23
   

Can science and religion be mutually relevant?

 
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 10:07 pm
@ughaibu,
There is knowledge of the sacred, gnosis. It is also called Prajñā, Jñāna, and vidya (you can see the etymological similarity between the first three terms). It is not always conceived in terms of a deity (for example in Buddhism), but it is definitely a matter of knowledge, not belief. It is also called the scientia sacra. But it is only available to those who are willing to take it seriously.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 10:13 pm
the other point about all this is that talk of anything religious is actually politically incorrect amongst the secular intelligentsia. It is shocking that an intelligent person should have any interest in religion."Religion is by definition superstitious, anti-scientific, prejudiced, even barbaric. How can anyone defend such nonsense." and so forth and so on.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 11:38 pm
@jeeprs,
and besides all of that, since the demise of the atom and the discovery of quantum mechanics, it is no longer possible to suppose the existence of a 'mind-independent reality'. The reason Einstein was so disturbed by the discoveries of QM was precisely because it undermined the scientific realism which he understood to be fundamental to the scientific outlook. Hence his expressions 'I refuse to accept that God plays dice' and his refusal to accept 'spooky action at a distance'.

So while everyone is bagging out 'religion' you ought to realize that science has basically demolished the idea that 'the universe is made of atoms'. All the lay-people seem to assume that we have a 'realistic picture' of 'what the universe is about' but this is far from true. The picture we have of the universe is intrinsically incomprehensible and 'queerer than we can suppose'. So it is all very well to bask in the imagined comfort of 'scientific logic' but when push comes to shove, it doesn't add up to any kind of coherent picture of reality whatever. Multiverses, string theory, and all the rest of it. Sure all of these theories have some validity in the hands of the mathematical physicists who are qualified to comment on them, but to the rest of us, it means (what is that great technical term) diddly squat. So the days when we had Science with its great material certainties and religion with its obscure dogmas and rituals are so nineteenth century. What is unfolding is going to be unlike anything we have previously conceived of and it will have many religious or spiritual implications also.
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 11:45 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:
The reason Einstein was so disturbed by the discoveries of QM was precisely because it undermined the scientific realism which he understood to be fundamental to the scientific outlook. Hence his expressions 'I refuse to accept that God plays dice' and his refusal to accept 'spooky action at a distance'.
Incorrect, Einstein's problem was that he was a determinist. In any case, if scientific realism is the position that scientific theories exactly describe real entities, it's a rather small subset of naturalism, and obviously not a requirement of science.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2010 01:39 am
This debate is an old chestnut for A2K at least. I have only one comment to make:

Speaking as an atheist I am intrigued by the fact that top rated scientists like John Polkinghorne at Cambridge cling to their theistic beliefs. I can only assume that their particular version of "sense of wonder"/ "spirituality" is satisfied by a "God concept" in which they have a vested interest for "self integrity" purposes.
Clearly, such thinkers have transcended what they would term "lay-concepts" such as "evidence" and "logic" in order to maintain their position.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2010 02:50 am
@fresco,
Polkinghorne -
Quote:
the author of five books on physics, and 26 on the relationship between science and religion; his publications include The Quantum World (1989), Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship (2005) and Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007). He was knighted in 1997 and in 2002 received the $1 million Templeton Prize, awarded for exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension.


Another excellent writer from a Catholic rather than Anglican perspective, and also a winner of the Templeton, was Stanley L. Jaki
Quote:
Father Jaki authored more than two dozen books on the relation between modern science and orthodox Christianity. He was Fremantle Lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford (1977), Hoyt Fellow at Yale University (1980) and Farmington Institute Lecturer at Oxford University (1988-1989). He was the Gifford Lecturer at Edinburgh University in 1974-75 and 1975-76. In 1987, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for furthering understanding of science and religion.


