How did the shift from the question of Why to How create modern Science? How did the Why question lead to the notion of an animistic universe? Why did the How question lead to the scientific method? What is the general Scientific syllogism and how does this differ from the Correspondence syllogism? Why are mathematical models so powerful? How does the Scientific syllogism turn the syllogistic form into a continuum, rather than an 'either logical or not' proposition? What mechanism led Scientism, the religion of Science, to readopt the Why question? How did they come up with the answer that Life is only made of matter? Why is this answer faith-based rather than logic-based? Article Summary
The fundamental questions of science determine the nature of the answer. For the ancient philosophers, the primary question was ‘Why’. They observed what something did and then reasoned why this occurred.
"The ancients focused upon why nature behaves as it does, rather than on how it behaves. Aristotle was one of the leading proponents of that approach, rejecting the idea of science based principally on observation." (Steven Hawking, Grand Design, p.23)
Modern Science began when thinkers began asking the question 'How'. This led to intense observation that resulted in a formula or model that described how the data behaved. This process is at the heart of the scientific method. At this stage, the ‘Why’ was neglected, except as it pertained to the ‘How’. Indeed, Richard Feynman maintains that the "Why' question can't even be answered in his discussion of quantum electro-dynamics. (He should know, as he won a Nobel prize for contributions to this science.)
"While I am describing to you how Nature works, you won't understand why Nature works that way. But you see, nobody understands that." (Feynman, QED, p.10)
Feyman goes on to imply that the Why question is ultimately unanswerable, due to Nature's absurdity - in the sense that her laws violate common sense.
"The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as she is – absurd."
What impells scientists to explore Nature's absurdity? Practical considerations. Pragmatic motivations drive modern science to contemplate results and ask How. This leads inherently to a greater focus upon data precision and formula – to better predict matter's behavior. This purely practical exercise satisfies the modern scientific agenda and drives the Why question into the background, as superfluous.
In contrast, philosophical motivations drove the ancients to contemplate essence and ask Why. As they could only compare with their own reasons for doing something this frequently led to animistic answers. Will and intention motivates humans. Humans and the rest of the Universe – including animals, matter, and even the sky – are of the same essence. Therefore, by correspondence reasoning, intentions and will motivate the rest of the Universe.
Let's look at a few more examples of this animistic reasoning, which applies to the ancients, as well as we moderns.
This is the logic behind anthropomorphism, where human traits are assigned to animals, things and even the gods, due to presumed correspondence between humans and the rest of the universe.
The above conclusions don't follow logically, as they are based upon the fallacious reasoning of Correspondence Logic, which is always indeterminate. The conclusions of Correspondence Logic are not necessarily false, just not necessarily true. The veracity of the conclusions, or lack therof, is only determined through empirical evidence - experimental or observational. The Correspondence Logic is not sufficient proof in and of itself (as discussed in Logical Foundations).
Based in set equivalency, rather than pattern similarity, the logical syllogism is always true. Based upon a general comparison of two similar phenomena the Correspondence Syllogism is always indeterminate. This metaphorical relationship has a limited applicablity, as it only indicates that there are areas of similarity, but not co-identity. Accordingly, the connection is undependable, requiring testing for reliability.
Culminating in Aristotle, the Greek philosophers transformed the Syllogism slightly – substituting Logos (Reason) for Human parallelism in the above logical chains. Plato started this ball rolling with his idealized forms. Previously the ancients had argued that similar motivations impelled humans and the Universal Flux due to correspondence between the two. The Greek philosophers, reasoning that the Universe was logical, argued that Logos is an essential organizing feature of the Universal Flux. Deductive reasoning was the tool by which humans could understand Logos. This established a connection between the Universe and Logos, which replaced the prior correspondence between the Universe and humans.
Ironically, this alignment of the Universe with Logos (rational principles) rather than human motivations was the first step towards modern science. However, the Why question still determined the nature of the answer. Instead of looking for parallels in human behavior to determine these answers, these Greek philosophers applied reason to determine the answer of Why the Universe behaved the way it did, or was the way it was. Philosophers now debated which was the most logical answer to the question of Why. This approach subordinated the empirical question of How to a secondary status. This orientation paralyzed the development of modern scientific techniques and methodology for close to 2 millennia.
