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Science

Dr. Robert Bakker Answers Your Questions About Science and Religion 388

Posted by samzenpus
from the round-two dept.
Yesterday we ran the first half of Dr. Robert Bakker's essay in response to your questions. Below you'll find the second part which focuses on the history of science and religion, and the patron saint of paleontology, St. Augustine of Hippo. A big thanks goes out to Dr. Bob for his lengthy reply.
Back to the very first page in the fabulous 1953 Life magazine.......

Augustine in Life Magazine.

...........in the opening spread the text provided a lyrical introduction to marvels of life through Deep Time. Tucked away, in the last paragraphs, was a reference to the supposed “conflict” between paleontology and religion. Mr. Barnett noted that the greatest philosopher of Christianity, Saint Augustine, pondered the wording of Genesis and came away with the pious suggestion that Creation had unfolded in a time frame more subtle and more complex than a simple seven-day calendar. I filed away that sentence.....it was counter-intuitive. Here was Lincoln Barnett, a noted writer on science (he did a kids’ bio of Einstein) citing a Church Father and a saint. My own church had a youth ministry pastor who despised the fossil record. He said repeatedly that all fossils were from Noah’s Flood and that there were no intermediate fossils bridging the gap between Classes. But Barnett and Life now gave me reason to believe that paleontology and serious church history just might be ok with each other.

Too many journalists today make the mistake of saying that Charles Darwin confronted the young earth creations in 1859, with his On the Origin of Species. And too many well-meaning atheists preach that bible-believers always, ALWAYS have tried to suffocate science. Not true. St. Augustine was, in fact, science-literate by the standards of 400 a.d. and a fine amateur astronomer. He broke with the popular Manichaean Sect because of science, not theology. He challenged a Manichaean leader on the prediction of eclipses. The Manichaean got his celestial calculations totally wrong. So St. Augustine stopped supporting the sect.

Augustine exposed the folly of astrology when it was still accepted as science by most learned folks. He used an experimental method: he observed estates where two children were born on the same day, one to the land-owner, the other to a slave. The astrological predictions failed to predict the difference in life outcomes. Augustine was no Jerry Falwell. He admitted that many of his flock were not well read in science and he urged them not to indulge in what I call “pulpit-pounding nincompoopery”. In other words, when non-believers have more science knowledge than you, don’t embarrass yourself.

Patron Saint of Petrifactions.

Augustine is the Patron Saint of Paleontology -- the only Church Father who helped dig fossil bones, near the North African city of Utica. The giant ribs and molars bore an uncanny resemblance to those of humans, except five times the size. We now know Augustine’s behemoth was a mastodon, probably Gomphotherium. Mastodon molars, when worn, look far more like giant primate molars than they do elephant molars. Therefore, Augustine concluded that the skeleton was from a gargantuan human -- perfectly reasonable given the anatomical data at the time.

The Life magazine allusion to Augustine came from his thoughtful book Toward a Direct Reading of Genesis. Anyone fascinated by the history of creation literature should read it (available in English translation). Augustine grappled with the meaning of the seven days of Creation. From the style of language, he concluded that the days could not mean simple 24 hour periods, but rather units of revelation. Each literary “day” was a snapshot of the purpose of earth, stars, trees and critters. Even though he did not read Hebrew and had to work with a botchy Latin translation, Augustine got the meaning of Genesis better than many a Southern Baptist seminarian today. Augustine’s exegesis that would find favor fifteen hundred years later in Lutheran and Catholic universities.

Museums started as sectors of universities and the first universities were supported by the Church, in the 12th and 13th century. Anatomical science too began at about the same time, encouraged by translations of Aristotle’s zoological work. A loud atheist might argue that medieval science would have been better if all the scholars at Oxford or Padua had been unbelievers and scoffers, but this fantasy ignores the flow of history.

Pious Paleontologists and Progress.

