Soob

Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

As observed by Half Sigma. The near offhanded nuance it contained was intriguing as Half Sigma's post had nothing to do with Christianity but with Gaian theory or philosophy. To be fair, the quote in it's full context:

Christianity has been disproved by science, thus some new religion is forming to fill in the void. The human brain is very unhappy unless there is something supernatural to worship.

Science can certainly rain doubt on the descriptive history/prophesy that entails the Bible, but how can science disprove faith? I think very much that it cannot. And I think that's the malfunction between atheists and theists (whatever sort they may be.) Atheists seek scientific proof that religion is false and present a remarkable ability to completely miss the point of faith. Science cannot disprove a man's faith anymore than it can disprove a mans favorite color. Science is objective, faith is subjective. The argument is nonsensical.

30 comments:

Younghusband said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Younghusband said...

"Atheists seek scientific proof that religion is false"

Actually, no. The burden of proof lies on the deists. You cannot disprove something that doesn't exist. Scientists are waiting for deists to provide some sort of evidence that god exists. As Christopher Hitchens said, “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.” Faith is not proof.

Scientists don't question the existence of faith, we see evidence for it every day. Atheists question the validity of that faith considering it is based on dubious premises (ie. the bible, sermons, tradition). Some scientists actually do study faith, however as a psychological phenomenon. They are not out to "disprove a man's faith" but to understand why he goes the lengths he does to psychologically invest so much in a delusion.

Dan tdaxp said...

The burden of proof lies on the deists.

A nice 19th century view of science, for a nice Victorian gentleman. :-)

If Younghusband wishes to fast-forward to the reign of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, he would recognize the vital role that disproving the null hypothesis plays in science... and how such is interpreted.

H0: There is no God
H1: It is not true, that there is no God

or alternatively

H0: There is a God
H1: It is not true, that there is a God

(which null hypothesis you use depends what you are asserting. Scientifically, you start with the null hypothesis which is the opposite of what you want to show.)

Younghusband is not able to supply convincing evidence that his null hypothesis is wrong. I bet you are not able to supply convincing evidence that your null hypothesis is wrong, either. Hence, we are left trusting ("with faith in") certain ideas (of Atheism, of Deism, etc).

Now, that said, Razib over at gnxp has noted his respect for Mormonism, which unlike mainstream Christianity has historically made very precise historical and astronomic claims, which are in principle disprovable.

Adrian said...

A lot of atheists, such as me, think that the notion of applying scientific principles to faith is absurd no matter what null hypothesis you start with. No matter what's proven, theists are able to logically argue that it's simply a test of faith that's been set up by a deity.

I'm fond of Richard Dawkins' notion of a "teacup atheist" (I don't know if he came up with it but that is where I heard it). I can't prove that there isn't a teacup orbiting the sun and you won't be able to prove that there is... but I find the whole notion to be pretty silly.

I also take issue with this part of the statement:

"The human brain is very unhappy unless there is something supernatural to worship."

There are a lot of different human brains out there, and some would rather worship supernatural things and some wouldn't.

Münzenberg said...

Cool discussion so far.

Dawkins got that teapot idea from Bertrand Russell (google Russell's teapot).

A problem with the teapot idea isn't proving unprovable things, but if one defines oneself as an atheist [1], it raises the question how you define atheism (as in weak or strong).

If you define it strongly, something along the lines of a non-belief in God, then you have just committed yourself to an assertion you can't prove, as Younghusband said above, yet at the same time if you commit yourself to that definition you must have some argument to produce (paradoxically such a statement is meaningless, as the definition of God is implicit to the argument, so it is like trying to prove something that is non-existent and undefinable. This position is known as ignorant agnosticism or ignosticism, which I'm kinda fond of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignosticism).

Alternatively, if you define it something along the lines of: theists arguments are wacky and illogical, then that is another position entirely (and a stronger one IMO).

[1] That of course raises the point of burden of proof. Burden of proof constantly shifts in dynamic arguments/issues (roman orators called it stasis shift) depending upon things like definitions, quality of arguments/evidence and so on.

Münzenberg said...

... and that second alternative view of atheism starts to raise the question about informal fallacies (if the person commits themself to a position of non-belief in God based on lack of proof and poor argument by theists), e.g: one's sides position lack of proof is not proof of one's own position.

Yours Truly said...

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

When a tree comes crashin' in a forest, what is the sound produced when no one's there to hear it?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Agree (with the post, not some of the commenters). The best science could hope for is to chip away some of the believers, all for the wrong reason.

And re "The burden of proof lies on the deists." - come on, YoungHusband - after all this sentence works equally well for the other side, with one word changed. The whole business of proof is somewhat tainted by both sides in the recent debates.

