A question about religious faith and science

I haven’t really touched the issue of faith or religion in awhile because, quite frankly, I’m trying to live a more zen-like existence. I don’t much care for conflict, and faith can often be a significant source of strife and disagreement, so I’ve been trying to use a “live and let live” approach when it comes to faith. At the same time, however, I do view faith as something that can significantly impact the planet and the quality of life of everyone living on it. I’m sure there are many positive aspects to faith and religion, but in my view there are many negative ones as well.

Dedicated readers will know that I view science as the key to progress and a means to answers regarding life and the universe. To this end, I regard science as a neutral and objective tool. And after taking some zen-time to reflect upon the relationship between science, objectivity, and faith/religion, I’ve come to reshape some of my earlier notions. Ultimately, though, this reshaping has left me with one question.

My values or lens has shifted in that I no longer fully believe that science and faith are incompatible, so long as that faith is non-specific. I don’t find science incompatible with a God or spirituality. For reasons elaborated upon in other posts, even though I am an atheist, I fully acknowledge that there is a possibility that some sort of God or creator exists. However, as an objective person who relies upon evidence, I assert that the likelihood of such a being existing seems rather small. And, as an objective person who relies upon evidence, I also admit that if such a being existed, I have no idea what it would look like, what it’s motivations would be, or anything else about it. It’s entirely possible that at some point in the future science could prove that a God exists indirectly or even directly. The probability of that happening is open for debate, but it nevertheless is a statistical possibility.

The compatibility of science and religion or faith breaks down for me with the assertion of the God. A specific idea or picture of God for which there is no tangible evidence (yet) to support the existence of, in my opinion, significantly decreases the likelihood of its veracity. For when we start to define a specific God, with specific qualities and specific motivations and a specific existence, we then have more to work with in terms of evidence. It’s much easier to refute the existence of a specific God than it is to refute the existence of an unknown or undefined God.

And this is where I start to have questions. In my observations, there is ample evidence available to refute the existence of the Gods of specific religions. It leads me to question exactly how objective or how biased a scientist who believes in a specific God can possibly be. Many religious people assert that religion and science are perfectly compatible, and point to examples of Christian scientists or people in science who are also people of religious faith. I’m not claiming that religious people can’t utilize science–science doesn’t care who uses it. Rather, I’m questioning how a religious scientist could possibly use science to explore an issue or observation that directly impacts their faith.

Faith is a central pillar of most religions. God tests the faith of people, God knows that we love and worship him by our faith in him, etc. These are all things that I’ve heard people who follow a specific religion say over the years. The problem that I have with that, however, is that faith in this sense is defined as belief in spite of evidence. If you’re a scientist who believes that God tests our faith in Him, how could that not cloud your observations or experiments in some way? Many Christians believe that Satan actively tries to trick people into disobeying or straying from God. How can that not seep into your scientific lens?

It’s one thing for, say, a Christian scientist to develop some new form of diagnostic imaging. There’s nothing about diagnostic imagining that’s incompatible with the Christian narrative. So in many instances, the faithfully religious are correct in that there can be religious people who also practice science. But most of the examples I see religious people give in this regard are people who use science to study something that has no bearing on their faith. Obviously there’s nothing incompatible with a religious scientist running an experiment on, say, lasers. Or nuclear fusion.  What I’m trying to ask is how can a religious scientist study something that does not fit into the narrative of their religion without having a preconceived notion or without somehow seeing results that contradict their beliefs as some sort of test of faith? How can a religious scientist look at evidence regarding the age of the earth, the creation of the universe, the creation of life–and not automatically dismiss it if it goes against their faith? Isn’t that kind of the opposite of science? Shouldn’t the scientist have an open mind? Faith in a specific religion or God would seem, to me at least, to preclude objectivity or the ability to keep an open mind.

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19 thoughts on “A question about religious faith and science

  1. Yes, there are many negative aspects to faith and religion. The Bible even discusses those. The real question is, where does our faith lie? Is our faith in ourselves, reason, science, man, Jesus, another god, or someone or something else? And how do we react as a result of that faith? Do we harm and kill, or forgive and love? Ideally, Christians want everyone to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior so that may experience the gift of eternal life. It can’t get much more positive than that.

