Philosophy of Science

Discuss Physics, Astronomy, Cosmology, Biology, Chemistry, Archaeology, Geology, Math, Technology

Moderator: Moderators

Cinderella Man
Student
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:06 pm

Philosophy of Science

Post #1

Post by Cinderella Man »

On other forums I have discussed in great length the foundations of the scientific method and run up against some people who feel strongly that the scientific method and science itself is an unproven entity, circular even in its efficacy. This generally describes the field of "Philosophy of Science". I continually challenge this as I find the argument itself circular and profoundly vacant of reasoning. When I confront people of this mindset with the realization that this "reasoning", if taken to its logical endpoint, means that we can literally no nothing with any degree of certainty, they insist this isn't the case and expound on their love and respect of science, which I find uncommonly hypocritical. Has anyone else here experienced this frustrating discussion? Thoughts?

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Post #2

Post by Divine Insight »

I think it's important to understand precisely what science truly is.

Science is indeed a "philosophy", and to be clear I'll offer a definition for philosophy here that I am using for this post:

Def. 1: Philosophy - the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

Science is also the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

So what then is the difference between "Philosophy" and "Science"?

Well, based on the above definition of Philosophy there is no difference between Science and Philosophy. Science is a Philosophy.

However, historically speaking there is a difference and I'll explain it by introducing two new terms:

Def. 2: Pure Philosophy - the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline, but based entirely on logical arguments that are not subject to observational evidence.

Unfortunately in academia (and historically), what we call "Philosophy" is often permitted to be "Pure Philosophy". In other words, pure logical reasoning is often accepted as sufficient without requiring that it be backed up by any actual physical evidence. In other words, in "Pure Philosophy" it's permissible to postulate or premise that the universe has always existed without beginning and without end, and there is no need to provide any evidence for this premise. All that is required is that the premise is stated, then "Pure Philosophy" (i.e. pure reasoning) can proceed from there.

In fact, many philosopher firmly believed that all knowledge and truth could ultimately be discovered by just sitting in an armchair and thinking things through without any need to actually go out into the real world to test whether any ideas are actually valid in the real physical world.

Note: Pure Philosophy has been proven to produce ideas and conclusions that are demonstrably false with respect to the actual world in which we live. This is why Stephen Hawking is perfectly correct when he said, "Philosophy is dead". What he really means is that "Pure Philosophy" can never lead us to the true nature of our world. And keep in mind that Philosophy itself was originally defined as the study of the nature of reality and existence, so if Pure Philosophy cannot lead it to truth in that area, then Pure Philosophy is "dead".

And now let me introduce another term:

Def. 3: Observational Scientific Philosophy - the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline, but with the added restriction that premises must be demonstrated to be true via dependable observations (i.e. via Repeatable Experiments or Repeatable Observations.

In other words, science cannot be done passively from an armchair via pure thought alone. In Observational Scientific Philosophy (i.e. Science) we must go out into the real world and observe how it behaves and take those observations into consideration.

So in this sense Observational Scientific Philosophy (i.e. Science) is all we have left that has any dependability at all.

~~~~~~

I would like to mention a few other things here as an aside (albeit a very important aside).

Some of what is called "science" in our modern times is arguably not science at all, but rather it is "pure philosophy" that is not backed up by any credible ontological observations of reality. String Theory is a perfect example. Many physicist often question whether String Theory is "science" or "philosophy", (and what they really mean by philosophy here is "pure philosophy" (i.e. ideas that have not been verified by observation)

I would also like to mention that mathematics itself is not a "science", (at least not in its entire formalism) and therefore mathematics itself is largely a discipline of "pure philosophy". <---- This is a topic deserving its own discussion.

~~~~~~~

Notes on Science:

Now, having said all of the above, it is an unfortunately truth that even science necessarily requires the acceptance of some primal assumptions or premises that cannot be proven to be true.

For example, science assumes that there actually is a physical world "out there" in which we all reside. And there most likely is a lot of truth to this. However it has thus proven to be beyond the reach of Observational Scientific Philosophy (i.e. Science) to demonstrate whether any actual physical world exists at all.

However, what science can say with absolute 100% certainty is that, even if reality is some sort of an illusion or simulation, then science is still providing us with the rules of that simulation. So in this sense, science is still quite valuable.

In other words, if life is but a dream of the gods, then science is providing us with the rules of the dream. So the observations made by science are necessarily true even if life is but a dream.


Notes on Religion:

I bring Religion into the discussion because religions are unprovable "Pure Philosophy" (i.e. pure speculation) that cannot provide any observational evidence for their gods. Because of this they fall far short of science in providing any credible knowledge of reality. They are indeed nothing more than pure armchair speculation.

