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Does atheists' commitment to science require faith?





Bikerman
mmganga wrote:


Here is how the argument goes:

1. Many atheists believe that beliefs require evidence
2. They also believe that there is no evidence for God
3. Hence they don't believe in God
4. But there is no evidence that beliefs require evidence
5. So do atheists believe that "beliefs require evidence" on faith?

This is a bit mixed-up. Firstly it needs to be said that you are trying to generalise about a group of people who are not easy, maybe even not possible, to generalise about. SOME atheists have a committment to empiricism, some do not.
If we let that slide, then the next problem is that the words are confusing. Clearly I know that some people have beliefs that they have no evidence for - so I know that beliefs do not require evidence. If we amend that to
1. Many atheists consider that belief without evidence is undesirable
then we get closer. But even then - many atheists might say that there is nothing wrong with such belief. The other problem is that your 'problem' has now vanished, since 4 and 5 are now redundant.....
Sad
Bluedoll
This is a logical question. It is cystal clear and makes perfect sense. I am very interested in reading the comments on this one, if anyone would care to answer it. Since I have read many times before in the forum, that belief does require evidence, I think it is very suitable to this forum. It is a fair question, quiet logical and direct.
Ankhanu
Bikerman already touched on the pitfalls of generalizing about atheists, so I'm not going to touch on that. I will mention, however, that while it appears that you are saying that most atheists not only reject the idea that gods exist, based on current knowledge, but actually deny the existence of gods, this is not necessarily the case. The majority of atheists I've encountered, heard or read are, in fact, agnostic on the subject.

On to the question at hand, stepping past the assumptions that were made Wink
For those who are scientifically literate (and yeah, many adherents of science aren't necessarily scientifically literate), no, there isn't faith, in traditional senses of how the word is used. Science, by its very nature, is demonstrable. It does not require faith, it can be checked up on, answers can be found. This is the very opposite of faith, which requires acceptance despite a lack of demonstration, despite actual answers.

For the scientifically illiterate, it may require something resembling faith to accept the statements and findings from science. This is not a failing of the system of science, so much as general ignorance within the observer… but, if the observer were to educate themselves, they could, if desired, do the fact checking to remove the faith element. So, while faith may be applied to acceptance of scientific findings, it is not required, and is actually discouraged.

Another aspect of science that kicks the idea of faith in science in the gonads is that science is willing to, in fact must, prune out statements/ideas/hypotheses/theories that fail, even if they were once held in esteem. Evidence is the ultimate arbiter… this is not faith.

Here's a little vid that dips into the idea of science, dogma, evidence and faith that I encountered the other day that might be useful here:
Indi
mmganga wrote:
Here is how the argument goes:

1. Many atheists believe that beliefs require evidence
2. They also believe that there is no evidence for God
3. Hence they don't believe in God
4. But there is no evidence that beliefs require evidence
5. So do atheists believe that "beliefs require evidence" on faith?

As for analyzing that argument:
  1. Premiss 1 might be true, but if it's true, it's true only by coincidence. Atheists do not have to believe that beliefs require evidence. This is an example of the "cum hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy - aka "correlation does not imply causation".
  2. Premiss 2 might also be true, but again, only by coincidence. Atheists may believe there is evidence for God... and simply choose to ignore it (the same way most theists choose to ignore evidence to the contrary). Or, they may have no idea whether there is any evidence at all. This is probably another "cum hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy.
  3. If premisses 1 and 2 were valid, this would be a valid subconclusion, but premisses 1 and 2 are not valid. Nevertheless this subconclusion is correct... because it is a tautology. Atheists are defined as "people who don't believe in God"... hence atheists don't believe in God. Everything before this is therefore irrelevant (even if it were correct).
  4. There's at least 3 fallacies in this line. It is, all told, complete gibberish. i think the intention was to say that "beliefs do not require evidence", which is obvious, and pointless. Beliefs require evidence, reasoning or faith - no one doubts that, so stating it is pointless... except its supposed to be the crux of the argument. Makes no sense.
  5. Assuming everything above is meaningful and valid, the conclusion would be that atheists have faith that beliefs require evidence. Of course, the rest of the argument is fallacies, gibberish and pointless statements. The conclusion itself is silly: no one needs to hold the belief that "beliefs require evidence" by faith. They can hold that belief as a tautology (as in the case of methodological naturalism), or they can hold by reasoning, or by a combination of evidence, induction and probability.
Marcuzzo
IMO, beliefs don't require evidence, because if there was evidence, it wouldn't be called belief but it would be concidered as knowledge.
wikipedia wrote:
Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing.

personally I don't believe in "god", the one we know of the bible or as told by our parents and teachers, because the story is witten by man, and most of the times in awful periods to bring some kind of hope to people in times of despair and in some cases even to repress.
I do believe that there is something out there greater then man, after all the universe didn't create itself.
I just hate the fact that a lot of people died over it in the history of mankind and it will not be different in the future.
Dialogist
mmganga wrote:


Here is how the argument goes:

1. Many atheists believe that beliefs require evidence


Apparently this belief about beliefs doesn't though. To make it worse, there's no evidence available to show for a belief, so their belief that beliefs require evidence also has no evidence. Which is called faith.
deanhills
I thought I should let you all know that I am mmganga. I opened a second account to see whether the posts would be treated differently if I posted under a different name. What particularly did it was Indi's rants about trolls, and the portion about trolls who ask questions just to make points and are wasting the time of people who post in this Forum. I also have never been comfortable being referred to as a bigot. Also a liar and many of those names that seem to come easy to some of the people who post in this Forum. By the way, that is hate speech to me. And most certainly not dignified constructive debate.

Having a second account is of course against the TOS. Bondings has forgiven me ... just, but I thought that it is time for me to let go of Frihost. And particularly of the Phil&Rel Forum. So this is my last post.

