A Twitter conversation with a gentleman that I follow revealed to me that it is possible to confuse the scientific method with the fundamental rules of logic. He declared that he rejects “unverifiable beliefs” and asserts that any “reasonable person should do the same” on the grounds that it is “basic logic.” I admit that I am not a trained philosopher, I am merely a dabbler in things that get my interest. Furthermore, I have a vested interest in defending Christianity, which is a supernatural religion full of all matter of immeasurables and intangibles. It is a religion in which the adherent must make determinations with their reason because their senses cannot be depended upon for stimuli. Therefore, I played the role of Mr. Buttinsky in a Twitter conversation that I had high-jacked to point out that he had no verifiable grounds to deny unverifiable beliefs and that claiming such an opinion was basic logic was a wrongitude.
Firstly, it is impossible to verify everything that an individual believes. I believe that my senses are accurate and that I am not in the Matrix. However, I, like Neo, could be completely wrong. How can I verify that what I am experiencing is actually the result of what is actually happening outside of the perceptions that my senses provide me? To say that our senses can present us with data that we can use to verify experiments is but an assumption. With enough knowledge about how our biological sensors respond to stimulus, we can certainly be fooled. I think most people accept this as the case seeing as how I have never met a person who did not believe that with enough processing speed, access to vast quantities of power, and mastery of replicator technology that a Holodeck could not be built. We cannot perform any experiment to confirm that anything that we experience actually occurs apart from our nerves and outside of our minds. Even so, we generally assume that things are as we perceive them to be.
The idea that anything that cannot be verified either does not exist is useful in only in the sciences. The scientific method can be used to define qualities of things we can observe or otherwise have experiential evidence with which to develop theories regarding. If we accept that things can exist that cannot be sensed, it would be pointless to use science to define them. Mathematics is logical and is defined with logical proofs, not observable results. In my view, science is a tool that has specific applications. It might even be a person’s favorite tool, like a gas-powered 16″ chainsaw. Yet, you still would not use that chainsaw to put together a glass-topped metal desk. On the other hand, logic is concerned with providing rules for thinking usefully and can be applied everywhere. It is also not contingent upon our limitations. With logic, one identifies a phenomenon and proposes ideas about it. Logic can conclude what may exists or not because there is no limit what can be consider acceptable premises. A premise need not be rejected because it cannot be examined with a telescope or microscope.
What little knowledge of logic I have picked up over the years lists the following as the basic rules of logic:
- The proposition you make about a thing is about that thing and not something that is not that thing.
- Your proposition about a thing cannot be true if the negation of your proposition is also true.
- For any proposition you make about a thing, either your proposition is true or the negation of it is.
Logic helps the user to define what is “the case.” In other words, it provides propositions that are, for practical reasoning purposes, true. When considering the basic principles of logic that I have summarized, it is significant to point out that any number of statements can be made about a thing that cannot be proven scientifically. Nevertheless, one can argue for or against a proposition and demonstrate whether it holds up logically.
The scientific method uses logic as part of the foundation for experimentation, but logic is not restricted to the domain of science. Do other people have minds? Does consciousness continue after physical death? A testable hypothesis to prove yay or nay for either of these ideas cannot be formulated to satisfy the demands of science. Yet, throughout the history of recorded philosophy, people have attempted to make propositions about how what is is without the benefit of being able to prove it with the senses. If one claims that they will not believe in things that they cannot verify with their senses, then they have made a choice to restrict their value in making propositions about anything else. Anything such a person says about ghosts or God or chupacabras should be limited to, “I have made no observations that would prove or disprove their existence.” After all, it would be impossible to demonstrate that only what can be observed exists. No experiment can be carried out to negate the following hypothesis:
there are no things that exist that cannot be observed
Logically, everything that is observable must exist, but it invalid to conclude that nothing else may exist.
I have come to the opinion that science is one of the best tools that humanity has developed to understand its existence. Discoveries made using science are inspire me to long for both a holodeck and a warp drive and guitar tablature uploaded directly to memory. However, in just the same way that I will not pick up a hammer and announce that only nails exists, I will not turn to science and say that only what my senses interact with exists.
my reasoning may not be ironclad. it’ll get better