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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

The Philosophical Dilemma of ‘Creationism’

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on January 5, 2008


I am a Creationist. I strongly believe that what I choose to call G-d is the Creator of the entire Universe and Everything in It, including Platypuses and Pterodactyls (they are my favorite kinds of animals).

I can see how, the hair on Dale’s head is standing on end, and smoke is coming out of his ears… Has Silly Old Bear, one of his most staunchly religious members gone completely mad? No.

I am just tired of religious mad-men/women laying claim to a name, and dragging it through the mud of intellectual dishonesty, making it impossible for me to call myself a creationist, though that is rightly what I am and be proud of it. So now I am re-claiming it. Live with it. I hope Dale understands.

The proponents of Intelligent Design (and other forms of ‘Literal Creationism’) make some rather glaring mistakes that are not related to the scientific process of ‘Creation’. Their first mistake is to is to assume the existence of G-d as a FACT. They cannot prove G-d’s existence. It doesn’t matter how many more or less incredible theories (such as “irreducible complexity”) they come up with to insert G-d as a fact, His existence cannot be proven.

They, in various ways, claim that the reason they are ‘Creationists’ is what is written in Genesis/Bereshit chapters 1 and 2 and the claim that this is the Absolute Word of G-d. That is their second mistake, especially on the part of the ID believers. There is not one word in Genesis/Bereshit about any of the ideas expressed by their theories. Not one. In order to arrive at their conclusions they have to go beyond Genesis/Bereshit, and that places them squarely out-side the realm of the Biblical account. I.e they are Intelligent Designists, not Creationists. To be a Creationist, you have to accept the Biblical Account as is without any additions to the basic Text. Intelligent Design removes an element from the Biblical Account that not only needs to be in there, but which is imperative to the entire Text – the element of Faith, of Awe, of Humility, Understanding one’s place in the Universe and The Who Behind it all.

“Creationists sometimes argue that the idea of evolution must remain hypothetical because “no one has ever seen evolution occur.”
This statement, quoted in the book “Science, Evolution, and Creationism”, is ludicrous. By their own admission then, the idea of Creation must remain hypothetical because no one has ever seen creation occur. One have to wonder why they work so hard at claiming the truth of something when it, by their own logic, must remain hypothetical anyway?! That is their third mistake, and in my opinion, the most grievous, INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY. You simply cannot make statements like “evolution must remain hypothetical because ‘no one has ever seen evolution occur.'” and at the same time claim that ID is factual and scientific and expect people to accept this, not unless you are 4.5 billion years old!

The Biblical Account of how Everything Came Into Being doesn’t say one single word about HOW. It only says “Everything Came Into Being and G-d did it”. Period. No additions, no “intelligent theories”. The fourth mistake ID Believers make is to assume that the Biblical Account needs to be “harmonized” with Science to be considered ‘True’. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Millions of G-dly, honest and ethical people from all over the Earth have absolutely no trouble considering the Biblical Account True without the “help of Intelligent Design”. In fact, we’d rather that Intelligent Design went away and stopped embarrasing decent, G-dfearing folk! The simple fact of the matter is that we have no need for Intelligent Design. The Theory of Evolution and the Biblical Account already provide us with a viable Theory of Intelligent Design, and one that is far better at harmonizing the Idea of G-d as the Creator with Scientific Evidence and Method.

Silly Old Bear

Posted in Creationism, Evolution, Evolution Theory | 2 Comments »

On the Matter of Belief in G-d

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 21, 2007


My very good friend Dale Husband commented on “The G-d Delusion Part 1” on my other Blog:

if you rely only on scientific methods for knowledge, without any input from any religious dogmas, then the idea of a Supreme Creator might occur to you as a hypothesis, but an untested, unfalsified, and therefore unscientific hypothesis is all that it would ever be.”

Which gave me reason to say:

“Correct. Which is why it’s both bad science and bad religion to mix them with each other. But it is equally bad science and bad religion to claim either redundant.

