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Historically, science and especially Astronomy have had several serious bouts of interference and worse from hierarchies of both power and of ideologies. Luckily we have scholars of the history of science as well as public spokespersons and communicators. One of the most recent and vocal is Neil deGrasse Tyson who doesn't let us forget about it or become complacent about those that would impose their personal views onto the scientific community and science education.

While the use of the word "God" in scientific discourse (e.g. Einstein's "God doesn't throw dice") has gone out of fashion, I sometimes think cosmologist take it a little past neutral and towards playful antagonism of religion. I'm looking for the footage I saw a while ago of a notable, contemporary cosmologist who visited the Vatican to discuss cosmology, who kept going out of his way to point out how arbitrary religion was. It's OK, he was being interviewed and his opinion was relevant to the interview.

(If someone can help me find/remember that documentary, that would be great!)

To get to the point - this answer is bothering me because it seems to state an opinion as if it is an astronomical fact. I'll quote it here as it appears at the moment:

The root of your misunderstanding is that you think that the sun (sic) has a purpose. It does not. It is a ball of plasma that emits energy.

(note: the Sun should be capitalized)

The link was added after I left a comment asking for a citation of any measurement, determination or theoretical prediction of whether the Sun does or does not have a purpose. The link explains what the Sun is, but does not address what it is for, so I think it's mostly a cynical non sequitur. My understanding is that Astronomy does not have a definition of purpose, much less any measurements or predictions, and that that is actually both an opinion, and not actually Astronomy at all.

Looking in the discussion of what is on-topic in Astronomy SE, I found these lines:

How should I give an on-topic answer? Good answers should explain why their objective information is accurate either by properly sourcing their answer or by giving enough details that the results could be derived by someone else. This is science after all! (my bold).

We don't have strict formatting guidelines for citations, but a couple of links to sources doesn't hurt--and keep in mind that not all sources are equal (academic papers are generally better than Wikipedia). Where answers are derived from physical documents, mentioning the title of the source is good, but a formatted citation (using your preferred style) is better.

If you are answering a question with a more subjective bent, or if you want to tack on your opinion to an already objective answer, it is fine to simply state that it is your opinion. At least this explains to everyone else where your information comes from.

So my question is: Does Astronomy (the field, and the stackexchange site) speak to the "existence of a purpose" for a celestial body? Or is a patent statement about purpose not actually science but instead an opinion, and in fact an opinion about a term that isn't even defined within Astronomy?

Leaving this answer as-is, without any notation that it is an opinion I think sends the wrong message - that Astronomers "know" that astronomical bodies do not have purpose. Using authority in one area to create the air of authority in a different area happens all the time - it didn't end in the 16th century. But when people do it "in the name of science" it reflects badly on those who take science seriously.

Opinions should be labeled as such. That's not only my opinion, it's the law! :)

If you are answering a question with a more subjective bent, or if you want to tack on your opinion to an already objective answer, it is fine to simply state that it is your opinion. At least this explains to everyone else where your information comes from.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to note two things. First, a post notice has been added there. Second, the topic of our site is Astronomy and not Philosophy (teleology, or the study of things by their purpose, is philosophy). That said, it is impossible to prevent brushing up against philosophy now and then, and I think when it does come up in situations like this a little more explanation is warranted aside from a mere statement (thus the post notice). $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 22 '16 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ James has now revised his post. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 22 '16 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Frankly, IMO attempting to define purpose for naturally occurring phenomena violates causality. Purpose is a form of abstraction created by intelligent beings who can act with forethought to create something to benefit them in the future. Nature doesn't act with forethought - it is the result of natural processes, equilibrium, and entropy. Our existence is owed to the Sun, but the presence of a star was not mandated such that we can exist unless you can dictate that an intelligent being mandated so - which is a very different discussion that is out of scope for a scientific community. $\endgroup$ – Mitch Goshorn Sep 15 '16 at 2:10

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