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Author Topic:   Common Sense
Straggler
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Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 1 of 37 (487540)
11-01-2008 7:41 PM


A frequent feature of creationist argument is an appeal to common sense. Whether it be the behaviour of straight metal bars in curved space-time, the "self evident" truths of reality or the obviousness of design in nature, the notion of common sense as a reliable and valid measure of veracity continually surfaces in one form or another.

In this thread I would like to put "common sense" under the spotlight.

What is common sense exactly? (But let’s not get into a battle of dictionary definitions) Is it "common" or is it ultimately subjective and thus largely individual? Is there a role for common sense in science at all and if there is what is that role? The creationist contingent almost invariably treat the terms "sense", "reason" and "logic" as synonyms for "common sense" but just how sensible, reasonable and logical are common sense assumptions and conclusions?

How reliable is common sense?

Given the regular creationist appeal to common sense, whether directly or indirectly, I am also interested in examples of established science that would appear to confound common sense. In particular examples of common sense defying scientific principles that are accepted by pretty much everybody, creationist and evolutionist alike.

If promoted - Is It Science?

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
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AdminNosy
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Message 2 of 37 (487546)
11-01-2008 8:16 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
RAZD
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From: the other end of the sidewalk
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Message 3 of 37 (487553)
11-01-2008 9:33 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
11-01-2008 7:41 PM


common sense is world view applied to reality
What is common sense exactly?

Common sense is how things would be if everything you believed was actually true. If you understand everything perfectly then your "common sense" will tell you how things behave, etc.

Thus if you believe that water runs downhill, then common sense tells you that water runs downhill.

Because nobody truly understands everything, and most people hardly understand anything, real common sense is rare and highly uncommon.

Is there a role for common sense in science ...

No, because science needs to test all our understandings of reality, while common sense is just pretending that your beliefs are true.

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1370 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 4 of 37 (487554)
11-01-2008 9:36 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
11-01-2008 7:41 PM


Straggler writes:

Is it "common" or is it ultimately subjective and thus largely individual?


I would argue that common sense is neither "common" nor individual but somewhere in between.

I'd like to refer to an experiment I ran into while I was in college many centuries ago. In the experiment, the students are asked to roll a ball across a table in a path that the ball would not touch the rails on either side. The rails are curved. Student after student (we're talking about college students here) tried to roll the ball in a curved path before it entered in between the rails hoping the ball would continue to roll in a curved path. The physics students were the ones that noticed the rails were far apart enough that you could just roll the ball in a straight line to get it to go through without touching the rails.

The moral of the story is this. To the physics students, it was common sense for them that a ball will go in a straight line no matter what kind of path you set it to go before you let go. To other students, it was common sense for them that the ball could be manipulated to continue to roll in a curved path.

The real moral of the story is common sense depends on the mentality of certain groups of people. It's common sense for folks like myself to seek answers through skepticism. It's common sense for folks like buzsaw to seek answers through prayers. Ultimately, trying to apply common sense from one group to the other is futile and a complete waste of time.


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Coyote
Member (Idle past 185 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 5 of 37 (487557)
11-01-2008 10:00 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Taz
11-01-2008 9:36 PM


Common sense? Pah! Beliefs? Pah!
    What are the facts? Again and again and again - what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what 'the stars foretell,' avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable 'verdict of history' - what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your only clue. Get the facts!

    Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love, 1973


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Brad McFall
Member (Idle past 3112 days)
Posts: 3428
From: Ithaca,NY, USA
Joined: 12-20-2001


Message 6 of 37 (487561)
11-01-2008 10:43 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
11-01-2008 7:41 PM


ignorance and common "sense"
Well, as could be guessed, I like what Kant (Intro to Logic pages 34-35 Philosophical Library Edition) had to say
quote:
{211} Opposed to the logical perfection of knowledge with respect to its extent is ignorance, a negative imperfection, or imperfection of want, which on account of th elimits of our understanding continues inseperable from our knowledge.

