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Science and Religion: The same method, different data

By opencontent in Op-Ed
Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 08:04:49 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

I realize that I carry on most of my existence in a universe parallel to and yet distinctly separate from those inhabited by the majority of people. Still, I am continually intrigued by conversations regarding the incompatibility of science and religion, particularly the supposed chasm between the methods employed by the so-called "zealots" of each camp. I see no incompatibility whatsoever.


The empirical method, generally

It is said that Francis Bacon is the father of modern empiricism. In 1605, he recorded the following story.
In the year of our Lord 1432, there arose a grievous quarrel among the brethren over the number of teeth in the mouth of a horse. For 13 days the disputation raged without ceasing. All the ancient books and chronicles were fetched out, and wonderful and ponderous erudition, such as was never before heard of in this region, was made manifest. At the beginning of the 14th day, a youthful friar of goodly bearing asked his learned superiors for permission to add a word, and straightway, to the wonderment of the disputants, whose deep wisdom he sore vexed, he beseeched them to unbend in a manner coarse and unheard-of, and to look in the open mouth of a horse and find answer to their questionings. At this, their dignity being grievously hurt, they waxed exceedingly wroth; and joining in a mighty uproar, they flew upon him and smote him hip and thigh, and cast him out forthwith. for, said they, Surely Satan hath tempted this bold neophyte to declare unholy and unheard-of ways of finding truth contrary to all the teaching of the fathers. After many days more of grievous strife the dove of peace sat on the assembly and they as one man, declaring the problem to be an everlasting mystery because of a grievous dearth of historical and theological evidence thereof, so ordered the same writ down.
From that time forward, a growing number of people have relied on this straightforward manner of expanding their knowledge: gathering data by first hand experience. Described broadly, the empirical method has come to include:
  • Building a hypothesis with either descriptive or prescriptive power,
  • Contriving an experiment believed to be capable of testing the hypothesis,
  • Conducting the experiment to gather data regarding the hypothesis,
  • Adjusting the hypothesis in accordance with the empirical data, and
  • Repeating this cycle.
It should be understood that data from one experiment cannot prove the "truth" of a hypothesis. Evidence gathered from several experiments should be accumulated and structured as part of an ongoing argument in favor of the hypothesis (ala Lee Cronbach). While hypothesis can never be established as "true," they can be shown false (ala Karl Popper).

Although the term "scientific method" has come to be equated with the term "empirical method," employment of the method does not necessarily lend credence to the data and argument that follow its application, as a popular movie shows.

What Contact taught me about the empirical method

The book/film Contact taught us all that information gathered in the standard empirical method is not necessarily reputable. In the movie, the main character (Ellie) has and reports a first-hand experience. This experience is written off carte blanche by the government and media. Ellie is belittled publicly, and taxpayers fund the show. The difference between reputable and disreputable knowledge is obviously not that one is empirical, or based in actual experience, while the other isn't.

Ellie's experience involves travel through space and time via a machine whose blueprints are transmitted to earth from an extra-terrestrial source. There is every reason to believe that if the government were willing to sponsor a second excursion of this sort, an objective third party could gain additional first-hand evidence, corroborating Ellie's claims. This makes it clear that the difference between respectable and other knowledge is not whether the process by which it was obtained is replicable or not.

What I learned from Contact was this: Ellie's claims were treated as a sham, even though they bore what we consider to be the hallmarks of respectable science: first-hand data collection through a replicable process. So while these characteristics may be necessary they are not sufficient to make for reputable claims of abilities to describe or predict.

A special kind of knowledge

The difference between Ellie's claims and the claims made by other scientists (Ellie is a first-class purely empirical researcher) is that the results on which Ellie's claims are founded are personal. An army of passive third parties could not fruitfully view Ellie's experiment: this type of knowledge is only available to those willing and able to engage in a first-hand experience. Michael Polanyi refers to this type of understanding as "personal knowledge." Knowing how to ride a bike is an example: you can watch me experiment countless replicable times, gathering a variety of first-hand data on what works and what doesn't, but you will be no closer to knowing how to ride a bike yourself than you were before you viewed my experiment. You must have the experience yourself to truly understand.

Spiritual or religious knowledge is personal in Polanyi's sense. Claims to spiritual knowledge are frequently belittled and deprived of respect, even though this knowledge is grounded in replicable, first-hand empirical evidence.

Religion as scientific hypothesis

Popper's notion of falsifiability includes a preference for hypotheses with wide-ranging claims, because these theories are more easily falsified. These theories must also be clear and concise, avoiding ambiguity that the theory's author might hide behind when confronted with contrary evidence. Some religions make broad claims but lack the clarity that would facilitate falsifiability. This ambiguity only provides attackers of organized religion with ammunition. Other religions provide extremely clear directions for the types of experiments to be carried out, the results one can expect to experience, and interpretive frameworks for understanding the data in a spiritual context.

Hoping that readers with broader knowledge of religious systems will provide additional examples in their comments below, I provide one example from Mormonism. The following excerpt from Book of Mormon prophet Moroni portrays the faith's recognition of the importance of the empirical method:
...dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. (Ether 12:6)
Simply restated: you can collect no evidence until you conduct an experiment! Don't belittle what you don't understand without trying to understand, and don't expect someone else to be able to provide you with data - you must conduct the experiment yourself. You can't watch someone else learn to ride a bike and expect to get on one yourself and just go.

To use another example from the movies, in The Last Crusade Indiana Jones must leap across a 30-meter canyon on foot. Recalling the earlier words of his father, he realizes that he is being required to make a literal "leap of faith." To borrow Moroni's language he "disputes because he sees not" any physical evidence that he can jump the gorge, regardless of what his father may have said. Nevertheless, having faith in his father's words he makes the attempt. Upon doing so, Indy finds that an otherwise invisible bridge connects the two sides of the canyon. Like the bicycle riding skill discussed above, this understanding was inaccessible to Indy until he conducted an experiment himself.

Speaking to Jews outside the temple in John 17, Christ counsels listeners not to believe his teachings simply because he teaches them. In verse 7 he explicitly counsels them to employ the scientific method.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
How can a person know whether Jesus is making this stuff up, or whether he is delivering a message from God? By trying the teachings, by actually doing it, by gathering some first-hand data. And what data should they collect? The results of following the teachings should be mutual feelings of "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23).

Moroni is even more explicit, and the ease with which his hypothesis regarding the truthfulness of Christianity can be falsified, if wrong, would make even Popper himself smile. He counsels those who read the Book of Mormon and its message of the reality of Christ thus:
I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
That, my friends, is a specific, replicable experiment from which anyone willing to put in the effort could gather data. Of course, that data would be extremely personal, and useful for arguing with no one but yourself.

These few examples from Mormonism (and Christianity more broadly) show prophets and Christ himself commanding would-be followers to employ the empirical method in their investigation of religion. If you are not a religious person, this revelation may run contrary to your preconceptions regarding the ways in which religious people seek deeper understandings.

Conclusion

Both people of science and people of faith employ a method relying on replicable first-hand experience as they pursue deeper understandings of the world around them and their place in it. This leads me to conclude that the real difference between persons of science and persons of faith has nothing to do with the methods they employ. I believe the difference lies in the credibility they give to deeply personal, subjective (read: not naively objective) data. To one group, the data is admissible. To the other it isn't.

And it's as simple as that.

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Poll
The methods of searching for deeper understanding employed by scientists and persons of faith are:
o meaningfully similar 13%
o only outwardly similar 4%
o dissimilar 16%
o orthogonal 29%
o religious zealots are employing a method? 32%
o scientisits are employing a method? 5%

Votes: 99
Results | Other Polls

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Science and Religion: The same method, different data | 148 comments (124 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
The role of intuition? (3.66 / 3) (#1)
by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:18:44 AM EST

Apples, benzene rings, a lanced carbuncle that led to the labor theory of value--all of these experiences make clear the fact that scientists paid close attention to personal, subjective data.

The thing about Jesus might have something to do with categorical imperatives: I believe the American poet Eddie Vedder has a line about this somewhere.

Stu "Leather" Kaufmann's Investigations is rapidly becoming the locus classicus of this type of speculation.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

is overlooked for good (4.33 / 3) (#10)
by fhotg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:04:31 PM EST

Apples, benzene rings, a lanced carbuncle that led to the labor theory of value--all of these experiences make clear the fact that scientists paid close attention to personal, subjective data.
That's part of the creative process, without which there is no original science. Most of the stuff they do in universities these days is not original. It's datacollectors calling themselves scientists.

Nobody really notices, because the creative part isn't for publication. Since publications count and not their actual contents, the whole education will make you believe there is nothing more important than datacollection. Objective, repeatable, necessary, but only the boring appendix of the real thing.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

and WTF (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by fhotg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:38:45 PM EST

has this to do with
Stu "Leather" Kaufmann's Investigations is rapidly becoming the locus classicus of this type of speculation.
the frolicking of autonomous agents while hitting on QM, complexity theory, thermodynamics, gaia and other concepts the author probably doesn't understand ?
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Hubris (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:40:31 PM EST

The author probably doesn't understand? I know few people will read this, but K5 would be a much better place if it were impermissible to post about something that you've only just then learned about from google.

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

and arrogance (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by fhotg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:08:23 PM EST

I actually read it.

That perfectly qualifies me to judge it as yet another buzzword assembly posing as academic work.

You're welcome to dispute this judgement. I'd be particularly interested for whom that stuff constitutes a "locus classicus".

K5 would be a better place if people actually tried to answer questions posed in parent-comments.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

Show me (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:25:50 PM EST

If you read that book, as you say, and all that you came away with was buzzwords and posing, then the problem might not lie in the stars, fhotg.

I'm still reading it, carefully, because it's complex and subtle. I'd be happy to discuss parts of it with you; but, frankly, I suspect that you haven't actually read it.

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

oh my (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by fhotg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 06:26:40 PM EST

No, I didn't read the book, but I read what I was referring to. Partly. These parts drawing from fields I actually know about. That was enough to make my conclusion not to buy the book.

You rely very much on people guessing what you are talking about (not that this can't be fun). Now I was originally trying to make sense of your post and connect Kauffman to the topic at hand and failed. I was hoping you could explain what association brought you there. Can you, or are your posts composed in a more burroughesk fashion ?
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

The association is clear (3.00 / 1) (#69)
by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 06:40:21 PM EST

If you have read the book. Again, I must say that precis and the like are not an adequate substitute.

Are you a chemist? Biologist? Philosopher? It's got a little bit for everyone.

While my posts may sometimes free-associate (including a regrettable VU incident), I don't think they're comparable to the heroin-inspired ravings of a prunish pederast, fhotg.

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

Ok (none / 0) (#77)
by fhotg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 09:19:24 PM EST

The association is clear If you have read the book.
While a statement like "If you're interested in this topic, you might want to look at that book, because it sheds light on this and that aspect" would be a highly appreciated hint, your statement amounts to "I really like this book and it might have something to say about the problem although I'm not able to specify what or why" and doesn't really give me anything.

But alright, that's probably asking too much from comments on a webforum, even yours medham, as would be demanding they kept up with "the heroin-inspired ravings of a prunish pederast".

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words. --George Eliot
[ Parent ]

I find your logic objectionable (none / 0) (#100)
by medham on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 01:24:36 PM EST

In no way did my original comment imply, nor is it true, that I am unable to explain the relation between Investigations and scientific intuition. For that is what the book is about.

I'm no paraphrast.

If you've read anything by that unattractive lady, you'll know that she's a terrible hypocrite.

Your final paragraph is empty, a flat illogical comparison. I'm more than a little disappointed.

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

no logic involved (none / 0) (#103)
by fhotg on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:53:23 PM EST

In no way did my original comment imply, nor is it true, that I am unable to explain the relation between Investigations and scientific intuition. For that is what the book is about.
So the book is about its own relation to scientific intuition. Wow. I certainly did not grasp the self referential nature of this work. Thanks for pointing it out.

After four of your replies into the thread, you managed to avoid any reference to my original question. So if you're able, you're certainly not willing to share any crumbs of your insights.

Your final paragraph is empty, a flat illogical comparison.
Do you remember that it was you, who brought up the comparability of your posts to Burroughs writings ?

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

[ Parent ]

The playground struggle (none / 0) (#104)
by medham on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:03:31 PM EST

It's grasping for straws to try to ambiguate context-clear syntax as an argumentative tactic. I answered what meaningful questions you had long ago: Investigations is about the role of intuition in scientific discovery, among other things.

I brought it up to point out that there was no comparison of note. Another way of phrasing this is that I showed the poverty of your own explanation.

I'll assume, then, that you haven't read any of Mary Ann's books; so just keep that sig for all who have to snigger at.

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

Can't resist (none / 0) (#116)
by fhotg on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:08:52 PM EST

Well my friend, I consider myself the winner now, because you resort to
It's grasping for straws to try to ambiguate context-clear syntax as an argumentative tactic.
"=If you knew what I meant, you would have realized that I didn't mean what I said." and two blatant lies: One that's there to see for everybody who reads the thread:
I answered what meaningful questions you had long ago.
and the second clear for everybody who has a thorough look at the book in question:
Investigations is about the role of intuition in scientific discovery, among other things.
It's not, not even among other things. I happen to be really interested in the creative process involved in scientific discovery and one of my Saturday afternoon rituals includes a prolonged session at the local Chapters.

The attack on my sig disappoints me a bit.

Btw. you might strongly disagree with W.B.'s moral stance or the lack thereof, for me it is clear that he left a deeper mark on the face of the earth than certain pop-philosophers can ever hope to achieve.

Nevertheless, despite the frosty tone this dialogue developed to exhibit, I'd like to say that I really appreciate your presence here. Your comments are sometimes thought provoking indeed and contibute to the overall entertainment value.

EOT, really now.

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words. --George Eliot
[ Parent ]

Careful now (none / 0) (#120)
by medham on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 12:45:21 AM EST

Remember that I'm the one reading the book. I know what it's about.

G. Eliot was a famous sesquipedalian, as any of her readers know. She's much more nurturing than Burroughs; I can tell you from experience.

"Do the considerations of this chapter require detailed models and supporting calculations to be taken as more than the merest suggestions? Absolutely. This chapter, like much of Investigations is protoscience. But science grows from serious protoscience, and I take Investigations to be serious protoscience" (265).

Or, in other words, Kaufmann explores an admittedly impressionistic in an attempt to construct the foundations of a predictive model. Only the most pig-headedly literal could fail to note that the book is an exploration of the role of intuition in scientific discovery.

