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Faith is the Enemy of Evidence

Recently, on Facebook, a good friend of mine made the following post (which I enjoyed):

“faith is the enemy of evidence, for when we know the truth no faith is required.”

The first comment to this post read as follows (which I did not enjoy):

“Truth is never objective it is always subjective. To see, one must believe.”

I was actually a bit floored by this response.  I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading.  How could it be possible for truth to be subjective, when subjectivity is specifically the opposite of “truth” in the “true” sense of the term.

This lead me to make the following retort, coupled with a posting of a video of the always astoundingly brilliant Bertrand Russell:

“Truth is only objective. Either something is true or it isn’t. There is no other option. The only way around truth, is to enter into the subjective and to utilize esoteric definitions…and semantic perversions.”

This resulted in a dialogue between myself and someone else who did not actually make the initial comment that prompted my engagement in the conversation.  I will, for proper measure, refer to this person as “Person Y” and myself as “Jon Day”:

Person Y: “Interesting man. He states,,”When one cannot prove a belief is true or false, one should suspend judgement.” But when asked if he thinks there is an afterlife, it was a definite “no”.”

Jon Day: “I think it’s pretty easy to prove there is no afterlife.”

Person Y: “Just to put it out there…I sincerely hope there is no afterlife, as I tire of existing. No bias one way or the other here. But how would one prove the non-existence of something? Burden of proof rests on the shoulders of those who claim existence?”

Jon Day: “Proof of a negative is dependent on the structure of the proposed negative. In reality, we’re not proving the “non-existence” of something, but instead we’re arguing the possibility of the proposed properties of what is said to exist. It then becomes an issue of one’s acceptance of what constitutes adequate “proof” in order to accept the truth of the proposed idea. Similarly, we technically can prove that there is no God, in as much as we can show the logical incongruousness of the proposed attributes of said being. If the proposal contains a logical contradiction or a set of characteristics which would not stand to reason, once can dismiss it as either a) invalid, or b) untrue. I would not expect much more proof for the “non-existence” of Santa Claus then the simple fact that his proposed characteristic (that is of the fictional character as opposed to the historical figures whose persona’s were used in the development of the concept) are not possible, nor even plausible.”

Jon Day: “Sorry for the above typos. I wanted to additionally include that the afterlife, in itself is a logical contradiction, in as much as the term life is being used to refer to something which occurs after death (the antithesis of life). From a scientific perspective, we can literally show that the body which contains and facilitates life is consumed. We cannot prove there IS a soul, and therefore the soul is not included in a scientific analysis of what is present. In this instance (the afterlife), it’s less about proving the negative, and more about proving what occurs at death and after, none of which includes anything which would resemble the notion of afterlife. From a philosophical perspective, I suppose you cannot “prove” that the afterlife “does not exist”…but from a logical perspective, you can. The concept in itself does not follow a logical framework. So once again it ends with what you’re willing to accept as a “proof”.”

Person Y: “How can we technically prove that there is no “God”? I guess it would depend on the proposed attributes. Outside any specific religous doctrines, most concepts deem the God being as omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient & omnipresent. Most would rule these 4 characteristics logically incongruent. However what other characteristics might said being posses which could render the complete set logically plausible. Scientists cannot explain why certain quantum particles behave in unexplainable ways when observed, nor can they explain the cause of dark energy in cosmos. Science used to claim the exact quantity of energy in the universe was a known value (within a certain tolerance). A quest for truth must thrive on being fallible For the unknown is where we tread.”

Person Y: “Evidence is nothing more than probable cause.”

Jon Day: “There is a large gap in terms in what you’re referring to as science, and what we’re talking about when we are discussing proposals that are said to take place in a transcendent realm. The two are incompatible. We do not know “why” quantum particles behave in explainable ways when observed, however we CAN actually observe them in order to determine that they behave in said way. We do not need to know a “why” to make a determination, and the question of “why” is not a scientific one as it implies that there is a “why” to begin with. Science cannot explain dark matter in the universe in as much as in a way which is definitive, but the fact that dark matter can be shown to exist makes it rather incompatible with the concept of “God”. In answer to your initial point about the logical contradictions of the proposed attributes of God, an additional characteristic of the abrahamic God is that it is said to be the creator of all things. Some interpretation is needed for this next statement, as I don’t intend it as entirely literal, but essentially: if god is the creator of all things, what was he before creation? I completely disagree that truth is fallible, but I do agree that we have to accept that previous attempts at attaining truth were misguided. Truth in itself is something which is outside of the grasp of the human mind, and is absent from its manifestations. Science is intended to be flexible, religion is not. That should be telling of why one should not accept any truth claimed to be held within it.”

