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Science, truth, and knowledge


Reg Prescott
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Here is another (dare I say real world?) example.

A door is either shut or open, right?

 

Well there is only one way for it to be definitely shut.

 

BUT

There are a myriad of ways it can be 'open' yet no allow passage through the doorway.

 

And doors have yet another level, not possessed by taps.

 

Suppose this door is the fron door for some little old lady and has a security chain.

When she uses this to see who is there, is the door open or shut?

 

:)

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On 10/30/2018 at 5:53 PM, Reg Prescott said:

Without truth there can be no knowledge.

I see that as nonsensical philosophy to say the least......

http://www.differencebetween.info/difference-between-knowledge-and-truth

"Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Truth is defined as “the true or actual state of a matter.’ It is generally considered to be the same as fact or reality. Many people may not have knowledge of the truth, while knowing something does not necessarily make it true".
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As a footnote, one occasionally hears on these forums clandestine whispers of "absolute truth" or "universal truth". I personally haven't a clue what is being alluded to

It seems you practise this "absolute truth" yourself when needed, and as is evident in your claim I have highlighted...

Quote

"Without truth there can be no knowledge".

Would you like to try again?

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9 minutes ago, beecee said:

"Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Truth is defined as “the true or actual state of a matter.’ It is generally considered to be the same as fact or reality. Many people may not have knowledge of the truth, while knowing something does not necessarily make it true".

 

Since REg won't be with us for a while, perhaps never again, I was just wondering if you understood my point he was having so much trouble with ?

 

Quote

Kipling

 

"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
"And—every—single—one—of—them—is—right!"

 

do you consider truth/falsehood  - right/wrong to be binary pairs?

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4 hours ago, studiot said:

 

Since REg won't be with us for a while, perhaps never again, I was just wondering if you understood my point he was having so much trouble with ?

 

If you are speaking of your post here re a tap being on or off, then yes...... My argument is with those that are  trying to bring science down to the level of a mythical religious belief, by whatever foul means necessary, including philosophical misinterpretations and pedantry.

 

Edited by beecee
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6 hours ago, beecee said:

If you are speaking of your post here re a tap being on or off, then yes...... My argument is with those that are  trying to bring science down to the level of a mythical religious belief, by whatever foul means necessary, including philosophical misinterpretations and pedantry.

 

 

Thank you for your reply.

I understand your position and have no beef with it.

I was just trying to find out if my presentation was actually unintelligable to others (as Reg suggests) or not.

The tap is just an example of the my underlying observation that the concepts in the OP are not simple yes/no pairs but exist on some sort of range of values.

I can easily find examples that knowledge is also like this.

To be fair to Reg, his propositions have caused me to think about matters I had not previously considered.

Indeed I was mulling over whether to start a new thread inspired by a speculation inspired by this one, until the plug was pulled.

 

In short the only person who suffers from the OP inflexible attitude is the OP himself, I have benefited by extended horizons.

And Reg seemed to me to be coming round (dragged kicking and screaming perhaps) to more reasonable discussion.

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1 hour ago, studiot said:

 

Thank you for your reply.

I understand your position and have no beef with it.

I was just trying to find out if my presentation was actually unintelligable to others (as Reg suggests) or not.

The tap is just an example of the my underlying observation that the concepts in the OP are not simple yes/no pairs but exist on some sort of range of values.

I can easily find examples that knowledge is also like this.

To be fair to Reg, his propositions have caused me to think about matters I had not previously considered.

Indeed I was mulling over whether to start a new thread inspired by a speculation inspired by this one, until the plug was pulled.

 

In short the only person who suffers from the OP inflexible attitude is the OP himself, I have benefited by extended horizons.

And Reg seemed to me to be coming round (dragged kicking and screaming perhaps) to more reasonable discussion.

No probs, and the bit I highlighted is certainly obvious.

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Absolute truth is something that is true independent of time and place. For example, if we say "Mary is sitting at her computer" this may be true at the moment of speaking, but we cannot say that this is an absolute truth.

