Scientific Method

 Posted by on December 7, 2009  Add comments
Dec 072009
 

What’s science?

I’ll tell you what it means to me, and we’ll see if you agree.

To me it means trying to understand things.  It means there’s something in front of me that I don’t quite grasp and I want to figure it out.  I’ll do it step by step.  If I really really don’t know what it is, I’ll make a rough guess, and then we’ll see if we can refine it a bit, but at least we have somewhere to start.

And that’s the difference between rational thought and superstition.  Science is always flexible and open to change.  Religion, on the other hand, stops dead with the first rough guess.  Can’t understand how that worked? No problem. We’ll invent a fairy!

Science does not mean computers or space rockets or gigantic skyscrapers. The science on them has already been done and when science has been done, it’s called technology.

To me at least, science is what any thinking person does, all the time, every day, even when confronted with the most minor, trivial conundrum.

Science is nothing more than figuring things out and it infuriates me when charlatans, chancers and religious nutcases try to create an artificial divide between science and their own personal delusions.

It isn’t a case of having creationism on one side and science on the other.  It’s about rational thinking on one side and invented, untested conjecture on the other.

By the same token I find it annoying to hear complementary therapists, homeopaths and other such charlatans hijacking scientific terminology when by their very nature these people are anti-logic, anti-experience and anti-life.  Energies, my arse.

I find it amazing that so many of our decision makers are so anti-scientific, when science is nothing more than joined-up thinking.  It’s as if people have an inbuilt aversion to logic.

I know. Instead of working this out, why don’t we run around with our hands in the air screaming?  That’ll really fix things.

So there’s something in front of me.  I don’t know what the hell to make of it but I want to work it out.

I ask myself What can this possibly be? And then I’m faced with choices.

I can look it up in a translation of a manuscript written by a nomadic priest in Egypt three thousand years ago, and run with that.

Or I can see that there are twenty different possible explanations, but I grab the first one that appeals to me and spend the rest of my life talking about energies and selling treatments to gullible fools.

Or alternatively I can do the following:

Let’s see how similar it is to other things we’ve noticed.

Let’s test to see if it behaves the same.

Let’s see where it’s different.

Let’s try to work out what’s different about it.

Let’s come up with a theory to explain that.

Let’s see if anyone finds out where that theory isn’t working.

Great.  New information.

Let’s modify the theory and start again.

That’s the scientific method and it works very well.

The religious fundamental method, on the other hand, has only one step.

We’re right.  The end.

It isn’t confined to understanding the great truths of nature. That’s also the kind of ignorant shit you encounter when trying to discuss the state of the nation or priests buggering little boys, or why we allow idiots to run our country.

Of course, we couldn’t allow ourselves to think that rationally, or we’d be in danger of becoming Scandinavian, and that would never do, would it?  We’d have to become honest as well. Not good.

  108 Responses to “Scientific Method”

Comments (108)
  1.  

    It would be great if ‘ The God Delusion’ by Richard Hawkins was studied in schools alongside the Bible.

  2.  

    Indeed. And Dawkins is absolutely correct in challenging all religious assertions. However I have a niggling worry that Dawkins himself might be a true believer in atheism.

  3.  

    I don’t think it’s ignorant to say you believe in God. If someone mentions that there’s no such place as a heaven and you make a joke inferring that you can’t be certain of that and then that’s questioned further I suppose you should not comment further as it’s off topic. Sure science is about figuring things out, but there is a lot the human mind can never figure out.
    ‘Science is nothing more than figuring things out and it infuriates me when charlatans, chancers and religious nutcases try to create an artificial divide between science and their own personal delusions.’
    By your definition a lot of scientists would be called religious nutcases. There are scientists that believe in a creator – Stephen Hawkins/Einstein for example.
    Seems to me you’re the one saying you’re right and that’s ignorant.

  4.  

    Audrey – Why don’t you have a go at reading the post before commenting? It makes for much better debate.

  5.  

    I think you have a problem with women Bock.

  6.  

    Audrey – Why don’t you have a go at reading the post before commenting? It makes for much better debate.

  7.  

    I think you have a problem with women Bock. :)

  8.  

    Yes, Dawkins does come across as as too patronising in his more recent books, The Blind Watchmaker has his best reasoned arguments I think. But I challange anyone to read ‘ The God Delusion’ and still believe God exists. And I went to CBS in Limerick!

  9.  

    Audrey – If you have something to contribute to this discussion, you’re welcome. If you want to introduce irrelevant nonsense, then I’ll have to ask you to desist. It’s up to you.

  10.  

    James — My old alma mater, where I was taught science and mathematics by the most rational man I ever knew, even if the rest of them were a crowd of child-abusing motherfuckers.

  11.  

    I know irrelevant, nonsense, hysterical.. can’t help it sur, I’m a woman. I think I’ll desist.. which I think you’ll find a lot of your readers (especially female readers) will in time given your ego complex.
    The comments so far are relating to the book ‘The God delusion’ so I dont think I’m off topic with what I said.. but you clearly just want to be patronising. And by the way, you can’t take a joke… or you don’t know when a joke is a joke.

  12.  

    Audrey — Your gender is utterly irrelevant. Nobody is making an issue of it but you.

  13.  

    Maybe I should change my name to Dick and see if I get more respect. Dick Van vanishingly small.

  14.  

    Maybe you should discuss the issue at hand.

  15.  

    The teachers were fine when I went there, only had one Brother as a teacher – religion. He was Scottish and just twisted. Looking back, when you see the whole premise of religious schools is built on blind acceptance of something which doesn’t exist, you can see why the whole rotten empire is crashing down. Glad its happening now, shame it took so long to happen when we read about what happened to those poor kids in the 50s and 60s. Anything that depends on unquestioning belief is doomed to fail eventually. American right-wing conservatives – you are next.

