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The Antiscience - Part I

Posted April 15, 2010 3:56 PM by Bayes

Preface

Philosophical Extremes; A Defense of Pure Reason

The other day I found myself defending the existence of the Large Hadron Collider and fundamental research in general. The effort was discouraging and, more importantly, dispiriting. There is a feeling of persecution in the scientific community, unspoken but unmistakable. There's a creeping fear that the world is going mad and we can't stop it. We work, discover, present, and solve more and more problems. Yet the more we solve, the less credibility we seem to have.

I turned inward to try to understand why this is happening. I can't abide my fellow scientists and their insecure need to justify truth. The value of truth is self-evident to me. Indulging the opinions of the uninformed in some sort of attempt to seem open-minded (as though one can be open-minded about the truth) seems more damaging than helpful. Such actions undermine science, giving authority to opinion at the expense of truth.

After some thought, I came to the conclusion that the current sentiment against pure research is the logical progression of our current philosophical age. We are, I believe, approaching a sort of philosophical extreme, where the tenets of that age's philosophy are taken too far.

This series of posts will trace briefly the progression of philosophy that has led to our current philosophical age. They will attempt to demonstrate the cyclic tendency of Philosophy-Extremism-Rejection-New Philosophy which, I believe, can explain the current sentiment about science in the world.

The purpose of this series of posts is not to solve, but rather to understand what is happening. I dedicate it to my fellow scientists under siege.

The Antiscience

"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new."

Epistemology has dominated philosophy for the past several centuries in the same way that Theology had during the previous millennium. Our modern age, defined by the advancement of technology, today exists because of our better understanding of how to acquire natural truths and exploit them. This understanding comes after many centuries of struggling to comprehend the world around us. Of course, it wasn't always as it is now, this modern way of looking at the world, and less intuitively, it won't always be this way.

Tens of thousands of years ago, humans started filling the voids created by consciousness with Art, Religion, and Philosophy, and in that time the process has been marked by only the certainty of change. To try to trace the philosophical movements of the past thousand years would be disjointed and ultimately distracting. I'll instead begin with the first movement of the modern philosophical epoch which consists of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Realism, and finally our current Technology Age.

The Renaissance: A New Epoch in Philosophy Begins

"One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another." - Rene Descartes

The current philosophical epoch, spanning the Renaissance to the present day, began as a rediscovery of an earlier Greco-Roman epoch of philosophy. For 1200 years the Greeks and then the Romans had sought with furious industry to determine the physical nature of the world, of humans, and of human institutions. Then, with the ascension of the first Christian Emperor, and later the fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic tribes, that epoch of Aristotle, Euclid and Ptolemy had ended and the new epoch of Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, and Desiderius Erasmus began.

After the fall of Rome, theology reigned. Philosophers would spend a millennium debating the doctrines of Christianity, and the nature of the human spirit. During these years, schools of thought would come and go and eventually a set of principles evolved which, for the most part, manifest themselves as our understanding of the human spirit today (being present, but not part of the human body, death being the separation of the spirit and the body, afterlife being the place where the spirit goes, etc.). By the 13th century, the Church as an institution looked unshakeable and Italy began to prosper. It was the height of the Theological Epoch.

Rebirth

The Rebirth (the literal meaning of Renaissance) started slowly and innocently enough. By the 14th century, the people of the Italian peninsula, particularly Venice where trade was flourishing, began to feel nostalgic for the greatness of old Rome. Petrarch, a poet from Venice, wrote the Epic Poem Africa, which detailed the old Roman Republican hero Scipio Africanus, the general who defeated the Carthaginian menace, Hannibal. Petrarch's work was well-received, and he used his influence to push for the recovery and Latin translations of early Greek and Roman writers. Soon everyone in Italy was searching everywhere for extant Greek and Roman works and amassing a vast corpus of ancient literature. Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Homer, Aristotle, Plutarch, Sappho, Herodotus, Tacitus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristophanes, and many other ancient writers were dusted off, studied and debated. The early renaissance was a vibrant time of rediscovery that soon spread throughout Europe, supported and even patronized by the Church. Art and Sculpture and Literature of increasing quality could be found throughout the Italian City States of Florence, Milan, Venice, and the Papal States. The Renaissance began as a happy marriage of Theology and History, each glorifying the other.

The Church's support and enthusiasm for the early Renaissance was mostly because it was in accord with established theology, but over time, an interest in the "classical era" of the Greeks and Romans and their works inevitably led to a resurgence in the philosophical topics of that epoch. What had started as an exercise in nostalgia slowly transformed, by the 16th and 17th centuries, into a renewed interest in the cultural and intellectual peaks of the philosophies of ancient Greece and Rome. What had been up until then a relatively smooth transition between theological and the new Revived Greco-Roman philosophical epochs began to get a bit turbulent as rediscovered ancient ideas contradicted Church doctrine. Soon philosophers such as Galileo Galilei were pushing the boundaries of knowledge beyond that which the church felt comfortable. The unexpected success of the Protestant Reformation had made the Church cautious, and it started to stand in opposition to the expanding Philosophical Renaissance. It was soon apparent that for this Rebirth of Philosophy to continue to grow, the movement would have to separate itself from the tethers of theology.

The Enlightenment: Reason over Doctrine

"As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." - Voltaire

Those ancient Greco-Roman philosophies had seduced a continent plagued by disease, war, and an increasingly impotent Church, to return to contemplating the ancient ideals of the human form, government, art, and knowledge or "truth". Scholars sought out and devoured the ancient works, combining classic thought and modern theology, achieving artistic heights and intellectual leaps. Eventually however, philosophers started to view Theology, particularly Church doctrine, as more of a hindrance than as a compliment to understanding the natural world. There was a shift, not epochal, but still significant. The shift would break the final fetters of theology and glorify not the Church, but reason as the highest authority for understanding the natural world.

During the Enlightenment, the ideal of knowledge, called "truth", subjugated the other ideals. Reason and empiricism, the means by which "truth" was obtained, were applied to all the arts and sciences, from biology to music to politics. The scientific method, the ultimate expression of the Enlightenment, was born of the belief that through precise observation and reasoning, one could obtain truth. During this period, it was believed that all of the ills experienced by man could be conquered eventually by reason. In the beginning, there were many successes and much progress was made. But soon the philosophical pendulum reached an extreme, and what had started out as a means to free thought from theology turned into a cult of rationality. The enlightenment railed against anything that couldn't be proven by reason and labeled such things "superstitions". Soon political "enlightenment" led to the French Revolution and countless horrors for Europe.

Ultimately this was the Enlightenment's undoing. For as well as reason and observation serves us, and as much as progress can be made by indoctrinating the acquisition of knowledge, it didn't explain the fact that human beings had been painting seashells for 40,000 years. That is to say, there are aspects of the human experience that are separate from reason - some would even say transcend reason. People knew this intuitively, but the Enlightenment rejected it.

Romanticism

"I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief." - Immanuel Kant

The backlash against the pure reasoning of the Enlightenment manifested itself as a movement of its own, Romanticism. Romanticism embraced emotional experience as the relevant experience. The romantics believed that the Enlightenment had gone too far, that not everything could be explained with "cold" reasoning. Romantics pointed to intuition and imagination as the means to attain truth. Romanticism was marked by Revivalism, Gothic Resurgence, and a general nostalgia for that extinct and now Romanticized Theological Epoch. Unfortunately, the world was moving forward, not backward, and soon the cold realities of the American Civil War, The Crimean War, and countless colonial rebellions across the globe undermined the romanticized worldview. As with all movements, Romanticism went too far. Obviously, every truth couldn't be derived by mere imagination. Surely, some reasoning was necessary. Thus the next major movement, Realism, was born.

Realism

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." - Frederick Nietzsche

Realism rejected what it felt were the overly emotional sentiments of the Romantics, embracing instead "truth", be it good or bad. This was subtlety different from the Enlightenment in that where the Enlightenment sought ideals in every aspect of human experience, realism simply sought one ideal - the ideal of knowledge, "truth". The realists weren't trying to save the world through reason like the Enlightenment thinkers, or embrace it with emotions like the Romantics, but rather understand all the "truths" of it, whether those truths be ugly or beautiful, coldly and critically.

".......This is the sort of modernity that made us ill, --we sickened on lazy peace, cowardly compromise, the whole virtuous dirtiness of the modern Yea and Nay. This tolerance and largeur of the heart that "forgives" everything because it "understands" everything is a sirocco to us. Rather live amid the ice than among modern virtues and other such south-winds! We were brave enough; we spared neither ourselves nor others'......" - Friedrich Nietzsche "Der Antichrist" 1888.

One example of Realism, and it's fatal flaw, is the passage quoted above from Nietzsche's Der Antichrist. The passage articulates Nietzsche's and other Realists' belief that Christianity was undermining Natural Selection. Nietzsche complains that the tenets of Christianity, principally compassion for the weak, prevents Natural Selection from weeding the weaker races from the stronger ones, thus undermining the evolution of mankind. Nietzsche, himself frail and a bit of a loner, went to great pains to explain that weak individuals in a "strong" race were counter-intuitively a blessing because they could make out-sized contributions due to their "time to think". (You've got to love Nietzsche. If you find yourself quoting Nietzsche, however, I suggest you read him thoroughly first).

In Der Antichrist he uses the term "Hyperbolean" to describe the stronger races and the plague of religion as originating "in the south". What Nietzsche was writing in Der Antichrist was that it was an unpleasant fact that Natural Selection exists, but being a realist meant you accepted that fact. Furthermore, since "compassion for the weak" was in direct opposition to Natural Selection (Survival of the Fittest), it was a blight and a hindrance of Human Kind's progress.

Therein lies the difficulty with Realism. It starts with a truth and uses logic to reach a conclusion. Unfortunately, realism never double checks the truth it starts with. It assumes that truth to be correct and never revisits it.

