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Peaceful coexistence between scientists and theologians

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Peaceful coexistence between scientists and theologians

I would very much like to know what people on this website think about peaceful coexistence between those who study our material world (scientists) and those who study our spiritual world (theologians). My attempt to write an essay on that subject failed, as you can see at:

http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/theology3.html

The webpage was prepared to generate a discussion. Those who post comments should refer to specific “contributions,” as numbered (or to specific persons, as numbered at the beginning). This will simplify the discussion.

And let us keep in mind that the main topic is peaceful coexistence. Is it possible? Is it desirable? What should we do promote it? etc.

Thank you in advance,

Ludwik Kowalski (see Google and Wikipedia)

Professor Emeritus

Montclair State University

.

.

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Scientists rarely care what theologians think. Why would they? They have supportable facts on their side.

Historically it is theologians who seek to oppress science, while science just generally ignores religion.

So... why ask us? Ask the religious types.

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Your viewpoint has famously been advocated by Stephen Jay Gould and termed by him Non-Overlapping Magisteria. He wrote a book on the topic, called Rocks of Ages. He basically maintains in the book that values and morals are the realm of religion while facts and empirical theories are the realm of science, and never the two shall meet.

The problem with this view is that human values are empirically based and scientifically discoverable. Ayn Rand presented the case for this viewpoint in her essay, "The Objectivist Ethics." Basically, she noted that our concept of values is tied inextricably to the phenomenon of life, and the need for living things to maintain their lives (a vast oversimplification, and if you want to truly understand the argument, you should read the essay... several times). This leads to the viewpoint that an objective system of values is empirically discoverable by examining what actions humans must take in order to further their lives. If you rigorously define the topics that religion attempts to address, you will find that many refer to things which don't exist (questions about God, the "purpose" of the universe or of our presence in it, etc) while the rest can be answered through an in-depth study of values and human well-being.

Thus, what we should do is not encourage coexistence, but rather figure out which questions about what you have broadly termed the "spiritual world" are valid questions, and address them scientifically, ignoring the others. The "answers" provided by theology are usually non-answers.

Edited by Dante
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I would very much like to know what people on this website think about peaceful coexistence between those who study our material world (scientists) and those who study our spiritual world (theologians).

I think the suggested "peaceful coexistence" of:

a parasite -- religious doctrine and its proponents, jointly and severally, who take belief as an epistemological primary

and its host -- scientific method and its proponents, jointly and severally, who base knowledge on observable reproducible communicable perceptual experiences

is not possible because only the parasite wants to coexist, whilst the host would just as soon help the parasite to die quickly -- for the parasite, coexistence==life, whilst for the host, coexistence==death. If the parasite and host each chooses its own life as the standard of value, then their goals will be contradictory in reality, and they cannot coexist ... furthermore, the only future in which EITHER can exist is when the parasite dies/reforms, i.e., ceases to be (a parasite) -- because if the host is wiped out (or refuses to play ball, as in Atlas Shrugged), then the parasite loses its gravy train.

Put another way, I don't think that what religionistas do is "study" spirituality, because an irrational epistemology is not really an epistemology at all, is it? What they do is invent the logical implications of more or less inconsistent yet traditional fiats -- deduction, induction, fantasy, whatever -- GIGO!!!

- ico

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I would very much like to know what people on this website think about peaceful coexistence between those who study our material world (scientists) and those who study our spiritual world (theologians).

I think peaceful coexistence is only possible in a free, secular society, where the principle of separation of Church and State is strictly enforced. In such a society people are free to simply ignore each other.

Of course, cooperation between scientists and theologians is futile, and harmful to science. Theologians simply have nothing of value to offer.

However, scientists do need to trade ideas and values with another group of intellectuals, who also study our spiritual world: philosophers and artists. Specifically, philosophers and artists who rely on Reason and Logic for their study of morality, arts and spirituality in general.

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Many scientists have been theologians, or at least members of religious orders: the physicist who proposed the Big Bang theory was a Catholic priest; the father of genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a monk; Leo the Mathematician was an Catholic archbishop; Roger Bacon was a member of a Catholic religious order, Copernicus was a Catholic clergyman; Max Planck was a Lutheran church elder; and so on. So obviously "peaceful coexistence" is possible.

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Any attempt to treat reality as split or dichotomous can only result in negative consequences.

