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Author Topic:   One's Own Theory
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 770 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 1 of 46 (540904)
12-29-2009 11:16 PM


It seems to me that creationists do not understand what the Theory of Evolution actually says. I'm sure I'm not the only evolutionist who thinks this. We, as evolutionists, are constantly fighting strawmen on this forum. It seems, in fact, that creationists are not even making any effort to understand at all.

I realize that some of what evolution proposes is not really intuitive on the scale humans are used to thinking on, but it doesn't seem like an astronomical feat to me to realize that, for example, Mendelian genetics and descent with modification are compatible ideas.

I formalized this as a statement while thinking through a response to AndrewPD on his new intermediates thread. The statement (which did not make the final cut) went like this:

quote:
Why is it that nobody who believes evolution ever thinks about it enough to figure out what it actually says?

Indeed, it seems that, only if a theory is "one's own" will one actually develop enough understanding of it to actually make authoritative arguments about it.

I remember my "conversion" to evolution a few years back. I had decided to accept it long before I really had a deep understanding of how it worked, and have only since then developed a solid grasp of the concepts involved.

Furthermore, the further I get involved in science, ToE and this debate, the less patience I find myself having for reading ID/creation materials, for even considering their arguments, etc.

This makes me wonder, on more general terms, how and why we filter information about our worldviews and theories, and what impacts this might have on what we accept or reject.

Some questions to ask:

Does belief always come before understanding? Should it?
How large is the role of confirmation bias in our learning process?
Are we doing the same thing to Intelligent Design that they obviously are to the Theory of Evolution?
Are any of us really beating up anything other than strawmen?
What does this mean for science education? Surely our professors (are ourselves, for those who are professors) have their "own theories": won't this color their lectures?

Expect me to play devil's advocate, because I don't think anybody else will be willing to do so, and this will be a boring discussion of nobody does.

Maybe "Is it Science?" is a good place for this?

Edited by Admin, : No reason given.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by PaulK, posted 12-30-2009 6:51 AM Blue Jay has responded
 Message 6 by Straggler, posted 12-30-2009 9:25 PM Blue Jay has responded
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 Message 20 by Straggler, posted 03-04-2010 7:43 PM Blue Jay has acknowledged this reply

  
AdminPD
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Message 2 of 46 (540926)
12-30-2009 6:10 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the One's Own Theory thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
hooah212002
Member
Posts: 3183
Joined: 08-12-2009


Message 3 of 46 (540929)
12-30-2009 6:38 AM


I think I can try and answer some of these, albeit maybe not as wordy as some of the other posters around here:

Does belief always come before understanding? Should it?

It does, but it shouldn't.

How large is the role of confirmation bias in our learning process?

Tremendous. I think people see a person of prestige who thinks the same as they do, so it seems to lend some sort of creedence to their POV. On the other hand, if they see material that disagrees with their POV, some will tend to see it as a personal attack.

Are we doing the same thing to Intelligent Design that they obviously are to the Theory of Evolution?

I really can't see how. It is well documented that ID is nothing more than a certain religious camp's attempt to shove their view into mainstream thought. Evolution doesn't wirk that way. Science is still going to be science if no one "believes" it. An atom will always be an atom.

Are any of us really beating up anything other than strawmen?

No, I don't think so. For me, my primary goal around here (and in regards to creationism/relgion in general) is to point out to creationists/religious zealots that it's ok to have beliefs, just know that you need to keep them to yourself and be more leniant in regards to others. Didn't jesus say something similar?

What does this mean for science education? Surely our professors (are ourselves, for those who are professors) have their "own theories": won't this color their lectures?

Not too sure on this on. I never went to college and I couldn't have cared less in high school. However, any good teacher never lets personal bias into ANY lecture.


Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people
-Carl Sagan

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
-Carl Sagan


Replies to this message:
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PaulK
Member
Posts: 14747
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 4 of 46 (540932)
12-30-2009 6:51 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Blue Jay
12-29-2009 11:16 PM


quote:

Does belief always come before understanding? Should it?

