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Thread: Science and religion (culled from "Earth not center" thread)

  1. #61
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    worzel, we've been getting quite a few complaints about things you've said in this thread. Usually multiple complaints lead to warnings, and this is no exception. This is an official warning.

    However, I'd like to explain that there is a fuzzy line on what is permissible, and you have clearly crossed it. So we need to try and rein you in, and this is a topic you feel strongly about, and so it is likely that you want to go right up to the line and say what would be allowed without concern about getting suspended. Unfortunately, no such clear definition is possible.

    What I'd like you to keep in mind is the following:
    - some people feel very strongly about the religious and spiritual beliefs or customs, or culture.
    - not all non-atheists are creationists
    - not all non-atheists have beliefs in conflict with observed astronomy or mainstream cosmology.
    - everytime you say all religion is a joke, you are seriously insulting a large fraction of the membership and readership of this forum.

    The BAUT forum specifically does not want to erupt into flamewars on any topic, and religion and politics are forbidden topics, except in very narrow discussions as to how they impact astronomy or spaceflight. You can probably find a nice salon out there that will host this kind of discussion. I'd suggest checking out the "Ethical Society", as I'm guessing they have some interesting forums for you.

    As you hopefully know, you are a valued member of our community here, and we hope that you'll continue to contribute on Astronomy related topics.
    Forming opinions as we speak

  2. #62
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    Edit: Antoniseb addressed this as I was writing.

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Serenitude View Post
    Edit: Antoniseb addressed this as I was writing.
    Foo, and I was all set to respond to you, too....
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek View Post
    Foo, and I was all set to respond to you, too....
    Sorry - check you PMs

  5. #65
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    I am suprised I wasn't warned earlier. I may seem extreme but I feel I am just saying what a lot of atheists think but daren't say, but this board isn't the place for it so I'll shut up now. Apologies to anyone I've offended - be sure that I won't be offended by any ridiculing of my disbelief

  6. #66
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    Without getting into the theological aspects of this discussion I will say that I agree wholeheartedly with worzel's claim that he has a right to express his thoughts and views to those that presented their thoughts and beliefs to him (although admittedly not in this particular forum lol). To quote Robert Ingersoll

    A man has a right to work with his hands, to plow the earth, to sow the seed, and that man has a right to reap the harvest. If we have not that right, then all are slaves except those who take these rights from their fellow-men. If you have the right to work with your hands and to gather the harvest for yourself and your children, have you not a right to cultivate your brain? Have you not the right to read, to observe, to investigate -- and when you have so read and so investigated, have you not the right to reap that field? And what is it to reap that field? It is simply to express what you have ascertained -- simply to give your thoughts to your fellow-men. [...] Should you express that thought? Certainly you should, if others express theirs. You have exactly the same right. He who takes it from you is a robber.
    Last edited by Kelfazin; 2007-Jan-05 at 04:42 PM. Reason: missed a word

  7. #67
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    KenG,

    I am hoping you can answer a question (or four) that I have always had about religion. If you accept that there is not scientific evidence for your belief and that, by definition, you should not choose your beliefs based on evidence, on what do you choose your religion? When I was jumping around visiting different churches I wondered why I was expected to accept anything that one said over another when they all present the same evidence and seemingly the same case. Why choose Christianity over Norse Mythology, for instance?

    Most religious people I know do not believe in such a separation between objective and subjective realities, but those who do who I have posed this question to invariably answer "because I know it in my heart to be true". However, that answer comes from believers in mutually exclusive religions. If a Christian denounces Zeus as false, and a follower of Zeus believes in Zeus because he knows in his heart that Zeus is the true lord of gods, then is the Christian not saying that it is possible to be wrong when your only evidence is 'knowing it in your hear to be true'? If so, does this not validate their very reason for choosing to believe what they have and made all religions, again, equally valid? Further, as most religions date back to texts by mortal men, why does one feel that these men had any greater grasp of this 'subjective reality' than you do? Why would a mainstream religion be any closer to the truth than something you come up with on your own, and would not such a journey be a much more effective path to self discovery?

    I mean no disrespect but have always wondered about this. I think just about everyone I know (save those who have turned atheist and one friend who became a Mormon) have the same beliefs and belong to the same religion as their parents. This has lead me to question how they can feel that these are truly their beliefs. Would you consider this a valid religious choice? How does one make a choice of religions outside a logical or scientific framework?

    My apologies if this is outside the bounds of BAUT. If a moderator feels it is please let me know and I can delete it.

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    I think you are still using a scientific approach to justify a religious belief. I'm saying that if you believe something because there's concrete evidence in favor of it, then you are doing science.
    That is somewhat close to the mark, but I am restricting how science interacts with religion to only the region within religion that is exposed to such interaction. I agree very favorably with your views which address eloquently the more comprehensive picture, espeically the delineation of science.

