John Polkinghorne at St Paul’s

John Polkinghornes signature on The God Delusion

John Polkinghorne's signature on The God Delusion

On Friday, Halley Soc welcomed Dr John Polkinghorne to St Paul’s to talk on how science and religion work together. Lest this post turn into an enormous dissertation I will attempt to digress as little as possible from what he said, and merely restate some of his main arguments (the things that I wrote down) and explain why I think he’s wrong. All quotations are paraphrased since I didn’t write down every word he said. Apologies if I’ve misinterpreted some of the things he said.

He began by stating that religion is a search for truth, and that both science and religion rely to an extent on belief:

Both science and religion are a search for truth, and both rely on motivated belief

In my opinion, while science is a genuine search for truth, religion is in many cases the opposite. Looking at evidence, God seems to be no more than a convenient gap-filler for what humans do not know. When Pasteur turned up, disease was no longer a manifestation of God’s wrath but merely the action of millions of tiny microbes, and was treated with medicine instead of prayer. On the subject of belief, while science relies on believing measurements made by humans and machines, religion relies mostly on what a book full of contradictions is interpreted to say – which seems to be just about everything.

He subsequently said something about religion being a human version of science:

Science treats humans as objects. Humans are obviously not objects, thus need something else: religion

I think humans are objects. Just because we classify ourselves as intelligent life with complex emotions, we are governed by exactly the same laws as everything else. Emotions are simply manifestations of neurones firing and hormones and chemicals being released in the body (I’m no biologist but I’m pretty sure it’s something along those lines). However complicated the brain is, I believe there’s nothing to separate the mind from the brain than a different paradigm – fundamentally the mind is a function of the state of the brain. Humans are objects after all. Saying they are different things are a bit like saying the Newtonian paradigm contradicts the Hamiltonian one.

He used this argument to create an argument about beauty, specifically music:

When we hear music, we hear its beauty, and can appreciate that. This implies there is something other than science, and we call this other thing God

As above, beauty and emotions relating to it are merely functions of the brain, abstractions relating to certain neurones firing. Beauty is not an inherent part of the universe – we merely interpret it to be.

He then said that science and religion help each other:

Science helps religion by telling the world how the world works, about truth

‘Truth’ is the exact word he used (I wrote it down enclosed in quotation marks). If science tells religion the truth, his first statement must be false: religion can’t be told the truth and come up with it at the same time. More importantly and indeed disturbingly, he insists that religion can explain evolution:

God made the world so that creatures can evolve: rather than making homo sapiens with five fingers he created a world in which life can make itself. Life evolved from a ready-made world

Apparently it is more likely that we are living in a computer simulation than in a ‘real’ world (c.f. several New Scientist articles). So God is a computer programmer with a genetic algorithm. In a way I can believe that, after reading the articles. There’s still no justification for practising religion though – merely believing in a probability of there being a form of ‘god’, and only tenuously.

He then said Newton is proof of God:

Evolution cannot explain Isaac Newton: there is absolutely no evolutionary benefit for humans to be able to understand the cosmos

I think he’s made a mistake here. Of course there’s no evolutionary benefit for the ability to understand the universe and invent calculus, just as there’s no evolutionary benefit for a dolphin to be able to jump through hoops (I’m not intentionally comparing Newton to a dolphin). What allowed Newton to discover his laws was his intelligence and a high degree of intuition, undeniably qualities beneficial to an animal; qualities which enable it to survive better.

He fell back again to a beauty argument:

Science and Maths are beautiful: Mathematical equations and the way everything fits together is just so beautiful that it cannot exist without God. Quoting Wigner, ‘Mathematics is so unreasonably effective’. God must have made it that way

Personally I think there are three good reasons why science and maths yield such beautiful equations. The first is statistics. It is statistically likely that there will exist some beautiful equations, and some not so beautiful ones. Beautiful ones include e^iπ+1=0. Not so beautiful ones include the quadratic formula, or indeed the quartic formula. The second reason is that science and maths are based on very simple rules which can themselves be described as beautiful. Simplicity of certain solutions and results stem from the fact that the basis is fundamentally simple – there are many hidden fundamental underlying patterns interspersed throughout the sciences, which means you tend to end up with something quite nice. The third reason is that aesthetics are a human invention. Beauty doesn’t really exist – humans just assign that quality to certain things. So saying beauty proves god is circular: “God made man to invent beauty to prove God”.

