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Author Topic:   Article: Religion and Science
TimChase
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 230 (218039)
06-19-2005 1:36 PM


Author's Preface: This is an article intended to argue for the complementarity of religion and science. The first couple of paragraphs may seem deceptively familiar, but I believe I may have managed to take the argument to new levels, particularly with my analysis of what "proper understanding" means. I am hopeful that it might encourage a discussion of some of the issues which are involved.

Religion and Science

The religion vs. evolution debate has broken out once again, and certain groups are trying to get their religious views into high school classrooms this time in the thinly-veiled form of "intelligent design," a broad tent where young earth creationists, old earth creationists, and people who simply prefer to remain more abstract can join together in common cause. In an online discussion devoted to the issue, one individual said that he couldn't really understand what the controversy was about. He argued that if God is omniscient, omnipotent, exists outside of the world He creates, and expects us to believe in Him through faith alone, then surely He would not have left any traces in His creation which would provide an empirical alternative to that faith. Viewed this way, the world discovered through science -- including evolution and the big bang -- is simply the divinely opaque means through which God created the world we now see.

I agreed. Properly understood, there is no conflict between religion and science: each deals with different human needs (and for some people, philosophy may satisfy the same needs that religion serves for others). The realm of empirical knowledge belongs to science, whereas religion ministers to the need for normative guidance. The question of whether or not God exists lies beyond the realm of empirical science, and properly belongs to religion and philosophy. Many scientists (including a good number of evolutionists) are in fact religious -- they simply do not let their religious views interfere with the quest for empirical knowledge. (For one example, see the "Science and Religion" interview with Kenneth R. Miller, available at http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/miller.html.) Properly, scientists will respect these beliefs of their religious colleagues, realizing they may very well provide those colleagues with the moral guidance which makes them better scientists. The importance of moral guidance, and, more specifically, the moral courage to deal with the ever-present possibility of failure in both the existential and cognitive realms, is not to be underestimated.

In the existential realm, religion properly provides the individual with the moral courage to act despite the possibility of failure, where failure can sometimes mean the possibility of actual death, and the fear of failure itself can often be experienced as such. Likewise, the fear of being mistaken -- where being mistaken may threaten our beliefs about who we are -- is at times experienced as a threat much like death itself. Here, too, there is need for moral courage, although of a somewhat different kind. Properly, religion encourages in its own way the view that while recognizing one's mistakes may be experienced prospectively as a form of death, the act itself brings a form of rebirth and self-transcendence, giving one the courage to revise one's beliefs when confronted with new evidence.

However, when people attempt to mix the realms of religion and science attempting, for example, to use science to promote a given religious or philosophic view -- in the long run, given the very nature of the relationship between religion and science, the results will be the reverse of what is intended, and may end up damaging what in fact they hold most dear. For example, a proponent of science who believes that faith in God is absurd in the age of Science may end up creating a religious backlash against science itself among those who take a different view. But properly, empirical science cannot speak of the metaphysics of that which lies beyond the empirical realm and the ontology required by its naturalistic explanations.

Alternatively, those who attempt to use science to prove the existence of God will end up with a God susceptible to empirical criticism, when belief in God should be a matter of faith. A religious view rooted in science will be grounded in the shifting sands of scientific discourse, placed in constant threat of being uprooted by the newest scientific discoveries. For the better among those who initially accept this substitute for true faith, such a view will at first seem intoxicating, but will soon prove poisonous to their religious beliefs.

For others, the proper religious stance becomes transformed, and the proper intellectual courage to revise one's beliefs when confronted with new evidence is transmuted into its polar opposite. Intellectual "courage" becomes the will and the power to challenge, doubt and deny any body of empirical evidence or knowledge whenever it comes into conflict with their religious or political beliefs. At this point, one of the most fundamental ethical virtues honesty -- has itself become undermined, and with it all the virtues which would normally be encouraged and taught through the moral guidance of religion. Properly, religious leaders who understand what is at stake will oppose "empirical" faith both for the contradiction which it embodies and as the antithesis of the true faith they seek to protect and nourish.

When properly understood, this unnecessary conflict between religion and science will be consigned to the oblivion it so richly deserves. Yet more could undoubtedly be done so as to avoid such misunderstandings and consequent conflicts in the future. Science has been and continues to be responsible for a great deal of humanity's material and intellectual progress. Religion is responsible for humanity's moral and spiritual guidance. The roles they serve are complementary and to a significant extent in today's world, interdependent. Religion and science each have their own inner dynamic, but religious and scientific communities share a common concern for humanity as a whole. If religion and science are to perform their proper functions in human society, they must remain separate, with their fundamental natures respected. But still there can be dialogue.

Some time ago, Pope John Paul II visited with biologists to discuss evolution and then ended official Catholic Church opposition to evolutionary theory. This was a good beginning, but unfortunately there wasn't much follow-up. If a dialogue were to begin between the religious and scientific communities, one born out of mutual understanding and respect, such a dialogue could serve the interests of both communities and perhaps even the interests of humanity as a whole. As one interesting possibility, a scientist of the same denomination as a given church might occasionally make a good guest speaker, particularly if he were to discuss the role that religious belief has played in his life and work, and he were to share a few of the more interesting, recent discoveries in his particular field.

