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Author Topic:   Do science and religion have rights to some "explanatory space"?
bluescat48
Member (Idle past 4307 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 1 of 37 (491806)
12-21-2008 10:12 AM


In the topic "God Or Science? A Belief In One Weakens Positive Feelings For The Other" from the Links and Information forum, Bluejay said
If we're being honest, how many of us really believe that both science and religion have rights to some "explanatory space"? Most science-minded people think religion doesn't actually explain anything. And, most religious people think that science is unreliable. So, very few people actually accept that both have their "explanatory space."
I would like to open a debate topic to shed light on the question.
I, myself hold that science & religion do play a part in "explanatory space" but should remain within their respective places, that is science in scientific matters & religion in religious matters.
Granny Magda made an interesting point in this:
The only explanatory power religion has is in the realm of entirely subjective "truths", an area better served by literature in my opinion.
Is this point valid or not and why?
Edited by Admin, : Fix grammar in title.

There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002
Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

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AdminNosy
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Message 2 of 37 (491815)
12-21-2008 12:44 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Granny Magda
Member (Idle past 156 days)
Posts: 2462
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 3 of 37 (491820)
12-21-2008 3:47 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by bluescat48
12-21-2008 10:12 AM


Religion Has No Unique Explanatory Powers
Since Bluescat has included a line from me in the OP, I feel that I should expand a little on what I think about this issue.
First, here is a link to the original discussion; God Or Science? A Belief In One Weakens Positive Feelings For The Other
The key phrase for me is the punchline from the cartoon I posted; science is limited by its refusal to make stuff up.
The question is whether science and religion have their own distinct explanatory spaces. This is often expressed as "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" or NOMA, a phrase coined by Stephen Jay Gould. His idea in brief;
Anonymous Wiki Person writes:
In his book Rocks of Ages (1999), Gould put forward what he described as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion."[48] He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution"[48] and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."
From here
I disagree with Gould. I see no special place that religion occupies that has any value. Science on the other hand, does have a valuable explanatory space of its own.
Our questions about the world we live in can be divided into two categories, objective and subjective. Science represents our best attempt at creating answers to the objective questions. "How does a plant photosynthesise?", "What is the shape of the universe?", "Is there such a thing as a soul?"; these are all objective questions about objective realities. There either is or isn't a soul.
There is only one reliable way of answering such questions and I would hope that everyone could agree that science is that way (I'm an optimist ). The scientific method has done more than enough to vindicate itself, providing us with unprecedented levels of knowledge abut our universe.
Science is, however, still limited by its inability (or lack of interest in) more subjective questions, such as "Is murder always wrong?", "What is the meaning of existence?" or pretty much any question that asks "Why...". So is this where religion comes to the fore?
I say no. For starters, religion has never restricted itself to answering subjective questions. Religions across the world have always been eager to provide answers to objective matters such as how the world was created or the origin of life. We now know those answers to be wrong, often spectacularly so. In short, people made those answers up. I see no reason to trust that their answers to subjective questions are any better than their objective answers were.
Morality is another problem. It is specifically mentioned by Gould as being part of religion's magisterium. I can think of no worse topic to cede to religion. The moral accomplishments of religion are, to put it politely, mixed. I don't want to drag the thread into a spat about religiously inspired atrocities or nasty Bible passages, but I think that it is fair to say that religion has not done a universally good job in providing moral instruction. There are better sources of moral instruction.
"Ultimate meaning" is the other area that Gould identifies in the above quote as being part of the religious magisterium. I have no idea what he is talking about. What is ultimate meaning? Does it even exist? And how would you know if it did?
I don't believe in ultimate meaning, but I do feel that meaning does exist; it's just that it is subjective, not ultimate. I also acknowledge that religion does provide meaning for millions of people. I wouldn't want to deny that. A piece of advice like "Judge not, that ye be not judged" is as true today as it ever was. The aesthetic beauty of some aspects of religious thought must be acknowledged as well.
My problem is that religion rarely acknowledges the subjective nature of what truth it has. Too often subjective "truths" (especially moral ones) are presented as though they were absolute objective facts. What's more, the mixture of truths and falsehoods, inventions and history, good and bad in most religious traditions obscures what usefulness they might have. Even if we can usefully decide which bits of a religious text to value and which to ignore, the preponderance of bogus claims made by all religions acts as a barrier to our understanding of what sound advice they offer.
Example; the Genesis account of the Fall of Man. In my opinion, the story contains a symbolic nugget of truth. We humans are capable, in our highest ideals, of imagining a pure and perfect moral world, where no human evil exists. Unfortunately, worldly temptations our own failings corrupt this high-minded ideal and cause us to turn paradise into purgatory. In my view, there is truth in this interpretation, but it is a subjective, symbolic truth. The problem comes when people start to interpret such fables as being actually, literally true, which, frankly, is just silly. It is a kind of mental pit-fall and a barrier to understanding.
Fortunately there are better alternatives. Moral philosophy has come a long way since the Bible or the Quran were written. I think that literature is the best place to find subjective truths. I would challenge anyone who has ever read The Grapes of Wrath to tell me that there is not truth in it. It is not literally true, but there are truths within it. I think that the knowledge that the story is fictional prevents the problem of people trying to take the wrong sort of truth from it. Literature, in being honest about its function, avoids the pit-falls of religion.
In summation, I think that science does have an explanatory space all of its own. It is the only way of providing the most accurate answers to objective questions about existence.
Religion on the other hand, does have value in answering subjective questions, but this value is not unique to religion. Furthermore, religion is a double-edged sword; its explanatory value is countered by its tendency to spew out wrong answers, often to questions that it has no business answering in the first place. Philosophy and literature serve this purpose far better.
At least they acknowledge that they are making it up.
Mutate and Survive