    Actually, I am curious on where we disagree. Perhaps the degree to which science can affect the plausibility of a religious or philosophical claim is a possible variance in views.

    If you believe something purely because you choose to, because it resonates with you and fills a need for you and possibly even makes you a better person, then you are doing religion.
    Resonance comes from both the active wave properties and the properties of the surroundings, too. They work together. My view is focused on what improves or hinders that resonance. Science, in some limited cases, can influence one's specific elements within a belief structure, be it positive or negative to those beliefs. When these parts are affected by science, then so is the whole, but to a lesser degree.

    If science were to discover that all radioactive elements went through a massive decay process several thousand years ago, and that the age of our planet was 6000 years, the positive resonance would joyfully shatter the glass at any YEC facility. [Of course, I'm ignoring all the other evidence against it, but I thought I'd try embellishment just this once. And, I think I did it in the subjunctive, yes? Please note my abstention from that other junktive today (Friday)]

    If it doesn't awaken something in you that is more profound than scientific logic, then it is probably just scientific logic, and possibly not terribly good logic at that.
    Agreed. Of course, if some things science offers can indicate whether or not some folks are just dreaming, then I want to know. The ability of science is very limited here, which is why I like the idea of using a metaphorical representation to help (ie the river of science flowing and affecting a small region, the overlap, of the sea of religion and philosophy). Let’s keep on surfing here in....The Overlap.
    Last edited by George; 2007-Jan-05 at 05:40 PM.
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  9. #69
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    Ken G said:
    And you still don't see the irony of railing against the intolerance of various religions and then claiming that all you are doing is "saying what you think"? Hello-- religious people who ridicule other religions are doing just what you are doing-- saying what they think. Here's the definition of that behavior: religious intolerance. You have a right to be an atheist, and they have a right to have a religion. They have no right to ridicule you for not subscribing to their religion, and, brace yourself, you have no right to ridicule them for not being an atheist. What goes around...
    Actually, there's no right to not be ridiculed. The right is to not be controlled. Use of authority to constrain you in your behaviors and beliefs is wrong. Expression of opinions at odds with your own is merely the freedom of conscience. (Of course this Forum has it's own rules that must be obeyed.)

    I think you are still using a scientific approach to justify a religious belief. I'm saying that if you believe something because there's concrete evidence in favor of it, then you are doing science. If you believe something purely because you choose to, because it resonates with you and fills a need for you and possibly even makes you a better person, then you are doing religion. If it doesn't awaken something in you that is more profound than scientific logic, then it is probably just scientific logic, and possibly not terribly good logic at that.
    Interesting point, but I have to wonder why so many things that people believe because "it resonates and fills a need and possibly makes you a better person" are things that bear such a strong resemblance to objective claims.

    Believing in things because you would like them to be true is a recipe for disappointment. Believe me, I've just been through a personal example.

    If I say that I believe the entire universe was created yesterday in exactly the form we all observed yesterday, you're telling me that's a scientific statement that can be tested scientifically?
    That's a bit of a strawman. I don't know a single creationist who argues that the Earth was created with a fake history. That's typically an argument put forward by non-Creationists to question the Young Earth assumption. YEC's typically argue that science is wrong and that real history and accurate science would confirm their 6000 yr (or 10,000 yr, or whatever) story.

    I will concede that the example you offer can't be evaluated materialistically or evidencially, and resides in the realm of philosophy. I don't believe that is consistent with the original statement to which I was responding.

    But why on Earth would someone need to aver against opposition when talking about a subjective and nonscientific belief?
    It's called an emotional reaction. It happens when one has a strong emotional connection to an opinion or position and faces someone who opposes it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    Use of authority to constrain you in your behaviors and beliefs is wrong. Expression of opinions at odds with your own is merely the freedom of conscience. (Of course this Forum has it's own rules that must be obeyed.)
    Are you sure you meant behavioral constraints are wrong? [my bold, of course] You might wish to qualify that one a little more.

    Believing in things because you would like them to be true is a recipe for disappointment.
    Yes, so true. Yet we all tend to believe what we want to believe.

    Believe me, I've just been through a personal example.
    Ouch, I know it had to be rough, else you would not have mentioned it. Sorry.

    It's called an emotional reaction. It happens when one has a strong emotional connection to an opinion or position and faces someone who opposes it.
    Sometimes it's just a small step from insightful to inciteful. I've found the former to represent the bulk of this thread and I'm appreciative of every participant.

