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Thread: Science and Faith

  1. #1

    Default Science and Faith

    This is for people interested in what meaning there might be for the existence of the universe. Not that I have an answer, but I wonder how many agree with this statement:

    The belief seems to be that scientists will one day complete the expression intended to define the natural law that can be used to explain everything in the universe in terms of a mathematical model. If this actually occurred, though, it seems unlikely that anyone in the world would be capable of understanding it fully. Most people, including me, would not understand it at all on a scientific or mathematical level. If we were to accept it as true, we would have to accept it on faith alone.

  2. #2

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    This sounds a little bit along the lines of Plutonic reasoning (have to search memory banks back to college philosophy in 198....)

    However on a personal thought. As a Fire and brimstone raised Catholic, It is hard not to believe if you have an open mind and see that points that we can define and points that we can not. The problem with religious zealots is they are to busy creating god in there own image.

  3. #3

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    Wouldn't that be nice. An equitation for everything in the universe. To think mankind will ever achieve this seems silly to me. We know so little about the universe. And to extend our knowledge we would need the capability to leave our planet. And time. And a bigger and better brain. And who knows how much time we have until science will become something in the history books because we will be looking for food and shelter.

  4. #4

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    I'm not sure that there is a "Universal Equation". Most modern mathematicians believe that mathematics is an imperfect model to reality and can never accurately define any natural event. It can really only make predictions and models. We could come up with an equation that models After reality, but it will never Be reality.

    What we have to ask is this: What Exactly are we modeling? The way that the universe works? Why would we need an equation rather than an explanation? Can we even use an equation like this?

    Truth is, nobody knows.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    The belief seems to be that scientists will one day complete the expression intended to define the natural law that can be used to explain everything in the universe in terms of a mathematical model. If this actually occurred, though, it seems unlikely that anyone in the world would be capable of understanding it fully. Most people, including me, would not understand it at all on a scientific or mathematical level.
    That remains to be proven. As a kid, I just assumed that the world was mechanically deterministic. Like, duhh! It seems so apparent. And that's what Newton thought when he came up with his Laws of Motion.

    Einstein demonstrated how these laws are completely inaccurate in in certain situations (e.g. with objects travelling close to the speed of light), and came up with a new vision of the way the world worked -- space and time are a single multi-dimensional plane (known as space-time), and relativity means that there's no objective viewpoint. So it's impossible to say whether two events occur simultaneously, as it depends entirely on your motion through space-time relative to the events. (Does that mean there is no god in the relativistic model because such omnipotence is impossible?)

    And then there's quantum mechanics. The simple act of observation will cause an indeterminate state to collapse into a determinate one -- it's almost like reality is invented as a result of our being there to see it.

    But quantum mechanics is fundamentally incompatible with relativity.

    I suspect that maybe at some point determinism breaks down into pure randomness, and so, in order to integrate relativity and quantum mechanics, we may have to accept that the fundamental building blocks of reality are random and "ultimate knowledge" is even theoretically impossible.

    Regardless of theory, precise measurement will always be impossible. And (even in a deterministic reality) chaos and complexity theory (where all things are interconnected in some way -- The Butterfly Effect) mean that we would need to know everything about everything.

    Humanity's ability to "understand the world fully" is extremely limited. Reality is much more complicated than anyone ever thought. I don't think we're in danger of "figuring it all out"; I don't think we're capable of doing so.



    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    If we were to accept it as true, we would have to accept it on faith alone.
    Faith is the enemy of reason! Faith alone is absurd! It's pure randomness! Nothing should be accepted on faith alone!!!

    Why would you "accept something as true" if you don't strongly suspect that it's true?! You could simply have no opinion on the matter. Isn't that what people do when they have no clue?!

    ----------------------------------------------
    Is there a tin of tuna in my left-most kitchen cupboard? What's your answer? How do you solve a problem like this?

    You could use your rational mind to gauge the opinion of people you trust to be both honest and correct, or to have academic accreditation in a relevant field... using a layman's version of Bayesian analysis.