"The Bible is like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say almost anything you'd like it to say." -- Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade

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straightree
Member (Idle past 4868 days)
Posts: 57
From: Near Olot, Spain
Joined: 09-26-2008


Message 4 of 37 (491822)
12-21-2008 4:10 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by bluescat48
12-21-2008 10:12 AM


Religious people belive that God created the universe. It is also evident that He did not explain to man how it worked. Science is finding it out. So religious people should have all interest in knowing what science says of this universe, check it against their traditional conceptions, and make necessary adjustements. So science has a lot to do for religion.
The reverse should also happen, that is, the discovery of the universe laws should bring scientist closer to God.
In the real world, instead, we see that science an religion tend to be hostile of each other. I think, in part, this is a product of traditional religion holding stounchly to untennable positions.

Creationism and evolutionism should not be mutually excluding.

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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 4307 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 5 of 37 (491824)
12-21-2008 4:25 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by straightree
12-21-2008 4:10 PM


In the real world, instead, we see that science an religion tend to be hostile of each other. I think, in part, this is a product of traditional religion holding stounchly to untennable positions.
The major problem is not with religion itself, but with the belief, held by many theists, that the scripture is the word of "GOD" and therefore infallible. If one takes the word of god out of the scripture which other theists have, and use the scripture as alligorical, or to teach a lesson (fables), rather than what was, then using rational thinking, these theists don't find conflicts.

There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002
Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

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Buzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 37 (491832)
12-21-2008 9:28 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by bluescat48
12-21-2008 10:12 AM


bluescat writes:
I, myself hold that science & religion do play a part in "explanatory space" but should remain within their respective places, that is science in scientific matters & religion in religious matters.
It'll never happen so long as Biblical creationists are allowed to aire the science related Biblical fundamentals.
The Bible just doesn't depict a do do little non-designer God who set the BB and evolution in drive mode and then sat back and watched what natural and random things came of it over millions and billions of years.
Then too, the Biblical God, being eternal and the same today, yesterday and forever, i.e. forever managing his universe to suit his purposes and pleasure, had to have eternally had some sort of magnificent throne complex, myriads of hosts of creatures and billions of heavenly bodies in the cosmos of his universe.
Thus creationist science oriented people and organizations like Baumgardner, Whitcomb, Lennart Moller, ICR, the creation science museum and others work to furnish evidence of the creationist interpretation of what is observed and studied.
I would not hold to any religious book including the Bible which claimed to be authoritative relative to morality, justice and social issues, etc another day if it had no falsifiable science related data, historical data relative to fulfilled prophecy and archaeological evidence to lend credence to it being something supernatural, inspired by a higher being than humanity.
Having said the above, relatively sudden creation as opposed to evolution leaves little for the Biblical creationist to verify so far as how the creature was fashioned etc. OTOH, the evolutionist must assemble a complex and enormous volume of theory and hypothetical data over a very long time to come up with anything that will be considered acceptable by evolutionist constituents.

BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.

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Coyote
Member (Idle past 2224 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 7 of 37 (491834)
12-21-2008 10:25 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Buzsaw
12-21-2008 9:28 PM


Pleasing evolutionists' constituents
OTOH, the evolutionist must assemble a complex and enormous volume of theory and hypothetical data over a very long time to come up with anything that will be considered acceptable by evolutionist constituents.
Close, but it doesn't work exactly that way.
Science starts with real (not hypothetical) data. Those are things that can be measured in some way, and on which there is little disagreement. Most anyone can verify the observations if there is any doubt. Sometimes established facts can change, but more often new facts are added.
Things in this category would include facts, figures, pieces of information, statistics, either historical or derived by calculation, experimentation, surveys, etc.
Based on these data points, scientists seek explanations. These explanations begin with hypotheses. Hypotheses are tentative explanations about the natural world, or concepts that are not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena.
There could be a number of different hypotheses for the same set of facts, and many hypotheses for overlapping sets of facts.
The next step involves testing those hypotheses. Where possible laboratory experiments could be conducted, but in some fields you just can't do that. The next best way of testing an hypothesis is by generating predictions. "If this hypothesis is accurate, then X must have occurred [or could not occur]."
Many a fine hypothesis has fallen victim to stubborn little facts that can't be explained, and just refuse to go away. Gradually, in most cases the hypotheses are dropped or modified, resulting in a single broad explanation that accounts for all relevant facts, and allows accurate predictions to be made. That is called a theory. There is usually no more than one theory at a time for a given set of facts. [String theory is actually an hypothesis, but even scientists are not always precise in their use of terms.]
But back to your post -- I wouldn't worry overmuch about evolutionists and evolutionists' constituents, and having to assemble some "complex and enormous volume of theory and hypothetical data over a very long time." That's already been done. It started centuries ago, and was given a boost by Darwin 150 years ago.
And it didn't come down from the top, from some mystical "evolutionists;" it was meticulously assembled beginning with individual facts, and small, simple explanations, by tens of thousands of scientists from all around the world working in hundreds of different disciplines. This body of research has grown, with much testing and verification, into the modern theory of evolution.
And its doing just fine, even though fundamentalists often disagree with it for religious reasons. So don't worry overmuch. Let scientists take care of these things, eh? They are the ones who are trained for it.

Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

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erikp
Member (Idle past 5668 days)
Posts: 71
Joined: 12-23-2008


Message 8 of 37 (491861)
12-23-2008 5:29 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by bluescat48
12-21-2008 10:12 AM


Science and religion do not overlap and may not overlap.
Both Popper and Gdel demonstrate that the status required for scientific theorems is: unproven false. Only observations from reality have the status: proven true.
If a scientific theorem has the status "proven", it means that it does not cover any possible future observations. That would simply make the scientific theorem useless for any practical purpose.
Popper and Gdel also demonstrate that every scientific theorem that is applicable to an unending stream of future observations, will eventually prove to be false. There are --always-- observations possible that will sooner or later contradict the theorem. The status of every scientific theorem currently in use is simply: false (but hard to prove so).
The only theorems that can be true, are theorems for which it is impossible to make observations. The status of such theorem would be: unproven true.
We can summarize it as following:
Reality: proven true
Errors: proven false
Science: unproven false
Religion: unproven true
Science is therefore false, but hard to prove so; but sooner or later every scientific statement will turn out to be an error [Popper, Gdel]. Religion, however, is true, but impossible to prove so.
Therefore, as long as religious statements (theorems) are phrased as such that they impossibly be contradicted by future observations, the statements -- but also their antithesis -- must be considered to be true, though unproven. Any religious statement, however, that could be contradicted by future observations, is not a valid religious statement.
In my impression, both the Bible and the Koran, manage to stay clear of making unproven false statements (that is, scientific statements) by staying clear of phrasing statements that could be contradicted by future observations.
Religion may only contain proven true (facts, observations) and unproven/unprovable true statements (religious imperatives).

