What is the net effect of religion?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Dinosaur, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I have always reasoned thus:
    • God created the universe.
    • The definition of "universe" is "everything that exists."
    • In order for God to have performed the many feats attributed to him, he obviously must exist.
    • Therefore, God is part of the universe.
    • Therefore, God created himself.
    • This is a logical fallacy.
    • Therefore, either (1) God does not exist, or (2) God did not create the universe.
    Your suggestion that God and the universe came into existence at the same moment is consistent with conclusion #2. It is logically possible that, although God did not create the universe, he came into existence as a singularity at the same moment as the emergence of the universe (or for that matter some arbitrary span of time later): a sentient creature with unique powers and various other astounding characteristics such as immortality.

    Of course at this point the Rule of Laplace must be invoked. We must be presented with extraordinary evidence to support the extraordinary assertions attributed to God, before we are obliged to treat them with respect. To date, the best evidence anyone has ever submitted is a tortilla, out of millions fried every year, with a scorch mark that is said to be the image of a person mentioned in the Bible, of whom no portraits survive against which to compare it.
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    They don't need to have owed their scientific endeavors to being religious, nor does anyone have to argue that their innovations would have had to have been impossible without religion. That's too strong. One can still argue that religious ideas influenced the direction of their thinking.

    Doesn't the whole idea of scientific law ultimately derive from the idea of divine law? (An idea that in turn seems to derive from bronze-age kings who could just speak facts (their kingdom's laws) into existence with their word.) Science's assumption that the universe is necessarily logical and hence intelligible by the human intellect may derive historically from the religious idea that it originated from an intelligent source. (Einstein spoke of "reading the mind of God", and I'm sure that 17th century figures like Newton took that idea far more literally than Einstein did.) The ideas of teleology that underlie much of biological thinking, the idea that organs and biological processes perform functions, are certainly historically associated with ideas of purposive design.

    Perhaps because by the 20th century, many of the cultural assumptions and preconceptions that were important in creating the intellectual context for the scientific revolution, had already become more abstract and distinct from the religious traditions.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
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  5. Spellbound Banned Valued Senior Member


    There is no way of knowing by any of the means you've suggested whether or not God exists. In fact, you've placed both God AND humanity in a box as though they were but the monitor sitting in front your face.
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    It's a reasonable line of argument, if a little obvious. So obvious that the medieval philosophers and philosophical theologians had already thought of it and tried to construct ways to avoid it. There's a big literature on it. For example, most of them probably wouldn't have defined 'universe' as you do, as 'everything that exists'. They would have defined the created realm as the physical world, something akin to 'space-time continuum' or reality itself for today's strong metaphysical physicalists. Some of the medievals made a further distinction between 'being' in that sense and timeless 'first principles', identifying God with the first principles in the manner of the later Platonic tradition. They had a whole Latin (or Arabic, in the case of Islamic philosophy) technical vocabulary for these things.

    We still see that same move being made today, when physicists turned metaphysicians try to explain the 'why does anything exist at all' problem using ideas like 'quantum vacuum fluctuations' or whatever it is, implicitly assuming that the "laws" of quantum mechanics (and the mathematics they presume) are first principles that aren't part of what's to be explained.

    Some of the medievals imagined that God existed both as being and as first principle. And they accepted that 'God as being' came into existence with all the finite forms of created being. But God as first principle was imagined as eternal and timeless and as being what accounts for the existence of all forms of being, including God when he's conceived of as a being. In other words, God in the cosmic first-principles sense is thoroughly transcendent, and God as a being alongside other beings only exists in the context of the created realm. Our physical world is where God's actions and his interactions with humanity are perceived to take place and they couldn't take place in that way if the created world didn't exist. That's one of the ways they imagined the universe's eternal and uncreated first principles as physically manifesting themselves. (Today, mathematics and mathematical physics seem to have taken over that spot.)

    Why are Laplace or Carl Sagan supposed to be in a position to lay down rules that everyone else is obliged to follow?

    That's just a caricature. I'd respect you a lot more Fraggle, if you didn't stoop to that kind of behavior.

