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edward long

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Is it valid to forefend anything that will not submit to examination by the scientific method?

Persistent and recurring elements of conscious human experience which cannot be studied by being observed; measured and experimented upon in order to formulate, test, and modify hypotheses are relegated to classifications like myth, faith and fantasy. Is it intellectually justifiable to go so far as to state, as fact, that such elements do not, in fact cannot, exist?

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Closing Statement from edward long

@ Gerald O'Brian re: "real observable phenomena". We are fresh out of reply buttons so I guess they will shut us down soon. But I must try to make one on-topic observation. Based on replies to my debate question, it is not possible to penetrate the tough, semantic scale which encapsulates the scientific method. This debate is replete with the question, "What do you mean by __________ ?" It is probably my fault for being unable to phrase the question with sufficiently precise language, but there is not one straight answer to the question. Everything seems to call for further clarification. Heisenberg seems to have the upper hand today. So, Tolkein had an explanation for the middle world, that makes it "observable"?

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  • Apr 4 2012: It depends on how you define existence and what science is able to address through experimentation. You can't experiment using ideas such as God, for example. Perhaps human conscious experience will yield some new leads, but that isn't allowed under the sphere of materialism, and invokes subjectivity.

    “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
    --Nikola Tesla
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      Apr 4 2012: Using any definition of the word existence does not effect my question. Plato said science is nothing but perception. If something cannot be smelled, touched, tasted, heard or seen and is excluded from the scientific method does that prove it is unreal? For the record, I say no, it does not. How say you, Mr. Wang?
      Thanks for the quote and your insight.
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        Apr 4 2012: If something affects reality, then it's real. And if it's real, then it exists in reality. Science has the potential to "see" what exists in reality.

        If something does not affect reality, ... well... Who cares?
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          Apr 5 2012: Your definition of reality looks circular to me Gerald. What if something science cannot see affects reality? Also, to be something requires existence. How can something exist in reality and have no effect on reality since everything is interconnected? Who cares you ask? I think every atheist, agnostic and believer (that's about 5 billion people) cares. They all want proof, either of God's existence, or non-existence. For the atheist it is Higgs Boson. For the believers it is for their god(s) to put on a demo which can be fed into the machine called The Scientific Method and everyone will be converted to their religion and live happily ever after.
      • Apr 5 2012: Well, science is the study of human representations of nature through theories, paradigms, axioms, generalizations, quantum processes, energy conversions and models, refined by experiments and theoretical analyses, not necessarily the direct study of nature itself. We cannot even explain things-in-themselves: we can for example describe how an atom is composed, how its particles interact with one another and its physical properties, but can never say what an atom, or subatomic particle, actually IS. That's called the noumenon problem.

        Again, it depends on how you define reality, and where reality's boundaries lie--but if reality can have boundaries, does that mean reality is itself only limitedly real? It really stretches the mind, which by the way is perhaps our brain's representation for itself, unless material definitions are somehow incomplete. There are many things or entities that are hard to define--for example, how would you explain the material reality of ideas, time and space, or the mere absence of matter and energy--is this absence real, can it be quantified, or does reality stop when reality's constituents are missing? The realm of absolute concepts can also be confusing to the materialist. In fact God is one of these concepts, an absolute entity accessed or established by the human mind, which in turn is a self-referential manifestation of itself.

        Interesting.
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          Apr 5 2012: Interesting indeed Yale. Some seem to argue our only connection to reality is our five senses with which we experience phenomena. That just can't be true! There are too many persistent and recurring elements of conscious human experience which transcend the scope of the scientific method and the effectiveness of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing.
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        Apr 5 2012: If something affects reality, then science can see it, Edward.
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          Apr 5 2012: OK Gerald. Can science see the wind, the four forces of nature, energy, consciousness, time, etc.? Or are they all excluded from science?
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        Apr 5 2012: science sees all this. Has an explanation for them, at least. "seeing" is meant in this sense.
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          Apr 5 2012: Sorry Gerald. There I go being literal again. To have an explanation for something is to "see" that something? I thought science was based on real, observable phenomena. I have an explanation for Time. Does that mean Time is something more "visible" than a collection of thoughts in my mind? Does a conjured-up explanation lend credence to something invisible and undetectable? Thanks.
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        Apr 6 2012: "real observable phenomena"
        What do you mean by observable? Observable through an instrument and then through the eyeball?

