Should science replace religion?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by wegs, May 7, 2019.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The only conversions necessary would be among scientists. And in that population we have a head start - the available Western religions have failed so utterly that they have been essentially discarded: nothing needs to be "beaten out" (maybe Islam).
    There are many examples of religious edicts lasting for centuries, functioning well, and delivering the benefits to the adopting community. That's why I chose the examples I did - they are examples of such longterm benefits.
    The current religions have failed - they are inadequate, dysfunctional, even damaging, for a scientific society and community. That has been assumed from the beginning of this thread.
    It very much has and does, for most humans who have lived on this planet, as the examples chosen illustrate.
    The rules against raising and eating pigs, the rules against harming cows, have serious and significant influences to this day, after many hundreds of years of benefit. So did the pre-colonial rules about fallowing farmland, not destroying it by over - intensive production, maintaining genetic diversity in food crops (the Inca and other SA agricultural peoples), not overfishing or over-exploiting wild harvest resources (the turtle egg harvesters in precolonial Caribbean cultures, the fisheries of the north Pacific and Atlantic coasts), sharing bonanzas with the community, and so forth - features of precolonial or aboriginal societies almost universal prior to Western and Christian contact.
    Not among the nomadic herdsmen of Central Asia, not among the hunter-gatherers of the Arctic and the African savannah, not among the agricultural communities of the American and Mediterranean and Pacific Islands, and so forth. The powerful were governed by their hardwon and wisdom supported religions in this respect, or they did not remain powerful for long.

    The benefits were and are real, see. Those who followed the religious edicts prospered, those who did not eventually suffered. The religions involved were not the empty and superfluous theatrical displays we live among these days.
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  3. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Most humans who ever lived on this planet are living on it right now, making garbage.
    When those examples worked, what was the human population?
    Why and when did they stop working?What replaced them?
    Sure. Different rules in different societies, according to their local needs and capability.
    As soon as the population rises above sustainable level, all those rules go out the window - or else people find new way to use up and pollute all the water and import their food from other countries, where the rules are different, and export their industry to other countries, where the rules are different.

    Like anybody was listening to them !!
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  5. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Suppose we didn't know all that we know, through science. We try to imagine a world without religion/spirituality/faith beliefs, etc, but what might a world look like if there were no scientific discoveries? If we lacked scientific knowledge. In other words, did science "liberate" us? Would we be worse off today (morally, intellectually, emotionally, etc), if we had no scientific knowledge of the universe? We'd be worse off in terms of progress and advancements, but if you don't know what you don't know...

    It has been implied in this thread by a few members here, that we have an innate leaning towards spirituality, but perhaps we have an innate leaning towards science, as a means of explaining the world around us.
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
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  7. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    I think you already answered the "intellectually" aspect of that question. Morally, I don't know. We might still be sacrificing virgins to the weather gods.
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  9. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Exactly. I wonder...
  10. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    That kind of assumes "we" know what science is, precisely: where curious exploration (such as wolf cubs pursue) and intelligent problem solving (such as practiced by parrots getting at fruit) turns into scientific investigation.
    Formal: pre-wheel stone age, without the megaliths. Informal: low-end marine vertebrate.
    From what? No animal was captive until humans had the technology to capture them.
    Better in that we might not be on the brink of extinction. Or if we were, we wouldn't know it.
    Convoluted brains form patterns, puzzle out cause and effect relationships and solve problems. That's their function.
    Even the torture device in that picture is a science-conceived, technology-produced artifact, provided by the rational side to the ruling irrational [spiritual] side.
    Even the sacrificing of virgins is a rational response to a perceived connection: it's the proposed solution to a problem that's attributed to a causative agent, offered by the spiritual half of the brain.
    When we have too few dots, we invent crazy pictures.
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  11. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    The development of a process by which we can study the natural world around us.


    Liberated from our limited thinking, where we are searching for real answers instead of spending life, guessing.

    Exactly, would we even know it.

