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In a recent thread it was asked that "Has science made religion useless?"
It is begs the question that religion has been useful. Having said that, it is like the question, has science made osmium useful?

So today religion is used in a variety of ways. It is used to influence funding, politics and policies, for example. So by definition it is used today, therefore it is "useful". Are there more secular avenues of achieving similar aims? Sure. But in the environment of embedded religiosity in a community may not be that easy to implement.

OK putting that aside.

On 2/5/2021 at 6:17 AM, Kellerman said:

Is spirituality testable according to known human metrics? Not really

And yet they are beginning to do this. For example, volunteers have been monitored while attending a Cirque de Soleil performance and looking at the physiological responses during the moments of awe.
 

On 2/5/2021 at 6:17 AM, Kellerman said:

We have absolutely no known ways to understand how the human brain works to any real, appreciable degree

Surely you mean not yet ... there was a scientist who claimed we will never know the composition of the sun, and yet the basic principles of how me might know had been laid down a few years before his bold claim.

I could go through Kellerman's post point by point but that would be tediously long.

But as to the point regarding facts and (un)knowability, I have some sympathy for this position as a devout agnostic. What is a fact? From my point of view it is a concept that has a lot of corroborating evidence and is held as provisionally true. I can't comment on whether what Kellerman was taught met those criteria. But the human body is almost unimaginably complex system, so all we can do ... is our best. And prayer or religion is far from it. 

A year ago, October, I had appendix (perforated) removed ...  I relied not on god, spirituality or prayer. I relied on the surgical team's skill, training and 'knowledge'.  Religion had NO place in my surgery. 

I mentioned the Discovery Institute's Wedge Document. (Wedge is the antithesis of religion). Their program was in effect religiously (trying to) undermining the scientific process.

As to suggesting spiritual and religious being the same. Increasingly we see people suggesting they are not religious but they are spiritual. These people at least see a difference between the two. 

 

I like Joseph Campbell's observation:
Religion turns poetry into prose 

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Testing people's physiological responses to "awe" is not the same as testing spirituality IMO. 

But yes, we can absolutely test human physiological responses to things, and it is interesting. 

As for you quoting me about the human brain, the "yet" is built into the statement, but that doesn't mean that we will ever understand it. We may, we may not. 

As for you depending on your surgeon's knowledge and skill, as someone who has performed thousands and thousands of surgeries, I can tell you that there's a lot more to outcomes than just knowledge and skill. 

Every cutter out there wishes it was that predictable, but it isn't. 

I have only so much control over my outcomes, no matter how much I study and practice. My skill matters to a shockingly small degree, but it isn't anywhere close to the determining factor of success. 

Again, the more someone is an expert in anything, the more they understand how little is known. 

Putting faith in the skill of doctors is still faith. A lot of people put WAY more faith into their doctors than those doctors actually deserve. 

Now, if there is a God, does putting faith in God mean better surgical results? Maybe, maybe not. Who says this version of God wants or cares about surgical results?

Also, if your surgeon was religious, then religion had a role in your surgery, whether you consent to it or not. A surgeons religion might be what they lean on not to choke. 

All I know is that none of us have much control over the outcome of surgeries. The biggest predictor of how likely you are to survive a surgery is how simple the surgery is, because once it gets complicated, who knows what will happen. 

That's why most people who have more complicated health issues actually hate doctors, because the illusion of their skill and ability quickly fades when the problem to be solved isn't something simple like an appendix. 

It's more like we're all just muddling through, doing what we believe has the best probability of working out and sometimes it does, and when it does, everyone is happy. 

A lot of the time though, depending on your specialty, people don't end up happy. 

Unless you're a laser eye surgeon, those folks have almost entirely happy patients. We hate those guys, lol. 

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1 hour ago, Kellerman said:

Testing people's physiological responses to "awe" is not the same as testing spirituality IMO

In that case would you define spirituality for me please ....  because it seems to mean different things to different people. Preferably on the ignosticism thread ... thanks.

1 hour ago, Kellerman said:

As for you depending on your surgeon's knowledge and skill, as someone who has performed thousands and thousands of surgeries, I can tell you that there's a lot more to outcomes than just knowledge and skill. 

Yes I understand that the the universe is fundamentally chaotic.  But would you not agree knowledge and skill are frequently proximate causes for positive outcomes? 

