Against accommodationism: How science undermines religion

Faith versus Fact
There is currently a fashion for religion/science accommodationism, the idea that there’s room for religious faith within a scientifically informed understanding of the world.

Accommodationism of this kind gains endorsement even from official science organizations such as, in the United States, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But how well does it withstand scrutiny?

Not too well, according to a new book by distinguished biologist Jerry A. Coyne.

Gould’s magisteria

The most famous, or notorious, rationale for accommodationism was provided by the celebrity palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould in his 1999 book Rocks of Ages. Gould argues that religion and science possess separate and non-overlapping “magisteria”, or domains of teaching authority, and so they can never come into conflict unless one or the other oversteps its domain’s boundaries.

If we accept the principle of Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA), the magisterium of science relates to “the factual construction of nature”. By contrast, religion has teaching authority in respect of “ultimate meaning and moral value” or “moral issues about the value and meaning of life”.

On this account, religion and science do not overlap, and religion is invulnerable to scientific criticism. Importantly, however, this is because Gould is ruling out many religious claims as being illegitimate from the outset even as religious doctrine. Thus, he does not attack the fundamentalist Christian belief in a young earth merely on the basis that it is incorrect in the light of established scientific knowledge (although it clearly is!). He claims, though with little real argument, that it is illegitimate in principle to hold religious beliefs about matters of empirical fact concerning the space-time world: these simply fall outside the teaching authority of religion.

I hope it’s clear that Gould’s manifesto makes an extraordinarily strong claim about religion’s limited role. Certainly, most actual religions have implicitly disagreed.

The category of “religion” has been defined and explained in numerous ways by philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and others with an academic or practical interest. There is much controversy and disagreement. All the same, we can observe that religions have typically been somewhat encyclopedic, or comprehensive, explanatory systems.

Religions usually come complete with ritual observances and standards of conduct, but they are more than mere systems of ritual and morality. They typically make sense of human experience in terms of a transcendent dimension to human life and well-being. Religions relate these to supernatural beings, forces, and the like. But religions also make claims about humanity’s place – usually a strikingly exceptional and significant one – in the space-time universe.

It would be naïve or even dishonest to imagine that this somehow lies outside of religion’s historical role. While Gould wants to avoid conflict, he creates a new source for it, since the principle of NOMA is itself contrary to the teachings of most historical religions. At any rate, leaving aside any other, or more detailed, criticisms of the NOMA principle, there is ample opportunity for religion(s) to overlap with science and come into conflict with it.

Coyne on religion and science

The genuine conflict between religion and science is the theme of Jerry Coyne’s Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible (Viking, 2015). This book’s appearance was long anticipated; it’s a publishing event that prompts reflection.

In pushing back against accommodationism, Coyne portrays religion and science as “engaged in a kind of war: a war for understanding, a war about whether we should have good reasons for what we accept as true.” Note, however, that he is concerned with theistic religions that include a personal God who is involved in history. (He is not, for example, dealing with Confucianism, pantheism or austere forms of philosophical deism that postulate a distant, non-interfering God.)

Accommodationism is fashionable, but that has less to do with its intellectual merits than with widespread solicitude toward religion. There are, furthermore, reasons why scientists in the USA (in particular) find it politically expedient to avoid endorsing any “conflict model” of the relationship between religion and science. Even if they are not religious themselves, many scientists welcome the NOMA principle as a tolerable compromise.

Some accommodationists argue for one or another very weak thesis: for example, that this or that finding of science (or perhaps our scientific knowledge base as a whole) does not logically rule out the existence of God (or the truth of specific doctrines such as Jesus of Nazareth’s resurrection from the dead). For example, it is logically possible that current evolutionary theory and a traditional kind of monotheism are both true.

But even if we accept such abstract theses, where does it get us? After all, the following may both be true:

1. There is no strict logical inconsistency between the essentials of current evolutionary theory and the existence of a traditional sort of Creator-God.

AND

2. Properly understood, current evolutionary theory nonetheless tends to make Christianity as a whole less plausible to a reasonable person.

If 1. and 2. are both true, it’s seriously misleading to talk about religion (specifically Christianity) and science as simply “compatible”, as if science – evolutionary theory in this example – has no rational tendency at all to produce religious doubt. In fact, the cumulative effect of modern science (not least, but not solely, evolutionary theory) has been to make religion far less plausible to well-informed people who employ reasonable standards of evidence.

For his part, Coyne makes clear that he is not talking about a strict logical inconsistency. Rather, incompatibility arises from the radically different methods used by science and religion to seek knowledge and assess truth claims. As a result, purported knowledge obtained from distinctively religious sources (holy books, church traditions, and so on) ends up being at odds with knowledge grounded in science.

Religious doctrines change, of course, as they are subjected over time to various pressures. Faith versus Fact includes a useful account of how they are often altered for reasons of mere expediency. One striking example is the decision by the Mormons (as recently as the 1970s) to admit blacks into its priesthood. This was rationalised as a new revelation from God, which raises an obvious question as to why God didn’t know from the start (and convey to his worshippers at an early time) that racial discrimination in the priesthood was wrong.

It is, of course, true that a system of religious beliefs can be modified in response to scientific discoveries. In principle, therefore, any direct logical contradictions between a specified religion and the discoveries of science can be removed as they arise and are identified. As I’ve elaborated elsewhere (e.g., in Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (2012)), religions have seemingly endless resources to avoid outright falsification. In the extreme, almost all of a religion’s stories and doctrines could gradually be reinterpreted as metaphors, moral exhortations, resonant but non-literal cultural myths, and the like, leaving nothing to contradict any facts uncovered by science.

In practice, though, there are usually problems when a particular religion adjusts. Depending on the circumstances, a process of theological adjustment can meet with internal resistance, splintering and mutual anathemas. It can lead to disillusionment and bitterness among the faithful. The theological system as a whole may eventually come to look very different from its original form; it may lose its original integrity and much of what once made it attractive.

All forms of Christianity – Catholic, Protestant, and otherwise – have had to respond to these practical problems when confronted by science and modernity.

Coyne emphasizes, I think correctly, that the all-too-common refusal by religious thinkers to accept anything as undercutting their claims has a downside for believability. To a neutral outsider, or even to an insider who is susceptible to theological doubts, persistent tactics to avoid falsification will appear suspiciously ad hoc.

To an outsider, or to anyone with doubts, those tactics will suggest that religious thinkers are not engaged in an honest search for truth. Rather, they are preserving their favoured belief systems through dogmatism and contrivance.

How science subverted religion

In principle, as Coyne also points out, the important differences in methodology between religion and science might (in a sense) not have mattered. That is, it could have turned out that the methods of religion, or at least those of the true religion, gave the same results as science. Why didn’t they?

Let’s explore this further. The following few paragraphs are my analysis, drawing on earlier publications, but I believe they’re consistent with Coyne’s approach. (Compare also Susan Haack’s non-accommodationist analysis in her 2007 book, Defending Science – within Reason.)

At the dawn of modern science in Europe – back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – religious worldviews prevailed without serious competition. In such an environment, it should have been expected that honest and rigorous investigation of the natural world would confirm claims that were already found in the holy scriptures and church traditions. If the true religion’s founders had genuinely received knowledge from superior beings such as God or angels, the true religion should have been, in a sense, ahead of science.

There might, accordingly, have been a process through history by which claims about the world made by the true religion (presumably some variety of Christianity) were successively confirmed. The process might, for example, have shown that our planet is only six thousand years old (give or take a little), as implied by the biblical genealogies. It might have identified a global extinction event – just a few thousand years ago – resulting from a worldwide cataclysmic flood. Science could, of course, have added many new details over time, but not anything inconsistent with pre-existing knowledge from religious sources.

Unfortunately for the credibility of religious doctrine, nothing like this turned out to be the case. Instead, as more and more evidence was obtained about the world’s actual structures and causal mechanisms, earlier explanations of the appearances were superseded. As science advances historically, it increasingly reveals religion as premature in its attempts at understanding the world around us.

