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Does Science Contradict Religion?

 
 
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 11:57 pm
Hi, everyone.

A question I have is since science must take as its starting out point some kind of logic or reason, then does this necessarily exclude from the scientific mind any notion of the miraculous of which religious belief is founded upon?

If a scientist believes that Jesus, for example, rose from the dead and made appearances then doesn't this contradict the kind of work that the scientist must do qua scientist? My real question is how can these two views be reconciled (if at all) within the mind-set of science? I know that in Japan there is an apparently harmonious co-existence between the theological beliefs of the Japanese people and the modern scientific outlook (of which they are pretty good at) but I am not sure if Christianity can survive the scientific outlook because the contradiction between Christian theology -the Bible- and the scientific method seems more pronounced.

There are a lot of people who write for certain influential publications and publish best selling books in America who believe fervently in science and as a consequence (so they imply) they look upon those who do believe in Christ or the Bible as being backwards type of folks and out of date. It is apparent that these self-styled "progressive" thinkers hold fast to the idea that modern science and Christianity are irreconcileable and that science is destined to conquer the "backward" Christians, but I'm not so sure. It may actually be that Christianity can, in principle at least, survive the scientific outlook (whether it can survive the fashionable progressive onslaught is another matter entirely). I mean the Bible may go out of fashion but that doesn't mean that it is innately incompatible with science.

And also, to be modern: what does it mean to say or think that one is modern (as opposed to those more primitive less technological "backward" folk who live in the scientifically undeveloped parts of the globe) or even post-modern-? What does it really mean when one considers oneself to be a modern, sophisticated type of person? Is modernity ultimately a privation from a retrograde God? Can one be Christian and modern simultaneously? Can the two co-exist in harmony? If not, will the modern, sophsticated people end up going completely insane? (as did Nietzsche, that proto-typical tempter of nihilism par excellance, who came before them and who leads the way through his writing) -- is it possible that the whole nation, with its ultra-modern desires, could end up going insane in this secular epoch of sophisticated progress? And are we already half-way there? I mean does being too this-worldly, too well-informed for hoary faith equate to a special kind of mass insanity ? Maybe "mankind without God" is the classical recipie for psychological extremism and abnormal actions in the social context and the political sphere-? These questions I ponder.

I know this is a broad topic, maybe too broad, but it is something that I've been wondering about for a while now. Maybe someone could just explain how it is possible that a scientifically oriented person can also get away with believing in miracles or the God of religion without falling into contradiction - ?
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 06:37 am
@Pythagorean,
Many people equate science with the rants and raves expressed by some people within the scientific community. But polemics are not science so I'd disregard statements by scientific people that are not actually scientific statements. I think that what science does is it transforms (in our mind) the miraculous into the allegorical. Many religions are perfectly happy doing that -- which is why in synagogue we CAN and DO actually talk about creation and evolution as independent topics. Some things, like belief in God, may have to be held as unanswerable to scientific inquiry, and it's up to the individual to decide if that is satisfactory or not.

It's not the scientific method per se that conflicts with religion. It's the scientific skepticism, i.e. that epistemologic confidence comes only with evidence. While a case can be made for that, frankly we have to live our lives based on certain assumed truths, and moreover based on regarding some scientifically unverifiable things as important. I mean science may some day explain neurobiologically how belief in God comes from dopamine secretion in the temporal lobes or something; but that doesn't address the human experience of believing in God, so the incidental mechanism doesn't approach the questions of meaning that actually move many of us.

But your most prescient question is your last one. People are ALWAYS in contradiction with themselves -- their rational faculties are under constant assault by irrational processes. People don't need to have rational consistency in their beliefs, because they find some way to internally reconcile them even if it seems absurd to outsiders.

So the issue is psychological and cognitive, not necessarily methodological.

