Monday, January 21, 2013

WTF Is Science?

Join us for a discussion about science and its relevance in the real world. This group will meet regularly every few weeks and it's open to everyone.

The topic for the first meeting is "What Is Science?" Check out the facebook page at: WTF Is Science?.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 6pm.
Room 5243, Medical Sciences Building (5th floor)


You are welcome to bring food and (non-alcoholic) drinks.

Here are some definitions of science from the Oxford English dictionary.
  1. The state or fact of knowing; knowledge or cognizance of something specified or implied; also, with wider reference, knowledge (more or less extensive) as a personal attribute.
  2. Knowledge acquired by study; acquaintance with or mastery of any department of learning. Also +pl. (a person's) various kinds of knowledge.
  3. A particular branch of knowledge or study; a recognized department of learning.
  4. In a more restricted sense: A branch of study which is concerned either with a connected body of demonstrated truths or with observed facts systematically classified and more or less colligated by being brought under general laws, and which includes trustworthy methods for the discovery of new truth within its own domain.
  5. The kind of knowledge or of intellectual activity of which the various `sciences' are examples. In early use, with reference to sense 3: What is taught in the schools or may be learned by study. In mod. use chiefly: The sciences (in sense 4) as distinguished from other departments of learning; scientific doctrine or investigation. Often with defining adj. as in 4 b.


55 comments :

  1. I'll put this out on the ASR mailing list.

    Dave Bailey

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  2. I wish I could be there. The Oxford English Dictionary definitions of science should promote some lively discussion.

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  3. Were I in Toronto I'd be in. I do have web pages on What is science?. I'm open to challenges and insights.

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  4. Making science into a special species of human thought and that more accurate is just plain wrong.
    There is no such thing as science.
    Its just people thinking about things and coming to conclusions. Then saying there conclusions were carefully done and so more credible.

    Science of war, love, politics, and biology is just about conclusions someone says was well investigated.

    Science here is a way to avoid the merits of the investigation and so evolution wins.
    Creationism says the investigation of nature has been incompetent or even is very difficult regarding origin conclusions.

    I don't agree there is a special species of human thought called sciece.

    Yet the best they could say is that SCIENCE is a high standard of investigation that can DEMAND a high confidence in its conclusions.
    Further its implied its smart people and other people can trust them without looking into the investigation.

    Science is humbug .
    Walking down the stairs in the dark is just as scientific as anything claimed to be scientific.

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    1. Walking down the stairs in the dark is just as scientific as anything claimed to be scientific.

      Think of science as your flashlight.

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  5. I'm not sue why people have to meet every few weeks to discuss WTF is science...... If your still struggling to understand that science is the study of cause and effect.... or in easy terms "what causes what" then maybe you should change your career.

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    1. With all its faults Wikipedia does sometimes get things right and I like this explanation.

      "Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning (found, for example, in Aristotle), "science" refers to the body of reliable knowledge itself, of the type that can be logically and rationally explained."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

      Now I have to ask a question, since common ancestry has not been observed and cannot even be recreated is it even science? How do you even explain common ancestry and horizontal gene transfer in the same sentence? Perhaps this supposed “science” is more like a belief, and to meet every view weeks to discuss these beliefs sounds an awful lot to me like church, almost like being a liar for Charles instead of Jesus.

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    2. I don't agree with the Wikipedia definition. The term "testable explanations" seems needlessly restrictive. I prefer to say that science relies on "evidence." Evidence can comes in many forms but in the case of common ancestry it means the fossil record, molecular data, comparative anatomy (and development), and biogeography.

      If you know of an explanation other than common decent that accounts for all that data then, by all means, share it with us.

      Perhaps this supposed “science” is more like a belief, and to meet every view weeks to discuss these beliefs sounds an awful lot to me like church, almost like being a liar for Charles instead of Jesus.

      The very fact that we are discussing this issue on my blog means that it's an interesting and controversial question. That's why we can meet and talk about it at our first meeting. We will have a diverse set of opinions on the question. (Other meetings will discuss different topics.)

