Former Christian Michael Shermer's 100th Column: "The Answer is Science."

This is an except from his 100th column for Scientific American:
What I want to believe based on emotions and what I should believe based on evidence does not always coincide. And after 99 monthly columns of exploring such topics (this is Opus 100), I conclude that I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe but because I want to know. I believe that the truth is out there. But how can we tell the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true? The answer is science.

Science begins with the null hypothesis, which assumes that the claim under investigation is not true until demonstrated otherwise....Failure to reject the null hypothesis does not make the claim false, and, conversely, rejecting the null hypothesis is not a warranty on truth. Nevertheless, the scientific method is the best tool ever devised to discriminate between true and false patterns, to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and to detect baloney.

The null hypothesis means that the burden of proof is on the person asserting a positive claim, not on the skeptics to disprove it.

Link
Now compare what he wrote to what I wrote here.

20 comments:

edson said...

"....the burden of proof is on the person asserting a positive claim, not on the skeptics to disprove it."

As days vanish, I'm increasingly bored by the above nauseating phrase expounded tirelessly by skeptics.

Sabio Lantz said...

Science Can Be Dangerous
Indeed John, this post goes well with your other posts concerning the limitation of human cognition. The scientific method is one of the best checks we have on the limitations of human cognition. I work in medicine where, using the scientific method, the "level of evidence" model has itself changed over the last years for evaluating medical claims. This model has its limitations and those limitations are constantly exposed and the model is improved. So in a sense, the "scientific method" of medicine is still changing.

A limitation to the "scientific method" is that people purporting to use the scientific method can hide their blindness (or lies, in some cases) in the complexity of their methods or analysis. But the method has an answer for this. We must be cautious of people clothing their claims using the word science and scientific method too -- the word "science" can be used to hide much. But the beauty of the scientific method, in opposition to "God" as an explanation, is that if someone declares "Science" as an justification for a claim, at least we are free to question the claim and the terms of engagement are agreed upon.

Bluemongoose said...

What say you that it's not science and Christianity that cannot co-exist, but rather it's scientism and Christianity that cannot co-exist?

Teleprompter said...

Bluemongoose,

What is the difference between science and scientism? Could you give me a rough definition for both of them?

I've heard the scientism accusation leveled many times, but I've never heard a clear account of what science should be, as opposed to scientism, so I'd appreciate it if you could be the first to explain the difference.

jbudrdanl said...

"Science begins with the null hypothesis, which assumes that the claim under investigation is not true until demonstrated otherwise."

This is actually only partially true. Science begins with a hypothesis, which MAY be a null hypothesis. The result of the scientific method then either supports or does not support (or it could be inconclusive) that hypothesis.

All scientific inquiry is not the same and the assertion that it always begins with a null hypothesis shows a lack of understanding of the scientific method.

For teleprompter, science is a method of discovery, scientism is placing belief in that method as the means to truth.

Teleprompter said...

jbudrdanl,

Thanks for that clarification.

So if I believe that science is the best means for truth, then I am a "scientismist"? In that case, I am a "scientismist" proudly, because I am not aware of any other process which has produced such tremendously profound results for humanity.

Bluemongoose said...

Scientism it's the view that only scientific claims are meaningful. Also described as personal philosophy tied into science and then taking it over completely.

Bluemongoose said...

Teleprompter, you're coming from an angle that purports the myth that Christianity and Science are directly opposed to one another. Take a step back and ask yourself, what if they work together?

Rob R said...

science and scientism cannot coexist, if by scientism, we mean that we make science our whole epistemology.


Science cannot validate itself on it's own terms as there are many assumptions behind science that are beyond our scientific ability to test and prove.

And while science might have something to say about why we are ethical, science cannot thoroughly analyze ethics.

Teleprompter said...

Bluemongoose,

What if Christianity and science work together?

What if they do? Let science work, and if it confirms any of the claims of Christianity, there we go. That'd be brilliant.

But why should we presuppose Christian claims in the process of science?

Rob R,

Hmmm. I am not trying to make science my whole epistemology.

I agree that there are some assumptions beyond our scientific ability; however, many of these assumptions must be made in order for any progress to occur. Do we know that reality is real? We have to assume it. Otherwise, why not go out the window instead of the front door?

smalltalk said...

coexist - coexistent: existing at the same time.

Even under another definition they coexist.

coexist-- to exist separately or independently but peaceably, often while remaining rivals or adversaries: Although their ideologies differ greatly, the two great powers must coexist.

Science and christianity can co-exist. Analysis of the data shows they do co-exist. The scientific process exists in the universe, and christianity exists in the universe.

-------
However the ideologies are vastly different. The Scientific process analyzes evidence and searches for truth. Religions, on the other hand, presuppose the truth and ignore evidence that contradicts their presupposition.

Religious texts (whether it is christianity, islam, norse, egyptian, greek or roman religions) make very specific claims about the universe. Ie. the process of creation, which includes the order that items were created and the time span that it was created in.

These specific claims have not held up to the evidence that exists in reality.

An example (to pick on christianity)
The Universe was created in 6 days. .
Every scrap of evidence ever gathered for the age of the universe contradicts this claim.

Rob R said...

