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. . . according to Paul Davies*:

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith . . . The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system.

<snip>

The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn’t so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue . . . Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe

<snip>

But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html?ei=5088&en=a0512faef6fbeb85&ex=1353560400&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

*Paul Charles William Davies (born April 22, 1946) is a British-born, physicist, writer and broadcaster, who holds the position of College Professor at Arizona State University, as well as Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He has held previous academic appointments at the University of Cambridge, University of London, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University. His research interests are in the fields of cosmology, quantum field theory, and astrobiology.
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More discussion, where PZ and others are taken to task:

http://telicthoughts.com/what-theyre-saying-about-davies-op-ed/#more-1943
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All this is a rehash of the all truth is subjective argument. Science and logic accept this even if the minions don't know it. The dialectic and analytic are two means to bring about a semblance of objective truth, which, in spite of adamant contentions to the contrary in the just what does 2+2 equal debate, will always be a leap of faith. The subtle difference being that when all individuals have rehashed 2+2 equaling something other than 4, and it always ends up equaling 4 time after time, over time, eventually we can all agree that 2+2=4 as an absolute.

In areas where verifiable data cannot be replicated by others to follow this same process, the level of subjectivity distances itself too far from objectivity. Yes, Virginia, everything is a leap of faith, but how and where we choose to make that leap is very, very different.

Nigel, cliff diving without a net
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That discussion has already been going on for days.

Actually it has been going on for centuries. It's the old problem of induction made famous by Hume.

I don't think Davies said anything that is particularly wrong or particularly novel. Scientists do assume that the universe behaves in a manner that is logical and consistent, that what is demonstrably true today will be demonstrably true tomorrow. What justifies that assumption is past experience, the collection of observations that indicate the universe can be described by laws that are logically consistent and, at least so far, constant. It is an inductive belief dictated by a long history of observations and experiments.

What Hume points out is that there is no logical necessity for the future to be consistent with the past. So when scientists assume that past and current observations of the universe will be relevant to future observations, which is what scientists do, that is a belief that cannot be proved. Belief in the absence of logical proof or necessity is a leap of faith.

I'm not sure why that is suddenly so controversial.

Science doesn't eliminate the need for "faith", it simply provides a methodology for testing those beliefs that are made on faith.
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I'm not sure why that is suddenly so controversial.


Here's why: those committed to a naturalistic worldview have defined "faith" as "believing things you know aren't true", or some similar strawman definition like Kazim uses (something like "believing things blindly with no evidence").

So in that mindset, when you say they have "faith", you might as well be calling them a YEC.

To be fair to Kazim, some religious people do define faith something like that, but he erroneously extends that to everyone. It is not the historic understanding of faith in Christianity.
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Here's why: those committed to a naturalistic worldview have defined "faith" as "believing things you know aren't true", or some similar strawman definition like Kazim uses (something like "believing things blindly with no evidence").

I don't believe anyone is claiming the first definition, only the second. But I'll bite...how do you define "faith"?

For me it is the belief in something you can't prove. Simple as that. As I have stated before (over on AF, I think) that means I have "faith" in the scientific method. I can't PROVE it will always work, I have faith it does. Someone once tried to play semantics with me and said that I had "confidence", not "faith". In this context it is the same thing, IMO. However, I believe this faith (or confidence) is well-founded because it produces testable, tangible, repeatable results. It's not based solely on the writings of superstitious primitives who knew little of the world around them (other than it was scary as he|| to them).

1poorguy
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I don't believe anyone is claiming the first definition, only the second. But I'll bite...how do you define "faith"?

For me it is the belief in something you can't prove. Simple as that. As I have stated before (over on AF, I think) that means I have "faith" in the scientific method. I can't PROVE it will always work, I have faith it does. Someone once tried to play semantics with me and said that I had "confidence", not "faith". In this context it is the same thing, IMO. However, I believe this faith (or confidence) is well-founded because it produces testable, tangible, repeatable results. It's not based solely on the writings of superstitious primitives who knew little of the world around them (other than it was scary as he|| to them).


Actually, my understanding of faith is pretty close to yours. It is believing in something you can't prove, but is BASED on data and reason.

So why do you think some AFers objected to you using the term "faith"?

BTW, it was Samuel Clemens who described faith in the first example.
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So why do you think some AFers objected to you using the term "faith"?

Probably a knee-jerk reaction. "Faith" today is associated with "the Christian Right". These are the politicians who claim you can't be a real citizen if you aren't a believer, the evangelicals who tell you that God/Jesus loves you (and you'll go to he|| if you don't believe, and by the way be sure to add a couple more zeros to that check), the people that claim there is a vast conspiracy of science to discredit God and turn people from the "real Truth" (with a capital "T"!!). Thus the word has acquired a lot of very negative baggage to many people, and they react negatively to it.

