TFBW's Forum

Proving the Paranormal
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Author:  TFBW [ Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:08 am ]
Post subject:  Proving the Paranormal

The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a million dollar prize for anyone able to demonstrate a supernatural ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria.

Does this test make sense from the perspective of the philosophy of science? Would not anything demonstrated using scientific testing criteria be considered a natural phenomenon? In other words, if one met the test criteria, would one have demonstrated that the phenomenon in question was not supernatural? Does the concept "a scientific proof of the supernatural" entail a contradiction?

Author:  TFBW [ Fri Sep 01, 2006 4:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Miracles

Along similar lines, what is the status of the miraculous from a scientific perspective? Is it possible, in principle, to formulate a scientific proof of a miracle? In particular, does it fall afoul of the problem of repeatability?

Suppose you had the opportunity to investigate the first miracle that Jesus performed: the transformation of water into wine. How strong a scientific proof would you be able, in principle, to offer the scientific community that a miracle had taken place? How would you address the challenge that your findings are not worthy of publication in a scientific journal because they can not be repeated?

Clearly if such a thing as the transformation of water into wine did occur, its implications are terribly significant. At the very least we would have to conclude that Jesus was in possession of technology so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke. That being so, he was no ordinary man of his day. An explanation in terms of Divine Intervention seems quite rational under the circumstances.

But can science wrap itself around these possibilities, or are the events too large for it to contain? The practice of scientific investigation is built upon repetition and control; on assumptions of uniformity in space and time with regards to the laws behind the observed behaviour. If the true explanation of the water-into-wine story is a unique instance of divine or technological intervention, then any assumption of law-like uniformity we bring to the investigation will be just plain false, and render any conclusions based on them unsound.

The practice of science isn't a single, fixed method. The loss of repeatability need not spell doom for a scientific investigation, even if it is a heavy blow. Still, the question remains, what other scientific tools and techniques can we bring to bear on the problem?

Author:  LOSTBOY [ Sun Nov 26, 2006 7:16 pm ]
Post subject: 

The Schrödinger equation allows for all possible outcomes. Outcomes such as turning water into wine or causing the sun and moon to stand still could be expressed no matter how complex or highly improbable such events might be.

A miracle is a one-time (non repeatable) improbable event and could not be tested in a laboratory environment. There are, nonetheless, miracles reported that do occur on a regular basis and such miracles could be tested using the scientific method. Perhaps the so-called miracle of the Paschal Fire in Jerusalem would fit such criteria:

Author:  LOSTBOY [ Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

Here's an article you might find interesting:

Author:  TFBW [ Mon Nov 27, 2006 9:32 pm ]
Post subject: 

I haven't read it in full detail yet, but from a quick glance it does appear to be a rather good article.

Author:  LOSTBOY [ Tue Nov 28, 2006 6:09 pm ]
Post subject: 

I think you might like it. Anyhoo, it may have some application to your typing monkeys analogy. WRT the other thread about breaking up the problem into smaller chunks, after reading this paper I think I am better able to articulate the issue.

There may be a number of options available as you said, but I was trying to simply the problem down to just two options: choosing between chance or design. Rather than suggesting that macroevolution is so improbable that it is ludicrous, try rubbing a little spin on it and call it a "miracle of chance"

1st chunk: natural selection--a "miracle of chance?"

Microevolution is observable in nature, Darwin's finches are an example, but macroeveolution, say, a lizard evolving into a finch has never been observed in human memory, but macroevolution can be extrapolated from microevolution. Also, from an information theory perspective (see Seth Lloyd's Programming the Universe : A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos, Knopf, March 14, 2006, 240 p., ISBN 1-4000-4092-2) macroevolution is at least plausible, but it is up to you to use your monkey typists analogy to show how improbable it is. I'm sure you will be able to show that the evolutionist will have to accept a miracle of chance over and over and over again to account for the multitude of species that allegedly have evolved.

2nd chunk: abiogeniesis--a "miracle of chance?"

The monkey typists analogy can be used to show the improbablility of a living cell (a bacterium, virus, or mad cow protein) spontaneously generating from the primordial soup.

