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Offline Karsten

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« on: 31/12/2009 14:49:09 »
I looks like scientists are not great believers in a personal god and immortality. But I wonder how many scientists are believers in some sort of power/creator that is in charge in some sort of way? And, scientifically speaking, does it matter if individual scientists have these feelings/beliefs one way or the other?

It is another one of those friendly arguments I seem to be getting into. This time not with my neighbor though.



 

Ethos

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #1 on: 31/12/2009 16:22:27 »
I looks like scientists are not great believers in a personal god and immortality. But I wonder how many scientists are believers in some sort of power/creator that is in charge in some sort of way? And, scientifically speaking, does it matter if individual scientists have these feelings/beliefs one way or the other?

It is another one of those friendly arguments I seem to be getting into. This time not with my neighbor though.


I can only speak for myself Karsten, everyone else must determine their own personal beliefs.

When we consider the word "believe", one must calculate their own definition. It's very easy to get into heated discussions about the different versions of this particlar word. We could list a few:

Faith
Trust
Belief
Creed
Opinion, expectation, and judgement

All of these words apply different standards to the notion of acceptable information. In science, we only believe in information which can be supported by repeatable experiment. Nevertheless, the "belief" in any such experiment is still the option of the individual. It frankly still boils down to the persons trust or faith in the information gleaned from the experiment.

Even the experiment itself and the results it offers must be recieved with acceptance by the individual in accordance with their own world view. I've heard many scientists say that they don't have faith. This to me is side stepping the issue by claiming their superiority when determining fact from fiction. All one needs to do is look at the history of science to understand that the "facts" have been changing with every passing century. So I ask, which "fact" can we truly rely upon?

Personally, it still comes down to the personal conviction of every individual. As for myself, I choose to believe in a God. If you don't, that's your choice and freedom. A freedom we all have, the freedom to see and understand our place in this universe and our relationship to it.

........................Ethos
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #2 on: 31/12/2009 17:21:21 »
I believe in something much bigger than myself that governs my life to a large extent. I enjoy reading about & discussing religion, & I think it's responsible for a great many amazing things as well as a great many tragedies.
 

Offline Geezer

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #3 on: 01/01/2010 00:07:02 »
I think you'll find that scientists are really quite spiritual. Scientists are impressed by the wonders of the cosmos, the intricacies of the subatomic, and the mysteries of life. The more scientists learn, the more exquisite these things appear. We live in fantastic times. At no time in the past has so much scientific information been available to so many people.

Despite this vast amount of freely available information, so many people in the World seem determined to resist knowledge and allow themeselves to be manipulated by those who promise things that they cannot guarantee. Sadly, I think this manipulation will lead to the ultimate destruction of humanity.

Spirituality is a good thing, but do not confuse it with religion.

 
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #4 on: 01/01/2010 00:21:37 »
"The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead.
To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms-this knowledge, this feeling as at the centre of true religiousness."

-Albert Einstein
 

Ethos

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #5 on: 01/01/2010 00:33:11 »

Spirituality is a good thing, but do not confuse it with religion.

 
Excellent point my friend. I do have this belief, a trust, a certain faith in a superior creator being but, I have little tolerance for religion. Organized religion is largely responsible for more death and distruction than any other historical factor among humankind.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #6 on: 01/01/2010 00:54:39 »
I think you'll find that scientists are really quite spiritual.
 

What about hardcore atheists like Richard Dawkins? How exactly are you defining 'spirituality'? Where would you draw the limit? Ethos is referring to a 'superior creator being' so that is a God, a deity of some form? Plenty would disagree, plenty also disagree with the idea that humans have a soul. So again, define 'spirituality'.

P.S with regards to the Einstein quote, his use of the word 'religiousness' i had taken to not necessarily equate to 'organized religion'. As you all no doubt know he was Jewish, at least brought up one but as far as i am aware he did not actually follow organized religion or necessarily believe in God in the way such practices entail.
 

