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Author Topic: Christian Scientist (not that kind!)
steampunkgrrrl
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Icon 1 posted June 03, 2011 16:03      Profile for steampunkgrrrl   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I thought I would share this and see what everyone thought. I'm not trying to start a flame war, and I would appreciate it if everyone could keep civil. I know what kind of turn these kinds of conversations can take.

A few years ago, I was brought into the Catholic, and therefore Christian, faith. Being an engineer, my mind tended to wander towards the more logical standpoint. My aim was to prove something was scientifically possible, not based on just because. I discovered, in a moment of spiritual enlightenment, that some things cannot be proven...and let faith step in.

I stayed true to both sides and solved the conflict that had confused me so much.

What do you think? I'm not talking solely about Christianity....Pagan, Buddhist, Islam, etc. What is your experience, if any? What is your opinion?

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2011 01:46      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think you won't get any responses because this sort of question often devolves into pointless restating of opinions (and often escalates into a flame war). You've been polite in other topics you've posted to, however, so I'm going to respond.

I discovered, in a moment of spiritual enlightenment, that some things cannot be proven...and let faith step in.

This is the main part of your argument that I disagree with.

Virtually everything can be proven or disproven. The few things that can't be are all so ill-defined that any proof for or against can immediately be "disproven" by redefining the subject.

There are well-defined things that we can't currently prove or disprove (P=NP is the classic example), but that doesn't mean they can't be solved. It simply means we haven't advanced to the point where we can prove or disprove them.

The human race has faced questions that were "unsolvable" throughout history and many of them have subsequently been solved. Plague, for example, was thought to be caused by cats, a punishment from god, foreigners poisoning wells, bad air and even the position of the planets. We now understand that it's caused by a species of bacteria that's spread by fleas. We solved the previously unsolvable.

If we had allowed faith to step in and simply accepted that finding the source was unsolvable, we never would have looked closer. We'd still believe it was a punishment from God, foreigners poisoning the well, etc. and it would still be unsolved.

Bubonic plague isn't the best example, btw, but it early and brain work am not good.

For what it's worth, I am an atheist. I started off as a Christian (Episcopalian, to be specific), became disillusioned with the church and bounced through half a dozen other religions before concluding that it was all either BS or common sense restated as religious dogma. I can't resolve the problems with religion in any way that would let me continue to have faith and believe.

*edit*
Fixed my quote to conform to something more familiar to this forum rather than using Reddit's quote tag. Pointless, but it was annoying me.

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Stibbons
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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2011 02:06      Profile for Stibbons   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by GrumpySteen:
Virtually everything can be proven or disproven... There are well-defined things that we can't currently prove or disprove (P=NP is the classic example), but that doesn't mean they can't be solved. It simply means we haven't advanced to the point where we can prove or disprove them.

The "God of the gaps" theory is the thing that really turned me off religion. I'm a recovered Christian, and that recovery occurred while I was learning about science entering my teens. I was lucky enough to have a Jewish teacher at the (CofE) church school I was at who had a quiet word with me to poke me into actually thinking about these "unsolvable mysteries".

As Steen said, just because we can't explain something now doesn't mean we'll never be able to. The concept of god was always there to explain away things that weren't well understood. A lot of this was just attempting to make sense of the scary unknowns (like what is that big bright thing in the sky?), but not always was it a bad thing - such as "don't have sex with your sister" being a good idea (unless she's really hot) despite not understanding how genetics and inbreeding works - but it didn't mean that we'd never figure out the reason behind it. "Because throughout history, every mystery ever solved has turned out to be not magic!"

There's some good explanations for why we turn to invoking "god" to explain these things (I quite like the idea that we just want an alpha male to sort the scary things out) and some interesting neurophysiology stuff looking at people who have religious episodes. Perhaps this is solving yet another one of those mysteries that god "explains" - why do we believe in god?!

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2011 09:26      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by steampunkgrrrl:
I stayed true to both sides and solved the conflict that had confused me so much.

I doubt that.

The christian scientists (not that kind) I've known have demonstrated very obvious mental gear shifts, they can be scientists, or christians, but not both at the same time.

I'm reminded of a discussion I was having with a neighbour when I was at university, very bright guy, like off-the-scale bright, and also a Young Earth Creationist (a rarity here in oz).

He was studying advanced physics and astronomy, because that's what Very Bright Guys in the science faculty did at my university in those days, and he was explaining the intricacies of the Big Bang to me, back to the first gazillionth of a second, and then said "beyond that no-one knows what happened, the maths just breaks down".

I said I knew exactly what had happened... "Let There Be Light!"

He gave me a blank look - I'd tripped him up in an act of doublethink, and he knew it.

This Very Bright Guy who believed the world was created 6,000 years ago was studying a field of science that tosses billions of years around like they're confetti, and had somehow managed to be (consciously) unaware of the mental gear-shifts required until it was pointed out to him.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted June 06, 2011 11:49      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, IMHO, I figure 'something' caused the Big Bang. However, I'm quite unwilling to give that something a name.

