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[P]
Snake Kisses

By joecool12321 in Culture
Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 07:59:42 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Irreligion and Contemporary Society In America


My first kiss happened when I was eight years old, a dare, between my friends and me, and Carrie's friends and Carrie. The kiss lasted all of point-five seconds, but that is long enough to become the talk of the classroom for least two weeks. As I grew older, I quickly discarded this childish, almost innocent view of kissing. As I grew older, I attached more value to this simple action.

The kiss, in American society, expresses closeness between two people. In some African tribes, though, the kiss is a threat. It is a sign of malicious intent because it resembles a snake tonguing its victim1. The interpretation of a kiss differs from society to society, because society influences people and their perceptions. A person's society determines how she interprets a burp after a meal. A person's society establishes the social mores surrounding her sexual relationships. A person's social heritage decides what actions are acceptable. Christian society deeply influenced western thought, but its influence dropped after the Enlightenment. Contemporary American society is best understood when Irreligion is understood to be the dominant mentality.

Irreligion is more easily understood when society is understood. Society is the predominant attitude and behavior characterizing the people of a nation; it is the "culture of a distinct self-perpetuating group"2. Society therefore has two essential features. Social traditions must be distinct, and they must be self-perpetuating. Irreligion represents a distinct philosophical mindset because it rejects the supernatural intervention which Christianity accepts. Irreligion, like any society, uses religion, law, and education to propagate itself.

Religion is a metaphysical assumption about the nature of existence that provides a framework of rationality. Abel points out, "[Metaphysics'] function is not so much to describe a universe `out there' as to contrive a scaffolding of concepts that will implement man's need to understand and organize his experience."3 He recognizes that metaphysical assumptions are not necessarily provable. Upon weighing the evidence, individuals must make a faith-based decision regarding which metaphysically coherent theory they accept.

Either a society casts its lot with a naturalistic metaphysic, or it accepts influences other than the mere tangible. Christian culture accepted the intangible, while Irreligion chooses modern science as its religion, as its metaphysical assumption about the nature of existence. Recognize that modern scientific Naturalism is a metaphysical assumption regarding fundamental reality, as is traditional Christianity. Scientific Naturalism has no more a claim to truth than theistic Christianity4. The Irreligionist belief in Naturalism bases itself on un-provable assumptions regarding matter and existence. The role of religion within Irreligion, like the role religion within Christianity, is to provide a basis from which one can explore the world5. Irreligion, after accepting a metaphysical assumption, then uses the law to transmit religious assumptions to future generations.

Law in a society is a codified system of what is acceptable. The law does not define acceptable in a `refined' or `well-mannered' sense; it does not discriminate between the gentleman and commoner. Rather, it draws the line between a rogue and citizen. The law at its foundation incorporates the beliefs of the dominant culture in society. The society gives power to the law and subjects itself to the dominion of the law. Dr. Phillip Johnson describes how the law of a society both draws from and affects perceived truth:

The Lamb's Chapel case illustrates how classifying a viewpoint or theory as "religious" may have the effect of marginalizing it. A viewpoint or theory is marginalized when, without being refuted, it is categorized in such a way that it can be excluded from serious consideration. The technique of marginalizing a viewpoint by labeling it "religion" is particularly effective in late-twentieth-century America, because there is a general impression, reinforced by Supreme Court decisions, that religion does not belong in public schools.

Supposedly this exclusion of religion reflects a national policy of religious neutrality, but it is anything but neutral when it is employed to protect important ideas and public policies from effective criticism.6

Dr. Johnson makes two key observations in this passage. First, he recognizes the role of the law in establishing de facto truths. Johnson illustrates how Naturalism, the religion of Irreligion, propagates within the legal system. He does this through demonstrating that "religion", the enemy of "science", is marginalized in modern America. Second, he observes that the law is not neutral. An action is right or wrong in how it compares to society's "protected public policy", that is, Naturalism. Justice, within society, is not blind. It relies on the religion of its adherents to determine what is morally right, and what is morally wrong. Once a soceity accepts something as a priori true, it must marginalize opposing viewpoints. Since the law draws its phraseology and power from the society it governs, the law is both a mirror of and a map to the society from whence it comes.

The people, though, ultimately have power to change the law. Society must therefore educate the populace in such a way as to encourage conformity in an attempt to maintain its power and self-perpetuating status. Irreligion does this perfectly. Students not only learn scientific Naturalism, but also learn through methods developed by Naturalistic philosophers such as Dewey. When looking at a culture defined by borders, such as a country, the law codifies what it is necessary to teach. In so doing, it perpetuates a worldview consistent with the dominant culture7.

Socrates' death illustrates the danger inherent in educating people in a way opposed to the ruling majority. Because Socrates challenged the status quo of education unsuccessfully, the ruling mass silenced him. The Vista School Board in California provides an example from modernity. They provided for discussion of non-Naturalistic theories of creation in English and History classes, thus offending a society dominated by the Irreligious. Since they challenged accepted educational practices, they received vast amounts of negative press coverage from as far away as Britain8, again demonstrating Irreligion's dominance in society.

Irreligous society represents a clean break with preceding Christian philosophy. The society, through its domination of religion, law, and education, The culture of Irreligion masterfully maintains control of public education in modern America. Furthermore, its dominance of the law allows Irreligion to force its agenda consistently across the country, affecting millions of students. Challenging the law is impossible because it marginalizes viewpoints seen as "religious", while at the same time incorporating the religion of scientific Naturalism. Irreligious society dominates religion, law, and education, thereby assuring its self-perpetuation.