Compassion for our fellow human beings isn't a "blight". Our compassion for each other isn't in opposition to natural selection; it is the result of natural selection. Scientists now have found that it is our high altruism that separates us from even our nearest primate relatives, who themselves are fairly compassionate for animals. Our ability to empathize, our compassion, our altruism are the very traits that make us so successful as a species. In fact, our species is defined by our ability to cooperate. Nietzsche misunderstood natural selection, specifically "fittest" in the phrase of "Survival of the Fittest", but he wasn't alone in that misunderstanding. Many of the Realists made the same mistake; it was called "Social Darwinism". It took two world wars and several holocausts for the world to yearn again for a little idealism.

After World War II, the world was irreversably changed. The horrors of the last few decades demanded a change in thinking. The world needed idealism again, something to save humanity from itself, and they knew exactly what could do it.

End of Part I

Click here for Part II

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#1

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 4:53 PM

Nice work, Roger. I look forward to your next part.

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#2

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 5:11 PM

This is extraordinary, Roger. In your section about the Enlightenment, I was struck by the following.

". . . what had started out as a means to free thought from theology turned into a cult of rationality. The enlightenment railed against anything that couldn't be proven by reason and labeled such things 'superstitions'. Soon political 'enlightenment' led to the French Revolution and countless horrors for Europe."

Maybe you'll cover this in a subsequent entry, but there seem to be some similarities between that age and now. Some scientists today are, to the point of an almost irrational hatred, hostile towards religion and religious believers. But as the rise of religious fundamentalism around the world (including here in the U.S.) shows, those whom scientists and other intellectual elites dismiss as "superstitious" are fighting back - and not just on school boards.

In my opinion, this struggle is tragic. Science vs. Faith is a false dichotomy; it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. A person doesn't have to be an atheist to be a scientist. And a religious believer can appreciate what he or she cannot understand, prove, solve or dissect (either in this world or the next) without being a fundamentalist.

That's my two cents. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to the next installment in your series.

- Moose

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#3
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 8:11 PM

Moose,

Great post; you have described my thoughts on the subject quite well.

Mike

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#11
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:52 PM

..."Some scientists today are, to the point of an almost irrational hatred, hostile towards religion and religious believers."

Much of this I believe is merely a reaction to the in-your-face perversion of Christianity. A huge percentage of "Christians" don't understand or even believe their own tenets of faith. If they did, they would not be so easily goaded by the constant political blasphemy. They have perverted the words of their own "living God".

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#16
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:03 AM

and another part are dogmatic Literalists... equally infuriating.

I'm all for spiritual growth, but following some fdup history book word for word is not the way. Even that book tells you the way is 'within' so wtf?

Chris

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#45
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:18 AM

Young man,

Anger at the depth of another's belief system is pointless. Tolerance does not equate to acceptance - if you don't believe what they believe. The Creator permitted us the ability to reason - and make choices. It is our individual responsibility to acknowledge we are not the center of the universe, and coexist with other sentient beings. Inner peace comes from choosing to extend kindness to those around us, and work on cleaning up our act to become someone worthy of respect. Equally important is the moral imperative we have as men to defend and protect those who are weak and defenseless. I hope you will come to understand the Bible is not a "fdup history book." When you can find any collection of volumes with a central theme not flawed, and inspiring millions and generations of humankind in a positive direction, let the rest of us know what you have discovered.

This is not an attack on your current belief system. I am seeking truth also.

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#46
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:29 AM

this may be veering off topic, at this point I am not to decide that.

The book what Chris is referring to was written by man. who also chose what and what not to put in it.

p911

btw, thats a good compliment referring to a young man.

Chris looks good far a man pushing 50.

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#48
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:43 AM

In my belief system, the Bible is written by man, inspired by God. I will not argue about it. There are interesting passages in this book, referring to the properties of faith. I also reference 1 Corinthians, Chapter 2, verses 14-15. This is in support of the original posting of Roger's thread.

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him: nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

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#49
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:50 AM

Now I'm going off topic.???

In my belief system, the Bible is written by man, inspired by God.

Yes, but who decided what was written in the book. It was not God.

There were things that was in God inpiration that man did not include because it was a threat to the religion.

That was my point.

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#51
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:58 AM

Hmm, can't vote GA on off topic responses? Well GA anyway.

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#53
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:13 PM

You are entitled to your beliefs and owe not obligation to anyone to defend them. The thing I can't abide in this world are religious zealots, be they Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, or Atheist.

A zealot demands a defense but never offers one. You don't strike me as a zealot.

For what it's worth, I too believe the bible was written by man but divinely inspired.

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#50
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:54 AM

Thanks P and Alaskan_Dad,

With all due respect to you and your opinions, I would consider it highly debatable to say that the Bible has lead people only in a positive direction. I would say that it has also led directly to many wars, murders, and much mayhem, as well as stifling the growth of intellectual pursuit, to say nothing of the perpetuation of the continued suppression of women. (along with other Religions.)

A great man once said "Religion is an organization set up to harness and control the actions of man, by using fear as a tool" and that use the 'sacred' writings, edited into sacredness by royal command, as substantiation and dogma.

More specifically to the theme of this blog, Religious dogma based on the Bible has overtly discouraged Scientific inquiry for centuries. That being said, all human activities tend to create institutions out of their thoughts, and pass power upwards to effective leaders. This leads to corruption.

True spiritual guidance is within, and needs no bible. Scientific Inquiry does not interfere with this, and until science begins dictating what to think or do, it will not.

I commend your gentle message.

Chris

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#85
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:53 PM

Having now studied and obtained a degree in theology, and having been a leader in a couple different churches, let just say that being a follower of Christ, and being a member of a Christian religious group are two entirely different things.

The terrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity, or covered up or condoned by Christian religions is astonishing and deeply saddening to me. Chris is exactly right, the bible has been used to justify much harm and mayhem.

Pursuit of truth, spiritual or scientific, is a worthy endeavor. I am convinced that truly following Jesus Christ can only lead in a positive direction. Unfortunately the vast majority of people that participate in Christian religion, are not followers of Christ.

I can't say I have it down perfectly either, but as a human I have no expectation of being perfect or always right. It is those that justify their actions based on the bible that seem to think that they can be perfect or always right....

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#87
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 12:05 AM

"I am convinced that truly following Jesus Christ can only lead in a positive direction."

agreed. but equally true of some others, such as Buddha. Truth is where you find it.

I started out as a christian, but have discovered that the childhood stories told in the bible are somewhat taken out of context, and some parts are simply not true. Obviously a matter of some debate.

Chris

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#21
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:50 AM

Can you give any examples of where scientists show an "... almost irrational hatred, hostile towards religion and religious believers"?

Dawkins and his mates might be strident, ill-tempered and a bit rude, but I haven't seen them displaying irrational hatred. Rather than attack people they aggressively attack dodgy arguments, there is a difference.

So please, some examples.

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#28
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 4:07 AM

Try reading "Is God a Delusion" by Nicky Gumbel.

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#22
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:05 AM

In my opinion, this struggle is tragic. Science vs. Faith is a false dichotomy; it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.

Re: tragic: Historically, the transition from one mode of thought to another has been a struggle, and Ken Wilbur (generally considered the integral philosophy thought leader) and others would argue that the struggle is necessary. It is the excesses of one epoch that lead to the next. It's a bit like human birth -- a horribly painful process, but rewarding.

Ken Wilbur's "Theory of Everything" is a good introduction to Integral Philosophy (which seeks to integrate spiritual and materialistic thought). Steve McIntosh wrote Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, in which he writes:

  • Despite the contradictions and chaos apparent in the historical record, Hegel showed how history unfolds through a dialectical process wherein conflict makes possible the transformation to higher states of organization. And while Hegel's influence faded in the second half of the 19th century, his prescient understanding of the dialectical structure of history began to be validated during the 20th century through research in the social sciences, and especially in the field of developmental psychology.

Re: it doesn't have to be either/or:

I tend to agree (and I find integral philosophy attractive) although I do not dismiss the possibility that we will come to understand that there is no magic at work. We double our knowledge every 10 years (probably) so we now know about 1000 times as much as we did a century ago. But we are just beginning to catch on to how things work, and have barely scratched the surface of how the human brain works. It's not unreasonable to think that we have invented religion, spirituality, souls, etc out of raging egos -- our brains, so awash in the feelings of self-importance that keep us alive and able to reproduce, have ascribed to us magical properties, such as being God-like. A human writes that we are created in His image -- and we are so egotistical that we believe it!

McIntosh acknowledges that each stage in the evolution of thought is necessary, just as each stage in a child's development is necessary. He draws strong parallels between the two processes, as does Wilbur. Unfortunately for the sake of peace, all cultures do not evolve in lock step, so we live in a world in which consciousness ranges from tribal, through warrior, through traditional, through modern, through post modern, through glimmers of integral.

Reading about the evolution of philosophies can make one hopeful -- perhaps we are coming together. But then you think about the trend in US politics... one nation indivisible. If we can't get along here, how can we hope to get along with dramatically different cultures?

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#33
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 7:24 AM

In centuries past, it was actually the opposite of the way it is today. Once upon a time, it was the belief in a Creator that drove science. If there is a Creator, then there is a reason, and an explanation for the beauty and order we find in all creation. That gives science a purpose.

The downfall of present day studies, I think, is that the scientific community is built on the presupposition that there is no Creator. This creates a very strong bent against any conclusion - whether accurate or not - that would lead to the admission of a Creator. This tremendously hinders research, because any conclusion that would contradict the presupposition is automatically disposed of.

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#37
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 8:33 AM

The scientific community is not based on the idea there is no creator. That is your misconception.

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#54
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:13 PM

The downfall of present day studies, I think, is that the scientific community is built on the presupposition that there is no Creator.

There are two issues here: 1. that there is a downfall in present day studies, and 2. that the scientific community is built on the presupposition that there is no Creator.

1. I can find nothing at all to support the first issue -- our rate of knowledge acquisition is impressive, and the degree to which the world's scientists can work together is unprecedented.

2. I can also find nothing to support your second contention. The branch of science which deals with "creation" is tiny in the overall scheme of things. Although there are some cosmologists who speak and write fairly strongly to support one theory over another, no single scientist appears convinced that his view is certainly correct. Many scientists tend to think of "creation" as the event that led to the "universe": all the various large and small particles that are observable (and believed to be observable). The start of "the universe" is a convenient starting place for "creation" but it begs the question of what or who caused the transition from nothing to something, and the question "If there was nothing, then how could there be a "creator?" He, she, or it would also have to be part of nothingness.

