Mark Christensen/Faith and science talk

< Mark Christensen

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You wrote:

Recently there's been growing opposition to the expression of any POV which does not conform to a strict philosophical naturalism as "non-scientific" on the wikipedia, and this is something I strenuously object to. I think that actually expresses a very strong BIAS, and strangely enough that BIAS is being perpetuated by people who claim to be defending the NPOV. Ah, the irony of it all. MRC.

Can you back up this accusation with examples? It has been my impression that no one has supressed the desire to document any such point of view, but some do demand that when such a point of view is documented, it must be reported accurately and honestly, which means attributing it, comparing it to the more common viewpoints, and covering them as well. I, for one, think it is critically important that we cover religious beliefs, popular beliefs of other cultures, movements like postmodernism and new age, etc.--and it's important that we accurately report the opposition to them. My impression is that when people say "let the viewpoints be expressed so the reader can make up their mind", what they really mean is "You preach to your choir and I'll preach to mine", and they aren't interested in actually comparing the views face-to-face and accurately reporting them. --LDC

TAW wrote on PV of a Science or Nature editor:

Some wikipedians think that scientific articles on Wikipedia should be writted accoding to "Point of View of a Science or Nature editor", and not strict "Neutral Point Of View". Both these points of view are biased. PVSNE is biased towards science and facts, SNPOV is biased towards... political correctness.

MB's faith vs. science page was a reaction to this commentary. My comments on that page were based on a desire to advocate the expression of all reasonable points of view, including those, which do not advocate strict scientific or philosophical naturalism. I am an advocate of science, but not of naturalism, and too often the two things are conflated without sufficient evidence. I am skeptical of the view that science "proves" much about ethics, or metaphysics, so I would like to defend the possibility at least that there are reasonable ways of approaching these subjects that, while not strictly scientific are perfectly reasonable. Perhaps when "people" say "let the viewpoints be expressed so the reader can make up their mind" they mean what you suggest, but I personally do not mean any such thing. I honestly think that substantive treatment of the issues is only possible when you address the strongest case from both sides, and therefore we ought to actively encourage people to engage in the practice of describing the best arguments for each position on an issue. And I would obviously include the best "opposition" to the arguments presented by all the sides. I don't actually think we are at all far apart on this issue. [[MRC]

The above is not an example of what you claim--that there is a growing effort to edit articles to reflect the point of view of naturalism. A single posting by a semi-regular on a page that is admitted commentary hardly qualifies as a systemic bias. I'd still be interested to see an example of someone actually editing an article about a specific topic to abridge a non-naturalistic viewpoint. I just don't see that happening. I'm not sure what your being "skeptical of the view that science proves much about ethics..." has to do with anything. No rational scientist would ever claim it does, anyway. Ethics and metaphysics are entirely outside the realm of science, and for good reason, and every scientist I know understands that. Of course science does affect ethics, in that once you decide what is a worthy goal to acheive, science can tell you what acts are useful for acheiving it. I don't think there's any effort here by anyone to claim otherwise, much less claim that as a policy of the site.
Give it some time; I also think a lot of people are quick to criticize Wikipedia for things that happen on the scale of hours. That's silly. Nothing significant happens here except on the scale of weeks or longer, as more people become involved and discuss things and reach consensus. We are just the insignificant bleeding edge here; sure, we do have to set a tone for the future, but we're not so invested that we can't make big changes if needed. --LDC

I know it's not a widespread movement, but the specific intention of that page is to raise support for such a view. And several people were pushing it at the time. Anyway, what I object to is the conflation of naturalism with science, and there are quite a number of folks who seem to think that "science" proves naturalism. I've been around for three months or so, long enough to know that it is not the way the wikipedia has been run, but it is also clear that some folks want it to be run that way. As to why I included the comment about ethics and metaphysics, my only intention was to show that science has it's limits -- which I agree is a widely held view amongst responsible scientists. Though some 'scientific' fields like sociobiology have an amazingly high number of bad scientists posing as really bad philosophers, and as far as I am concerned this is not a good thing. But that comment is just a free and unsolicited opinion. MRC


MRC, elsewhere you state:

Recently there's been growing opposition to the expression of any POV which does not conform to a strict philosophical naturalism as "non-scientific" on the wikipedia, and this is something I strenuously object to.

I don't think wikipedia is supposed to be expressing any points of view, so that this is inherently a good thing. Might I suggest that the problem is the opposite - that POVs which are conforming to strict philosophical naturalism are not being repressed? If so, we might be able to ome up with something to do about that.

Thanks. I think this is actually a very interesting point. However, I'm not exactly sure what you mean, could you elaborate a bit?
I take it that you think that nobody is enforcing the kind of qualifications for comments that assume a naturalistic POV that are enforced for other POV's. Is that what you are saying?
Also, if you have example pages, that would be very helpful to me. As a supporter of rational inquiry and science who is also a theist, this topic is fascinating to me, and seems to warrant some further thought, so I would certainly appreciate any comments you may have on the subject. However, I'll only have a few min. here and there to work on the wikipedia this week, so be patient with me if I take a long time to respond. MRC