In another thread, @ Reg posts:

What is the best tool we have to get answers? Science is. Science does not care for the truth. It does not seek to assert that an idea is right. It first tries to destroy it. If it cannot be destroyed then it can be considered to be worthy of further consideration...

One of my struggles with much of what gets written here is that there are so many mythological views of science, many of which like @Reg's are anthropomorphic in their language.

Not only is Science the way of knowing, Science is a bearded, lab-coated deity of sorts.

Now I've probably spoiled things by that introduction, but I am really curious...   What do folks really think of science here?  What is it, how does it work in your point of view?

If you like, consider the following questions:

1. After scientists have developed a theory (e.g., atomic theory, kinetic molecular theory, cell theory), does the theory ever change? If you believe that scientific theories do not change, explain why and defend your answer with examples. If you believe that theories do change: (a) Explain why. (b) Explain why we bother to teach and learn scientific theories. Defend your answer with examples.

2. Science textbooks often represent the atom as a central nucleus composed of positively charged particles (protons) and neutral particles (neutrons) with negatively charged particles (electrons) orbiting the nucleus. How certain are scientists about the structure of the atom? What specific evidence do you think scientists used to determine the structure of the atom?

3. Is there a difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law? Give an example to illustrate your answer.

4. How are science and art similar? How are they different?

5. Scientists perform experiments/investigations when trying to solve problems. Other than in the stage of planning and design, do scientists use their creativity and imagination in the process of performing these experiments/investigations? Please explain your answer and provide appropriate examples.

6. In the recent past, astronomers differed greatly in their predictions of the ultimate fate of the universe. Some astronomers believed that the universe is expanding while others believed that it is shrinking, still others believed that the universe is in a static state without any expansion or shrinkage. How were these different conclusions possible if the astronomers were all looking at the same experiments and data?

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LOL.  Quite right. 

Although in this case I was capital-F because of the start of a sentence. 

The full thing should be "As a discipline, faith/religion starts with the assumption of some things as truth..."

Bob- "God is not testable, I agree, nor is He an object.  That should not be a surprise, either.  Asking for objective evidence or proof of God, or expecting there to be a way of disproving God's existence is indeed "intellectually moronic", though I would be more gentle." 

Why is asking for objective evidence or proof of God "intellectually moronic?" Is it fair to expect an individual to climb on board the Faith Train without being presented some form of extraordinary evidence that supports the theist's supernatural claim? 

When I read "Faith Train" the old Cat Stevens song "Peace Train" started playing in my head, and now I'm sure I will have it there all morning.  Thanks for that :P

"Intellectually moronic" was @Reg's wording, describing why it's ridiculous for a theist to claim that there is or must be evidentiary proof of God.  The same applies in reverse, in that it's equally nuts to ask for evidentiary proof of God as an atheist.

It's only reasonable to ask for objective proof of an object.  When we hypothesize the existence of the Higgs boson, we are hypothesizing the existence of a physical object which will be subject to physical laws and therefore can be isolated and tested.  The object exists within the confines of the universe and its behavior is subject to human cognition.

God is not an object.  He can't be isolated nor made to appear in a lab or accelerator.  He's not subject to physical laws accessible to human cognition. 

At one level, God is just a human idea that has been refined over time, the way energy is just a human idea that has been refined over time, or geometry, or most anything else.  At another level, most scientists "believe" in energy as a genuine external characteristic of the physical universe, and we teach it to young people as a sort of absolute indoctrination.  In the same way, we theists "believe" in God as a genuine external actor and creator of the physical universe, and we teach that to young people as a simplified description.

At one level, God is just a human idea that has been refined over time, the way energy is just a human idea that has been refined over time, or geometry, or most anything else.  At another level, most scientists "believe" in energy as a genuine external characteristic of the physical universe, and we teach it to young people as a sort of absolute indoctrination.  In the same way, we theists "believe" in God as a genuine external actor and creator of the physical universe, and we teach that to young people as a simplified description.

And yet isn't the idea of God fundamentally different from energy or geometry in important ways? First, aren't those two scientific concepts the result of systematic scientific investigation? And isn't God a historical invention that persists merely because its adherents have multiplied while those of other gods such as Zeus have long since died out? What systematic investigation has led us to the theory of God's existence?

Secondly, you've said that God is not testable or falsifiable, but energy and geometry could be falsified quite easily by discovering exceptions to their predictions.

I just don't find the idea of God to be particularly similar to energy or geometry in any relevant way.

I appreciate your nuanced view of God, but you know it must be alien to many rank-and-file believers who believe in a more literal, Biblical, prayer-answering God, rather than an "external actor and creator of the physical universe...as a simplified description". On the other hand, the translation from the Latin that you've said you accept:

I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ , his only Son , our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary , suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified , died, and was buried; he descended into hell, and the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven , and is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints , the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body , and life everlasting .

