8 Bit Philosophy: Does Science = Truth?

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Does Science = Truth?

Does science equal truth? (Nietzsche's Critique of Scientific Positivism)

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Science = truth depending on what definition you're using for truth. The problem with the whole train of thought here is that it seems to expect purpose to spring forth from the material when purpose is conceptual. Science's description of fire leaves out purpose because purpose is something thinking minds create. Since fire is a material reaction, it only has a purpose if there is a mind guiding the combustion. Looking for purpose where there is no mind guiding things is a waste of time.

Now we can talk about regressive cause and effect and how there will always be another three "whys" behind every discovery, but this will never get you to a purpose, there is no wizard behind the curtain, just another set of facts to be discovered.

Science is not a set of facts, it is a process, so to say that something is a "scientific fact" and compare that to dogmatic belief/assertions is nonsense. The process of science will get us the best answers we can expect given whatever our capability to run experiments and understand the data that comes from them produces. Science will not give us dogma, it merely offers the best current understanding. This is the strength of science.

What's really asked for is the meaning of life. There is none. It's all one big blank and everyone makes their own, it's very presumptuous to assume humans are a grand feature of the universe that we deserve purpose, meaning, or destination. To seek one at all is really just the flaw of our humanity, hence why religion is a necessary evil, and due to humanity's flawed nature, any religion or replacement thereof is flawed in a different set of morals e.g. Islam vs Hinduism, spiritualism vs naturalism, humanism vs animal wrongs groups.

The problem with asking why something exist over how something exist is the idea that everything has some greater purpose. Which can lead people applying false purposes when it come to why.

No by definition science is the search for Spoc err truth. Often the truth as we understand it is changing as we form new models that better represent reality. Will reserve further comments for later.

It's always very strange applying philosophical ideas to science. Science is not, by definition, truth. Science is observation and in many cases projections of what reality is based on a smaller set of evidence than is necessary to say with absolute certainty. Science, at the time of inceptions of a given scientific idea, only offers probability of what reality is.

I partially agree with him in that many people treat science as a religion. It will hold absolute sway over their lives just like church does in a strict Catholic household. But that is not the majority by any stretch. At the end of the day, Science and Philosophy don't even seek the same things. Science shows what can be proven(at least a the majority of it does), philosophy is what asks about meaning or truth or God. There is no overlap in this.

Science is probability to fact, philosophy is always personal truth. Sometimes people find overlap, many times they do not.

Devieus:
To seek one at all is really just the flaw of our humanity

I'd argue that it isn't just limited to 'humanity'. While we have yet to find advanced self-aware life forms other than ourselves I can imagine that any being with the capacity to recognize their own mortality would try to find a 'greater' meaning with some desperation. After all, death is not only the great 'motivator' it is also the great nullifier.

hence why religion is a necessary evil, and due to humanity's flawed nature, any religion or replacement thereof is flawed in a different set of morals e.g. Islam vs Hinduism, spiritualism vs naturalism, humanism vs animal wrongs groups.

I would argue that religion isn't necessary at all. Sure, it gives people a sense of 'purpose' but A. Said purpose is a fabricated one and B. It propagates a lie. It keeps this house of cards stuck together without trying to fix anything.

The argument of the video is that science can't explain why or meaning behind things and thus it's can't reveal truth. But why and meaning are things open to interpretation and are subjective things, just like any other opinion.

Where as truth is something that is factually correct. Like it is true if I drop a baseball while standing on stop of the Empire State Building it will fall down. Science is based on logic, and in order for logic to work you need to be able to determine if a statement is true or false. Without the ability to determine truth we would not have science.

The mistake people make is the one mentioned at the end of the video. By mistaking scientific truth as meaning or purpose for why something is. But true science makes no meaning or morality judgements on anything, it only states what things are not what does it mean for them to be that way.

The real question is can science ever provide meaning to our lives, you just need to replace truth with meaning everywhere in the video because that is really the argument they are making. And I think they do a good job of it as science can't provide meaning to our lives since it is a purely subjective thing.

I think this is where a lot of atheist thinkers go astray. Religion existed for more than explaining the physical facts about the universe, so you can't replace religion with science and think you've got all your bases covered. Atheists should tout culture and humanism at least as much as they tout science as the successor to religion.

Devieus:
to assume humans are a grand feature of the universe that we deserve purpose, meaning, or destination. To seek one at all is really just the flaw of our humanity

What qulifes this as a flaw though?

We also tend to forget that science is humanity's greatest weapon too. The internet likes to mock religion as being a prime motive for a lot of violence in the world, but science has given us to infinitely more horrific means to inflict that violence.

