YouTube: Ask Sam Harris Anything #2

by leavingwt 17 Replies latest jw friends

  • PSacramento

    Science is the observation of nature, it makes NO COMMENT on things outside of observable nature.

    Scientists on they other hand, do.

    Of course as we get better at observing Nature, what lies "outside observable nature" becomes less and less.

    Just as what may be called supernatural will become more and more natural.

  • Terry

    From a speech by DOUG ADAMS at Cambridge in 1998

    Let me try and illustrate what I mean by something else. This is very speculative; I'm really going out on a limb here, because it's something I know nothing about whatsoever, so think of this more as a thought experiment than a real explanation of something. I want to talk about Feng Shui, which is something I know very little about, but there's been a lot of talk about it recently in terms of figuring out how a building should be designed, built, situated, decorated and so on. Apparently, we need to think about the building being inhabited by dragons and look at it in terms of how a dragon would move around it. So, if a dragon wouldn't be happy in the house, you have to put a red fish bowl here or a window there. This sounds like complete and utter nonsense, because anything involving dragons must be nonsense - there aren't any dragons, so any theory based on how dragons behave is nonsense. What are these silly people doing, imagining that dragons can tell you how to build your house? Nevertheless, it occurs to me if you disregard for a moment the explanation that's actually offered for it, it may be there is something interesting going on that goes like this: we all know from buildings that we've lived in, worked in, been in or stayed in, that some are more comfortable, more pleasant and more agreeable to live in than others. We haven't had a real way of quantifying this, but in this century we've had an awful lot of architects who think they know how to do it, so we've had the horrible idea of the house as a machine for living in, we've had Mies van der Roe and others putting up glass stumps and strangely shaped things that are supposed to form some theory or other. It's all carefully engineered, but nonetheless, their buildings are not actually very nice to live in. An awful lot of theory has been poured into this, but if you sit and work with an architect (and I've been through that stressful time, as I'm sure a lot of people have) then when you are trying to figure out how a room should work you're trying to integrate all kinds of things about lighting, about angles, about how people move and how people live - and an awful lot of other things you don't know about that get left out. You don't know what importance to attach to one thing or another; you're trying to, very consciously, figure out something when you haven't really got much of a clue, but there's this theory and that theory, this bit of engineering practice and that bit of architectural practice; you don't really know what to make of them. Compare that to somebody who tosses a cricket ball at you. You can sit and watch it and say, 'It's going at 17 degrees'; start to work it out on paper, do some calculus, etc. and about a week after the ball's whizzed past you, you may have figured out where it's going to be and how to catch it. On the other hand, you can simply put your hand out and let the ball drop into it, because we have all kinds of faculties built into us, just below the conscious level, able to do all kinds of complex integrations of all kinds of complex phenomena which therefore enables us to say, 'Oh look, there's a ball coming; catch it!'

    What I'm suggesting is that Feng Shui and an awful lot of other things are precisely of that kind of problem. There are all sorts of things we know how to do, but don't necessarily know what we do, we just do them. Go back to the issue of how you figure out how a room or a house should be designed and instead of going through all the business of trying to work out the angles and trying to digest which genuine architectural principles you may want to take out of what may be a passing architectural fad, just ask yourself, 'how would a dragon live here?' We are used to thinking in terms of organic creatures; an organic creature may consist of an enormous complexity of all sorts of different variables that are beyond our ability to resolve but we know how organic creatures live. We've never seen a dragon but we've all got an idea of what a dragon is like, so we can say, 'Well if a dragon went through here, he'd get stuck just here and a little bit cross over there because he couldn't see that and he'd wave his tail and knock that vase over'. You figure out how the dragon's going to be happy here and lo and behold! you've suddenly got a place that makes sense for other organic creatures, such as ourselves, to live in.

