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Thought experiment
Posted: 29 March 2011 10:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Michael De Dora - 28 March 2011 08:23 PM

I had an idea for an essay recently and would like to hear your thoughts:

Imagine, in our modern world, that science did not exist. For whatever reason, there is absolutely zero scientific knowledge available. Would you still think naturalism (and thus atheism, etc) the most reasonable position? Why or why not?

(sorry CC, did it again)

I agree with CC, I also have an issue with the question.

If taken literally, it would be contradictory. The modern world is by definition based on science. If we removed science from the equation, most of the modern world would disappear.
On the other hand if we retained the modern world but removed all scientific knowledge, current humans would be able to rebuild the science by simple trial and error. Modern human has the ability to figure things out under almost any condition.

If taken liberally, the question becomes self-defeating. If humans were unable to think scientifically, they would not be homo sapiens sapiens and be just like other animals, living within and subject to their environment.

I believe that the biblical story of “fall from Eden” is an allegory of hominids “eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge” and becoming homo sapiens (abstract thought). In the absence of scientific or philosophical thought there would be no modern world, no naturalism, atheism, etc. But there would still be competition for dominance, food, territory, etc.
There would only be nature. If that is pertinent to the question, IMO the world (earth) would be infinitely better off!

[ Edited: 29 March 2011 10:35 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 29 March 2011 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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dougsmith - 29 March 2011 11:25 AM

Independent a Darwinian explanation, surely there is some reason (= it’s somewhat reasonable) to accept such an argument.

Without biology, I still don’t see why it would be reasonable suppose a God is responsible for everything, let alone the God of the Bible. We would have less knowledge, surely, but evolution alone does not refute God, so why would its absence prove God?

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Posted: 29 March 2011 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Write4U - 29 March 2011 10:14 PM

If humans were unable to think scientifically, they would not be homo sapiens sapiens and be just like other animals, living within and subject to their environment.

Not necessarily. Thinking scientifically does not equal science.

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Posted: 29 March 2011 11:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Why would God suddenly seem like a compelling idea without biology?

This is where the God Of The Gaps arguement tends to come into play. The position of theists is that if we can’t explain it, God (Or The Gods) must have made it happen.

It’s a variation of the arguement from ignorance fallacy.

The thing is that with science, nobody can claim ignorance.

Okay, some people can claim ignorance, but not without provoking unrestrained laughter from anybody who has bothered to do their homework.

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Posted: 29 March 2011 11:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I have posted this before, but I believe it may be used here again.

It was observed that during a monsoon, where a troop of chimpanzee takes cover as best they can, the alpha male may run around, wave a stick and scream to the sky to scare off this unseen enemy which throws water at him and makes him wet.
IMO, this might well be the beginning of belief in a supernatural being (rain god) which, by early man, may have resulted in the gods of mythology (Odin, Thor, Zeus, etc).

I am beginning to understand the gist of the question.

Am I understanding this correctly? In the absence of science, would there be a reason to reject the “supernatural” interpretation?

But then, would you not also have to remove curiosity from the equation? One can argue that modern God (with a few angels and demons thrown in) is a pseudo scientific refinement of the multiple gods of myhology.
But if science (concept of ID) is not allowed in thought, would we not be still running around with sticks, yelling at the sky, like primitive hominids?

[ Edited: 29 March 2011 11:41 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 30 March 2011 05:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Michael De Dora - 29 March 2011 10:41 PM
dougsmith - 29 March 2011 11:25 AM

Independent a Darwinian explanation, surely there is some reason (= it’s somewhat reasonable) to accept such an argument.

Without biology, I still don’t see why it would be reasonable suppose a God is responsible for everything, let alone the God of the Bible. We would have less knowledge, surely, but evolution alone does not refute God, so why would its absence prove God?