In a sense, such religious scientists might serve as bidirectional ambassadors between the two communities, and would deserve honored places within both. If properly promoted, such guest speakers might help to boost church attendance, particularly if they are good speakers. And perhaps when church services are not being held, churches could make available rooms where scientists could discuss their work with the public, and even their concerns for some of the problems which currently face humanity. This could also serve as good public relations for the religious and scientific communities as a whole. I myself do not know where a dialogue between these communities would lead this would be up to the participants. But I have little doubt that it could become quite interesting and enlightening for everyone involved.

This message has been edited by TimChase, 06-19-2005 07:55 PM


Replies to this message:
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 Message 3 by crashfrog, posted 06-19-2005 2:06 PM TimChase has responded
 Message 6 by Faith, posted 06-19-2005 8:08 PM TimChase has responded
 Message 17 by PaulK, posted 06-20-2005 9:32 AM TimChase has responded

  
jar
Member
Posts: 25115
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 2 of 230 (218040)
06-19-2005 1:37 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by TimChase
06-19-2005 1:36 PM


Promoted
by AdminJar
This message is a reply to:
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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 230 (218052)
06-19-2005 2:06 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by TimChase
06-19-2005 1:36 PM


I don't hold with the "Seperate Magesterium" or whatever its called.

The realm of empirical knowledge belongs to science, whereas religion ministers to the need for normative guidance.

Why can't science be the basis for normative guidance? In fact, I'll go farther - prove to me that empiricism isn't already the basis for every person's practical morality.

This message has been edited by crashfrog, 06-19-2005 02:06 PM


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 1:36 PM TimChase has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 7:02 PM crashfrog has responded
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TimChase
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 230 (218114)
06-19-2005 7:02 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by crashfrog
06-19-2005 2:06 PM


An Empirical Moral Guide...
An interesting question...

I am entirely open to different people having different foundations for their moral beliefs. For example, I have no problem with someone taking a philosophical approach to answering questions regarding ethics, or, if they are religious, having different religious views -- but I have chosen, for the most part, to tailor the message towards Christians as I believe that if our society can achieve proper tolerance for the scientific endeavor, then religious tolerance will more or less take care of itself. I personally believe that experience must inform our ethical decisions, but there are certain difficulties which face a "system" which attempts to defend certain fundamental ethical principles simply by reference to experience -- which, as I understand it, would be what is required for empiricism to arrive at fundamental ethical principles by which to guide actions.

An Empirical Justification for Honesty?

To see the particular problem which is involved, I would recommend just considering for the moment the question of whether one should be honest. Can one justify the virtue of honesty simply by empirical means? Well, what would such justification consist of -- within an empirical framework? Whether or not being honest (or keeping one's word) is practical, perhaps? Whether or not honesty achieves one's goals? A garden-variety criminal may very well have little problem with this sort of approach, chosing to be honest only when he believes that honesty is a practical means of achieving his ends.

And of course, there is the question of "practical -- by reference to what end?" And how does one non-arbitrarily pick an end by reference to which one will judge actions or the principles which guide actions?

Perhaps by reference to whether or not these ends achieve some other ends? Of course, we will need some sort of causal analysis which shows that they do in fact achieve or can serve as the means to achieving those other ends, but then we are faced with a regress, one which may either be finite or infinite. Now if it is infinite, then we have no ultimate ground for our actions. But if it is finite, then it ends in some form of ultimate value, something which is valued for its own sake, and not as the means to any other ends. But now what if someone else choses a different ultimate value? How do you prove that you have chosen the correct ultimate value and not he? And is there only one ultimate value in your ethical system, or several? If there is more than one, how do you handle conflicts between different ultimate values? These are just a few of the considerations which one would have to address to arrive at some form of philosophical or empirical approach to ethics. Which is not to say that I would recommend against it -- if this something you are interested in, by all means -- take it as far as you can go!

Norms and Scientific Knowledge:

But in fact there are deeper questions for someone taking a philosophical approach to justifying what might be refered to as "epistemic norms." For example, empirical science typically takes for granted (at least according to a standard approach, although there are other approaches, such as Karl Popper's principle of falsifiability -- which itself could lead to some interesting discussions, particularly since this has been a popular approach among evolutionists in the past, and may still be today) some form of the rule of simplicity, which states in one form or another, "All else being equal, if one has two explanations of the same phenomena, one should go with the simplest explanation." But how does one justify the rule of simplicity itself? Would one seek to show that this tends to achieve knowledge, even though at times it may arrive at a false set of beliefs? Would this be a causal tendency? One would necessarily be employing a form of causal reasoning in order to justify the rule of simplicity, and it wouldn't be a particularly simple form of causal reasoning -- as the rule of simplicity must be applied to all of one's empirical reasoning, no matter the context. Fortunately, in one form or another, scientists tend to (at least implicitly) take some form of the rule of simplicity for granted. But given the difficulties which evolutionary science is currently facing in our society, it is clear that there are some communities which do not simply adhere to different epistemic norms, but norms which are entirely at odds with the epistemic norms of empirical science. Once again, if you believe you can answer these problems, I would encourage you to do so -- even if it takes a lifetime, because it will certainly be worth it.