  16.  

    Dirty bastard.. lol

  17.  

    I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say all religion stops dead with the first guess. Some religions require, nay are built upon introspection and discovery.

    Buddhism, for example, requires insight as a central component. The Buddha himself told followers not to believe anything because he had said it, or because it was written in a scroll. People had to try it for themselves, and if it worked, stick with it. If not, move on.

  18.  

    In that case, if they do it rigorously, then Buddhism is a science.

    Do they continuously move on based on observation, or do they stop when they feel comfortable?

  19.  

    Well, when I said “move on” I meant, if buddhism doesn’t work for you, the buddha advised you to drop it.

    As a practice however (and I have to stress I am not a Buddhist, I am just interested/well-read on it) it is a continuous process, which requires continuous inspection/insight. Stopping because you feel comfortable doesn’t really work.

    The Dalai Lama is on record as having said that if science disproves an aspect of Buddhism, then he would stop believing in that aspect. He’s been quite supportive of the scientific method.

  20.  

    I like the Dalai Lama more and more.

    However, it’s important to emphasise that Science isn’t something separate from the rest of us.

    Science is us.

  21.  

    ‘It isn’t a case of having creationism on one side and science on the other. It’s about rational thinking on one side and invented, untested conjecture on the other.’ Of course it’s conjecture.. it’s a leap of faith is what it is. If something is untestable with the scientific method – which of course the existence of God is that doesn’t mean that it’s proven to be untrue.

  22.  

    Did I say it was proven to be untrue? Where did you notice me saying that?

  23.  

    Do you believe in a creator then? Or people who do are irrational and superstitious?

  24.  

    This post is about rational thought, not about what people believe. Try to understand the difference.

  25.  

    Yes you’ve explained rational thought very well, thanks for the lesson but you are arguing rational thought against something else. So what’s your point then? And you still haven’t answered the question do you believe in a creator.

  26.  

    Of course I don’t. Have you been reading this site at all?

    There’s no evidence for a creator any more than there’s evidence for a tooth fairy.

  27.  

    God loves you all the same.. :)

  28.  

    How does God feel about the people who were wiped out in the tsunami? Or people with cystic fibrosis?

  29.  

    Loves them just as much. The rain falls on us all..

  30.  

    The difference is this. If I love somebody, I’ll do my best to help them. I’ll do fund-raisers. I’ll try my best. But your all-powerful God, who could cure them in the blink of an eye, stands back and lets them suffer, while claiming to love them. What a complete hypocrite and bastard your god is.

  31.  

    Yea it’s the age old question all right, why do bad things happen to good people. Well if he’s son ends up on a cross being tortured, it would seem god is a bastard. I think through the entense suffering though there eventually comes surrender and with that there is a transformation. more hogwash for you there.

  32.  

    You’re making a lot of assumptions there. You have no reason to assume that people here accept the Catholic dogma about the nature of Jesus. Why do you presume that?

    By the way, I will shortly stop this discussion being about religion since that was never its basis.

  33.  

    Audrey; Let me assure you firstly that i am very much female.
    Let me also assure you that your very trite comment at 29, most especially in reference to Bocks comment re Tsunami victims and the myriad of CF patients in this country angers me beyond belief.
    We have a CF patient in our family and we have experienced the full spectrum shock, terror, emotional distress of terrifying proportions, All we want to know are the facts, always the facts, people have offered prayers, masses etc, sorry not interested, don’t want the platitudes of ” God gives his burdens to those who can carry them ” NO NO NO,We want people with drive and thoughtfulness to help us fundraise for the very urgent and vital equipment needed to keep these babies, children and adults alive and healthy for as long as possible, and the struggle is enormous, no offers of help from any religious or statue eating sources, by the way, and yes the rain falls on all of us but unfortunatly for CF patients that is a disaster not a gift.
    Bock; if you are in anyway serious about that offer to fundraise, I would definitly take you up on it as we are at our wits end to raise money for this equipment.

  34.  

    I’m not talking about religion. Jesus didn’t invent the Catholic church/dogma. I see comments on ‘The God delusion’, the Dalai Lama, buddhism.. your post talks about an artificial divide between science on one side and personal delusions on the other. Why do they have to be opposing. Why is there an argument of the two. Like I said the top scientists believe in a creator and they use rational scientific thought/method a lot.
    Stop whatever you like.. knock yourself out.

  35.  

    Norma — As I said, if I had a person with CF among my loved ones, I’d fundraise, but if you need publicity you can always come here, for what it’s worth.

  36.  

    Norma, sorry to hear you have a CF patient in your family. My comment saying that God loves them was not intended to be trite, but the opposite – very much sincere and not meant to anger.

  37.  

    Thank you very much, that is sincerly appreciated.
    I am so preoccupied with the day to day dealing with everything that i’m not affording enough thought and energy toward the fundraising which is very fraustrating, This is going completly off topic and i apologise for that but CF is so incredibly complicated that most of our energy goes into learning.
    I’m really looking for ideas and suggestions and more than willing to carry out whatever dog work is required,
    Really appreciate your kind offer of publicity, would be more than willing to accept any suggestions via e-mail or wherever is appropriate.
    Audrey, not meaning to be too hard on you but for a lot of people Religion is used a salve for the masses but as control for the Hierarchy, Strangely I don’t include Buddhism there, But Science and Religion are incompatible, As for complementary / alternative therapies, thats another story, backed up and disproved and backed up again and disproved again and again, But they are choices, Religion mostly is not but it’s an excellent tool of manipulation and pain.
    Some Religions are marketed as the balance of Science and Religion as a “new concept ” but funnily the people involved seem to only absorb the Religious scripts, not the scientific script, wonder why that is ?

  38.  

