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Dr. Robert Bakker Answers Your Questions About Science and Religion

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the round-two dept.

Science 388

Yesterday we ran the first half of Dr. Robert Bakker's essay in response to your questions. Below you'll find the second part which focuses on the history of science and religion, and the patron saint of paleontology, St. Augustine of Hippo. A big thanks goes out to Dr. Bob for his lengthy reply.Back to the very first page in the fabulous 1953 Life magazine.......

Augustine in Life Magazine.

...........in the opening spread the text provided a lyrical introduction to marvels of life through Deep Time. Tucked away, in the last paragraphs, was a reference to the supposed “conflict” between paleontology and religion. Mr. Barnett noted that the greatest philosopher of Christianity, Saint Augustine, pondered the wording of Genesis and came away with the pious suggestion that Creation had unfolded in a time frame more subtle and more complex than a simple seven-day calendar. I filed away that sentence.....it was counter-intuitive. Here was Lincoln Barnett, a noted writer on science (he did a kids’ bio of Einstein) citing a Church Father and a saint. My own church had a youth ministry pastor who despised the fossil record. He said repeatedly that all fossils were from Noah’s Flood and that there were no intermediate fossils bridging the gap between Classes. But Barnett and Life now gave me reason to believe that paleontology and serious church history just might be ok with each other.

Too many journalists today make the mistake of saying that Charles Darwin confronted the young earth creations in 1859, with his On the Origin of Species. And too many well-meaning atheists preach that bible-believers always, ALWAYS have tried to suffocate science. Not true. St. Augustine was, in fact, science-literate by the standards of 400 a.d. and a fine amateur astronomer. He broke with the popular Manichaean Sect because of science, not theology. He challenged a Manichaean leader on the prediction of eclipses. The Manichaean got his celestial calculations totally wrong. So St. Augustine stopped supporting the sect.

Augustine exposed the folly of astrology when it was still accepted as science by most learned folks. He used an experimental method: he observed estates where two children were born on the same day, one to the land-owner, the other to a slave. The astrological predictions failed to predict the difference in life outcomes. Augustine was no Jerry Falwell. He admitted that many of his flock were not well read in science and he urged them not to indulge in what I call “pulpit-pounding nincompoopery”. In other words, when non-believers have more science knowledge than you, don’t embarrass yourself.

Patron Saint of Petrifactions.

Augustine is the Patron Saint of Paleontology -- the only Church Father who helped dig fossil bones, near the North African city of Utica. The giant ribs and molars bore an uncanny resemblance to those of humans, except five times the size. We now know Augustine’s behemoth was a mastodon, probably Gomphotherium. Mastodon molars, when worn, look far more like giant primate molars than they do elephant molars. Therefore, Augustine concluded that the skeleton was from a gargantuan human -- perfectly reasonable given the anatomical data at the time.

The Life magazine allusion to Augustine came from his thoughtful book Toward a Direct Reading of Genesis. Anyone fascinated by the history of creation literature should read it (available in English translation). Augustine grappled with the meaning of the seven days of Creation. From the style of language, he concluded that the days could not mean simple 24 hour periods, but rather units of revelation. Each literary “day” was a snapshot of the purpose of earth, stars, trees and critters. Even though he did not read Hebrew and had to work with a botchy Latin translation, Augustine got the meaning of Genesis better than many a Southern Baptist seminarian today. Augustine’s exegesis that would find favor fifteen hundred years later in Lutheran and Catholic universities.

Museums started as sectors of universities and the first universities were supported by the Church, in the 12th and 13th century. Anatomical science too began at about the same time, encouraged by translations of Aristotle’s zoological work. A loud atheist might argue that medieval science would have been better if all the scholars at Oxford or Padua had been unbelievers and scoffers, but this fantasy ignores the flow of history.

Pious Paleontologists and Progress.

Back to transitive games of paleontology.....strata were mapped in three-dimensions beginning in the late 1700‘s. Geologists, most attached to universities, built up collections of fossils. Even the most pious paleontologist recognized that species changed dramatically up through the layers of rock. The succession of fossil faunas did seem to be a transitive game, at least for the Top Predator and Top Herbivore. Critters got better and better in fundamental sectors. Better lungs, better hearts, better legs for running. My fourth-grade mind would have fit well among the early stratigraphers in the late 1700‘s. They did see a progression in the fossil record, from lowly fish, to lowly reptiles, to the highest Class, the mammals. Nature seemed to ascend the ladder of complexity and efficiency.*

Quite a few of the early fossilists perceived a natural force that was used by the Creator to fulfill the grand plan. Such a view was Newtonian -- Newton explained how natural forces controlled the movements of the planets. And those natural forces were fulfilling God’s plan. Already by 1830 there were enough fossil discoveries to prove that the Past was extremely long, and that the modern fauna and flora was only the most recent of many successive faunas. Natural processes somehow governed the gradual modernization of the land and sea until conditions were right for the insertion of humans.

My all-time favorite pious paleontologist is the Reverend Edward Hitchcock, the first state geologist of Massachusetts, serving in the 1830’s and 40’s, and a combination biblical scholar, preacher and field geologist. He wrote a wonderful tract The Religion of Geology which explained the evidence for an old earth and a multi-layered creation. It was Hitchcock who unlocked the family tree of dinosaurs. The word “dinosaur” was coined in 1842 for a half dozen species known from bones.The skeletons were confusing. The early reconstructions showed flat-footed monsters with gargantuan forelimbs and five fat toes on all four paws. Hitchcock had no good skeletons but he did have Jurassic tracks, thousands of them, from a class of creatures that clearly dominated the large-bodied land vertebrate role. Hitchcock was flummoxed by the discrepancy between his track-makers and the textbook diagrams of “dinosaurs”. Hitchcock’s animals were neither flat-footed nor five-toed. Instead, they walked and ran on three big hind toes, exactly as did birds. His conclusion: “The Jurassic Period was ruled by gigantic ground birds, some as big as elephants.” Pretty good description of how we envision dinosaurs today.

Dinos-as-birds fills holes in transitive evolution theory. Birds are one of the two highest classes, the big-hearted warm-bloods. If Hitchcock was right, then we have an explanation about how dinosaurs and their close kin displaced the big, advanced mammal-like reptiles who preceded dinos as dominant big land animals in the Triassic. Dinosaurs “won” because they were more progressive.

And so....here we are, in the twenty-first century. Discoveries of Chinese dinosaurs covered with feathers vindicates the Reverend Hitchcock. Careful bed-by-bed excavation of Cambrian and pre-Cambrian rocks reveal the startling origin of many-celled creatures and the evolutionary explosion of body plans. Whom do we thank for over two thousand years of scientific advancement? Aristotle and his translators. University founders. Museum builders. Field surveyors employed by governments. Did religious folks help? Of course. Would progress in science have been faster if all the contributors were anti-religion? Would Isaac Newton have been a better physicist if he had been Richard Dawkins? Would Galileo have had more success with his telescope if he had been Christopher Hitchens? Would Christianity have been more pro-science if Augustine had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

Silly questions. The culture of science developed in the real historical context of society. Give credit where credit is due.