2 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Again, the more someone is an expert in anything, the more they understand how little is known. Putting faith in the skill of doctors is still faith. A lot of people put WAY more faith into their doctors than those doctors actually deserve. 

Here I find this as a semantic dodge. Trust and faith are not the same thing. Trust is based on reproducible experience. Faith (by definition) is based on very little experience.

2 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Also, if your surgeon was religious, then religion had a role in your surgery, whether you consent to it or not. A surgeons religion might be what they lean on not to choke. 

I don't have a clue ...  I did not ask I did not get the sense he was. But if I thought for one moment he was relying on God's guidance and not his skill and knowledge I would have been very wary. I reminded of gentleman who makes a sign of a cross before driving ... did not instill confidence and neither did his driving.

2 hours ago, Kellerman said:

That's why most people who have more complicated health issues actually hate doctors, because the illusion of their skill and ability quickly fades when the problem to be solved isn't something simple like an appendix. It's more like we're all just muddling through, doing what we believe has the best probability of working out and sometimes it does, and when it does, everyone is happy. 

Luckily today an appendix is relatively simple ...  through advances in skill and knowledge (technology and science). Almost killed my wife, to be, fifty years ago. But I understand Doctors have to juggle between an air of confidence and the stark reality of a chaotic universe.  But knowledge is like a balloon. The volume represents what we have learnt and the surface what we don't know. You seem to dwell on the surface and not the volume.

Science recognizes and celebrates that new understanding produces new questions and puzzles to solve. Science accepts the ultimate question to life, the universe and everything might not be answered. Where some religions seem to posit as an answer: an inexplicable entity to an unexplainable existence. If you think this is compatible with science ...  fair enough.

My wife is going to have laser eye surgery next month. Nice to know those guys are hated because of their skill and knowledge. Thank you Einstein for laying down the theoretical foundations a little over a century ago. 

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6 hours ago, John Hunt said:

Science tells us how to get to the moon, but doesn’t tell us why we want to go there.

Have we ever tried using science trying to understand the "why" we have a desire for exploration?

At best all you can accurately say science "has not". 

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47 minutes ago, romansh said:

Have we ever tried using science trying to understand the "why" we have a desire for exploration?

At best all you can accurately say science "has not". 

Psychology, which is absolutely a science, has

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1 hour ago, romansh said:

In that case would you define spirituality for me please ....  because it seems to mean different things to different people. Preferably on the ignosticism thread ... thanks.

Yes I understand that the the universe is fundamentally chaotic.  But would you not agree knowledge and skill are frequently proximate causes for positive outcomes? 

Here I find this as a semantic dodge. Trust and faith are not the same thing. Trust is based on reproducible experience. Faith (by definition) is based on very little experience.

I don't have a clue ...  I did not ask I did not get the sense he was. But if I thought for one moment he was relying on God's guidance and not his skill and knowledge I would have been very wary. I reminded of gentleman who makes a sign of a cross before driving ... did not instill confidence and neither did his driving.

Luckily today an appendix is relatively simple ...  through advances in skill and knowledge (technology and science). Almost killed my wife, to be, fifty years ago. But I understand Doctors have to juggle between an air of confidence and the stark reality of a chaotic universe.  But knowledge is like a balloon. The volume represents what we have learnt and the surface what we don't know. You seem to dwell on the surface and not the volume.

Science recognizes and celebrates that new understanding produces new questions and puzzles to solve. Science accepts the ultimate question to life, the universe and everything might not be answered. Where some religions seem to posit as an answer: an inexplicable entity to an unexplainable existence. If you think this is compatible with science ...  fair enough.

My wife is going to have laser eye surgery next month. Nice to know those guys are hated because of their skill and knowledge. Thank you Einstein for laying down the theoretical foundations a little over a century ago. 

Awe is a human experience, spirituality is a broader concept that many of us perceive as something that goes beyond just individual human experience.

Re: outcomes and surgical knowledge and skill- yes, knowledge and skill matter, but level of skill and knowledge has shockingly little impact on individual outcomes. 

Re: trust vs faith, the point I was trying to make is that patients trust doctors and think that it's rational, but really, the faith in doctors is just a societal faith instilled in them, not a fact-based decision to trust that they can actually produce good outcomes. As opposed to someone like myself who has seen and experienced so much bad medicine that I'm extremely cautious about doctors. So to me, the general public level of trust in doctors in general looks a heck of a lot like faith.

