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Science as religion (Merged)
Posted: 25 October 2010 11:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Gnostikosis - 25 October 2010 10:25 AM

You have to take care with religion because religion works from authority.

I agree that this is mostly the case but not always. Every religion has its heretics, or as I once called it, its mystical corners.

On the other side, for most people, science is an authority. This can be completely correct: if some discipline is part of established science, then it is authoritative. But sometimes it might not be. When a physicist says we should use nuclear energy because of global warming, is he then correct because he knows everything about nuclear technology? Does he know how to handle nuclear waste? Does he know the total energy investment needed before only one ampere of electricity is produced? A little exaggerated one could say ‘science’ does not exist, but there are many scientists.

Gnostikosis - 25 October 2010 10:25 AM

Authority is not always bad but there is always potential for abuse.

Yes, therefore authority must always be under at least some kind of democratic control. But not too much. Science needs the possibility of free inquiry.

Gnostikosis - 25 October 2010 10:25 AM

I don’t know… Can you mix science with awe and wonder, beauty and joy?

Well, what do you think? For me, it made the world more and more beautiful.

Gnostikosis - 25 October 2010 10:25 AM

Maybe the fear of believers is that science will take these things away.

I think this is the nail on the head. If atheists should do something, then it should be showing that awe and wonder, beauty and joy, and ethical behaviour can increase when one has a scientific world view.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 12:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Write4U - 25 October 2010 04:01 PM

...however I do believe that Humanism (is that a science?) can arrive at a fundamental human morality, by employing scientific methods as tools for providing data and comparison, from which reliable conclusions can be made.

So you belong to my category 3?

Humanism is definitely not science. Taking as principle that science has the last word about facts, is not scientific in itself. Adding that we should treat fellow humans (even if they are religious), fellow animals and nature respectfully, is even less scientific. Evolutionary theory might have to say something about the reproductive success of human animals having these values, but maybe a dictatorship is even better for humans to survive. The way how evolution works, or in fact has happened, does not say how we have to act. Actions follows from what one believes to be true, and the values one has. Science just happens to be the most reliable source of true beliefs.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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GdB - 26 October 2010 12:59 AM
Write4U - 25 October 2010 04:01 PM

...however I do believe that Humanism (is that a science?) can arrive at a fundamental human morality, by employing scientific methods as tools for providing data and comparison, from which reliable conclusions can be made.

So you belong to my category 3?

Humanism is definitely not science. Taking as principle that science has the last word about facts, is not scientific in itself. Adding that we should treat fellow humans (even if they are religious), fellow animals and nature respectfully, is even less scientific. Evolutionary theory might have to say something about the reproductive success of human animals having these values, but maybe a dictatorship is even better for humans to survive. The way how evolution works, or in fact has happened, does not say how we have to act. Actions follows from what one believes to be true, and the values one has. Science just happens to be the most reliable source of true beliefs.

GdB

I am a Humanist so I hope I don’t fall in #3.
Moreover I said that science can and is a valuable tool for data from which conclusions may be derived, not that it had the last word about facts. What is science if not about measurable facts which you can believe in? That does not make science into a religion or a complete belief system. It is a valuable tool.
I agree that humans can and do adapt to almost any system you can devise and survive, but so does the rest of the natural world. What sets us apart is the ability to form a guide for behavior, other than predatory, and preferably symbiotic to our surroundings. Science can provide clear evidence of man’s impact on its environment and we can then devise and establish a moral sytem that would allow respect for modes of behavior while living in close proximity, but different from an ant hill or a beehive.
Thus a human ethical model must incorporate knowledge of general human behavior, knowledge of the dynamics in a community, and knowledge of the impact on the external world. This data may be provided by science as building blocks for a rational model of human morality. But if we were to adopt science as a religion, there would be no need for humans. Robots would become our gods.

[ Edited: 26 October 2010 03:29 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 26 October 2010 04:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Write4U,

I put you in category 3 because I more or less read that science on its own should be able to give a basis for morality (even if it has not progressed enough yet). And I assume it is a ‘slip of the keyboard that you wrote ‘(science has not)...the last word about facts’. If not science, what has the last word of facts?

My point is that for (moral) decisions we need facts and values. We will never be able ‘to get rid of the values’ by scientific inquiry. That does not mean that morality is not rational at all, but at least a rational analysis should be able to work out the values used by the arguments put forth in favour of a decision. It helps us to be as consistent as possible based on values. And what function values have in society surely is a scientific (sociological) topic. But would that answer the question which value we actually have, or should have?

