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June 1st, 2007


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11:01 am - A Thought Experiment (sort of)
Disclaimer: This isn't going to be a post about taking sides on an issue.

I just got fed up with the non-arguments/non-discussion that takes place between people who believe in creation/intelligent design vs. those who believe that science and God can never meet. So I was trying to come up with a way in which a center could be reached between them, a center of understanding not so fully overshadowed by assumptions that it can't even move forward.


This is what my brain came up with, driving home one night on the freeway.

It seems to me that the biggest obstacle to intelligent discussion between the two sides of this debate (as well as other debates, but this is the one I was thinking about) is that each side is coming from a base-level assumption about the universe, one which prevents them from even considering that the other side might have valid facts or theories to contribute.

How can we fix this, aside from individual choice not to act like close-minded idiots?

Well...here's a science-fiction sort of idea.

What if some people were chosen for this special project, smart, curious people? Chosen, isolated, their education carefully controlled by a group devoted to the project rather than their own ideas.

These special people would be taught everything we know about the physical sciences, math and physics and biology, and some of the "soft" sciences as well, such as the simple basics of psychology as we understand it. But each subject would be edited or cut to remove any theory that reaches a complete conclusion about origins. The evidence would be presented to these unbiased students--not the conclusions or answers, from either side.

Then, we would see what these students made of the evidence without the surrounding cultural biases all other scientists and theologians and thinkers have to deal with.

It's not remotely practical--the sort of isolation required for this to work would be on the level of The Truman Show, and would also need people so completely dedicated to the project that the editing of the material presented would actually be as close to unbiased as possible.

But wouldn't it be fascinating to see what theories these people came up with? Maybe one side or the other, maybe split on the meaning of the evidence, maybe whole new ideas that no one has yet discovered.


So that was my thought. Hope you enjoyed it. ;-)
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(11 lit candles | Light a candle)

Comments:


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From:jd3000
Date:June 1st, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
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This would be a fascinating idea to attempt, although I would imagine you would have to select such subjects at infancy to completely strain out all possible bias.

-JD
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:June 1st, 2007 11:32 pm (UTC)
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Indeed; hence my reference to the Truman Show.
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From:kizmet_42
Date:June 1st, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
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No instruction in faith? How can you expect them to come to any kind of unbiased opinion if you stack the deck?
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From:izhilzha
Date:June 1st, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
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Well, which would stack the deck further? Instruction in faith or instruction in the assumptions regularly made in some branches of science? I really think the only way this could work would be to present the evidence (which would be both physical, experimental results, and the basics of human interaction, consciousness and reaction to the world around us) as much without bias as humanly possible. On either side.

If you can suggest to me a way that instruction in faith could be incorporated to give that sort of evidence--without stacking the deck in favor of itself--I'd be more than happy to incorporate it into my little imaginary experiment.
From:dafne99
Date:June 1st, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
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Wouldn't it be even better to not give them any instruction at all? Let them learn their own science and math... start fresh from the beginning.
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From:izhilzha
Date:June 1st, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
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I don't think that would work--human beings don't live long enough, they wouldn't get very far unless they were all super-long-living, high-brain-powered geniuses. :-) Or, I guess, if it were a large community where they could all work together and learn from each other.

In a sense, what you're proposing is what I was going for, though. Give them the facts without interpretation, and plenty of hands-on experimentation. There has to be some kind of instruction, at least in the basics of how to get beyond what we see (microscopes and mathematics and physics) or build on what is already known. But as far from being "prescriptive" as possible.
From:dafne99
Date:June 1st, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
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Of course, my thought was that it would have to be worked out through a number of generations. Put a new Adam and Eve in a garden somewhere... or deserted isle of some sort... and let them repopulate, allowing us to observe from afar.
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From:aitchmark
Date:June 1st, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
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Ever read Frank Herbert's THE DOSADI EXPERIMENT? It was a whole world set up in isolation to explore certain possibilities (though not the one you are thinking of).

Interesting book. In some way the quintessential Herbert novel, because almost *everyone* in it is capable of reading many layers of meaning in what any other character says or does -- a Herbert device that does, on occasion, get tiresome (to me, at least).

The book is a sequel to his award winning WHIPPING STAR, which introduced the "Bureau of Sabotage", one of the loveliest anti-big-government ideas I've ever encountered.
[User Picture]
From:roslynsmuse
Date:June 12th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)

Faith precludes 'assessment'

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Hi,

I have been enjoying some of your meta and your fic recs so thought I should stop and say thanks! But I came across this discussion. It would seem that once you bring Faith (with a capital F) into the matter, there is no room for debate.

Science allows for disparate opinions and compilation of various proofs. It also makes an assumption that you are permitted to drop any theory in favor of another, if it accounts for more events than explained in prior theories. In a way, that is 'faith' in the scientific principle of parsimony.

