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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@Suzanne, that's quite a list!  Is there a connection there that I'm not understanding? 

Ordinarily I'd tell my students that it's far better to develop your own knowledge rather than rely on mine.  There's plenty of sources out there where you can read about what my church teaches on various things.  Please keep in mind that for any of us who teach, what we teach isn't necessarily "true" in an absolute or pure sense.   I take my turn teaching freshman physics (actually I enjoy it sometimes... at least the major's course.  The pre-meds can be annoying. ;-) ).   For beginners, we teach simplified forms; for some things, we are really teaching our speculations or current best guess.   No different for what my church teaches. 

To speak generally about all your questions, my church would teach that the creation story in the book of Genesis is a story.  It establishes a common language and some important principles, but it's not a literal history.  Besides, it's really compiled fragments from an oral history, with edits down the centuries, so it's a bit of a mishmash.   Some years back when the first findings on genetic (mitochondrial) Eve were published, an old Monsignor friend of mine rolled his eyes and laughed and commented "now we may have to jump in bed with the fundamentalists!"

The point of Genesis is that God is Creator, and is reflected in Creation.  So new understanding of Creation, like emerging understanding of evolution or the discovery of mitochondrial Eve, changes the way we understand God and scripture.  All the original Christian faiths (Roman Catholics, other Catholics, the Orthodox Churches, etc.) are not fundamentalist in their reading of scripture.  That's a "modern" innovation in some of our protestant brethren.

When will we have a woman pope?  No idea.   Marriage of clergy is just a discipline, not something doctrinal.  That's a policy that could change relatively easily.  Ordination of women touches some slightly deeper issues, but none are really insurmountable.  I think what you have to realize is that we're a worldwide church, so some changes have to be right for everyone before they proceed.  It has to work in Baltimore and in Bangladesh.  It's much easier for the American Episcopal church which serves only middle and upper class North Americans, or even for the Anglican community which serves Britain's former empire. 

@Doc Bob - speaking of the Creator --

LOL!  Thanks, @archaeopteryx.  That was a stitch.

(Shrugs) It's what I do --

@Robert - Where did the rosary concept come from?

@Robert - that's quite a list!  Is there a connection there that I'm not understanding?

No, not really. And thank you for answering. This for me is a first :) Christians usually either run away, or not answer.

- Develop your own knowledge rather than rely on mine -

This is exactly what I have done, over many years. Read the bible, analysed the bible, asked questions. I was raised a catholic, complete with scapular and guardian angels. Every Saturday afternoon off to confession.

Please keep in mind that for any of us who teach, what we teach isn't necessarily "true" in an absolute or pure sense -

So how do you choose what to believe or not believe?

There's plenty of sources out there where you can read about what my church teaches on various things -

I had already been immersed in the teachings of Jesus, I needed to go further, and a few years later, started doing a lot of research. I was fascinated with Noah's Ark, and found there had been many similar stories such as the Mesopotamia floods and Gilgamesh.

Oral history, with edits down the centuries - so if the story of the Garden of Eden is watered down, why does the catholic church's subjugation of women, as siren as she was, Eve enticed poor Adam into being disobedient. The repercussions of that story has had an enormous impact on the behavior of the catholic church, down to baptism, to erase original sin.

God as creator, that's OK, but if the Garden of Eden is a story, why not the story of god also? There was already a myriad of gods, why that particular one?

Mitochondrial Eve existed - Where was Adam? Why wasn't this Eve named as the daughter of god?

So the all knowing god didn't know about this earlier female? Who named her Eve? The Vatican certainly doesn't recognise an early female, hence on with baptism to get rid of original sin, as with catholic doctrine every baby born is born with original sin. Maybe you should have a few words with the new Pope.

Marriage of clergy is just a discipline, not something doctrinal. - just something else man made up, and is causing havoc to innocent people. Do you think that this man made dogma will change in our lifetime.

