Science too hard? There are ways around it, IMO.

I'm trying to cultivate a love of routine. I worry that my days are rushing ahead too quickly and I think that better organisation might get better value out of them.
This routine includes browsing (not just for that) the internet for interesting discussions. Atheist Nexus is one of the havens where I know that the one topic you won't have to fight for is the usefulness of the scientific method in helping you answer, or at least understand, pretty much any question you throw at it.
This is not true for other sites though. I've had arguments with people who like to take scientific words and apply them to their own little theory and the pronouncing, through their careful considerations that: "Einstein was wrong!", "Dawkins is wrong!", "Hawking doesn't know what I know!" etc. etc. etc.
I once made the error of replying to a troll who had clearly spent a very long time cultivating his theory that quantum mechanics disproved logic. The temptation, to which I yielded, was to point out that perhaps there is something wrong with the rigour of the research underpinning the theory. As always in these cases, I received a very impressive list of links and references. None of which were the product of scientific enquiry, for example, the definition of QM was from a dictionary of Philosophy which was apparently good enough as a basis to disprove logic. Once done, that was enough to let God in and there you go: God exists.
It's not just the religionists who invent or ignore facts in order to align observation with their own pet theory (instantly identifiable by the use of IMO immediately before it). It seems to be an increasingly popular past time amongst *gasp* us atheists too.
The skill of the troll is to get you to respond and the temptation is immense. They always claim to be serious in their studies and appear to have tremendous ability in research using the internet but never seem to 'google' the obvious, such as looking up the theories of Special Relativity, QM, Evolution, on a scientific site. Instead they prefer to quote surveys, psychology dictionaries and philosophy papers, presumably because this is the only place their IMO theory can find something other than direct contradiction. Try telling them that results of a survey can't prove the truth of the opinion collected and you're challenged to disprove it, but only using their preferred sources.
Feynman once said that psychoanalysis was not a science because it had no central body of theory and its pace of progress was so immense: "...they have all these complicated theories devised in an infinitesimal amount of time". This is a very good bullshit test for pseudosciences. The progress of actual science is far more slow because it is so rigourous. The IMO theory that 'QM is wrong!!' never comes from a fuller understanding of QM than Feynman's though even he said that "probably no one understands it!". And this is still true; we have a mathematical model which produces probably the most accurate predictions of experiment (the sole test of a theory) ever produced but no real understanding about why it 'should' be that way; QM can't help you visualise a photon any more than the theory of gravity can tell you the mechanism by which masses attract one another.
I tend to stop at the point when someone claims that Einstein or Dawkins etc. are wrong. I'm not saying that the IMO Theorist is wrong though, only that I'm giving up. Who knows, perhaps I'm throwing away a chance to learn how the world *really* works. I think it's for the best; it's too easy to waste my rushing days when I could be playing Batman Arkham City or Skyrim!

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Comment by Angela Olson on November 16, 2011 at 10:27am

It is certainly hard to debate such people, but it's easy to see why they don't fully grasp the idea of scientific theory. They most likely have been raised in a church, or have subscribed to a belief and connected on an emotional level rather than a rational level. After they've fallen in love with the idea of whatever their belief may be, and then their rational mind tries to defend its decision by finding "proof" to back it up. Except... science really doesn't "proove" anything. Science merely explains how things work and why they work. It has little interest in "prooving." (unless it wants to prove something wrong- scientists get their thrills on disproving) That's where the sharp deviation from a sound scientific mind and a lunatic is discovered.


So it goes back to scientific theory- You start with an observation, then test to find a conclusion. With religion, that method is backwards. They already have the conclusion, now they need to find evidence to back it up. Science is very fluid and willing to change conclusions in light of new discoveries. Religion is rigid. The conclusion is already there, and they will continue to troll through science to try to satisfy their need to be right. That's what makes debating so difficult. You are dealing with two different mindsets. One follows logic, the other follows emotion. So go play skyrim and stay away from trolls!


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