As a consequence, religion’s claims to intellectual authority have become less and less rationally believable. Science has done much to disenchant the world – once seen as full of spiritual beings and powers – and to expose the pretensions of priests, prophets, religious traditions, and holy books. It has provided an alternative, if incomplete and provisional, image of the world, and has rendered much of religion anomalous or irrelevant.

By now, the balance of evidence has turned decisively against any explanatory role for beings such as gods, ghosts, angels, and demons, and in favour of an atheistic philosophical naturalism. Regardless what other factors were involved, the consolidation and success of science played a crucial role in this. In short, science has shown a historical, psychological, and rational tendency to undermine religious faith.

Not only the sciences!

I need to be add that the damage to religion’s authority has come not only from the sciences, narrowly construed, such as evolutionary biology. It has also come from work in what we usually regard as the humanities. Christianity and other theistic religions have especially been challenged by the efforts of historians, archaeologists, and academic biblical scholars.

Those efforts have cast doubt on the provenance and reliability of the holy books. They have implied that many key events in religious accounts of history never took place, and they’ve left much traditional theology in ruins. In the upshot, the sciences have undermined religion in recent centuries – but so have the humanities.

Coyne would not tend to express it that way, since he favours a concept of “science broadly construed”. He elaborates this as: “the same combination of doubt, reason, and empirical testing used by professional scientists.” On his approach, history (at least in its less speculative modes) and archaeology are among the branches of “science” that have refuted many traditional religious claims with empirical content.

But what is science? Like most contemporary scientists and philosophers, Coyne emphasizes that there is no single process that constitutes “the scientific method”. Hypothetico-deductive reasoning is, admittedly, very important to science. That is, scientists frequently make conjectures (or propose hypotheses) about unseen causal mechanisms, deduce what further observations could be expected if their hypotheses are true, then test to see what is actually observed. However, the process can be untidy. For example, much systematic observation may be needed before meaningful hypotheses can be developed. The precise nature and role of conjecture and testing will vary considerably among scientific fields.

Likewise, experiments are important to science, but not to all of its disciplines and sub-disciplines. Fortunately, experiments are not the only way to test hypotheses (for example, we can sometimes search for traces of past events). Quantification is also important… but not always.

However, Coyne says, a combination of reason, logic and observation will always be involved in scientific investigation. Importantly, some kind of testing, whether by experiment or observation, is important to filter out non-viable hypotheses.

If we take this sort of flexible and realistic approach to the nature of science, the line between the sciences and the humanities becomes blurred. Though they tend to be less mathematical and experimental, for example, and are more likely to involve mastery of languages and other human systems of meaning, the humanities can also be “scientific” in a broad way. (From another viewpoint, of course, the modern-day sciences, and to some extent the humanities, can be seen as branches from the tree of Greek philosophy.)

It follows that I don’t terribly mind Coyne’s expansive understanding of science. If the English language eventually evolves in the direction of employing his construal, nothing serious is lost. In that case, we might need some new terminology – “the cultural sciences” anyone? – but that seems fairly innocuous. We already talk about “the social sciences” and “political science”.

For now, I prefer to avoid confusion by saying that the sciences and humanities are continuous with each other, forming a unity of knowledge. With that terminological point under our belts, we can then state that both the sciences and the humanities have undermined religion during the modern era. I expect they’ll go on doing so.

A valuable contribution

In challenging the undeserved hegemony of religion/science accommodationism, Coyne has written a book that is notably erudite without being dauntingly technical. The style is clear, and the arguments should be understandable and persuasive to a general audience. The tone is rather moderate and thoughtful, though opponents will inevitably cast it as far more polemical and “strident” than it really is. This seems to be the fate of any popular book, no matter how mild-mannered, that is critical of religion.

Coyne displays a light touch, even while drawing on his deep involvement in scientific practice (not to mention a rather deep immersion in the history and detail of Christian theology). He writes, in fact, with such seeming simplicity that it can sometimes be a jolt to recognize that he’s making subtle philosophical, theological, and scientific points.

In that sense, Faith versus Fact testifies to a worthwhile literary ideal. If an author works at it hard enough, even difficult concepts and arguments can usually be made digestible. It won’t work out in every case, but this is one where it does. That’s all the more reason why Faith versus Fact merits a wide readership. It’s a valuable, accessible contribution to a vital debate.

Russell Blackford, Conjoint Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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83 Comments.

  1. The extent to which science and religion conflict depends on one’s characterization of each. I have come to see the two as being universal and personal, science the former and religion the latter.

    Having grown up in Methodism which can range from conservative to liberal, depending on the church and members, I saw the spectrum. The difference I see is:

    Science, relying on the objective while embracing the subjective potentialities, relies on evidence and proofs.

    Religion is born of the subjective and its Achilles heel is that no direct evidence exists to support any religious claim.

    It’s when the religious offer their view as ubiquitous supported by evidence that the view craters. 😎

  2. Kevin Henderson

    Great review and well deserved. Humans should know that science is corrosive to faith. Science puts forth falsifiable claims about the universe, whereas faith, the foundation of religion, can make no such claims.

  3. Traditional religions are, as you point out, “comprehensive explanatory systems”.

    However, for many people today religion is simply ritual and ethics, often with a bit of vague pantheism or deism on the level of metaphysical explanations. In fact, all the religiously observant people (Jews and Christians) whom I personally know, undoubtedly not a representative cross-section for all humanity, but fairly representative of educated liberal people, are pantheists or deists, with an attachment to religious ritual and a belief in the ethical teachings of, in some cases, Judaism and in other cases, one or another form of Christianity, even Catholicism. Their pantheism or deism is vague, simply because they are not the kind of people who go through life asking deep questions about metaphysics.

    So it seems that not all religions as currently practiced contradict science, although, yes, traditional religions do.

  4. Re Kevin Henderson January 3

    “Humans should know that science is corrosive to faith.”
    Yes and it seems to me that Faith/Religion is corrosive to Humanity. Science is what humans have discovered and justified so far as is currently possible. But science is tentative and can be revised in the light of new knowledge. From a pragmatic viewpoint if it works it is likely to be true in all cases. Religion is merely what Humanity has made up to suit its desires and fears. Has any good come out of religion? well certainly many good people have been religious, but to ascribe religion as the active agent here is probably to commit the fallacy of false cause. Alternatively many evil people have been religious and there does seem, if we look at history, more likelihood of a causal connection here, but I agree these points are disputable. I suppose on the other hand we can show cases of evil people mending their ways after exposure to religion, but so far as I know such cases are uncommon.The science of Human Nature is inexact and rarely are fast and hard rules determined here.Where human nature is concerned one can always find examples to support one’s own views. What does it all boil down to? Well for me science is a genuine attempt by humans to understand this place in which we all find ourselves. Religion is to a large extent wishful thinking made palatable.

  5. A major problem with Coyne’s grand claim is that it is based on a very narrow interpretation of religion, which while admitted to some extent in the body of the text really amounts to a “bait and switch” from what is advertised in the (sub)title. But even with his proviso about what kind of religion he is talking about, he does not seem to understand how “belief” in a “personal god who is involved in history” is actually interpreted by many who claim to espouse it. You (RB) have noted that many religionists do find compatibility with science by confining their understanding of religious myths to be as metaphorical statements about the normative domain. Yes, such accommodation may cause “problems” within the religion, but that is no direct concern of mine. It *is* possible, so religion and science *are* compatible, and the necessary accommodation makes no demands of me as a scientist so why should I object to it?

    On the other hand, although Gould would clearly be wrong to claim that religion *always* confines itself to the normative domain (or “magisterium” if you prefer his portentious language), what is worse in my opinion is his apparent abandonment of that domain to the suzerainty of religion. My objection to religion is not on the grounds that it necessarily conflicts with science (it does not), but rather on those very moral grounds where Gould would like to give it authority.

