Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

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Nath
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:39 am UTC

I never claimed science can falsify religion (or Last Thursdayism). I claimed that it yields a position incompatible with that yielded by religion/Thursdayism. The position is not that religion/Thursdayism is false.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:45 am UTC

Nath wrote:I claimed that it yields a position incompatible with that yielded by religion/Thursdayism.

Right, with your personal nonstandard ideas about what belief and certainty mean.

Am I understanding you correctly when I think that you're still holding to the notion that science and religion are incompatible because
Science says: "There is no empirical evidence which could test the claim that God exists"
and Religion says: "God exists"
and you believe those are incompatible statements? As in, you believe that a person who believed both of them would have to be irrational?
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:01 am UTC

Nath wrote:I never claimed science can falsify religion (or Last Thursdayism). I claimed that it yields a position incompatible with that yielded by religion/Thursdayism. The position is not that religion/Thursdayism is false.

The point is that they're not exclusive unless one falsifies another.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:53 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Right, with your personal nonstandard ideas about what belief and certainty mean.

Am I understanding you correctly when I think that you're still holding to the notion that science and religion are incompatible because
Science says: "There is no empirical evidence which could test the claim that God exists"
and Religion says: "God exists"
and you believe those are incompatible statements? As in, you believe that a person who believed both of them would have to be irrational?

Almost. The contradictory statements are not quite the above; they are the following:
Science: 'As a result of the lack of evidence, one cannot be certain that god exists.'
Religion: 'God exists.' (I'm referring to religions that assert that this statement is true; not ones that place some probability prior on it.)

And if you really want to get into the 'whose definitions are more non-standard' debate, I'll point out that I used dictionary definitions, and you used a 'this is what I understand by those words' argument. :)

dedalus wrote:The point is that they're not exclusive unless one falsifies another.

That's not true. I've been trying to explain why; it'll go faster if you respond to certain questions raised in previous posts. Particularly this one:
Nath wrote:
dedalus wrote:If a religious person agrees with the position 'There is a god', they can also agree with the idea that 'there is insufficient evidence to prove that god does or does not exist'. They therefore are saying 'god exists, I just can't prove it'.

Sorry about forcing this point, but could you state whether the following statements are true or false for someone with the above position?
  • I am sure that god exists.
  • I cannot be sure whether god exists.
I'd rather not go to the trouble of refuting your position until I'm 100% clear what your position is :).

In the meantime, here's an example that might illustrate the point. I just flipped a coin. I ask you and some guy named Bob whether it landed heads-up or tails-up. Neither of you gets to see it.
You: It landed heads-up; I'm sure.
Bob: Due to the lack of evidence, I can't be sure.
Bob's position doesn't falsify yours, in the sense that you could still be right. The coin could indeed have landed heads-up. However, Bob's position and your position are incompatible.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:47 am UTC

Nath wrote:In the meantime, here's an example that might illustrate the point. I just flipped a coin. I ask you and some guy named Bob whether it landed heads-up or tails-up. Neither of you gets to see it.
You: It landed heads-up; I'm sure.
Bob: Due to the lack of evidence, I can't be sure.
Bob's position doesn't falsify yours, in the sense that you could still be right. The coin could indeed have landed heads-up. However, Bob's position and your position are incompatible.

Ummm... They're not incompatible, my position is just illogical.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:58 am UTC

dedalus wrote:
Nath wrote:In the meantime, here's an example that might illustrate the point. I just flipped a coin. I ask you and some guy named Bob whether it landed heads-up or tails-up. Neither of you gets to see it.
You: It landed heads-up; I'm sure.
Bob: Due to the lack of evidence, I can't be sure.
Bob's position doesn't falsify yours, in the sense that you could still be right. The coin could indeed have landed heads-up. However, Bob's position and your position are incompatible.

Ummm... They're not incompatible, my position is just illogical.

First, how are 'I'm sure' and 'I can't be sure' not incompatible? Is it possible to hold both positions? We really need to resolve this; I must be fundamentally misunderstanding you in some way.

Second, I'm surprised to see you claim that the above position is illogical, given that you've been the 'logical unless proven false' argument in defence of a very similar position.

Third, is there any particular reason you're so reluctant to answer my question above? It's just two simple true/false questions. I take it you aren't finding this 'going in circles' thing any more fascinating than I am; why not clarify your position so that we can move forward?

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Tue Jun 23, 2009 11:26 am UTC

Sorry about forcing this point, but could you state whether the following statements are true or false for someone with the above position?
I am sure that god exists.
I cannot be sure whether god exists.
I'd rather not go to the trouble of refuting your position until I'm 100% clear what your position is .

For my above position, the first statement is the correct one. However, to put it more clearly, it is thus:
'I cannot be sure of the existence of god with science however, through religion I am.' As this statement includes both methodologies within it, and does not contradict itself, the fact that this statement can be made proves that religion and science are not exclusive.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:04 pm UTC

Thank you for clarifying. Now, moving on to the next question:
Nath wrote:...How are 'I'm sure' and 'I can't be sure' not incompatible? Is it possible to hold both positions?

Yes, I'm going somewhere with this. :)

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:53 pm UTC

Honestly, it'd make things a lot simpler if you just tried to disprove my current statement:
dedalus wrote:'I cannot be sure of the existence of god with science, however, through religion I am.' As this statement includes both methodologies within it, and does not contradict itself, the fact that this statement can be made proves that religion and science are not exclusive.

