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SCIENCE

1440. Science has evidence, but makes no claim of certainty; religion claims certainty, but has no evidence.

1408. Randomness shaped and modified according to advantage within an environment -- this is the essence of creativity in living things.  Chaos thus tamed may be described as purpose.

1326. The scientist with a logical and plausible hypothesis is exactly that: until the theory has been validated by predictive success -- his forecasts are no more credible than those of a medium, a witch doctor, or a fortune teller.

1319. The universe "just right" for life is often considered proof of a "divine plan." But it could also reflect the principle observed in the process of evolution. This universe is simply the "successful" version -- among many other "failed" universe experiments.

1318. It seems unlikely that nature -- having hit upon the wonderfully effective utilitarian process of evolution -- would abandon it on a whim. Thus it seems likely that the brains of living creatures reflect the same process of "brainstorming" which created them. The brain's existing database of information is augmented by spontaneous random suggestions which are -- at a subconscious level -- constantly proposed and judged. Some part of the brain -- a utilitarian gatekeeper -- decides what will be of advantage to the organism. This explains both the "creativity" and the "logic" needed for the success of an organism. (See also # 1075)

1317. The process of evolution may be likened to a "brainstorming" in the natural world: mutations are spontaneous suggestions thrown out for approval or rejection by the environmental committee. It is a process of random creativity controlled by a "logical," utilitarian gatekeeper -- the environment. It gives the appearance of purposeful movement towards a goal -- but its essence is a multitude of small utilitarian alterations.

1251. In summation: orderly progress appears to be the result of a powerful -- partly random -- force of experimental creativity thrust against a restrictive but constantly varying gate of efficacy and utility.

1250. The universe appears to operate through an interplay of chaos and utilitarian limitation -- which gives the impression of order. Random, creative, experimental elements are loosed, then reigned in and limited by what "works." This is how evolution proceeds; we suspect that it is how living brains operate. Without experimental "playfulness," there could be no works of art. The fact that this universe is "just right" for life may not be by design -- but because it is simply the "successful" outcome in a series of other universe experiments.

1139. Religion and science both represent man's quest for agency. Religion is the easy inheritance, promising unproven magical rewards; science is more demanding -- it offers real but limited benefits -- in exchange for effort. The persistence of religion is not difficult to explain.

1075. We imagine that the brains of sentient creatures reflect the evolutionary process. Evolution makes random alterations which are approved -- or rejected -- by the constantly changing environment -- giving the impression of orderly progress. So the brain may make random suggestions which must meet the changing requirements for the survival and success of the organism -- giving the impression of reasoned, orderly decision-making. 

1041. The weakness of science is that it is a human endeavour -- and scientists do not live in intellectual or social vacuums. They need jobs, funding, and the respect of their peers. Thus -- for surprisingly long periods of time -- science can become the handmaiden of orthodoxy.

1001. Science questions everything in search of answers; religion provides answers for everything -- but refuses to be questioned.

989. A world without nuclear weapons is not feasible: Science has not yet devised a bottle of forgetting into which the genie of scientific knowledge can be safely stuffed.

985.A theory is not validated by "scientific consensus" -- but by consistent predictive success.

924. In the long run, evidence trumps belief. (Sometimes the run is surprisingly long.)

852. In contemplating the variety and complexity of forms of life, one must marvel at the ingenuity of the evolutionary process -- but also be appalled with a recognition of its inherent cruelty.

759. Science, dealing with facts, makes no claim of knowledge with respect to ultimate intent, motivation, or meaning; religion, without a scintilla of evidence, does. Clearly, this is a case in which ignorance is preferable to arrogance.

757. When someone says, "The science is settled" -- you know they are talking about religion.

742. Real science: an understanding of how things actually work is revealed by consistent predictive success.  Climate science: no evidence of consistent predictive success.

741. "Equality," "tolerance," "faith," ‘science" and "racism" are some of the most dangerous words in the English language – because they all encompass unjustified assumptions.

