Reconciliation between Religion and Science

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QuiteJaughty
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Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby QuiteJaughty » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:07 am UTC

Heh, two posts in one day, I'm on a roll :D
First: I'm not looking for a debate on how God doesn't exist. Wannabe Richard Dawkins' may now leave.
Now, as still a young guy (high school young) I'm a kid who believes very deeply in science and it's merits, but I had my religious crisis a while back [does God really exist? etc.] and I came out pretty religious, at least by common American standards. However, so far, those two things have been kept pretty separate for me. I don't really see anything in religion that contradicts science, but yet the debate seems to persist. So I guess I have a couple questions:
1. Is there really any contradiction between common religion (I'm mostly thinking Big 3 right now) and science?
2. If you are indeed a religious man/woman/monkey-child who sees a contradiction, do you reconcile? If so, how?

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby mmmcannibalism » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:21 am UTC

1. Is there really any contradiction between common religion (I'm mostly thinking Big 3 right now) and science?


Science believes in rational observation and testable ideas/hypothesis to explain the world; religion believes the structure of the universe is a matter of faith. There is definitely a contradiction between the two when it relates to what the universe is made of(particles, mathematical forms for laws of nature). What often happens is that people(more often the religious type) tie up the meaning of life with religious tradition. The clash then occurs because a scientific challenge to a religious matter(like evolution) is challenging the religious explanation; therefore, it is seen as a challenge to the religious way of life.

2. If you are indeed a religious man/woman/monkey-child who sees a contradiction, do you reconcile? If so, how?


(atheist speaking) Its the religious people who believe in god as a more conceptual* matter that reconcile easily. There isn't a contradiction between believing there is an afterlife and moral action is rewarded in it with believing this world has logical explanations. The reason you see such large conflicts is because groups that view every word of the bible(insert other religious texts here) as the be all end all of reality. So when the bible says we started out 6000(based on tracing ages) years ago as two people along with dinosaurs, and science points out that is very wrong it causes difficulty.

*meaning less dogmatic and more spiritual
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby QuiteJaughty » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:15 am UTC

It feels like you're restating the obvious arguments though. I don't mean that to be an insult, I'm just trying to get at something deeper. For example, who's to say that God didn't simple establish the laws of, in this case, evolution? Again, I'm not going at starting an argument over God or whatever, simply that I've never really seen anything in the Bible or other religious texts that denote anything specifically against evolution or denoting how long the earth has existed. That argument should appease a religious camp.
Perhaps it's a flaw in the common view of religion today as opposed to an actual reconciliation of beliefs?

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:32 am UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:It feels like you're restating the obvious arguments though. I don't mean that to be an insult, I'm just trying to get at something deeper. For example, who's to say that God didn't simple establish the laws of, in this case, evolution?

The problem with argument like that is that God is unnecessary in such things. Okay, sure, God made physics. And then what? The universe exists, and it chugs along without any apparent further divine intervention. We've gone down to first principles here, and it looks like everything above that is explainable from those basic concepts alone. So that sort of argument is actually making God an unnecessary addition to the argument, which is the opposite of what was intended (making God an integral part of the universe).

Again, I'm not going at starting an argument over God or whatever, simply that I've never really seen anything in the Bible or other religious texts that denote anything specifically against evolution or denoting how long the earth has existed. That argument should appease a religious camp.
Perhaps it's a flaw in the common view of religion today as opposed to an actual reconciliation of beliefs?

What flaw are you talking about? It's not clear to me from your message precisely what you think is wrong.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Charlie! » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:35 am UTC

Yes, there are plenty of contradictions. Most people don't like contradictions, so they'll develop blind spots towards the literalness of things like, for example, Noah's Ark. Or they may decide the other way and deny evolution.

However, denying a part of science is trickier because science is self-consistent - it's just based on observing the world and applying logic. So a denial of evolution isn't selective, it's a denial of all of science (or a giant conspiracy theory, which has similar problems), while a blind spot for Noah's Ark is less epistemologically dangerous because the parts of the bible can be treated at fairly independently.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby bane2571 » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:40 am UTC

For me the biggest problem with Religion is that it is seen as a set of absolute rules. For many people this means that if one part of the religion is false then it all must be. By extension, if science calls any part of the religion false, then science is against religion. To top it off, most religions ar ebased on knowledge and beliefs that were held 2000+ years ago, that just doesn't fit well with modern thinking.

Basically religion is the stuff we use to fill the gaps in science. There are storms because the gods are angry, the sun comes up because the gods ride a chariot through the sky. When you die you go to the afterlife. If you're good, you get a good afterlife. As we fill these gaps there is less space for religion, I'm not sure the "religous camp" can possibly be happy with that. Science isn't always right, but one of the things it is best at is proving religion to be wrong.

As for my religious beliefs, they are not as fixed as most religions. I see the universe itself as an entity, manifesting it's rules as it sees fit and it is my role to interpret the rules and act accordingly. There is a place in that for Morality, Karma, an afterlife and even a godlike overbeing, it's an acceptance that there are simply some things I am unable to explain and should just roll with. I even have a kind of prayer that basically goes "I like you universe, you like me, why can't we just get along?".

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Tchebu » Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:39 am UTC

Atheist speaking here...

In what follows, I'll ignore instances of religious claims which belong in a fantasy MMORPG rather than any serious discussion of reality. It's obvious that in those instances there's a blatant conflict between science and any group of people who decide to believe such claims. It is also obvious that the way to reconcile such beliefs with science is to remain willfully ignorant of science, or if one can't help but know some science, to deny it.

1. Is there really any contradiction between common religion (I'm mostly thinking Big 3 right now) and science?

My view on the matter has pretty much settled down to the following. The two endeavors differ mostly in their epistemology. Science restricts its ways of knowing to those that are least susceptible to error, because the whole point of science is to find out about the way things really are, and therefore cares about coming to correct conclusions right away, or at least being equipped to weed out errors in a timely fashion. While religion might claim to, among other things, achieve the same goal, it uses blatantly inferior methods which have been rejected from the scientific method precisely because these methods allow falsehood to leak in (and not based on some presupposed materialistic view of the world, as some might claim).
Such a difference almost inevitably leads to a conflict, since the religious will necessarily arrive to some conclusion acceptable to them but which doesn't stand up to the stricter scientific standards. Unfortunately we know of many things that are completely false but can easily pass "bullshit filters" similar to those used in religion's way of knowing. So being accepted from a religious point of view is a poor indicator of the truth of a claim.
Consequently, a person who is content to accept claims which pass the weak tests of religion shows either a lack of interest in being right or just plain intellectual laziness. In either case, they have no business claiming that they're correct. This is, of course, assuming that the person is aware of the fact that their epistemological standards as as leaky as they are; I suspect most people are not aware of it though.

