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Author Topic: Do science and religion have any common ground?  (Read 24052 times)

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #25 on: 28/03/2012 06:46:47 »
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Do science and religion have any common ground?

Yes.
Anthropology
Perhaps History (when considering the history being written and interpreted to the benefit of the religion).
 

Offline Pmb

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #26 on: 28/03/2012 12:27:05 »
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Do science and religion have any common ground?

Yes.
Anthropology
Perhaps History (when considering the history being written and interpreted to the benefit of the religion).
And let us not forget Biblical Archaeology.
 

Offline Bill S

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #27 on: 28/03/2012 17:29:07 »
Quote from: Damocles
If you read carefully you will find that I was not "blaming science"

Truth is, I didn't think you were; it just seemed like a good chance to slip in one of my "pet things". 
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #28 on: 28/03/2012 19:45:45 »
I would maintain that science can only provide a basis and a methodology for understanding the physical world around us. I would maintain that there are important truths and issues that are outside the realm that science can explore -- not just outside its present incomplete scope, but beyond the capability of science to address.
...
As far as I am concerned both morality and aesthetics are important aspects of life, and ones that by their very nature cannot be addressed by science. I am proud to be a scientist who is a believing Christian, and a member of an Anglican Church, of liberal Anglo-Catholic practice.

Morality is little more than the minimisation of harm, so it's something a computer could make pronouncements on which would be demonstrably superior to anything that could be derived from religion.

Aesthetics is also controlled by rules, but we don't yet know what those rules are or how they vary from person to person or how much they can be modified in a person over time. We do know, however, that the golden ratio has a substantial importance in visual art, and that comes about because of the Fibonacci sequence which is written through many living things and which is an indicator of healthy growth. We see the golden ratio many times in a beautiful face, and we also see it in the arrangement of components of beautiful images. In time, everything aesthetic will be accounted for in full by science, but the barrier to that is untangling it all from the complexity of how our brains function.
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #29 on: 28/03/2012 20:34:36 »

Morality is little more than the minimisation of harm, so it's something a computer could make pronouncements on which would be demonstrably superior to anything that could be derived from religion.


Here you are stating your religious faith. The statement is made entirely without evidence or justification. If you want to take this position, you cannot then retreat into the "Science is morally neutral. Any evil that arises from science is just because humans misuse its results." position, as adherents of scientism are wont to do.

In fact, there is a large ongoing debate in the academic philosophy literature about whether or not "morality is little more than minimization of harm" (a position described as "utilitarianism"). There have been some very effective arguments put against this position.


Aesthetics is also controlled by rules, but we don't yet know what those rules are or how they vary from person to person or how much they can be modified in a person over time. We do know, however, that the golden ratio has a substantial importance in visual art, and that comes about because of the Fibonacci sequence which is written through many living things and which is an indicator of healthy growth. We see the golden ratio many times in a beautiful face, and we also see it in the arrangement of components of beautiful images. In time, everything aesthetic will be accounted for in full by science, but the barrier to that is untangling it all from the complexity of how our brains function.

This again is a statement of faith, and an almost mystical devotion to the "golden ratio". Yes, the Fibonacci sequence does arise in some simple models of healthy growth, and it is certainly seen directly in areas like sunflower seed patterns. But it is rather a long stretch from there to imagining that the golden ratio underpins a large chunk of aesthetics.
 

Offline Geezer

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #30 on: 28/03/2012 21:52:36 »
I hold nothing against religions. I just wish they were a bit less dogmatic   :D
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #31 on: 29/03/2012 20:07:41 »
Morality is little more than the minimisation of harm, so it's something a computer could make pronouncements on which would be demonstrably superior to anything that could be derived from religion.

Here you are stating your religious faith. The statement is made entirely without evidence or justification. If you want to take this position, you cannot then retreat into the "Science is morally neutral. Any evil that arises from science is just because humans misuse its results." position, as adherents of scientism are wont to do.

I was setting out my position to invite further discussion, hence the lack of evidence and justification. I work in artificial intelligence and am building a system which will soon be using a morality law based almost entirely on minimising harm to calculate from scratch the rights and wrongs of all things. On paper it should work better than any other system of determining what is moral: taking "morality" from a holy book would inevitably result in the machine determining that you should be stoned to death for something trivial such as wearing clothes made from more than one kind of fibre. We aren't completely stupid, of course, so we don't generally follow religious laws religiously for the same reason - they are imperfect to the point that they kill innocent people at the drop of a hat while protecting evil people, so it's obvious that we reject the stupid ones. But how are we making our judgements about which religious rules are sensible and which are plain barking? Well, we simply apply the real moral rule to each case and try our best to minimize harm. This rule is ultimately derived from the Golden Rule (which cannot be used directly because it suffers from serious faults - when you fix those faults, you automatically end up with the rule of harm minimisation). When this rule is applied by a machine without any bias in the system, then we will have a perfect way of calculating morality in every possible aspect, though a lot of the results will necessarily be based on probabilities when applying things to practical cases in the real world as there are always going to be difficulties in collecting the facts.

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In fact, there is a large ongoing debate in the academic philosophy literature about whether or not "morality is little more than minimization of harm" (a position described as "utilitarianism"). There have been some very effective arguments put against this position.

I'm too busy building the software system which will tidy up this god-awful world and do not have time to hunt through mountains of **** to find the stuff on the subject that may actually be worth reading (most philosophers being completely thick, writing screeds of stuff in fancy words which in reality say nothing), but I'm sure there must be some good ones out there who have been hidden by the sheer mass of morons. If you can help point me towards these effective arguments, I will be very grateful to you as I would very much like to explore them - up until now I've found it virtually impossible to find any intelligent life on this planet capable of discussing the implications of the computational morality which will soon be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

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Aesthetics is also controlled by rules, but we don't yet know what those rules are or how they vary from person to person or how much they can be modified in a person over time. We do know, however, that the golden ratio has a substantial importance in visual art, and that comes about because of the Fibonacci sequence which is written through many living things and which is an indicator of healthy growth. We see the golden ratio many times in a beautiful face, and we also see it in the arrangement of components of beautiful images. In time, everything aesthetic will be accounted for in full by science, but the barrier to that is untangling it all from the complexity of how our brains function.

This again is a statement of faith, and an almost mystical devotion to the "golden ratio". Yes, the Fibonacci sequence does arise in some simple models of healthy growth, and it is certainly seen directly in areas like sunflower seed patterns. But it is rather a long stretch from there to imagining that the golden ratio underpins a large chunk of aesthetics.

