Why scientism is bunk

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An excellent new take-down of scientism, the religion of science, was just brought out by award-winning science writer John Horgan, entitled The Delusion of Scientific Omniscience:

https://johnhorgan.org/cross-check/the-d...mniscience

An excerpt:

Quote:"In his 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis, Crick declared that “’you,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of neurons.” That statement might have been the highwater mark of scientism and its corollaries, materialism and reductionism.

Meanwhile, researchers were claiming that advances in computers and mathematics were illuminating chaotic and complex phenomena that had resisted traditional scientific analysis. These scientists, whom I like to call chaoplexologists, were finding common principles underpinning brains, immune systems, ecologies and nation-states. Economics and other social sciences would soon become as rigorous as chemistry and nuclear physics. Supposedly.

All this hubris wasn’t entirely unjustified. After all, in the 1960s physicists confirmed the big bang theory and took steps toward a unified theory of all of nature’s forces, while biologists deciphered the genetic code. These and other successes, as well as advances in computers and other tools, persuaded optimists that total scientific knowledge was imminent.

But the concept of scientific omniscience was flawed from the start. Read (Hawking's) Brief History and other books carefully and you realize that the quest for an ultimate theory had taken physicists beyond the realm of experiment. String theory and other major candidates for an ultimate theory of physics can be neither experimentally confirmed nor falsified. They are untestable and hence not really scientific. And more than century after discovering quantum mechanics, physicists still can’t agree on what the theory actually says about the world.

Plus, if physicists convince themselves they have found the fundamental laws from which nature springs, they must still explain where those laws came from, just as believers in God must explain where She/He/They/It came from. This is the problem of infinite regress, which bedevils all who try to explain why there is something rather than nothing.

As for life, Dawkins’s claim that it is no longer a mystery is absurd. We still don’t have a clue how life began, or whether it exists elsewhere in the cosmos. We don’t know whether our emergence was likely or a once-in-eternity fluke.

Brain scientists have no idea how our brains make us conscious, and even if they did, that knowledge would apply only to human consciousness. It would not yield a general theory of consciousness, which determines what sort of physical systems generate conscious states. It would not tell us whether it feels like something to be a bat, nematode or smart phone."
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(2023-08-15, 03:37 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: An excellent new take-down of scientism, the religion of science, was just brought out by award-winning science writer John Horgan, entitled The Delusion of Scientific Omniscience:

https://johnhorgan.org/cross-check/the-d...mniscience

An excerpt:
The good old god of the gaps argument
(2023-08-15, 03:52 PM)sbu Wrote: The good old god of the gaps argument

The good old endless promissory note argument, on issues for which there is not a glimmer of light at the end of the (scientific) tunnel. And the worst error of scientism is basic logic, where it is conveniently not recognized that any "theory of everything" is a system of laws governing reality that has to have had some intelligent origin. Nothing comes from absolutely nothing.
(This post was last modified: 2023-08-15, 09:31 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
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(2023-08-15, 03:52 PM)sbu Wrote: The good old god of the gaps argument

You must have read a completely different essay.

In fairness, I suspect you read the same essay but added your own take.

Either way, its a horridly biased and disingenuous summation.  Horgan, if you've read him at all, is clearly taking the scientists to task.  Fairly, correctly, and overdue in my view.  The more apt snipe would have been "The good old give me one free miracle argument" as this essay was an attack on a faith alright.... the faith in scientism.
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The question, I suspect, is not just how flawed conventional science is, but whether there is any way in which it could conceivably be repaired.

Suppose for example, that there really are scientific truths that require massive collaborations to uncover them - e.g. CERN. How is it possible to control a team of scientists to work on such a project? The problem is that if whatever is being sought out, does not exist, someone will curry favour with the management by fiddling the system in a subtle way.

I used to think this was not possible, until I learned that modern particle accelerators produce far more data than can be stored!! They work using custom built electronics that filter the data, only storing the 'interesting' events!

Nobody can check if this was done correctly, so entities such as the Higgs seem to be unverifiable.

Related to the above, modern physics considers matter to be composed of quarks and leptons. The quarks have fractional charge, and so would be easy to discover. There were one or two false alarms, but it is now accepted that free quarks don't exist despite an extensive search for them. Someone 'solved' this problem by hypothesizing that they are held in larger particles (such as protons) by a force field designed (on paper) to prevent them separating to infinity. The Higgs is part of the so-called Standard Model that comes from combining these quarks.

Science seems trapped within limits of this kind. Science was a subject performed by brilliant individuals, who also had plenty of money. Arguably it can't get much beyond that stage.

So maybe God only exists in the gaps, but those gaps aren't going to close much more - even if we manage to avoid nuclear annihilation.

I think that story repeats itself over and over again in modern science - it is a tragedy.