Other Christian theologians and philosophers who are also scientists include Simon Conway Morris and John D. Barrow (who co-authored the Anthropic Cosmological Principle) . They too have quaint, old-fashioned ideas about God. And I am sure they would all vigourously contest the idea that they have 'transcended evidence and logic' which is a rather condescending remark, don't you think?
Razzleg
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2010 04:38 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs, i am not responding to your post to refute it, but simply because I'd like to have your quote in my response.

jeeprs wrote:

So while everyone is bagging out 'religion' you ought to realize that science has basically demolished the idea that 'the universe is made of atoms'. All the lay-people seem to assume that we have a 'realistic picture' of 'what the universe is about' but this is far from true. The picture we have of the universe is intrinsically incomprehensible and 'queerer than we can suppose'. So it is all very well to bask in the imagined comfort of 'scientific logic' but when push comes to shove, it doesn't add up to any kind of coherent picture of reality whatever. Multiverses, string theory, and all the rest of it. Sure all of these theories have some validity in the hands of the mathematical physicists who are qualified to comment on them, but to the rest of us, it means (what is that great technical term) diddly squat. So the days when we had Science with its great material certainties and religion with its obscure dogmas and rituals are so nineteenth century. What is unfolding is going to be unlike anything we have previously conceived of and it will have many religious or spiritual implications also.


I find the conversation so far a bit confusing. All concepts and ideas have an historical origin, all originate within a specific cultural milieu. Nonetheless, some concepts are culture specific and some (esp. those that help us analyze physical phenomenon) are trans-cultural. The basis for the transmission of an idea from one culture to another is its utility (I'm not trying to draw the debate within the various "utilitarian" threads here, honest.)

Certain concepts that were authored by the ancient Greeks survived the transition into medieval Christianity, which however hostile it might have been to its antecedents also recognized the efficacy of it's arguments. Likewise, certain concepts that originate in various and extended religious cultures have made their presence felt in modern, secular science. Just as the idea of an "atom" predated the modern discovery of a particle now so-named, so other concepts sharpened and defined in religious debate find new applications in scientific discourse. Some of the ideas present in the analysis of QM first rose to prominence in scholastic arguments. (Imagine Duns Scotus as a modern physicist, yowza!)

That these ideas do not contradict certain spiritual beliefs is hardly surprising. It would be surprising if they did. Nonetheless, the spiritual beliefs are not necessary for the concepts to operate.

My objection to an idea like ID is not that it is contradicted by the scientific method, but that its addition or subtraction does not affect the utility of that method. It remains scientistic rather than scientific. If one chooses a strong scientific approach to atheism, and reduces all knowledge to that concretely acquired by the scientific method, there is no theoretical support for ID. However, science has no rebuttal to the faith-based claims made by the religious culture-specific idea of ID. And of course, there are much more subtle theoretical undertones to some quasi-scientific/religiously-inspired rhetoric. (Incidentally, my use of the word "rhetoric" is not meant as pejorative, I use it in its technical sense.) Honestly, given the fine-tuned pedantry necessary to partake in current scientific debates and its resemblance to the same sort of squabbles that took place in medieval Christendom, it seems like the perfect conduit for the transmission of certain religious ideas. I'm surprised that they are not more prevalent.

(NB: One thing that I haven't seen come up, but that occurred to me is this: Is it possible for someone who upholds the intellectual virtue of scientific method to regard the idea of divinity in anything other than historically relative terms? The ideas of fundamentalism and scientific method seem far more incompatible than do science and more flexible forms of religiosity.)
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2010 04:57 am
@Razzleg,
Thanks - very interesting. I would not be at all surprised for being responsible for at least some, and possibly much, of the confusion.

Quote:
The ideas of fundamentalism and scientific method seem far more incompatible than do science and more flexible forms of religiosity


Well that would be expected, would it not? Isn't the whole point of fundamentalism the reduction to black and white certainties, as far as is possible? The dichotomy between science and religion is driven largely by fundamentalists on both sides. Materialism seems obviously fundamentalist, doesn't it? And on the other side, ID is mostly driven by Protestant evangelicals, mainly American. (Ever wondered why most Christian fundamentalism is Protestant in origin? Why aren't there Catholic fundamentalists? Here is an interesting essay on Thomas Aquinas vs the Intelligent Designers.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2010 05:05 am
@jeeprs,
Quote:
And I am sure they would all vigourously contest the idea that they have[/b]
Quote:
'transcended lay concepts of evidence and logic'
which is a rather condescending remark, don't you think?