1. Fenster, Bob. Duh! The Stupid History of the Human Race.
2. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition
3. Abel, Reuben, Man Is the Measure
4. McInerny, Ralph, "Why the Burden of Proof is on the Atheist."
5. Plantinga, Alvin, "Advice to Christian Philosophers."
6. Johnson, Phillip E., Reason in the Balance
7. Cleveland, Paul A., "State Education and the Decline in Morality."
8. Johnson

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Poll
Irreligion...
o ...has no discernable influence 0%
o ...has moderate influence 0%
o ...has significant influence 6%
o ...is too pervasive in American society 3%
o ...is in not pervasive enough 31%
o ...is a silly word. Come on, think of a better term 58%

Votes: 60
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Fenster, Bob. Duh! The Stupid History of the Human Race.
o American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition
o Abel, Reuben, Man Is the Measure
o McInerny, Ralph, "Why the Burden of Proof is on the Atheist."
o Plantinga, Alvin, "Advice to Christian Philosophers."
o Johnson, Phillip E., Reason in the Balance
o Cleveland, Paul A., "State Education and the Decline in Morality."
o Also by joecool12321


Display: Sort:
Snake Kisses | 54 comments (40 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
clueless Christians (4.00 / 6) (#3)
by danny on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 05:23:37 AM EST

Why is it so many Christians insist on a dichotomy between "Christianity" and everything else (in this case "Irreligion")?

If one were to build a typology of belief systems objectively, "Christian" would be a very specific category. Making the first divide between "Christianity" and "irreligion" is like dividing life up into perching birds and non-animals - it's just bizarre (in the latter case to anyone with basic taxonomy, in the former to anyone who's done even a little bit of comparative religion).

Lumping all non-Christian beliefs together as some kind of "scientific naturalism/secular humanism" can only be done by those either incredibly ignorant of the world or so frightened by it that they can't look at it.

And of course if you divide the world up into "people who think almost exactly like me" (you are obviously using a very narrow defintion of Christian) and everyone else, then yes, you will find the latter group dominate education and the media and so forth - but it's hardly a conspiracy when 90% of the population do that!

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Clarification (none / 0) (#6)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 05:39:48 AM EST

Perhaps a better way to phrase my definition of Irreligion ("Irreligion represents a distinct philosophical mindset because it rejects the supernatural intervention which Christianity accepts") would be to say Methedological Naturalism. I'm not lumping all non-Christian religions toghether. I'm looking at the culture that accepts as its religion MN, and this does go against what most people hold to be true, according to a recent Gallup poll.

So the phrase Irreligion refers to the culture that arises from the religion (methedological naturalism), law (liberal rationalism), and education ("Dewey-ism") that are unified under the denial of an intervening "power".

I hope that clarifies and strengthens my article. I'm definately not trying to lump all non-Christian religions (or non-Christin beliefs) together.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

sigh (none / 0) (#8)
by danny on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 06:03:03 AM EST

Methodological Naturalism is not a religion, any more than Operational Realism, Mathematical Constructivism, Ethical Relativism, Falsificationism, Positivism, or any other number of -isms are. Heck, 99% of the people you want to call "methodological naturalists" wouldn't even know what that meant!

There are more non-Christian philosophies than you can imagine. Most of them are incompatible with one another - and they differ from one another more, in many cases, than they differ from Christian philosophies. Someone like Betrand Russell (a common Christian bugbear) had far more in common with (say) Elizabeth Anscombe (a Catholic) than he had with (say) Confucius.

Reifying a single "non-Christian" worldview is like making "non-Macintosh" a fundamental classification of computers - it might make sense to someone who's only ever used MacOS/Macintoshes and has no experience with the huge variety of other computers and operating systems out there, but to anyone with a clue about computers it's just laughable.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Talking past each other (none / 0) (#10)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 06:23:13 AM EST

Look, you're not telling me anything I don't already know. Additional areas would include Rationalism, Classical Mechanicism, and Scientific Realism. Listing off term after term doesn't deny the overarching unity through the denial of supernatural intervention.

Christianity also has many different terms one could throw out: Present Knowledge, Middle Knowledge, Foreordained Knowledge, Openess Model, Molonism, Calvinism, and Middle Knowledge Calvinism. And that's just in *one area* of inquiry! But that doesn't mean they aren't united by a common thread, any more than the common thread of the denial of supernatural intervetion unites a differing world-view.

Look, I'm not trying to unite all non-christian worldviews together. I'm uniting 1. the religious belief that there is no supernatural intervention; with 2. the legal belief that the individual is of the utmost importance; with 3. education is best achieved through breaking the topic into several distinct areas of information, and MN should be the main theory taught.

Obviously there are more combinations possible, but that combination is the one in power in America.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
getting colder... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by danny on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 07:59:21 AM EST

Look, you're not telling me anything I don't already know. Additional areas would include Rationalism, Classical Mechanicism, and Scientific Realism. Listing off term after term doesn't deny the overarching unity through the denial of supernatural intervention.

But my point is that there is no "overarching unity", or at least not the one you are looking for. For some philosophers (mostly earlier ones) denying supernatural intervention may have been a fundamental issue; for others it's simply irrelevant. If you are trying to classify belief systems, you don't start by asking whether they are "supernaturalist" or not. That's like starting a description of a computer by asking whether it's a Macintosh or not - it might make sense in some specific contexts, but as a general typology it's simply not the right approach.

