Author Topic: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion  (Read 48154 times)

Offline Echnaton

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #150 on: January 20, 2013, 07:50:44 PM »
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I interpreted "evidence for everything in life" as well, everything in life, material and non-material.    I see your  statement of "believe to exist" as perhaps meaning only material existence.  If you meant only material existence, then we are in agreement. One needs to have proof for a claim of something having materiel existence or an ability act on the material.  One need not have proof to say that one's spiritual impulse exists and influences decisions in one's life.
I have seen no evidence of a separate spiritual part of human beings. Why is it exempt from burden of proof?


Valis, do you accept my response to your statement.   Made here?
« Last Edit: January 20, 2013, 07:56:47 PM by Echnaton »
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Offline LunarOrbit

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #151 on: January 20, 2013, 10:31:00 PM »
I think the problem is that Valis considers a statement of belief to be the same as a claim of knowledge. To me, saying "I believe in God" is different than saying "I know God exists".

I have no problem with a scientist believing something (eg. that aliens exist in the universe) that they can't prove. I would only have a problem with them saying that they know something that isn't provable.
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Offline gillianren

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #152 on: January 21, 2013, 12:54:11 AM »
Right.  As I've said several times, I don't know that there's a God.  I have no reason to assume that there is.  I believe, which is to me by definition without evidence and based solely on faith.  It's not unlike, well, my belief in the existence of life on other planets.  (Which, so we don't get sidetracked by that, does not mean I believe they've ever been here, because I don't.)  I believe that, somewhere in the vastness of the universe, there is other life.  Far, far away.  We'll probably never encounter it; we almost certainly won't in my lifetime.  I certainly wouldn't take any actions based on that belief.  Still, I believe.
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Offline Andromeda

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #153 on: January 21, 2013, 02:09:27 AM »
I think the problem is that Valis considers a statement of belief to be the same as a claim of knowledge. To me, saying "I believe in God" is different than saying "I know God exists".

I have no problem with a scientist believing something (eg. that aliens exist in the universe) that they can't prove. I would only have a problem with them saying that they know something that isn't provable.

Yes, that is exactly what I have been trying to say about the difference between having a belief and making a claim.
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Offline gwiz

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #154 on: January 21, 2013, 05:21:35 AM »
I have no problem with a scientist believing something (eg. that aliens exist in the universe) that they can't prove.
There is indeed a book of people providing such beliefs:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Believe-But-Cannot-Prove/dp/1416522611/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358763438&sr=1-7
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Offline Valis

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #155 on: January 21, 2013, 05:30:59 AM »
I notice you trimmed out all my stuff about differing beliefs in differing societies.  Why do the social interactions of one group permit, say, the death penalty, but not the social interactions of another?
Nothing says that an underlying set of rules produces the same kind of result every time. Evolution can produce different solutions to the same problem. The societies may also be (or have been) under different kinds of internal and external pressures; a society under constant threat probably becomes different from an isolated society with no external threats.
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Why do the social interactions of one group mandate that turning right on red is illegal but not another within the same nation?
Examples like these greatly depend on law-making party's current (collective, if the party consists of more than one individual) opinion. If the majority has valued the risk (to others, like getting run over; or to oneself, in questions like alcohol age limits) of the act low, it'll probably be permitted. It is clear that science can help in making those rules, but of course there's a lot more to especially in the complex societies we now have.   
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  There is no tangible Thing called "justice," but we believe in it anyway.
Justice is again a value judgement.

Correct me if I've interpreted you wrong, but you seem to try to get me to acknowledge that there are intangible things. I do acknowledge it: Beauty of a song is intangible, so is love, or justice. However, those things are meaningless when they don't deal with things that exist. Justice is an empty concept, if you have nothing to apply it to.

Offline Valis

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #156 on: January 21, 2013, 06:15:54 AM »
Please don't put words in my mouth.
Sorry.
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To use a slightly less contentious example than religion, the question of alien life springs to mind. We have no evidence for alien life. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, however, therefore the question 'is there alien life in the Universe' does not have a scientifically supported simple answer.
Right. However, we can observe one instance of life in our Universe, we can study how it works and how it came to being, all scientific ways to draw a basis for an estimate for life elsewhere in the Universe. We have the science of astrobiology, trying (among other things) to figure out the limits where life can exist. Compare this to theology, which tries to prove the existence of a god through philosophy (or just plain defines it to exist, and then attributes properties to it).
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If i am asked if I believe there is alien life, however, I'd have to say honestly that yes, I believe there probably is.
So would I.
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I couldn't tell you why.
This is where we differ, then. I can list a lot of reasons for the positive probability estimate:

1) Life has already become to being once. We haven't found a process that'd limit life to this one instance.