There are people who regularly post in this Forum that I will remember fondly. You know who you are and I want to thank you for indulging my many questions. With the greatest of patience. There is some sadness saying goodbye particularly since Frihost has become a home to me. But Bondings said in his 6-year thread that he is going to find some new posters, so hope you will find posters among those who are more worthy of posting in this Forum.

Cheers.
LittleBlackKitten
Dean....I'm sorry to see you go. I have found much wisdom and knowledge from you. It is a shame to see such a brilliant mind leave us.

You people should be disgusted and ashamed of yourselves. Look at what you and your opinions and hate has done; you've driven someone to feel like they haven't the right to be here. I am ashamed to call you all comrades. Chris, you especially disappoint me. You are now one the smartest people I know, and for a time, I admired your knowledge, but you have not wisdom. NONE of you have wisdom. That is the curse of knowledge.

You people should be ashamed to drive away someone as gentle and wise as Deanhills.
Bikerman
I didn't drive anyone away. If Dean wants to leave then that is his choice. It was us - the moderators - who detected the second account, but we didn't make a big deal out of it. I contacted Dean via private message, and asked if there was a reason for the breach of TOS. Dean said no and asked that I close the account. (I had to ask Bondings to do that, since I don't have the power to do so generally, and Bondings did so). At no time were any threats made, and at no time did I say anything vaguely officious or even particularly judgemental to Dean. I simply asked that he not repeat the offence, and said that the matter was closed. I did not release this information to other posters because I do not discuss any such decisions publicly, as a matter of policy, and because, despite any differences that we have had, I would not abuse my position as moderator to embarrass Dean. The staff, including me, considered the matter closed - as I told Dean at the time.

I'm sorry you feel that I have something to be ashamed of, but I really don't agree, and my conscience is clear. The fact that Dean has provoked some rather frank postings in the p&r section is not something for which I feel responsible and not something which I believe is actually a problem. (I have always maintained the position that the p&r forum is for critical discussion of views, and my position on that has not changed. Dean knew this and it was his decision to post in this forum. If he feels victimised then all I can say is that he was no more victimised than anyone else posting here - despite what he might believe).

Dean has given you his version of events. It is not one I agree with - in fact I think it is pretty partial and misleading - but I'm going to let you decide for yourselves how true it is based on the evidence, rather than refute it here point by point, since I have no wish to get into a length post-mortem trashing, and this matter spans my role as poster and my role as moderator - something I do not wish to confuse or conflate.

I will say, as moderator, that I do not believe that anyone in this forum has any reason to be ashamed or apologetic over Dean's decision.
I decided to leave Indi's reply to Dean unmoderated - after some considerable thought on the matter - on the grounds that I believe it was true and that the allegations of lying were actually substantiated by the facts - and those facts are still available here for anyone to check for themselves. One might argue about whether 'liar' is appropriate language, but I think that, where the charge is supported, it should be left standing. Nor is this biased since I have adopted the same policy regardless of whether the poster is a theist or atheist. Indeed I have been called a liar, and worse, on these forums on more than one occasion and have not flinched or removed/altered the posting as a result.

I have explained my own actions as moderator, and my postings as a normal forum member are still here, unmodified, for anyone to read. There is nothing that I feel the need to apologise for and, in fact, nothing I would substantially change.
Indi
Interesting. ^_^; So i'm accused of picking on specific people just because of who they are or their beliefs (or whatever), and to attempt to show that's the case, the same old garbage is posted under a new face. The goal, i presume, is to see whether i'm as tough on the same old garbage when it is posted under a new face as i am when it's posted by the usual suspects.

The result: not knowing that it's the same old people, i treat the garbage the same way as always; picking it apart philosophically point-by-point, and calling the particularly bad parts "silly", "fallacious", "gibberish" and "pointless" whenever appropriate. So much for the theory that i only pick on certain people because i don't like them. ^_^;

i'd like to believe this will put to rest those dishonest and irritating repeated claims that i have some kind of personal vendetta against specific people - or Christians in general, or whatever - now that it's clear that i respond to the arguments, not the person. But, somehow, i doubt that will be the case.

(Incidentally, i fully expected to be called out for getting personal with "liar", but i have just about had enough of finding out that i'm being trash-talked in random threads that i had no involvement in - and even worse, with blatant lies. i have had enough of the harassment (this not even being close to the first time i'd been slandered in threads i had no part in), but if the moderators won't do anything to stop it, i'll stop it the only way i know how: by lifting the fog of lies and showing what's really going on.)
IceCreamTruck
I finally have something to contribute concerning the OP, and that is to consider the pilot that has to learn to have faith in his instruments to get past many of the pitfalls that can kill a pilot when the going gets rough. It's not always possible to know all the evidence and keep it all in mind when theorizing in science but we all have to learn to have faith in our instruments in order to perceive the evidence in front of us well.

Simply: Yes, a scientist has to have faith in his measurements and experiments... without it I suppose it would lead to a scientists version of writer's block, depression, and self-doubt. Not much gets done unless you have a little faith especially faith in yourself.

PS. In hindsight of reading my post I would say a good scientist is also quick to notice when their faith is misplaced, just as a pilot has to notice his compass goes a little crazy around the north pole and in some mountain ranges or he could run out of gas! A scientist could miss the mark -- and worse, risk failing peer review -- if faith in instruments is misplaced.
Indi
IceCreamTruck wrote:
I finally have something to contribute concerning the OP, and that is to consider the pilot that has to learn to have faith in his instruments to get past many of the pitfalls that can kill a pilot when the going gets rough.

