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The miracle of science

the_croftmeister
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6/18/2013 6:01:27 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I remember a class at university on scientific practice. We were required to submit comments on the online forums at least 3 times during the semester. I thought it was ridiculous so I thought I would stir up some debate on the forum so I would have something interesting to read. It turns out that most students (and even some of the teachers) are as bad as the most devout religious fanatics when it comes to dogmatic beliefs.

The conundrum I posed was related to the belief in the heliocentric model of the solar system. Now I don't doubt this model, but many people once did, and there are people out there who still do, and there was a general consensus amongst my fellow students that those people who do are either stupid or blind. So I posted my doubts that anybody had seen the evidence that the Earth goes round the Sun and not the other way around. I know some astronomers, they no doubt have seen it. My lecturer responded that she did not know if we had been shown it, but that she had seen the evidence in high school. I responded that I had been told that there was evidence, even had the evidence described to me, but I hadn't seen the numbers to draw my own conclusions from. I got no response relevant to this question.

Belief that scientific practice has been followed is enough to accept these theories as given. My thoughts on this subject were not given much credence, and led to much disdain from some of my peers in the course. I do however think that the fundamental message is important. Science is important because we pursue it as a science, not because we call it science. Much practical scientific belief is fundamentally no different from religious dogma, people believe it because they have been taught it. True science is in the evidence and not in the belief in the conclusions we make from that evidence.

This to me is the miracle of science. That we can use the scientific method to achieve such astounding knowledge while committing essentially exactly the same mistakes of which we accuse the religiose.

I would be interested to here what other's experiences were like. Do you look at the data? Or do you just listen to the description of the data and nod your head? I'm not asking you to doubt scientific fact but rather just reflect.
Perhaps we could all use a dose of humility when dealing with those of faith.
chui
Posts: 507
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6/18/2013 9:35:25 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/18/2013 6:01:27 AM, the_croftmeister wrote:
It turns out that most students (and even some of the teachers) are as bad as the most devout religious fanatics when it comes to dogmatic beliefs.


What did they do to you? Condemn you to hell, declare a fatwa extolling the faithful to attack on sight? Stone you, torture you, burn you alive for heresy? No, they just got a bit upset and short tempered. So they are no where near as bad as religious fanatics.

Much practical scientific belief is fundamentally no different from religious dogma, people believe it because they have been taught it.

I do not believe that what is written in my textbooks is the word of God. It is not beyond question. In fact questioning is encouraged in science classes. Every time new evidence is found the books get re-written. Religions are typically based on one ancient book or set of ancient books that are to be accepted as holding deep truths that are eternal.

That we can use the scientific method to achieve such astounding knowledge while committing essentially exactly the same mistakes of which we accuse the religiose.

If any theory were found to be contradictory or paradoxical it is not accepted. You seem to be suggesting that scientists are guilty of accepting new theories without question. This is just not true. Science is peer reviewed and in most cases scientific papers are made publicly available for anyone to check. Did you not hear about the cold fusion scandal of Pons and Fleischmann? They ruined their careers by publishing bad science.

Perhaps we could all use a dose of humility when dealing with those of faith.

I am happy to respect any and all individual views and I accept that science does not have all the answers. But science is not a faith: It responds to the evidence, any one can access it if they wish and it is open to question. Many people do accept scientific facts without question. The point is though that it is possible to question them if you wish. If you find a genuine error or discover a new theory it is added to the body of knowledge. What would happen if I wrote a new book for the bible?
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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6/18/2013 5:13:00 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/18/2013 9:35:25 AM, chui wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:01:27 AM, the_croftmeister wrote:
It turns out that most students (and even some of the teachers) are as bad as the most devout religious fanatics when it comes to dogmatic beliefs.


What did they do to you? Condemn you to hell, declare a fatwa extolling the faithful to attack on sight? Stone you, torture you, burn you alive for heresy? No, they just got a bit upset and short tempered. So they are no where near as bad as religious fanatics.
I believe the key to my point was 'when it comes to dogmatic beliefs'. They could not provide a cogent argument for their positions. I'm not saying that they are as bad in all other measures.

Much practical scientific belief is fundamentally no different from religious dogma, people believe it because they have been taught it.

I do not believe that what is written in my textbooks is the word of God. It is not beyond question. In fact questioning is encouraged in science classes. Every time new evidence is found the books get re-written. Religions are typically based on one ancient book or set of ancient books that are to be accepted as holding deep truths that are eternal.
You might not, I wasn't saying all science was done this way. Just that it is practical to use the same techniques. Plenty of 'wrong' scientific theories are still taught because they are useful as approximations. Plenty of people also make the mistake that the theory tells you something about the nature of the thing. It doesn't, it just tells you about what it does.

