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Offline Foi

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Questions about The scientific method
« on: July 26, 2010, 10:18:38 AM »
I am trying to better understand the scientific method. Feel free to answer one or all of the following. I've grouped similar questions together by thought, so if you choose to answer everything, you can answer the general idea behind each set.

What is the minimum probability of a given theory being true required for the theory to be considered accepted? What is the minimum probability of a given theory being true required for the theory to be considered proven?

Give a break down of the most important factors of life. (Example: Me: 50%, my wife: 40%, society: 5%, advancements to science: 4%...Christians: exactly 0%). Explain your personal breakdown. In a utopia, would each individual's breakdown be identical? What would it be?

How does one go about using the scientific method to gather information about the reality of hundreds of thousands of years ago?

What is truth? What is the substance of truth? How does on go about gathering more truth? Where does truth come from?

What are you chasing after in using the scientific method? What are you ultimately hoping to discover or find? What is the goal of mankind? What is your purpose?

Is the scientific method based on circular reasoning? (Hypothesis>Experiment>Data>Analysis>Conclusion>Hypothesis...)

Special question for atheists: Can atheism be proven?

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." - 1 Corinthians 1:18

Offline Ambassador Pony

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2010, 10:32:31 AM »
bm LOL
You believe evolution and there is no evidence for that. Where is the fossil record of a half man half ape. I've only ever heard about it in reading.

Offline OnePerson

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2010, 10:34:30 AM »
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Is the scientific method based on circular reasoning? (Hypothesis>Experiment>Data>Analysis>Conclusion>Hypothesis...)

I don't think you know what circular reasoning is...

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Special question for atheists: Can atheism be proven?

No, but specific gods can be proven to be non-existent beyond reasonable doubt.

Offline Killa

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2010, 10:38:16 AM »
I dont think so much "Atheism" was the appropriate word to use to propose your question but more challenging the concept of Materialism itself. Keep in mind that all Atheists will think differently.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2010, 11:26:07 AM by Killa »
I'm Agnostic.

Offline Emily

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2010, 10:51:45 AM »
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What are you chasing after in using the scientific method? What are you ultimately hoping to discover or find? What is the goal of mankind? What is your purpose?

The first two questions are somewhat relevant to each other but the last two aren't. Using the scientific method scientists are trying to discover more hidden treasures about the universe and how everything, from the stars to planets to life, formed and survives. As for the goal of man kind it has nothing to do with the scientific method, neither does our purpose.

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Is the scientific method based on circular reasoning? (Hypothesis>Experiment>Data>Analysis>Conclusion>Hypothesis...)

I guess. If the results don't support the hypothesis they go back and form a new hypothesis and do more testing. If the results do support the hypothesis then it gets submitted to the scientific community to review the shit out of it. It if passes that then it's accepted as science.

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Special question for atheists: Can atheism be proven?

As OnePerson said, some gods can be disproven, but god in general can't. This also has nothing to do with the scientific method since science is agnostic towards god(s). It's easy to look at the bible and figure out that that specific god doesn't exist.
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Offline DisdainDavid

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2010, 11:25:14 AM »
What is the minimum probability of a given theory being true required for the theory to be considered accepted? What is the minimum probability of a given theory being true required for the theory to be considered proven?
What do you mean by true?  Do you know what a scientific theory is?  A scientific theory can never be 'proven' true because there could always be some piece of information which will falsifiable, even if it is a minuscule (almost inconsequential piece) of a theory causing there to be a need for restatement or re-evaluation.  That being said when a theory reaches a certain point, such as the Theory of Evolution, our understanding of a fact (evolution) and the forces driving it (natural selection) become so overwhelmingly evidenced that it is safe to say that while certain parts of the Theory of Evolution may change over time the fundamental aspects of it are as sure as is humanly possible.
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How does one go about using the scientific method to gather information about the reality of hundreds of thousands of years ago?

The scientific method is not a 'method to gather information.'  Archeology, Geology, Cosmology, etcetera are methods for gathering information about reality in times gone by.  The scientific method is a system for evaluating claims.  For example: I one day look around and say, I wonder how old this big ol' ball of rock we call 'earth' is?  I look at the earth and see a thing that appears to be very old.  I take some of the things I know (rates of volcanic activity for example) and conclude that, yes, the earth must be very old.  I make a hypothesis that the earth is not 6,000 years old, and in fact must be much older.  I then go on to accumulate evidence for my idea.  That being that volcanic activity simply could not account for all the features of the world being only 6,000 years old (I gather reports of volcanic activity and construct a graph showing that current trends do not support such a conclusion, the world being 6k years old that is).  I then report my findings and attempt to have them published in a peer reviewed journal.  During this process people will attempt to pick apart my findings and if they stand we have a new working hypothesis.  One of the great things that can happen during such a time is that, somebody reading the journal remembers that Bob, that weired guy he went to graduate school with, was studying physics and worked on rates of decay.  So now someone gets the idea to couple my hypothesis with Bob's ability to date things, and then republishes.  Slowly the hypothesis builds and builds into the field we know of as Geology (I am not saying this is how modern Geology started, it is just a quickly thrown together example).  The scientific method is the system through which claims made through a field of study are evaluated.
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What is truth? What is the substance of truth? How does on go about gathering more truth? Where does truth come from?
Truth is adherence to logic and observable facts.  Truth is intrinsic in existence.
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What are you chasing after in using the scientific method?
Truth
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What are you ultimately hoping to discover or find?
Nothing in particular.  Just knowledge in general.
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What is the goal of mankind?
I don't think mankind has a collective goal, but I could think of a few things I would like to see as a collective goal.
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What is your purpose?
To be happy.
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Is the scientific method based on circular reasoning? (Hypothesis>Experiment>Data>Analysis>Conclusion>Hypothesis...)
I don't think you understand what circular reasoning is.
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Special question for atheists: Can atheism be proven?



Atheism is a lack of belief in god(s).  There is nothing to be 'proven' in regards to atheism.  Now anti-theism, or the active belief that there are no gods, is a different matter.  You can disprove certain gods and not others.  It depends on how the person defines their god(s).
I will stop to contribute in this thread until some one shows up and seem to have brain. -- Master

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Offline jedweber

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2010, 11:50:50 AM »
As OnePerson said, some gods can be disproven, but god in general can't.

I don't know if we can "disprove" any god, but we can disprove the specific claims made about them. (i.e. "Yahweh created the world 6,000 years ago." or "God destroyed the whole world with a flood.")

If theists keep their claims vague, untestable and unfalsifiable, we can't "disprove" them, however unlikely we can show them to be...

Offline Foi

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2010, 12:52:07 PM »
Emily: You say that the scientific method has nothing to do with the goal of mankind. So how do you go about determining mankind's purpose or goal?

...science is agnostic towards god(s)...

Can you explain why this is the case?

That being said when a theory reaches a certain point, such as the Theory of Evolution, our understanding of a fact (evolution) and the forces driving it (natural selection) become so overwhelmingly evidenced that it is safe to say that while certain parts of the Theory of Evolution may change over time the fundamental aspects of it are as sure as is humanly possible.

No, this is what I want to understand: what is that certain point?

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The scientific method is not a 'method to gather information.'  Archeology, Geology, Cosmology, etcetera are methods for gathering information about reality in times gone by.  The scientific method is a system for evaluating claims.  For example: I one day look around and say, I wonder how old this big ol' ball of rock we call 'earth' is?  I look at the earth and see a thing that appears to be very old.  I take some of the things I know (rates of volcanic activity for example) and conclude that, yes, the earth must be very old.  I make a hypothesis that the earth is not 6,000 years old, and in fact must be much older.  I then go on to accumulate evidence for my idea.  That being that volcanic activity simply could not account for all the features of the world being only 6,000 years old (I gather reports of volcanic activity and construct a graph showing that current trends do not support such a conclusion, the world being 6k years old that is).  I then report my findings and attempt to have them published in a peer reviewed journal.  During this process people will attempt to pick apart my findings and if they stand we have a new working hypothesis.  One of the great things that can happen during such a time is that, somebody reading the journal remembers that Bob, that weired guy he went to graduate school with, was studying physics and worked on rates of decay.  So now someone gets the idea to couple my hypothesis with Bob's ability to date things, and then republishes.  Slowly the hypothesis builds and builds into the field we know of as Geology (I am not saying this is how modern Geology started, it is just a quickly thrown together example).

