« Belief is an act of will | Main | World's largest swimming pool »



Well, he misses the fact that science (in the modern paradigm) supposes that its method can wholistically define the world - when it cannot, by rather simple contemplation.

The 'scientific method' can tell us, for example, that yonder animal is a dog. But it can tell us nothing whatsoever about what it is like to be a dog - and such state of being is part of the world, yet inaccessible to science.

Another, and perhaps more interesting subjective take is: When you contemplate your own consciousness, which of your five senses (i.e. all that is available to employ the 'scientific method') are you using?


At this point, he isn't trying to critique it; he's just trying to define it.

Your point is a really good one. We don't even have a way of knowing what it's like to be someone other than "I."

Marco McClean

I can't speak to how it feels to be a dog, but I just saw this particular TED talk, about the Large Hadron Collider http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/14706 and felt all wonderful, the way I remember feeling when I was small and my mother would take me to the Griffith Observatory. The difference, I think, between feeling all warm and runny inside because of faith and feeling the same way because someone in the world is actually working to learn real things... uh... Wait-- I /can/ speak about how it feels to be a dog. Humans and dogs have a great deal in common. We're both mammals; we're very similar in many ways. We're slightly more similar to other humans than to dogs, so it would be a surprise if it were to turn out that we feel very different from each other inside. Maybe the feelings come in different proportions and for subtly different reasons, but so what? Finding out what's real doesn't depend on feelings, except to motivate us to do the work to use the best tool at our disposal to discover what's most likely to be real and how it all works-- that tool is the scientific method. Religious faith can organize people and motivate them, but to do what? To accomplish what? One of the /Manifest/ series of books by Stephen Baxter ends with the main character (human) being recruited by immortal alien robots to make them religious, because they have a project going that will take billions of years to complete, and they think that some sort of religion is the only thing that can keep them pointed in the same direction that long. My thought, at that point in the story, was /good luck with that, robots/. Gail, in a previous bit you say that you choose to believe, make an act of will to believe, but I wonder if you ever wonder about the process of why you choose /what/ you believe. Because to me, people who believe in this or that creation myth and this or that magical historical prophet or avatar believe because that particular story /feels good/. Is that it? I mean, you've written about your church as a grand debating society, but if it's all built on really arbitrary premises that are taken on faith, then the debate seems to be the game you mentioned. Just a game. Am I following you correctly?


MC's view that 'science supposes that it can define the world' is a rather impoverished (and if I may say, all too commonly held) appraisal of scientific thought.

There may well be scientists who believe that the world can be 'defined' but that is not the true statement of science. Scientific thought seeks to help understand the world by testable methods, not to define it in our eyes. To the contrary - that is the role that religion has held for so many eons.

MC's idea that science can tell us nothing of what it is like to be a dog is a distraction. Science, and indeed religion, can tell us nothing of what it is like to be anything other than what we are, including other people. Philosophy, poetry, empathy, religion - none of these can tell us what it is like to be a dog! They can at best tell us what it is like to be a human speculating about what it's like to be a dog.

Claiming that that domain is 'inaccessible to science' is defining the world in another way - by opinion. Science never claims to understand everything, nor is there any inherent claim in science that it, or we, will understand everything at any time in the future (although some people may hold that view - I'm not one of them).

Scientific thought is just a method by which we can understand better how the world functions. What's more, we know that it works.


I agree with Anaglyph's definition of science. I think MC might have been talking about a world view that sets science up as a belief system rather than an instrument.

The comments to this entry are closed.