Monday, March 17, 2008

Faith In Science

The only faith that science subscribes to is that the universe is orderly and the nature of that order can be discovered.

Every thing else is up to the individual.


tomcpp said...

Not at all. What you say is but one component of science, the basic component. The validity of experimentation depends on this.

Even this basic component is not shared by todays multiculturalists and most philosophers (and even a lot of theologians, believe it or not) : truth, after all, is relative. Or islam, allah, after all, contradicts himself in the quran, since all he says is true, contradictory statements can be true. Since allah contradicts math, math must be false, right ? Buddhism, too, is of the multicultural opinion. Hinduism and shinto have the problems every polytheist (or atheist, which is the same thing really) religion has : it's basically nihilism.

So even this little truth is too much for at least 50% of the humans alive today.

Science also says a lot more. About the structure of the world, but there is a difference here between Judaism/Christianity and nearly all other religions, including most forms of atheism : Christianity contradicts some scientific theories, most others contradict the very basis of science, the validity of experiments.

All "tolerant" ideologies (tolerant of other ideologies) contradict the very substance of science.

Atheism, or non-dogmatism, which is a much more correct term ("I don't want *x* dictating rules to me"-atheism), is one of the few theories that is necessarily logically inconsistent (second incompleteness theorem).

*ANY* world, real or imaginary, in which purely mathematical truths hold in *any* aspect of it, therefore has a dogmatic truth : a "state religion" if you will.

And like it or not, that state religion for *this* world, is really close to Christianity. Look at it this way : it does not necessarily include a human getting crucified, and you can have however many stories that are true as you will, but it *does* include the ten commandments.

M. Simon said...

Interesting leaps of logic.

And thanks for giving your point of view and covering the part that is up to the individual.

I don't know what branch of Buddhism you studied, but that was not my experience at all. I do not think that Buddhism made any pronouncements on the nature of the universe. Other than it was all illusion. Which is not a bad description. The interplay of light of many frequencies and densities. And some moral precepts: one of which includes accepting suffering. I think Jesus would like that. It is even possible he heard it. It was old news by the time he was born.

I looked at the Hindu stuff. They are not polytheistic in the way you conceive. All their "gods" are aspects of the universe. Sort of like you go to the chemist if you have a chemistry problem. However, chemistry is just one aspect of nature and there is a God behind it. Think of the Hindu Gods as archangels and you wouldn't be far off.

In any case all this stuff is up to the individual.

BTW Jews seem to do fairly well with science. If you count Nobels they are hitting 60X their weight.

tomcpp said...

Your buddhism is antagonistic to science too. If reality is an illusion, that makes it by definition under control of the individual that's thinking about it.

The basic point of science is that it is *not* under anyone's control, except perhaps of a single, unified, universal principle (that could even be God, it would not violate any scientific theory). Without this piece of faith, as you say correctly, there can be no science.

Furthermore this "magic thinking" that Buddhism provides, is by itself dangerous. Magical thinking, obviously, doesn't work. In an illusion you could only fall down a flight of stairs if you thought that would be possible. If I locked you blindfoldd into a room with a hole in the middle, of which you are unaware, and buddhism were true, you could never fall down that hole (after all it's not part of your illusion since you don't know about it). Care to test ? :-p

Same with hinduism. It's a very colorful religion, but it assumes different (physical) rules apply for different people, let's take just one example, followers of krishna versus followers of kali have *slightly* diverging opinions on the effects of killing. Besides the point that reality is illusion is also part of hinduism, though I believe it originally wasn't.

And I had a bit of an experience with islam, and this taught me a lesson, the hard way. I guess it's in the bible, so I might have known : don't judge a book by it's cover. "Experience" contacting a single member or a group of a religion means nothing (especially if you ignore other groups of said faith), read the actual books and challenge them on questions you have. That way lies wisdom. Letting them explain their feelings, that way lies madness. Read at least a few vedas, lookup the basis of buddhism, and *think* long and hard about the implications.

The truth is that reality is a hard pill to swallow for many people, and that it is a hard pill for me too. In the (only) real world I am but a weak human being, that knows how to do 1 thing relatively well. But I am vulnerable as hell, I cannot fight my way past a bunny guarding a hole in the ground. I cannot take care of myself without the massive infrastructure around me. To be sure, reality sucks. It sucks a lot less than it could, thanks to this civilization our parents built, but it still sucks.

