Is It Reasonable To Believe in God?

There’s been a lot of talk about Alvin Plantinga’s latest book. Plantinga is the most prominent philosopher/theologian who is dealing, regularly and at length, with the issues of theodicy and the existence of God, issues that we often confront on this blog. I haven’t read enough Plantinga to have much of an opinion other than 1) he’s smart, and 2) I think he’s too analytic for my tastes.

However, Scott Paeth, whom I trust very much, has weighed in with a lengthy post. Here’s his conclusion:

The work of “saving the appearances” in a loving and all-powerful God in the face of the reality of suffering can take place within the context of the recognition that one may be wrong, and even within the context of grave doubts about the goodness and power of God. And here again the analogy to the work of science is a propos, because science too operates within the framework of accepted theories that have to find ways to maintain themselves in the face of counter-evidence.

To me the deep connection between science and religion isn’t that they ultimately confirm or must support the same picture of reality, but that they are in many ways analogous approaches to thinking about how we know and what we know about the world, which run on parallel tracks with one another. They may view the same phenomena, and come to different conclusions, but they both operate with the context of human attempts to reason about and make sense of the world within which we dwell. And in that regard both are valuable and necessary.

Read the rest of his post: Against the Stream: Plantinga, Nagel, and the Heart’s Reasons.

And you may also be interested in this ongoing Jesus Creed series by Jeff Cook.

  • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

    If you are scientist, and you are attempting to “find ways to maintain” an accepted theory then you are doing science wrong. Either the evidence can be incorporated into the accepted theory, the evidence leads to a new or modified theory, or the evidence is flawed in some way.

    • Eric E

      “If you are scientist, and you are attempting to “find ways to maintain” an accepted theory then you are doing science wrong.”

      Not really. Scientists often, when faced with counter-evidence to theories that otherwise seem correct, find ways to maintain the theory in the face of these anomalies. Philosophers of science and sociologists of science have been pointing this out for many years. Consider that the two major theories in physics right now – general relativity and quantum mechanics – are in conflict with each other. What scientists didn’t do when they realized this was scrap one or both of the theories. Rather, they’ve acknowledged the conflict and are working to resolve it.

      As Lakatos said, all scientific theories are born with anomalies. Scientists need to stick with these theories in the face of counter-evidence, otherwise they’d never go anywhere. You are correct to say that evidence can be incorporated into accepted theories or lead to new/modified theories, or show to be flawed. The problem is that scientists don’t know ahead of time which one it will be. What if some evidence is found that conflicts with a known theory? You can’t say ahead of time whether the evidence is flawed or the theory. Science works best when you have some scientists “finding ways to maintain” an established theory and other scientists trying to scrap/modify the theory to find something better. That way all avenues are tried and you don’t prematurely scrap a theory that could be true.

      tldr version: If you don’t find ways to maintain accepted theories in the light of counter-evidence, then your theories will never go anywhere because they will be thrown away before you even get started.

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        Scientists can re-test a theory when encountering new data relevant to that theory. But when retesting with new data, the purpose should not be to maintain the theory, to keep the status quo. As Lausten said, that isn’t science, or at least that mustn’t be the objective of honest science.

        No, the objective should simply be to see what any re-test reveals, and then draw conclusions accordingly. This could mean any one of three things: 1) the theory does not change, 2) the theory must be revised, or 3) the theory must be scrapped.

        But science must not be practiced with the objective of maintaining option 1.

        • Eric E

          I don’t want to get into an argument about what science is and isn’t, but some of the best scientists have maintained theories in the face of conflicting evidence. There’s no question about that. (Read Frank Wilczek’s book “Lightness of Being.” Wilczek is a 2004 Noble prize winner in physics. He has an appendix in there called “From “Not Wrong” to (Maybe) Right.” It tells how he took a theory that was “not wrong” and wrote a paper that was, strictly speaking wrong (that is, the theory didn’t fit the data). It wasn’t until later that they could make better measurements to show the wrong theory gave better results. Wilczek’s concluded with talk about how Popper’s notion of falsification doesn’t always work in practice: “Rather in many cases, including some of the most important, we suddenly decide our theories might be true, by realizing that we should strategically ignore glaring problems.”) I can give other examples of other scientists doing similar things, if you require it.

          “But science must not be practiced with the objective of maintaining option 1.”