I'm somewhat in that camp, too. However, I realize that we all have faith in something. The only question in my mind is whether you can back it up with anything. Not "proof" (since if you can prove it then faith isn't needed), but rather a demonstrable consistency with the observable universe*. I have faith that if I drop my can of Coke it will fall towards the ground (and make a mess). Why? Because of eons of people dropping things and having them fall down, and because this has led to the notion of "gravity", and it so far has been demonstrably consistent. Can I prove it? Only by dropping the Coke, and I still wouldn't be able to prove that the next can I drop (since I just lost one, I'd have to break out a new one!) will do the same (without testing it again). Rather than waste all my Coke I take it on faith that this gravity thing works consistently, largely because it always has (so far). If ever it doesn't then an adjustment of world view may be needed.

1poorguy

*Yes, I know...the observable universe is also a faith of sorts. The solipsist believes the universe is a figment of someone's imagination, as I recall. And when the dreamer stops dreaming, it's all over. Nothing we perceive is real. Probably where they got the story idea for "The Matrix".
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Thus the word has acquired a lot of very negative baggage to many people, and they react negatively to it.


Pretty good analysis, I think
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The word has acquired negative baggage through its usage. Examples:

A Christian challenged me to read John with her. I only agreed if she would read an atheist apologetic book - she chose Atheism: The Case Against God by George Smith. I ended up reading John, Luke, and Acts and the George Smith book (I had never read any book in the genre before.) We compared notes throughout. She repeatedly said everything in the Smith book made sense, she could not refute it, and she was a Christian via faith.

http://www.friendlychristian.com/index.php/is-faith-nonsense/
Conveniently, the author states what he means by faith: "The Bible says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." He asks "Why is it so hard to believe in God? If he’s really there, why doesn’t he reveal himself to the world? Why does God hide from us? Why does such an important question — Is there a God and does he care about me? — require

so

much

faith?"

Or another author on the same site:
http://www.friendlychristian.com/index.php/promises-shromises/
The author spends several paragraphs expressing doubt about God and Christianity. He then spends one sentence quoting Isaiah 55:9 "For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." I asked in the comments:

"Why do it ? Why the struggle to maintain certain beliefs when you (apparently) feel there are so many strong reasons to doubt those beliefs ?

What is the motivation to do this ?"

His response:
"Ever since I started trying to live as the bible instructs and putting my faith in Jesus, things have been incredible. I’ve had plenty of struggles along the way, but the benefits of trying to follow Christ have far outweighed the stress of the struggles. Also, things have never gone sour when I’ve lived as the bible instructs. It’s when I try to start steering the ship on my own that I quickly find myself pulling my hair out.

I don’t ever want to go back! Again, I only speak to my own story."

Or this: http://www.friendlychristian.com/index.php/christianity-makes-my-head-hurt/
by the same author.

For beliefs that are based on evidence and logic, there is no reason to say 'I believe based on faith.' You say 'I believe based on (relevant evidences and logic.)' Only when you have insufficient evidence and logic to warrant belief is faith ever brought up. That's why I will bristle when it is stated that I am relying on faith. By common usage and by definition, faith is wishful thinking - a justification for an unjustified belief.
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1poorguy wrote:
For me it is the belief in something you can't prove. Simple as that. As I have stated before (over on AF, I think) that means I have "faith" in the scientific method. I can't PROVE it will always work, I have faith it does. Someone once tried to play semantics with me and said that I had "confidence", not "faith". In this context it is the same thing, IMO. However, I believe this faith (or confidence) is well-founded because it produces testable, tangible, repeatable results. It's not based solely on the writings of superstitious primitives who knew little of the world around them (other than it was scary as he|| to them).

With regards to science and the use of the words like "faith" and "belief", I've always been a bit annoyed by the question "Do you believe in (the Theory of) Evolution?". In this context, it's easy for "faith" and "belief" to be equated.

I've never been asked this question but I would be tempted to answer "no" and add - "I trust in the Theory of Evolution". Because it is a true scientific theory, if I wanted to, I could try to verify it to my own satisfaction.

As far as I'm aware, the constants of nature have been shown to be, well, constant over billions of years. Re-testing them every day (ie constantly doubting them) would be redundant beyond belief (sic).
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For me it is the belief in something you can't prove. Simple as that.

My problem with that is that it lowers the bar for the word "faith" to a sufficient degree that the word becomes meaningless and irrelevant. There is no "proof" for anything other than mathematical formula. There is only greater or lesser degree of certainty.

I think there is a marked difference between this and the word "faith" as religious people use it, which is regarded as a virtue (i.e. the Doubting Thomas story).

If I say that I have a pet cat, and you don't assume that I'm lying, do you take this on "faith"? Would it matter to you if it turned out that I don't have a pet cat? Would it matter to you if it turned out that I did?

Even if I showed you a cat and said "This is mine" you would not, strictly speaking, have "proof" that it really was mine, even if it acted affectionate toward me. But a reasonable person would assume that it probably is my cat.

