new knowledge, because the conclusion is just just a restatement of the original premises.

    So new knowledge will need to be the domain of inductive reasoning.

    I was always very proud of this line of reasoning... But of course, I'm sure any standard philosophy major could happily tear it to pieces and hand it back with rolled eyes

    ReplyDelete
  79. >Well again you're not reading what I've written. I am not decrying *philosophy* but rather a peculiar mode of thought engaged in by some philosophers who seem to look down their noses at scientists, and feel that actually testing their ideas (which may even have merit) is somehow beneath them, or (worse) that their ideas don't *need* testing; that the testing lies in the premises and the validity, and the outcome is not in doubt. THAT is the entire point of the parable.<

    You never said any such thing in your original post and it's false to say that philosophers don't think their views "need testing" or that they "look down their noses" at scientists or others. Some views in philosophy can and should be tested in the world or by empirical methods as have been the case. Many moral claims or political schemes have been tested in the real world. Philosophers in general have lots of respect for scientists of all stripes. Anyway, ever heard of experimental philosophy? Granted many philosophers don't do experimental philosophy but almost all are not against it in principle which tend to reject your views that philosophers don't think their views are beyond testing. Some of their views, of course, cannot be tested such as those in conceptual analysis or logic e.g. but that's not a big deal as theorems in math cannot be tested either and yet are very valuable.

    Besides, that you cannot generalize between those Christian apologists and philosophers in general. Many scientists continue to be apologists for the most atrocious Christian doctrines such as intelligent design such as Michael Behe and Charles Thaxton and yet would it be fair to say that scientists have not produces any "sausages" based on the "reasoning" of such individuals?

    ReplyDelete
  80. Once again, at least read what I have written and subsequently clarified - it's a *parable*. I am not criticising philosophy as a discipline or even philosophers as a group, nor am I elevating scientists as paragons (although I do have a rather high regard for science itself). The parable deals with modes of thinking. The philosopher (and yes it is a caricature) cannot say that something is true about the universe without testing it in real life. It is *irrelevant* whether the argument looks watertight - if you are making a truth claim, you are making a prediction. Predictions need testing. If they are correct, then *that* is what supports the argument, not anything within the purely philosophical process itself.
    YES, I know that most philosophers regard theism as pants, and that they appreciate the importance of testing, but do you seriously suggest that you have never come across people who argue like the "philosopher" in my example?

    ReplyDelete
  81. Shane,

    The parable can only serve to teach those who've had little to no contact with contemporary philosophy that it's BS and that it should be ignored. That you'd press this moral suggests (rightly or wrongly) that you aren't conversant with any strand of contemporary philosophical thought.

    A parable like yours would have been appropriate during the 17th c., but it would've been redundant, since (i) by then Bacon had published Novum Organum (a book of aphorisms attacking the anti-empirical practice of "flying to generalities" on insufficient evidence), and (ii) Galileo had enumerated the ways in which Aristotle's physics was at variance with observed facts, in the former's "Two New Sciences."

    Also, 'sausage making' is a metaphor for an icky process involving icky ingredients; why choose this for a parable about philosophy? You (evidently) see philosophy in a very negative light. To remedy that, you might try reading some.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Lol - Thanks for this. I enjoyed it immensely, and the discussions that it engendered were both enlightening and entertaining, for the most part.

    I feel bad for those worrying that this was somehow a referendum on Philosophy at large, rather than a very pointed attack on a certain misuse of philosophic reasoning much employed by certain religious apologists. (Hint: not about you). ;)

    ReplyDelete
  83. Thanks Mordachai - I think some of my visitors have missed the point entirely. Perhaps they should sort out their logic *before* they get too engrossed in the wilder excesses of contemporary philosophy :-) The problem is not with "philosophy" but with certain patterns of reasoning that certain people who call themselves philosophers frequently engage in. Indeed, *good* philosophers often point out exactly what I'm pointing out here, and some of the commenters above have made that point too.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Well, philosophic arguments do kinda work like a machine, however many of them do "guarantee" the truth of their conclusions based if the truth of their premises. Philosophers do in a way use these machines to make conclusions; the distinction between this parable and real arguments is there is no difference between showing the sausage, and showing how the sausage will be made given certain ingredients.

