111

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 ...


87

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 ...


64

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, ...


60

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 ...


58

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 ...


58

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 ...


51

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 ...


35

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

Sounds like one version of Pascal's Wager, which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article labels as The Argument From Superdominance, giving this quote from Pascal: “God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this ...


30

(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

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 ...


26

The answer is a point of contention between realism and anti-realism. Truths that "do not have evidence" are termed verification-transcendent truths (coined by Dummett), and realists are committed to their existence. Anti-realists, on the other hand, hold that unverifiable in principle statements have no truth values. So if no trace of dinosaurs remains, ...


24

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 ...


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

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 ...


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 ...


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

The quote about facts gets it pretty right. A fact is, for many philosophers, a part of reality (Russel, for example). So as there are people and tables and chairs in our world, there is also the fact that I am sitting on the chair. It is as real as the chair itself. You often see some kind of brackets when someone speaks about fact, so for example: < I ...


20

Here is an example of philosophy helping a breakthrough in mathematics (in differential topology). The breakthrough happened last year, the philosophy that helped it come into existence happened 200 years ago, via a formalization suggested in the last two decades. A long-standing open problem in differential topology and in mathematical physics was the ...


19

Welcome to the demarcation problem of science. What is this thing called science? In lower levels of education, one is often given the impression that 'science', whatever that may be, exists as a monolithic entity. There is no sufficiency and necessity definition of what science is. It's better to say 'sciences' or 'scientific' when speculating as to this ...


18

Whether atheism can be reached by scientific reasoning depends on whether scientific reasoning is the only way to form justified true belief. Can I only say that I know something if it can be scientifically demonstrated? More weakly, can I only know that a deity exists if that deity can be demonstrated scientifically? I cannot see an analytic argument which ...


18

The aphorism is obviously an example of surreal humor - the ascription to Einstein is somewhat shaky. I'd say that it has really nothing to do with Ockham's Razor and therefore cannot even be called a bad formulation of it. If we grant (for the sake of argument) that Einstein is the author of the aphorism, my speculative interpretation would be the ...


18

“different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.” This is true so far as it goes, but it stops before the critical step that distinguishes natural science from creationism: scientists then check their conclusions against reality, and reject or change their assumptions if reality and conclusion don't match. ...


18

The Stack Exchange methodology is based on the original Stack Overflow, which is for CS and programming questions. For those types of questions, the answers are objective in the fact that they either solve the OP's problem or they don't. People are free to upvote for the wrong ones, and it does happen occasionally, but overall, there are enough people who ...


18

I recently answered a similar question on physics.SE here. What is special about the probabilities of quantum mechanics is that the randomness cannot be explained by a theory of nature that is both local and realist, while classical probabilities can. Quoting myself: A "local hidden variable" theory is basically the classical idea of how the world ...


17

This SEP article on Quantum Logic is a good place to start. Although Krauss is right that Quantum Logic is non-classical (most presentations I've seen either reject the law of excluded middle or go paraconsistent), and so therefore not the standard logic we are used to, he is vastly overstating the claim if he says that "logic is flawed" (without heavy ...


17

Yes, study advanced symbolic logic. My degree is in philosophy, not computer science, but I've been a successful professional programmer for several years, and my philosophical background, especially in logic, was a big help. A well-written computer program is really nothing more than a long, complex, logic puzzle. (Also, studying general philosophy will ...


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