Reconciling assholes for nearly a decade.

Now let this be an end to the arguing...

Hey, I just del.icio.us'ed that...heh.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 19th, 2005
Except they give the game away here:

"A central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism—it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms."

In other words, even if we find overwhelming evidence of a Designer, it doesn't count because we already decided to exclude such a possibility from consideration. Therefore, we are inherently smarter and superior to anyone who thinks differently, and are not required to rationally defend our position.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 19th, 2005
Not so. If the observable and testable evidence points unambiguously to a Designer, then it falls within the realm of science.

It doesn't. Not yet, at least. Science leaves open the possibility that maybe it will. Of course, if it ever does, it removes all need for faith, and it destroys religion as we know it.

Do you really want that?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 19th, 2005
"In other words..."

perhaps you could come up with a definition of science that includes the possible existance of a creator but *excludes* the possible existance of a swarm of invisible blood sucking alien life-guards sleeping outside my window and waiting for me to speak a specific phrase on which utterance they will leap through my window and devour my testicles?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 19th, 2005
No.

So you'd better be careful what you say.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
August 19th, 2005
"...utterance they will leap through my window and devour my testicles?"

I think they already have.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 19th, 2005
"So you'd better be careful what you say."

that is why I do all my communicating via email. mwah ha hah ah ah ahah ah ha hah a ah *gasp* ha haha ha ah hah ha
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 19th, 2005
"I think they already have."

mwah ha hah ah ah ah ha ha ha hahahah *gasp* hashah ha ha ha hah ha

wow, that was a cracker Jimmy. really imaginative and unexpected use of wit.

my point was actually a serious one. regardless of whether or not god actually exists, any definition of science that includes that possibility would render all scientific rigour utterly meaningless.

so be careful what you push for. whatever else its done, science has given you computers, email *and* porn.

it deserves our gratitude.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 19th, 2005
"If the observable and testable evidence points unambiguously to a Designer, then it falls within the realm of science."

"...observed or testable NATURAL mechanisms."

So perhaps I erred in stating that a Designer is excluded. Perhaps only a designer outside of Nature, reaching into nature is disallowed.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 19th, 2005
If there were observable and testable evidence that points unambiguously to a Designer then the Designer would, in some way, have to part of Nature. A purely external entity would not leave any observable or testable evidence.
Permalink Almost H. Anonymous 
August 20th, 2005
"regardless of whether or not god actually exists, any definition of science that includes that possibility would render all scientific rigour utterly meaningless."

In other words, science is utterly incapable of participating in a discussion about whether or not a supernatural being has created, influenced, or impacted the universe in any way.

If that's the way you're defining science, perhaps we need a better tool when considering questions like the origins of life, the universe, and everything?
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
"If there were observable and testable evidence that points unambiguously to a Designer then the Designer would, in some way, have to part of Nature."

Would have an impact on Nature, yes. That is not necessarily the same as being part of Nature.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
"In other words, science is utterly incapable of participating in a discussion about whether or not a supernatural being has created, influenced, or impacted the universe in any way."

*exactly*

thats *exactly* it.

God may or may not exist, science is incapable of making a decision about that, unless it turns out that God is a natural, not a supernatural being.

"If that's the way you're defining science, perhaps we need a better tool when considering questions like the origins of life, the universe, and everything?"

maybe we do, maybe not. we wont know until we try.

I tend to think of Science as being about the How and God being about the Why. (of course, given that I dont believe in god, I also dont see the why question as being particularly important)

either way, science *is* utterly incapable of participating in a discussion about whether or not a supernatural being has created, influenced, or impacted the universe in any way and I like it like that.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
...thats actually one of the reasons I dont really understand the antipathy of various religious people to science....the worst science can do is prove or disprove a few of the *specific* facts listed in books like the bible and the koran, it cannot go any further...
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Now if only religious folks would see it that way, too.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
The problem is it's a very thin line between saying "We're just ignoring all this God stuff because we don't have a way to talk about it" and "We're ignoring all this God stuff because all the people who believe in it are idiots who fell for a load of whooey."

There's a lot of the latter masquerading as the former.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
"There's a lot of the latter masquerading as the former."

<shrug> who cares? so some people think other people are idiots cause of their personal beliefs. like *thats* anything new.

Hell, science cannot even prove anything about the testicle thing, thats how weak and pathetic it is.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
But Jesus,

What if some physical evidence was discovered that fit better with the theory that a supernatural Designer had a role in the creation and development of life on earth, than that life evolved naturally?

You just conceded that science does a computer-vs.-Kirk (DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE!) and goes up in smoke in such a scenario.

So do you stick with fundamentalist, natural materialism science, or try a different intellectual system that might actually be able to incorporate this new data?
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
"What if some physical evidence was discovered that fit better with the theory that a supernatural Designer had a role in the creation and development of life on earth, than that life evolved naturally?"

Actually, it's religion that goes up in smoke in that event.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
"What if some physical evidence was discovered that fit better with the theory that a supernatural Designer had a role in the creation and development of life on earth, than that life evolved naturally?"

thats already happened. every piece of evidence available can be effortlessly slotted into the theory that a supernatural designer had a role in the creation in development of life on earth.

OTOH every piece of evidence available can *also* be effortlessly slotted into the theory that invisible, blood sucking alien lifeguards are waiting ourtside my bedroom window...

thats the *point*, if we accept "god did it" as a full and complete explanation for *anything* then we may as well accept it as a full and complete explanation for *everything* and, regardless of the truth or otherwise of that statement, life gets *really* *really* boring for scientists.

science exists not as a standard by which our lives should be judged, but as a man-made system for evaulating and describing our lives.




"You just conceded that science does a computer-vs.-Kirk (DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE!) and goes up in smoke in such a scenario."

not at all, Ive just conceded that science has no place for supernatural explanations because supernatural explanations are entirely outside of the descriptive abilities of science.

its kind of like asking a quadratic explanation to explain picasso. its not merely impossible, its a meaningless question.

science is *utterly* incapable of engaging in any kind of meaningful discussion about supernatural entities.

from the POV of science, if the only answer is a supernatural one then science has to keep looking, because supernatural answers *do not exist* in the eyes of science.

"So do you stick with fundamentalist, natural materialism science, or try a different intellectual system that might actually be able to incorporate this new data?"

me? I like science, its not a set of answers...its a journey. so Ill stick with science, barring god actually appearing in person and explaining my mistake.

you can do what you like.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
really I think I was trapped into a false choice there. Im perfecetly happy to accept that supernatural entities exist, and Im perfectly happy to accept that science cannot describe them.

Im also perfectly happy with the idea that they dont and that all the apparently supernatural behaviors will one day be proven to either be false, ot to be explainiable through science.

accepting science does not mean that I have to reject god, anymore than understand a quadratic equation means I cannot swim in a river.

the worst that can be said is that I have to accept that some interpretations of what the bible/koran says are wrong.

