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In Defense of Faith

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I’m not usually fond of organized religions, but when I hear faith being described as a problem and science a solution, object I must – especially when the claimant refuses to acknowledge they believe in science, just as many of us happen to believe in our democratic institutions, or in whatever else people believe these days.

How can anyone deny that science is a form of religion while asserting that believing in something is a problem? It’s like trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Why? Because in removing the subject matter of science from the realm of belief — a mental/emotional state which goes hand in hand with our approval of, and confidence in, a certain state of affairs — the proponents feel they’ve acquired a license to pass judgment on the validity of other belief-systems. To wit, if it’s not science, then any other object of human belief, the very state/act of believing, is below contempt.

I find such arguments dangerous. The freedom of worship is another fundamental right, yet the kind of intolerance inherent in this utterly secularist viewpoint defies the spirit of democracy. I’m talking about the modern-day wolves in sheep’s clothing, and their number is growing.

The sooner we realize that ours is a pluralistic society where all opinions matter, the better. Any tyranny concerning speech is antithetical to the spirit of liberal democracies. A view which takes cognizance of the human condition as being incomplete without the necessity to believe in something, which regards faith as one of the essential ingredients of what it means to be human, is a fundamental one. It’s a view which provides for our plurality, our tolerance and mutual understanding, a view without which neither our society nor our system of government would be possible.

Let no individual ever dictate which of our beliefs are justifiable and what objects are worthy of worship. It’s a road to perdition.

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About Roger Nowosielski

  • Doug Hunter

    Religion deals with the values, science the facts. I don’t see the comparison (or why they should even be in conflict with one another).

  • Doug Hunter

    I suppose beliefs could be defined as an extension of values shaped by fact. Maybe that’s the issue. The two still aren’t truly in opposition. I think people mistakenly believe it’s science versus religion when it’s often really just a difference in values.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Great point, Doug. There isn’t necessarily the opposition, just different realms.

  • Mark

    Good shot, Rog. And I agree with your implication that ‘argument’ against the excesses of scientism has to be, in part, politically based just as their development has been.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I think it’s all “politically-based” in the Aristotelian sense, Mark. Politics as regards human society is like ethics when applied to individual lives and human relations.

    Both are expressions of human concern and preoccupation with values.

  • Mark

    Interesting word, “value”. Its various shades serve as basic terms in so many disciplines: mathematics, economics, ethics, politics…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Indeed, we can plug different values into an equation and obtain different results.

    Something to think about.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No different, I suppose, with a “rational” argument: different values lead to different results.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Which brings up George Herbert Mead’s schema – Mind, Self, & Society – which posits the means-ends nexus as the defining characteristic of the human animal as being, in essence, purpose-driven.

    Talking about the origins of functionalism.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Yes, we should learn to coexist! Merry Christmas Roger!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Here’s an interesting aside, Mark:

    If we accept:

    1) the fact-value distinction (in some rudimentary form);

    2) the notion that a human is basically a purpose-driven animal;

    it follows that “rational arguments” are comparable only if they partake of pretty much the same values. Indeed, even the same value-types can lead to (slightly) different results if they’re quantitatively different.

    And it’s got nothing to do with the logical structure of the argument.

    Ergo, the same logical arguments can lead to diametrically-opposite results.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Merry X-mas to you, too, Christine, and yours.

  • Baronius

    This definitely belongs in the Culture section.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I have enemies in the Culture section, Baronius.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Besides, it’s an opportunity to discuss theological issues without impinging on Dave Nalle’s thread.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Here’s a good link to Mead, Mark.

    His theory of mind – as being inextricable from the faculty and use of language – sounds more right-headed to me than the recent developments in philosophy of mind.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #9:

    I should say, “purpose-driven and problem-solving [animal]”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The Mead article, linked to in #17, should also be of benefit to you, Cindy, to combat Heloise’s rather one-sided reliance on genetics.

    To cite: “The self, like the mind, is a social emergent. This social conception of the self, Mead argues, entails that individual selves are the products of social interaction and not the (logical or biological) preconditions of that interaction.”

    I think you would like that.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I agree with Baronius.

    And only Roger could manage to make enemies in the Culture section…

    :-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, then perhaps you’re not aware that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

  • Doug Hunter

    Roger #7,8,12

    That sounds about right.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Exactemundo, Doug.

    It’s all about values – the perennial source of human disagreement.

  • Baronius

    Yeah, well, Roger, I made enemies with my brother-in-law, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be celebrating Christmas here. This is the Politics section. You know I love to chat about religion, but we don’t have a Religion section so I try to stay in line. Sometimes religion or philosophy are part of a political discussion, and when that happens I indulge. Barring the creation of a Religion or Philosophy section, this stuff belongs in Culture (which could use an infusion of energy).

    But hey, I’m not the Thread Sheriff.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, neither am I, Baronius. But trust me, Sheriffs of Nottingham abound.

    Robin Hood may have been a legend, but not his adversaries.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    Good provocation, Roger. I have read this before.

    I like it. Perhaps I should try doing short provocations like this.