Saying that a fellow in a flowing robe sitting atop the clouds did it...I don't buy it. I also have big problems with the idea that one religion is right and all the others wrong, but oops, they all hold that to be a central tenet.

Otherwise, I agree heartily with most of the posters above and have little to add regarding science and religion.

Be good for goodness' sake. :-)

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Icon 3 posted June 07, 2011 03:56      Profile for Snaggy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just read this, and thought it was appropriate.

New Scientist: The end is always nigh in the human mind
http://bit.ly/klP433

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2011 05:56      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I quit religion a long time ago. I decided it was pointless and a waste of time. That decision had nothing to do with my job, though. Lots of working scientists manage to reconcile the two and lots of non-scientists make the same decision I did.

quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:

Be good for goodness' sake. :-)

But how do you define good?

Religion developed as a means of describing how the world works and how we humans should live. Science is excellent at the former. Not so hot at the latter. In fact, about the best answer science can offer in terms of "what is the best way to live my life?" is "reproduce and maintain an environment in which your progeny will flourish."

Actually, come to think of it, that's not a bad start. But not everyone finds that satisfying. Scientists who are religious are among that number.

Now, as far as letting faith step in when science has yet to explain how some facet of the world works, that's all well and good, but the thing is, faith is fundamentally irrational and people have been known to freak out when new facts and insights intrude on that. In fact, that fundamental irrationality of faith has been used to control and dominate for thousands of years. Remember what happened to Galileo? Or the more current and just as insane "debates" about evolution in the US right now? It's the same nonsense over and over - when people are empowered to understand how the world functions through their own senses rather than religious doctrine handed down from on high, those who deliver the doctrine feel threatened.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
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fs

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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2011 12:31      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My religious opinions can be summed up thusly:

1. If you've got some kind of faith that enriches your life and doesn't hurt anybody else, good for you.
2. If you've got some kind of witnessing, evangelizing, conversion seeking, live-as-I-say, militant faith, fuck off.
3. Discussions of personal faith are tedious and tacky at best. At worst, they're uncomfortable and alienating.

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Callipygous
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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2011 13:19      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If we first separate out the crackpots and fundamentalists of whatever faith, for whom I have nothing but disdain, then there is nothing incompatible with faith and science. An intelligent questioning faith such as that described by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, that reads Genesis for symbolic rather than literal truth, and accepts that the Bible must always be interpreted, because those that wrote it could only describe things in the context of their own culture and world view, has no problem with science or the origin of the universe.

Even if science discovers a unifying theory of everything that unites Relativity and Quantum theory and logically explains all the mechanisms of matter energy time and space right up to the finite beginning of the universe, you would still be left with the religious question well articulated by Peggy Lee "Is that all there is?" Of course there will never be, and can never be a definite answer to this question. And from that point on it's a matter of faith.

Most of the time, I'm a sceptic. Since faith by definition is something unprovable, there can be no conclusive logical arguments one way or the other. For example I do not accept that morals or ethics are, or need be rooted in faith. Aristotle's virtue ethics both prefigured Christianity and have much in common with those Christian ethics.

In the end there are two forces that pull me in different directions and both are unsurprisingly emotional not logical arguments. The force that drives me away from faith is fear of my own mortality. Like most people I guess, I don't like the idea that my life is futile, and that it won't be many years after my death that I will be entirely forgotten and all trace of my existence will be erased. This drives me away from faith because it is a vanity, and I should have the courage both mental and moral to face and accept that chaos, the entropy that we will dissolve into.

What pulls me in the opposite direction is the experience of beauty, whether natural or man made. I do not mean by this some crude blind watchmaker argument, but simply the aesthetic experience, which can only be imperfectly described using much of the same language used by mystics to describe the religious experience. People talk of being taken out of themselves, or of time stopping. Neither of these feelings has any logical validity, but the neither can your decision about faith or scepticism have any logical basis either.

In those moments when I flirt with belief, Christianity is the only religion that attracts me, first because I was brought up in and now live in a society shaped for good and ill by two thousand years of Christian art and culture so it's in our bloodstream. Then I also find churches, church music and Christian liturgy very moving, very wise, and very beautiful. But I think I'll always be a sceptic, because I'm constitutionally a contrarian, and just don't like to belong to things.

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2011 13:55      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Callipygous wrote:
you would still be left with the religious question well articulated by Peggy Lee "Is that all there is?"

One minor point of correction. That's question is philosophical, not religious. Atheists ask the same question, but they don't look to gods and religion for the answer. Your answer may be rooted in religion, but the question itself is not.

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Callipygous
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Icon 1 posted June 07, 2011 23:55      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well maybe I haven't defined the question as clearly as I should have, or perhaps these are things that are impossible to pin down with the crude tools of language and logic. Where we have reported speech by the central figures of any religion, the language they use is often allusive and symbolic, hinting at meaning rather than defining it. It could be a religious, philosophical, or even a scientific question, but I meant to pose it as a religious question, as to whether there is some other thing or power, beyond what we can completely comprehend, or adequately describe. However I'd guess as an atheist you may find that question uninteresting, or irrelevant to your life. However from my point of view, atheism too is a leap of faith.

