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What Scientists Really Think About Religion 1123

Posted by kdawson
from the two-towers dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post has a book review of Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, who spent four years doing a detailed survey of 1,646 scientists at elite American research universities. The study reveals that scientists often practice a closeted faith, worrying about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. 'After four years of research, at least one thing became clear: Much of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong. The '"insurmountable hostility" between science and religion is a caricature, a thought-cliche, perhaps useful as a satire on groupthink, but hardly representative of reality,' writes Ecklund. Unsurprisingly, Ecklund found that 64% of scientists are either atheists (34%) or agnostic (30%). But only five of the 275 in-depth interviewees actively oppose religion; and even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves 'spiritual.' 'According to the scientists I interviewed, the academy seems to have a "strong culture" that suppresses discussion about religion in many areas,' says Ecklund. 'To remove the perceived stigma, we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline.'"
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What Scientists Really Think About Religion

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  • Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pinkj (521155) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:50PM (#32391010)
    Why focus on fervently opposing religion when there are so many more interesting scientific things to do?
  • An idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JamesP (688957) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:52PM (#32391030)

    This shouldn't absolutely be a 'don't ask don't tell' thing, but if the guy does his job properly leave him be...

    Also, several nutcases in science have nothing to do with religion, like the MMR "controversy", HIV denialists, etc, etc

  • it's when you start believing that an imaginary being created everything, and when you start brainwashing others to believe it, that I have a problem. All the money that is given to the church could be used to eliminate homelessness or other social problems.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:55PM (#32391066)

    To remove the perceived stigma, we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline.

    The surest path to atheism is open discussion of religion.

  • I smell... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:56PM (#32391076)

    I smell the templeton foundation.

  • by LKM (227954) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:56PM (#32391080) Homepage

    "and even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves 'spiritual.'"

    What does the word "even" mean in this sentence? Spirituality is a part of the human psyche. Although we often connect the two, spirituality has little to do with faith. In fact, science is a great source of awe and wonder, feelings that we might call "spiritual" feelings.

  • All the money that is given to the church could be used to eliminate homelessness or other social problems.

    Who do you think is running the homeless shelters and tackling social problems in much of the world?

  • by protektor (63514) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:00PM (#32391116)

    Wow way to be tolerant. Who gives a rip what other people think, no one is making you believe or think that. So why do you have to rip on people who don't think the same exact way that you do?

    Sounds like the makings of a seriously intolerant person who iis just a hop, skip and jump away from being a racist.

    Way to be narrow minded. Thinking like that is what expands science...oh wait no it doesn't. It not listen to what anyone else around you says and trying things on your own, and testing new ideas that maybe everyone else doesn't agree with, but doing it anyway. Tolerance should one of the main foundations of science and thought in this day and age.

  • by smidget2k4 (847334) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:00PM (#32391118)
    Science can tell you "why" also, such as why the Earth is round. I don't see why can can't just leave questions unanswered and we have to make up an answer for them. Perhaps in thousands of years science will progress to the point where it is possible to answer some questions previously thought impossible. A "God of the gaps" is a silly god.
  • by ceeam (39911) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:01PM (#32391124)

    > Science is purely objective

    But scientific community is far from. And you need publications and grants.

  • Well of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:03PM (#32391134) Homepage

    scientists, in general, do not have strong views against religion. Scientists are used to politely disagreeing with people that do not share their views, and having their views challenged and proven wrong.
    it is the uneducated that have complete certainty in their opinions want to kill everyone that disagrees with them.

  • by smidget2k4 (847334) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:03PM (#32391140)
    Free thinking expands science. Indoctrinating people (children) into ways of thinking stifles science. It is hard to break free of 18+ years of having a belief system drilled into your head.

    That being said people should be able to believe what they want, but indoctrinating children or others by force is somewhat more iffy.
  • by smidget2k4 (847334) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:08PM (#32391182)
    My experience in the community is just that no one cares unless it starts effecting your science or hypotheses. Theist or atheist, if you're good at what you do no one cares. If you go around preaching to other scientists, yeah, you're opening yourself up for ridicule. But I think that is true in any field outside of the more religious areas of the US.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:10PM (#32391206)

    PROTIP: Most claiming to be "freethinkers" are not anything of the sort.

  • Remove the Stigma? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bky1701 (979071) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:11PM (#32391212) Homepage
    I see nothing wrong with there being a stigma against religion in science. These people have been trained their entire lives to make their positions based on factual evidence and experimental certainty. Believing in a religion, which is by its nature unprovable, flies right in the face of everything science is built upon. What OTHER things do these religious "scientists" take "on faith"?

    I'm not calling for a witch hunt of religious scientists, but I do not see any reason that religion should be tolerated, in science of all places. Faith has no place in determining the truth of our universe, because it is by its nature subjective. I would seriously question findings by anyone holding a religion beyond the most basic "there might be some kind of creator," because honestly, buying into dogmatic systems of mass delusion do not show you are of sound mind.

    Religion is overly tolerated in our society. We need to move towards questioning and ridiculing it, not "removing stigma" surrounding it.

    Just my two cents.
  • Re:Here one angle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:11PM (#32391216)
    They don't, though. Thats the thing. God's all about war and violence and punishment and judgement, and Christianity worships fear more than love. Maybe there are still some out there, but the idea of the true Jesus Christian who is a pacifist and loves thy brother is extinct in my part of the US.
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:15PM (#32391262) Homepage Journal

    All the money that is given to the church could be used to eliminate homelessness or other social problems.

    Who do you think is running the homeless shelters and tackling social problems in much of the world?

    The UN [unhcr.org].

  • by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:15PM (#32391264)
    Dude. Secular organizations tackle the same issues. Religion does not have a monopoly on compassion. At least a secular organization does not try to indoctrinate, which is a form of mental abuse in my book.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:15PM (#32391266)

    Open mindedness is only a virtue when it comes to being open to examining evidence for a proposition. It's not a virtue if it means accepting a proposition without evidence.

    What if 36% of scientists said they believed there was a teapot in orbit around mars? 30% said they didn't know? And 34% said there couldn't be one?

    Would the scientific community be justified in thinking less of the 36% of scientists that believed there was such a teapot, despite there being no evidence for it? Of course they would. Such people would rightly be considered to be cranks, not scientists. Belief in a god without any evidence for one is no different.

    (Which you find more praiseworthy of the other two groups is open to debate.)

  • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:16PM (#32391278) Homepage

    I think there are two kinds of spiritual people:

    1) Those that believe in religion in addition to science
    2) Those that believe in religion instead of science

    I mean, science does not prove or disprove whether there is a soul or if there's an afterlife or any of those things that means we're more than flesh and blood who doesn't have any other purpose than our own. These people may call themselves spiritual but they're not threatened by scientific discovery because the divine exists outside time and space and the realm of science.

    Then there are the people who care very much about worldly "facts" or perhaps "axioms" are the word since they exist without proof only by Holy Scripture, like that the world is 6000 years old, all men come from Adam shaped of mud and Eve shaped from a rib, the earth is the center of the universe and so on. They are hostile to science because science is dangerous to their religion, every time evidence builds that these facts are wrong it threatens their religion as a whole. To them the Bible or Qur'an can't be wrong, where science and religion clash science must yield.