As for science and truth, others have rightfully pointed out that depends on what we mean by truth. I can only add that science, as an ongoing explanation based on the methods available, this means that science is only ever fated to prove itself wrong, given enough. At least the natural sciences anyways.

Two observations:

One, science requires a study set to work upon. Anything that happens only once, or below the scope of the examination, or is simply eliminated as noise, is outside of the purview of science.

Two, science is as fallible as the humans that practice it. The radio show "Radio Lab" had a horrifying tale of a popular trend of irradiating the thymus gland of infants to prevent SIDS, believing that the "enlarged" glands they found on autopsy of infants killed by it was the cause of the deaths. The glands they were examining in infants were, in fact, normal; the cadavers that had been available to medicine (which in turn became the effective definition of "normal" thymus glands) were all from the very poor whose bodies were automatically given over for research, subject to stresses that caused those glands to atrophy. Shrinking the infants' glands with radiation led to thousands of cancers in later life.

I'm also reminded that for many "science" does indeed become dogma. My self-proclaimed "scientist" friend wrote a long Facebook screed decrying a list of "pseudo-medical" treatments like homeopathy... and acupuncture. In literally two minutes I was able to look up a peer-reviewed study that confirmed acupuncture performed better in treating COPD than placebo.

Science, logic, and mathematics all teach us that there are things we literally cannot know, through things like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Fitch's paradox of knowability, and Gödel's incompleteness theorems. We would be wise, while continuing to pursue knowledge, to heed this.

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."-attributed to Mark Twain

Perspective of an actual researcher here (as in, I work in a lab and everything).

Science is not about objective universal truths. You touched on the point in the video but then missed it in saying that "Science describes the world but does not explain it." But to describe the world is to explain it, and everything beyond what can be quantified and analyzed is a purely subjective value judgment. When you ask whether or not science can provide ultimate truths, you are asking the wrong questions.

Instead, the purpose of science is to seek out and answer those questions about the world that do have objective and verifiable answers. If something exists that is "beyond science", then it is outside of the realm of objective and verifiable truth: when we know something with any level of certainty, then it's because we've done some kind of science on it.

And that's the important point. Science isn't just a body of facts and to do science isn't just to use scientific instruments in a lab, science is any method of testing a conjecture against observations in the physical world to gauge its validity and to do science is to conduct such a test. That's it.

Notice a particular choice of language here. I don't say that we do science to determine whether or not something is "true". The gravest misunderstanding is the assumption that science is about truth. Rather, it's about established validity. For instance, if you were to ask whether or not classical mechanics were "truthful", I wouldn't say yes because it's long since been established that Newtonian physics breaks down at the atomic and cosmological scales. However, I also would not say no because classical physics, despite not being totally and perfectly true, is still extremely useful for understanding many things about the world.

That there is, in some ways, a sort of zeal around many people who are interested in science popularly but not in a professional manner I think has less to do with science and more to do with the fact that science is inevitably involved in a number of important political issues, or at least that arguing from verifiable information forms the basis of reasoned debate. A number of really heavy questions now have a very major scientific component if they aren't entirely scientific already.

When understanding political issues necessarily involves scientific knowledge, then arguing political issues will necessarily involve arguing about science. And when a political controversy becomes a scientific question, it necessarily means that one position will objectively become more correct than the other, and I think this raises the stakes a little more and as a result gets some people even angrier.

Callate:

I'm also reminded that for many "science" does indeed become dogma. My self-proclaimed "scientist" friend wrote a long Facebook screed decrying a list of "pseudo-medical" treatments like homeopathy... and acupuncture. In literally two minutes I was able to look up a peer-reviewed study that confirmed acupuncture performed better in treating COPD than placebo.

The study in question found that acupuncture works in managing some COPD symptoms because anxiety can exacerbate COPD symptoms, ergo procedures to manage anxiety can provide some relief. In general, that stress can exacerbate the symptoms of many heart, lung, and psychiatric conditions has never been in question. It is, at most, a part of a "lifestyle management" program that can help a COPD patient, but it is not a treatment for COPD. Plus, I don't think you need to be that much of a scientist to be bothered by the prospect of the CAM-pushers putting people's health at risk to make a buck.

Science, logic, and mathematics all teach us that there are things we literally cannot know, through things like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Fitch's paradox of knowability, and Gödel's incompleteness theorems. We would be wise, while

Uncertainty is something that a lot of people misunderstand, and it's to be expected really. What you need to know is that the uncertainty relations do not mean that there is some mystical and impenetrable veil of mystery enshrouding physics at the atomic level but rather it's just one way that physics at that level obey very different rules from physics at the levels we are used to thinking about; it is not that something is obscured from us. It's not hidden variables, it's a chaotic randomness that's just an underlying component of nature at that scale. It does not impose a limit to our understanding, it adds to our understanding by informing us of an elementary part of the behavior of subatomic particles.

