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now reading... - Echoes of Flavio's Ghost Dreaming
now reading...
I've just finished Lee Smolin's 'The Trouble with Physics' and I'm halfway through reading 'Parallel Words' by Michio Kaku. Now, I'm only a musician, only barely managed to pass my maths and physics exams in secondary school (and had to re-sit them a couple of times). These two can't both be right, the arguments by each on why M-theory, string theory in general &tc are either close to giving us an understanding on how the world functions or on the other hand they are just clever but meaningless intellectual games, are compelling in both cases- but for one outside those fields of knowledge it may become an act of faith, not entirely unlike a religious one, in that there is no way that one can verify any of those statements.

The same is of course true of much in the modern world around us, of the information and the news we receive, which are always inevitably biased and coloured by somebody's agenda and, much as we can read between the lines, in the end you have to make a judgment for yourself on what you believe is true, but this will also carry its own bias and the baggage of personal prejudice and personal history, which may make more likely that you take one side or another on issues or distrust politicians or journalists or believe in them (or some of them) or think there was never a moon landing or that the reptilian overlords from outer space are already with us and living in Buckingham Palace Road (whatever happened to that Icke guy?) and whichever of those will seem perfectly reasonable to us but reason will only have played a small part (in some cases a very, very small part) in them.

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scifi_mel From: scifi_mel Date: August 4th, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
The difference between theories like that and religious ones is that someone has sat down and done the maths and they're not taking it on faith.

Have you read Brian Greene's books? He explains string theory and different physics theories well so that for a minute while reading it you think maybe it does make sense, and then it all vanishes again.
flavius_m From: flavius_m Date: August 4th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're right of course about scientific v religious method

I haven't and I will, at some point, thanks:)
flavius_m From: flavius_m Date: August 5th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
... but both of those authors have sat down and done the maths and they cannot both be right....
oswaldcrowlius From: oswaldcrowlius Date: August 4th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
The belief in science in general is very similar to the religious belief : how much of what we know as scientific truth have we ever been able to verify, or even just to experience, as being the proven, unquestionable single possibility. Beyond 2 + 2 there isnt that many I can pretend to have experienced.
(Deleted comment)
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 4th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
My point is not that science is based on assumption, i see very well that the rigorous process bringing the conclusion is unforgiving of all assumptions : my point is how many of those proofs do you actually understand ? As in when you take an air plane you might eventually know what process keep the plane in the air but how much of the formulas and calculations have you actually been through to verify yourself that the assertion was true ? For most people, the answer is very little. You simply believe people who know better, because you are accustomed to the fact they are, generally, right.
What is similar to religion about it is that for most communities the clergy, which ever it is, is also the more knowledgeable and the more informed, therefore the more able to actually predict and interact with their surroundings - the separation between science and religion only happen throughout the early renaissance, and before that the priests could have argued that the existence of god was proven, refering to proofs and idioms no one would have been more able to grasp than we are nowadays able to grasp the complexity of abstracted science. That might be one of the reasons why religion remained such a strength in traditional societies where as modernity brought its decline.
oswaldcrowlius From: oswaldcrowlius Date: August 4th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
sorry, that was me !
flavius_m From: flavius_m Date: August 4th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I thought it was, I just unscreened it:)
flavius_m From: flavius_m Date: August 4th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, indeed, and you're of course right and I was just stretching the limits of literary licence, if I can say that, in comparing one method with the other.

My pont was a bit more restricted in one respect (I was thinking of the whole string theory thing, the fact that they put forward a lot of stuff that it is impossible to confirm or falsify experimentally) and more general on the other. Of course science does not lay claim to being proven or unquestionable -that is at the same time its strength -because it is open to a better explanation of whatever bit of reality just round the corner, and there always is one- and its weakness, in a way, when dealing with policy makers or the public in competition with people who have god walking on their side and whispering to them what is absolutely right.

The other point is that a layperson still has to rely on the work of all those others and take it on faith (this is, I know, not the best word to use in this context) that all the rigorous procedures, etc have been followed. And one has to, because none (or few) of us has the knowledge outside our own field to test or falsify the claims or findings of others in difficult, complex areas of science.
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