    I think a very nice follow-up question to that study would be: "If something that is established religious doctrine in your belief was contradicted by observational evidence, what would you be more inclined to believe?" That is where I think scientists and many religious folks would go their separate ways.

  • by His Shadow (689816) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:17PM (#32391282) Homepage Journal
    OTHER TIP: People who routinely attack others for not being free enough in their thinking are doing so because said others are not open to every retarded fuzzy minded piece of nonsense that comes down the pipe.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:17PM (#32391284) Journal

    If there is a discrimination problem, what should be done about it? The usual answer is education, but scientists are already educated. I was often taught that education was an effective remedy for small-mindedness, and the uneducated are far more inclined to be closed-minded.

    Fortunately, the article suggests that it is more of a perception of discrimination than actual discrimination. There are a few, talkative scientists who make it seem like it is horrible to be a religious scientist, but most scientists just don't talk about it at all, leaving the talkative ones to do all the talking. So it is mostly a matter of people who want to talk about it gaining more confidence to be themselves.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:19PM (#32391300)

    Why focus on opposing religion since you can't prove it wrong? The whole topic is a waste of time.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:20PM (#32391312)

    Science is purely objective, why do the personalities of those who practice it matter?

    Because scientists don't live in a societal vacuum. Personalities DO matter.

    People haven't advanced much. 700 years ago, you either believed in the bible or you were burned at the stake. 70 years ago in Germany or the Soviet Union, you "believed" in Hitler or Stalin respectively, or you were sent to the concentration camp. 7 years ago, you went "hoo-rah!" with invading Iraq, or you were person non grata some places.

    Even today there are these cherished beliefs you CANNOT question. They are all over society. Not just in third world, in first worlds you get ostracized all the time from these little factions or even jailed for voicing the wrong thing. People love their fucking little beliefs and love even more making sure that you believe the same thing they do or at the least you STFU if you don't. Hell, it happens at places like /. or Digg if you go against groupthink - it's one of the fundamental truths about humanity.

    From the summary:

    But only five of the 275 in-depth interviewees actively oppose religion

    And you know why this is? Because there is nothing to be gain and a lot to be lost in actively opposing religion. Just go to someplace relatively mainstream like the Hannity forum and look at some of the extreme nutters on there. There are people in this country that will kill you because you think abortion is okay, fundamentalism isn't a purely middle east thing. Maybe the repercussions aren't as bad, but a scientist who actively opposes religion in this country where the money still says "In God We Trust" and after every speech the President has to say "God Bless America" still has some balls.

    It's not at a level of going "**** Allah" in Afghanistan to be sure, but I'm sure real obstacles would be put in that person's path by someone with both faith and power.

  • That's a rather anomalous variety of "running homeless shelters" and "tackling social problems". The UNHCR runs refugee camps, mostly in war zones and former war zones; it doesn't run soup kitchens in Brazil, or generally in any way attempt to improve the lot of poor people in non-warzones.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:23PM (#32391352)

    there was a penn and teller 'bullshit' tv episode that joked about 'taking a vote' about the sex of some animal (I think it was a rabbit but that's not important). lets 'vote' on whether we think or 'believe' this rabbit is male or female. tally up our votes. how did we do?

    WHO CARES! its not a votable thing. no amount of 'we all collectively decided' is going to change facts.

    it was a good convincing way to illustrate their point and in an entertaining way.

    and again, it does not matter how much of the mass population is collectively deluded by notion of sky daddies. they don't exist and any amount of 'popular concensus' or even duration-based ("its been believed for 2000+ yrs!") is going to change a thing.

    if you are a scientist and believe in sky daddies, your thinking processes are suspect. pretty simple. not like rocket science.

  • by smidget2k4 (847334) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:24PM (#32391358)
    I haven't read the books, but that article is crap. The entire thing just says "evolution is clearly happening, so we should reinterpret the bible to say that God just got he ball rolling." It is an exercise in altering religious views to conform to modern science, not an exercise in scientific thought. It is just arguing that we should modify religion to become a "God of the gaps", which is a silly argument indeed.
  • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by His Shadow (689816) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:25PM (#32391382) Homepage Journal
    That would make sense if too many religionists weren't Hell bent on forcing religion back into aspects of culture we've been successfully removing religion from in the first place.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:27PM (#32391410)

    I dont think that's it. Whilst scientists should be open to any evidence that comes along one way or another, that doesn't mean they shouldn't have working hypotheses until such evidence does arrive. For example If I tell a scientist that I have an invisible friend called Harvey the Rabbit, and he's standing in the room, I don't expect a scientist to be agnostic to that claim. I expect him to believe that I'm talking nonsense, unless and until I can provide evidence for my claim.

  • by pagaboy (1029878) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:28PM (#32391418)

    I'll tell you why - the magical mystical god of the various books is hugely inconsistent and fails the basic logical challenges a scientific analysis demands.

    Science and religion are diametrically opposed in one specific thing - religion insists on telling us "it is so", while science will treat us like adults and tell us "we don't know - here is our best guess so far"....

    Now here come the flame mods :-)

    You'll pretty much deserve the flame mods though. Pretending that there's one "god" portrayed differently by the various religions isn't helping your case. "Logical challenges a scientific analysis demands" suggesting that a divine being (perhaps the source of the universe), is somehow subject to science, is a curious argument at best. You don't appear to be in a good position to be saying "it is so" to all those with religious beliefs.

    There's diversity out there, which is why the conversation is worth having : how do different beliefs interact with people's way of understanding science ? Scientists throughout history have had various beliefs which may have helped or hindered their quest for knowledge. They're part of the discussion

  • by Lesrahpem (687242) <<iadnah> <at> <uplinklounge.com>> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:35PM (#32391504) Homepage

    Another problem with being an openly religious scientist is that it can odd a very strong stigma for several different reasons. The main source of opposition to many scientific theories are religious groups. Take for example the controversies surrounding stem cell research, genetic engineering, cloning, some aspects of quantum physics (LHC for example), and then the general evolution/creationism stuff. Being a scientist who is opening religious can bring a (possibly unfair) stigma against you from other scientists who do work in any of these areas, or who generally agree with the work being done in these areas. The reason being that the religious side of all of these arguments hold little to no water in any logical or scientific way. So, anyone associated with such religious beliefs may very well be viewed as illogical (and thus untrustworthy in a scientific sense) by their peers.

    Say for example a scientist involved in stem cell research is also a practicing Christian (the main group opposing stem cell research). Even if the scientist does not oppose stem cell research his/her peers may very well assume that he/she does if they learn of the scientist's beliefs.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AffidavitDonda (1736752) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:36PM (#32391512)
    While you can't prove that there is no god (or similar esoteric entity), you can still prove that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting. Like Islam, Christianity and all this creationist stuff...
  • by pagaboy (1029878) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:41PM (#32391564)

    So, in other words, updating science to better correspond with reality is good science. Updating theology to better correspond with reality is bad theology.

