Part 2(g): Epistle to The North African
Now to really drive home what both Gadamer and Popper said about induction, it’ll be helpful to return to Daniel Peterson and the provocative glimpse he gave us into the future pièces de résistance of his Mopogetic career: The multi volume set of ‘The Reasonable Leap into Light’. Recall in ‘The Reasonable Leap into Light: A Barebones Secular Argument for the Gospel’ describes the entire project as a kind of meta-argument that intends to be a robust philosophical justification for the Mormon worldview that proceeds systematically and incrementally from a rather “secular” basis
Daniel Peterson wrote:What do I mean by a secular argument? I mean an argument that’s not going to call upon things like the Spirit, the witness, the testimony of the Holy Ghost. That is a different thing, but that can’t be delivered to you by a lecture or by reading a book by itself. You have to get that yourself from God, that’s personal and individual to you. What I want to argue, though, is that there are arguments that can be made for the rationality of the Gospel, of belief in God, in Christianity and in specifically Mormonism. So I’m going to be offering not so much the secular argument that I want to give, but an outline of the kind of argument that I would want to give and I’m going to dip in on occasion to give you some of the texture of that, some specifics. But believe me, I’m talking about a much bigger project than I’m going to be able to outline right now.
I quoted the paragraph in full because I think it is important to keep in mind that Daniel is just speaking in generalities about his project and even though he is just going to talk through an outline that is ultimately tentative, there are aspects about the work in progress that seem essential to the project. Daniel has a habit of giving remarkably bad takes on philosophers, but those bad takes are usually incidental and can be attributed to Daniel’s lack of discipline regarding texts, they can be removed and corrected without threatening the framework of ‘The Reasonable Leap into Light’. That framework is a notion of rationality predicated on probability.
It begins right there in the working title (i.e. “Reasonable Leap”) and I think the title itself is an homage to William Lane Craig’s book ‘Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics’. The book operates as a kind of a master class on Evangelical apologetics by way of presenting the issue of Evangelism in the light of systematic theology. The popularity of ‘Reasonable Faith’ has grown to such an extent that the book has pretty much become one of the standard works of Apologetics in the Evangelical world, often assigned at the undergraduate and graduate level courses in various bible colleges and seminaries around the English speaking world.
Daniel consumes a steady diet of Christian Apologetics and is an obvious admirer of Craig; I often speculate that Daniel likes to think of himself as the William Lane Craig of Mormonism and I’m confident he has envisioned the posthumous publication of ‘The Reasonable Leap into Light’ as being celebrated enthusiastically by Mormons and eventually becoming a “standard reading” at BYU. So it shouldn’t be surprising then that Daniel follows the Evangelicals in framing the apologetic goal as not establishing the uncontested truth of Christianity (or Mormonism in Daniel’s case), but to demonstrate that those who affirm Christianity (or Mormonism) do so rationally as fallible beings:
Daniel Peterson wrote:...That’s sort of a basic statement of rationality, that if you can’t really decide, you have to just kind of go with one and it’s, you know, as long as it’s roughly 50-50 or 60-40, or something like that, you’re not making an irrational decision. You might turn out to be wrong, but you were reasonable in making that decision..That’s one of the ways I’m going to be looking at rationality. If I can get you to something like 50-50 then I’m relatively happy. You then have to choose based on your own personality, your predilections, your spiritual intuitions and so on. But as I say, in some cases I think I can take the argument further than 50-50..
Much like a calculating salesman, Daniel wants to push his non-existent, non/ex-Mormon, interlocutors towards accepting the tenets of Mormonism inch by inch until the numbers are simply too good to ignore and you cave. You can’t win unless you play the game, right?
To help demonstrate this kind of rationality as game theory approach and its value, Daniel introduces his audience to the now infamous Bayes’ theorem of probability. To be perfectly frank about this, I don’t think Daniel was introduced to Bayes’ theorem during the course of his “studies” into either the natural sciences, economics, or philosophy. Rather I’d assert that he was introduced to it via William Lane Craig during a debate with Bart Ehrman about the historical reliability of the New Testament.
I have a copy of Bart Ehrman’s introduction to the New Testament (3rd edition) where he makes a claim to the effect that a practicing Historian of today seeks to establish what “probably” happened in the past and that since supernatural miracles are by definition (according to Ehrman) the least probable of all events, it follows that Historians can’t establish a miracle (i.e. Jesus rising from the dead) as being the most probable course of events. Bart more or less rehearsed this line of reasoning during the debate with Craig.
