Is Atheism Unscientific?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by th.w.heller, Oct 15, 2008.

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  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    We also have invented some incredibly complex and sensitive instruments for detecting objects, forces and other phenomena that our senses cannot pick up. I guess you missed your science class when it explained things like radio waves and plate tectonics.
    Your definition is a few centuries out of date, although it's still possible to find it in a dictionary. Most definitions now use phrases like "experience, especially sensory experience." By now most scholars are familiar with the role of instruments in the observation of the universe.
    Why do you try to make the words "closed" and "empirical" somehow equivalent? Their definitions are only tangentially related. A closed system is one which is not acted upon by outside forces. An empirical attitude is one that insists on experiential evidence to support hypotheses. It is a hypothesis that the natural universe is a closed system. Experiential evidence supports that hypothesis. Our experience has consistently discovered that it is not necessary to postulate the action of external forces on the natural universe in order to explain any phenomenon--whether detected by sensory observation or any other kind. We've drilled down to some pretty arcane levels of nature, where things like the Uncertainty Principle and String Theory begin to blur physics, mathematics and philosophy into a single discipline, yet we still have had no need to postulate supernatural phenomena, particularly conscious supernatural creatures who fuck with our heads for fun.

    As for my contention that the natural universe as a closed system is the basis of science, this is the third or fourth time in this thread that I've pointed out that you will never see science defined quite that way elsewhere because those are my own words. Nonetheless it is an accurate statement that no scientist has ever disparaged. If science teaches us that the behavior of the natural universe can be predicted by observing its present and past behavior, then clearly it's telling us not to expect some supernatural being with a winged helmet and a fistful of lightning bolts to start fucking it up by parting seas and turning people into pillars of salt because he had a rough night and woke up with a celestial hangover.
    I refuted that statement the first time you made it and you haven't advanced your argument. You've simply repeated it. Nonetheless I've done you the courtesy of refuting it at greater length. If I get any wordier Baron Max will stomp in here and claim he got a celestial headache from reading it.
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  3. Roman Banned Banned

    Well said, Mr. Fraggle.
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  5. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    Radio waves and plate tectonics are as much a part of empiricism as risotto is part of italian cuisine.

    A key quality of empiricism is that it involves issues of measurement.

    Whether one does that with one's senses directly or a machine that amplifies the abilities of one's senses doesn't make any difference.
    When you use the word "empiricism" in a scientific context it has a very specific meaning.

    And once again, calling upon advanced instruments of observation doesn't change things.
    Try and explain empiricism as the fundamental in discerning the nature of truth in a universe that isn't closed and you will see why.
    If an experience cannot be measured it stands outside of (classic) empiricism.
    If the experience and/or evidence cannot be materially reduced it stands outside of the empirical attitude.

    Since the prime carrier of experience in life is consciousness, and since consciousness stands heads and shoulders outside of reductionist schemes, not much of life is relevant to empiricism.

    How would you measure love?
    What if someone gave you a 2.75?
    What if that was simply because they were feeling 1.06 that day?

    etc etc

    We have no experience of a closed system.
    All we have experience of a small sliver between the macro and microcosm.
    Empiricism does not a touch an iota of anything explicit.
    If you don't believe me, just try and explain a cup of flour without relying on tacit explanations.

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    Don't forget that empiricism requires more than mere explanation/hypothesis in order to be valid.

    To quote your earlier explanation

    "An empirical attitude is one that insists on experiential evidence to support hypotheses."
    The problem is when persons like yourself destroy the credibility of empiricism by using it as a platform for launching into absolute ontological definitions of the universe.

    Don't get me wrong.

    There is nothing wrong with empiricism.
    Works fine for crossing the street or fabricating metal.
    Totally lousy for explaining the universe though.
    There are literally tons of scientists who either disagree that the universe is a closed system or feel it is not a question that can be authoritatively answered by their field of discipline.