Repairing a Jetliner in Flight:

However, I am taking a somewhat different approach, at least within the context of the article. In essence, my approach is to acknowledge the fact that I am living in a society which is in a particular state. There are the scientific communities which persue empirical knowledge. There are religious leaders which the good majority of our citizens look to for moral guidance. I might consider trying to put together a philosophic system which addresses all the various issues which face the citizens of this society -- but chances are this would take me several lifetimes. But, assuming I get this system done (when no one at least appears to have succeeded in such a task over the past couple of millenia), there is still the problem of convincing everyone that I have all the answers. And while I am trying to arrive at those answers and convince everyone that I have those answers, our society will be moving and changing with the passage of time, moving very rapidly, perhaps towards one crisis or another. I personally doubt that I have the time or the ability to arrive at all the answers and get everyone to switch over to my philosophic system once I have it -- even assuming it is the correct philosophic system.

Instead, my approach is to make what little changes are needed, perhaps simply a small course-correction with this jet in flight. To attempt a radical change in the structure of the jet is likely to end in disaster, but a small course-correction may be more than enough to avoid one.

The scientific community should quite naturally value scientists who are honest, and who are able to admit when they are wrong. The good majority of clergy are more than willing to encourage this sort of honesty so long as their religious views are respected. But moreover, clergy are able to understand that if the virtue of honesty is undermined, then all ethical virtues are endangered, and this is something which they will necessarily oppose -- for they seek, in their own way, to inculcate virtue. Moreover, both communities value humanity as a whole, therefore they have something in common, and this may provide the basis for some form of cooperation which will benefit society and perhaps humanity as a whole.

This message has been edited by TimChase, 06-19-2005 07:03 PM


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by crashfrog, posted 06-19-2005 2:06 PM crashfrog has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by crashfrog, posted 06-19-2005 11:38 PM TimChase has responded

  
TimChase
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 230 (218117)
06-19-2005 7:23 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by crashfrog
06-19-2005 2:06 PM


Some Other Questions to Consider
The real response (at least for the time being) to crashfrog's questions is "An Empirical Moral Guide." However, I thought I might throw out a few interesting questions for anyone interested. Not like I expect people to post their answers, unless of course they want to. But these questions might open-up a few issues and get some sort of discussion going....

Here they are:

1. How is the word "properly" being employed?

2. How have members of religious and scientific communities viewed
one-another in the past?

3. Can we expect the level of cooperation which I am suggesting from
the clergy of various religious communities?

4. Is it really possible for their to exist the kind of cooperation
which I am suggesting between the two sets of communities?

5. Can this cooperation actually exist without breaching the
separation between science and religion?

6. What would constitute such a breach?

7. How are religious members of scientific communities currently treated?

8. What happens if one takes a more allegorical understanding of the
first paragraph?

9. If one did take the approach suggested in (8), what would be required for the rest of the argument to work -- specifically in terms of the origins of religion?

10. Am I in fact suggesting the right kind of strategy for promoting
and defending evolutionary science?

11. How would abiogenesis fit into this?

12. And of course, what exactly is the nature of "proper understanding"?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by crashfrog, posted 06-19-2005 2:06 PM crashfrog has not yet responded

  
Faith
Member
Posts: 16922
Joined: 10-06-2001
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 6 of 230 (218121)
06-19-2005 8:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by TimChase
06-19-2005 1:36 PM


The Fundy Factor
As you say, this is an extremely dense article. I'm sure I'm not grasping a great deal of it, and mostly I expect to be a fly on the wall on this thread.

But one thing that you SEEM to be saying is that the complementarity you are supporting between religion and science leaves out "fundamentalists."

In your discussion of your aims in the Proposed New Topics thread, you say:

The ending is needed, partly because it indicates that we -- evolutionists who are calling on the help of Enlightenment Christians (as opposed to the Christian Fundamentalists) are sincere in our statement that there is no conflict between religion and evolution, that they are in fact complementary...

"Enlightenment Christians" don't see a conflict between religion and science, do they? It's Fundamentalist Christians who do. So what need is there to convince the first group of complementarity? I would suppose it's us fundies you'd think need the convincing, as nobody else in the religious community gives you the grief we do :), yet you seem to be leaving us out of the mix. This, actually, is fine by me, if puzzling, fine because we have the truth, you see :) and if science contradicts it, there just IS no complementarity.

This appears to be the relevant paragraph:

For others, the proper religious stance becomes transformed, and the proper intellectual courage to revise one's beliefs when confronted with new evidence is transmuted into its polar opposite. Intellectual "courage" becomes the will and the power to challenge, doubt and deny any body of empirical evidence or knowledge whenever it comes into conflict with their religious or political beliefs. At this point, one of the most fundamental ethical virtues honesty -- has itself become undermined, and with it all the virtues which would normally be encouraged and taught through the moral guidance of religion. Properly, religious leaders who understand what is at stake will oppose "empirical" faith both for the contradiction which it embodies and as the antithesis of the true faith they seek to protect and nourish.

