Joined: Jan. 2006
1) There is no assumption of a rift between science and religion, it's a fact. It exists because of the epistemological differences between the two (an issue I notice you ignored completely). You claim science and religion aren't trying to understand the same things. I'm worried Skeptic. Very worried. Have you recently sustained head trauma? Taken some serious drugs? Been very drunk? I hope it's one of the above because otherwise you are willfully ignoring reality (never good). In time a decent bit of head trauma could be recoverable from! ;-)
I'll take "Creationism" for $400 please Alex. Creationism in all stripes from all religions is precisely an attempt to explain features of the natural, physical, observable universe. This is the simplest and easiest example of religions doing things that can be considered "trying to answer the same questions" as science.
There are of course others, for example your repeated use of the falsehood that religion is about telling people how to live their lives/morals etc. Morality does not derive from religion...but this is an issue I'll get to later. My point here is that ethics, morals, social behaviour and so on ARE things that are precisely within the remit of reasoned, rational, observational study, i.e. science. Of course their rational study is in it's relative infancy (despite a long and worthy history) due to the availability of the mechanisms for exchanging information regarding these issues. The internet, ease of travel and communication, ease of access to records etc are all tools that can be used to study moral, ethical and social on a rational basis.
Be clear about this, religion is the specific use of faith and revelation as mechanisms of acquiring knowledge about the universe, science is the most refined use of reason and observation as such a mechanism. So whilst we won't perhaps get a "grand unified theory of morals" in the same sense as we would say a physical or biological (or even sociological) theory, we CAN get reasoned and rational theories of social behviours, derivations of ethics and so on that are based on the evidence (for example). The fact that one's morals do not derive from religion should be equally obvious. Do you shun certain seafoods? Work on the sabbath? Do you stone adulterers and pagans? No of course you don't and very very few people advocate all of these moral pronouncements of certain religions. Why? Because the moral zeitgeist has changed. Of course religion as part of your culture and social environment informs SOME of your morals/ethics/socialisation, but it doesn't inform all. Obviously there is some other source, some other basis for moral judgements etc.
However, that said, this doesn't mean that the ethical/social/moral ideas religions have come up with over the years are not based on observation and reason etc. It's a mixed bag. I think the best way to explain a decent bit of thinking on the matter is to point to an article by Douglas Adams. It's called "Is there an artificial god?".
Text and audio available here.
So to head off a strawman before it comes, I am not saying that the religions of the world have nothing useful to say, but that the useful things they have to say are those based on reason, rational thought and observation. Or at least those things that turn out to be supported by reason, rational thought and observation (if you see the distinction).
Using faith or relevation to decide an issue is a total non starter. Appeals to faith and revelation alone can be used to justify ANYTHING. Where an article of faith or revelation coincides with reality it is not faith or revelation that determines or decides this, it is reason, rational thought and observation. I.e. an appeal to the evidence.
You repeatedly claim that there is no basis for a conflict between science and religion, Skeptic. To be blunt you can only do so out of total ignorance, or a deep desire not to see the evidence. Legions of philosophers (both religious and secular) from Aquinas to Russell, from Hume to Kant, from Plato to Popper have recognised the epistemological differences between faith and reason, and their greatest exponents religion and science. For your claim of "no rift should or does exist" to be true you would have to overturn all of this, you would have to rewrite what faith and reason are. Forgive me if I think that your confused claims above fail to do that. I suggest you familiarise yourself with what has gone before, BEFORE you tell everyone it is in error.
I'm going to skip over your appallingly inaccurate and woefully miused analogy with physics, although I will say I am a bit shocked that someone as qualified as you are is so rampantly ignorant of basic science in a discipline not their own.
|Religion, on the other, does not rely upon empirical data. In fact, actual sources of knowledge are varied and open to interpretation|
Actual sources of knowledge? What are these then? Show me these actual sources of knowledge and how you know they are sources of knowledge. What knowledge do they contain and how do you know it is knowledge? You must NOT use evidence, reason, rational thought or observation to show this. Why can't you do this? Because for these to be genuinely different sources of knowledge derived from genuinely different mechanisms for acquiring knowledge than those that science uses, you can't very well use the mechanisms science does and claim it as a win for religious mechanisms. That would be cheating, dishonest, stupid etc. And we all want to avoid that!
As for your questions "how do I treat others?" what makes you think that this is not open to rational scrutiny, why does religion have something to say here that reasoned, rational, evidence based enquiry does not? "What is goodness?" is that even a valid question? "What is the purpose of my life?" again, what makes this a valid question. I can phrase questions left and right, it doesn't mean they make sense or deserve an answer. "What is the temperature of jealousy in pine wardrobes?" A sincere question I desperately want an answer to. I REALLY deeply need that question answered, my soul bruns in torment every second I live wothout an answer. Does any of that make it a reasonable question? One that actually CAN be answered? No.
My point here is simple: not every question that can be asked, no matter how sincere or how deeply felt, deserves an answer or is even a rational question, formed in a logically coherent manner. Religion doesn;t help here either, and this is the really sad part. What is the religious answer to the question "what is the purpose of my life?" for example? More importantly, how is the answer to that question even dependant on religion? Why does the answer have to be religious? It can after all be a reasoned, rational, observation and evidence based answer. Why rely on faith and revelation to answer it? Again the point is not that religions have nothing to offer, just that the things they DO offer that work are those based on/derived from reason, rational thought and observation, NOT faith and revelation.