Nonsense. i'm a trained pilot, and i don't need to have "faith" in my instruments. As part of my training i learn exactly how they all work, from pitot tube to needle. i also learn how to double check them by using the information from other instruments to confirm a reading from one instrument (or, should that instrument fail, how to do without it). And, i learn that if my instruments disagree with my eyes, that i should use my training and expertise to determine which of the two are most likely correct, and, if it turns out that my eyes are more likely to be right than the instruments, i disregard the instruments altogether.

None of that involves faith. i trust the instruments when the evidence indicates they're trustworthy, but when i get evidence that they're something wrong with them, i drop them like old cheese and use other information. To determine whether or not to trust my instruments, i apply complicated reasoning, using all evidence available - often taking probabilities into account - and then decide whether to trust them... or ignore them.

IceCreamTruck wrote:
It's not always possible to know all the evidence and keep it all in mind when theorizing in science but we all have to learn to have faith in our instruments in order to perceive the evidence in front of us well.

Simply: Yes, a scientist has to have faith in his measurements and experiments... without it I suppose it would lead to a scientists version of writer's block, depression, and self-doubt. Not much gets done unless you have a little faith especially faith in yourself.

PS. In hindsight of reading my post I would say a good scientist is also quick to notice when their faith is misplaced, just as a pilot has to notice his compass goes a little crazy around the north pole and in some mountain ranges or he could run out of gas! A scientist could miss the mark -- and worse, risk failing peer review -- if faith in instruments is misplaced.

Scientists do not have "faith" in their measurements and experiments - quite the opposite. Scientists work damn hard to minimize the possibility that their measurements are in error, or that their experiments are misleading. Damn hard. They have to understand how every single piece of equipment functions and the possible unwanted influences and effects that equipment may have on their results. (A recent, revealing example of how important this is is from an experiment to "prove" that electromagnetic fields (such as from power lines and cell phones) affect human biology. The scientists doing the experiment failed to consider that the electromagnetic interference from their test device would affect the measuring equipment... not the test subject... and published a result that got them shamed and lambasted by their peers for their stupidity.)

It's obviously not possible to be metaphysically certain that you've accounted for all variables... which is why scientists are not. Scientists work very, very hard to ensure that there are no mistakes and STILL don't have faith in their results... they still insist that their results be replicated, their methods critiqued, and their conclusions questioned. Calling science an act of faith is absurd, because science is literally the polar opposite of faith; that's how it was designed. Smart people said, "If we can't trust things we believe by faith, then how do we go about forming beliefs we can trust?" and the result (over time) was modern science.

There is a massive difference between simply assuming something is working properly... and having "faith" that it is working properly. To assume something is working properly, you simply need a few pieces of evidence - the likelihood of device failure, the history of the device since it was last checked, a quick observation of the device to ensure that it's giving expected results - and if those things all measure up, then the rational conclusion is that the device is probably working. That's not faith. Faith is believing that the device is working WITHOUT CHECKING IT... and no good scientist - and no pilot - is that stupid and careless.

In fact, you don't need to have faith in science at all; you don't need to trust a single experimental result or a single theoretical model. If you doubt it, check it. Everything in science is open for you to check if you doubt that it's correct. Granted, it's not easy to check it - it can require years and years of study and millions and millions of dollars in research - but it can be tested; hard does not equal impossible. The neat thing, though, is that you don't have to test it yourself (unless you want to), because by the time something gets called "science", it's already been so rigorously and repeatedly tested, by so many hundreds or even thousands of people (and sometimes much, much more than that!) that the chance of it being wrong is so remotely small that it can be rationally dismissed (in fact, by the time it's called "science", the chance of it being wrong is so remotely small that it is actually irrational to assume it). No faith required, just check the evidence, think for a bit and consider the probabilities.

IceCreamTruck wrote:
PS. In hindsight of reading my post I would say a good scientist is also quick to notice when their faith is misplaced, just as a pilot has to notice his compass goes a little crazy around the north pole and in some mountain ranges or he could run out of gas! A scientist could miss the mark -- and worse, risk failing peer review -- if faith in instruments is misplaced.

See, what you're doing here is copping out. You realize that it's foolish to say that scientists and pilots have faith in their instruments, so you're backpedalling by saying "oh, but they check to see if their faith is not misplaced". But that's a cheap trick, because what you're actually saying is not:
"Scientists have faith in their instruments, but check to see if that faith might be misplaced."
But rather:
"Scientists check their instruments, which gives them the evidence they need to believe they are working... no faith required."

Not every belief is held by faith. Most beliefs are actually not held by faith. Most beliefs are held because the evidence suggests they are true, or because some kind of reasoning was applied to suggest they are true. This is the case for the instruments of both pilots and scientists: neither believe their instruments work by faith; they believe they work because they've studied them, they've tested them, and with all evidence considered the probability of them being false is so small it can be rationally shrugged off... thus, they believe their instruments work, by a combination of reason and evidence, not faith.

In fact, to illustrate how ridiculous it is to claim that pilots (or scientists) believe their instruments by faith, consider this: would you consider a person a good pilot if they took off without checking their instruments? ie, if they actually had faith in their instruments? Of course not. A pilot who didn't check their instruments to make sure they were working properly would be charged with negligence.
IceCreamTruck
Indi wrote:
To determine whether or not to trust my instruments, i apply complicated reasoning, using all evidence available - often taking probabilities into account - and then decide whether to trust them... or ignore them.


Indi, we're talking about the same thing except you think my personal definition of faith is "unreasonable belief" for some reason, but my definition of faith is "reasonable belief without complete evidence". Watch...

Indi wrote:
To determine whether or not to [have faith in] my instruments, i apply complicated reasoning, using all evidence available - often taking probabilities into account - and then decide whether to [have faith in] them... or ignore them.