2. If you are indeed a religious man/woman/monkey-child who sees a contradiction, do you reconcile? If so, how?

I'm not religious, but if I were religious my task in reconciling my beliefs would be essentially to try and find ways to not apply the higher standards of scientific inquiry to my religious beliefs, without feeling like I have cheated somehow. As noted by people above, if your beliefs are vague enough to begin with, that comes with a free immunity to critical thought, because that requires clarity in the definitions of the concepts involved.
Having beliefs such as "oh, well I can't find an obvious way to justify my beliefs scientifically right now but I'm sure it works out somehow" is another option, and to many people that wouldn't feel like cheating, because most of us, I suspect, myself included, have probably done a similar thing many times in school, when presented with, say, some scientific claim (perhaps most notable example would be the shapes of atomic orbitals when they are first presented in a low-level chemistry course) which we were simply under-equipped to comprehend entirely at the time.
Another obvious and quite common method is to say that science has restricted application, and that religious matters fall outside of that domain.
Obviously I have objections to all the above methods (as well as just about every other method I've seen so far in my life), and given my answer to the first question one can probably guess what they are. However, as the OP says, this is not the place for such debates.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby ++$_ » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:27 am UTC

If you'll permit me to express my answer in the form of a diagram:
science-religion.png
The religious person, in my opinion, should first be concerned with making that little purple section fill up the entire red lens (or at least abandoning any religiously-based opinion on anything in the red lens). Once that's done, then they can worry about the part that's outside of the red area.

I think it's quite possible to have a religion that doesn't contradict science. I also happen to think it's pretty much mandatory for any reasonable religion not to contradict science. The interesting part for a religious person is really what goes on outside the red disk, because inside the red disk we already know how to get the answers. Of course, as a religious person I would hope that the blue area is as large as possible, but not at the expense of making the purple part small.

The problem is that many people have this backwards. They think that their religion is always right no matter what and that science can and should be thrown out when it conflicts with religion. They'd want to redraw the diagram I drew above but with "science" and "religion" playing opposite roles. To me, this is nonsensical.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby QuiteJaughty » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:55 am UTC

Okay, I'm far too lazy to reply to every post individually, so I guess I'll try to summarize some basic arguments.

What flaw are you talking about? It's not clear to me from your message precisely what you think is wrong.

I'm not exactly sure at this point. I don't really think anything is wrong with the reconciliation of religion and science and I AM one of those people who takes everything literally as presented in the text (in my case, a Qur'an). But my main idea is, there are these huge groups of people angry at evolution being taught in schools or such ideas, but I really have never seen anything in the Bible or otherwise that contradicts that, either as an independent function or a tool of God. Which I guess brings in the idea of God being a non-integrable part of the universe.

The problem with argument like that is that God is unnecessary in such things. Okay, sure, God made physics. And then what? The universe exists, and it chugs along without any apparent further divine intervention. We've gone down to first principles here, and it looks like everything above that is explainable from those basic concepts alone. So that sort of argument is actually making God an unnecessary addition to the argument, which is the opposite of what was intended (making God an integral part of the universe).


By that logic, deism or intermittent deism is completely wrong. Is it then incorrect to say that God simply created the universe and will interfere only at it's designated end [all arbitrarily decided, of course]? I digress. My point was, when was it decided that integral part was equated with all-powerful, assuming that's the God of religion being discussed? A king can rule with a light hand. Is the implication that the religious then view God as necessarily integral? I definitely don't see it like that - am I a minority?

For me the biggest problem with Religion is that it is seen as a set of absolute rules. For many people this means that if one part of the religion is false then it all must be. By extension, if science calls any part of the religion false, then science is against religion. To top it off, most religions ar ebased on knowledge and beliefs that were held 2000+ years ago, that just doesn't fit well with modern thinking.


I definitely understand the "if one part is false, it's all false" idea. Ideally, if it's the word of God, it's all supposed to be perfect, or it's a lie. But again, I've never seen a word for word contradiction, in Christianity or otherwise. The dates have been so widely accepted, but has anyone gone back to check? Sometimes, there are blatant metaphors that are perhaps taken word for word - I mean, God can crack a joke I think.

The religious person, in my opinion, should first be concerned with making that little purple section fill up the entire red lens (or at least abandoning any religiously-based opinion on anything in the red lens). Once that's done, then they can worry about the part that's outside of the red area.


So then, I'm trying to get to the root of it, what stops people from doing that?

Again, I'm sorry if this is all very disparate, I'm just trying to work through all of this and it's mostly spitballing. Call it curiousity, call it willful ignorance, either way, I'm just looking to learn.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby poxic » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:02 am UTC

I was once very religious, of the Southern Bible Belt variety though I didn't live in the South. (I spent my teenage years near Seattle, where my religious experiences largely happened.) My particular church, and others like it, believed that the story (or stories, maybe) of Creation actually happened exactly, literally, the way they were described in the opening verses of Genesis. This is flatly wrong, according to current scientific consensus. There may be ways to reconcile (for one example) science with the Creation of Genesis, but it will have to be the religious view that relents. Current science is quite certain about human and cosmic origins.

If, on the other hand, you accept that science is really, actually learning the truth about what it investigates, and you don't try to fight it on its own terms... If you accept, like ++$_, that religion should really just deal with the things that science can't know, and won't ever know, then no, there is no conflict between religion and science. If you think anything a religious text says should be absolutely taken as fact, and not as parable or "teaching moment", then yes, the two will be in conflict.

There has been a problem in some Muslim sects, for example, on which parent determines the sex of a child. They believe that their religion states that a woman is responsible for the sex of the child she bears. Science has proven that it's the man's sperm that decides the child's sex, but some Muslim leaders are angry about that. Their religion says what they believe it says, and it should take precedence, according to them. There really is no argument here, except that some very religious people want to make one. Frankly, fundamentalist Christians who argue against evolution look exactly as ridiculous to most science-literate people as these Muslim leaders who want to magically make women responsible for the sex of their children. There simply is no evidence, at all, to back their opinions. None. Science is about evidence, not emotional conviction.

So yeah, I'm not Christian anymore. I still consider myself spiritual in many ways, but it's a spirituality that accepts everything that current science accepts ... more or less. :wink: In the places where science says "we don't know, or we don't see evidence" I feel free to let my heart speculate, or to consider the teachings of long-standing traditions that don't conflict with science. I'd be totally cool with some (so far) unmeasurable force that connects all living things together, for example, even if no science will ever find it. I know what I've felt in that kind of connection, and really, it could just be my own psychology doing its thing.

That's still okay. If every single spiritual thing I love turns out to just be an illusion of my own brain, y'know, that's okay. It's still my experience, and science can't make that go away. If I hear the universe talking to me, and it improves my life and doesn't hurt anything or anyone, it's okay if that's just a minor form of mental illness. It would make me feel happy and secure, and dammit, those are rare enough qualities in our lives these days. I mostly want contentment from my life. If I can get that and not hurt anyone, including me, well then sign me on up.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby 127931 » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:08 am UTC

Just to throw another perspective in, I’m a Christian who is also a professional physicist. In my view, I don‘t really see a contradiction between science and religion. Why all the debate then? I think on the religious side, the problem comes from people trying to apply the Bible (speaking of Christians, since that’s what I know) to areas it was never intended and to people not allowing for the fact that their interpretation of the Bible might not be correct. Many early religions may have been developed to explain natural phenomena, but that doesn’t really seem to be the focus of the Bible. Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any natural phenomena that it tries to explain (For instance, "God said 'let there be light' and there was light" seems to leave out a lot of details about how God made light, instead just focusing on the fact that he's the one ultimately responsible for it coming into being). In my opinion the ID movement does Christianity a real disservice when it tries to turn it into “look there’s something scientists don’t understand. It must be God.”

