Definition of religion

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by S.A.M., Nov 30, 2008.

  1. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Limited methodology and ignorance of unknown variables are not assumptions of capital-s Science (i.e., methodological naturalism), but assumptions of a specific experiment(er). Which is to say that they are scientific hypotheses conditionally adopted above and beyond the basic assumptions of naturalism in order to enable specific theories and experiments. You can take them away without affecting naturalism, and so they have nothing to do with the lofty fundamentals you were discussing a few posts back. Like "evidence," the concepts of "methodological limits" or "variables" are not well defined absent the assumptions of methodological naturalism.

    The assumptions you are talking about don't stem from naturalism ("the nature of science") but rather from incuriousness. You can very well accept all of the assumptions of naturalism without assuming that any theory (or even all of science) is complete. To put it another way, Fleming didn't discover penicillin because he questioned the assumptions of naturalism. Rather, he questioned the assumption that mold wouldn't inhibit bacterial growth. At no point in that process was naturalism a limitation; on the contrary, it was the key at every step of the process, particularly the breakthrough step. Questioning the assumptions of a particular theory is a vastly different matter than questioning the assumptions of naturalism, and accepting naturalism in no way encourages a person to uncritically accept all assumptions in science.
     
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  3. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    It does when we define empiricism as the sole arbiter of reality. But, that is a human limitation as well.

    Nice post btw, you're very articulate. I still haven't forgotten the epiphany you gave me over the black white IQ statistics.

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  5. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    There's an ocean of difference between "defining empiricism as the sole arbiter of reality" and being incurious about unexpected outcomes of experiments. Indeed, the latter would suggest an underemphasis on the role of empiricism. To refer again to the discovery of penicillin (or, more correctly, penicillin's inhibitory effect on bacterial growth): the difference between regarding the experiment as an inexplicable failure or a sign of a (previously) unknown effect hinges on how strongly the experimenter believes that observations must have knowable, natural causes. It was exactly Fleming's faith there there WAS a naturalistic explanation for the inhibited bacterial growth that caused him to regard the outcome not as a failure to grow a culture but as an interesting discovery. Another experimenter without Fleming's conviction that a knowable natural cause must exist might well have simply trashed the dish and started over (had he even bothered to perform an experiment in the first place).

    So we see that the assumptions of naturalism, when applied critically, actually inhibit the sort of limiting methodological assumptions that you are describing. We could go so far as to say that uncriticality and incuriousity about experimental results are a sign that someone does not believe strongly enough in naturalism.
     
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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, I suppose you could see it like that, once there was empirical evidence to investigate. But I am referring to the cases where there isn't one that can be investigated as an observation. ie cannot be seen, heard or intercepted by the senses. Thats where the empiricism limits what I call as "universal reality". The difference between what is and what can be detected by human senses.
     
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    The label "Buddha" refers to the sayer of those things, whoever they were.
    No, you don't. Discovery of the unpredicted is common, and often welcomed.
    How about if we don't do that, OK? Even as a strawman in an argument.
    Drop "empiricism", which doesn't seem to have an actual meaning in this context, go with the "naturalism". Then: what cases are those? We have cases that no one can observe in any way. You know about them how ?
     
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    You don't. Which is my point.
     
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Neither do you, neither does anyone else. Ever.
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Indeed much of science is developed from well-reasoned predictions--which BTW are not the same as the "assumptions" you accused us of indulging earlier. But much of it is also the result of unexpected observations.

    One of the most important discoveries in modern science was the finite speed of light. No one predicted that. It was discovered by accident, when the moons of Jupiter didn't show up in their precisely predicted locations after half an orbit around the giant planet. The instrument of its discovery was the telescope, which no one imagined could be used for such an unpredictable purpose.
     
  12. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    Religions are based mostly upon myths.

    Science is based mostly upon theories.
     
  13. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Of course, then there is the assumption that the machines are measuring what we think they are measuring, because we use them to make things empirical that are beyond our senses.

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  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Again, you are confusing a hypothesis with an assumption. The measurements we make with these instruments add to our body of empirical observations of the present and past behavior of the natural universe. We logically derive hypotheses from these observations and test these hypotheses to see if they accurately predict the future behavior of the natural universe. If their predictability proves to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, the hypotheses become theories and add to science.

