• Meta
    185
    There is an entity called soul. It is in your body. It is in everybody. You will only be able to find it if you come to my church and and do whatever I say. After practicing meditation and prayer for several years you will be able to experience the spiritual world but only with my help since I am the only connection between the spiritual and material world. If you come to my temple you will see the high moral standards there and how the members are not affected by material thinking, so this really works.
    -A religious leader

    There is an elementary particle called quark. Basically it is everywhere in the universe. You will be able to understand it after several years of studying Mathematics and Physics. We can only observe these quarks at CERN but believe me our highly qualified scientists know what they are doing and believe us since we are the only ones capable of observing the truth. You can see how many new technologies we have invented so trust me.
    -A scientist.

    What is the difference between the two arguments from a scientific methodology perspective?
  • T Clark
    3k
    There is an entity called soul. It is in your body. It is in everybody.Meta

    There is an elementary particle called quark. Basically it is everywhere in the universe.Meta

    These are really the only statements in what you've written that can really be judged from a scientific perspective. I guess as rational people we should say that the first is not falsifiable and so is not a scientific statement while the second is not only falsifiable, but also has been verified in numerous scientific studies.

    The rest is mostly advertising.
  • Meta
    185
    I think both the quark and the soul are things we (everyday individuals) will never be able to observe. We can only believe what the church or the scientific community says. (edit: and this is why the other parts of the text are important and not for advertising reasons)

    You say that "quarks exist" is scientific and "souls exist" is not scientific. Based on what criteria?
  • T Clark
    3k
    I think both the quark and the soul are things we (everyday individuals) will never be able to observe. We can only believe what the church or the scientific community says. (edit: and this is why the other parts of the text are important and not for advertising reasons)Meta

    I think both the quark and the soul are experienceable. I know some physics. I have a pretty good grasp of how scientists think the subatomic world is put together and what role quarks play. Also of how they went about figuring it out. I have a reasonably strong confidence in the scientific method and establishment that makes me believe what I have been told, at least as the best current explanation.

    As for the soul - I have personal experience of something I believe corresponds to what others call a soul. I call it various things, mostly just "me."

    You say that "quarks exist" is scientific and "souls exist" is not scientific. Based on what criteria?Meta

    The existence of quarks has been verified (?), confirmed (?), established (?) following a set of procedures known as the scientific method. Ergo - science. It is my understanding that the soul, at least in the religious sense, has not been established using the scientific method. Now if we are just talking about a non-supernatural phenomenon called consciousness, we could address it using science. I don't think that is what our friend the priest is talking about.
  • Meta
    185

    I think both the quark and the soul are experienceable. I know some prayers. I have a pretty good grasp of how priests feel the spiritual world is put together and what role souls play. Also of how God told that to the priests. I have a reasonably strong confidence in the spiritual method and establishment that makes me believe what I have been told, at least as the best current explanation.
    -The priest

    The existence of quarks has been verified (?), confirmed (?), established (?) following a set of procedures known as the scientific method.
    My problem is I don't know what you mean by scientific method. In my understanding observation is a basic concept of scientific method. I will never be able to observe quarks. Same with the soul. The method which is capable of telling which possible reality is real from the infinite possible mathematical universes is not accessible for me. So my observation is indirect. But I can also have an indirect observation of the soul if religion is true. So my question still remains. What is the criteria? What is scientific method?
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    You say that "quarks exist" is scientific and "souls exist" is not scientific. Based on what criteria?Meta

    Based on the criteria that the theoretical model which supports the existence of quarks make predictions which provide evidence for the existence of the quark (although it should be noted that there remains an element of controversy about the quark). But the in-principle answer is that, a scientific hypothesis makes a prediction which can be tested against experiment or observation and either confirmed or falsified. The existence of ‘the soul’ is much more like a poetic metaphor; that doesn’t make it less true, but it makes it a different kind of truth to the kinds of models that physicists deal with.

    My problem is I don't know what you mean by scientific method.Meta

    Modern science emerged in the seventeenth century with two fundamental ideas: planned experiments (Francis Bacon) and the mathematical representation of relations among phenomena (Galileo). This basic experimental-mathematical epistemology evolved until, in the first half of the twentieth century, it took a stringent form involving (1) a mathematical theory constituting scientific knowledge, (2) a formal operational correspondence between the theory and quantitative empirical measurements, and (3) predictions of future measurements based on the theory. The “truth” (validity) of the theory is judged based on the concordance between the predictions and the observations. While the epistemological details are subtle and require expertise relating to experimental protocol, mathematical modeling, and statistical analysis, the general notion of scientific knowledge is expressed in these three requirements.

    Science is neither rationalism nor empiricism. It includes both in a particular way. In demanding quantitative predictions of future experience, science requires formulation of mathematical models whose relations can be tested against future observations. Prediction is a product of reason, but reason grounded in the empirical.

