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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 Sparticus789 (2625955) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:25PM (#43149925) Journal

    Feel like Charlie Brown sitting in the classroom, with the teacher chatting away unintelligibly?

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

      by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:49PM (#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 @12:52PM (#43150251) Homepage Journal

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

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

        He was probably expecting questions and then answers in the commonly used format of such ./ articles and as stated in the summary title, but instead seemed to get some non-sequitor rambling.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:55PM (#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 kervin (64171)

      The response was fine. But maybe he could have simplified it a bit, maybe with sockpuppets

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:25PM (#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 khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:45PM (#43150171)

      I think that the real problem is that religion is 100% a social institution.

      Whereas science is not (100%). Even an unpopular person with an unpopular theory can (possibly) demonstrate that his theory give correct predictions.

      When you have a power structure that is based upon tradition and social/political standing rather than science then you have all kinds of problems with that and science.

      Sure, there can be people in that hierarchy who understand science and support scientific studies. But they are the exception. And the institution does not support them in any way.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by alexander_686 (957440)

        Well, no.

        First, there is overlap between religion, morality, and philosophy. “Why am I here?” and “what should I do?” are valid questions.

        Second, religion has organic and evolutionary backgrounds. There are parts of the brain hardwired for “religious” experiences. Furthermore, religion teaches about altruism and justice. This extends trust and fairness across distance and time. i.e. “If I do something good today for a stranger something good will happen in the futur

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't matter how illogical, factually inaccurate, or plain wrong religious beliefs are, they are here to stay. Religious people are here to stay as well, and they will vote and apply political pressure in response to their religious beliefs.

      Feel free to proselytize atheism for the greater good, but you cannot expect that such efforts will make the problem of religiously-motivated action go away.

      So, given that we must deal with religious people, anything we can do to mitigate their harm is a win. If e

    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:56PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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."

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by femtobyte (710429)

          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 caus

      • by Xaedalus (1192463)
        It's because OP's own paradigm is threatened by information and a perspective which puts his own at risk of being wrong. And he doesn't have the strength of self and capability to admit doubt and ambiguity, and allow such a threat to his personal fundamentalist philosophy of atheism to exist without rebuttal.
      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:07PM (#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.

        • Yes, Catholicism has killed people.
          Yes, Islam has killed people.
          Yes, the conflict between Catholicism and Islam probably set science back several hundred years.
          Yes, government has killed people..

          Maybe we should outlaw all them?

      • by Motard (1553251)

        Hear, hear. The GP seems to be compelled to expend quite a bit of energy trying to prove that in no way can religion ever be anything but bad. Perhaps someday science will lead us to profound answers that point to a true religion. But some will keep kicking and screaming.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192)

          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 Motard (1553251)

            Belief without evidence could also be called a hypothesis. God may well be discoverable, but perhaps he chooses not to be discovered by puny organisms such as ourselves.

            • by Hatta (162192)

              Hypotheses are discarded when testing fails to provide supporting evidence. Let me know when that happens with religious belief.

              • by Motard (1553251)

                I don't think I'd need to let you know. It would likely be headline news. Just like it would be if someone can prove that a new parallel universe is created every time a random event is observed. I'm not holding my breath for that one either.

                We just keep moving the goal posts. The big bang created many gods, but what created the big bang? God? And what created God? A big bang? Or maybe the big bang created aliens who created us. And those aliens might worship the God that created the big bang.

                Given t

            • by fyngyrz (762201)

              Belief without evidence could also be called a hypothesis

              One could also say: Belief without evidence could also be called a psychosis. A worthy hypothesis will offer paths to testing, AKA to falsification or verification; because evidence can always be found for imaginings that are connected to reality. That's why science produces progress and technology (and it's also why religion just produces a herd mentality and nice architecture, architecture, mind you, that is backed by technology. Not "god."

              Psychosi

              • by Motard (1553251)

                I don't think I'd call Albert Einstein psychotic for believing in God. I guess that's the whole point here. Baker is simply suggesting that we not rush to this extreme when encountering someone who expresses some religious beliefs.

                • by fyngyrz (762201)

                  Well, that's good, as he stated unequivocally that he didn't believe in god.