    A key means to work out exactly what is integral to an empirical claim is to have one of its fundamental premises proven wrong. For instance, if water didn't have a boiling point of approximately 100 degrees, it becomes difficult to understand how we commonly fabricate metal the way we do.

    So if the universe is not a closed system, what empirical finding (as opposed to empirical explanation) is turned on its head?

    The winged helmet and lighting may be optional, but since our observations of the natural universe is somewhere between the macro and the microcosm, I doubt the truth of your statement.

    We cannot even come close to 100% accurate predictions of what we can capably observe of the mesocosm on a good day (ie without a hangover), what to speak of using it as an authoritative platform for hanging the BS on others about what exists beyond it.
    All you have done is said that nowadays we use fancy things to amplify the capabilities of our senses so its therefore no longer empirical.

    It still stands that these things are empirical.

    It still stands that we have no jurisdiction to the microcosm or macrocosm

    It still stands that there is no empirical evidence that the universe is a closed system.

    Therefore the irony still remains that there is no empirical evidence for your assertions about empiricism.
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  7. Roman Banned Banned

    You haven't said anything, lg.

    Perhaps construct your argument in a simple syllogism, so we can actually understand what you're saying?
    Right now, it looks like this:

    1. Empiricism is true only if it can measure everything.
    2. We haven't measured everything.
    .:3. Empiricism is not true.

    You can see the problem with your second premise, yes?
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Hold it. A Geiger counter or an ammeter is not "a machine that amplifies the abilities of one's senses," unless by "amplify" you mean "supplement," and as the Linguistics moderator I would reject that definition as idiosyncratic.
    Hey, in my definition of "science" I merely used the word "empirical," which means merely "derived from or guided by experience, observation and/or experiment, rather than from or by theory." You're the ones who escalated it into "empiricism," a word which carries a lot more baggage. I've been trying to play along with it to avoid seeming even more contentious, but I must object to the attempt to replace my word with something else--and then set the something else up as a straw man and argue over it.

    I was content to play along and accept empiricism as one of the tools of science, using the most modern definitions of the word I could find. But if you're going to tie it to Plato and Lao-zi and the astrologers of Babylon and Machu Picchu, the deal is off. Paradigm shifts cut through all the dimensions of civilization, not just economics and politics. There was a paradigm shift in philosophy in the middle of the last millennium in what became the region of Modern Civilization, and it made science possible.
    "Classic" is not an adjective that automatically commands a lot of respect in the halls of science. The entire "classical" era happened before the Enlightenment, which was the Paradigm Shift in philosophy that made the development of science even possible.
    It sounds like you're echoing Lord Kelvin:
    I was the manager of the metrics program in an IT shop with a staff of 1,000, and for many years after that I developed and taught classes in software metrics. That quote was always one of my first slides.

    Nonetheless in the field of software development we had to face the fact that our efforts and artifacts did not readily yield to measurement. It wasn't that we couldn't figure out how to measure them, just that by the time we perfected the measuring tools and units, the technology we applied them to had become obsolete. Kelvin's harsh words were appropriate in an era when major advances happened slowly and all the specialists had time to develop new tools for them. We need a new "paradigm" in our attitude about measurement in an era when the bumper sticker, "Everything you know will be obsolete in five years," is not entirely false.

    Science is not evolving quite as fast as software engineering, or even computer hardware engineering, but it's managing to lope ahead of our advances in measurement techniques. We've taken Kelvin's challenge and we're learning how to use qualitative measurements to make our knowledge of things that cannot yet be measured quantitatively more than "meager and unsatisfactory." We do qualitative risk analyses on projects with nine-figure budgets, and they turn out to be satisfactory--far more so than the true spit-in-the-wind estimates that are responsible for the project failures that make front page news.
    Okay, I think I understand what that means, even though I'm not sure it's compatible with my Jungian outlook. The collective unconscious can be both a resource and an impediment.
    Okay, now you've lost me. Please explain what that means, using more words.
    I came here to talk about science and whether or not atheism is unscientific. I didn't come here to talk about empiricism. It sounds like empiricism, as you define it, is not part of science. Fine. That doesn't bear very directly on the question in the OP.
    An interesting turn of phrase from someone who just claimed to be a champion of measurement. Scientists eat a lot of pizza and doughnuts, so a ton of them is only about nine.

