Jump to content
The Education Forum
  • Announcements

    • Evan Burton

      OPEN REGISTRATION BY EMAIL ONLY !!! PLEASE CLICK ON THIS TITLE FOR INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR REGISTRATION!:   06/03/2017

      We have 5 requirements for registration: 1.Sign up with your real name. (This will be your Username) 2.A valid email address 3.Your agreement to the Terms of Use, seen here: http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=21403. 4. Your photo for use as an avatar  5.. A brief biography. We will post these for you, and send you your password. We cannot approve membership until we receive these. If you are interested, please send an email to: edforumbusiness@outlook.com We look forward to having you as a part of the Forum! Sincerely, The Education Forum Team
John Simkin

Science or Religion

Recommended Posts

Is it possible to believe in science and religion? All of us hope that science will help us deal with our problems. Christians on the other hand ask God to help them deal with their problems. Are they wasting their time? If you pray to God you must believe that God intervenes. Yet the natural world gives the impression that God never intervenes. If he did, surely he would intervene to help those in most need.

For example, it is estimated that around 20,000 children die each day from lack of food and fresh water. What have they done to possibly deserve this fate? Why would God respond to the prayers of some and not others? It is claimed that Tony Blair and George Bush pray several times a day (sometimes they even do it together). Do they pray for those 20,000 who die every day? Or do they pray to be elected to office? Yet, why should they pray for those 20,000 children? They don’t need to. They could introduce policies to save those children. However, they don’t, because that will mean they have to redistribute funds from their military budgets. Is this the guidance they get from saying prayers?

In my view a belief in a God or gods belongs to an age before science. One can understand why human beings living in the Stone Age prayed for help in dealing with their problems. Today, science is searching for ways of solving all our problems. (Although far too many scientists are spending their time carrying out research into developing bigger and better ways of killing people). They will develop theories and will amend them in the light of new evidence. Religious belief is blind to evidence. It is based on faith, something that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Christians tell us that praying helps us in time of need. Therefore, it helps if you are a Christian who has lost a loved one in the recent Indian Ocean Tsunami. That in the short-term, science has nothing to offer those suffering from this disaster. This is of course true. It is not very comforting to believe that you will never see your loved one again. I once worked with a man whose son died. As a result of this tragedy he became a born-again Christian. He was very open about the motives for this conversion. He wanted to believe that one day he would again be in the company of his son. No doubt many of those suffering from this disaster will follow a similar route. I know I was tempted to do the same when my father was killed when I was a child. It might have provided some short-term comfort but it would have been a completely selfish act. Maybe, that is what praying is?

I would argue that instead of saying prayers we should be pressurizing our politicians to spend our money more wisely. Not that earthquakes and tsunamis can be prevented. But it is possible to use science to predict when they are about to take place. It is also possible to spend money on an infrastructure that enables countries to deal better with disasters like this to happen. It is also possible to spend enough money to make sure that the world does not continue to experience the daily disaster of 20,000 children dying because they do not have food, water or medicine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My pupils have rallied around and taken an interest in finding out about the tsunami and how they can help now and what ought to be done in the future. This disaster has reaffirmed my faith: I believe that it is one world and we have to work together.

What is the use of a God who couldn't have prevented this disaster?

What is the use of a God who could have prevented this disaster but didn't?

Science has limitations. Human intervention has limitations. I think we could all use a God. The trouble is there just doesn't seem to be one. We will have to overcome those limitations for ourselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Greetings:

FWIW, I neither acknowledge nor do I worship an omnipresent and all-powerful Diety of any sort. I caught on to the invisible guy who lives in the sky, and writes books, intervenes in human affairs, and has personal relationships with certain select people when I was a young child.

That said however, I do believe in a universal [spirit] of [LIFE] itself, but which is neither omnipotent nor self aware. In the language of the Amerindian side of my family that spirit is called, Wan-Kin-Tonka, that which is The Great Spirit and called Gia by my Celtic Pagan Ancestors.