If the catholic church catches up with todays society, how will the catholic church be any different to any other christian religion.

I think what you have to realize is that we're a worldwide church, - Isn't the Pope infallible. I was taught never to question Jesus, God or the Pope. Besides the following of the bible causing horrific deeds in the world, the Pope and the catholic church has also.

The other question was about the Rosary, which we had to say after confession. Did you know it was originally called the Witches Ladder? Yet another pagan tradition usurped. Have you ever read anything that takes you back further than the bible. What do you think of all the man made mandates in the bible? How do you choose what to believe?

There would be many ex-catholics on this site. I for one find your answers fascinating, in how two people, for instance, can have come to such different conclusions after reading the same book that then controls lives.

Read bible, analyse bible, research into origins of bible = ex catholic.

Thank you again for not running away :)

"'Scrutumini scripturas'
('Let us examine the scriptures')
These two words have undone the world."

-- John Selden --
(1584-1658)

Mitochondrial Eve is a very interesting story from science. I'm pretty sure the Prof was alluding to the same story, er, research.

That's a lot again!  I'll try not to run away, but I might miss things...

Oral history, with edits down the centuries - so if the story of the Garden of Eden is watered down, why does the catholic church's subjugation of women, as siren as she was, Eve enticed poor Adam into being disobedient.

Well, we've also learned things down through the centuries.  How to interpret the Genesis stories better for one.  While I think it was always viewed in some ways as a story, I'm sure there were long periods where most Catholics believed the world did start in prehistory 10,000 years ago or so, until Father Copernicus and others came along. 

It's probably also a bit disingenuous to criticize the Church for "subjugating" women.  The reality is that almost all cultures worldwide subjugated women, and it had very little to do with the Genesis story or church teaching more generally.  Quite the opposite, the story and commentaries on the story undoubtedly reflect a male perspective because, well, they were the ones who could read and write.

Historically the Church was generally more open to women in leadership roles than most cultures in which it operated.  The early church writings mention prominent women, and women saints are recognized from all periods.  Indeed, the Church (through women's religious orders) was for most of western history the only place that allowed women to have true careers as teachers, physicians, landowners and administrators.  That was even true in the U.S. until the past century.  Who were the only women hospital administrators in the U.S.?  The only women college professors or presidents?  Catholic nuns.   St. Catherine of Sienna after all even ordered popes around way back in the 1300s. 

Anyway, the Catholic theological position would be that both Adam and Even sinned, together and equally.

There was already a myriad of gods, why that particular one?

The Bible is a sort of history book in one way:  it describes the history of Judeo-Christian belief.  Yes, it's clear that for most of the Torah, God was the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  A tribal god, one of many.   After Egypt and the Exodus, that changed.  God was the Biggest god.  God was a jealous god.  God required commitment.  By the Temple or Second Temple periods, God was the only God.  By the prophets, God wasn't just a God who had relationships with holy people like Moses or Kings like David, he was a God who cared about the poor, and justice for individuals. 

The Bible is the history of people learning about God.

Mitochondrial Eve existed - Where was Adam?

You'd have to talk to the geneticists.  I truly find some of the work being done by the Human Genographic project to be fascinating.  If I remember correctly, he came some time later, if indeed there was only one male from whom all humans have descended.

Marriage of clergy is just a discipline, not something doctrinal. - just something else man made up, and is causing havoc to innocent people. Do you think that this man made dogma will change in our lifetime.

It's not dogma.  It's what the church calls a "merely ecclesiastical law".  Kind of like a speeding ticket.  The reason it came about was that traditionally the pastor of a church owned the land and the church.  That led to all kinds of problems in terms of inheritance, and nepotism in the clergy, and having to split up church property.  So the prohibition was an attempt to stop all that.  One that actually mostly worked. 

These days we do have married priests in Roman Catholicism.  Typically they were married in another faith and then converted.  The pope is also the head of the Greek Catholic and Assyrian Catholic churches, and they have married clergy. 