How you parse my "ambiguation" comment is inexplicable, so I won't bother to respond to that.

Support your local library, and don't give up on books that seem hard at first. You'll get there.

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

So it wasn't a lie, (none / 0) (#127)
by fhotg on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:08:07 PM EST

just very sloppy expression. Kauffman spends quite some pages on explaining/excusing what his book is and why he wrote it. You can regard it as an attempt to snapshot his intuitive considerations. There is a big difference, if a book is something, or if it is about something. And it's certainly not about the creative process. It's more like a poet writing prose about what his next poem will be about and calling it pseudo ^H^H^H^H^H^H proto-poetry.

Support your local library, and don't give up on books that seem hard at first. You'll get there.
Thank you for the encouragement, maybe I'll even read Mary Ann one day.

Since you seem to ask for patronizing advice: The lack of rigour I sense in your thinking can effectively be remedied by getting a formal eduction in basic mathematics. Don't try on your own, though, get a teacher. A sideeffect will be, that your bullshit detector will go off upon the "intuitive" use, which almost always serves to misguide you, of technical terms like "entropy" or "ergodic", as exemplified by many books taking up space in the 'science' section of popular bookstores.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

Now, wait just a moment (none / 0) (#130)
by medham on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:08:09 PM EST

By the childishness of your nick, and your penchant for Burroughs, I can guess that you are a rather young person. A young person might be forgiven for claiming that Kaufmann doesn't understand "technical" terms like "ergodic" or "entropy," but he should also be told that a "formal education" in "basic mathematics" is a rather chimerical bit of advice, rendered all the more comical by the almost certain discrepancy in higher mathematical education between the two discussants, here.

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

You prove (none / 0) (#131)
by fhotg on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:27:55 PM EST

that it's rather difficult to assesss the background of persons you meet on the net.

The only true assessment involving my person, and you'll have to consider me the expert here, is

the almost certain discrepancy in higher mathematical education between the two discussants, here.
If you ever want to seriously discuss differential geometry or topology, feel free to ask me.

I'm not available however for the fruitless "my penis is longer than yours" game.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

It is (none / 0) (#132)
by medham on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:34:35 PM EST

And it can be a problem. I've compensated for it with a hypertrophied sense of modesty. Don't think that I'm going to toss around the torus with you either; it won't fit.

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

Contact: Try, Try, Agian (3.00 / 4) (#3)
by Bios_Hakr on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:23:15 AM EST

There is every reason to believe that if the government were willing to sponsor a second excursion of this sort, an objective third party could gain additional first-hand evidence, corroborating Ellie's claims.

If you liked the movie, pick up the book. I think it was hinted at in the movie, but the book did a good job of pointing out the fact that they did try agian with a second team. The Machine works like a telephone...i.e. someone has to be at both ends in order for it to work. After the "First Contact", the aliens would no longer "pick up". They never explained why, only to say that when we were ready, we would know what to do...

Flamage thread for anti-religious zealots (2.75 / 4) (#4)
by wiredog on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:23:32 AM EST

Just so we can keep it all in one place.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
Okay (3.60 / 5) (#6)
by theantix on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:35:40 AM EST

I hate it when religious people think they can attack the scientific method based on a movie. =)

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]
Flamage thread for religious zealots (none / 0) (#95)
by afree87 on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 09:30:32 AM EST

should go in this subthread.
--
Ha... yeah.
[ Parent ]
Wrong assumption about scientific method (4.75 / 8) (#5)
by theantix on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:33:59 AM EST

What I learned from Contact was this: Ellie's claims were treated as a sham, even though they bore what we consider to be the hallmarks of respectable science: first-hand data collection through a replicable process. So while these characteristics may be necessary they are not sufficient to make for reputable claims of abilities to describe or predict.
I recommend that you learn how the scientific method works from a reputable source instead of a work of fiction. Try doing a google search for "scientific method", or save time and view this well-written document FAQ. I strongly recommend that you look closer into the scientific method before drawing too much from your analogy.

To phrase it in the terms that you have set forth in your article, the problem with Contact was that the experiment was not replicable from a practical perspective. We must ignore the pathetic bit at the end of the film with the extra minutes used on the tape, because that detracts from your point (and the point of the movie, but that's another topic). The results from her first-hand experience are as meaningless as a first-hand report of a UFO encounter from a unemployed drunk looking for attention. A single point of data does not lend itself to building scientific knowledge, and this applies to the situation in Contact as well. If it is not replicable it is not useful for science!

The experience of her character was clearly analogous to faith, but this does not detract from the scientific or empirical method. A personal experience can easily be chalked up to a hallucination and has no value in the realm of science unless it can be replicated. This is not the "hallmarks of respectable science" that you claim it to be.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!

And, of course... she never left (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by Jel on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:44:32 PM EST

This is especially true, since she may have experience of being somewhere else, but everyone else there has experience of her not going anywhere -- just a machine breaking down.

[ Parent ]
Evidence and data (4.66 / 6) (#9)
by physicsgod on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:50:51 AM EST

First I'd like to mention that the Scientific Method can also start at your fourth bullet point, relativity was concieved as a way to explain the then-current data WRT the aether, then was used to formulate preditions that were later verified.

The problem I have with your conclusion is that science doesn't deal with objective data as opposed to subjective data, it deals with repeatable data. Scientific papers that describe an experiment(especially if they contradict current theory) take great pains to detail how the experiment was conducted (lack of detail is one of the reasons Pons and Fliechman(SP?) were derided by the physics community) and most experiments are conducted multiple times, both by the original group and independant groups. We don't think benzene has a cyclic structure because some guy had a day-dream on a bus, we think it because it explains everything we know about the properties of benzene, and fits in with what we know about the physical world.

Religion, on the other hand, relies on "data" (revelation, divine inspiration) that are, by definition, unrepeatable. If you have a vision there is no way I can have the same vision.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary

addendum (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by fhotg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:13:49 PM EST

Very true.

The problem is the repeatability (or lack thereof) of subjective experiments. The problem is repeatability by others, I myself might be able to reproduce results of subjective experiments. So this subjective empirical data is not good to convince anybody else, but perfectly good for yourself.

The question arises wether this is necessary because spiritual realities are different for everybody anyways. Or is there a framework that can be used to describe/reproduce subjective experiments over different experimentators ? The success of all kind of spiritual traditions seems to indicate that.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

A great reason not to decide (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by Jel on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:56:30 PM EST

Yup, and this is a great reason not to conclude that your interpretation of a scripture is any better than someone elses, and especially not that your particular faith is better than that of anyone else.

Beliefs are beliefs because they cannot be proven. But we can stop and analyse our beliefs, to make sure are actions based upon them lead to morally acceptable consequences. In other words? You can have any faith you want, but holy wars are just plain screwy, no matter how much your beliefs tell you otherwise =)


[ Parent ]
For Chrissake. (4.23 / 13) (#15)
by kitten on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:20:29 PM EST

Building a hypothesis with either descriptive or prescriptive power,
Contriving an experiment believed to be capable of testing the hypothesis,
Conducting the experiment to gather data regarding the hypothesis,
Adjusting the hypothesis in accordance with the empirical data, and
Repeating this cycle.


Since when do religious types ever conduct experiments? As noted, an experiment capable of disproving their doctrine is impossible, because there is no way of falsifying it.
When's the last time they adjusted a hypothesis?

No, the religious method is as follows:

1. Start with your holy book. Assume that anything that is contrary to this book is either false, or evil, or both.
2. You cannot conduct an experiment, so you will have to rely instead on anecdotes and coincidences. (e.g., "We prayed for Johnny to get better, and the next day he was released from the hospital, so that proves God answered our prayer!")
3. If events do not occur as you expected them to, or information is discovered that contradicts your book, do not revise your thinking. Instead, attempt one or more of the following tactics:
a. Invent a wild excuse (We didn't pray hard enough, it wasn't God's will, etc).
b. Verbally attack the person(s) responsible for the event/discovery.
c. Physically attack the person(s) responsible for the event/discovery.
d. Attempt to convert the person(s) responsible for the event/discovery.
e. Slander or deliberately misquote the person(s) responsible for the event/discovery.
Above all, though - never ever admit that your Holy Book may be flawed or that you were wrong. Ever.


...dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. (Ether 12:6)
Simply restated: you can collect no evidence until you conduct an experiment!

Yeah. See, the problem here (and this applies to Christianity and Islam and Judiasm and a host of other religions as well) is that the "trial", the "experiment", is your life on Earth. We are promised that we'll see the outcome of the experiment after we die, but we also can't come back to tell anyone the results. Does anybody see a problem with this?

I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
That, my friends, is a specific, replicable experiment from which anyone willing to put in the effort could gather data.


It is? What exactly is the result of this experiment supposed to be? What the hell does it mean to be "manifested with the power of the Holy Ghost"? Anyone?
Thus far I've yet to hear a coherent, definitive explanation of this. This 'replicable experiment' needs to have a clear-cut result that anybody will experience if they perform the steps correctly: let go of a hammer, it falls to the ground.
Furthermore, this experiment (as most other religious "experiments") requires that you already believe, for it to work: "..having faith in Christ". So when I'm not possessed by the Holy Ghost (whatever that means), it's because I didn't already believe; but isn't that why I'm performing this experiment in the first place?

Both people of science and people of faith employ a method relying on replicable first-hand experience as they pursue deeper understandings of the world around them and their place in it.

Not really. The religious 'experiments' are not replicable in any way, shape or form, and cannot be experienced by more than one person at a time (e.g., an impartial third party observer). We have nothing more than anecdotes of people who say "Yes, I found Jesus!".
Furthermore the scientific method, if deployed properly, is clear in instructions and expected results. Do these specific things, in this specific order, and this specific result will occur. The religious method, contrawise, sort of vaguely kind of tells you what you should do, in a way, and offers an ambiguous sort of open-to-any-interpretation result that may or may not occur depending on what mood God is in that day.

There is no comparison.
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Wow... the generalizations stagger the mind (3.60 / 5) (#27)
by opencontent on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:58:07 PM EST

I am always amazed by the responses to any K5 post that even attempts to show orgnized religion in a favorable light. This response has got to be my favorite:
Yeah. See, the problem here (and this applies to Christianity and Islam and Judiasm and a host of other religions as well) is that the "trial", the "experiment", is your life on Earth. We are promised that we'll see the outcome of the experiment after we die, but we also can't come back to tell anyone the results. Does anybody see a problem with this?
Aren't K5'ers supposed to be the kind of thoughtful people that avoid making sweeping generalizations (was that a sweeping generalization?)? I mean, try to imagine any statement that could actually be applied across the whole host of religions? Not only is this statement perhaps the broadest generalization I have ever seen, it is also one of the most patently false. This statement shows the person's cursory (at best) familiarity with a variety of religions: an entire lifetime is seen as one test, with one post-life outcome. The majority of western religions teach that each choice each person makes each day is an individual test, and that each choice has repurcussions, the vast majority of which we experience now, not later.

The responder had clearly made up their mind before even reading the post. The post's main point as indicated clearly in the title, the difference in data types (i.e., the difference between Polanyi's notion of "personal knowledge" vs. "naive objectivity") was clearly lost on the reader. It's a shame, too, because they put so much effort into responding. Hopefully next time they'll respond thoughtfully.


Be Open.
[ Parent ]
For greater justice. (5.00 / 4) (#32)
by kitten on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:13:32 PM EST

Aren't K5'ers supposed to be the kind of thoughtful people that avoid making sweeping generalizations (was that a sweeping generalization?)?

hahaha

I mean, try to imagine any statement that could actually be applied across the whole host of religions?

Slow down there, Maverick. I didn't say "all" religions. I named a few specifics, and then included "a host of others as well" to include the many dozens I didn't have time to list.

The majority of western religions teach that each choice each person makes each day is an individual test, and that each choice has repurcussions, the vast majority of which we experience now, not later.

Uhm. Have you read the Bible, for an example of a major 'western' religion? The entire concept of salvation is that what you do in this life (specifically, whether you obey Christ (and in some denominations, model your life after his)), affects the one and only outcome: heaven, or hell. After that, there is no further experiment - you're done with. What you do on a day-by-day basis is almost irrevelent with Christianity; so long as you accept Christ, you can be the most wretched, servile, immoral jerk to ever crawl through the slime of the earth and still get into that exclusive Heaven club.

The performers of the experiment, unfortunately, are not able to come back and let us know what that outcome was, or if there was even an outcome at all.

What effects are felt "now" as opposed to the afterlife? I've yet to see God come down here and smite anybody, or turn anyone into a pillar of salt. In fact, I've yet to see him affect the physical world at all in response to what humans do. Would you mind qualifying your statement? - because so far as I can see, God (this is assuming there even is one) isn't paying any attention to us.

The post's main point as indicated clearly in the title, the difference in data types (i.e., the difference between Polanyi's notion of "personal knowledge" vs. "naive objectivity") was clearly lost on the reader.

Looked to me like the main point was a subtle method of saying "There is room in religion for rationality, and science isn't always perfect either." As for the first part of that statement, it's abjectly and utterly false, without question. As for the second, well.. nobody claimed otherwise.

If your 'main point' was something other than that, don't attack me for not seeing it. I read it through, and that's what I got out of it. If you meant to convey something other than what I saw, than perhaps you failed to make your point clear.

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[ Parent ]
First-hand experience (3.33 / 3) (#41)
by opencontent on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:04:50 PM EST

If you meant to convey something other than what I saw, than perhaps you failed to make your point clear.

Fair enough. I can take criticism I earn.

Uhm. Have you read the Bible, for an example of a major 'western' religion? The entire concept of salvation is that what you do in this life (specifically, whether you obey Christ (and in some denominations, model your life after his)), affects the one and only outcome: heaven, or hell. After that, there is no further experiment - you're done with. What you do on a day-by-day basis is almost irrevelent with Christianity; so long as you accept Christ, you can be the most wretched, servile, immoral jerk to ever crawl through the slime of the earth and still get into that exclusive Heaven club.

I've read it, front to back, along with a variety of other Christian and Jewish apocrypha and pseudopigrapha. I've also lived in Japan for a few years and done my share of reading of Eastern religions. From an academic point of view, I would bet I have as much right to make statements about religion as any other K5 reader if not more. From a first-hand experience point of view I have been a practicing Mormon for a few decades, and believe this gives me the right to make statements about the effects of my practice on my life. And it does have immediate effects. As for the unrepentant person getting into the Heaven club (I think this moniker gives away your unsophisticated view of the after-life), the Bible you ask if I have read says clearly that "no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God".

