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Science and Skepticism

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Alex_Kasman
Aug 23 2004
Science and Skepticism

Most of the atheists, skeptics, humanists, and the like that I know weigh `science' very heavily in their belief systems. Ask them why they believe humans and birds had a common ancestor way back in the evolutionary chain, and they will support their answer with references to the work of scientists. Inquire as to where our sun is located in the universe, they will quote to you what they have heard from astronomers: that we are out in one arm of a spiral galaxy that we call the Milky Way.

Is this any different than religious fanatics who quote ancient books or modern day prophets to support their own beliefs? Well, it is different in some ways. Most importantly, as expressed in the Principles of the SHL, one big difference is that scientists are expected to support their claim with an explanation of how they figured it out and how they showed that it must be true. It is not enough to say "it came to me in a vision" or "I just know it is so", you need empirical evidence and logical arguments...you need scientific proof.

If you read my previous post on Faith and Mathematics, you know that I believe that even that most certain of proofs -- a mathematical proof -- is not beyond skepticism. This is even more true of scientific proof, where not only the falability of our logic but also of collected data could lead to mistaken conclusions. Moreover, whereas in mathematics a proof that is not entirely complete is not viewed as a proof at all, in science one generally expects only evidence and not necessarily a complete `proof' to support a claim. As a result, although I would still agree with the statement that the scientific method is the best technique available to us for learning about the world, I think that individual scientific pronouncements ought to be subject to tremendous skepticism.

In some ways, this skepticism is built-in to the scientific community. Other scientists are expected to be skeptical of the work of their colleagues and only accept new claims as valid after they have been proved to be true beyond any reasonable doubt. So, those of you out there who -- like the hypothetical skeptics in the first paragraph -- simply accept the current scientific theories as being facts can claim that these inner-workings of science are handling your skepticism for you. It is as if you are saying ``I don't have to be skeptical of these claims of science because the other scientists are being skeptical for me, by proxy.''

There are, however, several problems with this idea. One old problem is that, despite all of these supposed checks-and-balances inherent in scientific research, mistakes are made. Another problem is that sometimes the skepticism of other scientists is too great, perhaps because accepting a new paradigm threatens their prior work, leading science to occasionally hold onto its mistaken ideas long after the evidence indicating otherwise should have forced them to be abandoned. And, finally, a very new sort of problem has been introduced by the mass media: newscasts, newspapers, and ``infotainment'' programs have made it a habit to announce ``scientific discoveries'' before they have even had a chance to be considered by the scientific community at-large.

These are among the reasons that I still view individual scientific claims with skepticism. This is not to say that I do not believe in science. Let me repeat, so as to avoid confusing anyone, that I do believe in the scientific process and in nearly all of the things that ``science'' tells us. In fact, as I am a mathematical physicist (a mathematician by training whose research relates to theoretical physics and appears in both math and physics journals) married to a molecular biologist (whose research concerns biological molecules such as proteins and DNA), we actively participates in science. Now that I think of it, I suppose I am one of the scientists refered to above who, by refereeing papers for publication in physics journals and writing commentaries when I notice mistakes in other people's work, is an official skeptic in the scientific process.

Perhaps you do not feel qualified to be as skeptical as I am of science. But, I think that after seeing a few examples of mistakes that have been made in the past, or things that you hear about today that I believe are really quite questionable, you will be better able to judge for yourself in the future. So, in this essay I would like to mention a few examples, some of which would be widely agreed upon by nearly all scientists, and others which are extremely contentious.

Probably the most useful thing I can do here is to give you the ability to judge the science that you hear about on TV or in the newspapers. You should be aware that scientists benefit from PR just like politicians and actors, and so many scientists will approach the media with any discovery that they think is likely to get press. Of course, the fact that they try to get media attention does not, by itself, mean that it is bad science. The real question that you should have in mind, however, is whether this result is one that has already been considered and accepted as valid by the rest of the scientific community, or is it something the scientists are trying to get onto the news before anyone else has had an opportunity to consider it. If it is the latter, then you should probably not take anything they say too seriously. There is generally a clue as to which of these is true. If the result has been ``peer reviewed'' then the news announcement is probably timed to coincide with the publication of the article in a journal. The news source will say ``appearing in this week's issue of Nature'' or ``the January issue of the Annals of Physics reports'' or something similar, indicating that many other scientists, and not just the ones who did the research, agree that it appears to be correct.

