Author Topic: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion  (Read 48202 times)

Offline Echnaton

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #75 on: January 18, 2013, 02:57:03 PM »
I took a picture around the November election of a board in front of the church near our library.  It normally lists what the sermon was going to be.  For a considerable length of time, it instead announced that people of faith should support love and support our gay marriage initiative.  Now, as it happens, I still don't want that church to announce its political stance that way, even though I agree with it.
If you live in the US, I think that the church can't do that and still be exempt from taxation.

In practice, a church or any entity situated in the same legal category, can say what they want as long as they don't make explicit endorsements for parties or candidates, but nothing prevents a minister from speaking publicly of personal thoughts.   Where it really becomes a legal issue is fund raising and the authorities may take a closer look at that.  Some groups of churches have been able to violate these prohibitions with impunity because they a have political protection.
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Offline Jason Thompson

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #76 on: January 18, 2013, 03:13:26 PM »
but then you'll have to somehow justify your belief in such a thing, when you have just acknowledged that you couldn't have had any information about it.

Why would anyone have to justify any belief they had if they simply hold it for themselves? You want to try and dictate how others behave based on your beliefs, yes, you justify it. You have a personal belief that makes no difference to anyone but you, no, you don't have to justify it.

[/quote]This is the God of Einstein, a deistic belief. It's still a baseless belief, and a scientist should know that at the moment, we can't know what actually happened at the beginning of our universe.[/quote]

I am a scientist. I do know it. That also means we can't scientifically rule out a divine creator either. Therefore, if a scientist chooses to believe that a divine creator lit the blue touch paper that set off the Big bang, what is intellectually dishonest about that?

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However, this thread has concerned theistic belief, where there's an active god.

With respect, you made a broad statement that religious scientists are intellectually dishonest. You added no such clauses to that until just now.
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Offline Jason Thompson

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #77 on: January 18, 2013, 03:20:18 PM »
Then how can you justify your scientific views? Why can the burden of proof be shifted, when it's about a religion?

Because the one has objectively testable evidence and the other does not. There is a lot that science does not know. Since science cannot rule out a divine entity (because said divine entity can do whatever the hell it wants, including mess around with our 'testable hypotheses', if it chooses to do so), it cannot possibly have a 'burden of proof' attached to it.

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What's the intellectually honest answer from the scientific point of view for, say, "why do you believe in the Christian God and not in Ukko ylijumala?"

"I do not know."

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It seems that you really want to deliberately misinterpret me. Just take a look at the position of homosexual people, and their rights compared to say heterosexual couples in the US. It shouldn't be that hard to see why having a religious belief, justified or not, is very different from having the belief and having it affect others without their approval.

The problem here is your massive overgeneralisation in your initial statements. Earlier on you said religious scientists were intellectually dishonest, then rejected disagreements such as a belief in a non-interventionist god as if we were supposed to know you were not covering all religious beliefs. Similarly, what about Buddhism? Doesn't believe in a god or a divine creator at all, but is definitely a recognised religion.

Here you made a blanket statement, then suggest we misunderstood because you were specifically referring to things such as religious anti-homesexual activities. I think we're all pretty much agreed that things like that are bad, but you didn't specify that to start with.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 03:26:26 PM by Jason Thompson »
"There's this idea that everyone's opinion is equally valid. My arse! Bloke who was a professor of dentistry for forty years does NOT have a debate with some eejit who removes his teeth with string and a door!"  - Dara O'Briain

Offline Andromeda

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #78 on: January 18, 2013, 03:20:48 PM »
With respect, you made a broad statement that religious scientists are intellectually dishonest. You added no such clauses to that until just now.

Thanks, Jason, I hadn't noticed that until you pointed it out.
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'" - Isaac Asimov.

Offline Jason Thompson

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #79 on: January 18, 2013, 03:24:49 PM »
Why the aggression?

Well it might have something to do with the fact that you are implicitly accusing several people here, intentionally or otherwise, of intellectual dishonesty. You don't think people might get a little upset about that?

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How about justifying a belief to yourself, for starters?

Why should it require justification? I believe certain things because I just do. There is no intellectual dishonesty involved in admitting to oneself the irrationality of some of one's own beliefs. We're human beings, not machines. It is quite possible for us to be rational about some things and irrational about others. The intellectual honesty is in recognising one from the other, not trying to pretend one is the other.

