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Is science a form of faith?
Posted: 26 November 2007 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Paul Davies had an Op Ed on this topic in the NYTimes on November 24th. You can read it HERE.

Responses from Jerry Coyne, Nathan Myhrvold, Lawrence Krauss, Scott Atran, Sean Carroll, Jeremy Bernstein, PZ Myers and Lee Smolin HERE. An additional and very good response from philosopher John Wilkins HERE.

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Posted: 26 November 2007 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What is Paul Davies smoking?  It always strikes me as bizarre when people try to reason away reason.

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Posted: 26 November 2007 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Ok, like we are all scientists and we all have the ability to question and test scientific discoveries?  I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time, knowledge, or energy to retest Evolution for myself, but I know it to be a fact just from various viruses that mutate and change, not to mention our remarkable resemblence to chimps and gorillas.  I’m also not going to wait on a dr to retest what is said to be a cure when I’m already sick nor am I going to test it out too.  If I’m sick, I want what is going to cure me (or help cure me) and I want it now.  I think because of the obsticles most people have is why we do have scientist and pay them to study various things.

Paul Davies doesn’t make sense.  Does he ever take on faith that his dr knows what he is talking about and has answered his questions in a satisfactory manner?  Does he get a second opinion everytime he sees his dr or does he ever say, “OK so that’s what’s wrong with me and this antibiotic will take care of it”?  Medicine is a science too and we don’t constantly question what our dr says.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 26 November 2007 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I read the article before I went up and read the author’s short bio.  I guess I’ll need to check the prescription of my glasses since I thought it said, “PAUL C. DAVIES is the director of Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University, and the author of “‘Cosmic Crackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life.’”

I’m usually somewhat annoyed by nit-pickers, but when those nits get down to the size of quantum particles, it gets insane.  Using his “reasoning” he should be able to show that even in his own mind he doesn’t exist.  Then, maybe he’ll go poof, disappear, and stop writing those dumb articles.

Occam

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Posted: 26 November 2007 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Exactly, Occam. Sure, for any system of knowledge to exist, it has to be based on the idea that there is something to know. If you want to call that faith, fine, but it creates a false parallel with religion. What is taken on faith by science is that reality exists and can be, to some extent, understood. What the religious believer takes on faith is that and everything else, down to the fall of each little sparrow. Rather different systems of knowledge, so saying they are both founded on faith is specious.

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Posted: 26 November 2007 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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mckenzievmd - 26 November 2007 04:11 PM

What is taken on faith by science is that reality exists and can be, to some extent, understood.

I wouldn’t even agree that that is taken on faith by science. We only understand what we demonstrate, after all. It is possible that reality cannot be completely understood. However, clearly as a methodological proposal we must assume that scientific legwork can make things clearer.

But methodology is not the same as faith.

One may retort that we must have faith in our methodology in order to use it. But I would disagree there as well. The question is, what alternative methodology exists that is superior to the one we are using? What alternative do we have to deduction, induction, experiment, statistics, repeatability, and the rest of the scientific method? In order to have “faith”, one must have a viable choice between X and Y such that the mental operation of having faith in X is a real alternative. But what is the alternative to using the scientific method? In one sense, one can say that the alternative is prescientific superstition. But there we don’t require faith either, we have results.

The only way Davies and his ilk can go is to say that what we’re having faith in is the ultimate understandability of the universe. But science can’t and doesn’t make any such claims. It simply plods along using the only methodology we have found to work.

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Posted: 26 November 2007 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Well, of course I think Davies’ argument is ridiculous and just a semantic game intended to undermine science. Still, I would say the belief that the universe exists and that our understanding of it has some correspondence to its real nature is a prerequisite for practicing the scientific method. And yet, one cannot demonstrate this to be true beyond any possible doubt, only beyond any reasonable doubt. It’s a picky distinction, but I think we have to address in a straightforward way that the scientific method doesn’t mean we never make assumptions, believe things provisionally even when only indirectly, or even theoretically demonstrated, etc. If we get too pure in our insistence that we make no assumptions and share nothing in common with more commonplace ways of thinking about and knowing the world, I think we’re being unrealistic and creating a p;oint of attack for the opposition. Science is the best game going by far, but we musn’t pretend its flawless.

