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Posted: 17 April 2005 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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After reading through a few seemingly endless threads, many of which feature religious non-reason trying to masquerade as reason, I thought I'd start a little summary thread.
Sad that the "arguments" have all boiled down to Christianity versus, for lack of a better word, sanity, but maybe that's Bush's America for you.

Part I:  Science
The common interpretation of Genesis, as I (an ignorant unbeliever) understand, is that The Sin of Adam and Eve was to seek knowledge—in other words, to question.
That this is seen as Sinful is the basic problem with religious folks' thought process, and the reason (as it were) that reasoning with them becomes an impossible prospect.  Reason cannot end with God, as God is an extraneous, non-demonstrable assumption.  The only assumption Reason requires is that we each exist.  No argument, for morality or anything else, need assume more than this.
For all the complications brought about by science and technology (with which we can and should concern ourselves), the beneficial aspects of modernity we enjoy are the results of people asking questions, trying to improve our understanding of the Universe.
If one would like to thank some unknowable being for giving doctors the ability to treat disease, fine.  But to do so ignores that medical knowledge, like science in general, exists despite the Church.  As God's sanctioned interpreter, any historical church you can name has been slow to accept Man's right to question.

Part II:  Faith
God is omnipotent.  God is omnipresent.  God is all-knowing.
God is benevolent.
These statements only co-exist thanks to the clever "God works in mysterious ways" argument.
Any natural disaster provides an easy example of how this works.
Thousands die:  Either they were sinful and deserved to die, or they were saintly and God wanted them by his side.
Many live:  They were virtuous, and God let them live.  Or, they were sinful, but may still be redeemed, or may further incur God's wrath by continuing their sinful lives.
Many who died will have prayed to survive, as did many who lived.  Like the players of a team sport, each side has asked God to take its side.  And afterward they try to sort out why God wanted one team to win and one to lose.
To a rational mind, this makes no sense.  The claim, then, is that God is beyond our comprehension. So why do so many people spend their time trying to understand God, or, worse, claiming they actually do understand him?

In the interest of remaining somewhat concise, I've obviously cut some corners.  But would anyone like to poke Reasonable holes in the points I'm endorsing?
Remember, Reason involves perspicacity.  To communicate, we must be able to demonstrate the points we make.  Since Faith denies demonstrability, it cannot participate properly in public discourse.  As soon as it is inserted, crazy notions may fly about unchecked.
-AA

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Posted: 17 April 2005 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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That was an interesting summation of the religious mind - the point being that “to reason” is a sin for the faithful.  Now it makes all the more sense why the two cannot coexist in the same mind (scientific knowledge and faith in Jehovah).  If questioning (a sin right from the start with Adam & Eve) is sinful and questioning is the only authentic way to come to knowledge, those believers are really caught in a hopeless web, and it’s a web of deceit as well.  Now I just feel sorry for them.

Bob

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Posted: 18 April 2005 02:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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The majority of at least the mainstream churches not only have faith in “reason” but in fact reason perfectly well. Take a look at the Scholastics, the founders of our modern university system. The Jesuits are still probably the best teachers of logic and reason one can find. The problem lies in the basic assumptions on which the reasoning is based. This same problem, unfortunately, is true for the sciences as well. Garbage in, garbage out. You don’t get the right answers without asking the right questions. You have to locate, identify, and test any unproven “but everybody knows this” assumptions, whatever you’re proving. 

I’m tired of using the word “science” as though “science” is somehow just some one rigid entity. It isn’t, and neither is “religion.”

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Posted: 18 April 2005 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I would argue that “Science,” properly regarded, embraces demonstrability.  Furthermore, it is not, in itself, limited.  (though it may be limited by the shortcomings of some practitioners.
The “liberal believer” may make similar claims about religion.  The difference is that Science is methodology, Religion is institutional.  Though an individual may believe what he or she likes, I would claim that it is only a “Religion” if it is believed collectively (thus, institutional).
Though the process of “logic” is touted by Jesuits, their reasoning is inherently limited by the assumption of God’s existence.  In a Venn diagram, this is a large circle full encompassed by the circle of proper Reason, which does not make excessive assumptions.  (see above)

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Posted: 18 April 2005 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“MJ”]The majority of at least the mainstream churches not only have faith in “reason” but in fact reason perfectly well. Take a look at the Scholastics, the founders of our modern university system. The Jesuits are still probably the best teachers of logic and reason one can find. The problem lies in the basic assumptions on which the reasoning is based. This same problem, unfortunately, is true for the sciences as well. Garbage in, garbage out. You don’t get the right answers without asking the right questions. You have to locate, identify, and test any unproven “but everybody knows this” assumptions, whatever you’re proving. 