    I think my own argument was sufficient. But thanks for that link, Roger. I am not sure that there is any further point in countering Heloise’s view. She has indicated that she is content with her position and has apologized that my argument is in vain.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Time to open the can of worms, Part I – Judaism:

    Ruvy, I’m going with the 13 Articles of Jewish faith here. If any are inconsistent with the ancient teachings, please let me know.

    The Article / My Response

    1. Belief in the existence of the Creator, be He Blessed, who is perfect in every manner of existence and is the Primary Cause of all that exists.

    That “Primary Cause” is nether male or female. It exists as we exist – consistent with the Universe right down to the most basic cell structure. The Divine is the sum total of everything which exists within It, as with everything within is but an atom in the molecule known as the Divine.

    2. The belief in G-d’s absolute and unparalleled unity.

    It remains absolute, because we are all a part of that unity.

    3. The belief in G-d’s noncorporeality, nor that He will be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling.

    Anything we do affects the Divine because we are a part of it.

    4. The belief in G-d’s eternity.

    God is Eternal, therefore we are the same. Though our bodies die and are transformed, the spirit that dwells within does go on in some form. Energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed – it simply changes.

    5. The imperative to worship Him exclusively and no foreign false gods.

    To meditate on the Divine is to worship Him.

    6.The belief that G-d communicates with man through prophecy.

    That which inspires prophecy is a form of energy which an individual who has achieved a certain level of spiritual awareness can achieve. In obtaining such awareness, the “prophet” uses words which are understandable to contempories of the time at which such awareness is revealed.

    7. The belief that the prophecy of Moses our teacher has priority.

    The Ten Commandments which Moses brought down from the mountain are a reasonable guide for how one should live their lives and is based in common sense above all else.

    8. The belief in the divine origin of the Torah.

    See #6 above.

    9. The belief in the immutability of the Torah.

    On this point I may differ. I believe The Torah, as it was originally written, is immutable. The problem is that scholars and translators, through their respective lack of total understanding, may have erred in perpetuationg the exact message.

    10. The belief in divine omniscience and providence.

    The Energy to which I speak is “providence”.

    11. The belief in divine reward and retribution.

    The definition of the above would be Karma.

    12. The belief in the arrival of the Messiah and the messianic era.

    It is natural that in the course of spiritual evolution there would be the manifestation of truths by individuals be they prophets, Messiahs or Barack Obama.

    13. The belief in the resurrection of the dead.

    Resurrection of the body? No. Resurrection of the spirit? No. The spirit cannot be resurrected because it is an energy that can only change and not be destroyed. Therefore the release of the Spirit from within the body is, in fact, Resurrection.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    If we go with the theory (which is highly disputed) that there is more than one solution to most problems, then it shouldn’t surprise us that two people can make entirely rational arguments and come to different conclusions.

    That’s where the values come in.

    But I have to differ with Roger’s apparent assertion that science is a belief system. It’s not. I may believe that my body is composed of microscopic cells, but science can show me through observation and experimentation that it is fact.

    I’m not comfortable, either, with Doug’s differentiation in #1. Human value systems don’t by any means always originate with religion.

    To make the case for religion, it’s certainly possible to argue rationally – but only up to a point. That point is where one stops trying to prove that God exists – and takes a leap of faith that he does.

    Science stops at that point, since there is nothing for science to say about what lies beyond it.

    Thinking it doesn’t stop there leads to Mark’s ‘scientism‘ – which is not science, but a belief.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    But do read the article on Mead, Cindy. You’ll like it.

    It’s as down-to-earth as anything you’ll read these days, commonsensical to the core.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    #28 Doc, I suggest you check out The Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes. I believe that religion and science can not only coexist but be consistent one with the other. The answers to the Divine are all around us, all we have to do is listen.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I’ll take a gander at that one of these days, Silas.

    I’m rather on the fence about all this. I enjoy reading books about cosmology and quantum physics, and can perceive what looks very much like deliberate design in what we know about the origin(s?) and structure of the universe.

    But I’m open-minded enough to realise that I could just be anthropomorphising.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s a rather pitiful example, Dreadful, your argument as to what a body is. And so is a table in that very same sense, composed of nothing but electrons. But it’s still a table for all intents and purposes.

    But to a larger point.

    The essential distinction at hand, the distinction I’m pressing for, is one between knowledge and belief. And I think we can both agree that knowledge has more or less to do with facts, with what’s ascertainable as facts, etcetera. I don’t want to press this notion too far – because even the simple notion of fact can be subject to conceptual confusion (see Austin’s “Unfair to Facts”), but let’s lets suppose we both understand what we mean here.

    So now, in what sense is the reality of “a table” being a table any less suspicious than it being, say, a collection of electrons? Isn’t it the case that the different accounts get their validation from different purposes? And in what sense is an electron “real”? It is a scientific construct, just as table is a social construct, depending of course on the human purpose. Ain’t that so?

    Here’s a better example. We used to think that earth is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth. Now we know better. So yes, science had freed us of the erroneous beliefs.

    The point really is that – apart from the mere fact that we’re dealing here with ever-evolving scientific theories and, for that very reason, not exactly something you’d like to put into the category of “facts” – it is not in that sense that I regard “scientism” as a belief system. But it is a belief system in the sense that it purports to be providing the one and only ultimate explanation of “reality.” And in that, rather special sense, a scientist has no privileged access. He or she is in no better position to ascertain whether the Universe, all living and inanimate things, everything in it, including “laws of nature,” has evolved or whether it’s a product of intelligent design.

