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  1.  (8121.101)
    But again, the point is Extremism, be it Faith or Science, is a bad thing.


    Agreed.
  2.  (8121.102)
    SteadyUP:

    Having read the last page and a half at a stretch, I think it would be productive if everyone take a couple points as a given before we progress:

    1) Both science and religion, like all human pursuits, are capable of and have done both great good and horrible evil, and to attempt quantification of either's is a waste of time.


    Uh... no. Sorry. Discussing in which ways both of them aided and hindered human society is in fact a quite interesting topic. Because Science and Religion are not equal in their own ways. I am an atheist. I live my life without any religious beliefs. I don't need relgion, neither do a lot of people. I, however, need Science. Everyone does, to maintain our current life standards. This (arguable) difference alone deserves to be discussed.

    2) Neither science, nor religion, nor good, nor evil, will ever disappear completely from human civilization, therefore speculating on why one or the other would be better is masturbation.


    If your intention with this post is to keep this thread a civilized discussion, labeling certain arguments as "masturbation" is not the way to go. I don't see the point of including "good" and "evil" on it either, since Religion and Science are not such clean-cut concepts, being subject to both.

    The amount of cyclical posting in here to the tune of "I'm not saying all _______ is bad, just that _______" or "if the world didn't have _______, _______ would never happen" is crippling the real conversation, and Rachael's original topic, IMHO.


    Rachael's original topic seems roughly preserved to me, and if she feels otherwise she'll post so we can address a specific subject. The conversation has flown naturally since the first post and, despite the touchy subject, has remained civil.

    I think it's safe to assume that no one here genuinely believes that either science or religion is fundamentally evil and capable of no positive influence, and if someone does, they're a moron and should be ignored anyway.


    Despite not believing that either, I don't intend to label anyone a moron or to ignore anyone. If I disagree with a point, I'll present a counter-argument without trying to insult the person who offered the argument. I believe this is how discussions should go.
    •  
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.103)
    Hmmm. Equivocation is all very reasonable, but ultimately just highlights problems.
    But again, the point is Extremism, be it Faith or Science, is a bad thing.

    Would it be too rude to ask for actual examples of scientific extremism?
    That is, extremism explicitly motivated by passion for science?
    Scientific extremism doesn't actually describe any threat that exists in the real world.
    Not for any sensible definition of the word extremism.
  3.  (8121.104)
    Would it be too rude to ask for actual examples of scientific extremism?
    That is, extremism explicitly motivated by passion for science?


    I think Josef Mengele qualifies.
    •  
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.105)
    explicitly motivated by passion for science?
    I don't think he does. Mengele was a sick fuck but his extremism was not motivated by his love for science.
    Also: that's a Godwin jump.
  4.  (8121.106)
    explicitly motivated by passion for science?
    I don't think he does. Mengele was a sick fuck but his extremism was not motivated by his love for science.


    He performed experiments on human beings with the intention of learning about heredity. There was strong scientific curiosity involved, along with his many other motivations, since human beings don't tend to act on a single one.

    Also: that's a Godwin jump.


    ... the atom bomb. Sending human beings to space on a flying brick. On a smaller but relevant degree (in this case not extremism, but abuse) over-reliance on anti-depressants, often before proper diagnosis.
    •  
      CommentAuthorcelan
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010 edited
     (8121.107)
    @citruscreed
    Yeah, it's easy to get adrift semantically with this subject...what I might mean if I was using the concept of "extremism" would be something along the lines of "mental inflexibility"...and further there could be the connotation that this can lead to some form of violence (and I mean a broad definition of violence here that would include things that are not necessarily physical).

    Also, I would echo SteadyUP's general idea that we have creeped pretty far away from the original question of basically: how do you balance atheism versus spiritual/weird/etc.? Unless of course we consider the fact that we are sort of "enacting" the struggle here and providing many different approaches/opinions/indignations...Apparently, there are some hardcore "science gangsters" on WC and there are some people like me who love science but are more or less soft-headed about the things which fall outside the purview of science thus far...To my mind the mention of Buddhism and Quantum Physics points up the notion that, at the deepest level, reality "dissolves under analysis"...leaving us to thrash about trying to hitch our ideas to some kind of fixed, objectively verifiable phenomenon...
  5.  (8121.108)
    how do you balance atheism versus spiritual/weird/etc.? Unless of course we consider the fact that we are sort of "enacting" the struggle here and providing many different approaches/opinions/indignations...