                  It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

                  There are numerous apologist quotes where he works quite hard not to

      • 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).

        This is incorrect. Just because it is an attempt at an explanation does not make it science. The scientific method [wikipedia.org] requires empirical and measurable evidence to support a theory. Any invocation of a supernatural being immediately violates both of these requirements and therefore is not science.

        The fact is most people who badmouth religion and it's connection to science know very little about religion itself.

        It is actually quite easy to find people who are rather knowledgeable about both. And frankly one does not have to dig very deep into religion to find the deep logical problems with the stories its practitioners r

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          So something is only science if it follows the scientific method? We can ignore that science did not always means scientific method or that the scientific method didn't even come about until some time in the 17th century.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          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 Hatta (162192) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:50PM (#43150929) Journal

        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).

        Without testing those explanations, it's not science.

        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.

        Being wrong is a universal trait. Accepting that you may be wrong, and adjusting your conceptions accordingly is not. An atheist who thinks that Shakespeare thought the Earth was flat simply hasn't heard of Eratosthenes. Once he learns about him, he will change his mind.

        A theist who thinks that the fossil record is a conspiracy is a whole other phenomenon entirely. Not even close to comparable.

        The fact is most people who badmouth religion and it's connection to science know very little about religion itself.

        Research shows that atheists on average know more facts about religion than the religious do.

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          Without testing those explanations, it's not science.

          Then science did not exist until the 17th century.

      • 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.

        You are conflating IGNORANCE of historical facts with IGNORING of scientifically proven facts in favor of conspiracy theories and fairytales.
        Not the same kind of wrong.

        One is simply a lack of knowledge, the other is promotion and nurturing of delusions and untruths.

    • How do you reconcile science (the "how") with theology (the "who")?
      Answer, you don't. They are orthogonal.
      Sure, religions in practice,are not only theology but also culture, so things clashe with what science teaches. But it's like discussing details. If [at least one] creator exists, the rules that caused creation are totally arbitrary, as chosen by him. If there is no creator, the rules that caused creation are totally arbitrary too, as chosen by nobody. Science studies the rules. Quite a good idea, but i

    • by khallow (566160)

      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.

      So what? They're not blocking the science. You aren't less rational or scientific in your thinking just because someone out there believes crazy things.

      • So what? They're not blocking the science. You aren't less rational or scientific in your thinking just because someone out there believes crazy things.

        So what?

        The fact is that these crazy people are still a big enough percentage of the US population that they feel they can wield their crazy as a club to beat people over the head with oppressive, idiotic legislation.

      • by Creedo (548980)

        So what? They're not blocking the science. You aren't less rational or scientific in your thinking just because someone out there believes crazy things.

        These people are a large enough voting block to influence public education and government research. So, yes, they very much do block science. Their influence is growing smaller, but it is still a force to be dealt with in the US.

        • by sycodon (149926)

          Is there "research" that you feel should off limits, or are you going all in with Dr. Mengele?

          If you do think some research is off limits, why? Because any reason you offer has its foundations in ethics/philosophy, which is inextricably entwined with religion.

          • by Creedo (548980)

            Is there "research" that you feel should off limits, or are you going all in with Dr. Mengele?

            When the situation comes up of some researcher asking to experiment on humans ala Mengele, we'll worry about it. Until then, you are just taking an absurdist position which doesn't exist in the real world.

            If you do think some research is off limits, why? Because any reason you offer has its foundations in ethics/philosophy, which is inextricably entwined with religion.

            That is incorrect. The ethics of secular humanism, for example, require no reference to religion or religious beliefs. Ethics are ultimately based on human behavior and the ways that we interact with each other. It is a common claim that religions have some monopoly on ethics, but that is just not true. An

    • Because after all, atheists never supported any crackpot "science" either that is why the atheistic Soviet Union suppressed all opposition to Trofim Lysenko.
    • 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.

      Ok - what non-religious country in the past one thousand years do you feel pushed/allowed science to advance better than the Christian countries? You encounter some Christians that don't believe in evolution and decide that this is a common theme. This is as fair as taking 2000 years of history and only citing examples where the churches hindered science. This shows how close minded you are.