    Even though you view science as the key to progress, science has its own baggage that it can’t escape from. Well-meaning things done in the name of science has ended the lives of millions of people. So science is no more or less neutral than faith and religion. I think it’s a mistake to separate science and religion and suggest that one is more virtuous than the other. Both can be tools for good or evil.

    I’m glad you no longer fully believe that science and faith are incompatible, but I take issue with the disclaimer, “as long as that faith is non-specific.” That isn’t reasonable to me; it’s like saying, “It’s okay to have your faith, as long as it’s undefined and not based on something real.” Or, “I’ll let you believe in some kind of vague religion, so long as I’m insulated from anything I find objectionable.” So, if I believe that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied about in the Old Testament, and that he died on the cross for our sins, why should I give that up to believe in something unspecific? How does that benefit me or anyone else if the God of the Bible is real and we decide to disregard him? Is that really going to make this life or eternity better? I think not.

    I do find it interesting that you don’t find science incompatible with “a God or spirituality”. I’d take the opposite stance. How can science support something vague and intangible, like spirituality? There’s no authority; therefore it’s completely subjective. It could mean anything and nothing. I understand that science can’t refute the existence of an undefined god, but that’s pointless, and it’s ultimately meaningless for anyone to believe in an undefined god that may not exist.

    You acknowledge that it’s possible that some sort of god exists, and that you wouldn’t know anything about that god, but I’d argue that we can know who that God is if he revealed himself to us. And Christians believe that God has revealed himself to us in various ways, including Scripture. Therefore it’s just a matter of accepting or rejecting that revelation. And I believe we can accept God’s revelation objectively and rationally, based on evidence. We can study the historicity of Scripture, fulfilled prophecies, miracles of Christ, and the empty tomb, along with the appearance of Jesus many times to his disciples and others. So I take issue when you say there’s no tangible evidence to support the existence of God. I think it’s more that you won’t accept the evidence supplied than there is no evidence. I’d love to come up with an exhaustive list of evidence, but would that matter?

    I agree that science can refute the gods of specific religions- but only false religions. I disagree that it could refute a religion that’s real.

    When you ask, exactly how objective or how biased can a scientist be who believes in a specific god, I think it depends on what’s at issue. A scientist can be completely objective about the laws of physics and the scientific method, and still believe in the tooth fairy, Martians, global warming, the bogey man, evolution, ghosts, or God. The laws of physics don’t cease because we believe in something that can’t be observed via the scientific method. So you’re right that science doesn’t care who uses it.

    As to how can a religious scientist use science to explore an issue or observation that directly impacts their faith, I think those scientists have answered those questions already. They believe that the scientific evidence supports their beliefs, just as evolutionists believe the evidence supports their beliefs. There’s no difference. So if you believe evolution and an ancient universe is compatible with science, creationists likewise believe the evidence supports a recent creation with no evolution. If evolutionists can use science to explore issues and observations that directly impacts their faith, then scientists of other faiths can do the same. I think one of the mistakes I see is that evolutionists won’t acknowledge that their beliefs are based on faith or a worldview (not observational evidence). As long as evolutionists believe their faith is not based on faith, they’ll never understand the answer to this question. Both the evolutionist and creationist look at the same evidence; they then extrapolate the evidence based on their worldview, and then come to different interpretations of the data. Simple.

    You define faith to be a belief in spite of the evidence. But that’s not what people of faith believe. As a Christian, I believe that there is ample evidence to support my faith, and that that faith is based on sound reason, not a blind faith. 1 Peter 3:15 says to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” This means that we are expected to base our faith on reason.

    Our observations and experiments are not clouded as you suggest. We believe God is consistent, and that he created the laws of physics so that we could study his creation with consistency. This is how science came about in the first place, so I find it odd that you would think that the evidence would be clouded. Maybe it’s evolutionists whose faith is clouded by the evidence. But if you disagree, then that’s exactly why persons of faith aren’t clouded by their faith.

    Sure, Satan is at work, but I think persons of faith are able to separate the natural from the supernatural. I don’t have any problem discerning the difference between the two, even if they’re not verifiable. It’s entirely possible that some weird event can be explained scientifically, but that doesn’t necessarily exclude the supernatural. How could we possibly know for certain? Science can’t do that. There are a lot of strange things happening that science can’t explain, but that doesn’t mean we need to resort to demonic sabotage, or that a person of faith can’t be objective.

