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TheOtherDave comments on Excluding the Supernatural - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2008 12:12AM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 12 November 2010 06:45:51PM 1 point [-]

Mm. It makes sense, but I don't think it's on-point.

Up to a point, I agree with you. The Bohr model of the atom posits a lowest-level description that appears to us now to be "high-level", as you say, but it would not be fair to dismiss Bohr as a denier of reductionism on that basis. Similarly, if 22nd-century physics demonstrates that our current ontology is similarly confused, and there is a yet-more-parsimonious explanation that is consistent with observed data, it would not be fair to claim we deny reductionism.

It's unfair precisely because it elides the difference between (on the one hand) not being able to analyze something in terms of its component parts and (on the other) rejecting in principle any such analysis.

EY seems to be talking here about people who do the latter... who would deny that anything explainable could be their God, whatever surface properties it turned out to have. You seem to be talking about both groups at once.

To put this a different way... suppose Alice, Bob, and Cindy all worship a dryad, who is either Tiiba's dryad or an analog made of quarks, and a scientist comes along to determine which it is. Alice insists that studying the dryad's composition isn't possible/permitted. Bob confidently predicts that the dryad will all be whitestuff. Cindy shrugs and doesn't care; she makes the choice to worship based on surface-level considerations that don't depend on whether it's quarks or whitestuff.

Alice and Bob both make supernatural claims. Cindy isn't making a supernatural claim at all, by this post's definitions.

You argue that Bob is just claiming that some irreducible components are complicated, and the dryad happens to be one of them, and that this is perfectly compatible with reductionism (albeit perhaps trivially so)... even if Bob doesn't call himself a reductionist.

And that's true enough, as far as it goes. Bob is also admitting that his supernatural claim is testable and falsifiable by scientific research.

Meanwhile, Alice claims "separate magisteria."

As far as I can tell, the argument of EY's post relates exclusively to Alice.