..for instance, I dont believe that the bible actually *says* that the earth is 6000 years old, people have kind of made that up from some arbitary interpretations of certain lines within the bible.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
...which is really kind of silly, if god wanted us to think that the earth was only 6000 years old, surely he would have had someone say it explicitly?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
What observable testable evidence proves scientifically that prime numbers exist? I don't want definitions or axioms, I want measureable proof.
Permalink Rich Rogers 
August 20th, 2005
<shrug> the definition of a prime number is a number that is only divisible by itself or 1.

the number 2 is only divisible by itself or 1.

therefore it meets the definition of a prime number.

therefore at least 1 prime number exists.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Making a definition is not a scientific proof. Where is the physical evidence?
Permalink Rich Rogers 
August 20th, 2005
I think I have a way forward. WHat we need is every believer to pray for a signature...Thor written in mountains on the moon should end all dispute. Failing that - the designer better leave some evidence lying around.
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 20th, 2005
"Making a definition is not a scientific proof."

??? without a definition the words 'Prime Number' have no meaning.


a prime number is a concept, its not a physical entity.

so is god of course, the difference is that mathematicians find the concept of prime numbers useful in their work.

Im not sure what you are trying to prove?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Well, if you're not allowed to define it, just find it, I have something in front of me. I'm going to call it a Prime Number. I can't tell you what it is, because that would be defining it, but I have irrefutable physical proof that prime numbers exist.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
The problem is that our educational system is often incompatible with science. Science is against any authority who can't justify their claims.

For example, a fundamental mistake in physics class is when when they tell you "force equals mass times acceleration." Then in a lab, you're supposed to provide evidence.
http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~kovar/hall.html

If they did it correctly, they might ask the students to brainstorm and discuss how they'd try disproving that "law" convincingly.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 20th, 2005
And incidentally, I don't see anything wrong with a scientist having faith- or authority-based beliefs in their lives too. Complete humans have various aspects to their personalities and lives. But these are separate from more scientific beliefs.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 20th, 2005
My example was rather facetious, but here's something:

I play Dungeons and Dragons. As a result, I have a lot of dice. I happen to have two blocks of 36 six-sided dice. Well, I've lost one from each block, so I only have 70 of them right now, plus a bunch of miscellaneous dice, but that's beside the point. These six sided dice happen to be cubes.

I can take one of those dice and place it on the table, and there's only one configuration for it. Boring.

Two dice. I can make a rectangle that's 1 by 2, or a 2 by 1. Also boring.

Three. Again, 1 by 3, or 3 by 1. (I could also make an L-shape, but let's confine the shapes we make to solid rectangles, ok?)

Four dice. 1 by 4, and 4 by 1, but *also* 2 by 2. The first deviation we've seen. Interesting.

Five. 1 by 5, 5 by 1. Back to the old pattern.

Six. 1 by 6, 6 by 1, and now 2 by 3 and 3 by 2. Hmm...perhaps there's something here.

Seven. 1 by 7, 7 by 1.

Eight. 1 by 8, 8 by 1, 2 by 4, 4 by 2. There's a pattern forming. Every other number of dice seems to be able to make a rectangle with two dice on an edge.

Nine. 1 by 9, 9 by 1, and 3 by 3. Wait, every third number seems to be able to make a rectangle with three dice on an edge. Maybe there's something special about two and three, a property they have in common. Well, both of them can only make rectangles that are one by X, where X is the number of dice in question.

Ten dice. 1 by 10, 10 by 1, 2 by 5, and 5 by 2. Looking back at it, if you have 5 dice, you can only make rectangles that are 1 by 5 and 5 by 1. Maybe 5 also has the property that 2 and 3 share.

Physical objects, no definitions. Need I go on?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
Jesus,

I think what you're trying to say is that science and religion can always be kept wholly separate, because they talk about different things.

In the great majority of cases, I believe that to also be true.

But taking the origin and development of life on earth as an example, I think there are also cases where science and religion can't totally avoid each other.

If the question is "How did life on Earth come into being and then into its present form?", you can try to answer it with a wholly natural-materialist-science viewpoint, you can just say "God did it", or you can come down anywhere in between with some combination of "God is the reason this aspect of living things are the way they are, but these other aspects are better explained by this natural mechanism."

So because we have already defined science as excluding the discussion of the supernatural, we need another system for deciding which explanation is better, more compelling, more rational, has more explanatory power, whatever metric you want to have for considering something a good explanation.

What you are doing is throwing up your hands and saying there's no way to even discuss or think rationally about one of the most profound questions of our existence.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
And Aaron, impressive answer (although I should probably read it more carefully to confirm that I actually understand it).
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
"Actually, it's religion that goes up in smoke in that event."

This doesn't make any sense to me. The Christian Bible explicitly claims that the very nature of the universe is evidence of God. You may, of course, disagree with that claim, but I wouldn't say that makes Christianity not a religion.

I'm guessing you're basing this on Douglas Adams, who, while obviously one of the most brilliant and insightful minds of the 20th century, I do not consider to be infallible.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
"force equals mass times acceleration."

Assume I put in a reasonable example, not my garbagey one based on not dealing with physics for a while.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 20th, 2005
Not basing it on Doug Adams.

What I'm saying is essentially:

What if conclusive evidence is found that the universe was made by the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I mean, evidence that no sane person can possibly refute.

Christianity goes poof. Islam goes poof. Buddhism goes poof. In fact all religions other than Flying Spaghetti Monsterism go poof.

And Flying Spaghetti Monsterism itself would no longer be a religion. People would be doing experiments on trying to find the limits and capabilities of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, people would interview the Flying Spaghetti Monster on TV, there would be merchandising deals, and so on.

Well, maybe not so different than religion today.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
"Well, maybe not so different than religion today."

See what I mean :).
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
Yeah, now I've just got to get the Flying Spaghetti Monster on my talk show now. I hear It's really booked lately.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
Aaron, I like your dice example.
Permalink Rich Rogers 
August 20th, 2005
Thanks.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
The key to it is realizing that math, while itself abstract, does not come from abstract concepts. When you remember what caused people to want to understand multiplication (area), and what a prime number is (an integer that cannot be factored), the rest comes naturally.

The Pythagorean theorem is also possible to illustrate with dice, too. The easiest example is with a 3-4-5 triangle, of course. Fun to lay them out and rearrange, but most people don't have that many dice just laying around. I do.

I don't have enough for a 5-12-13 triangle. I should buy more dice before my son gets old enough to show him that one.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
If evolutionists want to win hearts and minds, concrete examples of things that can be understood, replicated, and played with will be necessary.