Scientists may sidestep the issue of a creative force, because they can not yet describe the event, let alone it's causation. While scientists do not presuppose the existence of a Creator, they also do not presuppose that there was no Creator (or creative force).

Can you give an example of a particular scientific inquiry in which the presupposition of there being no Creator is part of the hypothesis proposed for a phenomena, or colors the hypothesis?

This tremendously hinders research, because any conclusion that would contradict the presupposition is automatically disposed of.

I am trying to think of a case in which this has been true, and am coming up with absolutely nothing. Can you provide an example to illustrate what you mean?

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#152
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 1:47 PM

FYI cosmology, well physics and chemistry as a whole tend to function in a manner that attempts to avoid any philisophical discourse on the cause of the creative force for the universe, and address rather what happened at the start. However, there is a strong color amongst fields of psuedo-scientific endeavors such as the various biological fields, psychology, education, and many social "sciences" that greatly disfavors any concept of a creator being or force. This is more than a weak bias that they attempt to separate from their studies, but frequently is a very strongly entrained belief that intermingles throughout their works and subsequent discussions. Many of the people in these fields actually seem to attempt to use the public repute for the word science just to validate their positions for their philosophical/belief systems. They make claims like one piece of evidence from one living being 1 million years ago proves some theory, when experimental evidence can actually only disprove theories, and frequently what they gather as evidence is more like a poor grade of scientific observation, like highly biased social statistics from things such as questionairres, prerequisite to developing theories. So, I guess this really goes to a definition of how far the fringe of the scientific community extends, considering that much like the area expanding sphere their are actually more people attempting to push their views (and seek public validation, finacial reward, etc.) out operating in the fringe than those in the central core.

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#153
In reply to #152

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 3:25 PM

I rank the sciences you mentioned like this, in term of "hardness" - "softness": classic Newtonian physics, Chemistry, Biology, Experimental Psychology (and brain physiology), ... Education ... Cosmology.

This relates to the degree of certainty with which you can duplicate an experiment and get the same results. Quantum physics is not in the list, but if it were I suppose I'd put it just after chemistry. Roger might put it before. The uncertainty principle throws a spanner in the works.

I have some basic experience in designing and running experimental psych experiments (in which, for example, you train a rat to perform some activity) and at that end of psych, the experiments are very strongly reproducible: it is as if the rats are robots, and the experimenter is simply watching the physical response of a machine in response to a stimulus.

In brain research, certain words can be seen to elicit particular patterns of brain activity -- again it is very mechanistic and reproducible. Certain electrical impulses applied to neurons have predictable results. Certain chemicals have certain responses.

Cosmology, on the other hand, operates without the ability to do meaningful, directly applicable experiments (although things like the Hadron Collider could offer some insights).

So at one end of the spectrum we have F=MA which always works, and is hard and fast, tangible, etc. At the other, (cosmology) we have a general coalescing of possible theories, but no reproducible experiments. Even in education (far into the fringes of science -- so far that most people would not consider it scientific at all) we have (at least) reproducible studies, and we can say that, (for example) there will be, in most rooms, various percentages of people who are better at auditory learning vs visual vs kinesthetic. An educational strategy that takes these differences into account will work better than one that does not.

I can neither agree nor disagree with your assessment of physicists and chemists vs biologists and psychologists as regards "disfavoring any concept of a creator..." In my experience, I've not found a significant difference in scientists re how they approach philosophy or religion -- i.e., it seems to me to be all over the map. The exception may be psychologists who seem to be more likely to favor the concept of a creative being or force in more or less conventional ways. But my sample size is far too small to draw any solid conclusions.

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#154
In reply to #153

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 4:01 PM

Table 1

Average SAT Scores 2001 for Top Ten

Religious Denominations (Tradition)

Unitarian-Universalist (Other Religions/NRM) 1209

Jewish 1161

Quaker (Mainline Christian) 1153

Hindu (Eastern Religions) 1110

Mennonite (Protestant Denominations) 1097

Reformed Church (Mainline Christian) 1097

Episcopalian (Mainline Christian) 1096

Evangelical Lutheran (Mainline Christian) 1094

Presbyterian (Mainline Christian) 1092

Baha'i (Eastern Religions) 1073

National average 1020

(Source: College Board)

This is educational ranking and Average SAT score by religion, not religious orientation by science, but nevertheless provides interesting and I hope, relevant data. there are additional charts and tables on economic achievement and others

milo

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#174
In reply to #154

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/20/2010 12:18 AM

I have two reactions to this

1. I am a UU, so I like to see that we are well-educated, do well on SAT tests, make pretty good money, etc. I also LOVE to see that Pentacostals (such as Sarah Palen) are near the bottom.

2. At the same time, being a UU, I tend to cringe at these studies -- we are, after all, theoretically accepting to a fault. (Thus we get questions like "WTF do you folks believe??!!" because we accept such a range of beliefs.) These studies can reinforce stereotypes, probably unfairly. Although I cannot think of anything at all that Sarah Palen might be good at, I'm sure there must be something, so maybe these tests and surveys are measuring the wrong things. Maybe Sarah Palen types have some value to society that is not being measured -- such as the ability to keep John McCain from being elected. That's certainly worth something.

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#175
In reply to #174

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/20/2010 12:55 AM

She's good at tele-non-commuting, expense accounting, moose skinning, procreation, noisemaking, and pretty much making sure our bridge continues to go nowhere.

Pentecostals speak in tongues (and maybe handle poisonous snakes). Pentacostals favor Wiccan stars (and sometimes handle nonpoisonous snakes.) Vive la différence!

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#176
In reply to #175

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/20/2010 2:27 AM

pretty as a store mannequin, and about as bright! a good clothes hanger.. especially for the expensive clothes, eh?

Let's have a vote as to whether Canada should be able to deny her healthcare?

Chris

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#178
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/20/2010 4:36 AM

Hey! At least the mannequins have the wisdom to keep silent.

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#155
In reply to #153

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 4:20 PM

Oh FYI, F=MA does not always work directly. Try to determine the solution when you accelerate from 0.9c to something like 0.99c. You must include a velocity correction factor for the mass to make F=MA work properly.

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#160
In reply to #155

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 5:33 PM

Sure. There are well-recognized limitations to the literal application of Newtonian physics to applications in which relativity effects become significant. That was my point in using the qualifier "Newtonian."

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#167
In reply to #155

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 6:09 PM

I have absolutely no desire to move my mass at 0.9c, let alone accelerate it to 0.99c. Therefore, Newton is good enough for me...

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#162
In reply to #153

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 5:45 PM

Actually quamtum mechanics and cosmology are more scientifically sound than many theories on the biochemistry end of chemistry, and any physical science will employ a much more stringent and comprehensive scientific method in developing theories than most biologists can even conceive of. You have a huge gap that lies in there between true sciences, cosmology, relativity and quantum mechanics are aspects of physics, and the psuedo-sciences or soft sciences, biological sciences, psychology and social sciences. The process of observation developing a concept, developing a mathematical proof that supports that concept towards becoming a theory, and subsequent experimental testing of the proposed theory are all utilized in quantum mechanics and cosmology, fairly effectively. Nearly all biological "theories" go right from developing a concept based on a few, generally highly biased, observations that is very ambiguous and broad in statement such that it allows multiple interpretations, no accuracy in definition, and a very broad field of precision, and this becomes "theory", then they allow it to change to fit any new evidence that might arise and lead to disproving the "theory".

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#169
In reply to #162

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 6:26 PM

You're certainly entitled to your opinions. Little of what you write here makes sense to me. I think of biology as one of the natural sciences, which is a subset of the colloquial "hard sciences". I think the Wikipedia articles are OK on both of these.

Your description of the scientific process in biology doesn't jibe in any way with my own perceptions. Experiments I did in high school and college in both chemistry and biology seemed very similar.

But I am not a biologist, so am not an expert, by any stretch. Are you a working biologist?

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#170
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 6:29 PM

Whoops, sorry. I'd intended to post the previous as off-topic.

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#171
In reply to #153

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 6:37 PM

Biologists will frequently get up in arms if you bring up any concept of a creator. They are the most prevalent faith believers in darwinism, and frequently the ones who have the least knowledge of the theory (otherwise they would have to resolve preservationist ecological movements amongst them against evolution). I have worked with many working biologists, and you do not want to discuss the concept of religion or a creator with them, they seem to think it is contrary to evolution and that you are attacking their core belief system. This is different than physicists and chemists (and even a good number of geologists) who seem usually a bit indifferent to the concepts of religions with respects to their scientific understanding. Frequently, those who work in these fields seem to conceive of god and religious philosphies in a different context from science and thus don't have any conflict to resolve in this regard. And, you definitely don't want to discuss religion in education, unless you want to see teachers claw you to death, evolutionary theory is sacrosanct and any conceept of divinity in the creation of life is heretical ( i use these terms because they are more suited to educators understanding of the concepts of evolution, it is a belief system for many of them). As an agnostic, I really don't have any particular leanings, but i am sufficiently educated in hard science, chemistry and physics, to see the difference in a faith belief system versus actual scientific understanding, and dislike the hypocrisy observed in some of these people who lack the knowledge but believe because they were told to and are quite inflexible in their belief (though surprisingly flexible in their interpretation of strict method requirements that might exclude them or somehow marginalize theior belief system).