I just replaced the word "trust" that you used with the words "have faith in" and your statement still makes perfect sense, which just means I'm treading lightly trying to describe something I believe you have completely missed, so touch lightly as we both agree science is not defined by faith but evidence. Unreasonable faith is more like insanity in my mind, and it only rarely helps scientists to be insane.

Let me go again to see if you can grasp where I believe scientists DO have faith: A scientist sets up an experiment, sometimes hundreds, thousands, and hopefully not millions of variables. Since we experiment usually only with things we don't know, then a measure of faith is what changes your mind to accept that the world behaves according to rules that are not currently in our perception, however small it may be I believe this is faith, and it's often overshadowed by the evidence that the world behaves according to a set of rules outside our perception which also changes minds, but without the faith that there is more to know many extremely demanding and involved practices would never see more experimentation which produces more scientific evidence.

More simply at one point scientists had to have a lot of faith that the world was not flat as EVERYONE was telling them in order to perceive it is not or to begin to challenge the notion. Faith alone in what they were perceiving is not enough to conclusively prove that the world is round -- I completely agree with you, and I assume you with me, that experimentation, mathematical prof, and evidence are the only things the scientific community requires in order to assimilate such an idea. Just because faith is purposely excluded at the end of the process in order to eliminate confusion doesn't mean the reason we have that great discovery cannot be attributed to a scientist having faith in his abilities or in what he was perceiving from his instruments. Faith is what lets him see the truth, but experimentation and evidence gathering is how he'll pass peer review.

I thought about this long and hard, and now in hindsight I think I have a much better way of giving my point: Scientist have faith in themselves and their measurements when they start the process, but they purposely exclude faith, or replace with evidence, by the end of their processes.

I'm really just saying faith is a fundamental part of human existence. Scientists are not generally cold hearted jerks without emotion or feeling like most will try to convince you they are about evidence. I thought about this for a long time because my quick trigger answer was there is no faith in science, but there is a lot of faith in being a human which scientists can't avoid.

Just stop thinking my definition of faith is "unwarranted or unjustified belief" and go with my understand that faith is "warranted and justified belief most often with little evidence". Faith bridges gaps in our malliable and imperfect minds in order to support higher ideas that are not fully understood. Otherwise I believe we'd have to calculate every variable just like a computer in order to build higher ideas from the ground up. What else do you call it when you mind supports an idea without evidence which our minds do in millions of small ways?

Hell, a scientist putting on his pants in the morning is prof he has faith that he won't die before lunch otherwise there'd be much hesitation going through each and every motion of life, so a scientists life is not devoid of faith, but I agree with you they exclude their personal faith and beliefs when it comes to submitting a paper for peer review. You had faith I would read your response or even care, or you wouldn't have written it. You can assume I'll read it because of my habits on frihost, but you have no evidence that proves I wouldn't miss it completely.

Did you catch what I said would happen if you removed all faith from science? writer's block, depression, and self-doubt. I never said it would redefine the evidence that we've built on to be here except that we may not have a lot of it without faith's spark.

We're talking more in quantum measurements of faith not planetary sized faith blobs like bluedoll and dialogist! lol
IceCreamTruck
@Indi. In reading your post again, and I don't want you to take this the wrong way because it's neither a compliment nor attempt to attack, but I feel your mindset diminishes imagination and innovation, for a more practical and regimented approach that strikes me as probably being much more profitable for you or somehow wrapped up in how you've literally survived life which is perfectly fine, but not my choice.

I'm not saying you cannot innovate, but I am saying you might try wringing few more liters of creative juices out of yourself before dismissing ideas too quickly. I'm trying to promote imagination and innovation in myself as much as possible, but sometimes I've noticed it promoting bad habits that I then have to change, so I'm really just trying to give you the impression that playing with an imaginative nature wouldn't hurt you -- well, not too much. Smile

BTW, nothing you said was wrong or fell on def ears. You aren't perfect, but we both know you are right. I'd appreciate you imagining a place for scientists to have faith and reverse engineer how it works out. The OP can sense it's not completely excluded from the equation, and probably justifiably so, so where is it? How much is there, and when does it come into play. It took me days of attempting to come up with ANY faith in science, and all I'm left with is a little bit of faith at the beginning of the scientific process that I cannot absolutely deny.
Bikerman
I must side with Indi on this one
Why would faith be a good thing in science (even a tiny little bit) ? Answer - it wouldn't.
The whole point of science is to find 'the' answer, not to find 4 and let people pick one. To the extent that faith is needed in any theory, that theory is not completely coherent. Now this is not the same as understanding that the theory is almost certainly wrong - we understand that - it is a given, since ALL theory is wrong to some extent (the map is not the territory). That is a different type of thing - not faith, but the acceptance and understanding of the need for measures of probability, the need to quantify and specify error ranges, the need to remain on guard against pushing any model beyond the useful and into the misleading....etc.
IceCreamTruck
Bikerman wrote:
I must side with Indi on this one
Why would faith be a good thing in science (even a tiny little bit) ? Answer - it wouldn't.
The whole point of science is to find 'the' answer, not to find 4 and let people pick one. To the extent that faith is needed in any theory, that theory is not completely coherent. Now this is not the same as understanding that the theory is almost certainly wrong - we understand that - it is a given, since ALL theory is wrong to some extent (the map is not the territory). That is a different type of thing - not faith, but the acceptance and understanding of the need for measures of probability, the need to quantify and specify error ranges, the need to remain on guard against pushing any model beyond the useful and into the misleading....etc.


Fair enough, but I still think faith in one's self is what successful scientist have, and some faith that the universe will respond to their probing is undeniable and an acceptable response to the OP, but I completely agree with you that it is universally agreed that science bows only to the tyranny of evidence as it is crucial to unifying our perception which can be easily fooled.

