20080714

How to be Religious and Scientific at the Same Time

Although there are limitations, folks brought up in one of the many religions still can be fairly good scientists. To do scientific work, one must adhere faithfully to one of the most important assumptions of science: causality, the belief that there are material causes for effects. There are two main branches of this belief: 1) specific causality and 2) general causality. Specific causality is used in everyday scientific work. It need be applied only to the observation or experiment at hand. One can seek material causes in one part of life, and ignore them in another part. Specific causality is logically compatible with specific acausality, the belief that material causes may not be involved (e.g., “god,” “spirit,” “chance,” etc.). There is, however, a problem that inevitably threatens a scientific career based solely on specific causality: experience. The more successful one becomes and the more experiments one does, especially in marginally related fields, the more one tends to generalize causality. In due time, through laziness, perhaps, as much as through experience, one begins to use “all effects,” where “effects” would do. Almost all the really great scientists end up doing this, damaging their religious belief in the process. For instance, about 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a personal god.

The belief in specific causality, like the belief in a specific religion, can be maintained only by restricting experience. Religious scientists need to confine themselves to a narrow specialty; religious non-scientists need to confine their activities to the desired religion. Outside influences must be avoided. The Internet seems unlikely to be helpful in this regard. The current rush to globalization is sure to intensify the contradictions between the various religions, causing millions to question traditional beliefs. Fortunately, the result of all this outside influence will be the development of a new international philosophy free from the contradictions that appear to overwhelm us at present (see www.thescientificworldview.com).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

How would you explain Kierkegaard's observation that the stages of life are 1. Aesthetic, 2. Ethical, 3. Religious? Here, the aesthete is more of a determinist, and (at least practically speaking) more of an atheist. According to Kierkegaard, the more experience and knowledge one has, the more religious he becomes. Explain.

Glenn Borchardt said...

Kierkegaard was a religious fanatic who was misguided at best. The three stages make little sense as separate categories. I’m supposed to have gotten ethics before I got religion? I don’t think so. They reflect the author's confusion, which was in line with the confusion of others, who needed to remain loyal to the indeterministic side of the philosophical struggle. Except for the religious types who cram for the imaginary final examine in their last days, I know very few who become more religious with experience. When we speak of "experience," the "ex" refers to "external" or "outside," which is what science is best at. Scientists define truth as to how well an idea survives under an interaction with the outside world (e.g., observation or experiment). Because of this standard, it is possible for scientists to agree with each other about the meaning of a particular claim about the universe. We have built up enormous quantities of data about which there is no argument at all. Religion has no such requirement. That is why there can be no agreement among the various religions as to what is truth. There may be relative agreement within a particular sect, but only until the inevitable right-left split occurs. The “leftists” in this evolutionary development have seen slightly more of the world, finding themselves opposed to some of the old ideas. Perhaps they went to a great university, worked with an outstanding scientist, or read too many atheistic books. The sect must maintain a degree of isolation for it to remain a sect. It is unlikely to invite the likes of Richard Dawkins to give its next sermon.

Anonymous said...

I'm saddened by your complete misunderstanding of Kierkegaard's philosophy. Your response is nonsequitur to my question. If you had read any Kierkegaard (which I doubt, given the "religious fanatic" label), you would know that he spent quite a lot of thought undermining Hegel. If you don't know what you're speaking of, you are a fool who is only arguing with himself.

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