Sunday, July 30, 2017

I do not believe in empirical science, I only believe in apriori truth

Kurt Gödel on the left

The above was a quote from Kurt Godel, my favourite mathematical logician. Many people do not know about this man but his discovery of profound mathematical truth is more earth shattering than what was attributed to Einstein in the realm of physics. Besides, his life was not dogged by allegations of plagiarism unlike that of Einstein's special and general theory of relativity, in which some alleged he copied this without attribution from several physicists.

Gödel is known for his 1st and 2nd Incompleteness Theorem which has application to philosophy and theology.

Anyway, my point is the quote and why I too agree with Gödel.

Science relies on empirical and physical observations for its facts. In this regard, like other mathematicians, I do not believe mathematics is part of science. If at all I view it as part of philosophy. The second part of the quote, on apriori truth, is what is lacking in science. Here Gödel meant axioms. What are axioms? These are statements that are accepted to be obviously true. Its truth is established in the inherent nature of what language suggest. An example of an axiom is this - A or NOT A. Either A is true or NOT A is true. It cannot be both. This is obviously true.

I hate to break this but there are no axioms in Physics or in any branch of Science. The so called physical laws are formulated by observation but they are not universally established.

The strongest we can see in physics that comes close to an axiom is causality - Cause precedes the effect and never the reverse.

First, at best this is a philosophical principle we can agree, but at worst is the idea that the reverse cannot happen. In other words, this law does not allow for "if and only if" relationship. 

Let us illustrate, If Charles is a father, then he must have a child. But having a child by Charles by default, then Charles has become a father too. Here two things happened, and the cause became an effect as well. 

Because there are no axioms in the sciences, that is, there are no self-evident true statements, science is not stable. It cannot be your absolute source of truth, it cannot be the absolute arbiter of a situation. It cannot have the last say.

This is the reason why science keeps updating its pronouncements. Remember, the time when doctors said salt is bad for you, which again doctors saying, yes it is good etc. etc.

This is not to say that I will not use some of what science says, like take my medicines. What it does mean is that it cannot be your God, it can be your slave, but never your Divine Maker.

Often, when I see statements made by people hailing science and thus, scientism, I suspect the individual has no inkling how science and so called scientists work.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Why I am sceptical of science and scientists

You might think this strange because if you know me I work in academia most of the time and since I dabble in mathematics you would think that I should not be negative towards science, for after all isn't mathematics a part of science?

In large science faculties, it is true that mathematics is part of the science faculty but I do not think mathematics is part of science. Science deals with observations of phenomena in our world. From, particulars it abstracts to the general. Science deals then with induction.

Mathematics does not deal with induction, it does not look at particulars and then infer to the general. No, mathematics deal with deduction, from the general we go down to particulars. In this regard, I think really that mathematics should be part of philosophy.

We do not sample every triangle we could find, measure their internal angles to be a total of 180 degrees and assert that all triangles have an internal angle of 180 degrees. We use logical proofs starting from axioms.

Today science enjoys a celebrity status. If you want to gain the trust of people just tack on the word "science" into what you are doing. So we have library science, meat science, dairy science and game science and what not. The field I work in my consulting is "Data Science". Funny but I went to a conference last month and a leading practitioner in the field, a professor himself, complained that there is no "science" in data science.

The world has evolved to the point that science is operating like a religion. What is awful is that it is operating like a cult as well. In the age of the Internet, things have evolved and it is easy to be arrogant and know it all. Because the Internet gives one a capacity to be semi-anonymous, people are happy to be rude and insulting to those who disagree with them. It is easy now to express without hesitation one's disdain for a fellow who might be slow in catching one's level of knowledge.

Here are my reasons ordered by importance

1. It does not always work. The reason is that when scientists observe, they are only observing a sample of a phenomenon and when one produces generalisations from these, it by default left out some parts of the phenomenon. Today the approach taken by computer scientist in doing Artificial Intelligence (AI) is to abandon the idea of deterministic certainty, but embrace and live with uncertainty and work on probabilities. Ask yourself, does the science you believe in behave in an arrogant certainty?  AI computer scientists have chucked the idea that something can be determined with certainty from the world. So the models they create for a phenomenon using AI are probabilistic. 

2. Most scientists today have no training in philosophy. I worked for a while in computer science and the computer scientists I have encountered have no appreciation of the role philosophy plays in their craft.If they are not scared of it, they either consider it as useless or indifferent towards it. The same is true in physical science. Steven Hawking said philosophy is dead. No offence but I think Hawking and I will be long gone and philosophy will be around. This is bad science and bad scholarship. The reason why we have this situation of science acting like religion is that philosophers have allowed them to roam, be arrogant and unchecked.

For example, the issue of causality vs correlation. When I went back to statistics, my colleagues and textbooks reminded me that correlation does not imply causation.
This is illustrated in a Chinese saying:
Does the flowers blooming bring about spring? Or does spring bring about the blooming of the flowers? You might think it is the latter for sure - but think and pause for a moment. It is an epistemological question - meaning - how to we know something is true or real..

Also this - is there only one way of explaining a physical phenomenon? Should we entrust our lives and our view of the world into the what scientists say?

Here is one quote from a philosopher of science about science...

Even though some scientists and many pseudo-scientists voice their allegiance to that (scientific) method, no modern philosopher of science would be unaware of at least some of its shortcomings. Modern developments in the philosophy of science have pinpointed and stressed deep-seated difficulties associated with the idea that science rests on a sure foundation acquired through observation and experiment and with the idea that there is some kind of inference procedure that enables us to derive scientific theories from such base in a reliable way. There is just no method that enables scientific theories to be proven true or even probably true.

                                                      ---- A. F Chalmers (What is This Thing Called Science)

Maybe I am influenced too much by the mathematician I admire and respect who said...

I do not believe in empirical science, I only believe in a priori truth.
                                                            - Kurt Godel

Later I will add more, like my thesis that scientists are not altruistic people who are also influenced by personal agenda using science to advance their goal.
Please remind me.

Monday, May 15, 2017

So I saw the film The Case For Christ

My big impression on this? Respect. I respect the spirit of in which this film was made. Some of the points that I would like to make are the following:

  • This film is as much the story of Leslie, the wife of Lee. Here we see the persecution experienced by a Christian wife living with a non-Christian husband.
  • The parallel story of Lee's work on the Hicks case along with his investigation of the validity of the Christian claim I thought made the film more than a re-enactment of an evangelical testimony.
  • There is much we can learn on the way the film depicted the interviews Lee made with professional NT scholars, historians, and scientists, some of whom are non-Christian themselves.
  • The role of providence in the life of a Christian.

Finally, there is a suggestion of a mild decisional theology in the film. Though I myself no longer practice this "accepting Jesus into your heart" by way of the "sinner's prayer". I seem to recall somewhere the wisdom of Martin Luther who said somewhere, to words to this effect -- the person asking God in prayer already believes, that is to say, the person already believes in Christ, before he even asks God to move on his behalf. We should ask God to save us after all. The focus, fair enough, should not be in our act of asking but the God who saves those who call upon his name.

We do not have to be triumphalistic and be offended at all in that.