Science and Religion

Science and Religion

Natural science is the study of nature and religion is the study of how to live.  Religion is the collective knowledge of humanity on what works in living one’s life in the world.  Natural science does not tell us how to live or what the world is or its purpose but rather how it works.  What the world is and it’s purposes are metaphysical questions and cannot be answered by the Scientific method.  They are questions for philosophy and religion.

The minute science begins to try to tell us what the world and its purpose is, it ceases to be science and becomes philosophy or even religion.  Science cannot tell us what the world is any better than it can tell us what gravity is and for that matter, what science is.  If you say science is the study of nature you have not told me what it is but rather what it does.  For example, for measurement, gravity could be labeled a force but that does not tell you what gravity is but rather what it is like.  But what is a force?  Science mainly tells us how things behave and attempt to measure their behavior, and it often does this by the use of metaphors.  A good example of this is light.  Sometimes light behaves like a wave and other times like a particle.  On the other hand, religion also uses metaphors to explain life and right living.  These metaphors come in the form of stories, myths and similes.

Humans attempt to label and define everything with words.  It is our way of bringing order out of the chaos of existence.  Science, Philosophy and religion are the tools we use to do this labeling.  These disciplines are often so intermingled that it’s impossible for the majority of people to even get close to separating them.  Science is based on facts that can be demonstrated and tested and Philosophy is based on things inferred from the facts.  The problem is that inferences that are inferred from the facts can be infinite.  These inferences could be called hypothesis, or a stronger word could be theory.  A hypothesis has little or no factual evidence of its truthfulness; a theory on the other hand has evidence, but many lack the means of testing it or falsifying it.  If these two things are absent, a theory will always remain a theory. e.g. String theory.

There are two predominant philosophies  that attempt to explain what the world is.  They are materialism and dualism.  Materialism is the belief that everything is made up of matter.  Dualism is the belief that a second ingredient exists which they may call, spirit, consciousness, life force or something, which is unseen. It is important to remember that the ancients did not concern themselves with the nature of the seen or unseen.  They simply accepted the fact; there were things that we see and there were things we could not see.

The philosophies of materialism and dualism are not the dominant philosophy because they have  been proven by science.  Both have been around a long time and  were embraced before modern science was created.  You could call them the philosophies of existence, but neither should be called science in a true sense of the word.  Both have an element of faith.  The materialist believes that only matter exists but makes a leap of faith when he adds the word ‘only’. The dualist has the problem of testing what they would call spirit.

However, when everything is said, the debate between materialism and dualism will not settle the question, does God exist?  The debate if ever won would rather, simply help determine the definition and nature of the deity, which is quite impossible to know to begin with, if we are talking about the God of the Bible, who some  theologians within the church referred to “as the nothingness” to ensure they did not insult him with a belittling description.

 

Does the Earth’s Size Matter?

Does the Earth’s Size Matter?

I often hear people say that people in Biblical time believed that the earth was the center of the universe. This is truly a miraculous statement seeing that people in biblical times in general did not even know there was a universe. The truth is, it was early scientist’s who believed that the earth was the center of the universe, not biblical writers.

Furthermore, it was not until the 20th century that the idea of an expanding universe was set forth by Hubble. The consequence of that discovery was that the earth became relegated by pseudoscience to an insignificant place within the universe. This dogma of insignificance was totally based on its size and place of the earth in the universe. This thinking could be akin to saying that a man’s importance is based on how big he is and where he lived at a particular time and place. I guess these folks believe that if God created the world that he would’ve created it as the biggest planet in the universe for man to inhabit. Of course, this thinking comes from the childish idea that big is better or that God is just a big man. Therefore, he must create a big place for the beings created in his likeness.

From a theological point of view and a rational point of view, the earth’s significance may have nothing to do with its size or place within the universe but rather with its function. Could it’s importance be found in the fact that God placed the creature created in his likeness on the earth to grow and mature into the sons of God? Could the whole thing be based on relationship and purpose and not on size? There are numerous schools throughout our nation, some big some small, some better than others. However, when my kids were in school, I was interested in their small school more than any other school in the land, you see sometime importance is based on relationships and not size. God has no little people and no little place He just has relationships. “God is love”.

