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'Science' is no better than 'religion'

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Pangur Bán, Dec 5, 2014.

  1. Pangur Bán

    Pangur Bán Deconstructed

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    Everyday I have my social media newsfeed bombarded with political stories. Despite the apparent variety of sources, the stories themselves tend not to have that much variety. One type is the leftish outlet complaining about religion. Whether the topic is creationism in schools or pro-lifers having some rally somewhere, the articles and (more particularly) the comments tend to see 'religion' and the 'religious' as irrational, contemptible, and so forth. 'Religion' is a thing of the past, and 'science' is the way of the future.

    By these terms most people tend to mean 'Christianity' or 'Christianity, Islam and similar sets of beliefs where there is some scriptural tradition with a set of stories and accounts of the cosmos; by the latter, resource-intense research based on experiment and observation. One irrational and driven by superstition, the other driven by intelligence and inquiry.

    In fact, the contrast is neither an accurate representation of 'science' nor 'religion'. It doesn't take much education in history or anthropology to learn that actual 'religion' is pretty much based on the same methodologies and goals as 'science'. Experts entrusted with such things observe the world and come up with a system of explanation in accord with that. Such explanations are entwined and institutionalized in the social order, through monasteries, mosques, museums, or research institutions, etc, and the 'experts' associated with them.

    In the West, our resources for making such observations about the cosmos expanded very rapidly in the period from 1600 to now, vastly outpacing the ability of our social systems to adapt. In the US, the current tension results in large part from the way government introduced compulsory high school education in rural localities, where modern systems of understanding the world (such as evolution) were unfamiliar to the population and its leaders. Despite this, 'scientists' and 'religious' figures were the same people until relatively recently. To highlight this, the word scientist is itself of recent origin, and Western universities are Christian institutions in origin. Even Newton when formulating a theory of gravity had to refer to it as a spirit (how else could one describe some invisible thing that pulls stuff down?).

    Historically, there is no change from 'religion' to 'science'. Instead, the expertise of specialists within our society has gradually increased and its understanding of the world has been transformed by accumulated observations and technological advances. At the same time, the masses of the population are neither less nor more 'religious'. The masses still depend for their knowledge of the cosmos on what experts tell them. I accept, most people know enough to problematize the biblibal creation account. But how many people who ridicule the biblical creation account in favour of the Big Bang actually have any clue why the Big Bang is favoured?

    In fact, expertise in 'science' is so fragmented that even 'scientists' don't understand 'science'. How many cell biologists believe in the Big Bang? Probably all. How many even know about Red Shift or Cosmic Microwave Background radiation? Very few. In fact, Big Bang is believed for social reasons not for scientific ones, because the experts with the most power say this is most likely. For those experts themselves, the theory is favoured because of the internal logic of a series of observations (likely to become defunct); but that's only as relevant as the people with power make it.

    Scientists and other men of knowledge, like priests and other predecessors, need to participate within living economic and social system and have an incentive to maximize their own value, represent theory as fact, and do what they are paid to do. In the US, big power has gotten client experts to portray climate change as problematic (or, rather, offered patronage to scientists prepared to do so), undermining the ability of the populace to ward off forthcoming calamity.

    The religion-science distinction makes people select an antiquated and defunct system of knowledge control, the priests and the public cult, as the thing to scrutinize when trying to discover how others might control them. Popular democratic energy is consumed by diversionary side-shows about church v. state and a few marginal 'moral' issues, while before everyone's eyes the elites are eking out the freedom of universities and research institutions, turning their managers into corporate psychopaths, and reducing academics to virtual servitude. Experts are being deprived both of economic independence and of the institutions which would protect them.

    So as we proceed into the post-democratic age where unscrutinized power controls our lives, public representations of 'science' will shift more and more towards what suits the patrons of science and less and less what the observations say.

    This is the future, and it is partly because people think that religion is irrational and are distracted by a 'threat' that is already defunct!
     