Back to transitive games of paleontology.....strata were mapped in three-dimensions beginning in the late 1700‘s. Geologists, most attached to universities, built up collections of fossils. Even the most pious paleontologist recognized that species changed dramatically up through the layers of rock. The succession of fossil faunas did seem to be a transitive game, at least for the Top Predator and Top Herbivore. Critters got better and better in fundamental sectors. Better lungs, better hearts, better legs for running. My fourth-grade mind would have fit well among the early stratigraphers in the late 1700‘s. They did see a progression in the fossil record, from lowly fish, to lowly reptiles, to the highest Class, the mammals. Nature seemed to ascend the ladder of complexity and efficiency.*

Quite a few of the early fossilists perceived a natural force that was used by the Creator to fulfill the grand plan. Such a view was Newtonian -- Newton explained how natural forces controlled the movements of the planets. And those natural forces were fulfilling God’s plan. Already by 1830 there were enough fossil discoveries to prove that the Past was extremely long, and that the modern fauna and flora was only the most recent of many successive faunas. Natural processes somehow governed the gradual modernization of the land and sea until conditions were right for the insertion of humans.

My all-time favorite pious paleontologist is the Reverend Edward Hitchcock, the first state geologist of Massachusetts, serving in the 1830’s and 40’s, and a combination biblical scholar, preacher and field geologist. He wrote a wonderful tract The Religion of Geology which explained the evidence for an old earth and a multi-layered creation. It was Hitchcock who unlocked the family tree of dinosaurs. The word “dinosaur” was coined in 1842 for a half dozen species known from bones.The skeletons were confusing. The early reconstructions showed flat-footed monsters with gargantuan forelimbs and five fat toes on all four paws. Hitchcock had no good skeletons but he did have Jurassic tracks, thousands of them, from a class of creatures that clearly dominated the large-bodied land vertebrate role. Hitchcock was flummoxed by the discrepancy between his track-makers and the textbook diagrams of “dinosaurs”. Hitchcock’s animals were neither flat-footed nor five-toed. Instead, they walked and ran on three big hind toes, exactly as did birds. His conclusion: “The Jurassic Period was ruled by gigantic ground birds, some as big as elephants.” Pretty good description of how we envision dinosaurs today.

Dinos-as-birds fills holes in transitive evolution theory. Birds are one of the two highest classes, the big-hearted warm-bloods. If Hitchcock was right, then we have an explanation about how dinosaurs and their close kin displaced the big, advanced mammal-like reptiles who preceded dinos as dominant big land animals in the Triassic. Dinosaurs “won” because they were more progressive.

And so....here we are, in the twenty-first century. Discoveries of Chinese dinosaurs covered with feathers vindicates the Reverend Hitchcock. Careful bed-by-bed excavation of Cambrian and pre-Cambrian rocks reveal the startling origin of many-celled creatures and the evolutionary explosion of body plans. Whom do we thank for over two thousand years of scientific advancement? Aristotle and his translators. University founders. Museum builders. Field surveyors employed by governments. Did religious folks help? Of course. Would progress in science have been faster if all the contributors were anti-religion? Would Isaac Newton have been a better physicist if he had been Richard Dawkins? Would Galileo have had more success with his telescope if he had been Christopher Hitchens? Would Christianity have been more pro-science if Augustine had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

Silly questions. The culture of science developed in the real historical context of society. Give credit where credit is due.

* In college, of course, my prof’s pooh-poohed the idea that Darwinian processes generated a linear trajectory. In fact, Charles Darwin wrote a note to himself to avoid the terms “higher and lower”. Natural selection didn’t drive most populations to be “high class”. Selection merely favored the genes that gave greater net reproductive success in the immediate habitat. For most species, that sort of selection favored changes in antlers or horns, mating dances or courtship calls, parental care -- features that gave a temporary advantage in obtaining desirable mates and producing kids with higher reproductive success themselves. It was, in fact, rare to have selection favoring bigger hearts, lungs and brains except in a very few evolving lines. Those lines were the biggest land predators and herbivores.
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Dr. Robert Bakker Answers Your Questions About Science and Religion

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:25AM (#43149927) Journal
    I know I'll be modded down by the religious right just like during the questions part [slashdot.org] but this was a huge disappointment and quite depressing. Dr. Robert Baker appears to cling to a handful of incidences where intelligent people made some progress in the field of paleontology and somehow that alleviates all the other problems organized religions have presented to science. I wonder which part of Augustine's and Edward Hitchcock's work lead to their scientific contributions? It seems you think it was reading religious texts and allowing God to work through them? Not actually excavations, logical thinking and their daring to challenge the status quo?

    Did religious folks help? Of course.

    Yes, but not as much as they hurt. I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that the world is only thousands of years old [gallup.com].

    Would progress in science have been faster if all the contributors were anti-religion?