To me, it's a misapplication of the word "faith" to say that you have faith in my pet cat. You've accepted it as a convenience. That's why I think a useful definition of religious faith should encompass the word "evidence," not the word "proof." By my perception, the amount of faith you have is a factor of the degree to which you commit to believing in things for which you have not supplied evidence.
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By my perception, the amount of faith you have is a factor of the degree to which you commit to believing in things for which you have not supplied evidence.

I can accept that too. Perhaps it is better-expressed than my perception. By either definition you'll get people that walk out and point to a tree and say "there's your evidence" (or "proof"...whichever). The father of a high school friend would do that.

1poorguy
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To me, it's a misapplication of the word "faith" to say that you have faith in my pet cat. You've accepted it as a convenience. That's why I think a useful definition of religious faith should encompass the word "evidence," not the word "proof." By my perception, the amount of faith you have is a factor of the degree to which you commit to believing in things for which you have not supplied evidence.


But by adding the idea of degree of faith, I think you're getting into the range of meaning of the word "trust", and more into what the Greek term translated "faith" means.

There's no question that "believing something is true despite a total lack of evidence" would be considered having faith. I don't think we disagree on this. But to me that would require a modifier, like "groundless faith", to be accurate.

I have faith that God exists, but I don't consider it baseless.

I also think that Jesus criticized Thomas' lack of faith, not because Jesus was promoting "blind faith", but because Thomas was unreasonable, in effect saying, "These other disciples who say they saw Jesus are liars and untrustworthy". Thomas rejected the testimony of his friends, and the evidence of the empty tomb, and all the things he had seen Jesus do.

Stubborn refusal to believe something *despite* the evidence is not a virtue.
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I also think that Jesus criticized Thomas' lack of faith, not because Jesus was promoting "blind faith", but because Thomas was unreasonable, in effect saying, "These other disciples who say they saw Jesus are liars and untrustworthy". Thomas rejected the testimony of his friends, and the evidence of the empty tomb, and all the things he had seen Jesus do.

Stubborn refusal to believe something *despite* the evidence is not a virtue.



According to the bible, the disciples were not exactly the sharpest knives on the tree. Time and time again, they can't understand what Jesus is trying to say.

Not only that, but after the resurrection, Jesus was apparently so hard to recognize that Mary mistook him for the gardener.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to doubt a bunch of slow-wits talking about a guy claiming to be Jesus risen from the dead when he doesn't even look like Jesus.
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There's no question that "believing something is true despite a total lack of evidence" would be considered having faith. I don't think we disagree on this. But to me that would require a modifier, like "groundless faith", to be accurate.

Okay, let me try this in a different way. You know my meaning of the word "faith," but I don't know yours. All you can tell me is that my meaning isn't correct.

So in order to understand better where you're coming from, I'd like a succinct answer to this question. Is the word "faith" different from the word "belief" in any meaningful way? If so, can you tell me precisely what that difference is?
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I'd like a succinct answer to this question. Is the word "faith" different from the word "belief" in any meaningful way? If so, can you tell me precisely what that difference is?



If only you'd believe, you'd understand.
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I also think that Jesus criticized Thomas' lack of faith, not because Jesus was promoting "blind faith", but because Thomas was unreasonable, in effect saying, "These other disciples who say they saw Jesus are liars and untrustworthy". Thomas rejected the testimony of his friends, and the evidence of the empty tomb, and all the things he had seen Jesus do.

Stubborn refusal to believe something *despite* the evidence is not a virtue.


Okay. Please provide archaeological or concrete historical proof that Jesus actually existed and that the ascension took place. And no, the bible is not a reliable source.

Thanks,

Nigel
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So in order to understand better where you're coming from, I'd like a succinct answer to this question. Is the word "faith" different from the word "belief" in any meaningful way? If so, can you tell me precisely what that difference is?


Are we still talking "religious faith", as you mention before:

That's why I think a useful definition of religious faith should encompass the word "evidence," not the word "proof." By my perception, the amount of faith you have is a factor of the degree to which you commit to believing in things for which you have not supplied evidence.


Now I'm starting to think you're right. Faith has degrees, to the extent it is based on evidence (or warrants if you prefer). You need modifiers to indicate the amount of "trust with no proof/evidence" you are using.

"I believe the sun will rise tomorrow" is the same as "I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow", but the mere use of the words does not indicate the basis or the strength of evidence for the object of belief.

I guess I don't agree with you equating "religious faith" with "blind faith". It can be blind, but so can any other kind of faith you talk about.
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Okay. Please provide archaeological or concrete historical proof that Jesus actually existed and that the ascension took place. And no, the bible is not a reliable source.


Why is your standard "proof"? And what constitutes "historical proof"? I have evidence, no proof.

BTW, if you are arguing Jesus never existed, please say so. It will save me a lot of time.

Thanks,

Bryan
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Why is your standard "proof"? And what constitutes "historical proof"? I have evidence, no proof.

BTW, if you are arguing Jesus never existed, please say so. It will save me a lot of time.