      It would be a lot like church if most churches had regular discussions about the existence of god and invited atheists, Buddhists, and wiccans to join in. (In other words, it's not even remotely similar to church.)

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    3. Dear prof Moran

      If the explanations are not testable do you think it is still science? I must admit I'm struggling to understand how you can even think so because anything than is not testable and repeatable is open to any type of speculation and just "so story" that the human mind can conjure up!

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    4. Dear Professor Moran

      you say "The very fact that we are discussing this issue on my blog means that it's an interesting and controversial question. That's why we can meet and talk about it at our first meeting. We will have a diverse set of opinions on the question. (Other meetings will discuss different topics.)"

      Does this mean that people included in the meeting that hold the idea that design is also a plausible theory will be welcome? Will they be given a platform to express their views? I'm only asking because we have to take the possibility of design serious if we are to take science seriously. How else do you explain Nano-molecular machines that are in magnitude of 1000's more efficient than our own designed ones? How do you explain horizontal gene transfer in a Darwinian bottom up approach? What about specified information used by living systems? Where did these instruction manuals come from? I don't know of a single system that has created itself or wrote its own manual? Where did this come from? How? Why? This stuff is important to know and to ask the questions are by no means unscientific.
      So my question to you Prof Moran is this, will only the brand of science you like be welcome or will all ideas be discussed?

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    5. Andre Gross asks,

      Does this mean that people included in the meeting that hold the idea that design is also a plausible theory will be welcome?

      Yes, definitely. They are more than welcomed, they are encouraged to attend.

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    6. Andre Gross asks,

      If the explanations are not testable do you think it is still science?

      I suppose it depends on what you mean by "testable." We use the scientific way of knowing to decide whether someone is guilty of a crime. Even though all the evidence might be circumstantial, we often have no doubt about guilt. Does that qualify as testable?

      We have some pretty good ideas of what led to the dissolution of the Roman Empire. Are they testable?

      We are certain that the K/T extinction event was mostly caused by an asteroid impact. Is that testable?

      We know that there's no universally accepted evidence for the existence of god(s). Is that testable?

      Intelligent people concluded that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. Was that testable? .... Oh, wait, that one WAS testable.

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    7. Dear Prof Moran

      Great so we are on the same page then that both Darwinian evolution and ID use forensics to infer past causes but come to two different conclusions. Do you in anyway acknowledge the possibility of design in molecular machines or do you also subscribe to the idea that it only appears so? I have to ask how does a non-intelligent force like natural selection figure it out to build a molecular rotary motor? How did it even know that this particular design is optimal for function? Can non-intelligence solve problems like that? How does non-intelligence even know what a potential problem is?

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    8. "I have to ask how does a non-intelligent force like natural selection figure it out to build a molecular rotary motor? How did it even know that this particular design is optimal for function? Can non-intelligence solve problems like that? How does non-intelligence even know what a potential problem is?"

      That's so appallingly bad that it isn't even wrong. Your understanding of how evolution works is obviously completely clouded by the idea that there MUST be a plan, and a designer to carry it out. Natural selection, or any other selection pressure doesn't plan or 'figure out' anything. Things happen, and that which doesn't confer any advantage, or, more likely, confers a disadvantage, doesn't continue. Those that do confer an advantage will be selected for, not by intelligence, but simply by virtue of being an advantage. The organism which has an advantage over its competitors will have an easier time finding food, or a mate, or escaping from a predator, staying warm, you name it. And it happens in all organisms, from the microscopic to the gargantuan. It happens incrementally, not by the sudden appearance of an entire unit like the flagellum, which is what I suspect you may be leading up to. Yes, we've heard that one before. In fact I doubt that there is a single creationist/ID question that we haven't heard, there hasn't been a new one in ages. The slowest pace of evolution in Earth's history may well take place in the realm of creationist/ID arguments against it.

