Stars Have No Minds?

An article by Matthew Francis over at Ars Techica contains one idea so seemingly self-evident as to be boringly uncontroversial: “stars have no minds”.

Science has given us scientific method, a terrific protocol to ferret out fact from fiction when describing our physical universe. Problems arise, however, when scientists throw around statements that scientific method has not proven. If you are a scientist, one might conclude that anything you say has been proven by science… that would be wrong on their part, and an abuse of your position.

I am not here to assert that stars have minds. But even though it seems reasonable to conclude that they don’t, nobody really knows, and scientific method seems ill-equipped to answer that question.

Obvious statements should be easy to prove, yes? Except that it’s impossible to prove or disprove whether something has a mind until we define what is a mind, and while there may be broad scientific consensus on what a brain is, a mind is a different matter.

If we assume that a brain is prerequisite to have a mind then the matter is settled, yet scientific method does not allow for assumptions in evidence of proof. Sure, no one has ever seen a mind without a brain, but as Carl Sagan said so well, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

When unprovable statements are made under the guise of science, it is at best a failure to honor scientific method. At worst it is intellectual bullying: asserting belief as fact, stifling inquiry. Religious folk don’t have sole claim to righteousness– it can take many forms, and “I’m scientific” is one. Be intellectually honest, honor scientific method: know when you are discussing unproven topics and simply say “I don’t know”.

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