    Kind of "heads I win, tails you lose" situation.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:42PM (#32391572)

    "Tolerance should one of the main foundations of science and thought in this day and age."

    Not tolerance of superstition. Superstition is not science, and deserves no respect.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:43PM (#32391578)

    Why focus on fervently opposing religion, when it is unscientific to spout rhetoric either way?

    The existence/non-existence of God is a moot point as far as science is concerned, because no experiment can prove either side right. Thus, it is not scientific to make any such assertions. What a scientist chooses to believe behind closed doors is their business, as long as it does not interfere with their scientific objectivity.

    (related, on religion bashing)

    Really, Atheists believe that a person's purpose is specific to the individual person, and that person's individual will. (as opposed to glorifying or appeasing some deity.) The religious CHOOSE to pander to a deity, and regardless of if that deity is real or not, that is their choice. Why are the atheists so down on the theists?

    Some atheists claim it is because the theists are evangelical about their beliefs, but from where I sit, that is quite a specious argument; The mere existence of the "darwin fish" bumper ornaments illustrates this fact.

    If you ask me, it is because the Atheists believe they need to liberate the superstitious from their beliefs, and "set them free", just as strongly as the religious feel they need to "Spread God's Word", and "Bring Salvation" to the masses.

    In short, BOTH believe they are "Right", and argue that fact to the annoyance of everyone else around them.

    The actual atheist, (the one that feels personal choice is king) would have no problem with religious people, because those people CHOOSE to be religious.

    I don't know what to call the evangelical "atheist", but they are every bit as hypocritical and annoying as the evangelical religious types, and for exactly the same reasons-- Both are actively trying to tell you what you should think, and purporting themselves as being "Right."

    Regardless of who is castigating whom; ("Godless Heathen!", and "Stop believing in the tooth fairy!" are equivalent slurs in my estimation.) the mode of operation is the same, so denouncing that behavior whilst simultaneously engaging in it is the very definition of hypocrite.

    I have nothing against actual atheists, and I have nothing against quiet religious practitioners. What I have a problem with is evangelists, who seem intent on trying to "Convert" me. I am quite capable of making up my own mind, thank you. Sadly, this is true of both sides of this rather sordid little coin.

    Really, the BEST solution, is to just leave it well enough alone, and to stop feeding the trolls. Why should it matter what my personal beliefs are? Even for a scientist, it doesn't make any sense to make this into an issue, except to sell magazines, news articles, and to instigate scandal and sensationalism. If the scientist can do his or her job, and do so in an emprically validated, and fully rigorous methodology, what difference does it make if they worship XENU, Christ, Vishnu, Shiva, $Deity, or no deity at all?

    That's right-- it DOESN'T. Thus, this is a NON ISSUE, and matters only to people who want to feel "RIGHT", about something that can be logically proven, that nobody is "RIGHT."

    I REALLY hate stories like this one.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:44PM (#32391586)

    Why focus on opposing religion since you can't prove it wrong? The whole topic is a waste of time.

    While the existence of an all-powerful deity or deities is not falsifiable - a hell of a lot of conclusions that people come to based on that premise are. When the actions they take because of those conclusions are destructive then they do need to be opposed.

  • striving (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:47PM (#32391630)

    They don't, though. Thats the thing. God's all about war and violence and punishment and judgement, and Christianity worships fear more than love.

    Maybe there are still some out there, but the idea of the true Jesus Christian who is a pacifist and loves thy brother is extinct in my part of the US.

    Do you mean Faith, Hope, and Love/Charity?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological_virtues

    Or perhaps Prudence, Justice, Restraint/Temperance, and Courage/Fortitude?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_virtues

    Just because you can't reach your ideals doesn't mean you're not striving for them. It's called imperfection/the human condition, sometimes referred to in theological circles as "original sin". It's the striving that's important, even if you fall flat on your face.

    Of course people do forget these things in the general grind of life.

  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:47PM (#32391642)

    I mean, science does not prove or disprove whether there is a soul

    "Proof" is only applicable to maths, not science.

    If someone is prepared to define what specifically they mean by a soul, then it'll be perfectly easy to provide evidence against it. Religionists don't tend to say exactly what form this thing they call "soul" takes. But it appears to be what they attribute a sense of identity and personality to. Yet there is ample evidence that these experiences of identity and personality are results of the brain. When the brain is damaged by illness or injury, or manipulated with drugs etc, then there perceptions can be changed. And we know that the brain remains in a cadaver after death, and decomposes (or commonly is incinerated at a crematorium.)

    the divine exists outside time and space and the realm of science.

    There's a word for that: Imaginary.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:54PM (#32391696)
    That's not true. You can't disprove the existence of God, but there's a lot of religious beliefs that you can prove wrong. You can prove astrology and fortune-telling wrong, or parts of the Book of Genesis, for instance.
  • by Zordak (123132) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:57PM (#32391716) Homepage Journal

    To remove the perceived stigma, we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline.

    The surest path to atheism is open discussion of religion.

    That's a cute platitude, but since you're apparently a rational, scientific-minded person, I'd like to see your evidence of this. It doesn't comport with my personal experience.

  • Re:An idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ahankinson (1249646) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:58PM (#32391720)

    I agree with you in principle. Assuming an objective mind then yes, that's the way the scientific method is absolutely supposed to work.

    In reality, though, if the scientific community were concerned about absolute objectivity, publication of negative results would be much more highly distributed and have a greater impact, on par with the impact of the publication of positive results. As it is now, however, there are only a few journals dedicated to publishing negative results, and a result that does not show a positive correlation with your hypothesis is usually a sign that your paper will not get published.

    A human being that has dedicated months or years of their life to a certain topic has a highly vested interest in producing a favourable result. The community has developed accepted workarounds for this, though. If an observation does not match a hypothesis, it's almost expected that you'll change your stated hypothesis to fit the outcome so that you can present a successful result. That's not how it's *supposed* to work though, and while it usually doesn't affect things too much, it leaves much more up to the person to interpret than simply reporting a negative result and re-testing with a new hypothesis.

    So, to respond directly, your "wrong order of procedure" is actually used all the time. It's just sometimes people claim absurd things, and then we notice it. But it's not necessarily because they got the scientific method wrong; it's just that they have a personal axe to grind.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TeXMaster (593524) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:01PM (#32391744)

    While you can't prove that there is no god (or similar esoteric entity), you can still prove that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting. Like Islam, Christianity and all this creationist stuff...

    Not really. Although you can show quite simply how much of the factoids contained in their sacred books are inconsistent with what science shows us, this does neither prove the religion wrong, nor it proves them to be self-contradicting.

    First of all, nothing (not even in the sacred books themselves) says that the sacred books are supposed to be read literally (and no, their claiming of being the Word of God does not automatically imply that they should be read literally). Of course, this does raise the question on who and when and how can go beyond the literal meaning, and the moment religion becomes an instrument of power, rather than more simply a collection of ethical rules and myths and stuff to support it (which is pretty soon in the history of every religion, of course), the powers-to-be claim to hold the only possible key to interpretation (e.g. the Church was strongly opposed to having a Bible in the new languages that formed across Europe, rather than in Latin, because then "everybody could read it", where 'reading' is to be intended not (only) in the literal sense, but more in the deeper sense of trying to understand the deepest meanings of the Book). By the way, except for the literal creationists, creationism by itself is not incompatible with what science tells us about the universe, although compatible approaches (such as intelligent design) are scientifically useless.

