toxic thought waste site

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Essential conflict

I'm working my way through these talks: http://www.yale.edu/terrylecture/thisyear.html which alternately having me nodding approvingly and pounding my head on the table muttering "huh?".

I guess my worry in life is that I will starting being dogmatic in one set of beliefs or another and miss out on some aspect of real truth. Or even Truth. So I sincerely hope I haven't become a dogmatic atheist incapable of seeing a good idea that contradicts his beliefs. But when scientists talk about their religion I'm just kind of dumbfounded.

On the one hand they do all this brilliant objective work and have an open mind that lets them impartially consider different hypotheses. They demand real evidence before they will believe something is true and even then in a tenuous way. "This is true until I find a better explanation."

And then they start talking about religion. All of a sudden they know that the universe was made by a god who loves us and has a plan for us. And so on. So what happened to their common sense and demand for evidence?

I'm totally open to the idea that there are modes of understanding that are outside of, non-overlapping with science, but if they really are non-intersecting then how do you even start to validate it, reason about it?

Perhaps I have too simple minded a view of science but to me it is just refined and disciplined common sense. So how can *any* mode of understanding not be overlapping with a scientific way of viewing the world? Aren't religious/theological statements claims about reality? Shouldn't they be testable in some sense? If you say that the universe is a gift to humanity and I say how do you know?, how do we even proceed from this point in a rational way? If the definition of religion is that you can say whatever you want just because you know it's true then I'm not going to get very far.

From the speakers in the above link I really get the sense that many of them just *do* believe in something, they can't help it so they shape their world view around that. They don't care about the epistemology of it since they can't help but believe what they do. Maybe it's that simple. Of course, the type of god you have when he is indistinguishable from a random process seems hardly worth warping your world view for.

I've read only one of Ken Miller's essays on how religion and science don't conflict but I was honestly scratching my head the whole way through. The tension between religion and science is an interesting one, so I'll keep looking at it, but so far I'm not too hopeful of learning anything too deep.

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