Back To Science

For this post I would like to come back to a paper I wrote quite a while ago. I think this relates back to my first post on the philosophy of science. I find this paper interesting because it helps illustrate some of the points with real world examples.

Why is something either considered science or not science? There are different ways of looking at a topic and deciding whether it is science or pseudoscience. What we can know for sure is that there will always be competing arguments. In the following I will look at two different topics and decide for myself whether they are science or pseudoscience. The two topics I will be looking at are life after death and the Bermuda triangle. I will start by explaining each of the following topics starting with life after death.

So what do we mean when we explain life after death? It can be summed up in the following question. Is there anything after we die, or does the spirit of a human being live after the physical body dies? Another area is reincarnation, or if the spirit of a human takes residence inside another object when the current resident passes away. They both deal with the spirit leaving the body after it dies.

The area that believes in life after death will make the claim that the spirit lives on after death. They then support this claim by pointing to a few personal experiences. The first is ghosts and poltergeists. They use the logic that if the spirit doesn’t live on then how do we explain ghosts, ghosts being the spirits of the dead. The near death or out of body experience is also used to support life after death. An example of near death experience would be a person who is clinically pronounced dead, but then is revived to explain seeing a great white light and running to it.

Near death experience is used as one hypothesis to explain life after death, so let’s find an opposing hypothesis that doesn’t support near death experiences. One hypothesis that comes to mind is how the brain works. It can explain things like floating out of your body and seeing a white light at the end of a tunnel. Our brain, as it loses oxygen, misinterprets the signals that the optic nerves send back. This is how we explain kids who perform huffing.

Now I would like to explain my next topic which is the Bermuda Triangle. The Bermuda Triangle is a strip of ocean that has been responsible for a large number of ship and plane disappearances. It is claimed that the Bermuda Triangle is directly responsible for the disappearances of these objects. This claim is supported by the fact that this area has a mysterious way of losing ships and planes. A famous example that is used to keep the mystery in the Bermuda Triangle is the disappearance of Flight 19. Flight 19 disappeared in the triangle in December of 1945. Before the disappearance, the flight crew reported that things were not right. The sea looked strange and the sun was invisible (Hines, 226).

How can any of this be explained? Both sides have their theories. A theory from the weird side is that there is a magnetic field that transfers these ships and planes to another dimension. Another more logical theory is that the Bermuda triangle is set up in a volatile weather area. The weather in the triangle can change quite quickly from being perfect to the perfect storm. It is also in an area that is quite dangerous for ships. There are rock formations and reefs that can easily damage the hulls of ships beyond repair. Both of these theories have their believers.

After researching these topics I looked at each of them to find out if they were scientific or just bogus. In both I will use the ideas of Kuhn, Popper, and Lachatosh to explain if they are scientific or not. I wanted to start with the Bermuda Triangle because I think that one is a little bit clearer to define. In my opinion the Bermuda Triangle myth is just that an unscientific myth.

So how did I come to the decision that it is a myth? Looking at the facts about the Bermuda Triangle, there isn’t anything that would point me (for the weird theories) in the direction that there are scientific parts about it. To start out, looking at the so called unexplainable disappearances of aircraft and ships, we see that most of them (contrary to belief) can be explained. Some are blamed on bad weather, others on the cargo that the boats were carrying, and lastly the disappearances can also be blamed on inexperience in the area. There really is not that much mystery in the Bermuda Triangle. If we were to just look at these ways to explain the triangle then I would say that it is scientific. We use this method to find ships all over the world, but this is not the myth of the Bermuda Triangle.

The Bermuda Triangle’s weird believers don’t use scientific means at all. They make up a hypothesis, but that is it. They never really try to prove it. The believers use after effects to try to prove there hypothesis, but after effects prove little to nothing. Oh, a ship has disappeared there must be a magnetic field involved, or aliens. That’s all these people say they never even try to turn up evidence to prove their hypothesis. Poppers point of a hypothesis being falsifiable proves quite useful in this topic. The reason that people never turn up any evidence is because their hypotheses are not able to be proved right or wrong. I also have my own little theory about proving if this is a science or not. I call it the “dig yourself deeper and deeper into a hole theory.” It starts out with a hypothesis, and then when someone asks for the holes in the hypothesis to be filled, the person fills them with another improvable hypothesis. That hypothesis will also of course have holes in it and this will go on forever. The so called science will never get anywhere.