    Correct, and here we are. And we continue to evolve, and so it leads back to the OP - should science replace religion? I'm starting to think...that it could.
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Sort of. From the time we are babies we start learning basic physics - object permanence, gravity, action and reaction, heat from the sun. We learn those because they help us survive.

    One of the problems, though, is that that leads us to try to solve more complex problems that way. And our intuitions about things that work in the scale we can see (in gravity, on our feet) harm us when we try to think about more complex scientific phenomena. And we _don't_ have an innate drive (or predilection) to be able to solve those problems. Some people do, of course - because there are a lot of people out there. But once we can throw a rock, jump over a stream and catch a falling apple we've exhausted most of our "innate" drive to learn science.
  13. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    We still have limited thinking. Every sentient creature is limited. That doesn't make them captive: they are all exactly at the right stage of evolution.
    You can expand your thinking, but it will never be infinite.
    Still no.
    Can a shower replace a high-chair?
    They serve different purposes; you can never substitute one for the other. But you might outgrow the need one.
  14. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Yes, you could be right. Faith/spirituality/religion and science are really just two ''ways'' of learning/knowing about ourselves, and the universe. They both answer different types of questions, for sure. Maybe it's a matter of what answers matter the most, or are they equal? I find them to be equal - I'm spiritual, yet I appreciate science for what it has taught me, as well. Perhaps organized religions that see science as more of a threat, than an essential tool, have created this war of sorts, between science and faith.
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Of which of the many religions involved?
    One would presume that population density, not absolute number, would be the relevant stat.
    But anyway: The population of the Inca empire - which included examples of visible benefit from religious governing of agriculture - was about 10 million. The population of prosperous hunter-gatherer tribal associations with a given religion runs generally in the thousands. Nomadic herdsfolk and the like run into the tens of thousands afaik.
    Often - especially in the historical record that offers us the best evidence - colonial conquest, which replaced the local religion's role in resource management with rationally based commercial enterprise.
    Example: the religiously governed agricultural practices of the Cherokee were replaced by the rationally governed corporate capitalist cotton plantations of the British.
    That did not happen, in these examples. The common order of event was: first rules out the window, then population becomes unsustainable.
    ? What are you talking about?
    Your implicit suggestion - that one of the criteria for a religion appropriate for science and scientists is that it causes other people to listen to them - is interesting, though.
    I'd be willing to add it - to this,
    we add this, or something better phrased: abets communication with the nonscientific.
    More progress.
  16. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Science is a form of philosophy based on evidence. But we are stuck with the necessity of making decisions based on incomplete evidence. The art of doing this is sometimes called spirituality, but it's really a form of philosophy.
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  17. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Don't think so

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  18. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Of the planet.
    Both. Population pressure is also a factor in the drive to conquest, the clash of cultures, and technological innovation, as well as overuse of resources.
    Empire... They conquered and subjugated other peoples, and imposed their own religion on those peoples - the seeds of dissolution were already sown; substance squandered on putting down rebellions, and the Spanish had lots of disaffection to exploit in toppling the Incas. Their religion was wasteful, too, consuming lots of resources in the construction of temples, monuments and decorations, also much human labour as well as lives. I don't see the religion playing a larger role in their success (couple of centuries - not hugely durable as civilizations go) than military might and rationally based organization.
    What, like the Hebrews?
    We have to assume you're not counting the tribes that hunted large mammals to extinction, or the ones that burned forests to make more grazing land for their livestock and more arable land for farming.
    In the Americas and Asia, lots of territory, no population pressure. In Africa, India, Mesopotamia and Europe, a quite different picture, and quite different history.
    You find some examples of a way of life that worked for somebody, somewhere, for some period of time - and maintain that the reason they did thrive was their good religion, not their rational approach. While the majority that didn't thrive, or didn't last, it's down to their having bad religion and rational approach.
    The examples are carefully chosen - one might suspect, cherry-picked - and even so, the reason given for one or another outcome is less than persuasive.