Finally, the world changes constantly, as does the human experience. Scientific advances are but one element of this. Religions NEED to find a way to accomodate and adapt to the way the world changes, including scientific developments, if they want to stay relevant. That doesn't mean rejecting all religious traditions, but it means religions have to grow and develop as well.
NeitherExtreme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 10:46 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Religions NEED to find a way to accomodate and adapt to the way the world changes, including scientific developments, if they want to stay relevant. That doesn't mean rejecting all religious traditions, but it means religions have to grow and develop as well.

I'd bet Aedes and I have different opinions on how this could apply, but in essense I think this is a very good insight. Personally, I feel like it was (at least partly) the fault of the religious establishments (during the scientific explosion) not following this advice that led to the dichotomy that we see today. I'd also wonder if acedemia was overly happy to disregard religion in whatever way possible with the new tools at their disposal... It's too bad it happened like that, and I know that we (me too!) deal with the struggle it created, and have to watch our attitudes and motivations. Certainly the methods/epistemology of religion and science are different, but that doesn't mean they need to be at each other's throats!
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 11:00 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Many people equate science with the rants and raves expressed by some people within the scientific community. But polemics are not science so I'd disregard statements by scientific people that are not actually scientific statements. I think that what science does is it transforms (in our mind) the miraculous into the allegorical. Many religions are perfectly happy doing that -- which is why in synagogue we CAN and DO actually talk about creation and evolution as independent topics. Some things, like belief in God, may have to be held as unanswerable to scientific inquiry, and it's up to the individual to decide if that is satisfactory or not.

It's not the scientific method per se that conflicts with religion. It's the scientific skepticism, i.e. that epistemologic confidence comes only with evidence. While a case can be made for that, frankly we have to live our lives based on certain assumed truths, and moreover based on regarding some scientifically unverifiable things as important. I mean science may some day explain neurobiologically how belief in God comes from dopamine secretion in the temporal lobes or something; but that doesn't address the human experience of believing in God, so the incidental mechanism doesn't approach the questions of meaning that actually move many of us.

But your most prescient question is your last one. People are ALWAYS in contradiction with themselves -- their rational faculties are under constant assault by irrational processes. People don't need to have rational consistency in their beliefs, because they find some way to internally reconcile them even if it seems absurd to outsiders.

So the issue is psychological and cognitive, not necessarily methodological.

Finally, the world changes constantly, as does the human experience. Scientific advances are but one element of this. Religions NEED to find a way to accomodate and adapt to the way the world changes, including scientific developments, if they want to stay relevant. That doesn't mean rejecting all religious traditions, but it means religions have to grow and develop as well.


Just a couple of remarks.

The theory of evolution does not address how life began. It addresses how life became diverse.

Why do you say that what you call scientific skepticism has to do with the view that we need evidence for our beliefs (if that is what you are saying)? Don't we need evidence for our beliefs? John Locke once pointed out that religionists were perfectly happy to give arguments for their religious beliefs, until those arguments failed them. Then, they shifted to the view that evidence was not required, and all that was needed was-faith. It is hardly skepticism to insist that we need to back up our beliefs. The failure of the attempt to answer doesn't argue for unanswerability, does it? It may just argue for failure.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 01:06 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
The theory of evolution does not address how life began. It addresses how life became diverse.
Except for the part of it that does address how life began. That is a major area of research within evolutionary biology, and in fact there has been prospective scientific research that has taken elemental chemicals, subjected them to the energetic conditions of the young earth, and actually produced organic molecules. The development of self-contained cells from aggregates of phospholipids IS part of the theory of evolution. The development of cellular metabolism (using membrane ion gradients and electron receptors IS part of the theory of evolution. The development of genetic material IS part of the theory of evolution.

Quote:
Why do you say that what you call scientific skepticism has to do with the view that we need evidence for our beliefs (if that is what you are saying)?
That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that scientific skepticism will doubt religious assertions if they lack evidence that stands up to scientific criteria. Creation, for example, doesn't stand up to scientific inquiry into the world as we can observe it, certainly as compared to competing ideas.