      Dave Bailey

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    9. You faith in natural selection and gradualism, while touching, seems to be a result of your a priori commitment to there not being a plan of any sort. What, eg, would you say is the best example you have of natural selection at work, and how many orders of magnitude greater is the stuff you then extrapolate to?

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    10. "You faith in natural selection..." The only faith I have is that the accumulated evidence is not lying to me.

      "...seems to be a result of your a priori commitment to there not being a plan of any sort." Correct, I assume from the outset that there is a natural explanation.

      "What, eg, would you say is the best example you have of natural selection at work,..." Any successful organism, of which there are millions.

      "...and how many orders of magnitude greater is the stuff you then extrapolate to?" Sounds like an attempt to obfuscate, but I'll give you time to explain, I'm heading to bed.

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    11. Actually, don't bother. If your little blurb on faith healing is any indication, your interpretation of the word 'logic' seems to be seriously flawed.

      You're just another troll...

      Dave Bailey

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    12. Dear Dave,

      Please will you explain how an optimal rotary motor that creates energy for cells is in fact not planned and not designed? Please explain how non-intelligence has the capability to create such an optimal design if it does not even know what design is? I beg the question?

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    13. Dave

      I have 2 questions for you....


      1) If I chuck a pile of matter in a heap and leave it what are the chances that it will become an Mazda RX7 Rotary motor in a billion years?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BCgl2uumlI

      2.) If I chuck a pile of matter into a heap what are the chances that it will become a molecular rotary motor in a billion years?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjdPTY1wHdQ

      no mind involved you say? That takes a ludicrous amount of faith to believe!

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    14. @The Rat
      I agree your answer was entirely an attempt to obfuscate. You made no real attempt to address the point. Firstly, you say it is not faith you have in natural selection and yet you believe it to capable of doing almost anything on the basis of having seen it do almost nothing. That's why I asked for your best example of what it has done and that's why you didn't answer. The point being that when you do answer, you then need to examine how much more you are claiming for it than that which you have evidence for. Consider, by way of analogy, I've seen birds build nests but that doesn't mean I can extrapolate and say they built the pyramids. That's what you;re doing with natural selection only in your case it's even worse.

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    15. "Dave

      I have 2 questions for you.."

      Wow, we've never heard that argument before. Oh, wait, we have: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=747_Junkyard_argument

      Dave Bailey

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    16. Me: " "...and how many orders of magnitude greater is the stuff you then extrapolate to?" Sounds like an attempt to obfuscate, but I'll give you time to explain, I'm heading to bed."

      Luther: "@The Rat
      I agree your answer was entirely an attempt to obfuscate."

      Ah yes, the old "I know you are but what am I?" argument. Kindergarten discourse at its best. You're truly pathetic. I think I'm done with you. Have fun in the sandbox and don't let a cat bury you.

      Dave Bailey

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    17. Why not answer the questions instead of your continuing obfuscation. As regards the kindergarten, I note your first comments to me - obfuscation and insults - and now, more obfuscation and more insults. Why not just try to answer the questions - I know it must be difficult when you actually have to give reasons for the blind faith you have, but hey ho.

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  6. You missed out this section from the OED:

    "In modern use, often treated as synonymous with `Natural and Physical Science', and thus restricted to those branches of study that relate to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws, sometimes with implied exclusion of pure mathematics. This is now the dominant sense in ordinary use."

    I draw your attention to the last sentence. That's what science means now and anyone waffling otherwise is either deluded, disingenuous, dishonest, or d) all of the above. Consider this from the online Oxford dictionary where, for expediency, all the etymological/historical curiosities are ignored and the standard modern use is given:

    "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment"

    That's the main question answered, then. Was there anything else?

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    1. You have quoted from definition subsection "b" of definition 5.

