[quote]Originally posted by Fluffy:
I agree. However, the truth is absolute... belief does not change what actually happened. In that sense, science and religion converge or, more specifically, science and the correct religion converge. By examining the claims each religion makes and comparing it to what can be observed, it should theoretically be possible to determine the correct religion.
This is not possible in practice because although science may be devoid of religion, scientists are certainly not. The religion that most scientists have currently wedded themselves to is naturalism, the faith that nature is self creating and sustaining. It is an old religion, but it is not science. It does not affect most of the work that is performed, but it does affect the current interpretation of past events. We need look no farther than the conduct of the scientific community (embodied in the NEA) in this country to see this religion at work. No teacher is allowed to question the current scientific dogma in schools. Evidence that may contradict that dogma is not allowed as part of the curriculum, and it may not be suggested that the evidence for naturalism is anything less than complete. If it is discovered that a teacher holds beliefs that conflict with the established naturalistic religion, that teacher can be fired unless he keeps those beliefs and the evidence for them to himself. Research in universities that may challenge the current naturalistic beliefs is discouraged, and it normally does not receive sufficient funding due to its scope. Several universities do not permit students who accept creation to receive advanced degrees. In short, the status quo is enforced with the zeal of true believers, not scientists.
If you choose to believe in the infallibility of those who have become our high priests, be my guest. I most certainly do not.</strong><hr></blockquote>
The very essence of science is to try to describe everything we see going on around us by completely natural phenomena. Science does not say there is no God, merely that you can't say "God did it" as a summative theory to explain your observations. Everything must be above board, verifiable, and repeatable. This is where "God did it" becomes untenable - God does not choose to answer our beck and call to perform on cue. He works in His own way, behind the scenes, at His own pace. He typically shows Himself in miraculous, one-time events that are not repeatable - thereby requiring faith to accept what has happened, rather than logical deduction. So if I am planning on manufacturing sulfuric acid, for example, I'd better have a pretty good theory on how to make it that does not require God to intervene for its success, or I'm going to look pretty foolish.
So if this is what you want to call "naturalism", then science is guilty as charged. Science makes no pretenses of having the Absolute Truth. We make a series of hypotheses (models, if you will) that explain what we see. As new observations are made, the hypothesis may be confirmed by the mounting evidence, or it may be completely disproved. More commonly, it is usually found that the model was too simple, and needs to be modified to fit the new data. The real value of these models, though, is in their predictive power. Testing the hypothesis gives direction for research - "If the hypothesis is right, then if I do x
, I should observe y
." The ultimate goal of this is not Truth, but Usefulness. If a hypothesis is good enough that it explains everything we observe that is related to it, and gives us a chance to predict the outcome in advance of observations not yet made, it is extremely Useful. Whether or not it is True is irrelevant. This is actually the real problem with Creationism - its backers claim it is True, which scientists deem meaningless. The scientists look at it and ask, "Is it Useful?" and the answer is a resounding "NO" because it has no capacity for prediction in it (or if it does make predictions, they are universally found to be incorrect). It is a "God did it" theory, which holds no water in science.
This approach to acquiring knowledge, for whatever philosophical problems you may have with it, has proved to be extremely powerful. It is based on the philosophy that the Universe is inherently understandable - that Nature is not capricious, it is regular, repeatable, and orderly. That if human beings ask the right questions in the right way, we can get the answer to virtually any riddle the Universe poses. In over 400 years it has proved itself time and again as a reliable way to solve some of the knottiest problems the physical world has thrown at us.
Science does, however, have its limits. The old credo is, "If it can't be measured, it's not Science" (which is basically true). We all know there are scores of phenomena that cannot be quantified, and probably never will be. These are inherently beyond the scope of science - they are in the realm of the philosophers and theologians. Science has nothing to say about the existence of God - He is beyond measurement and cannot be quantified. Science will never be able to prove or disprove His existence. A good scientist knows where the line is where the evidence stops and speculation begins.
Religion, too, has its limitations. In the Middle Ages, the teachings of Aristotle were incorporated into Church doctrine. This produced a huge number of decrees about how the Church said the world worked - like sailing south of the Equator would make your boat burst into flames. That flat things float and round things sink, regardless of density. That the Universe is composed of concentric crystalline spheres which turn on their axes daily. Galileo Gallilei was the first to bear the Church's wrath for declaring that many of these "official teachings" were nonsense. With time, the Church learned to avoid weaving tangled webs of theology that made firm pronouncements about how the world was based strictly on their own reasoning. Empirical observation beat them every time. So religion's role is to help us explain the unexplainable, to help us grasp the supernatural, and to keep us aware of a power greater than all of us.
Thus, religion and science are not diametrically opposed to each other. They are actually complementary. Each provides a valuable method of understanding the world as we experience it - both natural and supernatural. As long as each sticks to its own domain, they are like the two wings of a great bird, supporting us between them. It is only when Science starts trying to dictate about the Supernatural world or Religion starts trying to dictate about the Natural world, that they get into conflict.
Well, this has probably done nothing to soothe anybody, but hey - the Mac rumor mill is as dry as the Sahara (Sahara? did somebody mention that new IBM G3?
) so arguing over theology is probably the next best thing.
[ 03-14-2002: Message edited by: TJM ]</p>