Friday, September 18, 2009

Things Science cannot Prove

This 3-minute video is a snippet of a debate between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Peter Atkins, addressing the important issue of: 'Are there things that Science cannot prove?'


  1. 1). Logic and mathematical truths are subjective and dependent on the the person (excluding absolutes which can be verified by science).

    2). metaphysical truths, i think therefore i am is as far as a person can logically go before invoking some kind of assumption. science relies off the assumption that the universe exists and that we can learn something about it. as for the past being created 5 minutes ago...that strikes me as an affirmative claim for which evidence needs to be provided in favor of.

    3). ethics again a relative concept, it's interesting that the christian speaker is arguing that good and evil are relative and not absolute.

    4). to me it sounded like he said 'ascetic'...which doesn't really jive with the following statement.

    5). science can not substantiate science. this one is simply a blatant lie. the only assumptions science makes is that there is a universe and we can learn something about it. the 'assumption' on which relativity is based is proven correct whenever the the theory reveals true results ie. the hypothesis is proven by the results.

  2. a,

    You said, "Logic and mathematical truths are subjective and dependent on the the person (excluding absolutes which can be verified by science)."

    Is the above statement regarding logic subjective or objective? Could what you wrote be considered an absolute? Next, scientifically prove this. The rest of your critique is contingent upon the answer to the above question. Thanks!

  3. "a", further to Thomas' comments:

    You've said that the only thing science assumes is that the universe exists and we can learn about it.

    You are first of all assuming in your comments that "science" is performed in a vacumm where no personal bias or scientific world view is coming into play. This is evidently not the case as every scientist has a view on the world and there own personal bias's.
    Secondly you have to account for the following assumptions that are worked into the scientific method:
    1 We can know anything true
    2 Our senses are reliable and not just an illusion.
    3 There has been some level of honest reporting of the facts in the past.
    4 The natural laws of the universe are repeatable and we will have some constants in the experiments we perform - ie the experimentation is not just a chaotic mess from which we will get varying answers despite technique.
    5 There are not capricious forces at work (as was the view of ancient greek philosophers and anemists alike) which skew the results beyond usefulness.

    "The man who claims he has no assumptions at all is so blind to them as to be bound by them as if by a law of nature"
    "Daddy why is the emperor whereing no clothes?"

    Whoever sold you the idea that science is assumptionless sold you a lemon, and a poorly thought out one at that.

  4. hi David

    i disagree with a number of your statements.

    that is correct, and i can say that assumption is correct because i'm familiar with the scientific method and the PEER REVIEW system, much like our legal system it is not perfect however it is the best thing we have and seeks to eliminate bias.

    the remarkable array of viewpoints is sciences strength, these people can seek to gain evidence to support their world view however they need to provide evidence that is not based on their beliefs.

    the peer review process is also in large part what makes science a self-correcting mechanism wherby wrong ideas have the potential to be weeded out by potentially anyone who can produce evidence against it.

    as for your of other 'alleged' assumptions:

    1). i think you meant to say we 'cant know anything is true' this falls under sciences assumption the universe is real.

    2). that relates to our interpretation of the universe, i would argue that our senses are independently verifiable by their cohesion with eachother and the senses of others making your point moot.

    3). again, peer review, if something was incorrect it could be weeded out by basically anyone from the relevant discipline that finds an error. you make a claim and get it published (regardless of how utterly psychotic a claim is there will be somewhere that will publish it, and in the event that you get knocked back the publisher will tell you why you dont have enough evidence so you have something to work with).

    4). that falls under sciences assumption 'that we can learn about it'.

    5). again the peer review system is in place to eliminate said views.

    by the look of things you have some bias's towards the scientific method and have bought into some kind of 'conspiracy theory'.

  5. Is that you Alex?

    Anyway, first and foremost my comments were an addendum and you need to respond to Thomas, don't get distracted.

    Just quickly on the points I raised.

    Points 1/2/4 - you've assumed far more than I think you realise. In your broad "the universe is real etc" you have included many concepts that your evidentialism is unable to support.

    Points 3/5 - peer review is able to remove evidence and methodology based errors. It is incapable of removing worldview assumptions that are philosophical and metaphysical in nature. I agree with you in part that evidences must be sought for each world view but the point of the video is that it is intellectually dishonest to claim that science supports atheistic materialism because some of the FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPALS are outside of the scope of science. To take an old example look at materialism - it is absurd to assume that science which is concerned primarily with the materials of this universe is able to determine if there is nothing or something beyond the material.

    Now quick futzing and answer Thomas already! You can respond to me after him.