Absolute truth exists. Anyone who claims that absolute truth does not exist must hold that the statement "Absolute truth does not exist" is absolutely true. This is a self-contradicting claim that cannot be true.

But the question is: How do we come to know absolute truth (or any truth for that matter)? There are four main lines of thought on the matter.

 

1. Truth is largely unknowable. This is called skepticism.

2. God is the source of all truth. Truth can be arrived at by reading holy books and praying/meditating. This is called theism.

3. Our senses provide us with real information about the world around us. This is called empiricism.

4. We can know truth through deep meditative thought and logical thought processes. This is called rationalism.

 

Since this is largely a science forum, the question we have at hand is this: Does scientific empiricism lead to knowledge? I maintain that it does not.

As others have stated, knowledge is generally considered to be justified true belief. In other words, we must believe in something that is true and have good reasons for doing so. I maintain that science is unable to provide us knowledge because 1) science doesn't give us good reasons for believing in something and 2) we cannot know that the things science tells us to believe are actually true.

 

Generally speaking, science operates by developing hypotheses and then testing these hypotheses. For example, let's suppose that someone theorizes that different items will fall at the same speed in a vacuum regardless of how heavy or light they seem to be. Then, someone will perform some sort of an experiment. They will create a (near) vacuum and drop items such as feathers and lead balls. When they get tired of this, they will emit a conclusion: The hypothesis has been extensively tested and has been upgraded to a law/theory.

However, several practical problems insert themselves at this point. The first one is that we cannot know that what we have observed in the past will continue to be true in the future. The second is that most of us have never actually performed this experiment ourselves. We have simply heard it or read it somewhere and have taken it on faith. The third problem is that this experiment is at least theoretically possible for us to perform. However, finding a Higgs boson is something that the vast majority of the population will never be able to do. Most scientific 'knowledge' (dark matter, black holes, quarks, electrons, etc.) pertain to an area that we will never be able to experiment on.

Problem 1: The problem of induction. What reason do we have to believe that the past is a good guide to the future? The naive defense of induction usually involves saying that we can see that the past is a good guide to the future by performing an experiment. "If the past is a good guide to the future, then the Sun will rise in the East again tomorrow." The following day, the person claims that induction has been verified. However, this justification is not satisfactory. The person assumes that since induction has worked in the past, it will work again in the future. This is circular reasoning. Another way of looking at the problem is this: If theory T is always true, we would expect observations O. When we observe O, we try to conclude that theory T is always true. However, this is a logical fallacy. There is no justification for this.

Problem 2: In most cases, what we 'know' about the physical world comes not from our own experiences but rather from what we have read on scientific websites or in scientific textbooks. Rarely have we actually done the experiments ourselves. In this sense, the experience is far from what science preaches: That knowledge comes from sense experience. We are instead trusting in the writings or sayings of others. In a sense, this is fundamentally very similar to what theists do -- trust in a book that is believed to be true.

Problem 3: Even if we accept the idea that we should do these experiments ourselves and try to do some, we will never be able to do most of these experiments. We will never be able to redo the carbon dating on rare fossil items. We will never be able to walk on the moon ourselves and determine what moon rocks are like. We will never be able to work at supercolliders and search for atomic particles. Even scientists cannot do experiments in any area except their own narrow specification.

 

In short, the scientific endeavor will never be more than us trusting what is published in a scientific journal.

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10 minutes ago, Zosimus said:

In short, the scientific endeavor will never be more than us trusting what is published in a scientific journal.

In short, is your opinion then, that we* have the same knowledge about how nature works now, as we had before we started to use scientific methods? 

*) we=the group of all human

 

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1 hour ago, Zosimus said:

There are four main lines of thought on the matter.

You missed  at least one.

Any worthwhile listing of such  possibilities will automatically include "some combination of these"

 

Once again pigeonholing fails.

 

:)

Edited by studiot
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3 hours ago, Zosimus said:

As others have stated, knowledge is generally considered to be justified true belief. In other words, we must believe in something that is true and have good reasons for doing so. I maintain that science is unable to provide us knowledge because 1) science doesn't give us good reasons for believing in something and 2) we cannot know that the things science tells us to believe are actually true.

