Home of the Muppet Imperial Moderator Corps

Science is faith

I think it *is* true that all science is faith. Science is essentially a collection of models that have not been disproved thus far; it is an iterative game. Science tries to deliver models/theories that allow us to predict what we see in the world - past, present and future - and thus every model, on some level, is accepted on faith. This is our accepted truth, until we find something wrong with it.

Where religion differs from science is that religion does not necessarily need any sort of validation - a web of ideas with a dose of personal conviction is all that is required. Religions can undergo ethical evolution over time, but elements that do not intrude into present reality - such as heaven and hell - tend to go the distance.

In science, ideas can be offered and long-established concepts can be challenged and change is possible. Change in science is not always easy, of course, and it often exhibits the same inertia that is oft demonstrated by religions. Einstein found it difficult to swallow the non-deterministic model being put forward to describe quantum phenomena. Light has had its time being described as particles, as waves, as particles and now as something else altogether.

I feel that muppet's argument is that at the limits of the human experience, there is very little that can be done to disprove even the most extravagant theories. This is the heaven and hell of science; areas that do not intrude upon the present reality. The collection of evidence to support or destroy such theories is nigh-on impossible.

At this point, once again it is down to faith as to whether you feel the scientific community polices itself well enough so that it can distinguish clearly between areas that are can be scrutinized and those that are impossible to challenge, so that fables are not entertained as science.

(My own faith in the process is actually bolstered by debacles such as the case of Jan Hendrick Schon - attempts to cheat the process do not last.)

My 2 pennies. Spend them wisely.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
I was always taught that science was the language used to describe what happens in the world.

I was also taught that religion (folk tales, superstition) was developed by "primitive man" to describe the world around him.

<Philo>
We're genetically wired to attempt to explain the world around us, and set up dogmatic positions about our explanations. Whether we call them science - with a complex set of rule about what is acceptable and what is not, or religion - with an equally complex set of rules about what is acceptable and what is not probably matters little in terms of the motivation for setting up each.
</Philo>
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
Right. Religion is for primitives and it's childish and uneducated to believe that there could be any sort of higher power.

This attitude is the source of a lot of unnecessary, unproductive hate. Belief in a higher power is not stupid or evil.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
"I think it *is* true that all science is faith."

I call B.S. I hardly know where to begin. Science is based on methodical application of tools to reveal how the world works.

Faith is based on methodical application of reading the Bible to reveal what some men somewhere wrote down, under the inspiration of God hopefully, to guide people in their lives. To reveal to them who God is, and what their role is in this world in furthering God's will. And this is not limited to the Bible -- you can learn faith from the world around you, and other people as well.

If you equate Science and Faith, you both destroy the credibility of Science, as well as pollute the purpose of the Bible and faith. You return yourself, and anyone who believes you, to a time of superstition and charlatans.

Science can serve faith, by revealing to us God's world. Faith can serve Science, by adding a deeper meaning to the mechanical processes going on around us.

But if you equate them, you open the door to believing ANYTHING. Such relativism, dogmatism, and even self-righteousness is NOT what God intended.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
I call B.S. too. Evidence removes the need for faith.
Permalink Colm O'Connor 
August 9th, 2005
Whilst science has been taking some ground from religion as "explanations of the world" (although I think it is dangerous to cast science as a language of explanation) there will always be a separate space that religion can occupy.

Science can never answer the human questions that religion serves. Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Why do things exist?

Science are our models to describe the cause and effect of the world. With these models, the environment around us has been shaped into cities, the internet and the bacon double cheeseburger (not everything has been successful).

Religions are models of life, for people; they carry meanings and symbols for mysteries that science cannot get into. Belief systems are personal. We want answers to all of the questions, not just the ones science appears to tackle.

Because of the conflicts between the two, it seems natural to call science a type of personal belief system, but they have different roles. Religions evolved not because we wanted to explain why a volcano erupted, religions evolved because we grasped for meaning. There will always be space for some form of spirituality in our lives.

Or you can be a nihilist I suppose.

(As an aside, there is a deeper issue that someone who has little scientific interest must have *faith* in science)
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
"Where religion differs from science is that religion does not necessarily need any sort of validation"

I'm pretty certain that's what "faith" is. You are making a semantic argument and quite incorrectly. We don't have faith in scientific models because as soon as we punch enough holes in them and create a model more consistent with observable reality, we abandon the old models and accept the new models.

In a faith based belief the evidence against it is ignored. When the evidence against it is not ignored, the faithful tend to change only as much of their belief as necessary to avoid the evidence. For thousands of years Judeo-Christians believed the earth was created about 6000 BC. Presented with dinosaurs and carbon dating do they change the model and say maybe this Bible thing is a lot of hooey? No, they say that they don't believe the start date of the earth should be taken literally but they still believe in the rest of it. Some even claim that no one ever believed that date and that it was never meant to be taken literally.

Contrast this with scientific models. Newton treated mass as a constant. When it was demonstrated that mass varies with velocity scientists didn't say that Newtonian models were never meant to be taken literally. They switched to the new models and accepted that Newtonian models were usefull approximation in well-defined situations.
Permalink name withheld out of cowardice 
August 9th, 2005
Name -

Your argument RE: Creationism vs Evolution is absolutely ridiculous. The question of a literal Genesis story vs Genesis as a parable/allegory does not hold sway over the legitimacy of Christianity. "Proving" that X in the Bible did not literally happen does not disprove God.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
>Science can never answer the human questions that religion
>serves.

I disagree.

>Why am I here?

Numerous reasons - evolution partly explains the process about which you came to be.

>What is the purpose of life?

Purpose is a word that is meaningless outside of the context of human society, so that question is effectively meaningless.

>Why do things exist?

IMO, that's precisely the kind of question that the scientific method is very *good* at answering and religion is very bad at.
Permalink Colm O'Connor 
August 9th, 2005
"I think it is dangerous to cast science as a language of explanation" ... "Religions evolved not because we wanted to explain why a volcano erupted"

Really? That's why there's a god who drags the sun across the sky. A god who makes thunder and lightning. A god who eats the moon every month. A god who brings the spring and whose absense causes the winter. Fertility gods. etc. etc.

And if science isn't the language of explanation. And religion isn't there because we want to explain things. Then what explains things? Calvin's dad? ("The sun sets near Arizona. That's why everybody there is so dark.")
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
AllanL5, Colm, my point is that our current scientific understanding is not accepted as truth, but as a transient model. Next week there will be a new experiment which shows the model is wrong. I remember watching Richard Feynman explain that a theory is only valid until the next experiment that proves it wrong. This is how science evolves.

I was not suggesting that science is something we just have "pray" that it all works. Maybe the application of the word "faith" was a bad one.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
"...does not disprove God."

What would?
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 9th, 2005
a babel fish.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
And 'Name', Christians have NOT believed for "thousands of years" that time began at 6000 BC. I believe it was a monk in the 1400 or 1500's that did this work. And it was the religious revivals of the 1900's and 1950's that made it a big deal.

And it was the 'inerrant'ists and creationists that have made it a big deal today. These are people brought up in the 1950's, who've embraced a particular view of the Bible, and are trying to insist the rest of America accept it.

