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Featured If Science Can't Answer it...

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Nakosis, Aug 2, 2022.

  1. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    [​IMG]

    Then the question has no value. According to Richard Dawkins.

    Science does answer some "why" questions, including questions about the purposes of things. Those it does not answer may simply be unanswerable. The questions "what is the purpose of a light bulb?," "what is the purpose of a firefly's light,?" and "what is the purpose of the sun?" all look like the same sort of question superficially, but are importantly different. The first invites an answer in terms of the intentions of those who make and use light bulbs. The second is a question in evolutionary biology. The scientist can provide answers to both of these. The third question is not of the sort that science answers, but this does not trouble Dawkin's scientist, for he denies that this question is meaningful at all.

    Following on this, Dawkins wondered whether there were any deep, important questions that science was incapable of answering. He supposed that there might be, citing as an example the question of what determined the fundamental constants of physics. But, he claimed, such gaps in scientific explanation should provide no comfort to theologians who wished to claim a distinctive sphere of competence for religion. For if any area of study were to deliver answers to these questions – questions Dawkins labeled "the deep questions of existence" – it would be science, not religion.
    Lecture II: The Religion of Science

    Do you agree?
    Or do you think religion holds some meaningful answers for humanity?
     
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  2. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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    Science can and step-by-step does answer all questions about the structure of physical reality.

    It can't answer, prove, questions about the meaning and purpose of life without reducing it to biological reproduction etc which is not a true answer to that question.

    So I disagree with Dawkins:
     
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  3. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Leaderless Animal

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    Meaning and purpose in our lives...What was the reason his three marriages have ended in separation? Answer that one, science.
     
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  4. Heyo

    Heyo Veteran Member

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    Neither.
    Science can't answer questions of morality or law. For those we have philosophy and jurisprudence. That doesn't mean that religion can answer important questions for humanity.
    Religion can answer questions about belief - which may be important for some believers, just not for humanity.
     
  5. George-ananda

    George-ananda Advaita Vedanta, Theosophy, Spiritualism
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    Well Dawkins is the poster boy for the contentious word 'Scientism'.
    No, I am opposed to Scientism.
    I believe from the spiritual and paranormal evidence that we are more than physical creatures and possess psychic/spiritual/clairvoyant senses that can tell us things the physical senses and instruments of science cannot at this time. Hence, I think religion/spiritual teachings can provide direction for answers physical science cannot yet address.
     
  6. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    Ok but, the statement is not about religion's ability to answer a question. It's about whether the answer given holds any actual value to humanity.

    To break your statement down, you seem to be saying not that science cannot provide an answer, only that you don't like the answer it provides. Religion provides an answer you prefer regardless of it's factuality. Does this have any real value beyond your personal comfort?
     
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  7. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    I've always rather liked:

    “Prayer invites God’s presence to suffuse our spirits; God’s will to prevail in our lives. Prayer might not bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city. But prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, rebuild a weakened will.” —Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman​

    Whether God means our God or the reification of our sense of godliness is not particularly important to me.
     
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  8. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    You don't think that science can answer questions about human well being?

    If morality is not an answer to the question of human well being, then what value does it really have?

     
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  9. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    So religion brings comfort.
    Don't you think that the feeling of comfort causes physiological changes to the brain/body that can be scientifically studied and understood?
    As we understand the science of feelings, we can also learn how to reliably effect them.

    Yes, I understand that religion affects you in certain ways but that affect has a physical basis that can be understood scientifically.
    You personally may not understand how the process works but that doesn't mean it cannot be understood.
     
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  10. Nimos

    Nimos Well-Known Member

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    Well, I don't agree with him on this, as others have pointed out, I think science has an issue when it comes to answering moral questions, but saying that these ain't meaningful seems wrong to me as I would consider them highly important :)

    I do however not think religion is the answer to any of these. People can be inspired by them or value them or make use of them. But that is as far as it goes. Religions don't hold the answers to these questions either. To me, the absolute superior answer to such questions is rational and critical thinking, as that will without a doubt provide the best answer as I see it.
     
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  11. Heyo

    Heyo Veteran Member

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    Human well being is but one pillar of morality. Science can measure well being but science can't answer how much well being should be valued against other moral virtues, e.g. liberty. Can you give a scientific answer whether cigarettes should be banned?
     
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  12. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    I think science can provide facts which in turn can be used to support rational and critical thinking.
     
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  13. Dao Hao Now

    Dao Hao Now Member

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    The point being that the human mind can conjure up questions that are nonsensical, and therefore no sensible answer is available.
    As per the questions in the quote the “what is the purpose of the sun?” question is nonsensical….
    it presumes a “purpose” for the sun.

    Without a “purpose” there can be no meaningful answer.
    Of course history has shown us that people may assume a purpose and attempt to then answer what that purpose may be…. and only satisfy those who also hold the same assumptions (and often not even then).

    So yes I would agree the science is the best method we currently have to discover and understand the workings of the universe.

    As to whether religions hold meaningful answers…
    If by “meaningful” you mean accurate or correct; no.
    If you mean hold some significance or value on a subjective personal basis…
    Obviously many people believe so, but I do not share that belief.
     
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  14. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    Too general a question IMO.
    It is not the cigarette that is harmful, it is specific carcinogenics used by the cigarette manufacture that has been proven to cause adverse effects to human health.

    Carcinogenic Tobacco-Specific N-Nitrosamines in U.S. Cigarettes -Three Decades of Remarkable Neglect by the Tobacco Industry

    Is it morally right to ban the use of these substances?
    Or should we consider it a human right for an individual to ingest any poison they desire?

    While there may be a gradient of good to bad choices, certainly we can use science to determine a line where choice is more detrimental to human well-being than beneficial.
     