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erikp
Member (Idle past 5668 days)
Posts: 71
Joined: 12-23-2008


Message 9 of 37 (491862)
12-23-2008 5:45 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Coyote
12-21-2008 10:25 PM


Re: Pleasing evolutionists' constituents
>>> any a fine hypothesis has fallen victim to stubborn little facts that can't be explained, and just refuse to go away.
Gdel's incompleteness theorem deducts that these little facts must exists. Science must be necessarily false. In other words, everything we know, is actually wrong. We simply haven't been able to figure out why.
How mankind came into existence, however, is a valid religious subject (unproven true), because all facts lie in the past. The same can be said for the beginning of the universe.
The fact that science covers future observations, makes it false and unproven, but at the same time, very useful.

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PaulK
Member
Posts: 17857
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 10 of 37 (491863)
12-23-2008 5:51 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by erikp
12-23-2008 5:29 AM


Confusing terminology
I think that your terminology is a bit unclear.
It is probably the case that most scientific theories are false in the sense that they are only very close to the truth. But we can't even know that for sure.
But what is really confusing is your "unproven true" category.
It appears that you cannot mean that the statements in this category actually are true because you also include their negations in the same category. And as a consequence of that it follows that no statement in this category can be proven true or false. Perhaps it would be better to label the category "unknowable" ?

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erikp
Member (Idle past 5668 days)
Posts: 71
Joined: 12-23-2008


Message 11 of 37 (491865)
12-23-2008 6:17 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by PaulK
12-23-2008 5:51 AM


Re: Confusing terminology
>>> I think that your terminology is a bit unclear.
Ok. Every future statement is unproven. If I say that the sun comes up every morning, I am making a future statement, and therefore an unproven statement. Only facts (observations) are proven and true. Unfortunately, facts/observations always lie in the past.
The situation is even worse than that. Gdel's incompleteness theorem clearly deducts that there will always be facts that will not fit the theorem. One such fact, however, makes the theorem already false. Therefore, all scientific theorems more complex that the Gdel treshold, are necessarily false.
Now hold your breath: All scientific theorems are therefore unproven and false.
And this exactly what Popper states too. Scientific theorems deduct their usefulness solely from the fact that it is hard to prove that they are false, and that we are therefore still unable to do it.
>>> But what is really confusing is your "unproven true" category.
Only theorems that cannot be contradicted by (future) observations can be true. All other theorems are necessarily false, because every falsifiable statement will eventually be falsified.
>>> And as a consequence of that it follows that no statement in this category can be proven true or false. Perhaps it would be better to label the category "unknowable" ?
Not really. As long as a theorem is not contradicted by reality, we keep labeling it as true. That's what we do for scientific theorems, even though we should know better (since they are all false). So, how do you label a statement that can impossibly be contradicted by reality? True or false? I would say: true.

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PaulK
Member
Posts: 17857
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 12 of 37 (491866)
12-23-2008 6:37 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by erikp
12-23-2008 6:17 AM


Re: Confusing terminology
I think that you are misunderstanding your philosophy of science. We do not accept a statement as true simply because it has not been proven false - but because it could be proven false and has not been. I do not know of many people who label an unfalsifiable statement as true simply because it is unfalsifiable. I certainly would not.
I'll also ass that your understanding of Gdel's theorem is a bit dodgy, too. For instance it only applies to systems capable of handling arithmetic. I very much doubt that Special Relativity, for instance is useful for doing arithmetic.
quote:
Only theorems that cannot be contradicted by (future) observations can be true.
This is a necessary condition for truth, but not - as is quite clear from your posts - a sufficient one.
quote:
All other theorems are necessarily false, because every falsifiable statement will eventually be falsified.
That is simply not true. There certainly can be falsifiable statements that will not be falsified. Indeed, if a statement and it's negation are both falsifiable it is necessarily the case that only one will be falsified.
quote:
So, how do you label a statement that can impossibly be contradicted by reality?
I would label it unfalsifiable. If it's negation was also unfalsifiable I would label it unknowable. I certainly wouldn't call it true because there would be no basis for doing so.

