Should science replace religion?

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

  1. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    If suddenly, everything about the universe could be scientifically explained, would we still yearn for answers as to what it all means? Are we existential by nature? Existentialism doesn't automatically lead to questioning if there exists a higher power or not, but it often does.

    Religion, for many, offers meaning to people's lives. It can contribute something essential to the human condition.

    If science replaced religion, would we all somehow stop our storytelling? Would myths and legends cease to be believed, if we had all the answers to the universe, explained to us by science?

    Can science replace religion?
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  3. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    I think not.
    I read that there was a letter, sent from persian story tellers, requesting that we not go to the moon. (something about removing the magic?)
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  5. pluto2 Banned Valued Senior Member

    Lawrence Krauss has said that religion is outdated in the 21th century.

    I think I tend to agree with Lawrence Krauss here.

    Religion originated with Iron or Bronze age peasants who didn't even know that the Earth orbited around the Sun.

    I think that the most important thing science has taught us is that you don't need supernatural explanations to explain the natural world.

    Even Isaac Asimov admitted that Gods were man-made, therefore Isaac Asimov was a humanist but didn't believe in religion.
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  7. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    How interesting! I'd like to learn more.

    I'll watch these later, when I have more time. I'm excited for this discussion, as this is exactly the type of feedback I was hoping would unfold here, pluto. What a valuable thing to say, ''we don't need supernatural explanations to explain the natural world.'' It's also beneficial to hear atheists/agnostics having a healthy conversation about religion, and the problems associated with it, as opposed to merely mocking it. (which bores me, and offers no real benefit)

    (Be back later)
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    The thread title, to my mind, comes perilously close to a silly question, though I see you suggest the answer to it yourself in your opening post.

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    What is the role of religion in people's lives? And what does science seek to do? Where is the overlap?

    Religion is principally a guide to living one's life, providing a variety of things to the faithful, such as a sense of purpose, an attitude of mind for facing the triumphs and disasters of life, an approach to human relationships, a sense of community, of tradition, a means of meditation, often through ritual and the aesthetic appeal of art and music, and so on.

    Almost nothing, in most religions, is to do with providing an explanatory account of the physical world, which is the main raison d'ĂȘtre of natural science.

    P.S. That means I think Krauss an idiot - on this subject at least.

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  9. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I think Star Wars will live on ("Episode MCMXXXviii: C3P0 Rides Again"). Storytelling about science is pretty much the same as storytelling about Gods.
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  10. Goldtop Registered Senior Member

    I can't see how false hopes and fabricated answers can offer meaning to anyone or contribute to the human condition other than keeping people ignorant of the world around them. Can you offer concrete examples of what religion does offer that simple common sense does not?
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Excellent post, Exchemist. I agree 100%. (That's the best standard of excellence.

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    I suspect that Wegs knows that it's a silly question, but expects that asking it in a place like Sciforums will attract some silly answers.

    I assume that "science" means natural science. That one seems to be about how this-worldly events correlate to one another in our world of nature. And "religion", however we define that word, doesn't seem to be about that.

    ("dependent origination"/universal causation in Buddhism) does lean on it in the psychological realm, as an object of mindfulness of how mental states arise and subside, but that's for a soteriological purpose, not for purpose of explanation.

    "Social science" does seem to me to have quite a bit of overlap with religion. Like religion, "social science" often seems to be joined at the hip with ethics (just think of all the "social justice" talk) and seems to implicitly embody a social change program intended to promote what's taken to be human flourishing (and with it a vision of what the Greeks called eudaimonia.)


    I like the example of Theravada Buddhism. As presented in the Pali Canon, it's basically a spiritual psychology. It's about dukkha, the rising of dukkha, the subsiding of dukkha and the path to the subsiding of dukkha. It isn't about explaining the detailed behavior of the natural world, though it does intrude into that area a bit with its anatta and anicca doctrines. Those latter seem to be quite consistent with modern science though. Elsewhere the Buddha specifically says that his teaching isn't about answering metaphysical or cosmological questions.

    The beauty of this sort of Buddhism is that most of the familiar atheist arguments against "religion" simply bounce off of it.

    There's the first couple of chapters of Genesis, I guess. But I doubt if they were ever meant to be taken literally, even when they were written. They were the unknown writers' poetic way of trying to illustrate God's relationship to the rest of reality in the narrative mythological form in which what we would call philosophical ideas were expressed in that time and place.

    Agreed. I think that like most of the "new atheists", he doesn't possess any authority in the subjects of philosophy or religion, subjects that he's contemptuous of and obviously would never waste time studying. (His being a physicist doesn't suffice or carry over.) I make exceptions for Daniel Dennett, who is a very good philosopher, and Sam Harris who seems smarter and more open-minded and subtle than most of the other "new atheists".
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
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  12. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    No offense Wegs

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    but it's a faulty premise. Religion isn't mainly about explaining how the Universe works. When some try to make it do that it fails miserably. When there was nothing but ignorance then of course people just figured "God did it". Religion was about how to live your life, governments used it as a way to control people as well.

    Today we would be much better off with science and philosophy. Take the positive parts of religion and just look at it as a philosophy. The objectionable part of religion is all the nonsense that people fight over, God, trying to make sense out of the Bible instead of just reading it as as interesting work of fiction with some lessons thrown in. Get over this life after death nonsense.