3) IDCists and creationists. Regardless of how many of them there are, they have (in the USA at least) some political clout. Politicians are asked questions about evolutionary biology as part of the interviews candidates get when running for the presidency of your nation (or the candidacy for the presidency if you see what I mean!). Creationists try to (and in many cases succeed) obtain positions of influence within the education establishments of many nations, most prominently the USA and the use that position toforce their religious ideas (for creationism is derived only from religion, never forget that, the roots are well documented) into science classes. These ideas are not only not scientific but are deliberately used to undermine science, scientific thought and the scientific enterprise. Why do they do this Skeptic? Because they realise that reason, rational thought and reliance on observation and evidence are anathema to faith and revelation and they are afraid. They have faith in a specific set of propositions and they will defend those propositions in the face of the evidence. This is why scientists fight back. No one gives a shit about what kooky beliefs some chap or chapess has. But you'll find that people give a massive shit about those kooky beliefs being claimed to be science when they are not and shoehorned into science classes when they have not earned the right to be there. THAT is the issue with creationists nothing more, nothing less. If no one opposes their lies (for lies they are) then they have free rein to infiltrate schools, ruin the science education of millions of children and so on and so forth. That vocal minority has enormous (disproportionate) influence precisely because of people like you Skeptic. People who defend religion because they believe in belief. More on this later.
4) Disproving god. First and foremost, you cannot prove a negative, so the sentence "I can prove god does not exist" is logically erroneous. False. A fallacious piece of drivel. No scientist worth the title would ever claim to be able to disprove the existence of god (depending on the definition used). No one is attempting to "refute the existence" as you awkwardly put it. What people ARE trying to do is show that religious ideas are not held up to the same scrutiny that other ideas are, even other "beliefs". The existence of such mythical entities as the existence of unicorns, bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, space aliens and your comprehension of the subjects at hand are open to rational scrutiny, why not the existence of deities?
Let's get one thing clear, I couldn't care less if you or anyone believes in a deity or set of deities. It really doesn't bother me. What I DO care about and what DOES bother me is when you or other believers claim that their beliefs deserve special privileges or that they deserve special privileges based on their beliefs or if they claim theire belief is supported by the evidence. And there is a LOT of that going around Skeptic, so please don't annoy me by denying obvious reality.
I'll give you an uncontroversial example:
Carl Sagan's "The Dragon in my Garage".
It's not that god or gods do not exist absolutely, it's that there is no reasonable, rational, reproducible evidence that they do indeed exist. Saying that isn't the point, whining about persecution or how bad it makes me look for saying is just some much special pleading. I can make the identical case for the Flying Spagetti Monster and it is only your prejudice that prevents you from acknowledging it.
A second point. Whilst I am more than happy to admit to the philosophical, scientific and epistemological nuances of understanding the universe (i.e. the limits of observation and induction, uncertainty, all knowledge being provisional, the asymptotic nature of the accumulation of knowledge etc etc) I am also very happy to say that as far as anyone can tell god or gods do not exist at all. Just like unicorns. Just like pixies. Just like teapots in orbit around Mars or Jupiter. See here for brief details on the teapot. Evidence isn't the point? Ok then, I have a bridge to sell you. It was given to me by god, I am his agent and he commands you to buy it. Prove me wrong (but don't use any evidence now!).
5) The Framing Debate. Scientists look bad if they take on the existence of god(s) issue. Really?
For every frame there is an audience. Some frames work for you, some for me. There is no One Tactic To Rule Them All. Perhaps if scientists followed your straw man version of reality it might be a problem (and incidentally I would be equally vocal about THEIR poor reasoning of they did), but they don't. Take your ridiculous analogy at the bottom of your post: chemistry supposedly eliminates the need for god. Who makes this sort of claim? NO ONE. Not Dawkins, not me, not anyone. The "need" for god (depending on how one defines "need") is eliminated by several things: 1) the lack of evidence for his/her/its/their existence, 2) a rational understanding of one's desires and their context, 3) the realisation that we do not understand the universe around us, or acquire knowledge of it, by recourse to faith and revelation but by reason, rational thought and observation. I agree we are better to spend our time teching people about how chemistry does work, but we keep getting these pesky distractions. Ignorant fools telling us that their beliefs trump the evidence, or that such and such cannot be so because they neither believe nor understand it. And so on and so forth. Like it or not scientists are part of society and as such very much entitled to defend hard won knowledge from destruction at the hands of willful fools who are afraid that reality doesn't match the picture in their heads. This isn't just religious people, I can point to scientists like this (Fred Hoyle for example, a freaking genius of a man who refused to go with the evidence in some few cases to his detriment), political ideologies (some of the more exciting elements of capitalist thought and communist thought are cases in point), and downright woo woo (homeopathy, astrology, etc etc etc).
6) Lastly, belief in belief. I think I know why you are such a vigourous defender of religion, why you want it off limits. You believe in belief and are threatened by rational inquiry into your beliefs. I suggest very strongly you read Dan Dennett's "Breaking the Spell". Firstly it is the best of the "new atheist" books out there by a country mile, mainly because it is the "nicest" (and I hate both the terms in quotes with a passion. There is nothing new in almost any of these books that hasn't already been said. The tragedy is that there are fools who necessitate this stuff be said repeatedly. Resurgent religious loons need to be confronted with reality once in a while). Secondly because he explains what he means by "belief in belief" better than I can.
And on that note...