The scientific method
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01-02-2012, 06:08 PM
RE: The scientific method
(31-01-2012 04:24 PM)Zat Wrote:  Luminon, you almost convinced me.

Your post is intelligent, erudite, thought-provoking.

However, it lacks focus.
Well, thanks. I actually do have a focus, I just can't explain it every time the topic comes up.
Just like some people are born natural female pickup artists, I'm a natural-born energy healing therapist, if not something rather...technical. It must be partially a question of nerve sensitivity, I'm also over-sensitive to stuff like velvet or manchester cloth or clipping nails too short. The very thought of it makes me shiver all over, besides the actual touch. I guess one day I might find myself on the Radiolab show, along with synaesthesiacs, face-blind people or people with compass in their head. Big Grin

So I do have a focus, method or agenda. But here and now I just try to lay down a philosophical framework as a common ground for skeptical people. I think this is necessary, because what I observe goes much deeper beyond me. And there are countless pre-conceptions and misunderstandings.

(31-01-2012 04:24 PM)Zat Wrote:  However, we are pathetically powerless tiny biological life forms, thrown into this infinite universe by god or evolution and all we are dong is trying to survive.

We may pray to the gods or we may try to observe, discern pattern, predict outcomes and hope for the best.

We are still here, hundred thousands years since the first Cro-Magnon ancestor made its first flint-stone spear.

We are not gods, we are not the pinnacle of creation – we are a life form cursed with genetic and historical inheritances, trying to make sense of it all.
This is where I think you're partially wrong. Yes, we are all that, but there is a potential of more within us and some people can partially manifest this potential. What we see, the body of a man or woman, is a living biological machine of animal origin, with its own desire and instincts. However, it is far from all.

We, the visible part of us, are certainly not gods. What about the rest? I found most helpful the esoteric model of subtle worlds and semi-corresponding subtle bodies. This model really explains me a lot, because I can observe how one subtle body interacts with another one and with the biologic body. And to meddle with it, to some degree. This is not a big deal, but it may have huge scientific and philosophic consequences on which we can speculate in all seriousness. For example, as subtle bodies go, they gradually increase in quality and permanence. We can reasonably assume that fourth or fifth subtle body should be a thing of beauty and practically immortal. If this is our true essence of which we are merely an extension, there's no need to be overly bothered by our biologic side.

(31-01-2012 04:24 PM)Zat Wrote:  The scientific method is the best tool we got to deal with our immediate environment.

The unseen universe is out there with its multiple universes, with its quantum fluctuations, with its dark energy and dark matter and black holes – so what?
Nothing, if you have no way of observing and making experiments. But if you do, it changes everything. The unseen universe becomes a part of daily life. Frankly, it's not a big deal, mostly just one more thing that can go wrong. If people must deal with problems like constipation of bowels, I must deal with constipation of meridians and chakras and it's not pleasant either. Right now, my meridian of gall bladder gives me hell and medical science does not even know it exists. So what if it's made of super-symmetric atoms or particles. It hurts just the same and I can be only glad that the other symmetric meridian doesn't bother me right now, because I'm out of painkillers.
It's interesting how a weakened gall bladder can suck more energy than it should (when burdened by that fried chicken I ate) which then puts a strain on its corresponding meridian, which gives me a perfectly acupuncturistically localized headache. Tomorrow I'll go get some disgustingly bitter tea, that should help.

(31-01-2012 04:24 PM)Zat Wrote:  If we get over the next crisis facing us down the road: global warming, pandemics, nuclear winter, we will be a happy campers because HERE AND NOW IS ALL THAT IS for us, unless we want to surrender our minds to superstition and pointless speculation.
...
I can’t help thinking of that story whenever I hear someone being so sure about what the world is and isn’t like.
You remind me of the painting School of Athenes. The old (Heron-)bearded Socrates wisely points upwards, the young Aristotle boldly points forward. Big Grin I understand you, I know the unseen world is not the most important thing right now. This is why I study public administration and sociology instead of neurology and physics. I see what's going on in the governments and I don't like it. What is a Higgs boson good for, if the accelerator is powered by a burned oil stolen from another country?

