Reconciliation between Religion and Science

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Bruenor » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:44 am UTC

beyondweird wrote: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.


Why? If it's the literal, or even the inspired, word of God, you would have thought that he above all would known that the earth he supposedly made wasn't flat. You would also have expected him to know it was too large for Noah to collect all the animals. Or the sky wasn't a canvas that the stars were hanging from. Etc etc. I agree the bible is written in the common opinion of the day, because it was written by mortal men and is not, in any sense of the phrase, the word of god - literal, inspired or otherwise.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby beyondweird » Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:11 am UTC

Bruenor wrote:Why? If it's the literal, or even the inspired, word of God, you would have thought that he above all would known that the earth he supposedly made wasn't flat. You would also have expected him to know it was too large for Noah to collect all the animals. Or the sky wasn't a canvas that the stars were hanging from. Etc etc. I agree the bible is written in the common opinion of the day, because it was written by mortal men and is not, in any sense of the phrase, the word of god - literal, inspired or otherwise.


Yes, but if the people he was inspiring didn't, then surely it would make sense for it to be communicated in their terms? Working with what you've got sort of thing? That would be how I'd treat it - like how teachers simplify things, working with what children already know - in the way genetics is described simply to high schoolers. It's not accurate, but it gets the point and 'truth' across.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby BeerBottle » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:08 pm UTC

Ninjendo wrote: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.
Either a book with an author is empirically different from a book without an author, or else the concept of "author" is meaningless. Now, can a book exist without an author? You may argue not, or if it does, it is the result of an accident at the print works, and is just a jumble of random letters. So by its very act of existing, a coherent book proves it has an author. As a religious person, the fact the the universe exists, and is coherent, operates under rational laws and is understandable to some degree by us, strongly suggests there is an author. This is the empirical test. You may dispute the conclusions, but the experimental results are pretty clear.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby qetzal » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:26 pm UTC

BeerBottle wrote:Either a book with an author is empirically different from a book without an author, or else the concept of "author" is meaningless. Now, can a book exist without an author? You may argue not, or if it does, it is the result of an accident at the print works, and is just a jumble of random letters. So by its very act of existing, a coherent book proves it has an author.


Making analogies to books is flawed because books have authors by definition. The analogy assumes its conclusion.

As a religious person, the fact the the universe exists, and is coherent, operates under rational laws and is understandable to some degree by us, strongly suggests there is an author. This is the empirical test. You may dispute the conclusions, but the experimental results are pretty clear.


That'll get you deism, but nothing more. It doesn't justify a personal or interventionalist God. Doesn't refute it, of course, but doesn't support it either.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:31 pm UTC

BeerBottle wrote:Now, can a book exist without an author? You may argue not, or if it does, it is the result of an accident at the print works, and is just a jumble of random letters. So by its very act of existing, a coherent book proves it has an author.
Nonsense.

You're assuming there are only some small number of books. But suppose *every* possible random combination of characters to fill 500 pages exists. Then of course some of them will be perfectly coherent stories. One of them will be a perfectly accurate biography of the rest of your life, for example, even if we couldn't now tell which one that is.

Similarly, since we don't know how many other universes might be out there, you can't conclude from the consistency of the physical laws around us that there was any kind of author.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby BeerBottle » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:08 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Similarly, since we don't know how many other universes might be out there, you can't conclude from the consistency of the physical laws around us that there was any kind of author.
Ok then, but then reasoning along Ninjendo's lines, either a universe in a multiverse is empirically different from a universe existing alone, or the concept of the multiverse is meaningless. Can you come up with an experiment to differentiate the two? If not, then by those criteria, a multiverse is not a scientific solution to the Goldilocks problem (the universe is "just right") any more than a God hypothesis is.

Is it so much more unreasonable for a sentient intelligence to have created this universe than for there to be an infinity of universes with random physical laws?

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby uncivlengr » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:30 pm UTC

BeerBottle wrote:the fact the the universe exists, and is coherent, operates under rational laws and is understandable to some degree by us, strongly suggests there is an author
That's based on an assumption that there'd be any reason for an irrational, uncomprehensible universe to exist without some divine control.

It's possible that all the properties of the universe are fundamentally linked, such that it's impossible for universe to exist that doesn't have this "just right" balance. If that's the case, everything would just be inherently "just right".
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby johnny_7713 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:36 pm 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.


Perhaps the point of the feeding of the masses story is that Jesus' teachings can feed everyone's soul, even if there's little to work with? TADA: metaphor, I'm sure someone who's actually studied theology can give you a better one. I'm sure the other passages you reference can be read as metaphor with a bit of thinking. I don't agree that things in the Bible need to be factual to have meaning and impact. Classical music holds a lot of meaning for me, but I'd be hard pressed to call it factual. What would it even mean for e.g. Mozart's Requiem to be factual? Great works of literature can also have great impact without being factual.

If you want to read the feeding of the masses as an eyewitness account proving the divine power of Jesus, then yes, conservation of mass needs to have been violated. On the other hand if you want to read it as a metaphor for the spiritual nourishment provided by Jesus' message, then who cares what really happened or not.

On a different note, if it makes me feel better to believe I live in a universe created by a divine being, who cares that said universe is empirically indistinguishable from a universe created by pure chance.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:58 pm UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:What would it even mean for e.g. Mozart's Requiem to be factual? Great works of literature can also have great impact without being factual.

This is, in my opinion, precisely the point; Mozart wasn't telling scientists how to do their jobs, or how to teach their fields. And scientists aren't telling Mozart that his Requiem was or was not beautiful because they couldn't find an instrument sensitive enough to measure the millisplendors.
johnny_7713 wrote:On a different note, if it makes me feel better to believe I live in a universe created by a divine being, who cares that said universe is empirically indistinguishable from a universe created by pure chance.

I think you should believe what you believe then. I don't think you should claim that because of your beliefs, life was created by said Creator, when there is no evidence to support that, and contrary evidence to indicate that no Creator played a role at all.

