Monday, 5 March 2007

Science versus faith

Science versus faith? Well, there is a difference, isn't there.

Hat tip, Noodle Food.


  1. I can see that the block flow diagram for science has feed-back loops while that of faith is only open uni-direction (one-way only) loop (no feedback). Feedback is a self-correcting mechanism while open loop is not self-correcting at all. This means that if the input is wrong to start with in an open loop system then it will never ever be corrected for all time. Open-loop depicted in the diagram and thus for Faith is a static control system with no self-correction while the one depicted for science is adaptive via feedback thus it evolves over time.

  2. You may enjoy this from Salon -

    Apart from the anti-capitalism bent the article is very good and shows just how invasive anti-intellectualism has become.

    "Good things come to those who believe, whether it's belief in a diet, a God, or a Habit of Successful People. These believers may believe in the healing power of homeopathy, or Scripture or organizational skills -- in intelligent design, astrology or privatization. They all trust that their devotion will be rewarded with money and boyfriends and job promotions, with hockey championships and apartments".

  3. James Randi Organization (a debunker of faith-based claim) has just recently covered that Oprah Winfrey ludicrous show.

    I am surprised that the prosecutors in Shipton-Schollum-Rickards trial didn't call the NZ psychic & charlatan Jeanette Wilson to be a witness for the crown. Obviously she had claimed in the past that she can see events in the past and also can foresee the future. Wilson could have described in detail to the prosecutors about the supposedly actual rape, such things as what clothes that the accused or the victim were wearing. Since the trial didn't present any forensic evidence at all, the prosecutors might have called a psychic such as Mrs. Wilson to be a witness for the crown.

  4. And of course, most faith-based practice requires that patient must abstain from sex for 40 days in order for the treatment to be effective. This type of faith-based treatment is exactly what John of God has just brought to suckers in Wellington over recent days. Those suckers throw in their money to heal John of God's purse.

  5. Your "Faith" diagram describes global warming "science" pretty well

  6. Science doesn't work like that, which you would know if you had just read a single book on this subject. Try "Anything goes".

  7. Has that very insightful (in my opinion) diagram hit a nerve Mr DeBoer? The reason I ask is that you list your favourite book as the Bible. :)

  8. Nope mitch, there are people who have actually studied what scientists do and did. The picture pc gives is the standard neopositivist account. However, things don't work like that in reality. Ever read "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?"

  9. Berend - That book has to rank as one of the suckiest books ever written!

    Try Karl Popper's "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" instead.

  10. Brian S, Karl Popper's book is about what scientists should do.

    But what do they actually do? How does science work in the real world?

    To say that scientists continually try to disprove theories is utter nonsense. They're not doing that. They don't abandon a theory when they have facts that don't agree with a theory.

    Just look at global warming for a good example.

  11. Berend - If some scientists want to hide their theories from criticism and empirical testing then all they are doing is hindering the growth of knowledge, but this in no way detracts from Popper.

  12. Please Brian S, that's a very feeble reply. If someone doesn't do what Popper says he should, he isn't a scientist.

    That excludes every Noble Prize Winner, Newton, Galileo, Einstein, just to name a few.

    You propose a license program for scientist with a bureaucratically formulated process which if they do not follow, they are not allowed to call them scientist?

    Your reply isn't an argument. It's pretty similar to the reply of a Marxists that the USSR wasn't truly Marxist if you point out a few flaws.

    It is pretty meaningless to say: "if I don't agree what scientist do, they are not true scientists."

    Especially if you cannot name a single scientists that works according to PC's nice diagram. Science did never operate like that and it never will.

  13. Berend,

    Popper was concerned about what it is about science that enables knowledge to grow.

    Despite what you say, real scientists do in fact seek to expose their theories to criticism, including empirical testing.

    As did Newton, Galileo, and Einstein.

    If you do not seek to find the flaws in your theory, then you can call yourself whatever you like, but the fact is that you are thereby limiting your opportunities to grow knowledge.

    Einstein was in fact a bad example for you to choose, as Einstein was a friend of Popper, and Popper's criterion of falsification was inspired by how relativity could have been refuted by Eddington's observations during the 1919 solar eclipse.

  14. Sorry Brian, what experiment did Einstein perform before creating his theory? It was quite the other way around, wasn't it? Just look at that diagram again.

    And Einstein wasn't trying to falsify theories all the time. That isn't what scientists generally tend to do with their time. I doubt many companies would be prepared to pay for that.

    Brian, why don't you just read a book on the subject, that would advance this debate much further. May I suggest another book: "Representing and intervening"?

  15. Berend,

    I'm lost!

    First, did I say anything about Einstein performing experiments before coming up with relativity? I mentioned Eddington's solar eclipse observation, which could have refuted relativity.

    Contrary to how you have represented it, my position is that Einstein started with a problem situation. This is how all scientific knowledge begins. "Get an idea" in the diagram should really be "problem -> get an idea"

    Second, I never said scientists were all the time trying to falsify their theories. Of course they're not. But that doesn't alter one jot the fact that in order for knowledge to progress theories must be criticized and subject to empirical tests that could potentially falsify the theories.

    A particular scientist may spend their life devising an apparatus to test a theory. Nevertheless, that scientist is still part of the knowledge creation process that Popper described.

    Anyway, what's your point?

  16. My point? A lot happened after Popper. Such as that people actually looked at what scientists did, and how science worked, and game to be.

    It didn't fit Popper's template (or any other neo-positivist's idea how science ought to work).

  17. Berend,

    If you actually read "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" and other works by Popper you will see that he anticipated Kuhn's ideas and demolished them. Now, you haven't actually laid out any arguments against Popper.

    Evidently you think that knowledge is not generated by first starting with a problem, coming up with ideas to solve the problem, subjecting your ideas to criticism and empirical testing to discover flaws, and forming a critical preference for those ideas that survive. Seems like a pretty good way to generate knowledge to me, and pretty helpful for working scientists too.

    You may be interested in this website on Popper, Bartley, Hayek, and others. Rafe Champion, the author of the website, has put a lot of time and energy into rebutting misguided criticisms of Popper. Rafe, incidently, is a libertarian.

  18. Brian, your 2nd paragraph is almost a perfect summary. Just add "not only". Thanks for the link.


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