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Scientists and Religion

June 30th, 2006 | by Paul Merda |

Some things are difficult to grasp and difficult to talk about, like what should a scientists think about religion? For me as well as many other scientifically minded folks, my Atheism/Agnosticism comes not from a pre-determined worldview, but from investigating the claims made by religion and holding them up to scrutiny. I was once religious, born and raised Catholic. Sadly, the day came when I found out there was no such thing as Santa Claus, my faith not only in our Winter friend gone but at the time I also linked it to the religion I was raised under. If Santa isn’t real, then god just can’t be either, both are fantasy. The same set of bullshit was fed to me for Santa as was for god. I tried to believe for many years, I tried to reconcile what I know can’t be true with what I was told WAS true. After years of looking for evidence for this god, I was finally convinced that since there was no evidence that anything supernatural has ever taken place and that I can not accept religion of any sort….all are manmade. Far more complicated that that really, but in a nutshell there it is.

I’ve generally been a skeptic my whole life and being a skeptic can only lead you to only one conclusion about existence of the supernatural….it doesn’t exist and if it does it does not interact with the natural world in any knowable way.

This isn’t to say that Scientists can’t be religious, they can only be religious if they do not hold the same standards for evidence in their Faith as they do for their work…

  1. 8 Responses to “Scientists and Religion”

  2. By Dr. Forbush on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Paul,

    I know where you are coming from. However, there are a couple of things that point to the direction that there might be a god. The one supernatural event that I could contemplate is the creation of the Universe. Somehow there was nothing and 13 billion years ago suddenly there was something. Science can’t answer the question to what created that event to happen, because it is beyond nature, hence supernatural. However, the Biblical stories don’t really address this event in any scientific or rational way, so I wouldn’t go so far as to jump in that boat.

    The other thing that might point in the direction of God certainly couldn’t be called supernatural, but it goes against self interest, which is beyond normal behavior. But, when people help one another instead of acting purely out of self interest. It is easy to argue that man is able to calculate that in the long run helping others will help himself. But, some people just do nice things for people without concidering their own self interest.

    Other than that, it is really difficult to buy into the concept of a god, from a scientific point of view.

     

  3. By Paul Merda on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Indeed, the apparent creation of the universe does leave many unanswered questions.  If we survive for long enough as a species, I do have hope that one day we’ll figure it out, but alas our science and technology is currently ill-equiped to answer that question. 

    Your second point is pretty good I must admit.  A prime example of altruistic behavior that goes against the grain is adoption.  Evolutionarily speaking, why would someone raise another’s child???  There are no genes from the parent being passed on.  There was an article about this in Discover a few months (maybe a year or more, hell I don’t know) that talked about adoption but never seemed to answer the conundrum…

     

  4. By Paul Watson The Cranky Brit on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Paul,

    There’s nothing that says that even if we explain everything scientifically, which I doubt will ever be possible, it negates the existence of God. God could just have set all the rules up, and is currently sitting back with a beer watching his creation on the TV.

  5. By Dr. Forbush on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Paul and Paul,

    I think that there are actually two questions.

    1) Is there a god?

    2) If there is a God, is He like the God of the Jews, the Christians, the Musslims, or something completely different?

    I would suggest that man has no idea of what God is like. That is if He exists at all.

  6. By Paul Merda on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Agreed Paul!!  I just find answers from science far more satisfying than answers from “revealed religions”.  I’ll take the science answers anyday…. 

