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John Simkin

Science or Religion

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According to the findings published in the Lancet the neo-conmen have killed about 100,000 people in Iraq. They are now the champtions of the "right to life."

Hypocrisy beyond belief.

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Apart from basically saying 'I'm an atheist and I think religious people are silly', just what have you brought to this discussion so far? I thought this forum was about reasoned debate, not attacking people...

:plane Doug

I cannot speak for Rowena but for the record I do think that religion is superstitious socially conservative nonsense.

I also understand that it is difficult for me to express this legitimate position without you taking it personally and as "an attack".

Hence my early comments about the impossibility of debating with a seriously religious person about their core beliefs. (Incidentally I think you are on potentially difficult ground demanding objective standards or measures from philosophical materialists).

If religion works for you that's fine. You are under no obligation to prove its worth and value here and I am quite within in my rights to think you are bonkers :huh:

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Hmmm. Seems difficult to discuss these issues, doesn't it?

Let me state that I believe God is everywhere, or nowhere. God is present in everything, or nothing. Therefore, my dog (and your dog, too, Doug) has a soul - or he doesn't. If he doesn't, then neither do I.

As a scientist, I can modify genetic material - say, in corn to protect it from corn borers - but science doesn't tell me whether I SHOULD modify genetic material. I could, I suppose, do some sort of cost/benefit analysis (using BT genes to protect corn from corn borers will reduce the usage of pesticides by X%; but there's a danger (of X probability) of that genetic material escaping and endangering non-target organisms) but on a fundamental level, I really don't have a clue as to whether this is "good" or "bad".

This is why I think the real title of this thread should be "Science and religion" - not science or religion.

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Hmmm.  Seems difficult to discuss these issues, doesn't it?

Let me state that I believe God is everywhere, or nowhere.  God is present in everything, or nothing.  Therefore, my dog (and your dog, too, Doug) has a soul - or he doesn't.  If he doesn't, then neither do I.

Does that mean that bees and ants and wasps and grass and trees and flowers have souls as well? :D

As a scientist, I can modify genetic material - say, in corn to protect it from corn borers - but science doesn't tell me whether I SHOULD modify genetic material.  I could, I suppose, do some sort of cost/benefit analysis (using BT genes to protect corn from corn borers will reduce the usage of pesticides by X%; but there's a danger (of X probability) of that genetic material escaping and endangering non-target organisms) but on a fundamental level, I really don't have a clue as to whether this is "good" or "bad".

This is why I think the real title of this thread should be "Science and religion" - not science or religion.

Exactly - science is not a moral framework, which is why one can be both a Christian and a scientist. One deals with what humans have classified as being 'moral law' and one with 'natural law'. Both, however, are to do with God and how He has revealed himself to us.

I'd like to quote a bit of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov which struck me when I read it recently:

But [ivan Fyodorovich] went still further: he concluded with the assertion that for every private individual - such as ourselves at present, for example - who believes neither in God nor in his own immortality, the moral law of nature must instantly be transformed into the complete opposite of the old, religious law, and that selfish egoism even to the point of evil-doing must not only be lawful to man, but must even be acknowledged to be necessary, the most reasonable and indeed possibly the most decent way out of his situation.

I believe the logical consequences of atheism to be nihilism (something which Dostoevsky brilliantly caricutarized in Demons) The only reason atheists can seem to be 'moral' is because they live within a framework which has, in part, come about through religion. That may make me seem narrow minded, but I really can't see how you can have morality without a fixed, objective reality! :plane

:huh: Doug

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Does that mean that bees and ants and wasps and grass and trees and flowers have souls as well? huh.gif

Yes.

The Brothers Karamazov certainly poses some interesting problems. For example:

Ivan: " A well-educated, cultured gentleman and his wife beat their own child with a birch-rod, a girl of seven...They beat for a minute, for five minutes, for ten minutes, more often and more savagely. The child screams. At last the child cannot scream, it gasps 'Daddy daddy!'...But I've still better things about children...There was a little girl of five who was hated by her father and mother, 'most worthy and respectable people, of good education and breeding.'...This poor child was subjected to every possible torture by those cultivated parents. They beat her, thrashed her, kicked her for no reason till her body was one bruise. Then, they went to greater refinements of cruelty - shut her up all night in the cold and frost in a privy, and...smeared her face and filled her mouth with excretment...Can you understand why a little creature, who can't even understand what's done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark and the cold and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her?...Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child's prayer to 'dear, kind God!'"

Ivan, as I'm sure you're aware, is the atheist. He's got a damn good point.

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I've lived a few years in Muslim countries (including Saudi Arabia) and the issue which really troubles a lot of thoughtful Muslims is why there aren't any 'successful' Muslim countries in the world. The Saudis are rich, but they know that their wealth is based on an accident of geology, and, anyway, has been largely squandered. However, even the Saudis know that their very existence is dependent on technicians imported from non-Muslim countries, whose technology only functions because of atheistic scientific materialism. They also know that their school systems are unlikely to produce the ground-breaking thinkers that the early years of Islam produced, when Islamic countries were scientifically, culturally, militarily and economically streets ahead of the the non-Islamic countries (with the exception of China). This is because their schools are run by the same kind of religious fanatics who're beginning to bring down the teaching of science in the USA.

