Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ten Presuppositions of Science

Here is a list of some of the presuppositions of science: (1) the existence of a theory-independent, external world; (2) the orderly nature of the external world; (3) the knowability of the external world; (4) the existence of truth; (5) the laws of logic; (6) the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified true beliefs in our intellectual environment; (7) the adequacy of language to describe the world; (8) the existence of values used in science (e.g., "test theories fairly and report test results honestly"); (9) the uniformity of nature and induction; (10) the existence of numbers.1

1. William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), pp. 348.


Nick Potts said...

wow, that is actually, very well done.

Anonymous said...

"(6) the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified true beliefs in our intellectual environment"

I would say this is the opposite of science. Science understands that yes, the one of the if not the only (maybe things such as math and logic do not apply as needing senses) way to get info about the world but our scenes alone are a very bad at understanding the world. We need to also understand where and how are scenes and our understanding of them fail us. And they do in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

(7) the adequacy of language to describe the world;

language is not great at describing the world.

Anonymous said...


In regards to (7), you stating something that is true under certain conditions, but is *not* what Craig and Moreland state.

They state that science presupposes that language is "adequate" to describe the world.

You state that it is "not great."

Those are two different things.

Obviously different languages, and different types of languages, fare better when describing certain phenomena. Differing vocabulary and grammatical structures may be more or less elegant when describing certain states or claims. But unless one assumes from the outset that these things can be communicated in at least a basic fashion ("adequate"), science becomes impossible.

emmzee said...

Anonymous, I don't think that point (6) is suggesting that our senses alone are the *only* way to get info about the world. Rather I think they are saying that our senses are necessary to get any such info; ie, necessary but not sufficient. It is impossible to do any scientific experiment or apprehend its results without using our senses. Therefore science presupposes that our senses are trustworthy; if we could not trust our senses, we could never trust that the results of our tests (that we perceive using those senses) are true or accurate.

Re (7), it may sometimes be difficult to adequately describe the world using language, but please explain how you can describe the world *without* using language. Do so without using language if possible. ;)

Kief said...

This is very lulzy! In a good way!

Anonymous said...

this is Paul, the person that wrote the first two about disagreeing with numbers 6 and 7.

as far as language (7) I follow that idea that the map is not the terrain. Yes, i agree that language is really important in communication of ideas. (in fact it is really really useful). When i express an idea using language i communicate it using all of my bias and from my world view and it is interpreted by the person using their bias and world view. That is one problem. My map is different than anyone else's map even if we live in the same world. On top of that the words we use help frame how we think or what we are likely to think. I wish i knew more about linguistics but i do not. I do see in my day to day life miss communication between people that is not about what they think exactly but how they word it. I have also read a bit about it but am far from an expert.

Anonymous said...

as far as 6, cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers ... yes our senses are what we have but they are such an imperfect tool that in order to get info we would consider to be science we often if not always have to use other tools to gain the correct information. My favorite topic to study about at the moment is cognitive bias. so many cognitive biases exist that our scenes without tools to understand how our brain interprets that data we take in is not very useful on an intuitive level. Wikipedia says that (and they list a lot of them) Cognitive bias is a general term that is used to describe many distortions in the human mind that are difficult to eliminate and that lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, or illogical interpretation.

My only point i this is that this is rather important (as in very very very important) in dealing with how the scenes interpret what they take in if a person is looking for truth and that is what science is doing.

this may have been covered in "8) the existence of values used in science (e.g., "test theories fairly and report test results honestly")" but i think it needed to be clarified as that is not clear the way i looked at it. then again i may just think it is important because i have been studying it recently and it is on my mind (one of the many bias that we all have). :)

Anonymous said...

Gasp! You mean science ASSUMES things? Say it aint so!

And to the person who says that Language "isn't great at describing..." aren't you assuming that the language you are using accurately describes your position on language?

Anonymous said...

yes, science assumes things, as far as i understand. I do not speak for all scientist but i would guess that most would agree that we as a society and as individuals have varying degrees of certainty of belief about almost everything.

One of, if not the most, beautiful things about science is that it is open to be changed at any time if anyone is able to show that one assumption or theory that is assumed to be true is actually false using the scientific method or the type of evidence the scientific method would find as useful.

A quick example of language (including my language in this instant) is the idea that i am assuming something or that something is just a theory as if that is bad or not scientific. For example gravity is just a theory (when talked about scientifically) but it is accepted as as close to a fact as we can get. My opinion is that just about everything must be assumed to some degree or another. I go back to the "brain in a vat" or "Plato's cave" idea but still think we can use the scenes (as that is all we have along with math, logic and probably a few other tools that are not completely scene related) to understand the world.

It think one thing that is not very well but linguistically in our society is the idea that we either believe something or we do not and i think it should be looked at with many shades of belief and doubt for every thing. I am rather sure my name is Paul and I also believe apple computer is coming out with a new ipad today but i am less sure of the second, but i believe both. the word believe is used to show a lot of shades of certainty and this is a way our language does not map on to reality but still useful and necessary.

yes i am using language and i am rather sure it does not "accurately describes" my position on language but using language is the best tool i have and works even better if we understand that the "map is not the territory" and that everyone has a different map or world-view.

I also want to emphasize i could be missing some main points as i am not a trained scientist and even if i was trained i could be missing some main points.

M! said...

If language is not great at describing the world, then why did you post a comment?

Anonymous said...

it is the best tool we have (so in that aspect it is great) but it is not adequate in describing the truth about the world.

Ex N1hilo said...

Anonymous wrote:

it is the best tool we have (so in that aspect it is great) but it is not adequate in describing the truth about the world.

That's why we have mathematics!

Anonymous said...

yes Math is great. go math! I think they serve two different functions but both very useful.

M! said...

Do you know of an equation for the most important things in life, such as justice, truth, courage, love, and charity? Is it possible to describe these concepts with numbers?

paul said...

I do not know a formula for these but i believe math and science can and should be used to help find the best way to implement justice, courage, truth and charity if you are trying to implement them efficiently and these are things you care about. (i personally think Retributive justice for its own sake is immoral) I am not sure about love. I guess love too. Love could be an emotion or something you do rationally. just my 2 cents.

Unknown said...

I think our cognitive faculties have been demonstrated to be reliable by repeatable experimentation. If cognitive faculties were not reliable this would not be possible.

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