The difference between Science and Faith.

Update 2/28/07: Welcome visitors from Digg.com. I just wanted to take a moment and reiterate that the image below isn’t of my creation, but was created by the fine folks over at Grey’s Journal and that they deserve all the credit for how clever it is. I merely wanted to share it with my readers.

The following flowcharts are a simple and accurate illustration of the difference between Science and Faith as tools for understanding the Universe. Click them for a bigger version:

From Grey’s Journal found via Boing Boing.

29 thoughts on “The difference between Science and Faith.

  1. Indeed we need science to explain the physical universe, and blind faith requires no understanding as an easy cop-out.

    Science itself, if it is to be a completely self-explaining description with no support from faith, as far as I can see it needs to explain why the laws exist, not just that they do and their accumulated effects on what we observe – further to this it needs to explain why the same fundamental laws keep existing and why they always apply to the extent they do – it violates probability for a physical constant to be constant if there were no other controlling factors – but what in physics would control it?

    I think it’s helpful to try to get into the psychology of a hypothetical god – why bother making people exist? If you’re going to create people why not make them perfect from the start, would he have reason to view something as right or wrong? why would he prefer people to do good things as people of faith generally hypothesise?

    People of faith have told me that in their view human reasoning is disliked by god – I think this is using a fear barrier to stop people venturing beyond faith. People of faith have also told me in that in their view exceptions can be made, breaking the rules of science, in order to explain free will (which I was trying to say we shouldn’t have if position, speed and angle of all the brain-chemicals instigating a nerve impulse were pre-determined)

    One interesting idea is that the physical universe is imaginary – a kind of ‘the matrix’ idea only without necessarily needing a computer to do it – but what you must conclude is that the level of reality above you, if existing, needs more data storage and processing ability than the one you’re in because the one you’re in would be completely contained within something larger. You only know for certain that you exist in a real system when the data is infinite – and so can’t be contained within a higher level of reality.

    Imaginary universes could exist in parelel and not affect each other, and you don’t need an imaginer entity for the first set because you can have results in a system that’s oblivious to it’s own existence (like a non-living lump of matter), only interpretable by those who aren’t oblivious (anything able to see, feel, or otherwise detect the environment, not necessarily concious – could be a plant)

  2. There were a few very different ideas, I will break them down for individual consideration:

    – The extent to which a law of physics applies is set by a physical constant. I wonder why the constants are constant – if there is truely nothing controlling them in physics, then it defies probability that they should be the same value of constant everytime – you would expect the number to be random, and there to be an infinite number of possibilities, some negative, inverting the force. An idea I have is that maybe the laws interdepend somehow behind the scenes – setting each other as constant, but I don’t see how you can test turning off a law of physics and seeing what happens

    – Looking into the psychology of a hypothetical god would help us understand why, and hopefully through reason narrow down the possibilities of what we think he would do given his situation. It’s important in my view that people of faith question why god should care as starters

    – the imaginary universe idea was an attempt to allow for the universe to exist and tie in with the multiverse idea and superposition. It gives the possibility that the universe might exist just because it was possible and there was an ininite number of oppertunities:
    finite number*infinity=infinity
    however there is a problem in defining the finite number when the parameters are undefined, as they would be if nothing existed
    (also this idea suggests other universes exist under other possible rules and different numbers of dimensions – not testable but possible)

  3. DC: Science … needs to explain why the laws exist

    Why? That would be self-serving mental masturbation [sic] surely; we would only be able to hypothesise on hypotheticals hypothesised about; the answer would not be ‘known’ in my time or yours.
    Actually, the only answer to ‘why the laws exist’ is ‘to support the status quo’ … but which came first: do the gods like it because it is good or is it good because the gods like it?

    what in physics would control it?

    The other currently constant constants?
    Wouldn’t facilitate be a better word than control?
    You’d still get the same answer, but.
    That was a bit of Oz grammatical murder – placing the ‘but’ at the end of the sentence instead of …

    DC: An idea I have is that maybe the laws inter-depend somehow behind the scenes – setting each other as constant

    I think I followed that.
    If the current constants were not constant we would not have a current constant that we have currently … or we would not exist as we currently do; we may exist as we currently don’t.  smile
    Too easy.  wink

  4. If the current constants were not constant we would not have a current constant that we have currently…

    That was a thing of beauty right there.  I never thought I’d see the day that you, LJ, are the synthesizer of posts.  wink

  5. LJ and Distant Claws, sometimes you two make my head hurt. I try as hard as anybody to follow your thought processes but sometimes I still fail miserably. Meh, maybe it’s just me.

