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If Science and Religion are at War, Science is Winning

Dec 26, 2018

By David G. McAfee

The conflicts between religion and science have existed and been well studied for generations, yet many people deny they exist at all.

As someone who studied religion in college, I’ve seen both sides of this. On one hand, it’s true that many people apply religion and science in different ways, meaning they don’t always conflict. But on another hand — a much bigger hand — it’s impossible to ignore the war that has been waged between science and religion throughout human history.

Jerry Coyne, who literally wrote the book on this subject in Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, has a piece up at the Conversation pointing out how science and religion actually “represent incompatible ways of viewing the world.”

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

51 comments on “If Science and Religion are at War, Science is Winning

  • For anybody who hasn’t read Coyne’s book yet, his referenced piece provides a clear summary of the major points he makes in it: Science vs. religion

    As for the “Doubting Thomas” story, I remember vividly the fear, even the terror, I felt as a young child every time I found myself in line with Thomas’ attitude in relation to miracles described in the bible.

    There’s little doubt in my mind that that story in particular contributed to my holding on to religion significantly longer than I would have had, if it hadn’t been “imprinted” in my mind by that legalized and very effective practice of young-children intellectual subjugation called catechism.


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  • many of the greatest physicists, Einstein, Plank, Dirac, Schrödinger recognize that science is limited in the quest for determining the meaning of life and that indeed matter is a lower form than the mind. Only religion has so far has provided appropriate answers. Science provides knowledge, but as Einstein said “imagination is more important than knowledge” Religion is all about imagination. A major characteristic of humans is their retention of childish nature (neoteny) and hence always are asking ‘why?’, science fails miserably here, religion wins.


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  • Andy #2

    A major characteristic of humans is their retention of childish nature (neoteny) and hence always are asking ‘why?’, science fails miserably here, religion wins.

    Ah, but that’s because, unlike religion, science is required to provide evidence for the answers it comes up with.


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  • andy clifford says:

    Only religion has so far has provided appropriate answers.

    Unfortunately the religions of the world, have only provided made-up answers.

    Science provides knowledge, but as Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge”

    Imagination is very good at looking for areas to seek knowledge.  Scientific investigations and methodology, are the best ways of finding it.

    Religion is all about imagination.

    Yep!   Its “information” is largely imaginary!

    hence always are asking ‘why?’,

    Asking “why?” and investigating is the very nature of science.   Having said that all “Why” questions eventually lead to “how?” answers – apart from ones which are just made up!

    science fails miserably here, religion wins.

    Science fails at investigating questions?? You have to be joking!  Religion awards itself a winners badge, but that is just illusory.

    Science provides the most reliable way we have of reaching evidence based conclusions about how things work in the real world, and how the real world works. .

    Other methods just provide speculative fantasy answers.


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  • This is a flat view of science and religion.

    One aspect of science you might consider looking into for its imaginative side is experimental design.  For example, google something like ‘modes of DNA replication’, or ‘how did scientists decide DNA rather than proteins provides genetic information’.

    The imagination required to develop meaningful experiments always impresses me.

     


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  • I can only quote (again, why isn’t this taught in schools and universities): “It is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate a person and enrich her nature, but the urge to understand” “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self” (Einstein)
    “There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists, only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.” “I regard consciousness as fundamental, I regard matter as derivatives from consciousness. Everything we talk about and regard as existing postulates consciousness”. Max Planck,
    “Mind is, by its very nature, a singular tantum. I should say the overall number of minds is just one. — Erwin Schrodinger
    “What we observe is not nature  but nature exposed to our method of questioning. Atoms and elementary particles are themselves not real”. Heisenberg.
    “A deep structure of the universe is emerging into the human awareness. The universe is ordering itself so that this order is maintained”. Dirac


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  • Do you want me to engage with a wall of quotes?  Fine.  These men aren’t prophets, and I’m not obligated to take as true anything they say.

    Having said that, everything you’ve quoted may in fact be true.  But without context I’m not in a position to determine this for myself.  This is one of the problems of relying on quotes to have a conversation.

    Have you understood the quotes yourself, are you using them in a sensible way, should I be expected to understand your point without supporting text etc.

     


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  • andy clifford says:

    “There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists, only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration…

    I think quantum physics has already explained the subatomic particles, and energy fields behind the structures in matter.   There is no need for “gapology” making up speculative features for which there is no evidence.

    We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.

    Assumption is the mother of error!

    This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

    There is no evidence for any “minds” or “intelligence” outside of biological brains or electronic circuits.

    “I regard consciousness as fundamental,

    It is a property of various lobes and brain functions

    I regard matter as derivatives from consciousness.

    That would be your imagined mental image of matter, which has nothing to do with the physical universe or real world physics or chemistry.

     


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  • It appears that our  Mr Andy Clifford has chosen to appeal to authority by quoting physicists born around the end of the 19th Century when a religious element in their primary education would still have been a very strong influence.

    For example,  Max Planck was a committed member of the Lutheran Church, stating as late as 1937 “…God is everywhere present, ….the holiness of the unintelligible Godhead is conveyed by the holiness of symbols”.  Such cognitive dissonace among even brilliant physicists is not unheard of.  To his credit, his religiosity became more tempered towards the end of his life, asserting that he did not believe “in a personal God, let alone a Christian God”.


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  • I included the quotes to demonstrate that several great scientists ‘hit a wall’ in their imaginative thinking and realized that there is something deeper than ’science’.

    If there is a ‘war’ between science and religion, it’s a win-win: science attempts to answer ‘how’ and religion ‘why’; and both science and religion have their failures and successes.

    Humans have always asked these questions, that’s why they invented science and religion; we need both; there’s no conflict – they complement each other.

     


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  • @andy clifford

    Since you’re so fond of quotes to support your non-argument, how about this?