2-Subjectively viewed, ignorance is either a learned scientificignorance, or common. The man who distinctly sees the limits of knowledge, and therefore the field of ignorance from which it starts; the philosopher, for instance, who percieves and proves how little from want of the requisite data we can know of the structure of gold, is ignorant by rule of art, or ignorant in a learned manner. On the other hand, the man who is ignorant without perceiving the reasons of the limits of ignorance, or troubling himself about them, is ignorant in a common unscientific manner. Such a man does not even know that he knows nothing, For one can never be aware of his own ignorance except by means of science; just as a blind man can form no conception of darkness unil he has acquired sight.


Thus scientific sense is different than common sense. The dark feelings of common sense however may impinge quite directly on the most ignorant areas of scientific knowledge precisely because of the existence of the lack of all sense and some understanding at the limits and may harbour prelogical logical thought. That is where the strength of ignorant sense comes from. It is common to all and does not depend on being blind or having sight. It can not replace rational or historical objectivity however ignorant.

It is probably the feeling that creationists may be, or seem to be using, rational and historical ignorance subjectively as if it were "objective common sense". This does not exist.

The sense is a "want" of the apperception. Lack of logic gives rise to a reason to understand this. Creationists have their own (hence two model view) rational and historical horizon, outside ignorant scientific sense. But since "common sense" only arises on account of a needed negativity prior to the experience, whatever is subjective in a creationist sense, as hereinthreadexplained can not address beyond a simple increase in data. For then the "logic" would be seperate from the "reason" AND "sense" (now not common but in qualitative tones).

If one follows out Kant's example of gold, which in his time was probably related to attempts of Newton and alchemists to transmute it, into the Kripkian ideas of natural kinds, then, the modern version acutally DID go against my own notion of "common sense" as I wanted to know of "this Earh", this salt that I stand on, not some other unknown world comparison, what the matter was. Mayr disbelieved the application of natural kinds to biology as well.

Really, however that is not science going against common sense but rather branced specialist science attempting to create a new sense (take nanotech etc) and at least for me failing, but then science,as opposed to any individual's "horizon" is never dependent on any one person, which is why ignorance can be scientific or learned or common.

Edited by Brad McFall, : sneaky program cut out ...


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Taz
Member (Idle past 1370 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 7 of 37 (487562)
11-01-2008 10:55 PM


Just a thought off the side.

I believe the one true reason why science exists is because of human curiosity. The more we find out about things, the more questions we have. The more questions we have, the more we want to find out. For example, after humans discovered the existence of the solar system, we began to try to find out what's beyond. For me, it's just common sense that life is only worth living if we try our best and give everything we have to figure out what's out there. The universe is a vast place beyond imagination. The distances between stars are just ridiculous.

Then there are the religiously motivated whose common sense tell them to not be curious and pray for answers... and prepare for judgement day. For them, common sense tells them life is worth living only because they have to prepare themselves to meet their creator. Nevermind all the wonderous things out there in the universe waiting to be discovered.


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aftab
Junior Member (Idle past 3702 days)
Posts: 4
Joined: 11-02-2008


Message 8 of 37 (487573)
11-02-2008 8:30 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Taz
11-01-2008 10:55 PM


Common sense
I guess common sense is sorta like intuition.
Without any doubt I can say that it's very useful but you have to treat it with skepticism before it transgresses on more complex sense.
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Straggler
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Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 9 of 37 (487592)
11-02-2008 11:41 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by RAZD
11-01-2008 9:33 PM


Re: common sense is world view applied to reality
Is there a role for common sense in science ...

No, because science needs to test all our understandings of reality, while common sense is just pretending that your beliefs are true.

I think that there is a role for common sense in science. Albeit a fairly limited one. I think common sense is a perfectly valid starting point for an initial hypothesis. However the key is to follow the subsequent evidence wherever it may lead without clinging onto this initial common sense assumption.

As for examples of common sense defying science that do not include the aspects of modern science that creationists find so upsetting:

  • Objects fall due to gravity at the same rate regardless of weight.
  • An object subject to no external forces will continue at it's present velocity forever.
  • The classical view of the atom tells us that all matter is made up almost entirely of empty space.

    These are all counter to common sense and would, I think, suggest that common sense is an extremely unreliable measure of veracity.


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  • Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10284
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    Message 10 of 37 (487595)
    11-02-2008 11:50 AM
    Reply to: Message 4 by Taz
    11-01-2008 9:36 PM


    So a common sense conclusion is one borne of a sort of 'cultural' belief system?

