What is the net effect of religion?

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

  1. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps I am more focused on the evolution of mankind from a chaotic survivalist state to one which we see today. Religion I believe was a necessary part of that evolution. As I stated in a previous post #38, I feel it is about the mastering of fear, the removal of intense superstition due to ignorance, that the practice of religion initially managed to achieve. Religious theory (dogma) being a way to apply logic and reason to some thing that terrified them. ( and grab a stake in power over others as well of course)

    Again, essentially it is, to me, about mankind evolving self restraint in the face of intense fear. This self restraint allows mankind to think in ways more beneficial to his existence.

    From post #38
    One could suggest that initially religious ideologies and practice was about the evolution of "collective and individual" self restraint when confronted with intense fear.

    Evolution of self restraint in the face of fear (paranoia):
    1. Fear based superstition ( Early unorganized Paganism - pre-historic )
    2. Organization of those superstitions and personification of those fears ( Polytheism )
    3. Further rationalization of fear leading to Monotheism. (possibly the formalization of education - eventually for the masses.)
    4. The birth of modern day Existentialism. ( Self as a God rather than a personified God being an external actor)

    ....thus evolving to calling upon "your-God-self" when scared rather than an external personified God. ( a reflection of self)

    The effect of religion was to allow groups of people to manage their fear better which allowed higher levels of thought to prevail, hence civilization, education and the sciences were able to evolve.
    I do not believe it could have been any other way.
    Of course it is easy to claim that fundamentals of science are founded due to the efforts of persons motivated to understanding their God(s) creation, so I find it quite reasonable to say that science was founded upon those who were expressing their religious values.

    If not for the education offered by religious institutions of the time there would be no science as there would be no education.

    There is no capacity to separate religion from the early scientists as you wish to do. It happened and is still happening ( re: Daesh in the Middle East etc) as a significant part of human evolution...and as I said what you are suggesting is to effectively speculate on a horse race that has already been run.
    and that is in part my point. There was no atheistic alternative to the mind set of the times. Their thoughts and thinking totally absorbed by the religious, spiritual paradigms of the time. Living in a "matrix of fear" with no way of seeing beyond.

    Compare the following question:
    The net effect of evolution is what?
    Perhaps simply answering "now" would suffice. Could it be any thing else?
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
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  3. Spellbound Banned Valued Senior Member

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  5. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    To claim a net effect one has to be able to show what the alternatives might have been. Otherwise how do you judge and reference the effect that you are claiming?
    No, that is not a net effect. A net effect is to say "religion caused X and it would not have happened without X". It implies a causation - from religion to the effect. Now, as said, you might be able to argue that the net effect was to hasten scientific endeavour / discovery, but even then you will be hard pressed, if it is indeed possible, to show it.
    In Chemistry we can show what the net effect of a catalyst is... we can show the reaction, and its speed, both in the presence of the catalyst and in the absence of. This is how we can determine the net effect - the comparison of with to without.
    You are simply saying: well, because of this ingredient, the net effect is the reaction.
    The facts are indeed what they are, and my convenience is irrelevant.
    I'm asking you to prove that science could not have developed as it did without religion - and it is not absurd but what I see as a requirement if you wish to claim, as you have done, that the scientific discoveries and endeavours by the people you listed are a net effect of religion.
  8. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    And had there been no religious values, had religion not existed in society, do you think that we would still be stuck in caves?
    Sure - in a society dominated/controlled by religion, if the religion doesn't educate the populace will suffer. But that is still with reference to a society dominated/controlled by religion - not one in which religion is absent.
    And in the lack of any such comparison, it is flawed to claim something as a net effect of religion. It's not to say that it isn't a net effect, but simply that your argument is flawed in trying to prove it.

    Maybe where you're headed is merely with reference to a religion-dominated society... the "if they didn't educate then noone would have done" - which clearly speaks to my previous comment as the net effect merely being a matter of timing, and not the discovery itself. But you would need to understand that that is as far as you might be able to go with any claim.
    I don't feel there is a need to, as I'm not the one claiming scientific endeavours as a net effect of religion. You are. And now you're admitting that you can't actually provide the comparison by which to assess that effect.
    I'm merely trying to get you to stop claiming that which you can't prove: a net effect from a race that has already been run that you can't offer a comparison for.
    So how can you possibly prove that the outcome is a net effect of religion, when you admit that there is no comparison?
    Since we are demonstrably the net effect of evolution, and without evolution we would not exist (unless you adhere to us being created as we currently are by a deity), then there is a comparison to allow the claim that "now" is indeed the net effect of evolution.
    But you are unable to offer such a comparison with what you claimed, and thus the argument is fallacious... not necessarily that your conclusion is wrong, but simply your argument does not lead to your conclusion.
  9. timojin Valued Senior Member

    I can make a comparison in a prison , People become more manable better behave those who are involved in a religious life.
  10. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    And your point here is... ?
  11. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Which has... what... to do with the issue of scientific discoveries / endeavours?
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I don't see the issue as whether or not the appearance and subsequent elaboration of science could have happened without any substantive positive input from anything that might be termed 'religious'. I don't know whether it could have happened without any religious inputs or not. That's all speculation, and as you say unprovable.

    The point that I want to make is that it didn't happen that way in our world. The scientific revolution took place in a distinct intellectual and conceptual context that contributed to how it unfolded.

    I think that it's almost certain that special relativity would have been thought of by somebody had Albert Einstein not existed, The seed of special relativity was in the air after the failure of the Michelson-Morley experiment and many thinkers were thinking along the same lines. But that observation doesn't constitute an argument that the work of Einstein wasn't of benefit to the development of special relativity in our world.