    It would be nice if I could find out more opinions on the concept of using The Overlap analogy to help in these discussions. Is it not a reasonable picture of how (where) science impacts religion?
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

  11. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kelfazin View Post
    Without getting into the theological aspects of this discussion I will say that I agree wholeheartedly with worzel's claim that he has a right to express his thoughts and views to those that presented their thoughts and beliefs to him (although admittedly not in this particular forum lol).
    Right-- but it was in this particular forum! You see, the problem was not just that it was outside the rules, the problem is that everyone with scientific knowledge who can speak knowledgeably on this forum (as worzel certainly can) has a responsibility to recognize that they carry with them the credibility of science whenever they make scientific-sounding arguments in a forum read by nonscientists. Science is what scientists do, and we build our credibility one brick at a time. So when a person espouses an opinion that on the surface appears to be supported by their scientific knowledge, they are speaking for science, and with some of the power and authority that science has built. It is on that basis that I was attempting to correct worzel-- not on the basis that his personal opinion was invalid. It was valid as an opinion, because it was not overtly harmful to another individual, but it was invalid as a scientific argument. That's why I entered into that debate on a scientific forum!

  12. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicholas_Bostaph View Post
    If you accept that there is not scientific evidence for your belief and that, by definition, you should not choose your beliefs based on evidence, on what do you choose your religion?
    That would be pure opinion on my part-- science is moot on the point entirely. But just look out into the world for your answer.
    When I was jumping around visiting different churches I wondered why I was expected to accept anything that one said over another when they all present the same evidence and seemingly the same case.
    I think you could have said the same thing about visits to galleries of various types of art. At the end of the day, there is no objective "case" being presented, it's just up to you.
    Most religious people I know do not believe in such a separation between objective and subjective realities, but those who do who I have posed this question to invariably answer "because I know it in my heart to be true".
    Actually, I would call that statement a profound understanding of the separation between objective and subjective reality, it's exactly what I'm talking about. Would a scientist ever say that about some theory? It isn't scientific thinking at all.
    If so, does this not validate their very reason for choosing to believe what they have and made all religions, again, equally valid?
    So if I like modern art, I have to like Renaissance sculpture too? Validation is subjective, outside of science. Indeed, I think a fair definition of science is that human pursuit where the quest for objective validation trumps all other types. I agree that I wish more religious people understood that, but I think very many do.
    Why would a mainstream religion be any closer to the truth than something you come up with on your own, and would not such a journey be a much more effective path to self discovery?
    I'll bet you could build a better shrink-wrap package than the ones you buy, but why reinvent the wheel? Also, community is part of the religious experience. But I'm all for self discovery, and I think many people who subscribe to mainstream religions follow their own path anyway. It is perhaps analogous to research science on a frontier where very little is known with certainty-- scientific research is then a type of guided self-discovery, and you get different "camps"-- the difference is that data comes much sooner and clearer to decide which "camp" had the better approach. That's because science is objective.
    I mean no disrespect but have always wondered about this. I think just about everyone I know (save those who have turned atheist and one friend who became a Mormon) have the same beliefs and belong to the same religion as their parents.
    Ask yourself this: does that scientific observation tell you anything about the universality of the value of religion in general, rather than a particular one? That's all I'd say on a scientific forum!
    How does one make a choice of religions outside a logical or scientific framework?
    You just gave me one example.

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    Actually, there's no right to not be ridiculed. The right is to not be controlled. Use of authority to constrain you in your behaviors and beliefs is wrong.
    That's exactly right, and that is what I meant, as I said in my response to Kelfazin. Science is a type of authority, and must not be misused or it weakens its credibility and becomes a form of intellectual oppression. I was telling worzel that he was misapplying scientific thinking in a way that effectively uses the powerful laser of science pointed in an inappropriate and incorrect direction, just as he was objecting to having powerful religious institutional thinking directed at his own atheistic beliefs. That's what I meant by "what goes around..."

    Interesting point, but I have to wonder why so many things that people believe because "it resonates and fills a need and possibly makes you a better person" are things that bear such a strong resemblance to objective claims.
    I think that's because there's no need for them to make the distinction in their daily lives, just as there's no need for worzel to make that same distinction in his daily life, and there's no need to understand quantum mechanics to watch TV. If we don't care about a distinction, we don't make it. I'm making the distinction because it matters when there is a need for conflict resolution.
    Believing in things because you would like them to be true is a recipe for disappointment. Believe me, I've just been through a personal example.
    I agree completely, and I'm sorry about your personal example, but I'll bet you do the same thing again when placed in the same situation. When you find the answer to why that is, you'll understand a lot about the distinction I'm making between scientific and other forms of human pursuits.
    worzel dismissed this as a form of delusion, but I had to point out that all thought about reality is a form of delusion, of course, it just works better when you're using logic for some reason that no one knows but probably has to do with the way our neural synapses evolved.