But no, I'm far from thinking that everything is possible. That's not what I want to say. There are various degrees of knowledge, of certainity, of ability to prove something. There's the scientific evidence, which is a hard currency accepted globally except of Bible belt. Then there are lesser kinds of evidence, like personal.
Most of people build their worldview on scientific evidence and then on hearsay if it's not too extraordinary. You may suppose there is "something out there" or that "everything is possible". But you still wouldn't bet your money on it. Can you imagine someone, who is firmly convinced by years of experience that it is possible to know? To investigate? To draw conclusions? To speculate not in vain? To sift through various sources for clues? It is possible to do all that and more, yet stay far from the total control of laboratory. It is a grey zone between ignorance and controlled experiment. Skeptical people are not aware of it or worse, don't believe it can even exist. They accept only the hardest currency. We live in times of openness and dialogue between opposing sides. Unfortunately, it's not out of open-mindedness, but necessity and resolving conflicts.
I don't believe it is possible for skeptics to be open-minded in any meaningful sense unless they get into the grey zone. And you can only do that yourself, by personal investigation. Then the question becomes not if the grey zone exists, but how and how much.
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01-02-2012, 07:20 PM
RE: The scientific method
Luminon, this is probably the fifteenth time I am quoting the following on this Forum:

In his book, “The Meaning Of It All”, Richard Feynman gives a delightful account of how he would investigate someone’s claim of being a mind reader.

Quote:This fellow comes to me, and he says, "I will demonstrate this to you. We will stand at the roulette wheel and I will tell you ahead of time whether it is going to be black or red on every shot."

So from other experience and general knowledge, I have a strong prejudice against mind readers. Million to one.

Now we begin. The mind reader says it's going to be black. It's black. The mind reader says it's going to be red. It's red. Do I believe in mind readers? No. It could happen. The mind reader says it's going to be black. It's black. The mind reader says it's going to be red. It's red. Sweat. I'm about to learn something. This continues, let us suppose, for ten times. Now it's possible by chance that that happened ten times, but the odds are a thousand to one against it. Therefore, I now have to conclude that the odds that a mind reader is really doing it are a thousand to one that he's not a mind reader still, but it was a million to one before.
….
Now suppose that we go to another club, and it works, and another one and it works. I buy dice and it works. I take him home and I build a roulette wheel; it works. What do I conclude? I conclude he is a mind reader.

it is possible to conclude, by a number of tests, that mind reading really exists. If it does, I get extremely excited, because I didn't expect it before. I learned something that I did not know, and as a physicist would love to investigate it as a phenomenon of nature. Does it depend upon how far he is from the ball? What about if you put sheets of glass or paper or other materials in between?

To be prejudiced against mind reading a million to one does not mean that you can never be convinced that a man is a mind reader. The only way that you can never be convinced that a man is a mind reader is one of two things: If you are limited to a finite number of experiments, and he won't let you do any more, or if you are infinitely prejudiced at the beginning that it's absolutely impossible.”

Accept it my friends, we are no Gods with infinite power, no matter how much we would like to be. I can’t help thinking of a joke, involving patients in a mental institution. I hope no one will be offended:.

There is a long pole in the middle of the yard of the institute. The patients affix a board to the top of the pole, with a note on it, and climb the pole every day, one by one, read it, nod, then climb down. The doctors are burning with curiosity what the note says. Finally, one night, after the patients retire, one of the doctors climbs up the pole, reads the note, nods and then climbs down. “What does it say”? asks the other doctor. “It says: ‘this is the end of the pole, don’t try to climb any further’” the first doctors replies. They both nod and go home.

I believe this answers your previous post.

Big Grin

PS. The Feynman quote end on the words: "absolutely impossible".

I put the closing bracket of the quote to the wrong place.

Sorry.
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02-02-2012, 12:01 AM
RE: The scientific method
(31-01-2012 03:03 PM)Luminon Wrote:  Scientific method is our best instrument, but it's not perfect, universal or infallible.