  6. no, this is Aydan.

    'RE:Points 1/2/4' -
    actually my main goal was to cover logical absolutes and that even if the universe does not exist precisely in the form we interpret it, it exists.

    'RE: Points 3/5'
    Yeh, that's what you said before, and i explained why you were incorrect, none-the-less i will do so again.

    "peer review is able to remove evidence and methodology based error" - on it's most basic level this is EXACTLY what peer review does. the first check performed is that the basics of the method were followed correctly.

    "It is incapable of removing worldview assumptions that are philosophical and metaphysical in nature" - which is why science does not accept evidence from these positions...

    you create a hypothesis, test it, if the results support the hypothesis, submit it to peer review, an editor reads over it and tells you what needs work, if he decides nothing needs work or simply cant discredit your findings using the facts on hand it is this point it enters the academic arena where it is scrutinized by the greatest minds of our time who will attack it from all angles and retest it, if it survives, then it is accepted.

    it will continue to be scrutinised until it is either discredited or a better model is found, this is how science works.the scientists that attack it will be from all different walks of life, however it can only be discredited with evidence and not the religious or metaphysical variety.

    "intellectually dishonest to claim that science supports atheistic materialism" - ofcourse it doesn't atheism is the position that there is no God of which science does not speak on at all and i agree God isn't within the scope of science.

  7. @Thomas

    terribly sorry must have missed your post.

    well to start with logic is meaning derived from something and is the product of a mind, so that's easily subjective.

    mathematics...hmm actually i think i was wrong here, maths in essence relates to quantity and whilst it might be called 'two' in English and 'Dos' in Spanish it is still in essence a quantitative measure even if the things being measured are hypothetical. meh, i can admit when i'm wrong.

    incorrect my argument is not contingent on it, your asking me to use a scientific method to prove a philosophical premise.

  8. Aydan

    Re Peer Review. You have discounted the point re honest reporting because of what peer review is supposed to do.
    In the real world this is often not the case as is made clear in the case of Haekel's embryonic sequence drawings. They passed peer review and yet were found to be hoaxes years down the track. Despite even this the known hoaxes are still found in text books today. Other hoaxes abound, for example the supposed whale ancestor "Ambulocetus" which is an embaressment to palentology; likewise the much touted Arni which is fragmentary in the extreme and was found over an area of 1.5km and despite this touted as a reputable "missing link". My point stands, peer review is great and I wouldn't be without it but it is not able to remove bias at a worldview level (eg evolution vs design). Especially when there is currently the reinforcing of the evolutionary worldview in the very peer review process leading to a refusal to publish on METAPHYSICAL grounds rather than evidential ones.

    You have also discounted the historical senario which meant modern science was still born in ancient cultures. Peer review would not even exist if we did not believe that the universe was stable and trustable. This did not arise from science but rather science and this assumption arose from the metaphysical perspective of Christian thought. The belief in a soveriegn creator that maintains the universe through certain natural laws is the foundation for modern science and the scientific investigation of our world is supported best in that system of thought that considers the universe as made and not devine (pantheism/animism) or capricious (atheism). Any historian of science examining the middle ages and the enlightenment period will tell you this.

    It also appears that you like to pick and choose when things are absolute and when things are subjective. My point to you regarding the assumptions that we make regarding induction and hypothesis (ie is the universe as we percieve it?) you claim is clearly an logical absolute. Thus you discount it as an assumption that science must make to be valid. Oddly enough in the very next comment you made to Thomas you said that all logic is derived from the mind and thus subjective. Which is it Aydan?

    My point and the point of the video is that there are assumptions of a philsophical and metaphysical nature that must be validated or falsified before science comes into play. Otherwise the very science you claim gives you a perspective of the world is coloured by what you will not examine. Please re-examine your logical relativism Aydan, things can be truely understood using logic and reason. They must be for science to be honest.

  9. 1).

    it's interesting you should bring up the example of Haekels drawings, they weren’t infact complete forgeries, they simply over emphasized particular aspects. the data which they were based on was quite credible :) however in spite of this they were identified as hoaxes as a direct result of peer review, it's an on-going process.

    i'd really like to know what your qualms are with Ambulocetus, so far you've said it's an embarrassment without providing any evidence at all. i know quite a bit about Ambulocetus and find it to be verified perfectly by comparative anatomy.

