Sunday, December 3, 2006

What do you believe that you cannot prove?

A provocative question: "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" Edge Foundation asked that of 120 scientists, philosophers, and futurists. The answers make fascinating reading. Very, very stimulating stuff. Check it out

(All 120 answers are free at the above site; also has them collected in an easy-to-navigate ebook for under ten bucks.)


At December 03, 2006 7:47 PM , Anonymous don said...

I would say it's ghosts, demons, guardian angels and such. Beings of the netherworld, eternal souls, that sort of thing.

It's not science related, but that would be my answer.

At December 03, 2006 7:49 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Interesting. Of course, most of the actual responses are in the nature of hunches about things that science will someday prove, not statements about matters of faith.

At December 03, 2006 7:57 PM , Anonymous don said...

But then, maybe science in the future will find a way to "cross the barrier" and then shed some light on matters of faith.

At December 03, 2006 10:13 PM , Blogger Lou_Sytsma said...

Cool link. Thanks Rob!

At December 04, 2006 11:33 AM , Blogger Ryan Oakley said...

Great link. As for me, I believe in aliens and telepathy -- more a global mind than mind reading. It's funyn though; I can more easily name things I don't believe but can't prove they're wrong or offer a decent alternative. I don't believe in time or the big bang. The gut is a funny thing.

At December 04, 2006 11:54 AM , Blogger John C. Wright said...

Most of the responses were scientific rather than philosophical. Had they asked me, I would have answered that the rules of logic and the scientific method are true, but are not open to proof.

"Proof" in science is when two mutually exclusive explanations can predict the results, and one explanation can be ruled out if a given result obtains. "Proof" in logic is when valid deductions come from true axioms.

No possible experiment can be set up to see whether or not we live in a universe where the experimental method is true. If we lived in a universe--let us say we are all sleeping in the Matrix or deceived by the Demiurge of Descartes--where experimental results were unrelated to truth, no experiment could detect that. In such a universe, the consistency of experiments so far in our experience could be coincidence, something that happens to be the case without necessarily being the case.

Likewise for logic. If a skeptic does not believe the law of non-contradiction, how is one to prove to him that it does? In order to set up a proof in formal logic, the rules are a given.

There are numberless things that are true but are not open to proof, some large, some small. I cannot prove to you the sun will rise tomorrow, or that my self-awareness exists. For that matter, I cannot even prove, within the narrow confines of this comments box, that I am not a dog with a keyboard.

At December 04, 2006 12:17 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, John! Good to see you here. For those who don't yet know, John C. Wright is one of the hottest SF writers working today.

At December 05, 2006 4:10 PM , Anonymous Brian L. Raney said...

I can't prove it, John, but I do believe you're not a dog with a keyboard. You're more likely a cat with a mouse, but certainly not a dog with a keyboard. ;)

What I believe but cannot prove is that the planet Venus might once have been a living planet like our own. But runaway global warming over took its ecology, and carbonic acid eventually erased all traces of life and civilization from its surface. A fate that might repeat itself here in the not too distant future if we are not too careful.

At December 08, 2006 12:43 AM , Anonymous Chris said...

I came across the printed book they put out a while back and blogged "The more people who believe something, the truer it is"

At January 02, 2007 2:58 PM , Blogger John C. Wright said...

I believe that there are many hot new writers today, and that this is main factor is responsible for the global warming which will one day turn our planet in to an hellish heat-trap atmosphere like Venus. Therefore I caution all other writers to stop writing immediately! For the sake of our planet!

Except Robert Sawyer, of course. He should continue.

I mean, while millions of lives might hang in the balance, it is important to keep a sense of perspective.

At January 02, 2007 5:45 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hee hee hee. Many thanks, John C. Wright! And, of course, you're one of those who should keep writing, too -- and to heck with the environment! ;)




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