Discussing
Jon Stewart, Skeptic of Science's Cosmic Ontology

Nathan Bierma

Rupzip
July 19, 2010

Great analysis. As they look through the telescope and the microscope, what they see is ... God.<br>David<br><a href="http://www.redletterbelievers.com" rel="nofollow">www.redletterbelievers.com</a>

Dimath
July 19, 2010

Exactly. If you try to explain something, you either work on a theory, or just believe in God.

Clayton
July 19, 2010

I think he was completely off in this case, actually. Good science is ALWAYS evidence based - although the evidence is not always direct.<br><br>You could, for example, say we've never seen a Higgs boson particle and claim it requires faith that they are there. However, the Higgs boson is predicted by a set of rules (particle physics) which were derived from phenomena we CAN see and measure. A specific theory was found that explains all that we know from observation and, from that theory, we were able to make predictions about things we haven't yet seen.<br><br>Further, those predictions are perfect for testing the theory. If we can't produce a Higgs boson under the circumstances predicted by the theory, then it would disprove that theory. A feat that would result in someone getting a pretty nice award!<br><br>On an individual level, however, science is more of an either-or proposition. You can either have "faith" in the works of scientists OR you can educate yourself, work the math, and test the theories first hand. Of course, that is impractical given the breadth of scientific disciplines - so realistically, on an individual level, you do need a certain level of faith in the scientists. But the scientists themselves work from observation and evidence.

Miql
July 19, 2010

Marilynne Robinson is not a scientist. How can you take her word in those matters? Robinson forgets that religion doesn't provide answers nor enjoy of a self-correction mechanism. Also, she wrongly accepts John Stewart's example of anti matter. The Dirac equation demands the existence of antimatter. The consistency of such a equation produces a theoretical proof. Admittedly, if anything is going to be good in science, is needed of experimental evidence; well, antimatter has already been produced in particle accelerators. So, there you go. Full theoretical and experimental evidence. <br><br>Maybe science (especially, physics) resembles faith but just for the layman.<br><br>miql

Craig
July 20, 2010

Stewart is incorrect - he is referring to 'dark matter' instead of 'antimatter'. They are different things. Also, The whole reason dark matter is thought to exist is because we can measure its effects, we can't see it, but we can measure its effects.

Chris
July 20, 2010

Could it be, that Stewart confused anti-matter with dark matter? Anti-matter could already be created in the laboratory and science assumes that most of the universe's anti-matter was actually destroyed right after the big bang. However, dark matter is an assumed mass that would explain various cosmic measurements if it existed. <br><br>And that's the difference in the arguments: Scientists wouldn't say "it's there" about dark matter. They say "If it was there, it would explain all those results we got from our measurements. But honestly, we don't know if it's there, we're working on that."

Ferridder
July 20, 2010

That's a strange comparison to make. Dark matter (not anti-matter, John Stewart got that wrong) is one of several tentative hypotheses made to explain certain observations that are at odds with earlier theories. From the hypothesis follows certain predictions, which cosmologists are actively conducting research to confirm or refute.<br><br>What would be different if God had not created the universe?<br>I.e., what observations would come out different?

Teest
July 20, 2010

This is odd. Most of the universe is not anti-matter, it is matter (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baryogenesis)" rel="nofollow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B...</a> and you can measure antimatter (that's what colliders do). I think Jon Stewart is confused between antimatter and dark matter/enery. The latter is still hypothetical (it is hypothetical because it hasn't been measured yet)<br>more here - <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/jon_stewart_you_let_me_down.php" rel="nofollow">http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn...</a>

Perfectlysafe
July 20, 2010

This is rather silly. Things that are in actuality entirely different can often look superficially similar to people who have limited understanding of them. The only insight gained from such observations relates to the way things might seem to largely uninterested observers. It's good enough a comment for a light-hearted interview, but it doesn't actually mean anything.<br><br>Jon Stewart's observations on politics and American culture are well worth listening to, because these are subjects into which he has genuine knowledge and insight. But that knowledge and insight doesn't extend to all subjects.<br><br>Antimatter actually exists and is detectable (it has an identifiable energy signature). There's a huge chunk of it at the galactic core. It has also been fabricated. What Jon Stewart's actually talking about is dark matter. What is essentially said about dark matter is "the behaviour of things that we can see - basically stars - is inconsistent with what we understand about gravitation. Either there is a lot of stuff that we can't see or there's something significant that we're missing about gravitation. The best explanation for the evidence that we have is that there is a large amount of matter which is difficult to directly observe in the universe". <br><br>In any case, there's no more faith involved in scientific theories surrounding dark matter than there is in suggesting that there's a mechanism for making apples fall out of trees.

