Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Truth or Proof?

Rather than post a "Comment" of limited length in parts 1, 2 and so on, this is a "reply post".

It is interesting that the Monk chooses “i” (or “j” for the electrical engineers out there.) as an illustration of the scientific and therefore proof-based aspects of natural philosophy. The reason being that the “i” stands for “imaginary”, the square root of minus 1, which if imagined allows the square root of any other negative value to be calculated, is necessary to allow certain theories to be advanced, but it is never claimed to be “real”.   The concept of the Higg's Boson is equally imaginary; something must be doing “stuff” to provide the mass that would otherwise slow down the various leptons and baryons that have been identified or else there would either be no mass, and therefore no gravity... and so on, or else we are simply imagining these things, so it is searchrd for.  It can never be seen or weighed, it is intangible, but to some scientists, its existence is a matter of faith.

I agree with the Monk about the contemporary problems relating to scientific “proof”; in basic science, experiments can be repeated with identical results all over the world. Except that differences in the results may identify new theories or extend the boundaries of knowledge in a given field: for example, most people are aware that pure water will boil at 100° Celsius, however, try that at Everest Base Camp and your Chai will be somewhat weak. Water will boil at that temperature only at normal, or standard, temperature and pressure, we therefore extend both our knowledge and our understanding by brewing, or trying to brew, tea at altitude.

Personally, my falling out with the scientific community is rarely to do with the science that I studied for so many years, but with the human description of findings or lack of them. Between the Governments Chief Scientific Adviser and the fourth estate, there is very little that can be claimed to be “proven” in the language used supposedly to educate, or at least inform the general population, who have been indoctrinated by institutions such as Auntie Beeb for many years that science is too complicated and boring to be worth the attention of any serious scholar, they should stick to the classics or fine art, or if under thirty to more modern pastimes. There needs to be a philosophical interpretation of “proof”.

In a Western court of criminal law, proof of guilt is required to a standard “beyond reasonable doubt”, in a court of common law a standard based upon the “balance of probabilities” is sufficient.

Which “Proof” is the “Truth”?

To return to science once more, the field of fire science is still regarded as a bastard discipline as it will only obey the fundamental rules of nature under laboratory conditions. Once fire leaves the laboratory and becomes that tool that distinguished Man from the other creatures for many millennia, it becomes very unpredictable in any normal “scientific” sense; one may project what will happen under conditions x, y & z, but it is only a prediction and even a 1,000,000:1 degree of confidence would leave 66 corpses per unit of time in the UK alone. Now, that “unit of time” is that 66 per year, that's okay(ish), 66 per week... people might notice, but only if they were looking, per day, well, you would get worried, per second and we would be wearing amulets, swinging censers, treasuring icons and one suspects that the churches, chapels, synagogues, temples and mosques would be running rolling liturgies twenty-four hours a day. Man interprets his world by his experiences, seeing corpses falling down or being carried from burning buildings many times each day would alter the interpretation of most normal people. Perhaps one of our greatest modern deprivations is that we rarely see death; our Grandparents or if you are younger, great Grandparents were commonly laid on the kitchen table and washed down by the family long before the undertaker came, this is now an underground, covert, ritual unavailable to the eyes of the common man or woman; perhaps I should start a death cult based upon the solemn rituals to ease passing.

So, we have imaginary numbers supporting engineering theories that hold buildings up and allow electronic equipment to function. We have courts of criminal law imprisoning building managers for refusing to believe the estimates of a fire risk assessor, based on the principal that it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that, in the words of the prosecution, that “responsible person” has placed others at risk of death or serious injury as a result of fire by virtue of not implementing measures imagined by another to be sufficient to prevent that death or injury. Again, I suggest that there needs to be a philosophical interpretation of “Proof”.

So, when does projected knowledge become “absolute”? 1+1=2 is a good starting point, an immutable mathematical law, however, if we interpret our world by this “truth” then given one mummy rabbit and one daddy rabbit, that law will not be valid over time. Two streams will form one river, therefore 1+1>1! To move forward from here does not require knowledge alone, it requires understanding; that understanding cannot exist without the knowledge, but it can be improved immeasurable by faith. Faith is an entirely human construct, but it has great value in interpreting one's view of the world. For some, that faith requires ritual, for some a belief in a supreme being or creator, not only in religion, the Freemasons demand a belief in the Grand Architect of the universe, they do not, however go further and so you will see Jew, Muslim and Christian work their rituals side by side as brothers. Other religions have many “Gods” such as Hinduism or none as in Buddhism, but they all give their followers assistance in interpreting the world that they inhabit.

What of Angels and Demons? In the Second World War, many find it incongruous that the Wehrmacht carried the words Gott Mit Uns, a hangover from the German Empire. Obviously, God was an Anglo-Saxon Protestant, whichever side he was on.   I came very close to physical violence one time after a Masonic meeting when I reminded someone who was using his “beliefs” as a justification for racist slurs, when I reminded him that King Solomon wore a turban!   The “Guardian Angel” that watched over the surviving victor was the “Demon of Death” to the person on the receiving end.   My major issue with the ten commandments is that all of the Mosaic or Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity and Islam insist that their way is the only way.   There can be only one God according to Moses, but according to the Christian, one can only approach through Christ, so all Muslims go to Hell.   Well, oddly, the Muslims have the same rules, so all of the Infidels go to Hell.  I think based upon literal reading of all religious works, Hell will be a very busy place because we are all heading that way.   Of course, there may be a Purgatory where one can present one's case and pass on to pastures new as a result of having spent a good life, but isn't it better to be a sinner until the last minute?  The one flaw with all of these interpretations is that we lack “Proof”. 

Religion is a matter of faith, it is the faith that aids the human soul on its journey along life's road.  It is, however, science that makes our current road more comfortable than that of our fore-fathers.

1 comment:

  1. As ever I knew I could rely upon Josephus to enter a riposte to my earlier post, and, as ever, he has penned a comprehensive explanation of some of the aspects of science I glossed over. While I agree entirely with him that science has made our lives a great deal more comfortable and easier in the last century, I would not say it 'replaces' religious faith, though it can and most certainly should, inform our understanding of what we believe and how we apply it.

    As someone else remarked to me recently, it would seem that Hell will indeed be an extremely busy place, so perhaps our best bet is to make sure we take an adequate quantity of BBQ goodies and try to figure out how to keep the beer chilled ...

    My point, in my original post, was to flag up the fact that a great deal of 'reason' or 'logic' (and as Josephus has so aptly shown) depends on 'belief' that some things we can neither prove or see, exist. Surely that is, in itself, the origins of a form of 'religion?'