*IF* I'm following this (which is far from certain, starting with not grasping what you mean by "transformed," but most especially when you get to your last sentence about "empirical" faith, where you've lost me completely), it appears to be quite a challenge, in fact an accusation. You are claiming that our insistence on the overarching sovereignty of God as revealed in the Bible, and refusal of everything that contradicts it, lead (inevitably?) to dishonesty. That's a pretty familiar accusation around here, actually, which you seem to be attempting to set in philosophical concrete.

Where is the dishonesty in saying that as long as science goes on "proving" that Biblical revelation is wrong, we are holding out for science to get around to recognizing that it is wrong in those areas, and will not support any facets of science that continue in that direction? Seems quite honest and straightforward to me.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 1:36 PM TimChase has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 9:20 PM Faith has responded
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TimChase
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 230 (218132)
06-19-2005 9:20 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Faith
06-19-2005 8:08 PM


Re: The Fundy Factor
Understood.

I have no problem with there being fundamentalists in society. Society can be made all the richer for it. But what I would oppose is having fundamentalists rise to a position of political power, for not only would this be damaging to science, but at least in my view, quite damaging to religious tolerance and much of the rest of the society that I value and would defend with my very life, if need be.

"I vow -- upon the altar of God -- eternal hostility towards every form of tyranny over the mind of Man." -- Thomas Jefferson

That quote has been my favorite quote for the past twenty years. Too bad Thomas Jefferson didn't fully live up to it, but one of his contemporaries did quite well by it -- a fellow by the name of Thomas Paine. I hope that I may honor it and him with both my words and my actions.

In truth, I have difficulty understanding how religious fundamentalists are able to put up with or cooperate with those who choose to remain more abstract, i.e., those who support "intelligent design" and claim that evolution most certainly could have taken place, and may have taken billions of years, as opposed to the ten or so thousands of years which young earth creationists normally give it, but only that at certain critical moments, God chose to get involved -- rather than created the world in accordance with a literal interpretation of Genesis. The proponents of intelligent design are in essence saying that a fully literal interpretation of the bible may not be correct, as are the old earth creationists, and as such, it would seem to me that you would find their positions anathema -- that as far you are concerned, they are no better than myself, but are full accomplices in the lies and deceit which rule this world. But through some miracle which I can't fully comprehend, you are able to cooperate with them. How you manage to do this is not really my concern.

Now at a certain level, I have to admit that you are more honest than the people you chose to associate with -- they say that the world is somewhere between 5,000 and 4.5 billion years old, whereas true Fundamentalists come right out and say that the world is no older than approximately 10,000 years. That is certainly worthy of some respect: you are not going to hedge your bets and try to dissimilate simply in order to get the rest of society to accept you or to smuggle in a few of your beliefs.

But now lets look for a moment at what the proponents of intelligent design are attempting to do: they wish to argue for the existence of God (a God which they believe in presumably as a matter of faith) by empirical means. This, it would seem, indicates that they do not have sufficient faith. It is also what I would refer to as empirical "faith" which I might contrast with "faith-based" science -- which in my view is what it must evolve into:

A faith rooted in science will be subject to the shifting sands of scientific discourse, placed in constant threat by the newest scientific discoveries. Empirical faith will wither under such an assault -- leaving in its place an intellect twisted and deformed by its denials of the truth which it refuses to see.

In today's world, things are changing very, very quickly. Science is advancing so quickly that it is difficult for experts to keep tabs on all of the developments in their own areas of expertise, let alone areas which are closely related. In my view, this makes for uncertain times. And in my view, this makes the need for religion greater than it has been at perhaps any other time in history. With change comes uncertainty, and with so much change, it is difficult for people to know exactly where to stand, what won't per chance be pulled out from under them. They need something which they can count on, to build a view of themselves in relation to a world which is in a constant state of change. I believe religion can and does do this. But not by standing against the torrent of scientific discovery. It might succeed in a given debate, but not in the world, at least not without destroying the best within it and no doubt a great deal more.

Currently (if polls are taken at face value) most americans agree that some form of "creationism" is true, and they are at least partly sympathetic towards intelligent design. At the same time, I believe the good majority of their religious leaders have studied the issue of whether or not evolution is true -- they have had to, partly for the sake of answering the questions of those members of their congregation who were troubled with the issue of Science vs. Religion, but partly for the sake of answering their own questions, because, given their ethics, they had to take a long, hard look at the issue for themselves. In addition, most religious leaders tend to be more well-educated than the majority of those in their congregations. They know that evolutionary theory is probably the most well-supported theory currently available to man. But they have as of yet to let their congregations in on this little secret. They hold back, I think, at least in part because they are afraid of how some of the members of their congregation might react.

But I believe now is the time for men of courage to step forth, whether they are members of scientific communities or the leaders of religious communities. The attempt to mix religion and science will be destructive of both religion and science, but this should in no way prevent members of the two communities from coming together in common cause, for by working together, they can preserve the wall which separates religion and science and thereby protect the essence of both -- and in the process, human society itself.

