a strange document from the undusted shelves of the internet

I just read an interesting essay on the subject I discussed some time ago with a labmate: does the scientific worldview imply some kind of faith… The most I could claim was that the enterprise of science rests on the idea that there are universal and consistent laws of nature… but I was forced to concede that the practice of science does not require “faith” in universal consistency. Practicing science on a daily basis only requires that these laws appear consistent to us at any given moment.

 

I think that science is philosophically void if physical laws are inconsistent beyond a certain degree. Interestingly, I suppose that they could be inconsistent to a certain (calculable?) extent before it would be possible to notice. But in the extreme case that the laws of nature are totally inconsistent, the both science and philosophy are bankrupt in general. So for the purposes of any discourse, it’s sort-of a fundamental premise. Even so, it doesn’t mean you have to believe science is philosophically valid to keep doing it. It might just be fun.

At the same time, all of this got me thinking. Here’s a quote that really summed it all up: “The dominant belief in all Western Cultures is that this universe runs on material causality and is thus comprehensible to reason.” -Peter Carroll

If we don’t take some form of physical determinism as a working theory, then we might as well give up on trying to figure out how the world works by science. But I don’t know if a ‘working theory’ is the same thing as faith. Certainly it’s not the same thing as the faith some religious ‘authorities’ seem to require. That ‘faith’ is just loud, stubborn (sometimes violent) insistence. Like a little kid who says ‘Yes it is! Yes it is a million times no backsies!” Faith, right?

Well, I see a stronger faith in someone who allows honest scrutiny and change… and who makes it a working assumption that the “universe runs on material causality and is thus comprehensible to reason.” A person of faith accepts this without proof… and is willing to admit that there might not be such a thing as proof for some beliefs.

-Peter