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At least to me, this is basic self-reflection.

I think you'll find Andromeda's self-reflection is quite adequate, thank you, and that will be quite enough on the subject.

Incidentally, you don't know her, as she says, and I do, so I feel quite comfortable making such a statement on her behalf, and I'm sure she won't mind.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 03:30:04 PM by Jason Thompson »
"There's this idea that everyone's opinion is equally valid. My arse! Bloke who was a professor of dentistry for forty years does NOT have a debate with some eejit who removes his teeth with string and a door!"  - Dara O'Briain

Offline gillianren

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #80 on: January 18, 2013, 04:25:41 PM »
Indeed, I think the statements of several people have been indicative that they spend considerable time in self-reflection.  The fact that those reflections don't always return the same results is further evidence that not everything in the human experience is inherently quantifiable.
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Offline ka9q

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #81 on: January 18, 2013, 04:35:10 PM »
But religion and faith though have also inspired great acts of good and beauty.
I was waiting for you to say that, and I already knew what I would say in response:

What good there may be in religion can be preserved in a far purer form as secular humanism. Additionally, merely inspiring (some) good and beautiful acts hardly proves a religion factually true or even morally beneficial as a whole; consider Greco-Roman art. We now call it "mythology" only because nobody actually believes their religion anymore. Some day in the future, the art inspired by Judaism, Christianity and Islam will probably be considered in the same light, only they won't provide as many deity names for future space programs.

As the saying goes, today everyone is an atheist with respect to the Greco-Roman gods; I'm just an atheist with respect to one more god than you. When you understand why you reject the Greek and Roman gods you'll understand why I reject yours.

It all comes down to your fundamental axioms. If you argue religion is (sometimes) good because it (sometimes) makes people happy or (sometimes) alleviates their suffering, then why not just adopt those specific criteria directly as humanism does?

The fundamental axioms of (at least western) religion are something else: that doing the will of a deity is fundamentally good and disobeying a deity is fundamentally bad. When that coincides with humanism, it's only by accident.


« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 04:56:56 PM by ka9q »

Offline ka9q

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #82 on: January 18, 2013, 04:47:41 PM »
In a time where religion was much more pervasive and prevalent, it's not wonder that most scientists were religious.
Right. As Neil Degrasse Tyson is fond of pointing out, this even includes Isaac Newton, probably the smartest man who ever lived. Yet he also dabbled in alchemy, which few still defend today. Unlike religion.

Newton stood on the shoulders of giants, and himself became one of the giants that we stand on today, but he was still a product of his time. Imagine how much more even he could have accomplished if he hadn't wasted so much of his time on alchemy -- or religion.


« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 04:49:20 PM by ka9q »

Offline Andromeda

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #83 on: January 18, 2013, 04:49:53 PM »
consider Greco-Roman art. We now call it "mythology" only because nobody actually believes their religion anymore.

...

Today everyone is an atheist with respect to the Greco-Roman gods

That's not true.  Many pagans of various flavours have a Greco-Roman pantheon.
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'" - Isaac Asimov.

Offline ka9q

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #84 on: January 18, 2013, 05:03:20 PM »
That's not true.  Many pagans of various flavours have a Greco-Roman pantheon.
I stand corrected; I knew there are pagans, but I didn't know any active modern beliefs were based directly on the Greco-Roman gods. The ones I've heard of seem more animist in nature. So do many of the eastern (non-Abrahamic) religions.


Offline raven

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #85 on: January 18, 2013, 07:30:12 PM »
ka9q, from your earlier comments, it seems you think that the beliefs a scientist should have are those that can be empirically proven, and anything else is either hypocritical or delusional. Deriving from that, they therefore should not cheer for one sports team over the other, or like a book, game, or movie over another, have a favourite food even. One could argue that they shouldn't fall in love with one particular person either from that premise as well.
Even further, crimes of passion are distressingly common, the anger that arise from disagreements over various examples of media can reach ludicrous heights, the ardour that can arise form their shared passion for it, the riots that can break out after a loss, or even a win, of a sports game of a professional can cause millions in property damage and result in injury or even loss of life.
Are those reasons to blanket media, sports, and even love as bad?
I can't address the rest without getting a little peeved myself.
Aggressively secular societies have done there own share of horrors. Just look at the 20th century, and likely earlier, so removing religion ain't suddenly going to make us angels.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 07:36:42 PM by raven »

Offline gillianren

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #86 on: January 18, 2013, 09:26:37 PM »
I stand corrected; I knew there are pagans, but I didn't know any active modern beliefs were based directly on the Greco-Roman gods. The ones I've heard of seem more animist in nature. So do many of the eastern (non-Abrahamic) religions.