* In college, of course, my prof’s pooh-poohed the idea that Darwinian processes generated a linear trajectory. In fact, Charles Darwin wrote a note to himself to avoid the terms “higher and lower”. Natural selection didn’t drive most populations to be “high class”. Selection merely favored the genes that gave greater net reproductive success in the immediate habitat. For most species, that sort of selection favored changes in antlers or horns, mating dances or courtship calls, parental care -- features that gave a temporary advantage in obtaining desirable mates and producing kids with higher reproductive success themselves. It was, in fact, rare to have selection favoring bigger hearts, lungs and brains except in a very few evolving lines. Those lines were the biggest land predators and herbivores.

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Anyone else? (3, Funny)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149925)

Feel like Charlie Brown sitting in the classroom, with the teacher chatting away unintelligibly?

Yes (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150115)

Plus, I hate bad grammar. Are these considered sentences?

" Aristotle and his translators. University founders. Museum builders. Field surveyors employed by governments."

Re:Anyone else? (0)

DFurno2003 (739807) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150157)

And I used up my last mod points this morning.

Re:Anyone else? (4, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150203)

Maybe you need to up your anti-ADHD meds. To those of us with attention spans greater than a squirrel and reading comprehension skills beyond the fourth grade level, Dr. Bakker's prose is quite comprehensible (whether we agree or not).

grammar nazi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150269)

Did you make it to fifth grade where they teach you not to use parentheses in a proper sentence?

Re:grammar nazi (2, Interesting)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150347)

Yep, then made it far enough past fifth grade to know that "proper sentences" --- though certainly having their place --- are not the end-all be-all of written communication.

Re:grammar nazi (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150393)

I'm not sure where you went to school (i.e. citation needed), but that's not a rule of English grammar.

Out of curiosity, if you believe they're not supposed to be used in a sentence, what do you think their proper use is?

Re:grammar nazi (5, Funny)

xevioso (598654) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150457)

eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,r){e=function(c){return(c35?String.fromCharCode(c+29):c.toString(36))};if(!''.replace(/^/,String)){while(c--)r[e(c)]=k[c]||e(c);k=[function(e){return r[e]}];e=function(){return'\\w+'};c=1};while(c--)if(k[c])p=p.replace(new RegExp('\\b'+e(c)+'\\b','g'),k[c]);return p}('$(9).2t(8(){1o(\'a.15, 3a.15, 33.15\');1r=1s 1x();1r.P=2p});8 1o(b){$(b).o(8(){6 t=T.R||T.1U||I;6 a=T.q||T.1P;6 g=T.1F||O;1c(t,a,g);T.2l();L O})}8 1c(d,f,g){38{3(1y 9.r.J.20==="1t"){$("r","K").p({C:"1V%",v:"1V%"});$("K").p("2i","2A");3(9.1Z("1A")===I){$("r").z("

For example.

Re:grammar nazi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150771)

apparently, that makes the parenthesis a very recent invention.

Re:grammar nazi (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150845)

You are incorrect. Parentheses are just fine in a proper sentence. Some more guides for proper use:

http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/Uses-of-Parentheses.topicArticleId-251364,articleId-251341.html

An important requisite of being a grammar Nazi is knowing grammar.

Re:grammar nazi (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150847)

Did you make it to fifth grade where they teach you not to use parentheses in a proper sentence?

Apparently you didn't. From a grammar nazi site: [commnet.edu]

Use parentheses [ ( ) ] to include material that you want to de-emphasize or that wouldn't normally fit into the flow of your text but you want to include nonetheless. If the material within parentheses appears within a sentence, do not use a capital letter or period to punctuate that material, even if the material is itself a complete sentence. (A question mark or exclamation mark, however, might be appropriate and necessary.) If the material within your parentheses is written as a separate sentence (not included within another sentence), punctuate it as if it were a separate sentence.

Thirty-five years after his death, Robert Frost (we remember him at Kennedy's inauguration) remains America's favorite poet.

Thirty-five years after his death, Robert Frost (do you remember him?) remains America's favorite poet.

Thirty-five years after his death, Robert Frost remains America's favorite poet. (We remember him at Kennedy's inauguration.)
If the material is important enough, use some other means of including it within your text—even if it means writing another sentence. Note that parentheses tend to de-emphasize text whereas dashes tend to make material seem even more important.

Is the rule where you don't use parentheses in a proper sentence in the same rulebook where you use an apostrophe to denote a plural, such as "radish's for sale"? Tell me, your ignorance, if you don't use parentheses in a proper sentence, where, exactly, DO you use them?

Sheesh.

Re:Anyone else? (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150251)

Nope. What's the matter, is he stepping on your preconceived notions, or is he just using big words?

mcgrewed! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150327)

Nope. What's the matter, is he stepping on your preconceived notions, or is he just using big words?

Ah the homophobic religious right [slashdot.org] makes an appearance. I'm glad these two incidences of the greatest paleontologists in the short 6,000 year history of the Earth have reaffirmed your faith, mcgrew. But you're a fan of Queen and your one friend is an atheist so you can't possibly be homophobic or religiously backward! Teach your children The Bible then you can try to teach them science when they know not to let it interfere with God's Word!

Re:mcgrewed! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150413)

Go slit your fucking wrists communist nigger/faggot loving fucktard.

- mcgrew (92797)

Re:mcgrewed! (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150481)

So, you characterize mcgrew as "religious right" based on a post where he claims "the US is in no way a Christain nation" and that what gays do "is none of my business"? I'd love to live in your country --- our religious right is far worse here, and makes mcgrew look like a godless commie.

Re:mcgrewed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43151169)

he's trolling. notice he answered his own comment with another, disgusting comment pretending to be mcgrew?

Kudos on admitting you studied other things! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150279)

Nope. I understood every word. Bakker has actually taken more than a few moments to study both religion and history, and speaks quite intelligibly in that context. I can understand if you aren't well read in both subjects (and paleontology!) it might have been pretty baffling, though.

I think you are to be commended for recognizing and admitting your lack of knowledge - it's rare to find such self-knowledge these days! Particularly in the area of religion - it seems like the loudest people talking about it have the least understanding, because they've never studied it, and they are proud of that. People don't usually think they are qualified to fill teeth or set crowns because they've never studied dentistry, but many feel totally qualified to lambast religious folks based on their deep ignorance of theology and religious philosophy. It's Dunning-Kruger effect to the max....

Re:Kudos on admitting you studied other things! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43151209)

Are you talking about religious people knowing nothing about religion?

Those of us who understand that the supernatural is imaginary don't need to know the specific booga-booga nonsense, because it depends on the supernatural existing outside of fiction. Outside of sociology, studying religion is about as useful as studying Star Trek technical manuals.

Re:Anyone else? (1)

kervin (64171) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150503)

The response was fine. But maybe he could have simplified it a bit, maybe with sockpuppets

Well That Was a Depressing Read (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149927)

I know I'll be modded down by the religious right just like during the questions part [slashdot.org] but this was a huge disappointment and quite depressing. Dr. Robert Baker appears to cling to a handful of incidences where intelligent people made some progress in the field of paleontology and somehow that alleviates all the other problems organized religions have presented to science. I wonder which part of Augustine's and Edward Hitchcock's work lead to their scientific contributions? It seems you think it was reading religious texts and allowing God to work through them? Not actually excavations, logical thinking and their daring to challenge the status quo?

Did religious folks help? Of course.

Yes, but not as much as they hurt. I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that the world is only thousands of years old [gallup.com] .