  6. Don Bird,

    Science, just like religion, has a criminal record: for example, racist experiments carried out by scientists on African-Americans by U.S. scientists, weapons of mass destruction, and surveillance techniques which allow governments to read all our private emails.

    Religion has been around for thousands of years; science is young. Give scientists time and they’ll commit as many crimes
    as have religious fanatics since the dawn of record history.

    In any case, let’s not compare a completely idealized vision of scientists as if they were all idealists like Einstein and a vision of the worst aspects of religion as if all religious people were fanatics like Bin Laden.

  7. Nicely said. While I do not consider this a disagreement with your view, it is another opinion, concurring from a different position:

    It’s neither science nor religion that create atrocities, it’s people labeled as such with this point: labels in science have meaning; labels describing may be meaningless. 😀

  8. I pretty much agree with what s.wallerstein has been saying here, but with the proviso that the role of traditional religions as including “comprehensive explanatory systems” has always been really just incidental to their main role (which is implied by the etymology) of binding the members of a society to a moral code which would be as applicable to the dominant as to the submissive. I also think there is a plausible case to be made that this purpose was actually usefully (and maybe even essentially) achieved by religion at some points in the past.

  9. Kevin Henderson

    S. Wallet stein

    pantheism or deism is becoming a major trend among liberal Christians in America. But none of them think fairies move electrons through wires or angels hold nucleuses together. It’s not that religion contradicts science. They have nothing to do with each other.

    On the internet there are about 10^7 peer reviewed articles available on the subject of physics. Not one of them suggests a religious expanation for physical phenomena that we observe.

  10. Not having read the book, it stikes me that either the author or the reviewer relies rather heavily on straw man arguments to defend his position. Notably, the current Pope has an MS in chemistry, believes in the big bang and evolution, and still manages to be the leader of a Christian religion. In short, a belief in God and science is both possible and consistent; however, a book that recognizes the diversity of relgious views on science and reflects on how Catholics, Episcopalians, mainstream Lutherans, and other moderate religions reconcile faith and science wouldn’t generate the indignation that sells books, would it?

  11. s. wallerstein,

    “Religion has been around for thousands of years; science is young. Give scientists time and they’ll commit as many crimes as have religious fanatics since the dawn of record history.”

    They already have, in that eugenics contributed a scientific basis to many elements of both the holocaust and third Reich. They may be distanced as psuedoscientists, but that’s pretty much how mainstream religions distances itself from extremists when they commit extreme acts. And Hamilton and Price’s sociobiology has never been discredited as dangerous and incorrect bunkum.

    “In any case, let’s not compare a completely idealized vision of scientists as if they were all idealists like Einstein and a vision of the worst aspects of religion as if all religious people were fanatics like Bin Laden.”

    Well, that led me into despair with the new-atheist movement; scientists being revered as holy men, by people who don’t really have an understanding of the nuts and bolts of what particular scientists are renowned for. Violent religious fanatics tend to have a lack of nuts and bolts knowledge of the religions they fanatically defend. There’s more to the structure of religious belief than believing there to be an invisible omnipotent sky god or not.

  12. Tom Walker,

    “Notably, the current Pope has an MS in chemistry, believes in the big bang and evolution, and still manages to be the leader of a Christian religion. In short, a belief in God and science is both possible and consistent; ”

    How do you know the pope believes in God? And not maybe in the social function of the Church, and his role in that function. I don’t believe Benedict was a believer. I think he saw its role as being the glue to bind a certain kind of society together. People living in a good ignorance, as opposed to a bad enlightenment. Benedict had a terror of nihilism. I think nihilism isn’t dangerous in itself, it’s when it combines with a religious belief it becomes lethal.

    Churches are greatly diminished in the 21st. But for most of their existence they were immensely powerful political institutions. To tell you the truth, I don’t think the secular myths are any better and maybe worse in that they’re more plausible and believable; harder to pluck the flowers from the chains.

  13. JMRC,

    About 15 years ago I got a job tutoring some mostly Spanish Catholic monks in English: they needed to improve their English because they were going to attend some international conference.

    They lived in a poor neighborhood in Santiago (Chile) where they ran a school for the neighborhood children and in general, did lots of community social work.

    The day classes began I went through the usual diplomatic formalities about how while not being a believer myself, I respect all religions, but they indicated to me that they didn’t want to discuss religion.

    What did they want to discuss?, I asked

    Politics, they replied and so we talked politics for a few months and I could see that they were on the left, even supporting the Communist presidential candidate, Gladys Marin, as I did too.

    Being curious, I wondered if these guys actually believed in religion or whether they used religion as a pretext to do some worthy social work with the poor. So I asked them if they went to mass every day and they didn’t. Then I asked them if they believed in transubstantiation. No, it’s a metaphor.
    How about the Virgin birth? Another metaphor.

    And so on. Unfortunately or fortunately, the head monk didn’t like the direction things were taking and without further ado, the classes did not continue after that session, but my experience with the monks does support your thesis that some Catholic clergy are not believers.

  14. Re S Wallerstein Jan 3rd
    I was just trying to show the difference between science and religion. And I cannot detect anywhere in what I wrote wherein I claimed scientists were never evil. Most certainly, science has been used for evil purposes. For instance, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And the bombing of Dresden in WW2. No discovery in science is such that it advocates an evil purpose in itself. Humans decide, and they may be scientists themselves, that a certain discovery could be used to kill disfigure or main other humans whom they do not like. Religion is not like this. It actually consists of directives that humans did should do certain acts, and many of those acts are despicable and evil. Science does not actually come up with any directives. It merely shows what is likely to be and not likely to be the case. I have a sizeable geological collection of rocks and fossils, quite harmless objects. They all have names and descriptions and in themselves are completely harmless, even those which are slightly radioactive. However, if I decided that a certain rock is heavy enough and big enough to break the skull of the man next door because I do not like him or I wish to steal something from him the blame surely cannot be put on the science of geology, which has provided me with that particular rock. It is just a case of a human misusing something.
    Certainly, some experiments carried out by scientists, remember Dr Mengele, have just been vile and atrocious and I would say that this was gross misuse of scientific method, but I still maintain that you cannot put the blame on science and scientific method the same way that you can put the blame on religious texts the sole purpose of which is to bring about man’s inhumanity to man. I don’t think science is that young as you suggest. I wrote an essay on that some years ago, which I can’t be bothered to sort out at the moment, and certainly we can be speaking in terms of thousands of years. I’m assuming you will accept the evolution of the wheel as being in the nature of a scientific project. I really do not know what lasting good religion has ever done but the application of science in medicine has saved countless lives and made life worth living for millions.

  15. Don Bird,

    My excuses if I’m misreading you, but my point is that if let’s compare idealized visions with idealized visions or realities with realities.

    The idealized vision of science is the researcher who for very little pay works hard to find a cure for cancer. Those people do exist, but in reality, lots of scientists work for huge drug companies which investigate those diseases which are profitable. I’ve done some translations for a Chilean doctor who specializes in a form of gall bladder cancer which no one bothers to do research about, because it generally affects Native-American women who are low income and cannot pay for new and costly medicines. Here’s a small list of some of the atrocities carried out by scientists on human patients:
    http://www.alternet.org/10-most-evil-medical-experiments-conducted-history

    Now the idealized view of the Christian religion is someone who follows the Sermon on the Mount, practices non-violence, brotherly love and gives all their possessions to the poor. Some of those people exist of course, but generally, Christians don’t follow the Sermon on the Mount.

    However, as I said above, if we are going to work with an idealized view of scientists, let’s compare them to an idealized view of religious people.

    What good has religion done, you ask? Have you ever listened to the music of Bach? Have you ever heard of Dr. Albert Schweitzer? How about Martin Luther King? How about John Milton? The Buddhist monks who protested against the War in Viet Nam? The Dalai Lama? Archbishop Romero in El Salvador? The Vicaria de la Solidaridad in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer? I could fill pages of good done by religious people, acting ethically in the name of religion, just as I could fill pages of good done by scientists, acting ethically in the name of science and equally, I could fill pages about atrocities done by religious people and by scientists.