I’m tired of using the word “science” as though “science” is somehow just some one rigid entity. It isn’t, and neither is “religion.”

I see what you’re saying and your point is technically valid. Scientists do have to assume that some things are always true, even though there is no way to really prove they are true. But it is far better to make such assumptions when all known evidence agrees with the assumption, rather than to make assumptions based on what is written in some old book, especially when there is widespread disagreement about which book is correct and what the book actually says. Things like “Things always fall straight down”, “The sky is blue during the day”, “Liquids fill the container holding them”, etc. are far more justified than “god made the earth in seven days” or “Zeus is the bringer of lightning”.

I don’t use the word “science” to mean some rigid entity. I see “science” as the proper application of the scientific method. You don’t need a labcoat and a million dollars of high-tech equipment to be a scientist. All you need is your brain and one or more of your five senses and the willingness to expose your results to the criticism of others. This last part is noticeably lacking in religion.

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Posted: 18 April 2005 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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This is an excellent discussion, and I thought that AA’s original summation said it beautifully. The faith-based community likes to say, or imply, that science is just as dogmatic and dependent on faith in its theories. This is obviously nonsense. Science is always open to question, examination, and demonstrability.  There is no “dogma” in science; our understanding of the truth is that which is demonstrable in our present stage of development. It constantly evolves. How can blind adherence to what was said eons ago by those who were relatively ignorant about the natural world, and who wished to consolidate their power over people through terror, be in any way comparable?

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Posted: 18 April 2005 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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“How can blind adherence to what was said eons ago by those who were relatively ignorant about the natural world, and who wished to consolidate their power over people through terror, be in any way comparable?”

I don’t want to get into a debate, but I don’t believe that there was ever a time when people were completely ignorant about the natural world, and we’re still relatively ignorant about the natural world. Another factor to watch out for is the myth of progress. You can’t take it for granted that we’re somehow vastly improved because time has passed. In some ways yes, in others, no. Also, Jesus and Buddha, at least, hardly wished to “consolidate their power over people through terror.” The immediate response in this kind of discussion is to set up straw men and knock them over. That doesn’t accomplish anything.

Those on both sides of this particular argument have been throwing high-minded rhetoric at each other for well over 100 years without getting very far. It’s fun, and I do it too, but what we need is the kinds of analysis that AA started this thread with. I responded by trying to point out one of the hazards involved in relying on reason. To reason well, we need to become aware of the pitfalls, and history is full of them. Simplistic black/white thinking, we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys, isn’t going to get us anywhere.

I could pick apart every comment that followed; for example, “science” is every bit as vulnerable to becoming institutionalized and dogmatic as religion, and this has occasionally happened. The history of science is full of examples. Most of the major breakthroughs in science have required tremendous battles to become accepted.

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Posted: 19 April 2005 12:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“MJ”]The majority of at least the mainstream churches not only have faith in “reason” but in fact reason perfectly well. Take a look at the Scholastics, the founders of our modern university system. The Jesuits are still probably the best teachers of logic and reason one can find. The problem lies in the basic assumptions on which the reasoning is based.


I think it’s more of a compartmentalization thing. You often find believers perfectly adept at spotting fallacies and such regarding all sorts of other issues, then suddenly can’t see it when it comes to his particular religious franchise (I call it religiostupidification, thogh I reserve the term for selective uses).

That’s one reason why Richard Dawkins calls faith a mental virus (religion actually, I think—faith as the primary pathogen I guess). It attacks specific “memes” (granted often fundamental and pervasive) and leaves others alone, at least directly speaking.

But humans have a pretty incredible ability to compartmentalize in any case. I also think of faith as analogous to an enzyme that “helps” the mind to digest some otherwise pretty unsavory stuff.

Byron

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Posted: 19 April 2005 01:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]
I think it’s more of a compartmentalization thing. You often find believers perfectly adept at spotting fallacies and such regarding all sorts of other issues, then suddenly can’t see it when it comes to his particular religious franchise (I call it religiostupidification, thogh I reserve the term for selective uses).
Byron

My intellectual insecurities keep me from dismissing some of my scientific heroes as suffering from a type of mental illness.

I remain deeply moved by the lectures given by Henry Schaefer during my undergrad days at UGA. I was overwhelmed by his intelligence and commitment to Christianity. By any account, Dr Schaefer has a sterling academic record. Dr. Schaefer is the sixth most highly cited chemist in the world. The U.S. News and World Report cover story of December 23, 1991 speculated that Professor Schaefer is a “five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize”.  His research involves the use of state-of-the-art computational hardware and theoretical methods to solve important problems in molecular quantum mechanics.

