Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse has a very nice post about accommodationism.
The forces of darkness keep trying to suck me back into the debate, but I’ve said about everything I have to say on this topic. I will summarize my views one last time and move on:
1. I see faith and science as epistemically incompatible, though of course some religious people can accept evolution and some scientists can be religious. This cognitive dissonance does not, however, show anything more than that people can simultaneously hold in their heads two philosophically incompatible approaches to the world.
2. I think the National Center for Science Education and other scientific organizations should make no statements about the compatibility of science and religion. When they insist on this compatibility, they are engaging in theology. And if they must say something about compatibility, let them recognize that a large fraction of scientists see science and faith as incompatible.
3. I applaud religious people like Kenneth Miller when they fight against creationism, and I join them as an ally in that battle. But I reserve the right to criticize them when they try to maintain that both faith and science are valid ways of understanding the world.
4. I see no conclusive evidence that vocal atheism is forcing Americans to choose between science and religion, pushing them back into the creationist corner.
5. I think that, in the long run, the best way to rid our country of creationism — and, more important, of irrational views on many issues like stem cell research, condoms as preventors of HIV, and the like — is to diminish the hold of religion on America. I want Americans to become more rational, and I think that working for atheism is a good way to do it.
6. People like Dawkins and myself have two goals: diminishing the influence of faith, and helping people accept and see the wonders of evolution. There is no evidence (see #5) that these goals are inimical. But even if they were, that doesn’t mean that atheists should shut up. If, for example 5% of “waverers” were forced back to creationism by people like Dawkins (thus yielding “anecdotes” that can be trumpeted on the internet), that doesn’t mean that atheism has a deleterious rather than a salutary effect on accepting evolution. Similarly, if a godless country eliminates creationism entirely, that doesn’t mean that the interim retreat of religious “waverers” to creationism is a bad result. A godless America will be an America without creationism.
113 thoughts on “The debate that won’t die”
An admirably clear restatement of your position. It is surprising that it still seems to need restating. Surely, the points are clear and largely undebatable. If the religious want to believe that there is a compatibility between religion and science, then they must do so. So far, they haven’t, nor, I suspect, can they. So, this statement should be enough to lay the whole business to rest. Why then do I think that it won’t?!
I don’t think it does need restating. I think I’ve seen it stated often enough, I could have written the post for him.
If you feel that religious people don’t debate his points, especially those they have an interest in, I suspect you don’t spend much time on their websites. Religious people – with the exception of trolls and gluttons for abuse – don’t have much reason to tune in or comment on this web-site. But they are pretty active on a wide variety of websites of their own. And they are happy to debate the epistemological status of faith and its relationship to science. Some do it badly, some do it well. But you just about can’t get them to shut up about it. So, shop there.
Point number 1 is the one that isn’t just debatable, but I’m convinced wrong. And I’ve tried to show why a number of times here. A few people listen and engage with that debate. Many just say, “smijer, you’re so full of shit” over and over and over and over again, without ever addressing anything I say substantively.
But I feel I’ve done a good job showing that from a world-view (that I don’t accept for my own philosophical reasons, but that isn’t falsified or even falsifiable empirically) similar to the one held by most religious people, there is no fundamental conflict between scientific and religious reasoning. They are certainly as different as night and day in terms of how they work, but there is room for both to be applied without conflict – in fact room for both to be applied in a mutually reinforcing manner – under such a world view. I’ve done my best to show that, while certain classes of miracles claims must remain very problematic to anyone who fully embraces science, not all do. I’ve done my best to show that a person need not retreat to a rarefied deistic theology in order to retain an internally consistent set of beliefs that includes both science and religion.
And I haven’t seen satisfactory rebuttals to my positions.
Now, obviously, my reasoning may be different from that of a religious person, but they aren’t going to be spending much quality time on this web-site. And, if I am correct, then it doesn’t matter much that my reasoning is different. Point 1 either stands or falls on its own merits – not on the basis of whether the person who shows problems with it is a religious person or not.
Most Jerry’s other points are more sociological in nature… and while I feel that they are not as constructive as they might be, I don’t care to debate them extensively.
smijer, October 31, 2009 at 9:51 am:
All of the religious people I know belong to a religion which requires belief in miracles or other events which are in strong conflict with empirical observations. But more importantly, they believe that revelation is a way of knowing. That a notion which enters the mind through no obvious means, may have come from God, and therefor, is to be believed regardless of evidence to the contrary.
All of the religions which motivate creationism are of this sort. Most other religiously motivated anti-science is motivated by religions of this sort. And in America, where I live, it is the revelation-and-obviously-impossible-miracles religion which is highly vocal, and political powerful.
The vaguer sorts of religion, which have managed to define out all epistemic conflicts with science, are largely composed of people who are neither particularly vocal, nor politically important (where I live). If they were politically important – they would probably not cause enough problems to be worth opposing.
That is to say – the tiny subset of religions which have no epistemic conflict with science are nearly irrelevant. The primary crime of Dawkins, Hitchens, Coyne, etc, is that they have chosen to focus on relevant religions, and to ignore religious notions that represent little or no danger to science. That necessary strategic focus is why they are deemed so “strident”, and “militant”.
A SANE statement.
SANE, as in S(cientific), A(theistic), N(on-delusionary) E(volutionism).
It helps to have tenure to pursue 5 & 6. Civil rights violations endured by minorities will be felt (a la the Alan Turing effect) as we begin to secure a haven for secular reasoning. That’s why I’m applauding, as O’Reilly would say, “you guys” for clearing the path.
Oh, and Happy Samhain.
1. I see faith and science as epistemically incompatible, though of course some religious people can accept evolution and some scientists can be religious. This cognitive dissonance does not, however, show anything more than that people can simultaneously hold in their heads two philosophically incompatible approaches to the world.
Can you define what you mean by “epistemically incompatible.” That often gets used here essentially as a multi-syllabic empty signifier. What do you mean by incompatibility and is it the same as what the NCSE is talking about when they mention the topic and you get so worked up about it?
It would seem to me they might be talking about operational compatibility.
Akin to neurology vs. demonology.
ad 1: No need to drop cognitive dissonance — it is usually an empirical observation, not an assumption.
ad 2: There is a fundemantal logical incompatibility between a world-view that postulates criteria for its own falsifiability, and one that weasels itself out by suspending logical criteria where convenient.
I suggest you look up what it means.
At least that’s the beginning of an argument. Can you name the logical incompatibility between those two views, show how it operates, and explain why it is “fundamental”.
Also, can you drop the “where convenient”. That’s a subjective assessment of yours going to the motivations of the religious reasoner. It may often be true, but it’s not really relevant or objectively verifiable. Similarly, you’d be doing yourself a favor to drop emotionally charged words like “weasel” and substitute value neutral and applicable terms instead. For instance, a better phrase to discuss the metaphysical supernaturalists relationship with falsification: “reduces the viability of objective falsifiability criteria in favor of more arbitrary criteria that lack the reputation of the empirical mode”.
Yes, I could expostulate the logical incompatibility, but I don’t think it necessary: it is, at our level of discussion, self-evident.
It would be punching a dead mutton.
No, I wouldn’t be doing myself “a favor to drop emotionally charged words like ‘weasel’ and substitute value neutral and applicable terms instead”. This is a fast, live, informal exchange in a blog forum, not a treatise. “Weasel” for instance is not an emotionally charged word, it is just an informal term denoting expresssions that, whilst communicating a vague or ambiguous claim, create an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said. Maybe the signifié explains your emotionally charged reaction to the <signifiant ?