Re: religious surgeon- I never said that a religious surgeon would depend on God for good outcomes, again, many religious people don't believe that whatever God is even cares about their personal outcomes. However, if your surgeon is a religious person, that may be the thing that comforts them in the face of doing a notoriously psychologically challenging job. Your surgeon might need their faith to keep walking into a room every day and having people die. 

Re: appendix surgery- An appendix is generally simple, as it was 50 years ago. The straightforward appendix surgeries have always been easy. It's not removing an apendix that's ever been a challenge, it's managing a complicated infection that is, and that's still risky today. Knowledge and technology have gotten better for dealing with the complicated, dangerously infected cases. At no point did I ever say that our knowledge and technology doesn't improve. I don't understand at all what you mean about the volume vs the surface. From your responses though, I do recognize that you and I come at this from very different perspectives.

Re: religions claiming to have answer: As for what *some* religions claim, absolutely, I agree with you 100% that some religions are incompatible with science. I never said otherwise. 

Re: laser surgeons- the joke was not that they're hated because of their knowledge and skill, the joke is that they only do a rather predictable procedure that almost always turns out well, that provides a change that is obvious and dramatically improves people's day to day lives. The patients are happy because they consistently get something they really want. Meanwhile, an orthopedic surgeon who mostly does spinal fusions is going to have largely unhappy patients because they aren't saving lives and aren't improving anyone's state of health, they're just trying to stop things from getting worse, and often actually making the patient's day to day life more difficult. I was just making a joke.

FWIW, I'm a former staunch atheist who spent most of my life hating religion with a pretty fiery passion, so I quite understand the basis of your statements. 

 

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19 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Re: outcomes and surgical knowledge and skill- yes, knowledge and skill matter, but level of skill and knowledge has shockingly little impact on individual outcomes. 

You seriously believe this? You and I could treat the same symptoms

...  On average the outcomes will be vastly different.

19 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Re: religions claiming to have answer: As for what *some* religions claim, absolutely, I agree with you 100% that some religions are incompatible with science. I never said otherwise. 

Can you provide some examples please of which might be and which might not be; just to make sure we are on the same page
 

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20 hours ago, JosephM said:

Yes, the mind can change the course of events and not only that but also move objects. I do it everyday. My mind says to pickup a glass of water and my hands obey and move it from the table to my mouth.

Ahh but was your mind free not to take that drink of water?

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1 hour ago, romansh said:

You seriously believe this? You and I could treat the same symptoms

...  On average the outcomes will be vastly different.

Can you provide some examples please of which might be and which might not be; just to make sure we are on the same page
 

Level of skill and knowledge *of the particular surgeon* has shockingly little impact. 

Of course knowledge and skill matter, but I completely disagree with your previous assertion that your surgeons knowledge and skill were the only thing that mattered for your outcomes. As someone who has cut A LOT of people, we simply cannot take that level of credit, or that level of blame. 

I can't give examples of whole religions that are compatible with science vs whole religions that aren't because religions are not monolithic. 

Religions are made up of countless smaller groups of people who engage in their own social constructs. 

For example, some Baptists hold beliefs that are wholly incompatible with science; however, technically all Baptist churches are entitled to define their religion for themselves. They can choose to be part of a larger order, but if they disagree with that larger order, they can choose to be independent. 

This means, that technically, you could have a Baptist congregation that believes in literally anything, as long as the congregation is in agreement. 

So I can't make a generalization about what Baptists believe in and whether or not it's compatible with science. The Baptists churches in my city aren't, at all, but they could be if they wanted to. 

Many religious people are pretty selective about what parts they believe and what they leave behind. They then try to find a cohort of like minded people and congregate with them. 

It's easy for me to find like-minded, science-minded religious folks because *I am* a scientist, and that's most of who I know, and many of them are religious. Granted, I spent most of my career agnostic at best, but I've always been deeply interested in religion, so I've had many long conversations with them about their faith and how it intersects with their careers. 

I also don't live in the US, so there isn't a huge presence of anti-science religious culture here, so the two being incompatible just doesn't occur to me as an obvious issue, since it never has been in the science world within which I've circulated for a long time. 

