IPH: world view

IPH (24 May 2006)
This is a summary of my overall philosophical world view (scientific empiricism) written hurriedly for Mensa WorldEnglish forum on 21st April 2007 and subsequently put here for permanence.

By “scientific” I mean according to the ideal scientific methodology, which is outlined below. Empiricism is the basis of the scientific method; I am a robust empiricist.

One consequence of this approach to everything is that I have no religious beliefs, and therefore no religion. In fact, I have no beliefs of any kind, in the sense that religious people ( and many people who do not profess to be religious but who use language loosely) use the word. I only have provisional hypotheses about anything & everything. This is fundamental to my whole approach to life and the world around me, so it is worth repeating it immediately: each and every proposition that I entertain about reality is only ever a hypothesis, which I adopt — provisionally. All scientists whose working methodology is truly scientific follow this in their work; I follow it all the time, and in my opinion it is the only coherent, sane way to approach life and the world we live in — as well as the rest of the universe (which we can only learn about, of course, through more completely scientific methods — astronomy and astrophysics).

Another consequence of my approach, albeit via the foregoing, is that I do not get attached to any proposition so strongly that I cannot easily adjust it, or even discard it altogether, when given new verifiable data or empirical evidence that affects its “viability”[1]. By “verifiable” I mean a complex of interrelated aspects of the business of making an evaluation of reliability of evidence. See Evaluating hypotheses.

I get somewhat annoyed when people tell me what I think when I haven’t said so; and when I have said so, it is superfluous. This is because they are always either extrapolating or presuming, and they always do those things badly.

I get somewhat annoyed when people attempt sophistry or are just so bad at logical discussion that they deluge fora with non-sequiturs. One recurring instance of this is letters that sometimes get into the British Mensa magazine letters columns where, every few years, arguments break out which go over the same ground, and never make any progress because there is no common ground between the opposing viewpoints — they are, in my favourite phrase, on a hiding to nothing.

I never get upset about new facts that make a difference to the evaluation of any important proposition in my universe-view; but these really do very rarely happen. They are of the order of the rare times when all the world’s top physicists agree that something has gone wrong, as in the 1969 event described in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time — at the time I was at the University of Bristol on the honours physics course, but the professors didn’t tell us and I only realized when I read Hawking’ book years later why the lecturers were (metaphorically speaking) waving their hands in the air so often, to the point that I lost confidence in nuclear physics and switched to majoring in mathematics — and ancient Greek (see this page). I do not blame the physicist academics at the university for their perplexity at that time; what was happening was perplexing, as we know in hindsight; and in any case the history of physics in the 20th century had never ceased to be perplexing since Albert Einstein published his peper on Special Relativity in 1905. Indeed, despite that and his General Relativity and other subsequent papers, Einstein had been so utterly perplexed by it all that he had spent the latter half of his working life, and indeed gone to his grave, refusing to accept the fundamental finding for which physicist Heisenberg is most famous: the uncertainty that lies at the heart of the realm called quantum physics.

Mind you, an awful lot of total garbage is talked about quantum physics; one of the most moronic perpetrators of this is a moron (despite his having a doctorate etc.) by the name of Deepak Chopra who has been recorded on video in many clips to be found on YouTube, where he is arguing with the likes of Professor Richard Dawkins and claiming all sorts of totally baseless nonsense on the basis of quantum physics whereas in fact quantum physics does not justify any of the absurd claims he makes about it. When I say Chopra is a moron, I am asserting what we are entitled to deduce from what he says he believes; if a person is clever enough to obtain a university doctorate in science or medicine, you might argue that they are not a moron in the sense that they must have enough intelligence not to be so stupid as that word implies. However, if a person then goes on to assert repeatedly many propositions that are utter rubbish with no scientific justification, but which purport to be about scientific topics such as quantum physics, then either they truly believe these absurd statements, in which case they must either be lacking in the intelligence needed to realize that what they are saying is utter drivel, totally false and unjustified, or else totally dishonest and therefore repeatedly asserting their nonsense with intent to deceive, in which case they are simply extremely dishonest, that is, an utter liar. Which is worse? I will not accuse a person of simply lying repeatedly to make money; but if I assume that they really believe the rubbish they constantly repeat in public, then I must conclude that they have at some stage lost their marbles and are now extremely stupid, or they were very lucky to manage to get any scientific qualification they may hold from any academic institution ... unless of course they obtained it by some form of trickery or corruption. What is one to conclude? Rational Wiki says that Chopra got his medical degree in India, and his father was “a prominent cardiologist, head of the department of medicine and cardiology at New Delhi’s Mool Chand Khairati Ram Hospital for over 25 years” so maybe there was some undue influence ... or maybe Chopra just learnt to say what the academic people wanted and kept his delusions to himself for the duration of his exams, or maybe he became severely deluded later.

One of the British Mensa magazine letters page recurrent themes is about “science versus religion”. It may surprise a few non-Mensan atheists, but having a high IQ does not prevent a person being stuck in a theistic worldview, if the person was brought up in a religion and has not broken their emotional attachment to that superstition. There are even a few members of Mensa who are ministers of religion, I gather; and one or two who claim to be, as some sort of pretence, perhaps as a way of telling us they are religious believers although they are then likely to be of a particularly dopey type. One such Mensan told me in April 2017 that Richard Dawkins was stupid. This merely confirmed my impression that the man who said this was very stupid, effectively a total moron, despite being a member of Mensa.

Another recurrent theme on that letters page is the argument “IQ doesn’t test everything” (which was done in a Channel 4 documentary some years ago). A third is “Mensa ought to do something to solve the world’s problems” versus “Mensa doesn’t have any political agenda” and of course the latter has to stand, because those for the former in this seesaw simply have not thought through the thing, and recognized that politics — mainly world politics — and economics (i.e. unwillingness to spend money, which is also really politics), is really and truly the obstacle to actually fixing most of the world’s problems, not any lack of technology. Mensa just is not about that (although, if some of the world’s cleverest scientists and technologists could invent much cheaper ways to do certain things, it might help).

For more about my views on belief, religion and the term “atheism” click here.

For more about the numerical evaluation scheme click here.

{1] I put the word “viability” in quotation marks because it is perhaps a slightly unusual usage of that word. Other people would probably usually use the word “credibility” but I do not because, if taken literally, that word means “ability to be believed” and, according to my approach, one uses the word “believe” only in the religious sense to avoid ambiguity (see article on this) and therefore one assigns zero credibility to all propositions because one never believes any proposition in the religious sense. The concept of viability is tied to the idea of life and the capability of living things to survive; it is applied to abstractions but only as a fourth or fifth dictionary definition, and as a sort of metaphor. However the English language apparently lacks an alternative word, one applying specifically to propositions but not carrying these essential etymological ties to the notion of belief which I am trying to avoid.

Another thing I get a little annoyed about is abuse of good English (as everyone will have guessed). Apart from those, I am a calm, fairly detached, effectively retired, loner (who for tax purposes was, for a few years before my 60th birthday, a self employed abstract artist) who spends most of his time looking after his home and garden, and writing additions to this website when not going for walks and watching videos of old BBC TV programmes like QI, HIGNFY, MTW, WILTY, TGNS etc.