    That's a bit of a strawman. I don't know a single creationist who argues that the Earth was created with a fake history.
    Yes, that was very much a strawman when applied to creationism, but I was making a logical point about worzel's omniscient claims about the objective truth of history. And by the way, I didn't say a "fake" history, I just said yesterday could easily be viewed as an "initial condition" without being the least bit untrue to the tenets of any physics. As for creationism, I'd just repeat that religion makes lousy science and should not be used for science (the converse is likely also true, but that's still the subjective realm).
    It's called an emotional reaction. It happens when one has a strong emotional connection to an opinion or position and faces someone who opposes it.
    Right, that's exactly it-- that's what I'm doing this for. As long as we are communicating at that level, there's no communication at all. Instead, we need a more sophisticated language to go outside our own assumptions and values and connect to someone else's.

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    It would be nice if I could find out more opinions on the concept of using The Overlap analogy to help in these discussions. Is it not a reasonable picture of how (where) science impacts religion?
    Not in my opinion, because I don't think anything interesting is happening in the overlapping regime. Science is closed and self-consistent, or at least it tries to be, religion is open and can contradict both other religions and even itself. Thus the overlap is generally a case of religion connecting to things to complete the story, that are not necessarily scientifically accurate, and if viewed allegorically have no importance to the story anyway. It could be argued that religion might wish to try to use scientifically accurate respresentations whenever possible when it does not defeat the purpose of the story, but since most religious stories precede the science that would require a lot of hindsight. The idea that a religious story can anticipate a scientific result with reliable accuracy is basically using religion to do science, and that is generally accepted by scientists as being a bad way to do science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Right-- but it was in this particular forum! You see, the problem was not just that it was outside the rules, the problem is that everyone with scientific knowledge who can speak knowledgeably on this forum (as worzel certainly can) has a responsibility to recognize that they carry with them the credibility of science whenever they make scientific-sounding arguments in a forum read by nonscientists. Science is what scientists do, and we build our credibility one brick at a time. So when a person espouses an opinion that on the surface appears to be supported by their scientific knowledge, they are speaking for science, and with some of the power and authority that science has built. It is on that basis that I was attempting to correct worzel-- not on the basis that his personal opinion was invalid. It was valid as an opinion, because it was not overtly harmful to another individual, but it was invalid as a scientific argument. That's why I entered into that debate on a scientific forum!
    I've actually agreed with everything else you've said in this debate. I was at fault for not being clearer in my post and quoting the phrase I was responding to. My entire post was directed as a response to this line only:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    They have no right to ridicule you for not subscribing to their religion, and, brace yourself, you have no right to ridicule them for not being an atheist.
    And I was speaking from a position outside of this board.

    Now if your meaning in this case was that on this forum nobody has a right to ridicule another than I apologize, and agree with you. But if you meant that I have no right, outside the bounds and rules of this forum, to ridicule simply because I choose back up my claims with scientific reasoning and evidence then I'm afraid I must take issue with that. I may choose not to ridicule, but that does not mean I have no right to it. Even if, in your opinion, I am invoking the power of science irresponsibly, as long as I am speaking opinions that I, in my heart, believe to be honest and truthful, I have every right to the invocation. Likewise, if I choose to so opine, you have every right to ridicule me for my scientific impropriety.

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    Quote Originally Posted by antoniseb View Post
    worzel, we've been getting quite a few complaints about things you've said in this thread. Usually multiple complaints lead to warnings, and this is no exception. This is an official warning.

    However, I'd like to explain that there is a fuzzy line on what is permissible, and you have clearly crossed it. So we need to try and rein you in, and this is a topic you feel strongly about, and so it is likely that you want to go right up to the line and say what would be allowed without concern about getting suspended. Unfortunately, no such clear definition is possible.

    What I'd like you to keep in mind is the following:
    - some people feel very strongly about the religious and spiritual beliefs or customs, or culture.
    - not all non-atheists are creationists
    - not all non-atheists have beliefs in conflict with observed astronomy or mainstream cosmology.
    - everytime you say all religion is a joke, you are seriously insulting a large fraction of the membership and readership of this forum.

    The BAUT forum specifically does not want to erupt into flamewars on any topic, and religion and politics are forbidden topics, except in very narrow discussions as to how they impact astronomy or spaceflight. You can probably find a nice salon out there that will host this kind of discussion. I'd suggest checking out the "Ethical Society", as I'm guessing they have some interesting forums for you.

    As you hopefully know, you are a valued member of our community here, and we hope that you'll continue to contribute on Astronomy related topics.
    This is Stalinist.

    Just because someone has some weird irrational beliefs and gets all huffy and offended, they get to censor what they perceive as ridicule?

    Is this forum devoted to free speech and free enquiry, or not?

    I thought it had something to do with science, I must be in the wrong forum.

  17. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kelfazin View Post
    Now if your meaning in this case was that on this forum nobody has a right to ridicule another than I apologize, and agree with you.
    That is what I meant, but I certainly didn't say that. I do think worzel has a right to his opinion, and a proper venue to express it, but I'd feel better if he'd admit that it's just an opinion and does not actually have the weight of science behind it. That was the crux of my argument, which I feel was a metascientific argument moreso than a purely philosophical one, involving entertaining the notion of subjective truth.

