Ezra Lb wrote: You say science is "reduced". Why view the request for evidence to back up your beliefs as a limitation? Wouldn't it be better to view it as a way to discipline your thoughts?
Not necessarily. In this case, the term “reduced” isn’t intended as a value assessment. By referring to “reduced” I mean drawn down to its basic form. In this case, my comment is that Science is not being asked to quantify/certify philosophical points of view.
“Disciplining thoughts” may not be the end goal for people pursuing a theological philosophy. If you reduce the universe and mankind’s role in it to simple scientific principles you disallow for any emotional or philosophical perceptions of the things which surround us. You may appreciate them from a purely aesthetic standpoint, but a purely scientific approach eliminates the possibility of a “deeper meaning” to anything. It simply is what it is.
More about that last point below.
Ezra Lb wrote:When you use the word "explicable", I assume this means you have a concept of the "inexplicable". Do you mean "not explained yet" or "not explainable at all"?
Explicable means those things which can be explained by rational scientific methodology. Evolution. The nature of stars. Laws of physics. Why specific things occur and what causes them.
Many of these questions used to have theological responses, but as science has progressed we know that thunder is not caused by an irate Zeus atop Mount Olympus. We know that earthquakes are not the result of creatures under the ground. We know the world is round, and that the stars circle the galactic core and not the Earth.
What science cannot answer is why we feel happiness when we look at a beautiful painting. Or sway to music. Or daydream.
Part of the core human psyche seems to need an external comfort, a philosophy which places something above ourselves, something which suggests that we can be better and that there is a deeper meaning to life and our experiences.
Ezra Lb wrote:Since the history of science is the transfer of concepts from the latter category to the first why assume that the latter category has any meaning whatsoever?
Only if your own philosophy doesn’t allow for the second category. If you believe that your specific love for a pet dog is the result of evolution and the co-existence of our two species, then you must be able to explain why that affection benefits you. Love for a specific animal isn’t supportable by evolutionary science, and yet we cannot deny that we feel it. In fact, evolutionary science would tend to discourage males of the species from forming bonds with anyone else’s children, let alone males finding the young of a predatory species “cute”. And yet we do.
You will undoubtedly respond that there are a) really good reasons, or b) science just hasn’t found out why yet.
Since I’m playing in your court here’s my response: science may explain the relationship, but it cannot explain the emotion -- unless you believe any and all emotion is nothing more than a conditioned response…in which case we’re at a perceptual impasse.
Ezra Lb wrote:Steve I'm curious by the examples you give of areas where there is "no data". We have 40 years of neuro-science to show that consciousness is a function of the activity of the brain and that upon death this activity stops.
Sure. If you believe the sum total of your being is the brain’s electrical activity. If you find yourself wholly explicable as a set of charged neurons and accept that you end when the power goes off, this is your belief. I choose to see it differently.
If that’s all you are, then I would ask what you could possibly feel rewarded about. If it’s all evolutionarily conditioned responsiveness, then there is no soul nor is there imagination. As a matter of personal worth I elect to believe I’m more than a bit of meat with an electric database responding to stimuli.
This is a fundamental difference between our two philosophies, and why I believe we cannot truly exchange ideas on the topic. Any exchange is built on the tearing down of the other’s core beliefs – and in the case of both theologists and atheists there are ample examples that this is exactly the case.
Ezra Lb wrote:If you agree that that "even the most ardent believers ought to accept science when dealing with the explicable aspects of the universe in which we live" why exempt this data however unpleasant?
Because you’re assuming all data is explicable. This is true for hard concepts, but not for the soft ones. You come at the debate from the position that science can explain all things if given enough time. I maintain that science cannot be applied when the questions become philosophical and emotional in nature.
I like jazz music. Why? Science cannot tell me why I do, I just do…
For me – and you will disagree because it’s the fundamental nature of this debate for you to disagree – the value of applying science to all questions is as meaningless as it is meaningful for you. I do not believe science can truly address specific mind-sets. I don’t believe it can adequately answer philosophical questions (“Why am I here?” “What is my value” “Where is my personality, and where does it go when I die?”). You’ll insist that science can and maybe even has answered these things, but not to my satisfaction.
You see, the true difference in our positions isn’t whether or not we believe in God, it’s in how we perceive things. You’ll find that we snap off like a light bulb when the electrical activity of the brain is stopped. That’s not good enough for me, since it’s not really a provable answer – our perception of the dead is that they’ve turned off like a light bulb, but MY perception of what is meant when I refer to the Id, to the soul, to the fundamental core of “being” is different than yours.
And finally, to pull this back full circle: there is a certainly an element of philosophical need in most humans for a being greater than themselves. Many people have an emotional and spiritual need for a God which resembles themselves and is all powerful. It is a way of dealing with hardship and the challenges that go along with the world. In their case it’s usually a man, though the temperament of the man differs widely according to theology and sect. (This is why I’ve been careful to assert that my perception of God is different than the Judeo-Christian/Islamic beings.)
I accept that Man may have made God in our own image. But the existence of God is based upon individual requirements and realities. There is room in my beliefs, for instance, for the individual path, ranging from fundamentalist to atheist depending upon the individual’s needs. Again, a major reason I cannot define my beliefs according to any single doctrine – there being room in my philosophy for yours, but in your philosophy there is no room for mine.
I recognize that my “God” is based solely upon personal intuition, and is something you personally dismiss solely upon that basis.
It isn’t a matter of wanting to understand my point of view, it is in your inability to appreciate and accept it. This is not meant to be a dig or a slight in any way, nor a dismissal of your attempt to engage, it’s simply the observation that anyone – anyone – who stands to either side of the “believer”/atheist line of demarcation will fundamentally be unable to truly appreciate the other side. Even if one was once a member of the other side.
To grasp and appreciate this sort of difference in perception you’ve got to be able to empathize and accept – and given the nature of the debate that simply cannot happen in the majority of cases.
If I – in my heart and mind – am absolutely convinced of the transcendent holiness of the Great Pumpkin, no one who doesn’t share that visceral perception will be able to truly understand the basis of my faith.
All we can really ask in the debate is for respect. Sadly too many on both sides of the equation can’t get even that far down the road.
My two cents.