Thanks,

Bryan


We've already discussed this. I believe the middle east was swamped with Messianic Jewish prophets at the time of Jesus. I see no evidence that any one of those was The Jesus we find in the bible.

So, what evidence do you have that is independent from the bible? I hear tell the Romans were pretty involved in the area at the time. What does the vast Roman historical lexicon have to say on Jesus that was written at that time? And how about the Jews? They did live there, as I recall, and put all kinds of stuff down in the record. So, what contemporary accounts do they give of this man? And the son of god ascended into heaven, plucked from the Earth by god himself. I'm fairly sure the western wall and the dome of the rock have not only been preserved but revered for centuries, so how about this tomb from which Jesus rose? Where is it and what church/shrine sits atop it to revere this most divine of all Christian events?

What else do you have, if these questions can't be answered?

Nigel
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I also think that Jesus criticized Thomas' lack of faith, not because Jesus was promoting "blind faith", but because Thomas was unreasonable, in effect saying, "These other disciples who say they saw Jesus are liars and untrustworthy". Thomas rejected the testimony of his friends, and the evidence of the empty tomb, and all the things he had seen Jesus do.

If Jesus called Thomas unreasonable, then I'd have to call Jesus unreasonable, given that:

* Both Peter and John didn't believe Mary's testimony that Jesus had risen. They had to go run to the tomb to check for themselves. And they were two of the Inner Three--much closer to Jesus than poor Thomas.

* Your "liars and untrustworthy" statement is a false dichotomy. A perfectly reasonable third option is "mistaken." A fourth would be "deceived."

* Yes, it's quite possible that the other disciples could have been mistaken or deceived given that every post-resurrection account of Jesus involves a case of mistaken identity.

* I still haven't seen a valid explanation of why "believing without seeing" is so superior to "knowing from seeing." In other words, why is Thomas criticized for insisting on examination? Why is faith superior to reason when both are possible? Sure, having faith in something when reason fails may have some survival value to the believer (assuming what the believer has faith in is actually true.) But what's wrong with those who prefer a bit more evidence that a corpse is walking around other than a known liar shouting, "I saw him! Honest, you gotta believe me!"?
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I believe the middle east was swamped with Messianic Jewish prophets at the time of Jesus.

Then you must have a different standard for believing that than you apply to Jesus. It would seem any standard you applied to fail Jesus would also fail the existence of the others.

By what evidence do you believe these other prophets existed?

So, what evidence do you have that is independent from the bible?

First, I don't accept your implication that the NT writings are not credible evidence.

Second, since you are so well read, I'm assuming you dispute the testimony/evidence from Josephus, Tacitus, Seutonius, Pliny the Younger, Thallus, and The Babylonian Talmud.

I hear tell the Romans were pretty involved in the area at the time. What does the vast Roman historical lexicon have to say on Jesus that was written at that time?

What do the records say about ANY poor, itinerate Jewish preacher of the time?

I'm fairly sure the western wall and the dome of the rock have not only been preserved but revered for centuries, so how about this tomb from which Jesus rose?

Hah! Gotcha there pal . . . we've got at least TWO!
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However, I believe this faith (or confidence) is well-founded because it produces testable, tangible, repeatable results.

The question though is why you believe "testable, tangible, repeatable results" justifies belief. What is the logical argument that says the future will resemble the past?

To put it another way. Suppose this universe is simply one selection from a near-infinite number of possibilities in an undirected, undesigned multiverse where virtually anything is possible. Is there any reason to assume that any "natural laws" one sees today are going to apply tomorrow? Is there any logical necessity justifying the assumption that what is a physical constant today will still be a constant in two weeks?

I don't think so, yet we all are willing to take the prescribed medicine or ride the airplane whose assumed functions are based on the unsubstantiated belief that those very same natural laws and constants will remain consistent.

That is faith in action, and it doesn't seem all that different from the religious variety. I think this was Davies' point in the NYT op-ed.
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Second, since you are so well read, I'm assuming you dispute the testimony/evidence from Josephus, Tacitus, Seutonius, Pliny the Younger, Thallus, and The Babylonian Talmud.

er...what exactly did Pliny the Elder say about Jesus? I said contemporaries, so I'm not sure how requesting advice on whether or not it is legal to kill Christians a century after Jesus supposedly lived is evidence that Jesus actually lived. Also, Josephus? What did he say about Jesus? I'm having a tough time finding him saying anything about him that isn't in dispute, said dispute even acknowledged by the Catholic Church, and for all he wrote, one small passage for what is purported to be the undisputed rock star of the time? Again, here we go with having it both ways, in the bible, Jesus was at the forefront of a major movement and events, but suddenly when it comes to independent proof of someone of such magnitude, Jesus suddenly becomes an itinerate Jewish preacher of the time. So then, the Gospels are wrong?