I remember showing film of the moon landings to a group of Kuwaiti pilots, who flew Mirages over the desert at night. They started tutting and saying 'haram' (blasphemy) because somewhere in the Koran it says something like "a man may no more do X, than he may walk on the Moon" - so the moon-landings can never have happened (please post your comments about the factual nature of the moon-landings on the Apollo 11 forum!).

Could you take this question further and ask: are there actually any countries which are successful because of their religion?

I'd say no - since the USA was established as a society which explicitly broke the connection between Church and State which was the contemporary norm. It certainly looks to me as if you have to set your religious beliefs aside if you want a technologically-advanced society to actually function.

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Actually, I think our technological success is at least in part due to a Christian view seeing God as separate from nature. This allows one to "subdue" nature with no regard to spirtitual consequences. In the short run, that leads to technological progress - in the long run to ecological disaster. Scientific materialism could, of course, have the same result; but I'm pretty sure the initial impulse comes from a Christian view of God as outside nature.

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I was thinking more of the same kind of aspect of religion Rowena was talking about. Every time I had to pick my car up from being serviced I had to ask my Saudi boss for permission to leave 15 minutes early. After a while he began to say to me, "David, Hondas must be bad cars - you're always taking yours to the garage". For him, preventive maintenance was almost blasphemous. If God wanted your car to break down, it would. If he didn't, it wouldn't. If you intervened in the process (say, by having it regularly serviced), then you were interfering with God's will. The same reasoning led to very few Saudis taking out car insurance.

My boss, on the other hand, relied absolutely on his car (and on the electricity supply, the air-conditioning, etc, etc). His beliefs about how the cosmos worked were in direct contradiction to the way he actually lived his life. It's a position which is tenable so long as you've got the money to buy yourself a new Merc every 6 months (when you've run the last one into the ground).

I'm sure that the 'Abrahamist' (a nice adjective I read recently which covers Judaism, Christianity and Islam) view of God was the start of one strand of the development of our technology (let's not forget the ancient Greeks), but I was just wondering how much relevance that view has today.

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I think you're right about living one's life in direct opposition to one's belief.

I do think that the view of God as separate from nature still is significant in the way western societies advance their technology. Abrahamists (you're right - nice term!) are told that God put humans on earth to subdue and have dominion over it. That gives humans carte blanche to do whatever they want with nature. If God didn't want us to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, He wouldn't have put it there in the first place.

Platonism (speaking of ancient Greece) fit in very well with Christianity by viewing this material world as a corrupt, imperfect reflection of the "Ideal" world that exists in the mind of God (or Gods). That view also lends itself to environmental abuse.

Certainly pagan societies are not entirely free of the abuse of nature (Jared Diamond has a fascinating book out about why societies collapse - and some of the societies he mentions were pagan societies), but their world view (which I share) does not lend itself so readily to the subjegation of nature (nor to technological progress!)

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The trouble with trying to prove yourself right as an atheist is that you can't and neither can you prove religion wrong. Relgious people demand proof that atheists are correct whilst atheists are not allowed to demand proof from religious people because it is all about 'faith' and 'belief'. It does seem that we are setting off on an unfair footing.

Ultimately if someone told me that they believed in father christmas and that they knew he existed because they felt it in their heart and he made them feel whole then it would be impossible for me to prove them wrong without insulting them personally i.e. by trying to prove that they were in fact bonkers.

My husband, raised a Catholic, feels that I have something missing from my life. I, raised nothing in particular, do not feel that there is anything to miss.

I am perfectly capable of making the kind of moral dececions expected of good christians (etc) without having to back up my views with quotes from the bible. I don't kill, steal, rape or degrade people because it wouldn't be a nice thing to do and I wouldn't want someone to do that to me. My parents raised me to have this outlook on life without the need to convince me that I would go either to heaven or hell if I either obeyed or disobeyed them. I choose to do the right thing because it is the rght thing to do and not because I expect reward or to avoid punnishment.

In addition I don't have to be subjugated as a women as most religious texts demand.

Rowena

p.s. now apparently I, am a simple human being, am not able to decide what is right or wrong, but I'd say that I can take a pretty good guess!

p.p.s. the bible was written by men and so the ten commandments etc were written by men.

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The trouble with trying to prove yourself right as an atheist is that you can't and neither can you prove religion wrong. Relgious people demand proof that atheists are correct whilst atheists are not allowed to demand proof from religious people because it is all about 'faith' and 'belief'. It does seem that we are setting off on an unfair footing.