    But if you meant that I have no right, outside the bounds and rules of this forum, to ridicule simply because I choose back up my claims with scientific reasoning and evidence then I'm afraid I must take issue with that.
    I would say that when you use such reasoning and evidence, you have to be ridiculing a scientific claim, which is basically any objective claim, by someone else. A subjective belief is quite a different matter-- we choose what we use. What I really hate is when scientists say "I understand differential geometry and you don't even know algebra, so you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that your beliefs are wrong and you should replace them with my perspective, even though you can't hope to understand it." On the other hand, it's fine to say "you are raising a scientific question which has an objectively testable answer, and the machinery that has been successfully developed to do that already exists and I understand it fairly well. Unfortunately it requires advanced mathematics, but I'll do my best to explain it to you from an objective perspective. After I've done that, you are still welcome to maintain subjective beliefs, but if you want to claim they are objectively true, you will have to address my argument directly."

    Likewise, if I choose to so opine, you have every right to ridicule me for my scientific impropriety.
    Personally, I don't see ridicule as an effective mode in any situation-- it's more of a self-serving stance. But that is just an opinion. As for your arguments, I'm certain I would not see reason to ridicule them, though I might dispute them depending on what they were.

  18. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArgoNavis View Post
    This is Stalinist.
    Huh? I should let the mods respond, but as I was just commenting on ridicule as a discussion device, let me say that you have supplied an example of a claim where ridicule may in fact be the appropriate response, as that statement is the most absurdly uninformed accusation I've ever seen. Perhaps you are not aware that Stalin killed a rather large number of people?

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    Let me say something here about "censorship". Censorship is the government telling you what you can and cannot say at the point of gun, using force.

    Freedom of speech goes both ways. You can say what you want, but you don't have to hear what you don't want to hear, either. This board is a private entity, controlled by the owners of that board. They get to control what is said and what is not said on their own private property. Same as you do on yours.

    So, the "censorship" is simply the owner of a stage exercising his rights to control what is said on *his* stage.

    You have a right to say what you want to say, but not a right to stage. You want to say anything you like, build your own stage........

    -Richard

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    George said:
    Are you sure you meant behavioral constraints are wrong? [my bold, of course] You might wish to qualify that one a little more.
    Argh. Yes, when read in hindsight that is murky. There are legitimate uses of authority to constrain behavior. For instance, prevention of murder might be a good thing. What I was thinking of is behaviors that are not harmful but are perceived as taboos by some groups and thus those groups wish to constrain everyone from those behaviors. Think of the debate between a die-hard Libertarian and a strict authoritarian over just what is an acceptable use of control.


    It would be nice if I could find out more opinions on the concept of using The Overlap analogy to help in these discussions. Is it not a reasonable picture of how (where) science impacts religion?
    It is potentially useful, depending upon the philosophical underpinnings of the conversation. I think a problem we're running into is terminology use and the philosophical assumptions each of us has below those words, some of us not as aware as others that there is even a difference in the underpinnings.

    For example, Ken G does not think there is any legitimate overlap zone, that any overlap is caused by the misapplication of one side or the other. This is consistent with his philosophy about what Religion is. However, I don't think that we all are using the same philosophy of what Religion is. I don't think you regard your religious beliefs as purely allegorical, but that you assign them an existential value. Somewhere underlying the books of the Bible is a reality more substantial than just a story you tell because of the meaning you can glean from it. God and Jesus are not just allegories to you, they have an existence.

    That's how I and I think worzel see the situation. Many religious believers are not as sophisticated as Ken G is and do not regard their beliefs as allegories. They hold them in some manner as an existential condition. I can provide a contrast.

    Consider the parable of the fox and the stork and the grapes. We can tell the tale of the "sour grapes", and reflect upon the lesson and how we tend to react like the fox. But when all is said and done, no one turns around and ponders whether foxes and storks can actually talk. But reflect upon how most believers look at religious claims (Moses and the curses on Egypt, Jesus's resurrection, Joseph Smith finding the golden plates, etc), I think they do the equivalent.

    Ken G, I would not be surprised to learn that many theologians, perhaps even the Pope, hold more sophisticated religious beliefs than they let on. However, if that is the case, they are doing a very poor job of passing down those sophisticated views. It seems somehow disengenuous that they would keep that from their followers. For example, your claim that religion is allegory is an interesting proposition, but would make it very difficult for the Pope to hold forth on infallibility. "Hey, that's just a story! How can it justify your declaration as being God's spokesman?" Similarly, think of the ramifications to such concepts as confession or transubstantiation. Think of all the time and energy wasted on arguing that it becomes the real flesh and blood of Jesus if the whole thing is ultimately just a story.