Tacitus is a good source, but again, a hundred years late to the party, and only substantiates that a man named Jesus was crucified. It provides no separate accounts of any of the events in the bible that according to the bible led to an uprising of an extent that required the leader be put to death. If you really want to lean on Thallus as evidence, please, go ahead, but don't look surprised when you topple over.

I'm fairly sure the western wall and the dome of the rock have not only been preserved but revered for centuries, so how about this tomb from which Jesus rose?

Hah! Gotcha there pal . . . we've got at least TWO!


Would that include the one in India?

Nigel
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Nigel:

Here is a link to a tad of the gnostic gospels approach with Josephus.

http://christopherbutler.wordpress.com/category/josephus/
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Nigel:

Here is a link to a tad of the gnostic gospels approach with Josephus.

http://christopherbutler.wordpress.com/category/josephus/


Thanks Joseph. I'm not a skeptic to the point I would argue that a Jesus never existed. As you read through the debate from the many sources, the common theme running on both sides is the writer's interpretation of things. Rising from the dead, and raising a man from the dead are no small acts. A skeptic somewhere would have jumped on those or other issues had they actually occurred, as sure as believers have claimed the divine nature of such events. There are no skeptical, or even non biased accounts of some truly supernatural events that are claimed to have taken place.

If Pliny the Younger felt it necessary to seek advice on the legality of putting christians to death, why no correspondence seeking the Emperor's council on executing the son of god? Because Jesus never claimed to be the son of god? Why no commentary on the miracles ascribed to him, even in a derisionary fashion?

As I dance around this issue, I find that human nature screams at me, and I always see men, attempting to wrest power from men with swords and whips with nothing more than an idea, and viola, a man who preached peace, tolerance, and acceptance is turned into an idol after the fact by others for control and power.

An Immaculate Conception? The Virgin Mary today would be given a paternity test that would have settled that one pretty quickly. I can go on forever.

Until god returns, slaughters us all, and destroys the world, I will remain a skeptic. Sometimes I have to wonder how religion created two such destructive supernatural forces, god and the devil, but subscribe all the best to one, and evil to the other. They both seem pretty down on we humans.

Nigel
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As I dance around this issue, I find that human nature screams at me, and I always see men, attempting to wrest power from men with swords and whips with nothing more than an idea, and viola, a man who preached peace, tolerance, and acceptance is turned into an idol after the fact by others for control and power.

Nigel
-------------
I am 100% on board with your statement here.

& is why I delineate between man made religion & ones own spiritual path of peculiarity.
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I'm not a skeptic to the point I would argue that a Jesus never existed.


It comes down to how you define "Jesus". George Washington lived even if he never cut down a cherry tree.


But even if the legend can be trace back to an individual, without the resurrection and the sermon on the mount and walking on water and a couple of other things, can he be called Jesus?

I would argue no.
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But even if the legend can be trace back to an individual, without the resurrection and the sermon on the mount and walking on water and a couple of other things, can he be called Jesus?

I would argue no.


I agree, and take it a step further . . . if those things never happened, then who cares if there was a Jesus or not. It's totally irrelevant to my life.
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The question though is why you believe "testable, tangible, repeatable results" justifies belief. What is the logical argument that says the future will resemble the past?

To put it another way. Suppose this universe is simply one selection from a near-infinite number of possibilities in an undirected, undesigned multiverse where virtually anything is possible. Is there any reason to assume that any "natural laws" one sees today are going to apply tomorrow? Is there any logical necessity justifying the assumption that what is a physical constant today will still be a constant in two weeks?

I don't think so, yet we all are willing to take the prescribed medicine or ride the airplane whose assumed functions are based on the unsubstantiated belief that those very same natural laws and constants will remain consistent.

That is faith in action, and it doesn't seem all that different from the religious variety. I think this was Davies' point in the NYT op-ed.

I still think that this scientific kind of "faith" in a universe which is symmetrical in space and time has a better foundation than the faith in supernatural revelations.

The assumption of time and space symmetry can lead to testable predictions. There is also pure mathematical proof that the conservation laws, of which the observed evidence is overwhelming, imply these symmetries. And to make it all nicely coherent, a symmetric universe must have these conservation laws (by same mathematical proof).

Whole different story than invisible gods, demons and spirits.
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I agree, and take it a step further . . . if those things never happened, then who cares if there was a Jesus or not. It's totally irrelevant to my life.


Well, then, we agree completely.

I don't believe in the resurrection, the sermon on the mount, the last supper, the loaves/fish story, the virgin birth, walking on water, or any of that stuff. It's possible the legends originated in a real person, but the legends themselves are still false and therefore the whole concept of Jesus is irrelevant to my life.
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It's possible the legends originated in a real person, but the legends themselves are still false and therefore the whole concept of Jesus is irrelevant to my life.


For something so totally irrelevant to your life, you sure spend a lot of time talking about the guy
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It comes down to how you define "Jesus". George Washington lived even if he never cut down a cherry tree.


But even if the legend can be trace back to an individual, without the resurrection and the sermon on the mount and walking on water and a couple of other things, can he be called Jesus?