That's the specific version of the generic one you're asking for:
'I'm not sure of the position through method A, however through method B I am.'
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby ShinSeifer » Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:39 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:
guenther wrote:Science's rigorous, systematic methods map out reality-based knowledge giving us insight in how to further take advantage of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. But it's very poor at providing wisdom since our values are really invented concepts, not physical properties.


I disagree. Science is very important in providing wisdom and insight into questions of ethics and values. The idea that taking the right course of action or thought (wisdom) should be somehow detached from the world that behavior will occur in is somewhat ridiculous, and needs to stop.


You're right, but science (our current scientifical understanding of the Universe) and scientific method are not sufficient to build a full set of ethics and values. You'll always need some arbitrary start point that cannot be inferred from empirical data.

dedalus wrote:Indeed, plenty of scientists are made even more religious simply because of the complexity and beauty inherent in many parts of their study make it seem unlikely that they were created by pure chance.


These scientists need to read up on cellular automata and complexity theory. I never understood how a scientist could believe more in something supernatural because he or she knows more about the natural. Discovering that some of the most sophisticated parts of life or the universe (such as the human eye, DNA, etc) behave according to physical rules and are not magical should shake faith, not reaffirm it.


This is bugging me a lot. Always been bugged by the whole "good scientist cannot hold any nonscientific belief to be good" thing. Are you saying that religious scientists are somewhat ignorant and that every scientist who have read up on complexity theory should be an atheist?
I can very well comprehend the sentiment of beauty before the mechanisms of the universe. The (marvelous) fact that everything that we can observe behaves according to physical rules is not in any way exclusive or detrimental to the unscientific belief of something metaphysical. The belief that those rules and the universe itself exist for a reason, which is, I think, what dedalus was referring to.


So, in short, I think that no, Science and Religion are not, and shouldn't be, mutually exclusive, and I say this as an agnostic. The fact is, I do not equate science with reality or absolute truth. Sure, scientific method gives us a good understanding of what we are able to percieve and measure, meaning that we can make meaningful and useful predictions of physical phenomena. But it's impossible to prove, especially WITHIN the scientific method, that this is the ONLY way to understand -or define- reality.
I'm pretty much with dedalus, here... We can and must use science to see "how" but it's up to religion, or at least philosophy or something that falls beyond the scientific method, to tell us "why": Why the universe exists in the first place? Why is the ratio of the circumference to its diameter exactly pi? Why our universe has rules that seems to be immutable? and so on, till the most significant ones like "why are we here?".
Every single possible answer we can get to these questions falls beyond the realm of science, and would be labeled as "unscientific" because the only answer science would give would be "we cannot know scientifically"

Also, telling God, or some metaphysical entity or metaphysical universe, is "useless" by the means of the Occam's Razor means again trying to apply the scientific method to something beyond science. It's true that if we insert God or something like that in a scientific theory already complete we don't have any more meaningful predictions and therefore God is "useless" in that theory, but that does not mean God/religion/faith/metaphysical is not useful at other things that don't have to do with predicting physical phenomena.

Well, there are my two cents, hope the post was clear enough
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Agent_Irons » Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:45 pm UTC

I'm going to take a different tack here and ask whether the question is even meaningful. The human brain is easily capable of holding two mutually incompatible ideas in it at one time, and acting on one or the other as (in)appropriate.

I would venture to say that Religion and Magic(i.e. sufficiently advanced science) are incompatible. A "god of the gaps" who governs only what has yet to be unearthed by scientific progress is neither theologically nor scientifically tenable.

Modren science and religion aren't incompatible as much as they are redundant. Any scientific fact/theorem is either confirmed or denied by religion. Religion returns "Because" to the question "Why" while Science returns the sub-theorems the fact is based on. If the fact is denied by religion and confirmed by science, Religion is false and incompatible with science. Science done right is true. (It's the platonic ideal of science, here. We're never going to see it.) If the fact is confirmed by both mindsets, Science is a) superior (it gives several subtheorems) b) makes religion redundant. You can still hold both mindsets. In fact I have no problem with other people doing that.

It boils down to this:
If your religion disagrees with fact, you can still go and be deluded by yourself. Just don't hurt anyone.
If your religion agrees with fact, then it's redundant. If you have brain space to spare, go ahead. Just don't hurt anyone.

I'm going to bring some evidence here. Social codes of morality "Thou shalt not be a dick. No, seriously, it's not nice" are a good thing, both because religion mandates them and because I'm pretty sure that mathematically they give the greatest happiness to the most people. In my opinion there is no greater reason to follow a moral code other than givest the greatest happiness to the most people. What possible counter-reason could there be? And before you object to mathematical laws and morality, think about why you don't like them. Fundamentally we have laws and morality because we recognize that the costs of having them are less than the costs of not having them. Or because a big man in the sky(my bad, he was technically on a mountain) told you to. You get to pick your rationale for following society's laws, and it really doesn't matter to me which one you choose. The end result is the same.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby guenther » Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:58 pm UTC

EDIT: Here's a general response to the thread. If we want to know if science and religion are mutually exclusive, look at the world and measure it. If our logical analysis yields a different answer than our measurement of reality, where does the problem lie? Logic requires assumptions, and if those assumption don't match reality, we'll get something of very little value.

