Re: Science verifies religion and love

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Thu Jul 04 2002 - 17:23:52 EDT

  • Next message: Terry M. Gray: "Re: Scripture: Intrusion Ethics"

    > I didn't say 'limit theological truth to what is
    > scientifically verifiable'.
    > If you think I did, then quote me where I said it.
    > Really, you keep assuming
    > things that I never said. Why is that???? I do weary
    > of always having you
    > claim I said something I didn't say. Please get a
    > better set of glasses.

    If you read what I said, I did not claim to quote you.
      What you did say to paraphrase you is that the truth
    of theological or religious claims should be
    determined by scientific method, but you have already
    admitted that this is not always possible to do. As
    we have discussed before, I think that there are
    significant limits to what can be tested
    scientifically that has any meaning for theology or
    religion, since the biggest questions such as the
    existence of God certainly can't be. Likewise, as
    discussed below, I believe that most testable
    hypothesis are at best ancillary and most often
    completely immaterial to the theological claims being

    > >To limit our lives to what is
    > >scientifically verifiable guts our lives of
    > meaning.
    > So we should make some meaning up? I prefer what
    > ever is, not what I wish
    > it to be.


    But science says nothing about meaning or teleology
    since they are not part of what science describes. A
    well worn analogy is the scientific description of a
    painting. "Science" can describe the pigments, their
    location, etc., but it cannot tell you the meaning of
    the picture or the intent of the painter. I never
    said you should make meaning up, I just said science
    can NEVER give you meaning. Science generally
    describes. Meaning is something beyond it, see my
    discussion of the "meaning" of randomness in natural
    processes below for more explication.

    > >How does science prove my friends exist? How does
    > >science prove my thoughts are rational or even my
    > own?
    > One must be able to clearly define rationality
    > before one can get science to
    > look at it. And that is a bit difficult. It was
    > entirely rational for the
    > Islamic terrorists to do what they did, given their
    > belief system. To you
    > and me, it was irrational.

    You misunderstand my point. My point is that there is
    nothing in the science of neuroscience or
    understanding consciousness that would give us any
    good reason to believe that thoughts are objective or
    rational. Without that presupposition, science itself
    fails, since intersubjective agreement is meaningless
    unless the agreement corresponds objectively to
    something in reality. Science cannot prove that that
    is the case.

    > > How does science test whether my wife or children
    > >love me?
    > Measure their oxytocin levels! see

    Ah, but there are all sorts of neurotransmitters and
    other chemicals that have been linked to the emotion
    of "love" and studies show that these are also
    sometimes linked to other emotional states such as
    fear. There are distinctions between chemicals and
    different kinds of love such as the immediate falling
    in love as opposed to long-term love. In essence,
    this underscores my point. Love is a complex
    phenomenon and I do not doubt that there are
    physiological components of it, but the deeper
    question is do the physiological components make
    someone love me or does the person love me
    subjectively. Love is a subjective experience, not
    objective like the level of a certain chemical
    measured in the bloodstream.
    > How does science tell me whether I should
    > >join the French resistance in Nazi occupied France
    > or
    > >stay at home with my ailing mother who may die
    > without
    > >my help?
    > Why would you think science can foretell the future?
    > This is a strange
    > request, lacking an understanding of what science
    > is. Science can't tell
    > you what will happen in the future, unless you are
    > speaking of astronomy and
    > eclipses.

    Once again, you miss my point. Which is the BEST
    conduct to take, regardless of outcome? This is a
    value judgment that science can say nothing about. I
    am not talking about trying to predict something, I am
    talking about what should I do as a person presented
    with two options which are both morally compelling.
    Science tells me nothing about how to make that
    > How does science verify wether an act of
    > >kindndess to those less fortunate is a good or bad
    > >thing?
    > I would say that philosophy and theology(broadly
    > defined) can't do it
    > either. What is good to an Islamic radical is to
    > fly airplanes into
    > buildings full of innocent people. Like it or not,
    > their theology, their
    > ethics all say that was good. Without some sort of
    > grounding, one has little
    > reason to say they are wrong other than the fact
    > that I don't want to die at
    > their hands.

    Why can't theology do it? Aren't there grounds for
    saying that the radical Islamic theology, vis-a-vis
    the methods and standards of theology is wrong? Can't
    you say within the bounds of theology that their act
    is the equivalent of saying 4+4 = 27? I think you
    give far too much credence to the intersubjective
    agreement in science. Hang out with social scientists
    and you will see most clearly how in complex phenomena
    that epistemological differences result in very
    different interpretation of phenomena. Closest
    analogy I can think of in physics is how to interpret
    quantum indeterminancy, and that is a pale comparison
    to the differences you get in social science over
    methodology, epistemology and interpretation.

