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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Sometimes [the pomp and circumstance of the catholic religion] is quite moving.

Seated, standing, kneeling -- it moved me for a few years.

How does it move you?

Rome's moving most slowly and most cautiously can be a blessing which keeps us away from fads of the day (like the modern worldwide trend toward [Protestant] fundamentalism).

Catholic fundamentalism? The Latin mass?

I once found it interesting that Catholic fundamentalistism went back only to when papal infallibility began, when Catholic opposition to abortion began, etc.

"Seated, standing, kneeling" - sounds like a human yo-yo.

I once found it interesting that Catholic fundamentalistism went back only to when papal infallibility began, when Catholic opposition to abortion began, etc.

Yes, that's sort of true.  That's why it doesn't get as much traction.

Not just Protestant fundamentalism, though.   Islamic fundamentalism is very real; so is Jewish fundamentalism, particularly in Israel/Palestine.  This is a worldwide phenomenon affecting multiple religions.

I like to satirize conservatism with "It takes people back no further than to the first use of dental anesthesia."

 We also preserve quite a lot of art from pagan ancient Rome. 

Using the rules laid down by the Council of Trent, Pope Paul IV mandated the use of concealing fig leaves, promulgating the church’s attack on nudity in art in a papal bull dated 1557.

Most of the fig leaves that we see were put in place on the personal initiative of Pope Innocent X (1644-1655). Pope Clement XIII (1693 –1769)... (source)

LOL.  I hadn't heard that one.  It's pretty funny.  Shades of John Ashcroft putting clothes on Lady Justice.

The Vatican Museum and many of the Church's holdings in Italy are probably the largest collections of preserved Roman art.

The Dragon In My Garage
Carl Sagan

"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"

Suppose I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.

"Where's the dragon?" you ask.

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air."

Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you've really learned from my insistence that there's a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You'd wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I've seriously underestimated human fallibility.

Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don't outright reject the notion that there's a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you're prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it's unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative-- merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of "not proven."

Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons--to say nothing about invisible ones--you must now acknowledge that there's something here, and that in a preliminary way it's consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it's not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you're pretty sure don't know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages--but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we're disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I'd rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren't myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they're never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon's fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such "evidence"--no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it--is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.

(The preceding is an excerpt from The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In the Dark by Carl Sagan.)

"The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."
-- Delos B. McKowan --

So do you have faith in that mythological tale from the book of Sagan?

Easily as much as I do in the Bible, and Sagan didn't try to contend it really happened.

"Because Science works....... BITCHES!"

** Certainty is certainly unnecessary for empirical knowledge

The notion that empirical knowledge would have to be "certain" in order to be knowledge is an old error -- a hangover from tin-platonized xian theology. Kant tied himself in knots trying to pull a priori empirical knowledge out of some transcendental top hat.

The word 'belief'  applied to statements allows degrees (more, most believable) -- 'knowledge' applied to statements does not allow degrees. In the shorthand of logic Kp --> p, if a statement p is known, then it is true. Thus if p is false, a knowledge claim has to be withdrawn. [-p --> -Kp] (Notice it’s not the proposition which is certain, but the relationship between two propositions which is logically necessary.)

If knowledge were limited to topics about which certainty could be obtained, no empirical statement could be known. That’s a stringent requirement which science need not apply to its statements. There is empirical knowledge. It’s the certainty requirement that gets dropped. (That is, fallible knowledge is what science, unlike mathematics, deals with.)

So . . . the atheist asks “according to your concept of God, is there any empirical evidence that would count for or against there being a God?” For example, does a monotheist from the big-4 near eastern religions hold that God (Allah, Yahweh, Ahura Mazda) is all-knowing/benevolent/powerful? Is this God located somewhere in spacetime -- or has the transcendent one left footprints (evidence) of omnipotence behind -- as fundies claim.

If all the theories, methods, data of science can not play any role in determining the truth of a statement that ‘a unique god of such-and-such attributes exists’; then what kind of claim is the monotheist making?  This claim can not be an empirical one; a fact-based reality has been left behind.

Sentences (statements, propositions): ‘God exists’ ‘God does not exist’ are not statements at all. Existence (as elementary logic shows) is not a predicate; that is, it is not a property like ‘is blue’ in the statement ‘the sky is blue.’ Of course, non-existence is not a predicate either.

Anyway, it’s easy to show that the so-called “God” of the big-4 near eastern religions does not exist. And “He” is what counts to true believers -- an “It” like Brahman won’t do. It’s also easy to show that a so-called being beyond description counts as nothing -- “A nothing would be as good as a something about which nothing could be said.” (Wittgenstein)

At this point theologians and religious philosophers hold hands and merrily chant the usual apologetic lies. Until exhausted, they trot out fideism. “We god-proxies say it, you believe it, or we will punish you to the extent of our secular powers.” (Such a threat, while it does get carried out in the US at times, lacks the punch of Iranian or Saudi enforcers of religious ideology.)

Now, is there some god or other? . . . But, that takes us back to all that’s gone before.  So. . . just what kind of “being” or “non-being” are we talking about?


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