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A Rebuttal To Richard Dawkins' Quote. (Please Help). - Comments

glenister_m's Avatar Comment 1 by glenister_m

For starters the quote refers to "scientific truth", which involves evidence, experiment, and repeatability. It also strives for objectivity, and as such scientific truths are not subject to culture, ie. the laws of physics are not different depending on whether you are in a western or eastern culture.

Religion claims to know the "truth", but the few answers it gives do little than offer false hope to some, often contradict themselves, and do not stand up to scientific scrutiny. It's metaphysical hot air. It is only "true" because those that believe it do not hold it up for scrutiny or critical analysis.

The first time I say Elodea, an aquatic plant, under the microscope to watch cytoplasmic streaming, and realizing that countless plant cells are all doing the same amazing thing unseen and unknown to most people was far more uplifting to me than any religious truth I've ever heard.

Thu, 27 May 2010 06:32:40 UTC | #473949

spherical's Avatar Comment 2 by spherical

Science is the only thing closer to truth than any other subjective interpretations.

It may not be the real truth, but it's the only method that keep on evolving and not immune to criticism or analysis by various people. Nobody is offended if someday the speed of light is not constant, or modifiable under particular conditions.

Because science is not faith, it's the result of our observation and analysis. That's not the case with the absolute idea based on faith which is religion.

When we use science for the sake of study and discovery instead of our emotional and personal gain and gratification, that's how we could move forward to understand truth.

Thu, 27 May 2010 06:59:21 UTC | #473956

Nick LaRue's Avatar Comment 3 by Nick LaRue

It may not be the real truth, but it's the only method that keep on evolving and not immune to criticism or analysis by various people. Nobody is offended if someday the speed of light is not constant, or modifiable under particular conditions.

Just thought I would give you this information just because.

http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/1999/02.18/light.html

"I don't think science can claim truth. Truth belongs to itself. Science is the byproduct of the needs of the culture that is creating it. Science is also subject to subjectivity. In an attempt to narrow down a hypothesis of infinite possibilities the scientist has to care. Religion and science are yelling across the stadium at each other, but neither of them have put any players on the field. Just be... experience truth, no one really needs to own it or interpret it. Hell, the only people close to being able to do that are the poets."

This is a load of bullocks. Gives me the impression of one of those fluffy statements from Deepak Chopra. Scientific truth is the only truth we really know for certain based on evidence. We all know that science isn't supposed to say something is true but that's just semantics, it's true until something comes along and changes it. Normally when we speak of laws and theories, they are considered true.

Thu, 27 May 2010 08:12:15 UTC | #473973

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 4 by Carl Sai Baba

I don't know what Dawkins means when he speaks of sacrificing science for money.

Thu, 27 May 2010 08:24:28 UTC | #473977

MPS's Avatar Comment 5 by MPS

What an empty and hollow statement, entirely made of fluff. Surely some people who don't care to think about what he wrote will think 'wow, what amazing wisdom!' - but upon really reading it, you realize he said nothing at all. Sounds like he wrote that to appear incredibly smart to those unfamiliar with science.

Updated: Thu, 27 May 2010 08:35:45 UTC | #473980

epeeist's Avatar Comment 6 by epeeist

I don't think science can claim truth.

It can't, the best it can do is claim verisimilitude, an approximation to the truth if you like. Our theories may actually be true, but given that we have not made all possible observations and conducted all possible tests then we cannot claim that our theories are universal, necessary and certain. The fact that we do not claim absolute truth for our theories is one of the strengths of science, not one of its weaknesses.

Science is the byproduct of the needs of the culture that is creating it. Science is also subject to subjectivity.

Both of these are truisms, which is why the methodology behind science tries to eliminate them wherever possible.

In an attempt to narrow down a hypothesis of infinite possibilities the scientist has to care. Religion and science are yelling across the stadium at each other, but neither of them have put any players on the field.

While we can formulate an infinite number of hypotheses to explain particular observations we have heuristics to prune those that do not explain well, or are inconsistent with other observations and theories. Those that do not come up to mark we consign to the waste paper bin. Those who generate our hypotheses, test them and discard the failures are our players on the field. It is the religious who are not prepared to put their beliefs to the test who are the ones who are not prepared to step on to the field.

Thu, 27 May 2010 09:06:03 UTC | #473989

cixelsyd5's Avatar Comment 7 by cixelsyd5

Thanks everyone for your comments! Keep them coming!

