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The Dangers of Certainty

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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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"With much wisdom comes much doubt."


Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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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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^ 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

- When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.

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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.

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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.  

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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. 


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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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.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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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.


"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

 

- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

 

"I have also been slowly coming to the realisation that knowledge and happiness are not necessarily coincident, and quite often mutually exclusive" - meta

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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...


- When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.

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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.

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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".


"Well, overkill is my middle name. And my last name. And all of my other names as well!"

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


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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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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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


Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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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.


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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


Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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I'm certainly certain that the danger of certainty is somewhat uncertain.


"Take your child murderin' god and shove his him up his own ass."-Volorun

 

"...the vote of a black redhead disabled homosexual transsexual Jew should probably be worth the same as at least a hundred white heterosexual Christians."-Rostere

 

"i can think of many women i would gladly sleep with, but not a single one that i would want as a girlfriend/wife... neither real nor fictional."-teknoman2

 

"I'm all for killing dogs in film." - algroth

 

"Iselmyr is the one who did GOMAD... Aloth is lactose intolerant" -ShadySands

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

Maybe one day they will be able to quantify things like feelings instead of just brain activity but we are not that close to it.


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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

Maybe one day they will be able to quantify things like feelings instead of just brain activity but we are not that close to it.

 

 

Feelings are like the static electricity of the brain. It's a byproduct of all the useful things your brain does and then suddenly if goes "Zapp!" and you can start doing repairs on all the things your feelings wrecked ;)


“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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

Maybe one day they will be able to quantify things like feelings instead of just brain activity but we are not that close to it.

 

 

Feelings are like the static electricity of the brain. It's a byproduct of all the useful things your brain does and then suddenly if goes "Zapp!" and you can start doing repairs on all the things your feelings wrecked ;)

 

I been having the argument of whether the mind can exists separate from the body and it quite merits it's own thread for proper discussion. If your brain goes Zapp and you're still alive then were does your "self" goes, does it cease to exist or is it still preserved somewhere either in your body or as a consciousness? I can't really tell but even though its undeniable that biology plays a big part on who you are, it is not all you are; we have autonomy and choice after all.


I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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