    Quite likely. After all, it was the refusal of allowing religious texts to explain the unknown that allowed people to move forward in discovering and stealing that "forbidden knowledge of good and evil [wikipedia.org]" from religious texts and doctrines.

    Would Isaac Newton have been a better physicist if he had been Richard Dawkins?

    Who knows? I can say for certain they were two men who dared to question as much as they possibly could -- something that is often frowned upon and punished internally when you question religions. Let's turn that question around: Would we have physics today if Isaac Newton had been Cotton Mather?

    Would Galileo have had more success with his telescope if he had been Christopher Hitchens?

    Why do you pick Christopher Hitchens and not Neil deGrasse Tyson? I think we can all agree there are very intelligent men today that have been freed from having to answer to some lethargic and backwards power structure such as The Pope or fear a lynching for contradicting a 2,000 year old text. And I think we can safely say that if the church wasn't allowed to shove its nose into and intimidate people with telescopes back during Galileo's time, we would be far better off today.

    Would Christianity have been more pro-science if Augustine had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

    Here's a better question: Would Augustine have been a saint or would he have been excommunicated/burned at the stake if he had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

    Silly questions. The culture of science developed in the real historical context of society. Give credit where credit is due.

    Yeah. Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion. It's even more disgusting that you restrict your examples specifically to Christianity and not Hindi or Muslim contributions.

    You save yourself a lot of time and it allows you cast off the burdensome chore of having to parse The Bible and reason out why one part is metaphorical while another part needs to be literally followed. And then at the end of the day someone else is still calling you a sinner and your science is hobbled by what is and isn't taboo to explore.

    A lot of scientists working on the V-1 and V-2 campaigns [wikipedia.org] would later expand human capabilities into space ... that didn't mean that their ideologies at the time were right. Likewise, because a Reverend could use evidence to come to the correct conclusion that dinosaurs were more like birds doesn't present one shred of evidence to me that Christianity is right, let alone reconcilable with science.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:44AM (#43150149)

    As a practicing scientist myself (neurobiology) I am always interested in how other scientists came to their science, and in particular, I love hearing about the early, often incredibly vivid experiences that nudged (or shoved, in some cases) them towards a scientific career. I find it interesting that it's often a book (or magazine)--something that the child can interact with at their own pace, without helpful "instruction" from some well-meaning adult.

  • Re:Anyone else? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:49AM (#43150203)

    Maybe you need to up your anti-ADHD meds. To those of us with attention spans greater than a squirrel and reading comprehension skills beyond the fourth grade level, Dr. Bakker's prose is quite comprehensible (whether we agree or not).

  • Re:Anyone else? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:52AM (#43150251) Homepage Journal

    Nope. What's the matter, is he stepping on your preconceived notions, or is he just using big words?

  • by Skiron (735617) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:54AM (#43150273) Homepage

    The biggest problem is that religious people have a 'belief' without no scientific evidence, and seem to ignore that (or use psuedo-science to prove it) - they just 'believe'. Sure, religious people can be scientists as they then use scientific measures, but it rarely works the other way around - I mean, how many religious scientists use methods to determine their belief? None.

    Religion should not ever be associated with science, as it makes a mockery of proper science.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:55AM (#43150279)

    Nope. I understood every word. Bakker has actually taken more than a few moments to study both religion and history, and speaks quite intelligibly in that context. I can understand if you aren't well read in both subjects (and paleontology!) it might have been pretty baffling, though.

    I think you are to be commended for recognizing and admitting your lack of knowledge - it's rare to find such self-knowledge these days! Particularly in the area of religion - it seems like the loudest people talking about it have the least understanding, because they've never studied it, and they are proud of that. People don't usually think they are qualified to fill teeth or set crowns because they've never studied dentistry, but many feel totally qualified to lambast religious folks based on their deep ignorance of theology and religious philosophy. It's Dunning-Kruger effect to the max....

  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:56AM (#43150309)

    Yeah. Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion. It's even more disgusting that you restrict your examples specifically to Christianity and not Hindi or Muslim contributions.

    Actually, it does. You see, the first religions were attempts at explaining phenomena in nature, such as lightning. The very earliest religions *were* attempts at science (granted, not very good ones by today's standards, but nevertheless they followed the idea of observing natural phenomenon and attempted to produce explanations for them). "Gods do it" was one of the earliest proposed explanations for magnetics (not a popular one even then, and it may not satisfy the modern idea of a proper explanation, but it's still an explanation of a sort for natural phenomenon, i.e. a prototypical science).

