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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 6 months ago
    As an engineer, I always respected the scientific method as necessarily objective. However, reflecting on my many years dealing with the scientific community, I've come to realize they are very belief-oriented. That really hit home to me in a discussion with my equally senior brother in law, who has a PhD in solid state physics. I had asked him a question based on astrophysics principles, and he responded that he'd have to see the math. That was a curious answer, so I asked him about how he applied his intellect to his field. I wasn't prepared for his answer, which was that he never bothered with principles, just so long as the math worked out. He had faith that mathematics always represents reality.

    Of course we all are aware that the climate change issue is heavily based on each parties' beliefs, since the subject is so complex complete understanding is out of reach. Likewise, the evolution vs creation argument is belief-oriented. The evolutionists have built a convincing trail of evidence, but choose to ignore findings that don't make evolutionary sense, while creationists ignore the mass of solid evolutionary evidence and focus on the small number of oddities, seeking proof of their belief.

    Going back to my engineering, I always looked for evidence that either supported or refuted theory, and when the principles were affirmed, I applied them until new evidence arose. I had faith that what I learned in principle was a reasonable representation of reality, but looked for objective, real-world evidence to support those principles. I guess I'd say that there can be compatibility between belief and objectivity, so long as one is willing to revise his beliefs when objective analysis supports an adjustment.
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    • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
      If you have the required evidence for believing something is true it is not faith. Objectivity is compatible with a belief only if you can validate it in reason. Rationalization and feelings are not compatible, whether or not you are later willing to revise a belief. Truth is not evolutionary as a sequence of exploded fallacies. Unless an error has been made truth is not "revised", only expanded with increasing knowledge.

      Of course science is "belief-oriented". It is knowledge. If you don't believe it is true because it has been validated then what would be the point of it?

      Mathematics is a science of method, establishing relations among measurements, not a faith about reality. Mathematics does not by itself represent reality, to be taken on faith and without the relevant valid concepts of entities, actions and attributes in reality.

      When your brother said in answer to a specific question that he "would have to see the math", it could have been a perfectly rational response if all he meant was that he would have to see some inference conceptually proved as relations between known facts.

      The science of evolutionary biology does not ignore facts. It seeks to explain facts not yet fully understood. All sciences are open-ended, expanding knowledge through discover of new facts and explanation. Creationists do not seek proof of their belief; they seek to further rationalize what they already improperly believe on faith.
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      • Posted by DrZarkov99 6 months ago
        You and I pretty much concur, but I need to clarify one thing, when my brother in law said he'd have to see the math, it wasn't that he was asking for confirmation. He admitted he genuinely wasn't interested in physical principles, and was amazed that I had reached a correct conclusion without going through the math. My cohorts in engineering projects were often dumbfounded that I could resolve problems much faster than they could, and often without dependence on computers, calculators, or mathematics. I had to conclude that the difference was that they relied on a rigid adherence to what they had been taught, but was puzzled as to why I reasoned differently. I finally had a clinical psychologist explain that people often fail to use the best human mental skill, which is pattern-matching. He went on to say that my reasoning was an example of a primitive skill used by our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who relied on noticing slight differences in their environment, and that I was collecting information and detecting what was wrong with the complete picture to arrive at a solution. It's a much more rapid way to solve a problem, but a difficult method to teach. I guess you could say that I had faith in my skill, but relied on an objective set of data to execute.
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        • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
          Modern science requires advanced mathematics to formulate and relate high level abstractions, but it is useless without the proper concepts. Many problems necessarily require mathematical analysis, but not always if the concepts are properly understood and the essentials addressed.

          There is an old story about J.P. Den Hartog (1901-1989), an expert in mechanical and electrical vibrations and a professor at MIT for many years who wrote several classic textbooks still consulted. He also did consulting work for companies. One of them had a vibration problem it could not solve for a large a structure. It hired consultants who did elaborate mathematical analyses but still could not solve the problem. Then Den Hartog went out and looked at the structure and immediately understood the cause and solution of the problem. It wasn't magic, he did it because he combined a thorough theoretical understanding with years of practical experience and could draw on his automatized knowledge and thinking together with direct observation to get to the essence.