    It’s come to the point, though, where I’m curious about your positions on torts.

  6. LJ: we would only be able to hypothesise on hypotheticals hypothesised about

    you could say that nature hypothesised it, in order for it to apply.

    LJ: Actually, the only answer to ‘why the laws exist’ is ‘to support the status quo’

    There is no obligation for things to continue as they are, science seems to work blind to the past, it’s just how it is now that counts.
    For me to just accept laws with no further need for reason would be little more than the faith approach based on observation, often applied to science to patch holes in the scaffolding, I would rather find another way, until we find the constraints keeping laws+their extent constant, they should be completely exposed to randomness

    LJ: … but which came first: do the gods like it because it is good or is it good because the gods like it

    I wonder why a hypothetical god would necessarily have any preferences, any bias away from completely neutral is unsymetrical, so there would be problems with how the god came to exist – there would need to be an equal anti-version for god to be created from nothing, able to eliminate god if they met. This would make existence a completely neutral thing. Humans have preferences to do things they enjoy because they like nice feelings – that’s non-symetrical and it’s possible to still obey evolution while have humans preffering horrible feelings like pain if you inverting all the feelings too – so chopping an arm off makes your anti comfortable, which they don’t enjoy, just as comfort eating makes them feel starving, which to them would be preferable.

    LJ: If the current constants were not constant we would not have a current constant that we have currently … or we would not exist as we currently do; we may exist as we currently don’tquote]

    They are indeed observed to be constant, but I can’t see what makes them so; there would have to be something preventing their exposure to randomness, otherwise the law should apply to a different extent everytime within an infinite range, and all imaginable laws would exist because those that don’t now would have their constants were changed from 0 to something non-zero

    LJ: the answer would not be ‘known’ in my time or yours

    True, I’m not sure if there is a way of knowing at all; ever! Too many unknowns with no clear route – and if there was interdependance you wouldn’t be able to test it – there is no way of changing a constant – it controls us and not vice versa because we’re contained within it’s system, and not the other way

    Brock: LJ and Distant Claws, sometimes you two make my head hurt

    A good sign, I get it in lectures often, it means you’re engaging with the subject

    Brock: It’s come to the point, though, where I’m curious about your positions on torts

    I didn’t know what a tort was so I wikipedia’d it, looks like I got the definition of some legal matter. I don’t think about the law much but it always seems to me to be used so negatively (no other way of using it really but anyway), it always seems a negative tool that to me would be a last resort to use against someone – I would try to sort it out by words, and would try not to let alienation cloud my morals in using the law to prosecute. The law doesn’t seem to correlate entirely with my morals, or to the same extent, so I don’t like it when people base morals on the law and consider anything within perfectly acceptable, and any breach as evil.

  7. It’s come to the point, though, where I’m curious about your positions on torts.

    /ROFL Oh god… oh man. Nice.

    DC, I would posit that science is perhaps the only institution for which the means justify the end. The ends of which – the harvested data, the “laws” and “constants” that we refer to, are merely products of rigorous examination. I don’t see the need to justify them beyond that which was needed to make them “laws” and “constants” in the first place.

    Looking into the psychology of a hypothetical god is impossible since gods are not testable constructs. I do understand the desire to fit information into a frame of reference, but it’s the frame that should be flexible, not the information. Hence, the use of this particular technique is limited only to further exploring other ideas – but it would be unwise to settle on any of them without real-world pattern-matching.

    I wonder about parallel universes myself, but I typically concern myself with other things. I do tend to think that parallel universes will not be “all other possibilities”; I tend to think that a parallel universe is strictly able to interact with our universe, but has its own laws. My only reason for thinking that is in hoping that parallel universes have some direct, physical applications, and must if we are to determine that they exist.

  8. For some reason this thread makes me think about a group of scientists, standing around, trying to explain why the joke about the blonde and the breathilizer is funny…….

