Science vs. Religion?

Modern religious faith, informed by critical biblical scholarship and historical studies, is more than able to fill the gaps that science can’t. Science as science has nothing whatsoever to say about most nonmaterial religious claims and it is as capable of assessing ethical issues as is a pair of calipers. These categories are truth-assessments, not (quantifiable) fact-assessments.

Nor is science aided by dupes among the “new” atheists. There is very little that Dawkins, Dennet, Shermer, Hitchens, Harris, Blackmore et al say that is not a knee-jerk reaction to popular notions about religion – Western religion at that, narrowly defined. While they quite rightly critique the flaws in the Abrahamic faiths, they show little sign of realizing that these flaws themselves are mostly archaic hangovers from religion’s pre-Enlightenment era. Theology long ago dealt with and responded to the objections that the “new” atheists, claiming science as their springboard, fling at popular religion.

We may or may not agree with theology’s responses.  But the point is that the “new” atheists are mostly sparring against straw men in the guise of giant windmills.   Doing so, they are guilty of keeping the debate on a primitive, combative literalist-popularist level. They also seem to be generally, blissfully, unaware of the vast sea of non-Western spirituality. Instead they beat the dead horse of pre-Enlightenment, popular Western-Abrahamic/monotheistic, Supernatural Theistic faith, without exhibiting the slightest awareness of the many other religious alternatives, or offering their readers multiple-choice options in this regard. This is either inexcusable ignorance, or it is conscious deception. In either case, it’s just plain wrong. Example:  most of their criticism targets the Abrahamic notion of a creator deity, whereas in actuality there are many spiritual traditions that propose a NON-creator deity. Once the idea of a creator deity is removed, so is 90% of “new” atheist angst over the subject.

Moreover, faith – of which in the West there are at least four varying types – is (contrary to popular reports) is not always or necessarily the core of spirituality. The core of spirituality is the anchoring of self in Spirit (God, the Sacred, the Holy, the Divine) rather than in culture, church, state, political orientation, scripture, science, opinion, government, or any other human category. “New” atheists seem to be unaware that there are at least seven different types of atheism – in which a substantial number of believers also participate in (Relative Atheism, for example). Too many atheists seem to operate from an elitist ghetto whose prime motto might be phrased,  “(Enlightened) Us against (unenlightened) Them.”

No intelligent discussion or honest debate can occur when “objective, science-based” atheists are as introverted, inbred and parochial as their counterparts in archaic, popular religion. They pride themselves on their high education, but their talk is mostly as unwashed, arrogant, and misguided as their religious polar opposites. Again, “real,” core religion is not about faith or belief. We all know people who believe all, or most, of the “right” things, but who are still jerks.  Belief – or unbelief – is peripheral and tangential to the actual, critical, concrete issue, namely: the condition, the state, of the self relative to its spiritual transformation. Even atheist Sam Harris acknowledges this when he recommends meditation as a means of transcending the normative egoic self. So does Michael Shermer when he says “I think of myself as a spiritual person.” So does Susan Blackmore – sort of – when she admits that Buddhism is a system that has an inherent mechanism for transcending its own “memes.”

The “science vs. religion” gambit is a ploy consciously indulged in by all too many atheists for the purpose of lobbing pot-shots at their religious opponents. “Science-based, objective, educated” atheists should know better and reform their behavior accordingly. They should do their homework before shooting from the hip. So should religionists.  Only when that day comes will the discussion have a chance of reaching a mature, responsible, adult level.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Science vs. Religion?

  1. voxanima

    The irony is that science/evolution bears every definable trait of religion. The difference is that “objective, rational, critical, progressive” thinking is the infallible god of science/evolution. The very purpose of peer reviewed work at the collegiate level is to prove that the writers didn’t follow the orthodoxy. Hmmmm.

  2. rennyo01 Post author

    voxanima, thanks for your comment. You make a good point re: the purpose of peer reviewed work, I hadn’t thought of that perspective on it before.

  3. nazrudin

    The scientific method is a way of acquiring knowledge through experiment.

    It is designed to cancel out standard human biases in reasoning by encouraging reproducibility and cross-checking.

    Scientists form hypotheses, or educated guesses, about aspects of the world, then test them.

    These experiments must be readily reproducible, so that other scientists can cross-check the data.

    After thorough testing, a hypothesis may be supported or contradicted by the data.

    When a body of complementary hypotheses are proven correct, they may be integrated into a sort of “meta-hypothesis” called a theory.

    Theories can never be proven absolutely correct, and according to scientists, nothing can.

    This is where scientists are at odds with theists and spiritualists, who believe that through prayer or meditation one can access absolute truths.

    According to the scientific method, no theory is sacred, and even if thousands of experiments support it, one can still prove it wrong.

    If a theory is extremely well confirmed over a long period of time and taken for granted among the vast majority of the scientific community, it acquires the status of a natural law or physical law.

    Physical laws, like “gravity makes things fall” are about as close to absolute certainty that we can obtain about the universe.

    As theories, especially solid empirical theories, make detailed quantitative predictions about the phenomena they seek to explain, it can be quite straightforward to refute them if they lack predictive power.

    The scientific method is not precisely defined, but almost all scientists agree that it involves iterations of these four steps:

    characterizations (observations and definitions),
    hypotheses,
    predictions,
    and experiments to test all of the previous parts of the sequence.

    The scientific method is not a strict recipe, but a fluid technique for uncovering truth.

    Stolen & slightly edited; from wiseGEEK 🙂

  4. rennyo01 Post author

    Nazrudin, nice to hear from you again, and thanks for your comment.
    “Physical laws, like ‘gravity makes things fall’ are about as close to absolute certainty that we can obtain about the universe.”

    That is quite true, but of course the spiritual quest does not obtain to the universe and its physical laws. Any certainty derived from mystical experience obtains to mental and spiritual “laws.”

    “According to the scientific method, no theory is sacred, and even if thousands of experiments support it, one can still prove it wrong.”

    Interestingly, according to the Buddha and other spiritual investigators, experience trumps theory. “Try it and see” is the motto of spiritual questing – if experience negates theory or dogma – even the teacher’s teachings, then experience is the decider. This probably accounts for the severe criticism that is customarily flung at mystics by holders of institutionalized religion. This happened with people like Meister Eckhart in Christianity, and with people like Al Hallaj Mansoor in Islam.

    “The scientific method is not precisely defined, but almost all scientists agree that it involves iterations of these four steps:

    characterizations (observations and definitions),
    hypotheses,
    predictions,
    and experiments to test all of the previous parts of the sequence.

    The scientific method is not a strict recipe, but a fluid technique for uncovering truth.”

    These maxims apply to knowledge acquisition generally, to science as well as spirituality. The path to mystical knowledge, in a similar manner to the quest for scientific knowledge, follows these steps:

    1) Injunction, i.e., “if you want to KNOW this, then DO this.” If you want to know if Jupiter has moons, look through a specialized lens. If you want to know if you have Buddha Nature, look through a contemplative lens.

    2) Experiment, i.e., adequately perform the Injunction. Take notes. Validate or invalidate the Injunction.

    3) Share Conclusion(s) with the community of others who have also adequately performed the injunction, i.e., do peer review.

    “The scientific method is a way of acquiring knowledge through experiment.”

    Yes, it is, and so is the mystical method, the prime difference being that the discovered, the validated or the unvalidated scientific data is localized “outward,” in the external world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s