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Posted: 26 November 2007 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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<>

[ Edited: 05 December 2007 02:09 AM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 26 November 2007 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I think for most people who claim to be scientific it is a form of faith.

They don’t treat science as something to understand for themselves and consistently use as a method of thinking.  They just believe in “the RIGHT ideas” which they regard as scientific.

You must accept SCIENTIFIC AUTHORITY in order to be scientific.  LOL

psik

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Posted: 26 November 2007 09:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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dougsmith - 26 November 2007 02:55 PM

Paul Davies had an Op Ed on this topic in the NYTimes on November 24th. You can read it HERE.

Responses from Jerry Coyne, Nathan Myhrvold, Lawrence Krauss, Scott Atran, Sean Carroll, Jeremy Bernstein, PZ Myers and Lee Smolin HERE. An additional and very good response from philosopher John Wilkins HERE.

Doug these are all great. Thanks for this post.

Smallpox and polio were not eliminated by faith.

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Posted: 26 November 2007 10:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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mckenzievmd - 26 November 2007 04:47 PM

Well, of course I think Davies’ argument is ridiculous and just a semantic game intended to undermine science.

I agree with that but I also think the problem is created by the terms “Law of Physics” and “Law of Nature”.  We risk misleading ourselves with the word LAW.  It is like looking a a rose and saying it is red because of a Law of Redness.

Gravity IS and it behaves the way it does because it DOES.  No LAW was made by anyone for it.  At least not that we have determined yet.  So the equations are merely mathematical descriptions of the observed behavior of reality and as integral a part of that reality as the color is to a rose.

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Posted: 26 November 2007 10:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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<>

[ Edited: 05 December 2007 02:09 AM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 27 November 2007 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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After reading Paul Davies’s article, I noticed the following in his bio:

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/davies.html

Paul Davies has won many awards, including the 1995 Templeton Prize for his work on the deeper implications of science

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Prize

The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities is a prize given out annually by the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1972, it is awarded to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, best exemplifies “trying various ways for discoveries and breakthroughs to expand human perceptions of divinity and to help in the acceleration of divine creativity.”

Richard Dawkins wrote in “The God Delusion”...“In Faustian vein, my friend the philosopher, Daniel Dennett once joked to me, ‘Richard, If you ever fall on hard times….’”

The Templeton Prize is adjusted to be larger than The Nobel Prize and it is percieved by some people that Templeton’s money corrupts science.

If his assertion that science is a form of faith means “complete trust or confidence”, then there is some validity in it because science, like all forms of human endeavour does require faith in the ability of the scientific method to discover and explain structure in nature. However, he asserts that science is no different from religion in his article:

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

He makes the unwarranted assumption in the existence of something outside the universe. How does he know that? He is human, not a deity. There could be nothing/nothingness. cheese

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Posted: 27 November 2007 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Davies is (in)famous for being one of the most outspoken practitioners of the art of uniting science and religion. His NYTimes Op Ed was exactly the sort of thing that he’s been writing for years, and it’s what got him the Templeton Prize. And it is, I believe, John Templeton’s aim to make science a faith-based enterprise. Or at least to give enormous cash prizes to those intellectuals who are willing to fight back for religion.

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Posted: 27 November 2007 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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dougsmith - 27 November 2007 05:31 AM

Davies is (in)famous for being one of the most outspoken practitioners of the art of uniting science and religion. His NYTimes Op Ed was exactly the sort of thing that he’s been writing for years, and it’s what got him the Templeton Prize. And it is, I believe, John Templeton’s aim to make science a faith-based enterprise. Or at least to give enormous cash prizes to those intellectuals who are willing to fight back for religion.

[Letters to the Editor in Tuesday’s NY TImes on Davies Op-Ed]

Doug I’m impressed they pulled together the commentary by Jerry Coyne et al. so fast on the Edge WWW site. That was very well done.

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Posted: 27 November 2007 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Jackson - 27 November 2007 05:42 AM

Doug I’m impressed they pulled together the commentary by Jerry Coyne et al. so fast on the Edge WWW site. That was very well done.

Yes. It’s particularly impressive to get a bunch of fractious professors to write up something lengthy on Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, it’s almost impossible, and makes me believe that Davies had the piece written up quite awhile ago, along with the responses. Edge may have decided to publish it and the responses when the piece came out in the NYTimes.

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