Ten Minas Ministries responded with a comment that needs some unpacking:
I propose that we test a theory. I observed in the past that when Mr. X was exposed to phenomenon A, he responded with reaction 1. So I want to perform an experiment using the scientific method. I expose Mr. X to phenomenon A again, testing to see if yet again he will respond with reaction 1. But low and behold, this time he responds with reaction 2. When I do the experiment again I observe reaction 3.
The scientific method cannot test intelligent agents because an intelligent agent can choose to react differently. That is why the scientific method is ill equipped to test claims of supernatural intelligence like the Christian God. That is why there are other disciplines like sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc. It isn't a cop out. It is a common sense limitation of the scientific method. It was never intended to measure intelligent reactions.
Not a single one of you relies upon the scientific method for every bit of knowledge in your life. Contrary to what the Barefoot Bum said, the scientific method is not simply "the method of drawing conclusions from evidence." Yes, it is one method of drawing conclusions from evidence, but so is philosophy. So is sociology. So is historiography. The scientific method employs experimentation. Therefore, if the question you are investigating is not subject to experimentation the scientific method is useless.
You do not conduct an experiment to decide whether or not it is probable that you will be struck by a car before you cross the street. Yet you certainly "know" that if you step into oncoming traffic you will end up in the hospital or in the grave.
Dagoods says the theist does not propose a method. Yet I just proposed an alternative method in our discussion on my blog. I specifically mentioned utilizing the methodology of philosophy, which involves applying inductive or deductive reasoning to agreed premises.
Sometimes the theist feels like we are banging our heads against the wall. We are told we are not providing a methodology, so we provide a methodology only to hear the atheist repeat the same accusation. We are told that we do not provide any reasons for inserting God but simply arbitrarily assign a "God of the gaps." So we provide our reasons only to have the same accusation repeated over again. We see the atheist repeatedly refusing to accept any methodology other than the scientific method all the while refusing to admit that for the vast majority of knowledge they have arrived at in their lives they did not use the scientific method. Then if we get frustrated by the virtual ignoring of everything we say, the atheist declares triumph by claiming that the theist has no answer for their arguments.
Repeating the same thing over and over again does not make it true. There is little else I can say to respond to your points other than to say that theists have proposed alternative methodologies over and over again. Ignoring them does not make this any less true. The theist repeatedly provides reasons why they fill these gaps with God. Again, ignoring these reasons does not make your argument true.
If we are proposing an “alternate” to the scientific method; I think it important to first know what we mean by “scientific method.” How would you know you took an “alternate route” if you didn’t know what the original route was?
The Barefoot Bum recognized this issue and specifically asked, “What do you think scientists mean by “the scientific method.”?
Wikipedia defines it as: “To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses .“ or “A method of discovering knowledge about the natural world based in making falsifiable predictions (hypotheses), testing them empirically, and developing peer-reviewed theories that best explain the known data. “
Another ‘net resource states, “A process that is the basis for scientific inquiry. The scientific method follows a series of steps: (1) identify a problem you would like to solve, (2) formulate a hypothesis, (3) test the hypothesis, (4) collect and analyze the data, (5) make conclusions.“ Merriam-Webster defines it as, “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses “ Ten Minas Ministries gave similar definitions here.
We see a common theme running through these descriptions: Testable hypothesis, data observed (at times through experimentation,) and a theory best explaining the known data. It should be noted this is an ongoing process in that the resulting theory becomes the new hypothesis, and new data may require an additional revision (or even complete elimination) of the new hypothesis.
We quickly realize why the scientific method is not utilized by the theist, as by definition supernatural is outside the natural realm, and is therefore untestable, unobservable, and unverifiable by the only means at our disposal—the natural world.
Ten Minas Ministries appears to propose two solutions to the theists’ problems in this regard:
1) Scientific method is insufficient to make determinations when intelligent agents are involved; and
2) Philosophy is an alternative method;
Dealing with the first he uses the example of phenomenon acting on an individual, who may exhibit different reactions. Because of these different reactions, Ten Minas Ministries claims scientific method is unusable. This is not true at all. In fact we use the varying reactions to make statistical determinations, through the scientific method.
Take the phenomenon of my cutting off another car in traffic. Now look at a number of proposed reactions from the driver I cut off:
1. She does nothing.
2. She honks her horn.
3. She gives me the finger.
4. She strikes my car with her own.
5. She gives me a three-week paid vacation to Tahiti.
6. She develops pancreatic cancer.
7. Her car turns into a DeLorean Time machine.
8. She obtains the ability to shoot laser beams from her eyes.
Every single person, in reading this list, makes an assessment as to each reaction’s viability. Why do we immediately eliminate DeLorean’s and laser beams? Because our own observations, other observations we read, any test we perform all results in no DeLorean’s and no laser beams. We may not consciously be using the scientific method—but that is exactly how you immediately eliminate those possibilities.