"Equality" is assumed to be the natural state of things, or a state towards which things should be -- virtuously -- manoeuvered. But while equality of opportunity and treatment are worthy aims, it is inequality -- not equality -- which is at the heart of all change, all life, and all progress. "Equality" is not attainable, except -- perhaps – in stasis, finality, and death. The true motive of those claiming to seek equality is generally improvement. Anyone who attains equality in some respect will not be satisfied; he will seek further improvement, even if that should result in inequality.

"Tolerance" and "faith" are assumed to be universally benign; but focus and direction are the determinants: tolerance of murder, or faith in a God who approves of human sacrifice, slavery, or cannibalism can hardly be considered virtuous.

"Science" suggests the authority of facts, and a reliability of prediction; but too often the term is applied to matters of mere hypothesis, to conclusions preliminary or premature, or to pronouncements made by those with expertise in a field labelled "scientific." Only a record of consistent predictive success gives evidence of a scientific understanding of how the world works.

"Racism" is used as a term of irrefutable opprobrium; it is often applied – not legitimately – to an irrational disapproval of race -- but illegitimately -- to simple criticisms of cultural ideas and practices.

658. It doesn't matter whether you are a fortune teller, a certified genius, or a highly-regarded scientist with peer-reviewed scientific papers emanating from every orifice: a failed prediction shows you don't know what you are talking about.

596. Religion is concerned with how the world should work --  science with how the world does work.

595. Religion  and science are indeed opposites: religion begins with conclusions hoping to find evidence; science begins with evidence hoping to find conclusions.

570. Facts require no special protection; it is only some beliefs that claim criticism is unfair and illegitimate.

560. In the hotel of the human psyche, emotion owns and manages the building; science and reason are occasional guests.

522. Climate "science:" The wolf of politics wearing grandma's lab coat.

501. The scientific method – with its annoying emphasis on evidence – finds neither a warm welcome nor a comfortable lodging in the human mind. That is because an agreeable concept can often be reassuringly maintained through the judicious selection of complementary evidence. Starting with a dispassionate look at the evidence too often leads to conclusions either inconsiderately impertinent or thoroughly disagreeable.

495. Only from a free exchange and competition will the best ideas emerge and triumph; those with the worst ideas are the most anxious that freedom be suppressed and competition curtailed. This accounts for the confidence of science, and the defensiveness of religion. 

491. Surely there can be no statement more antithetical, more hostile, or more blind to the essence and spirit of scientific enquiry than: "The science is settled."

490. The essence of science lies in the repeatability of experiment -- when the interactions of things are well understood -- accurate prediction becomes possible. The "science" of climate has progressed to the point of making confident predictions; but accuracy has remained elusive. It might best be termed "theoretical," "hypothetical," or "aspirational" science.

406. "Science" is one of the most dangerous words in the English language. It suggests the authority of facts, and the reliability of evidence. But too often "science" is a gloved puppet worn on the hand of human motive.

356. While science has shed considerable light on dark prejudices, and social views have altered accordingly, religion clings, like a rather desperate limpet, to a rock of 'certitudes' made untenable in the rising tide of knowledge.

345. Where science advances, and gains ground, religion should make graceful retreat.  (Cf. #139. Where there are gaps in knowledge, religion tends to seep in.)

341. Climate change alarmism: it's always a pity when science enrolls in the seminary of ideology, and emerges with holy orders.

298. Beware of politics masquerading as science.

266. Magical Thinking is a steadfast belief in a cause and effect relationship, where the validity of that relationship has not been established. In scientific thinking, the absence of this validity is considered fatal; in Magical Thinking, it confers sanctity, and garners both respect and reverence.

176. Be hesitant in accepting the claims of those who speak in the name of science; one must determine first whether that science is indeed the master, or merely the tool of self-interest, self-aggrandisement,  or political agenda.

175.  Scientists have not yet discovered the inoculation against hubris, or the effective incantation against self-interest; nor are they immune from the contamination of an ill-considered enthusiasm for a cause.