Malcolm Cornwall, a physicist at the University of Brighton, UK warns "Don't trust the `facts' in a news story. If it sounds incredible, it probably is." He should know. Around the world, news agencies recently described his "achievement" of having counted all of the pebbles on Brighton beach. Some reported that it took him 35 years to finally work it out, and one New Zealand paper had an editorial using this as an example of the wastefulness of scientific research. In truth, the computation of the number of pebbles on the beach was just an estimate (taking no more than four minutes in total) to demonstrate the notion of comparing `order of magnitude'. (That is, sometimes even if two quantities are too large to be computed explicitly, you can still compare them and determine whether one is significantly larger than the other.) "The major goal of the journalist is," Cornwall reminds us, " to help sell newspapers. If this sometimes requires a slight bending of the facts, well, it is only a story isn't it, and human gullibility knows no bounds."

This is not to say that all science stories in the news are completely bogus...but the same reasoning may account for the fact that the news stories stretch the conclusions of even reasonable science well beyond what is justifiable. In fact, when I hear a science story on the news and later compare it to the way the same result was announced in professional scientific circles, more often than not I find that the most sensational part of the news story is not even mentioned in the professional version (probably because it is not really supported by the evidence)! For instance, in many science stories announced on the news, the important result is really some statistical correlation that the scientists have found. They may have looked at 1000 people over the past year and found that the ones who eat margarine have higher cholesterol, or that the people in the study who eat green vegetables are smarter. On the news, this will be reported as ``margarine causes high cholesterol'' or ``green vegetables make you smarter''...but if you think about it this is not necessarily a reasonable conclusion. The causality is actually not clear in such studies. I mean, it could be that the reason that some people in the study knew they had high cholesterol and that is why they chose to eat margarine, in which case it would not be fair to say that the margarine caused the high cholesterol. Similarly, maybe smart people choose to eat green vegetables rather than the green vegetables causing the intelligence.

So, should you just ignore the results of all studies reported on the news? No, there is no need to be that drastic. However, these studies need to be corroborated by being duplicated and by other sorts of experiments (such as paying people to eat more margarine for a scientific experiment and seeing if it affects their cholesterol). One of the most famous instances in which this did not work is the well-known study that showed that ``breakfast is the most important meal of the day''. The study found that students who ate a good breakfast were more likely to do well in school, and they concluded that you should eat a good breakfast if you want to do well in school...but the causality did not actually seem to work that way. Despite the fact that this study is still often mentioned by people as if the conclusion was correct, later studies (especially ones where students were given a good breakfast as part of an experiment) failed to find any effect on schoolwork. As it turns out, a better explanation of the original data is that both eating good breakfasts and doing well in school are often the result of having a concerned parent! Students who have concerned parents do better in school (because of parental involement, expectations, and assistance), and children who have concerned parents also eat a good breakfast (because a concerned parent doesn't want to see their child leave the house in the morning without eating anything) but there seems to be no causal relationship between these two things themselves. On the other hand, an example that demonstrates how these sorts of studies can be useful is the tremendous amount of work linking smoking with cancer. By themselves, the studies showing higher cancer rates among smokers could be questioned on the same grounds as my example above, but they do not stand alone. In addition, there are studies in which tobacco is fed to mice leading to cancers and even an understanding of precisely which chemical components of the tobacco cause the cancer. All of these together allow me to say with certainty that smoking does in fact cause cancer.

