Friday, December 02, 2005

Don't Read This...

I was recently sent an email from a friend of mine. It was basically a story, fictional in my opinion, about a university professor who tried to disprove the idea of a God but was foiled by a young student who countered his argument with scientific fact then used the basis of those facts as a logical progression to assert his belief that God did indeed exist. This student was Albert Einstein, or so the story would have you believe (again I feel that is doubtful at best). I don’t feel this way because I know that Einstein wouldn’t have argued such or because I feel that such a renowned scientific mind wouldn’t argue for the existence of a deity. No, mine is more the opinion that this is more of a fable like that of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree or throwing the coin across the Delaware River.

This did, however, cause me to think about “The Argument” once more. The essential problem that I have with stories, or arguments for that matter, like these are that one can’t simply equate fact with belief. I am not saying that one’s resolve toward a particular belief can’t be strengthened by fact, certainly any Atheist is such a person, but what I am saying is that you can’t mingle science and religion based faith. It is nearly impossible.

For instance; when dealing with the physical world you could test, verify and recreate scenarios until at some point you can come to the reasonably sound conclusion that water will always flow downhill. On the other hand you could not test for something that has no apparent force, regularity, or physicality what so ever, in short God. This makes any argument for that which is immaterial a debate in beliefs or better yet philosophy.

Intangibles such as what is right or wrong, what is sane or insane or even whether there is or isn’t a God are all fundamentally debates in opinion. One could not, as far as I know, use scientific fact or theory to strengthen any of these arguments. You could express an average or polling data, which could lead you to believe that of all samples gathered most people think that murder is wrong, yet does that make it so? Again we are expressing an opinion, an intangible not a fact. While a vast majority would say yes to the previous question, and assuming that the democratic ideal of majority rule should not take precedent, would those who said no be wrong? I don’t believe so. It is merely the opinion of the majority that would lead you to that conclusion. In the animal kingdom there are multitudes of species that kill their own kind. So then the argument becomes are we better than other animals. And back to the main topic we come.

Faith is a tricky subject. I neither believe nor disbelieve in a deity. I do believe, however, in Ockham’s Razor. This, simply put, is the belief that all things being equal the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. In such case it is as likely that the world was created by an all-powerful deity as it was to have been created by cosmic forces. For that matter it is also as likely that the universe was created on accident or that the universe as we know it is nothing more than the fantasy of a small child. As repulsive as this idea may come to some of you (I am sure there are some snickering in their chairs) you must admit that when dealing with un-testable, un-provable, philosophy that these notions are no more absurd than any other, and I do mean any.

While I didn’t want this to be an epic post I feel I must bring up one more point. LJ and I talked about this and her view was that if this “student” were of a scientific nature of course he would use scientific reasoning as the basis for his beliefs. This was his way of coming to the conclusion that there was a God. In short, it shows his thought process. I can’t disagree with that. Hell, that would be true of most Georgia Tech graduates I know. Although, my fundamental opinion is that one can no more use science to disprove a higher power than a religion can use The Bible, Torah, or Bhagavad Gita to undeniably prove the existence of one.


Mad Mike said...

My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. “Einstein”
(Calaprice, ibid., 204 / To a banker in Colorado, 1927. Einstein Archive 48-380; also quoted in Dukas and Hoffmann, Albert Einstein, the Human Side, 66, and in the New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955)

Einstein did not have that argument with that teacher; it is an unaccountable testimony probably written and the name Einstein stamped on the end to bring greater credibility to the story, although it is a cute story. Einstein did believe in God however, but not as much equated with the Judeo-Christian faith. He believed the universe had such great order that he concluded with facts that a God must exist.

In your post I start to differ from your opinion when you say, “one can’t simply equate fact with belief”. A fact is knowledge or information based on real occurrences. Most people base their beliefs on such occurrences with a bias to the influences of their upbringing. To a religious person, they must take these facts and weigh them against their “faith” and come to the conclusion of what will be their ultimate beliefs.

With rebuttal to waging faith against science, you have to understand that science is standing on huge pillars of faith. Many theories of science that cannot be tested over such as the age of the planet, the big bang, how life started are beliefs within the scientific community because they best fit “their” models. There are many assumptions in science whereas in religion based faith there is only one assumption.

Brillig said...

Did I say otherwise?
"In such case it is as likely that the world was created by an all-powerful deity as it was to have been created by cosmic forces. For that matter it is also as likely that the universe was created on accident or that the universe as we know it is nothing more than the fantasy of a small child."
Yes, what you are talking about is the difference between Scientific Law and Scientific Theory. I didn't say that science was flawless, quiet the contrary. However, you must admit that one can not construct an argument in support of a scientific theory using religious faith no more than one could do the opposite. At least I haven't heard one yet.

Your New Sleeping Aid said...

Man, i just thought it was cool how the analogies work. The student changed the operational definitions that we habitually use without any thoughts about it. i always prided myself with a strong analytical mind, but little run was impressive. I want to think like that.

And Mike, science isn't biased. Only conclusions can be biased and the evidence will always tell the truth. So any scientific theory that is rooted in bias will quickly be disproven by another investigator.

And everyone knows the universe was created to serve me. End of story.

Brillig said...


Mad Mike said...

Science in itself is not biased but given that it is perpetuated by human minds that are in nature biased. If the end process of the scientific theory is the conclusion and the conclusion is biased then isn't the scientific theory biased? (Your Logic)
With the scientific theory, nothing is ever proven only disproven. If something is unable to be disproven then that is where theories and laws are born.