PDA

View Full Version : Science as religion



Pages : [1] 2

baric
2011-Apr-28, 06:10 PM
Note: I cleared this topic with the mods beforehand. If you want to discuss it, please do not make any comments directed at specific religions as that is not the purpose of this post. Otherwise, there's a good chance the thread will get locked!


Does science fill the functional role in the lives of many non-religious people in the way that religious does for others? I think it does.

What does it mean to call science a ‘religion’, a statement that undoubtedly bristles the fur of many regulars in this forum, as it would have undoubtedly done for me some years ago? I am not suggesting that the classic evidence/faith distinction does not exist… I most certainly think it does.

From my perspective, however, science meets many of the same of the same emotional, intellectual and social needs that many people today expect from religion. And because we are all cut from the same cloth, genetically speaking, it’s difficult not to infer relevancy in these similarities.

When I occasionally enter into philosophical debates with my religious friends, my demeanor now is quite different than from years ago when I had tossed aside my faith. Whereas previously I would focus on explaining why I was no longer religious, now I find myself practically proselytizing in the name of science! It’s almost as if I’ve come full circle ideologically.

These are key elements of religions belief that have a correlating element in science:

1) A sense of awe – I know that I am not alone in this among non-believers. Any time that I apply myself to understanding some unfamiliar mystery of the universe (stellar dynamics is my mystery de jour), my awe of the complexity and elegance of the natural world is inevitably re-inspired. While the religious may look at the world and see the hand of God, I experience the same feeling sans the divine providence. The awe is still there, and that’s what is persuasive.

2) Revelation – we, of course, have our own process of revelation. Instead of parsing tomes or interpreting responses from prayers, we have the scientific method. This process teases out knowledge from the greater unknown which we then assimilate into our existing accumulated body of knowledge. Whereas the religious may reinterpret their canon over time, we tend to rewrite ours as old theories are improved or invalidated.

3) Mysterious ways – we’ve all heard the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways”, generally offered for questions that are not easily explainable through religious tenets. We skeptics have our own identical plea of ignorance: “I don’t know.” Both responses suggest an answer that is currently beyond our grasp.

4) Prophecy – we use science to predict the future constantly. This is also an important aspect of religions because it gives adherents a confidence in the correctness of their religion, especially when they see predictions fulfilled.

5) Priests & saints – our analogue, of course, is our class of scientists and academics. They are literally the keepers and finders of our knowledge. They function similarly to their religious counterparts and serve as counsel when we do not understand some article of knowledge. And we revere great scientists in history much like saints.

6) Churches –a common meeting place for the like-minded has always been a key element of religion for they are a valuable source of social support along with the reinforcement of common beliefs. For a myriad of reasons, non-believers have historically never had churches. However, we do now have virtual "churches" spread across the internet, one of the latest technological products of science. BAUT is an example of such a meeting place.

7) Genesis story – there is a foundational story to science just as there are with religions. We know what started, when it started, and who started it. We have specialists (paleontologists & archaeologists) whose purpose is to document the historical record. Even our labeling of the human historical record betrays our bias as well. Pro-science historical eras are known as “the Greek Miracle”, “the Renaissance”, and “the Enlightenment” while a less science-friendly era is often called the “Dark Ages”.

Ok, so what do we not have?

1) Supernatural – it is simply incompatible with our adherence to skepticism. This is a trivial loss, as we simply define it out of existence.

2) Infallibility – while individuals can certainly be dogmatic about certain theories, science as a whole is predicated on the notion that any theory can be invalidated or refined. Therefore there are no unalterable revealed truths.

3) Exclusivity – we do not require adherents to discard other religious beliefs. You can be an adherent to science and also be a Christian, Muslim, etc. While this seems like a huge difference between science and traditional religions, it’s really not. There are many historical examples of growing religions allowing their newest converts to retain many of their existing beliefs and practices – sometimes to the point of incorporating them into the religion.

4) Purpose – although some humanist philosophies try to carry this water, science as a whole presumes a purposeless life. This is a key missing element compared to traditional religions.

5) Death avoidance – yeah, this is the biggest hurdle for a lot of people. But, in fairness, we do have our top scientists working on the problem!

What is my point of all of this? Does it give ammunition to the common assertion that “science” (or more commonly, atheism) is no different than other religions? In certain aspects, it does. There are many emotional, intellectual and social needs that are just as easily met by science as by religion and many times the "science is a religion" argument is waged on those terms.

But if science is akin to religion, it is unique in its absence of certain key elements of other religions. So while we enjoy most of the intangible emotional benefits as the religious, we also have a historical record of validation that others lack. In the end, that makes it the “right” religion to many adherents -- and this certainty of correctness is yet another similarity.

This is generally the contrast I make nowadays in my theological discussions with my religious friends.

mike alexander
2011-Apr-28, 06:59 PM
I would say, respectfully, that the analogies listed are for the most part not terribly valid. Sort of akin to the correlation vs. causality argument.

As a specific example, Revelation in the religious sense implies a direct communication with some transcendental... um... thing. It's not interpretation, or extrapolation, or discovery. It cannot be accessed by your efforts alone, but must be given to you.

Cougar
2011-Apr-28, 07:11 PM
7) Genesis story – there is a foundational story to science just as there are with religions. We know what started, when it started, and who started it. We have specialists (paleontologists & archaeologists) whose purpose is to document the historical record. Even our labeling of the human historical record betrays our bias as well. Pro-science historical eras are known as “the Greek Miracle”, “the Renaissance”, and “the Enlightenment” while a less science-friendly era is often called the “Dark Ages”.

Here, as elsewhere, you are shoving round pegs into square holes. The "Genesis story" in religion, as well as in science, is about the beginning of the universe. It's not about the beginning of science or about the beginning of religion, as you have represented. As you say, it rather bristles my feline fur to have the science version likened to any of the religion versions when the science version is based on empirical evidence and logical consequence, while the religion version is apparently based solely on uninformed imagination that typically directly conflicts with subsequent observations and known physical laws. As I recently quoted elsewhere.....





"...the knowledge of nature, continually advancing on incontestably safe tracks, has made it utterly impossible for a person possessing some training in natural science to recognize as founded on truth the many reports of extraordinary occurrences contradicting the laws of nature, of miracles which are still commonly regarded as essential supports and confirmations of religious doctrines, and which formerly used to be accepted as facts pure and simple, without doubt or criticism." [Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers]

baric
2011-Apr-28, 07:13 PM
As a specific example, Revelation in the religious sense implies a direct communication with some transcendental... um... thing. It's not interpretation, or extrapolation, or discovery. It cannot be accessed by your efforts alone, but must be given to you.

When is the last time you directly measured the spectra of a Type 1A supernova?

It was obviously given to you by people more knowledgeable in that particular area of science (astronomers). Conceptually, how is this any different than someone interpreting divine knowledge from the observation of unexpected signs in nature?

We all know that there's an underlying difference. My point, however, is that this process fills the same emotional need as religious revelation.

baric
2011-Apr-28, 07:17 PM
Here, as elsewhere, you are shoving round pegs into square holes. The "Genesis story" in religion, as well as in science, is about the beginning of the universe. It's not about the beginning of science or about the beginning of religion, as you have represented.

Well, I was using the label "Genesis story" in a broader sense, as I detailed. Yes, the "Genesis" is more specifically analogous to cosmology, abiogenesis and evolution. But we also have a historical foundation to science just as others have historical foundations to their religions (e.g. the Exodus from Egypt).

Perhaps I was a little too succint in my attempt to avoid being overly long-winded. :(

NEOWatcher
2011-Apr-28, 07:30 PM
1) A sense of awe
I'll go along with that one.


2) Revelation
Scientific revelation seems a lot different. Revelations in religion seem to be more about understanding ourselves and feeling comfortable with that. They also seem to change to fit the day rather than refine what they know.
Scientific revalation is more of "oh, that's how that's done".


3) Mysterious ways
Does religion continually eat away at the mystery?


4) Prophecy
It's a matter of testing and retesting. Plenty of scientific "prophecies" come true, and many don't. The difference is that the scientific ones stick, and don't keep re-appearing (ignoring ATM for the moment).


5) Priests & saints
I can accept that analogy.


6) Churches
The same analogy can be said of any meeting place for any group of interests.


7) Genesis story
Religious Genesis story. "this is how it was, now let's discover the details"
Scientific Genesis story. "How was it? Lets find the details to help us know"


1) Supernatural
But isn't there some form of supernatural within the realm of religion?


2) Infallibility
I can agree.


3) Exclusivity – we do not require adherents to discard other religious beliefs.
In my words... there are many different competing and conflicting religious beliefs and truths. In science, the truths are accepted across the spectrum.


4) Purpose
Yep.


5) Death avoidance
Not so much death avoidance as to what is after death.


What is my point of all of this? Does it give ammunition to the common assertion that “science” (or more commonly, atheism) is no different than other religions?
I think you can apply many of the words to both (belief, prediction,etc.). But I don't think you can put those words in the same context.


There are many emotional, intellectual and social needs that are just as easily met by science as by religion and many times the "science is a religion" argument is waged on those terms.
Then why are so many scientist still so religious? Why do so many athiests seek out social groups? Why do so many religious groups study science?
In the end, they have some overlap, but cover considerably different grounds.


This is generally the contrast I make nowadays in my theological discussions with my religious friends.
To be fair to let you know where my comments are coming from... theological discussions make my head spin.

Cougar
2011-Apr-28, 07:31 PM
Does science fill the functional role in the lives of many non-religious people in the way that religious does for others? I think it does.

I don't. :) Science doesn't have places of worship. Science doesn't worship. Science doesn't pray. I think "I don't know" is quite a bit different than "God works in mysterious ways." The basis for knowing anything is just too incompatible between the two. Revelation? Puh-lease! Read Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven and tell me how uplifting and infallible revelation is.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-28, 07:39 PM
1) A sense of awe . . .
I'm reminded of this kxcd (http://xkcd.com/877/) strip.

Gillianren
2011-Apr-28, 07:44 PM
3) Mysterious ways – we’ve all heard the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways”, generally offered for questions that are not easily explainable through religious tenets. We skeptics have our own identical plea of ignorance: “I don’t know.” Both responses suggest an answer that is currently beyond our grasp.

Yes, but "mysterious ways" means we will never know. Why? Because. "I don't know" doesn't mean "I will never know." In science, it means, "I will keep trying to answer the question."


7) Genesis story – there is a foundational story to science just as there are with religions. We know what started, when it started, and who started it. We have specialists (paleontologists & archaeologists) whose purpose is to document the historical record. Even our labeling of the human historical record betrays our bias as well. Pro-science historical eras are known as “the Greek Miracle”, “the Renaissance”, and “the Enlightenment” while a less science-friendly era is often called the “Dark Ages”.

Quick quiz for you, here. Why do we refer to the Enlightenment and the Renaissance and the Dark Ages? Who coined the terms? When were they coined?

Buttercup
2011-Apr-28, 07:50 PM
No.

Religion doesn't require skepticism or objective proof.

You merely only have to "believe" to "know the truth."

That's not science to me.

Swift
2011-Apr-28, 07:58 PM
baric - A very interesting question and a very interesting analysis.

I'm only going to answer this question with regard to my personal emotional state and needs. The biggest commonality between science and religion for me is probably the sense of awe. I'd say a close second is one that you didn't list among the commonalities: the sense of belonging to a community of like-minded people.

jokergirl
2011-Apr-28, 07:58 PM
I would say, respectfully, that the analogies listed are for the most part not terribly valid. Sort of akin to the correlation vs. causality argument.

As a specific example, Revelation in the religious sense implies a direct communication with some transcendental... um... thing. It's not interpretation, or extrapolation, or discovery. It cannot be accessed by your efforts alone, but must be given to you.

I'm afraid the same goes for me. I am against person cult of any sort, be if of rock star physicists or religious icons. Awe is there, but it is not related to the science (though I do sometimes say "this is sooo cool" about some specifically crafty way of figuring something out) but by what it can show me of the universe. And so on.
I'm sorry, but none of those analogies actually go very far for me.

:(

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-28, 08:05 PM
3) Mysterious ways – we’ve all heard the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways”, generally offered for questions that are not easily explainable through religious tenets. We skeptics have our own identical plea of ignorance: “I don’t know.” Both responses suggest an answer that is currently beyond our grasp.
In religion, "mysterious ways" is a declaration that this is where you stop looking because "mysterious ways" is the answer to your question, and no matter what you find it'll be ignored if it goes against our core beliefs.
In science, "I don't know" is a starting gun, it says that this is a place it'll be interesting to start looking.


2) Revelation – we, of course, have our own process of revelation. Instead of parsing tomes or interpreting responses from prayers, we have the scientific method. This process teases out knowledge from the greater unknown which we then assimilate into our existing accumulated body of knowledge. Whereas the religious may reinterpret their canon over time, we tend to rewrite ours as old theories are improved or invalidated.
In religion, no amount of evidence will change the core beliefs and trying to do so is likely to get you kicked out. Historically, changes to core beliefs haven't changed within a religion, it's happened by creating a new one opposed to the old. What happened after that has historically depended on which of them could raise most support, often of a military nature, to destroy the other.

In science, the way to get massive props is to prove a central hypothesis wrong.
It is this constant self examination and testing of core ideas that makes science so utterly different from religion despite any superficial similarities.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-28, 08:10 PM
It's trivially easy to find similarities between any two things, and for that reason I would argue that there is no value in it. It may seem amusing or shocking or even insightful to draw parallels between pairs of things that don't even belong in the same sentence, but it's all surface.

I'm guessing Mike hasn't personally measured the spectra (spectrum?) of a Type 1A supernova. If this is the case, it is almost certainly for reasons of practicality. Given the chance, Mike would probably do it. He would probably be told how to do it, and having been told, he'd probably catch on pretty quickly and do a good job of it. He wouldn't have to exercise any faith, and if he compared his result with that of somebody similarly capable, they'd find they have smiliar results.

As it is, we have to rely on peer reviews and consistent accounts - which, frankly, works rather better than platitudes such as "God moves in mysterious ways" - which smacks of excuse.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-28, 08:11 PM
It is this constant self examination and testing of core ideas that makes science so utterly different from religion despite any superficial similarities.

I wish I'd said this. In fact, I probably will.

baric
2011-Apr-28, 08:50 PM
Thanks for the responses so far.

I want to emphasize that I am not equating science and religion with regards to their efficacy or methods. Those are very clearly different!

But on an emotional level (and we are all ultimately driven by emotion), I believe that they are actually very similar. It is on this level that I think religious people may see science as nothing more than a surrogate for religion -- fairly or not.

For example, science proponents validate new data through the lens of the scientific method... is it repeatable? can we explain it predictively? A religious person will validate data through a theological lens... is it predicted by scripture? how is it explained?

So while they validate new data in distinctly different ways, both science and religion both meet the basic human need of "providing a comprehensive method to interpret data"

Maybe that seems overly generic to you, but that simply could because everyone here has been conditioned to think a bit more rigorously than the average person. I mean, we are literally trained by science to pick apart assertions and look for flaws in reasoning.

baric
2011-Apr-28, 08:56 PM
It is this constant self examination and testing of core ideas that makes science so utterly different from religion despite any superficial similarities.

Not different.

Superior.

Strange
2011-Apr-28, 09:01 PM
I agree with Mike that most of these analogies don't seem very convincing (I might try a more detailed analysis later).


Ok, so what do we not have?

But this may be more important. Ritual? Moral guidelines? Faith?

The usual example used to show how hard it is to define what religion "is" is something like football. A group of like-minded people get together in a special place to share a common experience, with certain rituals and special language & music involved. They believe that the team they follow is better than others. It may be the most important thing in their life. There are people who have a special role and others that they follow/idealise. Etc.

I'm not even sure that considering science (the method) as "just" a philosophy is right either; it has proved too practically useful.

baric
2011-Apr-28, 09:11 PM
The usual example used to show how hard it is to define what religion "is" is something like football. A group of like-minded people get together in a special place to share a common experience, with certain rituals and special language & music involved. They believe that the team they follow is better than others. It may be the most important thing in their life. There are people who have a special role and others that they follow/idealise.

I understand that it one can generalize qualities to the point where any comparison is possible. If I have done that, it was not my intent.

There is a real dynamic tension in society between science and religion, as opposed to football and religion.

My opinion is that this tension is because religions view science as they would any other religion encroaching in on their territory. Maybe this is why scientists are so commonly linked with atheism in comparisons... because explicitly linking science with atheism strengthens their case that there's not a fundamental difference.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-28, 09:27 PM
I think both scientists and religious people crave the truth, and get excited when they think they've found it. So yes, there are similarities when it comes to people's relationship with the thing - whether the thing is science or religion. But that doesn't mean the things that motivate this behaviour and response are similar. You might as well draw parallels with sporting events. (ETA - I posted this before I'd read the posts that draw comparisons with football.)

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-28, 09:34 PM
My opinion is that this tension is because religions view science as they would any other religion encroaching in on their territory.

If so (and it probably is the case) that is their mistake.

Science can be likened to religion only if you ignore the most essential differences. In which case you might as well claim that a cat is just another breed of dog.

baric
2011-Apr-28, 09:46 PM
Science can be likened to religion only if you ignore the most essential differences. In which case you might as well claim that a cat is just another breed of dog.

Right, but those "essential differences" are only defined as "essential" by science. It's a form of self-validation. A religion may consider the those differences to be trivial compared to their "essential" claims of purpose, infallibility and death avoidance.

Adherents on both sides then get to enjoy the smugness that comes from feeling correct. (I'm not intending to use "smug" in a negative way... I simply can't think of a more neutral term for it at the moment.)

