107

I think part of the problem is: Science doesn't prove anything. Science, at its core, is simply a method of generating testable hypothesis that explain events, which are valued because of their use in predicting future results. Let me give an example. Based on observations, science came up with a theory for an orbital period, correlating orbital speed and ...


84

The slogan different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions. is misleading in the context of the "debate" between evolution and creationism. Scientists aim to explain how the world works. If two scientists disagree about some issue, then at least one of them is wrong. That is, at least one of them has ...


63

The problem with scientism is that it's generally philosophically incoherent. Examine your own statements of scientistic dogma: Isn't empirical truth the only one we can be sure about? If there is any absolute truth at all, isn't it to be uncovered through the scientific method? Laying aside the thin veil of casting these as rhetorical questions, ...


59

There is a difference between belief and theism I am more familiar with Hitchens's views and arguments than with Harris's ditto, so I will answer from that perspective only. Hitchens differed completely between "holding a belief" and "being a theist". Hitchens's view was that you are perfectly entitled to have any belief you wish. To place a restriction ...


57

In math, we define stuff like numbers and operators, then we go on to prove other stuff from those premises. When you ask: "Is 1 + 1 = 0?", a mathematician will just ask back: "With what definition of +?" If you assume natural numbers and the common definition of +, then this statement is false. If you assume numbers modulo 2 and + meaning XOR, then this ...


56

I say it's not that the universe acts according to "scientific laws," but rather that these laws are a tool for people to use to quantify how the universe works. In other words, the universe works how it works. Not according to any laws or conventions, but because "that's how it is." The fact that the observable universe is consistent allows us to create ...


49

"Atheism" is a lack of belief in deities. As such, it can come about in two ways. You can decide that you aren't convinced that any theory of the world which requires a deity is correct. You can become convinced that there cannot exist any correct theory of the world which requires a deity. It is perfectly possible to adopt position #1 as a scientist, in ...


47

Isaac Asimov wrote a great essay related to this, The Relativity of Wrong. This quote summarizes his point: My answer to him was, "John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat,...


47

First, I would say that many supporters of science are too proselytizing, too reluctant to admit the ambiguities and necessary limits of science. This merely harms their own case by opening them up the same skeptical attacks so easily employed against religion. Second, I would observe that science and religion are by no means mutually exclusive. It is only ...


41

The big picture of current evolutionary theory draws from many different fields, like biology, paleontology, geology, physics (radiometric dating) and chemistry. There is a strong consensus between scientists that the results of their respective fields support the big picture, e.g. evolutionary synthesis is a consensus among biologists. So, while different ...


34

Quantum mechanical processes, such as a circularly polarized photon striking a surface that is linearly polarized (whereupon it, to anthropomorphize the situation, has to choose whether it was really polarized perpendicular to or parallel to the polarization axis), do not appear to be (locally) deterministic. For all practical purposes, therefore, it makes ...


33

Physical sciences rely upon thinking of hypotheses and testing them with experiments. The conclusions from physical sciences are always scrutinized because it is the way of the scientific method. In order for a scientific theory to become better, first a deficiency in the theory is discovered, followed by an altered hypotheses, followed by re-testing. ...


33

I like immortal squish's answer, but I'm going to take it a step further. Physics (and other science) as we know it is a way to describe how the universe behaves. If gravity worked in reverse, but it was consistent about it, that would be the physics. It's perfectly valid to say that the universe has a set of physics, for example. A different universe ...


31

I thought I would give a physicist's perspective here. There are two types of evolutions in quantum mechanics: unitary (or free) evolution and measurement. Free evolution is fully reversible and deterministic; a given operator takes a specific wave functions and maps it to a specific other wave function. The uncertainty comes from the non-unitary ...


29

First of all, I would caution you against using definitions from Wikipedia when considering serious issues. I'm not a physicist, but I'm sure that the appropriate people could give you pointers to places where serious physicists have weighed in on the proper definition of "energy" and "force." (I seem to vaguely recall Feynman dealing with this in his ...