Well, first there’s the question of “proof”/“refute” as in “proving/refuting [the existence of] God”. They are somewhat tendentious terms, and I’d prefer to leave them for things that are demonstrated logically or mathematically, unless we explicitly understand that they’re used in court cases where standards of evidence may be ‘probative’ but allow of error.

The arguments I’m discussing do not yield proof or refutation in the mathematical or logical sense. They are arguments of inference to the best explanation, and admit of fallibility.

Evolution gives us good reason to reject the Argument from Design, historically one of the most powerful theistic arguments in the arsenal of theology. You may say that it doesn’t logically refute the Argument from Design. (It’s certainly still logically possible that God created the universe given Darwin). But I’m talking preponderance of the evidence, not logic. Just as easily I could talk history of ideas: there is no denying that historically Darwinian evolution did undermine belief in God, certainly among the scientifically educated.

Indeed evolution did and does help refute the existence of God. It did so by helping refute the Argument from Design.

Again, I’m not talking about the God of the Bible. I’m talking about a much thinner God conception along the lines of a Deistic ‘Divine Watchmaker’. Clearly, the Argument from Design (and indeed all the most famous theological God arguments) are not remotely capable of establishing the God of Abraham. The most they even purport to do is establish an omnicompetent God. (The Argument from Design can’t even do that much).

Really, all the Argument from Design can establish is a very smart, very powerful designer. But anyway that’s something towards a God conception.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Michael De Dora - 29 March 2011 10:41 PM

Without biology, I still don’t see why it would be reasonable suppose a God is responsible for everything, let alone the God of the Bible. We would have less knowledge, surely, but evolution alone does not refute God, so why would its absence prove God?

I agree

An alternative way of looking at this is to go back to around 500 BCE when the Torah was finally compiled and take that as the exemplar of theistic ontology and cosmological thinking and compare this to the best example of naturalistic thinking still extent namely Epicurus’ thinking 200 years later, as poetically described in Lucretius (300 year later again but it is the best I think we can do) in “De rerum natura” ( On the Nature of Things).

One can compare the range of ontology and cosmological claims and assertions in each, there is very little in science in there (no surprise with respect to one book!) and see how things turned prior to the huge majority of scientific knowledge that was still to come. The answer, it may not surprise you, would come down overwhelmingly on the side of Epicurus/Lucretius. For sure there are many mistakes but it is an easy argument to make that the cosmology and ontology of “De Rereum natura” beats the pants by a long mile over the Torah (or compared tot he Bible that originated very close to the time of Lucretius’ poem) This includes, arguably, that animals & men evolved by natural selection. That is to say, prior to scientific knowledge we can compare possibly the most significant documents to represent competing documented “on naturalism” hypothesis versus a documented “on theism” hypothesis without hindsight bias and the universe makes far more sense based on naturalism than theism.

Richard Carrier has a nice paper on this actually comparing it to the Koran) http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article362.html (note his references do not tally to an internet edition I got hold of and I did create a note with the correct references to that edition but I dont know where it is)

Also prior to Darwin, Hume demolished natural theology and almost accidentally discovered natural selection in the process on purely philosophical grounds too. See Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, I think the penultiimate chapter.

Hope this helps

Cheers

Martin Freedman

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Posted: 06 April 2011 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Evolution gives us good reason to reject the Argument from Design

I would submit that the “Design” itself does the same thing. We humans have soft and vulnerable underbellies, a skeletal structure which seems better for walking on all fours then upright, joints and a spinal column prone to breakdown, we aren’t very fast or even particularly strong, and one has to wonder about the reproductive organs being in the same place as the excretory organs. (In other words, the “Designer” ran the sewer through the playground!!!!)

If this is “Intelligent Design” then I want no part of the “Idiot Design.”

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Posted: 06 April 2011 12:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Michael De Dora - 29 March 2011 10:44 PM
Write4U - 29 March 2011 10:14 PM

If humans were unable to think scientifically, they would not be homo sapiens sapiens and be just like other animals, living within and subject to their environment.

Not necessarily. Thinking scientifically does not equal science.

