I've enjoyed the big bang discussion that took off in the comments on my previous post.
In the course of defending science and the scientific method against a man, Rhawn Joseph, who believes the big bang, evolution, relativity, and the laws of thermodynamics are all myths, I've had an opportunity to reflect on why science appeals so much to me.
Pretty simple: it produces common ground on which we all can stand – reality. Religion divides people, because there's no agreement about the nature of what, if anything, lies beyond the physical universe.
So dogmatic arguments over God, soul, life after death, and such continue interminably. There's no way of resolving them.
Science, however, proceeds steadily (though with many changes in direction) toward a unified understanding of what reality is all about. There's no Western science or Eastern science, no American science or Chinese science. There's just shared scientific knowledge.
And that's beautiful.
Which leads to an important point that's so obvious, it shouldn't need saying. But we often forget it, and this leads to unnecessary confusion, arguments, and emotionality.
"I" is different from "It." Subjective reality is different from objective reality. Yet they're both equally real.
Here's how Ken Wilber describes the reality situation. "I" is the realm of the interior individual – me as I know myself. "It" and "Its" (plural) is the exterior side of reality – an objective realm that we all can know communally.
Traditionally, philosophical types talked about the Beautiful, the Good, and the True. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's also in the realm of "I," subjective.
So when someone commented that they enjoyed Joseph's You Tube video, "God & the Myth of the Big Bang," I thought That's fine. Personally, I found it so obnoxious I could only watch five minutes of it. But hey, vive le difference.
If we all liked the same movies, there'd be no point to the Academy Awards. Each of us has different subjective likes and dislikes. That's as it should be, since our interiors are different.
But what about exterior reality, the domain that science investigates? Now we're into a much more objective state of affairs, which is why scientists can come to a consensus about the laws of nature.
Here, truth rules, not beauty. So I asked people who had seen Joseph's Big Bang video to tell me what evidence he had that big bang cosmology, which is accepted by almost all scientists, is wrong and Joseph is right.
I didn't get an answer. I really didn't expect one.
I've read quite a few books about the big bang, quantum theory, relativity theory, and other aspects of what's often called the "new physics." I subscribe to Scientific American and New Scientist. I read all three weekly newsmagazines (TIME, Newsweek, US News & World Report, and two daily newspapers.
If some guy had overturned a big chunk of science through a You Tube video, I figured I'd have heard about it. However, he hasn't. He's presented some imaginative ideas in an artsy fashion, expressing his "I." This doesn't change the reality of "It" though.
The scientific method is an intriguing blend of friendly openness and harsh skepticism. Scientists are open to new ideas, but if you throw out a fresh hypothesis – particularly if it purports to be an improvement over settled science – you'd better bring your best game.
In "The Demon-Haunted World," Carl Sagan wrote:
Again, the reason science works so well is partly that built-in error-correcting machinery. There are no forbidden questions in science, no matters too sensitive or sacred to be probed, no sacred truths. That openness to new ideas, combined with the most rigorous, skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, sifts the wheat from the chaff.
It makes no difference how smart, august, or beloved you are. You must prove your case in the face of determined, expert criticism. Diversity and debate are valued. Opinions are encouraged to contend – substantively and in depth.
The process of science may sound messy and disorderly. In a way, it is. If you examine science in its everyday aspect, of course you find that scientists run the gamut of human emotion, personality, and character. But there's one facet that is really striking to the outsider, and that is the gauntlet of criticism considered acceptable or even desirable.
That's as it should be. Objective reality belongs to all of us. Human knowledge about the universe is our most precious asset, one which must be passed on to future generations intact – not diluted with subjective drivel, religious or otherwise.
So I hope this helps explain why I defend science so strongly. When I see it trashed, I feel the same way as when I see litter along the rural Oregon road that leads to our house. Hey, that's public property! You've got no right to leave your crap there!
If someone wants to mess up their own home, that's their business. Just as what transpires in your "I" is up to you. But when someone ventures into the realm of "it," staking a claim to the nature of objective reality – that's everybody's business.
Our common ground, truth, is too precious to be left undefended. As Sagan said, openness and skepticism are our bulwarks against pseudo-science.