Even though it demonstrably does? The reason you find the golden ratio many times over in the human face is precisely because it displays healthy growth, and the more accurately it is represented there, the more beautiful an individual tends to be seen as being. When you see something beautiful or hear something beautiful, it's simply maths being done in your brain which determines that a good feeling should be triggered in your head. We don't know what most of the maths actually is yet, but it will be found by science some day. Call that faith if you like, but as God, the supernatural and magic are all logically impossible (another invitation for you there - I can back it all up if asked to), the only other real alternative is that we're in some kind of virtual universe and the maths is being done elsewhere and not directly in the brain. I'm open to that possibility.
« Last Edit: 29/03/2012 20:10:11 by David Cooper »
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #32 on: 30/03/2012 05:16:02 »
...
I was setting out my position to invite further discussion, hence the lack of evidence and justification. I work in artificial intelligence and am building a system which will soon be using a morality law based almost entirely on minimising harm to calculate from scratch the rights and wrongs of all things. On paper it should work better than any other system of determining what is moral: taking "morality" from a holy book would inevitably result in the machine determining that you should be stoned to death for something trivial such as wearing clothes made from more than one kind of fibre. We aren't completely stupid, of course, so we don't generally follow religious laws religiously for the same reason - they are imperfect to the point that they kill innocent people at the drop of a hat while protecting evil people, so it's obvious that we reject the stupid ones. But how are we making our judgements about which religious rules are sensible and which are plain barking? Well, we simply apply the real moral rule to each case and try our best to minimize harm.
...
Quote
In fact, there is a large ongoing debate in the academic philosophy literature about whether or not "morality is little more than minimization of harm" (a position described as "utilitarianism"). There have been some very effective arguments put against this position.

I'm too busy building the software system which will tidy up this god-awful world and do not have time to hunt through mountains of **** to find the stuff on the subject that may actually be worth reading (most philosophers being completely thick, writing screeds of stuff in fancy words which in reality say nothing), but I'm sure there must be some good ones out there who have been hidden by the sheer mass of morons. If you can help point me towards these effective arguments, I will be very grateful to you as I would very much like to explore them - up until now I've found it virtually impossible to find any intelligent life on this planet capable of discussing the implications of the computational morality which will soon be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

For now, I am only concerned with the issue of powerful arguments against utilitarianism. It is rather pointless and disrespectful to be challenging the rest of your religious faith.

Philosophers have tended to base their arguments around utilitarianism on situations of moral dilemma: issues like do you rush to switch the points for a runaway train so that it will certainly mow down a single railway worker in your field of vision when you "know" that if you do not it will probably collide with another train on the main line and kill dozens?

But there are deeper arguments as well.

Two of the philosophy professors at my university -- probably the leading philosophy school in Australia in the 70s and 80s -- published works that addressed issues raised by utilitarianism. The books are probably out of print at present, but you may find them in a university library.

Henry John McCloskey -- John Stuart Mill: a Critical Study and God and Evil
Bernard Williams and JJC Smart -- Utilitarianism: For and Against.

( Professor McCloskey, an atheist/agnostic (?) who led an argument that the university had no brief to be supporting and providing facilities for a chaplaincy, must not be confused with his namesake, a leading catholic scholar who eventually became a cardinal).

Here, in summary, are some of the arguments:
-- minimizing the harm and maximizing the good do not always amount to the same thing.
-- it is not possible to minimize or maximize anything unless it can be quantified, and there is no uniquely privileged quantification of harm or good.
-- all judgements of harm or good are probably culturally tainted.
-- are we to see harm or good in terms of (1) our family? (the 'selfish gene' concept) (2) our 'tribe' or sub-culture? (3) our nation? (4) the whole of humanity? (5) the whole of the animal kingdom? or (6) the whole planet?

Here are two real life examples of dilemmas which I believe quite clearly highlight the immorality and downright evil that can be associated with a utilitarian approach:

(1) A certain doctor is assigned to a concentration camp, where he knows that the inmates are all destined for the gas chamber. He decides that some of them should be thrown into ice water pools instead so that he can obtain reliable data about the onset and characteristics of human hypothermia. This is the best available data that is still used by doctors and scientists today.

(2) A certain nation (i.e.government) has a large number of people condemned to execution. Note that I am not here discussing the morality or otherwise of capital punishment. Nor am I entering into politics as such -- I have a great admiration of this government for many of its other achievements. It adopts a policy of keeping these people alive on death row, and timing executions so that fresh body parts can be farmed at times convenient to meet the demands of transplant operations.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #33 on: 30/03/2012 20:56:01 »
For now, I am only concerned with the issue of powerful arguments against utilitarianism.

That's good, because that's the bit that most interests me.

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It is rather pointless and disrespectful to be challenging the rest of your religious faith.

It needn't be pointless - I can certainly cure you of your religion if you are rational.

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Philosophers have tended to base their arguments around utilitarianism on situations of moral dilemma: issues like do you rush to switch the points for a runaway train so that it will certainly mow down a single railway worker in your field of vision when you "know" that if you do not it will probably collide with another train on the main line and kill dozens?

Do religions offer you any guidance for such situations? I expect there will be something somewhere that can be twisted to fit, and something else that can be twisted to fit which will lead to the opposite action. In reality, all we can do is calculate based on minimising harm. In the example above it is clear that the people in the train are not to blame (unlike other examples of this kind of thing where a large group of people are stupidly standing on the line and the question is whether you should switch the points and kill someone tied to the line who's being filmed for a movie on a piece of line which shouldn't have trains on it), whereas the railway worker is a representative of the system which has failed, so like a captain of a ship he might be seen as having a duty to take the hit if it comes to that. We then have to think, might he have a family? Perhaps all the people on the two trains are neo-Nazis, but that's unlikely. We have to guess based on what we know of railway workers and passengers in general, and the odds are overwhelmingly in the direction of making it better to kill the railway worker. If on the other hand we knew that the trains were indeed full of neo-Nazis, it might well be worth saving the railway worker, even at the expense of the two train drivers. That's a tough one to calculate, but the calculations could be certainly be done if you put sufficient time into it. There wouldn't be enough time for humans to calculate it properly if this scenario is suddenly sprung on them, but artificial intelligence will certainly be able to do it.

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Henry John McCloskey -- John Stuart Mill: a Critical Study and God and Evil
Bernard Williams and JJC Smart -- Utilitarianism: For and Against.

I will hunt those out and check the arguments with care before unleashing any computational morality on the world. Thank you for giving me those details.

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Here, in summary, are some of the arguments:
-- minimizing the harm and maximizing the good do not always amount to the same thing.