This message has been edited by TimChase, 06-19-2005 09:56 PM


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Faith, posted 06-19-2005 8:08 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Faith, posted 06-19-2005 10:22 PM TimChase has responded
 Message 10 by jar, posted 06-19-2005 10:46 PM TimChase has not yet responded

  
TimChase
Inactive Member


Message 8 of 230 (218137)
06-19-2005 9:43 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Faith
06-19-2005 8:08 PM


Some Evidence for Evolution
In all fairness, I should include some evidence for evolution, particularly since I claim that it is so well justified. Here are a eight links to some pretty dramatic stuff and links to their associated home pages where you can find out more...

Whale Evolution/Cetacean Evolution (Atavistic Hind Limbs on Modern Whales)
http://edwardtbabinski.us/whales/
from
Edward T Babinski
http://edwardtbabinski.us/

Smooth Change in the Fossil Record
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/fossil_series.html
from
Don Lindsay Archive
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/

Transitional Fossil Species
http://www.origins.tv/darwin/transitionals.htm
from
Darwinians and Evolution
http://www.origins.tv/darwin/indexpage.htm

Observed Instances of Speciation
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
from
The Talk.Origins Archive
http://www.talkorigins.org/

Some More Observed Speciation Events
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html
(Homepage given above)

Ring Species: Unusual Demonstrations of Speciation
http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/irwin.html
from
Action Bioscience.Org
http://www.actionbioscience.org/

The Evolution Evidence Page (homepage for website)
http://www.gate.net/~rwms/EvoEvidence.html

The Fossil Record: Evolution or "Scientific Creation"
http://www.gcssepm.org/special/cuffey_05.htm
from
GCSSEPM Special Interests
http://www.gcssepm.org/special/

This message has been edited by TimChase, 06-19-2005 09:43 PM


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Faith, posted 06-19-2005 8:08 PM Faith has not yet responded

  
Faith
Member
Posts: 16922
Joined: 10-06-2001
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 9 of 230 (218141)
06-19-2005 10:22 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by TimChase
06-19-2005 9:20 PM


Re: The Fundy Factor
This could very quickly get way off topic so I'll try to rein in my response.

I have no problem with there being fundamentalists in society.

Such a statement does give a person pause. Is there really doubt about our being tolerated "in society?" Unfortunately I know there is, and this way you put it underscores the threat, although I don't think you intend it that way.

Society can be made all the richer for it. But what I would oppose is having fundamentalists rise to a position of political power, for not only would this be damaging to science, but at least in my view, quite damaging to religious tolerance and much of the rest of the society that I value and would defend with my very life, if need be.

This is a HUGE topic. Bible-believers, with the exception of the few notable Deists, founded this nation. There were a hundred founders at least, men who were intimately involved with the framing of the new nation, and most of them were Bible-believers, not Deists -- but even Deism was just a watered-down Christianity, not another religion. Also, the majority of the population were Bible-believers, and the very IDEA of tolerance came out of American Calvinist Christianity, but it has come down to this now, that you would defend the nation we created against us. That IS the sad irony that we are facing, but it is off topic and I don't want to say any more about it.

In truth, I have difficulty understanding how religious fundamentalists are able to put up with or cooperate with those who choose to remain more abstract, i.e., those who support "intelligent design" and claim that evolution most certainly could have taken place, and may have taken billions of years, as opposed to the ten or so thousands of years which young earth creationists normally give it, but only that at certain critical moments, God chose to get involved -- rather than created the world in accordance with a literal interpretation of Genesis. The proponents of intelligent design are in essence saying that a fully literal interpretation of the bible may not be correct, as are the old earth creationists, and as such, it would seem to me that you would find their positions anathema -- that as far you are concerned, they are no better than myself, but are full accomplices in the lies and deceit which rule this world. But through some miracle which I can't fully comprehend, you are able to cooperate with them. How you manage to do this is not really my concern.

But perhaps I will try to explain how nevertheless. You are right, and it is generally the case, that their views are anathema to a YEC, when all the facts are laid out. However, they often argue from a position that a YEC can share on specific points, because although they have given up on the first few (11?) chapters of Genesis they do defend most of the rest of the Bible. Also, to the extent their testimony to Christ is credible, they are brothers and sisters in the Lord despite their rejection of parts of the Bible, and not to be treated as aliens.

Now at a certain level, I have to admit that you are more honest than the people you chose to associate with -- they say that the world is somewhere between 5,000 and 4.5 billion years old, whereas true Fundamentalists come right out and say that the world is no older than approximately 10,000 years. That is certainly worthy of some respect: you are not going to hedge your bets and try to dissimilate simply in order to get the rest of society to accept you or to smuggle in a few of your beliefs.

But now lets look for a moment at what the proponents of intelligent design are attempting to do: they wish to argue for the existence of God (a God which they believe in presumably as a matter of faith) by empirical means. This, it would seem, indicates that they do not have sufficient faith. It is also what I would refer to as empirical "faith" which I might contrast with "faith-based" science -- which in my view is what it must evolve into:

A faith rooted in science will be subject to the shifting sands of scientific discourse, placed in constant threat by the newest scientific discoveries. Empirical faith will wither under such an assault -- leaving in its place an intellect twisted and deformed by its denials of the truth which it refuses to see.

This is a very confusing set of statements that is going to need quite a bit of unpacking if I'm to get your point.

