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June 29, 2008


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"But as someone once said, only religion can make good people do bad things."

Steven Weinberg said that. His whole quote was: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

You wrote, "Obviously scientific discoveries took place in other cultures apart from Judeo-Christian ones, and even more obviously, the main contribution of religion to scientific discovery has been to suppress it and deny reality, rather than to encourage any new discoveries."

Actually, your point is not so obvious. Please see "The Victory of Reason," by Professor Rodney Stark, Random House, 2005.

According to Dr. Stark science emerged in the Middle Ages of Christian Europe with an abundance not seen in Greece and Rome of Antiquity, and not in any other society that was contemporary with European Middle Ages including China, the Americas, Africa, or the Muslim world.

The point here is the abundance - the celebration of science (reason) - that arose among Christians compared to non-Christian societies.

The point here is not that nothing was ever discovered and invented by other societies, but that Christain Europe was so far advanced of all other societies. And there is a reason for this and the reason has to do with Christain priests, monks, nuns, theologians and Christian lay people.

Best regards,

I think that Science evolved out of religion, or rather that they had a common ancestry and diverged at various junctures (with folks like Pythagoras, Galileo and Einstein as punctuation marks). They are now completely different species diverging ever farther apart and no reasonable person can possibly doubt the line of ascent being taken by homo sapiens sapiens. But the claim that the Judaeo Christian tradition birthed all of science is as wrong as the claim that humans are descended from monkeys rather than being genetic second cousins.


If you find spiritual beliefs contrary to science, then spiritual beliefs are viewed as measly superstitions and fallacies. This popular view is simply wrong. Science and religion operate under vastly different parameters. In my management book I devote an entire chapter in this ‘business’ book to the connection of business success and aiming for a higher calling. In spite all of the majesty and awe that the scientific world inspires, science is not designed to answer the questions that religion asks. Nor should we use religion to fill in the ‘God of the gaps.’ Religion should embrace science as it improves our ability to explain how God put things together. Indeed, elites of organized religions hate the efforts to seek a scientific context for the appreciation of spiritual phenomena. They seek to control humanity with doctrine and dogma. Science in its intellectual, methodical, peer-reviewed processes can deepen our wonder and amazement at the power of God. Instead of warring factions, the two sides should encourage each other. I saw a newspaper headline recently that read, “Darwin vs. God, Round 2007: Kansas Declares Darwin Winner.” This is wrong on many levels. Splashy headlines are one thing; gross irresponsibility is another. I cannot stress it enough. God and science are not at odds. They never have been. Francis S. Collins, the scientist who lead the Human Genome Project, stated it best when he said, “Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced.” Michael L. Gooch, SPHR Author of Wingtips with Spurs: Cowboy Wisdom for Today’s Business Leaders http://www.michaellgooch.com

Sorry, but god and science are at odds due to many things, such as:
1) Religions claim impossible miracles.
2) Holy texts often contradict scientific knowledge.
3) Religion is used as an excuse to hold science back. (Galileo, anyone?)
4) Religion attempts to steal credit from the scientists who did the work, generally in cases of medical "miracles".

Oh, also:

If you find spiritual beliefs contrary to science, then spiritual beliefs are viewed as measly superstitions and fallacies. This popular view is simply wrong. (my emphasis)

Popular =/= view held by probably less than 20% of the population. And it is, in fact, likely right.

You don't do much to tell us what questions "religion" asks, however you define it. So far, I don't see any field for religion to cover.

And most people who advocate religion having a field do their best to encroach on science, making testable claims.

"eligion should embrace science as it improves our ability to explain how God put things together"

religion should do many things. However what is should do and what is actually does are completely unrelated to each other.

You claim religion should embrace science. Other think it should do the complete opposite. Still others, think it should be a personal question, and still others think it should be embraced by entire communities or nations.

If all you religious people actually came up with ONE shared goal for religion and actually followed through with it, perhaps there could be a discussion on it. Until then I don't care what religion should do, I only know what it does. Very little of it is useful or unique to religion.

i thought it was christopher hitchens who said, "only religion can make good people do bad things", but i guess it was weinberg too. maybe hitchens was quoting him?

Science is an outgrowth of philosophy, not religion. Religion is a superstition that even today is firmly embedded in almost all societies to one degree or another. European history unfolded under the banner of religion(s) mainly because it was so dominant, not because it ever produced anything worth while.
Personally I see religion as a cancer that hasnt been quite able to destroy mankind, however it has held back progress.
I do not think religion was necessary at all for mankind to advance to the point we are at present, it just happened to be the dominant point of view. Now that science is growing up, it provides many more rational answers to metaphysical and epistimological questions than religion is capable of.

Dan Jones makes the strongest, and most conventional argument for the importance of religion to science, albeit in an abbreviated form necessary in blog comments.

To restate it in my own words, monotheistic and proto-monotheistic (e.g. Platonism and neo-Platonism) have as a philosophical assumption the notion that the universe is organized in a rational predictable way, presumably by a grand Creator, which is a hypothesis that is a predicate for conducting modern empircal science. In essence, monotheism is an intermediate step on the path from animism to polytheism to a secular worldview.

More practically, and less philosophically, the Islamic empire at its peak, which was vaguely theocratic, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy and monastic system, were instrumental in preserving classical learning from the fall of the Roman Empire through the early modern era (ca. 1600s), which was essential to shortening the time it took modern science to emerge after the fall of classical civilization.

Neither argument says a great deal about the modern role of religion in advancing science.

Preservation of ancient knowledge is no longer relevant. The only relevant issue is the ongoing role played by religious organizations (sometimes good, sometimes bad) in supporting education and funding research (the Vatican Observatory, for example, has done accepted scientific research in the modern era and has been important in moderating the power of anti-science forces at the Vatican).

The philosophical approach, while doubtless important to some notable industrial age and post-industrial age scientists (see, e.g., "God does not play dice with the universe;" and Vatican scientist roles in advancing the Big Bang theory), is irrelevant to others, and is not important in its theistic incarnation to the actual content of modern scientific theories; this is merely a hypothesis generation/priority making tool for individual scientists, just as "equation beauty" serves a similar role in math and string theory research.

Also, unlike pre-Gallieo science, which was rather unequivocally helped by religion, the most Gallieo era record is decidely mixed. Some religious organizations fair better than others; different issues show different levels of progress; and different times have resulted in different contributions.

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