It was in effect a slow pitch that allowed Craig to smash right out of the park in terms of rebuttal. Craig was able to frame his rebuttal as “Bart’s Blunder” and demonstrate handily that in a Bayesian framework, posterior evidence can be so unique and confirming that it can override any prior epistemic value that is less than 1. Within Bayesian terms, Craig’s point was simply a mathematical inevitability of the algebra involved.
Suffice to say Bart didn’t really have an answer to “Bart’s Blunder” simply due to the fact that was his first time ever encountering Bayes Theorem. I imagine it was Daniel’s first time as well and I bet he was fascinated by the encounter and immediately inuitied how he could use this for his own work:
Daniel Peterson wrote:This is Bayes’ theorem. Bayes’ theorem is a theorem in probability theory and statistics which describes the probability of an event based on conditions that might be related to the event. I won’t get into the details, but if you have a case where certain things are true, that makes certain other things more likely than not. If you believe there is a God, for example, the probability that Christ rose from the dead rises a bit. If you believe there absolutely is no God and no supernatural then the probability of Christ rising from the dead is very, very low, given your assumptions. In other words, it could become a live or a dead option, depending on what you believed before that. So my case is a cumulative case where I’m trying to argue certain things. Theism first, then Christian theism, then if I’ve got you that far, Mormon Christian theism, OK? And I’m happy with anybody who follows me any distance along the way with those arguments. The further I can get them, the happier I am. But I’m happy if I can get them from atheism to theism, from theism to Christian theism and so on.
Now it ought to be an undisputed observation that an argument which sets out to justify a person’s beliefs in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as rational based on a probability schema derived from the classic axioms of probability is an argument that is fundamentally inductive. Yet when you read the words of Mopologists like Daniel Peterson, Louis Midgley, or Blake Ostler long enough, it becomes an inescapable conclusion that these men are punishingly incompotent when it comes to employing even the most basic concepts of philosophy. As a bulwark against the claim that Daniel’s use of Bayes theorem doesn’t constitute an inductive argument per se
I offer this basic definition of induction from a reputable reference work that would find consent not only among empiricists such as John Stuart Mill and David Hume, but also Hans-Georg Gadamer and Sir Karl Popper:
Oxford Companion to Philosophy wrote:Induction has traditionally been defined as the inference from particular to general. More generally an inductive inference can be characterized as one whose conclusions, while not following deductively from its premisses, is in some way supported by them or rendered plausible in the light of them. Scientific reasoning from observations to theories is often held to be a paradigm of inductive reasoning. (p.405)
Because the ‘Oxford Companion to Philosophy’ contrasts induction with deduction I’d like to pair it with a brief explanation of induction and deduction both from a philosopher named Charles G. Werner. I can find precious little about this man other than he was a colleague of the late Howard Pospesel at the University of Miami in Ohio. To the thousands of philosophy T.A.s that have had to grade piles of formal logic assignments, Pospesel is a familiar name.
I only know that Charles G. Werner existed because he edited a small anthology called ‘Inductive Logic’ I found in a used bookstore in Salt Lake City oddly enough in 2010. It is a cheap paperback published in 1973 by Kendall Hunt publishing company out of Dubuque Iowa. The publishing company is still in business in Dubuque today and it looks like they are still offering the same services they did to Charles Werner, the ability to print and publish custom books cheaply (relatively) for use in the classroom. Outside of this ugly green paperback, the only other words of Werner I’ve laid eyes on comes from a short article he wrote in 1977 for the ‘Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic’.
I always buy these kinds of books when I stumble across them, because I know they were created to serve a certain pedagogical purpose at a certain place at a certain time that simply no longer exists for us. The book has readings from the usual suspects on the topic such as William Whewell, John Stuart Mill, and C.S. Peirce, but also contemporaries like Bertrand Russell and Rudolf Carnap of the Vienna Circle, both of whom had just passed away three years prior to the publication of this little booklet. I wonder if Werner personally knew Carnap when he was at UCLA (Daniel’s alma mater!). Werner also included figures previously unknown to me, such as the English economist W. Stanley Jevons and J.F.W. Herschel. I noticed in Jevons’ Wikipedia entry that under the ‘Legacy’ header there is a quote from ‘The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy and Philosophers’ stating: "Jevons's general view of induction has received a powerful and original formulation in the work of a modern-day philosopher, Professor K. R. Popper." (LOL!) while Herschel originated the use of the Julian day in astronomy and invented blueprints!?! Wikipedia has an absolutely fantastic photographic portrait of Sir Herschel:
My God, Blixa. I’m just rambling to you now. I wrote three paragraphs about some obscure philosopher and embedded a picture from Wikipedia. I’m starting to write like how Daniel Peterson blogs! By the beard of Joseph F. Smith, what is next? Posting clickbait articles from ScienceAlert.com while plagiarizing Robert J. Hutchinson for my cracker barrel column in the Deseret News?! See you were wrong Blessed Blixa, visiting Reverend Kishkumen wouldn’t just do me some good, I actually think I might be in dire need of his ministrations. I need to continue.
