I am arriving very late to the party on this one, but I would like to reply to one portion of this post from Jean Kazez. She writes:

Likewise, I don’t see much point in discussing religion/science incompatibility in the public square. We can all agree on very plain and simple things–if science, then no creation in 6 days. If science, then no dinosaurs living at the same time as humans. Lots of limited incompatibilities like that are indisputable. But the more sweeping assertion that science rules out most of religion is complicated and technical (what is science? what is religion? what is compatibility?). And there are important issues about the impact of making that assertion. There’s room for debate here–I feel more confident about the meta-ethics example–but there’s certainly nothing appalling about the position that sweeping assertions of science/religion incompatibility are ill-advised.

This is so, so wrong.

Most of Jean’s post is about the impropriety of discussing certain metaethical theories in the public square, specifically moral error theory. The idea is that the issues involved are too complicated, and too easily caricatured to the detriment of atheists, to be worth discussing in public. Hence the “Likewise” at the start of the quotation.

In a comment to her own post, responding to someone who had mentioned Sartre and Dostoevsky, Jean wrote:

The layman can understand what a few of the issues are just by reading Dostoevsky and Sartre, but I don’t think you can make any real headway on them without expertise in very technical areas of philosophy. Some areas of philosophy are not accessible to the layman, just like some areas of math or biology or linguistics.

Yes, let’s ponder some of the things the poor benighted layman cannot hope to understand. Galois cohomology comes to mind. It’s terribly complicated. Given eight hundred words on the op-ed page of the local newspaper I would probably do well to find a different topic. But is the complexity of the subject the main reason, or any reason at all, for not discussing it in public? Surely there are more pertinent reasons, like the complete irrelevance of Galois cohomology to any concern of public interest.

Contrast this with, say, the science of global warming. It’s also very complicated. Hardly the sort of topic that can be done justice in a short essay or television interview. But since this is a topic of great public importance, I suggest we resist the temptation to retreat to our ivory towers and behave condescendingly towards laymen. We might even decide that something less than a professional-level understanding is sufficient for people to make informed decisions. And since the opposition does not seem to be wringing its hands over the sheer complexity of it all, I think we just might have to sacrifice some of our academic purity.

Is there any issue of current political concern that isn’t complicated and technical? Is it simple to understand the causes of the economic crisis or the current political turmoil in Egypt and Libya? Of course not, but it is imperative to make the effort, because the issues are relevant to the public, and because the political right would be happy to have its fantastical version of events take hold as the official story.

That is how many of us see the issue of science/religion compatibility. We note the excessive respect and power granted to religious institutions and see a serious social problem. We note the existence of well-funded groups relentlessly peddling science/religion compatibility, a view we tend to regard as pernicious nonsense. Those seem like good reasons for pushing back when given the chance, even if that means, perhaps, being dismissive of the ontological argument or not discussing the merits of Jainism. Endlessly fretting about nuances and technicalities has its place, but so does cutting to the heart of the matter and telling it like it is.

Here’s another reason. People tend to be insular. This is especially true of religious conservatives. They tend to keep doing what they’ve always done, and thinking what they’ve always thought, until something novel catches their attention. If you want to win people to your way of thinking you must first make them aware that your way of thinking is out there. Sometimes that means screaming and yelling a bit, and not worrying so much about bruising a few feelings. You write your op-eds and your letters to the editor not simply because you think you can thereby capture every nuance of an issue, or that you will bowl people over with the force of your arguments, but as one small contribution to ensuring that your ideas are part of the public conversation.

So that is two points of disagreement between Jean and me. I see plenty of point in discussing science/religion compatibility in public and I do not think the complexity of the issue is any reason at all for doing otherwise. So let’s move on to the next consideration. Perhaps arguing for the incompatibility of science and religion is the sort of thing that is so offensive and incendiary that basic political considerations militate against being too vocal. You have to pick your fights in life, and there are situations where being right isn’t necessarily the most important thing. I assume that’s the sort of thing she has in mind in referring to the impact of making the assertion.

I can only say I find this view incredible. Consider Jean’s other example. She notes that moral error theory commits you to the view that the statement, “Torturing babies just for fun is wrong,” cannot be described as true. If this view becomes
closely associated with atheism it could make us look very bad. She describes this as a good reason for not linking atheism with this view in the public square. I quite agree. I would look at the ease with which the conclusions of moral error theory can be caricatured, and the general irrelevance of metaethics to issues of public concern, as good reasons for not making too big a fuss about it.

But is that remotely comparable to the assertion that science and religion are incompatible? Is the impact of that view on the average layman similar to making them worry you are soft on baby torture? Unlike moral error theory, which is virtually unknown outside of the local philosophy department, the view that science and religion are at least in tension if not flatly incompatible is really very common. You are not going to shock anyone by endorsing it. It just is not a terribly incendiary thing to believe or promote. Certainly it is no more shocking to people than is atheism itself, but I assume no one is arguing that atheists should never discuss their religious views in public.

Jean’s post is part of a much larger series that has recently engulfed the small corner of the blogosphere that cares about these things. Russell Blackford has an excellent post on the subject, as does Jason Streitfeld. Go read their posts as well!

Comments

  1. #1 Jean Kazez
    February 28, 2011

    Jason,

    The problem with extracting that paragraph is that you make it seem as if I wrote a post specifically about how to talk about science/religion in public, and then didn’t do justice to the topic. But that wasn’t the topic.

    The topic was established by Russell’s reply to my post about “gnu” atheism. I was praising critics who object to contempt, but support candor. Russell basically said “wait a minute, not all critics support candor. Mooney objected to Coyne saying certain things at all.” Russell talked about this as if it was disgraceful to be against candor.

    My response was two-fold–first, to bring the focus back to people who object just to contempt, and do praise candor. Second, to question whether it really is necessarily so disgraceful to question candor in some special cases. Should we really have a policy of “constant candor”?

    I argued that we shouldn’t, focusing on a different topic, not science/religion incompatibility. That topic was not the heart of the matter, as far as I was concerned. In the comments, I switch to many other topics as well. The issue was candor (to repeat)! My main example was how to discuss metaethics in public, a question that’s timely because of Sam Harris’s recent book.

    My comments about what the public can understand related to public discussions of metaethics. I stand by my assertion that metaethics is an advanced philosophy topic–especially at the level where the error theory in particular is being discussed and compared to competitors.

    Now, when I say that, you shouldn’t assume I’m sending academics back to the ivory tower. Not at all–in fact, I write books and articles for the public. My 2007 book (oriented to the public) has a chapter dealing with metaethics in an elementary way. So the gnashing of teeth about my elitism is…well, best ignored, so enough of that.

    Now as to that paragraph about science/religion incompatibility. You make a good point that the issue is out there already, and the compatibility view is heavily funded. So it needs to be responded to. OK–fair enough. My question, then, is why you think the type of discussion I praised as legitimate is not enough. You can challenge the “total compatibility” view by talking about specific incompatibilities. If you talk about lots and lots of specific incompatibilities, you’ve done serious damage to “total compatibility.”

    If you go even further, and argue for “total incompatibility,” it’s going to take much more firepower to prove your point. That’s going to force you into territory that’s “complicated and technical.” just as I said. For example, you’re going to have to be very precise about which ideas are part of religion and not part of religion. (A sample topic: are the moral pronouncements of a religion integral to it? Are those incompatible with science?)

    And then, there are strategic issues. If you argue for “total incompatibility,” rather than just contesting “total compatibility” with specific areas of incompatibility, you’ll certainly alienate your liberal religious allies by taking such a strong stand.

    But again, that post was not essentially about how to discuss science and religion in public. That one paragraph certainly doesn’t do the subject justice.

  2. #2 melior
    February 28, 2011

    After reading Blackford, it seems to me Kazez’s original fairytale would have mapped to reality a lot more accurately if she had framed the compatibilist theists as the young children around whom one must very carefully moderate what truths are discussed, and one’s tone, to avoid miscomprehensions, hurt feelings, and sniffly crying fits.

    And no, I don’t agree that we should do so, whether for purely Rovian strategic purposes as in Kazez’s fallback position, nor out of condescendingly false civility as in her original argument.

  3. #3 Michael Fugate
    February 28, 2011

    “And then, there are strategic issues. If you argue for “total incompatibility,” rather than just contesting “total compatibility” with specific areas of incompatibility, you’ll certainly alienate your liberal religious allies by taking such a strong stand.”

    What do you think will happen if the liberal religious feel alienated by the incapability argument? Will they become creationists? Will they deny global climate change? Will they believe the Bible is the literal truth?

  4. #4 eric
    February 28, 2011

    Jean Kazez: If you go even further, and argue for “total incompatibility,” it’s going to take much more firepower to prove your point. That’s going to force you into territory that’s “complicated and technical.” just as I said. For example, you’re going to have to be very precise about which ideas are part of religion and not part of religion. (A sample topic: are the moral pronouncements of a religion integral to it? Are those incompatible with science?)

    I’m a supporter of your ‘go after the claims’ approach, but I think you’re misunderstanding Jason’s argument about incompatibility if you think it has to do with increasing the firepower by adding more claims having to do with the various ideas contained in a religion. His argument is based on the fundamental incompatibility of method, not the incompatibility of various statements which are the results of each method.

    So, it doesn’t matter whether biblical revelation gets fact X right or wrong, the point is, revelation as a method for gaining knowledge is incompatible with science’s empirical test-and-revise method. Whether they come up with the same answer on occasion, or different answers, is almost irrelevant.

    The method argument is neither complicated nor technical. We would be fools to base our understanding of the world on the random typing of monkeys…even if the random typing occasionally spelled out “e = mc^2.” A system of knowledge should have verification, reproduction, a common understanding of what consitutes evidence for or against ideas. Science has those things. Typing monkeys do not. Divine revelation does not. As methods for gaining knowledge, the latter two are incompatible with the method of science.

  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 28, 2011

    Jean —

    Thanks for the clarification, but I don’t see how I misrepresented anything you said. I pretty clearly agreed with you that a policy of “constant candor” is not desirable, and I also agreed with the specific example you gave regarding moral error theory.

    But the main paragraph I quoted from you is perfectly clear and not out of context. You said that you see no point in discussing science/religion compatibility in the public square. You suggested that the issue is too technical and complex to “make headway on them [laymen]” And you argued that it could make atheists look bad in the same way that arguing for moral error theory could make us look bad. I disagree with all three of those points, for reasons that I outlined in the post.

    I have no doubt that you are a believer in writing for the general public; you write a blog after all. But the fact remains that what you wrote is very condescending and elitist, whether you meant it that way or not. Don’t expect the average layman to react kindly to being treated as someone you are trying to “make headway on” or to being told there are certain areas of philosophy (or math or biology) that are not accessible to him. There are degrees of understanding. If you want to understand metaethics the way professional philosophers do then you will simply have to go to graduate school for a few years. But I doubt if there is anything academics study whose main ideas could not be communicated to an interested layman in a reasonable period of time. If metaethics suddenly became relevant to some issue of public concern, I think you and your colleagues would find an accessible way of explaining it.

    On science/religion compatibility, I think the problem goes far deeper than your handful of examples allows. That is why it is not enough to limit the discussion to what you find legitimate. My own view is that it has to be a mighty liberal sort of religion that sits comfortably with modern science. I also think religion is a generally negative force in society, and something which we need a whole lot less of. Perhaps I am wrong about either or both of those claims, but that is how it seems to me and to a whole lot of other people. I also see not a shred of evidence that vocal atheism is hurting the cause, or anything else to justify comparisons to moral error theory. If you think we’re wrong to worry so much about religion then just say that and keep the debate on substance. “Going meta,” as Russell puts it, with tedious lectures about tone is really not advancing the discussion.

    That the issues in science and religion are complex if you try to comprehend every nuance of them is just a red herring in this discussion. There is absolutely nothing of general public interest that doesn’t become complex and technical if you study it deeply. The criteria that should be used are the importance of the issue balanced against the potential harm of picking the wrong fight. I think science/religion compatibility is very important and I don’t think it is an instance of picking the wrong fight.

    A final point. Russell is entirely right to make an issue of Chris Mooney’s reaction to Jerry Coyne’s review of Miller and Giberson. The review was as civil as could be, as even Mooney admitted. To say that even that was too much is effectively equivalent to saying you’re simply not allowed to write a negative review of books arguing for science/religion compatibility. Many of us have long suspected that the endless handwringing about tone, the blather about framing, the attempts to draw clear lines between contempt and candor, and the pompous judgments about who is and is not being a dick, are really just code for telling us to shut up. Your post very strongly implied as much.

  6. #6 J. J. Ramsey
    February 28, 2011

    From Larry Moran:

    The assumption is that “testability” is a requirement for the way of knowing that I call “science.” I don’t accept that limitation.

    This came out of Moran’s attempt to justify a broad incompatibility of science and religion. He basically expanded the definition of “science” to absurdity to get his desired conclusion.

    Or look at what eric wrote above “the fundamental incompatibility of method.” Now I more or less know what he’s referring to. The implication is that a scientist would answer a question like “What is the speed of light?” through experimental methods, while a religious believer would try to answer such a question through a religious “method” like faith, e.g. asking a shaman or trying to look something up in a holy book. Trouble is, that contrast of methods hardly reflects even conservative religious practice.

    This is the mess you get when you don’t think about the technical aspects of science-religion compatibility.

  7. #7 J
    February 28, 2011

    Before one starts comparing science and religion, it would be advisable to assert their absolute validity. If either is flawed then establishing their compatibilty is a waste of time. Not to mention, they operate by different principles with which having a distinct focus, for instance, morality vs. discovery.

    Science, just like religion, requires faith in what is presented by it and portrayed as a fact.

    When a scientist makes an observation, which eventually might turn out incorrect or inaccurate (happens quite frequently), and assures the public that they have the evidence to support what they are trying to prove to be true, one would need to have at least some trust in science in order to believe that what the scientist is saying is true.

    Whether it’s indeed true or not is impossible to prove at the moment of presentation, if you yourself are not equipped with the necessary tools. And even if you are, your own obervation might be skewed as well either by the bias of the scientist imposed on you, or your own observatory flaws.

    One would think that in order to be able to see the objective truth, one would need an exceptional ability to see.

    For instance, when a scientist announces their finding, such as the existence of protons in the nucleus of the atom, which are impossible to see directly through the microscope, neither by the scientist themselves or yourself, people usually accept it as a fact, and why? Because they simply trust science.

    Later, this fact, of course, will be substituted with a different fact, and the former will be discarded and deemed untrue, and everybody will feel like a fool.

    By the same token, a phrophet, for example, might claim to have seen a vision of God, which normally people are not equipped to see, and tries to present his vision as indirect evidence for the existence of the supernatural,it would require an immense amount of faith in order to believe it, and accept it as true. Seeing visions could be possible due to enhanced brain capacity, and not mental illness, or it could be both.

    Taking into consideration the conniving nature of the general popuplation, highly motivated by profit and self-interests, their search for the objective truth is largly impeded.

    One should also remember that an idea might work and have a long-lasting life span even without any basis to it.
    The question is – do you want the truth or do you want comfort?

  8. #8 Deepak Shetty
    February 28, 2011

    J. J. Ramsey

    Trouble is, that contrast of methods hardly reflects even conservative religious practice.

    Take some of the core questions of religion
    a. Does God exist?
    b. Does Prayer work?
    c. Which religion is true?
    d. How did we get here?
    Do you think that that the method you use to answer these questions scientifically is the same as religiously (even fairly liberal religious methods?)

  9. #9 J. J. Ramsey
    February 28, 2011

    Deepak Shetty: “Do you think that that the method you use to answer these questions scientifically is the same as religiously”

    You miss the point. Religion doesn’t have an analog to the scientific method that’s meant for answering general questions. Now on some specific questions, such as the age of the Earth, you clearly get different answers from science and certain religions. Still other questions (such as whether Loki exists :P) have specific religious answers that aren’t in conflict with scientific findings. The question of prayer is a borderline case. So far, we don’t see prayer make a difference, but so long as you’re dealing with a purported deity that can both say “no” to prayers and dole out favors even to those who don’t ask, it’s problematic to use prayer studies to argue that no god is listening to prayers. Furthermore, there are plenty of questions about which religions say nothing at all one way or the other. In any case, you’re still stuck dealing with particular questions; there’s no general “religious method” to parallel the scientific one.

  10. #10 Deepak Shetty
    March 1, 2011

    Religion doesn’t have an analog to the scientific method that’s meant for answering general questions.
    These are religious questions not general questions – I didn’t as the age of the earth after all. Religious questions have real world implications. If prayer did worked it would be useful to know. And it doesn’t matter whether the answer is prayer does work, doesn’t work or sometimes works(or even if it matches the religious answer) – the way you arrive at the answer is completely different and therein lies the incompatibility.

    The core question is does God exist (without which most religion falls apart) and the method you use to arrive at that answer is again completely different depending on whether you use scientific means or religious ones.

    there’s no general “religious method” to parallel the scientific one.
    yes there is. its called faith.

  11. #11 articulett
    March 1, 2011

    I think an even more core question that “do gods exist?” is “is there any evidence for immortal souls– or ANY kind of consciousness absent a material brain?”

    Without souls, gods are irrelevant. And if one can’t provide evidence for souls, why should anyone in the public square have to know or care about gods? I will be glad to assume that believers are rational so long as they keep their magical beliefs as private as their fetishes. If I don’t know about their magical beliefs, they need not worry about what my opinion of those beliefs may be.

  12. #12 J. J. Ramsey
    March 1, 2011

    Deepak Shetty: “there’s no general ‘religious method’ to parallel the scientific one. yes there is. its called faith.”