(Here's another post of mine on this subject).
Science and religion are not mutually exclusive.
Posted by: Rev. Chuck Currie | March 04, 2008 at 07:10 PM
"Science unites, religion divides" sounds high in words but in reality it is not. Kindly let me know any scientific topic on which the scientists are not divided. There is vertually no theory that does not have an anti-theory. Both of them have vaild arguements to supprt their contention. You pick up any scientific journal, you will find the literature referred is what suits one's own theory. The other side of the coin is negelected.
YET TO A COMMON MAN SCIENCE IS MUCH MORE APPEALING THAN RELIGION.
On the other hand, there are four or five main religions in the world in which the entire mankind may be grouped. The very word religion connots unite, how one can say that religion divides. Every religion believes in God or Superpower or internal energy, which remains the hidden binding thread for all.
YET TO A SCIENCETIST, SCIENCE IS MUCH MORE APPEALING THAN RELIGION.
These are my observations based upon by limited perception of the real and vicarious world around me.
You may differ from me as poles apart.
Posted by: Rakesh Bhasin | March 04, 2008 at 07:15 PM
Brian, for you to posit the debate as science vs. religion when it comes to matters of faith is analogous to the right wing trying to posit support for the war as a matter of patriotism vs. un-patriotism.
Your vitriol as a disciple of D2H2 (Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens and Harris) lacks clarity and research. You have conveniently created a black and white world of science vs. religion, completely ignoring and not addressing the whole consciousness conundrum that is at this very moment, the greatest battle raging in neuroscience.
The truth is, reductionist materialism fails time and time again when it comes to unlocking the mysteries of consciousness.
Instead of just applauding the so-called "brights" that support your world view, why not be a true skeptic and look at the tough questions of consciousness without coming to premature conclusions?
Posted by: Marcel Cairo | March 05, 2008 at 02:33 AM
I am quite inclined to agree with Marcel.
Posted by: tAo | March 05, 2008 at 03:29 AM
Have you yet determined any further information about the availability of your essay about Ken Wilber's errors in re. Plotinus? Thanks for your attention.
Robert Paul Howard
Posted by: Robert Paul Howard | March 05, 2008 at 10:52 AM
Robert, I got the word that it was OK to share the essay. Thanks for reminding me about this. You inquired about it before and I've been meaning to post it online.
I want to share some more thoughts about Wilber, so will include a link to my essay in a forthcoming post, probably tomorrow.
Posted by: Brian | March 05, 2008 at 11:12 AM
Rakeshl, pardon my bluntness, but you're wrong about science. There is an astounding amount of agreement about central scientific theories, including, but not limited to:
The standard model of particle physics, how genetics and DNA operate, plate tectonics and formation of the earth, big bang cosmology, evolution, fundamental forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear forces), star and galaxy formation, relativity theory (structure of time and space).
Sure, there are plenty of disagreements in science. But not nearly as much as in religion. Religions can't agree on whether there is a god (Buddhism and Taoism, no; Christianity and Islam, yes), whether there is a soul that survives death, whether ultimate reality can be known on one's own or if a intervenor is required, and so on.
Lastly, it always surprises me when people express skepticism about the accomplishments of science, but do so over the Internet, using electricity, a computer, and other accomplishments of science.
The same people are happy to use a MRI machine or CT scanner when they're ill, or antibiotics. They use cell phones, DVD players, and televisions. They fly in airplanes and drive cars. Yet somehow they still say, "science doesn't know about reality."
Well, the proof is all around us. Science knows how to adapt to and manipulate reality. Where is the proof that religion can do the same thing?
Posted by: Brian | March 05, 2008 at 12:55 PM
Marcel, science and religion are different ways of looking at the world. That's the theme of this post. Science looks at "It," religion looks at "I," the inner/metaphysical realms.
Unfortunately, religions often make claims about objective reality that can't be backed up. And they interject dogmatic morality into arenas where it doesn't belong.
Yes, science doesn't understand the mystery of consciousness. Neither does religion. Nobody does. So it's a mystery. Why is this an indictment of science? Scientists readily admit what they don't know, unlike religious types.