    Yes, but not as much as they hurt. I still encounter Christians today who are certain that dinosaur bones were put in place by lawyers and the devil or that the world is only thousands of years old [gallup.com].

    And I encounter atheists who think medieval people though the Earth was flat, or that Copernicus was rejected by Christians, or that Galileo's heliocentrism was correct (hint: it wasn't, the reasons for him thinking the Earth moved were demonstrably false. So he came to the right conclusion, but for completely wrong reasons). Being wrong is a pretty universal trait among humans. And lets not get into questions about global warming or vaccination, which is are counter-factual movements that cross all boundaries of religion and ideology, seemingly.

    Here's a better question: Would Augustine have been a saint or would he have been excommunicated/burned at the stake if he had the mindset of Daniel Dennett?

    No? Nice fallacious loaded question, though. But seriously, no, he wouldn't have. I know, I've read him, and I've studied the period of history during which he lived (burning at the stake was... a bit less popular at that time, shall we say).

    And then at the end of the day someone else is still calling you a sinner and your science is hobbled by what is and isn't taboo to explore.

    Not really, no, because the answer is and always has been "nothing, except that which is ruled out by ethics" (you know, like experiments on unconsenting humans).

    The fact is most people who badmouth religion and it's connection to science know very little about religion itself. On the flip side, the religious people who bash science know very little about science. Ignorance generates fear: it always has.

  • Re:MOD PARENT UP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:04PM (#43150399) Journal

    Odd, I read it as how I read a lot of counter arguments by a bunch of religious nutjobs. He was often reading way more into what the author said, than was actually said, and then arguing against that. It read like reactionary knee-jerk of someone trying to defend his own weak too-extreme position.

    It's annoying because I'm sick enough of arguing against those on the other side of the board.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:04PM (#43150401)

    Actually, it does. You see, the first religions were attempts at explaining phenomena in nature, such as lightning. The very earliest religions *were* attempts at science (granted, not very good ones by today's standards, but nevertheless they followed the idea of observing natural phenomenon and attempted to produce explanations for them). "Gods do it" was one of the earliest proposed explanations for magnetics (not a popular one even then, and it may not satisfy the modern idea of a proper explanation, but it's still an explanation of a sort for natural phenomenon, i.e. a prototypical science).

    You don't know what "science" is, do you? "Gods do it" is not science. It might be a hypothesis but moving directly from that to axiom or proven fact is about as far from science as one can get. Google "scientific method."

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:07PM (#43150433)

    And I encounter atheists who think medieval people though the Earth was flat, or that Copernicus was rejected by Christians, or that Galileo's heliocentrism was correct (hint: it wasn't, the reasons for him thinking the Earth moved were demonstrably false. So he came to the right conclusion, but for completely wrong reasons).

    So it was because the Pope demonstrated that Galileo's calculations were incorrect that he was found guilty of heresy and died under house arrest?

    I don't think so. I think it was more that Galileo's work wasn't sufficiently pro-Pope and pro-Catholicism. And THAT is the problem with religion being involved in science.

  • by kervin (64171) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:10PM (#43150455) Homepage

    I think the Dr made some very convincing arguments. But from your counter-arguments I suspect there's no way of convincing you religion is not at odds with science. The Dr. correctly recalls that the church had many scientists in its ranks. Priests, monks, bothers, etc. Those where very intelligent people who contributed to science.

    It's not about the few examples he brought up. But the idea that many in the churches ranks saw no conflict between science and religion.

  • by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:34PM (#43150735)

    I think you have a bit more googling left to do yourself on "scientific method," especially the changes in philosophical underpinnings occurring over the past century or so (shifting away from an absolutist view of "axioms and proven facts" to "best explanations for known observations, allowing room for modification as better data is available"). Using "gods" to denote "causes effecting the world whose basis is beyond the scope of present understanding" is in itself no less scientific than giving those causes names like "gravity" or "Higgs boson." Now, the "gods" explanation rapidly becomes non-scientific once better causal mechanisms are available (better either in the sense of more fully/accurately predicting observable phenomena, or at least in the "Occam's Razor" sense of having less unnecessary "baggage" that comes with the typical "gods" explanation). But having a "place holder" term for the ontological boundaries of the known scientific chain of causality is not itself un-scientific; only a refusal to work to push those boundaries farther back is.