According to my understanding of both philosophies, it is the monarchal, anthropic principal which cybernetically flows through the quantum structure of the cosmos itself giving rise to a multiverse of infinite variation and possibility.

The more I investigate String-Theory the more I [FEEL] we just might be on to something here. Is that Science? Is that Philosophy? I simply can't hang a tag on it all, but I do believe that Science is the child of Philosophy and is the best tool of descerning the nature of things we have and so unless/until something better arrives, like someone who walks on water then I guess I'll stick to science_from a philosophical point of view.

Just some thoughts from an old gunsmith.

Respectfully:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is it possible to believe in science and religion? All of us hope that science will help us. Religious belief is blind to evidence. It is based on faith, something that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

I hope you've realised what you've said here: is it possible to believe in science and religion? On your view, presuming I've understood you correctly, if science is objective there should be no need to believe in it! As an historian, John, you're aware of the problems of interpretation. And as for 'Religious belief is blind to evidence' - really? There's a book I recommend you read of which you've probably heard: Who moved the stone? by Frank Morison. He was a journalist who researched the evidence for Christ's resurrection with a view to picking large holes in it. He ended up becoming a Christian.

The postmodern position, as far as I see it, is that one's belief system does not matter in terms of content, only in terms of results (i.e. in action rather than thought). What happens if the postmodern position is wrong?

:plane Doug

PS http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/006/3.52.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John talks about the Great Spirit in Native North American culture. Some years ago I went to a salmon barbecue hosted by the Coast Salish on Vancouver Island. The Chief said a prayer before we sat down to eat, thanking the Great Spirit for providing us with food and thanking the salmon for giving up their lives so that we could live. I’m not a spiritual person, but I thought this was a nice start to our meal and it made me think about nature, ecology, God etc.

I have relations on one of the Canadian Gulf Islands and I have spent many holidays on the West Coast. The more I come into contact with members of the First Nations in Canada the more I respect their attitude to life. They are in much closer contact with nature than we are and seem to have a deeper understanding of what life is all about.

As for science, there's so much about modern science that I don't understand that it amounts to blind faith on my part that modern scientists (I hope) know what they're doing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some things are taught as stories and pupils do not have to believe they are true. Some things are taught as facts. However if it turned out that the Battle of Hastings was in 1067 not 1066 I would not have to change the way I live dramatically in order to accommodate this new information.

How does anyone dare to teach belief if there is even a shadow of doubt that it is truth - the word of God? It is not as if you could go in to a church or a temple and get up after the sermon and ask questions. It is "the truth" on tablets of stone given by God and you can't argue with that....you just have to leave your reason in the porch.

Bush and Blair prayed together before they went to prey on Iraq.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...How does anyone dare to teach belief if there is even a shadow of doubt that it is truth - the word of God? It is not as if you could go in to a church or a temple and get up after the sermon and ask questions. It is "the truth" on tablets of stone given by God and you can't argue with that....you just have to leave your reason in the porch.

Two things:

(i) At my church they have 'grill a preacher' after the service where you can in fact ask questions! :D

(ii) You're presupposing that human reason can fathom the mysteries of the universe. Isn't that a bit like a snail (if it could talk) saying that our view of the world isn't valid because it does not correspond with its mental capacity? :ph34r:

:) Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Doug. In my rather insular fashion I was generalising from my experience of the Methodist, Anglican and Catholic churches with which I am familiar in the UK. I did not include the Quaker meetings or (clearly) your church which seems to have a more democratic view.

I am not making any claims for human reason except that it is all we have to go on.

I neglected to make the point that I think people are free to pursue their own religious beliefs without being persecuted for it. I have yet to meet any Christians in school who hold the same view as far as atheists are concerned!