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    Please provide links to some of their writings, including their credentials. I'd like to see how they wriggle out of that one. I have always been fascinated by the enormous cognitive dissonance so many scientists live with, that permits them to turn into religionists when they take off their lab coats. Perhaps these writings will help me understand their weakness and be more sympathetic to it.
  9. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    perhaps you could write up a syllogism that finishes on

    .:3. Empiricism establishes that the universe is a closed system
  10. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    amplify in the sense that the slice of the mesocosm (that is normally available to our blunt senses) is open for further investigation. Despite such increases however it never approaches a closed system. One large chunk of the microcosm still stands on one side and another large chunk of the macrocosm on the other.

    so what valid experiences/observations of science do not rely on tacit definitions/controlled environments/measurement/etc?
    Empiricism played a revolutionary role in physics, and physics practically redefined all the other sciences (biology, astronomy, etc).

    You, however, are making the claim that empiricism/science demands (or maybe proves?) that the universe is a closed system.

    You also made the claim that anything that violates empiricism is crackpottery.

    My question to you is what empirical evidence do you have that the universe is a closed system.

    I tried to make it easy for you by asking what empirical findings would be contravened if it was discovered that the universe was not a closed system (akin to say how our knowledge of metal fabrication would be contravened if we discovered that water didn't have an approximate boiling point of 100 degrees).

    Quit throwing in the red herrings about Babylon, Plato et al
    I mean classic in the sense of "straight and simple" (as opposed to some sort of postmodern derivative of the term "empiricism that could take it out of its scientific context).
    IOW empiricism that has controlled environments, units of measurement, tacit terms of explanation etc etc

    I wasn't referring to any historical period.

    I am discussing science.
    Why are you discussing enterprise and merchandising?
    The prime moving force of our being is happiness/distress. You could even unpack that to something like "state of being".
    This certainly has no empirical basis (although certain persons seem to love talking about states of being being determined by chemicals, despite a complete absence of empirical evidence for this).

    I simply brought it up since you made the declaration that all things must stand to the measure of (empirical) science in order to be elevated beyond crackpottery. However empiricism is grossly inadequate to negotiate our selves, what to speak of the universe.
    Zap raised the issue whether it is unscientific to disbelieve in Vishnu

    You suggested that hinduism therefore wasn't scientific.

    You then proceeded to explain how empiricism is and isn't science, per se

    Basically you have expanded this to issues of how empiricism is the most authoritative means of understanding our selves and the universe.

    I have indicated how, if one accepts this, one is left with a very meager universe ... and also the irony how not even the foundations of empiricism measure up to such so called empirical standards.

    As I said earlier, I have no problem with empiricism.
    Works fine for crossing the road and fabricating metal.
    Lousy for understanding the universe however.

    IOW the only problem I have with empiricism is when persons such as yourself use it to make absolute ontological definitions of reality (such as in the manner of denying the nature of god, who, by definition, isn't even approachable by empirical means).

    It doesn't matter whether one spends 500 years or 500 lifetimes acquiring knowledge with the blunt (or amplified) senses.

    Empiricism is simply a tool for the mesocosm, and only a fool would think about about using it as a means for approaching beyond it (eg "the universe is a closed system")
    I have to go now but I will come back with some later.
    In the meantime, you can maybe post some scientist (along with their credentials) who has made claims to the effect that "I have discovered everything that there is to know about my field of investigation. It is a closed system)
  11. Roman Banned Banned

    So you want to move from one non sequitor to another?
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That's not the definition of a "closed system." A closed system is one upon which no outside forces act.
    Certainly not "proves," since, as everyone in this academy is supposed to know by now, science cannot prove anything to be true, only false. "Prove true beyond a reasonable doubt" is my own term for the best that science can do.

