'Internal' Logic

OK, here goes:

Theism is often (perhaps rightly) accused of being inconsistent with observable and tangible reality, and of posessing ‘internal’ logic.

Isn’t this just a question of reference frames though? couldn’t the same be said of ‘science’ (sorry to call it that, but I need some sort of generalisation), which, dealing with tangible and observable factors, is also ‘internally consistent’ - albeit more widely accepted and more readily experienced.

I’m sorry if this comes across as ignorant or provocative, I’m struggling to find the right words for what’s actually on my mind.

Perhaps as an example (I feel sure I’m oversimplifying, so please be gentle with me), take Occam’s Razor (the simplest explanation is usually the correct one or words to that effect) - isn’t it self-referential? don’t we need to first accept that Occam’s Razor is in itself the simplest explanation?, sure, we can observe that it appears to be sound, but again, we’re observing things within and from our own frame of reference (the physical world).

Now before this sparks off counterexamples involving giant pink pixies/unicorns, please understand where I’m coming from on this, yes, it does seem more logical that, for example, objects fall because of a force called ‘gravity’ instead of the influence of a pixie, but why does it seem more logical? Would it still seem more logical if we were able to observe from a neutral reference frame?(if such a thing is possible)

Like I said, I’m seeking answers, not trying to inflame, please keep it friendly.

I suppose it might stem from the fact that “gravity” pixies tend to be much more independant of time, location and the various geo-political influences. I mean, you can rely on the gravity pixies to accelerate an object towards the ground at 9.8m/s**2 anywhere on the surface of the globe. You certainly can’t expect to get that kind of consistancy from the religion pixies. With them, it’s all about where you live, who you pray to and how often, who your parents are, what you eat and wear, who your friends are… A capricious lot they are - with them it’s just one exception after the other.

Internal consistency is very important, to be sure. But if we are given two systems that are internally consistent and asked to choose between them, external consistency becomes an important factor.

Any belief system must aid its holder in functioning in the real world, so external consistency matters even when only considering one belief system.

Occam’s Razor is not an observation, but a principle for deciding between explanations. While we are free to choose any “decision principle” we like, the one we choose should lead us to pick explanations which are consistent both with what we already know/believe and the external world.

Hope this is helpful/provocative.

Wanted to second the Occam’s Razor distinction. There’s no cause, IMO, for thinking Occam’s Razor supports itself.

As far as the pixies go, no, it doesn’t make any more sense. We could call gravitons pixies and neutrinos bandersnatches and nothing would change. I think your internal consistency, as you are meaning it, has more to do with how we use these names to identify with the world than anything else. But why couldn’t three be pixies throwing gravitons at each other, or maybe the pixies are the gravitons… consistency in description isn’t the same as consistency in prediction. No? I could care less in what order Joe Schmoe puts my Big Mac together (even though there is an accepted way, just like accepted explainations in science and religion), so long as the effect is what I want between the Joe Schmoes of the world.

I am not prepared to restart a discussion about reference frames, though. :stuck_out_tongue:

Sorry for the ignorance. I’ve got the Salvation Army truck coming over tomorrow to haul it away, but I’d like you to help me clear some of it up today, so I don’t have to be embarrassed by the appearance of the apartment.

So could you please clarify exactly what you mean when you refer to “internal logic”, and what are the ramifications of being “accused” of it?

That’s the whole point; the ‘external’ world isn’t external at all to the domain of ‘science’.

I’m not sure If I can adequately explain it, at least not any more clearly than my stumbling OP, but it’s essentially circular (or more faily interdependent) logical statements.

As far as ramifications of being ‘accused’ of it, heck I dunno, perhaps accused wasn’t the right word as it implies malice.

Should read:

it’s essentially circular (or more fairly interdependent) logical statements, but usually on a much more complex and larger scale.

I’m not convinced that this is true. But arguing this gets one into areas that I’m not too comfortable with. I think I’m going to leave this to people who are more familiar with epistemology than I, and maybe chime in when I have something more to add.

Thank you for the clarification.

Sorry, but I just don’t find that adherence to the scientific method produces results that are inconsistent with observable and tangible reality.

I have never seen internal consistency used in a negative connotation. Many systems are internally consistent. That’s a bare necessity for a logical system to be useful. Logical inconsistency is an accusation, since it declares that a system cannot be applied reliably to real world situations.

Internal consistency is a good thing, it is a necessary thing for any useful logic (system of reasoning), but it is not a sufficient thing for real world utility. That requires a correspondence be established between the structures of the system and the experience of the real world.

That’s exactly the point though, you’re observing that tangible reality from within.

Now I’m not going to insist that there’s anywhere else from which to observe it, but how can we define the qualitative difference between your statement above and, say, a christian fundie saying that if he adheres to spiritual principles, he produces results that are entirely consistent with spiritual reality. (he’s not insisting that his spiritual principles have any observable effect on tangible reality (other than that he experiences them), or vice versa)

Or put another way, is the internal consistency of science any more valid than the internal consistency of this or that belief system? and if so, why?

That’s the basis of the ‘accusation’ I suppose, not the fact that internal consistency exists, but that it exists without reference to something external, but so what? The question I’m trying to ask is whether it would be equally valid to accuse (for example) Newtonian Physics as having no reference to something spiritual.

I take your point on the real world utility bit.

Internal consistency is either present in a system or it isn’t, so I see no reason to say that it’s more valid in one system than another.

However, I think I see a point where you might be confused: the external world is not external to the observations made by science, but it is external to the method of gaining knowledge that science posits. AFAIK, the same thing holds for theism (or any other method of gaining knowledge about spiritual reality).

