Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Scientism is the quasi-religious belief that science has answers to all questions. Scientism, like other faiths, is not concerned about objective reproducible experimental demonstrations. It's a belief system that includes the false belief that today's science is complete and correct, and that science is a static "stack of facts" and/or "stack of data", when in fact science is a dynamic pursuit where all findings and theories are works in progress that are expected to evolve. For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism
2) Pseudo-science (pseudo means false):
The pseudo-sciences attempt to take on the form of science, even where it doesn't apply. While practitioners would dispute it, most psychology and most "political science" is not science at all, even though these use some of the methods of science.
For example, pseudo-scientists believe that anything that can be statistically evaluated is scientific. But statistics is only a tool of science. Quackery can be statistically tested, but that doesn't make it science.
For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience .
3) Quasi-science (quasi means "looks like, but isn't"):
Quasi-science is similar to pseudo-science, and includes the "mystical arts" such as tarot and numerology. Magical and religious formulas and rites are quasi-science. Quasi-science alleges to be science, because like pseudo-science, it uses some of the forms of science. Quasi-science cannot be successfully objectively tested.
[Not everyone bothers to distinguish pseudo-science from quasi-science, so the above Wikipedia reference on pseudo-science also applies to what we're calling quasi-science.]
Science (sometimes referred to as "hard science") is and is defined by the scientific method, which includes an explicit pre-stated theory to be tested, and its objective repeated experimental testing. The most important principle of the scientific method is falsifiability. Attempting to prove that one is wrong is anathema to scholars, believers in scientism, pseudo-science, and quasi-science. But it is the basis of all true science.
If there is no pre-stated theory to be tested where the test can succeed or fail, it's not science.
There are no absolute proofs in science, only temporary theories that are always works in progress, and that are always changing and evolving so as to include new data and new facts.
Most importantly, science is based on pre-stated conjectures and theories that can be demonstrated and at least potentially refuted. Einstein said that a scientific theory should _not_ be evaluated based on data or facts, but rather only on whether or not it has internal coherence and self-consistency. This is because science can never know the absolute truth, but it can insist on coherent models that make predictions that can be tested for reliability and consistency with reality.
For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method.
Friday, May 22, 2009
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Have a great week!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
From Stan Tenen:
The problem with talking only about the "literal meaning" of the bible is that there is no plain literal meaning to a work that has four levels (PRDS). It's misleading. What we understand as the pshat, which we call the "literal" meaning, is not the literal meaning without the commentaries that tell us what it is. And the pendulum has swung too far. We wholeheartedly cling to the literal meaning, even while we remember a footnote that tells us that there are other levels, but we only give lip service to the deeper levels. And this leads simple people to exaggerate the literal, at the expense of the more complete. Pretty soon, we have translations like the scholars and the religious fundamentalists make, that have no reference to Oral Torah, and while they're literal, they're not the "literal" that we mean.
We should stop telling ourselves that the Bible stories are Torah per se. We should make it clear that the Bible stories are the garments of Torah, and that they're necessary and a reasonably good history. But without the other levels, they're misleading.
Here's a prime example.
It's generally taken that the literal meaning of "an eye for an eye" implies a nasty vengeful God, who suggests we should have our eye plucked out if we've injured another's eye. This is the literal meaning. But it's completely wrong, and it has done enormous damage to Judaism and Torah, because it has enabled non-Jews to call Hashem cruel. The word being translated eye - Ayin - does not mean an "eye" as a thing. An eye has a function, and it's this function that is being referred to. The function of an eye -- its deeper meaning -- is to take in a field of view and a spectrum. So "an eye for an eye" actually means, "a spectrum of causes leads
(inevitably) to a spectrum of consequences." This is the golden rule -- "what goes around comes around." This is "Torah on one foot" and it has nothing to do with the slander that labels Hashem as cruel compared to the concept of God held by other faiths. Personally, I think a picture is worth 1000 words (as long as it's not a picture of an idol)