Joined: Jan. 2006
Actually I disagree to an extent, although I am happy to admit that there are areas of science and religon that don't overlap. I am however less happy to agree that there are areas of reason and faith that don't overlap. Reason and faith are both tools that humanity has developed for the acquisition of knowledge, they have been developed for the same purpose. Religion is the most notable exposition of the use of faith, and science that of reason.
I've been quite careful to note that science is one application of the use of reason, perhaps the most precise and careful application, but an application nonetheless. It's the use of reason which I have been defending, and the epistemological differences at the heart of science and religion which I argue cause the conflict.
I think a reasoned understanding of human psychology etc can tell you who is hotter the blonde or the brunette, as you note. It might not answer the question for me or you personally (although I am sure we could reason our way through it), but it might be able to answer the question in a statistical fashion. Again the same applies (only more so) to each of your other examples. Our love of blondes (or brunettes) is a function of our personal history, be that genetic or environmental (or more properly some combination of both). This is eminently open to rational study both on an individual and a grander basis.
Yes of course if one whiles away the hours carefully reasoning out one's love for blondes or brunettes then both have disappeared long ago and you will die a virgin, but that's hardly the point. The point is that despite the "unconscious" nature of one's personal preferences those personal preferences have developed for reasons environmental and genetic. I know btw you don't dispute that. The fact that a lot of this processing is done "unconsciously" is no more significant than the fact that the processing for you to catch a ball is done "unconsciously". Of course if you sit down and do the calculus required to catch the ball by hand the ball is on the fround before you've written the first equation, but this doesn't deny the fact that sound mathematical calculation underpins your ability to catch (either balls or blondes!). Simply put: like it or not these things are products of reason, conscious or unconscious, not any other mysteriosu mechanism.
Similarly for morals and ethics, these things can and have been developed and understood by reason alone. No recourse to faith or what have you. Is our understanding of them perfect? Nope, never said it was. But this doesn't mean that they are somehow inaccessible to rational enquiry which is Skeptic's (and your it would appear) basic claim. Can reason tell us about abortion or wallet finding and keeping being right or wrong? Sure it can! Carefully define the parameters for what constitute right and wrong and BOOM you can reason your way through it. That ethical and moral systems proceed from axioms doesn't mean that they are unreasoned. Nor does it mean that we have to naively appeal to the Is/Ought fallacy to set those axioms. We can agree to a set of axioms for moral/ethical systems.
Also, morals and ethics are situational. Can anything tell you if any act is ultimately, once and for all, independant of all context Right or Wrong? No! Can anything tell you if any act is right or wrong within a given social context, and/or proceeding from certain given axioms? Yes! The abortion example is a great one. Catholic person A believes that abortion is always ethically and morally wrong. I believe that it is not always ethically and morally wrong. If we left it at that, we have two opposed beliefs, no way to distinguish between them and an almighty fight! However, if we examine the consequences (to take a consequencialist view for a second) of the positions "no abortions" vs "some abortions in some circumstances" we can make a judgement about which has the least/most harmful consequences. That is an entirely reasoned, rational approach. It's based on observation, evidence and hell, bits of it might even be scientific! Is it infallible? Nope. Does it provide a universal answer? Nope. But then what is and what does? Knowledge is a provisional entity, certainty an unacheivable illusion. On what basis do you or anyone claim (implicitly or otherwise) that there is some ultimate answer to each moral question out there? There's simply no evidence to support that.
Again the claim is made for religion as being able to answer these questions! How does it do this? How does one determine from two different, mutually exclusive, religious answers to a moral question, which one is the "correct" one? Faith simply provides no more answer to any question than the answer I can merrily pull out of my arse. When one abandons reason, appeal to observation and evidence in any situation, moral, preferential or otherwise, what else does one have? Faith? Great! What are the results of that? Make sure you don't use any reason, observation or rational thought because to do so proves my point.
I've got no problem with someone's personal faith, someone's personal choice to follow this or that ethical system. I DO have a big problem with these grandiose claims made for the power of faith/revelation to answer questions universally. Whatever gets you through the night is all well and good for you, but the claim that because you (and I don't mean you personally, I mean you plural/general) believe X, X is therefore true is utterly vacuous. Personal faith I have no truck with, the erroneous extension of personal faith to universality I do have a problem with.
So no, I don't agree that if religion limits itself to "moral" and "ethical" questions that there is no basis for a conflict between science and religion a) Because religion doesn't actually answer those questions at all, and b) if it does so successfully it is demonstrably doing so by using reason and thus what's the need for all the religious claptrap? (Unless we are talking about metasystems as I did in the very first post). If religion is restricted to personal questions it doesn't conflict with science/reason on a universal basis, but then people aren't that disciplined in restricting their faith based claims to themselves, so it inevitably leaks out.
Does this mean I am an evil atheist who wants to ban religion and burn religious people at the stake? Nope. Does this mean I am an intolerant fucker, unwilling to grant kudos where it is not deserved? Yup. But then I may have said this before.....