Be skeptical of any exciting sounding claims from the groups who are sequencing the human genome. They have become so dependent on getting huge amounts of money that they have found it necessary to get frequent airtime to talk about their tremendous success. But, they do not do a good job of separating fact from fantasy when they have the ear of the world. For instance, it is true that they have sequenced the entire genome of one person. (Yes, they just sequenced a particular individual's DNA, though they make it sound as if they now know everything about every human's DNA which is not true at all.) This means they know the list of bases (sort of like letters) that make up that one person's chromosomes...but they don't know how to read most of it. In fact, most of it seems to be meaningless nonsense (as far as we know today) that achieves little if anything. Every once in a while there is a stretch of DNA that tells the body how to make a protein, but we don't know where all of these are, and we have no idea what most of them do! In other words, though it is true that they have done something, what they actuallydid does not live up to their hype. You will always here these gene mappers making exciting claims about the fact that they did this will lead to the elimination of cancer or some other disease. Don't take it too seriously until they actually do something. These are like campaign promises, but even less likely to come true since I don't think a single disease has ever been cured by knowing where and how it is encoded genetically. It is, at best, wishful thinking and, at worst, deliberate lying to keep the funding coming in.

``The Big Bang Theory'' which maintains that the universe is expanding and can be traced back in time to when it was all extremely tiny is widely accepted in the scientific community, and in the media is treated as a complete certainty. However, if you think about it, it is a pretty spectacular claim with many strange consequences. One of the most serious is that the idea of conservation of energy, a fundamental part of most theories of physics, must be discarded in order to allow for the universal expansion. For such a serious claim, this one has relatively little support. Moreover, if you look in journals such as Science and Nature you will see that on a semi-regular basis, astronomers find things that seem to contradict the theory (such as stars that are older than the universe or more mature stars close to the beginning of time than they would have expected), but this counter-evidence is generally ignored or assumed to be mistaken. The two main pieces of evidence for the big bang theory are the particular form of microwave radiation that permeates the universe and the fact that the light from distant stars is shifted (in the color spectrum) slightly so that it appears a little redder than it should. The former is interpreted as remnants of the initial explosion of the "big bang" and the latter is interpreted as being a consequence of the fact that those stars are moving away from us, just like the sound of an ambulance siren moving away from you is shifted so that it sounds a bit lower (in the musical scale) than it would if it was standing still beside you (the ``Doppler effect''). But, is that really the only reasonable explanation for these two phenomena? Perhaps so...there are certainly a lot of very smart people who think so. But, there is a vocal minority who disagree. See, for instance, the recent article Einstein's Static Universe in the January 2001 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. This article argues that there is another reasonable explanation for the red-shift of light which does not involve the universe growing.

One of the underlying causes for my skepticism about the "big bang" is my belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with modern physics that still needs to be addressed. In fact, modern physics has a serious problem which is rarely mentioned in non-scientific forums. The 20th century produced two very successful (though strange sounding) theories: quantum physics and general relativity, both of which are used in explaining the evidence for the "big bang". These theories are successful not only in that they are popular, but also in that they are spectacularly good at making certain kinds of predictions. Quantum theory predicts such surprising things as Bose-Einstein condensates (which were successfully made in a lab recently) and the masses of certain particles to remarkably high degrees of accuracy. The theories (special and general) of relativity predict the slowing of atomic clocks on airplanes that undergo rapid acceleration and the small, otherwise inexplicable irregularities in the motion of the planet Neptune. Both seem so good, you would want to say that they are both correct. But there is a problem...they seem to contradict each other!! Quantum theory not only allows for but correctly predicts that tunneling and certain couplings interact instantaneously over large distances while relativity does not allow for instantaneous actions. There are several different possible reactions to this. Some physicists are willing to accept two contradictory theories as both being ``true'', since true to them means only that it will make the a highly accurate prediction if you use it correctly at the right time. Some look for loopholes which will allow the two theories to co-exist, though this really seems hopeless to me since there does not seem to be a way for them to be combined into a single theory that contains both of them unchanged. Finally, there are a lot of people like me who think that they are both really wrong in some serious (though apparently subtle) way, and hope that we will eventually find a single theory (probably completely different than what we have imagined so far) that has the advantages of each of these two without their inconsistencies. Until then, be skeptical of the claims of physicists when they refer to a result of quantum physics or relativity (and especially when they quote both in the same sentence) because the fact that each of these theories contradicts the other is a good indication that there is something seriously wrong with them.