      I completely agree with you that this is the dominant sense of the word "science" in ordinary use. That does not mean that all other definitions are obsolete but it's why I take pains to point out that the meaning of "science" in debates about epistemology and knowledge is different than the colloquial meaning. It's not uncommon for the common street usage of a word to have a different meaning than the one used in academic discussions. Perhaps you weren't aware of this since you seem to have little experience with those kind of discussions?

      Luther, you are free to choose your own definition of science as long as you state it clearly. Assuming that you prefer the colloquial definition, can you please tell me what way of knowing is employed by historians, sociologists, philosophers, and students of English literature. Since it ain't science, by your definition, what is it? How does it work? And how is it different from the way of knowing employed by biochemists, cosmologists, and geologists?

      And here's another question for you to ponder. Imagine that you were dissatisfied with the way most people think about science and you wanted to change their view. Imagine that you wanted to change the the way science is described in ordinary usage. How would you go about doing this? I get the impression that such a thing would be beyond your comprehension as long as the Oxford English Dictionary exists.

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    2. One problem with your (re)definition is that you don't want to stick to it. You only want that definition when you want to say science is the cause of everything good - when you want to say, eg, that science is responsible for the great political changes we have seen in our contemporary societies of which you think so highly. Buy if someone was to point out that the Killing Fields were (the result of) science, you'll reject the very same definition and claim indignantly that the person who said this was twisting the meaning of the word. You are, then, equivocating like a equivocal thing, and it is so obvious, so shoddy and so sad, it's like watching a third rate magician stuffing a rabbit in his hat, unaware the audience can see him, in preparation for the now-pointless tada moment - all one can do in such case is give an embarrassed laugh. That's the first point.

      The second point is that the sense of science that is exclusively used today in academic discussions, except about etymology (look it up), as well as everywhere else, is the one I offered. Thus my own definition is not my own definition but the accepted current definition worldwide.

      And the third point is that yes, of course, you are free to argue that you think the definition should be changed - but why on earth should we do that? The word works perfectly well, it's perfectly clear what it means, everyone except a few third rate magician impersonators are happy with it, and thus we stand in no need of any water-muddying revision. And when we consider this in light of the first point, the reason for this new (very old) definition becomes clear - you actually want two or three different definitions on the go at the same time and you want to be able to flit between them like a Krauss and his "nothings" without a care in the world. Well some people do care about deceptive arguments, and will call you it, even if you can convince a few others to go along with your linguistic butchery because they share your ideological ambitions.

      As for my comprehension of language and its workings, don't you worry about that. I know all about elms and beeches, meaning1 and meaning2, (TE) water, necessarily non-existing unicorns, and illuminated manuscripts. Hell, I even know what someone means when they say "bring me a slab with five red apples on it". How about you? How many of the 6 examples do you have to look up? How many relevant academic discussion have you been to?

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    3. ... you want to say science is the cause of everything good - when you want to say, eg, that science is responsible for the great political changes we have seen in our contemporary societies ...

      I never said any such thing. You probably didn't understand what I said. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked that you would tell a lie.

      ... if someone was to point out that the Killing Fields were (the result of) science ...

      Why in the world would anyone ever make such a ridiculous claim? Are they crazy?

      The second point is that the sense of science that is exclusively used today in academic discussions, except about etymology (look it up), as well as everywhere else, is the one I offered. Thus my own definition is not my own definition but the accepted current definition worldwide.

      I didn't realize that you have solved the Demarcation Problem. Have you published this anywhere?

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    4. I didn't say I'd solved the demarcation problem. I just said that that definition of science - which restricts it to things like physics, chemistry etc, and excludes things like philosophy or history - is the standard use and is understood as that worldwide.

      Re your first point, so you accept then that science has had precious little (almost nothing) to do directly with the political changes that you spoke highly of previously. And do you further accept that these changes have been down to the adoption of various ideas from political philosophies?

      Re your point about the killing fields, I suspect it will be you who claims that, or rejects it in the manner I described above. I suspect you think it because I don't think you'll be able to bring yourself to say yes to either of the question just above, and a no answer to the first almost certainly entails it.

