Science and Faith
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05-07-2011, 04:03 PM
RE: Science and Faith
(05-07-2011 11:22 AM)Ghost Wrote:  I don't think that faith takes ideas out of thin air,...... the basic purpose of story is to tell us 'how things came to be this way.' .... It's a marriage of metaphysical and physical that just doesn't exist in science, but that doesn't mean it didn't come from experience and investigation and understanding.

Perfectly true. I do not doubt the importance of mythology (term i prefer to "the story", even though i realize that recently "myth" has been used to mean "falsehood" , whether originating in deception, logical fallacy or misconception).
The mythology of a people is the basis of their culture, their value system, their cohesion, their attitude to the raising of young, their very organization as a society. Mythology is a form of received knowledge. There is a great deal of truth in it, and also historical facts, though it's rarely subjected to empirical testing - it doesn't require proof, any more than poetry or painting require proof.
As long as this lore is owned by the people in whom it developed, it's organic and real and precious.
As soon as someone tries to graft it onto another nation, impose it on people whose experience is different, or insert it into unrelated subject-matter, it becomes a destructive force.
It is only then than scientific-minded people ask for proof. Lately, non-believers have been under such aggressive attack that we are becoming fear-biters.

Quote:... There seems to be a strong desire to conflate belief with superstition; to define belief only as things that are non-factual. As I said, I agree so thoroughly with your statement but I have never figured out how to respond to criticisms against it. What has your experience been?

In a word: dismal. Propagandists of one stripe or another have always corrupted language, but none have done such a thorough job of it as mass media marketing. People don't build a vocabulary anymore, with a precise meaning for each word - almost any word can stand for itself, half a dozen similar-sounding ideas, its diametrical opposite, or simply designate an unexamined "good" or "bad", depending on who uses it, in what tone. But one soldiers on; one attempts to salvage a bit of comprehensibility here and there.

Quote:On a quick semantical note, when you say "hold as true", do you include negative statements?

I had not considered that aspect of an individual's data storage. On brief reflection, probably No; probably, disbelief and discarded beliefs belong in a separate compartment. Longer reflection may result otherwise.

Quote:I think that your categories slice through the debate very well, but I still think that they're slightly muddled and not quite exhaustive.

Quite so. I started on a much longer explanation, then distilled it down to what seemed essentials to the current discussion. Left to my own devices, and with no pressing chores, i'm apt to write far more than most people are willing to read. (This is also why i've done such Draconian editing on the quotes.)

Quote:For me, I think that all humans have beliefs as defined above. ... We all have them and as you say, Peterkin, how we came to hold these beliefs is irrelevant.

Irrelevant to the fact that we believe them, yes. Not to why be believe each item, and on what occasion. Because there are many compartments in the human mind and we're perfectly capable of holding several contradictory notions at once, applying them, as appropriate, to different facets of our life.
For a quick example, you can see an evolution-denier breeding horses.

Quote: ... Faith, obviously, is a loaded word.... I think the more to-the-point word is trust.

Exactly. Both of those words are sound currency, and their meanings are related though not identical. Faith and trust are perfectly acceptable in relationships. You might be excused for taking - indeed, expected to take! - the unsupported word of a spouse or parent or friend or mentor for that which they know, because you have recollection of their having been right in the past. You can also trust those people, because you have experience of their character.
You pretty much have to trust your own senses and memory in most real life situations, and it takes - or ought to take - a lot of proof to dissuade you of subjective knowledge.

Quote:...I think I like this view because it leaves room to look at the reasons we trust in terms of whether they can be objective, subjective, relative, social constructs, so on and so forth.
I view everything as a social construct. The very idea of empiricism is a social construct.

Cool.

Long, but cool, like the de-alcoholized beer i'm about to incorporate.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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06-07-2011, 08:38 AM
RE: Science and Faith
Hey, Peterkin.

Peterkin Wrote:Perfectly true. I do not doubt the importance of mythology (term i prefer to "the story", even though i realize that recently "myth" has been used to mean "falsehood" , whether originating in deception, logical fallacy or misconception).
The mythology of a people is the basis of their culture, their value system, their cohesion, their attitude to the raising of young, their very organization as a society. Mythology is a form of received knowledge. There is a great deal of truth in it, and also historical facts, though it's rarely subjected to empirical testing - it doesn't require proof, any more than poetry or painting require proof.

Well said.

I still like to say that a people are 'enacting' a story, but I do agree and I very readily say that ALL peoples have a mythology.

I agree absolutely that myth has been conflated with falsehood and I find that exceptionally unfortunate. I feel that I understand it's origins. Like I wrote above, the rebellion against divine truth still has a very powerful influence among secular thinkers and the indemonstrable is considered abhorrent while the demonstrable is elevated above all other truths and all other stories as exceptional much in the same way that human exceptionalism elevates Homo sapiens above and beyond other animals.