    Another terminology issue:

    Ken G said:
    However, if they clarify that they realize the statement is not consistent with the rest of science, and all its benefits and effectiveness, but that instead they are expressing a belief that it was actually created 6000 years ago, by whatever artifice and for whatever purpose, then this is a religious statement about which science is of course completely moot.
    In this case, I think it might be better to use "philosophical" or perhaps "metaphysical" in place of "religious". The context of the phrasing suggests this meaning, but the word "religious" carries connotations differently than those word choices and is mucking up the communication.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman
    Believing in things because you would like them to be true is a recipe for disappointment. Believe me, I've just been through a personal example.
    I agree completely, and I'm sorry about your personal example, but I'll bet you do the same thing again when placed in the same situation. When you find the answer to why that is, you'll understand a lot about the distinction I'm making between scientific and other forms of human pursuits.
    It stems from a personal weakness in the inability to correctly read people and social situations. It certainly wasn't intentional.

    Yes, that was very much a strawman when applied to creationism, but I was making a logical point about worzel's omniscient claims about the objective truth of history. And by the way, I didn't say a "fake" history, I just said yesterday could easily be viewed as an "initial condition" without being the least bit untrue to the tenets of any physics.
    An embedded history as part of the initial condition would be "fake", wouldn't it? If it's the initial condition, then it didn't happen, it just appears to have happened. But I do see the logical argument you were making.


    Older comments:

    worzel said:
    posted by George:
    "Inerrant" is a word often used by both sides, but it is polemic. If the Holy Bible of the early 17th century is inerrant, why does it have King James' name on it? Yet, the words inside can still represent complete truth if the context is completely known and understood. This is a belief, of course, that we both will disagree with each other on.
    So it's not necessarily "inerrant", but can still represent complete truth?
    You're arguing a fundamentalist postion against an non-fundamentalist. That makes your argument a bit of a strawman. George differentiates between the story as conveyed by human interceders and the ultimate truth behind the records we're left with. One might legitimately ask how we can tell the correct from the incorrect, and why God made it so unclear in the first place or allowed people to do such a poor job of interpreting it, but it isn't fair to hang George for a literalist view when he clearly accepts human imperfection at work in the process.

    Ken G said:
    In any case, the Thor example is not a serious one, for it is hard to imagine what value could derive from such a simplistic vie, as it will not offer any predictive or technological promise, and does not connect with any issues that are more profound than science can handle.
    Are you sure? As soon as one declares Thor responsible for lightning and thunder, they are advocating the existence of Thor. They are then likely connecting that to other related constructs about Thor, probably including Odin, Valhalla, etc. Those definitely do connect to those same profound questions that any other religion address.


    George said:
    A faith won't stand if it becomes unreasonable to its believers.
    If so, then some believers manage to stretch reasonableness to extreme degrees.


    ArgoNavis, go read the forum rules. The Bad Astronomer initiated rules of topics that are better left avoided because of their inherent tendency to generate flame wars. Religious belief is one, politics is another. There is some legitimate territory when exploring the concepts as they relate to science, but proselytizing of any form (for or against) is prohibited. And no, that is not a free speech issue. Don't like the rules, host your own board on your own server and make up the rules you like.

  21. #81
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    ArgoNavis, go read the forum rules. The Bad Astronomer initiated rules of topics that are better left avoided because of their inherent tendency to generate flame wars. Religious belief is one, politics is another. There is some legitimate territory when exploring the concepts as they relate to science, but proselytizing of any form (for or against) is prohibited. And no, that is not a free speech issue. Don't like the rules, host your own board on your own server and make up the rules you like.
    I agree with that, but I really am not clear how most of this thread is within the bounds of rule 12.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

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    Religion and politics should be avoided, but does that include a discussion of the post-modernist idea that all beliefs are equal, just different? This appeared to be KenG's position.

    is this a science forum that looks for evidence for beliefs? or has it been taken over by religious fundamentalists who disguise themselves as something else as they push their agenda?

    I consider that worzel was conducting a legitimate discussion and was not personally offensive to anyone, except those whose his ideas are a threat.

    Rupert Murdoch has his own media too, and that doesn't stop complaints that he censors it.

  23. #83
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    That's how I and I think worzel see the situation. Many religious believers are not as sophisticated as Ken G is and do not regard their beliefs as allegories. They hold them in some manner as an existential condition.
    I'd like to clarify this part because it's at the center of everything we're discussing. When people use religion as a means of addressing scientific reality, they are ignoring science, and science is the only way that has proven objectively effective for this purpose. That much is true. What is not true is when scientists, instead of making that point, say that religion is therefore "nonsense". It's classic black-and-white thinking that is blind to the axiomatic structure of scientific thinking. No truth can be considered independently from the machinery used to generate and evaluate that truth. Objective truth is the realm of science, but most religious people don't need to care about that, because they don't care about the difference between objective and subjective truth. Therefore, it behooves scientists to educate about that difference, not be blind to it themselves.