    Have a dozen of our mutual friends (who you trust) all told you that there is a tin of tuna in that cupboard? Have the police told you that they have arrested me, secured my house, and shown you a photograph of the inside of that cupboard, clearly showing a tin of tuna...? Or do you know that I'm so allergic to tuna that I would never have a can in my house...?
    ----------------------------------------------

    Knowledge of reality never involves black-and-white fact. Knowledge of reality is an illusion. The only thing we have to go on are our own experiences... and with dreams, hallucinations, false memories, dementia, and a million other psychological conditions... we can't even trust our own experiences completely.

    At the end of the day, ultimate knowledge is impossible. You have to use your rational mind to determine the amount of trust you place in the information you receive, and live accordingly. Life is uncertain. No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow or what other people will do.

    It's quite possible that EVERYTHING you think you know (other than the fact that you exist) is wrong. So there's no point in having any blind faith or beliefs. All you can go on are your own experiences, and your own rationality.

    Do you recall my mentioning of René Descartes, Drifter? "Meditations on First Philosophy" is his famous treatise in which he tries to tackle the problem of knowledge. He starts from a position of knowing nothing, trusting no-one, and using extreme scepticism to see if he can ascertain any absolute facts about reality, and then use pure logic to derive fundamental truths.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_doubt

    The thought experiments known as the "Evil Demon" (or the modern analogy, the "brain in a vat") help illustrate the fundamental doubt that we all face:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_demon
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/brainvat/

    The branch of philosophy that deals with "the problem of knowledge" is called epistemology:
    http://www.philosophybasics.com/bran...stemology.html

    And the belief that nothing else is real outside one's own mind is known as solipsism -- a position of ultimate doubt:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism

  6. #6

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    But...but...there's the ultimate knowledge of dogboy, like two plus two equals four. After that, I have to accept advanced math on faith...sigh. Talk to me about music and I become smarter, moving up from moron to above average. Yippee!

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    But...but...there's the ultimate knowledge of dogboy, like two plus two equals four.
    By ultimate knowledge I mean "knowledge about everything in the universe" -- down to every single hair on your head and all that.

    But how do you know that "two plus two equals four"? Is knowing that "two plus two equals four" the same as knowing that "2+2=4"...? Our knowledge here can be separated into the knowledge of symbols and their meaning, and our knowledge of the concept that is expressed by the symbols.

    Knowing what "2" and "four" mean requires experiential knowledge to understand how those verbal/written symbols correlate to ideas in our minds. It's possible we might encounter a small tribe (or alien species) who use the symbol "2" to encode the meaning that we would usually describe as "ten", in which case (to them) "2+2=4" would be false (or meaningless).

    So is the concept "2+2=4" a remarkable fact... or nothing more than a tautology? Is it possible for there to be another reality in which the expression is false? Is such knowledge a priori (inherent) or a posteriori (learnt)... or merely a tautology...?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_priori_and_a_posteriori

    In any case, what is the idea that "2+2=4" represents? If we're talking about reality, there is no such thing as a "2" or a 4". Numbers don't exist in reality; they're abstract concepts. In order to use mathematics, we must reduce reality to an abstract form and then model that fantasy.



    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    After that, I have to accept advanced math on faith...sigh.
    I'd call that trust, indifference or deference to authority. "Faith" is a word I have big problems with... it seems to preclude any kind of rational thought.

    Which brings up another aspect of knowledge... How can either of us know what the word "faith" really means? Is there a real incontrovertible meaning? If everyone disagrees on the meaning of symbols, is there any way that we can have meaningful debate, if the only way in which we can communicate is via abstracts symbols with no objective meaning (i.e. words)?

    Ow. Ow.... My head hurts! Curse you all!!! All this thinking has given me a headache.



    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    Talk to me about music and I become smarter, moving up from moron to above average. Yippee!
    Oh, don't! You're so lucky! I might be an amateur in "beginners level philosophy" but it doesn't provide enduring transcendental pleasure like music does.

    I don't know how it works; I don't have an explanation. But music transcends the cold, hard philosophical debates. How should philosophy account for the "meaning" involved in the subjective experience of listening to a beautiful piece of music...?

