Originally Posted by Draco
Of course they might. But the purpose my example was to demonstrate that there are other forms of evidence than scientific evidence, evidence that in cases such as this may result in life changing decisions. Let's make the example somewhat broader. It generally agreed that Shakespeare was a great playwright, indeed perhaps the greatest playwright. As a result, countless millions of schoolchildren read Shakespeare but never encounter the works of another Elizabethan playwright in their lives. Science has no means of determining whether Shakespeare is a great author, and some people indeed disagree that he was.. but the vast majority believe he was on the evidence
of both their own and other people's aethetic judgement. So are you saying it simply doesn't matter whether Shakespeare was a great playwright or not, because whether he was or not can only be based on a form of evidence you discard as worthless?
This is where science steps in and attempts to find the answers by non-subjective means.
In areas science can deal with, yes. In others, no. I'm also tempted to ask, in the context of the particular questions involved here, "what's so wrong with subjective"?
Each candidate would have to present evidence to support their case and then others would need to examine both and make a decision based on which evidence is the strongest.
Why? In the example I gave the person has examined the evidence and made a decision. Why does he "have to" or "need to" do anything else? When it comes to religion we all make that choice.. including atheists, although I'm aware you would deny that was true. That aside, more or less everyone here would say they have done exactly that
. They just came to a different conclusion from yours.
But an opinion or belief is just that and cannot be used as useful argument for or against anything – surely you see that.
No, I don't "see that" because I do not believe it to be true. An opinion or belief isn't much use in a scientific argument (my previous comments about starting assumptions excepted), true.. but I disagree that is the only sort of argument worth having. An opinion or belief isn't just conjoured out of nowhere.. they are based on evidence albeit, as in the case of an artistic judgement, often evidence that cannot be produced directly.
Oh yes – and of course we could all be living as human batteries like in the Matrix movies! We could go on all day thinking up different fantasies like these but as you said, what good would it do us? You’re trying to take a philosophical question and use it to infer that because we make some basic assumptions about our reality
, any and every other assumption must also be equally valid.
I am doing nothing of the sort. I just pointed out that, contrary to your claim, atheists do make assumptions and that the selection of those assumptions can only be based on value judgements. You have conceded that point, apparently. Whether an assumption is 'basic' or not is another value judgement. On what basis do you dismiss idealism (only my second point suggested solipsism, the rather more extreme version), a well established, much debated and never successfully refuted (albeit it generally rejected) metaphysical possibility as a 'fantasy' - a scientific one?! I don't think so. Such "fantasies" that remain logically consistent are rather more difficult to come up with than you seem to think. That particular 'basic' assumption, incidently, is not one that a theist has to make as that scenario is disqualified by the assumption there is a creator God. I am puzzled that you seem to think neither "there is a God" or "there is not a God" can be considered "basic assumptions about our reality" - I consider that point of view to be untenable. It flies in the face of both common sense and experience of the real world.
Ask yourself why you do not believe in fairies, ghosts, pixies, goblins, hobbits, etc. etc. (please tell me you don’t believe in those things). Then ask yourself how you have come to the conclusion that they do not exist when nobody has proven
that they do not exist? I cannot explain it better and if you don’t see the logic there then I’ll never be able to explain it.
I don't believe in them because, in my assessment of the evidence (as much as I have considered it in that context), both scientific and otherwise, is that they do not exist. I believe Buddhism to be "true" for exactly the same reason. And, indeed, I don't believe in God for exactly the same reason.
In any case the burden of proof is not on the atheist to prove that God does not
exist. It’s for the person asserting the existence of the thing to provide the proof (or at least the evidence). And Buddhist or not, that I’m sure you’ll agree has not been provided.
I'm not sure how you can assign the "burden of proof" the way you do.. a theist would consider it lies with the atheist. It depends, not on 'thing' or 'no thing', but on your starting position - your opening assumptions. I do agree, of course, but I also do not consider the atheist case comprehensively proven, either.
The answer may be that you cannot. Although what makes you think that question even has an answer? Just because you can form a grammatically correct question doesn’t mean it’s a valid question or has a sensible response (what is the smell of the colour blue?).
