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Featured Can the Sciences Legitimately Distinguish Between True and False Religious Beliefs?

Discussion in 'Science and Religion' started by Sunstone, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Can the sciences legitimately distinguish between true and false religious beliefs? Why or why not?

    Is there anything about the scientific method or methods of inquiry that would prevent the sciences from legitimately distinguishing a true religious belief from a false one?

    For instance:

    Can the sciences legitimately tell us whether the notion that Rama's Bridge was built by the Vanara army of Rama is true or false? Why or why not?

    Can the sciences legitimately tell us whether the notion that there was once a great flood covering all the earth is true or false? Why or why not?

    Can the sciences legitimately tell us whether any specific deity exists or doesn't exist? Why or why not?

    Can the sciences legitimately tell us whether enlightenment is an actual state of awareness? Why or why not?

    etc.

    BONUS QUESTIONs (EDITED):

    1) Assuming that the sciences could indeed tell us whether at least some religious beliefs were true or false, then in what way(s), if any, would it matter that the sciences could do so?

    2) What, if anything, is the relationship between scientifically established fact (and/or hypotheses) and the meanings or purposes of religions?
     
    #1 Sunstone, Oct 29, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
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  2. Kemosloby

    Kemosloby Well-Known Member
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    Not really unless you exclude the possibility of miracles or power unknown to us. Can science tell us if Jesus could walk on water?
     
  3. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon Well-Known Member
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    Careful much of your list does not describe religious beliefs, such as the existence of God(s), the soul, or miraculous supernatural spiritual events.

    The problem of the lack of objective verifiable evidence to falsify a hypothesis of non-physical spiritual phenomenon.


    There at present no evidence that this bridge ever existed. It is remotely possible, but not likely that the bridge once existed

    This claim is the claim of an actual physical event that there is absolutely no evidence that a great flood ever took place.

    There is no objective falsifiable evidence to falsify a hypothesis for the existence of God.

    No, this is a subjective anecdotal claim

    I do not like to A**-U-ME hypothetical anecdotal spiritual beliefs in terms of what Methodological Naturalism is or is not remotely capable off. The physical events described in ancient writing are possibly in the realms of science, and the applied science of archaeology, but these are ancient records most often without provenance particularly in the West.

    An example of an ancient event that was recorded over 3,000 years ago that is verified by geologic and archaeologic evidence is the great gun-yu flood in China dated ~1920 BCE. This flood is documented by geologic and archaeologic as a catastrophic local river flood. To note: Chinese ancient historical records do tend to be more reliable than ancient writings in the West.
     
    #3 shunyadragon, Oct 29, 2017
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  4. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    Science can test the age of the layers of corals in the formation. If there are layers of old corals on top of younger corals, this would suggest that mined coral blocks were placed upon the younger coral formations to create a bridge. I doubt if science could identify who did it, however.

    Science has identified many mega floods that occurred throughout the earth at the end of the last glaciation when the major glaciers were melting, but these did not occur all at once at the same time.

    The way science works is through prediction based upon observation and discovery by looking for the prediction. If you can figure a way out to apply this to deity, great.

    One would have to have a firm definition of enlightenment to start with.

    That would depend upon the specific religion, and upon the specific application of said religion.
     
  5. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Depends on the claim and the context.

    Science can't distinguish between true and false religious beliefs when there's nothing to measure or observe: for instance, science can't say whether transubstantiation is true.

    Science also can't refute claims that involve magical acts that imply that the basic assumptions of science are wrong, like omphalism (the claim that God created Earth recently with the appearance of age).

    However, plenty of religious claims about the natural world can be evaluated like any other hypothesis and accepted or rejected based on scientific observation. For instance, a lot of creationist or young earth claims can be rejected this way.

    It's important to remember that science is often a matter of models: considering different models for what happens and seeing which one fits the facts. It might be theoretically possible to fit any set of facts to any theory that includes the existence of a "trickster god" that likes to mess with us, but that generally isn't part of what's being assumed. In the case of many religions (e.g. Christianity, at least historically), the assumption is that the natural world is an expression of the nature and will of a God that may be mysterious but isn't a deceiver.
     
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  6. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    One thing to keep in mind: even modern science uses analogies to explain scientific findings to those outside of the specific field of science. It is possible that these scientific analogies may one day become part of the lore of some future religion.
     
  7. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    Debunking mythology is a fool's errand, in that it's only a fool that doesn't understand the difference between myth and fact, already. And those fools are not likely to become wise based on anything science tells them, or they would already have done so.
     
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  8. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Sounds like you're getting into Gould's idea of "non-overlapping magisteria" - NOMA - the idea that "legitimate" religion and "legitimate" science never make claims about the same things.

    Personally, I disagree with this view. IMO, if a religion wants to make claims about stuff within the sphere of science, it's not my place to say that the religion isn't "legitimate." It puts itself at risk for being found scientifically wrong, but if its adherents want to do that, it's on them.

    And I strongly object to the other way that NOMA can be taken: that once religion has made some factual claim, science should retreat from providing input on whether that claim is true or false.

    Overall, I generally agree with Dawkins here:

    Non-overlapping magisteria - Wikipedia
     
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  9. David T

    David T Well-Known Member
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    Absolutely not. Modern science grew right up out of religion starting with my degree theology. The nonsensical ego puffery of many in context to science is identical to the puffery in religion circa 15th century. Hell I just say evolve already. There can be zero gap in thought or it's just a version of intelligent design in science drag is all. Wearing a lab coat does not make a mind rational but can make for a whole lot of rationalizing being called rational..
     
  10. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Libertarian Capitalist Atheist Baconist
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    Science can (from its own perspective) disprove some claims, but not others,
    eg, 6000 year old Earth v 57 angels can dance on the head of a pin.
    But believers can always resort to saying "magic".
     
