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Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Meeting Place for Religion and Science


In a binary sense, science chunks "up" from tiny bits, and religion/spirituality chunks "down" from infinity. Neither approach allows understanding of the totality of existence, but the capacity to embrace both gives a sense of a dynamic sphere of existence, encompassing all that we see and feel, what we touch with our senses, and what exists beyond the veil of our deaths and before the moment of our conception. Different human beings in different cultures at different times need (or desire) different aspects of this totality, and the beauty is that we can dive into it at any depth we choose, admiring the poetics, philosophy, or rigor of either, or both. There is no need to choose, although there are certainly adherents of either who are at war with the other. That is their battle, and there is no need to make it yours.



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31 comments:

Shady_Grady said...

Religion continuously makes claims that are demonstrably untrue. Science has a self-corrective mechanism which religion lacks.

Marty S said...

Actually the belief in science as some indisputable truth is a form of religion. Science has been proved wrong over and over again as new discoveries prove old ones wrong. How do we know anything that scientists believe true today won't be disproved tomorrow.

dining set said...

No offense to religion but I believe in science. Science has a complete info about anything. Religion is just pictures, remain and story.

Shady_Grady said...

Science has been proved wrong over and over again as new discoveries prove old ones wrong. How do we know anything that scientists believe true today won't be disproved tomorrow.

Marty as I wrote:

"Science has a self-corrective mechanism which religion lacks."

The scientific method is one which is constantly updating, correcting
and extending our understanding of reality. There is no "religious method" which allows for hypotheses to be tested.

Mike Ralls said...

>Science has been proved wrong over and over again as new discoveries prove old ones wrong.<

Marty, science has never claimed that it has absolute capital T Truth on anything. That's simply not part of the scientific method and if certain individuals have thought it was then that is their problem for not properly understanding something they claim to revere.

>How do we know anything that scientists believe true today won't be disproved tomorrow.<

We can be very certain that good parts of our knowledge base will be. That's the _point_ of science. Science simply claims, "These are our current theories that fit the available data we have. If new data contradicts these theories new theories will replace our old ones." It's a process. The process is the POINT and nothing in science can ever be proven right for all time.

Anirudh Kumar Satsangi said...

Johnjoe McFadden has given a Electromagnetic Field Theory of Consciousness/Mind. We all know that Physics describes four fundamental forces in the universe. They are Gravitational Force, Electromagnetic Force, Weak Nuclear Force and Strong Nuclear Force. They are responsible for the creation of particles, subatomic structures, atomic structures, molecules,elements etc. For natural things (life etc.)to be created, natural forces (God Forces) act in natural ways. When man operates and manipulates these forces and creates some new things or old one it is said ‘artificial’. For me everything is natural. Since man is the part of nature so everything created by him, in-vivo or in-vitro, using Forces of Nature is also natural and not artificial.

I have given a theory of consciousness and mind as below:

“Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator”, I presented this paper at the 1st Int. Conf. on Revival of Traditional Yoga, held at The Lonavla Yoga Institute (India), Lonavla, Pune in 2006. The Abstract of this paper is given below:

“The Universe includes everything that exists. In the Universe there are billions and billions of stars. These stars are distributed in the space in huge clusters. They are held together by gravitation and are known as galaxies. Sun is also a star. Various members of the solar system are bound to it by gravitation force. Gravitation force is the ultimate cause of birth and death of galaxy, star and planets etc. Gravitation can be considered as the cause of various forms of animate and inanimate existence. Human form is superior to all other forms. Withdrawal of gravitational wave from some plane of action is called the death of that form. It can be assumed that gravitation force is ultimate creator. Source of it is ‘God’. Gravitational Field is the supreme soul (consciousness) and its innumerable points of action may be called as individual soul (consciousness). It acts through body and mind. Body is physical entity. Mind can be defined as the function of autonomic nervous system. Electromagnetic waves are its agents through which it works. This can be realized through the practice of meditation and yoga under qualified meditation instruction. This can remove misunderstanding between science and religion and amongst various religions. This is the gist of all religious teachings – past, present and future.”

I have also written one more paper on In Scientific Terminology, Source of Gravitational Waves is GOD and presented it at the 2nd World Vedic Science Congress in Banaras Hindu University in 2007.

Marty S said...

In history science and religion were intertwined. Religion was the way leaders of the tribe got the people to obey rules, a portion of which were based in science. The Jewish kosher laws are a good example. Don't eat pork was a commandment from god that prevented a lot of deaths from Trichinosis, when it wasn't so easy to cook meat well. A commandment from god to salt your meat was a good scientific idea when people didn't have freezers.

Anonymous said...

"In history science and religion were intertwined."

The advance of knowledge and civilized values largely consists of science and free inquiry fighting an often deadly struggle against religious totalitarianism. While facets of Christianity or Islam may have stimulated some scientific advances, religion on the whole has retarded progress. Apart from exalting mindless obedience at the greatest virtue and sanctioning atrocity to enforce conformity, religion retards progress by decreeing the Cosmos fundamentally irrational and unknowable, the deadly and irreconcilable antithesis of science and rationality.