    In contrast to the methods of science, religion adjudicates truth not empirically, but via dogma, scripture and authority — in other words, through faith, defined in Hebrews 11 as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In science, faith without evidence is a vice, while in religion it’s a virtue. Recall what Jesus said to “doubting Thomas,” who insisted in poking his fingers into the resurrected Savior’s wounds: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

     

    And yet, without supporting evidence, Americans believe a number of religious claims: 74 percent of us believe in God, 68 percent in the divinity of Jesus, 68 percent in Heaven, 57 percent in the virgin birth, and 58 percent in the Devil and Hell. Why do they think these are true? Faith.


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  • Hi Hazmat, and welcome!

    I think you make a very good point in #12: Christianity may claim to provide answers, but they’re answers that can’t be tested and for which there is no evidence. Anyone can provide answers to anything if they declare themselves exempt from having to demonstrate the truth of them.

    Just one thing, though: Andy’s not making a ‘non-argument’. Just one that you, and I, and most people here don’t find convincing, which is not the same thing 🙂


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  • Andy #10

    science attempts to answer ‘how’ and religion ‘why’

    Andy, I’m glad you’re hanging around to make your case – so many believers don’t, and I know it can be difficult when you’re inevitably so outnumbered on a site like this.

    I don’t actually agree that religion answers the ‘why’, though: not when it comes to why there’s something rather than nothing (which is one of the few gaps left in the answers science is able to provide).

    It simply declares: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ But that doesn’t answer the question of why.

    Why did he/she/it create them?

    And – and this is really crucial – how can you possibly know? And I mean really know, as in, demonstrate to others to be true. It certainly is possible to accept answers on faith – as Hazmat has pointed out, millions of people do. But if it’s an answer with evidence to support it, then faith is entirely superfluous. And if it’s an answer without evidence to support it, what right does it have to call itself an answer at all?



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  • Here’s an interesting Q&A with Richard himself from a Salon interview he did in 2006 I believe. This seems quite pertinent to this discussion:

     

    What about the old adage that science deals with the “how” questions and religion deals with the “why” questions?

    I think that’s remarkably stupid, if I may say so. What on earth is a “why” question? There are “why” questions that mean something in a Darwinian world. We say, why do birds have wings? To fly with. And that’s a Darwinian translation of the evolutionary process whereby the birds that had wings survived better than the birds without. They don’t mean that, though. They mean “why” in a deliberate, purposeful sense. So when you say religion deals with “why” questions, that begs the entire question that we’re arguing about. Those of us who don’t believe in religion — supernatural religion — would say there is no such thing as a “why” question in that sense. Now, the mere fact that you can frame an English sentence beginning with the word “why” does not mean that English sentence should receive an answer. I could say, why are unicorns hollow? That appears to mean something, but it doesn’t deserve an answer.

    But it seems to me the big “why” questions are, why are we here? And what is our purpose in life?

    It’s not a question that deserves an answer.

    Well, I think most people would say those questions are central to the way we think about our lives. Those are the big existential questions, but they are also questions that go beyond science.

    If you mean, what is the purpose of the existence of the universe, then I’m saying that is quite simply begging the question. If you happen to be religious, you think that’s a meaningful question. But the mere fact that you can phrase it as an English sentence doesn’t mean it deserves an answer. Those of us who don’t believe in a god will say that is as illegitimate as the question, why are unicorns hollow? It just shouldn’t be put. It’s not a proper question to put. It doesn’t deserve an answer.

    I don’t understand that. Doesn’t every person wonder about that? Isn’t that a core question, what are we doing in this world? Doesn’t everyone struggle with that?

     

    There are core questions like, how did the universe begin? Where do the laws of physics come from? Where does life come from? Why, after billions of years, did life originate on this planet and then start evolving? Those are all perfectly legitimate questions to which science can give answers, if not now, then we hope in the future. There may be some very, very deep questions, perhaps even where do the laws of physics come from, that science will never answer. That is perfectly possible. I am hopeful, along with some physicists, that science will one day answer that question. But even if it doesn’t — even if there are some supremely deep questions to which science can never answer — what on earth makes you think that religion can answer those questions? 


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  • Andy  #10

    I included the quotes to demonstrate that several great scientists ‘hit a wall’ in their imaginative thinking and realized that there is something deeper than ’science’.

    They may indeed have reached their limit, but those that came after continued to push the boundaries of human knowledge (and further shrink the scope of ‘faith’!).

    Stephen Hawking,  for one.


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  • Marco  #14

    It simply declares: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ But that doesn’t answer the question of why.

    Why did he/she/it create them?

     

    Hi Marco.  I think the average godbotherer would proceed to point out that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”.  However, all that succeeds in doing is to represent ‘god’  as a sort of divine meddler, pottering about with a construction kit like those  ‘build your own Ark Royal with realistic smoke signals’  offers that keep turning up on TV.

    It’s all so banal and trivial when you compare it to the real awe-inspiring natural phenomena at the heart of our Universe.

     

     


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  • Just a few days ago, in a 2019 Darwin Day Lecture, Professor Dawkins noted the god of the gaps argument:  “Wherever there’s a gap in our understanding people rush to plug the gap with god.  But the trouble with gaps is that science has the annoying habit of coming along and filling them.  Darwin filled the biggest gap of all and we should have the courage to expect that science will eventually fill the gaps that remain.”  The lecture is easy to find on YouTube if you haven’t already seen it.

  • andy clifford says:

    If there is a ‘war’ between science and religion, it’s a win-win: science attempts to answer ‘how’ and religion ‘why’; and both science and religion have their failures and successes.

    Unfortunately for that argument, it does not work like that!   All “Why? questions, lead to “how?” answers, at which point science says, “We do not know yet”, and religion makes up an answer which may sound appealing to followers. to give the impression that leaders know stuff when they don’t!

    “God-did-it”, (God of gaps) is the universal cover-over patch, hiding ignorance of any real answer.