    Why do the two have to be contradictory? Creationism is ( as interpreted by certain people in the US) is nonsense but in a greater theological sense quite logical. Man had to at some point have a concious thought and discover right from wrong, isn’t that what seperates us from other animals? From that point on we began to make decisions and there is where the true creationisim began. As for the Tsunami well in the immortal words of Paul Warfield Tibbets Jnr “shit happens”

  39.  

    Scientific question where did this come from? Was it just by fluke, accident, that this Planet happened to end up at just the right distance from our nearest star ? Was it pure coincidence that life as we know it in all its forms just happened? If anyone has an answer I will await your reply.

  40.  

    Given the size of the universe, I’d be very surprised if countless millions of planets didn’t end up at just the right distance.

  41.  

    Bock point taken. Perhaps you could point me to one of them. I tire of this one.

  42.  

    Bock, I wouldn’t get too excited about the Dalai Lama. He’s a self-proclaimed living god. He might be all touchy feely and friends with Bono, but he’s a theocratic leader whose authority is defined by his status as a god. I have no problem with his political beliefs and I support the Tibetan peoples’ right to live their lives as they see fit within a federal China; but let’s recognise that he is a politician and his mystical claims to being a god should be irrelevant.

    I also don’t understand how people who belong to another religion can respect someone who claims to be god. Surely this would upset a catholic or a jew? How can he be god if he’s not the same as your god? So either he’s lying or there is more than one god, in which case your religion is wrong. But somehow the Dalai Lama seems to get away with it and everybody loves him. Makes no sense to me, and just serves to illustrate how illogical religious people are.

  43.  

    I said it would surprise me if they didn’t exist. I didn’t say I knew the address.

  44.  

    Does anyone here think dogmatic religious belief and hypocrisy do go hand in hand? For instance both Blair and Bush invoked God as a reason for invading Iraq. Religious dogma has killed more innocent people than any war. Why do we, here in this country, still allow our moral choices be decided for us by priests, who are being exposed daily as the worst physical and psychological abusers this country has ever seen?

  45.  

    In the middle of the crime against humanity which was George Clancy’s refereeing of the Shannon v. Con game last weekend, right around the time when George, god-like, overruled the linesman and humanity’s witnessing of a criminal high tackle on Taig Bennet, well around then a heron strangler leaning up on the Coonagh railings remarked to no one in particular,

    “ what is you caught up the edge of the ever expanding universe, tore a hole in it with a Swiss army knife like you’d sabotage a Dubliner’s tent on a Trip to Tipp after Christy had finished and you were bored and broke and poked your head through the hole, all the time frog kicking your legs to keep abreast of the ever expanding universe, what would you see ? “

    I tell you what you’d see says I, “ a gold- fish with a Tommy Cooper fez looking back at you “

    Fact.

  46.  

    I heard Mr Clancy played an inordinate amount of injury time Mr Sniffle – play on til Cons win. Did someone,
    er, try to Andy Lee him?

  47.  

    Cynical Joe; The Dalai Lama does not claim to be a God.
    Neither did Jesus, Mohammed, Zoaraster, Krishna etc etc different sets of beliefs, different teachings, different times, probably grand guy’s in themselves, the message is made dogma via indoctrinators and prosletysers, then it gets messed up becomes a Religion and anything worthwhile gets lost in the bullshit and perceptions.

  48.  

    He actually stopped and waited on the field such was the anger of what were, plain people of Ireland ( not to be confused with my own group of constantly angry but passionate lunatics ). It was a hair’s breadth away from an actual dig, but there were numerous voluminous verbal volleys. A good man, a red-haired fella who dragged Ireland and England across the line a while back to score a try, was incandescent and sorta had to be held back , another, a recently retired member of the national coaching staff, was shocked into silence, another continuously mouthed the word disgrace. Other good strong fair men were incensed.

    Shocking stuff Mr Out. Unprecedented.

  49.  

    Discolsure: I personally believe in God. I don’t know if I’m right. I’m a catholic but not practising; I prefer to just follow the 10 commandments. also, this is probably another TL;DR post. I should maybe get my own blog…
    Also, I’m not trying to make anyone believe in god here, this post is actually in defence of science too.

    Surely an assertion that God doesn’t exist is itself unscientific, since the best one can state is that given the lack of evidence there is no proof that [he/she/it] does exist? And saying that belief in god’s existence is a delusion is in fact the equivalent of throwing your arms up in the air and running around screaming, because you have essentially left reason behind; specifically, that you can only prove or disprove something within the realms of a known set of facts.

    If I told you there was one blade of grass in a field that was of a different color to the rest, how many blades of grass would you check before you “proved” that I was lying. All of them? Well, we humans are still stuck in a tiny corner of that field and it will be a loooong time before we’ve come even close to checking all of them. That’s why to my mind anwyay the likes of Dawkins are akin to the big kids at school who told you Santa didn’t exist; they didn’t do it from a conviction that your little mind must be freed, they did it to watch you squirm. (pre-empting the “santa delusion = god delusion” argument, I have got proof that SC doesn’t exist in my perception of this reality, because I have to buy my kids their presents.

    Have we not considered the possibility that if a god does exist, it is making damned sure we can never prove or disprove its existence? Isn’t that what faith is all about – certainly if I were god (which I’m not, just for the record ;) I would make sure all my little sim-universe units could never see far enough out of their sandbox to see me…that’s what really grates me about the arrogance of our race – we think that just because we can’t find evidence that satisfies us something must be false. Maybe the evidence is all around us but we’re choosing to ignore it or filtering it out?

    It’s like that joke about the guy (and ok, bad timing what with the recent weather and all) who is on a flood plain and the water is getting really high, he’s up on the roof of the house and he says “god, please save me”. A while later his neighbour comes along in a boat and says “hop in” and the guy says “nah, god will save me”. An hour later he’s up to his waist in water, a second boat comes along and offers to take him, but he says “nah, god will save me”. Finally he’s up to his neck in the water and a chopper flies down to save him. “go back! god will save me!” And so he drowns. when he gets to heaven, he angrily confronts god and demands to know why his prayer’s weren’t answered. “What are you talking about?” says god, “I sent two boats and a bloody helicopter!”

