On scientific curiosity : How much science should the 'masses' know to stop believing
#1
Folks, what is your answer to the following question:

How much science should the 'masses' know to stop believing in god?

Take for instance an anecdote supposedly involving Ludwig Wittgenstein. Paraphrasing what someone asked him, "The sun, the moon, and the stars obviously revolve around the earth. The evidence is what you see in the sky." Wittgenstein is said to have replied, "Well, how do you think it will look if it was actually the earth going around the sun?"

The point is that, given just what you see everyday, without deeper thinking and experimentation, it is easy for the masses to think like Wittgenstein's fool. This is not a question of whether scientific method was applied. One can argue that even with the application of *some* (obviously incompetent) scientific method it is possible to come up with the geocentric theory. It is crucial that every person is taught to competently apply scientific method.

A few examples to illustrate the point,

1. Scientific concepts are not apparent without what would be, to a common man, deep thinking and intelligent experimentation. Logically subsequent to Copernicus' heliocentric theory, which Wittgenstein is using in his argument against the fool, is the question about the shape of orbits. It took an extremely competent scientist- Johannes Kepler to question prevailing wisdom of circular orbits based on his extensive and intelligent study of some pretty advanced astronomical observations, to conclude that the orbit of the earth is elliptical.

For all practical purposes, Copernican theory of heliocentricism with circular orbits is sufficient to make the fool stop believing that the earth has a special place in the cosmos. I will further propose that this naive heliocentric theory is enough for the average person to stop believing in god. After all, an average person does not stay up at night to keep data about the movement of planets, meaning that he can avoid altogether, what will be for him, an unanswered question about the shape of orbits.

2. Let's now take Darwin's theory of evolution. Its most rudimentary formulation is the principle of natural selection. Fools like Bill O'Reilly are perhaps aware of this. Yet they ask questions such as, "how can humans have such a beautiful mechanism as eye-sight?" and answer it by attributing it to the existence of god. [Talking of this dude, in a video that went viral, O'Reilly even attributes a simple physical phenomenon like tides to god http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pla...BCipg71LbI ]

However, if they applied Darwin's theory competently, asked the right questions, and delved deeper, they would realize and hopefully, be convinced that all evidence shows that the eye wasn't created by some intelligent designer, but actually evolved painfully slowly over a few hundred million years. Unless somebody takes the effort of reading about it in say, Carl Zimmer's or Dawkins' popular books on evolution, they will never learn. Why will they never learn without reading some of these books? I propose that this is because our system of instruction fails to adequately answer the question "how much science does one need to know to become a rationalist?"

3. This kind of fallacy also occurs in climate change 'denialism'. To the average person, a winter that is colder than the previous one is sufficient to convince him/her that there is no global warming. The reason for this can be traced to the person's incompetence in science. A basic knowledge of physics and chemistry would prompt the person to show interest in and investigate trends and atmospheric phenomena. A basic knowledge of the physics behind weather patterns would be sufficient to be convinced that humans are irrefutably and largely responsible for global warming.

Important physical and biological phenomena that are encountered in daily life can all be explained with a finite subset of simple scientific theories- basic astronomy, the big bang, basic physical laws about the interaction of matter, the theory of evolution, basic molecular biology, etc.

The system- comprising not just of educational institutes but also the society, in general- fails to train most people to competently apply the scientific method and ask the right questions.

Some of you may find a related blog post by Sean Carroll to be interesting, http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmic...nderstood/

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmic...nderstood/

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmic...last-stab/


[Edit: made the title more descriptive, 17/8/2011, ~9:30 pm IST]
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#2
Quote:How much science should the 'masses' know to stop believing in god?
Personally I think its the scientific method and not science per se that helps to get rid of blind beliefs. I was very much a god believer even when I was in college i.e. to say even when I was exposed to quite a bit of science. But then I came across "Brief History of Time" in which Stephen Hawking gives a brief explanation about scientific method, which made a lot of sense to me. There after my journey involving rational thinking started.

For inculcating scientific method approach, people should be taught to think critically, and in my experience there is a lot of resistance from people to "think", leave apart "think critically". So the real question should be "how to encourage people to think".
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#3
Epicurus Had a profound disbelief in religion or god without the aid of any Scientific Knowledge or apparatus/ I am of the opinion that if anyone has a sensible mind and able to sift through facts without being belief biased,one canget out of religion without the requirement of science.Often the biggest evidence against a religion is its own belief.
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#4
Trust me, science is very important to breaking the spell, but it usually helps to reinforce the idea of godlessness after the erstwhile believer starts thinking critically- ie) asking important questions on why he believes in what he believes in.