  8. #8

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    [...]If we were to accept it as true, we would have to accept it on faith alone.
    The problem with faith is, we still are left to place our reliance of trust - on something that we can't or don't wish to understand - on those (other humans), who would have us believe - that they do understand and, are correct... Authoritarianism

    I don't see any advantage to that...

    I don't believe, that what we seek in the universe, as a conclusive end or meaning - is the practical matter particularly; that it quite likely is, the implausible {see: Impossible}... No, methinks, it's the journey... that is relative - were it not for that; I'd find this mission, a folly of resource abuse...

    To know, that we don't know - requires no faith nor, absolution of fact instead: we've freed our resources and, some bit of consternation too - that we've 'chosen' to move on which may allow us servitude, without piety - that we're secure on a position; while remaining available to additional information...

    I suspect, that we'll learn what we need to (about the universe) - I'm not troubled by the question nor, any need to have it answered... "it is, what it, is" whatever the hell, it - is... (or isn't)...



    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz Lightyear
    To infinity and beyond!
    - - - Updated - - -



    Quote Originally Posted by egor View Post
    [...]The problem with religious zealots is they are to[o] busy creating god in the[ir] own image.
    I love this statement... reminds me of what Bill Maher, might say...

    -Marka

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiny View Post

    But quantum mechanics is fundamentally incompatible with relativity.

    I suspect that maybe at some point determinism breaks down into pure randomness, and so, in order to integrate relativity and quantum mechanics, we may have to accept that the fundamental building blocks of reality are random and "ultimate knowledge" is even theoretically impossible.

    Regardless of theory, precise measurement will always be impossible. And (even in a deterministic reality) chaos and complexity theory (where all things are interconnected in some way -- The Butterfly Effect) mean that we would need to know everything about everything.

    Humanity's ability to "understand the world fully" is extremely limited. Reality is much more complicated than anyone ever thought. I don't think we're in danger of "figuring it all out"; I don't think we're capable of doing so.



    Faith is the enemy of reason! Faith alone is absurd! It's pure randomness! Nothing should be accepted on faith alone!!!

    Why would you "accept something as true" if you don't strongly suspect that it's true?! You could simply have no opinion on the matter. Isn't that what people do when they have no clue?!
    Exactly! All knowledge is inferential and is ultimately a construct of the mind, a mental model of reality whose value is best measured by its usefulness. There is no reason to assume that any given mental model is "perfectly correct", that runs the risk of becoming caught up in a false idea (e.g. Newtonian mechanics and absolute space and time) to the point that it is nearly impossible to consider anything outside of it (the constancy of the speed of light was unacceptable to many physicists, precisely because it is impossible in absolute spacetime, and countless experiments were conducted in vain to prove that it wasn't true). Even the concept of "ultimate correctness" itself can only be accepted on faith, its legitimacy cannot be validated, and it certainly makes aspects of quantum physics much more difficult to comprehend (e.g., one is tempted to favor a "hidden variables" interpretation despite the experiments showing this to be impossible).

    I think it is best practice to always keep an open mind, and to regard everything that I think I know with a substantial grain of salt. ^.^

  10. #10

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    I agree with tiny, even given infinite time and infinite resources, I don't think a perfectly accurate model of the universe can be created (and at least some of that is due to those pesky quantum effects).

    I also disagree with Drifter's assertion that the layperson is required to accept any sufficiently complex/esoteric model on "faith alone." This, I feel, suggests a strong lack of understanding of the basics of the Scientific Method. It shouldn't be faith but trust and logic that are employed. Faith is accepting something without supporting evidence; faith by its very nature is blind, illogical, unquestioning. Science is, at its core, utterly logic and forever questioning. Rather than take something on faith, our layperson should, instead, ask herself "Is this claim valid when compared against what I do know? Do I have trust in the source of this claim? Is it likely the parts of this I don't understand are valid because of things I don't know/understand yet? Can I verify, either myself or through a trusted source, the validity of any of the parts I don't understand? At any point in this process, have any of the conclusions or facts been wrong or counter to what I do know is fact?" See the difference?

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