The misquote might imply "condescent", but the corrected quote with the inclusion of "lay-concepts" implies that they are not naive realists attempting to bolster a nebulous idea of "objectivity".
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  3  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 05:30 pm
@Klope3,
Klope3 wrote:

rosborne979 wrote:
The basic principle of what I was suggesting applies to everything, not just "life". We are only here to question the "fine tuning" of things because it's possible within this Universe. How many billions of Universes may have come and gone before without anyone ever complaining about their lack of fine tuning, simply because they collapsed immediately. The probability is squarely in our favor.


Just because we're here to question the fine-tuning doesn't mean it's irrational for us to question it. How does the question of "how did the universe become fine-tuned enough to survive itself" not still stand?

Have you noticed how the atmosphere at the top of the Himalayas is "fine tuned" perfectly to match the blood chemistry of the monks who live there?
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Aug, 2010 10:53 pm
@Razzleg,
amanda phil wrote:
Can science and religion be mutually relevant with reference to evolution, intellegent design, cosmology, etc?

Razzleg wrote:
(NB: One thing that I haven't seen come up, but that occurred to me is this: Is it possible for someone who upholds the intellectual virtue of scientific method to regard the idea of divinity in anything other than historically relative terms? The ideas of fundamentalism and scientific method seem far more incompatible than do science and more flexible forms of religiosity.)

The ultimate religious impulse has to do with the notion that there is some kind of rational intelligence spirit or cosmic mind behind the universe and that there is some kind of transcendent intention, purpose or value operating in the universe. The exact nature of the divine and the way in which the divine operates or influences nature are open to a variety of speculations and interpretations.

This spiritual view of the nature of things is in stark contrast to the materialist mechanistic deterministic view of the world in which the world is viewed more as an inert insensate machine than as an experiential integrated holistic organism.

The scientific details of the evolution of the universe, the origin of life and the species should be accounted for in the religious view but cannot by themselves by said to be religious questions or to settle the primary issue of religion which is one of values, aesthetics, ethics and purposes. The scientific method is relatively oblivious to values, intentions and purposes as it is to human subjective experience and human subjective concerns generally.

Certainly there are many assertions by “religious” individuals which are contrary to the information gained by the objective methods of science. These individuals should heed the warnings as old as Augustine about denying facts of experience in the name of religion, thus displaying their ignorance and devaluing their religion in the process. Many accomplished scientists have held religious or spiritual worldviews and there is no inherent conflict between certain types of religious sensibility and the facts of science. People do seem to have trouble however distinguishing between their metaphysics (determinism, materialism, etc) and their science.
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Aug, 2010 12:25 am
@prothero,
prothero wrote:

The ultimate religious impulse has to do with the notion that there is some kind of rational intelligence spirit or cosmic mind behind the universe and that there is some kind of transcendent intention, purpose or value operating in the universe. The exact nature of the divine and the way in which the divine operates or influences nature are open to a variety of speculations and interpretations.

This spiritual view of the nature of things is in stark contrast to the materialist mechanistic deterministic view of the world in which the world is viewed more as an inert insensate machine than as an experiential integrated holistic organism.

The scientific details of the evolution of the universe, the origin of life and the species should be accounted for in the religious view but cannot by themselves by said to be religious questions or to settle the primary issue of religion which is one of values, aesthetics, ethics and purposes. The scientific method is relatively oblivious to values, intentions and purposes as it is to human subjective experience and human subjective concerns generally.