Mark
July 20, 2010

"Scientists themselves work from observation and evidence." Certainly, but only in the experiments they're conducting. The sheer depth of prerequisite technology and formulae for most applied sciences is impossible for individuals to recreate from scratch. You have to rely on the work or assertions of others without seeing their experiments first hand. <br><br>How many good scientists worked on NASA's failed Mars Climate Orbiter with the assumption that the units were in metric instead of English? A lot of good science smacked into the surface of Mars because people had to rely on the work of others without checking everything for themselves.<br><br>The constant speed of light 'c' is the foundation of modern physics. How many good scientists rely on it being a constant without ever having directly measured the speed of light with their own equipment?<br><br>If light speed is ever proven to be variable, the whole of physics will have to be re-written. How many scientists base their work on the formulas of modern physics without having ever personally tested them?<br><br>Science has gone through multiple cosmological epochs through human history, each of which was held to be "the true nature" of the universe until it was finally overturned by the next "true" one. <br><br>How many good scientists in the last century have based their work on general relativity without being able to reconcile the laws of quantum mechanics? <br><br>How many good scientists used Euclidean geometry for the 1,000 years before non-Euclidean geometry became widely accepted (believed)? <br><br>How many good scientists worked from the premise (faith) of a heliocentric solar system during the 2,000 years between Aristarchus and Copernicus?<br><br>Modern science is possible only because scientists build on the work and theories of their peers and predecessors. Call it what you like, but trusting that base takes faith.

Ferridder
July 21, 2010

It sounds like you are mixing up two different things here. One is scientific progress, where new models that are more accurate in particular cases are discovered (e.g., special and general relativity, quantum physics). As long as a scientist is working well within the precision and range of coverage of a particular theory, it does not matter that it has been falsified in general (e.g., civil engineers use Newtonian physics). The theory is still true: it makes predictions that can be tested to hold within some precision.<br><br>The other is trust in the scientific community. Students routinely repeat famous experiments (I performed the Foucault experiment to measure light speed in high school), and scientists who build on other theories would most likely notice if they were not true (in the sense of having predictive power). In other words, it's not so much about trusting that Newton got mechanics right, as about trusting that not everyone since Newton got it wrong.

Charles Jones
July 21, 2010

Who could possibly answer that question? We would need to observe a universe created by God alongside a universe not created by God, and note the differences in comparison to our world. That would still result in an astronomical margin of error, given sample size. <br><br>I think it was Dawkins who asserted that what we've observed in the universe is at odds with what would be expected if it was created. But none of us are capable of identifying exactly what should or shouldn't be present, in what amounts, in what times, and through what methods in a created or uncreated universe. We just have this one. <br><br>The problem here is that cosmology isn't science. It's philosophy, it's religion, it's metaphysics...but until someone actually creates life from inanimate matter, or creates something from nothing, all we can do is guess. And even then there would be limitless unanswered (and unanswerable) questions.

Allan
July 21, 2010

The reason sience knows anti-matter is there is beacuse of measurements. (good science)<br>The reason for believing god is there is not measurements, it's the same as beliving in unicorns. (bad science)<br>And when it cones to evaluating for example the bible, there is no good science in the bible, it's all made up in a random historical sort of way. So the bible and science don't go along.

Eric Darchis
July 21, 2010

‘Well, actually most of the universe is anti-matter.’<br><br>That is simply not true. If it was, that anti-matter would disintegrate as soon as it encounters any matter.<br>Anyway a scientist would not tell you that it is this way without some evidence or elements leading him to believe that. He would also welcome you to challenge his theory WITH FACTS. Not with "but God created it".

Ferridder
July 21, 2010

Extrapolating two possible outcomes of an situation depending on whether or not a hypothesis holds is absolutely essential to our understanding of the world, and we use this skill daily. Conversely, any fundamental true statement about the world improves our predictions. I can't think of any true fundamental statement that doesn't have this power; we do not need to observe two different actual worlds to use scientific laws.<br><br>(Dawkins' argument was about animals; he said that an omniscient good creator would have created flawless creatures, which is at odds with observations.)<br><br>Good point, man creating life or matter would indeed be strong evidence for a materialistic universe. The converse question is, of course: what would you expect to happen in the future, that would be evidence that God exists?<br><br>(All I can think of right now, is direct divine interventions, or someone making accurate prophecies, neither of which seems to occur frequently, even in scripture.)

Alrako
July 21, 2010

Exactly, I think we've forgotten the audience that Jon Stewart is for...the layman...if his audience were scientists Jon Stewart is smart enough that he would do the research and discover the difference, but talking about Dirac equation would be a little much for the layman. But good for us for knowing the difference.<br><br>The reason why something is called a theory is because it can't be proven beyond a doubt, if it was able to be proved, it would be called a law. Theories are expected to change based on new evidence. Therefore all theories are "truth" until something better comes along. The Caloric Theory, and the plasticity of the brain are two good examples of where scientists were unwilling to believe the evidence in front of their eyes that was contrary to their current belief. Many times you look for evidence to prove your theory, you overlook evidence that goes against it. <br><br>This is a great video in which an evolutionist explains that for the theory of evolution to work, you look for evidence of evolution. Well, if I believe God created the universe I will look for evidence of that.

