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I really don't understand how scientists can be religious.


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First of all, I'm an undergrad and am currently do undergrad research. So today I was chatting with the graduate student I am working under and somehow the subject of Harry Potter came up and I mentioned that I am going to see it on Thursday night. She then told me that she never read the books because a church elder told her not to.

 

I was really taken aback. Here is this PhD candidate who I know to be an excellent scientist, not reading a childrens book because their minister told them it was bad. I just don't understand how scientists could be so rational and empirical about everything during their work, and then somehow forget all that when it comes to religion.

 

It's just such an irrational thing for people whose lives are defined by rationality and evidence.

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blackhole; Science itself stemmed from Philosophy and Philosophy from religion, they were/have always been directly or indirectly related in some manner whether the intentions were to promote via understanding or proving the understandable. The young lady, from "Church Elder", tells me she is probably a Morman, possibly Jewish but both opposed to any justification to satanic worshiping, which I believe was the argument used, over the Harry Potter Books/Movies. While I would disagree with the message, I doubt the Elder was concerned with her changing character or being influenced, rather buying the Book, would be an act of endorsement.

 

As for Scientist being Religious, I believe the figure is near the general publics figure of 85% are to some degree religious and there is virtually no empirical "rationality or evidence" to support any of the major Religions, basically a faith based understanding of existence. A person can easily believe humans evolved through "Evolution" or in thousands of Scientific Laws/Theory, yet maintain a belief in what constitutes a beginning and end to humanity.

 

My two cents anyway and my only concern would be to accept the notion a religious person should not advance their science interest because they have religious convictions.

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To the extent that religious people recognize a connection between the creation of light and its assessment as good by God with the creation of scientific knowledge by humans, I see why truly devoted people would seek out science as an avenue to doing God's will. I also see how evil is often attracted to goodness (to pervert or attack its servants) and thus how much of science is appropriated by those with a will to evil (or attempted to anyway). If you really feel that you are religiously neutral and not a worshipper of Satan (opposer of God), then I would recommend studying the philosophies of religion to see how the logic of good and evil work before judging them as primitive superstitions that are outdated and empty. They actually translate quite well to any historical moment. Religious philosophy is applicable.

Edited by lemur
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It's just such an irrational thing for people whose lives are defined by rationality and evidence.

 

It's religion, you green-blooded...Vulcan. You don't analyse it. The point is you feel accepted in the group. :)

 

a little star trek humor.

 

People are still human, with emotions that can smother logic at any time.

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People can be compartmentalize, so that they can believe contradictory things simultaneously. On top of that, if they start from different assumptions they can rationally arrive at different conclusions, which won't be a problem since differences such would be limited to very few fields, eg biology and geology, or not even those if they don't adhere to a literal interpretation of Genesis. And yet more, it is not necessary to believe in something to be able to use it, the equations for quantum mechanics won't suddenly give me different answers if I don't believe in them. Really the equations don't care whether you believe in them or not, they'll give the same answers either way.

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I just don't understand how scientists could be so rational and empirical about everything during their work, and then somehow forget all that when it comes to religion.

It might be interesting to examine just how perceptive and challenging they are in their science. Do they ask the difficult questions, or do they accept the status quo as reality and just try to fill in the gaps?

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It's religion, you green-blooded...Vulcan. You don't analyse it. The point is you feel accepted in the group. :)

 

a little star trek humor.

 

People are still human, with emotions that can smother logic at any time.

Theological scripture is actually allegorical philosophy mostly. You have to analyze the allegories for them to become meaningful. Most people make religion into a ritualistic drama of recapitulating the dogmas without interpreting their meaning just so that they don't have to observe the moral/ethical lessons contained in them. It's more comforting to go to church (or school for that matter) for social acceptance than to learn and evolve spiritually/intellectually. The theological writings are not arbitrary stories written to be ritually performed/consumed and nothing more. It's just what people do to get out of living responsibly and consciously.

