Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Colbert Report: Science Is The Only Source Of Truth?

During my lunch break I sometimes watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. I liked them both better when they weren't as politically charged (The Daily Show for years and Colbert for just a few weeks). But I tune in these days to keep my hand on the pulse of pop-philosophy, the current trends of which I think both shows represent well.

The Colbert Report in particular seems to enjoy mocking an over simplified version of Christianity or at least Catholicism.

The show I watched yesterday had an interview with a "skeptic" named Michael Shermer.

Here's the video link:

In the interview, he claims that the only way to be sure that what we believe is true is through science. I'd like to give him the chance to correct or clarify his position, because that assumption not only doesn't stand up to logical evaluation, it defeats itself.

In the interview, Colbert responded to Shermer's claim by pointing out that the claim he is making is itself just another belief. (Colbert did this in a comedic sort of way that makes me wonder if he realizes how strong his counter-argument really is when stated more cleanly.)

Let's take the truth claim "Science is the only way by which we can know if something is true or not" and call that "A".

"A" cannot be tested by the scientific method. There is no experiment that could be designed to conclusively prove that "A" is true. It is a philosophical assumption, not a scientific conclusion.

Shermer admitted that science is "just another belief" but claimed the difference is that science has built into it "self-correcting machinery that says if you don't look for evidence to debunk your belief, someone else will".

The problem is that science is not the only system that does this. Science deals specifically with the realm of observable phenomena. But logical deduction also has the same systems in place. We can deduce a lot of things without the aid of the scientific method. So Shermer is limiting his ability to discern truth WAY more than he should, by the sound of it.

Who knows? Maybe when he says "science", he means "critical analysis and logical deduction". I guess I could read his book to find out, but something tells me there are better minds out there writing books from the skeptic/atheist position and that Shermer is not doing them any favors.

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