Certainly there are many assertions by “religious” individuals which are contrary to the information gained by the objective methods of science. These individuals should heed the warnings as old as Augustine about denying facts of experience in the name of religion, thus displaying their ignorance and devaluing their religion in the process. Many accomplished scientists have held religious or spiritual worldviews and there is no inherent conflict between certain types of religious sensibility and the facts of science. People do seem to have trouble however distinguishing between their metaphysics (determinism, materialism, etc) and their science.


i'm not sure if your intent in responding to my post is in order to agree or argue with my comments. i have very few arguments with your post, save the quibbling kind to which i'm prone (see my post to your "other conscious beings" thread). While i don't consider myself religious, i'm not opposed to a holistic view of reality, although i wouldn't say that it necessarily requires a religious perspective (esp. since i view religion as a set of a historical traditions rather than as a reflection of the transcendent "spiritual" aspect of human nature).

my quibbling reservations:

i don't know that "mind", "rational", or "intelligent" are necessary divine attributes.

i shy away from making statements regarding "ultimate impulses". To me the claim of extremity is not a particularly good recommendation of authority. "Ultimate" is not a particularly meaningful term when one presents oneself as a proponent of holism.

i wouldn't say that the scientific method is "oblivious" to either subjective experience or subjective concerns (whatever that means or applies to), but inclusive of them, when it is conducted realistically rather ideologically.

The fact that fundamentalists choose a religious text as their epistemological warrant does not discount the veracity of their belief, unfortunately; regardless of how often their hypocrisy interferes with their highly conflicted message. They believe as devoutly, and could be considered as equally religious as another open-minded, mystical, or science-positive religious person.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Aug, 2010 09:48 am
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:
While i don't consider myself religious, i'm not opposed to a holistic view of reality, although i wouldn't say that it necessarily requires a religious perspective (esp. since i view religion as a set of a historical traditions rather than as a reflection of the transcendent "spiritual" aspect of human nature).
Religious views change over time as our more fundamental worldview changes. I think the current problem is that the rapid changes in worldview as a result of the enlightenment, age of reason and age of science have not been accounted for in religion. So the traditional orthodoxy of the divine as a supernatural being revealing itself through miraculous interventions is no longer coherent or consistent with our modern worldview. There has always been a more immanent view of the divine as existing and working through nature and natural process. It is this more immanent view of the divine dwelling within the universe and expressing itself through the process of nature (the world as an emanation of spirit or manifestation of the divine) which I think is more compatible with a modern scientific worldview.
Razzleg wrote:
i don't know that "mind", "rational", or "intelligent" are necessary divine attributes.
There are of course religious traditions and sentiments where the divine is seen more as an impersonal force (particularly Eastern as opposed to Western). Certainly the forces or laws of nature are frequently seen as blind impersonal forces oblivious to human concerns. My personal view is that nature is rationally ordered, rationally intelligible, mathematically expressible and that the speculation that the origins of nature may be a form of mind, reason or intelligence is not an irrational speculation. Since continental or traditional philosophy is rational speculation about the fundamental nature of things, the view of rational intelligence behind the universe is a philosophical and religious one.
Razzleg wrote:
i shy away from making statements regarding "ultimate impulses". To me the claim of extremity is not a particularly good recommendation of authority. "Ultimate" is not a particularly meaningful term when one presents oneself as a proponent of holism.
Well I quess I would say you can have a holistic view (the interdependence and interrelatedness of all things) with or without speculation about ultimate aims, goals, intentions or purposes. In my particular view, the divine aim is order from chaos, a balance between order and freedom, and novelty and creativity bringing forth complexity, life, mind and experience. My view of the divine is actually a little oblivious to human concerns and morals..
Razzleg wrote:
i wouldn't say that the scientific method is "oblivious" to either subjective experience or subjective concerns (whatever that means or applies to), but inclusive of them, when it is conducted realistically rather ideologically.
I always find the scientific explanation of human experience or human concerns lacking. For instance the biochemical explanation of “love” always falls short of the poetical, don’t you think? The scientific analysis of a musical piece always falls short of actually listening to it? Science in my view gives us only a partial and incomplete picture of both experience and the universe. I also find that science is more like a tool which can be put to either creative or destructive ends (atomic theory for instance). For me the view of the world which is strictly limited to science is an unsatisfactory and incomplete one particularly in the realm of values and aesthetics. The value and findings of science are not to be ignored in constructing a more complete worldview (religious or otherwise) but science by itself lacks somewhat. The arts speak more directly to human subjective experience in my view (Schopenhauer is very good on this) whereas science speaks more to the objective material physical properties of reality.
Razzleg wrote:
The fact that fundamentalists choose a religious text as their epistemological warrant does not discount the veracity of their belief, unfortunately; regardless of how often their hypocrisy interferes with their highly conflicted message. They believe as devoutly, and could be considered as equally religious as another open-minded, mystical, or science-positive religious person.
I usually understand “veracity” as veritas or truth. I typically understand truth to be related to correspondence, coherence or consistency. I do not doubt the intensity of belief (after all suicide bombers must be quite intense in their commitment) but intensity of belief does not imply veracity or truth of any particular religious assertion. I do not think any factual assertion about the nature of reality gets a pass just because it is put forth as a “religious” belief or assertion. Young earth creationism is clearly false as are many other fundamentalist assertions and deserves no more respect than any other factual assertion which does not correspond to the facts. It is one thing to engage in rational speculation beyond the known facts, it is quite another to deny or ignore facts altogether.

cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Aug, 2010 11:09 am
@prothero,
prothero, You touched on a very interesting aspect of religion. It's somewhat similar to human experience of love; we know we experience it, but it's hard to describe the source for it. It's the same with religion, although my perspective has always been, "religion is an accident of birth."
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Aug, 2010 12:14 pm
@prothero,
Freedom of thought is the foreskin of the true believers... They are born with it and find they can live without it... Fido the dog.
0 Replies
 
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Aug, 2010 12:33 pm
jeeprs wrote:
It is shocking that an intelligent person should have any interest in religion.

I concur.
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Aug, 2010 12:41 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:

jeeprs wrote:
It is shocking that an intelligent person should have any interest in religion.

I concur.


i wish i could find the post this came from so i could get a better idea of the context, i'm thinking you meant belief rather than interest

as a straightforward statement it's mind boggling, many very intelligent people have studied religion, some followers some not, but they still have an interest in it

i'll go so far as to say that non believers have more interest in religion, because they can't just rely on pure faith to back up their position
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Aug, 2010 12:48 pm
@djjd62,
djjd62 wrote:
i wish i could find the post this came from so i could get a better idea of the context, i'm thinking you meant belief rather than interest

as a straightforward statement it's mind boggling, many very intelligent people have studied religion, some followers some not, but they still have an interest in it

i'll go so far as to say that non believers have more interest in religion, because they can't just rely on pure faith to back up their position

Indeed, us non-believers can't, or shouldn't, just rely on pure faith to back up a position. That would be foolish. No, we non-believers actually go above and beyond and provide justification for our beliefs. I know it's incredibly strange to some of you folk.

Oh, yeah, I was referring to religious beliefs. It's fine to have interest in a religion, just as it's fine to have an interest in, say, Star Wars.
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Aug, 2010 12:51 pm
@Zetherin,
umm, i'm a non believer, intelligent and very interested in religion as a subject

that's what i was getting at, i wanted to see the context of the original statement because i think it had more to do with intelligent people not being religious believers, rather than interested in religion, but the sentence presented didn't portray this idea
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Aug, 2010 12:53 pm
@djjd62,
djjd62 wrote:

umm, i'm a non believer, intelligent and very interested in religion as a subject

that's what i was getting at, i wanted to see the context of the original statement because i think it had more to do with intelligent people not being religious believers, rather than interested in religion, but the sentence presented didn't portray this idea

Oh, the context of the statement was completely different from how I responded to the statement. He was backing up religion, or, at the least, a belief in the supernatural, but I just twisted one of his statements into seeming like he was arguing the exact opposite, and then I agreed with him. It was funny at the time. The time being like 15 minutes ago.
 

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