In my world, scientists just aren't anti religion, and religion, except for fringe groups, isn't anti science. 

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3 hours ago, romansh said:

Ahh but was your mind free not to take that drink of water?

Of course not! 🙂 And if I could move objects without my hands it still most probably would not be free. 😃

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46 minutes ago, JosephM said:

Of course not! 🙂 And if I could move objects without my hands it still most probably would not be free. 😃

I agree ...  I just wanted to clarify for the passerby as to some of the deeper nuances of your position. :) 

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2 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Level of skill and knowledge *of the particular surgeon* has shockingly little impact. 

Of course knowledge and skill matter, but I completely disagree with your previous assertion that your surgeons knowledge and skill were the only thing that mattered for your outcomes. 

Ok a really crappy surgeon will not particularly affect the outcome. I don't think I asserted that knowledge and skill were the only things that mattered. Not everyone can be saved from a terminal condition. 

Forgot to comment on this:

23 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Awe is a human experience, spirituality is a broader concept that many of us perceive as something that goes beyond just individual human experience.

It would seem spirituality is a slippery concept. The phrase something beyond human experience?  If it truly is beyond experience then how do you even come to the conclusion it exists even as a concept? It is like free will ... we are taught that we have it, we think we experience it, and only on close examination of the subject either by inward examination or looking at the logic behind the concept do cracks appear in our belief. 

And finally being religious and being accepting of some science does not make them compatible. Do your compatible Baptist friends think God can be tested?

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2 hours ago, romansh said:

Ok a really crappy surgeon will not particularly affect the outcome. I don't think I asserted that knowledge and skill were the only things that mattered. Not everyone can be saved from a terminal condition. 

Forgot to comment on this:

It would seem spirituality is a slippery concept. The phrase something beyond human experience?  If it truly is beyond experience then how do you even come to the conclusion it exists even as a concept? It is like free will ... we are taught that we have it, we think we experience it, and only on close examination of the subject either by inward examination or looking at the logic behind the concept do cracks appear in our belief. 

And finally being religious and being accepting of some science does not make them compatible. Do your compatible Baptist friends think God can be tested?

I feel like this is getting circular and that I've already answered all of this in my previous responses. 

It's okay if you disagree with me, we don't have to have the same perspective. I have no problem with people seeing the world differently than I do, even fundamentally. 

Many things aren't testable or aren't yet testable and we don't call them incompatible with science. 

Also, I think we have different perspectives on what "incompatible" means. I perceive it as things that cannot logically coexist.

Much of medicine isn't scientific, and yet science and medicine are downright synergistic. 

Anyway, as I said, I think I've been very clear what my perspective is. Feel free to disagree or disregard if you don't glean any value from it.

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20 hours ago, romansh said:
On 2/6/2021 at 11:32 PM, Kellerman said:

Re: religions claiming to have answer: As for what *some* religions claim, absolutely, I agree with you 100% that some religions are incompatible with science. I never said otherwise. 

Can you provide some examples please of which might be and which might not be; just to make sure we are on the same page

 

Out of interest, how about elements of Buddhism (I realize a lot of the god/miracles stuff has grown up around it). Historically, it’s generally been the most peaceable and contemplative of the major religions. It seems the most intellectually rigorous, being based on reason rather than revelation, in some respects closer to philosophy. Or Jainism. No gods there. Its first principle is that the highest duty is not to harm anything living, including through thought and speech. Its second principle, “many-sidedness,” is that truth and reality are complex; reality can be experienced, but never fully expressed through language.

 

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Here's my take John:

3 hours ago, John Hunt said:

how about elements of Buddhism ...?

When I started reading about myths and religions ...  (Joseph Campbell in particular) I thought I could accept many of its aspects. I  then I read Buddhism for Dummies. There were three core beliefs that all the various flavours Buddhism accepted. I can't find them now, but I recall I could buy into one of them. Dependent Origination (or Arising). The other two concepts (I remember) were beyond the pale for someone like me with a scientific background. Plus I found I was discarding much. Having said that ... google Stephen Batchelor, I think he will give a sensible interpretation of Buddhism as you will find.

Jainism I am not overly familiar with. I could not give up my roast lamb to go with the roast potatoes. 