        Take a star. How do you know it's real? Because you actually see it, you might think. well do you actually see it?
        Or do you only "see" a bunch of photons and have a conjured-up explanation about what it might be?
        I could fool you by painting a tiny white dot on a black board, and you'd be "seeing" a star, if it's only a matter of how many photons and what colour.
        But do you actually see the photon? Or is the photon transformed into electric signals in the retina that run down the optic fiber towards the brain.
        Do you see the electric signal, then?
        What does seeing mean, by now?

        You guess. That's it. There is a bunch of signals, and you've got a software to guess what they mean. The software is constantly upgrading, too.
        You never see anything. Look at your wife. You can't see her. You get elctrical signals in your brain, the same kind you get when you smell cofee. but your wife's signals are familiar to the software, and you guess whether it might be probable that your wife could be standing on front of you.
        Most of what you see is just made up. Guesswork. All the time.

        Science, now, is about trying to guess well.
        Time, gravity, etc... are "seen" by science. Of course they are misconceptions. Bad guesses, though the best ones available in one particuliar time.
        It's all about having an explanation for something. This is what makes anything real. For all you know, the outside world is just a bunch of electrical activity in your brain. But you take it for granted that some of the signals reffer to what's actually out there. You do that through "conjured up explanations". THere is no other way, and "direct observation" doesn't mean anything.
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    Apr 5 2012: Every generation of scientists thinks that it has the answers. However we only learn by altering & refining mistakes of the past. We learn in much the same way as young children, but have organised ourselves to learn from others. The flavour at the moment is for a materialistic outlook. This means that only purely material outcomes are accepted. So if a cause, or effect, is out with the material realm, we are bound to reach the wrong conclusion.
    Many things that are obvious to ordinary folks seem lost on the intelligencia. Case in point; the Eurozone. It was never going to work.
    It seems obvious that the material world is not all there is, if science chooses to ignore this then science will be the loser. Although I guess for 99% of the scientific community the point is largely irrelevant.

    :-)
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      Apr 5 2012: Peter, I fully agree with your first sentence.
      You distinguish between material world and non material world.
      Please describe the non material world.
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        Apr 6 2012: Harald

        Would you know anything about the Multiverse theories? i'm just being curious as a lot of people out there believe wholeheartedly in this as actual fact and it's just a matter of time when it will be proven.Would this qualify as non material world? Actually can someone point me to the evidence that these theories are based on please.
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          Apr 6 2012: Hi Ken, I read Brian Greene's books "The elegant Universe" and "The fabric of the cosmos" where he eludes to the idea of multiverses, higher dimensions and much more.
          I think at this point all those theories (hypothesis is probably more accurate) are only mathematical constructs. I think nobody can even imagine a multiverse, branes, 13 dimensions and so on.
          So, as for me, I find the direction of inquiry fascinating, but that's about it. Not much tangible stuff so far.
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        Apr 6 2012: Thanks harald,i'll look them up
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    Apr 5 2012: On balance I’d answer that it is not justifiable to assert that conscious but intangible experiences are wrong, false, impossible, fantasy or a product of mental illness.

    Reason one: something that is currently beyond the scope of scientific observation is not grounds to dismiss it as unreal - rather a challenge to improve scientific observation methods and apparatus

    Reason two: discounting a statement of an intangible experience to trash status is not rational or scientific. Anecdotal evidence of observations or experiences often forms the basis of scientific hypothesis formation

    Reason three: the majority of human brain functions take place unconsciously. It is not yet clear if conscious access to this unconscious brain activity varies between people or if certain people have temporary access to this part of their brain - an experience my occur in the brain, but once consciously experienced, it occurred, and should not be dismissed out of hand e.g.hallucinations are valid subjects of scientific investigation

    Reason four: we all experience life differently, so it’s offensive and irrational to categorically invalidate another’s experience.
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    Apr 5 2012: Interesting question.

    First thought is that many of these phenomena have some scientific explanations, or at least partial ones.