I am scientifically educated at a secular university and I follow the science fairly well, and I am not convinced at all that man evolved from anything because there is no clear evidence. I think evolution of species is conceptually possible, but there are statistical problems and a lack of evidence that need to be explained using explanations other than just-so stories, namecalling and exhortations to have faith in the stories and propoganda of so-called scientists.
Permalink Rich Rogers 
August 20th, 2005
"I am not convinced at all that man evolved from anything because there is no clear evidence."

What about all those in-between ape-man skulls that have been found all over?
Permalink Almost H. Anonymous 
August 20th, 2005
"but there are statistical problems"

Lets not forget that genetically, chimpanzees are 98.5% identical to humans. That's a very small amount of variation.
Permalink Almost H. Anonymous 
August 20th, 2005
The research I did in global optimization leads me to think that it might be possible to construct easy to understand examples of "evolution" from that, but it's just a glimmering of an idea at this point.

Hmmm...rolling dice...maybe...

Faster to get boxcars by rolling 2 dice and keeping 6's, rerolling others than it is to reroll both every time...

The problem here is that it's an analogy. The bit with primes and Pythagoras were not analogies but actual demonstrations of the literal nature of math. Tricky to come up with visible evolution that is not an analogy.

Hmm...

(A true math purist will point out that my examples are dependent on using a Euclidian plane, but visible reality that we deal with in life is close enough as to be indistinguishable to humans, which works for my intent. Pure math would involve proofs independent of objects, but since physical examples were desired, I did what I could.)
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
I think the statistical problems mentioned are in the likelihood of specific events leading to people showing up.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
Yes, and of a lot of the mutations supposedly taking place. The argument involving irreducible complexity is not that it could never evolve, its that there are statistical problems with it doing so. Sure, we can claim by definition that it did occur, but then we might as well lay claim to 'infinite improbability' as our defining principle in science and toss out the occam's razor heuristic. The multiple universes theory comes up to deal with this, but under that theory, other universes would be less lively, a claim that doesn't hold up if you look at the actual single point of data we have on multiple universes. People point to cases of 10^20 of bacteria dealing with the problem, but there were never 10^20 of antelopes or crocodiles in order to overcome their statistical problems. Since darwin's theory of gradualism is all but disproved, we are left with punctuated equalibrium in which new species just pop out in one generation or so. This doesn't deal with the problem and is arguing from lack of evidence. Even assuming it to be true, there is no explanation statistically for how a male and female of the new genetically incompatible species would magically mutate together in a generation or two maintaining teh ability to breed.

A lot of creative thinking and serious scholarship is needed in the field before its ripe. Right now a lot of the theory seems more half baked flights of fancy than validated scientific reality.

Instead of dealing with the challenge and seeking actual evidence, or a working theory that addresses these issues, the 'establishment' tries to shout down their opposition through editorial pages and politics. Some of the opposition suddenly feels vindicated because there is no serious attempt to address the lack of concrete science, which sure seems suspicious.
Permalink Rich Rogers 
August 20th, 2005
I don't believe that the fossil record is precise enough to trace species generation to a break in single generation. I find it much more likely that isolated groups would adapt quickly to their particular niche, and that mutations would propagate quickly within that subgroup, and then accumulate to genetically isolate the subgroup further.

Generation N can breed with N+1, and N+1 with N+2, but not N with N+2. I'd be surprised if it happened that quickly, but that's the representation of the extreme case.

Also, I think it's likely that there is a branching, not an abrupt change from one species to another. If the new species can radically outcompete the old one, then the old one would rapidly die off, but not as a result of "becoming" the new one.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
I also believe that there is a great deal of serious scholarship going on, it's just invisible to the average person.

How many bookstores carry the Journal of Computational Chemistry? None I've seen. I find that one to be personally relevant, as that's where I got my first paper published.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
"But taking the origin and development of life on earth as an example, I think there are also cases where science and religion can't totally avoid each other."

Its rather too early for you or anyone else to say. If all goes well science is going to have a few more hundred thousand years to investigate things like the origin and development of life on earth.

But, and I thnk you are stilil missing the point I was trying to make earlier, its not possible within science to accept the existance of one supernatural being and not the existance of another.
The strength of science and the reason that its been so successful (and it *has* been successful so far) is that it does not accept "god did it" as an answer.
the current push to make that an acceptable answer will, if its accepted, eventually destroy science.
except that it wont of course, if religious nuts get the official definition of science changed to include supernatural entities then scientists will simply redefine some other word...natural science perhaps...as being that subset of science concerned with the *natural* word and continue about their business.
nothing will have changed except that the religious rebranding exercise will have been successful...annd maybe in another hundred years or so religious nuts will suddenly want to redefine the term 'natural science' to include them as well and the entire process will start all over again.

the whole damn thing is a marketing ploy, and a total waste of time for everyone except the retarded monkeys who *really* *really* believe that they somehow need the blessing of science to go about their business of believing in god.

"If the question is "How did life on Earth come into being and then into its present form?", you can try to answer it with a wholly natural-materialist-science viewpoint, you can just say "God did it", or you can come down anywhere in between with some combination of "God is the reason this aspect of living things are the way they are, but these other aspects are better explained by this natural mechanism."


which is such a fucking copout its not funny. why would god be responsible for one aspect but not another? how would you start defining the limits of gods affect?

God *cannot* co-exist with the scientific process...if 'god made it like this' is a reasonable answer in one area then it *has* to be a reasonable answer in every other area.

The scientific process has achieved all it has so far by *not* accepting 'god did it' as an answer, I really do not understand why you want to break a winning formula.

Science cannot have an opinjion one way or the other on the existance of god...its just about things we can understand by observing, experimenting and thinking.

Thats the point, so far at least the existance of god has been unprovable by science, its also unobservable and untestable by hypothesis...once you accept that "god did this" is a reasonable explanation there is no hypothesis possible that does not also include "god did it " as a good answer"


"So because we have already defined science as excluding the discussion of the supernatural, we need another system for deciding which explanation is better"

great! go off and come up with some system that will give you what you want. I dont understand why you dont juyst do that and leave people who dont want to use it alone. You dont need the acceptance of science to come up with a system that is better than science.
Just stop trying to piss in the science pool...go and make your own.