Why is “epistemologically incompatible” not clear? You cannot arrive at theistic/religious/supernatural conclusions by applying the scientific epistemology of observation + accurate logic; and you cannot arrive at accurate knowledge about the workings of the physical world by applying the religious epistemology of subjective revelation/reliance on tradition and the pronouncements of certain people and books.
Therefore, those who profess an acceptance of both “realities” must be applying two different epistemologies. This is the “incompatibility.”
It baffles me that this is somehow controversial.
Sven, if all “epistemologically incompatible” means is that there are two different epistemologies invoked for trying to understand reality that may be more complex than purely physical, then it’s clear but uncontroversial. It has no bearing I can see on the accommodation debate. Do you see one?
Maybe it means something else. But if it does, why not debate what it means on its own terms instead of substituting a catchphrase?
I wonder if anyone agrees with smijer’s self proclaimed “Aristotle of present day” status. I have certainly seen few substantive arguments from him.
It sure gave me a big laugh.
Hi Bob… ummm I imagine Aristotle had more than just you & Penford whose sole purpose in any discussion was to chest-beat and heckle. I certainly don’t identify with Aristotle.
But anyway… enjoy your heckling – you’re winning all kinds of admiration, I’m sure.
Its more than you deserve for your outrageous, unsubstantiated pronouncements. That is what causes me to laugh at you. You are the most negative person here. It appears you do not even try to understand what Jerry and other have posted.
NO! I am the most negative person here. I just haven’t thought of anything negative to say as yet. But I’ll think it up soon.
I skip over smijer, he’s a little too kwokian for my tastes.
That disappoints me. I don’t always read you fully, but I did actually bookmark one of your comments yesterday, because I thought you did a good job explaining materialism in a compelling way – in a way similar to my own understanding.
But anyway… at least you don’t feel compelled to snipe vacuously every time you see my name in a thread. That’s nice.
Shoot– now I feel guilty.
Well, I know you you think and have shown that faith can be compatible if you believe there can be miracles.
I just think it’s a lousy argument, because it can be used by most any woo to promote almost any notion. I have been a person who has been fooled by these manipulations. I think they involve very fuzzy logic, and I don’t want to be a part of such a lie. And it is a lie to me.
Yes, there are some “compatible” religions, but you aren’t saying the second part… that these beliefs are as compatable as demon beliefs, and no one really wants to be a part of promoting demon belief in others. It’s… wrong. And no god is more “scientifically compatible” than any proposed demon or gremlin or hobgoblin. You know it. I know it.
Yet, to me, it’s obvious that you cannot foster belief in one, without equally supporting a belief in all such entities. Science does not make Francis Collins’ god more likely than the hijacker’s god on 9-11. It does not make Jesus any more real than real witches that need real punishment, damnation, or exorcism.
You can’t apologize for Francis Collins’ god (who gives him signs in waterfalls) on one hand while dismissing other peoples’ messages from their gods as crazy.
Both messages are equally compatible scientifically… or, rather, equally unscientific. EQUALLY.
You are so busy arguing one brand of belief (Christianity lite), that you seem to miss what your arguments can be extrapolated to justify –while putting down those who want no part of enabling such manipulative lies.
articulett… it isn’t because I’m not interested in the rest of the debate.
And I’m generally sympathetic with the notion that less supernaturalism is better and no supernaturalism is best.
And under certain circumstances I advocate that view in internet debates or private conversation.
Now for the “buts”
1) I think that arguing against accommodationism weakens the atheistic argument and weakens the argument in favor of science. I think that because I think the argument from “incompatibility” is fundamentally incorrect. And pushing an incorrect view as part of an argument diminishes the argument – at least in the minds of those who hear it, if not in terms of the strict rules of logic.
2. I do want to be careful about throwing out babies with bathwater. Although I can’t think of a single thing about *supernaturalism* that is positive, I think that there may be merit to religion as a cultural institution, as a set of attitudes, or as a set of mutual familial relationships that are positive. So, when I address the problems I have with religion, I try to use a scalpel more than a hammer.
3. I’m inclined to believe that human nature is such that supernaturalism will never be entirely eliminated. As such, I try to find options for diminishing its negative impact. And a program where it is tolerated but embarrassing *except and unless it is consistent with science* seems to be constructive in that regard. As does a program where it is tolerated but subservient to rational *ethics*. An argument I often make is something along the lines of “believe in God if you want to, but don’t you think it’s blasphemous to attribute to God a stance which is morally inferior?”
So that’s me… tell me about you… 🙂
smijer, “believe in God if you want to, but don’t you think it’s blasphemous to attribute to God a stance which is morally inferior?” is a flawed argument, because “morally inferior” implies a scale of moral absolutes to which a preupposed God ought to relate. “Blasphemous” presupposes that said God would give a hoot about our thoughts and utterances. Now, thats exactly the kind of slippery dangling proposition you’re sliding towards if you try to accomodate the accomodationist stance.
Occam, that argument is a tad more subtle than you give it credit for. It allows the belief that God’s absolutes are irreproachable – for the sake of argument – but advocates against imputing to God bad morals. So you are not arguing against the infallible God, but against the fallible person who claims to speak for him. And your argument is that they are blasphemously attributing immoral stances to the God they suppose is perfect.
Such a proposition can be effective in getting people to rethink how they approach ethical reasoning.
No, my point is that they would claim that a presupposed God’s moral absolutes were theirs.
I agree with your aim, I even admire your method, but I question the petitio principi.
It would have thought the concept of epistemologically incompatibility would be clear by now. It has been explained enough times by Coyne, Rosenhouse, Dawkins and others.
I will provide an example.
Many religious people believe in the literal truth of the virgin birth of Jesus. They genuinely believe that Jesus did not have a biological father and they hold this belief because of their interpretation of the Bible.
Biologists tell us that parthenogenesis, virgin birth, does not happen in mammals. They also point out that even if it did the offspring would be female, not male. There is a not a single recorded case of a female mammal giving birth without having been inseminated.
For people who claim that science and religion are epistemologically compatible this presents a major problem. If both religion and science are ways of arriving at the truth then the fact they arrive at different truths is troubling. There cannot be two versions of reality, incompatible with each other, that are equally valid.
And yet, many religious people don’t believe in the biological parthenogenesis of Jesus. Just about any educated religious person doesn’t believe that parthenogenesis is biologically possible.
You are confused by the similarity of the notion of a supernatural virgin birth and a very superficially similar notion of a natural case of parthenogenesis. That confusion causes you to misunderstand the religious epistemology, and find “conflicting findings” where none actually exist.
There are huge number of Christians though who do believe in the literal truth of the virgin birth.
You just seem to be unwilling to accept that fact.
Religions make all kinds of empirical claims. Virgin birth is only one example. The Catholic Church for example if pretty clear that that miracles happen. It even makes those who perform them into Saints. Miracles are also incompatible with science.
In fact any kind of deity who intervenes in the Universe is compatible with science. And how many religion people believe their god is an impotent deity unable to do a thing ?
Please go back & re-read my comment. Yes, there are a huge number of Christians who believe in the literal truth of the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus.
*And you think they believe something else*
You think they believe in the biological, natural, parthenogenesis of Jesus.
And they don’t. You are confused by a very superficial similarity between what whiptail lizards do naturally and what Christians think the Holy Spirit did supernaturally through Mary.