I would argue no.


I was heading down that road, but apparently it's a taboo subject.

At some point I know I will have finally settled in as a regular on this board when one of my posts is responded to with a searing "DIE, HERETIC, DIE!!!!"
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The question though is why you believe "testable, tangible, repeatable results" justifies belief. What is the logical argument that says the future will resemble the past?

To put it another way. Suppose this universe is simply one selection from a near-infinite number of possibilities in an undirected, undesigned multiverse where virtually anything is possible. Is there any reason to assume that any "natural laws" one sees today are going to apply tomorrow? Is there any logical necessity justifying the assumption that what is a physical constant today will still be a constant in two weeks?

I don't think so, yet we all are willing to take the prescribed medicine or ride the airplane whose assumed functions are based on the unsubstantiated belief that those very same natural laws and constants will remain consistent.

That is faith in action, and it doesn't seem all that different from the religious variety. I think this was Davies' point in the NYT op-ed.


This was hashed out 3,000 years ago in Greece when the ancient philosophers recognized all truth was subjective. They made a conscious choice to establish a school of thought that would allow an autonomous being, subject to emotion and individual interpretation of its surroundings to approximate objective truth and understanding. Science has followed this school of logical thought, and yet as I read through the ponderings and discussions of the many here who work within the field of science, it would appear they do not know their own roots.

Science, the analytic, and the dialectic are all a choice that allows for a collective understanding that has far different implications than a choice to believe in religion.

Let's take an example from both sides to illustrate and compare the results of two rock solid "beliefs," and how it effects the two schools of thought, logic and religion.

Science believes in the Theory of Gravity. Through the use of logic, independently verifiable data, and an assault on the theory to probe it for weaknesses and fallibility over time, we have a virtually unified scientific body that believes that when an apple lets go of its tree, it will fall to the earth. We also have a unified body that believes it will happen the next time, as well, because to not believe that would lead to chaos, not to mention the potential for great harm if a scientist were to test the hypothesis and leap from a tall building to see if he or she moved sideways or up.

Now, let's look at a belief in God, the corner stone of many major religions (oops, I think the answer just slipped out). Do we see a unified front, or do we see a fractured population, each believing in its own interpretation of god, not just between major religions, but from individual to individual within a like religious belief? There is no unified acceptance of exactly what God is and what he expects us to do within religion because it is a system based on a faith in faith, not a faith in logic.

In the end, it's all subjective, but that leads to a divisive system. Independently verifiable data leads to a unity of thought, even if it requires leaps of faith at times to build a framework that requires testing. At some point, the faith gets tossed, either replaced with a new thought because the original was proven to be bunk, or with a generally agreed upon acceptance of facts that all have "faith" can be replicated by you, me, and anyone, today, tomorrow, and next century.

Davies thoughts are sound, but he failed to step back to the root, the individual. From there, all is faith, and a faith in logic is far different than a faith in faith.

Nigel
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...and yet as I read through the ponderings and discussions of the many here who work within the field of science, it would appear they do not know their own roots.

It often isn't taught. Had I not taken Philosophy of Science I would not be aware of it (until encountering others like you that understand this)*. In science class they start throwing observations and equations at you. The underlying assumptions of the reliability of our senses, the ability to measure things, etc, are not elaborated. They are assumed. The ability to describe things mathematically is not elaborated, it is assumed. Or, in math-speak, they are regarded as "givens".

From there, all is faith, and a faith in logic is far different than a faith in faith.

Interesting and succinct way of putting it. I like it.

1poorguy

*Interestingly, when I took that class I didn't get what I expected. I was thinking it would deal with philosophical ramifications of quantum mechanics (e.g. the Copenhagen interpretation), and stuff like that. What I got was "how do you know a second today is the same as a second tomorrow", and "how do you know a centimeter is always a centimeter", and "how do you know you can trust your senses". The prof didn't like my pragmatic answer to the last one: "If I can't trust my senses then everything in the universe is moot because I may not be perceiving the universe correctly, so I may as well trust them."
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Davies thoughts are sound, but he failed to step back to the root, the individual. From there, all is faith, and a faith in logic is far different than a faith in faith.

I think you missed Davies' point.

Current models of cosmology do not provide any reason to believe that our universe must necessarily be ordered and "rational". On the contrary, in vogue speculations on multiverses suggest that all types of universes may be possible, including those where "natural laws" come and go.

So science cannot make a compelling argument proving that the order in the universe we observed yesterday will be true tomorrow. Given that, what does our "faith in logic" direct us to do when the trusted scientific method fails?

To take a leap of faith. For our brains, the universe makes more sense and is more "comfortable" if we assume that it is ordered and rational and will remain so forever. And so that is what we assume.