Pat said...

"after all this sentence works equally well for the other side, with one word changed."

really? it does?

i believe there is a magical unicorn-vampire the floats on the other side of the galaxy and secretely shapes every human's life to its own vampiric-unicornian will.

i am now able to claim that if you don't believe me, the burden of proof is on you?

science can disprove the existence of neither of these (my pink unicorn-vampire, your god), but finds them both equally unlikely. and thats very, very, very unlikely.

Younghusband said...

Absolutely correct Pat. You should join my church of the FSM. He is very welcoming to vampyric unicorns... any kind of unicorn in fact.

In regards to Dan's comment, I was not proposing a null hypothesis. Nothing in science is that binary. It is about probabilities. The likelihood of a creator is extremely small. Even Dawkins will not say that there is no god with 100% certainty. That kind of statement is 100% impossible (natch). My position is 6 out of 7 on Dawkins's scale of belief, or very unlikely.

Under the reign of Her Majesty Elizabeth II we have much more sophisticated hypotheses for creation, existence, etc that do not need to rely on the God hypothesis, which just ends up in a circular argument of recursion and self-referential statements anyways.

Now, as to Münzenberg's statements: it sounds like you are presenting the NOMA principle (non-overlapping magisteria) of Stephen Jay Gould where science and religion are two mutually exclusive fields to be left to themselves. The famous quote is: "Science gets the rocks and religion the rock of ages." This is a fallacy since science is about truth and reality, and religion tries to undermine this with dogma. There is a natural clash between the two. This doesn't mean I will don a vest and blow up my nearest church in the name of science, but it does mean I will call bullshit when I see it.

It also means that until the all-powerful and all-knowing god above that billions of people pray to actually shows himself, which I am assuming must be within his power, I will continue to live my life like it is my last, and and the existence of any interfering god is very, very unlikely.

Younghusband said...

"but it does mean I will call bullshit when I see it."

By the way, this statement is meant to be in the general, and is in no way directed towards Soob, Münzenberg or any of the fine commenters on this forum.

Dan tdaxp said...

In regards to Dan's comment, I was not proposing a null hypothesis. Nothing in science is that binary. It is about probabilities. The likelihood of a creator is extremely small. Even Dawkins will not say that there is no god with 100% certainty. That kind of statement is 100% impossible (natch). My position is 6 out of 7 on Dawkins's scale of belief, or very unlikely.

Younghusband confuses the confidence interval with the process of conjecture and refutation.

Again, this is appropriate for his Victorian training. It is neither modern nor scientific, but then many such Victorian superstitions not, either.

If Younghusband wishes to assert something -- and do so in a scientific way, as opposed to the method he is doubtless accustomed to in his London sitting room -- he first must assume the opposite, and then demonstrate to an already established measure of probability that such an opposite case is not true.

Otherwise, the appropriate scientific response is silence.

(What is this, btw? A cosplay debate? :) )

Pat said...

"he first must assume the opposite, and then demonstrate to an already established measure of probability that such an opposite case is not true."

he does?

so he has to start by assuming that 2+2 is actually != 4, then do the math some million times, before you'll accept that he's asserted it in a "scientific way"? or was a million not enough... should he add them a couple billion times?

this, on a topic we've all already agreed (since the ones asserting god's existence are taking it on "faith"), that there isnt some lovely little experiment to run and come up with a boolean yes/no result?

and couldnt we just force the theists to do the same thing? wouldnt they run into the same problems? can we thus dimiss both answers to this question? where would that leave us?

while we're all very impressed with Dan's knowledge of the field, i'm not sure statistical analysis is really relevant here. unless you'd like to run it on the sum total evidence that supports the existence of god (or my pink unicorn-vampire, i'm gonna call him franky): 0?

and dan with statements like these:

"Younghusband confuses the confidence interval with the process of conjecture and refutation."

you would do well to explain _how_ he's confusing them. because you may be making a valid and insightful point, but you just come off as arrogant and throwing around big terms in the hopes that they'll prevent people from seeing through the rest of your argument. except, you've furthered no argument of your own here. your presence on this thread seems to be solely related to the opportunity to call someone "Victorian".

there are far better ways to determine whether or not a coin is fair than flipping it.

i am, for the record, already a pastafarian, young.

Münzenberg said...

Younghusband, yeah I dunno, my writing didn't mean to come off like that. In the realm of argument and issue discussion I don't think they are mutually exclusive at all, which is what I tried to get across but might have come across as muddled.

If a group of people are discussing some issue, like the existence of God, then the issue of Atheism is going to pop up, especially if one of the participants makes a denial of the non-existence of God (theists may have to back up their assertions, but if an atheist makes an assertion, they have to have reasons behind it as well). Once that issue pops up that's where the stasis starts shifting and burden of proof starts to move.