I would ask what level of either academic or first-hand experience you have with religion... if you are without at least significant first-hand experience then your argument only furthers mine. Polanyi's notion of personal knowledge is that nothing anyone says about this type of information can be meaningful to you. You must have first-hand experience. Otherwise, you can only mock what you don't actually understand.

I believe your argument about having to already believe in Christ before you can receive an answer to prayer is a strawman. This is no different from the qualifications placed on scientific experiments. If a researcher did not believe they would get results, they would never conduct an experiment. Like it or not, all action is based on belief. You only flip the switch in your office or bedroom because you believe it will make the light come on. Why do have this belief? Small, accumulated experiences over the course of your life. Sometimes the light doesn't come on, but this does not affect your belief in the switch, because you can rationalize reasons why it doesn't. Likewise, you go to work because you believe you'll be compensated.

Belief is the impetus behind all rational action. So I believe this portion of your argument is a strawman.


Be Open.
[ Parent ]
Problems with your argument (4.50 / 2) (#50)
by baberg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:10:51 PM EST

...the unrepentant person getting into the Heaven club...

That's not what was implied at all. What was implied is this (though I speak for another, I share the same views): If Hitler/Osama bin Laden/Bill Gates were to, at the moment before he died, ask Jesus for forgiveness, then he would be admitted into heaven. If I'm wrong, then tell me. Oh, and I don't really believe Gates is going to hell.

From what my Christian friends tell me, that's how it works. Ask for forgiveness, and Jesus will forgive. Of course, you try to live a good life because you never know when you'll die, but if you knew you had only moments left to live, and asked for forgiveness, you could have lived as horrible a life as you wish, and still get into heaven. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I do not believe that I am. This is no different from the qualifications placed on scientific experiments. If a researcher did not believe they would get results, they would never conduct an experiment

Except that scientists don't care what results they get, just that they get some result. I was a part of a group working at the Fermi National Labratory doing tests trying to find the Higgs Boson. We didn't find it. That doesn't mean that we didn't publish the results of the experiment. Now, if I were to do an experiment and not examine the result (or examine the result as a subjective observer) then the experiment would be invalid.

I also think that you need to find some better analogies. When I flip a light switch and find that the light doesn't turn on, I automatically assume that the bulb has burned out. That hypothesis is directly tested. When I ask God for an answer to a prayer, he does not answer. Does that mean he doesn't care about me? Does that mean he doesn't exist? Does that mean he's too busy? Does that mean that I'm not using the right words? It is not verifiable, and it cannot be tested by an objective observer. Indeed, remaining objective means that you come to the conclusion that God does not exist, by Achem's Razor. Surely you remember that from Contact...

[ Parent ]

Forgiveness comes from a relationship (none / 0) (#75)
by Cal Jayson on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 08:34:00 PM EST

From what my Christian friends tell me, that's how it works. Ask for forgiveness, and Jesus will forgive. Of course, you try to live a good life because you never know when you'll die, but if you knew you had only moments left to live, and asked for forgiveness, you could have lived as horrible a life as you wish, and still get into heaven. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I do not believe that I am.

You must ask in earnest. You must accept the Jesus as your savior and not just try to use him as a way to get out of your sins. Above all, God is looking for a relationship with you, not just some magic phrases that you say everyday to forgive your daily sins. The person you describe is probably not there to proclaim Jesus as the Lord of his life, but he is just trying to abuse the gift of the Lord. However, it is possible that the person does gain salvation in the last minutes of his life. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, one of the people being crucified along with him was a trief and he was saved on the cross (Luke 23 is you are interested), despite his deeds in life. But he acknowledged the purity of Jesus and the rule of God.
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[ Parent ]
Exactly my point. (5.00 / 2) (#81)
by baberg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:54:57 PM EST

So all I need to do is live my life however I want to, then have a "moment of clarity" where I accept Jesus as the Lord, and all of the sudden every terrible thing that I do is forgiven, and I'm admitted into Heaven.

I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it. It makes no sense to me. It sounds more like a religion's attempt to convert more followers to their cause by saying "Hey, you don't have to live a perfect life! It's all good!" It's also along the same lines as "Doubting Thomas", which is the perfect alegory for peope like me. "Accepting things without proof is important! Just believe it!"

I don't know, I just can't see myself believing in something that forces me to ignore what I see all around me. By that, I mean that I'm forced to ignore my sense of logic, my knowledge of the immutable laws of Physics, and just the overall lack of any "good over evil" base in reality. I just don't see it.

Maybe I'm missing out, and I'll be burning in hell soon enough. But at least I know I lived a life that was based upon the best evidence available.

[ Parent ]

You're not missing it. (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:43:03 AM EST

You've understood perfectly and followed through the implications in all their absurdity. It is just that many religious minds, including Cal, seem to be using some form of non-rationality preserving logic/justification scheme.

The problem you raise about only needing a few seconds of clarity at the end of your life has an even more absurd form for some branches of Christianity. Many Baptists believe something that amounts to the catchy phrase "one saved, always saved". According to them, the moment of clarity need not be at the end of your life. Once you have honestly done a salvation moment, nothing you do can revoke your ticket to paradise. Nice huh?

Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and all sorts of amazingly good people that happened to pick the wrong version of Jesus worship... straight to hell. While someone that had the saving grace of The Lord as a teen and then went on to wantonly destroy every inhabited planet in the Universe with The Giant Painful Death Destructo Beam for the thrill of it... yeap, kickin' it with the loving Creator.

That was not a straw man, it was the exact position, the "considered opinion" as it were, of a group Baptists with whom I spent a good deal of time discussing the matter. Some of them were willing to admit the appearance of absurdity, but they either thought that God's plan would be behind the actions of such a madman (so it was really for the best) or that the rules were the rules and that was it.



[ Parent ]

Through faith comes works (none / 0) (#106)
by Cal Jayson on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:54:58 PM EST

The Bible teaches that if you have truly been saved, then good works will follow. On being saved your spirit begins to change. For all the people that say they have been saved, but do not change their ways that shows they have not truly been saved. God says, "If you love me you will follow my laws."

However, all good Christians know that we are terrible people. We are all sinners and can never be saved on our good works alone. We can never do enough good because we are slaves to sin. But though the sacrifice of Christ we have had out spirits bought and paid for with His blood. That is why there is such a difference between the angry God of the old testament and the forgiving God of the new testament. This is beauty of salvation, that it is given as a free gift from God because he is a infinitely loving and forgiving God. He doesn't want to see anybody go to hell so gives us His saving grace for free!

And yes you can fall away from the Lord. People do it all the time. Some call it backsliding.


[ Parent ]
Look... (none / 0) (#114)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:59:35 PM EST

... it may be the case that most people with true faith do move on to doing good works, but my reductio on the Baptist line used the fact that such reliable connections aren't necessary connections. When looking to test a theory, it doesn't usually do much good to look at regions were all the variables are close to their means. It is imperative that one look, if possibile, at just how bad it can get. In the case of "once saved, always saved", it can get pretty bad. Adjust the variables to some allowed values and one gets ostensibly good people burning in hell while ostensibly evil people get to kick it in heaven. For most of us, that shows the absurdity of the position.

Oh, and it would really help the dialectic here if you tried to restrain your proselytizing inclinations. It may make you feel nice to be all exuberant about the good news, but it only serves as noise on the channel. Then again, what do I know? In your eyes I've been given over to a reprobate mind, right? So much for a principle of charity.



[ Parent ]

you missed my point (none / 0) (#123)
by Cal Jayson on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:02:16 AM EST

The church I attend has its roots in the Baptist denomination, but I don't know about the once saved always saved doctrine. However my response to that was that if you are truly saved you will not continually commit these attrocious sins that you talk about. There is no outlying data points in the region you are looking at. Yes, some saved person might murder somebody, I don't know, but the behavior wouldn't be a patter in his life. My point what that after coming into the Lord your character grows and you begin to follow the will of God (the Bible says that the Word will be imprinted on your heart).

I wasn't trying to just randomly proselytize, the second paragraph dealt specifically with your idea of "good people buring in hell while ostensibly evil people get to kick it in heaven." The argument was that we are all evil and deserve to be in hell for our actions, but only through the blood of Christ are we saved. There is no good people and evil people on Earth; we are all evil people.

Now, I have to go watch the rerun of the US-Russia olympic hockey game.

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[ Parent ]
Belief (4.00 / 3) (#51)
by yanisa on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:14:00 PM EST

>>If a researcher did not believe they would get results, they would never conduct an experiment. Like it or not, all action is based on belief.

An experiment is based on a belief that they _could_ get results. But the same does not suffice for the God-test - there, you have to believe _in_ God, not that there _could_ be a God.

Regarding experience: I don't doubt you're well versed in different aspects of religion. Your science credentials, however, seem lacking if Contact is the only thing you know about science - and for this kind of an article, you really need both (hence my -1).

Besides, I thought missionary work was passe and we were supposed to think with our own heads nowadays. Under the belt, I know, but your silly comparison of faith in an untestable Deity and a light switch was a bit.. silly.

Yan

I think this line's mostly filler
[ Parent ]

*sigh* (5.00 / 3) (#63)
by kitten on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:54:44 PM EST

And it does have immediate effects.

You said that once before, and I asked you what immediate effects. All you've done is repeat yourself. I ask again: What immediate effects does God cause to the physical world in response to our daily actions?

As for the unrepentant person getting into the Heaven club (I think this moniker gives away your unsophisticated view of the after-life),

As an atheist, I don't think there's an afterlife at all. So whatever.

Bible you ask if I have read says clearly that "no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God".

Remember that the concept of salvation is that we are ALL unclean (sinners), and that only by accepting Christ can we be forgiven of those sins. So it's like I said in the first place: You can be the biggest lowlife scum-sucking parasite, two-bit two-timing double-crossing immoral wretch to ever be shat out of civilization, and as long as you accept Christ, you'll be forgiven of it all, become clean, and go to Heaven.

I would ask what level of either academic or first-hand experience you have with religion... if you are without at least significant first-hand experience then your argument only furthers mine.

A brief history of kitten's theological views:
I was born to two Jewish parents and taught Hebrew and Judaic theology from an early age by both formal schooling, weekly classes taught by various rabbi, and my ultra-religious grandfather.
I was also heavily influenced by my father, a Master's in physics with various engineering degrees, the wonders of science and cosmology. He had a shelf full of books by Hawking and Feynman(sp?) and Sagan and I read them all, over and over.
I was called to the Torah at age thirteen as a Bar Mitzvah, honoring the tradition set forth by hundreds of fathers before me.
In ninth grade I began my religious backlash, noticing the numerous problems with the Torah and expanding into the Bible as a whole. I started with merely picking holes in the doctrines themselves, and attempting thereby to demonstrate that the book was not divine.
In tenth grade I decided I was a deist, more or less: That there was probably a God, but he wasn't paying attention to us and had nothing to do with us.
In my junior year I audited a class at our local university on basic logic theory, and began studying religion from that point of view. I also began reading books on the proper formulation and understanding of philosophical arguments, and moving my focus away from Judeo-Christian arguments to arguments on theology as a whole.
During my senior year, still consuming literature of a comparitive religion nature, I decided I was an atheist. Logically and philisophically, I had decided there was no way for the concept of "god" to work.

I am still an atheist today, five years later, though I feel my views have been refined somewhat.

I have written quite a number of essays and informal rants on the topic. I have been invited to lecture at my old high school twice: Once on the topic of comparitive religion, once on evolution.

I've read countless books, essays, academic papers, and spoken with rabbis, priests, ministers, and other clergy members. I've carried on an extensive debate (mostly via email) with a professor at Emory University. I've been involved with both formal debates and informal arguments on the topic.

I'd say I know what I'm talking about.


I believe your argument about having to already believe in Christ before you can receive an answer to prayer is a strawman.

Hey, bitch to Joseph Smith about it then, not me. He said:
and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you
In other words, you must have faith in Christ when you ask, if you expect God to answer. Having faith is a requirement for this to work, apparently. Which certainly is useless against unbelievers.

is no different from the qualifications placed on scientific experiments. If a researcher did not believe they would get results, they would never conduct an experiment.

They KNOW they'll get results, they just don't know if the results will support their original hypothesis (and ideally they don't care either, but they're human).. and if their hypothesis isn't supported, they tweak the hypothesis and try again. Religious zealots tweak the conclusion and then bless the glory of God.

You only flip the switch in your office or bedroom because you believe it will make the light come on. Why do have this belief? Small, accumulated experiences over the course of your life. Sometimes the light doesn't come on, but this does not affect your belief in the switch, because you can rationalize reasons why it doesn't.

Uh. Are you seriously trying to compare this to a belief in an unknowable God who does unknowable things using unknown means for unknowable reasons, who nobody has ever seen or spoken with directly or can produce any observable, objective evidence for?

We don't need to "have faith" that the light switch works: We know it will work, and if it doesn't, we know that there are a limited number of things that could possibly be wrong with it, and systematically eliminate them one by one until we arrive at the reason for the light's failure. I can test the reasons the bulb doesn't function. I can go through a checklist of possible problems - there aren't many - and eliminate them: Is the bulb burned out? Is the switch faulty? Is the fuse blown? Is there a problem at the power company? etc.
We don't "believe" that gravity will pull things towards the center of a planet, we know it will, and we know it with such certainty that we can predict it's effects with absolute flawless precision.
These things are not a matter of faith or "just a belief", but of rational, demonstrable evidence - something religion has never been able to provide, and attempts to knock down at every opportunity.

It would only take one prayer to move one mountain (as promised in the Bible) to convince me that there is a God and he pays attention to us.

Belief is the impetus behind all rational action. So I believe this portion of your argument is a strawman.

And I believe that you have an improper understanding of what a strawman fallacy actually is.

Caio.
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[ Parent ]
The feedback cycle in daily life (none / 0) (#74)
by Cal Jayson on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 08:15:12 PM EST

Despite your qualifications, it seems like you have a very superficial knowledge of the Bible.

Uhm. Have you read the Bible, for an example of a major 'western' religion? The entire concept of salvation is that what you do in this life (specifically, whether you obey Christ (and in some denominations, model your life after his)), affects the one and only outcome: heaven, or hell. After that, there is no further experiment - you're done with. What you do on a day-by-day basis is almost irrevelent with Christianity; so long as you accept Christ, you can be the most wretched, servile, immoral jerk to ever crawl through the slime of the earth and still get into that exclusive Heaven club.