But you need to realize this particular fake dichotomy is not rooted in ancient history, it's rooted in very recent history, and that only in America.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
Mark - keep clear of pedestrian crossings.
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 9th, 2005
What about the Jews who have a calender that goes back around 6,000 years. When did they decide on that calendar?
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
"my point is that our current scientific understanding is not accepted as truth, but as a transient model."

Ah, then I have over-reacted. It's just that the Intelligent Design, and Creationists before them, would LOVE the statement that "Science is faith". This lets them completely co-opt science for faith-based instruction, which would include Creationism.

But I also believe our current scientific understanding IS accepted as "Truth" -- as a true description of how the world works, as far as we understand it.

It is not accepted (nor should it be) as religious Truth, that is dogma written down and unchanging for thousands of years.

The big difference is that Scientific "Truth" can be superseeded by a better understanding of what's really going on. As long as that better understanding ALSO comes out of the scientific method.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
Colm!

">What is the purpose of life? Purpose is a word that is meaningless outside of the context of human society, so that question is effectively meaningless."

This is actually my point though. These are important questions that everyone asks at one time or another, in one form or another. The answers to such soul-searching is not found in science, but they can be found in a religion or some other belief system (may even be home grown).
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
We're getting bogged down in specifics here. The difference between "faith" and "science" is how they react when something goes "wrong".

Religion, when a problem occurs, engages in a lot of handwaving about how either the universe is at fault, your perceptions are wrong, it was only a metaphor, etc., or just outright denies it and/or persecutes those who question the faith.

Science, when a problem occurs, says "oh, we must have got it wrong then; let's take another look and see if we can get it right this time", and actually *welcomes* the finding of bugs in the system as it means there's more science to be done.

They both attempt to explain how and why things are as they are. In terms of being a useful model science wins hands down, and (to me, at least) it also feels more comfortable in that doubt and questioning -- two human traits hard to shake -- are a *good* thing.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
I think, that ultimatly science is defined by its usefulness. The ilnesses we cure, that computers we build and the satelites we put in orbit, stuff that can not be achived by faith. Nor does it require any.
These achivements are real and true. Whether the models that we used to make them happen are real and true is really not important as long as they work for us.
Permalink Dude passing by 
August 9th, 2005
>This is actually my point though. These are important
>questions that everyone asks at one time or another, in one
>form or another. The answers to such soul-searching is not
>found in science, but they can be found in a religion or
>some other belief system (may even be home grown).

Well, you can find *AN* answer, but it makes no more sense than a religion that can answer the question "why do colorless green ideas sleep furiously?".
Permalink Colm O'Connor 
August 9th, 2005
Mat -

That's not so different from science. Science uses the universe around us as its "Bible" and Christianity uses, well, the Bible along with the universe around us. When a scientific theory is proven wrong, there's a scramble to come up with a new theory which still manages to explain a natural phenomenon or point of existence. Religion does the same thing. When a theological point is shown to be in contradiction, a scramble ensues to reinterpret the Word of God in conjunction with the universe around us so that our understanding encompasses the "new" information.

Not so different.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
I concur with muppet that religion has evolved in its own way - its not as dogmatic as it might seem - and reinterpretation happens. Still, I'm going to stay an atheist for now...

Colm, why DO colourless green ideas sleep furiously though?
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
I think science is more doubt and disobedience than faith and obedience.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 9th, 2005
When was the last time entire swathes of the bible (or tenets of Christianity) were thrown out and rewritten, or added any new bits? Apart from the Vatican's somewhat delayed acceptance that the sun doesn't revolve around the Earth it's all pretty much stayed static for centuries. The central core is more or less unchanged and still boils down to "God did it, so stop asking questions".

Science, on the other hand, has pretty much replaced its entire contents over the past couple of hundred years... Newton? Rubbish! The "planetary" model of the atom? Rubbish! Plate tectonics? New! Genetics? New! Quantum theory? New!
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
+++Whether the models that we used to make them happen are real and true is really not important as long as they work for us.+++

BZZT. We take the models that we have on faith. The models are frequently shown to be inaccurate, and then they are adjusted. We don't throw out our entire understanding of science when one model proves to need tinkering, just like Christians don't throw out the whole Bible when an apparent contradiction is raised. The models we have of the universe seem pretty accurate most of the time and we use them to get stuff done, but there's no way to know that what we have isn't just a big house of cards that happens to coincide reasonably well with reality.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Feynman gives his thoughts on what he thinks science is.

http://www.fotuva.org/online/science.htm
Permalink Senthilnathan N.S. 
August 9th, 2005
I dont think you really read what I wrote muppet. Either that or you are a retard. I am leaning towards the latter.
Permalink Dude passing by 
August 9th, 2005
+++When was the last time entire swathes of the bible (or tenets of Christianity) were thrown out and rewritten, or added any new bits? Apart from the Vatican's somewhat delayed acceptance that the sun doesn't revolve around the Earth it's all pretty much stayed static for centuries. The central core is more or less unchanged and still boils down to "God did it, so stop asking questions".+++

Mat, you're making the wrong comparison -

Accepting the Bible as divinely inspired and therefore sacrosanct does not make religion stagnant or static. The Bible is up to WILD interpretation. There are several differing (and contradictory) translations of the original texts, etc. Theologans tend to take the Bible as their starting point and then attempt to make their interpretation remain in lock-step with reality. Arguably we might one day reach the most perfect understanding of God's intent that human beings are capable of.

When was the last time Science threw out whole portions of the Universe that didn't conform to their theories, and rebuild it so that it would?
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
<<You are making a semantic argument and quite incorrectly.>>

i think this says it best.
Permalink Kenny 
August 9th, 2005
I saw a show last night on a religious channel challenging evolution. Their largest supporting evidence was lack of a missing link. To prove that apes aren't the same as man they took an ourangatan to a restaurant to eat. They also called airlines to try to get it on board an airplane by claiming it was a relative (of man). Lastly and to sum up they said the best way to teach people about religion was to tell them about what would happen to them if they didn't follow religion (hell). And that trying to argue facts as reported by the bible would not move anyone to change to christianity, since they can argue over nitpicky details all day.

Moral of the story: Embrace group think and just do it because if not you are screwed.
Permalink RAH's Love Child 
August 9th, 2005
"When was the last time Science threw out whole portions of the Universe that didn't conform to their theories, and rebuild it so that it would?"

So you're equating "the universe" with "the bible". I see the bible as more of a text book, but if you think it's somehow the same thing as reality then I withdraw from the discussion on the grounds that you're a loony.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
Right because that one show is representative of every religious person, everywhere.

If I can find one single crackpot scientist on TV or elsewhere, can I use him as proof that the entire body of contemporary scientific study across all fields is bunk?
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
>Colm, why DO colourless green ideas sleep furiously though?

Ask religion. Wasn't it you saying that it could provide answers where science couldn't?
Permalink Colm O'Connor 
August 9th, 2005
+++So you're equating "the universe" with "the bible". I see the bible as more of a text book, but if you think it's somehow the same thing as reality then I withdraw from the discussion on the grounds that you're a loony.+++

I'm saying that Religion assumes that the Bible is divinely inspired and works from there. If something doesn't add up, it's likely our understanding or interpretation that is at fault, and therefore that interpretation is adjusted to accomodate the "new" data.

