Recently there was a discussion on chess.com in which I participated. Actually, I started it. I started it by writing down about two subjects in life which are in my opinion beyond belief. I wrote down that Evolution and God are both facts. Highly controversial of course and there came reactions on my statement. Someone told me for instance that I had to understand that the first remark was ok, but that the second one had to be understood as a subjective statement. It was a rather brief yet a good discussion with people listening to each other. Most of the time, when someone is writing that he believes in God beyond belief, is rationality gone and does that person not believe in science anymore. Well, I believe in science and I think that is one of our biggest and most respectable endeavours. (The Red Cross is another one.) There came one particular reaction of a friend on that site, which inspired me to this reaction. I really appreciate him and like his fierce stance on rationality and science, yet this was his post:
My definition of ""fact"" which avoids many philosophical discussions is similar to David McKay's distinction of scientific and ethic questions. ""Does climate change have a anthropic origin ?"", ""Would country X have a higher GDP if candidate Y had been elected instead of Z ?"" and ""Do species evolve over time ?"" are scientific questions. Finding out the answer might be hard, but if we had enough experimental possibilities we could find it out : create a new planet/country without humans/where Y is elected, watch the Earth for one million years." "Should we preserve Earth for future generations ?"", ""Is candidate Y's policy towards immigrants unfair ?"" or ""Should creationists be allowed to vote ?"" are ethical questions. There is no way to reformulate them into scientific questions, as their formulation calls to moral judgement.
A ""fact"" is an answer to a scientific question (with the accompanying evidence of course). Science is of no use to answer ethical questions (I would put an example, but that would be a Godwin), and ethics/morals/religion/etc. are of no use to answer scientific questions - for instance, evolution, climate change, historical events, etc. . ""Facts"" are purely scientific in nature by this definition. ""Facts"" can be unknown, for instance one of the three propositions ""Chess with perfect play is a win / a draw / a loss for White"" is a ""fact"" even if we do not know which one. If you have a scientific test to answer the ""does god exist ?"" question, no matter how impractical, you are better than 1500+ years of theological debate. Allow me to harbour some doubts.
Now can you wonder what is wrong with his post. I will not tell you. I will not do that, because before I could answer that post I had to sleep and something strange happened in my sleep. But before I start to tell you what happened exactly in my sleep I have to tell you that I had already started to formulate an answer and that in that answer I wrote that it was a pity that we did not had the Greek and Roman rhetoric teachers around. They would know how to dismantle those beliefs. And believe it or not, that is what exactly happened in my sleep.
They came to me. Some ghost like entities. Slowly walking, a very friendly aura around them in a foggy grey nebula. A Greek and a Roman. Definitely. They came to me and told me by the use of their mind that they agreed with me. This world, this beautiful endeavour of science, needs their rhetorical assistance. The practice of science is great, but the quality of thinking is not anymore what it used to be. We have to learn from them. From their wisdom in thinking. Science can really improve if scientists learn to think again like they did. If the current quality of measurement can be combined with the classic quality of reasoning, then can science make interesting progress. They wanted to help me to write this answer. Writing two different dialogs, one from the Greek and one from the Roman perspective. Both shall dismantle the logic of David McKay. The Greek needs only a few steps to come at crush time. The Roman needs more time, but his break down is more severe.
If so, let this be my task in life: to take care that the scientific community returns in the realms of classical thinking and let the quantitative and qualitative lines of reasoning go united again. Science needs the complete brain, not just the half of it.
The next morning I had the inspiration and insight to write from their perspectives. Like there were two minds standing next to me, looking over my shoulder while typing, pointing me out what to write and correcting me when I was going wrong. The Greek philosopher was quickly satisfied. The moment he had his win, he accepted the text. The Roman philosopher on the other hand was more precise. He insisted that I rewrote that text several times completely. His interest was definitely precision of thought. Not winning or losing, but consistency in thinking.
Both philosophers would not tell me their names, so I have to give them a name and I will give the scientist another name too. It is not David McKay personally who will be addressed. The alias of the Greek philosopher will be Ironman, with respect to the iron pillar at Delphi. The alias of the Roman philosopher will be Max, as people were used to address him like that. To make clear that I am not addressing David McKay personally will I use the name Goliath as the name for the scientist. Is Goliath not the symbol of the power of quantity? Is the battle between David and Goliath not a symbolic story about the mind controlling the more powerful body? To remind the body that it should listen to his head is it there that David throws his stone.