2) We can observe the basic materials of carbon-based life all over the universe.

3) We can observe a lot of stars long-lived and stable enough to have planets where life could exist.

4) We have made the observation that other stars have planets. Current observations suggests that planets are not uncommon. We also have an observation of at least one planet in the habitable zone.

5) Looking at life here on earth, we have evidence of life appearing relatively soon after the formation of the planet. The estimated age of the Universe is much larger than this time.

There's nothing irrational in giving a qualified answer like "probably yes", if you have a proper basis for the qualification. It'd be irrational to answer "probably yes, because I have dreamed of green Martians".
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But that's nothing like what I am talking about. That's a question where we do have a satisfied burden of proof that says the Earth is billions of years old, and we teach it because of that. The belief that the Earth is younger than that requires a lot of empirical evidence to be discarded or argued away. The belief needs justification in the face of mountains of evidence that it is incorrect.
But you've told me earlier that I can have belief in this kind of trickster god without any justification. All the physical evidence is faked. Telling me about old earth is telling me what to think.

Offline Echnaton

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #157 on: January 21, 2013, 06:19:11 AM »
I think the problem is that Valis considers a statement of belief to be the same as a claim of knowledge. To me, saying "I believe in God" is different than saying "I know God exists".

That is also my observation.

Valis, kindly just lay down what you think on this topic , in a straight forward manner.  This dancing around criticizing people for being inconsistent is not very productive. 
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Offline Valis

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #158 on: January 21, 2013, 06:50:22 AM »
Valis, do you accept my response to your statement.   Made here?
Yes. The main objection was the word "spiritual", as in the common usage it comes with a dose of supernatural. The fact that "spiritual" experiences or states can be artificially induced by mind-altering drugs or alternating magnetic fields is why I wonder why the experiences are sometimes used as evidence for a god.

Offline Echnaton

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #159 on: January 21, 2013, 07:07:05 AM »
Valis, do you accept my response to your statement.   Made here?
Yes. The main objection was the word "spiritual", as in the common usage it comes with a dose of supernatural. The fact that "spiritual" experiences or states can be artificially induced by mind-altering drugs or alternating magnetic fields is why I wonder why the experiences are sometimes used as evidence for a god.
Good, then we have a point of agreement. 

It is not a wonder to me that people engage in wanting to "prove" their faith.  It seems a comprehensible social phenomenon of trying to find identity and community with the most productive and accustomed tools of modern thought.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 07:51:59 AM by Echnaton »
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Offline Echnaton

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #160 on: January 21, 2013, 07:17:30 AM »
Yes, that is exactly what I have been trying to say about the difference between having a belief and making a claim.

To tie this back to the origins of this thread (without putting words in your mouth,) my opinion is that Dawkins ignores this and other subtleties of thought then oversteps the sound science of his work to bash people over the head about religion.  In doing so he is practicing social science not biology.  He deserves to be criticized for doing so based on the strengths and weakness of the social sciences and his practice thereof.  Religion is a broad descriptor for a vast array of assumptions, assertions, thought processes, personal identifications, and needs for community that occur within and outside of any theistic beliefs. I can't think of a broader topic in human history.  It seems to me that focusing on religion and trying to explain a very complex and ill-defined array of thought and behaviors within the developing theories of gene centered evolution has some similarity to Social Darwinism and is an ultimately as counter productive as that movement was a century ago.  Science seems to be developing the ability to enlighten us on the constituent elements of thoughts and belief, common to so many human endeavors, but the current focus on one manifestation of them is overstepping, IMHO.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 07:35:02 AM by Echnaton »
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Online Jason Thompson

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #161 on: January 21, 2013, 07:27:47 AM »
Sorry.

Apology accepted.

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There's nothing irrational in giving a qualified answer like "probably yes", if you have a proper basis for the qualification. It'd be irrational to answer "probably yes, because I have dreamed of green Martians".

Yes, but this is the whole point of what we are trying (and apparently failing) to put across. There is no issue with giving an irrational answer unless you try to pretend it is rational and act as if it is. There is no issue with believing something that cannot be proven unless you treat it as though it is.