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    5. Re the demarcation problem, I refer you to Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, sections 65-80. There is no demarcation problem.

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    6. I won't bother replying to Luther, but for the edification of the rest of you I will give an example of his 'logic' in a direct quote from his web page:

      "Sceptics often laugh at those who believe in faith healing. Faith healing, the sceptics smugly tell us, is no more efficacious than a placebo. Which is to say that faith healing is no more efficacious than faith healing since that's precisely what a placebo is. And since the placebo actually does work - people actually do get better - this means faith healing actually works. And since it's only rational to believe in something that's been shown time and again to work, it's irrational for sceptics to disbelieve, and to laugh at those who believe, in faith healing. Thus sceptics are irrational. How very amusing."

      Yes, amusing, but perhaps not in the way he thinks.

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    7. I know you won't bother replying to the questions because you have no way of responding without showing how completely faith-based your views are.

      Re my point about faith-healing, why not enlighten us as to your complaint. Just repeating what I wrote and vaguely waving an "I disagree" banner, simply doesn't wash. The point I made is a straightforward, if humorous, way of pointing out that you can't get rid of something simply by giving it fancy name. That is, unless you believe that the placebo is no better than no treatment at all (if so why bother with it), or unless you believe those sugar pills actually cause the patient to get better in the same way normal medicine does (if so why not just give sugar pills), then you end up at faith-healing - ie, faith in the treatment is what apparently heals.

      And finally, I also find it amusing to see the huge amount of time and energy clowns like you spend telling people that you're not going to respond to them while all the while responding to them. Go check out, on this site, all the examples of this peculiar feature of those similarly minded to you. A huge amount of bluff, a huge amount of bluster, almost zero content.

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  7. It is fine to wish to argue for a more limited use of the word 'science', if one thinks that doing so contributes to our understanding. If one wants the word to eventually define, essentially, 'how we come to know things', then, well, fine. What it is NOT fine to do is to use this limited definition to shield science from any responsibility for the harm done through the knowledge gained through it. Scientific knowledge can be very dangerous, and that is not a controversial statement. It is only controversial for those who wish to change 'science' into 'Science' i.e. a foundational element of an improved human society. If one allows discussion of its dark side into the conversation, then it loses its sheen as humanity's Answer.

    Again, nothing controversial. Nearly every man on the street thinks this way, as do most journalists. Mary Shelley wrote a book about it. Aldous Huxley wrote another book about it, and so on. Knowledge can be dangerous and destructive. Scientific knowledge can lead to, among other things;
    germ warfare
    atomic weaponry
    widespread environmental destruction
    genetically modified food that has the potential to 'genetically modify' we who eat it.
    etc, etc

    So, this necessitates science's most ardent supporters protesting, 'you can't blame science for that! Science merely provides knowledge, and cannot be held responsible for how that knowledge is used'.
    But this argument is so weak as to be only of use to those who wish to view science as wholly good, pure and blameless. It is hardly a mainstream idea, and shouldn't become one.

    Suppose a driving instructor decides to teach his eight year old son how to drive, and the boy one day takes the car and accidentally runs over and kills a pedestrian. It will be the father, not the son, who is imprisoned. He cannot argue that he only introduced the boy to the knowledge of how to drive a car, just as he introduces that knowledge to dozens of people every week on his job. He is not responsible for how they use that knowledge.
    He IS responsible, not for every decision that everyone he ever teaches makes on the road, but to provide them with the fundamental understanding of how dangerous and potentially deadly the machines he is teaching them to use can be. AND he is responsible to decide whom to share his knowledge with and whom to withhold it from.

    Science doesn't do either. It just puts its discoveries out on the open market. It is not 'rational' to continue doing so after humanity has proven itself time and time again to not be responsible enough to use the discoveries in a safe and enlightened manner.
    Does this mean that science should just stop? Of course not. It just means that science is clearly not sufficient in and of itself as a foundation of society. It is a tool, no more and no less. And it is hardly reassuring that those who are most adamant about according it this lofty status - changing it from science to Science -such as Richard Dawkins,etc., are those who are least willing to acknowledge its obvious shortcomings, and protest the loudest should such shortcomings be presented.

