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Old 06-08-2010, 05:39 AM   #91
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I suppose it's hard not to look at both as concurrent systems of thought, since they have, in part, the same goal to explain life, the universe, and everything. I personally have no interest in questioning religion, because I don't find it has anything to do with me. I don't need it, and it doesn't need me. However, it is obvious that there is a very deep need for religion in many human beings, and that interests me, and scares me, given the shapes it has taken in the past and is taking now, in the world we live in.

I'm sorry for not replying to everyone, there are so many great contributions that I would like to reply to, it's hard to keep up

Thank you all for making this thread so lively, I hope it will continue this way
Pleasure .....

I agree, both religion and science have been so inter-related through the ages, as methods for trying to define life, that they have perhaps fed on each other.
There is, now, however, perhaps a danger that the tenuous link, that they might have had, is being severed? as zealots of one deny the other ?
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Old 06-08-2010, 05:51 AM   #92
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Still, there is a sense in which science subscribes to a certain metaphysical outlook, and that in believing that the world makes sense at all. It didn’t really have to. The laws of physics could have been completely random and arbitrary; and perhaps in some alternate universe, they are. The universality of the laws of nature in this universe, so far as we know its nature and those laws, is a quite remarkable and under-appreciated thing in itself.
But the laws of physics are arbitrary, aren't they? Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that there will always be a point at which we have to stop and say "This is how things are, to the best of our knowledge. We don't know why, but we know it is so." I don't think there is any reason that we know of for the speed of light to be... whatever it is It could well be random and arbitrary. However, it doesn't change, in our universe. Is this what you mean?

It's hard for us to imagine that the universe could be built on a different set of arbitrary laws. We are born from a long succession of life forms that were born within this set of laws, and evolved according to it. If the dice had rolled differently at the start, we might not be here, or maybe a completely different species would be here asking the same question we are asking, or maybe... hard to say. But we are here because we have adapted to this universe we live in, to this specific set of arbitrary laws. Not because the laws were specifically meant to produce us, or have a special meaning that another set of arbitrary laws would not have.

I do hope the above makes some kind of sense... I should probably get back to work now
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Old 06-08-2010, 05:56 AM   #93
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I'm not too sure that the laws of physics are arbitrary. They seem to fit the situation that we find ourselves in - certainly not everything has been answered adequately (gravity for one), and there seems always to be room for adjustment - quantum theory smashed some of the pre-conceived ideas of the 19 and early 20thC. (even if quantum theory was perhaps hinted at by some the ancients before religion squashed it).
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:05 AM   #94
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This is a misrepresentation. I much prefer Tom's quote
Misrepresentation - in what way? if we're discussing the philosophy of science then you must try to offer a proof because just preferring a given explanation isn't any different to religious belief. And proving that something is correct is impossible, so proving that something is wrong is what science is all about
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:09 AM   #95
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Misrepresentation - in what way? if we're discussing the philosophy of science then you must try to offer a proof because just preferring a given explanation isn't any different to religious belief. And proving that something is correct is impossible, so proving that something is wrong is what science is all about

One hopes, one day, I might understand that statement, reminds little old me of sophistry .....
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:10 AM   #96
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I have to admit though, that the comparison to religion sounds a bit dubious to me, like so many attempts to "put science in its place" that are usually based on misconceptions about scientific methods. I think that questioning science is healthy, but doing it for religious reasons... well, maybe it's better not to go into that debate.
Yes, I agree with the religion bit. Barrow is a scientist not a theologian - hence him putting 'religion' in quotes, it's not a motivating factor in his arguments.

"Barrow introduced a memorable paradox, which he called "the Groucho Marx Effect".... Barrow states: "A universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind capable of understanding it.""

