"Everything can be shown to be incoherent"
I thought about framing this into a question of the day, but I don't think I can. I don't really have a specific question. I'm just more interested to hear people's reaction to this.
I was having a pseudo-debate with someone who does not want to be identified, because he works in the film industry. Anyway, he's one of these guys who isn't a theist but feels that science is a faith and is thus oppressive. In a very vague sense, I can understand what he's saying (i.e., I understand the nature of his mistake), as he simply whipped out the all-too-typical questions like "How do you know science is right?"
I tried to explain that the methodology of science is simply trial-and-error reduction, which human beings have no choice to do otherwise. To me, accusing people of being dogmatically scientific is like accusing someone of dogmatically appealing to his cognition, or as John Dill put it, accusing someone of being human.
So this guy... We'll call him "Nick". I tried to get Nick to explain what science was being oppressive of, and he said metaphysical knowledge. I asked him to explain. He simply said it's knowledge of that which is beyond physical. I immediately asked him for a more coherent description of "beyond physical". Nick's reply was, "if you define the 'beyond physicals' with attributes and categories that belong to the physical and matter... its like making it physical too isn't it?".
Circular logic! Wonderful! This was supported by numerous appeals to ignorance, (i.e., "There's something inside of me, I can't explain, that tells me it's wrong to kill."). In other words, he knows it's wrong to kill, but he can't explain why, but then I was able to explain to him why it's wrong to kill. He did that about two or three times, and I was always able to explain his "unexplanable feelings" in an intelligable context.
Then he says, "my point is, about anything can be proven incoherent, so if you simply dont believe in what is not coherent then there is no science to begin with, and nothing at all that can be known." And predictably, he brings back his insistance that science is faith, but he doesn't seem to understand the category error he's making. We have no choice but to accept the physical universe as real and to use tentativeness to learn things, so in order to even get to his point-of-view, he has to pass through mine.
It was a fairly jovial conversation, but I found it just a little frustrating, because I couldn't even figure out what his point is. He doesn't seem to believe in any specific god or non-material beings. It seems that his only point was to perhaps place science on equal footing with religion, which is both misinformed and insulting.
About the only time I actually got mad is when he accused me of being an agnostic. Why is whenever I say I don't know something, people regard it as a weakness of my position? (Wait, don't answer that. That's a future QotD!)
I'm certainly not an expert debater, so I was a thrown by Nick's approach, but I definitely found some circles. He basically argues like a Christian, only he's not a Christian, and he doesn't seem to realize the irony of his position, using an instrument created via science to marginalize science.
What do you guys make of this? Do you think there are some good responses I missed out on? What would you say to someone who defends his incoherent beliefs by saying "Everything can be shown to be incoherent."?