The "theologians" who are content to believe that which is set against Science are conceding that what they believe are fairytales and that is how there work should be treated.

The scientists who are content to leave morality/ethics/etc.. to "matters of faith" are conceding that they believe that morality/ethics is non-real, non-important, and non-objective... and they will cause trouble (like Dr. Stadler in Atlas Shrugged)

The key (as always) is Philosophy...or a commitment to knowing objective reality and having an entire, coherent, and comprehensive worldview.

Any of those "theologians" that are rationally convinced that God exists would do well to study philosophy and to understand that IF God exists, then He is not afraid of Science.

Likewise, the Scientists who don't care about morality would do well to study philosophy and understand that without a proper moral code, they and their studies would be covered in blood.

Additionally, I think far too many scientist ignore philosophy at the peril of their own studies-- they don't have a proper philosophical (i.e. logical) foundation and so they waste a lot of time and energy in search of proof for irrational theories.

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The "theologians" who are content to believe that which is set against Science are conceding that what they believe are fairytales and that is how there work should be treated.

The scientists who are content to leave morality/ethics/etc.. to "matters of faith" are conceding that they believe that morality/ethics is non-real, non-important, and non-objective... and they will cause trouble (like Dr. Stadler in Atlas Shrugged)

I don't understand your first sentence. Are you saying that the scientific contributions of the the people I mentioned should be tossed aside? If so, how is that to be done? For example, should we toss out the science of genetics because its "father" or founder was a Catholic monk?

And can you give me a REAL figure for your second assertion, instead of a fictional character in a novel?

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I don't understand your first sentence. Are you saying that the scientific contributions of the the people I mentioned should be tossed aside? If so, how is that to be done? For example, should we toss out the science of genetics because its "father" or founder was a Catholic monk?

I specifically meant their theological work- if in their theology, they functionally treat God as a fairytale, then nothing they say about God should be taken seriously. This doesn't apply to their studies elsewhere (to the extent that they have any).

And can you give me a REAL figure for your second assertion, instead of a fictional character in a novel?

I'm sure I could if I thought long enough about it, but that is irrelevant. The fact that science necessarily rests on philosophical assumptions and the fact that science can only be conducted in a moral (i.e. non-cannibalistic/ chaotic) society are justification enough to suggest that scientists ought to care about philosophy.

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should we toss out the science of genetics because its "father" or founder was a Catholic monk?

People are very capable and sometimes quite adept at compartmentalizing. They can be very rational in one area of their life and completely irrational in another. This is a result of holding mixed premises. Of course we do not 'throw out' an amazing scientific (reality based) discovery of a person because they were also Catholic, but neither can one claim that the method they used to investigate reality which resulted in their scientific discovery came from the application of their 'theology'. In fact, the discovery was dependent upon the application of ideas that are fundamentally and diametrically opposed to all theology.

'Peaceful' coexistence of opposing premises in one mind is not possible without a hell of a lot of compartmentalization and those artificial walls of compartmentalization cannot hide the inner war of ideas taking place in the mind of an individual who attempts to hold both and selectively apply them.

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People are very capable and sometimes quite adept at compartmentalizing. They can be very rational in one area of their life and completely irrational in another. This is a result of holding mixed premises

Agreed. I have an acquaintance who has decided she wants a baby at all costs, and so has gotten pregnant and plans to go on the New York welfare system as a means of support (currently she is on unemployment, which she's been on, on and off, for most of the last five years). She considers herself an Objectivist still, though she's no longer an active member of the club there. Now there's some mixed premises...

Of course we do not 'throw out' an amazing scientific (reality based) discovery of a person because they were also Catholic, but neither can one claim that the method they used to investigate reality which resulted in their scientific discovery came from the application of their 'theology'.

Agreed.

In fact, the discovery was dependent upon the application of ideas that are fundamentally and diametrically opposed to all theology.

I don't agree that they represent ideas that are "fundamentally and diametrically opposed" -- they are different areas that are unrelated. When science strays into philosophy, it goes out of its legitimate realm (what can be measured and demonstrated). When theology strays into science, it goes out of its legitimate realm (purpose of life, morality, etc).