You both are, however, absolutely correct.
Bikerman
Oh there is the 'fundamental' article of faith, yes. That being that the universe IS knowable. There is no a priori reason why it should be, but it might be, and the scientist assumes (has faith) that it will be.

The whole problem with this faith/uncertainty thing is that it is very mistakenly based. (Not you, just generally). It is assumed that uncertainty is danger and danger is 'spice' so therefore certainty is boring. This is often put about by arty-types who really believe it in some cases. It is poppycock. They say it because they are aware of their deep ignorance about the universe and wish to believe that their artistic view is not only compensation, but actually better than the 'cold logic' of science. As Feynman told HIS artist friend who spouted this - 'I think you are nuts'.
An artist sees what I see. They may have more training in aesthetics, but that is quantitative, not qualitative. I see what the artist (in most cases) has absolutely no clue about - symmetries, mathematical and physical interplays, shared characteristics with things the artist could never believe are related - through number or pattern. In short, he thinks he sees more than me, but he is so wrong it is funny.....

Anyone who has no grasp of maths and science is mostly blind to the universe. It is sad to say that and I have no wish to sound either nasty or pompous (my maths is only 'fair'). It is true though, and they cannot face that, so we get nonsense about certainty being boring and their artistic 'license' being much more interesting - in exactly the same way that people want to believe the cruelty of becoming blind has compensations, and tell stories about how blind people have 'super sensitive' hearing to compensate. Wrong in both cases.

It is also completely misguided. The idea that certainty means predictability is untrue (yes, I know what I said and I mean it).
All chaotic systems are known to a level of certainty close to 1 - ie we can model them mathematically and in many cases pretty exactly.

The classic example is the difference equation, used by biologists to give a quick approximation of population fluctuation. Take a population - P - This years population P(t) is last years population P(t -1) multiplied by the fecundity of the species (R) and limited by available resources. Biologists write it as a simple recursive term:

P(t) = P(t-1) * R * (1-P(t-1))
(P is expressed as a fractional number with 1 being completely populated to the limit, and 0 being extinction and obviously the answer for each year is then fed-back as the last years population and you just keep running it - eventually, of course, it will settle down on one value....or will it..?)

This equation is as 'certain' as one could wish for - no surprises, you know exactly what will come out - hell, it isn't even a polynomial or anything vaguely complex. That's what the biologists and the mathematicians said, anyway.....wrong! That little beauty is studied by mathematicians who would once have regarded it as less than trivial. Set R up around 3.5 or so and it gets interesting. Once it gets beyond 3.7 then it is chaotic.

It was the second chaotic relationship I came across. The first was such an eye opener it still moves me.

Take a triangle of any proportion/size. Plot a point anywhere inside. Now repeat the following as many times as you can:
Repeat
a) Choose one of the vertices at random.
b) Move halfway from where you are, to the vertex, and plot the next point.
Until bored

What do you get ? A filled triangle eventually...yes?...I was given this as a 1st year computing student, so I modelled it on a BBC computer and was staggered.

What you get is below..the Sierpinski Triangle - a fractal.



The triangles repeat to infinity - every zoom gives the same triangles surrounded by 3 triangles....forever.

Tell me about boring and predictable, Mr artist, please do..... Smile
IceCreamTruck
Bikerman wrote:
he thinks he sees more than me


Please never think this of any of my statements... I have to keep reading your statements though! Smile

I have always found fibernachi numbers and holograms to be extremely interesting, and amazingly beautiful. I didn't take the time at the moment to play with your equation as you suggested, so thanks for coming back around and explaining significant limitations. You had a really good way of bringing that down to earth.
Bikerman
Oh I didn't mean it to apply to anyone here - but it could possibly apply to a small number who are sometimes here (and one who has left).
It's not meant as a criticism or a negative swipe. It IS negative, though, and about as bad as it gets. It basically says that they will miss most of life's beauty, wonder, spectacle etc. I don't wish that on anyone, but it isn't me that sets the rules, and it is clear to me, absolutely clear, that the universe is constructed in the language of maths, so if one has no grasp of maths then one is essentially blind
Ankhanu
Brought to mind this awesome XKCD comic:
Indi
Frankly, i've always been a little baffled by the idea that demanding more information about the universe "diminishes imagination and innovation". The only thing about the sceptical approach that is "practical and regimented" is the approach itself... not the resulting knowledge, not the zeal to learn more and certainly not the joie de vivre that people who love science feel when digging into it.

i've always used the stars as an example of how much more magical science is than faith. For centuries, whenever people held a belief about the stars, they held a faith-based belief, usually involving some kind of supernatural beings moving around up there, or sometimes that the black is just some kind of blanket between us and Heaven and the stars are pinholes in the blanket. Ho hum. On the one hand, you've got essentially a soap opera between anthropomorphic deities up there, on the other you've got the somewhat neat idea of another world but not in a particularly imaginative way because it's only a short way away and if we could launch ourselves upward hard enough we could puncture the blanket and get there. Oh, yay, that's so imaginative and enthralling. Yawn.

Then came the so-called cold, rigid, anti-imagination march of science, which "took all the magic" and wonder out of the stars, and left us with...

Giant spheres of fire so large that even the smallest can swallow the entire Earth a million times over... so hot that they burn even the constituent atoms that make up the material universe itself apart. Their surfaces are teeming seas of fiery plasma that occasionally burst forth with such tremendous energy that they can be seen a thousand light years away. They're so far apart that if we were to try to travel to even the nearest at conventional terrestrial speeds, it would take us ten times as long as the human race has existed. They're so far away from us that the time taken for their light to reach us can take anywhere from a couple years to billions of years, so when you look up at the night sky, you are looking at a dynamic map of the history of the universe. And there are so many stars out there, beyond the paltry few thousand you can see, that if you held up a needle at arms length, and looked through the eye at an apparently empty part of the night sky, you would see a rainbow spectrum of coloured blotches, each of which is a galaxy, meaning that if you were to count the stars even in that tiny little pinprick of the night sky at a rate of one per second... you would need thousands and thousands of years.

