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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