  15. Nimos

    Nimos Well-Known Member

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    It probably can, but people are different so even if we are equally rational and critical, it doesn't provide us with a moral standard.

    Like, the well known Trolley issue, where you can pull a lever and kill one person or you can do nothing which will then kill 3 people instead. Without a moral standard saying that saving 3 people is always better than 1 person, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. No matter, how rational or good at critical thinking you are. But at least being able to do this, will give you the chance of drawing your own moral conclusion, and to me, that is superior to simply doing what someone tells you that you should do because they believe it's the right thing to do.
     
  16. It Aint Necessarily So

    It Aint Necessarily So Well-Known Member
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    Yes.

    I expect that what Dawkins means is that if a question can't be answered empirically, it can't be answered at all. The word science, which invokes images of people in white coats in laboratories, should be replaced with empiricism or experience. Most answers we have don't come from these laboratories or observatories, but from the experience of daily life. That's how we know how to get home or where to find good French cuisine.

    This based in the correspondence theory of truth, which says that a correct idea is one that accurately maps some portion of testable reality. Truth, fact, knowledge, and correctness are all the same thing, and are only those things that can be shown to be correct. Ideas about why lies beyond experience are metaphysical statements, which can never be demonstrated to be either correct or incorrect.

    Religion has no answers, by which I mean correct answers according to the definition of correct just given: demonstrably correct. This is because it is detached from empiricism, untethered to reality, free to say anything as long as it's not testable, which also means the comments can never be called correct (or incorrect), a condition variously referred to as unscientific statements, unfalsifiable statements, metaphysical statements, and not-even-wrong statements - all meaning the same thing.

    I wouldn't agree that there is no value in considering such things, just that there will be no answers forthcoming. The value comes in recognizing that, that some questions are unanswerable not just contingently as we await the next great discovery or detector, but in principle. I think I've learned a lot considering the supernatural, for example, and coming to see the incoherence of the concept.

    People believe in these realms and their alleged denizens, and they want those beliefs respected. They look for a role for religion to play in the world of learning. The concept of nonoverlapping magesteria does this by assuming that there are two magisteria, two unrelated, authoritative sources of knowledge that are equally valuable ways of deciding truth.

    Not by my definition of truth there aren't. If one's definition of answers allows to call these untestable proclamations from religion answers, then there are two sources of answers: empiricism and idle speculation. But as I said, I don't consider the latter answers, because the ideas are untestable and unusable for anything apart from psychological comforting in those that can be comforted by them.

    As I said, believers take umbrage in all of this, and scoffingly deride this strictly rational and empirical epistemology, contemptuously calling its adherents materialists or excessively dependent on evidence, while short-sightedly ignoring and missing the bigger picture (scientism). My answer is always the same: show me some of these useful insights you've gleaned by this other way of knowing that doesn't involve experience. They can't, because they get none, just comfort. That's fine, but many don't need comforting there. They are perfectly happy knowing that we can only know what we can experience. They have no need for or interest in metaphysical speculation.

    And this angers some. I don't know why. Theistic opinions don't anger the typical humanist, and those theistic opinions are often what the unbeliever should believe or do - advice. Theists frequently ask critical thinkers to "open" their minds and let their shields against accepting false beliefs down, and to and quit being so myopic. Is this a reason to get angry at them? Of course not.

    Still, if a skeptic says that it is his belief that if "science" (experience) can't answer it, it can't be answered, and that religion has no answers, just words that comfort some adherents, he will offend many of them.
     
    #16 It Aint Necessarily So, Aug 2, 2022
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  17. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Abnormal before it was fashionable
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    I agree.
    Religion has questions, but the answers have only personal
    meaning, & aren't amenable to scientific inquiry, ie, no fact
    or truth. Douglas Adams offers sage wisdom in his book,
    "The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe"...

    “The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to
    pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those
    of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as
    the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first
    phase is characterized by the question 'How can we eat?'
    the second by the question 'Why do we eat?' and the third
    by the question 'Where shall we have lunch?”

    How to survive, & where to lunch are objectively answerable
    questions, with answers that can be disproven thru scientific
    experimentation, unlike the question of why we eat. (I assume
    that "why" isn't about the obvious "to not starve".) We can
    research an eatery's hours, locations, menus, & health board
    ratings. These are useful facts.
     
    #17 Revoltingest, Aug 2, 2022
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2022
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  18. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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    The answer to the question is actual value to humanity. That was implied in my answer.

    Science can NOT provide an answer to the meaning and purpose of life. It's not within the scope of science to address such things. The range of what science can solve is not infinite. Gödel incompleteness theorems showed that formal systems are unsolvable. And WIkipedia notes that Tarski's undefinability theorem proves the formal undefinability of truth.

    And of note Erwin Schrödinger had this to say:
    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”

    “We do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We are not in it; we are outside. We are only spectators..."
     
  19. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Yes. Thanks for sharing.

    Try being a little less condescending.
     
  20. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    Just before I read your post, I was contemplating saying something along the lines of, "there are many questions that science admits that it can't answer, and that religion and/or philosophy pretend to be able to answer.

    "What is the purpose of the sun," would be one of those questions. Science can provide a lot of information about how stars form, how long they might shine, and how they die, but cannot pretend to tell you "for what purpose." Religion may well respond, "the sun was created to provide light for the earth," but this is essentially meaningless, as the solar system came into existence as a system over the space of billions of years, with the sun essentially forming first, the planets beginning as a thin disk of nebular material around it eventually coalescing into planets, and after the sun ignites, the remaining nebular dust being cleared by strong "solar wind." All of which makes that religious response quite silly.
     
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