However, when discussing Faith, you preclude tossing the underlying assumptions that go with it because there are no observable facts to 'prove it'. Therefore, you can't disprove it, either. I have spoken to some very religious persons who patiently explained that the science of evolution is fascinating and explains what MIGHT have occurred had the deity not done it all for us as detailed in Genesis. And then left geological evidence for us to find and assess - but it didn't actually happen that way!

Others said that creation in seven days did occur as science would have it and is accounted for in the Bible if decide that each 'day' back then was a million years long.

It all depends upon your premises. And if your premise is wrong, everything that comes from it will be as well. If your premise is unprovable, then you can't debate it. Some premises like Faith, simply aren't open to debate.

And many scientists are regularly rocked with regard to their own faith in science as new data comes up or new events are seen/predicted that don't work within old theories. Kind of leaves them lost because their premises have rules for when you abandon them (hopefully before they burn you at the stake for discovering them). But other premises are timeless to their holders and you simply have to accept those persons for their versions of their truths.

And hope it isn't going to be imposed upon you at the point of a gun.

Roslyn
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:June 13th, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)

Re: Faith precludes 'assessment'

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I have been enjoying some of your meta and your fic recs so thought I should stop and say thanks!

Why, thank you. :-) It's always nice to know that my recs and meta are appreciated! (You're a TS fan? I see other TS authors on your flist.)

I'm going to try and respond to your comment in the same manner you posted it: with straightforwardness (which I always appreciate).

It would seem that once you bring Faith (with a capital F) into the matter, there is no room for debate.

Well, for some people, that's obviously true. Hence my annoyance with the general state of the discussions between people of faith and people who deny that faith might play any role in the observable universe. (I'm not certain where on the spectrum you fall; more science than Faith, it sounds like.)

But I think you're making too sweeping a generalization. Faith only limits debate in contexts where it means "trust." (I.e. as a Christian who believes that God is both all-powerful and all-loving, I hold to my trust in God when all the evil in the world seems to shout that he is, at least, untrustworthy. If I were married, I'd hope to be able to have trust like that in my spouse--to take his word, first, over someone suddenly accusing him of cheating on me.) Trust is a choice; and if you're strong enough to handle the paradox, it doesn't have to be blind trust/faith.

I think Faith does (or at least can) leave room for re-assessment. My dad always says that we (Christians) should be certain of what we believe, and at the same time be ready to learn better.

Just because there isn't definitely proof of "creation" doesn't necessarily disprove it. There isn't completely definitive proof of evolution/the Big Bang, though there is certainly partial evidence. Absolutely proving the origins of our universe seems to be out of our reach at the moment. (Frankly I have no problem with God creating the world over millions of years, through evolution--I just can't quite buy there not being some directing intelligence behind the process, given the small margin for life that we so precariously dwell in.)

Which is why I thought it would be interesting to do this little thought-experiment. Give these unbiased humans all the evidence we have, without putting a frame to it, and see if they all turn out to be focused materialists, or if there's something else in the human race/mind/being that leans towards the spiritual without being taught it. My imaginary students would, in fact, be assessing the universe in its entirety, as they experience it--without needing to cut off one part of human experience (emotional/spiritual) from the other (the physical, more easily-studied world).

I just think it would be fascinating to see what happened. :-)
[User Picture]
From:roslynsmuse
Date:June 13th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)

Re: Faith precludes 'assessment'

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It's always nice to know that my recs and meta are appreciated! (You're a TS fan? I see other TS authors on your flist.)

Yup, my TS stories are at Starfox Mansion.

Faith only limits debate in contexts where it means "trust."

Perhaps it is a difference in definition. "Faith" is acceptance of an idea as truth, without tangible proof. So, by bringing a belief in God to the issue of evolution/creation, you set up a system based upon an unprovable premise. There will eventually be sufficient evidence to 'disprove' existing theories (science is more prone to ruling things out than actually proving them, the 'null' hypothesis). There one is concerned with facts, rather than 'truth'. But there can never be proof on either side of the issue as to whether God exists.

That is why any experiment in which people review 'facts' about faith based theories would be extremely problematic. I see no conditions under which a fundamental belief in God would be abandoned, whatever was presented.

I happen to agree that faith (or spirituality) and science do not have to be enemies. I just don't see the need to put the former to the same tests as the latter. I definitely prefer to see only the science taught in the schools. I remember my high school biology teacher being horribly upset the day he had to present 'creationism' to the class after covering Darwinian evolution. It was unfair to require it and the class didn't welcome it. It was unsatisfactory to the religious students and unacceptable to the nonreligious and minority students (non-Christian groups). Since there was no evidence to present, such discussion didn't really belong in a science class. Social studies or philosophy, perhaps, but not science. 'Fact' and 'truth' are not always synonymous :-)

The subjects don't need to compete with one another but each will reconcile them in a different manner according to 'faith' and personal experience.

A very intesting subject no matter the outcome!

Roslyn


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