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Face to faith - Comments

Macho Nachos's Avatar Comment 1 by Macho Nachos

"This wonder is different in quality from contemplative wonder, which does not undo but lets be. It involves a conception of science that extends knowledge but admits its limits. Some things are beyond its comprehension and remain intrinsically mysterious. Consciousness, morality and existence itself are obvious candidates - the things that the artistic, religious and moral imagination are so well equipped to ponder."

Sorry, but you don't just get to conceive science how you like it and make it so. You can look at science and think about its limits as much as you want, but you don't set those limits. It would seem 'contemplative wonder' is simply deliberate ignorance.

Is there any logical reason AT ALL that I should believe a 'religious imagination' (or a 'moral imagination', whatever that is) is well equipped to ponder 'mysterious' things? Are you trying to say that people who are not religious have no capacity to ponder conciousness, morality and existence? Rubbish!

He also needs a history lesson. Francis Bacon, the author of the scientific method. Huh? What scientific method? There isn't one, there are many and he didn't come up with all of them.

This whole article irritates me. Who actually thinks it's a good thing to think thunder is a sign of impending doom? If that's the best reason you can come up with for religion... well, you're on a level with most theologians.

Crap. Lame crap.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 01:54:00 UTC | #79032

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 2 by Diacanu

Geez, a lot of diarrhea sure pours out of that there Guardian.
Is there anything good about it?
You limeys must be so embarrassed.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:17:00 UTC | #79035

epeeist's Avatar Comment 3 by epeeist

Comment #82837 by Diacanu

Geez, a lot of diarrhea sure pours out of that there Guardian.
Is there anything good about it?
You limeys must be so embarrassed.

I am sure a lot of it is just recycled from the "On Faith" column in the Washington Post ;-)

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:20:00 UTC | #79036

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 4 by irate_atheist

The only reason I buy The Guardian these days is that it fits perfectly on the floor-space under our cat's litter tray. Appropriate, I feel.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:28:00 UTC | #79038

Ilovelucy's Avatar Comment 6 by Ilovelucy

Comment #82840 by irate_atheist on October 28, 2007 at 2:28 am
avatarThe only reason I buy The Guardian these days is that it fits perfectly on the floor-space under our cat's litter tray. Appropriate, I feel.

Well, if I were you I'd take yesterdays Guardian Weekend supplement out of the litter tray and read the brilliant Steve Jones article about animals' skeletons and evolution as well as another brilliant article debunking Sylvia Brown. The "Bad Science" column also had a good article about how pro-lifers were cooking the books with regard to survival statistics for 23 week births.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:36:00 UTC | #79042

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 5 by BAEOZ

The wonder that someone with such a belief might feel at these things could be said to be instrumental.

He doesn't like science unweaving the rainbow and tells us who appreciate nature and the scientific explanation that we are less for the explanation. How would he know unless he'd seen it from our point of view? And to echo the sentiments above. You don't set limits on science where you'd like limits.
I recently read a review of the "God delusion" by this guy in Philosophy now. He regurgitated other's criticisms of Richard and the usual strawmen. He's a dishonest individual.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:36:00 UTC | #79041

windweaver's Avatar Comment 7 by windweaver

A google search turned up the following about the author:

"Mark Vernon is a writer, journalist and author of The Philosophy of Friendship (Palgrave Macmillan), After Atheism (Palgrave Macmillan), What Not To Say (Weidenfeld and Nicolson), and Business: the key concepts (Routledge). He began his professional life as a priest in the Church of England, left an atheist, and is now agnostic. He is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck College, London."

Talk about being all over the shop!

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:48:00 UTC | #79044

fatcitymax's Avatar Comment 8 by fatcitymax

The more one learns about science and nature, the more awesome and wonderful they appear--and the more pathetic theism seems. The problem is that most people are too lazy to learn science and mathematics to any depth. It's much easier to believe in magic.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:56:00 UTC | #79046

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 9 by Agrajag

8. Comment #82849 by fatcitymax on October 28, 2007 at 2:56 am
The more one learns about science and nature, the more awesome and wonderful they appear--and the more pathetic theism seems. The problem is that most people are too lazy to learn science and mathematics to any depth. It's much easier to believe in magic.

Exactly. The author suggests as much in the fifth paragraph:
"But its nature depends on what you make of the limits of science."
Operative words: "make of", as in "understand".