    Ken G, I would not be surprised to learn that many theologians, perhaps even the Pope, hold more sophisticated religious beliefs than they let on. However, if that is the case, they are doing a very poor job of passing down those sophisticated views.
    That's inevitable-- I would say the same for scientists! Look at any popularized description of quantum mechanics, for example, or the Big Bang "singularity".

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArgoNavis View Post
    Religion and politics should be avoided, but does that include a discussion of the post-modernist idea that all beliefs are equal, just different? This appeared to be KenG's position.
    Not to me.

    If I've been understanding Ken well, he is arguing just the opposite: that all beliefs are not equal, and therefore it's a mistake to apply the same standards to all of them.

    In science, it's right to ask for evidence that is consensual and replicable. But in religion -- and other fields; Ken has just given the example of art -- that would be (should be) beside the point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    Ken G, I would not be surprised to learn that many theologians, perhaps even the Pope, hold more sophisticated religious beliefs than they let on. However, if that is the case, they are doing a very poor job of passing down those sophisticated views.
    Maybe it's the best job possible. They don't have total control over how their flock thinks and behaves. Which is probably for the best, even.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    For example, your claim that religion is allegory is an interesting proposition, but would make it very difficult for the Pope to hold forth on infallibility. "Hey, that's just a story! How can it justify your declaration as being God's spokesman?" Similarly, think of the ramifications to such concepts as confession or transubstantiation. Think of all the time and energy wasted on arguing that it becomes the real flesh and blood of Jesus if the whole thing is ultimately just a story.
    That is an interesting example in the light of this discussion. Sure, religions have no way of proving convictions such as papal infallibility. But then science has no way to refute them, either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArgoNavis View Post
    Religion and politics should be avoided, but does that include a discussion of the post-modernist idea that all beliefs are equal, just different? This appeared to be KenG's position.

    is this a science forum that looks for evidence for beliefs? or has it been taken over by religious fundamentalists who disguise themselves as something else as they push their agenda?
    KenG wasn't being warned by the moderators. Worzel was because he was not just discussing the evidence of beliefs, he was passionately expressing his opinions on religion and religious people. It would not have mattered what religion he was railing about, whether it was for atheism, against atheism, for the flying spagehtti monster, any religion. He would have recieved the same warning because it violates the rules. Stating that this, of all boards, is run by fundamentalists pushing an agenda is simply absurd and wrong. Would an usher in a theater asking you to stop talking during the play be labeled as such by you? Would the grocer asking you to move your full grocery cart out of the 15-items or less express line be labeled as such? This board has rules. Those rules were in place when you created your account, and they were in place when we created ours. The moderators are here to remind us when we have stepped over those rules, and take action if we refuse to abide by them. Their job is difficult and they give their time freely for the betterment of our community. To be lumped into the same category as a mass murderer is simply outrageous.


    Quote Originally Posted by ArgoNavis View Post
    I consider that worzel was conducting a legitimate discussion and was not personally offensive to anyone, except those whose his ideas are a threat.
    You have every right to that opinion. The job of this boards moderators is to decide if what he said was a rule violation. They decided it was. And you know what? Worzel agreed with them

    Quote Originally Posted by worzel View Post
    I am suprised I wasn't warned earlier. I may seem extreme but I feel I am just saying what a lot of atheists think but daren't say, but this board isn't the place for it so I'll shut up now. Apologies to anyone I've offended - be sure that I won't be offended by any ridiculing of my disbelief

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    Van Rijn said:
    I agree with that, but I really am not clear how most of this thread is within the bounds of rule 12.
    Rule 12 has leeway for discussion of how Religion and Science interact. This thread is skating the gray area, but the theme of the thread is discussing the proper limitations of Science and the demarkation between Science and Religion. That makes it within the allowable zone.

    However some of the posts tend to waver over the line a bit, mostly because people hold views strongly and those opinions color their responses. worzel was making actual derogatory remarks about believers, not just beliefs. Sometimes people have trouble differentiating the two.

    Ken G said:
    I'd like to clarify this part because it's at the center of everything we're discussing. When people use religion as a means of addressing scientific reality, they are ignoring science, and science is the only way that has proven objectively effective for this purpose. That much is true. What is not true is when scientists, instead of making that point, say that religion is therefore "nonsense". It's classic black-and-white thinking that is blind to the axiomatic structure of scientific thinking. No truth can be considered independently from the machinery used to generate and evaluate that truth. Objective truth is the realm of science, but most religious people don't need to care about that, because they don't care about the difference between objective and subjective truth. Therefore, it behooves scientists to educate about that difference, not be blind to it themselves.
    It seems to me there are some issues of terminology and philosophical underpinnings. When I hear something described as "real", I take that as an existential claim, which puts it in the realm of objectivity. That's what the word "real" and "reality" mean to me. So when I had a discussion with my brother and he tried to convince me that Santa Claus was real in his own way, in the world of literature, I reject that use of the word. Maybe I'm just not a sophisticated enough thinker, but to me that is an abuse of the words to the point of destroying their meaning. That's also the difficulty with the words "true" and "truth". They seem inherently existential to me.