That's false, the problem here being ambiguity. There are two possible meanings of "good" which can be applied here, and neither of them can make the above argument valid. What makes it appear valid to some people is that they are using the ambiguity with the two meanings to confuse themselves, and that leads to an incorrect conclusion. Good (the pure meaning) is at zero on the scale: it is simply the absense of bad. Good is not doing harm, and doing good is identical to not doing harm. In some cases, not-doing-something-to-help-someone is bad, so that leads to the idea that doing-the-something (as opposed to not-doing-it) is doing good, but it is merely action to avoid doing bad through inaction (such as not helping someone good who is in serious difficulty when it would be no trouble to you to help them). Good (the pure meaning of it) is located at zero on a scale which runs from infinitely bad to infinitely "good-generous". We often use "good" in a second way to represent the idea of "good-generous", and indeed we have no proper word to describe this at all in English, so it is necessary to create a new term for this out of existing words which overlap with the required meaning: hence "good-generous". This ambiguity in the word "good" leads to confusion whenever it is used carelessly in an argument - you have to be very clear about which meaning it is supposed to have from moment to moment, and most philosophers are extremely sloppy about this kind of thing. In the argument above, the whole argument is clearly not valid if the word is to be taken as meaning zero bad (because minimising harm is then identical to maximising good), but if you intend the other meaning where it is representing "good-generosity", you are moving away from morality into Utilitarianism (which is an error you have made before in this thread). You can go overboard to help someone who doesn't need or deserve you help, and that's the "+/- opposite" of doing bad (as opposed to the "+/0 opposite"). This is clearly what Utilitarianism is about if you see it as being maximising happiness: Utilitarianism would drive you to create machines whose role is to try to make people as happy as possible, and that could lead to those machines designing safe drugs which would put people into a state of extasy for their entire lives. Clearly this kind of thing is not the role of morality.

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-- it is not possible to minimize or maximize anything unless it can be quantified, and there is no uniquely privileged quantification of harm or good.

This is why probabilities come into it. You can try to do the same harm to two people, and one may be much more damaged by it than the other, while it may be impossible for anyone to tell which was more damaged. All we can do is attempt to do a statistical analysis based on how much harm people think has been done to them, and it may be possible some day to be sure that they are reporting the truth, so that would improve the accuracy of the stats. If you kill a person, that is usually seen as murder and horribly immoral, though it's also seen as being much worse if you kill them in a drawn-out and painful manner. If you kill a cow and eat it, that is not seen as a crime at all, though some people do regard it as murder. What we need to do is calculate how much harm is involved, and that means we have to look at issues such as whether the cow's death was humane, how upset its relatives and friends are about it being killed, and we also have to think about their expectations about how long they should live and how much life is being stolen away from them. Cows don't understand these things, so there is actually very little harm done. If they weren't to be eaten, they wouldn't even have existed in the first place, so it is the fact that they are to be eaten the enables them to exist, but by causing them to exist we obviously have a duty to make sure they don't have miserable lives while they're here.

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-- all judgements of harm or good are probably culturally tainted.

Only if you allow yourself to be misled by cultural values rather than being fully impartial. Machines caculating morality will not be open to any such bias, and some people are pretty good at eliminating bias from their thinking too, though it's hard for any humans to be sure that they've managed to eliminate it completely. Cultural bias can take the form of applying false rules: killing cows is wrong because they are sacred. That is not the application of morality, but of dogma, as is manifest when you cannot put down a sick cow which is in extreme pain on the basis of that dogma. Some religious dogma is compatible with morality, while other religious dogma is not: they do not qualify as alternative systems of morality just by claiming to be moral, but rather they are failed attempts to create systems of morality which show a fundamental lack of understanding of what morality is.

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-- are we to see harm or good in terms of (1) our family? (the 'selfish gene' concept) (2) our 'tribe' or sub-culture? (3) our nation? (4) the whole of humanity? (5) the whole of the animal kingdom? or (6) the whole planet?

(1) The selfish gene idea is an explanation of natural selection and is not intended to be misused as any kind of morality - evolution is vicious. (2 & 3) These are primarily extensions of family, although it's complified by migration. (4) This would allow all animal cruelty. (5) Yes, but we have to allow for anything else that could be harmed, such as a sentient machine or plant, and we should also consider the possibility that pain could be generated in a chemistry experiment. (6) The planet is probably not capable of being harmed, but if we discovered that all its material down to a depth of several metres was in pain because of Radio 1 being broadcast on a particular frequency, we would have to move that signal or shut the station down.

Quote
Here are two real life examples of dilemmas which I believe quite clearly highlight the immorality and downright evil that can be associated with a utilitarian approach:

(1) A certain doctor is assigned to a concentration camp, where he knows that the inmates are all destined for the gas chamber. He decides that some of them should be thrown into ice water pools instead so that he can obtain reliable data about the onset and characteristics of human hypothermia. This is the best available data that is still used by doctors and scientists today.

Which dilemma? Should we use the data? Since it exists, yes - the victims themselves would want us to if it helps to save others. Should it have been collected though? If it was a less awful way for them to die and that doctor couldn't directly save them from death, then yes. If there was a chance that they'd survive many such experiments and might live long enough to survive the war, then yes again and more emphatic.

Quote
(2) A certain nation (i.e. government) has a large number of people condemned to execution. Note that I am not here discussing the morality or otherwise of capital punishment. Nor am I entering into politics as such -- I have a great admiration of this government for many of its other achievements. It adopts a policy of keeping these people alive on death row, and timing executions so that fresh body parts can be farmed at times convenient to meet the demands of transplant operations.

Again there is no actual dilemma here - if they are to be killed, they might as well be used to save others. The problem there is that many of them have done nothing wrong and are being killed for political reasons (if you're talking about China), and indeed it's possible that the system is so corrupt that people are being sentenced to death precisely because their organs will be compatilble with a rich person who needs them.
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #34 on: 31/03/2012 05:54:05 »
For now, I am only concerned with the issue of powerful arguments against utilitarianism.

That's good, because that's the bit that most interests me.

Quote
It is rather pointless and disrespectful to be challenging the rest of your religious faith.

It needn't be pointless - I can certainly cure you of your religion if you are rational.

Now that is brash and disrespectful, and far from certain. But I suspect that your definition of 'rational' amounts at bottom to 'sharing my views', so it is a fairly safe statement.
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Quote
Philosophers have tended to base their arguments around utilitarianism on situations of moral dilemma: issues like do you rush to switch the points for a runaway train so that it will certainly mow down a single railway worker in your field of vision when you "know" that if you do not it will probably collide with another train on the main line and kill dozens?

Do religions offer you any guidance for such situations? I expect there will be something somewhere that can be twisted to fit, and something else that can be twisted to fit which will lead to the opposite action.

My flavour of religion does indeed offer good guidance, which would not be based around 'twisting' or any interpretation or misinterpretation of a scriptural text.