Thu, 27 May 2010 09:06:48 UTC | #473990

phodopus's Avatar Comment 8 by phodopus

@RightWingAtheist

I don't know what Dawkins means when he speaks of sacrificing science for money.

Maybe the Templeton prize?

Thu, 27 May 2010 09:58:31 UTC | #474003

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 9 by Jos Gibbons

Well, try this stuff:

I don't think science can claim truth.

It is the only way to get closer to the truth than we currently are, or to have reason to think there is any truth in what we think.

Truth belongs to itself.

That's meaningless drivel.

Science is the byproduct of the needs of the culture that is creating it.

Which things science has bothered to find out so far, and which things it has invented, and how these two have fed each other (e.g. you need microscopes to discover cells) is partly a matter of history. That does not render science's conclusions empirically unwarranted. History led to what evidence we found, which is in turn what makes science what it is.

Science is also subject to subjectivity.

Each hypothesis either is or is not falsified by evidence. That is objective.

In an attempt to narrow down a hypothesis of infinite possibilities the scientist has to care.

About what? The truth? S/he does.

Religion and science are yelling across the stadium at each other, but neither of them have put any players on the field.

Science's players ae evidence, logic, reason etc.

Just be... experience truth, no one really needs to own it or interpret it. Hell, the only people close to being able to do that are the poets.

Knowledge comes from evidence and only from evidence, and "experience" in the "just be" context is evidence at its worst - anecdotes, cognitive biases, a lack of statistical controls or (in some cases) reproducibility, etc. The point of science isn't to "own" or "interpret" the truth, it's to find (part of) it. Poetry doesn't deal with truth by any reliable mechanism.

Thu, 27 May 2010 10:20:24 UTC | #474007

spherical's Avatar Comment 10 by spherical

Comment 4 by RightWingAtheist :

I don't know what Dawkins means when he speaks of sacrificing science for money.

Any kind of obsessive monetary personal gain with science as a tool.

Thu, 27 May 2010 11:11:42 UTC | #474020

phodopus's Avatar Comment 11 by phodopus

Religion and science are yelling across the stadium at each other, but neither of them have put any players on the field.

...he wrote, using his computer (cpu possible due to our knowledge of quantum systems), which he probably bought at a store to which he drove using his GPS (based on general relativity, special relativity and quantum theory), while listening to music on his car cd player (based on quantum theory). He can do all that because he and his ancestors have survived long enough to reproduce thanks to vaccines and modern science based therapies.

Just be... experience truth

Yep, we're doing it and it's called science

C'mon that just pisses me off. Team S is well into the fourth quarter, scoring point after point, while Team R is still busy denying the existence of the ball.

Thu, 27 May 2010 12:35:59 UTC | #474039

epeeist's Avatar Comment 12 by epeeist

Long ago I posted this as a comment on a Mad Bunting article in the Guardian, it might just be apposite here.

Lo, in the beginning there were two baskets, on one was written "Religion" and on the other "Naturalism". And verily, the one marked religion was filled until it overfloweth, in it were gods, the creation of the world and man, the sun, moon and five planets and their significance, the causes of diseases, the uncleanliness of woman and the travails of childbirth, While the other was barren, containing little but how to measure the seasons and when to plant crops.

But the profane pitied the plight of the "Naturalism" basket and purloined the substance of the "Religion" basket, claiming that they did not need the furnishings of religion.

And lo there came a time when all that was left in the "Religion" basket was a thin vapour. And the religious raised a cry against the profane, saying that they were shrill, bitter and uncharitable. And further the religious claimed that nothing had been taken from the "Religion" basket, that it was still there though it had changed its form from literal to metaphorical. While others of the religious claimed that there was in fact only one basket and the claim of a second basket was blasphemous, or that if a second basket did exist then it only existed inside the basket of "Religion".

And a prophetess went forth and claimed that the profane were simpletons, sneerers and secret drinkers of sparkling wine and were ungenerous for denying the succour of the "Religion" basket. But her protestations were futile and her writings treated with disdain and in despair she retreated to a nunnery.

Thu, 27 May 2010 12:53:34 UTC | #474042

Monkey Man's Avatar Comment 13 by Monkey Man

Never put any players on the field? I thought this was one of the greatest intellectual battles ever waged. It pretty much comes down to two things for me. Don't believe anything without certain evidence and don't think your logic proves anything just because it makes sense in your head. What your friend is basically advocating is "don't let hard work kill yer buzz!"