    I see what you're saying about scientists making value judgments about issues that are in the realm of philosophy and metaphysics rather than the realm of objective measurement. The basis for making those value judgments cannot be science. I think that is the lesson you are trying to drive home to scientists and science advocates.

    Ken G said:
    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman
    Ken G, I would not be surprised to learn that many theologians, perhaps even the Pope, hold more sophisticated religious beliefs than they let on. However, if that is the case, they are doing a very poor job of passing down those sophisticated views.
    That's inevitable-- I would say the same for scientists! Look at any popularized description of quantum mechanics, for example, or the Big Bang "singularity".
    But I don't think those situations are equivalent. You keep trying to compare a technogeek who uses technology but doesn't understand the underlying principles with a believer who uses religious thought without understanding the underlying principles. There are two differences. One is the timescale that each has had to act. Science has had all of a hundred years to develop and present the concepts of QM, Relativity, black holes? Whereas Religion has had how many thousands of years to deal with their concepts? And two, if you don't understand science and can use it is fine, but if you want to understand scientists are willing to discuss those details and try to help clarify the sophistications. But it seems like religious leaders are at best silent on the matter, and from there they become Pat Robertson, who actively advocate the simplistic philosophy.

    Compare and contrast from the Bible. Jesus is said to have taught with parables, such as "The Prodigal Son". At the end of the day, most religious leaders acknowledge them as parables - stories told for moral lesson, not historical accounts. But then they turn around and treat Noah and Lot and Jesus walking on water and raising the dead as historical events. If they hold the sophisticated views that you do about what religion is, they are not only doing a poor job of conveying that, they are actively conveying the opposite. That is my complaint.

  27. #87
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    Jesus is said to have taught with parables, such as "The Prodigal Son".
    He said so himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
    But then they turn around and treat Noah and Lot and Jesus walking on water and raising the dead as historical events.
    It's never said in the Bible that those are parables. (Although some prominent religious figures* have argued along those lines for other parts of the Bible.) Hence the controversy.

    * For instance, see the last paragraph of the section titled "True God vs. false gods".

    P.S. Perhaps I'm overstepping the forum's rules a bit here. But the point I hope I'm making is that sometimes people criticise religion without understanding it quite as much as they believe they do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Disinfo Agent View Post
    He said so himself.

    It's never said in the Bible that those are parables. (Although some prominent religious figures* have argued along those lines for other parts of the Bible.) Hence the controversy.

    * For instance, see the last paragraph of the section titled "True God vs. false gods".

    P.S. Perhaps I'm overstepping the forum's rules a bit here. But the point I hope I'm making is that sometimes people criticise religion without understanding it quite as much as they believe they do.
    The problem with that is that anyone who actually understands the historical sources behind the religions which is a number I can count on my fingers would find it ridiculous to actually believe any of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidW View Post
    The problem with that is that anyone who actually understands the historical sources behind the religions which is a number I can count on my fingers would find it ridiculous to actually believe any of them.
    I doubt that the author I alluded to above is unfamiliar with the historical sources of religious texts, but I also doubt he finds them ridiculous.

    That "historicist" argument is a kind of fallacy. If we always judged the worth of everything from its historical origins, then we should regard ourselves, who descend from bumbling apes, and ultimately from pond slime, as ridiculous too. Yet I suspect you don't normally think of yourself as essentially "ridiculous".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Disinfo Agent View Post
    If I've been understanding Ken well, he is arguing just the opposite: that all beliefs are not equal, and therefore it's a mistake to apply the same standards to all of them.
    Yes, this is precisely what I'm saying. Indeed, we tend to avoid the term "belief" in science, even though it certainly falls within many ways of defining that term, simply to underscore the different way that a belief is validated in science versus other pursuits. A belief in science doesn't count as a belief because it is objectively arrived at, via a method that leaves concrete tracks for all to see and has undergone and will undergo frequent testing. All of this speaks to the objectivity of science, and belief does not sound like an objective word. That makes perfect sense-- so why do so many people on this thread seem in a rush to apply objectivity to beliefs? It is the same circular reasoning I've been pointing out over and over-- if we restrict our attention to what can be established objectively and scientifically, then we cannot complain that religious beliefs fall outside that purvey, we can only address religious claims to objectivity. Religion makes poor science, but why shouldn't it? This is the question that none have offered a scientifically or even philosophically credible answer to. (It might even come as a challenge for the faithful to address!)

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