    So mind you, it’s only in that sense that I equate any belief system with science.

  • doug m

    Roger, if “faith” requires a defense, is it still faith? Seems to slightly contradict the definition.

    I do agree with Baronius about this being a cultural piece rather than political.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It doesn’t, doug. But it is under attack in case you haven’t noticed.

  • doug m

    I thought Xmas was under attack. Guess I didn’t get the memo

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    So now, in what sense is the reality of “a table” being a table any less suspicious than it being, say, a collection of electrons? Isn’t it the case that the different accounts get their validation from different purposes? And in what sense is an electron “real”? It is a scientific construct, just as table is a social construct, depending of course on the human purpose.

    Utter nonsense. Whether you regard it as a table or an assemblage of electrons, it still exists and can be scientifically demonstrated to exist. What you call it or on what scale you look at it is irrelevant.

    …it is not in that sense that I regard “scientism” as a belief system.

    As I argued earlier, scientism is not science. It is:

    a belief system in the sense that it purports to be providing the one and only ultimate explanation of “reality.”

    Science does not claim to do that. It explores and explains the reality that can be observed, nothing more.

    a scientist […] is in no better position to ascertain whether the Universe, all living and inanimate things, everything in it, including “laws of nature,” has evolved or whether it’s a product of intelligent design.

    It’s not an either/or proposition. It could very well be both. It’s simply that one can verify using science whether evolution has taken place. One cannot verify with science – at least as far as we have yet discovered – whether a conscious designer was behind it.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Silas,

    Good shot at something that you are approaching as an outsider.

    A few points for you to consider. But before I go on, let me lay my cards on the table. My source of knowledge is a physicist, Dr. Gerald Schroeder, who is also a teacher at the Aish haTorah Yeshiva in Jerusalem. There are many other points of view, but I find his, and his sources to be most persuasive. Also bear in mind that I started out with no religious belief at all, and only something that could reconcile religion with science would be acceptable and convincing to me.

    1. According to NaHmanides (haRav Moshe ben NaHman, who lived about 800 years ago), G-d is both inside and outside of the universe. According to NaHmanides, G-d withdrew a tiny Portion of Himself (tzimtzúm) so that something the size of a mustard seed (or smaller – the mustard seed was the smallest thing Jewish scholars understood 800 years ago) – also part of G-d – could expand and become the universe. This universe is still expanding – still red-shifting. Outside of the universe is G-d. The tzimtzúm referred to above is what allows for imperfections in the universe, for mistakes and errors to occur.

    2. According to the sources that Dr. Schroeder cites, the universe is about 15 billion years old. That is when the Big Bang took place. But, m’kubalím (Masters of Kabbalá) claim that the Torah was used as the creative force of the universe. The first creative act was the statement in Torah “let there be light – and there was light”. This took place long before the actual Big Bang, about 15 billion years before (according to one source I have), for what was occurring was an interaction between two lights, a greater and a lesser light. The tension in the interaction of the two lights was what created the energy for the Big Bang.

    3. As mentioned above, according to Kabbalá, this means that the Torah was older than the universe itself, and the letters of the Torah – in the order they are in – are 22 creative elements of the universe, ordering its creation much like the four proteins of DNA do for plants, animals and humans. This order of the Torah dictated laws of physics which run the universe. G-d steps in from time to time to rectify matters if events do not seem to be going His way. These are miracles.

    The points where you and I have the most divergence in views lie in how you view the 12th and 13th articles of the Faith. So let’s refer to them.

    12. The belief in the arrival of the Messiah and the messianic era.

    You write, “It is natural that in the course of spiritual evolution there would be the manifestation of truths by individuals be they prophets, Messiahs or Barack Obama.”

    No.

    This occurs according to a timeline, roughly a 6,000 year cycle, and at the end of that cycle or close to it (about 5,790 years according to the Talmud) a messianic kingdom will arise in the Land of Israel. The messiah will be a man. He will be mortal but his awareness of the Divine will be such that it will be clear to those around him that he “knows”. He will be a descendant of King David, of the tribe of Yehudá – so he will be a Jew.

    And he will rule – either directly or indirectly. In his time, and immediately before, prophecy will return to the righteous among humanity. Prophecy is a heightened awareness of the will of G-d, and of the probability timelines of the future.

    13. The belief in the resurrection of the dead.

    You write: “Resurrection of the body? No. Resurrection of the spirit? No. The spirit cannot be resurrected because it is an energy that can only change and not be destroyed. Therefore the release of the Spirit from within the body is, in fact, Resurrection.”

    Not quite, but good shot.

    We Jews believe in a form of reincarnation know as gilgúl neshamót, the cycling of souls. G-d has His own reasons for souls being recycled, but one such soul, that of Hanókh – known to you as Enoch, is alleged to have been promoted to be an angel. Other sources say that Hanókh became the person known in Torah as PinHás, the son of Aaron who killed idol-worshipers in the camp, thus ending a plague and winning for his family the role of High Priest. This soul was believed to have been cycled again into the prophet Elijah, and it is believed that this soul will once more arise (this time as Elijah) to herald the arrival of the messiah.

