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The Dangers of Certainty

Philosophy science tolerance

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#1
Hurlshot

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This is a very interesting article, and makes me curious to watch The Ascent of Man.

 

This paragraph in particular states something that I am always trying to get across in our numerous science versus faith discussions, and does so more eloquently than I tend to manage:

 

He began the show with the words, “One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an actual picture of the material world. One achievement of physics in the 20th century has been to show that such an aim is unattainable.” For Dr. Bronowski, there was no absolute knowledge and anyone who claims it — whether a scientist, a politician or a religious believer — opens the door to tragedy. All scientific information is imperfect and we have to treat it with humility. Such, for him, was the human condition.

 

 


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#2
Nonek

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"With much wisdom comes much doubt."


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#3
Orogun01

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"With much wisdom comes much doubt."

I doubt that.


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#4
Amentep

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One thing I've always felt was that we're only capable of understanding that which our senses allow us to understand. Those things that lie outside of our ability to physically sense exist as a construct, that over time gets revised. So in that sense I buy Dr. Bronowski's idea that truth in science is really always "truth as we currently understand it".

Mind you I find it ironic that in an article about the "Dangers of Certainty" the author points out that Dr. Bronowski insisted "there is no God's eye view" which in itself is a very particular certainty and perhaps one that should be taken rather lightly instead (I could agree with the argument, perhaps, that humanity's limited perceptions will never allow us a "God's eye" view, simply because we have to admit to the limitations of our own ability to perceive that around us that remains imperceptible or that ties in too closely to how our senses construct our thought). However if the universe is not random in its entirety, a God's eye view should be theoretically possible (if only practically possible for a sufficiently omniscient God)
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#5
213374U

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^ I think it can be inferred from the context that the good Dr's talking about the upper limit of what can be attained by humans. If there is such a thing as a set of "defined" starting conditions and rules for the universe (thereby introducing determinism) but they are unknowable, the question is largely philosophical. Seems from what is currently known about QM that the very idea of certainty is a "residue" of our mental representation of the macroscopic world.

 

Fortunately, we have math nerds trampling all over our quaint little fantasies about reality 24/7, bless them.

 

I don't very well see how this relates to God or religion, however.


Edited by 213374U, 03 February 2014 - 01:41 PM.


#6
Amentep

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Well again, the question to my mind is uncertain; either there is some underlying order (regardless of whether we can ever perceive it) or there isn't (and we can never see it). In the case of the later it is probably appropriate to say that there is no God's Eye view; however in the case of the former it would be theoretically possible to have a God's Eye view (whether the theoretical possibility could be translated into a real view for humanity is a different point, hence my point that what may be theoretically possible may only be achievable by a sufficiently omniscient "God").

Anyhow, to my mind the statement can't be definitive until more is known about the universe and whether there is something there to hang a hat on, so to say.

#7
Hurlshot

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I don't very well see how this relates to God or religion, however.

 

It's not about a specific religion per se, it's about the importance of humility and tolerance in the pursuit of knowledge.  



#8
Orogun01

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One thing I've always felt was that we're only capable of understanding that which our senses allow us to understand. Those things that lie outside of our ability to physically sense exist as a construct, that over time gets revised. So in that sense I buy Dr. Bronowski's idea that truth in science is really always "truth as we currently understand it".

Mind you I find it ironic that in an article about the "Dangers of Certainty" the author points out that Dr. Bronowski insisted "there is no God's eye view" which in itself is a very particular certainty and perhaps one that should be taken rather lightly instead (I could agree with the argument, perhaps, that humanity's limited perceptions will never allow us a "God's eye" view, simply because we have to admit to the limitations of our own ability to perceive that around us that remains imperceptible or that ties in too closely to how our senses construct our thought). However if the universe is not random in its entirety, a God's eye view should be theoretically possible (if only practically possible for a sufficiently omniscient God) 

I only disagree with the initial part about our senses, which I  believe to be unique to each individual and are therefore a physical construct since there is no way of definitively knowing that what one person may taste or see is experienced the same as another would. 


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#9
rjshae

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I like to think that science is a procedural construct to help correct for the evolved biases of the human mind. It's not a truth unto itself, but provides a road-map to avoid useless rationalizations.


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#10
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It seems to me that what most people mean when they think of science is engineering. They want bridges built from equations, not from what voices said to you in the wilderness. But those equations aren't accurate. They're just useful.

 

...Lost my train of thought. Past my bed time.



#11
Arkan

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I'm certain I haven't been here in quite some time. I'm uncertain if that's good or bad.


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#12
213374U

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I don't very well see how this relates to God or religion, however.

 

It's not about a specific religion per se, it's about the importance of humility and tolerance in the pursuit of knowledge.  

 

 

Well, yeah. It's good advice in general, I suppose. Arrogance is very much human nature. Zealots (scientific or otherwise) are often unaware of the huge void of non-knowledge that surrounds the tiny parcel of sense they clutch so desperately, but these traits aren't restricted to yokels. Not even titans of science are exempt from this—Newton allegedly wrote his Principia in a deliberately arcane and convoluted manner so as to pre-emptively defeat attempts by "mathematical smatterers" to tackle his work.

