Originally Posted by Steve Pavlina
If the universe is indeed an objective place that exists independent of our thoughts and consciousness, then Rob's points all have merit. But they pre-suppose the existence of an objective universe, which by itself is an unprovable assumption. Consequently, everything based on the objective model must remain in doubt because the foundation is merely an educated guess. And in fact there are many today who feel it's an inaccurate one, myself included. When you have direct personal experience that contradicts the notion of objective reality, it can be very unsettling at first, but then you come to realize that we live in a far more wondrous place than previously imagined, and that's when things begin to get interesting.
It's worth noting that while many mathematicians lose track of the fact that math is empirical - that doesn't change the fact that it is. Gauss himself said, "Mathematics is Queen of the sciences."
Science is empirical and that includes math and logic.
Logic is how it is because we've observed it to be that way.
However if we observe something that is counter to logic enough times, then we have to admit that that logic does not apply in that situation.
Quantum mechanics, and more recently emergent phenomenon in condensed matter physics, are two great examples of the primacy of the empirical.
Before QM many many people believed in determinism as firmly as mathematicians today believe in the primacy of logic. Then the probablistic nature of reality emerged and we had no choice but to accept it - indeed the probabilistic non-determinist model is the most successful model in the history of science.
The same thing today is happening with emergent phenomenon in condensed matter physics - except now the sacred idea from philosophy that is under attack is reductionism. (That all phenomena can be explained by a single set of rules at the most basic level given enough work.)
Then there was Godel and his incompleteness. Before Godel many mathematicians had a very Pythagorean view that all nature was perfectly explicable and provable given enough insight. Well we've been forced to abandon that. Mathematical systems are always incomplete.
Then we go back to Ancient Greece with the founding of science, at the same time as the founding of philosophy. Aristotle, Pythagorus and Plato suppressed science and empiricism in favor of their logic and mathematics. Of course, the Pythagoreans were just empircal enough to discover imaginary numbers and their entire belief system went up in flames.
Then there is the story of how Greek philosophers of the Platonic school spent a hundred years discussing how many teeth a horse has. After a hundred years no one thought to open up the horse's mouth and check. They believed they could know through thought alone and considered it uncouth to experiment.
Aristotle himself believed that frogs were created by mud, because he relied on his logic instead of his eyes.
Democritus in the 5th century BC was among the first scientists, real true empricists. A scientist must always see his models for what they are - representations of reality. They are not reality itself.
Albert Einstein's great achievement was only revolutionary because he was willing to believe the evidence - no one thought it possible that light was not subject to relativistic effects. But the evidence had always said otherwise. The Lorentz transforms were around for 20 years before Einstein finally said, "That isn't just speculation, that is REALLY how things are!" He dared to let the evidence be his guide, and set aside preconceived notions. The only reason 19th century physics advanced so rapidly is because there is a certain point where all plausible deniability is exhausted. Humans are extraordinary in their capacity for denial.
There is the famous Richard Feynman story about how while everyone else was learning the names of things, his father taught him the nature of things:
Originally Posted by Richard Feynman
You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.
Over and over and over in the history of thought have people lost sight of nature in favor of their abstractions and began using their models to justify their models.
Christians do it today. They use the Bible to prove that the Bible is true. You (the original poster) are doing the same thing when you use the rules of logic and mathematics to disprove the "supernatural" which is, honestly, just the "natural" that is not yet explored.
I don't know what is true and what is not - but I do know that the way to find it out is to have an unwavering respect for empirical data. We must keep that in mind at all times.