This is PRECISELY what Science does with regards to the universe. Scientists cannot throw away a portion of the universe that doesn't agree with them, so they alter their understanding.

There is no substantive difference here. Your assertion that it's looney to believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God is subjective. It betrays your foundational belief that religion is crazy, and therefore you're unable to think or to argue outside of that context. That makes this discussion pointless.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
I can believe that a particular scientific explanation is reasonably close to being accurate, that does not mean that I have faith in it. I can know the facts about such a theory and that is knowledge just as I can know the facts of religious history, in neither case does that knowledge imply faith.

The scientific method cannot include articles of faith, there may be fundamental tenets which are held to be true which if shown to be false would be the subject of violent debate and argument until a consensus based on the evidence came about. This has been true since Copernicus at least.

There is no such thing as Science that can be abstracted in anything like the same way as Religon or Faith to compare them is (to repeat myself), degrade both.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Just for the record, I was actually trying to respond to Aaron's thread on "science is bogus" and counter muppet's attack on "billion-year old" science with the following thesis:

* okay, yes there is an element of faith in science (e.g. our day-to-day experience expects the universe to play fair and not change all the laws overnight)
* but science is NOT a religion, m'kay

Let me call something up from my mathematical background. Here's a dose of belief and faith in science, the Axiom of Choice:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_of_choice
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
Don't say that too loud -- some people round here don't think maths is a science. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
Faith never has to correct itself. Science does. Temporarily accepting a hypothesis isn't the same thing as forever believing something.
Permalink son of parnas 
August 9th, 2005
Scientific method is designed to discover when the Universe doesn't play fair and then work out why, it does not assume that it does.

Yes if something appears to violate the Law of Conservation (for example), it will be doubted as an observation rather than doubting the Law, but if the same observation under the same or similar circumstances keeps on violating the Law of Conservation then you have to look closer and discover what is actually going on. This might include a revision of the Law but so far that hasn't been necessary.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Muppet:

I haven't read the intervening posts to see if someone else makes this point so forgive me if I repeat. My argument doesn't disprove the existence of god. Disproving the existence of anything is extremely difficult. Heck I'm not certain Thylacines are extinct.

My point is that your belief system is illogical. Anything in the bible that can be shown to be untrue, people say "well it isn't meant to be taken literally. It's an allegory". Okay, I buy that. Doesn't it occur to you though that if the things that can be proven untrue in the bible, are proven untrue, that maybe the unprovable things might also be untrue?

Why isn't god and his creation of the universe an allegory then?
Permalink name withheld out of cowardice 
August 9th, 2005
+++ Faith never has to correct itself. Science does. +++

This is a false assertion on its face.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Name -

Your argument requires the assumption that every misinterpretation of the Bible is ascribable to the fact that it was merely allegory to begin with. I'm not sure I buy that. It is possible to misunderstand an accounting of an event while the accounting remains literal.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
If you take things to the extreme then, you have a theory that proves itself in a circular manner. I give you the science circle...

There are physicists that dare not venture into the world because they believe that reality is actually the observed phenomena. There are an infinite number of parellel universes in which all possibilities exist. So then, if I can come up with a theory that does not violate anything, particularly if I can get the majority behind me on it, then it will stand until another comes up with something that proves mine wrong. Perception is reality is perception.

We know that indeed theories do stand on the credibility of their author and their plausability based on observed phenomena. It is no stretch to say that potential observed phenomena are infinite. So then, is it reasonable to say that the infinite number of parellel universes theory must be true? Or is that just what the parellel universe theory guy figured was thoughtful enough to stand for a very very long time?
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
AllanL5-

That's exactly my point. A quick look at the Jewish calendar will demostrate that the starting point of the universe was beleived to be implicitly known since the dawn of Judiasm. The idea that this belief was never really taken seriously and only is now by a bunch of idiots in America is re-writing history. Even if they didn't have exact dates until the 1400 hundreds (I'm not sure about that. I must research) it is pretty clear that until recently people took the timelines of the bible pretty literally and, oddly enough, those timelines didn't include dinosaurs.

People like you want to believe in god and the bible but also in dinosaurs. How to keep your head from exploding? Well it was never meant to be taken literally and no one ever thought it was and since you don't have a time machine to go and ask the man in the street in ancient Rome well, you can't prove I'm wrong and therefore, I am right!
Permalink name withheld out of cowardice 
August 9th, 2005
While science doesn't throw out potions of the Universe (by definition an impossibility), it certainly has thrown out portions of our understanding of the universe and replaced it with something completely different. The example of plate tectonics comes to mind which was a completely new way of understand the Earth and replaced, not reinterpreted, our previous understanding.

Personally though, while I can accept and understand the need to have faith in a higher being I never understand people's need for religon as it seems so illogical. If the supreme being wanted us to worship him in a certain way and have specific beliefs around him, he sure did a poor job of communicating the "right" way clearly. Consider all the different religons in existence with contradictory tenants and beliefs, which one is the right one?
Permalink Gerald 
August 9th, 2005
There are infinite ways to interpret the bible.

We're already looking at them as fast as we can (the so-called bible-code).

See, it's really just all about being infinite.
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
Actually I prefer the notion that "Science is Cartography" in that it is an attempt to construct a mental map of the universe.

Which both agrees with muppets assertion that science takes the observable universe as gospel and renders it irrelevent.

"Your attempt to make a map sets great store on what you're mapping" True - but it doesn't really advance the plot.

I think we have to accept that, in the final analysis, science & religion are alien to each other and always speak at cross purposes.
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 9th, 2005
Which leads me to say... my number is bigger than your number :P

Like two kids arguing, "Well, I'm infinity times infinity better!"; "So what, I'm infinity squared!"
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
"It is possible to misunderstand an accounting of an event while the accounting remains literal."

But it seems that while you accept that some parts of the Bible -- the creation of the universe, Noah's flood, etc. -- are allegorical in nature you're unwilling to admit even the possibility that the existence of god is in any question, and that's one of the big differences between science and religion. There's no bit of physics, for example, that is so precious that it can never be called in to question. Lots of it has stood the test of time, but physicists are still open to the possibility that any part of it could turn out to be wrong...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
+++While science doesn't throw out potions of the Universe (by definition an impossibility), it certainly has thrown out portions of our understanding of the universe and replaced it with something completely different. The example of plate tectonics comes to mind which was a completely new way of understand the Earth and replaced, not reinterpreted, our previous understanding.+++

And theologans also adjust their understanding of the Bible. Did you ignore the rest of this thread, or what?