I don't think that belief necessarily comes before understanding (although it will likely come before full understanding). However, it often will because of the way we are taught and learn (and there is nothing necessarily wrong with this).

In the case of an adult engaging in serious self-education on a subject I would expect belief and understanding to develop together, although they may well start with a basic belief.

quote:

How large is the role of confirmation bias in our learning process?

That is hard to say. I think that it may play a limited but useful role, especially in children.

quote:

Are we doing the same thing to Intelligent Design that they obviously are to the Theory of Evolution?

If anything it seems that they do it to Intelligent Design - and frequently to anything. My impression is that it is less the subject matter than a general attitude.

quote:

Are any of us really beating up anything other than strawmen?

As I say, it is a difference in attitude. Those of us who are prepared to do at least basic research, consider objections to our arguments and consider the implications of our arguments are far more likely to accurately represent our opponents than those who prefer to simply assume that they must be right.

quote:

What does this mean for science education? Surely our professors (are ourselves, for those who are professors) have their "own theories": won't this color their lectures?

At degree level, this does happen to an extent (although I have no reason to believe that it reaches the level of being a serious problem in any but a tiny handful of cases - although it may be more of a problem outside of science).

Of course, the more advanced the education, the more the students should be able to go out and do their own research. And the more basic the education, the more it can be performed well by sticking to the accepted mainstream views.

So, I would argue that we should be far more concerned about High School teachers - dealing with a less-well informed and more impressionable audience - teaching fringe ideas, than we should be about university professors occasionally dropping their own ideas and preferences into a lecture.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Blue Jay, posted 12-29-2009 11:16 PM Blue Jay has responded

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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 770 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 5 of 46 (541045)
12-30-2009 9:00 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by hooah212002
12-30-2009 6:38 AM


Hi, Hooah.

hooah212002 writes:

Bluejay writes:

Does belief always come before understanding? Should it?

It does, but it shouldn't.

Do you think it always does? It always seems to in my case.

As far as whether it should or not, I'm torn. Without people passionately advocating certain theories, I'm not sure the scientific community would ever become motivated enough to run the tests.

We often overlook the impact of scientists' egos on the rise and full of scientific ideas.

-----

hooah212002 writes:

However, any good teacher never lets personal bias into ANY lecture.

I've been in classes with a lot of teachers and professors, and I don't think I can say that any of them really taught without personal bias.

I've heard arguments from religious people that this can be a good thing (you know, if I don't teach my kid about Jesus while he's young, he won't grow up in the truth).

And, I'm sorry to say, I have met many scientists who would probably likewise assert that teaching their viewpoint is the only sensible way to run a classroom.

As a current grad student, most of my training has so far focused on how to convince people that I'm right about something, and the part about how to actually be right about something has been pretty much left to me to figure out on my own.

Hence, the obsessive focus on my own thought process right now.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by hooah212002, posted 12-30-2009 6:38 AM hooah212002 has responded

Replies to this message:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 6 of 46 (541047)
12-30-2009 9:25 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Blue Jay
12-29-2009 11:16 PM


Good Questions
Does belief always come before understanding?

Not always but we are not blank slates and more often than not we will approach a subject from some sort of preconceived position that is directly or near directly relevant. So in short - Almost always yes.

Should it?

Purely logically? No. Purely rationally? No. Realistically and bearing in mind human nature? All but inevitably yes. Should we fight this? Perhaps controversially I don't think so. We are not robots. We all have to have a belief basis in something. It is how flexible and open to rationality that this belief basis is that counts I guess.

How large is the role of confirmation bias in our learning process?

Phew! Huge. Probably. But where beliefs are just wrong confrontation of the truth will trump confirmation bias ultimately. I know this because I have faith

Taking part in places like this if nothing else makes you think about what you believe. That can only be a good thing. Even if some still are in denial and use it as a form of unjustifiable confirmation bias. At least they are exposing themselves (and I include myself here) to the alternatives.

Are we doing the same thing to Intelligent Design that they obviously are to the Theory of Evolution?

Good question. And yes sometimes I think we all are. But ultimately the evidential foundations are not there for ID. That cannot be ignored even if we are all tempted to ignore that and just "have a go" for arguments sake sometimes.