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-28, 09:49 PM
Right, but those "essential differences" are only defined as "essential" by science.

No, they are defined by people who understand both religion and science.

baric
2011-Apr-28, 09:56 PM
No, they are defined by people who understand both religion and science.

ok, can you give me a quick example of what you mean by an essential difference? Doesn't have to be detailed.. I just want to be sure that we are on the same page.

Strange
2011-Apr-28, 10:07 PM
Surely, one essential difference is that science produces useful/practical results and religion doesn't. Apart from the important (but rather abstract) function of making people feel good.

Gillianren
2011-Apr-28, 10:22 PM
Look, I'm a religious person. More than a few people around here are. And I can tell you one great whopping difference between the two--which you have been told before--is that religion tends to assume that it has all the answers going in. Religions don't really do the questioning thing. Science exists strictly for the purpose of questioning.

wd40
2011-Apr-28, 10:25 PM
Surely, one essential difference is that science produces useful/practical results and religion doesn't. Apart from the important (but rather abstract) function of making people feel good.

The evolution of the so-called "God-Center" in the brain, which even Dawkins admits confers a survival advantage http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2003/godonbrain.shtml
may have made it that religion and spirituality makes people live 20% longer, so 'feeling good' does have more than just an 'abstract function'
http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20081125/attend-religious-services-live-longer
http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/spirituality-may-help-people-live-longer

baric
2011-Apr-28, 11:02 PM
Surely, one essential difference is that science produces useful/practical results and religion doesn't.

Yes, that is certainly an essential difference to the adherents of science. It is not so essential to religions. And when a result is deemed to be so, it is easily explained away as divine inspiration! :P

Van Rijn
2011-Apr-29, 12:47 AM
The people I've had arguments with on the "science as religion" claim simply had world views that were quite different from mine, to the point where they could not understand the idea of building a position through supporting objective evidence, or were trying to forcefit things into science that didn't belong there. I remember hitting my head against the wall in more than a few discussions before I finally realized that with some people there simply would be no meeting of minds, because some aren't even starting with the same conceptual framework.




1) A sense of awe – I know that I am not alone in this among non-believers.


Well, sure, and I expect that most also can laugh, cry, feel pain and happiness. That shows we're the same species with similar neurology. I don't know what it has to do with the process of science, though.

I'm not going to bother with the other items, except this:



4) Purpose – although some humanist philosophies try to carry this water, science as a whole presumes a purposeless life. This is a key missing element compared to traditional religions.


No, science doesn't presume a purposeless life. It simply isn't an objectively arguable issue, so it's entirely outside the scope of science.

Swift
2011-Apr-29, 01:29 AM
<snip>
I want to emphasize that I am not equating science and religion with regards to their efficacy or methods. Those are very clearly different!

But on an emotional level (and we are all ultimately driven by emotion), I believe that they are actually very similar. It is on this level that I think religious people may see science as nothing more than a surrogate for religion -- fairly or not.

I find it interesting that though you have made that clear (at least to me) from beginning of the thread, most of the responses have not been with regard to the question of how science and religion address various human "functional needs" ("emotional, intellectual and social needs"), but have addressed the differences between science and religion. Though I am very much a non-religious person, there almost seems to be a defensiveness that there is even a comparison between science and religion.

I think there may be something significant there, and it might even relate to your question; that it may relate to what different people seek in the world and how they see science and/or religion meeting or hindering those different needs. (I have a bunch of jumbled thoughts in my head about this that I can't quite express with my fingers....)

baric
2011-Apr-29, 02:08 AM
I find it interesting that though you have made that clear (at least to me) from beginning of the thread, most of the responses have not been with regard to the question of how science and religion address various human "functional needs" ("emotional, intellectual and social needs"), but have addressed the differences between science and religion. Though I am very much a non-religious person, there almost seems to be a defensiveness that there is even a comparison between science and religion.

Well, I can't speak to any defensiveness but yeah, I think you understand the point I'm trying to make. Maybe it's a nuanced point and I'm doing a poor job of expressing it.

Like Van Rijn mentioned, a lot of "non-science" people seem to think on different wavelengths and are therefore impervious to our robust evidence-based arguments.

These people enjoy many non-science related benefits from their religion (obviously) and so when they see us enjoying most of those same benefits, our "science is not a religion" arguments fall flat. In fact, it falls short because of the things that science does not provide us.

Although I don't want this to devolve into a "how to debate a religious person" post, my thoughts along these lines definitely arose out of my inability to connect with some religious friends whom I consider otherwise(!) very intelligent.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-29, 02:20 AM
For me, the reason for focusing on the difference is that I though the OP seriously misrepresented science as I experience it, which means the list of similarities was wrong in how I experience science.

Gillianren
2011-Apr-29, 03:57 AM
It doesn't do much for how I experience religion, come to that.

Tensor
2011-Apr-29, 04:30 AM
My opinion is that this tension is because religions view science as they would any other religion encroaching in on their territory.

My opinion would be that the tension is there, not so much for encroaching, but because religions fear that science will at some time show that there is no basis for religion.


Maybe this is why scientists are so commonly linked with atheism in comparisons... because explicitly linking science with atheism strengthens their case that there's not a fundamental difference.

Or, could it be that religious people believe that any one who accepts a scientific explanation for the creation of the universe and the development of humans obviously can't believe in the religions creator, hence they have to be atheist. No need for a worrying about a fundemental difference.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-29, 04:55 AM
My opinion would be that the tension is there, not so much for encroaching, but because religions fear that science will at some time show that there is no basis for religion.
Or possibly a bigger thread, figure out what it is that makes humans susceptible to religious thinking in the first place.

Solfe
2011-Apr-29, 04:58 AM
(editorial note - I not likely in the correct state of mind to be posting at all, so I will keep it short.)

I could buy that science can fulfill the same roles as religion, but not by the case by case examples given in the OP. I would hazard a guess that any human endeavor could so long as that endeavor grants an image/aspect of "rightness", "properness", "correctness", and/or well-being.

When I paint it is obvious that there is a rightness or properness about the activity when I accomplish what I set out to do. It is very pleasing when I succeeded and a "lossy" feeling when I fail. I could ascribe those feelings to any number of things outside of myself, such as the numbers of moles of chemicals applied to the medium. But that isn't really the source of the feeling, it is the interaction and the activity itself that is so pleasing or displeasing.

I would imaging there are many people who feel awed or even "religious" while camping, sculpting, driving the perfect line, working hard equation, jogging, going to church, writing a sonnet/poem, etc. If you can measure how "right you are with the world/creation/your life/etc" there has to be rod to measure it by. What activity you have engaged in that causes that feeling IS the rod.

So in my mind it could be any number of things that confer that feeling/benefit, including science.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 07:20 AM
ok, can you give me a quick example of what you mean by an essential difference? Doesn't have to be detailed.. I just want to be sure that we are on the same page.

Well one very obvious and very significant difference is that religions are centred around a supernatural god or gods whose "existence" is demonstrated only in scripture or some form of divine revelation (such as a holy man's dream), or in some cases it's a label applied to some natural phenomenon that was not understood at the time (the sun, the wind... or, very recently, the tides!). A religious person is required to believe in one or more of these unseen or misidentified gods, and to take the god's words as gospel. Predictions take the form of prophecy (i.e. the god's plan is revealed to somebody); it's usually vaguely worded, and if it doesn't come to pass, this is explained away - "The god saw that you were repentant and so he changed his mind." The religion might undergo changes for external reasons (e.g. a king wants a divorce) but not because of new information. Questioning or criticising the tenets of a religion is generally considered a poor career choice.

Science does not feature any kind of god - even if the scientist himself or herself is a religious person. Nothing is taken on faith, except in the sense that assumptions sometimes have to be made for purely practical reasons - and this is usually on a temporary basis. Scientists' work is scrutinised and held to account. Theories are based on data, not the other way round, and theories change to accommodate surprising data. Predictions are clearly defined, and if the results are not as predicted, it is accepted that the prediction was wrong, no excuses, no wriggles. (Compare with, "You said that if I prayed, the god would cure my blindness, but I still can't see." "Ah, but the god cured your spiritual blindness!")

I don't think I'm saying much new here, not even new to the thread, and I don't think anyone - religious or scientific - would disagree with either of these descriptions or disagree that they are fundamental (but if anyone does, please let me know what I got wrong).

Why do sciency-types recoil at comparisons between religion and science? Well, to put it politely (this is BAUT after all, and I notice everybody is being polite), religion is not, to my mind, a reasonable way of seeking the truth. Science is a truly noble endeavour; it is better than painting your face, chanting, inhaling incense and burning animal entrails, and any suggestion that it is not better is insulting.

IsaacKuo
2011-Apr-29, 08:03 AM
Does science fill the functional role in the lives of many non-religious people in the way that religious does for others? I think it does.

I would say yes, but not for the reasons you state. As I see it, many people have fundamental misunderstandings about what science is and what it means. As such, they use science beyond its appropriate boundaries.

For example, one functional role of religion is to provide guidance over what is moral and what is not. This is not something which can be addressed with what is properly called science--scientific experiments and theory can only observe and predict, they can't assign moral values. Nevertheless, there are many Objectivists, Social Darwinists, Environmentalists, Atheists, and various other -ists who believe their moral imperatives are derived from a scientific basis.

Conversely, one functional role of religion is to explain the world. Various fundamentalists treat their religion as the authority on things like the geological history of the Earth and animals and so on. These are things which science is used to explain.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-29, 08:58 AM
[QUOTE=Paul Beardsley;1882309]I don't think I'm saying much new here, not even new to the thread, and I don't think anyone - religious or scientific - would disagree with either of these descriptions or disagree that they are fundamental (but if anyone does, please let me know what I got wrong)./QUOTE]
Only in forgetting that there are religions without gods, though they do tend to have some equivalent to invisible nano gnomes that they imagined to explain how things work.

Strange
2011-Apr-29, 09:45 AM
The evolution of the so-called "God-Center" in the brain, which even Dawkins admits confers a survival advantage http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2003/godonbrain.shtml
may have made it that religion and spirituality makes people live 20% longer, so 'feeling good' does have more than just an 'abstract function'
http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20081125/attend-religious-services-live-longer
http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/spirituality-may-help-people-live-longer

I don't deny that religion is useful, even important. And, if you take a purely evolutionary view, that is why it exists. (On the other hand, if you take the religious view, it exists because your God/gods exist). But that isn't what I meant. Science is productive: we have all sorts of advances because of it. Religion has those practical benefits it exists to satisfy, but that's it. We don't get new medical treatments, communication devices, etc from religion. Although, as a branch of philosophy, religion does provide a basis for debating morals/ethics. But I'm not sure religion is necessary for that.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-29, 09:54 AM
Although, as a branch of philosophy, religion does provide a basis for debating morals/ethics. But I'm not sure religion is necessary for that.
It is entirely possible to develop a moral code without resorting to the big beard in the sky who told us what to do and beats us if we don't.
It requires a bit of personal work to actually think things through rather than blindly following rules laid down by others, which may be a reason why many religions claim that people without religion can't have morals, since this is work their followers never had to do and therefore have not idea about the possibility of.
Interestingly, such a moral code can often be more moral (when evaluated from the outside) towards more people because a feature of many religion defined moral codes is that they differentiate between believers or non-believers in which actions are considered moral, something less likely to be a feature of a moral code not derived from a religion.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 10:06 AM
Does science fill the functional role in the lives of many non-religious people in the way that religious does for others? I think it does.

Coming back to this point, I note that the "functional role" as detailed in the OP is mainly limited to the "understanding the universe" role of religion and science. There are other aspects of the role.

BAUT is similar to a church in that a group of like-minded people (or at least people with an interest in common) gather in one place - congregate, if you will. However, it is different to a church in that we are not here to pray, or confess (except in the most informal sense - like the thread on hurting onesself), or to focus on our sins (unless we're receiving a moderator infraction!), or to listen to a sermon (engaging in discussion is not similar to this). Crucially, we do not feel obliged to come here - there's no going to hell for oversleeping on a Sunday morning! We do not regard Phil Plait as a god or a pope or even a priest - he is simply somebody who is good at what he does.

I cite this as one piece of evidence that when people try to argue that science and/or atheism is just another religion, they always emphasise wholly superficial similarities, and ignore the show-stoppingly fundamental differences.

But what else do people get from religion? Morality has already been mentioned. Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and the interesting thing about this is, it feels right. It doesn't matter if Jesus was a fictional character, or a charismatic (but mortal) leader, or the actual Son of God, and it doesn't matter if people said similar things in ancient Babylon or China thousands of years earlier. The fact remains that it's a piece of wisdom which most of us can relate to. It doesn't come from science, but scientists and non-scientists are happy to adopt wisdom simply because it's wise.

People get a sense of belonging from religion. But they also get it from being part of a nation, a political group, an interest group or whatever.

People get advice about their personal lives from priests. But they also get advice from secular sources.

In summary, the several roles that religion plays has for many people been taken by various other institutions, not just science. In some cases not science at all.


1) A sense of awe – I know that I am not alone in this among non-believers. Any time that I apply myself to understanding some unfamiliar mystery of the universe (stellar dynamics is my mystery de jour), my awe of the complexity and elegance of the natural world is inevitably re-inspired. While the religious may look at the world and see the hand of God, I experience the same feeling sans the divine providence. The awe is still there, and that’s what is persuasive.

This is just about as "highlight the superficial similarities and ignore the fundamental differences" as you can get.


2) Revelation – we, of course, have our own process of revelation. Instead of parsing tomes or interpreting responses from prayers, we have the scientific method. This process teases out knowledge from the greater unknown which we then assimilate into our existing accumulated body of knowledge. Whereas the religious may reinterpret their canon over time, we tend to rewrite ours as old theories are improved or invalidated.

And so is this!


3) Mysterious ways – we’ve all heard the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways”, generally offered for questions that are not easily explainable through religious tenets. We skeptics have our own identical plea of ignorance: “I don’t know.” Both responses suggest an answer that is currently beyond our grasp.

But this one causes me to raise my hackles the most. How can you use the word "identical" for something that isn't even similar? "I don't know" is an honest admission of the limitations of science. "What is under the Europan ice?" "Well, there might be an ocean, and there might be some form of life akin to the terrestrial creatures that live on the floors of our oceans, but the truth is, we don't know at this stage, and we probably won't know until we've sent a probe to burrow through the ice..." Whereas the "mysterious ways" expression is merely a way of handwaving away inconsistencies.



4) Prophecy – we use science to predict the future constantly. This is also an important aspect of religions because it gives adherents a confidence in the correctness of their religion, especially when they see predictions fulfilled.

Science predicts results (not always about the future). Science tends to deal with probabilities (e.g. weather forecasting) and it bases predictions on data and understood mechanisms. If it gets it wrong, it refines or replaces the procedure. This is not similar to prophecy.


5) Priests & saints – our analogue, of course, is our class of scientists and academics. They are literally the keepers and finders of our knowledge. They function similarly to their religious counterparts and serve as counsel when we do not understand some article of knowledge. And we revere great scientists in history much like saints.

We admire people who are good at what they do in all walks of life. That's not the same as revering them, and it's by no means limited to scientists. Sir Isaac Newton has as much in common with Bruce Springsteen or David Beckham as he has with St Paul.


1) Supernatural – it is simply incompatible with our adherence to skepticism. This is a trivial loss, as we simply define it out of existence.

I wouldn't call it a trivial loss.


3) Exclusivity – we do not require adherents to discard other religious beliefs. You can be an adherent to science and also be a Christian, Muslim, etc. While this seems like a huge difference between science and traditional religions, it’s really not. There are many historical examples of growing religions allowing their newest converts to retain many of their existing beliefs and practices – sometimes to the point of incorporating them into the religion.

Again, it's all surfaces. Aspects of the convert's tradition may be tolerated if they do not contradict the fundamentals, but you can't be a Muslim and a Jew.


5) Death avoidance – yeah, this is the biggest hurdle for a lot of people. But, in fairness, we do have our top scientists working on the problem!

Fundamental to the human condition. It's not surprising to find it a key concern in more than one area.


What is my point of all of this? Does it give ammunition to the common assertion that “science” (or more commonly, atheism) is no different than other religions? In certain aspects, it does.

Only among religious people who have a vested interest in proving that science and/or atheism is no different (and therefore no better) than their beliefs. (I was guilty of this at one time.)


There are many emotional, intellectual and social needs that are just as easily met by science as by religion and many times the "science is a religion" argument is waged on those terms.

It's a bogus argument.

Strange
2011-Apr-29, 10:28 AM
Yes, that is certainly an essential difference to the adherents of science. It is not so essential to religions. And when a result is deemed to be so, it is easily explained away as divine inspiration! :P

That is more of a science vs religion rather than science as religion.

Going back to your point about awe. I don't think it is science itself that inspires awe, rather it is the world around us. In the first instance, this is true of the religious view as well.

Anyone can see a rainbow and go: Wow!

Some poet (Keats?) complained that the rainbow had been diminished by being explained. Perhaps that is a key difference i outlook. Some people are happy to only look at the superficial [not meant in pejorative sense] nature of things and be awed by that. As scientists (and engineers) we like to take things apart and look at what lies beneath.

A religious person might then think, "God created it": Wow again!

A science-minded will initially find out (as a kid) "raindrops ... reflection" and think: Wow. And then find out more about "refractive indexes ... splitting of colours" and think: Wow. Then " ... QED ..." and think Wow again. (So, arguably, the scientists are better off :))

But ultimately, it isn't the "science" that awes, it is the various levels of our universe that science reveals. OK. There might be occasional moments when you think it is pretty cool that this whole approach works, but that isn't the main motivation.

tnjrp
2011-Apr-29, 10:48 AM
People get a sense of belonging from religion. But they also get it from being part of a nation, a political group, an interest group or whateverRather. Entertaining for a while the notion that science indeed is a form of religion, the challenge becomes to find an area of human endeavour that, by the same criteria, is not a form religion as well. When and if this challenge out to be a difficult one, the entire argument starts to get seriously undermined by rapidly vanishing lack of meaning to the term "religion".