Which requirements should ‘a rational model of human morality’ meet, according to you?

And sure, science is not a religion, my OP dealt with attitudes to science.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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GdB - 26 October 2010 04:16 AM

Write4U,

I put you in category 3 because I more or less read that science on its own should be able to give a basis for morality (even if it has not progressed enough yet). And I assume it is a ‘slip of the keyboard that you wrote ‘(science has not)...the last word about facts’. If not science, what has the last word of facts?

No, I said that I did not say that science is the LAST word. Then I followed it up with the question (perhaps misleading) that if we cannot rely on science to provide facts, what other method can be shown to be more reliable than science in the gathering of facts.

My point is that for (moral) decisions we need facts and values. We will never be able ‘to get rid of the values’ by scientific inquiry. That does not mean that morality is not rational at all, but at least a rational analysis should be able to work out the values used by the arguments put forth in favour of a decision. It helps us to be as consistent as possible based on values. And what function values have in society surely is a scientific (sociological) topic. But would that answer the question which value we actually have, or should have?

I agree that we need facts and values. The facts provided by science and the values provided by our honesty in recognizing where we have gone wrong and I believe we can point to many examples where our current values have not been very friendly to our environment. This is where science can show us where we have gone wrong. It does not follow that science can show us how we can do it right. That behavior modification (moral adjustments) must be made by humans, based on the evidence.
Example: Global warming.  Scientific data is now showing that our lifestyle has had a detrimental impact on the entire globe and may become a serious crisis in the near future. Thus we are actively discussing what adjustments we must make to prevent disaster. Those are moral judgements and adjustments which cannot be provided by science, but can be based on the evidence..
Thus, Science is a tool, not an end-all.
I do not believe we are that far apart. Perhaps I did not state my viewpoint clearly.

Which requirements should ‘a rational model of human morality’ meet, according to you?

I am no expert in the field of human morality, but one global value or moral in our obligation to the earth might be taken from medicine; “First do no harm” (Hippocratic oath). Then many values expressed in our Constitution and BOR may be used in such a model. Perhaps with some clear language where our freedoms may impact our environment and are not automatically granted, but require review and approval. Humanist principles may be a valuable source for social rights and responsibilities.
I have not thought this through but whatever model is adopted must rely in no small part on scientific evidence for the need of review of our current morals and values as it pertains to the earth and people’s responsibilities inherent in the use of global resources. As far as I know, there are no other reliable data sources outside of science which would yield better information for such considerations.

And sure, science is not a religion, my OP dealt with attitudes to science.

GdB

I hope this has removed me from the list.. cheese

[ Edited: 26 October 2010 05:34 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 26 October 2010 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Write4U - 26 October 2010 05:24 AM

Example: Global warming.  Scientific data is now showing that our lifestyle has had a detrimental impact on the entire globe and may become a serious crisis in the near future. Thus we are actively discussing what adjustments we must make to prevent disaster. Those are moral judgements and adjustments which cannot be provided by science, but can be based on the evidence..

I think we should even work this out a little more: even if we are going to a disaster, one could ask ‘So what?’. E.g. when somebody is convinced that the only meaning of his life to enjoy his own life as much as possible, and that others must do the same, he might not care that in 50 years humans will die out. Not his problem. To bring us to action there is a deeper lying value: that we do care for other humans, for future humans, and our culture, from Bach to Robin Williams.

But you are from the list, don’t worry!  wink

GdB

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Posted: 26 October 2010 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Honestly it’s hard to capture feelings of awe and wonder from science.

It’s fun to watch and wonder as a magician does his tricks. Know how the tricks are done you kind of lose that sense of wonder.

However I do remember stories of Tesla doing some amazing things with science. However since there was no practical way to make money with it there wasn’t much enthusiasm in providing financial support so he could pursue them.

Maybe it’s a matter of people taking science for granted. Science seems more about making money then encouraging the sense of discovery early scientists had.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Gnostikosis - 26 October 2010 08:46 AM

Honestly it’s hard to capture feelings of awe and wonder from science.

You mean understanding about plate tectonics, doesn’t increase your awe at a volcano, or earthquakes or tsunamis?
Or that climate science and learning about the multiple layers of interconnections and influence within our biosphere doesn’t increase ones awe when looking up into gather storms, or the roll of ocean waves?
The body, all the stuff that goes on in there, stuff that is totally invisible to all but the scientific investigation, that doesn’t overwhelm one with awe and wonder?

I don’t get your statement.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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citizenschallenge.pm - 26 October 2010 09:55 AM
Gnostikosis - 26 October 2010 08:46 AM

Honestly it’s hard to capture feelings of awe and wonder from science.