    What about the rest of humanity? What about my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers? They arise – a portion of their souls remain with G-d, as Judgment will not have been completed yet – but they arise and we all get our shot at tikún ha’olám – repair of the world. This will be a period of getting rid of air pollution, use of fossil fuels beyond what is absolutely necessary, expansion of the mind, and enormous scientific advances in medicine and technology. As the Evil Inclination – the inclination to exploit others is slowly destroyed by the messiah (and Mankind can be trusted with the technology), the levels of technology will rise higher and higher, so that things that look like sheer magic today will be commonplace, operating according to laws of physics as yet undiscovered.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Thanks for your input, Ruvy. It gave me pause to return to my own belief about the concept of tikkun olam which I left out of my interpretation of the 13 tenets. As you know, I have an affection for the Divine Spark and maintain tikkun olam is at the core a basic understanding of how the Divine works. We are not so far apart; perhaps it is more of our individual interpretation. And, from a scientific point of view, I honestly believe that Divine Spark is quite consistent with the laws of physics yet undiscovered and already established.

  • Zedd

    Doc: If we go with the theory (which is highly disputed) that there is more than one solution to most problems, then it shouldn’t surprise us that two people can make entirely rational arguments and come to different conclusions.

    If we were at the end of all knowledge then it would be impossible for different conclusions to be reached. However, since we don’t know everything, it is very possible to take different paths to the same destination… Truth.

  • Zedd

    Doc,

    Actually we have to extrapolate even in the sciences. We have proof of very little. We piece a lot of things together with major gaps still missing in the puzzle and reach conclusions.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Time to open the can of worms, Part II – Zen Buddhism – The Ethical Precepts
    and Philosophical Tenets:

    The Tenet / My Response

    1. I will be mindful and reverential with all life, I will not be violent nor will I kill.

    Seems pretty basic and reasonable.

    2. I will respect the property of others, I will not steal.

    Thou shalt not steal. Need I say more?

    3. I will be conscious and loving in my relationships, I will not give way to lust.

    Being in a monogamous, loving relationship is the the ultimate aphrodisiac. Sure, mindless, lustful sex can be fun. Lack of intimacy and that “personal” connection with another human being is not achieved in lust and once fulfilled with a partner, there is nothing more satisfying thereby negating the lust urge. Love is a powerful weapon against lust – sex within the confines of that love is far more satisfying on every level of existence.

    4. I will honor honesty and truth, I will not deceive.

    Gee, yet another reasonable tenet not deserving of dissection.

    5. I will exercise proper care of my body and mind, I will not be gluttonous nor abuse intoxicants.

    Again, reasonable.

    What I see from the core of Zen Buddhism is a simple set of foundational principles upon which to build a fruitful, happy life. There are no impositions of judgment, just clarity. And, from what I can see, these principles are at the very least a foundation for most belief systems.

  • Zedd

    Roger,Doc

    I’d have to say that any discussion of religion is political. It’s a topic which deals with power (the ultimate rule).

    What I read Roger as saying is that the current trend towards disdain for the religious (and religion) including the belief that religion is dangerous for society, is dangerous. I’m understanding him to be saying that what it takes to be a person of faith is necessary because it is a human quality. Off course I could be wrong.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #42 is on target.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Zedd,

    I think the distinction is that science, done properly, leaves room for ‘I don’t know’. Religion (or more accurately, faith) doesn’t.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Utter nonsense. Whether you regard it as a table or an assemblage of electrons, it still exists and can be scientifically demonstrated to exist. What you call it or on what scale you look at it is irrelevant.”

    You don’t need science to ascertain the existence of a table. Just touching or pounding on it is good enough. In fact, I’d say that “scientific proof” of the existence of a table is no more valid than the above-mentioned method, unless now you’re going to claim unreliability of the senses. So that’s more of a nonsense than what you’re accusing me of.

    And what we call it does make a fricking difference. It even determines what we’re going to do about it. What we call it is what we regard as reality. Apart from what as you so derogatorily say “what we call it,” there’s no reality to speak of.

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ FCEtier

    Didn’t Christopher Hitchens mention something early in his book, “God Is Not Great” advocating a mutual tolerance? Leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. Don’ t try to convert me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    To add to #42, Zedd, it’s not only a human quality. It’s an indispensable human quality. And to deny it is moronic.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Faith leaves no room for doubt?

    By whose account? Don’t we lose faith in things we used to believe in – some people, institutions, even ourselves?

    Why does the word always carry a kind of sting to some people? A perfectly ordinary English word – akin to trust. So now perhaps “trust” should also be outlawed for being excessively vague, ambiguous and troublesome?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dreadful may be on to something for we do speak of “blind faith.”

    However, in what sense can your trust in your parents, Dreadful, your best friends, or wife for that matter, should be subject to the “I don’t know” clause? And would that be appropriate it it were so? Could it be trust then or just hope that none of these people will let you down, disappoint you, are different from what you expect them to be?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Is trust nothing more than “cautious optimism”?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #49

    should your propositional attitude be subject to . . .