    Secondly, when you go look at the substance of the religions, these are not inherently wrong, nor self-contradicting. What is contradicting (or more specifically substantially hypocrite) is most of the time the behavior of many believers.

  • Which fields? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreatDrok (684119) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:03PM (#32391760) Journal

    I would be more interested in the percentages per field. You can't classify all scientists under one banner as some fields are 'softer' than others so people with religious views are able to function. Other fields are strongly incompatible with religious views. Also, there will likely be a strong impact from the population in general so in a country like the US where almost everyone is religious, this will mean that there will be a significant population of scientists who hold religious views albeit lower than the population in general. In other countries where religion is less strongly entrenched the percentages are likely to be significantly lower.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:03PM (#32391762)
    No, you can't.

    Jesus fucking christ, I'm fucking sick of all this god damn bullshit "science is comparable with religion" nonsense. Science isn't a fucking daycare, we do NOT have to make everyone happy.

    The core principles of science are that you can NEVER PROVE a single thing. You can ONLY DISPROVE hypotheses through experimentation. The "law" of gravity is really just a theory with a lot of support (experiments) to back it up. If gravity does not work like we think it does then it is conceivable that an experiment could be designed to disprove it by demonstrating that it does not hold for some circumstance. We have not explored 100 percent of every possible circumstance. It's possible there's a planet a million billion light years away that doesn't have gravity for some reason. If and when we find that planet then we'll have to reconsider gravity.

    Religion can never be disprove. If there is truly an omnipotent being then that being could change the result of ANY experiment performed. Thus, the results of ANY experiment designed to disprove the existence of god can't be trusted because some omnipotent being could have simply fucked with the results.

    For example, we have carbon dating techniques and other methods of dating that say we've found dinosaur bones that are some number of million years old. This would seem to disprove religions that state the earth is only 6000 years old. However, the RELIGIOUS argument (not scientific argument) is that god could have placed them there 6000 years ago and messed with the concentration of carbon-14 in their bones (or the rock or plants around the bones, or whatever) to make it appear that those bones are older than 6000 years. Furthermore, he could have not fucked with the C-14 and he could simply be messing with the instruments that we use to measure the concentration. Yes, if there is truly an omnipotent being then he could, theoretically, be messing with every carbon dating experiment ever performed.

    There simply isn't any way to disprove god and because of that, the existence of god is not something science will ever explore. Any scientist telling you different is a quack.

    Religion is not science and science is not religion. There's no link between the two, people need to stop trying to "reconcile" them.
  • Fascinating! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dirtside (91468) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:04PM (#32391768) Journal

    This one single study is quite fascinating! I can't wait to see other, corroborating studies. Until then, of course, I'm going to withhold acceptance of any conclusions claimed by the study.

  • by ahankinson (1249646) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:04PM (#32391774)

    I think what the OP is saying is that religions, for all of their wonky beliefs, actually do a lot of good in the world. It's an effective set of organizations that have made many positive contributions to society, historically and currently, and can be a strong motivator for social justice and poverty issues.

    For every church group that opposes birth control in Africa on "moral" grounds, there is usually one that is there handing out condoms. We just hear a lot about the former, and less about the latter.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dragonslicer (991472) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:09PM (#32391820)

    While the existence of an all-powerful deity or deities is not falsifiable - a hell of a lot of conclusions that people come to based on that premise are. When the actions they take because of those conclusions are destructive then they do need to be opposed.

    Which isn't really opposing religion, but opposing assholes, and that's something that should be done regardless of religion.

  • by Humus B. Chittenbee (1774042) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:10PM (#32391844)

    Firstly, there are/were lots of scientists, who have achieved a lot, whiles believing in God. One thing is about what they think about world and how it is made, another - being honest about research they make.

    I would be interested in your basis of information which supports that statement. It appears that you are making assumptions about dead scientists [Newton, Copernicus, etc.] without any possible valid source of information. You base this on your understanding of the beliefs of the general population when they {Newton, et al] were alive, perhaps? Less than rigorous.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:12PM (#32391860)
    It's not a silly argument at all. It's the difference between delusion and a sunny disposition. Choosing to believe what a religion says even when there's clear incontrovertible evidence to the contrary is more or less mental illness, not a legitimate religious belief. One can legitimately claim that there's a god for the simple reason that we can't prove that there isn't to any reasonable certainty.

    It's that viewpoint which tends to cause scientists to clam up about religion rather than necessarily any reason to hide it. I went to a very liberal school and a significant number of my professors were practicing Catholics. Perhaps it's a biased sample, but I can't imagine them saying they were at such a liberal institution if they were feeling it would damage their careers.
  • by bkpark (1253468) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:13PM (#32391874) Homepage

    Religion covers evaluations such as: "Is it a good idea to develop weapons of mass destruction?"

    Hardly.

    Geopolitics and realities of war answers those questions, and at least if our experience of last 60 years say anything, in the affirmative (do you really believe 20th century would've been more peaceful if U.S. didn't develop nukes by the end of WWII?).

    As a believing physicist, I really can't see how religion answers "is it a good idea to develop weapons of mass destruction". Since no figure in Bible built nukes or any such things, no lessons can be drawn from anywhere. Killing in itself is rather an ambiguous practice, as personified in David (a good king whose good deeds were mostly in the battlefield, and yet, forbidden from building the temple because he shed blood). So, unless you somehow perceive yourself as God in building these weapons of apocalypse, all but extremely pacifist religions (Hinduism and Buddhism, perhaps?) are silent on this question.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tanktalus (794810) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:21PM (#32391932) Journal

    You're right. There is no relation. At least, not scientifically. And therein lies the issue: far too many people look to science as a way to deny religion. They are manufacturing a discord when, apparently, even many top scientists don't have a problem doing both. It's pure bologna, and that's the entire point of the study.

    The top scientists don't have a problem with religion. The most unscientific don't have a problem with religion. It's only those in the middle, those who think they know science but probably don't, which have a problem, statistically speaking. In other words, there shouldn't be a relationship. Any discord evidenced in public is purely manufactured.

    Of course, I have to wonder who, or what group, started the manufacture. But that's another topic.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:29PM (#32392006) Journal

    The core principles of science are that you can NEVER PROVE a single thing. You can ONLY DISPROVE hypotheses through experimentation

    Well I just proved that the hypothesis has been disproven. So take that! Ha!

    More seriously, you have this imaginary God that you've created and used in your example, but claims of specific religions ARE falsifiable. I gave some examples here [slashdot.org], but once again, religions ARE testable. If you think otherwise, you aren't being creative enough. To consider specific religions:

    Buddhism: if you follow the eight-fold path, your suffering will end. Extremely testable. If you follow the eight-fold path, and you are still suffering, then man, they led you astray.
    Tantric yoga: do these exercises and meditations and eventually you will have a kundalini rising (enlightenment). So if you do them, and you don't have a kundalini rising, then you know tantra is worthless (either that or your teacher sucks).
    The Bible: Those who believe shall be able to do miracles, such as drink poison and not get hurt, or heal the sick (Mark 15:17). So if you follow Christ and you can't do those things, then......yeah, you've just falsified it.