29

(Edit: this answer is now split into two parts, thanks to a lengthy discussion with Rex Kerr. I made my original answer on a very specific reading of the scientific method. He had a very different reading, which came to a different but very related outcome. I've tried to capture that in the first part. The second part is my original answer, for those who ...


27

Quantum Physics doesn't disprove determinism. What Quantum Physics does do is significantly complicate the task of arguing for determinism. Put in the simplest possible terms, the Uncertainty Principle indicates that: 1) our observation of an event has a significant effect on the event, and 2) it is impossible for a single observation to observe all ...


27

Off the top of my head, I think it's better to look at the criteria you've proffered for identifying "God". Working backwards, Omniscience. It's an untenable idea, especially since David Wolpert's proof against Laplace's Demon. We can see this easily, as we can break down omniscience over the universe as these four possibilities: a. God is omniscient and ...


24

I think the simplest and most succinct answer to the OP's question ("Is there any rigorous philosophical basis for Atheism?") is yes, the scientific method is the basis upon which atheism—and in general, religious skepticism—rests. There is no "Atheist Treatise" or codified book that sets the standard for atheism; it is merely the rational acceptance of the ...


24

Like you, I think most uses of the terms 'probable' and 'random' are just epistemic, i.e. they relate to how much information we have. We say of a toss of a coin that it is random, and that there is a probability of (approximately) one half of it falling heads, but this just reflects the information we possess. Tell me more about the force and vector of the ...


23

This depends very much on the area of philosophy. If you're interested in philosophy of quantum mechanics, for instance, you need at least undergraduate level training in physics (and the mathematics that entails). If you're doing ethics or political philosophy, then maybe the need for that sort of knowledge is lessened (although knowledge of some basic ...


23

Within the subject of rational choice theory, there has been an extensive axiomatic development of various rational decision theories, in which general principles of rational decision-making are put forth in a general context, and then detailed arguments are made to deduce further consequences from them. A major issue had been the extent to which the ...


23

The only thing you have to assume to be unconditionally true in Mathematics is some minimal logic (and yes, that's despite having axiomatic systems for logic; you still have to use some form of logic to actually define those axiomatic systems). But logic is assumed to be true in any science (because without it, you cannot draw any conclusions). But apart ...


23

I think the honest answer is best viewed through the teachings of Karl Popper, notably the Falsifiability Criterion, according to which anything scientific has to supply a self refuting empirical criteria. That is, in the absence of an empirical way to test the hypothesis -- upon failure of which the theory is refuted -- the theory in question is hereby not ...


23

If I am not mistaken, no hypothesis can be proven correct, we can only prove hypothesis wrong. This is known as "falsificationism". It viewed with much scepticism by today's philosophers of science. The author you mention, Elliot Sober, has suggested that it be retired, deriding it as "Popper's f-word" (referring to Karl Popper, whose own views on this ...


22

This is a very huge question spanning multiple fields in philosophy. I do not have the expertise to cover all of these, so I'll focus on my personal favourite, the Philosophy of Mind aspect. As it stands there are no universally agreed upon answers to whether humans are different from computers in how they think. There are people on both sides of the ...


22

Turn the is vs. ought problem on it head. Science, when it is being most scientific, only provides instrumental oughts; religion, when it is being most religious, provides only moral oughts. Science can tell you that if you want to avoid X degrees of global warming you should (instrumentally) reduce carbon emissions by Y amount; but not whether the harm ...


21

We don't know. There are some very valiant attempts to engage the question here, and many of them even explore concepts well worth exploring. But just because we live in such a complex, information-packed age doesn't mean we need to pretend we know things we don't. The oracle at Delphi said that Socrates was the wisest man in Athens simply because he ...


21

In general, no, it is not inappropriate. Scientific research can take many forms, some of which could have negative effects on people. Pharmaceutical research, for example, follows a tightly controlled set of steps in researching a drug and getting it approved and marketed. You can't just brew something up in your garage and start dosing people with it. We'...


20

Well there are far fewer scientists than there are believers. Personally, I think believers find religion more relevant to their life than science. The main-stream religions have had millennia in learning how to build up community than science. And in fact science has no sense of mission of building up community in the wider world. It's only sense of ...


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