    "My point stands, peer review is great and I wouldn't be without it but it is not able to remove bias at a worldview level (eg evolution vs design). "

    *sigh* your point fell as soon as i explained how peer review works. you need evidence, regardless of your worldview. if you have evidence that cant be discredited 'you win'. if you don't you will be told what you need.

    the only way in which your point is even partially valid is in the sense that a persons world view might cause them to scrutinize particular things more rigorously than others, in which case ERRRORS and LIES will be picked up more quickly than something that is what they expect. However that doesn’t help your argument and in the case of peer review it only takes one person who knows what they're doing and is apposed to a particular argument to find evidence against and topple it.

    this is something people often seem to miss. the fact that you can point out a few hoaxes (that were found as a result of peer review) from when peer review was in it's infancy or extenuating political circumstances were present does not discredit the numerous valid findings.

    that paragraph is completely incorrect, on basically every level.

    peer review is for the most part a product of the enlightenment which saw a turning away from religious and a decrease in the power religion has in society. peer review was by no means born from the Christian religion, such a notion is laughable by simply taking a look at history, religious oppression (mainly from Christianity) was one of the most detrimental things scientific advancement had to deal with.

    however this is all beside the point, science does not hold a position on the existence of a God because it is beyond the scope of nature. science works off evidence not faith.

  10. 3).
    pick and choose what's absolute? you must be joking i even admitted that i was mistaken in the case of maths.

    "My point to you regarding the assumptions that we make regarding induction and hypothesis (ie is the universe as we perceive it?) you claim is clearly an logical absolute."
    - if i'm understanding you correctly then you have just challenged sciences assumption that:
    a). the universe exists
    b). that it is possible to learn about the universe

    it can only be one of those two, as i already pointed-out how the alleged assumptions made by science you purposed are essentially those two things anyway. so which is it and why?

    "Thus you discount it as an assumption that science must make to be valid"

    if your going to contest the very basis of the scientific method, then...well i dont know... i guess you don’t believe in science. which is quite sad as it has proven itself to be the best mechanism we have for contributing to the collective knowledge of man-kind...but if you would like to not believe in it, then that's fine.

    "Oddly enough in the very next comment you made to Thomas you said that all logic is derived from the mind and thus subjective. Which is it Aydan?" -

    no not oddly enough, logical absolutes such as the law of identity are among the basic things you can assume.

    what your doing seems to be heading towards 'i think therefore i am, everything else is philosophy' which is a bullet-proof position however it cuts you off from any intellectual discussion at all.

    or are you trying to say that logical absolutes are a product of the mind because it has the word 'logic' in it? lol.

    application of a logical absolute, law of identity:

    if there was a universe with a rock in it, and there were no minds to observe that rock, would it still be a rock?

    Yes, it would still be a rock, because a rock is a rock and it cant be not a rock.

    and my point was that the only assumptions science makes is that the universe is real and that we can learn something about.

    I’ve refuted your comments regarding this being false, so the only way you can dismiss science as not being valid is if you believe one of those two assumptions is false.

  11. Aydan I'm away at the moment and have very limited time so I'll be brief. You seem to think that just saying "that's false" or "that argument is not valid" you end the discussion. In reality you need to provide a counter argument rather than just a denial.

    In regards to the Ambulocetus and Haekels embryo's thing: have a look at these two sites
    the are referenced and if you have any further queries as to my comments get back to me.

    Re the history of science and Christianity, likewise I am not a historian and thus defer to others who are experts in the field. Have a look at this website on that one

    Lastly don't get me wrong I am not against science or the peer review process in any way, I just want you to see that there are some blind spots in the process if you fail to realise the assumptions that play a role in it.

  12. Haekels embryo's ( - they were deceptive in that the simularities were overemphasised, however there were distinct simularities and to claim there was not is an outright lie.


    the claims regarding amblocetus 'missing bits' presented in this article are debunked at the following address:

    "" - yes, it is obvious you are not a historian, Christianity has been the single most oppressive force to science OF ALL TIME.

    "science first flourished under a Christian world view while it was stillborn in other cultures such as ancient Greece, China and Arabia" - this may be the most historically inaccurate statement i have ever's completely wrong on every level.

  13. You are great at rhetoric Aydan but you suck at dialogue. A debate involves arguement and counter arguement. When you respond to my comments (with attached articles with cited sources) by just reitterating that you think I am wrong we get no where.

    You are obviously not much of a historian or even a evidentialist (even though you seem to hold to that as the sole appropriate approach), given you produce no historical sources for your perspective on Christianity and science or evidence for your claims for Haekel.

    As for the Ambulocetus issue, the original author depicts this animal as a quadraped rather than the much touted half whale. As for the rest of the assertions that your cited blog comments on I'll have a read and let you know. Thanks for the information.


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