Thu, 27 May 2010 12:56:29 UTC | #474046

MPS's Avatar Comment 14 by MPS

Comment 11 by phodopus :

C'mon that just pisses me off. Team S is well into the fourth quarter, scoring point after point, while Team R is still busy denying the existence of the ball.

I laughed. :)

Thu, 27 May 2010 13:08:39 UTC | #474049

Greyman's Avatar Comment 15 by Greyman

Poets do not have any eosoteric access to Truth.  They merely make observations and artfully present them using emotive language.  Those observations may be insightful or merely fanciful; and we don't use poetry to distinguish between the two.

CIXELSYD5, your friend is mistaking beauty for truth.  While Keat's aphorism is rather poetic, it can be falsified by observing that beauty can often be deceptive, and that naked truth can be stark and ugly.

Your friend isn't even in the ballpark.

Updated: Thu, 27 May 2010 14:19:43 UTC | #474068

RDfan's Avatar Comment 16 by RDfan

Your friend can test the worthiness of the scientific theory of gravity by jumping, unaided, out of a five-story building...whilst, simultaneously, testing the truth of religion by saying a prayer for a safe landing or that of postmodernism by denying that subjective Truth even exists.

Please post the results when they`re in.

Updated: Thu, 27 May 2010 15:08:45 UTC | #474093

evidentiary's Avatar Comment 17 by evidentiary

Hmm, only read one reply...seemed to say something about metaphysics and hot air being somehow equated. Not really very enamoured about that sort of flippancy. Metaphysics, if you have read any at all, is a legitimate branch of philosophy. It places itself between philosophy and physics. Anyway I rather like the quote provided by CIXELSYD5's friend, except possibly about the poet...a little too much extension of the power of poetry? I would like to read the rest of what Prof. Dawkins had to say before commenting on a piece taken out of context, he is after all a professor and we can therefore assume to be learned. I have read his "THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH", impressive. I have some reservations about the assertion that religion cheapens science. Lets not forget that all religions extant were "assembled" before there was anything remotely called science, but let me hasten to add that a lot of it was still happening (I believe that the physics dept. at Oxford is still identified as the dept. of natural science), So it may be difficult to make an assertion that this is one of the purposes of religion. It may be an incidental consequence or an example of Prof.Dawkins enthusiasm, but not a deliberate raison detre. No doubt it is a fact that in the present era some strong followers of religion are misusing or abusing religion in many ways not intended. Including what Dawkins asserts. I would say that is the fault of those abusers rather than the religion. If people just want to practice their beliefs in peace I see nothing wrong with that. It is only people who feel threatened that develop a radical reaction to their detractors. I think that science is in a sufficiently robust position today that it can overcome some inconsequential critisism...no active examples of a Spanish type inquisition have come to light?

Thu, 27 May 2010 15:42:32 UTC | #474114

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 18 by Marcus Small

I would say that there is no truth out there to be uncovered either by scientists or anyone else for that matter. There are just good ways of finding something about the reality we live and not so good ways.

Our 'truths' are either useful fictions which should be discarded the moment they cease to be useful, or working models which need to adjustment until they can no longer work, thy need then to be replaced.

For crude examples, for the former, the gods of theism were useful fictions in their time, but that time I think is past. For the latter Galileo's Sun centered solar system replaced the ancients' earth centered cosmos, when it could no longer be adjusted.

Thu, 27 May 2010 16:06:54 UTC | #474125

tlb81's Avatar Comment 19 by tlb81

Comment 16 by RDfan :

Your friend can test the worthiness of the scientific theory of gravity by jumping, unaided, out of a five-story building...whilst, simultaneously, testing the truth of religion by saying a prayer for a safe landing or that of postmodernism by denying that subjective Truth even exists. Please post the results when they`re in.

Haha. I love it. I'm going to suggest this to a few people I know.

Updated: Thu, 27 May 2010 16:08:23 UTC | #474126

Randy Ping's Avatar Comment 20 by Randy Ping

Religion makes a lot of promisses, but it is SCIENCE that delivers.

Thu, 27 May 2010 16:08:39 UTC | #474128

jameshogg's Avatar Comment 21 by jameshogg

'Science knows it doesn't know everything, otherwise it'd stop.' - Dara O Briain

Thu, 27 May 2010 16:16:30 UTC | #474131

mgjinich's Avatar Comment 22 by mgjinich

Watch Neil Tyson's arguments during a Panel discussion with Dawkins, Druyan, Stenger, Grothe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEeBPSvcNZQ, from 6:30 to 9:05 mins.