Religions come in basically two Categories:

1. Gods based on ancient myths.
2. Gods based on Pure Philosophy. (i.e. an attempt to simply reason what a God might be like)


Most of the Mediterranean and European Gods are based on mythology:

Thor
Odin
The Moon Goddess
Zeus
Apollo
Athena
Poseidon
Allah
Yahweh
Jehovah
YHVH
Jesus
etc.

Gods that are based on pure philosophical reasoning are typically pantheistic type of Gods as described in religions like Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, etc. Even Hinduism is actually based on pantheism but has culturally evolved to become a polytheistic mythology of sorts.

In any case, all of these are based on "Pure Philosophy". In other words there is absolutely no credible observational evidence to back up any of them in terms of their supernatural claims. Keep in mind that mundane cultural events that might have actually happened and were included in these myths does not support their claims of supernatural interventions of the gods.

Also many of their claims of observable evidence have been since proven to be false, (i.e. a Great Flood that had supposedly killed off the bulk of human civilization after humans had evolved to be able to build entire cities. This clearly never happened).

So religions belong to the category of "Pure Philosophy" (i.e. ideas and speculations that have no observational merit.)

Science may not be able to discern the absolute truth of reality, but it's certainly the best method we have to date, and it's highly unlikely that it will ever be surpassed by a better method. In fact, how could it be? If anything came along that was "better" it would need to include something observable.

In other words, even a God poking his face into the Earth's atmosphere to speak to humans would be an observable event. At that moment that God becomes a scientific phenomenon.

So even a God can't escape science if he wants to become "real". 8-)

A God that can never be observed is not real.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

Cinderella Man
Student
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:06 pm

Post #3

Post by Cinderella Man »

I have to say, that was a lot more than I expected in a first response. It covered more ground than I'm prepared to address right now. I found a lot that I agree with and have talked about myself. There are some stark disagreements with this argument and those are the one's I'm most interested in.

You noted that science is a philosophy and in a way I agree with that, though not fully. Science posits that if we assume, as you correctly pointed out, that reality is real and not imagined, then proper tests of reality should reveal the true nature of reality. But there are some who posit that this notion itself has not, and perhaps cannot, be demonstrated as true. IOW, the idea that careful testing of material reality can reveal irrefutable facts/laws of reality is itself an untestable hypothesis. And it is this concept where I have serious reservations.

When you said: "Science may not be able to discern the absolute truth of reality, but it's certainly the best method we have to date, and it's highly unlikely that it will ever be surpassed by a better method." This is perhaps the most disputed statement about science that I have come across in discussions such as this. I know because I've made this same statement, or something very close to it, many times and it is constantly challenged, to my dismay. It seems self-evident that this is true given the profound volume of progress that science has brought to humanity. No other known methodology provides anything near as much success in solving problems and answering questions as the scientific method. It's very success is its proof, yet as I said, this is stridently disputed by many, largely on philosophical grounds. If I've seen this argument elsewhere, I would be surprised if it hasn't sprung up here as well.

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Post #4

Post by Divine Insight »

Cinderella Man wrote: When you said: "Science may not be able to discern the absolute truth of reality, but it's certainly the best method we have to date, and it's highly unlikely that it will ever be surpassed by a better method." This is perhaps the most disputed statement about science that I have come across in discussions such as this. I know because I've made this same statement, or something very close to it, many times and it is constantly challenged, to my dismay.
I've highlighted in bold red the important points in your quote.

Challenging science is meaningless if the challenger cannot produce a better method. They can't just argue speculatively that they prefer to believe that there might exist a better method. They need to actually produce the method and demonstrate that it does indeed produce better results.

To the best of my knowledge no one has ever been able to actually do that. And I for one would be extremely interested, and even delighted, if someone were able to actually do such a thing.

So these "challenges" are meaningless if they aren't accompanied by an actual better method to determine the true nature of reality.

As I had explained in my previous post, "Pure Philosophy" is truly dead, and proven to be dead beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Pure Philosophy = Speculation unsupported by evidence.

Examples:

In Pure Philosophy we can speculate an eternal universe with no beginning and no end. (this has already been demonstrated by Science to be false in terms of our actual reality)

In Pure Philosophy we can speculate that everything revolves around the Earth. (this has already been demonstrated by Science to be false in terms of our actual reality)

In Pure Philosophy we can speculate that the earth is flat. (this has already been demonstrated by Science to be false in terms of our actual reality)

In Pure Philosophy we can speculate that evil demons or angry gods are responsible for disease and natural disasters. (this has already been demonstrated by Science to be false in terms of our actual reality)

In Pure Philosophy we can speculate that there must be a "Prime Mover" that keeps things moving. (this has already been demonstrated by Science to be false in terms of our actual reality)

The list just goes on, and on, and on...