    Yes, yes, that’s a common incompatibilist line, but it doesn’t work. First, the idea that religion is necessarily about faith is simply false. See, for example, pages 9-10 in Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained. Second, and more importantly, if it were true, then the religious would be using faith in general to answer the same questions that scientists do, and that not only doesn’t happen, but it can’t, because there are plenty of questions about which religions are silent (e.g. the speed of light). So we’re right back to the same sort of limited incompatibility that the NCSE has always granted.

  13. #13 eric
    March 1, 2011

    J.J. Ramsey,
    Lots of good points there. Particularly the last one about religious people using different methods for different purposes. We all do this. Human society couldn’t funciton if we didn’t, so its a valid defense as far as it goes.

    However, I disagree with your implication that not even conservative christians try and use divine revelation to answer scientific questions. I think you are merely sweeping under the rug the groups which don’t fit your ‘limited incompatibility’ model. There clearly are people who think revelation trumps any other method when dealing with scientific questions. There are in fact so many that they have their own textbook publishing industry, for example Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books, and in those textbooks they state plainly that when there is a conflict between empirical and revelatory methods, revelation wins. They actively promote the idea that their christian “worldview” is incompatible with the scientific “worldview.” You can’t just pretend this population doesn’t exist or is irrelevant. They do exist and they are very politically relevant to the question of what gets taught in schools, because they are very vocal and politically active about it.

    If you don’t believe me, read the Ayala and Kennedy witness reports from the ACSI v Stearns case. These two UC professors had to review christian biology textbooks for their appropriateness in fulfilling UC A-G requirements, and they cite them chapter and verse about rejection of the scientific method even on questions of science. Its right there. These people exist. In numbes large enough that they have their own professionally published textbooks. You can’t empirically claim that no one thinks this way without completely ignoring such evidence.

  14. #14 Deepak Shetty
    March 1, 2011

    First, the idea that religion is necessarily about faith is simply false
    You have any other strawmen that you want to pontificate on?

    then the religious would be using faith in general to answer the same questions that scientists do
    But I’m not saying that. I gave you atleast two questions that the religious have faith about (does God exist? and does prayer work?) – If people didn’t have faith to answer both of those as “yes” then most religions would show a drastic difference. Similarly is there an afterlife? (and whether it involves reward or punishment) is also a core religious(for most religions) question. You do not answer these questions using the same method for religion and science. Since in my opinion , these are fundamental to the religion, hence incompatibility.
    Faith is a general purpose method in religion does not imply it is used for everything – similarly we don’t use empirical evidence for everything (for e.g. in a court of law where we use circumstantial evidence and inductive reasoning and where we set the bar as “beyond reasonable doubt”)

    Also I’m curious How would you answer “Is science compatible with astrology?” – given that astrology does not answer every question, you can be both a scientist and rely on astrology to make life’s decisions and the key -you can believe in evolution and astrology without any conflict (since that’s what the accomodationists worry about) . NOMA also works better with astrology and science

  15. #15 J. J. Ramsey
    March 1, 2011

    eric: “However, I disagree with your implication that not even conservative christians try and use divine revelation to answer scientific questions.”

    What I was trying to say was that in general, not even conservative Christians would think that the answers to all questions would be found through faith. If that were true, the early history of science would be very different. Remember, most early scientists were Christians.

    Indeed, I’d say that while simply pointing to religious scientists is not a sufficient refutation of incompatibility, any defense of incompatibility has to take their actual behavior into account. Note, too, that claims like “These scientists were compartmentalizing” must actually be justified, not just asserted, which starts getting you into technical territory (e.g. studying the histories of religious scientists, perhaps reviewing relevant social science surveys, and so on).

    Deepak Shetty: “Faith is a general purpose method in religion does not imply it is used for everything”

    First, you claimed that there is a general “religious method,” called “faith,” that parallels the scientific method (see post #10). Considering the discussion above, the implication is that it is generally used by the religious in place of science and applied to the same questions to which science would be applied.

    Second, referring to faith as a “method” at all is horribly unclear.

    Deepak Shetty: “Is science compatible with astrology?”

    Astrology makes empirical claims just as creationism does. Science is perfectly equipped to deal with those claims, and to the extent that it has, astrology has been found wanting.

  16. #16 eric
    March 1, 2011

    J. J. Ramsey: Indeed, I’d say that while simply pointing to religious scientists is not a sufficient refutation of incompatibility, any defense of incompatibility has to take their actual behavior into account.

    I am taking people’s behavior into account. The people who use the bible to answer empirical questions and who explicitly accept revelation as a method of learning about the world. You are the one pretending no one does this, or at least implying that the people who act this way don’t matter for the purposes of this debate. They do matter. As I pointed out, they are a large enough group to publish their own high school text books and they are politically vocal.

    Deepak Shetty: “Is science compatible with astrology?”

    [J.J. in response:] Astrology makes empirical claims just as creationism does. Science is perfectly equipped to deal with those claims, and to the extent that it has, astrology has been found wanting.

    You just dodged his point. You initially claimed compatibility of science and religion based on the reasoning that religious people use science (or, different phrasing, because they don’t rely on religion exclusively). But astrologers use science too, so they’d fulfill this definition of compatible.

    Now, in your last sentence you switch to a different definition of compatibility. Here, you implied without explcitily stating outright that astrology is incompatible because it reaches different answers to questions which science can answer. But religion has that same problem.

    So, two observations on your responses to Shetty. First, you need to be consistent in how you define compatibility. Do you want to define it on amount of use (first defense) or on whether it gets the same same answers (second defense)? Or some other way? Second, I think by either definition you’ve so far supplied, astrology is in the same boat as religion. If you want to be intellectually honest this means accepting that both are compatible or neither are compatible, but the one conclusion you can’t reach based on your current defenses of compatibility is the conclusion that one is compatible while the other isn’t.

  17. #17 J. J. Ramsey
    March 1, 2011

    eric:

    You initially claimed compatibility of science and religion based on the reasoning that religious people use science

    No, you misread. See what I write below …

    eric:

    I am taking people’s behavior into account. The people who use the bible to answer empirical questions and who explicitly accept revelation as a method of learning about the world. You are the one pretending no one does this, or at least implying that the people who act this way don’t matter for the purposes of this debate.

    No, I’m saying that for your argument about the existence of a “fundamental incompatibility of method” to make sense, you have to go so far as to say that the religious use their “method” wherever scientists use theirs. That is, the religious would answer any presumably scientific question with an appeal to their beliefs, not just certain select ones, such as the age of the earth or origins of species. Otherwise, the parallel between religious “methods” and scientific ones falls apart.

    Note that that has been what I’ve been saying in earlier.

  18. #18 J. J. Ramsey
    March 1, 2011

    Also …

    eric: “Now, in your last sentence you switch to a different definition of compatibility.”

    I haven’t switched definitions because I haven’t defended any particular notion of compatibility. I’ve merely been attacking your own justifications for incompatibility.

    Furthermore, total compatibility between religion and science isn’t even on the table here. Remember that the accommodationists side against creationists, whose religious beliefs obviously contradict science. The salient question is whether the beliefs of moderate and liberal religionists are compatible with science. The fundies are interesting mainly in that if your own account of incompatibility doesn’t account even for their behavior, then your account is really bad.

  19. #19 Deepak Shetty
    March 1, 2011

    the implication is that it is generally used by the religious in place of science and applied to the same questions to which science would be applied.
    It is generally used, yes, not necessarily used everywhere and not necessarily for the same question. It is used in place of science in a lot of fundamental questions (the questions that really matter , the one’s that supposedly science can have no say on). I gave you examples. If you cannot answer yes to the question of God then a lot of religious authority loses it’s *authority*.

    Second, referring to faith as a “method” at all is horribly unclear.
    Partly true. But when you believe the answer to a question without evidence what would you call it. Is it a *method* or not – I don’t know. What I do know is that’s the answer given when you ask questions. I believe or I have faith.

    Astrology makes empirical claims just as creationism does.
    You only seem to have experience with unsophisticated astrologers. Clearly the astrology that makes empirical claims is astrology done badly.

  20. #20 Astrology 2011
    March 1, 2011

    Thank you for everything

  21. #21 Deepak Shetty
    March 1, 2011

    J J Ramsey.
    Do you accept or not accept that the answer to “Does God exist?” has a serious implication(in the sense that it would invalidate them if the answer is not a definite yes) for most religion (you might still have Christians i.e. followers of Christ if the answer is No, but they would be the same as say the followers of Gandhi are Gandhians – not really a religion as we generally use the term).

    Do you accept or not that the way you would evaluate that question scientifically (where the term is used broadly , for e.g. if you had to prove this in a court of law) is not the way people evaluate this question religiously?

  22. #22 Jslfd
    March 1, 2011

    What the theory of evolution does not answer is HOW biological matter chooses different types of materials to form different organs and features,for instance, the materials to form eyes, beaks and fur, except for by means of natural selection and random genetic mutation under necessary environmental conditions.

    However, when genetic mutation occurs in an organism that does not possess melanin in its body to produce a certian shade of hair color, for instance, how and what natural selection will be selecting from. You would think that an organism has to form a feature first in order to be selected.

    If you observe cuttle fish, for example, it has a unique chameleon-like adaptation properties, such as instantaneously changing its shape and color in order to camouflage itself under particular environmental conditions. Scientists explain it in the following way (in a nutshell)- when cuttle fish receives a visual impulse from an object in its proximity, this impulse travels to its brain, and sends the necessary instructions back to its body that produce the required apperance alterations almost immediately in order to make the cuttle fish look like that object.

    If you observe male and femal peacocks, you’ll see that the tail of the male peacock with its elaborate pattern is meant for attracting peacock females for reproductive purposes. The question is – if initially the structural distictions between peacock males and females were minimal or null, and male peacocks evolved the tails later, then why this particular pattern and how? Did the peacock use the same principle that the cuttle fish uses to shange its body, only within a much longer period of time? But then again, what resembles the peacock’s tail in its environment?

  23. #23 J. J. Ramsey
    March 1, 2011

    Deepak Shetty:

    You only seem to have experience with unsophisticated astrologers. Clearly the astrology that makes empirical claims is astrology done badly.

    Show me a source that indicates that an astrologer would say such a thing. Otherwise, it just looks like you are trying to make a bad analogy between astrologers and liberal theists, and thus showing such sloppy thinking on your part that there is no point in further debating you.

  24. #24 Jslfd
    March 1, 2011

    #22 Continued..

    There is a type of fish that doesn’t have eyes and lives in cave streams in complete darkenss. The scientific explanation for the absense of eyes in this species is that there is no purpose or necessity for this organ, therefore this species outevolved them.

    Ok, if you use the logic of necessity, and add it the theory of evolution, then the reason why we have the organs and features we have is because there is a necessity for them in the first place, and therefore they are probably selected upon their appearance.

    If you apply the logic of necessity, then you can explain why humans have more adept agile hands in order to utilize tools more effectively, and so on.

  25. #25 eric
    March 1, 2011

    J.J. Ramsey No, I’m saying that for your argument about the existence of a “fundamental incompatibility of method” to make sense, you have to go so far as to say that the religious use their “method” wherever scientists use theirs.

    I don’t think so. When you have two processes for which the definitions of knowledge, evidence, and valid process (for knowledge gathering) are completely at odds, we can say that any and every exercise of method X is incompatible with method Y. Each use is incompatible; discussing how often people use X vs Y gets you nowhere. From a scientific perspective, the conclusion “I know X because the voice in my head told me X” is never valid. Not even once. It might lead to hypotheses to be tested, but it can never lead directly to theory or conclusion. To arrive at a conclusion that way – even once – is to use a method fundamentally incompatible with science.

    Now, people can flip between methods. But that doesn’t make them compatible methods.

    The salient question is whether the beliefs of moderate and liberal religionists are compatible with science.

    This is begging the question. If you only consider that group whose religious beliefs are largely compatible with science, of course you will arrive at the conclusion that their beliefs are largely compatible with science.

    Its also politically foolish. When it comes time to vote and decide public policy, the members of the group which you discount as unimportant are not simply going to stand aside.

    What you have here is an argument that is valid for a population which is not the population of the real world. You can consider the population of the real world instead – in which case, you’ll need to recognize that your argument is no longer valid – or doom your argument to irrelevancy. Valid irrelevancy, but irrelevancy nonetheless.

  26. #26 J. J. Ramsey
    March 1, 2011

    eric:

    When you have two processes for which the definitions of knowledge, evidence, and valid process (for knowledge gathering) are completely at odds, we can say that any and every exercise of method X is incompatible with method Y.

    This still doesn’t get you to your desired conclusion:

    First, you’re comparing two processes, rather than comparing science and religion themselves, so you’ve effectively moved the goalposts.

    Second, you haven’t established what these two processes are. Presumably, one of these is a process associated with science, and the other with religion. I’ll guess that you more or less have a handle on what the process associated with science is about, but it does not appear that you’ve actually thought about the other process, or even if there is something clearly defined enough to call a process. One thing that’s clear from reading a book like Religion Explained or listening to Scott Atran is that what one’s intuition says about religion is usually wrong. Until you are clear on what these processes even are or if they exist, you can’t even say they are “at odds.” What you’ve got is too hazy.

    Third, it’s one thing to say that two methods are incompatible if they lead to contradictory results. It’s another thing altogether if one method gives a result while the other is ambivalent. It’s yet another thing if one method deals with a different domain of questions than the other. In the latter two cases, “incompatible” is defined in a misleading manner.

    eric:

    This is begging the question. If you only consider that group whose religious beliefs are largely compatible with science, of course you will arrive at the conclusion that their beliefs are largely compatible with science.

    Funny, I thought the incompatibilists thought that the moderate and (most?) liberal believers were in the very same boat as the fundies. Why then would you assume that their beliefs were “largely compatible with science”? If you claim that there is some fundamental incompatibility between religion and science, would it not follow that moderate and liberal religion is just as incompatible as the conservative kind, since they purportedly contain the same underlying incompatibility? And if they don’t, how fundamental can this incompatibility possibly be?

  27. #27 Deepak Shetty
    March 1, 2011

    @JJ Ramsey
    Show me a source that indicates that an astrologer would say such a thing.
    Read the newspaper. Obviously my comment is tongue in cheek , but you can see that the predictions made by an astrologer aren’t empirically testable from any newspaper. You are making the assertion that they are – you prove it.
    For e.g. (true story) my friend has been told that if he marries someone , her father is more likely to die (hence he must marry someone with an already dead father , or someone with a nullifying star). What empirical test do you propose ?, given that it is simply said to be more likely(not certain) , that there is no guarantee for anything in life (astrologers words) and that two different astrologers may not even agree.
    Please propose an empirical , falsifiable test that it is practical for my friend to run , so that he can convince his parents that astrology is incompatible with science.

    What you dont seem to understand is that for certain cultures (Indian for e.g) astrology and superstition is as deeply held as religious conviction. Stating that astrology is incompatible with science will surely offend these people and you should be more mindful how you phrase this message(yes these are more digs to underline how silly your arguments sound to us when they are made about religion).

  28. #28 J. J. Ramsey
    March 1, 2011

    Deepak Shetty: “Obviously my comment is tongue in cheek”

    Translation: No, I don’t have a source backing up my claim about what an astrologer would say.

    Deepak Shetty: “but you can see that the predictions made by an astrologer aren’t empirically testable from any newspaper.”

    The whole point of astrology is that one can predict the future of human lives from the stars. That’s it’s main empirical claim, and depending on the details of the astrology, there are other empirical claims as well, such as what one’s sign of the zodiac means for one’s fate. That horoscopes have failed to be predictive shows that those empirical claims fail.

    Deepak Shetty: “Please propose an empirical, falsifiable test that it is practical for my friend to run”

    If you’re serious about convincing your friend, go find out what Indian skeptics have already done to debunk Indian astrology. You might start here: http://www.indianskeptic.com/no-winners-in-the-astrology-game/

    Deepak Shetty: “What you dont seem to understand is that for certain cultures (Indian for e.g) astrology and superstition is as deeply held as religious conviction. Stating that astrology is incompatible with science will surely offend these people”

    Let me rewrite this comment: “What you dont seem to understand is that for certain cultures (Indian fundagelicals for e.g) astrology and superstition creationism is as deeply held as religious conviction. Stating that astrology creationism is incompatible with science will surely offend these people”

    Please. Yes, we’re all well aware of specific religious beliefs that conflict with science. Heck, if there weren’t, there wouldn’t even be religious outreach attempts from those poor benighted accommodationist NCSE surrender monkeys. And yes, the NCSE is well aware that there are religious people who will take offense at them.

  29. #29 J.J.E.
    March 1, 2011

    @ J. J. Ramsey

    Let’s approach this from an epistemological perspective. O.K., if we were to take all human endeavors, ideologies, methods, ways of thought, etc. (this list would at least include science and religion) and examined their ways of knowing, our über Venn diagram would include a lot of overlap, particularly with science. Science’s primary way of doing things (including observation, model building, comparing models, logical reasoning, mathematics, etc. for convenience, I’ll call this this rational toolkit) is so useful that many endeavors make use of them too. So, while science cannot (and should not) lay exclusive claim to the rational toolkit, the rational toolkit is characteristic of science.

    So, up front, I will make a big concession: a subset of the epistemology of any endeavor (like religion) is potentially overlapping with that of science in a good way and even more of it is potentially at least not contradictory to science.

