20 May 2016

The Problem of Relativism

"Reality at its deepest level could be something utterly different than we have ever imagined, but we still have a good handle on how it behaves in front of our noses." 
- Sean Carroll, Fear of Knowing.

In previous essays I have tried to address some of the common complaints about scientific knowledge. I've looked at the common pejoratives wheeled out by apologists for traditional Buddhism, i.e. Physicalism, Materialism, and Scientism (08 August 2014); I've tried to show that Schopenhauer could not have "refuted Materialism" before he died in 1860, as one of my Order colleagues claimed (Vitalism: The Philosophy That Would Not Die. 23 May 2014); and I've looked at The Limitations of Transcendental Idealism (1 Apr 2016).

These are among the most frequently cited reasons that, for example, we cannot rule out an afterlife, a just-world, or other metaphysical speculations that are foundational to traditional Buddhism (and of course to other religions). There is a powerful, coherent argument can be put forward which, even admitting massive limitations to our knowledge about the universe, none-the-less refutes any possible afterlife (There is No Life After Death, Sorry. 23 Jan 2015) and by extension any kind of supernatural entities or forces. However, many people still refuse to admit the salience of such arguments to their worldview. In other words it's not that they disagree with the argument, but that they believe the argument is irrelevant. This is entirely in line with the predictions of evolutionary approaches to studying religion (Facts and Feelings. 25 May 2012). This distinction between the truth of a proposition and its salience in decision-making is a dynamic that has informed my thinking and writing for some time now. 

A proposition can be more or less accurate and precise, but this may have no correlation to the salience that any individual or group gives it in their worldview.  Since the factual accuracy of mainstream science is now undeniable, critics of science and anti-intellectuals usually attack arguments against the existence of an afterlife or a just-world at the level of salience. For example, they may not even feel compelled to engage with the content of an argument in detail because "it is Materialist". Repeating this mantra resolves the matter for them. Dualists hold it axiomatic that studying matter tells us nothing about consciousness, because consciousness is a different kind of stuff. In this view our knowledge of brain activity is all very interesting, but not salient to the understanding of consciousness under any circumstances, no matter how many correlations we identify. All empirical knowledge of the brain is simply ruled out of bounds in the discussion of consciousness, because in their worldview conciousness is not accessible empiricism. If the Dualist also accepts rebirth as an article of faith, which many Buddhist Dualists do, then this anti-enlightenment argument serves the purpose of defending Buddhist metaphysical speculation about the afterlife. 

I've tried to field these objections by attempting understanding what it is like to hold a Dualist view and the reasons that such propositions remain valid to some people and how they affect the salience of Naturalist arguments (see e.g. Why Are Karma and Rebirth (Still) Plausible (for Many People)? 14 Aug 2015). But there is one pernicious criticism of science that I've not yet tackled. This is Relativism. Relativism is a view which states that a quality like "truth" is always relative to a given frame of assessment; and that there is no framework independent vantage point from which to make assessments claims to truth. (Cf. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

No personally I find the legacy arguments about "truth" unhelpful. If I make an assertion about the world then it can be an accurate description or prediction; it can be precise; and it may have inherent error. All our observations about the world have these three properties, i.e. accuracy, precision, and error, and thus I do not try to invoke the true/false dichotomy. I'll deal with these qualities in more detail below.

Relativism got a massive boost from European philosophy in the 20th Century. Post-Modernists argued that the meaning of a text is not fixed but created by the reader. In effect the author may think they are writing one thing and the reader may entire disagree and think that the text means something else. Anyone trying to engage in rational debate on the internet will know what I mean. One finds that that people read the most bizarre assumptions into and take the most outrageous inferences from what one writes. But the post-modernists also argued for the broadest possible definition of a text and application of this principle. This lead to a radical kind of Relativism in which it is held that no one could say anything definite about anything because anything could be considered a text and deconstructed. This inane argument is still a popular stance amongst certain university graduates.