The religious people usually are inculcated in a strict doctrine and believe in certain things because their text (I'd rather not use the word holy to describe texts that promulgate rape, torture, bigotry and segregation of the human race) says so. A knowledge of biology and physics and chemistry -although vital to understanding our world- need not necessarily invade the religious side of the religion-science divide and make people question their belief in the supernatural. For example my grandmother studied zoology from a prestigious Chennai university back in the day, my mother studied computer science and both of them practice Hinduism.

I am of the opinion that a series of simple questions can help the process of freethinking
: Why do believe in what you believe?
: How can justify that belief without resorting to your text?
: How can you explain the fact that godless people are around and are good, happy people?

Once the shell begins to crack and doubts are raised, these people can embrace science to explain many of their questions. But until the first seeds of doubt are cast, nothing can deter people. In fact some Creationists in the USA even enrolled on doctoral programs and earned their PhDs so that their position could be used to give a semblance of legitimacy to their bullshit claims that the Earth is 6000 years old and evolution is a lie. Link to article
"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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#5
Science is study of matter, and God is creator of it. If a scientist have faith, science boost it. On the other hand if scientist don't have faith, I think he will be totally disconnected in couple years.
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#6
(20-Aug-2011, 05:32 AM)mathygold Wrote: Science is study of matter, and God is creator of it. If a scientist have faith, science boost it. On the other hand if scientist don't have faith, I think he will be totally disconnected in couple years.

As for what Science is, the Oxford dictionary begs to differ with you.

Quote:Science (Noun)
the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment

And observation suggests that without a clear conception of what Science is, you maybe totally disconnected and tune out in a couple of minutes, even if a 100 natural and social scientists (Part 1 and Part2) make it adequately clear that they don't have much patience with creationist fictions and the claim that such fables are 'boosted by science' couldn't be farther from the truth.
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#7
Quote:Science is study of matter, and God is creator of it. If a scientist have faith, science boost it. On the other hand if scientist don't have faith, I think he will be totally disconnected in couple years.
Sorry but don't see what your post is about and how its relevant to the thread topic.
What is "it" in the second sentence and who is "he" in the last sentence.

Alan,
Wiki page for Epicurus mentions "Epicurus is a key figure in the development of science and the scientific method because of his insistence that nothing should be believed, except that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction". That does indicate the importance of scientific method. In any case I think a "sensible" man would be a man who employs the scientific method in his thinking.
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#8
perhaps too simplistic Sweatdrop but sends the message well Flowers
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#9
(20-Aug-2011, 09:11 AM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote:
Quote:Science is study of matter, and God is creator of it. If a scientist have faith, science boost it. On the other hand if scientist don't have faith, I think he will be totally disconnected in couple years.
Sorry but don't see what your post is about and how its relevant to the thread topic.
What is "it" in the second sentence and who is "he" in the last sentence.

Alan,
Wiki page for Epicurus mentions "Epicurus is a key figure in the development of science and the scientific method because of his insistence that nothing should be believed, except that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction". That does indicate the importance of scientific method. In any case I think a "sensible" man would be a man who employs the scientific method in his thinking.

Yes I kind of meant just that.
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#10
I think there is a fundamental flaw in a person's thinking if he or she attributes that which (s)he cannot understand to god. Epicurus-type thinking is the exception. For an overwhelming majority of the population, gaps in scientific knowledge are filled with superstitious belief.

It is not stupidity to do so, since religion is so strongly entrenched in our society that the default state is belief in religion. Parents are often responsible for this, because they either (1) don't know science well enough to answer kids' questions, (2) believe that kids are too young for scientific explanations. For instance, a kid who asks, 'why does a feather fall slower than a stone?' is likely to get a wrong answer from most people in the society, except the minority adults who know/remember the most basic premise of classical mechanics. I have been doing a small social experiment myself- asking adults this exact same question. I've found university educated adults (even grad students!) who are not in science-related fields explaining this wrong. This ignorance wouldn't be too harmful, if it did not lead to belief in some pseudo-scientific BS. Some people who didn't answer this question right, also believed in Deepak Chopra-esque stuff like, 'ancient Indians knew speshul relativity and quantum mechanics.' Once I told them that it is not possible for ancient Indians to have known relativity, because there is no evidence that they even knew the basic concepts in physics such as inertia, they became more skeptical of the 'ancient Indians...' nonsense.

Similarly, explaining to a person how modern medicine works- basic physiology, immunology, epidemiology, etc. is likely to make them doubt pseudo-scientific 'healing'. And then of course, there is that most powerful BS-repellant- the theory of evolution.
There are also those adults who, irrespective of the strength of scientific evidence- continue to believe in BS. The it's-turtles-all-the-way types. This intransigence is programmed into them by non-scientific people in the society who routinely peddle faith as a cure for curiosity and doubt. ('Why are flowers so colorful Huh ?', 'It is all God's doing Rolleyes ')

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