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Science and the Universe Science, scientific theories, and how they impact our view of the world and existence.

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Old 10-10-2011, 02:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

Does God exist? - Religion - Salon.com

by Alan Lightman

"Ten years ago, I began attending monthly meetings of a small group of scientists, actors and playwrights in a carpeted seminar room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Our raison d’Ítre, broadly speaking, has been an exploration of how science and art affect one another. As we drink merlot and munch on goat cheese and crackers, with the late afternoon sun draining from the room, we discuss topics ranging from the history of scientific discovery to the nature of the creative process to the way that an actor connects to an audience to the latest theater in New York and Boston. Our salon works because we never have an agenda. At the beginning of each session, one of us will begin talking about some random idea, another person will chime in or change the subject, and miraculously, after 20 minutes, we find that we have zeroed in on a question that everyone is passionate about.

"What continues to astonish me is the frequency with which religion slips into the room, unbidden but persistent. One member of our group, playwright and director Alan Brody, offers this explanation: “Theater has always been about religion. I am talking about the beliefs that we live by. And science is the religion of the twenty-first century.”

"But if science is the religion of the 21st century, why do we still seriously discuss heaven and hell, life after death, and the manifestations of God? Physicist Alan Guth, another member of our salon, pioneered the Inflation version of the Big Bang theory and has helped extend the scientific understanding of the infant universe back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after t = 0. Another member, biologist Nancy Hopkins, manipulates the DNA of organisms to study how genes control the development and growth of living creatures. Hasn’t modern science now pushed God into such a tiny corner that He or She or It no longer has any room to operate — or perhaps has been rendered irrelevant altogether? Not according to surveys showing that more than three-quarters of Americans believe in miracles, eternal souls and God. Despite the recent spate of books and pronouncements by prominent atheists, religion remains, along with science, one of the dominant forces that shape our civilization. And our little group of scientists and artists finds itself fascinated with these contrasting beliefs, fascinated with different ways of understanding the world. And fascinated by how science and religion can coexist in our minds."
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Old 10-10-2011, 04:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

Well, I do not believe that science is "the religion of the 21st century". There are just too many gaps. There are a whole lot of metaphysical assumptions (baggage) that come with scientism. Here are (just) seven:

1) Objectivity -- well Relativity Theory pretty much threw that out the window (if simultanaety does not exist, how can objectivity?).

Determinism -- really hard to make that case and coherently addressreally hard to make that case in light of the possibility retro-causation (and the math of retro-causation works, however odd the idea).

Continutity -- really hard to make that case when the "most verified" of theories (Quantum Mechanics) assumes just the opposite.

Locality -- really hard to make that case after Bell and Aspect (not even Bohmians assert this any more and the only logically consistent, within the context of the physics, way to address it is many-worlds or someother unprovable assumption).

Material monism -- really hard to make that case given really hard to make that case and address the "hard problem" (the existence of qualia, can one really explain the experience of Beethoven's Ninth or Shindler's List or Ulysses as electro-chemistry?).

Reductionism -- really hard given even classic chaos and complexity and emergentism (let alone systems theory and quantum theory).

Epiphenominalism -- really hard to make that case can one really explain thought as the after-effects of last night's goatcheese and merlot?

The problem is metaphysical. We are tied to the metaphysics of scientism as somehow sancrosanct (sp?) while the metaphysics of Fundamentalism are held as "niave" (at best).

Pax et amore omnia vincunt!
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Old 10-10-2011, 05:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

I believe that religions explain the unexplainable, they provide notions, like a chariot dragging the sun across the sky....because it fit within our paradigms.

Science hasn't done much different. James Garfield died because surgeons thought the blood on their hands and garments from previous operations were indications of their skill and prowess and didn't believe in invisible germs...

Before science can get on any high horse they've got to realize that many of the advances they make negate or completely disprove the best science of yesteryear and sometimes yesterday.