We're always trying to improve it when we discover yet another mistake. Bias ruins findings? Double-blind studies! False positives? P > 0.05! We try to plug all the leaks, but the more we discover, the more we realize that truth is really, really hard to detect. But I doubt that we'll ever replace the scientific method itself. Like Dawkins said, if there was an allegedly better method, how could we even evaluate whether it works better except by testing it with the scientific method?

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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02-02-2012, 06:13 PM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2012 05:25 AM by Luminon.)
RE: The scientific method
(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  The scientific method does not rely on a body of knowledge; it's a methodology.
Yes, it's a methodology that relies on control over the subject, hence the controlled experiment. And Occam's razor relies on a body of knowledge, which should be sufficient to explain a given phenomenon. Close enough in meaning, isn't it?

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  How could it inform us of 'what was missed'? The process follows evidence; if there is no evidence, it is not known that anything was missed. One can make no assumption that anything was or was not missed. It gives no reason to think anything was missed.
It can't, that's what I'm trying to say. Scientific worldview is "natural", self-explanatory, it makes perfect sense. The theories seem to be near completion, there don't seem to be many blind spots or skeletons in the closet of science.
Well, what about all the tradition, mythology, folklore, superstition and unproven claims of mankind? If that's all bollocks then indeed, science didn't miss anything. Except that my daily experience shows me, how much the science is missing from the whole image. Probably in the process of isolating the most concrete and controllable phenomena it ignores most of the less obvious ones. The urge for certainity, to have a neat, explained universe is just too strong.

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  Now you're going off the rails. your statements are assuming facts not in evidence. The universe may be bigger, may be stranger, may be weirder.
Quote: The quantum level is strange. The dark matter world is strange. The dark energy is something pretty damn mysterious.
More assumptions; the attributes and even the existence of dark matter and dark energy are unknown. There existence is conjectured indirectly.
The existence of dark matter isn't just proven by gravitational lensing anymore, there was also detected a "sound" of its particles passing through a small test chamber. I thought by now the scientific community should be convinced it really exists in the form of particles. It can't be mathematicized away as an effect of time dilation as some people try.

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  No, many discoveries from the 19th and 20th centuries were unlike anything that came before.
Do you think it made us more open-minded? I'd say not, many notions from the same time are today firmly opposed. Is it because of a lack of evidence? First look below and tell me, what exactly the evidence is and why my evidence doesn't qualify.

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  No, we don't assume something doesn't exist unless proven otherwise. That's not science. We can't say something does exist unless there is evidence. Science always admits of unknown unknowns.

What is the difference between an evidence we have and evidence that science has? Is it merely a question of popularity of the evidence, of our control over the evidence that allows it to be popularized?

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  More speculation of some unseen world of which there is no evidence.
If you'd encounter lots of personal or local evidence, not necessarily shared with global scientific community, would you regard it as an evidence? Would you allow it to influence your worldview? It's about the principle.

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  But that does not give us cause to think that there is something beyond what science will discover.

You have not made a convincing argument that there are any blind spots in the objective search for understanding. You feel there must be because of your unease with the scientific method.
The blind spot is there and it is known as personal evidence, which may or may not be external, tangible, subjective statistical and so on. There are many possible reasons why a real evidence may fail to become objective, that is, universally accepted by scientific community.
One of these reasons is for example lack of control over a phenomenon, which pretty much rules out the scientific method.
Yeah, it's the "dog ate my homework" excuse. But it's about you can prove to yourself, not what you can prove to the whole world.

I think there is a more suitable method for this, and it's called participatory action research or in group there's the
co-operative inquiry. I specially like how they recognize multiple levels of the knowledge (reminds me of evidence) and how the fourth one is called presentational...
I believe some of these strange phenomena I keep talking about aren't yet ready for academic testing, mostly because we don't yet have them under control, externalized and technologically mastered. They're internal, in our minds, brains and so on. But that doesn't make them less real. Someone should keep track of all the phenomena that exist, but aren't yet under control enough to be qualified for academic research.
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02-02-2012, 06:59 PM
RE: The scientific method
(02-02-2012 06:13 PM)Luminon Wrote:  
(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  The scientific method does not rely on a body of knowledge; it's a methodology.
Yes, it's a methodology that relies on control over the subject, hence the controlled experiment. And Occam's razor relies on a body of knowledge, which should be sufficient to explain a given phenomenon. Close enough in meaning, isn't it?

