Monday, March 19, 2007

Should Science Replace Religion?



Yisrael Meir Kagan 1838 - 1933 Polish rabbi




Sigmund Freud 1856 - 1939 Viennese psychiatrist



A common attitude in academia seems to be as follows:

Science, the careful, rational, organized study of nature, is the light of humanity.

Until about 1800, modern science did not exist. Nevertheless, people were curious, so to explain the causes of natural events, man invented religion. "God" created the earth. "God" made man. When the crop was good, it was because "God" was happy. When the crop was bad, it was because "God" was angry. When a person died it meant that his soul had left him and gone to a spirit world. Without science, there was no way for people to correctly understand the world so they made up childish explanations.

Science has changed all of this. Now, based on science, we know that the universe has gradually and automatically developed over billions of years from a Big Bang. We know that man evolved from an ape that lived about six million years ago. We know that crops fail or prosper due to global weather changes and infectious diseases. We know that the “soul” is merely the activity of billions of neurons in the brain. When the brain stops working, we perceive that the person has died.

The Pentateuch was written about 2,300 years by the Jewish leader Ezra the Scribe. He compiled it based on several earlier manuscripts and presented it to the Jewish people as having been written 1,000 years earlier by Moses, as related in Nehemiah 8:1. It is simply a collection of Israelite and Mesopotamian myths. The Jews gullibly accepted it as authentic. The Talmud was written by later Jewish leaders who created and compiled a huge body of legislation, covering ritual and civil law. They invented sources in the Pentateuch for all their legislation, although in fact they simply made it up themselves, based partly on earlier Jewish customs. This was accepted by about 90% of the Jewish people until the 19th century.

Today, religion is an obsolete relic of the past, and a dangerous one. It causes unnecessary hatred, intolerance, violence and neurotic sexual repression. The 9/11 attacks are an example of the evil of religion, however there are endless others. It is perhaps the root of all evil. Religion also discourages the study of science and the continuing progress of mankind. We need to educate children in science and especially evolution so that they will no longer turn to religion to understand the world. We must teach our children that egalitarianism, liberal democracy and the Golden Rule are moral and ethical because they will bring the most happiness to the most people, but not because any god commanded anything. They must be reminded that any belief in the supernatural is false and dangerous.

This is the essential belief of atheism, scientism or naturalism. Is it really true?

First of all, this philosophy basically worships scientists as being mankind’s saviors, white knights who have appeared to rescue mankind from all evil, including the machinations of clerics. Probably many scientists like that image; some seem to be vigorously advocating it. But is it exaggerating the importance of modern science?

Science has created some very useful things, like antibiotics and vaccines, cell phones and cars. In the pre-scientific world, the average life expectancy was about 35 years. Today it is about 66 years. The world population was about one billion in 1800 and it is over 6 billion today. On the other hand, science has also created some horrible things like nuclear weapons and gas chambers. In fact, many experts are concerned about devastation in the near future thanks to scientific progress.

Science has also made some interesting discoveries. We now know more about stars and fossils than we once did. However, science is far from answering all the basic questions of life. Science can not tell us why the Big Bang happened, what came before it if anything or why our universe is fine tuned in a way that makes life possible. Science can not tell us how life originated and the story about man evolving from an ape seems unbelievable to many, including this writer. It is true, as has been known for centuries, that the brain plays a role in thought; however science cannot explain why we are aware of ourselves or why we feel that we have free will. Science also does a very poor job of predicting the future. Whether there will be a hurricane next month, whether there will be a recession next year or whether someone will die of cancer in the next decade are all still mysteries which may depend on the anger of a deity for all that any scientist knows.

The story about Ezra being a sort of Jewish Joseph Smith doesn’t hold much water. It is not plausible that the entire far flung Jewish community, as well as Samaritans who were Ezra’s enemies, would have been accomplices with him in his false claim that this scroll had been well known all along and had been handed down for the last thousand years from Moses. The rabbis’ obsession with legal minutiae and the Jewish community’s enthusiastic acceptance of it for two thousand years seems bizarre as well if the Talmud was merely a fiction.

In the last couple of decades, psychologists have begun realizing that religion plays a major positive role in many people’s lives, giving them more happiness and satisfaction, more self control, better relationships, less substance abuse, less suicide and less violent crime. There are violent, suicidal cults and Islam has some serious problems; however this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

In conclusion:

- Science has answered none of the basic questions, such as how did the universe originate, how life originated, what our creator asks of us, is there life after death, how can we prepare for it, etc.

- Science cannot provide morality and ethics or a satisfying, hopeful meaning and purpose in life. Science cannot teach us how to live or why to live.

- Science has not proven Judaism to be false.

- Chemists, physicists and biologists, while intelligent and highly educated, are in principle no different than plumbers, mechanics and dentists. They provide society with a useful service and for this we should be grateful, however their professional training provides them with no special insight regarding religion. Professor Richard Dawkins is a good example of this. Although he is an outspoken and influential atheist, his professional background is actually in the field of animal behavior. Paleontology and Middle Eastern archeology do have relevance to the Biblical narrative, however, as I have explained in posts about Creation, the Deluge and the Exodus, I don’t see any contradiction between them and Judaism.

33 comments:

Cameron said...

JP: Should Science replace religion?

CH: Yes and No. For things like; origin of the universe, the age of the earth, and any other question about 'what is', science handles things much better. Can science replace religion in terms of providing an ethical framework, etc., science isn't adequate (or even really concerned) with the matter. For all statements of fact, I prefer science.

JP: The atheistic position seems to be as follows:

Science, the careful, rational, organized study of nature, is the light of humanity.

CH: Bingo!

JP: Until about 1800, modern science did not exist.

CH: There are many 'natual philosophers' prior to 1800 who eschewed explanations that relied on supernatural beings, but it's fair to say that the codification of the practice didn't occur until the enlightenment.

