Saturday, 9 March 2013

"Flame war"

In light of what my borther calls "flame war" on his facebook page, for those of you are freinds with my brother. Here is a longer explanation of my initial statement (on the first post about religion haveing to stay out of classrooms) that I thought we were "debating" until some really hectic value statements were made. Now first, to be all on the same page when we use certain words, a few definitions are in order.

Firstly the word "theory" as opposed to "hypothesis". According to my brother, ALL religious people do not understand the difference.

According to the Oxford Dictionary a theory has the following meanings:
1. A supposition or system of ideas explaining something esp. one based on basic principles independent of the particular things to be explained. (theory of evolution, atomic theory)
2. a speculative (esp. fanciful) view (one of my pet theories)
3. the sphere of abstract knowledege or speculative thought (this is all very well in theory....)
4. the exposition of principles of a science etc (theory of music)
5. Math. a collection of propositions to illustrate the principles of a subject (probability theory)

And just so that we are all on the same page, some words need further explanation.
For one, supposition:
a fact or ideas supposed

suppose: 1. assume, esp in default knowledge; be inclined to think.
2. take as a possibility or hypothesis
3. as a formula of proposal
4. (of a theory of result) require as a condition
5. generally accepted to be so; believed
6. be expected or required (was supposed to write to you)

hypothesis: 1. a proposition made as a basis for reasoning without the assumption of truth
2. a supposition made as a starting point for further investigation from known facts
3. a groundless assuption

Propostion: 1. a statement or assertion
2. a scheme proposed; propose (which means put forward for consideration)
3. in Logic a statement condisting of subject and predicate that is subject to proof or disproof
4. colloquially a problem, opponent, prospect etc that is to be dealt with
5. in Math a formal statement of a theorem or problem, often including a demonstration
6. an enterprise with regard to its likelihood of commercial success or a person regarded similarly
7. colloqially a sexual proposal

Exposition: 1. An explanatory statement or account
2. an explanation or commentary
3. Music, the part of a movement, esp in sonata form, in which the themes are first presented
4. a large public exhibition
5. archaic exposure

now that we are all on the same page here are some examples:

I hypothesise that if I kick a dog he will yelp, turn around and attack.
Experiment: kick the dog
Observation: yelp, turn around and a attack
Now once is not enough, so I try it a few times. In some cases the dog does not attack, but runs away or does not react at all.

So, hypotheses partly disproved. Eventually I will form a theory "All living dogs will react when kicked". I will then need to qualify what I mean by "dog", by "kicked", by "living" and by "react".

So, Let's take it a step up. If someone else comes along and has formed a different theory, I will need to understand what the principles are, what the facts are, what the evidence is for their assumptions, right?

I will get to my initial statement now. I stateded (proposed, if you will) that science is based on faith. On a belief, on a way in which I view the world.

So, let's talk scientific theory: There are assumptions that form part of the theories. The theories are based on observation, repeated experiment and achievement of the same result. If an assuption requires more evidence, there needs to be one of two things: I can continue to assume without evidence AND I will continue to search for evidence or I will change my assumptions and still continue to search for evidence. Now if my assumption is without evidence, that means I will need to belive the assumption (have faith) that it the teory will hold true. If someone comes along with a different theory based on the same general principles, the same evidence (offers an alternative explanation to the general principles) are they worng? NO, they just hold a different assumption to be true (a different conclusion drawn from observation). These assumption may, as in case number one be without evidence, but again, I hold these assumption to be true (I have faith).

Now what usually happens, and in this I completely agree, on both sides, the assumptions are attacked and (quite vehemently, I might add). In that case one person (in my experience, usually the scientist) will make a statement to the likes of "you are an idiot if you believe THAT, it is complete and utter scientific rubbish" etc. At that point the scientific argument breaks down as emotions get in the way.

So, in order to keep it scientific let's discuss the following theories:
Theory 1: Living beings started off as a single cell and then evolved into different species.
General Principles: there is evolution
There are a variety of living beings
Just so we all know what evolotion means, another definition from Mr Dictionary)

Evolution: 1. the gradual development , esp from a single to a more complex form
2. a process by wich species develop from earlier forms as an explanation of their origins
3. the appearance of presentation of events tec in due succession (the evolution of the plot)
4. a change is the disposition of troops or ships
5. the giving off or evolving of gas, heat etc.
6. an opening out
7. the unfolding of a curve
8 Maths: the extraction of a root from any given power

Assumptions: the time it took for the changes to take place
Species can change from one to another

Observations of evidence: There is evolution on a small scale within a scpecies. They evolve quite fast at times due to circumstances, but then qickly change back when the circumstances return to normal (the finches Darwin observed)
There are earlier forms of species we have today.
The earleir forms died quite a while ago (they are fossilised). Etc.
Now, according to the evidence, there is no basis for me to assume the second assumption - "I require further evidence", but for now I will hold it to be true, because if I take long periods of time as my first ssumption, then it might very well be so.

Second theory:
Living beings started off as different species and have evolved with the different specied to keep with changes in environment.

