Is your trust in science based on faith or based on science?

What I mean is this: how much do you actually know about the science most atheists parrot? Most atheists know as little science as most Christians know as little theology. Just as a Christian trusts his priest to tell him what he believes, an atheist trusts scientists with a Ph.D. tacked to their name to tell them what they believe. But how many times have the scientists turned out to be wrong? I only ask this because it seems this is central to the problem that most atheists have. They are repulsed by the phrase “believe” – they are addicted instead to the phrase “know”. But honestly, do you really know, or are you just believing what you’re told? I would like to remind you that in the 1970′s the scientists of the day were seriously concerned that we were about to enter an ice age, and less than 30 years later they are now convinced Earth is about to turn into a desert.

Unless you’ve observed something yourself, or observed and interpreted the evidence yourself and drew your own conclusions, you are just as guilty as faith as any religious person.

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The same place all of us learn things.  We learn from other people. 

Sure.  You should keep reading.  A lot of them are hilarious.

I am not sure what you mean about younger theists with new ideas.  There can be no new idea in religion.  Either you proceed from belief in a supernatural deity or you do not.  There is no new idea.  May I say that the devil is in the details.  People with a "new detail" have been burned at the stake.  

Why can there be no new ideas in religion?

Catholic monasticism didn't start with Jesus of Nazareth.  Monks and monasteries started with St. Benedict - a whole new way of approaching the practice of Christian faith which sustained learning for a thousand years or more.

Franciscan emphasis on poverty, More's treatises on the relation of religion to the (newly emerging) nations, on and on.  Religion is vibrant.  Human understanding adapts and improves.  God, like nature, is still out there to be experienced and thought about and learned from.

I wouldn't say there can be no new ideas in religion. I'd just say that since sticking to  dogma is usually religion's main goal, science trumps religion in the new ideas department, by at least a thousand-fold.

(See, everything is relative. I mean, most everything.)

Except that sticking to dogma is not religion's main goal.

If that's what you think religion is, then you are right to reject it!

For particularly important things, large groups get together and formulate consensus statements (ex. Vatican II), but there are still dissenters.

I'd call the difference between Christianity and Islam more than "dissent". And those are only two, eternally uncorrectable dogmas. Do you give Scientology as much credibility?

The thing about scientists is that they don't even have to share the same books or libraries before they independently--without discussion--come to the same conclusion. They almost always do share ideas and data, but it's not a requirement. Sharing knowledge only speeds up the discovery and prediction process. Two labs separated by language, space, and time eventually come to agreement, not because of one supposedly infallible book they share, but because of being skeptical of what they know and all things known, and testing different ideas.

Could anyone of ancient times have even dreamed of other planets and solar systems? What causes disease, or how to prevent or cure it? No, not until the several hundreds of years it took to undo previous myths and philosophy, and replace it with methodical tests and observations that any independent scientist could verify on her own, even without convening to pool their opinions.

I think that analysis is somewhat simplistic, @PopePaul.  What has actually happened is that western science and priorities have outcompeted or forcibly replaced other approaches.  It's altogether unclear whether the same formulations would emerge from a different scientific process grounded in a non-western culture.  At very least the priorities would be different.

At the same time, it is remarkable how similar many aspects of religious spirituality are the same between different cultures.  Buddhist and Christian monasticism share many common traits, despite near-zero discernible historical contact.  That's a better record than science under your criteria, because the development was truly independent rather than one approach simply becoming dominant and replacing another.

And that sounds simplistic to me, too, but at least it allows us to get into deeper explanations if we can.

Would you disagree that a huge difference between science and religion is that science successfully encourages dissent, which (over time) turns into reproducible, experimental results, and agreement? Generally speaking, unchangeable dogmas discourage that. It assumes from the start that everything ever written that we need to know was written back hundreds or thousands of years ago, even before we had widely distributed books on science.

Again, I think your argument is with religious fundamentalism, not with religion in general.  Fundamentalism makes up only a small fraction of religions, albeit a somewhat overly loud small fraction here in the U.S. and a few other nations.

So no, most religions don't believe that everything we need to know was written thousands of years ago, and dogmas really aren't too much different from foundational assumptions in any field of thought.  They exist to frame the discipline and approach, but are constantly reinterpreted.  There is a religious version of the Correspondence Principle, which is perhaps a bit stronger than the scientific notion, but not too much.

Science allows for dissent within boundaries.  Propose a perpetual motion device or a theory of intelligent design and you've wandered too far from the foundational assumptions.  Your dissent is not at all encouraged, it's (rightly) dismissed as non-science.  Even then, legitimate scientific dissent within the boundaries can cost you grant funding, job opportunities, reputation.  To say that it is "encouraged" is to significantly overstate it. 

RE: "dogmas really aren't too much different from foundational assumptions in any field of thought" - with all due respect, Bob, I've yet to find a religion that corrects itself when new information is known. Science, on the other hand, does exactly that.

I think you're putting too much faith in science.  It's done by us mere humans the same as any other human endeavor. 

In my religion for 2000 years we've corrected lots of errors, brought in new ideas and methodologies, rejected bad notions that had garnered a lot of followers for a period of time.  I think the process is probably slower than with science, because data comes in more slowly, and we're more like population ecologists or social scientists.  We have to get data from the field with a lot of confounding variables and complexity.  Physical science is much easier, because data can be gathered quickly and from laboratory settings where effects can be isolated.  I confess I like it for that reason.  I just wouldn't necessarily privilege it over other reasoned human quests for understanding.


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