Galileo’s research and conclusions epitomized the transition from Why to How. Let’s explore the difference between he and his illustrious predecessor, Aristotle, with regards to falling objects. Aristotle reasoned that the speed of falling objects is constant and proportional to their weight. In other words, heavy objects fall faster than light objects - possibly thinking of the behavior of rocks and leaves. He reasoned further that objects speed up when they get close to the ground because they are jubilant to get to their place of rest – possibly thinking of horses on their accelerated return to the stable. Because his theory made logical sense, he was satisfied with a simplistic empirical observation. The Why question inspired the use of Logos to determine the answer, rather than the use of Experimentation. The same still holds true today - as we shall see.
"For [many of] the Greeks of Plato's era, in the 5th century BC, human beings had one, single, universal essence: at their best they were rational agents who, through disinterested philosophical argument, could discover objective, universal, timeless truths of nature and human ethical excellence." (All Things Shining, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, p113)
In contrast to Aristotle, Galileo initiated modern science by exploring 'How' objects fall, ignoring ‘Why’ they do it. The question of How, leads to observation, experimentation, data collection, and finally a mathematical model. This is normally written as a formula, which attempts to match the data – establishing a statistically significant correlation between the two. In general, the How question leads to experimentation, which leads to pragmatic results – rendering the speculative Why question superfluous.
Re: Galileo’s case. Through direct observation and data collection he discovered that weight is not a factor in the speed of falling objects. Pursuing How things operate, rather than Why they do them, provided conclusive evidence that dispelled the deductive conclusions of Aristotle. The scientific method is intimately linked with the How question, as it leads to data collection, theory testing, and mathematical formulas. In pursuing the question of How things behaved rather than Why they do them, Galileo provided future scientists with powerful empirical data upon which to hang their theories.
The information Galileo collected concerning falling objects, combined with the data for planetary positions collected by generations of diverse cultures, led to Newton's revolutionary insights. Newton created his formula for Gravity, which corresponded to both sets of Data – linking the natural laws of heaven and earth for the first time. As such, this Formula became a feature of falling objects and planetary motion – something that reflected their innate nature. This association of data and mathematical formula with a phenomenon is the essence of modern science.
Below is the specific syllogism.
Let it be noted that neither Galileo nor Newton answered the question of ‘Why’ objects fall. This was left indeterminate. This is not surprising, for Normal Scientists, as pragmatic problem solvers, had found a treasure trove of puzzles to solve. This was due to the new logical syllogism, which is at the foundation of modern Science.
The general form of the Scientific Syllogism is shown below.
The question is posed: 'How’ does the Data of a particular Phenomenon behave? Data is accumulated – becoming an attribute (a feature) of the Phenomenon. After inferring an underlying pattern of the Data, something that defines the Phenomenon, a Formula is discovered that matches the pattern. This establishes a verifiable correspondence, or significant correlation, between Formula & Data. At this point the Formula, a mathematical articulation of the pattern, becomes an attribute (feature) of the Phenomenon.
Plug: These insights into underlying patterns are generally due to sustained attention, perhaps over generations of scientists.
Note that the fallacious, hence indeterminate, Correspondence Syllogism of the ‘Why’ question is based upon the subjective perception of common patterns between two Phenomena - whether animistic or logical. The Scientific Syllogism of the ‘How’ question is based upon the more objective and testable correlation between Formula and Data. The feature of testability is one strength of the scientific method.
Another strength of the scientific method has to do with the power of Algebra. The laws of algebra enable the scientist to logically manipulate formulas, which are equations. Due to the infinity of mathematical possibilities, this is a powerful tool for extending insights. When the same Formula is a feature of two Phenomena, then any algebraic manipulation of these formulas will apply equally to the seemingly dissimilar phenomena.