And while it's true that even in Science we often make unproven postulates and premises, they sometimes turn out to be false. Like the false premise of Newtonian absolute space and time, for example. Or the false premise that the world is made up of tiny Newtonian billiard ball "atoms". However, science, because it ultimately demands observational evidence, has had to reject these ideas the moment they have been overturned by observational evidence.

~~~~~~~

So if anyone is "challenging" that science is not the best method we have to date, then they need to actually produce a better method. It's no "challenge" at all if all they are doing is complaining about science without actually having something better to offer to replace it.

So the next time someone "challenges" science ask them to produce a better method.

And don't allow them to suck you into the argumentative black hole of simply listing all their "objections" to the scientific methods. Objecting to the methods of science is nowhere near the same as offering a better method to replace it. Anyone can complain, but if they can't offer a superior replacement then all they are doing is blowing hot air.

They need to actually offer a better method. Hold them to that. And reject anything less than this as a total waste of your time.

Complaining that they don't like, understand, or even accept the methods of science is not the same as offering a better method.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Post #5

Post by Divine Insight »

Just for the record, I suggest that you are already inviting the "Black Hole" argument in your subtitle for this thread:

Discuss the efficacy of Science

Is that truly what you want to discuss and debate?

Or are you more interested in debating against the idea that there exists something "better" to replace it?

Because if you don't demand that a better replacement be offered, and instead all you do is invite debate opponents to complain about what they don't like about science, then that's the debate you'll find yourself in.

I personally have no interest in wasting my time arguing with people who complain about science when they have nothing "better" to offer.

There are things about science that I have problems with myself. But that doesn't mean that I have a "better philosophy" or "better method of inquiry" to offer for discovering the true nature of reality.

Science doesn't need to be "perfect" to be the best method we have.

All it needs to be is the "best method" we have. 8-)
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

Cinderella Man
Student
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:06 pm

Post #6

Post by Cinderella Man »

[Replying to post 5 by Divine Insight]

Again, your comments are right on track from my perspective. I wouldn't say that the debates I've had center on science as the "best method", though that is an assertion that I have made myself many times and as you correctly argue, I have invited the nay-sayers to describe a better method, even just other methods. This typically draws silence or a change of the argument. I have had some "other" methods proclaims, such as Trial & Error, which I fully support as a legitimate learning methodology, though I assert that Trial & Error is an element of the scientific method itself. I do know one philosopher who had argued adamantly that we actually learn little from the scientific method and that human intuition is the true mechanism by which knowledge is advanced.

The most worrisome assertion I've faced is that the scientific method is itself untested, and this is the one that I've failed to adequately combat. For a long time my reaction was that this is merely a nonsensical argument, that a methodology of hypothesis, observation, testing, & refining is self-evidently valid. I still struggle with understanding why this isn't so and I struggle with the idea that this method itself must be tested; thus my frustration.

All of this stems from many, many debates and arguments I've had over the years pertaining to pseudoscience. This is often dismissed as me cherry-picking what I "like" as science and discarding all the rest. So when I point out, for instance, that acupuncture has been rigorously scientifically tested and demonstrated to be nonsense, I am confronted with all sorts of arguments on how science has evolved through the ages and how I'm merely applying my own favorite version of it to my own end; that there is some "knowledge" out there that cannot be reached by the scientific method. And there's the added bit of argument that I'm making a universal statement (which I am not) that cannot be defended with logical argument. Of course this screams of special pleading and magical thinking but what's a poor skeptic to do when faced with such a stone wall? If I were only as smart as someone like Christopher Hitchens, I would have the resources to properly address these arguments.

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Post #7

Post by Divine Insight »

Cinderella Man wrote: I have had some "other" methods proclaims, such as Trial & Error, which I fully support as a legitimate learning methodology, though I assert that Trial & Error is an element of the scientific method itself.
Exactly. Trial and Error is totally welcome in science and is used all the time. In science you are permitted to try anything you like, and to hypothesis or postulate anything you like. The bottom line in science is that after you do that you then need to provide some observable evidence to support the idea. If you can do that, it becomes observed science. If you can't to that, then it's just an empty hypothesis that has no confirmation in the real world.
Cinderella Man wrote: I do know one philosopher who had argued adamantly that we actually learn little from the scientific method and that human intuition is the true mechanism by which knowledge is advanced.
The problem with this is that everyone has different intuitions. We can argue that Einstein used his intuition to postulate Relativity. This is clearly true. However, his postulates were testable and eventually confirmed via observation. So they became "science" because they were testable and observable, not merely because they were intuitive to Einstein. Other scientists had intuitions for other ideas that ultimately proved to be false. And finally most people have great difficulty intuitively understanding Relativity even after it has been explained to them.