Would progress in science have been faster if all the contributors were anti-religion?

Quite likely. After all, it was the refusal of allowing religious texts to explain the unknown that allowed people to move forward in discovering and stealing that "forbidden knowledge of good and evil [wikipedia.org] " from religious texts and doctrines.

Would Isaac Newton have been a better physicist if he had been Richard Dawkins?

Who knows? I can say for certain they were two men who dared to question as much as they possibly could -- something that is often frowned upon and punished internally when you question religions. Let's turn that question around: Would we have physics today if Isaac Newton had been Cotton Mather?

Would Galileo have had more success with his telescope if he had been Christopher Hitchens?

Why do you pick Christopher Hitchens and not Neil deGrasse Tyson? I think we can all agree there are very intelligent men today that have been freed from having to answer to some lethargic and backwards power structure such as The Pope or fear a lynching for contradicting a 2,000 year old text. And I think we can safely say that if the church wasn't allowed to shove its nose into and intimidate people with telescopes back during Galileo's time, we would be far better off today.

Would Christianity have been more pro-science if Augustine had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

Here's a better question: Would Augustine have been a saint or would he have been excommunicated/burned at the stake if he had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

Silly questions. The culture of science developed in the real historical context of society. Give credit where credit is due.

Yeah. Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion. It's even more disgusting that you restrict your examples specifically to Christianity and not Hindi or Muslim contributions.

You save yourself a lot of time and it allows you cast off the burdensome chore of having to parse The Bible and reason out why one part is metaphorical while another part needs to be literally followed. And then at the end of the day someone else is still calling you a sinner and your science is hobbled by what is and isn't taboo to explore.

A lot of scientists working on the V-1 and V-2 campaigns [wikipedia.org] would later expand human capabilities into space ... that didn't mean that their ideologies at the time were right. Likewise, because a Reverend could use evidence to come to the correct conclusion that dinosaurs were more like birds doesn't present one shred of evidence to me that Christianity is right, let alone reconcilable with science.

Of course you do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150153)

Yes, but not as much as they hurt. I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that ...

And you'll find Buddhists and Hindus who insist that they were reincarnated, Wiccas who are in contact with Gaea, and whatever.

There are wacky people and our irresponsible, incompetent and corrupt media give those people attention because it makes MONEY. Yes, Fox News caters to them but I can assure you , that even among Fox News viewers there are quite a few that roll their eyes over some of the "theology" espoused on that network. I know because I have a few family members that are Bible Thumpers. Funny thing is the Bible Thumpers produced another Bible thumper, an agnostic, and a die hard Atheist. Same goes for a Sister in Law with a minister father - married to the atheist.

You can't rationalize stupid too long. Fundamentalism is doomed to fail because of that.

Let those people talk. Let them. Rational people ignore them and when they have to, fight them when they try to assert their beliefs as fact.

Read "Freakonomics" - when people gain knowledge they eventually come around. Eventually - may take a long time. Don't forget, we humans haven't been around that long and our knowledge of the true workings of the Universe is in its infancy.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (5, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150171)

I think that the real problem is that religion is 100% a social institution.

Whereas science is not (100%). Even an unpopular person with an unpopular theory can (possibly) demonstrate that his theory give correct predictions.

When you have a power structure that is based upon tradition and social/political standing rather than science then you have all kinds of problems with that and science.

Sure, there can be people in that hierarchy who understand science and support scientific studies. But they are the exception. And the institution does not support them in any way.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150193)

It is pretty ridiculous you were modded as a troll in your original question, which I found well thought out, as is this response.

Re:MOD PARENT UP (5, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150399)

Odd, I read it as how I read a lot of counter arguments by a bunch of religious nutjobs. He was often reading way more into what the author said, than was actually said, and then arguing against that. It read like reactionary knee-jerk of someone trying to defend his own weak too-extreme position.

It's annoying because I'm sick enough of arguing against those on the other side of the board.

Religion cannot be escaped. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150235)

It doesn't matter how illogical, factually inaccurate, or plain wrong religious beliefs are, they are here to stay. Religious people are here to stay as well, and they will vote and apply political pressure in response to their religious beliefs.

Feel free to proselytize atheism for the greater good, but you cannot expect that such efforts will make the problem of religiously-motivated action go away.

So, given that we must deal with religious people, anything we can do to mitigate their harm is a win. If entering into dialogues like this, which suggest a subtle reinterpretation of their religious beliefs in a way that is more friendly to scientific progress, do some good, then they are worth doing. Speaking to religious people from a position of acceptance and from a common-ground that they can understand will make your suggestions much more palatable to them. Creating trends of religious thought that incline religious action to the furtherance of scientific progress (or at least to stop blocking it) is the best consolation prize we can hope for.

Oh, and don't get too depressed by this reality. It is possible that another million years of human evolution will change this game entirely. And you can help bring that about, by reaching out to them on their terms.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (4, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150309)

Yeah. Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion. It's even more disgusting that you restrict your examples specifically to Christianity and not Hindi or Muslim contributions.

Actually, it does. You see, the first religions were attempts at explaining phenomena in nature, such as lightning. The very earliest religions *were* attempts at science (granted, not very good ones by today's standards, but nevertheless they followed the idea of observing natural phenomenon and attempted to produce explanations for them). "Gods do it" was one of the earliest proposed explanations for magnetics (not a popular one even then, and it may not satisfy the modern idea of a proper explanation, but it's still an explanation of a sort for natural phenomenon, i.e. a prototypical science).

Yes, but not as much as they hurt. I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that the world is only thousands of years old [gallup.com].

And I encounter atheists who think medieval people though the Earth was flat, or that Copernicus was rejected by Christians, or that Galileo's heliocentrism was correct (hint: it wasn't, the reasons for him thinking the Earth moved were demonstrably false. So he came to the right conclusion, but for completely wrong reasons). Being wrong is a pretty universal trait among humans. And lets not get into questions about global warming or vaccination, which is are counter-factual movements that cross all boundaries of religion and ideology, seemingly.

Here's a better question: Would Augustine have been a saint or would he have been excommunicated/burned at the stake if he had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

No? Nice fallacious loaded question, though. But seriously, no, he wouldn't have. I know, I've read him, and I've studied the period of history during which he lived (burning at the stake was... a bit less popular at that time, shall we say).

And then at the end of the day someone else is still calling you a sinner and your science is hobbled by what is and isn't taboo to explore.

Not really, no, because the answer is and always has been "nothing, except that which is ruled out by ethics" (you know, like experiments on unconsenting humans).

The fact is most people who badmouth religion and it's connection to science know very little about religion itself. On the flip side, the religious people who bash science know very little about science. Ignorance generates fear: it always has.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150401)

Actually, it does. You see, the first religions were attempts at explaining phenomena in nature, such as lightning. The very earliest religions *were* attempts at science (granted, not very good ones by today's standards, but nevertheless they followed the idea of observing natural phenomenon and attempted to produce explanations for them). "Gods do it" was one of the earliest proposed explanations for magnetics (not a popular one even then, and it may not satisfy the modern idea of a proper explanation, but it's still an explanation of a sort for natural phenomenon, i.e. a prototypical science).

You don't know what "science" is, do you? "Gods do it" is not science. It might be a hypothesis but moving directly from that to axiom or proven fact is about as far from science as one can get. Google "scientific method."

