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Author Topic: Can science and religion coexist peacefully?  (Read 5879 times)

Offline kowalskil

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« on: 26/11/2010 02:53:42 »
Can science and religion coexist peacefully? This is a good question to start an interesting discussion. See how it was answered by many smart people at my website:

  newbielink:http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/life/donotmix.html [nonactive]

Please share this link with others, if appropriate. Thank you in advance.

Ludwik Kowalski
Professor Emeritus
Montclair State University, NJ


 

Offline JnA

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #1 on: 26/11/2010 06:47:22 »
to quote a popular reference: As for science vs. religion I'm issuing a refraining order. Science should stay 500 yards from religion at all times.


 

Offline JP

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #2 on: 26/11/2010 09:18:50 »
Can forum users on a science forum coexist peacefully when science and religion threads are posted?
 

Offline Geezer

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #3 on: 26/11/2010 09:41:09 »
There is no reason why they should coexist peacefully. Religious topics should be explored on religious web sites. Scientific topics should be explored on science web sites.
 

Offline kowalskil

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #4 on: 26/11/2010 10:24:58 »
Can forum users on a science forum coexist peacefully when science and religion threads are posted?

To coexist peacefully means not to fight with each other. It does not mean that every scientist must be a deist (believer in God) and every deist must be a scientist.

To accept is not the same thing as to tolerate. Mutual tolerance is sufficient for peaceful coexistence of science and religion.

Many atheists (those who want "to convert" others) are neither scientists nor deists; the same applies to many proselytizers.

Some people are comfortable with believing in God; other people are comfortable with rejecting God. That is OK with me. Why should we criticize each other?

Some people are comfortable with being scientists; other people are comfortable with rejecting science. That is also OK with me. Why should we criticize each other?

Why should we not tolerate each other? What is gained from fighting each other (sometimes burning and killing each other)?
 ...............................

By the way, I created a signature file yesterday but my signature has not been displayed. I do not know why.

Ludwik Kowalski

« Last Edit: 26/11/2010 11:28:17 by peppercorn »
 

Offline rosy

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #5 on: 26/11/2010 10:32:52 »
I've moved this to the chat forum because it's not in any sense a discussion of science.

My response...

Depends on the religion.

Some religions make testable assertions, like "the earth is 6000 years old", or "all the populations of land animals and birds were reduced to two (or at any rate a number less than 20), simultaneously, less than 6000 years ago". These religions are incompatible with science and I can't see any way in which peaceful coexistence could be achieved (beyond the limited peace of non-violent bickering).

Other religions limit themselves to pronouncements like "there is a god, who wants us to be nice to people" or "there is a god, who doesn't want us to eat pork" or even "there is a god, who has a slightly disturbing interest in what goes on in your bedroom". These religions don't make claims which are inherently inconsistent with reality, and there's no actual conflict between "science" and "religion". There is of course no lack of conflict between people of a "scientific" or a "religious" mindset.. if someone says to me "there is a god, who doesn't want you to live with your man without being married", my response is always going to be "and what is your basis for that assertion".. but having what I would view as slightly cranky beliefs about the untestable isn't inherently incompatible with applying a scientific approach to that which is testable,

Finally, a question... can religion and religion co-exist peacefully? There's as much, if not more, contradiction between more-or-less any two religions you care to mention as between science and any one of them.
 

Offline rosy

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #6 on: 26/11/2010 10:41:44 »
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That is OK with me. Why should we criticize each other?

Because (some of) the religious people believe that the non-religious are bound for an eternity of torment and are bent on taking more and more people with them?

Because those of us who are not religious believe that the here and now, the short gap between birth and death, is the only shot any of us have at living and that the "afterlife" is a red herring.. and that therefore making this life a hell-on-earth to avoid being burnt forever by a vengeful god is the worst kind of stupidity?

Because (some) religious groups try to impose the social taboos they believe will please their weirdly prurient god on the rest of us?

How can we not criticize each other?

Quote
What is gained from fighting each other (sometimes burning and killing each other)?

The difference between "criticism" and "fighting" (in the sense of physcial violence) is both enormous and vitally important. And you seem to be eliding the two.
« Last Edit: 26/11/2010 10:47:48 by rosy »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #7 on: 26/11/2010 10:50:26 »
"Some people are comfortable with believing in God; other people are comfortable with rejecting God. That is OK with me. Why should we criticize each other?"

Because only one group can be correct.