    "Demands," okay. The fundamental predictive purpose of science is an illusion, if the natural universe whose behavior it endeavors to predict can be acted upon by the unobservable creatures of an external supernatural universe who unpredictably wield their illogical forces. That is why I state the fundamental premise, or underlying canonical theory, of science the way I do.
    Well forgive the misunderstanding of the word "empiricism." Modern sources provide a somewhat different definition than yours, although, as I've admitted, yours has not fallen out of favor. I'm not even a professional scientist, much less a philosopher. (I refuse to abide by the laughable term "computer science," since as I explain in my lectures, what we do isn't even proper engineering, much less science, but more of a medieval guild craft.)
    We're going around in circles. That question has already been "asked and answered," to borrow more legal vernacular.

    For the second time: We have been testing that hypothesis strenuously for half a millennium. We have been studying the natural universe from the femtoscopic (if I've got my powers of 10^6 right) level of subatomic particles to the yattascopic (same apology) level of distant galaxies--a decompositional range of about 36 orders of magnitude (which I do have right when using good old Hindu-Arabic numerals), to gainsay your dismissive claim that so much of it is beyond our ken. All observations, experiments and reasoning have discovered only forces originating within the natural universe, obeying an increasingly logical array of natural laws.

    This despite the fact that even in our slightly less benighted modern era, the vast majority of practicing scientists are religionists when they're off duty and would be overjoyed to discover evidence of the supernatural. Not to mention that most of them would be thrilled to be on the cover of this week's People magazine with the headline "The Man/Woman Who Disproved Science."

    Your challenge that we must "prove" that the natural universe is a closed system is linguistic tomfoolery--or perhaps "philosophy," which I've always suspected is just the Greek word for "linguistic tomfoolery." A closed system is, once again, one upon which no external forces act. That is a negative hypothesis and no one is obligated to prove a negative. The burden of proof is on the advocate of the positive: you are obligated to provide one tiny shred of evidence that an external force has come to bear on the natural universe, before your positive hypothesis merits interest.
    The notion that the universe is not a closed system would, by definition, be based on the discovery of a phenomenon that can only be explained as the effect of a supernatural force--something that violates the paradigm of natural laws such as the reversal of the moon's orbit. This would contravene not just the empirical finding that the moon orbits the earth according to certain kinematic equations, but the concept of inertia as well as gravity, one of the four basic natural forces. Yes, smaller phenomena could obviously also do it but this was an easy example to set forth.
    Somebody needs to keep the troops entertained or they'll stop reading this. We both know there's no point in expending all this effort just to argue with each other.
    I've never worked in the merchandising sector. What I'm talking about is a scientific approach to software projects, which would earn them the right to be called "engineering."
    Well sure, but Maslow made a great first pass at a primitive scientific paradigm for that "moving force." He's even got a scale of measurement: survival-security-love-esteem-fulfillment.
    Never heard of endorphins?

    Hand me a nice dose of caffeine and I'll show you some empirical evidence for the correlation between chemicals and emotional states.
    I respect your opinion since you argue with honor--otherwise I wouldn't have spent so much time away from my own subforum. But I don't see how you've made your case.
    Well I'm sorry I got us hung up on the definition of "empiricism." It's a loaded word, more appropriate for the Philosophy board, which I suspect could be just as correctly said about this entire thread. Scientific research is merely "empirical."
    We've gone below photons and are now looking at "strings" as the possible foundation for all matter and energy; and we seem to have seen all the way to the outer shell of matter in the natural universe. (Although not the outer shell of energy, since those galaxies shine their light in all directions so some of those photons are several billion light-years out in the opposite direction.) I fail to grasp how this enormous range of decomposition can be described by a word that beings with the prefix "meso-".
    Once again you're misconstruing the meaning of "closed system." Our hypothesis (which is really by now a canonical theory) is that the natural universe is a closed system, not that science, or any particular science, is.
  13. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    I think we should iron out the complexities of one non-sequitor before we start moving on to others

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  14. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    You seem to have a tactic of splitting hairs over terminology for no ultimate gain when the going gets tough in your arguments (first it was "amplify", now it is "closed system".... but anyway .... it will be interesting to see how you ride this one out.