    However, I think that, even with these concessions, science and religion are incompatible. The most instructive way to examine this is to find out where religions overlap with each other, to find the common threads of religious epistemology, and evaluate these aspects of religion in relation to science. I don’t think it is controversial to say that an overwhelming majority of religions as well as the believers of those religions have at least one thing in common: the authority of revealed truth. Whether it be the Koran, the Bible, the Pope, etc., a majority of religion as practiced takes for granted that at least a subset of what is taken as truth is derived from authoritative sources. And yes there are exceptions who eschew authority: John Shelby Spong, Quakers, Unitarians, etc. (if you’re religious, you can even fill yourself in here). Another area of large overlap of religious epistemologies with one another is appeal to the “supernatural” or “divine” or “transcendent” or “numinous”. Basically, most religion appeals to some untestable force(s)/entity(ies) outside of human experience.

    So, I would say it isn’t very unreasonable to say that two common epistemological threads running through most religions are faith (as a way of knowing) and the divine (as what is being known). A less charitable synonymous sentence might be: “Religious practice usually includes dogma concerning the unknowable.” Most religions would suffer large changes if they were to suddenly eschew dogma concerning the unknowable. In fact, I would say eschewing all dogma concerning the unknowable would render most religions unrecognizable to our current notions of religion. For convenience, I will call these aspects the “spiritual toolbox”. (you may prefer something more neutral, like “X”, the label isn’t important)

    Basically, the spiritual toolbox is characteristic of religion (although it is neither exclusive to religion nor does it encompass all of religion). The spiritual toolbox is incompatible with the rational toolkit. Therefore, insofar as religious epistemology is characterized by the spiritual toolbox and scientific epistemology by the rational toolkit, they are incompatible.

    This proposition may be easier to swallow by considering the following analogy: running and walking are mutually exclusive non-exhaustive partitions of human methods of locomotion. Thus, they are incompatible. Yet, a runner may occasionally walk and walker may occasionally run. And indeed, many people may do both quite frequently. But the fact that people practice both running and walking does not make them any more compatible with each other.

  30. #30 Deepak Shetty
    March 1, 2011

    JJ Ramsey
    Translation: No, I don’t have a source backing up my claim about what an astrologer would say.
    Believe that if you wish. I gave you some examples. If you have ever read a fortune cookie or a horoscope , you can see that not all claims are empirical. Why do you pretend otherwise?

    http://www.indianskeptic.com/no-winners-in-the-astrology-game/
    So the failure to predict the winner of an election is enough to damn all of astrology?

    Again predictive is not the same as certaintity , some claims are empirical , some are not (you will have more luck if you wear green , how the heck do you measure this ).

    Yes, we’re all well aware of specific religious beliefs that conflict with science.
    Ah yes , the ones where the one true religious interpretation is non literal.

  31. #31 Lenoxuss
    March 1, 2011

    I agree with J. J. Ramsey that astrological claims are empirical. However, it’s strange to treat them as more empirical than religious ones. Earlier, J.J. said:

    The question of prayer is a borderline case. So far, we don’t see prayer make a difference, but so long as you’re dealing with a purported deity that can both say “no” to prayers and dole out favors even to those who don’t ask, it’s problematic to use prayer studies to argue that no god is listening to prayers.

    But of course almost exactly the same things can be and have been said in defense of astrology’s experimental failures: that the predictions are not ironclad, that there can always be a nullifying force, etc. And in the case of both astrology and prayer, the defense is bunk; if either initial claim is remotely true, we should see correlations that we’re simply not seeing, never mind about a 100% success rate.

    Sometimes emergency responders are overworked enough that they have to say “no” to some people, and other times they happen to see someone in trouble and help them even though that someone never contacted them. And the emergency lines are staffed by people, not vending machines or wish-granting genies. (To use two entites I’ve heard theists contrast with God, by way of straw-manning.) Yet any empirical test of the statement “People in emergencies who call 911 are better off than those who do not call 911″ would give hard-to-ignore evidence in favor of “yes”. This is not the case with prayer. Prayer, to all appearances, is just a kind of talking to oneself.

    But the thing is, you’ll be very hard-pressed to find even a very liberal theist who would accept that prayer, in terms of its influence on the world, is no different whatsoever from an internal monologue. They may have long since conceded the Bible’s human origins (with perhaps a vague divine influence making it more than a “mere” book), but “the power of prayer” remains a very resilient idea. Any time anyone has said “Please pray for my child”, they are making an empirical claim about the effectiveness of prayer; they would never say “Please mumble to yourself for my child”.

    Now, do liberal theists have a problem with science or the scientific method? Not as they see it, no. But even creationists don’t see themselves as opposed to science — they simply believe that science as it is is grossly unable to answer certain “historical” questions. They believe that if an event lacks eyewitness reports, then obviously there is little science can say about it. And as silly as that may sound to many people, it’s eerily similar to other arguments about things that science can’t touch and therefore we need religion, or at least a nebulous “spirituality” — that obviously science can’t explain the origin of the universe, and of course our own minds will, in some crucial way, remain an enigma for a reductionist materialist worldview. As for intercessory prayer, a common line is “Just because science can’t explain X…”, told as if there’s some actual phenomenon to explain (and furthermore, that religion somehow explains it, rather than re-labelling the mystery).

    Perhaps that’s the most pressing “incompatibility” of all — not the questions for which science gives one answer and religion gives a thoroughly contrary answer, but the questions which science is trying to answer, and religion is saying some vague mix of “That question has been answered; the answer is God” and/or “That answer will forever remain a mystery.” (The one is an instance of the other insofar as questions about God will eventually lead to the mystery card.)

  32. #32 Deepak Shetty
    March 2, 2011

    Lenoxuss
    Perhaps that’s the most pressing “incompatibility” of all — not the questions for which science gives one answer and religion gives a thoroughly contrary answer, but the questions which science is trying to answer, and religion is saying some vague mix of “That question has been answered; the answer is God” and/or “That answer will forever remain a mystery.”
    +1.

  33. #33 J. J. Ramsey
    March 2, 2011

    J.J.E.:

    The most instructive way to examine this is to find out where religions overlap with each other, to find the common threads of religious epistemology, and evaluate these aspects of religion in relation to science.

    But that’s assuming that there even is such an animal as “religious epistemology.” Bear in mind that the early scientists were religious. If they held a purported “religious epistemology” that conflicted with a scientific one, then they shouldn’t have come up with science in the first place. I’m reminded of a study discussed in Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, where less then half of the females tested had what the study author would call a “female brain.” If many of the religious don’t even have a so-called “religious epistemology,” one has to wonder whether such an epistemology really defines what it means to be religious.

    J.J.E.:

    I don’t think it is controversial to say that an overwhelming majority of religions as well as the believers of those religions have at least one thing in common: the authority of revealed truth

    It may not be controversial, but it’s wrong, nonetheless. Again, it helps to read something like Religion Explained to learn just how little one can say about religion in general.

    A further sticking point is that even when you are dealing with religious that do have purported revelation, there can be a lot of leeway in how to interpret said revelation and how much stock to put in it.

    Me: “so long as you’re dealing with a purported deity that can both say ‘no’ to prayers and dole out favors even to those who don’t ask, it’s problematic to use prayer studies to argue that no god is listening to prayers.”

    Lenoxuss:

    But of course almost exactly the same things can be and have been said in defense of astrology’s experimental failures: that the predictions are not ironclad, that there can always be a nullifying force, etc.

    Except that analogy doesn’t follow on closer examination.

    The whole point of astrology is to predict the future. That’s what it promises to do, even if it isn’t 100%. If nullifying forces degrade its predictions to the point that they are as useful as a coin toss, then astrology has failed to fulfill its promise.

    What promise does prayer have? If you are talking Christianity, it’s dodgy, since either the promises are hyperbolic (e.g. moving mountains) or hedged to the point of uselessness (i.e. it’s not much use to say that the prayer of the righteous is powerful when practically no one is really righteous). Heck, even Jesus didn’t always get his prayer answered (Gethsemane, anyone?). If you are talking religions where the gods are even more capricious (and YHWH is already rather capricious), well, no promises there.

    Prayer is even more insulated from disproof than astrology.

  34. #34 eric
    March 2, 2011

    I do not think we’re going to get much further in this conversation. J.J.R. seems insistent that we focus on the religious believers who don’t appear to have any different epistemology, while Shetty and I (using parallel construction to be fair) seem insistent that we focus on the religious believers who do.

    So, I’ll just reiterate what I think are the most cogent points: no matter how many religious believers there are of the first type, there are believers of the second type. If you want to say that they are not representative of religious believers in general, fine, be my guest. But (second point) it is foolish in terms of public policy to ignore this second group merely because you don’t think they accurately represent religious belief or believers.

    J.J.R., if your goal is to win a philosophical debate over the nature of religious belief, by all means ignore them. If you want to figure out the best way to improve science education in America, IMO you’d be an idiot to do so.

  35. #35 J. J. Ramsey
    March 2, 2011

    eric:

    J.J.R. seems insistent that we focus on the religious believers who don’t appear to have any different epistemology, while Shetty and I (using parallel construction to be fair) seem insistent that we focus on the religious believers who do.

    No. I’m saying that if you are going to make claims that are meant to apply to religious believers in general (e.g. a “fundamental incompatibility of method” or a “religious epistemology”), then they had better apply to believers in general.

    You’re the ones going beyond speaking of specific incompatibilities (which largely apply to conservative beliefs) and attempting to argue for a total incompatibility (which impacts moderate and liberal religion as well), to borrow Kazez’s turns of phrase. That means that you are stuck with supporting far more general claims.

    eric:

    no matter how many religious believers there are of the first type, there are believers of the second type. If you want to say that they are not representative of religious believers in general, fine, be my guest. But (second point) it is foolish in terms of public policy to ignore this second group merely because you don’t think they accurately represent religious belief or believers.

    This is getting my own position completely backwards. No one is ignoring the “second group” of believers, the conservatives. It’s already accepted by both accommodationists and incompatibilists that many of the beliefs of those in that group are incompatible with science. Rather, if you are going to make sweeping claims about believers in general, you cannot simply look at what the second group does wrong and project it onto both groups of religious believers. You have to actually account for what that first group does in order to justify your sweeping claims.

  36. #36 J.J.E.
    March 2, 2011

    Bear in mind that the early scientists were religious. If they held a purported “religious epistemology” that conflicted with a scientific one, then they shouldn’t have come up with science in the first place.

    I’m sure you aren’t doing this intentionally, but it is almost insulting to read this after I put all of the effort into addressing this tired refrain before you even deployed it. First, I conceded that any human endeavor could overlap constructively with scientific epistemology and not change my argument (my first paragraph). I also disposed of the fallacy that “scientists are religious, therefore science and religion are compatible”. I even tried to put it in simple and memorable terms by using the walker/runner analogy. To no avail, apparently.

    It may not be controversial, but it’s wrong, nonetheless. Again, it helps to read something like Religion Explained to learn just how little one can say about religion in general.

    So, you’re claiming that religion is basically a useless word as it refers to practices and beliefs that are so varied that nothing ties them together sufficiently consistently that a majority of relgions share those properties? I don’t accept this, but to move the discussion along, I’ll do some defining so we can actually have the discussion. I will define my own personal word that applies to the majority of humans who currently live and who have ever lived on this earth. I will call it “religion”. This word refers to people who take on divine authority certain claims that either disproved or even in principle unknowable. Of course, you may be unconfomfortable calling this “religion” so call it “blexorg” or “haffulblam” or “simplegunt” or “0x3AD358″. The point is, it is a brute fact that the majority of people in the world believe authortative propositions for which there is no evidence that derive from supposedly supernatural sources. And a majority of people (not a majority of nominally religious people, but a majority of people period) actually attend organized ritualized religious ceremonies where those propositions are accepted and discussed. And this is if you only include Christianity and Islam.

    Basically, I reject your claim. It is you that are wrong. Religion most certainly is consistent enough (or “blexorg” if you must) to speak in general (though not universal) terms about it. And the properties I discussed are general enough to catch most people in the world as well as most religious groups in the world. Even if only 51% (although I would put it far closer to 100% than that) of the religous actually have faith, dogma, and believe in supernatural causes, it still serves my argument.

    You are basically rejecting the very definition of religion in order to render any discussion of it moot. Talk about a dodge.

  37. #37 J. J. Ramsey
    March 2, 2011

    J.J.E.:

    I’m sure you aren’t doing this intentionally, but it is almost insulting to read this after I put all of the effort into addressing this tired refrain before you even deployed it. First, I conceded that any human endeavor could overlap constructively with scientific epistemology and not change my argument …

    Fair enough. I saw the vague, handwavey mention of “religious epistemology” and ran with it. However, I don’t think you’ve really cleared anything up.

    Supposedly, there is this “religious epistemology” that is implied to be about belief without evidence, trust in authorities, etc.. This is very different from a “scientific epistemology” that is supposed to be about empiricism and whatnot. Now I’m told, “Oh, wait, these epistemologies could overlap” which seems to complicate any sweeping claims of incompatibility that have been made and muddies what you even mean by “religious epistemology.”

    You’re throwing around the terms “religious epistemology” and “scientific epistemology” without clearly defining them or establishing whether they even exist or accurately describe what they’re supposed to describe. You haven’t even established whether “epistemology” is the right term to use here, rather than, say, “mindset” or “method.” You’re terminally vague.

    J.J.E.:

    So, you’re claiming that religion is basically a useless word as it refers to practices and beliefs that are so varied that nothing ties them together sufficiently consistently that a majority of relgions share those properties?

    No, I’m saying that the properties that religions actually share is not the same as the properties that many people think they share based on an insufficiently broad sample of religions.

  38. #38 J.J.E.
    March 2, 2011

    Now I’m told, “Oh, wait, these epistemologies could overlap” which seems to complicate any sweeping claims of incompatibility that have been made and muddies what you even mean by “religious epistemology.”

    Not quite. First of all, I didn’t change midstream, so you can drop the condescending “oh wait” jab. However, given your perspective, the misunderstanding is understandable, but give me a more charitable read and I think you’ll find it clear enough even if you continue to disagree. People, movements, ideologies, etc. need not be consistent. I thought this was obvious. If this is the case, then your argument above has no legs. It is entirely possible for the Catholic Church or the Bush Administration or your local D&D club to simultaneously hold tenets that mutually exclusive. And indeed, I hold that every single person does this on some topics, myself included. But the point is, just because I probably hold some unscientific beliefs doesn’t mean I can’t do passable science. The same applies to religion. Just because a religion can go about learning things in sensible way doesn’t mean they can’t also go about “learning” things in a meaningless way.

    You’re throwing around the terms “religious epistemology” and “scientific epistemology” without clearly defining them or establishing whether they even exist or accurately describe what they’re supposed to describe. You haven’t even established whether “epistemology” is the right term to use here, rather than, say, “mindset” or “method.” You’re terminally vague.

    I said epistemology and I meant it. I chose it in order not to be vague. I don’t mean “mindset” and I don’t mean “method”. The vagueness you are pointing to is of your own device. I reject it for my own argument. Of course my argument isn’t the only one that can establish the incompatibility of science and religion, so maybe you can work on using “mindset” or “method”. We can take a dictionary definition of epistemology to make things simpler (of course epistemology is richer than this, and also standard caveats apply for dictionary trolling, which is not my intention):

    epistemology: the theory of knowledge, esp. with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

    It is my contention that science has a very conservative scope for what qualifies as “knowledge”. Scientific knowledge is acquired exclusively through what Massimo Pigliucci (among others) calls “scientia” (which includes logic, mathematics, and philosophy in additional to methodological naturalism).

    On the other hand, religion has a very liberal scope for what qualifies as knowledge. Religion makes claims about events that we couldn’t possibly hope to investigate as well as claims that we very well can investigate. Religious “knowledge” is acquired through a grab bag of “methods” some (note the qualifier “some”, I’m not making a universal claim) of which are explicitly antithetical to scientific ways of knowing. It is my contention that certain religious “ways of knowing” (for example, scriptural authority and/or supernatural revelation) are general properties of most religions possess (again, note “most”: a general, but not universal claim). If some general properties of religious “ways of knowing” contradict scientific “ways of knowing” I consider religion and science to be incompatible. Since it is a general (but not universal) property of religion to posit knowledge about the properties of supernatural sentient beings in ways refractory to empirical examination (i.e. gods or spirits), at the very least religion is in general incompatible with science, which rejects such “knowledge”.

    No, I’m saying that the properties that religions actually share is not the same as the properties that many people think they share based on an insufficiently broad sample of religions.

    This is more vague than I’ve been. I’ve given specific examples (authority, supernatural, dogma), but you won’t even say which properties aren’t sufficiently shared and which are nor do you define how prevalent a property must be before it is considered “sufficiently broad”. I propose the following: a belief is generally characteristic of religion if it is among the beliefs of a majority of religious adherents. By this definition, belief in “higher powers” (spirits, gods, etc.) and belief in doctrine deriving from “higher powers” (holy books, and authoritative pronouncements) are general features of religion.

  39. #39 J. J. Ramsey
    March 2, 2011

    J.J.E.:

    Since it is a general (but not universal) property of religion to posit knowledge about the properties of supernatural sentient beings in ways refractory to empirical examination (i.e. gods or spirits), at the very least religion is in general incompatible with science, which rejects such “knowledge”.

    And here is our fundamental disagreement. I really don’t care about the parts of religion that are “refractory to empirical examination.” I care about the ones that can be contradicted by empirical examination. Incompatibility for me implies a contradiction, not a case where a religion says one thing and science says nothing.

    J.J.E.:

    you won’t even say which properties aren’t sufficiently shared and which are nor do you define how prevalent a property must be before it is considered “sufficiently broad”.

    That’s partly because I already gave you a book reference above where you can find out for yourself, with page numbers to boot. Seriously, you can get the book for less than $10 right now. If you’re serious about discussing religion, you ought to at least check it out from a library if you can.

  40. #40 J.J.E.
    March 2, 2011

    I care about the ones that can be contradicted by empirical examination. Incompatibility for me implies a contradiction, not a case where a religion says one thing and science says nothing.