Religion is not all that much different. Religious issues are generally those that are not amenable to testing by the scientific method. Morality, the meaning of existence, what is a "good" life are issues that mostly lie in the non-science "magisterium", to paraphrase Stephen J. Gould. Once again one is faced with problems for which the scientific method is insufficient. In the absence of logical necessity or empirical proof, the only logical option left is to take a leap of faith in whatever direction makes one happiest (to paraphrase Aristotle).
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This was hashed out 3,000 years ago in Greece when the ancient philosophers recognized all truth was subjective... (etc)

I wish I'd written that post.
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In the absence of logical necessity or empirical proof, the only logical option left is to take a leap of faith in whatever direction makes one happiest (to paraphrase Aristotle).

I thought I said that, but with much more verbosity while looking through the hole from the opposite side.
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I thought I said that, but with much more verbosity while looking through the hole from the opposite side.

You may well have, but my disagreement is with the part of your post that seems to argue a qualitative difference in the faith exhibited by the religious and that by the scientist, with the latter being superior. Note your closing phrase:

"...and a faith in logic is far different than a faith in faith"

I think that is a false distinction as I think both sides have faith in logic (with the apparent exception of those arguing that flagellum required God's personal attention). The real distinction is that the questions dealt with by science are more objective than those in the realm of religion. As such they are more amenable to a logical/empirical approach.
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I think that is a false distinction as I think both sides have faith in logic (with the apparent exception of those arguing that flagellum required God's personal attention). The real distinction is that the questions dealt with by science are more objective than those in the realm of religion. As such they are more amenable to a logical/empirical approach.

That's like saying that if you program a computer to calculate answers to actual mathematical programs it's the same as having one spit out random numbers. Sure, a computer provided the answer in both cases, but I feel the results that come about are quite distinguishable.

A few days ago the Matrix or us all being in a dream of some great elephant was brought up. The parallels to the universe you describe with no constants are right on the money. Ultimately, it all falls back to our own unique interpretation of everything, and a faithful belief that it is all real. Without the initial leap, nothing makes sense, and nothing really matters. Once we step off that platform, it all becomes distinguishable.

I fail to see how one can argue that a belief in a non provable, non falsifiable entity is logical. Perhaps if you can explain that to me I might be better able to grasp what you and Davies are driving at.

Nigel
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Nigelglitter: That's like saying that if you program a computer to calculate answers to actual mathematical programs it's the same as having one spit out random numbers.

I think it is more like saying that just because your computer math program will be used more often by an engineer than an artist, it doesn't make the latter less logical or less appreciative of math.

I fail to see how one can argue that a belief in a non provable, non falsifiable entity is logical. Perhaps if you can explain that to me I might be better able to grasp what you and Davies are driving at.

It seems to be a universal of the human condition to be concerned about such things as the "meaning of life" and the purpose of human existence. The contribution of science to these questions is largely at the level of "pass as many of your genes as possible to the next generation". For many however, their personal experiences suggest a deeper purpose than survive and procreate, something more transcendant. On this science is silent. If there is a transcendant purpose than logic would suggest that that purpose has an equally transcendant source. On this science remains silent.

So what does one logically do if one's personal experiences/desires/reasoning lead one to conclusions that lie outside the falisfying capabilities of the scientific method?

Logic leads one to the precipice where certainty ends. From there one can either turn around and give up the game, or take a leap of faith. That leap may take one to a multiverse where logic and mathematical order occur by chance, or to God, or to who knows where. Different directions, but the same leap.
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I fail to see how one can argue that a belief in a non provable, non falsifiable entity is logical. Perhaps if you can explain that to me I might be better able to grasp what you and Davies are driving at.

Nigel
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Again, not disagreeing with you Nigel, but to be fair I pose the following.

Most any astrophysicist, quantum mechanic, or whomever seriously studies the visible & non visible universe(s), would state that what they are able to see physically is often times totally illogical in the best proved scientific facts. Often not following any known laws of physics that have been agreed upon, so far.

So, I can conversely understand in a not so religious way, how one might find logic in what may not be measured with any of the 5 limiting senses.

Now, of course that logic may be peculiar to the thinker, but I still can get the drift of their insistence.

Then again, we might then be entering my field of science & could consider any number of Dx conundrums.
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It seems to be a universal of the human condition to be concerned about such things as the "meaning of life" and the purpose of human existence. The contribution of science to these questions is largely at the level of "pass as many of your genes as possible to the next generation". For many however, their personal experiences suggest a deeper purpose than survive and procreate, something more transcendant. On this science is silent. If there is a transcendant purpose than logic would suggest that that purpose has an equally transcendant source. On this science remains silent.

You're painting with too broad a brush. Purpose comes from within, so the notion that science is austere and antiseptic is irrelevant. The quest for meaning is a suitable purpose in and of itself and needs no external source to give it merit.

So what does one logically do if one's personal experiences/desires/reasoning lead one to conclusions that lie outside the falisfying capabilities of the scientific method?

Logic leads one to the precipice where certainty ends. From there one can either turn around and give up the game, or take a leap of faith. That leap may take one to a multiverse where logic and mathematical order occur by chance, or to God, or to who knows where. Different directions, but the same leap.