<steps onto soapbox> Cool

Humans use story to explain everything.
Quote:Alasdair MacIntyre, the moral philosopher, says in his book After Virtue that humans create their sense of what matters, and how they should act, by referring consciously or unconsciously to the stories they have learned. MacIntyre says, “I can only answer the question, ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ Children grow into adults by learning stories, and so do nations and communities. MacIntyre says, “Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious stutterers in their actions and in their words… There is no way to give us an understanding of any society, including our own, except through the stock of stories which constitute its initial dramatic resources.
-Robert Fulford, “The Triumph of Narrative,” p. 33.

Furthering this, ALL people’s tell stories about, as Quinn says, “how things came to be this way.” These sweeping stories are called master narratives, defined as”
Quote:…A work… that scoops up thousands of facts, fits them into a meaningful pattern, and then draws lessons about human conduct.
-Robert Fulford, “The Triumph of Narrative”, p. 30.

A master narrative that we find convincing and persuasive differs from other stories in an important way: it swallows us. It is not a play we can see performed, or a painting we can view, or a city we can visit. A master narrative is a dwelling place. We are intended to live in it.
-Robert Fulford, “The Triumph of Narrative,” p. 32.

Our myths and legends are these individual lessons that we draw from our master narratives and when they are combined, they form our mythologies. ALL peoples use story to explain, ALL peoples create master narratives to tell sweeping stories of how things came to be this way, ALL peoples draw lessons from these master narratives and ALL people’s have mythologies.

The immediate response is SCIENCE IS NOT A MYTH! IT'S TRUE! But that's actually misleading. The truth value of empirical evidence aside, science offers us facts. We then take those facts and create master narratives and draw lessons from those narratives. That is where the mythology comes from. The lessons, not the facts. So while the source of the facts used in master narratives can be quite different, the process of lesson learning is identical across all peoples.

The universe didn't exist, then a singularity, a point of infinite density and zero mass exploded in the Big Bang and formed the universe, a constantly evolving and expanding place of energy and matter where billions of galaxies, trillions of stars and countless planets are born and die and where life exists in how many places, we do not know.

That's a story. What I did just now was explain the last 15 odd billion years and the entirety of creation in a single sentence. What I wrote is an ABSTRACTION. But that's the thing. EVERYTHING that humans know, every concept every single story, the very symbols we use to represent reality and communicate are abstractions. They are models that leave out detail because models must; otherwise they're the thing they model. As Robert Fulford wrote:
Quote:The story of jazz also taught me something about master narratives themselves: that they are often wrong in significant ways. The master narrative of jazz overgeneralized. It telescoped events in ways that distorted facts, and left out crucial elements, including whole cities where jazz developed. It undervalued certain musicians because they didn’t fit into what quickly became the accepted framework. The history of jazz demonstrated both the uses and the misuses of master narrative: it explained, to me at least, the need for structured understanding, but at the same time it vividly illustrated the unavoidable drawbacks in that kind of thinking.
-Robert Fulford, “The Triumph of Narrative”, p. 31.

The fact of the matter is that the master narratives themselves make quite arbitrary decisions about what to include and what to exclude and provide us with HIGHLY mediated views of how things came to be this way. And so while facts might be received or empirical, myths don’t come from facts. Myths come from narrative. Mythology is not the facts, its is the construct we glean from our mediated stories that tells us how to live our lives, what our place is in the universe and how to interact with the planet, with life, with other people and in some cases with the gods themselves.

<steps off of soapbox>

Peterkin Wrote:As long as this lore is owned by the people in whom it developed, it's organic and real and precious.
As soon as someone tries to graft it onto another nation, impose it on people whose experience is different, or insert it into unrelated subject-matter, it becomes a destructive force.
It is only then than scientific-minded people ask for proof. Lately, non-believers have been under such aggressive attack that we are becoming fear-biters.

Absolutely!

Culture is subject to Darwinism same as organisms. So when cultures separate they experience drift. When that drift leads to the selection of significantly different cultural traits between two peoples, then a new culture is born; analogous to a speciation event. So every peoples’ culture is unique to them, tailored for them, selected for them and adaptive for them. It’s as glorious and as astonishing as the diversity of life.

The history of colonialism is a history of Europeans saying, “Your culture is shit, here, have a couple scoops of ours or we’ll kill you.” Could you imagine if the colonialists had access to the stunning genius (this may sound facetious but I’m in earnest) of Gene Roddenberry’s Prime Directive. You will not interfere in the natural evolution of a people’s culture. The recognition that diversity is the stuff not just of life, but of living, of culture. That there is no one right way to do it. The world would be a better place.

Then you have the Theists and the Atheists. I want to throw up when either side says, “The world would be better without the other and with more of we.” It just… they just miss the point. The both of them.