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    On the “Culture” question – I have no trouble with this article being here in Politics. Religion and science have been so politicized over the past several years, it seems only natural to discuss them in the political forum.

    The Culture section is a catchall with articles about various aspects of pop culture, food, what to wear at the beach and yada, yada, yada… Consequently, Culture readership is widely diverse, and very “non-commental.”

    As to the subject at hand, I don’t know that I agree with Roger’s thesis. As I noted, both religion and science have been highly politicized. There is, as I see it a difference, though. Many highly visible evangelists among others involved in religion and religious organizations have purposefully and deliberatley entered into the political realm. On the other hand most scientists have not themselves done so. Rather, it has been others – often the aforementioned evangelists who have taken science and scientists to task especially as regards evolution and, to a lesser extent, global warming. It has largely been the evangelicals who have put themselves at odds with science.

    Scientists often find themselves at a loss when it comes to such opposition. They take a moment to look up from their work only to find a firestorm going on around them. “Say what?”

    I DON’T look upon science as simply a “belief system.” It only seems unreal or otherworldly to slugs like myself and many others because much scientific work is so esoteric and specialized that by and large, most of us haven’t a clue. That’s the seed of suspicion. Would that our world was more like that depicted in Star Trek wherein most everyone IS a scientist of one kind or other. There is little or no questioning of science amongst the inhabitants of the Federation. Science is not political there. It is just an accepted part of the fabric of existence.

    In this life, we have millions of people who stupidly deny much of what science has wrought simply because it is beyond their very limited understanding – beyond their sheltered existence or their poor education. It’s not just a little ironic when some fat cat evangelist stands before his parishoners in some monster mega-church denying science while beaming his message out to the world on TV and the internet via wireless communications and satelites. Does Jerry Falwell “Twitter” from heaven?

    While I would agree in part that religion and science are not mutually exclusive, the trouble arises when the scientist lays out his or her findings which appear to conflict with “The Word.” I’ll go with the science over The Word every time.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #44

    And I think it should be obvious, Dreadful, that the topic here is not science but people’s attitudes/beliefs about science. I’ve never assumed there could be any confusion about this matter.

  • Zedd

    Doc,

    Sorry to keep posting at you but your responses are interesting and I haven’t read through all of them so I keep piping in.

    On the table… (this response is very crude, however…)

    One may look at the table and insist that it is a desk, another may be certain that they see place to dine, another may see rubbish to be donated to a thrift store. If the Truth is that table is a 14 century creation commissioned by and served as a desk for a great noble and was later used by a notable monarch 250 years later to for dinning, in his private quarters and ended up in someones cellar today, ugly and wrecked, it doesn’t keep it from being either of the things that each of the observers thought it was.

    We are discussing knowledge. Knowledge of everything comes to us in small “pieces” (or revelations) and it takes different “people” and occasions to see (or become aware of) each small “section”.

    Moving on…

    In order to understand more about the bigger piece (of knowledge) beyond what we have seen (or become aware of), we have to IMAGINE (believe, feel, trust, assume) that there is more.

    Scientists don’t cease to believe beyond the point of what science has revealed. In other words, Scientists BELIEVE that there is more to know. Was is factual does not stop them from “knowing” that there is much more to know. Believers have irrefutable experiences which substantiate that there is a spiritual realm – maybe at some point that spiritual component will be scientifically quantifiable, who knows- Anyway, because they have had those experiences, they know that there is more. That more then becomes “that which none greater can be conceived” or God.

  • Zedd

    Doc

    Religion (or more accurately, faith) doesn’t.

    Actually faith says “I know that I don’t know. There is something beyond me that is Truth and I’m attempting (struggling) to be resigned to that.”

    I think what you are talking about is fundamentalism. I think your issue is a dogmatic stance on what that Truth is. Fundamentalism is a demonstration of the struggle to give in to not knowing.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I refer you, Baritone to the closing of #32:

    “. . . it is a belief system [only] in the sense [and to to extent] that it purports to be providing the one and only ultimate explanation of “reality.” And in that, rather special sense, a scientist has no privileged access. He or she is in no better position to ascertain whether the Universe, all living and inanimate things, everything in it, including “laws of nature,” has evolved or whether it’s a product of intelligent design.”

    Again, I’m only talking about propositional attitudes (of some) as regards what science is and what it does – insofar that these propositional attitudes are used to combat/denigrate/debunk propositional attitudes/beliefs of those who subscribe to, as you said, “the Word.”

    In case you want me to spell it out, it’s got to do with the theist-atheist controversy, insofar as (some) atheists appeal to science to shoot down the believers.

    Gosh, I’d hoped there’d be no need to say it outright. I would have thought subtlety had its proper place. Apparently I was proven wrong.

  • Zedd

    Baritone:

    Would that our world was more like that depicted in Star Trek wherein most everyone IS a scientist of one kind or other.

    I suspect that if individuals from 250 years back could watch an episode of our lives today, they would think so.

  • Zedd

    Roger

    Could you expound on this: “It’s an indispensable human quality”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Try to imagine, Zedd, going through life on knowledge alone – say, trusting no one!