One common classification of philosophies is as rationalist or empiricist, for example - why shouldn't that take priority over naturalist/supernaturalist? An anthropologist might use a typology that distinguished supplication from coercion, or intellectual from experiential, or the roles beliefs play in social organisation. With some religions I doubt it's even meaningful to ask if they are "naturalist" or not in your sense, since their ideas of the "supernatural" are so different. Were Sung "Neo-Confucianists" naturalists? Could one even phrase that question in a way that would make sense to Wang Yang-Ming?

As for your three points, I see no obvious connection between them and they seem confused:

1. the absence of a belief in anything does not constitute a belief, let alone a religion. A person who has never thought about quarks can not be said to have a religious belief in their absence - and most people have never thought about methodological naturalism (by that or any other name). Or perhaps America is ruled by anti-quarkists?

2. the connections between legal and political individualism and the development of science (or the decline of established religions) are a matter of debate. But they are certainly broad, and not restricted to a single issue in epistemology or metaphysics!

3. the breakdown of topics for education is probably universal - it characterises all systematic education schemes as far back as I know of them (think of the medieval quadrivium). As for reductionism, well methodological reductionism is certainly a dominant approach in the natural sciences, but this is NOT the same thing as "methodological naturalism", which is simply irrelevant to 99% of scientific practice. (You can be a reductionist and a supernaturalist, or a holist and a naturalist.)

Also, from a non-USAnian perspective, public life in America seems relatively (in comparison to Australia or Europe) dominated by Christianity. You may have separation of church and state, but your leaders and public figures use religious language and ideas way more than ours. And frankly, the idea that Australia is controlled by some kind of methodological naturalist conspiracy is... well, I used the word conspiracy, didn't I? -- if it's happening no one knows about it, even the people supposedly carrying it out!

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Religious belief? (none / 0) (#24)
by Redemption042 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 01:13:11 PM EST

>1. the religious belief that there is no >supernatural intervention;

I don't see how this could be termed a religious belief. Humans are by nature pattern recognizing animals. If an adult individual goes through life without seeing one incident of a provable supernatural action then they are likely to say "Hey, it's not likely to exist."

This is not a religious belief. It is a mere belief in the future and present based upon all experiences of the past.

[ Parent ]
Irreligion? (none / 0) (#13)
by sigwinch on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 06:51:59 AM EST

Irreligion represents a distinct philosophical mindset because it rejects the supernatural intervention which Christianity accepts.

I would say that these supposed irreligionists actually reject the idea that anything is supernatural. To quote Robert Heinlein, "supernatural is a null word". I would further say that their "rejection" (which is too harsh a word) of Christianity comes from their lack of even slightly convincing observations confirming biblical claims. Adults tend not to believe in God for the same reason they don't believe in Santa Claus. To them the Pope isn't the Vicar of Christ, he's just some guy in a suit.

It is telling that when people -- including the supposedly religious -- say something would "take an act of God" to accomplish, what they mean is an act that could only take place in an escapist fantasy story. Contrast it with the common American phrase "it would take an act of Congress", which means it is in principle possible, but is very unlikely to actually happen for numerous practical reasons.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Sound and fury (4.00 / 4) (#4)
by rde on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 05:25:55 AM EST

Religion is a metaphysical assumption about the nature of existence ... Irreligion chooses modern science as its religion

Pah. Science makes no assumptions about the universe. Individual scientists might, but that's hardly the same thing.

I'd consider myself a fundamentalist; I believe in atoms, electrons and quantum theory in the sense that they work. I don't believe the theories are complete any more than I think Newton was absolutely right. Both Newton's and Einstein's laws are approximations that best describe reality as we see it at the time. I belive the big bang probably happened. I don't know how, and I'm not sure that the question is answerable. But my belief is based on my (admittedly very limited) understanding of prevailing theories. The more I read, the more I study (pro and anti arguments), the more I'm convinced by these theories.

As for the ludicrous assertion about "non-Naturalistic theories of creation": the objection most of us have is to the denial of evolution as a fact.

Both of my pseudo points above can be encapsulated thusly: Religion is belief despite evidence; 'Irreligion' is the search for evidence.

Science and Scientific Natualism (none / 0) (#7)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 05:49:10 AM EST

Well, science does assume that the universe is orderly - that is, there is a possibility of gaining understanding coherent over time. It also assumes that there's a motivation for such understanding. (Medieval church thought agreed with these two claims, and helped create science. As a short proof of this claim: Aristotle found no motivation to practice science -- there was no order (look at the Greek gods). However, the Medieval church thought there was order, and hence motivation, to study the naturual world. 1. You gain knowledge of 'the way God is' 2. The universe is orderly if a intelligent being created it. I'm not arguing for either of those propositions, I'm simply showing how a belief in them leads to science).

My 'beef' isn't with science as science. My problem is with the religion of Scientific Natualism being paraded as 'mere science'.

You then indict my "non-Naturalist theories of creation". That quote is a paraphrase of what was the science framework in the state of California during the time of the story involved. Legislators came up with it, not me.

"Religion is belief despite evidence; 'Irreligion' is the search for evidence."

This is outside the domain of my article. I'm simply attempting to point out that a certain culture is in control. I don't think I make any evaluative claims regarding the goodness or badness of this control.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Re: (none / 0) (#9)
by rde on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 06:07:04 AM EST

Well, science does assume that the universe is orderly
Sort of. I'd say that science proceeds on the assumtion that the universe is orderly (by your definition), but is aware of the limited nature of that assumption. Without order there's no hope of understanding, but to refuse the attempt on the basis that there's no proof of order is foolish.