    My example here is from Leibniz, and more specifically from an as-yet unpublished paper about Leibniz's views on laws and powers by Donald Rutherford to appear in God, Man and the Order of Nature: Historical Perspectives, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

    It can be found in pdf format here:


    Rutherford writes (p.3):

    Leibniz takes for granted that nature is orderly, or lawful, and that it owes its order to God. In the Discourse on Metaphysics, he asserts that "in whatever manner God might have created the world, it would always have been regular and in accordance with a certain general order" because "God does nothing which is not orderly" (DM 6; A VI.4, 1537-8/AG 39. There is, most fundamentally, a law that governs creation as a whole, and this "most general of God's laws, the one that governs the whole course of the universe, is without exception" (DM 7; A VI.4, 1539/AG40).
    Leibniz argues that the laws of nature aren't absolutely necessary in the sense that their not being true would imply a logical contradiction. And he argues that they aren't totally arbitrary. Leibniz writes in the Theodicy (T 349; GP VI 321/H334):

    "These considerations make it plain that the laws of Nature regulating movements are neither entirely necessary nor entirely arbitrary. The middle course to be taken is that they are a choice of the most perfect wisdom."​

    Some historians of science argue that this line of 17th century thinking (which wasn't restricted to Leibniz) was very important to the history of science since it moved thinkers away from the ideal of science as a Euclidean-style deductive system deducing theorems from necessary first-principles, towards greater empiricism. If the mathematical forms of the laws of nature aren't logically determined but rather are the result of God's free choice, then scientific investigators will have to observe nature to discover what they are.

    Rutherford writes (p.5):

    Leibniz's deepest reason for thinking of the laws of nature in this way is his conception of God as a perfectly "intelligent and free being", who acts for the sake of the best. For Leibniz, the laws of nature "do not arise entirely from the principle of necessity, but rather from the principle of perfection and order, because "they are an effect of the choice and the wisdom of God" (Theodicy 345; GP VI 319/H332).

    The presumptive fitness of the laws of nature, expressed in rules such as the equality of cause and effect and the "most determined path principle" in optics, supplies a heuristic for scientific discovery. We are directed to search for rules with these sort of formal characteristics, because they are most likely to represent fundamental laws of nature. More important than this, however, laws that can be explicated in terms of the "principle of perfection and order" support a conception of the world as one that has been created by God as the best of all possible worlds.​

    The fact remains that there's the assumption that if our reasoning about nature results in a logical contradiction, then it can't possibly be true, because reality doesn't admit of contradictions. We assume that physical law holds true universally and necessarily in the physical realm. We believe that mathematics somehow captures the essence of physics. The problem of induction suggests that these convictions aren't derived deductively from observation. These kind of ideas built into modern science are presuppositions and they have a history.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
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  13. timojin Valued Senior Member

    Sorry it was about the title of the poster " the net effect of religion "
  14. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

  15. timojin Valued Senior Member

    Once religion become politicised I would agree. If it stay with in the boundary " respect God and treat your fellow man as yourself " it is a blessing
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    If you expand your definition of deity to include metaphysical beliefs in general, I would agree that these are fundamental attributes of human thought (in my opinion necessary attributes of embodied thought at all).

    But that's not what Western speakers of English mean by "a" deity, or anything one can name "a god" (much less "God" as in Abraham). The existence of a spiritual aspect (or "dimension") or logical level or necessary complexity or whatever, of the universe, is not what anyone who confuses religion in general with a God resembling the Western monotheistic tradition is talking about.

    If we are talking about human evolution, or even just recognizably historical human culture, the Western philosophical tradition is a small corner of our subject - however significant it proved to be for us now.

    That's a presupposition about our descriptions and theories of nature - notice that nature itself is neither "true" nor "false", and does not participate in human logic at all except as we choose to reason logically and are part of nature ourselves.

    "God does not do mathematics. God integrates empirically"

    The confusion of the map with the territory, the mathematics with the world, the theory with the universe, may be common in scientists, but seems more common in the deeply religious - especially, one might observe inductively, in the deeply monotheistic.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
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  17. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    the net effect of 1+1 is 2
    the net effect of 10-8 is 2
    the net effect of 4+(-2) is 2

    It just so happens that historically Man + Religion equals "evolution towards understanding nature."
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  18. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    So you don't know what, say, 1+3 is? You don't know what 11-7 is?
    I'm surprised at your admission.
  19. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

  20. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Any ways Sarkus what do you think is, was or will be, the net effect of religion?
    and apply your argument to the OP's purpose.

    and if you do not end up with a solid contradiction I will be most impressed.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
  21. Gottfried Registered Member

    Well, religion in my view is a double edged sword. Yes, it caused all these things but it creates morals for people to live by. Also, the idea of going to hell if you go nuts and start killing people in comparison the to atheist belief you will simply stop existing. People may start saying "If I stop existing when I die, why does it matter if I do this?" in comparison to "If I do this, I will go to hell for eternity"
  22. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    The difference between moral behavior to achieve a reward/avoid a punishment vs moral behavior because you believe and care about doing the right thing. It's the difference between being good when you're a child vs being good when you're an adult.
  23. Gottfried Registered Member

    You are assuming that the majority of people are raised that way. Good and bad are really a personal opinion, and the belief that every bad person wants to do something good is double sided. This also means every good person wants to do something bad, however that is philosophy. In many areas of the world, caring about doing the right thing gets you killed very fast, one example of many could be the child soldiers in Africa, where you kill your best friend or you are killed. Now if you truly believed "if I killed my friend I will be condemned to hell for eternity" positions like these ones may decrease as no one would become a solider.

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