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    1. here is a nice passage from Martin Rees, from a nearly ten year old essay he wrote for TIME

      "The surest safeguard against such danger is to deny the world the basic science that underpins these advances. So, should scientists stop their research — even if it is in itself safe and ethical — simply because of unease about where it might lead? Should we go slow in some areas, or leave some doors of possibility permanently closed? Should we restrict science's traditional freedom of inquiry and international openness?

      In 1975, prominent molecular biologists did just that by proposing a moratorium on what were then novel types of gene splicing experiments. This moratorium soon came to seem unduly cautious, but that doesn't mean that it was unwise at the time, since the risk was then genuinely uncertain. But it would be far harder to achieve anything similar today. The research community is much larger, and competition — enhanced by commercial pressures — is more intense.

      To put effective brakes on a field of research would require international consensus. If one country alone imposed regulations, the most dynamic researchers and enterprising companies would simply move to another country, something that is happening already in stem cell research. And even if all governments agreed to halt research in a particular field, the chances of effective enforcement are slim. There will surely be a cloned baby at some point, for instance, regardless of the regulations.

      But perhaps the most insurmountable problem is that most scientific discoveries can be applied both for good and for ill, and the specific uses of any single technology cannot be foreseen. The inventors of lasers, for example, had no idea that their work could be used in eye surgery. Today, the same techniques that could lead to voracious nanobots could also lead to effective new treatments for some of the world's most intractable diseases. "

      Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,449459,00.html#ixzz2IrP3dVaM

      Martin Rees, who may one day win a Nobel Prize (he has certainly won just about every other science award there is), gets it.
      He knows the difference between science and Science.

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    2. "Science doesn't do either. It just puts its discoveries out on the open market."

      And just who gets to determine what is going to be useful and what may be harmful? And when should that process start, before the experiments are even attempted, or after the results are in? If before, we fetter science, perhaps at our peril.

      You mentioned nuclear weapons, but nuclear medicine has saved far more lives than nuclear weapons have ever taken. So should we have never bothered to make radioactive isotopes because they might be used for weaponry?

      Dave Bailey

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    3. Dave,
      What you wrote above doesn't necessarily conflict with anything I wrote or presented. In fact, your point echoes the comments from Martin Rees I quoted, particularly his last paragraph, directly above your comment.

      My point is that science needs to be thought of as 'science', a remarkably efficient tool. It is far too risky and unpredictable a tool to be considered 'Science', a guiding principle upon which to construct a better society.

      'New Atheists' such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the author of this very blog often extol science as the latter rather than the former. For example, Larry Moran earlier wrote that he would like to see a society 'based on rationality and science'.

      They also employ a double standard, in that not only do they rarely, if ever, acknowledge the risky, unpredictable, darker side of science, choosing to present it almost solely as a positive. They also present religion exactly the opposite, disregarding its positive contributions (for example, the role it has played in Civil Rights movements in the U.S., Central America, etc.) and presenting it in sheer terms as a negative.

      That is the attitude that I am critical of, and that is my point. Do you agree or disagree?

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    4. Dave, here is the mission of the Richard Dawkins Foundation

      "Our mission is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering."

      It sounds very nice. And yet I wonder if RD is merely choosing to avoid the inconvenient truth that 'evidence-based understanding of the natural world' has at times resulted in 'human suffering'. It is also ironic that he singles out 'religious fundamentalism' in the statement, but much of his writing lumps nearly ALL religion together and doesn't distinguish between what is and isn't 'fundamentalist'. Meaning that his definition of 'intolerance' must be a bit different than mine.

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    5. Andy you should know by now that the people pleading for tolerance are by7 far the most intolerant. Richard Dawkins being a point in case

      http://blog.jgc.org/2011/09/dawkins-stupid-people.html

      I wonder if he will also call these people stupid if given the chance.....