  16. DonBird, Religion *may* have been an essential step in the binding of early humans into large non-familial social groups. Or not. I do not yet know of any way of actually finding out about that.

    Perhaps more relevant to us right now is the question of whether or not religion does more harm than good in the *modern* world. No lists of good religious people and evil scientists (or vice versa) will help answer that question – though some serious statistical analysis might do so.

    My gut feeling is that if the question were seriously addressed then the scales would tip quite strongly against religion (at least as it appears to be currently understood), but I may be influenced by my own preference in that, as frankly I would prefer to risk some evil in the world if that is the price required to maintain my own intellectual and moral independence.

  17. I retain the following things from the trail of exchange
    1) How some of us quickly drifted towards analyzing evil and good in Religion and Science, when (at least for me) the topic was just about possible incompatibility between the two
    2) How loosely (or probably narrowly) religion is defined by some of us , to serve the purpose of pushing thru some preconceived ideas, opinions and biases. Is there a difference between powerfully organized religious systems (which often deviate from the essence of the religion at its origin), and other religions in secluded areas that worship the wind, or the sun, etc, without killing anyone, but rather running their rituals to get more rain, and fewer diseases. Or is religion only when it is Christianity or Judaism, Islam?
    3) Don’t you all things that sometimes we confuse the concept of religion (which someone said it, or should be a personal matter, and only that) and the phenomena of group dynamics? In other words, should not we talk about the evil precisely when humans band together based on physical similarities (black or white, tribes, etc), or ideology, politics, religion, in order to attack, kill, oppress others? Don’t you think that anything ugly you can see religion (as you defined it) do, you would see the exact same but driven by other motives. War in general and its ugliness is not always only because of religion, but race (e.g. ethnic cleansing), communism, status (Rich vs. poor, etc.). In short, when a group with its identity dehumanizes another group

    I think a lot of us are confused

  18. I would like to turn to the question: incompatibility between Religion and Science.
    I believe that until we all agree on what is meant by Religion, in its essence and its expression, it is not easy (even not possible) to debate on the topic.
    Case in point: if Religion is perceived as an entire system, with each hierarchy, and authority, clergy, doctrine, dogma, etc., then obviously the position of this organized body is what to put face to face with Science.
    But on the other hand, if we see religion as a personal matter, i.e. no one’s business except you, then the question of religion vs. science becomes totally irrelevant and de facto loses all its meaning. Why? Because each and every single individual will then decide if there is incompatibility or not, and be accountable for it before his God, or other transcendental force. I that case, how could one answer or debate the question of compatibility? It would not even make sense.
    Let’s make the difference between the two topics: “Science vs. Church” and “Science vs. Religion”. Are not they really different?

  19. All I am trying to say here is that the scientific method itself is not evil, any more than we can say mathematics is evil. Evil emanates from human beings in the way that they apply their knowledge. You can read all the mathematics you care for and study all the scientific methods which have been discovered but I don’t think you’re going to find any instructions as to how the knowledge obtained is to be applied in the world. Scientific method and mathematics does not actually tell you how to behave from a moral viewpoint. Religion is different. It does lay down standards of behaviour and attitude, some of which are good and some of which are bad. S Wallerstein has listed good people who were religious. However, I am wondering if they would nevertheless still have been good people without exposure to religion. Additionally if they merely do good acts for a reward in the hereafter then they are really putting themselves first.

  20. Supposedly the meaning of religion is that to which we are bound. As we are not completely free agents, being mostly bound to biology, we may be inclined to make that our god (or goddess).

    However,there may be a danger in deifying anything secular, if for no other reason than it is subject to change. It is best not to deify science or consider it a solver of all problems in mistakenly thinking it is beyond the reach of dual outcomes, which it is not. Science is necessary and can be appreciated without being deified.

    When it can be explained, without straining the resources of language, how electromagnetic forces can be confined to the limits of a three-dimensional sphere it would be time to commission a statue to the god of matter and to the trinity of the atomic, cellular, and chemical. Until that time many will remain skeptical.

    Apart from religion there is a philosophical approach which, in the past at least, differed from science. The opposite ways Holmes and Watson considered a case highlights this difference. Once when Holmes went missing Watson tried to solve a case, assembling all the facts. Without Holmes contribution: that the truth lay in what was elementary to the facts, Watson’s attempts at a solution appeared pathetic.

    Although they may converge in some future millennium it is best if religion and science, as well as philosophy, function within their separate spheres, with the understanding that they are equally useful and equally flawed.

  21. Michael J Ahles

    Science and religion connect at a single point of truth. Neither have reached it yet, who will be first? =

  22. Re:– Michael J Ahles January 6, 2016 at 11:57 am
    Science and religion connect at a single point of truth. Neither have reached it yet, who will be first? =

    How would we know, or identify when a single point of truth occurs? Truth is a human concept and we still struggle to agree on a thoroughgoing definition of it and how it might be recognised and be in itself, infallible.

  23. s. wallerstein,

    “Being curious, I wondered if these guys actually believed in religion or whether they used religion as a pretext to do some worthy social work with the poor. So I asked them if they went to mass every day and they didn’t. Then I asked them if they believed in transubstantiation. No, it’s a metaphor.
    How about the Virgin birth? Another metaphor.”

    Did they explain the “metaphor” of the virgin birth, or did they brush it away. It comes from a Greek mistranslation from the Torah, that got wildly out of control. But, by revealing the mechanics of that derivation, would reveal how all the prophesies are derived.

    The theology of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, hinges on the belief that the texts, the WORD itself has magical properties. Islamic clerics argue that the text of the Koran is proof of its’ divine provenance, on the basis it would impossible for a human to create a text of such quality. Which sounds patently absurd but the origin of literature was for codifying religious knowledge and ritual. The creation of texts for other non-religious purposes comes after. If a text existed at all it was an indication if not evidence (though it was taken as evidence) of its’ divine provenance.

    The trinity is a hypostasis. Hypostasis comes from the midpoint where pantheism was transitioning to monotheism. That all the gods, idols, etc, were simply aspects of a single God. Jews tend to find the Trinity a bit iffy (doesn’t look like proper monotheism). But, the particular hypostasis is something that comes directly from Judaism. It’s a theological idea abandoned by Judaism, in the early centuries of Christianity, mostly to differentiate Judaism from Christianity.

    Think religious traditions are too complex and interesting to easily dismiss, on the basis of there not being a God. I think within the traditions there has always been space for both those who see the supernatural elements as stretched metaphors, and those who believe there is an actual Santa Claus figure in the sky.

    “Politics, they replied and so we talked politics for a few months and I could see that they were on the left, even supporting the Communist presidential candidate, Gladys Marin, as I did too.”

    To paraphrase von Clauswitz; is politics, religion by other means…you could also reverse that as religion being politics by other means.

  24. Michael J Ahles

    Re: Don Bird,
    When you find the absolute yourself, you will know when others find it too. Measure is a human concept, one that has been found by science to be uncertain at best. Truth is. One day science will remove the uncertainty of measure from the equation for everything and discover the absolute, the god particle they have been searching for. God and particle, religion and science united at last. Not by theories or faith, measure or judgement, but rather by a single simple absolute. And how will they know the truth when you see it, when they know their true selves.

    Truth unite everything.

    The equation for truth is,

    =

  25. Michael J Ahles January 6

    How do you know what you say is, or will be the case.

  26. Don Bird,

    “How do you know what you say is, or will be the case.”

    Divine revelation?

    I hate to disappoint Michael, but the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle emerges from pure maths, not a physical observation. It more or less states, the more certain you are about anything, the less certain you become about everything else.