    I disagree. Bayesian or Akaike Information Criterion perspectives are perfectly capable of requiring (or at least strongly encouraging) “silence” on certain issues because the data do not merit the inclusion of certain parameters. Even the most watered down deism is ridiculously over-determined, and inclusion of a god parameter isn’t justified scientifically.

    That’s partly because I already gave you a book reference above where you can find out for yourself, with page numbers to boot. Seriously, you can get the book for less than $10 right now. If you’re serious about discussing religion, you ought to at least check it out from a library if you can.

    This is has the appearance of another dodge. Either you have examples in mind or you don’t. In either case, you could point to the book and cut off discussion by saying “read it or talk to the hand”. How would I know the difference? The end result in either case is shutting down the current conversation by way of pointing to an authority I don’t have immediate access to (at the very least I would have to read it first assuming it were sitting on the desk in front of me this very instant, which it isn’t).

    So, I ask again, what examples do you have in mind? At the very least, you have to retract your contention that I’m being vague or else cop to being vague yourself. And to be honest, I don’t think all the interpretation in the world can change the brute fact that an overwhelming number of people in this world believe in supernatural deities that bestow distinctly unscientific “knowledge” upon their adherents (and that’s if we restrict ourselves to Islam+Christianity+Hinduism). And given that the reviews indicate that the book relies heavily on evolutionary psychology and memetics, I doubt the book addresses the sorts of proximate aspects of religion I find contradictory to science. But you could readily dispel that with a single solitary example. Or is that too much to ask? Would you prefer to short-circuit this discussion without offering an argument to bolster your central claim?

  41. #41 J. J. Ramsey
    March 2, 2011

    J.J.E.:

    I disagree. Bayesian or Akaike Information Criterion perspectives are perfectly capable of requiring (or at least strongly encouraging) “silence” on certain issues because the data do not merit the inclusion of certain parameters.

    That looks like a smokescreen of jargon.

    J.J.E.:

    This is has the appearance of another dodge. Either you have examples in mind or you don’t.

    If you can’t be bothered to hunt down relevant sources for a technical debate, that’s your problem. Religion Explained has a whole chapter about what religion is and isn’t, and it involves looking at religions from all over the globe. If you expect me to do your homework for you by doing what amounts to a book report in a blog comment, forget it. I’ll give you a brief gist of it and leave it at that. Basically, a lot of the ideas about religion, such as it being about faith, or about explaining the world, or about providing comfort, or about morality, or about assuaging the fear of death, or about a sleep of reason, turn out to be just flat out wrong when you look more broadly at world religions. If you want to make general claims about religion, that is the sort of thing you need to know.

    There’s a more recent book, which I have not yet read and don’t expect you to read either because it is $60, called The Fracture of An Illusion: Science And The Dissolution Of Religion. There is a preview of it on Google, though. It is about how “religion” as a unified package doesn’t really exist, which means that attempting to talk generally about compatibility or incompatibility of science and religion is a good way to mire one in ambiguity and chase one’s own tail.

  42. #42 Lenoxuss
    March 2, 2011

    The following is not a quote of anyone in particular.

    “Sometimes it’s okay to believe in things for which there is no evidence. Actually, sometimes, it’s more than okay — it’s good and wise. It’s faith!”

    This is an aspect of religion that is both antithetical to scientific thinking and very problematic in itself. And it is central to even religion’s most liberal and nuanced forms. It is especially prevalent in religious traditions that have had to contend with doubt and dissent. (In the absence of the the possibility of disbelief, a lot of the lip service to faith makes little sense; it’s a defense mechanism of sorts against the doubts that haunt many a believer.)

    The God concept is maintained by an assortment of methods: the repeated assertion that his existence is obvious, yet mysterious and must be believed but not known; the claim that it’s good to believe in something like God; the argument that, hey you don’t have to believe in him, but he provides a lot of comfort to people, and why would you want to take that away? For get God for a moment — all of these I find toxic ways, bad reasons, to maintain any belief. If one only applies them to God, that’s inconsistent. But if one is not inconsistent about them, you get something like the principle of explosion.

    J.J. Ramsey asked:

    What promise does prayer have?

    When people talk about praying for a sick person, they are implying that intercessory prayer helps sick people. This is a straightforwardly testable claim. Nearly all theists agree that prayer is more than just talking to oneself, that it really is a kind of “talking to” an infinitely powerful and uncompromisingly wise entity. And following from this, if I pray for a sick person, I will have done more of a good thing than an atheist who facetiously utters a magic incantation.

    Heck, even Jesus didn’t always get his prayer answered (Gethsemane, anyone?).

    Why this word, “always”? That’s a straw man that theists love to bring out, as if we lived in a world where studies did show that prayers are answered more often than random chance, and atheists are saying “Well, sure, but why can’t I pray for wings and a Playstation 10 and instantly receive them?” The truth is, we live in a world where prayer doesn’t hold up whatsoever. And the fact that each individual failed prayer can be reasonably explained away does not mean the collective failure of prayer can. That’s basic statistics.

    I’m pretty sure I know how the religious mind gets out of that problem — it puts “statistics” into a box with all the cold, rational things, and sees prayer and religious matters as belonging in a different box. “You can’t test prayer”, they keep saying. Yet all they mean is that you can’t dispute prayer — you’re certainly free to declare it as having passed a test after the fact. And liberal theists who are quite comfortable laughing at a young-earther will tend to become either silent or outright approbative when talking with someone who attributes an unquestionably wonderful event in their life to God, faith, and prayer. No one wants to break that bubble.

    I should add that my generalizations don’t apply, at the very least, to some Christian sects, whose official line is that God doesn’t really respond to prayer in any way. However, these sects tend to be conservative ones, such as Calvinism, so they’ve got all the usual “other” issues.

  43. #43 Lenoxus
    March 2, 2011

    Oops, didn’t close the i tag after whatever there.

  44. #44 J. J. Ramsey
    March 2, 2011

    Lenoxuss:

    When people talk about praying for a sick person, they are implying that intercessory prayer helps sick people.

    They are certainly hoping that the prayer will help, but as I said before, there’s no certainty, and that lack of certainty is built into the whole notion of prayer.

    Lenoxuss:

    I’m pretty sure I know how the religious mind gets out of that problem

    You need to establish that there is such a thing as a “religious mind,” rather than, say, a mind acting according to its normal sloppy heuristics (which are common to theists and nontheists alike).

  45. #45 J.J.E.
    March 2, 2011

    If you can’t be bothered to hunt down relevant sources for a technical debate, that’s your problem.

    If I download it on a Kindle today, the earliest possible time I could have it read is by Sunday. Earliest. By that time, the discussion is already stale and over. So there is no point in saying I’m ending the discussion because I’m unwilling to do this. First of all, I said no such thing. Second, practically speaking, you ended it even if I read it because you’ll have to wait for me to finish it. This is beyond bad faith in arguing if you are suggesting that I’m the roadblock here. For all intents and purposes, blog discussions usually die down after less than a week (usually 3 or 4 days). Will you still be discussing this on Sunday (or perhaps later)?

    But I don’t need an example from obscure religions in the rest of the world to know that in 2010, the overwhelming majority of adherents to Abrahamic faiths (making up > 50% of the world’s population) make the sorts of claims I say they do. Even if you grant that 100% of the remaining faiths are completely different, that is enough to establish my point. Even more so if we are talking about Europe and the western hemisphere and the Arab world.

    I keep keep keep emphasizing, I’m not trying to make a universal point. Just a point that is widely true (or “general” if you will). My family, the family of every Christian I know personally and most Christians that I don’t (an exception: John Shelby Spong, eg) certainly have faith with core components that are irrevocably antithetical to science. The same goes for the Muslims I know and the claims written by Muslims I don’t. And yes, there are exceptions (and they abound among Jews, for example). But my point still stands. There are literally billions of people on this globe that practice flavors of religions that are incompatible with science. And 10’s thousands of them are even good scientists. Given this widespread prevalence, I think it isn’t unreasonable or wrong to say that religion is incompatible with science. You can qualify that and I won’t object, but the major point stands. Maybe if we replayed the tape and the Fang tribe in Africa had the predominant religion, maybe that wouldn’t be the case, but sorry, it’s a brute fact of the world we actually live in. If it makes you less uncomfortable, then we can say “most religious people follow a religion that is incompatible with science”. I’ve never questioned the complement of that “some religious people follow a religion that isn’t incompatible with science”.

  46. #46 Lenoxuss
    March 2, 2011

    J. J. Ramsey:

    They are certainly hoping that the prayer will help, but as I said before, there’s no certainty, and that lack of certainty is built into the whole notion of prayer.

    Would you care to address the response I’ve given earlier to this stuff about “certainty”?

    Yes, it may be that “lack of certainty is built into the whole notion of prayer”, but there’s two different things that could mean. One is the more common one, that “God doesn’t always give people everything they want”. The other is that prayer is completely uncertain, a total crapshoot, and therefore is really no different than a kind of meditation, or at best makes a difference to God alone. Only this second one makes sense as a defense of (intercessory) prayer’s failure to do any better than chance when it is tested. But very few people claim the “crapshoot model of prayer” is the case.

    “Prayer works”, in any of the ways that’s stated, is just as much an empirical claim as “prayer always works 100% of the time”, a claim that no one makes or thinks is being made. “Prayer works” implies that there should be a noticeable difference between situations with and without prayer, at least in the long run and the big picture. I think people take for granted that there is a difference, just one that can’t be quantified. What they fail to get is why that’s incoherent, just as much as if I claimed my rabbit’s foot made me luckier when gambling, but whose success can’t be quantified.

    You need to establish that there is such a thing as a “religious mind,” rather than, say, a mind acting according to its normal sloppy heuristics (which are common to theists and nontheists alike).

    When I say “religious mind”, I don’t actually mean that religious people have even a slightly different “mind” than anyone else, but I can see how it would be read that way! What I meant is something like “This is the most common intuition about religion/faith/prayer that religious people have”. I could simply have said “religious defense of prayer”, but I wanted to get accross how much more “innate” the defense is. (And yes, I, too, have intuitive notions that some domains are exempt from empirical testing, but I do my best to fight that instinct.)

    I see religion as the most organized form of the “sloppiness” that is in all human minds. Religion and supernaturalism assert that our instinctive mind/body dualism is absolutely correct, and extending from this, that the world is full of bodiless “spiritual” minds that interact and overlap with “physical” stuff in various ways. This is stuff that I think both logic and science have long shown to be incoherent, but it’s still very common, and very tied into religion.

    And, I feel compelled to add, the various imagined higher planes of existence are not and would not be a necessary part of our world’s beauty and meaning, despite that also being a common intuition and proclaimed defense of dualistic thinking. Our world’s absence of bodiless souls does not somehow make it a grimmer place. It’s very much the same wonderful universe either way.

  47. #47 J. J. Ramsey
    March 2, 2011

    Lenoxuss: “But very few people claim the ‘crapshoot model of prayer’ is the case.”

    True, but a whole lot more people act like it’s the case. People pray for their sickness, but still go to doctors. People pray for jobs, but still search the want ads or send resumes. There may be a lot of people asking God for stuff, but they don’t act as if they reasonably hope to get it.

  48. #48 Lenoxuss
    March 3, 2011

    People pray for their sickness, but still go to doctors. People pray for jobs, but still search the want ads or send resumes. There may be a lot of people asking God for stuff, but they don’t act as if they reasonably hope to get it.

    To extend my metaphor, I would contend that people think of prayer as more like a loaded die, a slight nudge to the universe. Prayer, in their minds, is like applying for a job. I’m much more likely to get a particular job if I apply for it (and this fact can be quantifiably tested, but never mind that). I don’t assume that applying alone guarantees anything, but it still helps.

    Despite God’s supposed omnipotence, people think of him as a very busy superhero. For example, when people credit God with their surviving a tornado that killed a dozen others, I think they’re unconsciously imagining the situation as though God had nothing to do with the tornado to begin with, and only stepped in to save the day when he had the chance. Athletes often pray to win games, never expecting to see a divine event change things (which would probably result in the game being nullified as unfair, come to think of it!). They only imagine a slightly better chance of winning, equivalent to having eaten a good breakfast. (Or maybe like bribing the ref and hoping you out-bribed the opposition). Many non-athletes consider praying for a game “frivolous”, as if God has better things to do with his time.

    Indeed, the whole notion of prayer, and its incredible persistence through history, is one of the best clues to what species of cognitive creature is religion, and what people think of God in the backs of their minds. Prayer makes no theological sense (if God is omnimax, then prayer shouldn’t change his actions in the slightest), yet it is apparently inseparable from theology.

  49. #49 skdf
    March 3, 2011

    @29
    “However, I think that, even with these concessions, science and religion are incompatible. The most instructive way to examine this is to find out where religions overlap with each other, to find the common threads of religious epistemology, and evaluate these aspects of religion in relation to science.”

    What is the actual need to constantly compare science to religion in order to establish their compatibility? Is it because one always gets in the way of the other? It’s like comparing air to a refridgerator. Why can’t they be viewed as 2 separate, almost outdated, institutions that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and be simply allowed to coexist side by side?

    Scientific focus is obviously quite different from the religious one. Religion does not per se provide detailed explanations of how natural phenomena occur, it does not develop practical methods and techniques on HOW to build architecture, produce food, transportation, clothes and treat or cure illnesses. Religion does not explain HOW living organisms and plants are designed, and function. The main focus of religion is the worship of God or the supernatural, in which existence religious people are supposed to believe without any proof, and love everyone unconditionally. If scientists are constantly searching for truth, then religious people claim to already have the truth.

    If Jesus, let’s say, taught his followers how to properly utilize spiritual powers exclusively, in a combination with sufficient amount of faith, in order to effectively heal and resurrect people within a relatively short time period, with a satisfactory quality outcome, then people could potentially eliminate the need for science to do all these things for them. In this case, there wouldn’t be the need for medical research, western healthcare, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies and even doctors with all their supporting and subservient personnel.

    All people would have to do is magic. Wouldn’t that be a total bliss?!

  50. #50 dlkfjgflkg
    March 3, 2011

    @46
    “And, I feel compelled to add, the various imagined higher planes of existence are not and would not be a necessary part of our world’s beauty and meaning, despite that also being a common intuition and proclaimed defense of dualistic thinking. Our world’s absence of bodiless souls does not somehow make it a grimmer place. It’s very much the same wonderful universe either way.”

    In order to stop imagining and fantasizing about the possibity of the existence of alternative realities, parallel universes and spiritual realms merged with the physical world, one has to actually truely enjoy the “splendor” of the present material reality. Unfortunately, not everyone finds it particularly appealing, but as a matter of fact, quite ugly, disgusting, physically and emotionaly painful, and impossible to escape.

  51. #51 heddle
    March 3, 2011

    Just to bring it up again:

    If science and religion are incompatible, prove it scientifically. I have repeatedly offered two challenges:

    1) Demonstrate that you can tell which peer-reviewed publications came from believers, as evidence that the incompatibility is observable.

    2) Propose an experiment for which religious scientists would get, in a statistically significant sense, a different result from atheist scientists.

    If you cannot do this, then science and religion are only incompatible in some non-scientific woo-philosophy-of-choice sort of way–which could, by substituting itself for religion, also “prove” itself incompatible with science.

  52. #52 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 3, 2011

    heddle —

    Welcome back to the blogosphere!

    Science and religion are incompatible in the sense that in my opinion (1) A person who understands what science is telling us about natural history should not find Christianity plausible and (2) A person who takes seriously a scientific approach to investigating empirical claims should not think faith and revelation are reliable routes to knowledge. Many people disagree with my assessment, of course.

    Some people might have a more hard core notion of incompatibility in mind, but I don’t know any definition under which your little test makes any sense at all. For example, I assume you don’t have a problem saying that young-Earth creationism is incompatible with science, but I don’t see why that entails that a YEC could not do good scientific work.

  53. #53 JSC
    March 3, 2011

    Heddle –
    It appears that you are implying that someone is arguing that someone inclined to religious beliefs is incapable of rational thought process in the entirety of their life. People compartmentalize, rationalize, and ignore inconveniences. I am sure that where a scientist’s particular religious beliefs do not collide with the science one would not be able to gleen that scientist’s metaphysical bent. Is anyone really arguing otherwise?

  54. #54 heddle
    March 3, 2011

    JSC,

    It appears that you are implying that someone is arguing that someone inclined to religious beliefs is incapable of rational thought process in the entirety of their life.

    No I am not arguing that. People often say I am arguing that, or merely arguing that religious people can do good science–but I’m not arguing that, primarily because it is manifestly obvious. Nor do I accept the explains-everything-and-explains-nothing “compartmentalize” blanket.

    No, what I am arguing is that the claim:

    Religion and science are incompatible

    is not a scientific claim. If it were, it would be testable and falsifiable.

    Now if you are one who goes to the extreme to argue that science is the only way that we “know” things, then you cannot self-consistently argue that science and religion are incompatible, given that you cannot demonstrate the statement by science.

    The statement is only a philosophical statement. As such it can never be proved, it can only be argued–in a way that is not scientific. Philosophers have as many disagreements as theologians, and perhaps even fewer tools to resolve their differences.

    To summarize–I find something bizarre in scientists using philosophy to argue that science and religion are not compatible–then asserting their conclusion as if it were scientifically demonstrated: The are not compatible!. And I find it especially strange if they elsewhere argue that science is the only way we can really know something.