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 10:55 AM
Rather. Entertaining for a while the notion that science indeed is a form of religion, the challenge becomes to find an area of human endeavour that, by the same criteria, is not a form religion as well. When and if this challenge out to be a difficult one, the entire argument starts to get seriously undermined by rapidly vanishing lack of meaning to the term "religion".

Brilliant point!

Strange
2011-Apr-29, 11:02 AM
On the science as religion question; I think the answer is clearly no. (I get the impression it is just used as a kind of ad hom by some of those attacking the results of science.)

and on religion vs. science, i don't think that is the real issue. Surely it is rationality vs. irrationality. There are religious people who accept science and even work in science (we have many here, I'm sure). There are people who will not accept a rational, evidence-based argument. This is not, necessarily, anything to do with religion. They may be fundamentalists or believe in UFOs as aliens, conspiracy theories, etc. But are these a result of their mindset, rather than the reason for it?

baric
2011-Apr-29, 12:18 PM
Why do sciency-types recoil at comparisons between religion and science? Well, to put it politely (this is BAUT after all, and I notice everybody is being polite), religion is not, to my mind, a reasonable way of seeking the truth. Science is a truly noble endeavour; it is better than painting your face, chanting, inhaling incense and burning animal entrails, and any suggestion that it is not better is insulting.

ok, for starters... that religion is not reasonable is true by definition (per 'reason'). That science is noble is your personal opinion and obviously influenced by your bias -- which I share, btw! However, I am currently having off and on conversations with a religious friend who is currently engaged in the noble activity of saving my soul so not everyone shares our opinion :P

Science is demonstrably better than religion at tasks it values as more important (i.e. accurate accumulation of knowledge).

No one is even saying their methods are comparable. But the role they fill in the lives of their adherents is fairly comparable.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 12:28 PM
Rather. Entertaining for a while the notion that science indeed is a form of religion, the challenge becomes to find an area of human endeavour that, by the same criteria, is not a form religion as well. When and if this challenge out to be a difficult one, the entire argument starts to get seriously undermined by rapidly vanishing lack of meaning to the term "religion".

Religion and science (as naturalism) both fall under the umbrella of worldviews.

To argue that those broad ideologies for which billions of people are passionate and for which wars have been waged, are comparable to watching football (an earlier example) is just a cynical refusal to address the topic as relevant. That is a perfectly appropriate response to certain topics. I just don't believe that this is one.

tnjrp
2011-Apr-29, 12:36 PM
Religion and science (as naturalism) both fall under the umbrella of worldviewsNaturalism is indeed a worldview, or more properly a part thereof. The same can be said of political views and relation to art, for example.

Now to some obviously politics is hardly more deep a passion than watching football. To some, it is much more than that. Is it then their religion? If not, why not?

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 01:15 PM
No one is even saying their methods are comparable. But the role they fill in the lives of their adherents is fairly comparable.

It seems to me that you are sticking by your list of analogies, and ignoring the many counter-arguments.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 01:28 PM
It seems to me that you are sticking by your list of analogies, and ignoring the many counter-arguments.

The counter-arguments are generally variations on "science is not religion" and "science is better than religion", both of which I agree with, so they don't really change the analogies.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 01:30 PM
Naturalism is indeed a worldview, or more properly a part thereof. The same can be said of political views and relation to art, for example.

Now to some obviously politics is hardly more deep a passion than watching football. To some, it is much more than that. Is it then their religion? If not, why not?

To some people, politics is obviously a religion in that it provides a lens through which people view the world.

Football? Not so much.

Cougar
2011-Apr-29, 01:39 PM
I mean, we are literally trained by science to pick apart assertions and look for flaws in reasoning.

The main point of a conference I went to recently was that this tendency was much more fundamental, that it derives from the reptilian part of our brains. If someone claims, "This is how it is," how do you respond?

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 01:46 PM
The counter-arguments are generally variations on "science is not religion" and "science is better than religion", both of which I agree with, so they don't really change the analogies.

No they are not. They are generally variations on "this is not a valid analogy" and I think you should address them.

Buttercup
2011-Apr-29, 01:58 PM
I often find it interesting (and amusing) that religion likes to pose alongside science, or at least try and ride its coattails (in an attempt to make itself more credible)...and meanwhile science does NOT try the reverse. I've known clergy with advanced degrees who are still as credulous and superstitious as their less-educated parishoners. :(

MicVR
2011-Apr-29, 02:21 PM
Interesting topic indeed.

I am a practicing scientist and I am not religious in the common sense.
I'd say science and religion have a lot more in common than the average scientist is prepared to admit.
Essentially, both try to make sense of the perceived world we seem to find ourselves in. Both are in search of "truth".
And both make a lot of axiomatic assumptions in that quest.

Yes, the average scientist likes to think that their methodology is superior, citing testability amongst other fundamental scientific demands. Not realizing, however, that science is based ENTIRELY on a system of (axiomatic) beliefs. The belief, for example, that there is an independent reality out there. Or, that there is such a thing as time within which events take place (without time there can be no causality, no predictability, no history). Etc, etc.
Those are beliefs and nothing but beliefs.

He doesn't sound like a scientist I hear you saying. Why, then, do you bother practicing science, you may ask.
Simple: because I like it! I like to engage my mind in a scientific way. I passionately enjoy it. Very much.

But I have no illusions whatsoever, that science has anything to do with truth or a deep understanding of the perceived world.
The underlying belief system is simply too vast and inherently untestable - just as religious beliefs are.
Science may not postulate deities but at the end of the day it is an inherently untestable belief system and it that sense it IS a religion.

And - both fulfill a deeply rooted human need, which can be seen by the violent (if only verbally) and fundamentalist stances believers on both sides exhibit.
Why are people violently fundamentalist about their beliefs? Because they need their beliefs to be true in order to make sense of the perceived world.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 02:56 PM
Yes, the average scientist likes to think that their methodology is superior, citing testability amongst other fundamental scientific demands. Not realizing, however, that science is based ENTIRELY on a system of (axiomatic) beliefs.

I agree with his.


The belief, for example, that there is an independent reality out there.

Let me provide a relevant quote from Conan the Barbarian: :P

"Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me."

In other words, we must begin with the assumption that there's an objective reality out there because we are part of it. And if we are, it's real to us. Cogito ergo sum and all that.


But I have no illusions whatsoever, that science has anything to do with truth or a deep understanding of the perceived world.

I do, on the other hand. Science works!



The underlying belief system is simply too vast and inherently untestable - just as religious beliefs are.
Science may not postulate deities but at the end of the day it is an inherently untestable belief system and it that sense it IS a religion.

I don't believe that science is a religion. I think it fills the role of religion for many people who are not otherwise religious.


And - both fulfill a deeply rooted human need, which can be seen by the violent (if only verbally) and fundamentalist stances believers on both sides exhibit.
Why are people violently fundamentalist about their beliefs? Because they need their beliefs to be true in order to make sense of the perceived world.

Agreed.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Apr-29, 03:29 PM
Not realizing, however, that science is based ENTIRELY on a system of (axiomatic) beliefs.
Any system starts out with axioms, we're sticking with the ones we have because they work and are really quite minimal. Just how minimal seems to be something you fail to grasp when you call them too vast.

The claim that science is based ENTIRELY in the axioms is just flat out wrong, since it ignores the sum total of experimental data.
It's like claiming that a twenty-three tier wedding cake is based ENTIRELY out of the two small figures on top.


The axioms are really simple:

There exists a (partially) observable reality.
There are no special cases.


The rest of science is bookkeeping and making models that fit observations under the assumption of those axioms.

Occam's razor, the scientific method and the other tools are ones of good taste, based on experience of what works, rather than axioms.

Individual hypotheses make assumptions, but these assumptions are part of the definition of the hypothesis and if shown to conflict with observations the hypothesis, including the assumptions, is revised, thus the assumptions aren't axioms of science.

Gillianren
2011-Apr-29, 04:29 PM
To some people, politics is obviously a religion in that it provides a lens through which people view the world.

Football? Not so much.

You haven't met many hardcore football fans, have you?

baric
2011-Apr-29, 04:38 PM
You haven't met many hardcore football fans, have you?

haha, maybe not!

Strange
2011-Apr-29, 04:45 PM
Essentially, both try to make sense of the perceived world we seem to find ourselves in. Both are in search of "truth".

I'm not sure science is in search of "truth". It may have been once, but I think most scientists (and, certainly the vast majority of philosophers of science) consider the purpose of science to come up with a better description of the world.


The belief, for example, that there is an independent reality out there.

There have been many, many (too many?) threads about the nature of such a reality, whether it exists and whether we can ever know it. (The consensus on the last two seems to be probably and probably not).

But this assumption is irrelevant to the scientific method. Even if the entire universe only exists as a figment of my imagination or whatever other philosphical stance you want to tak, science still works as a good (= practical) way of understanding it and making use of it.

A more important assumption is that the universe is consistent and can be understood by means of logic, experiment and mathematics. Quite surprisingly, this appears to be true. (And there might be a religious explanation for that!)


Or, that there is such a thing as time within which events take place (without time there can be no causality, no predictability, no history).

Most modern physics doesn't seem to require time - at least not in the sense we are used to it.


Those are beliefs and nothing but beliefs.

True. But they seem to work - i.e. produce practical results. Which some other types of belief don't. I don't think this makes the former beliefs superior, just more useful.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 06:15 PM
He doesn't sound like a scientist I hear you saying.

Yes, some of us were saying this last year when you previously appeared.


Why, then, do you bother practicing science, you may ask.

You assume we're interested.

Anyway, enough sidetracking. baric, you have some points to address.

IsaacKuo
2011-Apr-29, 06:28 PM
I'd say science and religion have a lot more in common than the average scientist is prepared to admit.
Essentially, both try to make sense of the perceived world we seem to find ourselves in. Both are in search of "truth".
And both make a lot of axiomatic assumptions in that quest.
I disagree. As I see it, science makes NO axiomatic assumptions. Not a single one.

Fundamentally, science is the practice of using the scientific method to test hypotheses. If can't be tested, it's not science. Axiomatic assumptions are assumptions that are assumed to be true, rather than assumptions which can be tested. As such, axiomatic assumptions aren't fundamental to science. Scientists use a lot of assumptions, but they're all working assumptions--assumptions that are part of hypotheses.


Any system starts out with axioms, we're sticking with the ones we have because they work and are really quite minimal. Just how minimal seems to be something you fail to grasp when you call them too vast.

The claim that science is based ENTIRELY in the axioms is just flat out wrong, since it ignores the sum total of experimental data.
It's like claiming that a twenty-three tier wedding cake is based ENTIRELY out of the two small figures on top.

The axioms are really simple:
1. There exists a (partially) observable reality.
2. There are no special cases.

Neither of those are axiomatic assumptions of science.

Science does not need an observable reality to exist. Is there a way to test the difference between an observable reality which exists and merely the perfect illusion of one? No, there's no test which can rule out solipsism. Therefore, it's not science. Rather, science and scientific theories are equally valid whether they are refering to a reality that really exists or merely a perfect illusion.

Science does not rest upon the assumption that there are no special cases. It's a hypothesis which is testable. It's difficult to test, but in principle it's possible to observe all events everywhere to check for any special cases. If it turns out that there are special cases, then this hypothesis is rejected--not science as a whole.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 07:43 PM
I disagree. As I see it, science makes NO axiomatic assumptions. Not a single one.

hmmm....


If can't be tested, it's not science.

That requirement for testing contains an implicit axiom that the universe works consistently from test to test.

It's a reasonable axiom, though!

Strange
2011-Apr-29, 07:47 PM
But I have no illusions whatsoever, that science has anything to do with truth or a deep understanding of the perceived world.

Surely, science is all about getting a better understanding of the perceived world. As you say, that may not have anything to do with whether or not there is an underlying reality. Science is all about useful models and the nature of "reality" is more philosophy than science.

* "truth" is not a very useful concept in science; although it may be in religion

IsaacKuo
2011-Apr-29, 08:09 PM
That requirement for testing contains an implicit axiom that the universe works consistently from test to test.

It's a reasonable axiom, though!
It's not an axiom, it's an implicit working assumption of most scientific hypotheses.

For example, the hypothesis that F=MA is that F is ALWAYS equal to M times A--everywhere, every time. A subset of "everywhere, every time" is every place and time relevant to scientific experimental test results.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 08:21 PM
It's not an axiom, it's an implicit working assumption of most scientific hypotheses.

Are we splitting hairs?

An axiom is a proposition that is assumed to be true without the need for demonstration. How is that different from an 'implicit working assumption'.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 08:23 PM
I see you are continuing to dodge the key issues, baric.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 08:25 PM
I see you are continuing to dodge the key issues, baric.

The longer you keep insisting I respond to your posts in a non-ATM forum, the longer you will have to wait.

Nothing personal.

Cougar
2011-Apr-29, 08:26 PM
That requirement for testing contains an implicit axiom that the universe works consistently from test to test.


And that "assumption" has been tested since the idea of testing hypotheses was first hit upon. Apparently, it is still batting a thousand.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 08:28 PM
And that "assumption" has been tested since the idea of testing hypotheses was first hit upon. Apparently, it is still batting a thousand.

a ha! Except when tests are not repeatable. :P

But yes, I agree with you.

Cougar
2011-Apr-29, 08:36 PM
I'd say science and religion... both try to make sense of the perceived world we seem to find ourselves in.

I disagree. To make sense is to be reasonable or understandable. To be reasonable is to be agreeable to reason or sound judgment; to be logical. Religion doesn't try to do this. Science does.

baric
2011-Apr-29, 08:46 PM
I disagree. To make sense is to be reasonable or understandable. To be reasonable is to be agreeable to reason or sound judgment; to be logical. Religion doesn't try to do this. Science does.

oh, I think it tries. Centuries of theological scholarship will attest to that. It just has worked about as well as building a castle in a swamp.

IsaacKuo
2011-Apr-29, 09:05 PM
Are we splitting hairs?

An axiom is a proposition that is assumed to be true without the need for demonstration. How is that different from an 'implicit working assumption'.
The truth of an axiom is taken for granted. The truth of a working assumption is not taken for granted.

All scientific hypotheses are working assumptions, and all scientific tests are built around determining whether or not those working assumptions are true. Sometimes they are validated. Sometimes they are disproven. That's the essence of science.

Van Rijn
2011-Apr-29, 09:40 PM
The longer you keep insisting I respond to your posts in a non-ATM forum, the longer you will have to wait.

Nothing personal.

And I'm suddenly far less interested in this topic. You may not be required to respond per the rules, but if you aren't willing to respond to counter-arguments, what's the point of a discussion?

Paul Beardsley
2011-Apr-29, 10:04 PM
And I'm suddenly far less interested in this topic. You may not be required to respond per the rules, but if you aren't willing to respond to counter-arguments, what's the point of a discussion?

Agreed. I am not going to waste any more time on baric's non-discussion.

pzkpfw
2011-Apr-29, 10:51 PM
Just a general mod-note to the thread: it's true that no one has to reply to a question, in a thread in the "Off Topic Babbling" section.

What effect that has on the discussion and resulting participation is up to each individual member to decide.

(However, impoliteness is not allowed anywhere, so let's all be careful with our reactions, please).

((Edit to add: I should also point out that there is no "owner" of an off topic babbling thread, either. As long as it's kept on topic (of the thread) discussion on the various points can continue with or without participation of the OP.))

baric
2011-Apr-30, 01:12 AM
The truth of an axiom is taken for granted. The truth of a working assumption is not taken for granted.

All scientific hypotheses are working assumptions, and all scientific tests are built around determining whether or not those working assumptions are true. Sometimes they are validated. Sometimes they are disproven. That's the essence of science.

hang on. I said that the assumption that the universe is consistent is an axiom and you said no, it is a working assumption.

We were not talking about the theories themselves, but about this assumption of consistency that allows us to discard theories when they are not repeatable.

No one tests that assumption... EVER. If an experiment does not repeat as expected, we always assume there is something wrong with the experiment, not our underlying premise that the universe is consistent.

baric
2011-Apr-30, 01:16 AM
And I'm suddenly far less interested in this topic. You may not be required to respond per the rules, but if you aren't willing to respond to counter-arguments, what's the point of a discussion?

Wait a minute. On weekdays, I work. When I visit BAUT during those hours, it is usually in small portions of time.

Regardless of the timing, if you think I am going to let anyone badger me into answering their questions on any topic, you are mistaken. I will get to it when I have time to go over his post and make a cogent enough response to where we can either agree, or agree to disagree.

Cougar
2011-Apr-30, 01:21 AM
Essentially, both try to make sense of the perceived world we seem to find ourselves in.


I disagree. To make sense is to be reasonable or understandable. To be reasonable is to be agreeable to reason or sound judgment; to be logical. Religion doesn't try to do this. Science does.


oh, I think it tries. Centuries of theological scholarship will attest to that. It just has worked about as well as building a castle in a swamp.

Well, yeah, and that's probably because "theological scholarship" appears to be generally the study of religion! - not the study of the world around us. To its credit, however, religion(s) tend to be more concerned with human interaction, something often not particularly susceptible to scientific analysis. :)

pzkpfw
2011-Apr-30, 01:52 AM
Wait a minute. ...