Maybe you can think of it this way: you can't know certain things about a particle at the same time past a certain precision in the same way that you cannot fly by flapping your arms. Given either piece of knowledge, a scientist can study that fact to gain more knowledge and improve understanding.

Fitch's paradox is not a strike at science either. If the conclusion to Fitch's paradox is taken to be that there cannot be objective or absolutely knowable truths, then this actually works very well with the scientific method, which works on the same assumption. Remember: science does not deal in absolute truths, it deals with increasingly valid conjectures and increasingly general statements verified through observation.

Godel's incompleteness theorems are about mathematics and not concerned with the subjects of any sort of limitations of mathematical knowledge. Essentially, Godel's theorems state that there can never be a single, closed-form mathematical expression or formula that can take any possible math problem and return a non-trivial answer. This does not limit our understanding, it adds to it by showing us important things about the nature of mathematics and what it means to solve a mathematical problem.

You know, Nietzche did have further thoughts on this. Almost the entirety of his work, in fact. Ludicrously simplified version: objective meaning doesn't exist, make something up.

Baresark:
It's always very strange applying philosophical ideas to science. Science is not, by definition, truth. Science is observation and in many cases projections of what reality is based on a smaller set of evidence than is necessary to say with absolute certainty. Science, at the time of inceptions of a given scientific idea, only offers probability of what reality is.

I partially agree with him in that many people treat science as a religion. It will hold absolute sway over their lives just like church does in a strict Catholic household. But that is not the majority by any stretch. At the end of the day, Science and Philosophy don't even seek the same things. Science shows what can be proven(at least a the majority of it does), philosophy is what asks about meaning or truth or God. There is no overlap in this.

Science is probability to fact, philosophy is always personal truth. Sometimes people find overlap, many times they do not.

I find that amusing given the very myopic definition of philosophy you have to use to make the distinction you are.

Take a look through history some time and you'll note that science (and mathematics) are, in fact a form of philosophy. They are the philosophical arts. That subset of philosophy that by chance happens to have the most practical applications...

That practicality aside, they are still the same as any other philosophy in form. To argue that they are distinct from the subject they are a subset of is somewhat absurd.



Anyway, as to the topic... It largely depends on what you mean by truth.

Even on an entirely descriptive sense, what science describes may not be reality. (in other words, it may not be 'true', in an absolute sense).

One common error that seems to arise is confusing the model for reality itself.

Science has given us many models - descriptions of things (usually mathematical) that have properties that can be measured and rules that can predict what should happen.

The utility of these models is clear in that what the model measures and predicts, tends to be very similar to what we can measure of reality.

But it is a mistake to assume that because these models predict reality, that they are reality.

A mathematical model isn't reality. There's no way to prove that, and there's no reason to believe it to be true.
It describes things we know about reality, but that doesn't make it reality.

Any more than the mathematical definition of a circle is actually the same as a circle constructed of physical material...

That's to say nothing of the question raised of 'why'. Why is a tricky question, because to begin with it may not be a valid question to be asking in the first place.

But as I've seen a few times too often, more than a few scientists seem quite prone to giving a description of 'how', and claiming it is a description of 'why'.

This isn't to say asking 'why' is actually a valid thing to do in the first place, but claiming a description of 'how' answers 'why' is wrong regardless.

Then of course there's some things which are absurdly circular. Like claims made about how the universe was formed that rely on measured properties of the universe...
Of course the answer this will give are going to be inherently meaningless, because they are self-fulfilling.
They leave out any possible ways in which it could have happened differently, because they depend on rules and logic that exist as a consequence of the current state of the universe.
It's obvious that whatever caused the universe to exist would lead to it having it's current properties, because otherwise we wouldn't measure the properties it currently has.
That answers precisely nothing.

It shouldn't be held up as some amazing piece of deduction, logic, science or anything else. Because it isn't.
It's the same as saying 'god did it', but combines it with the intellectual dishonesty of using a philosophical system that shouldn't allow for that kind of vague statements as 'proof' of such an empty statement...

Man I'm enjoying this series so far.

I've only ever read late Nietzsche 'the Anti-Christ and the twilight of the idols for example' so I don't know his full works; but From the couple of videos these guys have done on him I think I'd like to read his earlier stuff. The stuff before he went mad.....

Good points though I do really get annoyed by the 'science = religion' statements. Religion is unchanging dogma by definition. Science is not.

