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Conflict between religion and science
Posted: 08 July 2009 01:14 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Sam has written the following in an essay (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/science-must-destroy-reli_b_13153.html), and if I’m not mistaken, this quote also appears in “Letter to a Christian Nation”:

“The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum.”

Why does he write, “very nearly” zero-sum?

What are the exceptions to the concept that this has been a completely zero-sum conflict?

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Posted: 08 July 2009 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 08 July 2009 05:14 PM

S
Why does he write, “very nearly” zero-sum?

It’s there in the very next sentence, unless you have reading comprehension problems. Apologies if English is not your first language.

The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.

This doesn’t mean that both sides are coming out nearly at their strengths at entry. Consult the term “God of the gaps” for more.

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Posted: 08 July 2009 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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English is my first language, and I usually do not have reading comprehension problems, though as I pointed out in the OP, I am having trouble understanding this sentence that Sam has written.

I humbly admit that I still don’t understand how Sam’s next 2 sentences explain his use of the term “very nearly” zero-sum.

It seems to me that the first part of the sentence, “The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma” does not address whether the confilct between science and religion is zero-sum or not, since the successes of science that have no impact on religious dogma are not a part of this conflict.

The second part of the sentence, “the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science”, implies that from the perspective of religion, the conflict has been completely zero-sum, for those items of religious dogma that are maintained at the expense of science would be shattered if the science was taken seriously.

I can’t get beyond the idea that the conflict is absolutely zero-sum. Please politely help me to understand.

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Posted: 08 July 2009 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 08 July 2009 05:52 PM

It seems to me that the first part of the sentence, “The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma” does not address whether the confilct between science and religion is zero-sum or not, since the successes of science that have no impact on religious dogma are not a part of this conflict.

Then in all probability, I cannot help you further your understanding. I have no idea where you derive the premise that a particular success in science can have no impact on religious dogma unless you regard science as a disconnected mass of unrelated factoids.

For one thing, you have left hanging here a completely monolithic reference to “religious dogma”. No one can guess what aspect of “religious dogma” you think is independent of “science”.

But let me suggest to you the exercise of imagining whether any religious dogma is tenable without the assumption of teleology and point out that attempting to discern teleology in the data of science is very much like the act of reading tea leaves.

Nevertheless, I leave it to you to cite a scientific success not isolated from the scientific theory in which it is embedded and a detail of religious doctrine that you believe cannot possibly conflict with it, either explicitly or by implication. Then perhaps you will understand the meaning of the phrase “almost zero sum”. If you work hard, you may be able to cite a bit of religion that does not depend on tossing out the concept of “evidence” on which science depends.

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Posted: 09 July 2009 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Traces Elk - 08 July 2009 09:57 PM

Nevertheless, I leave it to you to cite a scientific success not isolated from the scientific theory in which it is embedded and a detail of religious doctrine that you believe cannot possibly conflict with it, either explicitly or by implication. Then perhaps you will understand the meaning of the phrase “almost zero sum”. If you work hard, you may be able to cite a bit of religion that does not depend on tossing out the concept of “evidence” on which science depends.

Thanks, but that seems to be exactly what I am asking for help with.

Let me put it this way: if Sam had written, “The conflict between religion and science is inherent and zero-sum”, what would be the objection(s) that religious believers might cite?

If you don’t want to answer TE, then please don’t respond just to insult my intelligence.

Perhaps someone else might be interested in politely helping me to understand in that case.

(It seems absurd to me that I should have to beg for polite help in understanding Sam’s writing at this website. Sheesh.)

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Posted: 09 July 2009 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 09 July 2009 01:18 PM
Traces Elk - 08 July 2009 09:57 PM

Nevertheless, I leave it to you to cite a scientific success not isolated from the scientific theory in which it is embedded and a detail of religious doctrine that you believe cannot possibly conflict with it, either explicitly or by implication. Then perhaps you will understand the meaning of the phrase “almost zero sum”. If you work hard, you may be able to cite a bit of religion that does not depend on tossing out the concept of “evidence” on which science depends.

Thanks, but that seems to be exactly what I am asking for help with.

Let me put it this way: if Sam had written, “The conflict between religion and science is inherent and zero-sum”, what would be the objection(s) that religious believers might cite?

If you don’t want to answer TE, then please don’t respond just to insult my intelligence.

Perhaps someone else might be interested in politely helping me to understand in that case.

(It seems absurd to me that I should have to beg for polite help in understanding Sam’s writing at this website. Sheesh.)

As was pointed out, it was qualified in the next sentence. Perhaps he didn’t use the term correctly or the idea was not fully thought out etc etc.. I think the general idea is conveyed, why the need/desire for ultra precision on this?

