Transterrestrial Musings

Defend Free Speech!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type 4.0
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« We Knew This Was Coming | Main | The Audacity Of Arrogance »

Science As A Religion

And a fundamentalist one, at that:

When Salon interviewed me about my new book, "Saving Darwin," I suggested that science doesn't know everything, that there might be a reality beyond science, and that religion might be about God and not merely about the human quest for a nonexistent God. These remarks got me condemned to whatever hell Myers believes in.

Myers accused me of having "fantastic personal delusions" that could actually lead people astray. "I will have no truck with the perpetuation of fallacious illusions, whether honeyed or bitter," Myers wrote, "and consider the Gibersons of this world to be corruptors of a better truth. That's harsh, I know ... but he is undermining the core of rationalism we ought to be building, and I find his beliefs pernicious."

Myers' confident condemnations put me in mind of that great American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who waxed eloquent in his famous 1741 speech, "Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God," about the miserable delusions that lead humans to reject the truth and spend eternity in hell. We still have preachers like Edwards today, of course; they can be found on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. But now we also have a new type of preacher, the Rev. PZ Myers.

And they don't even recognize it in themselves. Dawkins and Myers and Hitchens are doing more harm than good for science in their evangelizing, I think.



Jack wrote:

Anyone that thinks Science can work as a Religion or Religion can work as Science does not understand religion and/or science.

The core to science is verification through experimentation. Nothing, nothing is taken as sacred and unquestionable. That's the whole point. Everything is fair game, but to overturn an existing idea you need to prove it wrong. Science's purpose is to give a flexible framework to observe, model, predict and attempt to understand the natural world.

The core to religion is faith in something that cannot be proven. Religions have principals that are not determined via experiment.

The fallacy of attempting to equate the two should be readily apparent.

People who try to use science as a religion: Radical Environmentalists, and people that try to use religion as a science: Creationists, are cut from the same cloth. They both want use the authority of science to lend a veneer of validity to their agendas.

mpthompson wrote:

Jack, good comments.

For me, like our founders, I believe certain truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Such thoughts and ideas will never be measured on a scale, found at the bottom of beaker, in the eyepiece of a telescope or microscope, or proven at the end of complex set of equations written on a white board. Instead, such ideas reside outside the reach of science, within the realm where beauty, ugliness, good and evil reside.

As an atheist I can sympathize with people frustrated with certain aspects of religion, but I fail to understand hostility towards the aspects of religion that inspire us to be more than the sum of our physical existence and experience.

Can such ideas be explored without the veneer of religious mysticism? Perhaps, but that does not move it any closer into the realm of science.

ken anthony wrote:

nothing is taken as sacred and unquestionable

"There is no god." This is the religious faith of some scientists.

There are many fools. Religious fools are gullible. They believe fantastic things without evidence. You can't shake their faith because it is based on nothing at all. Evangelical atheists are another type of fool.

God's qualities are clearly seen in the thing created but because we see imperfectly through our own selfish desires we are blind to those qualities.

The apostle Paul said, "if there is no god, we [christians] are to be pitied most of all. We should eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die."

Whatever faith there is should be based on evidence and tested constantly. This should be true for all.

Bill Hensley wrote:

Actually, Paul said, "If there is no resurrection of the dead...we are of all men most to be pitied." (I Corinthians 15:13,19)

Science isn't religion and religion isn't science, but the notion that they have nothing to do with each other is completely fallacious. You can't do science without making some implicit, but very important, theological assumptions. You can't do theology without taking science into account somewhere in your epistemology.

K wrote:

Rand, you ol unbeliever, you just popped up several clicks on my admiration meter. There aren't many scientific minded these days who recognize (or at least write about) where science ends and metaphysics begins. There is a reason that most scientists used to describe themselves as agnostic, they understood the nature and limitations of science.

TBinSTL wrote:

Evangelical Atheism will consume itself but it needs more time to work it's magic before the curtain is pulled back.

notanexpert wrote:

To take Jack's comments one step deeper, the whole of Science is limited to what is observable. Thus, the most rigidly scientific mind is free to believe or disbelieve in an unknowable God; Science has nothing to say on the matter.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

Intersubjective verifiability is the limit and source of disagreement; the real problem arises when people try to push or mandate their own subjective conclusions as intersubjectively verifiable facts. Atheism is as much a subjective conclusion as any faith; take it for what it is and there's no problem.

Signing on to K's praise and comment.