Spyre2k:
The argument of the video is that science can't explain why or meaning behind things and thus it's can't reveal truth. But why and meaning are things open to interpretation and are subjective things, just like any other opinion.

Where as truth is something that is factually correct. Like it is true if I drop a baseball while standing on stop of the Empire State Building it will fall down. Science is based on logic, and in order for logic to work you need to be able to determine if a statement is true or false. Without the ability to determine truth we would not have science.

The mistake people make is the one mentioned at the end of the video. By mistaking scientific truth as meaning or purpose for why something is. But true science makes no meaning or morality judgements on anything, it only states what things are not what does it mean for them to be that way.

The real question is can science ever provide meaning to our lives, you just need to replace truth with meaning everywhere in the video because that is really the argument they are making. And I think they do a good job of it as science can't provide meaning to our lives since it is a purely subjective thing.

That's a common misconception.

As a student of philosophy, I can assure you that the discipline is not all subjective. Far from it, the basis of philosophy is the systems of logic that inform how we process facts, ideas, and arguments into any useful structure, and how we avoid concepts that seem logical on the surface, but actually aren't (logical fallacies). These logic systems are the underlying basis of any application of logic to reality, including science. Fun fact: what we call now "science" was originally known as "the philosophy of nature."

CrystalShadow:

Baresark:
It's always very strange applying philosophical ideas to science. Science is not, by definition, truth. Science is observation and in many cases projections of what reality is based on a smaller set of evidence than is necessary to say with absolute certainty. Science, at the time of inceptions of a given scientific idea, only offers probability of what reality is.

I partially agree with him in that many people treat science as a religion. It will hold absolute sway over their lives just like church does in a strict Catholic household. But that is not the majority by any stretch. At the end of the day, Science and Philosophy don't even seek the same things. Science shows what can be proven(at least a the majority of it does), philosophy is what asks about meaning or truth or God. There is no overlap in this.

Science is probability to fact, philosophy is always personal truth. Sometimes people find overlap, many times they do not.

I find that amusing given the very myopic definition of philosophy you have to use to make the distinction you are.

Take a look through history some time and you'll note that science (and mathematics) are, in fact a form of philosophy. They are the philosophical arts. That subset of philosophy that by chance happens to have the most practical applications...

That practicality aside, they are still the same as any other philosophy in form. To argue that they are distinct from the subject they are a subset of is somewhat absurd.

I'm fully aware of how science is a branch of philosophy. It would be pointless for me to identify them as completely different things, something I did not do. But, historically, science from say 500 years ago is vastly different from what it is today. I'm not referring to the amount of known scientific knowledge either. That is clearly far different now than it was then. Science, it's highest form, used to look down on material evidence. Anyone who used scientific evidence was in fact thought to be bad at it as it is best performed in the mind of the scientist. That is utterly different from the science we know today of course.

I'll use Galileo Galilei as an example of someone who fell prey to that very notion. Now, we all know that he had to fight the common knowledge of the time that earth was the center of the universe, and the church on the matter had to be fought as well. But what a lot of people don't know is that he was also facing the scrutiny of scientists who scoffed at the evidence he had, not because it was insufficient, but evidence was considered the lowest form of science possible. He was literally thought to be a bad or low class scientist among scientists. By modern standards he may have been a a cryptozoologist (of the big foot hunting variety).

DerangedHobo:

I'd argue that it isn't just limited to 'humanity'. While we have yet to find advanced self-aware life forms other than ourselves I can imagine that any being with the capacity to recognize their own mortality would try to find a 'greater' meaning with some desperation. After all, death is not only the great 'motivator' it is also the great nullifier.

That's not up to me to say, I'd just guess that considering the size of the universe, such life forms may very well exist, but that same size makes that statement moot for us in our lifetime. Maybe we could ask the dolphins or the octopuses what they think of this though.

I would argue that religion isn't necessary at all. Sure, it gives people a sense of 'purpose' but A. Said purpose is a fabricated one and B. It propagates a lie. It keeps this house of cards stuck together without trying to fix anything.

I know it's a lie, you know it's a lie, most people here probably know it's a lie, but not everyone is as strong-willed enough to live without this nonsense. Case in point is the growing numbers of Daesh.

zerragonoss:

Devieus:
to assume humans are a grand feature of the universe that we deserve purpose, meaning, or destination. To seek one at all is really just the flaw of our humanity

What qulifes this as a flaw though?

Trying to come off as more than we really are is not exactly a virtue, it's hubris, it's what empowers mad or greedy people by claiming they have the answer.

Yes, science = truth. It just may not equal ALL of the truth.

