How should we go about understanding reality

  • #1
I wish to discuss how does one rationally go about understanding the world we live in.

There is the scientific approach of empiric data and evidence etc. There are philosophers who come up with many different ideas based on their rational thinking and theres religion that claims so many ideas are the truth based on evidence from scripture. And theres a whole mix of weird and wild experiences from individuals. Everyone propogates their own version is the best, so what is a best methodology to understand things properly.

Should I accept everything that science says with full faith and ignore other sources of knowledge -- or should I try to balance out the different ideas from science, philosophy and religion and try to pick out the best and choose my reality, so to speak.

What is the best approach for a rational person and how to do that on a practical level?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
I say, it begins and ends with geometry: the apriori science that deals purely with the form of the external intuition. I think Kant hit the nail on the head.

The problem with theor. physics as I see it is that it is innundated with algebraic formalism, and pays scant attention to this most "concrete" of disciplines. Even when geometry is talked about, the language becomes so abstract and technical. That's a shame.

I think it's best to ask the simple questions, such as: What does it mean for matter to occupy space?

The "particle" theories don't ask this question at all, and the "field" theories seem to deny that there could be an equivalence between the concepts of ponderable matter and diffuse field.

There are definitely elements of QM that seem to be on the right track, when it speaks of entanglement and non-localism. That is, if matter is fundamentally *spatial*, and if there are no good a priori reasons to restrict the extent of this spatiality, then it makes sense to say that "ontological disconnectedness" (for want of a better term) is the spooky idea, rather than the other way around.

And I obviously have a lot of love for GR. The only problem is when it is said that "matter bends space, and bent space directs matter." This definition is ugly, there seems to be some kind of infinite loop going on here, logically speaking (chicken and the egg, what?). I think matter and space/field are one and the same.

What can I say... I'm a universalist. All things are connected, etc.
 
  • #3
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1
Should I accept everything that science says with full faith...
Looks like your taking the wrong approach here. Science doesn't require faith.
 
  • #4
Science kind of requires faith in one's self. Because it's not a "thing", it's a method. And it's not even any particular method. The idea of science is more like method, in itself. Logical procedure. Whatever you want to apply that to is your own bag. Theology is scientific/methodical, even.
 
  • #5
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we can make models to represent our universe and its functions. what then does the scientist represent?
 
  • #6
Ryan_m_b
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Science does not rely on faith at all. If you lack the training to understand the science you take it on trust from authority figures, not on faith.

In science we try to explain the universe by observing/testing/concluding to make predictive explanatory models of how the world works.

Religion relies on faith. It has no evidence (often holds beliefs inspite of evidence) and makes absolute claims about the nature of reality. It is not a good pathway to uncovering how the universe really works.

Choosing your reality is a hellishly bad idea. You can choose not to believe that inertia exists but that isnt going to stop the truck hitting you squashing you into a pancake. The best approach to figuring out what we know about reality is to go with what we have evidence for, not what people "believe".

The scientist represents the guy whose profession it is to do science
 
  • #7
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The scientist represents the guy whose profession it is to do science
so he the fact that he created and controls the model has no similarities with a god, scientifically. so in science we can ignore some data if it causes us to ask the wrong questions?
 
  • #8
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so he the fact that he created and controls the model has no similarities with a god, scientifically.
Not a very good analogy. Scientists can be wrong. Testing and verifying the predicted models by others is part of the scientific method.

so in science we can ignore some data if it causes us to ask the wrong questions?
perhaps a example would help .
 
  • #9
Ryan_m_b
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so he the fact that he created and controls the model has no similarities with a god, scientifically. so in science we can ignore some data if it causes us to ask the wrong questions?
I really can't make sense of what you are trying to say here.
 
  • #10
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i'm not tryin to bust anyones balls. i was just playin devils advocate. to get useful data experiments have to be designed. things dont happen on thier own. model is to universe as scientist is to god, creator(s), or whatever you use to explain how things came to be. back to understanding reality. i doubt we wil truly understand what is real. one could argue that the only thing that exists is this present moment. then again i could be experiencing this right now and you could be remembering it ten years from now.
 
  • #11
Pythagorean
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I like Robert Sapolsky's pedagogical approach; you have "buckets" that each represent an approach to a general problem and you try to examine the problem from each bucket, never fully committing to one bucket or the other, though one bucket may be your dominant bucket, and eventually you may lose interest in particular buckets all together.
 