          Why not? You’ve given no argument for why this should be the case and I’ve given examples of scientists who haven’t followed this advice and it worked out well for them. As I said above philosophers and sociologists (and historians) of science have showed this view of science to be incorrect.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            If new data relevant to a theory is tested, and the results indicate the theory should remain unchanged, then that’s science. If, on the other hand, the results of new data testing indicate the theory should be changed, but the scientist insists otherwise, that is not science.

            Take heliocentrism: Galileo stated that the earth revolves around the sun and gave verifiable proofs. The Catholic Church rejected this, because it held that the sun revolves around the earth. In spite of Galielo’s scientific proof, the Catholic Church’s approach was to maintain an accepted “theory” in spite of new evidence that insisted the theory must be changed.

            This is the context — i.e., generally belief/opinion versus proof of fact/truth — in which I discuss the meaning and operation of science.

          • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

            “Consider that the two major theories in physics right now – general relativity and quantum mechanics – are in conflict with each other.”

            I don’t have time for a lengthy discussion, sorry. Basically, you are using examples that don’t fit the discussion. A purpose of the scientific method is to handle our innate confirmation bias and force us to question our intuition. Of course they “don’t know ahead of time”, that’s the whole point. You bring up the latest theories that are in flux and full of holes. That’s why science keeps doing experiments, they aren’t done yet.

            They are however done with the question of the universe being billions of years old (although some may continuing to refine that number). That theory does not need maintenance. It is used to support many other theories, like evolution. A surprisingly high percent of Americans have trouble with those two theories because people keep talking like they are scientists and questioning them when all of their concerns have been addressed for over 100 years.

            Apply your questions first to the age of the universe and see how they don’t begin to poke holes in that theory. Then try again to apply those questions to quantum physics. Unless you are a physicist, you will probably need to do a lot of study to properly address your questions.

          • Evelyn

            The way that science “should” be practiced and the way that science >is< practiced are two different things. Science is practiced by humans who are imperfect. There is a lot of ego and resistance to change and careers ride on given theories. If a scientific discovery, observation, or method does not fit within a current paradigm (especially if it is being proposed by someone who hasn't made a reputation in the field) it takes years and a battle to get it accepted. You can take plate tectonics as an example. "Continental Drift" was proposed by Alfred Wegener, an astrophysicist (an outsider to the geological community), in 1911 and wasn't accepted until 1963-1967. As another example, the theory of evolution has it's origins in pre-Socratic thought …

          • Eric E

            “If new data relevant to a theory is tested, and the results indicate the theory should remain unchanged, then that’s science. If, on the other hand, the results of new data testing indicate the theory should be changed, but the scientist insists otherwise, that is not science.”

            Unfortunately, this isn’t true. If only science were that simple. Using Galileo as an example, one of the arguments that his opponents presented to him was the question of why a rock falls perpendicularly to the ground. If you drop a rock off a tower, it lands directly below you. Galileo’s naysayers said if the earth was moving as Galileo said it was, then you would expect the rock to not to hit the ground directly below where you dropped it from. Galileo’s response was to re-interpret this evidence through the lens of relativity. The interesting thing about this is that this is no longer a matter of opinion vs. proof or a matter of evidence in conflict with theory. Rather it is two theories interpreting the evidence in different ways. Who’s interpretation is correct? Looking back, we obviously know Galileo’s interpretation was but at the time it was not as clear.

            My point in telling this story is that statements like what I quoted above just don’t make sense in light of how science actually works. Interpretations of evidence can differ based on what your theory is. And evidence that supports a theory can always be reinterpreted to refute it (or vice versa).

          • Evelyn

            The thing in science that comes closest to the problem of Evil in theology would be a scientific paradox (given that under the assumption that God is Good and all-powerful, the problem of Evil is, itself, a paradox). If there is enough counterevidence to undermine a theory (which usually isn’t the case), a “paradox” can be declared and accepted and scientists will work to resolve the paradox. For examples, see the list of paradoxes on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_paradoxes

            Sometimes paradoxes can be resolved by changing the point of view of the observer (e.g. time compression in relativity) or by changing the method of observation (e.g. wave-particle duality). Some paradoxes are harder to resolve like when you observe something in quantum mechanics and your very act of observation changes the outcome of your experiment.

            By comparing scientific theories to the problem of Evil, Paeth assumes that paradox in science is the norm when actually it isn’t so his assertion is confusing.

          • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

            Again Eric, you use an example that doesn’t support your argument. Galileo was a long time ago. An important aspect of science is that it is self-corrective. It has improved over the centuries. An example of one person who improperly applied evidence and came to a wrong conclusion says nothing about science. It only says something about that one person. And science does not argue about people being imperfect. It understands that and tries to find a way to deal with that. That’s what repeating experiments and peer review are all about.