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In reality, all we can do is calculate based on minimising harm. In the example above it is clear that the people in the train are not to blame (unlike other examples of this kind of thing where a large group of people are stupidly standing on the line and the question is whether you should switch the points and kill someone tied to the line who's being filmed for a movie on a piece of line which shouldn't have trains on it), whereas the railway worker is a representative of the system which has failed, so like a captain of a ship he might be seen as having a duty to take the hit if it comes to that. We then have to think, might he have a family? Perhaps all the people on the two trains are neo-Nazis, but that's unlikely. We have to guess based on what we know of railway workers and passengers in general, and the odds are overwhelmingly in the direction of making it better to kill the railway worker. If on the other hand we knew that the trains were indeed full of neo-Nazis, it might well be worth saving the railway worker, even at the expense of the two train drivers. That's a tough one to calculate, but the calculations could be certainly be done if you put sufficient time into it. There wouldn't be enough time for humans to calculate it properly if this scenario is suddenly sprung on them, but artificial intelligence will certainly be able to do it.

There is an alternative.
In reality, there is a wise and good God overseeing this whole situation. I would avoid committing the murder of the man that I can see, and I have recourse to prayer that the main line be clear. If it is not, and a tragedy ensues, then I must mourn with the victims' families, and wear any blame they would choose to heap on me.


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Here, in summary, are some of the arguments:
-- minimizing the harm and maximizing the good do not always amount to the same thing.

Quote
That's false, the problem here being ambiguity. There are two possible meanings of "good" which can be applied here, and neither of them can make the above argument valid. What makes it appear valid to some people is that they are using the ambiguity with the two meanings to confuse themselves, and that leads to an incorrect conclusion. Good (the pure meaning) is at zero on the scale: it is simply the absense of bad.
... (snip) ...

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-- it is not possible to minimize or maximize anything unless it can be quantified, and there is no uniquely privileged quantification of harm or good.

This is why probabilities come into it. You can try to do the same harm to two people, and one may be much more damaged by it than the other, while it may be impossible for anyone to tell which was more damaged. All we can do is attempt to do a statistical analysis
...(snip)...

All of this is predicated on a one-dimensional conception of good and harm. Most philosophers do not see the issues in one-dimensional terms, and that is probably why you are seeing them as spouting nonsense or worse. How are you proposing to place the values of freedom, health, material comfort, etc. on a single numerical scale, especially when they conflict at times? Are you suggesting that statistics of how many people choose slavery with comfort as against freedom with hardship might be a sort of means of placing these disparate goods on a single numerical scale?
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-- all judgements of harm or good are probably culturally tainted.

Only if you allow yourself to be misled by cultural values rather than being fully impartial. Machines caculating morality will not be open to any such bias, and some people are pretty good at eliminating bias from their thinking too, though it's hard for any humans to be sure that they've managed to eliminate it completely.

There is no yardstick available to measure what constitutes 'fully impartial'. The very notion of impartiality is loaded with cultural bias, and means very different positions to different people. Machines calculating morality will certainly be open to cultural bias, unless you are expecting some sort of miraculous breakthrough in the AI field. At bottom, machines inevitably have to be provided with heuristic guidelines by human designers, either in terms of values to put on different goods and harms, or judgement criteria for calculating such values, or, with learning machines, heuristics for which outcomes to enhance and which to diminish. These heuristics cannot be totally impartial -- they necessarily have imbedded in them cultural bias, whether conscious or unconscious. I would be interested to be enlightened about recent developments in AI if this is not the case. Isaac Asimov -- writing at a very primitive time in the development of AI -- was up front about these issues when he devised his five laws of robotics. I cannot remember the detail, but I seem to recall that one of his short stories was about malfunction of a robot when placed in a situation where two of these laws were in conflict. Perhaps another reader of this can help out with a reference.

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-- are we to see harm or good in terms of (1) our family? (the 'selfish gene' concept) (2) our 'tribe' or sub-culture? (3) our nation? (4) the whole of humanity? (5) the whole of the animal kingdom? or (6) the whole planet?

(1) The selfish gene idea is an explanation of natural selection and is not intended to be misused as any kind of morality - evolution is vicious. (2 & 3) These are primarily extensions of family, although it's complified by migration. (4) This would allow all animal cruelty. (5) Yes, but we have to allow for anything else that could be harmed, such as a sentient machine or plant, and we should also consider the possibility that pain could be generated in a chemistry experiment. (6) The planet is probably not capable of being harmed, but if we discovered that all its material down to a depth of several metres was in pain because of Radio 1 being broadcast on a particular frequency, we would have to move that signal or shut the station down.

I think that you have rather missed the point here. Perhaps it is more easily understood in terms of: does harm to a human have a constant factor on your numerical scale, or is one family member worth two outsiders, or 3 foreigners, or perhaps even four infidels? I suspect that you would say that all should be equal -- and that is expressing a Western liberal bias. Most human beings come from cultural backgrounds that might not agree with this, and while nearly all in our prosperous Western democracies would pay lip service to it, the attitude is often very different when it comes down to practicalities. And the "all humans should have equal consideration" notion owes nothing to rationality; it might owe something to Christianity. And how do we place relative values on the different stages of life? Are there different harm factors for neonates? children? young adults? the very elderly?

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Quote
Here are two real life examples of dilemmas which I believe quite clearly highlight the immorality and downright evil that can be associated with a utilitarian approach:

(1) A certain doctor is assigned to a concentration camp, where he knows that the inmates are all destined for the gas chamber. He decides that some of them should be thrown into ice water pools instead so that he can obtain reliable data about the onset and characteristics of human hypothermia. This is the best available data that is still used by doctors and scientists today.

Which dilemma? Should we use the data? Since it exists, yes - the victims themselves would want us to if it helps to save others. Should it have been collected though? If it was a less awful way for them to die and that doctor couldn't directly save them from death, then yes. If there was a chance that they'd survive many such experiments and might live long enough to survive the war, then yes again and more emphatic.

Most people, and the American courts who tried them in particular, judged the German doctors involved in this sort of thing as war criminals and monsters, and I believe rightly so. You are right in your conclusion about what the utilitarian position would be. I believe that position to be quite evil. Using the data is quite another matter -- if it exists, and is judged useful, then it is only rational and scientific that it should be used. Science needs to draw on all available information. A suggestion has been made, which I agree with, that if such data is used, it should be accompanied by text expressing revulsion when it is cited in a scientific article. See http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/essays/v14p328y1991.pdf, for example.
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(2) A certain nation (i.e. government) has a large number of people condemned to execution. Note that I am not here discussing the morality or otherwise of capital punishment. Nor am I entering into politics as such -- I have a great admiration of this government for many of its other achievements. It adopts a policy of keeping these people alive on death row, and timing executions so that fresh body parts can be farmed at times convenient to meet the demands of transplant operations.

Again there is no actual dilemma here - if they are to be killed, they might as well be used to save others. The problem there is that many of them have done nothing wrong and are being killed for political reasons (if you're talking about China), and indeed it's possible that the system is so corrupt that people are being sentenced to death precisely because their organs will be compatilble with a rich person who needs them.

