I like this little list because it demonstrates that science doesn’t reject far out ideas, just because they are far out. The decision is made on evidence. Relativity and quantum electrodynamics are far out as far as those of us with ordinary experience are concerned. From my perspective they are as far out as personal gods who forgive sins. But they are well supported by evidence. Tested against reality. The other far out ideas on the list have no evidential support and therefore of no use.
I get annoyed when people lecture me about the “methodological materialism” of science. They want science to be opened up to “supernatural” phenomena.
Well, it doesn’t matter what you call it. In practice science does not ask if an idea or phenomena is “supernatural” – it asks for the evidence. People who ramble on about methodological and philosophical materialism in science are covering up for the fact that their ideas are rejected because they have no evidential support.
Here’s a couple of things I picked up from Jerry Coyne’s blog – whoops, website – Why evolution is true.
I have written about the “limits of science” here a few times – there are limits, of course, but not in the way some religious detractors of science claim. This cartoon illustrates what is wrong with their arguments. From The limits of science « Why Evolution Is True).
And here’s a nice video for lovers of books.
Perhaps a few local librarians could organise something like this. A bit of competition and a draw card for readers.From 2131 books go down « Why Evolution Is True.
Book Domino Chain World Record
I have discussed the issue of “supernaturalism” and science before but return to it having just read Can Science Test Supernatural Worldviews? by Dr Yonatan I. Fishman. It’s an excellent paper which I recommend you read as it may challenge some of your ideas. You can download the full text here.
Posted in Christianity, creationism, culture, diversity, evolution, faith, intelligent design, philosophy, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society, supernatural, superstition
Tagged Barbara Forrest, Homeopathy, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Non-overlapping magisteria, Philosophy of Science, Relationship between religion and science, Rocks of Ages, SciBlogs, Science in Society, scientific method, Stephen Jay Gould, supernatural, The Wedge, United States National Academy of Sciences
Here’s a chance to win a book from SciBlogs NZ. The book is Anna Sandifords Expert Witness. It describes what forensic science is really like, and shares tales from the forensic front-line in New Zealand and overseas.
Go to Code for Life’s post A forensic scientist tells it like it is – free book to give away for a review and details of the giveaway. To enter the giveaway just comment after the review giving one question you would ask if you met a forensic scientist.
(I don’t see the expiry date so recommend you be in quick).
Anna blogs at The Forensic Group which is also syndicated at SciBlogs NZ – Forensic Scientist.
Book review: Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Elaine Howard Ecklund.
Price: US$19.72; NZ$59.97
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (May 6, 2010)
This book reports on the recent Religion among Academic Scientists study in the US. A research project identifying the range of views on religion held by US scientists, and determining the statistical distribution of different beliefs among US scientists.
Elaine Howard Ecklund gives an overview of the research and the questionnaire it used. She also includes data from other studies. Data collection was funded primarily by the Templeton Foundation (the major grant was US$283,549) Participants were randomly selected from seven natural and social science disciplines at 21 US universities (I think the way such studies often neglect the non-university scientific institutions is rather short-sighted). The questions used related to religion, spirituality and ethics.
While the data and interviews of this study are interesting and useful I don’t think they necessarily support the author’s conclusions. I explain why below
Ecklund is a sociologist and currently the director of The Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University.
Posted in belief, book review, creationism, Dawkins, evolution, intelligent design, philosophy, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society, supernatural, superstition
Tagged atheism, Conflict theory, Elaine Howard Ecklund, Relationship between religion and science, religion, Rice University, SciBlogs, Science in Society, United States
Some writings on the science/religion relationship are important and interesting. But we have to sieve through such a lot of rubbish to find the gems. I guess its one area where most people have their own agenda and can’t keep it out of their reasoning.