What about the life after death topic, can this one be considered a science? I would consider this a pseudoscience. It falls into many of the same traps as the Bermuda Triangle. The first trap life after death falls into would be that it can not be realistically proven. Even if we could kill a person and then bring them back from the dead we still are faced with the dilemma of taking a first person account. First person accounting has been proven quite inaccurate of the centuries. There is yet another problem that is bigger than just being able to prove life after death. The domain of science is targeted at the natural world. Life after death is in no way pointed at the natural world, it is quite the opposite. Life after death is looking at the surreal or supernatural world.

Both of these topics looked at closely would have to be considered not science. There are both similar and different reasons why they are not science. To just look at the similarities we see that both life after death and the Bermuda Triangle can’t be proven. Another similarity between the two is how we try to disprove them. Both of the topics are being disproved by science, real science. I like to look at how the theories are disproved because it can really contrast the weird theories. Just for example, when we explain ship disappearances the scientific way, finding evidence, looking at the area, proving rational hypotheses, it is the complete opposite of how the Bermuda Triangle group goes about solving ship disappearances.

The topics are different in a few respects also. The Bermuda Triangle has parts that look at the natural world and the life and death crew has nothing to do with the natural world. The major differences between the two are really in the way they go about proving their hypotheses. While the Bermuda triangle group doesn’t really try to fix the holes in their hypotheses, the life after death crew really does. They are always trying to find new methods of explaining and documenting where the problems lie. I also feel that they use the scientific method to look at their problem. That’s why I would consider life after death a fake science rather than no science at all. There is justification behind it, rather than just a whole bunch of made up explanations.

Both of these topics have a long way to go if they ever would hope to become a reputable science. While I will always believe that there is no way either could become a viable science, there is no telling what other people will believe.

BIGFIX01

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Published in: on February 23, 2008 at 6:56 pm  Comments (3)  
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Religion and Aliens

So a post on religion and aliens, what, even remotely, do the two have to do with one another. Well, I raised the question in the new questions part of H.E.P. If aliens were to show up one day with no idea of what god is, does that mean god does not exist? I find this to be a fascinating question. So what does happen if aliens show up? Do we through out our belief in an all powerful being?

Some religions, I would have to think we must through out right away. Religions that say we are in-fact all made in gods image. Well, what do we do then when a group of little orange things start communicating with us telling us our beliefs make no sense at all. Spooky. If we were so lucky as to be visited by beings from another world, that are nothing like us, it really would be an appifiny for our society. Some people would tell us that the end of the world is now coming, others would want to do anything to join with the extraterrestrials. People would probably tell me that this is the work of the devil and we should not believe it. I do not have a lot of faith in “people”.

The funny thing is I am not so sure we could go on believing in our religions the same way we do today. The fact of the matter is that if we every do come across beings unlike ourselves with no belief in afterlives and gods we really have to look upon ourselves to do the same. Religion has really been based on an earth centric belief system. As time has gone on and we have been able to explore more and more of the universe we have integrated new beliefs into our religions. For example god create earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th. Now we believe he created the universe in 6 days and rested on the 7th. Also now that we as people have moved on from the earth centric views of the universe we do not believe that god created everything in 6 literal earth days.

I do not believe we will be able to so easily incorporate aliens into our religions. Of course I say this because religions I am more familiar with (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) would not jive very well with extraterrestrials with no beliefs what so ever. I have not done enough investigations into the other great world religions but I have a feeling most would be turned upside down if something like this were to happen.

Assuming someday that we are visited by aliens do we then try to push our religious beliefs onto them like we did in the new world? I am sure it would not work out quite as well as we would hope. Do we change our religion into one that says only earth peoples have a god and we are the only ones that get to abide by the Almighty’s wishes? That doesn’t sound quite right. So when you get down to the nitty gritty the question it really is a interesting question. At first look someone might say, “Duh of course this doesn’t change any of our beliefs why would it?” but when you look into the question yes, a lot does change.

If you would like to comment please do so, and also remember if you would like to answer the question of aliens and religion it is in the questions part of H.E.P. and you can answer the actual question there.

BIGFIX01

Orange Alien
Published in: on February 6, 2008 at 11:05 pm  Comments (6)  
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