The underpinnings of the soul and the 'nourishing quality of Jesus' teaching' are the purview of Religion. And that's fine, wonderful in fact for some. What is problematic is when they comment on the nature of Molecular Biology.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:03 pm UTC

BeerBottle wrote:Is it so much more unreasonable for a sentient intelligence to have created this universe than for there to be an infinity of universes with random physical laws?
The point isn't that a multiverse is more rational than a God hypothesis (though I think it can be argued that it really really is, actually). The point is that, because there is (at least) one (at least) equally reasonable alternative explanation, you can no longer make the argument that this universe's "fine tuning" proves anything at all, or even offers any evidence at all, about how this universe was formed.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Twistar » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:11 pm UTC

If you're looking at religion with a scientific eye you're doing it wrong. If you're looking at science with a religious eye you're doing it wrong. It's not that they're incompatible, it's that they operate in different realms of epistemology. Science is basically the search to find useful models of reality and applying those to create interesting technologies. Religion is the search for one's soul and helps guides one's spirit. Note that that last sentence means absolutely nothing in terms of 'science' because there is no well defined thing that is a person's soul or spirit, and these things can't be empirically tested for etc. But that isn't a problem for religion because religion doesn't (shouldn't) be preoccupied with the scientific validity of its core values. Hint: Jesus walking on water isn't a core value of christianity. What this act stands for probably is a core value, and that is what is meant to be communicated. Also, literal reading versus metaphor isn't a fair description of how the bible is read. It's not so much that everything is an exact metaphor for something, but rather that everything means something. That is another place where religion is different from science. Science hardly knows the meaning of the word 'meaning.' It is not concerned with that, it is concerned with descriptions that model reality.
The exact same argument applies to art as johnny_7713 pointed out. You can look at a painting and analyze it scientifically and you will not even come close to understanding what art is. You will understand what art is in scientific terms, which ammounts dubiously to stimulus patterns evoking psychological responses in people but this is useless. If you want to understand and appreciate art you must look at it from an artistic perspective. Now, if you like you can argue that everything is reducible to science and try to do that to everything. There was a movement that tried to do that one time, I can't remember when, but I imagine it would be boring.
So in short:
Religion: don't make fact claims about the empirical world. (I think everyone in this thread agrees with this: religious people shouldn't argue that the earth is only 6,000 years old, it isn't by scientific standards, they don't have the grounds to make this argument, and it isn't critical to the essence of the religion anyways)
Science: don't make claims about spiritual things, don't make ethical claims. Pretty easy for science to do. The nice about science is that it will almost always stay in its boundaries. Even when it's blasting religion, that is still usually within its reach. The point of this post is to try to argue that there are features of religion over which science has no authority.

Also, A lot of this comes from my own perspective on religion. As pretty much everyone has pointed out, it depends on your own interpretation of your religion whether there is a direct conflict between the two. I have specifically architected my thought system specifically to avoid such conflicts.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby uncivlengr » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:27 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:Religion: don't make fact claims about the empirical world.

Science: don't make claims about spiritual things, don't make ethical claims.
Religion doesn't just make ethical claims, though - it goes on to justify those claims with "empirical" reasons.

Whether or not one should steal is an ethical question. Whether or not the consequences of stealing consist of a supernatural being punishing your eternal soul is a question that extends well beyond ethics. You've gone from the discussion of human social interaction to grand claims of the nature of our existence and the universe itself, and that's certainly something that could potentially be in the realm of science.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:13 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:You will understand what art is in scientific terms, which ammounts dubiously to stimulus patterns evoking psychological responses in people but this is useless.
How is that useless? That might allow me to program something to produce pictures or music that are almost universally considered by human beings to be artistic pictures or music. How is that useless?

Science can tell us lots of things about art and the artistic process. What it can't do is tell us whether something is *good* art, because for that you need a system of aesthetics to make those kinds of value judgments.

But if you claim that studying the neurological responses to music, say, is useless and doesn't tell us anything worthwhile about music, it just means you haven't actually looked at any of the studies of neurological responses to music.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Bruenor » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:If you're looking at religion with a scientific eye you're doing it wrong. If you're looking at science with a religious eye you're doing it wrong. It's not that they're incompatible, it's that they operate in different realms of epistemology. Science is basically the search to find useful models of reality and applying those to create interesting technologies. Religion is the search for one's soul and helps guides one's spirit.


If only that were true. Religion tries time and time again to force itself into the realm of science, with reasoning and logic that is very unscientific. They are very incompatible. Science strives to explain the world we live in through evidence and testable claims. Religion fills in the (ever closing) gaps with whatever fairy tale appeals most.

johnny_7713 wrote:if it makes me feel better to believe I live in a universe created by a divine being, who cares that said universe is empirically indistinguishable from a universe created by pure chance.


It might make you feel better, but that doesn't make it true.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Twistar » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:37 pm UTC

uncivlengr wrote:
Twistar wrote:Religion: don't make fact claims about the empirical world.

Science: don't make claims about spiritual things, don't make ethical claims.
Religion doesn't just make ethical claims, though - it goes on to justify those claims with "empirical" reasons.

Whether or not one should steal is an ethical question. Whether or not the consequences of stealing consist of a supernatural being punishing your eternal soul is a question that extends well beyond ethics. You've gone from the discussion of human social interaction to grand claims of the nature of our existence and the universe itself, and that's certainly something that could potentially be in the realm of science.

I see your point here. My response is that first of all, I disagree with your claim that this question could potentially fall within the realm of science, and this is really my point. Heaven and Hell aren't physical places that science can find, they're spiritual places. I do agree, that christianity does go much further than making an ethical claim when it says that your eternal soul will be punished if you steal, I just don't think it is a claim that goes into the realm of science,
On this same line, I think that christianity does make too large of a spiritual claim with Heaven and Hell, and I disagree in a religious sense with their existence and this is one of the main reasons that I am not a christian.
Also, this whole section here is weak and probably doesn't make much sense, please go ahead and keep pointing out flaws in my reasoning and I'll try to refine what I'm trying to say here.

gmalivuk wrote:How is that useless? That might allow me to program something to produce pictures or music that are almost universally considered by human beings to be artistic pictures or music. How is that useless?

Science can tell us lots of things about art and the artistic process. What it can't do is tell us whether something is *good* art, because for that you need a system of aesthetics to make those kinds of value judgments.

But if you claim that studying the neurological responses to music, say, is useless and doesn't tell us anything worthwhile about music, it just means you haven't actually looked at any of the studies of neurological responses to music.

fair enough, I spoke to quickly and harshly. I meant to say science probably can't give us a very good system of aesthetics and I think aesthetics are probably important.

Bruenor wrote:If only that were true. Religion tries time and time again to force itself into the realm of science, with reasoning and logic that is very unscientific. They are very incompatible. Science strives to explain the world we live in through evidence and testable claims. Religion fills in the (ever closing) gaps with whatever fairy tale appeals most.