And so we have Berenger turning everyone into rhinoceros, and the schizophrenic mutilating a family because the voices tell him so, both the same leap in yet other directions.

The direction we choose to leap has monumental consequences. The fact that all schools of thought or beliefs jump off the same board is a pretty moot issue.

Now, if you'd care to vet out the already noted absence of ethics within science as a field, I'm right with you. This is an area that does require a leap in the same direction that religion takes, and is clearly a weak spot within science and one that is being addressed more and more. When science and a commonly accepted ethical standard is achieved, one would have to consider that science will offer a benefit of understanding on both the religious and scientific levels.

Nigel
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Most any astrophysicist, quantum mechanic, or whomever seriously studies the visible & non visible universe(s), would state that what they are able to see physically is often times totally illogical in the best proved scientific facts.

Do you have some names and quotes about this statement?

md (Physics guy wondering who you are talking about and in what context)
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Most any astrophysicist, quantum mechanic, or whomever seriously studies the visible & non visible universe(s), would state that what they are able to see physically is often times totally illogical in the best proved scientific facts.

Do you have some names and quotes about this statement?

md (Physics guy wondering who you are talking about and in what context)


I'm not sure if I would make that blanket statement, but I do remember these kinds of remarks by Richard Feynman:

"I think it is safe to say that no one understands Quantum Mechanics."
"One does not, by knowing all the physical laws as we know them today, immediately obtain an understanding of anything much."
"The more you see how strangely Nature behaves, the harder it is to make a model that explains how even the simplest phenomena actually work. So theoretical physics has given up on that."
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Do you have some names and quotes about this statement?

md (Physics guy wondering who you are talking about and in what context)
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Generally in every research paper I read in SciAm, Nature, The Astrophysical Journal, Astronomy & Astrophysics, to name a few there is more times than not an alluding to this dark matter, that massive black hole, this super nova, that gamma ray burst that results in more questions than answers. The Universe that is observed is simply queerer than one might logically imagine.

No particular names off hand but I can say that my entiore adult life has found me reading the many research papers & this has been my observation.

As one example I would pose gravitational force. Although the observational applications are all well known and applied, there is no deeper understanding about the big picture workings of gravity.

Here is a link to explain what we know about it:

http://www.physics.upenn.edu/courses/gladney/mathphys/java/sect5/subsection5_1_1.html
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The Universe that is observed is simply queerer than one might logically imagine.

I was watching a show the other night about the building of robots, and how science is trying to replicate life in movement and design that leads back to just how infant our understanding currently is.

Thin fibers, each attached to its own separate sensor to gauge wind strength and direction on Mars to avoid whirl winds copied off the near perfect cockroach, an undulating coil of robot that can roll like a wheel, slither like a snake, or use it's multitude of either wheels or legs to navigate virtually any terrain, a la the centipede, and other improvements so we may send robotics to other planets for exploration and not have them croak on us in short order.

I kept waiting for the one with a nut sac, but I guess they don't need one that advanced yet. :-D

It certainly does draw one onto the merry-go-round when an intelligently designed robot functions better when it mimics life.

*sigh* This board is officially dead. I just used an emoticon. I'm going to pour Frank's Hot Sauce on my back and flay myself 100 times with a willow twig. Is self-flagellation IC?

Nigel
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*sigh* This board is officially dead. I just used an emoticon. I'm going to pour Frank's Hot Sauce on my back and flay myself 100 times with a willow twig. Is self-flagellation IC?

Only Behe can answer that question for sure, but I think it is IC. Take away any component : the twigs, the hand, the arm, the back.... and it just won't function anymore as it should.
Therefore self-flagellation was designed which means the good designer wanted us to self-flagellate.
Have you noticed that it contains the letter sequence flagel... ? that should mean something.
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*sigh* This board is officially dead.

"You've killed her!" (Wizard of Oz)
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Purpose comes from within, so the notion that science is austere and antiseptic is irrelevant. The quest for meaning is a suitable purpose in and of itself and needs no external source to give it merit.

Finding merit is not the issue. It's finding a method. The religious world is fragmented because there is no agreed upon methodology for finding meaning and purpose. For those existential issues science isn't much help, which leaves...what?

To bring things back to Davies, scientists will be biased to the notion of an intrinsically ordered and rational universe because that is what our minds are most comfortable with. We intellectually accept the logic of Hume's criticism of induction and Popper's rejection of positivism, but we don't really believe it enough to apply it in our lives. If A leads to B enough times we accept that as positive proof and it becomes a "truth".

In effect, our brains seem to be wired to assume the consistent orderliness of reality even in the absence of a scientifically demonstrable reason why such consistency should be so.

So on one hand you have the agnostic scientist who assumes a fundamental orderliness to the universe for no good reason, and on the other you have the theist who explains the observed order by assuming a transcendental source called God.

Leaping in different directions to be sure, but its not at all clear to me that one brand of faith is more logical than the other.
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