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#55
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:41 PM

The current reaction is probably more similar to the English revolution than the French. The French revolution started off with good intention and a a good basic ideal, but went rampant when a few power crazed people began to rally the masses through fear and hatred. It wasn't particularly religious based reaction against the established practice, though religious persecution became part of it since the catholic church controlled so much power in france (and had abused if blatantly) and was so infused with the nobility of France. Similarly, to a lesser degree the english revolted against their king on the basis of religion and created a religious driven state in fear against catholics and the "loose" morals of the time. The French revolution was more of a revolution toward a new system, the english was more of a reactionary backlash to bolster the establish religious institution and belief system (and those who would gain the most power from strengthening religious belief and practice). This is kind of what you see today, many religious fundamentalists are seekign a time when they understood the technology and were knowledgable, as they perceive a better time somewhere in the 1950s or 19th century. Consider that science progresses very rapidly, if technological advancement was driven on the basis of scientific and engineering advancements, we would be likely centuries beyond where we are now. However, they are driven by the needs the common masses and their capacity to understand and utilize, thus their willingness to fund. The impacts of science on the US during the first two world wars lead the masses to realize the value in tangible terms. Those generations that survive the last world war are nearly dead, and since then scientific progress has just meant something new that the masses don't really perceive as a necessary benefit to their lives. Their needs to be a tangible link to the masses day to day lives and needs. This is where science has dropped the ball in the last 40 or so years. People can not conceive of the benefits to them, such that they should devote large amounts of tax funding, from such things as determining what occurred during the first nanosecond after creation of the universe began. also, for most people it is easier to be a believer and just have faith in simple concepts than to be a skeptic and need knowledge of the rational arguments and experimental testing that demonstrate something is possible. Plus there is a proliferation across the US of psuedo scientific endeavors, particularly by ecologists, biologists, meteorologist, etc.. That sounds great on news sound bites, but in short terms gets disputed and then never heard of again as things get renamed or modified for better bang on the news and more political correctness to receive funding and provide better political clout to the political benefactors. Then you muddy the waters with things like noble prizes, where people don't easily see the distinction between a noble laureate in physics and one in peace, what they see is that politicians winning noble prizes before they have actually accomplished anything because the awards committee for the peace prize wants to make a statement. Thus it makes all noble prizes winner appear to potentially be just political statements, rather than being awarded for the quality of their scientific works. Science needs to better explain to the masses the value of the work to their everyday lives, thus justify the government funding that has become common place since the turn of the 20th century. However, it also needs to appear stable and consistent in progress, of the highest quality, accurately and precisely predictive, enduring, and above the fray of political intrigues. In essence, the foundation on which the masses can trust that they can fall back on. Also it needs to be aware of the rate of progress of the masses it works for, as there is a backlash when technologies advance too much more rapidly then the knowledge of a society and it begins to drive the people in political and business power and the older sectors of workers out of their positions or jobs due to their lack of understanding (or makes them less competitive). It has to almost forcibly drag the masses along for the ride, teaching them along the way to keep them viable as part of the workforce.

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#59
In reply to #55

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:17 PM

Excellent. GA

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#151
In reply to #2

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/19/2010 1:11 PM

I couldn't agree more. My fellow "scientists" stare at me in disbelief and patronizing sympathy when I mention my theistic beliefs. It's as though there's been some decisive discovery, which proved atheists correct, that we are all unaware of and they're all looking at us and thinking "doesn't this guy know YET?"

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#4

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 10:25 PM

Natural selection is an important deep-historical and explanatory principle, but that doesn't make it a moral principle. There are also sexual selection, social selection, and cultural development.

Kudos to Roger for an excellent start on this (or these) topic(s).

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#5

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 10:43 PM

I really appreciate and respect a person whose awareness spans the centuries, as well as having practical technical skills. Great to read.

I think, in short, that there exists a beast hiding in the flowers, which is the lust for Power. It's very nature is deception itself, and therefore masks itself with every new fashion and paradigm. It necessarily perverts over time, those fields of knowledge and endeavors that it cloaks itself with. It is most closely cloaked with money and politics, but is clearly willing to use anything to further its objectives, including the funding of artificial science, which lowers the quality of science overall, and subsequently, the common man's perception thereof.

Science, of all disciplines, I think, possesses some of the tools of self-scrutiny, to be able rid itself of the beast, if participants in the practice of it were only willing to inoculate themselves to the lure of easy money and prestige.

Good work Roger. Your grief is certainly understandable.

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#6

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:07 PM

Please tell me , in the the Brain, where does "High Alturism" exist?

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#7
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:10 PM

Right next to the Phenomenal Lobe. Duh!

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:30 PM

Probably closer to the Sarcasiam nerve-So tired of everything being linked to the body and brain...No Spiritualism, no Cultures, no Civilizations...no us....

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#12
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:54 PM

I keep matters of faith and matters of science in separate boxes and treasure both, I recommend you do the same. I doubt that god wants us to suppress our ability to understand nature because we're unable to reconcile it with our own fragile faith.

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:01 AM

Isn't Altruism a moral issue? Maybe even a part of some Faith? or Faiths?

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#29
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 6:33 AM

Although sparse, there has been observed evidence of altruism in animals. I guess that opens up another venue of hot debate, but it does raise questions about our understanding of the subject.

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#18
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:14 AM

Very interesting, the direction this blog is taking...

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#24
In reply to #12

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:39 AM

An alternative is to throw matters of faith and matters of science into one box, and treasure both faith and science. They can both be searches for truth. (Or, I suppose they can be misguided beliefs in truth found.)

Good thread, by the way.

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#34
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 7:52 AM

How about a combination of the two and call it U-topical Absolutism......

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#38
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 8:38 AM

For me it's not difficult to separate the two. In general, I don't take scientific principles on faith and don't believe in empirical proof of god (or not-god for that matter). Faith and Empiricism aren't difficult to separate when you understand them.

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#56
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:01 PM

Faith in Universal Recycling would (perhaps) connect the two............""..........or maybe bring about a host of new and relevant and welcome argument. Otherwise it's the same old border dispute over and over again.

"think globally, act locally" makes for a great slogan..........

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#10
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:39 PM

There was a Miniseries on PBS called The Human Spark that went into the high altruism of humans as compared even to other primates. Here is a link to the series webpage with the specific video clip:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/humanspark/video/program-three-brain-matters-video-excerpt-social-networks-and-the-spark/421/

To answer your question. The region of the brain identified with Altruism can be read about here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6278907.stm

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#13
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:57 PM

Yes, it would be interesting to research this more--and obviously, , since 2007, there has not been anything more on this---Please tell me how they can substantiate this? How about using brains from different cultures, countries, Religions, whether Autistic or not, drug -addled, Liberal or Conservative, Religious, or Atheistic, Humanistic, or Agnostic? Where does this all end?? Or where does it begin? Where is love, in the Brain? Where is compassion? Where is Ethics, Morality, Aesthetics? Are these are controlled by nerves and synapses? I think not--There is much more proof to be had with these theories.

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#17
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:09 AM

The way we are has developed in the DNA over billions of years, and the complexity inherent in the DNA is staggering. It is part of the great and wonderful mystery of life to not be able to distinguish between the possibility of a spiritual source for all things living (inspired), and a natural source (evolutionary) for all things living.

I find it a very interesting idea to think that the DNA knows all. certainly something to think about. I've heard that DNA can represent more possibilities than there are atoms composing the Earth.

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#19
In reply to #17

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:24 AM

Yes--I agree--I also am worried that a 2 centuries long plague can do some horrible changes to DNA--Chemicals can do horrible mutations to DNA, as can heavy Radiation...I am interested to see what changes in DNA occurred after 3 centuries of draught in Europe, and after climate changes forced Greenlanders away from their country. I know some say that DNA is irreversible in it's composition--I am not so sure...Is everyone of the same page, that no changes are possible due to any other types of intervention? Just curious--Know that Roger is up on all of this..

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#25
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:44 AM

But wouldn't it be fascinating to discover that viral 'code swapping' of target DNA is the actual evolutionary mechanism?

The other thing I think is that DNA knows how to heal everything ever created by DNA. but I don't want to get tooo off topic for Roger's thread.

As much as I believe in spirit, I am equally dismayed at the deterioration of scientific perception. I can see no reason why science should not continue to seek knowledge to the limits of universal accuracy (truth) and subsequently benefit all life by presenting that knowledge for public education.

We humans differ from the rest of the animal kingdom, mostly because we use tools to leverage our position. Science is a tool. Our universe is an infinite sea of knowledge, and those with the greater tools will understand more, and have a position in life proportional to their understanding, generally speaking. In a chaotic world, knowledge that has been thoroughly tested, hardened, and tempered in the fire of experimentation is raw material that the rest of civilization can build with.

Chris

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#23
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:23 AM

It is part of the great and wonderful mystery of life to not be able to distinguish between the possibility of a spiritual source for all things living (inspired), and a natural source (evolutionary) for all things living.

I could not agree more.

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#27
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 2:15 AM

As I understand it, this is actually quite an understatement. The combinatorics of DNA would allow for orders of orders of magnitude more possibilities than the number of elementary particles in the entire universe. Only an infinitesimal fraction of these possibilities are realized, however; thus far a few trillion organisms or so. Pretty soon we'll have to dust off our exponential notation even to think about this.

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#47
In reply to #27

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:33 AM

I've heard that before too.

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#32
In reply to #13

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 7:20 AM

Of course there has been more on this since 2007, but it requires you to look.

As for substantiating it, it's quite logical that altruism, much like empathy, offers evolutionary advantages for pack animals, which is what we are descended from.

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#8

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:27 PM

A great post Roger. Many thanks for the effort.

Maybe it is because I am in Australia but here the mood in science circles seems a lot more positive than it did during the Regan Presidency. Back then, even over here, if you wanted a grant for research it almost had to have some military application or a very short term pay back to have any hope of success.

Looking forward to part II.

BAB

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#14

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/15/2010 11:59 PM

Philosophy always ends up knocking at the door of Theology.

"He was too young to be trusted with the knowledge, that the truth is not necessarily the facts." A Fable, -William Faulkner Nobel Prize.

Course I believe that his greatest book was Absolam Absolam. To me that is about how the greatest tragedy of the human experience is to live your life according to incorrect ideals.

Mr. Faulkner understood that belief and truth were too different things. He knew what the truth was, but knew also that human beings hardly know the difference. For some belief in an idea, makes it true, regardless of the facts.

Our current philosophical age is as bankrupt as our banks.

"Same as it ever was." David Byrne.

Fads and fashions ought not be confused with the constant realities we face and have to deal with. We have long had technology. We are the tool makers.

Mathematics helped us make some tools, and buildings.

The church hired those who could use facts to build, or make art, or were scientists, and then killed them if they got too smart.

Good thing for awhile that the Church wanted entertainment.

