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Elaine Howard Ecklund - How Religious Are Scientists?
Posted: 09 May 2010 10:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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citizenschallenge - 09 May 2010 09:29 PM

Mike (Bill too)
nice post, but I think it doesn’t apply,
you’re overlooking the rejection of Religion explicit in EE’s results.

Spiritual “minus the religion” was the provocative point.

You know, that freaky fuzz in our telescope upon our world… as we perceive it.
(and that I’ve tried describing in some of my other recent posts)

Yes, worth considering.

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Posted: 10 May 2010 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Great responses.

I think maybe I wasn’t explicit enough. When I said that my bias was that Religion would follow it’s historical trend and continue to move toward Science, the longer version of that is that, as Science continues to interpret the evidences related to the things that we experience as “spiritual” (ie. to your point on mind/body dualism) only those faiths that seek to maintain religious traditions for social/community cohesiveness but release their dogma in favor of “real world”, scientific, natural explanations will be able to resolve what we see as the Science vs. Religion problem. Arguably many Catholics and Jews seem to accept their religion for the traditions but unlike fundamentalists, they don’t try to integrate their faith into their daily lives or struggle with what is mythology or metaphor against the growing backdrop of scientific knowledge. So as Science continues to explain and understand better the phenomena that give rise to such “spiritual experiences” and to the extent that Religion incorporates that understanding into a more Universalist style of “worship” there can and I think will be growing common ground between Science and Religion. To the extend that Religion continues to hang onto dogma in a fundamentalist fashion even when it is in conflict with objective reality, there will remain a Science vs. Religion problem.

So I think we are all actually in agreement here.

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It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear to be a fool than to post a reply and remove all doubt. I guess it’s too late for that though.

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Posted: 10 May 2010 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Another follow on for further clarification.

Using the mind/body dualism problem as a sample, I think that when science provides natural explanations for the experience that it doesn’t stop the experience from being profound. Rather, it only “explains” the experience in natural terms and actually makes it a more universal feature shared by humans and opens up the question “how much of that profound experience do we or can we share with other life?”

Also to your point re: “the rejection of religion”, correct me if I’m wrong but the suggestion was that there continues to persist in scientists a nebulous assent to some sort of unexplained or unexplainable spiritualism. This is speculation, but I’d bet that the rejection, if distilled, is a rejection of dogma, received knowledge, unchanging un-evolving belief; and the “spiritual exploration” is a more natural exploration of how these natural phenomena give rise to a “spiritual experience” and how that experience can be capitalized upon to solidify a more universal community…or something like that.

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Posted: 10 May 2010 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Bill, Science isn’t only descriptive. It attempts to define the phenomena. Regarding the “spirituality” aspect of the human thinking, there is no a real “definition” of what is that “spirituality”. Though we have infinite numbers of descriptive blurbs attempting to pass for a definition.
Same thing with language, which is a collection of descriptive blurbs attempting to define each a certain aspect of our perceptual reality. As the symbolism of the word evolves, so do the descriptive blurbs. As we shift from one culture to another, the word shifts the descriptive code. This hasn’t anything to do with the Universe. What we know as an electron, a proton, and a neutron, in the pattern of a free molecule of Oxygen, aren’t exactly what we know about an electron, a proton, and a neutron in the pattern of a free molecule of Carbon. The difference is even more manifest when we consider what they really are in a free molecule of carbon dioxide. However, there is a commonality of properties between electrons in all of those three molecules, and so it is about the protons and the neutrons, that we can successfully use such commonality in our research. It is just the patterns which differ, and the properties of those patterns. You wouldn’t confuse oxygen with carbon nor them with carbon dioxide.
Can you find a successful descriptive blurb about “spirituality” which can be used with similar success and prevent us from being confused about the “matter” of it?
wink