So I understand that between the rebellion against divine truth and the perceived attack from Theists in terms of creation in the class and whatnot, Atheists are demanding proof more and more. Proof the Theists can’t provide. That being said, some Atheists are saying that everything without proof should be thrown away. So I’d love to lock both sides in a closet and tell them they can’t come out until they make out a little.

Quote: In a word: dismal. Propagandists of one stripe or another have always corrupted language, but none have done such a thorough job of it as mass media marketing. People don't build a vocabulary anymore, with a precise meaning for each word - almost any word can stand for itself, half a dozen similar-sounding ideas, its diametrical opposite, or simply designate an unexamined "good" or "bad", depending on who uses it, in what tone. But one soldiers on; one attempts to salvage a bit of comprehensibility here and there.

Amen, brother.

Although I am probably more liberal on this subject. For me, meaning is more important than words. Language has its limits and sometimes people are just struggling to get a meaning across and often that means creating new terms or co-opting and redefining terms. This can also be a profound means of control, a la 1984 Newspeak, but for me, what is of importance is the meaning. If someone uses a term a different way, I see no value in saying, “No, no, you’re wrong, it means this.” I see great value in translating. In digging into it and trying to discover the meaning at the centre.

So if people want to redefine a word like belief, more power to em. But when they’re unwilling to learn and accept the different possible meanings, I agree, it gets real dismal, real quick.

Quote: I had not considered that aspect of an individual's data storage. On brief reflection, probably No; probably, disbelief and discarded beliefs belong in a separate compartment. Longer reflection may result otherwise.

I look forward to your reflections because I find myself scratching my head.

Quote: Irrelevant to the fact that we believe them, yes. Not to why be believe each item, and on what occasion. Because there are many compartments in the human mind and we're perfectly capable of holding several contradictory notions at once, applying them, as appropriate, to different facets of our life.
For a quick example, you can see an evolution-denier breeding horses.

Seen.

That being said, this can also lead to cognitive dissonance when the compartmentalisation breaks down.

Good times, brother.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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06-07-2011, 02:23 PM
RE: Science and Faith
Mind, thought and language are wonderful. Their abuse, misuse and disuse are regrettable. Human cultures are wonderful. Their degradation is reprehensible.

Well, whaddayagonnado?

And yet, a good many people make the effort to communicate ideas and experience, and many of the scribblers are very articulate, very precise, so i guess narrative and its analysis will survive a while longer.

For a really good account of faith and science coexisting in one head, read Kepler's biography. (I particularly like the one by Arthur Koestler, in The Sleepwalkers.) The stories - religious, fanciful and scientific - that we tell about "how things came to be this way" all originate in the same desire to understand and explain. I hope the mutual tolerance and respect that prevailed through my formative years will return sometime.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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08-07-2011, 05:54 PM
RE: Science and Faith
Actually I do not think that faith and science are similar nor equal.

I also do not think that every culture and religion needs to be " respected" simply because it is a long held belief.

Scince is inherently about finding the truth, through facts and research. We are constantly changing our view on the universe when new facts become present themselves through research and experimentation.

Faith on the other hand is all about believing something you cannot prove through hard evidence, or even logical reasoning. It's all about emotions and personal "experience". Which of course is too any academic field of research, horrible reasoning.

As to culture and religion inherently deserving respect; cultures and religions that oppresses science, not deserving of respect for keeping it's people in the stone ages. Cultures that demeen and opress people, like Hindu with the caste system and many religions with misgynoist views, do not deserve respect. Religion is a delusion, a mental illness if you will, I see it ruin people's beautiful brains, that deserves no respect as well.

However, I still respect people, for the sheer fact that they are human and deserve respect and dignity, like every living creature.

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08-07-2011, 06:12 PM
RE: Science and Faith
I think that one of the issues in the faith vs. science debate is that it has become a debate at all. I liked the comment about mythology evolving (or is it devolving) to mean "falsehood", which I don't think is a fair definition. I think, though, we have become an ether/or society with no middle ground.

For example, I was raised Jewish and for a very long time I considered myself a "cultural Jew". What I mean by that is that I did the holidays, I went to the services, etc., but I did not in any way believe in the underlying religious connotations of being Jewish, I just believed in the culture. The past 10 years or so - and this is partly my fault as well to be very honest about it - I have found that position to be very difficult to sustain. I find more and more society demands that you pick a side. Sure, you can take the position that you chose not to play this game and decide what is best for you, but the result is that you may find yourself excluded from the group. My wife and I used to belong to a synagogue and take our kids to Friday night family services. The purpose of these services was to introduce our kids into the idea of belonging to this group, which I viewed as a cultural belonging, not a religious belonging. What we found, however, is that the preaching did not lend itself to a middle ground. I don't think the details are important, but the point is that we felt that we either embraced all aspect of the religion or we were going to be in the position of being very uncomfortable and having our children exposed to messages that we were not comfortable with and did not feel like having to counter later. We instead voted with our feet and quit because it was obvious, at least to us, that the middle position was not going to be accepted.