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Posted: 09 July 2009 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 09 July 2009 01:18 PM

(It seems absurd to me that I should have to beg for polite help in understanding Sam’s writing at this website. Sheesh.)

Don’t go there. You’re not at a tea party with a bunch of blue-haired old ladies.

It is not a zero sum game. Religion always loses when science gains. Science never gains anything from religious wibbling, and frequently loses when certain religious bullshit is tolerated. Some woo is so “out there” as to be a cartoon, and simply makes people waste their time. A lot of non-fundamentalist woo-heads are anti-science, but since they are so incompetent, they have little impact of any kind on the world.

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Posted: 09 July 2009 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 08 July 2009 05:14 PM

“The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum.”

Why does he write, “very nearly” zero-sum?

What are the exceptions to the concept that this has been a completely zero-sum conflict?


It’s not about exceptions, it’s about the fact that sometimes religion includes dogma that isn’t in conflict with science.

The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.

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Posted: 09 July 2009 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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GAD - 09 July 2009 01:40 PM

I think the general idea is conveyed, why the need/desire for ultra precision on this?

It’s not hugely important, but it’s something I’ve been curious about ever since I read that sentence a year or so ago.

I admire Sam’s writing immensely, and I know that he very deliberately added the “very nearly” for a precise reason. I think he had something(s) in mind when he did so.

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Posted: 09 July 2009 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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SkepticX - 09 July 2009 02:36 PM

it’s about the fact that sometimes religion includes dogma that isn’t in conflict with science.

Such as?

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Posted: 09 July 2009 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Jefe - 09 July 2009 08:54 PM
Silver Bullet - 09 July 2009 07:57 PM
SkepticX - 09 July 2009 02:36 PM

it’s about the fact that sometimes religion includes dogma that isn’t in conflict with science.

Such as?

“The sky is above the earth.”

Why do you consider that a religious dogma?

I was thinking along the lines of science confirming religious dogma. For instance, science seems to now endorse the benefits of circumcision. This is confirmation in a very loose sense, but nevertheless, one could consider this a scientific success that does not come at the expense of that particular religious dogma.

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Posted: 09 July 2009 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 09 July 2009 10:08 PM
Jefe - 09 July 2009 08:54 PM
Silver Bullet - 09 July 2009 07:57 PM
SkepticX - 09 July 2009 02:36 PM

it’s about the fact that sometimes religion includes dogma that isn’t in conflict with science.

Such as?

“The sky is above the earth.”

Why do you consider that a religious dogma?

I was thinking along the lines of science confirming religious dogma. For instance, science seems to now endorse the benefits of circumcision. This is confirmation in a very loose sense, but nevertheless, one could consider this a scientific success that does not come at the expense of that particular religious dogma.

You’re grasping at straws, SB. Your straw is probably circumcized. Maybe it’s configured like one of those “bendy” straws they used to give you for drinking milkshakes. Your fascination with other people’s straws is duly noted.

It’s also noted that what you dimly suggest “seems” to be a scientific consensus is not, and your dishonest rhetoric is duly noted as well.

[ Edited: 09 July 2009 06:24 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 09 July 2009 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Traces Elk - 09 July 2009 10:19 PM
Silver Bullet - 09 July 2009 10:08 PM

I was thinking along the lines of science confirming religious dogma. For instance, science seems to now endorse the benefits of circumcision. This is confirmation in a very loose sense, but nevertheless, one could consider this a scientific success that does not come at the expense of that particular religious dogma.

You’re grasping at straws, SB. Your straw is probably circumcized. Maybe it’s configured like one of those “bendy” straws they used to give you for drinking milkshakes. Your fascination with other people’s straws is duly noted.

It’s also noted that what you dimly suggest “seems” to be a scientific consensus is not, and your dishonest rhetoric is duly noted as well.

I agree that this is not a perfect example (hence I wrote “confirmation in a very loose sense”), and I probably am grasping at straws because as I mentioned in the OP and subsequent posts, I am having trouble with this concept.

You are correct that there is not a scientific consensus on circumcision, and I never said there was. However, there is now reasonable data to support male circumcision which you can find here: New England Journal of Medicine 2009;360:1298-1309 & 1349-51. As a physician, this example came to mind today. I assure you that there is nothing dishonest about my “rhetoric” and I remain (i) astonished that you would make comments about my penis and (ii) interested to hear what example(s) you would come up with that would represent, rather than a ‘grasp at a straw’ as you put it, a good response.

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Posted: 09 July 2009 09:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 10 July 2009 12:13 AM

As a physician, this example came to mind today.