    We have already classified many of these into serious mental illnesses and more common delusions and tricks of the human mind.

    Some even have medical definitions and treatments.

    We have only got so fair with science. We have limited but improving ability to measure and observe things. MRI's didn't exist 50 years ago, now we can see what parts of the brain are active during prayer, speaking in tongues etc.

    We have a pretty good understanding of epilepsy these days. In the past it was sometimes considered possession by the devil or demons.

    I think you should consider case by case. If there is strong direct or even circumstantial evidence it is false, if there are some reasonable natural hypotheses, then you might categorise that a bit different to remarkable experiences or phenomena that defy a scientific explanation but are not humbug like astrology etc.

    A lot of current beliefs might end up as myths.

    You can see how supernatural explanations and beliefs could develop in primitive times. You got sick, must be a curse. Crops fared poorly, must have upset the gods. Epilepsy - demons. Even the sun and the moon are mundane now - but without science they could be gods. All sorts of natural and psychological phenomena can be explained.

    Suggest some things can be written off with high confidence.
    Perhaps others after reasonable consideration should be left open.
    Even science is pretty bizzare for our monkey brains senses. I've never seen the force of gravity but its real.
    I've had some experiences that freaked me, some observed with othersl. One day science might explain this as a natural phenomena.
    But perhaps many other phenomena, weird dreams, or anything to do with altered states that have reasonable counter explanations should be seen fairly sceptically.
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    Apr 5 2012: Ed, if something cannot be studied applying the scientific method, doesn't necessarily mean it cannot exist.
    There are 2 possible scenarios:
    1) something does exist, but our scientific methods and/or technologies are not (yet) enough developed to deal with a certain phenomena.
    This could be the case, for example, with string theory. Even if the theory were sound and solid, we just have no means to detect those strings with currently available technologies.
    2) something effectively does not exist.

    However, this is not a free ride to "anything is allowed". In science, even if proof is elusive, you still need a hypothesis/theory that makes sense and is supported by evidence (the more of it the better the theory)
    For example, stipulating the existence of the tooth fairy and arguing that we don't have the technical means to proof her existence, wouldn't be a valid approach.

    All that said, the question remains whether something that's not accessible through the scientific approach has any practical relevance.
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      Apr 5 2012: I do not put Genesis chapters one and two in the same category with the tooth fairy. I am not in favor of assigning absolute power to determine relevance to Science. Science does not recognize faith, hope, love, kindness, compassion, mercy, evil, corruption, etc. That strikes me as a limited area of study. Thanks Mr. Jezek for your two possible scenarios, although I wonder what you intend by the phrase "effectively does not exist."
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        Apr 5 2012: Hi Ed, that depends on your interpretation of Genesis. If taken the content literally, then there is little difference between the tooth fairy and the Genesis.
        A literal interpretation of Genesis cannot be supported by any law of nature.
        Science does recognize emotions such as hope, love, faith, etc. These feelings are visible based on certain brain activities. Even religious experiences can be seen as certain brain regions getting activated.
        You are also mixing a few things that are inherently different from each other. Hope and love for example, are feelings, while corruption is a behavior that might have a number of causes.
        As to my point 2), I probably wasn't clear enough. It just means that something really doesn't exist (e.g. the tooth fairy)
        Science is work in progress. Nobody claims that science has all the answers to all our questions. However, that doesn't mean that the answers are to be found somewhere outside of science (such as the belief in a supernatural power), but that we have to keep searching for those elusive answers, refining our scientific methods.
        Just compare our knowledge of today with the knowledge of a caveman. Today even kids understand natural phenomena that might have been deep mysteries, magic or something coming from some supernatural power, to a caveman.
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          Apr 5 2012: I am unaware of any supporting evidence for the tooth fairy. I am aware of significant evidence against her/his/its existence. I raised two boys and every time they got a dollar under their pillow I put it there. A couple of times I forgot to put it there and there was no dollar the next morning. That is pretty strong evidence against the tooth fairy. There is no such evidence against a literal reading of the Bible's words, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth." Nothing science has discovered is at variance with those words. I think that justifies different categories for the two.
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        Apr 5 2012: OK, glad we solved the "problem" of the tooth fairy ;-)
        Now to the Genesis.
        The book starts with a simple sentence:
        "In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth."
        1) who or what is God ?
        2) what does "beginning mean" ? first second ? minute ? year ? first billion years ?
        3) what is meant with "heaven" ? the whole universe perhaps ?
        4) as for the "earth", let's assume for now the book is talking about our planet

