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Abolish Science?
Posted: 25 February 2007 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Much of the argument against religion that has appeared here has to do with the negative behaviors of dogmatic religionists.  More enlightened theists will say that these people misunderstand their religion and rather than having real faith they are idolizing the outward forms and misinterpreting scriptures.  the result of this is the dark side of religion that we are all aware of.  But, if this gives an argument for abolishing, or at least strongly controlling religion then a similar argument might be made about science: science has certainly facilitated much of the negative aspects of present day life (global warming, pollution, weapons of mass destruction, etc.) and even turned dark itself, for example, in the nazi medical experiments and development of new ways of torture.  Science has also been misinterpreted, leading to things like social Darwinism and eugenics.  So ought not science be abolished or controlled? 

Note that I am not advocating this but raising it to emphasize that in every case the negative actions that have occured as a result of science or religion are actions carried out by people.  Religion and Science are not individuals, they are activities carried out by individuals.  Given this, ought not the real issue be that of how individuals respond to belief, how they can get caught in dogmatic belief, and how to educate the young so as to best avoid this?

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Posted: 25 February 2007 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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But, but, but, I thought science was ‘neutral’, you know like without prejudice, just interested in progress.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]But, but, but, I thought science was ‘neutral’, you know like without prejudice, just interested in progress.

There are certain moral values that are required for doing science.  To quote Jacob Bronowski, “If you want to know the truth you must behave in certain ways.”  There are also extrinsic values that society requires, these are culture dependent (in Alexandria, for example, vivisections were carried out on prisoners condemned to death).  The issue is how science (the pursuit of knowledge of the material world) and religion (the goal of spiritual transcendence) are both subject to misinterpretation and can be taken dogmatically.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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And here I thought that one of the goals of science was spiritual transcendence?  It is isn’t it? You know, the pursuit of a truth that will set you free?  (BTW, when you limit science to the material world only, you are leaving out a lot of the sciences, subatomic physics, neurobiology, and all of the social sciences . . . often where the “spirit” of humankind is found.)

Bob

[ Edited: 26 February 2007 06:09 PM by ]
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Posted: 25 February 2007 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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burt,

this is an excellent topic for a thread.  you have introduced it with flare.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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We abolish science every time we discover something new. We rarely abolish religion, but it happens. Christianity has changed much over the years; died a little back then, grew a little later in a different way.

Religion as we know it will be no more, and so will science. Science will just change much, much faster. The scientific method will perhaps stay the same, unless something better comes along that works even better. Maybe religion will come up with something new to abolish itself and science and favor a new religio-scientific alloy of some kind.

I don’t think one would want to get rid of science, nor do I think we should get rid of religion. People will figure out themselves what’s what. We just need to make the kids smarter to realize how self-centered it is to view the world from a viewpoint that one’s own religion is somehow more sacred than someone else’s.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 12:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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It occurs to me that there is an analogy that may apply to both science and religion, i.e. hacking.

Hacking in its pure original form is driven by the attitude that it doesn’t matter what lay behind the firewall, what matters is getting in.  It’s a puzzle and as Captain Picard said on an episode of TNG, humans can’t resist a puzzle.  The challenge of defeating the security is what drives the hacker to refine the techniques that get around the password, decode the encryption, find the backdoor or, as a programmer, to hide the embedded joke in the operating system.

I distinguish hackers from those more contemporary fiends who have co-opted these methods to further other agendas, such as harvesting the profit inherent in getting 0.01% of 100 million people to respond to spam by buying male enhancement products, or affecting the instanteous value of stocks targeted by day-traders.  There are also those who fish for bank account information, engage in identity theft, ponzi schemes and other scams. 

Then there are those less malignant who start internet rumors and hoaxes, compose chain emails, forward jokes to everyone in their address book. 

And finally, we can’t forget the fundamental reason the internet exists, based on the volume of bandwidth dedicated to it, pornography.  Porn is driven by very powerful forces at work in the minds of those consuming it.  Those forces drive the need for escalation such that today the internet is home to every sort of depravity and perversion imaginable.  Perhaps the darkest aspect of this is that for some people, the needs eventually go beyond what can be satisfied by merely viewing, and is believed to be a factor in crimes against people, such as when pedophiles prey upon children in chat rooms.

I see two points here.  One is that science and religion appear to have dynamics similar to those above, and the other, if we merely substitute computers and the internet for religion or science in burt’s question, we could easily ask if computers and the internet should be abolished as well.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 01:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”] ... if this gives an argument for abolishing, or at least strongly controlling religion then a similar argument might be made about science ...


Except that the real, sound argument against religion is about faith, not just the behavior of those who use it to get along especially badly with their fellow humans. Religion is all about faith (i.e. presumption dressed up as the highest virtue). Science is all about rigorously and systematically rejecting it.