  • Zedd

    Baritone,

    What are you reading or writing these days? Your style seems to have an affect.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    You cant know without trust. We have to have systems in order to trust. The foundation of systems is reliability. One has to believe in the reliability in order to contribute to its reliability (or proof of its reliability)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Actually faith says “I know that I don’t know. There is something beyond me that is Truth and I’m attempting (struggling) to be resigned to that.”

    Not what I meant, Zedd. I meant that it’d be a pretty poor Christian (for example) who said, “I don’t know that there is a God, or that Christ is my saviour”!

    I suspect that if individuals from 250 years back could watch an episode of our lives today, they would think so.

    That might actually be quite fun. It could be called ‘New World Trek’, and would follow an intrepid band of 21st century pioneers as they venture into unknown territory (otherwise known as Bakersfield) to seek out new life forms.

    I’ve also mulled over the possibility of an action-adventure show set in ancient Rome, called ‘XXIV’. Its central character would be a centurion named Iaccus Agricola, who has 24 hours to prevent a barbarian invasion… thrilling stuff.

  • Zedd

    Doc,

    You’d also be a poor Scientist if you said that you don’t know that there are planets that we have not yet seen.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No question “true faith,” especially in the Christian, Pauline sense – e.g., “faith can move mountains” – is hardcore. There is no room for compromise. But then again, we’ve got plenty of hardcore people within the BC community as well – some scientists, some aspiring or pseudo-scientists, and some incorrigible faithists.

    It is a chock full o’ nuts!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    You don’t need science to ascertain the existence of a table. Just touching or pounding on it is good enough. In fact, I’d say that “scientific proof” of the existence of a table is no more valid than the above-mentioned method, unless now you’re going to claim unreliability of the senses.

    Earlier on you were saying that our perception that the table even existed was suspect. You can’t have it both ways. And yes, the senses are unreliable – not usually so much with regard to the existence of your table, but can you even recall with clarity everything that you did last Thursday, for instance?

    You seemed to be venturing into the realm of solipsism there, which is philosophy (and bad philosophy at that), not science.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #63,

    Was that an expression of faith?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    You’d also be a poor Scientist if you said that you don’t know that there are planets that we have not yet seen.

    Strictly speaking, I don’t. Based on the data we have, which seem to show that planets are extremely common, it is likely (a good scientific word!) that there are. But I do not know this empirically.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    “faith can move mountains”

    That’s a good example. Faith has never, in recorded history, been shown to move a mountain. This makes the hypothesis unlikely to be true. But we don’t know that it isn’t true: I don’t think it’s ever been tested.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Read more carefully. I didn’t speak of perception (of the table). Here are the exact words:

    “…in what sense is the reality of “a table” being a table any less suspicious [read: suspect] than it being, say, a collection of electrons?”

    Do you find anything problematic with the above statement.

    And yes, of course senses are unreliable in certain situations and contexts. But they can’t be unreliable in the requisite kind of sense – because if that were so, the very project we call science would not possible.

    And what is that reference to what I did last Thursday has got to do with the price of tea in China, or with solipsism for that matter, or with good or bad philosophy?

    I really am at a loss.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Common, Dreadful. It is a hyperbole.

  • Zedd

    Doc,

    You’ve been eating your Wheaties. Last year at this time, you would have walked away by now. Yay YOUUUUUU!!

    I think you are suggesting that Roger said that faith and science are the same. I believe him to be saying that they possess an element which is intrinsically human; that what propels both, come from the same compulsion. (I think)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I hope no one thinks I equated to two, Zedd. But you are good at elucidation, I do grant you that. Wonder what that compulsion might be?

    Curiosity? Uncertainty? Fear? Perhaps all of the above? If I knew I wouldn’t have to ask, would I now? But I’m only human.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Zedd,

    How so?

    B

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Missed your $61, Zedd. As usual, on target. There’d be no foundation whatever without trust, no human society, no relationships. You’ve said it.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Don’t you think that different faiths could coexist far better if those who subscribe to a faith at least take the time to learn of other faith principles? That’s the Unitarian in me. I believe that there are essential truths within every faith which share a commonality known as “common sense”. If we at least got to know the ‘core truths’ of alternate beliefs, harmony could be achieved on some level.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    You know, Roger, I’ve often maintained that religion and science can be consistent with the other. When you wade through the flora of verse, one finds the terrain.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Silas,

    The problem at hand is precisely the assertion that faith of any kind is a detrimental to our health.

    I may go along with Nietzsche’s pronouncement that God is dead. But I have to object to the legislators of the new morality who insist that “faith,” “trust” or “belief” are dirty words and therefore must be expunged from our lexicon.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Indeed, Silas. Who would have thought that knowledge and belief must be antithetical?

    Why should Copernicus’discoveries, or Newton’s, or even Einstein’s, be used to disprove what some might regard the ultimate reality? But even apart from that, aren’t we talking about different realms – of knowledge (of the external world), and of one’s relationship(s) to all there is.

    It’s especially as regards the latter question that I see no contradiction whatever. In fact, I see no reason why one should impact the other, or vice versa.

    Again, these are different spheres.