Are any of us really beating up anything other than strawmen?

Another fine question. I think we are. Those with much scientific knowledge definitely. Those of us who are not scientists are arguing the evidence as best we can. Again I would say that the reality is that ID cannot even hold a candle to science in terms of logic, rationality and above all evidence. But unless actively engaged in that evidence some sense of taking things on authority is inevitable.

What does this mean for science education? Surely our professors (are ourselves, for those who are professors) have their "own theories": won't this color their lectures?

I hope so. My favorite lectures at Uni were from an inspirational and leading QM gravitist of the time who happened to be a Christian. He interspersed his lectures with all sorts of personal thoughts on the nature of reality, the role of consciousness, the point of physics and the like. Never preaching, always making clear what was evidenced or accepted and what was his personal speculation. But riveting stuff for that willingness to expound in this way. I guess what I am saying is that "coloring" lectures in such ways is fine (even desirable) as long as it is done consciously and in such a way as to make the students aware as to where the dividing lines are.

But WTF do I know? I am someone who found QM lectures "riveting". If that doesn't tell you I am an irrepressible geek whose views are not to be trusted then I don't know what does

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 770 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 7 of 46 (541049)
12-30-2009 9:30 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by PaulK
12-30-2009 6:51 AM


Hi, Paul.

PaulK writes:

I don't think that belief necessarily comes before understanding (although it will likely come before full understanding).

So, do you think, in general, that evolutionists are capable of fully understanding Intelligent Design?

I always get the eerie feeling that I might be not grasping something a creationist is trying to say to me. I generally conclude that it's because, at worst, the idea doesn't have merit, or, at best, because they aren't explaining themselves well, but I never really feel certain of that.

-----

PaulK writes:

So, I would argue that we should be far more concerned about High School teachers - dealing with a less-well informed and more impressionable audience - teaching fringe ideas, than we should be about university professors occasionally dropping their own ideas and preferences into a lecture.

This is certainly the truth. My sister-in-law came home from high school in Utah one day and told me how her teacher had disproven evolution: clearly, since there are still apes, humans could not have evolved from apes. Duh.

Fortunately, my middle-school science teacher (in Baptist Tennessee, amazingly) taught my class evolution, and taught it very effectively. He did preface it with a remark that he hoped, after death, there was a place where he could go and watch the recorded history of the earth on the big screen.

That was the first time I remember asking to myself where Adam and Eve fit in that timeline. I also remember concluding that they must have fit in the Pleistocene, because that was where man started.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


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 Message 4 by PaulK, posted 12-30-2009 6:51 AM PaulK has responded

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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 770 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 8 of 46 (541056)
12-30-2009 10:20 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Straggler
12-30-2009 9:25 PM


Re: Good Questions
Hi, Straggler.

I figured you'd make an appearance on a thread like this.

Straggler writes:

Purely logically? No. Purely rationally? No. Realistically and bearing in mind human nature? All but inevitably yes. Should we fight this? Perhaps controversially I don't think so. We are not robots. We all have to have a belief basis in something. It is how flexible and open to rationality that this belief basis is that counts I guess.

Iím obviously not the only person who suffers mental blocks about things that I donít want to like. People like me are common in religious communities, so much so that I have tried hard to distance myself from those communities in various ways.

But, what troubles me is that I see a prevalance of the same kind of mindset in the scientific communities I participate in. How many scientists do you know who have actually changed their mind on a major point during their professional career? I know only a few.

I sometimes wonder which side is actually more obstinate in this regard.

-----

Straggler writes:

Again I would say that the reality is that ID cannot even hold a candle to science in terms of logic, rationality and above all evidence. But unless actively engaged in that evidence some sense of taking things on authority is inevitable.

I collected a whole lot of data this last summer. In the end though, I am only going to use a small fraction of it (enough to show the trend that I suspected was there). What bothers me is that I found some surprisingly high covariation with other variables that I was not really prepared to incorporate into my study, and I know have to decide what is to be done about it.

In a broader sense, how can I be sure that I am basing a given conclusion on enough data?
Itís such a tenuous thing, and I certainly haven't mastered the skill yet.

