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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ward: 'Religion answers the factual questions science neglects'

There's an excellent article in today's Guardian regarding the faux 'war' between science and religion. You can click here for the entire article, but here's a brief snippet...


"A huge number of factual claims are not scientifically testable. Many historical and autobiographical claims, for instance, are not repeatable, not publicly observable now or in future, and are not subsumable under any general law. We know that rational answers to many historical questions depend on general philosophical views, moral views, personal experience and judgment. There are no history laboratories. Much history, like much religion, is evidence-based, but the evidence is not scientifically tractable...

Claims that the cosmos is created do not "trespass onto" scientific territory. They are factual claims in which scientific investigators are not, as such, interested. Scientific facts are, of course, relevant to many religious claims. But not all facts are scientific facts – the claim that I was in Oxford last night, unseen by anyone, will occur in no scientific paper, but it is a hard fact. So it is with the miracles of Jesus, with the creation of the cosmos and with its end. The interesting question is not whether religion is compatible with science, but whether there are important factual questions – and some important non-factual questions, too, such as moral ones – with which the physical sciences do not usually deal. The answer seems pretty obvious, without trying to manufacture sharp and artificial distinctions between "hows" and "whys"."


9 comments:

GentleSkeptic said...

I saw the toothfairy and father christmas last night, but they told me that no-else could see or hear them. Science cannot disprove this with 100% certainty so therefore it is hard fact, and we must all now believe in them.

Or so the above logic logic would have you believe.
—From the comments

GentleSkeptic said...

Here's a "fact": you'd actually do well to spend some time in the comments over there. Seems that precious few are as impressed as you are.

The author seems to have zero idea how historians assess evidence to conclude whether events actually happened. They look for supporting independent evidence, whether their existing knowledge of a country's History lends credibility to the claim and so on.

On that basis, no professional historian would accept that Jesus walked on water or rose from the dead. The New Testament does contain a lot of accurate history in it, confirmed by other sources (eg that Pontius Pilate was Governor of Palestine at that time), but so much of the NT has been shown to be false and fabricated , that no historians would accept anything it says without supporting evidence from elsewhere.

To give just 2 examples of fabrications in the NT (and there are lots more): There was no custom of the Jerusalem mob being able to release a prisoner at Passover, and Paul did not convert the Governor of Cyprus to Christianity by blinding a rival preacher.


………

The next time a pseudo-intellectual believer tries to tell us that Richard Dawkins and/or any other Atheists are too "challenged" to understand theology or philopsophy properly can we please re-direct them to this nonsense please? Thanks.

JD Curtis said...

There was no custom of the Jerusalem mob being able to release a prisoner at Passover

The 'mob' existed that day because they wanted to have Jesus crucified. Was the mob an occurance every year?

Are there any examples of Roman governors releasing prisoners to please the crowds/ Link

Paul did not convert the Governor of Cyprus to Christianity by blinding a rival preacher

Acts 13:12 states that Sergius Paulus saw and 'believed'. What evidence can the commenter (or anyone else) present that Paulus converted and if he did that he became back-slidden?

JD Curtis said...

"At the time that Paul was on trial for his life, Seneca was in effect posing the question of how a rational ruler ought to behave in the midst of a public fury stirred by religious passions. Pilate, called upon to make a decision in the case of Jesus, acted against his conscience and issued an unjust sentence, not due to weakness, but for reasons of state, which are of a higher order. In the case of Paul the final decision was up to Nero.

In the aftermath of Paul’s trial Seneca addressed to Nero a memorandum On Clemency, where he tried to justify the painful decisions a ruler must at times make for the sake of preserving the existing social order, decisions that may involve the execution of innocent individuals. In this work Seneca rejects compassion and mercy as being mere irrational emotional responses; the just ruler will behave with clemency, which is based on reason." Link

GentleSkeptic said...

Scientific facts are, of course, relevant to many religious claims. But not all facts are scientific facts – the claim that I was in Oxford last night, unseen by anyone, will occur in no scientific paper, but it is a hard fact. So it is with the ascension of Mohammed on his winged horse, with the creation of the cosmos and with its end.

Still true?

Mike S. said...

Actually Ward's brief article is quite modest in its content and scope, so much so as to be quite obvious (or at least it should be obvious); and the way the commenters on there attempt to skewer him, kind of lends support to his argument. One commenter said something like, 'Congrats, you managed to make the case for philosophy, not religion'. But isn't this distinction rather contrived? Most premodern cultures would not have thought in such categories...

JD Curtis said...

Modern science sprang from natural philosophy which itself came out of theology.

The amount of so-called educated people that fail to grasp this part of history is simply staggering.

GentleSkeptic said...

And the amount of people that still insist that the training wheels of theology are actually better than the motorcycles of science is pretty staggering as well.

JD Curtis said...

What do you mean GS?