Then there was some bad weather and a war, and hungry angry French people fed dogs with the blood of decapitated aristocrats in the name of Liberty and Fraternity, and now Mali and Haiti and Louisiana are some of the poorest and vulnerable and corrupt places in the world.

Slaves learned to read and write.

Frederick Douglas moved to Rochester New York.

If we are so successful, why are so many either illiterate, near starvation, or otherwise nowhere near living as comfortably as the redneck in a house trailer set off the highway in a blight of signs advertising cheap cigarettes?

After WWII, idealism and realism were both abandoned, so that now we live in a mental landscape that is without any center.

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#30
In reply to #14

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 6:39 AM

...the greatest tragedy of the human experience is to live your life according to incorrect ideals.

Oh how true, so very very true.

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#20

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:34 AM

Great post Roger and sure to get the philosophy gland pumping.

So, I'll start by disagreeing with your equating Realism with the ideas of Nietzsche (a bit like using the writings of Jim Jones in a discussion about the merits of religion).

The idea that realism somehow lead to world wars and Holocausts is a bit rich, wars and "cleansings" have been going on since humans first picked up sticks. Appeals to the currently fashionable philosophy are usually justifications. I suspect the rationalisation "We want your land/oil/sea lanes and we're doing it to reduce green house gas emissions" will be used shortly.

The difference is these terrible events were conducted using better technology, information about what happened was more widely spread than ever before and it all happened within our living memory.

It's interesting that you don't approve of "Social Darwinism", many of its ideas and attitudes have been absorbed into current thinking (of course, they're called something different like "free market economics").

Look at the U.S. health and school systems they strongly differentiate according to wealth. In Australia where I live, the entire country was (50 years ago) run as a "Commonwealth" it was just obvious to the average person that the schools, healthcare, power, water etc were all run to benefit the greatest number of people. Now it has all devolved into a user-pays "winner takes all" sort of system.

I'm not saying which is better or worse, just that it's a gross over simplification to lump things according to easy labels. We, in the west, live in compassionate times we care for animals, vote for worthy causes and yet we let people live on the street or children work all day in sweat shops.

I look forward to reading your next post.

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#31
In reply to #20

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 7:14 AM

My argument is that Realism spawned social darwinism which certainly had much to do with Hitler's worldview. In the ancient world, massacres tended to be punitive, like Alexander at Tyre, Mongols at Baghdad, Romans at lots of places. The idea being that by slaughtering a population for resisting, lives were saved in future sieges. Not pretty, but certainly not "this person is inferior and pollutes the purity of the human race and must be eradicated.

I agree about the easy labels. My intention is to examine our current age of philosophy in part II and discuss how it influences our attitudes and even the language we use.

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#41
In reply to #31

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 10:10 AM

It also spawned many faiths/cults based on exclusivity. Certain agrarian sects thought themselves as 'the chosen' after Louis Pasteur came up with the idea that ones environment is the reason for becoming immune to what ordinarily would infect those others not so blessed. Just one example of how easy it is to manipulate information.

Many of these cults are now in the official roster as religions.

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#26

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 2:09 AM

Hi Roger

Maybe I'll find some time over the weekend to reply in more detail. I remember our civilized conversations a while back and now find that we have the same respect, interest and out look regarding this taunting subject.

That was a very interesting read, I thank you for that, Ky.

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#35

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 8:05 AM

excellent composition Roger.

hard to hold back my thoughts till I digest this.

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#36

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 8:18 AM

Trying to justify faith with scientific data is completely oxymoronic. Faith requires a belief in a philosophy, not proof of the unknown. The search for truth, ie. 'science', should not be confused with 'finding God'. The universe we live in is much more more strange than we imagine. But of couse, He made it that way.

MRH

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#39
In reply to #36

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 8:40 AM

I agree.

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#57
In reply to #36

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:08 PM

I'm going to jump in here and take a shot at this one.

First let me say that on the surface, what you are saying sounds true, and certainly it has been the a standard idea for centuries, that faith and science are incompatible.

I disagree.

First, let me define both for the context of my discussion.

Science is a method of planning, experimenting, and verification that produces, at the very least, tested results that are reproducible by others, regardless of interpretation.

Faith is (traditionally) an expectation of requested positive conditions, in the future, by a human.

If we can agree on these definitions, then I will continue. Scientific method is broadly understood by engineering types found here, so I won't go into that much. Faith is also broadly understood to a surprising depth by engineering types here, and I don't need to go into that much either, other than what I have already defined.

I will however stipulate, that the mechanisms of Faith are unknown or at least debatable, and as such I will treat it largely in a 'black box' way, and thus avoid discussions as to the nature of the mechanism (god, human, spirit, et al) I think there have been enough results shown in the world to say that it works more often than not, if procedure is followed correctly.

What I wish to discuss is a breakdown of areas of intersection between the two. First off, one area of intersection has to do with Time. Time is an area of scientific inquiry, and has always been, more so than faith. Time is pertinent to Faith, as the expected conditions must be created in the Future, by whatever means.

Since the development of Quantum Mechanics in Math and Science, we have come to understand through the mathematics of probability and chance, that future possibilities can be represented on a Bell curve, based on present conditions. QM also has shown that there is no such thing as zero chance. If your expected future conditions are for winning a million dollars, then there is a finite calculatable chance that this will come true. It is these calculations that must be compared to Faith practices, to determine the statistical validity of Faith.

There is a possibility that Time is not as it appears to us. There is a lot to learn about time, and it is fundamental to our existence on this Earth or Universe. There is a possibility or statistical chance, however remote, that Time travel is possible. From a spiritual point of view, it is easily possible, based on the notion that the spirit universe is at least one dimension above the physical universe. If time travel as a mechanistic function is possible, then certainly is is a valid subject for scientific inquiry, all the while, it may be part of the Faith mechanism.

This of course, is one more area where Spirit and Science overlap, in the understanding of Dimensions. Space and Time are both dimensions that we are least passingly familiar with. Traditionally Space is broken down into 3 sub dimensions; Length, Width, and Height. One could easily state that there are dimensions for pressure, temperature, color, taste (sweet & sour), smell, sound, balance, and thought, as we have organs for each of these. Oddly, we don't have appear to have organs for space or time, and these must be calculated by our thinking organ, or measured with external tools.

The next area of intersection between Faith and Science has to do again with Quantum Mathematics is in Quantum Universes, which is the idea that there exists an infinity of universes, all differing from each other by a single quantum event or state. In this infinity, there exists one universe where you are the winner of a million dollars. The other aspect of this story is that the human mind is a 'universe reader' that is much like celluloid film in the a movie projector. The film is a series of images that the mind is choosing to read. The light passes through the film and creates that universe on the screen of reality, thus creating the intersection of experiential involvement in reality for us. Our mind is integrally linked to the realities we choose to experience or create. This is because the mind is a quantum computer. An image imposed by the thinking mind, on the lens of the unthinking mind, and shone through with the 'light' of our powerful emotions, attracts or selects the next universe to be experienced.

At any rate, my point is that these can easily be areas of both Scientific Inquiry and Faith Practice.

God or Nature has provided us with a massive brain. There are over 3 trillion neurons, and each of those can have up to 1000 connections. I find it illogical for any religion or book on human nature to prescribe "Not Thinking" as a method for solving problems. To listen to some on the subject of Faith, that is exactly what they will say. I think however, that they misunderstand the operation of mechanism. Thinking and even Critical Thinking is very important, first to know what you want in detail, and secondly, to develop the necessary inputs to Faith, for it to be successful.

for Faith to work, several things are required. A deeply felt emotion, and a clear idea of expected results. The 'creation' mechanism works all the time. When our fears come true, it is the same mechanism at work, and we have provided the inputs of emotion and defining image, and yet we don't typically call that faith. It is. I would go so far as to say that fears come true more often that hopes, because of sureness of our fears; our conviction that that future would be really bad, and then we 'strongly feel' just how bad that would be, and get locked into a catch-22 spiral that strengthens the image and feeling.. all of which is input to the mechanism and it subsequently happens. It has happened to me frequently.

Miracles, as presented by such books as "A Course In Miracles" are a version of Faith, but made much more practicable by correct procedure and positive expectation. It puts more mind into the process and less God. We do have more control over the process than the bible presents, and I think that this has led to to Faith being lumped in with Positive Thinking as ineffective. It isn't. It simply has to be done right. Procedure, and the correct ingredients is very important. This is another parallel to science.

There is no reason for Mankind not to be the study of Scientific Inquiry, and especially in the area of mind, and as compared to quantum computing. Statistical analysis of probabilities for events occurring to specific humans(as a baseline), and then compared to effectiveness of various techniques of future manipulations.

Science CAN study Faith, as an algorithm or process of the quantum mind. Time may yet be shown to have loopholes by which we can travel or command the future. Faith, properly understood and practiced, can become far more powerful a mechanism, and help mankind move out of the terrible legacy of war, poverty, disease, racism, and hatred.

There is no reason that the two can not be compatible. God is not an absolute requirement to the workings of Faith. It is something inherent in our nature, and that may well have a spiritual component. Therefore, we can study it to figure out better how it works. Faith absolutely does NOT require a belief in a philosophy. I see it happening every day without philosophy. I see powerful emotion and powerful thought/image as the inputs. There is a mechanism or interface deep in the mind that we don't understand, and all we can say is that it works when used right.

As I said before, part of the great mystery of the universe is that we can not tell whether there is a spiritual source or a natural source, and as such, this is all the more reason for unbiased dispassionate scientific inquiry. It is akin to simply listening, as best we know how. If God or Spirit is in the universe, eventually we may discover that. We should not presume to know, but to be an eternal student and active listener.

Chris

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#63
In reply to #57

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 2:03 PM

I'm not trying to say that the study of either is mutually exclusive to the other. What I am saying is that my Faith is not predicated on what I can observe or calculate. Converesly, I also don't believe my understanding of the world in which I live and participate can be all known through scientific study, but by continuosly pushing the boundary of what we do know, we make it a lot more interesting. There is just so much wonder and awe in how well this system (ie. universe - life - mind take your pick) works.

MRH

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#67
In reply to #63

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 4:20 PM

It seems that a scientific observation of a culture could lead one to conclude that

1. Human culture functions best when one does onto others as he would like others do do onto him.

2. That humans working together in teams can often accomplish more than they can working separately. They are similar to ants in this respect.