    Maybe god does exist, maybe it doesn’t. maybe he’s an all-loving god, maybe he’s a total bastard. maybe she is only one of many gods of many worlds and can’t keep an eye on us all the time. Who knows. What difference does it really make?

    All of the problems of the world can’t be placed on God’s doorstep. No point in saying “oh why did the tsunami kill thousands of people, god you bastard”, etc….actually it’s humanity’s “fault”. Why were all those people living there in the first place? Because of the over-industrialisation of their native countries which has pushed them out to coastal areas to try to make a living fishing or farming. But we don’t think of that when we close our curtains which were made over there, do we?

    No, we say “well if god existed then he wouldn’t let something like that happen, would he?” But that’s part of the program. We’ve been told already that this life is just a stepping stone, and what happens is just a test.

    Therefore, bad things simply cannot be taken as proof of the non-existance of god.

    But i do agree with the whole Catholic church issue, as far as i can see the whole organisation is simply an exploitation of good faith by some very clever (and evil) people.Kind of makes you want to believe that they’ll get their just rewards, doesn’t it?

  50.  

    Those who espouse a naturalistic worldview may find “The Brights” group interesting. I’m not personally into preaching or proselytising, but then, neither is this movement. I’m a registered Bright myself, but this means nothing more than getting regular emails from them and occasionally engaging in a dialogue in one of their on-line fora, when I feel like it. Here’s a link to an essay by Dan Dennett (one of the most respected academic philosophers thinking today) about the movement – from there you can click through to their home page:

    http://the-brights.net/vision/essays/dennett_nyt_article.html

  51.  

    Steve, very well written. I like that joke about the guy in the flood. I think you’re right, from our limited persective things are seen as good and bad, however we don’t know the grand scheme of things. Most suffering I believe is self created in any event – mental intolerance/resistance of anything ‘bad’ that happens to you or a loved one. Even the most advanced minds haven’t figured out much – scientifically or otherwise. Scientists have apparently just discovered the universe is maded up of something like 75 percent ‘dark energy’ and they don’t know what that is, and I suppose when they do label it people will then think they know what it is. Steve you should get your own blog, excellent writing.

  52.  

    The difference between science and religion is that science is open to changing its mind in the light of new information. Religion is not.

    Anything else is not science.

  53.  

    Steve; thanks for taking the time to write your post. I genuinely welcome religious people trying to explain what they believe and why, because I find the whole belief thing mystifying. I read your post twice, but I still have no idea what you actually believe. In places, you seem to adopt a fairly existential perspective – shit happens but tomorrow is another day – and in places you fall back on repeating tired old lines from religion class. There is one flaw in logic that I must point out – you say:

    “And saying that belief in god’s existence is a delusion is in fact the equivalent of throwing your arms up in the air and running around screaming, because you have essentially left reason behind; specifically, that you can only prove or disprove something within the realms of a known set of facts.”

    Nobody honestly presents god’s existence as a fact – even devout people acknowledge that their belief is based on ‘faith’ and is beyond conventional proof with facts. Arguing that this is a delusion is just a way of saying that since the concept of god is unprovable, there is no way to know if it is true or not. Thus while you cannot disprove the existence of god with facts, you can demonstrate that it is not provable with facts either. And downgrading a belief because it is not provable is perfectly rational.

  54.  

    I wouldn’t get too excited about the Dalai Lama. He’s a self-proclaimed living god. He might be all touchy feely and friends with Bono, but he’s a theocratic leader whose authority is defined by his status as a god. I have no problem with his political beliefs and I support the Tibetan peoples’ right to live their lives as they see fit within a federal China; but let’s recognise that he is a politician and his mystical claims to being a god should be irrelevant.

    That is untrue.

    He does not proclaim to be a living God, nor do any Buddhists believe him to be a God.

    Where is your source on this?

  55.  

    I’m just chiming in to correct the common misconception that Einstein had religious beliefs. Here’s a link to a collection of accurate and relevant quotations from him on the subject. And this is but one example:

    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
    -Albert Einstein, 1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press

    Similarly, Stephen Hawking has said:

    “What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary.”
    -Stephen W. Hawking, Der Spiegel, 1989

    Which I think jibes pretty well with the substance of Bock’s argument–while not in the least demonstrating any evidence of religious beliefs on Hawking’s part. Here’s a selection of similar quotations from him on the matter.

    I also find laughable the assertion that ‘the top scientists believe in a creator’ when recent studies have shown that 93% of members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (of which I was once a member, which makes the assertion personally insulting!) express disbelief in the existence of God. It has been proven time and again that further education dispels groundless faith.

    It seems the one necessary condition under which religious faith can prosper, is extreme ignorance–which is apparently abounding in this comment thread.

    ::

  56.  

    What an interesting experiment. Write a post about logical thought and all anyone wants to talk about is religion.

  57.  

    The buddhist concept of god is different to the judeo-christian concept, so we have an issue of definition to start with. However, the Dalai Lama is perceived by buddhists as the reincarnation of a god-like figure. He is more than just their pope – he is a representation of the buddhist concept of god. Look, I’m not an expert on buddhism, but my point is simply that the Dalai Lama is essentially a political leader, who relies on a mystical god-like identity to draw attention to his politican views. He may be a kindly old man, but this does not excuse the fact that he is essentially a theocratic leader.

    I know lots of people get the knicker twisted when the Dalai Lama is criticised, but I’m just calling it as I see it. If he behaved like an Iranian mullah, he’d get no airtime. His authority comes from the same place – he was not elected to represent the Tibetan people.