Quote:
It is hardly skepticism to insist that we need to back up our beliefs. The failure of the attempt to answer doesn't argue for unanswerability, does it? It may just argue for failure.
I'm addressing the original question, which is how religion and science can come into conflict. And they can when religious beliefs are rejected because of routine scientific skepticism. SCIENCE requires pretty strict evidentiary standards for any claim; and frankly there are few religious claims that meet scientific standards. But doesn't it poison the spirit of, say, Easter, to question the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus?
0 Replies
 
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 02:50 pm
@Pythagorean,
The only time contradictions arise between science and Christianity is when Christians demand their scripture to be taken literally - ie, Adam and Eve were literally the first two people, Moses parted the Red Sea, Jesus died and returned to life.

If we approach the scripture as we do any other written work, as literature, science should never contradict scripture.

Religion and science serve two different purposes. Only when we try to rub one out in favor of the other do we have troubles with them.
0 Replies
 
prolix
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 05:43 pm
@Pythagorean,
I believe that science can, and often does, contradict the way we rationalize todays most popular religions. However science and religion are two different platforms that require two different venues of thought, and because of this, will never be fully compatible. Though many may try to intertwine the two, they are ultimately seperate. If any contradictions do exist between the two, they are irrelevant. Again, I am speaking in regards to todays most popular religions and not all. Religion does not neccessarily entail "faith based reasoning."
prolix
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 06:13 pm
@prolix,
I apologize, but most of this reply is a rant. :p

kennethamy.. "The theory of evolution does not address how life began."

It addresses how more than 99.9% of life began. Including my life, and yours Smile. I do not believe that the purpose of the theory of evolution was to explain how life was first created. Other theories can explain that Smile. Would that make you an enemy of those theories or would that force you to make a new argument for scientific/religion compatibility? Would you need to go back further in order to argue that science cannot dismantle the foundation of a particular faith?

Faith based reasoning must seperate itself from science for it to survive logically. And furthermore.. Because I believe in the principles of science, I cannot believe in the principles of faith based reasoning. You may argue that everyone has faith to an extent all you want. The truth is that faith, in regards to reasoning, is an facade. A form of intuition hidden behind a wall of the apparent inability to explain why you feel the way you do. Maybe hopeful wishing, or maybe just a need to forgo judgement and let something else within the mind do the dirty work.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 10:32 pm
@prolix,
prolix wrote:
I do not believe that the purpose of the theory of evolution was to explain how life was first created.
That is a major area of research in evolutionary biology, and there ARE indeed theories, some of which are testable, as to the actual origin of all life.
prolix
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 12:59 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
That is a major area of research in evolutionary biology, and there ARE indeed theories, some of which are testable, as to the actual origin of all life.


But I must ask.. If life randomly creates itself from numerous components under the right conditions, did it evolve or just emerge. I believe the theory of evolution cannot be used to explain the origin of life, but only its progression. However I am not an evolutionary scientist so.. Surprised I have read about some testings going on about space dust and amino acids turning into amino peptides under heat and pressure. Is this one of the theories you are talking about?
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 03:23 am
@NeitherExtreme,
Some wonderfully thoughtful and interesting responses! I am glad that others also feel that these questions are worthy of disucussion.


NeitherExtreme wrote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aedes

Religions NEED to find a way to accomodate and adapt to the way the world changes, including scientific developments, if they want to stay relevant. That doesn't mean rejecting all religious traditions, but it means religions have to grow and develop as well.


I'd bet Aedes and I have different opinions on how this could apply, but in essense I think this is a very good insight. Personally, I feel like it was (at least partly) the fault of the religious establishments (during the scientific explosion) not following this advice that led to the dichotomy that we see today. I'd also wonder if acedemia was overly happy to disregard religion in whatever way possible with the new tools at their disposal... It's too bad it happened like that, and I know that we (me too!) deal with the struggle it created, and have to watch our attitudes and motivations. Certainly the methods/epistemology of religion and science are different, but that doesn't mean they need to be at each other's throats!



