Science and Religion

Science and Religion
The topic of “science and religion” seems to be popular lately (including
a lively
comments debate
). Here are some offerings from blogs I read.

of a Pertinacious Papist

“Kirk Kanzelberger, a good friend of mine who is a Caltech grad currently
completing his doctorate in philosophy at Fordham, has just created a new blog you
will want to keep your eye on, by the name of Sapor Sapientiae.
In his opening post, he addresses the question, “Why is it that there are smart
people who believe in God, and smart people who don’t?” I think you will find
his Pascalian approach in answering this question quite provocative. Have a look
and leave a comment telling him what you think. Oh, and here’s the link
to his post.”

I Am a Christian Too

” I have spent a good amount of time on this blog disagreeing with the Christian
right, so I thought it only fair that I also disagree with their arch-enemies, the
professional religion-debunkers such as Richard
, Michael Shermer and Daniel
. They are part of the ‘brights’ movement
that attempted to coin that word as a noun to describe themselves and other unbelievers.
While I agree completely with what they have to say about science and pseudoscience,
I obviously disagree with them about religion, and specifically about their view
that ‘intelligent Christian’ is an oxymoron. ”


“‘Few today will have seen the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘logician’ put together to
form a phrase or sentence,’ says philosopher Dallas
, ‘unless it would be to deny any connection between them at all. The
phrase ‘Jesus the logician’ is not ungrammatical, any more than is ‘Jesus the carpenter.’
But it ‘feels’ upon first encounter to be something like a category mistake or error
in logical type, such as ‘Purple is asleep, or More people live in the winter than
in cities,’ or ‘Do you walk to work or carry your lunch?'”

“As Willard goes on to point out in his intriguing article ‘Jesus
the Logician’
there is in our culture an uneasy relation between Jesus and intelligence.
We consider it almost absurd to imagine him as a ‘thinker.’ Yet while he did not
produce theories of logic, like Aristotle or Frege, he was a master of logical
forms. ‘When I speak of ‘Jesus the logician,’ says Willard, ‘I refer to his use
of logical insights: to his mastery and employment of logical principles in his
work as a teacher and public figure'”

Comments 7

  1. Jerry wrote:

    “Religion, logic, philosophy, theology, all work in the fundamentally different domain of axiom.” My allusion to your mention science and religion’s being on different axiom trees was referring to this comment, albeit in a somewhat opaque matter. 🙂 I should drink more coffee.

    Or less. That might be the best route (groan).

    Posted 12 Jan 2005 at 6:54 pm
  2. Steve N wrote:

    I agree with what you say about axioms, but am not entirely convinced that religion and science are on different “trees”. But more on that later, maybe.

    Huh?! You’re very correct to be unconvinced about them being on different trees. But I certainly never said nor implied any such thing.


    Posted 12 Jan 2005 at 6:22 pm
  3. Jerry wrote:

    Also, regarding falsifiable, I did not know that was the sense that you meant the term. I’m not sure if there’s a single word that would describe what I’d have in mind, except for supplant or replace. The term naive is not meant as a denigration in any way–mathematicians talk about naive set theory–but just as that the generalization you made was too simple. And it’s also the same wording that may be used in critiquing Popper. Sorry, I try not to get bogged down by jargon, but mathematicians and philosophers sometimes use common terms like naive in a very specific manner and I need to be reminded of that from time to time. 🙂

    Posted 12 Jan 2005 at 9:58 pm
  4. Steve N wrote:

    And, Jerry, BTW, whose side ya on anyway? 😉 I wasn’t using “falsifiable” in the sense that a theory is proved false, but more in the sense that it fails to explain certain observations. If you have a better word than “falsifiable” to use, then propose one.

    Newton’s gravity isn’t FALSE, it just doesn’t explain all observations. It is a trivialization of General Relativity. All theories will ultimately prove to be trivializations of bigger ones (or occasionally, complete bullshit). This is something I believe but cannot prove….

    But I don’t think “falsifiable” is “naive”, at least in the way I intended it…. Perhaps you were using “naive” in a similar way? 😀


    Posted 12 Jan 2005 at 6:30 pm
  5. Jerry wrote:

    Hi Steve: the “falsifiability” model of science that Popper championed is somewhat naive. Very often a claim is not falsified so much as a more elegant theory supplants it. For instance, I seem to recall that a decisive proof of the Earth’s rotation about the Sun was not made until the 19th Century (I’ll look into that), but given that the Ptolemaic model became more and more unwieldy in order to explain the growing body of astronomical observations.

    I agree with what you say about axioms, but am not entirely convinced that religion and science are on different “trees”. But more on that later, maybe.

    Posted 12 Jan 2005 at 5:42 pm
  6. Steve N wrote:

    I guess I see the whole debate as moot, or at least that’s the way it oughta be. Science works in the domain of predictive models. For the model to be valid, it must be falsifiable. Religion, logic, philosophy, theology, all work in the fundamentally different domain of axiom. If it weren’t for the axiomatic tree, the branch science itself would never have existed. The “scientific method” simply (usually tacitly) assumes stuff like “inference is valid”, “facts cannot truly be mutually exclusive”, “the theory that explains more data is more complete”.

    I think it’s funny that today we have scientists trying to get “in behind” religious belief. It represents to me precisely the same sort of hubris that inspired “creation science.” It is equally likely doomed to failure.

    The world of axiom pervades, nay I’d say owns, everything. Our axiomatic set informs everything about our lives, and therefore the way we do science. Science is what it is, and continues to not be what it is not. And science is fundamentally (inherently) incapable of determining ethical right vs. wrong. To fault someone for thinking that some area of research is off limits, because of some ethical dilemma (informed by their axiomatic base), is, at best, idiotic and, at worst, to make a power grab for science that it just wasn’t built for. Just like the creation scientist going around preaching his “pseudo-science”, we have instead the scientific axiomizer going around preaching his “pseudo-ethics”–the ethic, of course, that there are no ethics and science should do whatever the hell it wants.


    Posted 12 Jan 2005 at 4:50 pm
  7. Steve N wrote:

    Oh-n-geez, Kanzelberger’s essay is one of the best, in terms of power per word, I’ve ever read. IMO, he completely devastates this “evidence for God” mumbo-jumbo… I hope this guy keeps blogging (only one post so far).


    Posted 13 Jan 2005 at 4:57 pm

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