    You need to pay attention to what religious thinkers in different traditions have actually said throughout history. (Some of it was very sophisticated.) Given your decidedly odd view about religious evidence, you probably should pay special attention to the cosmological arguments including the recent cosmological fine-tuning arguments that some prominent physicists seem to take seriously. There's also religious experience which is a whole subject in itself. And there is all the traditional evidence from miracles which provides no end of evidence, regardless of how weak and problematic we think it is. All of this stuff raises no end of epistemological questions, which is one reason why religion provides such good test cases for the theory of knowledge. In fact, a great deal of the metaphysics and theory of knowledge in medieval and early modern times (much of which still survives today as the intellectual context of modern science) was motivated by thinking about religious issues. Which returns us back to the subject of this thread.

    I'm not suggesting that any of it would finally convince you that God exists. (I'm an agnostic/atheist myself.) But I think that studying it would convince you that it's far less stupid than you imagine it is.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
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  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Probably the net effects of religion include a whole lot of stuff that has nothing to do with abstract concepts of deity or lack of same.

    I would regard literacy, for example, as one possibility. Also hunting and foraging strategies that include random choice look like good candidates. Most of the ways various societies have dealt with Hardin's Tragedy also involve religion - which would make religion, with or without deity (mostly without), a central pillar of civilization. There is also the "advance organization" effect, important in non-Darwinian evolutionary theory (which I also use to explain music - as in: what is the net effect of music?).

    Those are not implicit assumptions. They are explicit, for the argument. That makes a big difference.
  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I don't think it is too strong at all. Merely requiring influence is weak and, I think, unprovable that the end result would not otherwise have been achieved. If the end result would have been achieved without religion, of what benefit the influence of religion?
    No, scientific law does not ultimately derive from that idea. The divinity of any divine law, by its very nature, is unprovable, whereas scientific law is observable every single time it is invoked, and behaves exactly as the law describes (or at least it does until it doesn't, and then the "law" would be overturned etc, as per the scientific method).
    No, the assumption that is necessarily logical is inherent within the repetitive nature of the observations of the scientific laws in practice. Further, science does not assume that the universe is necessarily intelligible by the human intellect. We're struggling with QM, for example. But we give it a good try, but we do not assume that we can always have an answer. Can we ever know what caused our universe, for example?
    With regard biology, I don't deny the association, but that doesn't mean that the net effect of religion is there.
    Would we have achieved the same understanding without religion? That is the question. If yes, then there is no "net effect" of religion in that understanding per se.
    Would we have achieved it as quickly? Perhaps in that there may be more reason to claim a net effect, I think. But not in the scientific understanding itself, as was seemed to be claimed.
    Indeed, but the comment was merely a counter to QQ's manure-soaked notion that one needs to have "the big G" on one's side to be of significance in the scientific arena.
  10. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    It is interesting to note the history of Atheism and further note that it's contemporary form only emerged around the 18th century during the age of enlightenment.

    The term "atheism" originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning "without god(s)", used as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society.[12] With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word "atheist" lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.[13] The French Revolution, noted for its "unprecedented atheism," witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason
    src: wiki
    Side Note: the reference to the French Revolution and the possible relationship to recent events in Paris and the Middle East. That radical and extreme Islam considers all who do not believe in Allah to be atheists including Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.
    It is also worth noting that if we have a look at some of the oldest universities and their sometimes painful evolution towards a more secular premise we will find that in all cases religion was extremely influential in the development of higher learning ( science etc)

    The history of the University of Oxford University is a great example. IMO ( loosely considered to have started around 1096) ( keeping in mind that atheism only took on current form in the 18th century)
    To suggest that religion and in particular Christianity ( especially Catholicism) , was the founding philosophy behind the the birth of modern Western civilization would hold true IMO.

    To me it makes perfect sense to think that religion was the predecessor to local governance. In the early days a Monarch (King) was considered a God in many societies ( other than Yiddish I think)
    The use of religion to provide order in a world of social chaos and then eventually as humanity evolved it's knowledge of God (Creation - Universe) through the use of science ( critical understanding of God - universe) mankind was able to evolve to a more secular governance with religion remaining a more social "domestic" function rather than a collective governance issue.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
  11. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    I suppose one could apply this form of poorly founded rational to almost anything.

    It's akin to suggesting that if the Ancient Greeks didn't believe in polytheism, Zeno of Elea wouldn't have posed his paradoxes etc...therefore Plato would not have had to debunk them to save face...and the birth of calculus would have been delayed until the 18th century


    Would world consensus on Climate change demonstrated in Paris recently have occurred if there was no climate change? ( ridiculous argument)

    Your position that science would have evolved with out religion is as absurd as speculating on horse race after it has been run.
    "If only the winning horse wasn't called Jehovic!"