Like I said at the begining of my post, if you approach science with a religious eye I think you are doing it wrong. We all seem to agree that religion is in no way in a place to make claims that goes against empirical claims that science makes. There are some subgroups of religions that do this, we all seem to be in accordance that we disagree with them. I'm trying to talk about the parts of religion that DON'T do this. There are questions that have no meaning from a scientific perspective such as "do humans have souls." Religion can have answers to some of these questions, and just because the question is meaningless in terms of science doesn't mean it is meaningless to humans.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Bruenor » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:45 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:There are questions that have no meaning from a scientific perspective such as "do humans have souls." Religion can have answers to some of these questions, and just because the question is meaningless in terms of science doesn't mean it is meaningless to humans.


What qualifies religion to answer these questions? As far as I can see, all religions are based on books that are so full of mistakes, inaccuracies and pure stupidity that they were clearly written by mortal men with little understanding of the world around them, with no input from a supreme being. How can religion possibly "have answers to some of these questions"?

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Xanthir » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:52 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:
uncivlengr wrote:
Twistar wrote:Religion: don't make fact claims about the empirical world.

Science: don't make claims about spiritual things, don't make ethical claims.
Religion doesn't just make ethical claims, though - it goes on to justify those claims with "empirical" reasons.

Whether or not one should steal is an ethical question. Whether or not the consequences of stealing consist of a supernatural being punishing your eternal soul is a question that extends well beyond ethics. You've gone from the discussion of human social interaction to grand claims of the nature of our existence and the universe itself, and that's certainly something that could potentially be in the realm of science.

I see your point here. My response is that first of all, I disagree with your claim that this question could potentially fall within the realm of science, and this is really my point. Heaven and Hell aren't physical places that science can find, they're spiritual places. I do agree, that christianity does go much further than making an ethical claim when it says that your eternal soul will be punished if you steal, I just don't think it is a claim that goes into the realm of science,

Then you're wrong.

Either the soul exists, or it doesn't. Assuming it exists, it either has an effect on the world, or it doesn't.

If it exists, and has an effect on the world, then this effect can be detected. We can distinguish between an ensouled body and one that is not. In general, we'd be able to make predictions about how the world would look with a soul, and then test them to see if they held.

If it exists but doesn't have an effect on the world, then you believe in something utterly different from every major religion, as they all hold that the soul in some way affects the body. Usually the soul is where "consciousness" and "personality" come from.

Now, assuming that souls exist and they effect the world, then they are a physical entity like anything else in the universe. That's the *definition* of a physical entity. If souls then go to heaven or hell, that then must be a physical location as well, which we can detect and measure.

You can't escape from science. If something has *any* effect on the universe, we can do science to it. The only things that are non-physical are those that are completely imaginary (and even there, we can theoretically detect them in the mind-state of those imagining them). There's no such thing as separate magisteria.

gmalivuk wrote:How is that useless? That might allow me to program something to produce pictures or music that are almost universally considered by human beings to be artistic pictures or music. How is that useless?

Science can tell us lots of things about art and the artistic process. What it can't do is tell us whether something is *good* art, because for that you need a system of aesthetics to make those kinds of value judgments.

But if you claim that studying the neurological responses to music, say, is useless and doesn't tell us anything worthwhile about music, it just means you haven't actually looked at any of the studies of neurological responses to music.

fair enough, I spoke to quickly and harshly. I meant to say science probably can't give us a very good system of aesthetics and I think aesthetics are probably important.

Science can certainly come up with a theory of aesthetics by studying the human brain. In the limit, we can do human brain emulation and measure what they think of a piece of art, thus creating an "art detector".

Bruenor wrote:If only that were true. Religion tries time and time again to force itself into the realm of science, with reasoning and logic that is very unscientific. They are very incompatible. Science strives to explain the world we live in through evidence and testable claims. Religion fills in the (ever closing) gaps with whatever fairy tale appeals most.

Like I said at the begining of my post, if you approach science with a religious eye I think you are doing it wrong. We all seem to agree that religion is in no way in a place to make claims that goes against empirical claims that science makes. There are some subgroups of religions that do this, we all seem to be in accordance that we disagree with them. I'm trying to talk about the parts of religion that DON'T do this. There are questions that have no meaning from a scientific perspective such as "do humans have souls." Religion can have answers to some of these questions, and just because the question is meaningless in terms of science doesn't mean it is meaningless to humans.

"Do humans have souls?" most certainly has meaning from a scientific perspective. Souls, as imagined by every religion ever, have a physical effect on our bodies. Thus, souls are themselves physical objects and can be studied just like every other thing in the universe.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Tchebu » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:18 pm UTC

Perhaps the point of the feeding of the masses story is that Jesus' teachings can feed everyone's soul, even if there's little to work with? TADA: metaphor, I'm sure someone who's actually studied theology can give you a better one. I'm sure the other passages you reference can be read as metaphor with a bit of thinking. I don't agree that things in the Bible need to be factual to have meaning and impact. Classical music holds a lot of meaning for me, but I'd be hard pressed to call it factual. What would it even mean for e.g. Mozart's Requiem to be factual? Great works of literature can also have great impact without being factual.


Oh, of course the stories in the Bible can be inspiring, but that puts them on equal footing as other works of fiction in terms of educational value. "The Three Little Pigs" also gives us a valuable ethical lesson, but that's a made up story, made to illustrate how laziness can lead to bad consequences. And there are no claims that pigs can actually build houses out of anything, which are supposed to give extra credence to that story compared to, say, the story about the ant and the grasshopper.
Religions, however, actually do claim that their ethical ideas are in fact superior to the competition, because their teachings are presumably rooted in fact. In particular, Jesus' teachings are supposed to be more valuable than similar teachings from a mere mortal, because Jesus is the son of god, and the miracles are meant to prove that. Now if the feeding of the masses was just Jesus pulling off a mass placebo, allowing hungry people to not collapse from hunger on their way home (which was the reason Jesus gave for feeding them in the first place), while that's kinda cool, it hardly servers the purpose of giving extra credence to his moral teachings.

I'm not against the idea of putting the Bible right next to the fairy tales and fables or any other kind of art or literature, in terms of potential life teachings and inspiration value. But something's telling me that the religious people would be against such a state of things.