            Also, Galileo was 1630 and relativity was 1910, so I’m not sure what you even meant by what you said. You should really do some more study before commenting any further.

          • Eric E

            Lausten,

            Galileo quite explicitly uses the concept of relativity in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems to re-interpret the evidence that his opponents used to argue against him. See his discussion about the ship. Sometimes it is referred to Galilean invariance. This is quite well known and a simple google search would tell you this (to start with, there are Wikipedia pages on both “Galilean invariance” and “Galileo’s ship,” and then even a cursory look at Einstein’s book “Relativity: The Special and General Theory” you would see that he refers many times to the Galilean transformation), so I would suggest that you drop the snarky comments about me having to study more.

          • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

            That’s great Eric. You respond to the one thing that you have some evidence for and ignore everything else that I have said. Nice. Who’s snarky now?

          • Eric E

            1) Everything I’ve said so far is backed by evidence. If you need a specific reference to anything I’ve said above, I will be happy to provide it.
            2) I couldn’t see what your previous comment had to do with anything I’ve said so, yes, I ignored it.
            3) To answer your question, by my count, both of us.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            It always baffles me when I see people reference Wikipedia when trying to support an argument. Maybe it’s for my professional standards as a writer, but using Wikipedia as a source is thoroughly amateur. It is a common repository of “information,” but by no means reputable or trustworthy one. As a general gateway, Wikipedia is fine. But my goodness, don’t quote it. If anything, review whatever references any given Wikipedia article cites and then quote those references (if, and only if, such references are reputable; good ones typically are university studies, papers/books by renowned authors who are experts in their fields, etc).

            Of course, this is a casual blog conversation, not an academic debate platform. But still.

          • Eric E

            R. Jay,

            My only reason for mentioning Wikipedia was because what I was saying is very widely known and Lausten was suggesting I didn’t know what I was talking about. The 2 wikipedia pages were something that Lausten could easily find in a couple seconds. And I don’t know if you noticed, but I actually did give 2 primary sources, Galileo’s Dialogue and Einstein’s book on relativity.

            So I did exactly what you said: I didn’t quote Wikipedia, I used it as a “general gateway” to some information, and I referenced primary sources. What, exactly, is the problem?

          • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

            Gosh Eric, you got me. I thought you were referring to Einsteinian special relativity when actually you were referring to the principle of relativity, something very different. I still don’t know what your point is since Galileo did apply the principle correctly, he didn’t manipulate or ignore evidence. It is an example of science working in the way that I described it.

            And R. Jay, Wikipedia is not amateur. The majority of data in Wikipedia is accurate. If you want to argue something, attack the data and the logic, not where the data is found.

          • Eric E

            Lausten,

            My point above was as follows. R. Jay said:

            “If new data relevant to a theory is tested, and the results indicate the theory should remain unchanged, then that’s science. If, on the other hand, the results of new data testing indicate the theory should be changed, but the scientist insists otherwise, that is not science.”

            He then also brought up the example of Galileo and the church. Because he mentioned Galileo, I thought I’d use an example from Galileo’s work (rather than some more contemporary scientist, as you suggested I should have done).

            But onto my point. What R. Jay said in the quoted text above isn’t correct. He wrote about “results indicate” and “new data testing indicate” which suggests that data or test results just straight-forwardly lead to theories. The story about Galileo was to show that tests and data from those tests have to be interpreted. And, additionally, how we interpret data depends on our theories about the world. I didn’t mention this above but this is basically the same idea as what philosophers mean when the talk about the underdetermination of science. Let’s my test is dropping a rock and the results of that test are that it lands directly below where I dropped it. Then the geocentrist (at the time) is going to say that this test is “proof” that the earth isn’t moving at thousands of miles per hour and is, in fact, stationary. Galileo countered this with a different interpretation of the evidence in his Dialogue that used the concepts of relativity and reference frames. Two different interpretations of the same test.

            My contention (and this is a fairly standard view by philosophers and historians of science, IMO) is that science normally operates like this. Data doesn’t “indicate” that a theory should be changed or remain unchanged, as R. Jay suggests. Rather, tests, evidence, data, etc. have to be interpreted and then scientists “indicate” whether theories should change or not change.