 

The internets tends only to amplify and provide an outlet for the negative aspects of personality, so yeah. Good effort, but people gon' people...


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#13
Amentep

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One thing I've always felt was that we're only capable of understanding that which our senses allow us to understand. Those things that lie outside of our ability to physically sense exist as a construct, that over time gets revised. So in that sense I buy Dr. Bronowski's idea that truth in science is really always "truth as we currently understand it".

Mind you I find it ironic that in an article about the "Dangers of Certainty" the author points out that Dr. Bronowski insisted "there is no God's eye view" which in itself is a very particular certainty and perhaps one that should be taken rather lightly instead (I could agree with the argument, perhaps, that humanity's limited perceptions will never allow us a "God's eye" view, simply because we have to admit to the limitations of our own ability to perceive that around us that remains imperceptible or that ties in too closely to how our senses construct our thought). However if the universe is not random in its entirety, a God's eye view should be theoretically possible (if only practically possible for a sufficiently omniscient God)

I only disagree with the initial part about our senses, which I  believe to be unique to each individual and are therefore a physical construct since there is no way of definitively knowing that what one person may taste or see is experienced the same as another would.


A little bit edging towards solipsistic for me, but I understand your point.

#14
Rostere

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Scientific knowledge is a set of laws which make certain predictions, falling with a certain hitherto estimated probability within a certain margin of error. That's all there is to it. It's a codification of things humankind has tried many times under controlled circumstances, collecting and measuring the results.

 

Really, equating science with religion is like equating "from experience, I estimate with probability x that out of the next n rolls with my six-sided die, n/6+-y will be sixes" with religion.

 

If something is testable, ask a scientist. If something is not testable, the scientist knows no more than any ordinary man. Absolute truth does not exist as such in empirical science - if anyone has led you to believe so, they are wrong. Absolute "knowledge" exists in mathematics - where everything is built on certain assumptions (and not necessarily connected to reality in any way) - but not in physics, which describes the physical, real world. Of course you can make logically true statements about science, but they will always necessarily start with "based on these measurements and assuming these theories".


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#15
Amentep

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I don't think anyone equated science with religion though. I certainly did not.

#16
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I would like to point out that glorious and scrupulous adherence to uncertainty sucks worse.



#17
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I would like to point out that glorious and scrupulous adherence to uncertainty sucks worse.

 

Are you entirely certain of that?


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#18
JFSOCC

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One thing I've always felt was that we're only capable of understanding that which our senses allow us to understand. Those things that lie outside of our ability to physically sense exist as a construct, that over time gets revised. So in that sense I buy Dr. Bronowski's idea that truth in science is really always "truth as we currently understand it".

Mind you I find it ironic that in an article about the "Dangers of Certainty" the author points out that Dr. Bronowski insisted "there is no God's eye view" which in itself is a very particular certainty and perhaps one that should be taken rather lightly instead (I could agree with the argument, perhaps, that humanity's limited perceptions will never allow us a "God's eye" view, simply because we have to admit to the limitations of our own ability to perceive that around us that remains imperceptible or that ties in too closely to how our senses construct our thought). However if the universe is not random in its entirety, a God's eye view should be theoretically possible (if only practically possible for a sufficiently omniscient God) 

I only disagree with the initial part about our senses, which I  believe to be unique to each individual and are therefore a physical construct since there is no way of definitively knowing that what one person may taste or see is experienced the same as another would. 

 

except biology,evolutionary science, neuroscience and medicine



#19
Orogun01

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One thing I've always felt was that we're only capable of understanding that which our senses allow us to understand. Those things that lie outside of our ability to physically sense exist as a construct, that over time gets revised. So in that sense I buy Dr. Bronowski's idea that truth in science is really always "truth as we currently understand it".

Mind you I find it ironic that in an article about the "Dangers of Certainty" the author points out that Dr. Bronowski insisted "there is no God's eye view" which in itself is a very particular certainty and perhaps one that should be taken rather lightly instead (I could agree with the argument, perhaps, that humanity's limited perceptions will never allow us a "God's eye" view, simply because we have to admit to the limitations of our own ability to perceive that around us that remains imperceptible or that ties in too closely to how our senses construct our thought). However if the universe is not random in its entirety, a God's eye view should be theoretically possible (if only practically possible for a sufficiently omniscient God) 

I only disagree with the initial part about our senses, which I  believe to be unique to each individual and are therefore a physical construct since there is no way of definitively knowing that what one person may taste or see is experienced the same as another would. 

 

except biology,evolutionary science, neuroscience and medicine

 

And none of those feels can quantify something as subjective and intangible as a feeling, they could see what sparks up in my brain, tell me the process by which it happens but they can't tell me exactly what i'm feeling or to what degree.



#20
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the can approximate it quite well, and that's only going to get more accurate.







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