Friday, June 29, 2007

Universe Abridged, Redux

A note, something from a forum discussion:

"If somebody has initial precepts that says God doesn't exist, there's no way to 'prove' to that person that God does exist."

Incorrect, because while atheism may display the zeal of a religion, it is based on reason and a set of observable, objective principles that do not contain a presumption on God. If you show, in the framework of science, a divine action - something that violates natural law - and present convincing proof that this is the action of a sentient being whose capability transcends logic, then a scientist and an atheist will acknowledge the existence of God.

If you remember the recent discussion on the feasibility of superpowers, how I said flying like Superman or Nathan Petrelli is impossible because it violates conservation of energy - it is entirely possible to use logic to assess an unknown phenomenon. Even if the phenomenon's actual mechanism is not understood, it is possible to dismiss a hypothetical as possible or impossible.

Now, the reason why the framework of science is superior to the framework of faith is because the uncertainty of faith makes it self-defeating. If you strip away enough layers of abstraction, it comes down to practical use: if an act of God cannot be triggered reliably, if it cannot be used to achieve a particular effect, then the fact that occasionally its presumptions appear to be borne out by observation is irrelevant.

When you show me a toaster that works by the power of Allah, then we'll talk.


klx said...

perhaps god is a scientific construct? or perhaps just a construct...

maybe god will feature as a character in season 2 of heroes -- and being all powerful and omni present, has extracted himself from the limitations of tv characterdom, and entered the world -- perhaps holding the same power as hiro (space/time travel) to appear through history to various whackos etc etc...

god was created by nbc. hmm. there are *some* american nationalists that would really go for that idea :)

antyx said...

Well, as a social construct God is absolutely there - in fact God is every bit as real as liberty or democracy.

I wouldn't bet on God in the second season of Heroes - a bit too final, they need to stretch the storyline out to at least Lost proportions...

tank said...

you say the framework of science is superior to the framework of faith.
but does science show me how to live my life? how to end up happy? no. faith does it. well, at least tries to :)

antyx said...

Faith is not concerned with how happy your life is. Faith (well, religion; I've said before that I'm far more offended by religion than by faith itself) is only concerned with you living your life by its established set of rules. Pretty much everything that lets you live a happy life is the vestige of philosophy, and philosophy is not the same as faith/religion, even if practitioners of religion often also practice philosophy.

In addition, a happy life is to a great extent achieved by solving one's mental issues - factors of unhappiness which exist nowhere but one's own mind - and in that case you will be helped by the science of psychotherapy. This is above and beyond the obvious happiness-promoting factors like the science of in-vitro fertilization, or the science of indoor plumbing.

I honestly believe that it is possible to live a happy and meaningful life in the knowledge that when you die, that's it. And I think this capability, were it more widespread, would go a long way to alleviating the world's ills.

tank said...

Religions tend to be inherently very philosophical (of course, I do not mean TV-preachers or Jehovah's witnesses). And philosophy as we know it today, has grown out of religion.

Religion provides you with an established set of rules, enabling you to be happy by living within it. Well, sort of. Psychotherapy might help too, yes. But first of all, so much more is needed for happyness, than just solving mental issues. For example, functional social, language and cultural spaces, a symbolic network, etc. Second, psychotherapy is not a science by Popper's terms. It engulfs a lot of different branches from the scientific-looking and medicine-using forms of therapy to the spiritual, mystical, zen-buddhist branches of psychoanalysis. It is very far from being a science. There is no ruling paradigm, no hypothesis testing, no falsification.

Indoor plumbing is technology. And technology does not, contrary to the popular belief, necessarily grow out of science. These are two totally different things. Some sort of interaction and cooperation might occur between them (like a better telescope - technology for scientists or electromagnetic theory - science for radio communication), but does not have to. Technology has existed long before the thought of science even started to contemplate about crossing mankind's mind (to use the words of a classic:)). Technology has existed in more or less religious societies.

So I stand my ground, that whereas religion sets out to provide society with all necessary cultural, moral, ethical norms and even symbolic spaces to enable its members a happy life, science does not. Science is a closely guarded discipline, very limited and very selective in its methods. This is why it is so successful. The goal of science is to produce new scientific knowledge about the surrounding world and ourselves. It does an excellent job therein. But that's it. Nothing more.


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