  2. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

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    I think I agree with you, up to this:
    Most people with a scientific background in another field will accept the "Big Bang" and other cosmological theories because they trust that they're being propounded by other scientists who are working under the same scientific paradigm as themselves. They believe, even if they're not personally acquainted with all the reasons for the Big Bang, that they could, if they were sufficiently motivated, find out what those reasons are.

    I think that's where science differs fundamentally from scripturally inspired religion.

    After that, I think you've slid off into some kind of conspiracy theory, tbh. I don't think anyone can persuade you out of it. I'm certainly not going to try. Which isn't to say you're wrong. Just that I think you likely are.

    Still, nevertheless, it's an interesting OP.
     
  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Science is better than religion at figuring out how things work.

    Religion is better than science at helping guide people through spiritual pursuits.

    They are.. made for.. completely different purposes.. you can't really compare them. One is better than the other - depending on what you're trying to accomplish.

    My hammer is better than my orange - at hammering in nails.. but my orange is better than my hammer - at being edible and nutritious.
     
  4. Kaitzilla

    Kaitzilla Lord Croissant

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    Amen brother.
     
  5. Kaitzilla

    Kaitzilla Lord Croissant

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    Conspiracy theory. :love:
    Now you're sweet talking me.

    Give me a minute.
    Here we go, the conventional scientific wisdom says fat is bad for you.
    However...
    http://www.businessinsider.com/9-lies-about-fat-that-destroyed-the-worlds-health-2013-11

    Yet even today the government pushes low fat food guidelines, with disastrous results.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news...hool-lunch-due-michelle-obamas-stan/?page=all
     
  6. Pangur Bán

    Pangur Bán Deconstructed

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    Basically what I am saying is, not very originally btw, is that science and religion are not distinct; and 'religion' is temporary cultural construct that misrepresents historical religion and undermines the ability of modern people to scrutinize power.

    Say a 10th-century priest who had learned the creed, some psalms, etc, and some basic classical-biblical cosmology might be inclined to improve his Latin and see if what the bishop said was really correct. He might find his own nuances, but his information would not end up being be better. The biologist who seeks more information about cosmology would benefit from and be confined to the limits set by other people (+whatever he was able to figure out). Modern scientists happened to seeks answers to these questions beyond texts, but this priest didn't have that ability.

    Incidentally, cosmologists I have spoken to are much less certain about Big Bang theory than scientists who don't understand it.

    Ah, the old 'conspiracy theory' strawman which would associate real historical process with ET- and 9-11 coverups! You have to understand that people seek dominance, but they don't do always do so through orchestration and dramatic events, but more so through process and structure. Would you describe the 'agricultural revolution' that allegedly created permanent social hierarchies as a 'conspiracy theory'? Is capitalism a 'conspiracy theory'? Was the Roman Empire a 'conspiracy' by the Romans to conquer the Mediterranean?
     
  7. Gigaz

    Gigaz civoholic

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    I'm curious, Pangur Ban, how much science and religion have you actually done in your life?
     
  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Nope, I don't get it.

    Seems to me that you aren't talking about religion or science or the scientific method, but rather the politics that have been built up around them in certain societies. Right?

    Historically speaking "Science is the new religion", as it has replaced the work that monks used to do, transcribing this and that, keeping libraries, staffing observatories, and so on. But that's just historical accident, if a necessary one.
     
  9. Pangur Bán

    Pangur Bán Deconstructed

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    I don't believe 'science/religion are distinct from the politics around them, nor that science/religion are separate. Today, in our culture, we distinguish 'science' and 'religion' because we break up some of the stuff 'scientific' and 'religious' experts deal with (or how they deal with it where there is expert overlap). The division does make some sense in our society, but it doesn't make historical sense.
     
  10. trader/warrior

    trader/warrior Deity

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    One of my pet peeves when talking about science is how much people emphasize certainty, hard facts and complete knowledge as the strengths of science when what seems much more worth emphasizing is the inherent uncertainty and openness to new ideas and evidence, nothing is fully known as long as there might be something undiscovered out there. The tiniest piece of evidence can overturn years and years of amassed knowledge. Maybe not entirely related to the topic but thats what the OP brought to my mind.