I don't believe in any G!d in any heaven, above any waters, that walks and talks....but I do believe that the G!d we seek, is the same as the theory of everything that scientists seek. And that things we called miracles yesterday...and the things we call miraculous today are simply easily explainable natural occcurences governed by natural laws put in place by this theory of everything we call G!d.
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Old 10-10-2011, 05:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

I believe that true science and true religion are in total harmony. I also believe the day will come when all scientific and religious disagreements are finally resolved.

But the problem is that the two discipines do not overlap at all. Science only deals with observing the physical world. Questions of God, astral projection, angels, etc., are not of the physical world. In addition, scientists ask how is the world set up? Religious people ask why was it set up this way and by whom? The two disciplines do not address questions in each other's field of study.

But when religious people ignore scientific data and say the earth is only 6,000 years old, and when scientists say there is no God because He cannot be proven or observed, this is when we start to get in trouble.

Wil, you bring up an interesting idea about the modern discovery of bacteria. Fewer religious people rely on witchcraft to cure diseases, and fewer doctors rely on blood-letting to cure the same diseases. Progress is being made!
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Old 10-10-2011, 05:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

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Originally Posted by wil View Post
I do believe that the G!d we seek, is the same as the theory of everything that scientists seek
+1, though isn't that a pantheist/deist viewpoint Wil? Whereas a panentheist or theist view of God would be he is above & beyond His laws (He's possibly not even in this universe); therefore knowing His laws (the Theory of Everything) wouldn't necessarily mean knowing Him?


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I also believe the day will come when all scientific and religious disagreements are finally resolved.
Nick - the only way this could happen is if there remain no more unknowns in life/universe. To paraphrase Mortimer Adler, science explains the "known" through experiment/investigation; and religion explains the "unknown ultimate mysteries" through revelation/faith.

Are you saying you think humans will eventually figure out everything there is to know about everything?


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and when scientists say there is no God because He cannot be proven or observed, this is when we start to get in trouble.
Many scientists that I know are agnostic, and instead say "we don't know if there's a God because He cannot be proven or observed;" which I personally don't see leading to any trouble at all.
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Old 10-10-2011, 06:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

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To paraphrase Mortimer Adler, science explains the "known" through experiment/investigation; and religion explains the "unknown ultimate mysteries" through revelation/faith.
I would argue that religion doesn't really 'explain' anything but rather provides comfort and consolation through faith.
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Old 10-10-2011, 06:29 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

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Originally Posted by Etu Malku View Post
I would argue that religion doesn't really 'explain' anything but rather provides comfort and consolation through faith.
You don't think the Bible, Talmud, Avesta, Vedas, Sutras, Popul Vuh, etc; pick your favorite religious text, you don't think that religious text and the Tradition surrounding it explain anything?

Do you think the Ancient Greeks, or any other philosophers "explain" anything?

I, being an agnostic skeptic, would say that religion attempts to explain the unknown. But folks that I know that have faith in their religion disagree with me and say their religion definitely explains parts (if not all) of the unknown mysteries of life...

Etu, do you think truth is absolute & objective, or relative & subjective?
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Old 10-10-2011, 06:38 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

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I, being an agnostic skeptic, would say that religion attempts to explain the unknown.
I would agree with the word 'attempts'.

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Etu, do you think truth is absolute & objective, or relative & subjective?
Without a doubt in my mind Relative and Subjective.
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Old 10-10-2011, 07:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

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Originally Posted by IowaGuy View Post
+1, though isn't that a pantheist/deist viewpoint Wil? Whereas a panentheist or theist view of God would be he is above & beyond His laws (He's possibly not even in this universe); therefore knowing His laws (the Theory of Everything) wouldn't necessarily mean knowing Him?
Heck, I just provide what I think and believe about the topic at hand in the moment....others provide the labels and tell me what I think...
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Old 10-11-2011, 04:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

IG and EM--

You two have gotten to the crux of the issue. The metaphysics of religion (what does the universe consist of? is there a god? what exists?) is at the heart of it all. But you must realize that scence (or "scientism" as Goswami and others critical of it or "the standard model" as defenders refer to it) has its own metaphysical assumptions. When you get down into it the ideas of eternalism (as an assumption about time) and locality (as an assumption about causation) and material monism (as an assumption about essence) are merely metaphysical assumptions the science makes. They have no absolute validity.