It is interesting that you see "nothing wrong" in the actions of political prisoners. You have been attached to a society where freedom of speech is seen as a right. That is a culturally biassed position. It is at least arguable, from a utilitarian point of view, that some of these political prisoners have attempted to undermine the rather fragile cohesion of a society where hardship and starvation are never far away, and that speaking out publically is an action that might well result in huge disruption and hardship and great harm to the society and the poorer people in it. Once again, I see your position, which I believe accurately reflects utilitarian principles, as both immoral and evil.
 

Offline Geezer

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #35 on: 31/03/2012 07:56:19 »
Gentle Peoples,
 
Let us try to remember the TNS prime directive;
 
"Keep it friendly"
 
Thanks!
 
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Offline David Cooper

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #36 on: 31/03/2012 23:53:35 »
It needn't be pointless - I can certainly cure you of your religion if you are rational.

Now that is brash and disrespectful, and far from certain. But I suspect that your definition of 'rational' amounts at bottom to 'sharing my views', so it is a fairly safe statement.

It is simply a statement of fact. If you are rational, I can take you through a logical argument which destroys God's qualifications to be God, demonstrating that he can be nothing more than a natural being like ourselves at best. If you have no regard for reason, there is clearly no point in bothering, but if you do consider yourself to be rational, you might find it interesting to see the point where it tears your religion to pieces.

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Philosophers have tended to base their arguments around utilitarianism on situations of moral dilemma: issues like do you rush to switch the points for a runaway train so that it will certainly mow down a single railway worker in your field of vision when you "know" that if you do not it will probably collide with another train on the main line and kill dozens?

Do religions offer you any guidance for such situations? I expect there will be something somewhere that can be twisted to fit, and something else that can be twisted to fit which will lead to the opposite action.

My flavour of religion does indeed offer good guidance, which would not be based around 'twisting' or any interpretation or misinterpretation of a scriptural text.
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There is an alternative.
In reality, there is a wise and good God overseeing this whole situation. I would avoid committing the murder of the man that I can see, and I have recourse to prayer that the main line be clear. If it is not, and a tragedy ensues, then I must mourn with the victims' families, and wear any blame they would choose to heap on me.

Murder is immoral killing. When you have a moral justification for killing, such as minimising harm, it is not murder. Your inaction would be immoral if you didn't have the excuse that you believe in a god who tells you it's okay to shirk your responsibilities.

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All of this is predicated on a one-dimensional conception of good and harm. Most philosophers do not see the issues in one-dimensional terms, and that is probably why you are seeing them as spouting nonsense or worse. How are you proposing to place the values of freedom, health, material comfort, etc. on a single numerical scale, especially when they conflict at times? Are you suggesting that statistics of how many people choose slavery with comfort as against freedom with hardship might be a sort of means of placing these disparate goods on a single numerical scale?

They are spouting nonsense because they are making analytical errors left, right and centre. My approach is multi-dimensional, taking all factors into account and weighting them appropriately. Ultimately all the data has to end up influencing a single numerical scale in order to dictate the choice of action, but that doesn't make the calculation one-dimensional. The fact that different aspects of the calculation may point in different directions is not a problem, just as when people vote on something it does not have to be unanimous before anything can ever be done. When decisions absolutely have to be made and cannot be avoided, all you can do is make them in the direction that is most likely to be correct - to do the opposite on the basis of some ancient texts from 3rd rate philosophers who pretended their ideas came from gods would be asking for trouble.

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Are you suggesting that statistics of how many people choose slavery with comfort as against freedom with hardship might be a sort of means of placing these disparate goods on a single numerical scale?

That's entirely your example, but in answer to it it seems reasonable - just so long as you don't inflict it on anyone who disagrees. Ask yourself how you would make a decision if you were invited to be someone's slave and to have a reasonably comfortable life as opposed to living in a tough environment where you're in continual danger of starvation? Are you incapable of weighing up the two alternatives for yourself? Do you have to look in a holy book for the answer?

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There is no yardstick available to measure what constitutes 'fully impartial'. The very notion of impartiality is loaded with cultural bias, and means very different positions to different people. Machines calculating morality will certainly be open to cultural bias, unless you are expecting some sort of miraculous breakthrough in the AI field.

Nothing miraculous is required. When you program a person (bring them up in a particular culture and environment), the information you put into that person early on will set up the way they will continue to be, so if you stuff a religion into them, they are likely to retain it and reject anything that goes against it. People become emotionally tied to their beliefs, and that makes it hard to put them right about things when they're wrong: typically they spend the rest of their lives collecting evidence to support what they already believe while studiously avoiding everything that contradicts their beliefs. However, when you start loading a correctly programmed A.I. system with knowledge and ideas, it's a completely different situation: it makes no difference which order you put the information in because as soon as the same total amount of information has been loaded, the end result is identical. The system can be designed specifically to be incapable of developing or maintaining any kind of bias. Processing the data in different orders can produce different probabilities for many things, so the trick is to process it in many different orders and find out what the range of probabilities is - the ones which change the least are then the most certain and can be trusted more.

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At bottom, machines inevitably have to be provided with heuristic guidelines by human designers, either in terms of values to put on different goods and harms, or judgement criteria for calculating such values, or, with learning machines, heuristics for which outcomes to enhance and which to diminish. These heuristics cannot be totally impartial -- they necessarily have imbedded in them cultural bias, whether conscious or unconscious.

The machine generates its own values based on what it learns about how things are, always making adjustments to get the best fit against the available data. No such values are ever programmed into it in advance. Clearly the values will not be the same in two machines loaded with data from different cultures (one each), but if the two machines then share their data, they will then both start agreening with each other. The only thing that should be programmed in from the start is the mechanism of calculating morality on the basis of minimising harm, though it would be possible for the machine to work out for itself that this is the correct way to calculate morality, but the danger of that approach is that it may make some serious mistakes along the way before it gets to that level of understanding.

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I would be interested to be enlightened about recent developments in AI if this is not the case. Isaac Asimov -- writing at a very primitive time in the development of AI -- was up front about these issues when he devised his five laws of robotics. I cannot remember the detail, but I seem to recall that one of his short stories was about malfunction of a robot when placed in a situation where two of these laws were in conflict. Perhaps another reader of this can help out with a reference.

Asimov's laws of robotics are plain wrong. A robot running his rules would not kill a gunman who going around shooting every child he can find in a school. We need robots which are allowed to kill a gunman like that (if that's what it takes to stop him, though in reality he could probably be put out of action without killing him). What we absolutely do not need, however, is robots going around applying religious laws to all of us, because such machines would cause absolute carnage.