@RockoTDF: I missed your response, or else I would have included it in my earlier reply.
RockoTDF wrote:These scientists need to read up on cellular automata and complexity theory. I never understood how a scientist could believe more in something supernatural because he or she knows more about the natural. Discovering that some of the most sophisticated parts of life or the universe (such as the human eye, DNA, etc) behave according to physical rules and are not magical should shake faith, not reaffirm it.

I haven't read about cellular automata, but studying complex systems is precisely what brought me back to faith. I talk about this in the Utility of Religion thread, but the thumbnail view is that applying a strong, rapid feedback in a system while disgarding a slow, stabilizing feedback mechanism will almost always have a bad effect on stability. Religion is an important part of the stabilization of the most complex system we have every known to exist.

RockoTDF wrote:"Feels" is still a physical phenomena. "Feels" is an emotional response (however subtle at times) in the amygdala. The underlying systems of emotion and behavior are well enough understood for me to say that "feeling" that God is real is a learned response from positive experiences and being raised to believe (or in some few cases, fear of Hell or ostracism).

It's also well understood enough to know that belief in something has a very strong impact on human behavior. Having a world of science telling us about unhealthy eating habits does little to affect behavior, but having a heart attack is a strong motivator. Belief is more powerful than truth.


thatblackguy wrote:Generalizing, all those emotions are rational because experiencing them and acting on them always leads to good things as long as you're consistent in the application which I could go into explaining but that's a whole essay right there.

Rationality is not driving the behavior, emotions are. We just attach rationality after the fact. Our rationality can modulate our behavior in response to those emotions, even perhaps turn them off. But when you see your newborn child for the first time, you're not filled with a sense of propagating your genes.

If you're argument is that following through on certain emotions does something useful, then I could use the exact same argument on following through on certain religions. It's a utility-based argument.

And in regards to glasses, we are all wearing glasses all the time that we can't take off. The best thing we can do is recognize that they're still colored despite what our mind tells us.

thatblackguy wrote:if [religion] does have some good action to recommend it may help, however this isn't consistent and it's just as likely to suggest a counter productive action.

"Just as likely" is your assumption and not supported by evidence. You assume it's a 50/50 chance because you don't understand how a nearly static system could produce good results in such a dynamic world. DNA is also nearly static, yet it consistently produces good results.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Lysias » Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:34 pm UTC

dedalus wrote:Honestly, it'd make things a lot simpler if you just tried to disprove my current statement:
dedalus wrote:'I cannot be sure of the existence of god with science, however, through religion I am.' As this statement includes both methodologies within it, and does not contradict itself, the fact that this statement can be made proves that religion and science are not exclusive.

That's the specific version of the generic one you're asking for:
'I'm not sure of the position through method A, however through method B I am.'


Only if methods A and B are both compatible in the first place, and are both valid ways of obtaining knowledge. You have yet to demonstrate that A and B are compatible, although the opposition has not yet established that A and B are incompatible. The argument should be about the differences in methodology, not the differences in results(the certainty/uncertainty argument, which is pretty ridiculous at this point).

I think the original question is unclear. It seems to be asking whether or not science and religion are contradictory, but it asks if the two are exclusive. It seems dedalus is claiming that the two are exclusive, in that they deal with different areas of knowledge, science being naturalistic, and religion dealing with the supernatural and metaphysical, while Nath is claiming that religion and science are contradictory.

Also, science doesn't yield the answer "I'm not sure" to the question of the existence of god. Science doesn't yield an answer, because the god hypothesis is clearly untestable, and science only deals with testable outcomes. So it's not "I don't know," it's a nonscientific question that can't be addressed with the scientific method, period. So on that argument, dedalus seems to win, because religion is an attempt to answer a question that science doesn't apply to.

However, that doesn't mean that science and religion are just exclusive methods for finding answers about different kinds of things. The methodologies could still be entirely contradictory.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:06 am UTC

dedalus wrote:Honestly, it'd make things a lot simpler if you just tried to disprove my current statement:
dedalus wrote:'I cannot be sure of the existence of god with science, however, through religion I am.' As this statement includes both methodologies within it, and does not contradict itself, the fact that this statement can be made proves that religion and science are not exclusive.

Isn't this just a restatement of gmalivuk and Lord Aurora's argument? By this logic, any two positions or methods are compatible. See my responses to them for why.

dedalus wrote:That's the specific version of the generic one you're asking for:
'I'm not sure of the position through method A, however through method B I am.'

Remember the distinction between 'not sure' and 'cannot be sure', covered several posts ago.

Now, do you agree that 'I'm sure' and 'I can't be sure' are incompatible? Is it possible to hold both positions?

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby RockoTDF » Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:59 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
RockoTDF wrote:"Feels" is still a physical phenomena. "Feels" is an emotional response (however subtle at times) in the amygdala. The underlying systems of emotion and behavior are well enough understood for me to say that "feeling" that God is real is a learned response from positive experiences and being raised to believe (or in some few cases, fear of Hell or ostracism).

It's also well understood enough to know that belief in something has a very strong impact on human behavior. Having a world of science telling us about unhealthy eating habits does little to affect behavior, but having a heart attack is a strong motivator. Belief is more powerful than truth.


Certainly, I am well aware that belief is more important than truth in behavior. But the bottom line is that when people invoke feelings of a higher power, spirituality, etc to explain their faith, they are still talking about physical/chemical phenomena going on inside their brain that could be shaken by a blow to the head or injection of certain chemicals.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby henryx » Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:36 pm UTC

Shpow wrote:However, science can't explain why we're here OR what exists beyond the physical. That's up to philosophy, or Religion.