Hmm, I still don't understand how one uses the scientific method as a part to determine what happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. See, you have to bear with me a bit. I don't understand how science works, which is why I'm asking all these questions. Like, I understand the theory, but is there a way you could lay out a real example of how one obtains evidence for the volcano idea? I know you were just giving a run-down of it all, but I can't understand all of this without seeing some details.

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The scientific method is the system through which claims made through a field of study are evaluated.

Why didn't someone explain this to me earlier? I thought it was always the scientific method that allowed you to gather information. So it's the fields of study that actually do it?

To summarize what you believe about your purpose here, Disdain (correct me if I'm wrong): Truth is inevitable, bound by human logic and observation. By using the scientific method you hope to attain more truth and knowledge, not really setting up any expectations for yourself as to what you will find. Your ultimate purpose is to live entirely for yourself, the substance of which is making yourself happy. Mankind does not cooperate towards a single goal, but rather the self-indulgent goals of the individuals. If that's not totally right, please correct me. I am only trying to get a solid summary about what you believe.

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Atheism is a lack of belief in god(s).  There is nothing to be 'proven' in regards to atheism.  Now anti-theism, or the active belief that there are no gods, is a different matter.  You can disprove certain gods and not others.  It depends on how the person defines their god(s).

Oh I see. I think I understand now. So it's almost like atheism is passive, and anti-theism is active? Anti-theists really care about showing that they're right, while atheists just don't care at all.

And what I was asking was really if atheism is correct or not (that it is actually true that no gods exist). This brings me to my next big question. For the atheists who said that god can't be proven: why aren't you agnostic?
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." - 1 Corinthians 1:18

Offline OnePerson

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2010, 01:02:54 PM »
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This brings me to my next big question. For the atheists who said that god can't be proven: why aren't you agnostic?

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

This is what most of us technically are.

Offline Emily

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2010, 01:18:50 PM »
Emily: You say that the scientific method has nothing to do with the goal of mankind. So how do you go about determining mankind's purpose or goal?

My bad. I read it wrong.
...science is agnostic towards god(s)...
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Can you explain why this is the case?

Because science cannot prove or disprove god.

This video explains it very well. It's Eugenie Scott giving a speech about science's attitude towards god;

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GViS6Z2Y7L0[/youtube]
 

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Offline Dante

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2010, 01:25:28 PM »
Oh I see. I think I understand now. So it's almost like atheism is passive, and anti-theism is active? Anti-theists really care about showing that they're right, while atheists just don't care at all.

And what I was asking was really if atheism is correct or not (that it is actually true that no gods exist). This brings me to my next big question. For the atheists who said that god can't be proven: why aren't you agnostic?

Foi, good on you for actually asking questions this time! It's a pleasant surprise!

I dont think atheists "just don't care at all". That's a misleading statement, unless you care to clarify? We just haven't been given the evidence that any god exists!

And most of us are agnostic. However, many are not as agnostic when it comes to the Abrahamic god, as it's painfully obvious that the one portrayed in the bible does not exist. There are too many logical fallacies, conflicts, and inconsistencies to take the bible seriously as "holy scripture".








Actually it doesn't. One could conceivably be all-powerful but not exceptionally intelligent.

Offline sarrablack

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2010, 01:27:04 PM »
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Atheism is a lack of belief in god(s).  There is nothing to be 'proven' in regards to atheism.  Now anti-theism, or the active belief that there are no gods, is a different matter.  You can disprove certain gods and not others.  It depends on how the person defines their god(s).

Oh I see. I think I understand now. So it's almost like atheism is passive, and anti-theism is active? Anti-theists really care about showing that they're right, while atheists just don't care at all.

Sorry, lurker here. I know this is not the real 'meat' of the discussion at all, but I wanted to point out that you are mistaken in your aforementioned post.
Many Anti-theists AND many Atheists care very much about 'showing that they're right' and defending their position logically. This has nothing to do with anything. Atheists are not inherently passive. The stance, however, is passive in that it is not a belief in its own right- it is merely the rejection of a belief.

Didn't read the topic through yet- it's just that your post bothered me. Sorry :)
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Offline OnePerson

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2010, 01:38:52 PM »
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So how do you go about determining mankind's purpose or goal?

There is no objective purpose or goal for mankind.  Everyone decides what their own purpose or goal is.

Offline DisdainDavid

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2010, 02:06:32 PM »

No, this is what I want to understand: what is that certain point?

There is no % at which something is accepted as a 'truth' or a theory as 'proven.'  Can you explain the difference between a scientific theory and a theory as the term is used in common parlance?

--EDIT--

I just want to add that, from my layman understanding, a theory become 'accepted' when it explains all (or almost all) observable phenomenon related to a given event and an unbiased preponderance of the evidence leads to no other conclusion then that the theory is solid, well founded, expansive, and unlikely to ever fundamentally change.  I hope a practicing scientist can provide more information on this for both you and I.
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Hmm, I still don't understand how one uses the scientific method as a part to determine what happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. See, you have to bear with me a bit. I don't understand how science works, which is why I'm asking all these questions. Like, I understand the theory, but is there a way you could lay out a real example of how one obtains evidence for the volcano idea? I know you were just giving a run-down of it all, but I can't understand all of this without seeing some details.
The scientific method is just that, it is a method of evaluating claims.  How a person goes about obtaining evidence for a given claim is dependent on what exactly a person is studying.  For more information on geology and the age of the earth you can start here.  As I said, though, the ways of obtaining information will vary from field of study to field of study.  The common theme is the scientific method.  If I come to one conclusion, and you come to another, how do we determine who is right and who is wrong?  The scientific method is provided as a framework to correct inaccuracies and find ways to reconcile conflicting data (through correction of existing hypothesis/theories, discovery of flaws in the data, experimental flaws, etcetera).

As far as a real example goes the best I could probably do is the Theory of Evolution.  One can clearly see that organisms change over time (not in the sense of growing, but in the sense of one generation to the next variation occurs).  Why is that?  Darwin hypothesized that pressure from the environment caused beneficial changes to be selected for and detrimental ones to be selected against.  He used several examples including Finches.  After his publication we began to find more and more examples of fossilized creatures that no longer existed.  Over the last 150 years we have amassed a mind numbing number of them.  So much so that we can effectively establish several 'complete' chains of evolution including whales, bird, and even our own.

Now the lack of a discovery of fossils would not technically disprove evolution but it was a prediction made by Darwin and it would have been something that needed an explanation if the Theory of Evolution was to stand.  We did, obviously, find fossils and furthermore they matched precisely what we would expect to see if evolution were true.  We use the scientific method as a means to review the fossils (their classifications, etcetera) and compare/contrast them with what we would expect to see given the Theory of Evolution (long story short, they fit).  We also use the scientific method to make predictions.  If evolution were true, we should find a mechanism by which 'change' in a species is facilitated and passed on.  We can use the scientific method to predict that, given evolution, we should find some sort of chemical compound which codes for proteins and is subject to mutations and inheritance.  This is exactly what we find with genetics.  Here you have three relatively separate fields biology, paleontology, and genetics.  They are all, in one way or another, included under the Theory of Evolution in regards to their impact on our understanding of that theory, but they are three (mostly) distinct fields of study.
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Why didn't someone explain this to me earlier? I thought it was always the scientific method that allowed you to gather information. So it's the fields of study that actually do it?
The scientific method is the process by which we formulate claims and judge the claims of others in an attempt to 'weed out' bad (and sometimes downright dishonest) hypothesis, theories, data, flawed experiments, etcetera.  It is the people working in a certain field that go out and use their senses, instruments, etcetera to gather information.  The scientific method is then applied to attempt to catch/correct any errors.
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To summarize what you believe about your purpose here, Disdain (correct me if I'm wrong): Truth is inevitable, bound by human logic and observation. By using the scientific method you hope to attain more truth and knowledge, not really setting up any expectations for yourself as to what you will find.
Truth is not necessarily bound up in 'human logic and observation.'  I think, philosophically, that logic is innate to the universe.  I believe that some things are simply a fundamental part of our 'reality' and exist as a byproduct (or integral) part of the universe itself.  These 'laws of logic' may hold for any and all possible universes or they may simply be a function of ours.  I don't think philosophy or science has given a definitive answer on that yet (if that will ever even be capable.  That being said I have never seen it demonstrated to be otherwise).
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Your ultimate purpose is to live entirely for yourself, the substance of which is making yourself happy.
Stop right there.  It is true that a person can only live for themselves from an economics standpoint (all things we do, we do because we would rather do that then do something else.  If I throw myself on a grenade to save someone it is because I choose to do it, for my own 'selfish' reasons.  That does not make it any less altruistic or heroic), but that is hardly the same as living 'entirely for yourself' as you appear to be implying.  There are many things that make me happy including my dog, my fiancé, my family, etcetera.  I do much of what I do, sometimes against my own longterm best interest, because I find their joy instrumental to my own.  Make of that what you will.
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Mankind does not cooperate towards a single goal, but rather the self-indulgent goals of the individuals.
I do not think mankind currently has a collective goal to work towards.  I also do not believe that we can ever have a unified 'goal' to work towards in any all encompassing sense.  We are not a 'collective' or 'hive-mind' species.  We are by nature individualistic and separate from one another.  What is 'best' for me will often not be what is best for you, and sometimes will come into direct conflict with your 'best' interests.  If we both absolutely, unconditionally love the same person, and assuming we are not all three swingers, it is not unreasonable or undesirable for one of our interests to override the others.  This appears to simply be a fact of our nature and existence.  That being said I do think there are several goals that are worth striving for for -all- people (Liberty, well being, knowledge, love.  To make a list of my off-the-top-of-my-head most important four.).
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If that's not totally right, please correct me. I am only trying to get a solid summary about what you believe.