I think practically speaking in the west, being a parish priest is a very hard life, and an even harder life to raise a family in.  Our protestant brethren have no end of stories about ministers with broken marriages and messed up kids.  We'd also need more generous parishioners, since most priests live on salaries that would not support a family.

Isn't the Pope infallible.

NO.  Definitely not.  Catholic teaching is only that the Church, the worldwide people of God, is infallible.  That's a statement about God's love; that God wouldn't let us all go astray.  The pope or councils are only infallible to the extent that they are in communion with and speaking for the whole people of God.

Yet another pagan tradition usurped.

Sure.  Like Christmas trees.  God is found in places outside of Christendom, and those places where people find God can and should be adopted and used.  The Rosary is really a sort of mantra, a meditative prayer similar to some eastern practice. 

Have you ever read anything that takes you back further than the bible. What do you think of all the man made mandates in the bible?

The Torah is pretty old writing, and I'm afraid I don't read Sanskrit or hieroglyphs, so I probably haven't read anything older.  As to the man-made stuff, I think of it the same way Jesus did.  The Bible was made for man, not man for the Bible.   It is a text to learn from, not a book by which to be regimented.

There would be many ex-catholics on this site. I for one find your answers fascinating, in how two people, for instance, can have come to such different conclusions after reading the same book that then controls lives.

Catholics are not fundamentalists.  I'd suggest not reading too much of the Bible in isolation.  We have a Church so that there are people to help teach us.  Fellows like Augustine, Francis, Aquinas, Friar Copernicus and Roger Bacon.  Women like Catherine and Theresa and Bernadette.   Two millenia of scholarship and founding monasteries and universities. 

I'd like to think the physics textbooks we use are OK, but our students still need a physics teacher.  No different with the Bible.

Doc Bob - RE: "I'm sure there were long periods where most Catholics believed the world did start in prehistory 10,000 years ago or so, until Father Copernicus and others came along." Interesting that they would listen to Copernicus, rather than Galileo, but then the difference between Father Copernicus and Mr. Galilei possibly explains a lot.

I think you might be a little off on that 10,000 years though. Want to know just when that first day was? I can tell you exactly. The man usually credited with determining that date was Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656), the Anglican Archbishop Armag and First Primate of all Ireland from 1625 to 1656, who, through a complex formula involving counting backward through the biblical generations, then juxtaposing the Gregorian calendar over the Julian, determined that the Earth was created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BCE This information was published posthumously in a book with the rather ambitious title of The Annals of the World, in 1658.
    But he was scooped by one of his contemporaries - Sir John Lightfoot (
1602-1675), Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, published his calculations in 1644, before Ussher’s were completed. Lightfoot even went a step further - he swore on a stack of Bibles that Man was created at exactly nine o’clock in the morning -  at least by god’s Timex!

RE: "We have a Church so that there are people to help teach us."

and,

"I'd like to think the physics textbooks we use are OK, but our students still need a physics teacher.  No different with the Bible."

Sorry, big difference - the physics textbooks are filled with scientifically verifiable facts, that may require a teacher to explain then to students, whereas the Bible is filled with unverifiable fables that require a spin doctor to validate them.

Ah, @archaeopteryx, you have to remember that James Usher and John Lightfoot were both Anglicans.  We Catholics have mostly laughed at that stuff.  At the time, of course, England was on the Julian calendar, and would be until late in the 18th century.  Pope Gregory, after all, being Catholic, and therefore the Gregorian calendar must be flawed despite the science!

I'd beg to differ with you on Physics texts.  Physics texts present theories and interpretations, not "facts".  Physics is an intellectual discipline, after all.  If you just want a book of "facts", you need to grab something like the old CRC handbook (a few thousand pages of cataloged physical properties and constants and such).

Ah, so Newton's Laws of Motion are merely, "theories and interpretations" - you probably should share that with NASA before they risk sending anyone else up --

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