But the problem is that you are pressuming a "why" or a reason for our existence, which implies a God or some antropomorphic being that needs a reason to do things. Science doesn't tell us "why" we are here, because no reason is necessary, and presumedly none exist.
And if something is beyond the physical, I would say it doesn't exist. Spirits belong to the same realm as ghosts, they are imaginary entities created by humans to explain what science wasn't able to explain at the time, such as reason and feelings.

Science is incompatible with faith. It is actually the opposite of faith. If you want to redefine religion as something that doesn't require faith, then fine, religion is not incompatible with science. But if you define religion as something that doesn't involve faith you are automatically disqualifying the vast majority of religions (and of religious people) out there. Beliefs that do not rely on faith are simply "untestable theories". If you want to believe that, outside of the universe, there are purple gnomes playing scrabble, that's untestable and it is not incompatible with science to beleive that, as it is outside of the realm of science. But if you then want to claim that one of the bazillion possible theories of what lies outside of the universe is the "true" one, or even that one is more likely than the others, based on what you have observed in the universe, then you are competing with science for the explanation, and you either accept the scientific method for that or don't. You can't do both.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:36 pm UTC

Nath wrote:Now, do you agree that 'I'm sure' and 'I can't be sure' are incompatible? Is it possible to hold both positions?

It is not possible to hold both positions as you state them. But that's not how we've been stating them, and you seem hell-bent on ignoring that fact. Your replies to me and Lord Aurora seem to miss that the positions we're saying are compatible are "I can't be scientifically sure, but I am spiritually sure." Why is that an impossible statement for a rational person to make? I could say it about murder being wrong, but not about God existing?

henryx wrote:Science is incompatible with faith. It is actually the opposite of faith.

It need not be. The two only conflict when you're using faith to make or judge empirically testable claims, like "evolution can't explain the eye". If your faith sticks to untestable things like "God exists" then it doesn't oppose science because it's something science doesn't address.

henryx wrote:But if you then want to claim that one of the bazillion possible theories of what lies outside of the universe is the "true" one, or even that one is more likely than the others, based on what you have observed in the universe, then you are competing with science for the explanation, and you either accept the scientific method for that or don't.

First, if it's untestable why are you calling it a theory? Second, religious people need not base their faith on what they have observed in the universe, in which case it once again isn't competing with science because it's an explanation for something science can't touch.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby yelly » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:16 pm UTC

Personally, from reading this thread so far, I think we are approaching this question from the completely wrong direction. You are all assuming that religion and science exist in the same realm, and therefor might overlap/contradict each other. To me, this is a matter of what question I am asking which I expect each one of these to give me an answer.
The question I ask of science is "how can I explain the world around me?".
The question I ask of religion is "what is the right/worthy way for me to lead my life?".
When it is put that way, it is plain and obvious that both perceptions can more than easily live side by side, and even at times complement each-other.
On the other hand, when you turn to one to answer the question you should be asking of the other, you're in trouble.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:21 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:It is not possible to hold both positions as you state them. But that's not how we've been stating them, and you seem hell-bent on ignoring that fact. Your replies to me and Lord Aurora seem to miss that the positions we're saying are compatible are "I can't be scientifically sure, but I am spiritually sure." Why is that an impossible statement for a rational person to make? I could say it about murder being wrong, but not about God existing?

The wrongness of murder is a property of your utility function; it's a statement about your personal preferences. Science is a tool for reasoning about the physical universe; unlike most religions, it does not provide a utility function.

The existence or non-existence of god is a property of the physical universe. He either exists or doesn't, regardless of what method or methods you use to form your beliefs. Unless your position is that religion takes place in a whole other universe with no connections to the one we live in, you are claiming to have two incompatible positions on the same proposition.

A rational person could say, 'if I used the scientific method, I couldn't be sure; if I used the "religious method", I'd be sure'. He couldn't say, 'I used the scientific method and I can't be sure, and I used the religious method and I'm sure'. Unless you are willing to have multiple positions on a single proposition, you need to choose which method you are using to evaluate it. The sureness here refers to your state of belief about whether the physical universe has some property; it's not your belief about whether some method implies that the universe has some property.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:29 pm UTC

You keep talking about God as though religious people believe God to be a physical part of the universe.

Methinks you're not actually that familiar with religion...
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:48 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:You keep talking about God as though religious people believe God to be a physical part of the universe.

Methinks you're not actually that familiar with religion...

Have you forgotten the long conversation about whether god, if he exists, would have to be in the physical universe? If you haven't seen it, feel free to have a look and bring up any unaddressed objections to that argument. Goes back to my very first post in this thread.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby guenther » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:56 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:Certainly, I am well aware that belief is more important than truth in behavior. But the bottom line is that when people invoke feelings of a higher power, spirituality, etc to explain their faith, they are still talking about physical/chemical phenomena going on inside their brain that could be shaken by a blow to the head or injection of certain chemicals.

Your ability to reason this out is a physical/chemical phenomena that could be shaken by a blow to the head or an injection of certain chemicals. Unless you believe in something supernatural, everything about us reduces fundamentally to science.