We have daily feedback from the Father. He disciplines us for our actions, trying to teach us how to be Holy. From a Jewish background you must have read Leviticus and Deuteronomy; I just finished a reading of them and have memories of numerous passages that describe the rewards for obedience and the punishment for disobedience, for instance Leviticus 26.

Yes, there is a big decision to be made in accepting Jesus into your life and asking him to change you, but that doesn't deny the daily lessons that we are taught.

This seems to be your whole argument, too: that there is no feedback and refinement in the religious method. The hypothesis is out actions, the feedback is the blessings and teachings of the Lord, the change is the difference in our thoughts and actions.
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[ Parent ]
Wow. (5.00 / 2) (#79)
by kitten on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 09:45:53 PM EST

Despite your qualifications, it seems like you have a very superficial knowledge of the Bible.

Merely because I disagree with your religious view on it, does not mean my knowledge of it is 'superficial'.

We have daily feedback from the Father. He disciplines us for our actions, trying to teach us how to be Holy.

Is that a fact? Can you show me some documented events where God came down here and said to someone, "Don't do that"? Or when someone 'sinned' and God punished them in some way? How do you explain the truly immoral people who are doing quite well for themselves? How do you explain the virtuous people who have sad and miserable lives?

From a Jewish background you must have read Leviticus and Deuteronomy;

Isn't Leviticus the one where God describes bats as birds, and insects as having four legs?

I just finished a reading of them and have memories of numerous passages that describe the rewards for obedience and the punishment for disobedience, for instance Leviticus 26.

Yes. Let's look at Lev 26.
  • 7 You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you.
    Is this an advocation of war?
  • 14 But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments ... 16 I shall do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which will consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.
    *looks around* Looks to me like the atheist population is doing okay. No notable disease and fever among them.
  • 20 Your land shall not yield its product nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.
    Patently absurd. There is nothing to suggest that God withholds food from those who do not believe in him.

    It goes on in this vein for some length: God making idle threats to the unbelievers, and describing in graphic detail the horrors that will befall them.
    Yet when we look around, we notice that none of it happens. God does not punish those who do not believe, nor does he reward those who do. As noted before, the 'righteous' are, statisticaly speaking, no better off than the 'wicked'.
    (As an interesting side note, I notice that in the next chapter God is discussing shekles, an Isreali currency that did not exist at that time.)

    Yes, there is a big decision to be made in accepting Jesus into your life and asking him to change you, but that doesn't deny the daily lessons that we are taught.

    Again: What daily lessons? What - specifically - does God do to people based on their belief? I don't want vague answers, or "Trust me, he does". Can you offer any solid, documented occurances or examples of God taking an active part in someone's life?

    If not, then what you're saying is nothing more than the same tired religious dogma we've been hearing for centuries, the same dogmatic nonsense with the same amount of evidence to back it up:
    None at all.
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    [ Parent ]
  • Why good things happen to bad people? (none / 0) (#89)
    by Cal Jayson on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:28:58 AM EST

    From what I get your post has one main relevant idea: that we do not have any documented evidence of God punishing anybody and that this furthered by the fact that we have unjust people living today that are not being disciplined.

    First, the covenant in Leviticus and Deuteronomy was between Israel and God, not the Gentiles. This is not to say that God does not punish the Gentiles, but that is a different covenant than the scripture I cited. That is why it only speaks of the hardships they will face. However, I cannot seem to find the verse right now in Deuteronomy that says that he is not giving them the lands of other because the people of Israel earned it. God says that they are a "stiff-necked people" and that he does it because of the sin of the others that they are to evict.

    Second, your right. God no longer comes down and speaks to large groups of His people from mountains or resides in arks. He no longer causes an earthquake to open the Earth and swallow an entire rebellous household (or does he but we just don't attribute it to him since there are no more prophets left to tell us about it). He is much more discrete (mellow you might almost call it) about it. He may punish you by making you lose something important in your life (the Hittites lost their land and lives) or cause some hardship (the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years). But these might be done to fix a character flaw that is very important for you to have later in life. They are always done with the intention of us learning from experience and becoming more Holy; they are the best path for us to take.

    Third, yes there are many unrighteous and unholy people doing very well in society. I don't know exactly why this happens, but the world has always been that way, even when God did rain fire down and destroy cities Himself. However, we know that God concentrates his affection on those that love Him.

    "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose." -- Romans 8:28

    So maybe He just doesn't put these people through the hardships because He doesn't spend the time to teach them. He is preparing us for the next life and maybe some do not need to be prepared because they aren't going?

    But also God helps everybody out, too:

    "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." -- Matthey 5:45

    The entire book of Habakkuk is devoted to this question and God's answers are that he uses the evil people to shape the lives of His people and that evil will eventually be repaid to its bringers, if not on Earth then at judgement.

    Finally, if you are looking for archeological proof then I could sit here are argue about this continually: the flood, Sodom and Gamorah's destruction, Egypt's trials, or more. But if you want to look in the comtemporary, you could look to see how the most oppressive societies are also the poorest and most ravaged. God promised that Israel would be attacked from every country and live in fear, which they are (but He also promises that this will end that they have a great inheritance in heaven), and the executive at Enron that shot himself (regardless of his foul gains, life still didn't look very good to him). Personally, I was a horrible Godless person that left the path and called myself an atheist after being raised Christian (private school all my life). I became very successful and was living a great life, but then everything came crashing down. I became sick which caused me to loose a job I loved, loose a girl I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, loose my apartment, loose all the money I had made. During this crash, I went to live someplace else which brought me to this amazing church (setfree.org) with some amazing people, change my sinful ways, everybody (including all the non-religious friends) agrees that I am a much better person for it, and now I feel the Lord's presence in my life, again. This was all done to turn me around and save my soul. I was a stubborn man and it took something this big to grab my attention. This was all done to save my soul, though. Little pain short-term, big payoff long-term.

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    [ Parent ]
    This is rapidly growing pointless. (4.00 / 2) (#105)
    by kitten on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:37:12 PM EST

    Second, your right. God no longer comes down and speaks to large groups of His people from mountains ... He is much more discrete (mellow you might almost call it) about it. He may punish you by making you lose something important in your life...or cause some hardship. But these might be done to fix a character flaw that is very important for you to have later in life. They are always done with the intention of us learning from experience and becoming more Holy; they are the best path for us to take.

    Blah, blah, blah.
    Prove it.
    Prove that misfortune is caused by God.
    Prove that the reason God causes misfortune is because he wants you to be "Holy".
    Bottom line: You can't. You simply assume. You assume that misfortune is caused by God, and you further assume you know his motivation, but you have not a single shred of evidence to back up any of what you're saying.

    So maybe He just doesn't put these people through the hardships because He doesn't spend the time to teach them. He is preparing us for the next life and maybe some do not need to be prepared because they aren't going?

    Heh. Maybe this, and maybe that. Once again: You have no idea. You invent whatever explanation sounds like what you want to hear, and then you assume it to be correct.

    When every single wicked person is befelled by horrible calamities, maybe then I'll believe this. When every single 'righteous' person has nothing but good fortune (as promised in the Bible), then I'll believe this.

    Until then, you're essentially talking out of your ass, with zero evidence or statistics or anything else to give you even a shred of credibility.

    Good day.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    By your own words. (none / 0) (#119)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 12:25:09 AM EST

    The entire book of Habakkuk is devoted to this question and God's answers are that he uses the evil people to shape the lives of His people and that evil will eventually be repaid to its bringers, if not on Earth then at judgement.
    Can you see the implications in what you just said? If the lives of evil doers are intended by God as tools for its purpose, if it could stop them and chooses not to so that they will further its ends by using evil, then God becomes morally culpable for their evil actions. Your account makes God itself one of the bringers of evil. Is god going to punish itself?

    Consider, I raise a dog to be vicious. There is a hallway, on one end is a bowl of some food suitable for the dog and on the other end is a small child. Now, consider I place the dog two thirds of the down the hall toward the child. It chooses to go in the direction of the child, they play, things get rambunctious, and the vicious nature of the dog comes out in a violent episode that leaves the child dead. Now, can you honestly tell me that I would have no moral responsibility for the death of that child at the teeth of the dog whose behavior patterns I shaped?



    [ Parent ]

    People have freewill (none / 0) (#122)
    by Cal Jayson on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 02:44:31 AM EST

    God doesn't make people do evil. He doesn't make people do anything, instead He has given us free will. He doesn't make the Babylonians be ruthless or cause their evil decisions. The Babylonians are evil of their own accord. God allowed the Babylonians to rise up and become powerful and does not knock them down, yet. This is God using the evil decisions of the Babylonians to further His plan. This further shows His greatness because even evil is used to cause good in His presence!
    --
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    [ Parent ]
    In my hypothetical... (none / 0) (#125)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:29:02 AM EST

    ... the dog also had the freedom to choose the end of the hall with the food. That wouldn't let me off the moral hook of culpability for the actions of the dog.

    Perhaps you would dispute that dogs have freewill. You wouldn't be the first Christian minded person to want to draw such a deep line between human animals and other animals. It is an unsubstantiated division to make, but I suppose/suspect trying to convince you of that might be fruitless as well. Luckily I don't need to; solders following the orders of war criminals bring my case closer to home. They obviously have freewill, but those at the top of the chain of command are still held responsible for what they ordered. They are even held responsible for things they don't command their subordinates to do but which they allow to continue.

    "But [I gave them|they had] freewill." is not a sufficient defense for God or anyone else. One need not be the shooter to share in the responsibility for murder.



    [ Parent ]

    We are trained to be good (none / 0) (#128)
    by Cal Jayson on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 04:48:31 PM EST

    That dog is trained to be ferrocious; he is rewarded for his choice in havior. Hoever, God does not train us to be evil. He actively discourages it; He says that evil will be repaid and that "what you sow you shall also reap."

    First, We are given freewill of the choice to follow God. If you choose not to follow Him, then why would you blame God for that person's actions just as you would not punish a military commander for the actions of a civilian that has decided to not join the military and be under the commander's rule? People who cause evil have decided to follow the devil, so blame the devil for their actions.

    Second, If the commander of a group sets up a system of rules and tells his troops to follow them, then someone breaks one of the laws, we do not hold the commander responsible, for he has done what he should. Also once you accept the Lord into your life, He starts changing your behavior; He prevents his servants from evil behavior!

    Third, the relationship between God and a person is not analogous to the relationship between a military commander and one of his soldiers. The relationship is more similar to a father and his child; this is echoed repeatedly in the Bible. God rewards and punishes accordingly, and He concentrates His attention on those that love Him. Do we punish the parents of a child that tries their best to raise the child properly, but the child is still rebellious? No we don't. We punish the child.

    So God does not cause evil but works to prevent it by changing people's hearts, but He can only do this if we allow Him. Our freewill is integral to our life. God gave us freewill so that we may decide of own volition who to follow. Love can only exist if it is a choice; if He were to have made us so that we loved Him by design then that would not be love. So God gives us the ability to love Him by giving us freewill!
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    [ Parent ]
    Drop it already. (5.00 / 1) (#135)
    by kitten on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 11:35:53 PM EST

    Good, evil, good, evil.

    You keep talking about how we need God to show us what's Good, the difference between Good and Evil.

    I say, bullshit.

    If humans cannot tell Good from Evil, then we have no way of knowing whether God is Good. Since we don't know Good from Evil, why should we listen to him? For all we know, he could be some sort of demon.
    The only way out of this is to state that humans can tell Good from Evil, in which case we don't need God to show us - and your dogmatic little idea falls to the ground in ruins.

    We are given freewill of the choice to follow God. If you choose not to follow Him, then why would you blame God for that person's actions?

    Because God is omnipotent and omniscient, right? Does he not know in advance what choices we will make? We cannot have "free will" if our actions are known about ahead of time by God - if he knows with infallible certainty what we are going to choose, then our actions are not "free" in any sense of the word.

    You can repeat your little "humans have free will!" mantra all day long - doesn't make a difference. It's an idiotic way to get out of an inescapable circle of logic. There is absolutely no way you can reconcile the concept of "free will" with an omniscient God. It cannot be done, even in principle.

    Have a nice day.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Freewill thought experiment (none / 0) (#136)
    by Cal Jayson on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 01:22:34 AM EST

    If I have lived with my spouse for 50 years, I begin to know them very well and can easily predict what actions they will take given a situation. For example, I will know what s/he will do then they walk in the door coming back from work. I will know with great certainty (yes, not perfect certainty). Does this mean that my spouse lacks freewill since I know what they will do?

    Try this little thought. If don't know what my spouse will do, they have complete freewill. If I am about 1% sure of what they will do, they still have complete freewill. Now, if I know with 99% certainty do they still not have just as much freewill as when I didn't know anything or when I was only 1% sure? Let's take the last step and pretend that I am omniscient and know 100% what that person will do because I know that person better than they know themselves; I know that person perfectly down to every little particle in their body. Now how does their freewill go away? It seems to me to be quite obvious that freewill is not some function of how much God or anybody knows about you. Freewill is something inherent in out existance.
    --
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    [ Parent ]
    Enough. (5.00 / 1) (#137)
    by kitten on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 09:10:11 AM EST

    For example, I will know what s/he will do then they walk in the door coming back from work. I will know with great certainty (yes, not perfect certainty). Does this mean that my spouse lacks freewill since I know what they will do?

    There is quite a difference in making a reasonable guess based on a past pattern of behavior, and knowing with 100% infallible certainty.

    Let's take the last step and pretend that I am omniscient and know 100% what that person will do because I know that person better than they know themselves; I know that person perfectly down to every little particle in their body. Now how does their freewill go away?

    Simple: At that point, what they are going to do becomes inevitable. They may think they are doing what they please, but if every thought and action of theirs is known to another in advance of their doing it, then these thoughts and actions are already predetermined, and are not "free" in any meaningful sense of the word.

    It is nonsense to suggest that an action can be both predetermined and "free". You might as well discuss a married bachelor.
    If you want an omniscient God, then God knows exactly what we'll do, what we'll think, and where we'll end up.. to say that we are still "free" makes the word "free" a meaningless sound, and is nothing more than an inane dogmatic excuse.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Giving up thought (3.50 / 2) (#17)
    by Jel on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:39:02 PM EST

    This is an interesting topic, and one I've thought about a little too. Though spirituality (not religion, necessarily), from my now-eastern perspective, has more to do with giving up the search for answers, per se, and learning to trust subconscious feelings such as intuition, deep desires, etc. In essence, to stop looking for answers from outside your body, and to feel them from within.