"What you are doing is throwing up your hands and saying there's no way to even discuss or think rationally about one of the most profound questions of our existence."

not at all. Im saying that *science* has no way to discuss or even think rationally about that question (because that question is untestable, unprovable, unfalseifiable and utterly beyond the ken of science)

You cannot prove, using science, the existance or otherwise of supernatural entities. the closest you can come is saying "hmm, science cannot (yet) explain that"

so stop trying to use science as a way of justifying your belief in god. If you want to believe in god, do so. thats the point in religion...its supposed to be about faith.
Dont look to science to bolster or abort your beliefs, it is *incapable* of doing so.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
I look down on people who believe in God. Period.
Permalink Dan Denman 
August 20th, 2005
the thing about science is its fundamentally just a game some people have decided to play.
its a "lets see how things work out if we try and explain things based on these assumptions." one of the fundamental assumptions that makes it a *useful* game is that everything is explainable in natural terms without assigning credit to invisible, unmeasurable entities.

if some other people want to play a different game and make the existance of god one of their basic assumptions then there is nothing to stop them.

what I dont understand is why they insist on making everyone else play *their* game.

mathematics for instance is a classic example, last time I checked mathematicians couldn't even prove that angles of a triangle add up to 180...it turns out that if you make one or two small changes in the basic assumptions, those angles *dont* add up to 180 degrees but everything else still works.
its not currently possible to prove anything either way because if we try to measure the angles of a triangle big enough to give us the answer we want, we cannot do so with sufficient accuracy to answer the question..the margin of error is too large to rule out either possibility.
There is still disagreement over whether the square root of -1 even exists and should be used...some mathematicians are still trying to prove that it doesn't and in fact isn't needed. <g> everyone else is willing to accept it on pragmatic grounds because the concept is very useful, whether it exists or not.

the mathematicians Ive spoke to tend to regard the fact that mathematics is so outrageously useful in describing the physical world as something of an incredible coincidence.

all of which makes whinging on about the need for science to incorporate the existance of god entirely moot...if you want it to, assume it does and see where that assumption takes you.

but stop trying to make everyone else accept it as a rule for *their* game.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
This is the first I've heard of a disagreement regarding the existence of imaginary numbers. Do you have references?

I mean, all the mathematical operators I can think of are defined for imaginaries, just as they are for reals, although some of them are a bit more complex. (Pun intended, thank you very much.)

It would be ridiculously difficult to compute quantum mechanics without them, if possible at all.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
As far as I know no-one has *ever* claimed that imaginary numbers "exist" in a physical sense (the very name "imaginary" is quite a big clue in this regard), and from a philosophical position they're kinda creepy -- they're the only numbers I can think of that can't be analogised to some everyday occurrence, and therefore may be hard to accept for non-mathematicians -- but in terms of "is there such a mathematical concept as the square root of a negative number" I don't see how their existence could be questioned. i *is* sqrt(-1), and that's that.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 20th, 2005
You get some really cool results in Q.M. if you can accept imaginary energies or imaginary time.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
"This is the first I've heard of a disagreement regarding the existence of imaginary numbers. Do you have references?"

no, although Im sure there must be stuff on the web about the 'controversary'

Im just recalling the professor of a third year math paper I was doing talking about the fact that there was one group of mathematicians who disliked sqrt(-1) and were determined to prove it wrong/unnecessary by redoing all the math to not need it.

<shrug>


"It would be ridiculously difficult to compute quantum mechanics without them, if possible at all."

yep.


Another good example to make the point I was trying to make might be the current state of string theory. Im not sure about the details but it broadly states that the entire universe is made up of vibrating strings...the theory itself is remarkably self-consistent, but AFAIK there is currently no way to actually test the basic hypothesis.
That means that although its allowing the proponents to do things like explain gravity, and theorise about the universe being someting like a slice of bread within a larger loaf...and although its very interesting and lots of young mathematicians are rushing to play that particular mind game...its *still* not actually a widely accepted theory within mathematicians.
Currently it still has the status of a religious theory...very interesting and you can do lots of cool stuff with it, but AFAIK theres nothing really concrete to connect it to the real world...everything is pretty much untestable at the moment.
<g> and its definitely not taught at high school.

The point is though that there is a group of mathematicians who want to play with it, and there is every chance that one day they will find ways to bring it into the realm of science...and if not I guess they are having fun.
The same could be said of ID, or the idea of supernatural entities...there is no reason why people cannot explore the possibilities and see where it takes them, who knows one day they may even find a way to connect their studies with the realm of science.

What they *shouldn't* be doing though is trying to make the jump through the use of lobby groups instead of by finding and displaying actual, useful results.

If they want their theories to carry the same weight as 'scientific' theories then they have to do the work and show that it can produce useful, measurable results.....thats exactly how the current crop of 'scientific theories' received their place in the sun.

If they cannot show useful, measurable results then the correct place for their theory is the same place as the current string theory...an interesting study for the motivated, but not necessarily widely accepted in the scientific community.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
I have a really sneaky suspicion that if you retooled math to not use imaginary numbers, you could find a one-to-one mapping between the new way and the old, and the net result would just be a lot of wasted effort.

There are a few different notations for Q.M., and it turns out that they are all equivalent. It took the pioneers in the field a little while to figure that out, but it's cool that it worked out that way.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
"but AFAIK theres nothing really concrete to connect it to the real world"

This kind of conceptual stuff always causes confusion. String theory proponents don't really make any claim that the strings exist in any physical sense, or that if only we had a really small multi-dimensional camera we'd actually see any strings, it's just that as a model it explains quite a lot.

In reality they might be little goblins or small pieces of Play-Doh, but if you pretend that they're multi-dimensional vibrating strings you can actually make some use of it so from a practical point it doesn't matter what they really are.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 20th, 2005
"I have a really sneaky suspicion that if you retooled math to not use imaginary numbers, you could find a one-to-one mapping between the new way and the old, and the net result would just be a lot of wasted effort."

I have an uncle mathematician who (AFAIK) has come up with a new law "The Law Of Conservation Of Perversity" which pretty much says that the best you can do is shift the hard parts around...they still have to be solved eventually.

its probably relevant to programming as well.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Vibrating strings is actually one of the easiest ways to visualize eigenstates and eigenvalues, which are key to basic Q.M., so it's no real surprise that they're using that as a model for more complicated systems.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
" it's just that as a model it explains quite a lot."

exactly...its a fun mind game that has lots of potentially useful stuff.

its *also* untestable, its results are unmeasurable and the entire theory is unfalsfiable.

sounds like a religious theory to me :)

...the difference being that I have some hope that string theory will one day be able to be mapped back and used in cool ways...gravity machines, multiverse translators....*sigh*
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
From a brief Google, the only mention of controversy surrounding imaginary numbers was all over quite some time ago:

'In 1545, Cardan, in his book Ars Magna, considers the problem of finding two numbers whose sum is 10 and whose product is 40. He solved the equation x(x-10)= 40 and got the solutions, 5+(sqrt(-15) and 5-(sqrt(-15), and then says that these are "sophistic quantities which though ingenious are useless."

Cardan's solution of cubic equations required taking cube roots of expressions involving square roots. Sometimes these square roots are imaginary, even when the ultimate solution works out to be a real number. Again, even though people continued to manipulate complex numbers formally, there was considerable uneasiness over their use.

