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June 23, 2006

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Dear Brian,
I mention a very recent book - The G. O. D. Experiments: How Science is Discovering God in Everything, Including Us [2006]- by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., aided by William L. Simon. The "G. O. D." part means a "Guiding-Organizing-Designing process" that seems to be implicit in the human experience of the structure of the universe, and (personally) I have found his observations and reasonings to be generally cogent. (There is an error/misprint on line 10 of p. 114: "AB/BC=BC/AB" ought read "AB/AC=BC/AB"; in the continuing paragraph at the top of p. 150, the ending member of a set of quotation marks is also missing. [Rom. 3:23.]) For what it's worth, I commend the book. Robert Paul Howard

Science presents a series of arbitrary rules, that the initiated deliberate in cloistered communities. Modern science espouses the sanctity of the measurement, and paradoxically employees probability in the most advanced applications, because real measurement is subjective.

Modern science is a cult. Those who cross the established scientific community are minimized as crackpots and charlatans. The pictures of deep space are as actual a representation of the universe as is a black, multi-armed demon with a necklace of skulls. The medium is the message.

Once it was the local church that built the biggest buildings, visible for miles. During the twentieth century, insurance companies built the biggest buildings. For the purposes of cultural significance, and getting close to heaven, there is no difference.

Thinking like a scientist is not extra-sensory perception. Of course our mental tools can lead us to ponder the supernatural; they also lead us to ponder drive-through nickel beer night. In purely mechanical terms, it is a great idea.

I'm always amused to read postings by bozos like Edward who deride and ridicule science as "arbitrary" and a "cult", and yet are perfectly happy to use computers, fly in planes, and take antibiotics, all of which exist because of science. Their inability to join the dots of reason is breathtaking....

(Of course in most cases they don't actually believe what they write; it's just a poseur thing.)

This post topic has been quiet for over two years now, but I would like to leave some thoughts here simply because I like the name "worshiping at the altar of science"...for reasons other than the name was likely intended.

I think "the altar of science" is an appropriate term, since I believe that science shares fundamental commonalities with religion and ought to rightly be viewed as a religion itself. At the risk of being labeled as a "bozo" or a "poseur" by Geoff Arnold, if he is still perusing this website, I would like to express substantial agreement with the post from Edward. (Although I wouldn't have worded my opinion in quite the way that he did...I'm not into nickel beer night.)
Modern science does share many aspects of a religious cult (e.g. top-down control by the educated "priesthood"), and it certainly likes to step on and deride anyone who strays from its dogma.

If I was curious as to how the universe came to be and I went to ask a Christian fundamentalist, for example, I would be pointed to the Bible. But why should I take the word of the Word? What if I looked at that Bible in my hand and doubted its accuracy? The best that I could possibly do to authenticate things within this framework would be to seek out the oldest existing copies of the pertinent Bible scriptures--being purely hypothetical here to think that the average Joe or Jane could get anywhere near these documents--and read them to see if my modern Bible has been accurately translated. This would also entail taking lots of language courses so that I wouldn't be relying on anyone else's (possibly flawed) translations. But even if I did all of this, so what? I'm still left with a dusty piece of paper in my hand which may or may not be telling things as they are. Aside from the possibility that I could receive some sort of direct transmission of divine knowledge from the Christian God, this is the absolute most that Christianity could offer me in my quest to learn the origins of the universe. It would ultimately come down to faith.

Now, let's suppose that I take that same question to a scientist. He or she would presumably tell me all about the Big Bang and the hypothesized state of things before that happened...maybe even some further conjecture about what triggered the Big Bang. But what if I ask for proof? A quick jump over to the wikipedia listing for Big Bang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang) reveals all sorts of extremely interesting information about the Big Bang. (Even if I do appear to be down on science, I still find all of this stuff truly fascinating!) However, when I look at the supporting evidence for the Big Bang--redshifts in far-away galaxies, experiments with particle accelerators, measurements of cosmic microwave background radiation, etc.--what the hell does any of that mean to me? Or to anyone else who is not a scientist or an extremely interested and mentally competent layperson? (Sort of like a layperson trying to muddle through complex theological dogma laid down by highly-trained priests...) Much like the Genesis account in the Bible, all of that scientific info is just so many words on a page which were translated by experts (whom I always distrust on general principle) so that the average schmuk like you and I can hope to understand them. I could hypothetically follow the same course as I discussed with the Bible--seeking out original documents of these scientific findings and investing a great deal of time and effort to learn how to interpret them myself--but I would ultimately be left in a fairly similar position. Do I believe the story that is being presented to me or not?