  58.  

    The buddhist concept of god is different to the judeo-christian concept, so we have an issue of definition to start with. However, the Dalai Lama is perceived by buddhists as the reincarnation of a god-like figure. He is more than just their pope – he is a representation of the buddhist concept of god. Look, I’m not an expert on buddhism, but my point is simply that the Dalai Lama is essentially a political leader, who relies on a mystical god-like identity to draw attention to his politican views. He may be a kindly old man, but this does not excuse the fact that he is essentially a theocratic leader.

    I know lots of people get the knicker twisted when the Dalai Lama is criticised, but I’m just calling it as I see it. If he behaved like an Iranian mullah, he’d get no airtime. His authority comes from the same place – he was not elected to represent the Tibetan people.

    You are calling it like you see it, but you are seeing it wrong.

    You have a fundamentally flawed view of what the Dalai Lama represents, both as a historical figure head and a religious concept in Tibertan Buddhism.

    The man himself has said he is no more than a simple monk, and has often played down his own role as a reincarnated Bodhisattva.

    You also have a completely misguided concept of what Buddhists believe re:God. He is not their version of God.

    God is an omnipotent, all-knowing, creator figure. The Dalai Lama is nothing like that, nor has it ever claimed he was.

    In fact, Buddhism has NO concept of a God like that. In fact, the Buddha refused to answer the question as to whether there was a God, as he felt the question/answer was a complete distraction from the path of liberation which he stressed was only possible by people alone, not via a third-party deity. Buddhism, essentially, is an agnostic religion.

    Look, I’m not an expert on buddhism, but my point is simply that the Dalai Lama is essentially a political leader, who relies on a mystical god-like identity to draw attention to his politican views.

    You don’t have to be an expert, some basic research would point out your flaws. And as for “your point is simply…” its a point based off a lie.

    Finally, the Dalai Lama has introduced an elected goverment and is on the record as stating he may end the roll of Dalai Lama as head of government.

  59.  

    As I understand Buddism there is no god as generally understood in other beliefs.In Buddism god is not an individual but is a concept of the earth and the universe being the source and creator of life and thus being god.They have a great respect for the earth and all life not just human life.Buddism focuses a lot on physical and mental well being and critical thought so it is more a way of life than anything else.Regarding comment 38 by Rob that concious thought separates man from animals.Where did you get the delusion that other species on this planet dont have concious thought.What do you think they are cabbages.Have you ever watched wildlife documentaries or even just observed the other species that you encounter.One of the problems with this world is the arrogant belief that many humans have that they are wonderfull and special…they aint!!.The inventions that have carried humanity forward have come from a miniscule percentage of people that were gifted.The vast majority of humanity have not the mental capacity to invent even the simple safety pin.

  60.  

    @Cynical Joe/Audrey: Yes I agree after re-reading what I wrote parts of it seem contradictory and I did kind of deliberatley leave it vague about what exectly I do believe in so as not to be dismssed as “just another delusional”. you’ll notice that I referred to god variously as he, she or it because honestly, I do not know what god is.

    The point I was trying to make (somewhat obtuse, but) is that since it cannot be proven or disproven that god exists or does not exist, it is unscientific and illogical to assert either statement as a fact and that therefore the entire argument is pointless.

    I see your point and Bock’s about rational science, and whilst I agree that one can perhaps in some cases downgrade a belief based on a lack of evidence, one cannot assert that the belief is patently false.

    In other words, the best one can say is “we do not know”. Ask any scientist to perform an experiment to see if there is any link between bananas and solar flares, and I guarantee that the best answer you will get is “there is no evidence to suggest this” (with the unspoken implication “…Yet. Also, what bloody difference does it make?”)
    Anybody who did this experiment and claimed the answer was definitively “No” is not a scientist.

    And I guess I had my back up a bit as the overall tone I was getting from the comments (and original post) was that people who believe in god are delusional, we should feel sorry for their poor, deluded little minds. I find this arrogance really grating!

    The bit about faith and not blaming god; I was trying to show that if you want to use natural disasters or evil priests or CF sufferers as arguments that god doesn’t exist, then this is also false. Because this is exactly what god [is alleged to have] said would happen to us, to suffer in this life and party in the next .
    So surely it can be argued that this is as much proof that god does exist as that he doesn’t.

    What I am very thankful for though is that (so far at least) the extremists have left this discussion alone. I’m just waiting for someone to start calling me crazy ;)

    Bock, you have opened up a right can of worms here, fair play to you!

  61.  

    I have reread a lot of these posts this morning and I think I sound fairly cynical which might be true but not who I am consciously, Whereas I don’t subscribe to Religion , I do respect those for whom it is a choice, As opposed to any forced indoctrination process.
    I can very much relate to William and Steve, I too have seen very sophisticated, elegant and intelligent behaviour in nature and the animal kingdom, which defys science and instinct.
    The understanding of Religion and/or spiritual aspects of our beings, can be tainted by whatever individual Religion we might have been brought up in, As in the Irish having a peculiar view of other religions via a Christian telescope.
    There is as much in Science which defies logic as there is the mystical world of what is prescribed Religion, It will never be possible to view or substantiate subatomic particles which make up the Atom, Scientists can give them names, quarks, bosons, leptons but they cannot be measured, cannot be seen, We only know they exist because of the trails they leave,
    If Scientists are looking at a quantum field, the subatomic particles blink into existence, when attention turns they disappear into a void.
    What is so dismissable is extremism and fanatacism and all the self righteous acts commited in the name of Religion, The same occurs in politics, Health and Economics, As a species our brains are made up of a myriad of neurotransmitters, The chemicals we produce, serotonin, endorphins, dopamine are dependent on many and varying factors.
    Personally I find a 100% scientific view a bit on the grim side, must say I like a very rounded view, I like the step by step approach but I’m not comfortable with forming opinions based on insufficent knowledge.
    One other area which Bock mentioned was complementary medicine which I do believe has a lot to deliver when practised by people of integrity and ethics, I agree there are an awful lot of charlatans out there as there are with Allopathic medicine, It is all very dependent on the Practitioner, trial and error in all departments, But some facts in Bocks post are incorrect, for example Homeopathy is not Placebo, whereas it can have a placebo effect , It is in fact Verum and that is where rejection without knowledge is not beneficial.
    I cannot even relate to the ” blame God ” school of thought, that is seriously rubbish, And whereas my family and i experienced a vast array of the emotional spectrum through our experience with CF there was never a blame aspect to it, Recently during a family chat, we all revealed that we would change nothing about our lives, because whatever routes we have taken and whatever we have encountered, we have a very precious bond and understanding of each other and the broader world we live in and if all the consequenses, circumstances and diversions have brought us to this place then it’s a good thing because be it Science, Mystery or the Laws of the Universe we are privliged to have the internal equipment to deal with it and for that we are truly grateful to the Universe we inhabit.