Offline Karsten

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #7 on: 01/01/2010 03:54:31 »
Some 2001 research finds that 90% of average US-Americans believe in a personal god and after life. In contrast to that, I found some 1998 research that gives the percentage of scientists who believe in a personal god (7%) and who believe in immortality (7.9%) but I have not been able to find research that gives some numbers for "general spirituality". As tempting as it is, I hate to assume that scientists as a group would be equally less prone to find comfort in spirituality to explain the unexplained.

Does anyone have some numbers for spirituality among scientists? Maybe one cannot ask for general spirituality. Fine. Call it belief in something like a superpower or creator.
« Last Edit: 01/01/2010 03:57:19 by Karsten »
 

Offline Geezer

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #8 on: 01/01/2010 07:25:48 »
What about hardcore atheists like Richard Dawkins?


Well, I did not say all scientists. But even hardcore atheists must reach a point where they have to hold up their hands and declare that they have no idea why the Universe exists. If they claim this does not instill a sense of wonderment in them, I suspect they may be, at least, a little disingenuous.

How could anyone look at recent images of deep space without experiencing a profound appreciation for the wonders of nature?

We are all Jock Tamson's bairns (and there is significant scientific evidence that we actually are) and the sooner we all realize that we are, the sooner we can put aside all the ridiculous "religious" differences that politicians take advantage of to further their personal ambitions.
« Last Edit: 01/01/2010 07:41:37 by Geezer »
 

Offline graham.d

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #9 on: 01/01/2010 10:03:44 »
There are various definitions of spirituality. Wikipedia says:

"Spirituality is relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. Synonyms include immaterialism, dualism, incorporeality and eternity.

Spirituality is traditionally associated with religion, deities, the supernatural, and an afterlife. It may include existentialism and introspection, and the development of an individual's inner life through practices such as meditation, prayer and contemplation."

So I would say on that basis I am not very spiritual and I am certainly an atheist. However, if in a philosophical debate I would have to define my view as agnostic but, for the sake of normal conversation it is easier to take a logical positivist view and say atheist.

That does not mean I am not contemplative and have a sense of wonderment about the universe in a similar way to how Geezer describes it.

« Last Edit: 01/01/2010 10:06:38 by graham.d »
 

Offline Variola

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #10 on: 01/01/2010 12:33:00 »
Atheism, as I understand it is the rejection of a religion based on God/Gods, and the doctrines and beliefs held attributable to that deity.
This does not mean Atheists cannot enjoy having a belief based purely on faith.
I am a scientist, I am also atheist. I am also spiritual in that I do have and enjoy some thoughts and beliefs and are based purely on faith, not on fact and on my own experiences in life, highly subjective.

Atheism has many definitions and forms though, the above is just my view on it, whittled down to the bare bone As I remember Dawkin's does not consider himself a hardcore Atheist as in his view, he would have to know for definite resolute that there was no God. As know one knows that for certain, then it makes strong atheism problematic.
It has been a few years  since I wrote anything on belief and atheism, so current thinking may have changed, but it is still a mindset many people hold.
 

Offline glovesforfoxes

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #11 on: 01/01/2010 15:52:41 »
Quote
It has been a few years  since I wrote anything on belief and atheism, so current thinking may have changed, but it is still a mindset many people hold.

Yes. If you're into the debating/philosophical side of it, agnostic atheist is the 'proper' way of labelling Dawkin's belief. Some people might think the two are mutually exclusive, but they're not. Agnosticism has to do with not being sure about knowing if whether there's a deity or not - but very few people claim with absolute certainty that they know for sure God exists (gnostics). So you could argue that many religious people are agnostic theists, taken in it's most basic form.. so saying you're just agnostic/gnostic is not enough (since that doesn't describe whether you believe in god/s or not), & saying you're just atheist/theist (since that doesn't describe whether it's a faith-based or knowledge-based statement) is not enough to describe what you really mean.