    You ask, “Shouldn’t the scientist have an open mind?” That’s a loaded question and the same could be asked of an evolutionist. If an evolutionist is open minded, and a creationist presents evidence for Biblical creation and evidence contradicting evolutionary beliefs, then evolutionists should be open minded enough to accept it. I think I’ve presented plenty of evidence previously, and I’m baffled as to why an open minded person could reject such evidence. When you suggest that scientists should have an open mind, do you mean that scientists should only believe what the establishment believes, or is there room for dissent, alternative reasoning and other worldviews? If scientists should be open minded, then why is there so much animosity towards those who dissent from evolution?

    I think your questions can be answered by examining your own faith. If you’re able to accept evolutionary beliefs without direct observation or verification (and must resort to extrapolation), then there’s no difference between your beliefs and any other religion. I’d suggest examining the faith aspect of atheism and evolution in order to understand how people of other faiths do science. I think this is hard for atheists to do because they often won’t acknowledge that their beliefs are based on faith. They often insist that their beliefs are based on “evidence” and rational thought. That’s the problem.

    1. When I say scientists should have an open mind, I definitely believe that there’s room for dissent. After all, if it weren’t for dissent, we’d still probably be operating under a geocentric model of the solar system and the universe. Diversity of opinion and ideas is important to innovation and discovery. I bear no ill will toward the people who don’t believe in evolution, but I think that by now you know that. I can’t speak to what it’s like to subscribe to creation science since that isn’t what I believe, and although I perceive no hatred or vitriol toward that group, I cannot discount your perception and feelings. If that’s how you see it and feel it, then it’s real to you. I think the problem here, as we find with most rivalries and disagreements, is a distinct lack of empathy.

      With regards to “the establishment,” I feel like that’s almost a loaded word. All knowledge is based off of previous knowledge, and thus every body of science has “an establishment” or a “mainstream” body of ideas–even creation science. I don’t necessarily think that that’s a bad thing. Research of any type cannot proceed without some assumptions based on previous knowledge and experience.

      Finally, with regard to faith and atheism, I have thought about this issue a lot. I hear people of religious faith say that it takes a certain amount of faith to not believe in something. But I personally believe that you’re operating under a skewed definition of atheism. Instead of focusing on the “evidence” regarding the non-existence of a God, atheists focus on the evidence pertaining to his existence. You’re seeing atheism as the embracing of a negative, when in reality we see it as the rejection of a positive. In other words, it’s not that we see evidence that there is no God, it’s that we see no evidence that validates the narrative that you’re claiming. Atheists would say that there’s a distinct difference. There is no faith required to reject something for which there is no evidence. If faith is defined as the belief in something despite a lack of evidence, then the opposite, rejecting something due to lack of evidence (which is what atheists do), would be the polar opposite of exhibiting faith.

      1. I agree with your assessment about a distinct lack of empathy. I think the culture and human nature lends itself to this.

        Sure, “the establishment” is a loaded word, but it describes part of the problem. Those within that establishment don’t want to relinquish control- even if they’re wrong. Don’t rock the boat, don’t stray from the plantation, don’t question evolution, don’t show skepticism about the age of the universe, etc. Trying to overturn established orthodoxy is nearly impossible because it’s so entrenched and often met with fierce opposition.

        You’re right that an establishment isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it naturally lends to corruption due to human nature. Those within the establishment naturally resist any change contrary to their worldview. Who wants to admit that they’ve believed a lie all their life, and that everything they thought they knew is wrong? There’s a lot of pride to swallow.

        As to your definition of atheism, that may be what some atheists believe, but others, like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, William Provine, and Richard Bozarth (to name a few), do focus on evidence regarding the non-existence of God. Atheists like them do embrace the negative. They may say something like, “no one can prove the existence or non-existence of God”, but then they make the opposite claim and say something like, “The evidence proves that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist.” So which is it?

        I agree that there’s no faith required to reject something for which there’s no evidence, however that would not be the case with God or creationism. There’s plenty of evidence. The real question is, will you accept the evidence presented?

        I’m not sure how one can claim that there’s no evidence for God or creationism, especially when evidence has been presented. If there were no evidence, obviously no one would believe in God or creationism. The fact that people do believe in both is evidence that evidence exists.