  62.  

    Steve – ‘The point I was trying to make (somewhat obtuse, but) is that since it cannot be proven or disproven that god exists or does not exist, it is unscientific and illogical to assert either statement as a fact and that therefore the entire argument is pointless.’ Couldn’t agree more. It’s taken as much a leap of faith to say there is no god as there is a god with there being no proof either way. It is a pointless argument, the two viewpoints/beliefs shouldn’t be opposing, one as rational and the other as delusional. I wouldn’t call non believers irrational or delusional, but it could just as easily be argued that they are.

  63.  

    In reference both to your post – on the scientific method – and to the obsession of your commentators with religion – please note this interesting scientific study showing people caught in the act of creating their own idiosyncratic God! The researchers noted: “Intuiting God’s beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber to validate and justify one’s own beliefs.” So when science does apply itself to religion, it leaves us to conclude we have only ourselves to either blame or praise. No Gods, No Devils.

  64.  

    Roosta; I’m not sure what your point is, other than to parade your ability to read wikipedia. Personally, I don’t care a jot about the nuances of what one religion believes versus another – they can argue over how many angels fit on a pin head all they like, it makes no difference. And if the Dalai Lama is essentially an agnostic who denies that he is what his followers think he is, and wants to end the traditional role of Dalai Lama anyway, then he is proving my point that he is essentially a political figure. His supporters still see him as the reincarnated god-like figure, and that’s what matters in terms of his source of authority. So in the end, he is an unelected political figure who draws his authority from religious dogma – and I don’t see why that should command our respect.

  65.  

    Audrey:

    It’s taken as much a leap of faith to say there is no god as there is a god with there being no proof either way. It is a pointless argument, the two viewpoints/beliefs shouldn’t be opposing, one as rational and the other as delusional. I wouldn’t call non believers irrational or delusional, but it could just as easily be argued that they are.

    I would take issue with you Audrey. It doesn’t take any leap of faith at all to say that there is currently no evidence compelling me to acknowledge the existence of a god, there is no physical or other reality that requires a god to explain it, and therefore no compelling reason to act or live as if a god existed.

    That is the default position of someone rationally choosing not to make use of faith in their lives at all, but to base their actions and life choices only on those things for which there is evidence.

  66.  

    It also might be useful to reflect on the common misconception that scientists go around trying to prove things. Actually, scientists spend all their time trying to disprove things. Science mainly proceeds by “destruct-testing” of ideas. Those ideas that best resist such destruct testing are probably true, but never with 100% certainty. And, after a great deal of failure to be disproven, ideas can more or less be safely assumed to be proven, but again, not with 100% certainty. 100% certainty is most certainly unscientific. And so is any attempt to “prove” a proposition. The scientific thing to do is try your best to disprove your proposition, in as many ways as your imagination can come up with. And that is what makes science such a useful safeguard (the only one there is) against wishful thinking.

  67.  

    scotlyn….there is no leap of faith saying that you dont know if there is a god or there is no evidence for a god however there is a leap of faith saying that there is definitely no god. but any conclusion is not delusional

  68.  

    Scotlyn — you’ve identified exactly the difference between rational thought and blind belief.

    Rational thought is constantly trying to find out how it might be mistaken whereas blind belief is constantly trying to silence its critics.

  69.  

    Roosta; I’m not sure what your point is, other than to parade your ability to read wikipedia.

    Haha…not a single bit of that came from wikipedia. The reason I am engaging in this dialogue with you is because I have been interested in and studied (not as a practitioner, I am NOT a buddhist, purely out of interest for different world philosophies) Buddhism for the past 2 1/2 years. Why are you getting so bent out of shape and making sneery remarks like that? I was just correcting your mistakes, which I know to be mistakes from reading multiple, respected sources.

    My point was to point out that your comments were based on flawed information, or a misunderstanding about Tibetan Buddhism.

    Personally, I don’t care a jot about the nuances of what one religion believes versus another – they can argue over how many angels fit on a pin head all they like, it makes no difference. And if the Dalai Lama is essentially an agnostic who denies that he is what his followers think he is, and wants to end the traditional role of Dalai Lama anyway, then he is proving my point that he is essentially a political figure. His supporters still see him as the reincarnated god-like figure, and that’s what matters in terms of his source of authority. So in the end, he is an unelected political figure who draws his authority from religious dogma – and I don’t see why that should command our respect.

    But the point is we weren’t talking about theirdifferent nuances, we were talking about the claims you made, which were based on false information.

    To repeat, he is not seen as a God-like figure.

  70.  