I could site similar accolades for Donald Knuth. These two scientist are probably the only reason I remain an agnostic.

My trepidation to dismiss these intellectuals is tempered by my experience in athletics. I’m an amateur cyclist without much talent, but I love to race guys who are far superior to me athletically (pretty much everyone). I have done vast amounts of reading and experimentation on proper training, equipment, and diet. Despite a lack of knowledge or proper training, my peers continue to beat me. The fact that these guys are far superior to me athletically does not change the fact that they lack even a cursory knowledge of proper training methods.

=======

The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends - Friedrich Nietzsche

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Posted: 19 April 2005 01:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Salerio”][quote author=“SkepticX”]I think it’s more of a compartmentalization thing. You often find believers perfectly adept at spotting fallacies and such regarding all sorts of other issues, then suddenly can’t see it when it comes to his particular religious franchise (I call it religiostupidification, thogh I reserve the term for selective uses).

My intellectual insecurities keep me from dismissing some of my scientific heroes as suffering from a type of mental illness.


I’m not sure “illness” is quite accurate (at least not in my opinion). That’s why I like the enzyme model, though it’s an enzyme gone bad. Schaeffer is a classic example though. So are a few others in the Christian Faculty Forum here at UGA. They’ve held events with guest speakers who presented stunningly intellectually depraved, vapid material, and then acted incredulous when confronted with a long list of obvious fallacies and such after the event. It’s pretty amazing, really.

My brother-in-law is the same way to a lesser extent. He’s truly brilliant, but sometimes he’s deeply impressed with a book he’ll recommend, and when I present serious flaws he’s surprised (he can normally recognize them after-the-fact though).

I don’t think the “faith virus” is any more of an illness than other aspects of human sensory failings. It’s just far more insidious and destructive in its effects.

BTW, Johannes Kepler is one of my intellectual heroes precisely because he couldn’t compartmentalize like that. Despite his deep, sincere religious inclinations and church pressure, he couldn’t ignore the discrepancies in the orbit of Mercury predicted by the circular orbital model of the solar system (“circles” presumed perfect under the religious paradigm, and therefore, of course, the planets had to move in circular orbits . . . I’m sure this is familiar info for most of us). His intellectual integrity won out over dogma, and we’ve all seen much farther by sitting on his shoulders as a result.

Byron

[ Edited: 19 April 2005 02:04 AM by ]
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Posted: 19 April 2005 01:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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“I remain deeply moved by the lectures given by Henry Schaefer during my undergrad days at UGA. I was overwhelmed by his intelligence and commitment to Christianity. By any account, Dr Schaefer has a sterling academic record. Dr. Schaefer is the sixth most highly cited chemist in the world. The U.S. News and World Report cover story of December 23, 1991 speculated that Professor Schaefer is a “five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize”.  His research involves the use of state-of-the-art computational hardware and theoretical methods to solve important problems in molecular quantum mechanics.”

Exactly! Not all scientists are atheists, and not all atheists are scientists. All this stuff, science and religion, is being produced by the same kinds of brains, and we tend to act as though the religious and the scientific are somehow two different species.

Newton was as devoted to alchemy as to math and physics. Darwin held a famous seance at his home. Sam Harris wants us to meditate. I loved working in the chemistry lab in the evening, when the violins would come out, people were reading their latest poems out loud. Creative people are often creative in more than one area at the same time. Reason and fantasy are created by the same kinds of brains.

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Posted: 19 April 2005 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“MJ”]Exactly! Not all scientists are atheists, and not all atheists are scientists. All this stuff, science and religion, is being produced by the same kinds of brains, and we tend to act as though the religious and the scientific are somehow two different species.

Newton was as devoted to alchemy as to math and physics. Darwin held a famous seance at his home. Sam Harris wants us to meditate. I loved working in the chemistry lab in the evening, when the violins would come out, people were reading their latest poems out loud. Creative people are often creative in more than one area at the same time. Reason and fantasy are created by the same kinds of brains.

I thought I read somewhere else in this forum that you are a historian of science and religion.  It is surprising that you would not see that over the last 200 years or more, more people who became scientific in their thinking tended to reject religion (which BTW is not the same as creativity or even meditation).  Human cultures, particularly western, are in a transition that started with the Enlightenment (and actually showed signs long before that) and continues to this day.  That historical figures were more deeply religious, or that some scientists today, especially those whose scientific disciplines do not clash directly with orthodox religious claims of revealed truth, can have some kinds of religious convictions does not demonstrate that there isn’t a clash ultimately in these two world views.  For a growing number of scientists the only revealed truth is through science. 