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 03:08:00 UTC | #79048

robzrob's Avatar Comment 10 by robzrob

He assumes that when I look up at a sunset and see orange, blue, green...etc that I'm thinking about wavelengths of light, atmospheric distortions, etc. I'm not. I'm just enjoying the sunset.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 03:27:00 UTC | #79051

monoape's Avatar Comment 11 by monoape

@Macho Nachos - thanks for the excellent post ... you saved me needing to read the drivel. :)

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 03:28:00 UTC | #79052

Theocrapcy's Avatar Comment 12 by Theocrapcy

no need to waste time reading this, basic conclusion:


Sun, 28 Oct 2007 03:34:00 UTC | #79053

Gustaf Sjoblom's Avatar Comment 13 by Gustaf Sjoblom

"Dear scientist, don't work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don't squander precious ignorance by researching it away."

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 05:13:00 UTC | #79071

Caeruleum's Avatar Comment 14 by Caeruleum

However, he also knew that this magisterium of experiment did not overlap with the magisterium of religion, which "extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value", in Stephen Jay Gould's famous formulation.

Gould did us no good with this kind of comment which the religious regurgitate ad nauseam. It is quite absurd to imagine that religion can contribute anything helpful to 'questions of ultimate meaning' or 'moral value'.
Organised religions have managed to convince many people that they are the ultimate authority on matters of morals. Holy men - rabbis, priests, vicars etc. - are frequently invited to TV discussion programs dealing with issues of morality to provide their authoritative verdict. Yet in reality they have no more claim to this authority than you or I.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 05:15:00 UTC | #79072

Crazymalc's Avatar Comment 15 by Crazymalc

Kinda odd how he acknowledges Unweaving the Rainbow, then dismisses it without reason.

Wonder is not reduced by understanding. You can stand in awe of a rainbow even when you get the whole refraction thing

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 05:38:00 UTC | #79075

ridelo's Avatar Comment 16 by ridelo

It's a pity Stephen Jay Gould isn't among us any more to see what the religionists baked from his NOMA statement.
It's just like what they've done with Darwin who so to speak recanted on his deathbed. If Gould had lived long enough I suppose he would have sided with Dawkins.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 05:44:00 UTC | #79076

PaulJ's Avatar Comment 17 by PaulJ

Consciousness, morality and existence itself are obvious candidates - the things that the artistic, religious and moral imagination are so well equipped to ponder.
Ponder away as much as you like, but pondering won't give you any answers.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 05:51:00 UTC | #79077

alexmzk's Avatar Comment 18 by alexmzk

"i'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance anyday."

scientific wonder is not simply the wonder of looking at puzzles.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 05:53:00 UTC | #79078

kev_s's Avatar Comment 19 by kev_s

Re: Comment #82844 by Ilovelucy on October 28, 2007 at 2:36 am

I also read the Guardian's Bad News column on religious-motivated scientists 'cooking' the figures on survival rates of babies born before 24 weeks in order to influence UK health policy. It is a very interesting piece that explores the fine line between presenting an opposing viewpoint and downright dishonesty. You can read it here:
"Some numbers in abortion debate just can't be relied on"
Unfortunately the same issue had the very poor 'Face to Faith' article that is the subject of this chat.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 06:07:00 UTC | #79082

home8896's Avatar Comment 20 by home8896

Sheesh, even without incredibly deep understanding of mathematics and theoretical science, and without a need for magic and fairies, I can see and sense great awe for the universe. Going out for a walk through the woods and investigating things I see without a textbook to guide me through it - or a strange faith in imaginary things - brings me great feelings of wonder and joy to be part of this huge universe.

I think even we "commoners" are quite capable of seeing more than the dull confines of life. I don't need Angels and Fairies and I really can't grasp higher maths, but I still feel the awe.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 06:30:00 UTC | #79084

pholt's Avatar Comment 21 by pholt

This is exactly the same argument that the militant philosophers Magikthise and Vroomfondel make in "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". They, too, want "rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty".

The difference, of course, is that the immortal Adams was writing comedy whereas this Vernon twit is serious.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 06:34:00 UTC | #79085

PeterK's Avatar Comment 22 by PeterK

Well since God has known everything for an infinite amount of time--he must be so not filled with awe and wonder, he could not possibly exist, as he would have surely been bored to death--no less than for an infinite amount of time!