    The problem being that not everyone, me included, sees a need to even balance it, hence the current topic. But to answer the question more specifically: I am a hard atheist, but I don't claim to know for a fact that there is no God, no afterlife or no Leprechauns of the Fifth Dimension -- I just find it very unlikely and don't believe there are. Well, maybe the Leprechauns.
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010 edited
     (8121.109)
    This thread is so civillised and thoughtful that I'm hesitant to wade in and cram my foot into my mouth - but I do have some thoughts:

    1) The one overriding feature of my life seems to be trying to unify opposite traits or interests - arts/sciences, masculine/feminine, stay/go, boys/girls, introvert/extrovert, etc. It hadn't occured to me until now that I'm very lucky that I've never had to wrestle with theism/atheism. I was raised in a (quietly) Christian and churchgoing family, but never really felt that I had to rebel against it - I found it quite interesting in a way but, without mentioning it, never absorbed the meme. There was a time (early teens?) when I really wanted to have faith in something supernatural, but my heart was never in it.

    2)a) I think there's a misconception about what "science" means represented several times in this thread. There's the scientific method - it's been mentioned already but I think it's worth repeating. Essentially: Make an observation, create a hypothesis to explain what you've seen, use the hypothesis to make a prediction, test the prediction, use the results to refine the hypothesis (possibly scrapping the whole thing and starting over) until you have something that works for every possible test you can do (a theory). This is a tool for finding things out.

    From that we get scientific knowledge - all the collected information that has been discovered using the scientific method. Having been discovered, the knowledge, belongs to theists just as much as it does to atheists and, really, is just "knowledge" (although some of it is probably only interesting or useful to scientists).

    Then there's a lot of other stuff also grouped under the heading "science" - scientists, researchers, institutions, technology, engineers and engineering, etc. I'd say this is the human construct that goes with the pure ideals of the scientific method and scientific knowledge. Some of it is neccessary to get things done (can't do science without scientists), some of it is very interesting from a sociological perspective, some of it is fun, but some of it is just barnacles clinging on to the hull.

    An idea:
    If you have a criticism against "science", work out which of the above components are to blame. I'd be really interested to hear the criticisms which apply specifically to the scientific method or to the data of scientific knowledge.

    3) I've often heard people say that there are "lots of things that science can't explain or investigate yet". I'd be interested to hear some specific examples if anyone has some off the top of their head - I want to test a hypothesis...
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.110)
    I was avoiding using the Nazi example because of obvious Godwin problems, but as Andre says, Mengele was a good example of what we're referring to.

    If you think of "creating the master race" as an actual goal rather than empty propaganda (and I wouldn't be surprised if some Nazis held it as a real goal), then that also counts -- breeding a genetically superior type of human is definitely steeped in scientific dogma.
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      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.111)
    Eugenics in general is an example of science gone wrong. Parts of Canada had sterilization laws well into the 1970s.

    Nutrtitional science also changes, depending on who's funding the study. (Bran is good. But not that good.) The scientific method can be co-opted. (Then again, not that long ago, Martin Luther got a lil peeved by Rome's habit of selling Get Out Of Hell Free cards, so ... you know. Nobody's pure.)

    An example of what science CAN'T do? How about explain consciousness? Or translate baby noises or whale-song or dolphin chatter? Or explain where the hell those Leprechauns came from?
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.112)
    "I've often heard people say that there are "lots of things that science can't explain or investigate yet". I'd be interested to hear some specific examples if anyone has some off the top of their head - I want to test a hypothesis... "

    I'll take you up on this, although doing so makes me sound a little heavy on the religion side of this debate -- I'm not, I'm an agnostic:

    1) Can science quantify, measure, or identify the human soul? Can we prove what happens to it upon a person's death? And no, I don't think that electrical activity in the human brain is equivalent to what I'm referring to here.