    E R Doherty
  • Meta
    185
    My idea of scientific method is about the same as the one you showed. But this definition still raises the same question (at least for me). Quarks are considered real because the theory which describes quarks describes reality better than the competing physical theories. Now my problem is I havent observed any quarks and I won't ever observe any. From my perspective the only option is to believe these observations exist.

    What is the difference between the observations in CERN and the observations of saints and gurus? They dont have any significant predictions which influence my life in any way. And the priest's and the scientist's theory of everyday physical reality are the same in a sense.

    You could say that religious predictions are not quantitative but some predictions of lets say evolutionary biology are also qualitative.

    Edit: so when defining the scientific method we cant just say something is observable, we have to clarify what kind of observable phenomena we are talking about. What counts as observable? Phenomena observed by an authority?
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    What is the difference between the observations in CERN and the observations of saints and gurus? They dont have any significant predictions which influence my life in any way. And the priest's and the scientist's theory of everyday physical reality are the same in a sense.Meta

    A lot rides on 'in a sense'. The point about religious principles, as distinct from scientific ones, is that in the first case, you yourself are the subject of the discipline. That is very different from a case where the object of analysis is external or objective. And that difference has many implications and consequences.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    You didn't define "soul". i'm not knocking any points off your OP for that failure, but at least with quarks there is a definition.

    There are several words that are synonyms for "whatever it is": soul, psyche, spirit, vital force, pneuma, anima, atman, embodiment, incarnation animating principle...

      Soul
    • the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.
    • the nonphysical part of a person regarded as a person's true self and as capable of surviving physical death or separation.
    • the nonphysical part of a person manifested as an apparition after their death; a ghost.
    • archaic
    • a highly refined substance or fluid thought to govern vital phenomena.

    If you collect all the definitions you can find for "soul", and collect all the definitions for all the synonyms of soul, you can thoroughly define "soul". Some of these definitions will turn out to be observable and testable. For instance, "emotions and character" are observable and testable. Anything that survives death, or something as vague as "a highly refined substance or fluid thought to govern vital phenomena" most likely won't be observable or testable.

    Religions teach all sorts of things that are not observable or testable, but this doesn't mean that everything that religions teach is hogwash. Some of it is hogwash, of course.

    A young child taught to believe that something called his soul will survive his death is like to find this comforting and (probably) true, even though he will never never never be able to observe or test out the concept. No harm done. Add Heaven and Hell as two alternate destinations for the soul, depending on whether he behaved just right or not, and you have some real leverage over the kid. Harm starts to become possible, if not probable. Add many kinds of ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, angels, and so forth, some who are capable of causing great harm if they are regularly and properly propitiated, and you have a real mess on your hands. Add "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (the title of a famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards) and you have a terrorist.

    So... decide what is worth defining and what is not. There may be a kernel of truth buried under the pile of religious bullshit.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    believe me our highly qualified scientists know what they are doing and believe us since we are the only ones capable of observing the truth. You can see how many new technologies we have invented so trust me.Meta
    I have never observed a scientist say anything like that about quarks. Why should a scientist care whether a lay person believes in quarks? Such a belief has no consequences for the lay person. What she probably would care about is whether a lay person believes her prediction that a certain observable physical event such as a hurricane will occur - because lives can depend on such a belief.

    So, I think the second para above is an unfair and inaccurate depiction of scientists.

    But also the first para above is an unfair and inaccurate depiction of many religious leaders. I can't imagine the Dalai Lama or Dietrich Boenhoffer saying anything like the arrogant, dogmatic words that are above ascribed to an imaginary priest.

    In addition to which: Georges Lemaitre.
  • Meta
    185
    @Wayfarer
    When I was reading your answer I thought I found the criteria I had been looking for. But then I realized psychology also has a lot of subjective elements and the self is its subject.

    @Bitter Crank
    Not defining the soul was a deliberate attempt to show first we have to believe the existence of the soul and second we have to put a lot of effort and time just to be able to define it or to have an intuition about it.

    @andrewk
    Of course the speech did not occur anywhere. It is just a hypothetical text based on my understanding of how science works. The scientific community only accepts something if it was verified by science. And the proof for science is working is technology.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Is it your position that quarks are a purely dogmatic creation, without empirical basis? I think you'd have to argue that if you wish to sustain your analogy that souls : people : : quarks : physical world.
  • Hanover
    4k
    What she probably would care about is whether a lay person believes her prediction that a certain observable physical event such as a hurricane will occur - because lives can depend on such a belief.andrewk

    I agree with you in principle, but question the example. We're really bad at predicting hurricanes, including even predicting their path once formed.
  • Meta
    185
    My analogy is simply souls:world::quarks:world. I dont see why should I argue that quarks are a dogmatic creation. Or what you mean by dogmatic?