So Werner (following C.S. Peirce) divides logical inferences into two broad categories: Deductive and Inductive. He indicates that Deduction can be characterized as “Explicative/Analytic” and Induction can be characterized as “Amplifiative/Synthetic”. Werner then defines those terms as follows (bolding mine):
Charles G. Werner wrote:Analytic inference: [T]he conclusion follows necessarily from the premises, i.e., it is not logically possible—it is self-contradictory—for the premise to be true and the conclusion to be false.
Explicative inference: [T]he conclusion makes explicit what was contained implicitly in the premises.
Synthetic inference: [T]he conclusion does not follow necessarily from the premises, i.e., it is logically possible—it is not self-contradictory— for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false.
Amplifiative inference: [T]he conclusion adds something to what is contained in the premises. (p.2)
So Daniel is working on a book length inductive argument laying out a positive case for his deeply held beliefs, that isn’t any different in principle from what Richard Swinburne did in his book ‘The Existence of God’. Why give this good man and scholar all this guff and libel and not hand the same treatment to Swinburne? I suppose I would if Swinburne had written the things Daniel has written. The real difference is that Swinburne is actually a competent philosopher with numerous contributions to the Philosophy of Science, so if I can pretend that Daniel has expended any meaningful effort reading any sort of philosophy text then I can easily assume the same about Richard without a nanosecond of hesitation.
What are some of those things Daniel has written? Once again I take us back to review ‘Can the Study of History Yield Genuine Knowledge’. I know I’ve quoted it before, but I see no harm in quoting it again. I see no problem going back to the same well again and again to make my points. Repetition is not
a sign sloth.
Anyways Daniel says:
Daniel Peterson wrote:I offer, below, a comment on the subject from the great German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002; yes, you read that right). It’s perhaps just a bit difficult, but his point seems to me unassailably sound to the point of obviousness.
Daniel then goes on to make two characterizations; one each about the natural sciences and the modern discipline of history respectively. He deals with the natural sciences first (bolding mine):
Daniel Peterson wrote:The physical and natural sciences study particular cases in order to generalize rules from those particular cases...
This statement incorrectly represents Gadamer’s position, because generalizing rules from particular cases doesn’t exhaust what induction is and also does not exhaust the activity of science. (If you agree with Popper, then induction doesn’t have much bearing on the practice of science whatsoever). I think this is easily demonstrated by both the ‘Oxford Companion to Philosophy’ and from Werner’s introduction to the anthology ‘Inductive Logic’.
Yet my bulwark might still fail and a Mopologist reading this might object to my sources and reject my assertions that Gadamer would agree with them. Could I demonstrate that Gadamer believed similarly to my sources from the text of ‘Truth and Method’? Sure and I’ll do you one better. I’ll do it only using the section we’ve covered in this email. Consider the opening paragraph of ‘Truth and Method’ where Gadamer begins to establish the influence of John Stuart Mill:
Gadamer wrote:The logical self-reflection that accompanied the development of the human sciences in the nineteenth century is wholly governed by the model of the natural sciences. A glance at the history of the word Geisteswissenschaften shows this, although only in its plural form does this word acquire the meaning familiar to us. The human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) so obviously understand themselves by analogy to the natural sciences that the idealistic echo implied in the idea of Geist (“spirit”) and of a science of Geist fades into the background. The word Geisteswissenschaften was made popular chiefly by the translator of John Stuart Mill’s ‘Logic’. In the supplement to his work Mill seeks to outline the possibilities of applying inductive logic to the “moral sciences.” The translator calls these Geisteswissenschaften. Even in the context of Mill’s ‘Logic’ it is apparent that there is no question of acknowledging that the human sciences have their own logic but, on the contrary, of showing that the inductive method, basic to all experimental science, is the only method valid in this field too. (p.3)
The reference “Mill’s Logic” is referring to Mill’s influential work on induction titled in English as ‘A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive’. Mill’s influence on German intellectual culture is a consistent theme in the section ‘The Problem of Method’ in Gadamer’s book. Mill’s work on induction shaped how 19th century German scholars and scientists understood their own disciplines in both the natural sciences and the humanities. As we saw for ourselves, Gadamer goes to some length to reinforce that.