Then again, we may eventually answer even the reason. For example, if we learn that we are actually 2D or a hologram then we know that we were created this way even if we don't know the creator's intent.

why does there need to be a reason that something happens, as humans we put human emotions on to everything. the answers people want like "why are we here?", "what does it all mean?" cant be answered because the answer is different for everyone. science is there to help us learn and discover, not to answer questions on what the world feel about i.e. steam cell research but what can steam cells do for us.

Middle_Index:
why does there need to be a reason that something happens, as humans we put human emotions on to everything. the answers people want like "why are we here?", "what does it all mean?" cant be answered because the answer is different for everyone. science is there to help us learn and discover, not to answer questions on what the world feel about i.e. steam cell research but what can steam cells do for us.

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe an alien programmer wanted to make a game and that's all there is to it. He's playing intergalactic GTA on the other side of the universe and we'll never know that we're just background characters there just in case he ever bungles this way.

But that would be a definite and solid answer. That we currently have our own silly notions of the reason of life doesn't impact the truth of it or even if there is a reason.

RatGouf:
The problem with asking why something exist over how something exist is the idea that everything has some greater purpose. Which can lead people applying false purposes when it come to why.

I would Grant the antithesis to this would be to ask themselves "why not" which is really just beating around the Bush to the same question or performing a poor JFK imitation.

Nimcha:
Good points though I do really get annoyed by the 'science = religion' statements. Religion is unchanging dogma by definition. Science is not.

A very quaint definition for religion. If applying an equally quaint definition to truth one could acknowledge that science is not religion but whose end goal is the hope to arrive as such.

mgs16925:
You know, Nietzche did have further thoughts on this. Almost the entirety of his work, in fact. Ludicrously simplified version: objective meaning doesn't exist, make something up.

Yes thank you for paraphrasing existentialism and post modernism. Perhaps you will do use the favor following it up with the same for relativism by ending your comments with - "at least that's what I think."

DerangedHobo:

Devieus:
To seek one at all is really just the flaw of our humanity

I'd argue that it isn't just limited to 'humanity'. While we have yet to find advanced self-aware life forms other than ourselves I can imagine that any being with the capacity to recognize their own mortality would try to find a 'greater' meaning with some desperation. After all, death is not only the great 'motivator' it is also the great nullifier.

hence why religion is a necessary evil, and due to humanity's flawed nature, any religion or replacement thereof is flawed in a different set of morals e.g. Islam vs Hinduism, spiritualism vs naturalism, humanism vs animal wrongs groups.

I would argue that religion isn't necessary at all. Sure, it gives people a sense of 'purpose' but A. Said purpose is a fabricated one and B. It propagates a lie. It keeps this house of cards stuck together without trying to fix anything.

With such a relativistic outlook on life what else could you possible argue? You admit that religion gives "purpose to life" but dismiss it as "a fabricated lie" "without trying to fix anything." May I ask you if this is really what you believe can you please tell me what is broken? If your answer is anything other then "nothing" then you admit purpose into your life. If you accept nothing as your answer that is all you will achieve.

Baresark:

CrystalShadow:

Baresark:
It's always very strange applying philosophical ideas to science. Science is not, by definition, truth. Science is observation and in many cases projections of what reality is based on a smaller set of evidence than is necessary to say with absolute certainty. Science, at the time of inceptions of a given scientific idea, only offers probability of what reality is.

I partially agree with him in that many people treat science as a religion. It will hold absolute sway over their lives just like church does in a strict Catholic household. But that is not the majority by any stretch. At the end of the day, Science and Philosophy don't even seek the same things. Science shows what can be proven(at least a the majority of it does), philosophy is what asks about meaning or truth or God. There is no overlap in this.

Science is probability to fact, philosophy is always personal truth. Sometimes people find overlap, many times they do not.

I find that amusing given the very myopic definition of philosophy you have to use to make the distinction you are.

Take a look through history some time and you'll note that science (and mathematics) are, in fact a form of philosophy. They are the philosophical arts. That subset of philosophy that by chance happens to have the most practical applications...

That practicality aside, they are still the same as any other philosophy in form. To argue that they are distinct from the subject they are a subset of is somewhat absurd.

I'm fully aware of how science is a branch of philosophy. It would be pointless for me to identify them as completely different things, something I did not do. But, historically, science from say 500 years ago is vastly different from what it is today. I'm not referring to the amount of known scientific knowledge either. That is clearly far different now than it was then. Science, it's highest form, used to look down on material evidence. Anyone who used scientific evidence was in fact thought to be bad at it as it is best performed in the mind of the scientist. That is utterly different from the science we know today of course.