    My problem is that the so called empirical facts are not empirical for me. So Im struggling with the definition of "empirical" maybe.

    What is empirical in Cern is dogmatic here in my room. What is empirical for a saint is dogmatic here.
  • unenlightened
    2.7k
    What is the difference between the two argumentsMeta

    They are not arguments. They are descriptions of ways of life.

    What is empirical in Cern is dogmatic here in my room. What is empirical for a saint is dogmatic here.Meta

    Of course. I am neither a sage nor a saint, because either takes dedication and time and effort. So all I will ever have is second hand dogma recited from the armchair. If it's a problem to you, get out of the chair and get to work.
  • Meta
    185
    They are not arguments. They are descriptions of ways of life.
    Both the priest and the scientist argue that their knowledge is true, observable and worth believing.

    If it's a problem to you, get out of the chair and get to work.
    Even if Im out of the chair, most probably I will never be able to observe an elementary particle at Cern or anywhere. Plus it is unreasonable and impossible to test every (most likely contradictiory) belief system.
  • unenlightened
    2.7k
    Both the priest and the scientist argue that their knowledge is true, observable and worth believing.Meta

    They claim it rather more than argue it.

    it is unreasonable and impossible to test every (most likely contradictiory) belief system.Meta

    Yes. So all one can do, at best, is to seriously question received wisdom in one area, and take most of the rest on trust. Even if you're out of the chair. So I conclude that the accumulation of knowledge is a cooperative venture founded on trust with occasional reinvestigation. But the builders of the monasteries and CERN already knew that.
  • Meta
    185
    So the question remains. Who do I cooperate with: the priest or the scientist? Based on what?
  • unenlightened
    2.7k
    Oh the priest, obviously. We're not short on manipulating matter, but very short on living well together.
  • Meta
    185
    But after a couple of years it turns out that the priest was a criminal. Oh dear! We bet on red and our life and career was the price.

    Later another priest turns up saying he has the truth. Do we bet again?
    Then comes a scientist saying this priest is a liar.

    Basically the origin of this problem for me is I read some flat Earth stuff and I was wondering if there is an empirical (or scientific in the strict sense) way to prove these people that the Earth is not flat. I have made some calculations which proved the flat earther guy was right in his calculations. I am still looking for the demarcation line which tells us what is the difference between science and pseudo science. But if no one has found this line for decades we also wont find it I suppose. I am turning into a nihilist.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    It is just a hypothetical text based on my understanding of how science works.Meta
    Yes, and my response to that is that that's not how science works, and that the text is not something that a thoughtful scientist would say.

    Theories are not verified. If useful they are maintained as working hypotheses until falsified. Belief that quarks 'actually exist' (whatever that means) is purely optional.

    Who do I cooperate with: the priest or the scientist?
    Unless the priest is a young-Earth creationist, it is unlikely that you will have to choose between the two. Again, consider Georges Lemaitre.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    But then I realized psychology also has a lot of subjective elements and the self is its subject.Meta

    Which is precisely why psychology’s status as a science is open to question.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k


    I agree with you; I've tried to make similar arguments before. Basically, scientific evidence is "taken on faith" for the average citizen in the West, in the same way that theological conundrums were taken on faith by the average person for centuries. Rather than having ditched religion, the West has transferred the religious need to another sphere of inquiry; or more accurately, to another perspective from which to view "reality". But the same moral and existential problems remain.

    I haven't seen any arguments from the likes of and others that actually address this concept. The usual argument is just "you're not portraying science accurately", without addressing the historical link between religion and science. The church said the same thing when their reign was threatened.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    scientific evidence is "taken on faith" for the average citizen in the West, in the same way that theological conundrums were taken on faith by the average person for centuries.Noble Dust
    Taken on faith yes, but not in the same way, because the act of faith in science is consistently being vindicated in this world, whereas that in religious dogma is not.

    The scientist says the light will go on if you press that switch. The average person has no idea why that should be so, but they take it on faith, press the switch, and the light does indeed go on.

    But when the hellfire preacher tells us that unmarried couples will be tortured forever after they die, there is no confirmation of that in this world. Perhaps it is confirmed in the experience of members of such couples after they die. I doubt it though, and I certainly hope not.
    the West has transferred the religious need to another sphere of inquiry; or more accurately, to another perspective from which to view "reality". But the same moral and existential problems remain.

    I haven't seen any arguments from the likes of ↪andrewk and others that actually address this concept.
    Noble Dust
    Address what? That moral and existential problems still remain? To whom is that supposed to be news? Moral and existential problems are part of the human condition, and I'm not aware of anybody that seeks to deny it - be they pro-religion and pro-science (Francis Collins and, I would suggest, most sensible religious people), pro-religion and anti-science (US fundamentalists and Tony Abbott), pro-science and anti-religion (Richard Dawkins and Laurence Krauss) or anti-religion and anti-science (not sure who this is - Jacques Derrida perhaps?).