Also, a note on the subject of authorless books. Daniel Dennett in Consciousness Explained gives an excellent example of a coherent story being made up without any mind making it. People sit in a room, and one of them gets sent out of the room and is told that the others will pick a dream that one of them had recently, and then the person would have to come back, and ask "yes" or "no" questions about the dream, and from the answers figure out who's dream it is, or something to that effect.
Once the person leaves, the rest of the people are told, however, that they are not to talk about a dream at all. Instead they are to give a "yes" or "no" answer to any question depending on the final letter of the question, with the sole exception that the answers cannot contradict previously given answers.

It's pretty obvious that this will actually lead to the formation of a coherent story, which is however entirely authorless. In fact such a thing has been done in practice, with quite amusing results. Needless to say that a similar setup can be, at least theoretically, pulled off without actual people involved in the process. Internal coherence isn't indication of an overmind presiding over the system, it's just indication of a regulating mechanism like the non-contradiction rule in the game.

Edit:
beyondweird wrote: 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 don't disagree. If you include the question of whether there is a meaning at all into the investigation of meaning, that's fine. In fact my point was that before asking "what's our purpose?" we need to establish that there is indeed some external source of purpose other than ourselves. If we choose to assume that there is and investigate the possibilities, that would also be alright, provided we are explicit in acknowledging that we are indeed ASSUMING this source to exist. In this respect the endeavor is a bit like cutting-edge theoretical physics... only less promising. But too often the argument is turned on its head and presented as "well there MUST be a mind that created the universe with intention, otherwise there would be no purpose besides what we just make up". Indeed, there wouldn't... and we aren't anywhere close to being confident that there is.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:07 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:I meant to say science probably can't give us a very good system of aesthetics and I think aesthetics are probably important.
Well sure, and I said exactly that way back in my first post in this thread.

Value judgments (about ethics or aesthetics or whatever) come fundamentally from outside of science, but we can still study value systems scientifically, and we can still inform our value systems with scientific knowledge and thinking.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Turtlewing » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:22 pm UTC

Here's how I've come to see this issue:

In theory science and religion* do two totally different things (science tries to figure out how/why things work, and religion tells people not to be jerks) and should be able to effortlessly coexist. The problem is that at some point in history it became common practice for religion to keep people from being jerks by lying to them (anyone who tells you about an afterlife who hasn't themselves witnessed it ie. died, is almost certantly lying about it). This worked really well, as it was easy enough to set up your religios figures as being infallable (by lying), and whenever anyone with religious athority had a quesdtion they couldn't answer they simply made up a plausable sounding lie. If two religious figures made up contradictory lies they either have a holy war or make their own related by seperate religions, and life goes on. However when science started to make testable claims which contradicted the lies propogated by religion this cast doubt on the infalability of religious figures, as people begin to wonder "if they were wrong about X than maybe their wrong about what happens to jerks to", and that undermines the effectivness of religion.

In the end I think religion will have to adapt or die, because science does far to much to benefit society to put the perverbial genie back in the bottle. Unfortunately, until someone finds a better way to keep people from beinmg jerks religion will also be nesesary for society, even though it's getting pregressively harder to make one that wouln't get trampled by science. If only there were a way to make the consequences for being a jerk verifiably match what religion has claimed for milenia then we'd be all set.


* for the purposes of this description "religion" refferes to any form of phylosophy that includes a set of mytho-historical stories, a code of ethics/conduct, and some concept of spiritual retribution for non-adherence to that code.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby You, sir, name? » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:35 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:Here's how I've come to see this issue:

In theory science and religion* do two totally different things (science tries to figure out how/why things work, and religion tells people not to be jerks) and should be able to effortlessly coexist.

[stuff]

* for the purposes of this description "religion" refferes to any form of phylosophy that includes a set of mytho-historical stories, a code of ethics/conduct, and some concept of spiritual retribution for non-adherence to that code


You seem to confuse systems of morality with religion. Religions typically preach some form of morality as a side effect but it's certainly not their raison d'etre, and systems of morality can effortlessly be formulated without the express need for supernatural beliefs (e.g. secular humanism.)
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby uncivlengr » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:36 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:I see your point here. My response is that first of all, I disagree with your claim that this question could potentially fall within the realm of science, and this is really my point. Heaven and Hell aren't physical places that science can find, they're spiritual places.
That's a little arbitrary, isn't it? You've decided from the getgo that not only is something unproven, but that it's unprovable. Who's to say that we couldn't happen across some technology that could measure the human soul, or detect heaven amidst the cosmic radiation? How are you so sure that what we know as supernatural - souls, gods, etc - isn't indeed part of our natural world?

I can see the reason for doing so - convincing yourself that you can't possibly obtain an answer to a question leaves you free from that point on to disregard the question entirely, which might otherwise be uncomfortable. While convenient, that's not very intellectually honest.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Nlelith » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:02 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:You can't escape from science. If something has *any* effect on the universe, we can do science to it. The only things that are non-physical are those that are completely imaginary (and even there, we can theoretically detect them in the mind-state of those imagining them). There's no such thing as separate magisteria.

However, while certain religious beliefs would have consequences that are detectable in theory, it can be argued that we are currently incapable of doing so due to practical limitations. For example, I can claim that there is an alien spacecraft at a very specific location on Pluto. While this claim is practically untestable, it is still a claim with a precise meaning and could possibly be found to be true in the future.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:13 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:The problem is that at some point in history it became common practice for religion to keep people from being jerks by lying to them
This makes for a nice story, but I strongly doubt it's how systems of religion/mythology actually developed historically. Rather, people are born with some hardwired moral intuition and learn the rules of their group by watching others, and at the same time religion develops to explain those moral intuitions and social norms, along with everything else about the world. And because there is no concept of doing things scientifically, the stories don't turn out to be true and superstitions work, inasmuch as they work at all, through something like placebo.

Unfortunately, until someone finds a better way to keep people from beinmg jerks religion will also be nesesary for society
No, because there are already completely non-religious ways to keep people from being jerks. So if this is your criterion for the necessity of religion, then it's already been unnecessary for a long, long time.

uncivlengr wrote:
Twistar wrote:Heaven and Hell aren't physical places that science can find, they're spiritual places.
That's a little arbitrary, isn't it?
Perhaps, but then most religious beliefs are arbitrary, so I'm not sure I see your objection.