You mean understanding about plate tectonics, doesn’t increase your awe at a volcano, or earthquakes or tsunamis?
Or that climate science and learning about the multiple layers of interconnections and influence within our biosphere doesn’t increase ones awe when looking up into gather storms, or the roll of ocean waves?
The body, all the stuff that goes on in there, stuff that is totally invisible to all but the scientific investigation, that doesn’t overwhelm one with awe and wonder?

I don’t get your statement.

One can be awed by nature regardless of science. I find the science taught in public schools kind of stale. No sense of discovery or potential as to what could be accomplished. It was all about what has already been discovered and repeating experiments that have already been done.

No doubt someone could develop that drive to make new discoveries and accomplish amazing things on their own. However I think that is more luck then design.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Gnostikosis - 26 October 2010 10:20 AM

One can be awed by nature regardless of science.

but only by its superficial aspects - to appreciate the depths within nature you need science.

Gnostikosis - 26 October 2010 10:20 AM

I find the science taught in public schools kind of stale. No sense of discovery or potential as to what could be accomplished. It was all about what has already been discovered and repeating experiments that have already been done.

Can’t argue with that.
But there are beautiful exceptions and we do have hero’s such as Feynman, Sagan, Attenborough, Azimov, and many others, to show us that teaching science doesn’t have to be stall, the teacher just needs to understand and love the subject.

[ Edited: 26 October 2010 10:31 AM by citizenschallenge.pm ]
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Posted: 26 October 2010 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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There is a class I heard about which teaches the science of being a superhero…

From what I remember you have to create a thesis and support it scientifically as to what conditions would be necessary for a human to have some of these super human abilities.

Sounds like a fun class.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Gnostikosis - 26 October 2010 10:20 AM

One can be awed by nature regardless of science.

Have you ever seen THIS, Gnostikosis? Richard Feynman on “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out.”

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Posted: 26 October 2010 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Gnostikosis - 26 October 2010 10:20 AM

One can be awed by nature regardless of science. I find the science taught in public schools kind of stale. No sense of discovery or potential as to what could be accomplished. It was all about what has already been discovered and repeating experiments that have already been done.

Well, one can’t compare science with school…

My sense of awe comes when I see Jupiter and Venus close to each other, but realize they are millions of miles apart, and still circle the same star as we do. When I see the Andromeda galaxy, and know the light I am seeing is 2 million years old. When I am able to see light interfere between my finger nails, and when I could have shown this to Newton and Huygens the history of science would have been different. And more than all, if I realize what terrible small chance there was that I came into being: that my parents met, that humans with consciousnees came into being, that even life has developed, that the circumstances at earth and around it, were exactly right to make me possible (and you all, of course). It makes me so small, so precious, but seeing this is a great thing!

And seeing this in this way might help to feel compassionate to others in the same situation as I am, but suffer from hunger, depression, war, earth quakes, illnesses etc? Is that not, ehh, kind of, ehh spiritual?

GdB

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Posted: 26 October 2010 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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GdB - 26 October 2010 11:52 AM

Well, one can’t compare science with school…

Ok, but that is were people get first exposed to it. Just thinking if maybe they’d do a better job of it.

My sense of awe comes when I see Jupiter and Venus close to each other, but realize they are millions of miles apart, and still circle the same star as we do. When I see the Andromeda galaxy, and know the light I am seeing is 2 million years old. When I am able to see light interfere between my finger nails, and when I could have shown this to Newton and Huygens the history of science would have been different. And more than all, if I realize what terrible small chance there was that I came into being: that my parents met, that humans with consciousnees came into being, that even life has developed, that the circumstances at earth and around it, were exactly right to make me possible (and you all, of course). It makes me so small, so precious, but seeing this is a great thing!

Takes a lot to impress me I guess. I’m looking more towards what humanity can accomplish which wasn’t thought possible.

And seeing this in this way might help to feel compassionate to others in the same situation as I am, but suffer from hunger, depression, war, earth quakes, illnesses etc? Is that not, ehh, kind of, ehh spiritual?

GdB

Well I’m thinking that maybe spirituality is a poor man’s version of science about the self. Something you don’t have to worry about funding too much to pursue. 

Do a few things that makes one feel better about life to gain a more positive perspective.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Oh, if only we had more teachers like Sagan, Nye, DeGrasse Tyson!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wGke1dtWRk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQIERSvp03w

[ Edited: 26 October 2010 02:44 PM by Write4U ]
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