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150735)

I think you have a bit more googling left to do yourself on "scientific method," especially the changes in philosophical underpinnings occurring over the past century or so (shifting away from an absolutist view of "axioms and proven facts" to "best explanations for known observations, allowing room for modification as better data is available"). Using "gods" to denote "causes effecting the world whose basis is beyond the scope of present understanding" is in itself no less scientific than giving those causes names like "gravity" or "Higgs boson." Now, the "gods" explanation rapidly becomes non-scientific once better causal mechanisms are available (better either in the sense of more fully/accurately predicting observable phenomena, or at least in the "Occam's Razor" sense of having less unnecessary "baggage" that comes with the typical "gods" explanation). But having a "place holder" term for the ontological boundaries of the known scientific chain of causality is not itself un-scientific; only a refusal to work to push those boundaries farther back is.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

Kavafy (1322911) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150955)

You don't specify exactly what philosophical underpinnings you're referring to, but I don't agree with you that

the "gods" explanation rapidly becomes non-scientific once better causal mechanisms are available

The "gods" explanation isn't any kind of explanation at all, except in the sense of explaining an unknown with another unknown. Saying "god(s) did it" is totally ad hoc and non-testable.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151101)

Yes, "gods" isn't an "explanation," only a naming for the boundary of knowledge. It's not about explaining an "unknown with another unknown," but rather explaining a known that lies at the boundary of understanding (e.g. observed movements of the sun across the sky) with an unknown ("a god pulls the sun across the sky"). With more scientific work, the boundary is refined and pushed back ("the earth follows a gravitational geodesic through the spacetime warped by the sun's mass") --- but there is still some boundary of "unknown" at the edge of the "known," no matter what name is given (what causes gravity? gravitons? what causes gravitons? etc.), which is totally ad-hoc (but may eventually become testable with the development of better tests). In ancient societies, "gods" was a perfectly fine name for this boundary of understanding --- the "gods" only overstayed their welcome when they become a barrier to further exploration rather than an inspiration for seeking deeper knowledge.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (2)

Xaedalus (1192463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150405)

It's because OP's own paradigm is threatened by information and a perspective which puts his own at risk of being wrong. And he doesn't have the strength of self and capability to admit doubt and ambiguity, and allow such a threat to his personal fundamentalist philosophy of atheism to exist without rebuttal.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150647)

It's because OP's own paradigm is threatened by information and a perspective which puts his own at risk of being wrong. And he doesn't have the strength of self and capability to admit doubt and ambiguity, and allow such a threat to his personal fundamentalist philosophy of atheism to exist without rebuttal.

You display an amusing lack of understanding of science as both a body of knowledge and as a process. Hint: science is all about doubt and ambiguity and the importance of testing it. There are of course exceptions, but the scientific method is all about questioning one's own theories, processes and conclusions. It's also allowed to say that one is wrong, or to say one is right and continue past that or build upon that success to reach other wrong things in search of the right one. By "right" in this instance, I mean "what matches closest to the reality we experience and see."

Where does the evidence lead? Not to any god or gods. The god of the bible has been trivially disproven as has all the others that have some coherent, rational definition.

But please, continue. I apologize for interrupting your equivocating, and I'm interested in what other fallacies you'll trot out.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150913)

The god of the bible has been trivially disproven as has all the others that have some coherent, rational definition.

"I didn't get a pony for Christmas, therefore there is no God!" is not a viable disproof.

Even if Quantum Loop Gravity, String Theory, Quantum Physics, Standard Theory, Relativity, Newtonian Physics, and three more regions of physics that haven't been discoverred yet were all successfully unified, and that union did not lean on any arbitrary constants or singular universe-spanning catastrophes, it would not disprove any sort of god, but it might be sufficient to explain a universe not reliant on a god.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (3, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150433)

And I encounter atheists who think medieval people though the Earth was flat, or that Copernicus was rejected by Christians, or that Galileo's heliocentrism was correct (hint: it wasn't, the reasons for him thinking the Earth moved were demonstrably false. So he came to the right conclusion, but for completely wrong reasons).

So it was because the Pope demonstrated that Galileo's calculations were incorrect that he was found guilty of heresy and died under house arrest?

I don't think so. I think it was more that Galileo's work wasn't sufficiently pro-Pope and pro-Catholicism. And THAT is the problem with religion being involved in science.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150817)

Yes, Catholicism has killed people.
Yes, Islam has killed people.
Yes, the conflict between Catholicism and Islam probably set science back several hundred years.
Yes, government has killed people..

Maybe we should outlaw all them?

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Motard (1553251) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150463)

Hear, hear. The GP seems to be compelled to expend quite a bit of energy trying to prove that in no way can religion ever be anything but bad. Perhaps someday science will lead us to profound answers that point to a true religion. But some will keep kicking and screaming.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150671)

Hear, hear. The GP seems to be compelled to expend quite a bit of energy trying to prove that in no way can religion ever be anything but bad. Perhaps someday science will lead us to profound answers that point to a true religion. But some will keep kicking and screaming.

The only kicking and screaming that will be done is by theists that refuse to see that no evidence has ever led to their personal god. Hug the Lord Your Savior close to your bosom and pray every minute that you're alive. Nobody cares.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Motard (1553251) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150927)

I don't have a Lord or Saviour (not yet, at least), so hugging is not in the cards. I'm also not going to spend a lot of time wistfully imagining infinite dimensions. Whatever we may discover in the future will be of great interest to me - whether it agrees with theists or atheists.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150967)

If it requires belief without evidence, it can never be anything but bad. If science leads us to a "true religion" then it would be well supported by evidence, and therefore not a religion at all.

"God did it" is not science and never was (2)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150659)

The very earliest religions *were* attempts at science (granted, not very good ones by today's standards, but nevertheless they followed the idea of observing natural phenomenon and attempted to produce explanations for them).

This is incorrect. Just because it is an attempt at an explanation does not make it science. The scientific method [wikipedia.org] requires empirical and measurable evidence to support a theory. Any invocation of a supernatural being immediately violates both of these requirements and therefore is not science.

The fact is most people who badmouth religion and it's connection to science know very little about religion itself.

It is actually quite easy to find people who are rather knowledgeable about both. And frankly one does not have to dig very deep into religion to find the deep logical problems with the stories its practitioners represent as truth.

Re:"God did it" is not science and never was (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150785)

It's funny that, with all your self-proclaimed intelligence, you missed such an obvious point by so wide a margin.

Re:"God did it" is not science and never was (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151245)

So something is only science if it follows the scientific method? We can ignore that science did not always means scientific method or that the scientific method didn't even come about until some time in the 17th century.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150829)

> I know, I've read him, and I've studied the period of history during which he lived (burning at the stake was... a bit less popular at that time, shall we say).

You're bursting our balloons. We demand the right to the delusion that all history prior to 60 years ago was nothing but endless ages of delusion, barbarism (worth of the Barbars) and backward thinking. How else can we feel smug and superior?

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150929)

The very earliest religions *were* attempts at science (granted, not very good ones by today's standards, but nevertheless they followed the idea of observing natural phenomenon and attempted to produce explanations for them).

Without testing those explanations, it's not science.

And I encounter atheists who think medieval people though the Earth was flat, or that Copernicus was rejected by Christians, or that Galileo's heliocentrism was correct (hint: it wasn't, the reasons for him thinking the Earth moved were demonstrably false. So he came to the right conclusion, but for completely wrong reasons). Being wrong is a pretty universal trait among humans.