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  How could it inform us of 'what was missed'? The process follows evidence; if there is no evidence, it is not known that anything was missed. One can make no assumption that anything was or was not missed. It gives no reason to think anything was missed.
It can't, that's what I'm trying to say. Scientific worldview is "natural", self-explanatory, it makes perfect sense. The theories seem to be near completion, there don't seem to be many blind spots or skeletons in the closet of science.
Well, what about all the tradition, mythology, folklore, superstition and unproven claims of mankind? If that's all bollocks then indeed, science didn't miss anything. Except that my daily experience shows me, how much the science is missing from the whole image. Probably in the process of isolating the most concrete and controllable phenomena it ignores most of the less obvious ones. The urge for certainity, to have a neat, explained universe is just too strong. And

What about them? Scientists are informed by common knowledge. They are, after all, human.
You have not explained your daily experience in enough detail or with enough clarity for me to understand it. Regardless, your personal experience is not objective evidence, accessible to others. Therefor it is of no use to others.

Quote:
(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  Now you're going off the rails. your statements are assuming facts not in evidence. The universe may be bigger, may be stranger, may be weirder.
Quote: The quantum level is strange. The dark matter world is strange. The dark energy is something pretty damn mysterious.
More assumptions; the attributes and even the existence of dark matter and dark energy are unknown. There existence is conjectured indirectly.
The existence of dark matter isn't just proven by gravitational lensing anymore, there was also detected a "sound" of its particles passing through a small test chamber. I thought by now the scientific community should be convinced it really exists in the form of particles. It can't be mathematicized away as an effect of time dilation as some people try.

(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  No, many discoveries from the 19th and 20th centuries were unlike anything that came before.
Do you think it made us more open-minded? I'd say not, many notions from the same time are today firmly opposed. Is it because of a lack of evidence? First look below and tell me, what exactly the evidence is and why my evidence doesn't qualify.

Don't change the subject. You stated that science only built on what it knew - I showed that was not the case.

Quote:
(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  No, we don't assume something doesn't exist unless proven otherwise. That's not science. We can't say something does exist unless there is evidence. Science always admits of unknown unknowns.

What is the difference between an evidence we have and evidence that science has? Is it merely a question of popularity of the evidence, of our control over the evidence that allows it to be popularized?

I have no idea what you mean by this.

Quote:
(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  More speculation of some unseen world of which there is no evidence.
If you'd encounter lots of personal or local evidence, not necessarily shared with global scientific community, would you regard it as an evidence? Would you allow it to influence your worldview? It's about the principle.

It is a question of whether or not it is shareable. Your internal states are not shareable.

Quote:
(31-01-2012 09:37 PM)Chas Wrote:  But that does not give us cause to think that there is something beyond what science will discover.

You have not made a convincing argument that there are any blind spots in the objective search for understanding. You feel there must be because of your unease with the scientific method.
The blind spot is there and it is known as personal evidence, which may or may not be external, tangible, subjective statistical and so on. There are many possible reasons why a real evidence may fail to become objective, that is, universally accepted by scientific community.

It is not a blind spot. If it is not shareable, it's not evidence. You don't get to re-define evidence.

Quote:One of these reasons is for example lack of control over a phenomenon, which pretty much rules out the scientific method.
Yeah, it's the "dog ate my homework" excuse. But it's about you can prove to yourself, not what you can prove to the whole world.

What is about what you can prove to yourself? Sounds like KC's belief in God and being elect. In fact, it sounds exactly like that. That is belief, not knowledge.