I need to be more blunt: EVERYBODY please stop this line of "discussion".

baric
2011-Apr-30, 01:53 AM
Agreed. I am not going to waste any more time on baric's non-discussion.

Paul, now that I am home and have time to give your post a proper response, I will do so. You are free to ignore it or not.

For starters, I want to remind you and anyone else that at no point am I comparing the efficacy or methods of science to religion. In my mind, these areas are vastly different and science is the superior approach. That is precisely why I am not religious!


Now you said this...

Science can be likened to religion only if you ignore the most essential differences. In which case you might as well claim that a cat is just another breed of dog.

I asked for example differences, and you wrote this.. which I will respond to.


Well one very obvious and very significant difference is that religions are centred around a supernatural god or gods whose "existence" is demonstrated only in scripture or some form of divine revelation (such as a holy man's dream), or in some cases it's a label applied to some natural phenomenon that was not understood at the time (the sun, the wind... or, very recently, the tides!). A religious person is required to believe in one or more of these unseen or misidentified gods, and to take the god's words as gospel.

That's probably an overgeneralization, but I will agree that it is certainly a difference between science and religion. In fact, how information is acquired and validated is arguably THE key difference between science and religion.

But my point is that the average person does not concern himself with the methodology. The human need for explanations of how the world works is filled adequately by both science and religion. That is the similarity I am referring to.


Predictions take the form of prophecy (i.e. the god's plan is revealed to somebody); it's usually vaguely worded, and if it doesn't come to pass, this is explained away - "The god saw that you were repentant and so he changed his mind." The religion might undergo changes for external reasons (e.g. a king wants a divorce) but not because of new information. Questioning or criticising the tenets of a religion is generally considered a poor career choice.

Actually, religious prophecies are more involved than you suggest. Many come from scholarship of canon (a shaky foundation, to be sure). In addition, many natural phenomena were predicted with accuracy in pre-science times and explained supernaturally.

But ultimately, predictions are made by both religion and science. Some come to pass and others do not. Do scientists ever make an inaccurate prediction? Of course they do... every night on the weather channel! To the layman, how is couching their predictions in statistical error bars any different a religious failure? In both cases, the predictors are able to explain away failures while retaining credibility to make future predictions.


Science does not feature any kind of god - even if the scientist himself or herself is a religious person. Nothing is taken on faith, except in the sense that assumptions sometimes have to be made for purely practical reasons - and this is usually on a temporary basis. Scientists' work is scrutinised and held to account. Theories are based on data, not the other way round, and theories change to accommodate surprising data. Predictions are clearly defined, and if the results are not as predicted, it is accepted that the prediction was wrong, no excuses, no wriggles. (Compare with, "You said that if I prayed, the god would cure my blindness, but I still can't see." "Ah, but the god cured your spiritual blindness!")

Look, I understand that you don't like religion but there's no reason to be insulting about it. But once again, you are focused on efficacy which has nothing to do with the point of the OP.


I don't think I'm saying much new here, not even new to the thread, and I don't think anyone - religious or scientific - would disagree with either of these descriptions or disagree that they are fundamental (but if anyone does, please let me know what I got wrong).

You are arguing against "religion is science", in my opinion, not "religion as science".


Why do sciency-types recoil at comparisons between religion and science? Well, to put it politely (this is BAUT after all, and I notice everybody is being polite), religion is not, to my mind, a reasonable way of seeking the truth. Science is a truly noble endeavour; it is better than painting your face, chanting, inhaling incense and burning animal entrails, and any suggestion that it is not better is insulting.

Well, I guess anyone would recoil at comparisons to face painting and burnt animal entrails. I don't think we need to sink to those kinds of slurs against religion. They're not really productive or accurate.

Let's get to the crux of the matter. We prefer science precisely because it is a reasonable way of seeking the truth. But let's not forget that the skepticism and methodical reasoning required for science are not innate; they must be taught and reinforced.

For the majority of humans on this planet that do not exercise those skills, your argument that science is more reasonable falls on deaf ears.

However, they still have emotional, intellectual and social needs to be met and religion has been doing that for millenia. For the non-religious, science capably serves as a surrogate for those needs.

baric
2011-Apr-30, 01:59 AM
There, I am done with this thread!

(just an fyi if anyone is expecting any further discussion from me on this topic)

Strange
2011-Apr-30, 08:47 AM
In fact, how information is acquired and validated is arguably THE key difference between science and religion.

But my point is that the average person does not concern himself with the methodology. The human need for explanations of how the world works is filled adequately by both science and religion. That is the similarity I am referring to.

But that is a completely different question. I thought you meant science (the thing practised by scientists) as a religion (the thing practised by adherents). You are now talking about the role in the average persons life of information provided by different means.

I'm sure that as far as the "ordinary man in the street" is concerned, there is no real difference between information from science, religion, the daily horoscope and the musings of celebrities. And that has nothing to do with whether they are religious or not (that may change the weight they put on information from religious sources, but perhaps not by much). A relatively small proportion of people understand the scientific process well enough to understand why scientific knowledge is different from the others. And some of those people are also religious.




Look, I understand that you don't like religion but there's no reason to be insulting about it.

I don't think anyone has been insulting about religion (or science).


But once again, you are focused on efficacy which has nothing to do with the point of the OP.

That is because it was very unclear what point of the OP was. Actually, it was clear what the point was; that just doesn't seem to be the point you meant :)


You are arguing against "religion is science", in my opinion, not "religion as science".

But you, yourself, have argued on all three (at least fronts): science vs religion; religion as science; the role of science and religion in society.



But let's not forget that the skepticism and methodical reasoning required for science are not innate;

Of course they are. That is just a bizarre assertion.


For the majority of humans on this planet that do not exercise those skills, your argument that science is more reasonable falls on deaf ears.

Which, again, isn't what your OP was about. Or didn't appear to be at any rate.


For the non-religious, science capably serves as a surrogate for those needs.

It may do for some people. Less for scientists, I would claim (as this is all about unfounded assertion, so far) than for lay people. I'm sure there are other things that fill this role for other people.

Strange
2011-Apr-30, 08:48 AM
There, I am done with this thread!

(just an fyi if anyone is expecting any further discussion from me on this topic)

Oh great. So I just wasted my time replying!

tnjrp
2011-May-02, 08:19 AM
To some people, politics is obviously a religion in that it provides a lens through which people view the world.Yubsels. So if politics is a religion, art is a religion, science is a religion, heck to some sports even can be close enough to religion*... What then the point of the word "religion"? Since baric has apparently excused himself, anyone else can go for this...


Football? Not so much.*) See South Americans go on about football and there's little doubt that you can say their fervour is nothing sort of "religious". Not that I ever brought up football, or stamp collecting.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-02, 10:04 AM
Replying to tnjrp: indeed, and you can add TV programmes to the list.

On at least two occasions, I have seen a certain high-profile Doctor Who author castigate somebody using words to the effect of, "Would the Doctor have behaved like that?" Once a week for 45 minutes, 8 million people in the UK (and many more in the US and other places) sit rapt watching the latest. There are schisms and flamewars over which actor playing the Doctor, which writer, and which producer presents the most true version. The casting of a new actor to play the Doctor bears a strong resemblance to the election of a new pope. The Doctor dies and is resurrected twelve times. There are retreats (called conventions) where acolytes dress up as the Doctor, or his assistant, or as one of the demons that tormented him in the wilderness.

It's amazing how little I have to exaggerate to find the parallels here. I would add that I have been guilty of some of the excesses listed here - but not recently.

tnjrp
2011-May-02, 10:11 AM
Well, there actually is a Jedi Knight religion so I would think one actually can provide evidence for "fanboyism" becoming a religion :shifty:

Substantia Innominata
2011-May-02, 11:35 AM
And I can tell you one great whopping difference between the two--which you have been told before--is that religion tends to assume that it has all the answers going in. Religions don't really do the questioning thing. Science exists strictly for the purpose of questioning.

But this is way too simplistic. You shouldn't go like 'Christianity/Western religion(s) == religion'. Not the whole story. For instance: The great Eastern systems of faith and/or religious devotion, at the very least most ("mainline") strands of Buddhism, as well as Hinduism, in fact have very much to do with (constant) questioning; questioning of (what is, or seems to be perceived as) your-'self', as well as questioning, some might find hyper-questioning, of the world around you. (What's the point in meditating? At least for some. One doesn't do it because one knows 'it all'.) Actually, it's really all about this kind of questioning, which, of course, cannot be equated with the question-posing (and, luckily, -answering) going on in the scientific ways of life, and, above all, it should not. Instead it's perfectly combinable; at best, 'things' (or: ways of reasoning) may strengthen, embolden, and drive one another, mutually.

Even though I don't really like to open up this bottle: In general, I believe this is just one reason, why especially those (originally) Eastern systems of thought (and/or belief) are attracting not least some scientifically educated or occupied people from (quite) different parts of the world. True, the danger of misinterpreting or simply misunderstanding those respective (and in itself all very complex) foreign systems is real, a danger.. (if one even sees it like that.. I don't!), but this evidently holds just as much for our (in fact also not so much) "homegrown" religions.

I just can't agree on religions being (generally) devoid of questioning of any sort. Isn't true. True is, that I myself, for instance, find me vastly interested (and fascinated) in Eastern/Asian philosophy and religion(s), and one reason for this, really, just is this very questioning (I'm tempted to say: uncertain, even sceptical) attitude they display and encourage. Which MAY well go hand in hand with.. science, or how at least I see and understand it. Now, please don't misunderstand me: I'm not at all alleging that it wouldn't be perfectly possible too, to personally realize this "handshake" between science on the one hand, and the more "classical" (or Western) religions, like Christianity, on the other hand. Of course it's possible, and so many people achieving just this are proof enough. Only I would find it harder.

Science (alone & in itself) shouldn't be counted 'as religion'. It cannot provide such, so what it would necessarily boil down to, eventually, is a mere.. surrogate. How sad! That's not what science is there for. That's not why we do science (or enjoy following it being done, and learn about it). Science and religon can only be complements. Some may be contend with only one of them. (Which I find deplorable, though.) Others learn to manage two meals at once, and embrace both. That should be the goal, if only because you can have it both. Whenever, however, someone concludes you may simply swap the one for the other, it logically follows that someone else (on this account) might just as well do the swap the other way round, that is: buying religion, paying with science. A good idea? I don't think so. :naughty: This is why I don't believe in the science-as-religion thing. It's a nice, little fancy of those, who just can't see there's no conflict whatsoever - not once you've learned your fill concerning science as well as religion.


(On second thought, I'm not sure whether even the (as pertains dogma) relatively strict Abrahamic systems of faith, or their followers, could be said to be without questioning or loathing it. This isn't how I view religion and religious thought at all. It's always about deep-rooted questions, and individual search (for the answers, which, of course, may never suface). Why I still do not believe in religio-scientific conflict must have to do with the fact of these questions adressed, or posed respectively, being utterly different at the outset. And normally not in conflict! Science cannot and never will provide me with an answer concerning the purpose (or even just the reason) of my own existence. It isn't its job, also! Religion, on the other hand, at least has proposals on offer...)

Wretched of the Earth
2011-May-02, 12:35 PM
But this is way too simplistic.

I agree with that. I know highly religious people who are constantly questioning their beliefs, including one who managed to get herself worked into a state of despair over it. Similarly, I know people who would consider themselves in the science crowd, who hardly ever question anything.


religion tends to assume that it has all the answers going in. Religions don't really do the questioning thing. Science exists strictly for the purpose of questioning.

This strikes me as an anthropomorphisation of both religion and science. They are not sentient beings, endowed with motives, purpose, and beliefs. People engaged in the practice of religion (however we define that) do, but religion itself does not, and the people who are in religion are not all the same. As for science existing strictly for the purpose of questioning, I suggest having a look at some of the people at this board. A quick look suggests that science is something very decidedly different than that for some of them, who have their egos tied very tightly to their self-identification as "science" people, even if their posts show little evidence of scientific methods of thought.


Science (alone & in itself) shouldn't be counted 'as religion'. It cannot provide such, so what it would necessarily boil down to, eventually, is a mere.. surrogate.

I find the thread title a bit misleading; the OP has repeatedly made it clear that his purpose is not to state that science is just a particular religion. He has said that the same basic underlying emotional forces that cause some people to get into science, cause others to get into religion. I think that is true, and I cannot imagine why anyone who is very much devoted to science (like myself, and like several who have agreed with the OP) should be offended by such a statement. One of the people who is offended by the comparison is offering pretty much the same arguments a religious person offended by this extremely limited comparison would offer.


How sad! That's not what science is there for. That's not why we do science (or enjoy following it being done, and learn about it).

Perhaps it is sad, but does something being sad mean it must not be true?

The proposition offered by the OP is one that should be answered empirically. Collect evidence, it is true, or it is not true. A few people seem actually to have done that; others seem mostly to be reacting to emotionally to what they perceive as a blasphemy against holy science.

Sad, not sad, good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant - all irrelevant to the question of true or not true.


Whenever, however, someone concludes you may simply swap the one for the other, it logically follows that someone else (on this account) might just as well do the swap the other way round, that is: buying religion, paying with science.

I cannot imagine how anyone can possibly read the OP's posts and believe he is arguing that. But, one person in this thread seems to have had some conversion in response to reading some pop science books. Do you think there are not people who haven't converted the other way?


A good idea? I don't think so. :naughty: This is why I don't believe in the science-as-religion thing.

Again, whether it is a good idea or not is irrelevant to the question of whether people do it or not.

Strange
2011-May-02, 04:25 PM
He has said that the same basic underlying emotional forces that cause some people to get into science, cause others to get into religion.

I might have had more sympathy with the position in the OP if I had thought/realised that was what was meant. It didn't come across that way (to me).


The proposition offered by the OP is one that should be answered empirically. Collect evidence, it is true, or it is not true.

A yes, the scientific approach. What I found odd about the OP was that a series of analogies were made that I (and several others) found deeply flawed and any criticisms/comments/questions ignored (except those that the OP agreed with). An approach that could be described as more religious than scientific.

Gillianren
2011-May-02, 05:38 PM
I can promise all concerned that, when I use the term "religion," I certainly don't just mean Christianity or even Abrahamic languages. However, I have generally found that, yes even the Eastern religions have a limit on how much questioning they permit. By which I mostly mean that either the answer is already covered in the dogma or else it isn't important. I can assure all concerned that I have spent a great deal of time studying religion, and any limitation of the word "religion" to "Christianity" from me would be deeply hypocritical.

agingjb
2011-May-02, 06:43 PM
I wonder if we can find parallels between any two large topics: science, religion, the arts in general, politics in the widest sense. I also wonder these parallels, if present, are just due to the generality of these areas of interest, and reflect the way humanity engages with its deeper concerns.

Strange
2011-May-02, 07:21 PM
I wonder if we can find parallels between any two large topics: science, religion, the arts in general, politics in the widest sense.

Absolutely. The "conflict" between science and the arts is often discussed but I suspect that they have more in common than differences: creativity, passion for the subject, the need to learn specialist techniques (and language), etc. Some more that are covered in the OP, etc.


I also wonder these parallels, if present, are just due to the generality of these areas of interest, and reflect the way humanity engages with its deeper concerns.

Indeed. To some extent, why do we do anything? I think this is the weakest point about the OP. It could have been "science as art" or "science as family life", etc. The parallels drawn were weak and, to some extent, universal.

George
2011-May-02, 07:50 PM
I wonder if we can find parallels between any two large topics: science, religion, the arts in general, politics in the widest sense. I also wonder these parallels, if present, are just due to the generality of these areas of interest, and reflect the way humanity engages with its deeper concerns. Yes, but the unique character of science separates it from all the rest.

As long as the self-restraints of modern science remain tethered, it will not serve well as a substitute for religion. The foundational strength of science is objectivity, and the predicitive tests required of theories demand only objective results.

Philosophy and religion are of the subjective realm, though highly influenced by reason. Yet, as Blaise Pascal put it nicely, "The heart has its reasons that reason does not know." Science, on occasion, will greatly impact a subjective claim if there is an overlap -- here, science is rarely the loser.

wd40
2011-May-02, 08:23 PM
Don't forget that there has been a "God-Center" in the brain of homo sapiens from the moment he first stood upright on the savannah. He and homo neanderthalis both believed in an afterlife, and humanity has always worshipped God, gods, demi-gods, men, animals, trees, streams, the sun, moon, stars, mountains etc for the last 250,000 years, 'religiously', right up until only 150 years ago. The existence of a 'non-religious', 'non-worshipping', 'non-afterlife believing' homo sapiens is a recent development.

Gillianren
2011-May-02, 09:14 PM
Oh, there have been atheists long before that. It's just that, in a lot of places, it wasn't safe to admit to it.

NickW
2011-May-02, 09:58 PM
Oh, there have been atheists long before that. It's just that, in a lot of places, it wasn't safe to admit to it.
Sometimes, it's still not safe to admit it.

Gillianren
2011-May-02, 10:55 PM
True!

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-03, 12:54 AM
Don't forget that there has been a "God-Center" in the brain of homo sapiens from the moment he first stood upright on the savannah. He and homo neanderthalis both believed in an afterlife, and humanity has always worshipped God, gods, demi-gods, men, animals, trees, streams, the sun, moon, stars, mountains etc for the last 250,000 years, 'religiously', right up until only 150 years ago. The existence of a 'non-religious', 'non-worshipping', 'non-afterlife believing' homo sapiens is a recent development.
Cite please.

BTW, note that even if this hypothetical "god-center" exists, that only shows that it gave an evolutionary advantage at some point, not that "god-thinking" is in any way related to how the world actually works.