There was so much more I wanted to mention! I wanted to discuss the way that science was very reluctant to believe in meteorites, gorillas and the prions that cause ``mad-cow disease''. I wanted to skeptically address both the evidence for, and the reasons not to be to sure about, ``global warming''. And I wanted to repeat that none of this is intended to make the reader stop believing in science, only to be prepared for the likelyhood that at least some of the things we hear described as ``scientifically proven'' will be rejected or contradicted by similar pronouncements later. However, this is getting to be too long, and I need to get back to work. So, let me just say this: If you have read this article and gotten this far, please write to me and let me know if you'd be interested in reading more. If so, I'll come back and finish this up another time.

Anonymous
Jan 28 2005
Science And The Bible

Science And The Bible

The Bible and Earth’s Free-float in Space

At a time when it was believed that the earth sat on a large animal or a giant (1500 B.C.), the Bible spoke of the earth’s free float in space: "He . . . hangs the earth upon nothing" (Job 26:7). Science didn’t discover that the earth hangs upon nothing until 1650.

The Scriptures Speak of an Invisible Structure

Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of things that we cannot see—invisible atoms. In Hebrews 11:3, written 2,000 years ago, Scripture tells us that the "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."

The Bible Reveals that the Earth is Round

The Scriptures tell us that the earth is round: "It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth" (Isaiah 40:22). The word translated "circle" here is the Hebrew word chuwg, which is also translated "circuit" or "compass" (depending on the context). That is, it indicates something spherical, rounded, or arched — not something that is flat or square. The book of Isaiah was written sometime between 740 and 680 B.C. This is at least 300 years before Aristotle suggested, in his book On the Heavens, that the earth might be a sphere. It was another 2,000 years later (at a time when science believed that the earth was flat) that the Scriptures inspired Christopher Columbus to sail around the world.

The Bible and the Science of Oceanography

Matthew Maury (1806–1873) is considered the father of oceanography. He noticed the expression "paths of the sea" in Psalm 8:8 (written 2,800 years ago) and said, "If God said there are paths in the sea, I am going to find them." Maury then took God at His word and went looking for these paths, and we are indebted to his discovery of the warm and cold continental currents. His book on oceanography remains a basic text on the subject and is still used in universities.

The Bible and Radio Waves

God asked Job a very strange question in 1500 B.C. He asked, "Can you send lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, Here we are?" (Job 38:35). This appears to be a scientifically ludicrous statement — that light can be sent, and then manifest itself in speech. But did you know that all electromagnetic radiation —from radio waves to x-rays—travels at the speed of light? This is why you can have instantaneous wireless communication with someone on the other side of the earth. The fact that light could be sent and then manifest itself in speech wasn’t discovered by science until 1864 (3,300 years later), when "British scientist James Clerk Maxwell suggested that electricity and light waves were two forms of the same thing" (Modern Century Illustrated Encyclopedia).

The Bible and Entropy

Three different places in the Bible (Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:25,26; and Hebrews 1:11) indicate that the earth is wearing out. This is what the Second Law of Thermodynamics (the Law of Increasing Entropy) states: that in all physical processes, every ordered system over time tends to become more disordered. Everything is running down and wearing out as energy is becoming less and less available for use. That means the universe will eventually "wear out" to the extent that (theoretically speaking) there will be a "heat death" and therefore no more energy available for use. This wasn’t discovered by science until recently, but the Bible states it in concise terms.

The Bible and the Water Cycle

The Scriptures inform us, "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, there they return again" (Ecclesiastes 1:7). This statement alone may not seem profound. But, when considered with other biblical passages, it becomes all the more remarkable. For example, the Mississippi River dumps approximately 518 billion gallons of water every 24 hours into the Gulf of Mexico. Where does all that water go? And that’s just one of thousands of rivers. The answer lies in the hydrologic cycle, so well brought out in the Bible.

Ecclesiastes 11:3 states that "if the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth." Look at the Bible’s concise words in Amos 9:6: "He . . . calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth." The idea of a complete water cycle was not fully understood by science until the seventeenth century. However, more than two thousand years prior to the discoveries of Pierre Perrault, Edme Mariotte, Edmund Halley, and others, the Scriptures clearly spoke of a water cycle.