I hope that clarified.
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Oh I see. I think I understand now. So it's almost like atheism is passive, and anti-theism is active? Anti-theists really care about showing that they're right, while atheists just don't care at all.
Atheism is simply a lack of belief.  Anti-theism (or strong atheism) is an active belief.  It has nothing to do with caring if you are right or not.  I am an agnostic atheist (weak atheist) to a deistic concept of god.  It is not that I do not care, I just do not believe it is either provable or disprovable.  I am more then willing to look at any evidence that can be presented.
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And what I was asking was really if atheism is correct or not (that it is actually true that no gods exist). This brings me to my next big question. For the atheists who said that god can't be proven: why aren't you agnostic?
Agnosticism is a claim to knowledge.  An agnostic is someone who says "I do not know something for sure."  This is opposite a gnostic.  A gnostic claims to have absolute knowledge of something.  A person can be an gnostic atheist (I know their are no gods), an agnostic atheist (I do not believe there are gods, but I can not say for sure none exist), an agnostic theist (I believe there are/is god(s), but I can not know for sure) or a gnostic theist (I know there are/is god(s)).  Furthermore a person can be an agnostic atheist to certain gods (deistic gods for example) while being a gnostic atheist to other gods (the Christian god as it appears in a literal reading of the Bible).
« Last Edit: July 26, 2010, 02:10:50 PM by DisdainDavid »
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2010, 02:56:47 PM »
Foi, you're asking some good questions, and I trust you're listening. You seem a bit confused about atheism as a lack of belief, but I trust we can clarify things for you.

You might appreciate this video where a scientist responds to a theist on the subject of the scientific method, the unknown, and other related matters:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvVCpJCTM5w[/youtube]
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Offline Cyberia

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2010, 02:59:13 PM »
Emily: You say that the scientific method has nothing to do with the goal of mankind. So how do you go about determining mankind's purpose or goal?
Well, since the atheist position is that there are no gods, there is no "purpose" to mankind nor a goal.  From an evolutionary point of view, the goal of mankind is the same as any other species, to reproduce and maintain the chain of life.  ....and even that isn't an intelligent or sentient purpose, it just IS, similar to how water always runs downhill due to the law of Gravity.


No, this is what I want to understand: what is that certain point?
There isn't a sharp line, but it becomes evident in retrospect.  At some point, and it's different for different theories, a consensus is reached in the scientific community that Hypothesis X is built upon solid, repeatable evidence, that the evidence is indeed being interpreted correctly, that it does not depends on any unsupported assertions or assumptions (and sometimes consensus is withheld while assumptions are tested) and that after many years of effort no one can find any other significant problems with it.

These steps are independent of what Hypothesis X says, or what the conclusions it reaches.


Hmm, I still don't understand how one uses the scientific method as a part to determine what happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. See, you have to bear with me a bit. I don't understand how science works, which is why I'm asking all these questions. Like, I understand the theory, but is there a way you could lay out a real example of how one obtains evidence for the volcano idea? I know you were just giving a run-down of it all, but I can't understand all of this without seeing some details.
The same way a court can determine that Person X committed a crime, without actually having witnessed it.

In the case of Evolution, there are multiple independent pieces of evidence ALL pointing in the same direction:  The existence of an ordered sequence of fossils of increasing complexity, genetic information that species that appear to be closely related by the fossil record are indeed closely related genetically, the existence of genetic avatisms (throwbacks) that display characteristics that are always consistent with the fossil record, the placement of fossils consistent with plate tectonics and geology, environmental factors, absolute radiometric dating methods, observational evidence such as bacterial antibiotic resistance and the HIV virus and more......

ALL of which are self-consistent and ALL point to the same conclusion: Evolution is the real deal.


Why didn't someone explain this to me earlier? I thought it was always the scientific method that allowed you to gather information. So it's the fields of study that actually do it?
Right, the fields gather the information, the scientific method is the common tool they use to validate such information and build theories.



To summarize what you believe about your purpose here, Disdain (correct me if I'm wrong): Truth is inevitable, bound by human logic and observation. By using the scientific method you hope to attain more truth and knowledge, not really setting up any expectations for yourself as to what you will find.
Truth exists.  That is, all of history HAPPENED, and it happened ONE specific way.  That's one example.  There are other Truths, such as Gravity and Electromagnetism that are not historical, but they exist into, and of, themselves....even if we do not fully comprehend them currently.

As for expectations...well, yes and no.  I mean if you are studying supernovae (exploding stars) one might expect to find data about stars and not biological data.  Nevertheless, one must remain open to the possibility, and many great discoveries have been made unexpectedly.


Your ultimate purpose is to live entirely for yourself, the substance of which is making yourself happy. Mankind does not cooperate towards a single goal, but rather the self-indulgent goals of the individuals. If that's not totally right, please correct me. I am only trying to get a solid summary about what you believe.
This is rather....disturbing and I'm a bit taken aback by it.   Is it OK for one to enjoy their job?  Isn't that the preferred situation for everyone?  Such an arrangement also tends to sort people out into the particular area they excel at.  If you're good at math and physics, wouldn't it be a waste if you were a cook?  I don't consider the advancement of human knowledge, the sharing of information with present and future generations, the long climb up the ladder of knowledge, the discovery of medicines, technological progress (are you using a computer now?) and the revelation of the nature of the universe in which we live to be self-indulgent, uncooperative or entirely for oneself.  Do you?

You are also confusing Atheism with Science.  One is a philosophical position on life, the other is a methodology for discovering truth.  They are different, but they do often go hand-in-hand.  You see, part of the scientific method is to set aside all preconceptions when evaluating data.  That especially includes religious preconceptions!  However, religious doctrines are often so deeply ingrained into people from birth that they cannot set them aside, either in part or in whole.  The atheist has an advantage here due to not having such preconceptions, dogmas or holy books in the first place.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2010, 03:04:25 PM by Cyberia »
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Offline Foi

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2010, 05:45:09 PM »
Because science cannot prove or disprove god.

This video explains it very well. It's Eugenie Scott giving a speech about science's attitude towards god;

OK. She says that science is limited to explaining just the natural world. So because the scientific method is unable to explain the supernatural this means there is no way to know anything about them.

Can you explain the difference between a scientific theory and a theory as the term is used in common parlance?

No; I don't understand science.

There is no % at which something is accepted as a 'truth' or a theory as 'proven.'
...
I just want to add that, from my layman understanding, a theory become 'accepted' when it explains all (or almost all) observable phenomenon related to a given event and an unbiased preponderance of the evidence leads to no other conclusion then that the theory is solid, well founded, expansive, and unlikely to ever fundamentally change.

Regarding the "certain point," is it safe to assume that for everyone, this point is different?