The one reason that I can see a difference between the knowledge gained by science and the knowledge gained by spiritual experiences is that spiritual experiences are entirely subjective (although their effects can be seen by independent observers) and not generally repeatable.

IMHO, there should be no conflict. Science and spirituality both provide methods of gaining knowledge, but their subjects are distinct: science deals with the nature of reality, while spirituality deals with the meaning of reality. They certainly can (and most likely should) inform each other, but strange things can happen when each is applied outside of its domain.

I would like to say something about the whole ‘gravity pixies’ question. If you believe gravity pixies are responsible for the effects of gravity, that’s ok, there is nothing inherently incorrect in this belief. If your belief correctly accounted for all of the effects of gravity then it is correct, correct?

There is a problem with the ‘gravity pixie’ theory however. Most people think of pixies as human-like and alive. Gravity doesn’t always act as if a living thing causes it. Gravity is, relatively speaking (no pun intended), not very complex. Living creatures, humans in particular, are much more complex.

You could say that the effects of gravity only look simple because we can’t see the pixies behind them or because we can’t see the whole picture. Nothing wrong with saying that either, where’s your proof though? Why make everything more complex and harder to understand? Because it makes you happier? No problem, if your theory of gravity (or theory of anything else) works for your needs then it works, complexity be damned. If you want to learn more about something, however, it pays to make the fewest possible assumptions. This is where Occam’s Razor comes in.

Everything I just wrote I made up on the spot (basically). No one has ever explained this to me, it is just what I have come up with to justify the simple, internally consistant, theory.

:snicker: :points at sjc:
You must be one of them particle people. Well tell me something smarty, if gravity pulls on heavy stuff, how would particles know how much something weighs? It’s gotta be pixies!

Oh, wait. This isn’t the gravity vs downism thread? Excuse me.

Really? Because I’ve been trying to repeat neutrino detection and I can’t seem to get it quite right. :stuck_out_tongue:

This is interesting. Are we debating the gap between reason and applying reason to the external world? As in, at what point did that become reasonable, and why do we expect that our reason, achieved in an almost exclusively mental manner, should apply to the physical world at all?

Seriously on that one. Is that what the topic is here? I’m getting confused. The fornits[sup]*[/sup] think its a different topic altogether. They’re asking me to type “Why is it when we take a perfectly internally consisten system and apply it externally, that it doesn’t quite work anymore?” But I’ve been skimping on their peanut butter, so you never can tell what they mean in such a state.

*[sub]Obscure Stephen King reference. The question is serious.[/sub]

Sure, but how can I know that Occam’s Razor is the right way to assess things, of course Occam’s razor seems the simplest model of analysis, but it seems that we can only reach that conclusion by having applied it’s own reasoning to test it’s own validity, if you see what I mean.


Mangetout, the key to science is repeatability. It is guaranteed(*) to work for you, for me, and for everyone. And, so, if you don’t believe that f=ma, then go play with your hockey puck on an icerink. If you don’t believe in gravity, go drop apples. And, that is the main reason why people on the boards see the “internal consistency of science” as so powerful – no one doubts that if I kick a ball it will move, bounce, adn then eventually slow down and stop. Essentially, and this is key, science constantly proves itself – every time I doubt it, it comes through. I don’t believe in Quantum Mechanics ( all that wave/particle stuff is *(@#& ), but it doesn’t care if I believe or not – EVERY person everywhere repeating the double slit experiment will see interference. If anyone anywhere doesn’t, the whole game is up.

And, is there a difference between that and someone telling me that their belief system is internally consistant – I ask nicely for proof. I tell them, I have a number between 1 and 10 written in my wallet. If your god cares, and your god watched me write it, your god can tell you, and you can tell me, and then, I will have a little proof. Do it once, I’ll listen to your sermon. Do it 10 times in a row, I’ll go to your church. Do it 1,000 times for me, my neighbour, and my cat, and quite frankly, I’ll believe. So, call that “internal consistancy” if you’d like, but I call it proof.

As for occam’s razor – we use it every day, and no one complains unless it is used in regards to spirituality. Maybe gravity really is pixies, maybe we are just heads in a vat, maybe you don’t actually exist, maybe Al Gore really did create the internet, but, naw, probably not. How do I know? In some sense, I don’t – in another sense, I really couldn’t care less. Maybe occam’s razor is wrong, but as long as both theories predict the same thing – it’s all irrelevant. Maybe you don’t exist – but as long as I’m typing to you and you type back, who cares? (*) If I am a head in a vat, yippie – I still love running.


  • I apologize to those fundies who think it MATTERS since it’s my SOUL on the line. I know, according to you, tommorrow, I’ll wake up dead, and hell will await – but it falls for me into the “well, at least I didn’t wake up with my head in a vat”… :>

Rereading the OP, it seems more logical to think that gravity is by a “dumb” force that is relative the the cube of the distance than by pixies, because of the difference is predictions.

Dumb force = Always the same observable behavior

Pixies (or other “intellegent” beings) = different behavior based on their wants, and possibly tricks depending on how nasty the pixies are.

Now, given the sheer number of gravitational events that happen every day, which theory seems more likely? Well, maybe the pixies are just playing dumb for awhile – and so far, they’ve contained their pixish behavior. But, as every day passes, and every event happens, that seems less and less likely. Eventually, we just have to say ( even from a “Nuetral Reference Frame”(whatever that means ) )pixies don’t seem as likely as dumb force, since our observations all support Dumb Force, and only partly support pixies. If tommorrow the earth rotates the other way, then we’d have reason to revisit our theory ( since that supports pixies more), but till then it’s best to accept gravity as dumb force.

That logic, such that it is, is the basis of Occam’s Razor.