Sunday, August 15, 2010

Science vs Religion (Again??)

I think it would be a poor sort of faith that shifted its positions based on new findings of empirical and experimental science. I also think it would be a poor sort of science that established its positions based on 'what ought to be' rather than 'what is'.

The problem in science has always, of course, been to establish 'what is' without allowing undue influence by 'what ought to be', because 'what is' is 'what ought to be'. For many religions, it seems to be the other way around — assertions of 'what is' without allowing undue influence by 'what ought to be', because 'what ought to be' is 'what is'.

The core of science is the idea that what we find consistent is actually related to reality. Absent any glitches, we have to assume the 'reality' model is consistent. If we didn't, things would be unreliable. We therefore have a human stake in believing that science gives reliable answers. This is why we believe in what is valid, what is reliable, and what is useful. This is also why we form theories and hypotheses and test them primarily for consistency.

Religions don't offer such consolation. In any religious system of belief based on a key text or a set of such, the words are treated as absolute, but because they are addressed to humans, the meanings are not. We don't even have the solace of proof, since a complete proof of any statement removes the need for faith and hence the burden of moral responsibility.

To put it another way, if we could derive a logical proof of a God or gods and a 100% certainty of the efficacy or truth of a consistent religious system with an all-or-nothing outcome, we would have no free will unless we were insane — you'd be mad to sacrifice everything to not conform.

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