Just think about it for a minute. Do you *really* think that religious people think that parthenogenesis is biologically possible for humans? Have you ever asked one of them? I bet you’d have a hard time finding a Southern Baptist preacher who would cop to believing that.
Religious people also don’t believe that water has enough surface tension to support the pressure exerted by the weight of an adult human male over the surface area of his feet.
They do believe that Jesus walked on the water.
So, they are right in their belief that you can’t walk on water. They may be wrong in their belief that Jesus did anyway, miraculously, but it isn’t in conflict with their belief that it is physically impossible.
When you understand the religious belief – then you can start finding where it actually *does* conflict with science. It is more rare than you might imagine.
Every single claim for a miracle conflicts with science.
There are many religious people who believe that miracles happen. SO please stop being disingenuous in claiming they do not.
I notice this is another trick you use to avoid dealing with issues to which you have no answer. The other is that patronising way you have of asking a person how they are rather than reply to them. It is just plain rude of you to do that. Being honest and admitting you have no answer would be better, but that would require that you were an honest person.
He’s trying to tell you it was a MIRACLE… not parthenogenesis… and that, since it was a miracle, it is not amenable to the study of science… which, to the apologist, makes it’ “compatible” with science.
Of course, anyone can claim any past even was a miracle and thus not amenable to the scientific study because it is unfalsifiable. We’d never be able to solve a crime if we assumed it happened miraculously– for example, we’d never find a missing child if we just assumed that the child could miraculously vanish the way Jesus apparently did after his resurrection. So even religionists don’t use this definition of “compatible” except when it comes to the magical things they feel special for “believing in”.
This is what we incompatiblists want no part of enabling.
Technically smijer is correct, but he’s correct in the same way as a Scientologist would be correct in saying that their viewpoint was compatible with science… or an astrologer. All unfalsifiable claims are compatible with science in that science can’t prove that a miracle did not happen. We can only say that we have no evidence that a supernatural event ever actually occurred. It’s a word game that faitheists play to pretend that religious faith is compatible without acknowledging that it is no more compatible than belief in gremlins. (Faitheists are as adept at lying to themselves as hard core theists… they are just peeved that we won’t join in.)
Religionists don’t give credence to the conflicting beliefs of others when argued using similar “miracle” claims, so they ought to understand why honest scientists don’t give special deference to their brand of unfalsifiable “magic”.
We’re making the same argument they’d be making if someone else was trying to bamboozle them with similar claims (magical robes on the proverbial emperor, for example.*
*This, of course, assumes that they would be smart enough to make such arguments despite the fuzzy headedness from years of defending the faith.
You’re getting a little ahead of me there articulett. Yes – you get the point – it is a “miracle”, not a contradiction of the scientific truth that humans can’t give virgin birth, which every Christian acknowledges.
You go a little further, arguing a materialist case (and assuming I would disagree with the materialist case, when in fact, we’re kind of on the same page there)…
But in the accommodationism debate, what is important is whether a person whose world-view includes both the natural and supernatural can create an internally consistent program where they acknowledge the results of science and apply them rigorously and in agreement with any important experiment or observation done today leads them on the questions it directly addresses. In other words a “creationist” accommodationism isn’t – it really comes to different answers than science. And so does the scientologist program. And anything that invalidates forensic evidence. But the believer isn’t obliged to see the world through the lens of the creationist or the scientologist, or to believe that forensic evidence is invalidated.
So, while you and I might still poke holes in their world-view or in the non-scientific aspects of an accommodated set of epistemologies – we cannot quite claim that they do not hold an internally consistent framework under which God – being the source of natural law – could have impregnated Mary supernatually – while still fully accepting the force of the scientific truth about parthenogenesis.
For that, we actually have to find real and necessary internal contradictions. And that’s easy to do for creationists. It’s not as easy for more intelligent believers.
It is a miracle that contradicts everything we know about reproduction.
It is thus incompatible with science. Science does not accept miracles happen.
Really ? You seem to a give a lot of credence to the idea religion can make true factual claims that contradict our scientific understanding.
Accepting that science is the best way we have of understanding how the Universe works, indeed the only way that we have that produces useful results is not compatible wit ha worldview that allows miracles to happen. The two are simply not consistent.
We can claim exactly that. Believing that Mary was supernaturally impregnated is incompatible with a scientific worldview.
It is easy for any believer that believes their god intervenes in the Universe.
It cannot be done for those who do not believe their god intervenes, but then no one has been claiming that.
Matt, I’m going to apologize for responding to so little of what you wrote about my comment to articulett. I just don’t think there’s much hope for you & I not to talk past one another. I will reflect on what you’ve said & see if I’ve missed your meaning somewhere & maybe you can do the same for me. And if you think of something constructive to add, please do – and I will do the same.
I will respond to this part only:
The fact that it’s a miracle indicates that it *acknowledges* what we know about reproduction. In other words – it is special simply because it doesn’t follow the rules of nature as we know them.
Now for materialists, that’s about enough to rule it out.
For supernaturalists, it is a question of whether it is believed that science is contradicted, or whether science is whole but God is able to transcend it. For Christians – with regard to the virgin birth – it is totally the latter.
For an analogy, pretend you are a very good computer programmer, and you have studied the code of a system and understand it thoroughly. It is written such that some block of memory *always* contains one of two variables. And now pretend someone claims that the sysop/programmer has a line-by-line debugger and is able to manually change that block of memory and did once. Would you claim that this was “incompatible” with the programming language & code?
What Jason Rosenhouse said.
And I would add:
It feels dishonest to pretend that faith is a means of knowledge; religion is the number one promoter of this lie.
Religion encourages people to feel humble for having very arrogant beliefs about their place in the universe as well as ennobled for regarding silly assertions about “divine knowledge” or “mystical messages”. It enables and ennobles fuzzy thinking and makes minds that are ripe to the influence of so many charletans.
Moreover, many religions insinuate that you are punished forever for not believing a most unbelievable tale. They are actively forcing people to be gullible and not ask questions! How much more manipulative can a meme be?
Religionists are forever asking for deference and privileges they’d never grant to those of conflicting faiths. They promote liars and spread distrust in those who offer actual evidence for really inspiring truths. And they do this all while imagining they are achieving some higher goal? What honest human would want that for another human? How is accommodating that any different than accommodating those making exclamations about the wonders of the proverbial emperor’s magical robes?
I do wish the faitheists would focus their attentions on the more irksome of their own ilk as well as the truly strident promoters of faith (Fred Phelps) rather trying to silence the people I want to hear more from.
I will happily cop to not bein’ no philostopher. Maybe that’s why I just don’t grok the controversy. If everything I believe about “reality” comes from applying epistemology A, except that I also insist on believing something that requires me to use epistomology B instead, then those epistemologies seem to me incompatible. *shrug*
Well, that’s a fine position… but it’s a lot more economical and less confusing to say “I’m a materialist”. In other words, you believe that all reality is physical (or natural) and, since science is the best way to understand the natural – and because it only works assuming the general regularity of nature, then the scientific epistemology is good enough for everything. You have no need of other.
If, on the other hand, someone believes that physical nature is only part of “reality” – but they understand that science is still the best & only way to understand physical nature, then they would be well served to adopt an epistemology that is consistent with science when applied to empirical observations we can make today, but that perhaps has room for other ways of understanding the “rest” of reality.