    You would form this position only because of your particular definition of what is and what isn't divine.
    To a Theosophist the divine is evidenced in everything due to the provable existence of life that appears to be in a symbiotic relationship with everything else.
    You may call it divine, the theosophist may call it divine but really it is just a fact of existence. ( axiomatic if you like )
    The use of dualism is egoistically essential, so by all means hold to your dualistic interpretation or what is divine or not.

    For some reason so many atheists have this idealized concept of what a God is.
    You know, the God who is a big bearded man sitting in a cloud like place called heaven wearing a red jacket singing "Jingle bells" with a reindeer by his side called Rudolf.

    Childhood nursery tales used to describe a God in Sunday school to kids as part of their early approach to the idea of an all powerful God ( thus minimizing the fear factor ), being used by mature age atheists as justification for their chagrin.
    If you wish to discuss God seriously then it would be advisable to dump all those preschool notions of what God is.

    any ways enough ranting...

    You are just pissed at the fact that nearly all of the giants of science were of religious persuasion ( almost all in conflict with the dogma at the time) and as usual demonstrate a serious lacking in good humor.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
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  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The contemporary form of anything in the Western world - including every religion and sect thereof - emerged during or after the Age of Enlightenment. Most human beings throughout history have probably been atheistic in the current sense - unless you think the spirits of animals and ghosts of people are deities.

    Religion maybe, but probably not theism.
  13. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    If one emphasizes the words as bolded then of course as this is what the term contemporary implies.
    However your later contention that most where atheistic in the "current sense" prior to the age of enlightenment, given the rise of Christianity, and Islam well before the age of enlightenment (17th/18th century) beggars disbelief...
    Perhaps I have misread you...

    what or how would you consider them to be different in the context of these posts?
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    As said, if you had bothered to read my post in full before replying, it is more likely the net effect is to be found in the timing of the scientific discoveries rather than the discoveries themselves.
    It is a ridiculous argument, yet not one that has any bearing on what I stated and is thus a strawman on your part.
    I'm not saying that science would definitely have evolved, but if you want to claim that scientific discoveries are a net effect of religion you're going to have to actually support your claim - i.e. by showing that without religion the discoveries wouldn't have come about.
    You haven't done that. I even doubt you can do that. All you're doing is saying "He was religious, he made a scientific discovery, ergo the scientific discovery is a net effect of religion!"
    As mentioned before: you are arguing a fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc.
    I think we'd both share the same definition of what is divine - we'd merely disagree as to what is evidence of it.
    But otherwise all you do here is argue for the validity of the fine tuning argument. And the a priori assumption of God's existence.
    Strawman. And I think you're confusing God with Santa Claus in appearance... although I'm assuming you lack belief in at least one of those?
    Atheists, at least those you tend to correspond with on this site, have a reasonably solid grasp of what God is claimed to be, starting with the "Original Cause".
    So please drop the strawmen, QQ. If all you intend to do is try to excuse all atheists' arguments as being the result of what you think their notions of God are, rather than actually examining and understanding what their notions of God are, then you're going to continue with strawman after strawman. And if you want to assume that all atheists you deal with consider God to be simply a sky-daddy then feel free to join a Sunday School forum... that will likely be more in line with your preconceptions - although you're unlikely to find any atheists there.
    Of course they were all of religious persuasion, noone is denying that. Why would I be pissed at it? I'm simply pissed that you are blatantly arguing with fallacious logic: none of what you have said indicates that their scientific endeavours were an effect of their religion. They were religious, yes. So what did their religious beliefs actually do that led to those scientific achievements? Have the good grace to actually support your claim rather than wandering further down the manure-strewn path you're currently on. If you want to claim a net effect - actually try to demonstrate it: show how they couldn't have done what they did without religion. As said previously, I feel at best you're likely to show a benefit in timing rather than in any actual discovery, although how you would prove even a benefit in timing... well, that's a hurdle for you to overcome.
    And yes, given that society was more deeply religious, where religion often controlled education etc, to argue that "therefore religion educated people" or some such will not wash, as you need to argue that a non-religious society would not have done likewise.