Philosophers are always maintaining something or other, including that all other philosophers are jackasses [to use the terminology of another philoospher] 

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Problem 2: In most cases, what we 'know' about the physical world comes not from our own experiences but rather from what we have read on scientific websites or in scientific textbooks. Rarely have we actually done the experiments ourselves. In this sense, the experience is far from what science preaches: That knowledge comes from sense experience. We are instead trusting in the writings or sayings of others. In a sense, this is fundamentally very similar to what theists do -- trust in a book that is believed to be true.

An example of an absurdity as I see it. Everyone of us needs to at times gather or check on knowledge, and all that is required is that we check reputable sources. For example, to compare a book called the bible, against the writings/recordings etc of a reputable science book is dumb. The writings and myths of the bible, written in an obscure manner, by obscure men, in an obscure age, is not comparable with the writings/claims etc of a reputable scientific journal, whose claims can mostly be repeated and verified if necessary. One can be put down to unsupported myth and story telling....the other is verifiable.

Edited by beecee
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@ Zosimus

It was a pleasure to read through your thoughtful and intelligent post -- just when I'd almost abandoned all hope of such things in these precincts! (Where did Eise go?) You've provided us with a great deal to consider; parts of which I heartily endorse myself, other parts of which strike me as less compelling. I'd like to say a few things in reply for your consideration and criticism. But first of all, a warm "thank you" for inspiring me to re-acquaint index finger and keyboard.
 

13 hours ago, Zosimus said:

Absolute truth is something that is true independent of time and place. For example, if we say "Mary is sitting at her computer" this may be true at the moment of speaking, but we cannot say that this is an absolute truth.

The kind of concern you raise over examples such as "Mary is sitting at her computer" is adequately dealt with, in my opinion, by appeal to what are commonly called "indexicals", i.e., terms such as "I", "you", "here", now", etc. whose referent varies with context.


The statement "I am in Taiwan now" may indeed express various propositions depending on the time, place and person of utterance -- a true proposition if uttered by myself today; false (presumably) if uttered by you -- nonetheless each proposition thereby expressed is "indexed" to a particular person, time and place.


The proposition expressed by my statement "I am in Taiwan now" is true when uttered here and now, and will still be true a hundred years from today. It will never be false that I was in Taiwan right here and right now. Properly indexed, the proposition thereby expressed would look something like "The utterer of the statement [Reg Prescott] is in Taiwan at the time of utterance [11/11/2018]". The truth value of the statement does indeed change; the truth value of the proposition expressed by the statement does not.

 

13 hours ago, Zosimus said:

Absolute truth exists. Anyone who claims that absolute truth does not exist must hold that the statement "Absolute truth does not exist" is absolutely true. This is a self-contradicting claim that cannot be true.

If you'd just said "truth" I'd be in agreement. Once again, though, the addition of "absolute" seems to add nothing, with the exception of circularity (Cf. "One cannot consistently maintain it is super-duper true that there is no such thing as super-duper truth").

 

13 hours ago, Zosimus said:

As others have stated, knowledge is generally considered to be justified true belief.

Yes. And see Note 1 below where I address accusations of my forcing an idiosyncratic definition on the downtrodden masses.
 

13 hours ago, Zosimus said:

In other words, we must believe in something that is true and have good reasons for doing so. I maintain that science is unable to provide us knowledge because (1) science doesn't give us good reasons for believing in something and (2) we cannot know that the things science tells us to believe are actually true.

Your (1) makes a substantive claim that can be argued -- as we will below. Your (2), on the other hand, seems viciously circular. In effect you're telling us science does not provide knowledge because science does not provide knowledge. Consider:

(a) science is unable to provide us knowledge because we cannot know that the things science tells us to believe are actually true   [Your words verbatim]
= (b) science is unable to provide us knowledge because the things science tells us cannot be known
= (c) science is unable to provide us knowledge because science cannot provide us with knowledge

Granting the circularity of (2), if you do, we need now only focus on your first claim, namely: Science does not give us good reasons to believe in something.
 

13 hours ago, Zosimus said:

Problem 1: The problem of induction.