NickW
2011-May-03, 01:23 AM
Don't forget that there has been a "God-Center" in the brain of homo sapiens from the moment he first stood upright on the savannah. He and homo neanderthalis both believed in an afterlife, and humanity has always worshipped God, gods, demi-gods, men, animals, trees, streams, the sun, moon, stars, mountains etc for the last 250,000 years, 'religiously', right up until only 150 years ago. The existence of a 'non-religious', 'non-worshipping', 'non-afterlife believing' homo sapiens is a recent development.

Wouldn't that just mean that religion was used to explain that the parts of the world that people didn't understand, and when science matured to the point of being able to explain it, religion wasn't needed in that way any more?

tommac
2011-May-03, 01:29 AM
Religion is non-scientific ... it is faith based. Religion and Science are polar opposites. Like yin and yang.

Hernalt
2011-May-03, 02:20 AM
For 'temporal lobe = god spot', the main exponent is Michael Persinger. Best weed in the South Farthing. His results afaik haven't been reproduced. God helmet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helmet)

After sequentially eliminating a couple signal sources, one hits effective background noise:
Google: "temporal lobe god experience -persinger -neurotheology -brynmawr -calvin -bellarmine site:.edu"

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-03, 02:30 AM
For 'temporal lobe = god spot', the main exponent is Michael Persinger. Best weed in the South Farthing. His results afaik haven't been reproduced. God helmet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helmet)

After sequentially eliminating a couple signal sources, one hits effective background noise:
Google: "temporal lobe god experience -persinger -neurotheology -brynmawr -calvin -bellarmine site:.edu"
Thanks for the link, I see no indication that his experiments were blinded, which means the results are immediately suspect.
I'll consider the existence of a god-node as unfounded speculation for the rest of the discussion.

Cougar
2011-May-03, 02:56 AM
Wouldn't that just mean that religion was used to explain that the parts of the world that people didn't understand, and when science matured to the point of being able to explain it, religion wasn't needed in that way any more?

It sure appears that way!

Cougar
2011-May-03, 02:59 AM
...a "God-Center" in the brain.... The existence of a 'non-religious', 'non-worshipping', 'non-afterlife believing' homo sapiens is a recent development....

....and that rather falsifies any "god center in the brain," doesn't it? See Nick's previous observation.

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-03, 03:15 AM
....and that rather falsifies any "god center in the brain," doesn't it? See Nick's previous observation.
It wouldn't for an ID proponent, since ID does indeed allow for such a rapid development. Why the big X would make us devolve such a node is conveniently shuffled in under Mysteerious Ways.

NickW
2011-May-03, 03:31 AM
It wouldn't for an ID proponent, since ID does indeed allow for such a rapid development. Why the big X would make us devolve such a node is conveniently shuffled in under Mysteerious Ways.

Very true, but it also brings up a person that is willing to throw away all evidence to support a belief. In a lot of ways, there is a resemblance to CT believers. Maybe the key term there is "belief"?

tnjrp
2011-May-03, 05:52 AM
Don't forget that there has been a "God-Center" in the brain of homo sapiens from the moment he first stood upright on the savannahSomewhat debatable, but perhaps possible.


He and homo neanderthalis both believed in an afterlife, and humanity has always worshipped God, gods, demi-gods, men, animals, trees, streams, the sun, moon, stars, mountains etc for the last 250,000 years, 'religiously', right up until only 150 years agoReligion doesn't equate to belief in the divine, nor yet does atheism equate to lack of religion.


The existence of a 'non-religious', 'non-worshipping', 'non-afterlife believing' homo sapiens is a recent development.Hardly. Unless you want to claim that a baby is able to conceptualize the divine or of ways to worship it. In any case, recent is as recent does: there are for example long standing and influential atheistic philosophical traditions in India.

---

PS. A recent somewhat related discussion on another forum (http://www.rationalskepticism.org/general-faith/truth-in-theology-vs-truth-in-science-t21651.html) might be of interest to some.

profloater
2011-May-03, 11:53 AM
One way in which science and religion are similar is that there is a dogma which is explained by experts to newcomers and this dogma contains stories about how everything began. In both cases this has its good and bad points. It means that any question can be daunting in that it may challenge a weight of written opinion. In science most of the basic facts can be re-examined in a school setting with demonstrations and simple mathematics. Unfortunately the cutting edge of science is in areas we cannot see and we have to rely on instruments and proxies for the things we want to examine. This has similarities with religion where the mysteries can not be put to any simple (or indeed complex) test. Both science and religion have difficulty with any kind of "why" question and these are the questions individuals ask when their life reaches difficulties. Both also have internal inconsistencies that cause doubt.

It is interesting to me that when science is simple it is easy to convince everybody but the hard parts alienate a large number of people. Religion has been a tool of the powerful in keeping civic order and science has recently moved in the opposite direction, giving masses reason to doubt their leaders. So we may be in a time where the challenge between religion and science is more acute than ever before and will cause polarisation.

tnjrp
2011-May-03, 12:02 PM
One way in which science and religion are similar is that there is a dogma which is explained by experts to newcomers and this dogma contains stories about how everything beganWith the notable exception of course that there is no "dogma" in science, albeit it can appear to be the case to a layman. Contrariwise, it is as you say immediately afterwards:

In science most of the basic facts can be re-examined


Both science and religion have difficulty with any kind of "why" question and these are the questions individuals ask when their life reaches difficultiesWhen did science start to ask "why" questions? :confused:

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-03, 12:11 PM
Both science and religion have difficulty with any kind of "why" question and these are the questions individuals ask when their life reaches difficulties.
Science never claimed to answer "why" questions, religion claims to answer all the "why" questions.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-03, 04:46 PM
According to Dawkins, the "why" questions are meaningless, unless they are basically "how" questions in disguise.

Strange
2011-May-03, 04:59 PM
One way in which science and religion are similar is that there is a dogma which is explained by experts to newcomers

As others have said, science doesn't have dogma. However, I suppose that the way it is presented in the popular press (which likes to paint everything in extremes of black and white or true and false) can make it appear that way to the average reader. And, as it turns out that might be what the OP was about, maybe that is relevant ... however wrong it is.


Both science and religion have difficulty with any kind of "why" question and these are the questions individuals ask when their life reaches difficulties.

I thought that one of the strengths of religion was that it tackled the "why" questions, which are completely outside the scope of science.


Both also have internal inconsistencies that cause doubt.

Science has uncertainties. I'm not convinced it has inconsistencies. Got any examples?


Religion has been a tool of the powerful in keeping civic order

Not always. It has also been the cause or a tool of revolution against authority as well.


and science has recently moved in the opposite direction, giving masses reason to doubt their leaders.

Really? Why? And doesn't this contradict the earlier suggestion that science is dogma? I suppose one should apply the scepticism required in science to all areas, including politics. But most people seem to be highly sceptical of their rulers already (and always have been as far as we can tell).

tnjrp
2011-May-05, 10:07 AM
To briefly return to the subject of "god-center", this 2009 paper by Gregory Paul may be of some interest for some:
http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf

Hoof Hearted
2014-Aug-14, 07:55 AM
This one stopped a long time ago, but I can't resist, it gets straight to the essence of what bothers me about this board.


Does science fill the functional role in the lives of many non-religious people in the way that religious does for others? I think it does.

Having a look around this board definitely causes me to want to answer, "yes".


What does it mean to call science a ‘religion’

There is a core group of people at this board, who either are scientists, or who at least sound like they could be. These people generally do not remind me of religious zealots.

There is a much larger group of people who seem to have a superficial understanding, at best, of what science is about, and for which this board doesn't seem to be anything more than a source of ego gratification. Those people remind me a great deal of religious zealots.

Anyone can join an internet board and say, "look at me, I'm a scientist", but there's a bit more to it than that.


a statement that undoubtedly bristles the fur of many regulars in this forum

I would expect (and a look at the rest of the thread tends to confirm my expectation) that it won't bristle the fur of the people who understand what science is about. It's the people who have their entire ego attached to the notion that, being "scientific", they are so much better than those ignorant religious fools - those are the people who are going to get really, really upset if you point out that they're not as scientific as they like to claim. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of them read my response, and immediately declare that I must be some kind of anti-scientific, anti-rational ignoramus - that seems to be the standard way of dismissing any criticism.

Hlafordlaes
2014-Aug-14, 11:10 AM
Well, as one who recently has taken to dropping cherry bombs in the form of Popper into boards where knowledge is considered complete or method flawless, I can agree that there are those who mistakenly think they have a flawless world view.

But rarely here on CQ do I find that. At little digging, and almost everyone is talking within ranges of confidence, and using more than one perspective to approach a problem. The ATM and CQ threads do, by nature, require giving a somewhat less nuanced approach on that score, as it is the consensual mainstream view that pertains at the moment that is being defended. Meanwhile, new physics is under furious research in the lab. The two can coexist, but create problems when making statements for the general public, who are assumed passively present in all our discussions.

Van Rijn
2014-Aug-14, 12:12 PM
Anyone can join an internet board and say, "look at me, I'm a scientist", but there's a bit more to it than that.


There is? I'm shocked. Heh. That made me think of this Airplane scene:

Are you a Doctor? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=e9-OOpzb1hg#t=10)

But I'm curious: How many people on this board have you seen that said "Look at me, I'm a scientist"?

NEOWatcher
2014-Aug-14, 12:55 PM
There is? I'm shocked. Heh. That made me think of this Airplane scene:
Don't forget Ghostbusters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEbSABWJiJc).

Swift
2014-Aug-14, 01:08 PM
There is a much larger group of people who seem to have a superficial understanding, at best, of what science is about, and for which this board doesn't seem to be anything more than a source of ego gratification. Those people remind me a great deal of religious zealots.

Hoof Hearted,

As a general rule, we don't infract rude posts that are not aimed at individual members, but are aimed more broadly. But for you, I'm going to make a special exception.

I am completely tired of your never-ending insults to the general population of this forum. One really has to ask why you are here if you find the place so horrible. If you can't get along with people here, you should go away.

I'm not prepared, yet, to ban or even suspend you, but you are getting an infraction. But keep going the way you've been going and you will be gone.

Cougar
2014-Aug-14, 01:53 PM
Physics is not a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money. - Leon Lederman

:p

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-14, 04:34 PM
There is a much larger group of people who seem to have a superficial understanding, at best, of what science is about, and for which this board doesn't seem to be anything more than a source of ego gratification. Those people remind me a great deal of religious zealots.

Anyone can join an internet board and say, "look at me, I'm a scientist", but there's a bit more to it than that.

That is such a strawman assertion that my jaw literally dropped.

I'm not aware of anyone on here saying, "Look at me, I'm a scientist!" In fact I'm not aware of anyone doing it anywhere. And yes, I know it's not just meant literally.

As far as I can tell, most people here are similar to me in that they are interested in science, like discussing it, and occasionally learn something because there are so many other people here with knowledge about something interesting - sometimes science, sometimes other things.

And it seems to me that the only things people don't like here are: rudeness, and making assertions that are not based on evidence and reason.

Swift
2014-Aug-14, 06:36 PM
I'm not aware of anyone on here saying, "Look at me, I'm a scientist!" In fact I'm not aware of anyone doing it anywhere. And yes, I know it's not just meant literally.

Well, Dr. Peter Venkman did same something similar (http://ih1.redbubble.net/image.10413678.1325/fc,550x550,creme.jpg).... :D

NEOWatcher
2014-Aug-14, 06:43 PM
Well, Dr. Peter Venkman did same something similar (http://ih1.redbubble.net/image.10413678.1325/fc,550x550,creme.jpg).... :D
***Cough (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?115059-Science-as-religion&p=2234094#post2234094)*** ;)

Judging from the next post, I guess you had your mind on something else. :lol:

grant hutchison
2014-Aug-14, 06:49 PM
I've given myself a few hours to reflect before replying. I still feel compelled to say that I think Hoof Hearted has raised a valid point, although I would say it is overstated (I don't think the numbers involved are large), and I don't think I've seen anyone posting in a way that could be metaphorically translated as, "Look at me, I'm a scientist."

But there are a small number of people here who use scientific method and scientific language in the way a drunk uses a lamp-post - more for support than illumination. They are aggressive but indisciminate and inattentive questioners of anyone they see as deviating from the mainstream view, but they will defend their own misapprehensions with a barrier of stock phrases borrowed from scientific discourse, combined with a selective reading of the evidence. In short, they talk a good scientific game.
If they toe the line in "attacking the argument, not the person", if they steer away from egregious ATM claims like "QM is wrong" or "the speed of light is not constant", then the rules of the board provide them with plenty of leeway to amuse themselves at the expense of others, and to exercise their pseudoscientific hobbyhorses.
I think these people are a bit of blight on the community, and they make me think of Yeats's line, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." But I don't think there's much that can be done about them, unless the moderators start banning people for the crime of "being persistently wrong while imagining you are right" (which would probably be a danger to us all at times).

But they are the reason I walked away from here a few years ago, and the reason I've pretty much restricted myself to talking about books and films, language and general knowledge since I came back. It just gets tiring to see the same behaviour, and to watch the same fires being started by the same people, over and over again. And, before anyone points it out, I do understand that my self-imposed restrictions are my problem, and not the forum's problem. But I do think we should be willing to acknowledge that the world is full of people like the ones I've described, and that this board does not lack representatives from that group.

Grant Hutchison

Swift
2014-Aug-14, 06:52 PM
***Cough (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?115059-Science-as-religion&p=2234094#post2234094)*** ;)

You win. Would you like a Ricola?

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-14, 08:23 PM
Grant, I know you can't name names (there's "only" one person that springs to my mind as even a suspect) but it seems to me that Hoof Hearted's post is a pretty strong overstatement - as in, portraying a very small minority as a very large majority.

grant hutchison
2014-Aug-14, 09:19 PM
Grant, I know you can't name names (there's "only" one person that springs to my mind as even a suspect) but it seems to me that Hoof Hearted's post is a pretty strong overstatement - as in, portraying a very small minority as a very large majority.I agree, and I did mention the overstatement in my post.
Thing is, these folk can loom large: chipping away at otherwise sensible threads, disrupting attempts at reasoned discussion, undermining efforts to explain science clearly. And, if this forum wants to present itself as a place where scientific thinking is paramount (and some members do seem to want to do that), such people are a clear counterexample. Anyone so inclined can find many examples of the sort of behaviour I've described, and use them to discredit and undermine any claim this forum might make to the scientific high ground.
So I think we just need to accept that not everyone here is a shining example of the purity of scientific thought. We might even accept that to some extent this forum is attractive to such people - for instance it condones aggressive questioning because "that happens all the time in scientific meetings" and "you should see what a PhD defence is like". But in a real scientific confrontation, the aggressive parties understand their subject, or they go down in flames and fail to get tenure in an academic institution. On this forum, tenure is unlimited if you follow a few very simple rules of courtesy; there's no scientific literacy filter. So people can pretend to the furniture of scientific discourse, without risking the penalties that dumb behaviour brings in the real world of scientific academia.
I can understand the frustration involved in trying to have a scientific discussion in a public forum with someone who is (or worse, several people who are) bluffing aggressively from a superficial understanding of the subject. I don't think that excuses a gross overstatement, but I do think there's a core problem that isn't going to go away and we might as well be up-front about it.

Grant Hutchison

SRH
2014-Aug-14, 09:27 PM
I always felt that the Big Bang Theory was analogous to Creationism.

Strange
2014-Aug-14, 09:29 PM
I always felt that the Big Bang Theory was analogous to Creationism.

I can't imagine why. There are at least two obvious differences:

- The big bang model is a scientific theory which makes predictions that can be tested against evidence

- The big bang model says nothing about "creation" of anything

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-14, 09:34 PM
I agree, and I did mention the overstatement in my post.

Yes, indeed, but I wanted to say it was more than an overstatement, then realised that made no sense!

I've snipped the rest of what you said but I think I agree with it all.

grant hutchison
2014-Aug-14, 09:48 PM
Yes, indeed, but I wanted to say it was more than an overstatement, then realised that made no sense!It's pre-overed. People can write "over-hype" without wondering what an appropriate level of hype is, but they can't write "overoverstatement" without noticing the logical problem ... :)

Grant Hutchison

caveman1917
2014-Aug-14, 10:00 PM
It's pre-overed. People can write "over-hype" without wondering what an appropriate level of hype is, but they can't write "overoverstatement" without noticing the logical problem ... :)

Don't you think that's a bit of an overoveroverstatement? ;)

Jens
2014-Aug-14, 10:42 PM
I would like to agree with Grant to a degree. I think it's important for regular members to ask ourselves what our motivations are for being here. I think essentially my enjoyment is that I have some anti-mainstream thoughts and I enjoy having people who are knowledgable and patient explain why certain things can or can't be. But there are posters who will act quite aggressively (but without much knowledge of the subject themselves) toward people with similar ideas, though fortunately it generally doesn't happen to me because perhaps my own style is not so grating. But I sometimes wonder what the motivation is for being aggressive toward people making absurd arguments but refusing to "see the light" and it seems one unfortunate possibility it to gain a feeling of superiority by disciplining them.

On the other hand, a good motivation for participating in those debates is that I think it makes us think about things we hadn't really considered before.

Shaula
2014-Aug-15, 04:57 AM
Well since I have been accused of being a dogmatic mainstream-defending attack dog (although perhaps not quite in those words) maybe I will put down my thoughts and see how much flak it draws.

