Etikettarkiv: Atheism

More on God, God, God, Faitheism and Francis Collins

There ain’t no doubt that the elephant in the room – religion and its claim of realism – is the greatest intellectual battle of today, and right now everybody starts to talk abut it. A number of texts have recently flagged this topic and looking at the debate I feel that it is a great and challenging battle, really. Jerry Coyne over at Why Evolution is True is really stirring up his mistrust of accomodationists, now wittily called faitheists (although I think templetons would have been more suiting). He argues that atheists that try to bridge the gap of science and religion by giving license to religious people to work in science are wrong: based on modern science Jesus cannot have risen from the dead; you cannot be a virgin and give birth to a baby boy and miracles do not exist. I agree with Coyne on the science stuff, but his views are not unpolitical: if we are ever to bridge gaps between the majority of the world’s population and us atheists, how is this to happen if our message to all spiritual people is: anything you think you are claiming about your longings and spiritual feelings must first be acknowledged by science, and by the way, if you ever thinkin’ about going into science – don’t!

Sorry Coyne, I just do not see how you think we can survive in the long run without accommodating religious individuals. It’s either that or slowly turning them into “the other”.

But the real row has these days been over the Obama appointment of Francis Collins’s as head of the National Institutes of Health in the US. Coyne, P Z Myers, Steve Pinker and others have rightfully ushered in a bag of critique over this choice. Collins is an esteemed member of the science elite, but also a theist, believing that evolution is both natural and guided by the Good Lord. He has until a few days ago publicly sanctioned this view through his BioLogos theory and his foundation that supports it. Now, I am fully backing criticism of Collins and some of his factual statements, but as for his private view of the meaning of life, I will not stand in front of him trying to reduce his religions experience to neurons and social circumstances. So this is a tricky one.

As a pragmatist I see plenty of opportunities here: 1. The debate of science and religion can only be deepened and developed from here – great! 2. Having a religious super-expert in genetics and science as a poster boy for religious America is great opportunity, not for the science loving atheists, but for everyone else!

The SF Chronicle has published nice bio of Francis Collins and I must say that he has my uttermost respect; lets see what he can do.

More faitheists have published in Dagens Nyheter recently, mostly as a critique against the Humanist movement in Sweden (In America they call themselves Brights). Writer Inger Edelfeldt talks about the danger of eradicating “God” and “religion” from our culture since it contains so much that is not all that bad, and in today’s paper critic Leif Zern agrees.

Over at the London ICA Terry Eagelton destroys arguments from Dawkins about why to do away with religion during a lecture a few weeks ago:

Dawkins seems to think that science has done away with faith. But, as Eagleton points out, this is like arguing that ‘thanks to the electric toaster we can now dispense with Chekhov’. Science and Religion were never meant to answer the same questions, so the one can never resolve the arguments of the other. Dawkins’ mistake, Eagleton says, is to ‘assume that all faith is blind faith.’ In fact ‘true’ faith incorporates reason: ‘faith is not exclusive of reason, but neither is it reducible to it’. (as retold by blogger Tom at Spoonfed)

The Economist this week reports of strange atheist camps for kids. Not strange because they learn valuable lessons of doubt, science and critical thinking but because the camp itself utilizes the methods of a Jesus camp practiced by some of the worst fundamentalists caught on tape.

The debate over why we are here continues. By the way, chck out Francis Collins and others the Templeton science fesival last year:

What it Means to be Human (Part 4/5) from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

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Science and Religion Compatible? Yes and No – Let’s Look Pragmatically

science cartoon
The one true debate of contemporaneity is the science-religion dispute; it hold the last block of reasoning that plagues most people that feel sliced in between the idea of religion, faith and transcendence and rational thought, science and verifiability. Astrophysicist Sean Carroll (not to be confused with Sean B Carroll, evolutionary biologist) of the Discover Magazine blog (definitely not to be confused with the Discovery Institute’s blog!) shares very interesting thoughts on the issue of closing the gap between science and religion.

cover500carrollThis issue has been raised in abundance historically, but during the 20th century atheist scientist came more and more into prominence and fundamentally changed the landscape for religion and a close cousin of science.  The latest attempt championed by many atheist scientists, as well as theists have labeled itself Accommodationism, in short trying to accommodate both a religious faith as well as scientific progress. Carroll does not or tries not to disprove a possible compatibility of science and religion, but he puts brackets around it. Saying:

The reason why science and religion are actually incompatible is that, in the real world, they reach incompatible conclusions. It’s worth noting that this incompatibility is perfectly evident to any fair-minded person who cares to look. Different religions make very different claims, but they typically end up saying things like “God made the universe in six days” or “Jesus died and was resurrected” or “Moses parted the red sea” or “dead souls are reincarnated in accordance with their karmic burden.” And science says: none of that is true. So there you go, incompatibility.

Carroll is interested in keeping inconsistencies out of his tradition and institution, and frankly put: religion is a waterhole of inconsistencies and questionable facts. And as for the sake of keeping intact the scientific community with its deductive methods and standards, I totally agree – religious organizations’ claims of factual events (like Jesus rising from the dead, incarnation, the existence of heaven) are by and large false. But this does not necessarily mean that the endeavor to bridge the social, psychological and institutional gap of science and religion should be rejected.

Anthropologist Scott Atran, who has studied the evolution of religion in history, irrationality and the religious base of terrorism has a fundamentally different view of this issue. In long debates at Edge.org as well as in What is your dangerous idea by John Brockman he asserts that “Religion is the hope that is missing in science”. He grounds his thinking in scientific studies of how religion can and does affect peoples lives, and the way religion in its better moment does affect science. He finds no evidence that scientists or atheists live a more moral life than theists, there are many arguments pro and contra.

Religion, he continues, is a knowledge system, which does not – as opposed to science – treat important human anxieties such as death, birth, loneliness and happiness as incidental accidents in the universe. atranReligion instead, treats these features as central in the universe. And here is of course the lure of religion – its system of belief mirrors the way each individual ponders his/hers place in the universe. However, I do not agree with Atran when he points to the lack of address of science to the issues of love, death and eternity. There is plenty of interesting science written about life and death, but nothing is conclusive and almost always lacks the PR-packaging that religious organizations have perfected through thousands of years (Although recent reports from around the globe clearly shows that atheists are trying their best to catch up).

I do argue in the same manner as both Carroll AND Atran, but my focus is from a pragmatist’s standpoint: I agree that the substantiation of Gods existence is not well-defined and his/hers presence is completely unnecessary to fit the data when we observe the world, and that it adds useless (but pretty) layers of complexity without any relevant increase in understanding. But I also think that science and religion are not incompatible and we can certainly imagine a religion that is directly correlated to new scientific findings and keep intact the nonaligned status of scientific thought. But whether or not the accommodationalists are on a path toward greater scientific integration in religion and whether or not the Tempelton Foundation’s enterprise to debate non-scientific issues life with the use of scientists and theologians alike is something for the future to decide.

More articles and news on the science-religion debate here, herehere, here and here

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