Yeah, science sure does take the magic out of life, doesn't it?</sarcasm>

But you know what the most incredible part of it all is... all that wicked awesome stuff i just described... IT'S REAL. You can see it if you want. You don't have to take my word for it, you don't have to believe any of it on faith. No, you can see this amazing wonderful stuff, because we have the evidence for it all. Don't believe me? Think i'm making all this up? Okay, fine. Look... see:


i. do. not. understand.... how something being real and demonstrable makes it less awe-inspiring than a flight of fancy that doesn't really exist. i find that idea completely ridiculous. How does showing you the image above take away the magic of the night sky? Knowing now that even in the blackness between the stars there are coloured dancing lights so vast and so distant that any human scales pale in describing them... how does that make the night sky less interesting? How have i made the night sky less wonderful and beautiful for you by telling you this?

Here's how i look at it philosophically. No mind can possibly conceive of all of the universe. If it could, it would need to be the size of the universe - at least; that's just to hold all the raw data, with no indexing and no consciousness to comprehend it. Thus, no matter how amazing a fantasy we can conceive of - and frankly, most fantasies i've seen dreamt up aren't really all that impressive - it will always, always pale in comparison to the truth... to the real universe out there. So why accept a cheap substitute for wonder when the real McCoy is right there if we just put a little effort into peeking into it?

And more! Because the real universe has not only the virtues of being both more wonderful and more vast than anything our puny little minds can conceive... it has the virtue of being true. And not just true, demonstrably true, as in, you can actually see it for yourself. To turn your back on that for something as silly as faith and religion is like a person who has been given the option of having a tasty meal that may or may not be real, versus having a sumptuous feast with dishes, flavours and textures beyond imagination that is actually guaranteed to be real... and choosing the first option; it's downright daffy!

And still more! Because it's not just about savouring the wonder of our big, beautiful universe, and it's not just about about being able to experience it for yourself. It's also about the fact that the more you learn about the universe, the more you can do in it. It's like an exponentially growing process: the more you learn, the more you can do, and you can apply that new capability to learn more, repeat. What faith-based belief can possibly offer that promise? "Believe the moon is cheese by faith." "Okay, now what." "Er... nothing, just... believe it." What you do with what you learn is up to you, but you can use it to make the world a better place (yes! how awesome is that! you get to experience wonder beyond the limits of your imagination... and when you're done you can help people!!!), or, you can use it to create new kinds of art that no one was capable of even imagining before, like painting with lightning.

Science is contrary to wonder and imagination?!?! Absurd.

Bikerman wrote:
Oh there is the 'fundamental' article of faith, yes. That being that the universe IS knowable. There is no a priori reason why it should be, but it might be, and the scientist assumes (has faith) that it will be.

Technically, even that doesn't require faith, and you've explained why. The scientist can simply make that assumption without presuming it must be true, and if it turns out to be wrong - for example, by science coming to a dead end - then the assumption is discarded. All of science, then, becomes one big, giant, honkin' experiment to test whether the universe itself is ultimately knowable, with scientists withholding belief on the answer until the results are in.

The method itself - methodological naturalism - makes the philosophical assumption that the universe is knowable... but not as an article of faith. Taken as a whole, it can either be viewed as axiomatic - in which case, science will chug on until it reaches the limits of what is knowable, and then be permanently stalled - or as an assumed hypothesis (as i described above) - in which case, science will chug on until it reaches the limits of what is knowable, and then be "complete", while at the same time generating the new knowledge that there are limits to what is knowable.

As you say, the universe might be knowable, or it might not be... but so far there's no reason to assume it's not, and plenty of evidence that at least a whole bunch of it is knowable. We don't need faith for any of that reasoning; we don't need to assume it's all knowable to justify wanting to know the little bit more that we know is knowable. All we need to do is look at the evidence and realize that a lot more of it is knowable than we currently know... so... we continue the scientific search process, because... there's no reason to stop yet.

You only need to posit faith if you look at "science" as a grand plan with an end, rather than what it really is: an incremental evolution of understanding, that really has no end; a process whose goal isn't the mythical long-range goalposts of "knowing everything", but whose goal is actually as simple as just knowing a little bit more than what you know now, repeated over and over as you learn more. You only need to worry about faith that it is possible to know everything if you worry about knowing everything... rather than just worrying about knowing that little bit more that you are so tantalizingly close to knowing. No scientist really worries about knowing everything; the idea is absurd. And even the method itself doesn't really require that the end ever be reached - or even that it exists; it just promises to take you as far as it's possible to go... wherever that may be.

Basically, there are three possibilities: that there is a reachable end to knowledge, that there is an end to knowledge but it is not reachable, or that there is no end to knowledge (there is an infinite amount to learn). If you claim science requires faith in a reachable end to knowledge, you imply that science "fails" in either of the second two cases. Well? Does it? If there's no reachable end to knowledge, would you say that methodological naturalism is "wrong"? Or "pointless"? Or... what?