To me this is where Philosophy enters the scene – it is apparently possible to arrive at the hypothesis of a Prime Cause through experience, as well as it is to arrive at the hypothesis of a Non-Prime Cause through experience – but both are dependent on further elaboration of the experiential evidence from a personal stand point to have any meaning. From a philosophical point of view both are equally valid.
It is when we elevate unfalsified hypothesis’ to doctrine that we enter the realm of bad theology and bad science.”

I then had the idea that:

“One of these days I am going to give the justifications behind my personal beliefs, *lol* I seem to be running into the issue a lot these days.”

So I’ll have a go at it…:-)

I agree that there is no scientific evidence either to prove or disprove the existence of G-d, and in fact such evidence is not needed. Why is that? Because when we enter the realm of theology we also enter the realm of Belief, where there is nothing to guide the human mind but circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is defined as ‘evidence providing only a basis for inference about the fact in dispute’. Basically what it means is that there is no hard, physical – scientific – evidence for the hypothesis of G-d being a reality in the Universe, but that it is possible to understand experiential evidence in such a manner. Circumstantial evidence is a weak form of evidence, but it is nevertheless a valid form of evidence. In matters of Law and Science it needs physical evidence to back it up, but for the purpose of personal meaning it works just fine.

When the Author of Tehillim/Psalm 8 says:

“When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established, 5. what is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him? 6. Yet You have made him slightly less than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and majesty. 7. You give him dominion over the work of Your hands; You have placed everything beneath his feet. 8. Flocks and cattle, all of them, and also the beasts of the field; 9. the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, he traverses the ways of the seas. 10. O L-rd, our Master, how mighty is Your name in all the earth!”

he is looking at the Universe and all the wonders it holds and from this experiential evidence he concludes that SomeOne is ultimately responsible for this abundance of wonders. That is my personal position. To me the existence of all those wonders, from the microscopic one-celled organism to the Planet Itself and the Space beyond it is inference enough to spark a Belief in G-d as the Ultimate Cause of it all.

I find it difficult to accept the idea that the Universe as it appears to me on a daily basis is the result of chemical and physical laws, without any form of Ultimate Source.

Carl Sagan wrote:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’

I feel that he was mistaken on one point – what the Hebrew Scriptures actually convey in terms of the Magnificence of our Universe and its Creator and what we are told it means are not the same thing. What is the basic dogma of a religion and what is what its Scriptures actually say is rather divergent matters. The seeming limits of experiences in the times when those Scriptures were presented to the world are just that SEEMING. We assume that because there is no detectable preserved Scientific understanding of the Universe among the authors of the Hebrew Bible that such Scientific understanding didn’t exist. The arrogance of such assumptions is staggering, in my opinion.

I would also like to disagree with the assertion he makes about what people of Faith say about G-d. I disagree simply because as one of those People of Faith I do not describe my G-d as little, nor do I disregard what Science says about the Universe and it’s intricate and magnificent mechanisms and laws, on the contrary I accept Science’s assertions of these matters, and in my mind it only increases the Magnificence of what I believe to be the Ultimate Source.

As I have said in other posts:

Many years ago I resolved the seeming conflict between Science and Religion by looking at what questions they answer respectively on the matter. I think perhaps I intuitively knew that the conflict lies not between the two Disciplines, but between the Disciples of both, because the answer to the conundrum of Science vs Religion I found looks as follows:

Torah/The Bible/Religion answers the Questions “Who and Why?“
Science/Evolutionary Theory answers the Questions “How, When and Where?“

in my opinion Science as such doesn’t give MEANING to human existence. It provides us with a basic idea of what we are in terms of biological, chemical and physical set-up, but it doesn’t explain the ontological aspects of human existence. It doesn’t explain why we, as a cultural species seem to be on the constant look-out for something beyond ourselves. It doesn’t answer the existential questions of human reality.

Correctly or incorrectly, Faith does explain and answer these queries to an extent that to most people seems satifactory, or at least enough to keep us looking.

Belief or non-belief in an Ultimate Source is a matter of personal preferences.