The Bible and the First Law of Thermodynamics

The Scriptures say, "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them" (Genesis 2:1). The original Hebrew uses the past definite tense for the verb "finished," indicating an action completed in the past, never again to occur. The creation was "finished" — once and for all. That is exactly what the First Law of Thermodynamics says. This law (often referred to as the Law of the Conservation of Energy and/or Mass) states that neither matter nor energy can be either created or destroyed.

It was because of this Law that Sir Fred Hoyle’s "Steady-State" (or "Continuous Creation") Theory was discarded. Hoyle stated that at points in the universe called "irtrons," matter (or energy) was constantly being created. But, the First Law states just the opposite. Indeed, there is no "creation" ongoing today. It is "finished" exactly as the Bible states.

The Bible and Ship Dimensions

In Genesis 6, God gave Noah the dimensions of the 1.5 million cubic foot ark he was to build. In 1609 at Hoorn in Holland, a ship was built after that same pattern (30:5:3), revolutionizing ship-building. By 1900 every large ship on the high seas was inclined toward the proportions of the ark (verified by "Lloyd’s Register of Shipping" in the World Almanac).

The Bible and Meteorological Laws

The Scriptures describe a "cycle" of air currents two thousand years before scientists discovered them: "The wind goes toward the south, and turns about unto the north; it whirls about continually, and the wind returns again according to his circuits" (Ecclesiastes 1:6). We now know that air around the earth turns in huge circles, clockwise in one hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the other.

The Bible and Science

"In antiquity and in what is called the Dark Ages, men did not know what they now know about humanity and the cosmos. They did not know the lock but they possessed they key, which is God. Now many have excellent descriptions of the lock, but they have lost the key. The proper solution is union between religion and science. We should be owners of the lock and the key. The fact is that as science advances, it discovers what was said thousands of years ago in the Bible." Richard Wurmbrand, Proofs of God’s Existence

Alex_Kasman
Jan 31 2005
antibiotics?

I must admit that I'm skeptical of your claims that the Bible authors knew about the first law of thermodynamics, atomic structure, and that the Earth was spherical. Of course, other people figured out all of those things. (The shape of the Earth and even a good estimate for its radius was determined by Greeks at about the same time without any need to refer to a deity. They made observations of eclipses and measurements of shadows and worked it out.) But, the quotes you find seem to me to be sufficiently vague that it is possible to go back and FIND these things in hindsight that were not apparent to begin with. It says more about the human ability to find meaning in everything than in the book itself.

But, one thing I've always wondered is why the bible does not provide more information about things that would really have been useful. I think you and I are in agreement that not much would have been gained if the Israelites had recognized this information about the first law of thermodynamics or the shape of the planet in their religious text. However, the bible COULD have contained useful information, like how to prevent disease. "Clean surgical instruments with alcohol to kill the little creatures that cause disease and prevent the spread of infection." "Eat dried bread mold to kill the disease in your body." Simple rules like this would have impressed me much more than "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" and would have saved millions of lives.

Of course, to me it is not a surprise. The people who wrote the bible didn't know about antibiotics or bacteria. But, if you think an all-knowing, all-loving god wrote the book, why didn't he save the lives of millions of little children who died from horrible diseases that they caught by no fault of their own by making these ideas known?

tersse
Jan 17 2008

ok you are all labouring under the mistaken idea that there is such a thing as pure truth, there is no pure truth, as you point out yourself, or most of you do, knowlege is an ever growing ever changeing truth, what we belived 50 years ago has changed, we have added new knowlege, disproved some past beliefs, even the religous books that existed 500 years ago have been rewriten and changed many times, if this dosnt prove evolution in the form of chaos theory, still at work in evrything from thought to biological function, then i have mistaken a lot of what i have observed and understood from my life of seaking knowledge, i dont seek truth per say but more try to disern knowledge that is more usefull and user freindly for me now than what i knew before, if more ppl took that aproch to life we wouldent be haveing so many arguments about what is unchangable truth and what is actualy just changeing knowledge.

tersse
Jan 18 2008

another thing, beliefs are like old comfortable tee-shirts, ppl tend to hang on to them way past their servisable time, and keep useing them till some one like their mother or lover steals it from them and throws it out, replaceing it with a new, clean, better for use one.

if ppl want to live their lifes like that i dont mind, what i mind is if they want me to believe the same as them, and are willing to punish, ostrasize and or kill me to make me do so.

when this happens im very willing to resiprocate, if they leave me to be what i am, im willing to work with them for both our benefits, to me that is civilisation, humanity, even ( dont shout at me for this) christian).