    As for 'transferring the religious need to another sphere of inquiry' I don't know what that means, or why you think it should be true. If you can clarify what exactly that claim means and provide some reasons to believe it, I'm happy to respond.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    Taken on faith yes, but not in the same way, because the act of faith in science is consistently being vindicated in this world, whereas that in religious dogma is not.

    The scientist says the light will go on if you press that switch. The average person has no idea why that should be so, but they take it on faith, press the switch, and the light does indeed go on.
    andrewk

    The example in the thread so far is the existence of quarks, not a light switch. So, we take it on faith that quarks describe things best; quarks don't vindicate themselves through experience the way a light switch does; at least not yet. So yes, scientific theories like the quark are in fact taken on faith in the same way as religious dogma; or, if not, then argue why that is; the light switch isn't compelling giving the context of the discussion so far; it's not a compelling argument.

    But when the hellfire preacher tells us that unmarried couples will be tortured forever after they die, there is no confirmation of that in this world.andrewk

    This is an argument from emotion; surely you can come up with a more formidable argument from a religious perspective other than this strawman.

    Address what?andrewk

    I acknowledge the confusion: I meant to address the idea that religious belief hasn't been replaced by scientific certainty; instead, belief as a fundamental component of the human experience has been transferred from the religion of the masses to the scientific beliefs of the masses. Please let me know if that's still not clear; this idea is very clear in my head but I don't always have the knowledge to express it properly.

    Moral and existential problems are part of the human condition, and I'm not aware of anybody that seeks to deny itandrewk

    Maybe; there are the Elon Musks of the world who seem to equate technological progress with an almost teleological coming utopia. Maybe that's not entirely accurate. In any case, I didn't intend to group you in with those folks when I mentioned you, for instance.

    As for 'transferring the religious need to another sphere of inquiry' I don't know what that means, or why you think it should be true. If you can clarify what exactly that claim means and provide some reasons to believe it, I'm happy to respond.andrewk

    I say "religious need" because philosophy in general and any given telos that assigns meaning to life are historically descended from religion. I'm not specifically making an appeal to a specific religion, or the preservation of religion in general, but instead I'm just using what I see as more accurate language which reflects the historical development of the history of ideas. When I say "religious need" I use the term metaphorically, but with the understanding that metaphor is just as descriptive as discursive argument. So, what seems to be lacking from an atheistic perspective (as well as I can see from outside that perspective) is not only a simple acknowledgement of this historicity of religious need, but also the potential ramifications of that historicity with regards to the state of the human condition. We need to assign meaning to life.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    If by 'religious need' you just mean the need that many feel to explore and express spiritual feelings and ideas, then I agree that it is likely an in-built feature of the human animal, that manifests in many, but not all, humans. But I don't understand the suggestion that such a need is 'descended from religion'. Such a statement sounds like it's either a trivial tautology obtained by equating spirituality with religion, or obviously false. Either way, I can't see anything that atheists (bless them!) are obliged to acknowledge.

    As for quarks, I don't think most people believe in them, so the putative example about faith in quarks is simply counterfactual. The only people for whom belief in quarks is even relevant to their lives are particle physicists, and I bet even a good proportion of them see quarks as simply a handy metaphor, a useful fiction that helps with their calculations.
  • unenlightened
    2.7k
    If you are a scientist, or a priest, or even a mathematician, you still have the same problems. One cannot check everything, and must rely on the community. The community can organise itself thus or so, and a discussion of what best serves the preservation of truth is a pragmatic one - see here, for example.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    If by 'religious need' you just mean the need that many feel to explore and express spiritual feelings and ideas, then I agree that it is likely an in-built feature of the human animal, that manifests in many, but not all, humans.andrewk

    Ok, we're not too far off from one another. I disagree that this only exists in some of us; however, I should clarify that I think that "spiritual feelings and ideas" are phenomena of the human experience that manifest in many ways, including "the scientific". Also the "nihilistic" sense.

    But I don't understand the suggestion that such a need is 'descended from religion'. Such a statement sounds like it's either a trivial tautology obtained by equating spirituality with religion, or obviously false.andrewk

    Ok; spirituality might be a better term. The oldest extant religious texts are the Vedas, right? And "Hinduism" as a religion is really a 200-something-year-old western construct that tries to make sense of the ancient spiritual traditions of Indian religion and philosophy, from a specifically western perspective. So, "such a need" is maybe descended from spirituality, not specifically religion. Is that better for you, or no? That's an honest question. If that works better, then it doesn't much affect my argument. It looks like an issue of language.
  • Wayfarer
    6.6k
    by 'religious need' you just mean the need that many feel to explore and express spiritual feelings and ideas, then I agree that it is likely an in-built feature of the human animal,andrewk

    As a consequence of evolution? >:)
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