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Considering all alternatives

June 2, 2012

The scientific method is all about eliminating the impossible.  One, as we all should well know, does not prove things true, but merely shows that alternatives are inconsistent with available evidence.  Of course, consistency with evidence is not as easily understood or intuitive a notion as the simple one we call truth, yet it is all that the scientific method can deliver.

Mathematics has, in the past, been described as the study of all statements of the form ‘P implies Q’: one always argues about what necessarily follows from hypothetical assumptions (just look in any serious maths book and look to the theorems therein to see what I mean).

What cannot be denied, what can be said to be true, inasmuch as we can call anything true, is our experience.  It happens, it has happened, and to ourselves at least, we cannot deny that what appears to be happening now is indeed appearing to be happening now.  Thus this, and not a scientific or mathematical approach is central to metaphysical speculation about the nature of the reality we inhabit.

In entering into such speculation, we must be careful to consider all alternative views that could plausibly explain how things could have arrived at what we experience in the here and now.  Principles such as Occam’s razor are useful, but are a double edged sword if you are not careful, and can be applied in multiple ways.  For example, certain materialists would argue from Occam’s razor that ‘divine forces’ (forces external to the universe, or above and beyond what is readily observable in physics experiments) are unnecessary in theory and so should be ruled out on the grounds of simplicity.  Others could, however, argue based on the amount of information required to be kept track of in out reality in order to explain our experience (a much more consciousness centric viewpoint).   Here, one notes that, from a point of view of humans, stars are for the most part just points of light.  One certainly does not need to keep track of the spin direction of every electron flying around in every star to explain our experience, yet that is exactly what the materialist viewpoint would require us to accept.  Thus experience can be explained in terms of much less information if one accepts the non-reality of much of what appears to be, and hence the need for some kind of creative force that creates what is needed for our experience on demand and only retains what information is needed not to be found to be internally inconsistent.  This can be thought through in detail to arrive at an alternative metaphysical model to the material one, with interesting properties into which I shall not elaborate here.  The point is that there are alternatives to the dogma that some present as what ‘science has proven’.


From → Philosophy

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