    What difference does it make if there was a God who created the world six thousand years ago and made it look older? In practical terms, it only matters if he is still doing things today. So focus on that. Tell crazy people that belief in a God that did something and then disappeared without a trace is utterly useless and impractical. Which it is.

  • by mangu (126918) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:41PM (#32392086)

    Why focus on opposing religion since you can't prove it wrong?

    OTOH, Why focus on defending religion since you can't prove it right?

    It seems to me that everyone would be much better off if we entirely forgot everything about religion.

    Too much blood, too much terror, religion is not how we want to live at all.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IICV (652597) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:46PM (#32392122)

    Religion can never be disprove. If there is truly an omnipotent being then that being could change the result of ANY experiment performed. Thus, the results of ANY experiment designed to disprove the existence of god can't be trusted because some omnipotent being could have simply fucked with the results.

    Even though in theory a generic omnipotent deity could affect the outcome of any given scientific study and create a false null result, in practice most religions make specific claims about their deities. For instance, a common one is that God listens to prayer and will heal the sick if we pray for them. However, when we actually studied [nytimes.com] whether or not this happens, we found a null result. This means that either:

    1. God doesn't heal the sick, or
    2. God only heals the sick if they are not currently part of a study to determine if He heals the sick.

    Those are the only two options. There's no way omnipotence can get you out of that observed result. Either God doesn't heal the sick in the first place, or He's a douchewidget who will refuse to heal the sick if they're part of a study.

    It's these sorts of specific truth-value claims that science can verify, and every single time we've tried it we've come up with a null result, or the result that it's got nothing to do with God.

  • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:49PM (#32392150) Homepage

    Atheism is much more common among scientists than among the general population, as is agnosticism.

    Or maybe "scientists" are more honest about it?

    The truth is that most people that claim to be Christians are not able to discuss any particular point of the primary source document, and probably haven't been to a church service in years. So while many people claim to be Christians, in a factual sense it really isn't true since in a very real way they can not describe any of the things that define Christianity.

    I can say I'm a brain surgeon all day long (hey, I took a biology class once), yet I know nothing at all about brain surgery.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wain13001 (1119071) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:55PM (#32392190)

    the sword cuts both ways though...if not more strongly in the other direction than you seem to be swinging it.

    Religion is used to fervently oppose science by those uneducated masses who understand neither their own religion or science. Honestly this is where in my experience those who are pro-science and anti-religion get their frustration with religion from.

    The extreme distrust of intellectualism throughout the US in particular is a major block in the advancement of society on a wide variety of fronts, and most often that distrust is manufactured as a form of religious views attacking scientific foundations and research.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:00PM (#32392218) Homepage
    The numbers given there are roughly accurate, so I'm not sure what point you are making about 2% as opposed to 3.7%. The basic point stands that the theist fraction of US scientists doesn't look the US general pop but much closer to the general world population. I agree that your point about scientists in the US coming from other countries is likely strongly impacting these results. As to why one would expect the majority of scientists to be atheists, I have no idea, but it is very clear that even with her data and the spin, the fraction of scientists which are atheists is much higher than the general population, even of the world population. Moreover, the fraction which are theists is much lower than the general fraction of the population that is theistic. Trying to make a big deal about the fact that one doesn't have a majority who are atheists is totally missing the point.
  • by chrb (1083577) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:05PM (#32392250)

    you can still prove that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting

    The core principles of science are that you can NEVER PROVE a single thing.

    Why do you assume the poster meant he would use science to prove "that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting", rather than mathematics? If a religious book makes factual statements, then those statements can be mapped onto the symbols of a predicate logic system. By manipulating those symbols, you could probably prove that at least some really are contradictory.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sveinungkv (793083) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:14PM (#32392324)

    The extreme distrust of intellectualism throughout the US in particular is a major block in the advancement of society on a wide variety of fronts, and most often that distrust is manufactured as a form of religious views attacking scientific foundations and research.

    Advancement towards what exactly? Have you ever considered that not everyone want to go in the direction you want to "advance" them?

  • by chazbet (621421) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:16PM (#32392354)
    But it's not just about hedging bets.

    It's about learning, using science as a technique that has most bearing on the physical world, and using other tools (including religion, social science, literature, and art) on the non-physical world.

    (Yes, for any being with senescence, a non-physical world exists).

  • by bkpark (1253468) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:19PM (#32392380) Homepage

    Every generation has had its share of apocalypse. Perhaps on this single pale blue dot we could promote pacifism as the ideal and agree to just not kill each other over the ideas in our head. Respecting differences and promoting the good of all - undivided, is more scalable than bickering and bloodshed?

    Ah, so that is the religion you would like to see. I can respect that (even while thinking it unrealistic).

    Unfortunately, the religions we do have on this earth do not aspire to or approach such idealism. Not the major ones, anyway (how many followers does Taoism have?).

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XaXXon (202882) <xaxxon@gmail . c om> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:22PM (#32392400) Homepage

    No, I'd say that it didn't need fixing and you didn't fix it. There are too many of them and they're too loud. It doesn't matter how many there are, there are too many.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by linzeal (197905) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:22PM (#32392404) Homepage Journal
    You take your religion and I'll take science and we'll see who can build the better shoulder to listen to. I'll take psychology over spirituality any day.
  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:22PM (#32392406) Journal

    And where do the Creationists and other Literalists come into this? The first volleys against science weren't by scientists or by pro-scientific groups, they were by Biblical Literalists who believed (and still believe) that any science that goes against their beliefs is wrong, if not outright evil?

    Where do very organized and well-funded groups like the Discovery Institute and AIG enter your little picture? All I see is you basically blaming the science side of the equation. Seems pretty lop-sided to me.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Razalhague (1497249) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:28PM (#32392436) Homepage
    Or it could mean that God heals the sick and then simply fucks with the information collection process. Either you really don't get what "omnipotent" means, or just lack imagination.
  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:34PM (#32392472) Homepage

    So, in other words, updating science to better correspond with reality is good science. Updating theology to better correspond with reality is bad theology.

    Umm, yes. Exactly.

    What, did you think you said something silly or controversial, there?

    The *entire point* of religion is to provide an end-all-be-all explanation for our existence. By it's very nature, it's an all-or-nothing proposition. Either the bible is the immutable, unchanging truth handed down by god, or it's not. If you morph those beliefs every time reality comes barging in, then what the hell *do* you believe in?

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IICV (652597) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:37PM (#32392508)

    You're right, I knew I was forgetting something. This adds option 3: God is petty.

  • god of the gaps (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:39PM (#32392522)

    But there are those questions which are impossible to answer even with cutting edge science, which is where religion comes in: to answer the "why."

