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Comment: Re: illogical captain (Score 1) 937

by Nonsanity (#47914265) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk
We're not that out of sync in our viewpoints, I think. My use of the "angels dancing on the head of a pin" was, as I noted, a crude example. I didn't want to get bogged down in the specifics of the example and have the point I was trying to make missed. That's why I picked the religious equivalent of the college course "Underwater Basket-Weaving 101." (Which also has a Wikipedia page.) Treat it as a hypothetical example only, and we can focus on the meaning it was meant to convey instead.

Per your hunting example, it seems similar to gambling. In any particular instance, success or failure may be the result of elements outside your control, be that the subject's free will or the complex physical interactions in a roll of the dice. That's why science favors the aggregate of many repetitions over a single case.

With your friend Frank, an expert private investigator might only need your screen name and "Frank" and from there discover his true identity. However, a PI that holds to scientific standards would be unable to say that Frank doesn't exist, even if he can't find any evidence of him. However, the probability of his existence might be reduced somewhat. A hundred PI's all given the same task and all coming up negative might further reduce the probability. But science can't prove a negative hypothesis and it always deals with probabilities, not absolute truths. My point with the Zeus example is that there is no such scientific experiment, and there probably never will be.

There are just areas that reach outside of science.

And there's where we agree. That's what I mean by "incompatible," though I might phrase it more like: There are areas outside the scope of science. Those areas can't have the scientific method applied to them because the two just aren't compatible. When a hypothesis begs the question or definitions are too loose or too broad to make concrete categorizations--to identify just a few such instances--science is helpless to provide assistance.

So I don't mean a scientist can't be religious, or that you can't do a scientific study of how religious views have changed in the last fifty years. I mean that in most ways, science can't be used to verify or disprove many aspects of the world's religions. It's just not compatible, not up to that job. The two are mostly incompatible.

Full disclosure: I'm not a scientist, but I enjoy science. I'm not religious either though, not having been raised with it. Though I did grow up in a diverse neighborhood with several religions represented. By the time I was old enough to be asked "What religion are you?" I realized I didn't have an answer and couldn't find a method of picking one that didn't feel any less arbitrary than throwing darts at a list while blindfolded. I still have not selected one and likely never will.

Comment: Re: illogical captain (Score 1) 937

by Nonsanity (#47906177) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk
Testing an assumption is one thing. Taking it as absolute truth and skipping that testing is another. Science is all about the testing of assumptions, but not for their use as fact, untested. Of course, in most religions, such assumptions are self evident. But science is just a process, it has no self and so it cannot treat assumptions the same way. It can test or ignore--and so it must ignore most of religion. Science isn't against religion, it just can't support it. How that affects a person's opinion is up to them.

Comment: Re: illogical captain (Score 1) 937

by Nonsanity (#47906129) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk
It's not the individual facts where science and religion disagree that makes them incompatible--though I think, depending on the religion, there are far more such points than a mere fraction of a percent. It is the many assumptions that are accepted in most religions that are the problem. A crude example would be the angels-dancing-on-a-pin religious question that some well-meaning people tried to apply the scientific method to once upon a time. Unfortunately, there are at least two assumptions that must be made before that question can be looked at scientifically: the existence of pins and the existence of angels. (There are many more, such as the motivation for divine pin dancing in the first place, but this is just a crude example anyway.) One can devise an experiment to demonstrate acceptable pin-ness of a given object, but there we have to stop. One cannot build science on unsupported (by science) assumptions. This sort of thing happens at every level of religion. That is why science tends to be incompatible with most of them. At the most basic level, there should be an experiment such that if I do X and Zeus exists, then A should happen, and if Zeus does not exist, then B should happen. And that experiment should have consistent results when repeated and get repeated often with its methodology examined and challenged and refined. Thus the probability (but not absolute) truth is approached. But for so many aspects of religion, such testing (which is what science is all about) can't be done. Science can't disprove many aspects of most religions and that is why it's incompatible. The devil is in the assumptions, you might say.

Comment: Re: illogical captain (Score 3, Insightful) 937

by Nonsanity (#47900949) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk
We shouldn't allow the original poster's errors to propagate this deep into the responses. Starting with an assumption is not an action that is compatible with science. Science is (just) a method of evaluating the probability of truth. That's a very powerful thing when done correctly, but it is not a source of ethics (though it can help with some ethics questions), nor is it a source of meaning (which is nothing if not subjective). To assume there is meaning to be found is already making more assumptions than science can work with. Science is not an ideology that can replace religion. Atheism is an ideology that replaces religion. The only link between science and atheism is that science is not compatible with religion. Science must start with the null hypothesis and religion cannot back up that far. If it did, it would be atheism.

Comment: Re: Whatever happened to scientific discussions th (Score 1) 770

by Nonsanity (#47856455) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation
In a perfect world, I would verifyâ"through experimentationâ"all facts I am required to base my actions on in order to verify their accuracy and be sure I'm making the best decisions possible. I don't have that kind of time, of course. Someone else may have the time and inclination to do what cannot, and the results of their experimentation can also inform me. However this introduces their biases and mistakes into the equation. To rectify this, I find as many people as I can that have performed the same tests and combine their results. This marginalizes the errors and presents a better representation of reality than a single external source could provide meâ"or even my own all-the-time-in-the-world self testing results, which also wouldn't be without bias or error. It's not the authority or opinion of each expert (defined as the people that have actually done the experimentation) that provides the benefit here as it is the aggrigate of the results those experts share with us. The more sources that are collected, the more experiments repeated, the more methodologies used, the more accurate the aggrigate consensus is. But don't confuse fact with opinionâ"if you can't tell them apart, you aren't using rigorous thought. And to confuse the content (knowledge) with the containers (the experimenters) is a sure way to make avoidable mistakes. I don't want a "consensus of opinion." Reality is not up for vote. It is the aggrigate of acquired knowledgeâ"a consensus of factsâ"that is needed to make informed decisions in a complicated world.

Comment: Not The Only Developer (Score 2, Informative) 264

by Nonsanity (#26491231) Attached to: Wireless Internet Access Uses Visible Light, Not Radio Waves
There's a bigger team at Boston University that's been working on this technology.

I particularly like their plans for use in cars. I can imagine combining this with nano piezoelectric technology to create roadways that use passing car vibrations to power illuminated markings that can also transmit road condition information to passing cars or link their light-based inter-car networks around corners and over hills.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades that decode and display ambient porn...

"Life sucks, but it's better than the alternative." -- Peter da Silva

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