Perhaps it is not a question of "Can an atheist prove the non-existence of God?" It is more a question of "What is your reasoning as to your non-belief?" I think they are two different questions and the first is not determinable, as you say, while the second one is a reasonable question to ask of a group of people (who no doubt think of themselves as critical thinkers on the subject).

Münzenberg said...

I would also say that the second question can be somewhat meaningless as well, as once again it implicitly assumes a definition of God.

Though I think it is still a good question, as some atheists can still use bad reasoning, e.g: absence of proof is not proof of absence. BTW I'm agnostic and with leanings toward weak atheism.

Münzenberg said...

Just to make it more explicit btw the questions as well: The second line of questioning lies in the human realm. It is not concerned with the truth value of God, whether or not God as a premise is true. It is concerned with the underlying human reasons, which we can assess. Atheists, agnostics, theists, all these people could be right or wrong on the truth value of God. We won't know right? But we can still assess their underlying logical structure and if any of these groups underlying argument is poorly formed, then no matter their truth value of their premises, their argument will not be sound.

Dan tdaxp said...

he does?

If he wants to scientifically address the question, yes.

If he wants to merely express his faith in the ideas he holds true, he may of course do as he pleases. He may say silly things like "the burden of proof is on my opponents," or shout from the roof top like some retro Adventist, or whatever. He wouldn't be making a scientific assertion in any case, but either may be a heartfelt and constitutionally protected expression of his faith.

so he has to start by assuming that 2+2 is actually != 4,

You're confusing a logical truth (that is, a tautology) with an scientific question.

Now, if he was wanted (for whatever reason) to argue on the basis of science that two sets of two objects, when placed next to each other, form four distinct objects (rather than exploding, or being consumed by fire, or sublimating, or whatever), he could use basic sampling theory to quickly establish within, say, a 5% chance of a Type I error that the null hypothesis is false, and that they form four distinct objects after being placed in proximity to each other.

then do the math some million times,

A million would probably be overkill. With random tries he'd be able to do it in a few dozen. Indeed, that's the scientific approach that quality engineers regularly use in factory settings.

before you'll accept that he's asserted it in a "scientific way"? or was a million not enough... should he add them a couple billion times?

Depends what confidence level you want. However, the benefit of each additional observation falls off exponentially, so even polls that attempt to predict how a hundred million people will vote tend to have simlar sample sizes to those which try to predict statewide elections.

this, on a topic we've all already agreed (since the ones asserting god's existence are taking it on "faith"), that there isnt some lovely little experiment to run and come up with a boolean yes/no result?

If you think the tool is inappropriate to the task, don't use it.

Hammering in jello, and saying 'Christianity has been disproved by science,' seem like equally absurd actions.

and couldnt we just force the theists to do the same thing? wouldnt they run into the same problems? can we thus dimiss both answers to this question? where would that leave us?

Obviously.

So we're left with silence.

Our tool is of no use here.

Science is as worthless on questions of face as hammers are in molding jello.

i'm not sure statistical analysis is really relevant here. unless you'd like to run it on the sum total evidence that supports the existence of god

No idea what you are talking about. The statement seems incoherent. (Why would you use population-approximating statistics if you already have the "total evidence" of the population of interest anyway?)

you would do well to explain _how_ he's confusing them. because you may be making a valid and insightful point

Younghusband makes a vacuous and mute point. He may as well demand that Deists express their formulation of God in terms of phlogiston. Still, the request for clarification is granted. :D

Younghusband says that nothing in science is 'that binary,' that we are left with 'probabilities.' Well, if he's saying that science is tentative and never gives us the certainty of mathematics or formal logic, he's of course correct. However, the scientific process of conjecture and refutation uses the binary method of null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis, along with probabilities, to allow us to temporarily reject or fail to reject null hypotheses until further evidence comes in.

your presence on this thread seems to be solely related to the opportunity to call someone "Victorian".

Sir Francis Younghusband helps run a delightful blog which analyzes current news from an explicitly a "pagan" perspective in "Victorian" terms. The label was tongue in cheek. :-)

Jay@Soob said...

Phew! An excellent turnout with excellent commentary. In keeping with the tongue in cheek, cosplay bit while you're all here debating an excellent debate I've fired your crops, burned your houses and stolen your livestock and women. +1 for the Mongol horde! Diversion over immersion we always say.