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Old 06-08-2010, 06:15 AM   #97
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But the laws of physics are arbitrary, aren't they? Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that there will always be a point at which we have to stop and say "This is how things are, to the best of our knowledge. We don't know why, but we know it is so." I don't think there is any reason that we know of for the speed of light to be... whatever it is It could well be random and arbitrary. However, it doesn't change, in our universe. Is this what you mean?

It's hard for us to imagine that the universe could be built on a different set of arbitrary laws. We are born from a long succession of life forms that were born within this set of laws, and evolved according to it. If the dice had rolled differently at the start, we might not be here, or maybe a completely different species would be here asking the same question we are asking, or maybe... hard to say. But we are here because we have adapted to this universe we live in, to this specific set of arbitrary laws. Not because the laws were specifically meant to produce us, or have a special meaning that another set of arbitrary laws would not have.

I do hope the above makes some kind of sense... I should probably get back to work now
Not truly arbitrary. There are those who think certain fundamental constants could possibly be different and some computer simulations that explore them, but the thing about laws of physics is that they are the same everywhere.

Evolution has likely proceeded completely differently in other parts of the universe but the process is not arbitrary, it is well defined.

I just read an essay by Loren Eiseley - Little Men and Flying Saucers. He is somewhat philosophical in his view of the universe. I posted a link to it somewhere (in the What we're reading thread? ah, here it is: http://www.american-buddha.com/little.men.htm ) I wouldn't say it's his best essay but I love the ending:

"Lights come and go in the night sky. Men, troubled at last by the things they build, may toss in their sleep and dream bad dreams, or lie awake while the meteors whisper greenly overhead. But nowhere in all space or on a thousand worlds will there be men to share our loneliness. There may be wisdom; there may be power; somewhere across space great instruments, handled by strange, manipulative organs, may stare vainly at our floating cloud wrack, their owners yearning as we yearn. Nevertheless, in the nature of life and in the principles of evolution we have had our answer. Of men elsewhere, and beyond, there will be none forever. "
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:17 AM   #98
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"Lights come and go in the night sky. Men, troubled at last by the things they build, may toss in their sleep and dream bad dreams, or lie awake while the meteors whisper greenly overhead. But nowhere in all space or on a thousand worlds will there be men to share our loneliness. There may be wisdom; there may be power; somewhere across space great instruments, handled by strange, manipulative organs, may stare vainly at our floating cloud wrack, their owners yearning as we yearn. Nevertheless, in the nature of life and in the principles of evolution we have had our answer. Of men elsewhere, and beyond, there will be none forever. "
Sheer poetry ....
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:20 AM   #99
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Can we question science, without questioning religion - and vice versa ?
Yes. They are completely different things. It is in fact quite important to keep in mind the difference.

Science is the body of knowledge built up since the beginning of humanity based on the scientific method (including falsifiability as mentioned).

Religion is based on belief without proof.
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:20 AM   #100
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Sheer poetry ....
Yes! He is very much a poet (an if fact did write a few poems).

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Old 06-08-2010, 06:21 AM   #101
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... but the thing about laws of physics is that they are the same everywhere.
Isn't that one of the unproven assumptions science bases itself on?
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:25 AM   #102
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Religion is based on belief without proof.

Some may disagree with you on that point ....

( I don't )
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:27 AM   #103
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Isn't that one of the unproven assumptions science bases itself on?
I don't think so, at least not any more of an assumption than any other scientific theory. Everything exists in the same reality/universe the laws that govern its constituents should be the same everywhere (with local variations of course) black holes being an extreme case of how the laws operate.
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:27 AM   #104
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Isn't that one of the unproven assumptions science bases itself on?
What I would have said, yes. We can only assume it is correct. Quantum Theory seems to suggest that it may not be true that the science is the same for all levels. (disregarding other universes).
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:30 AM   #105
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Some may disagree with you on that point ....

( I don't )
Some may disagree, but they'd be wrong. If any that do disagree can provide scientific proof of Supernatural beings etc. then I'm willing to go along...but by providing that scientific proof the belief then becomes part of science.
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