Is science a religion?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Yazata, Jan 4, 2020.

  1. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

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    A way of life is not the definition of religion. Based on that definition of religion capitalism, monarchy, or democracy are religions.
     
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  3. Ethernos 1997 Registered Senior Member

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    does budhhism fall into any of those category?
     
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  5. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

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    It is a religion.
     
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  7. Ethernos 1997 Registered Senior Member

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    I mean if it can be described as capitalism,monarchy or democracy.
     
  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I think that's a huge part of what religion is. Religion, whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, is something that people need to do. You have to spiritually transform your life in a Christlike way, get in step with God's revealed will, realize your oneness with the ineffable divine, or transform your cognition so as to uproot the sources of suffering. Most of the rest of the content of these religions can be described as fleshing out precisely how these self-transformation steps are performed.

    Of course science can be defined as a practice too. That's what we usually see in those exceedingly simplistic accounts of "the scientific method" that laypeople are given in secondary school. One observes, one asks a question, one creates a hypothesis regarding the answer, one performs a test and one one forms a conclusion.

    But there's more to it than that. There's a metaphysical element in which assumptions are introduced about the nature of reality so that the practice and its results make sense. This is where supernatural realities enter religion and naturalism enters science. There are epistemological assumptions about what kind of practices can produce what kinds of knowledge.

    And there's a narrative aspect. Religions provide people with stories, with narratives in which they can insert the events that they perceive around them so as to explain them, make sense of them and endow them with meaning.

    And again, science does much the same thing. We observe events around us, we plug the observations into "science" and get an explanatory account back that associates the event into a larger conceptual scheme that gives us the impression that the events make sense somehow. (Not so much with regards to meaning which science tends to drain away, but very much in terms of mechanism.)

    That might be one of the bigger differences between science and religion right there. Science replaces meaning with mechanism. 'Why' is replaced by 'how'.

    It's interesting to observe what happens when the practice, the "way of life" aspect is lost. In the case of religion, we see the whole thing reduced to a matter of accepting the truth of various propositional formulas. Christ has saved me so long as I believe certain things, there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet, or all that one need do is ask for salvation from the proper Boddhisattva. The underlying practice, the self-transformative aspect, withers up and falls away.

    And in science what is essentially a process of trial-and-error inquiry by professionals in the laboratory somehow becomes a matter of increasingly obligatory faith in "scientific" authority among laypeople out on the street.

    Whether in religion or in science, I see it as a corruption.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Buddhism is an interesting problem case in lots of ways.

    Most of our discussion board atheists tend to define both religion and themselves as 'atheists' in relation to belief in something called "God". But Buddhism doesn't really have such a concept. It has gods in much the manner of the ancient Greek gods, but no overarching monotheistic deity. The gods are basically there as a concession to the prevailing beliefs in the Buddha's time and place (c. 4th century BCE northeastern India). None of these deities play any role in the Buddhist salvational scheme. In fact the gods are in need of enlightenment themselves.

    Our discussion board atheists tend to conceive of religion as blind faith in the truth of things that can't be known, at least by any means that they accept. Belief in things simply because the believer wants them to be true or because it's what prevailing tradition says.

    The Buddha takes an entirely different course. In the very famous Kalama sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 3:65) the Buddha is approached by a group of people (the Kalamas) who say that their village has seen a succession of religious teachers, each teaching something different, each saying the other teachers are wrong. The Kalamas ask the Buddha how he thinks true religious teachings can be distinguished from false.

    The Buddha is said by early Buddhist tradition to have replied:

    "Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. So in this case, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering' --- then you should abandon them."

    The idea of religion as personal practice is front-and-center here. If the goal is a particular kind of self-transformation, the practitioner will directly experience it. If the goal is the elimination of suffering, the practitioner will know what leads instead to increased suffering.

    So Buddhism is exceedingly empirical, if the idea of 'empiricism' is expanded from sense-experience to experience in general. In terms of the formulaic "scientific method", the Buddhist tradition can be likened to a scientific hypothesis. The whole point of the practice is to verify the hypothesis by realizing its goals. Imagine one of Exchemist's chemical syntheses. A chemist hypothesizes that a particular process will result in the synthesis of a desired compound. So the chemist tries it. The chemist will know if his hypothesis is correct when it actually works.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
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  10. Ethernos 1997 Registered Senior Member

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    I think there was a french scientist or chemist maybe joined buddhism and abandoned his life. Dedicated his life to buddhism.
     
