Social Question

ninjacolin's avatar

Is there anything worth believing that could not hold up to Scientific scrutiny?

Asked by ninjacolin (13846 points ) November 22nd, 2012

If so, can you give an example of something that is worth believing despite the fact that it could not be demonstrated Scientifically?

Lately, I’ve had something in the back of my mind and I don’t know how to articulate it as yet. I know there are things in life that we won’t ever put through an all out Scientific study either because we don’t really have the time or because we simply neglect to consider the merits.

Feel free to list things that might fit this bill. Even if you aren’t sure whether they can or can’t somehow be tested Scientifically. What I propose we do, is discuss some of the items we list and figure out how we could possibly test some statements for Scientific validity and try to isolate the kinds of statements that we aren’t able to imagine a practical way to study and validate from the Science perspective.

So, what kinds of things can we possibly study Scientifically and what kinds of things can’t we study Scientifically? List some examples for discussion.

Now, of the things in the second class, what would be the value in believing them to be true if it doesn’t seem possible that they could ever be measured or studied Scientifically?

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29 Answers

Unbroken's avatar

Hope, intangibles.

I think they are valid and important to us because of our failure to grasp them as concrete concepts. Something that we could always search for or always have, a quest, a rite of passage.

The mystique allows us freedom to create our own values, to color outside the lines.

Not having to have all the answers to know there are indefinables waiting to be explored let’s us tap into a little of the adventurer/explorer’s mentality.

rooeytoo's avatar

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
a flower grows, (the advertisement that precedes the video is atrocious!)

I believe that somewhere in the darkest night,
A candle glows . . .

I believe for everyone who goes astray,
Someone will come, to show the way,
I believe, I believe . . .

I believe, above the storm the smallest prayer,
Will still be heard . . .

I believe, that someone in the great somewhere,
Hears every word . . .

Everytime I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
Then I know why, I believe!

I believe, above the storm the smallest prayer,
Will still be heard . . .

I believe, that someone in the great somewhere,
Hears every word . . .

Everytime I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
Then I know why, I believe!

I know it’s corny, but I guess it is called faith and it brings the hope that @rosehips is talking about. I would hate to be without it and while I am agnostic, I could never be completely atheistic.

cookieman's avatar

I completely agree with hope.

It’s existence is wholly determined by my state of mind, and my mental health depends on my ability to believe in it.

Without hope, there is no romance, no fantasy, no striving to be better, no restful nights, no pleasant dreams.

ninjacolin's avatar

Alright.. “hope” that’s a good example to start off with I think because I think we totally can prove Hope is a true human experience. For example.. we could take a Scientific poll and I’m sure we could demonstrate maybe 99.9% of humanity accepts “hope” as a perfectly valid and existent human experience. And if it’s something like hope for, say, “whether my husband will pick me up from work tomorrow”.. we can somewhat test the likeliness of his reliability in this domain.

What I’m saying is: “hope” alone doesn’t seem like something Scientific study couldn’t teach us more about its existence. Hope seems tangible enough to study/measure.

BBawlight's avatar

For your first question, a thing that we can study scientifically are the effects of a monotonous environment on a child. I’ve been thinking about this and I mean, what if a child was born and raised in an environment where there are no emotions present? What if this child was taught at the same level as children in the public school system, but without the teachers showing any kind of approval or disapproval towards the student or their grades? Would this child learn faster, slower, or at the same pace as normally brought up kids? Would they develop a moral code? What kind of emotions would they have, if any at all? How would they interact when put into a normal environment?
——-

To me, one thing that is worth believing, even if it can’t be scientifically proven, is god.
When I say god, I don’t mean any particular being. I don’t mean, ‘Our almighty Lord and Savior’. I mean any type of spiritual leader. Be it, ‘Buddha’ or ‘Zeus’.
I’m not particularly religious, but I am tolerant of those who accept to believe. I think that gods have given millions of people hope, and if it really matters to those people it is worth saving. If it gives us a strong will to survive, it is worth saving.

With hope, even the weakest of people can survive. Religion is something worth holding onto, even if it can’t be scientifically proven.

Unbroken's avatar

@ninjacolin Perhaps hope is something that can be measured. Hope that a husband will pick you up on time is not on the same level as hoping that you can change you, that you can achieve your bliss, that your dreams are obtainable and how that hope motivates promotes belief and pushes you toward unlikely goals.

Maybe what can’t be measured is the power of hope, how universal it is, what absence of it is like.
I suppose you would have to believe that psychology is a hard science.

Jussange's avatar

I would say no. My closest friend (in the loosest definition of the word) would say yes followed up by: Love.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Most moral principles and social morays are not amenable to scientific validation. They are not scientifically testable hypotheses. Just the same, at least some are worth believing in so long as you are led to do good things and avoid hurting others.

augustlan's avatar

I was going to say “love”, too. Sure, we could poll people, but that wouldn’t let us know whether the person who says they love us really does. Believing they do is still worthwhile.

flutherother's avatar

Everything that is worth believing doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. Even a belief in science.

ninjacolin's avatar

Note: The question asks for examples rather than generalizations.

So, when you say something like: “Most moral principles and social morays are not amenable to scientific validation” – it begs the question: Which moral principals and social morays are not amenable to scientifica validation? Can you list a few examples that we can examine in discussion?”

As with “hope” above, I suspect that the matter is not so clear cut.

ninjacolin's avatar

For example, consider the moral principal: “Don’t text and drive”... we have numbers and studies about this principal. It’s a moral principal that is easily testable to the point where we’ve lived through the permission, social phobia and eventual out-lawing of the stuff.