    > >
    > >The only way science can even begin to say anything
    > >about these and a billion more questions that are
    > of
    > >REAL importance to human lives is by making
    > >suppositions which are not scientifically testable.
    > >Indeed, if scientists can even feign an answer to
    > any
    > >of these things, it is only by importing
    > philosophical
    > >positions into the mix, almost always without
    > >admitting that it is doing so.
    > You are conflating science with non-science.
    > Science doesn't make value
    > judgements. While value judgements are, er... of
    > value, they are not
    > scientific. So asking science to answer them is not
    > proper. Thus I don't
    > really see the point of your comments above.

    The point is theology is generally concerned with
    value judgments. Science therefore, by your own
    admission, cannot be the arbiter of the rightness or
    wrongness of those value judgments. Theology (and
    philosophy for that matter) has an independent
    existence that cannot be subsumed or arbitrated by

    > >
    > >I find the idea that we judge a religion by
    > >scientifically testable claims naive and simply
    > >unworkable. Which claims are subject to scientific
    > >test?
    > It can test that a story is suited to the
    > time it is purported to
    > have happened in. There are lots of things which
    > science can test about
    > religion. The Cohan gene is a test of the religious
    > claim that Moses
    > appointed his brother's descendants as priests. (See
    > Thomas et al, Origins
    > of Old Testament priests Nature 394, 138 - 140
    > (1998)). Say a religion
    > clams that a devastating meteor struck in southern
    > Iraq (a religious claim
    > recently made). It can verify or refute the claim.

    I generally agree with this. Perhaps it is your
    penchant for using sweeping language that gets us at
    perceived loggerheads. Where I think we fundamentally
    differ is that many of these issues are at best
    ancillary and at worst immaterial to theological
    claims. We have been around this block before. The
    veracity of verifiable data in a text only means that
    I have less to be skeptical about concerning that
    text. It gets me no closer to believing the
    non-testable assertions made therein.

    > It can't verify
    > metaphysical statements but science can verify what
    > surrounds those things.

    Yes and no. Take "chance" -- Monad and Dawkins argue
    the role of chance in the universe shows that there is
    no purpose, all is meaningless, yadda, yadda, yadda...
      Someone like Peacock or Ward says that chance shows a
    constantly creating active God, a non-deterministic
    universe, and can lead in various ways to the
    outworking of God's plan. Science can show us that
    there are mechanisms which appear to us to be random.
    Now, the interpretation is entirely different. Are
    they random because we have incomplete knowledge about
    them? Are they ontologically random? If they are,
    does that mean that randomness = purposelessness or
    that randomness = some hidden purposiveness of God?
    What does it mean? Science can NEVER answer that
    question. Yet, Monad and Dawkins and the like claim
    that it does -- randomness = purposelessness, and
    unfeeling and uncaring cosmos, etc. Science is not
    and cannot be the arbiter over the metaphysical
    interpretation of its facts.

    > You already agreed that whether God works in
    > >the world is not testable. This, according to
    > Atkins
    > >and Dawkins, is victory for atheism, because God is
    > a
    > >scientific claim and if it is not demonstrable, it
    > >does not exist.
    > Boy, don't know what you have been reading. If you
    > think I said that God is
    > a scientific claim, then quote me and tell me where
    > I can find it.

       If you read what I wrote, I said nothing of the
    sort. I said that you admitted God's action in the
    world is not scientifically testable, which you have.
    I then went on to say that Dawkins and Atkins believe
    that this (God not being a scientifically testably
    hypothesis) shows that God does not exist, because if
    God cannot be a scientific hypothesis, we have no good
    reason to believe he exists.


    > I think I just did. But don't expect me to say that
    > God can be proven. Why
    > is it that you constantly read into what I am saying
    > rather than actually
    > reading what I am saying?

    Apparently, because you don't read what I write. I am
    sorry that you confuse what I actually wrote with what
    you think I meant to write. In retrospect, I think
    that our disagreement merely boils down to the fact
    that you tend to say things with a much broader sweep
    with what I would consider overly broad language,
    especially as concerns science. When we try to get
    down to details, we are (gasp!) probably not that far

    All the best,


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