Quote:I think there is a more suitable method for this, and it's called participatory action research or in group there's the
co-operative inquiry. I specially like how they recognize multiple levels of the knowledge (reminds me of evidence) and how the fourth one is called presentational...
I believe some of these strange phenomena I keep talking about aren't yet ready for academic testing, mostly because we don't yet have them under control, externalized and technologically mastered. They're internal, in our minds, brains and so on. But that doesn't make them less real. Someone should keep track of all the phenomena that exist, but aren't yet under control enough to be qualified for academic research.

I don't (and science doesn't) say that these phenomena aren't real, just that their existence is unproven.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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03-02-2012, 06:42 AM
RE: The scientific method
(01-02-2012 07:20 PM)Zat Wrote:  I believe this answers your previous post.

Big Grin
Yeah, I had read this. There are several objections, though. Your example is not a mind reading, it's precognition. It's also quite observable, there is no extra work required to make it visible and audible, no extra equipment needed, no problem with verification.

But for example, if I come and say that this subtle-material world really exists and that I can demonstrate my awareness of it on 100% of any number of MRI scans, they'll think long and hard before heating up a MRI machine. They're not cheap and scans on them aren't cheap either. The need to travel long and far also cools off the scientific enthusiasm.

Sometimes it all starts with one man's experience. And there it also ends, unless it continues with another man's trust.

(02-02-2012 12:01 AM)Starcrash Wrote:  We're always trying to improve it when we discover yet another mistake. Bias ruins findings? Double-blind studies! False positives? P > 0.05! We try to plug all the leaks, but the more we discover, the more we realize that truth is really, really hard to detect. But I doubt that we'll ever replace the scientific method itself. Like Dawkins said, if there was an allegedly better method, how could we even evaluate whether it works better except by testing it with the scientific method?
Yes, we will probably never abandon the scientific method. But we really need to help it in special cases. Scientific method can fail quite often, just because the technology is not yet good enough and when it is, there still remains prejudice against funding a particular research from the time when previous checks showed nothing due to weak technology.
When it comes to the unseen universe, some people may be of real help at detecting it, simply because that's what makes a part of our living equipment. The subtle body, I mean. Only then can be the scientific method applied, when there's some groundwork of subjective research.
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03-02-2012, 07:11 AM
RE: The scientific method
(03-02-2012 06:42 AM)Luminon Wrote:  Yeah, I had read this. There are several objections, though. Your example is not a mind reading, it's precognition.

You missed the point, Luminon.

It does not matter what Feynman called it -- what matters is the open minded attitude of a true scientist and the method with which he would approach new phenomenon.

Show me a new phenomenon (with all the relevant data and experimental results) and I will approach it with the same attitude.

That's the best I can (and will) do. Smile
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04-02-2012, 02:02 PM
RE: The scientific method
(02-02-2012 06:59 PM)Chas Wrote:  What about them? Scientists are informed by common knowledge. They are, after all, human.
You have not explained your daily experience in enough detail or with enough clarity for me to understand it. Regardless, your personal experience is not objective evidence, accessible to others. Therefor it is of no use to others.
All right, maybe I'm beginning to understand. Let's try a small thought experiment. Let's say that you walk through a center of Vancouver and you see a small government-tolerated coffee shop and through the window you see someone familiar inside. You go in and see - there in a cloud of smoke is sitting Richard Dawkins himself, enjoying his chlorophyl. So as one of his fans you greet him and make a friendly small talk. Then you've got to leave, but Richard warns you that if you tell anyone about this encounter, he will deny it. After all, he can't hurt his public image by being seen as a pothead. You promise not to tell anyone and you're on your way.

So what exactly happened in terms of evidence? You know with absolute certainity, that you met Richard Dawkins in a coffee shop, but you can't prove it to anyone. Does it mean you're a proud owner of a brand new belief?

(02-02-2012 06:59 PM)Chas Wrote:  Don't change the subject. You stated that science only built on what it knew - I showed that was not the case.
You showed that sometimes there are scientific revolutions. I hope to show someday that we're long overdue for another one.
However, there is a strange thing in demand for scientific evidence. It seems to me as a little illogical. To start a research with proper equipment, personnel and stuff, we need to demonstrate evidence. But what if we need that very research to produce the evidence in the first place? Looks like Catch 22.

