Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Science, the "Don't Wannabe" Faith

I can't so clearly distinguish science from faith.

Awareness is a phenomenon that science has no terms for yet, or perhaps ever. Its attempts so far to explain awareness are nothing more than causal and chemical, encapsulating nothing of the nature and essence of awareness. There is nothing about awareness that science can model because nothing about awareness can be quantified in a way that mathematics and science can grab a hold of.

The foundation of scientific method is empirical measurement from experiments designed to demonstrate some phenomenon. Evidence for the existence of awareness is empirical (everybody with it knows they have it) but not demonstrable (nobody with it is able to prove that they or others have it). I do not mean that people cannot demontrate their ability to react to stimuli, I mean that people cannot prove that they perceived stimulus in their conscious awareness. A reaction to something is not proof of being aware of it. Someone saying "I am aware of that" is not proof of awareness either.

There are billions of people on this planet with personal experience of awareness, but with no way to demonstrate that what they have is distinct from mere causal, mechanical, chemical or physical activities. This means that science is unable to address awareness in spite of overwhelming evidence that it exists.

The whole of Human endeavour (and I use the word with care - awareness can endeavour, non-aware things can only react) is about emotional appreciation of the things it touches. Without awareness emotion doesn't exist. The chemicals may still react in a way science understands well, but without awareness to give it all meaning and to appreciate it, everything is pointless and worthless. Awareness IS the value of things and consequently the purpose of things.

Because of the huge importance of awareness to all that have it, science's only value is as a tool to expand the field of its owners' experience. Science does not transcend awareness, it exists to serve awareness. I do not wish to diminish the value of science, only to put it into perspective.

Science does not pretend to encapsulate awareness, as religious and spiritual doctrines tend to, but it is perceived by many as being more than it is. For some, science is usurping the role of religion. People may turn to science for direction and purpose, as they always have with religion, simply replacing one source of "divine rule" with a better one. Science is clearly more objective, but that allure makes it easier for an aware being to forget that purpose and direction are defined by awareness itself, and are not to be subjugated. Science is a strong system, with good reason and honest objectives, but the temptation to treat it as form of gospel is strong.

Ultimately, if you can't measure it, science can't deal with it, because it requires repeatable experiments that demonstrate quantifiable effects. If we can't measure it, does that mean it doesn't exist? Awareness isn't measurable, but that definitely exists. How much of what goes on in the world are we able to measure? Of all possible phenomena, how many are we currently able to reproduce and quantify on demand? I suggest the answer to this question is close to 0%. And of the other "nearly 100%", how many can be reproduced and quantified at all? It is arrogant to assume that all phenomena are reproducible by experiment, and quantifiable. It is more likely that a lot of what goes on in the world and universe is beyond what science can ever hope to model, precisely because of the regulation and rigour that science imposes upon itself. In other words, the very strengths of science are what limit it.

Consequently, and notably, science does not say anything about the nature or existence of God, or the nature of awareness. This disqualifies science from debates concerning awareness or God, since it has no experience or opinion in those matters, but neither does it deny their existence. Clearly awareness exists, and science has not a thing to say about it.

I am a scientist, and I see that science permits us to create new things to do, and new ways to do old things, but I know that science keeps redefining what is true as it looks closer at things and as it looks from further out. New truths will eventually become old truths, and old truths always turn out to be approximations or generalisations. I think that in any discussion about religion, theism or spiritualism, the claim that "science is right" is bogus. The existence of awareness, and its incompatibility with science as it stands, means that science cannot yet claim a more elevated status than religion in such debates. It can only claim to be a more modern and more productive system.


  1. By awareness, you mean consciousness or experience right? It is true that we have an awareness or an experience of reality. What's perplexing is how. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual or auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of C sharp? We have detected and measured the changes in the brain (chemical, physical) and these can be measured. We can detect these in the brain when it is subjected to stimuli. But we have no good explanation of why and how it arises. Why should physical processing give rise to such a rich inner life at all? These are questions that science may have no answer for, yet. So for now we can only say, 'we don't know'. But that's ok. Scientists have no qualms with not knowing. In fact, it is this that drives science itself. We don't know? Let's experiment, research, test, check, measure. Science humbly always keeps trying to explain how it all works. Does it have answers for every thing out there? No.

  2. You say: " does not say anything about the nature or existence of God, or the nature of awareness. This disqualifies science from debates concerning awareness or God, since it has no experience or opinion in those matters, but neither does it deny their existence. Clearly awareness exists, and science has not a thing to say about it."

    Science has a lot to say about awareness as something that is being studied/researched. We know it's somehow linked to the brain's activities. It's just the why and how that we may not have all the answers for.

    As far as God is concerned, that's a different subject and cannot be simply bundled together with awareness. It's true though, there's never any mention of god or gods in scientific literature. The word god has not been defined. What is it exactly? So many definitions from so many people. Creator? Consciousness? Energy? Father? Mother? Beyond this reality? How do they know? Ohhh: "I learn from a book" as would say Manuel (Fawlty). How do you know your book is right? Because it's divinely inspired. Yeah right. Explain something with itself. Does your god interfere with reality in any way? Like awareness can be detected (see my previous comment) can god/s be detected? Any signs? Of course we get millions of answers, examples of signs that believers will attribute to their god. Many of these have now perfectly natural explanations, more and more so as science discovers and explains reality more and more. Some still unexplained, I agree. So many believers, jump on these and say: See, science cannot explain this therefore god! Typical God of the gap fallacy. No sir. Science cannot explain it = we don't know yet. Let's keep looking, experimenting, trying out new ideas, cross checking, peer reviewing.

    You say: "It can only claim to be a more modern and more productive system" I say, it is a more honest way of getting at the truth.

    And as far as god is concerned, I say: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Until I'm presented with decent proof, I will remain skeptical. I do not choose to not believe. My lack of belief is a natural product of my skepticism.

    That's why I have to agree with PZ Myers about Science and Faith being opposed. On the one side you have belief for no good reason other than it makes you feel good. People who have faith do not care about the truth. They care more about feeling good. Here's this god idea. Here's the book. Just believe, don't ask questions, don't enquire, close you eyes... and you'll be happy. Great for some. Not for me.