DisdainDavid, I know you went to a lot of trouble to try and explain all that, and while it did help me understand a wee bit better, I still can't grasp the stuff of what the scientific method is all about. I understand how everyone is telling me it works in theory, but I've never actually seen it in action. The site about how old the earth is talks about rocks that are a certain age, but like, what I want to know is, how do you figure out that the rocks were that old? I understand the logic behind the idea that if you could figure out how old the rocks were here, that the universe would have to be at least that old, I don't understand how I can go about dating a rock in my backyard. I don't really understand a lot of what it's telling me, but it does seem to me like I would have to assume that all the scientists beforehand had to be correct. As I'm not a scientist and have little expertise in the area, there is no way for me to determine whether whoever wrote this is totally lying or totally right.

I get Darwin's theory about the Finches, but how did he go about testing it with the scientific method?

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The scientific method is the process by which we formulate claims and judge the claims of others in an attempt to 'weed out' bad (and sometimes downright dishonest) hypothesis, theories, data, flawed experiments, etcetera.  It is the people working in a certain field that go out and use their senses, instruments, etcetera to gather information.  The scientific method is then applied to attempt to catch/correct any errors.

So humans gather knowledge through specialized fields of study by means of the scientific method.

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Truth is not necessarily bound up in 'human logic and observation.'  I think, philosophically, that logic is innate to the universe.  I believe that some things are simply a fundamental part of our 'reality' and exist as a byproduct (or integral) part of the universe itself.  These 'laws of logic' may hold for any and all possible universes or they may simply be a function of ours.  I don't think philosophy or science has given a definitive answer on that yet (if that will ever even be capable.  That being said I have never seen it demonstrated to be otherwise).

But you said:
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Truth is adherence to logic and observable facts.

Logic and observation are things we humans do. So would you say that there are truths that no human knows of?

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Stop right there.  It is true that a person can only live for themselves from an economics standpoint (all things we do, we do because we would rather do that then do something else.  If I throw myself on a grenade to save someone it is because I choose to do it, for my own 'selfish' reasons.  That does not make it any less altruistic or heroic), but that is hardly the same as living 'entirely for yourself' as you appear to be implying.  There are many things that make me happy including my dog, my fiancé, my family, etcetera.  I do much of what I do, sometimes against my own longterm best interest, because I find their joy instrumental to my own.  Make of that what you will.

This is what I'm getting from that: people try to obey the law of comparative advantage to live entirely for themselves, but because we are often flawed in our reasoning, this doesn't always happen. I don't understand why you wouldn't live for your own long-run best interest in every situation. Doing something to please someone else, whom you love, while hurting yourself would conceivably be more beneficial to yourself because their indirect joy benefits you more than you hurt yourself directly.

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Agnosticism is a claim to knowledge.  An agnostic is someone who says "I do not know something for sure."

Isn't it also a denial of another knowledge though? The part about not knowing? The position seems to be to me, "I know that I do not know (about x)."

PP: "Science tolerates the unknown,"  "we are not permitted these absolute truths [supernatural/religious truths]," "I think science worships the unknown...I think scientists are most comfortable in that place of not knowing." This is great! I'm really starting to understand what people here believe. :)

So scientists are relaxed in not knowing stuff? But wait, then why do they claim that they are trying to figure stuff out? Isn't that what they don't want to do?...arg. I'm confused again. >:(

Cyberia, we just are? Is that the explanation for why I exist?

Hmm, I still don't understand how one uses the scientific method as a part to determine what happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. See, you have to bear with me a bit. I don't understand how science works, which is why I'm asking all these questions. Like, I understand the theory, but is there a way you could lay out a real example of how one obtains evidence for the volcano idea? I know you were just giving a run-down of it all, but I can't understand all of this without seeing some details.
The same way a court can determine that Person X committed a crime, without actually having witnessed it.

That seems to be a little bit different. You have primary witnesses, you have first-hand evidence, and you even have the person on trial to ask questions to. With evolution it seems like the detective-scientists are just re-opening a 4.5 billion year-old cold case, when they had no file to begin with. So it's not even like it's a cold case. It's like the murder took place, and now 4.5 billion years later, we're going to try and figure out what happened.

Your ultimate purpose is to live entirely for yourself, the substance of which is making yourself happy. Mankind does not cooperate towards a single goal, but rather the self-indulgent goals of the individuals. If that's not totally right, please correct me. I am only trying to get a solid summary about what you believe.
This is rather....disturbing and I'm a bit taken aback by it.   Is it OK for one to enjoy their job?  Isn't that the preferred situation for everyone?  Such an arrangement also tends to sort people out into the particular area they excel at.  If you're good at math and physics, wouldn't it be a waste if you were a cook?  I don't consider the advancement of human knowledge, the sharing of information with present and future generations, the long climb up the ladder of knowledge, the discovery of medicines, technological progress (are you using a computer now?) and the revelation of the nature of the universe in which we live to be self-indulgent, uncooperative or entirely for oneself.  Do you?

Why is this disturbing? Number one, I was trying to summarize DD's position, for which he has now given me corrections. Number two, I never said it wasn't OK for one to enjoy their job, and I'm not saying that now either. In fact I will say the exact opposite. It is OK for one to enjoy their job.

My personal position on the matter, and I think I speak for DD somewhat too here, is that people are self-indulgent. Naturally, we live for ourselves because in our natural minds there is no reason to put anyone else number one. People use each other to get what they want, and if this means that they have to cooperate, they do it. If it means trying to be nice to others, they do it. If it means sacrificing to get what they want, they do it. That's enough clarification about what I see, let's get back on topic. We are dealing with the beliefs of those who hold to the scientific method, and that itself.

I still don't understand the difference between atheism and anti-theism! :-\ They really seem to be the same thing to me, just rephrasing the same thing. You could say, Amir is a muslim, he lacks a belief in anything besides Allah as god. But simply, it still means he believes in Allah as god. You lack a belief in any deity...simply (to me) you believe there are no deities. I'm sorry, I still don't get it. It still seems that you still have a belief.

The overall consensus that I'm hearing is that atheists are unbiased in that they hold no belief about gods, and for this reason, atheism and the scientific method are closely linked because the scientific method is also unbiased? And also that using the scientific method should do nothing to influence one's beliefs about god?
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Offline Positiveaob

Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2010, 06:09:28 PM »
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And what I was asking was really if atheism is correct or not (that it is actually true that no gods exist). This brings me to my next big question. For the atheists who said that god can't be proven: why aren't you agnostic?

You cant prove the non-existence of an invisible, insensible being.  For that matter, you really cant prove the non-existence of anything whatsoever.  You can however, prove the existence of something.  And when there is zero evidence to believe in the existence of something, and that something should have evidence galore to support it, and when there are ample alternative explanations for any phenomena attributable to said being, then you can state with reasonable certainty that such a thing doesnt exist.

If I told you I have a rare coin buried in my backyard, you cannot prove it doesnt exist.  I could always say you are digging in the wrong spot or that you havent dug deep enough.  You cant prove its non-existence.  However, on the other hand, I could  potentially prove its existence to you.  I could simply dig it up and show it to you.  See the difference?  Proving existence and non-existence arent the same thing.

Now whether or not you believe I am telling the truth about the coin, you cant really say it doesnt exist with any reasonable certainty because it’s certainly reasonable to believe I have such a coin and I’m not a pathological liar.  

However, if I try to tell you I have a 800 pound pink gorilla living in my kitchen, and you come to house and dont see it, you can rightfully call bullshit.  Because if there was such a gorilla in my kitchen, you would reasonably expect to see it.  The more outrageous the claim, the more evidence required.

So when someone tries to claim as fact a book compiled from legends of a local group people at one point in history more than 2000 years ago, a book filled with tales of talking snakes, rivers parting, a world-wide flood leaving no evidence behind, and an invisible creator in the sky who stays hidden from his creation...you’re gonna need to back it up with more than just the fact you were told it was true by those you grew up around.  I'm gonna say "show me".
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Offline Positiveaob

Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2010, 06:11:10 PM »
Emily: You say that the scientific method has nothing to do with the goal of mankind. So how do you go about determining mankind's purpose or goal?

You’re assuming there is a “purpose or goal”.  That’s your problem.  Show me evidence that we have a “purpose or goal”.  Maybe the idea that there is no ultimate purpose for you being here is too depressing for you, I dont know.  But making up stories of invisible friends in the sky to ease your fears doesnt give you purpose.  It’s just deluding yourself.  The purpose of science is to pursue the unknown, to pursue the truth, not just to make you feel good.

