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Does one have to know from the inside through experience the kinds of things

Does one have to know from the inside through experience the kinds of things social scientists study such as religious practices, chivalry, the earlier ways of life of native Americans, and so on, if one is not to distort such things or even just propagandize for or against them? Danke im voraus!

The ability (and perhaps inclination) to distort or propagandize is deeply human, and I see no reason to think that one is less likely to engage in such things from an "insider's" perspective than if one takes (or cannot help but be in) an "outsider's" position. Indeed, in some ways, I would expect these tendencies to be greater from "inside" than from "outside" perspectives, since those of the former group do, whereas the latter need not, have anything personal at stake. If I follow a certain religion, or have been raised to accept and engage in a certain cultural practice, or am a member of a certain ethnic group, it is natural for me to want to defend that religion, practice, or group--and to minimize or ignore the way(s) in which my religion, practice, or group may (even rightly) be seen as mistaken or wrong. Obviously, one's access to all the pertinent evidence for sound judgment may be more difficult, the further "outside" one is from the sources of such evidence, but at least one can be free of the biases inherent to one's sense of belonging to a religion, culture, or ethnic group.

The ability (and perhaps inclination) to distort or propagandize is deeply human, and I see no reason to think that one is less likely to engage in such things from an "insider's" perspective than if one takes (or cannot help but be in) an "outsider's" position. Indeed, in some ways, I would expect these tendencies to be greater from "inside" than from "outside" perspectives, since those of the former group do, whereas the latter need not, have anything personal at stake. If I follow a certain religion, or have been raised to accept and engage in a certain cultural practice, or am a member of a certain ethnic group, it is natural for me to want to defend that religion, practice, or group--and to minimize or ignore the way(s) in which my religion, practice, or group may (even rightly) be seen as mistaken or wrong. Obviously, one's access to all the pertinent evidence for sound judgment may be more difficult, the further "outside" one is from the sources of such evidence, but at least one can be free of...

Scientists often say (rather diplomatically, I think) that science cannot rule

Scientists often say (rather diplomatically, I think) that science cannot rule on the question of whether God exists. But is this really true? I suppose that some people might hold God's existence to be evident a priori; but I don't think that most religious people actually think this way.

Discussions of the status of theological claims can suffer from a restricted diet of examples. It is worth remembering that lots of theological claims are in fact uncontroversially true or uncontroversially false, and their epistemic status (and their relation to science) is pretty clear.

Take, for example, the claim that Zeus exists. I take it that no one now reading this site believes that that theological claim is literally true! But why? Not, I'm sure, on the basis of fancy philosophical arguments. Yet rejecting the existence of Zeus surely isn't irrational prejudice either. For the existence claim is bound up with a range of stories about how the world works; and we now know the world just doesn't work that way. Mount Olympus is not populated with gods; bolts of lightning are naturally caused discharges of electricity; clouds and rain are not gathered by supernatural agency; burnt sacrifices to Zeus do not increase the chances of better crops or victory in battle; and so it goes. Science -- in the broadest sense of our empirically disciplined enquiries into how things work -- has shown we have no need of the Olympian gods to explain anything. To put it in a dramatic idiom, science has disenchanted the world. Of course, that doesn't mean that the Greek myths aren't full of insights into the secrets of the human heart! But in so far as they essentially embody creation stories and stories about the origin of natural phenomena like storms and tempests, science -- in the broad sense -- uncontroversially shows that they are literally false.

So if scientists were to say that science cannot in general impact on the questions about the existence of various gods they'd be wrong. Which raises a nice question: why should the question of the existence of the Judeo-Christian God be different in this respect from the question of the existence of Zeus?

Well, as Nicholas Smith reminds us, the questions won't have a different status if we take the God-story also to be essentially bound up with e.g. certain biblical creation stories. Science, as he says, has more than adequately shown that those stories aren't literally true. And again, petitionary prayer to God is no more effective in bringing about worldly goods than sacrifice to Zeus (it does no better in helping you recover from illness, say, than can be explained as a placebo effect). In so far as claims about the existence of God are bound up with specific such claims about how the world works, science can impact. And indeed, does impact strongly negatively.

But of course, sophisticated, scientifically knowledgeable, believers can and do react to that point in (at least) two different ways. One way is to disentangle God-talk from the creation myths, and other stories about how the world works: though you might well begin to wonder, as God becomes more abstract, more remote from the quotidian world, why we should care. Another way (characteristic I think of one strand of English Anglicanism1) is to agree that in so far as talk of God is bound up with stories about how the world works, it would be literally false. However, that doesn't mean that the Christian myth, say, isn't a very good myth to live ones life by, or that shared Christian ritual practice isn't a sustaining prop to living a good life in a community.