    Where "culture" can mean those with a common world view, educational background or whatever else is relevant to the conclusion at hand.

    Is that kinda what you mean?


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    Taz
    Member (Idle past 1370 days)
    Posts: 5069
    From: Zerus
    Joined: 07-18-2006


    Message 11 of 37 (487598)
    11-02-2008 12:06 PM
    Reply to: Message 10 by Straggler
    11-02-2008 11:50 AM


    Straggler writes:

    So a common sense conclusion is one borne of a sort of 'cultural' belief system?


    If you want to put it this way, sure. I see common sense and common sense conclusion to be the same thing.
    This message is a reply to:
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    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10284
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    Message 12 of 37 (487601)
    11-02-2008 2:52 PM
    Reply to: Message 11 by Taz
    11-02-2008 12:06 PM


    If you want to put it this way, sure. I see common sense and common sense conclusion to be the same thing.

    I guess I was just thinking of the fact that any one individual can be part of many 'cultures' resulting in various case specific common sense conclusions as opposed to one overall approach to common sense as a whole.

    The physicists in your example share a common education that provides a certain common sense approach to the ball rolling example you outlined.

    But the students in that physics class may well have very different views of what constitutes common sense regarding biological evolution, for example, as they may well share more in common with those of a similar upbringing and religious background than they do with their fellow physics students with regard to this specific example.

    However this is a minor distinction.


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    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10284
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    Message 13 of 37 (487602)
    11-02-2008 3:10 PM
    Reply to: Message 6 by Brad McFall
    11-01-2008 10:43 PM


    Re: ignorance and common "sense"
    Do you think that there are any scientific conclusions broadly accepted by all (creationists included) which run counter to common sense notions?

    For example the Newtonian conclusion that a body will remain in constant motion in the absence of external forces being applied.

    As a secondary school teacher I remember asking a class of 11/12 year olds their opinion on this broad scenario (a rock moving in space). They all were of the opinion that the object would eventually come to rest because "it would run out of energy" (or similar notions). Was this a common sense conclusion?

    I would say that yes it was. Are there other examples of such common sense untruths?


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    Brad McFall
    Member (Idle past 3112 days)
    Posts: 3428
    From: Ithaca,NY, USA
    Joined: 12-20-2001


    Message 14 of 37 (487612)
    11-02-2008 6:03 PM
    Reply to: Message 13 by Straggler
    11-02-2008 3:10 PM


    Re: ignorance and common "sense"
    I am pretty much in agreement with you here.

    Constant motion without forces, thus continuing, had also given me some concern (and still does a bit when I think of it but here one is simply in a difficultly imagining space with little density as indeed we do not live in it). I decided to do biology instead because it is the individual rather than matter sensu stricto that is involved and this I could usually cobble up when thinking of it as it must thus relate to myself.

    But that is why science (scientific sense) is not common sense. Science thought usually requires one to be aware that one is actively thinking something rather than simply reacting to the stimulus, whatever it is. That is why common sense can be common to all types of people, or so we say...


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    RAZD
    Member
    Posts: 19758
    From: the other end of the sidewalk
    Joined: 03-14-2004
    Member Rating: 5.8


    Message 15 of 37 (487622)
    11-02-2008 7:05 PM
    Reply to: Message 9 by Straggler
    11-02-2008 11:41 AM


    Re: common sense is world view applied to reality
    . I think common sense is a perfectly valid starting point for an initial hypothesis. However the key is to follow the subsequent evidence wherever it may lead without clinging onto this initial common sense assumption.

    The problem with this is that it is limiting your starting point, quite possibly to starting in the wrong direction.

    These are all counter to common sense and would, I think, suggest that common sense is an extremely unreliable measure of veracity.

    Quite so, and perfect examples of why we should not start with "common sense" in formation of hypothesis. For example (if I recall my science history correctly and it is not just another urban myth ...)

  • Objects fall due to gravity at the same rate regardless of weight.
  • It took from Aristotle to Galileo to get beyond the "common sense" view to actually testing it.

    Enjoy.

    Edited by RAZD, : •


    we are limited in our ability to understand
    by our ability to understand
    Rebel American Zen Deist
    ... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
    to share.


    • • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

    This message is a reply to:
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