Also, the argument "There is no God because he didn't leave specific instructions." is and has always been ridiculous. If this life really is the "training ground" or whatever you want to call it, for the afterlife, why should there be a comprehensive list of directions? This ties in with the "Life isn't fair" thread. You refuse to believe in God because He doesn't play by the rules you think he should. This is, of course, ridiculous.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
This idea of discussing Religon in terms of the scientific method or discussing the method in terms of religious faith is ludicrous. The two are entirely and irredeemably separate.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Not so. They are holy intertwined.
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
The idea that they could be makes me almost physically ill.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
We've abandoned the "try to convince the other side that they're wrong about their choice of method to explain the universe", and the argument is now about whether science is or is not "the same as" religion; the religious seem to be equating them, and the scientific camp are pretty sure that they're totally different.

I ahev a theory as to why that might be; I posit that it's "hmm, science seem to be working out quite well after all; perhaps we can ride along on its coat-tails to gain some credibility" from the religious vs "man, that religion stuff is insane, so we'd better make it clear that it's in no way equivalent to science" from the scientists.

Sure, it's still a pointless and futile argument, but at least it's a variation on the theme. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
I was just going for the pun. :P

Reading this thread makes me think that perhaps the best faith is hardcore realism. Observe. Learn. Live.
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
Simon, I hope you didn't watch What The &"^$* Do We Know recently? It might have caused you to vomit right there in the cinema =)
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
"...hardcore realism. Observe. Learn. Live."

Sounds a lot like *science* to me. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
+++But it seems that while you accept that some parts of the Bible -- the creation of the universe, Noah's flood, etc. -- are allegorical in nature you're unwilling to admit even the possibility that the existence of god is in any question+++

Well, no, not at all, but what reasonable challenge has been made against the existence of God? What contradictions are there? Sure, God might be a fictional literary character for the sake of parable, but in the complete absence of evidence against His existence, I choose to believe. I'm not arguing that Science and Religion are identical, just that they're not so different. Religion is not less enlightened or more childish than Science.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
"Quantum physics tells me how I should live my life."

Yeah, interesting movie.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
When I was using the word faith, I did not intend for it to mean "forever and ever". I meant it in the sense of a belief. Once we've finished round 3 of the experiments, we trust/believe/have faith in our set of laws to build a reality with until the next round of experiments causes adjustments.

I guess most people here see the term faith as almost synonymous with religion rather than a sense of "trust". I hereby withdraw the term and ask for the moderators to rename the thread "Science is"
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
+++I ahev a theory as to why that might be; I posit that it's "hmm, science seem to be working out quite well after all; perhaps we can ride along on its coat-tails to gain some credibility" from the religious vs "man, that religion stuff is insane, so we'd better make it clear that it's in no way equivalent to science" from the scientists.+++

You're hilarious, Mat. So what you're saying is that every religious person since time has actually been the very same person, and that there are no such thing as differing opinions or differing stances on science in the religious community. It's only now that Science has done such a swell job of disproving the existence of God that now suddenly religious people in droves are deciding that maybe there's something to this Chemistry stuff after all.

Give me a break.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
+++When I was using the word faith, I did not intend for it to mean "forever and ever". I meant it in the sense of a belief. Once we've finished round 3 of the experiments, we trust/believe/have faith in our set of laws to build a reality with until the next round of experiments causes adjustments.

I guess most people here see the term faith as almost synonymous with religion rather than a sense of "trust". I hereby withdraw the term and ask for the moderators to rename the thread "Science is"+++

Ding Ding Ding. You've nailed it, Joel. Militant atheists and their ilk associate the word "faith" with stigma and distaste. Faith means blind belief and obedience, not trust or confidence.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Mark, re: what the bleep, I was intrigued with the idea that if we can each decide our reality every day we wake up, what happens when two of us disagree on the shape of that reality? They never addressed that question. Personally, I envisioned kung-fu fights Matrix-style as the likely outcome.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
I've been intrigued with that idea ever since I heard of the concept of "prayer." Especially over the concept of holy wars.

They take the heisenberg uncertainty principle to new levels of absurdity.

"If there's a cat in a box, with a mechanism that has a 50% chance of releasing poison that kills the cat and if I look in the box but don't tell you whether it's alive or dead, if you wish hard enough, it will be alive."
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
"So what you're saying is that..."

No, what I'm doing is simplifying the argument by lumping the participants in to two categories. I'm making no claim about *all* religious people, espeically not all of them since the dawn of time, but I am generalising by splitting the two sides as follows:

"Religious; believes science is just as faith-based as religion."

"Scientific; believes that sience is not faith-based."

Those are quick summaries of the two positions that are opposing each other *in this particular discussion, not in the entire history of humanity past, present, and future*. There may be some variation in the exact position people are taking, but my "theory" was aimed at those two people, and it was *just a theory* NOT a statement of fact.

You seem completely incapable of comprehending the written word, make strange assumptions, and insist on confusing "make a general statement" with "classifiying everything ever into a definite and immutable category", and that has a deleterious effect on your ability to follow an argument or to form your own useful counterpoints. Whether this is a deliberate tactic, an unconscious behaviour pattern, or something you just do for a laugh I have no idea, but it's tiresome...

If you want me to form a argument for or against the specific position of every single person who has ever lived then you're a fool. If you re-read the post you object to whilst bearing in mind that I am addressing two fictional groups that to a greater or lesser extent represent the two opposing sides, it may upset you a little less...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
"those two people" should of course read "those two groups of people".
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
Well, tough it can't be renamed.

I don't disregard people's faiths at all, they're all the better for them no doubt, just as I'm all the better for my non-faith.

There is nothing in the Bible (or any other Holy Text) that will convince someone either of the existence or non-existence of God, Faith comes from the individual the type of that Faith is most often chosen by their background occasionally it might come from conversion and often that's more to do with difficult experiences in their native Faith than any cognitive choice.

I don't have a Faith because I see no need for one, I see no requirement for a God to keep the Universe running there is no purpose in a God. Matters outside of this Universe (if there are such), are outside my ken and certainly nothing to do with me a temporary inhabitant of this Universe in this form but in whatever form of elements and particles will surely remain a part of this Universe.

I am not better or more evolved or smarter because I have no Faith (and it is a complete absence of faith and not a faith in non existence).

In the usage of Faith as in religous faith it can't have the other usages of faith intermixed within it, performing something in good faith is an entirely different concept to religious faith.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Err.. Simon.. no it isn't. Faith is faith is faith.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Mark, after all this time I still have trouble with quantum physics means by an "observer". I guess the cat doesn't have any free will to influence events.

(And I wish they could've called it Schrodinger's Rat because I wouldn't have felt so emotive about the experiment. I love cats.)
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
Faith is what?

You aren't Humpty Dumpty, much as you might imagine yourself to be muppet.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Yeah, the whole field of quantum physics is bizarre to me too. You can't know where an object is without affecting it. So you can either know it's location or direction, but not both. Because the only way to learn it's location is to bombard the area with particles and see which ones bounce back, and since it's the same size as the particles, bumping into one causes it to shoot off in a new direction.

I always took that to be a flaw in our measuring system and not a fundamntal property of the Universe.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
>And theologans also adjust their understanding of the >Bible. Did you ignore the rest of this thread, or what?

I was specifically responding to your point about science not throwing out portions of the Universe. While I agree that theology does reinterpret and adapt, it does not question or throw out it's basic core tenants and beliefs. In science everything is up for discussion, revision and elimination, not so with religon.