What's the way out? Private funding? Public fundraising? Public pressure? Lobbyism? Infiltration of academic councils? Or just writing application for a grant in such a tempting way that it will be approved without evidence first?

(03-02-2012 07:11 AM)Zat Wrote:  You missed the point, Luminon.

It does not matter what Feynman called it -- what matters is the open minded attitude of a true scientist and the method with which he would approach new phenomenon.

Show me a new phenomenon (with all the relevant data and experimental results) and I will approach it with the same attitude.

That's the best I can (and will) do. Smile
See above, please. To me it doesn't seem like an open-minded attitude at all. More like a closed-minded attitude with lock that fortunately isn't jammed and therefore can be open with a proper key (unignorable evidence).
I'd say a real open-mindedness comes from a similar experience. If you've experienced something similar, you can be truly open-minded, that is you can vividly imagine that it is possible.

We may imagine that we are open-minded (mainly because it is considered a good character trait) but we are not, unless there is a shared experience. Rather than becoming open-minded, it would be simplier to remove the negative connotations from closed-mindedness and wear it with pride Wink
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04-02-2012, 02:14 PM (This post was last modified: 04-02-2012 02:29 PM by Zat.)
RE: The scientific method
(04-02-2012 02:02 PM)Luminon Wrote:  To me it doesn't seem like an open-minded attitude at all...

Of course, you know the famous Carl Sagan quote about open-mindedness? Big Grin

Seriously, there is nothing wrong with imagination, even imagination running wild -- as long as we can be aware of what it is that we know and what it is that we imagined.

The two, of course, may trade places in time.
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04-02-2012, 04:49 PM
RE: The scientific method
(04-02-2012 02:02 PM)Luminon Wrote:  
(02-02-2012 06:59 PM)Chas Wrote:  What about them? Scientists are informed by common knowledge. They are, after all, human.
You have not explained your daily experience in enough detail or with enough clarity for me to understand it. Regardless, your personal experience is not objective evidence, accessible to others. Therefor it is of no use to others.
All right, maybe I'm beginning to understand. Let's try a small thought experiment. Let's say that you walk through a center of Vancouver and you see a small government-tolerated coffee shop and through the window you see someone familiar inside. You go in and see - there in a cloud of smoke is sitting Richard Dawkins himself, enjoying his chlorophyl. So as one of his fans you greet him and make a friendly small talk. Then you've got to leave, but Richard warns you that if you tell anyone about this encounter, he will deny it. After all, he can't hurt his public image by being seen as a pothead. You promise not to tell anyone and you're on your way.

So what exactly happened in terms of evidence? You know with absolute certainity, that you met Richard Dawkins in a coffee shop, but you can't prove it to anyone. Does it mean you're a proud owner of a brand new belief?

But I am not trying to convince anyone of this.

Quote:
(02-02-2012 06:59 PM)Chas Wrote:  Don't change the subject. You stated that science only built on what it knew - I showed that was not the case.
You showed that sometimes there are scientific revolutions. I hope to show someday that we're long overdue for another one.
However, there is a strange thing in demand for scientific evidence. It seems to me as a little illogical. To start a research with proper equipment, personnel and stuff, we need to demonstrate evidence. But what if we need that very research to produce the evidence in the first place? Looks like Catch 22.

What's the way out? Private funding? Public fundraising? Public pressure? Lobbyism? Infiltration of academic councils? Or just writing application for a grant in such a tempting way that it will be approved without evidence first?

There is no physical evidence of the Higgs boson - just some mathematics - theoretical imagining. But enormous quantities of time, money, and effort are going into the search.
Enough people are convinced by the theory to support this because the rest of the consistent theory has been supported by evidence.
The same goes for the search for dark matter and dark energy. Some things in the current theory and some objective measurements don't seem to jibe.


These examples aren't anything like trying to convince people of the reality of your internal states. You need to show that there is a problem with our understanding of reality and that you have a viable candidate explanation. Otherwise it is, as I said before, just like KC's beliefs based on his (internal) conversion experience.

P.S. You still haven't described your experience of this 'subtle world'.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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