          That cannot always be done, and difficult problems require a combination of understanding and complex analytical ability (even for Den Hartog). But if you know what you are doing, even in a very complex problem you can often bypass needless irrelevant complexities. Regardless of the type of problem you are solving, your confidence is not based on faith.
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    • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 months ago
      " Likewise, the evolution vs creation argument is belief-oriented."
      Science often is belief-oriented due to human foibles, but not by design. Science is supposed to welcome anomalies that overturn our current understanding.
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      • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
        Believing something is true based on the evidence is not a human foible. It is essential to knowledge. Knowledge is a mental grasp of reality; failure to believe it is about reality is the opposite of knowledge. "Current understanding" is not a floating abstraction apart from understanding of reality.
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        • Posted by IndianaGary 6 months ago
          "Current understanding" relies upon reality for context. As we better understand reality, over time, "current understanding" will change because the context has changed
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          • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
            Knowledge is mental grasp of reality. Understanding is understanding of reality (but not omniscience, like a mystic pretends). Reality is the object of knowledge, not the "context". In that sense all knowledge "relies" on reality. "Current understanding" is understanding at the current state of knowledge, which is an active process, not something provided by reality as a "context".

            Context is what we know which we take into account as relevant in some thought process: the entire field of awareness currently possible or what we selectively focus on as objectively relevant out of what is available to us. When we later understand more we have an expanded context of knowledge, not a changed reality. We know more facts, with more relations between them, as knowledge expands.

            "Current understanding" evolving in time is not a progression of overturned fallacies or sequence of changing floating abstractions. Except in cases of error, knowledge is not replaced, it expands -- expanding the context of knowledge in terms of which we think and apply what we know. Discoveries of "anomalies" do not overturn understanding, to be "welcomed" for that; they are new discoveries not previously known or understood that add to knowledge.
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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 6 months, 1 week ago
    I believe that this coffee is pretty good; and I believe that my wife's pancakes for breakfast were well worth eating. I believe that the speed of light is about 3x10^8 meters/second give or take; and 299,792,458 m/s does not change my belief all that much. Even though many knowledgeable experts believe otherwise, I believe that the coins of Alexander the Great portray Alexander, and I have presented my facts at a couple of conferences and a magazine article. I am pretty firmly convinced that even though some do agree with me (or I with them) on this, most of the others are all wrong on this point.

    But that is not what you are asking, is it?

    My theories about the portraiture of Alexander are not a matter of faith. And neither are the facts of history, or the facts of science, or the facts of philosophy, or anything else.

    What Objectivism (capital-O) teaches is that there are no contradictions. If you run into a contradiction, then you must check your premises because one or both of them is/are false. Contradictions do not exist.

    That is not the same thing as the limits of knowledge. In science, an anomaly is an observed fact for which there is no theory of explanation. Quasars and quarks were anomalies until theory was extended to explain them.

    Many people believe that Jesus or Mohammed (or several other people), ascended directly into heaven. At what speed did they rise? 100 mph? Because if so, they have yet to leave the solar system, and so, are probably a long way from God in Heaven... wherever that may be... So, that kind of believe is fraught with contradictions. Those who believe in objective reality simply dismiss such claims, along with the claim that Zeus appeared to Lido in the form of a swan or that Kali was stopped in her rampage only when her husband Shiva laid down in her path, and so on.
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    • Posted by 6 months, 1 week ago
      Interesting and thought provoking response.

      Here is my conundrum. I can believe that two plus two makes four (because an authority figure told me so) or I can, because I understand the mathematics, know WHY two plus two makes four. These are two very different views of the world.
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      • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 6 months, 1 week ago
        I was a substitute teacher in middle school in 2002 and in the orientation, we were warned with laughter not to accept it when kids cited Wikipedia as an authority. Well, in the above, for the speed of light, that's where I went. Furthermore, I wrote an article for publication about great naval battles and I started with the "standard references." Well, guess what? The Encylopedia Britannica and Grolier Encyclopedia Americana have different opinions about Oliver Hazzard Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie.

        So, you probably agree that you don't solve anything with authority because you have the problem of authenticating your authority. How do you know whom to believe?

        Also, as for WHY, that, too, depends on your standards of proof, which also need to be validated. A Bablyonian clay tablet with Pythagorean triples antedates the proofs by 1500 years, but the Babylonians would say that it is true by observation and needs no proof. Indeed, it does not need the many proofs we know (over 100 of them). It is true by observation, as is the fact that 2 + 2 = 4, given that we assign meanings to the symbols.