That bit aside, there is a stark difference between debating the existence of faith and the existence of God. Bear in mind that which fueled my post, the claim that science had "disproven" Christianity. Most of what I've read here is excellent but most also falls back on a deisism vs atheism debate. Deism and theism are not one in the same.
Which brings me back to the point I made in my post. All do respect to all here but atheists have a terrible time in understanding faith. My use of the term theist was very much purposeful as it entails a theology or faith. The essence of faith is that you cannot prove it. Hence, worship is reliant on faith.
As Dan notes, science trying to disprove such is akin to forging jello with a hammer. I've got more direct responses to the commentary, but give me a moment or two.

Pat said...

would it be accurate then dan for me to paraphrase you stance on this subject as:

"since there is no observable evidence, science has nothing to say on the existence of god (or franky)"

?

Jay@Soob said...

Younghusband wrote:
"The burden of proof lies on the deists."

In terms of faith, not at all. In terms of evangelism or those that project creationism as a science rather than a philosophy, definitely.

Jay@Soob said...

Russell's teacup and pat's vampiric unicorn are interesting metaphors for arguing the existence of a supreme being but neither maintain a semblance of sense when considered within the realm of faith as neither (to my knowledge) maintain doctrine, ruleset or tenet and so neither is a religion as of yet. Remember we're arguing (or rather I'm arguing) the ability of science to disprove religion.

Younghusband said...

Sorry Jay, I didn't mean to hijack your post.

To get back to your original point, what does it mean to "disprove religion"? What would it look like? I don't think I understand the question. Like I said in my first comment we all recognize the existence of religion. I don't think anyone is trying to dispute that fact. Science serves to undermine the basis of those religions by providing alternative, and much more likely, explanations of the world around us. This isn't disproving faith, but disproving the tenets held by the faithful.

It seems to me that the definitions in this argument are not clear enough. Maybe Half Sigma's wording is wrong.

You said:

Atheists seek scientific proof that religion is false and present a remarkable ability to completely miss the point of faith.

So, what is the point of faith?

Also:

Science is objective, faith is subjective.

Yes but faith is wrong, or at least in terms of my definition of faith (a set of beliefs based on supernatural explanations concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe). It seems you use the terms "religion" and "faith" interchangeably. Maybe we need a clear definition of what religion/faith is before we can move on. Care to give us one?

Younghusband said...

Also, sidenote to Pat re: the use of the term Victorian.

Yes, I am one of the contributors from the team blog ComingAnarchy.com. We write about foreign affairs from a classical liberal/realist point of view. We aren't really Victorian, we just like fancy dress. Feel free to stop by and bring Franky.

So Dan's comment is taken lightly in context, although he does seem to use it as a low-level attack that my thinking is a couple of hundred years outdated. I find that hilarious since he subscribes to a view of reality that dates back to the Bronze Age (Dan is Catholic). Zing!

Dan tdaxp said...

The Romans were building aquaducts, and the Hebrews were building pyramid, while the Anglo-Saxons were walking barefoot on the coast to Jutland... ;-)

(zang!)

Jay@Soob said...

Younghusband,

"To get back to your original point, what does it mean to "disprove religion"? What would it look like? I don't think I understand the question. Like I said in my first comment we all recognize the existence of religion."

I'm as confused as you in the assertion that science can disprove religion.

"Maybe Half Sigma's wording is wrong."

Certainly a possibility and I'd hoped he would weigh in here. He hasn't and likely won't and so...

"Yes but faith is wrong, or at least in terms of my definition of faith (a set of beliefs based on supernatural explanations concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe)."

That's an opinion and I know you wouldn't ascribe to a measure that would seek to "disprove" faith.

"It seems you use the terms "religion" and "faith" interchangeably."

From my perspective they are one and the same. Religion requires faith, faith upholds religion. It's a synergetic relationship, neither can exist without the other.

"What is the point of faith?"

That's a philosophical question for those that ascribe to faith. I can present conjecture but why bother? Dan or other commenters here could answer that better than I could.

Half Sigma said...

The Book of Genesis asserts a bunch of facts that science has disproven. Where's the mystery behind my statement?

Dan tdaxp said...

HS's attempt to "disprove" analogical and literary devices as as humorous (if, ultimately, as dangerous) as those fundamentalist attempts to assert those same devices as fact.

Still, if all HS can bother to attack is a fundamentalist straw-man, his comments are narrowly targeted and largely irrelevant to most people, religious or not.

Jay@Soob said...

Half Sigma, do you presume that every Christian takes the Bible as absolute fact as opposed to a system of moral guidance and faith heavily reliant on metaphor?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Jay,
I agree with your post, and am fascinated with the comments.
Have you ever noticed that if you want a trainload of comments, all you have to do is write something about the intersection of science, religion, and politics?
And watch this....

Hey, guys, How do you think this debate applies to abortion?

Jay@Soob said...

Thanks, Allen. Perhaps if you'd posed that question earlier you'd have some takers. The commentary would be equally fascinating.