    Not at all. My meaning was: What's the purpose of giving scientists an appropriate religion if they have no influence on how the rulers rule, where the armies trample, why the moguls deploy capital and how the other billions of people live, behave and treat the world?
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    There is no such thing as a planetary religion, civilization, culture, etc.
    Not planetary population. Those are all local effects - the same level as the examples of religion's benefits.
    Not their "good" religion. Many of those religions were in important ways monstrous, oppressive, objectionable.
    And they thrived for many reasons other than the benefits we observe from their religions, as is clear in my examples.
    And I found no examples of any "way of life" - I found illustrative examples of the benefits of religion to many different ways of human life.
    And none of them were examples of a "rational" approach. The veneration of cows and abhorrence of pigs are neither one "rational" in nature, for example - although they do, as all bringers of religious benefits do, answer to reason and make sense in their original context. (The spiritual/aesthetic etc level comprehends rationality, after all).
    They cover five continents, four different kinds of human economic organization (hunter, herder, farmer, commercial/imperial), and thousands of years of time.
    So? That does not make the benefits of their religion go away.

    Enough. Can we take the point - that religion has uniquely provided many significant and even critical benefits to millions of people for thousands of years worldwide, benefits not available from rationality and other such limited and comparatively shallow approaches - for granted, now?
    Let's take a minute and rethink that kind of response.
    Do you believe science and scientists have no such influences? That they have had no influence on, say, the deployment of capital by moguls?
    Do you regard benefits restricted to scientists themselves, and the science itself, as of no value - not worth obtaining?
    Do you regard the deepening and strengthening of an intellectual's moral and ethical nature as something that requires a "purpose" to be worth doing?
    Must the "purpose" you require for such an endeavor be a rational one, or would you be satisfied by a suitable aesthetic, artistic, emotional, enlightening, etc, "purpose"?
  20. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Obviously. So how can any religion save the planet?
    Not anymore! Everything's global now.

    I've never said religions didn't have benefits. I said they're not responsible for the success or sustainability of any particular civilization.
    Religions aren't. Farming and governance are. You don't really suppose the Inca rulers gave no intelligent thought to the census and tax collection and settling islands of "friendlies" among the lately-conquered population?
    Every culture has some irrational elements, but it doesn't survive long without reasoned management.
    What good has fear of pork done anybody, except maybe prevent trichinosis? Those people were not any nicer to cattle or lions or each other than peoples who had no pork taboo. Cattle may be venerated in a whole distant other place, but that didn't cause those people to treat women and children any better than the people who ate cows but not pigs, or pigs but not dolphins or whatever. I don't see the benefit of those taboos, even locally.
    No, they don't cover any of those things. They're examples of those ways of life, with no proof whatever of religion having a larger role in the success of any particular example of each way of life than did any other factor - luck, geography, good relations with neighbours, intelligent leadership, etc.
    Nor does it illustrate those benefits.
    In fact, I haven't agreed to rational thinking being "shallow" compared to irrational thinking.
    I'm not even agreed that deep is good: there's a lot of pretty awful murk in the human unconscious; I'm certainly very far from convinced that it's superior.
    Replace "purpose" with point, or use, or good. It means "Why bother?"
    Converting scientists may or may not be good for the scientists ethical development, but it won't make any difference to the state of the world, because scientists have little or no influence over decisions made by the powerful.
    They's tools, not guides.
    Climate change should be enough to illustrate that: scientists have been warning us about that danger for 130 years - first just a few, then many, now most - and the effects are obvious - and still, no action.
    How long do you figure the conversion of the scientists will take?
    How long do you figure after they're converted for them to convince the politicians and financiers to change direction?
    How long after they change direction does that affect show up in the climate?
    might as well convince a mechanic in the engine room of the Titanic to beware of icebergs, when you can see one from the deck.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Thereby blowing off fifty years of research into brain function, as well the the common observation of life.
    Saving the planet is not among the benefits listed.
    None of that stuff listed is global.
    They were not, in fact. The examples were taken from - and fairly represent - the historical record.
    And my queries remain.
    Of course they did. They also enjoyed the benefits of religion in several significant arenas, especially agriculture.
    It's not a "fear".
    For one thing, it reduces malnutrition and other bad effects of social inequality in regions where pigs and people compete for often scarce food - where pigs eat the same stuff people do. It's a common good issue - one of religion's arenas of benefit.
    And you can tell it's religion, rather than rationality, by the fact that it travels - even in areas where raising pigs does not harm the poor, disease is no problem, and the rational benefit no longer applies, the prohibition holds among those religious people.
    Well read up, then. If you are curious.
    They are not examples of ways of life. They are examples of benefits from religion.
    They might easily make poorer tools in the service of bad powerful people, if they had an appropriate religion. That's a common arena of benefit from religion.
    Evidence, not proof, is what one gets by observation. And by choosing from five continents and such different economics, geographies, eras, population levels, and so forth, the evidence for the reality of the the observed role of religion - rather than some underlying coincidental luck not observed, etc - is made stronger.
    Nobody is talking about the subconscious, unconscious, or anything of the kind. The terms used were "aesthetic", "spiritual", "emotional", etc.
    And we see illustrated some consequences of elevating rationality to a role it is not suited for.