Since Western intellectuals rejected Positivism, it is accepted that scientific theories cannot be proven to be true. And this is something I'm been trying to make more explicit in my spiel since I was bizarrely accused of being a Positivist by some philosophers. Scientific theories can never be true, in the strictest philosophical definition of metaphysical certainty, but they may be extraordinarily accurate and precise within the margins of error inherent in measurement. Take the example of the Higgs Boson. The media often portray this in terms of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project having proved the existence of the Higgs Boson. But this is not quite what happened. The standard theory predicted that a particle of a given energy would provide the mechanism whereby other particles responsible for the character of the weak nuclear force would exhibit the quality of mass (thereby explaining the extremely short range of the force). The mathematical models predicted that the particle responsible would have an energy in the range 110-140 GeV (a rather imprecise prediction). Once we had equipment capable of looking for particles in that energy range, in the shape of the LHC, we looked and found a particle. To date we know nothing more about the particle than that it is a boson, or force carrying particle, that has an energy of ca. 126 GeV*. It might be the Higgs Boson, it might not. It's possible that tomorrow someone will publish a theory which provides a better explanation of a boson with an energy of ~126 GeV, though the discovery does have to be taken alongside all the other predictions and tests of the theory with which it fits quite well.
* The two LHC detectors discovered a previously unknown boson with mass 125.3 ± 0.6 GeV and 126.0 ± 0.6 GeV respectively. It must be a boson because of how it decayed.

A sharp distinction between truth and falsehood is only relevant in the rarefied and abstract world of philosophy or in courts of law. Scientists deal in making predictions and measuring the accuracy of predictions to the best level of precision they are able, with the least amount of error. A theory which is consistently accurate is useful. My argument for why such theories cannot be wholly divorced from reality were made in The Limitations of Transcendental Idealism (1 Apr 2016). If reality were utterly different from how we conceive of it, we could not conceive of it. But the fact is that by careful measurement and comparing of notes, and through clever interpretation, we do know what reality is like at several different levels and are making progress on both the fundamental substance of the universe and the overall structure of it. In between, we now fully understand reality on the energy, mass and length scales of everyday life. The complexity of the weather makes it difficult to predict far in the future, but we know all of the forces and particles involved in creating weather. Reality is based on matter and energy and no new particles or forces are required to explain anything we see with our naked senses. Indeed there is no room for new particles or forces in our understanding of the world at this level.

Properties of Measurements

Apart from pointing out the irrational basis for it, one simple refutation of Relativism is that the laws of physics still apply even if we do not believe in them. It doesn't matter how you conceive of gravity or interpret it; it does not matter which culture you are from or what you studied at university: a 1000 kg weight dropped from 100 m will crush you like a bug. So even Relativists look both ways when crossing the road, apparently their interpretative framework allows for the working of physical laws even when their philosophy denies that this should be so.

All measurements have three properties: accuracy, precision, and margin of error. Let's imagine that I wish to measure an object that is exactly 1010 mm long. I have a measuring tape with increments of 1 mm. Thus the precision of the measurement is millimetres. The inherent error in the measuring tape (assuming it is accurately calibrated) is usually taken to be half the smallest increment, in this case ± 0.5 mm. Often the first step in taking a measurement is calibrating your instrument - this is a regular procedure in analytical labs for example. Accuracy is how close I get to real measurement. If the tape says 950 mm then that is not very accurate. If it says exactly 1010 mm that is very accurate. But in science we would still give this as 1010 ± 0.5 mm because our instrument has inherent error. For all we know it might have inherent imprecision as well. So we need to repeat the measurement using a different measuring tape or a completely different method as well and compare the results. One measurement is never sufficient. All science is like this.

Sometimes we can sacrifice precision because there is a large inherent error. If we are driving a car along a road is 100 km long, we don't gain anything by measuring our distance travelled in mm, because a car is several meters long in any case. A level of precision of tens of meters is fine for this purpose (and car odometers often have 100 metres as their smallest unit). It can get more complicated. Within a particular inertial frame, such as measuring the length of a road on earth, there are no relativistic effects so we don't need to take into account the relative velocities of the instrument and the object. We can just use classical mechanics to describe the situation because the lack of precision is insignificant compared to the margin of error. If the object I wish to measure is an alien spaceship passing the earth at 10% of the speed of light, then I would have to take into relativistic effects and change how I was interpreting the measurement, because objects appear longer when there is a large relative velocity between object and observer.