Like religion, science is a matter of assumptions and choices which (hopefully) blend into a single, coherent view of reality.
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Old 10-11-2011, 04:54 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by IowaGuy View Post
You don't think the Bible, Talmud, Avesta, Vedas, Sutras, Popul Vuh, etc; pick your favorite religious text, you don't think that religious text and the Tradition surrounding it explain anything?

Do you think the Ancient Greeks, or any other philosophers "explain" anything?

I, being an agnostic skeptic, would say that religion attempts to explain the unknown. But folks that I know that have faith in their religion disagree with me and say their religion definitely explains parts (if not all) of the unknown mysteries of life...

Etu, do you think truth is absolute & objective, or relative & subjective?
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I would agree with the word 'attempts'.

Without a doubt in my mind Relative and Subjective.
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IG and EM--

You two have gotten to the crux of the issue. The metaphysics of religion (what does the universe consist of? is there a god? what exists?) is at the heart of it all. But you must realize that scence (or "scientism" as Goswami and others critical of it or "the standard model" as defenders refer to it) has its own metaphysical assumptions. When you get down into it the ideas of eternalism (as an assumption about time) and locality (as an assumption about causation) and material monism (as an assumption about essence) are merely metaphysical assumptions the science makes. They have no absolute validity.

Like religion, science is a matter of assumptions and choices which (hopefully) blend into a single, coherent view of reality.
The Two Truths

There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.

The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.
~Niels Bohr
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Old 10-11-2011, 05:36 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

SG, you catch on quickly! Sammuti or relative is always about our "objective reality" (which always has doubt or error associated with it). Paramattha or ultimate is always about the eternal truths (which we can doubt and have error associated with). Call these the "ground truth" (what we believe is and what is). When one (if one, if any can) can make them coherent one gets a glimpse of non-duality.

In my case, I try to use this template at all times (and fail most of them). Actually I would add a third, call it "common ense" (vyavahāra, perhaps) which is what we most have to overcome. It is common-sense that the universe expands into something, it is common-sense that consciousness has nothing to do with the wavefunction.

Grok?
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Old 10-11-2011, 06:11 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

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SG, you catch on quickly! Sammuti or relative is always about our "objective reality" (which always has doubt or error associated with it). Paramattha or ultimate is always about the eternal truths (which we can doubt and have error associated with). Call these the "ground truth" (what we believe is and what is). When one (if one, if any can) can make them coherent one gets a glimpse of non-duality.

In my case, I try to use this template at all times (and fail most of them). Actually I would add a third, call it "common ense" (vyavahāra, perhaps) which is what we most have to overcome. It is common-sense that the universe expands into something, it is common-sense that consciousness has nothing to do with the wavefunction.

Grok?
I would also add ideal (existing only in the mind) to the mix. I'm thinking that some are trying to classify "perfection" into the non-dual category, when it belongs in the "ideal" category.
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Old 10-11-2011, 06:29 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

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I would also add ideal (existing only in the mind) to the mix. I'm thinking that some are trying to classify "perfection" into the non-dual category, when it belongs in the "ideal" category.
How often do test measurements conform exactly to the equations? Too many "exact matches," and one begins to suspect foul play, no?
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Old 10-11-2011, 08:41 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Science vs. religion: Does God exist?

Depends. Most calculations nowdays are so mundane in both quantum and relativity, they are usually very exact. In aeronautics (computational flow dynamics) and others where "emergence" and "chaos" have caught on, that is less the case.

The big ones this year: faster-than-light neutrinos and accelerating universal expansion. Well, the first one I am still watching the physics forums, either a mistake or we need another experiment to confirm (jury still out). Second one, the actual "measurement" as such was the balancing of an equation (great idea, deserves Nobel, but mundane measurement).
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