1. Thus Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, has recently written "The difference between the self-aware believer ... and the conscious and deliberate atheists is not a disagreement over whether or not to add one item [God] to the sum total of really existing things. It is a conflict about the policies and possibilities for a human life."

I agree with the scientists. Very crudely, science provides explanations of how the world works, and bases its theories on matters that are open to regular observation by anyone (using the appropriate equipment, of course). Unless and until God decided to provide us with regular and inter-subjectively available observations of him/her/it, God's existence will not be a matter for scientific discovery. Moreover, if God does not exist, science can certainly not establish that. It is not possible to prove non-existence on the basis of empirical evidence, because all empirical evidence can supply is that there are no scientifically reliable observations of God (yet). Science can establish things that are contrary to religious teachings in other ways, of course. Despite the nonsense that has been recently stirred up on the topic of "intelligent design," science has more than adequately shown that the creation myth in Genesis cannot be literally true. But as for the existence of God, I don't...

When did it come to the point where science and philosophy were not the same

When did it come to the point where science and philosophy were not the same thing, or at least in search for the same goal. An experiment here, a theory there, both being created by the thought of how to complete the experiment, or checking the pros and cons of a theory until it is as sound as one mind can allow. Are they not both in search for truth, thus intertwined for a singular outcome?

When? I think it was June 15, 1412 at 5:22 in the laboratory of... (just kidding!)

I don't think such questions have very definite answers. "Philosophy" means "love of wisdom," and originally, any thoughtful example of truth-seeking counted as "philosophia"--the Greek word for philosophy. As you say, both are examples of our search for truth, and in that sense, both continue to interact, at various levels.

However, one thing that distinguishes science is that it has a methodology tied to observations and experimentation, whereas much of what philosophers debate has not (yet, at any rate) lent itself to empirical resolution through observation and experimentation. We do "thought experiments" a lot of the time, but these results are not as reliable, as universal, or always replicable, in the ways that actual empirical experiments (which can be performed by anyone anywhere, with suitable equipment) are.

When? I think it was June 15, 1412 at 5:22 in the laboratory of... (just kidding!) I don't think such questions have very definite answers. "Philosophy" means "love of wisdom," and originally, any thoughtful example of truth-seeking counted as "philosophia"--the Greek word for philosophy. As you say, both are examples of our search for truth, and in that sense, both continue to interact, at various levels. However, one thing that distinguishes science is that it has a methodology tied to observations and experimentation, whereas much of what philosophers debate has not (yet, at any rate) lent itself to empirical resolution through observation and experimentation. We do "thought experiments" a lot of the time, but these results are not as reliable, as universal, or always replicable, in the ways that actual empirical experiments (which can be performed by anyone anywhere, with suitable equipment) are.

Are Scientists who hold strong religious beliefs, or 'faith' as it may be called

Are Scientists who hold strong religious beliefs, or 'faith' as it may be called, scientists of a lesser calibre? I ask this because traditional scientific method entails entering into scientific work with a clear and unbiased mind in relation to the subject. If there are two scientists, one of 'faith' and one of no religious persuasion both trying to prove a particular point in say, evolution, is the scientist of 'faith' not heavily inluenced by his need to prove his faith true in his method. While the other scientist may have a more reliable opinion as he relies on reason and scientific method alone?

I certainly do not agree that creationism is "utterly optional" for a good scientist, on the obvious ground that it is bad science (or else pseudo-science). That was my point.

On the other hand, I accept that someone who was religious could do exceptional work in evolutionary biology--either by partitioning in the way I noted, or by conceiving of evolution as part of God's plan, or (as Heck proposes) by seeing religion as no more related to science than poetry is. I would add, however, that most religions I am familiar with seem to have a great deal more intersection with science, in their putatively factual assertions about the world and how things work, than poetry does. Keeping these intersections from generating conflict, I continue to think, is the partitioning trick.

But look, some philosophers (Heck included) both defend and practice religion, in which case it is no surprise that these philosophers would think that all talk of conflict between religion and science (or reason) is just insult and ignorance. Plainly, this conclusion (and the judgment of others' dissenting views) is debatable!

I think it will entirely depend upon what particular area of science the scientist is working in, but for the most part, there is no reason to think that even the best scientists could not be religious. Now, certainly a scientist whose work was in evolutionary biology could not be an excellent scientist and at the same moment accept creationism (or, as it has been strategically renamed more recently, intelligent design theory), for these two are incompatible. But I see no reason why someone could not believe there is a God and also do superior work in the area of inorganic chemistry, say. But it is even more complicated than this, I think. People are magnificently complex beings, and one of their most puzzling complexities is the ability to "partition" their lives in such a way as to isolate one area of their life from other areas, and thus avoid noticing or being moved by the contradictions that might be revealed if the "partitions" were somehow removed. (Before saying what follows, I...