    Maybe now would be a good time for you to explain how something can be deemed as a closed system when one has absolutely no entrance into issues of the micro/macrocosm.
    It could be helpful to provide an example of something mesocosmic that examplifies this.
    How about a cup of flour, eh?

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    “ You. . . . claim that empiricism/science demands (or maybe proves?) that the universe is a closed system. ”

    At the moment there is no need to bring in the supernatural.
    You simply stated the logical necessity for a closed system universe on the strength of empiricism.
    I am asking what empirical evidence you have of the micro/macrocosm currently available.....

    without any empirical evidence for your claims you have just tarred yourself with the same brush you painted religion with

    charming reading there, but its all part of the mesocosm no matter what manner of jazzing up you care to utilize.

    Last post you posted that the question has been already answered due to a short sighted examination of the word "amplify". Now you are doing the same with the words "closed system".

    There would also be a lot of joy for someone who could successful reduce the universe and our expeience of it to material components .... just the copyright issues one could secure from hollywood alone would insure a lavish lifestyle

    There are very good reasons why not even (credible) scientists make absolute negative statements .... what to speak of philosophers

    As for positive evidence, thats a different subject for the time being.

    The problem is that at the moment you are insisting that ALL credible claims must fall within the folds of empiricism.
    The irony is that not even the essentials of empiricism (as the monoplizing force on all knowledge based claims) fall within empiricism.

    try again

    there is no essential requirement for a closed universe to explain the orbit of the moon

    The reason is because our (empirical) understanding of the topic is surrounded by mysteries of the macro and microcosm. The evidence is that there is still continued research going on in the field.

    Perhaps now it is starting to dawn on you the gravity involved when you make such claims of a "closed system" from a knowledge base thoroughly planted in the mesocosm.

    If not, feel free to offer another example of how having a universe that isn't closed violates some empirical finding, much like having water that doesn't have a boiling point of 100 degrees violates our understandings of metal fabrication.

    You mean you have pre-existing beliefs that you won't budge from!

    How non-empirical of you!

    a software project that is so advanced that it can not be approached by any empirical paradigm or measurement?
    sounds like a marketing prop to me ....

    ever wondered why they catagorize his entire field of discipline as "soft science"?

    ever wondered why they have no effect on a dead person?

    unless you are alive to consume it, it will have as much effect on you as pouring it over your great great grandmother.

    In short there is a gynormous difference between life and the chemicals that life utilizes. There are moments when material reductionists get all excited, like when it was discovered how to synthesize urea for example, but there is a big difference between one's self and one's urine.

    I am still waiting to see how you made yours

    I agree that the primary occupation of science is simply to "get the job done". The problem is when persons leave their field of discipline yet insist on borrowing on the authority of empiricism to make philosophical claims. Even though 70 years ago it was a little different, its no coincidence that your average scientist has as much training in philosophy as your average car mechanic.


    if continued research is going on, its mesocsomic.

    Previously, with the discovery of cells, it was thought that materially reducing life was merely decades away (since cells were thought to simply be "globs of chemicals"). Now of course we understand that a mere cell has more complicated systems within it than the utility networks of NYC.

    Actually getting down to brass tacks, this is the problem with empiricism, as examplified by your bit in bold - the feeling that one's mind and senses are somehow capabale of swallowing all that is knowable in the universe.