Ultimately I believe in G-d because I want to, because I need to and because I have found no reason not to. Belief in G-d as a statement is extremely personal and while the theological workings of such belief can be questioned and should be, ultimately it all boils down to very personal and very fundamental reasons, that cannot be questioned other than by the individual.

Posted in Belief, Belief in G-d, Carl Sagan, Circumstantial evidence, G-d, Non-Prime Cause, On the Matter of Belief in G-d, Religion, Science, Torah | 7 Comments »

Science vs Religion or Scientists vs Religionists?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 12, 2007


…Dawkins replies “What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?”

“Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

“…this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?”

The quotes in Green and Red above represent an Atheistic and a Theistic approach to the issue of Science and Religion on the Topic of the Origins of Life, the Universe and Everything.

The quote in blue is me looking at the brawl from the out-side.

Many years ago I resolved the seeming conflict between Science and Religion by looking at what questions they answer respectively on the matter. I think perhaps I intuitively knew that the conflict lies not between the two Disciplines, but between the Disciples of both, because the answer to the conundrum of Science vs Religion I found looks as follows:

Torah/The Bible/Religion answers the Questions Who and Why?

Science/Evolutionary Theory answers the Questions How, When and Where?

Put like this there is no conflict, because in this “model” both Science and Religion are doing what they are designed to do. If we let them do that all is well. Because Torah doesn’t say one word about exactly how G-d did it – except alluding to ideas Science has already established (such as man being made from clay, which can very well be the “primordial soup” Science says all life came from) and Science doesn’t say one word about Who did it, though the very study of the mechanism of Evolution can lead individuals to the conclusion that some Prime Cause is behind it all. However neither Science nor Religion/Torah needs the other for verification or validation.

The problems start when we try to mix them, like Intelligent Design is doing or make them, two inanimate disciplines, responsible for what is really the doing of their animate proponents.

How ridiculous does that look? Two puppets on strings being forced to whack away at each other by Puppet Masters, not seen by the Audience, yelling at the top of their lungs:

– “Your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, whack!

– “No, your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, Whack!

– “Look what your evil g-dless puppet did, it broke the arm of my puppet!” Whack, slap!

– “Grrrr, that does it! Your brainwashed, fundamentalist puppet is going to Die!” Slap, whack!

Intelligent Design/Creationism doesn’t work, not primarily because it’s not scientifically sound, but because it attempts to create a synthesis of two ideas, substances that are not designed to be mixed, using tools that are alien to one of the substances, Science.

ID/Creationism presupposes a Prime Cause – that is after all why it exists, there would be no need for ID if that was not its prime purpose – but since a Prime Cause cannot be proved or disproved ID/Creationism violates the first premise of any scientific statement – verifiable evidence.

Science cannot answer ontological or theological problems, and Religion cannot answer scientific problems – both can lead towards the understanding of the other, and they do so frequently, but they cannot take over each others’ role in human life and be expected to lead anything anywhere. They work best side by.

Other Sites that discuss this issue:

In the Name of Towelie!

Posted in Evolution Theory, On the Matter of Belief in G-d, Science vs Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Is Darwin Kosher?”

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 12, 2007


“Is Darwin Kosher?” Discovery Institute Hosts Orthodox Jew who says “No!”

“According to Rosenblum, Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

Would you expect a tree to have a goal? Or a salmon to be aware that it’s life is going to end at the very place it was spawned? Of course not! Just as little as I would expect my printer to be aware of the words it prints when printing the weekly parasha for me – does this lack of awareness disqualify the printer for its job? Does it make my understanding of how the printer works less valid? No. Why? Because the printer does the job it was designed to do.

In a way Science is like my printer – it can only do what it is designed for, and Science is not designed to answer theological questions or even cast light on those matters. The question that this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?

One very big reason is tradition – Science has traditionally been maltreated by the Church, and has therefore naturally adopted a skeptic and cautious attitude towards the Church.

Traditionally the Church has been obsessed with proving the truth of its claims and doctrines, one of them the existence of G-d, and since The Evolution Theory doesn’t require the existence of G-d to be accurate or even mentions G-d, it has been at odds with the Church from get go.