I certainly do not agree that creationism is "utterly optional" for a good scientist, on the obvious ground that it is bad science (or else pseudo-science). That was my point. On the other hand, I accept that someone who was religious could do exceptional work in evolutionary biology--either by partitioning in the way I noted, or by conceiving of evolution as part of God's plan, or (as Heck proposes) by seeing religion as no more related to science than poetry is. I would add, however, that most religions I am familiar with seem to have a great deal more intersection with science, in their putatively factual assertions about the world and how things work, than poetry does. Keeping these intersections from generating conflict, I continue to think, is the partitioning trick. But look, some philosophers (Heck included) both defend and practice religion, in which case it is no surprise that these philosophers would think that all talk of conflict between religion and science (or reason) is...

What, traditionally, have philosophers said about the widespread practice of

What, traditionally, have philosophers said about the widespread practice of 'anthropomorphizing' or 'personalizing' the powers of nature? Consider, for example: 'it was a "killer" hurricane,' or 'this year we saw evidence of the wrath of Mother Nature,' and so forth and so on. I can't quite explain why, but this way of speaking about weather-related natural phenomena has always irked me. Thank you.

I'm not sure "killer hurricane" is anthropomorphizing--"murderous hurricane" would be. "Killer" does not imply motives, just deadly effects. But to answer the rest of your question, I'm not sure I see why metaphorical language of this sort is a problem, as long as there is no reason to think that those who are talking this way--or those who are listening--are likely to take such expressions literally. Few people are so ignorant as to make this mistake, however--except, perhaps, when the powers of nature get subsumed under the powers of dieties, the result of which is a kind of ignorance that has plagued humankind since pre-history.

I'm not sure "killer hurricane" is anthropomorphizing--"murderous hurricane" would be. "Killer" does not imply motives, just deadly effects. But to answer the rest of your question, I'm not sure I see why metaphorical language of this sort is a problem, as long as there is no reason to think that those who are talking this way--or those who are listening--are likely to take such expressions literally. Few people are so ignorant as to make this mistake, however--except, perhaps, when the powers of nature get subsumed under the powers of dieties, the result of which is a kind of ignorance that has plagued humankind since pre-history.

I don't know if this is correct, but assume for a moment that it's fair to say

I don't know if this is correct, but assume for a moment that it's fair to say that in the last two hundred or so years, people in the Western world believe less in God than they used to, and that in fact amongst the 'intelligentsia' a belief in God is seen as a sign of ignorance. It seems to me that if this is true there is something negative about it. There must be mystical aspects of life that science or rationality can't account for, and if the general belief in God deteriorates, what can mankind use to think about it? This might be confusing so I'll put it another way... a belief in God puts humans in a greater context than just themselves. It gives them some kind of connecting factor, and also a way to explain the abstract and intangible. If that goes, what happens to us? Can science and the mysteries of DNA and evolution accurately replace it? Don't we lose some beautiful, mysterious aspect of life? Or do we replace it with popular fiction, film, urban legends, etc? I'm sorry if this question is...

You want mysteries without God? For heaven's sake (well, maybe not...) just look around you! Despite all of the advances of science (about which, no one of us is wholly expert, nor could we even possibly be), the world will be filled with things we do not know and do not understand. Mostly, we pay no attention toi the vast amount and degree of our ignorance. Aristotle said, "Philosophy begins in wonder." From any human perspective, the world is simply filled with wonders--because our limitations will always prevent our knowing much, relative to what is out there. You want a greater context than just yourself? Just open your eyes and look around you! Think of all the other people in the world, and how different their esperiences are from yours! If you want to preserve the "beautiful, mysterious aspect of life," then for goodness sake don't give your mind away to some God (whom you could never understand anyway, and therefore who cannot at all help "to explain the abstract and intangible." Just open yourself up to the degree and profundity of your ignorance--and then allow yourself to wonder at all you don't know--or at least some of it!

You want mysteries without God? For heaven's sake (well, maybe not...) just look around you! Despite all of the advances of science (about which, no one of us is wholly expert, nor could we even possibly be), the world will be filled with things we do not know and do not understand. Mostly, we pay no attention toi the vast amount and degree of our ignorance. Aristotle said, "Philosophy begins in wonder." From any human perspective, the world is simply filled with wonders--because our limitations will always prevent our knowing much, relative to what is out there. You want a greater context than just yourself? Just open your eyes and look around you! Think of all the other people in the world, and how different their esperiences are from yours! If you want to preserve the "beautiful, mysterious aspect of life," then for goodness sake don't give your mind away to some God (whom you could never understand anyway, and therefore who cannot at all help "to explain the abstract and intangible." Just...