What premature conclusion have I come to about the nature of consciousness? I don't know what that nature is, and I say that frequently. All that I reject are religious certainties about soul, life after death, etc. that aren't really certain.
Posted by: Brian | March 05, 2008 at 01:15 PM
Note from Brian, the blogger: it's been pointed out to me that John Range is the author of the articles cited below, not the person who left the comment. I've edited the comment accordingly.]
Regarding the subject and import of your article, your assumed dichotomy between science and theology, please kindly refer to what I [actually, John Range] have to say about all of that, which is archived here:
The Categorical-Analytic Meaning of Truth:
The Phoenix Revisited:
Main Index: http://web.archive.org/web/20031218151136/http://www.categoricalanalysis.com/
Posted by: tAo | March 05, 2008 at 02:28 PM
A poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury,
Posted by: | March 05, 2008 at 02:38 PM
Wow, a Shakespeare quote. What intelligence. Speaking of "the Bard" let's think way outside the norm here, what do you believe he would say about truth and reality? ("Out,out damned spot"?)or(Is there a method in the madness?)"The lady doth protest too much" -not applicable, as well as "Get thee to a nunnery"
Posted by: Holly | March 05, 2008 at 02:59 PM
Thats funny... I never use MRI machines or CT scanners, or any antibiotics whatsoever. I don't ever use a cell phone, I don't own a DVD player, and I don't own or watch a television. I do not fly in airplanes except and unless it is absolutely necessary and there is no other way to go. I no longer drive a car except on very rare occasions. And remember that science only knows or theorizes about phenomena, and has yet to determine the nature of "reality".
Posted by: tAo | March 05, 2008 at 05:08 PM
How do you get around?
PS: I avoid cell phones and refuse to own one.
Posted by: Bob | March 05, 2008 at 06:26 PM
My comments never intended that I am right, you are wrong. But I am O.K. You are O.K.
I was introduced to geology in 1974 and I am a professional geologist and know the reservations of the level of acceptance of the plate tectonics, the formation of earth and theory of Bib Bang.
The following minor link will explain a few fundamentals to remind:
Both science and religion have contributed a lot to the mankind. The contribution of religion is esoteric and that of science is exhibitionist. Who can deny the inventions of science? I hope that we can allow religion and science to co-exist, even if a little uncomfortably.
Posted by: Rakesh Bhasin | March 05, 2008 at 07:15 PM
*Thats funny... I never use MRI machines or CT scanners, or any antibiotics whatsoever. I don't ever use a cell phone, I don't own a DVD player, and I don't own or watch a television. I do not fly in airplanes except and unless it is absolutely necessary and there is no other way to go. I no longer drive a car except on very rare occasions.*
But i see that you still use a computer tao.
Posted by: Helen | March 06, 2008 at 10:33 AM
*the contribution of religion is esoteric and that of science is exhibitionist.*
Rakesh, most countries have developed their current legal statutes from their ancstral religions. Religion permeates nearly every cultures language in some form or another: take the swear word "bloody" as an English example. It means "by our Lady" and was adopted by Catholics in England during the schism between Cathilicism and Protestansim (and this is only an minor example, but I don't want to wear the point out). Religions build structures such as temples, mosques, churches, schools. Religion dominates the hatch, match and dispatch stages of life.
You can't get much more exhibitionist than religion.
Religion is much more than philosophy, no matter how subtle, artistic or creative as it may be.
But personally, I'd rather contribute to some guy's dedicated, lifelong research into treating cancer than contributing to someone's teaching on imaginary and unprovable beliefs.
Posted by: Helen | March 06, 2008 at 10:47 AM
Helen said: "But personally, I'd rather contribute to some guy's dedicated, lifelong research into treating cancer than..."
Then Helen, you apparently do not at all understand the actual cause of cancer. The solution to cancer does not require "dedicated, lifelong research". The solution to cancer will not be found through science or drugs, but rather lies in a close alignment with/to the natural order.
Posted by: tAo | March 06, 2008 at 01:14 PM
*Then Helen, you apparently do not at all understand the actual cause of cancer. The solution to cancer does not require "dedicated, lifelong research". The solution to cancer will not be found through science or drugs, but rather lies in a close alignment with/to the natural order.*
hello tao, still on the computer I see. Perhaps you would be kind enough to include your proof of your statement? After all, an assertion is just an assertion.