But that does not mean that science can reliably be used for everything in life. We have to make decisions much faster than science can keep up. There are an infinite possibility of combinations to life and only a small number of scientists to observe them.

yelly wrote:Personally, from reading this thread so far, I think we are approaching this question from the completely wrong direction. You are all assuming that religion and science exist in the same realm, and therefor might overlap/contradict each other. To me, this is a matter of what question I am asking which I expect each one of these to give me an answer.
The question I ask of science is "how can I explain the world around me?".
The question I ask of religion is "what is the right/worthy way for me to lead my life?".
When it is put that way, it is plain and obvious that both perceptions can more than easily live side by side, and even at times complement each-other.
On the other hand, when you turn to one to answer the question you should be asking of the other, you're in trouble.

This is basically my point. They serve different purposes. But they do overlap, in the sense that religion really does try to explain physical phenomenons. But I think this is happening less and religion's claims on reality are retreating to safer realms.

My observations are that:
Religion has done little to expand our map of how the world works.
Science has done little to expand our map of how to behave.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Gaydar2000SE » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:19 am UTC

Depends, what if some person 700 years back had some wacky religion that by sheer chance was the physics of today? Quantum mechanics'd sound lunatical back then.

Also, most people have more 'faith' than they like to admit, the faith in the righteousness of their own moral is an annoying thing. People that have moral are dangerous you know, they believe in their moral with no solid evidence, and they're out to convert you and I, not even by words but by force, and try to make you see it as if you're some how a lesser person for not sharing their view they can't even back up. Dawkins should write a book about that. 'The Moral Delusion', I'd love it.

If faith is defined as holding a believe that is not proven beyond all reasonable doubt, than all people except nihilists have a deep and irrational faith.

Edit: from the forum rules, an excellent example
DO NOT call people names or insult them. It's bad form and unacceptable. I do not care what your opinion of a particular group is, there is no need for name calling whatsoever.


Sounds like an irrational faith and a deeply religious dogma there, almost a cult, can the author prove that it's 'bad form and unacceptable' can the author there even define what the concept is? Nope, but the author still believes deeply into that it just 'shouldn't be done', on religious and irrational grounds as the author was brainwashed to believe this nonsense that no objective mind (which a human is hard to become) can agree with, just like punishing people for not believing in God or what-not.
^ :/

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:44 am UTC

Nath wrote:Goes back to my very first post in this thread.

Where you said, "If something does not physically exist, it is fictitious"? That's a very narrow view of reality which also leaves out such things as mathematics. Are all but a finite quantity of numbers also fictitious because they don't physically exist?

You say everything obeys the laws of physics, but that's assuming there ultimately are such laws and that they apply to everything. It's part of the nature of science to assume this, and it's not a weakness that it does so. It's a necessary assumption to make before you can make any testable claims about the universe, but it is not a logically necessary assumption to make before forming any belief at all. And so there is no logical inconsistency in saying that there are realms without physical laws, and that God exists there, and that I can use science to address everything else, where there are physical laws.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby ThomasS » Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:29 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Nath wrote:Goes back to my very first post in this thread.

Where you said, "If something does not physically exist, it is fictitious"? That's a very narrow view of reality which also leaves out such things as mathematics. Are all but a finite quantity of numbers also fictitious because they don't physically exist?


The real problem is that "physically exist" is not something we precisely define. Decades ago we thought that aether existed. Now we don't. What will we think fails to exist decades from now?

We can count the waves that strike the beach. Do they physically exist, or do we just count them as separate objects because it is convenient to our poor human minds? Are they entities, or a concept that names a certain pattern. Perhaps they are not fundamental, perhaps a sufficiently alien intelligence wouldn't see them as separate things. I mean, the waves go away when they strike the beach, so how real could they be? But then electrons go away also when they strike a positron. So are electrons so very different than waves at the seashore? Do we really know that they exist in some sufficiently big picture sense?

I don't particularly know if the universe has electrons per say written into its fabric. Perhaps someday we will see them as patterns that appear, like waves at the beach. But I do know that the concept can be used to predict and control the world in certain ways. That's all the "physical reality" there is in physics, and in some sense it isn't much.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Thu Jun 25, 2009 4:24 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Nath wrote:Goes back to my very first post in this thread.

Where you said, "If something does not physically exist, it is fictitious"? That's a very narrow view of reality which also leaves out such things as mathematics. Are all but a finite quantity of numbers also fictitious because they don't physically exist?

There's an abstraction called mathematics. It doesn't physically exist. It also doesn't have any physical effect on the universe.

However, the abstraction also manifests itself physically, as signals in our brains (our thoughts about mathematics). These signals, which do physically exist, can effect the physical universe.

I see no problem thinking about an abstract, non-physical god, but it would be a theoretical construct, like mathematics, or Optimus Prime. For it to affect the physical universe, it would need to have some physical existence.

gmalivuk wrote:You say everything obeys the laws of physics, but that's assuming there ultimately are such laws and that they apply to everything. It's part of the nature of science to assume this, and it's not a weakness that it does so. It's a necessary assumption to make before you can make any testable claims about the universe, but it is not a logically necessary assumption to make before forming any belief at all. And so there is no logical inconsistency in saying that there are realms without physical laws, and that God exists there, and that I can use science to address everything else, where there are physical laws.

By definition, the laws of physics are a description of how everything in the physical universe behaves (where I define 'the physical universe' to be the set containing everything that could physically affect us). It makes no sense for something to violate these laws, because then they wouldn't be the real laws. If there are realms that do not follow the physical laws, they are not part of the physical universe and therefore cannot affect the physical universe.

