Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Science Versus Philosphy

I was blog trolling, a favorite late night sport when I happened upon a wonderful blog. I read about five of Eric Hyde's posts and subscribed which is rare, I presently subscribe to six blogs total. He has some great insight and to one of his posts about atheism he received some wonderful, intelligent and well though out responses from the other side of the aisle which was a nice reprieve for what is called 'debate' these dark days on the internet.

One response in particular caught my eye and even though late in the game (the post was from October of last year), I could not help respond. Here is her post:

You’re right, the ancients saw things subjectively – meaning that had no real reason or logical thought process, only personal experience. So they sparked the beliefs that (at least, this is how I view it) eventually led to your idea of God. They didn’t understand objectivity because they didn’t have any decent ways to test their theories, just believe. So in a way, all ideas of God are the result of disunity from the very first God or Gods, because the idea of a God started with these ancients, likely as a means to explain the world around them. Humanity’s ideas about God went on from there, and more religions were created – everything from Hinduism, to Paganism, to the Gods of the Romans and Greeks which we regard now as stories, to the Judeo-Christian beliefs of today – in fact, many of the teachings and mythology surrounding Christianity appeared in many religions that came before it. (Italics added by myself). 

It was a well thought out response and made some valid points that needed to be answered. But it is all based on a mistaken premise, one that many Christians themselves share.  The idea is basically this; early humans were primitive and ignorant. They had the inability to use logic and reasoning so hence came this idea that there must be a God. Then good old science came along using logic and reasoning and showed that there is no God so you can still believe in God but it's irrational and has nothing to do with reality. It's all 'faith'.

There is only one problem. It's hogwash.

Man has always been a logical being capable of reasoning. The lack of knowledge may cause one to arrive at incorrect conclusion, but Scientists are still doing that in this century even with a vast amount of knowledge available to them our ancestors did not have. The behavior of light, the theory of relativity and quantum physics upended all of their conclusions in the mid 20th century and they are still struggling to assimilate the shipwreck in the last twenty years.

I can give you an analogy. The ancients did not have the knowledge that red blood cells carried oxygen to your body in your blood but they were fully aware that blood was vital to living and if you lost enough of it you would perish. The ancients did not know that a man's sperm would fertilize a woman’s embryo and thus produce a baby, but they were fully aware that a man's semen was needed to produce a child as this was one of the first primitive forms of birth control (along with the calendaring method as they understood there were only certain times that a woman was likely to get pregnant during her cycle).

All of these correct conclusions made by the 'ancients' came from observation, hypothesis and testing. Signs of logic and reasoning. Yes they came to the wrong conclusions on many things, but so have scientists since the 'Enlightenment'. Scientists my know that a sperm cell will fertilize an embryo but how the cells understand when its the right time to develop the brain, grow tissue, bone and muscle and when to stop is still a mystery. Scientists still do not understand the mechanism of how a baby is developed in a female womb.

Scientists understand that there are forces in physical world, but that doesn't mean they actually understand them. Take gravity for instance. They know its there. They can see and measure the effects of gravity. But just as the ancients knew if a man bled out he would die and not know why scientists today know gravity exists but have no idea how or why.

This idea that the ancients used the idea of God(s) to explain the world around them since they did not have access to logic and reasoning is false. They believed in the idea of God(s) to explain philosophical questions. Philosophical questions are questions that Science can't and never will be able to explain. The reason most people, including Christians, do not understand this is because they really don't understand Science. Most people believe that Science is a way for human beings to get Truth with a capital 'T' using reasoning and logic. But that is not what Science is by a long shot.

Science is the methodology used to explain how the mechanisms of nature around us actually work. The methodology used is; Observation, Hypothesis, Testing, Conclusion. Rinse, repeat. I am simplifying a bit but in reality this is about 95% of what science should be about.

Observation is the problem child for Scientists. It is particularly problematic for what I call the 'Historical Sciences'. Scientists can postulate how old the world is but in the end nobody has a clue because they cannot historically go back in time to see the Earth form and know what the environment was like during that time. Everyone is guessing. Scientists can say there is no God, but they can't get outside the system to prove it. You can say there is nothing outside the system but you can't prove that either because your the fish in the aquarium. The fish in the aquarium can deny there is anything outside the aquarium but until he is prepared to die to find out he won't know.

So the 'ancients' were not being irrational by stating that they believed in a Creator, Supreme Being(s), a Force that created what we see. They were being philosophical. Philosophy says, 'I have never ever, and I mean not once ever, nor has any other reliable human being on the face of this Earth ever seen something arrive from nothing. So if I am experiencing something then it must have come from something else. Logically then, something created everything we see around us, something outside of the present system.”

The ancients were being incredibly logical to arrive at a reasonable philosophical answer that there is a force outside this system that created this one. Now they may have made their force [God(s)] silly and human like and may have been wrong about the characteristics of their God(s) but that is a Philosophical argument, and not a Scientific one.

Side note: It was Ionian pre-Socratic philosophers who came up with the idea that the Universe was self contained and there was nothing outside the Universe which lead to the first Greek atheists. Stop acting so hip and original. Your not. 

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