Science as a surrogate for religion is indeed a very real thing and is not going to go away. Essentially I see two strands of it quite often. One is a slightly egotistical belief that the scientific worldview is the best and everyone having a different worldview is stupid for not holding it. I wouldn't call this science as a religion personally but it is often described as such. It is simply one example of the general trend people have to dismiss any worldview different to their own as inferior. After all, if it were superior then they would hold it themselves, right? This is what, I believe Grant is talking about. It is annoying but common to just about every flavour of human thought. Then there is what I would term science as a religion which is the faith that science will give us 'the answers', whatever they are. Enough science and 'truth' will be ours! This is, of course, distorting what science is about and what it does for us.

Now on to the aggressive stance people sometimes take. There are examples of this being over the top, or being designed to chase people off. I am not disputing that. However sometimes the aggressive stance is a response to frustration. I think very few people come here to selflessly teach other people. Most people have an ulterior motive. For me it is the chance to follow and contribute to thought provoking discussions. The frustration comes in to play when it becomes very obvious that others have no intention to discuss the post topic but instead are determined to promote an idea regardless of any evidence against it. And, more gallingly, don't actually know the subject well enough to engage in this sort of discussion but are not going to let that stop them insisting they are right. After a few posts of evasion, misquoting and word-wrangling frustration builds, the tone changes and voila. You have a dogmatic mainstream-defending attack dog.

Hlafordlaes
2014-Aug-15, 07:58 AM
Coming for the FnG subset who dare roam the main sections, I sure hope I don't fit Grant's description too often, but probably do at times. As a layman I can get into the trap of thinking something logical, but that does not make it science. Fantasies can be logical, too. I also enjoy looking at things from many angles and will switch among positions often in long threads as I do so, but often wonder if that doesn't bug a reader or two. There is also some difficulty for laymen in figuring out which position being argued is actually the mainstream outside the ATM/CQ sections; that can be real confusing.

Sometimes I think some things are guaranteed to make laymen go nuts. Smashing particles in accelerators is easy to conjure mentally and appeals to my old habits of boyish truancy, but thinking in terms of QFT field excitations leaves me longing for the corpuscular matter I thought we were smashing. Physics is progressively 'ghosting' reality for me, if you know what I mean.

I don't mind the staunch defenses made in ATM/CT, they seem well-placed in those sections. Don't see much alternative, other than trying to help a bit extra when the poster is sincere about learning.

Heid the Ba'
2014-Aug-15, 08:08 AM
I can understand the frustration involved in trying to have a scientific discussion in a public forum with someone who is (or worse, several people who are) bluffing aggressively from a superficial understanding of the subject. I don't think that excuses a gross overstatement, but I do think there's a core problem that isn't going to go away and we might as well be up-front about it.

Grant Hutchison

Preach brother. Substitute "legal" or "economic" for "scientific" and the problem is even worse. There is a recent thread I won't even look at any more, never mind post in, because of the uniformed opinion and comments.

Strange
2014-Aug-15, 08:39 AM
because of the uniformed opinion and comments.

Well, once the cops get involved ... :)

Heid the Ba'
2014-Aug-15, 08:50 AM
Typical lawyer, failing to proofread . . .

Cougar
2014-Aug-15, 11:40 AM
I always felt that the Big Bang Theory was analogous to Creationism.

:doh-default: Makes me think you have a poor understanding of both!

Solfe
2014-Aug-16, 01:59 AM
Physics is not a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money. - Leon Lederman

:p

That one cracked me up. I had a rough day.

Back to the post that started it all... I am registered non-scientist; I should have that on a card or something. I just happen to enjoy reading and discussing it.

Cougar
2014-Aug-16, 12:11 PM
I am registered non-scientist.... I just happen to enjoy reading and discussing it.

You could have fooled me. You may not have gone into a career of science, but surely you've had some considerable university education in the sciences?

Noclevername
2014-Aug-16, 12:14 PM
I never even finished college. I am almost entirely self-educated in science, and often have to have my misinformation corrected, which is why I frequently give the "d'oh!" smiley such a workout. :doh:

Solfe
2014-Aug-16, 02:55 PM
You could have fooled me. You may not have gone into a career of science, but surely you've had some considerable university education in the sciences?

Some math and a bit of chemistry for hard sciences, and a ton of soft science like sociology, philosophy, etc. I am more geared to education than actual science.

Edit - I was an engineering major before flopping to education. My 2 year humanities degree looks exactly like a 2 year engineering tech degree, but without Cal 3 and Diffy-Q. I replaced them with oil painting. My education was enriched by practical science classes, but I don't often think of material management, drafting or CAD as science based, although they are.

Funny aside - my wife's grandmother can speak about evolution and the importance of educational issues while being able to dance through the highlights of the Apollo program. If you ask her what she did for a living, she'll answer "Florist". She word as a secretary at Calspan for years and she is related to Clarence Darrow.

She is sort of vague on the Darrow thing, I may have to do a family tree for her great-grand children while the details are still available.

caveman1917
2014-Aug-16, 09:38 PM
I can't imagine why.

Neither involves ferrets? :)

Noclevername
2014-Aug-17, 08:19 PM
I always felt that the Big Bang Theory was analogous to Creationism.

That probably comes from misinformation about the Big Bang Theory and what it actually says. The popular assumptions about BBT are that it says something about the beginning of the universe. It doesn't. It only models the universe's state as far back in time as we can extrapolate from existing conditions.

Cougar
2014-Aug-17, 09:21 PM
...the Big Bang Theory ... models the universe's state as far back in time as we can extrapolate from existing conditions.

We certainly cannot extrapolate to t=0. But particle accelerators, and now especially the Large Hadron Collider (http://home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/2013/12/highlights-cern-2013), can recreate the state of the Universe a small fraction of a second after the beginning of the expansion. In the lab. These are observations.

Noclevername
2014-Aug-17, 10:43 PM
We certainly cannot extrapolate to t=0. But particle accelerators, and now especially the Large Hadron Collider (http://home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/2013/12/highlights-cern-2013), can recreate the state of the Universe a small fraction of a second after the beginning of the expansion. In the lab. These are observations.

True, but we wouldn't have known what conditions to replicate without BBT.

cjameshuff
2014-Aug-17, 11:51 PM
Also, the point where current theory reaches a singularity of infinite density and all lengths being contracted to zero is used as a zero point for measuring time near the beginning. There likely isn't anything actually physically meaningful about that point in time, but for the current state of our models, it makes a good reference point.

It could be that the universe actually took a trillion years to reach the earliest points where our models are of some use, but the physics during that time is obviously beyond our current understanding. Time since the probably-not-real singularity is about the only sensible way to work with things for now.

mkline55
2014-Aug-18, 03:07 PM
We certainly cannot extrapolate to t=0. But particle accelerators, and now especially the Large Hadron Collider (http://home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/2013/12/highlights-cern-2013), can recreate the state of the Universe a small fraction of a second after the beginning of the expansion. In the lab. These are observations.
That is one of my least favorite statements related to science. Although it may follow mainstream theory, it is stated very much like that nearly every time I see it, as if it were an absolutely certain sure cold, hard fact. If the statement included two more words, I'd have no problem. "In theory". The way it is usually stated, though, sounds just too much like religion. Also, the phrasing makes it sound like another entire universe just as we know it today could be initiated by something as simple as the LHC.

caveman1917
2014-Aug-18, 03:34 PM
That is one of my least favorite statements related to science. Although it may follow mainstream theory, it is stated very much like that nearly every time I see it, as if it were an absolutely certain sure cold, hard fact. If the statement included two more words, I'd have no problem. "In theory". The way it is usually stated, though, sounds just too much like religion. Also, the phrasing makes it sound like another entire universe just as we know it today could be initiated by something as simple as the LHC.

Should one add "in theory" to the claim "the moon will not suddenly fall onto the earth tomorrow"?

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-18, 03:37 PM
Should one add "in theory" to the claim "the moon will not suddenly fall onto the earth tomorrow"?

Agreed. It's kind of implied. Just like the "in my opinion" when you point at a restaurant and say it's the best one in town.

mkline55
2014-Aug-18, 03:43 PM
Should one add "in theory" to the claim "the moon will not suddenly fall onto the earth tomorrow"?
In theory, there is a tremendous difference between the two. One is based on actual experience. The other is not.

ETA: Also, one can be tested. The other cannot.

Swift
2014-Aug-18, 05:12 PM
In theory, there is a tremendous difference between the two. One is based on actual experience. The other is not.

ETA: Also, one can be tested. The other cannot.
I'm not sure which are "the two" you are referring to. I'm guessing "the moon falling on the Earth" and some part of Cougar's statement you quoted in post # 150 (but I don't know exactly which part).

Without know more detail, I'd say both are approximately the same for observations (neither action has been directly observed, but supporting facts have been observed for both) and for theoretical support.

To the point of caveman1917 and Paul Beardsley, the statement "in theory" could be applied to just about every theory based scientific statement (as opposed to statements about directly observable facts, like "the sky on Earth, during daylight and in the absence of clouds is blue"). So adding it gets kind of dull in a scientific discussion.

For a less scientific audience (like in the popular press), unfortunately the statement "in theory" has the opposite effect, because of the lack of understanding among the general public about the differences among facts, theories, hypotheses, and wild speculations. Adding the words "in theory" give most people the idea that this makes the idea "less true" ("its only a theory").

Shaula
2014-Aug-18, 05:21 PM
If the statement included two more words, I'd have no problem. "In theory".
Everything in science is theory based. It is implicit in the fact that we are talking about something in scientific terms. We use the prevailing theories to interpret observations. Without a theory to interpret them all observations essentially boil down to the equivalent of numbers on a dial. So I am not sure why you feel the need for this to be explicitly stated for one case but not all others.

profloater
2014-Aug-18, 05:32 PM
Yes that completely different meaning of theory in science and in popular understanding is a real block to communication. As in the oft quoted
"evolution is just a theory"
"so is gravity"
But science must also recognise that we believe our evidence in the same way that religion believes ancient texts. Science continually tests for sure but all those everyday examples of the sky being blue are common experience to all with only a subtle difference in underlying belief. For a long time science was limited by texts from Aristotle and it took huge intellectual leaps, not just the evidence, to move on.

I think it is when science tries to assert knowledge that cannot be tested that it becomes weak. Scientists like to rubbish religion as in that Bernard Russell quote, which I will mangle: " religion is primitive and eventually we will all believe in rational thought and logic." Unfortunately some questions will never be answered, so we may have to wait a long time.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-18, 05:36 PM
But science must also recognise that we believe our evidence in the same way that religion believes ancient texts.

Why should it recognise such a thing?

I'm not sure I can even parse it. It's like saying someone uses peaceful protest in the same way that someone else uses terrorism.

mkline55
2014-Aug-18, 05:56 PM
I'm not sure which are "the two" you are referring to. I'm guessing "the moon falling on the Earth" and some part of Cougar's statement you quoted in post # 150 (but I don't know exactly which part).

Without know more detail, I'd say both are approximately the same for observations (neither action has been directly observed, but supporting facts have been observed for both) and for theoretical support.
Day after day, the moon is NOT observed falling from the sky. No verified historical records over the past 3000 years (over 1 million days) have ever reported the moon falling from the sky. Billions of people over millions of days. Never one occurrence. There is every reason to believe tomorrow will be the same.

No one has ever observed the beginning of the universe or the beginning of inflation either. No one has ever reported that they saw the beginning of inflation. A number of people share a common belief that they know exactly what the universe was like at that point in time, even though it has never actually been observed. They likewise report they have created an exact duplicate of those never-seen conditions.

Of these two examples, which sounds more like religion?

Which of these two events do people spend the most money on, trying to keep the moon from falling from the sky, or trying to recreate the initial conditions of the universe? I'm guessing more money is spent on the LHC, and that is because people find it more interesting or rewarding than trying to keep the moon up.

profloater
2014-Aug-18, 05:57 PM
Why should it recognise such a thing?

I'm not sure I can even parse it. It's like saying someone uses peaceful protest in the same way that someone else uses terrorism.

Well if there is a barrier of understanding about theory it can grow bigger if scientists retreat into facts and decry beliefs as if anyone can get by without beliefs. We believe in the evidence and we believe in what others have experienced. In practice we cannot continually test everything all the time. I just think it will be better if science can explain itself better to all those unfortunate enough not to have had the grounding in school.

Noclevername
2014-Aug-18, 06:04 PM
Well if there is a barrier of understanding about theory it can grow bigger if scientists retreat into facts and decry beliefs as if anyone can get by without beliefs. We believe in the evidence and we believe in what others have experienced. In practice we cannot continually test everything all the time. I just think it will be better if science can explain itself better to all those unfortunate enough not to have had the grounding in school.

Did you just seriously use the phrase "retreat into facts"? :confused: What the heck does that even mean??

EDIT:
We believe in the evidence and we believe in what others have experienced.

Oh. This is turning into another one of THOSE threads again. Solipsism as science. Well, I believe I'm out of here.

NEOWatcher
2014-Aug-18, 06:25 PM
Of these two examples, which sounds more like religion?
It's possible to phrase each one of them to sound more religious than the other.

How much have we spent studying the moon and it's origin along with the tidal forces that defined its current rotation and orbit, along with monitoring it?

On the flip side LHC is not only about the conditions of the early universe, but includes the nature of particles in the current universe.


Yes; we can observe the moon throughout history and see that it isn't falling, but science attempts to answer the question "why".

Swift
2014-Aug-18, 06:39 PM
This should probably go into the "things that amuse me" thread, but I find it interesting that the OP Baric originally wanted to talk about a completely different aspect of the science vs. religion question, and that is how they are similar (or different) in what they give to us personally and how they fulfill (or don't) our emotional, intellectual and social needs as humans.

From almost the start of this thread, that has been almost exactly what people have not discussed. I'm not sure if this is because they didn't understand that as a topic, or wheren't interested, or found the science vs. religion as a "system of knowledge" (for lack of a better term) as a more interesting question. I personally would have rather talked about Baric's question, but oh well....

Amber Robot
2014-Aug-18, 07:11 PM
Day after day, the moon is NOT observed falling from the sky. No verified historical records over the past 3000 years (over 1 million days) have ever reported the moon falling from the sky. Billions of people over millions of days. Never one occurrence. There is every reason to believe tomorrow will be the same.

And yet the scientific pursuit of understanding the universe has gone beyond this to attempt to explain why the moon doesn't fall, within a framework of logical, mathematical approaches to understanding the universe that explains not only why the moon doesn't fall but most of the motions of the rest of the heavenly (and earthly) bodies as well. If we were simply satisfied with the fact that the moon didn't fall because it never has before, we may not have gotten far beyond the caves. So, I'm agreeing with your point, but taking it a step farther. I have never seen a religion come forward with any kind of logical structure or framework that even remotely explains the claims they make, observed or unobserved, and can hold up against intellectual, skeptical scrutiny.

profloater
2014-Aug-18, 07:24 PM
Did you just seriously use the phrase "retreat into facts"? :confused: What the heck does that even mean??

EDIT:

Oh. This is turning into another one of THOSE threads again. Solipsism as science. Well, I believe I'm out of here.

Nonsense. I am just pointing out that religions believe what other people have said, That is not solipsism. I am not for religion at all but I am for trying to communicate with non scientists. This thread is called science as religion so that invites "compare and contrast" and how to bridge the comms gap. We know science has its method hypothesis, test, etc. I am pointing out that in history, as now, science does have its texts.

Hlafordlaes
2014-Aug-18, 07:27 PM
This should probably go into the "things that amuse me" thread, but I find it interesting that the OP Baric originally wanted to talk about a completely different aspect of the science vs. religion question, and that is how they are similar (or different) in what they give to us personally and how they fulfill (or don't) our emotional, intellectual and social needs as humans.

From almost the start of this thread, that has been almost exactly what people have not discussed. I'm not sure if this is because they didn't understand that as a topic, or wheren't interested, or found the science vs. religion as a "system of knowledge" (for lack of a better term) as a more interesting question. I personally would have rather talked about Baric's question, but oh well....

On that score, I have no bone to pick with anyone's preference, providing there is only some trivial claims counter to science. On the system of knowledge front, I do have one to pick with replacing some belief with science while falling into the trap of considering it complete. Better to transition to uncertainty and "here is the best incomplete picture we have so far."

profloater
2014-Aug-18, 07:31 PM
This should probably go into the "things that amuse me" thread, but I find it interesting that the OP Baric originally wanted to talk about a completely different aspect of the science vs. religion question, and that is how they are similar (or different) in what they give to us personally and how they fulfill (or don't) our emotional, intellectual and social needs as humans.

From almost the start of this thread, that has been almost exactly what people have not discussed. I'm not sure if this is because they didn't understand that as a topic, or wheren't interested, or found the science vs. religion as a "system of knowledge" (for lack of a better term) as a more interesting question. I personally would have rather talked about Baric's question, but oh well....

I apologise. I am guilty of not properly reading the OP and responding to later posts. Actually that aspect of fulfillment is very interesting to me and I would add the issue of Agnosticism to the list. I find the acceptance that we cannot know certain things about the why questions and what else is "out there" is very comforting because it opens possibilities as wide as you want to go.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-18, 07:36 PM
In theory, there is a tremendous difference between the two. One is based on actual experience. The other is not.

Caveman said, "the moon will not suddenly fall onto the earth tomorrow." That is to say, the moon will not fall onto the earth on the 19th of August 2014. We have no experience of this.

You might think I'm being pedantic or even trying to be funny. I'm not. The point is, our confidence that it will not happen tomorrow is based on our understanding of the underlying theory of orbital mechanics, not a simple case of, "Well it's never done that before."

As for the LHC, we are recreating the state of the early universe according to the current model. Again, it's implicit. Sure, some genius might come up with a radical new model tomorrow that overturns everything we thought we knew (while everyone else is celebrating the non-falling of the moon), but unless and until that happens, we make the working assumption that the current model is correct.

mkline55
2014-Aug-18, 07:53 PM
Moving back to the OP, I think science and religion are attempts to answer two different fundamental questions regarding our existence. Religion is focused on "Why", while science focuses on "How". Both questions are inherent to human curiosity.