EDIT: this point has been discussed previously as well, by the way (...I think I see a pattern here :)). You might want to have a look if you haven't already.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 25, 2009 4:40 am UTC

Nath wrote:By definition, the laws of physics are a description of how everything in the physical universe behaves (where I define 'the physical universe' to be the set containing everything that could physically affect us). It makes no sense for something to violate these laws, because then they wouldn't be the real laws.

Within science, physical laws are understood as generalizations from observations. If there is a realm in which observations cannot be generalized (i.e. they are random or arbitrary), I wouldn't say physical laws are followed there. If there is no systematic regularity to the universe, I think you'd be fundamentally misusing the word "law" to apply it to the universe's behavior.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Nath » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:19 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Nath wrote:By definition, the laws of physics are a description of how everything in the physical universe behaves (where I define 'the physical universe' to be the set containing everything that could physically affect us). It makes no sense for something to violate these laws, because then they wouldn't be the real laws.

Within science, physical laws are understood as generalizations from observations. If there is a realm in which observations cannot be generalized (i.e. they are random or arbitrary), I wouldn't say physical laws are followed there. If there is no systematic regularity to the universe, I think you'd be fundamentally misusing the word "law" to apply it to the universe's behavior.

I've already talked about the distinction between physical laws (the rules governing how the universe works) and scientific models (the generalizations we make from observations). Also, I don't see anything in the definition of law that requires simplicity or regularity -- only universal correctness -- but I don't see how that's relevant in any case. If you think some other word would be a better choice than 'law', sure, we can use it, but that's really beside the point.

The point is that anything that can physically affect us is, by definition, part of the physical universe. Even if the thing in question was random or arbitrary or behaved in other hard-to-generalize ways, it'd still be part of the universe. Any claim about its existence or non-existence is therefore a claim about the physical universe.

Aside (also not really relevant): we can and do make models of random and arbitrarily-behaving things.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:50 am UTC

Nath wrote:
dedalus wrote:Honestly, it'd make things a lot simpler if you just tried to disprove my current statement:
dedalus wrote:'I cannot be sure of the existence of god with science, however, through religion I am.' As this statement includes both methodologies within it, and does not contradict itself, the fact that this statement can be made proves that religion and science are not exclusive.

Isn't this just a restatement of gmalivuk and Lord Aurora's argument? By this logic, any two positions or methods are compatible. See my responses to them for why.

dedalus wrote:That's the specific version of the generic one you're asking for:
'I'm not sure of the position through method A, however through method B I am.'

Remember the distinction between 'not sure' and 'cannot be sure', covered several posts ago.

Now, do you agree that 'I'm sure' and 'I can't be sure' are incompatible? Is it possible to hold both positions?

Umm, dude, what you've just said here is 'yeah so here's your argument, and it's wrong, do you agree?'

The distinction between 'not sure' and 'can not be sure' is irrelevant in that statement. The point is the lack of surity, not the hope as to whether such surity can be found. And the existence of the statement is proof enough that you CAN hold both positions and the are NOT incompatible.
Lysias wrote:It seems dedalus is claiming that the two are exclusive, in that they deal with different areas of knowledge, science being naturalistic, and religion dealing with the supernatural and metaphysical, while Nath is claiming that religion and science are contradictory.

I'm claiming they're inclusive, because they deal with different areas of knowledge... Is that what you mean?
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Lysias » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:58 am UTC

dedalus wrote:I'm claiming they're inclusive, because they deal with different areas of knowledge... Is that what you mean?


Not quite... Let me use an example to demonstrate what I mean:

Economics deals with money and resource distribution, physics deals with forces and matter. Except on an extremely pedantic level, the two are mutually exclusive: physics doesn't study anything to do with economics, and economics doesn't study anything to do with physics. Each field entirely excludes the other's subject matter. However, physics doesn't prove or disprove economics, and economics doesn't prove or disprove physics. They're entirely unrelated and lack interaction. Your argument would be that religion and science are exclusive in the same way: they deal with unrelated subject matter, and they don't interact with each other in any meaningful way. I would consider inclusive subjects, for example, to be physics and chemistry, where the study of atoms is common to both, and physical chemistry and chemical physics are the obvious areas where both chemistry and physics deal with related subject matter which is included in both. Physics discoveries affect chemistry, so the study of physics is included in the study of chemistry. Does that make sense?'

So, thus, you would view science as a method for obtaining knowledge about empirical, observable phenomena, and religion as a method for obtaining knowledge about metaphysical and moral truths. Since metaphysics and morals do not affect the observable world in any direct or measurable way, the two subjects are unrelated, noncontradictory, but both are still necessary to obtain a complete working knowledge of affairs in the universe, as the observable realm is not the only realm that exists or affects us. The two are mutually exclusive but noncontradictory and perhaps complementary, like physics and economics, since they provide one with different types of knowledge that do not directly interact with each other. I understand what you mean when you say that religion and science are inclusive, in a holistic knowledge sense, and not exclusive, in a one-preventing-the-other-from-existing sense, but I was organizing things differently in my head, and it makes more sense to me to use "contradictory" where alternative use would suggest "exclusive." Any non-contradictory propositions can be accepted simultaneously, regardless of subject matter addressed.