Do some religious people do this? Undoubtedly. Do all religious people do this? No. Many are happy to admit that their belief in a god or gods is irrational and nothing more than personal faith. As long as that admission of irrationality exists and they treat it accordingly then they are being perfectly honest about it.

And a further point to consider is that for some people the burden of proof for the existence of a god has been met to their satisfaction. Whether it's because of the amazing beauty and elegance of our natural world, the incredible intricacies and complexities of the interactions of matter and energy, or simply someone who lost his job, wrote off his car, got divorced and accidentally dropped a toolbox on his beloved pet cat all in one week who prayed for help and won the lottery the next day, to them that qualifies as evidence of a god, and therefore they are still applying the 'burden of proof' rules to their internal beliefs about that god and coming out with a satisfactory answer to say he exists. There's no dishonesty there either.

And that was why we took issue with your original blanket statement that religious scientists are intellectually dishonest.
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Offline Valis

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #162 on: January 21, 2013, 11:52:49 AM »
I'll try to take this spot to sum up the reasons for my participation in this thread.
I think the problem is that Valis considers a statement of belief to be the same as a claim of knowledge.
No, I don't consider them exactly equal. This is in part a language problem (there's a difference between belief without basis and belief with basis, for starters), and part philosophical (how can we ever really know anything?).  An example:

I believe that a water molecule is made from one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. Is this a statement of belief or a claim of knowledge? It's the former, for I have to acknowledge that it can be incorrect. Does that matter? No, for all intents and purposes I can treat is as the latter.

Going a step further, there's the question about alien life. "I believe there is alien life" clearly can't be treated equally to the statement of belief in the nature of water molecules. I'll need to add a qualifier, like "probably", to make the higher probabilistic nature of the statement clear. The big distinction is that I can't treat this case as practically true.

Enough with scientists at this point. When a person tells me "I believe that UFOs are alien craft", I can be pretty sure that the person doesn't mean "I assign a probability over 50 % based on this and that to the hypothesis that UFOs are alien craft", he means "UFOs are alien craft". At least, I've never met one. Same goes for many Apollo hoax believers; they don't usually come here to compare evidence, it's to show why their version is true. And, unfortunately, that's the case with many religious believers.

I really don't have much to say about a person who has a religious belief and keeps it to him/herself. I can only show the scientific world-view, which may contain parts that go against specific tenets of the faith, like a young earth. It's up to the person to decide whether he wants to listen or even amend his faith. It's no more telling him what to think than the members here showing evidence based on the official Apollo record to a hoax believer are telling him what to think. While I do not understand willful ignorance, it's not my decision.

What I strongly object in these beliefs is that they seldom are contained within the believer. Indoctrination of children has already been mentioned. So is the inequality based on sexual orientation. Most recent example for me is our deeply religious interior minister demanding tighter limitations to situations where abortion is allowed.

Another objection is that religious faith seems to be out of bounds for criticism. Just recently a suggestion was made in UN to classify such criticism as hate speech. Criticizing a faith is not criticizing the person, and neither is showing that teachings of a religion don't match the observed reality.

Offline Andromeda

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #163 on: January 21, 2013, 12:08:48 PM »
What I strongly object in these beliefs is that they seldom are contained within the believer.

How would you know?
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Offline Echnaton

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Re: Tyson, Dawkins, and religion
« Reply #164 on: January 21, 2013, 12:21:25 PM »
and part philosophical (how can we ever really know anything?). 

I believe we can all agree that the problem of knowledge has been adequately dealt with.  As you describe, science hold knowledge tentatively and subject to revision.  It is an approximation of reality that becomes scientific theory when the chance that the theory does not mirror reality is very small.  This effectively answers proponents of philosophical skepticism, the proposition that we can't really know anything.

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What I strongly object in these beliefs is that they seldom are contained within the believer. Indoctrination of children has already been mentioned.

This is a social problem, not science.  I am not sure what you would propose as an alternative to the practice of parents passing along culture to their children? Should we censor parents? 

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Another objection is that religious faith seems to be out of bounds for criticism. Just recently a suggestion was made in UN to classify such criticism as hate speech.

100% agreement with you here.  That some people want to censor criticism is a the most blatant sign of the weakness of their position.  Dawkins and anyone else can pound away day and night.  But it is not just the religious that call for this, there is a secular social science trend that supports censorship too when applied to "race."
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