JP: Nevertheless, people were curious so to explain the causes of natural events, man invented religion.

CH: Bingo #2. What causes lightning? A god of lightning of course!

JP: God created the earth. God made man. When the crop was good, it was because God was happy. When the crop was bad, it was because God was angry. When a person died it meant that his soul had left him and gone to a spirit world. Without science, there was no way for people to actually understand the world so they made up childish explanations.

CH: No reason to disagree, though I myself wouldn't call these explanations 'childish', they are the natural result of how our faculties operate (looking for agency in places there isn't any).

JP: Today, religion is an obsolete relic of the past, and a dangerous one. It causes unnecessary hatred, intolerance, violence and neurotic sexual repression.

CH: I'm with you brother. Amen!


JP: The 9/11 attacks are an example of the evil of religion, however there are endless others.

CH: On this we disagree. I see the 9-11 attacks as being primarily a political attack perpetrated by religiously motivated individuals.

JP: Religion also discourages the study of science and the continuing progress of mankind.

CH: Agreed.

JP: We need to educate children in science and especially evolution so that they will no longer turn to religion to understand the world.

CH: I encourage science education not because it denigrates faith, but because science leads to knowledge.

JP: We must teach our children that egalitarianism, liberal democracy and the Golden Rule are moral and ethical because they will bring the most happiness to the most people, but not because any god commanded anything.

CH: I guess I missed the meeting where atheists agreed to be utilitarian Marxists.

JP: They must be reminded that any belief in the supernatural is false and dangerous.

CH: Can you give me an example of a supernatural belief that isn't both false and dangerous? Start with examples outside of your own faith.

JP: First of all, this philosophy basically worships scientists as being mankind’s saviors, white knights who have appeared to rescue mankind from all evil, including machinations of the clerics.

CH: What? Sounds like somebody has a problem with scientists!

JP: Science has created some very useful things, like antibiotics and vaccines, cell phones and cars. In the pre-scientific world, the average life expectancy was about 35 years. Today it is about 66 years. The world population was about one billion in 1800 and it is over 6 billion today. On the other hand, science has also created some horrible things like nuclear weapons and gas chambers. In fact, many experts are concerned about devastation in the near future thanks to scientific progress.

CH: I am the first person to admit that all knowledge and science is a two-edged sword. The forge that creates the plow also creates the sword. What makes science good or evil is not its underlying philosophical materialism, but how the knowledge gleaned by science is actually used by people.

JP: Science has also made some interesting discoveries.

CH: Some?!?!Here's a question, what was the last interesting discovery by religion?

JP: We now know more about stars and fossils than we once did. However, science is far from answering all the basic questions of life. Science can not tell us why the Big Bang happened, what came before it if anything or why our universe is fine tuned in a way that makes life possible.

CH: You have to admit that when it comes to questions that science hasn't answered you really have to stretch! Hmm, what happened before the Big Bang? Considering that time as a dimmension is formed during the Big Bang, it is a little strange to talk about what happens 'before' it.

JP: Science can not tell us how life originated and the story about man evolving from an ape seems unbelievable to many, including this writer.

CH: On the contrary, I think science has a pretty good guess as to how life began (a warm, wet environment pelted by comets that contain complex hydrocarbon molecules eventually gave rise to a self-replicating molecule - and from there the story is pretty well documented). As for the story of human evolution from an ape-like ancestor there are no serious scientists who dispute this as being the case. However, there are apparently some Jewish philosophers who still do.

JP: It is true, as has been known for centuries, that the brain plays a role in thought; however science cannot explain why we are aware of ourselves or why we feel that we have free will.

CH: Curiously, the bible and most earlier texts insist that it is the 'heart' and not the 'brain' where our intellect, emotion and free-will reside. Do you still hold to that as being true?

JP: Science also does a very poor job of predicting the future.

CH: If by 'poor job' you mean 'much better than Nostradamus' I agree with you. Otherwise, the fact that we can't perfectly predict the future is hardly a condemnation of science.


JP: Whether there will be a hurricane next month, whether there will be a recession next year or whether someone will die of cancer in the next decade are all still mysteries which may depend on the anger of a deity for all that any scientist knows.

CH: Oh yeah, by all means don't visit a cancer specialist to deal with cancer, after-all it could be the will of an angry god! And you blame science for not predicting the weather? Absurd. Science isn't perfect, and it never pretends to be. It is the best understanding of the evidence at the time. As such, it requires both evidence and understanding, neither of which are characteristics of faith (which is belief without evidence or understanding).



- Science has answered none of the basic questions, such as how did the universe originate, how life originated, what our creator asks of us, is there life after death, how can we prepare for it, etc.

CH: Hmm, yet I appear to have no problem answering these questions (in the order you raise them); The Big Bang, via natural processes, nothing, no, and live life to its fullest.

- Science cannot provide morality and ethics or a satisfying, hopeful meaning and purpose in life.

CH: And yet, I have a satisfying hopeful and purposeful existence, and I don't believe in any gods!

JP: Science cannot teach us how to live or why to live.

CH: I agree. However, I would point out that religion hasn't been all that successful in telling people how to live or why, either.

- Science has not proven Judaism to be false.

CH: Ha!

- Scientists are at best glorified mechanics. We should be very grateful to them; however to say that we need science instead of religion is as absurd as saying that we need dentistry instead of religion. We need both.

CH: Clearly we need science, but I still see no reason that we need religion in general, or Judaism in particular.

avrum68 said...

"CH: Clearly we need science, but I still see no reason that we need religion in general, or Judaism in particular."

JP can address the minutiae of your claims better than I. In general, I've noticed a plethora of moments in my life, dare I say the most memorable one's, whereby prayer, song, poetry, art, community provided an indispensable "need" whereby scientific explanations/advancements would've been perverse. Theories of why the Rocky Mountains came to be are interesting, but they're meaningless when I'm surrounded by those snow-capped monsters and feel tears surging in my eye sockets.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Very valuable post.

