Sunday, May 25, 2014

At this point, my concern is with the poverty of academic scholarship.

This is from James A. Lindsay, Ph.D.:


I've seen it from shoddier minds, and I really didn't expect it from McGrew, to be honest--though perhaps I should have, given that it's gaining a lot of currency lately. There's a pedantic attack on the proposed understanding of faith, "belief without evidence," which is obviously not written to be technical but rather as imprecise shorthand, and it crops up a lot.

You can't say no evidence if you mean not enough evidence!

In an important, technical publication, I would totally agree. Everywhere else in the social universe, though, yes we can, and we mean the same thing by it.

Let me expand upon this, though, so that even in a trite technicality kind of way, it's technically correct. If faith is being used to close the confidence gap beyond the warrant of evidence to the level of belief (which is typically complete belief), then there is no evidence for what goes in that gap, and yet that degree of belief is held anyway, thusly on no evidence. This, though, is stupid. Mature people don't fuss with this kind of pedantry; they just use shorthand and recognize that other people use shorthand and ask for clarification--not blast challenges--when needed.

So, basically, we have a "scholar" arguing for shoddy and imprecise thinking in support of the author of a book whose self-proclaimed purpose is to educate people about how to think clearer.

There was a time when scholars acknowledged a standard beyond that of the average person, which was why they were scholars, and demanded that their students rise to the challenge of the higher standard.

Now, we have "scholars" snippilly insisting that a muddled, low-bar, confused approach to thinking is better because it doesn't involve that egg-head obscurantism that those intellectuals do.


This bit is stupid and ridiculous, in part because Lindsay and Boghossian are confusing "inference" with "no evidence" with "faith."

People "infer" from data to reach a judgment.  Everyone does it.  People do it all the time. They've been doing it for thousands of years.

The fact that a person "infers" doesn't mean that they are operating without evidence, rather they are applying reason and logic to the evidence to extrapolate and predict an outcome.

Then they choose to trust in their extrapolation or not.

A person who knows that there is a 99.7% risk in general of a parachute not opening has evidence that his shoot is going to open, all things being equal, because, let's assume, he knows that his rigger is certified and he knows that his rigger has had no accidents. He extrapolates from the evidence to a judgment and he relies on the judgment.  He doesn't get to the end of evidence and then go, "Oh, what the hell, I'm going to just fargin' choose arbitrarily."

Unlike these modern bozos, Aquinas spends almost an entire volume of the Summa discussing how people know things and how they make decisions.  We might think that this much time on anthropology and psychology, but if they had they might have avoided these egregious errors.

What it seems like is that we are seeing scholarship as a form of polemics or activism, rather than, you know, the drive to understand and know.

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