So intuition alone has already been proven to be unreliable. So this philosophical argument fails.
Cinderella Man wrote: The most worrisome assertion I've faced is that the scientific method is itself untested, and this is the one that I've failed to adequately combat. For a long time my reaction was that this is merely a nonsensical argument, that a methodology of hypothesis, observation, testing, & refining is self-evidently valid. I still struggle with understanding why this isn't so and I struggle with the idea that this method itself must be tested; thus my frustration.
I'm not sure I understand the source of your frustration. What exactly do you think science lacks? Or perhaps a far more important question is, "What exactly do you think science is actually saying?"

Let me be clear:

Science does NOT say that our world cannot be a dream in the mind of a higher dimensional being.

Science does NOT say that our world cannot be some sort of computer simulation being projected from who knows where?

Science does NOT even claim to have a full complete picture of nature. Therefore science cannot even say that something "supernatural" cannot exist, because doesn't doesn't even know the limitations of nature.

It is true that many scientists are hoping to find a "Theory of Everything". But keep in mind that there are two problems with this.

1. Thus far all this amounts to is an ambitious dream that scientists have. We don't yet actually have a "Theory of Everything", yet, and it may prove to be more illusive than hopeful scientists are willing to accept.

2. Even if we come up with the so-called "Theory of Everything" is that what it would truly be? Or would their still be unanswered questions?


Stephen Hawking wisely pointed out that even a "Theory of Everything" would only be a mathematical equation that describes what the universe is doing. But the question would still remain, "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?"

Even a so-called "Theory of Everything" could still be describing a "Dream in the mind of a God". :D

So while science is the best method of inquiry we have to investigate the nature of our reality, that doesn't mean that it can necessarily succeed in that quest.

So I need to ask, "Is your frustration simply due to the fact that ultimate truths may simply be beyond our ability to ever know?"

That may be a valid frustration, but it really has nothing at all to do with science being the "best method of inquiry" that we have to date.

There simply may be some questions that can never be known and no system of inquiry can ever discover the answers to those questions.

Why should we, as humans, expect that we should be able to answer every possible question we have?

What if there is a "God". Can that God answer every single question about itself? Would it know from whence it came to be and how it exists, etc?

I suggest that even if a "God" existed, it would necessarily need to have questions that even it can't answer about its own existence.


The mere existence of anything at all is a pretty difficult concept to comprehend. In fact, this is why theists often argue that there must be a God to have created anything. The only problem is that fail to understand that this doesn't solve the problem. All they've done is give their God a free pass to not need an explanation for itself. So they have created an artificial "Buck-Stopper".

God = The Buck Stops Here! No further questions permitted!

It's just an artificial cop-out to pretend that a problem has been solved when it hasn't.
Cinderella Man wrote: All of this stems from many, many debates and arguments I've had over the years pertaining to pseudoscience. This is often dismissed as me cherry-picking what I "like" as science and discarding all the rest. So when I point out, for instance, that acupuncture has been rigorously scientifically tested and demonstrated to be nonsense, I am confronted with all sorts of arguments on how science has evolved through the ages and how I'm merely applying my own favorite version of it to my own end; that there is some "knowledge" out there that cannot be reached by the scientific method. And there's the added bit of argument that I'm making a universal statement (which I am not) that cannot be defended with logical argument. Of course this screams of special pleading and magical thinking but what's a poor skeptic to do when faced with such a stone wall? If I were only as smart as someone like Christopher Hitchens, I would have the resources to properly address these arguments.
The problem is that many of these things that are not well-understood don't necessarily prove anything anyway.

Take acupuncture for example. In acupuncture actual physical needles are being stuck into an actual physical body. Therefore there could actually be a physical basis for results (good or bad results). So even if acupuncture turned out to have some merit in medicine that wouldn't proven any supernatural claims that might be made about acupuncture.

Also, the same is true for "magic". Keep in mind that some forms of "magic" can indeed be associated entirely with a state of mind. Well, there you go. A state of mind is physical, we can even measure it in MRI scans, etc.

Even doctors have claimed to observe that patients who have a more optimistic mental attitude tend to recover better than patients who are pessimistic or outright depressed. Our mental state does indeed have an effect on our physical body. But keep in mind here that our mind controls our body too! And our bodies are controlled by countless nerves, impulses, instructions, antibodies, hormones, etc. And the state of our mind has an effect on this. Therefore mediation, and "magical thinking" can potentially help a body to heal without violating any known science.

So the idea that just because science may not currently be able to explain everything is not a sufficient argument for the intervention of supernatural forces.

After all, what are supernatural forces again?

Supernatural = that which is beyond what is already known to be natural.

At one time plagues were believed to be caused by supernatural demons or angry gods. Now they are understood to be natural events.

"Supernatural" simply means, "Natural events that haven't yet been explained." :D