This is the powerful Math Syllogism, which is always true. (However its application to reality might vary due to the Scientific Syllogism, which inherently contains some imprecision due to being based upon a Correspondence.)
Re: the gravity example. Newton discovered that a similar formula applied to both falling objects and planetary orbits. This allowed the succeeding generations of scientists to predict the behaviors of everything from the trajectories of cannon balls to the course of interplanetary rocket ships, which placed astronauts on the Moon. Although Newton discovered the Formula, he did not anticipate the possible technological achievements due to the mathematical extensions performed on his initial Formula for Gravity.
Newton’s discovery of the Formula for Gravity led to an even more revolutionary concept. The Laws that govern Falling Objects, which belong to the Earth, and Planetary Orbits, which belong to Heaven, are the same. Due to the precision of the Correspondence, the Conclusion was obvious; the same Natural Laws govern both Earth and Heaven. They both exist in the identical realm of infinite space and are governed by the same laws.
Lest we fall under the sway of scientism, let it be noted that these correspondences and conclusions only apply to the physical realm. This realm includes falling objects, planetary motion, and even the material component of life. These conclusions about the material world do not extend logically, by necessity, to the spontaneous, contextual, organic component of life – unless established experimentally or experientially. To date, neither form of evidence confirms the absolute correlation between organic and inorganic systems.
In summary, the Why question of the Ancients yields analysis which is Untestable. It is based upon pattern recognition – correspondences between similar phenomena. In contrast, the How question of the Moderns gives rise to Testable Hypotheses and Mathematic Formulas, which can be manipulated with algebra. The testable Hypotheses lead to standards for truth, which can be extended into unexpected realms of existance with the formulas. This essence reveals the inherent power of Science and the importance of the How question.
Before leaving this discussion of syllogisms, let us discuss the intimate connection between the Logical, the Scientific, and the Correspondence Syllogism. Note that correspondence and correlation are similar terms. In science, correlation requires a statistical standard for evaluating truth. This statistical standard is used to evaluate the validity of correlations. However, a correlation is still, at best, just a correspondence – albeit with a higher probability of truth. Even the greatest correlation between data and formula does not indicate equivalence. As such, the conclusions do not follow from the premises by logical necessity. In that sense, the Scientific Syllogism is fallacious – not necessarily false, but indeterminate.
However, its cousin, the Correspondence Syllogism is qualitatively different. In fact, the Scientific Syllogism serves as an effective bridge between the necessarily true Logical Syllogism and the entirely indeterminate Correspondence Syllogism. It turns the syllogistic form into a continuum, rather than the Aristotelean definitive either/or, i.e. necessarily true or indeterminate. The testable nature of the scientific syllogism allows the scientific community to assign a level of truth to the correspondence, and hence the conclusion. As the correlation between data and formula approaches 100%, the correspondence approaches equivalency and logical necessity. Conversely, as the correlation approaches 0%, the correspondence approaches indeterminacy. Due to this context, we will continue using the word syllogism to express this logical continuum. Note that the classic definition and use of syllogistic reasoning does not address this issue.
Scientism, the science-derived, faith-based civil religion of the intelligentsia, revived the Why question, asking 'Why does Life behave the way it does?' – 'Why are things the way they are?' – 'Why do humans behave the way they do?' As mentioned previously, the why question generally leads to faith-based answers. Let’s see why.
The ancients and the moderns (those who employ scientism as their belief structure) both start with the same assumption – namely, that there is a correspondence between life and matter, and the same question “Why’. However, the ancients assumed that matter behaves like humans. When this relation is reversed – as it is by the modern religion of scientism – the answer becomes mechanistic. Note that the question and correspondence logic are the same. Ancients ask, "Why does matter behave the way it does?" Scientism ask, "Why do humans behave the way they do?" The Ancients' answer is animistic, in that the 'behavior' of matter corresponds to the behavior of humans. Scientism's answer is mechanistic, in that the behavior of humans corresponds to the 'behavior' of matter.