It's interesting when you talk about the scientific explosion and the response of the religious establishments in its wake. You are correct in saying there exists a real dilemma today between "secularists" if I may use the term, and their religious opponents. It is this pressing dilemma, of course, which motivated me to pose my original question in hopes of discovering a way out of the problem.

After considering your response my conclusion now would be that whether or not the Bible and science can co-exist is not a scientific problem and not even a personal problem for the faithful: it is really an inerradicable social, cultural and political problem. There is no stopping the many people from accepting certain scientists' opinions regarding the alleged "superstitious" character of religion. Even though the scientists themselves are not schooled in theology, as Aedes has already mentioned. And this is because, I guess, the secularists are themselves a "camp" with a loose set of related ideologies i.e. secular "dogmatics". (Science may be being employed as merely a weapon which the "faithful" secularists have in their arsenal to wield against the other side?) I mean, peace between them may be occasionally obtained within smaller more personal settings but not in the wider political and social arenas I fear.

So my mistake, it seems, was in restricting the search for a solution to the substance of the Bible or in the "scientific method" - because the problem seems to me now to lie more in the historical movement of the West.

Maybe only a good historian can offer some fruitful avenues; of pursuing some solution here.

And this reminds me of a book review of an exciting book called "Earthly Powers" that I read in the New York Times last year. It is a book about the aftermath of the French revolution between anti-religious revolutionaries and the religious establishment. I will just post the review here in case someone is interested:

Godless Europe by
Mark Lilla

It's also interesting when Lilla states rather unequivocably that the Europeans are today largely a secular people. But even more interesting is the question whether this now secular Europe is in the "vanguard" of an inevitable victory of secularism.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 07:13 am
@prolix,
As for the religious reaction against science, remember that the common thread here (originally) was the Enlightenment, which saw both the birth of modern science (esp with Newton) and the Protestant Reformation. It was probably the Reformation and the counter-Reformation that put science into the crossfire, not any inherent anti-church movement in science.

prolix wrote:
But I must ask.. If life randomly creates itself from numerous components under the right conditions, did it evolve or just emerge.
It evolved from prior forms into newer forms, and at some point that is hard to define it became consistent with what we'd describe as life. But it was still an evolutionary process, particularly once it became self-sustaining.

Quote:
I believe the theory of evolution cannot be used to explain the origin of life, but only its progression.
That's not correct. Evolution isn't just some closed theory, it's an extremely active area of science, and the origin of life is one of the most interesting and active parts of this science. There are MANY mechanisms of evolution, and it is being understood at the chemical level, not just the level of population effects (like natural selection).

Quote:
I have read about some testings going on about space dust and amino acids turning into amino peptides under heat and pressure. Is this one of the theories you are talking about?
Yes, as well as taking basic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and oxygen-based components and bombarding them with energy that is meant to mimic conditions of the early earth. There is a lot of work in this area.
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 10:17 am
@Aedes,
Sorry, didn't mean to get off topic.:eek:


Smile If I may say so, I don't believe that science can explain "life".

Even if science could create unique living forms and could understand all of the physical chemistry involved within each organism I think that it still must reduce "life" to purely quantifiable dimensions. But I can't for the life of me (Smile) accept that the concept or idea or meaning of "life" could be reduced thusly and still be recognizable. This is because life, I believe, contains qualities whose origins are necessarily unknown to science.

And the difficulty with understanding the origins of subjective qualities are somewhat similar to those difficulties involved with understanding the general regularity that is apparent in nature (such as the evolutionary progression from lower to higher life forms, for example) and the appearance of the cosmos. It is 'the order of nature' - it caused Newton to find God in the beauties of the motions of the heavenly bodies. It is the general notion of intelligibility.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Mar, 2008 07:40 am
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
Smile If I may say so, I don't believe that science can explain "life".
The line between life and not life may be blurry when you get down to these most primitive levels. A virus, for instance, is a self-replicating package of DNA or RNA with a unique biology -- but it's not really alive. So the ability of science to "explain" life depends on how life is defined and delimited.