What does this have to do with Judaism? Well, in the view of many Evolution theorists Genesis is Genesis, regardless of who is reading it. But the truth is that Judaism has never bothered with such matters as proving the existence of G-d – that has ALWAYS been an axiom in Judaism – nor is Judaism really interested in the literal veracity of Written Torah, since Oral Torah is the basic Guiding light in Judaism. The Sages have always been reading Torah from a more or less loose point, through allusions, anagrams, allegories and general midrashing. Science, and a logical process has always been part of Jewish education, even back when our ancestors were mere farmers and hunters. So for Judaism the question of Science vs Religion is irrelevant.

Rosenblum was adamant that Orthodox Judaism in its reading of the Bible is not driven by a simple literal approach, but he maintained that Neo-Darwinian evolution stretches the theological truths of the Torah beyond their intended meaning.

Now, this is an interesting statement. Again this claim that “theological truths” have any bearing on Evolution or the other way around. Besides, anyone who has been just half awake for the last 10 years knows that it is actually the theologians that are trying to stretch Evolutionary Theory in a manner that was never intended.

Rosenblum clearly grasped the scientific issues. His article last year in the Jewish Observer challenged Darwin on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils and the inability of natural selection to produce complex systems.

“Rosenblum grasps the scientific issues” to a degree where he is able to establish something that is not true – how brilliant! Sorry, I just couldn’t let that one be. “…on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils”. On the matter of transitional fossils – perhaps the good Rosenblum need to read that?

Instead, Rosenblum, who himself is a graduate of Yale Law School and the University of Chicago, gave a lucid explanation of how Neo-Darwinism survives:

First step: Exclude all non-natural causes as a priori inadmissible. Second step: If Darwinian Evolution were true, it would explain observed taxonomic similarities between different living things. Third step: Since no alternative explanation exists to explain those phenomena, Darwinism must be true. … Fourth step: Since Darwinism is true, all explanations based on non-natural causes are vanquished. Note how that which was a priori excluded at the outset is now deemed to have been somehow disproved. (Jonathan Rosenblum, “The Myth of Scientific Objectivity,” Jewish Observer (May, 2006).)

That last quote is a nice and pretty little logical fallacy:

First statement is false in and of itself, since Evolution Theory does not have any claims whatsoever about non-natural causes – it’s purely agnostic in that realm, and on top of that it is irrelevant to the three following statements – it has no connection to the other parts of the chain. And since his fourth statement is dependent on the first for validity, that falls away too.

Now, how about Statements 2 and 3? Well, the problem is that Evolutionary Theory does explain the taxonomic similarities between different living things, and since Rosenblum stated “If so – then so…” he has disqualified his own reasoning and ends up with no need for alternative explanations, since only his second statement needs verification, and that fails. Simple logic.

The appearance of the idea of “non-natural causes” in this discussion is purely theological and is given power only because theologians have mistaken the aim of Science for the personal opinions of the scientists on theological matters. Rosenblum is no different.

Posted in Evolution Theory, On the Matter of Belief in G-d, Scientists vs Religionists | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Science vs Religion or Scientists vs Religionists?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 12, 2007


…Dawkins replies “What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?”

“Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

“…this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?”

The quotes in Green and Red above represent an Atheistic and a Theistic approach to the issue of Science and Religion on the Topic of the Origins of Life, the Universe and Everything.

The quote in blue is me looking at the brawl from the out-side.

Many years ago I resolved the seeming conflict between Science and Religion by looking at what questions they answer respectively on the matter. I think perhaps I intuitively knew that the conflict lies not between the two Disciplines, but between the Disciples of both, because the answer to the conundrum of Science vs Religion I found looks as follows:

Torah/The Bible/Religion answers the Questions Who and Why?

Science/Evolutionary Theory answers the Questions How, When and Where?