Frank James’s article “Science and Religion” in the London Library Magazine is an example of the latter agenda-driven analysis. He questions the role of science in the decline of Christianity. He claims that most modern science writing assumes an anti-religious stance. And such writings assume “that science has displaced Christianity during the 20th Century and that has been achieved solely due to science providing a ‘true’, evidence-based description of the world as opposed to mythic beliefs.”
Mind you, he provides no examples or evidence for this claim, although he obviously felt obliged to throw in the usual reference to “the strident outpourings of Richard Dawkins and others.”
In other words, a classic example of straw-mannery. I certainly have never read such a bald claim in the Dawkins’ writings, or the writings of any scientist. And certainly not in the writings of scientists who have researched religion, its origins and evolution.
But perhaps the straw man is just a literary device to enable James to convey his own onions on the relationship between science and religion and the real cause of secularism.* Let’s look at his claims:
Posted in agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, belief, Christianity, creationism, culture, Dawkins, diversity, faith, god, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society, theology
Tagged Christianity, Frank James, Relationship between religion and science, religion, Richard Dawkins, SciBlogs, Science and Religion, Science in Society, theology
Michael Shermer‘s latest book looks interesting – The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.
Chris Mooney interviews him about the book in the latest Point of Inquiry podcast (see Point of Inquiry or download the MP3).
Shermer’s thesis is that with humans belief comes first – then we look of evidence to support that belief. I have often made the same claim – we are a rationalising species, not a rational one. There are good evolutionary reasons for this.
At first sight this seems a rather pessimistic thesis for a scientist and sceptic. However, in the book Shermer deals with the tools that science offers for overcoming this problem. For approaching a more objective knowledge of reality. He asserts that science is unique in this.
I have managed to get a copy and look forward to reading it.
Posted in agnostic, agnosticism, belief, book review, creationism, evolution, intelligent design, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society, supernatural, superstition, Uncategorized
Tagged Chris Mooney, Confirmation bias, Michael Shermer, philosophy, Point of Inquiry, SciBlogs, Science in Society, skeptic
Ibn al-Haytham - a pioneer of the scientific method
This theological myth seems to surface in any debate about the relationship between religion and science. It is the claim that Christianity gave birth to science. That modern science was not possible anywhere but in the European Christian culture.
The myth is actively promoted by some Christian scholars – theologians and philosophers of religion. And sometimes it even appears that less critical non-religious philosophers who are largely ignorant of the history of science accept the myth.
Perhaps we should expect a bit of Christian chauvinism. After all, nationalists claim all sorts of things originated in their own country (People of my generation may remember when the Russians were claiming all sorts of technologies were invented by their countrymen – I fondly remember their claim for lampposts!). And Christian chauvinism is alive and well in areas like human rights and morality.
Posted in agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, belief, Christianity, creationism, human rights, philosophy, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Galileo Galilei, Ibn al-Haytham, Middle Ages, Relationship between religion and science, religion, SciBlogs, Science and Religion, Science in Society
The relationship between science and religion, and the demarcation of their fields, or magisteria, seems to be topical at the moment. On the one had the boundary appears to be violated by religious promotion of creationism and attacks on evolutionary science. On the other, scientists are starting to make assertive comments about the nature of morality and the lack of any requirement for gods in understanding the origins of the universe and life.
This has been accompanied by debates among scientists about how to relate to religion. Whether religion should be immune from criticism or not? Should we challenge religion’s fanciful claims about reality?
So its not surprising that the concept of “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” is being discussed again.
This concept has both its supporters and critics. Different people ascribe different meanings to the concept. And there are of course political and ideological reasons for this.
Posted in agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, belief, creationism, diversity, environment, Environment and Ecology, evolution, Expelled, faith, human rights, intelligent design, philosophy, politics, religion, SciBlogs, science, supernatural, superstition, theology, tradition
Tagged ethics, Existence of God, Jesus and Mo, morality, NOMA, Non-overlapping magisteria, philosophy, Relationship between religion and science, SciBlogs, Science in Society, Stephen Jay Gould