  11. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    Oxymoron. No such animal

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  12. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    It is possible to be both a scientist and a Buddhist. They are not mutually exclusive.
     
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, I remembered hearing about that too, but that's all I knew. A little key-tapping with DuckDuckGo delivered up

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthieu_Ricard
     
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  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The two words you quoted ("supernatural realities") came from my words in this little passage:

    "But there's more to it than that [religious/scientific practice]. There's a metaphysical element in which assumptions are introduced about the nature of reality so that the practice and its results make sense. This is where supernatural realities enter religion and naturalism enters science. There are epistemological assumptions about what kind of practices can produce what kinds of knowledge."

    OK, I sort-of agree with your criticism there. Perhaps I should have written "This is where [the idea of] supernatural realities enter religion and [the idea of] naturalism enters science." I didn't mean to commit myself to the truth or reality of either of them. (Though personally I lean more towards naturalism I guess.)

    But let me return your fire and launch this missile back at you:

    If you are claiming that "supernatural realities" is an oxymoron, then you would seem to be embracing metaphysical naturalism. So... how do you know (or think that you know) that the limits of reality are coextensive with the limits of what what can be known by the methods of the physical sciences?

    How can you exclude the possibility that there might be other kinds of reality, other kinds of things that truly exist, that aren't discoverable by the methods of the physical sciences?

    One might (arguably) include the cause of the Big Bang and the origin of the "laws of nature" and the basis of the logical principles that seem to hold true of physical space-time-matter reality in that mysterious class. Mathematics, arguably. (Plato certainly thought so as do the many mathematical Platonists today.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
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  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Given religions may be ways of life, but that does not make ways of life religions.
    Unnecessary.
    And kind of vague - what's the difference between existing and truly existing? Between "discoverable by the methods of the physical sciences" and "discoverable"?
    The converse is as meaningful and far more often relevant : How can you exclude the possibility of new methods and new discoveries in the physical sciences?

    The standard scientific take is: belief in a physical reality for which no evidence has been produced is very likely to mislead, no matter how sincere. This follows from 1) centuries of experience and 2) the observation that the universe is very complicated and complex (unlikely to be guessed correctly).

    Buddhism is the largest category of atheistic religions. There are many Buddhist scientists. There are also many Christian scientists, Jewish scientists, Muslim scientists, Hindu scientists, Daoist scientists, and so forth. (There are not many Animist scientists - an otherwise natural fit whose absence requires explanation imho.)
     
  16. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    Another oxymoron

    The Universe is composed of stuff which exist ie detectectible and measurable

    Well if you wish to divide reality into TYPES of reality be my guest

    Personally I am not inclined to go looking for other types of reality. One flavour reality good enough for me

    I don't exclude new means / methods / equipment being used to detect stuff which is available to be detectectible and measurable

    I would this embrace this currently unknown stuff, redefine it as recently found stuff and would add and welcome said stuff as a fully paid up member to Club Reality

    I am guessing many Minions stuff would be fascinated by Mr New Stuff

    OK. No quibble

    This would be fine just as

    This is where supernatural realities enter religion and naturalism reality enters science

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    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  17. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    This link explains what it means: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysical_naturalism

    There is a distinction between metaphysical (or philosophical) naturalism and methodogical naturalism.

    The scientific method requires the latter. It does not require the former.
     
  18. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

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    I'll still go with oxymoron

    You may not have noticed I tend to be go for simple stuff (YES because I am.........)

    The Universe according to Michael 345

    The Universe is stuff which is detectectible and measurable

    Stuff operates by physics, of which we have a sizable collection. Some stuff does not appear to operate by physics so in my world us Minions just have not found those physics to add to our collection YET

    Everything else is waffle

    Unfortunately waffle exceeds stuff which is detectectible and measurable

    Stuff has a handicap in that it is finite

    Waffle, being nothing, extends forever and is constantly being reclassified as another trend or fad or such

    Why not? it is extremely low cost and can be thought up in the comfort of your own house

    I'm ranting again

    Must be coffee moment

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  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    OK, it is your choice to adopt a physicalist, or metaphysical naturalist, worldview. Fair enough.
     
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I used the phrase "metaphysical naturalism"

    I suppose that's true if we interpret 'metaphysics' in the sense of 'higher planes' or whatever it is that one finds in 'metaphysical bookstores'. (Do metaphysical bookstores exist any longer? Do bookstores exist any longer?)