>Also, the argument "There is no God because he didn't >leave specific instructions." is and has always been >ridiculous. If this life really is the "training ground" >or whatever you want to call it, for the afterlife, why >should there be a comprehensive list of directions? This >ties in with the "Life isn't fair" thread. You refuse to >believe in God because He doesn't play by the rules you >think he should. This is, of course, ridiculous.

Aren't the Bible, Quran and other holy books held to be such a list of instructions on how to live your life to achieve everlasting happiness in the afterlife by their followers?
Permalink Gerald 
August 9th, 2005
"Faith is faith is faith."

Muppet, you really are a moron.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
Quantum mechanics makes more sense to me than the classical 'a thing has a definite position, spin and velocity' but that might be just because I originally thought of the Universe as made up of stuff everywhere and not just clumps of things and that again is probably down to being Catholic and trying to comprehend a God that was everywhere but also separate.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
"I always took that to be a flaw in our measuring system and not a fundamntal property of the Universe."

But without some kind of interaction with a particle there is no way to "know" where it is and/or what it's doing. The interaction with the particle requires an exchange of entropy from "thing being measured" to "thing doing the measuring" (eother directly, or by measuring the effect of the object on some medium), and that exchange means that what the particle is up to now is not the same as what it was up to before the exchange took place.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
"But without some kind of interaction with a particle there is no way to "know" where it is and/or what it's doing."

Yeah. That's the flaw. If science can figure this one out, would the universe somehow change?
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
Mark, why can't they shoot the one heavy particle very fast and bombard it with very light slow moving ones? Alternatively, shoot a heavy particle fast through a 'stationary' cloud of others and use fluid dynamics to judge the velocity?

Yeah, fluid dynamics are chaotic, but it still seems like you could do one of the above to make pretty reasonable guesses.
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
Either current thinking is so wrong as to be almost completely meaningless, or the fundamental nature of our universe would have to change in order to measure something about a particle without an exchange of some sort taking place. In order for a particle to be "detected" it needs to "tell" the detector it's there, and in the universe (as it currently appears to work) that requires some energy to be exchanged...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
I've always like quantum physics, it really is a subject that says: puny human, nothing is as it seems. I was comfortable with the fuzziness of concepts such as position, angular momentum, etc. but the suggestion that an "observer" collapses the wave function is something I've always found difficult to grasp. I'm hoping to get back into some quantum theory later in the year, because I just don't know enough about quarks. For some reason, it's important for me to know about quarks.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
"Yeah, fluid dynamics are chaotic, but it still seems like you could do one of the above to make pretty reasonable guesses."

But for the "heavy" particle to disturb the small ones it would need to pass some energy on to them, thereby changing the very thing you're measuring... (And we can already make "reasonable guesses"; the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle sayit's it's impossible to know *exactly* the position and state of a particle...)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
>Theologans tend to take the Bible as their starting point and then attempt to make their interpretation remain in lock-step with reality.
You've got that backwards. Theologians take the bible as their starting point and either ignore all parts of reality that disagree with their illusion, or demand that reality conform to their illusion. You can see examples of the latter in bush's behavior.

>And theologans also adjust their understanding of the Bible.
No they don't. People go out of their way to avoid such changes. For example. Many evangelicals like to pretend that Sodom was wiped out for sexual excesses. Why else is sodomy the term used in most states for any sexual position other than the missionary position? What were the sins of Sodom?
"Sodom's sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door"
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ezekiel%2016:49&version=51;
Oops. Looks like Sodom was snuffed out for having "welfare reform." Remind yourself of it every time you see someone sleeping on the streets, or under a bridge. Remind yourself of it whenever some criminal recites the "greed is good" mantra.

>For thousands of years Judeo-Christians believed the earth was created about 6000 BC.
The 6k year schtick keeps popping up from time to time. It wasn't a significant belief before the 19th century, when it was promoted very heavily. Such as that bishop who claimed the universe was created in 4004 BC (was that why Intel's first microprocessor was a 4004?).

>... what reasonable challenge has been made against the existence of God?
Simultaneity. Or rather the impossibility of such a thing in this universe. There is no possibility of a "universal observer" in the universe described by relativity. That means no possibility of an omniscient being. If your religion requires such a being, then you aren't living in reality. Maybe you're living in Faithistan, you aren't living in reality.

Go grab
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0385500580/ from the library. It covers the genetic link causing faith.
Permalink Peter 
August 9th, 2005
You can know by inference the relationships between particles if not the exact property of a particular particle and this in most circumstances is sufficient to understand the probability of a particle being there at this velocity with that spin and so on. But the only way to exactly know is to be that particle.

So, I guess, if you want an outr&#233; reason for a God to exist within the Universe it would be so that each and every particle could be known in all states and with all properties at all times in all references.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Jack - we're dealing with tiny particles here. Quantum physics doesn't concern itself with the location of submarines as detected by Sonar.

Mat - what happens if we can measure the energy that was exchanged?
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
Such a God of course would not be an observer.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
"Mat - what happens if we can measure the energy that was exchanged?"

And how would we do that, other than by measuring the energy that the particle (or the thing it interacts with)had before and after the interaction? All "but what if we measure [some secondary effect] instead?" does is move the problem from one of determining the exact state of the particle of interest to one of measuring the exact state of something else...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
Mat -

What happens if we can measure the energy involved in the original measurement directly, instead of inferring it from original and subsequent states?
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Ok... what if you had the particle in an environment such that it *must* be in the absolute center of its environment either through an environment precisely the size of the particle or applying equalized forces from all angles?
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
"What happens if we can measure the energy involved in the original measurement directly"

And how do we do that? By allowing the energy to interact with something, the exact state of which we can't measure with certainty...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
But that's the thing - we can only measure the energy except through the results of the interaction.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
Mat - I was replying to muppet.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
Mat - I get that. Two particles collide, in order to measure either one, we become an observer all over again. I get it.

It's a problem we haven't solved, but just because we can't fathm a solution now doesn't mean one won't present itself in the future. How many countless times has this happened to us in the past? Are we really so arrogant as to believe we've reached the pinnacle of understanding in one particular field? THAT smacks of religious sentimentality to me.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
There's no real nice thing like a size of a particle. The best guess we have is that they're nothing like billiard balls but actually clouds of probability.

I am not making this up.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 9th, 2005
It isn't religious its just the rails the particles run on, we quite happily interact with an environment we don't know the exact position of within the Universe (not even the local bit of the Universe). When you walk through a door you don't have to calculate the position of the door in relation to the entire Universe, just in relation to your body and the motion you are undergoing, you accept the probability that the door isn't going to move out of the way.

Similarly on a particle level it is the probability wave of the particle that matters not its absolute position at any one time (not that there is an absolute fixed position of course), there is no need to know until we need to know and then the wave collapses to the point we actually find the particle, though the probability waves for the other characteristics still exist.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
Yeah, it is more a cloud, I get that. I dunno, just making stupid talk, been away for a bit.

*hijack*

Anyone ever get written up and a raise in the same day?
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
Fun with editing:

"It isn't religious... we quite happily interact with an environment we don't know"
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 9th, 2005
:-)
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
"what if you had the particle in an environment such that..."