'Peaceful' coexistence of opposing premises in one mind is not possible without a hell of a lot of compartmentalization and those artificial walls of compartmentalization cannot hide the inner war of ideas taking place in the mind of an individual who attempts to hold both and selectively apply them.

Regardless of whether a scientist who is also a member of a religious order is compartmentalizing his life and fighting an "inner war of ideas", or whether he simply sees the two fields as separate, distinct fields, the intial question was -- is peaceful coexistence possible? The answer is yes.

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I don't agree that they represent ideas that are "fundamentally and diametrically opposed" -- they are different areas that are unrelated. When science strays into philosophy, it goes out of its legitimate realm (what can be measured and demonstrated). When theology strays into science, it goes out of its legitimate realm (purpose of life, morality, etc).

Ayn Rand's works describe and demonstrate the logical relationships between the spiritual and the material world. Are you unfamiliar with her statements on this issue, or have you found good cause to ignore them?

If it's the latter, I'd love to hear your reasoning.

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Ayn Rand's works describe and demonstrate the logical relationships between the spiritual and the material world. Are you unfamiliar with her statements on this issue, or have you found good cause to ignore them?

If it's the latter, I'd love to hear your reasoning.

Are you reading a different thread than I am? The initial poster asked about the possibility of peaceful coexistence of science and theology. The existence throughout history of scientists who were also deeply religious demonstrates that peaceful coexistence is indeed possible. Regardless if that coexistence comes from compartmentalization on the part of those scientists (as you suggest), or the idea that the two fields are separate and distinct, the coexistence can and does exist. Question answered. What, are you claiming that those scientists didn't exist, and that none exist now?

Edited by dakota
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Are you reading a different thread than I am? The initial poster asked about the possibility of peaceful coexistence of science and theology. The existence throughout history of scientists who were also deeply religious demonstrates that peaceful coexistence is indeed possible. Regardless if that coexistence comes from compartmentalization on the part of those scientists (as you suggest), or the idea that the two fields are separate and distinct, the coexistence can and does exist. Question answered. What, are you claiming that those scientists didn't exist, and that none exist now?

Actually, that's not the only question he asked:

And let us keep in mind that the main topic is peaceful coexistence. Is it possible? Is it desirable? What should we do promote it? etc. [emphasis added]

Most here have focused on the desirability, specifically the undesirability of mixing the two, or of paying any attention to theologians qua theologians at all. You seem to be stuck on only the first question, and reading everyone else's responses as if they were trying to address only that one. I think we're all aware that many scientific discoveries have been made by religious people; the question is, is this optimal? Does their being religious aid in scientific discovery, or hinder it, or what? Pretty much everyone was religious back when some of these earlier scientific discoveries were being made, so it's not really a compelling argument to simply list religious scientists.

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Many scientists have been theologians, or at least members of religious orders: the physicist who proposed the Big Bang theory was a Catholic priest; the father of genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a monk; Leo the Mathematician was an Catholic archbishop; Roger Bacon was a member of a Catholic religious order, Copernicus was a Catholic clergyman; Max Planck was a Lutheran church elder; and so on. So obviously "peaceful coexistence" is possible.

Belief does not become a better basis of science simply because it is held longer. Tradition smadition. Many scientists have had syphilis; many have been corpulent; some have died in duels; they have all had mothers; so what? Correlation does not prove causality.

Can anyone can show me a single historical instance where belief in God and consequential inconsistencies has led to BETTER science, net net, than would have been obtained without basing deductions on religious fundamentals?

If not, then please understand there is no basis for compromise on principles, so if you can't show examples of the objective value, all in, of religious doctrines, then they are worthless to me, and should be to you. If you are a scientist in the sense I would admire/sanction.

Cheers.

- ico

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I don't understand your first sentence. Are you saying that the scientific contributions of the the people I mentioned should be tossed aside? If so, how is that to be done? For example, should we toss out the science of genetics because its "father" or founder was a Catholic monk?

And can you give me a REAL figure for your second assertion, instead of a fictional character in a novel?

Don't know if he can, but to my mind some examples come: Albert Einstein (writing letter to assist in political kickoff of Manhattan project), Alfred Nobel (thought the explosive power of dynamite would make war obsolete, in rationalizing his "gifting" of the knowledge to posterity); Werner Heisenberg assisting the NAZI bomb program; various well-knowns advocating various forms of population control, up to and including euthanasia; i think I should stop listing now.

