New Atheists, Science, and the Roots of Religious Intolerance

From my point of view the situati0on is relatively simple.

Science studies the physical universe, philosophy studies thinking (the rational universe,) and theology meaning and purpose (the spiritual universe.) I expect that almost everyone would agree that science studies the physical universe, but some people say that the physical universe is all that there is and thus deny the validity of philosophy and theology.

I think that all three disciplines are needed for a valid understanding of Life and Reality because Reality is composed of the physical, rational, and the spiritual. Each of these three disciplines use the experiential, the logical, and the intuitive, as needed by the subject matter at hand.

It seems to me that science is a means of establishing knowledge. Once something has been shown to be true by scientific means, to the extent of the evidence establishing it, it is equally true for all.

Fields such as philosophy and theology may create many interesting ideas, which may even come to be accepted by many people, but they can’t establish the truth of reality in the way that science can. It seems to me that comparing them to science is comparing apples and oranges. If you think they are all needed, I believe that is your prerogative, and I won’t begrudge you of it. I might even agree to some degree. My concerns are that conclusions about meaning and purpose reached in this way will be assumed to be universal truths in the same way that scientific truths are, with applicability to all, or that theology will be thought to have some exclusive privilege to make determinations about meaning and purpose.

I have not followed your comments, so I make this comment purely out of interest in this statement. I understand why you may be apprehensive re meaning and purpose as such appearing to be the exclusive domain of theology (and perhaps philosophy), but I cannot understand the implication that science provides universal truths - or are you suggesting scientific truths may be one category and universal truths another?

@John_Dalton,
Thank you for your comment, however it seems that you are saying that scientific knowledge is somehow truer and more certain than philosophical and theological knowledge.

First of all this is not true. Scientists themselves say that scientific knowledge is not certain, it is tentative, and that we need to continually question the certainties of science. Einstein overthrew the certainties of Newton, even though people like Dawkins deny this and science and philosophy have yet to digest this sea change in our understanding of reality.

People do seek certainty. Evangelical say that science does not provide certainty. Scientism says that theology does not provide certainty and both views are right. There is no certainty in life, which is why Christians live by faith in Jesus Christ Who gives theology and science the truth that they have. We do not claim to understand the world and God completely, but we trust that God will see us through whatever problems we face, esp. when we seek God’s truth in ALL its forms.

My concern is the opposite, that is “scientific” theories today are accepted as universal Truths when they are not. The clearest example today is “the survival of the fittest.” As much as many people do not like this, survival of the fittest was incorporated into Darwinism as a reasonable explanation of Malthusian population theories and this continues to this day because it has not been replaced by a better explanation.

Thus survival of the fittest or the struggle for survival is considered a universal truth by many, as witnessed by the support the Republican Party by millions of people even those who do not believe in evolution. It is also true of laisse faire economic theory, another scientific view.

On the other hand the traditional basis for democracy and freedom in the USA is the statement in the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The tradition rationale for democracy is rooted in theology. The Darwinian scientific view does not support one person, one vote, but political power is based on social power.

Conservativism claims that money should be the basis of social; and political power. Bannon claims that European culture should be the basis of social and political power. These are their definitions of fitness, and their ideologies place scientific fitness over theological equality, which is false.

Fortunately the scientific theory behind that false political theory is wrong also, however if we believe that scientific truth always Trumps theological truth, we would be wrong also.

I get your meaning. That wasn’t well stated, but in my defense, I did say “in the same way that scientific truths are”–no more, no less.

I’m not sure what a “universal truth” would be, but I meant something like this. For example, it has been established through scientific inquiry that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. We know this is true. Some person may deny the truth of it, but we would be wholly justified in saying that that person is wrong, based on the evidence.

Undoubtedly so, and this is why I said “to the extent of the evidence establishing it.” To that extent, I believe that my statement is true.

That’s not the kind of thing I was talking about. It has a number of different interpretations. It seems to me that your word “explanation” could characterize it best.

Thus survival of the fittest or the struggle for survival is considered a universal truth by many,

Another useful characterization. I’m not talking about things that might be considered true, even by many. I’m talking about things that have been demonstrated to the extent that we can call them “knowledge”. I would be equally concerned if such a “theory”–though I’m not sure that word could even apply here–were considered a “universal truth”–all-in-all a phrase I wish I had avoided now :slight_smile:

I’ll disagree with you about the Declaration briefly. What about the Constitution? What does “Creator” mean? That’s not much theology. But that’s another path, and I won’t continue to go down it here. Perhaps another day :slight_smile:

I think I understand your point, and if so, I am inclined to view your statement as “science provides facts regarding its objects”. Thus water is a physical substance and we do not have questions about it being so, and further facts show it is composed to two elements, oxygen and hydrogen. This has been demonstrated using scientific methods and instruments.

If I experience a sunrise and declare it a thing of beauty, I am discussing a fact, a personal experience, but we would also argue, I have invoked a universal, which I termed beauty. I can use instruments to give factual data to my experience, but these data, nor anything scientific, can lead me to the universal - beauty.

My guess is that science also depends on universal constants, and this may cloud the issue - but perhaps for another discussion.

[quote=“GJDS, post:26, topic:35577, full:true”]
I think I understand your point, and if so, I am inclined to view your statement as “science provides facts regarding its objects”. Thus water is a physical substance and we do not have questions about it being so, and further facts show it is composed to two elements, oxygen and hydrogen. This has been demonstrated using scientific methods and instruments.[/quote]

Sure.

If I experience a sunrise and declare it a thing of beauty, I am discussing a fact, a personal experience, but we would also argue, I have invoked a universal, which I termed beauty. I can use instruments to give factual data to my experience, but these data, nor anything scientific, can lead me to the universal - beauty.

It seems that people do have a shared sense of beauty, to a great degree. How many people don’t find a sunset beautiful? But what does that tell us? It’s a feeling common to humans. People share a lot of other feelings as well, though there are probably always exceptions.

My guess is that science also depends on universal constants, and this may cloud the issue - but perhaps for another discussion.

It may :slight_smile:

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