Saturday, 29 January 2011

Can science or religion win? No.

I enjoy spectating the public debate between religionists and scientists, and I take an interest in the nature of the arguments. Neither side will win, something which is neatly covered here I feel.

In the discussion below, I am samjam. I let my real position slip in the end, but I feel that this is not relevant in the debate as I find myself so often not siding with the religionists or the scientists. Generally both "sides" understand the other so badly that they spend the time punching eachothers shadows.

The discussion takes place at: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1970862&cid=35031776

Disclosure: The discussion did not end there and my opponent rejected my position. I was unable to relate his rejection to the topic in a meaningful way.

Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:2)
by gardyloo (512791) writes: on Friday January 28, @10:22AM (#35032506)
*Anything* can be "analysed" by philosophy. Philosophy is, in essence, thinking about stuff. Fine. But thinking about stuff should (in my opinion) include some sort of wondering about whether it's got any connections to the real world.
Religions themselves are sometimes comforting, and they certainly seem to have some common grounds. That's interesting. Their history and the way they've influenced us and our world is interesting.
Religions also consistently fail to accord with reality. That's sad. It's also interesting. And *that's* science.

  • Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:2)
    by samjam (256347) writes: on Friday January 28, @10:47AM (#35032844)

    If only you had used philosphy to analyse what you meant by "the real world" when you said "wondering about whether it's got any connections to the real world" however that is one of the questions covered by philosophy BUT NOT BY SCIENCE.

    Science exclusively investigates only things which are subject to the scientific method and by definition cannot investigate anything else.
    Some religions are comforting, and some seem to have common grounds. But to leave it at that and say that (some) religions consistently fail to accord with reality (whatever reality is) is really a fair admission that you have not found religion (rather than religions) worth studying, and this sadly reduces the force of your point in the same way that the freaking religionists lack of science makes their views on science so weak (and often laughable).

    As a comparison, some are perhaps unable to distinguish between decent knowledge based health care, and homoeopathic quacks, snake-oil salesmen and so forth. Such people, might classify all 3rd party provided healthcare as bogus together. I think we both think that they would be wrong.

    But the comparison holds to religions too. Because some are run by quacks, or have quacks in them, says nothing about the fundamental nature of reality or purpose, and for which religion provides sound answers to many seekers of truth and understanding (and I don't just mean timid fearful folk).

    The ignorant finding decency in health care is like the human finding truth in religion and like the philosopher seeking the purple cow. It's all academic until he finds the cow, and only then can be make a statement on it.
...

    Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:1)
    by Broolucks (1978922) writes: on Friday January 28, @12:19PM (#35034308)

    The problem is that religion only answers the questions that it begs. For instance, asking "why" the universe exists implicitly assumes the existence of a vantage point from which the universe might be said to have a purpose. Even though religion might "answer" that question, it really doesn't: it begs it. "What created the universe?" is no more pertinent a question than what created that creator, but the former stumps people more than the latter. Religion only provides answers about morality to people who cannot trust any other source. And so on.

    The essential difference between science and religion is that the latter has the luxury of not having to be correlated to reality. So whereas science will provide objective answers that are useful in practice, religion will provide subjective answers that are sociologically or emotionally useful. So depending on your point of view, religion either answers a lot of questions or it answers nothing at all (I must say I am in the latter group - I do not see how any religion can answer anything).
    •  Re:Summary wrong, not so bleak (Score:2)
      by samjam (256347) writes: on Friday January 28, @01:03PM (#35034952)

    You say that "religion only answers the question that it begs" because you disqualify as invalid the presumption that a vantage point exists from which the universe is said to have a purpose. You beggared the question by not sharing the viewpoint from which it is asked; but this is no more than a re-statement of your own position.

    Those who have that viewpoint do not find this question beggared, but rather the start of science beggared - perhaps you are familiar with the question "but who made it go bang?"

    The argument in providing the final answer between religion and science comes down to this:
    • Science must leave un-answered the final question: why
    • Religion must leave un-answered the final question: how
    When you prefer science or religion you chose which question you prefer to leave unanswered.

    The claim of blinkered scientists to be right against religionists is nothing more that a obscured statement of their personal preference, likewise for blinkered religionists.
    •  and so (Score:2)
      by samjam (256347) writes: on Friday January 28, @01:52PM (#35035774) Homepage Journal

    This brings us to one of the first claims of religion:
        to know god, god must first reveal himself to man

    and also to one of the claimed claims of God that he will reveal himself to all his creations: http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/27.30?lang=eng#29 [lds.org]
    "I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all."

    - now when? That's his business, but it would be a low sort of creator that forgot his creations.

    Anway, I just wanted to demonstrate where philosphy leads when it considers science and religion. Maybe Godel got there first.

    Science and religion are useful independent, but the quest for truth makes a tool of them both; and I'm after truth, not a plausible debating position. If there is a god, and one worth knowing, I expect him to notice that and take an interest; I expect to find him. I find the journey very satisfying, very delightful, and very subject to rational scrutiny. One might wonder if god is more scientist than religious - after all superstition so often masquerades as religion.

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