Chuck
2014-Aug-18, 08:59 PM
I thought science had already answered the why question with "There is no reason."

Strange
2014-Aug-18, 09:47 PM
No one has ever observed the beginning of the universe or the beginning of inflation either.

No one has "observed" all sorts of things that we atre reasonably certain about. The early state of the universe is not just an assumption backed up by some random guesses. It is as solidly based in evidence as any other area of scientific knowledge.

Strange
2014-Aug-18, 09:48 PM
But science must also recognise that we believe our evidence in the same way that religion believes ancient texts.

Er, no.

Strange
2014-Aug-18, 09:49 PM
if scientists retreat into facts

:confused:

Jens
2014-Aug-18, 10:39 PM
In theory, there is a tremendous difference between the two. One is based on actual experience. The other is not.


Well yes, but I suppose that's why we spend money to test one and not really to test the other. We observe that the universe is expanding and can conclude as a result that it was denser in the past, and so we want to make observations of how matter behaves in those denser conditions...

profloater
2014-Aug-18, 10:40 PM
:confused:Given time all facts are wrong. I guess trying to be brief can lose some meaning. But returning to the OP issues, the story science has put together is more exciting as well as more detailed than myths.

But,
There is a difference in that religion often tries to explain why the world is or seems unfair and offers solace in vague promises but science tends to be colder, it's survival of the fittest by blind chance and random events, any pattern is just what we make of it all. Good and bad are relative to the observer, not absolute. Ironically science fiction often tries to fix that coldness. We even have a mainstream view that destiny is the slow heat death of the universe. Not much to look forward to. But science also supports the affirming concept that "now" is all we have. I think that popular notion is refreshing as well as scientifically justified.

Strange
2014-Aug-18, 11:06 PM
Given time all facts are wrong.

Well, that is not true, for a start.


I guess trying to be brief can lose some meaning.

You can say that again.



it's survival of the fittest by blind chance and random events

Er, no.


Good and bad are relative to the observer, not absolute.

Science says nothing about good and bad. Or moral relativity. These are philosophical or cultural ideas.

Chuck
2014-Aug-18, 11:19 PM
Good and bad are concepts of the human brain which is a material object. That seems within the domain of physical science.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 12:17 AM
Nonsense. I am just pointing out that religions believe what other people have said...

Are you equating science to religion because science has science textbooks?

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-19, 05:29 AM
Moving back to the OP

When people do this instead of acknowledging the points made, my reaction is, "Well I won't waste time conversing with this poster again." I am surely not the only one.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-19, 05:31 AM
Good and bad are concepts of the human brain which is a material object. That seems within the domain of physical science.

Ghost stories are often written on sheets of paper, which are material objects. Does that put ghosts within the domain of physical science? (Clue: No.)

Hlafordlaes
2014-Aug-19, 06:46 AM
I am going to agree with Chuck. I think there are some aspects of behavior that could be considered foundational for ethics. For example, we guestimate others' intentions via readling of body/facial language, past history, etc.; call it mind mapping. If we decide to engage after reading a "friendly," we then put ourselves in others' places and use empathy to understand and learn (eg how to use a stick to get termites). IOW, being a social animal means we have some rudimentary rules and methods that come with the territory.

Chuck
2014-Aug-19, 08:03 AM
Ghost stories are often written on sheets of paper, which are material objects. Does that put ghosts within the domain of physical science? (Clue: No.)
Belief in ghosts is within the domain of science. So is the determination about whether or not they're real.

profloater
2014-Aug-19, 09:10 AM
Belief in ghosts is within the domain of science. So is the determination about whether or not they're real.Actually belief in ghosts is untestable but any predictions about ghosts can be tested. There is the old quip "I can believe in ghosts but not in ghostly trousers." For example if you think ghosts lower the local temperature you could test that and work through all the alternative explanations. I suppose ghosts is one of the most persistent beliefs. We want to believe in life after death as a comfort. But belief in a long eternal sleep can be just as comforting!

Chuck
2014-Aug-19, 09:39 AM
Beliefs in ghosts seems testable. We can ask people if they believe in ghosts.

profloater
2014-Aug-19, 10:41 AM
Beliefs in ghosts seems testable. We can ask people if they believe in ghosts.
Yes but we cannot test their belief. However if their belief makes predictions we can test those. There is no doubt many people believe in ghosts in various ways or are at least neutral when asked.
Some people find their dead loved ones still "speak to them" or influence them and these experiences seem genuine rather than faked. We cannot test if these are in their imagination as models of their loved ones (the science view) or real ghosts (woo view) unless the ghost can provide information to test that could not be known otherwise. These kind of tests seem to get uniformly negative results.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 11:56 AM
But science must also recognise that we believe our evidence in the same way that religion believes ancient texts.

Paul expressed his befuddlement at such a thought. I'd like to add that it is extraordinarily disturbing that a thinking person could make such a claim. Where does one start to oppose such a wrongheaded idea?

You mention "evidence." Science is quite big on evidence. Evidence is rather central to what science is. You must recognize that "ancient texts" are utterly devoid of the whole idea of evidence. Certain religions claim their ancient texts were transcribed directly from the mouth of God. But there's no indication that God ever confirmed this. In fact, there's no evidence that there even exists such a being. Faith means having a deeply held belief in something for which evidence is not only lacking, but the faithful are instructed not to go looking for any evidence. That would be anti-faithful.

No, scientists do not "believe evidence" the same way religion believes ancient texts. Such a claim is so tremendously wrong, it's not even funny.

profloater
2014-Aug-19, 12:03 PM
Paul expressed his befuddlement at such a thought. I'd like to add that it is extraordinarily disturbing that a thinking person could make such a claim. Where does one start to oppose such a wrongheaded idea?

You mention "evidence." Science is quite big on evidence. Evidence is rather central to what science is. You must recognize that "ancient texts" are utterly devoid of the whole idea of evidence. Certain religions claim their ancient texts were transcribed directly from the mouth of God. But there's no indication that God ever confirmed this. In fact, there's no evidence that there even exists such a being. Faith means having a deeply held belief in something for which evidence is not only lacking, but the faithful are instructed not to go looking for any evidence. That would be anti-faithful.

No, scientists do not "believe evidence" the same way religion believes ancient texts. Such a claim is so tremendously wrong, it's not even funny.

Well I do understand your reaction. I do understand the way scientific evidence is tested and so on and religious belief can never be tested. But the word belief is the key. We believe in our evidence ( I count myself as a scientist.) but we cannot test our belief, only our evidence. Does that make more sense?

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 12:05 PM
Don't forget that there has been a "God-Center" in the brain of homo sapiens from the moment he first stood upright on the savannah. He and homo neanderthalis both believed in an afterlife, and humanity has always worshipped God, gods, demi-gods, men, animals, trees, streams, the sun, moon, stars, mountains etc for the last 250,000 years, 'religiously', right up until only 150 years ago. The existence of a 'non-religious', 'non-worshipping', 'non-afterlife believing' homo sapiens is a recent development.

I question the validity of any of these claims.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 12:30 PM
We certainly cannot extrapolate to t=0. But particle accelerators, and now especially the Large Hadron Collider (http://home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/2013/12/highlights-cern-2013), can recreate the state of the Universe a small fraction of a second after the beginning of the expansion. In the lab. These are observations.


That is one of my least favorite statements related to science. Although it may follow mainstream theory, it is stated very much like that nearly every time I see it, as if it were an absolutely certain sure cold, hard fact. If the statement included two more words, I'd have no problem. "In theory". The way it is usually stated, though, sounds just too much like religion. Also, the phrasing makes it sound like another entire universe just as we know it today could be initiated by something as simple as the LHC.

Let me put it this way, mkline. From all known observations and indications, especially from careful observation and analysis of the CMB, and the painstaking tallying of the abundance of the elements, the early Universe must have been really, really hot and really, really dense. This calls for a tremendous amount of energy in every tiny piece of space. That is what the LHC is reproducing - a tremendous amount of energy in a very tiny piece of space. The thousands of scientists working on this largest-of-all scientific experiments want to know what the heck is going on in such an environment, and how the universe got here from there.

Sounds like religion? No. Religion doesn't do experiments.

mkline55
2014-Aug-19, 12:54 PM
Caveman said, "the moon will not suddenly fall onto the earth tomorrow." That is to say, the moon will not fall onto the earth on the 19th of August 2014. We have no experience of this.
The day is well under way. Keep your eyes on the sky if you want any experience of it.

You might think I'm being pedantic or even trying to be funny. I'm not. The point is, our confidence that it will not happen tomorrow is based on our understanding of the underlying theory of orbital mechanics, not a simple case of, "Well it's never done that before."
That confidence existed long before any underlying theory of orbital mechanics. The theory has very little to do with confidence.


As for the LHC, we are recreating the state of the early universe according to the current model. Again, it's implicit. Sure, some genius might come up with a radical new model tomorrow that overturns everything we thought we knew (while everyone else is celebrating the non-falling of the moon), but unless and until that happens, we make the working assumption that the current model is correct.
Maybe you think I am being pedantic. The statement, "recreating the state of the early universe" implies that an equivalent of the matter and energy that existed in the early universe has been recreated in the theorized original hot, dense state which should be just about to begin the expansion to become the universe. I am skeptical. If you claim that it is not all the mass nor energy, then what else about the claim is wrong? I don't remember reading anywhere in theories about the early universe that it consisted of a huge machine sending streams of particular charged particles to collide with one another. I suspect there is no machine in the theory. So, another discrepancy. How many streams of fast-moving protons made up the early universe? Is that in the theory? It's certainly in the recreation of the state of the universe. So it must be in the theory. No? Hmmmm. If the statement only means the tiny area where the streams collide, I still have to wonder if the theory actually states that energy came from two opposing directions. Do you see why the claim of "recreating the state of the early universe" is misleading?

ETA: Do you also see why your insistence on continuing along this line of discussion is drifting away from the original thread?

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 01:03 PM
Well I do understand your reaction. I do understand the way scientific evidence is tested and so on and religious belief can never be tested. But the word belief is the key. We believe in our evidence ( I count myself as a scientist.) but we cannot test our belief, only our evidence. Does that make more sense?

Haha. No, that doesn't make more sense, but thanks for trying. As you say, the key word is belief. Our evidence is not validated by anyone's belief. The evidence is not evident only to me. The evidence is not observed only by me. You want to see the evidence for yourself? There it is. Take a look. Anyone in the world can look at the evidence. With their own eyes. It's not private or secret. I think observations that have been observed by numerous careful experimentalists are simply facts. Is it faith that I place in these experimentalists? No. I'd say it's trust, based on experience, and especially based on the fact that I, personally, could make the same observation if I was so inclined. But not just me. Anyone could. And numerous others have made the same observation. "Seeing is believing" is a common quotation. But seeing is much more than believing when anyone and everyone can see it.

NoChoice
2014-Aug-19, 01:16 PM
From all known observations and indications, especially from careful observation and analysis of the CMB, and the painstaking tallying of the abundance of the elements, the early Universe must have been really, really hot and really, really dense.
The observations may have been careful and the analysis painstaking but there is only so much you can do with the data we have available (billions of years after the event).
You say "must". This, however, is only a "must" if you assume we are aware of all relevant physical laws and parameters involved in the event and the subsequent evolution.

I doubt even the biggest science enthusiast can be that naive.

Our species has barely had a few hundred years of what could be called science and yet some assume we understand the universe - even roughly??


Sounds like religion? No. Religion doesn't do experiments.

Maybe not.
And it is science insofar as we have the (technical and intellectual) means and data to apply it.
And that is the crux of the matter. There is so little to work with that science cannot really do much work and the "results" can hardly be called that.

Astronomically and especially cosmologically we know so little for sure (without making wild assumptions) that so much belief has to be invoked to arrive at statements like the ones you just made, Cougar, that I have to agree with mkline55: the line to a pure faith based belief is rather blurry here.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 01:48 PM
Astronomically and especially cosmologically we know so little for sure....

Is this because you haven't done your homework? We live in an era of precision cosmology. Yes, there certainly is a lot we do not know, but there's no reason this should detract from the myriad incredible findings that have been made in the past 100 years.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 01:50 PM
I still have to wonder if the theory actually states that energy came from two opposing directions.

I find your arguments so silly and ridiculous, they are undeserving of a response.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 01:58 PM
...but there is only so much you can do with the data we have available (billions of years after the event).

The CMB is observed to be uniform to 1 part in 100,000. This has implications. It's not so much what you can "do with" this data. It's what you cannot do with it. It's what the data rules out. The data constrains what we can reasonably think.

Swift
2014-Aug-19, 02:05 PM
Folks,

This discussion is starting to get a little too rude for CQ. If posters cannot discuss this without the condescending or insulting comments, or threats to ignore other posters, infractions will be given and/or this thread will be closed.

Spacedude
2014-Aug-19, 02:07 PM
A Very Interesting discussion. As I see it it's just an expression that "such and such is that person's religion". I'm really big into gardening to the point that some folks could say (and a few do) that gardening is my religion. It's not of course, it's just huge hobby of mine that I appear to do religiously (just another similar expression). Religion has a key ingredient that science lacks - A deity that is worshiped and prayed too. Besides being hooked on gardening I'm hooked on science too, particularly astronomy, but it's due to my thirst for answers to countless questions about the universe around us. Religion, or religious people, on the other hand appear to be content with the answers that religion offers them and that seems to be enough to limit their curiosity and places a cap on their questioning. So in my scattered opinion, science continually looks for answers to limitless questions while religion offers it's followers The Answer to any of their questions. When concerning certain things that don't make sense to those religious, then "God" acts in mysterious ways. Science will always question the mysterious to find the answers.

Chuck
2014-Aug-19, 02:15 PM
Yes but we cannot test their belief. However if their belief makes predictions we can test those. There is no doubt many people believe in ghosts in various ways or are at least neutral when asked.
Some people find their dead loved ones still "speak to them" or influence them and these experiences seem genuine rather than faked. We cannot test if these are in their imagination as models of their loved ones (the science view) or real ghosts (woo view) unless the ghost can provide information to test that could not be known otherwise. These kind of tests seem to get uniformly negative results.
A somewhat cruel experiment would be to tell people that some living loved ones were dead and see if the claims of ghostly visitations continue at the same rate. If they do then claims of such visitations are unlikely to be real ghosts.

Jens
2014-Aug-19, 02:22 PM
Religion has a key ingredient that science lacks - A deity that is worshiped and prayed too.

I'd be a bit careful here, because not all religions have a single deity. For example, Hinduism has more than one. Maybe it would be easier to say: deities that are worshiped.

Spacedude
2014-Aug-19, 02:29 PM
Maybe it would be easier to say: deities that are worshiped.

Sure that's suits me fine. My knowledge of the multitude of world religions is limited and I would also assume there are a few that do not involve a deity or deities but I was speaking in general of the mainstream.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 02:43 PM
I'm really big into gardening to the point that some folks could say (and a few do) that gardening is my religion.

I declare golf is my yoga.

NoChoice
2014-Aug-19, 02:45 PM
The CMB is observed to be uniform to 1 part in 100,000. This has implications. It's not so much what you can "do with" this data. It's what you cannot do with it. It's what the data rules out. The data constrains what we can reasonably think.

Data has to be interpreted. The data can be interpreted this way.

We have no possibility to experimentally reproduce the assumed conditions of the very early universe. Experiments are the verification of any theory. Without them we can never be sure.

We assume the laws and parameter as we currently know them allow us to follow the causal chain from now back to billions of years ago to a state we have no experimental evidence for.

Do we really fully (or even roughly) understand a causal chain that long sufficiently to arrive at a rather definitive conclusion?

Of course not!
All we have is a wild theory based on very little and very old data and not so much based on hard science but rather and out of necessity more based on astronomical and cosmological detective work.

mkline55
2014-Aug-19, 02:58 PM
All we have is a wild theory based on very little and very old data and not so much based on hard science but rather and out of necessity more based on astronomical and cosmological detective work.
I hardly think BBT is a wild theory. A lot of work has gone into putting it together, and it is far beyond the speculative stage that might label it a "wild theory".

Strange
2014-Aug-19, 04:47 PM
Does that make more sense?

No.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-19, 04:49 PM
A Very Interesting discussion. As I see it it's just an expression that "such and such is that person's religion". I'm really big into gardening to the point that some folks could say (and a few do) that gardening is my religion. It's not of course, it's just huge hobby of mine that I appear to do religiously (just another similar expression).

Indeed. People use language metaphorically; when someone complains that their phone bill is astronomical, they are not referring to the scientific field.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-19, 04:51 PM
To mkline55:

I interpreted your "Moving back to the OP" as a declaration that you were going to dismiss the questions put to you. I was wrong and I apologise for it.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 05:05 PM
Data has to be interpreted. The data can be interpreted this way.

The data cannot be interpreted any way you please. The data constrains your interpretation. It paints us into a corner. That's why I say that any interpretation must lie within the constraints of the data.

Cougar
2014-Aug-19, 05:16 PM
All we have is a wild theory based on very little and very old data and not so much based on hard science....

Have you studied the theory and its basis at all? :confused: I ask because it really doesn't seem like it.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-19, 05:24 PM
This should probably go into the "things that amuse me" thread, but I find it interesting that the OP Baric originally wanted to talk about a completely different aspect of the science vs. religion question, and that is how they are similar (or different) in what they give to us personally and how they fulfill (or don't) our emotional, intellectual and social needs as humans.