Jeff Mauldin wrote:

K: Rand, to my knowledge, has never declared himself an "unbeliever." He's most assuredly not a young-earth creationist (heh).

Rand has taken me to task, justifiably I think, for using the term "Darwinism" because it is used to give ideological or religious overtones to something that, taken at face value, really doesn't have those overtones. He's pretty careful in his consideration of what is and is not science. I'm not sure I agree with him exactly, but Rand is reasonable and thoughtful, not angry and certain that he knows everything. Don't use that term, though.

I agree with Bill Hensley pretty wholeheartedly. I'll also note that if God does indeed exist, and if God does indeed do occasional miraculous things (as opposed to being just a clockmaker God, for example), those things would not be terribly amenable to scientific verification. However, that doesn't mean that it's pure blind faith to believe in those things--there is other kinds of evidence, such as eyewitness accounts and possibly even physical evidence of some sort. Most of us who believe in the resurrection don't just blindly hope it happened wihtout any evidence--we actually think the reports we've read are true (or mostly true--don't get involved in that debate unless you really want to).

Diversion: it some cases it is possible, using science, to show things thought to be miraculous are, in fact, the operation of natural law at work. Or it might be possible for a magician to prove mediums were committing fraud rather than miraculously talking to the dead. But I digress.

Josh Reiter wrote:

Religion was Mans first attempt at trying to attribute natural events as being the result of supernatural causes. If a tsunami came by and wiped out your village during early civilization one would be inclined to argue that the God's must be angry and we are being punished.

Philosophy became Man's method for pursuing truth and relying on wisdom to try and determine the cause of natural events. Early philosophers were interested in a great many subjects many of which grew into their own respective disciplines of science. When our understanding of a specific subject reaches a point to which certain principles are no longer up to debate then it is said to turn into a science. Examining a subject that is not fully explained by one of the established branches of science or has questions that are still up for debate then we need to fall back on the branches of philosophy -- metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, ethics, and logic (to name a few).

Now religion has progressed along with philosophy as well in that one can use philosophical arguments to try and support or discredit the certain notions of supernatural explanation. Some of the greatest philosophers of mankind were also very religious individuals. Through philosophical examination many attempts were made by early philosophers and continue to be made by modern ones to try and link science into religion.

Me personally, I feel that religion and science are 2 separate off shoots of philosophy and they do not loop back to one another at the other end. Philosophical argumentation asks, is there a natural cause? What is the basic principle, origin, or substance of a phenomenon? If a natural cause can be found then you are on your way towards science. If you cannot find an obvious solution then many people tend to use explanations supported as a matter of faith or supernatural origin.

Josh Reiter wrote:

Jeff Mauldin wrote:

"it some cases it is possible, using science, to show things thought to be miraculous are, in fact, the operation of natural law at work. Or it might be possible for a magician to prove mediums were committing fraud rather than miraculously talking to the dead."

This is were the Scottish philosopher, David Hume, made an effective argument towards the existence of miracles. It would seem that for a miracle, to actually count as a miracle, would in fact have to violate the laws of nature. If someone were to tell me, that they saw dead man return to life. I would have to ask myself what would be more likely. That this person who was dead was miraculously resurrected. Or, that the person telling me this is out to deceive me. One must weigh the evidence. I myself have never witnessed a resurrection. However, I have experienced many instances of deceit, lies, or misunderstanding. So, reason should lead me toward the latter. In other words, one should ask themselves, What would be more miraculous? That the testimony of a person being false is more/less miraculous then the miracle event they proclaim. One should reject the greater of two miracles.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Rand, to my knowledge, has never declared himself an "unbeliever."

Actually, I have. I am an "unbeliever" in the sense that I have no belief about the existence of God. But the fundamentalist atheists do have a belief. They devoutly believe there is no God.

Jeff Mauldin wrote:

Okay; that's probably better semantics. Athesist = belives that there is no God; Theist = believes that there is a God; Agnostic approximately = unbeliever = has no belief about the existence of God.

Leave a comment

Note: The comment system is functional, but timing out when returning a response page. If you have submitted a comment, DON'T RESUBMIT IT IF/WHEN IT HANGS UP AND GIVES YOU A "500" PAGE. Simply click your browser "Back" button to the post page, and then refresh to see your comment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 31, 2008 1:35 PM.

We Knew This Was Coming was the previous entry in this blog.

The Audacity Of Arrogance is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.1