According to Leibnitz, "The divine spirit found a sublime outlet in that wonder of analysis, that portent of the ideal world, that amphibian between being and non-being, which we call the imaginary root of negative unity." Descartes rejected complex roots and coined the derogatory term imaginary to describe sqrt(-1).

The controversy was not finally settled until the beginning of the 19th century when Gauss, Hamilton, and others settled the matter by getting abstract. For modern mathematics, the question is not whether or not there are Platonic ideals corresponding to certain words, but just whether it is consistent and useful to use these words.'
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 20th, 2005
"its *also* untestable, its results are unmeasurable and the entire theory is unfalsfiable."

At present. It *does* make some testable predictions, but we lack the particle accelerators capable of testing them. I think the mass of the Higgs particle was one outcome of this? I forget.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
"the only mention of controversy surrounding imaginary numbers was all over quite some time ago"


<g> my professor was an elderly chap, its perfectly possible he had firsthand recollections of it all...

either way it doesn't defeat the point I was making, does it?

(are you just making interesting conversation, or are you trying to make some other point?)
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
"It *does* make some testable predictions, but we lack the particle accelerators capable of testing them."

*sob* never, *ever* get philosophical with a bunch of geeks.

that *really* isn't the point I was trying to make.

fucking pedantic nancy boy.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Making conversation.

Sorry. I do get pedantic. That's actually part of philosophy for me. The absurdly precise.

The kind of philosophy you are talking about is the beer and pretzels kind. I can do that, too, but since I'm sober right now, it's a bit tricky.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
The Large Hadron Collider should be able to crank up enough to answer the Higgs boson question once and for all. The upper limit for the Higgs boson is probably somewhere around 250GeV, and the LHC will be able to smack protons about for a total energy of around 7TeV, plenty of headroom. (And if you bring the collisions of lead ions in to play you're looking at over 1,000TeV, where lots of fun is predicted. :)

It may also go some way to answering whether string theory bears any relation to reality along with lots of other neat stuff...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 20th, 2005
"but since I'm sober right now, it's a bit tricky."

aww, ok. just out of interest, what testable predictions has string theory come up with?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Wow. I didn't know that was in the works. Is it done yet? If not, how soon? I guess I am out of touch lately with that realm.

Sad.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
btw Aaron, that whole prime number/dice thing was very, very cool.

do you have enough of those kinds of experiments to fill a book? a small website? Id love to bring together a collection.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
As mentioned - Higgs boson mass, I think, falls out as a consequence of M-brane theory, but I never learned the details.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
Glad you liked it.

I wish I had a bunch of those, but the honest truth is that I pulled it out of thin air on the drive to work today.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
::watches Aarons post fly over his head::


aww, ok Ill go google all those pretty words.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Sorry - because I never learned the details of string/M-brane theory, I can't do the intermediate steps, so I can't explain it very well. I honestly don't understand it fully, myself.

I wish sometimes that my PhD was in high energy particle physics, or pure math.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
The LHC is on schedule for a 2007 completion date. It's being built in the same tunnel as the LEP, but it will use protons instead of electrons and positrons allowing for a much larger collision energy.

There are a few detectors being installed, but the only ones I know anything about are ATLAS (for super-heavy particles) and CMS (for a bunch of things, including the Higgs boson).

http://lhc-new-homepage.web.cern.ch/lhc-new-homepage/
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 20th, 2005
interesting, wikipedia talks about the higgs thingie particle as being a part of the standard model of particle physics.

where does the link to string theory come in?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
Beats me. Could be a memory misfire on my part.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
And Mat, thanks for the link.

Very cool.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
I think I'm going to add a new section on my website for stuff like the prime numbers/dice bit. A place to explain apparently abstract ideas using simple concrete examples.

Fortunately, I have enough topics on my site that if I run out of ideas for one, I just move on to another. This topic would be really hard to build.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 20th, 2005
"where does the link to string theory come in?"

In a nutshell, supersymmetry.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 20th, 2005
"supersymmetry"

right, that rings a bell...


::returns to google::
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
It just occurs to me that it's nearly 3am and I'm sat about discussing theoretical and particle physics with a bunch of random people on an obscure internet forum. Is this healthy behaviour?

And where's Chris when we needed him? He could have answered all our questions...

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&c2coff=1&q=mindpixel+does+the+higgs+boson+exist&btnG=Search

Outlook not so good. :)

/me goes to bed...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 20th, 2005
"Is this healthy behaviour?"

...its certainly one of the cooler things about the internet. healthy? I suspect not.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
>> If that's the way you're defining science, perhaps we need a better tool when considering questions like the origins of life, the universe, and everything?

Um, ok, how about a field of enquiry concerned with those questions. Something that would address those underlying questions beyond the purview of science. Sort of a meta enquiry, if you will. Maybe we could even come up with a cool name for this field. Hmm, how does "metaphysics" sound as a candidate?
Permalink Mongo 
August 20th, 2005
"The same could be said of ID, or the idea of supernatural entities...there is no reason why people cannot explore the possibilities and see where it takes them, who knows one day they may even find a way to connect their studies with the realm of science."

Well there you go. Agreement that it's sensible to at least consider ideas outside the natural materialistic world view.

As for politics, given what you've already conceded, what is necessary is for school kids in evolution class to be told "We really have no reason to think evolution is the best way of describing how life came into being and developed. It's only the best way of describing how life may have came into being and developed if we play a game where we only allow explanations that exclude the possibility of any kind of intelligence having anything to do with it."

That should make all reasonable people happy.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
Mongo,

Does your idea of metaphysics include the use of empirical data in evaluating questions about the supernatural? That's the niche I believe the Intelligent Design people are trying to fill.

I always thought of metaphysics as more a pure philosophy without observation approach, but maybe that's just me.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
In the mean time, please resume the string theory discussion. At this point, I think it has become more interesting than the original topic, even though I don't understand most of what's being said.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 20th, 2005
"Well there you go. Agreement that it's sensible to at least consider ideas outside the natural materialistic world view."

not really. I agreed that its sensible for *you* to do so if you want. personally I cannot see much virtue in it. out of interest, if you did so how would you avoid being forced to take the idea of invisible vampire bats being responsible for the evolution of frogs specifically, and god being responsible for all the rest, seriously?

"As for politics, given what you've already conceded, "

conceded? I didn't concede anything, its just a basic fact of life. it fasconates me that religious people such as yourself try to place science up on the same level of authority as religion....science doesn't clainm to have absolute answers, its just a really good way of working out what the interesting questions are.