Anyway, the dictionary definition is not really what you meant by spirituality; I think you meant the sense of wonderment that other people have described, but correct me if I'm wrong :) In which case it would be extremely difficult to measure, yes. I definitely feel a sense of wonderment when I come across a new or really exciting model describing reality, I think one of the most amazing parts of science is quantum mechanics. That never fails to make me feel awed.
« Last Edit: 01/01/2010 15:58:57 by glovesforfoxes »
 

Offline Variola

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #12 on: 01/01/2010 17:20:02 »
Quote
Anyway, the dictionary definition is not really what you meant by spirituality; I think you meant the sense of wonderment that other people have described, but correct me if I'm wrong  In which case it would be extremely difficult to measure, yes. I definitely feel a sense of wonderment when I come across a new or really exciting model describing reality, I think one of the most amazing parts of science is quantum mechanics. That never fails to make me feel awed.


For me the sense of wonder comes from what I learning, the sheer beauty and complexity does make me think "Hell that must have been designed" even though I know it has come through evolution. But, for me, that is not spirituality as I define it, although I appreciate you see it a different way. My spiritual side is based more in fate and synchronicity, neither of which can be scientifically proven, but I don't need them to be. I can happily enjoy my belief knowing there is no evidential basis to it whatsoever.  :D On those terms only, it isn't much different from a belief in a deity.
 

Ethos

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #13 on: 01/01/2010 18:07:03 »

 My spiritual side is based more in fate and synchronicity, neither of which can be scientifically proven, but I don't need them to be. I can happily enjoy my belief knowing there is no evidential basis to it whatsoever.  :D On those terms only, it isn't much different from a belief in a deity.
Well said Variola, and very close to how I feel. There is one overriding issue I have with the atheist. Not that everyone doesn't have the right to their own opinions, I freely admit that atheism has it's foundations in observeable reality. But our observations are limited to our ability to correctly identify the truth. At present, human evolution is in it's infancy and I doubt we can, at this point in history, put claim to any superiority.

For any of us, atheist or theist, to proclaim their absolute superiority regarding the truth is beyond reality. None of us knows the whole truth as yet. When I look at the midnight sky, I find it very easy to believe that we earthlings are not the only ones out there. And the trend in heading that way in the scientific community also. Just look at SETI and all the effort we invest in this search for human identity and origin.

My personal persuasion is this: We are not alone and our brothers are out there somewhere. We are but infants and to assume that we stand at the top of the intelligence ladder is absurd. If life exists beyond this earth, and I for one believe it does, then much of it must be very far beyond us in technology. That being said, one might consider them as Gods. Especially if they are interested in our developement and I think it quite likely that may be so.

For one to be an atheist, much of what I have discussed here must be swept under the rug so to speak. It is much more likely, considering the size and age to this universe, that we are the subjects. The only other alternative is this: That we are the Gods and I find that laughable and completely egotistical....................Ethos
« Last Edit: 01/01/2010 18:10:08 by Ethos »
 

Offline graham.d

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #14 on: 01/01/2010 23:18:17 »
"That being said, one might consider them as Gods" - Ethos

But they would not be Gods would they? Do you think they would demand to be worshipped or make judgement about the future exeistence of our immortal souls?

Because we recognise we have so little knowledge does not mean we must resort to belief in the divine.

Gloves states the situation well regarding definitions in philosophical discussion. As a physicist, if someone asks me what would happen if I let go of a ball I would say it will fall to the ground. I do not say (normally) that it will probably do so but that there is a finite chance it will not or that, within the limits of my understanding, it will fall. I say the simpler answer that explains the situation. If someone wants to speak of the physics at a deeper level or the philosophy of knowledge, then I would elaborate. This is really analogous to the difference, for me, between using the words atheism and agnosticism. I cannot really be sure that there is no divine being but I do not see any reliable evidence that there is, and quite a lot to suggest that all previous beliefs have been proved erronious, despite being continuously modified to try to avoid being disqualified as knowledge emerges. Certainly if you were to treat religions as scientific theories they would be in the realms of support by only a few cranky diehards.
 