  • Zedd

    @72 Some would say ultimately it’s the search for Truth and love(unconditional).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, Truth, Love – spurted by human frailty. Or perhaps search for immortality.

  • Zedd

    Baritone,

    Your style is beautiful and melodic. I’ve always enjoyed your posts because you have a way of getting the the core of the matter quickly. However I’m noticing an elegance in your style. Perhaps a style from a different era. I thought that you may have been reading or writing something that may have influenced your communication style. That’s all. Never mind me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s from “The Age of Innocence.”

    By the way, you are enticing. It would be a thrill to meet you in person. We would have a heckuva conversation.

    Good night now.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Albert Einstein: I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

    Stephen Hawking: What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary.

    Carl Sagan: Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science?

    Is the human ego such a force that we use religion to mask that which is nothing more than the deep rooted fear of death? Perhaps religious belief is the logical coping mechanism. Is my belief that there is life after death a result of my fragile ego? I don’t know for certain, but I do feel it. I think.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Yes, or we are indeed spiritual beings and we simply want to fulfill our purpose here so that we can pass on to next state.

  • Zedd

    @83

    The only problem with your post is that you quoted human beings. Regardless as to how knowledgeable they may have become in their life times about science, they still are not authorities on the things of the spirit. For them to assume that they are, is interesting and slightly cringe-some.

  • Zedd

    Good night Roger.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Zedd,

    Well thank you. I hadn’t really given it any thought. Perhaps I’m just putting on heirs. I haven’t done any particular reading that would have affected my writing that I can recall.

    Perhaps it’s because my son is a poet. He has a knack for putting together often stunning word couplings and phrases. Maybe it’s the father emulating the son.

    Sorry, I don’t remember how to properly provide a link here in the comments section, but any of ya’ll who have a hankerin for poetry and like to “Tweat” should give my son’s poetry site a visit. He has some submissions from a couple of Pulitzer winners, or so he says. Also some from William Logan, the head of the poetry dept at Univ of Florida and a well known and vastly hated poetry critic.

    If you’ve got some poetic juices and like to write short, pithy stuff, give it a try.
    All submissions are supposed to be limited to the 149 (or whatever the # is) characters permissible on Twitter.

    You probably shouldn’t bother with any of your “Nantucket” musings.

    Have a good holiday all. My wife and I are heading to the Big Apple for the next few days. :-)

    B

  • Mark

    Rog, faiths and sciences are not independent. They interact in such areas as The Placebo Zone.

  • Zedd

    Mark stole my thunder. I was going there not exactly that way but…. Whatever to you Mark :o/

    Roger:

    I’m going to skip several conversations ahead and say, we know that we don’t understand the universe. Our knowledge of the physical properties of the universe does not in any way cause us to understand any other properties that may exist. Quoting scientists on their take on spiritual matters (or what we believe are spiritual matters because of our limited scope) is useless. Scientist who allow themselves to pose as authorities on the subject diminish their credibility because they essentially end up looking like know it alls, much like the kid who knows just a little more then everyone in his group about math or science and ends up acting as the authority on everything because he assumes that no one will know the better; no one knows enough to determine what he doesn’t know.

    So, science attempts to understand what is tangible; faith, what is not. There is no room for arrogance, except in the case where there is dogma, then we earn the right, I believe, to be dismissive.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Interesting. Are you saying that hope, let’s say – to discharge this discussion a bit – has curative qualities?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I still think, Zedd and Mark, that the distinction I was getting at (in #78) is worth pursuing. If the object of science, most properly understood, is knowledge, the object of belief (again, most properly understood) pertains to/captures/is expression of/ our relationship(s) – relationships, that is, of the self to “the otherness.”

    PS: I am excluding here the kinds of beliefs which serve as surrogates for lack of knowledge, by default.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Silas,

    Re comment #83: I don’t know if you noticed, but in my extended reply to you, I cited a physicist as my prime “teacher”. No rabbi could convince to have faith I did not, and nobody, but nobody, could convince me to accept something “just ’cause the Bible says so.”

    I didn’t accept the story of the exodus of my ancestors from Egypt in the Book of sh’mot/Exodus until I read the book “The Gold of Exodus” about real treasure hunters who snuck into northern Arabia attempting to get the gold that the ancient Hebrews dropped at Horev. I didn’t really accept the story about Abraham and his father TéraH on full faith until I read about stones with the words ubrúmu w’teráHu carved in Syria where they would have fled after leaving Ur (“The Twelfth Planet”, by Zecharia Sitchin). Recently, ancient chariot wheels have been found in the Red Sea, at the bottom of one of the shallower parts of it. This, along with what the authors of the “Gold of Exodus” tends to confirm the story of a flight from Egypt to Midian by Moshe and the ancient Hebrews. Not too long ago, a statue was found of an “Egyptian” vizier who saved the country from famine. And stories on stones carved in Egypt tell of a time when disaster after disaster plagued Egypt, destroying the country (“The Riddle of the Exodus”, by Jim Long).

    All this constitutes evidence to bring round an atheist to believing a text that on its face, is little more than a pack of morality tales.