"That should make all reasonable people happy."

nope. its the stupidest idea in the world.
why not also add "evolution also doesn't cover the topics of the existance of invisible vampire alien lifeguards and their affect on life as we know it."

there is absolutely no decent reason to even mention the possibility that the evolution may have been guided by intelligence, there is no evidence for it whatsoever.

we might as well also add that evolution is also untested for its ability to draw.

or, to put it another way, it makes as much sense to add that to our *science* textbooks as it does to add "this book doesn't take into account the possibility that god may in fact have nothing to do with it and may not even exist" to the front of the bible.

science books are about the theories that science has come up with. the bible is about god. there is no good reason for either to acknowledge the other.

the whole thing is about marketing, and its a stupid waste of everyones time.

oh! or we could put "marxism may be entirely wrong, check out the capitalist theories" in the front of books about marxist theories and "capitalism may be entirely wrong, check out marxism books" in the front of books on capitalist theories.

except that at least those two are actually related.

its more like "check out these books on swimming" in the front of books on marxist theories and vice versa on books on swimming.

bloody stupid.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 20th, 2005
>What you are doing is throwing up your hands and saying there's no way to even discuss or think rationally about one of the most profound questions of our existence.
You are describing religion. The point of religion is to prevent thinking. Rational thought requires you to re-evaluate premises that are false, which is why so few scientists are religious.
Permalink Peter 
August 21st, 2005
What Peter says is true. It is a proven scientific fact that religion is false.
Permalink Fred Michaels 
August 21st, 2005
man. come on guys. those are just such obvious trolls its embarrassing to everyone.

lift your game, eh?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 21st, 2005
"there is absolutely no decent reason to even mention the possibility that the evolution may have been guided by intelligence, there is no evidence for it whatsoever."

But you said this does not matter. You said that regardless of how much evidence there is for design, science must ignore it, because it involves consideration of the supernatural, and science is a game where we pretend to not think about supernatural things, regardless of how much evidence we find for it.

You are saying you will ignore all evidence for design, then throw out theories that mention design for lack of evidence.

Don't students deserve to know about this little piece of metaphysics?
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
Peter,

That is quite a religious post you constructed, considering that it is totally free of any thought whatsoever.

(Please forgive my feeding the trolls.)
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
"nope. its the stupidest idea in the world.
why not also add "evolution also doesn't cover the topics of the existance of invisible vampire alien lifeguards and their affect on life as we know it.""

All it is is a simple definition of science. "While in science class, we pretend to believe that God (and Flying Spaghetti Monsters, etc.) doesn't exist, and see how far we can get with our explanations of the world without violating that premise."

Kids need to be taught what science is, and what it isn't. Why do you think there's so many people blathering on about "Evolution is just a theory", as if that were a meaningful statement?

Isn't the necessary foundation of a science education teaching kids what science is, and what its limitations are?
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
" You said that regardless of how much evidence there is for design, science must ignore it, because it involves consideration of the supernatural, and science is a game where we pretend to not think about supernatural things, regardless of how much evidence we find for it."

<g>Im interested in what evidence could exist for an object that by definition is scientifically unmeasurable, untestable and unfalsifiable?
perhaps you could come up with an invented (or real!) example of such evidence?

"You are saying you will ignore all evidence for design, then throw out theories that mention design for lack of evidence."

nope. not at all. Im saying that science is only capable of talking about scientific theories. there *is* no scientific evidence for the supernatural, by definition, because *science* looks for explanations in the *natural* world.

Its not about ignoring evidence, its about being incapable of recognizing it.

"Don't students deserve to know about this little piece of metaphysics?"

<shrug> thats up to them and to their teachers.

why should science books and classes start teaching students about non-scientific theories?

If I want to learn theology I go to theological classes. If I want to learn about science I go to science classes. If I want to learn about swimming I go to swimming classes.
None of those classes ever need to acknowledge the existance of any of the others, what would be the point? If Im interested Ill find them.

specifically if a school offers classes in "Supernatural Science" then I believe it is up to the school to offer information about its existance, not science class.



seriously, if you really want theories about Supernatural Science to become widely accepted, surely the first step is to prove them useful?

I really dont understand what you do want actually, science is a game about the natural world, for some reason you want science to become a game about the supernatural world (which also includes ghosts, invisible vampires and anything else any weirdo decides might possibly exist)

wtf is the point? if you actually succeed...what will you have achieved?


I could understand (and maybe even agree) if you were pushing for schools to teach theology classes..that would make some kind of sense...but what the *hell* do you want science classes to teach non-scientific subjects for? would it be easier just to lobby for a new (non-religious!) class based on teaching about the possible existance of supernatural entities?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 22nd, 2005
"All it is is a simple definition of science"

?? you can get a simple definition of science from everywhere. Im sure I remember being taught one at some point.
I dont see why it specifically has to mention God?

"Kids need to be taught what science is, and what it isn't. "
yes, they do. Im not sure how what you propose would help that?
surely talking about god in a class that specifically has nothing to do with god is going to be a little confusing?

"Isn't the necessary foundation of a science education teaching kids what science is, and what its limitations are?"

yep. see my above point.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 22nd, 2005
"<shrug> thats up to them and to their teachers."

So if teachers in a public school and their students both want to sit around in biology class discussing how the universe and all life was created in 6 days a few thousand years ago, you're cool with that?

"If I want to learn theology I go to theological classes. If I want to learn about science I go to science classes. If I want to learn about swimming I go to swimming classes."

1. Allowing kids in public schools to choose all the classes they will or won't attend would be a huge break with current policy across the country.

2. My point is TELL KIDS WHAT SCIENCE IS. How would you even know whether to go to science or theology or swimming class if you don't even know what those things mean? And if you believe that kids in public schools already know what science really is, I think you're being willfully naive.

"<g>Im interested in what evidence could exist for an object that by definition is scientifically unmeasurable, untestable and unfalsifiable?"

But such object may have impacted the natural world in a way that is observable.

As Rich points out above, these are largely questions of statistical probability. Everything else is largely irrelevant. Computationally, is it probable to assume that nothing more than the laws of nature were responsible for the creation and development of life on earth?

The science answer (as you have defined science) is "Who cares? Even if the answer is no, it's utterly improbable, the laws of nature alone MUST have been responsible because no other answer is up for consideration."

A more rational approach, in my opinion, is to try really hard to figure out whether the undirected laws of nature can probably explain the creation and development of life on Earth. If it's not probable, one should consider other explanations, including those that involve an object outside of nature.

But a danger is always looking for a way to make the improbable seem probable. You might spend a lifetime thinking "If I just keep looking, I'll find some yet undiscovered piece of evidence that will make the improbable probable." At that point, you have forsaken reason, and resting wholly on faith.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
"?? you can get a simple definition of science from everywhere. Im sure I remember being taught one at some point.
I dont see why it specifically has to mention God?"

Jesus,

Have you read a newspaper lately? Obviously, the products of our public education system do NOT have a good grasp of what science is and isn't.

And much of that confusion is about the relationship between science and religion. Kids right now are sitting in biology class, not trusting anything the teacher says because of what they're hearing in the wider culture.