That we can use the scientific method to achieve such astounding knowledge while committing essentially exactly the same mistakes of which we accuse the religiose.

If any theory were found to be contradictory or paradoxical it is not accepted. You seem to be suggesting that scientists are guilty of accepting new theories without question. This is just not true. Science is peer reviewed and in most cases scientific papers are made publicly available for anyone to check. Did you not hear about the cold fusion scandal of Pons and Fleischmann? They ruined their careers by publishing bad science.
Of course this is true (though I'm sure religious people debate at the top before they accept new interpretations of the text). I am not saying that science doesn't review potential new theories, just that from an individuals point of view, they have to rely on other people to do this. Most of what we know is accepted on faith (faith in the method and that that method has been followed). Of course you may say that it what we have faith in that is important (and I would agree) but many people argue against faith entirely, and do not accept the religiously minded when they say I believe it because it works (and from their perspective it might).

Perhaps we could all use a dose of humility when dealing with those of faith.

I am happy to respect any and all individual views and I accept that science does not have all the answers. But science is not a faith: It responds to the evidence, any one can access it if they wish and it is open to question. Many people do accept scientific facts without question. The point is though that it is possible to question them if you wish. If you find a genuine error or discover a new theory it is added to the body of knowledge. What would happen if I wrote a new book for the bible?
Well for starters the church does modify its position on things over time. Books are written which are not additions to the bible but concerning religious teachings and interpretations based on new situtations.
Consider the scientific method as 'the bible of science' and every paper ever written as the 'extra interpretative matter' for given situations (experiments, theories, subject matter).

I'm not questioning the validity of science and I'm not saying that science itself is a faith. What I am saying is that belief in scientific teachings can be. I just notice a lot of negativity towards the faithful. I'm glad that you are accepting of other people, not everyone is so level-minded.
Lordknukle
Posts: 12,788
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6/18/2013 6:04:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Except that religious dogma isn't objectively verifiable. If one thousand scientists have all conducted the same experiment and have produced the same results, there is no need to conduct your own experiment.
"Easy is the descent to Avernus, for the door to the Underworld lies upon both day and night. But to retrace your steps and return to the breezes above- that's the task, that's the toil."
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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6/18/2013 6:59:06 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/18/2013 6:04:05 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Except that religious dogma isn't objectively verifiable. If one thousand scientists have all conducted the same experiment and have produced the same results, there is no need to conduct your own experiment.

How do you know? Do you have some convincing philosophical argument that assures you that the laws of physics will not change? I'm not disagreeing with the pragmatic view that it is highly unlikely since we've never seen it, but really we only a have a single universe as our sample space, who knows what unobserved factors could be influencing it.

I'm not advocating we go around checking every experiment we can find. It is the belief that something that was objectively verifiable at one point will remain so that I find miraculous, if you don't agree, that's fine but I would argue that it is your bias form living in a world in which the rules are pretty consistent so far as we can tell.
Enji
Posts: 1,022
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6/18/2013 7:17:25 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/18/2013 6:01:27 AM, the_croftmeister wrote:

This to me is the miracle of science. That we can use the scientific method to achieve such astounding knowledge while committing essentially exactly the same mistakes of which we accuse the religiose.

Do you criticise religious claims of the empirical world on account of their content or on account of their basis?
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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6/18/2013 10:11:10 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/18/2013 7:17:25 PM, Enji wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:01:27 AM, the_croftmeister wrote:

This to me is the miracle of science. That we can use the scientific method to achieve such astounding knowledge while committing essentially exactly the same mistakes of which we accuse the religiose.

Do you criticise religious claims of the empirical world on account of their content or on account of their basis?

Depends on the claim, I'm a strong agnostic so I try to avoid criticising religion at all except when it encourages people to do stupid things or people use it as an excuse to do stupid things.
Lordknukle
Posts: 12,788
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6/19/2013 3:24:57 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/18/2013 6:59:06 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:04:05 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Except that religious dogma isn't objectively verifiable. If one thousand scientists have all conducted the same experiment and have produced the same results, there is no need to conduct your own experiment.

How do you know? Do you have some convincing philosophical argument that assures you that the laws of physics will not change? I'm not disagreeing with the pragmatic view that it is highly unlikely since we've never seen it, but really we only a have a single universe as our sample space, who knows what unobserved factors could be influencing it.

I'm not advocating we go around checking every experiment we can find. It is the belief that something that was objectively verifiable at one point will remain so that I find miraculous, if you don't agree, that's fine but I would argue that it is your bias form living in a world in which the rules are pretty consistent so far as we can tell.