  9. Patness: I don’t see the need to justify them beyond that which was needed to make them “laws” and “constants” in the first place

    To me it’s the dissatisfaction of incompleteness – looking into science only for the ends in it’s benefits to mankind is not the true spirit of curiousity

    Looking into the psychology of a hypothetical god is impossible since gods are not testable constructs

    You don’t need to run tests, or even know if it does exist, just put yourself in the shoes (or sandals I should say) of an imaginary hypothetical god just before the big bang – ask yourself why you would be making a universe, if it was you that did it. Also ask yourself, if you were god, would you have reason to like/dislike some things over others and why you might want people to be good/not good, also ask yourself why you exist

    but it’s the frame that should be flexible, not the information

    As an analogy think of your computer – the data has to fit within the rules of the machine in order to be made. A corruped file can be stored (exist in parelel) but the bits that are corrupt cannot be interpreted because it no longer fits within the rules (so can’t interact, like if in a parelel universe), the bits that can’t be interpretet are not visible to other things within the system. Think death as file corruption.

    only to further exploring other ideas – but it would be unwise to settle on any of them without real-world pattern-matching

    I won’t say ‘this is how it is’, more ‘this is how i wouldn’t expect it to be because it doesn’t follow reason’. It’s a way to narrow down options that are all possible if/when the evidence comes

    My only reason for thinking that is in hoping that parallel universes have some direct, physical applications, and must if we are to determine that they exist.

    The findable ones anyway, but that doesn’t rule out the unresolvable possibility of others existing. A link is possible for some if they had common dimensions, or if there was a law that depended on some of our dimensions and some of theirs, making it behave differently, but all a law is is a link between dimensions of sorts. All laws that can exist might well, only with a constant of 0 so they don’t have any effect. The idea of all possible existing comes from the idea of there being an infinite number of oppertunities – if something is possible it has an above-zero probability of being the case in said universe, and if there is an infinite number of these, sooner or later it will apply.

    If there were an infinite number of universes, the total data of the multiuniverse would be infinite and the system could not be contained within a larger system, so we would not be the result of imagination / computer simulation if this were true, because there would be no way of handling infinite data. The highest level of reality, if there is one above us, if not, us, still needs to answer as to what accomodates it’s existence over complete void, this is where imaginary dimensions of a system oblivious to itself could come in – after all you can have results from a lump of matter that doesn’t know that it exists, so similarly dimensions could exist and not know that they do

  10. not the true spirit of curiousity

    True, that – but that doesn’t hold any exception for resources invested either. I can wonder forever if the keyboard in
    front of me is really real, or if I’m real (to the very same extent that a rock is real or a program is unable to determine it’s own termination point without following it through). These are things that, with the knowledge base currently available, we cannot possibly know. In this way, we are truly curious about many things, but we restrain ourselves in our curiousity to that which we can know.

    You don’t need to run tests, or even know if it does exist, just put yourself in the shoes (or sandals I should say) of an imaginary hypothetical god just before the big bang – ask yourself why you would be making a universe, if it was you that did it. Also ask yourself, if you were god, would you have reason to like/dislike some things over others and why you might want people to be good/not good, also ask yourself why you exist

    My dispute with this is twofold – first, a semantic issue. A hypothesis must be testable to be a hypothesis.

    Second, if I asked myself, “if I was a god” – well, I’m not. In fact, any such gods cannot be adeistic, so they aren’t all-powerful. But this is all going out on a limb, and this is my banger, because that demands that such a god conform to my preconceptions, including that it should follow “reason”.

    In the CSUS (Comp.Sci Undergrad Society) office, I had a debate with someone who could not accept that some correct things are logically untrue. Speaking in particular of quantum mechanics, the idea of an inherently non-deterministic universe was mind-blowing. Reason has it’s time and place, but we cannot guarantee that reason, itself, is a certain system for any particular application. In fact, we know there are places where reason, in the classical sense, simply does not apply.

    The same is true for computation – it’s a system we’ve imposed. There are large lists of real problems that human beings are capable of computing that other machines cannot.

    These things say nothing about the (uni/multi)verse, only that we are limited in our capacity, and our constructs as much.

  11. Patness: I had a debate with someone who could not accept that some correct things are logically untrue

    As you can tell, me too – I see nothing to support things being as they are without some form of reason or motive, and I don’t like settling for that, it reminds me of the times when people of faith scorn me for asking questions, claiming in that case that it’s looked down on by their model of god . Either side of the fence you look on there seems a point where reason becomes disfavoured, and I don’t understand why, surely you need reason to abandon reason, it’s inconcievable to escape otherwise.