I'm simply attempting to point out that a certain culture is in control.
It's your point that science (where science == irreligion) is a cultural phenomenon with which I have a problem. I'd contend that science is independent of culture, and that religion is merely an early instance of the scientific method at work.

[ Parent ]
science != irreligion (none / 0) (#12)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 06:29:32 AM EST

Science != Methedological Naturalism

Irreligion is 1: The belief that there is no supernatural intervention in the world (mechanics is all that matters). 2: The legal system that upholds MN (holds the individual as the utmost importance, although I realize I didn't get to that aspect -- it's a scope issue). 3: The educational system that advocates MN, and educates according to MN principles (ie Dewey). Irreligion is in place only when these three things are in place ("Society therefore has two essential features. Social traditions must be distinct, and they must be self-perpetuating")

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Assumptions (none / 0) (#18)
by John Thompson on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 08:35:56 AM EST

rde wrote:

> Science makes no assumptions about the universe.

On the contrary, science makes several fundamental assumptions about the universe, the most important of which are that the universe is ultimately comprehensible and that the laws of the universe are invariant over time and space. These assumptions are no more "provable" than a religion's assumption of the existence of an omnipotent, supernatural being with a personal interest in the human race. Science, however, uses the heuristic tool of Occam's Razor to make a deliberately reduce the number of such unprovable assumptions to a bare minimum, feeling that this will bring our understanding of the universe closer to reality than otherwise possible.

Does this mean that science is more "correct" than religion in describing the True Nature of the universe? Not necessarily, as science and religion are based on very different fundamental assumptions about the universe. Although I share your skepticism about religious faith, over the years I have come to accept that science and religion need not be seen as mutually exclusive. Rather, they are complementary views of the universe with very different assumptions and goals. My own lack of religious faith may be more an artifact of my own personality rather than a reflection of the True Nature of the universe.



[ Parent ]
Tautology (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by Ludwig on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 04:02:29 PM EST

...[S]cience makes several fundamental assumptions about the universe, the most important of which are that the universe is ultimately comprehensible and that the laws of the universe are invariant over time and space.

1) It is not necessary to assume that the universe in its entirety is comprehensible on every scale for science to function. One could look at science as the endeavour to discover if the universe is comprehensible or not.

2)Your second example is a tautology. Science doesn't assume that the laws of the universe are invariant, it defines law as that which is invariant. When observations contradict existing law, the law is modified to fit the observations. Religion works the other way around.

[ Parent ]

Your eponym (none / 0) (#46)
by medham on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 06:41:02 AM EST

Has a few things to say about tautologies. I'd suggest reading them.

An Italian gentlemen, once threatened by religious authorities, would have some issues with your point the second.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Tautology (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by John Thompson on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 01:35:55 PM EST

Ludwig wrote:

Indeed it is, and in order to comprehend the that small corner of the universe you happen to be studying, you assume there is some structure (ie, physical laws) governing your area of study. Otherwise, you'd may as well assume that whatever you're studying was produced by the Invisible Pink Unicorns and be done with it. And if you want to apply what you have learned locally to other areas of the universe, you have to assume that the same laws apply there. For example, if you want to apply what you've learned about electromagnetic absorption spectra here on earth to ascertain the composition of distant stars, you must assume that the same quantum rules apply there as here. Otherwise, why bother?

2)Your second example is a tautology. Science doesn't assume that the laws of the universe are invariant, it defines law as that which is invariant.

No, it isn't, but I suspect your statement above might be a tautology, because, after all, the definition of "law" you give must itself assume the universal invariance, because we have no way of empirically testing all possible situations in the universe, right?



[ Parent ]
"Assume" (none / 0) (#53)
by Ludwig on Mon Jan 28, 2002 at 05:22:35 AM EST

There's an old saying, "When you assume, you put 'U' between 'Me' and some 'Ass.'" Or words to that effect.

I think we need to distinguish between two sorts of assumptions. The assumptions of science are flexible; if we were to discover evidence that a law works differently elsewhere, that law would be subject to revision. That's why everything is considered "just" a theory. Religious doctrine is a set of inflexible assumptions, very different from the assumptions of science; it admits no evidence against it. To say that science and religion are alike in that they both make "fundamental assumptions" is misleading.

[ Parent ]

You are playing with logical and metaphysical fire (5.00 / 6) (#11)
by sigwinch on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 06:25:07 AM EST

Science is based on a few simple dogmas: that things seem to happen for reasons, that the reasons seem to stay the same over time, that the simplest supposed reason that explains an event is most likely correct, and that a supposed reason ('theory') that cannot be contradicted is meaningless. These 'dogmas' are fairly weak -- more ad hoc observations than true dogmas -- but they seem to work fairly well.

At first glance religions are similar to science, in that each is based on a set of stated dogmas, and the dogmas purport to record Truth with a capital T. The problem with religion is that the dogmas are inconsistent with each other, and with observations in the real world. Now that's not such a problem if you want to hear a nice story, or if you want to learn to live peacefully with your neighbor, or want to blow your mind a little with ontology. There are a lot of areas where science not only doesn't provide definitive answers, but actually proves that definitive answers are not currently achievable.

The problem comes when you try to prove science wrong using the tenets of a particular religion. The important word there is 'prove'. Any attempt to 'prove' something using religion moves it into the realm of strict logic and reason, and that is the kiss of death. Axioms that contradict each other cannot prove anything, and every religion is an enormous tangled mess of inconsistent statements. Maybe they're wildly inconsistent, maybe it's a subtle inconsistency, but the problem is there.