    The ultimate test of any theory is whether its predictions are accurate. So far the observations of our instruments have proven to be just as trustworthy--in fact in many cases arguably more so--than those of our unaugmented senses.

    You seem to be hung up on the hope that science will eventually turn out to be wrong. There's nothing wrong with that... except that it's an incredibly odd attitude for a person who is supposed to be earning her living by practicing science. How do you reconcile that???
     
  15. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    You're mistaken about that. I am just more aware, working daily in the field, of the limitations we face everyday. Let me give you an example. I was doing some plasmid DNA isolation in the lab the other day, with an undergrad. When it came to the part where the DNA pellet is isolated, the undergrad told me she did not get a pellet and her experiment failed. I was surprised, since based on the protocol, she should have got it and checked her tube. The "pellet" was not visible on the tube. However, driving under the assumption that DNA pellets may be invisible if too "clean" [based on nothing but the possibility that it might], I used some buffer to wash the sides of the tube and ran the product on a gel to check if it was absent or just invisible. And I found DNA. I think its important to understand the limitations of any method to ensure that you do not miss the implications of what to expect. Just because I cannot see it, doesn't mean its not there. Or, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You just have to figure out why there might be absence of evidence. But that requires faith in the possibility that it is there.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Fixed.
     
  17. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Tomayto Tomahto. I was at a loose end and was feeling bad for the girl. So I thought I would entertain her and maybe, at the same time, see if I was right [usually these diversions don't work out]. There was very little expectation, but what the hey? It was not a hypothesis, except that it was possible that DNA pellets might be invisible if the protein was all removed overzealously [no reasoning behind that though, don't know why I thought there might be an invisible pellet there].
     
  18. disease Banned Banned

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    I think the only assumptions we can make are that we are capable of observation (which is something we hypothesize to be 'accurate' except we don't really know about accuracy except to the extent we can observe it). Since we can 'see' the external world and observations are known to be what we 'expect' then we know when something is 'unexpected', i.e. a new or novel observation - like penicillin, microwaves that warm a mug of coffee, precession of orbital motion of distant moons, and Mercury, etc.

    We have myths, and we have logic. We 'know' that logic explains things, and we know myths do too. Science then, is just about 'demystifying' our mythological interpretations of the 'surprises' we see. We have a logic which may, or may not, be universal; we have a mythology which may or may not be logical. We no doubt need 'logic' to explain mythology, and we need myths so we can be 'logical' about them. This is probably all we can (logically) say about what Science is.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  19. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    Then what of myths/fallacies that are seen to crop up in science? If science is the scourge of myths/fallacies why are they sometimes seen to crop up in the discipline of science?

    Rather I would say that science is about being systematic.
    Being systematic, while somewhat effective, is no guarantee against running into fallacy.

    Declaring that science is about disparaging all myths can be a bit misleading however since it ruins the opportunity for those in science to be more introspective.
     
  20. disease Banned Banned

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    Science, is not "just logic" then? Since we're creatures of myth and logic, our science is also a mythical, yet logical activity...?

    Systematics are in keeping with the myth that "we will categorize everything, one day".
     
  21. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    not at all
    generally it is understood to fit more snugly under the banner of empiricism
    here is a logical statement that is not true

    all pigs can fly
    all horses are pigs
    therefore all horses can fly


    here is a truthful statement that is not logical
    today is thursday
    I am sitting in a room
    therefore I am thirsty

    .... and on it goes

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    I would like to think that most reductionists would admit in their saner moments that they are only capable of tacit definitions

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  22. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I doubt that will happen anytime soon. The current dogma in science is all about reductionism, even in the so-called interdepartmental collaborations. There is an unrealistic expectation that taking something apart and examining it in isolation is somehow representative of its function in the whole. But there is no alternative thought and philosophy in science is dead.
     
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    I don't see how that is an example of anything that counters anything Fraggle (or I) posted.
    There are stupid scientists, and there is error in science. But there is quite a bit of science that investigates "emergent properties" - thermodynamics is almost entirely that, for instance - and saying "the current dogma is all about reductionism" is vague enough to call.

    The presumption that learning about something in isolation may teach you about its function in the whole is well-tested, and proven fruitful.

    So is the presumption that if you haven't looked at something in isolation, your guesses about its function in the whole are very likely to go wrong.

    Meanwhile, how does accusing all of science of what Daniel Dennett calls "greedy reductionism" throw light on the possible definitions of religion?
     

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