First, I haven't noticed a particular tendency on the part of IDers to argue for the existence of God on empirical grounds. That seems to be something many of us attempt to do from time to time if we think we see evidence for God in nature and the possibility of making a case in terms an unbeliever might grasp.

Second, I'm at least starting to get what you mean by "empirical faith," but I see no implication that one's own faith is grounded on such principles based on the attempt to argue from such a standpoint. My faith is grounded in the Biblical revelation, but I may find it intriguing to try to make a case for God based on natural observations. Others do a better job than I do however so I usually don't go in that direction.

Third, in such an effort to persuade from empirical observation, not only is one's OWN faith not grounded on scientific priniciples, but the goal is not to establish a faith grounded on such principles either, but to lead a person from a recognition of the reality of God to the revelation of His nature that is given in scripture. Of course I'm not familiar with ALL such arguments, and there is a discouraging tendency for many who appear to be Christians to denigrate scripture as the basis for their belief, so if there is some ground for what you are saying you'd have to show it to me.

The rest of your post appears to address your main concern, about the state of the world, and the role you think religion should play in an atmosphere of increasing uncertainty. Your way of casting the problem is unfamiliar to me and will need some thought, but I have to stop here for now anyway, though I'll try to consider it later.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 9:20 PM TimChase has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 11:51 PM Faith has responded

    
jar
Member
Posts: 25115
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 10 of 230 (218142)
06-19-2005 10:46 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by TimChase
06-19-2005 9:20 PM


Re: The Fundy Factor
I wonder if Tolerate is the right word. How much ignorance should be considered a "Tolerable" amount?


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 9:20 PM TimChase has not yet responded

  
crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 230 (218147)
06-19-2005 11:38 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by TimChase
06-19-2005 7:02 PM


Re: An Empirical Moral Guide...
I personally believe that experience must inform our ethical decisions, but there are certain difficulties which face a "system" which attempts to defend certain fundamental ethical principles simply by reference to experience -- which, as I understand it, would be what is required for empiricism to arrive at fundamental ethical principles by which to guide actions.

Empiricism arrives at practical principles, not fundamental ones. Why would we need fundamental principles when practical ones suffice? For that matter is there anyone, really, that truly follows a fundamental moral code? I would suggest that situtational ethics, relativism, are the universal rule.

A garden-variety criminal may very well have little problem with this sort of approach, chosing to be honest only when he believes that honesty is a practical means of achieving his ends.

So, in other words, we would find that people are generally honest except when the consequences would be really bad. How is that different from the way it is?

And how does one non-arbitrarily pick an end by reference to which one will judge actions or the principles which guide actions?

You're starting to get backwards. You don't justify empiricism by recourse to assumed axioms. I'm sure you know as well as I do that tentative axioms are derived from experience and observation.

People don't need to be told what makes them happy and what makes them suffer; they don't need to derive those positions from axioms in order to experience them. They are experienced. That fact is sufficient to derive normative guidance, as evidenced by the fact that that's how normative guidance has always been derived.

Of course, we will need some sort of causal analysis which shows that they do in fact achieve or can serve as the means to achieving those other ends, but then we are faced with a regress, one which may either be finite or infinite.

The only thing we regress to is observation and experience. Empiricism, remember?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 7:02 PM TimChase has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by TimChase, posted 06-20-2005 3:53 AM crashfrog has responded

  
TimChase
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 230 (218149)
06-19-2005 11:51 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Faith
06-19-2005 10:22 PM


Re: The Fundy Factor
Dear Faith,

My apologies -- having to divide my attention between this and another list.

You are right in that I do not intend any sort of threat. However, if religious fundamentalism were to rise into a position of political power, I doubt that many of my friends -- which include traditional Moslems, Hindu, and Buddhists -- would not be under some sort of threat.

As for the few notable Deists -- they lead the American Enlightenment and were pivotal in this nation's creation. They include a good number of those who were there when the constitution was written. And by no means were the Christians of the time Fundamentalists, however much stock they may have put in the bible. Christian Fundamentalism is a far more recent phenomena -- and for this reason, I most certainly do not accept the view that this country was founded by Fundamentalists. Additionally, if the Christians of the time supported religious tolerance (and they most certainly did) it was largely because of the very difficult and hard-earned lessons learned from earlier colonial times -- when one or another religious group assumed political power within a given community. If this nation had been founded by Fundamentalists, it would have simply repeated the very same mistakes made by the early colonists.

I find your regarding the proponents of intelligent design as brothers and sisters in the lord despite the differences which so clearly exist between you interesting and perhaps even encouraging. With many of those who are a part of your movement, I believe it may still be a matter of temporary convenience. However, if you can take this attitude with respect to the proponents of intelligent design, then would it not be possible to take the same attitude towards Christians who accept the vast majority of the bible, but who regard the two stories of creation, as well as the stories of the garden and Noah's flood as essentially allegorical (i.e., symbolic, but containing essential truths regarding Man and his relationship to God) as brothers and sisters as well? If so, then the distance between us may not be as great as it seems.