I'll use Galileo Galilei as an example of someone who fell prey to that very notion. Now, we all know that he had to fight the common knowledge of the time that earth was the center of the universe, and the church on the matter had to be fought as well. But what a lot of people don't know is that he was also facing the scrutiny of scientists who scoffed at the evidence he had, not because it was insufficient, but evidence was considered the lowest form of science possible. He was literally thought to be a bad or low class scientist among scientists. By modern standards he may have been a a cryptozoologist (of the big foot hunting variety).

Where will science take us a hundred years from now I wonder...

renegade7:
Perspective of an actual researcher here (as in, I work in a lab and everything).

Science is not about objective universal truths. You touched on the point in the video but then missed it in saying that "Science describes the world but does not explain it." But to describe the world is to explain it, and everything beyond what can be quantified and analyzed is a purely subjective value judgment. When you ask whether or not science can provide ultimate truths, you are asking the wrong questions.

Instead, the purpose of science is to seek out and answer those questions about the world that do have objective and verifiable answers. If something exists that is "beyond science", then it is outside of the realm of objective and verifiable truth: when we know something with any level of certainty, then it's because we've done some kind of science on it.

And that's the important point. Science isn't just a body of facts and to do science isn't just to use scientific instruments in a lab, science is any method of testing a conjecture against observations in the physical world to gauge its validity and to do science is to conduct such a test. That's it.

Notice a particular choice of language here. I don't say that we do science to determine whether or not something is "true". The gravest misunderstanding is the assumption that science is about truth. Rather, it's about established validity. For instance, if you were to ask whether or not classical mechanics were "truthful", I wouldn't say yes because it's long since been established that Newtonian physics breaks down at the atomic and cosmological scales. However, I also would not say no because classical physics, despite not being totally and perfectly true, is still extremely useful for understanding many things about the world.

That there is, in some ways, a sort of zeal around many people who are interested in science popularly but not in a professional manner I think has less to do with science and more to do with the fact that science is inevitably involved in a number of important political issues, or at least that arguing from verifiable information forms the basis of reasoned debate. A number of really heavy questions now have a very major scientific component if they aren't entirely scientific already.

When understanding political issues necessarily involves scientific knowledge, then arguing political issues will necessarily involve arguing about science. And when a political controversy becomes a scientific question, it necessarily means that one position will objectively become more correct than the other, and I think this raises the stakes a little more and as a result gets some people even angrier.

Callate:

I'm also reminded that for many "science" does indeed become dogma. My self-proclaimed "scientist" friend wrote a long Facebook screed decrying a list of "pseudo-medical" treatments like homeopathy... and acupuncture. In literally two minutes I was able to look up a peer-reviewed study that confirmed acupuncture performed better in treating COPD than placebo.

The study in question found that acupuncture works in managing some COPD symptoms because anxiety can exacerbate COPD symptoms, ergo procedures to manage anxiety can provide some relief. In general, that stress can exacerbate the symptoms of many heart, lung, and psychiatric conditions has never been in question. It is, at most, a part of a "lifestyle management" program that can help a COPD patient, but it is not a treatment for COPD. Plus, I don't think you need to be that much of a scientist to be bothered by the prospect of the CAM-pushers putting people's health at risk to make a buck.

Science, logic, and mathematics all teach us that there are things we literally cannot know, through things like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Fitch's paradox of knowability, and Gödel's incompleteness theorems. We would be wise, while

Uncertainty is something that a lot of people misunderstand, and it's to be expected really. What you need to know is that the uncertainty relations do not mean that there is some mystical and impenetrable veil of mystery enshrouding physics at the atomic level but rather it's just one way that physics at that level obey very different rules from physics at the levels we are used to thinking about; it is not that something is obscured from us. It's not hidden variables, it's a chaotic randomness that's just an underlying component of nature at that scale. It does not impose a limit to our understanding, it adds to our understanding by informing us of an elementary part of the behavior of subatomic particles.

Maybe you can think of it this way: you can't know certain things about a particle at the same time past a certain precision in the same way that you cannot fly by flapping your arms. Given either piece of knowledge, a scientist can study that fact to gain more knowledge and improve understanding.

Fitch's paradox is not a strike at science either. If the conclusion to Fitch's paradox is taken to be that there cannot be objective or absolutely knowable truths, then this actually works very well with the scientific method, which works on the same assumption. Remember: science does not deal in absolute truths, it deals with increasingly valid conjectures and increasingly general statements verified through observation.

Godel's incompleteness theorems are about mathematics and not concerned with the subjects of any sort of limitations of mathematical knowledge. Essentially, Godel's theorems state that there can never be a single, closed-form mathematical expression or formula that can take any possible math problem and return a non-trivial answer. This does not limit our understanding, it adds to it by showing us important things about the nature of mathematics and what it means to solve a mathematical problem.

