What are the conflicts between atheism and science?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Mind Over Matter, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    And there's my argument.
    It cannot be established that what is claimed or stated in the book was actually real or whether it was hallucination, embellishment, deliberate fraud, political agenda or numerous other possibilities.
    So we are back, once again, to why do you choose to believe in this particular book as opposed those of Zeus/ Osiris/ name one?
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  3. Mind Over Matter Registered Senior Member

    You will really see the answer once you learned to understand the difference between spirituality and materiality that we are able to entertain the idea that God does exist WITHIN people and that this is a form of existence that is sufficient to believe in "God's existence." Many people can't understand how I can call subjective existence a form of true existence, but I think if it is sufficient to convince people who truly believe in God's existence that God in fact does exist (even objectively/externally), then it has as strong an effect as if God DID in fact exist externally/objectively. So I still don't think that God exists materially in the same way as, say, a road but I think He/She/It does exist in people's subjectivity and in theological discourse, and that is sufficient to drive all religious practice of humanity as if God existed external to all that.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2011
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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    The thread topic is about the conflicts between atheism and science.

    LG provided a link earlier on.

    Dyw and I already discussed what I mean by atheists having the tendency to be "passive".
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Have you read the links?
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    For practical intents and purposes, this sort of doubts are possible about everything.
    The questions you are posing are not exclusively pertinent to religion, but to everything.
    Hence the need for a recourse to epistemology.

    I think this is a useless question. I'm not saying this to diminish you.

    Look at this thread that I started: http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=106052

    Ultimately, it doesn't really help to know why this or that person chose this or that religion/philosophy/worldview. It won't help in the sense that your decision as to which religion/philosophy/worldview to follow is still up to you, that decision cannot be made by anyone else.

    And even if others do answer your question, as you have probably found over and over again, it doesn't really do anything for you, it doesn't convince you that they have made a wise or justified choice.

    IOW, we must take responsibility for the questions that we ask.
  9. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Consider this sequence:

    There is God.
    God reveals Himself to humans, in different ways, at different times and places.
    When humans hear these revelations, they become transformed.
    One cannot know for sure whether one has received a revelation from God until one is transformed by it.

    This is a logical sequence, it is not circular. As such, we cannot but accept it as sound.

    For many people, however, it is frustrating to accept such a sequence, as it implies that one is essentially helpless when it comes to knowledge about God; it denies one the comfort of being able to sit down relaxed in the conviction that one has "Figured it all out".

    One can bawl about the circularity of many religious teachings, but it remains that what one probably really wants is not so much knowledge of God as such, but the comfort that one presumes having certainty about God would bring.
    (So that one can then engage in fights with other people, and deem oneself the winner.)
  10. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    No, I'm sorry. Apart from replying to other posts and making numerous mugs of coffee I also have a feeling that it'll start an off-topic tangent or another thread. I have saved those links to my hard drive so that I can read them later whether I lose your links or not.

    I agree: I'm just reading about how historians are now of the opinion that Napoleon was taller than average. And this is someone only ~200 years ago

    I'm beginning to agree with you.

    Yes. And I'm now in the middle of what is possibly a personal, er, epiphany, (dammit it's a good word, despite [because of?] the religious overtones

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    ) with regard to the whole line of questioning in this and similar threads.
    Requires considerably more thought before I can lay it out though.

    I haven't deleted the rest of this post (your logical but unsound example etc) because that was also contributory to my above-mentioned "breakthrough" (however long it lasts).
    But I will reply to the quote I left:

    No, do you know what? (And I've left the above as an illustration of how rapidly my mind's working now) even THAT doesn't matter in the light of my new thoughts. I was going to ask if you'd intended that as relating directly to me/ how you see my posts. But it's now becoming irrelevant.

    And thank you Signal. I've always regarded you as someone more or less guaranteed to post worthwhile (and I hope you take that as the compliment I intend rather than simply as me passing judgement) material. Thought-provoking and engaging, and all of that.
  11. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    The car (colour/style/purpose/attraction/the idea/the person/etc..) represent religion.
    How it works represents science?

    So how can you conclude in this way?

  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I expect that most atheists are relatively ignorant about science. The same thing's true for theists.

    If by 'atheism' we mean lack of belief in the existence of the 'God' of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions, then I don't see how any conflicts could arise.