    Humans have always asked these questions, that’s why they invented science and religion; we need both; there’s no conflict – they complement each other.

    They really don’t!   Science starts with objective observations to establish facts, and then follows the evidence assisted by mathematics and reasoning as required, to come to conclusions which are then checked with repeated testing to pick out and correct any mistakes.

    Religion starts with some made up ancient texts and doctrines, and thinks in circles from indoctrinated preconceptions, clinging  to these regardless of evidence – and often in the face of evidence to the contrary.

    There is no compatibility in these two thought methodologies.   One rigorously checks its findings.  The other uncritically accepts preached messages without checks or safeguards to confirm accuracy or compatibility with real-world observations.

     


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  • Rogeroney #17

     I think the average godbotherer would proceed to point out that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. 

    That would be a justification after the event. It doesn’t answer the ‘why?’ of why he decided to do it in the first place.

    It’s all so banal and trivial when you compare it to the real awe-inspiring natural phenomena at the heart of our Universe.

    I agree, totally. Keep asking ‘why?’ long enough and the banality of the religious answers becomes clear. I’m not a scientist and didn’t even learn much science at school – almost everything I know about it has come from adult reading and adult study, and I’ll confess that a lot of it goes over my head (my talents lie elsewhere 🙂 ). But I do remember my excitement bordering on a kind of ecstasy when I first began to read and understand something of the world and the universe. The stories of religion just paled into insignificance for me by comparison. They function on an entirely different, and for me far less satisfying, far less illuminating, level, turning the wonders of reality into just another Just-So story. They may have served their purpose back in ancient times when we could still only guess the answers … but knowledge has moved on since then, thank goodness, and the stories it has revealed knock those of religion into a cocked hat.


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  • Hazmat says:

    And yet, without supporting evidence, Americans believe a number of religious claims: 74 percent of us believe in God, 68 percent in the divinity of Jesus, 68 percent in Heaven, 57 percent in the virgin birth, and 58 percent in the Devil and Hell.

    Why do they think these are true? Faith.

    I think that is so, and would include the number of bible colleges,  the intrusion of religion into all manner of areas like employment and medical services, and the poor quality of science education in some states as contributory causes.

    In Europe for contrast:-

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/21/christianity-non-christian-europe-young-people-survey-religion
    70% of young people in the UK identify with no religion 
    In the UK, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, fewer than the 10% who categorise themselves as Catholic.
    59% of young people in the UK never attend religious services.
    Nearly two-thirds of young people in the UK never pray
    Figures show a majority of young adults in 12 countries have no faith, with Czechs least religious

     

     

     

     

     


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  • rogeroney says:

    It’s all so banal and trivial when you compare it to the real awe-inspiring natural phenomena at the heart of our Universe.

     

    Indeed it is!  Especially when we consider the little world of the bronze age biblical herdsmen!

    https://www.quora.com/Visualize-space-It-goes-on-and-on-forever-If-in-your-minds-eye-you-retreat-trillions-of-miles-from-the-earth-and-draw-a-huge-sphere-with-earth-as-the-center-and-say-this-indeed-is-all-of-space-what-then-is-on-the/answer/Alan-Appleby-4

     


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  • I see that with diminishing congregations, the Church of England is now addressing the empty pews issue!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47326993
    Churches no longer have to hold Sunday services
    A weekly Sunday service will no longer be compulsory for churches after a vote to change a 400-year-old law was passed by the Church of England’s ruling body.
    The General Synod voted to end the law – dating back to 1603 – which required priests to hold a Sunday service in every church they looked after.

    The Bishop of Willesden, who proposed the change, called it “out of date”.

    Meanwhile, the General Synod has introduced six “pastoral principles” to improve the treatment of LGBT people.

    . . . and is up-dating some of its antiquated discriminatory views on LGBT.

     

     


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  • Hi Andy [#10],

    Like Marco, I commend you for staying and defending your corner.

    I included the quotes to demonstrate that several great scientists ‘hit a wall’ in their imaginative thinking

    It isn’t clear to me that the quotes you provided actually demonstrate that. As rogeroney [#9] points out, many of these people were either involved in churches or lived in times when not invoking the supernatural was dangerous or, at best, ill advised. The ability of individuals to hold to mutually exclusive beliefs is well documented, and we need take this no further.

    The original story is about science winning the argument about what is true at the broader, social, level – rather than at the individual scientist level.  All of the above quoted scientists, invoking the supernatural, were speaking either in the first person or attempting to evoke a new method of thinking in a second person, or persons.

    These are clear attempts to elicit imaginative thinking but not, I fear, to promote your conclusion that imagination trumps facts.

    In addition the turn of the 20C saw many scientists using supernatural language in order to counter the hidebound thinking of their contemporaries.  Einstein, apparently a favourite of yours, was particularly keen on using such language.  The evidence of his later writings clearly highlights that Einstein regretted precisely the misappropriation of his rhetorical devices that you have just demonstrated.

    I included the quotes to demonstrate that several great scientists … realized that there is something deeper than ’science’.

    Given what I know to be true, as I have just summarised above, this statement strikes me as being nothing less than a leap of faith.

    I do not understand your use of inverted commas around the word science.  I take it that you were attempting to invoke some irony, inaccuracy, or scepticism?

    If there is something deeper than science … we’ll, I flatter myself, perhaps, but in the course of half a century I have searched diligently, honestly and with industry, and remain unproductive and unenlightened as to the existence of any such thing.

    Rather, I have discovered that science is a very big word, that it embraces the visible and the invisible, the greatest and the smallest, all that is in me and all that is beyond me – and still it retains mysteries beyond all understanding.  Science enobles the human species, enables our ease, nourishes us and keeps us from many harms. Science feeds my wonder, it nourishes my spirit and every day it carries me to greater heights.

    And science is fun too.