From the scientific side, I think the sticking point (as has been mentioned above) is that science is all about testability and religion is all about faith. These are two very different ways of looking at the world, but personally, I think they both have their places.

As Xanthir mentioned, this makes God seem pretty irrelevant to science, and I guess I’d have to agree, because I don’t think my religion has significantly affected my scientific views. For me, though, religion is my primary interest. My reason for studying the natural world is the hope that it will give me insight into its creator. So where my religion hasn’t had much impact on my view of science, science certainly has had an impact on my religious views.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby skeptical scientist » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:16 am UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:1. Is there really any contradiction between common religion (I'm mostly thinking Big 3 right now) and science?

That depends on what you mean by contradiction, and what your specific religious beliefs are.

The claim is often made that religion and science are in conflict. (Of course, the claim is also often made that they are not.) There are two principle things that people can mean when they say there is a conflict between science and religion. One refers to an alleged factual incompatibility—science and religion make incompatible factual claims about the universe—and the other refers to an epistemological incompatibility—science and religion have fundamentally different ways of knowing things.

The first thing people might mean when they say that the two are incompatible refers to claims of fact made by religion. They will tell you that religion makes factual claims about the universe, that these claims have been tested by science, and that these claims have been disproven by science. It's certainly true that some religious people have made factual claims about the universe, and may even have based these claims upon their understanding of scripture, that were later investigated and disproved by science. One example is the erroneous belief that the universe revolved around the Earth; another is the erroneous belief that sickness can be caused by women practicing witchcraft or consorting with the devil; another is the erroneous belief that humankind was formed by god breathing life into clay to make man, and molding that man's rib to create woman, rather than being the product of a slow evolutionary process. Religions which make claims of this nature (such as certain brands of fundamentalist Christianity which believe in a young Earth) are factually incompatible with science. No person who is aware of the evidence and weighs it fairly and honestly, be they religious or nonreligious, should believe any of these stories. But there are religions, including denominations within the big three, which only make claims which are much harder to test—accounts of what happened 2,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 years ago, when what remaining accounts exist are vague or unreliable, or claims about what happens after death, or in realms otherwise removed from the possibility of scientific investigation. Such religions are not factually incompatible with science, because they do not make any claims of fact which are easily amenable to scientific investigation.

The second thing that people sometimes mean when they say that religion and science are incompatible was described above by Tchebu, and refers to epistemology. Science and religion have very different and often incompatible ways of knowing the world around us. Science proposes that we use the scientific method of observation and experimentation, and when multiple explanations equally well predict the results of our observations and experiments, we should design better experiments to distinguish between them, or, failing that, use Occam's razor and pick the simplest. (One caveat: be sure to use the right notions of "simplest" and "predicts"—a curse from the woman down the street may seem like a simpler explanation than an infection from an animal, too small to see, that is reproducing inside the body, but it turns out to be much simpler to describe and predict the behavior of the bacterium than the witch, so the germ theory is simpler and more predictive than the witchcraft theory.) By contrast, the epistemology of religion is famously faith—specifically faith in received wisdom passed down from living religious authorities or writings from past prophets and disciples, and sometimes faith in personal feelings experienced during moments of prayer and perceived as being from an external source: god.

These two different epistemologies are deeply incompatible, because one puts great value on evidence which the other dismisses as worthless. To pick one example, Biblical accounts are unreliable, from a scientific standpoint, as evidence of what happened thousands of years ago, because they are basically accounts from human eyewitnesses, and the reliability of eyewitness testimony has been repeatedly tested in a laboratory setting and shown to be very weak. Similarly, personal feelings experienced during moments of prayer are unreliable as evidence because they are purely anecdotal. As a scientific hypothesis, the claim that Mohammad heard the word of god, performed miracles, and was transported bodily to heaven fails, not because there is evidence that this could not have happened, but simply because what evidence exists which suggests it did happen insufficient to justify such extraordinary claims. Other more mundane explanations of the widespread stories of such occurrences will suggest themselves instead, and someone who rigorously follows the scientific method will admit that the alternatives are at least as believable as the religious explanation, from a scientific point of view.

2. If you are indeed a religious man/woman/monkey-child who sees a contradiction, do you reconcile? If so, how?

I am an atheist. I see a contradiction in the first sense I discussed above between science and certain religions, and a contradiction in the second sense I discussed between science and all religions. At one point I would have considered myself religious; I resolved the contradiction for myself by ceasing to believe in any religion.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Tchebu » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:19 am UTC

At ++$_:
How can religion agree with a correct answer supplied by science, while not itself being right about it?... Unless by "right answer" you not only mean "guessed correctly" but "used adequate methods to get the answer"

At QuiteJaughty:
But my main idea is, there are these huge groups of people angry at evolution being taught in schools or such ideas, but I really have never seen anything in the Bible or otherwise that contradicts that, either as an independent function or a tool of God. (...) But again, I've never seen a word for word contradiction, in Christianity or otherwise. The dates have been so widely accepted, but has anyone gone back to check? Sometimes, there are blatant metaphors that are perhaps taken word for word - I mean, God can crack a joke I think.

The genesis account of creation if taken literally is absolutely wrong. And even if you view it as a metaphor, the amount of mental juggling you have to do do make it fit modern scientific understanding goes way beyond what we should be willing to humor from someone saying "no no, what this old book says was actually right all along, only it was just a metaphor, let me explain...". How can saying that the Earth was created before Light itself be a metaphor of anything that we currently understand to be true?...

At poxic:
If you accept, like ++$_, that religion should really just deal with the things that science can't know, and won't ever know, then no, there is no conflict between religion and science.

I think the point ++$_ was making is the complete opposite. Religion's first concern should be to pass its high-school science curriculum before it starts making claims to any knowledge at all...
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby mercuryseven » Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:15 pm UTC

I'm not sure how to leave Richard Dawkins out of this, because he was very explicit about this in his book. In the book it's called NOMA (the principle of Non-Overlapping Magesteria)

Most of the discussion above is about the existence of God, and the origin of the universe. I think this won't be a problem for thse who do not take the BIble literally, (perhaps scientists like user 127931) and can proceed without problem. (If you're interested, you can check out Father George Coyne's interview by Dawkins, even though I'm an atheist, I'm very impressed by Father Coyne's ideas. He's the kind of "no problem with science" that I mean).

So what I had in mind is a slightly different track - contradiction is not necessarily about the question of God's existence (that's unresolvable by commonly accepted standards of philosophy and reason [I know citation needed, but I think we can easily look this up if you really want to, and I surely don't feel like doing 2 hours of research just for a single post]). The clash mostly comes on the very specific set instructions religions make to its followers, and very specific statements they make which they claim to be the truth. As one example, the clash comes if one chooses to interpret the Bible literally. Or regarding the issue of homosexuality, and the use of condoms to stop AIDS. In other words, people taking actions based on "Divine Instructions" instead of making decisions based on reason and data. (The rest spoilered for length)

Spoiler:
I think,most of the clash stems form the fact that there are many different sects of various religions, each of them making different, but very specific statements that they claim to be the truth. Take miracles, for instance. A religious follower are supposed to believe that miracles can happen by temporary suspension of the laws of nature (e.g., a levitating saint). But as a scientist, the philosophy we are supposed to follow is if we observe such an event, it means there are new laws of physics to be discovered.