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...science is agnostic towards god(s)...

Can you explain why this is the case?

Science makes no claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity in the sky.  The goal of using scientific method is to find the truth, not to disprove fairy tales.

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That being said when a theory reaches a certain point, such as the Theory of Evolution, our understanding of a fact (evolution) and the forces driving it (natural selection) become so overwhelmingly evidenced that it is safe to say that while certain parts of the Theory of Evolution may change over time the fundamental aspects of it are as sure as is humanly possible.

No, this is what I want to understand: what is that certain point?

There is no certain point.  A theory is never considered disprovable.  It just becomes more and more accepted. 

I realize it is tough for you to understand this, you really want to just stop thinking and say “my god did it” and be done with it.  But unfortunately that’s not how things in the real world work.

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Hmm, I still don't understand how one uses the scientific method as a part to determine what happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. See, you have to bear with me a bit. I don't understand how science works, which is why I'm asking all these questions. Like, I understand the theory, but is there a way you could lay out a real example of how one obtains evidence for the volcano idea? I know you were just giving a run-down of it all, but I can't understand all of this without seeing some details.

If you are being sincere, there are much better places to learn than here.  Explaining how we came to determine how volcanoes formed hundreds of thousands of years ago is bit too complicated to explain on a simple post on an internet forum.  If you are real interested, I would recommend reading a book on the subject.

Again, I know you are used to simple, no-thought explanations like “my god did it”, but in the real world things arent quite that straightforward and simple. 

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To summarize what you believe about your purpose here, Disdain (correct me if I'm wrong): Truth is inevitable, bound by human logic and observation.

No, that doesnt make any sense.  How is truth “bound by human logic and observation”?  Logic and observation are used to expand our knowledge, they dont encapsulate truth. 

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By using the scientific method you hope to attain more truth and knowledge, not really setting up any expectations for yourself as to what you will find.

Exactly. 

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Your ultimate purpose is to live entirely for yourself, the substance of which is making yourself happy.

Cant entirely argue with this.  But I think it would be a good idea for you to research the concepts of “group selection” and “evolutionary altruism” with regards to evolutionary theory.  Because based on the rest of your statement, it seems like you dont understand the concepts.

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Mankind does not cooperate towards a single goal, but rather the self-indulgent goals of the individuals. If that's not totally right, please correct me. I am only trying to get a solid summary about what you believe.

see above.

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Oh I see. I think I understand now. So it's almost like atheism is passive, and anti-theism is active? Anti-theists really care about showing that they're right, while atheists just don't care at all.

“Atheism” means you dont believe in the existence of a god or gods.  This would include  those who care about influencing others and those who dont.  Think of yourself as “a-abominablesnowman-ist” and maybe you’ll get the point.
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Offline DisdainDavid

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2010, 06:40:47 PM »
No; I don't understand science.
Okay, maybe this well help clarify a bit then.  In common parlance a theory is tantamount to an educated guess.  If you had to equate a 'theory' in common usage with anything in scientific lingo it would be closest to a hypothesis.  A scientific theory definition from Wiki:

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In the sciences, a scientific theory (also called an empirical theory) comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.[1]

A theory in the scientific sense is much more then a 'theory' in the common sense.  In science, if something is a theory it is not simply a statement of one concept or idea, but an all inclusive, over-arching framework.  As you can see from above for something to be regarded as a proper scientific theory it must account for all observable phenomenon, had made numerous accurate and verifiable predictions, etcetera.  Once something is able to do all that is described above it is generally reached a consensus because, to do all that is stated above, it must explain such a sweeping range of studies and have undergone such tireless scrutinizing as to leave no serious doubt to its validity as a whole.  Now things could change.  New information could come into our realm of understanding that contradicts the accepted theory and that is where the scientific method comes in.  The reason the scientific method is an infinite loop is because we can never be sure that we know everything and as such must always be open to reexamining our understanding and ideas on a given subject.
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Regarding the "certain point," is it safe to assume that for everyone, this point is different?
What amount of evidence it would take to convince any given person of something will indeed differ.  There are many scientific debates still raging right now and there will be countless more.  At some point though, like we have now with evolution (over 95% of all biologists agree on it's validity), the shear volume of evidence for a theory makes legitimate criticism/doubt untenable.  At that point it becomes prudent to ponder why those few holdouts are rejecting it (almost always you find a philosophical/ideological/religious bias or they have their own 'dog in the fight' so to speak).
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DisdainDavid, I know you went to a lot of trouble to try and explain all that, and while it did help me understand a wee bit better, I still can't grasp the stuff of what the scientific method is all about.
Okay, maybe this will help:




The above is a basic graph outlining the process of the scientific method.  Here is the article on the method from Wikipedia.

What the scientific method is, is a method for investigating the natural world and the claims that others make about it.  The scientific method can only help you tell if a person is making a false claim if you have the knowledge/means to test what it is they are saying.  Not included on that graph is 'peer review.'  Peer review is the process where a person submits their ideas and the data/experiments that they have collected/concluded to a journal that is edited and viewed by other members of their field.  The point of peer review is that people knowledge in the field will review the work, tearing it apart looking for any reason to break it down.  They do this for many reasons.  The most reliable is good old fashioned human selfishness.  Everyone wants to be right, they want their hypothesis/theory to be right, and their is well earned prestige in being a very critical thinker and having such a reputation means that if someone can pass your review their hypothesis/theory has withstood a good test of its merit.  It works in the favor of everyone involved to be brutal and not let little things 'slide.'  There is also the motivation of the pure pursuit of knowledge.  Many people involved in the process want to better understand the world and want others to be honest and accurate in what they present about it.  Furthermore their are those who will read your report and attempt to repeat your experiment to find something you missed and get their own name out there (funding is many times result based and even an incremental improvement will garner grants).  You can be sure these people will also be more then happy to point out methodological flaws in your report because that also boosts their esteem, counts as productive contributions, gives a good ego rub, etcetera. 
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I understand how everyone is telling me it works in theory, but I've never actually seen it in action. The site about how old the earth is talks about rocks that are a certain age, but like, what I want to know is, how do you figure out that the rocks were that old? I understand the logic behind the idea that if you could figure out how old the rocks were here, that the universe would have to be at least that old, I don't understand how I can go about dating a rock in my backyard. I don't really understand a lot of what it's telling me, but it does seem to me like I would have to assume that all the scientists beforehand had to be correct. As I'm not a scientist and have little expertise in the area, there is no way for me to determine whether whoever wrote this is totally lying or totally right.

Once you get into the level of things like radio-carbon dating, as in you are carrying out the dating yourself, you have gone through enough schooling that you have been exposed to the work that came before your own and understand the physics/chemistry that operate to make the dating possible.  As far as you go there are really only two options.  Educate yourself or find someone to educate you.  Neither of these are meant as an insult, but as an invitation to learn.  Most of what I know about the subject I learned from watching youtube videos from various science organizations, reading TalkOrigins.org, and reading various science publications and news articles.  The other option is to go and take a college level class on geology, or chemistry, or physics, etcetera.  I love learning and so doing such things is a real plus for me, but I know it is not everyones cup of tea.  As far as 'just trusting' the scientists on what they say well, yeah, you can do that as well and you have a fairly good reason to do so.  As I explained above the scientific method would require a conspiracy of literally tens of millions of people around the globe acting everyday in a flawlessly orchestrated conspiracy to keep something like evolution or radiometric dating being taught as real if it was in fact false. 

If you would like to start a separate thread on the age of the earth I would be more then happy to start posting links and videos to help explain how we know the age of rocks, but I think that would be a derail of this thread in specific.  (Then again I think you are the O.P. so I guess that is your decision).
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I get Darwin's theory about the Finches, but how did he go about testing it with the scientific method?
Again look at the above graph.  Darwin saw that organisms changed over generations and came up with the hypothesis that it was due to natural selection apply pressure to select for advantageous traits and discriminate against disadvantageous ones.  He went out to many places, for this example in particular the Galapagos Islands, and there found a wide variety of Finches whose beaks and heads had become distinctively shaped to fill niches within their environment.  He expanded this with many other examples of natural selection as well as examples of artificial selection (dogs, flowers, doves, etcetera) and argued that it was clear that a mechanism, natural selection (or artificial) acted on a organisms offspring to select for more beneficial (or more desired) traits.  He then published his work, and in what was the peer review equivalent of the time, was ruthlessly attacked by colleagues and they attempted to tear apart his theory.  As time rolled on and no one could break it down or provide a better explanation, and as more and more evidence rolled in (fossils, genetics, etcetera) which was tested, leading to extensions in Darwin's original theory to include them this caused the theory to become more robust until it reached its mammoth proportion today.
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So humans gather knowledge through specialized fields of study by means of the scientific method.

