It's amusing when anti-scientific true believers get on their fundamentalist soapboxes. I've had a good time reading the nonsensical comments on my spiritual pseudo-science post.
I'll try to avoid sounding too condescending here, though I agree with biologist PZ Myers when he responded to a creationist with "I'll be condescending when condescension is deserved."
First -- and probably most importantly -- everybody uses the scientific method in their everyday lives. Otherwise it would be impossible to live any sort of normal life. So those who criticize how science works are hypocrites, unless they also are criticizing themselves.
Here's a simple depiction of the scientific method. It's a looping, circular process of Theory - Prediction - Experiment - Observation.
I try to turn on my TV. I'm met with a blank screen. What to do? I come up with some theories. Set got unplugged. I'm pressing the wrong button on the remote control. I'm holding the wrong remote. TV is broken. Power is off.
If any of these theories is correct, my prediction is that dealing with the problem will cause the TV to turn on. So I start experimenting. And observe what happens.
What I don't do is sit on the couch and say to myself, "It's God's will. Nothing I can do about it. Except pray."
I don't expect that a miracle will cause the TV to start working again. I assume that I can learn some facts and use that knowledge to, hopefully, start watching a favorite show.
Scientists simply use the same common-sense approach in a more rigorous and organized fashion, applying the scientific method to considerably more complicated subjects.
Second, note that the description above the diagram says:
The scientific method uses objective experimentation to predict, verify, or refute, an assertion made by a theory.
"Objective" means that the experiment isn't dependent on a particular subject, or person, which would make it subjective rather than objective.
It doesn't matter whether I, my wife, or a TV repairman checks the plug, remote control, circuit breakers, and such. Each of us is observing the same things, and should come up with the same results if we do the same experiment.
Which can be demonstrated to other people, another meaning of "objective." If I can't figure out what the problem is with the TV, I can call in an expert and show him what I've tried already.
"See, the plug is in. The surge protector power light is on. This is the right remote control, and other functions are working." And so on.
But obviously not everything in life has an objective quality that makes it amenable to investigation through the scientific method. This gets us to...
Third, there are subjective and objective domains of reality. So there is subjective truth, and there also is objective truth. It's ridiculous when people say, "Science can't know everything."
Science doesn't know how the coffee I just took a sip of tastes to me. Science doesn't know how I'm feeling emotionally right now. In fact, science doesn't have a clue about anything I'm aware of, because consciousness is a subjective phenomenon.
Scientists have inner lives, just as we all do. I've read lots of science books and regularly peruse several science magazines. I spend two years working on a Ph.D. in Systems Science. I've never come across a scientist who denies the reality of subjective conscious experience.
So this is a non-issue, the claim by science skeptics that science can't know everything. It doesn't attempt to.
Scientific knowledge concerns the shared realm of objective truth where demonstrable evidence can be displayed and communicated to other people, leading to a public assessment of whether observed facts fit the prediction of some theory.
Science isn't out to deny the reality of subjective sensual impressions -- sounds, sights, tastes, feelings, odors, and such. Nor is it out to deny other private experiences that comprise the conscious reality of every person's existence.
The scientific method merely says, "If you can't show me the demonstrable evidence that supports a theory, I won't accept it as being objective truth."
Liking strawberries more than bananas still can be your subjective truth. As can your belief in God, angels, heaven, astral travel, divination, the Eight Holy Veils of Her Most Illustrious Visage, or whatever else resides within the private confines of your psyche.
Including experiences of any or all of the above, plus any other possible subjective experience. Science just wants you to bring back some convincing evidence if you want other people to accept that your subjective experience reflects the nature of an objective reality.
Hey, that's not too much to ask, is it?
Yet for many religious true believers, it is. They want others to accept their metaphysical pronouncements -- Jesus saves, God is good, karma crushes carnivores, the soul survives bodily death -- without any evidence.
Subjective truth doesn't need evidence. If I say to you, "I like strawberries more than bananas," you're going to accept my personal like.
But if I claim, "Strawberries are tastier than bananas, so you should eat more of them," then likely I've got an argument on my hands. You'd be entirely justified in replying, "Well, maybe to you; I feel differently."
As I often say on this churchless blog, I've got no problem with "I like..." when it comes to religiosity. It's saying "I'm right..." that gets me irritated. (See my post on this subject.)
I get this image of a pick-up basketball game. A guy stands by the court, talking trash to the players.
You guys got nothing! No game at all. Shit, I could play circles around you. You'll be standing in my dust, wondering how that dunk just slammed over your candy-ass'es.