Michael
July 22, 2010

Scientists, or I should say believers in science, seem to be of the opinion, that because science is evidence based that it has more grounds to be believed in than religion.<br>As i've noticed a couple of people write here, (and I didn't read through all the comments), there's a lot of people who have faith in scientists, while the scientists are busily trying to prove what their hypotheses.<br>If you have a scientific over religious leaning, then it makes sense that you would believe in what is based on evidence.<br>The man who has faith in science would therefor see religion as a farce because he sees no evidence upon which the religion is founded-i.e. "no god."<br>But just as it is the scientists who try to prove that what they hypothesize as true, it is the true believers in religious faith, who are proving what the crux of religion is about. And as neither a scientist or a knowledgeable man on the workings of god, and opposed to that of a non-religious observer, I don't think that (true) religion is trying to prove the existence of god.<br>If Science wants to disprove the theories of religion, then it should be able to falsify the use of faith (in religion). And thus, it's use, its benefit to the man or woman pursuing it, and for that, its essence needs to be understood and disproved.<br><br>The "religious scientists" (for lack of a better expression) proof is how they choose to live their lives. The reason they choose to pursue god, is to improve their understanding of life and death, and this can only be proven to the individual, by the individual at the moment they die, as far as todays technologies go. <br><br>My understanding of (true) religious faith, (from from an interested observers point of view (for both sides of the argument), is that god is everything, nothing, and is responsible for everything including matter, and things which can not be touched or seen. And if god is all of those, then the believer is not trying to understand a man, he is trying to understand the universe and how he fits in it.<br><br>.<br><br>How is this different from a scientists pursuit?

Michael
July 22, 2010

Hey great line, I'm waiting for my post to be added, and this kind of sums it up in a lot less words.

Alrako
July 22, 2010

I forgot to add the video link<br><a href="http://www.tvo.org/TVOsites/WebObjects/TvoMicrosite.woa?bi?1266703200000" rel="nofollow">http://www.tvo.org/TVOsites/We...</a>

Clayton
July 22, 2010

I think the issue here is one of semantics. Specifically, I would ask what it means to take something 'on faith'. Does faith mean believing something you have not personally observed, but could test if you wanted to, or is faith in this context restricted to meaning a specific idea that simply CAN'T be tested?<br><br>For example - if I am doing my taxes and I ask someone "What is 1255 plus 376?" and I don't go back and test their answer for myself, does that require faith, or is that just a matter of trust? I think the argument could be made either way. <br><br>However, ferridder makes a great point, which is that as science builds on earlier work, as you mentioned, it really is actually testing the results. If an experiment truly does rely on a previously established fact, and that fact was incorrect, the experiment will yield unexpected results. So in that regard, it really doesn't require any faith at all (with the possible exception of a very few purely-theoretical sciences that might rely entirely on mathematics).<br><br>Either way - thank you for a great discussion!

Truenam
August 5, 2010

Faith means what it sounds like. It is belief without knowledge. It is belief based on explanation passed to you by others or invented in your own mind without a means to determine if you trusted the wrong person. Incorrect beliefs can be useful. Watching a fictional movie can improve your mood or even educate you on other possible ways for you to live your life. In the same way your religion can be useful. But useful does not make it true.<br><br>For instance I have personal knowledge that your religious beliefs are false. I am a member of a super secret society that until now has not revealed its existence to the public. This society that I will not name for you, has a small membership of 617 people worldwide. Every ten years we meet with the core 77 members that are responsible for keeping the Lord Jesus Christ locked up in a cell. If he were to escape, then Armageddon would begin. Preventing Armageddon is of the highest import, as I am sure you would agree. So I have seen and spoken to the Lord Jesus Christ personally. I have knowledge. He is able to work miracles even today, but our cell has done a good job of containing him anyway.<br><br>Now that I have revealed this truth to you, can't you see that you must be wrong about your religion? You may be a doubter, and ask for proof, which I do have. But now you are using the tools of science and not faith. In any case, I won't be providing the proof, because in doing so, Lord Jesus Christ may have an opportunity to escape.

Charles Jones
April 13, 2011

I missed your reply, and for some reason I came across it today. I figured I'd show you the respect of a reply. <br><br>True, we don't have to observe two different actual worlds to use scientific laws, but those laws are different. We can hypothesize that if, for example, there were no laws of physics, physical phenomena would be unpredictable. Because it is, at all but a quantum level, predictable, we can be confident in the existence of those laws.<br><br>But what should we hypothesize about the behaviors of a benevolent creator? Why must I believe that an omniscient creator would have created flawless creatures? That hypothesis is certainly at odds with observation, but the hypothesis itself is specious.<br><br>Direct divine intervention happens quite frequently in Scripture, and has been reported throughout history, and the same is true about accurate prophecy. Whether one chooses to believe those reports is a personal decision.

Add your comment to join the discussion!