    We are, indeed, suffering from an absence of the benefits commonly and historically provided by religions - especially in scientific arenas, such as climate change.
  22. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Well, then I guess you'd better start prophesying at scientific symposia.
    My insurmountable obstacle here is: I have only the most nebulous idea of what you're talking about. I don't even know what you mean by religion, or how that relates to culture or way of life or governance or social organization. I don't know why you're on about a religion for scientists as distinct from regular people. I don't know how you distinguish reason from rationality from general thought-process, or how you define the relative "depth" - on what standard, on what scale? - of a mental process.

    Whether it's even relevant or not, here's the problem I'm having:
    The hierarchical arrangement of mental processes as if they were a meritocracy, or arrangement by status suggests a system of valuation that can be very confusing.
    Philosophers may rate their avocation above that of psychologists who might rate their discipline above that of biologists. But does that attitude reflect reality?

    Is a sense of duty a higher function than regulating adrenaline? Is imagination better than reason? Is the appreciation of beauty more important than pattern-perception?
    I think there is a great danger of confusion in any hierarchical arrangement :
    - We may not communicate the principle on which we built our pyramid - or worse, take for granted that we all have the same structure in mind.
    - We may be leaving out, ignoring, neglecting crucial layers of function.
    - We may be discounting the co-ordination of various functions in a state of mind, or even the making of a single decision.

    I see the brain functioning as a network of connections - a hugely complex four-dimensional web that refuses to stack into any neat pyramidal formation.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That's my obstacle, not yours. All of the examples and so forth I've posted rest on a base of common knowledge and recognized experience - which the self-described "rational" do not necessarily possess.
    That's unavoidable in this format. All I can do is link to books and refer to easily researched history etc.
    That's the thread issue - science "replacing" religion - brought to a sharp focus.
    Which confusion I attempted to head off by suggesting other, equally acceptable terms - terms that exclude "valuation", "meritocracy", "status", and so forth.
    1) In logical level, in mental abstraction and so forth, yes of course. (2) The word "better" does not apply (3) meaningless question - are the ends and middle of a stick more important than the stick?
    So don't build a pyramid. If you are unable to conceive of any other form of hierarchy, I suggest dropping the term and going with one of the other labeling conventions mentioned above - or one you prefer, after recognizing the situation: rationality is subsidiary, shallow, limited, and in a well-functioning brain subsumed by "higher" (more comprehensive, governing, more inclusive, more central, etc) mental functionings. We label them "aesthetic", "spiritual", sometimes "emotional", etc. Rationality cannot begin to "replace" them - it malfunctions without them, for starters. We know this from studies of stroke victims, brain activity monitoring of people reasoning, observation of various pathologies, common observation of human life, and so forth.
    Last edited: May 22, 2019

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