        I think the question is, “What constitutes evidence?” If someone sees a photograph of Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, then those photographs are evidence. If someone sees the tree of life in a science textbook, that constitutes evidence for evolution. If someone studies the complex genetic code in a cell, that constitutes evidence for God. I think it’s one thing to say that there is no evidence, and quite another thing to say that you don’t find the evidence compelling.

      2. I agree with the point that you’re making about evidence. I think that it’s fair to say that each of us accepts evidence that the other doesn’t. It’s this very situation that has caused me to try to adopt a more zen-like attitude when it comes to religion. Even though I personally would say that religion isn’t necessary, I realize that everyone on the planet isn’t me, and they don’t think like me. And despite my feelings toward religion, I don’t necessarily feel the way a lot of atheists do in that I’m not entirely convinced that religion has made the world a worse place. A lot of atheists like to say things like, “Think of all the people who have died in the name of religion!” Well, often times religion is the justification for violence, but it isn’t necessarily the root cause. Violent people will find an outlet and a reason to be violent. If religion never exist, there would still be war and killing for political gain, economic gain, racism, etc. So while I agree that there are a lot of problems within our species, I’m not quick to blindly attribute all of them to religion. I feel like I’m starting to bunny-trail here, so I’ll try to get back on track…

        Part of this live and let live attitude toward faith and religion is due to what you’ve outlined in your response, and because to me the idea of science and some sort of God or God-force or whatever you want to call it isn’t impossible. Personally, I believe that nobody has the answers (at least until the die), and I see that as a justification for at least exercising empathy if one isn’t willing to keep and open mind. With regard to science, I don’t necessarily think that it’s incompatible with religion, so long as those using science from a religious framework are willing to accept evidence that doesn’t fit into that framework if warranted.

      3. Good points.

        My only other thought is regarding conflict. I don’t like conflict either, but it exists, and I think we need to learn how to deal with it constructively; otherwise we just live a life of avoidance, which itself isn’t healthy. I think it’s good to address conflicts and resolve them as much as one is able. Unfortunately, in many instances, it’s hard to get the other party to agree to any type of meaningful dialogue. For example, I have a long-time friend who I’ll describe as a left-wing radical, and it’s nearly impossible to have a rational conversation with him, despite my attempts to be civil. He’ll forever live in his hate-filled bubble unless he’s willing to accept a truce and have a peaceful conversation. In a scenario like this it’s impossible to resolve the conflict, which is sad.

      4. Oh yeah, politics is definitely another one of those sensitive subjects. I do have far more liberal friends than conservative ones, but that’s more due to geography than my personal taste in friends. Whenever I interact with someone who has philosophical beliefs which radically differ from my own, I try to at least find some sort of common ground or common goal. I’ve also found that just listening to someone else’s political beliefs goes a long way. If my conservative friends ever do go on a diatribe with me, I generally ask a few pointed questions about what they’re saying, but I don’t try to refute it. My friends know what I believe and vice versa. Often times just listening and showing interest is enough of a sign of respect.

  2. The simple answer to the question about how someone can be a person of faith and a person of science is that they simply utilize different parts of the brain. Belief pathways when reinforced release dopamine making it beneficial to maintain beliefs. Maintaining skepticism and a scientific mind is about reforming opinions and basing conclusions on evidence regardless of what you previously held to be true. This is just a different part of the brain that does this type of thinking.

    Most people of course are walking contradictions. One of my goals in life is to maintain a consistent morality based on what my experience, observation, and knowledge tells me is right. That being said I am sure I have contradictory practices and if I myself am not aware of them I like to have them pointed out so that I can work on correcting them. I grew up with an alcoholic father and I know from counseling that many people experience this sort of duality from that alcoholic loved one. When they are sober they have so much love for you, but then they drink and hurt you; miss important events in your life. So which is it? Do they love you or now love you? I’ve come to the conclusion that in a way it’s both. Or rather there are simply two sides to the person that don’t always have compatible aims. I have been wanting to write a blog post on duality for some time and your post gives me more inspiration to do so.