~~~~~

But the bottom line is that science doesn't rule out any "Supernatural entities" or "Higher-dimensional beings". It can't even rule out that the entire universe isn't a dream in the mind of a God.

All science has done is show that everything we once thought to require "supernatural intervention" can know be shown to have a perfectly natural explanation (i.e. be explained by the observed laws of physics)

So even if the "Observed Laws of Physics" are nothing more than an observation of how "God's Dream" works, science has still been able to show that the entire "dream" explains itself via its own behavior.

In other words, if life is but a dream, the dream alone appears to be "God" (i.e. no need for any higher entity to be having or controlling the dream). The dream appears to be able to control itself.

In other words, there is no difference between a dream that self-controls and secular materialism. :D

All science has shown us thus far is that the universe appears to be self-controlled. Whether it's a non-physical dream or a bunch of secular physical vibrating strings is yet to be determined.

Stay tuned to science as we look deeper into these questions. 8-)
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

Cinderella Man
Student
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:06 pm

Post #8

Post by Cinderella Man »

[Replying to post 7 by Divine Insight]

Without getting too wordy, I can honestly say that I have used every one of these angles to debate this. And maybe I'm not being clear enough in my position. I have no illusions about the limitations of science and I have no uneasiness about it either. The scientific method is a fantastic tool that humans have used to their advantage when it is appropriate. That we still have mysteries and enormous gaps in our knowledge isn't the least bit unsettling to me because the pursuit of knowledge is its own reward. I'm merely looking for ideas on how to address this argument that I find idiotic; this idea that science itself is unfounded.

I am a self-taught skeptic who was raised to rely on faith and religion, though in my era of growing up science wasn't a bad word and there wasn't the kind of denial of basic knowledge that we see today with anti-vaxers and moon landing deniers. Some folks really do believe in magical remedies, though the people I'm talking about are actually scientifically literate and quite well educated so it isn't about ignorance; it's about a philosophy. That philosophy seems to stem from this idea that even with our best scientific tools and methods, some scientific conclusions are just wrong because it is missing something. So when I talk about acupuncture (just one example of many pseudosciences), these people aren't saying there's magic involved. In fact the response seems to be more like "it works for some people but not others", which is a truly weak argument. Of course NSAIDs don't work exactly the same for everyone either but from scientific studies, we do know what they do, how they do it and at what rate they will be successful. With something like acupuncture, the only improvement is no better than placebo, which means it doesn't do anything you couldn't have gotten with just some attention. This idea of placebo being a real treatment is somewhat shaky. Yes, mere attention can induce some degree of improvement in some conditions, but there are limits to what it can do. And when you talk about taking treatment in the form of needles or herbs or some other "natural" cure, there is some risk of adverse affects, so you are partaking in something that has risks but offers little reward, a reward you could have gotten just from some TLC from a nurse. If you consider things like homeopathy, then by all accounts of measurement you are applying absolutely no medication at all; it is pure placebo. There isn't much risk in this but it also isn't free. My only position on these types of pseudo sciences has been that people should be informed of the total lack of efficacy of these things. If someone has terminal cancer and has tried every legitimate medical treatment and just refuses to give up, then there's no harm in swallowing a little water that someone says is a cure, but then there are cases where people forego real and effective treatment in lieu of these nutty treatments and that is a bad thing. Not to mention the wave of anti-vax idiocy that is popular now. At the heart of it is the fact that I'm stubborn and stupid at the same time. If I had any sense I would concoct my own miracle cure and get rich selling it.

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Post #9

Post by Divine Insight »

Cinderella Man wrote: I'm merely looking for ideas on how to address this argument that I find idiotic; this idea that science itself is unfounded.
I agree that any argument that science is unfounded is so clearly absurd that labeling it "idiotic" is certainly justified. In fact, can any such "argument" actually be made? Or does all this amount to is an unwarranted empty accusation that, in truth, cannot even be argued using any form rational argument? I suggest that the latter should be obvious. Science has proven worthiness to such a profound degree that any attempt to argue that it is "unfounded" is nothing short of absurd.

In some cases you just need to recognize that some people aren't worth arguing with. Some people purposefully make utterly absurd and empty arguments just for the sake of arguing, and even with the ulterior motive to frustrate and irritate anyone who is willing to put up with such nonsense.

Sometimes it's just best to refuse to argue with such people. If they are that radical just let them blow their hot air somewhere else. Why waste your time on them?
Cinderella Man wrote: I am a self-taught skeptic who was raised to rely on faith and religion, though in my era of growing up science wasn't a bad word and there wasn't the kind of denial of basic knowledge that we see today with anti-vaxers and moon landing deniers.
I won't argue with moon landing deniers. Anyone taking that position has already demonstrated that they aren't worth arguing with. Even if I were to publicly "debate" that issue, I still wouldn't bother arguing with the moon landing denier. All I would do is present the overwhelming compelling evidence for why the moon landing necessarily happened, unless a person wants to believe that the entire world is in on the Hoax, including Russia, Japan, Europe, Australia, China, etc.

If they are willing to believe in such a huge world-wide orchestrated hoax, then there's no point in trying to convince them of anything reasonable.