Concerning your statements that science is not concerned with absolute truths can you assure me from a scientific perspective that's absolutely true? Don't mean to hypothetically kick you in the balls but some of your statements just make me laugh as they seem to raise their own objections to the very thing you are using them to verify. I do think you are trying to approach this in a constructive and helpful manner by sharing your experience on the topic for which I applaud you but some of your statements come off a bit authoritative on the subject and leave you rather exposed. In any regard I enjoyed your contribution to conversation. Cheers.

From my point of view simple description of science would be
Investigation of natural world and how it can be used for our benefit.
Purpose isn't something that exists in natural world, it is something we decided.
So in short- yes science is method of finding truth, but we wish there was something more than truth.
(Understandable, since truth often is harsh)

P.S. This is quite simplistic explanation of my understanding of topic, but since it is best way I can explain it using words, blame limitations of language not me.

TruthInGaming:

Nimcha:
Good points though I do really get annoyed by the 'science = religion' statements. Religion is unchanging dogma by definition. Science is not.

A very quaint definition for religion. If applying an equally quaint definition to truth one could acknowledge that science is not religion but whose end goal is the hope to arrive as such.

With the difference that science doesn't threaten people who say 'evolution is not true' with eternal damnation :P

TruthInGaming:

Concerning your statements that science is not concerned with absolute truths can you assure me from a scientific perspective that's absolutely true?

There are three reasons, one philosophical and two functional.

The philosophical reason is that you can't see past the bounds of your own knowledge. You can't ever know with complete certainty what you're still ignorant of, because if you did you wouldn't be ignorant of it.

The functional reason is that you can never have a complete data set containing every single state variable in the universe, so it's impossible to say that you can conclusively prove something is true in every possible case. To claim absolute knowledge would be to claim omniscience. And by the above, an omniscient being wouldn't actually be able to conclusively prove its omniscience.

The other functional reason, and probably the most important one, is that a scientific theory must be open to future modification. If a result is found to conflict with the theory, then it's not absolute truth, and because that's always a possibility a scientific theory can never be an absolute truth and even if it ceased to be a possibility we wouldn't be able to call the theory an absolute truth because we don't have access to results that haven't yet been found.

[/quote]

renegade7:

TruthInGaming:

Concerning your statements that science is not concerned with absolute truths can you assure me from a scientific perspective that's absolutely true?

There are three reasons, one philosophical and two functional.

The philosophical reason is that you can't see past the bounds of your own knowledge. You can't ever know with complete certainty what you're still ignorant of, because if you did you wouldn't be ignorant of it.

The functional reason is that you can never have a complete data set containing every single state variable in the universe, so it's impossible to say that you can conclusively prove something is true in every possible case. To claim absolute knowledge would be to claim omniscience. And by the above, an omniscient being wouldn't actually be able to conclusively prove its omniscience.

The other functional reason, and probably the most important one, is that a scientific theory must be open to future modification. If a result is found to conflict with the theory, then it's not absolute truth, and because that's always a possibility a scientific theory can never be an absolute truth and even if it ceased to be a possibility we wouldn't be able to call the theory an absolute truth because we don't have access to results that haven't yet been found.

Oh my my my. Talk about philosophically side stepping a pothole to fall off a bridge. Even taking your own premises at face value if we couldn't "see past the bounds of our own knowledge" we wouldn't know what we don't know or even be able to distinguish between the two. I hope you'll agree obviously we can distinguish between them. Ignorance simple means "lack of knowledge or information" (now you know) where perhaps what you meant to say was oblivious which means "not aware of or not concerned about what is happening around one" which even still does not preclude one from obtaining or coming to the recognition of such facts nor even would the word clueless meaning "having no knowledge, understanding, or ability." True mental retardation even in its most derogatory of definitions would still present hope of ultimate understanding between these distinguished grounds. The dead would really be the only ones you could describe falling under this philosophical reasoning but that's kind of a moot point. *(no joking intended) Thus being ignorant of something does not preclude ones own knowledge of that ignorance. For instance if I were a middle aged potato farmer living in 21st century Poland I may be reasonably aware of my ignorance concerning 12th century viking raiding tactics if such were the case.