 

Offline graham.d

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #8 on: 26/11/2010 13:28:35 »
Excellent comments, Rosy. As an atheist myself I agree with all that you said. However, I do regard religion as being important, and maybe essential, in the development in society as we have it today. I don't mean just in the sense of being an opiate for the masses but in a way that it allowed humans to make a step forward in their ability to get on with each other and to formulate rules for behaviour. Is it outmoded and unnecessary today? I'm not sure. I think it is still not easy to rationalise scientifically why we have certain moral views. More it is a case of that we take a view, then find good reasons for having it. There is not the religious certainty because sometimes the rationalisation is too complex to analyse - at least with the hope of having an unequivocal outcome.

The problems that many religions have is that they are used as a badge for being tribalistic. The differences about who believes what is not why two groups do not get on, but it is just that they are in some way identifiable as different. It is exemplified by the story of the atheist who goes into a bar in Belfast during the troubles. Some blokes come over and ask if he is Protestant or Catholic. He says he is an atheist and they say "yes, but are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?"

Being brought up in the UK I would say that my morals are largely based on Christian teachings but I do not believe in the "magic" side, immortality etc. I can usually rationalise why I believe in the moral code I have (and even why I sometimes don't keep to it) but I suspect if I were brought up in Iran or as an Inuit it would not be exactly the same code, even if though there may be a huge overlap.

As an example, I can think of lots of good reasons "only to do unto others as you would have them do unto you" but I can also rationalise that there are many times when breaking that rule, without breaking any law, would be to my advantage. I don't do so (at least try not to) because I was brought up not to, or maybe it is innate. In any case it is hard to disentangle from the effects of over a millennium of religious pursuasion.

I like to think that religions evolved as "memes" (to use Richard Dawkins idea) and have been advantageous in allowing groups of people to live together to their mutual advantage. I am not sure whether human society has reached a point where these can be disposed of. It is very difficult to judge from within. Maybe some people need the hokus pokus part to get them interested (or to instil the fear) in order to get them to conform. I don't, as I do not believe it, but maybe some do. So while I would argue against much religious dogma, and certainly against the "magic", I would much more careful in arguing against the culture that may have developed around it or even criticising those who may have a different moral perspective.

Sorry, I have rambled on. Back to work...
 

Offline peppercorn

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #9 on: 26/11/2010 14:35:02 »
I think in terms of social evolution, religious structures have been useful but have now served their purpose.

I agree with Graham's point that "it is still not easy to rationalise scientifically why we have certain moral views."  But due to the fact that this principle works both for (subjectively) good and bad social attitudes, I don't think this reasoning is completely valid.

The worst thing is that political and certain 'community' leaders have now learnt how to manipulate religious diktat with almost machine-like precision, on a scale never previously imagined in human history.

The lessons learnt from the development (starting at the turn of the last century) of truly analytical psychology, by Ad-men (ramping up from the 1950's) were also eventually learnt by our policy makers.  If you ever get a chance to watch Adam Curtis' BBC documentary series 'Century of the Self' this is a very good introduction to these ideas, IMO.

As Graham has also argued, sometimes "having an unequivocal outcome" is very useful for a better society.  But for recently restructured societies in some parts of the world, manipulation of belief systems are, in fact, leading to ever more regressive societies - via the tool of a very modern engineering of religious propaganda combined with mass media, along side the old stalwarts of fear and control.
 

Offline graham.d

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #10 on: 26/11/2010 15:46:03 »
The other issue to be concerned about is the specific definition of "religion". Any view that is not wholly based on provable truths can be classed (at least in a sense) as a "religion". The form of Communism in Russia and again (differently) in China or Fascism in pre-war Germany were held by vast numbers to be absolutely "the way to go". There are many other examples, even down to an individual's or small group's dogmatic views on something fairly harmless. People do not behave rationally and when there is doubt about whether there is any rationale that can proved to be valid there is a vacuum that someone can exploit. 
 

Offline tbarron

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #11 on: 26/11/2010 16:56:14 »
Science itself can become a religion in the sense that I don't have the resources or time to test all beliefs for myself. I have to decide which experts to trust and accept what they tell me. For some things, like the structure of elementary particles, the answers may not have a lot of relevance to my everyday life, but for some areas it really does.

For example, is a vegan diet healthier than eating animal products? There must be a correct answer to this question, which can be determined scientifically, but there are plenty of claims in both directions, in part because it's not something that's easy for the individual to test for him- or herself. For most of us, the only recourse is to decide for ourselves what makes the most sense, which experts to believe, and act accordingly. That seems to me no different than shopping for a philosophical or religious point of view based on untestable criteria.

