The Scientific Irony

Published on October 31, 2017 (↻ December 17, 2023), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

The scientific method—science—makes many assumptions (materialism, empiricism, determinism, temporality, logic, &c. pp.) and therefore seems constrained to physical reality, if not parts of that. In my mind, science is of limited—but not of no—use to our view of the world, to philosophy, and especially to metaphysics.

There is, and please share your thoughts as I have convictions and am quick with assertions, some quite delicate irony, however, in what science has led us to believe. Two of the root arguments are as follows:

P
There’s no proof that life is not based on chance.
C
Therefore, life is based on chance.

And:

P
There’s no proof that life has meaning.
C
Therefore, life is meaningless.

The irony is not that these arguments, even if the premises were true, aren’t sound. The irony is not that they, when believed, are disproportionately impactful. The irony is not that these arguments are, indeed, destructive, counter a constructive world view and a healthy psychological model of reality.

The irony is that the faith-rejecting, (dis)proof-centered enterprise of science is but based on faith.

What the scientific method does is to ask for faith to reject faith.

Just as some believe that there’s a God, others believe life is physical and explicable and meaningless.

We could go further and note how the parallel makes for a contradiction: a fact-centered world view based on belief. However, that’s yet not a problem because logic appears limited, too, and because I don’t want to go further (I’m not even sure I can). I just want to challenge the assumptions we’re making about our world—and how science seems to be a faith-based enterprise just like religion is. Everything may be, and so science really is nothing different or special or better. Problems arise when we fail to recognize this.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. On November 1, 2017, 10:28 CET, Patrick Dark said:

    Science is *not* “a faith-based enterprise”. It’s a framework that lets you predict what has happened, is happening, and will happen in a given circumstance based on empirical evidence.

    If you don’t have evidence, then you form a hypothesis, test, and draw a conclusion based on observations.

    Religion is the opposite. You form a conclusion, test, and discard all observations that contradict your conclusion.

    The result is that it can’t reliably predict anything about reality. This is why we have a multitude of religions that both contradict one another and themselves and can’t tell us anything about anything except fictional alternate realities like Heaven and Hell.

    Secondly, I find the concept of using “faith to reject faith” amusing. It implies that one must apply conscious effort to reject nothingness. No such effort is required.

    What requires effort is believing that Galileo was wrong and that the sun orbits the earth when all observations contradict that conclusion.

    Lastly, life has no meaning in a grand sense. But one must ask: why does it matter? There’s meaning to every personal action one takes both to oneself and to others. Why is that not enough? It’s enough to me.

  2. On November 1, 2017, 11:42 CET, Jens Oliver Meiert said:

    Thank you, Patrick. I believe you’re expressing thoughts a great many people may be having.

    Just two questions:

    What is the scientific method based on, from your view? For example, if you find it to mean that everything can be measured, or explained (simplified), do you have proof that everything can indeed be measured or explained? If not, what does that mean for the method?

    Then, you seem convinced that life has no meaning. Fair enough; there are enough models suggesting to be “true” what we believe in (although these models don’t get enough attention). However, as professing to the scientific method, what do you base that conviction on? What facts are there to show?

    Note that this is not about you in particular; it is about demonstrating that the matter is not simple. Faith may appear in many different places.

  3. On November 4, 2017, 17:38 CET, lab said:

    1. Science is a method for learning about the (physical) world around us by making observations, asumptions based on these observations, testing these assumptions and building theories out of this. So we agree here.
    2. So the “meaning of life” would not be a topic for scientific exploration because it can’t be observed or tested.
    3. If it would be - your sentence must sound more like: “There’s no proof that life has meaning; therefore I cant’s say anything about it’s meaning. More research is needed.”

    I fully agree with you that science is limited (to observable* topics) but I strongly disagree that science has anything in common with religion. Religion is about believing something just because somebody told you or whatever you like to believe - even if it is utterly stupid or observable false. And because people have so strong feelings about they go out harming and killing people who do not share there beliefs. Never heard about somebody beeing killed in a scientific debate …
    No, science is not just like religion is.

    * today ovservation is not limited to the naked eye