Then you're even worse off. First you need to measure the size of the environment *exactly*, which we've already discovered we can't do, and then you also need to be able to exert an *exact* force, something which we also can't do (for the same reasons), and then vary this force we can't measure precisely until the particle that we can't measure precisely is in the dead centre of a space we also can't measure precisely...

I prefer the interpretation (mentioned previously) that particles don't in reality posess a concrete position and are actually just a "cloud of probability". It's not such a weird notion, although it is somewhat at odds with a macroscopic view -- when two particles interact even *they* don't "know" where the other one is precisely, so the fabric of the universe has to guess as best it can, but on a large scale these "guesses" even out so that your chair doesn't suddenly move four inches to the right or evaporate into a cloud of dust.

(Apologies for anthropomorphising, but it saves a lot of time. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
"Purpose is a word that is meaningless outside of the context of human society, so that question is effectively meaningless."

So there you have it. All of morality, ethics, "How should I live?", meaningless, of no value to study.

So there's no meaning to the debates about freedom, war, social justice, human dignity, the rights of the individual, the role of the state, racism, sexism, bigotry and prejudice.

No point to thinking about those things at all.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
"It covers the genetic link causing faith."

Doesn't it make sense that God would create a gene that would cause his creations to believe in Him and seek Him out?
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
"Doesn't it make sense that God would..."

Since when has "making sense" been a requirement for God's behaviour. Take Noah for example.

Nonsense 1:
So, God decides it's all gone a bit pear-shaped and he wants to scrub pretty much everything out and start again.  So why not just "unmake" the universe and build it again from scratch? That took less than a week the first time around, so wasting over a month on rain seems an odd choice.

Nonsense 2:
For reasons unknown he decides rain is a good idea, but rather than move a pair of each animal to high ground to keep them safe he decides instead to instruct an old man to build a boat and collect two of every animal. Ignoring for the moment the fact that it would have to be a fucking enormous boat, it would have required Noah to cover pretty much every square inch of the planet, spending years collecting viable breeding specimens of every reptile, mammal, bird, insect, and assorted other creatures, and then another lifetime or two for Noah to return them all after the flood, look after them until sufficient population had returned for them to sustain themselves, and so on.

In conclusion, saying "it would have made sense for God to..." signifies little... :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
+++ That took less than a week the first time around+++

Actually it took billions and billions of years and was later parabalized in an allegorical story which described the process as a seven day event that could be marginally understood by the civilization present at the time.

What follows from there is equally sarcastic rubbish. If you're going to make an argument, do it without stupid strawmen that are easily rebutted. "But I was only making a simple example" is a nonsense excuse. If your argument is built on straw men.. excuse me.. "simple examples", then it's no argument at all.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Go on then, rebut it. Tell me *why* sending an old codger out to collect millions of animals and put them on a boat wasn't an odd choice. I'm prepared to be shown the error of my ways... (And "it's an allegory" isn't a rebuttal, it's handwaving.)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
Ah, I see. "Defend the Bible as if it were completely literal, even though everyone knows it's not." There's a challenge I'll skip, thanks.

Let's have a foot race, Mat. You swallow this lead brick first, and I've got some shoes for you with spikes in the insoles.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Well you said it's easily rebutted, so I was merely allowing you to demonstrate. I'm guessing by your response that this is also apparently an allegory, so I'm curious -- is there *anything* in the Bible that isn't allegory? Is it *all* "it didn't really happen like this, but it makes it easier to understand if written this way"? In which case how can you be sure *any* of it is even remotely true? (And if some if it is actually literal, which bits are they? And on what basis has it been determined which pieces are allegory and which are literal truth?)

Believe it or don't, but I'm not trolling, I'm genuinely curious. I hear a lot of "it's an allegory" to defend some passages in the Bible, but thus far no-one's been able to explain the basis for that assumption...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
Mat -

Not being a vetted Christianity scholar, I'm not the one to make the argument. If you'd like, I could probably find a great deal of literature about the flood, and Genesis, and a number of other classic parables for you.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Don't forget, here in the US, there are millions of people who think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Never underestimate the power of ignorance.
Permalink Peter 
August 9th, 2005
I was hoping for a concise summary. I've read a few theological texts and they all seem to have been little more than "X might actually mean Y, because, er...", and while I'm not expecting definitive evidence that, say, the parable of the wine and fishes was actually Jebus doing some sensible shopping or something, the fact that a lot of the "interpretation" is pure guesswork mixed up with a bit of historical detective work is a bit disappointing.  Sure, it's not much far removed from the suppositions made in some fields of archaeology, but no-one (as far as I'm aware) bases their entire system of belief on guesses that archaeologists make, which is what makes me so uncomfortable with the "it's an allegory" explanation for any of it.

Anyway, I firmly disbelieve in God, think the Bible is an interesting combination of ancient but primitive explanations of things combined with a few morality tales, and feel that anyone who lives their life based on it (either literally, or through some "interpretation") is misguided...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
And you've made that clear, repeatedly, so when are you going to come off the soapbox?
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
"Right because that one show is representative of every religious person, everywhere.

If I can find one single crackpot scientist on TV or elsewhere, can I use him as proof that the entire body of contemporary scientific study across all fields is bunk?"

That's why I see all those crackpot scientist TV shows, they even have their own channel! The Mad Scientist Network. Luckily I'm being sarcastic, and the effect of crackpot scientists effect on large groups of people can hardly be measured. While the effect of the many religious TV shows and networks has a large effect. This show even had a DVD you could order and stared Kirk Cameron and some Aussie bloke.

I like the fact also that since you think differently than most Christians you assume that your idea of Christianity is right. Anyone else are "crackpots" by your admittance that they were similar to crackpot scientists. Well crackpot scientists are usually peer reviewed into obscurity. Whose peer reviewing all the religious nuts (all the ones with TV stations and large bodies of followers)?

I myself do not care one way or the other if there is a god(s) or not. I believe that all current religions versions of god are a joke mostly because they are all deep down based on fear of death and what happens to you when you die. While most of them are caught up worrying about what'll happen to them in the afterlife they are totally screwing up their current life and the lives of others. And all the groups that actually manage to do good works are sullied by all the people they can't peer review.

When's the last time a crackpot scientist blew up a building because the people in it didn't hold with his theories?

When's the last time a crackpot scientist beat up a gay man just for being gay?

When's the last time a crackpot scientist murdered abortion clinic workers?

When's the last time a crackpot scientist started a war over "scientific" land?

When's the last time a crackpot scientist burned women at the stake for being witches?

When's the last time a crackpot scientist told you there would be dire consequenses in the afterlife if you didn't go along with his theories?

When's the last time you saw a crackpot scientist on TV trying to get people to go along with his theories?

I guess technically Hitler was the most successful crackpot scientist in history. The world took responsibility for him and took him out. All the church's in the world sweep under the rug all the bad things that happen in religions name. No one claims reponsibility because that other sect has nothing to do with me, I keep to my own and they are the crackpots (the other sect thinks like this also). There can be only one they say, but they still can't decide on which one.