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fs

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 07:25      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Callipygous:
However from my point of view, atheism too is a leap of faith.

I think that is an interesting statement; I don't understand why it would require faith to not believe in something for which there is no evidence.

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GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 08:50      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Not so odd, really.

Most religious people believe there is more than enough evidence to demonstrate that the only logical conclusion is that their particular flavor of deity must exist. The majority of the evidence is typically a collection of handed-down anecdotes which tell of divine events which can't be verified, of course, and every religion has their on collection, but they have parents, friends and other authority figures reassuring them that their tales are the only true ones.

In a similar vein, my disbelief comes from a collection of personal experience that is more than enough to demonstrate to me that the only logical conclusion is that there is nothing that could be reasonably considered a god or deity.

The thing is, they would no more accept my experiences, which are nothing more than anecdotes to them, than I would accept their anecdotes as being more truthful than my own experience. My conclusions, therefore, must either be viewed as faith or, less politely, as lies, because the alternative would be the unthinkable; accepting them as truth.

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 09:51      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by fs:
quote:
Originally posted by Callipygous:
However from my point of view, atheism too is a leap of faith.

I think that is an interesting statement; I don't understand why it would require faith to not believe in something for which there is no evidence.
Agreed.

As the old saying goes, if 'Atheism' is a faith, then 'Bald' is a hair colour.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 11:22      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
-Carl Sagan

"You really can't interpret negative data."
- a member of Xanthine's thesis committee.

That said, parsimony leans towards there either being no supreme being or a supreme being who is absolutely uninterested in the lives and doings of humans.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 12:14      Profile for TMBWITW,PB     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've never seen a contradiction between being religious and being a scientist as long as it is understood that you are investigating two completely different realms. Science is supposed to deal with the unknown. Religion is supposed to deal with the unknowable. It's when people try to turn dogma into fact that I get uncomfortable.

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fs

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 18:28      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
-Carl Sagan

(Of course, there is an awful lot of evidence that people just make shit up and proceed to believe in it. See: Santa Claus; Easter Bunny; Tooth Fairy; Yule Cat; astrology; ghosts; telephone psychics; stock market; etc.)

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Stibbons
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 20:48      Profile for Stibbons   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by TMBWITW,PB:
Science is supposed to deal with the unknown. Religion is supposed to deal with the unknowable.

However a lot of the arguments above seem to centre on the distinction being a lot more wishy-washy than that, if existing at all? A lot of things that were once "unknowable" are now ranging between "unknown" to "known", and so I see no reason for the ever dwindling remaining stock of "unknowable" to not head that same direction.
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Callipygous
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2011 23:19      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by fs:
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
-Carl Sagan

(Of course, there is an awful lot of evidence that people just make shit up and proceed to believe in it. See: Santa Claus; Easter Bunny; Tooth Fairy; Yule Cat; astrology; ghosts; telephone psychics; stock market; etc.)
Of course we all want to believe in something bigger than ourselves, and that our lives should have a meaning, and there also some people who want a simple rulebook to live their life by so they don't have to think too deeply about difficult moral questions, and so charlatans of all descriptions, cultists, utopian political movements, as well as everything you mention flourish. However I have also met some very remarkable people of faith, of genuine humility, with great curiosity, and deeply thoughtful, I cannot easily dismiss them, or the faith that is central to their lives, indeed the two I am thinking of in particular are among the most admirable people it has been my privilege to meet. To borrow another quote, religion is like a swimming pool. Most of the noise comes from the shallow end. I'd also note that as well as the evil done in the name of religion, on the credit side it has also inspired some of the greatest music and art of the last 1000+ years.

quote:
Originally posted by Stibbons:
quote:
Originally posted by TMBWITW,PB:
Science is supposed to deal with the unknown. Religion is supposed to deal with the unknowable.

However a lot of the arguments above seem to centre on the distinction being a lot more wishy-washy than that, if existing at all? A lot of things that were once "unknowable" are now ranging between "unknown" to "known", and so I see no reason for the ever dwindling remaining stock of "unknowable" to not head that same direction.
This implies that there is a finite number of unknowns. It can also be argued that the more perfectly we understand the physical universe and especially its creations, the greater the mystery that surrounds it.

If anyone here is interested in these questions, I'd seriously recommend the book I mentioned earlier, C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. He makes arguments for belief in general and Christianity in particular much better than I could, in clear every day language, and it is challenging and interesting whatever your beliefs, or lack of them. If like me you never liked his children's stories, that shouldn't put you off. This is nothing like them.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted June 09, 2011 06:11      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by fs:
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
-Carl Sagan

(Of course, there is an awful lot of evidence that people just make shit up and proceed to believe in it. See: Santa Claus; Easter Bunny; Tooth Fairy; Yule Cat; astrology; ghosts; telephone psychics; stock market; etc.)
Yes, but just because one group is making shit up doesn't mean the other one is. At worst, you're practicing guilt by association and at best you're giving too much weight to circumstantial evidence. That said, the fact that people are prone to making shit up puts a heavier burden on those who would prove that a god exists - they'd need to establish that they've run a control for their desire to believe. To quote Carl Sagan again, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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