I am fairly skeptical concerning the phrases "never," "always," "only" and other such definitive statements concerning broad topics of possibility which history seems content to dispel repeatedly in the average length of life to prove the point. Humorously this statement " you can never have a complete data set containing every single state variable in the universe, so it's impossible to say that you can conclusively prove something is true in every possible case" would indeed seem to require such a data set which you claim does not exist to be made. Would you like to share something with the rest of us? You go on to say " And by the above, an omniscient being wouldn't actually be able to conclusively prove its omniscience. " As your "above" is demonstrable flawed *(I am connecting the points here for those who don't already get it) your conclusion is unsupported. To paraphrase you are basing that conclusion on an assumption of an argument that goes along the lines of "your experience and understanding is limited therefore all experience and understanding is limited and therefore there can be no experience of understanding that is unlimited." This is pretty obvious flawed thinking in any argument but is unsurprising when you learn to recognize and how often it comes up. Go watch TV for an hour flipping through the channels and see if you can spot it or just reread your OP until your able to see it there. If you really want to look into some of the better arguments for omniscience go study theologians work as they illustrate this point better then I could here.

"scientific theory must be open to future modification. If a result is found to conflict with the theory, then it's not absolute truth, and because that's always a possibility a scientific theory can never be an absolute truth and even if it ceased to be a possibility we wouldn't be able to call the theory an absolute truth because we don't have access to results that haven't yet been found." I applaud you for this statement as for the most part its pretty sound from a reasoning perspective ignoring qualms over semantics I think I get the gist of your meaning but this is really a reflection of the limitations of our perception and not the science or the absolute truth behind it but rather our ability to recognize it. Again however this says nothing about absolute truth other then our own inability to independently verify it. This does not deter from absolute truth since if absolute truth were dependent upon our validation it wouldn't be absolute.

In any case science it would seem is very concerned with the absolute truth in fact its the very goal of science to uncover or as we've moderately reasoned to get as close as possible, however, science and indeed our own limitations are utterly inadequate for the job. This was the obvious point I was making in jest to your contradictory statements that "objective universal truths" I appreciate your contributions to the discussion as I do believe they are made in earnest and would welcome any additional thoughts you might have.

blackrave:
From my point of view simple description of science would be
Purpose isn't something that exists in natural world, it is something we decided.

P.S. This is quite simplistic explanation of my understanding of topic, but since it is best way I can explain it using words, blame limitations of language not me.

Its a rather extraordinary claim to make that no purpose exists in the natural world and seems to come from the existentialist and relativist philosophies popularized by atheist movements most of which seems to collapse under scrutiny of questioning to "because that's how I feel" I would offer that life seems packed with abundant purpose (including your own) and that a primary goal of life should be in finding the correct purpose. You may find it beneficial to ponder if there is no purpose to life why you bother to do anything. Indeed your very actions of continuing to live would indicate there is something more to life. That is the hope I offer you do with it what you can.

P.S. Like your description of purpose I would also encourage you to consider the possibility that such may be the same case with words.

Nimcha:

TruthInGaming:

Nimcha:
Good points though I do really get annoyed by the 'science = religion' statements. Religion is unchanging dogma by definition. Science is not.

A very quaint definition for religion. If applying an equally quaint definition to truth one could acknowledge that science is not religion but whose end goal is the hope to arrive as such.

With the difference that science doesn't threaten people who say 'evolution is not true' with eternal damnation :P

I think it would be a fairer comparison that religion warns people with eternal damnation in the same way science warns people of eternal injury for saying 'gravity is not true.' I don't doubt that both sides would sincerely believe these claims, however, I think most of the "evolution vs. religion" argument is framed around idiots arguing with idiots in an echo chamber. I am not disputing the evidence for either side as part of the problem is a disagreement over acceptance of the authority of evidence they both present. Its pretty easy to see the reasons these groups have issues with each other. However, all too often I find the evolutionist crowd drawing unscientific moralistic reasoning from evolution and indoctrinating it into education at the same time the religious crowd attempts to argue the scientific facts with misinformed moralistic reasoning from religion and indoctrinate it into education. These are issues that need careful and thoughtful articulation and looking at the previous century I'm thankful it is occurring and honestly hope neither side overcomes the other in my lifetime. I don't think most informed religious people have some issue with science but rather the moral conclusions that are drawn from it. In the same regards to evolution I don't think its the atomic theory that upsets most people but rather the way in which it is applied such as nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the same way I don't find most evolutionist have a problem with the idea of most religious doctrine but rather the conclusions that are drawn from those doctrines. Science. Real science. is just a tool in the hands of man. People tend to get upset over how we decide to use those tools. I would ask you to consider that the 21st century was the most bloody century of mankind due to the immoral and relativist attitudes prevailing in that time. Indeed looking back more people were killed by their fellow man in that century then all the previous centuries combined. It wasn't due to a lack of understanding science. Indeed throughout any analysis of history we seem ever more morally ill equipped to deal with the powers which science bestows upon us there are exceptions throughout history but they only exceptions not the trend or narrative.

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