Ultimately if someone told me that they believed in father christmas and that they knew he existed because they felt it in their heart and he made them feel whole then it would be impossible for me to prove them wrong without insulting them personally i.e. by trying to prove that they were in fact bonkers.

Yes you could! You could seal up your chimney, demonstrate that presents still appeared, and point out the impossibility of visiting millions of children within 24 hours... :D Belief in Jesus Christ's resurrection is different - there were witnesses!

My husband, raised a Catholic, feels that I have something missing from my life. I, raised nothing in particular, do not feel that there is anything to miss.

I am perfectly capable of making the kind of moral dececions expected of good christians (etc) without having to back up my views with quotes from the bible. I don't kill, steal, rape or degrade people because it wouldn't be a nice thing to do and I wouldn't want someone to do that to me.  My parents raised me to have this outlook on life without the need to convince me that I would go either to heaven or hell if I either obeyed or disobeyed them. I choose to do the right thing because it is the rght thing to do and not because I expect reward or to avoid punnishment.

How do you know that killing, stealing and raping are immoral if you've got no ultimate, objective authority? If another culture saw these things as OK how, on your worldview, would you show them that they were wrong? B)

In addition I don't have to be subjugated as a women as most religious texts demand.

Examples please? My wife's a Christian trained in biochemistry and I don't think she would consider herself repressed or subjugated! It's all about having different roles in life. I believe the feminist movement swung away from demanding absolute equality to noticing the different roles of men and women in the late 70s?

p.s. now apparently I, am a simple human being, am not able to decide what is right or wrong, but I'd say that I can take a pretty good guess!

Exactly. There's a difference between knowledge and having a good stab at things.

p.p.s. the bible was written by men and so the ten commandments etc were written by men.

Written by one man, dictated by God. What is your point? :)

:clapping Doug

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so, who wrote the bible?

If humans (the great destroyers) do have souls then so do dogs (loyal and obedient), worms (natures great recyclers) and birds (singing their hearts out at their pleasure at livng every sngle day, not just once a week).

What on earth do human being have going for them that makes them the best candidates for possessing souls...other than the fact that we define our own beliefs and therefore get to choose who gets them.

Religion is all very well and good if it makes people happy and leads to good things being done. In actual fact so many wars have ridden on the back of religion, so many women have been mistreated (in most religions women are possessions of men - only the woman has to say 'to honour and obey'- vessels for babies and not in control of their own reproductive capacity - lack of contraceptive options and lack of access to abortion) and hatred has been preached (anti-semitism by muslems, homophobia by nearly all religions the lst is endless). If this is the result of belief then I feel the world is better off without it.

As for Santa, if you truely believe in him then you will ignore the ignorance of hs detractors,

Rowena

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Rowena,

The bible was indeed written by humans, and incorporates many cultural elements, but was divinely inspired by God. On what basis do you say that organisms other than humans have souls? Christians can (and do) say that humans are special because they were created in the image of God.

Yes, many wars have been fought in the name of religion. But then many have been fought in the name of expansionist materialism (at least implicitly). There's two elements to this - (i) sometimes war is the best option, and (ii) people don't always practise what they preach, unfortunately!

I'm unhappy with all world religions being lumped together in this topic. I do not defend sharia law or abhorrent cultural practices.

:clapping Doug

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And there I shall leave it - I'm not going to try to evangelise through a message board, it really needs face-to-face contact to get to the heart of the matter. We're agreed that scientists must invoke an element of faith in their work, and I admit that the resurrection of Jesus cannot be 'scientifically' proven.

Doug

I've not joined in this "debate" since, like Doug, I don't think it's really possible to convince anyone about anything as deeply personal as one's religious beliefs over a message board.

I do feel, however, that calling people "bonkers" because you disagree with them is just a little too much. After all, I was rapped soundly over the knuckles when I referred to some of the contributors to the various conspiracy theory threads hosted here as "weird people"...

I am a Christian, and don't feel the need to force my beliefs on others. If you don't believe in what I believe in, that's up to you. If you want to talk to me about what difference my beliefs make to my life, I'm happy to do that. But let's not sink to name calling...

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Oh dear.

The bible is the word of God?

"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron that in all future generations, his descendants who have physical defects will not qualify to offer food to their God. No one who has a defect may come near to me, whether he is blind or lame, stunted or deformed, or has a broken foot or hand, or has a humped back or is a dwarf, or has a defective eye, or has oozing sores or scabs on his skin, or has damaged testicles. Even though he is a descendant of Aaron, his physical defects disqualify him from presenting offerings to the LORD by fire. Since he has a blemish, he may not offer food to his God. However, he may eat from the food offered to God, including the holy offerings and the most holy offerings. Yet because of his physical defect, he must never go behind the inner curtain or come near the altar, for this would desecrate my holy places. I am the LORD who makes them holy." (Leviticus 21:16-23 NLT)

or

If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

or

All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

Now I think most Christians do not take this literally but you can see that regarding the Bible as the word of God does pose certain problems. One of which is that atheists often know the Bible quite well.

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