However, both approaches are based upon correspondence logic, which is always indeterminate – as the validity of the conclusion can only be determined by experimentation or experience. Any resulting conclusion is not a logical necessity.
To understand the nature of the Syllogism of Scientism, let's refresh our notion of the fallacious Correspondence Syllogism. Here is the general statement:
Scientism’s faith-based assumption is that the human world corresponds perfectly with the material world. The material world operates according to immutable laws and humans are made of matter. Therefore, humans must ultimately operate according to the immutable laws of matter as well. If we can just understand matter well enough, then we can also understand how humans behave. This is similar to a successful general employing his army and weapons of war to court his Beloved – a different game entirely – winning a battle requires a different tool set than winning someone's love.
This reasoning of Scientific Determinism is based in multiple fallacies. First and foremost is the empirical fallacy. Empiricism is a method to test and verify scientiifc hypothese and theory. It requires observable and measurable data, as the only form of acceptable evidence. The method is, at best, an inherently, probabilistic standard of truth. However, the assumption that this probabilistic standard reveals the sum total of that which exists in the Universe is fallacious. A probabilistic statement always leaves room for doubt. Because the improbable is by definition possible. The history of science documents this truism.
For instance, Science has only been able to perceive and measure matter with their empirical method. But the conclusion that the Universe is exclusively composed of matter does not follow by logical neessicity. Although this could be true, it could just as easily not be true. This chain of reasoning is based upon the hidden assumption that what is already perceivable is all that there is. I respectfully submit that there is room for doubt.
This doubt is strengthened by the knowledge that the progress of science is riddled with the discovery of previously unknown invisible forces – gravity, electricity, magnetism are just a few that spring to mind. Although each of these forces have now been defined in material terms, this in no way disproves the existance of other invisible forces. In fact, it suggests the opposite. Just because gravity, electricity, and magnetism have been linked together in an elaborate system of theories, in no way disproves the existance of other invisible forces.
Even though we can’t imagine anything besides matter – even though science has discovered logical causes for previously unexplainable phenomenon – even though we have a miraculous technology based upon the insights of the material science - None of these factors prove that all phenomenon will eventually come under the sway of empirical science.
In fact, most of the evidence points the other way. For instance, there are myriad phenomena associated with human culture that are shrouded in a mystery that the empirical method finds difficult to address – for instance art, music, notions of god, and love. In fact, the attempt to quantify these quintessential human experiences endemically trivializes their essence. These ubiquitous, subtle aspects of the human experience are to date unapproachable through the techniques of material science.
However if the adherents of scientism wish to believe that matter is all there is due to faith, this has just as much validity as any other religion, philosophy, or belief system. But it is ultimately based in the indeterminate correspondence syllogism rather than the testable, logic-based scientific syllogism. This is fine. It's just important to remember that the presumed absolute correspondence between matter and life is based in faith, not logic.
The following syllogism reveals another common fallacy in the reasoning behind Scientism and Scientific Determinism.
Because the qualifiers – 'many' and 'all' – have both been employed there is no logical necessity to this statement. Just because some men have red hair does not mean that all men have red hair. Just because scientists have discovered a logical explanation for many mysteries does not mean that they will eventually discover a logical explanation for all mysteries. This criticism is not unusual or even subtle. It is common sense, Aristotelean logic.
Although scientism derived from science, the two are fundamentally different. The former is a subjective faith-based religion; the latter is a relatively objective logic-based discipline.
Note that Science remains in the realm of How, i.e. 'How do humans behave?' This approach avoids the Why question altogether, except as it pertains to the empirical evidence generated by How. This means there is no need to discuss whether humans are only made of matter, if they have free will, or if mathematical mechanisms have an effect on behavior. All that is necessary is to examine the evidence to see if it supports the hypothesis. The question of Why gravity, quantum electrodynamics, or regenerative behavior works is secondary to How they work.
For more information on the topics covered in this paper check out 'Correspondence Theory', 'Scientism, a Civil Religion', 'The Logical Foundation of Information Dynamics', or 'The Historical Emergence of Scientism'.