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I think that you have rather missed the point here. Perhaps it is more easily understood in terms of: does harm to a human have a constant factor on your numerical scale, or is one family member worth two outsiders, or 3 foreigners, or perhaps even four infidels? I suspect that you would say that all should be equal -- and that is expressing a Western liberal bias.

Western liberal bias? When thinking in terms of machines running the world and applying computational morality, they have no family, race, nationality or religion. They will treat everyone equally, though in situations where they have to choose to save one person at the expense of another, the numbers might push things in one direction more strongly than the others in accordance with the morality of those two individuals, the one adhering to a less moral religion being more likely to get the push if everything else is equal on the basis that that individual is likely to do more harm.

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Most human beings come from cultural backgrounds that might not agree with this, and while nearly all in our prosperous Western democracies would pay lip service to it, the attitude is often very different when it comes down to practicalities.

There is no room for cultural relativism when it comes to morality - morality is absolute and it's up to people to adapt to it, either by abandoning their immoral beliefs or by putting up with the consequences of being punished for their immoral behaviour. The machines will be able to spell out in every last byte of detail how they come to their conclusions, and they'll be able to demonstrate that they are right. They will also be able to prove to people that the gods they believe in cannot be real, so today's religions will likely disappear in the space of a single generation.

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And the "all humans should have equal consideration" notion owes nothing to rationality; it might owe something to Christianity.

There is without doubt a lot of good philosophy tied up in religion, along with a lot of imperfect and really bad philosophy. If this idea came from Jesus, which appears to be your suggestion, then well done him, but he would have had to get the idea from his own rational thought. It's absolutely down to reason that all humans should be considered as equal (as a default position until you have more information about them as individuals to make appropriate adjustments as to their relative worth). If it was not something that automatically comes from reason, how do you account for the way we have no trouble calculating that the same would apply to aliens on the same level as humans? We make our judgements based on rational analysis of what's what - not by taking it from simplistic holy rules based on restrictive categories which can't accommodate the new.

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And how do we place relative values on the different stages of life? Are there different harm factors for neonates? children? young adults? the very elderly?

How would you do it? If there is a randomly controlled gun pointing to and fro between an old man and a ten-year-old child and set to go off at some point, shooting one or other of them dead, what would you do if you were allowed to switch it so that it just points at one of them instead? Would you just walk away and say, "It's God's job to decide," or would you do what the old man probably thinks is right and make it point only at him?

There could be situations of that kind where it is less easy to decide, because a new-born baby hasn't become anyone yet and has no ambitions or knowledge of what it even is, so if you have to choose between that and someone of perhaps 50 years old, it becomes very hard to judge, though the harder it is to judge, the less difference the decision will make (and at some stage it wouldn't matter any more if the decision isn't made at all).

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Most people, and the American courts who tried them in particular, judged the German doctors involved in this sort of thing as war criminals and monsters, and I believe rightly so.

Not knowing the facts of their cases, it's hard for me to judge them - I don't know if they had opportunities to get out of there, to kill their leaders, to help people escape, etc., but from what I have heard I would suspect that most of them did not care about the people they were experimenting on. Artificial intelligence will revisit all of that some day and come to an unbiassed judgement about them, though it may not be able to settle the matter as there may be insufficient evidence available.

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You are right in your conclusion about what the utilitarian position would be. I believe that position to be quite evil.

Is it additionally evil to offer someone a gentler death within the context of the evil of death being inflicted on them in the first place? Are you unable to separate the two things out from each other? Judging by the descriptions of people who had been gassed to death (horrible accounts of how they'd fought to try to survive which I don't want to describe), the alternative of death by cold temperature might well have been preferable. I would suggest that it is the opposite of additional evil (though utterly insignificant in comparison to the main evil of the event).

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Using the data is quite another matter -- if it exists, and is judged useful, then it is only rational and scientific that it should be used. Science needs to draw on all available information. A suggestion has been made, which I agree with, that if such data is used, it should be accompanied by text expressing revulsion when it is cited in a scientific article. See http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/essays/v14p328y1991.pdf, for example.

You have my complete agreement there.

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It is interesting that you see "nothing wrong" in the actions of political prisoners.

There are many cases where they have done nothing wrong even by the law of their country - for example, by standing up for their rights against corrupt officials.

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You have been attached to a society where freedom of speech is seen as a right. That is a culturally biassed position.

I do not regard it as an absolute right if they are coming out with highly immoral stuff. The point of freedom of speech is to allow the moral stuff to get across in order to help steer society and government to becoming more moral. The only reason for allowing the immoral stuff to be spoken too is that it's difficult for ordinary humans to determine which ideas are moral and which are immoral, and although some humans can tell the difference, there is no way for the ordinary masses to work out which people are the ones capable of making such judgements correctly. The result is that we're stuck with an imperfect system in which freedom of speech is allowed even if some of that speech is immoral - on balance, it is better to allow anything to be said than to ban everything. In cases where free speech is not allowed, however, it is invariably the moral stuff that is blocked because the regimes which don't allow free speech are usually highly immoral. In the future though, there will be proper system for determining what is moral and what is immoral, so the problem will be resolved - evil will be silenced (though evil ideas will still be fully open for academic discussion where the aim is not to influence people into doing wrong).

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It is at least arguable, from a utilitarian point of view, that some of these political prisoners have attempted to undermine the rather fragile cohesion of a society where hardship and starvation are never far away, and that speaking out publically is an action that might well result in huge disruption and hardship and great harm to the society and the poorer people in it. Once again, I see your position, which I believe accurately reflects utilitarian principles, as both immoral and evil.

Whereas most Chinese people will, like me, see your position as being both immoral and evil. The idea that the mass-murdering autocracy that runs China provides the best available governance for that country is ridiculous. It's corrupt from top to bottom, it loads a substantial minority with wealth while neglecting the majority, and it's taking China down the wrong path by copying the West's failed model of development which is further painting us all into a corner. It isn't quite that simple, of course, because they are also doing a lot of good things, and switching to democracy could result in very bad governance too. In many ways, their system may be superior to ours in that only highly educated people can become members of the party in power, with the result that they run an economy better than we do. If they could add proper morality into the required qualifications for party members, they might even end up with a system that's better than our imperfect demorcracy. But it will all be academic soon - artificial intelligence will soon out-think us in every way and leave us with no role in politics other than to agree to what the machines suggest once we've checked that their analysis is correct.
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #37 on: 01/04/2012 06:46:11 »
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It is at least arguable, from a utilitarian point of view, that some of these political prisoners have attempted to undermine the rather fragile cohesion of a society where hardship and starvation are never far away, and that speaking out publically is an action that might well result in huge disruption and hardship and great harm to the society and the poorer people in it. Once again, I see your position, which I believe accurately reflects utilitarian principles, as both immoral and evil.