 

And yet more, it is not necessary to believe in something to be able to use it, the equations for quantum mechanics won't suddenly give me different answers if I don't believe in them. Really the equations don't care whether you believe in them or not, they'll give the same answers either way.

I don't believe in quantum mechanics and the equations don't work for me. A quantum physicist would tell me it's because I haven't worked to learn how to do the math and a religious theologian would tell you that you haven't worked to learn how to interpret the language of theology.

 

All theological scripture is, imo, is a language for looking at events through the lens of good vs. evil. Good and evil are viewed as forces in human life and it is recognized that all things perceptible to humans are part of human life. Subsequently, goodness is personified as having a lord, given the name/title, "God," who has helpers or messengers called "angels." Similarly, evil is personified as having a lord called, "Satan," who has helpers/messengers called "demons." Humans are the beings who are free to choose their own actions and who can listen to either good OR evil. Therefore human decision-making is viewed as being informed by the two forces and their lords and messengers.

 

All this is is a form of moral philosophy. It's just a way to approach your life and actions as a human in a moral/ethical way. The only reason I could see that people would want to undermine it by silly little loopholes like insisting that the universe couldn't be created in 6 days is if they wanted to obfuscate people's ability to reason morally and use their free will to choose goodness over evil. Why would anyone want to obfuscate that?

 

 

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(...)She then told me that she never read the books because a church elder told her not to. (...)

 

In this case, it is not a question of religion or belief. There is no profound quest to investigate here. It is a question of intelligence or stupidity.

 

I just don't understand how scientists could be so rational and empirical about everything during their work, and then somehow forget all that when it comes to religion.

 

I agree.

I am tired of people who find these attitudes excusable. If you have a mind, and you can use to make physics or mathematics, why don't you use it for such simple things? IMHO, to not use your intelligence is a crime.

Edited by michel123456
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I don't believe in quantum mechanics and the equations don't work for me. A quantum physicist would tell me it's because I haven't worked to learn how to do the math and a religious theologian would tell you that you haven't worked to learn how to interpret the language of theology.

 

All theological scripture is, imo, is a language for looking at events through the lens of good vs. evil. Good and evil are viewed as forces in human life and it is recognized that all things perceptible to humans are part of human life. Subsequently, goodness is personified as having a lord, given the name/title, "God," who has helpers or messengers called "angels." Similarly, evil is personified as having a lord called, "Satan," who has helpers/messengers called "demons." Humans are the beings who are free to choose their own actions and who can listen to either good OR evil. Therefore human decision-making is viewed as being informed by the two forces and their lords and messengers.

 

All this is is a form of moral philosophy. It's just a way to approach your life and actions as a human in a moral/ethical way. The only reason I could see that people would want to undermine it by silly little loopholes like insisting that the universe couldn't be created in 6 days is if they wanted to obfuscate people's ability to reason morally and use their free will to choose goodness over evil. Why would anyone want to obfuscate that?

 

Conversely, believing in quantum mechanics won't make the equations work if you're doing the math wrong. Doing the math wrong if you don't believe in quantum mechanics doesn't mean the equations don't work for you, it means you don't know the math. Are you seriously suggesting the equations are giving you the wrong answers just because you don't believe in them?

 

I agree.

I am tired of people who find these attitudes excusable. If you have a mind, and you can use to make physics or mathematics, why don't you use it for such simple things? IMHO, to not use your intelligence is a crime.

 

So do you think that just because someone knows physics then they should be really good at socializing since they are so smart? People focus on one thing at the expense of others all the time.

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(...)

So do you think that just because someone knows physics then they should be really good at socializing since they are so smart? People focus on one thing at the expense of others all the time.

 

It is the philosophy of Sherlock Holmes, who didn't want to know about the Moon revolving around the Earth because it has nothing to do with his profession. IMHO it is an abomination. It is exactly the opposite of the Renaissance Man, a lost dream we have an urgent need to recover.