You've decided from the getgo that not only is something unproven, but that it's unprovable.
Yes. The way many modern religious folks formulate their spiritual beliefs is that god and the soul and the afterlife are immaterial, unobservable things that you have to have faith to believe in. And really that's the "safest" way to do it, because if you base your ethical views on an empirically testable claim, and it turns out to be *false*, you're fucked. So better to base it on something else, than to paint yourself into a corner by basing your ethics on empirical claims.

How are you so sure that what we know as supernatural - souls, gods, etc - isn't indeed part of our natural world?
Because that's not what "supernatural" means? If we find some natural thing that seems to correspond to one view of those supernatural things, then all the people who believed in something else will continue to say "well this material, natural, scientifically explainable thing you've found is interesting, but it's not what *we* mean when we talk about god". And they'll continue along with the supernatural belief system.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby skeptical scientist » Mon Jul 12, 2010 11:34 pm UTC

beyondweird wrote: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.


The "why" questions may be meaningful, but are the answers provided by religion meaningful? I believe that for an answer to be meaningful, one must have some reason to believe that it is true, or at the very least an understanding of the reasons for and against believing it to be true, and a rational evaluation of its plausibility. Otherwise the answer is, at best, just wasting space in your mind. At worst, it's causing you to misjudge the world around you and act in ways which, while appropriate if the world mirrored your beliefs, are detrimental or even disastrous in reality. Judging by this standard, most of the answers provided by religion are worthless. Some of the answers religion provides are good ones; religion has been around for millennia, throughout most if not all of humanity's history, and along the way much accumulated wisdom has been incorporated into various religions in various ways. However, religions have also incorporated much of humanity's accumulated bigotry, prejudice, and ignorance. The most damning problem with religion is that religion itself provides no tools to distinguish the valuable ideas from the worthless and harmful ones, and in fact actively promotes a way of thinking—trust in religious authority and faith as a virtue—that has perpetuated the most harmful and evil of religious beliefs.

The main failing of religion is that no good way has ever been found for distinguishing false religious claims from true ones. In areas like mathematics and science, there are good tools—the mathematical notion of proof and the scientific method—for separating true claims from erroneous ones. The scientific method has been used to build up large frameworks of interconnected ideas which achieve a consensus and then stand the test of time, and which can be expanded (and occasionally revised) to understand and explain new discoveries. The ideas produced by science have proven their truth and utility, repeatedly, by producing new tools which allow people to do things they couldn't before, things which can be used to objectively improve our measurable standard of living. In science, we arrive at these true and useful ideas by examining many different hypotheses until one amasses enough evidence to be (provisionally) considered correct.

In religion, the reverse occurs. One creed will fracture into multiple denominations, which will then divide and subdivide into more and more divergent systems of conflicting views. There is a swirling morass of competing religious claims out there, and because of the contradictions between them, it is inevitably true that most of these claims are simply false. Even when it comes to such a trivial matter as what clothing one should wear—let alone the so-called "big questions" like, "Why are we here?" and, "What happens after we die?"—one can find dozens of contradictory claims made by various religious groups. With no objective tests in religion, as there are in science and mathematics, there is no good way of determining which of these myriad claims might be true, and which are false. When confronted with this chaotic mess of mostly false claims, and no proven tools which suggest that some are true and the rest false, the only rational conclusion is to be skeptical of all of them.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby tuseroni » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:47 am UTC

beyondweird wrote:
Bruenor wrote:Why? If it's the literal, or even the inspired, word of God, you would have thought that he above all would known that the earth he supposedly made wasn't flat. You would also have expected him to know it was too large for Noah to collect all the animals. Or the sky wasn't a canvas that the stars were hanging from. Etc etc. I agree the bible is written in the common opinion of the day, because it was written by mortal men and is not, in any sense of the phrase, the word of god - literal, inspired or otherwise.


Yes, but if the people he was inspiring didn't, then surely it would make sense for it to be communicated in their terms? Working with what you've got sort of thing? That would be how I'd treat it - like how teachers simplify things, working with what children already know - in the way genetics is described simply to high schoolers. It's not accurate, but it gets the point and 'truth' across.


ive always had a poblem with this line of reasoning, i think a book written by the all knowing, all powerful, creator of the universe should read at least as good as a man page, even if we presume he would have to sugar coat it to get it across to primitive minds, there should be an underlying section that should just be completely alien and confusing to them, perhaps in between the horrible sections of deuteronomy and leviticus, god coulda gave moses a picture of the double helix nature of dna for instance, or perhaps something telling the number of chromosomes in a human body, or explaining evolution, the age of the universe, the size of the universe at least at that moment, perhaps instead of telling them incorrect things like the plants were created before the sun, that the earth was created and then some time later the entire universe was created so man could have lights in the sky to tell the seasons by...
or perhaps he could give us an updated version that says "all that was BS, here is all the science you know and a lot more you dont, here are some maps of the universe, cosmic phenomenon, and how to go faster than light, here are the improvements to the standard model and string theorists are wrong, here are detailed sketches of all plants and animals that have evolved so far all over the world, and here are some from the far reaches of the universe, but you have to go find the rest for yourself (dont wanna make it too easy) i'll give you another one in in another 2,000 years, god out" and i would be happy, that man would be my hero, that is a god i would truly admire, in the mean time i have to settle for albert einstein and stephen hawkings and find a way to mix their dna to make a SUPER NERD.

the bible is nothing to be relied upon, it doesnt give any deeper truth, its the ancient equivalent of the grimm brothers, a collection of stories and fables from the ancient world eventually compiled into a single book, while of great historical significance, as an actual history it fails, as a science book it fails.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Turtlewing » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:46 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Turtlewing wrote:The problem is that at some point in history it became common practice for religion to keep people from being jerks by lying to them
This makes for a nice story, but I strongly doubt it's how systems of religion/mythology actually developed historically. Rather, people are born with some hardwired moral intuition and learn the rules of their group by watching others, and at the same time religion develops to explain those moral intuitions and social norms, along with everything else about the world. And because there is no concept of doing things scientifically, the stories don't turn out to be true and superstitions work, inasmuch as they work at all, through something like placebo.