So, if you want to show that doing so is a self-defeating task, then go ahead & do it if you can. I just feel like it’s unproductive to throw in a term like “epistemologically incompatible” to give an appearance that it is already well established that such a program is self-defeating. Because that debate is the one that’s really on-going… and it certainly hasn’t been settled in favor of the proposition that accommodation is necessarily self-contradictory.
Can you offer a reason why no accomodationist has been able to offer a refutation to claims of epistemologically incompatibility ?
Rosenau just plain refuses to do so. Mooney says it is an interesting question but then ignores it. Kirshembaum has not once even acknowledge that there is any kind of debate going on. You have kind tried, but given you have to start claiming that belief in miracles does not conflict with the scientific method, I would have to say you failed.
Oh, I would add the reasoning Rob Knopp uses, which is that if miracles are infrequent enough they can be ignored.
I asked him how he would stop someone claiming the fact the Earth was created 6000 years, with the appearance of age was a miracle that could be ignored. He did not reply.
As discussed elsewhere in this thread, claims of “epistemologic incompatibility” are kind of fuzzily defined. Either they are trivial statements of the difference between different sorts of epistemology – which no one disputes, and which has no impact on the debate at hand… or they are less than that – just a catchphrase used as a substitute for argument. Throw out the catch word, make an argument. If it has merit, I will try to acknowledge it. If I see a problem with it, I will try to show where I believe the error lies.
And I won’t speak for Rosenau, Mooney, Kirshembaum, or Rob Knopp. I only read two of those guys, and I’ll let them make their arguments in their own way. If you disagree with me, then talk to me about my arguments, not theirs.
Explain how belief in miracles is compatible with the scientific method.
I’ll instead explain how belief in miracles is compatible with the acceptance of the scientific method.
Michael believes that the scientific method is the best way for understanding nature, and he believes that nature exists because it was created by a God who is capable of overriding the rules of nature. He therefore believes consistently that the rules of nature apply, but that they are not coterminous with reality, and that miracles are possible due to the influence of God who is not subject to rules of nature, but to whom the rules of nature are subject.
He therefore can justifiably accept the methodology of science for understanding nature, without presuming that the same methodology will work for all of reality, which includes a God which is not subject to nature.
No, you have not done what you said you were going to do.
Science does not come with an opt-out clause that says most of the times things follow the rules but sometimes they don’t.
It is really quite simple. If you think the rules by which the Universe works then you have a problem with the scientific method.
Now, I would ask you actually do what you said you were going to do.
Arguments about the proper domain of science do not entail the details of the method. Full faith in the methods of science for the domain of the natural does not require faith in the methods of science for other domains of reality.
The “rules of science” need not acknowledge the boundaries of science’s usefulness, as the task of science is not to define itself, but to understand nature.
Unless you can justify the notion that science must specify how it is to be applied and in what domains, then your argument fails, and mine stands.
“Other domains of reality” ?
Reality is what science can investigate. If science cannot investigate then it ain’t reality.
Science is a methodology, so the methods by which science works are entirely germane in discussions of what science can investigate.
I though you might have something interesting to contribute. Instead you just decide that science can after all allow for “goddidit” as an answer.
Just so I am totally clear, there is no option in science for suspending the rules by which the Universe works. If a person has a methodology that does, then no matter how it otherwise resembles science, it is not science.
So again, do you what you promised you would do. As it is you only get your compatibility by changing the scientific method. You cannot do that.
Those are the assumptions of materialism.
OF COURSE if you assume materialism then 1) religion is wrong and 2) it is incompatible with science.
But you can’t prove incompatibility by assuming materialism.
That’s like proving no fingers on the left hand by assuming no left hand.
You have to back up a little bit and acknowledge that there are world views under which it isn’t true that “if science cannot investigate then it ain’t reality.”
There are world views in which the natural world is only part of reality.
If you can’t show that science and religion are mutually exclusive under *that* kind of world view, … or – a much bigger task – prove conclusively that your world-view is correct and the supernaturalistic world-view is incorrect… without the circularity of saying that science doesn’t support the supernaturalistic world-view – then you haven’t argued against accommodationism.
You haven’t argued anything at all.
You have just said “I am a materialist”. And I already knew that. I don’t care if you’re a materialist. I’m *glad* you’re a materialist. But no non-materialist is compelled by your logic to accept that religion & science are incompatible. No one who even has the self-awareness to be a materialist & realize that it is philosophical position that could be wrong will be compelled by your logic to accept that religion & science are incompatible.
If all you can add is “I don’t believe there is anything supernatural, and if I’m right then science & religion are incompatible” then why bother?
That is correct, and many of those worldviews are in conflict, especially those of the various religions. So which one is in fact true? And what method might we use to determine that? The point about science’s epistemology is that it provides a way of arbitrating among different theories of reality using objective evidence. Religious epistemologies do not — there is no way to determine their truth. They are, in essence, undecidable, and that makes them practically nonsense.
You need to take care that you don’t take a position with consequences you don’t accept. For instance, I don’t see how what you say about miracles couldn’t be equally applied to the claim that we are all in the Matrix, or that the world was created last Tuesday, or that I am hallucinating the entire Universe. If a position leads to accepting those views, I take that as a reductio ad absurdum.
There are several reasons why I think science and religion are philosophically, but of course not psychologicall, incompatible.
1.) The world science is revealing to us is profoundly impersonal. This directly contradicts the notion that everything begins with personality.
2.) Religion treats personal qualities as if they constitute the ultimate reality. Quite the opposite, evolution tells us a thing or two about how what we call “personality” comes into existence. It does not exist sui generis in the Platonic ether. It evolves from previous states. It is not simple–it’s complex. Thus, Aquinas’ argument that God is both personal and ultimately simple appears to be contradictory.
3.) Religion does not have any epistemology at all. It is not in any way, shape or form a way of knowing. It is a byproduct of human psychology, reinforced by cultural forces. People believe religion because it organizes their personal lives and bolsters their value systems, not because it’s true or rational.
4.) Science has left no room for a personal God to act. Even the so-called “religious experience”, James’s favorite example, is quickly yielding to neurological study and revealing a material basis in the brain. There really isn’t anything particularly religious which can’t be explained on a material basis.
5.) This has always stood out to me: If there really were a loving, personal God controlling the universe, there would be no need for religion, no need for faith, no need for mushy-minded pseudo-epistemologies which consist of nothing but excuses for why there’s never any evidence for the supernatural. Religion, with all it’s impossible promises and its insistence on acceptance without evidence, is just the kind of thing you would expect a lonely, isolated species living in a coldly impersonal world to create.
The bathwater is dirty and there is no baby in it.
And that is what makes it incompatible.
And that is what makes it incompatible.
Absolutely. That makes it incompatible and a hack job.
There fixed that four you. It is quite simple.
You believe the notion that you understand the code is incompatible with the notion that someone interfered with the code at some point in the past to make a result the code couldn’t have otherwise produced. So, if those notions are incompatible, which do you reject?
It makes it incompatible with the programming language. Otherwise one could say that if the sysop brought in a nuclear bomb and destroyed the computer and the city then that would also be compatible. But miracles are not a sysop/programmer. They are figments of imagination. they are ‘what ifs”, mental masturbations. They belong in literature, not in science.
In the sense that the existence of a programmer and the existence of that code and language cannot both be believed consistently and coherently by the same person? Seriously? So, which would you reject in that situation?