The sociopolitical problem with faith is that it encourages precisely the kind of irreponsible thinking patterns that enable such un-neighborly “beliefs” and behaviors, whereas science does precisely the opposite (as discussed in the “Whose values win?” thread).

Byron

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Posted: 26 February 2007 01:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]Much of the argument against religion that has appeared here has to do with the negative behaviors of dogmatic religionists.  More enlightened theists will say that these people misunderstand their religion and rather than having real faith they are idolizing the outward forms and misinterpreting scriptures.  the result of this is the dark side of religion that we are all aware of.  But, if this gives an argument for abolishing, or at least strongly controlling religion then a similar argument might be made about science: science has certainly facilitated much of the negative aspects of present day life (global warming, pollution, weapons of mass destruction, etc.) and even turned dark itself, for example, in the nazi medical experiments and development of new ways of torture.  Science has also been misinterpreted, leading to things like social Darwinism and eugenics.  So ought not science be abolished or controlled?

Burt, is something outrageously nasty going on in Western thought? Is any individual or group proposing to abolish or control religion? Maybe I just need a second cup of coffee, because I don’t follow your line of thinking here.

Also, what is science but a formalization of validity-seeking? Are you for real, or are you joking? Are you Jerry Falwell pretending to be a legitimate scientist?

By all means, Burt, rework current scientific methodologies. Please do us a favor and tell us where your paper will be published.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 02:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”][quote author=“burt”] ... if this gives an argument for abolishing, or at least strongly controlling religion then a similar argument might be made about science ...


Except that the real, sound argument against religion is about faith, not just the behavior of those who use it to get along especially badly with their fellow humans. Religion is all about faith (i.e. presumption dressed up as the highest virtue). Science is all about rigorously and systematically rejecting it.

The sociopolitical problem with faith is that it encourages precisely the kind of irreponsible thinking patterns that enable such un-neighborly “beliefs” and behaviors, whereas science does precisely the opposite (as discussed in the “Whose values win?” thread).

Byron

Again I would like to make the distinction between faith and dogmatic belief, although most people just identify the two.  With this distinction, however, it becomes apparent that the problem is not faith (something that I take as an internal orientation that needs no external validation and so is kept private) but dogmatic belief (attachment to a conceptual/linguistic formulation to the extent that no other possibilities are accepted).  So the question as I see it is what is there about the way that the human mind and brain have evolved that leads us to be subject to dogma.  Where religion is concerned, it is very easy for people to become dogmatic and intolerent, but this also occurs with science.  I’m sure that you have met such types (19th century scientism as an example).  The self-correcting aspect of science gives some relief from this but the vulnerability to dogma remains as long as we don’t understand how this process of falling into belief operates in the human mind.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 02:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“CanZen”]And here I thought that one of the goals of science was spiritual transcendence?  It is isn’t it? You know, the pursuit of a truth that will set you free?  (BTW, when to limit science to the material world only, you are leaving out a lot of the sciences, subatomic physics, neurobiology, and all of the social sciences . . . often where the “spirit” of humankind is found.)

Bob

So subatomic physics and neurobiology are non-material?  This sounds odd to me.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 02:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]… negative behaviors of dogmatic religionists. More enlightened theists will say that these people misunderstand their religion and rather than having real faith…

This can only become a vicious circle since there is no “real” faith to chase. If you believe in one correct religion, I suppose it’s logical that you would believe in one correct way to practice it. For some, that puts killing each other higher on the to-do list then killing the rest of us. The more history a religion covers, the more trouble it has explaining itself as perfectly revealed and eternal. Enlightened theists should understand that their religion is enlightening with them. When theism has the freedom, it can explore and evolve and discover just like science. I wouldn’t call what it ends up with science, but theism can enjoy the same process if allowed. I think freedom may be the only way religion can play itself out.

science has certainly facilitated much of the negative aspects of present day life… and even turned dark itself… Science has also been misinterpreted, leading to things like social Darwinism and eugenics. So ought not science be abolished or controlled?

We need to draw a line where science stops and something else begins. It makes sense that a society would take what it knows and put into practice structured techniques based on the best available explanations. If that comes from religion, the resulting practice must be for eternity and further revelatory discoveries must cease. If the explanation comes from science, any resulting technology or social policy comes without the baggage of eternity unless we put it there. Our public schools deliver Darwin as dogma not because Darwin is dogma, but because the public schools were designed to deliver dogma. We expect technologies to roll over because science doesn’t present dogma, just today’s best view, which we expect to be imperfect and fleeting because we acknowledge its un-divine origins.

Religion and Science are … are activities carried out by individuals. Given this, ought not the real issue be how individuals… can get caught in dogmatic belief, and how to educate the young so as to best avoid this?