3 hours ago, John Hunt said:

truth and reality are complex

Definitely ...  that is why I think we need a scientific mind to break up the complexity, understand it, and stitch it back together again. Understanding the whole without understanding the parts, can lead us astray. Having said that, there is no guarantee of not being led astray anyway. 

3 hours ago, John Hunt said:

reality can be experienced, but never fully expressed through language

Reality can be experienced? Yes and no. Our experience will be always incomplete. Science provides tools to increase the diversity of experience.

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17 hours ago, Kellerman said:

Many things aren't testable or aren't yet testable and we don't call them incompatible with science. 

Remind me please ...  how do we test stuff that is beyond human experience?

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6 hours ago, romansh said:

Remind me please ...  how do we test stuff that is beyond human experience?

I don't understand this question, and I already addressed this in my last post about the concept of incompatibility. I don't think that something being untestable makes it incompatible with science. 

Perhaps you do. If so, we're debating apples and oranges.

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3 hours ago, Kellerman said:
9 hours ago, romansh said:

Remind me please ...  how do we test stuff that is beyond human experience?

I don't understand this question, and I already addressed this in my last post about the concept of incompatibility. I don't think that something being untestable makes it incompatible with science. 

Perhaps you do. If so, we're debating apples and oranges.

OK let's break the question apart a bit.

1) Can you give some examples that are beyond [human] individual experience?

2) How do you know we have stuff beyond [individual] experience if it is beyond experience? Have you experienced this stuff beyond experience?

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, romansh said:

OK let's break the question apart a bit.

1) Can you give some examples that are beyond [human] individual experience?

2) How do you know we have stuff beyond [individual] experience if it is beyond experience? Have you experienced this stuff beyond experience?

 

 

 

I can't and don't try to prove anything of the sort. 

My argument is not that spirituality legitimately exists, and definitely not that I can prove it, my argument is that spirituality/religion can co-exist in a complementary fashion with science. 

I cannot be clearer about this. I do not see untestable things as incompatible with science. 

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Yes, Just because we may not have a way "at this time" that is available to test/verify something does not make it incompatible with science. Science is an evolving process and not having equipment available at a particular moment in time to test something in my view should not be construed as incompatibility with science in general. Unless of course ones definition of compatible to science is limited to present time science capabilities.

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On 2/9/2021 at 4:01 AM, Kellerman said:

I can't and don't try to prove anything of the sort. 

I am not asking for proof (this conversation seems familiar).  But what I would like to see is some corroborating evidence supporting the position here:
 

On 2/6/2021 at 3:32 PM, Kellerman said:

Awe is a human experience, spirituality is a broader concept that many of us perceive as something that goes beyond just individual human experience.

"Something that goes beyond individual human experience" What is this something, how can it [spirituality] go beyond experience (individual or human)? Does this this sentence even make sense?

 

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Hi Kellerman

Here is something we may have in common ...

On 11/28/2018 at 9:55 AM, romansh said:

Again ... a tree is more like a verb than a noun.   

Just because we treat it as noun does not negate that the tree is the universe in action. And for the benefit of thormas … The universe in Action. 

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Here is the first of what is to be an exchange of letters on the ways of knowing. I suspect it will be an erudite and pleasant exchange between Jerry Coyne (an evolutionary biologist) and Adam Gopnik (writer and essayist). Jerry has taken the science position. 

I'll wait to see if Adam can sway my mind?

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Well Adam's reply did not sway me.

He brings up the point that a book might bring up the same conclusion a scientific study. Fair enough, what if the two disagreed, what if we brought to the table different studies or different books that did not share the same conclusion? Where do we go from there?

While I was awaiting Adam's first reply to "other ways of knowing", I thought the concept might be useful to "educate" those who are not swayed by scientific evidence. For example for those who are not swayed to be free will skeptics, I could point to Kurt Vonnegut's classic Slaughterhouse Five. Those who disagree with me can point to their confounding classics. I am not sure this will be helpful, but there you go.

Let's see what the following letters bring.

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I was reading about the simulation hypothesis and came across this

I have a general comment about the difference between religion and science. Take an example from Christian faith, like Jesus healing the blind and lame. It’s a religious story, but not because it’s impossible to heal blind and lame people. One day we might well be able to do that. It’s a religious story because it doesn’t explain how the healing supposedly happens. The whole point is that the believers take it on faith. In science, in contrast, we require explanations for how something works.

Sabine I find quite interesting.

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