It's hard to put your finger on it when a preacher is speechifying about evolution vs creation with fine-sounding words, but every attempt to use religion as if it were a tool of logic boils down to saying "This sentence is false". It's the rhetorical equivalent of dividing by zero. And that's bad. It gives certain narrow-minded science types the smug belief that they have all the answers, and it makes religion look useless.

It's even harmful inside a religion. It starts out innocently with a straightforward dogma like "God created the world", but them some priest come along and decides to spice it up by saying "Obviously God created the world, because the world is just too awesome and amazing to have sprung into existence on its own". The word 'because' moves it into the realm of logic, and thus brings madness. For if something amazing must be created by something even more amazing, then God definitely had to be created by a Super-God. And Super-God definitely had to be created by Super-Duper-God. That's fine if you're Douglas Hofstadter writing a humorous story about the Church of Infinite Regression, but in a real religion it means that little children will ask reasonable questions that are answerable only by an awkward silence (or more likely by sputtering consternation).

Incidentally, this helps explain the curious popularity of Zen philosophy. Emptying your mind, or filling it with deliberate conundrums, is simultaneously mystical and scientific.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.

Wow, there's a lot here (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by joecool12321 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 06:53:56 AM EST

But I don't see how it relates to my article. I don't think I'm using religion to disprove science. I'm not trying to prove science or religion, or that one legal or educational system is better than another.

I suppose one controversial claim I make is regarding the label I place on Scientific Naturalism. Suppose there is a state S, and a possible world W. Suppose state S is exclusive. I can therefore claim either "In W, S obtains" or "In W, S does not obtain". Both statements regard the state S, and both are "S-ish" statements: statements regarding S. In the same way, we have This World, and a State of an intervening power. I can claim either "In W, S obtains", or I can claim "In W, S does not obtain". Both are statements regarding the reality of an intervening power. Traditional Christianity (among other religions) purports that an intervening power exists. Scientific Naturalism (among other belief systems) claims that an intervening power exists. So SN is a religious statement *in the same way* that Christianity is a religious statement.

Perhaps this is a misdirected reply, but I'll probably end up saying it at some point or another.

(On a personal note, if I were not a Christian, I'd adhere to Zen.)

--Joey

[ Parent ]
hmm? (none / 0) (#25)
by Kalani on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 01:14:53 PM EST

What's the intervening power asserted by Scientific Naturalism? Would that be "nature" (or maybe more precisely, "the actual law(s) of physics")? How do you define a religious statement? This state "S" of yours is a state of ___? A state of the universe? If that's the case, and the universe doesn't shift states (which it wouldn't unless you want to allow God to be transitory) then shouldn't you call it an attribute of the universe (a single fixed property)?

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Oops (none / 0) (#52)
by joecool12321 on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 05:13:16 PM EST

"Traditional Christianity (among other religions) purports that an intervening power exists. Scientific Naturalism (among other belief systems) claims that an intervening power exists."

Should read, "Traditional Christianity (among other religions) purports that an intervening power exists. Scientific Naturalism (among other belief systems) claims that an intervening power does not exist."

--Joey

[ Parent ]

Definitions .... (4.50 / 2) (#17)
by iwnbap on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 08:16:58 AM EST

There's an assumption here that there was a unified pre-exisiting Christian philosophy; "theistic Christianity". You don't bother to define it. For instance, there are neo-platonist ideas, aristotelian ideas, mechanistic ideas, mystical ideas, deist ideas, and so on, all within the gamut of "theistic Christianity".

Then there's a similar assumption that "irreligion" represents a similar unified body of thought.

Certainly "Scientific Naturalism has no more [i.e. equal] a claim to truth than theistic Christianity" if you start with some forms of Scientific Naturalism and some forms of theistic Christianity; however by picking a sensible version of one and a silly version of the other you can contradict this statement in either direction.

For instance, if you take "scientific naturalism" to be a fairly narrowly defined body of mathematically-based knowledge, as versus a platonist interpretation of Christianity, it's pretty clear that even in the terms of the platonist Christian the mathematical truth will win hands down. It's easy to come up with counter-exmples too.

You say: "modern scientific Naturalism is a metaphysical assumption regarding fundamental reality". Go to any university mathematics faculty and do a straw poll to find out how many formalist (i.e. mathematics is just a symbol juggling system) as versus platonist ("the axiom of choice is True, dammit!") mathematicians there are - half will be formalist, a quarter platonist, and the rest will dither. This is the fundemental epistemology of the discipline, and they can't even agree! If the practioners of scentific naturalism have no idea as to what their "metaphysical assumptions" are, and if they are that fundamentally disparate, how can you lump them under the one banner in opposition to "theistic Christianity".

Until you define terms strictly the argument is non-sensical. I suspect however, that once you do define terms properly, your argument will fail to work.


The Truth (TM) (4.50 / 8) (#19)
by mmcc on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 09:35:26 AM EST

    "Scientific Naturalism has no more a claim to truth than theistic Christianity."
Right, but science doesn't claim to know the truth, unlike Christianity. Any scientist who professes to know "truthes" shouldn't be listened to.

Science is simply a well check and cross referenced knowledge base that can be drawn upon when making predicitions about the future.

You want to know what happens when you put a blanket over a fire? A scientist can predict an answer for you.

You want to know how much fuel it will take you to put a satellite into orbit? Science can tell you a round figure.

How? Well, scientists through the ages have recorded observations and derived methods that can give you a good answer to various problems. If you don't believe me when i tell you radioactive substances are dangerous to you health, it's your problem.

