Quite a while back I entered into a conversation concerning homosexuality which had been going on for some time before I arrived. The nature of the disagreement was such that the “facts” being thrown back and forth were not solving anything. The issue was, as it is always, presuppositional. Hence, the conversation was turned toward the subject of abduction. I have removed comments that others were making during the exchange, and have edited obvious grammatical and spelling errors. It was rather difficult to have this conversation in a setting like the one it took place in, but I think that the previous “scientific” claims about homosexuality were undermined by what this individual had to say in response to my challenge. This post picks up the conversation at the point I entered in and challenged the presuppositions of the unbeliever. Those who do not understand the language used in this exchange may benefit from what someone posted during the course of the conversation:
“Abduction, or inference to the best explanation, is a method of reasoning in which one chooses the hypothesis that would, if true, best explain the relevant evidence. The term abduction is also sometimes used to just mean the generation of hypotheses to explain observations or conclusions, but the former definition is more common both in philosophy and computing.”
Chris: There is no telos in naturalistic evolution. There is also no reason to think we can trust our reason. Nor is there reason to trust that scientists are being ethical and not just lying to us. Nor is there any reason to suppose the future will resemble the past.
Tim: Great Chris, you would like to deny induction. The reason is utilitarian pragmatism.
Chris: Excuse me? I never denied induction.
Tim: Yes you did. You just said “there is no reason to suppose the future will resemble the past”.
Chris: Within your view of things, Tim.
Tim: You would like to deny induction in certain circumstances, is that better? Well, you just did.
Chris: Wrong. I do not deny induction. You are forced to within your view.
Tim: Okay great. So there is good reason to assume the future will operate similar to the past.
Chris: And what is that?
Tim: I’m not making that claim, Chris, I’m modifying the position I believe you are holding since you said you don’t deny induction.
Chris: Right, okay.
Tim: Kind of an interesting tangent…from homosexuality to induction.
Chris: Not really since it is foundational. Are you Popperian?
Tim: That’s a strange term, but I do agree with much of what Popper said. I’m not an expert on his views, I just covered them when studying philosophy of science.
Chris: Not a strange term at all. Pretty common actually. Do you believe that science operates with induction or deduction?
Tim: I don’t like name-based labels, when it’s the concepts that are important. Just like I assume you don’t call yourself a Newtonian, although I assume you recognize certain areas of physics. Science informally operates inductively, but formally operates deductively.
Chris: Which means what?
Tim: I will explain. In informal language, scientists often talk about future applications of theories, etc., and assume that the universe operates uniformly. However, theories are based solely on deductive reasoning. So induction is assumed, but not necessary.
Chris: So we cannot know that theories will apply again in the future?
Chris: Then you are using hypothetico deductivism, not induction.
Tim: Chris: If we knew they’d apply, they wouldn’t be theories. They’d be proofs.
Chris: So you have no reason to think that the next time you type there will be characters on the screen. Yet you do. Which is irrational.
Tim: Well, abductively I can reason that there will be characters, but I can’t prove it. I apply abductive reasoning.
Chris: Abduction is just a reformulation of induction. And IBE as well.
Tim: No it is not.
Chris: It still assumes regularity. And I see no reason to do that in your view.
Tim: a) No it doesn’t. b) Why?
Chris: Okay, explain abductive reasoning to me.
Tim: An inference to the best explanation is dependant on the preconceptions of the one making the inference. In other words, the best explanation could be one of non-uniformity. There’s no necessary “it must assume regularity” premise to abduction, although certainly the laws of logic would be appealed to.
Chris: How do you determine what is the best explanation?
Tim: Whichever one is best able to explain the observations, with the least number of undefined variables.
Chris: But how do you determine which one is best able to?
Tim: Well, by that standard I just typed.
Chris: You just repeated the same thing.
Tim: “Best” essentially means “efficient”. Repeated the same thing? No I didn’t. I used the word “best” twice, so you assume I’m appealing to a tautology, let me reword it.
Tim: If the explanation was merely a repetition of the term, then it’s tautological.
Chris: I would call it begging the question…but moving on. I think that to talk of a “best” explanation you must appeal to past experience.
Tim: Well if that were true, Chris, it would be impossible to create any explanations since no human has an infinite regress of experiences.
Chris: lol My point exactly! Uh…actually you would not need an infinite regress.
Tim: Your points exactly? I’m disagreeing that an explanation requires experience.
Chris: An IBE necessarily appeals to some assumption of regularity.
Tim: Although, I guess one could argue that some experience (although unrelated) is necessary to operate intelligently, assuming they take a foundationalist view of epistemology.
Chris: I’ll cite Oxford, Philosophy of Science on this as well as Chalmers, What Is this Thing Called Science?
Tim: Science IS subjective.
Chris: I win.
Tim: You win?
Tim: What have you won?
Tim: Do you deny that ALL observations are made by our ability to perceive?
Chris: No, I don’t.
Tim: Are you going to appeal to some mystical theory of scientific epistemology?
Tim: Well, you seemed to cheer “I won” after I stated that science is subjective.
Tim: Great, everyone is stating that Chris wins without stating how or why. Shall I invite some friends in the room to tell me that I won?
Chris: I have an answer to the problem Tim, you are reduced to subjectivism.
Chris: Dawkins would hate you.
Chris: But anyway, I’m going to take a break.
Tim: Chris: you have an answer?
Chris: Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” (NASB)
If I find a note at home on the table, I do not assume it is from a cat. It is from another human. That is the best explanation, and it is based on past experience. Hence Inference to Best Explanation relies on regularities in nature which a non-Christian cannot justify.
God sustains the world, imposing order upon it which results in regularities that make inductive practices possible. The immutable God has decreed every event in time and we therefore act as rational creatures when we take this into account and assume temporal regularity for induction. Meanwhile, the unbeliever can assert things about the objective scientific status of homosexuality until he is blue in the face; he will end up in the kind of bind this fellow fell into. Expect much more on this subject at a much later date.