3. That people without stress live longer and happier lives, and that by the first principal, all of us should work to avoid stressing others.

4. Compassion for others is valuable.

5. etc.

So in general, observation of what works leads to the central tenets of many religions upon which we can all agree.

My guess is that your faith is based in part on what you have observed. At least for me, there are aspects of various Faiths that I find abhorrent, by direct observation (and by indirect observation as passed down in history books). Religious texts have been used, and continue to be used, to support horrible treatment of people. My guess is that if your observations conflict with your Faith, the bounds of your Faith will change.

I may be using Faith in a different sense than you are.

Converesly, I also don't believe my understanding of the world in which I live and participate can be all known through scientific study

If we include sociology, anthropology, biology, physiology, and psychology in the sciences, then I might argue (at least as devil's advocate) that we can know essentially all that is relevant to our daily existence via science, given enough time... although perhaps one lifetime is not enough to be able to arrive at the ability to articulate the important points. We continue to learn a lot about the brain, and brain/mind/soul connection. There is a place in our brain that responds to godlike concepts. When we meditate, our brain changes. Etc.

Perhaps we are really just an assemblage of neurons. Perhaps those neurons know the secret to how stuff works, but refuse to allow that knowledge to come into our consciousness.

Science tells us how stuff works. Religion tells us how stuff works. The ordinary day-to-day stuff we do routinely could only have been viewed as magic a couple centuries ago. Stuff we believe almost universally today as pragmatic and materialistic was part of Faith a few centuries ago, when the heavens rotated around us.

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#90
In reply to #67

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 12:22 AM

"The ordinary day-to-day stuff we do routinely could only have been viewed as magic a couple centuries ago."

like communicating on the internet with people from the other side of the planet! Like being able to download a book from a vast library of books and print it, without every picking up a goose quill.

Today I bought fuel for my SUV, a chocolate bar, chilled lemonade, and then drove my vehicle through the bar-code scanning automated car wash, and then vacuumed it with a coin operated vacuum, and wiped the dash with wd-40 wipes. I used a 100$ bill that has embedded metalized holograms, polyester woven fabric, waterproof inks, and several other anti-counterfeit features, with really intense graphics. The bill was checked for validity under a UV light, then entered into a computerized cash register. All were miracles two centuries ago or less.

Chris

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#40

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 10:09 AM

Great essay Roger and I too look forward to part II.

It would seem we are entering or rather we are in the middle of an age of communication. It is very difficult for even the humblest of world regions to be uniformed of events in the global world. No longer can tribes or religions hunker down and simply do their own thing. I would suggest that the world globalization is pressuring factions to conform. For example, we see the Abrahamic religions currently trying to cope with each others viewpoints and methodologies. Often their similarities are overlooked and serious clashes occur. Globalization and communication will likely see a melding of these factors similar to the expected beiging of world peoples. The clashes are prominent now but as communication gets ever better, the tend to attract and stress similarities will grow.

Religions of the world need to embrace science and accept scientific discoveries. They should free themselves from the yolk of science and concentrate on the philosophical matters. The religious community needs to stop interpreting science and bending or warping ideas to conform. Once these factors can accept science as not in conflict with philosophical ideas; then, they may accept a "God" larger than they can possibly espouse with status quo and rigid adherence to written ideals.

I am exploring a new book called, "Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design" John C. Avise, 2010. It appears to embrace many of your thoughts in this essay presented.

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#42

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 10:47 AM

Forgive this digression past the thrust of the blog, direct to one of the details. (I consider myself a pathetic philosopher but at the same time occasionally, perhaps accidently, insightful.)

There is a feeling of persecution in the scientific community, unspoken but unmistakable.

I find that a healthy (over)dose of arrogance helps. If (if) the rest of the world insists on being stupid, screw it. It is an absolute requirement / Truth that those of us who are energized by disciplined curiosity must be granted the same freedom to travel our path as those who are driven by feelings and superstition. If enough of the rest of the world has a problem with that, we'll just have to (figuratively or literally) go to war.

Faith is for those who can gain something of it. It usually gets me very little.

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#43
In reply to #42

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:07 AM

This is a fine line, here but both have an impact on each other throughout history.

I find that a healthy (over)dose of arrogance helps.

a bigger hammer maybe?

Faith is for those who can gain something of it.

I remember in college in my sociology class, American Institutions, the professor wanted to get a feel for the students and he posed this question and everyone had to answer in class.

Define Religion.

I wanted to say something but could not put it in the wording I would like.

As all before me were defining it and comparing it to material objects.

It occurred to me just prior to my turn and this was it.

Religion is an organization set up to harness and control the actions of man, by using fear as a tool.

He stopped the class right there, others in the class thought I was an atheist.

The professor drill me what religion I was, (He actually told me and was correct) Needless to say after that, that class was pretty easy.

But, do not get confused between religion and believing in God. Those are two very different things. One is an institution, (often cloaked as doing Gods word). the other a belief.

p911

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#44

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:10 AM

Amazing post Roger, greatly looking forward to the next part. There is much here to consider, contemplate and read up on.

Now who writes the note to my boss explaining why no work will get done today?

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#52

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 12:04 PM

Great article, like previous responders, I look forward to part 2

cheers,

ethobil

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#58

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:08 PM

You have provided a very interesting and thorough explanation of the current philosophical dilemma of our times. I do not believe there's any need to justify pure research. As we acquire more knowledge the expense of acquiring additional knowledge increases dramatically. The only question is how much value you place on truth.

As you stated in a subsequent post science is not based on the belief that there is no God, faith and science must merely be kept in separate boxes. Indeed a scientist that proclaims there is no God is violating a fundamental principle of science. Science cannot produce a warrant to the existence or nonexistence of a supreme being. Currently that is in the purview of philosophy, theology, and metaphysics. Professionally a scientist must be an agnostic; personally they can be an atheist or a man of faith such as Charles Townes.

There is a wonderful series that airs on PBS "For the love of wisdom" dealing with philosophical concepts that I would recommend for anyone interested in the subject. Unfortunately I cannot get the link to work correctly however this will take anyone interested to the Google page containing the study guide and course outline.

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#60
In reply to #58

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:19 PM

You Wrote:"As you stated in a subsequent post science is not based on the belief that there is no God, faith and science must merely be kept in separate boxes. Indeed a scientist that proclaims there is no God is violating a fundamental principle of science. Science cannot produce a warrant to the existence or nonexistence of a supreme being. Currently that is in the purview of philosophy, theology, and metaphysics. Professionally a scientist must be an agnostic; personally they can be an atheist or a man of faith such as Charles Townes."

Yes, that is exactly how I feel on that issue. Well said.

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#61
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Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:50 PM

There is no need to justify scientific endeavors, as long as they do not harm other people directly. However, there is a substantial need to justify funding of scientific research, at least by the people responsible for assigning that funding on behalf of the contributors to the funds. The research needs to demonstrate some value to the people who fund such research. Knowledge in and of itself is not valuable, only some knowledge is valuable to some people, and it is unfair to have some expectation that other people would fund any activity that provide no benefit comprehensible to them or their offspring. soemtimes you have to connect the dots and show the people paying the bill what they can gain from the research. In our current climate of global warming, err climate change i guess is now the PC term, research, fuel alternatives research and ecological preservation research, and other scare tactic, super hyped, sensationalist, psuedo-scientific eandeavors claiming to be hard science for the acceptance and belief and seeking huge amounts of funding from public sources, people are becoming jaded and wary. They don't understand science very well anyways, they just know that someone they perceive as more knowledgable than themselves told them it was science, and that person heard it from someone else, and so on. And they know enough to believe that science is supposed to be accurate and precise in its prognostications. Plus i think most physicists could easily find a huge amount of publically funded research conducted under the guise of scientific research that was of questionable at best (at worst blantant fraud as well as other crimes), particularly if they wander into research in things like psychology, education, sociology and similar topics conducted in the 1960s and 1970s.

Also, it is not that uncommon historically for physicist/chemists in previous centuries to be extremely faithful believers in God. Men, such as Newton, had strong faith and yet that did not interfere with their scientific endeavors. True science is not contrary to faith. the problem seems to arise amongst those seeking to lay claim to the public acceptance and faith in science to promote their agenda and faith in various philosophical belief systems. As one example, Darwinism has become a new faith system all on its own, many times much that Darwin himself proposed. However, any thing that is justified not empirically through a rational argument in a logical language but rather is promote by people with the statements like "I believe in_____" is an indicator of a faith based system. This can even be true of physics, people can have a personal religion built around the absolute truth of physics. They don't understand the method necessarily, or the arguments and justifications, but they believe the theories and read them much like a bible. They are not skeptical and believe relatively unquestioningly.

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#64
In reply to #61

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 3:00 PM

There's no doubt private investors are entitled to a return on their investment, and certainly public funds must be monitored. At the turn of the 20th century quantum mechanics and relativity theory had no immediate practical application, today they are part of our economy and daily routine with applications from global positioning to simple electronics.

Certainly some investment must be made in pure research, what type of research and the amount of the investment equates to economic resources and social needs. It is not impossible but unlikely that I will see any direct benefits from the Large Hadron Collider during my lifetime. I suppose a philosophical question is do we owe future generations our inheritance of knowledge without immediate application.

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#62

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 1:56 PM

This series of posts will trace briefly the progression of philosophy that has led to our current philosophical age. They will attempt to demonstrate the cyclic tendency of Philosophy-Extremism-Rejection-New Philosophy which, I believe, can explain the current sentiment about science in the world.

I've been reading about integral philosophy, integral psychology, and spiral dynamics recently. The cycle you mention is a central concept in these areas of study. I initially found some of the writing off-putting, because 1. the terminology is rather loose and perhaps too broadly applied, 2. some of the terminology (such as "spiral dynamics" sounds rather new-agey, hokey, unscientific, and 3. because some of the theories proposed seem hideously complex -- at the other extreme from Occam's Razor.