Did John Stuart Mill understand induction as only being the activity of generating universal statements based on a certain number of particular statements? Thankfully for me, Werner’s ‘Inductive Logic’ includes the relevant passages from Mill’s ‘A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive’:
John Stuart Mill wrote:For the purpose of the present inquiry, Induction may be defined, the operation of discovering and proving general propositions. It is true that (as already shown) the process of indirectly ascertaining individual facts, is as truly inductive as that by which we establish general truths. (p.34)
Interesting that Mill thinks even acquiring individual facts is part and parcel of induction.
John Stuart Mill wrote:But it is not a different kind of induction; it is another form of the very same process: since, on the one hand, generals are but collections of particulars, definite in kind but indefinite in number; and on the other hand, whenever the evidence which we derive from observation of of known cases justifies us in drawing an inference respecting even one unknown case, we should on the same evidence be justified in drawing a similar inference with respect to a whole class of cases. (p.34)
For Mill, induction punctuates everyday life
John Stuart Mill wrote:If these remarks are just; if the principles and rules of inference are the same whether we infer general propositions or individual facts; it follows that a complete logic of the sciences would be also a complete logic of practical business and common life...Whether we are inquiring into a scientific principle or into an individual fact, and whether we proceed by experiment or by ratiocination, every step in the train of inferences is essential inductive, and the legitimacy of the induction depends in both cases upon the same conditions. (p.34-35).
And Gadamer himself mentions that Helmholtz tries to articulate these other kinds of induction that make up the human experience from which the humanities (i.e. the human sciences) draw their conclusions:
Gadamer wrote:Helmholtz distinguished between two kinds of induction: logical and artistic-instinctive induction. That means, however, that his distinction was basically not logical but psychological. Both kinds of science make use of the inductive conclusion, but the human sciences arrive at their conclusions by an unconscious process. Hence the practice of induction in the human sciences is tied to particular psychological conditions. (p.5)
Look here how Daniel then goes on to describe what historians do in contrast to scientists:
Daniel Peterson wrote:By contrast, historians can spend, and have spent, entire careers on the life and times of Andrew Jackson, on the late Byzantine empire, on the Umayyad Dynasty, on the biography of Napoleon, and on the Tokugawa shogunate. And they’ve done so not so much in order to formulate predictive general theories — in the style of biochemistry or particle physics — about the American presidency, the rise of dynasties or the collapse of states, or the life-cycle of famous Corsicans, as because they wanted to understand those people or those periods in and of themselves.
That fool thought from his skimming of one paragraph that Gadamer’s use of induction was falsely equivalent with scientists who “study particular cases in order to generalize rules from those particular cases” and then tries to portray the discipline of history not doing this at all.
Just consulting the books that just happen to be within my reach, dearest Blixa, I can find numerous counterexamples to this. I can think of no less a historian than E.G. Turner himself, the revered papyrologist and master classicist, and his delightful tome ‘Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World’:
Eric Gardner Turner wrote:In these continuous blocks of writing we shall also find that the letter which metrical laws require to be elided are often written out in full (scriptio plena). It is the reader’s task, knowing the rules, to read these lines metrically (a duty we still accept in the reading of Latin). The presence of these eligible letters in prose texts does not mean that the author or scribe tolerated hiatus. A single scribe’s practice will often vary: sometimes he will write in scriptio plena, sometimes use tacit elision. From ii B.C. onwards the separating apostrophe...comes into occasional use to mark such elisions; or the corrector may go through the text marking by an expunging dot or a cancel stroke those vowels which cause hiatus. (p.9)
What Turner describes above falls neatly into the category of induction as laid out by John Stuart Mill, and fits seamlessly into how Gadamer uses induction, while at the same time conforming to the definition provided by the ‘Oxford Companion to Philosophy’ and Werner’s anthology ‘Inductive Logic’.
Daniel grasps the basics of Gadamer’s point: the natural sciences and the humanities are different. From there he stumbles into a mistake about what Gadamer was writing about, the natural sciences and the humanities are not different because the natural sciences only seek to establish regularities and historians don’t, nor are they different because the natural sciences use induction and the humanities don’t. In actuality, the natural sciences and humanities differ because one uses methods and ought to and the other uses methods and ought not to.
Look at this disaster of an e-mail Blixa, see how the study of Mopologetics is often like the study of an onion? You consistently have to peel away layer after layer of mistakes as if there was no termination of layers, but the mistakes are just hideously stupid and made out of a careless disregard for any notion of honesty or care for a broader truth. Peel away at the onion of Mopologetics long enough Blixa and soon you will find yourself weeping.
Since I mentioned Richard Swinburne, does this unflattering photo of him not scream Religious Education at BYU?