The players who are actually showing their stuff say, "Dude, come on. Show us what you've got." In this metaphor they're the scientists, the ones who want to put the guy's I'm-better-than-you theory to the test.
But he's a religious true believer.
He talks a good game, and maybe inside his head he is playing a great subjective game of basketball. However, he isn't able to show his stuff in the outside physical world where people have shared experiences.
So there's no reason to believe that he can do what he claims. The players go back to their scientific method game. If the guy ever wants to join in, great. Standing on the sideline and talking trash, though, doesn't earn any respect from those who are actually in the game.
“First -- and probably most importantly -- everybody uses the scientific method in their everyday lives. Otherwise it would be impossible to live any sort of normal life.”
We can’t always depend on science. Just a hypothetical question: What if some out of our control natural disaster or catastrophic event happens and electricity and all those gadgets we are so dependent upon become defunct? Those people who rely on the scientific “reality” of their world will be so out of their minds there will be chaos.
Intuition and connectedness to spirit is what we will be needing more than scientific knowledge, knowing how to act, where to go and what to do. Practical everyday methods of survival are what we will need, modern day science is not going to help at all, it will be back to the basics.
Posted by: whatever | May 20, 2009 at 07:54 PM
whatever, it sounds like you didn't read what I wrote very closely. The scientific method isn't used only for discovering scientific truths. It also is exactly what would be needed in the sort of disaster you alluded to.
I have no idea what you mean about not relying on the scientific reality of this world. If people don't respond in accord with the reality of a situation, their responses won't be successful. "Practical everyday methods" are exactly what the scientific method is about.
Have an idea. Try it out. See how it works. Modify that approach as needed. Thinking scientifically is the most natural and practical way to live. Imagining oneself in a spiritual realm won't cut it.
Posted by: Brian | May 20, 2009 at 08:16 PM
Brian wrote: "First -- and probably most importantly -- everybody uses the scientific method in their everyday lives"
I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I would go further and suggest it is impossible to think any other way. That is, all thinking is scientific.
Even someone who says they believe in a god based on their faith is still thinking scientifically.
A believer may say "God is real because the Bible says so". But this is still scientific thinking.
"God is real" is the theory. "Because the Bible says so" is the evidence.
Theory. Evidence. Conclusion.
We are all scientists.
The only difference between a believer and non-believer is that the believer is satisfied by the evidence provided, whilst the non-believer is not satisfied.
Arguments as to the existence or non-existence of anything are really about the *quality* of the evidence.
Posted by: Smack | May 20, 2009 at 08:32 PM
Smack, nicely said. You make me think about an open dance practice my wife and I went to last night, after not dancing for several months and being even more rusty than usual.
I got fixated on doing an American Tango move the way I thought it was supposed to be done. I step left, right, then side left, and back right.
Whoa...ended up in wrong position. My right leg is supposed to be forward, not the left. Now I can't do a leg flick against Laurel's leg, and getting out of the move is weird.
Now, I was using the scientific method. Had a theory about the steps involved in this move. Experimented with my theory. Observed what happened. Then adjusted my theory, since it was clear that it didn't fit Tango reality.
I wasn't as scientific as I should have been, though, because I persisted in trying to make the move work several more times. When I got home I consulted my notes, found what I was doing wrong (should have been left, side right, step behind left -- obvious in retrospect), and resolved to do better next time.
My point: ballroom dancing is pretty darn intuitive. You can't think too much, or you can't dance. But dancing also uses the scientific method. Meaning, you try something, see how it works, and then adjust your "theory" of how to move.
Long way of saying that I agree with you.
Posted by: Brian | May 20, 2009 at 09:15 PM
I disagree with your saying that "faith", or belief in religion, or belief in God or the Bible, is somehow science, scientific thinking, or "evidence". Here's why:
Mere belief is NOT evidence. A "theory" alone, is not evidence. Belief based upon mere theory, is NOT "evidence" or "science". There is a crucial difference between a theory, and solid evidence. So religion is NOT science, no matter how you argue it. You claim that belief in the Bible is evidence. NO. The Bible is merely stories and beliefs. And so just saying "because the Bible says so" does not equal "evidence". And evidence is provable testable evidence. Either there is undeniable proveable evidence, or there is not. It is not any matter of any so-called "quality".
Posted by: tAo | May 20, 2009 at 09:18 PM
I should have been clearer.
When I used the word 'evidence' I was not referring to 'objectively testable verifiable evidence' but rather what the believer accepts as 'evidence'.
When I say "'Because the Bible says so' is the evidence"... I am referring to believer's point of view.
For the believer, it is evidence.
For the non believer, it is not evidence.