Cameron said...

Avrum68: In general, I've noticed a plethora of moments in my life, dare I say the most memorable one's, whereby prayer, song, poetry, art, community provided an indispensable "need" whereby scientific explanations/advancements would've been perverse. Theories of why the Rocky Mountains came to be are interesting, but they're meaningless when I'm surrounded by those snow-capped monsters and feel tears surging in my eye sockets.

CH: Feeling the overwhelming majesty of the Rocky Mountains (which I grew up in spitting distance of), or the powerful vastness of the ocean, or the infinitude of the cosmos, is at its core, a genuinely human sensation.

We all (atheists included) are capable of feeling 'awe' at the beauty of the universe. Is it usefuly to correlate this sensation to God (Judaic or otherwise)? Not for me. The fact that you and I both have similar reactions to the beauty of the mountains (or the blackness of space, or what have you) is an indication of our common humanity, not of the divine.

avrum68 said...

"CH: Is it usefuly to correlate this sensation to God (Judaic or otherwise)? Not for me. The fact that you and I both have similar reactions to the beauty of the mountains (or the blackness of space, or what have you) is an indication of our common humanity, not of the divine."

Why...because YOU say so? The arrogance of dawkin-esque atheism is stunning (mind you, I experience the same reaction to religious arrogance).

Anyway, my original comment was in reference to your claim that science is more important that religion. Which is a silly claim since they both serve different needs.

cronian said...

What is science? What is God? Both are merely terms for the authority figures of certain social and political movements. Are articles that quote some old religious book be preferable to articles quoting scientific experiments in deciding things? Can such questions even be answered, and do such questions even matter?

All we have is ill-defined and/or under-defined questions. I believe a much more useful criterion is whether the God concept simplifies language. Is it easier to say act of God or unexpected event? Which is more clear, and better understandable. Which provides more meaning? Can this be extended to other contexts? How does the language parse with or without God?

Does it make much difference, or is the whole God vs. atheist things just mostly academic?

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron and cronian, without religion, we are chimps with nukes. With it, we can be angels.

Cameron said...

CH: Is it usefull to correlate this sensation to God (Judaic or otherwise)? Not for me. The fact that you and I both have similar reactions to the beauty of the mountains (or the blackness of space, or what have you) is an indication of our common humanity, not of the divine."

Avrum68: Why...because YOU say so?

CH: Not at all. I say so because the feelings you describe are present in all people of all religions. What is more interesting to me is how you can claim it is a Judaic phenomenae (or Christian, or Buddhist, or Zoroastrian, or...) when these types of experiences are available to even the atheist? If Faith is not required for experiencing the beauty of the world, how is the beauty of the world in any way a proof of God?

Avrum68: The arrogance of dawkin-esque atheism is stunning (mind you, I experience the same reaction to religious arrogance).

CH: I'll let Dawkins defend himself, he is more than capable of doing so.

Avrum68: Anyway, my original comment was in reference to your claim that science is more important that religion. Which is a silly claim since they both serve different needs.

CH: On this we agree. Science serves to bring us knowledge of the world and how it works in ways that are repeatable and independent of dogma or authority. Now I'll admit, I'm not really sure what religion does, but it certainly isn't that!

avrum68 said...

"I say so because the feelings you describe are present in all people of all religions. What is more interesting to me is how you can claim it is a Judaic phenomenae"

I did? Please provide my quote where I stated that MY experience was a Judaic one.

"Now I'll admit, I'm not really sure what religion does, but it certainly isn't that!"

Religion doesn't "do" anything. People do. What religion provides is a blueprint for how to live your life.

Though I have no doubt you know this, and are being coy.

Cameron said...

"I say so because the feelings you describe are present in all people of all religions. What is more interesting to me is how you can claim it is a Judaic phenomenae"

Avrum68: I did? Please provide my quote where I stated that MY experience was a Judaic one.

CH: Fair enough, it certainly could have been a Zoroastrian experience of the Mountains that teared your eyes up - this being a Judaic centric site, I didn't count on a Zoroastrian presnece, but there you go. My point though is the same, religious experiences with their universal, rather than religiously specific nature, indicate that it is our common humanity that undergirds them rather than any particular deity speaking to you through the voice of the Rocky Mountains.

CH: "Now I'll admit, I'm not really sure what religion does, but it certainly isn't that!"

Avrum68: Religion doesn't "do" anything.

CH: Agreed.

Avrum68: People do. What religion provides is a blueprint for how to live your life.

CH: I'd argue that it doesn't even do that well. Seriously, you can get better advice on how to live your life from the US declaration of independence; "the pursuit of life liberty and happiness", than you can from religion. More seriously, given the plethora of religious blue-prints to choose from, what methodology should we use to determine which of these blueprints to follow? Can we at least disqualify those blue-prints that include slavery? The stoning of people for minor offenses?

Avrum68: Though I have no doubt you know this, and are being coy.

CH: No doubt.

nschuster said...

Dear Cameron:

Just a couple of points.
#1 According to all the books I've read on cosmology, Stephen Weinbergs's "The First Three Minutes", Stephen Hawkings "A Brief History of Time." Science has not come up with a causal explanation for the big bang. Just the opposite, they say that as we get close to the big bang our physics breaks down. We cannot come up with a reason for the existance of the universe. Moreover, there are othe rpoblens wiht the big bang, such as the horizon problem, flatness problem, ect. It is hardly a simple explanation.

#2. Life functions do not take place outside the cell. There are no replacating hydrocarbons, or any other molecules outside of cells. The simplest cell consists of some 2000 enzymes, proteins, etc. Proteins consist of hundreds of amino acids arrainged in a precise sequence. There's more. Without all this life doesn't happen. No replication. Until science can tell us how simple molecules get together, lined up and formed into a cell, science cannot explain the origin of life. The scenario you described is spontanious generation which nobody believes in.