It is brilliant!!!!!

Thu, 27 May 2010 16:21:04 UTC | #474135

DefenderOfReason!'s Avatar Comment 23 by DefenderOfReason!

The ONLY truth that exists is scientific truth. What other kind of "truth" is there?

I agree that the counter comment to Dawkins quote is complete nonsense probably from a deluded christian who has to continually blow smoke up his own ass to sustain their ridiculous superstitious beliefs!

Thu, 27 May 2010 17:37:27 UTC | #474150

epeeist's Avatar Comment 24 by epeeist

Comment 23 by DefenderOfReason! :

The ONLY truth that exists is scientific truth. What other kind of "truth" is there?

You might first start with defining what you mean by truth.

Would you say that logic is true? How about mathematics?

Would you say that the "humours" theory of disease is true? Was it true before the germ theory of disease came along? Are you utterly and absolutely certain that the germ theory of disease is true?

Thu, 27 May 2010 17:48:55 UTC | #474151

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 25 by aquilacane

I don't find scientific truth beautiful, it simply is. I think the act of discovering a truth is where the joy lies and not really the truth itself. The truth about blackholes is no more "beautiful" to me than the truth about that hot chick's bra size but the process of discovery can be very uplifting.

I would say that truth, be it scientific or otherwise, is too true to be sacrificed for the sake of light entertainment or money.

Updated: Thu, 27 May 2010 17:53:12 UTC | #474152

katt33's Avatar Comment 26 by katt33

Also, doesn't scientific data get interpreted differently by different scientists depending on what the goal of that scientist is for that study and how they approach it? Maybe he was also referring to that.

Thu, 27 May 2010 18:17:47 UTC | #474159

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 27 by Marcus Small

Comment 24 by epeeist :

epeeist, Spot on, my point, better put I think.

FG

Thu, 27 May 2010 18:31:49 UTC | #474165

epeeist's Avatar Comment 28 by epeeist

Comment 26 by katt33 :

Also, doesn't scientific data get interpreted differently by different scientists depending on what the goal of that scientist is for that study and how they approach it? Maybe he was also referring to that.

If you are trying to intimate that there is some kind of relativism in the way scientific data is handled then you are wrong. It is true that all observation is theory-laden and in "normal" science (to use the Kuhnian term) one is assuming a particular paradigm, but one still tries to avoid subjectivism. Further, the methodology of science (peer review, the need for reproducibility etc.) tends to eliminate this kind of subjectivity.

And to take it one step further, one always has the null hypothesis in scientific experiments. One is not simply trying for verification of a favoured hypothesis. It tends to be creationists, conspiracy theorists and woo merchants who follow this kind of pseudo-methodology.

Thu, 27 May 2010 21:10:43 UTC | #474197

cixelsyd5's Avatar Comment 29 by cixelsyd5

My goodness! Thank you all so much for your amazing insight and wisdom! I feel at home here with people I can come to that will help me out with my stand for science and atheism. Again, thank you all so much. I have sent a few lengthy responses to my friend. If I get anything back that stumbles me I will be sure to post it here for your advice once more.

Thu, 27 May 2010 21:24:39 UTC | #474201

ukantic's Avatar Comment 30 by ukantic

Your friend's quote is an example of what I call the, “equality of beliefs fallacy” that is used by anti-science creationists and postmodernists to undermine the perceived status of scientific theories such as evolution, by claiming they are of no more intrinsic significance than other lesser non-scientific explanations – which is obviously a load of rubbish.

Richard Dawkins has dealt with this issue plenty of times over the years. Two examples I can think of are in the books, River out of Eden, and chapter 1.2 of A Devil's Chaplain – What is True?

As he wrote in River out of Eden:

Show me a cultural relativist at thirty thousand feet and I'll show you a hypocrite. Airplanes are built according to scientific principles and they work. They stay aloft and they get you to a chosen destination. Airplanes built to tribal or mythological specifications such as the dummy planes of the Cargo cults in jungle clearings or the bees-waxed wings of Icarus don't.

All beliefs are not of equal value and claiming for example that ToE is just one theory amongst many, alongside other religious ones such as young earth creationism, is just plain silly.

Updated: Thu, 27 May 2010 21:36:11 UTC | #474202