And this is why I can't stand philosophy.
"Easy is the descent to Avernus, for the door to the Underworld lies upon both day and night. But to retrace your steps and return to the breezes above- that's the task, that's the toil."
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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6/19/2013 4:39:34 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/19/2013 3:24:57 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:59:06 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:04:05 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Except that religious dogma isn't objectively verifiable. If one thousand scientists have all conducted the same experiment and have produced the same results, there is no need to conduct your own experiment.

How do you know? Do you have some convincing philosophical argument that assures you that the laws of physics will not change? I'm not disagreeing with the pragmatic view that it is highly unlikely since we've never seen it, but really we only a have a single universe as our sample space, who knows what unobserved factors could be influencing it.

I'm not advocating we go around checking every experiment we can find. It is the belief that something that was objectively verifiable at one point will remain so that I find miraculous, if you don't agree, that's fine but I would argue that it is your bias form living in a world in which the rules are pretty consistent so far as we can tell.

And this is why I can't stand philosophy.

Because you think it's wrong? or because you think its useless? Philosophy has a huge impact on the development of the sciences and it was by questions like this that falsificationism, Occam's Razor and such were arrived at in the first place.
Lordknukle
Posts: 12,788
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6/19/2013 9:27:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/19/2013 4:39:34 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 6/19/2013 3:24:57 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:59:06 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:04:05 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Except that religious dogma isn't objectively verifiable. If one thousand scientists have all conducted the same experiment and have produced the same results, there is no need to conduct your own experiment.

How do you know? Do you have some convincing philosophical argument that assures you that the laws of physics will not change? I'm not disagreeing with the pragmatic view that it is highly unlikely since we've never seen it, but really we only a have a single universe as our sample space, who knows what unobserved factors could be influencing it.

I'm not advocating we go around checking every experiment we can find. It is the belief that something that was objectively verifiable at one point will remain so that I find miraculous, if you don't agree, that's fine but I would argue that it is your bias form living in a world in which the rules are pretty consistent so far as we can tell.

And this is why I can't stand philosophy.

Because you think it's wrong? or because you think its useless? Philosophy has a huge impact on the development of the sciences and it was by questions like this that falsificationism, Occam's Razor and such were arrived at in the first place.

Yes, Occam's Razor has clearly had great practical applications for modern life. /end sarcasm

The point is that such useless theorizing about the notion that the laws of the universe may not necessarily be universal is completely stupid, as it does nothing for the good or the better of the human race. I would contend that almost any single scientific invention, no matter how small, is more useful for the human race than the combined philosophy from all the philosophers that have ever existed.
"Easy is the descent to Avernus, for the door to the Underworld lies upon both day and night. But to retrace your steps and return to the breezes above- that's the task, that's the toil."
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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6/19/2013 9:43:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/19/2013 9:27:07 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
At 6/19/2013 4:39:34 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 6/19/2013 3:24:57 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:59:06 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 6/18/2013 6:04:05 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Except that religious dogma isn't objectively verifiable. If one thousand scientists have all conducted the same experiment and have produced the same results, there is no need to conduct your own experiment.

How do you know? Do you have some convincing philosophical argument that assures you that the laws of physics will not change? I'm not disagreeing with the pragmatic view that it is highly unlikely since we've never seen it, but really we only a have a single universe as our sample space, who knows what unobserved factors could be influencing it.

I'm not advocating we go around checking every experiment we can find. It is the belief that something that was objectively verifiable at one point will remain so that I find miraculous, if you don't agree, that's fine but I would argue that it is your bias form living in a world in which the rules are pretty consistent so far as we can tell.

And this is why I can't stand philosophy.

Because you think it's wrong? or because you think its useless? Philosophy has a huge impact on the development of the sciences and it was by questions like this that falsificationism, Occam's Razor and such were arrived at in the first place.

Yes, Occam's Razor has clearly had great practical applications for modern life. /end sarcasm

The point is that such useless theorizing about the notion that the laws of the universe may not necessarily be universal is completely stupid, as it does nothing for the good or the better of the human race. I would contend that almost any single scientific invention, no matter how small, is more useful for the human race than the combined philosophy from all the philosophers that have ever existed.

Fair enough. I think you're wrong and I might try and find some examples at some point but sure I'll go along with the premise. I think it's a big leap from 'no good or betterment for the human race' to 'stupid' though.
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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6/19/2013 9:51:02 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Also, are you claiming Occam's razor is not one of the fundamental tennets of scientific inquiry? Because I'm pretty sure most people will disagree with you. In fact there are whole areas of statistical, informational and computational theory which would simply be pointless without it.