Probably, but not having been there neither of us really know. My narrative is much like the mytho-hystorical lies i described. It's something I made up to explain why things are the way they are because it seems to make sence to me and I lack the ability to verefy it's accuract sceintificly. The basic premis to take home is "I think anything religion does beyond providing an ethical fraimwork is feature bloat, and I don't think the mytho-histories have any more substance to them than what society ascribes (kinda' like money only works because we all accept it as a method of exchange)."

gmalivuk wrote:
Unfortunately, until someone finds a better way to keep people from being jerks religion will also be nesesary for society
No, because there are already completely non-religious ways to keep people from being jerks. So if this is your criterion for the necessity of religion, then it's already been unnecessary for a long, long time.

Sure they* exist but they don't work. They don't even work in theory. They can't disprove the prisoner's delema, or make the "problem of war" have a cost matrix that doesn't advocate going to war, without simply saying "you'll be less happy if you do this" which generally speaking is almost always a well meaning lie. So long as most people follow the rules the indavidual can prety much always do better by cheating (unless he/she gets cought and punished by the others). This is the fundamental problem of ethics. Religion solves it (in theory) by saying "you can't see them being punished for their crimes but they are, and the punishment is so bad it outweighs any benefit possible in this world", thus anyone who acts rationaly and believes the religion will never break the rules as they would then suffer the aformentioned punishment. Obviously the flaw is that you have to actually believe the consequences are real.

So unless you claim is "there exist ethical systems that don't work in theory, but in practice work as well as religion does" then you may have a point, but not so much because these non-religios ethics systems are so grate but because most people don't really believe in their religion (alternatively they may be irational and in that case it's all a lost cause). personally I'll take a system that works in theory but fails in practice over one that theortically can't work, and in practice works only as well as other more theoretically sound aproaches.

Anyway, i'll admit to far from total knowledge on the matter so it's possible (probable) I've missed something, but I was originally sumarising my opinopn and the addition of an ecconomicly viably ethics sytem that doesn't rely on misrepresentation to keep everyone in line would definately change that opinion.

* reffering to all non religius ethics systems of which I am aware.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Bruenor » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:26 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:Sure they* exist but they don't work. They don't even work in theory. They can't disprove the prisoner's delema,


This is just plain wrong. The topic has been covered by many different authors many different times. A quick read of the Wikipedia article, of all places, will show you that you are wrong, but for more in depth discussion have a look at Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene". It shows quite simply how altruistic behaviour can develop from genes trying to propagate copies of themselves.

In addition, why are we taking for granted that morals based on religion are inherently a good thing? I live my life with morals I have derived for myself. Any good action I do, then, is simply because I wanted to do a good action and help another human being. Any good action done by a religious person is purely selfish, so as to avoid their own eternal damnation. Which is more moral, then?

Secondly, let's have a look at what kind of morals the bible lays out for us. The following are disallowed in the eyes of the god:

disobedience to your parents, cursing your father or mother, blasphemy, witchcraft, rebellion, working on the sabbath, having sex with a woman on Shark Week, having sex before marriage, worshipping other gods, being raped but not crying for help, disobeying a priest, homosexuality, planting two different crops side by side, wearing garments made from two different materials, touching the skin of a dead pig, eating shellfish, males trimming their hair, etc.

Clearly, then, the "morality" in the bible is, at best, an out-dated and hopelessly insufficient system to base modern morality on. At worst, it is sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic and down right stupid.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:00 pm UTC

Bruenor wrote:
Turtlewing wrote:Sure they* exist but they don't work. They don't even work in theory. They can't disprove the prisoner's delema,
This is just plain wrong.
Yeah, almost shockingly so, coming as it does from someone who admits that the historical stories religion provides are pure mythology. (I say shocking because normally this level of ignorance of non-religious ethical systems comes from fundamentalists.)
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby uncivlengr » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:36 pm UTC

Even if people did intentionally invent religion as a way to trick people into being good, where did these original people come from, that they recognized the virtues of certain social behaviours? "Gee, I have this gut feeling that killing everyone is wrong, but I can't think of any compelling reasoning, and for some reason, nobody else seems to share this feeling with me.... I'll have to make something up."

It still leads to the fact that morality preceded religion.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Turtlewing » Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:14 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Bruenor wrote:
Turtlewing wrote:Sure they* exist but they don't work. They don't even work in theory. They can't disprove the prisoner's delema,
This is just plain wrong.
Yeah, almost shockingly so, coming as it does from someone who admits that the historical stories religion provides are pure mythology. (I say shocking because normally this level of ignorance of non-religious ethical systems comes from fundamentalists.)



Well with 2 votes for "i don't know what i'm talking about" it looks like i've got some reaserch to do, but on the off chance that I've just miscomunicated heres a clarification:

morality is most likely a set of evolved behaviors that benefit the indavidual by tending to produce stable societys. The fundamental flaw however with morality is that immoral people can out compeet moral ones on the small scale (though morality is selected for sufficiently on the large scale to prevent total societal breakdown). Ethics is an attempt at applying logic and ecconomic principles to morality for the purpose of improving upon it (similar to how applying physics to arkitecture improves the quality of buildings). the obvious goal here is to make a set of ethical rules which corespond mosty with the nebulous moral rules we all mostly agree on, that when followed invariably 1. inprove society, and 2. reward only those who don't act anti-socially. Religion's set of rules are deeply flawed (every religion i've seen sufferes from legacy issues as well as feature-bloat) but the method for enforcing them is briliant in it's simplicity and theortical elagence: "add a high personal cost to all undesierable behavior by convining people that they have an imortal soul, and acting unethicly damages said soul". It fails only if people either: don't believe in the religion, or are not rational.

Other non-religious methods of ethics exist, but generally fall prey to the problem that you need to be sufficently well educated to understand the long term ramifications of your actions, and you have to not be a hypocrite. Thus you can be rational, and a beliver, but still to ignorent to choose wisely (for example not realising that second hand smoke can be harmful). Or you could be aware of the consequences but also aware that you doing a thing isn't the same as everyone doing it and trust that most of society is more ethical than you are, and do what get's you the most payoff which will often be damaging to others (for example corrupt CEOs, or polaticians).

And since it's a lot easier to raise children believing in an afterlife where everyone gets what they derserve than it is to get people to both fully understand and believe in the golden rule, and to understand the consequences of every action they can ever take, religion's method seems to win in my book. At least until a non-religious ethical fraimwork that handles the ignorant and the hypocritical can be realized because to varying degrees we're all both of those.