The last part of his talk involved a well-known argument for intelligent design:

Life as we know it can’t exist without the parameters of our universe.

I have all sorts of objections to this and could get into the anthropic principle and keep going forever. He said ‘life as we know it’, citing specifically carbon-based life. He also said if those parameters were tweaked just slightly, we couldn’t exist. It’s possible though that a radical change in one or more of the parameters might still yield intelligent life. Who knows, that life might not even need photons.

Someone asked a question about the multiverse theory, a popular method to get round this problem. He replied that this is too speculative an idea. I asked whether he thought, if the idea of multiple universes (a part of many theories such as M-theory and the many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics) was too speculative, that God is too speculative. He said something about there being evidence for God and none for multiple universes. I asked him what he thought of David Deutsch’s idea that quantum computing is evidence for the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics as the computing power is too great to come from one universe. His reply:

I think it’s perverse for David Deutsch to say such a thing. All you need is the Copenhagen interpretation

So multiple universes are ridiculous to even consider, but God is; and spooky action at a distance is fine?

Many things he said contradict things I believe and conclusions I have come up with. I remain no more convinced that religion is worth practising and that God exists. Furthermore, after all this argument why theology in general is maybe a good idea, he became specifically Anglican, a branch of religion that requires him to believe all sorts of ridiculous assertions made by the bible. He said he has his reasons but wasn’t prepared to delve into them with the little time that he had. My suspicion is that he and I will never agree. But to commemorate the occasion (a famous person coming to St Paul’s), I managed to get his signature on my copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in which he is (probably) referred to as a crackpot (image is at top of post, and on my Flickr photostream). Score…

๏̯͡๏﴿

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32 Responses to John Polkinghorne at St Paul’s

  1. egbertonline says:

    The sad part is that he actually could have said a lot of stuff about science&religion that would have at least calmed the hysterical atheists down a bit. Mainly; there would be no science without religion because science started out as religious people trying to figure out and therefore better admire God’s work. Mendel, the guy who discovered inheritance was a monk, Darwin was trying to figure out God’s order of creation and accidentally ended up killing him in the process..

    So although now that we have science religion can piss off, it did have a role in helping us find the truth once upon a time..

  2. Theo says:

    In the “God Delusion” he is not referred to as a crackpot, in fact Dawkins respects him as a scientist. However, he wonders, as do I, as to how he can be a Christian specifically and a scientist. When I asked him this question he simply did not answer, saying “it would be too long an answer”. Come on: he could have at least said something. I guess people do not want to face their irrationality…

  3. kirk says:

    ‘Beauty is not an inherent part of the universe – we merely interpret it to be.’

    I don’t think beauty is a human projection. It is there. Academics who study aesthetics are lead towards the idea that it’s not subjective…

    Also, I think you should talk about his general points and not try to ‘quote’ him when you know it’s not word for word correct, even if you spell it out at the beginning… just saying. :p

    Science needs metaphysics because we need metaphysics and theology is one of the strongest forms of metaphysics, if not the strongest.

  4. Andrew Simmons says:

    i believe you are taking what he said entirely out of context about music:

    he never stated that music is good because of god, he stated that the beauty of music, and the depths to which it can move someone, can never be summed up in scientific analyses and statements. he was using it to try to show that science isn’t the be all and end all of knowledge- you can’t understand music just by reading a paper on it

  5. Andrew Simmons says:

    two addenda:

    1. With Matter density being just 5% different (New Scientist passim) gravity would be strong enough to cause a “big crunch”, or not strong enough to pull particles together into stars. Without stars, we would be stuck with Hydrogen based life- not something i find likely.