    Asking if we should replace religion with science is like asking if we should replace a good philosophy with medical knowledge. It makes no sense. Can I want to think about how to lead a better life and figure out how to cure cancer (other than by praying)?

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  13. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    First, it's not a silly question :=}

    Second, I'm in spreadsheet hell right now

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    , so I can't wait to reply to you guys, later. Good, provocative feedback so far, but I didn't expect anything less.
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  14. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    "Hard science fiction" as an unplanned replacement is arguably continuing such by satisfying the craving for imaginative storytelling that fed youth in religion. As well as the narrative tribal myth-making traditions that long preceded the emergence of heavily systematic belief-systems (till the Roman Empire's very introduction of the word or concept "re-ligion" finalized the latter). Fantasy and far less "accurate science" speculative fiction, of course, is much more reflective of older fabulist needs and tendencies -- that stuff is too distant from science.

    "Should" and "should not" itself would once have been deemed a determination outside the supposed "is" boundaries of science. Handled by a spectrum of other institutions ranging from religion to philosophy to administrative chambers. IOW, in that context our very deferring to bodies outside of science (or the public in general as in this instance) to handle the matter is a backhand acknowledgement that science does not have a ubiquitous range on answers and authority, which would include decisions or determinations like that.

    Back when philosophy and science were less distinguishable from each other, the former (when it wasn't towing the line and assisting with apologetics) offered rival prescriptions to the "ought" (what we should do) and moral functions of religion and its doctrinal character. There were probably a variety of attempts back in the late 19th and early century 20th centuries to "scientifically" purloin the prescriptive role of religion and other institutions. Even the "good breeding and improvement of humans" as eugenics mutably endures as contemporary items like transhumanism. As Yazata suggested, the social sciences (in conjunction with the humanities sphere) could be the best candidates today of something running around calling itself "science" that is seizing the prescriptive, idea-engineering, and intellectual policing territory.
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  15. river

    Neither should replace neither .

    Understanding , knowledge , curiosity is the key .
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Scientists need religion as much as anyone else,

    if for no other reason than that no scientist knows "science" - scientists stand in the same relationship to anything outside their field as any other well-educated person. But it goes deeper: no science provides enough guidance for the employment of its discoveries. Scientists are capable of evil, both intentional and through the blinkering narrow focus so often beneficial in research, and what they can do they will.

    The established religions do not suffice - they all base at least some of their authority on claims of physical or historical fact known by science to be false, they almost all limit inquiry by referring to faith, and the various attempts to reduce the discordance and fit them into the existing body of physical knowledge and theory are either personal compromises by individuals or vapid.
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  17. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

    It's an incredible conceit that humans will ever know much about the Universe.
  18. river


    Humans can understand the Universe .

    It is our attitude towards understanding our Universe that matters .
  19. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    How is one thing. Why is another. No substitution.
    We're pattern-discerning machines. If we can connect dots that are there, we do. If there aren't enough dots to make a picture, we we make some up. (Look at the constellations.)
    For those who can't or won't find their own reason and purpose, there is always "Something larger than myself" to belong to, whether it's the Russian Orthodox Church, or the Boy Scouts, or the Fatherland or the Party or the Masons. They are then given rules to live by, goals to strive for, discipline, order, direction, instruction, correction, atonement, absolution, redemption --- the whole ready-made pattern.
    Science can provide many of those things - though never so comprehensively and only to the practicing scientist.
    Religion welcomes laymen, and even infants before they've had a chance to choose - which relieves the parents of any need to negotiate with autonomous persons.

    Like anorexia contributes to the gastro-intestinal condition.

    You mean all of literature, cinema, television, music videos, barroom bragging, fish-stories, dating site bios, advertising and stand-up comedy?
    No, I really don't think so.
    Who believes them now?
    The religious pick and choose from their own canon, believing what appeals to them or works in their favour, disregarding what doesn't. Clerics preach that way, apologists write their screeds that way, and every few years another pope comes out with another bull. In fact, I don't believe the majority of faithful even know most of what's in their mythology, any more than most American know what's in their constitution.

    Neither is slottable.
    They're omnipresent, coexitent aspects of human culture.
    They are the products of human minds - the means by which we make our condition.
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
  20. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    It's an incredible conceit that someone could "know" that a bearded man created the Universe and wants us to not eat meat on Fridays.

    It's not a conceit to learn though rather than think it's conceited to attempt to learn when God did it all in his mysterious ways.
  21. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    There's no bearded man in the sky. hehe And not everyone who believes in some type of higher power, is Catholic, or Christian, or falls under any other organized religious title.

    It's good to be open minded, and to not let your beliefs, whatever they may be, superimpose themselves onto others. This is how we live in harmony.

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    My reason for starting this thread though, comes from a different place. It's a little out there, but I hope you'll bear with me.
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  22. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Nope. Completely different magisteria, to use Gould's term. That's like asking whether rugby should replace water.
    Exactly - and science can't do that. If we could "know everything" religion would certainly change, but it wouldn't go away.
    Definitely not! We'd keep creating new Luke Skywalkers and Harry Potters and Bilbo Baggins.
  23. river

    Go on . Continue with your thinking .

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