  • by englishknnigits (1568303) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:42PM (#43150809)
    *woosh*

    Did you actually read the article or did you just skim it for quotes to knee jerk react to?

    It seems you think it was reading religious texts and allowing God to work through them? Not actually excavations, logical thinking and their daring to challenge the status quo?

    Who are you even talking about? Where in the article did it state or even imply that their scientific explorations were due to them being religious? The entire point of his article is that it is possible for a religious person to also be scientific in some regards. Not that religion causes people to be scientific.

    Yeah, that's really depressing to know that someone can have a doctorate from Yale and Harvard and cling to this idea that science owes its existence to religion

    He didn't say give credit of the existence of science to religion. He was obviously talking about giving credit to religious people for the scientific contributions they made. Seriously, stop reading into things and assuming so much. You don't have to agree with what he said but if you are going to disagree at least disagree with what he said.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:54PM (#43150967) Journal

    If it requires belief without evidence, it can never be anything but bad. If science leads us to a "true religion" then it would be well supported by evidence, and therefore not a religion at all.

  • by MickLinux (579158) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:56PM (#43150993) Journal

    No, the old testament is not merely a preface. "All these things were written down, to be ensamples for you to follow."

    Or again, the scribes and pharisees at the temple were impressed with Jesus' understanding of scripture, even as a boy.

    Understand, then, that all of the New Testament is encapsulated as a seed in the old testament. Do you want to see the story of a soul's salvation, within the Christian Church? Read the Apocalypse of Isaiah (Is 23-27), as a parable, with the human heart being the earth, and remembering -- when you come to "Moab" as a name, that "Moab" -- from Genesis -- means "the Son of the Father". The story will go from the dryness that everyone is condemned to, to their finding help from God in their dryness, to entering the Church, receiving communion and the forgiveness/life that comes with it, to reading the Word of God to learn wisdom, to the birth of the Holy Spirit in their heart, to their being the defended garden of God, to their deliverance at the Great Trump.

    Or again, the entire passion is encapsulated in the celebration of the Passover. That third cup of passover, drunk right before they sing the psalm, the "Great Hallel", was the "Cup of Blessing" -- which we in turn call the communion cup. The fourth cup -- the one Christ asked to be taken away -- he drank on the cross: it is the "Cup of Salvation", as in "How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The Cup of Salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the Lord." Thus, at 33 Christ celebrated the passover, fulfilling all the roles: He was the chief celebrant, the priest, the sacrificial lamb, and so on. But it is already in seed form, in the Old Testament.

    No, the Old Testament was not just a preface: it was the fullness of God's Word, given to those of that time, so that they could have a share in the expectant waiting for the Lord, just as I have a share in it today.

  • by Stenboj (1131557) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:01PM (#43151059)
    I had intelligent, devout parents and grew up in a conservative religious backwater. Our pastor was a nominally Lutheran biblical literalist. I slowly pulled myself loose from the science denial of my church, and went on to become a scientist myself (Physics). My path would have been easier had I known then about Augustin and his kin who a millennium or more ago also had to pull themselves away from simplistic interpretations of the Bible. I ended up not religious myself, but I can respect my friends, including scientists, who are religious. The frightened religious conservatives we see so commonly in the US today are not representative of the best in the world's religious traditions, nor the best in Christianity, and they are not even typical of thoughtful Christians that we can see in a broad historical view. The supposed eternal conflict between science and religion is a late-developing meme, propagated in the late 18th century by a couple of folks (I do not have the reference here with me) for their own purposes as part of the professionalization of science, which had previously been an amateur's realm. im-thatoneguy may have had a bad early experience with Christians, as did the most virulently anti-christian of my friends, but he should keep in mind that the loudest Christians we hear today in the US are a recent anomaly, and are a caricature of Christianity. We need to look a bit deeper to see the real relation between science and religion, and our guest for the last two days has kindly pointed us into that deeper realm. I thank him for it, and I think that we all should do that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:16PM (#43151209)

    Are you talking about religious people knowing nothing about religion?

    Those of us who understand that the supernatural is imaginary don't need to know the specific booga-booga nonsense, because it depends on the supernatural existing outside of fiction. Outside of sociology, studying religion is about as useful as studying Star Trek technical manuals.