    For example, Zen koans seem to be designed precisely to make you give up superficial attempts to understand existance, and to "just feel it". I don't think other faiths have very different goals, although the methods which some try to employ, of backing things up with pseudo-scientific debates may give that impression. I think the pseudo-scientific aspects given to religion in western cultures, therefore, is more representative of our culture, than of religion itself.

    Of course, spirituality IS a personal thing, and this is only MY interpretation.


    Religion/Science: same initial motive, not method (3.50 / 2) (#19)
    by vefoxus on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:44:12 PM EST

    Religion does have a common point with Science, but it is not method. Definitely not. Religion should indeed be seen as the first occurence of rational thought, however shocking that may seem today.

    Why? Once (a *long* time ago), people were fatalists who just accepted events (rain, birth, earhquake) as they came, with fear. Then someone came and said "there is a reason behind these events". That was the beginning of rational thinking. But the only answer available then was to imagine that some entity (god(s)) decided all those things.
    Then it took a long time to find that maybe those gods were not even necessary to explain everything. The struggles still goes on.

    So only the initial incentitive is the same between religion and Science: everything else differs, especially after corrupting religion and power. Work more on philosophical references, which abound !(I remember the above from philosophical teachings at high school, when I was 17)

    First occurrence? Really? (4.00 / 1) (#54)
    by Jel on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:34:32 PM EST

    Religion should indeed be seen as the first occurence of rational thought, however shocking that may seem today.

    First? Really? Wouldn't that be more like "Oh, FFS!! Last time I went near one of those, it bit my leg off." The rational thought, of course, is the basic (but implied) deduction that putting oneself in the same situation may lead the same consequence as that situation had last time.

    Rational thought is basic to all animals with survival instincts. I believe the idea you are dealing with is supernaturalism, not rationalism.

    Your points are fair enough... I just think your terminology let you down a little.



    [ Parent ]
    Adaptation vs looking for answers (4.00 / 1) (#60)
    by vefoxus on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:24:48 PM EST

    First? Really? Wouldn't that be more like "Oh, FFS!! Last time I went near one of those, it bit my leg off." The rational thought, of course, is the basic (but implied) deduction that putting oneself in the same situation may lead the same consequence as that situation had last time.

    This rather is natural selection (or forced learning). All the "animal" knows is that he must not do something or else.... Rationalizing would mean he wants to know why, which is a step further.

    It's the same difference as learning something by heart and trying to understand it.

    [ Parent ]

    Contact? Mormons? Indiana Fucking Jones!?! -1 (3.00 / 3) (#21)
    by Ludwig on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:46:34 PM EST

    The parallel between Matthew McConaghey's experience of faith and Ellie's almost-unverifiable account of her trip does not in any way equate scientific method with religion. Quite the opposite: Through contrasting the two, it highlights the limitations of each approach. Stephen Jay Gould (not an atheist) has some interesting things to say about the role of faith in the life of a scientist. I suggest you read them.

    I also suggest you look up what "carte blanche" means.

    Pedantry (3.66 / 3) (#23)
    by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:49:50 PM EST

    I'm sorry, but this is just snobbery. The article is interesting, and I for one am quite sick of hearing about NOMA, thank you very much.

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

    Contact analogy fails (3.00 / 4) (#24)
    by www.sorehands.com on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:50:32 PM EST

    While in the movie, there was no evidence given in the public eye, there was evidence or her trip shown. At the end, they investigator asked Ellie's new funding request. He said, he heard static on the recorder, but the black woman pointed out that it 18 hours of static.


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    Eh? (4.87 / 8) (#31)
    by AmberEyes on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:07:36 PM EST

    "I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."

    That, my friends, is a specific, replicable experiment from which anyone willing to put in the effort could gather data. Of course, that data would be extremely personal, and useful for arguing with no one but yourself.


    So basically, God/Christ/Holy Spirit is proven and revealed if we, "with real intent", believe in it? What kind of experiment is that?

    That's like "to prove that gravity exists, you have to believe in Sir Issac Newton". That's crazy. 100 people can take 100 apples, drop them, and wham, there's your proof. Heck, 100 people can run through 100 equations, and prove that gravitational forces exist. More proof.

    You show me 100 people who 100 times, with "real intent", discover what Christ is, and I'll believe you. But since everyone has a different idea what Christ is, and how he works, the results are shady at best. This is why I'm suspicious of this religious firsthand observation method -- I don't see the certainty of trying to prove or explain God's work and will if no one can agree on what God is, much less what his will is. The foundation that you're using for your base (existence of God) is way too weak. Which God is "The God"? How do you know you're right?

    "If you are not a religious person, this revelation may run contrary to your preconceptions regarding the ways in which religious people seek deeper understandings."

    Seek deeper understandings by believing in things?

    Sounds more like a Dilbert strip to me. Ratbert and the garbage man are talking to each other -- the garbage man is explaining that what we see in life is what we choose to perceive -- that the contents of a garbage can are what he chooses to perceive, not what the person chose to discard -- and with that, Ratbert falls into a garbage can because his head hurts too much from thinking. "Hey! There's a new VCR in there!" he quips. "C'Mon, I'm expecting some great videos in the O'Briens can", the garbageman replies.

    That's fine if you want to justify that religious people employ some "first hand experience method" behind their belief system with this sort of logic. But don't get frustrated when other people don't agree.

    -AmberEyes


    "But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
    -1's are the reason this is +1 FP (4.50 / 2) (#34)
    by Shovas on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:18:22 PM EST

    Greetings,

    The story seems clean, free of major errors, references sources "adequately"(for what K5 needs) and, generally speaking, works on a topic that is sure to bring out discussion in large amount of people; the comments suggest that it has worked.

    It is not because you disagree with the content or position of the piece, nor is it because you don't like the so-called pseudo-science the story may employ, that you vote -1. These issues are based on opinion and, as far as I can gather, the entire point of K5 is to have discussions on these very topics.

    This was +1 FP, for myself, before I read any of the comments, simply because it was clearly written and free from errors. When I read all the comments, though, my actions were far more justified than they ever could have been. Before it even reached the front page, we see massive amounts of comments, whether negative or positive. I don't know if this will go FP, but based on the discussion and quality of the article, K5's unwritten rules of voting would say it should. Unfortunately, many members seem to to forgot what story voting is all about.

    Farewell,
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    Form and content or Why I dumped it (4.66 / 3) (#43)
    by Pac on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:23:00 PM EST

    Yes, there are few errors, lots of references and it will bring up a lot of discussion. But to what end? One could also produce a beautifully written piece about how Creationism is equivalent or even better than Darwinism and I would again vote -1.

    Why do we have to cope with someone's superstitions and Hollywood truths? Because it is well written? I do not care discussing seriously about pararels between the Scientific Method and Religion. But Contact?? (also, anedoctically, I do not see many positive comments as you imply).

    Concluding, I think my story voting routine is pretty straighforward and FAQ. I care about form, but I care much more about content. I will not vote up a piece of "Reader's Digest" sophistry just because it is well-written.

    Evolution doesn't take prisoners


    [ Parent ]
    There's an option - "I Don't Care" (none / 0) (#101)
    by Shovas on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:25:44 PM EST

    Greetings,

    If you dislike the content, ignore the story and/or vote "I Don't Care". Voting -1 forces your power on others in a negative way. They want to discuss this. Voting is not about likes, dislikes, preference or opinion, it is about quality of writing and ability to create discussion. I swear this is--or should be--a fundamental desire of Kuro5hin and, in general, these types of forums. Voting "I Don't Care" doesn't hurt you and allows others, who want to discuss the topic, a chance to do so unhindered.

    Regarding positive comments: I didn't mean to imply it was positive comments that warranted my position. Rather, all the comments combined showed that some people were voting in a manner I would argue is cumbersome to their fellow readers, while some, for good or ill, showed that good discussion could be had on the actual topic.

    Voting -1 exerts your power over others in a potentially negative way, if it's based on opinion which varies from person to person. You actively hurt people's chances of having good discussion by voting with your opinion/preferences.

    Voting I Don't Care is the passive way to ensure you didn't cause the story to go +1 FP, yourself, but allowed for others to make that decision, thus not having any impact on the proceedings.

    Farewell,
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    [ Parent ]
    FAQ (none / 0) (#139)
    by Pac on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 12:40:22 PM EST

    The FAQ explains pretty well my position on this matter: " * Dump It! (-1) - For some reason you dislike this article and feel it is not worthy of our time.".

    As I said before, I believe a -1 is a fairly reasonable option when, regardless of the article correctness, the content is empty or falacious.

    And I do not believe I am imposing on anyone. Under a majority rule, my power to dump an article is very well checked by the power of others to publish it. As you see in this very article, my dumping option was overruled. So be it.

    I usually reserve the "I don't care" option for two cases: either I really don't care, so I follow your suggestion and let those willing to discuss the theme decide or I don't have enough knowledge to judge the article, so I abstain from judging it.

    This article here does not fit any of my "I don't care" cases. I do care about this subject, but I felt the article was flawed. So, I voted accordingly.

    Finnaly, I believe it should be clear but it always helps to stress it again. I haven't voted against the article because I did not like the writer opinion. I voted against it because I found the writer was using an incorrect line of thought to reach the article conclusions (while trying to hide the flaws under correct grammar and style).


    Evolution doesn't take prisoners


    [ Parent ]
    Hmm I must say I highly disagree with this! (none / 0) (#148)
    by Shovas on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 11:33:25 PM EST

    I don't know why I didn't respond at the time, but I will now. It seems time and again this issue comes up.I swear people would like this to be changed. Dumping is not for the dislike of an article, it's for the quality of the writing and the ability to generate good discussion.

    Rusy, what's your thoughts on this? (Like you'll ever see this)
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    [ Parent ]
    psuedo science is never justified (2.00 / 1) (#55)
    by NightHawk on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:40:13 PM EST

    good grammar or not.

    [ Parent ]
    Pseudo-science doesn't negate the topic... (none / 0) (#102)
    by Shovas on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:28:44 PM EST

    Greetings,

    And a topic has potential for quality discussion, even if it is to discuss the validity of the arguments and sources in the piece.

    Farewell,
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    [ Parent ]
    I like your style, Shovas (none / 0) (#71)
    by medham on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:00:31 PM EST

    Your posts demonstrate a cool reason and, more importatntly, a dignity that's lacking around here. Too often, posters use crass language and other insult in an effort to prove their respective points.

    Your comment about people losing sight of what the community is resonates with me as well. If you were from the U.S., you would be a Southener (which is the highest compliment I can give).

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

    Where to begin.. (4.00 / 1) (#35)
    by jabber on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:23:37 PM EST

    First off, I'm voting +1 because I'm cold today, and could use some fire by which to warm my aching bones.

    Second, the Scientific Method entails documentation and reproducibility. Neither of which are present in the Contact experience. Further, I find the whole concept of Contact ludicrous.. If the government were to approve the building of a multi-billion dollar contraption, based on a telegraph from little green men, then whatever account of whomever get to sit in it would not be dismissed as easily. It was just Sagan venting his frustrations against a system that didn't share his singular passion for a Universe that ceased to exist before it's light reached our retinas.

    Third, the tone of the article is pedantic and tedious. Passive voice and past tens belong in MIL-SPEC documents. Never, ever, ever, in something that is supposed to be an Opinionated Editorial.. It's supposed to be Opinionated, you're its Author.. Tell us what you think and how you feel about it.. Don't write a text-book for a weed-out course at some back-water college..

    Overall, dull and droll enough to get beaten to a bloody pulp - which I will enjoy watching.. +1. Flame On!

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

    Proving Religion is like Kissing Hank's Ass (4.70 / 24) (#36)
    by jabber on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:37:14 PM EST

    I know this is old, but after years of recovering from Catholic School, it is still fall-down funny to me, so here you go.. I hope you enjoy it.

    This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:

    John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."
    Mary: Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."
    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"
    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the shit out of you."
    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"
    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever he wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss his ass."
    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."
    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"
    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."
    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."
    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"
    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."
    Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"
    John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."
    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"
    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the shit out of you."
    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"
    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."
    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"
    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."
    Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"
    Mary: "Well, he gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."
    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"
    John: "Hank has certain 'connections.'"
    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."
    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the shit of you."
    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from him..."
    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."
    Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"
    John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."
    Me: "Who's Karl?"
    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."
    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"
    John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

    From the desk of Karl

    1.Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    2.Use alcohol in moderation.
    3.Kick the shit out of people who aren't like you.
    4.Eat right.
    5.Hank dictated this list Himself.
    6.The moon is made of green cheese.
    7.Everything Hank says is right.
    8.Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    9.Don't use alcohol.
    10.Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    11.Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the shit out of you.

    Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."
    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."
    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."
    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."
    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"
    Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."
    Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the shit out of people just because they're different?"
    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."
    Me: "How do you figure that?"
    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"
    Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."
    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."
    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."
    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."
    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."
    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."
    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon was somehow 'captured' by the Earth has been discounted*. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."
    John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"
    Me: "We do?"
    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."
    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"
    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."
    Me: "But...oh, never mind. What's the deal with wieners?"
    Mary: She blushes.
    John: "Wieners, in buns, no condiments. It's Hank's way. Anything else is wrong."
    Me: "What if I don't have a bun?"
    John: "No bun, no wiener. A wiener without a bun is wrong."
    Me: "No relish? No Mustard?"
    Mary: She looks positively stricken.
    John: He's shouting. "There's no need for such language! Condiments of any kind are wrong!"
    Me: "So a big pile of sauerkraut with some wieners chopped up in it would be out of the question?"
    Mary: Sticks her fingers in her ears."I am not listening to this. La la la, la la, la la la."
    John: "That's disgusting. Only some sort of evil deviant would eat that..."
    Me: "It's good! I eat it all the time."
    Mary: She faints.
    John: He catches Mary. "Well, if I'd known you where one of those I wouldn't have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the shit out of you I'll be there, counting my money and laughing. I'll kiss Hank's ass for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater."