Scientific knowledge can adapt and change. It is not static, or held as universal truth... it works now, and if it didn't, we would throw the useless parts away.

Science trumps religion in making predictions about the world in which we live because it is useful. Who consults a witch doctor or priest for a weather forecast?

Conversely, religion is useful for matters of the heart, interpersonal relationships, and moral problems. Who would consult a scientist about a marital problem?

Any scientist that tells you he/she knows the Whole Truth should be ignored. Some happen to believe the same thing about evangelists.



Scientists / Psychiatrist (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by alge on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:25:14 AM EST

Conversely, religion is useful for matters of the heart, interpersonal relationships, and moral problems. Who would consult a scientist about a marital problem?
Wouldn't a psychiatrist (or: anyone who has studied human nature, human moral and human problemsolving, "scientists of the mind" if you want to label it) do just as well as a priest? Here in Norway the priests have a five year old education*, I think, and parts of it are the same as psychiatrists. (How to talk to people with problems, blah blah blah, moral issues, etc.)
If I just had to tell someone about any personal problems, and I could choose between a priest and a psychiatrist, I know I would have chosen the latter. But: If I had to choose between a priest and someone without that education, i.e. my boss, I would choose the priest. Even if I more or less hate religion.

* For the Norwegian StateChurch, that is, may it burn in, umm, heck.

vi er ikke lenger elsket her

[ Parent ]
religion dose not help psychologically (none / 0) (#21)
by Nyarlathotep on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:39:01 AM EST

Conversely, religion is useful for matters of the heart, interpersonal relationships, and moral problems. Who would consult a scientist about a marital problem?

We should only credit a psychological cure when it can beat a placebo effect. Religion is a placebo effect almost by definition. Shure, religion may be a more effective plcebo for strongly religious people, but there are a million other ways to make placebos which are equally effective and work for other people. Regardless, we should not confuse the placebo effect with legitimate understanding.

Example: Lets talk about dealing with a scho. individual, First, the psychologist will give the person anti-psychotic drugs to get them to a point where they can communicate without confusion. Next, the psychologist will help the person sort out what is real from what is not. The end result is oftin a person which can tell the diffrence between halucination and reality most of the time.. and may not even need medication. I see more opertunities for religion to mess this person up further then for religion to cure them.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

oops (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by Nyarlathotep on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:49:32 AM EST

The point of that example was that psychologists have learned that "helping the person sort out what is likely to be real and what is not makes the person better able to deal with hallucinations." This is a experemental observation by psychologists and they should have proven it distinct from a placebo effect by now. Indeed, they may even have shown that it "can not hurt," unlike religion.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Christianity does beat the placebo effect (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous 242 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 03:01:44 PM EST

Simply attending a service every Sunday morning does not.

Consider reading Metropolitan Hierotheos S. Vlasos' The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition or John S. Romanides' The Cure of the Neurobiological Sickness of Religion. You may or may not also be interested in George Metallinos' Faith and Science in Orthodox Gnosiology and Methodology.

The short version of the story is that ancient forms of Christianity with their emphases on unceasing prayer, cognitive therapy, and theosis are almost undeniably transformative.

Of course in the vast majority of Churches in Western Europe and in the Americas, religion has a tendency to consist more of a list of "thou shalt nots" than a set of practices to transform the individual.

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Yes (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by Nyarlathotep on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:53:39 PM EST

I see your point that you change when you live a monkish life (no matter why you live that life). I suppose I should restrict my statment to "get cured by getting on god good side" folks.

btw> If you did descide you wanted the monkish life for some reason, you'd be better off with Zen.. less bagage and more flexible.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Monks and Zen (none / 0) (#44)
by Anonymous 242 on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 12:05:19 AM EST

I prefer my monkish discipline to not involve rods.
More sitting, Grasshopper! <thwack!>
That and asceticism isn't just for monks. To suggest otherwise is a heresy from the point of view of the oldest extent form of Christianity on the face of the planet. ;)

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Except for your false distinction, I kind of agree (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Anonymous 242 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 02:53:58 PM EST

Science trumps religion in making predictions about the world in which we live because it is useful. Who consults a witch doctor or priest for a weather forecast?

Conversely, religion is useful for matters of the heart, interpersonal relationships, and moral problems. Who would consult a scientist about a marital problem?

The implicit assumption being made is that matters of the heart are not "part of the world in which we live". Aside from rejecting this presupposition, I would also contend that religion can (and does) made useful predictions about the world in which we live.

The problem is that many people (predominantly in the USA) who profess Christianity abuse it. One good example is the Creation Scientists that take a view of the Christian Holy Writ (that it is meant as a scientific and historical accurate text) that was not the view of the first generations of Christians. Early Christian authors as disparate as Theodore of Mosupestia, Origen of Alexandria, the anonymous author behind the work known as the Epistle of Barnabas, Irenæus of Lyons, Augustine of Hippo, etc. did not think that the Christian Scriptures were factually true in the sense of a history or scientific text book. Rather these early Christians held that each portion of the Christian Scriptures related an important aspect of divine truth concerning the Christian economy of salvation.