    So, my argument is that as we become more and more scientifically literate, it's worth remembering that the fictions with which we previously populated our world may have some function that it's worth trying to understand and preserve the essential components of, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water; because even though we may not accept the reasons given for them being here in the first place, it may well be that there are good practical reasons for them, or something like them, to be there. I suspect that as we move further and further into the field of digital or artificial life we will find more and more unexpected properties begin to emerge out of what we see happening and that this is a precise parallel to the entities we create around ourselves to inform and shape our lives and enable us to work and live together. Therefore, I would argue that though there isn't an actual god there is an artificial god and we should probably bear that in mind. That is my debating point and you are now free to start hurling the chairs around!

  • leavingwt

    Just as what may be called supernatural will become more and more natural.

    You've reminded me of Clarke's Three Laws!

    Clarke's Three Laws are three "laws" of prediction formulated by the British writer and scientist Arthur C. Clarke. They are:

    1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • OnTheWayOut

    I definitely don't agree with his thoughts on free will. Even though he lightly tackles the question, "Then why bother to get out of bed at all?" after suggesting we have no free will at all, he really overthinks the subject. He says that scientists could predict seconds before an action whether the person would use their right hand or left hand by looking at the brain. That's missing the point of free will. It is not the use of which hand, or whether we get influenced to sit on the inside or outside seat on the train that we are talking about. We have the ability to analyze and meditate and research and choose from important events and moralities.

    I did like that he admitted science is limited. On that:

    I truly don't get these kinds of statements. I mean, don't they suggest SOME level of uncertainty? If so, if an expert is not certain... by his own words... why do some say he is? Why not say what you mean ("invisible others that do NOT exist"... "those NONEXISTENT invisible others...")... if that's what you truly believe... so as not to be confusing?

    He is being ultra-cautious and going with the fact that some things are always going to be unproveable. Perhaps, better words would have been "invisible others are totally unproven to exist."

  • AGuest

    I cannot speak for anyone but myself (may you all have peace!), but your comments only serve to further support my position that, OFTEN, scientists "speak" like religionists: "We actually don't really know ourselves but YOU should just believe us when we say what it is/isn't..." I... truly... do... not... see... the... difference. Other than, because one camp has a better track record of supporting what they DO know, that particular camp actually appears to disdain those who DON'T think like them... even MORE than the other camp (which I used to think was almost impossible to do! Before coming here, that is...).

    Perhaps, better words would have been "invisible others are totally unproven to exist."

    But is "totally unproven" the truth? If that were the case, wouldn't we less hemming and hawing... less, "I'm not claiming there is no God" and "hat may or many not exist" type comments?

    Wouldn't it be more accurate to have said, "Invisible others which have, thus far, been unproven to exist... and we don't anticipate any change in that in the near future, indeed if ever"?

    No, I don't think your statement is accurate, either, but rather, has the potential to be just as confusing.

    Again, peace to you all!

    A slave of Christ,


  • PSacramento

    You've reminded me of Clarke's Three Laws!


    2000 years ago a virgin birth was a miracle and had to be a fable, a myth, and yet NOW, it CAN be common and it most certaibly is possible and NOT miraculous anymore.

    We need to accept that many things 'written off" by skeptics because they are supernatural in the bible, may will be proven to be possible.

    The pilar of fire is another example, recall a few months abot that video of one such a pillar in Brasil?

  • leavingwt

    "We actually don't really know ourselves but YOU should just believe us when we say what it is/isn't..."

    You should definitely ignore people who assert things with no evidence -- especially anyone claiming to be a scientist.

  • agonus

    I don't think I'll ever be fully comfortable telling my kids (or anyone else for that matter) what happens when we die for sure, until I'm fully convinced that I either am or have been actually deceased. Maybe one day I'll have a(n) NDA scenario where I'm declared clinically dead then come back to life, then I'll relate any details I can recall. Until then I have to admit I simply don't know with any degree of certainty.

    But I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that it's impossible that there is nothing beyond this current material existence. I mean, against all odds and reason, we're here NOW... aren't we?

    Who's to say it can't happen again in some form or another? Not me.

    Until then, I try to remain open to possibilities. Call it cautious optimism.

    I mean, heck, why not?

Share this