The kind of predictions that science makes about reality are really not dependent on interpretative frameworks to the extent that Relativists make out. For example, Einstein's equations predicted that the massless photon would follow a curved path near a massive object. As a massless particle the photon cannot be directly affected by gravity. Einstein proposed that rather than thinking about masses exerting a force on each other, that we we should think of mass bending spacetime. Since photons travel through spacetime, they ought to follow a path determined by the topology of spacetime, the curvature of which would be especially noticeable near a large massive object (like a planet or the sun). This prediction was tested quite early by watching stars near the sun during a total solar eclipse. The path of light from these stars came close enough to the sun for us to be able to measure the curvature caused by the sun's mass, with sufficient precision and margin of error, to show that Einstein's prediction was extremely accurate. Subsequent tests over a century have all demonstrated that Einstein's description of spacetime is accurate to the limits of precision and error available to us. None of this is dependent on where we grew up, or what language we spoke. Einstein wrote his famous papers on Relativity in German.

A photon will follow a curved path near a massive object whatever you believe to be true about the universe. Of course it is only in certain interpretative frameworks that one would even look for evidence of this prediction or count it as salient. In many ways this theory about photons moving in spacetime is not salient to daily life for the vast majority of people. The curvature of spacetime near the earth is so slight that for the purposes of daily life, light travels in straight-lines and we cannot see individual photons in any case. Beyond the physical facts, the curvature of spacetime may not be salient to the Relativist, because in their case being theory-laden prevents them from correctly assessing the salience of any observation. But such observations, repeated, argued about, and now widely agreed upon, are salient when we are considering how the universe works. If we conjecture, for example, that "the universe is moral", then accurate theories of how the universe works in practice are salient. If we conjecture that there is life after death and speculate on how information is conserved from life to life, then again, physics and chemistry are salient.

However, a major problem for Buddhists is that our theories on these subjects don't even stand on their own terms (e.g. The Logic of Karma 16 Jan 2015), let alone when we introduce the more demanding criteria of not violating robust physical laws. The internal logic of karma and rebirth are flawed even on the terms of Buddhists themselves. This is not an original observation of mine, although I did come to this conclusion independently. Nāgārjuna made this observation about mainstream theories of karma and rebirth in the 2nd Century CE. According to Nāgārjuna such propositions cannot possibly be paramārthasatya or ultimate truth. Ultimately there cannot be karma and rebirth, because both violate more fundamental Buddhist axioms about the world. To the best of my knowledge there is no effective counter to this argument from either Theravāda or other Mahāyāna Buddhist sects. Pureland Buddhists have been avoiding the karma problem for at least 2000 years by allowing Amitābha to intervene to save us from our karma. Nor did Vasubandhu and the Yogācārins find the solutions available to them in the 4th Century CE any better, leading them to introduce major innovations into the theory, specifically the ālayavijñāna an ad hoc, block-box solution that provides continuity without being effected by phenomena. The ālayavijñāna this looks every bit like an ātman or like the puruṣa of Sāmkhyadarśana.

But let us return to the present day and the arguments against trendy modern Relativism.

The Solipsistic Fallacy

One of the key Relativist arguments is to point out that observations are always "theory laden", i.e. we unconsciously interpret what we see before we ever report it. While this is accurate to some extent, it also fallaciously insists that everyone is a solipsist who never compares their observations with other people. This fallacy is so common that it needs a name. We can call it the solipsistic fallacy. Because of the solipsistic fallacy, Relativists effectively argue that we cannot identify the problems associated with interpretation by the simple expedient critically comparing notes. In the most extreme version of Relativism each individual is free to interpret any information from their own point of view. In this view, not only is there no truth, but there is no accuracy either, since the accuracy of any theory supposedly depends on the interpretative framework of the observer. This extreme version of Relativism is clearly nonsense, since it amounts to a form of Idealism in which we have no access to other minds and comparing notes wouldn't help even if we could do it.

The solipsistic fallacy genuinely is a fallacy precisely because we can compare notes. Any one with a small telescope can look at Jupiter and confirm Galileo's 1610 observations of the motions of its major satellites. By comparing notes we can identify which aspects of perception are down to the individual and which are not. If we can identify what comes from our interpretations, we can account for that and eliminate it from our understanding of the world around us. We can also design apparatus to respond to the world in ways that we cannot, such a X-ray or gravity-wave detectors. And we can use different apparatus to eliminate the bias due to our designs, which is why the LHC has two main detectors and why the results confirmed by both types of detector are so compelling.

So yes, our individual observations are theory laden. Observation is always accompanied by interpretation to some extent. If two people observe something they may not interpret it the same way and if they compare notes a discussion ensues, something that is not possible according to the solipsistic fallacy. That discussion is on-going and involves everyone on the planet, including millions of scientists who receive training in making and interpretation of observations. Some of the resulting knowledge is so well established that spending time doubting it is irrational and unproductive.