        "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. "
        What literal interpretation would you provide here ? Sounds almost like he pressed a button and the light went on.
        But that's not enough. What is meant with "let there be light" ? Where exactly and how ? Did he do that in a period of 1 day as Genesis says ? Again, there is no scientific support for such an idea.
        Would that mean that he first created planet earth and after that the sun ? No scientific evidence for that.
        Further down Genesis continues with: "And God said, Let there be a firmament ....".
        Hmm, apparently he created earth, after that the sun and then the firmament........doesn't that strike you as kind of odd in it's sequence of events ?
        But no, that can't be either because only in verse 16 Genesis says: "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. "
        So where the heck did the light come from that he turned on earlier ???

        I could go on and on picking apart every single verse of Genesis, but I guess you are getting the idea more or less.
        It would be completely ludicrous to interpret Genesis literally
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          Apr 5 2012: Sorry to have you assess my behaviour as ludicrous Harald. You say "pick apart" but you offer nothing more than personal opinion. Surely that is not all you have to substantiate your condemnation of my life view. I appreciate supported argument. I find opinion to be too difficult to understand. As to your four questions I have answers which are an integral part of my life view based on the Holy Bible and are non-self contradicting. I suspect you have no genuine interest in those answers so I will simply thank you for your conversation with me. God bless you.
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        Apr 5 2012: I missed your last sentence: "Nothing science has discovered is at variance with those words. I think that justifies different categories for the two."
        What do you mean with 2 different categories ?
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          Apr 5 2012: I don't think the Holy Bible and the tooth fairy should be in the same category.
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        Apr 5 2012: 1) I didn't say your behavior is ludicrous but a literal interpretation of the book of genesis. This was meant as a general comment without referring to you in person.
        2) I'm not offering my opinions, but asking a lot of questions, none of which you answered by the way.
        3) The bible is a book, patched together from different sources over a period of several centuries sometimes based on oral accounts of events that occurred long before it was brought to paper.
        Beside some cultural and historical significance, I can't see any meaning in the bible.
        However, I understand that this is incomprehensible for a true believer.
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          Apr 6 2012: 1) I withdraw my indignation with apologies. 2) Judging literal acceptance of the bible to be ludicrous is not a question, it is an opinion. This discrepancy stands. Yes I am guilty of not answering your questions. My rationale is to remain on my topic. 3) You are free to reject the relevance and credibility of the Bible, but you are not free to categorically comdemn it for everyone else. Thanks for understanding, and allowing for true believers to find complete meaning in the Bible. Best wishes Harald.
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    Apr 4 2012: In Europe we used to say: There are no Black Swans, all Swans are WHITE! This sounded logical, nobody had ever seen a Black Swan so the presumed they didn't exist. Nowadays we know of the existence of Black Swans, we had to sail across the seas to Oceania, but we finally found Black Swans. This is where the term Black Swan comes from: A phenomenon that occurs even though it is thought to be impossible.

    Philosophically it is impossible to disprove anything, you can presume it won't happen, but you can never be sure. So instead of debating that something is false, wouldn't it be more rational to debate about the fact if something is true? Especially when it comes to religion/science we sometimes are in dubio, but here it is merely about standards. When it comes to human experience it is again debatable. How can you for example prove that I'm real? How can I prove that you're real? I can not, I can only assume that the experience I am having now are real and that everything I experience is real within the boundaries of my experience and logic.
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      Apr 5 2012: I can prove you are real Kevin by asking you to remove your shoes and socks and to kick a concrete block as hard as you can. If I, and the assembled witnesses, see and hear you react in agonizing pain we will have proven your existence and we will confirm for you that you are not assuming the pain, it is real. I prefer you to find a different method to prove I am real. If God kicked a block for us would we believe in him? The Bible says that even if He raised someone from the dead people would continue in their disbelief. Happy Easter!