Comments on Why Speir Distrusts

Malarkey? Ridiculous?

Nelson’s quote was:

Science should be interested in determining the truth, whatever that truth may be – natural, supernatural, or otherwise. The stance known as methodological naturalism, while deployed with the best of intentions by supporters of science, amounts to assuming part of the answer ahead of time. If finding truth is our goal, that is just about the biggest mistake we can make.
He carefully omits Carroll's next sentence:
Fortunately, it’s also an inaccurate characterization of what science actually is.
Are you seriously suggesting that this additional context does not change how we should interpret the preceding claim of "the biggest mistake we can make", that concludes Nelson's quote?

Or that Carroll intended the “mistake” statement to stand on its own without the “fortunately …” statement clarifying it?

Carroll goes on to state:

Science isn’t characterized by methodological naturalism but by methodological empiricism—the idea that knowledge is derived from our experience of the world, rather than by thought alone.
I must admit that I disagree with Carroll's distinguishing between methodological naturalism and methodological empiricism. I think that (as I have stated elsewhere), until empirical evidence of the supernatural has been presented, the two are functionally equivalent. But I wholeheartedly agree with Carroll that:
The relationship between science and naturalism is not that science presumes naturalism; it’s that science has provisionally concluded that naturalism is the best picture of the world we have available.
... and I would challenge anybody offering a conflicting view (be it yourself or Nelson) to provide evidence to the contrary.

One of the many reasons a rift of distrust exists between me and many creationists is this sort of quotemining. This, fairly pervasive, trend is the reason for the existence of the Quotemine Project: Quote Mine Project: Examining 'Evolution Quotes' of Creationists

This is why, when I see a creationist give a quote from an evolutionary biologist or atheist, I automatically check the context.


Suggestion for everyone: Lighten up. :laughing:

Really! How can we discuss serious topics if we cant even share a joke?

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An evolutionary biologist, a secular humanist, an MN and a YEC walk into a bar…the EB says to the bartender, “Pour me a glass of water, grain, hops, yeast and sugar, I’ll wait for the results.” The SH says, “Just give me a bottle of scotch, I am free to do what I want.” The MN replies, “I’ll see what the YEC does and let you know once I review all the data.” The YEC says, “I’ll just have God create me a drink, maybe wine, won’t take long.” :rofl:

Please don’t be offended, just a joke…feel free to embellish.


Three professors (a physicist, a chemist, and a statistician) are called in to see their dean. Just as they arrive the dean is called out of his office, leaving the three professors there. The professors see with alarm that there is a fire in the wastebasket.

The physicist says, “I know what to do! We must cool down the materials until their temperature is lower than the ignition temperature and then the fire will go out.”

The chemist says, “No! No! I know what to do! We must cut off the supply of oxygen so that the fire will go out due to lack of one of the reactants.”

While the physicist and chemist debate what course to take, they both are alarmed to see the statistician running around the room starting other fires. They both scream, “What are you doing?”

To which the statistician replies, “Trying to get an adequate sample size.”


The Ten Commandments of Statistical Inference

  1. Thou shalt not hunt statistical inference with a shotgun.
  2. Thou shalt not enter the valley of the methods of inference without an experimental design.
  3. Thou shalt not make statistical inference in the absence of a model.
  4. Thou shalt honor the assumptions of thy model.
  5. Thy shalt not adulterate thy model to obtain significant results.
  6. Thy shalt not covet thy colleagues’ data.
  7. Thy shalt not bear false witness against thy control group.
  8. Thou shalt not worship the 0.05 significance level.
  9. Thy shalt not apply large sample approximation in vain.
  10. Thou shalt not infer causal relationships from observed correlations.

Hmmm. Let’s keep it going:

Then the three notice that the Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Mathematics is walking by the office, having just picked up his mail in the department lounge, which includes his royalty checks for his various reference books and textbooks. He shuffles in, casually looks at the fire, and walks away without saying a word. The three professors shout to him, “What do we do?” The old man replies, “I leave that to the reader as an exercise.”


The Philosophy of Mathematics Professor walks pass the door, and seeing a fire extinguisher on the wall jots down a note about the existence of a constructive solution, and scurries of to his class of two students…


It’s a pity this got spit-off, the original thread was getting way too serious.

@r_speir you are welcome to play too. :slight_smile:

The Roman History Professor stops at the door, sits down on a chair, and tunes his violin.


The Computer Science Professor observes the situation, then goes into the next room and lights a fire to see if can replicate the bug.


At this point the Dean comes back to his office because he forgot his golf clubs. “Sorry to interrupt, everyone, but I’m late for my tee-time with the President and the Board of Trustees.” Somebody screams, “But what should we do?” The Dean replies, “Tell the Associate Dean that the Standing Committee exists for a reason.”

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The Evangelist Christian Theology Professor walks by and reprimands all for playing with fire in the first place, the university is doomed and salvation is only through Jesus. bahahaha (self-critical laughter)

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Once he replicates it, he says, “That’s not a bug. It’s a feature.”


Then the Chairperson of the Folklore pauses while walking by, shakes her head, and says, “If that had actually happened, Nero would have played a cithara. This is yet another reason why more Humanities Division credits should be required for the Bachelor of Arts & Sciences degrees.”

[The violin is a 16th century instrument.]

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The next day the university’s student newspaper—with full approval of the School of Journalism faculty advisor—publishes the front-page headline:

“Faculty Radicals Occupy A&S Dean’s Office.
Set Fire to Building.”

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Hmm, how else would you do it?

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The humanities dean stuck in his head, to which the three other profs shouted, “help us put out this fire!” He then chided them for their post-colonial resistance to other ways of knowing fire, and after saying something indecipherable containing the words phenomenology and deconstruction, carried on satisfied that he just contributed to making the world a better place.


I tried to fix this one because it wasn’t right, but I guess I didn’t fix it enough. I should have made it, “Thou shalt not infer causation from correlation.”

The answer to show causation through, is a randomized pre/post experimental design with control and treatment groups.

It’s also sometimes possible to tease out “natural” experiments from retrospective data, if the building doesn’t burn down first. :slight_smile:

A History Professor sees the headline and says, “Oh no, not again!”

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A political science professor and a sociology professor see the headline and say in unison, “What took you so long?”

[HINT: At least in my day the chairpersons of those departments were always Marxists.]