    2. Given many versions of MWI, we have a variety of universes spiralling from a single common ancestor. This does not necessarily mean that physical constants are any different in these verses. We don’t need to have infinite (or even multiple) starting universes in order for Quantum computing via MWI to work.

  6. Bryant Tan says:

    Concerning music, I’d argue, given enough time and research funds, it *would* be possible to analyse how certain sound patterns can trigger certain neurones and hormones in the body leading to an intense feeling of joy / pain / beauty. Thus one *can* analyse a piece of music and empirically determine how it will affect people. Of course, nobody really does that, mainly because we don’t know in that much detail how the brain works. If/when we do, computers may well be making our music, however sad a thought it may seem. As the famous xkcd cartoon suggests, sociology is just *really* applied Physics/Maths. Music is a few steps further down the line. After all, music is in a way an experimental discipline, like science: play a few chords, and if they get the approval of other human beings, stick with them. If people clutch their ears in agony, try another chord. That’s how, more or less, it evolved. Music is rational, and evolved as a function of human brains.

    About your addenda:

    1. That’s the problem I’m trying to explain: you’re assuming a (dare I use an economics expression in a debate about religion?) ceteris paribus situation. If enough changes were made to more than one of those six fundamental numbers (c.f. Simon Singh’s radio programme ‘Just Six Numbers’), Hydrogen won’t even exist – chemistry would be completely different from how we know it, and life under a different set of rules might be able to form. So long as that universe doesn’t collapse upon itself within a few billion years there’s a chance life can exist quite comfortably in such totally different conditions. This is from a scientific article I read, not something I’m making up (though I can’t remember which magazine/website/paper).

    2. Of course the laws of Physics don’t change in the MWI of QM (unless you take whacky versions). But the point I was trying to get across was that the concept of multiple universes isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds, and it strikes me as quite a good way of resolving the spooky action at a distance problem. I’m not saying it’s an ideal interpretation and I myself have my doubts, but nevertheless it makes more sense (to me anyway) than a theory involving a male all-powerful homo sapiens-like being who created the universe in a week.

  7. Andrew Simmons says:

    i agree with you RE music, i just felt that you’d misquoted him, when u say he linked it back to god- he didn’t.

    re point 2: fair enough if you’re just saying that MWI isn’t ridiculous (most top scientists are on record saying they believe it, including Murray Gell-Mann and Stephen Hawking). However, the idea that multiple worlds replaces a god generally draws on the theory that there are infinite starting worlds, with every possible combination of physical constants. therefore, there is this one, with its apparently idyllic conditions for life.

  8. Richard Alloway says:

    Much of what you believe in science is heresay. Have you measured the mass of an electron yourself, or seen Saturn through a telescope? (Perhaps you have..)

    If Science is truth; hard logical facts, then surely you would have to find out emprically all of these facts yourself without having some amount of ‘faith’. And until you have I don’t see why the lack of “evidence” for God is any greater than the lack of evidence you personally have for the mass of an electron.

    Of course I am an atheist and it’s a bit of a pedantic point..but I don’t think it’s fair to say “religion relies mostly on what a book full of contradictions is interpreted to say”.

    And there are tons of things in Physics which are “convenient gap-fillers”.

  9. Bryant Tan says:

    Although I have personally not measured the mass of an electron I remember seeing Saturn through a telescope from an observatory about an hour’s drive from London (at about 2 am) – it’s quite a remarkable sight, even without NASA photo über-enhancement.

    I’d say the difference between the ‘faith’ that you speak of in relation to science and that in relation to religion is that with Science it is possible to repeat the experiments for yourself and determine whether the statement is true or not. Science relies a lot on falsifyability: whether a statement can be proven true or false with an experiment. Most religious claims cannot, while all scientific ones can: inverse square laws can be measured very easily and proven to be the case. On the other hand nobody can really determine whether God exists. Religion is blind faith – “a book I once read says so, so it must be true”. Scientific faith is simply taking the fact that if an experiment has been done many times by many different people around the world, if you personally do it, it will work – it’s not saying “Dr Burnett said so, so it must be true”.