You describe David Hume's original problem of induction very nicely, Zosimus. As you've probably discovered yourself, the problem is often downplayed, or even ridiculed, by those who fail to grasp its significance. For example, a typical response is "Pfft! Only some damn fool philosopher would doubt that the Sun will rise tomorrow. I'll bet you everything I own that it does".


Well, I'd bet everything I own that it does too, though this is to miss the gravamen of Hume's skeptical assault. The concern is not that the Sun will not rise tomorrow, but, as you correctly observe, that we have no non-circular justification for our belief that it will. It seems the only justification we can adduce for our inductive inferences (e.g. "the sun will rise tomorrow") is by appeal to induction itself.


If the problem is not evident to all, consider being told by Gypsy Rose of reading in her crystal ball that certain catastrophic events are about to befall you; a three-day suspension from SFN perhaps. "And why should I believe what your crystal ball says?" you snort indignantly.


"Because my crystal ball told me that crystal ball readings are reliable"!!


In response, Zosimus, I'd just accept as a brute fact -- without justification (on faith, if you will) -- that in certain cases at least, our inductive inferences are reliable, though a whole panoply of qualifications must be added. After all, surely no newbie here infers from the fact that the first three members she encounters all have 7-letter names to the conclusion that all SFN members have 7-letter names. 


A "good" induction, then, would be a conclusion derived from a large and varied sample, taken under divergent circumstances in different times and places, and so on and so forth. And the conclusion thereby derived, needless to say, would be probable at best; never certain. This does not, however, preclude us possessing knowledge of propositions derived through induction, as I see things anyway.


Having said all that, Nelson Goodman's gruesome "new riddle of induction" still grins at us mischievously from the murky depths. Are you familiar with it? 


In conclusion, then, I think we just have to accept the reliability -- in some cases -- of our inductive inferences, even if they cannot be justified in a non-circular manner. After all, no one seems to consider it devastating that our deductive inferences are in the same logical boat: justifiable by nothing holier and higher than deduction itself.


We might look on induction the same way we regard Zeno's paradoxes: as more of a puzzle than a sentence to irremedial skepticism. Zeno tells us it would take an infinite number of increments to travel from here to the door. But surely none of us concludes, "Damn! That's it! I'll never reach the door now".

 

13 hours ago, Zosimus said:

Problems 2 & 3

Here you raise an excellent point. We're often told, somewhat naively, that if we don't trust what scientists are telling us, we can roll up our sleeves and verify for ourselves. On pages 1 & 2, another member (Sensei) says almost exactly this.

Even 400 years ago or so such a claim would have been implausible: telescopes and air pumps were the property of a select elite; hard to obtain, construct and maintain. In our present age of "big science" the claim is even less defensible, as you correctly point out. The knowledge of the vast majority of us, then, assuming we have any scientific knowledge to boast of at all, is knowledge derived from the testimony of experts. The question then can be posed as: Is the testimony of scientific experts a reliable source of knowledge

Your own conclusion is that of a rather radical skepticism: science does not yield knowledge. It's a position I wouldn't want to have to defend myself, and you now must face the challenge of Ghideon in his response to you. Looking forward to it!

I'd prefer to frame the question, instead, as: How much of what scientists tell us is worthy of belief? The answer "none of it" seems to me as preposterous as "all of it". And that, in a nutshell, is the central problem of the epistemology and philosophy of science.

In particular, given the rather dismal historical record of abandoned theories, failed hypotheses, laws that turned out not to be laws, wildly inaccurate estimates (e.g. the age of the Earth) in science, one would be well advised to adopt a position of extreme caution in the appraisal of scientific claims to knowledge. Though I'm sympathetic to your shrewd circumspection, Zosimus, "Don't believe a word of it" might be a bit over the top, don't you think?

Thanks again for an intelligent and thought provoking contribution.