      If I pointed to non-Christian or godless countries and pointed out their human rights records, would that prove any

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Ok - what non-religious country in the past one thousand years do you feel pushed/allowed science to advance better than the Christian countries?

        The United States of America.

      • by Creedo (548980)

        Ok - what non-religious country in the past one thousand years do you feel pushed/allowed science to advance better than the Christian countries?

        What non-religious country has existed in the past one thousand years? Even the officially atheistic countries were only atheistic by government fiat. Only recently have we seen the rise of a dominant organic atheism anywhere in the world. And those states are indeed doing well in advancing science and education. Here in the US, where our level of religiosity is more in line with Islamic countries, we have a serious problem with people attempting to subvert public education, public funding and public resear

    • by alen (225700)

      and how many times in history has the scientific establishment stopped progress by denying some crazy theory that proved to be true later on?

      Mendel was a monk and his theories on genetics were dismissed by scientists for decades. after his death others ran the same experiments and after reading mendel's work found that he found more than they did many years before

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        In early 20th century Europe, science was divided into two dominant camps English and German. Scientists generally would be presenting findings to members of one camp or another. There was a little event in the first half of the 20th century where we saw scientists being rejected by the German camp due to antisemitism. Individuals like Einstein were an exception to this.

      • by fatphil (181876)
        He didn't publish broadly enough. He sat on his results and announced them locally. He should have been in dialogue with his international peers, then he wouldn't have been ignored.

        And also he falsified his results - they do not follow the law of big numbers. However, they didn't have the mathematical sophistication at the time to detect "mistakes" like that.
    • by kervin (64171) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:10PM (#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 Rhacman (1528815)
        There seems to be a confusion between Religion in terms of religious doctrine and Religion in terms of people who happen to subscrbe to religious beliefs. Any person, claiming to be religious or not, can (and in fact has) participate in the advancement of science through the use of the scientific method. Furthermore, religious doctrine can certainly be adjusted by its adherents to include scientific findings. Religious doctrine however is incompatible with scientific inquiry as it permits taking non-fals
    • I feel like this avoids the large problems with religion and science. Such as if God created the world, why does the world suck so much? To Quote C3PO "We seem to be made to suffer."

      Darwinian evolution is like a dog show being a free for all dog fight in which only one dog escapes alive. We call that immoral but when God does it, it shows the greatness of his creation? And even then over billions of years God's evolution is on a pretty crappy track. We rely on carbohydrates instead of nuclear energy

      • by Stenboj (1131557) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:01PM (#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 Talderas (1212466)

          Actually, I like this little gem of a logical fallacy in atheists.

          Something isn't science if it doesn't follow the scientific method.
          The Catholic Church's prosecution of Copernicus is a prime example of how religion is anti-science.

          Copernicus died in 1543. The scientific method was truly laid out by Descartes in 1637.

          So by their own statements, the church's prosecution of Copernicus could not possibly anti-science since science didn't exist in Copernicus's lifetime since the scientific method had yet to be

          • by mjwx (966435)

            Actually, I like this little gem of a logical fallacy in atheists.

            The problem with your logic is that the scientific method doesn't stop being the scientific method just because it hadn't been written down.

            Descartes may have laid down the term "scientific method" but realistically it was just naming something scientists have been doing since the dawn of time. Going all the way back to Plato (deductive reasoning) and Aristotle (Empiricism), the ideas of experimentation and quantification were first documented to be used by Alhazen in his works (book of optics) in the 11

        • by dbrueck (1872018)

          Great comment, thank you. As someone who is fairly religious, I'd like to highlight/expound on a couple of points:

          a) There are a lot of us out here who "like" both science and religion - we don't see any conflict between the two. There are others who simply don't participate in religion - they don't believe in it, they don't want it, whatever. That's cool too. Finally, there are two small but vocal groups: science-leaning people that feel threatened by religion, and religious-leaning people that feel threat

      • by fatphil (181876)
        > We're a bad design.

        I propose that we're *just* good enough.

        Mostly because we're networked into massively-redundant clusters. Loss of one node is worked around very quickly.
      • > Such as if God created the world, why does the world suck so much? /sarcasm Right, because "obviously" God is responsible when someone exercises their free-will to be an asshole. Tell me, how do you give a person free-will if they aren't allowed to make their own choices??