A Christian apologist used to tell me that no, the Vatican will send a special investigative committee to "scientifically verify" that miracles indeed did happen, which is kind of a non-sequitur. If we follow this line of logic, then the dark matter problem, or the Yang-Mills mass gap would be heralded as miracles. A scientific investigation is supposed to discover the mechanism that causes the event. If we don't understand a phenomena, it just means that we didn't try hard enough - that's the scientific method - keep trying harder and harder until we understand the phenomena.

Very recent news announced that the proton was observed to be smaller than we previously thought. Is it a miracle? Or do we modify our theoretical models? So the contradiction with religion where to draw the line when it comes to miracles. Science has very strict standards about that.

Or even the Nicene Creed, being adamant about the Holy Trinity and that Jesus was literally the son of God (I'm non-Catholic, so I hope I got that right). I don't see how to convince a skeptical person that this the Creed is true - I'm not even saying that it has to be false; more along the lines of, "Why a Holy Trinity instead of a Holy Duality? Who told us this? Where did you heard this from?"


QuiteJaughty wrote:2. If you are indeed a religious man/woman/monkey-child who sees a contradiction, do you reconcile? If so, how?


I'm an atheist, and like Julia Sweeney, it means that I live my life without the assumption that God exists, or is constantly watching. I'm pretty sure we can be good for the sake of being good, and NOT because of fear of Hell, or something along those lines...

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby fooliam » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:11 pm UTC

I don't think there is an inherent conflict between science and religion. I think they address two very different aspects of life, the universe, and everything. The conflicts arise when one of them tries to step in the arena of the other.
For example, religion has no business in the arenas of origins of life, interaction of planets, and generally anything which exists in a tangible or observable state. Science is far better at understanding observable things. Science is far better at answering "How are we alive?" or "How as the universe created?"
However, science has no business in the non-observable or intangible aspects of life. Souls, reason for existence, etc.
Religion is much better at answering the question "Why are we alive?" or "Why was the universe created?".
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:43 pm UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:
What flaw are you talking about? It's not clear to me from your message precisely what you think is wrong.

I'm not exactly sure at this point. I don't really think anything is wrong with the reconciliation of religion and science and I AM one of those people who takes everything literally as presented in the text (in my case, a Qur'an). But my main idea is, there are these huge groups of people angry at evolution being taught in schools or such ideas, but I really have never seen anything in the Bible or otherwise that contradicts that, either as an independent function or a tool of God. Which I guess brings in the idea of God being a non-integrable part of the universe.

Sorry, I don't know the Qur'an well enough to say anything about it, so I'll restrict myself to talking about the Bible.

The Bible certainly contradicts evolution. It states quite explicitly that man was created specially by god, and that all the other animals were created as a separate event. That directly contradicts the claim made by evolution (or more specifically, the theory of common descent that is implied by evolution and genetic and fossil evidence) that humans share common ancestors with every living thing on earth. Further, in Genesis 2 the claim is made that the first female human was created from the flesh of the first male.

The problem with argument like that is that God is unnecessary in such things. Okay, sure, God made physics. And then what? The universe exists, and it chugs along without any apparent further divine intervention. We've gone down to first principles here, and it looks like everything above that is explainable from those basic concepts alone. So that sort of argument is actually making God an unnecessary addition to the argument, which is the opposite of what was intended (making God an integral part of the universe).


By that logic, deism or intermittent deism is completely wrong. Is it then incorrect to say that God simply created the universe and will interfere only at it's designated end [all arbitrarily decided, of course]? I digress. My point was, when was it decided that integral part was equated with all-powerful, assuming that's the God of religion being discussed? A king can rule with a light hand. Is the implication that the religious then view God as necessarily integral? I definitely don't see it like that - am I a minority?

Deism isn't quite wrong - it's unfalsifiable and unnecessary. Deism is exactly identical to atheism in every regard but one - whereas a rationalist atheist will say "we're not quite sure about the origin of the universe, but physics describes everything that happened after that", a rationalist deist will say "the universe was created by the will of a hyperintelligence that exists outside of time and space, but physics describes everything that happened after that". The addition of the extraspatial hyperintelligence contributes precisely *nothing* to our understanding of the universe, but only brings further questions.

Any religious view that approaches deism approaches similar irrelevance through lack of explanatory power. If the universe looks precisely the same with or without your god, how can you distinguish a universe with your god from one without your god?

On the other hand, if you predict that the universe *will* look different with your god than without, then you can predict exactly how it would look different, and we can test those claims.

For me the biggest problem with Religion is that it is seen as a set of absolute rules. For many people this means that if one part of the religion is false then it all must be. By extension, if science calls any part of the religion false, then science is against religion. To top it off, most religions ar ebased on knowledge and beliefs that were held 2000+ years ago, that just doesn't fit well with modern thinking.


I definitely understand the "if one part is false, it's all false" idea. Ideally, if it's the word of God, it's all supposed to be perfect, or it's a lie. But again, I've never seen a word for word contradiction, in Christianity or otherwise. The dates have been so widely accepted, but has anyone gone back to check? Sometimes, there are blatant metaphors that are perhaps taken word for word - I mean, God can crack a joke I think.

I've heard people state this before, and I can't quite understand how someone can make that claim. My only guess is that most religious people have mentally papered over the parts that directly contradict the real world with "oh, it's a metaphor" since they were kids, so the parts that they still take literally no longer have any direct claims that can be tested.

Suffice to say that, no, there are tons of claims made by religious books that are directly contradicted by reality. I pointed out a few that occur in Genesis up above. skep pointed out more parts of Genesis that contradict reality, and strain the bounds of credulity to even wave away as metaphor. This is the *very first* chapter of the Bible. There are further claims made all throughout that are false, and I'm certain that other holy books are similarly full of their own inaccuracies.

The religious person, in my opinion, should first be concerned with making that little purple section fill up the entire red lens (or at least abandoning any religiously-based opinion on anything in the red lens). Once that's done, then they can worry about the part that's outside of the red area.


So then, I'm trying to get to the root of it, what stops people from doing that?

Again, I'm sorry if this is all very disparate, I'm just trying to work through all of this and it's mostly spitballing. Call it curiousity, call it willful ignorance, either way, I'm just looking to learn.

The root of the problem is that, well, a religion boils down to either (1) a universe with god is distinguishable from a universe without, or (2) a universe with god is indistinguishable from a universe without. If (2), then the religion is unnecessary - it's precisely identical to atheism. If (1), then the religion will at some point make testable claims about the universe. So far, every such claim that has been tested has been shown to be false. Given that track record, it seems likely that the purple section can *never* fill up the red section, and the white section (denoting things that any particular religion gets wrong) will always be non-zero.