 

 

Note 1
----------
"Re belief and knowledge. Given the standard definition (justified true belief) we can first of all say that one cannot know what one does not believe: if you know something you believe it, too." - me

"The problem here is that you are trying to confine the conversation by defining things according to your own 'beliefs'.  All this 'Do you agree that....' biases any conversation." - DrP in response (page 2)

 

Various comments throughout the thread, typified by DrP's remark above, suggest that I've been guilty of a form of linguistic tyranny, attempting to impose on others my own idiosyncratic definitions, with the result that the conversation is "biased".

What I'll attempt to show here, then, is that the accusation is unwarranted. When philosophers provide a definition, such as "justified true belief" for knowledge, they are engaging in conceptual analysis, with an aim to clarifying the way competent language employ our repository of terms and concepts, perhaps making explicit what was hitherto only implicit. A philosophical definition may or may not align with the less rigorous definitions typically found in dictionaries.

The final tribunal on such definitional matters is not any supreme court judge, legislative body, lexicographers, or even yours truly, as DrP's charge suggests, but the language users themselves, including you, me, and all other adept speakers of English. If our own linguistic intuitions conflict with what Noah Webster says, so much the worse for Noah Webster.

It's taken for granted, except in certain deviant cases (e.g. stipulative redefinition of vernacular concepts -- "fitness", say -- in science), that competent speakers use concepts in much the same way as one another. If or when it comes to light that a particular speaker is using a word or concept in an unorthodox manner, the assumption is that an error or misunderstanding is in play, and it is generally expected that the deviant usage will be corrected so as to conform to linguistic norms. Otherwise we're all just making noises.

Take, for example, the child who asserts to an assembled adult audience that her nine-year old brother Johnny is pregnant. The grown-ups presumably do not thereby rush Johnny off to the nearest obstetrician; rather the child is corrected:


"Sally, you're not using the word 'pregnant' correctly".


Sally will be expected to, and in time almost certainly will, conform to standard usage. The adults, meanwhile, are unlikely to be accused of linguistic tyranny; i.e., "defining things according to their own beliefs" (see DrP above).

 

Take, as another example, the Japanese exchange student in New York who declares, "I know that George Washington was the first president, but it's not true". Or similarly, "I know that George Washington was the first president, but I don't believe it".

Once again, the normal response would be to inform Yukie that she is misusing one or more of the terms/concepts involved. Her native speaker friends might, for example, point out:


"Yukie, it makes no sense to say you know something but that it's not true. If you really do know it, then it must be true",   or
"Yukie, it makes no sense to say you know something but that you don't believe it. If you know it, then you must also believe it. How can you know something you don't believe?"


A charge of ex cathedra linguistic legislation would be bizarre. In all likelihood Yukie will issue a polite 'thank you', correct herself, and go on her way.

 

Or, as a third and final example, what do you say yourself to the religious poster who asserts, "The evidence for God's existence is admittedly scant, nonetheless I know he exists. Furthermore, not only do I know it, but I'm certain of it" ?


Need I say more?

 

By and large, there are two kinds of people who hold that truth and knowledge extend only as far as our methods of verification: (1) philosophers of an anti-realist or pragmatic persuasion who know exactly what they mean, e.g. Michael Dummett, C. S. Peirce, and (2) the befuddled.


Consider, for example, this profoundly confused quote posted by another member:


"Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Truth is defined as “the true or actual state of a matter.’ It is generally considered to be the same as fact or reality. Many people may not have knowledge of the truth, while knowing something does not necessarily make it true".


In other words, on this account, some people may have knowledge, but that knowledge is not necessarily of what is true. Well, what do you say to the fellah who announces: "Jim has lots of knowledge... but none of it is true" ?
 

Edited by Reg Prescott
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I find it curious that many evolutionist describe the theory that life evolved from a microbe over millions of years via a process of natural selection as "knowledge".  A belief system based on an untestable theory is not different is not knowledge!  Knowledge is based on demonstrable facts.  

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56 minutes ago, Francis said:

I find it curious that many evolutionist describe the theory that life evolved from a microbe over millions of years via a process of natural selection as "knowledge".  A belief system based on an untestable theory is not different is not knowledge!  Knowledge is based on demonstrable facts.  