But nevertheless, both parties have used the *same* scientific process to solve the problem: Theory, Evidence, Conclusion.
That's my point.
So I should amend my last sentence for clarity's sake:
Arguments as to the existence or non-existence of anything are really about the *quality* of that which is put forward as 'evidence' by either party.
Posted by: Smack | May 20, 2009 at 10:55 PM
The definition of evidence, facts, truths, beliefs, etc. needs to be reviewed. My definition may be different from the next.
Never hurts to step back a little and start with raw data or information. Examine how this raw data (info) is collected and recorded. Review how these methods differ from person to person.
There may be much debate as to how this raw data(info) is converted into evidence. Someone's evidence, imo, may need to be down graded back to raw data, for further analysis.
If I, reserve the right to be wrong, then why do I need to create a belief system around my evidence, hypothesis, theory, etc.
I present my findings and let the process continues through the Method.
"God is real" is the theory. "Because the Bible says so" is the evidence."
---Not sure this is a scientific theory. Don't see the evidence in the above statement.
"We are all scientists."
---Don't see all of us as scientist. However, imo, I think we persons, "should" employ the scientific method, more than not.
Posted by: Roger | May 21, 2009 at 07:44 AM
The problem with this train of logic is that people who are believers are following it also but to their own conclusions. Example: I have been receiving a series of emails this spring from a neighbor whose husband, a pastor (incidentally very nice people), has gone through nearly dying from-- well doesn't matter from what; but he definitely came close (whether scientist or believer you would see that part the same), a week in Intensive Care and some time in rehab to finally get back home around Easter.
Each email is about how god is working, god is fixing it and this goes out to all the 'believers' including me. So the last one that I got, this morning actually, said god has worked a miracle and the pastor no longer has to have more treatment. God has cured him.
To them it's not faith in the medical practices but a miracle although at least they did use the medical system. Using their own version of scientific reasoning, they'd take it down those steps but change what their conclusion was because it suits the agenda they have lived with all their lives.
What they sent out to all the 'believers' and me will cause many of them to see it as 'scientific' evidence that prayer works. It's all relative to where you are and what you want to believe. I believe in positive thinking, loving energy being a big help, but think the medical system is what pulled him through. In the end we are all humans with agendas and spiritual or scientific, we tend to skew the conclusions to our own comfort zone.
You know it works for them and as long as it doesn't hurt anybody else (some religious ideas do) then I don't care that they see it as a miracle. It makes them happy. The harder part for me to be sanguine about would be when the next time it doesn't work and then they say-- it was god's will. So whichever way it went, they would say that their experiments and evidence proves what they want to believe. I guess we all cling to something for a rock to hang onto...
Posted by: Rain | May 21, 2009 at 08:18 AM
Nobody (well at least not I) is quoting the Bible as being the last word on reality, absolutely far from it.
Neither is anyone here taking hearsay from any spiritual perspective and holding that up to be the real McCoy either.
And so likewise with this holy cow that is 'science'.
Firstly this totem pole 'Science' can somebody please define the objective reality that is 'Science'.
And what does this holy ideal 'science' purport to 'know' or acknowledge, and what field of understanding, physical, metaphysical, natural, phenomenal or 'real' is this grand illustrious medium supposed to be the standard bearer of?
According to Wikipedia Science represents the effort to discover and increase human understanding. Knowledge in science is gained through research. Using controlled methods, scientists collect observable evidence of natural phenomena, record measurable data relating to the observations, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work. The methods of scientific research include the generation of hypotheses about how phenomena work, and experimentation that tests these hypotheses under controlled conditions. The results of this process enable better understanding of past events, and better ability to predict future events of the same kind as those that have been tested.
So in effect what mankind refers to as 'science' is purely a study of natural phenomena and how it relates or reacts with itself and with himself, man.
Again I reiterate, the true in depth analysis of that which is truly 'scientific' is not subject to change and endless analytical hypothesis, it is 'true' and irrefutable.
Such absolute reality is attainable, except not within the limited confines of the dead end apparati in the closed off crystallized laboratory which is mans limited vision and scope within his limited attributes of perception, which are the physical phenomenal 'unreal' impermanent faculties of that which we perceive through our limited non perceptive physical senses.
Posted by: sharbata | May 21, 2009 at 09:24 AM
Ashy/sharbata, you've used a lot of words again. But you haven't said anything. Where is the evidence of anything other than "natural phenomena"? Where is the evidence of another realm of existence that you claim is absolute reality?