Put like this there is no conflict, because in this “model” both Science and Religion are doing what they are designed to do. If we let them do that all is well. Because Torah doesn’t say one word about exactly how G-d did it – except alluding to ideas Science has already established (such as man being made from clay, which can very well be the “primordial soup” Science says all life came from) and Science doesn’t say one word about Who did it, though the very study of the mechanism of Evolution can lead individuals to the conclusion that some Prime Cause is behind it all. However neither Science nor Religion/Torah needs the other for verification or validation.

The problems start when we try to mix them, like Intelligent Design is doing or make them, two inanimate disciplines, responsible for what is really the doing of their animate proponents.

How ridiculous does that look? Two puppets on strings being forced to whack away at each other by Puppet Masters, not seen by the Audience, yelling at the top of their lungs:

– “Your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, whack!

– “No, your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, Whack!

– “Look what your evil g-dless puppet did, it broke the arm of my puppet!” Whack, slap!

– “Grrrr, that does it! Your brainwashed, fundamentalist puppet is going to Die!” Slap, whack!

Intelligent Design/Creationism doesn’t work, not primarily because it’s not scientifically sound, but because it attempts to create a synthesis of two ideas, substances that are not designed to be mixed, using tools that are alien to one of the substances, Science.

ID/Creationism presupposes a Prime Cause – that is after all why it exists, there would be no need for ID if that was not its prime purpose – but since a Prime Cause cannot be proved or disproved ID/Creationism violates the first premise of any scientific statement – verifiable evidence.

Science cannot answer ontological or theological problems, and Religion cannot answer scientific problems – both can lead towards the understanding of the other, and they do so frequently, but they cannot take over each others’ role in human life and be expected to lead anything anywhere. They work best side by.

Posted in Creationism, Evolution, Religion, Religionists, Science, Science vs Religion, Scientists, Scientists vs Religionists | 10 Comments »

“Is Darwin Kosher?”

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 11, 2007


“Is Darwin Kosher?” Discovery Institute Hosts Orthodox Jew who says “No!”

“According to Rosenblum, Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

Would you expect a tree to have a goal? Or a salmon to be aware that it’s life is going to end at the very place it was spawned? Of course not! Just as little as I would expect my printer to be aware of the words it prints when printing the weekly parasha for me – does this lack of awareness disqualify the printer for its job? Does it make my understanding of how the printer works less valid? No. Why? Because the printer does the job it was designed to do.

In a way Science is like my printer – it can only do what it is designed for, and Science is not designed to answer theological questions or even cast light on those matters. The question that this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?

One very big reason is tradition – Science has traditionally been maltreated by the Church, and has therefore naturally adopted a skeptic and cautious attitude towards the Church.

Traditionally the Church has been obsessed with proving the truth of its claims and doctrines, one of them the existence of G-d, and since The Evolution Theory doesn’t require the existence of G-d to be accurate or even mentions G-d, it has been at odds with the Church from get go.

What does this have to do with Judaism? Well, in the view of many Evolution theorists Genesis is Genesis, regardless of who is reading it. But the truth is that Judaism has never bothered with such matters as proving the existence of G-d – that has ALWAYS been an axiom in Judaism – nor is Judaism really interested in the literal veracity of Written Torah, since Oral Torah is the basic Guiding light in Judaism. The Sages have always been reading Torah from a more or less loose point, through allusions, anagrams, allegories and general midrashing. Science, and a logical process has always been part of Jewish education, even back when our ancestors were mere farmers and hunters. So for Judaism the question of Science vs Religion is irrelevant.

Rosenblum was adamant that Orthodox Judaism in its reading of the Bible is not driven by a simple literal approach, but he maintained that Neo-Darwinian evolution stretches the theological truths of the Torah beyond their intended meaning.

Now, this is an interesting statement. Again this claim that “theological truths” have any bearing on Evolution or the other way around. Besides, anyone who has been just half awake for the last 10 years knows that it is actually the theologians that are trying to stretch Evolutionary Theory in a manner that was never intended.

 

Rosenblum clearly grasped the scientific issues. His article last year in the Jewish Observer challenged Darwin on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils and the inability of natural selection to produce complex systems.