#3 There are many religious scientists. I'e know some personally. Their beliefs inspire them to explore the universe. the head of the human genome project is a devout christian. Religion is hardly holding back science.

avrum68 said...

"#3 There are many religious scientists."

I'm marrying one. And her father, a math Prof, is a religious Jew as well. And our shabbos book club has a few doctor/science types.

One would think that these bright people would only wake up and smell Dawkins-coffee and give up this nonsense. Yet folks with the same training as Dawkins and Harris continue to pray, observe Jewish law and state they believe in God.

This must drive atheists mad.

david said...

Nschuster,
The answer that atheists give to the points that you raise and to similar questions such as the astronomical odds that are required for development of even one enzyme is basically 'well we're here so it obviously worked out fine'. That in a nutshell is their 'rational' response to any difficult question regarding atheism.

jewish philosopher said...

If you dogmatically insist "Nature is all there is" then you have to say that.

Cameron said...

Nschuster: #1 According to all the books I've read on cosmology...Science has not come up with a causal explanation for the big bang. Just the opposite, they say that as we get close to the big bang our physics breaks down.

CH: I didn't mean for anyone to think it was a 'simple' explanation, but given the evidence (and I've read the same books on this you have), I happen to think it's the right one. I further agree with you that it becomes difficult to parse out what happened 'before' (for reasons I've posted earlier), and that there are other areas that require further exploration. None of which leads me to think that a dessert sky-god with a taste for Jewish followers had anything to do with it.

Nschuster: Until science can tell us how simple molecules get together, lined up and formed into a cell, science cannot explain the origin of life. The scenario you described is spontanious generation which nobody believes in.

CH: As a general point, you seem to be insistent on looking for areas of knowledge where you think science has failed to provide an explanation - where religion might still. To do this you have hung your hat on; origin of the unviverse, and origin of life. Both of which safely occurred billions of years ago away from the prying eyes of human beings. In other words, the best you can do is look for a several billion year old mystery and shout 'Look, science still hasn't solved THAT'!

It's a God of the gaps argument, and it's pathetic.

Nschuster: #3 There are many religious scientists. I'e know some personally. Their beliefs inspire them to explore the universe. the head of the human genome project is a devout christian. Religion is hardly holding back science.

CH: I don't think science is winning against religion because it manages to somehow convert more scientists to atheism. I think science is smiting religion because science is actually providing results whereas religion is delivering only promises. Want better dentistry? Don't pray for healthier teeth - go see a dentist. Want to know what afflicts your child? Don't go to a witch doctor, take him to a real doctor.

The reason why science is defeating religion is ultimately very simple.

Science actually works.

jewish philosopher said...

"Science actually works."

True, but so does plumbing. However if I want to know about God, I'm not asking my plumber.

david said...

Welcome to the Anti God of the Gaps Theory where any question on evolution is dismissed with 'Don't worry, Science will eventually tell us the answer'.

nschuster said...

Dear Avrum86:
Mazel Tov

Dear Cameron:

Science cannot tell use how the unviverse began. I'm waiting to hear a casual(scientific) for the big bang. Just the opposite. Physics requires time and space to happen in. insdie the pirmeval atom there was no time and no space. Science cannot explain the origin of life. To my mind at least, science cannot explain the development of life. I don't see how a mitochondria which uses dozens of enzymes, coenzymes, etc. arrainged in a precises configuration to accomplish anaerobic respiration can be the result of a series of fortutitous accidents. Religion can explain this. (You might not like the explantion) It seems to me that if anything is pathetic it is science. (I really don't believe that). I would rather have a G-d of the gaps explanation than no explanation at all. When (If?) science answers these questions, then we'll talk. I personally don't believe that G-d just fills in the Gaps. I believe, though I can't proof it sylogistically, that G-d controls the vibration of every electron throughout the unviverse. (Another thing science can't explain

Cameron said...

David said: Welcome to the Anti God of the Gaps Theory where any question on evolution is dismissed with 'Don't worry, Science will eventually tell us the answer'.

CH: I found this to be nigh hysterical for two reasons; 1. I am unaware of any criticism of evolution that was deflected with the dismissal you mention, and 2. the fact is that science actually DOES solve the problem eventually (or at least comes to a greater understanding of the problem - i.e. Newton is eventually replaced by Einstein, not because Newton was 'wrong', but because Einstein was 'more right'). In any case, thanks for the good laugh.

Nschuster said: Science cannot tell use how the unviverse began.

CH: What a strange thing to say. Why not? The universe has revealed its secrets to us in amazing ways, what about it makes you think its mysteries will be impenetrable?

Nschuster: I'm waiting to hear a casual(scientific) for the big bang.

CH: So am I. But just because there isn't one now, doesn't mean there won't be one! (and am I the only person who finds it ironic I have to use the 'absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence' argument?). I have a great deal of confidence that science is not only the only way for us to find an answer to that question, but that it will eventually do so. Why? Because science has a history of progress. Religion, does not.


Nschuster: To my mind at least, science cannot explain the development of life. I don't see how a mitochondria which uses dozens of enzymes, coenzymes, etc. arrainged in a precises configuration to accomplish anaerobic respiration can be the result of a series of fortutitous accidents.

CH: Much as with the origin of the cosmos, when it comes to the origin of life I am not an expert in the field. However, my answer for the origins of the universe is the same as for origin of life - whatever that origin was it surely was the result of natural processes - and not the result of divine intervention. Why do I say this? Because we have a good understanding (not perfect, but very good) of how these natural processes would work (ie. evolution theory, etc.), as well as lots of evidence in the form of fossil records, genetics etc. that these forces are still at work. So why look for a supernatural explanation when a natural one produces results?

Nschuster: Religion can explain this. (You might not like the explantion)

CH: Indeed, I do not find religious explanations satisfying for anything it has ever purported to explain.


