Re: Eliezer on Science versus Religion

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Mon Mar 05 2001 - 23:25:54 MST

At 02:54 AM 5/03/01 -0500, Eliezer wrote:

>> There might be
>> certain kinds of truths, even the most important, which are inaccessible to
>> scientific approaches, let alone to falsification tests.

>If so, then they are inaccessible to the people making the claim "There
>are untestable truths". As someone pointed out, none of the Books show
>prophets talking about untestability. Elijah confronting the priests of
>Baal would have understood perfectly the put-up-or-shut-up attitude of
>modern-day science.

Oh. So you *were* making the equation TRUTH = PUBLICLY ADJUDICABLE AND
FALSIFIABLE CLAIM. That's such a non-starter (or so it seems to many) that
I'm a bit taken aback.

JFK was shot and died, beyond question (unless we call up some absurd
conspiracy theory). Some account of how his death occurred is therefore
true, even if it hasn't yet been uttered. There is a truth of the matter,
known to those who were involved; there would be even if *nobody* knew
(perhaps a gun went off by accident in an empty room and the bullet
ricocheted, or he was killed by several micrometeorite fragments). In the
absence of testimony from the killer or killers, or a working time machine,
there is no way to adjudicate the contesting accounts with finality. Can
science tell us who killed JFK? Is it competent to tell us if Moses or
Jesus even lived? No. Can religious prophetic revelation? Hell no (but
that's beside the point just now). Is there a matter of truth involved in
such cases? Well, one would *suppose* so...


It's intensely frustrating trying to conduct a discussion on a topic of
this kind by swapping one-liners or three-paragraphers without invoking
Kripke, Putnam (who started as a ferocious realist and became an
anti-realist), Dummett, Ruse and any number of other current philosophers.
It'd be as silly to try as it would be to discuss the plausibility of
molecular nanotechnology without citing (after carefully reading) Drexler,
Merkle, Freitas, Smalley, etc etc.

Damien Broderick

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