  55. #55 eric
    March 3, 2011

    Heddle: what I am arguing is that the claim: “Religion and science are incompatible” is not a scientific claim. If it were, it would be testable and falsifiable. [Note: I slightly edited H's format]

    It is testable and falsifiable. If they were compatible, scientists could use theological methods to test scientific hypotheses and theologians could use scientific methods to test theological principles. The former is definitely false – just try and get published in Nature by claiming your research methodology is biblical exegesis. The second might be theoretically possible but rarely if ever happens. No theologian tests the validity of the loaves and fish story by scientific method. Doesn’t happen. Such an effort be resoundingly rejected as pointless and irrelevant to theology by everyone (except possibly Thomas Jefferson) if you tried.

    Now, technically those are tests of compatibility, not incompatibility. You could fail all such tests and hypothetically the two could still be compatible…in a very weak, pragmatically irrelevant form of compatibility. But you can falsify incompatibility directly. Just do one of the above experiments like I’ve proposed and come up with positive result (Nature accepts exegesis as a legitimate method, etc.) Like cambrian rabbits to evolution, it only takes ONE example use of the religious method by science to falsify the incompatibility claim. However, you have no such rabbits.

  56. #56 heddle
    March 3, 2011

    eric ,

    It is testable and falsifiable. If they were compatible, scientists could use theological methods to test scientific hypotheses and theologians could use scientific methods to test theological principles.

    Then, trivially, everything (except perhaps math) is incompatible with science, because science only uses scientific methods to test scientific hypotheses. We don’t use philosophy, art, religion, economics, baseball, history, sociology, literature, …

    If that is the sense in which it is being used, I have no objection. But I don’t think it is.

    And of course some theologians do use scientific methods to test theological principles. Flat-earth-ism, geocentricism, and YECism have all been abandoned (by some) because of science.

  57. #57 heddle
    March 3, 2011

    Jason,

    Welcome back to the blogosphere!

    Thanks! Rest assured I often was here, lurking. Hey, CNU is searching for a math department chair–why don’t you apply?

  58. #58 eric
    March 3, 2011

    Then, trivially, everything (except perhaps math) is incompatible with science, because science only uses scientific methods to test scientific hypotheses. We don’t use philosophy, art, religion, economics, baseball, history, sociology, literature, …

    That’s a mixed bag. Philosophy, economics and sociology all use methodolgies recognizably close to the hard sciences; they utilize reason and empiricism.

    Baseball is a game. Art appreciation is something even the practitioners will agree is subjective. So their methods can be incompatible and no one’s going to much care. You don’t want to solve the science/religion incompatibility problem by claiming religious truth is subjective or religion is merely a game to occupy our time, do you? I would agree those positions resolve the problem. But not in a way most theologians would find acceptable!

    Literature is exegesitical (?) by nature. When your subject is the written word, referring to written words as primary sources is not problematical. But again, I doubt you want to claim religion is like literature. You manifestly do not want people thinking the bible is equivalent in truth value to the Odyssey – do you?

    So, what these examples say to me is that while there are many incompatible methods that humans use (something I brought up in @13), only a few of those incompatibilities should really bother us. The religion/science one should bother us because religion does not claim to be a game, or subjective, or literature. It claims to be like science in that its discoveries are supposed to have some objective truth. Heaven is not like a called strike. Salvation is not like a good painting (in the eye of the beholder). Religion is claiming to produce something akin to scientific “knowledge.” But it does so in a way that all of our scientific data leads us to believe is utterly untrustworthy – about as useful as monkeys typing on keyboards. THAT incompatibility should bother us.

  59. #59 heddle
    March 3, 2011

    eric,

    That’s a mixed bag. Philosophy, economics and sociology all use methodolgies recognizably close to the hard sciences; they utilize reason and empiricism.

    The claim that they are “recognizably close” is just an opinion. I don’t view the methods of philosophy as even remotely resembling the methods of science–their methods seem far closer to the methods of theology. Theology also uses reason–you may not like the starting assumptions, but theologians attempt to take them to their logical conclusions using reason. They try to make self consistent models–just like philosophers do. They end up disagreeing? So what–philosophers, economists and scientists start at the same place and end up disagreeing.

    Religion is claiming to produce something akin to scientific “knowledge.”

    My religion makes no such claim. None. To make a claim akin to scientific knowledge I would have to say: my religion predicts this, which can be tested by doing that experiement. I make no such claim–so the best you can say is there may be some religions that claim to produce something akin to scientific “knowledge.”

    But it does so in a way that all of our scientific data leads us to believe is utterly untrustworthy – about as useful as monkeys typing on keyboards. THAT incompatibility should bother us.

    Since my religion does not in fact do what you claim, that is–your premise is false–your conclusion has no foundation.

    So it is just an assertion without proof. Which is precisely my criticism of the whole incompatibility debate–it boils down to an assertion of incompatibility with no proof. None. Zero. No data at all. No experiment, no prediction, no test. Just a statement: they are incompatible.

    Well, show me the observable consequence of my religion being incompatible with science. If there is no consequence–then it is just so much philosophical woo. Fun, perhaps, but ultimately without intellectual merit or value.

  60. #60 sdjkjd
    March 3, 2011

    To 53

    “It appears that you are implying that someone is arguing that someone inclined to religious beliefs is incapable of rational thought process in the entirety of their life. People compartmentalize, rationalize, and ignore inconveniences”.

    It would be really great, if somebody could properly define rationality.

    This is how people commonly view the rational-

    If, let’s say, a person believes that it is a nighttime, when it is 10 o’clock in the morning, this is considered irrational, because rationality implies knowing and believing in things the way they are. According to rational thought, if it’s obviously morning, and you were taught since early childhood to perceive it that way, then it must be morning.

    However, simply deeming this person “crazy”, irrational, illogical and unreasonable, may not work on a deeper and higher philosophical level, where everything is open to modulation and endless possiblities defying the laws of physics, and transcending the material reality in general. On such an incredibly elevated intellectual level, this person’s belief has a reasonable justification, such as night and day are interchangible, and are two different sides of the same coin. It’s all a matter of perspective. Who is to say that one cannot be the other? And so on…

    The only problem is that rationality supports practicality and pragmatism in terms of dealing with and manipulating the observable by means of 5 senses. From the point of view of usefulness in achieving, for instance, finacial goals, such belief serves no practical purpose because it creates unnecessary confusion that may interfere with usual daily functioning.

  61. #61 Spartan
    March 3, 2011

    Theology also uses reason–you may not like the starting assumptions, but theologians attempt to take them to their logical conclusions using reason.

    Yes, that’s the problem, those pesky starting assumptions. We have plenty of evidence of people starting with different assumptions and then reaching logical conclusions using reason that are utterly wrong, so as a method it’s highly suspect. Yes, science also has assumptions, but none that I can think of that aren’t required for theology also, so that seems moot.

    But good point, I can’t think of any observable consequence of your specific religion being incompatible with science. If by religion you are including all Christianity, then I think there are some obvious examples of consequences.

  62. #62 lskdj
    March 3, 2011

    It would make total sense to be rational. However, the reality that demands rational thinking is extrememly boring and unfulfilling.

    Rationality is way too simplistic, limiting and insulting.
    May be if rational people learned how to think irrationally, they would find a portal to endless possibilities, as when the idea that the earth revolved around the sun seemed absolutely crazy, now it’s absolutely rational.

  63. #63 slkdf
    March 3, 2011

    56 wrote – “And of course some theologians do use scientific methods to test theological principles. Flat-earth-ism, geocentricism, and YECism have all been abandoned (by some) because of science.”

    The earth can be still perceived as being the center of the universe, if you choose it as a point of reference, and view it as a static celestial body fixed to a position right in the center of the universe, with all the other celestial objects moving by it retrospectively.

    Before scientists had the opportunity to see the solar system from outside, religious people relied purely on visual clues, and, ironically, not on faith, to conclude that it was the sun that was revolving around the earth, since that what it seems like to an observer looking up from the earth. If religious people relied on faith, where faith is the way to the ultimate truth, where the truth is not the obvious, they would’ve probably gotten the scientific truth, which states that the earth revolves around the sun.

    Technically, it’s possible to create a computer animation that will show how objects would be revolving around the earth, with the sun constantly changing its illumination.

  64. #64 Spartan
    March 3, 2011

    The earth can be still perceived as being the center of the universe, if you choose it as a point of reference, and view it as a static celestial body fixed to a position right in the center of the universe, with all the other celestial objects moving by it retrospectively.

    Doesn’t that also require getting rid of some physical laws? Wouldn’t Orion need to move a bit faster than the speed of light to orbit the Earth every day?

  65. #65 sldkfd
    March 3, 2011

    At #64

    “Doesn’t that also require getting rid of some physical laws? Wouldn’t Orion need to move a bit faster than the speed of light to orbit the Earth every day?”

    If physical laws were created by man, and do not exist inherenty and independently of thought, then the early religious people must’ve had different physical laws, when they believed in the geocentric model of the universe.
    Whether the universe indeed operated by different physical laws or not, perhaps, enabling people to easily defy gravity, is hard to prove or even conceive.

    However, if physical laws are intrinsic and exist irregardless of human physical laws, then it would make no difference how people perceive the earth’s position. These laws will always be the same. All that changes in this case is perception, not laws.

  66. #66 slkdfdj
    March 3, 2011

    @#64
    ” Wouldn’t Orion need to move a bit faster than the speed of light to orbit the Earth every day?”

    In the geocentric model of the universe, the rotation of planets and other celestial objects is irrelevant. They can move in any direction in respect to the earth’s fixed and centralized position following their usual course or trajectory. The sun will be perceived as revolving around the earth, and not the other way round, only because this is what it looks like on the face of it. As in “believe only in what you see!”, and that’s what a lot of people see, until scientists start calling them stupid, and showing them satellite pictures.

  67. #67 Spartan
    March 4, 2011

    If physical laws were created by man, and do not exist inherenty and independently of thought, then the early religious people must’ve had different physical laws, when they believed in the geocentric model of the universe.

    Well, I don’t think physical laws are created by man; early religious people didn’t live in a universe with different physical laws, they didn’t accurately know what the physical laws are. I think you left a part out of your original statement that I replied to, where you said, “The earth can still be perceived as being the center of the universe…”, etc; you forgot to mention that you are also jettisoning some physical laws along with that.

  68. #68 eric
    March 4, 2011

    eric: Religion is claiming to produce something akin to scientific “knowledge.”

    Heddle in response: My religion makes no such claim. None

    Does your religion claim Jesus rose from the dead? Should I read that claim the same way I read “Circe changed the crew into pigs,” or should I read it like I read “The space shuttle rose from its platform on Monday morning”?

    so the best you can say is there may be some religions that claim to produce something akin to scientific “knowledge.”

    Sure. Those religions which claim a revelatory methodology for producing knowledge about the world (and afterlife) are using a methodology which is incompatible with science. Reject the revelatory methodology and compatibility becomes an open question. Alternately, state plainly that your religion is a game like baseball, subjective like art appreciation, or is a study of literature absent the question of the truth of the stories, and I will heartily agree that the incompatibility is not important.

    But I do think you are being disingenuous. Most faiths want to claim they say something objectively true about the real world. Heaven is claimed to be real. Souls are claimed to really exist, not in a game or art or literary sense, but in a ‘my left foot exists’ sense.

    But prove me wrong, Heddle. Just say that heaven is a literary device. Tell me salvation is like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. And I will concede that whatever methodological incompatibilities exist aren’t a big deal.

  69. #69 heddle
    March 4, 2011

    Eric,

    Does your religion claim Jesus rose from the dead?

    Yes it does. And had you been there, the event could have been subject to every scientific experiment you would like to apply.

    Heaven is claimed to be real.

    Yes it is. What is your point? Obviously you know science cannot prove a negative.

    Souls are claimed to really exist

    Ditto.

    I’ll remind you that your original claim was:

    Religion is claiming to produce something akin to scientific “knowledge.”

    But that is not the case. I am not saying: If you measure the difference in body weight before and after death, there will be a difference due to the soul.

    That would be making a claim akin to scientific knowledge.

    Saying there is a soul is not akin to producing scientific knowledge. If it is close to anything, it would be something like Daniel Dennett’s “consideration-generator”.

  70. #70 Dan L.
    March 4, 2011

    @heddle:

    But that is not the case. I am not saying: If you measure the difference in body weight before and after death, there will be a difference due to the soul.

    That would be making a claim akin to scientific knowledge.

    Saying there is a soul is not akin to producing scientific knowledge. If it is close to anything, it would be something like Daniel Dennett’s “consideration-generator”.

    Interesting. Despite being an atheist, I will use the word “soul” occasionally to mean something similar.

    The question is, if someone demonstrates how to build a “consideration-generator” from scratch, say through a breakthrough in artificial intelligence that yielded a machine that could routinely pass the Turing test and seemed human in many other ways as well, would you consider that the creation of a soul by a human being? Would the machine be subject to original sin? Would it be capable of being saved?

    Or would you just conclude a priori that such an event is impossible, that consciousness or awareness or personhood requires some metaphysical substance or entity completely different from appropriately configured physical matter?

  71. #71 dklfdkl
    March 4, 2011

    When scientists start scaring the public about a meteor heading towards the earth, do they assume that the earth is fixed to the same position and will remain in that position until the meteor stikes?

    Assuming that the earth is constantly moving or changing its position in order to make its revolutions around the sun, then wouldn’t the meteor have to change its trajectory in order to hit the earth right where it’s going to be by the time the meteor reaches it?

  72. #72 sldkfd
    March 4, 2011

    @#67

    ‘Well, I don’t think physical laws are created by man; early religious people didn’t live in a universe with different physical laws, they didn’t accurately know what the physical laws are. I think you left a part out of your original statement that I replied to, where you said, “The earth can still be perceived as being the center of the universe…”, etc; you forgot to mention that you are also jettisoning some physical laws along with that.”

    First of all, I wouldn’t underestimate the intellectual capacity of the people living in the past.
    Second of all, nobody knows for sure in what condition the earth was thousands of years ago, how it revolved and what principles guided it. All modern people can do is speculate, and impose their assumptions with outmost certainty on others, just to come across as the ones, who know everything.

    If physical laws are inherently existing, then they will exist independently of your thoughts and perception.
    If there is no such thing as physical laws, and its something people need in order to make sense out of their life, then you can still perceive the earth as being in the center of the universe, even without adjusting man-made physical laws.

    Assuming your statement is true –
    “…early religious people didn’t live in a universe with different physical laws, they didn’t accurately know what the physical laws are”…

    then it seems that it’s possible to live without knowing or being aware of physical laws, or living without them entirely.

    After all, a law is a restriction, whether real or imaginary.

  73. #73 eric
    March 4, 2011

    Heddle: But that is not the case. I am not saying: If you measure the difference in body weight before and after death, there will be a difference due to the soul.

    You are claiming knowledge of some real, objective, thing via the methodology of personal revelation (your own, the author’s, or the guy the book was written about).

    Personal revelation as a method for determining what is real and objective is not consistent with the mehodology used by science. The evidence is not accessible by others. It is not reproducible. There is no agreed-upon system for detecting errors.

    All of the empirical data we have collected over hundreds of years is fully consistent with the conclusion that the personal revelation method is utterly unreliable. We have evidence that bears on your method. Your method’s value for producing information about what really exists is contra-indicated by the evidence. If you claim heaven and souls really exist, then we can take the above sentence and apply it: your method’s value for producing information about heaven and souls is contra-indicated by the evidence.

    You and David Koresh are using the same methodology to determine who the spiritual savior of mankind is, and coming up with dramatically different results. As are the muslims. As are the Jews. As a physicist, it should bother you when the same instrument produces such dramatically different results. That should tell you not to put any confidence in it. Biblical exegesis and personal revelation are N-ray detectors. Dousing rods. E-meters. Your methodology is not just somewhat vulnerable to the ideometer effect, its practically nothing but ideometer effect.

  74. #74 bblhk
    March 4, 2011

    “Science, just like religion, requires faith in what is presented by it and portrayed as a fact.”

    When a scientist claims to have seen Saturn with its rings around it, everybody believes them. However, when a witness of Jesus claimed to have seen Jesus with a halo around his head, a lot of people find it hard to believe because scientists fail to explain, using scientific methods, how his ressurection and assension couldn’ve possibly occurred.

    Science simply does not have the capacity to explain things that operate by principles not understood by science. Humans need to invent a new type of science in order to understand how these things could be possible, if current explanations do not satisfy curiousity.

    Before chemistry was not invented, reaction produced as a result of mixing different chemicals was viewed as pure magic. Well, not anymore. Jesus’s miracles seem like magic too. May be in the future, after being properly explained, they’ll make total sense. Just a thought…

  75. #75 dsklfd
    March 4, 2011

    Question on the Big Bang Theory.

    Acording to this theory, the universe came into existence as a result of an explosion of …something.

    After this explosion, matter, that was created as a result of the explosion, started moving apart from the epicenter.

    The matter in the universe is still drifting apart from the epicenter, which means that there has to be a center of the universe. Also the distance between celestial bodies can’t be constant, in this case, and must be constantly changing, or increasing, because of the drifting.

    Also, since the universe has a center or the beginning, it must have the end, or the outer edge to which the matter has spread to until now, and which could be possibly tracked with some type of technology.

    If the matter is constantly drifting apart, then the distance between the sun and the earth must be constanly changing, or increasing.

    Scientists say that the reason why life on earth is possible is because the earth is located at a precise point, which created the required temperature and environment on earth for life to exist.

    Can somebody please give me a reasonable explanation on why people believe in the big bang theory.

  76. #76 ksdffd
    March 4, 2011

    @#67
    “early religious people didn’t live in a universe with different physical laws, they didn’t accurately know what the physical laws are.”

    Considering the fact that with all the knowledge of physical laws and “highly advanced” and sophisticated technology available today, modern people still don’t know exactly how, for instance, Egyptian pyramids and other ancient monuments built from unbelievalby immense stone blocks, were constructed with such stellar precision.