-----

Straggler writes:

My favorite lectures at Uni were from an inspirational and leading QM gravitist of the time who happened to be a Christian. He interspersed his lectures with all sorts of personal thoughts on the nature of reality, the role of consciousness, the point of physics and the like. Never preaching, always making clear what was evidenced or accepted and what was his personal speculation. But riveting stuff for that willingness to expound in this way. I guess what I am saying is that "coloring" lectures in such ways is fine (even desirable) as long as it is done consciously and in such a way as to make the students aware as to where the dividing lines are.

This is perhaps another reason why we should be more concerned with early education than university and graduate education. At the college level, you have multiple professors teaching related topics from their different perspectives. Hopefully, this will give some kind of balance to all the bias.

At the high school level and below, at least in the US, you only get one teacher for each class, so you don't have a whole department of biologists with differing viewpoints and emphases.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Straggler, posted 12-30-2009 9:25 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 9 of 46 (541058)
12-30-2009 10:42 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Blue Jay
12-30-2009 10:20 PM


Re: Good Questions
I figured you'd make an appearance on a thread like this.

Well I'm honoured. I think......?

Iím obviously not the only person who suffers mental blocks about things that I donít want to like. People like me are common in religious communities, so much so that I have tried hard to distance myself from those communities in various ways.

Well good for you. But as largely anti-religionist as I appear to be I would never claim that this is a purely a problem with religion. Just, perhaps, more obviously where faith is actively promoted as a good thing.

But, what troubles me is that I see a prevalance of the same kind of mindset in the scientific communities I participate in. How many scientists do you know who have actually changed their mind on a major point during their professional career? I know only a few.

Fair point. But it is not unheard of. It is also, arguably at least, more prevalent in science than most other areas of human endevour. Science, at least in theory, holds evidenced "truth" above all else. Including opinion. Indeed it bases it's entire authority on that. So even those determined to prove themselves right attempt to do so based on evidence. And more to the point those that are determined to prove themselves right must convince others with their evidence in the long term.

I sometimes wonder which side is actually more obstinate in this regard.

Short term obstinacy is just human nature. In the short term I think you have a point. But longer term denial of evidence is not consistent with scientific endevour. And I think history shows this. Science progresses on that basis.

Religious thought is much more obstinate in this regard. Surely?

In the end though, I am only going to use a small fraction of it (enough to show the trend that I suspected was there). What bothers me is that I found some surprisingly high covariation with other variables that I was not really prepared to incorporate into my study, and I know have to decide what is to be done about it.

Dude only you genuinely know the personal honesty with which you have determined your results. But even if you are blinded by your own bias science has methods of weeding that out. No?

In a broader sense, how can I be sure that I am basing a given conclusion on enough data?
Itís such a tenuous thing, and I certainly haven't mastered the skill yet.

Peer review? Repetition of results? The fact that any scientific paper worth it''s salt considers it's own shortcomings in a way that no other discipline insists upon.

If your conclusions are correct you will be verified and deemed as having done good work. If wrong you will be denigrated as a biased scientist whose results are not to be trused. At least in theory...

This is perhaps another reason why we should be more concerned with early education than university and graduate education. At the college level, you have multiple professors teaching related topics from their different perspectives. Hopefully, this will give some kind of balance to all the bias.

Fair point. Uni studes are also far more critically proficient. Or at least one would hope so.

At the high school level and below, at least in the US, you only get one teacher for each class, so you don't have a whole department of biologists with differing viewpoints and emphases.

Likewise UK. In fact up until 11 you get essentially one teacher teaching everything. Then in secondary school (11 - 16 or 19 if you want) you get specialist teachers per subject. But only one per subject (unless you get a student teacher - which can be fun)


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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 2262 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 10 of 46 (541059)
12-30-2009 11:18 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Blue Jay
12-30-2009 9:30 PM


I always get the eerie feeling that I might be not grasping something a creationist is trying to say to me. I generally conclude that it's because, at worst, the idea doesn't have merit, or, at best, because they aren't explaining themselves well, but I never really feel certain of that.