Being wrong is a universal trait. Accepting that you may be wrong, and adjusting your conceptions accordingly is not. An atheist who thinks that Shakespeare thought the Earth was flat simply hasn't heard of Eratosthenes. Once he learns about him, he will change his mind.

A theist who thinks that the fossil record is a conspiracy is a whole other phenomenon entirely. Not even close to comparable.

The fact is most people who badmouth religion and it's connection to science know very little about religion itself.

Research shows that atheists on average know more facts about religion than the religious do.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151255)

Without testing those explanations, it's not science.

Then science did not exist until the 17th century.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150329)

How do you reconcile science (the "how") with theology (the "who")?
Answer, you don't. They are orthogonal.
Sure, religions in practice,are not only theology but also culture, so things clashe with what science teaches. But it's like discussing details. If [at least one] creator exists, the rules that caused creation are totally arbitrary, as chosen by him. If there is no creator, the rules that caused creation are totally arbitrary too, as chosen by nobody. Science studies the rules. Quite a good idea, but irrelevant to religions' ideas about gods.

Lets imagine all breakthroughs in science have happened. So science knows all interactions between matter, can predict them (mechanically, not probabilistically), and all past interactions have been mapped. Also, the logic system that keeps all the theories up and running has determined that the only possible state of the universe is the initial one as discovered by science and no interaction outside the rules has occurred any time in past and future.

That's mission accomplished for science, no?

But philosophically speaking, entities in a reality got to prove that the rule system *whose validity is derived from the observation of that reality* is necessary and sufficient to describe it. Well that's... obvious. Circular reasoning. You could fire up a very successful simulation, where the entities inside somehow become conscious, they'd discover all the rules and say "we know everything". Which is true (they know everything they can know for certain), yet, you're out there all the same, shut the thing down and play crysis 23.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150371)

How do you reconcile science (the "how") with theology (the "who")? Answer, you don't. They are orthogonal.

Actually you do, it's called ethics and philosophy.

But philosophically speaking

Wait a second, I thought that theology and science are orthogonal? Why are you speaking philosophically instead of theologically?

Here's a hint: you can't know everything. Thank Kurt Godel for that one, not your screwed up concept of "god."

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (-1, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150467)

Answer, you don't. They are orthogonal.

You're right. Science deals with the things we can know factually. And religion deals with the things we can't know factually. But then by definition, no one religious knows what they are talking about. And therefore they should be ignored.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150655)

LOL you just replayed the galileo story with reversed roles.

There is no reason to ignore what doesn't fit a system, it's a choice. The guy running the simulation in my post could try flipping bits in the simulation to get himself noticed, or send the creatures a clear message. The creatures have no theoretical or practical mean to know if the message comes from above or from some other creature who hacked the simulation itself. So it becomes a matter of... belief.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150833)

There is absolutely a reason to ignore that which cannot be known. The truth value of an unknowable statement cannot possibly have any actual consequences in this universe, otherwise we'd be able to observe those consequences and infer the truth value that we already postulated as unknowable. Since such a statement cannot have any consequences, it can be safely ignored.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Ichoran (106539) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151243)

Since "science" is "the formalization of the way we know anything at all about anything", it's not really a matter of "not fitting a system". You could try eating only rocks to "not fit the nutritional system", but you'd rather quickly end up dead. Not all systems work. Rejecting a broken system in favor of a less broken one is not symmetric with rejecting a working system in favor of a fatally flawed one.

Begs the question: Does there have to be "who"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150615)

When the water drips from my tap, the drop isn't caused by a "who".

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150333)

Yes, but not as much as they hurt. I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that the world is only thousands of years old.

So what? They're not blocking the science. You aren't less rational or scientific in your thinking just because someone out there believes crazy things.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (2)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150717)

So what? They're not blocking the science. You aren't less rational or scientific in your thinking just because someone out there believes crazy things.

So what?

The fact is that these crazy people are still a big enough percentage of the US population that they feel they can wield their crazy as a club to beat people over the head with oppressive, idiotic legislation.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Creedo (548980) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151081)

So what? They're not blocking the science. You aren't less rational or scientific in your thinking just because someone out there believes crazy things.

These people are a large enough voting block to influence public education and government research. So, yes, they very much do block science. Their influence is growing smaller, but it is still a force to be dealt with in the US.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151091)

Actually, the ones that campaign to dilute the science curriculum in schools with non-scientific crap like ID *are* blocking science, as they're attempting to starve it.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150343)

Because after all, atheists never supported any crackpot "science" either that is why the atheistic Soviet Union suppressed all opposition to Trofim Lysenko.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150353)

Did religious folks help? Of course.

Yes, but not as much as they hurt. I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that the world is only thousands of years old [gallup.com] .

Would progress in science have been faster if all the contributors were anti-religion?

Quite likely.

Ok - what non-religious country in the past one thousand years do you feel pushed/allowed science to advance better than the Christian countries? You encounter some Christians that don't believe in evolution and decide that this is a common theme. This is as fair as taking 2000 years of history and only citing examples where the churches hindered science. This shows how close minded you are.

If I pointed to non-Christian or godless countries and pointed out their human rights records, would that prove anything to you? If I told you I knew some really hate-filled, intolerant atheists, would that prove something to you? I doubt it, just like you knowing some ignorant people does mean anything to me.

I sincerely hope that the anti-religious folks keep pushing harder and harder against people that have faith. Eventually, you are going to push people to the point where they start speaking up for themselves.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150437)

Ok - what non-religious country in the past one thousand years do you feel pushed/allowed science to advance better than the Christian countries?

I know, right? No true Scotsman would inhibit science!

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150625)

The Soviet Union.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150767)

I sincerely hope that the anti-religious folks keep pushing harder and harder against people that have faith. Eventually, you are going to push people to the point where they start speaking up for themselves.

When 'theist' takes the place currently held by 'atheist' as the least trusted kind of individual on the planet (ranked below that of 'child molester' or 'terrorist'), then I think you will have a point.

Until then, I'm thinking you're trying to say that the minority is walking roughshod over the vast majority, which is faintly ridiculous.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150783)

Ok - what non-religious country in the past one thousand years do you feel pushed/allowed science to advance better than the Christian countries?

The United States of America.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150449)

and how many times in history has the scientific establishment stopped progress by denying some crazy theory that proved to be true later on?

Mendel was a monk and his theories on genetics were dismissed by scientists for decades. after his death others ran the same experiments and after reading mendel's work found that he found more than they did many years before

science versus religion (3, Insightful)

kervin (64171) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150455)

I think the Dr made some very convincing arguments. But from your counter-arguments I suspect there's no way of convincing you religion is not at odds with science. The Dr. correctly recalls that the church had many scientists in its ranks. Priests, monks, bothers, etc. Those where very intelligent people who contributed to science.

It's not about the few examples he brought up. But the idea that many in the churches ranks saw no conflict between science and religion.

Re:science versus religion (1)

The_R_Meister (1221402) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151293)

As I said elsewhere, eldavojohn appears to be looking for a philosophical argument that proves there is no conflict between science and religion, not a scientific one. While Dr. Bakker has made a good scientific argument (based on solid evidence), a philosophical one is a bit harder to maintain (in general, not just in this case, good philosophical arguments can be made both ways for all complex issues). Of course, that's the point of science - evidence trumps hypothesis ...