I guarantee you kids are hearing about the ID controversy (even the President's talking about it), and it's the height of naivete if you think you don't have to address it somehow and still have students take biology teachers seriously.

One way to do that is to just say "this is science class, and the way we define science is that we don't consider theories that invoke anything supernatural, regardless of the merits such theories might have otherwise."

How else are you going to respond to people saying "Just teach the controversy?"
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
One last clarification, then I'm going to bed:

If the laws of nature DO offer a probable explanation for the creation and development of life, that explanation should be favored, as befits Occam's razor.

I suppose that should be obvious, but just wanted to clarify.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
"So if teachers in a public school and their students both want to sit around in biology class discussing...you're cool with that?"

<shrug> we spent a couple of science classes debating evolution with our teacher. like I should care.

"2. My point is TELL KIDS WHAT SCIENCE IS."

my point is that we *do* already. science is the study of natural blah blah blah blah.

what *you* want is for us to start telling kids what science *isn't*, and that could take a *really* *really* long time.

"How would you even know whether to go to science or theology or swimming class if you don't even know what those things mean?"

<shrug> thats an argument that could be used to push any subject whatsoever into any class at all.


"But such object may have impacted the natural world in a way that is observable."

indeed. but then how would you know whether to attribute what you are seeing to science or to some supernatural entity?

originally, *everything* was attributed to a supernatural entity. since then science has started to show that if we think seriously about things and observe closely, we can actually explain a huge range of behaviors in the natural world.

You are being wilfully naive about the consequences to science of forcing it to acknowledge possibilities in the supernatural world.
where "something supernatural may have done this" is considered a useful answer, science stops moving forward.


"Computationally, is it probable to assume that nothing more than the laws of nature were responsible for the creation and development of life on earth?"

wtf? thats not even an intelligent question. we have *nothing* to measure any answer against.

computationally speaking, that is the worlds most meaningless question.
Statistics is entirely *not* a magical means of detecting the influence of supernatural entities.


"The science answer (as you have defined science) is "Who cares? "

nope, the science answer is "what a sodding stupid question"

"Even if the answer is no, it's utterly improbable, the laws of nature alone MUST have been responsible because no other answer is up for consideration."

science isn't about what must be *true*, its about the most likely natural explanation...nothing to do with truth.



"A more rational approach, in my opinion, is to try really hard to figure out whether the undirected laws of nature can probably explain the creation and development of life on Earth. If it's not probable, one should consider other explanations, including those that involve an object outside of nature."

but thats genuinely *stupid*. We dont even *understand* the undirected laws of nature, we dont know what they are, we dont have a list of their effects and we *really* have no way of comparing what their effects might be against what their effects might be if a supernatural entity was influencing either them or the outcome.

the best science can do is say "we can cannot explain that yet" .....which is *clearly* not a good reason to stop trying.



"But a danger is always looking for a way to make the improbable seem probable. You might spend a lifetime thinking "If I just keep looking, I'll find some yet undiscovered piece of evidence that will make the improbable probable." At that point, you have forsaken reason, and resting wholly on faith."

yep, but there is nothing wrong with having faith that science *will* find solutions to questions it cannot currently answer, so long as we keep working.
that kind of faith costs us nothing.

there is *everything* wrong with having faith that if science cannot explain something in its current state, then that thing must be entirely unexplainable and a supernatural entity be responsible for it.
that kind of faith will cost us our progress.


"Have you read a newspaper lately? Obviously, the products of our public education system do NOT have a good grasp of what science is and isn't."

<shrug> most of the products of our education system dont need to, they are not scientists.

I dont understand metallurgy either.

"And much of that confusion is about the relationship between science and religion. Kids right now are sitting in biology class, not trusting anything the teacher says because of what they're hearing in the wider culture."

<g> that feels like you might be overstating things a bit, however if we assume you are correct then the answer is obvious, introduce a "supernatural science" class.
It can cover things like how to use computers to detect the subtle influence of supernatural entities on the evolution of the common frog.

actually sounds like a heck of a lot of fun :)


"I guarantee you kids are hearing about the ID controversy (even the President's talking about it), and it's the height of naivete if you think you don't have to address it somehow and still have students take biology teachers seriously."

fine. introduce a "supernatural science class".


"One way to do that is to just say "this is science class, and the way we define science is that we don't consider theories that invoke anything supernatural, regardless of the merits such theories might have otherwise."

which language cleverly implies that such theories may in fact have some merit.
Is that true? what useful predictions have been made using ID? (I wont ask you what problems have been solved with it, as the answer is blindingly obvious...it solves *everything* we want it to)

How would you introduce the subject of telling the effects of one supernatural being from another? clearly if you are going to accept the existance of one you must be willing to accept the possibility of more than one? would "Identifying supernatural entities by studying the effects they have on the natural world" be an advanced paper?


"How else are you going to respond to people saying "Just teach the controversy?"

Im going to say that there is no controversy. there are a bunch of people lobbying to push their pet theories onto children despite the fact that their pet theories have absolutely no measurable success in doing *anything* of any use whatsoever.

ID has absolutely no success in predicting anything whatsoever. It does, however, explain pretty much everything.

*I* come come up with a theory as good as that without breaking a sweat.

if you *really* want ID to be taken seriously, show that its a useful subject by doing useful things with it.

you could start by proving that there are such things as supernatural entities :)
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 22nd, 2005
"If the laws of nature DO offer a probable explanation for the creation and development of life, that explanation should be favored, as befits Occam's razor.

I suppose that should be obvious, but just wanted to clarify."

who will define 'probable'? why would the laws of nature be favored over the actions of a supernatural entity?

surely "god did it" is a *far* *far* simpler explanation than "it started out as rock, was crushed by incredible weight over 300 million years and then turned into a diamond?

occams razor clearly favors your supernatural entities.

the world is complicated. we dont understand it very well. we dont understand how things work within it very well. we dont understand the universe very well.

we dont need to give up just cause we dont currently have the answers.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 22nd, 2005
JHC sez : "(S)urely "god did it" is a *far* *far* simpler explanation than "it started out as rock, was crushed by incredible weight over 300 million years and then turned into a diamond?"

First off, Occam's Razor is not a hard-and-fast rule for comparing all propositions. Rather, as originally formulated, it's a loose guideline for choosing between -scientific hypotheses-. This is often a common cause for confusion -- "God did it" is not a scientific proposition (insert exegesis on the principle of falsifiability here), so it cannot be compared to scientific propositions using Occam's Razor.

Second off, Occam's Razor does not state that "the simplest explanation is the true explanation." Per the Razor, the simplest explanation (the one that introduces the least additional hypotheses to support its main hypothesis) is -usually- the best, but not necessarily.

Still, I'll play your game for a minute, just for fun. With a careful examination of the term "simple," you will find that, of the two possible explanations you've given (one scientific, one theological), "God did it" is, in fact, the -less- simple of the two.