    But that is only belief in facts cited in a text: this does not constitute belief in G-d. This came from my wife, who told me that G-d surrounded her like a warm blanket. And G-d has answered many of her prayers. She did not want to move to Israel in 2001 with me and prayed for a sign before then that she should not. She received none. But here, she has many more friends than she had in the States, and her life, while not as financially secure, is far richer than it was in America. The same is true for my sons.

    Now, I’m not going to tell you or anyone else what to believe. And I certainly would not recommend forcing non-Jews to become Jews. This was the mistake Alexander Yannai made 2,050 years ago in Idumaia, and it has come to bite us in the ass ever since, with one of the most painful bites coming ever 25 December, year in and year out.

    But religion and faith in G-d is not necessarily predicted on the fear of death – particularly not in my case. If anything, my fear of death has only increased with my faith, as I fear leaving the world with a mission only half accomplished. I didn’t care so much before I had faith. I had no clue of a mission to be accomplished.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    I hadn’t read 78 when I posted but I was echoing the same sentiment.

    It does have to be said that there are credible scientist who are people of faith who can reconcile the two and feel no conflict.

    I suspect that group think or even peer pressure plays a large role in the disregarding of faith by many in those disciplines. It’s only human.

  • http://runningbowline.com Chris Bancells

    Here’s the thing about a lot of advanced science: I understand it about as much as I understand the nature of God. In fact, I feel as though I understand God a heck of a lot better than, say, string theory. Most people take science as a belief, but call it fact. They don’t do the research for themselves and only take the scientist at their word. From where I sit, that’s no different than placing your trust in the testimony of a prophet or preacher.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s part of it, Zedd. What I’m trying to argue is that while the object of science is knowledge, the object of faith has to do with establishing proper personal relationship with reference to “the external world” – and that’s regardless of our state of knowledge at any given time.

    And if that’s even partly true, then we’re talking about two different things.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s is the point, Chris, the idea that some people do tend to regard science in the very same sense as the people of old used to look at, say, “sacred texts.” But the problem is that when they do so, they regard their attitudes (toward science) as if they were somehow exempt from the belief category.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Chris, string theory’s kind of a bad example, since there’s nothing like a consensus on it at the moment – it’s still one of those ‘out there’ theories to some extent.

    I get your point, but if I learn that there’s a scientific consensus that (for example) the Earth’s crust is segmented into tectonic plates which move about, then the research has already been done and can be read and examined. I don’t need to do it over again myself in order to accept it as factual.

    Faith, on the other hand, is a very personal thing and does need to be looked into thoroughly by the individual who is pursuing it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, it is a very personal thing and for that very reason, “purely subjective,” which is to say it requires no consensus of any kind. Si there are essential methodological differences. However, I was only addressing the nature of some people’s propositional attitudes concerning science – not the validity of the scientific method.

  • Zedd

    @97 Doc,

    Did I miss something?

    You are saying that you take scientists at their word but you cant take believers at their word? Why?

    If the Bible (let’s say) records instances that “support” the existence of God and why we are in the condition that we are in (spiritually). How does that differ from you reading about plate tectonics?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Zedd @ 99,

    I’m not saying I can take anyone at their word. What I’m saying is that in the case of a scientific discovery, I can go to a library or a journal and see the research if I want to. I don’t have to redo the research myself.

    My argument isn’t getting at ‘proofs’ of whether there is a God, as such, but about one’s personal exploration of faith. I can’t just read the Bible and be a Christian (to run with your example), because each person’s relationship with God (so we’re told) is unique: you do have to ‘do the research’ yourself!

  • Zedd

    Doc,

    So you don’t care enough (or have the time) to do the research so you allow yourself to be convinced easily about science but you say one has to care enough to come to believe in God or Christ in this case??

    There are people who are religious simply because they were raised in a religious home. Like you and science, they believe what the faithful say, and go along.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    An interesting take somewhat on topic:

    Scientific knowledge, unlike earlier forms of ‘narrative’ or mythical knowledge (which remain tied to traditional or ‘customary’ social practices and have no conception of an external reality; see Chapter 9), is,
    at least in theory, set apart from the social bond, for it claims the existence
    of an objective reality (referent) or nature which exists independently of the ‘social’.2 Scientific knowledge, furthermore, is verified through ‘rational’ procedures of argumentation and proof, which again places it in fundamental opposition to traditional (mythical) narratives which construct their own (diegetic) reality and possess a timehonoured authority in their own right. These differences, Lyotard protests, are well known but nonetheless important, for they point to the impossibility of judging the validity of narrative forms in the terms
    of modern science, for these two types of knowledge are founded upon radically different principles. Science, however, by its very nature, not only questions the validity of mythical narratives but also dismisses them as a form of knowledge that is neither derived nor proven through ‘rational’ methods. Lyotard is particularly scathing of this practice, and of the hierarchical relationship it establishes between Western (‘rational’) and non-
    Western (‘non-rational’) cultures:

    “This unequal relationship is an intrinsic effect of the rules specific to each game. We all know its symptoms. It is the entire history of cultural imperialism from the dawn of Western civilization. It is important to recognize its special tenor, which sets it apart from all other forms of imperialism: it is governed by the demand for legitimation.” (Lyotard, 1984b, 27)

    Max Weber and Postmodern Theory, p. 91