 

There is a common concept that states that we have only a few drawers in our mind. When those drawers are full of knowledge, you must keep it safe from invasion of useless random information. As a consequence, people well educated avoid or refuse information upon subjects that have nothing to do with their beloved discipline. IMHO it is mental sclerosis. There is always room for new knowledge, drawers are never full, and you can create in your mind as many drawers you whish, the only thing you need is interest. If you are not interested in the first place, you will never learn.

Edited by michel123456
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There is a common concept that states that we have only a few drawers in our mind. When those drawers are full of knowledge, you must keep it safe from invasion of useless random information. As a consequence, people well educated avoid or refuse information upon subjects that have nothing to do with their beloved discipline. IMHO it is mental sclerosis. There is always room for new knowledge, drawers are never full, and you can create in your mind as many drawers you whish, the only thing you need is interest. If you are not interested in the first place, you will never learn.

 

 

There might be room - but there isn't time enough. Whilst our brains might be able to cope with a deep understanding of quantum mechanics, an appreciation of the finer details of Proust, the machinations and workings of financial derivatives, and the reciprocal complexity of J S Bach's fugues - it is very difficult to be an expert in all four at the same time, purely because of the heavy-duty reading and cogitation required. It is a sad fact of our world that we spend around 7 hours sleeping 8 hours working and have to fit everything else into the 9 hours left. I am not saying we shouldn't try! But to be a real expert, most of us mere mortals have to focus our temporal resources on to a bare minimum of subjects - the alternative is we risk mediocrity in all things.

 

 

Just re-read the post and it half looks as if I am claiming to be an expert in the above areas - to clarify, that's more a distant and hopeless ambition rather than a reality

Edited by imatfaal
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Conversely, believing in quantum mechanics won't make the equations work if you're doing the math wrong. Doing the math wrong if you don't believe in quantum mechanics doesn't mean the equations don't work for you, it means you don't know the math. Are you seriously suggesting the equations are giving you the wrong answers just because you don't believe in them?

What I'm saying is that QP uses mathematical expressions to describe logics of energy-behaviors according to certain ways of looking at those behaviors. By learning to think in the terms of QP, by practicing and understanding how the equations work, one develops a belief in their reliability and predictive power.

 

Similarly, when one learns the language of theology, one develops a belief in the reliability and predictive power of the analytical tools. When one listens to the advice of "demons," for example, one ends up causing harm to oneself or others. When one accepts the help of "angels," one can "ward off evil" and commit good, constructive actions instead. Then, of course, there's all the details about what constitutes good and evil/sin and how people get influenced in either direction and what kinds of responses they can expect for their actions. None of this has to do with whether the Earth was created in 6 days or 6 prehistoric epochs and how. The creation story is just a story that contains certain ideas embodied in it. Using its accuracy as a reason either to accept or reject its validity is a strawman. It's not intended to be a roadmap to explain fossils. It's a way of expressing the purpose of human existence in the universe. Arguing over it as a true explanation of the past only obfuscates its purpose, which is to be interpreted as insight into the interplay of goodness and evil in human life.

 

 

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What I'm saying is that QP uses mathematical expressions to describe logics of energy-behaviors according to certain ways of looking at those behaviors. By learning to think in the terms of QP, by practicing and understanding how the equations work, one develops a belief in their reliability and predictive power.

 

Similarly, when one learns the language of theology, one develops a belief in the reliability and predictive power of the analytical tools. When one listens to the advice of "demons," for example, one ends up causing harm to oneself or others. When one accepts the help of "angels," one can "ward off evil" and commit good, constructive actions instead. Then, of course, there's all the details about what constitutes good and evil/sin and how people get influenced in either direction and what kinds of responses they can expect for their actions. None of this has to do with whether the Earth was created in 6 days or 6 prehistoric epochs and how. The creation story is just a story that contains certain ideas embodied in it. Using its accuracy as a reason either to accept or reject its validity is a strawman. It's not intended to be a roadmap to explain fossils. It's a way of expressing the purpose of human existence in the universe. Arguing over it as a true explanation of the past only obfuscates its purpose, which is to be interpreted as insight into the interplay of goodness and evil in human life.