Thats pretty close, if I understand what your saying.
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Truth is not necessarily bound up in 'human logic and observation.'  I think, philosophically, that logic is innate to the universe.  I believe that some things are simply a fundamental part of our 'reality' and exist as a byproduct (or integral) part of the universe itself.  These 'laws of logic' may hold for any and all possible universes or they may simply be a function of ours.  I don't think philosophy or science has given a definitive answer on that yet (if that will ever even be capable.  That being said I have never seen it demonstrated to be otherwise).

But you said:
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Truth is adherence to logic and observable facts.

Logic and observation are things we humans do. So would you say that there are truths that no human knows of?
What do you mean by truth?  If you mean truth as in honesty then yes, it is adherence to logic and observable facts.  If you mean 'truth' in some cosmic sense of their being indisputable facts about reality then I see no conflict in what I said.  Perhaps truthfulness would have been a better word for 'adherence to logic and observable facts.'  In the first quote when I say truth, I mean that I believe there is a discoverable, independent, objective reality 'out there.'

Does that clarify it?
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This is what I'm getting from that: people try to obey the law of comparative advantage to live entirely for themselves, but because we are often flawed in our reasoning, this doesn't always happen. I don't understand why you wouldn't live for your own long-run best interest in every situation. Doing something to please someone else, whom you love, while hurting yourself would conceivably be more beneficial to yourself because their indirect joy benefits you more than you hurt yourself directly.
I think your second part of that paragraph is pretty spot on (from an economics stand point) to what I am saying.  There are choices that I have made that would have let me be more financially stable (for one example) in the long run but I would have to have given up someone I cared about to do it.  In the long run I can see that, by many peoples standards, it was against my 'best interest' but to me, my happiness was intertwined with the other person and so giving up possible future 'interest' was worth the short term gain.  Talking strictly economically makes us sound very cynical though, so I prefer to move out of that realm for this last bit.

I do most of what I do because I love people other then myself.  While you can make the economic argument, and I think it is a sound argument, I also do what I do because at some level I am happy sacrificing a bit of my wellbeing to help others.  I feel good about it.  At the risk of making it sound like some sort of atheist penance, the idea of giving up a bit of your own good to help others feels right, I feel compelled to help others because since I exist I necessarily impact others.
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Isn't it also a denial of another knowledge though? The part about not knowing? The position seems to be to me, "I know that I do not know (about x)."
Not sure what you mean by this.  Are you saying that because an agnostic says they do not know they are making an absolute knowledge claim?

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My personal position on the matter, and I think I speak for DD somewhat too here, is that people are self-indulgent. Naturally, we live for ourselves because in our natural minds there is no reason to put anyone else number one. People use each other to get what they want, and if this means that they have to cooperate, they do it. If it means trying to be nice to others, they do it. If it means sacrificing to get what they want, they do it. That's enough clarification about what I see, let's get back on topic. We are dealing with the beliefs of those who hold to the scientific method, and that itself.
In a way that is what I was saying.  Part of my schooling is in economics and I do adhere to the idea of rational self-interest as the guiding force of action.  That being said just because it is a framework to understand action does not mean that 'the selfish act of sacrificing yourself to save another' is any less heroic or altruistic.  Altruism, heroics, beauty are not necessarily economic concepts so much as they are ideas for ethics and philosophy to tangle with.  I put myself #1 many times because I am me and I have to live with myself, if no one else, and so I have a natural inclination to do what is best for me more often then not.  Even if, as in the example I used above, I threw myself on a grenade to save someone in a strictly economic view it would be 'selfish' because I did it (kill myself) instead of choosing to live with not having done it and saw someone else die.  Again, it doesn't make it any less heroic or altruistic, it just means from an economics view I did it because the marginal utility of my life was outweighed by the marginal utility of not having to live with the knowledge that I could have saved someone and did not.
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I still don't understand the difference between atheism and anti-theism! :-\ They really seem to be the same thing to me, just rephrasing the same thing. You could say, Amir is a muslim, he lacks a belief in anything besides Allah as god. But simply, it still means he believes in Allah as god. You lack a belief in any deity...simply (to me) you believe there are no deities. I'm sorry, I still don't get it. It still seems that you still have a belief.
The problem you are having sounds like it goes back to agnosticism v. gnosticism.  You can be an agnostic atheist to some god(s) and an gnostic atheist to others.  An agnostic atheist may hold many beliefs, but agnostic atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods.
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The overall consensus that I'm hearing is that atheists are unbiased in that they hold no belief about gods, and for this reason, atheism and the scientific method are closely linked because the scientific method is also unbiased? And also that using the scientific method should do nothing to influence one's beliefs about god?
No, just because a person is an atheist does not mean they value or follow the scientific method.  For example, many sects of Buddhism are atheistic.  They do not believe that gods exist.  Yet hey can and do believe many fantastical things that have no basis in rationality or science.  They believe in reincarnation, an afterlife, etcetera.  A person can be an atheist and adhere to the scientific method or they can be an atheist and believe in all sorts of supernatural woo (as long as it is not gods, as that disqualifies them from being an atheist).  The same is exactly true for theists.  Many of the world's leading biologists are theists.  They follow the scientific method and adhere to the rigors of their fields of study and believe that god(s) exist.  There are also theists who have gone off the rails and believe in all sorts of ridiculous stuff.  Such is the way of the world.
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #20 on: July 26, 2010, 07:16:50 PM »
Oh I see. I think I understand now. So it's almost like atheism is passive, and anti-theism is active? Anti-theists really care about showing that they're right, while atheists just don't care at all.

And what I was asking was really if atheism is correct or not (that it is actually true that no gods exist). This brings me to my next big question. For the atheists who said that god can't be proven: why aren't you agnostic?

Foi, I can't give long science lectures like some can. I would suggest that you find some science lessons online at the level you think you can absorb. Many are available. If nothing else, just go to YouTube.

But I would like to comment on your perception of atheism and anti-theism. You've managed to simplify things a bit too much.

I am an atheist (I'll get to your last question at the end). This simply means that I have no belief in any sort of god, either via the route of traditional religions or by having my own brand new made up one. My view of this world and universe is such that I see no reason to believe any of the stories about any of the deities. Nothing I have seen or heard from the religious world matches my experience in the real world, and I summarily dismiss each religious story as a myth, no matter how old it is.

I am an anti-theist when theism gets in the way of civilization. Whether it is catholics and protestants killing each other in Northern Ireland, Israelis and Palestinians doing themselves in over land in that region, or fanatics flying airplanes into tall buildings in a single bound, I speak out against the religion behind the violence because to me, it is the base cause of the death and destruction. Also, when a parent prays over a very sick child instead of taking it to available doctors, and the child becomes crippled for life of dies of a treatable condition, or suffers more than it should while dying because pain medication is withheld, I become an anti-theist.

I am not anti-theist when my 88 year old neighbor Susan goes to church every sunday morning. She wouldn't harm a flea, and I'm sure part of the reason she is so sweet is that she has, in the good sense, embraced the ideals of her church. I have known other people, just as sweet, who were not religious, so I don't feel that the connection is necessary, but I'm certainly not going to go around dissing an old lady just because she enjoys her beliefs in a harmless way.

George Bush claimed that god told him to attack Iraq. A lady in Texas drowned her children a few years back because she wanted to be sure they got to heaven, and she thought by dying as kids they had a guaranteed ticket. A few years ago a man killed his male roommate when he found out the roomie was an atheist because he thought god would want him to. These are more reasons to be anti-theist.

Believers who tout intelligent design, an idea whose time past a few hundred years ago, insist that the patterns they see in DNA and other biological stuff is proof that a god was behind life. That they cannot provide one single peer reviewed study to show this, but rather rely on their instincts telling them it must be true, means that they want the change the curriculum in schools across the country because the hope they are right.

