Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Science & Philosophy

Ok so the hotel I'm staying at has free internet and yes; I am addicted to blogging. I listened to 4 lectures yesterday and the most disturbing one was a debate on evolution & intelligent design.

Science:
Science seems to be the only field where it's professionals dont truly understand what their field is (on a philosophical level). Musicians understand music (not merely the mechanics of it, but the essence of music) and painters understand art, auto-mechanics understand what it is they're doing when they work on cars and so do computer programmers. But I believe that many scientists are highly confused at whats happening in their field if you were to take a step back from it and look at it in a philosophical sense..

Scientists observe order in the universe and then interpret this as a cause. It simply doesnt follow. Why does the hour hand on the clock move? A scientist gives a naturalist explanation: electricity causes this gear to turn and this gear to turn which causes this gear to turn which eventually turns the arm. Therefore, electricity is the cause of this clock turning.

The scientist, on a philosophical level, hasn't told us anything at all actually. We know that other processes are underway as the hand is turning, even a child knows that. Thats not the question, we dont care what other apparently 'causal' processes are happening; we asked 'why is the hand turning'. How it is possible? Evoking the word 'electricity' doesnt tell us anything. What causes electricity? What about electricity makes it work? Scientists can give an answer, I can't. But what causes that cause? and so on... Eventually, we must reach a level to which there is no explanation. I imagine in this example, it would be reached very quickly.

Imagine anther scenario where a child asks 'why does the rock fall from my hand when i let go of it?' The mother answers 'because God pulls it to the ground'. The scientist would scoff and say 'its because of gravity!' But the scientist's answer is absolutely no better than the mother's. He has simply given a name to a phenomenon that happens. We dont know why it happens, we just know that it does. The child already knows that it happens! He wants to know why and not what. Science only tells us 'what'. Just because something happens consistently (such as gravity) in all cases that we know of, doesn't even indicate (much less prove) that God is not the one causing it directly.

We ask, how does an ant have the capacity to build such intricate tunnels and how do other animals perform such elaborate tasks that would be difficult even for humans with intellect? The scientist's answer - "instinct" and the theist's: "God". But the scientist hasnt helped explain the problem at all! He's just invented a word to describe a phenomenon that we already knew was happening and already knew what its doing. Our question is how? This question is on a much 'higher' level than our previous question. The scientist would have a string of theories based on 'natural processes' to explain the ability for simple creatures to have 'instinct' but he would eventually run into a more basic principle of the universe - gravity - electrical charge whatever.

Eventually, you have to answer the philosophical question - why does natural law even exist at all? Why does it continue to exist? This is not a scientific question! No scientist could ever answer that question, but the question is legitimate. We are in a search for truth, and science can only answer a small fraction of that.

Science tells us that natural law exists. This is something that we've known for as long as humans have been around. Science is the study of that natural law. Fine, and thats good. The only reason you can read what Im writing now is because many people spent years & years studying the natural law and eventually created computers and later on the internet and then the blogosphere. Thats all great and its helpful.

But scientists truly start going off track when they forget that, science is not the search for ultimate truth. Its not even the 'search for truth'. It's merely the study of natural law.

Science moves from being 'science' and into being religion when the scientist starts claiming that his study is 'the search for truth' (an attempt to prove that all things can be explained by natural law).

The Fish Tank
It's like a fish in a fish tank. He goes everywhere he can possibly go, measures every inch of the tank, studies every rock and decoration. He discovers that it isn't 'magical' (scoffing) that he is able to move about. It's actually because there is water everywhere. He has tested that there isnt water at the top. It isnt magical that he stays alive. There are crystals that come down every day for him to eat. Its a natural process because he sees it happen consistently. It never fails. Its just part of his universe. The superstitious fish beside him says, 'but you dont know whats outside the tank, you just know what you can observe here'. The other fish scolds him 'you idiot! just because there are some questions that we cant answer doesnt mean that some magical 'god' is at work here. Thats laziness! We know that everything can be explained by natural processes'

And yet the fish is wrong, his entire world is constructed and maintained by an intelligent force. Yet the irony is, this fish is immeasurably more knowledgeable about his world, than we are about ours. The fish tank is the universe, and though he has been to the ends of his, we have barely been off of our planet.

Gaps Science
This brings me to another weak point scientists are bringing up more and more often. They accuse intelligent designers (and any theist for all of you theistic-evolutionists out there dont think that you're off the hook) of a so called 'gaps science'. That is; we dont know certain things and or cannot understand them and therefore we fill in the gaps with "God did it". The most common response is (and it's valid) 'its not that we just dont understand how it could happen, but we can deductively conclude that it couldnt have happened without an intelligent force guiding it'. That statement alone nullifies the whole 'gap science' accusation. Now whether its really true or not, that can be argued - but if its shown to be false, then what we have is a lack of logic and / or misinterpretation of the evidence and not a superstitious, lazy attempt to disbelieve in scientific truth as the scientists so disingenuously accuse us of.

But again, we have a real philosophical disconnect going on here. Even if there were no 'gaps' and we understood EVERY SINGLE natural process to the last detail, that wouldnt indicate in the slightest that there is no creator and or no super-intellect which maintains the universe.

Why Does It Rain?
The bigger question is WHY are these things happening, we know that every time certain conditions are present then it rains but we still dont know why it rains; no matter how much we understand about the physical observable conditions present directly preceeding every rain fall, we still havent answered the child's question: why does it rain? They are asking a much deeper, philosophical question than science could ever answer. The correct answer is, because God gives us rain.

This is not lazy science. Its not even science. There's nothing wrong with that. Its great to study natural processes and they should continue doing it. But scientists need to realize, they're only studying a created universe with natural laws. They are not searching for ultimate truth (and if they are, they will be dissapointed to learn that science cannot give them that).

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