    And ancient Egyptians lived 2.5 thousand years before Christianity that relied on the geocentric model of the universe. What kind of physical laws did they have in order to be able to, what seems to be, almost defy them?
    Also, is it possible that Egyptians reckoned on geocentricity as well? But, in this case, how were they able to construct pyramids while, being so extremely ignorant of the exact planetary position and rotation method in the solar system?

  77. #77 sdkfdlkf
    March 4, 2011

    “Second of all, nobody knows for sure in what condition the earth was thousands of years ago, how it revolved and what principles guided it. All modern people can do is speculate, and impose their assumptions with outmost certainty on others, just to come across as the ones, who know everything.”

    It’s very easy to persuade crowds of people, that someone’s assumptions and speculations are indeed a fact or truth, by simply sounding confident and convincing, and presenting this speculation or wanting something to be a fact, as a fact. Combine it with the powerful position of the speculator, and people will actually believe anything.
    Both scientists and religious people exploit this method a lot.

    A mere example is the case with WMDs in Iraq.

  78. #78 skjdskj
    March 4, 2011

    People can simply defend a certain theory or belief system because they need to preserve their self-interests, protect their investment and reputation, especially if their entire livelihood depends on it. Not everybody would want to admit that they were stupid enough to believe in complete nonsense all their life while acting as if they actually knew what they were talking about.

    Not to mention, all the bias, tricking, twisting, misunderstanding, stuborness, slyness, manipulation, power-hunger, hate, close-mindedness, wanting to look smart and always right, competitiveness, and other aspects of human psychology that come into play, and are, unfortunately, often ignored, are tremendous obsticles to finding out the real truth.

    When somebody is stating a fact, one should probably first consider the above “filters” it might’ve went through.

  79. #79 dsklfd
    March 4, 2011

    “Scientists say that the reason why life on earth is possible is because the earth is located at a precise point, which created the required temperature and environment on earth for life to exist.”

    Self-correction

    Scientists believe that the reason why life on earth is possible is because the earth orbits the sun at the perfect required distance from it, that creates the right temperature and environment for its existence.

  80. #80 skdfkjad
    March 5, 2011

    “In the geocentric model of the universe, the rotation of planets and other celestial objects is irrelevant. They can move in any direction in respect to the earth’s fixed and centralized position following their usual course or trajectory. The sun will be perceived as revolving around the earth, and not the other way round, only because this is what it looks like on the face of it. As in “believe only in what you see!”, and that’s what a lot of people see, until scientists start calling them stupid, and showing them satellite pictures.”

    I know it may sound rediculous from the scientific point of view, but could it be possible that mere perception of the universe as being geocentric can actually physically change or effect the position of the earth, its rotation, celestial bodies, gravity and magnetism, to fit this model, especially if it’s perceived that way by the entire collective consciousness?
    It would be kind of like moving clouds with the power of your mind.

    It’s just a theory that there might actually be a lot more to this world than meets the eye.

    Perhaps, that’s why early Christians were so mad at Copernicus, thinking that his proposition of the heliocentric model might somehow turn the earth upside down, both in literal and figurative sense.

  81. #81 Pseudonym
    March 5, 2011

    Michael Fugate:

    What do you think will happen if the liberal religious feel alienated by the incapability argument? Will they become creationists? Will they deny global climate change? Will they believe the Bible is the literal truth?

    What will happen is that atheists and the liberal religious will be less likely to form coalitions of convenience over matters of common interest, such as science education and, in turn, the fundamentalists run the risk of winning the public debate.

  82. #82 Go away
    March 6, 2011

    Before some people start calling belivers in God and the supernatural “irrational”, it would be advisable to take a look at some sciences, and try and determine their level of rationality.

    I decided to take a look at algebraic equations today, after 15 years since graduating high school, and I couldn’t believe that even though I successfully completed my highly specialized math class, algebra completely stopped making sense to me. Today, it seems total nonsense, without absolutely any practical application or purpose. It seems like someone’s insanity, paranoia or delusion. A kind of meaningless torture to drive you crazy for no apparent reason, looking for nothing, having no importance and leading nowhere.

    I don’t understand how irrational one actually has to be to realy on it.

    Do scientists call this lack of intelligence? Well, if that’s the case, screw scientists then. This world wouldn’t be going down these days, if their intelligence was actually making some sense.

  83. #83 J. J. Ramsey
    March 6, 2011

    (Apologies if this doesn’t make too much sense. I have a bad cold.)

    Rosenhouse: “Some people might have a more hard core notion of incompatibility in mind”

    And therein lies at least one problem. There isn’t a clear notion of what constitutes incompatibility in the first place. Generally speaking, I’d say if one’s religion allows one to accept the findings of science and to do science, then it’s compatible with science. That’s obviously less stringent than your standard, but not obviously unreasonable.

    I do applaud you for having a standard of incompatibility that at least doesn’t rely on dodgy depictions of science or religion.

  84. #84 Lenoxuss
    March 7, 2011

    Some late-ish responses to the odd (and sometimes very odd) comment…

    The reason for which I would label religion as incompatible with science is that it is almost universally unwilling to accept scientific scrutiny, and has indeed shaped itself, down to the last detail, to be unfalsifiable by any empirical means.

    The Eucharist (especially the Catholic interpretation) is a nice example: the bread becomes flesh in every single imaginable way —oh, except not in any detectable way, you silly materialist. An interesting consequence is that both science and Catholocism tell us to expect almost exactly the same things when observing Communion. Doesn’t that make the two compatible in that area?

    No, because the latter one simultaneously adds unnecessary claims and suspiciously modifies the hypothesis so that its output is nonetheless identical. This is deeply unscientific, and the history of science has taught us that this is always a bad road to travel. (And that religion has been especially responsible for people traveling this road, e.g, Newton asserting that divine powers intervene to correct the trajectories of celestial objects.)

    Note that my objection applies even to deism, which some atheists consider reasonably compatible with science. It still violates parsimony, and that’s a no-no. At the end of the day, any religion and its practitioners are asserting that two different sets of rules are to be applied when determining the way reality works, somehow involving two different areas whose overlap of interaction cannot be coherently described.

    Uh-huh, but what about literature, philosophy and baseball, ask heddle and others? Well, the latter one doesn’t involve truth claims apart from ones that are easily verifiable (eg, “We’re going to beat New York tomorrow!”). As for the other two, to the extent that they do, these claims are discussed in terms that resemble empiricism much more than religion. For example, no one is asked to accept any claims based on faith. And as eric pointed out, art criticism’s subjectivity is usually acknowledged by art criticism itself, so there’s no real “debate” to be had.

    heddle said:

    To make a claim akin to scientific knowledge I would have to say: my religion predicts this, which can be tested by doing that experiement.

    The trick here is that religion knows better than to say the second part of that. What religion does is make predictions, but hedge its bets by claiming to be untestable. The religious conception of prayer is a good example. If I pray for someone who is ill, then (according to most creeds) they are more likely to do better than if I hadn’t prayed — except not “more likely” in some quantifiable, probabilistic sense. This is nonsense.

    Yet even while asserting such incoherencies, no religion would be surprised if prayer suddenly beat random chance, in every test, starting tomorrow. Almost no one would say “All these cancer remissions must be the work of Satan, because everyone knows that God doesn’t do that sort of thing.”

    Meanwhile, sdjkjd’s arguments are nicely nonsensical. I kind of like them. S/he seems to be asserting a classic combination of postmodernism and the Galileo gambit, simultaneously saying that truth is a matter of opinion and (contradictingly) maybe science is wrong.

    I particularly want to address the point about geocentrism. To begin with, situations where appearances are potentially deceiving (for example, it looks like everything orbits the Earth) doesn’t mean that literally making stuff up will give us the truth. It just means that solely going by appearances is mistaken. A false dichotomy has been presented between “Deciding truth based on initial assumptions/appearences” and “Taking a wild leap of faith”. There’s a neglected possibility, one I admit is sufficiently counter-intutive that humans took a very long time to develop modern science: to find out the truth. The other two methods are really just variations on working everything out in our heads. That’s what some ancient Greeks spent some time doing. Aristotle, for instance, developed an entire system of physics that conformed to human intuition but not at all to reality, despite having had every opportunity to simply test it.

    By the way, I don’t think sdjkjd is using the word “faith” in quite the way most theists do. Ordinarily, religious faith means something like a trust in a revelation, either made to oneself or to someone else. Does sdjkjd think that someone recieved a revelation that geocentrism was wrong? Apart from such a possibility, there’s no reason that a “faith”-based method would arrive at anything remotely correct, even if it would avoid the incorrect assertion that the Earth is the center. Why not say the universe revolves around Mars? And even if someone has an a-centric revelation, why listen to her and not to someone else’s revelation that the center of the universe changes every Friday?

    In any case, it’s true that one can coherently describe a geocentric model that predicts what we observe. The problem is that it requires lots of additional forces and weird exceptions, and raises questions that relativity doesn’t. For example, why would geophysical events like earthquakes cause stars billions of light years away to immediately (slightly) change their direction and/or speed of travel?

    dklfdkl:

    Assuming that the earth is constantly moving or changing its position in order to make its revolutions around the sun, then wouldn’t the meteor have to change its trajectory in order to hit the earth right where it’s going to be by the time the meteor reaches it?

    This is a very weird question. If astronomers predict a meteor hitting Earth in a year, they definitely mean the meteor is heading to the place where Earth is going to be in a year. There’s no “change of trajectory” going on; the scientists aren’t forgetting about the movement of the Earth, or for that matter, of the moon, the sun, etc. Remember, these folks send probes to other moons and planets; they have some sense of what they’re doing.

    Perhaps dklfdkl thinks that if the Earth moves, then its movement is basically random and unpredictable? His/her phrasing sort of implies this: “the earth is constantly moving or changing its position in order to make its revolutions around the sun” makes it sound as though the Earth is a hurried commuter, sometimes resting, but generally moving this way and that with the “goal” of making a complete revolution.

    ksdffd, who is probably the same person as the similarly-named keyboard-smatterings:

    Also, is it possible that Egyptians reckoned on geocentricity as well? But, in this case, how were they able to construct pyramids while, being so extremely ignorant of the exact planetary position and rotation method in the solar system?

    You don’t need a heliocentric model to have a very good, workable astronomy. People developed fire long before we had the slightest notion of what fire really is and how it works; they just knew that if you followed a certain process correctly, you would get fire.

    This sort of thing is quite commonplace today; people don’t have to know how their cars work in order to drive them. Toddlers learn to talk without being consciously aware that, for example, the ch sound is a combination of t and sh — one of those things humans actually learned long after we’d been “doing”.

  85. #85 hjjhhgj
    March 7, 2011

    If people reverse the direction of the evolutionary tree, and start drafting it with modern humans currently living, going back in time, tracing the evolution of EACH person’s family tree, they’ll notice that just 5 generations ago, every individual had a total of 32 great great great grand parents they DIRECTLY descended from, and who EQUALLY contributed to that individual’s gene pool, on the maternal and paternal sides combined. Multiplied by 2 in each subsequent generation, this number reaches an immense proportion just in 7 generations moving backward.

    This is what it looks like –
    Each person has:
    2 parents
    4 grandparents (2 maternal and 2 PATERNAL)
    8 great grandparents
    16 great great grandparents
    32 great great great grandparents
    64 great great great great grandparents…

    Also, according to the principles of genetics, you inherit
    %50 of each of your parents genes, making it %25 from each grand parent. Divide this %25 by 2 in each consequent generation, and you’ll get less than %3 of each of your 32 great great great grand parents’ genes, meaning that the species you descended from 6 generations ago, contributed only less than %1.0 of their genes to your genenetic makeup.

    To top this, genetic analysis shows a relatively small
    (%1.0 – %1.5) genetic difference between modern humans and modern chimpanzees. I hope my calculations are wrong, if we are dealing with totally different types of genes here, and it doesn’t mean that humans split from chimps only 5 or 6 generations ago, because 5 or 6 generations encompass a time frame from >200-<300 years ago, which can definitely make a lot of people extremely furious. Though this might provide some support for the religious assumption that the universe is only 5,000 years old, if proven, of course.

    You could hypothetically trace your mtDNA through the maternal lineage all the way to its very beginning starting from you and going backwards in time, because if you are here, that means your maternal lineage is uninterrupted. In this case, you’ll be only looking at your mother’s, grandmother’s, greatgrandmother’s, great-great grandmother’s and so on DNA. However, if each ancestor contributes the same number of genes, then you will still get less than %1 of genes from your great great great great grand-mother.

  86. #86 sdjkjd
    March 7, 2011

    @#84

    “Meanwhile, sdjkjd’s arguments are nicely nonsensical. I kind of like them. S/he seems to be asserting a classic combination of postmodernism and the Galileo gambit, simultaneously saying that truth is a matter of opinion and (contradictingly) maybe science is wrong.”

    I assert that the truth, with the exception of the objective truth, is a matter of each person’s perception of the things they observe, where their ability to observe can be warped and twisted by their perception. Different scientists, for instance, do not observe the same thing the same way. That’s why doctors, for example, constantly make mistakes when diagnosing a patient. A different doctor sees something different in the same patient, and if you visit 5 different doctors, each of them usually gives you a (slightly) different diognosis, based on what they observed. And they are obviously science savvy.

    “I particularly want to address the point about geocentrism. To begin with, situations where appearances are potentially deceiving (for example, it looks like everything orbits the Earth) doesn’t mean that literally making stuff up will give us the truth. It just means that solely going by appearances is mistaken.”

    Well, scientists do rely on their sense of vision to draw conclusions about what is going on. They pretty much go by what they see, even while and after conducting an experiment. If they see a tumor on an X-ray image, that means there is a tumor in a body. Even if they cut the body open, and see a tumor that they saw on the X-ray, that means there is a tumor in the body. Following this logic, how could people know that even though it looks as if everything revolves around the earth, because that’s what they SEE, does not constitute the truth? If that’s the case, you should question the validity of absolutely everything you see to be something it is not or even opposite of what it seems to be? Like the tumor on the X-ray, may be not the tumor because that’s what you see? In this case, you sound more like a religious person, who claims that their is a soul inside you that scientists cannot find, and therefore, you should consider that possiblity.

    “By the way, I don’t think sdjkjd is using the word “faith” in quite the way most theists do. Ordinarily, religious faith means something like a trust in a revelation, either made to oneself or to someone else. Does sdjkjd think that someone recieved a revelation that geocentrism was wrong?”

    Vice versa. The reason why religious people believed or assumed that the earth was the center of the universe is because they supposedly received the wrong revalation that geocentrism was the correct model, only if scientists know for sure that heliocentricity is true, and if one accepts it to be the objective truth, then the religious revalation received by Christians, provided it DOES give THE TRUTH, should have been the objective truth, the one that scientists claim to have observed. The question is: Why didn’t God, if real, give religious people the correct truth? May be scientists themselves are delusional about the existence of the objective truth. If they had the ability to arrive at it themselves using exclusively scientific methods,then they wouldn’t be constantly changning their stories or “observations”.

    “Apart from such a possibility, there’s no reason that a “faith”-based method would arrive at anything remotely correct, even if it would avoid the incorrect assertion that the Earth is the center. Why not say the universe revolves around Mars?”

    Assuming that the faith-based method is true, then it’s possible that God, if real, had a reason to give such a, distict from the scientific, revalation. Perhaps, the earth operated by different physical laws thousands of years ago, and geocentricity was possible to a certain extent. Or, perhaps, PERCEIVING the earth as being the center of the universe, provides a better advantage to people’s lives and well-being.

    “You don’t need a heliocentric model to have a very good, workable astronomy.”

    That’s right, the construction of Egyptian and other megalithic monuments, that nobody knows how to build even these days, were built with such amazing stellar precision, that was possible only due to the exceptional knowledge of astronomy necessary to properly and accurately allign these structures with certain stars and canstellations that would exactly correspond to the position of the sun. Whichever model those ancient angineers relied on, seems to have worked miracles.

  87. #87 JSC
    March 7, 2011

    heddle –
    Thanks for the clarification. If science and religon are, in fact, compatible the only way to salvage some compromise is to insist that science and religion deal with different spheres of existence, but that’s a difficult position to maintain. It’s a rare religion that doesn’t purport to make any empirical claims about our world, but efforts to exempt such claims from scientific investigation effectively admits that science and religion are incompatible. This a claim about the only tool we’ve known with positive results for gleening knowledge of our world. Making a claim about what science can and can not investigate could be nothing other than a scientific claim.

  88. #88 dklfdkl
    March 7, 2011

    @#84

    Additional comments…

    “This is a very weird question. If astronomers predict a meteor hitting Earth in a year, they definitely mean the meteor is heading to the place where Earth is going to be in a year. There’s no “change of trajectory” going on; the scientists aren’t forgetting about the movement of the Earth, or for that matter, of the moon, the sun, etc. Remember, these folks send probes to other moons and planets; they have some sense of what they’re doing.”

    I suppose so, though you yourself stated in your comment that in order to be able to make fire, you don’t really need to know (exactly) what it is and how it works.

    “Perhaps dklfdkl thinks that if the Earth moves, then its movement is basically random and unpredictable? His/her phrasing sort of implies this: “the earth is constantly moving or changing its position in order to make its revolutions around the sun” makes it sound as though the Earth is a hurried commuter, sometimes resting, but generally moving this way and that with the “goal” of making a complete revolution.”

    That’s just your interpretation of my phrasing, because you assume that I am absolutely ignorant of astronomy. If you held the assumption that I am actually cognizant of the heliocentric model just like yourself, then my phrasing – “the earth is constantly moving or changing its position” could be another way of saying that the earth is in motion all the time, and when it’s in motion its never in the same position or point on the orbit during the same revolution around the sun. There are different ways of moving, and not necesssarily only randomly. That is a good example of how personal cognitive bias can skew interpretation. Furthermore, moving or motion does imply change in position, unless this is a new way for you to look at it.