Another example is the false dichotomy that most scientists (and most Christians to be fair) hold about the natural world and the supernatural world. Strictly speaking, to hold what most people consider to be supernatural (angels, ghosts, demons, soulds) to not be natural is an argument from ignorance. The Christian Scriptures explicitly state that all of these are part of nature, part of creation. To state that simply because we are unaware of how to methodically and rigorously test for the existence of "supernatural" beings implies that they are not of nature is irrational and an argument from ignorance. Whether or not Christianity holds any truth or not is easy to test. One simply needs to live the life desribed by Christians as leading to theosis (a life of prayer, fasting, alms giving, putting others before the self, etc.) or observe people that do. The person that follows this path (the narrow path described by Jesus) either will (as Christianity claims) or will not experience the uncreated energies of God. If the people that follow this path more often than not experience the uncreated energies of God (or something that seems to be such) then there is an objective basis for Christianity and something that Christianity is good for in terms of making predictions concerning the real world.

To quote Fredrica Matthewes-Green, the point of Christianity is to stop us from acting like jerks. ;)

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

false dichotomy ? (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by fhotg on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 01:24:24 PM EST

Another example is the false dichotomy that most scientists (and most Christians to be fair) hold about the natural world and the supernatural world. Strictly speaking, to hold what most people consider to be supernatural (angels, ghosts, demons, soulds) to not be natural is an argument from ignorance. The Christian Scriptures explicitly state that all of these are part of nature, part of creation. To state that simply because we are unaware of how to methodically and rigorously test for the existence of "supernatural" beings implies that they are not of nature is irrational and an argument from ignorance.
From a scientific point of view, stuff that cannot currently beeing tested for existance, is not regarded as having any properties. You don't say it exists, you don't say it doesn't, you don't say it's "of nature" or not. You just try to explain whatever you want to explain without using it. If the assumption that it exists helps you explaining something, you might be motivated to devise methods to test for its existance. Until then, you just don't know.
As Laplace put it when asked why he hadn't mentioned God in a book he wrote on mechanics, "I have no need for that hypothesis".

~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
more on the false dichotomy (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Anonymous 242 on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 03:54:19 PM EST

From a scientific point of view, stuff that cannot currently beeing tested for existance, is not regarded as having any properties. You don't say it exists, you don't say it doesn't, you don't say it's "of nature" or not. You just try to explain whatever you want to explain without using it. If the assumption that it exists helps you explaining something, you might be motivated to devise methods to test for its existance. Until then, you just don't know.
Such is the true spirit (!) of the scientific method. The problem is that a large number of scientists (both atheist and theist) don't follow this methodology and state that either the "supernatural" realm is beyond the scope of science (most thesists and a good deal of weak atheists -- especially the classical agnostics) or state categorically that the supernatural realm doesn't exist (most strong atheists).

This problem stems from begging the question of what "nature" is and arguing from ignorance on two different ways of begging the question. The truly scientific mind would withold judgement until knowledge in the area increased or attempt to devise some way of acquiring knowledge enough to formulate some sort of test. This attitude is somewhat rare on both sides of the theistic fence. (As a tangential aside, I do believe that there are some ways of inquiring into the subject, but relatively few people are actually interested in doing so, preferring to "safeguard" theism by making it "untouchable" by science or preferring to "debunk" theism by categorically denying the existance of the "supernatural".)

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

yepp (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by fhotg on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 04:29:50 PM EST

The problem is that a large number of scientists ... don't follow this methodology and state that either the "supernatural" realm is beyond the scope of science ... or state categorically that the supernatural realm doesn't exist (most strong atheists).
I prefer to use the word 'scientist' not tied to someones profession. If a PhD of something makes those statements about the 'supernatural', she speaks as a theist, atheist, whatever, not as a scientist. If he claims such things in a publication in her field, it's bad science though.

The truly scientific mind would withold judgement until knowledge in the area increased or attempt to devise some way of acquiring knowledge enough to formulate some sort of test.
It appears to me, that a great deal of mysticist know-how actually results from applying something close to the scientific method. The problem is, that this field is inherently very subjective. I might me able to replicate experiments and results of my own, but communicating method and result to somebody else poses serious problems. Not the least of which is that the preconditions for experiments involving your mental/emotional setting are pretty unique and probably not reproductible. So I agree partly to the statement that the "supernatural" realm is beyond the scope of science in the strict sense applied to natural sciences today.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Excellent points, bad case study (5.00 / 4) (#32)
by Anonymous 242 on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 03:15:57 PM EST

First, I admire the way that the shortcomings of societal views of truth are stated.

Second, some of the cases in point are quite flawed.

First, in most cases the natural/supernatural debate is posed as to beg several questions. Why are an angels/demons/souls designated to supernatural while rocks/trees/bodies are not? From antiquity, Christianity has held those things commonly thought as supernatural to part of the order of nature.

To say that these things are not natural and cannot be investigated by science (as many Christians do) is to beg the question of what makes something supernatural. In other words, these Christians haven't really thought out the implication of only God being uncreated. Their failure to think out the ramifications of their own doctrine has led to the forwarding of ridiculous reasoning on the part of many would be apologists.

On the other hand, to say that these things commonly thought of as supernatural do not exist because we have not detected them in a scientificly methodological manner is also an appeal to ignorance. When scientists deny the existence of the supernatural (instead of denying that they have seen evidence for the supernatural) they are being irrational and religous.

In my view the end result is legion after legion of irrational strawmen being raised by misguided theists and irrationally burned down by misguided atheists. This exercise does little to further the positon of eaither side and only serves to be entertaining to those that like to watch flame wars.

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

According to Christianity (3.00 / 4) (#37)
by xriso on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 05:39:04 PM EST

it should be completely compatible with natural truth. Since the Bible's claim is that God created the Universe, the effect is that the Bible must not contradict the truths of our universe. (By the way, Science is not the same thing as natural truth. It is merely humanity's effort at discerning this truth.)

