Re: [humanism-174] Excellent and Informative Description of Science

From: Randy P.
Sent on: Sunday, December 2, 2012 4:48 PM
"At this point we will have to accept that we disagree."

You may be satisifed to to do this. But for me this is simply a rephrasing of the wishy-washy "let's agree to disagree" statement, a weaselly way of squirming out of an argument for which you are ill-equipped to continue. You have run out of intellectual ammo and are now running for the hills. You have failed to directly engage and address most of the points I have made throughout this argument. In some cases you have misrepresented my arguments, such as when you charge that I have denied the definition of dogma that you offered. I in fact did not deny it. I argued that (1) it is incomplete and that (2) it does not apply to science in the form you offered it and even less so with the additions that I and Tim made to the definition. Finally, those few points of mine along the way that you did engage with were handled with such poor skill that it is no wonder you are now resorting to the "agree to disagree" tactic. The only thing to which I will agree to disagree with is that you know what the hell you are talking about when it comes to the subject of science and dogma.

"I'm referring to religion in its entirety." 

You will need to explain to me what it means to look at religion in this way. Since religion is so highly fractured into both major divisions and smaller denominations, and within these ranks are minor and major squabbles over what they should believe, I find it hard to understand how you can draw any conclusions worth consenting to about what religion naturally or inherently leads to, including moral prescriptions. 

 "I will only add that it is redundant to use the phrase 'provisional truth' as all truth is provisional.  There are no absolute truths."

While I agree with you that there are no absolute truths, you and I aren't the only people on the planet. There are many who believe otherwise. I and you, of course, think them wrong. But the fact that so many people do believe there are absolute truths, and since you and I cannot provide absolute proof that there are none, I will continue to use the two-category system in conversation with the rest of the world. I will try to remember, however, to not use the descriptor "provisional" in future conversations with you.

"Why does religion exits (sic) and persist?  I think it is because morality is not an absolute."

I fail to see how the question is answered or explained by the statement that follows. You offer no argument here, let alone one that would compel a person to accept the claim as true. Offer an argument and maybe I can be convinced of the truth of the claim you are making. I am doubtful that religion persists because morality is not absolute. I am also doubtful that you could get anywhere near a majority of those more knowledgeable on this subject than you or I to agree with this claim.

"In order to propagate moral beliefs they have to be taught.  Religion serves this easily and neatly."

I don't disagree that one of the functions of or roles played by religion is to teach morality. But you don't get to make the claim uncontested that religion in general teaches morals that are not absolute. You don't get to dismiss, as you appear to be doing, that religion in general is excessively dominated by the three monotheistic religions to which I referred. These three religions account for about 55% of the world's population. And they ALL three teach absolute morals, not relative morals. They all three teach absolute truths, not provisional truths. A little less than half (19.4%) of the rest of the world's population are adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism, two religions that arguably don't teach moral prescriptions, or if you can call what they teach morals, their approach differs markedly from that of the dominant religions mentioned previously. It seems that, if anything, religion in general is conflicted about whether morals are absolute or not. The three dominant religions teach that they are and the next two in size teach they are not or ignore the issue altogether. Thus fails your claim that religion in general teaches there are no absolute truths nor absolute morals. If religion in general led to and taught a non-absolute code of moral "truths" then it makes no sense that there are more adherents of religions that teach absolute morals than of religions that do not. The numbers are oddly the opposite of what should be the case if what you claim were true.

"I am not saying that one cannot have morals without religion.  I am only saying it makes it is easier to teach."

The fact that religion makes morals easier to teach has no relevance to the fact that the world's dominant religions teach morals and truths as dogmas and science does not teach nor employ dogma.

 "By defining science as broadly as Coel does, anyone and everyone can define themselves as a scientist.   As example, I am a carpenter and now a plumber, by Coel's definition when I have a plumbing or carpentry problem and as I investigate the solution I am preforming science and therefore a scientist."  

You are not a scientist because you employ the methods or techniques of science. I can build a cabinet but this does not make me a carpenter. I can fix some plumbing in my home, but this does not make me a plumber. A scientist is defined and described not simply by the methods he or she uses, but also by the extent of his or her training in those methods. You are not a scientist because you don't have this level of training nor the credentials and education that accompany this training and the label. I have far more training in science than do you but I too am not a scientist. Coel's definition does not imply that one is a scientist simply because he or she uses the methods of science in investigating some problem, topic, issue. You are putting words into Coel's mouth that he did not utter. Until I hear directly from Coel that he implied what you are saying he implied, I do not accept that he implied this. And you also don't know that he implied this. You are simply projecting your own thought process onto what Coel said. I draw no more from his words than what he actually said. You are taking a leap into unsupported conjecture.

"This is a basic tenant (sic) of Judaism."

Finally, please provide a reference or two to the above claim so that I may read for myself where one of the fundamental tenets of Judaism is that "you should be continually seeking to do better, testing your conclusions, and checking for biases."  Again, you make a claim without providing any support for the claim. It seems to me that if this is what practitioners of Judaism have been and should be doing, then Judaism would have talked itself right out of existence. Likewise for Christianity in all its many brands, Islam, Hinduism and even the more spiritual, mystical forms of Buddhism and other minor religions.

