Joined: Jan. 2006
The wheel turns, and yet again we are getting the following from Skeptic:
|Louis, referencing our earlier discussion, this is the damage that radical atheists can do. There is no reason for a rift between science and religion and to perpetuate the lie is damaging. This in no means exonerates the religious who attempt to do the same thing but I hold science to a higher standard and you can not have an argument by yourself.|
Skeptic has been remarkably silent about the evidence for the wanton damage we nasty old radical atheists (if indeed we are all nasty old radical atheists, which I know we're not, but seems to have escaped Skeptic) cause, but he does rear up every now and again and tell us that religion and science are not in conflict and (along with certain naughty religious people) we are responsible for world destruction and kittens dying. Or something.
We also get the very strong claim from Skeptic that it is a LIE (not merely wrong, but intentionally dishonest no less) to perpetuate the claim that the existance of a deity or set of deities is open to scientific scrutiny. Well dear friends, Skeptic included of course, I am going to shock you all to your cores and disagree with Skeptic. I know, I know, an amazing surprise!
I'm going to disagree on 3 bases:
1) Epistemiology: Very briefly and roughly speaking science at its core is the acquisition of knowledge by the application of reason and observation. Religion at its core claims to garner knowledge by faith and relevation. These mechanisms (faith/revelation and reason/observation) are diametrically opposed.
Now I want to be very careful about a potential misreading here, I do not mean that in the day to day practise of science there is no use of "faith" by individual scientists (with a very small f), or that people who practise religion are incapable of reason or that in religious teachings no reasoned or observational elements exist. To claim that would be a rampant straw man version of the epistemological argument, so best to get it out the way right now. I also do not mean that a false dilemaa exists; one is either 100% a person of reason, or 100% a person of faith, again this is a straw man.
What I DO mean is that the mechanisms of acquiring knowledge about the universe advocated by science and religion are very different and give different results. They are absolutely anathema to each other, and this is where the very real, very valid conflict between science and religion has its basis.
2) The existance of a deity/set of deities: There is a habit amongst some of our religious chums to define their deity/deities out of existance. See Carl Sagan's "Dragon in the garage" analogy in "A Demon Haunted World" for an excellent example. Like squid, our religious chums are occasionally prone to hiding behind clouds of ink when threatened. The word salad doesn't impress.
Unless one is going down the deist (Spinoza, Einstein etc) route (or perhaps the pantheist or panentheist routes) then the believer has problems because their deity or set of deities interacts with the material universe in some manner. If their deity created the universe a specific way that claim is in principle a scientific one and as such open to scrutiny. IF however, as some of our more learned chums claim, the deity in question did remarkably subtle work, using the mechanisms of the universe (i.e. not miracles) then (as mentiuoned above) then they have defined their god out of existance and have nothing but their faith (no reason, no observation) that this is the case. They multiply logical terms and claims unnecessarily.
Now I don't really have much of a problem with that, live and let live and all, but I at least hope that people can acknowledge it honestly. The faith in a tinkerer deity who moved this particle or this allele and so on, is pretty innocuous. However, if we are honest, we must acknowledge that in principle (even if in practise it is beyond our ability to figure out at this time) these tinkerings are detectable. This is the god of very very very small gaps!
Even the deist/pantheist/panentheist deities have problems logically, and upset good old uncle Ockham, however they do at least move themselves beyond the point where we can currently even conceive of scrutinising their existance. I will say this though, that which is totally undetectable is indistinguishable from that which doesn't exist. In the end, the believer always resorts to an appeal to faith, revelation or some combination of personal prejudice and ignorance. I have no problem with that on a personal level. I really don't care what exciting things people believe (I believe a few myself), what I DO care about is that claim that such beliefs have a rational, reasoned, evidenciary basis when they don't.
3) The "Radical" atheists charge, or as I like to call it the "Because you shout as loud as me, you are equally fundamentalist" fallacy: Reality does not necessarily lie halfway between two equally vocally expressed claims. There is another mechanism for deciding between the validity of two equally vocally expressed claims. See above for a hint!
Skeptic's employment of the "Tu Quoque" fallacy is noted. Nasty radical atheists are fuelling the fire of this rift (to mix my metaphors) because they have the temerity to ARGUE with religious people. They do it, thus we can do it and vice versa.
In the USA (and increasingly across the first world, rather annoyingly) resurgent relgious sects are demanding that their views and faith based claims be treated as equally as claims based on evidence, even where the evidence demonstrates the falsity of their faith based claims. Secularists (some of whom are religious), scientists (some of whom are religious) and even some atheists (none of whom are religious) have been opposing this with words and argumentation. No planes have been crashed into buildings, no people killed, no effigies burnt. The tally is slightly biased in that respect, the false equation is obvious. We "radical" athiests argue because the premises and claims of the various resurgent religious sects and cults are demonstrably false and are agressively marketed and privileged. We are not trying to force everyone to be an atheist (a common straw man), we are trying very hard not to be forced to be a member of some religion or to grnat some religions and religious people special privileges based only on their faith. Other than that, go in peace.
That should do for starters.