Vernon has presented the most idiotically flawed argument for why one SHOULD embrace the notion of God existing than any that exist now. I'm sure there will be new ones invented, which will continue to fill me with awe and wonder. And Vernon will still be able to scare and boss the kids around at Sunday school.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 07:06:00 UTC | #79088

JanChan's Avatar Comment 23 by JanChan

Did the journalist just confuse thunder with lightning? Thunder is the sound caused by lightning, the discharge of built up static electricity. Someone should tell him to get his facts straight, well, what can we expect someone who tries to limit science.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 07:11:00 UTC | #79089

PrimeNumbers's Avatar Comment 24 by PrimeNumbers

And "godditit" as an answer to "why?" enhances our wonder of the universe?

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 07:28:00 UTC | #79091

35bluejacket's Avatar Comment 25 by 35bluejacket

If a religionist is not awed by lightning, thunder and a rainbow after knowing their science, they never had or knew the real meaning of faith, just superstition.

Hitchens, using the religionst's definition of faith says: "But faith, yet again, discredits itself by proving to be insuficient to satisfy the faithful."

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 07:38:00 UTC | #79093

keith's Avatar Comment 26 by keith

So we should actively try not to learn about the world since this will diminish our awe? We should keep children out of classrooms in case they actually learn something? In so doing, we would have to turn off our natural curiosity, since genuine curiosity, as opposed to the kind that the faithful like to feign in their 'search for truth', would force us to want to understand whatever it is that is perplexing us. It seems that in Mark Vernon's world awe always trumps curiosity (or rather, imitation awe trumps curiosity).
But what kind of awe is it that only survives by knowingly and willingly shutting out the explanation? The obvious difference between the writer and the savage who stands awestruck as thunder and lightning crash around him is that the savage and couldn't possibly know why this was happening. The writer, however, would 'choose' not to know. So what if the metereological office issued a warning of an approaching hurricane and suggested everybody leave the area? Would Mr. Vernon still choose not to know? It seems to me you can't pick and choose like that.
The writer seems to have decided that science has now answered enough questions: he has his washing machine, his TV, his laptop on which to type his articles. "I'm comfortable now, you can stop. Please don't reveal another thing, you'll only spoil things for me". His idea of awe sounds remarkably like he would like to bury his head in the sand, stick his fingers in his ears and watch every film, not only the scary ones, through his fingers. As Darwin might have commented, there certainly isn't grandeur in that view of life. Just abjectness in abundance.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 08:06:00 UTC | #79097

Chris Bell's Avatar Comment 27 by Chris Bell

This is a good opportunity for people to go comment on the NOMA Debate Point

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 08:17:00 UTC | #79100

Duff's Avatar Comment 28 by Duff

To say science is limited is the same thing as saying knowledge is limited. We are a very long way from knowing everything there is to know about the universe, so I think it is a bit premature to decry science/knowledge as "limited".
Fifty years from now, we will astounded at how much "science" has advanced. Religion will still be the same; stuck in the iron age with not a single factoid to prove it.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 08:22:00 UTC | #79103

Jayday's Avatar Comment 29 by Jayday

Wow...When I see a thunderstorm approaching I am in awe of its power and beauty. It is "magic" in the sense that it is an amazing natural phenomena. It doesn't have to be imbued with supernatural features to make me feel that sense of wonder about it. I am amazed that in the vastness of the universe, that air, clouds, water, lightning and the various properties that intermix to create it even exist. And, that I have evolved from the same elemental properties that can stand there and be aware of it. The deep sense of beauty does not escape the fact that I know about the underlying science! This guy has got to be kidding!

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 08:28:00 UTC | #79106

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 30 by prettygoodformonkeys

What a steaming pile of horse puckey.

"Are you nostalgic for being a primitive ancestor on the savannah (read: miss your own childhood sense of wonder)? Then work with me against science wherever it conflicts with the awesome wonder of ignorance as expressed by religion (read: don't betray your own childhood)."

Pythagoras and Bacon: who cares what they imagined, or guessed - what did they FIND OUT? Pythagoras' animal sacrifice is used as an example of the ignorance of science (?!?). ARRRGH!

Silly ass. From whence issues the horse puckey.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 09:25:00 UTC | #79120