"How do we know anything that scientists believe true today won't be disproved tomorrow."

While some perceived truths will indeed be found false with further inquiry, numerous facts such as Newtonian and quantum mechanics, Darwinian evolution, Relativity, atomic theory and the Periodic Table, the DNA -> RNA -> Protein progression of biologically-encoded information are firmly established and will remain true unto the Big Crunch. Their reality is attested by much of modern technology. While it's philosophically true that all knowledge is provisional, functionally, we're reasonably certain about how much of the Cosmos works.

For myself, I do hold that science and religion are in irreconcilable conflict, and I declare myself a champion of science without reservation or limit. As always, Dawkins argues the case with compelling logic and persuasion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxGMqKCcN6A

Ethiopian_Infidel

Anonymous said...

....and yet, Darwin was a practicing Christian, who, apparently, believed in "intelligent design".....

Mike Ralls said...

>Religion was the way leaders of the tribe got the people to obey rules, a portion of which were based in science. <

No, they really weren't. They were based upon stumble-across-it-ism, which was useful, but wasn't science as it didn't use the scientific method.

Science is a really new invention in historical terms. A complete and total game-changer. Which is why ever since it came into being history has been radically different than history was before science.

Marty S said...

Let's see. First comes observation. I notice people who eat pork get a particular disease and die from it more often than people who don't. Then I reason maybe pork or something in it causes this disease. Then I conduct an experiment, I outlaw the eating of pork. People stop dieing of the disease. Experimentation has verified my hypothesis. This is the scientific method in action, whether that name for it has been adopted yet or not. In many minds it seems as if the evil that religion has done lives on while good has died.

Anonymous said...

"..and yet, Darwin was a practicing Christian, who, apparently, believed in "intelligent design.."

Darwin began as a Biblical Literalist, but finished as an avowed Agnostic and a functional Atheist. Needless to say, Darwin's scientific investigations and the Evolutionary Theory they spawned were instrumental in opening his mind and sloughing off Christianity. Thus Darwin famously wrote that the breeding habits of the Ichneumon Fly, whose eggs hatch in, and larvae consume, live insect flesh (sound like an Alien beloved by SciFi fans?), did profound violence to the notion of a benevolent Creator. Based on his personal correspondence, historians have also speculated that Darwin's exodus from Christianity was additionally spurred by the loss of his young, beloved daughter. As with the brutal caprice that's the battery for Evolution, the tragic and senseless loss of his daughter convinced Darwin that personal gods and intelligent designs are absent from both our intimate lives and the grand scheme.

Ethiopian_Infidel

Pagan Topologist said...

"Stumble-across-it-ism" is of course exactly how almost everything works; it is the essence of evolution, and as far as I can discern, of intelligence, too. The scientific method merely provides a systematic way of checking the validity of information accross which you have stumbled.

As far as I am concerned, religion is relevant only to coping with subjective experiences. It has nothing whatever to do with external reality. When religious people claim otherwise, they are what I like to call "wrong."

I know that biologists are insistent that evolution is not an "intelligent" process, but I have never seen a definition of intelligence that makes sense which allows this to be proven. Indeed, I would argue that intelligence is precisely an analogue of natural selection: The overproduction of ideas and concepts and the survival of those which turn out to be helpful in some way. If someone has a definition of intelligence which make it clear that evolution is not an "intelligent" process, I would love to hear or read it. But, be aware that I will read any such definition with a mathematician's eye and will tolerate no fuzziness. The law of the excluded middle applies here.

Mike Ralls said...

>Then I conduct an experiment, I outlaw the eating of pork. People stop dieing of the disease. Experimentation has verified my hypothesis.<

No. "We have done what God has commanded us to do." Period. Full stop. The fact that that one specific religious tradition proved useful was nice, but if it would have been a harmful tradition instead it still could have stuck around too because there was no feedback mechanism to test God for error. For example, there is strong (modern, scientific) evidence that the fasting during Ramada is very harmful to pregnant women's unborn children, yet that's been going on for a long long time.

You're really projecting your worldview onto people who lived thousands of years ago; not a good idea. It simply wasn't an "experiment" in the sense that any modern person uses the word. They didn't keep records and control groups and they didn't test the expected results against the experiment, which is what science is about. The mental universe of the ancient Israelites (or any pre-scientific people really) was different from ours; perceptually speaking they lived in a different world.

Marty S said...

God did not command people not to eat pork. The tribal leaders realized as stated above that eating pork was bad and used the average tribe members belief in god to get them to stop eating pork by saying god commanded it.

Anonymous said...

"A commandment from god to salt your meat was a good scientific idea..."

For every beneficial commandment that recognized the logical link between problem foods and parasites, scores more enshrined bogus relationships such as "witches cause storms" (Christianity), "eating enemies confers their strength" (various Pagan beliefs), "male virtue depends on female submission" (Islam) or "doubting or fornicating may doom the entire community" (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). In the grand tally, would the numbers saved by Kosher laws exceed or fall short of those consumed in Auto-da-Fe's or similar ghastly religion-motivated atrocities?