    However, you made a good point there, when you said that I see the earth as a hurried computer. It could be partly viewed as such, as far as speed is concerned, because according to scientific data I read 2 years ago, the earth does not revolve around the sun at exactly the same speed at all time. When it’s closer to the sun in the winter, it slows down a little, and when it at its furtherst from the sun in the summer, it speeds up so it could gain its momentum. It’s possible that this data has been changed already, and scientists came up with something different, which obviously wouldn’t surprise anybody. And again, it shows that scientific perception and observation is never perfect.

  89. #89 Where is the truth, yo?
    March 8, 2011

    Another great example of how different scintific observations lead to different scientific conclusions presented as facts at different points in time. Taking into account the technology, excellent educational background, intelligence, perceptiveness of all these scintists, they observe the following:

    This is an exerpt from the Human Genome Project…

    “When analysis of the draft human genome sequence was published by the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium on February 15, 2001, the paper estimated only about 30,000 to 40,000 protein-coding genes, much lower than previous estimates of about 100,000. This lower estimate came as a shock to many scientists because counting genes was viewed as a way of quantifying genetic complexity. With about 30,000, the human gene count would be only one-third greater than that of the simple roundworm C. elegans, which has about 20,000 genes (2).

    Studies since the publication of the draft genome sequence have generated widely different estimates. An analysis by scientists at Ohio State University suggested between 65,000 and 75,000 human genes (3), and another study published in Cell in August 2001 predicted a total of 42,000 (4).

  90. #90 David Stoeckl
    March 8, 2011

    Hi folks.

    If anyone is interested, I’d like to offer a view from the hinterlands. I’m not a scientist, although I’ve got a strong interest in the topic, which is why I read these blogs. I’m also not a religionist. I used to think I was an atheist, but I’m not sure I fit in anymore.

    I never knew anything about this “contempt vs candor” argument, and had no idea that I was an accomondationist until quite recently, having encountered a “gnu” atheist on a small local discussion board. This fellow makes it sport to mock any kind of religious expression or prayer request, hurt feelings be damned, going so far as to dump on a Christmas greetings thread. This exposure prompted me to look into this issue a bit more in an effort to understand.

    I have found many examples of this sort of philosophy, that ridicule and contempt are the only correct response to religious expression, on some atheist sites. This is troubling to me. Whatever happened to simple respect?

    I live Pennsylvania’s Bible belt. I am around religious people all day. An integral part of the lives of most religious people is humility and kindness. They want to model their lives after the life of Christ. And I have never had a problem. To most people, it is simply not an issue. And most religious people really don’t have a problem with science. Even the Catholic Church has accepted evolution.

    And even if they do, what possible goal will be reached by mocking people’s religion. You are not going to change anyone’s mind, and you will piss them off. And you might very well convince the “liberal” religious that maybe religion is required for people to be humble and kind.

    Yes, there are religious people who are arrogant and cruel. But what possible benefit can it have to embrace the worst qualities of those whose minds you’d like to change.

    Truth be told, it makes me wonder as well. I’d rather be around a Christian who tries to be Christ-like, even if they are worried about my soul, that an arrogant atheist steeped in Objectivist philosophy who somehow thinks it’s his business what other people believe and say. Humanist values are what are important to me, and more and more I’m starting to think that it doesn’t much matter how these values are attained.

  91. #91 Lenoxuss
    March 8, 2011

    hjjhhgj @ 85:

    I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make there, but there are several things to keep in mind. The first is that you can’t just extrapolate the number of unique ancestors by doubling again and again and again. At some point, one of your ancestors had a child with a (distant) cousin, meaning that, like it or not, some of your ancestors are on both sides of your family. (For example, perhaps your mother and father share a great-gr-gr-gr-gr-great grandmother. That doesn’t mean their union was incestuous; seventh cousins are not very closely related at all.)

    There’s no way this can’t be the case, because we know there weren’t a trillion people alive 800 years ago (or over a googol alive ten thousand years ago). This phenomenon is called pedigree collapse.

    A second issue with your assertion is that even though it is true that your very distant ancestors contribute a very tiny fraction of your DNA, it’s still the case that all of those ancestors (if we’re talking about the last couple million years) were human. That I have only 1% DNA from a specific human ancestor doesn’t make me “1% human” — if I did, then my having 50% of my mother’s DNA would make me “half-human”. When you put it all together, it all adds up to human (so to speak).

    Finally, most humans have most of our DNA in common with one another. When people say that you have half your father’s genes, they’re actually talking about unique genes, ones that your mother doesn’t have. If we look at all the genes, you and your father share over 95%, and likewise you and your mother. Your father and mother have at least 90% in common — they have to, because they’re both human, and a solid majority of human DNA governs the sort of things humans have in common, and the sort of things that simply allow us to be functional organisms. Heck, you share a healthy percentage of DNA with plants, for similar reasons.

  92. #92 Lenoxuss
    March 8, 2011

    sdjkjd @ 86:

    In this case, you sound more like a religious person, who claims that their is a soul inside you that scientists cannot find, and therefore, you should consider that possiblity.

    This sentence seems to contradict everything that came before it. I simply can’t tell whether or not you think it’s a good idea to assert the existence of things that no can can detect, on the off-chance that you may turn out to be right — or whether you think that’s not rational.

    You literally seem to be saying that because a scientist is asserting the existence of a tumor based on visual evidence — an X-ray — she sounds “like a religious person, who claims that their is a soul inside you that scientists cannot find”.

    Anyway, I think you are somewhat exaggerating the mystifying sophistication of the pyramids. Yes, they are aligned to the stars — how would a geocentric model get in the way of this? You can see the stars in any case. It would be remarkable if they were aligned with stars in the opposite hemisphere, although even that wouldn’t mean that genies or aliens served as engineering consultants. (Just that someone had made a good record of the other hemisphere’s sky and travelled to Egypt with it.)

    dklfdkl @ 88:

    When it’s closer to the sun in the winter, it slows down a little, and when it at its furtherst from the sun in the summer, it speeds up so it could gain its momentum. It’s possible that this data has been changed already, and scientists came up with something different, which obviously wouldn’t surprise anybody. And again, it shows that scientific perception and observation is never perfect.

    At this point, the astronomers’ math is good enough that they can predict the position of the Earth using models that include its varying speed. They can, how shall I put it, walk and chew gum at the same time.

    And nobody says that current scientific models are perfect. Why would it be a strike against them that they are imperfect? The point is that they are the best we have available. Do you know of any system of knowledge that can more accurately predict the movements of the planets, or the makeup of this year’s flu virus, or even the weather? I’m not asking for instances where scientific predictions failed — I’m asking for instances where someone else beat science.

    To “Where is the truth, yo?” at 89: Believe it or not, that “shock” is a good thing about science. It means that it was willing to make specific predictions that had the risk of failing. Show me someone who’s never surprised, and it’ll be someone who never made specific predictions. Or who is omniscient, but we’ve never seen anyone like that: not Nostradamus, not anyone. Or simply someone who does make specific predictions, but easily backtracks because they never want to look like they’re ever wrong. The scientists could have said, “Obviously, our previous writing was a metaphor for the reality of the human genome.” They’re not that cowardly, though.

    Anyway, did any non-scientists specifically predict these genome numbers? Or are such quantity-based things too cold and mundane, and they’d rather be smug about scientists correcting their models?

    David Stoeckl @ 90:

    I’d rather be around a Christian who tries to be Christ-like, even if they are worried about my soul, that an arrogant atheist steeped in Objectivist philosophy who somehow thinks it’s his business what other people believe and say.

    Notice the parallel there?

    In a phrase, “gnu atheism” can be summarized as “Why does religion get a free pass?” Why is religion allowed to judge others or dispute what others believe, without being seen as judgmental and disagreeable?

    It’s kind of condescending, like oh, they can’t help it, they’re Bible Belt folk, you know.

    A typical moderate theist can spend her day talking to a Hindu, then a Muslim, then a Christian, each of whom has very much contradictory views about reality and the fate of the others’ souls. She says, “That’s cool, I respect whatever you believe, I’m sure that that’s true for you and it gets at some deeper truth.”

    Then when she talks to the atheist, she says “Why do you have to attack people’s beliefs? Why can’t you just let them be?” Never mind that the Christian, and Muslim each think the other two are destined for Hell — apparently, that’s a private belief, and one that gives so much comfort that we mustn’t raise our voices against it.

  93. #93 hjjhhgj
    March 8, 2011

    To Lenoxuss

    Thanks for your clarification. It was really helpful.

    As far as the genetic variation between the entire human population is concerned, scienific data shows an approximate of %0.1, which would mean that my parents share more than %90 of their genes, probably %99.9. When it comes to genetics, decimal numbers have a pretty high value, and
    %0.1 variation results in many noticable and considerable differences between humans.

    “I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make there, but there are several things to keep in mind. The first is that you can’t just extrapolate the number of unique ancestors by doubling again and again and again. At some point, one of your ancestors had a child with a (distant) cousin, meaning that, like it or not, some of your ancestors are on both sides of your family.”

    My point was to demostrate that each person HAD TO HAVE 32 great great great grandparents in order to be able to “arrive” to the present, so to speak. Whether there was interbreeding between the ancestors of both sides is a different matter. I chose to look at and disect the family tree only through this single pespective. By doubling the number of ancestors in each subsequent generation, one can see the number of direct ancestors, exluding cousins, aunts, uncles and their spouses and children, they had in each generation, and who contributed to their DNA.

    If the initial scintific findings on the Human Genome are correct, and human DNA indeed contains as few as 30,000 genes, deeming humans genetically deprived, then the question is how many genes, in numeric quantity, do all humans share.? If it’s only 20,ooo, then that would be the number of genes in a ringworm’s DNA. If that means that humans evolved from some type of parasitic warmlike organisms, then that would probably explain why humans are predominantly so atrocious as a species, and need so many laws and different ways of punishment to keep themselves in check. What would you expect from an overgrown warm, right?

  94. #94 sdjkjd
    March 8, 2011

    @ Lenoxuss

    This is what I wrote in my comment:

    In this case, you sound more like a religious person, who claims that their is a soul inside you that scientists cannot find, and therefore, you should consider that possiblity.

    Your response:

    “This sentence seems to contradict everything that came before it. I simply can’t tell whether or not you think it’s a good idea to assert the existence of things that no can can detect, on the off-chance that you may turn out to be right — or whether you think that’s not rational.”

    I made the above comment in response to #84’s comment, which stated that in some cases appearances can be deceiving, and making things up based on initial visual observations can lead to inaccurate assumptions, as in the case of the assumption that celestial matter revolves around the earth only because that’s what an observer looking up from the earth sees, and that is qualified as false in the view of the scientific community.

    I compared 84’s reasoning pattern to religious way of thinking because if one doesn’t trust what they see, is the same as believing in something one can’t see, for insance, believing in the existence of the soul that can’t be detected by purely scientific methods, verses believing that only what you see constitutes and holds the whole truth. If you think about it, scientists largly rely on their sense of vision to make their judgements, even in determining that it is the earth that revolves around the sun.

    “And nobody says that current scientific models are perfect. Why would it be a strike against them that they are imperfect? The point is that they are the best we have available. Do you know of any system of knowledge that can more accurately predict the movements of the planets, or the makeup of this year’s flu virus, or even the weather? I’m not asking for instances where scientific predictions failed — I’m asking for instances where someone else beat science.”

    Supposedly, Christ was able to cure all illnesses, resurrect the dead, restore bodily damage just in a matter of seconds, with %100 precision using nothing but magic. On top of it, he knew how and was able to defy gravity, ascend into heaven and enter the dimension of heaven using the portal within himself, and make accurate predictions of his own future and that of humanity. Whether it’s true or not, I dare not assertain, but I am open to the possiblity of this being possible.

    My point was not to strike at science for its imperfection. My point was to point out that scientific truth is very subjective and biased, as well as the religious truth. If there was THE TRUTH truth, then why wouldn’t every single person on the planet know it? And why do different people claim to have the truth, but it differs from person to person? Unless that’s the way the truth supposed to be – all fractured and fragmented, until somebody puts all the pieces together? The question is which ones?

  95. #95 David Stoeckl
    March 10, 2011

    A typical moderate theist can spend her day talking to a Hindu, then a Muslim, then a Christian, each of whom has very much contradictory views about reality and the fate of the others’ souls. She says, “That’s cool, I respect whatever you believe, I’m sure that that’s true for you and it gets at some deeper truth.”

    Then when she talks to the atheist, she says “Why do you have to attack people’s beliefs? Why can’t you just let them be?” Never mind that the Christian, and Muslim each think the other two are destined for Hell — apparently, that’s a private belief, and one that gives so much comfort that we mustn’t raise our voices against it.

    Posted by: Lenoxuss | March 8, 2011 11:35 AM

    Only if the atheist is hopping up and down mocking people who believe in “sky daddies”.

    Look, I know that there is prejudice against atheists, and that some fundamentalists, and those that pander to them, are downright abusive. Newt Gingrich’s recent remarks to CBN are a good example.

    But I really don’t think it is at all productive to adopt the worst tactics of the most extreme of the religionists to try to convince folks of the rationality or morality of atheists.

  96. #96 Lenoxuss
    March 11, 2011

    hjjhhgj @ 93:

    If it’s only 20,ooo, then that would be the number of genes in a ringworm’s DNA. If that means that humans evolved from some type of parasitic warmlike organisms, then that would probably explain why humans are predominantly so atrocious as a species, and need so many laws and different ways of punishment to keep themselves in check. What would you expect from an overgrown warm, right?

    There’s nothing wrong with this, but you’ve got a lot to learn about biology. this might be a good place to start, or not. (I haven’t looked at the whole thing, so I don’t know for certain.)

    In any case, while some of our distant ancestors were worm-like, we share that ancestry with all other animal life, so if your hypothesis were true, than all animals would be “atrocious” (and all would be “an overgrown worm”).

    Secondly, parasitism is not very “deep”, and isn’t going to last the trillions of generations to today. All we actually inherited from our worm-like forebears is some chemistry, and even most of that is quite different.

    Thirdly, worm parasitism has only a poetic/symbolic connection to human greed.

    Fourth, the amount of DNA shared with another species isn’t a good indicator of much besides relatedness. Our distantworm ancestors weren’t necessarily anything like our modern-day worm cousins, because two different lines can change at the same time. (A parallel example would be how modern British English wasn’t “frozen in time” after American English split from it, so there’s nothing “old” about British English. Both dialtects changed by the same amount, losing old features and gaining new ones.)

    Fifth, you’re mixing some highly subjective notions with scientific ones. In particular, there’s a mild contradiction when you say humans are “predominantly so atrocious”, than talk about “an overgrown worm” as though worms are obviously “bad” (when that’s just human disgust).

  97. #97 Lenoxuss
    March 11, 2011

    sdjkjd @ 94:

    Supposedly, Christ was able to cure all illnesses, resurrect the dead, restore bodily damage just in a matter of seconds, with %100 precision using nothing but magic. On top of it, he knew how and was able to defy gravity, ascend into heaven and enter the dimension of heaven using the portal within himself, and make accurate predictions of his own future and that of humanity. Whether it’s true or not, I dare not assertain, but I am open to the possiblity of this being possible.

    Indeed, that would be most awesome, though I give it an extremely low probability. The next question is: In the 2000 years since Jesus, just how much progress has religion made towards producing even one person capable of such magic? (Or one anything for which such magic happens.)

    Conversely, scientific medicine has cured and eradicated entire diseases — and unlike stories about miracles, and you don’t just have to take someone’s word for that. (Unless you want o become a total postmodernist and “Maybe we’re all in the Matrix” and all that.)

    If there was THE TRUTH truth, then why wouldn’t every single person on the planet know it? And why do different people claim to have the truth, but it differs from person to person?

    Neither of those are particularly mysterious. People simply don’t know everything, and we’re quite susceptible to illusions and biases. The scientific method seems to be the most successful way to overcome these issues — rather than declare a specific human (or book or whatever) to be perfect and unbiased, we “compare notes” until we get a roughly accurate picture of the world.

    I’m curious: Do you think any statements are more likely to be true than others, or are truer than others?

    If not, then you can’t coherently or consistently do anything — neither get out of bed nor get into it, because maybe one of those actions will kill you, but maybe death is good, but maybe after an infinitude of heaven you’re reincarnated as someone with a split personality… etc…

    If so, then that’s enough of a basis for going through life, and empirical methods are a pretty good way of figuring out which possibilities are more likely than other ones.

    Yeah, yeah, they can put a man on the moon but they can’t make a remote control that cures the common cold. Who besides scientists can put humans on the moon? If the answer is “Jesus”… I have to admit I find it doubtful he even knew that the Earth and moon are spheres orbiting a common center of gravity. He (or rather, the people who wrote about him) certainly didn’t seem to know much about disease, for example.

  98. #98 Lenoxuss
    March 11, 2011

    David Stoeckl @ 95

    Only if the atheist is hopping up and down mocking people who believe in “sky daddies”.

    That’s a good example of rude tone, no question. Here’s my point: the content of a huge amount of religion is far ruder than any atheist’s tone can be. The idea of Hell is a prime example. (By definition, the worst thing someone can think of someone else is that they deserve eternal torment.) Another awful bit of content would be “The Bible is inspired by God”. (The Bible exhorts us to kill those of the wrong faith, portrays God as genocidal, and gives rules for slavery that aren’t “Don’t keep slaves”.)

