SCIENCE VS RELIGION

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Moderator » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:03 pm

Okay, had enough time to cogitate on this and allow the drugs to wear off. For the purposes of my response I’m agreeing to play in your court, since the nature of the questions assumes the philosophical error lies in mine. But I reserve the right to respond in some ways that you may dismiss as new-agey or religious. Nature of the beast when it’s the nature of the conversation.

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…


So...

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.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Steve Evil
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Evil » Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:32 pm

It has been said earlier elsewhere:

But that's like saying there's no proof I'm not a penguin. There is very definite proof that I'm not a penguin. The same applies for leprechauns and pink unicorns. Is there definite proof that God does not exist?


Discuss. Personally I think its nonsense, but I'm in the mood for discussion.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby swp » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:26 pm

Steve Evil wrote:It has been said earlier elsewhere:

But that's like saying there's no proof I'm not a penguin. There is very definite proof that I'm not a penguin. The same applies for leprechauns and pink unicorns. Is there definite proof that God does not exist?


Discuss. Personally I think its nonsense, but I'm in the mood for discussion.

hmm. I believe his argument boils down to the second law of thermodynamics and einstein's theory of relativity. if you believe that those are both true, that matter is made from energy and that energy can neither be created nor destoryed, then you are a theist. At least, that's what I am reading into what he wrote. Basically stating that the higgs-bosun particle, and the energy used to create it, came from somewhere and didn't "just always exist." And that's the point that can never be passed, and so the argument goes round and round again.

Now as for proof that God does not exist ... sure, there is. Easy. Proving any negative simply involves cataloging the entire universe and then examining it for what is there and what isn't. THis will include heaven, hell, God, and yes even penguins. Get going on that. Let me know when you're done. (Hey, I didn't say it would be easy. But that's not my problem either. HE has to prove the proposition that he asserts, not me. This is a scientific means to do so, which should satisfy everyone since the result will be uncontestable and more importantly keep him busy for quite a while and out of our hair.)
swp

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:30 pm

Steve Evil wrote:It has been said earlier elsewhere:

But that's like saying there's no proof I'm not a penguin. There is very definite proof that I'm not a penguin. The same applies for leprechauns and pink unicorns. Is there definite proof that God does not exist?


Discuss. Personally I think its nonsense, but I'm in the mood for discussion.


I'll gladly give up my place in line. Frankly the question bores the piss outa me at this point. What can I say that I haven't already said? I think Mr Wyatt's recent post way over yonder says it as well as it can be said. Atheism is a denial not an affirmation. And proofs are for mathematicians. What I want is evidence.

My repsonse will be to Mr Barber's rather more thoughtful post (rather more thoughtful than Ben's not Rick W's I mean). Mr B is scratching a couple of itches I have too. More to follow.

Am I the only one who heard HE tell us to take the religion and politics out of the Pavillion?
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:42 pm

Sorry I didn't mean to say that you shouldn't discuss the existence of god. Have at it. It's just that I think there is a deeper conceptual question that Steve B touches on. That will be my focus.

But hell, while I'm on the blower...I don't believe in god for the same reason Ben or Frank don't believe in santa claus.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Chuck Messer » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:35 am

Is there a God?

Hell, I don't know. If there is, this God thing sure doesn't do the stuff you see in the movies.

I hate it when people tell me, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle."

Oh, really?

I can think of thousands of people in the path of Hurricane Katrina that got a helluva lot more than they could handle. So much so, they FUCKING DIED!!

I think about Dad. I think about a man who once belonged to MENSA, who outlived his immediate family because he took such good care of himself.

And then from OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE, he gets Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. It slowly erodes his mind, takes away his ability to walk, to feed himself, even to USE THE FUCKING RESTROOM BY HIMSELF. He ended up having to wear adult diapers. The last couple of times I saw him, he was not really there. Maybe for a moment, just a bit. Then gone. A cypher.

At least his ending was peaceful.

God? A personal God who sees all, knows all, loves us all and when something happens, it's God's will?

God's will?

I don't know if there is a God. I don't know what God is, if there is one.

But if there is, I don't think I want to get to know the fucker.

Chuck
Some people are wedded to their ideology the way nuns are wed to God.

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FrankChurch
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby FrankChurch » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:13 pm

A personal revelation is hard to prove. That's the sticking point.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:53 pm

Moving my two-cents worth over to the Forums per Our Host's request, I'll just post this link for now.

http://marktiedemann.com/wordpress/?p=411

Cheers

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby FrankChurch » Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:57 pm

This time Harlan is mad at all of us..lol

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Lori Koonce » Sat Jan 22, 2011 2:12 pm

He cannot be mad at me, I've made a total of about half a dozen posts in the years I've been here. I got chided for a screed on same sex marriage and haven't posted there since.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby FrankChurch » Sat Jan 22, 2011 2:27 pm

We all love to be capped on by Harlan, you don't. S&M has differing shades.

:)

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby RocRizzo » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:27 pm

You know, everyone gets mad at me, and I get mad at everyone from time to time.
It's only a matter of time until I piss each and every one of you off.

If I pissed Harlan off, big deal. He'll get over it. The same goes for anyone else.

I am not afraid to speak my mind, and can take it. If you can't take it, too bad.

I always say it's better to get pissed off than pissed on.
"Understanding is a three-edged sword."

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby FrankChurch » Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:16 pm

Dissidents, if not pissed on, are doing something wrong. Means the elites like you. Sand in the gears is always the right ointment.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Evil » Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:27 am

Funny,

as soon as I posted that, I was no longer in the mood to discuss it. It just struck me as so silly at the time, I couldn't help it.

I remember a friend once tried that "God gives you no more than you can handle" bullocks on me, and I reminded him of Auschwitz. He never brought it up again. It also tends to shut up those "power of positive thinking" types.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:52 pm

That's the usual shuck, to tell believers that their God should intervene when bad things happen, but what we don't think about is that we ourselves do next to nothing either. God gave us an instinct to help others, that's the point of the Sermon on the Mount. Nothing is stopping mankind from making the world a better place, a virtual eden. The usual point to my anarchist leanings.

We like to blame God for earthquakes, but God also makes the sun rise and he puts a smile on a babies face. When we only see one side of the ledger we fail to see the whole forest for the unseen trees.


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