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Posted: 10 May 2010 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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My initial response to Bill, has to do with the lead post. After examining the material collected by E.H.Ecklund, there is only a logical conclusion. The whole exercise is a Marketing paper for the promotion an undisclosed “spirituality” and as well undisclosed “religiosity” of the individuals polled and interviewed by her. There is no delimitation of what is individual belief, shared social context, and traditional folk mythology. As in “I arrived to such belief” versus “I attempt to find a common ground to hang out with certain fellows” versus “my grandparents expressed these beliefs, so did my parents, and so do I”. All of it commingled to confuse the unadvised reader and lead him/her by the nose towards the final spiel: Religion is a real component of our universe. Right! Reminds me of the CTMU attempt to smoke our perception with a language redefinition without any scientific merit. Thomas de Aquinas was more clear about it than these social science experts. Let me guess, isn’t she a Harvard grad? If not, she should. wink

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Posted: 10 May 2010 07:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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My next reaction to the lead post, is one of mild disagreement with Chris Mooney. One thing is civility, another thing is compromise. My thinking is that USA’s drift towards an Unscientific America is consequence of letting the religion racket control our discourse. Haven’t found yet a decent proposal that would reveal other causes or reasons for the depletion of our intellectual capital. They, the religionist crowd, never showed any proclivity towards respecting any thinking that contradicts their creed. And they take advantage of the ignorance of most of our population, through their Marketing campaign for their imaginary gods. When I am in a joking mode, I generally refer to God™. Not much difference with the Mustang™ brand owned by Ford Corp. Actually I prefer Ferrari.
Seriously, Mooney’s prescription (Unscientific America) isn’t educational nor scientific. It is the expression of a marketing strategy, and, if he isn’t careful, will land him an offer from Madison Avenue. Except that there isn’t a real market of ideas that are offered on either counter. That’s the frustration of those whose vocation keeps them working in the scientific fields. The unstoppable noise from these shopkeepers makes difficult to concentrate on the ongoing research of our Universe.
But this is only my thinking. Welcome to yours. wink

PS: I wonder how many arms EHE twisted to make those polled and interviewed available to her?

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Posted: 10 May 2010 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Lastly, I support Mooney’s honesty and willingness to tackle EHE, but can’t commend his naïveté thinking that she would offer anything more than what she offered in her session at the James A. Baker III Hall, Rice University. See Event

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Posted: 10 May 2010 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Now you can start shooting at me, it won’t be the first time. wink

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Posted: 10 May 2010 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Members of the National Academy are “probably pretty different” from scientists in general? Ecklund has “no idea how they are probably pretty different”? I’ll give her a hint: they are smarter.  wink

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Posted: 10 May 2010 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Hi Everyone,
Thanks for the comments….wanted to let you know that my first blog post about the show is up:

It asks, are first and second generation atheists really any different?

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/05/10/from-point-of-inquiry-are-first-and-second-generation-atheists-anydifferent/

chris

p.s.: To George, the NAS members may be smarter, but I am sure they are also many other things….they may differ in age/generation, for instance. I wouldn’t assume it is only intelligence.

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Posted: 10 May 2010 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Unless I missed the point, she is trying to have us understand that scientists are more “spiritual” than we would expect but reasserts that they reject “religion”.

I’m suggesting that scientists who she suggests are “spiritual” are blending an objective, science-based understanding of reality with a subjective set of feelings, values and behaviors that we all seem to share to some extent or another.

Regarding the “spirituality” aspect of the human thinking, there is no a real “definition” of what is that “spirituality”. Though we have infinite numbers of descriptive blurbs attempting to pass for a definition.

To your point(s), Rommey, I’m not suggesting that science is “defining spirituality” per se but rather that it is giving good and continually improving objective definitions to the foundational physical realities that give rise to the phenomena that people experience subjectively as “spiritual”. Which maybe gives religion and science some common ground to work on.

So, I think that scientists in question are using the word “spiritual” because we don’t have a better word for the nebulous things that are meant by it and I’m not sure you can be careful enough about making sure that the average person doesn’t apply a mystical, woo-oriented definition of “spiritual” where it is not intended.

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Posted: 10 May 2010 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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rommey - 10 May 2010 08:08 AM

Lastly, I support Mooney’s honesty and willingness to tackle EHE, but can’t commend his naïveté thinking that she would offer anything more than what she offered in her session at the James A. Baker III Hall, Rice University. See Event

rommey I dare say you would have gotten a kick out of watching me as I was finishing listening to that lecture you provided a link to. 

