Monday, February 21, 2011

Video Series 7: Feynman on Science and Not Knowing

Renowned physicist Richard Feynman speaks about science, knowledge, and not knowing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

On the Supernatural

During the entire history of mankind, there has never been any independently verifiable evidence of the supernatural. Indeed, many proponents of the supernatural realm hardly have any idea what implications such a realm would have in the observable world, let alone any ideas of how to prove its existence. In previous posts, I have insisted that a rational person should have evidence of something before it is believed. This is hardly a novel thought, and I think anyone would agree with it. But due to the supposed non-physical nature of the supernatural, religious people feel they are exempt from having any burden of proof. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone has a reason for believing something, and we can honestly say that with the supernatural, evidence is not it.

As the first basic precept of religion, proving the existence of a supernatural realm should be at the top of the believer’s list of things to do. It should come before any other arguments, because if the supernatural does not exist, nothing in their religion is true. Given the very definition of immaterial, acceptable evidence for may never surface. This leaves argument as the only tool one can use to justify belief, but the arguments I have heard make flawed assumptions.
  • Some mysterious or unknown feature of our universe (before the big bang, beauty in nature, physical laws, complexity of life). Things that are unknown are unknown. The ignorance of a cause for something does not make it magic. Things like the stars, the weather, and disease used to be thought to have supernatural causes.
  • The existence of morality and of abstract ideas and concepts in our brains as being separate from our physical reality. Every one of those thoughts, ideas and concepts we have we have — including morality (view video in previous post) — is a result of known physical processes in a physical brain.
  • The authority of the Bible. What if the only evidence for evolution was a book, and not all that observation, experiment, and not the independent lines of verification from geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, genetics, molecular biology, developmental biology, embryology, population genetics, genome sequencing, and many other sciences?

Skeptics of the supernatural have often been called “closed-minded," and accused of bias towards a particular world-view. This is an disingenuous thing to say. Anyone can agree that it is not close-minded to require evidence for beliefs. If you can’t provide the evidence for something, you shouldn’t malign those who don't believe it. How can you blame them for not believing you? If your position takes faith to begin with, you cannot expect others to follow suit. But more to the point, if your position takes faith to believe it, maybe you shouldn’t have so much confidence in your position.

- Evan

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Video Series 6: Morality and the Brain

A study that revealed some strange facts about our brain and our moral choices.