    It can be shown that the ingredients into the machine are crap,this is often supported scientifically. Kalam is one of these crap machines. We can look at the premises and say "these are entirely speculative" or "these are wrong". We can calculate the probability of the conclusion by x'ing the probability of each of the premises.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Hi piprod01 - so show me the sausages! Unfortunately you cannot calculate the probability of the conclusion being true by multiplying the probability of each of the premises - it simply doesn't work that way. Furthermore, the argument itself needs to be valid; there are many ways in which an argument may have cryptic invalidity. The bottom line is that you can't really guarantee the sausages until you *produce* the sausages. If it *doesn't* work, then you go back and check the dependencies of your argument to see where it fell down. That is science. If it *does* work, you go back and tweak your argument to see what makes it *not* work. That is also science. But it all relies on putting meat through the machine.

    ReplyDelete
  86. That's like saying you can't demonstrate the existence of the number "958 trillion" unless you can produce 958 trillion of something. This whole post is way off base.

    ReplyDelete
  87. It still amazes me how so many people just don't seem to understand the point I have been trying to make here, yet to others it is blindingly obvious... Ho hum.

    ReplyDelete
  88. Good blog: You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned:) makeup artist in Sydney

    ReplyDelete
  89. Oh dear. This is exactly like all the arguments I have with homeopaths. I may have to steal this.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Please do feel free to re-post, re-link, whatever. One thing I would say however is that in respect of homeopathy, we have stacks of evidence that homeopathy *doesn't* work (not just that it *can't* work), whereas in the example above the sausage machine might indeed actually work - the problem is simply that the Philosopher hasn't bothered doing the experiment. And that's one of the problems with philosophers; some of them think that standard formal logic can establish the truth of a proposition. But it can't. It might make you pretty darned sure that you're right, but you've still got to produce the sausages :-)

    ReplyDelete
  91. I detest the premise of this parable. It's one thing for a philosopher to say that the sausage machine produces sausages, but that isn't what philosophers do. They use facts and logic to deduce that it produces sausages, and if you trust fallible human empirical evidence over logic you are a fool!

    ReplyDelete
  92. Thanks Luke - you are of course being sarcastic :-) The Philosopher in this little tale is in the position of making a prediction on the basis of his theory. Even if apparently logically watertight, it still needs tested in the real world. For example, for centuries the logic of Aquinas (The Five Ways) was thought to be unassailable, yet nowadays you would be hard pressed to find a philosopher (much less a scientist) who regards them as anything other than a quaint historical curiosity - because we know they don't *actually* work. So it is with the sausage machine - unless it can be shown to *actually* do the business, the assertion that it *must* do the business can only achieve the status of hypothesis.

    ReplyDelete
  93. Nice piece! Thanks.
    Philosophy, however, does have its place. If anyone would like to see how a little bit of elementary logic can reconcile Science and Religion, (and Philosophy and 'the paranormal' too!) please go to http://www.scribd.com/chas_griffin_1 for a free screen-read.

    ReplyDelete
  94. I am late to the party as usual, but I want to say thank you to everyone who posted, as this has been a great read.
    I'd like to point out as Layman, I find the work of many scientist no more useful than that of the philosopher in this story. Yes they may use different methods to get to where they are going, yet their observations do not affect my life in the slightest. They may in the future, but for now a moral code based on an un-testable premise(the existence of a supernatural god) has more effect on my life, as it influences actual humans, who in turn have a direct affect on me.
    The real sausage of philosophy is the effect it has on human minds.
    Science is at it's most powerful when it is acting as a philosophy in this sense.
    Testable observations mean bunk if the philosophical premises of science are not in effect in both the observing mind, and the minds that the results are shared with.

    ReplyDelete
  95. Is there any possibility, that I can question your assumption without questioning your reasoning? At least I had to suppose, that your argument is invalid or has false premises, or that you don't even have an argument. In the first 2 option I'm questioning the validity of the reasoning behind your conclusions, in the last option I'm questioning, that your even reasoned.

    ReplyDelete
  96. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  97. Firms try to make their mark with a simple sausage machine approach to budget estimates.From the sausage machine to the sausage skins we have every item for every step of the sausage making machine. http://www.cqbutcherssupplies.com.au/

    ReplyDelete