  • #12
cobalt124
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Should I accept everything that science says with full faith and ignore other sources of knowledge -- or should I try to balance out the different ideas from science, philosophy and religion and try to pick out the best and choose my reality, so to speak.

What is the best approach for a rational person and how to do that on a practical level?
Choosing your reality is a hellishly bad idea.
To answer your question literally, I would say a rational person would have to ditch everything but science. I wouldn't advise taking what any of them say with full faith, for the most part each should be questioned "on its own terms" e.g. there is no point questioning faith from a scientific perspective or vice versa (IMO), though philosophy could be used to question the other two I reckon, but not vice versa. Whichever way, I agree with ryan_m_b. These approaches are ways of seeing (aspects of?) reality, you should be able to view reality though them interchangeably (possibly "pick n mix"), rather than using them to impose a choice upon reality. The choice is in how you want to view (live?) life. I'm essentially saying the same as Pythagorean but not as succinctly.
 
  • #13
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Taoists like to say, "Many paths, one mountain." The assumption is that everyone is climbing the same mountain and some paths might get you to the top faster, but there is no single path that is the best for everyone. The scientific path is one of many and you can switch back and forth between paths whenever it seems to your advantage.

This is a pragmatic approach where what is reasonable depends upon the individual and their specific circumstances at the time. Hence the need to know your own limitations at any given time and the demands of the paths you have to choose from. While there is only so much we might be able to determine about the path ahead, there is certainly a great deal we can learn about ourselves. The more we know and accept our own limitations, the better we can assess the path before us and the less we need to rely on arbitrary rules of thumb about what we should and shouldn't do.
 
  • #14
Pythagorean
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In my experience the scientfic paths have been the most fruitful for answering all of my questions.
 
  • #15
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In my experience the scientfic paths have been the most fruitful for answering all of my questions.

Is that a scientific approach to how he should choose?
 
  • #16
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Yes, if he is searching for an answer here.
 
  • #17
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So subjective anecdotal evidence now qualifies as scientific evidence so long as it is posted at a website dedicated to science?
 
  • #18
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So subjective anecdotal evidence now qualifies as scientific evidence so long as it is posted at a website dedicated to science?
What? No one said that.

However, I'm yet to here any logical argument that points out any other system that can provide the benefits of science.

No other path has provided as much development and discovery as science has - the 'first' world is because of science.
 
  • #19
Pythagorean
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Is that a scientific approach to how he should choose?
No, my first post pertained to the rational approach. My second post was more about the results in this particular trial.

But why should their be a scientific approach to choosing? I'm emotionally satisfied by the scientific approach, that should be enough to justify my choice.
 
  • #20
359
4
I say, it begins and ends with geometry: the apriori science that deals purely with the form of the external intuition. I think Kant hit the nail on the head.

The problem with theor. physics as I see it is that it is innundated with algebraic formalism, and pays scant attention to this most "concrete" of disciplines. Even when geometry is talked about, the language becomes so abstract and technical. That's a shame.

I think it's best to ask the simple questions, such as: What does it mean for matter to occupy space?

The "particle" theories don't ask this question at all, and the "field" theories seem to deny that there could be an equivalence between the concepts of ponderable matter and diffuse field.

There are definitely elements of QM that seem to be on the right track, when it speaks of entanglement and non-localism. That is, if matter is fundamentally *spatial*, and if there are no good a priori reasons to restrict the extent of this spatiality, then it makes sense to say that "ontological disconnectedness" (for want of a better term) is the spooky idea, rather than the other way around.

And I obviously have a lot of love for GR. The only problem is when it is said that "matter bends space, and bent space directs matter." This definition is ugly, there seems to be some kind of infinite loop going on here, logically speaking (chicken and the egg, what?). I think matter and space/field are one and the same.

What can I say... I'm a universalist. All things are connected, etc.
Interesting post evenflower.

I thought Roger Penrose's new idea (CCC - Cyclical Conformal Cosmology, or something like that) was also interesting along similar lines. Put very simply, once all the matter is gone in the Universe (i.e. we have a Universe filled solely with radiation) there is nothing around to experience the passage of time, and length contraction goes to zero. The infinite becomes the infintesimal, and we get another Big Bang, or another "cycle" begins.

It seems obvious you cannot have matter without space, but this whole idea he has also seems to imply that you cannot have space without matter. They would seem to be somehow dependent upon one another.