  27. Michael J Ahles

    The proof is me. There was a meeting of the physics minds some years ago that was labeled the Copenhagen Interpretation. They came together to discuss the uncertainty problem of scientific measure. Although there was great opposition led by Professor Einstein who argued, “God doesn’t play dice with the Universe”, the majority steered physics down the quantum rabbit hole of probability that we find ourselves in today.

    Copenhagen has been reinterpreted. There is a single absolute for everything. This single truth can be found empirically through the examination of measure itself. God does play dice as science plays dice,and religion plays with faith, but underneath it all is a real table and chairs.

    Wasn’t it Newton that said: he stood on the shoulders of giants to see what he could see. Were the giants real? Is probability certain? And then there was Thoreau who said: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them” Science and religion must find that foundation, and when they do they will stand together as One. That foundation is absolute truth. Truth unites us all. The effects of this foundation will create a single unity that will set us free.

    “Free at last”, the Promised Land that King could see is right here, right now, we are it, all we have do is be it.

    Be true,

    =

  28. Michael J Ahles

    “Divine revelation?
    I hate to disappoint Michael, but the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle emerges from pure maths, not a physical observation. It more or less states, the more certain you are about anything, the less certain you become about everything else.”

    Unless of course One finds anything and everything immeasurably equal or the same.
    Pure math,
    =

  29. Reading this stream, I pondered a lot about the differences between science and religion (by religion I refer to Judeo-Christian faiths for simplicity). Here are some thoughts:
    – They both have claims to reality, and explain the nature of the world
    – Religion is based on faith; no additional evidence is required support your claim.
    – Science is based on empirical evidence and/or reasoning; no faith is required
    – Religion is absolute, and does not change by time
    – Scientific knowledge is not absolute, changes with time and with new evidence
    – Usually religion is based on a text that is considered sacred
    – Science has nothing equivalent to a sacred ultimate truth; its concepts and ideas evolve through time.
    – Religion explains and predicts some natural events. In general both explanations and predictions are not very accurate or highly questionable
    – Science explains and predicts natural events. In general, for what is considered established knowledge, its predictions are highly accurate what supports the value of its explanations.

    In my opinion, science and religion are very different approaches to understanding the world; you can pick whichever you like. I prefer science

  30. Michael J Ahles

    “Copenhagen has been reinterpreted. There is a single absolute for everything. This single truth can be found empirically through the examination of measure itself.”

    Can you explain a little bit more? What is the foundation of this claim?

    And what do you mean by

    “God does play dice as science plays dice,and religion plays with faith, but underneath it all is a real table and chairs.”

    As a note, real table and chairs are concepts that refer to actual different things that we group as real table and chair.

    How do you know that your claim = is factual and not just an speculation? Do you know the nature of = ?

    Thanks a lot,
    John M

  31. Michael J Ahles

    Hi John,
    Have you ever doubted an = sign in any equation, ever?
    As for a table and chair, it is only a metaphor for a real foundation or truth underlying theories and faiths. The foundation is nature itself, ourselves, Oneself. Michelangelo once said, “if you are searching for truth, study nature.”
    To find this foundation scientifically can be accomplished by re-examining the tool of measure, measure is the flaw. The science of physics is the measure of nature, of a nature that has been found by science to be measurably probable or uncertain at best. If we continue to build our scientific inquiries on probability then probability or uncertainty is all that can be achieved. But if we build science on certainty, than certainty is what will be achieved. Science can find this solution or foundation by simply understanding the error of their way. Once found, science will grasp the hand of religion, much like Michelangelo’s “creating Adam”. and together live as One.
    Imagine that!
    Hope this helps,
    =

  32. Re Michael J Ahles

    but underneath it all is a real table and chairs.”

    We do not in my opinion have any real contact with so-called tables and chairs. All we have are neurological, electrical firings in our brains which we call tables and chairs. I’m sure you will agree that the colour of a table is non-existent anywhere but in our brains, as is the scraping noise it makes when pushed along the floor. In the context of what you were saying. I do not quite understand what you mean by underneath it all is a real table and chairs, as these are not and never will be available to us.
    Scientific theories are instruments or tools for coping with reality according to John Dewey. Between our brains and reality there is a massive, unbridgeable gap we really do not have a God’s eye view of anything. We cannot embrace the universe as a whole and understand it. We need to cut it up into small portions of cause and effect in order to explain it. Then we argue from an examination of the parts to pronunciations on the whole, which really is fallacious, but nevertheless, such practices have got us to Mars. The mysteries of Relativity and Quantum theory do not square with our common understanding of what we like to call reality. I could ramble on like this in greater detail, but all I’m trying to point out is the extreme care is needed when making pronouncements about what there is or might be, and I don’t think tables and chairs are much help here.

  33. @ Michael J. Ahles

    “Science and religion connect at a single point of truth”

    That makes sense as they cannot be other than one truth and at some point the different disciplines will connect with it.

    Science could be first in making it objectively
    understandable; provided it can be perceived out there and be easily accessible to everyone. It may be that it can only be understood subjectively or intellectually and not everyone will be capable of understanding it.

    Describing something as metaphor is not necessarily dismissing it as unbelievable. Metaphor has served a useful purpose in attempting to convey what is beyond the scope of language; what strains the boundaries of literalness.

    Dogma was initially created not to explicate truths but to hide them. The Church fathers did the same as the Greeks; probably for similar reasons: the masses could abuse, or misuse the mysteries, or even worse be unhinged by them.

    The concept of the trinity goes back to India; it is an integral part of the Hindu religion and corresponds to the trinity of the Christian religion.

  34. Michael J Ahles

    ” It may be that it can only be understood subjectively or intellectually and not everyone will be capable of understanding it.”

    The truth of everything is less than an inch,
    It is only equal and the lion One.
    One is free when the door is opened
    Education has the key.

    =

  35. Re:=Michael J Ahles

    It is probably my being stupid, but what does = mean in connection with the viewpoint you are holding?

  36. Re Michael Ahles
    “religion and science united at last. “
    There are many different religions which do you select for this eventual unification?

  37. Michael J Ahles

    = equal
    =

  38. Michael;

    “Have you ever doubted an = sign in any equation, ever?”

    Sometimes:
    2+2= 5
    faith+ old story = truth about the nature of things
    Wall street broker’s + thirst for money = good for society
    hunger + poor education = well being
    Do I need to go on?

    But tell me appart of the interesting words, what is the substance of your message? How do you evaluate its truth?

    Thanks

  39. “Science and religion connect at a single point of truth”
    That makes sense as they cannot be other than one truth and at some point the different disciplines will connect with it.

    Vina;

    Can you explain or extend these statements? When you say?

    “as they cannot be other than one truth ” Do you mean relative or absolute truth? Do you believe in an absolute truth? If you do how can you learn it or connect to it?

    Up to know, most of what I learn seems relative and consistent with the idea that our minds determine what we consider truth- Kant’s and others position.

    Thanks

  40. John M

    Most of what we learn is relative and science and religion converge at the point of a relative truth. An example would be Copernicus’ heliocentric theory. Based on this Kant took the position that the apparent world of appearances should be attributed to the structure of the perceiving mind. As well problems in quantum physics (wave-particle duality and Schrodinger’s cat) suggest that there is no reality behind our observations.

    There is the possibility that at some point there will be an absolute truth; a final ending to millenniums of relative truths when there is nothing more to learn and all is known and understood. What that would mean is not easy to imagine as we are only used to relativity, not to absolutes. One quandary is that in the quantum world everything is possibility until an observer changes it into probability. So without an observer could even a relative world exist?

  41. Don Bird,

    “It is probably my being stupid, but what does = mean in connection with the viewpoint you are holding?”

    One of the distinctions between early Christianity and its’ contemporary Judaism, is numerology. But even the Christians retreated on that to distinguish themselves from Pythagoreans. The Phythagoreans were not maths loving atheists as they’re often misrepresented, they believed maths to have divine qualities. And so did later Christians. That someone might appropriate a mathematical symbol as a feature of their religious belief is not surprising.

