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← Para-naturalistic theories cannot lead to practical engineering

Aguazul's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Aguazul

I know you are fighting specifically against creationist claims, but I don't think you can extend this to the more general point of nothing "supernatural" (I suppose you mean "outside of scientifically-accepted reality") having practical applications. (If you intend "supernatural" to mean "outside of nature", where nature includes everything, then you are really using "supernatural" to mean "impossible" which makes your arguments circular, so I will assume that is not the case.)

In many cases there were practical applications of real-world phenomena long before science could adequately explain them -- a lot of engineering works on 'happy coincidences' and rules of thumb, and if it works reliably enough then the job is done, whether the effects are fully explained or not. A lot of engineers have done apparently magical things, until science provided explanations. So using science's current extent to judge the validity of all phenomena doesn't make sense to me. "It works for me" will often come long before we have a scientific explanation of why, and since science limits itself to only the fragment of human experience which can be observed and measured and repeated and analysed, there are some areas that science in its current form will never adequately reach, so practical experience wins.

So that leaves open the possibility that some weird stuff out there in the world may still be valid, and as far as I can see, no amount of logical argument can deny that. You can only say that your belief that the current scientific world-view is complete is better than my belief that some weird things I've experienced are valid and useful to me despite being unexplained or even rejected by scientists. One belief against the other. But reason says that if something works reliably enough for one person, then that's all they need to fulfil their obligations as an engineer (i.e. a pragmatic person), and science will just have to catch up when it gets around to it. A lot of 'spiritual' stuff falls in this category because science still has great difficulty observing let alone measuring what people experience with their awareness, and making it repeatable is even more troublesome.

This doesn't mean that it is necessary to abandon all the fundamentals of science, just that you need to adapt them: Every human perception is valid point of data and needs explaining even if reason doubts its validity, i.e. perception trumps theory always. There is fundamental reality, which no-one can perceive directly although we try, then there is human perception which is a subconscious combination of human assumptions and fundamental reality, and then on top of that we build our reasoned theories and understanding. Human perception whilst imperfect is the closest we can hope to get to reality -- and understanding the nature of the measuring instrument (the human) is half the battle of making good use of it. Theory is two steps away from reality, muddled by both our subconscious filtering of reality and our theorising based on incomplete data. Theory must always give way to new data, in the form of new perceptions. Forget repeatability because the world doesn't always work that way, each perception is a data point and you have to work with that. Statistics and other numerical methods are also mostly unusable. However, this is enough to make good progress in lots of areas where science traditionally finds itself unable to work. Maybe the progress wouldn't be accepted by others who haven't had the same perceptions or who don't accept the perceptions that you've had, but there is nothing that can be done about that until science finds a way to record the detailed thoughts and perceptions of a human through waking and dreaming and everything in between. This is a pragmatist's approach.

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 19:39:47 UTC | #950179