Nschuster: It seems to me that if anything is pathetic it is science.

CH: By all means, return to the cave of your ancestors, eschew science, live off the land as an animal without medicine, dentistry, clothing, or the technology for procuring food. See how far prayer and positive thinking take you as you run naked through the Hobbesian wilderness. It will (in no small amount of time) mean the removal of your genes from the global gene pool - but that is a small price to pay to avoid pathetic science.

Nschuster: (I really don't believe that).

CH: You know, there is a word for people who say things they don't really believe...it'll come to me in a second...


Nschuster: I would rather have a G-d of the gaps explanation than no explanation at all.

CH: Exactly the problem - I doubt I could have put it better myself.

Nschuster: I believe, though I can't proof it sylogistically, that G-d controls the vibration of every electron throughout the unviverse. (Another thing science can't explain)

CH: Sounds like you are prepared to believe just about anything, of course, I can't prove that syllogistically...

david said...

'CH: I found this to be nigh hysterical for two reasons; 1. I am unaware of any criticism of evolution that was deflected with the dismissal you mention, and 2. the fact is that science actually DOES solve the problem eventually (or at least comes to a greater understanding of the problem - i.e. Newton is eventually replaced by Einstein, not because Newton was 'wrong', but because Einstein was 'more right'). In any case, thanks for the good laugh. '

I'm not sure what you find hysterical about it, but whatever.
Just tell me why when some scientists try to explain the incredible fine tuning of the laws of the universe, they say 'well, maybe this universe is one of many'. Please tell why that is a more rational response than believing in God.

Cameron said...

David said: Just tell me why when some scientists try to explain the incredible fine tuning of the laws of the universe, they say 'well, maybe this universe is one of many'.

CH: Fine tuned...for who? The majority (vast majority) of the universe is cold, dark and totally inhospitable. A universe designed to produce life would surely be teeming with it, rather than showing evidence of it on one planet, circling a boring sun, in an out of the way portion of an unremarkable galaxy.

David said: Please tell why that is a more rational response than believing in God.

CH: Easy. You see, we have evidence of the universe and it's birth in the big bang. Given that there is evidence for at least one universe (the one we live in), it is not unreasonable to speculate about the possibility of other universes.

However, in contrast, we have no good evidence for the existence of even one god. Therefore, any speculation about unviverses is automatically more reasonable than any speculation about Gods.

avrum68 said...

"we have no good evidence for the existence of even one god."

How about the Bible?
How about a Bible that was revealed to at least 600,000 people?

With repsect to "evidence", I'd say that feelings, intuition count for something. I mean, hell, besides slaving away at crap jobs, most folks commit their lives to chasing after, and securing, "love". Can you provide me with any evidence that "love" exists? Any?

CH...for a cocky guy, it must drive you batty that folks like Francis Collins, with as much education and experience (actually, more lab experience) as Dawkins believes in God. I mean, if there was NO evidence, how can such bright, rational folks fall for such junk? I've mentioned it before, our synagogue, because of it's proximity to hospitals, is full of doctors and science types. Are they simply unaware of "no good evidence" for the existence of God? Or are they "weaker" than atheists...more delusional?

Cameron said...

CH said: "we have no good evidence for the existence of even one god."

Avrum68: How about the Bible?
How about a Bible that was revealed to at least 600,000 people?

CH: As I said no 'good evidence'. And remind me which bible was revealed to at least 600K people? Though maybe Anton Levay's had that big a first printing, I suspect that isn't the one you mean.

Avrum68: With repsect to "evidence", I'd say that feelings, intuition count for something.

CH: Sure, scientists use their intuitions and feelings all the time. But then they check them against the evidence, and subject their findings to peer review hoping others can replicate their work. Something faith never does.

Avrum68: I mean, hell, besides slaving away at crap jobs, most folks commit their lives to chasing after, and securing, "love". Can you provide me with any evidence that "love" exists? Any?

CH: Absolutely I can. 'Love' is a bit broad a term (it includes the love I have for my friends, wife, parents, food, etc. - yet each of these 'loves' is different though probably biochemically related), but even if we just focus on version of 'love' - romantic love - we have excellent evidence from all sorts of scientific fields that it exists including brain scans, MRI's of people in love, a catalog of the biological differences for people in love and out, etc. In short, the evidence (along with the anecdotal and historical evidence) is overwhelming. Sadly, for the invisible sky god who demands the sacrifice of bulls and the burning of offerings...it is not.

Avrum68: CH...for a cocky guy, it must drive you batty that folks like Francis Collins, with as much education and experience (actually, more lab experience) as Dawkins believes in God.

CH: Lots of smart people believe things to be true that are false including people in my own family! So the fact there exists a prominent scientist who has failed to overcome his religious upbringing isn't anything that I lose sleep over.


Avrum68: I mean, if there was NO evidence, how can such bright, rational folks fall for such junk?

CH: Easy - they were raised to believe that junk before their critical faculties were fully developed. Once they believe it, they place it an epistemologically safe place, away from doubt, logic, etc.

avrum68: Are they (scientists with faith) simply unaware of "no good evidence" for the existence of God? Or are they "weaker" than atheists...more delusional?

CH: No more deluded than Hindu scientists, Zoroastrian scientists (are there any? that would be cool), Buddhist or Mormon scientists.

avrum68 said...

"CH: And remind me which bible was revealed to at least 600K people?"

http://www.aish.com/shavuotsinai/shavuotsinaidefault/Did_God_Speak_at_Sinai$_.asp

"Absolutely I can. 'Love' is a bit broad a term (it includes the love I have for my friends, wife, parents, food, etc. - yet each of these 'loves' is different though probably biochemically related"

The materialists in my field (early psychosis bipolar) get all hot and bothered about "biochemical" causality. It's fun to watch them squirm when: 1) Non-materialists psychiatrists ask them to "prove" causality i.e. demonstrate with a test that serotin and depression are related, and 2) their treatments are often the result of placebo effect (see anything by Gordon Warme).

