I recently had a heated exchange on a board with an atheist. I don't remember who but I take his comments to be emblematic of the basic attitude of modernity toward religion. It's the old "science gives tangible effects" ploy:
Proof? Use demonstrable results as a proxy for the congruence of a belief system with reality. The rationalist world view has produced. In spades. Over centuries. Uncountable times. Medicine, computers, physics, engineering, cars, planes, trains, food supply, energy....on and on and on. Man's living conditions vastly improved...
This understanding of faith is naive and simplistic. This person's understanding of the history of ideas is even worse. First, it is not the rationalist view that has produced anything. Rationalism was destroyed by Kant. It is so extremely naive and simplistic to think that all modern thought amounts to is how to build bridges. That's the kind of thinking that perished with the 1939 world's fair.
Secondly, you want to pretend that skepticism and atheism are the subtext to science and are the true benefactors in giving us this stream of material gadgets. But he totally ignores the fact that many of the major scientific discoveries that gave us a modern world were made by Christians, or at least by those with some tangential religious ideas. I think more by Christians than any other group.
How does the theistic world view compare in delivering results? Nada. Zero. Zilch. Silence. Christians drinking poison, handling snakes and driving out demons? Christians can't even do what the book explicitly states they should be able to do, never mind the uselessness of these claims. Predict an eclipse? Can't do it. Regrow a severed limb? Can't do it.
I am not just using my blog as a bully pulpit to fire back at this guy while he can't post. Don't think I didn't give him something to think about on that boards. But I think these "ideas," these rantings express something we can't forget about the way a lot of people view religion now days. First of all, he wants to compare results between religion and science. He tags this "rationalism" vs "religion" so for him religion is faith and faith is irrational. I have already dealt with that none recently. Science and religion exist for difference reasons. Its' absurd to compare their results. That would be like saying "the red cross has not cleared a single square foot of land for the completion of the new freeway, it's a total failure as a humanitarian organization."
Those who claim that the lack of scientific validation for the truth claims of religion fail to understand the nature of scientific inquiry. Rather, they are imposing a philosophical point of view which pretends to be "science." These people are not scientific, but "scientistic." The transform a procedural methodology, material reductionism, into a metaphysics, that of materialist reductionism. The scientific methodological procedure proceeds from the notion that we gain understanding of the material realm by breaking down its components into their smallest aggregate parts to understand how they function. The philosophy of reductionism tries to reduce everything to the material realm. The philosophical reductionist says that because we know that material effects occur due to material causes, there must be noting but material causes. Anything that is not explained by a material cause is automatically excluded from reality. In this way they assume that miracles cannot accrue, and that God must not exist, because after all, there can be nothing beyond material cause and effect. C.Science is not the enemy of religious belief. In fact many modern greats in science are Christians.
Secondly, somehow our friendly atheist seems to think that snake handling sects are a major part of the religious world. I wonder if that isn't indicative of ignorance of religious groups? As for his final taught: "Christians can't even do what the book explicitly states they should be able to do, never mind the uselessness of these claims. Predict an eclipse? Can't do it. Regrow a severed limb? Can't do it." I don't
I really don't know where the Bible says we should be able to do either of these feats. I think any Christian who takes an astronomy class could predict an eclipse. Where does the bible say we should be able to regrow severed limbs? Atheists can't do that. why has that become the litmus test for religious truth? His vaunted science can't do that.
"Truth" does not need to be believed. No amount of fasting, cajoling, praying, wishing or hoping is necessary for any natural law to operate as it does.
we don't pray for natural law to work.
No banging of pots are required to get the Sun to shine after an eclipse. No heartfelt prayers are required to get the car motor to turn over. Just chemistry and physics.
These aren't things we would pray about anyway. This person is clearly venting. What amazes and amazes me is the sort up anger, frustration and hated these guys have. They are effecting a cultrual change at the grass roots level. we might be watching the beginning demise of religious consciousness and it's odd that we don't have the balls to even to do anything about it. I do not think they can succeed in destroying conscientiousness of God. As Andrew Newberg said "God wont go away" because he's hard wired into our consciousness. What they will probably succeed in doing is in destroying the consciousness necessary to hold together the social fabric. With Christianity gone as a social institution a lot of people will be lost and will live miserable lives for their lack of hope and value. All because ignorant people rant and rave and Church is too complacent to bother learning anything so they can't deal with it.
This is something I shot back at him:
the idea that physics = truth is stupid. science is a social constrict, you are merely imposing a truth regime that you take for "truth" because you don't understand how ideas work and you don't understand how science works.
Theists wish they were on the same playing field. They are not. Theism is intellectually bankrupt.
This is comging from a guy whose read a single theologian, who thinks science is the only form of knowledge but knows so little about science he thinks the universe is like a seed inside the singularity wasting eternally to pop out. He knows so little about intellectual history that he thinks science is rationalism.Almost every major modern thinker has been a Christian or religious. Almost no atheist in the pile. He think the playing field is science and the production of modern conveniences. So you don't even know where the ball park is. The only product of modernity for these scietnistic types is gadgets and tangible scientific products to buy.