From almost the start of this thread, that has been almost exactly what people have not discussed. I'm not sure if this is because they didn't understand that as a topic, or wheren't interested, or found the science vs. religion as a "system of knowledge" (for lack of a better term) as a more interesting question. I personally would have rather talked about Baric's question, but oh well....

I've been struggling to understand this for some time, and have re-read the OP more than once and I think it comes down to this:

It is because religion and science are not similar (apart from some trivial overlaps) that the answer to the OP is resoundingly No. But because Baric put so much effort into making a case for religion and science being similar, it became a major task unravelling that thread.

How about this: Does a dog fill the functional role of girlfriend for men who don't have girlfriends?

You could draw many parallels to the relationship between a man and his girlfriend and the relationship between a man and his dog. A man might go for walks with either one; he might cuddle either one; he might show off either one to his friends. But the answer, again, is no, the dog does not fill the functional role of girlfriend. And the reason for this, again, is because the roles are very different in the ways that actually count.

The conversation would probably include the observation that some men have a dog and a girlfriend; that some gay men and straight women have dogs. There might be counter-arguments that are not family-friendly.

But at the end of the day, although girlfriends and dogs might both meet a man's emotional needs, they would (normally) not be the same emotional needs because they are not the same sort of relationship.

profloater
2014-Aug-19, 06:29 PM
IN another thread KenG has explained some of the ideas about the pilot wave interpretation. If you choose to believe that, it is the information or influence behind the quantum interactions but we can never test it, It is similar to believing a god is behind every interaction and you cannot test that either. Is it so different for a scientist to wonder how it works and choose to believe in pilot wave interpretation?. What I have posted is to dig at any arrogance that as a belief system, science trumps religion. As a method science wins because of the rigour of testing predictions but as an interpretation of what we find, you can believe what you choose and nobody can prove you wrong. If belief in science is more satisfactory for you than belief in religion (it is for me) then science does fill that essential role in human psyche, we need to have core beliefs.

Swift
2014-Aug-19, 06:42 PM
It is because religion and science are not similar (apart from some trivial overlaps) that the answer to the OP is resoundingly No. But because Baric put so much effort into making a case for religion and science being similar, it became a major task unravelling that thread.

How about this: Does a dog fill the functional role of girlfriend for men who don't have girlfriends?

Paul Beardsley,

I've lost interest in this topic and this thread; I was torn whether to even respond, but I decided that since you responded directly to me, it would be the more polite thing to at least give some sort of response back as an acknowledgement.

I don't agree. I don't think the overlaps are all trivial and I don't think the "answer" is resoundingly "no" (I didn't think it was a yes/no question). Sure, there are huge differences between science and religion, both in how they operate and in what they mean to people. But there are overlaps and connections and I don't believe they are trivial.

To use your analogy, dogs and girlfriends don't have singular functional roles, they each have multiple roles, and there is sometimes overlap in those roles, at least for some people (and some dogs).

But I don't wish to go on further and will bow out of this thread, except as necessary as an admin/moderator. If you wish to take that as a victory, that's fine; I'm leaving the ring of battle.

profloater
2014-Aug-19, 06:42 PM
Haha. No, that doesn't make more sense, but thanks for trying. As you say, the key word is belief. Our evidence is not validated by anyone's belief. The evidence is not evident only to me. The evidence is not observed only by me. You want to see the evidence for yourself? There it is. Take a look. Anyone in the world can look at the evidence. With their own eyes. It's not private or secret. I think observations that have been observed by numerous careful experimentalists are simply facts. Is it faith that I place in these experimentalists? No. I'd say it's trust, based on experience, and especially based on the fact that I, personally, could make the same observation if I was so inclined. But not just me. Anyone could. And numerous others have made the same observation. "Seeing is believing" is a common quotation. But seeing is much more than believing when anyone and everyone can see it.
Yes I get that but you are in the school where facts are facts whereas facts are actually interpretations of experiments or consensual history. Facts can change with future experiment. Indeed that is where science most definitely differs from religion where facts are dogma. The point indeed is belief and as in that long thread the nature of reality .

Amber Robot
2014-Aug-19, 08:05 PM
Moving back to the OP, I think science and religion are attempts to answer two different fundamental questions regarding our existence. Religion is focused on "Why", while science focuses on "How". Both questions are inherent to human curiosity.

Though religions have produced answers to "why", I don't believe they have answered the "why". We may not know "why" any fundamental physical constant has the value that it has, but saying "God made it to be that value" hasn't really improved the situation.

profloater
2014-Aug-19, 09:17 PM
Though religions have produced answers to "why", I don't believe they have answered the "why". We may not know "why" any fundamental physical constant has the value that it has, but saying "God made it to be that value" hasn't really improved the situation.

I don't read that religion has answered any why questions, "it just is" or "god moves in mysterious ways" The question of motive in any aspect of the universe outside human motivation seems anthropomorphic. Religion seems anthropomorphic.

A

korjik
2014-Aug-19, 09:21 PM
Yes I get that but you are in the school where facts are facts whereas facts are actually interpretations of experiments or consensual history. Facts can change with future experiment. Indeed that is where science most definitely differs from religion where facts are dogma. The point indeed is belief and as in that long thread the nature of reality .

Facts are not interpretations. That is the opposite definition of a fact.

Strange
2014-Aug-19, 11:24 PM
Facts can change with future experiment.

That might be a defensible position (depending on the definition of "fact", for example). But I would argue it is incorrect or, at least, inaccurate.

But that isn't what you said.


Given time all facts are wrong.

Is just plain wrong.

Amber Robot
2014-Aug-19, 11:34 PM
I don't read that religion has answered any why questions

I agree. That's what I said. Their "answers" are not answers.

Cougar
2014-Aug-20, 03:49 AM
...but you are in the school where facts are facts whereas facts are actually interpretations of experiments or consensual history.

Like the others, I disagree. I consider observations as facts. It's a fact that the spectral lines of a very distant object are shifted when compared to the same spectral lines observed in a lab on Earth. The fact doesn't change. Our understanding of this phenomenon surely evolves. It is doubtful, however, that our future understanding will conclude that the shift is because the distant object is a quasar recently ejected from an AGN, so its matter constituents are newly "born" and therefore younger compared to our much older matter constituents here on Earth, which causes the relative shift in spectral line locations. Right?

Today's scientists are standing on the shoulders of giants. But you seem to be saying that there never were any giants - it's all just cultural relativism, and any "interpretation" is just as good as any other. From my experience, there are very good scientific reasons why mainstream theories are broadly accepted.

Solfe
2014-Aug-20, 05:39 AM
I've been reading a long and have to ask - "What science?" The scientific method would make a lousy religion and I just can't see any specific field of science as qualifying, either.

Hlafordlaes
2014-Aug-20, 08:29 AM
Count me in "the observations are facts" crowd. Sure, measurements can improve so they become fuller or more detailed, but that is not in the same ballpark with theoretical interpretation. Fossils are there and are real old, gravity attracts, and I need oxygen to breathe. Science is the method for discovering how that all works systematically.

profloater
2014-Aug-20, 10:17 AM
Maybe this is the right thread to debate this. I accept you can define an observation as a fact but is it really? An observation is a good word. We take many observations and compare them. After some time we can say this spectral line is at x with observational error y and we call that a fact to print in a text book. But observation in future my find both x and y change so the fact changes.

To allocate one of these facts as a property of nature is to use our interpretation or indeed well teasted theory as dogma and of course that may prove right over time but we believe in our theory while it passes tests. We cannot say that the world stays the same

Hlafordlaes
2014-Aug-20, 10:50 AM
I think gravity is always the best example. Simple fact, huge amount of explaining to do. Light reflecting or not off glass due to pane thickness is another; easy to observe, big time explaining.

Van Rijn
2014-Aug-20, 10:56 AM
Given time all facts are wrong.

Is that a fact?

caveman1917
2014-Aug-20, 11:10 AM
Is that a fact?

And if so, when will it turn out to be wrong? But if that fact turns out to be wrong, then doesn't it turn out to be right? Liar paradoxes are so much fun :)

SeanF
2014-Aug-20, 12:54 PM
And if so, when will it turn out to be wrong?
Technically, because of the "given time" dodge, it will never be wrong - at least not until the end of time.

And at that point the "given time" requirement becomes impossible, so the statement still can't be said to be wrong. :)

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-20, 12:54 PM
Paul Beardsley,

I've lost interest in this topic and this thread [Snip] But I don't wish to go on further and will bow out of this thread, except as necessary as an admin/moderator.

Disappointing, but I respect your wishes.


If you wish to take that as a victory, that's fine; I'm leaving the ring of battle.

I am saddened that you think I am that petty.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-20, 01:02 PM
One more quick analogy regarding the "science is sufficiently similar to religion to enable one to find the functional role of the latter in the former".

Consider a bathroom, and consider a storeroom for bathroom facilities.

On the surface there are a lot of similarities. Both are rooms, both are often locked, both contain a bath, a toilet, a wash hand basin and so on.

But there is one crucial difference. The items in the storeroom are not plumbed in.

Now, however many other similarities there might be, that one difference trumps all the others.

In the same way, however many differences there might be between science and religion, the fact that science is based on observation and logic whereas religion is not trumps all the similarities.

Cougar
2014-Aug-20, 01:36 PM
But there is one crucial difference. The items in the storeroom are not plumbed in.

I like it. One is actually connected to the real world.

On the other hand, taking the analogy any further is not very favorable to either viewpoint. :o

Strange
2014-Aug-20, 01:39 PM
On the similarity side, when we see something amazing like a rainbow we can all be amazed and wonder about it.

A religious explanation says that God/gods did it and it is therefore more amazing because of that.

The scientific explanation looks at refractive indices, dispersion, angles of refraction and total internal reflection, etc. Now, Keats (I think) said something about that knowledge destroying the beauty, but he was obviously wrong: knowing more about how it works just makes it more amazing.

So in both cases, the chosen way of understanding the world adds to the person's appreciation of it.

Strange
2014-Aug-20, 01:42 PM
But there is one crucial difference. The items in the storeroom are not plumbed in.

Now, however many other similarities there might be, that one difference trumps all the others.

Not necessarily. It depends what your purpose is. Instead of a storeroom, imagine all the bathroom equipment is arranged in a perfect replica of a bathroom but still not plumbed in. Now, if you are making a movie, this version trumps the real bathroom because you don't have the cost and complexity of plumbing-in and then disassembling something that never needed to be functional.

Horses for courses.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-20, 01:51 PM
On the similarity side, when we see something amazing like a rainbow we can all be amazed and wonder about it.

A religious explanation says that God/gods did it and it is therefore more amazing because of that.

The scientific explanation looks at refractive indices, dispersion, angles of refraction and total internal reflection, etc. Now, Keats (I think) said something about that knowledge destroying the beauty, but he was obviously wrong: knowing more about how it works just makes it more amazing.

So in both cases, the chosen way of understanding the world adds to the person's appreciation of it.

Douglas Adams wrote a beautiful piece on this topic in the first Dirk Gently novel.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-20, 01:52 PM
Not necessarily. It depends what your purpose is. Instead of a storeroom, imagine all the bathroom equipment is arranged in a perfect replica of a bathroom but still not plumbed in. Now, if you are making a movie, this version trumps the real bathroom because you don't have the cost and complexity of plumbing-in and then disassembling something that never needed to be functional.

Horses for courses.

I'm not sure you get what I mean. I am not saying bathrooms trump storerooms, I'm saying a single difference can trump a host of similarities.

Strange
2014-Aug-20, 01:52 PM
Douglas Adams wrote a beautiful piece on this topic in the first Dirk Gently novel.

Despite that being my favourite Douglas Adams book, I don't remember that. I will have to read it again.

Strange
2014-Aug-20, 01:55 PM
I'm not sure you get what I mean. I am not saying bathrooms trump storerooms, I'm saying a single difference can trump a host of similarities.

Yes. But one difference can trump in one direction (*) while another difference can trump in a different way. Depending on what you want to achieve. In other words, the scientific view isn't necessarily the "best" way of viewing the world. (But that might not have been the point of your analogy...)

(*) Related to another thread, I don't know if that is a valid way to use "trump" :)

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-20, 02:25 PM
Yes. But one difference can trump in one direction (*) while another difference can trump in a different way. Depending on what you want to achieve. In other words, the scientific view isn't necessarily the "best" way of viewing the world. (But that might not have been the point of your analogy...)

(*) Related to another thread, I don't know if that is a valid way to use "trump" :)

(My bold.) I am absolutely not saying bathrooms are better than storerooms (or vice versa). I am also not saying science is better than religion (or vice versa) although I have my opinions which are not difficult to infer.

If you want to store a load of baths, basins etc, a storeroom is the ideal place to do this.

If you want to relieve yourself, relax in a hot bath and so on, a bathroom is the ideal place to do this.

My point is that bathrooms and storerooms are not the same thing. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the two, but the fact that items in bathrooms are plumbed in and items in storerooms are not is the difference that renders all the similarities irrelevant.

caveman1917
2014-Aug-20, 03:47 PM
Technically, because of the "given time" dodge, it will never be wrong - at least not until the end of time.

And at that point the "given time" requirement becomes impossible, so the statement still can't be said to be wrong. :)

I interpreted it as "for every fact F there exists a finite time t after which F will be false" :)

Chuck
2014-Aug-20, 04:25 PM
But won't the fact that it's become false also become false at some time after that?

caveman1917
2014-Aug-20, 04:36 PM
But won't the fact that it's become false also become false at some time after that?

Depends on what the other facts do too, but looking at that fact alone it's basically saying "there exists a time at which F is false" as well as "for all times it is true that at that time F is true".

Paul Beardsley
2014-Aug-20, 04:36 PM
But won't the fact that it's become false also become false at some time after that?

See post 223.

profloater
2014-Aug-20, 05:22 PM
Depends on what the other facts do too, but looking at that fact alone it's basically saying "there exists a time at which F is false" as well as "for all times it is true that at that time F is true".
There you go a fact is "true" by consensus and experiment at some range of space time. We don't know what happens to that fact outside our range of space time. We can extrapolate using a hypothesis but that hypothesis becomes untestable outside the said range of space time so it is just a belief at that point. So I must admit I cannot tell which facts will need revision only that in the past and future there are ranges of space time where testing is impossible.

Cougar
2014-Aug-20, 06:03 PM
There you go. A fact is "true" by consensus and experiment at some range of space time. [punctuation added ;)]

Please give an example of your idea of a "fact" that is currently "true." I think you may be referring to "theories" or ... well, that's why I ask.

Strange
2014-Aug-20, 06:05 PM
There you go a fact is "true" by consensus ...

As Cougar says, I think you need to define what you mean by "fact". I struggle to think of a definition that would fit the above.

profloater
2014-Aug-20, 06:15 PM
As Cougar says, I think you need to define what you mean by "fact". I struggle to think of a definition that would fit the above.
Definition: A fact is a statement that is true by consensus and experimental evidence at the time stated.

mkline55
2014-Aug-20, 06:19 PM
Would this be an example of the type of fact meeting this definition?

A meter is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.

Strange
2014-Aug-20, 06:22 PM
Definition: A fact is a statement that is true by consensus and experimental evidence at the time stated.

So, not a fact then.

Hlafordlaes
2014-Aug-20, 06:30 PM
Well, the facts of life I learned in Junior High were ones that by consensus we desperately wanted to be experiential. Thems the good old facts, alright.

profloater
2014-Aug-20, 06:30 PM
Please give an example of your idea of a "fact" that is currently "true." I think you may be referring to "theories" or ... well, that's why I ask.
I will try to find one or two pertinent to this thread:

Fact: Dinosaurs, or some of them, had feathers, according to new fossil records.
Fact: Humans have innate "mammalian deep dive reflex" like seals and whales that allows extraordinary deep water dives.
Fact: Humans do not have feathers normally but rarely people do grow feathers.
hypothesis for good measure: humans share common ancestors with dinosaurs and whales.

Perhaps you would like to name a fact that we know will never change whatever else we discover?

profloater
2014-Aug-20, 06:33 PM
Would this be an example of the type of fact meeting this definition?
Well I would call that a definition within science. (referring to the meter definition)

Strange
2014-Aug-20, 06:36 PM
Fact: Dinosaurs, or some of them, had feathers, according to new fossil records.

By your definition that was not a fact until it became so by consensus. This mean that changing popular opinion somehow retroactively caused dinosaurs wandering about with no feathers millions of years ago to magically grow them.


Perhaps you would like to name a fact that we know will never change whatever else we discover?

You appear to be changing your definition of fact.

It seems that some dinosaurs had feathers. If that is the case, then it will continue to be a fact even after the Sun turns into a red giant and destroys the Earth.

profloater
2014-Aug-20, 06:38 PM
So, not a fact then.
should I have said: a scientific fact is a scientific statement that is true by scientific consensus and current scientific evidence?

Cougar
2014-Aug-20, 06:39 PM
With my sense that a fact is an observation, it occurs to me that many, if not most, of all scientific observations are measurements. How much did the spectral lines shift? What is the angular size of that object? Of course, there are also facts expressing the existence of something: "Jupiter has moons." Profloater is concerned that billions of years in the future, this will no longer be true? How about "In 2014, Jupiter has moons"? This should be true forever, shouldn't it?

But with respect to measurements, these obviously can become more and more precise over time with better and better ways of measuring. But these modifications to the "facts" do not normally suddenly take on drastic new values, as proflater seems to imply. There is a definite and constant improvement toward the fact's ideal value, like a hyperbola approaching its asymptote, but never quite getting there. It is known that measurements are never "exact," so most scientific measurements place a given value between a high and low point. Surely it's a fact that the measurement is within that range!