- ico

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For example, should we toss out the science of genetics because its "father" or founder was a Catholic monk?

Of course not. Knowledge is by nature scientific, when considered objectively and within a consistent epistemological framework such as AR+LP present. That is, belief is NOT knowledge, and neither is any conclusion reached from starting with faith. Using faith as a logical basis leads to false conclusions -- EVEN IF THE CONTENT OF THE CONCLUSIONS IS CORRECT!!! Because, how does one KNOW that the conclusions are correct without a rational epistemology? And thus the rub: even in cases where faith-based decision making pans out, you can't assume it will the next time, because you can't identify the causal relationships past the point where you disconnected them from existence (by relying on unverifiable premises).

However, if a Catholic monk or any other individual starts with facts of reality, inductively guesses how they might be related, devises an objective experiment that distinguishes the truth or falsity of his model; and then, does the experiment and shows that his model is (or can easily be adjusted to be) correct; why, then it's science, truly!

- ico

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When science strays into philosophy, it goes out of its legitimate realm (what can be measured and demonstrated). When theology strays into science, it goes out of its legitimate realm (purpose of life, morality, etc).

Full-blown mind/body dichotomization, dude. Get a grip!

BTW, I think you need to update your definition of "science". As I understand AR+LP, "science" simply means "consistent application of the law of identity across a given/chosen domain of objective reality". Maybe some other object-head has a better one, but in essence, that's it: if you are applying the methods of a rational epistemology to study a domain of reality, then you are a scientist, doing science. Just as, if you are creating artifacts to remind yourself what is important, you are an artist, doing art. My rational basis is that of artist/scientist, as these two are really two sides of the same coin, which is: consistent application of the law of identity.

Regardless of whether a scientist who is also a member of a religious order is compartmentalizing his life and fighting an "inner war of ideas", or whether he simply sees the two fields as separate, distinct fields, the intial question was -- is peaceful coexistence possible? The answer is yes.

If you mean, can scientists and theologians live in the same civil society without getting at one another's throats? Sure, just so long as the theologians keep their hands off of my stuff -- including my throat.

That is the problem. Theologians rationalize taking my stuff. And your stuff. For God's sake!

Triple sheesh.

- ico

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Many scientists have had syphilis; many have been corpulent; some have died in duels; they have all had mothers; so what? Correlation does not prove causality.

I never suggested causality, nor even correlation. I simply made the observation that, as religious scientists demonstrate, there can be peaceful coexistence between sceince and theology.

Can anyone can show me a single historical instance where belief in God and consequential inconsistencies has led to BETTER science, net net, than would have been obtained without basing deductions on religious fundamentals?

I don't think anyone has suggested that it would be better. I don't think it has made any difference.

If you are a scientist in the sense I would admire/sanction.

So you don't admire the scientists mentioned, despite their very admirable acheivements?

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Are you reading a different thread than I am? The initial poster asked about the possibility of peaceful coexistence of science and theology. The existence throughout history of scientists who were also deeply religious demonstrates that peaceful coexistence is indeed possible. Regardless if that coexistence comes from compartmentalization on the part of those scientists (as you suggest), or the idea that the two fields are separate and distinct, the coexistence can and does exist. Question answered. What, are you claiming that those scientists didn't exist, and that none exist now?

My position is that the explicit claim you made in your previous post (that science and philosophy are two unrelated areas) is false.

I was curious if you are familiar or not with the Objectivist position on that topic, and if you are, why you disagree with it.

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Don't know if he can, but to my mind some examples come: Albert Einstein (writing letter to assist in political kickoff of Manhattan project), Alfred Nobel (thought the explosive power of dynamite would make war obsolete, in rationalizing his "gifting" of the knowledge to posterity); Werner Heisenberg assisting the NAZI bomb program; various well-knowns advocating various forms of population control, up to and including euthanasia; i think I should stop listing now.

Good examples -- thanks. Yes, science unconnected from ethics is indeed a frightening thing.

Most here have focused on the desirability, specifically the undesirability of mixing the two, or of paying any attention to theologians qua theologians at all. You seem to be stuck on only the first question, and reading everyone else's responses as if they were trying to address only that one. I think we're all aware that many scientific discoveries have been made by religious people; the question is, is this optimal? Does their being religious aid in scientific discovery, or hinder it, or what? Pretty much everyone was religious back when some of these earlier scientific discoveries were being made, so it's not really a compelling argument to simply list religious scientists.