Aren't practically all of these claims falsifiable, even if the nebulous concept of a creator God outside of the physical universe is not?

Apologies if this strays too far from the topic, but in my defense, I am considering your views themselves and not you as a person. And the conversation keeps coming around to this, in my opinion, because I think people feel the urge to show how inferior religion is as a means of discovering truth, even if we can poke all sorts of philosophical holes in science (or Science). Because even with all those questions, it still blows religion out of the water, and we are left not one stitch closer to supporting the viability of religion as an alternative.

And yet isn't the idea of God fundamentally different from energy or geometry in important ways?

Yes and no.  Yes, in that they're obviously from different domains of human thought, and those domains have their own conventions.  No in other ways.

First, aren't those two scientific concepts the result of systematic scientific investigation?

No.  Geometry is strictly made up.  You simply start with a small set of axioms that are made up from your imagination and then you use (assumed) logic to build up a system of geometry.  Start with different axioms and you get completely different geometries. 

Energy as an idea is also made up, but you are correct in that the idea went through multiple iterations (phlogiston, etc.) based on systematic observation along with conjecture. 

And isn't God a historical invention that persists merely because its adherents have multiplied while those of other gods such as Zeus have long since died out?

Sure, but the same is true of the scientific concepts.  Energy is just a historical invention that persists merely because its adherents have multiplied while those of competing ideas such as phlogiston have gradually died out.   The process of human communities choosing what ideas to believe in is the same for all disciplines, because we are all human.

What systematic investigation has led us to the theory of God's existence?

God's existence is not a theory.  A theory or theorem is something that can be proved within a system of thought.  The fact that the angles of a triangle must add up to 180 degrees in Euclidean Geometry is a theory/theorem that arises from systematic investigation. 

By contrast, the fact that parallel lines do not meet is something that cannot be proven within Euclidean Geometry.  It is not a theory/theorem, it is an axiom - a completely made-up initial condition that is the basis for Euclidean Geometry. 

If you instead assume that parallel lines can meet, then you get a different, perfectly logically consistent geometry called Riemannian Geometry.  That geometry leads to different theories/theorems.  In Riemannian Geometry, the angles of a triangle do not add up to 180 degrees.

How do you choose which Geometry is "right?"  There's no objective evidence, no systematic investigation that's possible.  The only question is whether we can convince each other that a particular geometry is useful for examining certain questions.   Right now, we believe that Riemannian Geometry is more useful for describing the physical universe.

God is an axiom, not a theory.  It's a starting point from which we build a broader discipline that we use to describe the world.  Whether to choose to believe in a system of thought with the God-axiom, or with a particular God-axiom is a function of whether you believe that system of thought is useful for examining certain questions.

Secondly, you've said that God is not testable or falsifiable, but energy and geometry could be falsified quite easily by discovering exceptions to their predictions.

No, they can't be.  Theories based on the idea of energy or theorems based on the axioms of a particular geometry can be falsified by new evidence or discovery of a logical flaw.  So we might discover (as we once did) that conservation of energy as a theory does not hold, and needs to be modified to conservation of momentum-energy and matter-energy.

The idea of energy, though, is just a creative human notion.  It can't be tested, falsified, etc.  If we're honest about it, a magical invisible unmeasurable stuff that transubstantiates between different "forms" and explains most of what happens in the Universe is pretty much like saying "God did it".  

The idea of energy can fall out of favor, however, and be abandoned for other explanations.   

The atheist argument should be that religion is an idea that should be abandoned in favor of newer, better ideas.  Just as energy replaced phlogiston or Riemannian Geometry replaced Euclidean Geometry for describing the Universe, the argument should be that we should choose a worldview based on different axioms as being more useful.

That's why I keep asking what the replacement is.  It's very logical and totally reasonable to replace religion with some other system of thought based on different unprovable assumptions if we find that new system to be more useful.   The problem as I see it is that atheism always dodges this question, and hides behind the banal "it's not an idea, it's just not believing in gods".  That's fine, I don't care about the definitions; I just maintain that abandoning Euclidean Geometry without a replacement is stupid.  In fact, we keep using Euclidean Geometry because it's still useful in simple cases.

Similarly, abandoning religion without a replacement is stupid. 

What's the replacement?  What do you believe in, as opposed to not believe in?

You have, as always Bob, expressed yourself clearly and articulately. I understand your point. Perhaps we can explore a different avenue then. Rather than constantly bashing heads about ideas of God, etc, let's discuss this idea of religion as being useful and therefore requiring a replacement.