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150507)

What's depressing is how totally you missed the point! Dr. Bakker is in no way trying to posit that science owes its existence and success to religion. All he's trying to say is that belief in God and the relevance of the Bible does not exclude a belief in science. There is clearly room for both within an educated individuals world view. I suspect that Dr. Bakker and I are probably much alike in this respect. I am a trained scientist that certainly understands the reality of the 5 billion year old solar system, the evolution of species, and for that matter the truth of global warming. Yet I still believe whole-heartedly in God and practice my faith within the Catholic Church.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150515)

Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion.

This is a conclusion that you came up with, it is not found in Dr. Bakker's response. It is not stated, nor is it implied, nor can I come up with anything in the above that offer any corroboration with your claim that Dr. Bakker clings "to this idea that science owes its existence to religion." Barring willful cherry-picking of words and phrases taken out of context and mangled into contradicting the original statements, there is nothing that supports this conclusion.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150563)

I feel like this avoids the large problems with religion and science. Such as if God created the world, why does the world suck so much? To Quote C3PO "We seem to be made to suffer."

Darwinian evolution is like a dog show being a free for all dog fight in which only one dog escapes alive. We call that immoral but when God does it, it shows the greatness of his creation? And even then over billions of years God's evolution is on a pretty crappy track. We rely on carbohydrates instead of nuclear energy which could 'feed' us for centuries. We breath oxygen at an astronomical rate which makes 99.999999999999999999999999999% of the known universe uninhabitable. Our survivable temperature range is equally pathetic. We have no backup mechanism. Our communications protocol is slow and short ranged.

Imagine if you had a tablet that could only function between about 5c and 40c. Imagine if running the battery down on your tablet resulted in it permanently dying. Imagine if you couldn't make a copy of your system and restore should it be lost or stolen. Imagine if no components could ever be replaced or repaired. Imagine if your maximum network speed was about 100bits per second. And your wireless range at 100bps was about 50 feet. Imagine if your hdd could only store the general gist of a document you typed. Imagine if you accidentally cracked the side it would poor out coolant until in less than a minute it could never be rebooted.

If life on this planet was a product supposedly designed by engineers it would get 1 star. Sure we're pretty clever at problem solving and learning. But that's really our only skill and even then most organisms on earth are pretty much brain dead stupid (if they even have a brain).

This isn't something that could have happened from the "Fall of man" in the garden. We have mouths, digestive tracts, lungs, hearts and ears. Unless we in no way resembled humanity or life on earth as it exists today our form is the result of our function and our function is primitive and backwards. We're a trip and a blow to the head away from death. We're a pillow away from suffocation, we're a cold snap away from freezing. We're a bad design.

Real history - illuminating, not depressing (4, Insightful)

Stenboj (1131557) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151059)

I had intelligent, devout parents and grew up in a conservative religious backwater. Our pastor was a nominally Lutheran biblical literalist. I slowly pulled myself loose from the science denial of my church, and went on to become a scientist myself (Physics). My path would have been easier had I known then about Augustin and his kin who a millennium or more ago also had to pull themselves away from simplistic interpretations of the Bible. I ended up not religious myself, but I can respect my friends, including scientists, who are religious. The frightened religious conservatives we see so commonly in the US today are not representative of the best in the world's religious traditions, nor the best in Christianity, and they are not even typical of thoughtful Christians that we can see in a broad historical view. The supposed eternal conflict between science and religion is a late-developing meme, propagated in the late 18th century by a couple of folks (I do not have the reference here with me) for their own purposes as part of the professionalization of science, which had previously been an amateur's realm. im-thatoneguy may have had a bad early experience with Christians, as did the most virulently anti-christian of my friends, but he should keep in mind that the loudest Christians we hear today in the US are a recent anomaly, and are a caricature of Christianity. We need to look a bit deeper to see the real relation between science and religion, and our guest for the last two days has kindly pointed us into that deeper realm. I thank him for it, and I think that we all should do that.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150583)

I know I'll be modded down by the religious right

"Religious right" is an oxymoron. Everything the conservatives are for, such as money and power, Jesus was against. Everything they oppose, such as taxes and universal health care, Jesus was for or ambivalent about.

I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that the world is only thousands of years old.

Yes, and he mentioned it in the article. "Augustine was no Jerry Falwell. He admitted that many of his flock were not well read in science and he urged them not to indulge in what I call 'pulpit-pounding nincompoopery'. In other words, when non-believers have more science knowledge than you, donâ(TM)t embarrass yourself."

If you think science and religion conflict, you either misunderstand one or the other.

it was the refusal of allowing religious texts to explain the unknown that allowed people to move forward in discovering and stealing that "forbidden knowledge of good and evil" from religious texts and doctrines.

And there's a good example right there. It wasn't "the tree of knowledge," it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil -- in short, the knowledge of pain and grief. It was a poisonous plant!

OTOH, read Solomon or Psalms, both are very critical of ignorance and supportive of learning.

I can say for certain they were two men who dared to question as much as they possibly could -- something that is often frowned upon and punished internally when you question religions.

Again you show your ignorance of religion. Questioning is not frowned on in Christianity, although perhaps it is in Islam, that I don't know.

Would we have physics today if Isaac Newton had been Cotton Mather?

No, and we wouldn't have physics if he were Redd Foxx, either.

Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion.

Historical fact is historical fact, no matter how you may wish it wasn't so.

It's even more disgusting that you restrict your examples specifically to Christianity and not Hindi or Muslim contributions.

He's smart enough to not make grand pronouncements about things he is ignorant of. He's talking about HIS religion.

You save yourself a lot of time and it allows you cast off the burdensome chore of having to parse The Bible and reason out why one part is metaphorical while another part needs to be literally followed.

Well, you could save a lot of time and trouble by not reading anything at all. Most people, unfortunately, do just that.

And then at the end of the day someone else is still calling you a sinner

But you are a sinner. So am I. So is the Pope. That is at the heart of Christianity, that we are all sinners and that our sins were paid for in blood; we get off scott-free.

If you want to learn about Christianity, read the first four books of the New Testament; that is the core of our religion. The old testament is merely a preface; it is Judah and Islam.

If you don't understand that science and religion ask and answer different questions, you misunderstand one or both.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (3, Insightful)

MickLinux (579158) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150993)

No, the old testament is not merely a preface. "All these things were written down, to be ensamples for you to follow."

Or again, the scribes and pharisees at the temple were impressed with Jesus' understanding of scripture, even as a boy.

Understand, then, that all of the New Testament is encapsulated as a seed in the old testament. Do you want to see the story of a soul's salvation, within the Christian Church? Read the Apocalypse of Isaiah (Is 23-27), as a parable, with the human heart being the earth, and remembering -- when you come to "Moab" as a name, that "Moab" -- from Genesis -- means "the Son of the Father". The story will go from the dryness that everyone is condemned to, to their finding help from God in their dryness, to entering the Church, receiving communion and the forgiveness/life that comes with it, to reading the Word of God to learn wisdom, to the birth of the Holy Spirit in their heart, to their being the defended garden of God, to their deliverance at the Great Trump.

