Standing on Aether, Thinking Airy Thoughts

Courtesy of the ineffable Stephanie Zvan, our local cargo cult’s patron saint of Win, here is a simply perfect explanation of why atheists, skeptics and scientists of all stripes have every right to disrespect “serious theologians” and “serious philosophers” when they ask — nay, DEMAND — that we pay homage to all the philosophers who have come before us, who have grappled with any question about the existence of a creator deity. I simply cannot pullquote enough parts of the whole to do it justice, but what I have pullquoted, I hope will induce you to click through.

To extrapolate, pseudoscience is often a process of deciding that something needs to be explained without first checking to see whether an explanation already exists. All the rigorous design, careful statistical analysis, and flawless logic in the world can’t help you produce good results if your premises are faulty. Biochemists can do all the meticulous work they want on how a particular type of bacteria present in a field breaks down pig manure and liberates nitrogen, but if the field under study only ever sees cow manure, the results are going to be meaningless. At that point, it becomes pseudoscience just as much as if the work itself were shoddy.

Philosophy is different than science, of course. That doesn’t mean, though, that pseudophilosophy isn’t just as important a concept to understand as pseudoscience is. And as with pseudoscience, the problems of pseudophilosophy don’t only happen when someone screws up the process by, say, falling prey to a fallacy. They can just as easily happen in the process of formulating questions.
We are being told we should respect the serious work done by philosophers on these fundamental questions. Instead, we look at what we know of the world around us and ask why anyone is asking. Can the questions that made sense when religious philosophy mediated between competing ideas still produce any answers with meaning today, when religious philosophy is being used to defend its own existence in a world that continually reveals its secrets to us?

Michael Ruse thinks we must grapple today with “Does a creator god exist?” because someone else once did. Instead, we look at our universe and ask what “creation” would even mean in this context. When we understand that we don’t know whether our universe has always existed, whether time is a meaningful concept outside the bounds of our universe, whether our universe is the only one, it is perfectly valid to look askance at those who assume creation in order to ask about gods. When we know from our scientific pursuits that humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize, it is important to demonstrate not just that the question can be asked, but that it can lead to a meaningful answer.

Emphasis mine. Every word of this post is right. Nobody in classical philosophy has ever shown that their “question of God” even has merit as a question. And with the advent of modern science showing us how the universe actually works, many of the questions these philosophers have pondered have been wholly obviated. And when I say obviated, I mean they are no longer meaningful or worth pursuing, because the assumptions underpinning those questions have disappeared into the very aether they presuppose.

Standing on Aether, Thinking Airy Thoughts

3 thoughts on “Standing on Aether, Thinking Airy Thoughts

  1. 2

    Yeh, thanks from me too for highlighting Stephanie’s blog. I’ve been reading it for a while, but I can’t comment there because of Blogspot’s cryptic comment function. Doesn’t recognize my typepad account, thinks my wordpress blog is illegitimate and wants me to open another google account.

    Anyway, I hope Stephanie reads here and knows that I really appreciate her blog.

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