Anyway, this article almost looks like it came from here.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)

Fun and thought-provoking... (1.00 / 1) (#39)
by wiredog on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 08:08:20 PM EST

... yet pretentious and masturbatory. I like it!

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
Ugh. (2.25 / 4) (#40)
by wji on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 10:25:51 PM EST

Looks like a college essay, reads like Chomskybot, and smells like B.S. I love these highly simplistic treatments of complex issues dressed up to sound objective. Oh wait, no I don't. -1

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
A simplified argument. (4.50 / 4) (#41)
by scanman on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:09:01 PM EST

Because I doubt that anyone here was able to wade all the way through that excessively long, convoluted article, I will attempt to reduce it to a few bullet points to make it easier to understand.
  • In America, kissing is a show of affection.
  • In Africa, kissing is not a show of affection.
  • Therefore, cultures differ.
  • In America, atheism is common.
  • Public schools do not teach religion.
  • This is all part of a huge atheist conspiracy to turn all children into atheists and somehow take over America.
  • The conspiracy's hidden agenda is to remove Christianity from the law.
In short, the author is a fundamentalist Christian with delusions of persecution who really needs to find a nice Catholic school to send his kids to.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

Why Religion is superior to Irreligion (4.00 / 1) (#42)
by fhotg on Sat Jan 26, 2002 at 11:13:49 PM EST

Ok, I'm using 'irreligion' here a bit different than defined by the author:

'Irreligion' is a nice word for the prevailing tendency to irrationally believe things labelled 'scientific'. For example the guy on TV selling toothpaste: He has the insignias of a priest of the science-religion (microscope or other instrument in the background), the ritualistic clothing (white coat) and the proper title (Doctor). The word 'scientific' is repeated over and over during the sermon designed to sell you toothpaste.

Of course, all that has nothing to do with science as a system of gaining knowledge. Nevertheless it works: People are hypnotized by it.

So Irreligion is using methods of manipulation from religions, and claims access to The Truth through science instead of a channel to God like traditional religions.

That this works, shows that people like (maybe need) to believe in higher truths beyond understanding.

The difference between Irreligion and Religion is, that the former is a complete fake, no scientist ever claimed to know The Truth. Religion however is for real in a sense that it roots in millenia long attempts to honestly gain access, say something about or get closer to an assumed higher power.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

Umm, yeah. So what? (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by 0xA on Sun Jan 27, 2002 at 10:42:07 AM EST

Okay basically you're right. Christian values and dogma have been largely marginalized in western culture and will continue to be so.

The culture of Irreligion masterfully maintains control of public education in modern America.

It's here that I have to disagree with you, the reason this happens is basically economic. Nobody has a real problem with somebody setting up a private Christian school and sending thier kids there but it is really expensive. In a public school, the ciriculum (all rhetoric about the constitution aside) will aligned with the majority's values, whatever they may be. In Canada it is perfectly acceptable for a municipality to establish a seperate school board which can add to the standard ciriculum as it sees fit. This was the case where I grew up, there was 2 school systems in my town, one Catholic and one Prodestant (sp?) which in pratice taught no religion. Both recived the same goverment funding. If I understand correctly this is not possible in the U.S.

I was going to take issue with your thesis at first, I didn't feel that any particular dogma is marginalized by Naturalism, as a matter of fact this would violate one of the major tennets of the Scientific Proccess. Upon considering it I decided that you are actually correct and in fact the dominant attitude displaced in western society is as much at odds with the Scientific Proccess as any religous tradition is.

The basis for what I consider science is simple, if I watched something (an object or whatever) behave a certain way under certain conditions it is resonable to expect it do do the same thing under the same conditions in the future.

Given this principal there is no way to exclude the existance or action of a God type being / force. I am just unable to describe his behavior or state. There is also no justification for the blind faith people put into anything that has the endorsement of some obscure Ph.D or engineer.

This is kind of fundamental to the way people operate their own reality and organize themselves socialy. We need to belive in stuff, it's the way we define our experiences, we also need to build social structures with people that belive the same stuff. It is integral to these structures that they propagate themselves through converts and the indoctrination of the young, otherwise they would just disapear. People are also great joiners, we feel most comfortable when to social structure we belong to is the majority one. Because of this the majority structure tend to have a momentum to it that is very difficult to change.

I think basically you feel that your viewpoint is being crushed by the momentum of the majority one, you feel a little shit on because of it. Unless you can win the majority of people or a significant nubmer of powerful people to your side it's not gonna change. Sorry bout that.

America Irreligous? Science as Religion? (none / 0) (#54)
by Trimeresurus on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 11:44:05 AM EST

Contemporary American society is best understood when Irreligion is understood to be the dominant mentality.

This is news to me. I don't have the figures at hand, unfortunately, but I very much doubt that more than half the Americans would describe themselves as not religious, and unless I'm wrong irreligion (why the capital 'I'?) is definitely not the dominant mentality in the US.

Now why would you insist that it is? Is it perhaps because you're upset that not enough people share your views? You sound like you're a member of some minority of religious people being beleaguered by the benighted hordes of Irreligion, or some other unpleasant folks. Not very convincing.

Irreligion chooses modern science as its religion

Isn't there something of a contradiction here? Why on earth would (the adherents of) "irreligion" choose a religion? How could anyone with a religion (even if it's not yours!) remain "irreligious"?

And of course, as many others have pointed out, science is not a religion, nor is religion science. What's so wrong with that, by the way?

Snake Kisses | 54 comments (40 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
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