These are other examples of why I at times turn what you want to call anti-theist. It is not a generic stand. I fight such religious thoughts because harm is being done for no good reason. I fight such religious thoughts because innocent people are suffering over beliefs that have no basis in reality.

I'm not the least bit concerned that you believe in god. I would become concerned if you decided that your beliefs gave you good reason to kill me or my children because we disagree with you. If I came at you with a knife and you shot me, that would make all the sense in the world. If I happened to mention I didn't believe and you shot me because you disagreed, that would be a crime. The sort that I protest now because it does happen.

As to your last question to atheists. Why am I not an agnostic?

First of all, I see the commonality of currently followed religious beliefs, such as christianity, islam, hinduism, etc, as mythologies just as much as the Greek and Roman myths I was taught in school. I understand that ancient civilizations, lacking information about reality, hoping to control (for good or bad reasons) the masses and trying to learn about the world, would come up with a god or gods. If I were four and forced to explain fire or thunder, I'm pretty sure my story would include some magical component. Adults equally mystified can conjure of explanations that sound more plausible to those who want or need to believe the story. But that doesn't mean that 2,000 years later I'm going to get all excited about a seven day creation story, especially when science offers up a viable alternative that consistent with the world I can see and experience.

Secondly, since I have been raised in a predominantly christian culture, I dismiss the possibility of a christian god specifically because the history claimed by the religion does not match the history found by historians. Most damning, as far as I'm concerned, is the commonality of the Jesus story with that of older religions. Jesus was not the first son of god claimed to have been born of a virgin and to die via sacrifice. Krishna, of the hindu religion, was born of a virgin on December 25th. Long before Jesus. Same with Mithra. Born on December 25th, long before Jesus. To a virgin mother. Horace, an Egyptian god, and Budda, of Buddism, were both born on December 25th, according to their religions. Why that date. Presumably that date was considered important because that is the day the morning starts getting longer after the shortest day of the year, December 21st. For three days the sun rises at the same late time, and then on the 25th it again begins rising earlier, making the days longer. Something I imagine to be quite important in the days before electric lights. So each god represents the hopes of a new, brighter day for each of their religious groups.

Why would a real christian god, who despised all other claimed gods, follow up with a nearly identical story. Does it not make more sense that religions have such common themes because the known world (in this case, the date of the start of longer days) was equally important in multiple cultures and hence reflected in it's stories. And borrowing god stories was probably pretty common as well.

Because I can easily find and understand reasons for ancient god stories, and none of the religions, either in the old form or their present one, match my reality, I dismiss them completely. As when I do that, I become an atheist because I have yet to find a reason to have doubts.

Because all claims made by the religious fail to match my reality, I am an atheist rather than an agnostic. I've no reason to give any given belief, let alone all of them, any wiggle room whatsoever.

I'm not impressed by the need for belief and faith either. Both would absolutely be required by a fake religion, which had no actual gods to offer. Why would a real religion, with a real god, rely on the same two tenants?

Toss in the world of science, which is able to explain a trillion times more phenomena than religion, and is a human-understandable endeavor lacking the 38,000 sects that christianity has, and the picture completes itself for me. Ancient stories that match nothing, modern science which matches everything, and I end up being an atheist.

I may be wrong, but if there is a god up there that wants me to believe in him, that loves me, etc., he's doing a piss poor job of being omnipotent if all I can muster is doubts.

Note to DistainDavid. I'm thinking that we're going to have to give you a PhD in Science Education, based on the energy you've put into trying to help Foi understand. I do hope he appreciates your efforts.



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Offline Positiveaob

Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2010, 07:27:46 PM »
Foi, you're asking some good questions, and I trust you're listening. You seem a bit confused about atheism as a lack of belief, but I trust we can clarify things for you.

You might appreciate this video where a scientist responds to a theist on the subject of the scientific method, the unknown, and other related matters:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvVCpJCTM5w[/youtube]


What a great video!  I would be curious to see what his response was.  I would love for all christians, actually all theists for that matter, worldwide, to watch that video.  Why dont people like that run for office?
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #22 on: July 26, 2010, 07:35:06 PM »
Anne Druyan was Carl Sagan's wife when he died. I'd ask her to marry me but I'd never be able to top him. She's great.

She's the other half of the Cosmos series. She co-wrote it with Carl. That makes her worthy of praise even without this royal ass chewing.
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Offline Cyberia

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #23 on: July 26, 2010, 07:35:55 PM »
Cyberia, we just are? Is that the explanation for why I exist?

As to an overarching purpose for your life?  There is likely none.  This is a most uncomfortable truth for most people coming from a religious background.  People want to know what they were meant to do.  But remember, the universe owes you nothing, especially a purpose in life.  No one is entitled to a purpose from the universe.  The best you can do is to find your own purpose be that your career, your children or whatever tangible reason you can discover.

If you are seeking an scientific explanation, then you are the product of this universe which began 13.72 billion years ago.  It continued existing for ~9 billion years before the Earth formed, and after an additional few hundred million years an interesting and unique chemical process called "life" began via natural processes.  "Life" obeys a process called Evolution, which describes how populations of simple life become increasingly more complex over millions of years, through Natural Selection, which is basically "Survival of the Fittest".  And it, after a long, long time, led to you.  You are not the end-product of Evolution either, merely among most recent, it will continue to produce more complex life.  You are also not the goal of Evolution, it is an unguided process that produced all the life around you and much much more throughout history.

Obviously that is extremely abbreviated.
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Offline Noman Peopled

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2010, 08:53:25 AM »
What is the minimum probability of a given theory being true required for the theory to be considered accepted? What is the minimum probability of a given theory being true required for the theory to be considered proven?
Nothing is ever considered proven in science (although of course you may hear this from time to time as "prove" can mean different things in different concepts). Accepted theories must make predictions that are later verified to some extent (the more accurately the better) and be falsifieable in principle. Science holds that while nothing can be proven, things can be disproved in principle.
The accepted theory is the one that currently describes a part of the universe better than others. Of course, which one does that is always a matter of contention, but there may be contradictory theories or hypotheses being used in tandem - that poses no problem because they aren't technically true, just demonstrably accurate to some extent.


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Give a break down of the most important factors of life. (Example: Me: 50%, my wife: 40%, society: 5%, advancements to science: 4%...Christians: exactly 0%). Explain your personal breakdown. In a utopia, would each individual's breakdown be identical? What would it be?
That doesn't have anything to do with science. Also, you're ignoring that importance is not a qualitatively coherent, linear factor.


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How does one go about using the scientific method to gather information about the reality of hundreds of thousands of years ago?
Test it to the best of one's abilities. Compare it to the data available. Theories dealing with the past still make predictions about events both past and present. In the end, it's about which theory is most plausible; or rather, which one seems most plausible with the data at hand. I.e. which one fits observation neatly.


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What is truth? What is the substance of truth? How does on go about gathering more truth? Where does truth come from?
As the sciences are descriptive methodologies, this is mostly irrelevant. Science does have some core assumptions; for example, that what we see is in some way a representation of the universe (it can't be proven that we're not all brains in a jar), or that what happens in a given situation will also happen somewhere else and sometime else if the situation is the same (for example, if a ball falls to the earth here, it will also do so tomorrow on a planet circling Alpha Centauri). This was later modified to include probabilistic quantum effects.


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What are you chasing after in using the scientific method? What are you ultimately hoping to discover or find? What is the goal of mankind? What is your purpose?
As I said, science is a methodology. What you do with it is up to you; however, it was specifically designed to objectify data and describe the interactions in the universe in such a way that we can predict them to an extent, and in many cases use them as technology.
There is no projected fundamental truth intrinsically sought by science. Neither is purpose.


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Is the scientific method based on circular reasoning? (Hypothesis>Experiment>Data>Analysis>Conclusion>Hypothesis...)
No, it's based on assumptions (see above). You start with data, formulate a hypothesis and test it (try to falsify it, check for predictions). If it seems to work better than an existing theory/hypothesis, you investigate further. If it does not, you scrap it or change it to fit the data.
You either wind up with a new, promising hypothesis, a changed hypothesis, or none at all. I fail to see how that's at all circular.