You’re already on my shit-list for the egregious misuse of reason; furthermore, you are on my shit-list for engaging in a semantic quibble between “science seems to now endorse the benefits of circumcision” (which is what you wrote) and “scientific consensus” (which is what I suggested the phrase implied). What the fuck else might you have meant by your words? If you had meant specific scientists, you could have cited them in the first place, but you chose instead to engage in dishonest rhetoric you thought no one would detect.

Lastly, you are on my shit-list for butchering English syntax, as you have in the above quote. What I think you meant to say was, “this example came to mind today in my work as a physician”, but you fell all over yourself making sure we understand what your profession is. Medicine is an art, my boy, and methinks you are fingerpainting on the walls. There’s nothing in dropping a reference to circumcision or citing a journal article that really shows that you are a physician. Skip the veiled search for unearned respect for your silly opinions.

To think that it is all in the service of supporting your very-strained search for one tiny evidence that religion can be a friend to science is just the, um, straw that got the camel stuck in the eye of the needle. If it does turn out that circumcision can be recommended on a hygienic or public (not pubic) health basis, your contention would still lose, as religion never “recommends”. It always orders you to do stuff on the pain of burning in hell. There is no medical basis for ordering that people be circumcized, and your original argument is purely and simply dishonest rhetoric.

I don’t think you had malevolent motives in doing so. I think you are merely incompetent to be engaging in this discussion, and over-reached a bit in trying to pose an argument.

[ Edited: 09 July 2009 10:05 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 09 July 2009 11:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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When medical bodies produce practice guidelines endorsing an intervention, there likely is consensus in its favor. We’re not there yet with circumcision, though we are probably getting close. I haven’t been dishonest, but I should not have used the word “endorse” as I meant to convey that the weight of evidence recently “supports” (strongly, in fact). Nevertheless, I do not think that those endorsements are far off.

I only mentioned that I am a physician to help explain the nature of the example I came up with after you ridiculed it. I was not trying to score points on the basis of my profession, and while I would like to have your respect, you’ve convinced me that I will not be able to do so. That’s ok - I’m working on my limitations.

I’m still interested to hear a response to the question in post #4.

[ Edited: 09 July 2009 11:27 PM by Silver Bullet]
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Posted: 10 July 2009 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Silver Bullet - 10 July 2009 03:06 AM

When medical bodies produce practice guidelines endorsing an intervention, there likely is consensus in its favor. We’re not there yet with circumcision, though we are probably getting close. I haven’t been dishonest, but I should not have used the word “endorse” as I meant to convey that the weight of evidence recently “supports” (strongly, in fact). Nevertheless, I do not think that those endorsements are far off.

You simply don’t wish to understand my point, because you’re mainly interested in working a bad argument on the internet. You suggested (on the basis of a gathering medical consensus) that the medical opinion that circumcision is salubrious is an example showing that science and religion can be kind to one another. Unfortunately, you keep missing the point that religion did not insist on circumcision because it is salubrious, but because it pleases God. It is entirely coincidental to the religious dogma that circumcision may be salubrious.

Do attempt to understand what a coincidence is. It is not the same as an “agreement” or “consistent world view”, and your insistence in pursuing your misapprehension suggests only that you recognize that you have suffered an embarrassment. The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.

I apologize at my impatience with the sort of dweebery in which you are engaging here. I’ve just seen far too much of it, and think that honesty is the best policy. You will become a better citizen of the Internet if you learn how to catch your own logical fallacies before you emit them. Of course, you may simply be here in order to entertain yourself. That’s my excuse, and I entertain myself largely by prosecuting people’s most garish intellectual errors. Learn to accept correction without defensiveness and you may be the more entertained.

Silver Bullet - 09 July 2009 01:18 PM

Let me put it this way: if Sam had written, “The conflict between religion and science is inherent and zero-sum”, what would be the objection(s) that religious believers might cite?

It has nothing to do with Sam Harris’ authorship of the remark. Sam may himself harbor a bit of woo. Harris seems to think that we need a better basis for dealing with human happiness and suffering than blithering about a woo monster. Frankly, I think such a pursuit is a waste of energy. More people like suffering than you or he apparently imagine. One cannot very well please a masochist by refusing to be a sadist.

You are adopting the persona of many an internet dweeb who has preceded you here in this forum by erecting the pretense of arguing directly with Sam Harris via cajoling forum participants who may not regard as gospel everything that Sam Harris has ever set down in writing. Do you understand the further fallacy of what you are pursuing in this additional semantic quibble? Because Sam Harris writes something and you cannot imagine a creative response to it, do not come whining to us.

To answer your hypothetical, there may be a “religious believer” out there who does not regard his own religious beliefs as impinging on the external world in any way and who may have the discipline to keep his thoughts to himself. What sort of religion could such a person be said to proclaim? He would kill off his solipsism by proclaiming it.

[ Edited: 10 July 2009 07:23 AM by Traces Elk]
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