 

Quotes on The Relationship of Science and Religion

Science doesn’t draw conclusions about supernatural explanations Do gods exist? Do supernatural entities intervene in human affairs? These questions may be important, but science won’t help you answer them. Questions that deal with supernatural explanations are, by definition, beyond the realm of nature — and hence, also beyond the realm of what can be studied by science.” Science Dept — University of California at Berkeley
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“science describes and explains the natural world: it does not prove or disprove beliefs about the supernatural” — American Anthropological Association
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“no aspect of science can address supernatural questions…..supernatural entities by definition operate outside of natural laws and so [truly] cannot be investigated using methods of experimentation” — American Association For the Advancement of Science
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“Science is not based on faith, nor does it preclude faith” — American Astronomical Society
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” theologians may also be interested in the physical world, but in addition they usually believe in a metaphysical or supernatural realm inhabited by souls, spirits, angels, or gods, and this heaven or nirvana is often believed to be the future resting place of all believers after death. Such supernatural constructions are beyond the scope of science” — National Academy of Sciences
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” science is precluded from making statements about supernatural forces because these are outside its provenance.” — National Science Teachers Association
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“Explanations employing nonnaturalistic or supernatural events, whether or not explicit reference is made to a supernatural being, are outside the realm of science …. all of science, is necessarily silent on religion and neither refutes nor supports the existence of a deity or deities.” National Association of Biology Teachers

Faith

Faith

“Without faith it would be impossible to eat stew”

Faith is to believe or not to believe[1] in something on the ground of something other than objective evidence[2]. Many of our most basic beliefs are subjective without us even realizing it. However, once accepted by faith, most believes can be given  some evidence to support them.  A large percentage of our beliefs are actually based on the authority of people whom we trust or have faith in. This trust represents a subjective element in the majority of things that we believe. Our beliefs can also be strangeness or weaken by inference and reason. Outside the religious spear say as in science faith might be like what we call a hunch or a vision. Hunches and visions like faith have various degrees of intensity and clarity. These degrees are as numerous as individual.

 

For example, my neighbor goes to post office ones a week to pick up his mail and I have faith or a hunch that he will do it tomorrow. So, my expectation of seeing him at the post office grows to almost a certitude. I could say I have faith that I will see him at the post office. If he fails to show up I begin to look for a reason. I do not say he does not exist because he doesn’t act according to my expectations.

Like my experience with my neighbor, when the Bible speaks of faith it taking about a belief based on experiencing God. This experiencing of God is referred to by believer as having a person relationship with God or being born again, which is completely non-understandable to unbelievers or even to the religious person that has not experienced God in a meaningful way. In view of this a person might be what we call religious and not have true faith. In this context faith is trust-based on one’s prior experiences.

My point is that if God does not show up as you might expect do not give up on God, rather take a look at your experiences and your interpretation of those experiences on which your faith is based.

[1] I had to add this  expression for my atheists friend who make a big deal out of atheism be a non-believe and not a faith. Faith is simply trusting ones believes and I would hope that atheists have at least a little trust in what they believe in or what they do not believe in.

[2] The idea of the objectivity is somewhat of an inflated idea. Most human knowledge has some aspect of subjective-ism. This is the reason there is no end to questioning and doubting.  It is the miserable lot of the skeptics to be doubting and arguing all the time and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

Cognitive Pathology and Consensus

Cognitive Pathology and Consensus

What is cognitive pathology?  It is the study of the source or origin of a belief, in other words, why people think the way they do.  You have probably experienced someone informing you, that you believe a certain view because of some hidden motives.  For example, someone declares that you are a Republican because you believe in capitalism, or you are Democrat because you believe in big government.