  42. Surely truth is a human condition of mind, something that we suppose unquestionably to be the case. Thus truth does not inhabit a world outside of our minds. Things in the world, whatever that may mean, just are. We cannot get outside of our minds to examine the world . We just have to assume that our senses at best can only give what is possibly a rough example of the world. Belief is a better concept. We know that we can believe falsely or truly but when I say truly, so far as belief is concerned, that means so far as we can ascertain what may well be the case. I cannot see how human beings as they are presently structured can have the mental capacity to establish an unassailable truth. This may be as philosopher Colin McGinn has pointed out, due to the fact that our mental capacities are not sufficiently advanced at this stage of human evolution. This may be evidenced in the fact that we do not seem to have the mental capacity to come to terms with the apparent physical functions of Relativity or Quantum theory. Some quantum mathematicians say “do not ask or question. Just calculate, there is your answer.”
    Vina has made an interesting point “One quandary is that in the quantum world everything is possibility until an observer changes it into probability. So without an observer could even a relative world exist?”
    So far as I remember I don’t think that the observation is restricted to human beings. I seem to remember that other mechanisms, for want of a better word, can “observe” and accordingly collapse the wave function from its superposition of several eigenstates to a single eigenstate. Without this it seems to me that the world would be in some sort of sense, frozen in a massive superposition of eigenstates. I’m a bit rusty on quantum theory these days, so don’t take this as reliable information.

  43. Don Bird,

    “and accordingly collapse the wave function from its superposition of several eigenstates to a single eigenstate. Without this it seems to me that the world would be in some sort of sense, frozen in a massive superposition of eigenstates. I’m a bit rusty on quantum theory these days, so don’t take this as reliable information.”

    If the superposition didn’t collapse to a single state, then the universe would be filled with infinite energy. But, my pet theory, which I believe to be correct, is for every eigenstate running forward in time (matter) there is a corresponding eigenstate running backwards in time (antimatter), they cancel out. If it’s empty space the space remains more or less empty (this is where the cosmological constant comes from – the space isn’t completely empty after the cancellations). The positive matter we see our universe made of, is not immediately cancelled out, instead we see the point particle behavior. No need for a multiverse. Can I prove this? At present; no. But I have a hunch.

  44. Michael J Ahles

    Some of the comments here are wonderful! As for JMRC’s comment that the symbol = is a feature of a religious belief, I would say it is the mathematical equation that unites everything, the equation Einstein died searching for.

    And as for Vina’s concern that once the absolute is found there would be nothing else to learn. I can assure you, once the truth is found the journey just, and I mean just begins. =

  45. JRMC Jan 9th

    Thanks more food for thought:

  46. Michael J Ahles January 9,

    I still cannot understand how we will be able to recognise the Absolute and so called Truth when and if these concepts are available. For one thing as the human race stands at the moment I do not think it has the mental acumen to deal with such ultimate concepts. Are you saying that suddenly in the world this so called state of affairs, will occur for all living creatures? There will be no disputing when faced with the indisputable obvious. It occurs to me that such a situation leaves nothing much, if anything to live for.

  47. The article says – “By contrast, religion has teaching authority in respect of “ultimate meaning and moral value” or “moral issues about the value and meaning of life”.

    That is a complete wrong description of religions. All religions are same and they are all correct. They talk about the following laws of nature: Reincarnation, Destiny, Yogic Powers, Theory of Souls, Eternal Recurrence, Birth-maturity-death process, etc. Nature also gives proofs of all of the above laws. For more details take a look at https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/

    Bible clearly talks about destiny. Reincarnation was there in Bible at one time, but was removed later. Yogic powers are also discussed in Bible. Judaism describes many advanced level yogic powers. There are many yogis all over the world even now. There was a time when Vedas were known all over the world. You can see its influences in all religions. There is no God in Vedas.

    You should realize that God and Destiny are contradictory concepts. Similarly Morality also goes against destiny theory. Thus views of religions have been distorted by money and money power. Although destiny is a very complex concept, but simply stated it means your past controls your present. Have you ever taken any actions without any reasons? No, you have not. This means your reasons controlled your present action. But since reasons come before you act, your present is controlled by your past. Thus you are guided by a global destiny, so there is no room for God or Morality here.

  48. A simple bridge between science and religion ? The Rainbow of Truths. 😳

    Research in Thunder Bay, has identified several new types of half-truths, including a truth that lies, because it is part-of-the-truth. *(this was noted when spousal abuse programs in North America were using a truth, ‘stop violence against women’, a statement that while true, ignores all various forms of abuse, and totally ignores men and children.

    The research paper was written up in the book, “The Jesus Christ Code”, a title given to the original title, “The LIGHT; The Rainbow of Truths’, when the relationship between the scientific properties of LIGHT and the more corrected DEFINITIONS OF TRUTH, LIE AND HALF-TRUTH were taken into consideration

    The research confirms the deception of Eve in the Garden and how Adam tried to lie to God with a truth. 😈

  49. EXPLANATION:

    Fruit from a tree of knowledge is represented by a truth, a fruit, a color of the rainbow, problem is there are many other truths on the tree, some beyond reach, some on the other side of the tree.

    God knows ADAM has lost touch with GOD, and of course THE TRUTH….WHY ?

    Well Adam hides from God, when he hears God coming.

    God asks, “Where are you…”

    Adam responds, ‘we knew we were naked…so we hid…”

    That is a truth, relative to time, in fact when Adam answers God it is a lie, for they had sewn clothes for themselves.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY, we have to take a different relative position of the question, relative to GOD. GOD knows where Adam is, the question is rhetorical.

    Adam uses a truth, to try to lie to God…and shows how out of touch he is with THE TRUTH….why ? You can’t hide from a God, silly, silly Adam.

    So it is with human conclusions, human truths, the bridge between cause and effect requires a ‘leap of faith’…in fact more than believing in a God… 💡

  50. Duality of TRUTH.

    Truths can be absolute, and relative at the same time….this based on understanding what the new types of half-truths are…

  51. Michael J. Ahles

    “once the truth is found the journey just begins”

    It is unlikely that absolute truth can, or will, be found in a relative world. Any number of theories may be arrived at in every era until there is an impressive accumulation of theories. Old theories may fall by the wayside to be replaced by newer theories. The problem is that the duality of relativity precludes arriving at absolute truth, because in the world of relativity there are no absolutes.

    Absolute truth would require transcending relativity. Although relativity would still exist our relationship to it would change. Other than that happening there is no absolute truth to be found and consequently no journey that would just begin.

  52. Truth is an absolute in itself. To speak of absolute truth is to suggest that there are kinds of truth which is not the case. For something to be true, it has to be such that no counterexamples can be shown and absolute certainty exists that whatever state of affairs the truth expresses can in no circumstances be violated. That said, I doubt in human experience, if truth has ever been manifested, but I suppose in some sense, we can visualise it if not experience it. It really is a most interesting philosophical concept. I’m not sure that the human mind is capable of contending with it. Sure enough in the affairs of men and women, all people, we do use the word truth and it does have some use, for instance in a court of law. You agree to tell the truth. But really, what you express is your own genuine take on a set of circumstances and certainly you can be wrong.
    Caesar J. B. Squitti  , whom I really think should confine the remarks he makes to his own website, rather than here, Speaks of half-truths. There are no degrees of truth any more than there are degrees of say, the number 49.

  53. Caeser,

    “Fruit from a tree of knowledge is represented by a truth, a fruit, a color of the rainbow, problem is there are many other truths on the tree, some beyond reach, some on the other side of the tree.”

    In the actual text of Genesis, the tree, is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And if you trust these texts, rainbows don’t exist until God grants them as a gift after the Noaic flood.

    The story of Adam and Eve is allegory. Adam is the Hebrew word for man, Eve for life. There never was a garden, a tree, or a serpent. It’s true as any other folk tale, because that is what it is.