General Principle: there is evolution
There are a variety of living beings
Species change within species.
At roughly the same time almost all of life was destroyed and reappeared again

Assumption: life started quickly
Species cannot change from one to another

Same Observation of evidence as above.
Do I also require further evidence? Yes, I do.

Two theories and two very different assumptions, the same evidence.

Now it get better: Based on theory 1, I assume that life is accidental because, in order for my assumption number two to hold true there need to be masses and masses of life forms with mal-formed characteristics until the real thing is formed. This is not what I observe, but I need to hold this as true, as basis for my assumption. Therefore life cannot have meaning. There can be no transcient being that orders the world.

Wait, what? Was that not just a value statement? When did "meaning" enter the picture? What bout transcient beings?

Well, as I said bevore, I need to believe something in order for my assumptions to be true. My assumptions need to be based on something... I need to have faith.

Ok, defenition time:
Faith: 1. complete trust or confidence
2. firm belief esp without logical proof
3(a). a system of religious beliefs
3 (b) belief in religious doctrines
3(c) spiritual apprehension of divine truth apart from proof
3(d) things to be believed
4. duty or commitment to fulfil a trust, promise etc.
5. Concerned with a supposed ability to cure by faith rather than treatment.
Faith requires an object (I need to believe in something or someone).

Let's park it there for now.

Theory number 2. Life is no accident, it appeared all in one go and has changed over time. The time can be long periods or short. From what I observe, (evidence) the time can be pretty short, shorter at least than what theory 1 assumes. I therefor assume that life has meaning, because without meaning life is unnecessary. Therefore I need to search for meaning and that implies a purpose. What is my purpose, why are we here? I further assume that life is created by a transcient being, who tells me what my purpose is.

Wait, what? Again a value statement - meaning, circular reasoning, purpose, religion... The lack of evidnece here is the actual transcient being. (I will return to this point later)

Now we have established that both theories have some pretty wild assumptions. (Sorry value statment.)The question is therefore not are my assumptions right or wrong, but are they plausible? By plausable I mean "something reasonable or probable".

Well, one seems more plausible than another depending or the exact same assumptions. And thus, if we were having a debate, we are arguing about plausibility of an assumption.

Here is how it usually goes: the scientist will reject the (plausible) assumption that there is a creator because, "let's face it all religious pleople are idiots", and to quote from the "flame war":

"Religion is the absolute opposite of this method. It has been and continues to restrict understanding of our world in favour of keeping people in the dark, dumbed down and under permanent control of what amounts to notihng better than the obviously petty and flawed scriblings of primative, bronze-aged sheep herders."

Wait, what? How many value statements were there? And oh, a book that will explain some of the reasons why I make my assumption is rejected because it is unscientific in a few things, not taking the time it was written into account. That same book, however can form the basis for every escientific disciplne, not only Biology and Geology. It can form the reasons beind Anthoplogy, Archeology, Scociology, Philosophy, Psychology and probably a whole lot of other "ologies" I have not thought of. (Please note I said "CAN" not should.)

Unfortunately I did not fare too well in that "debate" either, because I started then requesting evidence for the assumptions. Oops. Now, if I rejected scientific textbooks (let's just talk school books here) on account of one or two errors (scientifically proven by the way) there would be no Bioloy writings no Geography and we would escalate very fast from there. I.e. I cannot take any writings of humans into account. Where would that leave us? Well, we would need to do science from scratch.

But my initial statement was "that I base any of my observations of the world on an assumption (on a belief)." Something we have just established. Now, on to the lack of evidence - yes, it needs to be physical evidence.

Here is physical evidence for theory number one to still be be found: Transitionary life forms.
For theory number two it gets a bit more complicated, because I need to find a person (a transcient being, a designer, if you will). That implies a means of contacting that person to talk to them to ask questions etc. "Wait", the scientist says, "that is not possible to talk to a person that does not exist, because I have proven that such a preson does not exist."

Wait, when? How? Evidence? Scientific method: I observe no transcient being, no audible voice, etc. therefore the being does not exist.

True about the "Observation" but not about the conclusion. Just becaue I do not see or hear someone does not mean they do not exist. If I do not see a person on the other side of the world does not mean they are not there. etc.

So, if I require evidence, where can I find that evidence about the transcient being then? Well, in a book that was dismissed as being unscientific. The book comprises a set of documents in which people who have heard, at certain points in time, an audible voice, recorded what the voice said, predicted and instructed. So that means that at times there was no audible voice? Yes, very few people have heard it, but I can read the documents. It is the same as when I do not hear an audible voice of my friend on the phone but they write a letter.

And off we go into a religious debate.

I could go on and on but I will NEVER convince you of my theory unless we both are willing to consider the other's point of view. If I start off the debate without being willing to listen, the debate is useless. I will not hear what you have to say and will only get all emotional about it. We will eventually fight (or kill) each other and leave as enemies.

Unfortunately in the "debate" mentioned that mistake was on both sides, and I'll be the first to admit that I reacted unscientifically and unreasonable. So, sorry for that, but I hope this exposition of my initial statement is better.

I should have listened to the advice given by a very wise person:
"It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
    but every fool is quick to quarrel."