Friday Roundup

  • The certainty of uncertainty…or, mystery is okay…
  • A good start, but so much more needs to be done…
  • I will ask the same question again: Have modernity and naturalism provided the philosophical foundation for the present ecological and economic crisis?  And is this where the supposed “irrational” becomes rational?

“This is especially important for an animal like us. We have the means and tools to carve up the planet any way we like. Pure economic rationality can’t be trusted to tell us that this is not a good idea. In fact, recent history has shown that it will just tell us to carve it up faster. What Percy Blythe Shelley called the “the unmitigated exercise of the calculating faculty” will always see forests as materials, oceans as resources, soldiers as quantities. From the rational perspective, everything is potentially a thing that can be used. Only sacred boundaries that tell us in advance that some things are off-limits can keep us from steamrolling the earth. So it might not be Jesus or Muhammad who averts the ecological catastrophe that’s barreling down on us. But it will be sacred commitments – irrational axioms, turning wide swathes of reality into sacred cows.”
  • Interesting, this sounds like something I keep pointing out but it’s coming from an atheist:

 “This time it seems the boot is on the other foot, with religion finding no coherent answer to the trenchant arguments of scientific atheists such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. To follow their logic, it would seem that there should be neither religious scientists nor believers who value the principles of science.”
And here:
“In fact, the ‘war’ is greatly exaggerated. Scientists and religionists seldom cross paths, let alone swords. Many believers are also scientific rationalists and many scientists are also believers.”
And here:
“…Or they [scientists who are atheists] may argue that religious belief needs to be understood in terms of evolutionary biology. These endeavours might one day lay bare religious belief in terms of biology, and therefore ultimately in the materialist terms of chemistry and physics. But what would we really understand the better for having gone down this road?”
Good question!
And here:
“You get more straightforward answers if you simply ask the scientists themselves. Some turn to religion because they believe science has shown the universe – through the numerical values of the fundamental constants of physics, the position of our planet, and so on – to be ideally suited for our existence.”
Wait, you mean one could infer God or the spiritual from the same science and physical evidence available to all of us!  What! Who Knew?
And here:
“More interesting are those scientists, who often start out as religious sceptics, but who find that science offers no adequate explanation of phenomena such as beauty, truth and love. Theirs is not a choice for faith, against reason, but an attempt to reconcile the two. For influential figures such as the Hungarian chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi or John Polkinghorne, a theoretical physicist later ordained as an Anglican priest, science and religion reveal different facets of the same reality. What we know is inevitably personal to us, they argue. This is the case even for scientific theories and mathematical axioms, since our conviction that they are true because they are seen to work is also personally apprehended. Scientific belief therefore finds itself on level terms with religious belief.”
Bernard, is any of this more palatable coming from an atheist?
  • It’s about time…  
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6 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    “But what would we really understand the better for having gone down this road?””

    Well, allow me to answer. If it *were* the case that religion can be explained psychologically, not only as all our endeavors are psychological in part, via motivation, interests, etc., but more completely in that its symbols, facts, doctrines, and history is (as far as they depart from mundane reality) wholly fantastical and *expressive* of psychology…. then we would have accomplished a great deal.

    Firstly, we would have laid to rest the claims and presumptions of “knowledge” and “truth” on the part of religion. Sure, expressing psychological templates is a form of truth, as is art, sports, etc. But in any scientific sense, such claims would at that moment be void.

    Secondly, we would have a richer understanding of our cultural history, it being, on the religious plane, a battle of competing fictions for the allegiance of human hearts, not a matter of “explaining” reality in any scientific sense, but rather overlaying it with enormous, fictive mantles of meaning whose internal logic demand that they be taken *not* as fiction, but as truth and even scientific truth, so as to be “believed” by people who have “faith” in their doctrines, priests, organizations, gods, social order, etc..

    The end of this road brings clarity about the role of religion in human affairs.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    I understood the question to be more an echo of a sentiment given us by Wittgenstein:

    “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.”

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  3. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Well, if religion would confine itself to the problems of life, as opposed to those of science and reality, we would all be in better shape and have less conflict. It is the conflation of the two, with fantasies about the latter passed off as justifications for the former, that is the fundamental epistemological, and practical, problem.

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  4. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “Well, if religion would confine itself to the problems of life, as opposed to those of science and reality…”

    Here you confuse fundamentalism with orthodox or progressive Christianity. Progressives do not worry about the science, we have nothing to fear there. We are a perfect peace with science. We do worry however when unbridled science, rationalism, and naturalism combine to view the world and people as resources to be used. Sometimes the use of science becomes one of those problems of life. Perhaps science should confine itself to what it does best, but leave the ethics, meaning, and purpose (the ends, not just means) to progressive religion.

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  5. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    While the problems may not be as flagrant, progressive religion still has enormous problems with science. What happens when you pray? Is there a god? Does it listen? Was Jesus divine, or just a guy? Putting aside the Bishop Spongs of the world, there remain huge problems, even if you don't think there are. Indeed those are typically the worst kind!

    How about #sciencerealitiesmatter ? We may need a new consciousness raising operation here. After all, what is the difference between an atheist and a progressive Christian? They tend to both be liberal, opposed to bad morals, for good ethics, etc. etc.

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  6. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    As noted, I think people like Andrew Pisent, Michael Polanyi, John Polkinghorne, and Francis Collins (and thousands of others) have reconciled their views of God and the spiritual with the science they know, at least in the area of physics, better than either of us. I think there is a problem or clash with philosophical naturalism, not science. If there were a serious clash with science, qua science, none of these people would be teaching, getting published in serious journals, or have jobs in their fields. Any imagined “huge” problems are simply not there outside of fundamentalism. Even this atheist writer notes such. This idea there is a clash or serious problem is just a non-starter.

    I don’t know about “sciencerealitiesmatter”, is there a link? I agree there are plenty of areas where progressive Christians and atheists could work together, but that is hard to do when one side continually brands the other as ignorant of the science, irrational, illogical, and dangerous. Christians of course too can fall into this trap of demonizing the other, but the new atheists have gone over-board.

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