Atheists often use cognitive pathology to explain away the validity of the believer’s faith.  This has been the case from Feuerbach to Bertrand Russell.  Both Feuerbach and Russell seemed to believe like many atheists, that if you could explain the source or cause of peoples belief, that basis would invalidate those beliefs as being rational.  Of course, this kind of thinking is not unique to atheism.  It is a method used by many to attack or dismiss any arguments made against their beliefs on any subject.

I have run across this thinking in politics and science.  For instance, if you are against the theory of manmade global warming, you must be a capitalist or own stock in an oil company, For that reason you cannot face the truth about climate change therefore, I need not to bother myself with answering your arguments.  Another example would be; if you believe in smaller government, you must be a libertarian, therefore, all your criticism of government must be untrue and comes from your prejudices.  This is not to say that climate change is not real nor is it an endorsement of small government, it is simply an example of how people will use cognitive pathology to win an argument, or to avoid any possible argument against their belief system.

The problem with cognitive pathology is that it is often used as a form of reductionism  to reduce human emotions and thoughts down to one source.  This kind of thinking is common in a scientific age that has tried to reduce everything down to cause and effect; believing that everything can be reduced to one cause.  Another problem is that even if you could reduce a person’s belief on an issue to a single cause, that would not itself nullify a person’s belief or prove it to be false.  The belief itself must still be examined for its truthfulness.  Otherwise cognitive pathology becomes nothing more than a personal begging of the question, which I find often to be the case with those that continually use this kind of  circular reasoning.

A similar concept to cognitive pathology is the argument from a consensus.  In this form of argument, the person simply asserts that their position is correct because that’s what the majority believe.  This is usually done without proof as to what the majority actually believes.  Furthermore, proving what the majority believes in, is a massive job, which most people are not willing to undertake.  So, if someone uses the argument of consensus simply ask for proof, if the consensus is not self-evident.

I have run across a number of atheists who use consensus arguments to try to support their unbelief.  They say something like this, “the majority of scientists do not believe in God.”  To begin with, this is a pretty large blanket affirmation to make without any hard evidence to confirm it; and without the evidence it is nothing but  dishonest propaganda.  In fact, if you Google the question, you’ll find a lot of polling data on the subject and in my study of different polls, it looked pretty close that those  who believe in a higher power edged out the unbelievers by a couple of points[1].  One of problems with polling of this type is that it usually does not consider the difference between the types of scientists that are being interviewed.  What is called the ‘soft’ sciences like psychology, psychiatry and sociology, would to encompass a much larger number of unbelievers because much of their studies are based on a methodology other than the scientific method, which for many put them outside of a true science.

Cognitive pathology and consensus arguments are the preferred tool of the pseudo-educated class and status quo class to cover up their bias and to discredit the arguments of their opponents without answering the argument.[2]  Using these two techniques, they can dismiss arguments with little or no thought, much less a good argument.  Some use them to support an ego that has run amok.  Sometimes, I myself have practiced it, though hopefully noting it in the context of my writing, that in the end it proves nothing other than a person has the analytical skills to dissect the motives of others; and let me hasten to point out that in the majority of cases humans have more than one motive for doing or believing something.

The closest explanation, to explaining the source of faith and unbelief is William James book “The Will to Believe”[3].  In his book, James who was a psychiatrist and a philosopher postulates the theory that people basically believe what they want to believe about God.  James believed that a man’s will was their source of faith or unbelief as much as reason.  However, it is seldom reason alone that dictates whether a person believes in God or not.  He also points out that conditioning and temperament can make a person dead to a particular belief.[4]  By the expression “dead to a belief” he means that a person will not even consider looking at it or engage his reasoning to examine it.

[1] According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.  By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006.  Specifically, more than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say they believe in God and 12% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.  Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view.  Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, conducted in May and June 2009

[2] This is done in political debate by inferring that one’s opponent is racist or homophobic.  This infers that their statements or arguments come from a racial or gender bias.

[3] “The Will to Believe: and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy”

[4] James believed that temperament and disposition are some of the major factors in what people believe about things and especially metaphysical things.  You can read about this in his book on pragmatism.