    This quote kinda says it all for me, maybe you’ve seen it since I have posted it before:

    “The supernatural remains logically possible, and thus an option for belief, only because it is not susceptible to confirmation or disconfirmation on the basis of evidence. But this status is permanent–the metaphysical status of supernaturalism as at most a logical possibility will never change. To become more than a logical possibility, supernaturalism must be confirmed with unequivocal empirical evidence, and such confirmation would only demonstrate that this newly verified aspect of reality had all along never been supernatural at all, but rather a natural phenomenon which just awaited an appropriate scientific test.” – Barbara Forrest

  7. By Dr. Forbush on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Paul,

    Science is the study of the natural world and therefore it can never observe the supernatural, because by definition the supernatural is beyond nature.  But, we all live in the natural world and therefore we should realize that we can only change the natural world. The most reliable means to change the natural world is by using the data collected by scientific observation. If we were to rely on the supernatural we would end up in the second dark ages hoping and praying that things will change.

  8. By ken grandlund on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Nice topic to touch on Paul. Here’s a take from a non-scientist, non-organized religion following, humanistic, nature appreciating person like myself:

    The origins of the universe…so we can’t explain its origins, but so what? Who’s really to say that it started from nothing to become what it is now? Sure science can measure its expansion and extrapolate a possible origin from that data, but they could be all wrong. We tend to define all things in terms of human time (it’s what we know), when they may not be at all. Perhaps the universe has always been in existence, but on a different plane or dimension unseeable to humanity. I don’t need an answer to the universe’s existence to appreciate that it is there and it is changing.

    Human altruism seems to defy evolutionary logic, but does it really? At a base level, evolution seeks to further a particular species, based on the capabilities of that species to adapt and excel. Altruism does not fly in the face of that long term specias goal, only in the goals of an individual. Evolution is bigger than an individual urge to exist and procreate…it is how a species acts as a whole, and altruistic endeavors simply work to extend the viability of members of the species. So humans tend to exhibit altruistic traits most strongly, but many in the animal kingdom work to further the community over the individual, especially in the insect kingdom. And many mammals and birds will adopt young of their species when their own offspring die.

    Short of verifiable miracles viewable to most all of mankind, we won’t ever prove the existence of a god undeniably. Is it because there is no god? maybe. Who knows? God and religion are not fused at the hip though, and neither is spirituality and belief in god. Religion is a human construct, taking many forms, and it deals with man and his attempt to explain what he can’t learn through observation.

    I’ve a few posts on religion that perhaps I’ll bring over to BIO soon to more fully explain some of my thoughts. But bottom line is that religion IS and SHOULD  BE a primarily personal venture. Morality does not hinge on religious beliefs. It hinges on the framework of socially acceptable actions. That many morals are codified in both religion and law only shows that humanity still needs to intertwine the two, for whatever reasons. but you could outlaw religion today and we’d still prohibit murder, rape, incest, and other such non-social actions.

  9. By Liberal Jarhead on Jun 30, 2006 | Reply

    Religion is, as Ken notes, a personal matter, and faith is by definition not knowledge-based, although if  evidence exists it may strengthen and confirm faith.  And spirituality is a related but different issue - the way I look at it is that spirituality is a quality, a state of mind and soul, and a religion is a human institution designed with the hope of achieving spirituality.  Kind of as if spirituality was the wine and a religion was the bottle.  Wine comes in all kinds of containers, though, and some bottles contain rat poison rather than wine.  And any religion, being a human institution, is subject to confusion, corruption, stagnation, and subversion.  When it degenerates to the level of people insisting that they have the franchise and if you want to be spiritual or interact with whatever God you believe in, you have to buy a ticket from them, they’ve demonstrated that their faith group has run its useful course.

    Personally, I have had experiences that leave me in the same place as Carl Jung; when asked whether he believed that God exists, he replied, “I don’t believe, I know.”  But that’s me and my experience, which carries zero weight for anyone else.

    Whenever I listen to two religious people arguing about doctrine or dogma, I get a mental picture of two people standing on a street corner in San Diego talking about how to get to New York - each has a map with a route highlighted, one going via Florida and the other via Detroit, and is insisting that his/her map is correct and if the other person wants to get to NYC, that’s how they have to get there.  Both routes will probably work; neither is exclusively correct; and who says everyone has to go to New York anyway?

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