    Ultimately it once again boils down to what people see as evidence. People of faith would say they are basing their views on evidence. But it is their lack of understanding of what evidence is that leads them astray. The Bible is simply not evidence of God, but those of Christian faith believe it to be so. Entire frameworks of logic can be built on faulty premises. For those of faith the reasoning is often deductive and not inductive. They take it a priori that there is a God and then look for things in the world that confirm that. But there is no set of evidence you can study and conclude that there is a God. Unless of course you aren’t aware what evidence is. If you consider a book that says there is a God evidence, then yes you could conclude that there is a God. It makes sense to me why someone might purport a supernatural force as an explanation to things we cannot explain, but that does not mean it is the only or best explanation. I think it was Dawkins who said it well, “If we rewound human history a couple hundred thousand years and let it play out over again, due to the random nature of events, we would still rediscover all the scientific laws we have now eventually, but all religions would be different, with different figures and gods”. So even if there is a God, it seems that all of the religious dogma is clearly fiction.

    I use the term spiritual often myself. I think it is a myth that atheists don’t have spiritual experiences. I don’t think spirit in of itself has to be a tangible thing to prove, but I do think it is physical. I think it is an intense emotional reaction that has a physiological impact on much of our body. Perhaps one day we can understand all the parts of this feeling of elation, but I think until then it is okay to have a word that embodies the experience.

    1. Swarn Gill: I have to take issue with your claim that the Bible is not evidence of God. That’s like saying that a fossil is not evidence for evolution. I do agree with you that people have a lack of understanding of what evidence is, and I think you’re providing a perfect example. The Bible is evidence of God’s existence: it claims to be a revelation from God, it tells us who God is and what he expects from us, it tells us who we are and where we came from, it records events that God ordained, it records God’s commands, along with fulfilled prophesies and miracles, it records eye witness testimony, and it records a record of Jesus, who claimed to be God and conquered sin and death. The Bible is a historical record of all this, and if the God of the Bible does exist, then it’s illogical to claim that the Bible does not constitute evidence. I think you’re confusing proof with evidence. The Bible isn’t proof that God exists, but it is evidence, just as a photo of a UFO is evidence for the existence of extraterrestrials, even if you don’t believe in aliens. What we need to do is line up all the evidence (pro and con), and then make a conclusion based on the evidence. If you exclude the Bible from the list of evidence, then it’s impossible to make an informed decision. The real question about the Bible is whether or not you accept the claims within it and if you find such evidence compelling.

      Here’s another inconsistency I see in your comments about reasoning. You apply one set of standards to what you believe, and then another set of standards to those who are Christians. You accuse Christians of taking it a priori that there is a God and then look for things in the world that confirm that. But the same could be said of atheists and evolutionists: Evolutionists take it a priori that evolution has occurred and then look for things in the world that confirm that. But there is no set of evidence you can study and conclude that evolution has occurred. Evolutionists would say they’re basing their views on evidence, but their lack of understanding of what evidence is leads them astray.

      I find it humorous that you accept a hypothetical scenario from Dawkins as evidence that all of the religious dogma is clearly fiction. Dawkins could be entirely wrong. There’s no evidence supporting his claim except his own claim. Dawkins says that God doesn’t exist, so therefore God doesn’t exist, but if the Bible says that God exists, we can’t use that as evidence for God. Nice.

      1. I don’t take evolution to be true a priori. This is the conclusion one reaches when viewing evidence. The theory of evolution has been developed over the analysis of voluminous evidence. In fact Darwin was not a biologist but a meteorologist. It was his observations on his journey’s, particularly the Galapagos that lead to his hypothesis and one of his early lines of support for this hypothesis was unnatural selection in which one can see the mechanism for how evolution works.

        And actually your analogy is completely false about the Bible being equivalent to a fossil. A better analogy is that The Bible is evidence of God in the same way that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is evidence of Hobbits. The only difference is that one person admitted theirs was fiction. But sure the Bible has an accounting of some historical events, at least from one culture’s perspective. Ask any historian and they will tell you that this is a poor way to gather the truth about any historical event. That being said if you want to take the Bible as truth about God and what God wants, then there is no difference between your text and any religious text all which have some differences as to the nature of god or gods and what they want.

        I am sorry you find the Dawkins statement so implausible. Do you think other planets that develop intelligent life will describe God in the same way? Given that cultures that have developed independently on Earth have all come up with a different belief system? Thus it is quite reasonable to predict that restarting the clock will produce different results.