Interpretative Frameworks & Incompleteness.

Relativism is still attractive to anti-Enlightenment thinkers because it allows them to deny the salience of empirical knowledge and avoid the conclusions of such knowledge, even when it is completely irrational to deny the accuracy of empirical theories. It generally works at a tribal level in academia or is projected onto cultures. So, humanities scholars who cannot rationally deny the accuracy of physical laws, will deny their salience because they don't accept the worldview (or what they call "the interpretative framework") of scientists. Or they might argue that the worldview of the tribes of the New Guinea highlands is an equally valid interpretation of the world.

For Buddhists the argument usually turns to the validity of metaphysical speculations regarding the myths of the just-world (karma) and the afterlife (rebirth). If one rejects Materialism and all that goes with it on the basis of a belief in these myths, then scientific knowledge is automatically non-salient to the discussion of the validity of the myths. Traditionalist Buddhists use this manoeuvre to argue that any argument against their view based on physical reality is axiomatically invalid; in doing so they either explicitly or implicitly invoke a non-physical reality which can paradoxically interact with the physical reality with real, but at the same time undetectable consequences. "Beings" are able to move between these two realities because in essence we are non-physical. Note that not all reductionism aims at physical monism consistent with science. This is one reason arguing with religieux is so unsatisfying. Nor can one apply the method of asking for evidence, since the very method of empiricism is aimed at physical reality and can deemed outside the sphere of salience for non-physical reality.

Buddhist arguing for their myths cite the salience of propositions such as long tradition ("no Buddhist has ever disputed the idea of karma"), interpretations of scripture ("the Buddha believed in rebirth"), common sense, ("it makes sense to me that death is not the end of life") and personal experience ("my meditation experiences lead me to conclude that death is not the end"). The comments in parentheses are paraphrases of actual arguments Buddhists have offered to me in response to my questioning of the Buddhist tradition. Over the last couple of years I've dealt with many of these objections at least in passing. These are extremely weak arguments for very strong metaphysical conclusions. 

The fact is that scientists do not always share interpretative frameworks and frequently point out deficiencies in each other's methods where they have allowed bias to impinge. Where methods are acceptable, scientists also argue about how best to interpret observations. If they are well enough informed to know this, however, the Relativist may employ another manoeuvre to turn the tables. These very disagreements amongst scientists, and the fact that scientific paradigms change from time to time, are cited by Relativists as evidence that science is contingent on interpretative frameworks. The strength of such disagreements is often underplayed at the level of popular science and this bolsters the Relativist argument because they see the exposing of disagreement as undercutting the authority of science. This is a superficial argument.

I have often cited the article by Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier in which they show that reasoning does not come into play until there is an argument. Thus argument is actually essential to the progress of knowledge. It does mean that at the bleeding edge of knowledge production there is more uncertainty. But as time goes on the arguments and critiques shakedown the theories and those that do not stand up to scrutiny fall away or are modified. As Sean Carroll has recently said,
"... emphasizing the tentative, always-subject-to-revision nature of science can be taken too far. Science has taught us some things, after all. The computer on which you're reading this really is made of atoms; future discoveries aren't going to reveal that the very idea of atoms was just some kind of mistake." - Fear of Knowing.
Today's scientific theories are more accurate and precise than yesterday's. Certainly science is not complete or entirely without disagreement and even controversy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But we are ahead of where we were. The physics and chemistry of the level of every day life was completely understood.

However it is true that different culture view the world differently, which brings us to the subject of cultural relativity. 

Cultural Relativity

Let's stipulate that there is some culture which is thousands of years old, say a tribe of Elbonian hunter-gatherers who have never had any contact with a Westernised culture because they live in a remote place. At night, sitting around their camp fires, they look up at the stars and see what they take to be the surface of a curved dome, studded with twinkling lights. They know that there are supernatural beings participating in their daily life. A recent survey suggests that 100% of hunter-gathers are animists (Peoples et al. 2016) to whom this kind of conclusion is entirely intuitive. To the Elbonians the lights in the dome above are obviously supernatural beings sitting around their camp-fires in the sky. They don't doubt this and have believed it beyond living memory. It has been many hundreds of generations since any Elbonian questioned this "knowledge".