“Rosenblum grasps the scientific issues” to a degree where he is able to establish something that is not true – how brilliant! Sorry, I just couldn’t let that one be. “…on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils”. On the matter of transitional fossils – perhaps the good Rosenblum need to read that?

Instead, Rosenblum, who himself is a graduate of Yale Law School and the University of Chicago, gave a lucid explanation of how Neo-Darwinism survives:

First step: Exclude all non-natural causes as a priori inadmissible. Second step: If Darwinian Evolution were true, it would explain observed taxonomic similarities between different living things. Third step: Since no alternative explanation exists to explain those phenomena, Darwinism must be true. … Fourth step: Since Darwinism is true, all explanations based on non-natural causes are vanquished. Note how that which was a priori excluded at the outset is now deemed to have been somehow disproved. (Jonathan Rosenblum, “The Myth of Scientific Objectivity,” Jewish Observer (May, 2006).)

That last quote is a nice and pretty little logical fallacy:

First statement is false in and of itself, since Evolution Theory does not have any claims whatsoever about non-natural causes – it’s purely agnostic in that realm, and on top of that it is irrelevant to the three following statements – it has no connection to the other parts of the chain. And since his fourth statement is dependent on the first for validity, that falls away too.

Now, how about Statements 2 and 3? Well, the problem is that Evolutionary Theory does explain the taxonomic similarities between different living things, and since Rosenblum stated “If so – then so…” he has disqualified his own reasoning and ends up with no need for alternative explanations, since only his second statement needs verification, and that fails. Simple logic.

The appearance of the idea of “non-natural causes” in this discussion is purely theological and is given power only because theologians have mistaken the aim of Science for the personal opinions of the scientists on theological matters. Rosenblum is no different.

Posted in Darwinism, Discovery Institute, Evolution, Evolution Theory, Genesis, Jonathan Rosenblum, Logical Fallacies, Neo-Darwinism, Nick Matzke, Orthodox Judaism, Theology, Torah | 3 Comments »

Science – Can it dictate Ethics?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 29, 2007


Three opponents, three different results

This entire discussion is a very good example of how a respectful, friendly and fruitful discussion on heated topics should be conducted. It also proves that Scientific-Religious matters can be discussed without all the over and undertones that so often enter into matters that touches on personal experiences and matters of beliefs.

This is a very interesting discussion – I have excluded the arguments that were simple ad hominems and thus had to exclude one of the debaters – nevertheless the arguments deserve consideration and additional rebuttals 🙂 I do hope you do not mind, Dale.

Dale Husband: “Religion was the ONLY basis for ethics in most ancient societies because there was no conception of science or scientific methods in them back then. So religion served a good purpose then. My argument is that we need to go beyond that now.”

It is true that religion was the basis for ethics in ancient times, but I am not sure it was the only one – the Ancient Greeks would probably disagree with that statement. Stating that there was no conception of science or scientific method back then, while it might be a correct assertion by subjective standards today, it would be, IMO, incorrect from an objective standard – we do not know what kind of empirical data religious Laws were based on in those times.

One such example could be the Biblical prohibition against mixing different species of garments – something that has later shown to be a not so good idea, as garments made of animal products (wool and silk) have shown to be less durable if they are sewn or mixed together with plant products (flax and cotton) – it is fully possible, and probable that the Ancients through observation determined this to be true. That they then gave this empirical data divine origin doesn’t detract from the scientific method by which they arrived at the conclusion. Same with breeding different species of animals – the observation that the off-spring did not breed in turn (like mules and sheep goats) would have in the same manner given them empirical data to support the prohibition against cross species breeding. Again that they gave this a divine origin does not detract from their empirical scientific conclusion.

That we decide that decisions, prohibitions, ethics etc in Ancient times were based in religion, without any scientific data to back them up can be asserted if we at the same time judge Ancient times to be less evolved than our times – but what is our basis for such judgment? Each time and culture has its needs, each time and culture has its sociological structure for which it attempts to provide the best solutions to issues challenging that specific time, culture and structure.

CheWorks: “Maybe you are mixing up religion with spirituality, Dale. Science proves there are ethical standards such as recycling. Would God tell us to recycle? No.”