Jon Day: “I understand your point, however there are varying degrees of certainty. If something is logically improbable, there is not a reason for me to believe it. I would simply dismiss it. If someone an then show me proof, I may reconsider. It’s as simple as that. It’s really neither suspending judgement, nor passing judgement. It’s simply dismissing it outright based on it’s fundamental flaws in a logical framework. When we’re dealing with concepts structured around a logical framework when developed (as they were developed by the human mind, based around the same basic logical principles we use to govern even the simplest of concepts) then we really can only base our assumptions on the stability of said logical framework. I can’t travel to heaven to prove that heaven exists, but I can show that the very logical framework used to develop the concept of heaven, is in itself flawed and therefore is simply dismissed.”

Jon Day: “I also understand what you mean regarding physics and the progression we make within, however the concepts when originally proposed were not based around a logical fallacy. People were not basing their decision to accept quantum mechanics on a flaw in its logical flow, they were basing it on a lack of information.”

Person Y: “Before continue, Id like to explicitly state that I enjoy this type of dialogue. Something to chew on and throw around with another willing mind, which seems hard to find in my daily walk of life. There is no combative or disrespectful “tone” to these inaudible words.

Just to clarify, I said “the quest for truth must thrive on being fallible”. Not truth itself. Which is exactly what you touched on with science being flexible and religIon being rigid. I would hate to see a concept to be dismissed outright instead of judgement being suspended due to a flaw in the logical framework used to develop said concept. Most scientific discoveries began with an unexplainable behavoir (or effect) and then worked toward a “why” or cause”

Person Y: “To quote Men In Black, “Imagine what we’ll ‘know’ tomorrow”.”

Person Y: “Two schools of thought (loosely comparing religon to thought) might take shots at the same concept with varying degrees of discovery being found. One might even inspire new trails to be blazed in another (like psychology and engineering). Out of sheer curiosity, I hope physics and philosophy soon become intimate bedfellows.”

Jon Day: “I always this type of dialogue as well. With the second point, the problem is that science and logic are two different systems, and we’re talking about two different uses. Scientific discoveries which revolve around a behavior or effect are not limited to their logical framework alone, as they can be tested, and in fact the logical framework is essentially the same regardless (as shown by the scientific method). When we’re dealing with a conceptual proposal, as opposed to an observable phenomena, we’re limited only to the logical framework used to develop the concept. As I said before, when people previously dismissed scientific theories, they were not doing so based on logic. They were doing so based on either a) the adherence to previous knowledge with rigidity or b) a simple lack of information and observable evidence. It was never illogical to say that the quantum world is existent, it was simply not understood as of yet (as opposed to religious concepts which is in reverse order, it was previously understood to be true, and now we know it is false). People were not dismissing it based on its logical framework, as its logical framework is the same one used to arrive at the previous conclusions. It was merely an adherence to the end result of the previous notions arrived at through that framework that prevented acceptance. All notions arrived at with science, physics in particular, are arrived at using the same logical framework.”

Jon Day: “I can only imagine what we’ll know tomorrow…one thing I’m certain of, is that tomorrow we will know Santa Claus is not real.”

Jon Day: “Physics and philosophy are already intimate bedfellows. A theory in physics generally begins with a philosophical approach, and is then proven with math.”

Person Y: “If it was never illogical to say that the quantum world is existant, only not yet understood (as it once only existed in conceptual form), then it is not illogical to say that any world exists. However it is also not logical to say that it does. Time becoming completely understood by 3-dimensional beings with 80-year lifespans is not illogical, although highly improbable. The astronomer that discovered that the earth was round using verifiable evidence and math did so even if some lunatic in the corner of the uncivilized world stated the earth was round because the moon is a circle in the sky.”

Person Y: “The existence of an observable link between a cause and effect does nothing to explain “why” it exists. Laws of nature are nothing more than observed patterns of behavior. Theoretically, they could all change tomorrow. The only thing I know is that nothing is truly known. Or everything. ;-)”

Jon Day: “I don’t know how you made the leap from “if it was never illogical to say that the quantum world is existant…then it is not illogical to say that any world exists”. One does not follow suit from the other. Additionally, it is incorrect to say that the quantum level is even a world (it is part and parcel to our own), and it is also incorrect to say that it only existed in conceptual form. The means by which to discover things on the quantum level had not yet been attained, and therefore only conceptualization could be used to describe it…but that is quite different. I’m not sure why quantum mechanics not being understood until a particular point in history suddenly makes it possible for the moon to be made of cheese, or for any flight of fancy I so choose to be valid.”

Jon Day: “I don’t ask questions like “why” something exists. “Why” is a useless question. There is no why, there is only what is. I still hold that Santa Claus is not real. While I understand the concept of “the only thing that i know is that i know nothing”, I don’t think it’s meant to be taken so literally as to allow yourself to believe in any idea thrown your way. One should keep and open mind, but not so open that the brains have fallen out.”