David
(This post was last modified: 2023-09-10, 10:45 AM by David001. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2023-08-15, 03:52 PM)sbu Wrote: The good old god of the gaps argument

Quote:Plus, if physicists convince themselves they have found the fundamental laws from which nature springs, they must still explain where those laws came from, just as believers in God must explain where She/He/They/It came from. This is the problem of infinite regress, which bedevils all who try to explain why there is something rather than nothing.


I see only a comparison of faiths and beliefs ~ if there are physical laws... where did they come from? Why do they exist? They didn't just pop out of the void, without impetus. Events never happen for no reason.

As the Christian sees God as the source of all things, so must the physicist have some belief about where they think these laws come from.

Big Bang? Have to explain how that came about, too. Why it happened.

In the end, the event chain must have a beginning, and one can call that anything... some call it God. Others call it chaos. Others by yet many other names, scientific, philosophical and religious.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
~ Carl Jung


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(2023-09-10, 11:24 AM)Valmar Wrote: I see only a comparison of faiths and beliefs ~ if there are physical laws... where did they come from? Why do they exist? They didn't just pop out of the void, without impetus. Events never happen for no reason.

As the Christian sees God as the source of all things, so must the physicist have some belief about where they think these laws come from.

Big Bang? Have to explain how that came about, too. Why it happened.

In the end, the event chain must have a beginning, and one can call that anything... some call it God. Others call it chaos. Others by yet many other names, scientific, philosophical and religious.

It's more than just a matter of different faiths and beliefs on the same level of plausibility or implausablity, an even playing field. Scientism has the extreme handicap of having simply no plausible theory at all to explain fine tuning and the existence of this finely tuned mathematically organized physical reality. Any plausible naturalist materialist theory of everything has to explain the existence of the Universe and its fine tuning of an intricate set of physical laws, rather than absolutely nothing, in the total absence of any form of outside intelligence (as demanded by their paradigm). In the context that we know absolutely that absolutely nothing can come from absolutely nothing - no undergirding of some sort of laws of physics governing the way reality works.

In contrast, the spiritual point of view recognizes the existence of some outside extremely high and creatively powerful Intelligence or intelligences, an existence which is amply testified for by the existence of the finely ordered Universe including the miracle of life itself, consisting of a huge mass of functional complex specified information that could only have come from prior intelligence.
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(2023-09-10, 03:13 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: It's more than just a matter of different faiths and beliefs on the same level of plausibility or implausablity, an even playing field. Scientism has the extreme handicap of having simply no plausible theory at all to explain fine tuning and the existence of this finely tuned mathematically organized physical reality. Any plausible naturalist materialist theory of everything has to explain the existence of the Universe and its fine tuning of an intricate set of physical laws, rather than absolutely nothing, in the total absence of any form of outside intelligence (as demanded by their paradigm). In the context that we know absolutely that absolutely nothing can come from absolutely nothing - no undergirding of some sort of laws of physics governing the way reality works.
I'm very nervous about employing fine tuning arguments because until we have a complete theory we don't know what are free parameters to be tuned, and what are part of the maths.

For example, in Newtonian gravitation (and GR under mild conditions) the force of attraction between two bodies is proportional to 1/r^2. This gives rise to stable orbits. I'm not dead certain about this, but I think if the attraction was proportional to 1/r^(2.01) or 1/r^(1.99) there would be instability. Does one consider the fact that the force is proportional to 1/r^2 exactly to be a coincidence?

David
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(2023-09-10, 07:46 PM)David001 Wrote: I'm very nervous about employing fine tuning arguments because until we have a complete theory we don't know what are free parameters to be tuned, and what are part of the maths.

For example, in Newtonian gravitation (and GR under mild conditions) the force of attraction between two bodies is proportional to 1/r^2. This gives rise to stable orbits. I'm not dead certain about this, but I think if the attraction was proportional to 1/r^(2.01) or 1/r^(1.99) there would be instability. Does one consider the fact that the force is proportional to 1/r^2 exactly to be a coincidence?

David

If some apparently "fine tuned" constant in the equations of physics (like the 1/r^2 relation in calculating the gravitational force in celestial mechanics) is actually an inherent part of the mathematical foundations of existence, that just points to mathematics itself also being the "fine tuned" product of some Intelligence, another example of how absolutely nothing can come from absolutely nothing including there being no mathematics. If an important physics constant that needs to be very close to its current value in order for life as we know it to exist is actually "a part of the maths", this is just a different form of fine tuning, but fine tuning nevertheless.
(This post was last modified: 2023-09-10, 10:57 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
(2023-09-10, 10:41 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: If some apparently "fine tuned" constant in the equations of physics (like the 1/r^2 relation in calculating the gravitational force in celestial mechanics) is actually an inherent part of the mathematical foundations of existence, that just points to mathematics itself also being the "fine tuned" product of some Intelligence, another example of how absolutely nothing can come from absolutely nothing including there being no mathematics. If an important physics constant that needs to be very close to its current value in order for life as we know it to exist is actually "a part of the maths", this is just a different form of fine tuning, but fine tuning nevertheless.

A grand example example of a "begging the question" argument.

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