I can already hear the case being made that the scenario with science is fundamentally different since, in the end, we are left with hard numbers and observations with which to make a judgment. However, even within science there are competing points-of-view in regards to the interpretation of this data. (See the equally-fascinating page on non-standard cosmologies at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonstandard_cosmology.) Those who don't share my point of view will quickly point out that, at the bottom of the screen, the non-standard cosmologies article is also referenced under "psuedophysics" and "obsolete scientific theories"...but, as they say, history is written by the winners. My point, though, is that there are still supporters of numerous other scientific theories as to the beginning of the universe. Simply because these people are in the statistical minority does not automatically discredit their views. So what's the deal? Aren't these renegade scientists still in possession of Ph.D.s and penetrating intellects? Aren't they privy to substantially all of the same data as the scientists who support the Big Bang? My contention is that these quiet little heresies at the highest levels of science--and they exist on almost every topic which we laymen take for granted as an undisputed "law of science"--are proof that science too ultimately requires a leap of belief. The data can never, ever be ultimately complete, so there must always come a point where there is a leap of faith about the direction in which the data points. Leaps of faith are the province of religion, whether they be big leaps or small. It is the best kept secret of science that it too ultimately rests upon faith and not complete and pure objectivity.

All of this doesn't mean that I eschew science at every turn, but I do think that it is simply one more manifestation of religion. Like any other religion, I feel perfectly justified in taking hold of the parts that I like and passing by the parts that I don't like. I would simply make the argument that we should all call a spade a spade and recognize that science does not hold the ultimate position as final arbiter of reality; it is merely one more way to interpret reality. As was said in the post above, "pictures of deep space are as actual a representation of the universe as is a black, multi-armed demon with a necklace of skulls." It's all a matter of where one chooses to place one's faith. Beautiful.

Jim

Jim,

Jim, I think you are an "ok" person. Never thought you were a bozo, poseur, or cantankerous oddball. Your comments make good reading.

With that said, I wonder if there is a significant difference in the following two methods of investigating phenomena.

Scientific and Religious methods.

SCIENTIFIC METHOD refers to bodies of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methodologies of knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable in order to dependably predict any future results. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many hypotheses together in a coherent structure. This in turn may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.

RELIGIOUS METHOD -- (I couldn't find an Internet definition. Anyone have a definition to fill in this blank?)

---Not finding fault with either methods, and leaving scientist and persons of religion out of the discussion. Is it possible to debate the above methods alone?

Does one have some merit over the other?

Thanks for any replies,
Roger

Jim, as you might expect, I've got to disagree heartily with you again. Using words like "science is just a form of religion" doesn't make those words true. I could say "a dog is just a form of a fish." That may sound like something wise, but unless I can explain why the two are alike, it's just gibberish.

Your evidence in support of your contention is very weak. Science isn't top down at all. It's a vast web of people, all working to understand the best they can what the universe is like. Yes, there are agreed upon methods of sifting true understandings from false understandings. If there weren't, we'd have religion rather than science -- so this alone demolishes your argument.

The notion that because you can't understand scientific evidence, it shouldn't be accepted is terribly egocentric. I can't dance like a professional, but I can watch Dancing With the Stars and admire the fact that others can.

Similarly, I can't grasp the mathematics of quantum physics. But I can read simplified descriptions and appreciate how much sense they make.

No one, at least not me, is saying that all of human existence is reducible to what can be known and described by science. However, you seem to be saying that nothing -- not the Big Bang, not gravity, not electromagnetism -- science claims to know should be trusted.

Yet you send out that skepticism using a computer and Internet connection founded on scientific fact. You use scientific knowledge every day, yet you claim that it can't be relied upon. Methinks your abstract mind isn't in line with what you genuinely believe.

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