    Roosta:

    I defer to your greater scholarship on this matter. I have spent the past 2 1/2 minutes researching Tibetan Buddhsm and found (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalokitesvara) that the Dalai Lama is considered to be a living reincarnation of the enlightened one Chenrezig:

    “Chenrezig is an important deity in Tibetan Buddhism, and is regarded in the Vajrayana teachings as a Buddha.In the Mahayana teachings he is in general regarded as a high-level Bodhisattva. The Dalai Lama is considered by the Gelugpa sect and many other Tibetan Buddhists to be the primary earthly manifestation of Chenrezig”.

    So let’s agree that he’s the earthly mainfestation of an important Buddhist deity, or whatever. We shouldn’t give too much credence to unelected earthly representatives of deities; that’s all I’m saying. You may disagree, and that’s fine.

    And man, that religion has even more mumbo-jumbo that most. So it’s hard to know what any of the above means and different subsidiaries of Buddhism seem to have different beliefs. All of which makes it sound like folklore to me.

  71.  

    I am of the opinion that there three perfectly acceptable answers to this question given we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God one way or the other. One is at liberty to Believe, not Believe ,or question.
    Personally I have formed the idea that I know nothing. However I do have opinions on more or less everything.
    So many people have died over the millennia ,r stupid differences over the nature of God . It is surely time we adopted the three ways in to the future and respect one another.

  72.  

    “Rational thought is constantly trying to find out how it might be mistaken whereas blind belief is constantly trying to silence its critics.

    Agreed. But also religion does not equal dogma, though some religions have more than others (your Karma ran over my Dogma :)
    And many religions have changed or altered their beliefs over the millennia, just not at a pace that is as quick as we might like.

    It doesn’t take any leap of faith at all to say that there is currently no evidence compelling me to acknowledge the existence of a god, there is no physical or other reality that requires a god to explain it, and therefore no compelling reason to act or live as if a god existed.”

    I accept Scotlyn’s point that much science is founded on disproving theories (but not all; 2+2=4 and will always be provable to be 4 because we defined it), but also charge that assuming that science or rational though will find the answers is in itself blind faith.

    If you talk to any quantum physicist, or a Hubble analyst, then you will find that in fact it is widely acknowledged that there are forces at work in the universe which are correctly completely beyond our current powers of understanding. The best we can do is make a few hand-waving theories (some grounded in our very basic understanding of physics, granted) and hope for the best. I mean come on, we can’t even create the simplest of life-forms by ourselves, let alone accurately predict the weather.

    So I would say to you that there is equally as much evidence that god exists, as there is that he doesn’t (For certain values of god, that is ;)

    And in fact by using your “destruct-desting” you cannot prove for example that god did not create life on this earth (or any other world for that matter). Maybe in a few thousand years we will be able to prove this. But since that’s well beyond any of our current lifespans, what difference will it really make in the end?

    Anyway, how about that budget? Surely a work of evil inspired by the devil…

  73.  

    Steve:

    I accept Scotlyn’s point that much science is founded on disproving theories (but not all; 2+2=4 and will always be provable to be 4 because we defined it), but also charge that assuming that science or rational though will find the answers is in itself blind faith.

    Yes, well you’re right – maths is different from science. You can prove things using maths, but science asks how does this work? – has 2+2 always=4? Will it always? Does 2+2=4 depend on something peculiar to the particular shape of our consciousness, or on some fundamental property of the universe? Do numbers have an independent existence of their own? These are interesting questions and science is about how you go about finding answers to them – mainly by eliminating anything that is contradicted by the evidence, and then taking your pick of what’s left, on a temporary basis, until such time as more evidence turns up.

    As to whether science or rational thought will find “the answers” depends a whole lot on what the question is. Some questions are answerable, some questions are answerable in principle but require more evidence, some questions are by their nature unanswerable. When it comes to the last, you can either make up your own answer, or you can refrain from asking the question. Or you can ask it and be happy to go on wondering (which is what I think the quantum physicists you referred to are doing). I know of no other useful way to get an answer to a question. A speculation, yes. An answer, no.

    Anyway, why is it that we all must come down somewhere on the god/no god question? Is because this question has been posed to us since babyhood by our cultural indoctrinators? Hasn’t anyone realised there is a third option? That you can decide that god/no god is simply not an important, useful or interesting question at all. And, believe me, as someone holding this last position, I am still accused by believers of “having a faith”. To me this is simply projection on the part of the faithful, who cannot conceive of such a thing as “no faith.”

  74.  

    Although I don’t myself, I think it’s fine if someone else wants to believe in a Creator based on no direct evidence. It’s quite easy to look around and say “Isn’t the world wonderful, I reckon someone must have designed it.” I happen to think this is faulty logic, but in itself, it is a relatively harmless belief.

    My difficulty is with someone who takes the next step and decides, still without any evidence, that they somehow have divined their Creator’s intentions–how he wants us to live our lives, what we should eat, what he rewards and abhors, what he has planned for us after death; that kind of thing.

    Then they write up their fantasies in a big rule book and start shouting at everyone.

    Those extrapolations are vile, divisive, insulting, absurd, disturbing, and just plain wrong.

    ::

  75.  

    Darwin, how do you see the argument between religious beliefs and evolutionary beliefs developing over the coming years? Can you ever see an athiest president of the USA?

  76.  

    Darwin, Einstein has also been quoted as saying ‘ I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts, the rest are details.’ I get the feeling Einstein was more anti religious than anything.
    I didn’t say the majority of scientists believe in a creator, I said some top scientists believe in a creator.. so you shouldn’t take it as an insult. Believe it’s faulty logic if you like that people believe in a creator, but it’s kind of like subatomic particles, when you pay attention they appear and when you don’t they disappear. You find whatever you look for.

  77.  

    BOCK, the original post is a beautiful example of how an intelligent mind works. The comments it has engendered leave me in no doubt that the normal human condition remains – STUPID!