Wow, you twist what is said until it is not even close to being in the same universe as what I stated. The existence of? Are you serious or just plain malicious?
What you just commented is so bad it is not even wrong.
The action of the programmer then – if “existencse” shocks your senses so badly…
Seriously… what does “incompatible” mean to you, and why is it important?
Plainly spoken – yes or no – do you believe that a person would have to “compartmentalize” or “have cognitive dissonance” or be “inconsistent” to believe both firmly in the programming language/code, and in the fact that a person using a debugger altered a result?
If you don’t believe that, then what the hell do you mean by saying “it’s incompatible with the programming language” and why the hell should anyone care about this type of “incompatibility”?
Compartmentalization is not the issue here at all, as explained to you by nearly everyone, starting with Jerry, PZ, Rosenhouse, Bensen, etc. etc. etc.
You continue to turn the discussions here into irrelevant issues.
Then can you answer in what relevant sense the action of that programmer is incompatible with the understanding of the software?
Can you make a meaningful sentence about what that sort of incompatibility means and why anyone should care?
That, I think, is one reason why many do not agree with you on “accommodationism” or what the NCSE position should be. You’re veering off into territory that isn’t strictly relevant to science when you’re targeting political issues like stem cells.
Perhaps you’re right to do so for yourself, but the NCSE is about teaching science, not changing perspectives on moral/political issues like stem cell research.
Your fight with “accommodationists” is driven at least in part by non-scientific considerations, and whatever faults the NCSE has in its agenda, at least they’re not mixing up their drive for good science with the kind of political/religious/social views held by yourself.
The accommodationist side gives me the icky feeling I get when someone asks me to cover for them in a lie.
If a friend asked me to cover for them (him/her) because they had told their spouse they were helping me with a project while they were actually cheating on their spouse, — they have put me in a weird position. If the spouse never calls, I never have to choose whether to lie, but I am suddenly in on a secret I want no part of and I’m in the position of deciding whom to reveal what information to. If the spouse asks me point blank whether I think “so and so” is cheating on them, then I have to choose whether to be the messenger of hard news or to save a persons’ feelings via semantic flummery.
In many ways, the faitheist position feels like they are putting an incompatabilist (like myself) in the position of having to cover for a lie. I don’t want to have to tell someone that I think their god is as much of a delusion as Greek mythological gods, but I don’t want to be put in the position of pretending that their* belief is more respectable than other peoples’ myths either.
*I’m using “their” as a pronoun shortcut for a gender neutral reference to “one” instead of “his or her”.
The computer programmer obviously has to assume certain invariants about the programming environment in order to reason about a program. One of these invariants is that other processes don’t alter memory locations. In fact, this is why it is extremely difficult to reason about parallel algorithms with shared memory.
Your analogy seems to fully support the assertion that science and religion is incompatible. Program verification would be useless if you had to include the possibility of external processes modifying memory – especially if you cannot reason about these processes.
Yet such processes do exist, and programmers cope, to varying degrees. One “reasoning” about the processes that helps is similar to religious reasoning: that the other programmer (or God) who one day re-wrote a chunk of memory for some special reason is trustworthy, and won’t go doing it in the middle of the subroutine you’re analyzing for no good reason.
And this is a real situation that really exists. I’m not arguing for the reality of God – quite the contrary – just for the position that, similar to this real life position – the existence of God (or belief in same) doesn’t necessarily muddle science. It only does if it’s held unskillfully.
These analogies are so far off base. They do not even prove themselves. Coping is not compatibility.
No, the existence of God (or belief in same) does NOT muddle science, but science shows how religion/god.belief is all muddled up by itself with nothing to base itself on except nonsense and fantasy and mental masturbation that has very little use and can often be very damaging.
You could use the faitheist argument to justify the notion that virgin volcano sacrifices COULD have aided crop growth.
We can’t prove that it didn’t. And if there was a god, maybe he’d want to reward his creations for their sacrifices on his behalf, right? Whose to say which miracles did and didn’t happen. And if miracles can happen, whose to say that any such particular unfalsifiable event did not?
This is the tricky ground the faitheist walks on. They are making an argument that could be used to justify insane notions– such as virgin sacrifices or exorcism of demons.
It irks me when people use an argument to support a belief that they WANT to be true, though they’d never allow such an argument to be applied to something they KNOW is false.
Standards of evidence shouldn’t changed based on how likable a proposition is.
If a believer in something wacky can use an argument to justify their insane belief, then the argument, itself, is problematic.
Yet, that is the position of all religionists and all their faitheist supporters, isn’t it? Unfalsifiable = “scientifically compatible”. (?)
Francis Collins thinks that god really sent him a sign, but he believes that people that have similar “signs” (and similar certainty) but different faiths (Muslims, Pentacostals, Mormons, Scientologists, etc.) are deceived.
Of course, he thinks HE is not vulnerable to such deception.
It’s just so– arrogant! Yet such people imagine themselves humble while calling us arrogant. How much more arrogant can one be then to imagine that the invisible creator of the universe is sending him personal signals and “insider information” to “higher truths”? And why would a faitheist choose this side to defend in regards to epistemology?
Whatever the “fatheist” argument might be, you cannot use the accommodationist argument to justify that notion. You could use the accommodationist argument to show that it isn’t strictly incompatible with science. Which is true. But you couldn’t justify the notion that it could have via any of the standard accommodationist arguments.
I think you are making an argument against supernaturalism more so than against accommodationism. And as such, you have some good points against supernaturalism.
Which reminds me of Ambrose Bierce’s definition:
To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
ok, people, if you’ve posted more than five comments on this thread, please stop. I don’t want this website to turn into a forum where one or two people dominate a thread with uninformative back and forths.
Do respect my request. No more posts if you’ve done more than three.
Well, I can. Because you guys have no idea what you are talking about. How can anyone refute a claim that never gets made because it is self evident, or only gets made in dribs and drabs with local examples.
If you’d like someone to have a go at refuting it, I’ll do it, but first SOMEONE has to make a systematic statement of what is to be refuted, defining a) religion; b) science; and c) the meaning of “epistemological incompatibility” afayk, in plain language and d) the particulars of this incompatibility.
“Epistemically incompatible”, as used by non-accommodationists, means that religion makes truth claims and that science also makes truth claims (albeit provisional ones) AND that former set truth claims is inconsistent with the latter, unless the former set is very “thinned out” (as in highly liberal forms of religion or something like 18th century deism).
Those of us who object to the unqualified claim that “religion and science are compatible” have spelled out, again and again, that it is highly misleading, since it appears to deny more complicated actual situation, which is as per the previous paragraph.
Ugh, missing a couple of definite articles there.
Isn’t the thinned out version of religion enough to refute the claims of fundamental incompatibility–for instance I know a Presbyterian minister who believes in absolutely no material/supernatural manifestations of God.
In what way would his beliefs be epistemologically incompatible?
So the Presbyterian minister does not believe in a virgin birth, resurrection, the deity of Jesus, the holy ghost, wine turning into blood, crackers into a body, etc. etc?
If so, then we welcome him into the rational world of non-belief. Why is he a minister?
He must have his reasons for being a minister. Obviously his notion of religious belief differs from yours.
Russell, I respect your input highly, but I must disagree with you here. “Epistemically incompatibility” means more than an incompatibility between specific claims, it means an incompatibility between methodologies. Indeed, most of the accomodationists who don’t really understand the dispute assume that this is only about specific claims, like YEC. If a religious assertion of fact doesn’t contradict a finding of science, then it should be cool, right? No, it isn’t.