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

      Most of these guys have done more for mankind than what he has ever done....

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    6. I agree that there is often a double standard, it has irked me in the past as well. But I don't agree that science has a dark side. It is simply science. Whatever nasty uses its discoveries are put to is a product of human frailties and failings. I also view atrocities like so-called 'honour killings' the same way. Religion may be an enabler and facilitator of such behaviour, but the root cause is human.

      Dave Bailey

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    7. To attempt 'dark' and 'light' polarisation of both science and religion is moving into murky waters IMO. It is arguable that the increased reproduction that we engender by 'scientifically' improving health, sanitation and agriculture is stifling the planet, by pouring an unhealthy amount of its resources into human flesh and living space, and will ultimately lead to a global catastrophe. This is 'light' intent that can have 'dark' consequences. It is arguable that the Catholic church's position on contraception and abortion is an evil for the same reason. It is arguable that war, disease and pestilence help limit the population, and defer impending catastrophe. ... I won't defend any of these views myself; they are not 'ought's, and naturally I favour 'kind' principles, as nearly all humans, secular and otherwise, do - but things are rarely black and white.

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    8. Dave writes,
      "I don't agree that science has a dark side."

      That's fair enough. Science, in and of itself, doesn't have a dark side. In the same way, a belief in god is just a belief in god, neither 'dark' nor 'light'. The dark and light come from what various people choose to do with either, in terms of how they extrapolate from them to live better lives themselves and work to improve the lives of others, or contrarily produce or excuse evil.
      It's often hubris - both the thought that 'science will lead us to a brave new world' and 'my god is better than your god' that introduces the 'dark side' into either.

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    9. @Gross-
      Andy you should know by now that the people pleading for tolerance are by7 far the most intolerant. Richard Dawkins being a point in case

      No. Not even close. Virtually every fundamentalist in America has equated gays to animals, compared homosexuality to pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, etc. WorldNetDaily and John Hagee have demanded that all atheists be deported from America. There is no comparison and it is not even close.

      Gay people "have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists." [Teacher's Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998-1999, Bob Jones University Press, 1998] [See more wonderful facts in taxpayer-funded Bob Jones textbooks for kids]

      The ID and creationist movements engage in far more suppression of thought outright, than Dawkins ever did, and they're funded by the government via education vouchers.

      The Anti-Darwinist Thought Police tolerate no deviation from the creationist party line. Just read Answers in Genesis' Statement of Faith, or the policies of Bob Jones University. Any one who believed in evolution would be fired from Bob Jones and even the janitors who work at the Creation Museum cannot believe in evolution.

      Little kids who compete in AIG's "Science Fairs" must sign AIG's creepy "Statement of Faith" which says that no history, science, eyewitness reports, or any observation ever could ever prove Ken Ham wrong. If any janitor at the Creation Museum disagrees with that, he'll be fired.

      William Dembski suggested that Noah's Flood was not global, and the seminary he works for threatened to fire him. He knuckled under and decided Noah's Flood was global, after all.

      Dawkins' "intolerance" is that he says outright there is no evidence for God, and no logical proofs of God's existence that don't involve logical fallacies, and creationists are either ignorant or dishonest.

      This hurts your feelings, but it is not even close to intolerance.

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    10. @AB -
      In the same way, a belief in god is just a belief in god, neither 'dark' nor 'light'.

      But religion is not merely a belief in god. Western religion is based on the belief that those with the 'wrong' religion, or no religion, are immoral and destructive to society.

      It's often hubris - both the thought that 'science will lead us to a brave new world' and 'my god is better than your god' that introduces the 'dark side' into either.

      Science produces fact-statements. It does not produce value-statements. To have a policy, good or bad, you must combine fact statements with value-statements.

      Value:(those who kill children should be killed) +
      Fact:(Jews murder children at Purim)
      --> Policy: (Kill the Jews)

      Religion produces fact-statements that are usually wrong, and value-statements that may be good or bad.