We can go further. By observing and collecting data, even though horn-honking, finger-giving and car smashing are possibilities, we can make statistical determinations as to the likelihood of each. Yes, an individual CAN decide to smash my car, but my experience, one could say my numerous experiments in this field, indicate this possibility to be so low, I decide to do it anyway.
Curiously, Ten Minas Ministries uses the example of stepping into oncoming traffic, and how we do not experiment this, yet we know we will be seriously injured if we do so. I am not certain what he means that this hasn’t been experimented. We may not have personally done so, but we read and see pictures and video over and over and over demonstrating in the fight between pedestrian and automobile—automobile wins. Every time. I don’t have to personally experiment every claim—I can use the experiments of others.
I am seeing a confusion over the term “experiment”—it is being narrowly defined to include replication of the exact theory proposed. In other words, to experiment whether I will be injured if I walk in front of a speeding car, I must personally do so, rather than view the experiments of others.
I would disagree the scientific method is so narrowly defined to a certain person in a certain situation MUST obtain a certain result, only through experimenting that exact situation. If this is what Ten Minas Ministries is proposing, we are certainly coming at it from two very different foundations.
Continuing in my thread, he uses a few examples that further demonstrate this possible confusion. For example he indicates historical determination is outside scientific method, stating, “We cannot conduct an experiment to determine whether or not Nero truly was emperor of Rome...” I am uncertain what he means by “experimentation.”
Using the scientific method, we look first at the hypothesis: “Nero was Emperor.” We look at the data—historical books, coins, statutes, opposing opinions, world results, etc. We can “experiment” (loosely) by comparing other leaders and other results and see the same consistent results. Other leaders have coins. Other leaders have statutes. Etc. And again, even under this method, new data could cause a change in hypothesis.
Look at this another way. We cannot replicate the Big Bang. Does this mean we are not using the scientific method to determine its existence, because we cannot “experiment” by creating another Big Bang? We cannot experiment with a non-heliocentric solar system by making another solar system. We cannot experiment with making stars go super-nova—does this render such determinations outside scientific method?
Vinny made a similar observation when it comes to history.
I was surprised Ten Minas Ministries differentiated certain fields as being outside scientific method, such as psychology. Actually, there is experimentation and data observation—any person familiar with such things as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) or the whole battery of neuropsychological testing understands the use of scientific method in this field. Granted, it is not as precise or studied as other fields such as chemistry—but that does not remove it entirely from scientific method. Sociology can use experimentation.
There is debate whether Anthropology uses scientific method. Notice though, in that debate is the proposed alternative method is defined and addressed.
What is the proposed alternative method given here? “Philosophy.” Philosophy is the search for knowledge. It may inspect how one goes about that search, or what one utilizes. I am uncertain, though, what is meant by “Philosophy” as a method. I know you may feel as if you are beating your head against a wall, but I am truly stumped by what you mean as “philosophy” as an alternative method.
We seem to be in agreement in definition and understanding regarding “scientific method.” Both your definition and the others I found lay out certain steps that appear pretty clear.
What “steps” are proposed in the method of “philosophy”? It’s like saying, “we use the method of communication” which is really no method at all, merely the only way we can relate an idea to another human. What is the method of “philosophy”—can you describe it in alternative terms to scientific method?
Ten Minas Ministries, I agree whole-heartedly none of us use the scientific method for every bit of information in our lives. We are influenced by culture, upbringing, unique situations, etc.
This is exactly the point of this whole exercise! We recognize our own tendency to, even unknowingly, insert our own bias in determining. We want--we really, really want--that person to be a wonderful spouse, so we overlook and rationalize away the fact he is a convicted wife-beating deadbeat. “He’s changed.” We ignore the statistical evidence against it.
This is why I harp on method. To remove the very problem you identify. If we stick with the method, we can both recognize such bias and remove them from our determination.
I may want the canonical gospels to be historically accurate. I may really, really want it. In recognizing that desire, I realize the bias will impact my study. They may still be historical; they may not. I look for a way to root out such bias by creating a consistent method whereby the possible outcomes are: historical, partly historical, not at all historical or unknown. Only by sticking with the method can I hope to remove my bias—even if (and ESPECIALLY if) the results are not my desire.
I know you feel as if you are beating your head on a wall, but I truly do not see what method you are proposing, in lieu of scientific method. What steps are you saying we take in a “philosophical” method?