To help the discussion, I've added the follwing website which discusses causes of cancer. They seem to be multiple and variable.
Also, what do you make of the naturally occuring carcinogens in the natural world? Your argument seems to be based on assuming that the natural world couldn't possibly be harmful, but we all know it is. Carcinogens are found in ultraviolet sunlight and the natural radioactive emissions of the planet.
Posted by: helen | March 07, 2008 at 09:39 AM
I would say it works both ways. Human beings are psychosomatic. (a mixture of body and mindL).
It is also true that attitude matters so does the chemical processes of the body. There are several painkillers and other medicines through which we can be comfortable in pain. At the same time, there were several Yogis (Ramana Maharshi) who could do so even without painkillers.
So to say that only painkillers are the effective way to kill pain is also wrong. It is even possible through natural methods and attitude perhaps.
Posted by: Deepak Kamat | March 07, 2008 at 09:51 AM
Fyi, I never said that I did not use a computer. Of course I use a computer. But a computer is not at all like watching mainstream TV propaganda, or being as excessively dependent upon technology and science as is the great percentage of the population. So what's the (your) point?
You asked: "Perhaps you would be kind enough to include your proof of your statement? After all, an assertion is just an assertion." -- What statement/assertion are you referring to exactly?
You said: "I've added the follwing website which discusses causes of cancer. They seem to be multiple and variable."
I am not interested in those kinds of allopathic theories about cancer. None of that is derived from a holistic and naturopathic view or an understanding of the natural order and natural hygeine.
In response to the site you indicated: Yes, carcinogens do cause cancer. However age is not realy a factor, and genetic make up only as much as it relates to one's strengths or weaknesses in certain areas. Alignment to the natural order benefits the immune system. Right diet is extremely important in natural hygeine, as is day-to-day environment to some degree depending on ones level of toxicity. Susceptibility to viruses is all determined by one's adherence to, and alignment with, the natural order.
The info on that website and others like it is all designed to sell phamaceutical drugs, chemotherapy, and allopatic medice and procedures, and it does not address or resolve or cure the real cause(s) of cancer.
"Also, what do you make of the naturally occuring carcinogens in the natural world?" -- But why would you want to take in such carcinogens anyway? So I don't see your point.
"Your argument seems to be based on assuming that the natural world couldn't possibly be harmful, but we all know it is." -- I did not say that. I never said that all and everything in nature is benign. So your presumption and interpretation is quite skewed. I said: alignment with the natural order. I suggest that you inform yourself better by researching Natural Hygeine.
"Carcinogens are found in ultraviolet sunlight and the natural radioactive emissions of the planet." -- That is partially incorrect. Normal sunlight is not carcinogenic. It is the toxins and substances contained in improper food and drink that are carcinogenic. It is also from stress due to unnatural lifestyles. I also never recommended consuming radioactive material. So you are really jumping to some very false conclusions about what I mentioned.
Posted by: tAo | March 07, 2008 at 03:41 PM
At the Rhawn Joseph front, I found this interesting. Someone emailed me, noting that a Joseph writing sounds an awful lot like Nietzche. Indeed, a bit of Googling revealed some seeming copy-cat'ing:
At one time there was a Star
where clever animals grew,
and reached for the skies.
The clever animals believed themselves:
Masters of the Universe...
and conquered and destroyed
all manner of life...
and then the land, the seas and oceans wide.
"We are Masters of the Universe"
"And God is on our side!"
And then one day
as they gloried in their pride...
The Star grew cold,
and the clever animals
-Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.
In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of "world history"—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.
Posted by: Brian | March 08, 2008 at 11:46 AM
tAo, I've tried to decipher the first Categorial Analytic Meaning of Truth link. It sort of makes sense to me, but the language is so philosophical, I'm not sure.
Kant talks about noumenon and phenomenon, and I'm not sure I understand him either. It's a Platonic sort of notion, seemingly. Somewhere there's really real reality, and that place isn't here -- everyday consciousness.