        But the Greeks made a logical leap and developed the methods of proof in geometry. It is to that standard that we still hold just about all other evidentiary learning.
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      • Posted by TheRealBill 6 months, 1 week ago
        Consider it this way: once you know, and can objectively prove that 2+2=4 (in the appropriate base system of course), you can no longer believe it to be the case. At least, not in the way I conceive of belief. (see other response)
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      • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
        You can believe something is true based on the evidence or through faith and feelings and/or rationalization. That doesn't make belief incompatible with objectivity; a belief may or may not be objective depending on why you believe it. The intensity of feeling in a belief is not justification for believing it. Why is that a conundrum?
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  • Posted by mia767ca 6 months ago
    I have observed many individuals who are very successful business-wise and yet are fatally religious...a total disconnect when it comes to philosophy of life and religion...very frustrating...they do no want to listen to any facts about the age of the Earth or dinosaurs...etc...

    in other words, as long as they can have a nice house, car, family, they blow off any serious discussion about life...
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    • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
      For more on this see Ayn Rand's essay "The Missing Link" on what she called the "anti-conceptual mentality" in her anthology Philosophy: Who Needs It.
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      • Posted by mia767ca 6 months ago
        thanks...had this discussion with her at an NBI event in NYC...very perplexing...
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        • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
          Her discussion of the "anti-conceptual mentality" -- in "The Missing Link" and the follow-up article "Selfishness Without a Self", both written long after NBI -- as treating higher level abstractions as if they were low level concepts based directly on perceptions, is very helpful but requires careful reading. It illustrates how the anti-conceptual mentality manifests itself in different realms, including clinging to tradition and heritage. In particular she refers to her explanation of "abstractions from abstractions" in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: a person may learn his profession very well through experience and some degree of better compartmentalized thinking, but science and philosophical topics are abstract subjects requiring more abstract concepts objectively formulated and applied. Understanding the nature and importance of objective abstractions makes it clear how some people can succeed in some business and even make some good observations about some political events staring them in the face, but completely flounder in an abstract discussion.
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          • Posted by mia767ca 6 months ago
            which basically comes down to "doing the work" to be as sound in your "life" as in your profession...
            ...and most individuals are too lazy to do that work...
            ...and then they resent you for the work and thinking that you do...
            ...how many times have I heard..."that's just your opinion"...while they act morally superior...argh!!!!!
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  • Posted by  $  blarman 6 months ago
    No. What is incompatible is a belief in something which defies the evidence, such as that socialism is a moral societal value system or that Keynesian economics works.

    What caused most scientific discovery? The belief that an undiscovered answer existed. What underlies invention? The belief that a better solution to a problem exists. What is the backing of entrepreneurs? A belief that they can offer up better products and/or services than their existing competitors. Belief itself is not incompatible at all with objectivity. It is holding to a belief in the face of evidence to the contrary that turns belief into bigotry and bias.
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    • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
      Not just "holding to a belief in the face of evidence to the contrary" but lack of evidence. Rejecting the arbitrary as cognitively worthless is not bigotry and bias.
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      • Posted by  $  blarman 6 months ago
        Lack of evidence simply means that no valid test has been designed to either confirm or disprove the hypothesis. It is not grounds for dismissing the hypothesis entirely. It is grounds for developing a better test!

        One thing that one must be very careful of in this case is designing a test case to fit one's biases and then claiming that because there was no outcome from the flawed test case that the outcome disproves the premise. Another is to ignore the existing results of others who have applied a successful test because one does not like the outcome.
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        • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
          That an assertion is arbitrary does not mean "no test has been designed". A legitimate hypothesis requires evidence of possibility. Rejecting meaningless, contradictory, and arbitrary assertions as cognitively worthless is not a matter of "not liking" someone's claims to an alleged "outcome" just as bizarre as the original subjective assertion. This is not a matter of legitimate scientific exploration where evidence of possibility for meaningful ideas are taken seriously -- though lack of proof precludes belief -- even when attempted verification is inconclusive.
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          • Posted by  $  blarman 6 months ago
            "That an assertion is arbitrary..."

            Arbitrary to whom? Ultimately, the only one who has the right to determine whether or not an assertion has the possibility of being proved is the one about to conduct the test - he/she is expending the time, energy, and resources! A third party may offer their opinion, such as in the case of a parent telling a child not to do something dangerous (like putting something in an electrical socket) but this neither invalidates nor should be allowed to override the original actor's opinion. How many inventors, scientists, and others have been told "that can't be done" only to prove to that their detractors were gravely mistaken?

            "A legitimate hypothesis requires evidence of possibility."

            There is no such thing as a "legitimate" hypothesis. It is in the testing of the hypothesis that legitimacy and confirmation - or rejection and illegitimacy - are determined. If one has already prejudged his or her hypothesis, one is simply introducing bias. Should the hypothesis include a likely outcome - an expected outcome? Absolutely. But this is very different than a "legitimate" outcome. The outcome is what it is. It is legitimate in its own right - not because we want it to be.

