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January 15, 2015

Comments

Amy,

while you're here, can you tell us if you're using the word "objective truth" the same way that WisdomLover is?

If so, can you write this statement in the comments below:

I Amy believe that, if tomorrow morning, the majority of scientists adopted a definition of human which excluded, say, all organisms with black skin, then the statement "those with black skin are NOT human" would be OBJECTIVELY TRUE.

Actually, WisdomLover, can you type this sentence too in the comments below? So I can reference this thread in the future.

And to anyone reading this, if you really agree with WisdomLover's usage of the term objective truth, can you type this statement as well:

Here's the template to copy and paste it:

I, ________ believe that, if tomorrow morning, the majority of scientists adopted a definition of human which excluded, say, all organisms with black skin, then the statement "those with black skin are NOT human" would be OBJECTIVELY TRUE.

Ok that's it for me. I'll come back in the future and see how many people actually type this sentence out.

But I have a feeling it ain't gonna be many. ;)

@ToNY said:

    why don't you just say the definition of human is: "Anything that differs from Craig Venter's DNA by less than 6%.”

That's not the definition I offered.

Please answer the question: what would you label the organisms that satisfy all three of the previously listed criteria?


Oh. I see. So disagreement within the realm science means science has no truth to discover. Dr. JL and Dr. LJ disagree there in the lab.... "therefore" .... there is no truth.

How silly.

And unscientific.

Almost as unscientific as scientism.

Speaking of scientism.... well... truth breaks down for the materialist after all and we're back to fictional mathematics - hallucinating the world.

"Human"?

Scripture defines such lines as Kinds which take after their own Kinds (offspring). Evolution seems to agree. Biology too. Pretty simple stuff. Unless one is a relativistic dreamer unable to decide if tadpoles and zebras are "truly" different "kinds". It's not as if genetic compatibility spanning about 50k to 75k years is a problem for the Christian's metaphysical lines. As humans that regress of genetic compatibility fails at some locus in time about that far back - varying depending on who you read. Kinds and Times and Lines. Just like Genesis describes. As for meaning's nihilism in regress - well - one needs to present an actual "argument" if one means to mean something. Bare assertion just won't do.

As usual Tony, you seem to have a very tenuous grasp on how language works and how words manage to have meaning.

My offer stands Tony. Name one word that cannot change its meaning and you win.

But since we both know you will never do that, you might as well just give up your argument as a bad job.

So, it looks as though Tony and I have both posed unsolved riddles.

His was to solve the species problem. In particular, to solve it using DNA attributes.

Mine was to provide a single word that cannot change in meaning. We might call this The Immutable Word Problem.

Neither of those riddles is going to be solved in a blog post. I think one of them will obviously never be solved by anyone anywhere, because it is not only unsolved, but insoluble. And that is not the species problem.

What Tony Thinks is at Stake

Tony thinks that species distinctions are subjective if the species problem goes unsolved. This is because all the boundaries between putatively distinct species are vague.

As for the immutable word problem, if all words can change in meaning (that is, if there is not even a single word that cannot change in meaning), then what words mean is a matter of linguistic convention adopted by the speakers of the language in which the words are used.

Tony thinks this makes a hash of all claims of objectivity. This is because mere conventions should not be able to change what is objectively true.

What is Actually is at Stake

The Stakes of the Species Problem

What is actually at stake if the species problem goes unsolved is this:

  • We may have to consider the possibility that species distinctions, like countless other objective distinctions, do not reduce to DNA comparisons
  • We may have to admit that species distinctions, like countless other objective distinctions, have vague boundaries.

What is definitely not even close to being at stake if the species problem goes unsolved is that species distinctions are subjective.

There are all sorts of distinctions where the boundary between the concepts distinguished is vague, but the concepts are as objectively distinct as night and day. Examples:

  • Acorn/Oak
  • Alive/Dead
  • Inside/Outside
  • Fat/Thin
  • Bald/Hairy
  • And on,
  • And on,
  • And on.
and of course...
  • Night/Day

The Stakes of the Immutable Word Problem

What is actually at stake if the word with unchangeable meaning is never provided is:

  • Zip
  • Zero
  • Nada

What is definitely not even close to being at stake if the word with unchangeable meaning is never provided is that a hash is made of the objective/subjective distinction...that it becomes somehow impossible to utter sentences that express objective truths.

"Ungeborene bearn béoþ eormencynn" once expressed, in the english language, the objective truth that unborn infants are human. It no longer expresses anything at all in the english language.

These days, "unborn infants are human" expresses, in the english language, that same objective truth (that unborn infants are human).

Perhaps at some future time, "unborn infants are human", like "Ungeborene bearn béoþ eormencynn", will express nothing at all in the english language. Perhaps it will even express an objective falsehood.

Perhaps at that future time, you will need to say "Marklar marklar marklar marklar" with just the right tonality to express, in english, the objective truth that unborn infants are human.

None of these eventualities imply that it is not an objective truth that unborn infants are human.

How such changes happen is a complex matter. Such changes in meaning might might occur for all sorts of reasons.

At one extreme, some of these reasons might be good reasons that should be, and are, immediately recognized by all. The meaning change takes place swiftly as a result.

At the other extreme, some reasons for changes in meaning may be bad reasons that should be and, are resisted for a long time by many language users (the meaning of "marriage" comes to mind). For all that, the bad reasons may still prevail and the meaning may change.

Every kind of reason between these extremes might also explain a meaning change.

As I said, its a complex matter.

One thing that is never in question, though, is whether an objective truth that, at a particular time, happens to be expressed by a certain sentence somehow becomes unobjective if that sentence ever changes in meaning.

Surprising Results

Tony, I'd be curious to know exactly at which point in that analysis you think that Amy, or Alan, or any member of the STR staff, would even consider so much as voicing surprise, let alone objecting?

While we're on the subject of people who would be surprised by claims made in these blog comments. How many evolutionary anthropologists do you think would agree to the fact that when they talk about the distinction between Homo Sapiens and Homo Erectus they are simply venting their spleen?

My favorite part about reading ToNy's comments are when he clearly contradicts himself. The examples are endless.

From this post:
ToNy claims that SCBLHRM's comments drive him crazy and he would rather go to hell than heaven so as to avoid him. Yet he continues to read his comments and respond to them when he could easily avoid them here on this forum. ToNy's actions contradict his claim.

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