Hi Francis,

I have my own misgivings about evolutionary theory that are probably better not to expound on here, though to claim that knowledge "must be based on demonstrable facts", regardless of whatever claim is under examination, seems a bit over the top, echoing my reply to Zosimus above.

Say, for example, we're told that 1000 balls in an urn are all green except one, which is red. One ball is selected at random and concealed from you.

You now assert that the selected ball is green.

Can it be demonstrated that the ball is green? Nope, not as things stand right now anyway (pending the unveiling). You're making an inductive inference; not a deductive demonstrative inference (which would be the case if all the balls in the urn were green).

Do you know that the chosen ball is green? 

Well, if you believe it is (as per your assertion), and you have good reasons for believing so (I'd call 999/1000 a pretty good reason), and the chosen ball is indeed green, then I'd say you have knowledge, even before the grand denouement. Your belief is both justified and true.Therefore, you know the chosen ball is green.

Of course, if you get that one-in-a-thousand red ball, then your belief wasn't knowledge after all. You didn't know the concealed ball was greenYou believed it was green, your belief was justified, but it was not true.

Edited by Reg Prescott
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1 hour ago, Francis said:

I find it curious that many evolutionist describe the theory that life evolved from a microbe over millions of years via a process of natural selection as "knowledge".  A belief system based on an untestable theory is not different is not knowledge!  Knowledge is based on demonstrable facts.  

 

1 hour ago, Reg Prescott said:

Hi Francis,

I have my own misgivings about evolutionary theory that are probably better not to expound on here,

As I have stated before, along with the other far more knowledgable members of this forum, the theory of evolution is as certain as any theory can be and beyond any reasonable doubt. To state or claim otherwise, almost certainly reflects an agenda of sorts and probably religion or ID.

"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless childish." 

Albert Einstein, in a 1954 letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind".

Quote

It was a pleasure to read through your thoughtful and intelligent post -- just when I'd almost abandoned all hope of such things in these precincts! 

Quote
Quote

 

"There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 BCE) Roman statesman. De Divinatione"

 

 

Quote

 

Consider, for example, this profoundly confused quote posted by another member:


"Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Truth is defined as “the true or actual state of a matter.’ It is generally considered to be the same as fact or reality. Many people may not have knowledge of the truth, while knowing something does not necessarily make it true".

 

Well as someone who knows next to nothing about philosophy, even I am able to make reasonable sense of that. It actually gets back to what many of the more reputable scientifically inclined members have told you here with regards to the truth/reality [if it at all exists] is not the prime goal of science. 

Quote

By and large, there are two kinds of people who hold that truth and knowledge extend only as far as our methods of verification: (1) philosophers of an anti-realist or pragmatic persuasion who know exactly what they mean, e.g. Michael Dummett, C. S. Peirce, and (2) the befuddled.

There are some reasonably good philosophers and really bad philosophers. Philosophy mainly delving into what we don't know, and hairy fairy applications and thought, sees philosophers invariably at loggerheads with each other, over the most abstract matters. Or as I have put to you before...

Quote

"Science is what we know: Philosophy is what we don't know."

Or just as your usual rambling post actually suggests...much ado about nothing. 

 

 

Edited by beecee
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1 hour ago, beecee said:

As I have stated before, along with the other far more knowledgable members of this forum, the theory of evolution is as certain as any theory can be and beyond any reasonable doubt.

  Are there not theories that can be verified by observation or experiment?  Which observation or experiment verifies that man evolved from a hominid as the result of a process of mutation and natural selection?    Maybe you're conflating a belief with science.

Edited by Francis
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9 minutes ago, Francis said:

  Are there not theories that can be verified by experiment?  Which experiment verifies that man evolved from a hominid as the result of a process of mutation and natural selection?    Maybe you're conflating a belief with science.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_evolution

Quote

Experimental evolution is the use of laboratory experiments or controlled field manipulations to explore evolutionary dynamics.[1]

 

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1 hour ago, beecee said:

'The word god for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless childish." 

Albert Einstein, in a 1954 letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind".

What does this have to do with anything?  Is the opinion of one famous scientist evidence of the non-existence of God or gods?  Why is his opinion worth more than anyone else's?