Take care,
Tim

This message has been edited by TimChase, 06-19-2005 11:52 PM


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Faith, posted 06-19-2005 10:22 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by GDR, posted 06-20-2005 2:45 AM TimChase has not yet responded
 Message 15 by Faith, posted 06-20-2005 6:14 AM TimChase has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 3830
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 13 of 230 (218154)
06-20-2005 2:45 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by TimChase
06-19-2005 11:51 PM


Re: The Fundy Factor
I was wondering if you could define "Intelligent Design". To me it simply means that there is a creator. Obviously some see it as political and some seem to see it as a type of science.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by TimChase, posted 06-19-2005 11:51 PM TimChase has not yet responded

    
TimChase
Inactive Member


Message 14 of 230 (218155)
06-20-2005 3:53 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by crashfrog
06-19-2005 11:38 PM


Re: An Empirical Moral Guide...
Hopping around a bit, aren't you? ;-)

Good to see you!

Actually, the view that ethics begins with merely practical principles might not be that far off. Likewise, it may very well be the case that many people are honest except when the perceived consequences are really bad. However, I must admit that we have been talking past one-another a bit: I was speaking of morality, not merely practical principles. In my mind at least, and in the minds of the good majority of people, there is a distinction -- although I do believe the two are related, and perhaps they are quite intimately related, as I believe you would take them to be.

Like you, I don't believe in categorical imperatives. A great many people will no doubt be familiar with the old philosophic saw of the jew in the cellar, but it bears repeating, if a Nazi comes knocking and asks if there are any jews in your house (or gays, gypsies, political undesirables, etc. -- with a different patch for every different group), most ethicists would tell you that you are under no obligation to tell that Nazi the truth.

But why should they or we simply stop there? Why not simply inconvenient? Slightly unpleasant? Or why not be "immoral" whenever it seems that you can get away with it and it seems likely that you have something to gain by it? Isn't this what is truly situational? Pragmatic? Practical? And if there is no distinction between criminals and ordinary people except a matter of degree, why is it that we do in fact distinguish between criminals and innocent citizens? Between moral and immoral behavior? Would it even be meaningful to speak of moral behavior?

Of course, one might argue that society has found it expedient or practical to make such distinctions, and this may or may not be that far from the truth. But this is already taking things to another level -- further from personal experience -- and will face its own set of problems. We might turn to that in a bit.

But assuming that individuals are responsible for arriving at their own decisions of what is practical based upon their own personal experience, then it will surely take a great time for them to arrive at a body of inductions which in any way resembles an ethical code. Could a society wait for its young to perform these inductions prior to their achieving adulthood? Could a society rely upon their having performed these inductions correctly -- at least to a sufficient extent that they could be reasonably well relied upon to enter society as productive citizens -- prior to achieving adulthood, or would it have need of moral instruction? And if there were such moral instruction -- where the moral instruction itself was purely grounded in the empirical -- would the child be able to follow? Perhaps, but perhaps not. At the very least, it would be an interesting experiment, but given the stakes, I am not sure that it is one which I would be willing to try.

You're starting to get backwards. You don't justify empiricism by recourse to assumed axioms. I'm sure you know as well as I do that tentative axioms are derived from experience and observation.

Actually I was speaking of ultimate values, which may or may not be abstract. But close enough -- for the time being. Besides, this is a good lead-in to the next point after this. But for the moment, I would like to focus on your use of the term "tentative axioms." I am not quite sure that I would put it this way, particularly at lower levels of induction, but it does seem apt at the level of a scientific theory, doesn't it?

By tentative, I assume you mean that at least to some degree, the "axioms" are justified, that they constitute a form of knowledge, which, given all evidence currently available, we are justified in concluding are true -- although at some later point we may come across evidence which requires us to give up those claims to knowledge in favor of something else. Moreover, you are no doubt well-aware that there exists many levels of justification, that in fact justification forms a continuuem.

"Tentative knowledge" which we are justified in calling knowledge, but only given our current context, is called corrigible knowledge. And of course there is no need for the scare marks -- if this cannot be regarded as a form of knowledge, then nothing can be -- not even Descartes' "I think, therefore I am." (However, don't take my word for it. If you would like, I could put together a demonstration at some later point -- but the more philosophically-inclined might wish to puzzle this out for themselves -- as well as follow out the implications: it has an interesting twist -- and it is closely related to something much deeper. In truth, I must admit that I find questions related to the theory of knowledge far more interesting than those related to ethics -- but perhaps this is simply a kind of personal preference.) If we get around to Karl Popper, this may turn out to be an important point.

People don't need to be told what makes them happy and what makes them suffer; they don't need to derive those positions from axioms in order to experience them. They are experienced. That fact is sufficient to derive normative guidance, as evidenced by the fact that that's how normative guidance has always been derived.

My apologies to the sqeemish, but the next couple of examples are a bit extreme. I would almost say in bad taste -- but at this point I believe they serve an important purpose.

If the simple fact that one experiences pleasure from a given activity is sufficient for deriving normative guidance, then what of the serial killer -- who derives something akin to ecstasy from torturing and killing someone, and then reliving his "precious" experiences through personal mementos? Or what of the serial rapist who does much the same? (For each, such experiences appear to constitute ultimate values of a sort, and there is quite probably nothing you could offer them which they would value more highly.) Have they received normative guidance, particularly in the sense that would be required by a human morality?