I fully agree. I find quite often that when a creationist attempts to explain something, instead of getting an answer, it causes more questions.


There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002

Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

Since Evolution is only ~90% correct it should be thrown out and replaced by Creation which has even a lower % of correctness. W T Young, 2008


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 14747
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 11 of 46 (541069)
12-31-2009 2:33 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Blue Jay
12-30-2009 9:30 PM


quote:

So, do you think, in general, that evolutionists are capable of fully understanding Intelligent Design?

I would say that on this forum there are a number of evolutionists who have a better understanding of Intelligent Design than the Intelligent Design supporters.

quote:

I always get the eerie feeling that I might be not grasping something a creationist is trying to say to me. I generally conclude that it's because, at worst, the idea doesn't have merit, or, at best, because they aren't explaining themselves well, but I never really feel certain of that.

In my experience it is likely that their argument is simply irrational. Possibly including "facts" that they have invented. (Creationists do have a tendency to assume that reality must agree with what they want).


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2713 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 12 of 46 (541111)
12-31-2009 3:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Blue Jay
12-29-2009 11:16 PM


Does belief always come before understanding? Should it ?

I guess it does in the vast majority of times. I can't say if it should, but I'm pretty sure it can't be any other way. We naturally try to understand things that we believe in, and the few times we try to understand something other than what we believe in, it is to compare it with our POV.

How large is the role of confirmation bias in our learning process?

I actually think it has a much larger role in adults than in children. Because by definition this involves us choosing what we decide to learn, which only happens when we get older. Young children don't choose what they learn, they simply take on whatever we decide to give them. Seen this way, the bias comes from the parents/educational structure.

In the case of adults, the personnal confirmation bias is a lot more active, because we are the ones deciding what we learn. And naturally, we are going to want to learn things we already think hold truth.

Are we doing the same thing to Intelligent Design that they obviously are to the Theory of Evolution?

This question is a bit harder to answer because I think it is badly stated. Some IDers also believe in the ToE. Some also believ in the Fact of Evolution. I think it would be more appropriate to replace ToE in this question by Abiogenesis.

In any case, I do think the same is being done to ID. I've noticed that many atheistic evolutionists here pride themselves of their understanding of ID, when actually it sometimes quite faulty.

Are any of us really beating up anything other than strawmen?

This question is rather interesting. If we are talking about conscious strawmen, then I think the answer is no. Not many willfully misrepresent the other's case in order to discredit it.

If we are talking about unconscious strawmen, then the answer is different. It happens when we misunderstand the other person's position, and I don't think this always happens. At least not with everyone. I can take myself as an example and I pretty much have the same understanding of evolution is the evolutionists around here; I see this when I think of the same answers to the faulty creationist arguments as you guys.

What does this mean for science education? Surely our professors (are ourselves, for those who are professors) have their "own theories": won't this color their lectures?

How do we define personnal bias ? If a teacher talks about the most popular theory on a given subject, and it also happens to be his own personnal view on the subject, is it personnal bias ? As compared to when he talks about his own view on a subject, but this time it is not the commonly accepted view on this ? Is it any more or less personnal bias in this case ?

I can't think of a profesor teaching something he doesn't think is true, because he will always want his students to know what is true, not false. It isn't more or less personnal bias when this just so happens to be the common view then when it isn't. The way to get out of this would be to teach both the common view and the personnal view, which can be done in obejctive sciences such as Math, but harder as you go to physics, biology, geology, anthropology down to psychology, sociology, etc. because of time limits.

The other way would be to impose what teachers have to teach, and nothing else. But then it only becomes the bias of those at the top who decide what will or will not be taught.

Much more could have been said about each question, but I'll leave it to that as I will continue ruminating these questions ...


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hooah212002
Member
Posts: 3183
Joined: 08-12-2009


Message 13 of 46 (541114)
12-31-2009 3:31 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Blue Jay
12-30-2009 9:00 PM


Do you think it always does? It always seems to in my case.

As far as whether it should or not, I'm torn. Without people passionately advocating certain theories, I'm not sure the scientific community would ever become motivated enough to run the tests.