Let’s teach them that our evolutionary development has made us into creatures that live in two worlds. One of them is actually there, and we are actually sharing it. The real world has some parts that are eternal and other part that are less so, and there is more truth out there than our senses can take in. If there is a God that created the world, it is this one. The other world is strictly our creation and only real to us. The world we build in our minds from what we can see and learn of the real world is something completely different than the real world. God does not create these. These worlds are no more eternal than the cultures that built them. In this world, truth is a wager and any payoff is ephemeral. When it comes to this kind of truth, let’s teach them to remember the words “think it possible you might be mistaken”, and then show them why. At least, as many of our mistakes as they can stomach.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 03:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”][quote author=“burt”]Much of the argument against religion that has appeared here has to do with the negative behaviors of dogmatic religionists.  More enlightened theists will say that these people misunderstand their religion and rather than having real faith they are idolizing the outward forms and misinterpreting scriptures.  the result of this is the dark side of religion that we are all aware of.  But, if this gives an argument for abolishing, or at least strongly controlling religion then a similar argument might be made about science: science has certainly facilitated much of the negative aspects of present day life (global warming, pollution, weapons of mass destruction, etc.) and even turned dark itself, for example, in the nazi medical experiments and development of new ways of torture.  Science has also been misinterpreted, leading to things like social Darwinism and eugenics.  So ought not science be abolished or controlled?

Burt, is something outrageously nasty going on in Western thought? Is any individual or group proposing to abolish or control religion? Maybe I just need a second cup of coffee, because I don’t follow your line of thinking here.

Also, what is science but a formalization of validity-seeking? Are you for real, or are you joking? Are you Jerry Falwell pretending to be a legitimate scientist?

By all means, Burt, rework current scientific methodologies. Please do us a favor and tell us where your paper will be published.

Jerry Falwell, never.  I’m really Pat Robinson.  :twisted:  LOL

Seriously, yes, science is a formalization of validity-seeking for statements about the world.  And yes, I am working on a book about this, which seems to be dragging on forever.  But I will post something when (if?) it ever gets published. 

The point I’m looking at here, however, is that even the methods of science can be taken dogmatically and abused rather than used with the proper attitude and this makes it worthwhile to explore the tendency for this to occur.  The analogy I started with would say that religion is a form of validity seeking as well (or, as with the ancient Egyptians, justification in the halls of Anubis where the heart is weighed against the feather of Maat.)  But the ways that this “life validation” (to coin a phrase) is carried out are even more subject to a fall into mere dogma and, being associated with the existential value of a persons life, this gives the attachment to the dogma real teeth.  Knowing how this happens seems to me to be the first step in taking corrective action.  Just railing against belief without understanding its nature and how it comes about to have such power is not very effective.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]. . . yes, science is a formalization of validity-seeking for statements about the world.  And yes, I am working on a book about this, which seems to be dragging on forever.  But I will post something when (if?) it ever gets published.

Thanks for clarifying, Burt. You seem to have rightly detected my tongue nudging slightly against my cheek.

Would you agree with me that science would become less dogmatic if science instructors and school teachers improved their precision when considering how they approach and lecture about theory? That is, some theories are more obviously valid than others. But since we’re sort of stuck with a word that has a variety of shades of meaning (“theory”), great care and thought needs to go into how basic scientific principles are explained. I could get more detailed, but I suspect you know what I’m saying. Is discussion of the use of “theory” something that will be included in your book?

As for seeking validity by way of spiritual or religious avenues, I guess I’m just strongly biased in favor of recognizing the enormous degree of ignorance our ancient ancestors were forced to shape and base their ideas on. For instance, Plato was obviously a profoundly powerful thinker, but have you read Popper’s 2-volume blast, The Open Society and Its Enemies? And Plato’s apparently sincere pronouncements about forms is today pretty much universally scoffed at other than by devout Christians.

Can’t we just appreciate the ancients for the poetic attempts they made at understanding the universe rather than constantly attempting to rehabilitate their ignorance-based, wildly concocted guesses?

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Posted: 26 February 2007 04:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Science does not exist in a bubble, in a perfect world. Unfortunately it is humans who ‘do’ science and humans who interpret the results, thus science is still subject to the prejudices of those humans involved. We have only to look at the subject of global warming to see the effects of man’s character flaws. The idea of science being neutral in it’s pursuit of truth or facts is a myth, a big myth. In other words you cannot separate science from scientists.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]The idea of science being neutral in it’s pursuit of truth or facts is a myth, a big myth. In other words you cannot separate science from scientists.

I wouldn’t call it a myth. It is an ideal we strive for, a virtue we need to practice, no matter how imperfectly we have done so in the past. It may be hard to do, and in the past many have pretended to it outward appearance without actually practicing it, but thats not enough reason to abandon it. It has worked more often than not, otherwise we would not have made as much real progress in science as we have. We would not have cured so many diseases, sent spacecraft and probes to the farthest planets in our system, or created the technology that feeds, shelters and clothes so many people.

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