    If there is a ‘war’ between science and religion, it’s a win-win: science attempts to answer ‘how’ and religion ‘why’

    Science answers why questions   Why is the sky blue? Why am I not female? Why am I hungry?  Science can answer these why questions.

    Why do religions not answer how questions?  Surely they cannot be beyond their all-powerful friends?  And surely, if their answers are true, those religions will all provide the same answers to the same people?

    Humans have always asked these [Why] questions, that’s why they invented science and religion …

    That’s why, once our ancestors had evolved the necessary brains, they adopted thinking.  It does not follow that the thinking that led to religion and the thinking that led to science are equivalent. Thinking can lead us to bad ideas, just as often as good.

    To help us decide between good thinking and bad thinking we developed philosophy.  Philosophy was, for literally millennia, distorted and disabled by established religions’ hegemony. But today, as the long divorce of philosophy from theology sinks into history, we can say that we have at least some of the tools we need to decide between good questions and bad questions (how, what, why, where and when).

    We can probably agree that suicide is the result of bad thinking.

    Andy: You seem like a thoughtful kind of guy; at what point should we ditch bad thinking?  What are the diagnostic features of bad thinking?

    When I apply philosophy, such as logic, religion seems to me to be all about bad thinking.  I hope I retain an open mind – that I continue to be able to absorb new ideas, and accept new facts, including all and any that will challenge my own thinking.  I cannot agree that science and religion are complimentary – one is good. and the other bad.

    If I’ve missed something, Andy, then please, I beg you to tell me, and tell me now.  My time is short.

     
    Peace.


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  • Andy, let me ask you a question.  Why do you believe in God, and in the particular religion you subscribe to?  Was it the religion of your parents?  Was there a revelation at some point?

    The reason I ask is that we all have reasons for believing the things we believe in and reasons for not believing the things we don’t.  Blindly following the religion of one’s family is not a good method for getting at the truth, because we don’t choose our parents, and most people in the world don’t believe the same thing as your parents do.  I suppose you could say that you simply happened to be lucky that your parents chose the proper belief system, but plenty of other people your age are just as sure as you are that their parents’ belief system is the correct one.  One’s family’s religion is a matter of chance.

    If you chose your religion in some other way, please tell us what that was.


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  • Craig,

    I converted to Roman Catholicism from a nominal C of E of my parents, but I never followed this. But I am a Christian. I believe the Church is truly catholic, in that in includes all humanity, so it’s currently logistically impossible to realise this. But I, like many, believe this is the future. Not that this is an empire building scheme but that it is a naturally occurring process of all humanity coming together; the end product of which will probably be nothing like any one religion or other community is like today.

    Actually, in line with the scientific approach that truth is only verified by testable results, I, like many, can prove the existence of God empirically – we experience God. All experience, whether a scientific test result or spiritual experience, is subjective. Consciousness is the only reality.

  • Olgun,
    Science has had obvious successes in medical areas and communication etc, but also ‘failures’ as quantum theory has shown. But also failures by humans in using scientific knowledge to make killing people more efficient.
    Religion has had obvious failures by use of religious power to abuse people, but also ‘successes’ in that billions of people get tremendous satisfaction, get reasons for living and feelings of well being and joy, not to mention charitable work in the name of God (Christian, Muslim and more).


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  • Michael 100,

    You say: ““Wherever there’s a gap in our understanding people rush to plug the gap with god.  But the trouble with gaps is that science has the annoying habit of coming along and filling them.  Darwin filled the biggest gap of all and we should have the courage to expect that science will eventually fill the gaps that remain.”

    But science does not fill the crucial gap: why are we here – what is the meaning of life? And there is no evidence to suggest that it ever will. Religion answers that question all the time.

    You say “courage”, believers in God say ‘faith’.

    Also Darwins ‘discovery’ of evolution strengthens Christian belief (See Teilhard de Chardin), since many Christians regard the literal interpretation of Genesis as out of date and illogical (although at the time it was ‘state of the art science’).


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  • Andy Clifford #28.  I wish I had been eloquent enough to express that remark regarding the god of the gaps, but those were Professor Dawkins’ words during his 2019 Darwin Day lecture, which as I noted can be found on YouTube.

    You note that science does not answer the question about the meaning of life and that religion does.  I would say that the only meaning to our lives is what we choose to give it.  The cosmos is indifferent and does not provide a meaning for my life any more than it provides meaning to any other object – animate or inanimate.  Part of the fun of being human is to find our own meaning, to develop the talents with which we were born, to make the most of opportunities presented to us, and to overcome the obstacles we find in our way.  Religion tells us that a god made us to love him and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next – Amazing, I still remember those words from my grade school Baltimore Catechism lessons decades after I woke up and realized that I could no longer profess the faith of my childhood.  The problem is that there is no evidence to support the proposition that god exists, or that there is a life after death.  I don’t consider feelings, mine or others’, no matter how deeply felt, to be evidence.  If you want to believe that the supernatural exists, go for it.  I, on the other hand, prefer scientific explanations some of which I understand, and some of which I accept because people like Professor Dawkins and Professor Krause (to name only two scientists for whom I have great respect) provide information which lay people such as myself can understand.  Although questions remain, it is possible to understand a great deal about the functioning of nature without the intervention of any of the gods – “I had no need of that hypothesis, as Pierre-Simon Laplace is said to have answered this question.  Hopefully, science will never satisfy all our desire for knowledge because as soon as one problem is solved, others arise.  Knowledge is a never-ending pursuit.  Wouldn’t it be sad if we stopped pursuing answers because, at the end of the day, god created heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible.  No, thank you very much.   

    I don’t have the expertise to debate Teilhard de Chardin, but before you cite him too often, I would advise you to do some research to find opinions of his work expressed by others much smarter than I am.  Whether or not Darwin’s discoveries strengthened Christian belief, there are many Christians who find Darwin’s understanding of natural selection to be heresy.  Other Christians, like the religious sisters who taught me the theory of evolution in the late 1950, do not find a conflict between ancient myths and modern science.          