    And in Physics, ‘convenient gap-fillers’ tend not to last long – normally someone will pick up on things like that and they will become open problems rather than being hidden as an embarrassment: there’s always someone looking out for these things, pointing them out and trying to resolve them. My personal feeling is that religion is more about covering up things that don’t seem to make much sense. I challenge you to find an example in Physics where there has been an inexplicable result and scientists have just gone ‘meh’ and said something like ‘we don’t know why that happens, I guess it was made that way’. Perhaps that sort of thing happened in the 1900’s. Not today.

  10. Richard Alloway says:

    Fair enough, and I agree.

    “Dr Burnett said so, so it must be true”. – sounds like GCSE Biology to me! :P

  11. Bryant Tan says:

    Coincidentally that’s just what I was thinking when I wrote it! Though GCSE Biology (like GCSE chemistry) is mostly lies anyway :P

  12. Hugsnotdrugs says:

    First I’m going to say that I’m not necessarily in favour of Polkinghorne’s arguments: I’m not necessarily in favour of Polkinghorne’s arguments.

    Nevertheless, I think you misinterpret a few of Polkinghorne’s (and Relgion’s) fundamental points.

    First of all, you assume that, when Polkinghorne said that religion was searching for truth,
    he was talking about the same truth as science searches for. This is, in my opinion, not true: science searches for how, religion for why. If we someone believes that disease is God’s wrath, Pasteur’s discovery does not negate this belief. Louis Pasteur asked ‘how’; the believer asks ‘why’. This distinction isn’t in most of your anti-religious arguments.

    You then make a sweeping statement: “religion relies mostly on what a book”. I don’t obey the Bible because it is there; I obey the bible because it is congruous with my belief.

    You clearly don’t understand religion fully, as you say that the “book” is “full of contradictions”. I do not fully understand physics, and so am bound to make the same mistake as you have: that is, to say that Science is full of contradictions. A photon is both a particle, and a wave? Is that logical? Probably. But I do not understand it. Similarly, don’t say that the Bible teems with contradictions unless you understand it.

    You say that there is no justification for practicing religion. No logical justification perhaps; but many feel an intuitive justification. I may be taking this a bit too far, but can’t you say that there is no justification for believing your senses? The step you make to believe your senses (for example, you see a man, you you believe he is there) is intuitive. Logic by itself is really quite useless, without a bit of intuition (and vice versa).

    Could say more, but haven’t the time. Byebye.

  13. Bryant Tan says:

    science searches for how, religion for why. If we someone believes that disease is God’s wrath, Pasteur’s discovery does not negate this belief. Louis Pasteur asked ‘how’; the believer asks ‘why’. This distinction isn’t in most of your anti-religious arguments.

    Perhaps it was an ill-thought-up example, I’ll admit that. But science has shown that bacteria evolved, just like humans. They are therefore unlikely to be God’s wrath as he never in fact created disease; rather, the world he made happened to evolve it. That’s if you believe in the type of creationism that is congruous with evolution; there are far more serious and obvious problems with the outright ‘God made everything just as it is now’ type of creationism. And if you ask me, the question ‘why’ is futile if the only answer you permit yourself to agree with is a supernatural omnipotent being who created everything just right.

    You then make a sweeping statement: “religion relies mostly on what a book”. I don’t obey the Bible because it is there; I obey the bible because it is congruous with my belief.

    If there were a bit of the bible that goes against your belief would you follow it? If so, you’ve contradicted yourself: the bible isn’t congruous with your beliefs. If not, you’re not really following the bible so again you’ve contradicted yourself. Like it or not, you’re not really following the bible; you just happen to agree with it on some, or all, points.

    You clearly don’t understand religion fully, as you say that the “book” is “full of contradictions”. I do not fully understand physics, and so am bound to make the same mistake as you have: that is, to say that Science is full of contradictions. A photon is both a particle, and a wave? Is that logical? Probably. But I do not understand it. Similarly, don’t say that the Bible teems with contradictions unless you understand it.

    Please expound – surely that can be used to believe in anything? “There really is a teapot orbiting the sum because you clearly don’t understand what I mean by that”.