            And back to the overall point that started this all. Scientists definitely do and often should try to find ways to maintain a theory in the face of counter-evidence. I say this for a few reasons, only 2 of which I’ll mention for now: 1) As I said above, evidence is always subject to interpretation and it may be that what looks like counter-evidence just hasn’t been interpreted correctly. 2) A theory that has counter-evidence may be fruitful in some other way (see my discussion of Wilzcek above), such as making useful predictions.

            By attempting to maintain current theories, scientists are able to explore all possible avenues, re-interpret tests, and attempt to make the theory more robust. Of course, if problems keep arising, scientists will start exploring alternative theories. If and when those alternative theories start to look better (less contradictions, makes better predictions, seems simpler, seems more elegant, etc.) then they might adopt the new theory.

          • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

            What I suggested was to use an example that supported your point.

            Of course data has to be interpreted, that’s implied in the quote you are attempting to say is wrong. The guy who said that the rock dropping “proved” something, he was wrong. That’s the point of the story, not that data doesn’t change theories or whatever it is you are trying to say. That’s why science involves repeating experiments, listening to others, reviewing each other, being open to new information, new ideas, like the principle of relativity that Galileo introduced.

            The phrasing you are using sounds to me like you are saying that some scientists “attempt to maintain” a theory for some emotional or irrational reason, strictly because they like the theory, or they are getting funded to maintain or something. This may just be semantics, since you also describe what I would call refining a theory. R. Jay’s quote is perfectly consistent with refining theories. Some of what you say is consistent with it, some not so much.

  • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

    First of all, Plantinga’s argument is really, when boiled down, the very same argument we’ve had on here many, many times: you can almost never establish subjective belief as verifiably objective truth. He takes the naturalist/materialist issue to the mat in his argument, but I would have to read his book to understand his approach and how he draws his conclusions. The likelihood is I won’t do that any time soon.

    But concerning your post title “Is it reasonable to believe in God,” my issue is with Plantinga, and is the same issue I have with many Christians who stand on a platform of “progressive”: their presumptions of God. Plantinga said the following in the video from the link you provided:

    “When I contemplate, when look at the mountains, when I look at tree tops in my back yard, when I go to church, when I read the Bible, and on many other occasions I find myself convinced that there is such a person as God.”

    There remains a pervasive presumption that “God” is a person, a being. I reject this presumption outright. It is old, it is tribal. And it is a presumption that stems from the very same ancient tradition and book which many “progressives” claim to be taking a fresh approach to.

    If such an approach is to be intellectually honest, it must be holistic. Otherwise, the only thing “E/emergents” are doing is being evangelical, but only very socially and theologically liberal instead of socially and theologically conservative. That’s not progressive. It’s just a new pair of boots for the same old man with the same broken legs.

    So as I see it, if “progressives” want to start being “reasonable” when it comes to belief in God, they should actually start using their faculties of reason to question the “-hood” and “-ness” of “God” before asserting certain presumptions as preordained or self-evident fact/truth.

  • Chris

    “I haven’t read enough Plantinga to have much of an opinion other than 1) he’s smart, and 2) I think he’s too analytic for my tastes.”

    What’s your definition of analytic? Do you not like philosophy? Philosophy is analytic practically by definition. It’s just careful thinking. Should we be as un-analytic as possible when approaching these things? Better to be sloppy thinkers?

    • Eric E

      I assume he means something like non-continental. It’s more a sociological descriptor, than a methodological one. It has more to do with the philosophers you interact with and the way you interact with them than with how careful you are.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Chris, “analytic philosophy” is a particular school of thought.

      • Chris

        Got it. Just wanted a clarification.

  • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

    “There remains a pervasive presumption that “God” is a person, a being. I reject this presumption outright. It is old, it is tribal. And it is a presumption that stems from the very same ancient tradition and book which many “progressives” claim to be taking a fresh approach to.

    If such an approach is to be intellectually honest, it must be holistic. Otherwise, the only thing “E/emergents” are doing is being evangelical, but only very socially and theologically liberal instead of socially and theologically conservative. That’s not progressive. It’s just a new pair of boots for the same old man with the same broken legs.”

    Finally, someone has the words to express my frustration with a lot of progressive/Emergent theological dialog…wanting it both ways (hold on to the ancient tradition/scriptural interpretations AND re-think them). It’s ok to question the historicity of Noah’s ark due to it’s mythical nature, but we can’t re-think the Gospel stories and resurrection with that same lens?

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Rob, I think a great many E/emergents, for all their progressiveness, are still extremely “gun shy.” I get this. I really do. I grew out of an extremely conservative Christian upbringing, and it took me years to shake some of the old “automatic programming” (which included quite a number of presumptions I learned to simply take for granted as truth). On top of that, the “old man” remains a formidable opponent to progress and wants nothing to do with authentic emergence.