        In terms of belief, I do believe the scientific method is the best method for investigate the world. But this “belief” is only because it works. I have yet to see religion work as an adequate way of describe the world or uncovering anything about how it actually works. It is very different from your belief, which might give you some individual satisfaction but does not necessarily provide anything for anybody else.

      2. No disrespect intended, but to say that you don’t take evolution to be true a priori isn’t true. It’s not the conclusion one reaches when viewing the evidence. This has been instilled in students through years of education (or indoctrination). You were taught what to believe and how to think and accepted it based on faulty evidence. You were never taught to be skeptical and to think critically about evolution. There was no other alternative allowed. One can’t simply determine the age of the universe, or verify descent without faith.

        Darwin saw that organisms, such as finches, change over time. Creationists believe that too. But that’s not evolution. That’s natural selection. There’s a big difference between the two terms, and evolutionists have a tendency to conflate the two. But understanding that beak size can change in an organism can’t be extrapolated to prove that dinosaurs evolved into birds or apes into humans. That’s a big leap of faith. Therefore, if that’s what you’re doing, then you’re not drawing conclusions from the evidence; you’re demonstrating an act of faith.

        My Bible analogy fits very well. And if you think a better analogy is the Bible with the Lord of the Rings, then I could say the same about Darwin’s Origin of Species, or any other book you want to throw on the table. Comparing a historical book with a fiction book isn’t exactly a good analogy. At least Tolkein admitted that his work was fiction, while Darwin didn’t.

        If you don’t like the way historians gather information about the past, then perhaps you don’t believe that Abraham Lincoln, William Shakesphere, Aristotle, Plato, or Julius Caesar ever existed. Much of what we know about history is based on historical writings, and the Bible has the most ancient documents to substantiate it.

        Dawkins statement was a statement of faith. He doesn’t know what would happen if we rewound the clock. He believes by faith that it would be different, and you accept his reasoning by faith. His statement cannot be proven one way or the other, so he’s inoculated from the truth. If God does exist, and we rewound the clock, God would simply steer history in the direction he wants. The God of the Bible is sovereign, and he’s fulfilling all prophecy that he spoke from the beginning, and it can’t be thwarted, otherwise Satan would have achieved victory.

        Both our statements are statements of faith. You can’t make wild guesses about hypothetical scenarios and tell me there’s anything scientific about them because they can never be substantiated.

        It’s amusing that you conclude that you have yet to see religion work as an adequate way of describing the world or uncovering anything about how it actually works. Creationists are the ones that came up with the scientific method. Francis Bacon, the man most responsible for the scientific method, was a Christian and creationist. So were Isaac Newton, Pasteur, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Galileo, and Linneaus. Science is in debt to these Bible believing Christians, because they’re the ones who believed that God created a rational universe that could be studied and observed. So you have seen religion work as an adequate way of describing the world; it’s just that you were never taught the truth.

    2. First of all, thank you very much for sharing such personal information about your past. Much appreciated.

      I hadn’t really considered the biological basis for faith, although I’m aware that there is certainly come interesting research out there. I’ve been reading up on “the God helmet” and the results that that experiment have yielded, but I think we’re a ways off from establishing a clear cut biological marker for faith or religion. I’ve been meaning to read a book call “The Brain As Self” that touches upon a lot of these things (hormones, neural pathways, etc), but with school I sadly haven’t had the time.

      1. I am not trying to suggest that there is a specific area of the brain that deals only for faith, but rather there is an area of a brain that holds things you believe to be true and there is a part of the brain that is responsible for critically thinking and modifying information you think you know as a result of new information. Thus it is simply completely possible to have one area of your brain not impacted by what you learn in other areas affecting those beliefs. Like you said, very often those that are both scientists and theists don’t often research areas that are counter to their beliefs, or those people hold their beliefs a lot more loosely than to believe the particulars of a certain religion.