    My problem isn’t just with the Newt Gingriches who overtly espouse this stuff, but with the moderate theists who fail to challenge it (except halfheartedly, with a whole “This is just what I believe”). They wouldn’t halfheartedly “respect” someone who believes that Christians should be killed for worshipping a god called Jesus, so why respect someone who praises a book (the Bible) which says just that?

  99. #99 hjjhhgj
    March 12, 2011

    @96

    I wrote…

    “If it’s only 20,ooo, then that would be the number of genes in a ringworm’s DNA. If that means that humans evolved from some type of parasitic warmlike organisms, then that would probably explain why humans are predominantly so atrocious as a species, and need so many laws and different ways of punishment to keep themselves in check. What would you expect from an overgrown warm, right?”

    You wrote…

    “There’s nothing wrong with this, but you’ve got a lot to learn about biology. this might be a good place to start, or not. (I haven’t looked at the whole thing, so I don’t know for certain.)…………………………………
    Fifth, you’re mixing some highly subjective notions with scientific ones. In particular, there’s a mild contradiction when you say humans are “predominantly so atrocious”, than talk about “an overgrown worm” as though worms are obviously “bad” (when that’s just human disgust).”

    First of all, my statement doesn’t imply that there is something wrong with this kind of human origin. That is just your biased interpretation. To me, it doesn’t really matter where humans came from, either from another planet, whether they were created by God, or whether they are direct descendents of bacteria. If human genetically deprived DNA is indicative of possible worm or even bacteria type of origin, then by connecting this possible fact with the state of the current human affairs and behavior, it is possible to conclude that this type of origin could have effected these human qualities and attributes.

    Animal morality is hard to define, as well as human. The fact that some of them destroy living species or life, in other words, might be viewed amoral to some. Worms may not seem “bad” to us, though even that is subjective. However, we do share a lot of physical and behavioral characteristics with them. It does seem that way, at least, and what are you going to do about it, right?

    “Secondly, parasitism is not very “deep”, and isn’t going to last the trillions of generations to today. All we actually inherited from our worm-like forebears is some chemistry, and even most of that is quite different.”

    By calling human ancestors “parasitic” worms, I meant that in a literal sense. Humans have to consume and devour a lot of resources to be able to sustain their existence, at least. This destructive quality gets much worse with human increased desire for better living standards. Human intelligence is only so good as to sustain that.

  100. #100 sdjkjd
    March 12, 2011

    @97

    “Indeed, that would be most awesome, though I give it an extremely low probability. The next question is: In the 2000 years since Jesus, just how much progress has religion made towards producing even one person capable of such magic”.

    It’s possible that Christ’s abilities are somehow possible to develop, once the secret is cracked, if there is such.
    In this case, one of the explanations as to why Christians (might’ve) failed to adequately reproduce these abilities is because of their prevelant reliance on science. If there is not sufficient amount of focus in one particular direction, and the emphasis is placed on healing and curing using predominantly scientific methods, then the need for different non-scientific methods might’ve just waned.

    Non-scientific treatment and cure, or as in Christ’s case, @100 quality cure by strong faith in God, could be potentially revived, and given more credit, if there is such a thing, and then, like you said, it would be definitely awesome. I wish somebody could figure it out. It would probably be a lot more affordable and available to a wider range of consumers, and not necessarily only to the opulent ones. Not only that, it will provide %100 cure without any side effects or other damage caused by doctoral malpractice. As a matter of fact, you won’t need to see a doctor at all. You will simply be able to do it yourself.

    “Neither of those are particularly mysterious. People simply don’t know everything, and we’re quite susceptible to illusions and biases. The scientific method seems to be the most successful way to overcome these issues — rather than declare a specific human (or book or whatever) to be perfect and unbiased, we “compare notes” until we get a roughly accurate picture of the world.”

    Your statement seems to contain a certain degree of bias as well, in favor of science. However, if you could put yourself in other people’s shoes, and actually understand where they are coming from, then you would probably see a bigger and more accurate picture of what you’re trying to see.

    There is a reason why people believe in the impossible. Perhaps, it’s because everything in this world is extremely difficult, even the most fundamental things. And why does everything has to be like that? May be there is some basis to the whole idea of the actual possiblity of what seems to be absolutely impossible.

    People have always been trying to find easier and more effective and economical ways to deal with problems. Whether it’s possible or not to alleviate the pain of all uneccesary effort, then why not give it a chance?

    Furthermore, sometimes it’s more beneficial not to know certain things. Once your find them out, your life will probably lose its meaning and purpose, and trust me, suicide may not be an option because you don’t even know where you’re going afterwards. Science can’t really prove anything that happens after death. Complete desentegration may only be a scientific dream or delusion. Like you said yourself – science doesn’t know everything, if it did I woud be dead now.

  101. #101 sldkfd
    March 12, 2011

    Another reason why it’s difficult to find the THE TRUTH is because when you’re telling it, people may not you outright refuse to believe you. However, when others are telling them lies, they do believe them wholeheartedly.

  102. #102 Lenoxuss
    March 12, 2011

    sdjkjd:

    In this case, one of the explanations as to why Christians (might’ve) failed to adequately reproduce these abilities is because of their prevelant reliance on science.

    I’ve heard this argument before. It’s kind of weak, especially considering that we haven’t had anything like modern science for the vast part of human history.

    I simply can’t buy the notion that people had all these spiritual, all-natural (or supernatural) powers before scientists ruined it by telling them they didn’t. That’s giving science an extremely odd power over reality, and it’s inherently contradictory. Why would early scientists ever develop the skepticism in the first place? I’m reminded of horror films in which witches really do have incredible magic powers, but are somehow unable to stop the townspeople from burning them at the stake.

    In any case, if anything like that were true, then scientists would never be surprised by things, which is obviously not the case. Indeed, that’s a significant contradiction in this line of New Age argument: You can’t simultaneously say “They laughed at Galileo. Einstein overturned Newton. Perhaps my notions will be vindicated as well!” and “The only reason these phenomena haven’t been noticeably detected is because the scientific establishment gets in the way, either by not giving it a fair trial, or by the sheer power of their negative, skeptical brainwaves.” If the latter is true, then science is almost certain to never vindicate the supernatural.

    Anything you have to believe in (not just be open to) before it can be proven to you is a “Heads I win, tails you lose” situation. It is by definition unfalsifiable, and that’s a huge red flag.

    If there is not sufficient amount of focus in one particular direction, and the emphasis is placed on healing and curing using predominantly scientific methods, then the need for different non-scientific methods might’ve just waned.

    If a method works, it will out. It doesn’t matter how many skeptics the world has (and it really doesn’t have that many), a method that works will… work. And we’ll be able to see that it works. What’s the problem there?

    I don’t buy “the need for different non-scientific methods might’ve just waned”, because from what I can tell, the non-scientific methods promise a lot more. You yourself talked about instant healing and such. How could mere scientific medicine possibly compete with something like that — except by having the unfair advantage of actually working?

    Furthermore, sometimes it’s more beneficial not to know certain things. Once your find them out, your life will probably lose its meaning and purpose, and trust me, suicide may not be an option because you don’t even know where you’re going afterwards.

    When it comes to the question of whether some knowledge can deprive life of its meaning, I reccomend the Litany of Gendlin:

    What is true is already so.
    Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
    Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
    And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
    Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
    People can stand what is true,
    for they are already enduring it.

    This is, I think, an important and beautiful point. By definition, the “hidden truth” about the life you’re currently living cannot be intolerable because you have been tolerating it, perhaps even enjoying it, all this time.

    Like you said yourself – science doesn’t know everything, if it did I woud be dead now.

    The first bit is true, but I don’t understand the second. Were you once healed miraculously? Then in a way you could be correct, but don’t underestimate just how much we know. Bill O’Reilly recently made a gaffe by asserting that scientists couldn’t explain tides. Obviously, O’Reilly’s desire to make a point overwhelmed his curiosity — not just one, but two forms of curiosity — and it’s a shame every time that happens for any person (including me, goodness knows).

    In any case, science doesn’t rule out a lot of the things people assume it does, like cancer remissions or near-death experiences. It actually studies those things, and studies them deeply. It’s the deep analysis that seems to scare people — they’d rather entertain these ideas in a warm-fuzzy way than learn what’s really going on. But remember the Litany of Gendlin. If near-death experiences are all in the mind, that’s a good thing to know. (And a pretty neat thing too, in my opinion, though that’s not relevant to its truth.)

  103. #103 sdjkjd
    March 12, 2011

    @102

    “I’ve heard this argument before. It’s kind of weak, especially considering that we haven’t had anything like modern science for the vast part of human history.”

    This argument might seem weak to you, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Supposedly, spiritual healing requires a great amount of faith in God, according to Christ, and in some cultures, a person, who performs spiritual healing must possess a special gift and ability to connect with the supernatural realm. Also, according to Christians, Christ was God/Son of God, and therefore, was able to perform this type of healing properly due to his divine nature.

    However, nobody knows exactly, how spiritual one should be, and what the exact amount of faith they should have, in order to be able to perform Jesus’s miracles. You might think your faith is really strong, but to God, if he exists, you are not strong enough. Some people do report though that spiritual healing does work, but it’s hard to determine the actual cause of the cure.

    “I’m reminded of horror films in which witches really do have incredible magic powers, but are somehow unable to stop the townspeople from burning them at the stake.”

    It’s possible that magic powers and healing work only outward and not inward. Even medical doctors cannot diagnose and treat themselves, sometimes, using western medicine. They always have to get an opinion from other doctors, especially if the ill doctor is a hypochondriac.

    I would assume that spiritual healing, must be directed towards ill people, at the expense of the healer themselves, and sometimes, according to these beliefs, witches/healers might take away and absorb the ailments of the people they heal. This can weaken them, and destroy their self-preservation instinct. With this kind of vulnerability, it’s very easy for people to take advantage of you, and potentially destroy you (almost) entirely.

    People, who can actually save themselves, pull their strength inward, and take away the energy from the people around them. They may not particularly care about other people at all. It’s largely all about themselves. The only things that can come out of them periodically is attacks intended to destroy someone other than themselves.

    There is no actual need for a savior to save themselves in order to continue saving people, if all people do is constantly try and destroy the savior. When the savior is completely destroyed, they may choose not to continue their mission, and allow people to destroy them completely. And, surely, they will.

    But again, it’s just a speculation, though it does sound kind of plausible.

    “You yourself talked about instant healing and such. How could mere scientific medicine possibly compete with something like that — except by having the unfair advantage of actually working?”

    You’re right about the scientific sceptisism part, and it’s role in destroying the focus on spiritual healing. Constant discouragement, constant critisism, mockery, bullying, wanting to be right, competitiveness on the part of scientists can tremendously effect the person’s faith, not just in humanity itself, but also in God and everything else,and the desire to contribute to humanity in any way, and particularly heal the ones, who are killing you. If people act like atrocious scum towards you, then why would you even want to grow all that faith in order to make them feel better. They can just do it the hard and dumn way themselves, the way that is way too far from perfect.

    “The unfair advantage of actually working”, as you put it, is something people choose to do because they think that you have to “earn with your blood” the most basic fundamental things in life by putting youself through turmoil. If things come easy to you, you’re a slob. People believe that you have to have a value in this world in order to earn your right to be alive, and sweating profusely over simple things by making them unbelievably difficult would give them that value, and, therefore, the right to live.

    Well, I don’t personally feel like I have to impress anybody, in order for them to decide whether I should live or die. Life was given to me by my parents, at least, and it’s not up to people to have all the power and control over my existence. I wasn’t born for anyone.

    “The first bit is true, but I don’t understand the second. Were you once healed miraculously?”

    No…I actually died, and am talking to you from a ………………………………………….
    I hope I’ll figure it out one day….

  104. #104 Lenoxuss
    March 12, 2011

    sdjkjd: I genuinely appreciate your sharing of your worldview. It fascinates me and helps me better understand my fellow humans on Spaceship Earth, if that’s not too smarmy. I think I’ve got a good sense of what you believe, and I have to say that it’s nicely self-consistent. I can’t even think of a very good rebuttal, off the top of my head. Immodestly, I hope you’ve picked up a thing or two from me as well. (Especially that Litany of Gendlin…)

    All that I’m left wondering is if you have any ideas regarding my question as to how skepticism ever arose among humanity the first place. Now, it’s possible that something like scientific skepticism has always been with us, but that’s not how I see history; I think for nearly all of human history, most people were quite devout to various religions, animisms, and supernaturalisms. As such, I can’t imagine how a pre-scientific world full of magic and miracles would convert into a scientific one, if the magic and miracles were real, apparent things that didn’t just hide in the periphery of human life. How did Middle-Earth give way to Britain, so to speak? Does my question make sense?

  105. #105 sdjkjd
    March 13, 2011

    @104

    Thank you for your opinion on my comments.

    Litany of Gendlin, that you sited, presents an interesting take on what truth partially entails. The first lines gave me an idea that the truth also involves everything that happened to you. But again, it depends on how you look at it.

    For instance, if somebody asks you if you had breakfast this morning, and you did have it, and if you say you didn’t, may not constitute a lie, if you simply do not want to accept such past. You can also forget what you did in the past, and then whatever you say you did becomes the truth, at least in your mind. What if mere wanting to see your past differently actually changes it, since your past, if it doesn’t simultaneously exist in some other dimension and impossible to change, is even more immaterial than your thoughts.?

    I would like to comment on the last highlighted lines of it:

    “…People can stand what is true,
    for they are already enduring it.”

    It’s true partly. However, many things that people are enduring are imaginary, fake or made up. The only true part about enduring is that they are enduring these things…, unless the imaginary is just as real as the material.

    One of my explanations as to why people might’ve become sceptical of miracles that were supposedly quite obvious and were working is probably because people became curious about how they were working and how they were produced. May be the knowledge of how things work actually impedes the ability to create miracles or outright destroys them.

    Also, it’s possible, though it’s more like a science fiction idea, that in the past the universe operated by different physical laws and even principles that created the proper conditions for the possibility of miracles.

    It’s hard for some people to accept the fact that the things they have never seen, heard of, witnessed or experienced in their lives actually exist(ed). This is a narrow-minded framework of the human cognition, though some people need it in order to preserve their integrity and control. There are people, who purposely deem some things as “crazy” to narrow the scope of the possiblities they probably don’t want, and that can potentially take this control away from them.

    Furthermore, there are many instances when you tell people what happened to you according to your memory, but they are absolutely certain that you’re telling them a lie. However, when somebody is telling them a lie, and you know it because you witnessed it, people believe them wholeheartedly. And there is nothing you can do about it. People choose to view you as a lier, probably because of their personal bias towards you. And this obviously leads to wrong conclusions and outcomes.

    Another theory on why miracles might’ve ceased is in the Holy Scriptures – there is a verse that states that miracles cease because of unbelief and losing faith. If you don’t have the required amount of faith, you can’t perform miracles. So may be, the instability of faith led to the impossiblity of miracles. It’s hard to maintain strong faith for some people all the time, that’s why miracle-working started malfunctioning, and made people stray in a different direction, the direction of science. Many people, however, lose faith in science as well, when it fails to work for them. I did, somewhat.

    Distorting the truth can also make people lost and confused.

    Some people, these days, though claim that miracles do happen in their lives, and they can’t explain them. These miracles lead some people to believing in the existence of some greater power.

    This is a really good question! Thanks.

  106. #106 sdjkjd
    March 14, 2011

    @102

    “If a method works, it will out. It doesn’t matter how many skeptics the world has (and it really doesn’t have that many), a method that works will… work. And we’ll be able to see that it works. What’s the problem there?”

    It’s quite plausible that the reason why miracles were possible in Christ’s case is because of the combinations of several components.

    If Christ was human, either insane, different or genious, and his divine origin was a myth or the power of suggestion, it is still possible that he could’ve performed the kind of miracles described in the Bible.

    Based on one of the premises advanced in the scriptures, which states that only God is perfect, therefore people are sinful, people usually conclude that aspiration to absolute moral purity is against the divine law.

    Provided that God is true, or true only because people believe in his existence, then the following might’ve occurred:

    With the above statements in consideration, Christ, might’ve broken the law that forbids people to achieve absolute moral perfection due to his delusion that he was God or the son of god, the delusion that forced him to measure up to the God’s moral perfection standard(s).

    The question is what would be the standard(s) for God’s moral perfection?

    I have several theories on how different combinations of factors might’ve allowed Christ to overcome physical and material barriers in order to fulfil his miraculous work:

    1. A combination of moral perfection, perfect faith in God, and perfect faith in the possiblity of a miracle under the current conditions of humanity, and principles guiding the universe.

    (The question is what defines these 3 types of perfection)
    Could it just be the strengh or intensity of faith, for instance?

    2. Combination of perfect faith in God and the possibility of a miracle, sinlessness, altered physical laws guiding the universe that create favorable conditions for the possiblity of miracles, such as defying gravity and allowing vertical assension without the assistance of technology, walking on water, and so on.

    3. Combination of moral perfection, perfect faith, and conscious enhancement that allows a human being to enter the spiritual dimension internally through a portal or vortex within the person themselves, while being physically present in this world and reality, and then mentally connect the spiritual dimension, where things work differently and where everything is possible, with this reality.

    4. Mentally channelling all the forces of the universe, and directing and focusing them on an object in order to allow it perform a necessary action or function. Supposedly this requires some long-term practice but once mastered, it works instantaneously. This would also require perfect faith in that what your doing is absolutely possible.

  107. #107 iuyiuyu
    April 6, 2011

    “Later, this fact, of course, will be substituted with a different fact, and the former will be discarded and deemed untrue…”

    Does substitution of an existing idea with a new or different one, actually constitutes a subsitution? Could it be an alternative and equally plausible explanation of an existing idea, or is it an additional component of the whole truth?

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