We'll just have to wait and see if RP's idea gets any validation. For now, it seems most think it's a really neat idea, but are highly skeptical about it. Sounds like many are uneasy about the way he treats the 2nd Law, as well.
 
  • #21
359
4
Should I accept everything that science says with full faith and ignore other sources of knowledge -- or should I try to balance out the different ideas from science, philosophy and religion and try to pick out the best and choose my reality, so to speak.

What is the best approach for a rational person and how to do that on a practical level?
I think it's important to fully look into ALL of the above - science, religon, philosophy, etc.

Many scientists who tell you to ignore religion, have never done a thorough study of religion. Most religous folks that are anti-science, likewise understand little about it.

(And when I say study religion I mean ALL the major religions, both East and West. A good 10+ years of reading!)

I recommend learning as much as you can and forming your own opinion.

Lastly, I'd recommend to never be completely swayed by the mainstream. All fields of human "knowledge" are heavily influenced by the current paradigm, or way of thinking, that is ultimately limiting.

As humans, we always seem to think we're at the top of the totem pole, and that our current way of thinking about the world is the best/ultimate ... maybe one day we'll learn from history and realize it's not
 
  • #22
Ryan_m_b
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I think it's important to fully look into ALL of the above - science, religon, philosophy, etc.

Many scientists who tell you to ignore religion, have never done a thorough study of religion. Most religous folks that are anti-science, likewise understand little about it.

(And when I say study religion I mean ALL the major religions, both East and West. A good 10+ years of reading!)

I recommend learning as much as you can and forming your own opinion.

Lastly, I'd recommend to never be completely swayed by the mainstream. All fields of human "knowledge" are heavily influenced by the current paradigm, or way of thinking, that is ultimately limiting.

As humans, we always seem to think we're at the top of the totem pole, and that our current way of thinking about the world is the best/ultimate ... maybe one day we'll learn from history and realize it's not
Of course he should study as much as possible to come to a conclusion but whether or not scientists (or anyone from that matter) tell others to ignore religion has nothing to do with whether or not they have studied religions.

Science is an approach to discovering truth, religions are claims of truth. The difference with the scientific approach compared to any other is that it is demonstrable. It is not simply a case of the mainstream preaching dogma, the "mainstream" is the widely held view with the most evidence. Mainstream opinions should be taken as the yardstick for our best understanding, not statements of absolute truth
 
  • #23
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1
Once you get rid of any confirmation biases or belief biases, then anything seems possible. Implementing a sort of scientific method in life as in trying different things in different ways to get the same goal would help any person stuck.
 
  • #24
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4
Of course he should study as much as possible to come to a conclusion but whether or not scientists (or anyone from that matter) tell others to ignore religion has nothing to do with whether or not they have studied religions.

Science is an approach to discovering truth, religions are claims of truth. The difference with the scientific approach compared to any other is that it is demonstrable.
Well, your first statement up there was sorta my point. Why would anyone dismiss something they know next to nothing about? In other words, it should have something to do "with whether or not they have studied religions". Additionally ...


the second one is a matter of opinion. On the surface, it may be valid opinion for western religions, but it may be equally NOT valid for eastern religions. Eastern religions are pretty much a road map to personal experience of the truths they contain, in other words they claim their truths are demonstrable for each individual - albeit, not in a way that is accepted to the current scientific paradigm.

Although I doubt you will agree! Doesn't really matter, we all gave our opinions. I'd say to Peter .. ignore all of 'em .. and make your own informed decision
 
  • #25
Ryan_m_b
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Well, your first statement up there was sorta my point. Why would anyone dismiss something they know next to nothing about? In other words, it should have something to do "with whether or not they have studied religions". Additionally ...


the second one is a matter of opinion. On the surface, it may be valid opinion for western religions, but it may be equally NOT valid for eastern religions. Eastern religions are pretty much a road map to personal experience of the truths they contain, in other words they claim their truths are demonstrable for each individual - albeit, not in a way that is accepted to the current scientific paradigm.

Although I doubt you will agree! Doesn't really matter, we all gave our opinions. I'd say to Peter .. ignore all of 'em .. and make your own informed decision
It depends on which eastern religion you are talking about. Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism all have unverified proposals of truth and are all eastern religions. In my experience I have yet to find a religion that sought to explain personal experiences in any other way than attributing them to preconceived faith beliefs.

So you are right, I do respectably disagree :tongue:
 

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