If you can’t use science to arrive at a conclusion, then that conclusion is not compatible with science. (Note that this only applies to objective facts about external reality, not subjective claims like what music is the best or whether or not your parents love you. Counter-arguments attempting to blur this distinction will be dismissed.)
Science is a method of applied skepticism which doesn’t rule anything out a priori, but it does require all assertions to pass a series of hurdles before it can qualify as knowledge. Hypotheses are subjected to a battery of tests. A discernible pattern must emerge during observations. And, because we all inhabit the same reality, one’s findings and conclusions must be verifiable by separate minds. This is how truth is sussed out of infinite possibilities. The success of this method is undeniable, but it’s also a non-negotiable contract.
You don’t ever get to turn science “off” when it doesn’t support your favorite hypothesis. Like Chinese finger-cuffs, once you agree to abide by the rules of science, you’re locked in. If a premise–any premise–fails to pass scientific muster, then it must be rejected until such time as it can pass (if ever). This is essential to maintaining the integrity of the method. There can be no special exemptions.
Some theists have tried to place artificial constraints on the scientific method in order to get around its inflexible rules, for instance by claiming that science only applies to material processes and is insufficient for grappling with the supernatural. But this is fallacious special pleading. Science doesn’t care whether you are investigating magnetism or faeries, sun spots or leprechauns, X-rays or Yahweh. All it cares about is whether the premises pass the hurdles. If they do, they’re in. If not, they’re out.
So far, science has returned negative answers on all metaphysical assertions, and there’s no reason to believe these result to be inaccurate. Any intellectually honest person must conclude “these premises fail and should be rejected.” So anyone applying science consistently and appropriately would be forced to reject metaphysical assumptions. It’s as simple as that. Atheism is the only conclusion “compatible” with science. Everything else must be dishonestly shoehorned in using some arbitrary exception to the rules. So “faith” constitutes a rejection of a negative answer one doesn’t want to accept.
Of course, plenty of individuals fail to accept the results of science on matters concerning their religious beliefs, even while accepting the results of science in every other case. This can only be accomplished by being intellectually dishonest. Science itself offers no “out” for people who wish to cheat the system in this manner.
So for smijer and Oran and everyone else who keeps asking where the conflict lies, it’s in this. Science is a jealous mistress. She demands 100% faithfulness. You can’t cheat around on Sundays and pretend she doesn’t care, because she does. Science demands that unevidenced claims be rejected. Because once an exception is made for one faith claim, then the door is open for all faith claims, and the entire scientific method crumbles apart. Faith is not just incompatible with science, it completely undermines it.
The only way to be an intellectually honest person of faith is to reject science entirely. Accomodationism is not an acceptable compromise.
Well put, H. H. You ‘disagreed’ with Russell Blackford by extending his reasoning.
My favorite part is your paragraph containing:
For some reason none of my posts are showing up. I had two yesterday and one in this thread today that never appeared. My last one didn’t even have any links in it. The heck?
The thinned out version does not “prove that there is no fundamental incompatibility”.
It merely proves exactly what we have ALWAYS said, that it is simplistic to say that “religion and science are compatible”. We have ALWAYS said that a sufficiently thinned out (or enlightened) version of religion can be compatible with science. Jerry says this in his book, and I’ve said it again and again on my blog. We have since gone to great trouble to explain the nuances of our position. We’ve explained at length that what we are talking about is the inevitability of this kind of “thinning” of religion if it is to maintain a compatibility with science as science tells us more and more about the world.
Of course, it could have been otherwise: it could have been that one or other “thick”, literal kind of religion has a whole lot of truths that science keeps confirming. It could have been that revelation is a “way of knowing” that produces “thick” claims which complement those emerging from scientific investigation. But it’s worth noting that that’s not how it’s turned out. Speaking historically (and tenselessly) religion encounters science, and is only able to maintain a consistency with what we know about ourselves and the universe by undergoing the thinning process.
Jerry and I are, precisely, pointing out this phenomenon of enlightened religion thinning out over time in its epistemic content. We are not denying that it happens.
It’s our opponents who want to say, simplistically, “Religious and science are compatible.” We say that that statement, expressed so simply, is false. But we have never denied that SOME, sufficiently thinned out, religion can be compatible (at a given time in history) with well-established science. That’s exactly what we’ve been arguing all year. Even when we word it by saying that there is an epistemic incompatibility between religion and science we often qualify by this by adding that we are not talking about any possible religious position, no matter how epistemically thinned out, or even totally non-literalist, it becomes.
Will you please give us credit that we are saying something nuanced, that we’ve explained it again and again, and that our actual position has never been refuted? It’s people like Mooney who keep attributing to us an unnuanced view that we’ve never put.
Unfortunately, highly simplistic and inaccurate statements keep appearing in the official policies of organisations that should know better. As long as that happens, I’m sure we’ll keep pointing it out. Given that these issues are controversial, and that the truth of it is quite complex, it would be better if those organisations did not have official policies on whether and how and to what extent religion (of one kind or another) and science are compatible.
Whoops, that was in response to Oran Kelly, not to HH.
Talking about debates and evolution itself, can the human being alter or accelerate the evolutionary process with new ideas and new discoveries?
Greetings from Guatemala!
Yes. (More or less, depending what you’re asking) – not new ideas or discoveries by themselves, but what we do with them. For example, we’ve gotten so good at hunting and fishing – due to technology, organization, etc. – that we’ve inadvertently selected, in a bunch of species, for small size and rapid reproductive maturity – and it seems to be happening extremely quickly, too.
Also, the development of agriculture and settled life seems to have selected for various things in people – lactose tolerance being one big one -not to mention the evolutionary process of plant and animal domestication.
Religious beliefs which make no practical claims are not incompatible with science, and conversely. However, the assertion that the supernatural and natural realms are strictly disjoint is not an assumption that science makes, or that all scientists make.
Newton thought that God might need to intervene to keep the planets in their orbits. When Laplace worked out their orbital mechanics he found that he had no need of that hypothesis. Darwin came to the same conclusion with respect to our incompetent Designer.
You’re welcome to worship a god who doesn’t make any difference, whose prayers are never answered, who is not the Higgs boson of morality, imparting good or evil to various acts. You cannot, however, escape your human immersion, depending on your habitat, in puddles, ponds, brooks, streams, rivers, seas and oceans of opprobrium and compassion, rivalry, revelry, liberty and ribaldry. Happy Samhain.
II. It’s possible, even common, to be simultaneously atheist, pagan and Christian, especially around holidays.
Actually, I don’t agree that science and religion must be methodologically incompatible, and I’ve never meant any such thing when I talk about epistemic incompatibility. When I talk about epistemic incompatibility I mean that they both make claims to certain kinds of knowledge, but that these knowledge claims (or truth claims) do not cohere. The more we build up a robust scientific picture of the world, the less plausible any pre-scientific religious picture of the world becomes. They can’t be talking about the same world.
Religion must then thin out (perhaps becoming just deism plus ritual) or put itself in plain opposition to well-established facts, as with some kinds of fundamentalism.
Sure, the claims of religion and science are made on the basis of different methodologies, but what is often missed is that the methodologies could have been compatible, as far as someone living in, say, 1600 could know. E.g., it might have turned out that the world really did come into existence in 4000 BC, that the Grand Canyon really was caused by a great flood, that there was an Egyptian captivity of the Jews, etc. None of those claims are incoherent; they are just wrong.