Added to this is the massive contradiction *between* religions. That little purple area is different for every religion, and for every purple fact that one religion has, there are several other religions that are white in that area. "Religion", as a whole, can never be reconciled with science, because it can't be reconciled with itself. Get the world to agree on which religion is right, and *then* we can start talking about reconciling it with science.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby ++$_ » Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:10 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:At ++$_:
How can religion agree with a correct answer supplied by science, while not itself being right about it?... Unless by "right answer" you not only mean "guessed correctly" but "used adequate methods to get the answer"
I probably should have made the meanings of my bubbles more clear. What I mean is that there is a set of questions that one's religion might give answers to (correct or not), and a set of questions that science can give answers to. There is overlap between these sets, and when a particular question is in the overlapping set, science gets it right. Whether the religion also does depends on whether it is in the little blue disk.
If you accept, like ++$_, that religion should really just deal with the things that science can't know, and won't ever know, then no, there is no conflict between religion and science.
I think the point ++$_ was making is the complete opposite. Religion's first concern should be to pass its high-school science curriculum before it starts making claims to any knowledge at all...
Tchebu is correct -- that's the point I was making. But if the religion's approach to scientific questions is to say "I have no idea -- ask Professor Science instead of me" that's fine too.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:56 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:The root of the problem is that, well, a religion boils down to either (1) a universe with god is distinguishable from a universe without, or (2) a universe with god is indistinguishable from a universe without. If (2), then the religion is unnecessary - it's precisely identical to atheism. If (1), then the religion will at some point make testable claims about the universe. So far, every such claim that has been tested has been shown to be false.
Yeah, in case (1) you've got religion making scientifically testable claims, in which case there can absolutely be a conflict between science and religion.

But the thing about (2) that allows religion to still serve some purpose, even if it makes no empirical claims about observations we might make, is that science alone cannot tell us how to make value judgments. Some kind of ethical philosophy is necessary for that, and many weak theists (weak in the sense that they believe (2) rather than (1)) choose to use their religion's moral teachings to serve that purpose. It is of course entirely possible to have an ethical system completely devoid of God or religiosity, but the point is that *any* such system will still be separate from science.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Xanthir » Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:17 am UTC

Well, the problem is that if you're trying to use a god as the source or foundation of your ethical teachings, and you espouse (2), then you've removed the core plank of your philosophy, namely that there is indeed a god endorsing your ethical system specifically.

This puts you in the same camp as the deists, where a god is just a non sequitur you've appended to your understanding of the universe.

A god that can't be proven to exist is functionally equivalent to no god at all. You have to make *some* sort of testable claim to get a useful religion.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby GeorgeH » Sat Jul 10, 2010 1:01 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:It is of course entirely possible to have an ethical system completely devoid of God or religiosity, but the point is that *any* such system will still be separate from science.

I disagree with you a tiny bit there. In theory, if you had N identical societies you could test the impact of N different moral codes in terms of the fitness of each society. You're right that if you want to adopt a code to follow for yourself you'll eventually have to make at least a few basic value judgments with respect to what measures of fitness are "best", such as a sustainable and stable society being "better" than an unstable society that rapidly implodes, but there's still at least some "real" science that could be done researching and developing various moral codes.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby ++$_ » Sat Jul 10, 2010 1:11 am UTC

Xanthir wrote:The root of the problem is that, well, a religion boils down to either (1) a universe with god is distinguishable from a universe without, or (2) a universe with god is indistinguishable from a universe without. If (2), then the religion is unnecessary - it's precisely identical to atheism. If (1), then the religion will at some point make testable claims about the universe. So far, every such claim that has been tested has been shown to be false. Given that track record, it seems likely that the purple section can *never* fill up the red section, and the white section (denoting things that any particular religion gets wrong) will always be non-zero.
I disagree. I think that a religion can claim that it makes a difference whether or not their religion is correct and yet avoid making any testable claims.

In fact, the statement "People go to heaven when they die" (a common feature of religions) is a pretty good example of an untestable claim that still matters an awful lot to many people.

Of course it is testable in one sense, because it's possible that a person, upon dying, will discover that this statement is wrong (or will find a confirming instance). But this is a pretty lame sense of testability since it isn't possible to convey the results of the test to anyone who hasn't already made their own test of the statement by dying. It doesn't fall into the category of scientific claims because it can't be tested scientifically.

EDIT:
GeorgeH wrote:I disagree with you a tiny bit there. In theory, if you had N identical societies you could test the impact of N different moral codes in terms of the fitness of each society. You're right that if you want to adopt a code to follow for yourself you'll eventually have to make at least a few basic value judgments with respect to what measures of fitness are "best", such as a sustainable and stable society being "better" than an unstable society that rapidly implodes, but there's still at least some "real" science that could be done researching and developing various moral codes.
That only applies to utilitarians. Deontologists often don't consider the results of such tests to be helpful in determining the "correct" moral system.
Last edited by ++$_ on Sat Jul 10, 2010 1:14 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby uncivlengr » Sat Jul 10, 2010 1:12 am UTC

GeorgeH wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:It is of course entirely possible to have an ethical system completely devoid of God or religiosity, but the point is that *any* such system will still be separate from science.

I disagree with you a tiny bit there. In theory, if you had N identical societies you could test the impact of N different moral codes in terms of the fitness of each society. You're right that if you want to adopt a code to follow for yourself you'll eventually have to make at least a few basic value judgments with respect to what measures of fitness are "best", such as a sustainable and stable society being "better" than an unstable society that rapidly implodes, but there's still at least some "real" science that could be done researching and developing various moral codes.
Can you really say that your definition of "best" as "most sustainable" is inherently true, though?

Consider the question, "Which chemical reaction is best?" Scientifically, it's a meaningless question. It relies on some other non-scientific metric (or limiting the context of the question to a single circumstance) to be answered.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby folkhero » Sat Jul 10, 2010 1:40 am UTC

fooliam wrote:However, science has no business in the non-observable or intangible aspects of life. Souls, reason for existence, etc.
Religion is much better at answering the question "Why are we alive?" or "Why was the universe created?".

The first part of your quote is true, science doesn't deal with the unobservable and doesn't try to. Why do you suppose that religions attempts to deal with the unobservable have any merit? Religion tries pretty hard to answer those questions, so do many first year undergraduates who smoke a lot of pot, without some observable place in reality vouch for them, how do we judge the worth of an answer?
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Jul 10, 2010 3:24 am UTC

I don't understand what you need to reconcile; my cultural practices and ties to a social/religious history don't constitute anything other than an upbringing, a set of influences. My research and the things that I have read that others have researched are facts, and not up for debate. If I can use the moral and ethical lessons I've learned from a life reading about my families faith and other peoples faiths to influence the decisions I face in life, then great. If I can use what I know from the realm of science to enrich my perspective of my proverbial place in the universe at large, then great.