That aside, remember that science does not operate teleologically. To explain is really to answer the question "why?", which is a teleologic question (i.e. "to what end...?"). Science does much better with the "how?", "when?", and "what?" questions.

Quote:
Even if science could create unique living forms and could understand all of the physical chemistry involved within each organism I think that it still must reduce "life" to purely quantifiable dimensions. But I can't for the life of me (Smile) accept that the concept or idea or meaning of "life" could be reduced thusly and still be recognizable. This is because life, I believe, contains qualities whose origins are necessarily unknown to science.
That's an awfully metaphysical way of looking at something that is made out of lipids, water, proteins, polysaccharides, ions, and nucleic acids. The "meaning of life" is not the purvue of science. The "nature of life" is. Deciding what is life is not such a big challenge. The challenge lies in the fact that evolution has lead to tremendous complexity and diversification, and this means that it's difficult to trace life back to its initial, primordial constituents.

Quote:
And the difficulty with understanding the origins of subjective qualities are somewhat similar to those difficulties involved with understanding the general regularity that is apparent in nature (such as the evolutionary progression from lower to higher life forms, for example) and the appearance of the cosmos.
The "evolutionary progression from lower to higher forms" is a grossly artificial construct that much of humanity has imposed on nature. What is "lower" and what is "higher" in nature? Do those terms mean anything? The anaerobic bacteria living on your teeth are just as "modern" as you are from an evolutionary point of view. So evolution has produced both simple and complex modern organisms -- and in fact the simple organisms have much greater diversity in the modern world than do the complex multicellular organisms. The development of complexity with evolution has only to do with the possibility of developing complexity (i.e. that doesn't interfere with life) and the selective advantages of it. Don't make the mistake of confusing taxonomy / phylogeny with progress, though. It's biologically unsound. There ARE themes in nature, because nature is a reasonably closed, confined system overall (though exceptionally complex). And something is a "subjective quality" only if we have not yet developed the precision to define it better.
0 Replies
 
Pongobongo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Apr, 2008 04:45 am
@Pythagorean,
I recently came across a very interesting analogy for the Biblical Creation story...

Picture a standard pool table. All of the balls, including the cue ball, are already in the pockets. How did they get there?

The simplest explanation is that there were already there, that they've always been there. This view would suppose an infinitely old universe that had no beginning and will have no end. Neither science nor major relgions supports such a view. The human mind requires a beginning, and often an end.

So let us suppose that they were placed into their corresponding pockets one-by-one by some "being". This would seem to fit the traditional view of Creation. God said "let it be" and it was (he placed the ball into the pocket). Unfortunately, this offer very little in the way of measurable scientific explanation.

Now, let us apply the accepted rules of pool to the equation. A "being" uses a cue to strike the cue ball, which in turn strikes another ball. The goal being to put said ball into a pocket, and this is to be repeated until all balls are in pockets. Looking at the game after the fact, all balls in pockets, this seems like an absurdly complicated way to achieve the end result. But we know the universe is incredibly complex, and God is both incredibly patient (being out-of-time) and incredibly wise (being all-knowing), so surely he is capabable of such a task.

Assuming that God knows the rules of the game (after all he wrote them), has all the knowledge necessary, and has all eternity to plan, he could sink all the balls into all the pockets with one stroke of the cue. So naturally he should be able to do so with six.

Such a scenario gives a logical explanation to a "perfect" act (game of pool) to God without contraditing any of his omni-traits. Now, I must give credit where credit is due. This scenario was taken from a book of short stories by Isaac Asimov.

So by figuring out those six "strokes", one-by-one, we should be able to scientifically come to know Creation in all it's true glory. To say that God created the Heavens and Earth by snapping his fingers, like some parlor magician, is grossly underestimating his abilities. He is after all the original and the ultimate scientist.
Pongobongo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Apr, 2008 05:20 am
@Pongobongo,
Sorry, that was my first post here, and I was afraid it might be too long. So here is the continuation...

I did not mean to say that there are six actually theories that need to be figured out, or that the number six actually means anything significant at all.