Could you even begin to criticize them, given your current stand? As I understand it, you might claim that their actions cause you pain of a sort, insofar as you might experience empathy for the victims (and I most certainly think you would as I believe you are a good person in search of good answers), but would this actually constitute any sort of objective standard by which to judge their actions? Something which you might appeal to in order to rally others against their actions?

To take a less extreme example, what of theft? If someone were to steal one of your possessions, would you have any sort of justification for other people to act in defense of your property? However, I believe there is a solution of sorts -- a solution which you could arrive at by means of abstraction. You could appeal to the principle of property itself -- that if someone is free to violate your property rights, then there is nothing to stop him from violating the property rights of other individuals when the opportunity arises.

In a sense, every major religion has arrived at this sort of ethical reciprocity. In its positive form, we know it as the golden rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Other religions might however state it in essentially negative forms, such as, "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you," but the central idea is the same, and the level at which it operates -- universal.

But of course, religion has been around for a very, very long time, so perhaps this shouldn't seem that suprising. And even in the case of something like Christianity, religion had a longstanding tradition behind it such that the insight could have arisen far earlier in time. Have such principles been derived by means of experience and induction? Perhaps -- but if so, the individuals who derived them in this fashion are lost to us in the mists of time.

Anyway, I believe I have said my piece for the night. I am beginning to fall asleep at the keyboard. But if you would like, we can certainly deal with these issues in more detail tommorrow.

Take care and good night... Tim.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by crashfrog, posted 06-19-2005 11:38 PM crashfrog has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by crashfrog, posted 06-20-2005 7:35 AM TimChase has not yet responded

  
Faith
Member
Posts: 16922
Joined: 10-06-2001
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 15 of 230 (218160)
06-20-2005 6:14 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by TimChase
06-19-2005 11:51 PM


Re: The Fundy Factor
As for the few notable Deists -- they lead the American Enlightenment and were pivotal in this nation's creation. They include a good number of those who were there when the constitution was written. And by no means were the Christians of the time Fundamentalists, however much stock they may have put in the bible. Christian Fundamentalism is a far more recent phenomena -- and for this reason, I most certainly do not accept the view that this country was founded by Fundamentalists.

It would help if you would spell out what you think a fundamentalist is, or who you think is a fundamentalist and how their views differ from other Bible believers. Technically, or historically speaking, there are few if any real fundamentalists around any more. That was a phenomenon of the early 20th century, after which came the evangelicals mid-century.

I don't regard myself as a fundamentalist but I accept the label in discussions like this just because at least it means Bible-believer, and makes a handy contrast with "liberal" Christians who reject parts of the Bible or interpret it nontraditionally. In fact I identify more with the Puritans and Calvinists of colonial America (who had a lot to do with the framing of the new nation, but that's the always-endless topic that belongs on another thread). My favorite contemporary teachers tend to be Calvinists. I don't really identify with the high-profile Christians like Robertson and Falwell or even Billy Graham. So am I a fundy by your standards?

Additionally, if the Christians of the time supported religious tolerance (and they most certainly did) it was largely because of the very difficult and hard-earned lessons learned from earlier colonial times -- when one or another religious group assumed political power within a given community. If this nation had been founded by Fundamentalists, it would have simply repeated the very same mistakes made by the early colonists.

Yes, I've made this point myself many times, that it was the persecution of minority sects by a government-aligned sect that led to the formulation of the political principle of religious tolerance, which was the work of English (John Owen) and American Calvinists, some of those very early colonials you distrust.

I find your regarding the proponents of intelligent design as brothers and sisters in the lord despite the differences which so clearly exist between you interesting and perhaps even encouraging. With many of those who are a part of your movement, I believe it may still be a matter of temporary convenience. However, if you can take this attitude with respect to the proponents of intelligent design, then would it not be possible to take the same attitude towards Christians who accept the vast majority of the bible, but who regard the two stories of creation, as well as the stories of the garden and Noah's flood as essentially allegorical (i.e., symbolic, but containing essential truths regarding Man and his relationship to God) as brothers and sisters as well? If so, then the distance between us may not be as great as it seems.

What exactly is "my movement?"

As for regarding people as brothers and sisters in Christ, that is strictly related to their having certain basic beliefs. It's an in-house thing you could say, and we may strongly disagree on political and scientific questions nevertheless. It is possible to be a Christian without knowing much as long as the basics are believed. I think if people get too far away from the implications of Genesis, such as original sin, the Fall, the institution of sacrifice for sin, the need for redemption, and too far away from traditional Bible exegesis in general, that it gets iffy whether they are really saved Christians or not, but if they profess the basics of faith in the nature and work of Christ and His death for their salvation I'm not going to argue the point too strenuously. This applies to those who allegorize parts of the Bible too, although I am in passionate disagreement with them about that.

P.S. Thanks for the links on the previous post.

This message has been edited by Faith, 06-20-2005 06:18 AM

This message has been edited by Faith, 06-20-2005 06:22 AM


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by TimChase, posted 06-20-2005 3:54 PM Faith has responded

    
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