    From how faith people respond – I can’t see what’s so wrong and I’d like to give ‘god’ the credit of being reasonable, if he isn’t, there are people in everyday life more worthy of my respect than him. He needs a damn good explanation for existance being less than perfect from the start if it really was completely under his influence.

    The same is true for computation – it’s a system we’ve imposed

    Interesting thing is life seems like something that’s imposed on us – I don’t like the notion of being born into the comittment of work beyond my control

    There are large lists of real problems that human beings are capable of computing that other machines cannot

    Interesting thing is conciousness in particular – and I’m not sure how it could be programmed (where would you start). – and yet there is a sudden leap from no conbciousness in plants to at least some level in animals. Humans have foggier memories which is another interesting point – how information can come and go, feeling deleted but not being so, and how the concious loses control when really tired. Why sleep is needed is interesting too – it creates a long stretch of time of higher vulnerability in the wild and I would have expected evolution to phase it out, replacing it with other means of doing the same thing. Also it’s curious to me how motor coordination in humans is better than robots and yet humans don’t need exact eyesight, know their exact coordinate, calculate trigonometry to move, etc – you could say some of this is sub-concious, but the brain nethertheless doesn’t need the same level of accuracy as mathematics as we know it – mathematics has to be exact about error and is not really able to interpret it’s own results – it takes a human looking at data to completely identify a complex picture for example. Computers freak out if there’s a single mistake in programming, humans make do with all kinds of disorder and have the ability to make mistakes.

  12. I must admit, when I hear

    Looking into the psychology of a hypothetical god is impossible since gods are not testable constructs

    and

    You don’t need to run tests, or even know if it does exist, just put yourself in the shoes (or sandals I should say) of an imaginary hypothetical god just before the big bang – ask yourself why you would be making a universe,

    it reminds me of Benny Hinn and his cohorts telling the viewing public what god thinks and expects.
    I suppose they spend a lot of time pretending to stand in god’s pretend sandals; maybe they just pretend to pretend to stand in god’s pretend sandals … I’m with you Brock. My head hurts.
    Anyway … in fact every time I hear Benny, Pat, Jerry, et al make predictable certainties, or is that certain predictions, I think to myself: Self, those bastards are justa crockashit … as the gullible suckers lap [mixed metaphor] up their words and throw money.
    And there I was thinking that extracting money from suckers under false pretences was illegal or at least immoral – maybe it’s in the wording.
    Maybe real pretences are absolutely moral and within the law.
    wink

  13. God psychology is an effective tool when dealing with TrueBelieversTM though, and can help deal with unreasonable prejudice and fear of hell, providing it’s either developed by the person themselves or given free, I don’t advocate comercialism of ideas because it’s often incomplete and biased when it comes from an exploitative person. – open source ideas are great!

  14. Distant Claws, it’s obvious that you’re highly intelligent, and you also seem like a very nice young man. But I’m beginning to think that I need to approach your comments stoned in order for them to acquire some lucidity, because at this point you’re not making an ounce of sense.

    It’s come to the point, though, where I’m curious about your positions on torts.

    Brock, you owe me a new keyboard.

  15. StaightSadie: I need to approach your comments stoned in order for them to acquire some lucidity, because at this point you’re not making an ounce of sense.

    Aaahh. Is that why I’m sure I understood everything the kid was talking?
    All those decades of dope-smoking paid off.

    Hey, it surprised me too.  wink

    By the way, I thought DC’s tort retort was quite good too.
    Took it just seriously enough (he shoulda been here when Don was touting torts) to give the Wednesday finger to the idea.

  16. Thanks SS and LJ smile, most of this comes from the fair amount of time I spend in an altered mind-state, indeed I know people who revise when stoned and review notes after lectures that way, it kinda makes everything come in from a different angle – I don’t smoke dope but I found a few years back that when I got overexcited and hyperventalated, that I was high (on oxygen i think) starting about half an hour afterwards and lasting for a good while; it wasn’t a feeling I forgot, and I can get the feeling almost anytime through a combination of things – deliberate excessive smiling + laughter helps get into the zone – works best when tired, and takes a concious effort to avoid sometimes, so I often go to work this way, and jump around between one room and the next. Altered mind states seem to help you think from a new perspective but it’s difficult to remember things or get on with mundane work, and you tend to knock things over.