    And since when is good humour a requisite to identify and argue against perceived excrement? There's only so many times the flinging of excrement can be found funny before the smell and mess just nauseate. Are you trying to hide your fallacious argument behind the veneer of humour?
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Not at all. I don't think the religious beliefs of a majority of the world's population became theistic in the modern sense until fairly recently, with the spread of Abrahamic monotheisms combined with rapid growth in the population of Hindu India.

    Whether the "history of atheism" would include all those Chinese ancestor worshippers and Buddhists, the animists and related believers in Africa, the Americas, Australia, Indonesia, etc, and so forth, is maybe up for dispute, but until excluded somehow they are both religious and without recognizable deity.
  16. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps I am presuming your level of understanding.
    Religious orientated scientists are exploring what they consider to be Gods creation so of course their religious beliefs impact directly on their scientific motivation.
    ... name one significant scientific discovery that was not from a scientists attempt to understand the nature of what he considered as a God's creation, prior to say the 18th century...
    if you can not then I rest my case, if you can then we can argue some more...
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  17. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Do you know of any secular societies prior to the age of enlightenment?
    In fact do you know of any secular societies even today?

    The modern meaning of atheism only arrived during the age of enlightenment (17/1800), prior to that it was used as a pejorative for anyone who didn't believe as his society believed. ( according to wiki)
    An example of a nonreligious society could be the Australian indigenous who as you may well be aware remained nomads in small groups with out any significant civilization or industry for 30,000 + years. They did have what may seem close to deities. Uluru national park, Ayres Rock has loads of dream time stories attached to it, for example.

    The South American Indigenous however did manage to build civilizations and develop some sophisticated science but they worshiped Gods.
    It seems that religion and civilization are indeed directly associated.
    In the vain of my question to Sarkus,
    Do you know of any early organized civilization that was not religious?
    (I might add I am not calling upon what the actual definition of what religion is)
    which according to wiki is:
    "A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence"
    A cultural system, as proposed by Clifford Geertz as a definition, is rather broader in scope than what this threads intention was and is, as far as I can tell.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  18. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Let us assume for the moment that indeed religion and scientific discovery were closely co-dependent prior to the 18 century.

    Is saying that the net effect of religion significantly contributed to the evolution of civilization and science with out excluding other hindsight possibilities as we know it today false?
    Say that the net effect is such only states what has happened and not what hasn't happened.
    The facts are what they are... whether you find them convenient or not is irrelevant and is not a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

    To ask that I prove that science could have been developed with out religion is absurd.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  19. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Getting back to your original complaint...
    I am not, as you suggest incorrectly, claiming that their achievements were caused by their being religious. I am however saying that the net effect or outcome of their devotion to the understanding of what they felt was Gods creation became the foundations of the science we have today.

    Your claim of logical fallacy is in fact a strawman.
  20. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I know of many atheistic ones. I'm not sure what you mean by "secular" - you seem to have religion and deity as coextensive, for some reason.
    A couple of famous SA ones had deities, apparently, but hardly all. Likewise NA. And of course dream stories and deities are hardly related at all.

    The Australian aborigines were not all of them nomadic all the time, btw - there are remains of settlements with purpose built ponds, crops, some evidence of long term residence. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational...igenous-australia's-agricultural-past/5452454
    If one includes the atheistic religions.
  21. Spellbound Banned Valued Senior Member

  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    What a pathetic argument... given that you'd be hard pressed to find any atheist, let alone atheist scientist, prior to the 18th century, all you're doing is still arguing the logical fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc.
    In fact it wasn't until Percy Shelley wrote "The Necessity of Atheism" in 1811 that any atheist notions had really been published in the English language at all (and he was expelled from Oxford University for publishing it!). It was not only frowned upon to be a non-believer but it wasn't really an acknowledged concept within society at all.
    So your argument is flawed in that the lack of what you ask me to name simply does not lead to the conclusion of a net effect. It is, to repeat myself until you grasp it, a fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc. The fact that religion was part and parcel of society, controlled the education, places of learning etc, and because there is no means of separating the two to look at the alternative (what society would have been like, what scientific discoveries might have been made) then one can not simply state, as you are effectively doing, that because society was religious therefore religion has a net effect - and example scientific discoveries among your "evidence" of such.
  23. Spellbound Banned Valued Senior Member

    Oh my Sarkus! However do we work around this?! Oh, I know. It wasn't until the metaphysics of Aristotle, that God has been conceived in Western philosophical theology as a necessarily existent being (ens necessarium).
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