That's assuming I'm following your argument correctly. If any of that is wrong, feel free to correct me, I'm just trying to figure out everyone's argument clearly before I start weighing in and attempting to make reasonable counterarguments or supporting arguments.

gmalivuk wrote:Within science, physical laws are understood as generalizations from observations. If there is a realm in which observations cannot be generalized (i.e. they are random or arbitrary), I wouldn't say physical laws are followed there. If there is no systematic regularity to the universe, I think you'd be fundamentally misusing the word "law" to apply it to the universe's behavior.


I don't think that's what "law" means. Physical laws aren't prescriptive, they're descriptive. It's just a statement of fact about the way things are, which can be made and discovered whether "the way things are" is random or not.

I also think describing anything that happens as "the universe's behavior" is a dangerous anthropomorphism. The universe is not an entity, and it doesn't have behaviors or laws. I think a fair definition of "the universe" would be the content of the physical laws "ruling" it. To state it more directly, "the universe" just happens to be the things that are, doing what they do. The "laws" are just our descriptions of what the things do, they don't imply systematization or order of any kind.

That also touches on another problem I have with this entire discussion. From page 1, people started talking about things like "science's goal," and whether or not science and religion are "in opposition" to each other. Why are we anthropomorphizing both science and religion? Science doesn't have goals, it's not a person with hopes and dreams. It isn't trying to achieve anything. It's a tool by which we can achieve certain things. Humans have goals, science is a method. Religion is trickier to define, but it's not entirely necessary to do so to answer the question.

So, a preliminary answer to the question is that no, science and religion do not contradict each other, because while religion might set forth certain propositions about the world*, science is merely a method that does NOT make claims to truth or assertions of any kind. Humans can use science, combined with their personal philosophy, to make assertions which may be contradictory to religions assertions(this could also be read as: humans can apply science, and the outcomes that they find might be contradictory to religious beliefs, but that's not science, in the purest sense, it's the applied scientific method. A thin line I'm walking here, but an important one. The scientific method can only disprove hypotheses about observable phenomenon by observation, it doesn't assert truths. Humans applying the scientific method assert truths, usually when they run out of hypotheses to test.), but since science itself makes no assertions, the two cannot be contradictory by nature. And while I noted earlier that methodological and philosophical contradictions could possibly be found, I no longer think so. The only philosophical implication of the scientific method is empiricism, which means that knowledge comes from experience, and since that definition doesn't exclude religious experience, there's a clear and obvious working method for gaining religious knowledge, specifically, religious experiences.

*This isn't necessary, but it does tend to be true. Some religions claim access to physical or historical truths, but not all do. "Religion" is honestly too broad to argue. I think asking if faith contradicts reason would be a clearer question than asking if religion contradicts science, since religion is too vague and science can't be directly contradicted. However, I think the answer is still no, and I say that as a scientifically minded person- It's a small leap of faith, but still a leap of faith to accept experience as a basis for knowledge, which is the basis of science in the first place. It's clearly not reasonable to assume that one's experiences are unreliable, from an assumption of the opposite. It's an obvious gambit(If my senses report accurately, and I assume they do, I have a basis for knowledge. In any other situation, I don't. Since having a basis for knowledge seems better than not having a basis for knowledge[I just realized that that's really unprovable, since if I don't have a basis for knowledge, I can't know whether having one would be good...but we could apply the same gambit here again, which I think reduces], I should always assume that my sense data reports accurately.), and so it is reasonable to have faith in one's senses, and so faith and reason are not contradictory.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:06 am UTC

Lysais, I think you're saying exactly the same things as I am, except for our definition of exclusive. You're saying that because they don't interact in any meaningful way they're exclusive (i.e. they are never included in the same area of thought), whereas I'm saying because they take up different areas of thought they're not exclusive within the mind of a rational person.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Lysias » Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:20 am UTC

Right, I just realized that I made just about the same argument you did on the first page towards the bottom... And yeah, I think we completely agree, they're different, but noncontradictory(to avoid any possible confusion about exclusivity).

Of course, I think this discussion is almost entirely meaningless, because there ARE good philosophical positions for and against religious positions that have nothing to do with appeals to science. I don't understand why atheists like Dawkins claim that science is 100% opposed to religion, as if science can hold opposition... If you're going to attack theism and religion, at least make it a relevant, logical attack, instead of a baseless one that just confuses the issue.

(For the record, I'm an atheist, but I'm not going to pretend that I have any kind of "proof" or "god-killing" arguments. I just think that if one can avoid unnecessary metaphysical claims, one should, and so I have a materialist/naturalist viewpoint on most things...but I still realize that a naturalist/materialist viewpoint is not required for use of the scientific method. Anyone claiming that science contradicts religion(ugh, I really do hate stating it that way) would have to prove that any other view contradicts empirical scientific method...and good luck with that.)

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:38 am UTC

Agreed totally.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby yelly » Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:28 pm UTC

guenther wrote:This is basically my point. They serve different purposes. But they do overlap, in the sense that religion really does try to explain physical phenomenons. But I think this is happening less and religion's claims on reality are retreating to safer realms.

Well, in my opinion, they shouldn't overlap at all. Religion shouldn't try to explain physical phenomena (maybe apart from the questions science can't answer, like how it all started and what keeps it going), and science shouldn't try to tell me how to lead my life (well, it doesn't really). If they do try to overlap, they contradict. A person who believes natural phenomena can only be explained the way they are in a really old book (and therefore refuses to accept scientifically rigourous findings) can't be a scientist just like a person that refuses to accept anything beyond what he can measure with a tool can be religious. Only a person who asks the right questions and expects the right kind of answers can contain both science and religion within him.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby RockoTDF » Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:02 pm UTC

ShinSeifer wrote:
RockoTDF wrote:
dedalus wrote:Indeed, plenty of scientists are made even more religious simply because of the complexity and beauty inherent in many parts of their study make it seem unlikely that they were created by pure chance.