Me, i'd say it works just fine in all three scenarios, whether knowledge has an end or not. Which, of course, implies that faith that it does is superfluous, and pointless.
Bikerman
Nice posting - sums up a small part of the sheer wonder that science inspires (and it can only, unfortunately, be a small part because you do need to train your mind a bit (or most of us do..Smile ) before the real gobsmacking detail begins to come into focus and the (wonderful is a word I will probably have to over-use here because it is the best one I know for the job) wonderful picture that emerges. It is a little like struggling up a narrow path climbing a steep hill or small mountain and arriving at a clearing from which the world around comes into focus for moment, through the low cloud. For a moment it is transcendent - but then you realise that you are only seeing a small part of the local town and that the 'real' picture from further up is going to be even more stunning, and the slow climb up resumes Smile

PS - Yes, I agree that my 'axiom' isn't a pre-requisite for science. I would say it is a 'faith' insofar as many scientists I speak to do believe that we CAN know, but that is stretching the word 'faith' well beyond anything that is comfortable, or even safe; and many scientists have actually taken the position that some things we CANNOT know because they are fundamentally unknowable. In one sense the Copenhagenists in Quantum physics would be an example of this, and the problem of falsely assuming that it will all work out to be something obvious and 'logical' in the way that other things have, is illustrated by Einstein's life after his early glories...
IceCreamTruck
I think you're making it all up, Indi, just so you and Bikerman can be right over and over and over! Smile

It's a very elaborate rouse you've got set up here. What I haven't figured out is how you got me to come to frihost of my own free will so you could unleash the final stag of your universe scheme on me.

It won't work I tell you cause ... cause ... Jesus said so! Smile Pray Angel

PS. This project keeps amazing me: Kepler Space Telescope



Look how many dots are in the survivable zone! When can we go? Smile
Bikerman
Well. a couple of us from over at the scince forum volunteered to go on the Mission to Mars if they would move it beyond talk and actually timetable it. Neither of us is deluded and we know that 50 yr old (and 60 yr old) blokes would not be the first choice. The thing is that Alan and myself would both go regardless of getting back - we'd both go even if it was certain there would be no return trip.
We are both very science literate, in reasonable shape for our age, and would trade whatever years we had left for the chance to stand on that cold, desolate planet.

I'm expecting a letter any day now from NASA....... Smile

C.
IceCreamTruck
Bikerman wrote:
Well. a couple of us from over at the scince forum volunteered to go on the Mission to Mars if they would move it beyond talk and actually timetable it. Neither of us is deluded and we know that 50 yr old (and 60 yr old) blokes would not be the first choice. The thing is that Alan and myself would both go regardless of getting back - we'd both go even if it was certain there would be no return trip.
We are both very science literate, in reasonable shape for our age, and would trade whatever years we had left for the chance to stand on that cold, desolate planet.

I'm expecting a letter any day now from NASA....... Smile

C.


Don't hold your breath for NASA, but your commitment to the exploration of mars is appreciated. we probably don't need you to die on the voyage, however, as you would only have to spend a horribly long time in a medal tube with Alan and a video camera so we can see which one of you survives the death match! The winner gets to walk on Mars! Smile
Bikerman
No contest. Alan is far more sneaky than I am so I'd probably not make takeoff Smile

With due respect to the OP, I'm going to side track this for one more posting, to develop this little side-chat, after which I promise to be good Smile
<SIDETRACK MODE ENGAGED>

The serious point underlying this (although I was absolutely sincere in saying I would go, even if 'one-way') is the current debate on manned exploration. This is very difficult for any scientist or science-fan like me. On the one hand it seems to me that it is undeniable that most of our useful data-gathering is, and can be, done by 'remote'. We have greatly increased out knowledge of the universe without leaving earth, and there is no current imperative to change. The economic argument also seems to favour staying at home. Equipping and building craft to sustain fragile humans is much more expensive than building remote sensing craft.
On the other hand, I think we SHOULD be paying for manned exploration - even if that means sacrificing data-gathering missions for the time being....

So what is the counter-argument, why SHOULD we go? Again this presents difficulties to me, because I do not like arguments from anecdote, personal revelation or other such non-testable propositions, and yet the reasons that I see are largely in this catergory. The one technical argument I could make is that humans are FAR better problem solving machines than any of our technology. We can improvise and redefine problems in a way which our technolology (currently) cannot. I think this argument can easily be overstated, however. Most missions have clear objectives and the probabilities that any human onboard could 'heroically save the mission' seem to me to be fairly remote.

The strongest argument, I think, is the survival argument. In order to facilitate mass expansion into space we need to do 'force' the evolution. By that I mean the only way it will become routine for humans to be able to leave earth is if we spend the time and effort sorting out the bugs first - by sending people out NOW, when there are very real and quite major risks of them dying in the attempt. The counter-argument that, given time, things will be much safer - this seems disingenuous to me. Taking air-travel as analogous, the major developments in safety are driven by death. Something catastrophic goes wrong and we learn from it. And why do we need to worry about getting humanity into space en-masse? Survival.
There are frequently threads in the science sections on global threats to humanity. Most are based on nonsense or half-baked theory. One thing, however, is pretty certain - we CANNOT survive as a species, in the long term, if we cannot leave Earth. A major impact of extinction-level size is not a possibility, or even a high probability - it is a virtual certainty. I haven't run the numbers, and I may do so later if I have time, but I think that the chances of there being an extinction-level impact in the next millennium or so (which is a blink, in cosmic time) are pretty significant. Extend that timeframe and statistical significance slowly turns to inevitability.

However, I would be disingenuous to cite this as my main reason, even though it is, perhaps, the most important one. My main reason is the 'feeling' that we should experience things first hand, as a species. We are so curious, as a species, that any attempt to stiffle that curiousity strikes right at our fundamental makeup - our very DNA. We NEED to touch and handle things, get a 'feel' for things, experience them up-close and personal. Most of us never had the chance to go into space. It is one of my ambitions that I will almost certainly fail to achieve. We have achieved fantastic things by letting the 'head rule the heart' (to use a phrase that sums-up a lot about our remaining ignorance and stupidity). There is still a sense of exitement (at least from me) when a probe lands on Mars, or we get the first live images from the surface. But for many people, and for me too, truth told, it is minor compared to that experienced during the first moon landing and the first steps on the surface by a human. Somehow, it isn't quite the same........