    Perhaps what you’re trying to say all along is you agree with and follow your personal interpretation of the bible. In which case it’s just moulding the bible to suit your own beliefs – why not just be independent and believe what you believe without needing the support of your interpretation of something? I suspect I’m not understanding something here because it makes absolutely no sense to me.

    You say that there is no justification for practicing religion. No logical justification perhaps; but many feel an intuitive justification. I may be taking this a bit too far, but can’t you say that there is no justification for believing your senses? The step you make to believe your senses (for example, you see a man, you you believe he is there) is intuitive. Logic by itself is really quite useless, without a bit of intuition (and vice versa).

    I believe my eyes because there’s a high probability that they give me an accurate representation of what really is. But what about fear of the dark? There was a time when that was necessary, but now it’s more or less an obsolete instinct – it’s annoying in a perfectly safe domestic environment and superfluous in a genuinely dangerous situation: logic is sufficient to tell us that walking around shaded alleys at night is probably a bad idea. Besides, instincts / intuition isn’t always right, and logic can often give us a better answer. Why choose instinct over science? I really don’t get it.

  14. hugsnotdrugs says:

    I don’t know how to do fancy quotes, I’m afraid.

    “Rather, the world he made happened to evolve it.”

    This is how. Religion asks why: Why did God create a world where disease can evolve and infect people?

    “That’s if you believe in the type of creationism that is congruous with evolution; there are far more serious and obvious problems with the outright ‘God made everything just as it is now’ type of creationism.”

    6-day creationism is adopted by few and derives exactly from the problem you were having: confusing science and religion as trying to answer the same question. Genesis is not, in my opinion, a scientific text, in the modern sense of the word. It answers ‘why’, not ‘how’.

    “And if you ask me, the question ‘why’ is futile if the only answer you permit yourself to agree with is a supernatural omnipotent being who created everything just right.”

    This is not the only way it can be answered. Deism, for example, is an example of another. And just because an answer cannot be easily reached does not make a question futile.

    “If there were a bit of the bible that goes against your belief would you follow it?”

    I would stop being a Christian altogether.

    “Like it or not, you’re not really following the bible”

    The bible is a clear articulation of belief. It adds depth to the concept of a pefect God.

    “Please expound – surely that can be used to believe in anything? “There really is a teapot orbiting the sum because you clearly don’t understand what I mean by that”.”

    Only when you understand it do I expect you to believe it – but until then I don’t expect you to reject it.

    “I believe my eyes because there’s a high probability that they give me an accurate representation of what really is.”

    I fail to see logic here. Intuition, perhaps, but not logic. From what data do you reach this supposition?

    “Why choose instinct over science?”

    Science IS instinct.

  15. Richard Alloway says:

    Isn’t logic essentially instinct and intuition? What decides whether one step follows ‘logically’ from another? Is it what the majority of people believe is logical? Or just some instinctive truth? Either way, I don’t think it’s an issue of choosing “instinct over science”, because logic and rationality are instinctive anyway.

  16. Ben Dory says:

    I don’t agree with your definition of logic – logic is meant to be pure rationality with the exclusion of social factors that are more to do with emotion or impressionability than logic. (We say computers are extremely logical since they have no fewer of these external influences): 2 + 2 = 4 is logical reasoning, if the majority of people changed their mind that wouldn’t make 4 an illogical answer. Also logic is often at odds with instinct rather than coming from it – we have natural instincts to go around raping, murdering and stealing at will, but logic says we can’t since its worse for us in the long term…:S The whole point of rationality is ignoring initial instincts and properly thinking problems through.

  17. Richard Alloway says:

    I didn’t define it. That was my point.

    “logic is meant to be pure rationality”..so essentially logic is meant to be logic?

    How do you define it? Because it seems to me you have just said logic is logic. And if it’s not intuitive/instinctive then what is it?

  18. hugsnotdrugs says:

    “The whole point of rationality is ignoring initial instincts and properly thinking problems through.”