But it one perseveres, there is a lot of understanding to be gained from reading some of the works of Ken Wilbur, Steve McIntosh and others. Although Wilbur can come across as pompous, and his arguments can seem to presuppose that you agree with some concepts that are unsupported in the book in your hands, you find that his arguments are pretty well-supported in 1. the hundreds of footnotes he provides, and 2. in his other works. Even one of his easiest reads, the Theory of Everything, required, for me at least, a suspension of disbelief to get through it. Once at the end, however, it all comes together, and makes a great deal of sense.

The notion of a spiral of evolution has been in philosophy for eons. As we work our way up a spiral, we swing to the right and back to the left, but move generally upward. (Integral philosophy and spiral dynamics are intertwined, in practice.) "Backlash" was written (not too long ago) with a narrow focus on feminist issues, but demonstrates the same pendulum effect.

In the modern age, we focused on the material world, and saw science as the answer to everything. In the post modern age, we eventually arrived at an uncritical acceptance of cultural relativism. Post modernists would like to say yes, your religion is just as good as mine... but how many really believe that?

We find ourselves longing for simpler times. Weren't things great in the fifties and early sixties? The wars were over, optimism was everywhere, and we were going to put a man on the moon! Women were in their places, as housewives and secretaries, and loaded up on Valium to keep themselves content. In many parts of the country, blacks rode in the back of the bus, could not vote, and could not use the same bathrooms or drinking fountains as the people descended from those who owned their ancestors. We were fat dumb and happy. What's wrong with that?

Students in the late 60's would answer: a lot. And the pendulum swung.

As babies, we see everything as magic, just as early civilizations (and civilizations still in early stages of development) still do. As we mature (as individuals and cultures), we see that more and more phenomena are explainable in rational terms, yet we still cling tenaciously to irrational explanations. It seems odd that the beliefs we cling to most tightly (and the things about which we often cannot even speak or write without causing deep offense) are those for which we must suspend disbelief, and discard rational thought.

Perhaps there are 10 major creation myths, each contradicting the other in dramatic ways. Each (to be "believed") requires not just suspension of rational thought, but active ignorance or disbelief in the views of others: rational thought would not allow you to believe that the world was created 4000 years ago and also a million years ago, and also 13.5 billion years ago. You cannot simultaneously believe that you will be reincarnated, perhaps as a cow, and also live forever heaven. Rationally, we cannot hold these beliefs strongly without making the beliefs of others seem weak, or just plain wrong.

Proponents of integral thought would have us believe that the spiritual and materialistic can be integrated, and that such integration is a natural part of evolution. We can all find much to offer in many religions: Greek mythology has value to most of us. Certainly, the Eastern religions offer a great deal of practical value: numerous scientific studies have shown that meditation is good for you. Proponents of integral thought hope, I think, that we will come to value what is useful from the many religions as well as science.

I take solace in the thought that we no longer burn witches at the stake. I fear, however, that as the pendulum swings, we will come close to doing the same things again. In the US, we are not entirely unlike Iran. We have our fundamentalists, who seek to impose a particular moral view on others just as they have theirs. Many people in Iran, and many aspects of Iran are just as modern as we are. Many people in Iran fear rule by a powerful minority, just as people here fear rule by a powerful minority, with political discourse appearing to favor the extremes over the center.

I imagine that reconciling belief systems can be so easy. How simple it would seem to be to say that we all agree, worldwide, on fundamental issues of how to behave to lead a good life. We can agree even that the same images appear in one religion and another, and even that there are profound (up to complete) agreements in the central texts. Yet in Ireland, Christians fought Christians to the death, with both sides (presumably) believing that "thou shall not kill", and both sides thumping the same Bible.

If only fundamentalism had to do with finding the fundamental areas of agreement.

Great thread, certainly at the bleeding edge of what CR4 is about -- but I think this is the right forum. More than just a bunch of philosophers need to think about philosophy - it is, after all, philosophy that dictates what we do, and can do, as engineers and scientists, and the prevailing local philosophy that dictates how we are perceived as a group.

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#65

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 3:13 PM

Nothing stirs the emotions like an anti-science blog that seems to be a pro-faith blog. I am a serious agnostic leaning towards atheist. It had been my intuition that a majority of people of science would feel similar but maybe I am wrong based on this thread. The belief or faith in an afterlife is counter to rational thinking. In what form does it exist? Is there a reward? My experience with death on an operation table did not shake my thinking. There was no light to travel toward but there was certainly "nothing". The experience may be more in line with the Roman "big sleep" where you don't even dream.

Religion is a construct of human need but it does not make it a reality. I believe the moral guidance provided, when it is to the benefit of all humans, is a good thing. When religion is used to espouse superiority or separation or sacrifice of innocent people it is at its worse. Unfortunately we seem to see more of the worst of religious actions based on current headlines. Religious sects are full of hypocritical actions and has been throughout history. The twisting of scientific revelations based on sound discovery has served to stymie progress whether it is findings by Darwin or Galileo or blaming AIDs on God's wrath for sins perceived. I do not paint most religious people with a negative brush. The most honest and devout man who I know is my own brother, a deacon in the Catholic church. He is always seeing positive things in life and works hard as a community giver. There needs to be a mutual respect between science and religion. If ones "religion" is Druid, Catholic, Hindu, Islam, Buddhism, Star Trekkism, or agnostic/atheist, respect needs to be shared mutually. If you want to believe life started a few millennium ago so be it but let those who think otherwise alone without harassment. If I am an infidel don't paint a target on me. If religion wants to retain credibility it must adapt to science. The need for discovery and truth will continue to be a human trait larger than any religious sect.

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#66
In reply to #65

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 3:32 PM

I'm not sure what you mean by "Pro-Faith".

I am a scientist and a Lutheran at the same time, if that's what you mean. To me there is no conflict or contradiction. If you are an agnostic leaning towards atheism, that's great. We'll disagree on our religons but I'm sure we can discuss science which of course has nothing to do with religon.

The problem is when you say "The belief or faith in an afterlife is counter to rational thinking.". That is your opinion, and one that degrades someone who believes differently from you. There is nothing empirical that proves or disproves religion or afterlife. Your statement essentially indicates that I'm not rational, I don't think you believe that, at least I hope you don't.

Before people think I'm against atheists and atheism, let me say that some of the most considerate, moral people I've ever met are atheists. It's zealots I can't abide. Someone who believe in the inherit proof of their unprovable system of beliefs.

Also, anyone who quotes Occam's Razor to me regarding atheism better keep in mind I'm a Quantum Physicist. Believe me, Occam's Razor is more of a general guideline than an actual rule, you know, like the Pirate Code ;).

The only thing this blog is meant to be is Pro-Science.

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#68
In reply to #66

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 5:05 PM

Perhaps I am being a buttinski here, but your statement "That is your opinion, and one that degrades someone who believes differently from you." seems unfair.

I don't share all of kevinm's beliefs, but his opinion does not degrade me in any way. Your suggestion that his opinion is somehow degrading to another could turn the discussion in a direction that none of us, I think, would want to see it go. "Degrade" is an emotionally loaded term that seems confrontational.

We all have irrational beliefs. Most of my key life decisions have been based on irrational concepts like love, fun, etc. I think that kevinm is only saying that belief in an afterlife cannot be arrived at through logical, reasoned discourse: there is nothing, in observing a road kill, that would rationally lead you to think that the bunny lives on. I think that he is saying that there is nothing that can be said that leads to a logical conclusion that there is an afterlife.

That assertion degrades no one, I think.

One can assert that there is no rational line of thought that leads to a logical conclusion that the earth was created 4000 years ago. That too, degrades no one, but allows for the fact that not all beliefs are rational or logical or empirically-based.

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#70
In reply to #68

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 5:28 PM

I was with you up to this point.

"One can assert that there is no rational line of thought that leads to a logical conclusion that the earth was created 4000 years ago. That too, degrades no one, but allows for the fact that not all beliefs are rational or logical or empirically-based."

There is a huge amount of unrefutable evidence that the world was NOT created only 4000 years ago. Therefore to me this is not a matter of faith or a believe what you want situation. In your first example there is no good evidence on either side. These two examples illustrate where the line is drawn between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance is just a lack of knowledge and can be cured, stupidity is having the knowledge but refusing to use it. There is alas no cure for this.

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#84
In reply to #70

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:52 PM

There is a huge amount of unrefutable evidence that the world was NOT created only 4000 years ago. Therefore to me this is not a matter of faith or a believe what you want situation.

I agree with your first statement, but am not in complete agreement with the second. CR4 has some members who appear (at least) pretty smart and neither stupid or ignorant, but who nevertheless believe in the Bible literally, as written. Throughout the world, there are people of many faiths who believe in one creation myth or another quite literally. If we jump back in time a little, there were brilliant people who believed things that few would believe today. I would not immediately put those who believe in the Bible as written in either the ignorant or stupid categories.

Proving negatives is difficult. So to me the two examples I mentioned are similar in the sense that we have no evidence to prove the positives: either life after death or that the world is 4000 years old. You can accept either concept on faith alone.

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#93
In reply to #84

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 1:33 AM

I would venture to say that anyone who has actually sat down and read the Christian Bible (or the Jewish version of the scriptures, or any other ancient tome for that matter) is far from stupid or ignorant. I am not so sure I would be willing to pass the same judgement on those who are willing to accept someone else's assertion that "the Bible says so!" as constituting proof of a concept, especially when the claimant can not even cite a particular reference within the cited volume to substantiate the claim. All too often, I have heard people claim that the Bible asserts something that just does not appear anywhere in that volume...

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#69
In reply to #66

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 5:24 PM

I will retract the pro-faith tone after rereading this thread. It seems most of the thread entries are advocating mutual respect between religion and science. Even if I declare myself an agnostic there remains by definition a smattering of spirituality. By spirituality, in my case, I mean that I feel the responsibility for being as good as I can be to all my fellow humans. I do not need a god to believe in to follow that principle. This is indeed a manifestation of my upbringing in a strong religious family. I follow the old maxim of "do unto others as you would have them do onto you" and follow that maxim even if it the respect is one way. Faith is something personal and belongs to the inner person (my opinion). For some it is belonging to a family of people with similar values and rejoicing in that fact. For others it is an internal idea that defines spirituality. I would agree to that freedom of choice unless it advocates hatred, intolerance, or violence against another person.

