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Why Science (Natural Philosophy) is Bullshit

Yes, in a section or three we'll get around to religion, and show how religion, especially organized religion, is philosophical Bullshit however useful or useless you might perceive of it to be from a socio-memetic or ethical point of view. However if I did religion right now I'd be accused of being a Godless Scientistic, and since I'm actually a Godful Scientist I figured I might as well smash my own dolly before smashing anybody else's.

So just what is this ``Science'' thing of which I'm about to speak? I'm so glad you asked.

Science should properly be called by its true name - Natural Philosophy. It is founded on the very simple idea that if you want to know how Nature works, to find the deepest possible answers to all of those Big Questions, the best way to proceed is to ask it. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

The asking and answering of questions in science has been reduced to a ritual. Although Real Science is, in fact, not always or even usually done in strict accord with it13.15, the key step, the step of deciding what one is permitted to conclude, is known as the Scientific Method.

Nearly all students in the West are exposed to the Scientific Method in the form of questions on various quizzes and exams that ask silly things like ``what are the steps of the Scientific Method'' as if it is a recipe for knowledge like a recipe for chocolate cake13.16. In a nutshell, the Scientific Method is all about formulating propositions (hypotheses), doing empirical experiments to test them on the basis of data, and then formulating conclusions drawn from the data by the process of statistical inference that might support the hypothesis, contradict the hypothesis, fail to resolve the hypothesis one way or another, lead to new hypotheses (and a new round of funding). They key terms here are hypothesis, data, inference, conclusion liberally interspersed with funding, publication, and paperwork.

Here are the axioms of Natural Philosophy:

These look a lot like Descartes' axioms, but without all the ontological mumbo-jumbo and fleshed out with the ideas of induction as a viable means to knowledge. On the basis of these (and still more, this list is just the highlights and not exhaustive) axioms, scientists propose hypotheses leading to coherent, organized theories that are eventually validated by experiments13.18.

By now you should know the drill as well as I do. On the basis of what logic should we believe in Causality and all the rest? No fair answering something irrational such as ``because it works'' because ``working'' is something that is validated using induction, and the logical validity of empirical induction cannot be logically proven by induction. Besides, empirical induction can be (and often has been, historically) mistaken - it is not a razor sharp knife, merely sharp ``enough'' to carve out, over time, a consistent picture of the laws of nature as they are written by the Hand of God on the blank page of the Universe for all to read who have the wit to do so, no need of a prophet's license or an accompanying Holy Scripture.

There is no logical reason to believe in Causality, Temporal Ordering, the validity of the Law of Induction. They are Bullshit, in the precise sense that we cannot prove them to be true, as they are things we have to assume so we can prove things to be (provisionally) true. I can certainly imagine them to be false, and some of them might even be false - there was a time when people wouldn't have admitted the possibility of probability, for example13.19 and the issue is still, really, unresolved. Well, in truth, I personally have a hard time actually imagining e.g. the Law of Causality to be false but can sort of manage it by thinking of apparently ordered states embedded in an infinity of random configurations - a sort of a monkey-typing-Shakespeare sort of acausal Universe. Not too ``likely''13.20, sure, and it has a hard time dealing with my self-awareness, but given infinity to work with lots of unlikely things are possible and the Universe itself is nearly infinitely ``unlikely'' to be the precise way that it nevertheless is...13.21

Yet they do seem to self-consistently work. We thus find ourselves in a philosophical mire. We can ignore the axioms above, sneering that they are not provable and only one possible set of axioms out of a practical infinity of possibilities and hence are unlikely to be correct. However, if they turn out to be correct, one prediction they make is that ignoring them will result in my almost immediate demise as I try to eat my laptop as if it is a sandwich (crunching up all those arsenic-bearing IC's like popcorn) or walk out into traffic imagining that right now it is possible that the cars are soft and fluffy and that I've grown so hard and massive that the cars will bounce right off. People in fact do these things (usually after ingesting large amounts of hallucinogens) and certainly appear to die or at least get very badly injured when they do. When I've ignored the Laws of Science in the past (assuming that my memory is in fact real and the past I remember actually happened in some approximation) I've gotten really badly hurt myself and remember the pain. My brainstem remembers something of this pain and automatically compensates for my movement while I walk without falling down. Humans are apparently programmed to learn Laws of Nature - fire burns, falling hurts, disobeying parents causes bottom-swats - from pain and experience as anyone who has ever been a child or raised a child should well remember.

So for no good reason (if ``good'' is supposed to mean ``rational'') I choose to believe these unprovable axioms as my own Prime Axioms, Axioms with a capital A. Or perhaps for every good reason. Perhaps they are a statement that is true but unprovable, just like this book. Mind you, they aren't enough - I add a few more axioms that also seem to work, at least for me - but they are most of what is needed to provide me with what appears to be a basis for conditional knowledge of the Universe, which is as good as it gets.

next up previous contents
Next: Why Logical Positivism is Up: Critique of Specific Philosophies Previous: Why Solipsism is Bullshit   Contents
Robert G. Brown 2007-12-17