RE: [asa] Objective vs. Subjective

From: George Cooper <>
Date: Tue Jan 06 2009 - 16:26:12 EST

Hi Mike,

And with science, the ideal situation is to come up with new
measurements that might help resolves different interpretations of the data
(different meanings). That means the reality science shows us is contingent

upon the instruments we have to measure with and the ability of our minds to

interpret the measurements.

Yes, a good example I recently read (from a John Gribbin book) is the
separate claims made by Anaxagoras and Eratosthenes using the exact same
data. Anaxagoras measured the height of the Sun over Syene, Egypt to be
about 4,000 miles with a diameter of about 35 miles. Eratosthenes using the
same data determined that the Earth was 4,000 miles in radius and that the
Sun was very far away. Different meaning was found for the same data based
on different assumptions. Anaxagoras (pre Aristotle) assumed the Earth was
flat, but not Eratosthenes (post Aristotle and his spherical Earth view).

As an aside, consider the manner in which
Dawkins et al. like to argue that science can be used to determine God does
not exist. Even if we accepted their premises, how do they know the
instruments of today's science are sufficient for detecting God's existence?

He can argue all he likes, but if he tries to offer any objective evidence
that can be tested, it will be tested as false.

Actually, it's not that different in these regards, as subjective claims are

likewise open to scrutiny and testing. For example, if I claimed that
George Bush was the worst president in US history, this is a subjective
judgment call. It is open to scrutiny in that someone can ask me to explain

and justify my opinion. You could then "test" my belief in terms of its
accuracy when relying on facts/data and in terms of critical thinking and
intellectual honesty. Of course, this testing is not scientific because it
lacks the type of measurement that science uses (I think you are right in
pinpointing measurement as the divide between the objective and subjective -

there is no measurement for determining who was the worst and best
president). The testing is more subjective and thus cannot generate the
type of consensus that science can generate. Nevertheless, it is not only
better than nothing, but what we must rely on most of the time. Otherwise,
we are left with the notion that those who think Bush is the worst president

have an opinion that is equally valid to those who think he is the best

Yes. Only if measurable parameters are agreed upon can "best" and "worst"
have cooperative meaning. But then others may disagree, and you will see
that either claim remains subjective. Further, even if he is the "worst" or
"best" today, he might prove to be otherwise as history unfolds.


> Hi Mike,
> Yes, meaning is subjective, yet scientific data is objective, if it is
> properly obtained. The assignment of meaning to the data becomes
> subjective, assuming it is not simply a mathematical claim.
> It is the objective elements within each scientific claim that form the
> concrete foundation that science must employ. These foundations, and the
> houses that are subsequently built upon them, are open to scrutiny and
> allow
> testing. This is much different than most subjective claims that come
> from
> religion or philosophy.
> Yet even many subjective claims may contain objective elements within
> them,
> the difference being the significance that these objective elements are
> used
> to support their subjective claim. There is a difference in kind, not
> just
> degree, that is worth noting. Apples are different than oranges though
> many
> of their molecular compounds are found in each, right? Scientific claims
> are distinctly different than religious claims, and their purpose is often
> different, too.
> Dave,
> "But are you also saying that pattern recognition programs aren't
> measurements? I mean, they aren't measuring devices which take or produce
> measurements?"
> Pattern recognition does involve measurements. Consider how computers
> conduct fingerprint recognition. Don't they actual do some sort of vector
> mapping of the distances between the ridges and their angles? DNA
> comparisons are, perhaps, a better example of this.
> Yet, once all the measurements are taken and used for comparisons, a
> subjective opinion will be made. In court, the scientist must give his
> professional opinion as to the pattern matching to assure, or otherwise,
> the
> jury that no reasonable doubt remains. Probabilities are important to
> pattern recognition, but also to any claim, objectively based or
> otherwise.
> "However, the pattern recognizer in the brain, if it isn't based on
> _something_ that is rooted in physics, and therefore isn't backed by
> something that can be understood in terms of mathematics (isn't backed
> because the mathematics of design detection allegedly doesn't exist), must
> therefore by definition be based on something that is instead itself
> non-physical and non-natural. Wouldn't that be correct? What other answer
> could there be? Its either part of the physical universe, or its part of
> something else. Its either based on principles that are part of the
> universe, or not.
> But if not, does that make that _something_ supernatural in its nature?
> "
> Patterns, as in face recognition, involve subtle measurements that compare
> relative distances, colors, brightnesses, etc, of spots within a pattern.
> It is amazing how we can see faces in so many things. Pareidolia is an
> interesting topic. The Face of Mars is one good example where some
> probability exists that it was a design-build face by Cydonians (region of
> Mars). The probability was quite low to begin with, but subsequent
> imaging
> lowered this probability and shoved the claim all the way to downtown
> Sillyville.
> "People here keep saying again and again that either design doesnt exist,
> or
> is not by definition measureable, and therefore has to do with God. I
> just
> don't understand that claim. To me its over-claiming."
> Unfortunately, the subjective nature of the claims do not qualify it as
> science. I believe that it is by design that we can not scientifically
> determine design, else faith is diminished. The importance of faith can
> not
> be overstated and it makes us unique among all the other species, at least
> in the degree that God can be loved and honored by incorporating it.
> Also, I suspect the lack of units of measure that can be assigned design
> is
> another hinderance to allow such claims to be considered within science.
> Coope

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Received on Tue Jan 6 16:27:17 2009

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