Monday, September 6, 2010

"I just don't think science has all the answers."

This common trope is a rather apparent and idiotic deepity. Anybody who says it should be judged in the harshest of light.

Deepity is a term coined by Daniel Dennett  in his 2009 speech to the American Atheists Institution conference. It refers to a statement that has two meanings; one that is true but trivial, and another that sounds profound, but is essentially false, or meaningless with respect to this deeper meaning. 

It's quite true. Science doesn't have all the answers. If we had all the answers we'd just have a huge collection of answers and we wouldn't be doing science. We wouldn't need to figure things out if we had all the answers. That's what science is, figuring it out. Does this work? No. Does this work? No. Does this work? No, but why did it do that? Hm. -- Science is about figuring out how things work by testing how we think they might work against reality which knows how they actually work. We figure things out and learn new things and have new ideas about how the world works and how some really cool stuff works out. But, it doesn't have *ALL* the answers. This is absolutely true, but science is the only method we've ever found for finding any answers about the world (outside of some limited truths gleaned by math) and understanding anything about the world. The trivial trueness of the statement that 'science doesn't have all the answers' doesn't for a moment suggest the inane falseness of the implication: something else has some answers.

That's the idiotic nature of the statement, it isn't in that fact that science doesn't have all the answers. It's in the implication that therefore naturalism has competition. It's a bit like having a horse race between two horses called 'Supernaturalism' and 'Naturalism', and the horse for naturalism has won every single race over millions of different races and supernaturalism has never ever won any race ever in any matchup in all of human history. And then somebody coming around and saying "Well, naturalism hasn't won every future race yet!" -- Well, sure, that's obviously true, but who the hell should we bet on? It hasn't won those races yet, but every race that has every been won was won by naturalism, so why should the prospect of potential future races ever imply that supernaturalism is a good bet? -- I'll give you a hint: IT FRAKING ISN'T!

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