In no way do I mean to disrespect anyone who believes in an afterlife. It is only my opinion that there is a lack of rationalism in an afterlife. Contrary to thinking you are irrational, from what I have seen in the past year since joining CR4, I would place you among the most rational of bloggers. I say this without puckering up.

We seem to all agree that most science can live with most faith based beliefs in a god. I think many religious philosophers could better advocate for human goodness if they were not hindered by science. On the other hand some religious sects need to be more involved in science. My idea of any religion is based on doing good not running a Jihad against other humans. Maybe agnosticism will become a mainstream idea.

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#75
In reply to #69

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 8:23 PM

I can understand why there is some confusion with regards to what I'm writing as the conclusions come in part II.! ;)

I'm writing this because I feel science is under attack and I think that attack has to do with the age we are in and the philosophies associated with it. All I wanted to demonstrate in this first part is how the philosophies of an age, though understandable in the beginning of that age, can lead to all kinds of problems when taken to an extreme. I believe such a thing is happening now as it tends to happen toward the end of an philosophical age.

I hope that clears up my intentions and I hope you'll stick around for part II.

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#78
In reply to #75

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 10:38 PM

Roger,

Here is another angle that I would be interested in hearing your opinion on...

At one time there was a man that claimed he had read every book ever published. Sounds like a fable and I am sure that it is. However, how far from the truth could that be?

1,000 years ago there was much less published than exists today. In fact, in the eighteenth century it took from 1750 to 1900 for the sum of human knowledge to double.

The sum of human knowledge doubled once again over the following 50 years. Then it doubled again in 10 years! Now it is expanding two-fold every 5 years or less.

This is an amazing rate of growth and no man, fictional or real, could embrace anywhere near that capacity of knowledge. Instead, we rely ever more on specialists and experts to manage the details that 99.99% can not bear to carry.

Each of us here have drilled down into some facet of specialization where we have mastered a sliver of some domain. Yet, we remain ignorant to a vast amount of knowledge outside our few areas of expertise.

The majority of humans are not scientists nor engineers. From their perspective they are totally reliant on the multitude of specialized experts to function in those domains. We all know how to turn on our TV or surf the web, but for many, it is simply magic from that point on.

So, the multitude must trust the few experts because they simply can not function to that level of detail. It simply takes too many years of intense training to grasp the foundation of knowledge needed to begin the journey.

What happens when that trust breaks down? If the profound experts are deemed untrustworthy, where does one turn? Climategate is one recent example of that. It does not matter where the truth really lies, it is the perception that counts.

That vacuum, once created, has historically been short lived. As soon as it is formed there is someone that is willing to offer something "tangible" at a level that the ignorant can grasp. There is so many mystical solutions offered to explain what appears unexplainable and for those hungry for an explanation they become willing subjects of subversion.

Even bright minds are not immune to this. The Applewhite cult is one of many examples where people from professional walks of life rationalized the idea of doing clearly irrational things. The Applewhite cult committed suicide in 1997 believing that an alien mothership hiding behind Hale-Bopp would take them away. What would cause the suspension of rational thinking among educated men and women?

I believe that a portion of this can be explained by the psychological cult experience, but the victim must also be searching for something that they could not find through traditional venues. Had science failed them? Applewhite's wife was not only a nurse, but practiced astrology.

Genetically we are predisposed to explain what is around us. As the world doubles in complexity at ever astonishing rates do we loose our grip on the very foundation that humanity has laid down before us? Has it all become too much for one person to absorb, overloaded by the rush of information and insufficient means to make sense of all of it.

Predisposed with the need to tie everything together is it any wonder we invent mystic explanations to satisfy our need to create an ordered world that we can function within and leave rational thought, and science behind?

At least in part, science is becoming blurred for many and too complex to grasp. A simpler explanation in these circumstances may be something many embrace, even when it has nothing of substance to rest upon.

Could we be victims of our own expanse of knowledge? In some part, is this the enviable outcome when the sum of all knowledge expands beyond some threshold. Do things break down and social chaos takes root?

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#86
In reply to #78

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/16/2010 11:57 PM

When the Library of Alexandria burned, it is said by some that 400,000 books/scrolls went with it. What a tragic loss. (this number is a matter of some dispute, but fair to say a great legacy was lost)

Also note that this event may have preceded the writing of the bible. Just imagine how the world might have been different if this single building and it's contents had survived. How differently might civilization have developed in the last 1700 years?

Chris

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#92
In reply to #78

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 1:23 AM

Quoting from a recent article by Clay Shirky:

"In 1988, Joseph Tainter wrote a chilling book called The Collapse of Complex Societies. Tainter looked at several societies that gradually arrived at a level of remarkable sophistication then suddenly collapsed: the Romans, the Lowlands Maya, the inhabitants of Chaco canyon. Every one of those groups had rich traditions, complex social structures, advanced technology, but despite their sophistication, they collapsed, impoverishing and scattering their citizens and leaving little but future archeological sites as evidence of previous greatness. Tainter asked himself whether there was some explanation common to these sudden dissolutions. The answer he arrived at was that they hadn't collapsed despite their cultural sophistication, they'd collapsed because of it. Subject to violent compression, Tainter's story goes like this: a group of people, through a combination of social organization and environmental luck, finds itself with a surplus of resources. Managing this surplus makes society more complex... Early on, the marginal value of this complexity is positive- each additional bit of complexity more than pays for itself in improved output- but over time, the law of diminishing returns reduces the marginal value, until it disappears completely. At this point, any additional complexity is pure cost. Tainter's thesis is that when society's elite members add one layer of bureaucracy or demand one tribute too many, they end up extracting all the value from their environment it is possible to extract... Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond... Why didn't these societies just re-tool in less complex ways? The answer Tainter gives is the simplest one: When societies fail to respond to reduced circumstances through orderly downsizing, it isn't because they don't want to, it's because they can't. In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler- the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change...[U]nder a situation of declining marginal returns collapse may be the most appropriate response, to use his pitiless phrase. Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites. When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification."

In the study of the waxing and waning of philosophical models, one can see a similar trend- the philosophy becomes more complex with time as the proponents try to adapt it to fit new information, discoveries, ideas, etc., until the entire model becomes so complex, it no longer explains anything. Then there is a "backlash" as the general public tends to reject the over-complicated model, reverting to more fundamental belief systems, until a new school rises from the ashes...

Just another possible way of looking at this issue...

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#96
In reply to #92

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 6:43 AM

Interesting!

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#106
In reply to #92

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 11:17 AM

very thought provoking... ga

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#108
In reply to #92

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 11:53 AM

Thanks for contributing this. I am now somewhat poorer cashwise, and amazon the richer for it. GA. Fits in well with walter Prescott Webb's great frontier thesis that explains the growth of the US from a population biology / resources sigmoid growth curve model vs stagnation in the steady state/Metropolis of the old world.

GA.

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#109
In reply to #92

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 12:11 PM

Dear CW, This sounds very similar to the book Collapse by Jared Diamond, which is the companion to Guns Germs and Steel, for which Mr. Diamond won the Pulitzer Prize. Mr. Diamonds book Collapse pretty much ends to say that as a species we are in a Bottleneck era. He also makes the point that History, and Political Science are really the same thing. In a fine and simple set of paragraphs he writes that it would be unethical to cause certain historical events, as experiments, but that essentially the experiments have already been conducted, and the lessons are clear.

The progressions of human organizations, and the numbers of people that create them, or define them, are of interest to me, in my experiment Transcendia. The progression is Bands, up too, 200 or so. Then Tribes, then Chiefdoms, then States.

My own experiment is in the Band stage, for there only 200 to 300 Transcendian Passports out there.

I think Tribes hit a number where it is possible for all to know to some personal degree each other, by sight, if not name. Something in the 5 to 10 thousand range. Within Chiefdoms it is layered as there are simply too many for any one to know everybody, and I believe after 50 thousand the organization is naturally pushed to be a state.

CR4 is itself of interest as a "Community". I often check the number of people on it at any one time, and right now it is 113. Most of the time it hovers between that number and into the 300s. I find these numbers of interest and am interested in how CR4 itself, as an experiment, will rise and fall.

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#112
In reply to #109

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 1:49 PM

One thing all must remember- history is written by the victors. In my brief lifetime (OK, some of you might not consider it so brief, but on a cosmic scale, it is brief) I have seen revisionists completely rewrite the history of events with which I have had personal involvement, and the revision is not always consistent with what I remember from personal observation. There is also a tendency among certain academic disciplines (i.e., anthropology) to force the evidence to fit the conventional theory, rather than examine other possible theories that could possibly explain the evidence more directly. For example, everyone assumes Stonehenge in England was originally a religious site. Yet, when one looks at the Salisbury Plain and the other, similar structures around the plain, and the construction of the structure (i.e., circular, multiple walls, surrounded by a moat), it sure looks an awfully lot like a defensive structure, that would make a whole lot more sense in a time and place where marauders were likely to raid your community right after harvest time...There is also new work being done in the middle east to suggest that Sumer was not the first mega-city, but, rather, cities began developing much earlier further north. What we know of ancient history is very dependent on where we chose to dig...

Most of what we know of history (and the history of philosophy as well) is based on someone else's interpretation of what is believed to have happened. And up until about 500 years ago or so, all books were transcribed by hand, meaning a single scribe had the authority to modify a passage because, 1) he could not clearly read the original, or 2) the original did not make as much sense as the new transcription, or 3) he just felt like it.

It is also pretty well established today that if you propose a theory that is in conflict with "conventional wisdom", it is extremely difficult to get it published in peer review venues...

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#115
In reply to #112

Re: The Antiscience - Part I

04/17/2010 2:26 PM

GA. I agree history is written with myopic vision. Only it is also written from the viewpoint of the vanquished in addition to the victors. The real truth is often in between and mostly no one cares except for the vanquished or victor. Case in point. The English defeated the Scots but Braveheart, the movie, resurrected Scottish nationalism. A statue of Wallace (the movie hero) was erected in Scotland based on the image of Mel Gibson. All this detracts from truths but it is mostly harmless. We (were?) what we want others to think we (are?).

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