Dawkins is a scientist but he has not any major discoveries.
Sagan was a nice guy and a fine scientist but not a great one, no major discoveries (temature of Venus, good but not in the league with Newton or Boyle).
Modern science was basically invented by Christianity. It was certainly nurtered by it.
There are those who try to extend scientific knowledge beyond its proper realm, that of explaining the workings of the physical world, and to forge a philosophical pretense. This pretense works on two levels. First, it is grounded in the material. It argues that since science tells us that there are natural causes for all effects, that there must be noting beyond the physical world. Since there is nothing beyond the physical world it is "unscientific" to believe in God. They understand this term "unscientific" to mean "untrue" or "unbelievable." In realty, while it may be "unscientific" in the sense that it is not something that can be proven through scientific means, that does not equate to "untrue." Science and religious belief function in two totally different domains. Religious belief functions to integrate the individual into the universe in such a way as to offer a sense of unity and belonging. Science functions to explain the way the universe works physically. These are two different tasks, and one cannot presume upon the other. The different domains model is not the only way to understand the relation between science and religious belief, and I do not support an absolutist model. I think the two do overlap in certain areas, especially where religious believers claim that God Affects the world; for example with claims of miracles. Nor should my comments be construed as claiming that religious claims of miracles should not be investigated.B.Science or Scientism?
Science owes Christianity Debt
All of the early modern scientific greats were Christians, and not merely because "everyone was," most of them (Newton especially) were exptremely devout (even the persecuted Galileo).But it is not only because of the rise of great Christian thinkers that science owes its birth to Christianity. It is also because of the universe involved in Greek science and in Christian science. R.G. Collingwood, one of the great historians of science, and Alfred North Whitehead, one of the great thinkers, philosophers, and historians of science in the 20th century both reached this conclusion. Collingwood reprises three major periods in the development of science:
(1) Greek: Nature permeated by mind, knowable because unchanging; two views:
(a) atomists; it's all the same substance all the down.
(b) idealists; it' all appearances of same principles; sameness in dealing thwith change, change is just different kind of permanence, appearance or mode of permanence.
(2) Renaissance (really early modern)[correlation between history and the way science came to be done.
Antithetical to Greeks, in Copernicus (1473-1543) telesio (1508-80) and Bruno (1548-1600). Denial of organic model, rise of mechanistic. Nature doesn't order itself. Christian view, product of creator, analogy between God and universe, watch maker and watch. For Greeks intelligence was nature's own, for PR was product of divine intelligence. Focus shifts from nature to mind. Rationality imposed from without [regularity due to natural laws] imposed from without. In other words, because the Greek incorporated mind into nature and fussed the distinction they were not able to understand the universe as rational and independent of human observations. Because Christianity saw the world as a machine and creation of a rational machine maker they were able to develop the mechanistic model which led Newton to invent scientific reductionism and that essentially is the basis of modern science (and here I speak of methodological reductionism and I do not use the term in the pejorative at all!).
The myths about religion and its relation to science are part of the cultural battle for the hearts and souls of humanity. The force of hate is growing in the world and that hate is super heated toward Christianity for verity of reasons. We have to combat it wtih truth. We have to start dealing with these misconceptions a forceful and radical way. We can only do this by educating ourselves.
Sources and other books of interest:
Fuchs, Stephan. The Professional Quest for Truth: A social Theory of Science and Knowledge. State University of New York Press, 1992.
Gay, Peter. The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism. New York: W.W. Norton & co. 1966.
Hacking, Ian. The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas about Probability, Induction, and Statistical Inference. London: Cambridge University Press, 1975.
Jacob, Margaret C. The Newtonians and the English Revolution: 1689-1720. Ithica New York: Cornell University Press, 1976.
James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience.
Lukes, Steven. "On the Social Determination of Truth," Modes of Thought: Essays on Thinking in Western and Non-Western Societies. ed. Robin Horton and Ruth Finnegan. London: Faber & Faber, 1973.
Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Second edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970 (originally 1962).
Popkin, Richard H. The History of Skepticism From Erasmus To Spinoza. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, revised edition, 1979 (original 1948).
Editor. "Introduction," The Philosophy of The 16th and 17th Centuries. gen. ed. Paul edwards and Richard Popkin. New York: The Free Press, Div. of Macmillon, 1966.
Shapin, Steven. A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth Century England. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Shapin, Steven and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan And The Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. Princeton University Press, 1985.
Stout, Jeffrey. The Flight From Authority: Religion, Morality, and The Quest For Autonomy. Notre Dame, London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981.
Redwood, John. Reason, Ridicule, And Religion: The Age of Enlightenment In England 1660-1750. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976
Willey, Basil. The Eighteenth Century Background: Studies On the Idea of Nature In the Thought of the Period. New York: Columbia University Press, 1941.