In the beginning of this Blog entry it is determined that CheWorks is a Marxist Atheist, which explains his disparaging comments about religion and G-d.

He asks a question: “Would G-d tell us to recycle?” He then answers his own question: “No“. Whether G-d tells us to recycle or not is actually a matter of debate. The concept of Tikkun Olam – “healing the world” and the various commandments in regards to how to treat animals, fertile land, how to dispose of various waste products certainly indicate that the authors of Torah had a natural cycling and care for natural resources in mind. There are several passages where we are warned about what will happen if we do not care for the Earth and it’s natural resources, and the consequences of misusing are stated as harsh indeed. So stating that G-d does not tell us to recycle is at best ignorant, at worst it’s an Atheist propagandist statement made for the effect and nothing else.

CheWorks:“Nowhere more than in the Judeo-Christian tradition do I see a pathetic God trying to gain respect. This has nothing to do with ethics. Nowadays religion supports wealth at any cost, which means enslaving 99% of the human population. This is hardly ethical.” (sic)

It is interesting that this debater chooses to attack Judaic and Xtian Traditions, but excludes Islamic Tradition, which from his point of view should be just as unethical. Note how he makes a statement about religion and wealth attaching to religion values that cannot be asserted objectively, without any supportive argument of his, and then makes the assertion that what he just said is unethical – that is a straw man, and I am surprised that it wasn’t caught by by the initiator of the debate.

CheWorks:“Can you please explain how science can help homophobes? Is it by showing that they are of the same chromosomes as heterosexuals?”

Interwoven comment by Dale: Interesting that he accepts my premise as valid and moves the discussion forward by bringing in an issue for which it would be a good demonstration of the truth of my idea.

Not really surprising – because Dale is, to CheWorks’ mind, attacking religion, and Judaic and Xtian Traditions in particular, it is only logical that he would accept Dale’s premise and move the discussion on to a subject where he can further attack those “loathesome” traditions. The problem is that the discussion doesn’t take the desired turn – no-one comes in and gets all worked up over what he says – in fact no-one even addresses the low points of his contribution. So he silently crawls back to his hole.

Dale Husband: “Science is still investigating the causes of homosexuality, but if a physical cause was indeed found, it would blow away forever the notion that gays follow a lifestyle that is their free choice, and then there would be no legal basis for them to be punished for expressing their true nature. Homosexuality could no longer rightfully be called a “sin”. But since so many people do not accept evolution as true for religious reasons, they won’t accept those findings either.”

I didn’t catch this the first time around: “But since so many people do not accept evolution as true for religious reasons, they won’t accept those findings either.

I am not sure accepting evolution would automatically imply acceptance of scientific findings that indicate homosexuality is not a choice – I know plenty of people who accept the premise that being homosexual is not at choice, but acting homosexual is, and who as a result of this, IMO, rather strained split of people’s personalities, demand celibacy as the only way to be homosexual. Now one can certainly debate the moral and ethic values of splitting people into beings and actions, but it is a solution that indicate that the people doing so have accepted the idea that homosexuality might not be a choice.

Finally, my third opponent arrived. This one was known as Shadow Bear or Silly Old Bear. Unlike the first two, this one was a friend of mine. He is also Jewish.

To understand my comments below – we have to include the comments by Dale that I was responding to, it might have been excluded from the discussion in Dale’s Blog for whatever reason – in any case it needs repeating here, I hope Dale does not mind.

 

DH: “If you are referring to a criminal, that is a matter for testing as well, by comparing societies that have thedeath penalty with those that don’t. If you mean people like Terry Schivo, it was made clear after her death that she had no possibility of recovery. To keep her body alive would have been wasting resources that would have been better used on people that were more likely to recover.”

SOB:This has me a little concerned – because this reduces a person down to what he or she can produce in terms of what is beneficial to Society. It opens a whole lot of cans, I’d rather see kept closed. It raises the question “Who is to decide what is beneficial to Society?” That has been tried – it didn’t work from a Humane point of view – both the Nazis and the Fascists used this “touch stone” in their politics, and it destroyed a lot of knowledge, experience and human history. The idea that what is good for Society is what a human is worth only works if Society’s basic ethical and moral standards are such that they take into account that we do not always know what is good for Society. What then should be the scientific test to determine this? How do you scientifically measure that which cannot be measured?”