Now, i'm off to see if i can find the systems everyone else seems to be aware of but i've overlooked that solve these problems.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:18 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:but the method for enforcing them is briliant in it's simplicity and theortical elagence: "add a high personal cost to all undesierable behavior by convining people that they have an imortal soul, and acting unethicly damages said soul"
Except for the large number of religions that have a loophole like, "as long as you repent before you die, you're cool". Which kind of defeats the whole argument.

And in any case, unless you have actual empirical evidence that atheists are more often jerks than religious folks, your baseless claims have no place in a science forum. (Or anywhere else, really, but in a science forum we are especially keen on having actual data to back up the claims we make.)
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Bruenor » Tue Jul 13, 2010 6:39 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:morality is most likely a set of evolved behaviors that benefit the indavidual by tending to produce stable societys. The fundamental flaw however with morality is that immoral people can out compeet moral ones on the small scale (though morality is selected for sufficiently on the large scale to prevent total societal breakdown).

Again, this is not true. You are suggesting that evolution occurs on societies or groups. Although there is a raging debate as to what role group selection plays, if any, in evolution as a whole, it certainly did not/does not play a role in the evolution of morality. Altruistic acts came about solely by genes trying to propagate copies of themselves. Anything that a gene codes for that increases the chances of an organism it is in being able to reproduce, will be selected for. Take an "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" type example. The individual, although having to expend energy to help another, then recuperates that loss when the other individual repays the favour, either immediately (for example, cleaner fish) or in the future (vampire bats sharing blood). (Again, I'd recommend reading The Selfish Gene.) Now, it is true that an "immoral" individual could take a higher reward than is justified from these exchanges (cleaner fish biting their host, bats not returning the favour), but you are forgetting that many animals live in groups, small ecosystems, small habitats, etc. There is good evidence (you can get 10 papers from this Wikipedia article alone) to show that individuals remember those who acted selfishly against them in the past, and will not interact with them in the future. It is clear to see, then, that genes for selfish behaviour are selected against, while genes for altruistic behaviour are selected for.


Turtlewing wrote:Other non-religious methods of ethics exist, but generally fall prey to the problem that you need to be sufficently well educated to understand the long term ramifications of your actions, and you have to not be a hypocrite.

Vampire bats and cleaner fish manage to act altruistically just fine without religion, education or an understand of the long term ramifications.


Turtlewing wrote:And since it's a lot easier to raise children believing in an afterlife where everyone gets what they derserve than it is to get people to both fully understand and believe in the golden rule, and to understand the consequences of every action they can ever take, religion's method seems to win in my book.

Easier doesn't mean correct. I would never lie to my children just because it's easier for me. And what's so good about telling children that the only reason people are moral is because they fear eternal damnation, rather than being genuinely good people?

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Turtlewing » Tue Jul 13, 2010 7:28 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Turtlewing wrote:but the method for enforcing them is briliant in it's simplicity and theortical elagence: "add a high personal cost to all undesierable behavior by convining people that they have an imortal soul, and acting unethicly damages said soul"
Except for the large number of religions that have a loophole like, "as long as you repent before you die, you're cool". Which kind of defeats the whole argument.

And in any case, unless you have actual empirical evidence that atheists are more often jerks than religious folks, your baseless claims have no place in a science forum. (Or anywhere else, really, but in a science forum we are especially keen on having actual data to back up the claims we make.)


I never claimed atheists are more likely to be jerks than the religious. My claim was that science and religion have a fundamental point of conflict. Namely that religion uses lies to do it's job, while science tries to expose lies and replace them with batter aproximations of truth. Were this not true it would be trivial to reconcile religion and science. Instead science is destined to rub religion the wrong way until religion goes away or science manages to actually find some substantial portion of some religion is actually true (I'd buy a lottery ticket over a bet on that last one).

I then got off track a bit explaining why I think religion is a better vehicle for ethical teaching than trying to teach ethics in a vaccume or based on ecconomic theory. Which is basicly that the true test of a ethical fraimwork is how well it makes those who don't want to be moral behave ethicly (as those who want to be moral will mostly tend to themselves). But really this isn't the main point i was trying to make rather the claricication as to why I don't think eliminating religion is a worthy goal even though I claim it's all an out-dated poorly managed lie. It does still serve a valuble role in society and until a proper ethics system which can provide incentive for the anti-social to behave an a responsible manner* is widespread enough to take over it will continue to do so.

*I've yet to come across such a system however others in this thread seem to think one exists. I intend to do some reaserch on this matter but have at the time of this writing not found anything convincing.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jul 13, 2010 7:47 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:It does still serve a valuble role in society and until a proper ethics system which can provide incentive for the anti-social to behave an a responsible manner is widespread enough to take over it will continue to do so.
The burden of proof is on you to show that religious ethical systems successfully provide incentive for antisocial people. As I already said, unless you can provide evidence that religion is currently more successful than other ethical systems in getting people to not act like jerks, I'm going to continue ignoring your claims as woefully misguided and ignorant. You're just pulling claims out of your ass about how one set of ethical rules works better than another one, without actually supporting your claim that one set of ethical rules actually, in reality, works better than another one.

I intend to do some reaserch on this matter but have at the time of this writing not found anything convincing.
Then might I suggest actually doing said research (dozens of sources have already been mentioned right in this thread) before you write anything more? Otherwise you're just starting to make yourself look purposefully ignorant, the way fundamentalist religious people tend to be.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Turtlewing » Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:48 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Turtlewing wrote:It does still serve a valuble role in society and until a proper ethics system which can provide incentive for the anti-social to behave an a responsible manner is widespread enough to take over it will continue to do so.
The burden of proof is on you to show that religious ethical systems successfully provide incentive for antisocial people. As I already said, unless you can provide evidence that religion is currently more successful than other ethical systems in getting people to not act like jerks, I'm going to continue ignoring your claims as woefully misguided and ignorant. You're just pulling claims out of your ass about how one set of ethical rules works better than another one, without actually supporting your claim that one set of ethical rules actually, in reality, works better than another one.

I intend to do some reaserch on this matter but have at the time of this writing not found anything convincing.
Then might I suggest actually doing said research (dozens of sources have already been mentioned right in this thread) before you write anything more? Otherwise you're just starting to make yourself look purposefully ignorant, the way fundamentalist religious people tend to be.