In order to talk about "simplicity" in the context of the Razor, I'm going to have to go back to the original Latin (which, incidentally, was -not- written by Oc(c/kh)am, but by later commentators who ascribed it to him). The original formulation of the Razor is "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate" (plurality should not be posited without necessity). Note that the word "simple" isn't in there, except as an implied antonym for "plurality."

By saying "God did it," we are creating an unnecessary plurality of hypotheses. Not only are we saying that we hypothesize that God created a diamond by divine will, but we are also adding a virtually limitless set of additional hypotheses : we hypothesize that God exists, we hypothesize that He is omnipotent, we hypothesize that He has a particular reason for creating diamonds from some rocks and not from others, etc. etc. etc. The alternative hypothesis is in fact simpler, because it relies more directly on a limited number of causes which we can reproduce without recourse to a God of infinite power and caprice (and, consequentially, in which we must needs lodge infinite hypotheses).

A second explanation for "God did it" being the least simple : It is the least simple because it is one of a infinitely large class of untestable propositions. If we hypothesize that diamonds are formed by the Christian God, we can equally hypothesize that they are formed by any of the deities of the Hindu faith, or by the ancient Greek pantheon, or by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The infinite nature of this set of explanations is left as an exercise to the reader. ;) So when we say "God did it," we're really invoking the entire infinite set of untestable faith-based explanations ... a much less simple matter than our single, limited (and testable) scientific explantion.

Anyway, it doesn't matter since : 1. Occam's Razor is only applicable to scientific hypotheses, and 2. Occam's Razor is not a hard and fast rule saying "the simpler explanation is the true one." Good ol' William of Ockham himself never applied his principle to articles of faith, anyway. Thank goodness.
Permalink Snark 
August 22nd, 2005
Classical mechanics (CM) was discovered in the 1600. There no disagreement about it (yes, there's quantum mechanics but that does not invalidate CM. It just shows CM is incomplete.)

There's nothing in religion that moves towards a consistent, universal view. Every religion is "true" and different (christianity, animism, buddism, hinduism, etc). I don't know of any scientific disagreement that was characterized by masses of people killing each other.

If "god" exists, why is the evidence absent (or so crappy)?

The reason that science is unconcerned with the actions of a supreme being is that these "actions" are just unfounded "opinions" (anything goes).
Permalink somebody else 
August 22nd, 2005
"there are a bunch of people lobbying to push their pet theories onto children despite the fact that their pet theories have absolutely no measurable success in doing *anything* of any use whatsoever."

And obviously, that's not controversial.

"You are being wilfully naive about the consequences to science of forcing it to acknowledge possibilities in the supernatural world."

Well, it would have been naive if I had suggested science do any such thing.

"science isn't about what must be *true*, its about the most likely natural explanation...nothing to do with truth."

And obviously, truth is not anything worth discussing or pondering.

"yep, but there is nothing wrong with having faith that science *will* find solutions to questions it cannot currently answer, so long as we keep working. that kind of faith costs us nothing."

It only costs us nothing if it is actually true that there is nothing supernatural or the supernatural has absolutely no connection to human beings. If there is something supernatural and it does have some connection to us, not knowing about it could potentially have a very big impact indeed.

It's the inverse of embracing religion and ignoring science. Ignoring the natural world can have a very big impact on us if we choose to ignore the truth about it.

"<shrug> most of the products of our education system dont need to, they are not scientists."

Uh, so your point is really that science education for the general public is not important. Got it.

"what *you* want is for us to start telling kids what science *isn't*, and that could take a *really* *really* long time."

This is stupid. A good definition allows you to determine what makes something part of the set being defined and what is outside of the set being defined. You can't very well do one without also being able to do the other.

"indeed. but then how would you know whether to attribute what you are seeing to science or to some supernatural entity?"

When an archaeologist is digging at a site, what is it that makes him recognize one thing as a human artifact, and the rest of it just a bunch of dust, pebbles, and assorted rocks that just ended up there by some combination of wind, precipitation, etc.?

The ID crowd is trying to scale this up past just picking out human designed things to how you distinguish designed things in general.

I think what you are asking me for is the definitive answer to how one does that. Frankly, I don't know. It's a very difficult question to answer, and I'm not an expert in the field.

I also believe it is a very interesting question, and worthwhile to ponder and investigate. The fact that it does not fit a particular definition of science does not automatically make it unworthy of contemplation.

Which is why the work of the ID movement is so important. It's not clear to me that the evolution establishment would even be addressing the important questions if it wasn't getting flack from the IDers. The hard, interesting questions are all about how do you get a complex, specified design without a designer? Trying to answer that question is going to tell us a heck of a lot about how living things work.

So, if you're looking for a concrete contribution to science by ID, there's one at least. By pissing off the evolution establishment so much, they have goaded them into redoubling their efforts.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
"I don't know of any scientific disagreement that was characterized by masses of people killing each other."

The totalitarian, secular, atheistic regimes of the Soviet Union and Communist China killed staggering amounts of people.

If you want to say these regimes were not truly scientific, religious people can equally say that people who kill in the name of their religion are not truly religious, either.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 22nd, 2005
You forgot the Naxis (and salad cream). The Nazis did purport a "scientific" basis ("eugenics") but it wasn't science, it was ideology. Any way, the ideology was used to justify an action. The action was not to kill off people who disagreed with the ideology (The Nazis would have "happily" killed off certain people who agreed with them).

Beyond being "atheistics", what scientific disagreement serve as the basis for the (reprehensible) actions the Soviets did? Stalin's purges were solely driven to preserve power. Lenin was driven by power and politics (not science).

Actions in China was not, at all, based on "science". A major purpose of the "cultural revolution" was to destroy the educated "class" (including doctors and scientists) as a method of preserving power (not scientific at all).

There are numerous examples in the primary texts of a few religions that, basically, say it's OK to kill non-believers.
Permalink somebody else 
August 22nd, 2005
I think we have reached the end of useful debate.

just one last point :)

god has always been about faith. god *wants* to be about faith. god deliberately avoids proof.

science has always been about proof. science *wants* to be about proof. science deliberately avoids faith.

lets not muddy the waters.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 22nd, 2005
Oh, please, let's muddy them up some more.

Please?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 22nd, 2005
no! I know how your mind works Aaron, and frankly no one will be able to drink the stuff once youve finished.
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 22nd, 2005
I bet Joe would.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 23rd, 2005
How do you know what god "wants"?
If god "wants" faith, why?
Permalink somebody else 
August 23rd, 2005
We know what he wants because he dictated his memoirs and then sent his son along to give us the rest of the details. As to why he wants faith? Perhaps his mother didn't love him when he was a child... :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 23rd, 2005
I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I want Faith, too.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 23rd, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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