Randy

Source for percentages cited in this post: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups


From: Mark R. Orel <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Sunday, December 2,[masked]:27 PM
Subject: Re: [humanism-174] Excellent and Informative Description of Science

Randy: 


Your second point first: Nor have you provided a
convincing argument that science is not dogmatic. 
An established opinion neither requires or demands
evidence to be empirically derived.  At this point we will
have to accept that we disagree.  I will only add that it is
redundant to use the phrase 'provisional truth' as all
truth is provisional.  There are no absolute truths. 

To your fist question: You are looking at religion from
the perspective of specific religions.  I'm referring to
religion in its entirety.  Why does religion exits and
persist?  I think it is because morality is not an
absolute.  In order to propagate moral beliefs they
have to be taught.  Religion serves this easily and
neatly.  This is not the only function religion serves
I am only addressing your question here. 

I am not saying that one cannot have morals without
religion.  I am only saying it makes it is easier to teach. 

I would like to add one other thing.  By defining science
as broadly as Coel does, anyone and everyone can
define themselves as a scientist.   As example, I am a
carpenter and now a plumber, by Coel's definition when
I have a plumbing or carpentry problem and as I investigate
the solution I am preforming science and therefore a scientist. 
His definition goes even further, by his definition one can argue,
and I am, that a theologian can also be defined as a scientist. 
"Science entails an obligation to do the best you can. It is acceptable
to draw conclusions from limited data if you have nothing more; and
you can do without rigorous controlled experiments if they are
impractical. But to be scientific you should be continually seeking to
do better, testing your conclusions, and checking for biases.
"
This is a basic tenant of Judaism.  Though it does not apply to
all theologians, it does apply for those who are still searching
and asking the difficult questions. 

When you cast with a wide net you will usually be surprised
at what you find.  I do like his definition, we are all scientists,
though for those whose profession is science, they may
prefer a more concise definition of science.  
 

M. Orel 


On[masked]:24, Randy Pelton wrote:
I am puzzled by this statement of yours:

" "He also believes that morality is not absolute, this gives credence to religion."

How, exactly does Coel give credence to religion by arguing that morality is not absolute? You must have a very different understanding of religion from that of myself and everyone else I know. At the very least, the three large monotheistic religions - Christianity, Islam, Judaism - claim moral absolutes.

I did not deny the definition of dogma that you offered. As I said before, I reject your contention that this definition and therefore the term dogma applies to science. Again, the system of science is not dogmatic. You have not provided a convincing argument that science is dogmatic. The definition you provided is not evidence that science is dogmatic. Science, to repeat once again, is not a collection of "established opinions." The underlying, foundational tenets of science are not a set of "established opinions." It is true that these tenets were discovered and developed by a body of experts, who may be described as a body of authorities. But these tenets upon which the scientific enterprise is built are not opinions. Since dogma is founded upon opinions and science is not, science is not based on a dogma. As I said before, the conclusions derived by science through its examination of empirically-derived evidence, and tenets upon which the entire enterprise rests, are provisional truths, based on evidence, observation and testing. The standard of evidence required for these conclusions is significantly higher than the standard required for an "established opinion." In fact, as I have said before, an opinion, established or not, does not require evidence whereas evidence is an indispensable component of science and scientific conclusions.


Randy


From: Mark R. Orel <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Sunday, December 2,[masked]:18 AM
Subject: Re: [humanism-174] Excellent and Informative Description of Science

Randy: 


Thank you for the link.  This is the first I've seen
the word 'scientism'.  

You can see my response below.
So is everything science?
No it isn’t. Science entails an obligation to do the best you can. It is acceptable to draw conclusions from limited data if you have nothing more; and you can do without rigorous controlled experiments if they are impractical. But to be scientific you should be continually seeking to do better, testing your conclusions, and checking for biase

If you have an emotional commitment to a desired answer, then that in itself isn’t unscientific, but it is a warning flag that you are highly prone to a biased assessment and so to a false conclusion. If you think that holding to the desired answer is more important than the evidence for that answer then you’re being unscientific. (Following is a personal comment from me, Randy. I also think you are being dogmatic and are infected by dogma if the statement above describes you.) If your emotional commitment to a faith (perhaps a religious faith) is clouding your judgement over the evidence for that faith then you’re being unscientific. And if you point airily at “other ways of knowing” as an excuse to pretend that you don’t need to provide evidence then you are being unscientific.  


I agree, and Randy you are holding to a desired answer that you
find more important than the evidence for that answer when you
deny the definition of a word, like dogma.  You want it to mean
something that it does not.  The system that is science is dogmatic. 

As far as definitions go, Coel's blog is simply defining science as
knowledge.  Which I can agree to as the word comes from the
Latin scientia, which means knowledge.  His definition also
applies to philosophy, as philosophy comes from the Greek,
philosophia, which translates to love of wisdom.   He paints
science with a broad brush which I have no problem with, it
will make for an interesting philosophical discussion.  

I especially like the fact that he doesn't seem to believe that there
is an absolute truth.  That all reality is empirical.  He also believes
that morality is not absolute, this gives credence to religion.  (This
comes for the remakes that follow the article, in which Coel clarifies
his reasoning in discussion.)


M. Orel





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