As far as the anti-vaxers are concerned. It's a fact, that vaccinations are not 100% foolproof. There have been people who have been adversely affected by vaccinations, and have even died from having them. The only argument that can be made there is that the percentage of failures is so extremely small compared with the percentage of successes that it just makes no sense to bet on the extremely poor odds. That's the only thing I can say on that issue.
Cinderella Man wrote: Some folks really do believe in magical remedies, though the people I'm talking about are actually scientifically literate and quite well educated so it isn't about ignorance; it's about a philosophy.
You'll need to define precisely what you mean by "Magical Remedies".

I was diagnosed with COPD by two independent doctors. Both of them insured me that my condition is incurable, irreversible, and will only get worse over time. That was their diagnoses. And for a while I was getting worse.

But then I got into meditation, and performing various "magical rituals" associated with Wicca. My COPD symptoms have since almost disappeared entirely and I no longer need to use the inhalers and nebulizer that I couldn't live without previously.

Was this "magic"? Don't ask me as I have no clue. Meditation and the "magical rituals" that I had performed included physical and mental participation on my part. And mental is physical as far as I'm concerned. Therefore my health could have improved due to these actual practices that I was engaging in. I'm not going to say that I was cured by "magic". But I will say that having practiced meditations and performing "magic rituals" certainly seems to have produced better results than I was previously getting from my doctors.

Keep in mind also, that I personally not opposed to "mystical" ideas. As far as I'm concerned even science recognizes that we are entirely made of the stuff of this universe. In short, we are this universe. And in a sense that's also a "Pantheistic" view. So science not only doesn't reject pantheism, but it actually supports that worldviews. We are this universe.

So I have no problem believing that I can achieve a state of harmony with the universe itself. This is where there is a huge question between the meaning of "magic" and the simple fact that science doesn't yet have all the answers.
Cinderella Man wrote: That philosophy seems to stem from this idea that even with our best scientific tools and methods, some scientific conclusions are just wrong because it is missing something.
I prefer to view this from an entirely different perspective.

You say, "some scientific conclusions are just wrong because it is missing something."

But consider my own experience. Two doctors diagnosed me as having an irreversible condition of COPD. "Do they speak for all of science? No they don't!"

In fact, I'm not a rich man. Who knows, with better doctors, more tests, and more expensive medical equipment perhaps some doctors could have cured me. And even if they couldn't would their lack of knowledge represent a final conclusion of science? No it wouldn't. All it would represent is a lack of complete knowledge in the science of medicine.

So for me, instead of saying "some scientific conclusions are just wrong because it is missing something.", I prefer to say, "Not every conclusion drawn by a technologist, or doctor, etc., represents a conclusion of science in general."

In short, I'm not going to blame "science" just because doctors may not know everything.

In fact, this is when people confuse "science" with "technology". We can't blame limitations, and/or errors of technology, on science. Technology is nothing more than humans attempting to put scientific knowledge to use as best they can.

In fact, much of "technology" is driven by economics and greed. Let's not blame science for the pitfalls of technology.
Cinderella Man wrote: So when I talk about acupuncture (just one example of many pseudosciences), these people aren't saying there's magic involved.
"Magic" is an ill-defined word. In fact, magic itself means "stage magic" or the art of illusion. Spiritual people prefer to add a "k" to the end of the word, "Magick" and use this word to denote "spiritual magick". But even then there are many disagreements over what constitutes "spiritual magick".

After all even pure secular materialists recognize a secular concept of "Human Spirit".

And as I stated earlier even doctors recognize that a persons mental state (mental spirit) can have an influence on how well a person will recover from a disease or injury.
Cinderella Man wrote: In fact the response seems to be more like "it works for some people but not others", which is a truly weak argument.
It's not a weak argument at all if we're talking about a secular view of "Human Spirit" or "Mental State". Different people are going to have a different perspective on life and that can indeed affect how well various techniques and practices can work for different people.

For example, I perform "Spiritual Rituals" that actually have the very real affect of rejuvenating my energy levels. Someone else just going through these very same motions but thinking they are a total waste of time may actually be drained from having performed them.

In short, I refuse to deny the power of our mental state. And at the same time I see no reason to appeal to anything "supernatural" to account for this. Even from a purely scientific perspective of a material world our mental state would have still be a valid material condition worthy of consideration.
Cinderella Man wrote: Of course NSAIDs don't work exactly the same for everyone either but from scientific studies, we do know what they do, how they do it and at what rate they will be successful.
Everyone's physical body is not the same. Even science tells us this. To think that all humans are the same is unscientific. And that even includes the wiring and structure of our brains (our minds)
Cinderella Man wrote: With something like acupuncture, the only improvement is no better than placebo, which means it doesn't do anything you couldn't have gotten with just some attention.
If placebo works for someone why argue against that?
Cinderella Man wrote: This idea of placebo being a real treatment is somewhat shaky. Yes, mere attention can induce some degree of improvement in some conditions, but there are limits to what it can do.
Keep in mind here that everyone's brain (i.e. mind) is not the same. Therefore placebo may work for some people far better than for others.