             

  • Andy clifford  # 26 – 28
     

    I, like many, can prove the existence of God empirically – we experience God.

    No, you merely have a culturally implanted imagination.   Had you originated in downtown Mumbai you would be singing a different tune. Your ‘faith’ is no more than an opinion, and opinions are ten a penny. They cannot be empirically verified or falsified, and the countless conflicting assertions of religions merely nullify one another.

    But science does not fill the crucial gap: why are we here – what is the meaning of life? And there is no evidence to suggest that it ever will. Religion answers that question all the time.

    No Andy, religion doesn’t provide ‘answers’, it merely builds  fantasies within a closed bubble of circular reasoning.

    The explanation for living organisms including us homo sapiens being here is that this planet has provided an environment for a sufficient length of time, and with suitable conditions, for the evolution of the carbon-based chemistry we call ‘life’.  This is not the result of miracle or magic, nor is it the product of ‘consciousness’.

    Consciousness is the only reality.

    Human consciousness has only existed for around 200,000 years, a mere blink in the history of the Universe, so that assertion is, to put it bluntly, woo-woo.

    Also Darwins ‘discovery’ of evolution strengthens Christian belief (See Teilhard de Chardin), since many Christians regard the literal interpretation of Genesis as out of date and illogical (although at the time it was ‘state of the art science’).

    Since the rabbi Yeshua would have regarded the literal interpretation of Genesis as an article of faith, it is always amusing to see how the goalposts keep shifting. Rather than expressing “eternal truths,” we see religions continually change their doctrines and their interpretations of their scriptures in response to changes in society and under the influence of individual thinkers.

    As for Teilhard de Chardin, it appears that the consensus of expert opinion on his Scientific work is largely negative.  It must have been hard to overcome the cognitive dissonance induced by all that Jesuit teaching.


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  • Andy #27

     

    What you claim for charity….

     

    I don’t see charity as a good thing! Only as a necessity and wouldn’t it be better if it were a world organisation and not fractured into different religions and sects. A true humanitarian effort?

     

    And wouldnt it be better to have less to worry about in the first place so we would not need such ‘support’ from religious institutions? Thanks not have to fight for god and country and use the science to feed and comfort the people who need it the most? Religion has had more than enough time to clear up some of the issues and god knows all the money it needed. If ever I were forced to survive with food from m a food bank and a religious person was there to give me comfort. I am sure something unpleasant would happen.

    Sorry if I sound a bit pissed off but I am. You need to make a more honest list when weighing up the pros and cons of both sides  you seem to be giving much more weight to religions charitable work than it deserves

     

     


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  • Rogeroney # 30: “Rather than expressing “eternal truths,” we see religions continually change their doctrines and their interpretations of their scriptures in response to changes in society and under the influence of individual thinkers.” 
     
    That is precisely what I think every time I hear someone say we need to believe in god because god is the objective measure of moral principles, i.e. without god there can be no morality.  God’s idea of morality seems to have changed a great deal over the centuries, and even over the last few decades.  I have concluded that there are as many objective truths to be found in religion as there are people who accept any particular religion – Christianity or otherwise.        

  • @andy 28: Since everybody has pretty much already addressed what you’ve said, I just wanted to comment on the following:

    “Also Darwin’s ‘discovery’ of evolution strengthens Christian belief (See Teilhard de Chardin) […]”

    Here’s part of Peter Medawar’s critique of Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man:

    “[…] its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.”

    That pretty much sums up the vast majority of religious believers, including you.

  • I don’t have any more to say, well I do, but it seems to be a waste of time. What upsets me is the closed minds that deny seemingly everything that cannot be tied down to an equation or a number. We are human beings for heavens sake! And closed minds cause angst and distress – and no peace.


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  • andy clifford says:

    I don’t have any more to say, well I do, but it seems to be a waste of time.

    What upsets me is the closed minds that deny seemingly everything that cannot be tied down to an equation or a number.

    The Universe does work on physical laws and not supernatural magic. In the millennia of religions, nobody has ever produced physical evidence of supernatural events.  They have only produced delusions about imagined supernatural events.  Critical realists are unlikely to be convinced of illusory magic!

    We are human beings for heavens sake!

    Many human beings have had god-delusions in their evolved brains, with literally thousands of conflicting claims about gods.

    These gods are however closely associated with cultures, geographical locations and historical times.

    No Inca or Aztec gods have been found in ancient Roman or Greece, or pre-Colombian Europe, and no Abrahamic gods have been found in the pre-Colombian Americas.  They are ALL located in the local brains of believers and nowhere else.

    And closed minds cause angst and distress – and no peace.

    Indeed:-  In the past and at the present times, the dogmatic closed minded beliefs of religious followers, have caused, crusades, religious wars, bigoted discrimination, genocides, and jihads, causing a great deal of distress and no peace.

    Religions do frequently self-award badges of “goodness”, and deny the harm they do, disowning or denying, the abuses perpetrated by the members and leaders, as we currently see   in the abuse scandals in the Catholic and other churches.  “Faith” in the unearned badges of goodness, does nothing to fix the problems or repair the damage.  That requires honest material action.

    ( I see Cardinal Pell – after years of cover-ups, is appealing, rather than repenting!)

     


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  • @andy:

    Of course you’ve got lots more to say – more denial, wishful thinking, arguments from authority, a whole suite of logical fallacies and biases, special pleading, arguments from ignorance, motivated reasoning, …

    Just not the one thing everyone would like to hear and see – evidence. Because there is none. No direct or indirect evidence, no good philosophical arguments that hold any water when scrutinized.