        Do you micro-manage your children's Behavior ALL their life? Or do you _allow_ them to make mistakes so that they may learn? Hint: When do they learn the most? When they are successful? Or when they fail?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I know I'll be modded down by the religious right

      "Religious right" is an oxymoron. Everything the conservatives are for, such as money and power, Jesus was against. Everything they oppose, such as taxes and universal health care, Jesus was for or ambivalent about.

      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.

      Yes, and he mentioned it in the article. "Augustine was no Jerry Falwell. He admitte

      • by MickLinux (579158) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:56PM (#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 sycodon (149926)

        No, and we wouldn't have physics if he were Redd Foxx, either.
        We would, but it would be much funnier.

    • by englishknnigits (1568303) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:42PM (#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 dbrueck (1872018)

      I guess I read this essay differently. I don't think he was trying to argue that nobody in history has used religion to the detriment of science (if he was, then I agree that he made a poor case). To me it read more like an observation that the apparent "conflict" between religion in science is not all-encompassing historically nor is it necessarily inherent.

      On /. there are tons of comments along the lines of, "here's an example of a religious nutjob; therefore all religious people are anti-science nutjobs,

    • I actually find Dr. Bakker's take much more scientific than yours. He looks at the data from the past ~2000 years and uses it to answer the question of "is there a conflict between religion and science?" and comes to the conclusion that while there has been some tension, it's not necessarily between those two. As evidence, he gives some examples with which he is familiar, and comes to a reasonable conclusion.

      You, on the other hand, take his argument and make up unfalsifiable claims that we would be "far b

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @02:27PM (#43151339) Homepage

      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.

    • by sycodon (149926)

      Actually, he simply portrayed Religion and its place in Science an History in a way that doesn't jive with your cartoonish and bigoted understanding of it.

  • reading this. Remind me, what was the question?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:44PM (#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.

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @12:51PM (#43150241)

    ... things are going to change!

  • by Skiron (735617)

    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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TemporalBeing (803363)

      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'.

      The word you are looking for is Faith, not religion. Faith can be independent of or tied to any religion. Scientists that shun religion typically put their faith in science - especially with respect to how the universe was created; in essence science is their religion, yet they would not admit it.

      Science cannot prove how the universe was formed. it can give many hypotheses, but cannot prove it. Taking any of those hypotheses and saying "this is how it was done" is not science, but scientific religion.

      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.

      The

      • by Skiron (735617)

        {the religious right needs to recognize that the tend to assume no time gap between Genesis 2 and 3.}

        Therein lies the problem. A scientist wouldn't need to tie in the bible, but the other way around - he would try to age the bible and it's authentication.

        A religious scientist, on the other hand, needs to prove the bible is the holy grail to authenticate his belief (or faith, or whatever).

    • by sycodon (149926)

      Yeah, numbnuts. It's called "faith".

    • Everyone has some beliefs without scientific evidence. No one, no matter how skeptical, can take the time to prove EVERYTHING they believe, before they believe it. Now, religion is in an odd category, in that its not irrational, so much as it's arational (if that can be a word). The fact that it cannot be disproved in general principle may not be to its credit, but it's not actually a point against it either. For religious people, religion provides a community tradition, and potential answers to questions t
    • by mcguiver (898268) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @03:51PM (#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.
  • and vice versa

    the original priests were astronomers who figured out that the celestial bodies behave in predictable patterns and linked it to the seasons and the growing season. in a world where most kings didn't know how to read they were thought of as being able to talk to Gods. How else would they know when you should plant your crops?

  • by The Wild Norseman (1404891) <tw@norseman.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @01:45PM (#43150869)

    Did TFA or TFS ever mention how the varied Arab cultures were the kings of science for around eight hundred years that (from what I understand) ran concurrently with religion? Library of Alexandria, anyone? Mathematics? Astronomy?

    If it wasn't mentioned, then why not? Anyone have a guess?

  • For another viewpoint on the compatibility of science and religion see Sir Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's http://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Partnership-Jonathan-Sacks/dp/0340995246 [amazon.co.uk]

    It's quite in line with classic jewish thought (e.g. Maimonides).

  • 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.

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