  54. “Truth is an absolute in itself.”

    Don;

    What is your definition of truth? What is the rationale for absolute value of truth?

  55. Vine

    “transcending relativity”

    Lets do that right here with ice cream!

    Many would say ice cream is good, correct?
    And many others would say ice cream is bad, which can be equally correct. Good because of taste and enjoyment it bring when consumed and bad because of the sugar, fat, and other dietary issues. Ice cream is relative right? So then what is the absolute truth about ice cream, is it good or bad, both, or something else.

    To answer this may I suggest you removing any knowledge you have of ice cream, remove from your thoughts any measurement, judgement, or if you are religiously inclined, like Adam and Eve before they tasted good and bad right or wrong, remove that too. What remains of your thoughts would be pure and innocent. And in this rebooted state if you will, would not ice cream be just ice cream? Not good, not bad, not right, not wrong but simply what is? What truth is? What ice cream is? Paradise?

    What I am suggesting here is: the absolute truth of ice cream is ice cream.

    And is is synonymous with =

    Absolute truth is equals ice cream! Before you start building ice cream cone cathedrals or replacing physics and philosophy departments with ice cream departments at school, (hmmmm, might be worth a try.) perhaps you should also understand that what is absolute true of ice cream is equally true of everything else. When all is equal all is truly One.

    Absolute truth rather than transcending relativity can be more simply realized by removing the uncertain or probable knowledge of measure or judgment and discovering the true foundation underneath. It works equally with everything, try it with yourself. Discover One’s true self.

    If you prefer the scientific or religious process, then transcend them the same way by removing any and all uncertain theories or faiths, what is left is just ice cream or more simply just is.

    = is

    Einstein taught me to simplify

  56. Re:-John M 
    January 10,

    I am not sure I can enlarge on anything which I’ve already said concerning truth. I suppose it is really a philosophical concept. Can you think of anything at all that you would stake your life upon it, that it is true. I don’t think so. There always seems to be room for doubt . If you analyse the situation very carefully, can you really be sure that everything you say, everything you think of, everything you feel everything you want or desire is true, and you would stake your life on it. You may say it is true that I have a great desire for ice cream at the moment. However how do you know you’re not dreaming or under the influence of some drug and in fact you do not like ice cream. I know this may sound preposterous, but remember you are gambling with your life.

  57. Don;

    I agree with your previous comment that is the reason for questioning the absolute truth concept. Most of the current evidence indicates we can only assert the truth of something in a set of specific circumstances- we can use the correlation definition of truth for simplicity. I have not been able to find/sense/detect/measure/think/etc anything that falls into the absolute truth category i.e something that is independently of conditions and circumstances. I might be wrong but that is how i see it now

  58. Interesting myth I wrestled with, and on which I wrestled with myself and wrestled with others. And now with you. Please tell me “Welcome!”
    For the longest time, I used the paradigm of a cube, but of which one can see one side only. If the 6 faces have different colors and texture, everyone will see Truth, but NOT all the Truth. Nobody describing the cube will be wrong, but will not be completely right either. So only by combining all these pieces of Truth, at infinity, could we construct Truth. But we have to make sure we have not left any bit of Truth lingering somewhere. So we have Truth until it is no longer Truth. So we really will never know if we finally met Truth.

    My conclusions, that I am glad to summarize here
    1) At the fundamental level, Truth starts first with reality. Reality can be perceived only through our senses. So what we see, we hear, we smell, we feel, we always say is Truth, no matter what others think. We don’t generally say, under excruciating pain, that it is just an illusion! The sentence: “it hurts”, will speak Truth
    2) Beyond the senses, is another Truth, we can call Faith or Belief that can be solidly and maybe permanently ingrained, as most of us know or experienced
    3) Based on the two points above, I have put the matter to rest by concluding that: Truth is what you have decided is true. And hence, as many Truth as individuals, and then sadly Truth becomes irrelevant. The only thing that matters then is: What we experience and/or what we have faith in, is Truth. If you have neither experience nor Faith, then Truth does not exist for you

  59. The cube and the lion

    Einstein said: “Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size.”

    Had Einstein understood the tail is the lion he would have grasped the whole and found the solution he was searching for.

    =

  60. “To answer this may I suggest you removing any knowledge you have of ice cream, remove from your thoughts any measurement, judgement, or if you are religiously inclined, like Adam and Eve before they tasted good and bad right or wrong, remove that too. What remains of your thoughts would be pure and innocent. And in this rebooted state if you will, would not ice cream be just ice cream? Not good, not bad, not right, not wrong but simply what is? What truth is? What ice cream is? Paradise?
    What I am suggesting here is: the absolute truth of ice cream is ice cream.”

    Michael;

    “the absolute truth of ice cream is ice cream”

    What is truth your perception of ice-cream, you dog’s perception of ice-cream, or the bat perception of ice cream?
    Or which ice-cream, the one you tasted yesterday, the one are having know or the one you will have tomorrow?

    Your perception of ice cream is relative, as the perception of the tale of the lion. The challenge is that by just perceiving in some way something-tail- you can imagine the rest- the lion-, and be sure that is absolute truth. Have you done that? Please tell me how?

    And the problem of that statement is: it does not tell me anything about ice-cream

  61. Michael J Ahles

    I understand your ice-cream analogy to mean that the truth comes by understanding, or maybe more accurately, by experiencing the-thing-in-itself.

    That would mean that as long as there is distance, judgement, per-conceived notions, or resistance the truth cannot be perceived. With relativity creating the illusion of otherness it would appear a herculean task to be in alignment.

    That brings to mind the story of Gilgamesh. He went to seek truth or liberation but could not stay awake long enough to find it. The experience changed him. When he returned he found a wall had been erected between himself and his previously carefree life in nature. He was now in between being happily unconscious in nature and being fully conscious in it; being aware, separate, and self-conscious.

    He had not made it all the way, only part of the way, to the truth. That story could be, and probably is, an analogy of human evolution.

  62. I think that perhaps we have to remember Truth is really nothing more than a human concept and as such, humans cannot, in so far as their dealings with the world are concerned, relate this concept to their perceptions and beliefs. As I said before, it is really a philosophical word but its application to our experiences of the world are somewhat unsatisfactory. As I said before, Belief is in my opinion a better word, because you can believe correctly, or falsely. I avoid saying “believe truly” here merely to avoid confusion, However, generally outside of philosophy, and matters of exactitude, we all understand what a true belief is and what a false belief is. Truth can have no half measures. As I said before, it is an absolute. There are several philosophical theories of truth which are worth looking at if one is not already familiar with them. Wikipedia is not bad on this. Personally, I have always found the Pragmatic theory of truth the most appealing, although it doesn’t relate very closely to the manner in which I have described Truth, as an absolute concept, and in its purest form, unavailable, insofar as the cognitive processes of human beings are presently concerned.

  63. Vina,

    Truth is far from herculean, it is simply a matter of simplification. Mathematically, simplifying or reducing an equation by remove any uncertainty or measurement will leave you with equal, the equation or truth of everything.

    An example:

    e = mc2
    e = m
    =

    It was only the speed of light that stood in Einstein’s Way,
    What measurement or judgement stands in your Way?

    =

  64. “According to Einstein’s famous equation E = mc2, the energy E of a physical system is numerically equal to the product of its mass m and the speed of light c squared. It is customary to refer to this result as “the equivalence of mass and energy,” or simply “mass-energy equivalence,” because one can choose units in which c = 1, and hence E = m.”

    The Stanford encyclopedia has an interesting analysis of the equation e=mc2
    Among other relative considerations e=m only if you pick certain units for c. What is the rationale of that symplification?
    Also interesting to know what Einstein thought about this.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/equivME/

  65. The rational for the reduction of e = mc2 is the scientifically proven immeasurability of Nature, or in this equation, the speed of light. =

  66. “The rational for the reduction of e = mc2 is the scientifically proven immeasurability of Nature, or in this equation, the speed of light. =”

    Can you explain? Or you just do not have any explanation

    Is the speed of light immeasurable?