    The problem is that there is no empirical evidence for this
  15. wizard Registered Senior Member

    the universe is a closed system because anything that interacts with our universe is defined to be a part of it
  16. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    The argument is, however, that the universe is "closed" to those things that transcend standard empirical inquiry.
  17. river-wind Valued Senior Member

    No, it's that an appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. You saying "x is correct because an authority said so" means absolutely nothing.

    Authority is logically not equated to either truth or morality.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2009
  18. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

    I think atheism is perfectly scientific. Since there is not a shred of evidence for any god, the scientific principles support the complete denial of any god.

    If there was ever a single ounce of evidence for a god, those scientific principles would call for the allowance of a discussion of how to test further, leaving open room for the hypothesis to grow with subsequent discoveries.

    However, we are still in the phase of No Evidence, therefore no chance of their existence should be called for.

    Maher is just trying to be smarter than everyone else by pretending that ignorance is the highest level of intelligence. I say that atheism is the only sane position to occupy with our current level of scientific understanding.
  19. river-wind Valued Senior Member

    Supports, but does not prove. Therefor, one can say "There is no evidence for god/FSM/purple people eater", or "I don't believe that there is a god/FSM/purple people eater", but one cannot say "god/FSM/purple people eaters do not exist, period."

    Just as one cannot say "There is no life outside of Earth, period," or "There is no chance I will blink out of existance in the next 5 seconds."

    That inability to give certainty does not make all unknowns equal, however.

    One can say "given the evidence at hand, the chance of god/FSM/purple people eaters existing, or that I will blink out of existance in the next 5 seconds, is so remote as to be negligible."

    One can also say "Due to the apparent properties of chemical bonding, and other evidence at hand, the chances of life on other planets being discovered in the future is much greater than 0."

    The difference between the two not only being direct evidence for the possibility of the claim, but also indirect evidence via the likelihood of the existance of *a situation in which the claim could be shown true*.
  20. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

    If the god is defined, we can usually disprove it.

    Since every monotheistic deity I have ever heard of has these two qualities: (1) They are eternal and (2) they created the universe, I am willing to say that I can disprove all major gods.

    But even if I couldn't, it is still "scientific" to say that the things for which we have zero evidence do not exist. Does it mean that we wouldn't change our minds if evidence were found? Of course not. But then we would be talking about something which has evidence, which is a different creature.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    If you don't consider our increasingly expansive views of the entire natural universe--which incidentally, due to the lightspeed limitation, also happen to give us a view more than ten billion years into the past--an "entrance into the issues of the... macrocosm," then I don't understand what you mean by "macrocosm." Likewise for quarks and leptons, and the word "microcosm." All I can deduce from your rhetoric is that you're simply not using scientific language, in which case--as I've noted before--this discussion should be moved to the Philosophy board.
    I have dutifully responded to your request for examples of empirical evidence, i.e., I have been moving my argument forward in accordance with the scientific method. You, on the other hand, do little more than repeat the same questions without moving your argument forward, which is a violation of the scientific method.
    .... and occasionally toss in some meaningless words like "charm" and "jazz" which still do nothing to clarify what you're asking for. Yes, I too have made a few comments that are off topic, after all this is not a graduate seminar and we're not being downgraded for failure to always be serious. But I also make substantive comments which you have not refuted. Calling something "jazz" is not the same thing as explaining why it does not make my point.
    You missed my point. Someone else misused the term "closed system," as though we're defining the science that is a tool for examining the universe, rather than defining the universe itself. I felt that was important to clarify.
    That is one of your arguments which I have refuted several times, and you have not offered a proper rebuttal to my refutation.