    With this, John dragged Mary to their waiting car, and sped off.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

    Compatible or not? (3.50 / 2) (#44)
    by Happy Monkey on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:27:51 PM EST

    Hmm... Would Hankism be compatible or incompatible with Discordianism? Discordianism requiresfnord that you eat no hot dog buns, but also requiresfnord that you eat a hot dog - with bun - on Fridays.
    ___
    Length 17, Width 3
    [ Parent ]
    Interesting, but... (4.00 / 1) (#78)
    by bunsen on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 09:19:27 PM EST

    I know I once read that a Discordian is prohibited of believing what he (or presumably she) reads. That's mainly why I didn't read the rest of the Principia Discordia, so I could believe it if I wanted to. Anyway, were you told in person about the hot dog buns, or did you read it?

    ---
    Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
    [ Parent ]
    oh boy... (4.00 / 2) (#110)
    by Maserati on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 06:21:46 PM EST

    I am now officially done with messianic religion altogether.

    --

    For the wise a hint, for the fool a stick.
    [ Parent ]

    Glad I could be of service. n/t (none / 0) (#140)
    by jabber on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 01:10:50 PM EST

    ;)

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    A simple experiment (4.50 / 2) (#37)
    by gjritter on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:55:07 PM EST

    Many religions describe a way that believers should live their lives, and predict what will result if they follow these teachings. If you want to disprove it, follow the teachings and see if the predictions are true. :-)



    --
    Insid3r.org: intelligent investment and personal finance discussion
    Not so simple... (none / 0) (#85)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:35:02 PM EST

    For reasons I go into here, some religions, by way of their teachings, exclude the conducting of tests.



    [ Parent ]

    Poor experiment suggested. (4.66 / 6) (#39)
    by chipuni on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 01:58:57 PM EST

    I feel that your suggested experiment is very poor, because it's untestable. I agree that personal experience can and often is part of a scientific experiment -- see below. However, your suggested experiment fails as a scientific test.

    I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    I hope you don't mind a slight rewrite:

    If:

    1. You ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true
    2. You ask with a sincere heart
    3. You ask with real intent
    4. You ask having faith in Christ
    then
    • He will manifest the truth of it onto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost

    Even if condition (1) can be demonstrated (I assume that prayer suffices to ask God), none of the other conditions are demonstrable, especially prior to the experiment. I mean -- how can you prove that you have a pure heart, "real intent", or "faith in Christ"?

    Mind you -- I feel that subjective experiences can certainly be part of a good scientific experiment. For example, one can set up an experiment with 100 people, and state that if:

    • Each person takes 250 micrograms of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide
    then
    • At least ninety percent of the population will experience hallucinations for ten to twelve hours.

    --
    Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
    Wisdom for short attention spans.
    Problems with the experiment (4.50 / 4) (#47)
    by baberg on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:56:15 PM EST

    • You ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true
    • ...
    • You ask having faith in Christ
    Seems to me that you've ignored the first glaring problem with these requirements: you just killed the "objective observer" requirement by asking that the questioner already have faith in Christ. If you truly believe, in your heart, that Christ is the Lord, what answer do you expect to get?

    "Yeah, so I was talking to my Savior, and he told me that he didn't exist! Damn, man, that sucks!"

    [ Parent ]

    Some cleanup (5.00 / 2) (#94)
    by Baldrson on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 08:26:41 AM EST

    An additional problem with the experiment is determining whether or not the result was predicted:

    He will manifest the truth of it onto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost

    Here:

    • "manifest the truth" and
    • by the power of the Holy Ghost
    are too ambiguous to be testable.

    However, the experiment needn't be discarded for all these failings. It can be clarified and then tested. For example, if a child is raised to have faith in Christ -- sort of the way they are raised to have faith in Santa Claus -- and then they ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if it is true, say, that those who have followed the directions can speak to a crowd of people in an international marketplace and each person in the crowd will hear the speech in his own language -- then I think we have something.

    As an alternative to a child raised in the faith, you could take an adult and, unbeknownst to him, perform some stage magic convincing him that "Christ is the Lord" -- and conduct the remainder of the experiment as just described.

    -------- Empty the Cities --------


    [ Parent ]

    Well let's combine the discussion... (3.75 / 4) (#46)
    by CrazyJub on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 02:42:42 PM EST

    and use the scientific method on the theory of the existance of God!

    I mean, it is a theory, right? Religious types are always claiming that you have "faith" in science, so I say that God is a theory, nothing more.

    Except this is a theory with a twist, in that YOU CAN'T PROVE IT! And an unprovable theory is invalid.

    Ok, now that I stirred the pot, lets get cookin.


    The point is, since the beginning of time, people have used God as the reason behind everything. Rain, lightning, the sun, the moon, dirt, animals, sickness, death, birth, life and existance.

    Over time, we have pretty much figured out that rain is not "God crying"; lightning, volcanos, floods and earthquakes are not "God's wrath"; death, sickness, birth defects are ot "Satans work", the list goes on.

    I think we are close to the final nail in the coffin, that will finally end this childish belief in God, and then the world will be a much better place.


    Lets get cookin indeed (4.00 / 2) (#57)
    by pattern on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:56:29 PM EST

    The point is, since the beginning of time, people have used God as the reason behind everything.

    The existence (or not) of God has absolutely zilch to do with what people have used the concept for.



    [ Parent ]
    Isn't that the point? (4.00 / 1) (#72)
    by JetJaguar on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 07:43:58 PM EST

    By extension, the extistence (or not) of God has absolutely nothing to do with the religions we have created over the years, which have been refined from those very same conceptions.

    Or did I misinterpret your post?

    [ Parent ]

    Can't prove it != invalid (none / 0) (#76)
    by bunsen on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 09:10:32 PM EST

    You can't geniunely prove anything. For any event which you claim proves a particular theory, I can come up with some alternate explanation. All you can do is let evidence in favor of a theory build up over time, until it is generally accepted. Your single theory may be simpler than my tangled mass of alternate explanations, but you can't prove that either one is true, or even that it is false(*).

    (*) Popper would disagree, but Pierre Duhem explained quite well why Popper is, in this case, a dumbass. Basically, you can't test a single hypothesis in isolation; all experiments rely on a set of prior assumptions, so that the falsehood of any one will explain a negative result. If you don't want to admit that your theory has been proven wrong, you can just keep tacking on new auxilliary hypotheses to explain why the experiments disagree with your original prediction.

    ---
    Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
    [ Parent ]

    subjective v objective (4.60 / 5) (#49)
    by chiller on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:01:49 PM EST

    There is an enormous difference between scientific investigation and religious investigation. Scientific claims MUST be able to be reproduced by anyone using the equipment and conditions stated in the experiment. They are therefore entirely objective.

    Religious claims are quite the opposite - entirely subjective.

    I or anyone else can experience an experiment to float a needle on water. I can do this alone, with you, or with anyone else, provided we have a needle, some water and a glass or other receptacle for the water to sit in.

    I will never duplicate your religious experience or any aspect of it alone, with you, or with anyone else.

    That is not to say that a subjective experience is any less valid than an "objective" one (scientists have really misappropriated the word "objective" - as any cursory investigation into physics will confirm). But any attempt to measure the two types of experience with the same rod is fundamentally flawed.

    If there are two types of experience, there is no reason to invalidate one or the other; and no reason to merge them falsely and claim they are the same. If the whole universe were subjective, with no common elements, we would literally each live within our own universe. Conversely, if the whole universe were objective, with no degree of individual, unshareable experience - everyone would be exactly the same.

    Vive la difference!

    C.

    Good Post (3.00 / 1) (#56)
    by isobars on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 03:46:11 PM EST

    I happen to disagree with what you have said, and would point to some of the objections below as to why.

    However, good article, provoked discussion, interesting comments, +1 Section.


    -

    He who laughs last... Hasnt Seen the Cattle Prod
    Come on. (4.66 / 9) (#59)
    by wji on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:03:12 PM EST

    Science and Religion: The same method, different data

    Yes, we're all familar with the inherently self-correcting nature of religion, and the fact that scientific feuds often erupt into bloodshed -- Leakey killing Johansen, the Phlogiston Wars, etc.

    Oh wait. No, we aren't.

    In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.

    Experiment and Religion (5.00 / 5) (#61)
    by Simon Kinahan on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:26:00 PM EST

    I like your idea. It reminds of the perspective of some schools of psychotherapy, such as Gestalt Therapy, in which the patient is just asked to concentrate on particular aspects of their experience, and healing is just supposed to come from that. I have a few points, though.

    Popper does not have a monopoly on the philosophy of science. His falsificationist stance has been very influential, but many other positions are still tenable. Popper is widely accepted by scientists, but possibly only because they really want to reject the social-constructionist perspective of most of the other credible options.

    More seriously, I think your analogy between religion and science has problems. Scientists perform experiments on the external world, which is independent of our beliefs about it. If you believe something incorrect about the external world - and most scientists believe passionately in their theories - it is eventually going to tell you you are wrong. It might take a while for the message to get through. It might also take a while for you to ask the right questions, but eventually your beliefs be corrected.

    As you describe it, the "experiments" of religion come down to performing an experiment on yourself. You're basically saying, "if you believe this, this and this, then you will experience these things". Now, I'm sure that is true. Indeed, the experiences of friends who practice magick, or have more conventional religions, confirms that these kinds of "experiments" have positive results. But what is happening here seems very different from what happens in a scientific experiment, because the experimental observer and the experimental subject are the same person.

    The problem is that although, just like a scientist, you have a belief about the world, unlike the scientist, you're trying to test it by looking at internal, not external, experience. Now, I'm pretty sure my internal experience is heavily influenced by my beliefs. If this is true, it is possible that your experiences that confirm your beliefs, are actually products of them. That is circular, and therefore not confirmation at all.

    Robert Anton Wilson famously proposed an experiment of which you might approve: If you go out with an ordinary state of mind, you're unlikely to find any change, but if you convince youself you'll find a quarter, you almost certainly will. Try it and see. It works. Wilson is a subjectivist: he believes this shows your consciousness can manipulate the state of the world, and it is meaningless to ask whether you are "really" manipulating your mind or the world. I don't buy that. Certainly, our perception of the world is heavily influenced by the mind, but if we follow some very careful practices, we can strip away thesse influences, and find facts which, while provisional, are in some sense truly objective.

    To me, this is the role of science and empiricism: to strip our beliefs about the world down to a bare minimum about which we have intersubjective agreement that they hold true in all places and at all time. Religious beliefs, and some other things, such as some psychological truths, cannot ever come into this category, because they depend crucially on the observer's state of mind, which in itself is being observed.

    This isn't to say the perspective you advance isn't a good one. In life "try it and see" is usually a good policy, although "you have to really believe" presents a level of risk. For instance, if think I have to believe the invisible bridge is there to cross it, and convince myself of the truth of this, and then the bridge is not really there, I die. From my perspective, as an agnostic, convincing myself ot the truth of mormonism in order to experience God's grace seems similar: I may very well have that experience, but I, as I understand myself, would pretty well be dead.



    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    Good Until Last Paragraph (4.80 / 5) (#62)
    by snowlion on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 04:45:36 PM EST

    So good, until that last paragraph.

    Both people of science and people of faith employ a method relying on replicable first-hand experience as they pursue deeper understandings of the world around them and their place in it. This leads me to conclude that the real difference between persons of science and persons of faith has nothing to do with the methods they employ. I believe the difference lies in the credibility they give to deeply personal, subjective (read: not naively objective) data. To one group, the data is admissible. To the other it isn't.

    It doesn't necessarily have to be a difference in the credibilty given to deeply personal and subjective data; It could just be that the "person of science" triest the experiment proposed by the "person of faith", and just plain didn't show up the same results.

    They may have read and prayed, and God remained mute.

    I practice Surat Shabda Yoga. I meditate and see lights and occasionally hear sounds. I have weird dream experiences, and occasionally weird life experiences. Epistemological questions ("If I experience two realities, both of which contain scientists with detailed literature that deny the existance of the other, which shall I believe?" "How long is a 100 years? Is it a long enough time to be convincing in the determination of reality; Or shall we only go with 1000 years?) thus have greater relevance to me than they do to other people. I believe in a spiritual force, and it is an intimate part of my life. My beliefs are based on my direct experiences.

    My friend Whit has tried the meditations I've described. However, he hasn't had the same results. He doesn't see anything, and he doesn't hear anything. He doesn't have weird dream experiences. Epistemological questions don't have so much meaning to him; They seem like interesting theoretical discussions, but they don't have much of a bearing on his life. He believes sometimes in a spiritual force, but it doesn't really affect him too much. (He does however, believe strongly in ethical action, and is guided by those beliefs.) His beliefs too are based on his direct experiences.

    Whit doesn't ascribe different significance to his subjective experience. It just turned out different for him.

    I think your conclusion: I believe the difference lies in the credibility they give to deeply personal, subjective (read: not naively objective) data. is wrong. Many scientists have gone both ways. Richard Feynmann gives hardly any faith to subjective experience, despite the amount of time he spent researching altered states of consciousness. In Richard Feynmann's case, you are correct. But in Blaise Pascal's case, you are very wrong. The same goes for a number of scientists.


    --
    Map Your Thoughts
    And that's the way it's gonna stay. (4.80 / 5) (#66)
    by Wah on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 05:32:34 PM EST

    There's a number of things to comment on here, but I'll try and keep it short and focused.

    First off, I think it's fairly obvious that opencontect is a Mormon. If not, please say so. I draw this conclusion with my own experience with the religion and how it puts forth the search for truth, plus, quoting the BOM is a pretty dead giveaway.

    Anyway, the general idea is that you go in with faith (defined as "belief in things unseen, which are true" in Mormonism, IIRC) and you get back an answer based on that faith in the form of a peaceful, easy feeling. Or a buring in one's bosom.

    This would seem to make experimentation useless. You can't go into it skeptically. If you say, "yea I did that, but I got no return", The response is simply "You don't have enough faith." And of course that fits in with the hypothesis. If you go in fully believing, then it's likely you'll get a return. This seems to be the general idea of religious faith. It can't be falsified, because it's simply a belief.

    Now that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it leads to strange consequences. When you don't have something that can't be verified by the skeptic, you can't have a real answer, or at least not an empirical one. It's a purely subjective answer. Even if it can be repeated, it gains little credibility from someone of a hard core scientific bent. The kind of person that would only believe something if it can be proven objectively and repeatedly.

    It does seem, however, that the experience that one is able to achieve through religion can be verified scientifically. For this part I offer a number of links and some logical conclusions (hehe). First off we have a poorly designed website hawking an over-the-top premise. And a review on Salon.com. Another extensive blurb on Wired. And a more extensive number of links from the approriately URLed bibleandscience.com.