Person Y: ” To clarify some slights that were made above in semantics/nomenclature:

As far as referring to the quantum level as a “world”, I was following the term used by you about 8 posts up. I agree that the quantum level is not so much a world in the separate and unrelated “realm/dimension” sense. What I was trying to say was: If (before the means were attained which made discoveries on the quantum level possible) it was never illogical to say that the quantum level is existant, then it would follow that it is not illogical to say that other level(s)/world(s) is/are existant before the means were attained to discover things on that level. For example, a level opposite of quantum (think ‘zooming out’ with some device which is opposite a microscope [a macroscope?]). Such a level may exist, even in the absense of a current means for us to study it.”

Person Y: “And yes, I erred by saying the quantum level only existed in conceptual form before being dicovered. That would be like someone saying Ben Franklin invented electricity. I meant, as you pointed out, that the quantum level could only be described using conceptualization before the means to study it had been obtained. If said conceptualization had not been considered/entertained, but simply dismissed due to its origin being an antiquicated institution with a logically-inconsistent, self-referencing set of self-proclaimed infallible doctrines (ex. religion), then a completely separate method (ex. scientific) would never get a chance to throw rocks at it to see if it holds water.”

Jon Day: “It is certainly the case that the macroscopic level exists, just as the microscopic does, and each exists with a reasonable means of observation. However, these are merely terms for describing perspectives of the same thing (the physical universe). This is why these ideas are not comparable to ideas which relate to a “realm” which is supposedly transcendental. Similarly, the fact that were are “in the 3rd dimension” does not indicate that we are in a place which is different than “the 2nd dimension”. The 3rd and 2nd dimensions are the same thing…they are relative only to the observer. Even in taking into account the concept of the 4th dimension, we still would not be discussing something which is in the 4th dimension that is not present in the 3rd dimension, we would simply be discussing another aspect of the same thing. These are not places. There was not a time when someone simply decided that there are particles out of the blue. This idea was arrived at by observing phenomena, developing hypothesis and attempting to test hypothesis, while developing theories. Just because at one point in time the idea did not exist, does not mean any and all ideas should be accepted because “they may be true, afterall people didn’t believe x idea at one point and it turned out to be true”. That’s harmful to REAL science. I could easily throw out any proposal I wish…that doesn’t make it a theory, and it certainly doesn’t make it valid.”

Here, I simply could not longer bear the facebook comment format for debate.  I find it’s quite difficult to address each point made within such a format, because you are unable to split anything up into points and address them piece by piece, as the comments all fall in line one after the other.  This is why I find forum debate much more appealing…

Jon Day: “” If said conceptualization had not been considered/entertained, but simply dismissed due to its origin being an antiquicated institution with a logically-inconsistent, self-referencing set of self-proclaimed infallible doctrines” <– I don’t quite understand this particular use of semantics, but the fact of the matter is that the concepts surrounding quantum mechanics do not have an origin in an antiquated institution, they are not logically inconsistent, and they do not rely on a self-referencing set of self-proclaimed infallible doctrines. That’s the key difference in fact. If the idea were based in such, they should have been dismissed outright. The reason the conceptual aspects of quantum theory were entertained, was because they work…not because someone just decided it. We do not have to entertain every idea or concept presented simply on the grounds that it might be true. That would just be weak science, and poor thinking. We need to base our assertions on a solid framework of logic, and where possible utilize the scientific method to develop and test a hypothesis. A theory is not just a guess or an idea. If I say “maybe there is another realm outside of our world where there are humans who can fly”…that is not a theory. It’s just a random ejaculation of thought…a speculation at best. Even more so, if I were to create an idea and the actual basis for that idea was a flawed logical framework, then it should be outright dismissed. It is certainly possible that a logical model can seemingly contain flaws, and later it is found those flaws are not present, but that is a different matter. I’m discussing the notion of the actual logical framework itself which leads to the development of the concept as being flawed…rather than a logical model used to support a theory. They are distinctly different notions. I suppose it’s pretty difficult to carry on a discussion like this on facebook, but you’re welcome to email me so that we can split each others posts up into smaller pieces and tackle each one point by point. Either that, or if you’d like to join me at [forum name removed] we can open a thread and discuss there. In conclusion, I’d like to say that my overall point is: we can dismiss things, and we can know things to be untrue (even if we can’t know things to be true). I would say it’s much easier to determine if something is untrue than if it is true. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence…and where that evidence is 100% absent, there is no reason to go further (ie, dismiss it outright) until some evidence is forthcoming…and even then, it should be treated with skepticism until a logical model can be developed in support of a theory. I enjoyed the banter.”

—-there will be more on this later, where I will more intimately dissect the points made.  Come back and read.

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