 

My point however, is that knowing how it works is entirely different than believing in it. The equations give the same answers whether or not you believe in them. I guess the same is true of theology though, "what would Jesus do" does not require actual belief in Jesus etc. What belief does do is increase interest in the subject, which usually increases the competence in said subject.

 

To turn the thread on its head, why are so many theologians atheists?

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[believing religious] is just such an irrational thing for people whose lives are defined by rationality and evidence.

There's quite a lot that could be said there. But I guess it all boils down to: scientists' lives simply aren't (entirely) defined by rationality and evidence. Only the jobs are.

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My point however, is that knowing how it works is entirely different than believing in it. The equations give the same answers whether or not you believe in them. I guess the same is true of theology though, "what would Jesus do" does not require actual belief in Jesus etc. What belief does do is increase interest in the subject, which usually increases the competence in said subject.

Great, you got my point that theology has logical "equations" that can be used to do ethical analyses and calculations just like science, albeit with more interpretive "fuzziness" maybe. Still, I think you underestimate the tendency of people to develop a belief in something just because they get good at "running the numbers." Pseudosciences like phrenology and raciology were so popular for precisely this reason. Once people start doing analyses and coming up with viable patterns to explain data, they start to believe whatever theory they're working with. That's why falsificationism was invented by Karl Popper to distinguish valid science from other kinds of theories. Biblical theology or QP may or not may not be falsifiable, but both can still have the same effect of stimulating people to believe just by giving them a sense of mastery over the material.

 

To turn the thread on its head, why are so many theologians atheists?

How do you figure that's the case?

 

 

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Theological scripture is actually allegorical philosophy mostly. You have to analyze the allegories for them to become meaningful. Most people make religion into a ritualistic drama of recapitulating the dogmas without interpreting their meaning just so that they don't have to observe the moral/ethical lessons contained in them. It's more comforting to go to church (or school for that matter) for social acceptance than to learn and evolve spiritually/intellectually. The theological writings are not arbitrary stories written to be ritually performed/consumed and nothing more. It's just what people do to get out of living responsibly and consciously.

 

And I guess you have the correct analysis? Problem is that too many answers come from this allegorical, vague, pick-and-choose method. Instead of wasting time trying to make your ideas fit into some old texts, better to try and justify your ideas, period.

 

 

All this is is a form of moral philosophy. It's just a way to approach your life and actions as a human in a moral/ethical way. The only reason I could see that people would want to undermine it by silly little loopholes like insisting that the universe couldn't be created in 6 days is if they wanted to obfuscate people's ability to reason morally and use their free will to choose goodness over evil. Why would anyone want to obfuscate that?

 

Its fine to read literature and pull some moral lessons from it. Quite another to read fiction as if it is reality and expect that to be some sort of justification for anything. Trying to use an error prone work of fiction to persuade the morality of others is a great obfuscation of reality. Its like relying on a faulty calculator to do math. Not only do you get wrong answers, you don't even learn a method to arrive at answers.

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How do you figure that's the case?

 

Arg, I spent over half an hour searching for the study. Apparently words like "atheist" and "theology" are very popular words that appear all over the place, and I couldn't find the relevant polls. Here's one graph, but it includes the humanities in general and I can't access the study without paying up.

religiosity.jpg

 

Also wiki has a page of Theologians by religion, but of course that is useless for statistics. Still for whatever it's worth, over 1% of the theologians on that page are atheist, but I'd imagine atheist theologians might not want to publicly acknowledge atheism.

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There might be room - but there isn't time enough. Whilst our brains might be able to cope with a deep understanding of quantum mechanics, an appreciation of the finer details of Proust, the machinations and workings of financial derivatives, and the reciprocal complexity of J S Bach's fugues - it is very difficult to be an expert in all four at the same time, purely because of the heavy-duty reading and cogitation required. It is a sad fact of our world that we spend around 7 hours sleeping 8 hours working and have to fit everything else into the 9 hours left. I am not saying we shouldn't try! But to be a real expert, most of us mere mortals have to focus our temporal resources on to a bare minimum of subjects - the alternative is we risk mediocrity in all things.