Offline Geezer

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #15 on: 02/01/2010 01:33:57 »
Perhaps it all boils down to one simple distinction:

There are those who believe in an afterlife (or afterlives) and those who don't. (Is there a term for this?)

I happen to belong in the latter group, and therefore, the existence or nonexistence of deities does not strike me as terribly important. From my perspective, the "good news" is that those who belong in the former group will not be disappointed.

 

Offline Karsten

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #16 on: 02/01/2010 14:23:51 »
And hence this bumper sticker...
 

Offline Karsten

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #17 on: 02/01/2010 14:39:41 »
I am still trying to find out whether it is even relevant if some scientists are spiritual since what is discussed when talking about spiritualism would revolve around the acceptance of the currently "not-explained" as something supernatural. The difference between scientists and non-scientists would merely be the amount of currently not explained data. Well, hopefully scientists would also strive harder to explain rather than just accept.

I do disagree with the common insinuation that a "sense of wonder" cannot be present in people who have no sense for spiritualism or call themselves atheists. It is as incorrect to equal "sense of wonder" with "gullibility" as it would be to equal "reasonable thinking" with "absence of curiosity or creativity".
 

Offline Make it Lady

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #18 on: 02/01/2010 23:47:48 »
I think that religion is good for giving people a moral code but I am not one for blind faith. Everyone needs something to believe in but the best thing to believe in is yourself. Corny I know but that's how I live.
 

Offline GlentoranMark

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #19 on: 03/01/2010 02:41:10 »
I sat on the fence for years and called myself an Agnostic but now I call myself an Atheist (and probably hard line one at that). I don't know the answer to the Universe but if there is a higher being then he is very benign. I've had several lively debates with believers on another forum but the more I listen and reason with them (Christians) the more I am convinced in my views.

I do envy them however as they are content while I still ask questions but I still wouldn't have it any other way.
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #20 on: 03/01/2010 03:03:55 »
Everyone needs something to believe in


Absolutely! I believe I'll have another beer.
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #21 on: 03/01/2010 03:07:41 »

I do envy them however as they are content while I still ask questions but I still wouldn't have it any other way.

Yes, but look at it this way. If they are wrong, they will not be disappointed. If you are wrong, you could be pleasantly surprised.

And why would any god punish you for using the intelligence that he had bestowed upon you? No. I think he would applaud you for not believing those who sought to take advantage of his message.

BTW, do not assume that so called believers really are all that "content". They have to continually seek reassurance from those who share similar views. Religions are really just a form of "groupthink".

I wonder how many people in the World comply with the local religious customs even although they know it's a load of baloney? I suspect it's a very large percentage of the population, but in many parts of the World it is extremely dangerous to ask questions. And that applies, even in the "civilized" USA.
« Last Edit: 03/01/2010 03:31:01 by Geezer »
 

Offline GlentoranMark

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #22 on: 03/01/2010 03:15:02 »

I do envy them however as they are content while I still ask questions but I still wouldn't have it any other way.

Yes, but look at it this way. If they are wrong, they will not be disappointed. If you are wrong, you could be pleasantly surprised.

Isn't that Pascal's theorem?

Another doctrine is converting at the last minute (assuming you choose the right God). I think I'll leave it until then, I'll still get to the top table like all the other religionists.
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #23 on: 03/01/2010 03:30:23 »
I think that religion is good for giving people a moral code

Do you think it is necessary to be religious to have morals? I use to think it increases peoples inclination to do good and such but now I'm not so sure.  I've seen religious people use it as a way of forgiving or excusing themselves from wrongs for example. Really, is it not simply in the benefit of the species to treat each other well? It therefore makes sense that we would have a pre disposition in some way towards morals.
 

Offline Geezer

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How many scientists are "spiritual"?
« Reply #24 on: 03/01/2010 03:32:53 »
I edited my post!

I don't know about Pascal's theorem, so I'll have to call it Geezer's theorem  ;D
« Last Edit: 03/01/2010 03:38:39 by Geezer »
 

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