Well, I would have thought that the second question -- is peaceful coexistence desirable -- would have been answered by my response to the first: since we have a history -- and a present -- of religious scientists and scientific advances made by those religious scientists, then of course continued peaceful coexistence is desirable. And, if you think it is not, then what is your alternative to peaceful coexistence? Would you want to disregard any new scientific advances made by religious scientists? Do you want to install a kind of "intellectual purity" test, like the Nazis' "racial purity" standards?? Ship off religious scientists to concentration camps for a bit of re-education?

Regarding your question, "I think we're all aware that many scientific discoveries have been made by religious people; the question is, is this optimal? Does their being religious aid in scientific discovery, or hinder it, or what?", doesn't that answer lie in the scientific advances themselves, which can be judged on their own merits, regardless of the religiousity of those who discover them? Can you prove to me, for example, that Georges Lemaître's theory of the Big Bang was somehow not "optimized", due to him being a Catholic priest? Can you show how it was hindered? I doubt it...so what about "peaceful coexistence" gets your undies in a bunch?

As for your statement that "pretty much everyone was religious back when some of these earlier scientific discoveries were being made", are you unaware that, in the United States at least, the vast majority of people still self-identify as theists?

Edited by dakota
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Well, I would have thought that the second question -- is peaceful coexistence desirable -- would have been answered by my response to the first: since we have a history -- and a present -- of religious scientists and scientific advances made by those religious scientists, then of course continued peaceful coexistence is desirable. And, if you think it is not, then what is your alternative to peaceful coexistence? Would you want to disregard any new scientific advances made by religious scientists? Do you want to install a kind of "intellectual purity" test, like the Nazis' "racial purity" standards?? Ship off religious scientists to concentration camps for a bit of re-education?

Wow. You're completely missing the original questions of the debate. Obviously respect for individual rights is ideal, and physically peaceful coexistence is great, but you do realize that's not what the original question was about, right? Civilized countries don't round people up based on religion anymore, and that's not really open to debate. Did you even open the link provided in the original post? Here's a quotation from it, if you weren't able to figure out what exactly is being debated here:

Can science and religion coexist peacefully? This is a good question to start an interesting discussion.

Person 1: Did God create us on his image? Did we create God on our image?

Person 2: The answer is “yes” to each of these questions.

...

Person 2: The first question is theological (not scientific); the second question is sociological (scientific). Theological questions are not answered by using science and scientific questions are not answered by using theology...

Person 3: I think that science can be used to test the claims made in holy books. If the claims made in holy books were correct, we would expect scientific inquiry to support them. Yes, holy books contain pronouncements about the physical world. Such pronouncements should not be taken literally. They represent incorrect beliefs of our ancestors. Faith and science were not yet separate disciplines...

The discussion is about intellectual peace, not physical peace. The question is whether theology and science have separate spheres where they are each supreme, and whereupon the other field should not intrude. To put it another way, the question is whether or not there are "scientific questions" which cannot be addressed by theology and "theological questions" which cannot be addressed by science. "Is [intellectually] peaceful coexistence possible or desirable," means is it possible or desirable to have a theological sphere of knowledge where science should not intrude. That's the debate that the rest of us are having.

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The discussion is about intellectual peace, not physical peace. The question is whether theology and science have separate spheres where they are each supreme, and whereupon the other field should not intrude. To put it another way, the question is whether or not there are "scientific questions" which cannot be addressed by theology and "theological questions" which cannot be addressed by science. "Is [intellectually] peaceful coexistence possible or desirable," means is it possible or desirable to have a theological sphere of knowledge where science should not intrude.

Guilty as charged -- I did not read the link.

In answer to your question, then, yes -- there are scientific questions that cannot be addressed by theology, and theological questions that cannot be addressed by science. That this is so is demonstrated by religious scientists, past and present, who see no conflict in pursuing both.

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So you don't admire the scientists mentioned, despite their very admirable acheivements?

Correct. I admire their achievements, and the morally "white" aspects of their souls which led to those achievements; but I do not extend my admiration whole hog, as I have never met any of them, so really cannot comment on whether I'd admire them or not.

- ico

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