    Again, this discussion feels less and less like science every time I drop back in.
    There are mysteries everywhere; obviously we will never be able to know everything because our speed of learning is finite. But that doesn't mean we're not on the right track. It is certainly no reason to adopt an unsubstantiated belief in the supernatural, which is to throw up our hands and give up on science because it's all just too damn difficult. Or because it conflicts with the instinctive, archetypal beliefs which we were born with and which thousands of generations of parents reinforced in their children, before they had science to help.
    You have not offered any compelling evidence for your assertion that as we approach, literally, the ends of the natural universe in both spatial and temporal dimensions, we are nonetheless still mired in the "mesocosm."
    You ragged on me for daring to bring software engineering into this discussion, and here you are bringing in metallurgy? That's not science, it's engineering. Bronze technology was invented several centuries before written language, one of the key technologies that made science possible five thousand years later. Of course humans are resourceful and we'll find a way to cope with an illogical universe perturbed by the capricious actions of invisible gods. But that way will not be very much like science as we've spent the last 500 years defining it.
    Very funny. No, what I mean is that our arguments are not in the same plane. From my perspective you are not respecting the scientific method in the way you conduct your argument. I'm sure you have an equivalent criticism of my slavish adherence to it.

    In any case, I have a tendency to co-hijack threads with one person on the opposite side of its issue, and that's not always the best way to run this website. It's one thing if it's the history of the Indo-European languages or tips on hand-feeding a parrot hatchling, but if it's just reasoning and rhetoric I fear that the other members will lose interest. It's good to let them chime in and see if they take it in a new direction.
    Oh it can be and we've done it. For many years I was a guru in the field of software measurement. It's just that America is run by cowboys and cowboys don't like to measure anything because it's no fun.
    Every science started out as "soft." As a metrician, I see the transition beginning at the point where the first measurements are taken, even if qualitative. Maslow's Hierarchy is a way of qualitatively measuring one dimension (or perhaps five) of a person's feelings.
    No, I haven't wondered about that. I've had enough elementary courses in biology and chemistry to understand it. When you die your synapses degrade irreparably within a few minutes so there is no infrastructure upon which to "have an effect."
    I can tell you're not a computer programmer. Your grasp of deep levels of structural decomposition is as tenuous as your grasp of extremely large numbers.
    You continue to repeat that like a broken record, even though I have provided evidence.
    No. If the universe is not "closed," it simply means that supernatural forces are able to affect it. Those forces will leave evidence and we will be able to examine it using "standard empirical inquiry." The point is that there is no evidence. Or to be precise, there is always evidence that transcends the observational technology of the era, and as the technology improves the evidence continues to move just out of reach. Notice how gods, like space aliens, never show up on the quad of a state university? They used to turn people into pillars of salt; now they manifest themselves by casting provocative images on potato chips.
    How can you disprove the existence of gods by either of those means? 1) We cannot see eternity and 2) We don't know how the universe got here. In fact, those are two facets of what I suspect may turn out to be the Big Question that will puzzle us for some time: What exactly is time? I have said before that we're making a rash assumption when we cavalierly postulate moments in time before the Big Bang. Temperature has an Absolute Zero, why can't time have one? As we continue to uncover more of the universe's secrets, we may discover that the nature of time is such, that if we attempt to solve an equation in which t < 0, our solution will be full of imaginary numbers, just as if we try to solve an equation in which T < 0.

    And of course some religionist will jump up and insist that it just can't be a coincidence that both of those quantities are represented by the letter Tee.

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    No it's not. As I've posted multiple times, all we can say is that they do not exist beyond a reasonable doubt. That's not the same thing as saying their existence is impossible. I borrow the language of the law because the language of science does not communicate well with laymen.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2009
  22. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

    I think most scientists would agree that we are still finding new evidence for things all the time. So it would be foolish to assume that everything for which we have zero evidence does not exist.

    However, for the sake of science, I think anything for which we could never have evidence for might as well be assumed not to exist.
  23. wizard Registered Senior Member

    it's not about having evidence "for" (that concept actually doesn't make sense), but about not having evidence against. if there is no observation that can disprove an explanation, that means there is no observable difference between that explanation being correct or not. so the logical choice is to ignore it.
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