      Liberation is the consequence of radically honest questioning. And in my experience I have discovered renewed faith and renewed life as a result of taking the scary leap of questioning it all.

      • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

        I see you’re near Amish country. I’m about 30 minutes east of there.

        • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

          Nice to meet u neighbor. I live in Berks county, near Reading.

    • http://notapastor.wordpress.com notapastor

      Rob, I agree that it’s frustrating to try to dialogue with movements that haven’t “really” changed, but have only updated their persona. No doubt, we see this all the time, in many fields. But, in my small corner of the world, I’ve discovered several emergents who are radically having it both ways, meaning simply the multiplicity of truth: being evangelical and atheist (to name one binary) at the same time. Hopefully this works towards wholeness, but who knows if there even is such an end point.

      • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

        notapastor, I checked out your blog, looks very interesting. is your psychological persuasion from a depth, a la Jung and Freud and others, perspective? Depth psychology and christian mysticism have transformed my view of spirituality and transformation, and were major contributors (among many other things) to my journey out of evangelicalism

        • http://notapastor.wordpress.com notapastor

          Hi Rob, Yeah, I trained under a psychoanalyst for a few years and even spent a year as an intern at the local Jung Institute, but never moved forward into becoming an analyst myself. I see you’re working through Answer to Job. That book changed my life.

          • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

            Yeah, thanks for the reminder about Answer to Job. I have about 12 books going right now, so AtJ got pushed down on the list unfortunately. Have you read Murray Stein’s “Jung’s Treatment of Christianity”? It’s fantastic.

  • Craig

    I’m curious what religious people find missing or distasteful in “analytic” philosophy of religion, or in Plantinga’s work in particular.

    • Scot Miller

      Some Christians find analytic philosophy of religion missing; other Christians are thrilled beyond words with analytic philosophy of religion. The Society of Christian Philosophers s dominated by so-called “analytic” philosophers, although they claim to be open to any philosophical school or tradition (e.g., continental philosophers, Thomistic philosophers, process philosophers, etc.). Gary Gutting (who is more sympathetic to analytic philosophy than continental philosophy) has a pretty good discussion about their differences in the New York Times: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/bridging-the-analytic-continental-divide/

      • Craig

        Thanks Scot. This bit resonates with my experience:

        Because of its commitment to clarity, analytic philosophy functions as an effective lingua franca for any philosophical ideas….There is, moreover, a continuing demand for analytic expositions of major continental figures. It’s obvious why there is no corresponding market for, say, expositions of Quine, Rawls or Kripke in the idioms of Heidegger, Derrida or Deleuze.

        It’d be neat to have a list of theologians whose work ought to be translated into the philosophical lingua franca, perhaps in the form of a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry.

      • Craig

        On this topic, I just across this: http://philosophersanon.blogspot.com/2012/11/overheard.html

        Funny? True?

  • Brian P.

    Believing in God (and there are lots of definitions for that) seems more reasonable than believing in, say, bodily Resurrection.

    Also, personally, I prefer continental philosophy more so these days.

  • Evelyn

    Paeth says, “The real culprit, he [Plantinga] argues, is a form of metaphysical naturalism and materialism which is … ultimately self-contradictory.”

    I think there is an equal flaw in religious arguments in that they take an experience and extrapolate it to say things about the -estness of God (omnipotent, omnipresent, etc.) when, in fact all the “fact” the religious have to go on is singular experience such as Platinga’s “When I contemplate, when look at the mountains, when I look at tree tops in my back yard, when I go to church, when I read the Bible, and on many other occasions I find myself convinced that there is such a person as God.”

    All the information that Plantinga’s experience of God gives him is “a feeling” when he contemplates and looks at the mountains. This does not mean that God is all-powerful, it just means that God gives us certain feelings that we experience certain things.

    In regards to Paeth’s assertion that science and religion “run on parallel tracks with one another” I don’t think the tracks are as parallel as Paeth might think. When tracks are parallel they don’t intersect. Science deals with explaining objective phenomena (i.e. observations that are repeatable under the same circumstances by more than one person). If there was nothing objective nor common among us in our religious experience then we wouldn’t be able to talk about it or relate to each other about it.