Thankfully there aren't different sects of scientists out there with different view points on natural laws (like gravity) or we'd never get anywhere.

I've been to Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Nondenominational, and Protestant churches (I went to church to make my mother happy, the other churches were due to friends or relatives). So I have more experience in different churches than most and am not just talking out of my ass.
Permalink RAH's Love Child 
August 9th, 2005
Well, RAH, I'm certainly not going to read your entire self-serving, poorly organized tirade but I will address one bit:

+++That's why I see all those crackpot scientist TV shows, they even have their own channel! The Mad Scientist Network. Luckily I'm being sarcastic, and the effect of crackpot scientists effect on large groups of people can hardly be measured. While the effect of the many religious TV shows and networks has a large effect. This show even had a DVD you could order and stared Kirk Cameron and some Aussie bloke.+++

Actually, yes, there are quite a few programs that promote an atheist "agenda", and they're not even all science/documentary programs. They far outnumber the religious programming, in fact, and tend to win the most coveted time slots. What's your point, exactly?

There's plenty of programming on television that not only teaches and promotes evolution either directly or indirectly but also holds it up as evidence against the validity of the Creation parable or of God Himself. Lots and lots of it. Yes, there are neutral documentaries too that teach only and leave the politics/theology out of it, but there are equally many (or maybe more) that do not.
Permalink muppet 
August 9th, 2005
Errr, where are all these programmes declaring God is dead?
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 9th, 2005
" And you've made that clear, repeatedly, so when are you going to come off the soapbox?"

I'm not on a soapbox. We were having a discussion about science, religion, faith, and interpretation of the Bible, you suggested that I may want to read some scholarly works, I said I have and that so far they have only served to strengthen my puzzlement as to why anyone would believe in God, and clarified why I hold this puzzlement. I'm sorry if you choose to confuse "explaining my position in response to your post" with "preaching from a soapbox", but there's little else I can do than to ask you (yet again) to stop ascribing motive to my posts other than that which is plainly expressed in black and white.

I am *genuinely* interested in how and why a large percentage of the bible is "allegory" and yet the overall message is somehow seen as *not* an allegory, but apparently explaining that is some sort of faux-pas. Oh, well, I give up, you must be right, I'm an egomaniacal preachy, blinkered 10 year old moron...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
++Well, RAH, I'm certainly not going to read your entire self-serving, poorly organized tirade but I will address one bit:

Muppet not having enough time to read (just enough to insult though)? WOW must be a busy day.

++++Actually, yes, there are quite a few programs that promote an atheist "agenda", and they're not even all science/documentary programs. They far outnumber the religious programming, in fact, and tend to win the most coveted time slots. What's your point, exactly?

So we've gone from crackpot scientist to atheist agenda? Do these air on the History or Discovery channels? Or that well know Atheist Network?

++++There's plenty of programming on television that not only teaches and promotes evolution either directly or indirectly but also holds it up as evidence against the validity of the Creation parable or of God Himself. Lots and lots of it. Yes, there are neutral documentaries too that teach only and leave the politics/theology out of it, but there are equally many (or maybe more) that do not.

Do these shows try to scare you into believing them by saying you're gonna burn in Hell if you don't believe in evolution? Damn atheist DISC and HIST people always pushing thier beliefs on others.
Permalink RAH's Love Child 
August 9th, 2005
Mat,

>I am *genuinely* interested in how and why a large
>percentage of the bible is "allegory" and yet the overall
>message is somehow seen as *not* an allegory, but
>apparently explaining that is some sort of faux-pas.

As much as I hate to defend muppet, I'm not sure why you find it difficult to see how a fictional story can pass a relevant and real message. The world is littered with examples from Aesop's Fables to the classic Star Trek episode underscoring the pointless of racism with the half white/half black species. The Bible could certainly be viewed as a set of allegorical stories not to be taken literally but still conveying an overall message.

Having said that, I agree that trying to pick and choose which stories are allegory and which are real, as some Bible thumpers are wont to do, is ridiculous.
Permalink Gerald 
August 9th, 2005
Sure, it can pass on a real message -- I won't deny that (ignoring some of the more bloodthristy or confusing episodes in the OT) the Bible's message of "be nice to people, things work out better in the long run" is commendable. My problem, one that perhaps I've failed to make clear, is how you get from "a bunch of allegorical stories and moral tales" to "there is an omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent creator". If much of the bible is to be taken as not literally true, on what basis is the "there is a God" part of the story deemed to be true?
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 9th, 2005
"Faith of what?"

Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)?

However, I wouldn't need faith if I was living 2000 years ago.
Permalink Rick Tang 
August 9th, 2005
The classic Protestant answer to Matt's question is that the truth of the Bible is revealed to the believer through prayer, reading, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts the believer of what is true and what is allegory. I would add that much of the Bible's language is written in the historical context of the writer, so that should be taken into account as well when trying to determine the meaning of the Bible.

It's a difficult question, because even allegory is trying to say something that is true (ie God wants a relationship with each person) while perhaps not literally true (ie there was some guy named Adam in a Garden 6000 years ago).

In our day and age, some people are so uncomfortable with where our culture seems to be going, that they cling to a very literal interpretation of the Bible -- and seemingly reject more moderate interpretations. Personally, I find this a false dichotomy -- Science and Faith do not HAVE to collide. It's only if you use your faith to ignore, distort, or rebut science that they collide.

So, I conclude that the first chapter of Genesis is an allegory to explain to us the nature of God's relationship to us, and to the universe. The chapters covering the wanderings of the tribe of Israel I take to be literally true.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
Mat,

I think you have to seperate a belief in God from the Bible. Basically, I don't think the Bible is the benchmark for proving God exists, you either believe he does or you don't in which case the Bible provides a framework for that belief or is rubbish respectively.

I liken trying to explain a belief in God to trying to explain colors to someone who has been blind their whole life. You can explain the concepts but they will never truly get it. And I say this as an atheist raised by devout Catholics. I've never gotten why people believe in God, it's never come across as more then an abstract concept to me even when I was much younger.
Permalink Gerald 
August 9th, 2005
"Tell me *why* sending an old codger out to collect millions of animals and put them on a boat wasn't an odd choice."

For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure all those animals came to him.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
Another thing that I think is being missed in this thread (which I tried to allude to with a caustic comment earlier) is that science looks at the way the universe is, and religion examines what the world should be. Science has no mechanism for answering "should" questions (what should I do, how should I live, etc.), although of course the "way the world is" and "way the world should be" questions will sometimes intersect. For many, the evolution/ID thing is one of those intersection points.

Now, leaving aside the question of how much of the Bible is meant to be allegory, the Bible is almost entirely about those "should" questions. So looking in the Bible for answers to science questions is almost completely beside the point.

The Bible certainly contains a lot of history, which has held up surprisingly well in light of modern archaeology, but even that is only there in service to the "should" questions it gives answers to.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
Well said, Jim.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
> religion examines what the world should be

No, it's how they want it to be.
Permalink son of parnas 
August 9th, 2005
>> <good> science <trys> to look at the way the universe is

Ok, in this formulation.