In the UK we have "wholly or mainly Christian" assemblies by law every day. In practice schools cannot do this but the government maintain the fiction and the Christian church has a privileged position in the education system. It is my experience that these are not places for reasoned discussion...or indeed any discussion at all.

Religious "truth" is presented as having the same validity as any other "truth" "The capital of France is Paris" has the same status as "Jesus is the son of God". In RE pupils are tested on these "facts".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the other hand, to strike a slightly cynical note, it's probably just as well that the Christian Church has such a stranglehold over the discussion of religion in UK schools. Let's face it, compulsory Christianity every day since 1944 has produced one of the least religious societies in the world. Having to see hypocrisy in action every morning has clearly had a marked effect on generations of British schoolchildren.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am an adult convert to Christianity and used to feel as many of you do.

However, the power of prayer and the psychic energy given by a feeling of absolved guilt is real. John knows I am among the most skeptical and hard nosed of critical thinkers, but my PERSONAL and INTERNAL mind is fed by the doctrines of the New, Old and Prayer Book testaments. I love apocrypha, Oxyrhynchus and QUMRAN writings and history....what a powerful gift we have in the levelling Christians, really so much of our peaceful civic society comes from the martyrs efforts....the Romans and the Barbarians responded to the message and it was all to the good......I believe in holy marriage, wine and bread sanctified, baptism for sins, and prayer.

Of course I am disgusted with evangelical reactionary white power in the States and disappointed with the specific institutional churches (church leaders) that I am familiaar with. I am much more comfortable with a MYSTIC interpretation, but the Gospel demands social and sanctified interaction, so I keep up some nominal attendance........Episcopalian, mainly....very good for the morale, John, seriously......

Edited by Shanet Clark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Doug. In my rather insular fashion I was generalising from my experience of the Methodist, Anglican and Catholic churches with which I am familiar in the UK. I did not include the Quaker meetings or (clearly) your church which seems to have a more democratic view.

If by democratic you mean the congregation can check what the preacher has been saying against the word of God, then yes. If you mean that its religion by consensus, then no! :unsure:

I am not making any claims for human reason except that it is all we have to go on.

I neglected to make the point that I think people are free to pursue their own religious beliefs without being persecuted for it. I have yet to meet any Christians in school who hold the same view as far as atheists are concerned!

Two important points which need to be unpicked:

1. Christians believe that human reason is not 'all we've got to go on'. The Bible - the word of God - is what humans can use to be saved, measure up to an objective standard, and use as a guidebook for living. Can you define what 'human reason' actually means? I became a Christian half-way through my degree in Philosophy after finding that 'reason' means exactly whatever people want it to mean... <_<

2. Well I've never persecuted any atheists! (unless you mean try to reason with them and see the folly of their position). I can empathise with agnostics who aren't sure whether there's a God, but I truly feel sorry for atheists who believe that they know there's not one. I'm sure if you believed in something strongly enough you'd want to tell everyone else about it...

In the UK we have "wholly or mainly Christian" assemblies by law every day. In practice schools cannot do this but the government maintain the fiction and the Christian church has a privileged position in the education system.  It is my experience that these are not places for reasoned discussion...or indeed any discussion at all.

I agree entirely and am completely for the separation of church and state. Ritual can often get in the way of true belief.

Religious "truth" is presented as having the same validity as any other "truth" "The capital of France is Paris" has the same status as "Jesus is the son of God". In RE pupils are tested on these "facts".

If you had never been to Paris, you could not verify for yourself that it was indeed the capital of France. You could be deceived by many people trying to hoodwink you. Even direct observation could actually fool you in many situations where you are directly trying to get at the 'truth'. So actually, the majority of people have second-hand beliefs which they count as facts. We are fortunate that (most of the time) our belief systems correspond to the world as we encounter it. Now 'Jesus Christ is the Son of God' is a fact that we can find out about through other people's experience, just as we do everyday for other facts. It doesn't have a separate status with the label of 'religious fact': that would simply be a moniker for 'lie'.