Declaring it all to be an illusion, thereby making it safe to, say, destroy civilization, even passively (it's an illusion you know, why bother ?), is beyond stupid, and will only lead to suffering.

In fact, even being tolerant to any serious amount of people thinking this way is highly questionable, unfortunately.

When reading history, I first found it amazing beyond belief that only Jews and Christians succeeded in multiplying their own populations without massive external support. Other faiths, like islam, abandoned agriculture, and thus could only survive in (quasi-)tropical settings in very limited numbers. This was not due to other people not knowing agriculture, but by these people attacking eachother, in which case farms make you too tempting a target and too vulnerable.

tomcpp said...

Btw ... science requires, to give validity to experiments, that there is exactly 1 "thing" in control of everything, everywhere. One SINGULAR set of laws that is the same for everybody, for every last grain of sand anywhere in the universe.

And yes, we are long removed from the point where we have unified all aspects of science, in fact it's hardly conceiveable that one day this will be possible.

But if it isn't possible. Then science will fail. Science itself is strictly "monotheistic" in nature, even if today we do indeed see separate aspects of science.

That's because we haven't yet found all the bridges between these aspects, not because they're unconnected.

M. Simon said...


As to science failing: no system based on doubt can fail.

What happens is new understanding.

As to things being hard to figure out and come to any conclusion. Try plasma physics. We really do know all the rules. Yet predicting what will happen in all but the most trivial systems is impossible. At least at this time.

The best we can do is approximations that cover well known cases. In fact all of science is full of approximations. It is good enough to make things that work. Which is good enough.

LarryD said...

The Juedo-Christian woldview (that's relevant to this discussion) is that God created a universe that makes sense. I.e., there are secondary causes and human beings can come to understand at least some of them.

Islam holds that Allah is the first cause and there are no secondary causes.

What Islamic Science and Philosophy?
If the true cause of events is the will of Allah, and if the will of Allah is inscrutable, then the causes of events are inscrutable and science a vain pursuit. The issue is ultimately whether the universe and its creator are in any way intelligible. The West, with its traditions of natural law and natural theology, agrees for the most part that the universe is astonishingly intelligible and God somewhat so. Islam, at least at its most rigorous, denies any intelligibility whatsoever to either.

... In contrast, the Jewish and Christian worlds have been informed by the notion of secondary causes propounded by Moses Maimonides and Saint Thomas Aquinas. God works, at least most of the time, through the laws of nature, via causes. Just as our wills can be both free and subject to God, and divine foreknowledge does not foreclose the contingency of earthly events, God and nature cooperate in the production of effects.

Hirsi Ali, atheism and Islam
Allah is everywhere, which is to say that Allah is nowhere in particular. Allah's world is indistinguishable from the primeval world of paganism, in which the "colorfully contending pantheon" of nature-gods arranges a chaotic and incomprehensible show at every moment. The world without Allah would look not much different; if Allah acts in a whimsical manner without the constraint of laws of nature, we cannot tell the difference between Allah's actions and chaos.

It would be misguided to file this away as a curious relic of Medieval theology without direct bearing on the spiritual character of Islam. On the contrary, the absolute transcendence of Allah in the physical world is the cognate of his despotic character as a spiritual ruler, who demands submission and service from his creatures. The Judeo-Christian God loves his creatures and as an act of love makes them free. Humankind only can be free if nature is rational, that is, if God places self-appointed limits on his own sphere of action. In a world ordered by natural law, humankind through its faculty of reason can learn these laws and act freely. In the alternative case, the absolute freedom of Allah crowds out all human freedom of action, leaving nothing but the tyranny of caprice and fate.

The empty and arbitrary world of atheism is far closer to the Muslim universe than the Biblical world, in which God orders the world out of love for humankind, so that we may in freedom return the love that our creator bears for us. Atheism is an alternative to Islam closer to Muslim habits of mind than the love-centered world of Judaism and Christianity.

M. Simon said...

Thanks Larry.

Very nice.

tomcpp said...

That is of course a dangerous truth :

a certain kind of atheism - the "i don't believe in any god making rules"-atheism (which is, at least in my opinion, the dominant form in the west) is not very different from islam. And it's not alone, atheist communism - still has the largest numbers of any atheist group by far, even beats islam and christianity - is also not that different from islam.

Neither is polytheism.

Neither is multiculturalism.

They're all false, obviously, but they are all false in exactly the same way.