    You are making the god of the gaps [wikipedia.org] argument. Religion doesn't provide an answer to "why". It never has. Religion soothes the insecure but it doesn't provide actual answers.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:1, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:40PM (#32392542) Journal

    Yawn.. someone else who doesn't know what the word proves actually means or what science actually says.

    Gen 1- No proof that some omnipotent being could not have done that. There is suggestion that it didn't happen that way but there is no prove disproving it.

    Gen 3: See above. Your understanding of something is not proof of something else never happening. Especially when it was supposed to happen by some magical man in the sky who isn't limited to the physics and world we know of.

    Gen 7:You still do not have proof it didn't happen- you just can't find proof that it did happen. But not finding proof of something does not in any way disprove the claim, it simply doesn't make you believe if happened. This is especially troubling when it supposedly happened at the hands of the same magic man who doesn't operate by the bounds of physics as we are.

    Gen 11 is probably supposed to be gen 1:11 anyways, see above.. BTW, how do you prove something wrong when the thing was supposedly done by someone all powerful and mighty that can just make things happen in a magical way? The best you can say is that it works differently in our capabilities and understandings of them. But how do you prove some magic never happened?

    Actually, I'm going to assume you meant all these to be in genesis 1 and just left the chapters out.

    Gen 14-18: And see above. Where is the proof that at some point in time, some magical things did not ever happen as described?

    Gen 20: Do I sound like I am repeating myself? Again, see above, your snarky comments aren't proof of anything- especially when we are supposedly dealing with an entity not bound to the same rules as us.

    The rest of it is more of the same. I really thought you knew something others didn't. Turns out that your more confused then you think everyone else is.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gtall (79522) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:42PM (#32392560)

    And, you are fill of shit. You are assuming what you wish to prove, namely that religion comes from imaginary friends. Science is silent on the issue. And at its core, all religions are not Taliban. Christianity with its turn the other cheek. Buddhism with its notion of seeking enlightenment without hurting other people or beings.

    You wish to argue that religion causes people to justify all kinds of inhumanity. Granted. However, were it not for religion, those who practice inhumanity would simply choose some other handy rationale for justifying inhumanity. Consider Christian charities that give without quid pro quo. There are Islamic charities that do similar work. There are Jewish and Buddhist and Hindu charities which similarly give help merely because helping others is good.

    If you are going to damn every religion because of fanatics, you can choose to damn every human endeavor, no matter how good, for those who would pervert it. You have no depth of perception, and in fact, are no better than the those who you would damn.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:49PM (#32392630)

    Just out of curiosity, what parts of Genesis are provably wrong? And please don't say how man was made, how the earth as we know it was made or anything like that. You can show a likelihood of another explanation but none of that has been proven over anything else.

    Uhm. Have you read Genesis recently? Here's an online copy; let's go through it line by line.

    Okay, that will be fun! Just make sure to follow GP's rules about creation myth and miracles. Saying "miracles are unscientific, thus impossible" is like saying "peanutbutter is not meat, thus indigestible." I'm also adding chapters to your quotes. Let's begin.

    * Gen 1:1: God creates the heavens and Earth. Before there is light. Meaning that the Earth was created before the Sun, or in fact before there was such a thing as electromagnetic radiation (depending on how you want to interpret it). This is objectively wrong either way.

    Objectively wrong, or subjectively wrong assuming that modern astronomers are correct? Were any of us there to observe?

    * Gen 1:3: God creates light. Before the Sun. This means that there's light on Earth, without the Sun. This is objectively wrong.

    Lots of things make light without the Sun, my computer screen for example. Photons are not made solely by stars.

    * Gen 1:7: Apparently, the sky is made out of water? Must be why all our spaceships are built like submarines and have propellers. Except they aren't, because this is objectively wrong.

    Yes, apparently there was a lot of water orbiting Earth for some reason. Apparently it all fell in Genesis chapter 7.

    * Gen 1:11: Seed-bearing, land based plants and trees were the first kind of life on Earth? That's objectively wrong. Keep in mind that we still don't have a sun yet, either - plants and trees were created before the Sun, though oddly enough after there was light on Earth, which is simply ridiculous (and objectively wrong).

    Why ridiculous? There's barely been a few days yet. Are the plants going to die without the Sun? My grandmother uses a grow light for her violets. Remember, there's light from verse 3.

    * Gen 1:14-18: We finally get the Sun! Man, now those plants have something to eat, besides this weird light that comes from nowhere. Note, however, that the moon was created after the first plant life, which is objectively wrong. Also, the Sun was created before the rest of the stars, which is objectively wrong. (oh yeah and the Earth was created before the rest of the stars as well, which is objectively wrong)

    The plants have been eating already. See above. You seem to be doing a lot of "Miracles can't happen because I believe the way I see the world work is the way it always works and has worked" and you're also not focusing on anything provable unlike what GP asked. I refuse to comment further on your other points which are more of the same. In the future, when attempting to discuss whether religious texts are provably false, focus on internal inconsistencies or _recorded_ (human witnessed) historical inaccuracies.

  • by steelfood (895457) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:55PM (#32392692)

    Religion does not have a monopoly on compassion.

    No, but certain religions promote compassion, which makes its followers more likely to be compassionate. One can be compassionate without religion, and one can act on those compassionate ideas, but it would take a sociology study to determine whether compassionate religions have a noticeable benefit to society. But, it's human nature to do more "good" things if there's a social stigma discouraging not doing "good" things.

    At least a secular organization does not try to indoctrinate, which is a form of mental abuse in my book.

    Like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which stipulates the use of Windows computers in all the efforts to which it contributes? Forced indoctrination is neither a secular nor religious thing. Money is power, and where there's power, there'll be abuse. Religion neither fosters it, nor does non-religiosity prevent it. The responsible parties are the individuals, not the religion or lack thereof.

    The argument that religion has anything to do with abuse is merely the other side of the coin that says religion promotes social good, which you've argued against in the preceding statements.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:09PM (#32392832)

    However, when we actually studied whether or not this happens, we found a null result. This means that either:

    God doesn't heal the sick, or
    God only heals the sick if they are not currently part of a study to determine if He heals the sick.

    Or, it could be that God does heal the sick in response to proper prayer, but the prayers in the study were not proper for any number of reasons. Or that God does heal the sick in response to prayer, and also heals sick people if they're part of a control group.

  • 3. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by weston (16146) <westonsd@canncen ... g minus caffeine> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:16PM (#32392878) Homepage

    Either God doesn't heal the sick in the first place, or He's a douchewidget who will refuse to heal the sick if they're part of a study.

    At least, assuming a strong/strict reading of "God listens to prayer and will heal the sick if we pray for them."

    In practice, I suspect the experiment you're describing isn't testing actual religious claims. Most religious adults won't claim that God heals any sick person every time any person prays for them, but will instead state there may be number of factors involved, including the faith and/or conduct of the person praying, the faith/conduct of the person being prayed for, and some larger ineffable plan or "God's will." It isn't as if there no believers who've ever noticed that even well-prayed-over adherents suffer misfortune, injury, and death.