    If by 'atheism' we mean a claim to actual knowledge that the 'God of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions doesn't exist, then I think that particular belief would be outside the scope of natural science. But it wouldn't necessarily conflict with science. We all have extra-scientific beliefs and most of them are consistent with science.
  13. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I know for myself that what I crave is that comfort of certainty, so that then I wouldn't feel threatened by anyone anymore, and could beat down all arguments ...
    I don't know inasmuch others are like that too, but they probably have this desire to win too, at least to some extent.

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  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Science represents the best knowledge that humans currently have about the natural universe. Scientific knowledge grows over time. On occasion things that were previously thought to be true are discovered to have been mistaken in some respect, and are replaced by better understanding.

    That's a good thing.

    Compare it to the kinds of reliosity based on one purported final-for-all-time divine revelation. That kind of religiosity has great difficulty growing and evolving as science does. So as the centuries pass and times change, revealed "religions of the book" find themselves locked into an increasingly primitive and anachronistic way of thinking.

    'Chicken' is English-colloquial for 'coward'. So I take it that you are calling atheists cowards. You were saying much the same thing about agnostics the other day.

    You're often rather insulting towards those of us who aren't traditional theists. That might make you feel a little better, but it won't win you any arguments. To accomplish that, you'll have to make your opponents want to agree with you. Making them angry is rhetorically counter-productive since it only hardens them against you.
  15. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    And equally, there's no scientific evidence that "God" does exist. (I put 'God' in quotes because the concept is derived from and still rather dependent on the theology of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic family of religions. Other forms of religiosity are possible.)

    Science is an intellectual project that seeks to provide naturalistic explanations for natural events. It's proven to be amazingly good at doing that.

    In so doing, science has kind of eaten away at traditional cosmologies and cosmogonies, and at many of the so-called theistic evidences and arguments of natural theology.

    But science really has little to say about supernatural religion in its chosen lair, in whatever transcendental realm or 'higher plane' where divinities are supposed to reside. That's because science is a fundamentally naturalistic pursuit that's concerned with events and their relationships here in this universe where we live.

    When science and religion do collide, it's typically when science provides intellectually sound and pragmatically useful naturalistic accounts of aspects of the natural world that religion has traditionally been convinced required miraculous supernatural interventions in order to explain.

    Science and religion typically produce very different accounts for natural events. Science fills in the small technical details and can point to the evidence and reasoning that suggested its conclusions. Scientific accounts of natural events continue to be corroborated (or less often, discorroborated) by further observation. (Discorroboration isn't even a possibility in textually revealed religions.) And scientific ideas often prove to have valuable pragmatic uses in practical applications. Scientific ideas actually work, in ways that the magicians of centuries past could only dream of. We have medical science, we fly through the air on airplanes, we employ advanced telecommunications.

    But having said all that, science doesn't really have very much to say about religion's hypothetical transcendent entities and realms. On science's naturalistic principles, it's hard to see how it could.
  16. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    That's not exactly true, we can compare different versions of events as if by triangulation to make an educated guess as to how much of what people say is subjective. The stories about Jesus are all different. One disciple even said that the resurrection was only in the mind, a form of spiritual awakening, not a literal rising from the dead. The authors of the bible chose certain gospels in order to edit down a wide variety of versions into their own chosen narrative.
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    All wisdom is not new wisdom.
    - Winston Churchill

    For example, dependent co-arising has been dependent co-arising five thousand years ago, a thousand years ago, it was so yesterday and is so today and there is no reason to believe it won't be so tomorrow ...

    I am after a different demon than you seem to think I am. I won't go into the details of that now, but suffice to say that my main interest is not to convert others to my way of thinking or to win followers.

    What you said is duly noted, though.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2011
  18. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    That's an interesting idea to speculate about. If the ancient Greeks and Romans (or the ancient Indians or Chinese) had succeeded in beginning a scientific revolution back in 300 BCE or sometime like that, would religion still exist today?

    I think that it probably would. That's because:

    A. Most people lack the specialized education necessary to follow science in detail. For most people, science is another form of socio-cultural authority.

    B. I believe that human beings have innate tendencies towards psychological closure, towards imagining that they have everything figured out, even when they don't.

    And perhaps most importantly...

    C. Because human beings seem to have an innate tendency to personalize abstractions.

    That last is why I don't think that most people would find abstract metaphysical speculation emotionally satisfying. Most people don't relate well to abstractions, they want cosmic principles to be people, they want to have personal relationships with them, they want to bring their full array of emotional passions and interpretive faculties to bear.

    But if the classical Greeks had begun the scientific revolution, and if the Roman Republic pioneered the industrial revolution, I don't think that Christianity and Islam would have ever gained their medieval ascendency. Christianity and Islam might still exist today, but they would probably exist on the margins, kind of like the Western occult tradition does today.