Unbroken's avatar

Is refraining from texting and driving a moral principal, or commen sense v instant gratification?

gailcalled's avatar

@ninjacolin: What is a “social moray” Surely you are not talking about eels?

Do not capitalize abstract nouns, like science, hope and love. Use upper case for Moray, since it is a place.

ninjacolin's avatar

Lol, was copy pasting from the good doctor. Blame him.. I think “morals”

gailcalled's avatar

Or now that I think about it, mores.

mores |ˈmôrˌāz|
plural noun

“The essential or characteristic customs and conventions of a community: an offense against social mores.”

Shippy's avatar

That’s why it called a belief and not a fact :)

ninjacolin's avatar

@BBawlight said: “one thing that is worth believing, even if it can’t be scientifically proven, is god.”

Is that the only thing that can’t be scientifically studied?
If so, why would it be worth believing?

@Shippy, you’re suggesting that “facts” are things that can be (or have been) studied and measured?

Shippy's avatar

@ninjacolin Yes of course. How do you see facts?

ninjacolin's avatar

I’m super curious about the “love” one. Well said, @augustlan: “we could poll people, but that wouldn’t let us know whether the person who says they love us really does. Believing they do is still worthwhile.”

That sounds awesome but.. if that person who claimed to love you were abusive and hateful in behavior but would then say: “I only behave this way because I love you.”

Where would the value be in believing them?

If however that person were caring and attentive always and they said: “I do it cause I love you.”

Regardless of the value, the evidence of their love would be overwhelming and your belief wouldn’t be “a good idea” so much as hard to avoid. I can see some cases of insecurity where a person doesn’t believe they are loved even when all the evidence points otherwise. In such a case, definitely it would be “worthwhile” for them to believe it, even though they may never learn how.

But.. this kinda muddies the waters a bit for the “love” one for me.
..

Does anyone see where I’m coming from here?

augustlan's avatar

I think I see where you’re coming from, @ninjacolin. All these abstract things are so complicated! Evidence of love would take the form of personal experiences, our perception of which will naturally be influenced by our personal biases. Personal experience isn’t very convincing to the outsider. Consider God, for instance. No verifiable evidence, only personal experiences support the belief. That is not enough for an atheist to be convinced, so why would it be different for love? Very hard to measure scientifically.

ninjacolin's avatar

Okay, I’m going to offer up some fodder for thought/discourse.. don’t hold me too strongly accountable to this.. as I said, I’m just trying to figure out where I stand on the matter and I’m having a lot of trouble with it:

Isn’t that where polling becomes useful? For example, how can you prove whether a majority of brains would like a particular electoral candidate to take power after the elections? Registered voting. A scientific poll tells you exactly how many have that belief factually in their heads.

Oddly enough, love isn’t something an entire country has to vote on. Generally it comes down to two people and maybe their close group of associates or family. If they all vote on it (aka. show up for the wedding, shower them with gifts and praise over time, etc..) each participant kinda fills a data point, as per @Shippy, demonstrating that the love shared between that couple is factual.

When it comes to god, however, aren’t those thoughts larger than just the congregation who claims to believe it? Whether god exists or not isn’t restricted to just a couple or even to just a church or religion.. something of the magnitude of “God” is a global allegation that truly cannot be supported by a scientific poll of all concerned parties.

I’m looking for more examples like God which seem that clear cut.

lifeflame's avatar

Polling to verify the existence of something is not scientific. At one point many believed that the earth was flat—but it didn’t make it true.

ninjacolin's avatar

Of course it’s Scientific. It verifies the historical existence of an opinion in singular cases and a consensus in a population. Polling is counting. It’s why signatures are used on contracts!

For example, doctors determine treatments based on the opinions of their patients. As an example, Scott Routely from a Vegetative State tells his doctors “I am not in any pain” through the use of fMRI scans. If polling wasn’t scientific, then the doctor might decide to try treating him for pain regardless of what the patient communicates.

It may be untenable to suggest that “love exists in all people” in the way that someone might suggest: “God exists for all people.” But it’s absolutely rock hard scientific fact that I claim to have experienced a sensation that is best named “love.”

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

For the record, as a PhD level Social Science and Medical methodologist, let me clarify what makes research and survey research in particular scientific.

Abstract concepts must be validly operationalized: The research must demonstrate to peer reviewers that the method of measuring the construct refers accurately, specifically and repeatably to what the investigator claims they are meant to measure. – This is very challenging and time consuming!

The sources of measurement error must be comprehensively identified and the researchers must demonstrate to peer reviewers that these sources of error have been effectively measured and controlled.

The statistical analysis must be conducted in a manner that respects the underlying assumptions of those statistical procedures. Peer reviewers must verify that evidence presented are sufficient to ascertain that the sampling procedures, case selection and data management are consistent with the statistical methods employed.

The conclusions asserted by the research report must be accurate and appropriate. Often conclusions stated go beyond the evidence, especially when there are errors in any of the preceding steps! Alternate explanations may account for the observed effects. The statistical results may have overestimated the size of the effect especially when errors may have compromised the validity of conclusions drawn from the measurement of the construct.

Whoa! This is complicated! Yes, it is.

All of us, including scientists must be careful consumers of published research reports.
This does not be scientific research can’t be trusted. It means it is up to all of us to know when we can trust the results and conclusions of published research.

serenade's avatar

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

ninjacolin's avatar

Alright, thanks for this, guys.

I think I have a simpler way of asking this question if you’ll indulge me: Link!

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