    How to rate intelligence – it’s difficult because it depends on what you count important in the definition and how you quantify it; there are several components (for example I can’t visualise objects), I don’t like the IQ thing because comparing one figure between people is not representative of all contributors, it’s not fair for people to be directly compared that way and some of these things vary with time, open to improvement/loss, also someone may take longer to do something but think of things on that subject that faster one could never do, like calculator vs human. You also have to wonder how much weight to put on a component and how accurately it can be quantified. I also think ability to think is very highly environmental and dependant on circumstance, in my case anyway, and how willing said person is to explore concepts, because some undermine securities that if they had little to back it up, they wouldn’t want to risk

    I also think that how nice a person is capable of being/recognising is one aspect to intelligence, and not something easily quantifiable. People generally seem to categorise level of niceness vs asshattedness within the range they’ve deeply been themselves – hence why real (+not put on) nice people can recognise niceness whereas those who put it on can’t and why asshats tend to assume those outside their range of recognition must be ‘evil’ – I think this might apply to some trolls

  17. You people are doing nothing but giving me a headache. Can I remind you of Occam’s Razor.
    (If you have to ask……)

    Your “K.I.S.S.” scribe;
    Allan W Janssen

  18. Interesting thread…

    I think that most perspectives on so called altered states are very poors models to express what I personally think is going on. Poor terminology and little understanding.

    First of all, all humans experience ‘altered states’ every day. Sleep, daydreaming, zoning out, and of course, emotions in all their infinite variety, and many more.

    Everything alters your consciousness. Think about this.

    Its easier, I think, to look at it not in terms of having one ‘normal’ state of consciousness which then becomes ‘altered’ (read – abnormal, unnatural, etc), but rather as a spectrum. The spectrum of consciousness.

    From a neuroscientific perspective, this is old hat. Yawn, we already knew that… Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, yada yada.

    Consciousness does not have a set fixed ‘state’. It is fluid and reacts and responds to all experiences – mental as well as physical. The brain is a dissapative structure.

    So then might argue that is wrong in some way to intentionally ‘alter’ ones consciousness.

    If you argue this, then you must immediately stop reading this, and in fact stop reading anything. Is this one example enough to illustrate the point?

    All experience is learning.

    All knowledge, ultimately, is Self knowledge.

    – Bruce Lee

    Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds – justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they cannot go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind.

    – Rice

    “Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”
    ~William James

  19. Interesting direction,
    Depends on the extent of the difference in state of conciousness I think, but where you draw the line to classify might be difficult, but it’s something humans need to do in the senses (like defining the edge around an object if you have fuzzy eyesight) to be able to identify stuff and make use of the world

    I have to wonder how conciousness is wired in – because if we could replicate that circuitry we could learn more about it and whether it really can be completely housed in the dimensions we live in (instead of the wireless router-like ESP idea among others), problem is the brain decomposes quickly after death, I should know vampire .
    It’s my understanding that the wiring is a constantly changing thing, which muddies the waters.
    Some states of conciousness I can’t see much evolutionary point behind – other than to manage resources or undergo restructuring

    I would like one day to learn how to hypnotise people for my own benefit zipper

  20. I have to follow this one…

    Maybe tonight I will go home, have a beer, and figure out what the fuck is going on…

  21. I would like one day to learn how to hypnotise people for my own benefit

    It’s pretty simple. I’ve done the same course twice – the first time (about 1980) I was drinking too much to remember what I needed to for the exam & the second time (2001) I was smoking too much dope to remember what I needed to for the exam.
    The reason for doing the course? I needed to be accredited if I was gunna earn my living from it.
    Basically all you need is confidence, a willing, compliant subject (it’s almost impossible to hypnotise someone who doesn’t want to be hypnotised), a bit of knowledge about hypnosis and the ability to use your voice to relax someone.
    A bonus would be having a voice like mine that’s fairly low due to my voice box being modified by excessive smoking.  smile

  22. Well that explains some of the sluggishness I’ve been noticing recently.

    That being the case then let me reiterate that the image isn’t of my creation, but was created by the fine folks over at Grey’s Journal and that they deserve all the credit for how clever it is. Seems some folks might be confused about that, or at least one commenter earlier was.

    Damn, I just checked the digg website and it’s currently sitting at number 3.

  23. Double dipping to say that I’ve read through some of the comments in the Digg thread and I’m very impressed with the quality of the defenders of the illustration. I hope some of them start hanging out around here.

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