    If the ancient Romans had had the industrial revolution, then we might easily have seen the rise of a single world-state. Would that industrialized world-wide classical civilization have subsequently destroyed itself in civil-war between rival imperial claimants and their nuclear-armed legions? Or would imperial consuls be traveling between the stars today?
  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    In real life, every belief isn't just as credible as any other belief.

    By their nature, some claims are more believable than others. If somebody says that they saw some pedestrians walking on the sidewalk downtown at noon, probably nobody would doubt it. (Unless downtown had been evacuated or something.) But if a claim is absolutely unique and one-off, totally unlike normal events, if it makes assertions about supposedly transcendental matters or if it contradicts the observed order of nature, then the a-priori likelihood of its truth is going to be significantly lower.

    That doesn't necessarily mean that its truth is totally impossible. But it does suggest that it needs to meet a more demanding burden of proof.

    It's an absolutely crucial question.

    You've been attacking atheism pretty aggressively. But I'd guess that you would probably advocate a stout atheism yourself, when it comes to every religion, god or divinity that isn't your own. (Though you're pretty cagey about revealing precisely which god that is. Not that it matters a whole lot.)

    We seem to be faced with some religious-choice alternatives:

    1. All gods don't exist. No divinities exist. In which case the atheists are correct and your attempts to batter them are misguided.

    2. All gods don't exist except for the one that does. Now we are faced with Dywyddyr's issue that you dismissed as "useless", the problem of explaining how and why the atheists are wrong about the one true god, while they are still right in every other instance.

    3. Multiple gods exist and multiple gods don't. Not only is monotheism unlikely to approve of this one, it still leaves us denying the existence of some gods atheist-style while claiming that the atheists are nevertheless wrong in other instances. That almost cries out for a criterion of choice.

    4. Or all gods and divinities, conceivable or inconceivable, whether actually attested in mythology or not, all exist equally and without exception. This seems to be the direction in which you're headed, intentionally or not. This position does finally get rid of those damn atheist arguments as well as the "useless" problem of religious choice. But in so doing it does a great deal of violence to just about every religious tradition, to say nothing of logical consistency. Religious beliefs often appear to be inconsistent with each other.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2011
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    It isn't self-contradictory to hypothesize that there's a god who communicates that way, sure.

    It's also possible that the voices that only the schizophrenic hears really are whispering divine truths.

    The point is that it isn't the possibility of somebody receiving some kind of divine revelation (assuming that a divinity exists, has in fact communicated etc.) that's at issue here.

    The issue is when, if ever, it's rational to believe that a (maybe) prophet's preaching is in fact a divine revelation. That issue is certainly going to arise for the rest of us who didn't enjoy the purported revelation, particularly in an environment where multiple prophets are all preaching their inconsistent (and inherently unlikely) messages.

    The issue even arises for the prophet him/herself. A true divine revelation is one thing, a psychotic delusion is something else. Presumably even the prophet would like to have some assurance that it's the former and not the latter.

    Of course, if the event really does transform the individual in such a way that he or she is rendered incapable of doubting the content, then that issue wouldn't arise for the prophet. They will be entirely convinced, regardless of the revelation's actual truth. But just because somebody is rendered incapable of doubting (whether by God or by psychotic delusion) doesn't imply that the thing believed must necessarily be true.

    If god/schizophrenia (take your pick) are going to intervene in my life so as to instill me with unshakeable confidence/delusion, they already know where to find me.

    But until that glorious/terrible day, I'm just a finite human being living here on earth, faced with having to sort out a whole bunch of sometimes very unlikely-sounding truth claims. The best that I can do is just call'em the way I see'em.
  21. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member


    Your reasoning is very careful, and well thought out. So much so, that it seems you cannot be convinced of anything that you wish to remain unconvinced of.

    What do you accept as truth?
    And how did you come to accept it?

    The question you raise requires experience to truly understand. In the case of a prophet, such a one has to allow his body and mind to be accessed in order to experience the truth, and thereby present it. That experience then transmits to us (if we are prepared).
    There is no way to test the validity of an experience after the incident.
    And there is no way to repeat an experience, as every experience is absolutely unique.

    Last edited: Feb 27, 2011
  22. Mind Over Matter Registered Senior Member

    I hope Yazata is not going to tell us that it is the truth "...because it's mine"
  23. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Sure. I perfectly agree.

    You might like this elaboration of this problem.

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