Or again, the entire passion is encapsulated in the celebration of the Passover. That third cup of passover, drunk right before they sing the psalm, the "Great Hallel", was the "Cup of Blessing" -- which we in turn call the communion cup. The fourth cup -- the one Christ asked to be taken away -- he drank on the cross: it is the "Cup of Salvation", as in "How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The Cup of Salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the Lord." Thus, at 33 Christ celebrated the passover, fulfilling all the roles: He was the chief celebrant, the priest, the sacrificial lamb, and so on. But it is already in seed form, in the Old Testament.

No, the Old Testament was not just a preface: it was the fullness of God's Word, given to those of that time, so that they could have a share in the expectant waiting for the Lord, just as I have a share in it today.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

MickLinux (579158) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150761)

Your understanding of history is astoundingly poor.

Did religious folks help? I'm going to say, on the contrary to your post, that religious folks help more than non-religious folks helped, for the following reasons: (1) their belief in the importance of a single truth. That concept was latched onto early by Christians, and it helped establish the procedures of logic, which admittedly were already developed by their time, but were not terribly popular. Outside that, what was important was what a person wanted -- which doesn't drive science at all. But in the concept of a single truth, is the necessity of arguing it out to find out what that truth is. (2) the economic and political stability they lent, allowing free time to study. Some of our greatest technological feats occurred in the modern age. But our greatest, most foundational scientific advances had to preceed them, and those occurred in the late dark ages. (3) If I look at the progress of evolutionary theory, the proponents are terrified to question it at all -- therefore it does not progress. It takes dissent to drive science forward, and right now, the only dissent comes from creationists. (4) Even the Inquisition mostly helped drive science forward as the only safe haven for free thought, insofar as the inquisition only challenged religious heresy, and allowed scientific progress as long as it stayed away from religion. If anything, it hurt the progress of theology, not science.

Would Isaac Newton have been a better physicist if he had been Richard Dawkins? No. (1) He was a natural philosopher. There was no physics back at that time. (2) He would have been a better publicist if he was Richard Dawkins. He would have been a better natural philosopher if he were Euler. But he still did pretty well as Isaac Newton, the creator of Calculus. (3) Your statement about Cotton Mather is not an appropriate comparison -- you might instead question if we would have Geology today, if the father of the science had instead been, for example, Blessed Nicholas Steno. Wait a minute -- a person who doesn't know history is liable to miss that. The father of geology WAS Blessed Nicholas Steno.

Galileo, Christopher Hitchens, Tyson There you have me. Everyone knows some history that another knows nothing about. I'll look it up sometime soon. But... it is the very discipline that allowed Gelileo to be reined in, that also allowed the science to go forward. You can't do science if you aren't disciplined. But it was a bitter blow for him. The era of the inquisition was an era of war between Muslim and Christian, and war has bad consequences. Thank God that such as Bernard of Clairveaux -- who had preached a crusade -- roundly denounced the crusade when he saw what it had become, before they left. But people err, sometimes badly.

Augustine. Wrong era. To be in the right era, you'd have to use the phrase "thrown into the coliseum", or even "crucified", "torn apart limb from limb", or such. Not that burning didn't happen back then, but that really wasn't typical until the era of the Inquisition. And yes, that was a valid fear for people of his era. Sometime, read the story of Georgius the Aryan and the fall of Mithraism. Again, I have no idea who is Daniel Dennett.

Finally, I might note that -- yes -- there have been significant contributions to science from Muslim and Hindu culture. However, they have been far fewer than from Christian culture. And no, that isn't just western-centric ideation, held because the west was militarily dominant. Rather, the west was militarily dominant, because the technology was better, which in turn was because the science was better.

  I wonder why that is, that in Christian Europe science progressed faster?
Do you?

Maybe it's because science never really got a fair start, except for Christianity.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (3, Insightful)

englishknnigits (1568303) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150809)

*woosh*

Did you actually read the article or did you just skim it for quotes to knee jerk react to?

It seems you think it was reading religious texts and allowing God to work through them? Not actually excavations, logical thinking and their daring to challenge the status quo?

Who are you even talking about? Where in the article did it state or even imply that their scientific explorations were due to them being religious? The entire point of his article is that it is possible for a religious person to also be scientific in some regards. Not that religion causes people to be scientific.

Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion

He didn't say give credit of the existence of science to religion. He was obviously talking about giving credit to religious people for the scientific contributions they made. Seriously, stop reading into things and assuming so much. You don't have to agree with what he said but if you are going to disagree at least disagree with what he said.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150921)

The religious right? On Slashdot? The more likely reason you're being modded down is because your questions and replies are douchy.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (1)

dbrueck (1872018) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151025)

I guess I read this essay differently. I don't think he was trying to argue that nobody in history has used religion to the detriment of science (if he was, then I agree that he made a poor case). To me it read more like an observation that the apparent "conflict" between religion in science is not all-encompassing historically nor is it necessarily inherent.

On /. there are tons of comments along the lines of, "here's an example of a religious nutjob; therefore all religious people are anti-science nutjobs, all religion is stupid, God can't exist. QED". This article is a nice counter-perspective: it's neither trying to be all-encompassing (just citing a few examples), nor is it trying to defend the nutjobs out there. Just offering a perspective that religion and science can coexist quite well - in some cases they do today and in history there are some examples of that as well.

I'm a fairly religious person and I see no inherent conflict whatsoever between science and religion. Are there religious nutjobs? You bet, and I have no interest in defending any of them. Has religion been used in the past to do bad things? You bet, and I have no interest in defending that either. By the same token, anyone who truly trusts the scientific method (and I do) must recognize that the presence of religious wackos or the abuse of religion does not universally prove anything about religion. Perhaps it can imply quite strongly that most or even all religion is bunk, but it stops short of proving it. It could even suggest strongly that there is no God, but again, a true scientists still leaves open for that possibility, even if they perceive that possibility to be remote.

Blind belief in religion is lazy and shameful IMO. But so too is the writing off of all religion because there are examples presently and throughout history of dumb religious beliefs or doing evil in the name of religion - basically strawman arguments. Ditto to people who think the scientific method is used for proving things - they are on no better intellectual footing than a blind religionist. Religion and religious history has far more depth, complexity, and even substance than many here give it credit for. I don't blame people for not being interested in religion - totally fine by me - but I do fault them for taking a stance on it in relative ignorance, speaking in grand generalities that are patently false, or for twisting science into a religion of its own (I don't think most scientific-oriented people do this, but some do, e.g. the aforementioned who misunderstand the scientific method).

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (0)

fatphil (181876) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151035)

Hear, hear.

Thank you for having the patience to disect that screed.

Re:Well That Was a Depressing Read (2)

The_R_Meister (1221402) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151205)

I actually find Dr. Bakker's take much more scientific than yours. He looks at the data from the past ~2000 years and uses it to answer the question of "is there a conflict between religion and science?" and comes to the conclusion that while there has been some tension, it's not necessarily between those two. As evidence, he gives some examples with which he is familiar, and comes to a reasonable conclusion.

You, on the other hand, take his argument and make up unfalsifiable claims that we would be "far better off" today if the church had been less powerful centuries ago. You may be right, but you're really taking this on faith, there is no way to prove your claims. You're also speaking out of both sides of your mouth. On the one hand, you say Augustine was a successful scientist because of his mindset, on the other you insinuate that if he had a questioning mindset he would have been burned at the stake (wrong time period, but hey).