    I also don’t think that Paeth’s assertion that science and religion “view the same phenomena, and come to different conclusions” about it is true. Science and religion generally use different organs of perception to view phenomena and hence aren’t looking at the same things. The phenomena that are observed by scientific methods are measurable directly via our sensory organs or via experimental apparatus that are considered external to our minds whereas religious “data” is typically only obtainable through our minds.

  • http://scottpaeth.typepad.com Scott Paeth

    Hey Tony, thanks for the linkback. I appreciate the trust you place in my writing, particularly as I always feel that I’m just sort of working this stuff out as a go. Last week my class was reading Pascal, and all of my thoughts were very “pascalian”. Now we’re reading Nietzsche and I’m ready to throw over all of theology and morality in the name of the coming Ubermench!

    There are a lot of good comments here and I wish I could address them all, but I think Evelyn’s comment above gives me a good place to jump in. (Forgive me Evelyn I can’t tell from your name if you’re male or female, so if I guess wrong my apologies. I’m going to default to female).

    I think Evelyn’s first point is very true: Religious experience does not actually convey religious content. Rather, it enables us to understand our other experiences in a different way. Thus H. Richard Niebuhr: “Revelation is that intelligible event that makes other events intelligible.” It is, as I say in the blog post, the light that illuminates what we perceive, not a thing that is itself perceived (though we can step back and reflect on it, make it an object of perception, but that is not its primary role). Religious content then comes from our attempt to understand both our religious experience and the existence that is illuminated by it.

    I also think that Evelyn’s point about parallel tracks is well taken, though I would add that I subscribe a “noneuclidian” conception of parallel tracks! However, my point in the original post is that science deals with objective phenomena on exactly the same terms that religion religion does, from within the context of a controlling theory. Science has developed a theoretical framework that is incredibly effective at what it does — namely allow us to manipulate the natural world. This shouldn’t be gainsaid. But it has led many to the belief that scientific reasoning is the only valid reasoning, and that it’s “theory-laden” character is simply the way the world is.

    I will say that I could have phrased my whole parallel tracks argument better. I’m wary of Stephen Jay Gould’s “NOMA” principle, since it smacks too much of trying to separate science and religion too completely. That would make dialogue impossible. Science and religion both ask both “how” and “why” questions of the world and of one another. That said, I don’t think science and religion are looking at different “things” or even, as I said, necessarily reaching different conclusions. Rather, they are as Evelyn suggests, using different methods, but not, as she concludes, looking at different things. They are both looking at the same things, and the apparatus of observation exists no less in the mind of the scientist than the religious thinker. Their different conclusions come from the different characteristics of their “theory laden” frameworks of observation.

    • Evelyn

      You’re right, I’m female.

      I think you’re also right about religion enabling us to understand our experiences in a certain way. Even in science, a new observation or a piece of data is meaningless unless there is some mechanism, framework, or paradigm within which that observation fits. Without a framework, all you can really say is “that’s weird” when faced with an unexpected observation. Our ideas give meaning to our experiences just like scientific theories give meaning to scientific observations.

      “science deals with objective phenomena on exactly the same terms that religion does, from within the context of a controlling theory.”
      I think you really hit the nail on the head when you refer to both science and religion as “controlling”. But I think you’re also referring to the beef that many of us on this blog have with religion in particular is that religions think they have defined God when it is difficult to do so. Trying to understand God from experience is like running an uncontrolled experiment. There seem to be underlying rules but it is difficult to define the parameter space and predict outcomes and different people are at different stages of the experiment at different times.

  • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

    “and that it’s “theory-laden” character is simply the way the world is.”

    My hope is that people simply come to a better understanding of how humans developed the scientific method, then we can get on with just using it. Just as liberal religious people have trouble with attacks on them as if they are fundamentalists, material naturalists have trouble with being attacked for believing in scientism.

    If you say you accept the scientific method as valid, then say it is the only valid form of reasoning, then you have missed one of the most important points about the method, and you need to start over. If you aren’t willing to accept any and all new evidence on any theory including questions about the fundamental premises of consistent laws and the value of experimentation, then you are not scientific.

    What I really don’t understand is, even if you are as open minded as Tony, and are questioning your faith, are open to incorporating new revelations, religion has a fundamental premise that there is a god. Every religion says, “that is simply the way the world is”. They used to burn people just for pointing it out, and in some places they still do. I have said that being that intransigent about science is wrong for science, but I haven’t heard anyone say that it is wrong for religion to hold fast on that one point. Yet I keep hearing attacks on people who claim to be scientific, but are practicing that intransigent scientism. Attack those individuals for doing science wrong if you want, don’t attack science.


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