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  11. Kuzcotopia

    Kuzcotopia If you can read this, you are as lucky as I am.

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    [QUOTE="Sunstone, post: 5380067, member: 499]Put differently, what is the relationship between scientifically established fact (and/or hypotheses) and the meanings or purposes of religions?[/QUOTE]

    I'm just going to answer this one, if that's okay.

    The entire philosophy behind attempting to establish scientific fact/heory is, IMO, humanity's attempt to avoid personal belief and cognitive biases when considering what is true and not true about the wold we find ourselves in.

    I feel like religion unwittingly does the opposite. It actually relies on cognitive biases to determine what's true and not true.

    For example, intercessionary prayer. Can we prove it doesn't work? Not exactly. . . but scientific philosophy suggests we can create experiements to test its effectiveness vs controls, and consider the results. These experiments need to be repeatable and falsifiable. In other words, you can test it again with re same methodology in the USA, china, India, or the Moon, and establish it for yourself. Those that have been done suggest it doesn't work.

    Many religions, on the other hand, simply accept that intercessionary prayer works. The church culture, and individual confirmation bias, create the evidence. If the desired outcome takes effect, then prayer works. If then desired outcome does not work, the the diety did not want to, but had good reasons.

    Religions are philosophically unrestrained to make and reject claims in a way that good science is incapable of doing. I think many people grow up having a lot of trouble saying "I don't know" and te use of religious conclusions, which don't require any consistent methodology, encourage cognitive bias, offering unsubstatiated answers that let humans answer those questions.

    As a side note, most people find this limitation of science restricting, because science fails to overstep it bounds and introduce biases (even though this is often claimed to the contrary by those who dislike science). There are many questions about the world that methodology of science cannot confirm or even make clear models of. . . But we work with the information we have and the limitations of our technology.
     
  12. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    In some cases, of course. (I pray (sic) that the OP does not spawn yet another thread about the Flood.)

    It certainly makes literalism burdensome (and increasingly silly).

    But this is not at all the above question put differently. So, for example, in what way do you see the meanings or purposes of Judaism as dependent upon the historicity of Noah's Ark or a Global Flood?
     
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  13. Mister Silver

    Mister Silver Faith's Nightmare

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    It's precisely why I personally don't take any of their religious claims seriously.
     
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  14. It Aint Necessarily So

    It Aint Necessarily So Well-Known Member
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    Most religious beliefs are neither testable nor falsifiable, so my answer is no, the claims of religion are largely unscientific and therefore not fit for scientific inquiry.

    One claim that is testable and potentially falsifiable, however, is that prayer has an effect on physical reality. That claim was falsified.
     
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  15. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    Kind of interesting to ponder. I think any and all evidence found this late in the game would put the items you listed in the same court as "a meteorite killed the dinosaurs" - scientific backing of the idea, with whatever evidence was gathered, would only put you in the vicinity of "probable".

    Although, as much as some religious types seem to like bashing "science", it would be really, really amusing to see them start enthusiastically jumping on the science bandwagon if findings were to back-up claims made by their religion. "It's a miracle! Suddenly 'science' knows what it's doing!"
     
  16. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Libertarian Capitalist Atheist Baconist
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    The one about infidels needing execution does raise an eyebrow though.
     
  17. Mister Silver

    Mister Silver Faith's Nightmare

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    I have never thought of science as being in the business of proving or disproving the legitimacy of religion.

    Certainly, through science's study and understanding of the natural world, certain biblical claims have been falsified, but that was not due to science actively seeking to discredit religion.

    I imagine that given enough time, religious belief will wane away on its own as more and more people accept the natural world for what it is without needing to adhere to any fallible, irrational, unrealistic belief systems.
     
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  18. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Corrected the OP. Thanks!
     
  19. atanu

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    I think the paradigms of the sciences working on the premise of a true objective world comprising discrete objects on one hand and the Vedanta that teaches the truth to be non dual on the other, are different and non overlapping.

    I am a scientist working with geochemical molecules and flora and fauna. I also have reasonably good background knowledge of Hinduism and have experience of meditative practice. Let me take a moment to give a Vedic-Upanishadic (the backbone scripture of Hinduism) perspective.

    Upanishads teach that non dual Brahman, which has inherent quality of knowledge and existence, is the ultimate truth. There is nothing but Brahman, which however cannot be manifest to mind-senses since mind-senses eternally subsist on it. We are only apparently individuals, located in apparent space, but actually we are non different from the Brahman. As long as there is notion that we are some limited individuals, fear controls us and we are bound to ever-changing limited forms.

    The ultimate freedom is to realise our true natural nature, which is unbound and unborn. To attain this, Upanishads teach that we need to know both the world of separated existence and the non dual. The former type of knowledge is called 'avidya' (false knowledge) and the latter 'Vidya' (knowledge).

    In this perspective, where the non dual alone is accepted as the Truth of the Truth, all other sciences pertaining to apparent discrete objects are considered provisional (avidya).. to be ultimately given up. The knowledge of the non dual Self-Brahman is considered 'Vidya'.

    We must remember that this is for cases when the ultimate goal is to realise one's true unborn infinite nature and attain moksha (freedom from attachment to limited forms). Those content with bound limited existence can happily carry on.

    Now, suppose a meditator considers the objects of perception as real, how can he attain the non dual? OTHT, how can science operate from the premise that the objects that it measures are not real?
     
    #19 atanu, Oct 29, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
  20. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Methodological Naturalism does not assume the world is comprised of discrete objects. It makes no metaphysical claims at all. And yet it is sometimes called the default position of the sciences.
     
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