Although if you look at some of the major scientific theories that attempt to explain the universe, by my count we're up to four: Quantum Theory (small things), Theory of Relativity (large things), Big Bang Theory (the origin), and Evolution (the middle). Those cover Days 2-6, leaving the creation of Heaven. Since we won't see that until we die, I doubt we'll ever figure that one out.
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2008 03:06 pm
@Pythagorean,
Quote:
John Locke once pointed out that religionists were perfectly happy to give arguments for their religious beliefs, until those arguments failed them. Then, they shifted to the view that evidence was not required, and all that was needed was-faith. It is hardly skepticism to insist that we need to back up our beliefs. The failure of the attempt to answer doesn't argue for unanswerability, does it? It may just argue for failure.


Seems interesting that this Locke citation would come from a time in history where the culture of knowledge was changing (you know General Enlightenment Era). because it was probably true that people were willing to argue their beliefs within the rational context of their belief system, a belief system that did not necissarily require the same 'backing up' as required by the new enlightenment culture. When the enlightenment positivist culture became the norm,it created a new context, and its not surprising that the argument for backing up turned from "rationality" to "faith"

Just conjecture, i enjoyed your post BTW
0 Replies
 
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2008 03:56 pm
@prolix,
Hi all,Smile

:)The conflict between the religious and the rational/scientific mind is indeed what is most disturbing. Faith base reasoning? What the is that? If someone you know and trust because of his self proclaimed honesty then steals your car. This same individual says to you, this is a particular incident, other than stealing this particular type of car I am a perfectly honest man. So to, someone claiming to be rational, and then accepts some given absurdity, he is rational accept when he wants to believe something irrational, if he is claiming to be a rational man, he is not an honest man. To me people in authority lose crediability if they reveal their absurd beliefs to me, it is simply inconsistent with rationality. This fellow of which we speak could do you wrong and feel selfrighteous all the way to the bank. Unstable, unpredictable come to mind, if it is just a feeling, state, it is just a feeling. PS: I am a little bit honest too!!
0 Replies
 
Ring-Bearer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2008 09:17 am
@Pythagorean,
In our modern language we have ways of describing our world and our experiences in a way that we have never thought possible if we were alive sometime ago, I would say that science is looking at the same phenomena and describing what it sees in a way that early man could have not, so i would speculate that perhaps what is understood to be a miracle in ancient times is really a defiance of the law. eg: if you stuck your fingers in a power socket and your neighbour died instead by proxy then that would be a miracle, because your nieghbour really is Jesus. you were supposed to die, it does not matter how beautiful or special you are, how valuable and precious you are, the law states that you die. Its the nature of this universe and everything in it, it does not care for you, you break the law you die, and pay for your ignorance. ok now, a miracle is the defiance of that, it does'nt mean that you can fly or walk on water necessarily, but it means that you have been given pardon because you are so young and you're little children and you did'nt know any better.
Ok New paragragh, science is really only going to create what you already see ok, you see a human being! well,..... scientist are going to create this machine that walks and talks like a human WOW!!!!!....and you want sustainable energy and food.....there is this wonderfull peice of technology called TREES AND PLANTS......scientists are going to eventually create these wonderfull machines!! WOW..... guess what? they are already here........:eek:
0 Replies
 
vajrasattva
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2008 04:02 pm
@Pythagorean,
The essence of religion is to build a view of reality, and also the essence of science is to build a view of reality, and in order to build a anything one must have a center to build around. The center of religion is a higher power, and because the higher power is unseen, one must have faith in order to believe in ones own convictions. This i believe is the very essence of science due to the fact that most of science deals with the unseen, and a scientist must have some degree in not only his results but his instruments as well (not to mention himself) in order to believe that the results of his experiments are true (or false). And as such the ideals are different but the end result is the same. In that faith is created that is not always accurate (i.e. the over turning of the theory that views space and time as separate entities by Einstein) So to me the only separation between religion and science is one of choice and perception. And one way or the other, both will end up coming to the same conclusion in their own good time.
0 Replies
 
 

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