      Science produces fact-statements that are virtually always more accurate than the fact-statements produced by religion, and it does not produce value-statements at all.

      There are people who try to pass off their value statement as scientific ('blacks are inferior') but these people are not necessarily scientists, and not necessarily atheists.

      Sure, eugenics was an attempt to pass off value-statements as 'scientific.' But every major creationist, from 1920 to 1970, except G. M. Price, supported eugenics.

      Henry Morris, Tinkle, A. E. Wilder-Smith, Rushdoony etc. They all supported eugenics.

      How does religion solve the problems 'caused' by science?

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    11. Diogenes writes,
      "But religion is not merely a belief in god"
      Absolutely. No argument.

      As for science, I completely accept your definition of it, which you provided on another thread.
      I think I have made it clear that I have no problem with acknowledging science as a remarkably effective tool (or practice, or discipline, or however one chooses to define it). Larry Moran, Richard Dawkins, etc. go further. They posit it as something for which I believe it is unfit - as a philosophical pillar upon which to create a better, more humane society.

      As for your question, "How does religion solve the problems 'caused' by science?", I don't understand your reason for posing it to me. I have made no such claim.

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    12. Diogenes says,

      To have a policy, good or bad, you must combine fact statements with value-statements.

      How do you do this? Seriously, what's the process that we should use in an ideal society to arrive at good policy?

      Should it be based on evidence? Should it be rational? Should we employ healthy skepticism? Can you put a name to the best mechanism that a society should employ?

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    13. "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts"

      That's how Webster defines 'common sense', NOT 'science'.

      Common sense is an exceptional " process that we should use in an ideal society to arrive at good policy".

      I'm guessing no one here, or anywhere, disagrees.

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  8. Andre, although I understand your point, statements such as

    "... the people pleading for tolerance are by far the most intolerant" are exactly the type of comments I try NOT to make. It is a sweeping generalization no less so than it would be for RD to call all religious people 'stupid', which to my knowledge he hasn't done. Oh, I know that he has come close to that on numerous occasions, such as in the link you provide.
    But I am quite sure that Richard Dawkins would, if pressed on the question and his response, admit that there are many intelligent religious people.
    On the other hand, he WOULD probably agree with the statement, 'religion is stupid'. THAT is an intolerant point of view that he can be faulted for.

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    1. You are correct it is a generalization indeed, it is however not an incorrect one......

      http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6742

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    2. Can we say that there is a single secular person on these blogs that are using the classical definition of tolerance Andy? I say not one!

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    3. Here he says and I quote "Creationists know nothing"

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9uhE4CT2xM

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    4. Andre writes,
      "Can we say that there is a single secular person on these blogs that are using the classical definition of tolerance Andy? I say not one!"

      Okay, that's your view, but it's entirely different from mine. I don't think of it that way. When I come to this site, I argue with statements that I disagree with, not people. I might agree with something someone says and then go after something else they say. Like I'm doing with you now.
      I think it's important to stay focused on the ideas, opinions, etc. that are expressed, and stay UNfocused on the person expressing them.

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    5. needless to say, I don't always live up to that standard, but I try to.

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    6. Andy my point is people here play the man and almost never the argument.

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    7. "Andy my point is people here play the man and almost never the argument."

      Ad hominems are usually the wrong way to go. But when you hear the same tired old crap from creationists, as if it's supposed to be something new, it really gets maddening. I will probably scream loudly at the next person who drags out the second law of thermodynamics. And anyone who asks "If we evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys" will be perilously close to getting the toe of my boot wedged in their rectum.

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    8. The Rat

      Thank you for making my point so eloquently!

      BTW I have to ask, so how about that second law? And how do you know we come from monkeys?

      Regards

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    9. "BTW I have to ask, so how about that second law? And how do you know we come from monkeys?"

      You're kidding, right?

      Dave Bailey

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