DH: “As I see it, the Nazis and fascists made a point of judging other races of people as inferior without any empirical justification. That was the opposite of scientific thinking and led to their downfall when they were proven wrong. It is true that we do not know the potential value of people and it cannot be measured empirically. But if we do not come up with an empirical reason to prohibit murder, what can we say to a person who rejects all religion and wants a reason to justify whatever he wishes to do, including murder? And keep in mind that many senseless killings have been done in the name of religion. There is the potential for corruption in all things, which is why free inquiry is so important. If we cannot question authority, it can destroy us.”

SOB: “That is not quite true – both the Fascists and the Nazis based their ideas about races of people, disabled – both mental and physical , homosexuals, political and religious beliefs on what they considered to be empirical evidence – such as homosexuals not being likely to reproduce, Jews being a genetic contamination, mental and physically disabled not being productive etc. All based on the science they had access to. Those empirical evidence might not be satisfactory to you and me, but that is only because you and I are measuring the evidence using another scale – based in what we consider ethical. Not because of the science as such.”

“Religion is not necessary for making sound ethical decisions or f.i not to murder. I have not always been a religious man – still I have always held the opinion that all people are equal with equal rights to life. This can be arrived at by simple logical deduction. Atheists and Secular Humanists are not unethical, murderous or amoral. It doesn’t exclude that there certainly do exist such atheists or secular humanists, just as there are unethical, murderous or amoral religious people. Let’s not make Science another religion, Dale – it is quite defendable without needing all the trimmings of religion. Simple logic is enough.”

I would like to here further address one of Dale’s Statements:

DH: “If we cannot question authority, it can destroy us”

As can be seen in many countries, democratic or not, where Freedom of Speech(as it was once created – to safeguard the People’s right to criticize their government without fear of reprisals) is in any way suppressed. Authority that goes unscrutinized will in the end lose all democratic resemblance and become the enemy of that which it was presumably once implemented to protect – the People.

Dale left out another portion, that to my mind is important:

DH: “No one individual should ever have that power[to decide what is beneficial to Society?], but a collective consensus can gradually be reached as a result of people performing observations and experimental tests repeatedly to establish a pattern of benefits among people as a result of following ethical codes.”

SOB: This assumes that

  1. all agree on what are the ethical codes that should be followed, and already you and I are disagreeing on whether science in itself holds ethical merit or not.

  2. scientific evolution always leads to a step higher than previously arrived at, and that is not always the case.

  3. the goals set for the scientific evolution are the same for all at all times. That is not always the case.

DH: “There are indeed limitations to what experimentation and empiricism can do, but the alternative is to do nothing and allow oppressive dogmas that people are so often made to follow to go unchallenged.”

SOB: I agree on the limitations, and that is where I choose to take a step beyond that which can be measured, and presuppose that with or without empirical data, the human mind is capable of creating ethical codes that do benefit the most people without putting a scientific “price-tag” on them. I agree on the oppressiveness of dogmas, if imposed on people without sound reasoning, and I do believe that such dogmas should be questioned. But that is a choice we make, not something that is necessarily scientific – it is still sound though.

Next comment is an example to illustrate the my point:

SOB: Example:“Scientifically it cannot be proven that Homosexuality is not a choice, so if all I had to go on was science I might be inclined to agree with the fundamentalists that homosexuality is indeed a sin according to Torah. There would be nothing to tell me otherwise. But because I do indeed choose what dogmas to incorporate in my ethics I have gone out of my way to find other ways to view homosexuality and Torah, so that the two do not contradict each other. Where there are no scientific data, we still have to make a choice as to how to act ethically.”

I truly enjoy discussing with Dale – he is fun, educated, well spoken and respectful of his opponents.

Posted in Debate, Religion, Science | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

 
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