  78.  

    James — Apologies for the delay. Put it down to excess.

    I can’t imagine the Americans electing a non-religious person as president, and yet, ironically, these are the people who criticise other countries for being theocratic.

  79.  

    Hope this link works, Interesting.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/mar/15/society

  80.  

    very interesting article Norma.

  81.  

    There’s no equivalence between science and religion. Science is essentially nothing more than clear thinking, whereas religion, in the words of that article you linked to, answers a need for meaning that is met by myth. If you want a fairy-tale, look to religion.

    To put it another way, religion is about making things up, while science is about finding things out.

  82.  

    This debate is getting better every year, and will only increase with Atheist Ireland publishing the 25 blasphemous quotations on their website on new years day. They could be liable for a €25k fine if prosecuted by the government under the new blasphemy law. Can anyone see the government prosecuting, and if so, what the outcome would be in the courts?

  83.  

    yea true bock but there’s only so much you can find out with science.. and science can only name things not tell you what they are.

  84.  

    Audrey — Science isn’t a thing. Science is just a name we have for clear thinking.

    However little we find out by clear thinking, we’ll find out nothing by making things up.

    James — The government doesn’t have the power to prosecute anyone. That’s a matter for the police.

  85.  

    Audrey, what else is there, other than science, to find things out with?

  86.  

    Scotlyn, I know what you are saying but at best science is a balance of probabilities.. I mean basically science works by getting rid of all the ideas that don’t fit the available evidence and hopefully you are left with one remaining idea that fits the evidence.. but at best all science offers is probabilities.
    I agree with Bock on what the scientific method is. I think if a theory can be disproved by observable evidence then it is science and anything else is not science.. but I’m also saying science has it’s limits. Science can tell you the how – sometimes.. and not the why most of the time or what something is. For instance it is known how gravity behaves but not what it is – how it actually works.. or why it exists or how it came about.. how can science ever answer that?

  87.  

    Audrey — Attempting to understand these things is called science.

  88.  

    And what of anything you can’t understand/prove – ok it’s not science.. but what delusional?

  89.  

    Audrey — There’s nothing that can’t be understood, given time and a rational, patient methodology.

  90.  

    doesn’t faith preceed scientific methodolgy……most great dicoveries and explorations started with a belief

  91.  

    What precedes methodology is a theory which must be tested — not a belief.

  92.  

    what precedes atheory then if not a belief

  93.  

    Curiosity.

  94.  

    So science and religion/spirituality seem to have a look in common.. Curiosity about your origins and the world around you.

  95.  

    Curiosity is a fundamental characteristic of most animals.

    Arising from that, you can go either of two ways. You can find things out, or you can make them up.

    The approach of finding things out is called science, and the approach of making things up is called religion.

  96.  

    People can be as lost in science as religious people are in magic. The halls of science were just as filled with delusion as the churches. Faith is different than making things up. When Columbus took of to sail around the world he had a faith (an idea, a belief, a theory) that he wasn’t going to fall off the edge of the planet, .. was he delusional at the time.. some could argue he was.

  97.  

    No, Audrey. Anyone who is deluded is not practising science.

  98.  

    Most people are deluded then..

  99.  

    Please don’t try to put words in my mouth.

    This discussion is about science, not delusion.

  100.  

    I didn’t put words in your mouth Bock.. I’m just saying most people have delusions of one form or another. Maybe I’m not reading your post properly but it seems to me that you are opposing science (rational thought) against religion (delusional thought). You don’t merely discuss science on its own.

  101.  

    I’m contrasting evidence-based inquiry against things that people dreamed up off the top of their heads.

    As I said already, science is always eager to assimilate new information and change the theory accordingly.

    If you had proof, for instance, that the world was created in seven days, you’d certainly win the Nobel Prize.

    That’s how science works. It’s a process of constantly re-evaluating the theory on the basis of new information and modifying it as appropriate. Science never says that anything IS. Science says, this is our best guess at the moment, until we find out some new stuff, and then we’ll look at the theory again to make it better.

  102.  

    I’m in total agreement with you.. good definition of science there.

  103.  

    Definitely. Darwin was studying to become an Anglican parson when he started to question the literal interpretation of the Bible, a path that led him to publish ‘On the Origin of Species’. Life should be a continual learning experience, not a meek acceptance of religious dogma.

  104.  

    Audrey:

    there’s only so much you can find out with science..

    Me:

    Audrey, what else is there, other than science, to find things out with?

    Audrey:

    Science can tell you the how – sometimes.. and not the why most of the time or what something is. For instance it is known how gravity behaves but not what it is – how it actually works.. or why it exists or how it came about.. how can science ever answer that?

    Not sure how that answers the question I asked. What else is there, Audrey, besides science, to find things out with?

  105.  

    As I said there’s only so much you can find out with science.. how that warrants the question, ‘What is there, other than science, to find things out with?’ I didn’t say you can make things up or indicate other ways of knowing anything, I said there is only so much you can find out using science.
    Let me ask you Scotlyn what have you figured out using the scientific method, since that’s all there is to find things out?

  106.  

    Bock – Pat Robertson, the evangelistic broadcaster, said on his Christian Broadcast Network that the Haiti quake was ‘divine retribution’ caused by ‘ a pact with the devil’. The scientific view would be that the quake was caused by tectonic plate movement and Haiti is on a major fault line. I’ve never lived in the States, but how can he get away with saying these things, and why do millions of people believe it?

  107.  

    I have no idea. Could it be because they’re idiots?

  108.  

    I think it’s a great quote; dogmatic, undertones of racism, schadenfreude, and absolutely bonkers. I’m just waiting for the first priest to say, ‘God is just testing their faith’. My money is on Sunday afternoon, in a sermon in deepest Tipperary, just after the congregation have put away their banjos.

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