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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Not very magical, still... » » Do you believe in science? (12 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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stoneunhinged
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I really want to know.

Modern "science" has produced a mind-bogglingly effective method for understanding how things work and are put together, and how to put new things together to make cool things (like drugs and Blu-Ray players.

But it requires a little bit of faith. We can say something like, "it's the BEST method we have", and that may be true. And we can rejoice in our potential release from superstitious belief. But we still have to believe in science. Science cannot prove that science is good. Science doesn't question itself.

This bothers me, because while I am not really much of a believer in anything, I choose to approach an understanding of the world through reason rather than superstition. Yet I see the limits of science, and my fellow skeptics do not. Everyone who calls themselves a "skeptic" seems to believe in science. They are limited skeptics: they aren't skeptical enough.

So thread after thread pops up in which the skeptics debate those who are believers in one thing or another, and they don't realize that they are believers themselves. They believe in science!

I don't.

Science is a tool, and nothing more. It's VERY cool, and I love it, and I'm glad we have it. But it is flawed--seriously flawed. It is self-limiting by design (which is a good thing!); but those who believe in it seem to ignore that limit.

So: do you believe in science?
mastermindreader
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I'd say I believe in the scientific method.
Johannes L.
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Depends on how you define science. To some metaphysics is science.
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stoneunhinged
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Quote:
On Jan 28, 2015, John Linden wrote:
Depends on how you define science.


Of course it does. That's kind of my point. Smile

Bob, if you believe in the scientific method, do you "believe" in it in the sense that what the scientific method cannot demonstrate to be true is untrue?

What amuses me--as I said above--is that people have faith in a system which purports to uncover truth, but which cannot demonstrate itself to be true.
mastermindreader
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Quote:
On Jan 28, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:


Bob, if you believe in the scientific method, do you "believe" in it in the sense that what the scientific method cannot demonstrate to be true is untrue?



No. I don't even think that most scientists would agree with that. Science is simply a continuing search for truth that ideally bases its findings on the best available evidence. Those findings are always subject to change as new evidence is found and new paradigms explored. Very often, old theories give way to new ones as our knowledge expands. The scientific method is simply the process that enables this to happen.

And I believe it's worked very well over time.
stoneunhinged
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On Jan 28, 2015, mastermindreader wrote:

No. I don't even think that most scientists would agree with that.


That's true. Most scientists that I know (and I probably know more than most, considering my neighborhood and line of work) are very aware of the limitations of science. I'm not talking about or to scientists, but to those who choose (unlike you yourself) to pull rank and refer to the authority of science in order to refute what they believe to be the incredible beliefs of religious people. They don't see the hypocrisy of having chosen one system of faith over another.

So I'm not asking scientists whether they believe in science. I'm asking those who call themselves "skeptics".
Johannes L.
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Please tell me your definition of science and also on belief and I can answer. Smile
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stoneunhinged
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On Jan 28, 2015, John Linden wrote:
Please tell me your definition of science and also on belief and I can answer. Smile


No no. The burden is on you, not me. We aren't debating my own definitions. Who cares about my definitions? I'm asking others what they think. I know what I myself think. How boring to have a conversation with oneself!
NYCTwister
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Quote:
On Jan 28, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:

That's true. Most scientists that I know (and I probably know more than most, considering my neighborhood and line of work) are very aware of the limitations of science. I'm not talking about or to scientists, but to those who choose (unlike you yourself) to pull rank and refer to the authority of science in order to refute what they believe to be the incredible beliefs of religious people. They don't see the hypocrisy of having chosen one system of faith over another.

So I'm not asking scientists whether they believe in science. I'm asking those who call themselves "skeptics".


A better question would have been "Do you believe in the ability of the scientific method to find out what is true?"

Believe and faith are such volatile words.

Do I "believe" in what has been shown to be true through a process that requires experimentation and observation, and is independently verifiable and repeatable?

Sure.

Your assertion that skeptics have chosen one system of "faith" over another is one I've heard many times before.

I don't know if it was your intention to re-open a recently closed can of worms.

I'll just say that as a skeptic I use the words belief and faith in the literal sense, and reject the accusation of hypocrisy, and your inference about the limitations of science as moot.
If you need fear to enforce your beliefs, then your beliefs are worthless.
Michael Daniels
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On Jan 28, 2015, mastermindreader wrote:
I'd say I believe in the scientific method.


I doubt there is any such thing as "the" scientific method - science uses many methods, as appropriate to the research question and potential availability of evidence.

IMO what all scientific methods have in common, and what distinguishes them from non-science or pseudo-science, is their reliance on systematic collection and rational assessment of observable evidence.

Of course there are many important questions that are not amenable to scientific investigation, such as "What is good?", or even "What is science?"

But if questions and claims can be examined using a scientific approach, I'd suggest that is where we should start.

Mike
landmark
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What we call science makes some verifiable predictions about a certain class of phenomena. In that sense it's useful. Is it "truth"? What map is?

There's the well-known story about the man who complained to Picasso that Picasso's paintings were not as true to life as photographs were. The man took out a photo from his wallet, saying "See, my wife."

