Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Open Philosophy

The writings in this blog are based on the principles of Open Philosophy. The principles of Open Philosophy are as follows:

1) It is not possible to know anything with absolute certainty.

2) Knowledge is a model of reality, not reality itself.

3) Not all knowledge is equal.

4) Knowledge should be tested and compared to the extent that it can be.

5) Language is capable of error and contradiction therefore, where possible, knowledge should be tested against experience as well as reason.

6) The less capable an area of knowledge is of being tested, the more tolerance there should be of differences of belief.

7) Tolerance of a belief is not acceptance of it.

8) Knowledge cannot be separated from its use.

9) The use of knowledge should be tempered by its level of certainty and consequences

10) Systems of knowledge should be capable of accepting new knowledge as it emerges.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Knowledge and Spirituality

Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate. Richard P. Feynman My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
Albert Einstein

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.
Stephen Hawking

The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.
Stephen Hawking

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Knowledge and Religion - Quotes

Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out.
Carl Sagan

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
Carl Sagan

Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science?
Carl Sagan

Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.
Carl Sagan

I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.
Albert Einstein

Monday, January 29, 2007

Knowledge and Science - Quotes

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
Carl Sagan

It is in the admission of ignorance and the admission of uncertainty that there is a hope for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn't get confined, permanently blocked, as it has so many times before in various periods in the history of man.
Richard Feynman

A central lesson of science is that to understand complex issues (or even simple ones), we must try to free our minds of dogma and to guarantee the freedom to publish, to contradict, and to experiment. Arguments from authority are unacceptable.
Carl Sagan

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
Carl Sagan

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.
Richard Feynman

We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
Carl Sagan

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
Richard Feynman

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Knowledge and Experience - Quotes

The only source of knowledge is experience.
Albert Einstein

It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.
Richard Feynman

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
Albert Einstein

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
Richard Feynman

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Albert Einstein

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Future of Science

Science, or more accurately the scientific method, will continue to be vital to the progress of society for the simple reason that it works.

The scientific method is not simply the search for proof of theories, it is also the search for disproof of theories. This is what makes the scientific method so reliable. If you only relied on proof it would be relatively easy to validate theories by selectively using that which supports your arguments and ignoring that which contradicts it. This is the single biggest cause of bad thinking in the world of religion and politics.

The scientific method is not the discovery of absolute truth, it is a means for comparing beliefs. In a world without absolute truth, not all beliefs are equal. Beliefs should be compared and weighed against each other. For this reason, religion is just as valid an area for scientific study as chemistry or physics, and should be studied scientifically to the extent that it can be. If some religious beliefs are true, the religious have no reason to fear scientific study of their beliefs.

Whilst much of what is believed in religion is hard to disprove and therefore not open to the scientific method, the mechanisms of religious belief can be studied at various levels including sociological, psychological and neurological. Studies into the neurological processes behind religious experience have begun but could go much further. It is likely that different types of religious experience can be distinguished through this study, separating out revelation and trance experiences from mystical, meditative and prayer experiences. This could prove to be very useful in the ongoing development of religion and spirituality, as trance experiences tend to be very culture specific and it is from these religious experiences that the creeds of intolerance usually emerge.

The specific claims about the physical world such as creation myths can also be studied and robust scientific models of creation and evolution already exist for anyone with an open mind.

Some of the most basic beliefs that exist in most religions can also be studied, although there is a reluctance to do so because of a cultural acceptance that religion and science occupy two realms which do not overlap.

Most religions believe in a spirit world and the existence of non-physical consciousness. This is not as hard to study as might at first be imagined. The scientific method is about looking for disproof as well as proof. There are many claims of paranormal activity. These can be studied and disproved if false.

For scientists who do not believe in paranormal activity it may seem a rather depressing activity to spend your life proving things to be false, but it is science. Many people would rather try and prove something exists than continually disproving false theories. It is for this reason that medical science usually requires ‘double blind’ experiments in drug testing. In double blind experiments the scientist conducting the research does not know who has the real drug under test, and who has been given a harmless placebo. No matter how much a scientist knows he must try and disprove something in order to be rigorous, he will want the thing under test to be proved.

Some of the best debunkers of paranormal activity in the past have been magicians, genuine fakes, whose work consists of tricking people’s senses and who therefore have a good understanding of man’s willingness to believe. Magicians can help in the design of clean experimental conditions for paranormal activity. Why bother? Because many people are exploited and abused by those who claim paranormal and spiritual ability.

Some universities do now have departments which study paranormal activity. If in the process of debunking most paranormal activity, they come across paranormal activity that is real, then so be it.

The study of consciousness is another area that can throw light on religious concepts by showing how the human mind develops. The study of Artificial Intelligence is also an area that may illuminate much about human as well as machine intelligence and consciousness.

The study of the laws of nature and the fundamental nature of matter and energy may very well radically alter our view of reality as it develops. Perhaps consciousness can exist outside of matter. Perhaps consciousness exists in all matter. The fact is that if either of these things are true, it is likely that the scientific method will discover them to be so in time. If God does exist within the universe, science would be likely at some point to discover evidence for this too.

If religion does contain truth, science which is willing to study it should not be feared by the religious. The other side of this is that science will prove much within religion to be false including the literal truth of revelation.

What man does not know, he tends to make up. It is the way our minds work. We look for patterns and reason in everything. That ability helps us survive and thrive. Beyond that which we know, we will always speculate. The important thing is to be open enough to allow changes in belief when knowledge allows it.

A spirituality that acknowledges that which we do not know as well as that which we do, allows for tolerance and continual development. It allows for a belief in God, Pantheism or Atheism. Once we have stepped beyond that which is known, tolerance is the most important thing to achieve. Tolerance is not religious or Atheist, tolerance is tolerance.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Future of Religion

Religion has had many challenges over the last few hundred years and survived them all. Where religion is not compulsory its influence wanes, although the variety of religions flourish. It seems unlikely that religion will completely die out if it has not done so already. It will however change. Many Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other religions, now see their holy books giving spiritual truth rather than literal truth. This is the only rational choice and allows religion to change with society.

For many people, their psychological needs outweigh rational thought and religion will continue to have a place in their life. Even for these people, however, the influence of the scientific age has an effect on religion regardless of the attempt to reject rationality. Religious groups which succeed most are those that offer strong personal experiences to act as a form of proof. For this reason the Pentacostal movement has been one of the most successful of recent evangelical movements. For this reason also, it is likely that some traditional and well established movements that concentrate on preaching rather than personal experience will continue their decline.

As the influence of organized religion declines, spirituality has become detached from religion and is no longer seen as a purely religious experience. People now seek out experiences that replace the spiritual gap that undoubtedly exists for many when they give up religion. It is more than likely that new religions will continue to emerge. Whether a new religion can become a dominant world view in the way that Christianity was in Europe is impossible to predict but it is unlikely unless it marries its beliefs with a view that is consistent with science and a continuing emergence of truth through the scientific method. What is more likely is that spirituality without creed will continue its growth.