    These sources seem to show that your brain most likely is hard-wired for a particular experience that we have come to affectionately know as God. There are various ways that we can stimulate this area of the brain, either through careful rituals, breathing methods (a la TM), and of course the brute-force approach of serendipidously discovered chemical concoctions.

    How one defines this stimulation seems to be more rooted in the nurture part of our nature, i.e. culture. Hence the love of Jeebus, Muhammed, or Hank. This leads to the joyful abiguity of subjective experience, and a whole bunch of people defining the same thing in terms that have personal relevance. This also makes them rather immune to objective analysis.

    It also points to a conclusion that this (God) is a generally useful idea, since it gives oh so many of us a reason to believe that our generally pitiful lives are worth leading, even in the darkest of times. Thus leading to the continuity of the species with the good/bad side effect of continuing the debate about how to objectively verify a subjective experience.

    And of course the even more unending debate on what to do about it and what it all means.

    (wow, neither short nor focused, maybe I should edit that part out ;)
    --
    Fail to Obey?

    Contact analogy fails in another way. (4.50 / 2) (#67)
    by Inoshiro on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 05:43:52 PM EST

    "There is every reason to believe that if the government were willing to sponsor a second excursion of this sort, an objective third party could gain additional first-hand evidence, corroborating Ellie's claims." -- except that the aliens said they'd close the gateway until the species was ready.



    --
    [ イノシロ ]
    Problems with your expirment... (5.00 / 1) (#80)
    by khym on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:13:21 PM EST

    I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
    The first problem is the "having faith in Christ", which would appear to mean that first you have to believe in Christ before you can do this experiment, which would make it useless. Then there's the "sincere heart" and "real intent". I just did ask Christ, with sincere heart and real intent, to reveal Himself to me, and nothing happenned... Or did I? Am I just deceiving myself when I think that I did it with a since heart? After introspective examination of my mind, I *think* that I was sincere, but how can I be sure?

    Finally, this same type of "experiment" could be run for different religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and so on. If Buddah/Shiva/Allah/Jevhovah/etc reveals Himself to the experimenter, does that prove the validity of that religion? How can you tell which one is right?



    --
    Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
    Science vs mysticism quotes (4.00 / 5) (#82)
    by I am Jack's username on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 10:55:06 PM EST

    Any belief worth having must survive doubt.

    "Being unable to reason is not a positive character trait outside religion." - Dewey Henize

    "Believe not because some old manuscripts are produced, believe not because it is your national belief, believe not because you have been made to believe from your childhood, but reason truth out, and after you have analyzed it, then if you find it will do good to one and all, believe it, live up to it and help others to live up to it." - Buddha

    Cogito, ergo atheos sum.

    "Doubt everything. Find your own light." - Gautama Buddha

    Explaining the unknown by means of the unobservable is always a perilous business.

    "Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits." - Dan Barker

    "Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense." - Chapman Cohen

    "I am an atheist because there is no evidence for the existence of God. That should be all that needs to be said about it: no evidence, no belief." - Dan Barker

    "Ideas that cannot be defended by reason and evidence can lead anywhere, and, if there is no warrant for one's belief, there is no telling where it will end." - Paul M. Pfalzner

    "If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody. It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm." - Marcus Aurelius

    "If the Bible is mistaken in telling us where we came from, how can we trust it to tell us where we're going?" - Justin Brown

    If the Bible proves that God exists then comic books prove the existence of Superman.

    "If you were taught that elves caused rain, every time it rained, you'd see the proof of elves." - Ariex

    "In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." - Carl Sagan

    "Nothing happens in contradiction to nature; only in contradiction to what we know of it." - Scully

    "One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment." - Steven Weinberg

    "People everywhere enjoy believing things that they know are not true. It spares them the ordeal of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for what they know." - Brook Atkinson /Once around the sun/

    "Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned." - Anemones

    "The Church says the Earth is flat. But I know the Earth is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church." - Magellan

    "There is no faith, however respectable, no interest, however legitimate, which must not accommodate itself to the progress of human knowledge and bend before truth." - Paul Broca

    "[T]here's only any point in believing something if it's true." - Richard Dawkins, interview with Douglas Adams

    "Those content to accept on faith are those who accept without thinking, without the rational demonstrations that establish the truth (predictive content) of what we believe. Faith is the road to myth and error, the way to add to man's already overflowing storehouse of 'things he /knows/ but that are not so.'" - Chester Dolan, /Holy daze/

    "To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin." - Cardinal Bellarmino 1615, during the trial of Galileo

    "Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing, 'yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down. down. Amen!' If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it." - Dan Barker
    --
    Inoshiro for president!
    "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
    Hmmmmm! Good idea! (4.50 / 2) (#83)
    by scanman on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:07:48 PM EST

    Let's do an experiment. First, be completely convinced that the experiment will succeed, to the point where even if it failed, you would claim it succeeded anyway. Now, give me your wallet...

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

    A few points. (4.50 / 2) (#84)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:21:12 PM EST

    I find it unlikely that all religions use the same method. Consider the difference between the following:
    • the doctrine that the Pope is infallible
    • the admission by His Holiness the Dalai Lama that all of Buddhism could be totally wrong about reincarnation, and it would be completely in keeping with Buddhism to give up the idea if science ever proved that it was wrong.
    Second, given the amount of argument in the philosophy of science, the claim that there is a single method of science is tenuous. These considerations would make it hard for religion and science to have the same method.

    But let's look at some of the complications for your proposed test within a single religion (the one in which I can most easily bash it), just to get a feel for the problem domain.

    First:

    "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who ernestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6
    In case you wonder what faith is, we are given a definition:
    "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
    From the first quote we can see that: if you see it, which I take to mean something like "have perceptions that show it to be the case", you don't have faith. Putting the quotes together, if you see it, then you can not please God. Relating all of this back to your empirical testing of religion, if you did have perceptions which proved the existance of God you have just excluded yourself from being rewarded. Since we were using the existance of rewards as a positive outcome from the test, we are left in an odd situation. Getting a positive outcome implies that we will not continue to get positive outcomes.

    Perhaps you could only do the test once (and, I suppose, go to hell for your trouble) and that would be enough. However, that kills your main thesis since repeatability is a major component of all of the methods of science.

    I suppose there might still be some room to wiggle out, so I'll move on to a more clearly problematic issue within the foundations of your test (still in the same religion).

    "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Matthew 4:6 through 7
    Now, how is it possible to test a God by way of being obedient and checking for predicted outcomes, when that same God has told us not to test him on pain of being disobedient? I submit that it is logically impossible. If you go in for being obedient in order to test God, you aren't being obedient and thus you aren't testing God.



    The affirmation of faith is a wonderful thing! (3.50 / 2) (#88)
    by Cal Jayson on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 01:04:40 AM EST

    First, if I believed your interpretation of the verses, they still do not imply the negative of their statements. It does not say that if you have ever seen any proof you no longer have faith. It is possible to have faith that is later confirmed and then have faith at some future time again. The point of the verses is to say that God doesn't want to have to prove himself to you all the time. God says not to test Him to have faith that His plan for us is the best plan for us. He says this as a father says this to his children, because the father thinks at such a higher level than the child. He wants you to have faith in Him and His actions. If I believe that God can heal me and he does. Then later I am having another hardship and even though I have had affirmation of God's goodness once it does not mean that I do not also have faith in Him helping me out again.

    Second, what you have faith about isn't just that God exists, but in His actions and being. You neglect quoting the rest of the chapter. It continues to say how people's faith in God caused them to be victorious in battle, to have children at an old age, to give offerings, and endured hardships. They had faith in God's love and blessings.

    "By faith Abraham, when God tetsed him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuritively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death." -- Hebrews 11:17-19

    This shows that you can have faith that is confirmed, that you can reason about the situation and still have it be on faith, and that this is good!

    Third, you take the Matthew passage out of context, too. The surrounding context is when the devil tempted Jesus while in the desert. Satan was asking Jesus to knowingly call on God and demand a manifestation of His powers. The distinction is between following God's appointed plan or forcing your plan on God. If Jesus were to throw Himself from temple he would be trying to force God to intervene, not following God's plan. If you were to follow God's plan and check the results thought that is doing what the Lord asks of you.

    There are many times in the Book that God even points out the good he has done to build up people's faith. The affirmation of faith is a wonderful thing!
    --
    kx.com: 2.5 billion trades
    select max price from trade takes 1 second
    [ Parent ]
    Something similar from ET Jaynes (4.33 / 3) (#86)
    by SIGFPE on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 11:36:02 PM EST

    Jaynes, one of the founders of maximum entropy techniques in statistics, had some interesting things to say on this subject that have some similarities to your conclusion.

    Jaynes was a great believer in statistics and especially Bayesian statistics. Bayesian statistics (to cut a very long story very short!) is about assigning prior probabilities to events and using those prior probabilities to influence your later inferences. For example I might, a priori think there's a 1% that A is true and a 99% chance that B is true. I might subsequently find more experimental evidence for A than B. However if I factor in my initial probability estimate I may still find B to be the more likely hypothesis. Eventually enough evidence may come in to swing the balance. Someone else may approach the problem with different a prioris based on different prior experience and come up with different conclusions - even though both people are acting entirely rationally.

    Now it can get quite subtle because depending on your a prioris the same evidence might be interpreted different ways. For example a believer in faith healing interprets the claims of a faith healer as evidence of the truth of their religion. Someone else might interpret that as evidence against the religion because they interpret it as (1) evidence that the faith healer is a liar and (2) support for their belief that all faith healers are liars. Both people might be acting entirely rationally based on their a priori probability assignments.

    But you do need to consider where the a prioris come from in the first place. And I think you need to ask "why do some people find this type of evidence inadmissible?"
    SIGFPE

    Somehow I can't shake the feeling... (2.00 / 1) (#87)
    by axxeman on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 12:24:43 AM EST

    That YHBT.

    Desperately need Egyptologist. Can you help?

    When you can answer... (4.00 / 3) (#91)
    by mormon on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:56:32 AM EST

    When you can answer the following questions, I will listen to your thoughts on religion. Until you understand your own religion, I don't expect you to understand any others.

    1) Why does the Book of Mormon claim that elephants, steel, wheat, etc... existed in the New World around 500 BC?

    2) Why were blacks denied the priesthood until 1978? (The priesthood is a special "power" given to men in the church)

    3) Why, when Joseph Smith "translated" Egyptian papyri, did he get an entirely different meaning than modern scholars have found?

    4) Why did Joseph Smith condemn polygamy in the Book of Mormon, then proclaim it as an eternal commandment in the Doctorine and Covenants?

    5) Why do mormons still take the Bible myths completely literally, and why do they completely discount evolution?

    6) Why do Native Americans have DNA that clearly shows Asian descent? The Book of Mormon states that they are from Jerusalem.

    7) Why does the Book of Mormon contain the same mistranslations found in the King James version of the Bible?

    I could keep going on forever, but I won't. I think the mormon church is relatively unique in that it is one of only a few churches that can be absolutely shown to be false.

    Please don't be scared away because the questions seem hard to answer. I am honestly looking forward to seeing your views.

    -mormon

    I don't get it (none / 0) (#107)
    by medham on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:29:01 PM EST

    If you're so blasemphous on the subject of the LDS, why do you call yourself a Mormon?

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

    Because I am (5.00 / 1) (#108)
    by mormon on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 04:59:30 PM EST

    I was raised Mormon, and I still attend the mormon church to prevent conflicts with my family. I really wish I wasn't Mormon, but I am. I'm a Mormon athiest.

    You will never see a Mormon answer the questions I asked. It hurts their brains to think about them.

    -mormon

    [ Parent ]
    Wow (none / 0) (#109)
    by medham on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 05:03:59 PM EST

    Please forgive my horrid misspelling of "blasphemous" above.

    What do you think about Orson Scott Card, then?

    Have you read that short story by what's his name from the New Yorker a few years back about the mormon kid getting a blow job on the bus? Kirn, it is.

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

    Brovo (none / 0) (#112)
    by mickeycoke on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 07:42:52 PM EST

    sorry to hear that you don't believe in God - because of the silliness of the Latter Day Saints. I have found some excellet science based faith that deals with REAL SCIENCE and REAL FAITH. The web site is an eye-sore thought, but the content is Tight!!!

    Reasons To Believe

    I would love to hear what you think.

    [ Parent ]
    Hugh Ross (none / 0) (#142)
    by JetJaguar on Tue Feb 19, 2002 at 06:50:22 PM EST

    Well, the trouble here is that Hugh Ross, amoung other things, appears to kind of be a Lamarkian, with respect to the origins of life, and I know of no respectable biologists that takes Lamark's ideas seriously anymore. Second, his views on design and tuning are not so great either, it's kind of an abuse of the anthropic principle actually. He basically presupposes his conclusion, which is generally frowned upon in the scientific community as well. The fact that we exist is not evidence of tuning.

    That said, I think what he does is perhaps the best hope for religion to cast off a lot of its baggage, Unfortunately, I'm not so sure if what he's replacing the old baggage with is much better, and there don't seem to be all that many people that listen to him anyway.

    [ Parent ]

    FYI (none / 0) (#141)
    by broken77 on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 05:24:30 PM EST

    I was intrigued by your post, so I did some searching and came across this. Thought you may be interested.

    I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
    [ Parent ]

    Same method?? (4.75 / 4) (#92)
    by Karellen on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 05:07:08 AM EST

    Religious method: I am right. Trust me. Have faith. Believe.

    Scientific method: I may be wrong. Question me. Find out for yourself. Be skeptical.



    Religion the problem of Faith (none / 0) (#111)
    by mickeycoke on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 07:32:53 PM EST

    I completely agree, in a twisted sorts. I find religion is a man made up thingy. Which completely belongs in the box you put it, however faith in God is an concept that awt to be far from the impact of Religion. faith in God is to be approached as you would science. Ask questions test God and yourself to find out if the quiet One speaks back. React to religion like a moral disease, but react to God like a friend who loves you.

    [ Parent ]
    Religious or Christian? (none / 0) (#144)
    by botono9 on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:06:02 PM EST

    Religious method: I am right. Trust me. Have faith. Believe.

    Scientific method: I may be wrong. Question me. Find out for yourself. Be skeptical.

    You say "Religious method" but what I think you mean is "Christian method". Take a look at Buddhism and you won't find the same sentiments, although it is a religion. There are many spiritual paths which do not require that other people believe what you say or what you have "found". In fact, I'm going to dare to say that most spiritual (as opposed to religious, or structured) paths require the student to participate and evaluate hir own evidence.