Most of the ones I know are inspired by either Norse or Celtic faiths, but I know people who are into Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and of course various New World pantheons.  Or my own disorganized, "I don't really use any of those names" variation, which is closer to Deism than animism or any specific pantheon.  If someone has worshiped a deity, and we still know they did, someone is worshiping them in the present, even if it's just to piss off their parents.
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Offline BILLR

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #87 on: January 19, 2013, 12:33:30 AM »
I think the belief in a god started the first day a mind understood that there is a "next day". Most animals have no concept of "what happens to me tomorrow ?". That is when the concept of death..an ending, would have to start preying on the mind.

Offline Not Myself

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #88 on: January 19, 2013, 02:53:58 AM »
ka9q, from your earlier comments, it seems you think that the beliefs a scientist should have are those that can be empirically proven, and anything else is either hypocritical or delusional.

I can't speak for ka9q, but to me, empiricism (and deductive logic) is what science is about.  I have yet to meet the scientist who believes only what has been shown empirically.  I don't see anything remotely hypocritical about believing things which haven't been proven empirically, nor even in believing things which have been disproven empirically, unless in the latter case one also claims to believe in empiricism.  To reject empiricism in favour of belief is in my opinion wrong, but it doesn't sound hypocritical to me.

Delusional?  I don't know.  I know mathematicians who believe the Riemann conjecture is true, and I know others who believe it is false.  None of them can prove their beliefs at this time (unless there has been some big news which I somehow missed recently), and they're all aware of this.  If the question is one day resolved one way or the other, then we will know which group of mathematicians believed in the false delusion and which believed in the true delusion.  (And this one isn't even an empirical question!)

Religious beliefs?  Seems to me, it would depend on the particular religion.  If your religion tells you things which contradict what we observe empirically, then you need to throw away your religion, or you need to throw away empiricism.  If your religious beliefs are not falsifiable, then you won't ever face that dilemma.  If your religious beliefs are in principle falsifiable, but haven't been falsified yet, then the day may be coming when you have to choose.

Deriving from that, they therefore should not cheer for one sports team over the other, or like a book, game, or movie over another, have a favourite food even. One could argue that they shouldn't fall in love with one particular person either from that premise as well.

The thing that I've noticed about internet faux-science boards is, the shriller the denunciation of religion, the more unproven (and unprovable) beliefs the denouncer seems to have.  To me, whether we should want the Wallabies to beat the Springboks in the upcoming tournament is not within the realm of science.  (The tournament itself could be viewed as a sort of empirical test about which team is better by a particular metric, but that's a different question.)  My science is about understanding the laws the universe operates by.  It won't ever tell me which team I ought to root for, whether Mozart is better than Beethoven, or anything like that.  Certain types of science, psychology, sociology, et al., provide me with some tools I could use if I wanted to answer the question of how a society ought to be ordered, because they let me judge what the consequences of implementing some policy will be.  But ultimately, the value judgement that tells me whether those consequences are good or bad, is not a scientific question.  My science doesn't tell me what is good and what is evil.

Some seem to have a more all-encompassing version of science, that tells them what is good and what is evil.  Rather like a religion.

Aggressively secular societies have done there own share of horrors. Just look at the 20th century, and likely earlier, so removing religion ain't suddenly going to make us angels.

That's just the thing, to me.  How do we decide what is and what is not a horror, and which people are or are not angels?  It seems to me that a person who claims only to believe that which can be demonstrated scientifically shouldn't even be asking whether something was a horror or whether someone is an angel.  And yet ...

« Last Edit: January 19, 2013, 02:59:32 AM by Sarawak »
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Offline BILLR

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #89 on: January 19, 2013, 03:39:41 AM »
"Aggrssively secular societies". They were not that. In all cases the leader became "God". And the people, to a horrible degree, were true believers.