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Author Topic: Religion, Science And Easy Answers
Stephen
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Post Religion, Science And Easy Answers
on: September 25, 2012, 13:05
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Adam Frank, a U of Rochester astrophysicist writing on NPR, hints that he thinks fundamentalism is, well, a bit simplistic. See his comments here:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/09/25/161736374/religion-science-and-no-easy-answers

I take him to task for not showing me the data. Here's my comment:

There is insight in what Adam says (as befits someone from the U of R where I did my PhD in physics), but I wonder about the quality of the data. Are religious people around the world really fundamentalist? What is the magnitude of the problem? Show me the data!

In my experience, Christian evangelicals are often way to busy taking care of their families, working with their communities, and doing their thing to be involved in fundamentalism. If anything, creationism and all that is almost a sideshow, just seen as part of a world of fashionable derision of religion. The same is more true in non-Christian religions, When politics intrudes - surprise! - then, of course, the issues heat up.

My perspective now is that in the west, many of us, physicists included, are living in a world that believes in the Enlightenment Vision of Science. But that vision, now 250 years old and tarnished, has turned into dogma. Atheism, once so respected, has turned into dogma as well. If we are going to revive the power of that marvelous Englightment vision, we are going to have to let religion back in through the front door, rather than sneaking it through the backdoor as evolutionary creation myths (or heavens forbid, cosmology ;>).

Some more comments:

Michael Harrison

By the Enlightenment vision of science, do you mean the "Better Living through Technology" mindset pushed by 1950s television spots? The notion that science will make everything better? If so, then no, scientists don't hold to that anymore. After the nuclear bomb and the Cold War, it became an indefensible position (with Dadaists and postmodernists beating the dead horse). Neither science nor religion can be used as a crutch; at some point, we have to step up and accept the blame for our personal failings, and not put blame on the devil or insufficient technology. Medicine is a wonderful thing, but all the pharmacology in the world can't take out the human element.

My response:

The Enlightenment is the name given to the various movements in 18th century Europe - most famously in France (e.g., Voltaire), but also in Scotland (e.g., Adam Smith), Germany (e.g., Kant), and elsewhere.

GPRP GPRP has a good summary of what I call the enlightenment vision of science. Slightly modified, here's mine: "The view that the application of science and human reason would resolve the problems of the world and usher in an age of great prosperity, morality, and wealth for all."

This vision has spread around the world and is at the heart of modern secularism, not to mention communism, evolutionary thinking, and economic thought.

Although inspired by physics - Newton's great discoveries most predominantly - it is not physics nor is it science. Rather it is metaphysics. And clearly, it made claims to many things that had been incorporated into religion - creation myths, cosmology, for example - as its domain of authority.

Does this help explain my thinking?

The enlightenment vision of science has been - and continues to be, enormously influential. But, of course, it ossifies here and there into dogma. What I'm saying is that instead of continuing with the us vs. them mentality built into it from its origins and then having ersatz religiosity weighing it down, lets let genuine religion in.

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