This is the point I made in this post, which you've nicely illustrated. Your comment is precisely like a sidelines "trash talker" who claims to be able to play the Truth Game better than the scientific method, yet is unable to demonstrate any moves on the playing field.
Again, it's easy to speak about spiritual realities. The Bible does that. The Koran does that. All kinds of holy books do that. But where is the demonstrable objective truth behind those words?
Posted by: Brian | May 21, 2009 at 09:56 AM
"...........the true in depth analysis of that which is truly 'scientific' is not subject to change and endless analytical hypothesis, it is 'true' and irrefutable."
---No need for the "truely" in using the Scientific Method. One persons truely, is another's crapola.
"And what does this holy ideal 'science' purport to 'know' or acknowledge, and what field of understanding, physical, metaphysical, natural, phenomenal or 'real' is this grand illustrious medium supposed to be the standard bearer of?"
---Definition of "know" and "knowledge" is in order here. Definitions do differ, even within a small group.
---The Scientific Method, imo, stands alone. How groups of scientists, and other persons, create a Standard within a particular field of science is another issue. These official Standards are open to change and do change from time to time.
"Firstly this totem pole 'Science' can somebody please define the objective reality that is 'Science'."
---So, why do I need to do that? My definition or examination of a particular "object" may be different. Let's get together and compare notes. If we differ, then we differ. The scientific method is the method, no need to put it on top of a totem pole.
Posted by: Roger | May 21, 2009 at 10:28 AM
either you 'know' or you don't.
either you have vision or you are blind.
either your frame of reference is sensual 'reality', or else it is 'illusion'.
you decide which is 'trash talk' and which is semantics based on intellectual hypothesis.
Those that do Know, don't need play any such 'games'. Intellectual or hypothetical.
Posted by: kool and the gang | May 21, 2009 at 11:19 AM
Ashy/kool, once again... claiming to know isn't the same as showing that you know.
I can claim that I'm a great dancer. But when I show my stuff on the dance floor, it's clear that I'm average.
Similarly, if someone claims knowledge of something other than "sensual reality," that is just talk unless he or she can show some evidence of it.
Otherwise, it is just talk. Words. Concepts. Like I said, someone may be able to play the spiritual game inside their head, and that's fine.
But unless they can show their stuff to others, there's no reason to accept what they say as true. This is the difference between science and religion: science wants proof, religion only demands belief.
Posted by: Brian | May 21, 2009 at 11:26 AM
"either you 'know' or you don't."
---sometimes I think I know, then times I think I don't know. No big deal...
"either you have vision or you are blind."
---I can possess blinded vision. I'm human, I can make a mistake.
"either your frame of reference is sensual 'reality', or else it is 'illusion'."
---So, could sensual reality be an illusion too?
"Those that do Know, don't need play any such 'games'. Intellectual or hypothetical."
---Persons that think they know, play games all the time. So whats the big deal?
Posted by: Roger | May 21, 2009 at 11:29 AM
No one needs 'show' anyone anything, see or remain blind.
firstly what is it you would like to be 'shown'?
the old adage still holds whether you ready to 'buy' it or not
truth cannot be taught, can only be caught.
either your mind is open to the potential of 'seeing' or else it is closed by the very blindness that is its own hypothetical 'reasoning'.
What would you like to be 'shown', who is this 'individual' that needs 'see' reality?
Who are 'you', identity 'who', which voyeur of 'what'?
Open your gaze to the possibility of 'seeing - knowing' and it may make itself 'visible' to you, else continue seeking to be 'shown' that which can never be 'shown' only 'seen'.
Never can be 'taught', can only be 'caught'.
Posted by: kool and the gang | May 21, 2009 at 11:51 AM
lets rephrase that
what is it 'we' would like to be 'shown'?
truth cannot be taught, can only be caught.
either 'our' minds are open to the potential of 'seeing' or else it is closed by the very blindness that is 'our' own hypothetical 'reasoning'.
What would 'we' like to be 'shown', who are these 'individual' that needs 'see' reality?
Who am 'I', identity 'who', which voyeur of 'what'?
Open our gaze to the possibility of 'seeing - knowing' and it may make itself 'visible' to me-us, else 'we' continue seeking to be 'shown' that which can never be 'shown' only 'seen'.
Never can be 'taught', can only be 'caught'.
Posted by: kool and the gang | May 21, 2009 at 11:59 AM
Dear Brian et al.,
Personally I am impressed by the "wisdom" I find in Rain's statement: "In the end we are all humans with agendas and spiritual or scientific, we tend to skew the conclusions to our own comfort zone."
I believe I see this demonstrated again and again in the various comments posted on this blog. (And I admit to being subject to this same general "rule" myself.)