Also an important note: Placebo doesn't necessarily mean that they only think they are getting better but really aren't getting any better. If a person believes they are getting better they may actually get better. This can be scientifically explained by simply recognizing that even in science the brain controls many of the body's systems. Therefore a brain that is focused on "believing" that it is fixing a particular problem with the body may actually fix that problem. In fact, I've read books on "magick" where the authors have actually suggested that this is how "magick" actually works. In other words, they are supporting various "magical abilities" not to a supernatural case, but rather to natural causes.

In fact, this is how I personally view "magick" today. I know I'm not going to pick up a magick wand, wave it at my cat and have my cat transform into a beautiful woman. :D

I am perfectly happy with restricting "magick" to a potentially secular realm. Because of this, I have no problem accepting that by taking control of my own mental state via mediation and magickal rituals I can have an actual real physical affect on my own health. Especially since, for me, it seems to actually be working to some degree.

It seems to have worked pretty well to combat my COPD. But I also have tinnitus (i.e. ringing in the ears) due to an explosion I was in at one time. My ears are constantly ringing. I've tried using "magickal techniques" to cure the tinnitus to no avail.

However, if you take into consideration everything I've said up to this point this might actually make sense. Perhaps my COPD was something that my brain could reverse via the release of hormones, or instructions to cells, or whatever. Whereas my ear drums are physically damaged beyond what my brain can repair. That makes sense to me.
Cinderella Man wrote: And when you talk about taking treatment in the form of needles or herbs or some other "natural" cure, there is some risk of adverse affects, so you are partaking in something that has risks but offers little reward, a reward you could have gotten just from some TLC from a nurse. If you consider things like homeopathy, then by all accounts of measurement you are applying absolutely no medication at all; it is pure placebo. There isn't much risk in this but it also isn't free.
I agree. There are risks in everything. Keep in mind that for me doctors were my #1 choice. :D

But when they said there is nothing they can do to reverse the disease I turned to using meditation and magick as a LAST RESORT. And it appears to have paid off for the COPD. I'm still not "fully cured". I will still come up short of breath if I over-exert myself. I'm not going to claim full recovery. So perhaps in that sense the doctors are right. It may not be fully reversible. However, my methods seem to have gotten me off the need for inhalers and a nebulizer. So I'm not going to dismiss the power of meditation and "magickal rituals".
Cinderella Man wrote: My only position on these types of pseudo sciences has been that people should be informed of the total lack of efficacy of these things. If someone has terminal cancer and has tried every legitimate medical treatment and just refuses to give up, then there's no harm in swallowing a little water that someone says is a cure, but then there are cases where people forego real and effective treatment in lieu of these nutty treatments and that is a bad thing. Not to mention the wave of anti-vax idiocy that is popular now. At the heart of it is the fact that I'm stubborn and stupid at the same time. If I had any sense I would concoct my own miracle cure and get rich selling it.
I'm with you 100% on this! 8-)

I went to my doctors first!

And I also didn't pay anyone for "scam magick".

Everything I did in terms of magick was 100% FREE. Save for the fact that I did buy some books to read. But even that could have been by-passed with all the free stuff you can get on the Internet today.

But yeah, I totally agree, doctors FIRST, then turn to other options if the doctors fail. And don't be scammed by con artists.

Also there are things that doctors are really GOOD at! Like repairing broken bones, bloody wounds, poison bites or ingestion, etc. But sometimes when it comes to some conditions, doctors have their limitations. And this is especially true if the patient is POOR and can't afford to pay for extensive tests and expert analysis.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

Cinderella Man
Student
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:06 pm

Post #10

Post by Cinderella Man »

[Replying to post 9 by Divine Insight]

Let me be clear that this philosophical idea that I find so absurd isn't just the imaginings of a few interweb nutjobs; it's an actual philosophy backed by some serious thinkers going a ways back. In fact I've had to learn a great deal about this stuff to my own chagrin just to be conversant about it. My favorite physicist, Richard Feynman, found the idea quite absurd so I don't feel so bad about having the same opinion. If you aren't familiar with the philosophy, I suggest you do some reading on it; it is fascinating in the sense that people can think in so many different ways.

I want to address your comments on vaccination and other medical treatments to clear some things up. I'm completely aware of the limitations of vaccination, as I'm aware that virtually no medical treatment is 100% foolproof. But you must be aware that vaccination is simply the most profoundly effective medical intervention known to mankind. The number of lives that vaccination has saved or improved is likely incalculable, in the billions at least. If you limit its effect to just small pox and and Polio, its effectiveness is simply staggering. No other remedy of any kind remotely matches this. Anti-vaxers capitalize on the almost statistically insignificant number of adverse reactions to vaccines to frighten people and when that doesn't work they manufacture studies that link vaccines to frightening conditions like autism. These tactics boldface lies. Given the probabilities, any person in the world would be foolish to reject vaccination for the reasons given to them by anti-vaxers.