:):):):)

Alex_Kasman
Jan 18 2008

ok you are all labouring under the mistaken idea that there is such a thing as pure truth, there is no pure truth, as you point out yourself, or most of you do, knowlege is an ever growing ever changeing truth, what we belived 50 years ago has changed, we have added new knowlege, disproved some past beliefs,

Yes, I do believe that there is such a thing as "truth". I also agree with you that knowledge is ever growing and changing. But, I don't see any conflict between these two things.

Knowledge represents what we THINK is true. As you point out, this changes over time. Also, it varies from person to person. That means that at any given time we cannot be certain about what is true. But, that does not mean that there is no such thing as truth.

For example, I don't think we know whether Thomas Jefferson ate eggs for breakfast on the morning of July 4, 1776. Perhaps some Jefferson scholar has a guess, even a good guess based on knowledge of Jefferson from other sources. But, we don't really know for sure. This is a statement about our knowledge. On the other hand, I think there really is an answer to the question of what he ate whether we know it of not. Either he did or he did not eat eggs.

I know there are people who think that this idea that there is such a thing as "truth" is itself mistaken. However, just thinking about it logically, I cannot accept this hypothesis. My reasoning goes as follows: Suppose they are RIGHT, suppose my view of what "truth" means is completely false. Does that mean that there is no such thing as truth? No...because then "they are Right, my view of what `truth' means is completely false" is an example of a TRUE statement and so even then there is such a thing as truth.

Despite this disagreement, tersse, I think you and are do mostly agree about things. Even if this ultimate truth exists, all we actually have access to is our knowledge and reason. I like to think that I am getting closer and closer to knowing "the truth" by gaining knowledge and applying reason. You just view it in more practical manner, whether it is useful or not rather than whether it is true...but that seems to almost be a difference of semantics.

-Alex

tersse
Jan 20 2008

Yes, I do believe that there is such a thing as "truth". I also agree with you that knowledge is ever growing and changing. But, I don't see any conflict between these two things.

Knowledge represents what we THINK is true. As you point out, this changes over time. Also, it varies from person to person. That means that at any given time we cannot be certain about what is true. But, that does not mean that there is no such thing as truth.

For example, I don't think we know whether Thomas Jefferson ate eggs for breakfast on the morning of July 4, 1776. Perhaps some Jefferson scholar has a guess, even a good guess based on knowledge of Jefferson from other sources. But, we don't really know for sure. This is a statement about our knowledge. On the other hand, I think there really is an answer to the question of what he ate whether we know it of not. Either he did or he did not eat eggs.

I know there are people who think that this idea that there is such a thing as "truth" is itself mistaken. However, just thinking about it logically, I cannot accept this hypothesis. My reasoning goes as follows: Suppose they are RIGHT, suppose my view of what "truth" means is completely false. Does that mean that there is no such thing as truth? No...because then "they are Right, my view of what `truth' means is completely false" is an example of a TRUE statement and so even then there is such a thing as truth.

Despite this disagreement, tersse, I think you and are do mostly agree about things. Even if this ultimate truth exists, all we actually have access to is our knowledge and reason. I like to think that I am getting closer and closer to knowing "the truth" by gaining knowledge and applying reason. You just view it in more practical manner, whether it is useful or not rather than whether it is true...but that seems to almost be a difference of semantics.