IMO thinking scientifically produces science….. cheese

1 + 1 = 2….........eureka!!

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Posted: 06 April 2011 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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In another thread we were discussing Bonobos and what makes them the most peaceful hominid on earth.
Interestingly, the Bonobo, while being the most peaceful, is the least advanced in tool use and logical thinking.  They think only on an immediate emotional level, with a most unusual societal result ........ tongue wink
I think the thought experiment is being performed by evolution itself, and we are studying it.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Michael De Dora - 29 March 2011 09:21 AM

  This is really what I was getting out. Perhaps science makes it more reasonable to be a naturalist and atheist, but wouldn’t naturalism and atheism still be the most reasonable position without science? Why would God suddenly seem like a compelling idea without biology?

I don’t think that naturalism and atheism would still be the most reasonable position without science.  What would be “reasonable” to people without science would be those beliefs that have practical value.  Beliefs that have no practical value would be seen as worthless and only someone who is unreasonable would waste their time believing in them. The idea of an all powerful, loving God would have practical value to people who are capable of thinking up this idea.  If the Christian’s didn’t invent this idea then someone else would.  An all powerful loving God would make people feel safer, make life seem more worthwhile having something this powerful care about them, and would be a way to cope with problems.  If someone had a problem, they could turn to this God for help.  When answers come that would prove that God is really there.  When answers don’t come then God is too mysterious to understand and those instances will be ignored.  The negative aspects of an all powerful God would also be practical.  Don’t misbehave because God won’t like it.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Oh, I forgot something.  What would be the practical benefit of being an atheist?  When you die you are worm food.  When you have a problem you are on your own.  When you are scared you have no supernatural being to protect you.  People in the modern world can see the benefits to scientific thinking, but if there were no modern world or science then these benefits would not be apparent.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 08:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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What would be the practical benefit of being an atheist?  When you die you are worm food.  When you have a problem you are on your own.

Looks like a false dilemma to me. When you die, even religions assert that you’re worm food…or buzzard food depending on how a given culture disposes of bodies.

We have no evidence to support the claim that gods exist or even care if they do exist. Appealing to a supernatural being to give you comfort when no such being can be shown to exist is much the same to me as diving into a bottle of scotch whiskey to give you comfort when times are tough. It may feel good but in the long haul, it just doesn’t solve any problems.

Seems to me that the benefit of being atheist/agnostic or perhaps even pantheist is that you know you’re on your own, and you can work things out accordingly.

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Posted: 06 April 2011 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Moreover, atomically we are eternally connected to the universe. We shall forever remain part of the majesty of the universe.  cheese

If only atoms could talk, what stories they could tell…!

Afterthought: They do!!!!

[ Edited: 06 April 2011 10:09 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 07 April 2011 06:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 06 April 2011 08:40 PM

When you die, even religions assert that you’re worm food…or buzzard food depending on how a given culture disposes of bodies.

Which religions claim you are worm food when you die?  Your physical body yes, but most of them think some kind of spirit survives or is reincarnated.

Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 06 April 2011 08:40 PM

  We have no evidence to support the claim that gods exist or even care if they do exist.

You are sounding like a skeptic here.  Where does this skepticism come from?  From science? Or maybe some people like Socrates are just born to question everything and have a hard time accepting things even when many people around them have no problem accepting it.  I think people with this natural skepticism have always been in the minority.

Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 06 April 2011 08:40 PM

Appealing to a supernatural being to give you comfort when no such being can be shown to exist is much the same to me as diving into a bottle of scotch whiskey to give you comfort when times are tough. It may feel good but in the long haul, it just doesn’t solve any problem.  Seems to me that the benefit of being atheist/agnostic or perhaps even pantheist is that you know you’re on your own, and you can work things out accordingly.

Maybe even without science some people would be naturally critically thinking enough to realize these benefits.  That’s assuming that people would be able to tell the difference between natural and supernatural without science.

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