I think you conflate the notions of spirituality with those of religion and faith.  I also think you put too much emphasis on the dynamics of human foibles in science.  As has been repeatedly shown, science is the only knowledge acquisition method that is self-correcting/adjusting as new information comes to light - an evolutionary process.  That individual scientists make quite human errors along the way says nothing about the effacacy of the whole process.  Name a famous historical scientist that was not prone to some kind of belief (religious or otherwise) or involved in the politics of science and you will have identified a rare individual.  That, however, doesn’t translate into science being somehow flawed or incomplete.  It may be so, but not for the kinds of arguments you have advanced here and in other threads.

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Posted: 19 April 2005 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]
I’m not sure “illness” is quite accurate (at least not in my opinion). That’s why I like the enzyme model, though it’s an enzyme gone bad.

This raises some obvious implications concerning the treatment of mental disabilities. What if a drug could cure this faulty enzyme?

This is the subject of the short story “Planet Without Laughter” by Raymund Smullyan. In this short, a planet attempted to eradicate the psychosis of laughter using a drug.

“Just how this drug laughazone worked was a problem never satisfactorily answered. All that was known for sure is that it did work. Of course there were many conflicting theories, but none of them was ever fully substantiated. One theory claimed that the laugher before treatment was living largely in a fantasy world—indeed his whole trouble was that he often confused fantasy with reality. But curiously enough, the pathology of the laughter made his confusion seem pleasant rather than painful.”

This short was a part of an extended discussion on Christianity that Knuth has put on his site.

=======

“These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” - Groucho Marx.

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Posted: 19 April 2005 04:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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In September of 1999, Scientific American published a very interesting article entitled “Scientists and Religion in America”, by Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham.

http://www.sciamdigital.com/qpdf.cfm?ArticleID_CHAR=04F15064-C707-4339-9F9C-0E08AF96A52

(Unfortunately, I think that you need to either be a subscriber to Scientific American’s online service or buy the article in order to access and/or download it)

The article describes the results of surveys of scientists conducted by psychologist James H. Leuba in 1914 and 1933 and repeated by the authors in 1996 and 1998.  The anonymous surveys contained only two questions which covered “the two central beliefs of the Christian religion”; Do you believe in (1) a God in intellectual and effective communication with man to whom one may pray in expectation of receiving and answer and (2) personal immortality.  Only three answers were accepted …..”yes”, “no” and “don’t know”.  In each survey, an attempt was made to categorize and/or stratify the scientists in terms of their recognized accomplishments to distinguish “elite” scientists from the others.

Here are the key findings of the surveys:

• In all surveys, the percent of all scientists expressing belief in God remained constant at 40%
• In Leuba’s day, 40% also believed in an afterlife.  Today, it is about 50%.
• When the “elite” scientists were surveyed in 1914, only 33% expressed belief in God or an afterlife. 
• By 1933 that number had declined to 20%
• Today, only 10% of “elite” scientists are believers.
• The most disbelieving were the “elite” biologists at only 5%
• The most accepting among the “elite” were mathematicians at 17%.

[ Edited: 19 April 2005 07:14 AM by ]
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Posted: 19 April 2005 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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“Reasoning” takes place on many levels.  It is, in large part, the identification of causality.  Within a given field, one can achieve a great deal by applying the methodology Reason imposes on Science.
But in terms of philosophy, many seem willing to dismiss this notion of Reason.  God and Faith deny Reason.  Like religious scholars and Jesuits, one can reason a great deal within the confines of belief, but, ultimately, belief defeats the idea of reason by imposing such tremendous assumptions.
It is clear that skepticism is integral to Science, and there is an increased proportion of Agnosticism (and Atheism) amongst the better educated, particularly in Scientific fields.
The shortcomings of education (namely, teaching facts and job skills over logic and critical thinking) are to blame for those who get lots of degrees but still cling to the dogma they were raised on.  Well, the shortcomings of education and the evils of the dogma itself.

As for equating Faith to a disease, I assume it’s meant as a metaphor.  Let’s not overanalyze.

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Posted: 19 April 2005 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“AA”]“Reasoning” takes place on many levels.  It is, in large part, the identification of causality.  Within a given field, one can achieve a great deal by applying the methodology Reason imposes on Science. But in terms of philosophy, many seem willing to dismiss this notion of Reason.  God and Faith deny Reason.

 

God and Faith do seem to deny reason. My question is: If God gave us free choice of the will, what use is it if we are not permitted to reason?

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