    "Guns are real. Blue uniforms are real. Cops are social fiction."
    --Robert Anton Wilson
    [ Parent ]

    The "Faith" in faith (4.50 / 2) (#96)
    by ToastyKen on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 12:42:48 PM EST

    From what I understand of Christianity, there is this concept of reliance on "Faith". It's something that's pretty crucial, in fact.. that you believe certain things specifically not on evidence, not even personal evidence, but on your Faith in God. I'm sure someone else could explain/clarify this better than I, but it's a concept that pretty much goes directly against the scientific method, and it's something you didn't discuss at all.

    Regarding Faith (5.00 / 1) (#117)
    by Canthros on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:14:41 PM EST

    Your claim is that accepting a statement as true (or false) on the basis of claims which can be neither proven nor disproven 'goes directly against the scientific method'. This really isn't correct.

    The scientific method is a means of weeding out ideas which have been proven false: a series of experiements is created to test the idea. If the results of the experiments turn out other than as predicted by the hypothesis, the idea is assumed to be false in its current formulation and is either reformulated, and the process is repeated, or is dropped.

    The problem with the scientific method is that it is an empirical method: it relies on observations and testable data. When the realms of inquiry move outside the area of the testable and the observable, we are left with only the tools of the rationalist: our ability to reason.

    Additionally, empirical methods provide only a probability of truth: there's no way to be sure that we have all the data, that's why scientific hypotheses often change over time. Empiricism provides only a working model.

    Rationalism provides a powerful tool, reason. But reason doesn't work in a vacuum: even Descartes had to figure out that he was observing things before he could be sure of his existence. So, empiricism makes some assumptions (my powers of observation are fairly trustworthy, the universe can be expected to behave in a manner which can be explained and reasoned about, etc) to allow a meaningful discovery of the universe. So, even the scientific method makes some assumptions, at least in terms of practicality.

    Which comes back to rationalism. Something that needs to be pointed out is that an irrational argument is not the same as a non-rational argument. The former flies in the face of reason, the latter is past the power of reason to work on. Many very powerful and fundamental arguments are non-rational, and are powerful because they are non-rational.

    So the point is that non-rational arguments, which cannot be proven or disproven are not against the means or spirit of science. Rather, they are foundational to the scientific method and a great deal of Western thought. The confusion lies in distinguishing non-rational (arational may be a better term) from irrational (or anti-rational, if you wish).

    --
    It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
    RyoCokey
    [ Parent ]

    I agree (none / 0) (#124)
    by ToastyKen on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 03:04:44 AM EST

    I just want to say that I totally agree with what you said. Yes, faith in God is a "non-rational" idea, as you put it, and I agree. Believing that we exist, and that the world we live in exists as well (and is not a creation of Cartesian demons) is another such "non-rational" idea.

    The issue is in which non-rational ideas are fundamentally necessary for us to assume. I see the latter as necessary, and I see the former as unnecessary. Others disagree with me, and believe the former to be necessary as well, I guess. Hope that clarifies things.

    [ Parent ]

    Necessity of faith (none / 0) (#134)
    by Canthros on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 08:54:24 PM EST

    The issue is in which non-rational ideas are fundamentally necessary for us to assume. I see the latter as necessary, and I see the former as unnecessary. Others disagree with me, and believe the former to be necessary as well, I guess. Hope that clarifies things.
    Err... yeah. Looks like I was arguing sideways to you, then. With regards to the necessity of belief in certain "articles of faith", that varies nearly as much within Christianity as without.

    So, first issue is the idea of belief in a thing being fundamentally necessary. What do you mean by this? Necessary for? I ask mostly because I can't easily fathom a mindset which assumes belief in something to be implicit in existence, though I can understand the belief in certain ideas (the existence of God, the divine nature of Jesus, the efficacy of Jesus' death) as fundamental to a larger system of belief (Christianity).

    Unless you mean that they believe the idea to be fundamental in discovering truth about the universe — that's rather a different thing. At which point, it really is just a difference of fundamental assumptions: not everyone needs the concept of God for view of the universe to seem complete and correct. Whether or not you have a true picture of the universe without God, that's a much larger discussion for which I doubt much meaningful can really be said.

    From a somewhat more personal standpoint, I find that God satisfies the requirements of a great many very difficult philosophical questions that I can't resolve without that concept. Belief in God is fundamental to my system of my belief (I was brought up this way, so belief in God comes somewhat naturally). Even so, if I didn't feel it held up, I'd toss it away. And I think that's an appropriate attitude: I'm not Southern Baptist solely because that's how I was brought up. I stick to this variety of Christianity because it's the one that seems, to me, to hold up the best, even though it has, perhaps, more than its share of kooks, jerks, loudmouths, and idiots.

    But I think I'm straying off the mark, here. Way off, it appears.

    Christianity ask that its followers have faith "like children", yet also be as "wise as serpents". Like most things in the Christian canon, that's pretty open to interpretation, but I've always considered it thusly: I'm expected by God to question my beliefs, including my belief in Him. Those things which I find I cannot justify rationally or empirically I try to accept as being past at least my personal powers of reason. This is not to say I try to accept those ideas which I find ultimately untenable, but the situation really hasn't come up: I can't think of any situation regarding the doctrine and dogma of my faith that wound up resolved unfavorably, though there are some things which have not yet been resolved.

    --
    It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
    RyoCokey
    [ Parent ]

    I like your attitude (none / 0) (#145)
    by ToastyKen on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 08:13:31 PM EST

    Canthros, although we probably wildly disagree about specifics, I have to say I really like your attitude about it all. :) I think the willingness to question everything is absolutely key. I respect a questioning Christian more than an unthinking atheist any day.

    [ Parent ]
    I'm flattered! (none / 0) (#147)
    by Canthros on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 03:13:10 PM EST

    Really! As for the disagreement on all the specifics... Well, I'm used to that:)

    --
    It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
    RyoCokey
    [ Parent ]
    ok (1.33 / 3) (#97)
    by rhyax on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 12:51:15 PM EST

    and this article ends my short-lived time on kuro5hin... you people seem to let too much stupid crap through just do you can point out problems... that's boring. i know stupid people exist, i don't want to seek them out, and i don't need to be constantly reminded.

    Don't be such a prickly pear (none / 0) (#121)
    by medham on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 01:08:22 AM EST

    Explain where you see instances of this "stupidity." And be kind.

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

    Religion vs. Spirituality (3.50 / 2) (#98)
    by Solipsist on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 01:11:04 PM EST

    A new people have touched on the distinction between these two things, but I think it actually central to this article, so I'd like to state it more clearly.

    There are a number of things in this world which people have to deal with or experience that are very personal or are otherwise inaccessible to scientific method because they just can't be observed by other people (or by anyone). Questions of ultimate purpose or what happens to your consciousness after death are of this type. Other such questions include axioms of theories like morality, such as "What is the ultimate good?" Even though these questions can't be answered directly by scientific methods, they are still important questions that guide what we do in life.

    Spirituality is how we answer these questions ourselves. This is a very important thing in life and everyone has it to some extent or another. Even people who are not "spiritual" have answered these questions by saying "all that matters is how long I live," or "Money/power is the ultimate good."

    Religion on the other hand is a social construct based around answering these questions. Sometime religion helps people answer their own spriritual question well, while other religions are little more than institutions that are really good at controling people to the extent of keeping them well within the bounds of an established social order. "Faith" has been used often to keep people from thinking and exploring spirituality on their own.

    I think that this article should be using the world spirituality rather than religion. If this is done, I would mostly agree with the major point of this article, except for the "And it's as simple as that" part.

    Different concepts of truth. (3.00 / 1) (#99)
    by Rainy on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 01:17:52 PM EST

    Science was born out of practical needs. For science, a theory is "true enough" if it can predict results within the margin of error. Religion isn't concerned with what *works*, its goal is the absolute perfect spiritual truth that may not be useful right now or right here, but will come in handy when you die (or so they say).

    Trouble starts when either invades the other's territory: when (some) christians say that Earth is 6k years old, geologists take offence; or when scientists say that material reality is all there is - religious folks get angry. As long as each approach stays in its corner, the same person can be a good scientist and a believer.

    Note that I'm not saying that each approach is right in its own way. Science is definitely right, but it never makes extraordinary claims. Religions may all be wrong, for all we know.
    --
    Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

    IOW (none / 0) (#146)
    by jeremycit on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 01:47:46 AM EST

    IOW scientists shouldn't talk about what they don't know, and religious people shouldn't talk about what scientists do know =).

    [ Parent ]
    Wrong Approach (4.00 / 5) (#113)
    by mech9t8 on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 07:45:58 PM EST

    Our internal perceptions are completely unreliable sources of information. People "feel right" about a million things, for the numerous religions out there, to getting a crush on someone, to taking crack, to calling psychic hotlines, to feeling that Jodie Foster will love them if they shoot the president.

    And that's before getting into full-fledged hallunications and psychic breaks.

    So if you're trying to sell religion to scientifically-minded atheists as a replacement for science, you're going to fail. No matter how compelling your faith feels to you, we're just going to look at it as an interesting psychological phenomenon. It becomes a question of psychology - why do these beliefs make you feel so good?

    (And the answer is, on the surface, pretty uncomplicated: People like to be on the winning team. People like to be right. People like to know things are going to turn out great. People like to know that someone loves them. Funny, that tends to be exactly what the most successful religions cover. And the religions that don't offer such things (like, say, Greco-Roman "mythology") have largely died out. Hmm.)

    Anyway, if you really want to try to convince people that this "religion" thing isn't crap, you have to approach it more from a "philosophy" or "way of looking at the world" angle. Show that accepting it as a way of life and a way of looking at the world has made your life and the life of those around you happier; that simply believing in science tends to lead to empty, unhappy lives, but that accepting the way of looking at the world offered by your religion has made your life better.

    Or something. It probably won't convince anyone, either, but people are more likely to accept it. People might see that relgious people can be reasonable. Maybe.

    But articles like this simply provide more evidence that religious people are kooks, that they believe their personal delusions so much they think it counts as scientific evidence. It'll simply repel people even more from religion.

    IMHO, anyway.

    BTW, a fictional public reaction (never mind one strained and not particularly believable like that in Contact) doesn't really count as evidence of anything. Try to find something from real life next time. ;)

    --
    "To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the s

    Intelligent Design (3.00 / 1) (#115)
    by Damia on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 09:24:24 PM EST

    I know this is off-topic, but what about those "in between" theories like intelligent design? Do they fall under the religious or scientific method?

    Seems to me that a lot of people believe in an idea because it's been force-fed to them when they were vulnerable, not through some sort of method. And maybe I've been sleeping too much, but shouldn't any sort of first hand experiences/data be observed objectively rather than with a biased viewpoint? Wouldn't that alone make it more believable by others?

    not quite.. (3.00 / 1) (#118)
    by mforbes21 on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 11:20:02 PM EST

    The difference as I see it: Moderate religious people of moderate education probably are exactly as you describe. The far right-wing religious suppose their holy books to be the alpha and omega of the universe, needing no further discussion or extrapolation, and therefore have no problem making pronouncements on subjects about which they know nothing. A responsible scientist would never claim direct knowledge of the will of G-d through his/her experiments and theories. An irresponsible scientist (i.e., fruitcake) is equally despised by both sides.

    Economics, History, Evolution, Astrophysics? (4.00 / 1) (#126)
    by tz on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 12:14:16 PM EST

    I think the above definition of "Science" is properly narrow. The problem is that it doesn't cover a lot of things that end up in the natural or social science classes. And even when it does it isn't believed.

    There are competing schools of economics, but all of them make predictions which are testable. We don't hold to the school that makes the best predictions, but the ones that are most politically palatable. For example, price controls (below the market price) ALWAYS cause shortages. But that is what is proposed. Many places have or propose living wage laws and rent-control. It feels better to think you are in control. Laetrile is more pleasant than Chemotherapy but less effective. Meanwhile the Austrians seem to be predicting the outcomes the best, while the Keynesians and supply-siders have and are destroying large portions of Asia, Africa, and South America.

    Similarly with history. There is a lot of evidence as to what happened, but a lot of people have rose or blue colored glasses when they write. It is usually not entirely either noble or self-serving, but somewhere in between. What was the civil war about? I doubt 600,000 would die for mere economics (also note the proportion to the smaller population). But was it liberty and in what form - to eliminate slavery or to allow choice on the matter. We won't know but will theorize.

    Finally, where do you place things like evolution and Paleo-whatever? We have bones so we know dinosaurs walked the earth. But were they endotherms, exotherms, or something in-between? What killed them. We can't recreate this. It is science in the sense of a detective examining a crime scene, but many crimes go unsolved. You can only know if you are there. Even were we able to travel to another planet where we found something similar to our dinosaurs (Aside: note how you never see an M class planet with dinosaurs in star-trek, and even on Voyager they ended up as bipedal human sized organisms), we wouldn't know if they duplicated what happened here or were unique to that planet even if they were large and had skeletons similar to our dinosaurs.

    How old is the earth? Who knows? We can calculate lots of things, but we also know that the suns output fluctuates, and we don't know the initial conditions. We see Nebulae, but we are trying to describe a 10 billion year process with a set of stills from the development of different species. Meanwhile we can theorize about black-holes and neutron stars, but of what can we be sure? Almost nothing, at least until we can go there and see. This doesn't mean the thought experiments are useless. 100 years ago we had steady state for both the universe and the continents, but in 1905 someone proposed continental drift and was laughed out of the profession. Now we have big bang and plate tectonics.

    I think scientists should dream, and that their dreams can come true. But true science allows me to repeatedly make their dreams come true in a controlled experiment.


    A short poem (4.00 / 1) (#133)
    by sakusha on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 08:52:41 PM EST

    "We place no reliance
    on Virgin or Pigeon,
    Our method is Science,
    our aim is Religion"
    -Aleister Crowley

    Tell me ... (none / 0) (#138)
    by Simon Kinahan on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 11:06:09 AM EST

    What on earth is the bit about Virgins and Pigeons about ?

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]
    References to Christian symbols. (none / 0) (#143)
    by botono9 on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:57:56 PM EST

    Virgin as in Virgin Mary and pigeon is probably a reference to doves in Christianity.

    "Guns are real. Blue uniforms are real. Cops are social fiction."
    --Robert Anton Wilson
    [ Parent ]

    Science and Religion: The same method, different data | 148 comments (124 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
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