    How much more does Abrahamic religion know about its god since the time of St. Augustine? How many grand insights based on evidence have been found? Now compare that to the continued success of a science-based approach to figuring out about nature. There’s no contest here. Religion knows nothing. You cannot even give me evidence why your god is supposed to be real but Zeus is not.

    All religions are out of touch with reality. They are implausible and unsupported by any good evidence whatsoever.
     

  • @Andy #34

    I don’t have any more to say, well I do, but it seems to be a waste of time.

    Oh man. Don’t go, Andy! I always enjoy these exchanges by theists. Now what am I going to read during my lunchbreak?


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  • Andy Clifford #34.  

    One of the first essays I posted on this site can be found in the October 2018 discussion forum.  It’s number 13.  I had recently listened to a Youtube video lecture given by a Dominican friar and professor of philosophy, Justin Gable, O.P.  Friar Gable entitled his lecture St. Thomas Meets Richard Dawkins – Aquinas on God, Faith and Religion.  After watching the lecture, I collected my thoughts.  I decided to share the essay on this site so that if I had any serious misconceptions, they could be pointed out to me.  It turns out that I got one detail wrong, namely at it was Fred Hoyle who coined the term “Big Bang” rather than Georges Lemaitre, S.J., as I had written. 
    The point of my essay was that while supernatural explanations made sense to prescientific people, after the age of science those ideas had outlived their usefulness.  The ideas of scholars of one historical period should never prevent new ideas from being explored and the old ideas set aside.  In his book, Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker writes, quoting some of the philosophers of that time: “One age cannot conclude a pact that would prevent succeeding ages from extending their insights, increasing their knowledge, and purging their errors.  That would be a crime against human nature, whose proper destiny lies precisely in such progress.”  It is not the contributors to this site that have closed minds because we cannot cling to dogmas and notions that were formulated in a bygone age.  I submit that it takes an open mind to contemplate the significance of 20th and 21st century scientific knowledge, and a closed mind to cling to ideas that originated in ancient times and which were last refined in the scholastic period by brilliant thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas – yes, I fully acknowledge Aquinas’ genius, but he was limited by what was known at the time he lived.  Today if we want to understand the world in which we live, we must look to great thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Richard Fineman, Steven Hawking, Carl Sagan, Lawrence Krause, Richard Dawkins, etc, etc., etc.  What a wonderful time in which we live, a time in which those great minds can communicate their knowledge via their books and through the internet.  Open your mind and soak up the knowledge available today.  If you find beauty and meaning in religious dogma and ritual, no one will suggest that you should not pursue your passion, but don’t expect those of us who have left those ideas behind to accept your judgement that we are closed minded.  You won’t find atheists banging on church doors demanding that believers abandon their devotion.  But when those same believers want to impose outmoded ideas in the public square, or in the science classroom, then you can expect vigorous opposition.

  • I just watched a youtube lecture presented by George Coyne, S.J., the former director of the Vatican Observatory.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYOR0dPZc3I  Elsewhere on Youtube, there is a multipart interview between Professor Coyne and Professor Dawkins.  I suspect that if everyone understood science and religion the way that he explains it, there would be a lot less animosity between the two disciplines. 

    How’s that for an open mind, Andy?   

  • I am prepared to be shot down. Surely the conflict between religion and science is misleading, it is between religion and philosophy?

    Philosophy is about the love of learning, the desire to know about everything in existence from our world, the universe to me and morals? Asking the how and why. Religion puts up barriers, it restrict enquiry.

    Science is just one aspect of philosophy.


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  • @ madumbi #42

     

    I think Bertrand Russell put it better when he defined philosophy as something intermediate between theology and science.  Unlike theology, it appeals to reason rather than authority or ‘revelation’. Unlike science, it speculates on matters as to which no definite knowledge has been ascertained.  All definite knowledge belongs to the domain of science.


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  • Feb 27, 2019 at 7:05 pm
    43
    rogeroney says:

    All definite knowledge belongs to the domain of science.

    I think the history spells it out clearly!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_philosophy#Origin_and_evolution_of_the_term

    The term natural philosophy preceded current usage of natural science (i.e. empirical science). Empirical science historically developed out of philosophy or, more specifically, natural philosophy. Natural philosophy was distinguished from the other precursor of modern science, natural history, in that natural philosophy involved reasoning and explanations about nature (and after Galileo, quantitative reasoning), whereas natural history was essentially qualitative and descriptive.

    In the 14th and 15th centuries, natural philosophy was one of many branches of philosophy, but was not a specialized field of study. The first person appointed as a specialist in Natural Philosophy per se was Jacopo Zabarella, at the University of Padua in 1577.

    Modern meanings of the terms science and scientists date only to the 19th century. Before that, science was a synonym for knowledge or study, in keeping with its Latin origin. The term gained its modern meaning when experimental science and the scientific method became a specialized branch of study apart from natural philosophy.[2]

    From the mid-19th century, when it became increasingly unusual for scientists to contribute to both physics and chemistry, “natural philosophy” came to mean just physics, and the word is still used in that sense in degree titles at the University of Oxford[citation needed]. In general, chairs of Natural Philosophy established long ago at the oldest universities are nowadays occupied mainly by physics professors. Isaac Newton’s book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), whose title translates to “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”, reflects the then-current use of the words “natural philosophy”, akin to “systematic study of nature”. Even in the 19th century, a treatise by Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait, which helped define much of modern physics, was titled Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867).
    Branches and subject matter
    Major branches of natural philosophy include astronomyand cosmology, the study of nature on the grand scale;etiology, the study of (intrinsic and sometimes extrinsic) causes; the study of chance, probability and randomness; the study ofelements; the study of the infinite and the unlimited (virtual or actual); the study of matter; mechanics, the study of translation of motion and change; the study of nature or the various sources of actions; the study of natural qualities; the study of physical quantities; the study of relations between physical entities; and the philosophy of space and time. (Adler, 1993)

    I think if we consider that “Natural Philosophy” WAS science before the invention of the term “science” in the 1800s, and we look at the areas which have now been taken over by scientific specialisms,  “philosophical theology” has mainly inherited the junk that was left –  after science took over the philosophy of the the material functional world and universe, along with all the unrefuted working parts from the earlier philosophers.