Well then Teleprompter, you are not as naive as Michael shermer who said:

how can we tell the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true? The answer is science.


But for my initial comment, I was thinking of this description by jbudrdanl that, "scientism is placing belief in that method as the means to truth."

Not just a means but THE means, and to define this idea of scientism that way is to give it that fatal self defeating quality.



but this was a very interesting statement by you here:

many of these assumptions must be made in order for any progress to occur.

The interesting thing about this comment is that it claims that we have to assume something unverifiable by science in order to reach a result which isn't verifiable by science either. What constitutes progress isn't something that itself is scientifically verifiable.

Science has provided the most effective means by improving our killing techniques and our ability to pollute and damage the environment. And we wouldn't call that progress.

I do agree that science brings progress in, for example to medically save lives. Why is this progress? I judge this to be the case on the basis that all individuals have intrinsic worth as they bear the likeness of God, and when we help the ailing and rescue people medically, we are honoring God. Humanists might be able to define progress, but they aren't using science either.


Another example of progress would be the truth about the nature for it's own sake. When value do such truths have in and of themselves? If the universe is filled with the Glory of God, surely it is worth understanding.


Now to treat another question on similar grounds, you said that we should make these assumptions so we can make progress. Well, if we can hold something to be epistemically valuable on the basis of such usefulness, surely it is not invalid to make the same claim about Christian truth claims, since they have been useful in, for example, defining progress. Of course other views can do the same, but as to what is better is beyond the scope of this short post.

Geonite said...

While I don't agree with a lot of things this Rabbi says (in other places) I think you'll find this interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwid_ncKiGM&eurl=http://geonite.blogspot.com/2009_06_01_archive.html&feature=player_embedded

Bluemongoose said...

Teleprompter:

Your question implies that God is bound by the same natural laws that humans are. Christianity doesn't say no to science, it simply leaves the option open that if God had the ability to create it, then He has the ability to tweak it whenever He wants to.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Blue Mongoose said,

"Your question implies that God is bound by the same natural laws that humans are. Christianity doesn't say no to science, it simply leaves the option open that if God had the ability to create it, then He has the ability to tweak it whenever He wants to."

Which of course is a classic case of begging the question or circular logic. Her conclusion wrests on the assumption that the question at hand is true.

How do we know God is real and created the universe because he is outside of space time and can tweak it any time he wants.

Well, would you then concede a Muslim to say the same thing of Allah.

Or, how about Dawkins' "Great Spaghetti Monster".

I could say both of those exist using your idiotic argument.

Bluemongoose said...

Hey there, Chuck.

Let's back up your question even further. How do we even know we know?

I could flip your argument about being circular around on you. Atheists have a habit of being circuitous as well. At least if one believes in God, all spinning stops at the feet of the one who calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega. Sounds like a pretty precarious predicament.

Bluemongoose said...

P.S., Chuck. We can't compare Islam's Allah to Christianity's Yahweh. They are different individuals. Allah is monotheistic, while Yahweh is tritheistic (not that Christians worship three Gods, but referencing the Trinity).

Chuck O'Connor said...

Here's my question Blue,

Are you a fan of Ray Comfort?

Because your juvenilia posing as philosophy resembles the bananna man.

How do we know we know? Well, I damn sure am not going to say that my ability to comprehend is predicated on a superstition revolving one person in three.

Again I ask, how do you know what god knows? What is the source of your confidence?

You are a smug, mentally ill little girl who enjoys being a slave to her husband and feels righteous about that because an ancient book tells you it is good.

Here are two questions for you.

How do you know god exists?

How do you know god's mind?

I'd prefer the person of the islamic god if I were forced to choose a god for any other purpose than cultural superstition. It doesn't rely on magic to make sense.

Bluemongoose said...

Chuck:

Again, we come to the dilemma of you not believing your arguments can stand on their own merits without being propped up by the mudslinging issue.

Superstition. Again, you have a bad habit of making declarative statements w/nothing to back them up. You're going to have to do better than that if you ever want to quit losing so badly in our debates.

How do I know what God knows? I'm going to give you a common answer: We can't know everything God knows (issues with the finite being able to understand the infinite), but we can find out many things from the Bible. However, I'm going to throw you a curve ball to eliminate your "that's a circular argument" move. Where else would we find out about Yahweh of the Bible, if not in the Bible? Would I ask a plumber how to fix my cell phone? Certainly not. Then I expect you to go on about how the Bible is a man-made bunch of fairy-tales. To which I would answer: Why would it be too hard for an all-powerful God to protect something He said is so important like His written Word (Bible)? Do you believe any one human or group of humans could usurp God?

Ancient book. Better to be anchored to scribed doctrine than be a slave to relativism where nothing is definitive and everything is up for individual interpretation (anarchy).

How do I know God exists? I've done the homework and all the evidence stacks up in His favor. Continue to dialogue with me and we'll dissect the issues one by one.

How do I know what's on His mind? Again, I've done independent studies of the Bible. See my prior comments three paragraphs ago.

What do you mean Islam doesn't rely on superstition? I guess in your relativistic society, that would depend on your definition of "superstition", doesn't it? You sure do like your double standards.

Steve said...

Poor Michael Shermer - wait till he reads Satre.