Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Thoughts on Science vs Faith?

I'm WAY behind in my reading, but in an effort to catch up, I'm resolving myself to actually FINISH books that I start now. There's about 4 that I've read over half of and never finished and those are top on the list.
Recently, I finished reading Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. This and the Da Vinci Code have been somewhat controversial books because of their themes and some things that Dan Brown states as "fact" in these books. I won't give away any spoilers, but I would like to post an excerpt from Angels and Demons that I found interesting.
The setup is the Pope has been assassinated and his understudy is addressing the world in a news conference.
“Science may have alleviated the miseries of disease and drudgery and provided and array of gadgetry for our entertainment and convenience, but it has left us in a world without wonder. Our sunsets have been reduced to wavelengths and frequencies. The complexities of the universe have been shredded into mathematical equations. Even our self-worth as human beings has been destroyed. Science proclaims that Planet Earth and its inhabitants are a meaningless speck in the grand scheme. A cosmic accident.” He paused. “Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone. We are bombarded with violence, division, fracture, and betrayal. Skepticism has become a virtue. Cynicism and demand for proof has become enlightened thought. Is it any wonder that humans now feel more depressed and defeated than they have at any point in history? Does science hold anything sacred? Science looks for answers by probing our unborn fetuses. Science even presumes to rearrange our own DNA. It shatters God’s world into smaller and smaller pieces in quest of meaning… and all it finds is more questions.”

Overall, I liked the book but was a little disappointed in it for a few reasons which I will not state here. I'd recommend it as an interesting read though.
If anyone wants to respond, I'm curious to hear what your thoughts are on the following questions.
Often, (as stated above) the answers that science gives us aren't always conclusively definitive and continue to lead to more questions. Is there a place for faith in today's world? Why or why not?


Ben, aka BadBen said...

I disagree with the fictional Pope's message. I think that as Science finds out more and more about the physical universe, it just shows us how wonderful and complex the universe really is. If we went on just what we might hear from the pulpit, we would think everything is simple...just black and white answers to difficult questions.

There is a place for faith in today's world, and it doesn't have to butt heads with Science. But alas, many religious (and political) leaders are trying to "turn back the clock," just so they can have simple black-and-white answers to everything. They also use "the simple black-and-white path" to justify xenophobia, race/religious hatred, trampling human rights, rampant consumerism, war, eco-destruction, political power, misogyny, etc.

They are missing the boat. They could use Science to expand people's minds about the wonders of God and the ultimate need for personal spirituality, personal responsibility, and the need to treat other people, and (ultimately) the planet with the utmost respect.

This won't happen as long as the fundamentalists of the main religions of the world become more powerful, (as we've seen in recent times). For them, focusing on an afterlife is the sole purpose for life. Their particular sect's beliefs are "the only true beliefs." Everybody and everything else is marginalized and treated as non-human and anti-God. Rationalizing hatred of others, hatred of Science, hatred of women, etc, seems to be their message, as defined by their actions.

Science is especially on their radar for destruction, because they think it circumvents blind faith with rational thought. They don't want their followers to THINK, they just want them to believe. Even the Catholic church (which I don't consider fundamentalist) tried to keep their followers from being able to read the bible for most of its history.

It's all about the battle to control your thoughts. Science is dangerous, because it unleashes individuals to not only think rationally for themselves, but brings new ideas to the forefront, as well.

Ben aka "Good Ben" said...

Very good points. Thanks for putting some thought into that. One additional point on one thing you said...
"They could use Science to expand people's minds about the wonders of God and the ultimate need for personal spirituality, personal responsibility, and the need to treat other people, and (ultimately) the planet with the utmost respect."
"They" being power hungry leaders (religious and/or political) often do not treat others with the same tolerance with which they are treated. I don't know many scientists who are willing to acknowledge that a god exists much less one who would be willing to use science to "expand people's minds about the wonders of God..." Most people in the scientific community are reluctant to admit (if they even acknowledge) a human need for spirituality or even a spiritual side of humanity. In their minds and in practice, it's all reduced to physiological reactions to psychological/emotional needs. Even though they can't scientifically explain many things like spirituality, love, beauty, and many other subjective terms, they still hold that there's nothing beyond our physical and chemical make up. But for some reason, when doctors give their opinion on unproven matters of the "heart" or "soul" people believe it as though it were fact. But when people of faith give their opinions on such matters, they're dismissed by the scientific community (and many in society) as uneducated simpletons.

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Science doesn't have to acknowledge or report on spirituality, etc. That's not it's job. Science's job is to report data points, facts, and theories based on data to the world in a controlled and rational manner.

Spirituality, love, beauty, and things of the heart are best handled by individual beliefs, religion, philosophy, poets, and artists.

What I was saying was that religious leaders are missing the boat by not using the wonders of modern science to report on how wonderful the idea of the universe is, right down to the last quark.

Concerning your last statement, "But when people of faith give their opinions on such matters, they're dismissed by the scientific community (and many in society) as uneducated simpletons."
- To an extent, that might be true, but lately their are so many voices stating conflicting opinions regarding each of their own "one true faiths," that it borders on ridiculous. Many of them are now in positions of power in this country, and want their philisophical opinion to be the rule of law.

There should be a separation of church and state. It's a very basic Jeffersonian principal.
People came to this country to get away from State-run religious tyranny, and I think it should remain such. People should be allowed to believe what they will, without being bullied into practicing (or having pseudoscience foisted upon them) by one particular religion. The 1st amendment states, " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The idea behind this ammendment was:
Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. The Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in Connecticut, and they complained that in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature - as "favors granted." Jefferson's reply did not address their concerns about problems with state establishment of religion - only that on the national level. The letter contains the phrase "wall of separation between church and state," which led to the short-hand for the Establishment Clause that we use today: "Separation of church and state."

The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Okay, well. There's nothing left for me to say, since badben stole all my thoughts!

ruth said...

faith is the ability to believe without explanation or assurance of a certain result. fortunately for me, (as ignorance is bliss) I don't understand most scientific stuff so I am able to experience wonder.

signed...uneducated simpleton

Natestera said...

One dumb question? Is Good Ben and Bad Ben the same person?