3rd chunk: I don't have a proper name for this process, but the universe has to be organized enough to allow for abiogenesis (maybe the Anthropic Principle)-- a mira-...well, you get the piture.

"For want of a nail, the battle was lost." For there to be a place for the primordial soup to collect, there must be a planet with lots of liquid water with a certain atmosphere with certain meteorological conditions. For there to be liquid water the planet must be a certain distance from the sun--too close water gets boiled away, too far the water gets frozen. For ther to be a planet at all ther must exist certain heavy elements (heavier than hydrogen). These heavier elements must be "cooked" in a solar furnace...and so on. You can use your typing monkeys anaolgy to show the improbability of all of this organization.

4th chunk: fine tuned universe.

The monkey typist analogy can be applied to the improbability of why each of the universal constants are the way they are.

5th chunk: CP-violation.

The monkey typist anaolgy can be used to show the improbability that more matter than antimatter formed during the big bang conditions.

Of course the atheist and perhaps the agnostic stand ever ready with refutations for one or more of these improbabilities or "miracles of chance":

I'm going to set aside natural selection for now since it is an ongoing debate, though athiests will insist that the evidence for natural selection is overwhelming and irrefutable. This is a problemaitc argument since a theory must be falsifiable so the legitimacy of this claim is perhaps dubious.

Next bit: abiogenesis.

Atheists et. al. invoke the Drake Equation to postulate that there could be any number of planets out of the billions and billions out there that are capable of supporting life and even if it is discovered that in the Earth's geological/fossil record that atmospheric and meteorological conditions were not conducive to abiogenesis they can always invoke panspermia, which is, of course, a circular argument based on the Drake Equation.

Here is what Michael Crichton has to say about the Drake Equation:
Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president, commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest university mainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at the new National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist named Frank Drake runs a two week project called Ozma, to search for extraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. It turns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:

N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL

Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet's life during which the communicating civilizations live.

This serious-looking equation gave SETI an serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses-just so we're clear-are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be "informed guesses." If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It's simply prejudice.

As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from "billions and billions" to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion. ... ote04.html

Next bit: Anthropic Principle (see Drake Equation above), Fine Tuned Universe, CP-Violation.

Atheists et. al. invoke the Many Worlds Hypothesis (or Mutiple Universes). Our universe could be one of an infinite number of universes (or at least 10^500 universes) that came to be via the Oscillating Universe, Fecund Universes, Brane Cosmology, et. al. models. David Deutch et. al. suggest that these multiple univeres coexists to explain quantum superposition.

I'm not sure how one would provide evidence for another universe or how we would be able to detect another universe, but I'm willing to keep a open mind and review whatever evidence that might exist.

I wouldn't take this route in any argument as you will be sure to offend someone, but if you think about it, to be an atheist requires several small incremental leaps of faith:

1. Science has several theories about how the big bang took place but nothing conclusive, so one must accept on faith that the big bang occured naturally.

2. Science has no explanation (at least nothing conclusive) as to what caused the cp-violation, so one must accept on faith that cp-violation occured naturally or by miracle of chance.

3. One must accept on faith that the fine tuning of universal constants occured naturally or by miracle of chance.

4. One must accept on faith that the Earth is in the life zone of the solar system naturally or by chance (see Crichton on the Drake Equation).

5. One must accept on faith that abiogenesis occured naturally or by miracle of chance.

6.Since macroevolution has never been observed in human memory one has to accept that it did occur on good faith.

Again I recommend avoiding using the word "faith." You can dance around the term, imply it, use synonyms, but as soon as you use the word faith you will just about be able to see the person cover his or her ears and shout, "la la la!" :lol:

Author:  Guest [ Sat Oct 20, 2007 4:19 am ]
Post subject: 

i think that the scientific part is just that the "scientists dudes" avaluate the fenomena, and say: "we can't explain this using current science".

i always tought that this was the definition of paranormal by scientists.

Author:  Guest [ Sun Nov 04, 2007 3:20 pm ]
Post subject: 

umm ok :)

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