    2) Can science identify why humans have been able to advance so far beyond other creatures, primates or otherwise, in what we measure as intelligence? There are other species out there capable of limited tool-usage, and there are species of birds capable of impressive problem-solving skills, and beavers are able to make large changes to their environment via their dams -- but none of them measure anywhere near humanity on these. It's not a question of brain size, if whales are any indication. This one probably WILL get answered by science eventually, but I haven't heard an answer being proven yet.
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.113)
    Also, I would echo SteadyUP's general idea that we have creeped pretty far away from the original question of basically: how do you balance atheism versus spiritual/weird/etc.


    It's not a versus situation in my opinion, you can have both. I am an atheist, but I am also profoundly weird. And even spiritual, dare I say. But spiritual does not have to mean religious, nor does it have to mean that a person needs to "open his mind" to supernatural speculation. How can anything be supernatural? Everything that exists is part of nature, so nothing can transcend nature or be separate from it somehow.

    My spirituality is entirely geared towards reality as I experience it. It's got no place for God or miracles, but it's full of humanity.
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      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.114)
    @Andre - well, it is invoking Godwin to use a Nazi scientist to make a point about atheism. I don't understand what you mean by the flying brick stuff.
    @celan - I can accept that definition of extremism too and still ask for a single example of where such "scientific extremists" with their pro-science agenda actually represent a threat to individuals or societies in the way that religious extremists so clearly do. I think trying to establish any equivalence of authority between the two is just plain wishful thinking. Agnosticism would be the only honourable position, but for the fact that science is always open to question, and consistently uses a proven and reliable system to categorise data.
    @mister hex -
    Eugenics in general is an example of science gone wrong.

    @Isaac Sher -
    Mengele was a good example of what we're referring to

    A poor choice of example. Eugenics is not science. It's a racist political ideology that uses poorly understood genetic science to support morally disgusting conclusions. There is no causal link between wanting to categorise information and what ends that information is then put to. Mengele was a monster, his crimes were commited in the name of science, maybe, but science doesn't mandate the things he did. That's why it's a Godwin to bring him up. The causal link between faith and extremism is in contrast, undeniable.

    Being both a grimly degenerate atheist and a soulless, evidence-obsessed cynic it is my particular pleasure to lump a huge number of irrational beliefs together into one big yeasty dough. Religion = ufo abductees = vaccine panic = ghosts = reiki = conspiracy theorists = cryptozoology and many other fortean phenomena = crystal healing = GM food panic = magick = homeopathy = fairies = geopathic energies = indigo children. Mix well. Keep it in a bucket until it starts to froth then knead violently. Prove again. Knock all the air out of it and work with the hands until you have a dense, malleable nugget of activated mythologies. Bake for a week then tear it open with your fingers. When the burning sensation subsides a little, you'll be able to taste the still-cold flavour of the thing they all have in common, the ultimate source of their power to persuade people. Fear.

    You could argue science is driven by fear too, but that's not really true. It's driven by relentless, insatiable, demanding curiosity that is only intolerant of bad information and refuses to be swayed by special pleading.

    As has already been noted here, science always comes with the coda, "as far as we know". It is categorically different from religious belief because it is not irrational to accept that information assembled in accordance with the Rules Of Science is more reliable than information assembled in accordance with other Rules. It's reasonable to assign a higher truth value to it and, as Sagan said, tentatively to reject the irrational hypothesis. That doesn't mean we should start persecuting Believers, but I don't think you can allow them to seize the floor and evangelise without making sure that everyone knows that what they are selling is not supported by any evidence and that in fact,the evidence suggests something quite different. Attempts to suggest an equivalence between religion and science should particularly be resisted as they give an unearned legitimacy to religious ideas.
    • CommentAuthorSteadyUP
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010 edited
     (8121.115)
    @Andre - I'll clarify - the things I mentioned are irrelevant and self-defeating as far as the intent of this thread is concerned. Under the right circumstances, they can be very interesting to pore over and I'd be the first to jump in. But they don't get anyone anywhere here. Rachael, of course, is welcome to rebut, in which case I'll be quiet.
  6.  (8121.116)
    @citruscreed

    @Andre - well, it is invoking Godwin to use a Nazi scientist to make a point about atheism. I don't understand what you mean by the flying brick stuff.