You threw me off with the word "belief". I don't see valid theories as "beliefs". "Beliefs" shouldn't be taught in science class. That was my approach.

However, in a way, I think you are right. A proffessor should care about a subject so as to ensue they cover all aspects, not just a brief summation.

I've been in classes with a lot of teachers and professors, and I don't think I can say that any of them really taught without personal bias.

I was referring more to the extreme, where it would hinder the learning process. Everyone should have an even keel regarding rational thought. Even a staunch atheist shouldn't say how religion is so fucked up, or put it down in such a manner as to put off his students, because religion does SOME good for SOME people. That's the kind of personal bias I was talking about.

I've heard arguments from religious people that this can be a good thing (you know, if I don't teach my kid about Jesus while he's young, he won't grow up in the truth).

Isn't that how religion operates though? Look what happens to religious people when they open their mind: they turn into atheists.

And, I'm sorry to say, I have met many scientists who would probably likewise assert that teaching their viewpoint is the only sensible way to run a classroom.

You know damn well how hard it is to discuss things with people who only see things one way, so why not get kids thinking about all aspects early on?

As a current grad student, most of my training has so far focused on how to convince people that I'm right about something, and the part about how to actually be right about something has been pretty much left to me to figure out on my own.

I'm not a student, and I dropped out of high school (I regret it every day). My dealings with people here and abroad, in the workplace and in personal life have taught me that two heads are better than one. No one person will ever have the right answer to everything. Why spend all your time trying to prove you are right? You will learn more if you try to gain insight on other peoples thoughts and how other people think about things. Very few tasks are best completed solo, teamwork is essential.

There have been MANY times where I had an idea, only to spout it off here, thinking I was completely right and sure of it,... and see another posters POV and have it change my way of thinking.


Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people
-Carl Sagan

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
-Carl Sagan


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 Message 5 by Blue Jay, posted 12-30-2009 9:00 PM Blue Jay has responded

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 Message 18 by Blue Jay, posted 01-09-2010 12:53 PM hooah212002 has acknowledged this reply

    
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 770 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 14 of 46 (542242)
01-08-2010 12:30 PM


For Straggler
Hi, Straggler.

Straggler writes:

A "belief" in the validity of the scientific method is based on more than that.

Well, for some, it is, yes. But, not for all of us.

This is what I introduced in this thread before it was superseded by RAZD's thread (Honest Debate: how do you read?). I submit that most of us accept an idea before we actually understand it or know the evidence for it. Story first, evidence after.

This is assuredly the case for our acceptance of the scientific method. We're taught that using experiments to address specific hypotheses is the best way to alleviate problems with error and bias, and we say, "Yeah, that makes sense." We accept the story because it fits with our common sense, not because someone proved to us that it works better.

Here's an example to consider. In the Book of Mormon there is a section called "Moroni's promise" (Moroni 10:3-5). In that section, the ancient prophet Moroni writes a promise that, if we ponder a doctrinal matter in our mind, and then ask God if our conclusion about that doctrine are correct, we will receive a certain prompting that will confirm or deny our conclusion, and we can use this method to discern truth from error.

Millions of Mormons around the world use this method regularly, for both scriptural and everyday purposes. I have done so myself. And, I can tell you that there can be a certain feeling that accompanies the performance of the scriptural promise.

What does this mean? Millions of Mormons would tell me that, because they have used this method to ask God about the truth of the Book of Mormon, and have received the promised prompting, that the ďexperimentĒ works, and that they can therefore be certain that the Book of Mormon is true.

You know that I am always going to be a cautious skeptic about stuff like this, but isn't this example based on the exact same principle of reasoning that the scientific method, in the broad sense you described, is based on?

So, what is the difference between the millions of Mormonsí belief in this method and the millions of biology studentsí belief in the real scientific method?

Thatís the real question. And I submit that there really is no difference. We all have our sources, and we retain the right to transfer the perceived strengths of our sources to our own arguments.