I was listening and found it worthwhile for sure, so I’m making a few notes.  Sharpening my pencil for a few comments to add to this thread.

I hadn’t actually paid attention to the source, before clicking on your link.  Turned out to be a genuine hour lecture Q/A thing that was interesting and worth watching through.  Toward the end of the Q/A I heard Ecklund acknowledge the Baker Institute and some distant bell went off.  Then came final credits… and James A. Baker III Hall…  the Baker Institute…  What!  Oh *%#/ that James Baker!  That man who belongs on my list of the ten super villains of my era.  Then, I remembered the Templeton Foundation was mentioned in Mooney’s interview and all the hostile stuff I’ve read about them in some threads.  rommey you’da busted up watching my transition.

Well, now, your hostility makes a little more sense.  In fact, it took all the wind out of the post I was putting together and I just stepped away from the whole thing.  But, a good six hours have passed and i feel better now.

So, on the one hand I can appreciate some of your cut’n dry hostility toward the funding sources and skepticism toward the results of said studies. 
But, I feel like that’s a different sort of battle than the one I’m focusing on.

Namely, that need in most of us people to acknowledge a (an ineffable) connection to a primal reality beyond our ability to grasp.  Perhaps including biological memories (instincts) of our evolutionary paths - even in a behavioral, perceptual manner.  The fuzz in the image we see through our crude telescopic (mental) instruments.

Spirituality for lack of a better term.

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Posted: 10 May 2010 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Bill Goodwin - 10 May 2010 09:59 AM

Unless I missed the point, she is trying to have us understand that scientists are more “spiritual” than we would expect but reasserts that they reject “religion”.

I’m suggesting that scientists who she suggests are “spiritual” are blending an objective, science-based understanding of reality with a subjective set of feelings, values and behaviors that we all seem to share to some extent or another.

There is a difference between the conducting and interpretation of science,
and the human being who is doing the conducting and interpretation of the science.

What is valid for one is not necessarily valid for the other.

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Posted: 10 May 2010 08:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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CMooney - 10 May 2010 09:47 AM

p.s.: To George, the NAS members may be smarter, but I am sure they are also many other things….they may differ in age/generation, for instance. I wouldn’t assume it is only intelligence.

Well, I wouldn’t assume it is only intelligence, but it seemed like the least controversial one to mention. I gave it a quick look and found at least two more, but after considering it carefully I think I’ll keep it to myself.

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Posted: 11 May 2010 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Finally listened to the podcast. Very good show, Chris.

Some of my concern with these sociological experiments is that the data itself appears to me fundamentally inchoate. Take the difference between spiritual and nonspiritual atheists, for example. My suspicion is that the box a particular scientist gets put into may depend on a turn of phrase that the scientist him or herself views as unimportant. Viz., the ones who use the term “spiritual” get called “spiritual scientists” and the ones that use the term “awe and majesty” do not. Is that a really crucial distinction? Or, as it often seems to me, is that the kind of thing that depends basically on whim. I know that even on this forum there have been some arguments about the term “spiritual”, but first, I doubt that many scientists would get very worked up about the term, and second, even if they would, what would be the basis of their concern? Many don’t like the term because historically it has had supernatural implications. But the interview led me to believe that all the scientists in the discussion rejected those implications, so it would seem to me that the difference between the scientists who engage in “spiritualist” language and those that don’t might basically amount to a meaningless disagreement about semantics, more akin to a different accent than a different belief.

Further, re. the issues of new atheism, while there may be some new atheists who hate all religion equally, in my experience even some of the most prominent new atheists like Dawkins have said that they have nothing particularly against a sort of soft, liberal Christianity that views itself as compatible with science. IIRC Dawkins said that if all Christianity were like that, he would not have spoken out so much. So one wonders if around 95% of the sample believed in evolution, whether what we’re talking about even with the religious folks is the sort of soft, liberal sort of religion that really many new atheists don’t seem to be so strident towards. That didn’t really come out in the discussion, though it is an important caveat. And it once again shows that scientists are very significantly different in their religious beliefs than the general public.

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