The only times I've ever observed the two to clash is when Religion (et al) decides it's going to disagree with Science. Science doesn't care, and continues improving my life and my understanding, while Religion stagnantly remains insistent that it is correct, because hey, this book says so. In those instances, I view Religion sort of as a younger cousin, someone I've grown out of playing with, while Science has cool cars, rocket ships, lasers, and a keen interest in fulfilling my curiosity, not stifling it. The foundations and methods of the two are fundamentally different, and years of playing with Religion left me empty and feeling alienated, whereas years of playing with Science have left me wide eyed with wonder, wanting more, expecting more, gaining more, and occasionally without any eyebrows. Many people are better for the guiding hand of Religion in their life, but personally, I relate more to those who started playing with Science. We like the same bars, in any case.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:12 am UTC

GeorgeH wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:It is of course entirely possible to have an ethical system completely devoid of God or religiosity, but the point is that *any* such system will still be separate from science.

I disagree with you a tiny bit there. In theory, if you had N identical societies you could test the impact of N different moral codes in terms of the fitness of each society. You're right that if you want to adopt a code to follow for yourself you'll eventually have to make at least a few basic value judgments with respect to what measures of fitness are "best", such as a sustainable and stable society being "better" than an unstable society that rapidly implodes, but there's still at least some "real" science that could be done researching and developing various moral codes.
Exactly. You can inform your ethical judgments with scientific observation, but you still have to make some fundamentally non-scientific choices. Knowing what moral codes lead to a stabler society is only ethically relevant *after* you've decided that stable societies are good.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby beyondweird » Sun Jul 11, 2010 1:23 pm UTC

So, I'm a Christian, and though I studied Physics up to the age of 18, I'm ended up doing degree in Philosophy and Theology (I couldn't choose between Physics and Philosophy for a very long time, but then I messed up one Physics exam fairly badly and the decision was made). I don't think science and religion are incompatible, unless either side makes it so. There is no reason for them to argue other than sheer human stupidity and stubbornness in my opinion, as they both look at the same things from different sides - science is the how, religion is the why, I guess would be my simplified version.

Xanthir wrote:The Bible certainly contradicts evolution. It states quite explicitly that man was created specially by god, and that all the other animals were created as a separate event. That directly contradicts the claim made by evolution (or more specifically, the theory of common descent that is implied by evolution and genetic and fossil evidence) that humans share common ancestors with every living thing on earth. Further, in Genesis 2 the claim is made that the first female human was created from the flesh of the first male.

The thing with Genesis is that it's very rarely been taken literally - in fact, it's a fairly recent phenomenon, even back to when Jesus would've been around it was often being treated as metaphorical or poetic. Philo is interesting to look at when it comes to this - one of the quotes I can think of is "“It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in the space of six days or in a space of time at all.”
So perhaps it was never meant to be taken as 'true' in terms of scientific fact, but 'true' in terms of the meaning behind it - the theme of God as creator is the main focus, not how he did it. Genesis seems not as much part of the religion in terms of actual events, but meaning in my opinion - it's an explanation of how and why we are here. The how should change with evidence in my belief, as the 'how' is science and can be tested. It is the 'why' that religion should be concerning itself with.
Considering there are technically two versions of the story in Genesis, I've always wondered how people decide to take one literally.


Xanthir wrote:I've heard people state this before, and I can't quite understand how someone can make that claim. My only guess is that most religious people have mentally papered over the parts that directly contradict the real world with "oh, it's a metaphor" since they were kids, so the parts that they still take literally no longer have any direct claims that can be tested.

Suffice to say that, no, there are tons of claims made by religious books that are directly contradicted by reality. I pointed out a few that occur in Genesis up above. skep pointed out more parts of Genesis that contradict reality, and strain the bounds of credulity to even wave away as metaphor. This is the *very first* chapter of the Bible. There are further claims made all throughout that are false, and I'm certain that other holy books are similarly full of their own inaccuracies.

As I've said above, it's not a recent thing, and it depends on what 'truth' you are looking for in a religion. If you are looking for scientific fact in a non-scientific place, then you will disappointed and find lots of incompatability between science and religion. If you are looking for meaning, then that's religions speciality.

Obviously, that's reliant on you believing there is a point to life, but that's nothing to do with the problems between religion and science, just between religion and agnosticism/atheism.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Charlie! » Sun Jul 11, 2010 1:46 pm UTC

beyondweird wrote:The thing with Genesis is that it's very rarely been taken literally - in fact, it's a fairly recent phenomenon, even back to when Jesus would've been around it was often being treated as metaphorical or poetic. Philo is interesting to look at when it comes to this - one of the quotes I can think of is "“It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in the space of six days or in a space of time at all.”

A space of time like, say, a few billion years?

Okay, anyhow:

Just because some people in the past didn't take genesis literally doesn't make that a good measure of what christianity is. Once you argue from popular opinion in one era, there's no reason why you shouldn't argue from popular opinion of any other era. And there have been lots of eras, with lots of conflicts with science. So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't here - use the bible as the measure of christanity and get conflicts, or use popular practice as the measure of christianity and get contradiction between eras and still have conflicts (viz the copernican model of the solar system).
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Bruenor » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:08 pm UTC

You can't just pick and choose the bits out of your chosen religious text that you want to take literally or as a metaphor. There is no guidance as to what is literal, and what is supposedly a metaphor. Who gets to make that decision? No where in the bible does it suggest it is anything but the literal word of God.

So either, the whole book is to be taken literally, in which case it is a joke to call it the word of omniscient being. Or the whole book is to be taken as metaphor, in which case why use it as the basis for anything, let alone a religion?

The only reason parts of the bible are now taken "metaphorical", is because science has proven just how incorrect these parts are. No one in their right mind now believes the earth is flat, but the bible teaches it as fact. So now that passage is "just a metaphor". To get back to the original post, the whole metaphor argument is used when there is a contradiction so big that it is otherwise irreconcilable.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:18 pm UTC

Bruenor wrote:You can't just pick and choose the bits out of your chosen religious text that you want to take literally or as a metaphor. There is no guidance as to what is literal, and what is supposedly a metaphor. Who gets to make that decision?
Um... how about the individual believer?

Also, even if it's all a metaphor, or at least all slightly incorrect about historical events, that doesn't mean it's valueless. As has already been discussed in this thread, if you see religion as one way to answer questions of meaning, then why does it matter whether the book happens to be incorrect on questions of fact?
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby beyondweird » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:26 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote: Just because some people in the past didn't take genesis literally doesn't make that a good measure of what christianity is. Once you argue from popular opinion in one era, there's no reason why you shouldn't argue from popular opinion of any other era. And there have been lots of eras, with lots of conflicts with science. So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't here - use the bible as the measure of christanity and get conflicts, or use popular practice as the measure of christianity and get contradiction between eras and still have conflicts (viz the copernican model of the solar system).


The point I was aiming to make is that the movement towards the literal interpretation of the Bible - Creationism - is just over a hundred years old, having started around 1900 in response to Darwin's discoveries. It's hardly 'some people' in the past, it's the majority of the religion, and hence is a good measure of what Christianity is. Therefore, to presume that Genesis shows there is a conflict between science and religion ignores the fact that it was a minority movement who brought about this conflict, and it's not as big a problem as a lot of people make out.

