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  1. Whag, I don't know why I failed to see this until just now, but thank you very much. I don't get around much these days, but I'll remember you if I'm in the neighborhood.
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    Hey Doug. I just read your bio and it was very interesting! I also noticed you are from inland empire. So am I. I live in mentone. If you ever wanna grab a beer or two, my treat.
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About Doug Shaver

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About Doug Shaver
My name is Doug Shaver. Iím a philosopher. Iím an amateur, in the strict sense that nobody pays me to do it, but I do philosophy. Whether my performance is amateurish in the popular sense, my readers will judge for themselves.

I came the formal study of philosophy late in life. I first graduated from college in 1975 with a BA in sociology and then pursued a career in journalism for the next 15 years. At the time, I was under the impression that philosophy was a waste of time.

As I approached my 40s, I discovered the nonfiction writings of Isaac Asimov, particularly his collected essays from*Fantasy and Science Fictionmagazine. I went on to read other science popularizations by Jerry Pournelle, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Jay Gould, among others, and became sold on the idea that all human progress was attributable to the progress of science.

This was, in a way, just another episode in the intellectual odyssey that my life has been. The odyssey began during an adolescent flirtation with fundamentalist Christianity and has continued through several revisions of my religious, political, and social worldviews. As a Christian teenager, I was fixated on winning souls for Christ, being under the impression that humanity had no greater need than to be reconciled with God. I thought no problem was more pressing on any person than their estrangement from God occasioned by the fact of original sin. During my first year of college, I came to realize that most of my religious beliefs were in error. For the next few years I embraced a more liberal version of Christianity, but by my mid-20s had drifted into atheism. I still felt something like a missionary urge to participate in the world's salvation, but it was no longer clear just how that salvation might be accomplished. I was drawn to liberal politics for a few years but became disillusioned with that. Now, having come to realize that the advancement of science had effected much, if not all, of whatever diminution of human suffering had occurred in historical times, I became keenly interested in the history of scienceóand of mathematics, it being the proverbial language of science. I learned that science had once been a subdiscipline of philosophy, but I did not see this as a commendation of philosophy itself.

As I approached 60, a complex of events led me to consider returning to college. My journalism career was over (long story, not relevant here), and I had no realistic prospects for pursuing any other. The economy was bad and getting worse, and I had no skills that were marketable in that environment. I was barely supporting my wife and myself doing some unskilled labor. I had no illusions that another degree would make me any more employable, but Iíd always liked going to school, and there didnít seem to be anything better for me to do with my time. Besides, at about this time, I was getting the idea of writing a book presenting an apologetic for scientific thinking. Iíd been doing some research for it, which necessarily included researching the origins of Western philosophy. It soon became obvious that I could not defend the efficacy of science without becoming conversant in epistemology, and a little bit of reading about that made me realize that, without knowing it, Iíd been doing philosophy my whole life. The problem was that Iíd never learned how to do it right. And so, having decided to get another degree just for the fun of it, my choice of major was obvious.

I had to put the book on hold while going to school, except insofar as my academic work has constituted research for it. I graduated in 2012. Iím still not sure when Iíll resume the actual writing of that book, because I have acquired other obligations along the way.

I have also acquired an appreciation of the difficulty of defending any worldview, including my own. I have not changed my mind about the epistemological primacy of scientific thinking and its indispensability for social progress. I continue to believe that metaphysical thinking in general, and religious thinking in particular, is mistaken thinking. But I have had to give up every vestige of a suspicion that the errors of metaphysics could be made obvious with a sufficiently clever argument. The logical positivists thought they had found such an argument. They were mistaken. I agree with the gist of their conclusion, but their argument to that conclusion was flawed, and no one has come up with a good fix yet.

But metaphysics cannot win by default. The philosophical inadequacy of a scientific worldview is not proven by the absence of a killer argument against any alternative. It is the case that if any worldview is true, then any contrary worldview is false. It does not follow, though, that if some people are justified in holding one worldview, then no one can be justified in holding any contrary worldview. Justification does not entail truth, and truth alone does not provide justification.

I donít mean to sound like an epistemological relativist, because Iím not one. I am persuaded that there is only one reality and that anything we believe that contradicts it is a mistake. At the same time, though, our human limitations should preclude any of us from supposing that we have a privileged perception of that reality. To any religious apologist or defender of any other metaphysical notions, I will admit that I could be wrong in thinking that they are mistaken. They could be right, but possibility entails no probability. If they think they know something that we skeptics donít know, itís not up to us to prove they donít. Itís up to them to prove they do. They have had all of human history to provide the proof, and they havenít done it yet.
San Bernardino, Calif.


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