    How does mc2 relates to the scientifically proven immeasurability of Nature?

    What does scientifically immeasurability of Nature means? Then what do all our measurements are?

    What is knowledge for you?

  67. Michael J Ahles

    Scientific immeasurability:

    Quantum mechanics, probability, uncertainty, the state of physics that physics finds itself in today. The measure problem, Copenhagen interpretation, can science solve its own problem of measurement? I believe they will. The answer is =

    Light which is nature, which is you and me is immeasurable.

    Knowledge is thought wisdom is truth.

    =

  68. Michael J Ahles

    Life is like a pyramid. The bottom line is where humanity appears to be, in a linear world. There is relativity with both a plus and a minus sign; polar opposites. All scientific discoveries come with these two signs. Nuclear energy, for example, which has enormous potential is also deadly. The internet can be both a boon and a bane. It may be true that circumstances in themselves are neutral but we do not experience it that way.

    To get to the top of the pyramid where duality converges into one point would supposedly end the duality of relativity: the plus and the minus. Everything reduced to its prior quality; what it evolved from, until there can be no more reductions; that may be what the new physics is all about.

    It appears to be the case that knowledge via the intellect can never arrive at the absolute truth unless and until it can reconcile opposites, which may be what wisdom is: a reconciliation of opposites.

  69. Michael J Ahles

    Vina,

    True.

    =

  70. Re:- Vina January 13,
    A very thought provoking suggestion. Have you any comments on where and how the 4th dimensional TIME fits into this example?

  71. Don Bird

    A good question and probably Michael J Ahles could answer it better than I can.

    In a linear world there is past, present, and future. In an non-linear world there would be only the present moment or what is often referred to as the eternal now.

  72. Vina

    How do you reconcile the second law of thermodynamics with an eternal now?

    In an eternal now, there is no time; all processes are then reversible. All the physics laws around mechanics are indeed reversible. Up to my knowledge, the only evidence that time exists is the second law of thermodynamics. This provides strong evidence for an universe that is impermanent and irreversible; it moves in a particular direction.

    Thank you for your comments, they are very good. I wish I can have more time for conversation.

  73. John M

    That is not a easy question to answer. It probably comes down to what consciousness really is. Very little is known or understood about consciousness at the present time. The sense mind interacting with the environment, sending reports back to the brain, is better understood. Neuroscientists are finding out more on exactly how that works.

    Understanding consciousness will likely not be an easy matter. It may be similar to the new physics where the observer and the observed are no longer found to be separate entities.

    It could be surmised that a consciousness that has neither qualities nor thought would be subject to the second law of thermodynamics, or to any other law for that matter. The perception of time in pure consciousness could be very different from how the sense mind, interacting with the environment, perceives time.

  74. Re Vina January 14
    What you mentioned here is known philosophically as the Hard Problem of consciousness. I do not know what your familiarity is with the subject, so please accept my apologies if you are already familiar with this philosophical concept. Well worth delving into many brilliant ideas but no solutions yet so far as I can find. There are many philosophers who are working with neuroscientists in the hope of conquering this problem.

  75. Jerry Coyne fail to distinguish between “scientific fact” and “social fact” – which John Searle calls “facts by common consent.”

    Social facts may be even scientifically true, but real for the group that believes them. Usually, these beliefs are functional. So if one wants to take them out, one has to understand their social function, and find a (hopefully better) substitute.

    “Accommotionism” at its best tries to understand the social function of religion as a social fact.

    As for Stephen J. Gould’s MONA, it is, unfortunately, a sham.
    The author – a distinguished paleoanthropologist and, if I’m correct, at the time Member of the Papal Academy of Sciences – read the (semi-infallible) utterance of John Paul II that God zapped souls into the original primeval couple (Adam and Eve). Pius XII and John Paul II, enthuses the scientist, did not condemn evolution – their condemnation only referred to “polygenism” (pg. 77)!

    In a footnote Gould admits “I do not understand the details of Catholic theology and therefore do not know how symbolically such a statement[condeming polygenism] may be read” (pg. 78). On the bare factuality of the primieval couple’s original sin hinges the whole of the Christian religion. So on this point the two magisteria intersect.

  76. “Gould argues that religion and science possess separate and non-overlapping “magisteria”, or domains of teaching authority, and so they can never come into conflict unless one or the other oversteps its domain’s boundaries.” – This is very true. Science is all wrong and religions are all correct. So, naturally they cannot overlap.

    There is also another reason. All religions are same and deal with the same concept – soul theory. Whereas science even does not have any idea about soul theory. Science does not have any clue about life and how it is created. It knows about cause and effect, but it does not know that the root cause of every cause is a soul. Take a look at https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/ to learn about how religions explain soul theory. There are three independent ways nature proves the existence of soul (1) Yogic power (2) Reincarnation and (3) Destiny. The free book has three chapters on the above three approaches.

  77. Hi! Despite scepticism, there are belief systems that gel with scientific examination. Buddhism for instance. The simple act of contemplation which is emphasized in analytic meditation is being shown to have definitive benefits. Compassion as a virtue is known to enhance health and wellbeing, see below:
    http://www.insightopen.com/2016/03/compassionate-intention-setting-and-its-health-benefits/

    “emptiness”, a central tenet in buddhism, one that is analyzed or cognized by nonimplicative negation is being seen almost exactly as the quantum physical view of objective reality.

    Unfortunately, we are perhaps not capable of accepting that our reality is orchestrated by forces that are not amenable to scientific scrutiny! The paradigm of a substantial, abiding and permanent self itself according to buddhism is a deep rooted delusion, and it is exactly in the realms of awareness and consciousness that science falls short, both in terms of explanation and instruments.

    Thanks, Ajit

  78. Are our pastors telling us the truth?

    Are Christian pastors honest with their congregations regarding the evidence for the Resurrection? Is there really a “mountain of evidence” for the Resurrection as our pastors claim or is the belief in the Resurrection based on nothing more than assumptions, second century hearsay, superstitions, and giant leaps of faith?

    You MUST read this Christian pastor’s defense of the Resurrection and a review by one of his former parishioners, a man who lost his faith and is now a nonbeliever primarily due to the lack of good evidence for the Resurrection:

    —A Review of LCMS Pastor John Bombaro’s Defense of the Resurrection—

    (copy and paste this article title into your browser to find and read this fascinating review of the evidence for the Resurrection)

  79. Hasnain mohammed

    This means that the materialists accept the principle of eternity and non-origination!

    Eternity is incompatible with the mode of being possessed by matter and the factors and attributes necessitated by its nature. The belief of those who have faith in God concerning a fixed and absolute principle relates to a being who in and of his nature can accept stability and absoluteness; his nature is completely devoid of and remote from the properties of matter. …

    The very nature of matter refuses permanence, eternity and continuity, for it can never separate itself from movement, relativity, and it stands in opposition to being a prime or absolute agent.
    All beings were originally non-beings; they were non-existent, and then they became existent. Deluded atheists wish to say that the matter/universe is eternal, but this notion is incorrect for the following reasons:
    First, if the material matter/universe is eternal, it follows that an …

    eternal being should be subject to change and cessation, which is impossible.
    “Second, if the elements comprising the matter/universe are eternal by virtue of their essence, how is it possible that they should enter the embrace of death and disappearance?

    And if, conversely, they lack life in their essences, how can life surge forth from them?
    “If you say that living beings emerge from living elements and inanimate beings from inanimate elements, we reply that an essence that …

    lacks life in and of itself cannot be eternal and cannot be the source for life.
    Belief in the eternity of the matter/energy/universe is held by those who deny the existence of a ruler and planner of creation, reject the messengers of God, regard the books they bring as the fables of the ancients, and **** concoct **** beliefs pleasing to themselves.

  80. It depends on how one characterizes science and religion. 🙄

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