These scientists need to read up on cellular automata and complexity theory. I never understood how a scientist could believe more in something supernatural because he or she knows more about the natural. Discovering that some of the most sophisticated parts of life or the universe (such as the human eye, DNA, etc) behave according to physical rules and are not magical should shake faith, not reaffirm it.


This is bugging me a lot. Always been bugged by the whole "good scientist cannot hold any nonscientific belief to be good" thing. Are you saying that religious scientists are somewhat ignorant and that every scientist who have read up on complexity theory should be an atheist?


Only if those beliefs get in the way of their science (such as a biologist who chooses creationism over evolution) is a religious scientist a bad scientist by merit of religion.

Full disclosure: I'm agnostic. I don't think that God can be proven either way so I don't jump all the way on the atheist boat, but I'm standing on the dock so to speak.

Often times scientists that do espouse "its beautiful, there must be a God of some sort!" are saying so because of complexity or holes in reductionistic science. Such holes do exist, and our knowledge is incomplete. But I still think God is a huge cop out. So yes, they are (sometimes) ignorant that there is an entire discipline aware of the beauty they see, only that complexity science tries to answer the questions without giving up and resorting to pointing unscientifically to the sky.

As I stated previously, I think it is incredibly illogical for an increased understanding of the natural world to result in more faith in the supernatural. Not a character attack, just a massive massive inconsistency that should be pointed out.

It is a bit like being a child and finding the xmas presents that Santa / Father Christmas in the attic and then saying "oh well you see he hides them there in advance because a big magical sack is actually silly (ie rejecting young earth creationism), but flying reindeer still make total sense." (needing God to explain complexity)
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby dedalus » Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:13 pm UTC

@Rocko, I think the point is that if you do believe in a god then you can say 'wow, all these wonderful things were created by god' etc. Personally, I don't believe in god... I'm pretty much an agnostic.

To be honest, I think we all agree with everyone else on most of these issues, unless someone is going to turn around and continue more bland discussion of 'religion doesn't follow scientific method and therefore is bad' then maybe it's time to /thread this.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby iop » Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:17 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:Often times scientists that do espouse "its beautiful, there must be a God of some sort!" are saying so because of complexity or holes in reductionistic science. Such holes do exist, and our knowledge is incomplete. But I still think God is a huge cop out. So yes, they are (sometimes) ignorant that there is an entire discipline aware of the beauty they see, only that complexity science tries to answer the questions without giving up and resorting to pointing unscientifically to the sky.

How is beauty related to lack of understanding? If they'd said "it's completely incomprehensible, there must be a god of some sort!" I would see your point. However, at least I as a biologist find beauty mainly in the aspects of biology I understand.

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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby RockoTDF » Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:51 pm UTC

iop wrote:How is beauty related to lack of understanding? If they'd said "it's completely incomprehensible, there must be a god of some sort!" I would see your point. However, at least I as a biologist find beauty mainly in the aspects of biology I understand.


I see beauty in the things I understand, as well as the recurrence of certain principles or concepts throughout different fields. However, some would attribute things they do understand (such as how amazingly mathematical physics is) to evidence of a divine hand, which I think is counterintuitive.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby yelly » Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:23 pm UTC

RockoTDF wrote:I see beauty in the things I understand, as well as the recurrence of certain principles or concepts throughout different fields. However, some would attribute things they do understand (such as how amazingly mathematical physics is) to evidence of a divine hand, which I think is counterintuitive.

How so? I am sure all will agree (if not, I would be fascinated by your reasoning) that the world sciences (or whatever you call them) can't possibly answer the question "why?" beyond "because" in most of the important questions (i.e. "why does the world behave according to laws that obey the rules of math and logic?", "why will this be the case tomorrow?"...). These questions naturally arise the more one discovers the beauty (or whatever you want to call it) of the way things work. If that is the case, then we must find another approach, that is beyond science, to answer these questions, usually philosophy, religion or both.
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Re: Religion and Science, Mutually exclusive?

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:28 pm UTC

Just to go back to your coin example...

I flip a coin. I ask if it lands on heads of tails. Which answer is right?


Well... I cheated. It landed on a glass top table. It can be viewed by bob as heads, and bill as tails. Both views and results are correct. Both are logical, reasonable and accurate. Bob can say Bill is wrong, with certainty, if he fails to realise the variable of the perspective of view.

So, Science can be right. It is right. But there can also be different ways of looking at things. Not wrong ways, as the different ways need to be right as well. But they can exist. And if the two viewpoints cannot be brought together, it does not mean that they cannot both be held in their own perspective area. For example I cannot know the position and the movement of a particle at the same time. This is a fact. The two are mutually exclusive. However, they both exist ;)

You can argue that religion/beliefs are wrong. But you can also argue that some science is wrong. However you cannot deny the existence of either. I'm glad some people here are looking at the argument logically.

[edit after checking first post] In my definition above of the coin flip, the "faith" would be based on evidence/logic. But would be in things outside of science. Faith in the "why are we here" once you have the "what are we made of" from science.
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