Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Science vs. Truth

Science doesn't tell us what is true. Science observes, measures, hypothesizes and then sets out to prove where and how it's hypotheses are wrong. The knowledge we gain is not truth but understanding. It allows us to make more reliable predictions. Through science we may know things better. But through science we may also know things even better tomorrow, next year, next century... we presume to not know so our understanding may improve. So we may make more more accurate predictions, perhaps new predictions, as new and/or better information becomes available.

"Truth" is a fool's goal. For any Truth that may be asserted do not terms and conditions apply? How then is this Truth? Certainly there are axioms. But in terms of how to live your life, how to treat other people, general civics, all "Truths" are conditional, multifaceted and rely on circumstances. When such a Truth is offered even the least skilled sophist should be able to identify how this alleged Truth is incomplete, hit&miss or independent of reality.

Science and skeptical inquiry do not tell us what is true, but rather what is not true or otherwise irrelevant.

"Truth" only gives us something to believe. "Truth" is the antithesis of enlightenment.

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Andy Thomson video, The Neuro-physiology of Religious Belief & Spiritual Practice

The Neuro-physiology of Religious Belief & Spiritual Practice: Dr. Andy Thomson on YouTube

I love Andy's work. *But* early in the video he claims there is one religion.  That was misleading.  Perhaps it was just poor wording.  But the implication was that all religions are variations of an original religion.  Behaviorally and ritualistically he makes a good case.  And if we define religion as a set of rituals the claim would be supported.  But I don't think anyone would characterize a set of rituals/behaviors as a religion without a belief component.  So he didn't quite deliver on the thesis.  That's a little disappointing.

Aside from that he has delivered another commendable talk.  There was some overlap with previous talks he's given (and why wouldn't there be.)  But there was a wealth of new (to me) ideas and supporting evidence.  I would recommend this video to anyone interested in motivations for religious behavior, evolutionary psychology or general interest in why humans engage in rituals.

As is often the case I found myself cringing at some of the audience's questions.  There is a trend I've hyper-actively detected in follow-up Q&A sessions.  It seems a great many questioners bring an agenda thinly veiled as a question.  i.e. (paraphrasing) Why are Muslims so extremely violent while we Jews are passive nerds?  *facepalm*

Anyway, I enjoyed and learned from the video.  I'll link his video page as well below.  If you want a better understanding of the psychological and sociological origins and mechanisms of religions these videos are not to be missed.  Go.  Watch.  Now.  :)

Andy Thomson videos

I welcome comments and questions.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Intelligent Design, the problem of evil and the fallacy of sin

The Thinking Atheist's video about the irony of Intelligent Design and the prevalence of evil.

The problem of evil is not a direct refutation of the supposition of Intelligent Design (ID). But it does undermine ID. How can we use the beauty and majesty we find in nature as evidence of an intelligent designer (allegedly benevolent) when beauty and majesty are the exception rather than the rule? The mishomonist (I just totally made that word up, ad hoc.) will claim that it is the sins of man that are to blame.

If we assume that is true then how can they (these mishomonist , these haters of man) avoid admitting that the current state of nature does not support ID? Further, what historical information do we have that indicates, or even suggests, that there was a time when beauty and majesty were the norm rather than the exception? Conclusion: Blaming the problem of evil on the sins of man is an admission that ID is not consistent with observable reality.

But do those who blame the sins of man even have a point? Again if we assume that man was designed, by a designer, and the result was sin, what does that tell us about the design? Is it possible, given a perfect designer, that the product could fail to work as designed? Even with the inclusion of free will (which also can't be substantiated) the designed being will operate, must operate, as designed. The temptations of the fruit of the tree knowledge of good and evil, and other alleged evils, are only tempting because of our nature... our allegedly designed nature.

Intelligent Design is intended to be an argument that supports the existence of a creator/designer based on the complexity of many lifeforms. But much of the offered complexity (especially flaws) is better explained by evolutionary legacies. From an engineering standpoint reducing complexity is generally preferable. So too, many biological systems would be improved by reducing complexity.

ID fails on its basic claim. It also fails in light of the problem of evil. It also fails in light of the allegation that the current rarity of beauty and majesty are due to the sins of man. And it fails even further based on the alleged failure (sin) of that which was designed.

None of this proves or disproves the existence of a supernatural intelligent creator. But it does make the notion of a theistic powerful benevolent caring interactive deity completely moot.