This is also true when the "record" of what was presented has been altered or omitted (by "request" or otherwise).
Robert Paul Howard
Posted by: Robert Paul Howard | May 21, 2009 at 12:03 PM
Ashy/kool...OK, I get the message.
There's no evidence, no proof, no sign of the spiritual truth you talk about.
Thanks for supporting a recent post of mine, where I argued that "God's goodness is absolutely nothing."
Meaning, as you say above, that all of this supposed spiritual realization is purely within the mind of the beholder, and can't be demonstrated to anyone else or shown to make a discernible difference in objective reality (no miracles, no special powers, no behavioral specialness, etc).
That's fine. As I said in this post, and you've confirmed, science is the only way of knowing demonstrable objective truth. Private feelings and experiences exist also, but they have to be put in the realm of "I like" rather than "I know."
You speak of unprovable, hidden, subjective experience, which falls in the same knowledge realm as other personal experiences, such as tasting a strawberry.
It seems, though, that if there is some sort of supreme metaphysical reality beyond this universe, it would have some demonstrable effect on people and things here. Apparently not.
Posted by: Brian | May 21, 2009 at 12:06 PM
Sure, Robert, nobody has a lock on ultimate truth. Like "The Ego Tunnel" book says, we all are viewing reality through our own subjective mental lens, not directly.
That's why science is so important. It serves as a guide, or correction, to personal biases. The scientific method goes a long way toward checking our natural tendencies to see things as we want to see them.
There are facts, though. Thankfully. We have a lot in common on the walls of our ego tunnels. That's what we call objective reality -- that shared experience of the universe. As in, "Did you see that?" "Yes, I saw it too." That shows me it isn't only in my own mind.
This blog isn't a scientific experiment. I feel free to exercise some of my prejudices, likes, and dislikes. If someone is commenting inappropriately, in my totally personal opinion, I delete the comments.
Posted by: Brian | May 21, 2009 at 12:13 PM
how can one confine 'supreme metaphysical reality' to the realms of this limited medium of hypothetical understanding, they are poles apart, like chalk and cheese never to meet
also why reduce insight, experience, exposure to truth, as mere subjective 'feelings'
Emotion is perhaps one level of experience, recognition another, perception perhaps quite another, even further advanced down the highway of love, ultimately immersion in the reality, the truth, the 'substance', surely that is the ever illusive goal.
Posted by: kool and the gang | May 21, 2009 at 12:28 PM
Never had a need to confine 'supreme metaphysical reality' to the realms of this limited medium of hypothetical understanding. This is kinda strange.
I have written things on a chalk board, while eating a piece of cheese. One time, I placed that piece of cheese on the chalk board rail, to free up both hands, and some chalk on the board came loose and fail on that piece of cheese. Chalk on cheddar cheese doesn't taste too good. However, they can meet.
Nothing wrong with having a subjective feeling. So whats the big deal here?
One can have a goal. An ellusive goal is one type. Again, whats the big deal here?
Posted by: Roger | May 22, 2009 at 09:05 AM
In my opinion (and that is all it is), spirituality and religion answer questions of an ontological nature. Science takes certain ideas of our existence as a priori, which is the only way you can maintain "objective truth" at all. In that sense, there is no "objective reality." If there is, please prove it.
Posted by: Ned | May 23, 2009 at 06:38 PM
Ned, that's easy. I just read exactly what you wrote. And you're doing the same with what I wrote. We share an objective reality.
Same as when I come to a red light, and you also see the same red light. Life would be pretty crazy (and unlivable) if everybody lived in their own subjective reality. Also, it would be lonely.
Posted by: Brian | May 23, 2009 at 06:44 PM
Actually, that says there is a shared subjective reality, not an objective one. Consider the dubiousness of eye witness accounts of traffic accidents. Obviously, we aren't all seeing the same red light.
My view is that there is a single consciousness that we all live in and are a part of. I would agree with the Buddhists that we have no soul and that reality is empty (both point to a singular consciousness), but I also think that the one consciousness is intelligent, has purpose and is knowable. Hence, God.
That does not conflict with the empirical objectivity of science... but it also doesn't put that model of reality on a pedestal above insight.
Posted by: Ned | May 27, 2009 at 06:58 AM
In a particular field of Science, I would think a particular objective truth, thru Standards, can be created. Groups of scientist can and do come together and agree on a particular Standard. They agree to agree, the Standard is set forth. One nice issue is the Scientific Method, that allows for changes to occur. This is dualism, where object-subject study is engaging.
Posted by: Roger | May 27, 2009 at 08:01 AM