 

 

Just re-read the post and it half looks as if I am claiming to be an expert in the above areas - to clarify, that's more a distant and hopeless ambition rather than a reality

 

There is no need to be an expert in everything. The point is that you can be an expert in lets say mathematics and still have basic knowledge to change a light bulb. In my job (I am architect), I must have to know the basics of mathematics, physics, legislation, chemistry, geometry, geology, geography, history, history of arts, history of cities, town planning, climatology, semantics, politics, philosophy, air conditioning, philology, etc. without being an expert in any of these. But because I know something of all these, and I have learned as an extra how to use my mind wide open in order to take a pencil and create (that's my field of expertise), I can do a job no other can do, except another Architect of course. And as a feed-back, I must be able to understand, estimate, judge and even correct an electrician, or even a geologist or topograph, who didn't made his work correctly, without being able to do his job. The same way as you may be able to judge your car or your computer without being able to construct it. So you must understand that I cannot understand how it is possible that my friend Doctor of Medecine don't know how to properly put a fork and a knife on a table. Not to mention his ideas about religion, if he has any.

 

Arg, (..)

I don't understand the diagram.

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And I guess you have the correct analysis? Problem is that too many answers come from this allegorical, vague, pick-and-choose method. Instead of wasting time trying to make your ideas fit into some old texts, better to try and justify your ideas, period.

I agree with you that that the dogmatic and cryptic aspects of theology can seem like a shortcoming. The problem is that ethics/morality is such a powerfully interest-driven discourse, that it really helps to have institutionalized stories and characters with well-known mythologies for reference. The story of Christ is so handy, for example, because it would be darned difficult to explain how an individual could rebel against his church and the state/government while being more dedicated and more holy/truthful than those who were ranked above him in hierarchical/authoritarian terms. How do you explain the concept that someone can be a priest above all priests and a king above all kings just by being a child of God? People continue to struggle with making sense of this because they just can't break with the cognitive habits of defining people in terms of worldly status. So it helps to have stories like this that people can chew on until they're 90 years old on their death-bed when the light of comprehension finally comes on.

 

Its fine to read literature and pull some moral lessons from it. Quite another to read fiction as if it is reality and expect that to be some sort of justification for anything. Trying to use an error prone work of fiction to persuade the morality of others is a great obfuscation of reality. Its like relying on a faulty calculator to do math. Not only do you get wrong answers, you don't even learn a method to arrive at answers.

Which errors are you referring to exactly? If you don't have a method to arrive at answers, how can you claim there are errors or not? Also, are you aware the the bible was written long before there was a distinction between fiction and non-fiction literature? The style of the writing doesn't alter the insight that was expressed in it. BTW, many of the ideas have been interpreted and expressed in other ways throughout history. One of my favorites is Thomas A Kempis's "Imitation of Christ," which was one of the first printed books and was a best-seller in the 15th or 16th century. It's easy to read and available online. It's written mostly in the form of literal descriptions of how to live, though there's also some poetically-expressed wisdom, I think.

Edited by lemur
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They may appreciate the different disciplines for what they offer.

(...)

Different questions require different skill sets, different disciplines, different modes of thinking. When asking a lawyer about my chances in court, I don't want a physics major telling me about the uncertainty principle. When asking about beauty and the meaning in modern art, I don't want a chemist telling me about the quality of the paints. And when asking about the supernatural, I don't want Richard Dawkins stretching scientific claims further than they can go, and some pseudo-philosophy and very amateurish straw-man arguments that even some atheists find embarrassing.

 

Great syllogism. I like it. Mr Dawkins is one of a kind. From the other kind there are plenty, so don't worry. You would have to worry in the unprobable case he was right. Einstein said that 100 scientists were not necessary to fight him: if he was wrong, only one would be enough. It is interesting that you find Mr Dawkins ennoying.

Edited by michel123456
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