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  • Rogeroney said: “All definite knowledge belongs to the domain of science”
    But “The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained” (David Bohm).

    “Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost”. (Thomas J. Watson)

    Michael100 on Professor Coyne and Professor Dawkins: View the youtube interviews and Professor/Father Coyne’s view appears to be, which many believe also, that science is an activity (very worthwhile and indeed essential) but it is just that – it observes and measures things and creates equations. Religion, rather than “fills the gaps” (Richard Dawkins), was the original gap that is being filled by scientific discoveries. The Bible’s Book of Creation was state of the art science in its day (and was ‘true’ then), as was, and still is true the statement “man was made from dust and to dust he shall return”. Science went on to discover what the dust was.
    Knowledge is what we think. Truth is what is. I believe religious beliefs do not conflict with scientific understanding.

    “The life I’m trying to grasp is the me that is trying to grasp it. The truth I’m trying to grasp is the grasp that is trying to grasp it.” (R.D. Laing)


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  • Creating meaning, andy, is what we all do. Our head is wired that way. We remember stuff because we keep it as little narrative fragments with hoops and hooks to further join together with others. This makes it self-indexing and recoverable but mostly to make it useful when we make our own stories out of stories.

    I recently proposed to my kids, would-be writers and filmmakers, that if we could inspect our subconscious it might appear mostly made of poetry, of narrative fragments, heuristics that test the world against our wants and needs, self models that change with our capacities for the day.

    Lives lived as poetry make meaning for us. To fall short of this and lead a life drawn from another’s narratives and meanings is to lose a wonderful opportunity. Living lives based on fully shareable truths, however, on corroborated facts and facts that put real ability to act in and upon the world give us the moral tools to work together. Now we needn’t dream someone else’s dream for them when we seek their help in mitigating the harms, all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, we are unfairly and quite randomly heir to.

    Try the film Paterson for a life (lives) lived as poetry.


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  • Andy #45
    But “The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained” (David Bohm)
     

    Where would Einstein have been if he hadn’t utilised the knowledge of others in areas he was not good enough in?


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  • Andy Clifford #45.  First of all, I’m glad you decided to weigh in again. Please don’t take my responses to your remarks as attacks on you personally, I just like to test my ideas with people who disagree with me as well as people with whom I agree.
        
    You wrote: “The Bible’s Book of Creation was state of the art science in its day…”  I wonder if the Book of Genesis was ever intended to be a scientific work, or if it was simply a retelling of creation myths that were prevalent throughout the world at that time.  To the extent that it was meant to be a scientific explanation, that “knowledge” has been superseded by the work of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Charles Darwin, Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein, etc., etc., etc.  I know there are people who fully accept the scientific explanation of the physical world, and at the same time cling to a view of spirituality that includes belief in at least one of the gods of ancient times.  I can’t do that, and I am happy that scholars such as Professor Dawkins and Professor Krause provide me with a basis for finding that such a concept is not attractive at all – I like the soubriquet “antitheist.”  There is simply no evidence – at least evidence which would be accepted in a scientific laboratory – to support belief in any of the supernatural beings – gods, angles, demons, etc. – all of which are invisible.  I’m always reminded of Professor Jerry Coyne’s observation that the invisible and the nonexistent look very much alike.


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  • @ andy clifford  #45

    Rogeroney said: “All definite knowledge belongs to the domain of science”
    But “The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained” (David Bohm).

    “Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost”. (Thomas J. Watson)

     

    Andy, you are rather making the argument for us, because of course it is that very ability to think independently and creatively, often against the threat of stigma, that characterises the greatest scientists and their discoveries. On the other hand, the conjunction of religious belief and independent thinking is oxymoronic.

    As an observation, you seem to make most of your points by merely quoting others.  Perhaps you could focus a little more on   “independent thinking”  ?


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  • Hi Andy Clifford,

    I have been away and I suspect I may be too late to re-enter this conversation.  Nevertheless, if it is possible to help you to understand a couple of things then I should, as a committed humanist, at least try.

    > #34: “Follow the path of the independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that are important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost”. (Thomas J. Watson)

    Wow, that is some heavy rebuke you’re laying on other people here. I’m not a Christian, and I can still see the value in this:

    “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” [Matthew 7:3-4]

    > #26: … the scientific approach that truth is only verified by testable results …

    Science proceeds on the basis that truth can be said to have been discovered if a statement (such as the answer to a question) is both based on sound premises (such as facts) and is derived from a thinking process that is rigorous and rational.

    Facts are, by definition, verifiable.

    Thinking can be certified as rigorous by the application of philosophy, chiefly logic. It is recognised that, in addition, the thinking of one expert can best be certified by other experts in the same field, or at least related fields, of study – peer review.

    Science-derived truths have one other diagnostic feature: If they are really true, then new facts can be derived from them. Typically these new truths come in the form of accurate predictions of new facts that will be verified by independent observation.

    > #26: … in line with the scientific approach … I, like many, can prove the existence of God empirically – we experience God.

    Personal experience, as a rule of thumb (it gets more complicated when we study, for example, psychology) is the antithesis of empirical science.

    Unless there has been some major advance recently, of which I remain ignorant, I cannot read your mind. I cannot, therefore, verify your experience of a god or gods. Ergo, your experience of a god or gods is not a fact – it is merely your opinion.

    Even, Andy, if I set aside my scepticism and trust you implicitly: You have had personal experience of a god? Wow that’s great!

    What did I, or indeed anyone who is not Andy, gain?