Could you give me some examples of things that religion does that are useful that could not be done without belief in God. For example, I know that a lot of good charity work is done by religious people. However, they could (and probably would) do that work even if they did not believe in God. This is evidenced by atheists who do charitable work. Is there anything that requires belief in God as a pre-requisite?

This is a discussion topic about science, so that might perhaps get lost for folks if we do it in detail here.

For a short-form answer, the issue isn't whether something could not be done without belief in God.  There can be alternate explanations, just as there can be alternate explanations for the things that we explain with "energy."  Right now, however, both God and energy are the dominant constructs.

So in your charity case, the very word "charity" comes from religious language.  While current religious people would likely continue to engage in some charitable endeavors even if they became less religious, they are still influenced to charity by religion.  Similarly, while there are many charitable atheists, they too are influenced to charity by the predominant culture in which they grew up, which is religious.  The tax code, reflecting that predominant religious culture, allows those who give to charity to contribute less than their fair share to maintaining roads, schools, the common defense and other functions of government.

If Ayn Rand-style atheism as an alternate idea became the predominant culture instead of religion, I think those things would go away, don't you?  Ideas and culture have large impacts.  In fact, as a proportion of personal income, religious folks do give both more $ and time to charity. 

There's a reason why religion has been called the First Estate, much as a free, independent, and investigative press is the Fourth Estate.

why Ayn Rand?

You're right, this topic has been hijacked a few times. I'm interested in this idea so I may post a discussion of my own related to it.

why Ayn Rand?

No particular reason.  Just a good example of what I would consider a moderately toxic view of the world which has gained considerable traction among a segment of the population and leadership in the U.S.  We're hearing about it from the cast of comic characters who are the current Republican candidates for president.

No.  Geometry is strictly made up.  You simply start with a small set of axioms that are made up from your imagination and then you use (assumed) logic to build up a system of geometry. 

You don't suppose geometry was distilled from observation of the physical world? It was just made up, whole cloth? What a coincidence that it was useful for anything, then.

Energy is just a historical invention that persists merely because its adherents have multiplied while those of competing ideas such as phlogiston have gradually died out.   The process of human communities choosing what ideas to believe in is the same for all disciplines, because we are all human.

If I grant you that energy is an axiom and not a theory, then its adherents multiplied because it spawned theories that made testable predictions that could be confirmed, which made it a more powerful idea. If some tests had failed, it would have been falsified or modified. And when we discovered failed predictions at the quantum level, we did modify it.

The scientific theories spawned by the God-axiom that have withstood scientific investigation are what?

It seems like your contention is that we ought to recognize that neither God nor energy are strictly true as popularly conceived by the layperson, but are merely convenient starting points for thinking about certain ideas. If that's a fair characterization, then I'm okay with you spreading this notion throughout your flock. The problem is that God is practically never portrayed that way; instead all people hear is that Jesus loves you and will save you from sin if you believe in him. The odd thing about Christianity is that it insists on belief. It supposedly doesn't work without faith, and yet here you are talking about God as an axiom that is useful, not as a fact that is true. Doesn't that break the spell? Wouldn't religion's benefits wither away without people coming together in faith to worship what they believe to be a literally existing God?

And again, we're left with that statement of faith. Is all this factually accurate, or merely part of the placebo effect that supposedly makes religion useful?

I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ , his only Son , our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary , suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified , died, and was buried; he descended into hell, and the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven , and is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints , the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body , and life everlasting.

As to atheism offering an alternative to religion, the laissez-faire, piecemeal approach is just fine by me. I'm not even sure exactly what pressing issues need the support that religion once provided. I'm a little vague on that.

You don't suppose geometry was distilled from observation of the physical world?

Ummm... no.  You do understand how mathematics and mathematical proofs work, right?

The scientific theories spawned by the God-axiom that have withstood scientific investigation are what?

The God axiom is not a part of science.  Or at least I don't think it is.  I would say that belief in natural law is necessary for science, and that historically that arose from belief in a monotheistic God. 

This is a discussion about science, though, and I did ask for people's opinions.  Do you think belief in God is necessary for science?

The problem is that God is practically never portrayed that way

If we're being fair about it, energy is practically never portrayed that way either.  We just teach about the existence of energy as though it were an objective thing, at least until you make it to graduate school.  We do the same thing with the Euclidean axiom that parallel lines never meet, and act like the existence of one-dimensional infinite lines is a given.   Again, until graduate school.

If we do that for science and mathematics, why should it be any surprise that folks do it for other things, like religion?  At least in religion we're up front and honest about it being "faith".  And of course Christianity works with doubt as much as with faith.

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