:hotorwot Doug

PS Perhaps you would find Kuhn's book interesting regarding theory-laden observations, etc. if you haven't already read it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In fact my main ally in opposing religious assemblies at school has been an evangelical Christian. When they used to play the National Anthem at school concerts three of us sat down. Myself, the evangelical Christian I mentioned and a Quaker <_<

I have actually been to Paris but I think the point is a different one. If it turned out that Paris was not the capital of France it would not mean that I had to change my whole lifestyle. If it turned out that Jesus was the son of God I would. I am not sure that Jesus is the son of God and I would therefore not want pupils to undertake the life-changing transformation which would be necessary if it were the case.

Wolfowitz is a disastrous choice for President of the World Bank. I would not expect my pupils to agree with the assertion. I don't want them to. I want them to apply their (God-given?) reason to the problem, to debate and discuss it and think about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have actually been to Paris but I think the point is a different one. If it turned out that Paris was not the capital of France it would not mean that I had to change my whole lifestyle. If it turned out that Jesus was the son of God I would. I am not sure that Jesus is the son of God and I would therefore not want pupils to undertake the life-changing transformation which would be necessary if it were the case.

The reason you would not have to change your whole life upon discovering Paris is not the capital of France is is due to that particular belief being a periphery rather than a core belief. If, for some reason, your whole belief-system (in the sense of Quine's web of beliefs) had the 'Paris belief' as a core one, then it would have far-reaching implications. But because the 'Paris belief' is actually towards the periphery of your belief system, modification of it has little effect. It is the difference between throwing a stone into a pond and the ripples affecting the whole surface, as opposed to dropping it near the edge...

People do have to change their whole lifestyle when they become Christians as beliefs about God, rather than themselves, becomes the centre of their belief system. A reticence to do this (on the part of oneself or ones pupils) in effect protects your core beliefs from ever being questioned. Given a conflict of belief systems (as we have here between Christian and agnostic or atheist) it is not usually the core beliefs which end up being discussed, but the peripheral ones. Thus it is the 'Christian attitude towards...' which is discussed rather than the fundamental principles of belief.

Wolfowitz is a disastrous choice for President of the World Bank. I would not expect my pupils to agree with the assertion. I don't want them to. I want them to apply their (God-given?) reason to the problem, to debate and discuss it and think about it.

If it was God who gave us reason then perhaps it was for a purpose. I believe it was so that we can use it to understand better the mysteries of His creation and to understand Him better. As I inferred above, reasoned debate and discussion is much better than unthinking ritual.

:plane Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If it was God who gave us reason then perhaps it was for a purpose.

Sounds like teleology to me … and, for my money, it was Voltaire who disposed of that a good many years ago.

I think that the great thing about relying on reason rather than religion is that reason is a web of beliefs, where it is the process of reasoning which provides the strength of the web, rather than any particular result of the process. For me this means that there isn't a beginning to the process of reasoning and there isn't an end either … which is more or less the way I see the universe and its 'history' so far.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If it was God who gave us reason then perhaps it was for a purpose.

Sounds like teleology to me … and, for my money, it was Voltaire who disposed of that a good many years ago.

I don't rate Voltaire very highly. How many things do we deal with each day that have no purpose? :hotorwot

I think that the great thing about relying on reason rather than religion is that reason is a web of beliefs, where it is the process of reasoning which provides the strength of the web, rather than any particular result of the process. For me this means that there isn't a beginning to the process of reasoning and there isn't an end either … which is more or less the way I see the universe and its 'history' so far.

'Reason is a web of beliefs' - but then so too, in a way is religion. So if reason is simply made of beliefs, why should I trust reason over religion to be able to tell me anything about the world?

You talk about the process of reasoning being the 'strength of the web', but under this conception one simply has a web of beliefs with no core values. That could lead to a very empty and amoral existence. I doubt anyone has ever lived without values as well as reason guiding their actions...

:plane Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×