It is when science obviously "cannot" that people perfectly well aware of the scientific method seek alternatives to what remain very real questions. "It doesn't have an answer" is an answer in itself but in that particular case, unlike your spurious example of an obvious catagory mistake, linguistics (or science) cannot demonstrate whether it does or can have an answer or not. The question is therefore fair game.
Science and evolution will tell you we are in constant competition for survival and a stimulus that produces ‘suffering’ is likely to be detrimental to the replication of our genetic material. Forgive me for making an assumption, but I don’t think you will understand that because the more I read your responses the less I think you understand about evolution by natural selection (perhaps I could recommend some books?)
Please don't bother. Please also note I have not offered to recommend any books on Buddhism, a subject which you clearly know next-to-nothing about. If you think acquiring such knowledge (and I would certainly recommend that
) would be helpful you are as capable of seeking it out independently as I am material on evolution.
What I have been saying has absolutely nothing to do with evolution by natural selection. Your 'explanation' indeed sounds reasonable enough but is of no relevance to the Buddhist conception of suffering as an experience
, and how that can be ended. It is answering a different question to the one Buddhists (not to mention a great many other people) ask.
I don’t want to get sucked in to a philosophical debate. See my answer above relating to how science explains suffering.
Suit yourself. As the very nature of science itself is a continuing subject of philosophical debate, and much other philosophy (particularly of mind and aesthestics) is directly relevant to the issue at hand it is not something you will be able to avoid forever.
Buddhism seeks only to understand the origin of suffering as a means to ending it. That explanation has no relevance in that context, and the Buddhist 'alternative' can happily co-exist with it. But how does science answer my other question - "how can suffering be ended?" The only realistic answer, from what you say, would appear to be "we cease to exist", in which case the two points of view actually have rather more in common than you might think!
Maybe I can make that a little clearer. The Buddhist explanations of both suffering and how it may be ended should be considered psychological
, not 'scientific', 'mystical' or "faith based" - although there are undeniably elements of the latter two. Of course Buddhist psychology differs from Western psychology in much the same way as assorted historical Western views of psychology have differed from each other. I trust you agree that psychology is a valid academic discipline, BTW? One that has to make truly huge philosophically based assumptions about its subject of study before it can even get started, incidently.
Psychological and scientific explanations of the same phenomena frequently co-exist, but are of little direct relevance to each other. Psychologists grapple every day with emotions - we all
grapple every day with emotions, they can define our lives - while science can't even describe them in any useful way. I note you avoided that particular challenge; wisely of course. Your 'scientific explanation' of suffering (do you think it applies to 'dissatisfaction', too? I told you I used the Pali word for a reason) is of as little use to an analyst trying to solve his patients' problems as it is to a Buddhist who is, incidently, attempting to put into practice an identified solution to much the same
problem... any more than knowledge that, say, experiencing a particular emotion is always accompanied by a particular neurophysiological phenomenon would be of use to either except, concievably, as a diagnostic tool.
Attempts have been made to unify the two approaches, but so far have proved spectacularly unsuccessful. It all comes down to that troubling little thing, direct experience.. what it is like
to feel pain, grief, joy, whatever.. something science has never been able to get a handle on. The very thing that is at the heart of religious experience. Please note, by the way, I'm not saying Buddhism is
a form of psychology, only that it includes one.
Again this is the kind of response that makes me think you know little about biological evolution. If you understand the ‘how’ we came to be here, then the ‘why’ are we here becomes all too apparent. You just don’t understand the how.
And that kind of response makes me think that you simply do not understand the question that is being posed. It was not a scientific one, but is still a very important one. Again it has nothing to do with 'biological evolution', or abiogenesis.
P.S Just to make clear one thing, in view of the overall tone of your last post. I fully understand
your position. I do not, however, agree
with it. That is a difference that I'm not sure you appreciate. Should you find the reasons I have given for disagreeing with it unconvincing, as presumably you do, that is your prerogative. I hope any reply you might make takes that into account... I am no more likely to change my opinion following repetition of a point already made than you are.