Relativists argue that this conjecture about the stars, which the Elbonians make, stands on an equal footing with the conjecture that the stars are far off suns like our own, great masses of gas that compress so much under gravity that the centre starts to undergo fusion and thus radiates vast amounts of energy. But the Relativists are simply wrong. The Elbonian theory of the stars makes inaccurate predictions and doesn't explain the observable phenomena. Admittedly the inaccuracy doesn't register at the levels of precisions and error that the Elbonians themselves can muster just by looking up at the sky, but the lack of available precision and the huge error involved do not render the theory accurate. These factors just mean that the inaccuracy is not salient for the Elbonians. 

We may grant that the knowledge of, say, the healing properties of local herbs accumulated by the Elbonians is quite useful. But without double-blind trials and careful elimination of the placebo effect we cannot say for sure that any particular herb is consistently associated with any effect. Even quite well educated and otherwise rational people believe in homeopathy, despite the fact that rigorous tests suggest that any efficacy attributed to homeopathy is down to the placebo effect. The elaborate process of identifying the appropriate remedy is in fact a ritual designed to set the scene for activating the placebo effect. Again the Relativist position is unhelpful because it denies that believing in homeopathy is a poor decision if there is a more accurate alternative explanation of disease and medicine. Testing shows that homeopathy gives results no better than placebo and the theory it is based on make inaccurate and imprecise predictions. All beliefs are not equal.

For example, when I went to India the first time one of our group took a homeopathic malaria remedy instead of the medicine recommended by and freely provided by the UK's National Heath Service. My colleague sincerely believed that had there been malaria-bearing mosquitoes he would be protected. It was too cold for mosquitoes most of the time. This was fortunate because his homeopathic remedy would not have protected him from the malaria parasite and serious, life-threatening illness. In this example we see that belief is definitely not neutral. What we believe about the world is important and may have life and death consequences. Relativists would have us believe that homeopathy deserves a place alongside modern medicine because people like my colleague (and the current Secretary for the Department of Health in the UK Government) choose to ignore all the evidence and sincerely believe in it. Science is not a matter of belief. It's a matter of degrees of accuracy. No matter how sincerely we believe in homeopathy it is an inaccurate theory in the sense that it does nothing to cure or prevent disease other than activating the placebo effect. And better alternatives are available in many cases. The theory of homeopathy prevents advocates from making this distinction. 

While we are on this subject, Relativists also like to use a very broad definition of the word "science" to include any accumulated knowledge. We can also say with some confidence that the Elbonian knowledge about herbs, though meticulously and carefully preserved, is not scientific knowledge. In cataloguing and using herbs the Elbonians are not doing science. Science involves more than just taxonomy or systematic use. A scientific theory tries to explain the efficacy of the herb and in so doing to contribute to a general understanding of the world. Such a theory must accord with existing theories about the world and make predictions that can be tested for accuracy.

Take the real world example of willow bark. If you have a toothache, chewing willow bark may well reduce the pain because it contains a precursor to aspirin (i.e. salicylic acid), a substance with proven analgesic effects. Simply knowing that chewing willow bark reduces pain and using it for that purpose is not an example of science. The science begins when we reflect on all the systematic knowledge that we have about the world and conjecture that a component of the willow bark interacts with our body's complex systems for registering pain; we set out to separate out the components and identify the active one; and then predict that related compounds will have a similar effect. We then synthesis those related compounds and test their analgesic properties and propose or refine a molecular theory of pain and analgesia. The theory has to be nested in with our other theories, with physics, chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, etc. If we create an ad hoc theory that is in conflict with other parts of the body of knowledge then this conflict must be resolved in one of two ways: either the ad hoc theory falls, or the mainstream does. It is almost always ad hoc theories that fall, but one or the other must happen. 

There are thousands of cultures around the world. Many of them have their own unique views about the stars, the healing properties of herbs, and the possibility of life after death. Relativists hold that each system of knowledge is valid on its own terms and that there is no external standard against which we can hold any system of knowledge to be better or worse. If we claim that reality is that standard, and science is the sum of our most accurate inferences about that reality, they may point out that this is simply our interpretative framework and our imperialist and probably racist mindset. This can be a difficult area because of our long European history of imperialism and racism. On the other hand science is truly international and transcends cultural boundaries. People of all cultures participate in the scientific project and are united by a commitment to application of the principles of scientific enquiry. 