Well, having read what i can of the linked artical so far I hacven't seen an ethical system. There's observations about behaviours and an attempt to explain how they arise. However nothing about how to encourage those behaviors in those who don't hapen to be born altruistic. The difference is this: we know some people aren't moral. Therfore relying on morality being the "best choice" can't be accurate as many sucessfull people are woefully immoral. So what can society do to combat this. We could teach them enough about econimics and evolution that they will see the benefits of being moral and altruistic (this is good and should be done), but what about the ones who don't want to learn, or the ones who will still strategicly act imorally when they can get away with it? Those are the people I'm making it my goal to "moralize".

For example:
consider someone debating whether or not to shoplift. the answer we'd like them to come to is "i'm not going to shoplift". now they may reason "If i shoplift it will force the store to raise prices to compensate this will hurt me in the long run as I can't shoplift everything i need". However they may continue to reason "but this item hasn't sold in 2 years, it's probably not going to ever sell, so this shop must have already been passing on the cost of this non-rotating stock to me so i'm entitled to shoplift it". Alternatively, the could reason "this shop is over charging, i should teach them a lesson by not paying their prices", or any of a number of posabilitys many will favor not shoplifting but many will favor shoplifting.

Religion solves this by saying: "stealing is a sin, and sins hurt your soul". If we accept that the would be theif believes this than he will reason thusly "well I don't want to damage my soul, but i really want this thing is it worth it?". This strengthens the case against shoplifting, and does nothing to undermine any other anti-shoplifitng conciderations they may be concidering.

Now concider the case where an executive has to choose between cutting corners on saftey systems and loosing profits to keep a manufaturing plant safe. Like above the chances of the executive reasoning that saftey is better than profit only improve if you add a tenate that "injuring others thriough neglegence is a sin" to the executive's religion.

Scenarios like this are the basis of my opinion. I did try to find some statistics to support my claim and failled. heres an example of what I did find http://www.adherents.com/misc/adh_prison3.html . a cursery glace indicates that there are more religious criminals than athiest criminals. However there's a lot of room for misinterpretation there (depending on the ratiosn in the general population, and what metric was used to detemine eho held what views) so i'll leave it to you to decide if it's a strong case against me or just proof that I fail at reaserch (i do suck at reaserch by the way).

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby Twistar » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:57 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:Those are the people I'm making it my goal to "moralize".

I think this is a bit of the problem. The goal shouldn't be to "moralize" people, especially en masse. Now, the reason you're suggesting we moralize people is because a moral society is a good thing by the definition of morality. However, as you've pointed out, religion makes some shaky claims when it tries to moralize people, and this is because it is trying to moralize mass populations which include people who will tend toward immorality. You're asking for a non-religious ethical system to moralize mass groups of people? What about tyranny? That's one way to make people do what you want them to.
My point with this is that "moralizing" societies is a bad idea. What we have to do instead is work within our monkey sphere to make ourselves and those around us moral. It comes down to the idea the a person is smart but people are stupid.
The thing about systems of morality (including religions) is that you have to ascribe to SOME system of morality* but you can never be too sure that you're system is the "right" system because it probably isn't. As soon as you are too sure that your system is right you will start pushing it on other people, which is something you probably shouldn't do, and it will get pushed onto the wrong people and they will find out a way to bastardize it and make it wrong.
In other words, being moral is hard. People want an easy way to know what the right thing is, and they want an easy way to show other people what the right thing to do is, but there is no easy way. Morality requires introspection, care, and wisdom, there are no foolproof shortcuts. Sometimes religion can be used as a shortcut to morality, this is a bad thing because it ends it people doing the right things for the wrong reasons, which is not necessarily a good thing. However, sometimes religion is used as a tool to help people find goodness without treating them like monkeys.

*unless you're a nihilist but that is a different discussion, or at the very least a very major tangent.

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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:36 pm UTC

Turtlewing wrote:Scenarios like this are the basis of my opinion. I did try to find some statistics to support my claim and failled.
Okay, then stop making that claim until you can back it up. You're just hypothesizing that people will behave like you imagine they would if they went through precisely such-and-such thought process when making decisions. But that's not really any different from if I claim that everyone is really quite rational at the core, and so as long as a reasonable ethical system is explained carefully enough, everyone will understand the logic behind it and abide by it.

So, once again: until you can provide *any* evidence that religious people behave more ethically on average than non-religious people, stop trying to support your baseless claims.

Incidentally, the Ethics of American Youth report card from 2002 concluded that "students who attend private religious schools were less likely to shoplift (35% vs. 39%) but more likely to cheat on exams (78% vs. 72%) and lie to teachers (86% vs. 81%)." And about religious conviction in general, "Students who said that their religion was essential or very important to them (regardless of the kind of school they attended) also generally performed at the national average, though they shoplifted at a slightly lower rate, were less likely to lie to get a job and tended to have more positive attitudes about the importance of ethics."

So while there might be some small differences, it doesn't look like there's anything remotely close to significant enough to support a claim that religious beliefs are more effective than nonreligious beliefs at getting people to behave ethically, even on issues like stealing and cheating where probably people in both groups believe overwhelmingly that it's wrong, regardless of whether they've actually done it or not.

Edit: And I came across a couple mentions of studies (though I haven't gotten hold of the articles' full texts yet) that suggest men who attend religious services are equally likely to cheat, and women only slightly less likely to cheat (4%), than those who don't, once you account for the social cost of cheating when you're a part of any close-knit community, religious or not.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby thoughtfully » Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:44 pm UTC

Twistar wrote:In other words, being moral is hard. People want an easy way to know what the right thing is, and they want an easy way to show other people what the right thing to do is, but there is no easy way. Morality requires introspection, care, and wisdom, there are no foolproof shortcuts. Sometimes religion can be used as a shortcut to morality, this is a bad thing because it ends it people doing the right things for the wrong reasons, which is not necessarily a good thing. However, sometimes religion is used as a tool to help people find goodness without treating them like monkeys.

This makes me think of what computer security researcher Bruce Schneier says about computer security, that really applies to so many things in life:
Bruce Schneier wrote:Security is a process, not a product.

It is very important for a moral society to encourage its citizens to think for themselves (and to give them the tools needed to have some success at it), rather than to allow others to do it for them. Doubly so for a democracy.
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Re: Reconciliation between Religion and Science

Postby qetzal » Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:56 pm UTC

Or the person can reason "If I shoplift I may get caught, fined, & sent to jail, which I wouldn't like." Thus we can enforce overall moral/ethical behavior without religion, and without expecting the average person to consider abstract economic arguments.

Plus, unlike Hell, we can prove that jail is a real place, and people really do get sent there.


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