More examples of such questions:
 - Does consuming the mammary secretions of another species really make my bones stronger?
 - Is it possible to talk on a cellphone and drive safely at the same time?
 - Do violent video games foster violent behavior in real life?
 - Do first person shooter games improve perception and discrimination skills?
 - Is it more effective to enforce prohibition against unhealthy behaviors (irresponsible sex, smoking, drug use, etc.), or to use policies like taxation and social shaming to discourage them in more subtle ways?
 

Offline peppercorn

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #12 on: 26/11/2010 17:39:53 »
Science itself can become a religion in the sense that I don't have the resources or time to test all beliefs for myself. I have to decide which experts to trust and accept what they tell me. For some things, like the structure of elementary particles, the answers may not have a lot of relevance to my everyday life, but for some areas it really does.

Science is many magnitudes more rigorous than religion. The very fact that there is a continuous cycle of theories and experiments repeated by independent labs makes the results far more reliable.

Unless you believe that there is a global science conspiracy then being able to rely on 'experts' is almost a dead-cert.  That's not to say that experts don;t get it wrong sometimes, but they are far less likely to en-mass.  Science does (unfortunately) suffer from being led by fashions at some important points that have slowed overall progress, by misdirecting efforts, but human-nature is so flawed sometimes.

Finally, peer review bodies give science a far more credibility than religion ever could.
 

Offline tbarron

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #13 on: 26/11/2010 18:29:45 »
Science is many magnitudes more rigorous than religion. The very fact that there is a continuous cycle of theories and experiments repeated by independent labs makes the results far more reliable.

Unless you believe that there is a global science conspiracy then being able to rely on 'experts' is almost a dead-cert.  That's not to say that experts don;t get it wrong sometimes, but they are far less likely to en-mass.  Science does (unfortunately) suffer from being led by fashions at some important points that have slowed overall progress, by misdirecting efforts, but human-nature is so flawed sometimes.

Finally, peer review bodies give science a far more credibility than religion ever could.

I agree with you that science over the course of time can overcome its fashions and biases and can be more or less self-correcting in ways religion cannot. My point is that as an ordinary individual in the modern world, when the experts disagree, deciding which ones to trust doesn't seem much different than trying to decide which religion is "most true." We all have to rely on expert testimony from time to time. How can we maximize our chances of choosing to listen to the experts who are right rather than those who are not?
 

Offline rosy

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #14 on: 26/11/2010 19:25:55 »
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My point is that as an ordinary individual in the modern world, when the experts disagree, deciding which ones to trust doesn't seem much different than trying to decide which religion is "most true."

It's qualitatively different because only someone whose education has utterly failed them (or, I suppose, is irremediably a fool) adopts their conclusion about whether they've chosen the right scientific experts into the core of their view of themselves and the world. Science only ever claims to be "as far as we can tell". Religions ask people to turn over their whole being to the god or gods they have chosen (or, more insidiously, the god or gods their chosen expert espouses).

I agree that people need to know more about how best to pick their experts, and I certainly feel a lot of schools (and most of the media) in the UK are not really doing all they might to help, but the comparison with religion is a damaging red herring.
 

Offline peppercorn

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #15 on: 26/11/2010 19:32:14 »
<Rosy's post 'came in' while I was typing. Excuse the non-sequitur...>

I agree with you that science over the course of time can overcome its fashions and biases and can be more or less self-correcting in ways religion cannot. My point is that as an ordinary individual in the modern world, when the experts disagree, deciding which ones to trust doesn't seem much different than trying to decide which religion is "most true." We all have to rely on expert testimony from time to time. How can we maximize our chances of choosing to listen to the experts who are right rather than those who are not?

I have noticed that in situations where it is not simply two experts slogging it out for the higher ground, it soon becomes clear (to the unbiased observer) which group represents the side of well founded science and which is, shall we say, playing a bit more fast and loose with their proofs and arguments.

Of course, some areas can be dismissed whichever side is arguing - "NO! My crystal healing is the only correct way!!" ;D
 

Offline Joe L. Ogan

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #16 on: 26/11/2010 21:09:25 »
I wish that I could believe in religion.  Since I arrived at the point that I draw my own conclusions, I find that I can no longer accept things on faith.  Thanks for comments.  Joe L. Ogan
 

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Can science and religion coexist peacefully?
« Reply #16 on: 26/11/2010 21:09:25 »

 

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