Remember that Iím not trying to compare the actual methods: Iím trying to compare the individuals who accept the conclusions of the different methods. And I submit that the average evolutionist is no more objective, no more honest and no more rational than the average creationist. In my mind, this nullifies a huge chunk of the arguments we regularly bring against creationists.

-----

Straggler writes:

Sanity demands that we treat our empirical experience of external reality as the most reliable indicator of reality external to ourselves. How could it possibly be otherwise?

Well, for reality in our immediate vicinity, I think you are right.

But, not all of an external reality is in our immediate vicinity. You could say that there is a correlation between the vicinity of the subject to an individual and the individualís reliance on empirical evidence to explain it. Indeed, I would say that empirical evidence actually becomes less powerful when explaining more remote topic, such as ďthe origin of life,Ē ďnatural historyĒ or ďthe afterlife,Ē so I donít think sanity requires empirically-evidenced explanations for these things.

But, I feel like Iím getting dragged into the RAZD-v-Straggler evidence feud, and like Iím about to get hit by invisible pink unicorns or brains in jars. I would very much like to avoid that, if you donít mind.

Edited by Bluejay, : Link to RAZD's thread.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by Straggler, posted 01-08-2010 2:35 PM Blue Jay has responded

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


Message 15 of 46 (542268)
01-08-2010 2:35 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Blue Jay
01-08-2010 12:30 PM


Re: For Straggler
But, I feel like Iím getting dragged into the RAZD-v-Straggler evidence feud, and like Iím about to get hit by invisible pink unicorns or brains in jars. I would very much like to avoid that, if you donít mind.

Very sensible indeed. Whether you believe it or not - Me too. But the same issues are somewhat inevitable even if I don't want to drag you or I into that specific disagreement. Because (I think) they lie at the heart of all that is discussed here at EvC in some ways.

I submit that most of us accept an idea before we actually understand it or know the evidence for it. Story first, evidence after.

This is assuredly the case for our acceptance of the scientific method.

Well this is where I disagree.

If we follow the empirical evidence and application of logic we should end up with the conclusions of science. Right? Conclusions regarding the age of the Earth, the origin of species etc. etc.

To come to the conclusion that an invisible man (or whatever) whooshed everything into existence 10,000 years ago requires some other form of "knowing" that is not derivable from the empirical evidence.

With things like creationism or ID or your Mormon example the implict acceptance of empirical evidence as the most reliable means of determining "truth" that we all apply in our everyday lives suddenly goes out the window. Instead it is replaced by something that cannot be justified in the same way. Not philosophically. And not in any practical sense that is demonstrably superior to guessing (surely a minimum criterium for the meaningful use of the term "evidence")

I am simply saying that we are all more than happy (if sane) to treat empirical experience of the world as the most reliable indicator of external reality without thinking twice about it in our everyday lives. AND that if we do stop and think about this question in any detail there are very good practical justifications for this approach. Practical reasons that amount to far more than "just knowing" that our empiricaly based epystemology is valid.

You know that I am always going to be a cautious skeptic about stuff like this, but isn't this example based on the exact same principle of reasoning that the scientific method, in the broad sense you described, is based on?

I don't see how the consistent acceptance of empirical evidence as the most reliable means of drawing conclusions can result in the conclusion that magical invisible beings are doing anything at all. How could it?

And I submit that the average evolutionist is no more objective, no more honest and no more rational than the average creationist. In my mind, this nullifies a huge chunk of the arguments we regularly bring against creationists.

Well you may possibly be right in terms of the individual knowledge and arguments bought to bear by individuals here. But as a body of knowledge that isn't true (I hope we can agree?)

And I would argue that an understanding of that superior methodology and resulting body of knowledge is behind the otherwise unjustifiable laziness of those of us that argue against creationists on this basis (i.e without taking the full evidential context of the question at hand into account as we should do)

I agree that this approach isn't justifiable in terms of any individual discussions. But nor is it the same as just saying "I am scientific you are not. Therefore you are wrong" on some sort of meaningless world view basis

Which you seem to be implying?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by Blue Jay, posted 01-08-2010 12:30 PM Blue Jay has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Blue Jay, posted 01-09-2010 12:07 PM Straggler has responded

  
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