    Without wishing to demean you in any way Andy; your personal experience means nothing to me, and it can never mean anything to me, except perhaps as the thought that my friend Andy had a positive experience.  Well that’s nice, because, you know, positive experiences are pretty cool aren’t they.  Nice for Andy.

    What we have here is the difference between subjective and objective – presented to us in the school of hard knocks.

    What we think and feel are subjective – based on, or influenced by, our personal feelings, tastes and opinions.

    Discovering objective truth is about the human struggle for information that is not dependent on one mind for its discovery – the attempt to discover what is actual.

    Science, by definition, seeks objectivity.

    It is noteworthy that objective truth does not care about your feelings, your opinions, or your intuitions. Nor does it care about mine. Thus we see in science that truth is often counter-intuitive.

    Personal experience may be objective, more frequently it is only subjective.  What is real for you may not be real for me – and if that is so, your reality is not actual other than as a state of your own mind.

    I am reminded of a conversation on Australian TV between Richard Dawkins and Cardinal Pell.  In answer to the question “What proof … would change your mind [referring to the existence of a god]?” Richard answered (paraphrase) “I used to think that if a 900ft Jesus came down to me with a voice like Paul Robson [that would be convincing]” Cardinal Pell : “You’d be hallucinating”.

    Evidently even Catholic Cardinals deny the value of personal experiences where they don’t comply with their preconceptions or prejudices.

    With that in mind: In what way can the study of the subjective possibly be a route to truth, to what really is?

    If we allow personal subjective experience to sit alongside irrefutable facts where does it end?

    Making decisions between what is true and what is false without reference to facts, or in the absence of facts referring to studied expertise that is at least related to facts, leads us to trust our intuitions over truth – for these coincide only by luck.

    Once we start to promote subjective experience, our intuitive internal senses, we open ourselves up to abuses of the most insidious kind: Fraudsters are bad enough, but when they see the opportunity to become politicians and abuse us by manipulation of our intuitions then we find ourselves living in a post-truth world.

    > #26: All experience, whether a scientific test result or spiritual experience, is subjective.

    I disagree. All of human experience begins as subjective experience, true. But we can and do move beyond the subjective.  To do so we must posit a world beyond ourselves.  I will take it as read that you do not believe that you are a brain in a vat.

    Science is based on precisely that premise: We do not exist as the fantasy of one solipsist, or as sprites in a computer simulation. Therefore, there is an external world to be discovered. In order to discover that world we must strive to be objective – because the alternative is to accept that we can all just make it up as we go along, and that would very quickly become simply chaos.

    Somehow, science must move beyond the subjective, and yet, at least to begin with, we only have our senses, and the seemingly subjective experiences they provide.

    And the philosophers said: Do not be deceived. Some of what appears to be subjective is, in fact, objective – and we can prove it. To cut a long story short: The key is verifiability. Having accepted that you are a different person to me, I can accept that if you experience something, and I can replicate that experience exactly, and repeatedly, then we can say that we have discovered a fact – something about the World that is irrefutable.

    Notice that verifiability demands exactness, and testing (repeated exactness).  The varieties of spiritual experience are not counted as facts because the reports of such experiences vary greatly, and are not repeatable.  They fail the test of objective veracity.

    What, then, should we make of reports of an entire realm – a spiritual world – beyond what is factually, that is objectively, known? It seems to me that this is the heart of the so-called, and overblown, ’war’ between science and religion. Religion brings what amounts to a psychological pointy stick, to what is billed as an intellectual nuclear stand-off.

    It is natural to ask: If I can discover the World I share with others, are there yet other worlds beyond our senses – Heaven, Hell, Elysium, Hades, Nirvana, Purgatory or whatever you would prefer to call them. Where I see a rational standard applied, as in this world, I see the very basis of such claims swept away.

    The only reasons, it seems to me, that religions continue to exist are a childish fear of death, that our frontal lobes are not all they could be and that religions have spent millennia learning how to make powerful friends.

    > 26: Consciousness is the only reality.

    Consciousness is our only way to experience reality.  If our consciousness is sane, rational and empirically inclined then our experiences will tend towards a perception of reality – that much is true. If our consciousness is capable of some other description (and that would seem to be true of all of us – just ask a Psychologist about the range of human minds that count as sane) then our experiences will tend towards a perception of reality that is less true.

    Clearly, this is a long scale that includes insane narcissist fantasists at one end with most scientists rather a long way towards the other. It is also a sliding scale, with most of us moving in one direction or the other pretty much all the time.

    I do not believe anyone has a full grasp of what reality is in its entirety. This is part of the problem: We spend so little time trying to understand the reality known to science that we leave ourselves open and suggestible to any, and every, charlatan’s ‘alternative’ narrative.

    > #27: Science has had obvious successes … but also ‘failures’ as quantum theory has shown

    I didn’t understand your remark there. Quantum theories are so successful that multiple countries sank enormous resources into CERN and discovered facts of the smallest details of the Cosmos. I see no systemic failure of any scientific theory in that scenario.

    >; #27: But also failures by humans in using scientific knowledge …

    I agree. Science is discovery, not application. Technology and human endeavour are the drivers for the application of scientific discovery.  In such a case, it is hardly surprising that humans do what humans do. Those with access to technology apply their ambitions – for good or ill.

    We’re running out of time to make sure the good guys are the ones at the controls – that is, you and me. We need to start with good thinking, and subjective personal experience simply doesn’t cut the mustard.

    >; #27: Religion has had … ‘successes’ in that billions of people get tremendous satisfaction, get reasons for living and feelings of well being and joy …

    You think that playing a confidence trick on many millions, in order to assist their self-delusions, simply to make them feel good about being alone, poor, or downtrodden – while simultaneously laying them open to exploitation by the unscrupulous, is a worthwhile project?  I cannot follow you down that road. When I stand at that Y junction where the alternative is for more truth, progress and emancipation …

    Peace.


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