I think what scientists do is construct models of reality that explain more or less well (compared to other models) how nature functions at any levels.  We have faith in our models, but not blind faith (except on exams).  Models are tested by asking, well, if the model explains this property of nature, it ought to  explain that one, and an experimental test is devised.   But because all models are simplifications, I.e., no model covers all of reality, and if the model is extended far enough (e.g., in physics to the whole universe) the model probably fails.

So there is always some uncertainty.  No big deal.  We just write a new grant proposal for more funding.  :)

I found an interesting set of definitions in the Urban Dictionary for Existentialist Agnosticism:

"Agnosticism, technically meaning 'the spirituality without knowledge', is a practice that puts all previous religions into question. Just as the post-modern movement desires re-evaluation of gender, sexuality, and concept, agnosticism calls into question the origins of god and the universe. While it would be completely arrogant for the human race to assume that they were the highest beings, power-wise, we have no proof that there is only one higher being. Further-more, we have no proof that they are out to do us any good, and no proof that they can or wish to communicate with us at the present moment. In essence, Agnosticism is the ultimate 'who knows, who cares', in terms of spirituality.

"Now. Existentialism is, essentially, the contemplation of existence. Often the parable of Sisyphus is used as the existentialist mascot. The futile image that the parable creates is to symbolize our life...for, linking with post-modern strains of thought (which, remember, seek to re-evaluate all we have previously assumed to gain a higher truth), there is technically nothing more than this struggle. However, existentialism largely wished for us to accept this. Don't hate the is ALL you have to depend upon. Your language, your concept of time, your concept of relationship, your concept of government, your concept of organization, your concepts of religion...all will fail you. However, the boulder will not. Accept and love the boulder [my emphasis]."

Not bad.

Can't have a revolution without struggle and may not have one with it.  With a lot of luck, we might be entering a period of history in which struggle actually produces real social change that we can taste----or even a social revolution—real satisfaction.  The times feel sort of right.

But as Emma Goldman said:

If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.  (Sisyphus was a drag).

Or one can follow Garfield the cat:

"Life is uncertain, eat dessert first."

I think the occupy movement gets both.


From: herb fox <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2012 3:03 PM
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: To Keep the Faith, Don't Get Analytical

Carrol et al:
I would suggest that not only does the notion of intuition need to be analyzed; but so also does that of faith
When i have been asked by students about my faith, i respond that like all physicists i have faith that the laws of physics are valid throughout the universe and that our knowledge of the physical universe and nature in general will increase over the lifetime of our species.  I use the word faith to describe beliefs for which there is no proof  (at present).  If the conversation were to continue, i would add necessary beliefs.  This would bring up: What is necessary?  Then we run into the vastly varying need among humans for certainty. 
The posts on Can you understand the Republican brain  seem to avoid the underlying problem, which is What makes some persons on the right or left NEED an unquestioned ideology.  My observation is that an important indicator is  tolerance for ambiguity.
Tolerance for ambiguity appears to vary considerably among  populations from differing cultures.  Maybe there is something to be learned there.

On 4/28/2012 5:37 PM, Carrol Cox wrote:
Herb writes: ".  In fact, my experience is that a majority are not
religious.  Yet the accounts of significant contributions to our knowledge
of the physical world often begin with an intuitive leap of faith. 

The notion of intuition itself needs to be analyzed. Susanne Langer, in
Philosophy in a New Key, gives the following description.

Suppose, she writes, someone admitted that All men are mortal, and that
Socrates is a man, but could not see that _therefore_, Socrates was mortal.That would be a failure of intuition. In other words, formal logic depends
on continuous acts of intuition. Whether we should see that intuition as a
"leap of faith" is another question. And there are undoubtedly other views
of intuition than Langer's; I just happen to be familiar with hers.


From: Science for the People Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of herb fox
Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2012 1:32 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: To Keep the Faith, Don't Get Analytical

I am neither trained nor well read in the field of psychology.  My
analytical/critical reading of the article provokes the following.

One would take physicists to be on average analytical thinkers.  In fact, my
experience is that a majority are not religious.  Yet the accounts of
significant contributions to our knowledge of the physical world often begin
with an intuitive leap of faith.  The physicist then applies her analyticalcapabilities to determine if what she feels intuitively is, in fact, what
does happen. [Note: i do not distinguish here between mathematical analysisand physical experiment]

This suggests an interpenetration of the analytic and intuitive.  For the
intuitive leap of faith of a physicist is informed by a lot of prior
analytical thinking and knowledge.

I would imagine that a nun who taught 7th grad math when confronted by the
bat and ball problem would immediately blurt out the correct answer withoutmuch analytic thought.  That suggests that rote learning and intuitive
thinking are related.  Someone trained by memorizing the catechism might
also learn by memorizing certain patterns.  How then would one be able to
distinguish an intuitive response from a response from rote memory?


On 4/28/2012 1:06 PM, Kamran Nayeri wrote: 
A while ago, there was a discussion on this list about rationality, religion
and the political process (in the context of the rise of religious parties
in the Middle East and North Africa and elsewhere). Here is another piece
from Science Now.  Kamran 

To Keep the Faith, Don't Get Analytical