My point is that you can't prove love exists anymore than you can prove God exists. Kinda sucks for materialists though, because while they promote the God Delusion, they sure buy into the Love Delusion (I know...I've seen a few of 'em in therapy).

"So the fact there exists a prominent scientist who has failed to overcome his religious upbringing isn't anything that I lose sleep over."

Francis Collins discovered religion late in life. Adin Steinzalts was raised in a secular, atheist family. Sorry CH, you're wrong. If you weren't so militant in your materialsim, you'd be open to many biographies that document the CHOICE that bright, secular folks, who were raised without any religious "indoctrination", discover the ultimate truth behind Biblical claims.

nschuster said...

Dear Cameron:

Just a few points:

#1. For the reasons I stated above, the existance of the universe and of life violates the laws of nature, i.e. general relativity, first and second thermodynamics. A fire cracker doesn't go off unless you light the fuse. Who lit the fuse on the big bang? That means the fact that they exist is a miracle. Sounds like proof of G-d to me.

#2. While there exist evidence for the big bang theory, there are problems that cosmologists are still struggling with, e.g. the accelerationfo the expansion rate, the horizon problem, the flatness probelm, the structure problem, etc.

#3. According to the late Stephen J. Kay Gould and Niles Eldridge, both prominant proponents of evolution. the fossil record does not show 3videnc of evolution. It merely shows species that show up suddenly in the fossil record fully formed, exist for a few million years or so and, disappear just as abruptly. No change from one species to another (evolution.) This is why they developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium.

#4 Scientists are discovering more and more that in many organism, gene are repressed. They become active when the organism is exposed to stuff in the environment. There is nothing new, no evolution. Merely a preexiting, inactive gene becoming active.

#5 I never said that science is pitiful. I have great respect for science. I teach science for a living.

#6 I have a neighbor who was suffering from congestive heart failure, and congestive kidney failure. The doctors wrote him off. We prayed for him. He got better. Now he's fine. Maybe, just maybe, prayer does help.

#7 You seem to have more simple faith in science than I (I'm ashamed to admit) have in G-d. After all, your so sure science will answer all the questions.

Cameron said...

Nschuster said:

#1. For the reasons I stated above, the existance of the universe and of life violates the laws of nature, i.e. general relativity, first and second thermodynamics.

CH: Let's assume for the moment that you aren't completely bugnut insane, and that the origin of the universe in the form of a Big Bang somehow does violate all the laws of Newton and Einstein. So what? It certainly doesn't follow that your invisible sky-god willed it into creation. It only means that we need to re-examine the science in our cosmology. Afterall, just because the origin of the universe is open to theoretical explanations, doesn't mean that ANY theoretical explanation will be just as good as any other.

Let me put it another way, even if you could 'prove' that the universe required a supernatural agency to exist, it wouldn't get you any closer to exactly what supernatural agency it was that did it. Was it Thor? Rama? Aliens from dimmension X? A discredited sky-god?

Nschuster: Who lit the fuse on the big bang?

CH: I can't say who lite the fuse on the Big Bang, but we can all agree that it is Thor and not Zeus who is behind the creation of lightning. Gimme an amen for Thor!

Nschuster: That means the fact that they exist is a miracle. Sounds like proof of G-d to me.

CH: Do you have some aversion to referring to god with all three letters? Or is G-d a different god entirely from those I am familiar with? Is it pronounced 'gd'?

Nschuster: #2. While there exist evidence for the big bang theory, there are problems that cosmologists are still struggling with, e.g. the accelerationfo the expansion rate, the horizon problem, the flatness probelm, the structure problem, etc.

CH: So? I've never said that any of the current theories of cosmology were perfect (I like 'Brane' theory myself - but I recognize they are long, long, long way from developing an evidenciary case), accepted as true, or even indicated that I think a particular explanation dominates the field of cosmology. The practice of science is to form hypothesis and to confirm or dis-confirm them with evidence. As it stands the field of cosmology is essentially newborn, with the tools for exploring the origins of the universe (like the Hubble telescope, WIMAP, etc) being only recently invented. Heck, the very size and age of the universe was revised last year because of improvements in our technology and hence our understanding. This self-checking mechanism of science where something other than faith is used to guide us, is its chief virtue.

Nschsuter: #3. According to the late Stephen J. Kay Gould and Niles Eldridge, both prominant proponents of evolution. the fossil record does not show 3videnc of evolution. It merely shows species that show up suddenly in the fossil record fully formed, exist for a few million years or so and, disappear just as abruptly. No change from one species to another (evolution.) This is why they developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium.

CH: That is not only false, it is so incredibly false I'm not sure where to begin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium

Gould's theory of puncuated equilibrium was meant to address what he saw as rapid proliferation of species in the fossil record after the dinosaurs were wiped out 65M years ago. It is contrasted with phyletic gradualism which suggests that most speciation occurs very slowly over great stretches of time.

Nschuster: #4 Scientists are discovering more and more that in many organism, gene are repressed. They become active when the organism is exposed to stuff in the environment. There is nothing new, no evolution. Merely a preexiting, inactive gene becoming active.

CH: Now you are just talking out of your ass. Here's an example from our own genome of how new genes proliferate -

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7974

#5 I never said that science is pitiful. I have great respect for science. I teach science for a living.

CH: I fear for your students. Truly.

#6 I have a neighbor who was suffering from congestive heart failure, and congestive kidney failure. The doctors wrote him off. We prayed for him. He got better. Now he's fine. Maybe, just maybe, prayer does help.

CH: The recent Harvard paper on the efficacy of prayer might be something for you to look at.

http://www.physorg.com/news63551345.html

#7 You seem to have more simple faith in science than I (I'm ashamed to admit) have in G-d. After all, your so sure science will answer all the questions.