Bruenor wrote:You can't just pick and choose the bits out of your chosen religious text that you want to take literally or as a metaphor. There is no guidance as to what is literal, and what is supposedly a metaphor. Who gets to make that decision? No where in the bible does it suggest it is anything but the literal word of God.

So either, the whole book is to be taken literally, in which case it is a joke to call it the word of omniscient being. Or the whole book is to be taken as metaphor, in which case why use it as the basis for anything, let alone a religion?

The only reason parts of the bible are now taken "metaphorical", is because science has proven just how incorrect these parts are. No one in their right mind now believes the earth is flat, but the bible teaches it as fact. So now that passage is "just a metaphor". To get back to the original post, the whole metaphor argument is used when there is a contradiction so big that it is otherwise irreconcilable.


Or, as many people take it to be, it is written by people inspired by God. Hence, the bits that don't make sense now still do in context - it's using the current human understanding of the world to teach. If it was written now, the creation story would include evolution, since those being inspired by God would have some understanding of the concept. Hence, it's obviously influenced by the way the world was understood at the time of writing, and so whilst not saying it's metaphorical, you can still use the same method - taking the meaning, not the literal interpretation.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:33 pm UTC

beyondweird wrote:The point I was aiming to make is that the movement towards the literal interpretation of the Bible - Creationism - is just over a hundred years old, having started around 1900 in response to Darwin's discoveries. It's hardly 'some people' in the past, it's the majority of the religion, and hence is a good measure of what Christianity is.
No, it's a good measure of what Christianity was at that specific time in the past. But longer before that, part of what Christianity was was witch-burnings and the Inquisition and the Crusades.

Therefore, to presume that Genesis shows there is a conflict between science and religion ignores the fact that it was a minority movement who brought about this conflict
And to presume that there isn't a conflict between science and religion ignores the fact that there has been such a conflict since (modern) science was invented.

and it's not as big a problem as a lot of people make out.
It wouldn't be, if more moderate religious folks stood up in stronger opposition to the attempts creationists are making to put their garbage into American public schools.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Charlie! » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:52 pm UTC

beyondweird wrote:
Charlie! wrote: Just because some people in the past didn't take genesis literally doesn't make that a good measure of what christianity is. Once you argue from popular opinion in one era, there's no reason why you shouldn't argue from popular opinion of any other era. And there have been lots of eras, with lots of conflicts with science. So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't here - use the bible as the measure of christanity and get conflicts, or use popular practice as the measure of christianity and get contradiction between eras and still have conflicts (viz the copernican model of the solar system).


The point I was aiming to make is that the movement towards the literal interpretation of the Bible - Creationism - is just over a hundred years old, having started around 1900 in response to Darwin's discoveries. It's hardly 'some people' in the past, it's the majority of the religion, and hence is a good measure of what Christianity is. Therefore, to presume that Genesis shows there is a conflict between science and religion ignores the fact that it was a minority movement who brought about this conflict, and it's not as big a problem as a lot of people make out.

Mmh, "It's new" still doesn't mean it's not part of the religion. If we're going by majority rule, christianity is totally Catholic and still thinks conversion by force is a great idea. And neither is genesis the only thing we're talking about here; we seem to be getting a little sidetracked by creationism. We are in fact talking about every claim about the world made by religion, and there are quite a lot of them.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby beyondweird » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:56 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:No, it's a good measure of what Christianity was at that specific time in the past. But longer before that, part of what Christianity was was witch-burnings and the Inquisition and the Crusades.

Fair point, I guess I was more meaning the theological side of things in this case, for which I'd say the view of Genesis as an allegory has existed and been believed in for a far longer time than any of the smaller areas - for instance, the time of the Inquisition is much shorter. I'm not saying that the longer something has been believed in the more true it is, because that would be silly, but what I mean is that if something seems to have been a staple point of a religion for an incredibly long time, it is obviously a common view.

gmalivuk wrote:And to presume that there isn't a conflict between science and religion ignores the fact that there has been such a conflict since (modern) science was invented.

Okay, so what I meant is that though there has been conflict, it is the minority viewpoints starting it, so it's not a conflict between all of science and all of religion. Conflicts such as those around evolution are often discussed presuming it was Christianity vs Darwin, when it would make more sense to say it was Darwin + some Christians vs some scientists and some other Christians.
I think it's often oversimplified, since it's not between science and religion, but its between certain scientists and certain christians, which I think is an important distinction.

and it's not as big a problem as a lot of people make out.
It wouldn't be, if more moderate religious folks stood up in stronger opposition to the attempts creationists are making to put their garbage into American public schools.

I'll be honest and say I have no real experience of this level of fundamentalism, since I'm English and our liberal Christians seem to be more in number and often louder in volume than the fundies, so this could be why I don't see AS much of a conflict.


@Charlie - I'm mainly looking at the Christian viewpoint because I know it, and Genesis because it's a good example of what is considered at odds with science in Christianity. Saying 'It's new' is no reason to ignore it, but certainly saying that if it differs from thousands of years of thought, and it's only a minority that believe it, then it shouldn't also been seen as a defining view, as it often is in science vs religion debates (not necessarily this one, by the way)
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Tchebu » Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

Just a quick comment on the (quite popular) claim that science does the "how" and religion does the "why"... it's such a flawed notion. For starters it's not even clear that the "why?" questions are meaningful to begin with. Just like questions of purpose and meaning, they are all questions that presuppose their answer already, because they are all questions to which the answer has to involve a mind. Second, I don't see how that makes it "two ways of looking at the same thing". It seems that the way stuff works is a very separate subject of study than the reasons for which a mind might make it work that way.

Another point that I'd like to make is that not everything in the Bible can be made into a metaphor. I already gave the example from genesis, where the Earth is created before light. But also from the new testament we have all the miracles that Jesus did. Did he walk on water? If so, that contradicts what we know about surface fluid dynamics. If not... is it's a metaphor?.. for what? What about the feeding of the masses? Was there a violation of mass conservation... if not, then it's hard to imagine how that could be a metaphor while not undermining the whole awesomeness of the miracle. Isn't the whole point that he ACTUALLY fed them, and that there were entire baskets of stuff left over? The point is many things in the Bible actually need to be factual, in order to have the meaning and impact on people that they want to have.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Velifer » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:08 pm UTC

QuiteJaughty wrote:Wannabe Richard Dawkins' may now leave.

Massive
Confirmation
Bias.


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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby uncivlengr » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:36 am UTC

Tchebu wrote:Just a quick comment on the (quite popular) claim that science does the "how" and religion does the "why"... it's such a flawed notion. For starters it's not even clear that the "why?" questions are meaningful to begin with. Just like questions of purpose and meaning, they are all questions that presuppose their answer already, because they are all questions to which the answer has to involve a mind. Second, I don't see how that makes it "two ways of looking at the same thing". It seems that the way stuff works is a very separate subject of study than the reasons for which a mind might make it work that way.
That's what I was thinking - the assumption that there's a "why" necessarily impacts the "what". If it's hypothesized by religion that our eternal souls manipulate our physical bodies as part of their "why", the "what" would be some observable evidence of this supernatural manipulation, which enters the realm of science.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby 127931 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:22 am UTC

I need to get to sleep, but this is an intersting discussion and I wanted to throw out a few thoughts.

beyondweird wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:And to presume that there isn't a conflict between science and religion ignores the fact that there has been such a conflict since (modern) science was invented.