    Er, no, it was invoking a Nazi scientist to make a point about science taken to extremes, as you requested, not atheism. You cited Godwin's Law (which didn't even occur to me until you mentioned it), and I offered non-Nazi examples. The flying brick is the space shuttle.

    I can accept that definition of extremism too and still ask for a single example of where such "scientific extremists" with their pro-science agenda actually represent a threat to individuals or societies in the way that religious extremists so clearly do.


    Even religious extremists don't do what they do just for love of their religion, not just for a pro-religious agenda. Otherwise they'd never have had to come up with that shit about the seventy-two virgins.

    An example of scientific extremism which is so far hypothetical but worrisome (and its merits need to be discussed) is bioengineering, something explored in the film GATTACA: customizing every gene of an embryo prior to its development. And cloning human beings -- also a very problematic idea.

    I think trying to establish any equivalence of authority between the two is just plain wishful thinking.


    I agree, but extremism is still a bad thing in itself, which is what I think we're trying to say. I've already stated in this thread that I think Science is far more advanced and relevant than Religion, which I frankly consider unnecessary, at least for myself. But that's still no reason to think extremism is exclusive to Religion.

    Mengele was a monster, his crimes were commited in the name of science, maybe, but science doesn't mandate the things he did. That's why it's a Godwin to bring him up. The causal link between faith and extremism is in contrast, undeniable.


    Because Mengele was a Nazi, it doesn't mean he couldn't be driven by genuine scientific interests (while not restrained by any moral code, since his test subjects were Jews). Again, people are not driven by a single motivation. He was a fucking asshole, good, we agree on that. But that's no reason to think he didn't have actual curiosity in addition to perverted pleasure during his experiments.

    You could argue science is driven by fear too, but that's not really true. It's driven by relentless, insatiable, demanding curiosity that is only intolerant of bad information and refuses to be swayed by special pleading.


    Science can be driven by many things, not just fear, not just curiosity, but also necessity, confort, etc. Without any intention to offend, I think you're being too narrow-minded about all this.
    •  
      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.117)
    @ citruscreed (funny name for an atheist - not that I'm saying you believe in grapefruits or anything, just an observation)
    I think eugenics is a perfectly good example of Science Gone Wrong and "Science Extremism" and that's why I brought up sterilization laws. People with "low" I.Q.s were forcibly sterilized by the Government of Canada (and other places, not just Nazi Germany) so they would "pollute the gene pool". "They can't take care of themselves so we can't have them reproducing." Well into the 1970s in some cases. That's a clear and present threat to people's well-being. For that matter I.Q. tests themselves are highly problematic, even from a scientific standpoint, and yet are still in use pretty much everywhere. Being told you're stupid and having somebody PROVE it to you by waving a piece of paper around can affect your well-being as well.

    And not to get all "9/11" but, well, on 9/11, those religious extremists used a highly advanced scientific thingy to do what they did. Yes, SCIENCE IS TO BLAME FOR 9/11, if you think about it. (Turn on your sarcasm detectors please.)
  7.  (8121.118)
    @Andre - I'll clarify - the things I mentioned are irrelevant and self-defeating as far as the intent of this thread is concerned. Under the right circumstances, they can be very interesting to pore over and I'd be the first to jump in. But they don't get anyone anywhere here. Rachael, of course, is welcome to rebut, in which case I'll be quiet.


    I understand, but personally I think the thread is still in-topic -- after all, we are discussing, among other things, the balance between Science and Religion.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.119)
    Rachel, has this discussion been useful for you?
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010 edited
     (8121.120)
    > The problem with these arguments is that we used to be a monculture.

    I was trying to give an example of religion's advancing art. Their motives and their motifs were religious. You can certainly argue that it wasn't religion that advanced art, and that instead it was religious people; I'm not sure why you'd want to, though.

    > Which faces is the author referring to and how does he know that all those people were so ecstatically happy?

    Sorry to have extract it out of context; I thought I'd got enough, but I couldn't quote the whole chapter.

    The faces he was referring to are on the statues of Chartres cathedral: like at http://www.flickr.com/photos/amthomson/4241305642/

    He was a historian, an art historian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Clark