    Now, you can say that their justifications are non-falsifiable, and speculate that they're post-hoc, and that's true, and people who tend towards rationalist epistemologies will probably take that route. But it remains the case good rationalist can't say that the experiment you're describing really thoroughly examines hypotheses other than the strict one.

    In other words, possibility 3 -- that God sometimes heals individuals according to criteria unaccounted for by the study -- is outside the bounds of the experiment.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:17PM (#32392896)

    You've declared "objectively wrong" five things for which you have no objective evidence of any sort. You've declared these things "Objectively Wrong" solely on the basis that they are incompatible with our current understanding of physics. It is possible, however unlikely, that the earth was created before the sun, and if true would require radical revision of our cosmology. Basically, your arguments against religion are themselves religious, however often you say "objectively."

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by travellersside (1227548) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:31PM (#32392994)
    If the many quiet and pleasant religionists (not my chosen word, I'm just working from the phrase) don't do anything to curtail the few loud and obnoxious ones, if they don't step up and deny any connection at all, then they are providing a tacit endorsement of the loud and obnoxious ones - they are, by their silence, allowing the obnoxious ones to represent them too. If they don't speak up, how can we even know that they disagree or for that matter, exist? Don't try to shift the blame onto a minority, all religionists are responsible in one way or another.
  • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:40PM (#32393040) Journal

    The real deal is that the scientific method can never really disprove the existence of God, so there can be no genuine conflict between science and the belief in God.

    Scientific method can, however, disprove a particular theory about God - the one that involves making assertions about where he is and what he does. Whenever that happens, you get a bunch of people really pissed ouf about their particular image of God. That's why Darwin was attacked so aggressively for his writings, for example.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:43PM (#32393066) Journal

    Buddhism: if you follow the eight-fold path, your suffering will end. Extremely testable. If you follow the eight-fold path, and you are still suffering, then man, they led you astray.

    Nah, you just haven't been following the path closely enough.

    Tantric yoga: do these exercises and meditations and eventually you will have a kundalini rising (enlightenment). So if you do them, and you don't have a kundalini rising, then you know tantra is worthless

    Nah, you just haven't been doing the exercises good enough.

    The Bible: Those who believe shall be able to do miracles, such as drink poison and not get hurt, or heal the sick (Mark 15:17). So if you follow Christ and you can't do those things, then......yeah, you've just falsified it.

    Nah, you just haven't been believing hard enough.

    Do I need to continue?

    To make falsifiable predictions, the input needs to be objectively measurable. How do you measure faith?

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KeensMustard (655606) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:47PM (#32393092)

    Even though in theory a generic omnipotent deity could affect the outcome of any given scientific study and create a false null result, in practice most religions make specific claims about their deities

    But the claim of atheism is that there is no deity - of any kind, and not restricted to the deities that other people happen to believe in. Were atheists able to disprove specific properties that other people claim of their deity, they would still not even be at the starting line of disproving the existence of a deity.

    For instance, a common one is that God listens to prayer and will heal the sick if we pray for them.

    Really? What religion claims this?

  • by sycodon (149926) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:50PM (#32393106)

    "I'm not interested in moral values, to each his own."

    You are aware the murder, rape, theft, among other things are "moral values".

    Most atrocities have been perfectly legal under the laws of the nation perpetrating them. But, to each his own.

  • by FroBugg (24957) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:13PM (#32393274) Homepage

    "Spiritual" is the ultimate in content-free words when it comes to breakdowns like this. Lots of people like to say they're atheist or agnostic but still "spiritual," but I'd be surprised if more than one in five could clearly describe what they mean by that.

    Do they mean they believe there's things in the universe we still don't understand? That's practically a given. Do they mean they think that certain things (life in general, self-aware life, etc) is "special" and should be accorded some extra respect? That's fine as an ethical position, but without attributing that specialness to something, it's another waste of a statement to call it spiritual.

    This is Slashdot, so I think I'm required to not actually read the article, but a valid and informative followup question for this survey would have been for people who claim "spirituality" to try and explain that stance in an actual substantive way. If you say you're Evangelical or Catholic or Jewish or Humanist, those are descriptions with meaning and descriptive power. Saying you're spiritual doesn't mean a damn thing unless you explain it.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jesset77 (759149) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:13PM (#32393276)

    when you go look at the substance of the religions, these are not inherently wrong, nor self-contradicting.

    Look, not to be antagonistic or anything, but you've just got done saying "The books are not to be taken literally, the authorities which publish the books are not to be trusted, and a majority of the actions of the believers are contradicting and hypocritical".

    That being understood, when you say "When you go look at the substance of the religions, these are not inherently wrong, nor self-contradicting." then where exactly are you asking us to look? Where should one find the "substance" of a religion if not in the textual doctrine, not in the governing practices, nor in the popular implementation? Saying that the text is better interpreted "figuratively" puts us in the position where the text does not paint a picture for us but instead reflects the image of whatever we read into it [wikipedia.org]. The reason I ask all of this is that I fear what you mean by the "substance" of the religions may be nothing more than what you are personally reading into it. Unfortunately every believer will be tickled by his image in that mirror, so there is no truth to be found there, either.

    Put simply, I will find your interpretation contradictory and you will find my interpretation contradictory because each naturally depends upon our personal contexts. This question devolves into either "Is the text literal and can it be judged that way?" or "Is the text figurative with a trusted interpreter who can render it into something literal we can judge?" or "Is the text figurative and capable of a personal interpretation which forwards more people than it hinders, so that society as a whole nets a benefit?" I see no positive results from any of those three razors, and no other way to judge the doctrines.

    To me, all major religious doctrines appear to have the same mentally anesthetic effect as any superstition and are used by large organisations to pacify and manipulate large masses of people. I know it sounds bleak, but I see greater demonstrable and practical value in learning about the world from interacting with it, instead of reading about or being preached to about best the practices of hundreds of generations back. We should learn lessons from our past and from our ancestors, not mandates.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wildclaw (15718) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:50PM (#32393506)

    But if the Christians are right, and there is an afterlife to contend with, then the shoulder of Jesus suddenly becomes much more attractive.

    I am a firm believer that if God exists, he is an intelligent being who would not want to associate with people who spent their lives believing in him without adequate proof. Therefore, he will only allow atheists into heaven.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shirakawasuna (1253648) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:52PM (#32393528)
    I can't defend everything said by the GP, but I disagree with some of what you said.

    First, science is not silent on the issue of ontology. It has a fairly clear methodology for the rejection of hypotheses and by practicality, those which do not meet rigorous standards are treated as effectively false (e.g. moon leprechauns). It is often silent when it comes to religious claims, however. There are a few obvious reasons (and I certainly couldn't name all the reasons):

    1) We grow up in cultures where NOMA is stressed and religion is supposed to be private (except in politics and innuendo... and when it violates the status quo!). This is a comfortable scenario (in some ways) for both science and society in general - conflict is avoided. Science could be taught to anyone and there isn't supposed to be a fear of losing your religion. Religious people can be scientists without fearing that conflict (and they do very good work).

    2) Science is usually fairly silent when it comes to pseudoscience or otherwise false/unpredictive claims. There isn't going to be a lot of discussion of religious claims in the primary literature (aside from polls) because they aren't useful in science. They're less productive than a confused undergrad's failed experiment (like mine...).