-Alex

for the sake of argument there is allways truth some were, such as what sock i put on this morning right or left first, but i am not talking about such mondain things, when we are toalking about the phisicl world we can at opne time or another say that this fact as it stands at the moment is the truth, this dose not meen it will allways be the truth, and invariably it dosnt remain the truth for long, were as in a beleif system, what is truth is invariably just conventional beleif in that system and not even a fact that con be proved or not, htis is what i was refering to when i spoke of truth.

tersse
Jan 20 2008

adding to my last posts here, i posted in another topic that the problem with most systems of beleif is that they continualy argue about things that arnt comparable, if some one wants to beleiv a truth for the sake of a religious syatem thats their perogative and the same for a scientist, if they try to prove their beleif by attaking each other, they invariably both lose the arguament as one deals with impiracle evedence and the with a personal held beleif, you cant prove the existence or non-existence of a god, and you cant disprove the existence of evolution by quoteing the bible, there is some proofs of evolution, but nothing that makes it a total truth, just more or less beleivable and so it is for the non-existence of god, though some would say proveing one should realy suport the truth of the other, yet again it all comes down to simple individual beleif.

there is room for both sides to co exist, if they will do as said some were in some book or other give unto ceaser what is his and unto god what is gods.

n-atheist
Jan 21 2008

Tersse,

Your post about "truth" and "belief" reminds me of a bit on Monty Python where there are these guys who work in the furniture department at a big store, but each has something that they say in a strange way. One says "dog kennels" instead of "mattresses". One multiplies every number he says by two, and so on.

Look, "truth" means what is TRUE and "belief" means what people BELIEVE. That's kind of obvious from the similarities in their spelling, but also because that's what the dictionary says.

For some reason, you seem to insist on using the word "truth" to mean "what people believe", and that will just confuse things.

Usually, when I hear a scientist talk about things, they do say something like "I believe it is true that the origin of species is explained by natural selection and Darwinian evolution" so that it is completely clear that they are talking about their current belief. Then, if you give them a chance, they will go on to list all of the evidence supporting that belief. Perhaps sometimes, for the sake of brevity, they will just say that something is true, but of course everyone knows that when someone reasonable says this they are only telling you that they believe it to be true (as demonstrated by their willingness to change when presented with contrary evidence).

Truth doesn't disappear when people's beliefs about it are false or change. Instead of turning this into "there is no truth", why not just use the words for what they actually mean and say that we cannot be sure what is true. Our beliefs, even those based on the best reasoning and evidence, are always conditional and subject to revision when confronted with more evidence or better reasoning.

That we can't be sure about it is good reason for introspection ("could I be wrong?") and for tolerance ("I know we disagree...but she is certainly entitled to her opinion about it just as I am"). But, it is no reason to throw out the whole concept of truth or to change what the word means.

-na

tersse
Jan 21 2008

Tersse,

Your post about "truth" and "belief" reminds me of a bit on Monty Python where there are these guys who work in the furniture department at a big store, but each has something that they say in a strange way. One says "dog kennels" instead of "mattresses". One multiplies every number he says by two, and so on.

Look, "truth" means what is TRUE and "belief" means what people BELIEVE. That's kind of obvious from the similarities in their spelling, but also because that's what the dictionary says.

For some reason, you seem to insist on using the word "truth" to mean "what people believe", and that will just confuse things.

Usually, when I hear a scientist talk about things, they do say something like "I believe it is true that the origin of species is explained by natural selection and Darwinian evolution" so that it is completely clear that they are talking about their current belief. Then, if you give them a chance, they will go on to list all of the evidence supporting that belief. Perhaps sometimes, for the sake of brevity, they will just say that something is true, but of course everyone knows that when someone reasonable says this they are only telling you that they believe it to be true (as demonstrated by their willingness to change when presented with contrary evidence).

Truth doesn't disappear when people's beliefs about it are false or change. Instead of turning this into "there is no truth", why not just use the words for what they actually mean and say that we cannot be sure what is true. Our beliefs, even those based on the best reasoning and evidence, are always conditional and subject to revision when confronted with more evidence or better reasoning.

That we can't be sure about it is good reason for introspection ("could I be wrong?") and for tolerance ("I know we disagree...but she is certainly entitled to her opinion about it just as I am"). But, it is no reason to throw out the whole concept of truth or to change what the word means.

-na

if only more ppl would actualy keep to the convention of only saying its true when it is true and just what they believe, most ppl just say its true because evry one in their social circle says so, such as religious ppl the book is true evry word etc, so how can we tell if wjat they say is true or just a beliefe, reading a dictonary dosnt help us much if they havent.

thats y i say truth is relative and far from easy to know were as knowledge is easy to understand, and delusion is also easy, it normaly comes from places were you need to have beliefe to agree with it.

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