And Pablo replied, "Small, isn't she?"
Magnus Eisengrim
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Quote:
On Jan 28, 2015, Michael Daniels wrote:
Quote:
On Jan 28, 2015, mastermindreader wrote:
I'd say I believe in the scientific method.


I doubt there is any such thing as "the" scientific method - science uses many methods, as appropriate to the research question and potential availability of evidence.


Mike


This is a very important point. For the better part of the 20th century it was believed that there were simple criteria to demarcate science from non-science. Very few philosophers believe so any more.

Of course some smarty-pants may figure it out one day. But right now, your comment is spot on.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
kambiz
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No matter which perspective you are coming from (religious or scientific), one must acknowledge the truth of the scientific method.

What Bob stated above regarding science as being the continuing search for truth is as accurate a reality as possible.

In whatever manner one wishes to explore society, the earth or the universe at large, we are being scientific, although it may not be utilising the objectively recognised "scientific method".....one must be careful not to read into empirical reality something that is not there. If we are searching for truth and the conclusions are a legitimate reflection of what has been observed, one is practicing the scientific method, IMHO

Kam
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And if I write, many a pen will break.
.....and when I consider my own self, lo, I find it coarser than clay!
R.S.
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Science is not "a system of faith." If it was, it wouldn't be "science" at all. Science offers degrees of confidence in the "truth" of a given proposition (but never 100% absolute confidence). We can be extremely confident of some things, reasonably confident of others, and still less confident of other things. Science tells us where on that scale our confidence should lie for any given proposition. And even though science is not infallible, it is self-correcting. That's the beauty of it. Science DOES question itself. There are no authorities and no dogma. Some long held scientific notions by famous scientists have been revised or replaced as new knowledge becomes available. "Faith" doesn't have that built-in flexibility. Faith goes with one answer/idea and stops questioning. Faith is never a pathway to knowledge.

And as far as those who "believe in science", I don't think that's the proper way to characterize skeptics. Personally, I wouldn't say that I "believe in science" - I would say that I "accept the findings of science" (and their concomitant confidence levels). It just sounds weird to say "I believe in science." Kind of like saying "I believe in gravity" - people don't "believe in" gravity, they simply accept the fact of gravity. There's a different connotation there.

Also, science is a relatively new human invention. It's competing with hundreds of thousands of years of accumulated superstitions and evolutionary cognitive biases. That's quite a task. In fact, magic, as the magicians here know all too well, works so wonderfully precisely because we rely so heavily on our built-in cognitive flaws. Science tries to eliminate those flaws and biases from our decision making process.

The bottom line is that there is no better method for separating fact from fiction than science. If there is, I'd like to know what it is and how you can tell that it's better (any proper comparison/evaluation would have to use scientific methodology, no?)

Ron
"It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry." Thomas Paine
kambiz
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One thing science does not question is whether empiricism is actually reality....

Kam
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And if I write, many a pen will break.
.....and when I consider my own self, lo, I find it coarser than clay!
Michael Daniels
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Scepticism can mean different things.

If scepticism means testing claims through examination and rational assessment of the available evidence, then it is practically indistinguishable from science (although sceptics are themselves generally excused the need to do primary research).

If scepticism involves the biased or uninformed selection of evidence, or the making of unquestioned assumptions (e.g., that certain things are impossible), in order to discredit a claim, then it is ignorant, irrational and ideological. As such, it has more in common with the pseudo-science it often criticises than it does with science.

Mike
R.S.
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Quote:
On Jan 28, 2015, Michael Daniels wrote:
Scepticism can mean different things.

If scepticism means testing claims through examination and rational assessment of the available evidence, then it is practically indistinguishable from science (although sceptics are themselves generally excused the need to do primary research).

If scepticism involves the biased or uninformed selection of evidence, or the making of unquestioned assumptions (e.g., that certain things are impossible), in order to discredit a claim, then it is ignorant, irrational and ideological. As such, it has more in common with the pseudo-science it often criticises than it does with science.

Mike


When I refer to skepticism, I am referring to the former.

Ron
"It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry." Thomas Paine
stoneunhinged
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Is it entirely reasonable to assume that human cognition actually grasps what is? (By "is" I mean something like what philosophers call "Being".)

If not, then isn't it rather obvious that the choice to use our intelligence to cognify the cosmos is a faith-based choice, since there is no reason to assume that human cognition is anything more than an internal, close-loop system that doesn't really understand anything at all whatsoever. One needs to "believe" in reason before one starts reasoning, and even then one can never be sure. You know, Gödel and all that.

Or am I not allowed to talk about Gödel (since I'm not a mathematician)?
LobowolfXXX
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Well done, Stone!
"Torture doesn't work" lol
Guess they forgot to tell Bill Buckley.

"...as we reason and love, we are able to hope. And hope enables us to resist those things that would enslave us."
landmark
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Science is faith-based if you're talking about "truth." What does not have to be faith-based is the accuracy of prediction. See my comment above.
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