If we were getting religious claims from a supernatural intelligence, science would be filling in details that revelation had given us correctly. There’s no reason for someone in 1600 AD to think in advance that the two “ways of knowing” will reachg incompatible outcomes. If God existed and gave us revelations, then the two methodologies should give complementary results. The fact that they don’t, when they could have, is a good reason to think that religion is a human construction, not something divinely ordained.
Russel, I love this comment. It puts into words what I didn’t realise I was starting to think myself. Thanks very much.
One thing though: isn’t this compatible with smijer’s view that “there is no fundamental conflict between scientific and religious reasoning”, which seems to get him dumped on quite a bit here?
I would say that science (defined as knowledge arrived at by means of the scientific method) and religion (defined as knowledge arrived at through claimed supernatural revelation) are incompatible for several reasons.
1. They can arrive at opposite conclusions. They don’t always, but the fact that they do at all means their ways of finding things out can give opposite answers. If they can give different answers to the same questions they, must, by definition, be incompatible ways of finding things out. If they were compatible then they would give the same answers to the same questions. The fact that some people avoid applying religion to questions that science has answers for is simply a practical matter. It does not change the fact that they could apply religion if they wanted, and if they did there is a strong chance the answers would be different.
For example, Euclidian and spherical geometry are incompatible geometries, they give different answers to the same questions (like the sum of the angles in a triangle). Generally speaking people use one geometry for one set of tasks and another geometry for another set of tasks. That does not make them compatible, it just means people try to work around the incompatibilities.
2. Science is based on the assumption that there is a single reality that all people share. But different religions give contradictory answers to the same questions and provides no way to tell which is better. This means that either religion is useless for answering questions, which means it is not a valid epistemology at all, or else reality is different for different people, which contradicts directly with the basic assumption of science.
For instance on the question of the age of the Earth, major religions gives answers ranging from “infinite” to “6000 years”. Therefore, either the Earth has different ages for different people, or the answers religion gives are useless. No known religion gave the correct answer, which is about 4.5 billion.
3. In science you cannot consider something to be true unless there is evidence backing it up, and rejects the notion that humans can ever arrive at an absolute, unquestionable truth. Religion has the opposite opinion on both matters.
If anyone objects to my example in point 2, I challenge them to give me a single example of something that all religions agree upon. I don’t see how you can possible call something a valid epistemology if it cannot give even a single consistent answer.
My two cents on the question of the incompatibility of science and religion depends on a strict definition of both science and religion.
Science is defined as the method we use to determine whether an idea about the natural world is incorrect.
Religion is defined as theistic beliefs based on revelation of information from a supernatural being or beings.
As Jerry put it in his essay that set off the current science religion compatibility debate, the main difference between the two ways of knowing is that science has a way of figuring out when something is wrong.
All the major things about the natural world that religion got wrong in the bible (and now explains as ‘metaphors’) such as the stories of Adam and Eve, Noahs Ark, the flat Earth, the Sun orbiting the Earth etc, were only resolved through the use of scientific evidence, not further revelation – so its clear that only one method, the scientific method, has the ability to determine when something is wrong.
Deistic beliefs are not not necessarily included in this criticism since they don’t tend to posit strong claims about miraculous interventions in the natural world by supernatural deities (which is what a revelation must entail).
It’s hard to believe how unhinged Josh Rosenau really is on this issue, but take a look:
Seriously, what is wrong with this guy?
Rosenau: “…[Coyne and PZ think] we should stop treating pro-evolution religious people and groups as allies.”
Coyne: “I applaud religious people like Kenneth Miller when they fight against creationism, and I join them as an ally in that battle.”
Just testing: How do you kill Accommodationist Zombies? Or can they be converted back to pre-Zombie normality? Maybe by feeding them some real brain, since that seems to be, without knowing it, what they’re craving?
How about forgetting specific religions, and simply say that a beleif in an exclusively intuitive, superfluous and supernatural reality is incompatible with a scientific approach that repeatedly contradicts it and succesfully erodes the foundations of it?
Will that do? I’m here to learn; I might be wrong. There just seems to be a bit marginalising jargon going on: Yes Cognitve dissonance does require there to be a doubt, for there to be dissonance – but what else could account for ‘convinced theists’ propensity to punish and devalue those who point out their contradictions? There is a serenity to the ‘convinced’ that many (but, not all)of the faithful don’t seem to possess. It is the uncertainty that drives defensive anger. I think it’s fair to use the term in this context. Would not living a world founded upon and supported by science and technologies be sufficient reason for the Faithful to have at least a germ of a doubt about the compatibility of their beliefs? Doubt is healthy – it mitigates the hubris of certainty. Perhaps making personal remarks b aout posters is also a symptom of doubt – attack the person, avoid the challenge.
When you write “People like Dawkins and myself have two goals: diminishing the influence of faith, and helping people accept and see the wonders of evolution.” I must smile.
How can anyone live a healthy life without faith? How could anyone not be in awe of the wonders of evolution?
By imposing a definition of faith on others inconsistent with their beliefs.
When others rail against religion in toto I smile again. There is no central religious tenet as there are central scientific tenets.
Within Christianity alone there are those who are “atheists”; i.e., they are Christians without God. I am one, but I still have faith in the mystery, believing there is a known domain and the unknown and that within the unknown there are both the knowable and unknowable.
Argue with this if you must. I offer it not for universal subscription, but for a clarification of my view which will change as I continue to penetrate the unknown.
Hey, it’s Dick Cheney!
I agree that there is the known and the unknown, and that some of the latter is unknowable. But then again, anyone who believes in quantum mechanics also believes that. I don’t see why “the unknowable” requires some sort of religious reverence.
And of course that should be “Donald Rumsfeld”.
Agreed. There is no requirement for religious reverence w.r.t. the mysterious. It’s not a choice, it happens to us as a result of trying to comprehend the whole.
But what is religious reverence. When I read Socrates commentaries I detect what I would call religious reverence, an awe for the mystery.
In my vocabulary, religions exist in many forms, both theistic and non-theistic.
It’s a matter of the extent we are willing to go to put thoughts in another’s mind.
Your vocabulary is different than mine. I reserve “religion” for those beliefs that involve gods, and which result in cultural practices such as shared rituals, worship, and community. Simply being awed at the mystery that is the universe isn’t religion, or even spirituality — it’s “awe”. I’ve often felt awe when looking up in the night sky and pondering the vastness of space and how tiny we are, or when considering the immensely complex biological machinery that keeps me alive, or at various other times. But these were not religious experiences – they were simply “awe”.
Using words in a way different from the generally accepted definition only confuses discourse.
Not surprising. I think it was Socrates who said, through Plato, “If you would debate with me, first we must define our terms.”
I subscribe to the Joseph Campbell definition of religion which has its roots in religio (as I recall) which meant linking back.
For me, the religious experience mystical cognition. To limit religion to the fundamentalist born-again destroy-our-enemies fanatics, whatever their “religion” profanes the idea of religious experience which James Joyce called an epiphany, an aesthetic arrest.
If we can agree on the idea that there are human experiences born of beauty, wonder and awe I’m in full accord with you whether you want to call that religious or not.
BTW there are many within organized religions who use the term, god, to identify the mystery, especially among Christians, but they don’t talk about it because it’s a non-issue.
