Archive for the ‘science and religion’ Category

Intellecutally science and religion are very different and we are struggling to put this across to people. A must read discourse between Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins published by scientific american.The authors discuss how scientists should approach religion and its followers. I like especially the parts where they argue about science being used by religious leaders to support religious concepts

“Dawkins: How much farther could one want to go? Unlikely is unlikely is unlikely. It is not the same as impossible, but science is replete with estimates of likelihoods that fall short of the demonstrably impossible. Global warming is highly likely to be happening and caused by human activities, but the alternative cannot be ruled out. It is very probable, but not certain, that the dinosaurs were killed by a large object colliding with Earth. It is almost but not totally certain that humans are closer cousins to chimpanzees than to gorillas. Just about everything we know in biology is supported by statistical evidence and is not totally certain. If you agree with me that the existence of divine intelligence is statistically unlikely, that is all I would claim. But I would claim that this low estimate of likelihood that we both agree upon is a scientific estimate, not something that is in principle immune to scientific discussion.

Krauss: Yes, but I don’t think the likeliness of God can be quantified in the same ways as dinosaurs, or global warming, and therefore it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time trying. Why work so hard when inevitably it is too slippery a subject, and has been for some time? In this regard, arguing that detailed probabilistic arguments that have been used to suggest that life is a rare phenomenon imply at the same time mathematical support for the non-existence of God is something that I don’t buy, since I cannot see how one can use physical arguments to restrict the possible existence of something that, by definition, supercedes the laws of physics.

Dawkins: Theologians resort to this definitional argument as their only defense against the statistical argument that we both accept. But why should we allow them this remarkably convenient get-out? Why should theologians be allowed to call the shots and immunize God against scientific scrutiny by a sort of definitional prophylactic injection? Suppose I were to say that the bolide that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was hurled by Zeus. The data (iridium layer in the rocks, crater in Yucatan, etc.) is equally compatible with both the Zeus theory and the meteorite theory. Theologians of the Olympian school are at liberty to interpret the scientific data in terms of Zeus (and theologians of the Valhallan school are at liberty to interpret the same data as manifestations of Thor’s hammer). Those theological concerns are by definition beyond the reach of science. You don’t really believe that, Lawrence. So why allow Judaeo-Christian theologians to get away with evading the statistics issue in declaring, by definitional fiat, that their God is beyond the laws of physics?

Krauss: A valid point, but I think what most sensible theologians really argue is that the ‘intentions’ of God are beyond the laws of physics. Namely, if one could determine in detail the origin of the bolide that killed the dinosaurs, and demonstrate that it was in fact kicked out of its orbit around the Sun by the gravitational perturbation of the planet Jupiter, would this then demonstrate that there was no God, Zeus or otherwise? No, because God could have intended that life would evolve in an environment of random and rare catastrophes, that would help drive evolution forward.

Dawkins: That is strictly true, but I really do mean strictly. Why do you keep bending over backwards to be nice to superfluous and highly unparsimonious add-ons to science, when you would kick them out of the window if they were not protected by the label, “Religion. Handle with kid gloves for fear of giving offense”? “

I am in total agreement with Dawkins, religious concepts should not use described using scientific theory. But again agree with Krauss, that we should not undermine one’s faith and beliefs in the process of putting this principle across.

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