Ethiopian_Infidel

Mike Ralls said...

>The tribal leaders realized as stated above that eating pork was bad and used the average tribe members belief in god to get them to stop eating pork by saying god commanded it.<

There is really no evidence that tribal leaders (in general) or the ancient Israelites (in specific) use religion as a mere tool without believing in it themselves while there is tons of evidence that religion is/was an integral part of their internal worldview.

Anonymous said...

It feels to me as if religion tends to be the natural enemy of science (and art). Science is the pursuit of objective truth, art is the pursuit of subjective truth, and religion(in general) is all about mandated truth. So a lot of religion is going to naturally object (quite vigorously and occasionally with hot pokers) to the truth of science and art.

Marty S said...

I make no claim that the good done by the use of religion to encourage positive behavior outweighs the evil done by using it to convince people that the "other" evil and needs to be vanquished/destroyed. That would require knowledge/sagacity beyond me. I only claim that framing something as god's command was a tool of primitive rulers. I draw this conclusion from the following type of reasoning. That the Ten Commandments exist and were presented to the Jews by Moses is fairly well established history. So assuming Moses went into isolation and came back with the Ten Commandments I personally see only two choices. Either there is a god and he presented these commandments to Moses, or Moses created this set of commandments because he thought they were good for the tribe and presented them to the tribe as a coming from god to increase the probability of them being followed. I find the latter explanation much more acceptable than the former.

Marty S said...

As to science being the pursuit of objective truth view this youtube link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaFM9CvWm-g
In it a neuroscientist claims his studies show that there is no such thing as pure reason, but that all reasoning is colored by emotion. The video is called "The myth of the political moderate". In it he proves his hypothesis with his own talk as his "scientific" analysis favors the liberal over the conservative,showing his reasoning is slanted by his own emotional bias. This video is an excerpt from an hour long video in which this bias is even clearer.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Anyone know whether trichinosis was endemic in the middle east when the kosher laws were established?

Also, I think that a benevolent God who was handing out rules would have said something about boiling the drinking water.

Marty S said...

Science and Scientists don't get everything right and don't discover all the laws of the universe at once. So the fact that they got somethings right in kosher laws and missed on others suggest they were man made rather than divine which is what I am arguing. A scientist to me is one who seeks to explain what he observes in accordance with current knowledge. To get away from the kosher laws let's consider the belief of some religions in reincarnation. We now know that we all possess DNA and pass on some of our characteristics to our progeny. It is not unreasonable to speculate an ancient observer of similarities both physical and mental between departed ancestors and their descendants having no knowledge of genes attributed these similarities to the passing on of the soul.

Some guy said...

Oooops. Quick P.S. to spare confusion. The art, science, and hot pokers comment was by me, Some guy, as opposed to the other anonymouses, who were written by someone(s?) else.

Some guy said...

Marty, as to the youtube comment, I did say the PURSUIT of objective truth. I don't really believe in "pure reason" either, but if a neuroscientist says that pure reason can't exist because of a brain scan, his reasoning is flawed right there. (For instance, one objection is that whether someone feels emotion or not when he reasons doesn't necessarily say anything about the validity of the reasoning. Is a math treatise wrong because the mathematician was giddy when he wrote it?)

Also, I can't help wonder if, because we can come up with a rational reason for a religious rule in hindsight, that necessarily means that the people who made the rule had a rational reason. Maybe Moses declared pork unclean because of a tragic childhood experience with a mean pig, not because he had any intuitive grasp of health statistics for trichinosis.

Marty S said...

Some guy: Math treatise is wrong because the mathematician was giddy when he wrote it, but giddiness is not what I nor the neuroscientist were referring to. Bias toward a certain result can indeed lead a mathematician to make errors in a treatise and it is the emotional biases that affect a person's reasoning. Today many people no longer find religion and the belief in god acceptable. They see religion as currently doing more harm than good. I can understand this viewpoint. What I have difficulty understanding is that in so many cases people with this viewpoint can't accept that in primitive societies religion and the belief in a god may have served a useful purpose and done more good than harm.

Some guy said...

Marty, sorry for the delay but I only check this blog occasionally at work. If you're still out there, I have to agree with the possible distorting effect of emotional bias on reasoning that you're stating, but I think that's different than the earlier 'pure reason can't exist' claim.

I'm pretty much an atheist, but I certainly have to acknowledge the possible positive effect of religion on primitive societies. "Um, Joe-Bob, God says that stabbing your neighbors to death so you can take their wives and all their stuff is bad and you've got to stop it or you'll be punished" strikes me as a positive influence on society. (Yes, a surprising number of ancient Phonecians were named Joe-Bob, Bubba, or Hank.) The general circulation of the "do unto others" concept strikes me as a hugely important religious contribution to mankind. I am pretty much in the camp you mentioned, though; I would like to see the best of the morality and civilizing effects of religion kept while jettisoning all the unnecessary superstitious taboos. (And, naturally, we atheists get to use our pure reason to objectively choose which is which.)

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Fred said...

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Thanks for the post. Science and religion can really meet halfway if they wish to.

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