Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bounded in a Nutshell

In a comment to Science, Religion, and Metaphysics, I made this remark which I want to bring up to the front for closer examination:

There is no more conflict between science and religion, nor any more need for reconciliation between them, than there is between carpentry and cooking.

14 comments:

Olorin said...

Again, let's try to separate some issues.

Carpentry and cooking can conflict metaphysically is a cook claims that a non-physical Superchef designed and created wood.

Carpentry and cooking can conflict at a physical level if a cook claims that wood was created after chlorophyll but before lignin.

The cooking/carpentry example does not quite mirror the science/religion archetype. S/R purport to speak about the same, entire scope of reality, whereas C/C speak of separate, incommensurable areas of the world.

Carl Sachs said...

"S/R purport to speak about the same, entire scope of reality, whereas C/C speak of separate, incommensurable areas of the world."

Yes, Olorin. And that's exactly where I come in.

Must science and religion be interpreted as speaking "about the same, entire scope of reality"?

Why not interpret science and religion as speaking "of separate, incommensurable areas of the world"?

What is it that prevent us from seeing science and religion in that way?

Olorin said...

Quoth Carl: “Why not interpret science and religion as speaking ‘of separate, incommensurable areas of the world’?”

This is what Stephen Jay Gould advocated in this concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA}.A number of people have pointed out that this approach has too many holes, where science and religion speak of exactly the same subject matter, and may thus conflict with each other.

I’d prefer to say that they both speak about the world we inhabit, but at different levels, or orthogonal views, of the same subject matter. As I noted before, each can make conflicting claims; but science trumps religion only at the physical level; at the metaphysical level, the tussle can go either way.

Anonymous said...

I hope it is not presumptuous for me to say, but I see a real advance in your thinking in these recent posts--I think there is a value in what you are saying which could have importance on a much wider scale than just for me or other blog readers. I hope you'll write a book and find a publisher who would support broad, mass distribution.

The one minor worry I have(could be my personal problem) is that you might be using your insights to deny the existence of real antagonisms. It may be that you've had a major philosophical breakthrough in terms of thinking some of these issues out, but I hope you don't mistake that for meaning that the antagonisms are going to go away. It may be, though, you will help them go away, in time, through other processes.

--Yusef

Kirby Olson said...

Religious thought has to form an ethical framework for science.

Otherwise science becomes the work of Joseph Mengele (wikipedia it to refresh your memory).

You really ought to care more about this issue.

The Mosaic Laws really do matter.

jh said...

i don't work well with statistics
but i would guess that
around 90% of academic scientists espouse a form of atheism or agnosticism

the whole project of scientific effort of the past 200 yrs leaves people who are discplined in that world with the sense that
"hey...we've figured all this out"
"who needs god"
there is fundamentalism in science
and there is a certain tyrannical aspect as well
science has screwed things up
as much or more as having solved problems

the religious world i work in
has never been too intimidated by science
people often use the galileo story to point out just how blind the church has been
i was a bit embarrassed when johnpaulI made a public apology for the actions of the church
way back then
even galilieo never lost his faith
he at least understood that the world which was opened up by telescopes was a bit over the heads of the greatest theologians

it is one thing for the scientists to believe that
"we will conquer nature"
in the words of
francis bacon
it is another to have a sense
of seeking truth and seeking god
in the efforts of knowledge

when science is set
about controlling human nature
or even simply nature herself
the voice of traditional catholicism does become a bit shrill

a good carpenter appreciates
the efforts of a good cook
a good cook knows the benefits
of a kitchen where woodwork serves
the purpose of facilitating tools and activities that make for good food
they say jesus was a carpenter
he did a bit of vinting as well

science has successfully
brought humanity to the brink of selfdestruction
science is able to control and manipulate human reproduction
science owns the knowledge of nuclear war
who needs religion if you've managed to fix things on both of those scores

the serpent hisses
"you won't die... you don't need god"

good to find this blog

j

Carl Sachs said...

Kirby, I take issue with two points you raise.

Firstly, the problem with Mengele is not that he had no values -- nor that he lacked religious values -- but that he had the wrong values.

Consider: if it is false that there is such a thing as value-free science, then it follows that Mengele's science was as value-laden as any other.

Secondly, it seems to me very much mistaken to think that religion provides some sort of foundation or justification for values.

Rather, I would say that religious institutions have been one of the foremost means by which "our" values have been articulated and transmitted. But that allows for the possibility that other institutions could do so as well.

Kirby Olson said...

But Christian institutions come with very specific values inscribed at the git-go such as do unto others, and the values that are implicitly contained in the decalogue.

Without such a set of axioms, anything goes, and usually does.

In academia, the only thing going on is TOLERANCE, the great anti-value. (It doesn't stand for anything in particular, but argues that EVERYTHING is ok, as there are no standards whatsoever.)

Carl Sachs said...

Kirby: that's fine as far it goes, I guess, but I don't see how it goes very far.

It's one thing to point out, as you do you, that certain values are "inscribed" (a curious word) within some institutions and not others.

But this doesn't show that Christian institutions are necessary for the transmission or expression of (what I will call) humanist values.

Now, it seems that you could say that they are necessary, and that any other institution will somehow falter in some respect to transmit those values adequately.

Or you could concede that the most that can be said for Christianity is that it's been in the business longer than the Enlightenment has, and that's about it.

"In academia, the only thing going on is TOLERANCE, the great anti-value. (It doesn't stand for anything in particular, but argues that EVERYTHING is ok, as there are no standards whatsoever.)"

That might be true in departments of literature. The rest of us have been spared that particular mind-rotting mistake. ;-)

Kirby Olson said...

It's a relief to hear that.

English is probably the worst followed by Ethnic Studies.

Philosophy, as you say, may have been spared that.

Tolerance just means don't really think or feel too deeply about anything, just be a zombie, and vote Communist!

Carl Sachs said...

"Tolerance just means don't really think or feel too deeply about anything, just be a zombie, and vote Communist!"

If you said "and vote Republican or Democrat, it doesn't matter anyway!" you would have captured my sentiments exactly.

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