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erikp
Member (Idle past 5668 days)
Posts: 71
Joined: 12-23-2008


Message 13 of 37 (491867)
12-23-2008 6:40 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Buzsaw
12-21-2008 9:28 PM


>>> ... so long as Biblical creationists are allowed to air the science related Biblical fundamentals.
They don't.
It is indeed the prerogative of science to establish systems of unproven, false statements, whose usefulness derives from the fact that nobody has managed (as yet) to prove that the statements are false.
Religion concerns statements that cannot be contradicted by future facts in reality. For example, "the sun comes up every morning" is not a valid religious statement. It is unproven (concerns future facts) and it is necessarily false (Gdel).
Only proven and unproven true statements are the domain of religion.
Biblical creationists do not air scientific statements, because the creation of the universe (or mankind) do not cover future facts, and therefore cannot be contradicted by future facts.

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erikp
Member (Idle past 5668 days)
Posts: 71
Joined: 12-23-2008


Message 14 of 37 (491868)
12-23-2008 6:54 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by PaulK
12-23-2008 6:37 AM


Re: Confusing terminology
>>> We do not accept a statement as true simply because it has not been proven false - but because it could be proven false and has not been.
... but it will be. So, it is not true. It is false. We simply don't know how and why.
>>> I'll also ass that your understanding of Gdel's theorem is a bit dodgy, too. For instance it only applies to systems capable of handling arithmetic.
That includes every system that has -- or could have -- a digital representation. Do you know of many systems that handle observations that do not -- or cannot -- have a digital representation? I don't know of any myself.
>>> That is simply not true. There certainly can be falsifiable statements that will not be falsified. Indeed, if a statement and it's negation are both falsifiable it is necessarily the case that only one will be falsified.
Point conceded. Only one will be falsified.
> So, how do you label a statement that can impossibly be contradicted by reality?
>> I would label it unfalsifiable. If it's negation was also unfalsifiable I would label it unknowable. I certainly wouldn't call it true because there would be no basis for doing so.
Ok. We have an issue here:
(1) Every statement that cannot be proven to be true, is false
(2) Every statement that cannot be proven to be false, is true
What is the correct default?
The scientific method is necessarily (2). Every statement that potentially covers future observations cannot be proven to be true. In order to be useful and predict events in the future, the scientific method must accept these statements "to be true", even though they are correctly suspected to be false.
Consequently, we have to label statements that cannot be proven to be false: true.

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PaulK
Member
Posts: 17857
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 15 of 37 (491869)
12-23-2008 7:14 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by erikp
12-23-2008 6:54 AM


Re: Confusing terminology
quote:
.. but it will be. So, it is not true. It is false. We simply don't know how and why.
But it might not be.
quote:
That includes every system that has -- or could have -- a digital representation.
No, it does not. Systems that lack the richness required to construct the representations needed for the proof are unaffected by the Theorem.
quote:
Ok. We have an issue here:
(1) Every statement that cannot be proven to be true, is false
(2) Every statement that cannot be proven to be false, is true
What is the correct default?
Both are wrong, so the conclusion is that we should not choose a default.
quote:
The scientific method is necessarily (2).
No. The scientific method says that unfalsifiable statements should be binned.
quote:
In order to be useful and predict events in the future, the scientific method must accept these statements "to be true", even though they are correctly suspected to be false.
No, only statements shown to be very close to the truth (i.e. we have grounds for thinking that they will be true in almost every case, even if there may be unforseen cases where they are not) are taken as true. And - to make useful predictions - a statement MUST be falsifiable. That is why unfalsifiable statements are binned.
quote:
Consequently, we have to label statements that cannot be proven to be false: true.
That doesn't follow. "Scientifically useless" would be a better label.
As I said, the scientific ideal is falsifiable, but unfalsified - in the face of serious investigation.

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