5 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_evolution

 

Experimental evolution is the use of laboratory experiments or controlled field manipulations to explore evolutionary dynamics.

 

I couldn't find anything in this article that verifies by experiment that man evolved from a hominid as a result of a process of mutations and natural selection.  If I missed it, can you point out where, please?   

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4 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

green? 

Well, if you believe it is (as per your assertion), and you have good reasons for believing so (I'd call 999/1000 a pretty good reason), and the chosen ball is indeed green, then I'd say you have knowledge, even before the grand denouement. Your belief is both justified and true.Therefore, you know the chosen ball is green

I wouldn't claim to know that the chosen ball is green.  

I am a practising Catholic.  I  believe with all my heart, mind and soul that God exists, but do I know that God exists?  No, I don't know, because I can't demonstrate it empirically.  (I don't even know how I could demonstrate it empirically.  Even if I could present God in person to someone, God would then have to demonstrate that he is, in fact, God.  I don't even know how he would do that.)  So a belief that can't be demonstrated as factual is not knowledge.  Can anyone demonstrate that man evolved from a homind via a process of mutations and natural selection?  No, I don't think so.  So all we have is a theory or a belief, not a demonstrable fact, and therefore in this case we don't have knowledge.

Edited by Francis
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31 minutes ago, Francis said:

Irrelevant to my point

No its not irrelevant to point out that a large percentage of people pushing for a supposed deeper truth that probably does not exist, may possibly have an agenda that blinds him to the relevancy and validity of science and knowledge as opposed to searching for fairies at the bottom of the garden.

The only truth that matters is scientific truth, or that "truth" where scientific knowledge can be formed into theories and models that make successful predictions, can be reproduced and systematically and continually verified at any particular time and era. That scientific truth can be added to, modified, changed as observations and technological advancements take place. No deeper truth makes any sense within science, and the baggage that this supposed deeper truth contains, makes it an unscientific endeavour anyway.

Science is the discipline of acquiring knowledge and is without doubt the best  method  that we have or can ever have  using the scientific method as its foundations. If I want to know how humans evolved, or how our solar system formed, or how the universe evolved, I don’t go to a philosopher, or any religious text.....I check it out in an appropriate science book with scientific truth and the relevant knowledge. That is knowledge...that is the only truth.

Edited by beecee
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1 hour ago, Francis said:

What does this have to do with anything?  Is the opinion of one famous scientist evidence of the non-existence of God or gods?  Why is his opinion worth more than anyone else's?

I couldn't find anything in this article that verifies by experiment that man evolved from a hominid as a result of a process of mutations and natural selection.  If I missed it, can you point out where, please?   

 

I see an agenda, pointless to explain further.

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If science consisted of a universal method of induction, then it's method could be automated using machines, by translating it into  a universally applicable learning algorithm that on average would outperform every other conceivable learning algorithm across every possible data-set.  But that isn't the case, as Wolpert's No Free Lunch Theorem demonstrates.  In order for a learning algorithm to have superior predictive performance with respect to one  group of data is for it to have inferior predictive performance with respect to another  group of data.      Hence science has no "method" of induction.

What methods   of induction really consists of is simulating some process (the 'simulated') using another process (the 'simulator') , and measuring the similarity of the simulated process to the simulation by using some  arbitrary criterion of similarity.       If the simulator is a machine learning algorithm, then  this similarity measurement is  fed back into the simulator  so that it automatically adapts so as to make the simulation more closely resemble the simulated.

What is considered to be a simulation of one thing by another thing   is in the eye of the beholder and  whether the simulation is satisfactory depends on his practical purposes. 

Edited by TheSim
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20 hours ago, Ghideon said:

In short, is your opinion then, that we* have the same knowledge about how nature works now, as we had before we started to use scientific methods? 

*) we=the group of all human

 

Your question is somewhat leading. It would be like someone saying, "I started reading the Bible when I was 8. Are you saying that I have gained no new knowledge since I was 8?" I'm sure that we can clearly see that simply because a gain of knowledge coincided with reading the Bible does not demonstrate that the Bible was the source of that knowledge.