    But just because we ignore initial instincts doesn’t mean that logic can’t be instincts that aren’t intial…

    The only way we can define logic, or rational argument, as far as I can see is:

    1. A linear argument that can be put into words
    2. In which everyone can easily see the thought process

    Which means that basically, logic is just an instinct that we all have in common.

  19. Bryant Tan says:

    Hugsnotdrugs, I think your understanding of science and logic is flawed – just because instinct sometimes happens to coincide with logic doesn’t mean it is logic. And just because everyone shares a similar concept of logic doesn’t mean it is instinct.

  20. Rabbit_09 says:

    bryant, your assessment of hugsnotdrugs is fallacious – I think that account is reasonable.

    furthermore, tan, you have failed to show why logic should be used and instinct disregarded for the most part.
    does one use logic because it is logical to do so?
    does one use instinct because it is instinctive to do so?
    the answer to both these questions is yes, and as one can see they are clearly circular but that’s fine! that still doesn’t mean one has to ignore the other and hugsnotdrugs I think would accept this.

    we can use logic and instinct for different issues and most of the time a blend of both but to diss instinct like you did bryant is completely out of order because loads of science is based on instinct like Brownian motion etc. etc.

  21. logic says:

    Rabbit_09: I’m sorry to say that your comment struck me as terribly instinctive and woefully illogical.

  22. hugsnotdrugs says:

    Bryant, care to define logic for me?

  23. hugsnotdrugs says:

    Oh, and also provide a sound argument for why logic ought to be used over intuition?

  24. Ben Dory says:

    and our table is also out of bread sticks.

  25. Rabbit_09 says:

    ‘logic’ didn’t answer any of my points… fancy that! :p

  26. Bryant Tan says:

    hugsnotdrugs: I’d define logic as an argument which starts with assumptions (e.g. information) and proceeds as a series of inferences based on rules, and those rules are pre-defined by nature / how the universe is / whatever you like to call it.

    And before I start on this, remember I’m not saying logic should always be used over intuition – there are times when there is insufficient information to work on such that logic still gives you a ~50% probability that choosing one option over another in a dilemma will be best, at which point one may and indeed should resort to intuition.

    But I think logic should always be considered first because intuition is the decision the brain makes in its ‘natural state’, before enough information has filtered through from long term memory at the back of the hippocampus for it to make a properly informed decision. Since this instinct tends to linger irrationally despite having later made a better informed decision, it should be suppressed as much as possible.

    Rabbit_09: What makes you say brownian motion is based on instinct?

  27. Andrew Simmons says:

    [quote] in Physics, ‘convenient gap-fillers’ tend not to last long [/quote]
    (i hope my intuitive phpbb formatting works)

    In fairness, physics is in its entirety “convenient gap-fillers”. I mean, look at newton. He realised that the force of gravity could conveniently fill the gap of why the moon orbits the earth, and came up with an equation to describe it. Of course, it made sense, and all available experimental data appeared to corroborate with his predictions: however, it is a dangerous leap to assume that just because something makes sense, that it is true. Obviously, this can be extrapolated to all of scientific theory.

    It is very difficult to actually prove that something is true… except in maths. which is why maths is great- its the only field in which we can really find universal truths with absolute certianty.

  28. Andrew Simmons says:

    oh boo, it didnt work :(

  29. Bryant Tan says:

    Quotations are done with <blockquote> tags ;)

    Sure, I agree Physics is very literally filling gaps in our knowledge and understanding, and it’s indeed sometimes convenient – science can only ever be as good as experiment. But scientific theory is about predicting outcomes of experiments as accurately as possible, and most theory is tested to all sorts of extremes (e.g. the LHC). Thus we have a model built around things that have been tested to near statistical certainty, and I guess that’s in a way the best science can do. Scientific theories also sometimes predict outcomes which are tested after the predictions are made – if the theory predicts correctly in such an instance, it’s particularly good.

    I don’t however see how creating some explanation that works but can never be tested and is improbable and complicated really helps, which is the problem many people see with string theory and why it’s so controversial. It’s like solving a problem with a Rube-Goldberg machine: find the most complicated solution you can think of but one which it is bound to agree with any experiment, whatever the result: an unfalsifyable claim. I guess that’s what I meant by a ‘convenient gap-filler’ in religion.