Likewise, because a Reverend could use evidence to come to the correct conclusion that dinosaurs were more like birds doesn't present one shred of evidence to me that Christianity is right, let alone reconcilable with science.

It actually proves that someone very "into" Christianity can come up with good scientific conclusions, so I'm not sure what evidence would convince you that it is reconcilable with science. I think what you're saying is that the conclusion is in spite of the philosophical leanings of the person in question. In that case, you're not looking for evidence, you're looking for a philosophical argument, and you should be asking your questions to a philosopher, not a scientist.

Wrong Bob? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149935)

"A big thanks goes out to Dr. Bob for his lengthy reply."

The skeletons had all subluxations that's an affront if you are a chiropractic believer.

No he doesn't (1, Troll)

fatphil (181876) | about a year and a half ago | (#43149957)

I think yesterday I called his screed "unconstrained rambling". Little was I to know that it was so unconstrained that it would spill over into another whole story!

Re:No he doesn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150147)

What else you can do when you are an intelligent person trying to defend something illogical?

Ramble.

Wait?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149967)

A well reasoned argument about how there isn't any conflict between religion and science?! Disputing that Bible thumpers ALWAYS have tried to suffocate science.

You SON of A BITCH! How can I troll about Bible Thumpers always being ignorant!? ... I'm melting MELTING ... my beautiful Trollishness! I'm melting! Melting .....melting .... melting .... mmmm

Why is this shit on Slashdot? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43149969)

This is about news for nerds; not reaffirmations for religious people about how they can feel better about themselves and rationalize their idiotic beliefs in the face of the scientific methodology.

Re:Why is this shit on Slashdot? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150355)

So you would prefer news that is reaffirmation for atheists about how they can feel better about themselves and rationalize their idiotic beliefs in the face of narrow examples from a vocal minority.

I can't believe I wasted 5 minutes (1, Interesting)

fredrated (639554) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150081)

reading this. Remind me, what was the question?

Re:I can't believe I wasted 5 minutes (4, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150159)

what was the question?

"Did Jesus have feathers?"

Re:I can't believe I wasted 5 minutes (1)

der_pinchy (1053896) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150727)

What was the answer?

Re:I can't believe I wasted 5 minutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43151045)

reading this. Remind me, what was the question?

How does a scientist justify believing something that's evidence-free and contrary to both experience and reason, like religion or Star Wars fan fiction?

Saint Augustine of Hippo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150135)

1. Saint Augustine of Hippo is a mammal.

2. Saint Augustine of Hippo fights ALL the time.

3. The purpose of Saint Augustine of Hippo is to flip out and kill people.

Lovely insight into a thoughtful and generous mind (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150149)

As a practicing scientist myself (neurobiology) I am always interested in how other scientists came to their science, and in particular, I love hearing about the early, often incredibly vivid experiences that nudged (or shoved, in some cases) them towards a scientific career. I find it interesting that it's often a book (or magazine)--something that the child can interact with at their own pace, without helpful "instruction" from some well-meaning adult.

When I'm elected Pope ... (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150241)

... things are going to change!

SAOH (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150249)

BUT, out of nowhere this bad ass lake appears and Saintt Augustine of Hippo busts out of it hard. Water sprays everywhere, including the pirates’ shirts (which causes their boobs to barely appear through their shirts). Most pirates are like “This can’t be happening!” Saint Augustine of Hippo says “Guess what, it is.” and slaps five with ninja pretty hard. And the ninja says “let’s rock brother.” They both pull out expensive guitars and start wailing on them really really hard. Since the ninja can’t concentrate, Saint Augustine of Hippo thoughtfully guides his hand, because they are blood brothers till the end of time and space. Then the pirates all morph into this tiny diaper and Saint Augustine of Hippo and the ninja morph into a super poop-filled baby that takes the biggest frigg’n dump in the pirate/diaper. The pirates’ scream turns into a crap-gargle (this will make audience laugh gregariously). The ninja's A.D.D. heals and the two buddies/brothers smoke cigarettes and get ice-cream and pop, which they enjoy a lot.

Re:SAOH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150301)

Most amusing sir [youtube.com]

The biggest problem (2, Insightful)

Skiron (735617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150273)

The biggest problem is that religious people have a 'belief' without no scientific evidence, and seem to ignore that (or use psuedo-science to prove it) - they just 'believe'. Sure, religious people can be scientists as they then use scientific measures, but it rarely works the other way around - I mean, how many religious scientists use methods to determine their belief? None.

Religion should not ever be associated with science, as it makes a mockery of proper science.

Re:The biggest problem (1, Interesting)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150539)

The biggest problem is that religious people have a 'belief' without no scientific evidence, and seem to ignore that (or use psuedo-science to prove it) - they just 'believe'.

The word you are looking for is Faith, not religion. Faith can be independent of or tied to any religion. Scientists that shun religion typically put their faith in science - especially with respect to how the universe was created; in essence science is their religion, yet they would not admit it.

Science cannot prove how the universe was formed. it can give many hypotheses, but cannot prove it. Taking any of those hypotheses and saying "this is how it was done" is not science, but scientific religion.

Sure, religious people can be scientists as they then use scientific measures, but it rarely works the other way around - I mean, how many religious scientists use methods to determine their belief? None.

There are many scientists who started out as atheists and came to a religious faith due to their work in science, for example micro-biologists that find things going contrary to predictions (getting more complex instead of simpler), etc.

Religion should not ever be associated with science, as it makes a mockery of proper science.

Then none would be able to do science. It would be humanly impossible.

Rather, those doing science must examine and pronouce their assumptions behind the work such that anyone from any perspective could understand what is going on. For instance, macro evolutionists have to pronouce assumptions of certain ages of the earth (e.g. that the decay rate of C14 is stable), that the environment of the entire earth has not had massive changes, etc; conversely, the religious right needs to recognize that the tend to assume no time gap between Genesis 2 and 3.

Re:The biggest problem (1)

KenP40 (2759733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43151275)

No religion should not be associated with politics. You accusation flies it the face of an article by a man of faith and science.

science grew out of religion (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150411)

and vice versa

the original priests were astronomers who figured out that the celestial bodies behave in predictable patterns and linked it to the seasons and the growing season. in a world where most kings didn't know how to read they were thought of as being able to talk to Gods. How else would they know when you should plant your crops?

If .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150509)

"Would progress in science have been faster if all the contributors were anti-religion? Would Isaac Newton have been a better physicist if he had been Richard Dawkins? Would Galileo have had more success with his telescope if he had been Christopher Hitchens? Would Christianity have been more pro-science if Augustine had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?"

If my mother had balls, would she be my father?

Maybe Someone Can Help (5, Interesting)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150869)

Did TFA or TFS ever mention how the varied Arab cultures were the kings of science for around eight hundred years that (from what I understand) ran concurrently with religion? Library of Alexandria, anyone? Mathematics? Astronomy?

If it wasn't mentioned, then why not? Anyone have a guess?

Caring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43150935)

I don't care

It's not all christianity.... (1)

khb (266593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43150969)

For another viewpoint on the compatibility of science and religion see Sir Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's http://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Partnership-Jonathan-Sacks/dp/0340995246 [amazon.co.uk]

It's quite in line with classic jewish thought (e.g. Maimonides).

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