I don’t. It’s not a belief in human experiences born of beauty, wonder and awe that causes people to fly planes into skyscrapers, or deny basic human rights to gay people, or demand that creationism be taught in schools, or stones those who have sex outside of marriage. Those actions are not those of beauty, wonder and awe, but of blinkered small-mindedness. More specifically, they are the actions not of those who wonder at the world, but who instead have unshakeable certainty about it, certainty because of a belief in a god who speaks to them.
Less contentiously, I think the notion of religion demands inclusion of things like belief in gods, and a community of practice and faith, and established rituals of worship, or else the term loses all meaning.
“I think the notion of religion demands inclusion of things like belief in gods, and a community of practice and faith, and established rituals of worship, or else the term loses all meaning.”
Your “I think…” is spot on.
There are plenty of religions–non-theistic humanism for example–which would not fit within your definition.
To those who might say secular humanism is not a religion I would direct them to The Humanist Way by Edward L. Ericson which is sub-titled “An Introduction to Ethical Humanist Religion.” It’s an interesting read, if you have the time and can find it.
Isaac Asimov wrote the Foreword. This doesn’t prove anything, which is my point.
I knew Ed, briefly, and have met no one more religious than he. There is(are) no god(s) in Ethical Humanism which he calls a religion
For me, the principle problem in the science/religion debate is that both sides have different definitions for the same terms. Not a rational approach to our differences.
No, the problem is that religions tend to make claims about the world that are just plain wrong or cannot be verified, yet we are expected to treat them as valid ‘ways of knowing’.
“…religions tend to make claims about the world that are just plain wrong or cannot be verified…”
Not quite. Religions don’t make claims, people do. Within every religion I know there are wide ranging views (beliefs). I know of no view held in any religion that is universally held as “true” because there is no central authority for any religion.
Even in science there are views unsupportable by evidence. Consider the “Dover” trial where both Kenneth Miller and Michael Behe were expert witnesses for the defense and prosecution respectively.
Behe’s “scientific” views were effectively destroyed, in my view, and yet he continues as the patron scientist of creationism.
To suggest that fundamentalist religion is the mainstream is as off base a suggesting the steady state theory trumps the big bang theory.
BTW, is the BBT consideered a scientific fact?
What of the statement in Speciation by Coyne and Orr that the idea of distinct and separate species was less certain in their minds than before?
There is much in science that is subjective pending objectification.
Religion is the personal concretization of the subjective. For me, the truly religious person seeks the source of “Gee!” and “Wow!” where no facts can be found to support the emotional response.
The failure is in the person who believes they have found the ultimate, universal truth. That tendency exists in science, too, but is easier to dismiss.
Question: Are you saying everything in science is verifiable?
The Pope will be really surprised to hear that.
Sorry. The Pope is not the central authority for Christianity; e.g., Martin Luther and others. He is not even the central authority for Roman Catholicism.
Interestingly, he fully subscribes to evolution.
“Christianity” is not a single religion, whereas “Roman Catholicism” is.
The priests and sisters who taught me catechism at Corpus Christi Elementary School and St. Thomas High School would be shocked at this apparently very recent development.
“The priests and sisters who taught me catechism at Corpus Christi Elementary School and St. Thomas High School would be shocked at this apparently very recent development.”
That they see the Pope as the central authority is is not the point. They do so because they choose to do so. Many Catholics, priests and nuns included, see the Pope as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, but not the central authority. Ask them and you will find disagreement as to what they think the central authority is.
You appear to be better versed in Catholicism than this ex-Catholic who went to parochial school is. And better versed than those who taught me, including those clergy members whose job it was to provide Catholic religious education.
I think at this point we will just have to agree to disagree.
“You appear to be better versed in Catholicism than this ex-Catholic who went to parochial school is.”
We certainly disagree. Fine by me. As for being better versed on the Catholic Church than you I would say I am differently versed. I grew up as a Methodist with many Catholic friends. We never discussed religion (in the 50s) because they were supposed to leave all of that to the priest and nuns.
However I have been a fan of Catholic scholars, especially Hans Kung, Matthew Fox and John Dominic Crossan, all of whom offer a deeply considered and insightfully different view of what the Roman Catholic Church is and should be becoming. (Fox was dismissed from his order and became an Episcopal priest. Crossan said his goodbyes and married. Kung, who participated in Vatican II, is alive and well in Germany.
It is their disparate views that prompt me to believe there is no central authority in the Catholic Church.
I think our disagreement flows from the core issue in the science/religion debate. We are using the same terms with different meanings. If that is true there is no hope of this conflict advancing toward a satisfying resolution.
I would think that if someone can dismiss you from the religion’s clergy, by definition that religion has a central authority.
But the Vatican stripped him of his licence to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian at the University of Tübingen…again, if someone can strip you of your right to act as official teacher of a religion’s theology, by definition that religion has a central authority.
I honestly don’t see why this is such a difficult point to understand. Yes, Fox and Kung had different views that many Catholics about the nature of authority in the Church. And what do you know, Fox was kicked out of the priesthood and Kung stripped of his theological license by the central authority.
Excellent point. I must agree with that. As for other religions, I know of none, excepting other Orthodoxies, that have a central authority.
As for this being a difficult point to understand, it’s not, but I can be dense at times when trying to crack the hard shell of an embedded opinion. While I agree that there is a central organizational authority, I did not make clear that I was thinking of a central religious authority and had ignored the points you have made. Such is the disadvantage of being a spectator instead of a participant.
I wonder how the Pope’s invitation to disaffected Anglican priests to join the RC Church and bring their wives is sitting with the Catholic clergy (not a cheap shot, an honest query).
Thanks for clearing this up. I may be spending too much time on surface reading and not enough in depth.
I am reading an interesting book, “Judaism, Physics and God (Searching for Sacred Metaphors in a Post-Einstein World)” by Rabbi (Reformed) David W. Nelson.
I think we are now just bandying about semantics. If you wish to include non-theistic cultural organizations in your definition of religion, that’s fine, and I agree that such entities are not the issue being addressed. (However, I would also argue that such a definition is strongly at variance with standard usage, and it is not at all clear to me what purpose there would be in such an inclusive definition.)
“I think we are now just bandying about semantics. ”
Nope. Semantice; i.e., agreed definitions of terminology are central to a rational debate.
If evolution is about the unfolding of life forms, then there are probably non-life forms. Where can I find a universally agreed scientific definition of the term, life?
It doesn’t exist; therefore, to have a serious discussion of life we must come to agreement on the definition or engage in a fruitless discussion. To say, “Everyone knows what life is.” avoids the issue of what might be considered life/non-life boundary forms; e.g., viruses, sperm, unfertilized eggs.
If we are to discuss religion versus non-religion rationally, then we must agree on what constitutes a religion. Otherwise we flounder with no hope of enlightenment (in the cognitive sense).
While I consider myself a religious person, I do not subscribe to any specific form. I believe in the transcendent mystery and see advances in science as the unveiling of the unknown which helps me approach the non-rational more fully; e.g., love, joy, peace grace, and others.
What concerns me most is that too much of the anti-religious argument is based on a primitive definition of religion which bears no resemblance to the religious diversity awash on the planet. It’s like eating a persimmon and deciding that all fruit tastes bad.
I must smile when scientists speak with certainty about something they view narrowly based on anecdotal information and wonder. “What has science come to?” Nothing, absolutely nothing, in science is certain, with the possible exception of some definitions.
You are right in that our definitions of religion differ.