Okay, so what I meant is that though there has been conflict, it is the minority viewpoints starting it, so it's not a conflict between all of science and all of religion. Conflicts such as those around evolution are often discussed presuming it was Christianity vs Darwin, when it would make more sense to say it was Darwin + some Christians vs some scientists and some other Christians.
I think it's often oversimplified, since it's not between science and religion, but its between certain scientists and certain christians, which I think is an important distinction.


This is a good point. I think one source of many conflicts is the use of different definitions for the terms involved. Many people here seem to be defining Christianity as the set of beliefs held by Christians -- which is a perfectly logical and good definition. Christians, however, believe in absolute truth, so when they use the term Christianity it often refers to this idealized Christianity, not any person's or group of people's interpretation of it. So when I said above (and what I believe beyondweird is saying here) that I don't see a conflict between Christianity and science, I meant that if we had a perfect knowledge of both Christianity and science, there would be no conflict between the two. Obviously such a statement is only a matter of opinion, since I doubt anyone has a perfect knowledge of either.

Bruenor wrote:You can't just pick and choose the bits out of your chosen religious text that you want to take literally or as a metaphor. There is no guidance as to what is literal, and what is supposedly a metaphor. Who gets to make that decision? No where in the bible does it suggest it is anything but the literal word of God.

So either, the whole book is to be taken literally, in which case it is a joke to call it the word of omniscient being. Or the whole book is to be taken as metaphor, in which case why use it as the basis for anything, let alone a religion?

The only reason parts of the bible are now taken "metaphorical", is because science has proven just how incorrect these parts are. No one in their right mind now believes the earth is flat, but the bible teaches it as fact. So now that passage is "just a metaphor". To get back to the original post, the whole metaphor argument is used when there is a contradiction so big that it is otherwise irreconcilable.


I'm sure it drives us all crazy when Christians with no knowledge of science start lecturing on what the theory of evolution says or doesn't say. As scientists, I think we need to be careful not to make the same mistake. To be sure, what Bruenor describes here happens, but to say "there is no guidance ... as to what is supposedly a metaphor" seems to be taking a somewhat naive approach to Biblical interpretation. For instance, as my graduate school friends who studied ancient Hebrew told me, Genesis 1 is written in the form of a poem, and its original audience would not have thought to take it literally. I certainly don't want to get off on a tangent on Biblical theory, a discussion probably more appropriate for the philology forum, but I guess I just wanted to encourage people to perhaps keep a more open mind when treading into areas where I'm guessing none of us are exactly experts.

That said, I agree that Biblical interpretation is often postdictive rather than predictive, which makes it a lousy scientific theory. But the point that several people have made above is that this might not be a problem if religion serves a different purpose in your life than science does.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Ninjendo » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:36 am UTC

127931 wrote: For instance, as my graduate school friends who studied ancient Hebrew told me, Genesis 1 is written in the form of a poem, and its original audience would not have thought to take it literally.


I honestly don't believe any graduate school friend would tell you this (unless maybe their area is outside Hebrew, in which case this would be a rather strange claim to authority?)- Genesis, while in an elevated style, is not at all obviously poetry (compare Genesis 1 to any of the poetic psalms). It lacks the tightly controlled parallelism of the poetry elsewhere in the Tanakh, and commentators in the Talmud don't (generally) treat it as poetry.

As a side question- I rarely see Christians reference the Talmud in issues of biblical "old testament" interpretation, and I've always wondered why not?

In order to remain on topic, I will reiterate what was said above- either a universe with God is empirically different than a universe without God, or else the concept is meaningless. I wait for believers to offer up an empirical test.

++$_ wrote:In fact, the statement "People go to heaven when they die" (a common feature of religions) is a pretty good example of an untestable claim that still matters an awful lot to many people.

Of course it is testable in one sense, because it's possible that a person, upon dying, will discover that this statement is wrong (or will find a confirming instance). But this is a pretty lame sense of testability since it isn't possible to convey the results of the test to anyone who hasn't already made their own test of the statement by dying. It doesn't fall into the category of scientific claims because it can't be tested scientifically.


This has other ways to be tested- consider the Christian claim that you ascend to "heaven" basically as you are now- personality intact. This in turn implies that the personality is separable from the physical body- unfortunately, brain damage can radically alter someone's personality, which I would take as an empirical negation of the idea.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby You, sir, name? » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:07 am UTC

Religion and science are fundamentally incompatible. Science works from the explicit premise that there exists a natural explanation, that is to say it assumes religion is wrong*, and then it goes on attempting to find said explanation. Therefore, the results of science can not be applied to proving or disproving religion (as that would be assuming that which is to be proven, a formal error in logic.)

If that fundamental assumption is correct, science is right and religion is wrong. If it is not correct, science is wrong and religion may be correct.


* Technically, a god whose only effect on the universe is indistinguishable from predictable laws of nature could exist, but then, if it looks like a duck and swims like a duck...
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby beyondweird » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:05 am UTC

Tchebu wrote:Just a quick comment on the (quite popular) claim that science does the "how" and religion does the "why"... it's such a flawed notion. For starters it's not even clear that the "why?" questions are meaningful to begin with. Just like questions of purpose and meaning, they are all questions that presuppose their answer already, because they are all questions to which the answer has to involve a mind. Second, I don't see how that makes it "two ways of looking at the same thing". It seems that the way stuff works is a very separate subject of study than the reasons for which a mind might make it work that way.

Another point that I'd like to make is that not everything in the Bible can be made into a metaphor. I already gave the example from genesis, where the Earth is created before light. But also from the new testament we have all the miracles that Jesus did. Did he walk on water? If so, that contradicts what we know about surface fluid dynamics. If not... is it's a metaphor?.. for what? What about the feeding of the masses? Was there a violation of mass conservation... if not, then it's hard to imagine how that could be a metaphor while not undermining the whole awesomeness of the miracle. Isn't the whole point that he ACTUALLY fed them, and that there were entire baskets of stuff left over? The point is many things in the Bible actually need to be factual, in order to have the meaning and impact on people that they want to have.


I believe 'why' is meaningful, but then again, I'm a Philosophy student and I kind of have to. Seriously though, I think they don't necessarily presuppose an answer as long as you are willing to consider the answer to 'why are we here' being 'we just are'. Also, though they presuppose a mind it doesn't have to be a mind apart from a body.

I wouldn't say exactly a metaphor, but, as I said, if you look at it from when it was written, then things concerning how the world was made, or if it's flat or not, should be considered as to what was common opinion at the time.
Also, just as presupposing an answer to a why question is bad, saying Jesus didn't walk on water automatically excludes the possibility of him being God. Granted, this is a fair enough assumption, but it shows how you approach those questions with the same attitude you'd say you're approaching a why. Not a bad thing, but it's impossible not to consider things with at least some assumptions, and often, in the case of the 'why' questions, that assumptions is that people have something special about them (which is, of course, highly debatable...)
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