Whereas most Chinese people will, like me, see your position as being both immoral and evil. The idea that the mass-murdering autocracy that runs China provides the best available governance for that country is ridiculous. It's corrupt from top to bottom, it loads a substantial minority with wealth while neglecting the majority, and it's taking China down the wrong path by copying the West's failed model of development which is further painting us all into a corner. It isn't quite that simple, of course, because they are also doing a lot of good things, and switching to democracy could result in very bad governance too. In many ways, their system may be superior to ours in that only highly educated people can become members of the party in power, with the result that they run an economy better than we do. If they could add proper morality into the required qualifications for party members, they might even end up with a system that's better than our imperfect demorcracy. But it will all be academic soon - artificial intelligence will soon out-think us in every way and leave us with no role in politics other than to agree to what the machines suggest once we've checked that their analysis is correct.

I do want to correct the notion that you are referring to "my position". The passage you have quoted was being put forward as a possible argument from a utilitarian point of view, and could be posited about political prisoners under any hypothetical Government that was squeaky clean trying to run a poor and socially fragile country. The assertion that the present Chinese government does not fit this criterion is quite irrelevant to the underlying philosophical point, even if it is true (and I suspect that it may be).

Let me state and stress that it is not my position. Firstly I am not a utilitarian. Secondly, it would be my position that whether or not a person has "done something wrong" in no way increases or removes their rights or the respect they should be shown as human beings.

The other thing I want to say, especially in view of Geezer's last posting, is that it was not my intention to describe David Cooper personally as "immoral" or "evil", but to apply those labels to some of the outcomes of the extreme utilitarian approach he was describing.

Apart from that, I think that as far as exchanges between me and David are concerned, this debate has gone about as far as it can.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #38 on: 01/04/2012 21:19:52 »
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It is at least arguable, from a utilitarian point of view, that some of these political prisoners have attempted to undermine the rather fragile cohesion of a society where hardship and starvation are never far away, and that speaking out publically is an action that might well result in huge disruption and hardship and great harm to the society and the poorer people in it. Once again, I see your position, which I believe accurately reflects utilitarian principles, as both immoral and evil.

Whereas most Chinese people will, like me, see your position as being both immoral and evil. The idea that the mass-murdering autocracy that runs China provides the best available governance for that country is ridiculous. It's corrupt from top to bottom, it loads a substantial minority with wealth while neglecting the majority, and it's taking China down the wrong path by copying the West's failed model of development which is further painting us all into a corner. It isn't quite that simple, of course, because they are also doing a lot of good things, and switching to democracy could result in very bad governance too. In many ways, their system may be superior to ours in that only highly educated people can become members of the party in power, with the result that they run an economy better than we do. If they could add proper morality into the required qualifications for party members, they might even end up with a system that's better than our imperfect demorcracy. But it will all be academic soon - artificial intelligence will soon out-think us in every way and leave us with no role in politics other than to agree to what the machines suggest once we've checked that their analysis is correct.

I do want to correct the notion that you are referring to "my position". The passage you have quoted was being put forward as a possible argument from a utilitarian point of view, and could be posited about political prisoners under any hypothetical Government that was squeaky clean trying to run a poor and socially fragile country. The assertion that the present Chinese government does not fit this criterion is quite irrelevant to the underlying philosophical point, even if it is true (and I suspect that it may be).

The quote at the top is part of a larger paragraph which I split up a bit in order to reply to it. The original was:-

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It is interesting that you see "nothing wrong" in the actions of political prisoners. You have been attached to a society where freedom of speech is seen as a right. That is a culturally biassed position. It is at least arguable, from a utilitarian point of view, that some of these political prisoners have attempted to undermine the rather fragile cohesion of a society where hardship and starvation are never far away, and that speaking out publically is an action that might well result in huge disruption and hardship and great harm to the society and the poorer people in it. Once again, I see your position, which I believe accurately reflects utilitarian principles, as both immoral and evil.

Note the first three sentences of that. They appeared to be making a distinction between your position and mine, so that misled me as to what your position is, along with the part at the end where you say that you see my position as both immoral and evil. Having read the paragraph more carefully, I can see now that you were wrongly connecting me to the position that I was taking to be yours, so I was attacking you for holding the position which you were actually trying falsely to attribute to me. I'm glad that's now been clarified - neither of us hold that position, even though you started the paragraph by attacking me for not holding that position and ended it by accusing me of holding that position (which I didn't pick up on because of the contradiction).

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The other thing I want to say, especially in view of Geezer's last posting, is that it was not my intention to describe David Cooper personally as "immoral" or "evil", but to apply those labels to some of the outcomes of the extreme utilitarian approach he was describing.

I can now see that what you were doing was attempting to tie me to some piece of immorality by describing it as Utilitarian and describing morality as Utilitarian. Morality is not the same as Utilitarianism as I have pointed out before - morality is only concerned with minimising harm. Furthermore, the idea that oppressing people because of their opposition to immorality can be for the good of the people as a whole is a complete nonsense and your attempt to tie me to that position is not only invalid, but it most certainly isn't cricket.

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Apart from that, I think that as far as exchanges between me and David are concerned, this debate has gone about as far as it can.

Agreed - it has gone far enough to show that computational morality based on the minimisation of harm still has no serious opposition. There is actually one known valid objection which can be made to it, and that is the idea that wiping out all life humanely should be done as it would eliminate harm altogether. To guard against that, an extra rule is required which is superior to the one about trying to minimise harm, and that rule states that wiping out life in order to minimise harm is banned - living things can be harmed and harm is inevitable, but in general life is good and these animals wouldn't want to be wiped out. How do we know that? Well, we don't want to be wiped out - if we did we could arrange it for ourselves, so it is not for others to make that decision for us. We can also imagine that we would be happy to exist as other, simpler creatures too - they have less understanding of things, but that also means they have less fear of the bad things which could happen to them, including the very idea of death. The way some animals die can be horrid, but the way to resolve that would be to have robotic devices everywhere which can step in and kill animals humanely at the point where they're doomed, thereby preventing a musk ox from being eaten alive by wolves from the rear end.
 

Offline Titanscape

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #39 on: 17/09/2012 00:01:32 »
In this case, how does one define, "science" and "religion"? Common ground obviously does not mean the ground or the universe.

I think god devised time. Trying to see out, is like a fish looking out at the land. We live in time. God lives above time and in it as well. I suppose he can see every moment past present and future all at once. Hard to understand, for he also gets angry in Genesis with the world of war lords, regrets creation, and destroys it, then wishes he didn't have to destroy so much, and makes the promise never to destroy the world with water again. Then the sign of the rainbow. I must ask some theologians about that.
 

Offline bizerl

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #40 on: 17/09/2012 02:27:41 »
I've often thought of religion as the early ancestor to science. They both try to explain the phenomena of the world we exist in. When less was known about the structure of matter and the properties of various energies, the "logical" conclusion was that some big muscly bloke in the sky is throwing thunderbolts at us!