    In Physics, what I meant by ‘convenient gap-fillers’ are things like ‘current takes the path of least resistance’. It sounds vaguely plausible, and it certainly explains short circuits. But it doesn’t explain some other experimental data, e.g. different resistance resistors in parallel. These gap-fillers tend to come from instinctive reasons people just think up on the spot, another reason why instinct is a bad idea: you end up with convenient gap-fillers, which are bad m’kay…

  30. hugsnotdrugs says:

    I’d define logic as an argument which starts with assumptions (e.g. information)

    So where can we get these assumptions from, except by intuition? Probably from our senses, but the step to trust these is intuitive.

    and those rules are pre-defined by nature / how the universe is / whatever you like to call it.

    How do we get to know what these rules are?

    P.S. I don’t think you can ever fully justify logic’s supremacy. To justify logic using logic is utterly fallacious – as much so as justifying the Bible with the Bible – and to justify logic using intuition is to say that intuition is a valid form of argument.

  31. Richard Alloway says:

    By saying it starts from assumptions and that we use rules defined by nature you are not saying that logic is not instinctive.

  32. Cake or Death? says:

    A key part of what is it to be human is to have the capacity for rational thought. This rational thought can be thought to be pretty damn accurate for two reasons. Firstly, our logic leads us to conclusions that are true in the real world, eg physics experiments agreeing with theory. Secondly, we are evolved beings, and there would be no evolutionary benefit from leaving in a dream world when it comes to observation and arguement forming in their most basic forms. Believing that a tiger is really a friendly elf that wants to give you gifts works well up until you want to apply it. Believeing things that are at true odds with the natural world, demonstrably so, putting aside cultural memes that take on their own reality, are generally harmful to existence, and thus their survival in the human species.

    Logic starts with unprovably axoims, as does maths. These are the points of ‘intuition’ I guess you are refering to. Howeverm these can be dealt with by my first point. If by starting with axioms like two parallel lines never cross in euclidean space you can get to predicting the Anomalous magnetic dipole moment of the electron to one part in a billion. It is this value that is the equivalent to measuring the distance between NYC and LA to the accuracy of one human hair. And the important point: experiment agrees with theory to within theoretical and experimental error. In some amazingly, incompredendably true way, our physics, therefore maths, therefore axioms, therefore logic, are correct.

    The fallacious point in your argument is the many meanings of intuition. I have taken intuition to mean axioms in the above, since it fits your meaning like a glove. If you mean the evolutionary instinct to run away from tigers, that to is valid. When you try to use your intinct to get onto the first rung of argument, with the invention of logic and maths, that leads to the aforementioned precision and agreement between reality and theory, that too is acceptable. If you try to use intuition to jump to the top of the ladder, bypassing the argument of logic, it’s own creation, that is where problems lie. Rocks feel solid, dense, substantial. In day to day life, and that’s the important bit, they are substantial. That is how we have evolved to deal with the existence of rock in the most parsimonious way. We have evolved to see them as corporeal since at the scale of reality at which we live that is the most simple way of understanding them that. When it comes to surviving as prehistoric man in the savannah, that to is the most unseful way of understanding them, so we do. But, our science tells us that rocks are a giant lattice structure that have nothing but empty space between the constituent atoms, and there is lots of space. Going deeper, these atoms are only the tiniest bits of stuff, each far less dense than our solar systems, each amazingly dispersed. I will not type up all the analogies for the space in an atom, but go google. To try to jump from our intuition that rocks are hard to an explanation at the deepest level of their existence is simply wrong, invalid, and erroneous, and testably so.

    People’s intuition’s vary, even the same person’s intuition will vary given time. My question for you is if intuition is a valid form of argument, then are there many equally true entirely inconsistent truths, even if some are demonstably false?

    If knowledge is so loose weave when, on a morning, you decide to leave your home by the front door, or the window on the second floor?

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