CH: Except that I (and you) have evidence that science works - hence it is not because of faith in science that I believe it will answer all the questions - it is because the process of science is the only way we have ever actually answered ANY questions.

Cameron said...

avrum68: The materialists in my field (early psychosis bipolar) get all hot and bothered about "biochemical" causality. It's fun to watch them squirm when: 1) Non-materialists psychiatrists ask them to "prove" causality i.e. demonstrate with a test that serotin and depression are related, and 2) their treatments are often the result of placebo effect (see anything by Gordon Warme).

CH: I'd feel more confident being treated for my bipolar psychosis if you could actually spell serotonin. But there you go.

avrum68: My point is that you can't prove love exists anymore than you can prove God exists. Kinda sucks for materialists though, because while they promote the God Delusion, they sure buy into the Love Delusion (I know...I've seen a few of 'em in therapy).

CH: I've got your love delusion right here...http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/31/health/psychology/31love.html?ex=1175313600&en=6de97ed62e630e3b&ei=5070

Turns out you can see it on brainscans.

But let's assume again that you are right, and we can't show emotional states on a brain scans. So what? How does our failure to demonstrate 'love' support the case for an invisible sky god?

avrum68: Sorry CH, you're wrong. If you weren't so militant in your materialsim, you'd be open to many biographies that document the CHOICE that bright, secular folks, who were raised without any religious "indoctrination", discover the ultimate truth behind Biblical claims.

CH: I'm prepared to retract any statements re: Collins that are inaccurate if only because I have exactly zero stake in their accuracy. I don't care if he thinks that Mars is inhabited by little green men, or that he belongs to Opus Dei, or that he administers mega doses of vitamin A to himself via frequent enemas to stop the police from reading his thoughts. It has nothing to do with any of the arguments raised. The fact he is a scientist who also happens to be a believer is, I'm sure, some comfort to other believers (Look everyone, there is at least one smart person who still believes in God!), but it really has no impact at all on the grander philosophical question of whether supernatural beings actually exist.

Most interesting of all to me is how you can ignore what Collins says about evolution;

"The mechanism of creation is left unspecified. If God, who is all powerful and who is not limited by space and time, chose to use the mechanism of evolution to create you and me, who are we to say that wasn't an absolutely elegant plan?" - Francis Collins in a debate with Michael Behe.

...while focussing only his statments supporting the possibility for having both science and faith. Did you simply fail to comprehend that his entire life's work as a scientist is a repudiation of intelligent design?

avrum68 said...

"CH: I'd feel more confident being treated for my bipolar psychosis if you could actually spell serotonin. But there you go."

Thanks for the corectin, I oftn mak mistks on blooogs. I mean, hey, if we're going to get petty....

"Turns out you can see it on brainscans."

Dr. Warme on how helpful, or not, brainscans are specifics:

"Psychiatrists committed to biological explanations will show me brain scans and point out tiny abnormalities in a high percentage of the brains of schizophrenia patients -- but the same range of imperfections will show up in healthy people's brains."

And the same is true for jogging, eating ice cream, and sex. How does this prove that love = dopamine? It doesn't.

"So what? How does our failure to demonstrate 'love' support the case for an invisible sky god? "

Why are atheists so committed to straw men? I believe you committed the same error in another post. I never stated that "love" proves God. I'm simply stating that "love" - something that science can not prove - is sought after with such rigor, that advertising agencies use "love's promise" to sell us (atheists, deists...) everything from cars to toilet paper. Yet for some reason, all the atheists I know, are busy clamoring to secure and/or hold onto an imaginary, often fleeting concept called "love". Delusional I tell ya.

"but it really has no impact at all on the grander philosophical question of whether supernatural beings actually exist"

Ok, so you admit you're wrong, but respond with, "nanana poo poo". Stunning.

"Most interesting of all to me is how you can ignore what Collins says about evolution; "

And you're missing my point. I couldn't care less what Collins says about evolution, I'm responding to your patronizing tone when addressing the existence of God (or lack thereof). My point is simple, if science was a "slam dunk" against the concept of God, why would religious scientists risk their income...their careers on such a silly idea?

And if we're going to go down the psychodynamic route...my professional and personal experience with atheists would lead me to believe that many had very unhapy childhoods (and/or horrible religious experienes) , and could never believe in a loving and caring God. Their entire childhood, filled with pain and disapointment, creates a colorless hue with respect to relationships in general. This is true for many of my past clients, roommates and friends. The consistency, though anecdotal, is impressive.

nschuster said...

Dear Cameron:

Just a few quick points:

#1 The article you sited in New Scientist does not say that evolution is being observed in humans now, only that variation in the genome is being observed. It could have been the result of evolution in the past or it could have been G-d. The artcle says that the best estimate for the time of the development of the variation is 5800 years ago. This is very close to the time that the Bible says G-d created the world. Coincidence? Maybe.

#2. The Wikipedia article on Punctuated Equilibrium says exactly what I said about the fossil record. The theory of puntuated equilibrium is meant to address the entire fossil record from the Cambrian explosion on. See the part about the trilobites, which disappeared from the fossil record before the dinosaurs showed up.

#3. My students are doing just fine. They have the highest pass rate in the school on the Science RCT's.

#4. Orthodox Jews believe that the correctly name of G-d has a certain holiness. We avoid writing it where it migh tbe abused. I do so on the postings out of force of habit.