There is an external standard by which we can judge claims to knowledge about the world. It is the mind-independent reality that we experience through our senses. We can accurately infer a great deal about this mind-independent reality by using the empirical methods I have already outlined. The case of the Elbonians shows that looking at the world through an interpretative framework can blind us to the nature of this reality. When we believe we know the answers, we don't ask questions. The ability to step outside our own worldview is really quite rare. But being blinded is not inevitable, one of the main reasons for this is that we can compare notes we people who have different interpretative frameworks and see whose theory makes the more accurate predictions. In this way we have come to know quite a lot about how the world is constructed and what it is constructed from at different levels.

On the other hand just because someone is wrong about God or the afterlife does not give us licence to feel or act superior towards them. Such views are widely held precisely because they are intuitive. And this seems to be because of the way our cognitive functions evolved. Hating someone who disagrees with us about metaphysics is about as rational as hating animals that have don't have opposable thumbs, or that do have wings. Just as in the concept of freedom of speech we defend the right of someone to say something we disagree with, in cultural terms there is no justification for looking down on cultures that have a different interpretative frame from us. We can even value another culture that we disagree with. I think many of us who started our education about Buddhism by learning about traditional Buddhism retain a feeling of respect for the original teachers of the traditions, even when we conclude that they got some things wrong. That I currently find karma and rebirth implausible does not diminish my feelings of gratitude and respect for my teachers for introducing me to the ideas, attitudes, symbols and practices of Buddhism, nor for the early Buddhists who words I read and study. As modern convert Buddhists we can, at least in theory, pay our respects to our cultural heritage and to our adopted religion. 


Physical Relativism is a false view. There is an external physical standard, though understanding it requires us to question our existing worldview and it can take some sophisticated technology to investigate it thoroughly. Our current state of knowledge is still partial and what we know is subject to the limitations of the precision and levels of error to which we can measure the properties of the world. But we know the macro-scale world very well. Sean Carroll has plausibly argued that "the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely known." Cultural Relativism has serious limitations and when it conflicts with science as a modernist I side with science precisely because of this external reality. The collection of Buddhist traditions on their own terms are a remarkable and usually admirable product of pre-modern thinking with a veneer of modernism. I want to see a genuine synthesis of Buddhism and modernism. Taken to its logical conclusion, this synthesis will no doubt leave little of the traditional intact, but this will not be the first time this has happened in Buddhism. 

Moral Relativism is a much more difficult proposition because no one has yet identified any moral reality. But my argument here is not with moral Relativism, it is with the physical and cultural kinds. I think these arguments are best kept apart.

The accuracy with which one can measure one's predictions creates a divide between different groups. Philosophers seldom bother to look through a telescope or a microscope, let alone any more sophisticated apparatus. So their worldview is more constrained and their arguments less conclusive than they might be. They misunderstand the significance of the measurements being made by scientists. Similarly, scientists who are not trained to think about the implications of their measurements make mistakes like concluding that reductionism applies to both substance and structure when constructing explanations of the universe. Even if the accuracy of the measurement is stipulated there is still the problem of how belief alters the shape of our worldview by changing how we assign salience to them. An accurate measurement might be judged to have little salience because it conflicts with a cherished belief.

Indeed this can happen in science too. Max Planck once quipped that science proceeds one funeral at a time. There is now some evidence to suggest that this quip is an accurate prediction (Azoulay et al. 2015). Charismatic senior researchers do tend to stifle innovation and dissent in a field. The effect is like a large canopy tree in a forest, suppressing saplings. But then the researcher dies, and just as in the forest there is a rapid rise of saplings that have survived in their shadow (though not among those closest to the researcher). The point is that, yes, science is to some extent a hostage to human foibles, but in the long run the methods and institutions of science overcome these limitations. The same cannot be said of religious methods and institutions, which remain in thrall to cognitive bias and logical fallacy.



Azoulay, P., Fons-Rosen, C., and Graff Zivin, J. S. (2015) Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time? NBER Working Paper No. 21788, December, 2015. http://www.econ.upf.edu/docs/papers/downloads/1498.pdf

Baghramian, M. and Carter, J. A. (2015). Relativism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophyhttp://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/

Peoples, H. C., Duda, P. F. and Marlowe, W. (2016) Hunter-Gatherers and the Origins of Religion. Human Nature. 1-22. First online: 06 May 2016. DOI: 10.1007/s12110-016-9260-0.
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