Re: the religion of science (was:virus: Sexuality)

Patricia & John Crooks (
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 10:45:17 -0500

>Religions tend to be dogmatic and to insulate themselves against
>refutation in a way that science does not.

Again. Several people have made this claim but I not seen any evidence
presented that this is anymore true for religion than science.
Could maybe any of you give just the wee tiniest bit of consideration to the
possibility that you might be projecting this onto religion and it might not
necessarily be objective truth?
Come on now, tell the truth, how many of you that are are implying such
grandiose knowledge of what religion is all about have actually taken the
time to study the subject? How many of you have had even one theology or
religious studies course at the university level? How many of you have
honestly looked at the other side of your argument, let alone to the degree
those of us who are religion based are forced to in this secular society?
How many of you, as adults, have read anything at all about religion that
wasn't critical of it?
My point is not that science is bad, it is that there are some scientists on
this list who seem to be taking a very unscientific view of religion; that
is, coming to a lot of conclusions based on some pretty flimsy experiential
evidence and not a lot of objective study; doing a lot of religion bashing
and passing off a lot of opinions as truth that they would not for a minute
accept in their own area of expertise.
I also detect a strong undercurrent of "I am a scientist, therefor my
thought processes are clear and sharp and accurate: religious people are
fuzzy thinkers who can't separate their emotions from facts". To which I
would reply that I have seen no evidence to indicate that Einstein was any
more or less intelligent than Gandhi, Newton was no more or less intelligent
that Thomas Aquinas.

>> Science can tell us how, it cannot tell us why.
>Why does this rock float?

This is what I mean. Come on tell me, why does this rock float? Not how
does it float, I'm not asking about density of molecules, why does it float?
What is the existential purpose of it's floating? What is it about the
universe that requires the existence of floating rocks? What do floating
rocks accomplish in the grand scheme of things? I may be wrong, but I think
those are meaningless questions in science. The last I heard, science
doesn't accept that there is a grand scheme of things; I think science
accepts that there is method to the universe but no purpose. Or am I wrong
about that?

>Perhaps you meant to say that science should stick to making factual
>claims and religion should stick to making normative claims. Maybe not.

Yes, that is what I meant to say, thank you for clarifying that.

>Why shouldn't science have a crack at investigating issues of

Fair enough, but that goes both ways, are you ready to give serious
consideration to creation theory as biology, or Native American legends as

> Science and religion, on the other hand, are not the sorts of
>things that exhibit properties like arrogance or humility.

I can't speak for science but what you say is definately not true of
religion. A basic tenent of religious thought is that a religion is a
living growing entity. This is why Catholics refer to their church as "the
body of Christ". I know that is something that can't be "scientifically
validated", but it is experientially validated by millions of people around
the world everyday. Most religious peoples around the world experience
their religions this same way and have for thousands of years be they
Christian, Hindu, or Navaho.

>Science, the science I would contrast favorably with religion, is not an

Which kind of goes to my earlier point doesn't it, that science tells us how
but not why?

> It is a process by which hypotheses are checked against the
>available data and altered to accomodate said data.

That the same can be said of religion is evidenced in many cases the most
obvious in our culture being the differences in Catholicism pre and post
Vatican II.

> The claim that
>science will never be able to generate an exhaustive account of human
>existence and human experience is a very strong one and requires strong

I would say the same thing is true about religion. I am not saying that
there have not been religions and religious personages that have claimed to
have all the answers, but any religion that is able to survive more than few
generations posits itself as a collection of seekers of truth not as a
collection of purveyors of truth. For example, Christian Science. Mary
Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science set herself up as a purveyor of
truth. She wrote that all of her teachings came as divine inspiration and
were therefore infallible and immutable. Consequently, Christian Science,
which had a huge following around the turn of the last century, is now dying
out and will probably be gone in another generation. People and cultures
change and any religion that does not change with them is doomed to failure.

The basic gripe that I have against science is that science seems to take
the basic stance that until something has been proven to be true it is
assumed to be false. Am I wrong about that? As I think about it I probably
am, that is probably something that comes from scientists not science. The
problem with that stance is that apples fell from trees long before Isaac
Newton came along to give that fact scientific validity.

The reason I was attracted to this list is that meme theory is one of the
few ideas I've seen that has a ghost of a chance of bridging the gap between
science and religion, of looking at both sides of the picture. I think that
is a worthwhile goal.

John Crooks