I'm not particularly bothered by what people believe. If you want to believe in Jesus, or Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, so be it. Everyone is free to walk their own path. However, what I find is an increasing need to politicize our beliefs and treat people who don't see the world as we do as an enemy. We end up with these polarizing political debates with religion in the middle. Things as basic as stem cell research are the subject of intense debates on religion and its views on morality while research that can help real people gets put off because of these debates. You believe in god and his love and mercy or you believe in science and its ability to advance the human condition. There is little middle ground. Both sides are guilty of this, btw. Personally, I'm not a fan of Christopher Hitchens because I think he is such a polarizing figure. I have a lot more patience for Dawkins and Harris as, to me at least, they are less combative but I recognize they can both be very in your face as well.

I see faith and science as two completely different things but they don't have to be in constant conflict with each other. We just chose to make it that way. Maybe there is no way around that, but it doesn't seem like it was always this way.

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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09-07-2011, 01:58 PM
RE: Science and Faith
(08-07-2011 05:54 PM)monkeyshine89 Wrote:  Actually I do not think that faith and science are similar nor equal.

Nor do i. "Originated in the same desire" does not imply similarity or equality, any more than saying that both a cockroach and a horse evolved from an early protist. By what criteria would one quantify or compare different aspects of universal human experience? I have to assume you prefer one over the other, and that's fair enough.

Quote:I also do not think that every culture and religion needs to be " respected" simply because it is a long held belief.

Perhaps not. Perhaps it's proper to judge, reject, denigrate and attack one another's cultures, just as we have been doing for the last few millennia. The problem arising, of course, is that the "wrong" faction may be more powerful and numerous in one's own lifetime.

Quote: However, I still respect people, for the sheer fact that they are human and deserve respect and dignity, like every living creature.


In fact, i meant the respect between persons, which prevailed before the present polarization of everything, when more shades, grades and flavours were tolerated.
I have worked, campaigned, taught and marched alongside Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, as well as agnostics, atheists, new agers and quite possibly Great Pumpkinites; shared hummus, hardship, songs and danger with them. Good, honest people of every belief system have my respect, whether they need it or not.

Quote: Religion is a delusion, a mental illness if you will, I see it ruin people's beautiful brains, that deserves no respect as well.

No, spirituality is not a mental illness. Like many human impulses, such as science and civilization, it can easily go down destructive paths. Organized religions are political entities, and thus become hypocritical, oppressive and crippling.
And i have some reservation about "people's beautiful brains". Where do you think all the rotten ideas come from?

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09-07-2011, 05:18 PM
RE: Science and Faith
(08-07-2011 05:54 PM)monkeyshine89 Wrote:  As to culture and religion inherently deserving respect; cultures and religions that oppresses science, not deserving of respect for keeping it's people in the stone ages. Cultures that demeen and opress people, like Hindu with the caste system and many religions with misgynoist views, do not deserve respect. Religion is a delusion, a mental illness if you will, I see it ruin people's beautiful brains, that deserves no respect as well.

Just because it's not exactly clarified here as an anthropologist I have to throw up a red flag at this statement. The discussion of technological advancement is not something that slides ever better. Many wonderful cultures which held to their own beliefs and had people living full healthy lives were eradicated by the mere intrusion of "cultural advancement". Yes it is bad to have places practicing very restrictive practices on their people, but what should be viewed is this is of the utmost importance.

Western expansion has always been popular and it's rare even among the more rational thinkers to find many people who understand that it isn't exactly a definite good. Things such as the "savage" act of not wearing clothes are perfectly fine to be a way a people live. Not using currency is fine for hunter-gatherer groups and forcing them to stop their nomadic lifestyle can be disastrous. The body adapts over time and generations, many cultures cannot effectively be assimilated.

I would definitely state that if a religious people live in their culture and enjoy their lifestyles in-deterrent of the rest of the world, that if no one is being hurt to leave them be. We don't have to "civilize" the world, that's just the west continuing to be a tyrant under a new "god" known as progress.

As to your examples, the caste system of India is rather detrimental to their country, and they also have already accepted to be part of the unified world. Efforts are constantly being made to alter this while not sending in troops and forcing a change, and I support this instance.

As far as misogyny though, the western cultures are among the most misogynistic in the world. You need to take a good look at a peoples way of life before you can really say they are horribly unfair. Small communities can have strict roles which make life liveable and often enjoyable. Sometimes these harsh roles are perfectly fine for the people who live within them. Also often the independence a woman is given and their forms of control are unspoken truths of a culture that wouldn't have survived if women were truly so oppressed.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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