    I feel like in some cases, the big bang being a good example, scientists have folded to the public desire for facts rather than ideas and are pushing it as truth rather than just likely or work-in-process-theory.

    More on topic and perhaps a bit nitpicky, your argument seems to indicate that science is indeed better than religion as it seems to be saying that religion is effectively itself outdated and bad science.
     
  11. Pangur Bán

    Pangur Bán Deconstructed

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    Yep, that's another way of putting it. The reason I used the scare quotes in the title was to indicate that it was the concepts I was referring to rather than the content of what most people mean when using these terms.
     
  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    You've lost me, again. Why should we care about the historical accidents that have made science similar to religion in some ways? They are very different concepts - designed to deal with completely different problems.
     
  13. Pangur Bán

    Pangur Bán Deconstructed

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    What we call 'science' happens at the moment in practice to deal with a sub-set of problems dealt with historically by people you would categorize as 'religious' using a mixture of methods some of which you would call 'religious'; logically 'science' will eventually deal with all such problems. Scientists are doing the same thing 'religious' experts did, trying to understand, explain, and manipulate the cosmos.
     
  14. classical_hero

    classical_hero In whom I trust

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    Which could kill the whole in a less than a day. science or religion? Science could with nuclear weapons, since we have more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy the whole world. Religion couldn't do that unless they took control of science in some way. Basically it s the application of how both are used is the key point.
     
  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yeah, but in a completely different fashion. Religious men were given a truth and were looking for evidence - while men of science use a process by which you first get evidence, and then arrive at truths.

    Like, I said, completely different systems, with completely different uses and results. But you're probably trying to drive at something completeyl different that I'm missing.
     
  16. Darkflight

    Darkflight Prince

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    And scientists are doing it a lot better, which kind of contradicts the threads title.
     
  17. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    Hum, what do you know about climatology? How do you know there's a forthcoming calamity? Seems to me you're just taking the word of some experts ;) :p
     
  18. Pangur Bán

    Pangur Bán Deconstructed

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    But this is meaningless in regard to the title. Because of knowledge accumulation/technology, they are doing it better than guys before them...are guys before 1800 religious and afterwards scientific? 1700? 1600?

    Of course.

    What religion doesn't use evidence? If there is no evidence, no-one will believe it, nothing will work and people will alter their beliefs in accordance with stuff that does have evidence. The effect of concentrating on 'revelation' is very much modern and a bi-product of Christian leaders being marginalized today by the successors of natural philosophers and other such chaps working in universities and laboratories. Keep in mind that 21st century Christianity offers a very limited view of human religion.
     
  19. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Some religions use "evidence", but not evidence. That's beside the point anyway, I was trying to get at the fact that religious dogma starts with a premise - the truth - that has to be accepted. Evidence may then be looked for to confirm this truth.

    Science works in the other direction.
     
  20. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    Pangur, you have a good point and it's one that I've made before. To most people belief in "science" is a lot like belief in God - they believe in it because they've been told by people they consider trustworthy that so and so is true. It's uncritical acceptance, not scientific skepticism. And that's of course true even for scientists, as you correctly said. A biologist is not likely to know Quantum Physics anymore than a layman, and yet he believes in its postulates because he trusts the people who claim they're true and empirically validated.

    That said, there's a key difference between accepting as true a certain scientific framework that you don't understand and a religious one. Those physicists have made planes fly, they have detonated atomic bombs, they have put the man on the moon. Those physicians have cured tuberculosis, smallpox, several types of cancer. In other words, the average person may not have the capacity to critically analyze their postulates of what is true and what isn't, but he sure can look at tangible results and so has good reason to trust those people in their area of expertise. By contrast, what good reason is there to trust those who claim that a certain religion is true? What palpable, tangible results can they point to? I mean, of course they can point out to some stuff. But in the era of the H-Bomb and nanotechnology their stuff is not very impressive.

    But I do wish more people would take time to familiarize themselves with at least some scientific fields in order to analyze critically what is presented as truth.
     

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