To address your COPD; I don't want to make light of a serious condition but that particular one appears to be somewhat difficult to properly diagnose. I had a friend who was also diagnosed with it and given a dire prognosis, only to have that reversed just like yourself. This is not the case with every disease or condition; some are just more difficult to diagnose and to treat. It's when we focus on the ones we know very well that we can identify the real pseudoscience out there. If a patient has diabetes, the proper treatment is a regimen of insulin and dietary control. The application of some homeopathy fluid may allow patients of some diseases to get better, which is purely placebo, but it is not a replacement for insulin. Placebo is a known medical phenomenon that can result in improvement and not just perceived improvement, though it does both. But it has limits and it is not directly related to the quasi-treatment being offered. IOW, homeopathy is placebo but so is a sugar pill and both will have a similar effect, meaning the stuff in the homeopathy bottle didn't do anything at all.

One major problem with pseudo-science treatments is that they often have a meaningless or even outright wrong treatment mechanism. The proponents may tout the claimed mechanism even when it is blatantly incorrect and often demonstrably so. This begs the question of motivation for promoting such "cures". There are two kinds of promoters of pseudo-scientific treatments, the true believer and the con man. The true believer believes in something no matter what the evidence says; the con man is merely pushing a product (think Kevin Trudeau). Back in the 80's there were a number of "faith healers" that performed non-surgical removal of tumors; you might have seen some of these. They operated out of non-sterile environments, like tents, always had crowds, made a lot of ritualistic sounds and there was even blood and biological material was "extracted" from the patient, all without the use of anesthesia and scalpels. And their patients all walked away cured. Now what percentage of these people were actors I have no idea but it's a known fact that some of them were paying customers who expected this "treatment" to work. Placebo can do some things, but if 1,000 cancer patients go to a practitioner like this, 999 of them will still die of cancer and that one guy who survived would likely have done so without any help at all.

I don't disagree with your comments about confusing science with technology and that wasn't the point I was making. Much of medicine is not science at all, but rather an exercise in being a good detective. Medicines, though backed by rigorous science, are also fraught with all sorts of other factors and are far from pure science. In fact, I feel that these shortcomings are the source of many people who shun "Western Medicine" for mysticism and quack-science. They simply get frustrated with the lack of clear results, the high costs, the insurance runaround, arrogant doctors and long waiting times at the doctor's office. All good reasons to demand more from the field of medicine but the reaction of just ditching real medicine and taking Chinese supplements instead is irrational.

And let's not get confused about the term "magic". I understand fully all of the possible interpretations of that word. For the most part, the people I'm talking about aren't believers in actual inexplicable, from the beyond, magic. They simply believe that there is often something going on that science or technology or a given doctor doesn't understand. And that is fine in an individual case of COPD because it's most likely that you were simply misdiagnosed. By two doctors? Sure, it happens and in some cases it can be extremely blatant. But if you were diagnosed with diabetes and put on a regimen of insulin, no amount of homeopathy could replace that.

I want to address your comment that if placebo works, why not just use it. I believe I already addressed this, but the point is that even with something like acupuncture, there is some risk involved. I have had lower back pain for decades. At one time I saw a chiropractor and the results were not bad, but lets think about this. The chiropractor massaged my back in several different ways and he "cracked" it. There was usually a course of a dozen or so treatments and after which my back would be in better shape. But the problems always returned later. Eventually I stopped seeing a chiropractor and worked with a physical therapist instead. They did many of the same things, just not the "cracking". I've also used different medicines and just about all of these treatments have been effective in the short term. So this comes down to a question of economics; which treatment works the best, for the longest, for the lowest cost. That definitely wasn't the chiropractor. In fact, his advice was to continue to come to him even when I had no pain at all, which would have meant up to 25 visits a year (twice a month), forever. That would have been enormously expensive for what was essentially massage therapy. So yes, placebo can provide a limited amount of improvement and it is often used effectively when patients perceive problems to be worse than they actually are. But we should not be promoting pesudo-science as a cure for conditions that are easily treatable by standard medical practices.

I sense that in the last two decades this movement has become dangerously strong and astonishingly at a time when medicine is providing more treatments for more conditions than ever. The life expectancy of people in the US is actually starting to drop for the first time in decades and it is likely that this is part of the reason, people refusing effective medical treatments because they don't trust the medical profession as much as they trust strangers on the Internet who say the government is out to kill them. Perhaps this is just nature's way of addressing the problem of overpopulation. And I always say that I support people who refuse the flu shot because everyone in my family is getting it; if you don't get it and you die of flu complications then you just did humanity a big favor by getting your DNA out of our pool.

Of course this conversation has skewed toward the medical profession but this is hardly the limit of what I have been bellyaching about. The world of pseudo-science is vast.

Post Reply