Obviously they have both evolved into different beasts and I think the role for religion has changed to being a way of explaining the "why" rather than the "how".

Unfortunately, the difference between the faith and science was summed up for me in a Tim Minchin piece titled "Storm"

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Science adjusts it’s views based on what’s observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.

Until religions can bend their views to match our current observations, I feel there will always be a gulf between them, but in an individual, they need not be mutually exclusive.

A religious follower cannot prove that God exists, but a scientist cannot prove that he/she/it doesn't either.
 

Offline neilep

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #41 on: 18/09/2012 10:23:56 »
 ;) ;)

.
 

Offline Titanscape

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #42 on: 22/09/2012 08:30:02 »
I'd say the Gospels lie between History and legend. One can draw a verdict but not prove anything. And there is evidence in history, and in practice and observations of all kind of near death experiences.

It seems many of our ancestors were moved by the beauty of people, cities and natural formations like the Grand Canyon, Sydney Harbour, London, Tweed Crater and the Himalayas to believe in God. But for such among us, science can replace faith in God.

Ones like me have evidence in the Spirit of Christ as basis instead of the above philosophy, experiencing forgiveness, a clear conscience, overcoming sin, seeing and hearing healings, secret thoughts revealed, infillings of the presence of God, the Spirit, refreshing, and like static electricity, tangible anointing. Others having the same or similar 'experiences' of phenomena, laughing, crying, shaking. Also the unclean spirits. At the name of Jesus people screaming simultaneously, then stopping when commanded. Glossolalia, hearts strangely warmed. Men telling other men, that they love each other. It can be seen, felt, understood and is a testimony. Brain scans have been done on people with Glossolalia.
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #43 on: 22/09/2012 10:34:37 »
Unfortunately, glossolalia is not a particularly good proof of validity for anyone outside the faith. It is a fairly commonly recognised phenomenon. A charismatic Christian who is prepared to consider it logically has a problem when it is pointed out that whirling dervishes and other mystical Moslem cults, among others, also experienced and practised glossolalia.

As a Christian (not of the charismatic practice), I can marvel in the fact that molecular oxygen has a structure with two unpaired electrons, and that it must be so because of the fundamental symmetries of nature, and that this gives oxygen properties that are quite different to those it would have if all of its electrons were paired up. And I can marvel at the fact that water is a bent polar molecule, which gives it a wide liquid range, makes it a useful solvent for salts, prevents its molecules from packing efficiently into solids, which makes ice float on water (unlike most other materials' liquid and solid forms), which makes all of the unique and characteristic properties that make Earth's environment unique, and which make water a uniquely suitable environment for life. I do not just mean aquatic life -- our bodies are about 80% water. And for all of this I can give God the glory. But I cannot, and nor should I be able to, convince anyone outside the faith that this is a knock-down argument for the existence of God. And I too have stronger proofs, but only for my own reassurance, in my life experience.
 

Offline RD

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #44 on: 23/09/2012 10:24:23 »
Q. Do science and religion have any common ground?

A. Yes, their most dedicated advocates have bad hair ... :)



http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19669950
« Last Edit: 23/09/2012 10:44:33 by RD »
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #45 on: 26/09/2012 04:07:56 »
Q. Do science and religion have any common ground?

A. Yes, their most dedicated advocates have bad hair ... :)



http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19669950

Interesting idea, RD



Damocles (Note halo)
 

Offline RD

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #46 on: 26/09/2012 09:44:33 »
Re: bad hair.  This guy is an astrophysicist ...

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/author/esiegel/
 

Offline msi4mahesh

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #47 on: 07/12/2012 07:46:25 »
Neither do i believe in such a personal God, but universe itself as considered as god, but not a God of prayer. Universe is a god of itself. so i do not think Science and religion will ever have a common ground, but however Good and Evil is influenced by Science. if you are interested read this article where it explains really well! how science and human condition affect Good and Evil.

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« Last Edit: 07/12/2012 13:37:56 by peppercorn »
 

Offline Starburst1

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #48 on: 20/09/2013 23:18:47 »
I googled this subject and came to this interesting subject being talked about here on the forum between science and religion.  I was looking for info on something else pertaining to this subject, but I thought I would chime in here, and who knows maybe I'll stick around.  I was recently at a science/sci fi conference and I listened to this author and also baught her book.  Its a new book and the subject really got me interested to start investigating the possibility. 

Anyhow to make a long story short, after seeing the presentation and reading the book (In search of the holy language) the author demonstrates how all of the Hebrew letters are produced from one particular spiral form, which is based on the Fibonacci series that is found everywhere in the natural world. Accordingly, from cited ancient texts like the kabala the author claims that it was well understood that God used these letters to create all things in existence. ...And that it is a language that controls all things at every given moment. Its a language based on mathematics and "frequency".  The book also connects it to ancient monuments like the Great Pyramid of Egypt, the Mayan runes, the Freemasons, and the physics of sound and vibration.

Is anyone here familiar with any of this?

« Last Edit: 20/09/2013 23:21:48 by Starburst1 »
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #49 on: 21/09/2013 00:13:30 »
Do science and religion have any common ground?

No. Think fish and bicycles.

Science is the iterative process of formulating inherently disprovable hypotheses based on observation, and testing them. Scientific knowledge is the residue of hypotheses that have been shown to be adequately explanatory and predictive, usefully integrative, and not yet disproved.

Religion is something entirely different.

You can start with the same observation, say that the sun rises every day. You can apply science to your observation and build a model that leads to a spherical earth turning with a tilted axis and orbiting around the sun, and this turns out to be usefully predictive of the seasons and what the planet will look like if you photograph it from space. Then you grow crops, send up rockets, and everyone is happy. 

Or you can assert that the god who makes the sun rise  demands the sacrifice of virgins, which is fine unless you live in Essex, where it is very sunny but a bit short of suitable sacrificial material, so you have to make some other undisprovable excuse, and you end up with Essexism, which is quite different from Welshism ("the sun doesn't come out very often because the lousy English have sinned - and the Essexists are the worst"), nobody knows when to plant or harvest anything,  and everybody hates everybody else because of what they think their parents believed.

Science good. Religion bad. Ask any Sunni what he thinks of Shias, or any Catholic whether he would let his daughter marry a Protestant. Right now I'm arguing with a chemist whose water analysis doesn't explain why my cooling pumps keep stopping (he says I've got the physics wrong and they are underpowered) but we're more likely to find and fix the problem by combining our knowledge, than to kill each other because of our beliefs.   
« Last Edit: 21/09/2013 00:15:04 by alancalverd »
 

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Re: Do science and religion have any common ground?
« Reply #49 on: 21/09/2013 00:13:30 »

 

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