  • A lot of scientists working on the V-1 and V-2 campaigns would later expand human capabilities into space ... that didn't mean that their ideologies at the time were right. Likewise, because a Reverend could use evidence to come to the correct conclusion that dinosaurs were more like birds doesn't present one shred of evidence to me that Christianity is right, let alone reconcilable with science.

    This strawman, among the many you present, compels me to reply. Your blinders seem to prevent you from realizing that nobody is trying to persuade you that their philosophies and beliefs were or are 'right'.
     

    I know I'll be modded down by the religious right just like during the questions part but this was a huge disappointment and quite depressing. Dr. Robert Baker appears to cling to a handful of incidences where intelligent people made some progress in the field of paleontology and somehow that alleviates all the other problems organized religions have presented to science. I wonder which part of Augustine's and Edward Hitchcock's work lead to their scientific contributions? It seems you think it was reading religious texts and allowing God to work through them? Not actually excavations, logical thinking and their daring to challenge the status quo?

    I'm not from the religious right - but if *I* had mod points today... I'd mod you down. Why? Because you seem grimly determined to sustain an anti-religious bias based on your preconceived notions and without regards for any evidence that those notions might not coincide with reality. Yes, in some times and some places (even here and now) there are those who would suppress scientific inquiry - but pretending that those represent all times and all places doesn't mark you as intelligent.... Starting with your accusations of invisible enemies, and running thorough the sophistry and strawmen you mistakenly believe to be 'reasonable' questions, the evidence is abundant that you're as closed minded and bigoted as you mistakenly believe all religions are.

  • It is actually quite easy to find people who are rather knowledgeable about both.

    From your lack of knowledge about the history of science and bigotry and ignorance about religion... I'd say you're incapable of recognizing people who are experts in either.

  • by daboochmeister (914039) <daboochmeister @ g mail.com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:20PM (#43151827)
    I'm a scientist who spent time in theology school. I won't claim to be expert on either side (epecially not on the history of science), but I know enough on both sides to clearly see the Dunning-Kruger effect on both sides.
  • Re:Anyone else? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:38PM (#43151985)

    I feel that way all the time these days. I read the news, and I don't feel like I'm even the same species as anyone else anymore.

  • by mcguiver (898268) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:51PM (#43152121)
    The problem that many non-religious folks seem to have trouble grasping is that religion is more than just the stories from the Bible. Religion is a code of ethics that define a way of life. Religion is not something that can be proved with science, so why bother trying. The few scientists that try proving religion through science just end up looking crazy.

    Religion is a lot closer related to the social sciences and as such isn't tested the same way that we would test a hypothesis in chemistry of physics. The real test of religion is, do my beliefs make me a better, happier person? If so, then the test comes back positive then I can say that the religion is good for me. Even if at the end of my life I were to discover that my religion was completely false and that there was no God I would still be glad that I practiced religion. Having a set of ethics that I subscribe to, encouraging me to treat others kindly, to be a good parent, to be honest, to work hard, complete with a support group has made me a better person.

    Religion doesn't have to be a repressive organization. If the religion is trying to get you to adhere to certain standards out of fear of some punishment then the religion can't possibly make your life better. However, if the religion develops in you love for your fellow humans and all creatures and makes you want to be better out of love, then it is a good thing.

    Sorry for such a long response but I get tired of the non-religious classifying religion based on the few loud-mouths that seem to crop up on TV or the internet. Religion doesn't have to make a mockery of proper science since both are addressing different questions. And yes, I am an actively religious scientist.
  • Re:Anyone else? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @04:06PM (#43152979)

    Yes, that's how question-and-answer works in elementary school level discourse. However, you seem to be unaware that larger, deeper scientific/philosophical discourse is often carried out in much longer and more sophisticated literary forms than question-and-answer soundbite quips. People write whole books (or lifetime long series of books) to describe their positions, and answer many questions (I saw far more than one addressed; look harder) within an integrated narrative. Dr. Bakker apparently over-estimated the literacy of the Slashdot population, by not dumbing down his presentation to look like a TV interview.

  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @04:50PM (#43153517) Homepage Journal

    OH, I see, you don't understand the difference between rational and irrational religion, and so generalize the two into an incorrect and superstitious stereotype.

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