>> religion examines what the world should be

Are you claiming religion does not have prescriptive commandments as to what are appropriate actions?

It's a nice thought, but I don't think you can get away with claiming science is entirely descriptive, much less that religion is entirely normative.
Permalink Mongo 
August 9th, 2005
>> Science has no mechanism for answering "should" questions (what should I do, how should I live, etc.)

Not everyone agrees with this, but I do, and so does Hume. it's an important point, but I don't think it'll serve as a religious apologetic in the sense you're trying.
Permalink Mongo 
August 9th, 2005
Who is this 'they', SoP?

If you say the Southern Baptists/Conservative Christians/etc -- I have to say that they would like YOU to observe the Bible the way THEY say it should be -- but that is not religion, that is dogma.

It's important to separate religious seeking (the search for meaning) from religious dogma (these ARE the answers). The Bible is NOT the way the Christian Conservatives say it is -- they distort and interpret the Bible through their fear-laden view. In doing so, they serve neither God nor man, but only themselves. And they also give Christianity a bad name, for which they will have to answer one day.

But I would like to point out that this is NOT the only view of the Bible. Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, even Unitarians, even many Baptist congregations, all have views of the Bible which are much different, much more moderate, and much more accepting of differences. They are not the ones pushing Creationism, for instance.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 9th, 2005
Allan,

'They' means all of us believers, who don't go to discover what the 'reality' is with no preconception, instead find evidences to fit our religious preconception.

It's a hard problem. One either gives up religion, goes insane, delude oneself, or become a sincere believer as God expect us to be.

They don't think the fourth option exist.
Permalink Rick Tang 
August 9th, 2005
"Are you claiming religion does not have prescriptive commandments as to what are appropriate actions?"

Huh? That's exactly what I'm saying. The way people "should" behave is part of the way the world "should" be.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
++Belief in a higher power is not stupid or evil.

Not inherently, but the thought occurs to me that it is quite stupid and barbaric to kill people based on the wishes of imaginary friends.
Permalink I am Jack's infinite id 
August 9th, 2005
"It's a nice thought, but I don't think you can get away with claiming science is entirely descriptive, much less that religion is entirely normative."

In what way could science possibly examine normative questions, and still be science?

I think for most people the point of religion is trying to answer normative questions. I mean, you may think the answers certain religions or certain religious people come up with are atrocious, but they're still attempts to address normative issues.

And I haven't offered any apologetics in this thread (yet :), just pointing out something I thought was obvious.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
"Not inherently, but the thought occurs to me that it is quite stupid and barbaric to kill people based on the wishes of imaginary friends."

Are you expecting someone to disagree with you, or are you just using this forum as a mechanism for talking to yourself?
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
> Who is this 'they', SoP?

Refer to the original comment from which the sentence was extracted and determine who they are.
Permalink son of parnas 
August 9th, 2005
> But I would like to point out that this is NOT the only view of the Bible.

When a lion is attacking me I am not that interested in noting that some of the other lions are not.
Permalink son of parnas 
August 9th, 2005
"Are you claiming religion does not have prescriptive commandments as to what are appropriate actions?"

>> Huh? That's exactly what I'm saying. The way people "should" behave is part of the way the world "should" be.

Oh, ok, the passive way you put "looking" at the world as it is and religion "examines" how the world should be threw me off. I misconstrued what you were claiming, sorry.
Permalink Mongo 
August 9th, 2005
>> In what way could science possibly examine normative questions, and still be science?

Well, I certainly don't think it can, and of course that's not what I'm claiming. I am claiming, not terribly controversially, that science is clearly conducted by all too human practitioners, and their scientific worldviews and endeavors are normatively affected by their flaws and their humanity.

>> I think for most people the point of religion is trying to answer normative questions.

That doesn't really jibe with my experience, but I'm leery of ascribing motives to people whose beliefs confuse me at the best of times.

>> And I haven't offered any apologetics in this thread (yet :), just pointing out something I thought was obvious.

Ok, coulda fooled me, though ...
Permalink Mongo 
August 9th, 2005
I suppose one point I might make, even if it is the case that people use religion to answer normative questions unanswerable by science, is that there are other alternatives far less incoherent, albeit also imperfect.

There are the disciplines of aesthetics, ethics, ontology, and metaphysics, for example. Of course, these tend to require rather more rigour, and often leave practitioners more befuddled than when they started ...
Permalink Mongo 
August 9th, 2005
"There are the disciplines of aesthetics, ethics, ontology, and metaphysics, for example."

Yes, these would be the proper things to compare against religions. These are the kinds of questions religions deal with.

So, if religion is not being pursued to answer normative questions (by the people you know), or to answer scientific questions, what are the people you know hoping to get out of it?
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
>> what are the people you know hoping to get out of it?

Well, I suppose I set myself up for that question, didn't I?

With the same caveat as before regarding ascribing motives: comfort, validation, group/tribal socialization, for example.

Along with many others, I've long felt we're genetically predisposed toward religion as a species, so this too would be a strong, if often unexamined, motivation.
Permalink Mongo 
August 9th, 2005
"With the same caveat as before regarding ascribing motives: comfort, validation, group/tribal socialization, for example."

I think often those things get tied together with how we answer those normative questions.

If we were more intellectually honest and brave perhaps they wouldn't be, but in practice, yes, our desires for comfort, validation and group acceptance color our value systems.

Now, a religion worth it's salt would try to do as much as it could to reject cultural assimilation as a basis for its teachings. I've been listening to mp3 sermons from a pastor who often rails against the idea that American culture has anything at all to do with Christian culture.
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
Which are here:

http://www.acac.net/sermons.html

Pick one at random and there's a better than 50% chance you'll hear Pastor Rock getting fired up about how American values are not Christian values (sermons are by Rock unless noted otherwise).
Permalink Jim Rankin 
August 9th, 2005
"> But I would like to point out that this is NOT the only view of the Bible.

When a lion is attacking me I am not that interested in noting that some of the other lions are not."

Interesting point. This could apply to Islam as well, though.

I think a naturalist might want to know what is different about the lion attacking, and why the other lions are not, in hopes of avoiding lion attacks in the future.

Maybe the lion attacking is a man-eater, while the others aren't. Maybe the lion attacking is rabid (do lions get rabies?).

It would be a shame to machine-gun all the lions, merely because one was attacking you, or had attacked you in the past. It would also be a shame to pretend that all lions will attack you in the future, merely because one did in the past.

I guess that's what makes that statement interesting to me. I agree with it in the short term -- when attacked I expect to be allowed to defend myself -- but against the attacker, not against his entire race or religion.

So I find myself defending a religion that I percieve has some idiotic practitioners, saying really stupid things and attacking those around them. I chalk this up to human idiocy, not the religion itself.

I do have a problem with the religion, when other practitioners do not condemn these activities, and when in fact the religious teachings themselves seem to leave the door open to these activities.

I don't know why the Bible is as it is. I don't know why it allows these mis-interpretations to go on, and to go unpunished. I suppose it is part of being human, and the Bible allows us to go on being human, having to use our judgement to discern truth, and some discern badly.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 10th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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