            "Rejecting meaningless, contradictory, and arbitrary assertions as cognitively worthless is not a matter of "not liking" someone's claims to an alleged "outcome""

            "Worthless" is a statement of personal valuation. It is an opinion - not a logical assertion. Therefore it is entirely a matter of whether or not the individual "likes" it enough to act on it. If one chooses to look at a subject and determine not to act on it, that is a personal decision. To attempt to make that decision for another individual is coercion and should not be tolerated.
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            • Posted by ewv 6 months ago
              An arbitrary assertion is one made without evidence. The topic here is the relation between belief and objectivity. You left out that objectively believing that something is true requires the evidence demonstrating it -- a reason, in logic, to believe it. That matters. Believing the arbitrary is not objective.

              'Cognitively worthless' means no cognitive value because there is no evidence connecting it to facts. Rejecting the arbitrary on principle as cognitively worthless is not subjective "bias"; it is a principle of logical thinking. The principle of not accepting a statement for lack of evidence is a matter of logic, not "opinion". Fantasy is not a tool of cognition. Lack of evidence has nothing to do with someone not "liking" an assertion. Cognitive value is not "entirely a matter of whether or not the individual 'likes' it enough to act on". That is subjectivism, not objectivity.

              A legitimate hypothesis is one for which there is evidence of the possibility that it is true. It is does not mean that a statement must be proved true before it can be regarded as a hypothesis, which make no sense and is a straw man. Stating that something is possible is an assertion requiring evidence for the possibility, and that it is a conceptually meaningful, non-contradictory statement employing valid concepts to begin with. Arbitrary hypotheses are arbitrary assertions, to be rejected as such on principle. Rejecting the arbitrary is not choosing to not "look at a subject" -- unless the "subject" itself is the arbitrary assertion.

              A subjectivist is not the "only one" with an epistemological "right" to evaluate the "possibility" of his assertions. Anyone can assess any statement by anyone. You again confuse logic with a political "right" to believe whatever you want to, immune from criticism and logical rejection. You cannot, in logic, demand that others take arbitrary assertions seriously. You can make whatever personal decisions about what to believe that you feel like, but in epistemology that is subjectivism, not objectivity.

              The topic of this thread on the relation between objectivity to believing that something is true pertains to the individual mind, not "making decisions for another individual". Please stay on the topic. Whether one accepts logic in his own thinking is each person's decision to make for himself, but for those who don't there is nothing left to discuss. Reason and logic -- not arbitrariness, faith and feeling -- as the standard of discussion on an Ayn Rand forum or anywhere else is not "coercion".
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  • Posted by Esceptico 6 months ago
    A belief is a proposition you accept as true. If you accept the belief with no evidence, not good. If you accept a belief as true based upon evidence, good. I think you may need to rephrase the question.
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  • Posted by Abaco 6 months ago
    While driving home last night I listened to a podcast about the Telford Grooming Scandal. In listening to it I was reminded that there is real evil in the world, possibly even a devil. I think it might go beyond the writings of Ayn Rand. But, I welcome any comments about it. My point is that this may push one toward a bit of "faith".
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    • Posted by IndianaGary 6 months ago
      There is no "evil" without a consciousness to achieve it. Evil does not stand alone; it requires a conscious action and a knowing actor, even if the action is to blank out reality. Human beings can be evil, horses and dogs and cats, cannot. There is no "devil"; there are people, like Hitler or Stalin, as examples, who do evil things. "Evil" is a negative term meaning, "that which is not good" and the necessary next question is, "Good? By what standard?" This, of course, leads into the whole subject of ethics, the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. I'll stop here...
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  • Posted by IndianaGary 6 months ago
    As I understand the question, it depends upon what you mean by "belief". If by belief you mean that one tentatively accepts statements pending evidence one way or another, then yes, I think that they can be compatible. If, however, you mean that one must have faith that something is so, in the religious sense, then I think that they are incompatible.
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  • Posted by TheRealBill 6 months, 1 week ago
    You'd have to define belief, and do it objectively, for a proper answer. ;)

    Now the way I define belief is "the acceptance of an assertion as fact for which there is, or can not be, objective evidence to support it.". Under that definition, belief in something is incompatible with being objective about it. Which might lead me to say that belief is incompatible with objectivity. That doesn't mean, necessarily, that objectivity is incompatible with belief, per se, but it may well be. It may be that objectivity simply erases belief when what was believed in was proven either objectively true/factual or invalid.

    Note that none of that says belief, itself, is inherently a bad or useless thing to someone being objective.
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