Next, we must also consider the question: When did 'we' start to use scientific methods? 1933? 1834? 1687? 1564?

Personally, I have found that on a forum such as this one, there are generally one or more adherents to the Great Atheist Myth. The myth generally goes like this: Before 1564 humans were ignorant savages. Then Galileo, the first scientist, was born. Galileo proved that the Sun was the center of the solar system and singlehandedly invented science. Yet, the Catholic Church would brook no science in its realm. They tortured Galileo until he recanted and then imprisoned him. At his sentencing, Galileo uttered (in Italian) the words "nevertheless it does move," referring to the Earth, of course. Since Galileo, many scientists have been born, and all human knowledge gained from that point on is thanks to science.

Personally, I laugh whenever someone expresses some version of this myth. Let's simply take the idea that before the so-called "Scientific Revolution" humans were ignorant savages. How does that explain the latest theories about the Great Pyramid at Giza — namely that it was a giant electrical power plant? When true believers become convinced that it was a power plant, they often simply remark "Well, there must have been scientists back then too."

The assumption is that all knowledge comes from scientists. It is never examined nor is any challenge to it brooked. It is an article of faith.

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1 hour ago, TheSim said:

If science consisted of a universal method of induction, then it's method could be automated using machines, by translating it into  a universally applicable learning algorithm that on average would outperform every other conceivable learning algorithm across every possible data-set.  But that isn't the case, as Wolpert's No Free Lunch Theorem demonstrates.  In order for a learning algorithm to have superior predictive performance with respect to one  group of data is for it to have inferior predictive performance with respect to another  group of data.      Hence science has no "method" of induction.

Hi again,


Not being familiar with Wolpert's theorem, I can't speak of its implications for scientific reasoning, though the final quietus for anyone out there who still believes in an inductive "method" of science is surely delivered by Nelson Goodman's "new riddle of induction" which I alluded to earlier. 

 

8 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

A "good" induction, then, would be a conclusion derived from a large and varied sample, taken under divergent circumstances in different times and places, and so on and so forth. And the conclusion thereby derived, needless to say, would be probable at best; never certain. This does not, however, preclude us possessing knowledge of propositions derived through induction, as I see things anyway.


Having said all that, Nelson Goodman's gruesome "new riddle of induction" still grins at us mischievously from the murky depths. Are you familiar with it? 

 

Suppose we have examined a thousand, or a million, emeralds and found them all to be green. Our emeralds have been collected from "a large and varied sample, taken under divergent circumstances in different times and places, and so on and so forth". Since the criteria for a "good" induction, as I've described it, have been satisfied, we might now be tempted to make the inductive inference to "all emeralds are green".

Now, given that we're dabbling in induction here, the truth of the conclusion ("all emeralds are green") is not guaranteed by the truth of the premise ("all examined emeralds are green"), nonetheless we might like to think, in light of our impressive evidentiary base, that we have good reason to suppose the universal generalization is true.

The inappropriately named Goodman now throws a gruesome spanner in the works. If we define the term/predicate "grue" as "green if first observed before the year 2020, and blue otherwise", then the two hypotheses


(1) All emeralds are green,   and
(2) All emeralds are grue

seem to enjoy precisely the same degree of evidential support; after all, the emeralds we've examined to date have all been green, and they've all been grue.

 

Now, if science were conducted according to an inductive method similar to the kind of "good" inductive procedure I outlined above, there should be nothing to choose between (1) and (2). Both inductions are equally good and enjoy the same evidentiary support -- according to the method.

But, of course, we know that no scientist in her right mind would entertain hypothesis (2), implying as it does that all emeralds dug up after 2020 will be blue!

So what's the moral of the story? Ans: Unlike deduction, predicates matter. Some predicates can be "projected" and yield what we hope will be a reliable conclusion. Others, like grue, lead to absurdity.

Why are scientists liable to endorse hypothesis (1) and pooh-pooh hypothesis (2)? Because, pace what the methodologists may claim, they're using good old fashioned common sense; not following a method.

Edited by Reg Prescott
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