    I was using the word 'metaphysics' in a more technical usage, referring to those categories (Aristotle first tried to describe them in his Categories) that we use to describe and conceptualize reality. Things like 'substance', 'property', 'relation', 'change', 'quantity', 'cause', 'possibility', 'time', 'space' and many more. Together they provide a whole conceptual framework for understanding things.

    There's also a concern to identify those things that have being and are real in their own right, things that just are on account of the kind of thing they are in other words, and distinguish them from things that can ultimately be reduced to combinations or behaviors of these self-existent things. (Atomism is the historical poster child for that, and today's physicists' Theories of Everything are extensions of it.)

    Another technical term for what I was just describing is 'ontology', so if 'metaphysics' creates confusion, let's use 'ontology' instead.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology

    And there you're doing it yourself. Kind of just pronouncing your own ontology. Religions do it when they pronounce the existence of supernatural beings. Atheists do it as well, when they assert their own ontological naturalism. You're doing it. Don't feel bad, everyone does it. We can't help it, we need these kind of fundamental concepts in order to think about things. The challenge is justifying all these categories. Most of them aren't scientific in the sense that they derive from science. If they are scientific, they are scientific in a different way, since science depends on ideas like these in order to do whatever it is that science does.

    One of the ways that the advent of relativity and quantum mechanics were so revolutionary a century ago was because they kind of forced a reconceptualization of a few of these very fundamental ways that people had been thinking about reality since ancient times. That reconceptualization isn't near complete in quantum mechanics, and physicists just sort of accept QM as a calculating device that they use to predict experimental outcomes. They can't really say how reality is such that their experiments turn out that way.

    I'm going to focus in on this thing you said: "stuff which exist ie detectectible and measurable." That's about as clear a statement of ontological naturalism as one could want.

    The challenge is: How do you know that existence is equivalent to detectability and measurability? It's exactly the same kind of question that atheists incessantly throw at theists: How do you know that your God exists? In both cases it demands that one justify his or her fundamental ontology. Something that's very difficult to do.

    Think of your dog. There are many things that seem to exist in reality or are necessary to fully understanding reality that your dog doesn't know and can't even conceive of. Black holes, galaxies, bacteria, ribosomal RNA, Maxwell's equations... the list is endless. The same can be said of every other animal. Only humans can know these things.

    So...
    why must we assume that we humans are the apex of all possible intelligence? Why can't we imagine (entirely hypothetically, don't freak out) super space aliens whose intellectual powers are as far beyond ours as ours are beyond the dog's? And why can't we imagine that there are aspects of reality that such a space alien can know that humans can never even suspect? That analogy comes from Albert Einstein btw. I got it from a professor that used to work with Einstein in Princeton. In his later years, Einstein thought of reality as a mystery that human beings can probably never fully understand. Nobody knows what the unknown contains or how far it extends. He saw his life's work as just shining a weak little flashlight a short distance farther into the mist.

    Now think of the problems that this analogy presents for your ontological naturalism. If the analogy has any force, how can we so blithely exclude the possibility of very real things that humans don't currently know and perhaps can never know? How can we so blithely restrict the boundaries of reality to what this one very limited and contingent species on this one planet can detect and measure?

    There's mathematics and all sorts of abstract things like universals. There's material substances and relations between them. There's parts and wholes. There's space and time. There's actualities, possibilities and impossibilities. It seems to me that one can never really get a conceptual grip on things unless we make these kinds of distinctions.

    Fine (for you... maybe). Your choice of your favored ontology is your choice. But doesn't that 'It's my belief and I'm sticking to it' put you at the same place as the religious believer? Both of you would seem to be asserting views of fundamental reality that you can't really justify or know as fact.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  21. Ethernos 1997 Registered Senior Member

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    I think both u guys are right since there is no enough evidence. It is good to debate on things but from a psychological perspective it is not good to destroy some beliefs since people need it to keep themselves stable.
     
  22. pluto2 Valued Senior Member

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    Science contradicts religion and that's all that matters.

    If any religion was true then there wouldn't be so much scientific evidence that contradicts it.

    In my opinion all religion is based on lies on top of lies while science is the honest search for the truth.

    Personally I'd take what science says over what religious says anywhere and anytime.
     
  23. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    My cousin's belief that there is a hell doesn't seem to be enough to keep him stable. He still manages to find his way back to prison every now and then.
     

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