Converting to the Scientific Method

Converting to the Scientific Method March 30, 2014

I saw this cartoon on Facebook. I have never encountered anyone who tried to win people to the scientific method this way. But it does raise the question of how we should spread the good news about our ever-improving understanding of the world through the application of science. Sometimes it is something one is brought up with, sometimes it is something one comes to through reading, sometimes it is something that one is won over to by some other means. We should not pretend that being open to critical investigation and allowing evidence to shape and change our thinking are not commitments that human beings do not simoly have naturally, but they involve a commitment, a conscious choice to follow that path.

Suddenly carrying that message door to door doesn't seem so silly – except that nowadays, few readily accept anything from a door-to-door salesperson, even if it is a new cable service. So how should anyone with any sort of good news share it in a manner appropriate to our day and age?


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  • Jerry Wilson

    On Facebook and other social media! Duh!

    • Melanie Davidson

      I was about to say, tweet it! Obviously.

  • One day, when I was much younger, the worry that people would find flaws in my arguments led me to try my best to find flaws in my own arguments before others even had the chance. Before I knew it, everyone around me seemed to have become almost prehistoric in their thinking …

  • Bradley Robert Compton

    I think the new Cosmos is doing a pretty good job at spreading the ideals of science.

  • arcseconds

    It’s not something I hadn’t considered before 🙂

    But ’15 minutes of your time’ plus a pamphlet (*) is even less plausible as a means of getting someone to follow ‘the scientific method’ (not that there is, you know, such a thing) than it is as a way of bringing someone to religion.

    I mean, I presume what is intended by a prolestyzing pamphlet is that you’ll read it and as a result of reading, believe what’s in it. While that’s not really all that likely, something like this does actually happen sometimes: you read something, and you believe it (of course, it’ll be from a source you trust, and it’ll be the kind of thing you’re inclined to believe or at least present the kind of evidence you’re inclined to accept, which is what pamphelteers don’t seem to realise). But what converting someone to ‘reason and empricism’ means is getting them to reconsider their entire relationship to evidence.

    And you can’t just do that in 15 minutes and a pamphlet. It takes quite a lot of training and years of practice to be any good at it.

    (*) Naturalis Philosophiæ Principia Mathematica isn’t a pamphlet, obviously. Also, it’s probably not the kind of thing you should just hand to someone and expect them to understand and for it to revolutionize their life… although maybe the same is true of the Gospel of John.

    • arcseconds

      I mean, I appreciate that actually there are many parallels here, and brining someone to religion also requires someone to reconsider how their entire life relates to other things, including perhaps evidence. But clearly many people think of religion as just believing in certain things, and it’s easier to suppose that that can be bought about by 15 minutes and a pamplet.

      While a similar mistake often gets made with science (that it’s primarily about beleiving certain things), there’s more of a realisation it’s the methodology and approach that’s really important, not the specific beliefs.

      • This idea of converting to Science may actually have much more profound implications to theology/Christianity.

        Do read my short explanation below, even if you don’t watch the video.

        Idealism is the idea that the physical world (Earth) is based on the spiritual world (Heaven), and not the other way round.

        Idealism tells us that even if complete knowledge of the atoms and molecules that comprise our physical bodies can perfectly predict everything we do, it does not necessarily mean that atoms and molecules are all we have left.

        Here’s a simple thought experiment: what if God made the physical world to correspond perfectly to our spiritual world, and deliberately gave us the ability to understand our physical world so that we are able to better/properly understand our spiritual world? The way God instructed the Israelites to build the tabernacle, and thereby creating a physical construct to represent the spiritual realities, makes this idea seem very convincing to me, although of course we have no way to prove it.

        In short: if God deliberately made the physical world (Earth) to correspond perfectly to our spiritual world (Heaven), then we actually have an obligation to study our physical world, in order to better understand our spiritual reality. In this way, Science really does bring us closer to God.

        • $41348855

          I’m not quite sure what analogy you are trying to convey here. One possibility is that heaven is kind of vast film archive. The film has a static, lifeless existence but when it is run through the projector it creates, or appears to create, the living reality that we see on the screen. Is this the idea? Is our physical world a projection of a heavenly reality? Or is our world a recreation of the heavenly reality in a different medium?

          • I’m not sure myself. I suspect it was just an elaborate philosophical exercise to get people to realise that even if Science can completely explain everything, there is no reason to think that the very consciousness that we experience first-hand suddenly becomes meaningless in any way. It really just means that God gave us the privilege of studying and understanding the principles underlying our consciousness.

        • Thanks for sharing that video. I have an enormous appreciation for Keith Ward, and am aware of his argument for idealism in More Than Matter? I may share the lecture on the blog.