#5. I forgot to add some points from my last post. You wante evidence that the uuniverse is fine tuned for life. Some follows.
If the amount of mass in the unverse was slightly higher it would have collapsed before life could form. If slightly lower, it would mean that there is not enough gravity for the structures to form. This is the flatness problem. IF the strong nuclear force where slightly stonger weaker atomic nuclei couldn't form. Same thing with weak nuclear force. If the electromagnetic force where slightly stronger electron would collapse into atomic nuclei. No chemistry. If slightly weaker electrons couldn't circle nuclei. Again no chemistry. If gravity where slightly weaker stars couldn't form. If slightly stonger, they would burn out too fast. The vibration frequency of the berylium atom is just right for carbon (necessary for life) to form during supernova explosions.
I really don't understand what I just wrote, I'm just repeating what I read. The reason the unvivers isn't teemming with life is because life is really hard to make. The simplest cell requires hundreds of enzymes, proteins ect. That have to form themselves in exactly the right configuration or it just doesn't work.

#6. Maybe I'm impatient but I want answers to where the universe came from, where life came from etc. Science can't give them to me.

#7 I'm sorry, but you are coming across as angry. I mean your being downright abusive, and I don't recall ever doing anything that might offend you. I'm just expressing my opinions. Why are you so angry?

#8 My vacation starts today. I don't take time away from my family to blog. I do my posting during my lunch period at work, so this will be my last post for a while. I'll check back wiht you after Passover.

avrum68 said...

"I'm sorry, but you are coming across as angry. I mean your being downright abusive, and I don't recall ever doing anything that might offend you. I'm just expressing my opinions. Why are you so angry?"

See my lay-analytic take on unhappiness and atheism. As well, here's an excellent piece on atheism and anger:
http://www.aish.com/spirituality/philosophy/The_Anger_of_the_Atheists.asp

Cameron said...

Avrum68: And the same is true for jogging, eating ice cream, and sex. How does this prove that love = dopamine? It doesn't.

CH: All emotions are mental states. All mental states are actually physical events in the brain. Therefore, love is in the brain.


Avrum68: And you're missing my point. I couldn't care less what Collins says about evolution, I'm responding to your patronizing tone when addressing the existence of God (or lack thereof). My point is simple, if science was a "slam dunk" against the concept of God, why would religious scientists risk their income...their careers on such a silly idea?

CH: How is it that scientists risk anything by having a private belief in religious concepts? Collin's faith hasn't hurt him or his income (indeed, his last book seems to be selling very well)? Do you think scientists sit around and blackball each other based on their religious beliefs? Science is done by checking out the work of the other scientist, not by giving them a religious test!

Secondly, most scientists are already atheists at a correlation way outside of the averages for any other profession. Why is this the case unless having a background in science makes one less inclined to be religious? That is, if science is a slam-dunk against religion, isn't that high correlation exactly what we would expect to see?

Cameron said...

Nschuster: #1 The article you sited in New Scientist does not say that evolution is being observed in humans now, only that variation in the genome is being observed. It could have been the result of evolution in the past or it could have been G-d.

CH: Or it could have been aliens from dimmension x. What's important is what we can test, not what we can theorize.

Nschuster: The artcle says that the best estimate for the time of the development of the variation is 5800 years ago. This is very close to the time that the Bible says G-d created the world. Coincidence? Maybe.

CH: Coincidence.

#2. The Wikipedia article on Punctuated Equilibrium says exactly what I said about the fossil record. The theory of puntuated equilibrium is meant to address the entire fossil record from the Cambrian explosion on. See the part about the trilobites, which disappeared from the fossil record before the dinosaurs showed up.

CH:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/punc-eq.html

I'm old and my biology days are far in the past. Here is an excellent breakdown of what Gould was trying to say with Punk-Eek.

Nschuster:My students are doing just fine. They have the highest pass rate in the school on the Science RCT's.

CH: Excellent

Nschuster: #4. Orthodox Jews believe that the correctly name of G-d has a certain holiness. We avoid writing it where it migh tbe abused. I do so on the postings out of force of habit.

CH: You learn something new every day.

#5. You wante evidence that the uuniverse is fine tuned for life...
The reason the unvivers isn't teemming with life is because life is really hard to make. The simplest cell requires hundreds of enzymes, proteins ect.

CH: I don't think you can have this both ways, either the universe is 'designed' to produce life - in which case it should everywhere (and the design should have tool marks of the designer), or the unviverse is really really harsh to life, which is itself difficult and weird, and takes a long time to evolve (the view I take).

nschuster: #6. Maybe I'm impatient but I want answers to where the universe came from, where life came from etc.

CH: Me too.

Nschuster: Science can't give them to me.

CH: Perhaps it can't - especially if you are looking for the answer to provide you with comfort.

nschuster: #7 I'm sorry, but you are coming across as angry.

CH: Sorry about that.

Nschuster: I mean your being downright abusive, and I don't recall ever doing anything that might offend you. I'm just expressing my opinions. Why are you so angry?

CH: I wasn't hugged enough as a child. Sorry, no, that's not it, its the feeling I get when I encounter a willful denial of the evidence of science. Evolution just isn't a debate topic anymore, and hasn't been for some time (except in the US). All major science branches concur, and the evidence against evolution is insignificant. That isn't to say there are no disagreements within evolutionary theory (there are lots and lots), but the basic theory is not only tried tested and true, it is the key pillare upon which much of the truly interesting work in genetics, etc. is being built upon.

It's like debating helio-centrism, I should respect the person who denies that the earth revolves around the sun, but how much respect should we show for their earth centred beliefs? And how do we manage the contempt for their beliefs vs the respect for the person?

Nschuster: #8 My vacation starts today. I don't take time away from my family to blog. I do my posting during my lunch period at work, so this will be my last post for a while. I'll check back wiht you after Passover.

CH: Have a great vacation. I'll be moving shortly, and my wife is due (our first) in the next few weeks, so this will be my last post for a while as well.

Also, many thanks to Jacob for allowing my continued presence as atheist gadfly on his blog. He could at any time have kicked me off, but in the spirit of open confrontation between different ideas he has graciously allowed me to continue.

Thanks and Peace

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron, the only way I learn is by hearing what the other side has to say. That's why I love the web.