Maybe. It just strikes me that this essay makes quite a few metaphysical/philosophical assumptions that are difficult to defend -- but still might be true.
Posted by: Brian | March 08, 2008 at 12:01 PM
Brian wrote: "Kant talks about noumenon and phenomenon, and I'm not sure I understand him either."
--I don't know Kant from Spinoza, but I think Noumenon is impossible to explain or conceptualize because it isn't an objective thing. Here is an attempt doomed to failure because I don't know it, can't know it, and words can't identify it:
I am total absence of consciousness, so that consciousness may be. I am the absence of whatever may appear to be, and whatever may appear, I am its absence, and what it is. I am absence of presence, so that presence may be.
That is why I am everything, and how I am everything, because without my absence nothing whatsoever could appear. I am unmanifest (noumenon), so that manifestation (phenomenon) may be manifested. Manifestation is entirely my non-manifestation.
Functioning is my non-functioning and my non-functioning is functioning. What I am not is what everything is and everything is what I am not. Therefore there is no separation. Separation is illusory, only an objectification of this which I am which isn't.
This is how I am not and why everything appears. It is also why I cannot find myself, or know myself, for I am my absence. It is in my own absence that I am.
Looking for me, looking for looking, is finding my absence. What is looked for is what is seeking, what is seen is the seer, because what is being looked for is the absence of the presence of that which is looking for it, and what is seen is the presence of the absence of the seer.
This is all that can be said or known about noumenon, because what is objective is the presence of the absence of subject, presence is the presence of the absence of objectivity, and positivity is the presence of the absence of negativity. Such is that I am.
This is why I am everything and yet no thing at all, why everything neither is nor is not, and why all that we are is...This which we are not!
It just can't be said in any way satisfying to the intellect which works within subject-object parameters. How is infinity to be contained in a conceptual framework? Of course we want to know IT, to say, "Ah, that's it!", but IT can't be known as such. IT is a will'o'the wisp that can't be grasped. As soon as you THINK you see IT, IT's gone.
It's like you have this realization and everything is perfectly clear and obvious, but then you think, Aha! and then try to contain that Aha! moment and own it like it's an object or something to have. It can't be done. It isn't a thing. Only things can be known, grasped or owned and that slippery eel is having none of that.
Posted by: tucson | March 09, 2008 at 04:51 PM
Cancer is simply caused by free radicals - I do not know why doctors and others do not inform people about this - at worst, I read in a government medical site saying sometimes you get cancer for no reason at all - That statement embarrasses itself so I need not say anything.
Free Radicals are what makes cancer cells as it damaged the DNA - free radicals can be caused from many things - cooking, processed foods, breathing, sun burns, emotional stress, exercise.
They are caused by natural processes - they are not some external dangerous bacteria either. These free radicals can be stopped by taking anti-oxidants - not just any - but super-antioxidants.
The article below explains this whole process in detail:
Posted by: Selman Ijaz | September 09, 2009 at 03:16 AM
Oscar wilde said that Truth is rarely pure and never simple.
I don't know if science unites per se, since peer review and critique is central to so much science, but accepted science does follow the evidence. So while there may be competing theories those with the best supporting evidence become accepted. And of course science is pretty accurate, since we know it works. I would agree that science, or indeed knowledge of any kind, is something that is attainable irrespective of race, social class or religion. Knowledge and the extent of it is something which probably most differentiates humans from other lifeforms - it often uplifts the soul and can never be taken away from one.
Posted by: George | September 09, 2009 at 05:43 AM
"Then Helen, you apparently do not at all understand the actual cause of cancer. The solution to cancer does not require dedicated, lifelong research. The solution to cancer will not be found through science or drugs, but rather lies in a close alignment with/to the natural order."
Sorry tAo, but i believe Helen is quite correct, and science has already made large strides in treating and curing many cancers. The only way we know of things like free radicals and carcinogens in the first place is through science.
TO what extent various cancers arise due to the environment or genetics is trying to be pinned down, but it seems that even someone who lives in 'close alignment with/to the natural order' can develop cancer purely from their genetic predisposition.
Posted by: George | September 09, 2009 at 06:13 AM