        Another book you might be interested in reading is called “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer. He talks about why people believe in things, not just religion, but deals with conspiracy theories, paranormal, aliens, etc. He does a little bit of brain physiology, but he’s more of a cognitive scientist. He also has a section in there about the God helmet. While there are still many questions about the brain, it’s amazing how much we know about it. A lot more than I thought. Another excellent book that is a much more detailed but also informative read is “How the Mind Works” by Steven Pinker. As always, “Things that interest you = infinite” and “Time of existence = finite”. LOL

    3. I like the way you’ve framed the idea of spirituality. I don’t necessarily believe that it connotes the existence of the soul or some sort of ethereal energy. Rather, I think that the abstract term “spirituality” refers to a connection, and anyone can feel a connection to something.

      When I think about the fact that I am made of material from a super nova, that’s spirituality. When I contemplate the vast improbability of life existing, that’s spirituality. When I marvel at the depth and scope of the universe and think about all we have yet to discover and see, that’s spirituality. When I think about the fact that matter and energy cannot be destroyed and what that means for my eventual death, that’s spirituality.

      Spirituality doesn’t necessarily correlate to new-age, voodoo practices like astral projection or crystal healing or whatever. I think all people exhibit spirituality in some form or another when they think about their place in the universe and the way everything in the universe is interrelated. Those are things that people of any faith (or lack thereof) can hold in awe.

      1. I agree Ryan. I find the same things you mentioned spiritual as well. The complexity of what we define as a spiritual experience doesn’t necessarily lend itself to be broken down easily, nor perhaps do we always wish to break it down. I equate it to perhaps a delicious meal. The food itself is an array of ingredients which individually are not nearly as exciting as the mixture. But even the ingredients doesn’t always mean you can reproduce the experience, because it may be in the techniques of the cook who prepared them as well. It may be that the same dish cooked by somebody else doesn’t even seem quite as delicious so you could never really break down the experience and rebuild it from scratch. And then of course the deliciousness of the meal may also depend on other factors; how hungry you were, the company, your mood, etc. At the end of the evening you can say you had an amazing meal, but it might be difficult to pinpoint all the things that came together to make it so.

  3. I have been taking time to step back and think. I also dislike conflict and this struggle of answering questions is a big source of conflict for me. The conflict and constructs and interaction of science and religious faith in our culture, and in my life and loved ones is on my mind a lot. Nice post. I enjoyed it.

  4. Interesting post! A zen-like existence is exactly what I have also tried to apply in my daily life. I don’t care much about religion anymore. It can definitely lead me to conflict and disagreement with others. I rather be and let others be. The following statement “…there is ample evidence available to refute the existence of the Gods of specific religions.” speaks truth. I believe that non-specific God exists, we just don’t know who He really is. I also believe that mercy, compassion, and grace are qualities of the unspecified God. I applaud you for acknowledging that there is a possibility of the existence of a God, which makes you an open minded person. It also says that you admit you don’t know everything there is to know about the “unknown.”

    1. All good science is in some part based on ignorance, on an unknown. I think people who are absolutists are a dangerous brand, because in my experience the world and the universe are necessarily black-and-white places. And as a scientist, I think I have an innate sense of curiosity. So if, one day, scientific proof that God existed came to light, I’d be intensely interested in it.

  5. i guess the thing about having faith is that you won’t doubt that whatever you eventually find will only support what you believe in. for example the Qur’aan states that an embryo forms after such and such state, yet for awhile the popular theory was of preformation. it was only till later when sperm, egg and embryo could be studied that the preformation theory went out the window.

    and about knowing God in the terms you stated: those are limiting measures. for example trying to ascertain the specific physical location of a thought. or playing a song and asking someone ‘where is the music?’ i guess you could call those standards incomplete or incompatible? especially since the idea of a god brings with it the prerequisite that said god is not the same as his creation; that’s an impossibility.

    and then when it comes to motives and this and that. yeah there ARE answers but perhaps not reaaaaaally detailed and they don’t address all the specifics. but i think to myself: when i go and get a haircut, do i grill my barber every step of the way? where’s this clipper from? where did you buy it? the list can go on.

    instead i trust my hair to him based on what knowledge i have, and that’s it. so if i can trust my barber/doctor/tv repairman, why would i wanna question god to such a great extent? i’m personally satisfied with the answers that have been given. i guess it also goes hand in hand with the idea of ‘faith’; accepting our mortality, limitations, weakness and smallness compared to His Wisdom. summat’ like dat

    anyway your blog posts are interesting as ever, keep ’em coming. i’m still mulling over the petri dish thought experiment haha

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