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Special question for atheists: Can atheism be proven?
Of course not. It can't even be proven that I (or you) exist, that what I see is in some way a representation of reality, that reality itself exists. In fact, everything has alternative explanations that are in principle possible. "Cookie Monster did it" may seem a laughable explanation but the fact remains we can't prove that this didn't happen.
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Offline Foi

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #25 on: July 29, 2010, 03:32:16 PM »
You’re assuming there is a “purpose or goal”.  That’s your problem.  Show me evidence that we have a “purpose or goal”.  Maybe the idea that there is no ultimate purpose for you being here is too depressing for you, I dont know.  But making up stories of invisible friends in the sky to ease your fears doesnt give you purpose.  It’s just deluding yourself.  The purpose of science is to pursue the unknown, to pursue the truth, not just to make you feel good.

Well, I'm not assuming that there is a purpose or goal, I have concluded that. I know this isn't science, but it does seem logical to say that because we exist, we have a purpose. Although I am willing to hear arguments as to why this is not the case because obviously that thought isn’t too scientific.

Okay, maybe this will help:


So, everything ends in failure eventually?


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Again look at the above graph.  Darwin saw that organisms changed over generations and came up with the hypothesis that it was due to natural selection apply pressure to select for advantageous traits and discriminate against disadvantageous ones.  He went out to many places, for this example in particular the Galapagos Islands, and there found a wide variety of Finches whose beaks and heads had become distinctively shaped to fill niches within their environment.  He expanded this with many other examples of natural selection as well as examples of artificial selection (dogs, flowers, doves, etcetera) and argued that it was clear that a mechanism, natural selection (or artificial) acted on a organisms offspring to select for more beneficial (or more desired) traits.  He then published his work, and in what was the peer review equivalent of the time, was ruthlessly attacked by colleagues and they attempted to tear apart his theory.  As time rolled on and no one could break it down or provide a better explanation, and as more and more evidence rolled in (fossils, genetics, etcetera) which was tested, leading to extensions in Darwin's original theory to include them this caused the theory to become more robust until it reached its mammoth proportion today.

But I don't see where Darwin did any actual tests to see if his hypothesis was right. He just talked about it.


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Truth is not necessarily bound up in 'human logic and observation.'  I think, philosophically, that logic is innate to the universe.  I believe that some things are simply a fundamental part of our 'reality' and exist as a byproduct (or integral) part of the universe itself.  These 'laws of logic' may hold for any and all possible universes or they may simply be a function of ours.  I don't think philosophy or science has given a definitive answer on that yet (if that will ever even be capable.  That being said I have never seen it demonstrated to be otherwise).

But you said:
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Truth is adherence to logic and observable facts.

Logic and observation are things we humans do. So would you say that there are truths that no human knows of?
What do you mean by truth?  If you mean truth as in honesty then yes, it is adherence to logic and observable facts.  If you mean 'truth' in some cosmic sense of their being indisputable facts about reality then I see no conflict in what I said.  Perhaps truthfulness would have been a better word for 'adherence to logic and observable facts.'  In the first quote when I say truth, I mean that I believe there is a discoverable, independent, objective reality 'out there.'

I'm talking about truth, whether we'll ever be able to use science to prove it or not. Humans use logic and observation...truth obeys logic and observation...therefore truth obeys human logic and observation.

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Isn't it also a denial of another knowledge though? The part about not knowing? The position seems to be to me, "I know that I do not know (about x)."
Not sure what you mean by this.  Are you saying that because an agnostic says they do not know they are making an absolute knowledge claim?

No. That wouldn't make any sense. If you didn't know something you wouldn't have absolute knowledge. Saying that agnosticism is a claim to knowledge is only part of what's really happening. It is a claim that they don't know about whatever the subject is, a denial of knowledge.

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Give a break down of the most important factors of life. (Example: Me: 50%, my wife: 40%, society: 5%, advancements to science: 4%...Christians: exactly 0%). Explain your personal breakdown. In a utopia, would each individual's breakdown be identical? What would it be?
That doesn't have anything to do with science. Also, you're ignoring that importance is not a qualitatively coherent, linear factor.

It doesn't matter if it has nothing to do with science. I'm trying to understand what is important for people who stick to science. I know importance fluctuates, but there is some sort of trend or average.

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Is the scientific method based on circular reasoning? (Hypothesis>Experiment>Data>Analysis>Conclusion>Hypothesis...)
No, it's based on assumptions (see above). You start with data, formulate a hypothesis and test it (try to falsify it, check for predictions). If it seems to work better than an existing theory/hypothesis, you investigate further. If it does not, you scrap it or change it to fit the data.
You either wind up with a new, promising hypothesis, a changed hypothesis, or none at all. I fail to see how that's at all circular.

So you just keep ending up with new hypotheses. Got it.


PP, it sounds to me that it is essentially proven in your own mind that no god exists. Is this correct?

Atheism=don't believe in God
Anti-theism=don't believe in God+don't like theists. Is this the difference then?

I also feel like I've been told that atheism=agnostic atheism, while anti-theism=gnostic atheism. Is this right too?

Cyberia, if there is no purpose, then why are you even telling me that?

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." - 1 Corinthians 1:18

Offline MockTurtle

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #26 on: July 29, 2010, 03:54:48 PM »
But I don't see where Darwin did any actual tests to see if his hypothesis was right. He just talked about it.
There are different ways to support a hypothesis.  Although there have been successful laboratory tests of Darwin's theories, most of the early evidence came through it's ability to successfully make predictions such as the existence of Xanthopan morgani praedicta.  This is similar to the earlier confirmation of Newton's theories based on it's ability to predict the return of Haley's Comet, and the later confirmation of Einstein's theories through the observation of gravitational effects on starlight during an eclipse.


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So you just keep ending up with new hypotheses. Got it.
Yes, but we only make each new step when it results in improved accuracy or utility.

If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. — Paul Dirac

Offline Jim

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #27 on: July 29, 2010, 03:54:48 PM »
Foi: you don't just end up with new hypotheses.  Yes, new questions and hypotheses should always be a necessary by product, but more importantly is that new, verifiable information is brought to light.  It is important that this new data be verifiable, and any experiment or study is repeatable by others.

Generally, the practice of science creates knowledge and creates new ideas.
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Questions about The scientific method
« Reply #28 on: July 29, 2010, 04:21:20 PM »
This is a great thread, Foi.

One sure-fire reason for relying on the scientific method to find out things: science deals with what works. That is one of the issues that many of us have with religious solutions to problems. Religious solutions, like prayer for someone with AIDS don't work . At least not consistently enough to be better than random chance, which is what science demands.

Suppose you are worried about AIDS and want to cure it. You want to know what works and what doesn't. You will have to keep careful track of (record observations about) what seems to work and what doesn't, so you can focus your time, effort and money toward what works best.

You can't just count good results and ignore the bad--this is what people who rely on supernatural stuff do. They say, we prayed to Zeus and the baby got better, ignoring that another time they prayed to Zeus the baby got worse. You have to record everything, even stuff that is against what you want to happen. That is the basis of the scientific method.

Scientific endeavor is imperfect because people are imperfect-- we are sometimes biased or forgetful or tired or greedy. We don't always observe and record things correctly--maybe the lab assistant wanted to get home to prepare for a hot date and didn't record the last half hour of observations. But, over time, as people learn more about the thing being studied, say, the AIDS virus, the questions get better, the trial and error process shows you the errors, and the mistakes (that the biased, forgetful, tired, greedy people made) get corrected.

Remember, science is not just about getting the right answer. Basic research is not about getting any particular answer--you can't start out looking in the right direction when you don't even know what that direction is. A lot of scientific endeavor is about weeding out the wrong answers so you can get closer to the right ones.

So, yes, a lot of hypotheses, experiments and processes end in FAIL. This drug does not kill the AIDS virus, in fact it makes it grow faster. And you cross that off and keep trying until you get the drug that does kill the AIDS virus.

And the scientific method is never finished with a subject, because once you find the drug that kills the AIDS virus (Hooray!), you need to find one that kills the virus without killing the host (say, the HIV infected rat that you tested it on). And on and on until you find one that kills the virus in humans. By then you have something approaching a theory of how the virus functions. Because it works.

And you start developing on an AIDS drug that pregnant women can use without causing really bad side effects to the baby. And then you try to find a cheaper way to make it. And so on.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.