    Of course I agree that most members of religions (and most people) are basically decent, or at least average, and that extreme members of any group can unfairly give them a bad name. This is true for any group, as you point out. However, context is important here. First, by discussing well-verified claims as on the same level as fanciful stories and myths (which we do in NOMA), we indulge in a kind of epistemological relativism that gives the extremism some undeserved legitimacy. When claims don't have to be defended but can be waved away as personal, religious beliefs, shouldn't you expect very strange beliefs to be considered acceptable (to an individual)? But I'm starting to rant again... sorry.

    I am not saying that extremists are the only people reading their religions correctly or who are honest about their beliefs. However, they at least take the questions very seriously, I would say more seriously than most, and they have very clear religious substrates for their beliefs and actions: religious social movements and sacred texts, which will often call for sacrifices, ostracization, discrimination, and inequality right along with calls for peace and charity. It is not coincidence that someone can find their religion to support almost anything they'd like to do and receive the tacit social support that comes with NOMA- and religion-positive societies.

    tl;dr: if a religion simply asked that you treat others as you would like to be treated and to give charitably, no one would have any basis for criticizing religion for the atrocities of the religious. Instead, there are oftentimes vague, fairly inconsistent religious instruction manuals with built-in prejudice supported by society and social groups. We can thank basic human decency for the fact that most people ignore the horrible parts of their religions.
  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:26PM (#32393738) Homepage

    Scientific method can, however, disprove a particular theory about God

    Not entirely. For one thing, the scientific method never really claims to bring about absolute and indisputable truths. It's more like a method for finding sensible and useful theories. The scientific method can build support for one theory or show another theory to be unsupported by a set of knowledge and data. That's about the extent of its power.

    Plus, if there were an all-powerful intelligence controlling the world, it's true that he could make your data say whatever he likes. Of course, if you subscribe to that vision of a god, one who goes around planting fake evidence and deceiving us, then I hardly see the point in trying to understand anything.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@nOspam.infamous.net> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:32PM (#32393766) Homepage

    But if the Christians are right, and there is an afterlife to contend with, then the shoulder of Jesus suddenly becomes much more attractive.

    And if the Muslims are right and there is an afterlife but not the Christian one...?

    And if the Hindus are right and there is reincarnation, but you've wasted this life with Christian mumbo-jumbo rather than seeking to unify your atman with Brahman...?

    And if the Frisbeetarians are right, but you've wasted this life with Christian mumbo-jumbo rather than figuring out how to get your soul off the roof when you die...?

    Evidence that there's an "afterlife": zero.

    Evidence that if there were an "afterlife", adopting any given form of Christianity would net you some sort of advantage in such: zero.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:42PM (#32393820) Journal
    Your point sounds reasonable, but in practical terms doesn't really matter. In science the best you can do is get within a certain probability of certainty, you can never be 100% certain of anything. For example, do cigarettes cause cancer? There is no proof, but a high probability of correlation. If you really want to do something like this, make sure you define the terms of success beforehand so the goalposts don't keep changing. If someone can't define the terms of success, they probably aren't a very good teacher anyway.
  • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Requiem18th (742389) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:47PM (#32393844)

    Except it is not really just "assholes" we are also talking about old ladies that none the less vote against the rights of gay people to live together and teach their grandsons that God created every animal separated and that evolution is a lie made by the devil, supported by Satanists.

    What are you suggesting we do? Shall we punch the grannies or let them do as they please unopposed?

    The alternative is an education campaign, winning mind share among kids by illustrating holes in their claims and the key evidence, as well as debating and debunking people in power who push religion pacifically.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by paylett (553168) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:56PM (#32393866)
    Indeed. Logical statements:
    * "If science can never prove anything, then it can never disprove anything either."
    * "It is easy to disprove things"

    Conclusion: Science can prove things. (Some things, at any rate). The ancestor post claims the contrary.

    But it's also always important to examine the mechanism by which things are being proved/disproved, as in many cases there are hidden assumptions that in turn require proof.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by imgod2u (812837) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @11:16PM (#32394212) Homepage

    Those aren't advancements; they're political/social changes. Science discovers facts; it does not set policy. Anti-intellectualism is not choosing not to implement a particular finding or method; it's sticking your head in the sand and refusing to even acknowledge its there for some retarded concept that the danger will be gone "if you keep all that devil knowledge out".

    Knowing how to, say, trade one person's life for another is very different than actually doing it. Whether or not something should be done is outside the realm of science and deep in philosophy and politics. You demonstrate the exact ignorance and knee-jerk fear that we're speaking of when you try to conflate the two.

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @11:24PM (#32394252)

    Proving there is an inconsistency is equivalent to proving something false!

  • Re:Makes sense (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:26AM (#32394526)
    People don't trust intellectuals because intellectuals think they're so smart they can control everyone else. How can you trust someone who thinks they can manipulate you by lying to you? Forget intellectuals. They're just a bunch of smooth talking hypocrites, liars, thieves, megalomaniacs, and wannabe saviors. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know you shouldn't trust people like that.
  • Re:Makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quantaman (517394) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @03:44AM (#32395168)

    To be fair I think science started the fight in the sense that religion and superstition were there first.

    Ever since Copernicus science has been knocking down bits of Christianity.

    Not only would biblical literalists of the 14th century have probably been worse than the DI and AIG, but they would probably contain the educated mainstream as well.

    They didn't start the war, they're more like Hiroo Onoda [wikipedia.org], still fighting long after the war was lost.

  • by thesandtiger (819476) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @02:35PM (#32398866)

    Go to another place - say Slashdot - and say you're a christian and see what happens when some of the nutters there insist that you should be sterilized for "believing in a magical sky wizard" or locked up for child abuse if you take your kids to church. Hell, despite being an atheist, I've been harassed and flamed by people because I'm not willing to go farther than saying people who believe - despite copious evidence to the contrary - in the literal truth of the bible are anything other than mentally ill; because I'm not willing to demonize or dehumanize them, I've gotten flamed.

    We need to get rid of assholes of whatever stripe, whether they believe in god or not. I know plenty of religious people who are good people and good scientists. I know plenty of atheists who are raging assholes and REALLY bad scientists. I also know plenty of religious people who are raging dickbags and horribly ignorant, and plenty of atheists who are among the finest human beings I've ever met, and are also good scientists. And any other combination of traits.

    Now, what I'll say is this: Of the 275 interviews, the likely reason that only 5 people actively oppose religion is because - wait for it - most people aren't fucking insane. I'm sorry, but anyone who makes a habit of roaming the earth and picking fights because they oppose other people's beliefs is not going to be all that mentally stable. In an environment like a university, people who are mentally unstable will, over time, tend to weed themselves out because they won't be able to perform.

    I imagine that in religious organizations the numbers would be different, but that's mainly because, other than persuading people to come to church or give you money or do whatever, the metrics for evaluating performance as a cleric will be different, and being unstable might lead to better performance. But, this is not to say that religious people are more inherently flawed, just that the arenas of academe and church are very different.

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