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

KMO prime (
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 16:03:15 EDT

Take care. -KMO

On Thu, 19 Sep 1996 10:45:17 -0500 (Patricia & John
Crooks) writes:
>>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
>presented that this is anymore true for religion than science.

In my wild and crazy teens I went through a phase of evangelical atheism.
My mother is a Southern Baptist, so you can imagine the "discussions"
that took place in her kitchen. I know the self-insulating strategies
backwards and forwards. I'd ask, "if the Earth is 6 thousand years old
as the geneologies in the bible suggest, why does geological evidence
suggest that the Earth is millions of years old." She'd reply, "God
created the Earth to look that way to test our faith." I'd point out
contradictions in the scripture and ask how it can all be the literal
truth. "The devil will quote scripture for his own ends." There's a
show stopper. If you point out inconsistencies, you're doing the devil's

Granted, (I believe) it was Thomas Aquinas who said that reason in man
was God in the world, but who said, "Reason is the devil's bride and
whore?" Luthor? Calvin? Which attitude is more prevalent? Is my
mother atypical? If so then I'm a magnet for those 'atypical' religious

>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?

Possibility considered, weighed against the evidence, and filed as

>Come on now, tell the truth, how many of you that are are implying
>grandiose knowledge of what religion is all about have actually taken
>time to study the subject? How many of you have had even one theology
>religious studies course at the university level? How many of you
>honestly looked at the other side of your argument, let alone to the
>those of us who are religion based are forced to in this secular

Okay, John. I've been avoiding posting my resume, but I've had
university level courses in the philosophy of religion, the bible as
literature, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I spent some time at the Center for
Religious Studies at Nanzan University in Japan and sat in on classes in
Japanese religion taught by Catholic priests. I've had graduate level
courses in Indian Philosphy, read Shankara's defence of Adviata Vedanta
against a variety of contemporary (to Shankara) schools of thought.
I've read Augustine and Aquinas. I've read the accounts of Chritian
mystics like Julian of Norwhich, and I've read various Gnostic texts.
I've chanted with the Krishnas and allowed myself to be 'purified' in
religeous rituals on the streets of Japan. I've prostrated myself before
Shinto shrines, chanted the Daimoku, devoted my life to associating the
word 'meme' with a Buddhist icon. I'm no stranger to religious doctrine
or practice.

>How many of you, as adults, have read anything at all about religion
>wasn't critical of it?

I think I've covered that one. Anyone else read anything about religion
other than "Arsenal for Skeptics?" David? Know anything about religion?
Reed? Richarad?

>I also detect a strong undercurrent of "I am a scientist, therefor my
>thought processes are clear and sharp and accurate: religious people
>fuzzy thinkers who can't separate their emotions from facts".

I am not a scientist. I am a pornographer. I do think that most
religious people are fuzzy thinkers, but I think that most people are
fuzzy thinkers. Analytic thought is hard. Our brains aren't well suited
to it. Analogies, metaphors, and allagories suite our kludgy brains much
better than mathematical or sylogistic thinking.

> To
>which I
>would reply that I have seen no evidence to indicate that Einstein was
>more or less intelligent than Gandhi, Newton was no more or less
>that Thomas Aquinas.

I don't recall anyone saying that religious people are stupid by
defintion or even on average. That said...

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need
for illusion is great." (That's a quote, but I forget the source.)

>>> 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
>does it float, I'm not asking about density of molecules, why does it

You've restricted the meaning of the word 'why' to a very narrow and
esoteric range. When I ask why my computer isn't working I don't want to
hear anything about "existential purpose."

>What is the existential purpose of it's floating? What is it about
>universe that requires the existence of floating rocks? What do
>rocks accomplish in the grand scheme of things? I may be wrong, but I
>those are meaningless questions in science.

The question " What is it about the universe that requires the existence
of floating rocks?" is preceded by the question "Is there something about
the universe that requires the existence of floating rocks, or are other,
non-actual universes, universes without floating rocks, equally
possible?" If you think that is the sort of question that is beyond the
domain of science, then I would suggest that you are confused about the
definiton of the word '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.

Pick up Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene," turn to the glossary and look up the
words 'teleology' and 'teleonomy'.

>Or am I
>about that?

Dead wrong.

>>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

I don't know much about Native American legends, but I've weighed the
creationist account against various alternative explanatory schemes and
found it did not fit the evidence as well as rival hypotheses.

>> 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

PEOPLE exhibit qualities like arrogance or humility. Some religious
doctrines ADVOCATE humility, but relgion is not humble. It's not
arrogant. It's not the kind of thing that has those sorts of properties.
Read that paragraph again because you obviously didn't follow that line
of thought in the post to which you are responding.

> A basic tenent of religious thought is that a religion is a
>living growing entity.

Religious thought is not as monolithic as you present it as being.
People have reported a wide variety of religious experience.

>Most religious peoples around the world
>their religions this same way and have for thousands of years be they
>Christian, Hindu, or Navaho.

I see no way other than divine revelation that you could know anything
about the quality of the religious experience of every Christian, Hindu,
and Navaho over a span of thousands of years.

>> 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
>obvious in our culture being the differences in Catholicism pre and
>Vatican II.

Post-Vatican II Catholicism is the result of checking old Catholic
doctrine against the available data? We must have very different usages
for the word "data."

>> 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
>I would say the same thing is true about religion.

Your claim about the limitations of science is a strong claim. Strong
claims require support in terms of evidence and cohearent supporting
arguments. Why do you think scientific inquiry will never provide us
with an exhaustive account of hume existence and experience? What
evidence and reasoning do you have to support your very strong claim?

>The basic gripe that I have against science is that science seems to
>the basic stance that until something has been proven to be true it is
>assumed to be false. Am I wrong about that?

That's just plain wrong. Scientific theories are never proven right.
They can only be considered well corroborated after they have survived
numerous and varied attempts at refutation. New theories are generated
(by no strict procedure) and tested against the available data. When the
theories are incompatible with the data they must either be rejected,
modified to incorporate the data, or the data itself must be re-evaluated
for accuracy.

> The
>problem with that stance is that apples fell from trees long before
>Newton came along to give that fact scientific validity.

How is that a problem?

Take care. -KMO