<SIDETRACK MODE DISENGAGED AND PUT INTO STORAGE>
Indi
Bikerman wrote:
My main reason is the 'feeling' that we should experience things first hand, as a species. We are so curious, as a species, that any attempt to stiffle that curiousity strikes right at our fundamental makeup - our very DNA.

Can i take a shot?

<SIDETRACK MODE ENGAGED>

One of those questions i often get asked when i self-identify as an atheist is: "what is the meaning of life?" (Technically, the full question is "what meaning do you find in existence without positing a god?" but the full question is just taking the short version and adding unnecessarily presumed crud to it. The core question stands.)

When i'm in the mood to answer this question, i usually summarize it as: "whatever you want it to be / why do you need an external entity to give your existence meaning, rather than creating your own meaning?" i find it no less absurd that someone would expect a deity to give their existence meaning than that they would expect some random person on the street to do so; why look for meaning in something else: by an astronomical fluke of the universe, you have a mind with the ability to reason and to imagine... and what more do you need to create meaning for yourself?

And, if you're looking for a good reason for existing as a tiny little speck in a super-massive universe, what more rational purpose can you have than trying your best to grow, figuratively, to encompass as much of that universe as possible? i mean, if the bulk of the entire universe is outside of your reach, then it's effectively pointless to you, and you to it, but if you can reach out enough to effect a significant part of it, or to have it effect you, then you meant something to the universe, and it to you. What more noble goal is there than that?

What more noble goal for any being in the universe than to reach out and embrace it? Or to understand it fully, so that, maybe, we can one day accept it for what it truly is, rather than just a limited interpretation dumbed down for child-like minds? What more noble goal than that could there be, for any intelligence in the universe?

i may not get very far in my lifetime, but i will progress. And, my progress will be the launch pad for the next generation to get just a little bit closer. And so on, down through the ages, until, eventually, some child of my mind - some being, probably no longer human as we know it - who has inherited the sum of countless tiny little increment i and others offered to thought and knowledge, will finally embrace the universe, understand it, and dream a new dream for a further step that i can't even begin to imagine.

With that in mind, i find a purpose for my existence, and a duty to the future, to make sure that the knowledge, capability, thought and values that i pass on to the next generation are better - even if only by the tiniest margin - than what was passed to me. The ability to travel to another planet... and get there alive... and to found a living, human colony... and survive there... and to thrive!... what a fantastic gift that would be to give to the next generation! Even if i am ultimately only able to offer them just the smallest part of that gift - even if all i can manage to offer them is just the ability to get there and back alive - it's still a wonderful gift to give them, that they can build on, perhaps, so that while i was only able to manage to get people there and back, they will be able to get people there to live.

Oh, what a wonderful gift that would be to give the next generation! And, it is a gift that can never be taken away from them, ever, because, no matter what happens in the future, they will always be members of a species that walked on another planet.

That's why i reach for Mars; not because of utilitarian urges like increasing the odds of survival of the species, and while my curiosity and thirst for knowledge burns it's not for that either that i reach. i reach because my purpose is to reach, and while it is a purpose i have created for myself, that makes it no less noble. i chose that purpose, and i am proud of it, and i live to that purpose with relish.

i have no need for faith. i know the universe is greater than me because i can see that it is, and because reason informs me that this must be true. i know that i know more about the universe than those who came before me, because i know what they knew, and some things they did not, and i can use my reason to extrapolate that any who come after me will know come to more than i do. i know by reason that i can, through hard work, add even more to the pool of knowledge i will pass on, and thus accelerate the rate at which future generations grow intellectually. Knowing all this, i choose to help the process. Thus, my thirst for knowledge, and my drive to explore... no faith required.

If we make Mars, we have advanced as a species - now knowing and being capable of more than we were before we tried. If we fail in our attempt to make Mars, we have advanced as a species - now knowing more about what is required, learning from our mistakes... and increasing the odds of success in the next attempt. The only way we lose is by not trying. That's why i believe we must try. No faith required.
IceCreamTruck
Indi wrote:
i am proud of it, and i live to that purpose with relish.


You should try it with a little mustard on toast! It's wonderful! Smile

Indi wrote:
The only way we lose is by not trying. That's why i believe we must try. No faith required.


You mean the reality of our greatness doesn't rely on how active my imagination can be or how big I inflate my ego or self importance? You mean success isn't measured by how many blind followers I have? ... Shucks! </sarcasm>

Seriously, then you won't mind helping me build a real spaceship. I have the power, computers, overall construction, and required suicidal need to pilot such a craft, but I haven't worked out life support yet, so that's where you come in. Learn about circular life support systems and CO^2 scrubbing and we can complete some blueprints and begin construction.

By the end of my life-time I'd like to have some sort of space worthy craft parked on my driveway cause I'm getting off this rock too... eventually.

I guess I also need someone to spend a moment on google earth with the space garbage overlay that the general public was using to watch space junk almost collide with one of our last manned missions to space. This will help us get clear of the garbage debris field, past the countless man-made satellites, and may even help us with a couple NEOs. All of this takes time, and I'll probably be too ate up on construction needs to worry about a clear trajectory, so someone else will probably have to worry about not needing the ballistics-proofing required for space flight that I will install.

Basically the project can probably use all the man-power and materials that you can offer, but we're going to do the moon, mars, and start thinking about the really long journeys to anything further out which may require us to use the first spaceship to construct another spaceship more suited for prolonged travel to other galaxies. The second ship will have to provide things like gravity for the occupants as well as be a complete bio-sphere contained environment with a completely circular infrastructure.

For all the non-believers: What else are we going to do? Sit here and let you people walk all over us until we die? No thanks!
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